School leaders look to increase achievement, save money - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

School leaders look to increase achievement, save money

By Len Kiese - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - President Obama wants to revamp struggling schools across the United States with a $5-billion start-over approach. He proposes giving a million dollars each to thousands of failing schools that close and re-open with new principals and teachers.

Could the Dougherty County School System benefit from that turnaround program? School leaders say although some schools haven't met adequate yearly progress, they're far from being considered failing.  But the system is looking at their own ways to turn things around academically and financially.  

Like many school systems across the nation, the Dougherty County School System is dealing with a tighter budget. "Our system lost about $3.7 million in austerity reductions in the current year," said Public Information Officer R.D. Harter,  "Over the last four or five years, we've lost almost $20 million now."

Thankfully, millions of dollars in federal stimulus money started rolling in to the state and local districts last month. "This stimulus money will only help support losses that we've had over the last several years," said Harter.

It's not just good for the budget.  It comes in handy as the school system looks to possibly revamp and restructure. A priority is improving academic achievement. "We will be able to spend some money to enhance some instructional things and enhance some of the teacher's ability to teach," said Harter.

Another priority is saving money. "This budget year coming up is going to be very critical," said Dougherty County School Board Chairman David Maschke.

Monday night, Dougherty County School Board members approved spending $3,000 a month to a consulting firm to do a systemwide review. Maschke says the review serves two benefits.

"First of all, if we're able to operate more efficiently, that means that we'll be able to do a better job of teaching.  Secondly, we'll be able to be more effective with the spending of tax dollars," said Maschke.

Education Planners LLC will look at every department and their structure, meaning some employees could take on more work or lose their jobs. "If the consultant finds that we're heavy in some areas, or that there are more effective ways that we can do things, yes, there could be an elimination of certain positions," said Maschke.

It's all an effort to make the school system better when it comes to learning and spending.

School leaders hope to incorporate some suggestions from the consultant by this upcoming fiscal year. They'll also meet in July to look over test scores and grades on a school by school basis to identify what areas they can improve on and then implement more changes.

The consultants will also review the Child Nutrition Services Program which came under scrutiny back for mismanaged finances back in 2004.

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