Instead of cutting up to 70 school positions, school board must maintain ‘Fayette Advantage’


During the January regular meeting of Fayette School Board of Education, Ms. Erin Robinson, Executive Director of Human Resources and Title IX Coordinator, presented the FY 2025 Personnel Allotments. In her “new approach,” she recommends that principals reduce allotments in a way that is fair and gives flexibility and that they are encouraged to maximize FTE (full-time employees) in the areas of EIP, ESOL, Remediation, and Gifted.

During the discussion, Dr. Patterson, our Superintendent, said there would be a system reduction of about forty positions, although I am hearing it now may be near seventy. We have known that the schools’ financial issues due to our limited local property tax base, but I thought we would make more of a fight to keep our schools great.

First, I am troubled that there has been zero public discussion on how we maintain what we have come to know as our “Fayette Advantage.” In the years during and after the financial recession, board members Janet Smola, Terri Smith, Marion Key, and Dr. Bob Todd, partnered with superintendents Dr. John Decotis and later Dr. Jeff Bearden to keep parapros in every one of our Kindergarten classrooms, and our class sizes less than state maximums.

There were scary moments where FCBOE came close to  running out of money, but the plan worked and while there may be more grey hairs, our students got the resources we planned. Now we have a reserve of over twenty million dollars.

Unfortunately, our current board and administration have no such drive to keep our schools fully resourced or recognize that our history of success was driven by these strategies more than any data collected. What is our new strategy?

Instead, we treat each school building as a separate “city state” that develops its own plan to deliver education as if it were different than the other FCBOE school down the road.

At the same time, emphasis is on making sure that each high school gets the exact same athletic allocation. One example would be the tennis courts that each high school is getting one regardless that two are a short distance from the “crown jewel” Tennis (and Pickleball) Center in Peachtree City.

To be clear, we cannot use the five million dollars in ESPLOST capital funds used for the tennis courts for teachers. However, we should ask, how do we make sure that each school, and more importantly each student gets the same access to resources?

In any school there are involved parents that wind up trying to drive things toward the best advantage of their student. However, as these parents speak for their children, a reasonable person may ask who speaks for the children whose parents are uninvolved for whatever reason?

Seems like a long time ago in a private conversation, one of our current school board members asked, “are we going to be a school system, or a system of schools?” But that is only one dynamic.

Listening to Ms. Robinson’s presentation, there was clearly a process to develop this plan. While the school board is supposed to represent the public, this seems like a case where the public should be included, not just anointed insiders, but regular folks.

Maybe nobody shows up as I see only 17 people at this meeting, but including the public may provide perspective and alternatives to reducing nearly seventy school-based positions.

Some will rightly point to the homestead exemption we voters approved in recent year’s that limits property tax growth to three percent while costs climb at a much faster rate. However, I would point to SB 349 which is likely to pass and then spread this limitation across the entire state.

Instead of wringing our hands about how much money we do not have locked in our tax base, it may be a better plan to set priorities for our schools and develop strategies how to pay for it.

[Neil Sullivan is a finance/accounting executive and CPA. He has lived in Peachtree City over 20 years with his wife Jennifer, a Fayette County History teacher and son Jackson, a sophomore at Erskine College. He has been active in public school related issues in Fayette County, leading three E-SPLOST initiatives as chairman of Fayette Citizens for Children. He has appeared previously on these pages in letters to the editor.]


  1. Maybe instead of cutting teaching and staff positions – we need to stop wasting money on stupid purchases like solar glasses for this upcoming partial eclipse. See attached snippet of a letter sent out by the FCBOE:

    “….We will have normal school operations since the partial eclipse will not start until late afternoon.
    The partial eclipse will be at its peak during dismissal for many of our schools, so we are providing approved solar glasses (ISO 12312-2 standard) to all students and staff. These glasses meet safety standards, providing protection for observing the eclipse without risk to vision….”

    These glasses are anywhere from $1.80 at the low end to $4 a pair for the cheapest types, according to Amazon. If we have 20,000 students and staff – you’re looking at a $40,000 waste of money for something the school isn’t responsible for – my kids eyes. If my kid stares long enough at the sun to damage their eyes – that’s on me as a parent.

    Imagine – spending $40,000 for a disposable item that’s going to be thrown away after that day. We’d be just as good off lighting it on fire. That $40,000 could buy a few mowers for the grounds crew. It could pay for summer help working on buildings. It could buy a van for student clubs / teams transportation. But we are choosing to spend it on a disposable item. Ridiculous.

    We could also spend the $40,000 on educating our teachers about how they shouldn’t have rainbow flags in their classrooms. Just a thought.

  2. Education is not an island of its own.

    Each individual schools does have unique and different needs. Before someone starts yelling xenophobic, an honest look at Fayette County will reveal that some schools have a population that’s a bit more transient. Some schools require more ESL, and no, Spanish is not the only mother tongue here. Our international businesses, an over all plus for this county, bring workers and executives from overseas to work along side local hires. With them come their families.

    We are in an unprecedented position following the “Covid Break” that fell between Winter Break 2020 and Fall Break of 2022. We have had, and will continue to have, children entering the system who have never been around other children. Zero social skills, nearly 100% interaction with family only (some good, much bad). Teachers cannot do this alone, not because they are not competent, but because the case loads are too large. The cut in paraprofessionals will only worsen our schools.

    Sure, slam the senior adults who grew up in this county and helped build what we have. Or maybe the retired military that have moved here from all over the United States because they enjoy what Fayette County offers. Does the property tax on mini-lots and multi-family equal more than the same property as single family? Maybe. But is the cost to support multiple families from counterbalanced by the taxes? (Things one never hears at development meetings)

    Our family is now 3rd generation Fayette County residents. 3 generations of FCBoE students. We are invested.

    There are a lot of great ideas and thoughts here in the comments. Much better ideas than come from Commissioner meetings or BoE meetings. You all are invested. Whether teachers, spouse of teachers, parents…invested.

  3. The cuts are a good thing. The general public is unaware of what FCBOE spends money on: instructional “coaches”, curriculum coordinators, trendy professional development programs, trendy software licenses, etc. The only way to get the decision makers to prioritize spending is to cut them off.

    • Realize that the “instructional coaches” are championed by Rabold who was lionized in a FCBOE piece on these pages a few weeks ago. I fear real classroom teachers will be lost while “parent coordinators” and other nice to have as well as th e50% project managers will live on.

  4. Once again, the State of Georgia has decided NOT to fully fund public education; and instead decided to allow parents the opportunity to use public school vouchers ($6K+) to pay for private schools. The State of Georga wants public education to fail, otherwise they would have fully funded public education in Georgia more than 3 times since 2008. Fayette County has deep pockets, much deeper than any of the counties that border Fayette. Unfortunately, Fayette County isn’t doing anything to embrace families from wanting to live and work in Fayette County. Rather, Fayette County is throwing its lot with senior citizens, who for the most part exercise their rights to refrain from funding public education with their property taxes.

    • So, a student leaves the public school with a voucher – the school loses $6k per year out of the $13k (working from memory, correct me if that’s wrong) per student it gets. It now has more money per student to work with. This is bad because…

      • Exactly, or every voucher taken, Fayette would lose approximately $5,500 and then spread out the local tax base over one less student. Since the QBE is complex formula, the amount lost could be less based on if the one student resulted in one less class earned….

        But on the other side, EVERY Clayton school was on the “qualified” list. We can accept those vouchers and charge the remainder in tuition. We dont have to accept all and we can expel.

        As an recovering airline finance gy, insourcing is the best bet when revenue is down.

  5. Booth middle school was doing great on Peachtree Parkway for years. Was it wise the Fayette County School Board voted to spend over $43,000,000 to move Booth 2 miles? The FCBOE’s other choice was to spend MUCH LESS to remodel the original Booth Middle School just like McIntosh High School 🏫 did. Now the parents are being forced into one lane traffic instead of the four lanes on Peachtree Parkway. They spent over $43,000,000 to make traffic worse and to layoff staff due to shortages. Who is responsible for following the money?

    • And let’s not forget the “deplorable” condition that Booth was supposedly in. Now, it’s been re-purposed, and no one is complaining about the condition or potential health issues due to the property. It was nothing but a boondoggle and a huge bill of goods that was jammed down the communities throat.

  6. I remember that time. It was scary. We had furlough days and experienced teachers were being put into a “sub-pool” while coaches were moved to the top of the list to keep. Meanwhile, a position was held open for Dr. Beardon’s girlfriend, I think she was still in Maine. There was a lot of resentment. I would think that in a time of financial crisis coaching stipends would be the first to go and positions would not be “held” for anyone’s girlfriend. But sadly, that was not the case. I have coached at the high school level so I am not knocking coaches or sports, but I feel that academics should always come first. I am certified in two critical need areas (both then and now) so I was never in fear for myself. Estaban- you are correct when you write that FC schools are excellent mostly due to the excellent families. If the parents don’t value education then the child will not either.

  7. Great article Neil.

    Thank you for drawing attention to a serious issue in our county. I was at the meeting when the “displaced employees” were discussed and the second meeting of the year – where the audit and “lean budget” was discussed.
    We need to take a serious look at our county and begin to come to a agreed upon strategy for addressing our aging population and strengthening of resources. Our current board members, most of whom do not have children in the system, need to make some quick and thoughtful changes (staffing, zoning, residency verifications, finding alternative funding sources) to maintain All of our glorious schools, sooner than later (like before spring break 🙂

  8. I agree with a lot of what you say Neil, but I feel you’re wearing out the “Fayette Advantage” slogan. My impression is that we have excellent schools mostly because we have excellent families. My partner taught for 20 years (different county, FWIW) & his experience was that how well the year went was largely determined by how well-behaved his kids were.

    I also think that whenever the schools are at risk of not getting everything they want they threaten to make painful cuts as opposed to looking for other options. FWIW, they’re not alone, this is pretty standard negotiating ploy.

    RE: the separate “city state” idea, this could be advantageous. Each school presumably has some unique issues, although I wouldn’t expect dramatic differences. Also, allowing flexibility provides an opportunity to see what works best. Not married to this idea but thought it worth consideration.

    • Hi Esteban:

      Completely agree. My wife who is retiring from Sandy Creek this year and I have often spoken on if teachers from school X went to school Y would they have the same results? Its questionable, but would they teach the same?
      For example, my wife started at Westlake in South Fulton which drew from two housing projects ( Boatrock and I cant remember ) then went to McIntosh then was leveled in 2012 to Sandy Creek. She says she has taught the same and had the same standards in all three.

      When we met, I went to meet the teacher night to be supportive. Got front row parking, and the halls were empty. Her first year at McIntosh, I got there about twenty minutes before the end of the night and had to park at the church and the halls were full. Sandy Creek was somewhere in the middle of those two.

      US news and World reports ratings tracks to the level of parents I saw at all three meet the teachers.

      I have an article coming on this exact subject. Trying to stay between 500-600 words kinda spreads out the topics.

      Take Care.