The Fulton County Board of Education is recommending a 3 percent pay increase for all district employees in its next fiscal year, the first raise in five years.
Following Thursday night’s board meeting at Dunwoody Springs Elementary School in Sandy Springs, on a day when the board held a budget meeting there in the afternoon, both Superintendent Robert Avossa and District 6 member Catherine Maddox said the district plans the pay raise.
In an email response to questions Friday morning, district spokeswoman Susan Hale wrote the pay increase is a budgeted expenditure, and the system has the funds for it because it made budget cuts in previous years. The 2013-14 budget has a tentative approval date of May 16, with final approval set for June 4, Hale wrote. The budget must be passed by June 30, when the district's current fiscal year ends.
The last time all district employees got a raise was the 2008-09 academic year, Hale wrote.
In other news, the board awarded by a 5-2 vote a new contract for its alternative education program positions to Ombudsman, a Libertyville, Ill.-based accredited alternative education company. District 3 member Gail Dean motioned for the approval and District 5 member Linda McCain seconded the motion. Maddox and District 7 member Julia Bernath dissented.
At its March meeting, Avossa said the district’s two current alternative high schools — Crossroads/Second Chance - North and Crossroads/Second Chance - South — cost the school district about $5 million in the 2011-12 school year. He hopes the new contract with Ombudsman will create more flexibility for the alternative schools.
The district will contract for four schools, with the ability to hold 100 students at each location, Deana Ingraham, director of student discipline prevention and intervention, said at the March 12 board meeting.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, before the board voted on the alternative schools contract, John Trotter, Ed.D., chairman and CEO of the Metro Association of Classroom Educators, a Fayetteville-based teachers’ union, was the only person to speak.
“I represent Crossroads Second Chance Schools [teachers] in the south and north end,” he said. “I understand that Ombudsman may get the contract tonight. It’s my understanding that Dr. Avossa has recommended to other parents a reduction in force (RIF) for teachers. We encourage you to reconsider that decision.”
A reduction in force would mean current Second Chance educators would have to reapply for their jobs for the 2013-14 school year.
“I talked to a teacher who said, ‘I’ve taught for 22 years with all positive [performance] reviews, and I’m being kicked to the curb. … Ombudsman may have its own agenda and want to hire its own teachers,” Trotter said.
After the vote, Ron Wade, the district’s chief human relations officer, was asked by board members if current Second Chance teachers would be treated fairly in applying for jobs.
“We're going to contact the employees and let them know they can apply for the vacancies,” he said. “We’re also going to contact principals of [other] schools that strongly consider these employees. Ombudsman will also have job fairs.”
Other board members had concerns but said they agreed with the decision.
“I understand that this is a difficult vote for many, but the vision the superintendent is one we share with him,” District 2 board member Katie Reeves said. “Parents want a [better] program and staff and we don’t have a lot of flexibility. I think this will increase our options.”
District 4 board member Linda Bryant asked Wade, “We’re going to make every effort to place the employees that are RIF’d [in other schools]? If they apply for the program, they’re considered, right?
“Yes,” Wade said.
After the meeting Bernath and Maddox were asked why they voted against the Ombudsman contract.
Maddox said she did so “because I support staff. I support labor.”
Bernath added, “It’s a decision I’ve wrestled with very heavily, and I sort of looked at this vote as an opportunity to give the staff a second chance. But I fully support the superintendent’s and board’s decision, and I’m glad to have our staff … give opportunities available for the program.”