The School Board on Thursday, May 4, 2017, heard a budget forecast from the Superintendent of Schools that funds student enrollment growth and continues class size reductions.
The highlights outlined during the Strategic Work Session will be followed up by release of the full recommended Annual Budget later this month, with public hearings scheduled for June 6 and 15 and a vote to approve the budget on June 15.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower noted the proposed budget does not call for a millage rate increase, but sustains CCSD’s financial focus on the classroom, with the hiring of 61 teachers and school-based staff to address projected enrollment growth and continued class size reduction.
Even with an anticipated 572 additional students, CCSD plans to lower class size further to an average of 20 students in kindergarten through third-grade classes and 26 in fourth- and fifth-grade… significantly smaller, on average, than allowed class sizes of 26 for kindergarten, 28 for Grades 1-3 and 35 for Grades 4-5.
Dr. Hightower said this trend is very impressive given that the State still has not restored $4 million in “austerity budget reductions,” with limited new funding earmarked by the Governor specifically for teacher salary increases. Despite financial constraints, the proposed budget for CCSD not only meets the cost-of-living salary increase in the State’s base compensation for teachers, but also extends it to all eligible employees, increases the local supplement for a true 2% raise and funds longevity step increases.
“This is very important,” Assistant Superintendent for Financial Management Ken Owen said of the significant investment in employee compensation, noting that salary is just one piece of the pie paid by CCSD, as health insurance, retirement system and other related costs funded by the District continue to soar. But, he added, it’s an expense that school districts cannot shortchange. “A teacher hiring shortage is looming ahead.”
Due to CCSD’s historical record of strong compensation packages for employees, even during the recent Recession, the District has not faced challenges in hiring like some other metro school systems. The School Board on Thursday also received an excerpt from the forthcoming Financial Facts report, which is produced by CCSD staff to provide employees and the community with budget highlights (available online here), and further details these personnel costs.
The Superintendent shared several other hints about his recommended Annual Budget now being finalized including additional investments in safety and security and learning resources.
The budget calls for funding to retrofit six more schools with security foyers that further regulate access by visitors. Transportation will see two major improvements: the previously announced plan to transition to smaller Special Education preschool buses that are lower to the ground and easier to drive, and the introduction of a new GPS system for all CCSD buses that will allow parents to track their child’s bus using an online tool.
A major investment of $3 million will upgrade CCSD’s English and Language Arts elementary school instructional resources for the first time in a decade, mirroring the update of math resources completed this school year.
The School Board also:
• Heard plans by the Superintendent to introduce a new “Superintendent’s Game Changer Award,” which annually will recognize four outstanding employees or supporters who have made significant contributions to instructional excellence. The inaugural awards will be presented later this month;
• Heard a presentation from Student Delegate Isabelle Riddle of Sequoyah HS, who this week was named one of only 160 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the nation!
• Recognized Sixes Elementary School as a Common Sense Certified School for Digital Citizenship;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2017 Georgia Scholars;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2016-17 Governor’s Honors Finalists;
• Recognized Nathan Baker of Etowah HS for winning the Award of Excellence from the Georgia Department of Education;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2016-17 Regional Science and Engineering Fair Winners;
• Recognized CCSD seventh-graders who earned Grand or State recognition from Duke University Talent Identification Program (TIP);
• Recognized CCSD’s Tome Student Literacy Society Students named State Champions;
• Recognized Region and State athletic and arts champions including the Cherokee HS Region Champions girls basketball team and Sequoyah HS State Literary competition winners;
• Recognized Cherokee HS senior Zachary Quiros as recipient of the 2017 Oak Leaf Church Scholarship of $1,000;
• Recognized Woodstock HS senior A.J. Cox as recipient of the 2017 Waste Management/Pine Bluff Landfill Scholarship of $5,000;
• Approved the first reading of updates to personnel and student harassment policies;
• Approved monthly financial and Education SPLOST reports;
• Approved out-of-state travel;
• Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips;
• Approved annual plan for improvement of career, technical and agricultural education and one-year funding application for submission to the State; and,
• Approved monthly personnel recommendations.
Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 18, 2017