The first day of school for Bibb County students, just a couple weeks away, will be delayed.
School board members voted unanimously Thursday night to accept Interim Superintendent Steve Smiths recommendation to delay the opening. Under the old plan, school would have begun on a Thursday, Aug. 1. That start date will be moved to the following Monday, Aug. 5.
Smith said that under the old plan, teachers would have had just one scheduled day to get ready for the new school year after two days of training that week. The new plan gives them another two days in their classrooms to prepare for the new school year. Smith said those original instructional days will be converted to planning days, giving students 176 days of instruction.
Because of a massive budget hole that had been estimated at $18.7 million, school board members had proposed budgets that cut back both on the number of people working for the school system, and the number of days remaining employees could actually work. The new schedule gives teachers some of the flexibility theyd lost under initially planned cuts. Two planning days were lost to furloughs and two other days to training days,
Smith told The Telegraph that the move was in the best interest of students and teachers, who had little time to get ready for the new school year.
Morale is at an all-time low, he said.
Leslie Mock Norton, whose granddaughter will start at Howard Middle School soon, said the school system had been discussing year-round schooling and other options but never communicated directly to parents about the start date. She said she wished administrators communicated better with parents.
The lack of notice by mail or phone about the start date at all was lame but to change it this close to the planned date is crazy, Norton said in an online chat with a reporter Thursday.
Board members also finalized their budget, following significant changes recommended by Smith. The revised school budget gives the system another six counselors, enough to have a full-time counselor at each school. It also gives Smith the flexibility to hire and place as many as 20 teachers as the school year begins. Officials expect to encounter generally larger class sizes, but the pool of additional teachers could allow excessively large classes to be split into smaller classes. The changes added $2.1 million in personnel costs, but the budget anticipates an additional $2 million in fund balance at the beginning of the year, making the new staffing almost a wash.
The budget for 2014 has been approved, Board President Wanda West announced. Her later comments were lost in a torrent of applause from staff members in the audience.
In other business, most people surveyed by the Bibb County school system give it a failing grade, according to results released during Thursdays school board meeting.
In all, 51 percent of 1,271 people in an online survey said theyd give the system a grade of F. In all, 92.2 percent of people in the survey, half of whom were parents, said theyd give the system a grade no higher than a C. Just 0.6 percent of the respondents said theyd give the district an A.
Smith said the surveys results generally jibe with the systems accreditors, AdvancEd, who on Thursday gave the system a status of Accredited Warned. An inspection team particularly flagged the districts leadership and technology.
Weve got our starting point. Weve got our work cut out for us, Smith told board members.
Board member Thelma Dillard said the survey was necessary to know how people felt, a prelude to dealing with them.
The survey results often showed poor results at the system level but strong results at the individual school level. For example, four-fifths of the people surveyed said the system didnt provide effective leadership and didnt support schools. However, nearly three-fifths of people surveyed said their school had effective leadership.
Board members separately voted to begin contract negotiations with Manley Spangler Smith Architects of Griffin to develop the school systems next five-year facilities plan. The board also voted to extend a trash disposal contract and authorized emergency roof repairs at Rice Elementary School. The board also promoted Kim Tolbert from assistant principal to principal of Brookdale Elementary School.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.