Students at 150 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will see their bell schedules change up to 90 minutes after the school board passed Tuesday, Jan. 25, cost cutting initiatives meant to reduce the impact of massive, looming budget deficits.
The new schedules will save $4 million through improved school bus efficiency and will mean a change of 15 to 90 minutes for some middle schools while elementary schools will have their day extended by 45 minutes.
The initiative passed 7-1, with Kaye McGarry dissenting and Joe White absent, to approve Superintendent Peter Gorman’s recommendation.
Gorman and his staff presented two weeks ago recommendations for cutting $100 million from the district’s 2011-12 budget, as the district faces severe cuts to state and federal funding, and asked the board to vote Tuesday on three of the recommendations he believed required an early vote.
“These aren’t reductions that we like, or want, or prefer,” Gorman said. “The majority of our better choices are gone. They’re done.”
The board also voted Tuesday to adjust the formula used for weighted-student staffing, a program that assigns greater resources to students in high-poverty schools. Reducing the per-student weight from 1.3 to 1.25 will cut 134 teacher positions and could save almost $8 million. The vote carried 6-2, with Tom Tate and Joyce Waddell dissenting.
In a decision that drew a sigh of relief from many in attendance, the board approved a motion to postpone until Feb. 8 the vote on closing 105 Bright Beginnings classrooms, a change that would save more than $10.4 million.
The decision to wait followed 40 speakers advocating for the early learning program and a request from Gorman to postpone the vote.
That motion carried 8-0, though board members and Gorman questioned whether anything would change over the next two weeks. One thing is certain, they said: they can’t do it alone. “We need engagement from the community,” Gorman said.
“Nobody has stepped up,” Lennon said, “Nobody has formed an advocacy group to march to the county commission,” she said, calling on the community to step up.
At-Large member Trent Merchant echoed Lennon’s charge to the community to get involved.
“Running a campaign takes more than an e-mail,” he said. “If you believe in it, then you need to get involved.”