In a four to one vote, the Newton County Board of Education decided to dissolve Clements Theme School and turn Fairview Theme into a kindergarten through fifth-grade theme school.
The original recommendation from Superintendent Dr. Steve Whatley suggested Fairview house grades K-6 but that recommendation was voted down unanimously.
Teachers and parents of Fairview students had spoken out earlier in the meeting, asking that the board not allow their small school to grow too fast.
Latonya Walker, the parent of an 11-year-old that attends Clements, addressed the board as well, telling them how well her daughter had done since beginning at the theme school.
"We’ve got to utilize the space and resources that we have for Clements," said board member Cathy Dobbs. "We just cannot have 300 kids in that school when we have other middle schools that are overcrowded."
Johnny Smith said that it made more sense fiscally to grow by two years and turn Fairview into a K-5 school.
"I think budget-wise, with our money, we have to at least go K-5," he said. "I know they want to grow slow but right now we need to have 650-675 kids in that school. We had progress there, but we just cannot afford to fund a school that small."
Dobbs concurred, saying she wished Clements had 600 or more students in it, but the enrollment report shows that as of May 5 there were just 338.
"I think we took too many big steps," said Dobbs. "Hopefully the board in the future will look into it every year."
"I worry that my daughter will suffer, as well as the other students, because a lot of parents look at school as their daycare," said Walker. "They just don’t want to get involved with their child’s education, but we came here and the education she has received has been on point," said Walker. "The staff was willing to work with her, and I could tell they were there because they had a passion to teach and a lot of schools don’t have that."
Walker, who brought her family to Newton County from DeKalb, said her daughter is a smart girl "thanks to Clements."
"Newton County doesn’t understand what they are doing," she said. "These kids will get left behind and they are going to be to blame. Yes, Clements had problems earlier in the year," said Walker. "But it’s the first year and I think they should give the school more time."
Middle School Rezoning
The board voted to create five middle school zones, allowing upcoming eighth-graders the choice to stay at their current school, providing that parents are able to come up with their own transportation.
The zoning will create feeder zone patterns, showing elementary school parents where their child would be zoned for middle school.
Clements, which will revert back to a regular middle school, will receive students from Live Oak Elementary (south of I-20) and Porterdale Elementary; Cousins Middle School would receive students from Live Oak Elementary (north of I-20), Palmer Stone, Ficquett and the northeast portion of East Newton Elementary School.
Indian Creek Middle School with receive the remainder of the students from East Newton’s attendance area, as well as students from Mansfield, Heard Mixon and Rocky Plains Elementary schools; Liberty Middle School will receive students from South Salem, Livingston and Middle Ridge Elementary schools and lastly, Veterans Memorial Middle School will receive students from Oak Hill and West Newton Elementary schools.
Tentative Fiscal Year 2011 Budget
Board members got their first look at the tentative FY11 general fund budget on Tuesday night as well, though Whatley was quick to point out that the numbers were only an estimate, as the state budget remains unofficial and local tax numbers were not yet available.
"Until you know how much money you’ve got you cannot know how much you can spend," said Whatley.
The system made roughly $4.6 million in cutbacks last year in preparation for the FY11 budget, which is made up of about 65 percent state revenue and 35 percent local revenue and carry-over.
As it stands, the anticipated resources are $139,319,844 with expenditures estimated at $134,546,711, leaving a fund balance of $4,773,133. This is based on not raising the mileage rate above where it now is at 18.21 mils.
Whatley also presented the board with a snapshot of Quality Basic Education allotment from FY06 to the estimated allotment for FY11. In FY06 the NCSS saw a reduction in QBE funds of approximately $2.8 million, and then in FY07 and FY08, that number dropped to a reduction of $1.7 and $1.5 million.
However, it jumped in FY09 to nearly $4.3 million and by FY10 it had jumped even higher to $7.8 million of funds the school system had earned from the state but were not receiving. The FY11 estimate is that the NCSS will earn, but not receive, $11.4 million in funds from the state, bringing the total loss to $29,642,889.
The NCSS does receive stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and in FY10 the system did receive $7.43 million from the ARRA. But that came in place of QBE funding from the state. Meaning the NCSS received federal money but none from the state. The system is scheduled to receive $1.7 million in the FY11 budget from ARRA, but with the cuts from the state are still $11.4 million.
"That was federal money that came to the governor and he sent it to local school districts instead of dealing with the financial revenue problem that exists in this state," said Whatley.
Positions were cut in the 2009-2010 school year in anticipation of the budget crisis and continue to be made in all areas in the NCSS. According to the tentative budget, 40.5 teaching positions in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade have been cut, three counselors, all three graduation coaches at the high schools, 111.5 paraprofessionals (24.5 of which were cut last year), 3 secretaries/clerks/receptionists, 1.5 assistant principals, 2.75 custodians/facility coordinators and 2.3 school food service workers. Two school bus mechanics were cut, four people in central office support and two in central office administration were also cut, and more then $500,000 — 14.43 percent — of instructional staff support, which includes employees in the central office.
The Newton County Board of Education has planned to vote on the tentative budget at Tuesday night’s meeting. This budget can be changed. The official FY11 budget is set to be adopted on June 15.