2019-20 budget eliminates Design Pathway, shifts jobs


courtesy of Atlanta Public Schools

The FY20, investment plan, accommodates for 1431 students. The budget by function allocates 79% to Instruction. The 2019-20 budget was proposed and voted on at the GO team meeting on March 11.

The school Governance Team (GO Team) approved the 2019-20 budget with important changes to instruction and some teacher positions. The budget eliminates the graphic design pathway and a media specialist position. 

Of the nearly $12 million budget, $9 million, or 79 percent, is allocated to instruction. Next year’s budget adds a full-time band position, more semester-only classes, a part-time physical education teacher, an additional social studies teacher. The budget makes changes in career-themed classes in the CTAE department, including having a part-time health care teacher. There will also be a decrease of one special education class and a full-time mental health specialist will be added. The mental health specialist will be hired through a private provider.

Pathways are tracks for students to follow for four years. The Graphic Design Pathway will be removed and replaced next year because of declining enrollment. The pathway is being replaced by an expansion of the engineering program. Drafting design is a component of the new engineering class, but an exact curriculum has yet to be solidified. Students already in the Graphic Design Pathway will be given the option to continue in the new pathway. The school is currently seeking to hire an Engineering Technology teacher.

“In all honesty, this is a very scary predicament to be in because there are no guarantees, except that I will not have a job here,” said Paul Nicolson, the Graphic Design teacher and 1989 alum whose position is being eliminated. “There are a lot of mixed emotions about leaving the place I’ve called home for the last 25 years.”

The changes solve problems that have proven difficult for students, according to Principal Dr. Betsy Bockman.

“Semester-long classes are a challenge unto themselves,” Dr. Bockman said. “And the mental health specialist would be someone students could meet with. That person on staff would also do professional learning for teachers. Counselors are pushed all the time for students’ immediate needs. This is a model that some other clusters in APS (Atlanta Public Schools) are trying to adapt as well.”

Pupil services, activities designed to assess and improve the well-being of students, including guidance, counseling, testing, attendance and social work, will increase under the new budget. There will be discontinued pupil services with Springdale Park Elementary (SPARK). There will also be a part-time position focused on the career portion of “College and Career.”

“We have got to do more for kids that aren’t in that AP track,” Dr. Bockman said in a March GO Team meeting. “More social work time, more prep for career and college and getting kids to school on time. We need an education that’s challenging and a budget that works along with that.”

Education media services in the budget fell to $164,908 for the 2019-2020 school year from $221,363 in 2018-2019 year. Education media services are activities directly focused on managing and operating media centers, including school libraries and audio-visual services. The reduction of a media specialist from two to one would directly correlate to this budget cut. Media specialist Lisa Taft’s position will be cut. Taft is also a former Grady parent with a daughter and son who attended Grady and Yale University.

“Look at the bigger picture,” Taft said. “What do we choose to fund or not to fund?”

Many schools are defunding library services. Taft has emphasized the value of reading in terms of education. The role of school libraries are to support reading and personalized reading. Grady is getting rid of the librarian, not the actual library. There are no librarians at Inman Middle School, for two years now, and no librarians at Hope Hill Elementary, which was a position eliminated last year; there are only clerks. 

Grady parent Sharon Bray expressed concern over the elimination of media specialist Taft’s position at the risk of the AP Research class, which Taft teaches.

“I want to make sure we’re continuing to prioritize that program with the budget,” Bray said.

Some staff changes took place during the current school year, including the hiring new Spanish teacher Victoria Goya and Latin teacher William Hunter, who has shared between Inman and Grady the entire school year. There is also discussion that there will be a shift in the class schedule next school year, with eight classes in one day, instead of four, on Wednesdays.

Along with media services, the budget for school administration will be reduced next year. School administration covers school operations, and in the new budget there will be an elimination of the instructional coach position and a reduction in school clerks to three from four.

At the end of a school year, change is inevitable. Numbers are crunched; data is collected, and decisions are made.

“Enrollment numbers for eighth graders are going in right now,” Dr. Bockman said. “In response to the budget, it’s a work in progress, and it’s changing every year.”