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BOE has to re-vote on hiring freeze

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Education had to vote for a second time on a hiring freeze it wants to place on high-level administrative positions because the motion to approve it last week did not match what the board announced as its intended action.

Board Parliamentarian Lester Cooper told board members their original vote, on Feb. 23, was not valid because the motion made to approve the hiring freeze did not match the language used on the agenda. As a result, the board had to re-vote Monday on putting a hiring freeze on all positions from coordinators and up.

On the agenda for the Feb. 23 board work session, the agenda item for the freeze was too specific, but it did not single out the coordinators-and-up clause, Board Member Pamela Adamson said.

"The wording here is pretty significant," Cooper said. "It's not a general statement, it's a very specific statement. If you put this item on the agenda of a specific nature, the very fact that you gave notice of what you planned to introduce means you're limited to only introducing that subject matter, and nothing in addition to it.

"The motion that was made, and adopted at the last meeting had additional items included in it beyond the scope of the notice that was included in this agenda item, and it is therefore my opinion that it is out of order."

Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson, and Adamson, who made the motion last week, and again Monday, said the mistake was made by an unnamed staff member who put a more detailed description of the hiring freeze on the agenda than was planned.

"It was supposed to just say 'hiring freeze,'" Anderson said.

Adamson said the decision to implement a freeze until the fiscal year 2010 budget is approved was necessary "because of the economic challenges facing the school system, and the desire to provide the maximum protection for our employees."

The district is facing a $23 million state funding shortfall next year, and an additional $5 million loss in local funding is expected when car rental agencies at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport move in November to a new facility in Fulton County. School system officials have said they have 153 surplus teaching positions, and that many teachers need to leave the school system to avoid layoffs.

But, not all board members agreed with the hiring freeze. The board voted 8-1 to approve the freeze. Board Member Charlton Bivins, who voted against the freeze last week, voted against it again Monday arguing it was outside of the scope of what the board should be allowed to do. Bivins said it should have been pushed by Superintendent John Thompson, not board members.

"I would agree with this if it came with a recommendation from the superintendent," Bivins said. "He is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the district."

As Bivins spoke, Thompson looked straight ahead, with one finger over his lip, and never discussed the hiring freeze.

The school board took other steps Monday to save money during the upcoming fiscal year. The board voted to give teachers a 3 percent step increase that was originally slated for administrators under a compensation plan designed to save the school system millions of dollars.

The plan was revised by school system officials last week after board members balked at giving a 1 percent raise to teachers, while granting a 3 percent step increase to administrators.

The plan, as approved, will save the district $20.7 million because of the teachers getting the step increase instead of the administrators. The original plan, which was presented to the board last week, would have saved the school system $22.2 million, according to school system estimates.

School board members have been pushing to have more money set aside for teachers in case the 48,000-student district sees an increase in its enrollment during the 2009-10 school year.

Under the approved plan, the school system will now save $2 million from not filling several teaching positions, while there will be a savings of $1.5 million from cutting the work calendars of school system administrators and custodians by 10 days.

The board voted 8-0 to approve the compensation plan. Bivins recused himself from the vote because his wife, Terri, is an employee of the school system.