Tuesday, April 01, 2014

FCPS Principals 'caught in the middle'

Shelton sends letter to principals, plans to discuss staffing, programs April 9 

When the $20 million shortfall was first announced - and conjecture about its impact filled the air, and promises were made about the district not cutting certain programs - I wondered how school principals and councils were going to meet their staffing obligations by March 30, knowing their staffing allocation might not be accurate. And isn't it possible that the district might not cut a program, but a school still might?

This from H-L:
Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton sent an email last week to school principals that said he hoped to shed some light on proposed budget cuts at a district leadership meeting April 9.

Shelton said he sent the letter, dated March 26,"to keep open lines of communication throughout the budget development process."

During an interview, he said that as a result of trimming the budget, the district would not be making any staffing cuts in gifted and talented programs and in programs for students learning English.
He said staffing for band and orchestra had not been finalized but should be after it is reviewed "as compared to other school staffing."

The superintendent has said previously that with 88 percent of the district's general fund spent on staffing, it's likely that staffing will be affected when the $433.1 million general fund budget is trimmed by 5 percent. But he has said he hoped the lost positions could be handled through attrition.
Shelton said in the March 26 email that the decision the General Assembly makes about any mandatory teacher raises would directly affect the district's budget because it would be more costly, and Fayette County doesn't get as much money per pupil from the state as other districts.

On Monday, lawmakers from both chambers approved a two-year state budget that requires teacher pay raises of 1 percent in 2015 and 2 percent in 2016. It was not immediately clear how that would affect Fayette County.

Concerns surfaced last month about how staffing cuts might affect school programs, including band and orchestra, gifted and talented and English-language learning.

Shelton, who has said the programs are not in danger of being eliminated, told the Herald-Leader on Monday that he would be sharing information with principals "in order to get their feedback on possible scenarios, and we will not be able to discuss specifics until we have completed that process."

Last month, Shelton sent principals draft numbers for staff positions they will have next year. Schools were shown what the worst-case scenario — a 5 percent cut — would look like. Principals and the schools' site-based councils determine how to use the positions while the district continues working on the final numbers. Shelton had said administrators would get a revised allocation no later than May 1. Administrators then adjust their staffing plans based on new allocations. The budget is approved May 19 and takes effect July 1. Shelton said principals should plan for a 3 percent to 5 percent reduction.

In his email, Shelton apologized to principals, saying "it has been such an unusual year and such an extremely difficult one for you as we face budget and staffing reductions."

"While there are elements that are clearly beyond our control, we regret that you have, in many ways, been caught in the middle of the turmoil," he said.

Ultimately, Shelton said, Fayette County needs to develop a new approach to staffing that will enable the district to live within its means and have an equitable distribution of staff.

The superintendent said that "after we have gotten through this tumultuous season," a staffing task force will be convened to work on policies that will move the district "beyond the blunt cut that we ended up with this year."

This from Tom Shelton to the Principals, with thanks to Lisa:

Dear Principals,

First, I want to take a moment to thank you for your steadfastness as we work through these turbulent budget and staffing  issues.  I am genuinely sorry that it has been such an unusual year and such an extremely difficult one for you as we face budget and staffing reductions.  While there are elements that are clearly beyond our control, we regret that you have, in many ways, been caught in the middle of the turmoil. 

Early on, we had hoped that we could present an updated set of staffing guidelines to the Board at the March meeting.  Yet, because of the uncertainty that continues to cloud the budget outlook, we remain in a holding pattern until our District Leadership Meeting on April 9.  At that time, we hope to
1)      share with you your categorical staffing allocations (band/orchestra, G/T, ELL)
2)      conduct a break-out discussion with elementary principals about possible scenarios regarding your world languages allocation
3)      finalize the negative budget adjustment that you should plan around, e.g., -5%, -4%, -3%
We are devoting the April 9 meeting to TPGES first, followed by an interactive discussion led by me and the chiefs about these and other budget-related issues, e.g., Section 6 carry-forward, managing Section 7 reductions that impact school-level operations.  By that time, we are hopeful that the General Assembly will have approved the state budget and made a decision about any mandatory raises which will directly impact the amount of the negative budget adjustment we will ultimately land on.  Based on feedback from you and from the public forums, we have worked diligently to bear the majority of the overall 5% budget reduction at the district level and through reduced contract days, in hopes of keeping the reductions to Section 4 and 5 as low as possible.  Having said that, we are also aware that many of the reductions that will result from IAKSS budget cuts and in Section 7 DO, in fact, impact our schools because many of those expenditures go out to schools beyond what is provided in Sections 4 and 5, e.g., reducing facilitators and diagnosticians, reducing the Section 7 Smaller Learning Communities allocations to the high schools, to name a couple.  At the same time, please know that each chief is in the process of reducing actual staffing in each of our departments that is at least commensurate with the reductions you face in Sections 4 and 5.  In fact, we are working on a transparency document that shows those reductions to IAKSS certified and classified staff (through reduced or eliminated positions and/or reduced days) that is similar in nature to the staffing workbooks that apply to schools. 

Exit interviews have been postponed until later in April in order to give you as much time as possible to work with your SBDM Councils on possible staffing scenarios.  Let me reiterate that our best advice for you in the meantime is to move ahead with the -5% allocation (worst case scenario) that you received on March 1 while simultaneously developing a plan to add faculty/staff back in if we are able to settle on a -4% or -3% allocation by the required date of May 1.  If you have questions about that process, please work closely with your directors as you prepare for exit interviews.

Lastly, after we have gotten through this tumultuous season, it is our intent to reconvene the Staffing Task Force to continue working on a revised set of policy, procedures, and staffing guidelines for 2015 and beyond that will move the district work forward beyond the blunt cut that we ended up with this year.  It remains critically important for us to develop a new approach to staffing that will enable us to live within our means while simultaneously moving us toward an equitable distribution of staffing resources to our schools.  That work has started, but is far from finished, so we wanted you to know that those efforts have not been in vain.

I will finish this message back where I started by apologizing again for the leadership predicament you face.  I appreciate your patience and stoicism and I want to assure you that we are pushing hard to cut through the uncertainty in order to give you the information and support you need by our April 9 meeting.  Thank you for your steadfast leadership and for the genuine care and devotion you have shown for your staff and your students through it all.

Tom Shelton, PhD
Fayette County Public Schools


Anonymous said...

We are asked to cut 5% from our schools, is downtown cutting 5% also?

Anonymous said...

I think it's time to audit Central Office to see where the $20,000,000 went too! Also, let's clean out some of the people that are in the $100,000 club, that where hired within the last 2 yrs. and the ones who should have been gone yrs ago!

Anonymous said...

Yeah! Let's find out where all that money is going - lets look at the teacher salary schedule and see how it compares with the rest of the districts in the state that are serving under just as challenging or worse conditions! Let's find where that $20 million went.