Budget options call for cutting 68 positions

By Greg Gelpi

Proposals in the Clayton County school system would cut all 55 instructional technology specialists.

The Clayton County Board of Education heard preliminary proposals for the fiscal year 2006 budget, all five of which called for the elimination of the instructional technology specialist position at each school.

The five options as presented by Chief Financial Officer Theresa McDugald would save the school system more than $4.3 million by cutting these positions.

"I'm not sure if there is a need to cut all of them," parent Mary Baker said, asking if there is a way to save some.

Four of the five options call for the hiring of a chief operating officer at a salary of $159,000. The position was created last year when the previous board approved a restructuring plan for the school system.

"There's a lot of unanswered questions," Artansa Snell, a Clayton County parent, said.

Board Chairwoman Ericka Davis cautioned, though, that this is "just the beginning."

"That's the superintendent's recommendations and not the recommendations of the board," Davis said.

She said that she will listen to principals and instructional technology specialists before making any decision.

"Helping children is more important than dollar signs," Davis said.

The board will also be listening to the community through an ad hoc budget advisory committee approved by the board Thursday. Each of the nine members of the school board will select a member of his or her district to serve on the committee.

Nothing is "concrete," board member Wendell "Rod" Johnson said about the options presented to the board, adding that the goal of the budget process is to provide quality education.

"We haven't made any decisions yet," Johnson said. "The options are just things to consider."

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.

Other significant expenses in all five options are $500,000 for a compensation study, $2.7 million for a state-mandated Georgia Performance Standards roll-out, $750,000 to establish a research and evaluation department and $2.3 million for the county's first charter school.

Other significant savings in all five options include more than $270,000 by eliminating six central office secretaries, about $213,000 by eliminating two coordinators in Teaching and Learning, $5 million by more effectively using Title VIB funds and $2.1 million by using Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds to cover laptop lease payments. Other positions that would be cut by all five options are a custodian, two paraprofessionals in maintenance, a part-time position in Teaching and Learning and one training specialist.

The short-term goal is a balanced budget, McDugald said. The long-term goal is to set aside $28 million in reserves.