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System releases stakeholders survey results
Voters respond to budget cuts
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The numbers are in from the Newton County School System's stakeholder survey, and from teachers to the voting public, it seems those involved in the lives of Newton County's students are in agreement with nearly all possible budget cuts suggested by Superintendent Dr. Gary Mathews, including changing to a seven-period day for high schools, and eliminating two assistant principal positions.

Roughly 2,700 people participated in the survey, which was available online, and to school councils, school PTOs and forums of teachers. The goal was to determine where the public stood on 13 potential cuts to the 2011-2012 budget, several of which will be needed to pare $9 million from the budget that the system will be losing at the start of the school year.

All of those who participated in the survey agreed strongly that the Newton College and Career Academy CEO and Director of Career, Technical and Agriculture Education position should be combined and that two assistant principals should be cut. All either agreed or strongly agreed that the high school scheduling should be changed to a seven-period day, which would also eliminate teacher positions at the high school level, that the system should eliminate Sharp Learning Center in favor of Ombudsman, that a three-tier transportation system should be implemented and that the number of school resource officers should be reduced from 18 to 14.

Additionally, those who answered the survey were also in favor (either agreeing or strongly agreeing) of cutting central office budgets by 10 percent, reorganizing and reducing maintenance and custodial staffs and reducing the school year by one day for students and one work day for employees.

Less popular were options to eliminate 70, six-hour regular education paraprofessionals in elementary schools, with the general public voting undecided and the other groups disagreeing; eliminating 28, eight-hour regular education paraprofessionals at the elementary level; and reducing the 1 percent board contribution to the 403b retirement plan for Teachers Retirement System employees to .5 percent.

Most were undecided on the change of school week for students to 156 days, 158 days or 169 days.

Although the stakeholder survey will not decide what cuts are made, it does allow for the board of education to see where educators and parents stand.

The board is expected to vote on whether or not they will implement three-tier transportation at their meeting Tuesday night and Mathews has expressed his hope to have a non-binding "straw vote" at a called meeting on Feb. 25 on all of the proposed budget cuts in order to expedite the formal approval of a tentative budget reduction list so that teachers may have contracts extended prior to the May 15 deadline so that they can plan for the future.