Cobb: Deficit worse than expected. Larger classes. Fewer teachers.

More news today on cuts to schools, with Cobb predicting  a worse deficit than originally expected.

According to the AJC story this morning, Cobb schools chief Fred Sanderson told the seven-member board that the system’s budget shortfall will likely be $137.7 million next year because of declining revenues. A week ago the working shortfall figure was about $100 million.

What I think is interesting – and bound to be a point of contention — is Cobb school board member David Morgan’s comment that if teachers have to lose their jobs, he doesn’t want the decision based on seniority. “My big concern would be human capital and making sure we keep the best and the brightest,” Morgan said. “If we are raising class size we have to make sure we have the best and the brightest in front of those pupils.”

Here are some details from the Cobb story:

Sanderson said has recommended cuts to reduce that shortfall, including six furlough days for all school district staff, which he said would save $19 million, and increasing the maximum class size, which would save $53 million. That means fewer teachers.

Those increases could mean that the student-to-teacher ratio would go from 19 students per teacher to 22 students per teacher in kindergarten; from 20 students per teacher to 23 students per teacher in the first through third grades; from 27 students per teacher to 30 students per teacher in fourth through fifth grades; and from 23.5 students per teacher to 30 students per teacher in the sixth through eighth grades. The student-to-teacher ratio would go from 26 students per teacher to 32 students in grades nine through 12.

Sanderson said the last thing he wants to do is take the budget cuts into the classroom and tamper with the ratio of students to teachers and the learning environment.

“Nobody wants to protect the classroom more than I do,” he said. “But there’s also the realization that 90 percent of the budget is personnel, and you can’t have it both ways.”

78 comments Add your comment

former chemistry teacher

March 26th, 2010
10:52 am

I taught HS chemistry a few years ago and had 28 students in class. It was almost impossible to actually perform labs in such big classes with just one teacher…good luck to the teachers who are left…they’ll need it. I would recommend they possibly try to cut down on some of the administrative staff. First!

Attentive Parent

March 26th, 2010
10:57 am

On the issue of seniority, here;s a recent New Teacher Project policy paper on the issue.

http://www.tntp.org/files/TNTP_Smarter_Teacher_Layoffs_Mar10.pdf

This is tragic anyway you look at it but there seems to be an unusual degree of agreement around the country that seniority based RIFs make a bad situation worse.

Attentive Parent

March 26th, 2010
11:01 am

Here’s the NCTQ February 2010 paper on the same issue for anyone looking for data.

http://www.nctq.org/p/docs/nctq_dc_layoffs.pdf

Teacher

March 26th, 2010
11:04 am

Rarely have a I seen a new teacher come in and be as effective as a seasoned veteran. There are a few but not many.

Question

March 26th, 2010
11:06 am

Sanderson is a joke. He got a pay raise last year while all the teachers took a 2% deduction. He and the school board need to go. How do they intend to come up with a system in the next month and a half to let people know they are being let go if it’s not by senority. School moral is at an all time low because people are worried about their jobs and no one is telling them who will be back and who will be gone.

Voter

March 26th, 2010
11:12 am

Ultimately it is the voters of Cobb & Georgia that are to blame. Everyone wants the Best Education system and the Best Services, but don’t want to pay for it. They then elect people who tell them they won’t have to pay for it (i.e. no taxes) and then when they get what they pay for (nothing), they get upset. We the people are the government and have no one to blame but ourselves. Meanwhile over 300 employees of Cobb County next year will not have jobs or money to care for their families. Someone remind them why taxes are the cause of all problems.

gwinnett educator (for a little while)

March 26th, 2010
11:20 am

I will be glad when Gwinnett admits that they are letting MANY go and stop with the charades as if we are doing ok on the job front…

John Q

March 26th, 2010
11:24 am

Raise the millage rate. Add a 1cent sales tax in Coob for schools. You get what you pay for.
Cobb spends approx. $8000 per student. So if you own a $200,000.00 home, you pay about $2100 per yr in property taxes. A large chunk of that goes to the schools. Looks to me like parents are getting a fantastic deal for their investment with just one child in the school.

irisheyes

March 26th, 2010
11:26 am

“I will be glad when Gwinnett admits that they are letting MANY go and stop with the charades as if we are doing ok on the job front…”

I’ve been hearing this too. Maureen, is there any way the ajc can look into teachers being laid off in Gwinnett. I have a friend who was told they were being “laid off” from a Gwinnett school. They’re trying to find another job, so, obviously, they don’t want to make too many waves. (Which is sad, isn’t it?)

John Q

March 26th, 2010
11:30 am

It’s government. All they have to do is dissolve the position and on paper it looks like no teacher lost his/her job. Cobb does it and was in high gear last year at this time.

Maureen Downey

March 26th, 2010
11:32 am

irisheyes, I already have a call into Gwinnett as I spoke to a teacher yesterday about the way teachers are being told they don’t have jobs next year.
To Gwinnett teachers, Is there something odd this year with the way non-renewals are being done? In my conversation this morning with Gwinnett, I was told that the teachers being called in this week are not being renewed due to performance issues and that they should not be surprised as there would have been conversations about performance problems.
But the teacher I spoke to believes that teachers are being let go for budget reasons as well, and that the county isn’t acknowledging it.

Maureen

gwinnett educator (for a little while)

March 26th, 2010
11:33 am

I am one of MANY..and there are quite a few of us that have been pink slipped. I have 2 friends from another school are going through the same. I then heard the other day that there were more. Inside info (an adminstrator friend) has told me that what the system is doing is keeping it hush hush..but in reality, they are letting go of MANY people. From my undestanding also, the job fair last yr was not done because we needed teachers …but to create the illusion that Gwinnett was “ok”. We did not have positions open at that time.

I am headed to 2 interviews in 2 separate states in a few wks and have applied to 2 other states. I have a child to raise and will go where I can to continue to work (which is what I want to do) and take care of my child. I wish everyone the best.

Warren Buck

March 26th, 2010
11:35 am

AP – Great link! Thank you. It is amazing how the data is coalescing around the elements that make for a great teacher. It is going to be very interesting to see how this data is used in Georgia with our budget situation, our right to work status and our other challenges.

gwinnett educator (for a little while)

March 26th, 2010
11:42 am

YES MAUREEN!!!! It is going just as I predicted earlier this school year. I would love to type more concerning this..but I am not going to do so publicly. But YES..I spoke with another friend (who is being told that she should “transfer”) about this. I noticed the terminology being used last fall about “effective” teachers and budget cuts during staff meetings. This is yr 14 for me. I have never had an unsatisfactory performance review. I was given satisfactory checks on my first evaluation this year. We shall not name how many ‘needs improvements’ followed a few wks later. They have a system set up. I was nitpicked to the BONE!. I even spoke directly to the adminstrators and told them what I saw happening. I received no comments..just blank stares. How on earth does a person go from satisfactory performance for yrs in 2 districts (I was somewhere else for 11 yrs before coming to Gwinnett) and then in 4 months..everything races downhill. I still have all of my documentation and it will be attached to my end of the year evaluation.

@ Gwinnett Educator and Irish eyes

March 26th, 2010
11:42 am

Gwinnett Educator and Irish eyes,
You are right! Wilbanks and his crew of flunkies at the GCPS Taj Mahal would like the public to believe that Gwinnett is THE place for teaching in Georgia and the US. If this is true, why is GCPS actively recruiting teachers from outside of education? Last year my Gwinnett middle school had a substitute teacher who lost his job in construction, and now he is a full-time teacher?!
What a load of BS!

Maureen Downey

March 26th, 2010
11:48 am

Talking to the news reporters, this could be a device being used throughout metro districts. As one news reporter told me just now:

“The districts claim they do not use the non-renewals as a cost cutting measure, but the teacher’s organization said many non-tenured teachers were refused a renewal last school year. Several of those teachers had been in good standing previously, the teacher’s advocate said. It is worth investigating from a metrowide perspective.”

gwinnett educator (for a little while)

March 26th, 2010
11:53 am

(again..I’m home with a sick child) Maureen, it really should be looked into because there are many people that are being let go when it should not have happened. I politely told the lady in HR that I “understood” what was going on and was not even angry. (I have had enough stress to deal with). I told her that what I did NOT agree with is making it difficult for me to find employment elsewhere because they needed a reason to “justify” my nonrenewal. Again, deafening silence. I have kept all correspondence, emails, name it from this school year. If I were doing the things they pointed out so terribly wrong…it would have been FOUND in the first observation. Also, I cannot understand how a person can gather so much about me having only visited my classroom 3 times. Once in October (20 mins and all was good)..5 mins in January (during a special day the school was celebrating) and 20 mins again in February.

NE Georgian

March 26th, 2010
11:55 am

Gwinnett is just following in Hall County’s footsteps with the nonrenewals as cost cutting. Hall did this at the end of last year to around 140 teachers, all nontenured.
Take a minute and read about it here

http://thehallmonitor.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/hall-county-horror/#comment-818

Central office called them all ineffective in the local paper and then had to backtrack and admit they all weren’t. They also told many that if they resigned the had a chance at being hired back but if they did not resign they would not ever be hired back.

Retirement Incentives

March 26th, 2010
12:20 pm

Seniority should not be the primary consideration in the layoffs. The young educators are the future of the school system. The double dippers(retirees working 1/2 time and drawing a pension) should be let go and all of the retirement eligible teachers should given incentives to retire before we ruin the lives of our excellent young educators and shut our our recent education graduates. The 2009 graduates of Kennesaw State and other education schools could not secure jobs. The 2010 graduates will be lucky to get the opportunity to do some sporadic substitute teaching(inconsistent $80 per day work) this fall. Are you willing to sacrifice the last two classes of education graduates and most of Cobb’s young teachers to balance the budget?

People over 62 in Cobb County are freeloading. Everyone in Cobb has a stake in high performing schools. They should end the exemption for people over 62 paying school property taxes NOW. That would go a long way toward solving this problem. All of the surround counties charge seniors and Cobb’s millage rates are already low. What are they going to do move to Fulton? Yea right! What’s better? Ruining the lives of young educators and possibly doing permanently damage to public education in Cobb or making seniors pay their fair share. Seniors paying property tax in Cobb and raising the tobacco tax by a dollar statewide would go a long way towards solving this crisis. It’s that simple.

Been there....still here!

March 26th, 2010
12:21 pm

Maureen, Gwinnett really needs its over staffed top heavy administration – to contrive the false data needed to “non-renew” excellent teachers so they can continue to fund the many unnecessary administrative positions. (sarcasm) I know, because it happened to me – after years of exemplary evaluations in Gwinnett and several other states including Teacher of the Year in 3 different buildings! There are many highly paid GCPS administrators in the Suwanee office whose job is to contrive evidence through imaginary “investigations” and compile incorrect data. The only way I survived and came out on top was by wearing a digital recorder everywhere I went. This is one teacher who proved I am smarter than a GCPS administrator!

Been there....still here!

March 26th, 2010
12:26 pm

Been there....still here!

March 26th, 2010
12:33 pm

Maureen,
Gwinnett really needs its over staffed top heavy administration – to contrive the false data needed to “non-renew” excellent teachers so they can continue to fund the many unnecessary administrative positions. (sarcasm) I know, because it happened to me – after years of exemplary evaluations in Gwinnett and several other states including Teacher of the Year in 3 different buildings! There are many highly paid GCPS administrators in the Suwanee office whose job is to contrive evidence through imaginary “investigations” and incorrect data. The only way I survived and came out on top was by wearing a digital recorder everywhere I went and I would encourage other teachers to do the same. This is one teacher who proved I am smarter than a GCPS administrator!

Ole Guy

March 26th, 2010
12:33 pm

32 kids in a classroom doesn’t seem all that big a deal…IF, and that’s a qualified IF…teachers are permitted to manage the class as they see fit.

I’m a product of the earliest baby boomers; after dusting off and glancing at my hs year book, I counted a whole lot more than 32 kids. Were there “cut ups” and other kids who insisted on creating as much of an impediment to learning as humanly possible? ABSI-DAMN-LUTELY! But, you know, back then, both teachers and principals were allowed to practice their trade as they saw fit; in the absense of the pc gods. And if that meant wailing the hell out of a kid’s six, so be it. There were no detentions, etc. It was “Mr. So-and-So, comeer! WACK WACK WACK! Sit down, sir”! More severe cases were sent to the principal’s office where it was WACK WACK WACK! “Now go back to your class, mister”! When I graduated, I, nor any of my hoodlum buds, had any love-lose for those folks; I’m sure they were just as happy to see us go. But you know, 45 years later, I think of those people…teachers and principals alike…they’re probably where we’ll all wind up some day…in a box. I miss and love them all. We all lived in a time when they had the guts to do the right thing. Too bad that’s all changed for the worse.

@ Retirement Incentives

March 26th, 2010
12:46 pm

@ Retirement Incentives,
You can easily let go of 1/2 half time employees, but you cannot do it based upon whether a person has another source of income such as teacher pensions! You cannot expect the older teachers who have put years into a school system and vested their retirement plan to move somewhere else and start over. It would be better for all, if the new teachers move to another state. They will be much happier in the end, because soon there may be no public schools in Georgia!

Kira Willis

March 26th, 2010
12:55 pm

“Nobody wants to protect the classroom more than I do,” he said. “But there’s also the realization that 90 percent of the budget is personnel, and you can’t have it both ways.”

How about checking out some of the administrative positions downtown?

Warren Buck

March 26th, 2010
1:14 pm

Here, here Kira! After going from Gwinnett to a well-run charter, it is amazing what a difference a smaller andministration makes…

catlady

March 26th, 2010
1:27 pm

Not following seniority leads to lawsuits, frequently less effective discipline, AND SAVING MONEY BY HAVING LOWER PAID STAFF. Which would you think would be important?

Gwinnett Parent

March 26th, 2010
1:35 pm

If the schools would place the students in classes based on their abilities and pull those with learning disabilities into their own classroom, a larger class might work. What is Gwinnett doing with the 2.28 mil. increase as well as the tax revenue from the backdated tax increase? Everyone that owns property in Gwinnett received an additional tax bill averaging $175 last month. Where will this money go? I need to know if the class is going to increase, my decision to place my child in private school depends on it.

Elizabeth

March 26th, 2010
1:39 pm

I do not see why an experienced person who has nver been given an unsatisfactory performance review whould have to give up a job because she is nearer retirement. The closer you are, the harder it is to find a job elsewhere. Young teachers who have fewer years should be let go first. If a teacher is performing and doing the job, firing them because they are older and more experienced is not only unethical and unfair, but also against the law. It’s called age discrimination.

I have seen few brand new teaches who do as well as veteran teachers. There is more to teaching than cute lesson plans. How do you know that “the best and the brightest” are ONLY the younger teachers? This is another flimsy excuse to get rid of higher paid teachers for a cheaper, younger model, and it should NOT be tolerated.

As for those of you who are getting your first unsatisfactory review on flimsy or nitpicky ground, I am experiencing the same thing this year. I have been nitpicked to death and all of a sudden my perfomance is not satisfactory though it was fine until January. GAE advised me to do the following things:
Notify your professional organiztion.
DO NOT throw away anything. Document everything.
Find all evaluation paperwork from the last 5 years.

A word to the wise from someone who know:: No matter what anyone, including your professional organization, says about signing the evaluation being just for “acknowledgement of receipt”`, IF YOU SIGN IT, IT IS OFFICIAL AND WILL GO INTO YOUR PERMANENT RECORD. NO ONE will read or care about your documentation or rebuttal. If you know you are leaving anyway, DO NOT sign it. Make crisscross lines across the signature line, and write that you are not signing the evaluation and that your comments are attached. If the evaluation is unsigned, it is not official. The only thing you will lose is a year’s step raise. That is better than being unable to find a job because of a bad evaluation. If you are leaving the system anyway, take this option. If you have a job in the system next year , you MUST sign. BUT- write on the signature line that signing does mean that you agree with the contents and that your comments are atached, Then sign it but OFF the signature line. And date it. You will be told that you must sign regardless.Know that if you do, you then will be stuck with that official document in your permanent file. Unsigned, you can then refer to the previous year good evaluation since that was your last official one.

They will deny that this is true, but legally it is true. Sometimes it helps.

I will not sign my annual evaluation this year if there is anything negative on it. I will try to negotiate another evaluation with no negatives on it. But I am retiring. They can’t do anything to me because I will have my retirement regardless. Bottom line: try to avoid signing if they try to give a negative ANNUAL evaluation. Try to negotiate if you are leaving the system. If you are staying, you must sign or be fired for insubordination.

Question

March 26th, 2010
1:48 pm

Straight from the Cobb County website on Reductions in Article G that the board just voted on on March 10th this year. How can you believe anything they say.

2. Implementation:
Within each affected area, the RIF will be implemented by:
a. Eliminating the number of positions identified in the RIF Plan;
b. Selecting the positions held by those individuals with the least SENIORITY (in
accordance with Rule GBN) first, until the requisite number of positions is
eliminated

twogirlsmom

March 26th, 2010
1:54 pm

Cobb has a $137 million dollar shortfall and still intends to run the system on a “balanced” calendar. Starting school in the hottest month of the year. Why is it that our school board is willing to fire teachers, increase class sizes which is definatley be a detriment to education without first making cuts that could save millions and would not hurt our children or their education in any way? HMMMMM!!!!!! It makes no sense, but what does when it comes to the Cobb county school board.

[...] Cobb: Deficit worse than expected. Larger classes. Fewer teachers … [...]

Question

March 26th, 2010
2:10 pm

Twogirlsmom,

If you wanted to save money on HVAC we wouldn’t have school in Febuary when it costs the most to run it. And if we went to the calendar that the Take back the Summers lady wants it wouldn’t help very much if at all.

Support Staff

March 26th, 2010
2:25 pm

Cobb knew this was coming for a long time – that is why they voted for the balanced calendar. 20+ furlough days built right into the school year, and it doesn’t disrupt pre and post planning time.

Nature Dude

March 26th, 2010
2:39 pm

Change the entire system. Cobb sends over $100million extra to the state that is divied up elsewhere. Let the local communities keep all their money. It’s their citizens that are paying it. If the good ole boys downstate need money let them ante up. Most states today are suffering serious problems, but if you shrunk districts and gave local control of purse strings, there would be more transparency, accountability, and less waste.

It won’t happen because no one has the guts to stick their neck out, but wouldn’t it be a great world if those in charge actually started to do the right thing!

twogirlsmom

March 26th, 2010
2:42 pm

@ Question…what??????? Your comment makes absolutely no sense!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kathy and Matthew Jed Allen, Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: Cobb: Deficit worse than expected. Larger classes. Fewer teachers. http://bit.ly/bIDRsq [...]

Randy

March 26th, 2010
2:43 pm

Republicans gain political office to trash government so they can then badmouth its funding.

Well done in GA.

Morons.

Question

March 26th, 2010
3:13 pm

Twogirlsmom,

sorry, read you statement too fast. I thought you were one of those crazy people who thinks we should have a 3 month long summer because that’s what they used to do where they came from.

Tired Teacher

March 26th, 2010
3:43 pm

I am worried about having a job next year, worried about a bogus eval (they are happening at my school), but more worried about teaching 30 students next year. My students are not your mild mannered, high socio-economic, parent involved students. I’ve had desk thrown, evacuated my room to protect my students from another, and even sadder I teach 9/10 year olds! How can I teach 30 of them??

broketeacher

March 26th, 2010
4:17 pm

Bogus evals and setups are happening in Dekalb now, too. Again, they’re saying that teachers are not going to lose jobs . . . but, they dissolving the positions of teachers who are not re-signed. Beware! Keep ALL of your evals and paperwork. Document harassment and setups by your administration. They are NOT your friends. They are trying to keep their jobs, too, and that means firing you whether they want to or not.

Lynn

March 26th, 2010
4:33 pm

Would it be possible for teachers to file a class action lawsuit if a school is targeting a magnet program or an entire school and evaluating all teachers at a less than proficeint level? Especially when these teachers have the test scores, awards and years of prior evaluations to prove their competence?

gwinnett educator (for a little while)

March 26th, 2010
4:47 pm

Thank you for the evaluation information Elizabeth. I had already planned not to sign my end of the year evaluation if it states negative things. (I came to this school late Sept.) I’m done..I just want to move on and forget this chapter of my career. Working in Gwinnett has been a nightmare for ME. (It may be the best place in the world for others..I understand).

What I find very alarming is the mention of these bogus evaluations. Back in Dec, I sent an email (after attempting a conversation with an AP to get clarity on something..well, I was undermined). There was no progress, so I asked for a meeting with all of the adminstrators to make sure I was on the same page as everyone else. I had been in the school for 3 months and had read the Faculty Handbook. In that meeting, everything was “glossed” over by the Principal. The following week, I was invited to another meeting. Silly me thinking a “follow up” and I was presented with a PDP.

bootney farnsworth

March 26th, 2010
5:24 pm

is there any system not doing worse than adverstised?

Something Smells Fishy

March 26th, 2010
6:14 pm

I knew something was fishy in Gwinnett. Sure, they’ve admitted there are budget issues, but they haven’t related the tardiness of employment contracts and budget issues. After being in the county for six years, this is the latest we have ever received our contracts. Every other year, we received them in Jan or Feb and here it is March, and we probably won’t have them until April.

HStchr

March 26th, 2010
6:45 pm

Fishy- the state passed the law which says they don’t have to offer them until May15th if they choose. Many school systems are waiting for budget numbers before they offer contracts. And be aware that being offered a contract isn’t a guarantee of a job. The new RIF (reduction in force) policies adopted by most systems in the state allow for the super or board to make decisions about reduction in force without any consultation of employees affected. They can still walk in any day they choose and let you go, contract or not.

anon

March 26th, 2010
8:53 pm

@broke teacher

Can you give more details?

Welcome to our little World of Dekalb

March 26th, 2010
10:01 pm

All school systems in Georgia are cutting our children’s education. RAISE TAXES TO SAVE OUR SCHOOLS. Write to your state representative about this matter. It is hurting all of Georgia’s children.

Ole Guy

March 26th, 2010
10:13 pm

Elizabeth, 42 years ago when I was a Candidate at OCS (Officer Candidate School), during one of many “evals”, my TAC (Tactical Officer) presented me with a DOR (Drop On Request), a common practice designed to weed out the weak of heart. Recalling a period in Military history when General Anthony McAuliffe, Commander of the 101st Airborne, Bastogne, was formaly asked, by the German Commander, to surrender, McAuliffe wrote upon the surrender document, NUTS! So I followed suite; yelling and screaming, my TAC unceremoniously threw me out of his office. Several weeks later, upon receipt of my Gold Bar, my TAC told me I may not be the best officer in the class, but I sure had (modified in the interests of literary protocol) spheroids.

I realize, Elizabeth, that such tactics, in the well-mannered halls of academe, would go over like poo poo in the punch bowl. However (and please do not take my comment personaly), perhaps a solidarity display of the very same “spheroidal mentality” would speak volums. As I read some of the comments from your fellow teachers, I sense a natural fear and apprehension. I also sense a “scared rats” demeanor; it is precisely this demeanor which makes the jobs of those responsible for past mismanagements so much easier. While your current professional situation(s) cannot be helped by the solidarity voiced through organized labor, it is not too late to organize a “grass roots offensive”.

Elizabeth, good luck to you and your bretheran.

Incidentially, Elizebeth, for those who wish to remain within the educational profession, this event through which you and your fellow teachers must navigate serves as an excellent reminder that perhaps this would be a good time to think about unionization.

It is not what it seems

March 26th, 2010
11:04 pm

Gwinnett allows the principals to decide who they are letting go and who they are keeping even if they have satisfactory evaluations and no letters in their file or any issues. They are allowed to do it based on their own personal reasons and not provide a reason why. They are allowed to keep teachers with provisional certificates vs highly qualified teachers. They are allowed to pressure teachers into voluntary resigning threatening future employment as a teacher elsewhere. Principals should support their staff not terrify or demean them.