FCS Board Bulletin for April 26, 2024

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    April 26, 2024

     

    The Fulton County Board of Education (FCBOE) met on Thursday, April 25, 2024, for its regularly scheduled Board meeting at the South Learning Center. The full agenda is available online. All items approved are available via BoardDocs. Meetings are streamed live on the district’s homepageRecordings will be available within 48 hours.

    Superintendent’s Report

    The Thursday meeting started with Fulton County Schools (FCS) Supt. Dr. Mike Looney presenting his budget recommendation for the 2025 fiscal year to the Board. Chief Financial Officer Marvin Dereef then delved into the specifics of this recommendation during Budget Markup #2. Further details regarding Mr. Dereef’s report are included in this email below.

    Dr. Mike Looney also took a moment to acknowledge Administrative Professional’s Day on April 24, emphasizing the crucial role their support plays in the district's operations. He then introduced Chief Academic Officer Brannon Gaskins for a Summer Learning update and Chief Communications Officer Brian Noyes for an update on the 2024 Georgia legislative session.

    Election Day Calendar Change

    State law requires FCS to allow voting in their facilities when requested by the Fulton County Department of Registrations and Elections. The calendar parameters approved by the Board in October 2023 state that FCS will utilize remote learning for state/national elections or other emergency situations. Therefore, the Board voted to adjust the current school year calendar to make May 21 a remote day for students as it is a state election day. The district administration is working with schools to create alternative plans for student activities already scheduled at schools designated as polling sites. See the updated calendar here.

    Superintendent’s FY2025 Budget Recommendation

    Chief Financial Officer Marvin Dereef and Chief Human Resources Officer Gonzalo La Cava presented the Superintendent’s General Fund budget recommendation for FY25. Thanks to the leadership of Dr. Looney and the cooperative and diligent leadership efforts in district departments and at schools, with School Governance Council support, FCS has a budget recommendation that aligns with the parameters adopted by the Board in October and November 2023.

    With school enrollment down, several factors in addition to inflation have contributed to an increase in the FY25 budget, including rising health insurance compensation and teacher retirement system rates. For the General Fund, which is the primary operating fund, projected revenue is $1.3 billion with recommended expenditures at $1.4 billion. Mr. Dereef stated that 78% of the General Fund budget is allocated directly to schools and noted one major service not included in that 78% is student transportation, which is an additional 5.18% of the total budget.

    Consistent with the Board-directed budget parameters, the district has found a transitional path to address the end of federal support once Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, also called the American Rescue Plan (ARP), sunset in September 2024. This funding was instrumental in executing our Bridge to Success plan. To continue some of the key initiatives like our literacy work and Summer Learning, the district is planning for $24 million to return as a General Fund expense.

    Mr. Dereef also offered trend data that help determine budgeting processes and assure long-term sustainability. Budget sources presented by Mr. Dereef include an increase in local fair share and currently assumes a millage rate reduction to 17.13, one of the lowest rates compared to other school districts in metro Atlanta. With school enrollment down, several factors in addition to inflation have contributed to an increase in the FY25 budget, including a rise in health insurance, compensation, and Teacher Retirement System rates. In summary, the budget request is a 2.56% increase from the current budget.

    Upon completion of Mr. Dereef’s presentation, Chief Human Resources Officer Dr. Gonzalo La Cava shared the major highlight for the FY25 budget, which is the compensation recommendation for district employees. He began his presentation by stating that over the past three years, the Board, along with Superintendent Looney, have demonstrated unwavering commitment by approving raises exceeding 12% for all FCS staff. This has enabled our district to remain highly competitive within the metro Atlanta market, further illustrating a consistent effort by the FCBOE and district leadership to positively impact the earnings of all FCS employees over the past decade. This strategic approach to providing competitive wages has yielded significant results, particularly in the recruitment and retention of teachers. Last year, the district began the school year with 99% of vacancies filled and maintained this above-industry-standard level throughout the year. Notably, district-priority schools witnessed a 96% fill rate for vacancies, accompanied by a reduction in turnover.

    Dr. La Cava then presented seven recommendations developed with various factors including market data, cost of living, stakeholder feedback, and current budget constraints. The first recommendation proposes a 4.5% salary increase and a step increase for all eligible FCS staff. Given the district’s unwavering commitment to safety and security, the second recommendation aims to develop a salary schedule that increases police officers' base pay by $5,000. The third recommendation seeks to close the salary gap between the Pre-K and K-12 salary schedules, which he says will help recruit and retain staff for Pre-K programs.

    To enhance operational efficiency in schools, the fourth recommendation proposes increasing the workdays of assistant principals and athletic directors to 235. The final recommendations he proposed are instrumental in refining the district’s recruitment strategy, including recruitment incentives. These recommendations, along with hiring and retention incentives, equate to $59.5 million in the FY25 General Fund.

    Looking ahead, Mr. Dereef gave some examples of how the district will continue lean operations, including streamlining processes to be as efficient as possible, looking for opportunities to share resources, investments in innovation, diversification of revenue stream and maximizing funding to minimize the burden on taxpayers.

    Comprehensive information about the budget, including the budget book, is available on the FCS website for the public to review before the first budget hearing on May 7, followed by the second hearing on May 16. After that, the Board will vote to adopt the tentative budget. The final adoption of the FY2025 Budget is scheduled for June 11. See the full budget recommendation here.

    Summer Learning Update

    The district is planning for more than 10,000 students both face-to-face and virtually this summer, according to Chief Academic Officer Brannon Gaskins, who presented the 2024 Summer Learning overview to the Board. School will be held June 5 through July 3 for grades 3-8 and high school students. Students enrolled in Fulton Virtual will participate in Summer Learning from June 5 through July 10.  All grade levels will observe the Juneteenth and Independence Day holidays (Wednesday, June 19 and Thursday, July 4 respectively.)

    Each year, efforts are made to rotate the Summer Learning locations within each zone; however, schools undergoing significant renovations over the summer are unable to host. The feeder patterns for each summer site can be viewed at fultonschools.org/summerlearning. Parents have already received notification from their child’s school if Summer Learning is required and directions for registering or opting out of required Summer Learning.

    Based on the Summer Learning 2023 evaluation results, FCS has implemented two changes for summer 2024. All elementary students will attend school for a full day, receiving direct instruction in English language arts, reading, and mathematics in the morning.  In the afternoon, students will take four week-long enrichment courses. The course options will vary by school but include courses such as exploration in visual arts and music as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), career technical agricultural education (CTAE), instructional technology, design thinking, physical activity, Spanish culture, and language.

    There are no changes to the middle school model. Each student will take an English language arts and a math class. Finally, high school students will have three options for summer learning based on how they learn best including face-to-face, credit recovery, or Fulton Virtual. See the full presentation here. High School students will participate in End of Course Milestones testing on July - July 11.

    2024 Legislative Update

    During the 2024 Georgia legislative session, a series of impactful bills were passed that directly affect local schools. Chief Communications Officer Brian Noyes delivered a comprehensive overview to the Board, highlighting the major changes arising from these new laws.

    One of the most critical aspects discussed was the state budget, which stands as the cornerstone of education-related legislation passed annually. Mr. Dereef provided insights into the budget changes during his budget recommendation, although specific details are still undergoing refinement.

    In terms of policy, numerous significant bills were passed, and Governor Kemp has already signed several into law. These bills covered a broad spectrum of topics, including the introduction of vouchers for private schools, initiatives to enhance bus safety, measures for social media monitoring in educational settings, and exemptions for local taxes impacting school funding.

    These legislative changes can mark a significant shift in how schools operate and receive funding in Georgia. Mr. Noyes indicated staff will be taking a more in-depth look at the specific implications and nuances of these new laws, providing stakeholders with a detailed understanding of what to expect in the future. See the full presentation here.

    Update to 2023-24 Student Code of Conduct

    Due to a recent decision by the State Board of Education, FCS proposed an update to Rule 21: Off-Campus Misconduct in the district's Student Code of Conduct & Discipline Handbook. Action was taken by the Fulton Board of Education to revise the language at their April 25 meeting. The approved changes can be found here.

    New Hires & Promotions

    The following individual was approved for a new position at the Board meeting:  

    Stanetress Evans | Principal, Dunwoody Springs Elementary School

    2024-25 Community Meetings with Board Members

    Each member of the Fulton County Board of Education sponsors a monthly meeting open to all members of the community. The sessions provide an opportunity for direct contact with community members and give Board members a chance to listen to local issues and concerns. Click here to see the meeting schedules of all Board members.

     

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