Marietta school board to dig into SPLOST list
by Lindsay Field
September 05, 2012 12:23 AM | 1864 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Marietta City Schools Board Chair Jill Mutimer said the board’s Friday training and planning retreat is a way for members to dive deeper into some topics that they aren’t able to put as much attention on during regular meetings or work sessions.

During the fall retreat, which is one of two held annually and allows the group to earn whole-board training, they will take a look at the district’s SPLOST IV list of projects, learn more about the details of the College and Career Ready Performance Index and get an update on the Charter System renewal and 2013-16 Strategic Planning process.

Board members will also get updates from the central staff on the Marietta High School auditorium and a bus parking lot near the Marietta Sixth Grade Academy off Aviation Road.

“It’s very, very important that our board meet to really have a big picture look at some of the initiatives and planning that we are doing,” Marietta Superintendent Dr. Emily Lembeck said. “It’s an opportunity for them to answer questions, provide input, and all of the items on our agenda will address initiatives that are planned or are in progress.”

As far as a potential SPLOST IV referendum, the district’s expectations and list of projects will be outlined during the 12:30 p.m. portion of the meeting.

Both Cobb and Marietta school districts anticipate a March 2013 vote on the initiative. If approved, the 1 percent sales tax would go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, and run through Dec. 31, 2018.

Mutimer said Marietta’s priority in creating a SPLOST IV project list is to eliminate debt, including the Marietta High School auditorium bond and debt that should have been paid down through SPLOST III but didn’t because collections weren’t as much as they anticipated.

“I hope to address that in SPLOST IV and I personally think with the expense structure in all school systems with personnel costs, to handle capital needs through SPLOST makes sense,” she said.

For SPLOST III, the district was expected to bring in around $59 million of the 1 percent sales tax, or roughly 7 percent of overall collections for Marietta. Cobb Schools will end up receiving around $600 million over the five-year time period, which started in January 2009 and will close out December 2013.

In other business, the board will talk about the College and Career Ready Performance Index, which will go into effect next school year. The state Department of Education will be requiring school systems be measured against the index in lieu of No Child Left Behind and Annual Yearly Progress.

The state’s waiver was granted in early 2012 by the federal department of education.

“We have very little information on that at this point,” Mutimer said. “We’ll talk about how we’re going to measure ourselves.”

According to the state superintendent’s office, details of the performance index should be released in early spring 2013.

Following a 15-minute break at 2 p.m., the board will continue their afternoon session with a 45-minute discussion on a second five-year charter system renewal. The first was initiated in June 2008.

“It’s a very involved process,” Mutimer said. “We have to put forth all of the things we hope to achieve and the targets we’re willing to accomplish … it’s important.”

When asked about how the last five year’s charter has gone, Mutimer said, “By being a charter system, we exchanged additional accountability for additional flexibility. One of our accountability measures was to increase the number of students exceeding standards. During our charter system period, we increased from 33 percent to 56 percent of students exceeding standards in grades 3 through 8.”

Additional benefits of the charter system for Marietta has been waiving seat time, enabling Marietta High to provide a daily adviser to all students by reducing each class period by four minutes; creating school governance teams that provide recommendations on school calendars; and eliminating five student early-release days used for teacher professional development and instead reduced school days to 178 adding two full days of more effective opportunities for professional development.

Lembeck said the most recent five-year charter system experience has been “very positive.”

“Being one of the first four systems (in Georgia) to become chartered, we had a lot of learning to do and to this day, there are people who don’t quite grasp what a charter system is,” she said. “Overall, I think the results have been good and I look forward to having another five years with plans in place and opportunities for flexibility that will help move Marietta City Schools forward.”

The 3 p.m. slot is reserved for the board’s discussion about the 2013-16 Strategic Plan. Mutimer said this is the third, three-year plan the district has prepared.

“We will be informed at the retreat of the status, results of the surveys, focus groups and interviews (Matthews Consulting of Atlanta) has completed,” Mutimer said. “This input will help shape the future plan.”

Additionally, she said one component of the plan would be to implement strategies to reduce what she called the “ninth-grade bulge” and enhance successful transitions from the middle years to high school.

“We are currently involved in at least two research projects that are supporting data gathering for these efforts,” she said, adding that these two talking points should have a “heavy focus” on increasing the district’s graduation rate.

The 2013-2016 plan should go before the board for a formal vote sometime by the end of December.

“A good Strategic Plan is one that enables you to provide focus in your programming and in funding wisely,” Lembeck said. “We needed the good strategic plan when we applied for our charter system status initially and we certainly need one now as we move forward into applying for another five years.

“Any grants that we may apply for, SACS reaccredidation, all require that you have plans and goals that really reflect all stakeholders in the school system. It is funded using state charter system funds as well and will enable us to sit down and chart some innovations for the future that really affect the entire school system.”

In other news, the board will also get an update from Danny Smith, the district’s director of maintenance and support, on where contractors are with the Marietta High School auditorium and a school bus parking lot near the sixth grade academy.

The 750-seat auditorium, which was approved by voters in March and will cost approximately $7 million, should be completed around August 2013. Construction on the auditorium began in May and it is located on the east side of Marietta High.

The parking lot, which was approved by the board for construction in June and expected to cost $390,522, is being built to relieve parking at Dodd Street and Marietta High School. It should be complete sometime in October.

The bid was awarded to W.E. Contracting Company Inc. of Acworth and will be funded by SPLOST III.

The board will also briefly go over FY2012 programs offered at each school and according to Mutimer, will determine whether to continue to eliminate certain ones.

The meeting is open to the public and will be held in the Marietta City Schools boardroom at 250 Howard St. in Marietta and is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. An open discussion about the retreat will begin at 4 p.m.
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