Monday, February 24, 2014

Fayette schools chief delays staff changes; blaming 'paranoia' offends board member

This from the Herald-leader:
Responding to mounting public criticism, Fayette County Superintendent Tom Shelton has put cost-cutting staff changes on hold so he can involve more people in the conversation. But the wording of his first emails on the postponement offended a board member.

"Despite the best intentions of the people who have worked hard to develop the sound proposals put forth in the new staffing procedures, distrust and paranoia have unfortunately led to widespread speculation and false rumors that have upset our families, students, employees and community at large," Shelton said Monday in an email message to parents.

School board member Amanda Ferguson countered, "I would just say that I find it both offensive and insulting for the superintendent to imply that those of us — including board members, teachers, parents and students — who have questions and want answers about staffing changes are paranoid."

Shelton said he pulled a new staffing formula for schools from the school board's Monday night meeting agenda. In emails and a news release, he pledged to get public input before further action. The staffing proposal was part of plans to cut $20 million from the district's budget.

Parents and staff have expressed concern that little information has been released about school job reductions.

Although the new staffing formula has been pulled from the agenda, the board will be asked Monday night to change language in staffing policies to reflect state law.

Monday's news release said that 88 percent of the Fayette County school district's spending goes to salaries and benefits for the district's 5,815 employees.

"We cannot balance the budget without impacting our employees," Shelton said in the news release. "We face tight time lines and strict deadlines under state law. But we cannot move so quickly that we risk breaking faith with the people we serve.

"We will put the staffing changes on hold until we have time to bring more people into this conversation. We will be open to suggestions and questions and move forward in a way that allows for open and honest discourse."

Shelton also will host a public forum at 6 p.m. March 6 at the district's main offices, 701 East Main Street, to answer questions and gather input.

The district will establish a web page,, where officials will make information available throughout the process, Shelton said. Board chairman John Price said Monday that board members support Shelton's decision to hold off until he had more input from parents, staff and others.

"We want everybody to understand the situation we find ourselves in," Price said. With the public forum on March 6 and the website, "everybody should have ample opportunity to give us additional input he said."

Last week, board member Ferguson walked out during a specially called board meeting about the district's budget and proposed staff reductions. Ferguson said she walked out because she was frustrated and annoyed with Shelton's responses to questions.

Fayette schools spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall has said that all of the recommendations that were firm have been shared publicly. Shelton has not said how many positions will be cut. However, district officials have said that rumors about cuts to band, orchestra and arts programs are unfounded.

Shelton has said the district will have to trim $20 million, about 5 percent of the district's general fund spending, from its 2014-15 budget to present the school board with a balanced budget in May. The cuts will not compromise student achievement, according to Shelton's earlier comments.

In 2009-10, the fund balance or reserves in the general fund was $56.72 million; the fund balance is $36.5 million this school year, Shelton has said.

In the latest email to parents, Shelton said school districts around the state have had to cut their budgets drastically as national and state economies have struggled over the past several years.
Because Fayette had a reserve to cover state and federal cuts, the district was spared decisions about cutting teachers or eliminating programs. Officials knowingly dipped into the reserves in order to maintain innovative programs, Deffendall previously said.

While other school districts had significant layoffs, Fayette County raised employee salaries to recruit and retain the most talented staff to serve students, Shelton has said.

"It took seven years to get to this point," Shelton said in the email to parents. "We have weathered it for a long time. But as expenses have continued to increase, we are now in a position where our spending is outpacing our revenue."

"If we could absorb the entire cut at the district level, we would do that. But that is mathematically impossible. Even if we shut down the district office, it would not be enough to balance the budget.
"And there is no way that a district with 41,000 students, 66 schools and special programs, and 5,815 employees can function without an administrative staff to run payroll, pay the utility bills and assign subs when teachers are absent," Shelton said.

The superintendent has explained that each spring, schools receive an allocation that outlines the number of positions each school has earned based on projected student enrollment numbers.
School-based decision-making councils then determine how to staff each school, setting class sizes, schedules and course offerings.

A committee of principals, district leaders, and education association representatives has worked for the past several months to determine how the district can trim spending without affecting students.
The first task for that group was to look at the school council allocations, because under state law, the district has to make those changes by March 1.

The board does not have authority to determine changes in teacher-student ratios. District officials will share proposed formula changes with the board once the final decisions have been made, but determining the formulas is an administrative function that the board doesn't vote on.
more here:


Anonymous said...

What is interesting about the whole affair is that Dr. Shelton seems to still have cadre of supporters. How can this be?

Shelton is trying to strong arm the Board into accepting these cuts and throwing around offensive words that betray his lack of sensitivity. "Paranoia?"

All of us know that only after the public received word of the cuts, did Shelton say that band, orchestra, and world language were not in jeopardy. Here are some options:

1) Start with principal salaries. They do not need to work the entire year.

2) Take away the optional work day for all educators.

3) Ask each employee to vontarily work a day without pay.

4) Get rid of Lu Young. Why do we need her now? We never needed another superintendent before? Richard, what does this woman do?

5) Turn off the lights in each school after hours. Install timers in each classroom, so that vacant classrooms are not using energy.

6) Ask the superintendent to take a pay cut of 10% as a token gesture.

7) Many schools rent out their gyms. Raise the cost to the general public.

This problem can be solved, but it cannot be solved with someone who was groomed by Mr. Silberman. Mr . Shelton should accept what is clearly a vote of no-confidence. The tide is turning.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Day,

I am so sad this man is our superintendant. I know this is just my view, but what good has Dr. Shelton done? Do any of the teachers ever see him in the schools? I have never seen him interacting with children. Why does he want to make the board members so angry?

A concerned parent

Anonymous said...

1) Principals do have to work all summer. As it is now everyone will be working through the first half of summer. One doesn't simply close the doors on the last day and then show up the day before the start of school to find all maintence, staffing, technology, support systems in place ready to go.

2)Not being from Fayette County, I don't know what an optional work day is for educators, but if implies expecting teachers to work without getting paid, I think we have done enough of that already. I don't know any other profession where folks are expected to accept the salary educators receive for their level of responsibility and education and then work days and evenings without compensation.

3)See #2

4)Don't know anything about this but seems pequliar that a long established superintendent would leave to become an assistant superintendent if there wasn't a desire to leave the home district or an expectation for higher pay or advance in the receiving district.

5)I don't see many lights on in schools at night with the exception of hallways.

6)Nice token message but it really doesn't scratch the surface of 20 million

7)Maybe but not sure if wear and tear and custodial staffing are going to result in a significant harvesting of funds. Maybe a few dollars here.

20 million is a big chunk of change, don't see any way around some level of personnel reduction - sorry, that includes instructional music folks just the same as any other teacher.

Anonymous said...

The state doesn't do you any favors with its ongoing parade of report writing and documentation which in itself requires staff oversight. How much time are we going to have to away from instruction in order to complete Program Reviews, enter information into CIITS, much less implement the PGES evaluation system next year. Electronic Big Brother is diverting instructional time away from students and in some instances directly or indirectly creating staff positions to support these elements of corporate type reform.

Anonymous said...

I just had a surgical proceedure which lasted less than 30 minutes and the total bill was in excess of $34,000. How can sqawk about paying roughly 10 grand to educate and protect a child for 177 school days?

If you want a good product, you are going to have to pay for it. If you don't want to spend the money then accept that you are going to get a shottier result. Stop looking for skapegoat, even if you find it - it won't make the 20 million short fall disappear. How long are FCPS folks going to continue to harness their displeaure to Silberman or his perceived legacy.

Anonymous said...

Hey, as a tax payer I must admit that I am a little paranoid that our elected school board members know so little about the budget that a 20 million short fall would be a suprise. Maybe instead of demonizing the superintendent, they should have been doing their job and kept informed about the district's financial status. How many times are we going to hear this story about school board's claiming ignorance when their districts hit the fiscal skids.