Memo: Firing administrators wouldn't balance education budget
What if you fired every single administrator, from school principals to the education officials in Raleigh, to save teacher jobs?
It still wouldn't be nearly enough to make up the billion-dollar shortfall North Carolina is facing in its education budget for 2009-10, according to a memo sent to local educators by N.C. Board of Education Chair Bill Harrison and state Superintendent June Atkinson.
A House committee's proposal to cut thousands of teacher jobs and shorten the school year has got educators up in arms. Harrison and Atkinson sent the memo to illustrate how tough it is protect classrooms when money is this tight.
Eliminating all staff from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, all central office staff from all school districts and all principals and assistant principals would save $436 million, their memo says. Cut all state spending for testing, textbooks and classroom supplies and you'd save about $214 million more. That leaves another $350 million to cover the billion-dollar gap.
Harrison and Atkinson note that they're making a point, not endorsing the cuts they outline. As they note in a classic understatement: “Few of us will ever see $1 billion.”
Read the memo at
No Senate run, says Cotham
Rep. Tricia Cotham shot down a rumor that she's considering a Senate run.
The Charlotte Democrat, the second-youngest state legislator, was rumored to be considering a campaign for the nomination in 2010.
She said she's been asked, but she's not interested.
“I've had quite a few people ask me over the past couple of weeks to consider it,” she said. “I just kept saying I'm very flattered but right now my only priority is the legislature.”
Cotham said she may consider higher office in the future but she's happy serving in the state House for now.
“I enjoy what I'm doing,” she said.
NASCAR's drug policy
Jeremy Mayfield's legal complaint contains the first public glimpse of NASCAR's full substance abuse policy. The policy was included in court papers the suspended driver filed Friday.
The rules give racing officials broad discretion over punishing drivers, mechanics and crew members.
The policy spells out how officials can require mandatory testing before the season and random tests throughout the year. It also lists behaviors that could trigger suspicion of drug use, including accidents during events, chronic forgetfulness or broken promises, and deteriorating personal hygiene or appearance. The policy does not specifically list which drugs are banned.
Prohibited substances are those that in NASCAR's determination “may affect adversely the safety and well-being” of competitors, officials or spectators, including “but not limited to illegal drugs.”
“NASCAR may make this determination with respect to a particular substance at any time,” the police states.
A rule governing alcohol says competitors and officials cannot drink on the day of an event. One provision appears to give racing officials permission to release information about violations, saying NASCAR “may publish the results of any test or tests pursuant to this policy and the circumstances giving rise to such test.”
The policy says officials will provide information about rehabilitation programs if requested, and encourages “self help” and treatment.
Protest of school budget cuts
Groups representing N.C. parents, teachers, principals and school boards will gather in Raleigh on Monday to protest what they call “Depression-era budget cuts.” Their message, says N.C. Association of Educators President Sheri Strickland: “Don't balance the budget on the backs of students, educators and schools.”
Also taking part in Monday's news conference are the state PTA, Association of School Administrators and School Boards Association, as well as the N.C. Public School Forum, a nonprofit advocacy group.
True cuts in Mecklenburg
Yes, Mecklenburg County really is making budget cuts.
After county officials unveiled their recommended budget last week, a reader asked whether the county is making actual cuts to its budget. He wrote that in some years, officials and the media talk about “budget cuts” but in fact there is an increase in spending.
He pointed to the school system as a good example of this. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools often gets less from the county than it asks for but more than it received the previous year. While some officials talk about making cuts – to the original plan – others note that the district's budget is growing.
So, is there fuzzy math going on this year? In short, no. Nearly all the departments and agencies the county funds are recommended to receive flat or reduced funding. The proposal calls for cutting county departments by an average of 9.6 percent, CMS by 9.8 percent and CPCC by 9.2 percent.
One of the few exceptions: the county will spend more in its operating budget to pay off its debt for construction. That's mostly due to a change in the county's debt policy to spend part of its reserves to pay for construction projects without borrowing money. Previously, the money had been spent to pay off bonds the county had borrowed.
An outsider at Ardrey Kell
With Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools laying off assistant principals, there's been some buzz around the decision to hire an outsider as principal of Ardrey Kell High, a high-performing school in the county's southern tip.
Harrison Peters, who started work last week, once worked for Robert Avossa, the assistant superintendent who headed the search, at Olympia High School in Orlando, Fla. Some hint favoritism was at play.
Not so, says Avossa. Peters was among eight to 10 applicants – about half from within CMS – who were interviewed by a panel that included three Ardrey Kell parents, two veteran teachers and two other school staff. The panel sent two finalists to Superintendent Peter Gorman for the final choice, which the school board approved.
Avossa says Peters is a hard worker with “great long-term potential” as a CMS leader, who impressed the panel with his vision for helping the 3-year-old school build a culture and identity.
Avossa also notes he's filled 15 principal slots since the South Learning Community was created two years ago, and Peters is the first outsider. Ten were filled by assistants who got promotions and four by principals from other CMS schools, he said.
Make 'em laugh
What recession, wars, rogue nuclear nations?
N.C. State University grad Robert Gibbs has the White House press corps in stitches.
During his first four months as President Obama's press secretary, there have been 600 instances of laughter during his briefings, according to the Web site Politico.
Yes, somebody is keeping count.
Dana Perino, George W. Bush's last press secretary, elicited 57 laughs in her first four months. Scott McClellan, another Bush press secretary, got 66 laughs in his first four months.
Gibbs even got more laughs than Tony Snow, the fast-quipping Bush press secretary, who elicited 217 laughs during his first four months.
Conservatives view all this laughter darkly – a sign that the White House press corps is cozying up to the Obama administration. Observer staff writers Ann Doss Helms, Doug Miller and April Bethea and The (Raleigh) News & Observer's Rob Christensen and Ryan Teague Beckwith contributed.