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Education notebook: Bibb BOE makes budget cuts, moves money around

The Bibb County school board voted last week to adopt a resolution to use general reserve funds to make a 2005 Capital Improvement program bond repayment that needs to be paid next month because they don’t have funds available in the education local option sales tax account to cover it.

“Right now, we have $12 million in (the Capital Improvement Program account),” said Ron Collier, Bibb’s chief financial officer. The system expects sales tax collections of $3 million from a February payment, which would raise the account to $15 million, but the bond repayment due in March is $26 million.

The school system’s general reserve fund had $27 million in January, and the system expects to repay the reserve fund $2 million a month plus interest until the loan is repaid, he said.

The board also approved 2010 general fund budget adjustments Thursday in its board meeting by making some cuts to increase the system’s reserve funds.

“The purpose of these adjustments is to make good fiscal decisions,” Collier said.

Collier said the school system likely won’t fill several system and school vacancies this school year in order to save $3.18 million.

The system also is waiting to order the upcoming school year’s newly required textbooks until after July 1, the next fiscal year. That will save nearly $1 million, he said.

Cutting supplies and paying smaller portions in state health benefits for employees will also save money for the system, he said.

With the amendments, the school system will have a general fund ending balance June 30 of $14 million, compared with the $6.5 million earlier projected, Collier said.

School officials normally like to have about $21 million in the reserves, which is considered healthy for Bibb.

The board also plans to transfer half of $100,000 normally reserved for consultant fees in the central office, and use the $50,000 toward a national superintendent search to launch soon, school board President Gary Bechtel said.

“I don’t foresee us spending all that money but wanted to make sure it was there,” he said.

Bibb school bus sideswiped; driver, students uninjured

A Bibb County school bus was sideswiped by a car one day last week, but school officials say neither the driver nor students were injured.

David Gowan, the school system’s director of risk management, said Wednesday the system had two bus accidents.

One was a fender-bender that involved a bus bumping the back of a car. The other accident was Wednesday afternoon on Old Fulton Mill Road. A car scraped down the side of the bus causing some damage.

“It scraped it up pretty bad and damaged the back wheel pretty badly,” Gowan said. “No one left the scene in an ambulance or anything.”

The 13 students on board had to wait for another school bus to pick them up and then deliver them home, he said.

League of Women Voters focused on Bibb public education system

The Macon Chapter of the League of Women Voters held its monthly meeting last week at The Back Burner with the topic for discussion “The Plight of Public Education in Bibb County.”

In light of the Bibb school board negotiating to buy out Superintendent Sharon Patterson’s contract 17 months early and academic problems within the system, a member said there was plenty of interest by the group to discuss the topic.

“The League is certainly interested in this,” said member Betty Phillips, also a former Bibb County school board member.

Guest speaker Julie Moore, director of Education First, a nonprofit that was first initiated by the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce to promote public education, told the group that the community and school board need to “have an honest conversation” together about what is happening in Bibb’s K-12 schools and where it needs to be headed.

“Bibb County is dragging the barrel in the state of Georgia,” Moore said. “People are talking and want to talk frankly.”

The system needs people in place to get the internal work done, she said.

Bibb’s test scores need to be examined next to comparable cities and those with high-poverty households to measure how those places are finding success, she said.

Many cities comparable to Macon have created magnet or charter schools that lead in state rankings for success, she said.

“We do not have a true, true magnet with entrance requirements,” she said.

Savannah has an elementary school with a pre-International Baccalaureate program to help students excel, she added.

“I think we have to address these decisions,” Moore said. “(Poverty) is an issue. But success can be done.”

Houston BOE to meet about superintendent search

The Houston County Board of Education will meet at noon today at its Perry office to discuss the process for filling the system’s superintendent position. Current Superintendent David Carpenter announced this month that he would retire effective May 28.

The board also will meet in executive session to discuss attorney and client matters, as well as personnel, student and land matters.

The meeting’s agenda is available online at www.hcbe.net.

FVSU spring enrollment reaches record high

Fort Valley State University is reporting its highest spring semester enrollment ever, school officials said.

Currently, there are 3,520 students enrolled at the university, besting its former spring enrollment record of 2,956 students.

The 2010 spring enrollment at Fort Valley State closely trails behind enrollment in fall 2009, when the university had a record-breaking 3,553 students.

“We owe a lot of gratitude to the Enrollment Management Task Force. They developed strategies to ensure our unprecedented growth and exceptional level of service to students,” Terrance D. Smith, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, said in a news release.

Georgia College student newspaper wins award

Georgia College & State University’s student newspaper, The Colonnade, won first place in General Excellence for its fifth year at the Georgia College Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest Feb. 6 in Athens.

The Colonnade competed against 28 other colleges and universities from Georgia and earned awards in 16 categories, including six individual awards, a Georgia College news release stated. “Hours of hard work really paid off this year,” said the paper’s Editor-in-Chief Claire Dykes. “Gaining state-wide recognition in 16 categories was a great morale boost for the entire staff.”

Some of the awards won were first place in General Excellence, Best Campus Community Service-News, Best Campus Community Service-Editorial, General Advertising and Layout and Design and Improvement.

Compiled by Telegraph staff writers Andrea Castillo and Julie Hubbard.

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