Ad­dress­ing school cut con­cerns

The Covington News - - Front page -

Over the past seven years while serv­ing on the Newton BOE I like to think I have lis­tened to my com­mu­nity. The chal­lenges have changed over the last seven years. When I be­gan serv­ing in 2003, there were 13,700 stu­dents in our sys­tem; to­day there are over 19,400 stu­dents in our sys­tem. I ap­pre­ci­ate all of the pro­fes­sion­als who on a daily ba­sis teach, feed, pro­tect, clean up af­ter and trans­port our chil­dren.

I would like to ad­dress some of the points made in The Cov­ing­ton News ed­i­to­rial and letters to the edi­tor.

First, the bud­get has not been adopted; the list sent out last Fri­day con­sisted of pro­posed cuts. Be­cause of the length of the leg­isla­tive ses­sion this year we do not know what state funds will be avail­able for the next bud­get cy­cle.

Hav­ing worked at the state capi­tol in years past, I can never re­mem­ber a ses­sion go­ing past late March. On Fri­day, April 16, Dr. Steve What­ley met with all ad­min­is­tra­tors to in­form them of pro­posed cuts. It was their col­lec­tive opin­ion the list should be sent out that day so per­son­nel who would be af­fected by the cuts could take ad­van­tage of var­i­ous job fairs be­ing held around the metro area. The meet­ing ended be­tween 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., thus the tim­ing of the e-mail. If we had waited un­til the state leg­is­la­ture came up with our bud­get fig­ures, some of them could have missed op­por­tu­ni­ties to find other jobs.

The bud­get process is an open process. Ev­ery year dur­ing the bud­get process meet­ing times are posted in ad­vance and meet­ings are open. At the time I read the ed­i­to­rial in the paper the BOE had no for­mal request for the bud­get doc­u­ment.

School ad­min­is­tra­tors are re­spon­si­ble for the de­liv­ery of state man­dated cur­ricu­lum and the safety and wel­fare of the stu­dents and staff of their schools. They must test and re­port to the state BOE the progress of ev­ery child. In ad­di­tion, they are at their schools when the doors open and stay af­ter the stu­dents leave. Just this spring I have per­son­ally seen one ad­min­is­tra­tor at least two times a week at soc­cer and base­ball games un­til 9:30 p.m.; there is no over­time — it is all part of the job. Just to give you an idea of the level of re­spon­si­bil­ity our ad­min­is­tra­tors face, Newton High has 2,136 stu­dents and 243 on staff, East­side High has 1,357 stu­dents and 154 on staff and Al­covy High has 1,583 stu­dents and 184 staff.

The su­per­in­ten­dent of our sys­tem is re­spon­si­ble for 2,500 em­ploy­ees and a bud­get of $145 mil­lion plus (depend­ing on fund­ing); he must de­liver a safe learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment to over 19,000 stu­dents. What CEO of a $140 mil­lion dol­lar cor­po­ra­tion makes less than $200,000 a year? Dr. Steve What­ley has earned bach­e­lor’s and mas­ter’s de­grees as well as a doc­tor­ate in ed­u­ca­tion. He has worked in our sys­tem over 20 years. I can only say, thank you, Steve, for your years of ser­vice and ded­i­ca­tion.

We are for­tu­nate to wel­come Dr. Mathews to our sys­tem. He, too, is a sea­soned ed­u­ca­tor with many years of ser­vice. He was on the short­list for can­di­dates for su­per­in­ten­dent in Ba­ton Rouge, La. How­ever, af­ter see­ing our com­mu­nity and in­ter­view­ing in Newton, he took him­self off their list to be con­sid­ered for our po­si­tion. I hope you will join me in wel­com­ing him to our com­mu­nity in this most dif­fi­cult time. Look­ing at other sys­tems our size you will find the fol­low­ing su­per­in­ten­dent’s salaries: Fayette with 22,000 stu­dents pays $214,000, Dou­glas with 24,000 stu­dents pays $211,000, Rock­dale with 15,700 stu­dents pays $197,000 and Car­roll with 15,000 stu­dents pays $192,000. I hope these fig­ures give you some per­spec­tive on salaries.

In the last two years the Newton School Sys­tem has been awarded over $5 mil­lion in grants. As grants be­come avail­able, our staff looks at each one and care­fully con­sid­ers the re­quire­ments. As far as the com­ment on the BOE cen­tral of­fice build­ing, it was there when I started my time on the board. The old BOE of­fice was to­tally in­ad­e­quate to meet the ad­min­is­tra­tive needs of a school sys­tem of our size. The cur­rent was con­structed to meet our grow­ing needs for the next 50 years. As a mother of three sons who par­tic­i­pated in mid­dle school sports, I know the im­por­tance of sports for our young peo­ple. Around 20 per­cent of our mid­dle school stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in school sport ac­tiv­i­ties. I am open to any con­struc­tive sug­ges­tions to keep our teams play­ing.

I can­not ex­press fully my dis­ap­point­ment in our state lead­ers. The Newton County School Sys­tem has suf­fered $21 mil­lion in state fund­ing cuts since 2006. Par­ents, grand­par­ents, stu­dents and school per­son­nel should be ap­palled that the lack of fund­ing in ed­u­ca­tion was not ad­dressed this leg­isla­tive ses­sion. With over 90 per­cent of Ge­or­gia’s chil­dren in pub­lic schools, our voices are not be­ing heard — maybe we should speak louder.

I will be leav­ing the BOE this Jan­uary. I have done my best to serve this com­mu­nity and ap­pre­ci­ate the sup­port the com­mu­nity has given me dur­ing my term. I ap­pre­ci­ate the hard work the folks who work in ev­ery as­pect of our sys­tem. In part­ing I would like to re­mind you, your vote is your voice, as elec­tions take place this fall use your vote to be heard!

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