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Clayton's BOE approves $509 million FY2011 budget

The Clayton County Board of Education has given its tentative blessing to a fiscal year 2011 budget that includes a shorter school year, position cuts, elimination of elementary summer school, and replacing school nurses with health-care professionals.

With a vote of 6-3, on Monday, the board gave its preliminary budget approval. School board members Trinia Garrett, Jessie Goree and Michael King voted against the measure.

The total budget would be $509.14 million, according to school system Budgets and Grants Director Ramona Thurman. She said $361.53 million would be encompassed in the budget's general fund, which includes salaries for employees, and classroom education supplies. The rest of the money would be in the special revenue fund ($59.71 million), the capital projects fund ($56.46 million), and the enterprise fund ($31.44 million), she added.

Public inspection, and input, is next in the budgeting process, Thurman said. She plans to have the document, ready for the public by the end of the week.

Two public budget hearings, a morning session, and an evening one, are scheduled for June 7. The board is set to vote on a final budget adoption on June 28.

"It should be available for the public to inspect online, on the school system's web site [www.clayton.k12.ga.us], and at the headquarter's library by Friday," Thurman said.

The budget proposal calls for the school year to be cut by five days, the work year for employees would be reduced, elementary school summer school, and middle school summer Criterion-Reference Competency Tests (CRCTs) remediation, would be eliminated, and school board member salaries would be cut by 4.25 percent. It would also eliminate home-to-school transportation for school-choice institutions, including the Unidos Dual Language Charter School, the Elite Scholars Academy Charter School, the Fine Arts Magnet High School, the Open Campus High School, and the Alternative School.

School board Chairperson Alieka Anderson said school system Superintendent Edmond Heatley has told board members that he plans to adjust his plans for dealing with the transportation to those schools by increasing the number of shuttle bus sites beyond the one he originally planned to have at Tara Stadium. Parents would have to take their children to the shuttle bus site, and a bus would take the children to their school.

But, parents — especially those at Unidos — have decried the one-shuttle site plan as something they can not accommodate into their daily schedules because of the distance from outlying parts of the county.

"They are still trying to figure out where the sites will be, but he told us there are going to be four-to-five shuttle bus sites now," Anderson said.

Hundreds of positions would be eliminated, including: three spots on Superintendent Heatley's cabinet; 10 academic coordinators; 166 school-based instructional coaches; 30 school improvement specialist positions; 25 media paraprofessional positions, and nine media high school specialist positions.

The school system also would replace its 37 registered nurses with 63 –– less costly –– health-care professionals.

One school board member said she has doubts the proposed budget is in the best interests of the school system.

Board member Goree said she is worried some of the cuts will hurt how much students are able to achieve in the classroom. She cited the dropping of academic coordinators, as one reason for her fears. Increased performances might disappear if those overseeing the improvement initiatives see their jobs cut, she said.

"I just don't think he approached the budget in the right way," Goree said. "We looked at cutting expenses, but we didn't look at how it affects the classroom."

A review of the budget is possible at the headquarter's branch of the Clayton County Library System, located at 865 Battle Creek Road, in Jonesboro.