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Hall County schools look for ways to save money

Rayburn named Hall County's Teacher of the Year

POSTED: December 10, 2008 5:00 a.m.

In an attempt to "get ahead of the curve," the Hall County school board is considering $11.5 million in potential cost-saving measures to balance next year’s budget.

Superintendent Will Schofield presented the proposals to the board Monday after working with the budget study committee to define four tiers of cuts that may help the school system to balance its fiscal year 2010 budget, which starts July 1. Schofield worked with a budget study committee of three community businesspeople, three former teachers of the year and central office staff members, to determine how the school system can face next year’s anticipated budget crunch.

While the school board typically doesn’t begin forming the following fiscal year’s budget until spring, the school board and superintendent said they want to devise a conservative budget.

Schofield said this year’s budget was a challenge, but he expects that fiscal year 2010 will be tougher. He said at worst, the Hall County school system may operate on about $208 million next year — $10 million less than this year’s 2009 budget.

"The bottom line is we’re going to have to do more with less next year," Schofield said.

Schofield said the first tier of cuts, which are in progress, could save $2 million in fiscal year 2010. The cuts include decreasing the superintendent’s salary 2 percent, consolidating small classes, cutting travel expenses by 25 percent and cutting all nonpersonnel items by 10 percent. Also under way is a cost-saving plan to lease school buses and eliminate overtime except for emergencies.

The next tier of cuts, which are "likely" and total $1.5 million, include reducing central office personnel allotments, further reducing system travel and imposing a hiring freeze for certified and classified personnel.

"Possible" cuts in the next tier total $5 million and would require school-level personnel allotments to be reduced. Reducing salaries other than the superintendent’s salary fall are the most "unlikely" cuts, but could save $3 million.

"I think we’re making progress," said Hall County school board chairman Rich Higgins.

Also, Eloise Barron, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Hall County schools, said the state will delay the announcement of five $3.2 million charter school grants until January. Hall County’s Lanier Career Academy was one of 10 finalists for a grant. Schofield said although the state acknowledged Hall County schools’ joint pitch with Lanier Technical College was among the best, money may be too scarce for the plan.

"Our fear is that there will not be grant money left, even in January," Barron said.

Schofield said the school system plans to move forward with its charter school plan and culinary program for Lanier Career Academy, with or without the state grant.

Although the budget outlook is dim, the accomplishments of a Hall County teacher shine bright.

Shane Rayburn, a teacher at Lanier Elementary School, has been named the 2009-2010 Hall County Teacher of the Year. Selected as the systemwide teacher of the year from the county’s 34 schools, Rayburn is a first grade special education teacher who has worked in Hall County schools since 2007.

In the narrative accompanying the application for the award, Rayburn spoke of the influence his younger brother has had on his path as an educator.

"He was mischievous, creative, and above all, an individual who rarely conformed. He did not fit the ‘one size fits all’ notion of schools. His influence on my vision of school ultimately confirmed my decision to become a life-changer, a teller of tales — a teacher," Rayburn said. "From my position now, I clearly see that my brother and the students that have walked through the doorways of my classroom ... who learn in a myriad of ways, have helped me to listen differently, to view them through different lenses, and ultimately, to tailor an education for them."

The Hall County Board of Education will honor Rayburn at its January business meeting.



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