Board Bulletin for August 12, 2022

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    The Fulton County School Board met Thursday, August 11, 2022, for its regularly scheduled work session meeting at the North Learning Center. The following are highlights of some of the more highly discussed topics, with the full agenda available online. Other topics discussed or approved are available via BoardDocs. Summaries of Board actions can be found here and School Board policy updates can be found here.

    Superintendent’s Report

    Superintendent Mike Looney thanked teachers and staff for a great beginning to the school year as well as parents for their support, cooperation and patience. After the events in Uvalde, Texas last spring, school safety is a higher priority than ever and he shared some reminders and recent changes.

    School Safety. Dr. Looney reinforced the need to “See Something, Say Something” through the district’s anonymous S.H.A.R.E. Tip Line (See It. Hear It. And Report It Every Time.) and that expanded community partnerships with local police departments are increasing coordination and law enforcement presence at school campuses. The City of Palmetto is the first municipality to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for this partnership, with other cities expected to follow. In addition, the FCS Safety Committee will report back to the school board in September with recommendations for spending the recently authorized $6 million for school safety. More investment also is planned with new video surveillance cameras that will check vehicle license plates against criminal databases and installation of alarms for all exterior doors. Detailed information about the district’s proactive response for school safety is posted at www.fultonschools.org/safetyfirst.

    Back-to-School Update

    Chief Academic Officer Cliff Jones, Chief Talent Officer Gonzalo La Cava, and Chief Operations Officer Noel Maloof gave an overview of the school system’s successful return to a new academic year. Click here to view the entire presentation.

    LETRS Implementation and New English/Language Arts resources. Jones shared that LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling), which is the district’s literacy initiative based on the Science of Reading, is continuing its implementation in schools. New English/Language Arts resources also debut this year.
      
    Mobile Learning Centers and 3DE Program. As part of the district’s Bridge to Success initiative, Jones shared that two mobile learning centers are being deployed to focus on elementary science and STEM activities and then will eventually expand to include all core subject areas. FCS is also opening its fourth 3DE program. The program is a “school within a school” model blending core curriculum subjects with business community involvement, so students have more real-world connection to their learning.
      
    Dropout Prevention. High schools in Zones 1, 2, and 3 are opening “In-School Academies” with the goal of decreasing dropouts and increasing graduations. SAFE (Student and Family Engagement) Centers also are expanding to North Springs and Tri-Cities high schools, providing “one-stop-shops” for school services and community partnerships to help students mitigate academic, social, or emotional barriers impacting their achievement.
      
    Updated/New School Board Policies. Jones gave an overview of several school board policies going into effect this year that impact students and the learning environment. School Board Policy JD (Student Discipline/Code of Conduct) was updated to include new behaviors considered unacceptable and a few upgraded consequences. Jones also described School Board Policy IHA (Grading and Reporting System) that debuts this school year. School Board Policy JBD (Absences and Excuses) was updated to better monitor and support student attendance. Parents can visit www.fultonschools.org/attendancematters to learn more about their responsibility to report an absence as well as the attendance supports, such as calls and emails, offered to parents when student absences become excessive. 

    Staffing and Talent/HR. Chief Talent Officer Gonzalo La Cava shared that the school year opened with a total employment force of 12,386 employees – 10,118 of which are school-based staff. Districtwide, 1,059 new employees were hired to fill positions vacated by retirement or resignation, and 96% of all teaching vacancies were filled by the first day of school. In addition, 13 schools start the year with new principals. The Talent Division continues to recruit, hire and onboard new employees to fill openings, especially in the areas of transportation and school nutrition.

    School Nutrition. Chief Operations Officer Noel Maloof shared there are 97 commercial kitchens serving 71,000 meals each day throughout the school system. Meals are no longer free for all students due to the discontinuation of federal COVID-19 waivers. Families may apply for free and reduced meals as they have in the past. Applications may be found on our website and at the local school. We still provide affordable food and provide all five food groups at a wallet-friendly price and look forward to continuing participation from our students.

    Transportation Services. Despite staffing challenges, Maloof said the school year started smoothly for FCS Transportation Services. Forty new drivers were hired over the summer, bringing the driver staffing rate to 84%. To close the gap, FCS continues to provide paid training toward obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL) as well as hiring incentives. More than half (55%) of the district’s 932 buses in service use alternative fuels to reduce impact on the environment while being more cost-effective.

    Facilities Services and ESPLOST-Funded Construction. Districtwide, 14 million square feet of school space was cleaned over the summer by custodians and Environmental Services staff, and 4,193 work orders were completed by the Maintenance Department. More than $75 million worth of capital improvements were completed over 45 days during the summer months.

    First Day Fulton. Maloof reported the success of the district’s sixth annual “First Day Fulton” event at Banneker and North Springs High Schools. Held on July 30, the back-to-school fair created awareness of the first day of school to improve attendance and also provided resources for families, including vaccinations from partnering health organizations. Approximately 1,900 backpacks filled with school supplies were distributed as well as free groceries.

    New Hires & Promotions

    The following individuals were approved for new positions at the August 11 meeting:

    • Shanté Bates – Principal, Conley Hills Elementary School
    • Takisha Benning – Principal, Barnwell Elementary School
    • Velda Simpson – Director, Land Management


    FY 2023 Millage Rate Approved

    Following the final two millage rate public hearings, the School Board approved 17.24 as the FY 2023 millage rate, a change from the tentatively approved rate of 17.49. Keeping to the commitment of the School Board, the approved 17.24 millage rate is a decrease from the current 17.59 rate. It continues to be the lowest among large Metro Atlanta school districts, while providing funds for the educational needs of students and a competitive employee compensation package. The millage rate reduction is one of three actions Superintendent Looney proposed:

      • Taxpayers will receive a partial millage rate rollback to 17.24 from 17.59.
      • All eligible employees will receive a 2% pay raise in January 2023.
      • $3 million to be distributed to schools for their flex spending accounts based on criteria to be determined by the district administration.


    Other Information

    The following information items were not presented at the recent School Board meeting but may be of interest to parents and community members.

    Redistricting 101 Online Meetings. A districtwide school redistricting effort is scheduled to begin this fall, and two online information meetings (called ‘Redistricting 101’) are set for August 30 (12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.) and August 31 (6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.) will kick off the process.  During the meetings, FCS staff will explain the redistricting process, including population trends throughout Fulton County, data, and the School Board's criteria used to create new attendance zone boundaries. These meetings are for information only; no maps will be presented. More details, as well as the Microsoft Teams links to join each meeting, are posted on www.fultonschools.org/redistricting.

    "Let’s Talk Schools!" Debuts Second Season. The first episode of ‘Let’s Talk Schools’ has dropped for the 2022-2023 school year! Hosted by Superintendent Looney, the weekly series gives an inside look into the school system and features special guests. This episode’s topic is student safety and health. Watch the episode here

    Extra! Extra! Find out what is going on at Fulton County Schools. Be sure to check out the special News section of the district’s website for the latest and greatest FCS happenings.  

    New Year, New Look, New Name. You may have noticed a new look to this publication, starting with its new name ‘Board Bulletin.’ It’s a replacement of ‘Community Update,’ which originally began as a way to share COVID-related news with the public. ‘Board Bulletin’ will continue to be published twice monthly as a summary of important actions and decisions resulting from each School Board meeting.

     

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