Meeting Minutes, April 21, 2010

Emory Lavista Parent Council Meeting April 21, 2010
State of the System with Interim Superintendant Tyson

Sally Harrell, Co-President

Marshall Orson, Co-President

Nancy Moore, Vice President

Donna Toulme, Corresponding Sec

Greg Studdard, Community Rel.

State of the System with Interim Superintendant Tyson

Mr. Orson welcomed the audience and expressed appreciation to Interim Superintendant Tyson for agreeing quickly to speak at the ELPC meeting for the second time this year under unexpected circumstances. Mr. Orson commended Ms. Tyson for her willingness to address questions at this difficult time in DCSS. Mr. Orson thanked the BOE members in attendance as well as our host school and DCSS administrators in attendance. Mr. Segovis noted that all elementary and middle school principals were at their schools assisting with CRCT administration and unable to attend. Before turning to Principal Blanton, Mr. Orson acknowledged the presence of Ms. Faye Andresen, ELPC, founding Co-President.

Principal Blanton welcomed the audience to Coralwood School and Diagnostic Center noting their 37 years of operation. Please visit the schools website for additional information. Principal Blanton thanked the DCSS BOE members in attendance: Board Vice Chair, Ms. Roberts, Mr. Redovian, Mr. McChesney, Mr. Womack and Dr. Speaks as well as the Coralwood PTA Co-Chair, Ms. Christine Kaufman. Principal Blanton introduced, Ms. Janet Haury, Coralwood Parent Council Co-President. Ms. Haury invited the audience to visit the Coralwood grounds with the accessible nature path and tree house. She invited all to visit the impressive Parent Council and Foundation website to see the ways parents, schools, and communities can partner in service of excellent student education.

Interim Superintendant Tyson greeted all warmly and thanked Principal Blanton, ELPC, DCSS, and DCSS BOE. She noted the assistance of her administrative team, Dr. Thompson, Dr. Bouie, Ms. Talley, Mr. Turk, and Mr. Ramsey all of whom were in attendance.

Interim Superintendant Tyson, described herself as a dedicated DCSS professional of 22 years who had experience with IBM at the request of the DCSS administration. She noted her commitment to her family, especially as a mother of two elementary school aged children. She stated that her goal was to do the best job possible while staying focused on the core business of DCSS and the students of DCSS. Specifically, she shared her goal to rebuild the trust of all stakeholders and especially the morale of DCSS employees.

She noted the pressing matter of balancing the budget for FY 2011 by June 30. DCSS BOE must approve a balanced budget noting the dire circumstance of the current economic situation. After the budget is approved, school consolidation must be addressed, and then the transition issues of current students in addition to preparing for the new students. This all must be done with a “laser-like focus on day-to-day operations.”

Ms. Tyson noted that there is presently an $88,000,000 shortfall and a DCSS proposal to reduce spending by $115, 000,000. This greater cut is in anticipation of historical state education funding cuts that occur during the summer time and negatively impact county budgets. While, DCSS prepares budgets, Ms. Tyson highlighted that ultimate decision making rests with the DCSS BOE.

Ms. Tyson spoke in some detail about the budget and noted that the specific proposals for FY2011 with meetings, hearings and deadlines are available on the DCSS website . Additionally, the following meetings are upcoming .

Public Budget Hearings

Wednesday, April 21, 2010, 6:00pm
William Bradley Bryant Center of Technology
2652 Lawrenceville Highway
Decatur, Georgia 30033

Wednesday, April 28, 2010, 6:00pm
William Bradley Bryant Center of Technology
2652 Lawrenceville Highway
Decatur, Georgia 30033

Ms. Tyson spent some time clarifying information about DCSS employees. She noted that there are 15,859 employees of whom 13,873 are FT and 1986 are PT. She noted that 14,620 are school based employees and 1239 are in the central office which translates to approximately 7.8 % of central office employees. Of the central office employees, 982 are paid out of the general budget with local dollars and 257 are paid with federal dollars. Proposed budget reductions include the lay-offs of approximately 152 central office positions by 6-30-10.

While noting that budget reductions are necessary, compliance issues must be met to ensure funding and adherence to laws and standards. Ms. Tyson reiterated that her administration and the board would address these matters. Even after initial cuts, Ms. Tyson noted the on-going need to examine the central office structure from a business perspective in order to determine the need for additional cuts.

Interim Superintendant Tyson directed the audience to examine the school consolidation plans that are posted on the DCSS website She noted that because of 11,000 empty seats in DCSS there is a corresponding loss of state entitlement dollars which places an undue burden on the district. She noted a recommendation to transition from middle and high schools having 2 planning periods per day to one planning period (i.e. from a 7 period day to a 6 period day) as a significant cost saving recommendation. Additionally, she noted that during this trying time that testing integrity has been a priority.

For the next 3-6 months, an uphill climb will continue with distractions. Ms. Tyson reiterated her commitment to improve integrity and keep distractions separated from the core business of education. She noted that the BOE will be communicating with the media and that she will be focusing on day-to-day operations.

She thanked everyone for the time and enlisted her administrative staff to assist with Q & A. Though not included in the following summary, most of the audience members began questions by thanking Interim Superintendant Tyson for her candor, the quality of her comments and her willingness to lead at this time.

Q: Can the BOE decide to make fewer cuts?

A: Yes, the BOE has ultimate decision making responsibility.

Q: Will the school consolidation proposed result in $5,000,000 savings?

A: There was an involved response to this question that included the opportunity to attend upcoming public hearings about school closings and visiting the consolidation plan on the DCSS website.

Tue., May 11, 2010 6:00 P.M.
Miller Grove High School
2645 DeKalb Medical Parkway
Lithonia, GA 30058

Thu., May 13, 2010 6:00 P.M.
Lithonia High School
2440 Phillips Road
Lithonia, GA 30058

Q: What is the future of DCSS moving towards future to savings by increased energy efficiency and green technology?

A: Once FY 2011 budget is addressed, the administration will immediately begin addressing FY 2012 and this will include continuing to streamline the central office that may include outsourcing. Other counties are considering outsourcing transportation. The priority will be to protect the services closest to students while conducting a forensic audit to examine programs that are not working. With respect to renewable energy, the transportation efficiency plan was discussed with the elimination of afterschool transportation for middle and high school events. They are considering hybrid bus grant. Additionally, Ms. Tyson has implemented power management system software that runs across the DCSS network and automatically shuts down devices which has resulted in significant savings. Ms. Tyson re-iterated her openness to input and cost-saving suggestions.

Q: Please address the funding issues that are addressed with school consolidation.

A: Many factors were discussed in this response, what was highlighted was the shift in funding from 60%/40% state/local funding to 40%/60% state/local which is unprecedented and due to the decrease in property digest.

Q: What about foundations and alternative funding sources?

A: There has been insufficient time to address this matter given the circumstances but when FY2011 is resolved, the administration will move forward to address this matter. Ms. Tyson has had some dialogue among the administration but has not had that conversation with the BOE. She reiterated her commitment to discussing matters with the BOE initially.

Q: How many students are there in DCSS?

A: Approximately 969,000 students based on FTE (state figures don’t include pre-k in count and are closer to 98,500).

Q: Are you open to teachers’ suggestions about budget reductions?

A: Yes, the administration wants to address teacher morale issues and reduce the fear between teachers and administration. DCSS BOE member, Mr. Redovian noted that he attended the teacher advisory council and he recommended that reducing cumbersome time/consuming procedures may be a possible way to assist teachers who are experiencing significant decreases in compensation.

Q: Is it true that you are unwilling to consider the position as Superintendant?

A: That was my response to an informal question from the media.

Q: Follow up question (after some optimism that Ms. Tyson might consider the position) how will the BOE initiate a national search in the fall with an upcoming election in which 5 BOE positions will be open? DCSS, Vice Chair, Ms. Roberts noted that the BOE is considering plans to initiate a national search sooner rather than later.

C: Former ELPC Co-President and founder, Ms. Andreson served on Citizens Planning Task Force to address school closures in DeKalb County noting that the north/south conversations and racial characterizations hurt all involved.

A: Ms. Tyson thanked all involved in the task force as well as DCSS administration members, Mr. Mosely and Mr. Drake for significant contributions to the Citizens Planning Task Force.

Q: How many empty seats are there?

A: The calculations are intricate but 7000 is more accurate.

Q: When will DCSS system-wide recycling be implemented as a cost effective strategy?

A: All options are being considered once the current FY 2011 situation is decided.

Q: Will the medical magnet at DHHS be cut?

A: Yes, currently a letter has been sent with the partners that due to the dire financial situation the program will not begin but it is the hope that this is a postponement

Q: Are principals with point allotments based on current student enrollment or projections for fall enrollments?

A: Points are allotted based on current enrollment and if enrollment increases in fall, principals will receive additional points for more personnel.

C: This does not address the situation that occurs when a principal has a reduction of points and has to let valuable teachers go and then has to recruit new teachers.

C: Please look at each school individually when making cuts as well as be open to suggestions for small cost saving measures everywhere that could result in significant budget reductions. This audience member noted her affiliation with a large private university that initiated such an approach to cost reduction with effective outcomes. Small cuts (more efficient use of technology and waste reduction practices) can result in significant reductions. During such a crisis, waste is intolerable.

Mr. Orson concluded by expressing appreciation by all involved. Ms. Tyson received a standing ovation for the presentation.

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Respectfully Submitted, Susan M. Furman, Recording Secretary,