“The school year this year will consist of just 175 days. That is the opposite direction we should be going. It is not necessarily positive,” Petruzielo told the audience of about 50 business and community leaders and volunteers.
The school year was cut from the former 180 days mandated that students be in class. He said students should be in school even more days, not fewer than the former number.
“Five days were removed for furlough days, and three planning days were also removed, so our teachers will have eight furlough days. Those are days without pay. Our teachers are professional, they just dig a little deeper. They don’t complain. Our teachers were ready for the kids on the first day and they intend to make school as exciting as it can be despite the economic circumstances,” he told the crowd.
Petruzielo said when he came to Cherokee County in 1999 the enrollment was around 24,000 and this year it is above 39,000 for the first time.
The school superintendent said that the school system has lost a total of $126 million in funding, including $36 million this year from reductions in state and local funding.
“Quality Basic Education looks at the kids and their needs and sends money to local districts so those kids can be educated,” Dr. Petruzielo said. However, he said that Cherokee County received less money than the formula dictates.
“That means $26 million of needs are unmet,” Petruzielo said of the state funding received by the school system.
He said the reduced tax digest from foreclosures and property value decreases shaved another $10 million off the amount the school system received.
“We will collect less in property taxes this year than we did in 2006 and that is five years ago, and yet we will educate 4,000 more kids five years later,” Petruzielo said. “This has truly had an impact on education.”
He gave an update on projects funded by money from a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for education, including the new Clark Creek Elementary School opened this year, and two planned middle schools to replace outdated facilities and set to be completed in the next two years.
“With these zoning decisions, Holly Springs through zoning decisions and the like, we are pretty sure that development east of Hickory Flat is going all the way to the line,” Petruzielo said. “A lot is going on to address the growth.”
He also praised recent test scores in the school system, including last year’s SAT scores for Cherokee County which averaged 1559, 114 points above the state average.
“Despite moronic statements about how Cherokee County’s students are not smart or not doing well, it is clear we are helping the state average. We are proud … that our kids are above the national average,” he said.
Petruzielo said that 31 percent of students in Cherokee County are eligible for free lunches and that the county is not like neighboring Forsyth, where most students are advantaged or suburban communities “where everyone drives a Lexus or belongs to a country club.”