Questions raised about proposed personnel cuts

By Greg Gelpi

Ruthann Moore, Mundy's Mill High School's instructional technology specialist, said that she fought to save her position last school year and finds herself doing the same this year. The only thing that has changed, she said, is that her job now requires more work.

Five options for the fiscal year 2006 budget were presented to the Clayton County Board of Education, and all five options call for the elimination of the instructional technology specialist position at each of the county's 55 schools.

"That was already on the table when I arrived," said Chief Financial Officer Theresa McDugald, who had been on the job less than three weeks when the proposals were brought to the board.

In the past five years, the school system has suffered more than $42 million in state funding cuts, McDugald said. The cuts to the instructional technology specialist positions would save the school system more than $4.3 million.

"That's significant," she said of the cuts, adding that it's "difficult" to avoid cuts in personnel when 91 percent of the general fund goes to pay for personnel.

If personnel are in positions that are cut, they would be able to apply for teaching positions in classrooms, McDugald said.

Moore said she understands that positions often get cut when financial times get tight.

"When it happens to other people, you feel sorry, but when it happens to you it does something for your sense of worth," Moore said.

As Mundy's Mill High's instructional technology specialist, she said that she's in charge of the school's testing; staff development budget, including travel and scheduling of classes; master scheduling of classes; graduation; teacher evaluations and technology, including the inventory and assignment of laptops.

"This is just some of it, and there's a lot more things," Moore said.

McGarrah Elementary School Instructional Technology Specialist Bettye Fleuren, who plans to retire at the end of the school year, said removing the position "directly" impacts students in the classroom.

"If I was not retiring, I would be very upset," Fleuren said. "I'm not sure children are being considered when you take away people at the building level."

According to the school system's job description, the position is responsible for teacher support, technology support and any other duties the principal assigns. The teacher support duties include the induction and mentoring of teachers, coordinating staff development and serving as an instruction resource coordinator.

Sid Chapman, the president of the Clayton County Education Association, said that he and his organization oppose the cuts.

Chapman said that many fail to understand the "vital role" that the positions serve in the school community.

"I really hate the budget," said Dexter Matthews, the president of the Clayton County Branch of the NAACP.

Matthews said he foresaw the talk of cuts coming as soon as he learned of five-digit pay raises given to central office staff earlier in the school year.

He said that a $500,000 item in the budget for a compensation study is unnecessary. "We know what the problem is."

The compensation study will only show that the school system is too "top heavy," he said.

"We do not need to pay anything close to $500,000 for a study," Matthews said. "I knew when they gave these raises they would have to cut back somewhere else. If the administrators make so much money, the teachers are going to have to make less."

Matthews, a certified public accountant, said that the math is "simple."

The school board will have a follow-up work session in April. The board is scheduled to have a tentative adoption of the budget in April, then have a public hearing on the budget in May.

The final budget is tentatively slated to be adopted in mid to late May, and three public hearings will follow in mid-May and late June.