Board of Education member Bacallao’s plan will not close budget gap

The Fayette County Board of Education has made it clear that they need to close a $15 million deficit in next year’s budget. In order to reduce some of this deficit, three elementary schools and one middle school are slated to be closed.

[Board member] Dr. Mary Kay Bacallao stated to the crowd of about 900 at the Jan. 28 board meeting in Sam’s Auditorium that she will not vote to close schools.

Dr. Bacallao has put forth several items that she states will prevent any school closures and restore student days to 180. The BOE has posted the answers to some of Bacallao’s suggestions on their website at www.fcboe.org under “Frequently Asked Questions (and their answers) regarding the FY14 budget.”

In her Alternate Plan, approximately 90 percent of Dr. Bacallao’s $6.5 million savings comes from reduction of 49 teachers, 12 assistant principals, cutting an undetermined number of 240-day employees to 210 days, and cutting the Welcome Center back to being opened two months (June and July), reducing more positions.

These position cuts are in addition to the cut of 100 certified, 100 para pros, 10 school secretaries, five high school parking lot attendants, elimination of middle school athletics, reduction of an unknown number of central office positions, outsourcing custodians, and reduction of supplements/extended day contracts that were proposed by the FCBOE’s Cost-Cutting Committee.

Only $670,000 of Bacallao’s $6.5 million savings comes from changing the bus zones to one-and-a-half-mile radius, but that number of $670,000 also includes the elimination of 30 bus driver positions.

Dr. Bacallao will tell you that the FCBOE can save $1.35 million by reducing 18 teachers while testing/approving more students for the gifted program and having more teachers acquire endorsement in Gifted.

But what Dr. Bacallao cannot say is how many teachers will the FCBOE train as gifted teachers and how much will it cost for this training.

She also cannot say for sure how many students will be found and classified as gifted after testing all of these children, let alone what cost will be incurred by the school district for testing of these students.

Another thing Dr. Bacallao does not seem to either understand or tell you is that since it will take about a year for gifted testing/placing of children and teacher endorsement to be obtained, another year has gone by without seeing any of this $1.35 million. In fact, since the QBE is based on last year’s numbers, the FCBOE will not see any of this money before FY 2015 or more likely FY 2016.

For years, the Band-Aid approach has been used to balance the budget of the FCBOE. While the school district needs to right-size itself with the number of employees, the idea that testing more children for gifted to acquire more money from the state of Georgia and trading personnel for school buildings in the face of declining enrollment is absurd.

Dana Camp

Peachtree City, Ga.