PTO leaders from schools across Shelby County gathered January 25 for the district’s annual PTO Forum. The event allows district leaders to share important information with PTO leaders from every school, while also giving them an opportunity to provide feedback.
Superintendent Randy Fuller kicked off the event with a presentation on school funding. Fuller explained that the district is funded through a combination of federal, state and local funds. Local funding from 30 mills of property tax and 1/2 cent of sales tax helps to offset a shortage of state and federal funding.
Fuller explained that federal funding helps to support special education, the Child Nutrition Program, and Title programs. State funding comes primarily from the Foundation Program and the Education Trust Fund, which receives revenue from income, sales, use, and utility taxes.
The Foundation Program was created by the state legislature in 1995 with the intention of providing a more equitable funding stream state-wide. The equity was in the form of a mandated 10-mill equivalence in local property tax which each local school system has to commit to the Foundation Program.
“Each year, we go through a budget hearing process,” Fuller explained. “Our district leaders come in and meet with me, our Chief Financial Officer and our budget analyst to present their proposed budgets for their departments. We discuss those budgets right down to the penny. We are very strategic with that process.”
Fuller explained that funding is based on Average Daily Membership (ADM), which is based on the number of students enrolled in a school district for the 20 days following Labor Day.
“However, those numbers are calculated from the previous year,” Fuller told the PTO leaders in attendance. “Shelby County grew by more than 300 students for this school year, but our state funding was based on last year’s enrollment.”
Fuller closed his presentation by highlighting Shelby County’s performance on the new state report card. Shelby County Schools was one of 16 school districts out of 138 state-wide that achieved an “A” on the new A-F Report Card. Shelby County Schools was the only county district to achieve an “A” as well as the largest in student enrollment.
Brent Tolbert, Supervisor of Academic Data Collection, and Data Management, Accountability also spoke on the new state report card. Tolbert showed the PTO leaders what indicators were used during Phase I of the report card’s implementation. He also broke down Shelby County’s scores on each indicator, which were well above the state average.
The PTO leaders also attended breakout sessions geared toward their specific grade spans where they heard from grade level coordinators. Elementary School Coordinator Rickey Darby, along with program area specialists Tara Baldwin and Tracy Champion, shared information about the new state science standards. They also shared how teachers are using learning targets as part of their daily instructional practices to help students understand the purpose of a lesson and what they are expected to know at the end of it.
Middle School Coordinator Jenni Goolsby and Program Area Specialist Rhonda Mack, shared characteristics of middle school students. They also showed the parents examples of the types of classwork students experience in today’s classroom, including a literacy exercise and real-world problem-solving math and science activities.
High School Coordinator Jay Peoples discussed high school graduation rate and the factors that contribute to the rate. Peoples helped the parents understand the challenges that principals face in trying to track all students that have ever enrolled in their schools, as those students become part of a cohort class that is tracked for four years through graduation. Principals must be able to account for any students who have moved or transferred in order for that student to not be miscalculated as a drop-out.
Peoples also shared with the parents the philosophy of “advocate, communicate and donate.” Parents play an important role in helping to advocate for their schools, communicate effectively in order to dispel misinformation and rumors, and donate time and resources to help support the programs and activities of the local school, Peoples said.
Technology Coordinator Susan Poling also shared with PTO leaders about helping students understand the digital footprint they leave with social media usage and how it might either help or hurt them later with college and job applications. Poling also shared how not to fall victim to malware threats by clicking on suspicious links.
PTO leaders had filled out a survey prior to the forum which asked for them to share successful fundraiser ideas, how they use social media successfully to build support for their local PTO, and strategies for involving working parents. The responses to those questions were compiled into a flyer for them to take as a resource. Parents also were able to submit questions through the survey. Assistant Superintendent Lynn Cook answered questions that were applicable to the entire group and said she would follow-up with questions that were more specific to certain areas or grade-levels.