Five-year plan predicts shrinking enrollment in Peach schools

alopez@macon.comApril 29, 2014 

FORT VALLEY -- Projections from the state expect enrollment in Peach County schools to decline about 415 students over the next five years.

At a school board work session Tuesday, board member Robert Hammack said projections in the district’s proposed five-year facility plan are disturbing.

“The public doesn’t have faith yet, and they want their children to leave to go somewhere else,” he said. “We understand that Peach County has a good school system right here.”

A copy of the five-year plan was not immediately released Tuesday, but Ben Maddox, the system’s director of operations, confirmed that projections have the district losing 83 students per year.

Hammock’s discussion of projected losses in enrollment came after several board members congratulated principals and staff in attendance for the district’s gains in the College and Career Ready Performance Index, which demonstrated improvements at the district level and across every school in the system in 2013.

Chairman Jamie Johnson said he wants to arrange a peach cobbler celebration for the district’s students.

“Our students need to be celebrated,” he said. Hammock said the school system needs help in attracting students and providing the ones it already has with the best education.

“What I’d like to do is challenge the parents and the community to help,” he said, noting that parents largely were absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Interim superintendent search ongoing

Superintendent Joe Ann Denning will retire at the end of June, and the search for her temporary replacement is underway.

The job opening for Peach County interim superintendent has been posted, and the district already has started receiving applications, Johnson said. Submissions will be cut off in the next week or two, and the board will work to narrow the field for the interview stage, he said.

Budget presentation postponed

Monday, Gov. Nathan Deal signed the fiscal 2015 budget that will add $535 million to public schools as compared to the 2014 budget. Some of that money will fund technology infrastructure and enrollment growth, and some of the funds will allow districts to increase instructional days, reduce teacher furloughs or increase teacher salaries.

After spending nearly four hours in a closed meeting discussing personnel matters, the school board voted to postpone discussing the district’s fiscal 2015 budget until the May 6 board meeting.

It is still unclear how the increase in state funding will affect Peach County, said Denning, because the district has some personnel funded this year under federal grants that it will not have next year.

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