SHARECOMMENTMORE

by Robin Folsom and Katelyn Heck, 13WMAZ.com


STORY HIGHLIGHTS:

- The district will attempt to save up to $600,000 by having all school employees take a furlough day May 28.

- The Bibb Co. Board of Education met Thursday to discuss ways to make up an $18 million budget gap.

- Cuts were also proposed to athletic programs, fine arts, the high school magnet allotment and a mentoring program.

- The Confucius Institute volunteered to pay for 12 teachers to split among six schools.



Facing an $18 million budget shortfall, all Bibb County school employees will have to take a furlough day on May 28.

That move, decided at Thursday's board meeting, will save the district between $500,000 to $600,000 from this year's budget, which the board intends to put towards next year's financial crisis.

Officials also proposed cuts to athletics and fine arts programs, the high school magnet allotment, and a mentoring program.

Members also discussed how to support the instruction of Mandarin Chinese, instituted under former superintendent Romain Dallemand.

The Confucius Institute, which trains and supplies the educators, has offered to pay for 12 teachers, whom the board decided to split between six schools.

The board delayed Thursday's scheduled vote to waive a state-recommended student-to-counselor ratio, signed into by Gov. Nathan Deal this year. That a bill that suggests schools have one counselor for every 450 students.

Bibb school district administrators have proposed having one part-time counselor for every 699 students. For schools with 700-999 kids, they would have one full-time counselor.

Elementary and middle schools with over 1,000 students would get one part-time and one-full time employee, while high schools with that number of students would have two full-time counselors.

Several parents, employees, and even children showed up at Thursday's meeting begging the board to keep all of the counselors currently in the schools.

The board put off their decision on the waiver until their next meeting on Tuesday.

Board president Wanda West says, "It is my position that counselors are very, very important to not only the work in the schools, but supporting the children through development of issues, career counseling, and it goes on and on."

The board also delayed their vote on the reduction in force, where 97 jobs are on the line. They will vote Tuesday, which is one day before their deadline. On May 15, certified employee contracts will automatically renew.

And yet another big vote expected Tuesday deals with graduation ceremonies.

Four years ago, the board voted to not allow students who do not pass all portions of the Georgia Graduation Test to participate in the ceremony. That was supposed to start with the class of 2013.

Previously, students who did not pass part or all of the state test would be allowed to walk at graduation, but they were required to make up the failed test portions later. However, district administrators say that doesn't always happen, which brings graduation rates down.

Parents crowded the school board room with signs and posters Thursday. Many of them said they were not notified about the change. The school board asked the administration to come back to them Tuesday with a detailed report on how many this will affect and how parents and students were informed about it.