Fayette School System making wrong choices in spending priorities

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Recently our Fayette County Board of Education adopted their budget for the next fiscal year. While I will present a more detailed analysis of the financial numbers later, a key factor in the budget presentation stood out to me during my review.

While the position reductions changed, they went up with seventy-seven positions reduced from our schools and 6 from our central office.

With our high schools holding their graduation ceremonies last week, the impact of these reductions became more clear to me. While we celebrate the wonderful results of our excellent students, laden down with honor cords, medals, and other hard won accolades, we forget that their were also students who graduated with “just” an equally hard won diploma.

When my wife began her career in Fayette County Schools, she had classes that were “college prep” and classes that were on a general education track. The decision was made to make all classes “college prep” to consolidate resources and make our schools more cost effective.

While I agree with this concept, I was surprised that Fayette County chose to create a second degree track for an International Baccalaureate (“IB”) high school diploma a few years ago.

Originally, this program was brought to our system by a superintendent who is no longer with our system and a principal who is no longer here either. It was surprising that the system added a second degree track after arguing that offering differing degree tracks was inefficient and costly.

This program was deployed at Sandy Creek High School and made open to the entire system. However, the program is not separately funded and the teaching resources are taken from the total complement of Sandy Creek based on overall enrollment.

This results in fewer electives available to the entire school. My understanding is that the program is seriously under-subscribed but it continues.

While this results in “regular” math classes with almost thirty students, and IB math classes reported with “less than ten.” Some will say that “regular students” can try the IB classes, but this is clearly a case of catering to the few at the cost of the many.

To be clear, I am not questioning whether a program like this should exist in a perfect world, but we are not in a perfect world. With inflation eating our budget with rising costs for the same and now less resources, I believe the wrong choices are being made.

We need our system to focus on benefiting all students by providing resources where the most students benefit. While the few generally make more noise, the wise choice is to make ensure we serve the majority.

[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 student 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.]

3 COMMENTS

  1. Neil: Thank you for your continued insightful articles on the school system. The manner in which personnel cuts was distributed is not okay. More positions need to be cut from district staff! Packing a classroom with students is a great disservice to both students and teachers. I have taught middle school Math in classrooms of 15 to 28 and it’s amazing how much one-on-one instruction/assistance and small group instruction flexibility small class size offers. Small class size allows students who do not want to call attention to themselves by asking a question will take advantage of the ability to quietly reach out for help. It’s bad decisions such as cutting teaching staff and not district fluff that caused citizens for vote against the last E-SPLOST.

  2. Interesting perspective on the subject of ‘math classes’.

    My experience (from long ago) was from a small school. Tiny actually from today’s standards. High School Math consisted of Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry and Trigonometry for those of us in a ‘College Prep’ track.
    Students not on that track had Shop Math or Home Econ Math. No AP was offered and IB was for the far distant future.
    When I attended college, my classmates generally had exposure to Calculus and even AP classes. Regardless, I was more than able to do well in Calculus, Multidimensional Calculus, Differential Equations etc.
    My take is that a solid background in simpler math is a good path to college success. On the other hand, I fully realize that AP courses along with top grades on the AP exams or IB degrees are a big factor in successful admission to high-ranking universities.
    The enormous cost of providing quality secondary is a big concern.
    Thanks for continuing to keep us informed about doings here in Fayette.