The DeKalb County Board of Education Thursday night voted to create a new speech language pathologist position. A contract with Bright Beginnings, which has been providing the service, will be terminated, effective March 15.
Director of Schools Mark Willoughby and Gina Arnold, Supervisor of Special Education explained that the reason for the request was that a hired position would be less expensive than a contracted service and that the sooner the required 90 day notice of termination is given to Bright Beginnings, the quicker the school system can realize savings from the move.
But Second District School Board member Jerry Wayne Johnson asked that action be delayed until the board had more time to consider it.
Johnson was upset that the board received notice of this request two days before the Thursday night school board meeting (when a minimum five day notice is required by board policy) and that the 90 day notice of termination to Bright Beginnings had been given on December 15, a full month before the board was to consider creating a SLP position. "I'd love to see us wait until we have a workshop on it and maybe vote on it at the next board meeting. I don't think two days is enough time to consider and act on a new position. I didn't get my agenda until Tuesday and talking with some of the other board members I don't think they did neither. I just don't think two days is enough time to make up your mind," said Johnson.
Director Willoughby explained that agendas were mailed out on the Friday prior to the Thursday night meeting. "From what I understand everybody got their agendas on Tuesday. We did mail those on Friday. We always try to mail out our agendas on Friday. I don't know why they did not get there until Tuesday," he said.
As for the December 15 notice of termination to Bright Beginnings, Arnold explained that the move was done in an effort to save the school system money. "Our present contract with Bright Beginnings was $69,440 per year and we pay it divided into 10 monthly invoices of $6,944 per month. The salary for a Speech Language Pathologist with a Masters Degree and six years experience would be $3,366 per month. The difference in the two amounts totals $3,577 per month in savings for a Masters Degree employee with six years experience. That's roughly $11,782 in savings for the remainder of this school year, but for the upcoming school year at 12 months we would realize total savings of roughly $29,044 for the year by hiring this employee," wrote Arnold in remarks prepared for the board.
During the meeting Thursday night, Arnold further addressed the board saying that by waiting another month to act on creating an SLP position, the person being considered for the job might not be available. "What I would like to share with the board about waiting (until the next meeting) is that the prospective employee that is interested in being hired has to give a 45 day notice at their present job and I don't know that they would be inclined to do so if there was not a position for them to come to," she said.
Arnold stressed that no new money is being requested to fund this SLP position, only a transfer from one line item in the budget to another. "When we terminated the contract with Bright Beginnings we did so in an effort to have this cost savings. It is not new money and it is not a new service. It's just shifting money from one line item to another. It wasn't that we were asking for something new. What we are asking for the board to do is to allow us to transfer funds from a contract line to an employee line that would save $11,782 this school year and there would be even more substantial savings in years to come," said Arnold.
"I do agree with you Mr. Johnson and we will not be losing any money (by waiting another month). That would be one reason to look at it later (since the contract with Bright Beginnings doesn't expire until March 15) and I would be inclined to wait (until next month) but in the interest of what you (Arnold) have said about (prospective new SLP employee) maybe it is unfair to ask her to wait another month if she does have to give 45 day's notice (to her current employer). It puts her in limbo. But it's obviously going to save us money (by hiring SLP)," said Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III.
The board voted to approve the request to create the new position and for a budgetary line item transfer to fund it. Johnson voted against it.
In other business, the board set the date for the 2015 DCHS graduation commencement ceremony for May 22 at 7:00 p.m.
In his monthly report on personnel, Director Willoughby announced that longtime central office employee Teresa Miller has retired. Board Chairman Evins thanked Miller for her years of service to the school system. "I'd like to express my appreciation and my regrets to Ms. Teresa Miller. She has been a lot of help to the board and me over the years and I certainly hope she enjoys her retirement. She did a fantastic job," said Evins.