11:58: and after six hours, the meeting's adjourned. Thanks all for tuning in.
11:47: Outgoing CMS athletics director Vicki Hamilton's giving a presentation on the new reality of pay-to-play fees in middle and high school sports. CMS has raised just over $1 million in participation fees, community donations and ticket sales surcharges.
11:36: Motion to postpone Bright Beginnings vote until Feb. 8 passes 8-0. Chairman Eric Davis says whether or not it ultimately survives isn't just a question for the school board members, "it's a question for this entire community." He and others say they hope to see businesses, nonprofits or philanthropic groups step up and help.
11:25: Merchant on Bright Beginnings and his desire to hold off on voting: "I'm concerned we're going down this path in an overly fatalistic way when in fact better choices may be available ... the situation is dire, but it's not hopeless."
11:15: Joyce Waddell now has a motion on the floor to postpone the Bright Beginnings vote until the board's first meeting in February. Rhonda Lennon says if no solution is found (i.e., outside funding), she says she's voting to cut Bright Beginnings in two weeks.
11:12: Appears Bright Beginnings vote may not happen tonight. Gorman says board members keep telling him they're not ready to vote and want more time, and he's willing to go back and look for more options. But he cautions that he doesn't have any ideas. Anyone who wants to save Bright Beginnings needs to get busy, he suggests.
11:07: Cuts to weighted student staffing passes 6-2, with Joyce Waddell and Tom Tate voting against it.
10:53: Tom Tate says he isn't comfortable voting to cut extra teachers for low-income students. "I fear again this is one of those things that's going to be seen as balancing the budget on the backs of our most needy students ... I just don't think it's absolutely necessary to do this today." But Tim Morgan and Rhonda Lennon say they will support it.
10:50: Waddell's motion fails 3-5, with Waddell, Tom Tate and Richard McElrath the only votes in favor. Trent Merchant moves approval of Dr. Gorman's plan to cut extra teachers for low-income students.
10:42: Joyce Waddell has proposed postponing the vote on cuts to Bright Beginnings and teachers for low-income students until the board's first meeting in February. "We're not just making cuts, we're closing entire schools...and we said we were finished with closing schools."
10:40: Motion to change the bell schedules passes 7-1, with Kaye McGarry the lone dissenter. (Coach Joe White is absent).
10:27: Apologies for going radio silent for a while there. Internet connection problems -- hopefully resolved. Still no vote yet on the budget cuts.
9:45: Trent Merchant says only the highest-priority items on the budget-cutting list stand a chance of surviving at this point. Thiose items include teacher positions in grades 4-12, teachers assigned to help low-income students and academic support positions at schools
9:42: Tim Morgan notes that magnet transporation is "noticeably absent" from the proposed cuts. Gorman says his team decided that, if they are going to offer magnets, they have to make it available to all students -- i.e., even those who can't get there without transportation. Gorman to Morgan: "If that ($100 million) budget shortfall turns into $130 million, we could be in a different place, sir."
9:37: Gorman and board members are talking about plans to possibly privatize some services. Tim Morgan says he wants to look into privatizing more transportation services, as well as internet technology and other areas. "With the budget the way it is, now is the time to move forward," he says.
9:18: Board members have begun debating the cuts, but no one yet has said they will refuse to make the kind of deep cuts Gorman says must be made. Kaye McGarry questions whether CMS is paying administrative costs for grant-funded programs the district doesn't necessarily have to be running.
9:05: Gorman tells the board "these aren't budget cuts we like or we want or we prefer." These, he says, are the best of the bad choices available to the board in a bleak budget year. He says cuts have been most severe in high schools, and he's put them highest in priority for restoration should the budget outlook improve.
8:58: Board is now hearing a presentation from CMS finance officer Sheila Shirley, outlining the proposed cuts.
8:56: Board votes to put off approval of their proposed legislative agenda. Vote was 8-0 (Joe White's absent). Board members said they didn't feel it was ready.
8:45: CMS spokesperson LaTarzja Henry says the technical gremlins plaguing the live-streaming can't be solved tonight.
8:40: Richard McElrath, speaking about the board's legislative agenda, said he wants the board's desire for more flexibility with its calendar to be listed as a specific point of (desired) action by the legislature. He gets backing on that from Tom Tate. The controversy over using the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday as a snow make-up day obviously is still reverberating with the school board members.
8:26: Trent Merchant gives a wag of the finger to the parents who have come before the board tonight complaining about how state and county officials need to get behind CMS. The proposed cuts on the agenda aren't "new news," he says, nor are the needs CMS says it has. Why haven't people been more active? "Shame on you. And I mean it," he said, prompting murmurs from the audience. "Get to work."
8:11: And after two hours of sometimes emotional speeches by parents, students and activists, the public hearing has drawn to a close. The board's debating its 2011 legislative agenda now.
7:48: Moving speech just now by the mother of an autistic boy at one of CMS' pre-K centers slated for closure. She said her son never spoke until enrolled in Bright Beginnings, and now is learning to socialize with other children. "My husband told me I was wasting my time by coming down here," she said, sobbing. "But I'm praying I'm not...I'm beginning you not to cancel these classes."
7:30: The public hearing is nearing the home stretch. More speakers now are pointing to what they see as racial and socioeconomic inequities in the budget cuts. Levester Flowers, head of the Save our Schools group that fought against the closure of Waddell High, said he counted $35 million in proposed cuts "all coming from one section of the community." Veronie Gamble, a Waddell supporter, told the board: "It seems as if you guys are attacking the children who need help most."
6:50: Kelly Stevens, a grandmother who says she struggled to learn to read in school, gave an emotional plea for Bright Beginnings. Comparing her own shattered self-esteem as a child to that of her 5-year-old grandchild, she said Bright Beginnings and other preschool programs are critical to keeping today's children from the fate she suffers. "I know it's hard," she told board members. "The money--where does it come from? I don't know, but does it have to come from the people who need it most?" The crowd gave her a standing ovation as she returned to her seat.
6:37: CMS officials planned to stream tonight's meeting online, but they've just sent word that they're having difficulties and it isn't working at the moment. Will update when word comes that the connection's been fixed.
6:34: Many speakers who've signed up are here to speak on behalf of Bright Beginnings. One of the first, Annabelle Suddreth, says her nephew went from a struggling elementary school student to a thriving middle schooler with the help of solid help in preschool. Suddreth, head of A Child's Place, a program for homeless children, asked the board to postpone its decision until later this spring when it will have a better sense of its budget options. Board members haven't seemed inclined to do that, but a long line of Bright Beginnings supporters are apparently ready to make a last-ditch attempt to change their minds.
6:19: Blanche Penn, the community activist who usually delivers fiery condemnations of the school board's cuts to minority and low-income schools, was one of the first speakers on the budget cuts. She was surprisingly polite, noting that others had asked her to "be nice." She told the board: "We hope you will think hard and long about all our schools...not only your districts and your friends."
6:05 The board meeting is underway, with a full house in attendance at the Government Center. Activists, educators and parents with young children in tow have taken up nearly every seat, as well as much of the two balconies. Security getting in seemed tighter than usual, perhaps not surprising given the emotions the millions in cuts have generated.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
11:58: and after six hours, the meeting's adjourned. Thanks all for tuning in.