Photo by Heather Middleton
By Jeylin White
The Clayton County Board of Education approved the school district's proposed budget for fiscal year 2012, on Monday, after weeks of deliberations, public hearings and exhaustive efforts to cut costs.
With School Superintendent Edmond Heatley's recommendation, board members voted 6-2, to approve the $339 million budget for the next school year. Board Members Jessie Goree and Trinia Garrett voted against the measure, while Michael King abstained from the vote, citing insufficient information.
Goree said that certain parts of the budget troubled her, and she was concerned about where the emphasis will be placed, based on how the money is being spent. "Last board meeting," she said, "we approved those athletic directors [as part of the promotions and leadership changes in the school system].
"We took away an assistant principle from our middle and high schools, for full-time athletics directors? I thought it was supposed to be about academics," she said. "I like athletes, but that's secondary."
The approval of the budget means teacher salaries will stay the same, according to Clayton County Public Schools Spokesman Charles White. That, however, has been a super-charged, emotional topic for members of the community during budget hearings, as many residents took turns telling the board members their concerns about the 2012 budget, which contains expense reductions and employee furloughs.
Several residents said that, with furloughs, teachers were bearing an unfair portion of the burden of balancing the school system's budget.
In previous statements, BOE Chairperson Pam Adamson acknowledged those concerns, but said, due to the economy, the board just did not have the money to provide raises for teachers.
In a work session that followed the called meeting, on Monday, board members mentioned their concerns with the way some members of the community conducted themselves during the public input sessions, particularly at the June 6 budget hearings.
They pointed out various conduct issues, including signs calling for Heatley's resignation, an extremely boisterous crowd, and community members blocking the middle isle of the meeting room. Some board members suggested that a code of conduct should be enforced, to keep the crowd under control.
Heatley suggested to the board that fire code requirements be enforced to keep the audience from blocking aisles and causing a potential safety hazard.
But some board members disagreed, arguing that too much regulation of how community members could express themselves might be a violation of their right to freedom of speech.
In other business, the school board approved the tentative adoption of the millage rate for 2012, in which it will remain the same.
Board members also approved the repaving of the parking lots at Tara Stadium and Lovejoy High School. Cephus Jackson, chief operations officer for Clayton County Public Schools, said: "We hope to get started with the parking lots this Friday. We want to get the job done before football season."