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Posted: February 25, 2011 9:07 p.m.

School board takes straw poll on budget cuts

Seven-period day, privatized alternative school supported

 Newton County School Board members in non-binding votes indicated their approval on Friday to a seven-period school day for high schools next year, and to contract out with a private firm, Ombudsman, for alternative school services.

Board members indicated approval of the cost-cutting proposals in a budget work session. The school system must cut at least $9 million from its budget for 2011-2012 school year. A formal vote on the budget is expected in the school board regular meeting on March 8.

A seven-period day for high schoolers is projected to boost academic performance and to save $2.8 million. The measure had unanimous board backing in a straw vote on Friday.

Contracting alternative school services with Ombudsman would save an estimated $1.9 million. There was one board member against the measure, Shakila Henderson-Baker, but she said she could agree to the measure pending modifications.

Ombudsman partners with 23 Georgia school districts. They would open two centers in Newton County.

A switch to a seven-period day will result in the loss of 47 high school teaching positions.

The board were all in tentative favor of reorganizing and reducing the maintenance and custodial staffs, combining the Newton College and Career Academy CEO and Director of Career, Technical and Agricultural Education positions and reducing the number of school resource officers.

There were several issues that some board members were undecided on, such as the elimination of two assistant principals and all members were against cutting 28 eight-hour paraprofessional positions at the elementary school.

Although the discussion lasted from 9 a.m. Until 4 p.m., the board did not vote on any of the items but did express interest in doing so at their March 8 meeting, which would allow for plans to be made and new systems to be implemented in plenty of time for the start of the 2011-2012 school year.

The board also saw three recommendations for the 2011-2012 school calender and will talk about it more in-depth at their March meeting as well.

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