Maschke: I don't think four-day school will happen

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY -- The possibility of a four-day school week and teachers being paid on merit instead of seniority or level of education were two of the hot education topics Dougherty County Board of Education Chairman David Maschke addressed Thursday.

Speaking at the Albany Rotary Club luncheon, Maschke responded candidly to the aforementioned questions asked by audience members.

The four-day school week question comes on the heels of the Wilcox County School Board recently voting to change its 2010-11 school calendar to a four-day schedule with classes Tuesday-Friday. Wilcox school officials believe the move would save about $100,000 annually. The plan still requires approval by the state board of education.

The Peach County School System switched to a four-day school week this school year due to state budget cuts.

"I don't think there's any chance Dougherty County will go to a four-day school week," Maschke said. "I think we've got to think about the parents and them having to find babysitting for that one day of the week. You can't just save money to save money; sometimes you have to spend money to have more effective teaching and learning. ... I just don't think it'll work here."

After the meeting, Maschke said, "The four-day school week is not something the administration is recommending or that the board is considering."

Gov. Sonny Perdue recently proposed paying teachers based on their performance rather than their experience or the degrees they held. Perdue said the new pay structure could be adopted in three years.

"I'm a big proponent of merit pay and with as much data as the school system and state prepares, we should be able to get into it," said Maschke, who was elected board chairman last January. "But, I'll be honest. I don't think the Dougherty County School System will be looking into that.

"The difficulty of implementing merit pay is that teachers and teacher unions oppose it, and the education system does not run on a business model. So people are not rewarded based on performance or results. Teacher and administrator salaries are based solely on years of service and the degrees and certificates that the employees possess."

Maschke began his 27-minute speech by going over the school system's ongoing search for a new superintendent. Current Superintendent Sally Whatley announced her retirement in late August. Whatley will remain on the job until the school board replaces her and names its 14th superintendent since 1885.

The position attracted 39 applicants from around the country and one from the United Kingdom before the application process ended Nov. 24. The school board has had several executive closed-door meetings since December regarding the superintendent search. The board is hoping to have a person in place by February or March, so that he or she would be involved in the 2010-11 school year budget process.

"Just stay tuned because I think a lot of things will be unfolding soon on this," Maschke said.

An architect by trade, Maschke also told Albany Rotarians about reviews the school system had conducted through an Atlanta consulting firm recently on the child nutrition program and central office operations.

"The consultant is now doing a review of all of the Dougherty County School System, going one department at a time," Maschke said. "We're hoping to have this in line for when the new superintendent comes in."

Maschke said the school system has also recently reviewed its supplement pay, salaries and personnel policies. He noted that the school system and school board have also gotten more aggressive in releasing personnel who were guilty of inappropriate behavior.

"In the past, people who did certain things we allowed to resign and they could work down the road," he said. "But the board now is firing people. We aren't putting up with such foolishness and take personnel issues very seriously."

Maschke, who is in his third school board term, also said that he has found more "cooperation" between the current board than previous boards he has worked with. The Rev. James Bush, Anita Williams-Brown, Milton Griffin, Velvet Riggins, Emily Jean McAfee and Michael Windom are the other current school board members.

"I think in the past couple of years, there's a more cooperative spirit. If we disagree, we agree to disagree," Maschke said. "We don't walk out of the room angry with each other, and I think the relationship between the superintendent and the board is a positive one."