Officials discuss closure criteria

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Discussion began Thursday night as to what the future of education in Richmond County should look like and how the school system's facilities will need to evolve to fit this vision.

Superintendent Dana Bedden emphasized the educational goals of the process.  File/Staff
File/Staff
Superintendent Dana Bedden emphasized the educational goals of the process.

Although school officials downplayed the idea, the lengthy "rightsizing" process is a means to implement recommendations from an MGT of America audit in March, which called for the closing of at least five schools.

The audit found that the school system is under-enrolled by 6,000 schoolchildren, but Superintendent Dana Bedden pointed community members who participated in Thursday's focus group to the educational goals of the rightsizing process.

"The Richmond County school system is trying to review or revise its school facilities and usage due to demographic shifts and enrollment declines, but most importantly for the delivery of the future of educational plans," Dr. Bedden said. "That last line trumps everything else. That is the driving force behind everything."

The rightsizing process should also save money and make the school system more efficient, he added.

The MGT of America audit recommended that at minimum three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school be closed for a savings of $11.7 million. This money, the audit suggested, could in turn be reinvested into the remaining schools to improve them academically.

Thursday, the focus group developed guidelines for the school board to consider when rightsizing. The focus group favors those facilities that are adequately and equitably funded, are small and neighborhood-based, incorporate the business and industry sectors and are utilized sufficiently.

The board must adopt the final criteria for the process, which will be slow and methodical, said Bill Montgomery, a consultant with Absolute Technology Inc., the company assisting with rightsizing.

Rightsizing and closing schools are always politically sensitive issues, Cynthia Searcy, an assistant professor in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, told The Augusta Chronicle on Thursday.

Five of 10 board members are up for re-election this year. Two of them face opposition in November's election. Parents, particularly, oppose closing schools, preferring to have schools closer by, Dr. Searcy said.

The closing of schools raises other issues, she said. There are the challenges of moving staff and teachers, the additional transportation expenses and other intangible costs, such as the possibility of lower morale among students and employees.

"You can always sell school closings as a good thing," Dr. Searcy said. "These school districts are under tight (financial) constraints, particularly if enrollment is declining."

There can be considerable savings from lower infrastructure costs and the economies of scale, Dr. Searcy said.

Richmond County officials stressed the process will be lengthy, adding that the federal courts must sign off before any schools are closed or any attendance zones change.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

GUIDING PRINCIPLES


1. The development of a facility plan that is responsive to educational needs of the students and related instructional programs.


2. Plan for the optimum utilization of existing facilities and ensuring that over-building does not occur.


3. Accurate student demographic information that ensures the new facilities are located in appropriate areas of the school system and are designed for optimum capacity.


4. A clear understanding of the safety and the security needs of a contemporary educational setting.

Source: Superintendent Dana Bedden

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karmakills123
8
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karmakills123 07/25/08 - 05:57 am
0
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"rightsizing"...lol... do you

"rightsizing"...lol... do you think the masses will better accept the CLOSING of schools if you call it something else??? Just close the schools that need to be closed and quit trying to PC your way around it.......backbone Bedden backbone !!

Craig Spinks
818
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Craig Spinks 07/25/08 - 06:34 am
0
0
Karmakills123, complain about

Karmakills123, complain about something that requires complaining. Dr. Bedden has enough "backbone" for several school officials. Unfortunately, at least one of the officials who surround him doesn't have enough for himself.

karmakills123
8
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karmakills123 07/25/08 - 06:47 am
0
0
A leader is only as good as

A leader is only as good as the people he surrounds himself with........................................and a community is only as good as the people they vote for.

Ms. Opinionated
0
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Ms. Opinionated 07/25/08 - 06:50 am
0
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Thank goodness that Richmond

Thank goodness that Richmond County may finally do something about the pitiful state that their schools are in. Fortunately my husband and I have the means and the desire to send our children to Columbia County schools, and all of the people that we know in Richmond County send their children to private schools and are able to do so- but for those who do not have these options, it is pathetic to expect them to go to schools that are struggling not only in the academic sense, but in maintaining a shear sense of safety. If we ever hope for a turn around on anything in that county or anywhere else, we must put our childrens needs first. If that means closing schools and having longer bus rides, then so be it. Personally, I would rather my child ride the bus for 20 extra minutes to actually learn something and not be in physical danger, than to have them at a school next door.

HYPOCRITES 08
7
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HYPOCRITES 08 07/25/08 - 07:07 am
0
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A Naysayer always complains

A Naysayer always complains but never offer a solution.

lynninga
0
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lynninga 07/25/08 - 07:22 am
0
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wy close school if the

wy close school if the parents would make sure that there kids are in the right school that they are zone for then there would not be problem. The kids and school are the way they are because the parents and kids just don't care. If you parents would do you part the school and the problem might go away

JustaVoice
0
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JustaVoice 07/25/08 - 07:26 am
0
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Tough decisions must be made!

Tough decisions must be made! Dr. Bedden was not hired to stroke egos and cowtow to politicians. His job is to run a fiscally sound business.

No_Longer_Amazed
5146
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No_Longer_Amazed 07/25/08 - 07:47 am
0
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There was a MGT of America

There was a MGT of America audit. There was an audit report. So why is the RCBOE not following the recommendations?

double_standard
166
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double_standard 07/25/08 - 08:35 am
0
0
Schools could be closed but

Schools could be closed but what would that really solve. Next people will be crying about over crowded classrooms. It's a the learning starts at home. Columbia County school system is not an automatic path to success and most private school teachers aren't even certified.

Captain Awesome
0
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Captain Awesome 07/25/08 - 08:40 am
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I'm glad that hard decisions

I'm glad that hard decisions are going to be made, I don't think smaller schools are a terrible thing.

I'll bet 2 of the elementary schools they close will be ones that did well on the CRCT.

KingJames
11
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KingJames 07/25/08 - 08:42 am
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NoLongerAmazed, the audit

NoLongerAmazed, the audit report did not specify which schools should close nor did it outline a plan for choosing the schools to close. This is now the preliminary process of setting criteria to help make the choices. Once the criteria have been determined, the next phase will be to evaluate the schools. The ones selected for closure and the schools receiving those students will have to have a transition. You can't just arbitrarily select a school to close and just have buses take kids somewhere else. A lot of planning is involved before any action is taken. Good planning actually saves money in the end, as it would likely cost more to correct a mistake that was made due to poor planning.

mojo
0
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mojo 07/25/08 - 08:43 am
0
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Don't fool yourselves - once

Don't fool yourselves - once again the right decision is staring everyone in the face and the call won't be made. There will be posturing and threats and an opportunity to make the schools better will be squandered costing taxpayers millions. This study should have been conducted years ago - the population shift to Columbia county has been readily apparent for more than a decade. Instead each year we hear of budget shortfalls, staffing troubles and increasing taxes. Why not just do the right thing for everyone and consolidate resources to promote better facilities and spend the money we have wiser?

KingJames
11
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KingJames 07/25/08 - 08:45 am
0
0
CaptainAwesome, they are

CaptainAwesome, they are closing schools, but not getting rid of the talented teaching staff. If one of the schools that closes happens to be one that did well ont he CRCT, then those same teachers will more than likely go to the other schools along with the students. They are talking about closing buildings, not eliminating teaching positions.

luckie
2
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luckie 07/25/08 - 08:51 am
0
0
Every elementary school in

Every elementary school in richmond county needs to have a time out/reflections room where students can be sent as an initial consequence and then if they mess up there they should be suspended. Learning can take place when parents and students understand that disruptive behavior will not be tolerated. That is why cc succeeds. They have a no tolerance policy and could care less if it inconveniences a parent. As everyone has been saying it is the parents fault anyway that their child does not know how to behave at school.

Captain Awesome
0
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Captain Awesome 07/25/08 - 08:58 am
0
0
KingJames, that's reassuring.

KingJames, that's reassuring. I really hope this gets the schools back on track and am glad they have a plan to retain some of the talent. I guess I just hope they don't close the schools in my neighborhood but I'm sure that's what a lot of people are thinking.

ironpurps
280
Points
ironpurps 07/25/08 - 09:01 am
0
0
Columbia County succeeds

Columbia County succeeds because the parents send the schools students who are, for the most part, prepared and responsible. Take out the magnet school stats and RC would have the lowest scores in the state. It's all about parental intervention and concern, and the majority of parental involvement in Richmond Co. is complaining about their 'perfect' children being 'mistreated' by teachers, administrators, etc. Many teachers in RC are as good as anywhere. It's about parent, parents, parents. Oh, and please spend the money saved on closing the schools to balance the budget first! Back Dr. Bedden! Change takes time!

Bored in GA
2
Points
Bored in GA 07/25/08 - 09:04 am
0
0
Stop the busing and save some

Stop the busing and save some Money! Stop maintenance and transportation emplyees from driving BOE county vehicles on their off time and to home and save some more! AWESOME!

disssman
6
Points
disssman 07/25/08 - 09:25 am
0
0
How much do you want to bet

How much do you want to bet the discussion with the public take place at around 2:00P.M. on a tuesday. As a taxpayer, fed up with incompetance of the board, I believe it is time to change. If they didn,t want change, why did they spend thousands for a study? Oh, but its only taxpayer money and there's plenty of that. What I would like to know is why Bedden still needs a "professional mouthpiece to talk for him and why, if he is so good, he needs all these Deputies to do the job he was hired to do? I am still looking for a site called RCBOE Budget. I wonder if the board members have ever seen a budget that breaks down the expenses, or do they just approve a summary document? P.S. a budget tells what an expense was used for, not just what something costs. Try it, go to their web site and try looking up the word BUDGET.

jack
11
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jack 07/25/08 - 09:36 am
0
0
A/RC need to be glald they

A/RC need to be glald they have some one like Dr Beddn. His predecessor is the reason you have most of the problems in your schools that you do.

Ron Martin CPP
2
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Ron Martin CPP 07/25/08 - 12:02 pm
0
0
Did you miss goal "4. A clear

Did you miss goal "4. A clear understanding of the safety and the security needs of a contemporary educational setting."

While the decision (to close) is under consideration should children attend these schools that are filled with hazzards which are present as a result of age and neglect? Visit A.D.Hains to see an example of a sub-standard educational facility.

double_standard
166
Points
double_standard 07/25/08 - 01:30 pm
0
0
Well to all those who look at

Well to all those who look at statistics Columbia County School System didn't make the AYP either.

lifelongresidient
1
Points
lifelongresidient 07/25/08 - 02:07 pm
0
0
just build more basketball

just build more basketball gymnasiums and football stadiums for all consistanly under-preforming schools, that is the way to fiscal responsibility.....well, by the way the all-mighty and all-knowing rc school board make decsions that is their opinion. josey/laney two of the, if not the worse schools in the county are awarded new athletic venues, while johnson had to wait almost 3 years for their school to be expanded and renovated. wait let me guess it is not fair because it is their turn for the school board to spend money on them instead of schools that perform and therefore HAVE EARNED IT BASED ON PERFORMANCE. i will say it again, until richmond county de-emphasizes sports for non-performing schools and re-emphasizes reading, writing and arithmetic, the taxpayers will continiously be footing the ever-increasing bill for "progams" and other wasteful project to try to educate those who DON'T WANT IT. WHY NOT EXPELL ALL THOSE WHO DON'T WANT TO LEARN AND GIVE THE POOR PROPERTY OWNER A BREAK!!!!. thats right then it will be called racism for creating an environment condusive to learning and achievement....by the way i am a blackman

ITDoc
1
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ITDoc 07/25/08 - 02:11 pm
0
0
The audit paid only for the

The audit paid only for the advice. Now another outside company, Absolute Technologies Inc, is telling the RCBOE how to close schools for a price. [filtered word] do you pay the BOE for in Richmond County? They can't decide what to do, then when they paid someone to tell them what to do, they have to pay someone else to tell them how to do it!

No_Longer_Amazed
5146
Points
No_Longer_Amazed 07/25/08 - 03:11 pm
0
0
tall2: That's why they need

tall2: That's why they need to raise taxes - to pay for their wasteful spending.

truthisouttherestill
0
Points
truthisouttherestill 07/25/08 - 03:37 pm
0
0
timeout reflection

timeout reflection rooms????.......what schools need these days is good old fashioned discipline and paddles.......also needs involved parents who care what their children are up to......a timeout room just gives the lazy bums a quiet place to take a nap

KingJames
11
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KingJames 07/25/08 - 05:03 pm
0
0
The board needs these

The board needs these consultants to help them make decisions. Say what you want about the board, but at least they are smart enough to know they need help deciding which schools should close. Hiring consultants is how things are done in the business sector. Believe it or not, the Richmond County Board of Education is a business. The few administrative people that are employed at the main office are educators turned administrators. They are not business professionals who have had experience downsizing an organization. At least they know they are in over their heads and have sought help.

ITDoc
1
Points
ITDoc 07/25/08 - 05:06 pm
0
0
King James: Shouldn't the BOE

King James: Shouldn't the BOE be business professionals? It's not a volunteer job. If they are in over their heads, they should not run for the job. I don't apply for jobs I am not capable of performing. I respect your opinion, and your post is well written, but the taxpayers pay the BOE for exactly these tasks.

No_Longer_Amazed
5146
Points
No_Longer_Amazed 07/25/08 - 05:20 pm
0
0
KingJames: You say "Believe

KingJames: You say "Believe it or not, the Richmond County Board of Education is a business" If it were a business it would have gone bankrupt long before now as investors would not continue to put their money into any business that is run like the RCBOE. The only way the RCBOE keeps afloat is by increasing the school tax.

DAMY46
0
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DAMY46 07/25/08 - 05:26 pm
0
0
Want to balance the budget?

Want to balance the budget? Close a few of the schools in some of the old/worn out buildings and sell them off....ie: Hains, Milledge, Lamar, Forest Hills, East Augusta and T.W. Josey. Also, consolidate National Hills and Garrett.

firefighthamer
0
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firefighthamer 07/25/08 - 08:55 pm
0
0
Uh, bro, what dat yu say bout

Uh, bro, what dat yu say bout a naysayer, uhm?

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