Sullivan: BoE guilty of ‘poor judgment,’ needs accountant on Board to ask right questions, make tough decisions

4
1699

As we close in on election day, I want to thank our community for your attention and support during this unique campaign season. While we have had to maintain social distance, I remain close to our excellent Fayette community school’s teachers, students, and administrators.

As the chairman of the three recent successful ESPLOSTs that have provided over $250 million in capital funds to our wonderful schools, I believe in giving them the resources necessary, such as the ChromeBooks that during the Covid-19 crisis kept our teachers and students connected.

However, I have disagreed with the recent decision to build a new middle school; not because we did not need to address the terrible situation at Booth, but because the board did not seek the permission of the voters during the ESPLOST vote the year earlier. Some accuse the board of a “bait and switch,” I prefer to think it’s just really poor judgment. I believe the FCBOE should be careful with taxpayer funds and transparent in their decisions to use them.

My wife warns me “not to be such an accountant.” However, in my more than a decade of advocating for our excellent Fayette County Public Schools, I have often found that money is the root of all things education. We need a businessman on the school board to ask the tough questions and connect the right dots to keep our schools financially strong and our tax dollars safe.

My one opponent was on the FCBOE before. During that time, teachers were given up to 5 furlough days without less work. Next when that board finally made the decision to close four neighborhood schools, my opponent pressed to put millions in reserve. While I believe we should have a reserve built in better financial times, my opponent did this in bad economic times, reducing our “Fayette Advantage” by maximizing class size and laying off classroom staff. In short, my opponent cuts with a chainsaw without regard to the effects on our teachers or students.

My other opponent continues to spend as if they believe that the quality of education is measured by how much money is spent. Our excellent Fayette County Public Schools have proven them wrong with great results at spending per pupil lower than state average. However, in 2019, FCBOE spending was now higher per pupil than state average. Given the size of our system versus the average system, that should not happen.

In addition, during the past four years, local tax collections are up almost 18%, spending on administration up nearly 12%, and the number of students up approximately only 1%. I submit this path is not sustainable. We need to look at all non-classroom costs and make tough decisions.

In closing, I believe we need a businessman on the board with the experience necessary to ask the right questions and the willingness to make tough decisions. I am the only person running for FCBOE, or on it, with experience building, managing, and then holding leaders accountable to budgets larger than $100 million. In short, I believe we need an accountant.

I ask your vote for me to serve our students, teachers, and administrators by protecting our classrooms and keeping the “Fayette Advantage.”

Neil Sullivan, CPA

Candidate, District 3 Board of Education

Peachtree City, Ga.

4 COMMENTS

  1. The people in post 3 need to be wary of Sullivan because it’s easy to Monday morning quarterback the situation from a decade ago. I’m sure school districts all over the country are evaluating the same options to address COVID-related budget cuts that Sullivan gripes about. Heck, the headlines from 2 weeks ago said as much (furlough days, 14% state budget cuts, etc). I’m glad we have a rainy day fund because it’s been raining non-stop in 2020. I can’t vote for Key but wish I could. I encourage my friends in Centennial, Interlochen, Planterra, and other post 3 subdivisions to do the same.

    • Hey District 1

      Sorry you choose not to use your name here. Many will tell you I have been on these pages since 2007 in my own name because I think it’s important to stand behind what you say.

      I have often advocated on behalf of our schools for many years on issues regarding funding and cost.

      We disagree which is fine.

      Have a good day

      n

  2. Mr. Sullivan, I need to get your timeline and facts straight as it pertains to my time on the board.
    Furlough days were given as a result of the recession of 2008-2009. In order to address the recession’s impact on the budget, the BOE had to implement several corrective measures. How is this any different than in corporate America with layoffs, budget cuts, and productivity goals? Employees are being asked to do more work for the same or less pay.
    In 2013, the board closed 4 schools in order to eliminate the furlough days, reduce class sizes, bring back staff, and give pay raises. The closing of schools had nothing to do with the reserve fund. The board in collaboration with the comptroller made the decision to close schools with low enrollment which made them expensive to operate. Doesn’t corporate America make the same decision with the closing of stores?
    The BOE and the comptroller discussed the reserve fund during the recession and wished we had one. Once the dust settled and finances were more stable, we could then begin to create
    a reserve fund. Like Rome, a reserve fund is not build in a day.
    Lastly, we lost our “Fayette Advantage” by not having an educator on the board ensuring we were meeting the needs of the students. Without the benefit of hindsight, what would you have done in a similar situation??

    • Hi Mrs Key

      Sorry for the late delay, was off at a baseball tournament with my son.

      I think your last statement is false. We have at least one educator on the board since I became involved in 2007. First it was you and Dr Todd, then the wonderful Diane Basham, a retired McIntosh teacher, was on the board when you left in 2018. She was replaced in 2018 by the impressive Roy Raybold. Mr Raybold was Principal at both Sandy Creek and Whitewater. He is widely credited with pioneering the use of technology in our excellent Fayette County Schools. He has two years left on his term.

      So to your own point, we already have an educator, we lack an experienced business person.

      Your second point is also false. Class size was maximized as part of this change. My son was one of 29 5th graders in a classroom built for 24 at Peachtree City Elementary. This current board brought class size lower bringing back K-1 paraprofessionals eliminated in the purge.

      You missed my points first in 2008, it was rough, but few businesses took money out of the employee’s pockets to run the business. Your board did nothing to reduce nonessential spending such as middle school sports, or close schools you admit where half used, but rather took 5 days of pay with no less days of school to avoid tough choices.

      I fear our common opponent will do the same now. Instead of taking a hard look at the growth in Phds and directors, or eliminate non core spending, they will ask for sacrifice from our staff.

      We lost a lot of good teachers last time because the FCBOE did not think things through.

      In my experience in Corporate America the good ones do it right and “connect the dots“. During my time at Delta we were always looking for savings, however, we were always careful to protect the operation. Saving a dollar today to pay three tomorrow makes little sense.

      For example when we had to reduce staff after 9/11, the original early retirement cutoff date was 10/01/1991. I got that changed to 11/01/1991 to include thousands of top wage former PanAm and Eastern employees who would have retired were one month short of eligibility before the change. By making the change many of these employees got their retirement with medical, and lower wage employees got to stay, lowering our cost.

      Finding cost effective “win win” solutions that benefit the employees and the company is one of the things I do in Corporate America.

      Good luck in these next few days. I appreciate the exchange.

      Take Care

      Neil