Teachers to vote on when to take furloughs

Published 6:37 pm Friday, May 21, 2010

Teachers in Decatur County Schools will get to choose the method by which six furlough days will be taken during the next school year, as the Board of Education prepares to begin work on its budget for the next school year.

Except for those who are retiring, all of local public schools’ teachers and parapros were retained for the next school year, according to Linda Lumpkin, assistant superintendent for human resources. However, teachers and staff will still have to take six unpaid days off to help the school system meet continuing cuts to the state government’s education budget.

Susan Johnson, assistant superintendent for curriculum in grades kindergarten through fifth grade, said three options for taking furlough days have been presented to each of the eight public schools’ principals. The options primarily differ in the placement of furlough days, or lack thereof, at the very end of the school year.

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During the 2009-2010 school year, four of six furlough days were held on days on which only teachers and staff would have been present at school, reducing the impact on students, Johnson explained.

One option would help teachers plan

One option being put forth for next year, referred to as Option No. 3, would split the furloughs evenly between days that were already going to be student holidays and those which would have been regular class days, she said. This option would give teachers three pre-planning days before school starts back on Aug. 6, the first day of classes under all three options.

“There was only one pre-planning day this year and some teachers felt like they never recovered,” Johnson said.

Under Option 3, the last three furlough days would be held at the very end of the school year, thus moving the last day of school up to May 19.

Johnson said she believed the impact to learning would be minimal as in her and others’ view, “after CRCT testing, the kids are wound-up and ready to go home.”

Option 1 would put two furlough days at the end of the school year, ending classes on May 20, while Option 2 would spread the furlough days out fairly evenly over the calendar, placing none at the end of the school year. Classes would end on May 24 under Option 2.

School Superintendent Ralph Jones said he asked principals to inform their staff about the options and conduct a vote before next Tuesday, with the teachers’ preferred option to take precedence.

Lumpkin said contracts had been issued to 443 employees on Friday, May 14. Although no addendum contracts, also known as supplements, were issued, the board may choose to issue them after adopting its next fiscal year budget this summer, she said.

Thirty-three positions are becoming vacant after the current school year, with only seven of those to be replaced next year, according to Lumpkin. That leaves 26 positions that will be “filled” by increased class sizes, hiring substitute teachers for longer periods of time and reassigning teachers to other classes based on their certifications, Lumpkin said.

The board agreed by consensus to a suggestion by Superintendent Jones to hold a called meeting on Wednesday, May 26, at 6 p.m. at the Decatur County Schools Support Center, located at 507 Martin St., for the purpose of holding a budget workshop.

Jones said he hoped to have the budget in the final stages of drafting by the end of June to allow time for public hearings. He alluded to the impact of the county’s tax digest—which has to be approved by county commissioners—on the school system’s property tax revenue. Both the school system and the county government will have to consider setting their millage rates this summer.

Cochran: Search was ‘proper’

Board of Education Chairman Sydney Cochran made a brief statement in reference to concerns over the manner in which board members conducted a search for a new superintendent to replace Jones.

Questions were raised on whether the board broke Georgia law concerning open meetings and records in its search.

“We followed a procedure that was the right thing to do,” Cochran said. “We held multiple meetings with our recruiter to set up a proper procedure to follow. From that point, subsequent meetings were closed because they involved talking to personnel and it was appropriate that they should be closed. …”

“Finally, after going through the procedures, we arrived at our one finalist who we think best fits our school system to lead it for the next few years. There’s a question about the fact we only had one finalist. Before we made that selection, we researched multiple legal sources and we finally felt like we were on sound ground. So I just want to reassure people, the public, that we did the right thing, we followed the right procedures and we’re proud of the job we’ve done.”

Other business

In other business, the Board of Education:

 Recognized a number of retiring teachers and staff, including Col. Gary Breedlove, outgoing director of the Bainbridge High School Air Force Junior ROTC program, and outgoing School Superintendent Ralph Jones.

 Recognized the top five graduating seniors at Bainbridge High School, ranked by academics, as, in no particular order, Kylie McGlincy, Sunnie Chason, Mary Grace Griffin, Jordan Maxwell and Erick Juarez.

 Recognized the BHS girls’ track team, who were region champions and finished seventh in state competition, as well as the BHS boys’ track team, who were region champions and won the state track championship trophy.

 Recognized the BHS girls’ tennis team as the runner-up in the Georgia AAAA tennis tournament.

 Heard a presentation by sixth-grader William Paul Whaley, who wrote and produced a short video explaining the concept of negative and positive integers, with the help of his teacher, Amy Thomas, and his classmates. Thomas said Whaley’s video has been submitted to a contest sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education.

 Approved, by unanimous vote, an amended policy on maintaining asset inventories for auditing purposes.

 Approved, by unanimous vote, a request from the Bainbridge High School Academic Bowl team to travel to Chicago, Ill., for a national competition. Jones said the cost of the trip will be paid for through private fund-raisers, contributions from the Bainbridge Rotary Club and possibly an educational foundation grant.