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Rockdale school board approves staff reduction, decreased calendar

CONYERS -- The Rockdale County Board of Education has approved a tentative budget, a reduced number of teachers and staff and a calendar with 10 fewer student days for next school year.

During a special called meeting of the school board Thursday, the board approved a tentative budget, which may be changed up until the final budget is adopted, likely in June.

"Each year, the board is required by state board policy to adopt an annual budget. Adoption of the tentative budget is necessary so that public hearings may be held before the final budget adoption, which will be recommended in June," said Richard Autry, superintendent of Rockdale County Public Schools.

Total revenues equate to more than $119 million, including about $50 million in local revenues, nearly $69 million in state revenues and nearly $500,00 in federal revenues. Total expenditures equal more than $122 million, so the board is expected to take nearly $3 million from the fund balance, leaving about $6 million remaining at the end of the 2013-14 school year.

Board member Sharon Pharr opposed the budget adoption, and board member Mandy North was absent from the meeting.

Also at Thursday's meeting, the school board approved revised certified staff allotments; again, Pharr opposed the motion, adding that she mainly did not fully understand the topic.

The revised allotments states that 667 certified teachers are the minimum number of positions needed for next school year, including 312 elementary school teachers, 130 middle school teachers and 225 high school teachers.

"This is a reduction of 44 regular education teachers for the next school year," Autry said. "The approval of a minimum number of certified staff positions is crucial in order to allow principals an adequate window for interviewing and securing quality personnel."

In January, the board approved 773 certified teachers needed for next school year, which was an increase of 30 teachers from this school year, including 369 elementary school teachers, 158 middle school teachers and 246 high school teachers.

Lee Davis, chief financial officer for RCPS, said that the reduction will not have a large impact on any one school.

He also confirmed to the board that the reduction in teachers should be achieved through attrition -- when employees resign or retire. He added that some staff might be moved to another position or school, but those employees would continue to be employed with RCPS.

After executive session Thursday, the school board approved a reorganization and a reduction in force of certified employees plan. Employees affected include two buildings and grounds positions, seven transportation positions, one literacy coach, five special education consultants, 10 instructional technology data specialists, 22 media clerks and 10 intel positions.

On Thursday, the school board unanimously approved a 170-day student calendar for next school year.

"The (internal) budget committee identified a need to secure a modified school calendar as an option to address the budget shortfall for the 2013-14 school year," Autry said. "The school calendar committee, comprised of school personnel, stakeholders and parents, developed several modified calendar options. Based on financial projections from the Office of Financial Services, the calendar option that provides for a 170 student day calendar is recommended."

The calendar is a 10-day reduction from a normal school year calendar, as well as a seven-day reduction for up to 200-day employees and an eight-day reduction for 200-plus day employees, allowing for a more than $4.1 million reduction in general fund expenditures to offset the $20 million budget shortfall projected for next school year.

Autry added that the budget committee considered 160-, 170- and 180-day calendars.

Leslie DeMarco, chief academic officer in the Office of Teaching and Learning at RCPS, reported that the calendar's major differences from the one approved earlier this year are seen at the beginning and end of next school year.

The school year will run from Monday, Aug. 5 until Friday, May 16 for students, instead of Thursday, Aug. 1 to Thursday, May 29. Teacher pre-planning will shift from July 25 to July 29, a teacher workday will shift to March 14 from March 17 and post-planning will shift from May 30 and June 2 to May 19 and 20.

DeMarco noted that all intercession breaks in October, November, December, February and April will remain the same as previously presented -- the weeks of Oct. 7, Nov. 25, Feb. 17 and April 7, as well as Dec. 23 through Jan. 3 for a semester break.

DeMarco added that two days were taken from the beginning of the school year and the rest from the end of the school year to ensure that students are in school on testing windows set by other entities. Davis noted that staff furlough days will be spread out over 12 months of paychecks.

Autry said that high school graduations likely will be held May 16 and 17, but those details will be discussed later with the high school principals before that is confirmed.

The school board also is considering increasing the millage rate 1.5 mills to 26 mills, enacting a 10 percent central office budget reduction and increasing class size ratios to avoid a budget shortfall for next school.

The next public meeting for budget discussions is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 13 in the board room at the RCPS central complex.

The board is expected to approve a final budget on June 20 and a millage rate in July or August.