Look at different way of staffing our Fayette schools


On May 20, the Fayette County Board of Education approved its 2024-2025 budget for the coming school year. The budget reflected positions eliminated due to rising costs with limited revenue offset, as we have reviewed before. There were approximately seventy school-based positions reduced in the budget.

Personnel costs are nearly 90 percent of our school costs between salary, benefits and pensions. For perspective, the lowest teacher pay in 2013 was $30,787 in annual salary. Ten years later, the lowest teacher made $44,908 or 46% more. At the top of the scale, teachers went from $69,494 to $99,653 or approximately 44% more.

Teacher pay scale changes are generally funded by the State of Georgia. However, our local pay scale must compete with nearby systems that pay more than the common state pay scale.

Pension costs are a factor of pay, age and experience. Historically, Fayette County has had a very senior teacher workforce. Unlike other pay scale driven jobs, a teacher may move between systems at the same level of experience. So, when Fayette replaces retiring teachers with other experienced teachers, there is not as much cost savings.

To be clear, no one is arguing teachers are over paid or should be a target for reduction. However, we can adopt private business practices to consider ways to reduce the cost impact to our system while providing a great school system.

Given the amount of PLC or team teaching now in the system, maybe it’s time we consider hiring teachers fresh from school to learn from our wonderful, experienced Fayette County teachers. There would still be an abundance of experienced teachers while we prepare our future generation with Fayette standards and traditions.

When I was with Delta Airport Customer Service, we employed a “one for two system” to meter transfers versus new hire cost. For every two openings, one could be a transfer within system, while the other would be a “street hire.”

An anecdotal study of our school transfer process shows there are certain schools that take from other schools then those schools look outside the system. Under the proposed system, a school could only take one transfer for every two open positions and then would have to hire a new teacher for the other open spot, slowing the attrition at the schools that now have higher attrition due to system transfers.

This would require our well-staffed administration to manage the process to ensure equity. Further, it would take discipline to maintain staffing while managing cost, like any other business.

Assuming one hundred certified positions (teaching) a year turnover — which is low to average — in 5 years we would have 250 teachers with 5 years or less experience. Our system generally reflects over 20 years seniority on the teacher pay scale.

The savings would not only be in salary but in pension costs. The benefit would not be only financial but also allowing FCBOE to keep class size from going past its more supersized status.

It is obvious we must do things differently to help our schools survive in this period of expanding costs without corresponding limitless revenue. By borrowing this one business tactic from Delta, maybe we can resist charging for backpacks or WiFi.

[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.]


  1. Hi gplanmanI hope you are well. I cant speak for all, but I did not call for a “gig work model” or even contractors. But rather cost discipline in our hiring model.

    By forcing teachers to teach from a common script ( in certain English classes ) and common tests in even more, we take the benefit of longer teaching experience out of the equation. We can now afford a “junior member” on the team. These new teachers (who survive the first five years) can learn the “Fayette Way” instead of bringing the scars from another system. My wife came into the Fayette system with almost ten years experience at Westlake in South Fulton and has just retired with 20 more in Fayette.

    I have spent some time bringing for-profit strategies to not for profit entities particularly in public housing. In that case, driving metric based reporting drove better service for the residents and generated more cash by driving cost savings which could be redirected.

    The issue we face is that I do not believe the “3% cap” is going anywhere and our costs are growing much faster than the revenue increase.

    Take Care

    • Neil, that’s really interesting. My wife did very similar. She was at Westlake for 4 years (wish she had gotten in 5 for the teacher student loan forgiveness). Then she transferred to Fayette County at her dream school. Of course, we both are a ways from retirement. Just thought it was neat how the stories “rhymed.”

  2. Unfortunately, for-profit business models can’t and shouldn’t be applied for purely governmental functionals like public education. Experienced and proficient teachers (basically anyone who has survived their 1st 5 years in the classroom), deserve to be well compensated (both in salary and benefits). Unfortunately, we live in Georgia, a low tax, no service state. A state that is ranked in the middle when it comes to public education. A state, that has only fully funded public education 3 times since 2008. When a state decides NOT to fund public education; it becomes the responsibility of Fayette County to fund public education, via a combination of SPLOTs and property taxes. Thankfully, Fayette County is comprised of citizens who recognize and value quality public education; accepting that there is massive return on our investment, recruiting and retaining superior educators. I’m sure, there are many, who would love to adopt a gig work model, effectively making all of the FCBOE employees (sans the School Board and Superintendent) 3rd party contractors.