School administrators have shared the pain


Recently there has been a lot of concern about our excellent Fayette County schools, given the dire economy and the impact it has on our school system. As the spouse of a front-line teacher, the father of a student, and an advocate for our schools, I too am very concerned.

Mr. Ralph Trapaga, a Delta pilot, is worried that Dr. DeCotis has not “done the right thing” and shared the pain of our front-line teachers and their families but instead has hidden behind his contract and taken “full pay until the last day.”

Fortunately, Mr. Trapaga can rest easy. Dr. DeCotis and most administrators (88 percent) took five voluntary furlough days in FY 2009 while no teacher took a cut. In fact, Dr. DeCotis was first to offer, then most of our leaders joined in.

They did not let a piece of paper get in the way when our schools are in trouble. That is the type of team we have leading the finest school system in the state.

This year, Dr. DeCotis, the entire administration, and our teachers took a 4.5 percent pay cut and three furlough days (so far) as one team.

In fact, Mr. Trapaga may be startled to know that not only does Dr. DeCotis make more than the state schools superintendent, but approximately 120 out of 180 systems pay more for the title, “superintendent.”

Next, Mr. Trapaga was worried our school tax millage rate might rise to help cover the six-figure administrator salaries we pay. Again Mr. Trapaga has no reason to worry.

Fayette County schools currently have a 20 mill tax rate, which is the maximum allowed by law. While other systems have chosen to eliminate parapros, middle school band, resource officers, school nurses, and other key elements, Fayette County has done everything possible to keep our program that has resulted in continuous top 10 system SAT performance, high graduation rates, no school ever on the dreaded AYP list (one of very few systems to be able to claim that), and property values that have weathered the recent storm better than most.

In addition, due to our eSPLOST, early payments have been made on our bonds and the taxpayer should see at least a three-quarter-mill or more decrease on their next tax bill.

While our system is 19th in size in FY2009 based on student (FTE) population, the amount we paid for the title “Superintendent of Schools” was 28th in Georgia. When you add our assistant superintendents, we paid the 23rd most.

Taking that amount to a per student (FTE) basis, we were 9th out of 14 schools of the same size (13,000-29,000) for both total cost of all superintendents and total administration cost.

Since FY 2009, Assistant Superintendant Linda Wenzel has left our system and her duties were spread over remaining staff, which will result in even lower administration costs with the same great educational results.

I appreciate Mr. Trapaga’s concern about our teachers and schools. Each night of the week and most weekends, there are Fayette County teachers giving up time with their families to provide tutoring, sponsor clubs or host “Spirit Nights” for their schools in return for less pay and even less gratitude from those who believe our teachers and administrators should bear the burden of these times alone.

Our schools have had a great and perfect partnership between parents, teachers, and students that drive our success and is reflected in our results. The taxpayers of this county have given to our schools with great expectations that have been delivered.

While I believe the cost results above reflect good results, I know we can do more as we continue to build our technology infrastructure and adopt IE2.

Neil Sullivan

Peachtree City