Council Memo 1

DATE:            May 24, 2011

TO:                 Members of City Council

FROM:           Helen Gym, on behalf of Parents United for Public Education

RE:                 City Council hearings on School District budget


I first want to thank those members of Council who recognize the deep commitment of our City to our public schools and who have asked pointed questions to ensure the financial and managerial stability of billions of dollars of public money.


Parents United for Public Education along with other groups has been at the forefront in asking for local funding accountability has been at the forethe administrationThank you very much for the opportunity to share Parents United’s analysis of the District budget situation. Parents United for Public Education is an all volunteer, independent collective of parents which believes in quality schools and responsible funding. We believe that the District has unfairly put up essential services rather than set priorities, change their spending practices, and jettison non-essential expenses. We are advocating that Council give more money for targeted allocations, BUT we also ask Council to demand changes in the District’s proposed budget and in its oversight of the District. Our priorities in this budget:

  1. Ensure full-day kindergarten.
  2. Restore free transportation for all school-age students.
  3. Restore the 29% cut in each school’s discretionary funds.
  4. Impose a moratorium on all non-essential contracts, hiring of personnel, and start-up/expansion of new programs and initiatives.
  5. Restore the District's share of property tax revenue from 55% to 60% through a millage shift and assume the $4 million BRT expense and the City Controller’s office salaries.


District budget concerns


Summer school:

The District plans to spend $23 million on an 18-day summer school program, nearly the same amount it would cost to cover full-day kindergarten.

·          Last week, the SRC passed a resolution approving $4.7 million for textbooks for the 18-day program.[1] How is this a strategic use of money?

·          The SRC also approved more than $1 million for enrichment activities like a sports and art camp. While we do not deny the importance of enrichment, again, is this a priority area for such a brief time period?


Extra time for Promise Academies

Parents United supports the extra cost per pupil expenditure for the Promise Academies. However, most of the $24 million cost of the new Promise Academies lies primarily in paying teachers extra hours for a longer day, Saturdays and a longer school year.

·          Please ask: What was the percentage Saturday attendance of Promise Academy students this year, both in terms of range (low to high) as well as average.

·          What data exists to indicate that the longer hours has substantively contributed to justify the cost?


Executive Salaries

·          By my count, there are at least nine individuals at the District that earn salaries comparable to or more than the Mayor, including the CEO ($348K), Deputy Supt Leroy Nunery ($230K), CFO Mike Masch ($211K), General Counsel Michael Davis ($190k), Supt. of Strategic Planning ($180K), Director of Communications Jamilah Fraser ($170K), Deputy of Communications Evelyn Sample Oates ($165K?), Associate Supt. of Academics formerly David Weiner ($165K), and Deputy Admin to Supt. Claudia Averette ($160K). How is this justified?

·          In the Office of the Superintendent, expenses are projected to increase by 20% between FY10 and FY12.[2] The superintendent’s office includes a number of highly paid positions like $135K Deputy of Process Improvement, an Executive Director of Project Management, and four Special Assistants to the Superintendent among others. What are these individuals’ job responsibilities and how will this office be impacted by the central office reductions?

·          In the Communications office, expenses also increased by almost a third between FY10 and FY12. There is a $170K Chief communications officer, a $165-180K Deputy of Communications, six additional staff who earn over $100K, and 12 other staff members. Despite the District’s crippling budget deficit, the SRC has approved over $670K in communications and consulting contracts this year – and this is by my count only:

Ø       Frontline solutions: $153K

Ø       Positive promotions: $146,534

Ø       Jada Creative communications: $83,572

Ø       Maven Inc.: $77K Govt. relations

Ø       Third Eye Productions: $64,841

Ø       Ceisler Jubilerer: $45,000

Ø       KSA-Plus communications $22,575

Ø       OMG Center for Collaborative Learning: $28,628

Ø       Radio One Inc.: $22,674

Ø       John Callahan and Mark Christy scouting video: $29,605


·          Ask the District to explain benchmark tests and predictive tests. How much did the District spend this year on testing and test prep materials. How much do they plan to spend next year?



·          The District does not have to competitively bid for professional services contracts. Will it commit to changing this practice moving forward?

·          In FY2011, the District spent $2.2 million on a new program called ACHIEVE3000. In FY2010 it spent$460K on this program, and in 2009 it received no funding. Why is this program deemed an essential service?

·          In the past four months, the SRC has approved millions of dollars on non-essential contracts: Please see attached list.

·          Please check the Budget in Brief, Page 39, line 238: The Associate Supt. of Academics receives more than $63M in grants this year to distribute. Next year that position will have $54 million in money. That’s the money we don’t know anything about. Can the District account for the $63 million in expenditures this year. Where is it going and what contracts aren’t they renewing next year to get down to that $54 million.



English Language Learners

The District has proposed a 50% reduction in number of bilingual counseling assistants (from 104 down to 51) and a 20% reduction in the number of ESL teachers.

·          What is the projected enrollment of ELL learners next year versus this year?

·          The District may note that it has created a new bilingual support position for schools. Please ask how the training differs from BCAs and to whom the support people will report.

·          The creation of this position still leaves a 25% cut in on-site bilingual services. Parents and community members have complained of lack of language services at schools. How does the District justify this level of cuts?











Helen Gym

Parents United for Public Education

[1] Resolution B-10, approved by the SRC May 18, 2011. “Categorical Grant Fund/Operating Funds: $4,670,800 Contracts with Voyager/Cambium Learning ($3,000,00); Holt, Rhinehart Winston ($540,000); School Specialty ($580,000); Classroom, Inc. ($280,000); Pearson Longman ($100,000); Carolina Biological ($50,200); Scholastic ($70,000); and Various Vendors ($50,000) to provide textbooks and instructional materials – Summer Learning and More (SLAM).”


[2] Page 391 of the full budget book.