MARIETTA — Cobb School Board Member David Banks will again be proposing his own school calendar during Wednesday’s work session despite Cobb Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa recommending one for 2013-2014.'
Calendar proposal by Dr. Hinojosa
Calendar proposal by board member David Banks
The board will also talk about approving the superintendent’s evaluation instrument, which is set to cost $15,000, applying for a $20 million Race to the Top grant and a Request for Proposal (RFP) to award a new employee benefits contract to ShawHankins LLC of Cartersville.
In business that won’t be voted on this month but will be up for discussion, the board will talk with Cobb Deputy Superintendent of Operations Chris Ragsdale about preparing the SPLOST IV referendum.
Shortly after joining the Cobb schools staff in July 2011, Hinojosa proposed that the board create a 21-member committee to help come up with a recommendation to deal with the never-ending calendar debacle that was ignited the spring before.
The 21-member group, which consisted of parents, school employees and district staff, met three times in August and while they couldn’t come to a consensus, they did make a recommendation to Hinojosa.
The group was split on a school start date of Aug. 1 or Aug. 5 and a Jan. 3 or Jan. 6 return date for teachers the second semester for the 2013-14 school year.
The superintendent’s proposed calendar for Wednesday’s work session is for school to start Aug. 7, 2013, with a week long break for Thanksgiving Nov. 25, two weeks beginning Dec. 23 and another week starting March 31, and the last day of school to be May 21, 2014.
The additional days off for students are Sept. 2, Oct. 7 and Nov. 5, 2013, and Jan. 20 and Feb. 17, 2014.
Originally the group was tasked with preparing calendars for the next two school years but Hinojosa said Monday that he decided to “change gears” and only recommend one year out because he doesn’t want the cycle to coincide with school board elections.
“This time next year we would then do a two-year calendar,” he said. “Then it gets off the board election cycle and people can focus on the calendar issue without it being a board issue.”
Hinojosa also said his recommendation, which doesn’t include week long breaks in both September and February that have previously been a hot topic, is “identical” to the committee’s recommendation.
“(The group) was kind of an even split on a couple of things,” he said. “I feel like we honored a lot of their work … most of their work, with maybe a 5 to 10 percent adjustment.”
Hinojosa said he will meet with the group again Wednesday morning before the work session to thank them for their work, advise them of the modifications he made and invite them to the board meeting.
“They were so committed. They were intense, and it was pretty emotional but I was very proud of their work,” he said.
Hinojosa said he is willing to listen to Banks’ calendar recommendation during the meeting tomorrow.
Banks said he doesn’t like Hinojosa’s calendar because he doesn’t believe it resembles what the committee wanted.
“There aren’t any breaks,” he said. “It’s important to give (teachers, parents and students) a time to kind of relax and re-energize.”
His calendar, which was released in his weekly newsletter “David’s Grapevine,” included a week-long break in September, for Thanksgiving, in February and in April, with school starting Aug. 5, 2013, and ending May 30, 2014.
Banks argued that giving the Cobb schools staff and his constituents a calendar they like also cuts down on absenteeism, illness and discipline problems.
In other news, the board will also talk about the superintendent’s evaluation instrument. It will be up for approval later this month.
Hinojosa said the $15,000 cost associated with the tool is to hire a polling company to get feedback from stakeholders in the community such as staff, students and parents about district performance.
“I’m very pleased with (the evaluation) because it is now no longer subjective, it’s objective,” Hinojosa said. “The board still has some subjectivity to it so they can get their opinions in there, but it mostly transparent.”
He is also pleased with the fact that the document is similar to the Strategic Plan, which the district is currently revising.
“It’s really going to be able to measure how we are moving the district forward, and I don’t mind being held accountable for that,” Hinojosa said.
Two items on the agenda that Hinojosa said will be detailed on Wednesday deal with outsourcing an employee benefits insurance broker and consulting services and submitting the Race to the Top grant application.
In the past, employee benefits have always been handled in-house, he said.
“There are companies that help with benefits and there are ways to provide services that are more user friendly for our employees,” he said. “(Human Resources Director Dr. Michael Shanahan’s) idea was to help us do this better.”
Hinojosa said outsourcing this service will not require them to fire anyone, and that Shanahan’s presentation will include information about why this will not cost the district any additional money.
The Race to the Top application is due Oct. 30 and according to the agenda item will benefit 11 middle schools in Cobb.
Hinojosa could not recall which middle schools were outline in the application but said Cobb Chief Academic Officer Judi Jones would outline that during Wednesday’s meeting.
“You have to be very cautious to warn people that these are competitive grants,” he said. “I don’t want people to get their hopes up too high.”
If Cobb earns the $20 million grant, funds would be dispersed over a five-year time period starting in January 2013 and would serve approximately 9,000 students.
“Sustainability after the grant period expires will be addressed through the development of teacher leaders, local school administrators as instructional leaders, extension of professional development for future use and replication of the innovation at other Cobb schools throughout the life of the grant,” the agenda states.
With the help of Educations Planners Inc. of Marietta, Cobb Schools have been working with board members, principals and other district employees to prepare a SPLOST IV referendum that will be voted on by the school board in November and Cobb voters in March 2013.
If approved, the $717 million one penny sales tax that is schedule to be collected between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2018, could help the district build two new career academies, a new Osborne High School, three replacement elementary schools, permanent buildings at a number of schools and multiple high school theater and gym modifications.
“The board requested that we have a discussion about the SPLOST notebook,” Ragsdale said. “I anticipate fielding questions based on their posts.”
He said many of the board members have been meeting with principals and constituents to determine what needs are at each school.
“I’ve also been communicating with principals and have asked them to make sure they have sent me their prioritized schools list,” he said.
In other business, the board will talk considering approval of the following items at the Oct. 27 board meeting:
* Awarding a $900,000 Request for Proposal (RFP) for information technology staffing services and a $475,000 RFP for electrical time and materials to be used between Nov. 1 and Oct. 31, 2013.
Ragsdale said both RFPs are an extension of contracts the district already has and a portion of these costs will be funded by SPLOST III, contract services or maintenance accounts.
This recommendation will allow the district to hire short-term IT professional staff services during peak service request times for support of district technology essential to daily operations and to allow various schools and departments in the district to access qualified electrical time and materials services on an as-needed basis.
* Extending a $389,948.44 performance contract for the Cobb County School District’s Success for All Students project. The funding comes from an $8.6 million grant awarded to the district in 2008. This is the last year grand funding will be available to the program that helps provide support for Areas 5 and 6.
* Authorization to take $280,750 from the General Fund Reserves to pay for 400 students’ tuition for online courses through the Georgia Virtual School for FY13.
Senate Bill 289 requires the school district to pay for online courses as of May 2012. The district will be reimbursed to the district through Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) funding next fiscal year.
* Approval of the McEachern Endowment Fund Inc. to advertise and receive bids to replace the turf on Stadium Field, existing scoreboards and the stadium sound system at the high school in Powder Springs. The McEachern Endowment Fund will pay for these projects.
Ragsdale said that due to board policy and the cost, which is unknown to him, being over Hinojosa’s spending threshold, the request must come before the group for approval.
* Recommendation to accept a request of retirement from LaBelle Elementary School Principal Lisa Hogan
* Method of compensating employees for reduction of one furlough day approved by board last month. Hinojosa previously said he would like for employees to see that refund sometime in December.
* Renewal of an existing cell tower contract with Spectrasite Communications LLC of Boston, Mass., at Mabry Middle School in Marietta. The contract states that over a 15-year time period the district would receive $891,672 in revenue for allowing this use.
In addition to these payments, Cobb Schools will receive 50 percent of Spectrasite Communications’ revenue for any additional “tenants” that place their equipment on the tower in the future.
The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. with public comments in the district boardroom at 514 Glover St. in Marietta.
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