About 30 people and only four of the seven board members were in attendance. Of that crowd, nine people spoke.
The board is required to conduct a salary hearing, since it plans to furlough all of its 15,000 employees for five days next year. It is also required to conduct a budget hearing before it votes on the district's FY11 budget on June 9. The board approved a tentative $819.4 million budget on May 12, in a vote of 6-1, with board member Alison Bartlett dissenting. The FY11 budget begins on July 1.
Board members Holli Cash, Dr. John Crooks and David Banks were absent. Cash announced at the last meeting she would not make it to Wednesday night's hearings because of a family trip. Bartlett said Banks and Crooks had reported to board Chairwoman Lynnda Crowder-Eagle they would be on vacation.
A teacher was the only person to speak to the board during the salary hearing. Wes McCoy, from North Cobb High School, focused more on the massive teacher layoffs than reduction in salaries. He said he has been teaching in the CCSD for nearly 33 years, and is faced with feelings of grief as he watches his colleagues in the classroom cut by the harsh economic conditions.
"As economic realities have become known and your decisions have been made, my colleagues have been living on pins and needles," McCoy told the board. "We seemed to be as expendable as a filing cabinet: useful, but easy to replace."
McCoy asked the board to support the teachers next year and work on building trust among parents, teachers, administrators and the board. He also called out the district for using its new teacher evaluation form as a tool to determine which teachers would be cut.
"Removing teachers from their jobs, while it may be necessary, is destroying one thing difficult to measure on any evaluation instrument, trust," he said. "It sets up an adversarial relationship between school officials, administrators and teachers ... Using your new evaluation instrument as a criterion for dismissing teachers this year has really shaken the trust between teachers and the evaluators who should be members of the same team."
Roxanne Lopez, another teacher who spoke to the board during its budget hearing on behalf of the Cobb County Association of Educators, criticized the board about making a majority of budget cuts that would directly affect teachers.
"We also oppose increasing class sizes, and we definitely oppose balancing the budget when there's a shortfall on the backs of educators," Lopez said. "We ask of you please be creative in your new budgets and think about how to do other ways of balancing, instead of just on us."
When asked by Dr. John Abraham what Lopez would recommend as a different and more creative way to balance the budget, she urged members to look at other counties to see what they are doing.
"Look at the other board members in different counties, in different states, what are they doing that you're not taking account for?" she said. "How can we help do it? If you want us to come and be part of the board and start helping research, I'm sure a lot of the teachers would love to do it on their days off."
McEachern High School graduate Brandy Judkins also asked the board to look at other options for budget cuts, other than laying off employees and, in turn, hurting Cobb's economy.
"So when you've laid off teachers or closed schools you've lost taxpayers, you've lost homeowners, you've lost sources of revenue that you yourself depend upon to function," Judkins said. "Freezing of step-increases and a full work week of furloughs further, even exponentially increase that loss of revenue. Will we get this money back? Will we get these teachers back? Will we get these positions back? Maybe, I'm not sure. But I do have a feeling that we may be condemning Cobb County to a more austere and bleak future."
Several Pebblebrook High School parents spoke to the board about the high school being moved further down in the list of schools to receive artificial turf, saying it wasn't just about football, but about the dire conditions of Pebblebrook's athletic and gym facilities. The parents asked that the school be moved up to the first tier of installation and that they receive the excess funds left over from the turf installation to improve their facilities.
Following the meeting, a group of about 10 Pebblebrook parents stayed to speak to Doug Shepard, the district's chief of SPLOST, about Pebblebrook's athletic facilities, showing him pictures of cracked ceilings in the school's locker rooms and mold and mildew growing in the weight training room.
Shepard said he would be committed to helping upgrade the Pebblebrook facilities over the next few years, but could not promise the school would be moved up in the artificial turf installation schedule.
Crowder-Eagle said the schedule could go to the board for a vote, but would have to be placed on the agenda at the board's approval.
Following a delay - which was due to a lawsuit brought on by east Cobb resident, Walter 'Pete' Borden, questioning the legality of using special purpose local sales tax dollars for artificial turf - the district is poised to begin installing the turf this month. Shepard said the lawsuit has forced the district to re-evaluate the turf installation schedule, installing turf more evenly throughout the county. This change would move South Cobb schools like Pebblebrook and Osborne, who claim they have more of a need than schools like Pope and Walton, to further down the schedule, possibly impacting their football seasons.