Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Maybe DCSS was a real leader in cutting the budget???

When DCSS announced proposed budget and personnel changes during the fall, some in the community felt it was due to a history of mismanagement. Legitimate questions were raised about central office staffing levels and setting budgetary priorities. Programs and services that many in the community had become accustomed to were significantly reduced or eliminated. At last count, DCSS was in the process of reducing its budget by about 31 million dollars, close to 3% of the overall budget.

Fast forward a few months and it seems everyday in the news, you hear or read about school systems making cuts. In the 2/18 AJC, Cobb County announced it will need to cut about 76 million dollars from its budget, close to 8%. As one looks at some of the numbers provided, it appears many are close to those for DCSS.

Was DCSS a leader in addressing this issue sooner rather than later? There was a LOT of publicity involved when DCSS made its announcements. It seems citizens now expect to hear of cuts in school system budgets, making this less a major news item. At the same time, is there more 'fat' that can be cut from our budget without compromising the delivery of services, specifically instruction? Yes, we've blogged about this many times before but does seeing other school systems face the same challenges make you feel better about DCSS addressing them early?

Following is the article about Cobb County School System from the 2/18 AJC.

Best estimate’ for schools may be $76 million deficit

By ALEXIS STEVENS

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cobb County school officials are in the early stages of planning next year’s budget. Already, the outlook isn’t good.

The district could face a $76 million deficit, said Mike Addison, the school district’s chief financial officer.

“It’s just our best estimate,” said Addison. “There’s no doubt that we’re going to have a shortfall. But how big is it going to be?”

Why?

The bulk of the shortfall is due to an anticipated decline in county property values, which means less tax money collected. The school system expects to lose at least $34 million in property tax revenue.

How big is the budget?

The current year’s budget is $940 million, with 90 percent going to personnel costs in the state’s second largest school district.

Is there reserve money?

Yes, just over $101 million. Dipping into this would be a last resort, Addison said.

What about SPLOST?

In September, voters approved the third straight special sales tax to fund capital improvements. Since SPLOST

is tied to spending, it may not pull in the estimated $856 million. That money is separate from the general budget.

What could happen?

The state education department has allowed class sizes to increase slightly, meaning fewer teachers. But Cobb officials say it’s too soon to know what that will mean.

What’s next?

Superintendent Fred Sanderson has asked cabinet members to come up with cost-cutting ideas. Today, leaders will have the first of many budget meetings.

“We’re lean already, he said. “It’s very serious. But we’ll work diligently to make it work.”

COBB SCHOOLS

• Students: 106,673

• Total employees: 15,663

• Classroom teachers: 8,532

CLASS SIZES

Grade Ga. Max Cobb ratio
K 20 18:1*
1st-3rd 21 19:1
4th 28 26:1
5th 28 26:1
6th-8th 28 22.5:1
9th-12th 28 25:1
* plus 1 parapro per classroom
Source: Georgia Department of Education

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

With all respect to the author, I can easily answer this question with a "NO." I have asked DCSS for hard numbers showing exactly where the budget was cut. Taxpayers and parents are only told about "projections."

We heard that some employees would be laid off or given early retirement, but I have yet to see any documentation or even a representation of the number of employees laid off and the amount of actual savings as the direct result of this initiative. And any such savings must take into effect amounts paid to these employees in the form of buyout, early retirement, health insurance, etc.

We also heard that the county would save money through the transportation plan, but I have yet to see any numbers showing how many bus drivers and supervisors were laid off and how much in fuel the county is saving. In fact, the plan cleverly said staff would be reduced through attrition (not layoffs).

The actual savings are something that Mr. Turk could very easily post to the DCSS web page for all to review.

Citizens know that the property tax revenue for DeKalb will plummet this year. DeKalb also has high rates of foreclosure.
What are the DCSS projections for the tax revenue loss? That is what Cobb and other counties are reporting.

In summary, there is still no transparency or feedback from the DCSS. I regret that I see no improvement, no action and definitely, no leadership.

pscexb said...

Anon:

All fair points raised. Not to be an apologist for DCSS, you can always see the HR report by looking at the Work session agenda for a Board meeting. If you look at this for the 2/9 meeting (Item #4 under Action Items, starting on page 8 of the monthly report), you will see those that resigned via earlier retirement. True, it includes those that simply resigned during the same period but the information about 'who' is there. You'll notice several bus drivers listed also.

Most organization, private and public, typically handle staff reductions through optional package offerings, eliminating open head counts, then actual layoffs. School systems have attrition on a regular basis thus can elect to not replace that headcount with someone already employed. You would still have a net reduction in overall headcount.

Savings is tough to measure. I thought Cassandra asked some pretty good questions about that during this process. If you replace a 'higher wage earner' with a 'lower wage earner', you have a net savings for getting the job done. I don't know what kind of personnel system DCSS uses but this would be a fairly involved process to show the roll up of this for the entire district. Can it be done? Of course, but what level of detail and how much time do we want staff to spend on this? More a philosophical question than anything else. I will agree that more can be done to make some of this information easily accessible.

Regarding property tax revenue, that information should come from the tax commissioners office rather than the school system. I'm sure that is where the other school systems got that information. DCSS should be able to get that information and share it with the citizens. Perhaps we will see that during the upcoming budget hearings.

Cerebration said...

RealtyTrac.com reports 8,284 Foreclosures
in Dekalb County, GA (4431 bank-owned)

Just last week, Forbes Magazine reported, Las Vegas has topped another unflattering list. Forbes Magazine listed Las Vegas as America's Most Abandoned City.
Las Vegas edged out Detroit for this distinction -- but for very different reasons. Las Vegas topped the list, Detroit was No. 2 and Atlanta came in third.

.....

But starting in the 1960s, Detroit began a precipitous decline. Detroit's population is now 900,000--half what it was in the middle of the century--and many of its neighborhoods languish in varying states of decay. Most scholars blame rapid suburbanization, outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, and federal programs they say exacerbated the situation by creating a culture of joblessness and dependency.


If there are so many homes in foreclosure (many apparently abandoned) then what happened to the children who lived in them who most likely attended DeKalb schools?

I would submit that we are about to find ourselves in a very expensive and strange predicament. With so much SPLOST spending in South and SW DeKalb on new schools and additions - we will soon have an abundance of available seats in our high schools in those areas.

Already, the following schools have available seats:
Clarkston (320)
Columbia (152)
DSA (165)
McNair (577)
Miller Grove (13)
Stephenson (205)
Towers (320)

And when Arabia opens this fall, it will either have available seats or create them elsewhere - the number is TBD.

Sadly, none of these schools made AYP and cannot accept transfers, so students continue to pour into Lakeside, Dunwoody, Chamblee and D Hills - all of which are over-crowded. There is money to be saved in this scenario somehow.

Cerebration said...

BTW - that adds up to 1,752 available seats in DCSS high schools - right now - 2008-09 school year.

Anonymous said...

Enrollment is shrinking, even with the number of Clayton County students in the system that Lewis doesn't mind taking on. But the Central Office staff grows and grows. Not only is the Central Office staff too large, there is very little in the way of performance measures. There is no system at DCSS to measure the productivity of divisions and administrators.

It's pretty darn clear the DCSS Central Office grew unchecked for years and years. Times have changed. Taxpayers do not want a property tax increase. If enrollment shrinks, the number of administrators need to shrink. Emphasize the classroom and academics. People want a mean, lean Central Office.

Cerebration said...

I heard that the Board reps at the ELPC meeting this morning were defending the choice to remodel and move the central offices. I couldn't disagree more. The children come first and until EVERY school is fixed up for safety and heath, they have NO business spending time and energy on themselves. None.

BTW - I found a PPT of Dr. Lewis' from 11/03/08 - here are his statements about the cuts --

Current Reality
􀁻 General operations budget FY2007 ($820M)
􀁻 General operations budget FY2009 ($890M)
􀁻 91% of Budget for Salaries & Benefits
􀁻 Goal is 87% Salaries & Benefits
􀁻 State austerity cuts total $93 Million
􀁻 State 2% cut summer 2008 resulted in $10
Million cut to DCSS after FY2009 budget
approved

CRP Cost Savings – Level I (FY 2009)
􀁻 Hiring Freeze Vacancies ~$3M (46 positions)
􀁻 Transportation Efficiency Plan ~$2M
􀁻 Non-Essential Part-time eliminations ~$706K (63 positions)
􀁻 Staff Restructure & Eliminations ~$4.4M (64 positions)
􀁻 Equipment/Travel/Supplies Budget Cuts ~$1.1M
􀁻 2% Central Office Salary $100K Cut ~$93K
􀁻 Principal $2.00 Per Student Supplement ~$200K
􀁻 Program Eliminations ~$311K
􀁺 Henderson MS Magnet, Year Round Schools, Driver’s Ed
􀁻 Positions Reallocations from Gen to Federal ~$1.2M
􀁻 Early Retirement Incentive ~$1.1M (44 positions)
􀁻 Rescind Step Increase ~$7.5M (presented as a separate agenda item)
TOTAL: ~$21.7M (217 positions of which 127 current employees)

CRP Cost Savings – Level II (FY2010)
􀁻 Furlough 100% Employees ~$3.2M
􀁺 14,500 total
􀁺 One day only
􀁺 Proposed day - May 25, 2010
􀁺 Exclusions (bus drivers, bus aides, and school
nutrition workers)
􀁻 Outsource Grounds Staff ~$686K
􀁺 28 employees
􀁻 Streamline Professional Travel ~$126K
􀁺 25% reduction
TOTAL: ~$4M

CRP Cost Savings Summary
􀁻 CRP Cost Savings – Level I (FY 2009) ~$21.7M
􀁻 CRP Cost Savings – Level II (FY2010) ~$4M
GRAND TOTAL: ~$25.7M


I'm not so sure this was "ahead" of everyone else - it was just presented in November -- I guess it was 3 months before the Cobb announcement and two before Fulton - as far as we, as citizens of DK are aware. However = Marcus Turk makes the point at EVERY budget presentation that we would have a balanced budget if the State would pay up the Homestead Grant Tax Relief... so are we really making cuts or just covering for that loss?

Cerebration said...

Notice this about those numbers --

9/17/2007 ENROLLMENT; 100,526 - BUDGET; $820M

9/16/2008 ENROLLMENT; 99,778 - BUDGET; $890M

Oh gee - they had to cut the budget - even though they have almost 1,000 less students - BUT - notice that they only cut $25.7 M out of a budget that grew $70 M the year before!!!

Excuse me while I go get the smallest violin in the world to play My Heart Bleeds for You

Lefty said...

This morning at the ELPC meeting, Pat Pope defended the move to Mountain Industrial. She said that the budget to build out the offices on Mtn. Industrial is $750,000 under budget. And running these new offices will be $1.2 million less/year than the offices on N. Decatur Road. She said this coupled with the money to be made on the sale of N. Decatur makes sense. There is efficiency and synergy in having everyone less spread out -- according to Ms. Pope.

Ms. Pope also said that they receive regualar updates from the Tax Assessor's office about income status. So far, revenue has been stable. (Perhaps folks are spending money at home instead of vacationing.)

However, they are closely monitoring the revenue situation because their numbers show 14,000 foreclosures in DeKalb.

All 4 board members said that the classroom was their first priority. Mr. Womack made no bones about saying that there would probably be some painful decisions to eliminate positions. Dr. Walker added that it is difficult to make any decisions without good information. And I think all of the board members feel they don't have all the info they need to make good decisions.

Ella said...

I think Dekalb has done a very good job before the other school systems in announcing and following through with cuts. But, after reviewing the data Kim and I analyzed I am still in shocked that Dekalb spends approximately 24.9% of its budget on personnel that have no direct contact with students in the school verses Gwinnett, Fulton, and Decatur spends approximately 10-11% of the personnel budget on personnel that have no direct contact daily with students. Again, Kim and I could have made mistakes in Dekalb putting name titles in the wrong place but we put similar titles in the same place in the other school system.

Dekalb has too many personnel that work for the school system that do not have direct contact with students. If this was lowered to 10-11% like the other systems that we would be in much better shape and we probable could pay our teachers their step raises.

pscexb said...

Lefty:

Like the icon!!! :)

Any more information from the ELPC meeting? I know one board member that 'speculated' questions would be asked about possible school closures and/or redistricting. Did any of that come up?

themommy said...

Ok, really, selling the N. Decatur property is going to make them that much money. Even before the market tanked, that isn't a great location. It is surrounded by a whole bunch of nothing great and I betcha that there are acres and acres of easily acquirable land.

pscexb said...

I attended the Arabia Mountain information meeting at Avondale this evening. One thing I learned (actually at an earlier meeting) was that DeKalb employees that don't live in the district cannot enroll their children in magnet programs. They can be enrolled in residential programs. I understand this policy exists in surrounding school systems.

There were several parents in attendance that were excited about this new school. To be blunt, some parents lack confidence in their neighborhood school to provide the type of education they believe their children should receive. There was a parent of private school students (Woodward) and several that send their children to Grady that indicated they will apply to this school. I am hopeful that those that leveraged AYP transfers from Lithonia and ML King, Jr. will consider Arabia Mountain. If so, this can have a 'balancing' effect on enrollment throughout the district.

I understand every 8th, 9th, and 10th grader will get a brochure about Arabia Mountain and the instructional programs that will be offered. The enrollment period will be March 2nd - March 13th.

pscexb said...

The move to the old American Fare location (which the district already owns) seems like a good 'business' decision. The opportunity to consolidate spaces should result in savings, which should be the primary objective. If they are able to sell the vacated properties, this may result in a 'no cost' scenario to the citizens.

Cerebration said...

They had $10 million to make the move - to ask for $4 million more is hard to take when so many actual schools with actual children in them need so much. (I mean - without students they wouldn't have a job at all...) What did the DCSS response to legislators say? We have 600 trailers! Put the office people in a trailer park until they get students taken care of.

Question - what are the chances of selling some of these properties to the county so that they can tear down the buildings and make ball parks and the like...

Cerebration said...

Hey! According to this - and from what Marcus Turk says - we should be back in balance!

(Got this from Community Radar)

Governor Sonny Perdue signed House Bill 143 Tuesday, which funds the $428 million in homeowners' tax relief grant this year. The grant is worth around $200 to $300 per household. The governor said cash from the federal stimulus package will help fund the HTRG. But House Bill 143 also ties future grants to the state's revenue figures. Next year's grants will likely not be funded, especially with Perdue's announcement today that he's telling state agencies to cut another 1% from their budgets. In signing the bill, Perdue says, "We cannot budget based on the unknown." Perdue also lowered this year's revenue estimates by an additional $450 million. This puts Georgias budget deficit at close to $2.7 billion.

themommy said...

Yes, but, the latest is that Sonny is going to cut another 98 million from education, of which right now the estimation is that 90 million might come from local school systems.

everyone is waiting to hear what the stimulus has in store, before final decisions are made.

Anonymous said...

Lefty or anyone else who knows:
Does the DCSS have a signed contact for sale of the N. Decatur property? Or is this just wishful thinking that some day, someone might buy that property? (maybe it is time for Dr. W to call his pals at Sembler?)

In this market, if they have no signed contract, they should not spend a cent on renovating the new location. I agree with Cere. If a trailer is good enough for our "premier" children, it certainly is more than sufficient for a bunch of paper pushers.

Anonymous said...

"Dekalb has too many personnel that work for the school system that do not have direct contact with students."

Ella, it's nice to see you hold them to the fire! You are right on the mark.

Crawford refuses to make the cuts needed to the Central Office. He refuses to implement performance measures (how do we know the staff at the Bryant Technology Center is productive and efficient? The same goes with the Sam Moss staff!).

As far as Crawford Lewis and Marcus Turk and the BOE are concerned, it's just the status quo please.

Lefty said...

My memory for yesterday's meeting is getting gray. But I do know the board did not even know about the move to Mtn. Ind. until last week. As candidates, some of them had gone to months of BOE and committee meetings. So this hasn't been a public discussion until recently. Obviously there wasn't a BOE member orientation package to bring them in the loop on some of these long-term plans. I don't recall them mentioning a firm deal on the sale of the N. Decatur office.

As far as school closures go, it was mentioned in their discussion, but no specifics. I think I heard someone say that there are some schools with as few as 50 kids. Of course that wasn't referring to SpecEd centers.

Regarding SPLOST redistribution, they said that this would be looked at in conjunction with the SPLOST team meetings coming up. They won't make any hasty decisions because of the unsure tax revenue situation.

As I said, I am getting foggy on details. I need to talk to other folks who were there to refresh my memory.

Anonymous said...

I did not have the slightest impression that the N. Decatur Road property has yet been put up for sale, certainly there is no signed contract. Pat Pope was as professional as usual though, making the point that SPLOST 3 projects are not set in stone and may be changed if it becomes apparent that money should be better spent by changing the scope of the projects.

With the exception of Mr. Womack, who vowed to look at the issue of overstaffing in the central office, none of the board members was very specific on how to handle our numerous problems. They are all still in their learning curve, hopefully that won't last too much longer.

Mention was made of DeKalb perpetuating some of the same missteps that took down Clayton County, but that was quickly brushed aside without being directly addressed. One of the board members actually said that there was no training for being on the board (one of the issues addressed in the review that was done on Clayton County). Pam Speaks was the only board member who attended the board training sessions as a candidate (last summer).

Cerebration said...

There most certainly is training for how to serve on the Board. I know that Shayna attended as did Marshall I believe - and as you say, Pam Speaks. Not sure how anyone would miss that -- I mean, you shouldn't run for office if you don't want to put in the time to learn the job.

Anonymous said...

I should also note that when asked about some of the legislation currently being vetted at the Gold Dome, one of the members vehemently rejected the state's need/right to reduce the number of board members - he thought this should be done locally by the BOC's. It was pointed out that the citizens can vote for a recall if they don't like how a board member is performing. I thought that was a pretty bold statement on many levels.

Cerebration said...

The Board of Commissioners should have the say over the number of School Board members?!! That's so laughable it's sad! These two groups of people NEVER communicate - even though it would be in the best interest of the county.

Ella said...

Anonymous, who was the board member who talked about a recall. One new board member who represents me is on several committees which in my opinion is a conflict of interest and he also took 17-18 thousand dollars from someone who is known for buying public officials with his donations to their campaign. I am wondering if it was this person who I think could be recalled as many of the voters in his district where not aware of the donation and they also might have a problem with a possible conflice of interest. (That is if it is the new board member I think it could be.) This does not sound like Don at all so I am making an assumption here.

A comment regarding:
pscexb said...
I attended the Arabia Mountain information meeting at Avondale this evening. One thing I learned (actually at an earlier meeting) was that DeKalb employees that don't live in the district cannot enroll their children in magnet programs. They can be enrolled in residential programs. I understand this policy exists in surrounding school systems.

There is a state law which allows a teacher to take his/her child or children to the school they teach. A teacher who teaches at Arabian High School would have to be given this opportunity as stated by state law. If a teacher teachers at a magnet school he also would have the same opportunity to enroll their child at that school as stated by state law. I do not know any school systems which allow students to attend a school that they do not teach at. I do know of schools or principals which allow teachers to take their children to the feeder schools that they teach even in Dekalb County. For, instance teachers at Lakeside send their children to school at Oak Grove, Henderson and then Lakeside. The law does not allow this but many principals do look the other way and allow this to happen. I know of one teacher at North Springs who lives in Dekalb County and sents her child to a feeder grade school in Fulton that feeds into North Springs.

Dekalbparent said...

No, there is no contract or even tentative offer for the N. Decatur Admin complex. The current economy doesn't look too promising.

It's true that the properties are located in a depressed area - there is one completely abandoned apartment complex down the road, and the one across the street has several boarded-up buildings in it. There ARE a couple of banks and a new CVS as well as a very busy QT right there, but all in all, it's not prime real estate.

Dekalbparent said...

I emailed Don McChesney about my concerns and I gotta say he was very fast with his reply - feels like he is listening. He also says that the hue and cry we put up about the imbalance in the proposed funding for schools paid off a little (still only half of what Cobb gets):

"In regard to the central office move. I found out about it exactly 10 days before our vote. I madly scrambled about trying to get solid info. about cost etc. This was a product of previous boards going back to 2002 when the property was purchased. So far as I know it is paid for. It has
essentially been sitting empty since purchase. Estimates are that we will save over a $ million a year just on utilities. We will also house almost all our specialty offices under one roof. The Open campus, DECA, printing
facilities are all moving there amongst others. I am sure there will be some shuffling here, however. We are also due a $3 million HVAC update on the current central offices. It was decided not to spend that and put that
money into the new, updated building. As soon as real estate improves the old suite of offices will be sold, at least that is my understanding. If all this is accurate the move looks good to me over the long run.

Leaking roofs. I was with Pat Pope yesterday during the rain while all
the calls were coming in. We are addressing all the emergencies with as much speed as possible. We have allowed schools in need to jump over other schools in the SPLOST line. Unfortunately it takes about 2 to 3 months to
finish a roofing job. We are addressing the problems, but they cannot all be fixed simultaneously.

Some good news here. I just got the figures from the stimulus package. DeKalb will be getting about $52 million. Now that is divided amongst several buckets of money so only part will be used in building renovation. I can't give the breakdown yet because I got the numbers about 5 minutes
ago.

Also in our discussions with the Ga. legislature we seem to have found $20 million more for DeKalb than was listed in the newspaper about a month ago. The only thing we don't know is if we will get it this year or it will be shuffled off to next year, because the governor's budget had already been set. We are pleading for now, but all we can do is ask. This money would go directly to buildings.

Central office staff. The figures I have been given include the names of people I don't even know. I can only pursue cold hard facts. I assure you this info. is being discussed amongst some board members. Also we have been unfairly accused of doing nothing here. That is not true. Most of the
cuts in our personnel have come from the central office staff. We are working here, but you can't throw out the baby with the bathwater. This is a big ship. We must have someone to steer it. It took us decades to get to this point, we must have time to extricate ourselves from the problems. We are looking and investigating.

I have told Dr. Lewis that we need to get the system lean and mean and
then keep it that way. When money starts to flow we need to plow it into the students and reserve funds and not get bloated on inefficient personnel. He has been most receptive to my suggestions. Only time will tell if we follow through.

I hope this helps understand some of what is going on. There appears to be a new attitude on the board. Some of us are pretty tight on trying to get the job done. Remember all these changes have to be made with declining funds and the need to deliver a quality product in the classroom. When you
sit on this side of the table the fixes are sometimes more complex than they appear in the newspaper.

Cerebration said...

Add this building to the pile of deserted buildings (or ones leased for $1/year) owned by DCSS.

Ella said...

The N Decatur offices are not prime real estate at all.

Again the school board is making a decision regarding better location for part of the 24.9% of the personnel verses the needs of the buildings that will directly impact our children. I agree with the other bloggers who indicate that maybe if the county office personnel were housed in trailers like the 600 trailers that our children are currently being educated it we might see a change of attitude at the county office.

When money is tight like it currently is I am opposed to see SPLOT money spent on renovating office buildings for administrative staff.

Look at their goal for these improvements and move:

Goal #4-To ensure fiscal responsibility in order to maintain safe and healthy learning environments

How could this money be used for the administrative offices and then use a goal that should refer to our children? I do not understand. I do not think this was the orginal intent for our tax dollars and I think this is strengthing the limits on a goal for our learning enviroment of our children. What children will be learning in the county office?

Ella said...

My strengthing should have been stretching. Sometimes my SLD gets the best of me.

Anonymous said...

Cere and everyone else, does anyone know which DCSS properties are being leased out for $1 per year?

themommy said...

I believe that the properties that use to be DCSS schools that are now used by DeKalb Health department have $1 leases.

pscexb said...

Let me give props to two of our new board members, Mr. McChesney and Ms. Speaks. I've been fortunate to have sidebar conversations with them at various meetings and I've come away extremely impressed about their passion in being good stewards for the citizens of DeKalb. There are obviously some hurdles they both must overcome however I am confident they will be great advocates for our students.

Regarding the Central Office move again, we already own the property at Stone Mountain Industrial and it has been essentially vacant for several years (though buses are parked in the lot). When you can consolidate several offices and programs that result in SAVINGS, you need to do it. How can you ask for fiscal responsibility then turn a blind eye to poor use of space. The resulting saving will probably enable the district to cut the budget even more.

Cerebration said...

Here's a poor use of space--trailers.

I'm sorry but I can't buy the theory that it's worth it to spend all of this money on admin in order to "save" money in the future. Any other projects utilizing this same amount of money would have saved money as well. That's a thin theory. The school system should be about educating children first and foremost. Man - can you imagine how much money they could have saved if they had made Lakeside "green"?

Students first. Period. Gosh, I hope my kid never has to end up on a sinking ship with any of these people.

Cerebration said...

One more thing - if I had known when voting for SPLOST that the money was going to be spent on renovating buildings for administrators before finishing EVERY single school project - I never would have voted for it.

In fact - I would say this could even be against policy.

Kim->CommunityRadar.com said...

@pscexb "maybe DCSS was a real leader ..."

KEY WORD: Maybe. The jury is still out. We should remain vigilant and continue to advocate for aggressive cuts in areas not directly affecting children.

@All regarding the Admin office move.

This is a public relations nightmare for DCSS. In a vacuum, it is a good decision to centralize to the new and more efficient property. The reason this is drawing so much rotten fruit is because of the contrast vis-a-vis many of our schools.

I know the harsh critics of the central office would applaud this Mountain Ind. move if they felt DCSS was taking equal care of our children.

Ella said...

Again, the fat is not in just the administration at the central office. It is in all other positions that do not have direct contact with children.

I could see the move to Mountain Industrial in the future. In fact it may be a good move. But to leave 600 classrooms in trailers is unexceptable. I have taught in a trailer. My feet stayed cold in the winter. I had to walk in and out of the rain going back and forth to the bathroom. In fact after 4:00 PM every day I would be locked out of the building and have to go home to use the bathroom.

With 24% of fat in the personnel at the county office and in other offices and positions that do not have direct impact every day with our children I have a problem with spending money on any buildings like the central office until they trim the fat and make our school system lean.

As for Dekalbparent you appear to be either one of the school board members or either someone at the county offices who works close daily with the school board members.

I also like many of the school board members. But we must remember that each school board member only has power as a part of a group. This is what got Clayton in so much trouble. As a group the school board makes decisions.

Lefty said...

Ella - do you realize that Dekalbparent was sharing info that Don McChesney had emailed to her/him?!? Of course it sounded like a board member because it came from one. Dekalbparent is obviously a concerned parent like the rest of us. And their post history reflects that.

pscexb said...

Not to belabor the point but Kim touched on my point above the CO move, it will save money. That is the 'big picture' that unfortunately gets lost in this. Money needs to be saved today.

Cerebration provided great information regarding the available seats in the district for HSs. Again, one can say we have enough HS seats with Arabia Mountain coming online, it is just that some of those seats are not where the 'current' need exists. The need for seats fluctuates over time so it is not 'bad' to have trailers if they are addressing a temporary situation. It does not make sense to be 'reactionary' and add seats unless both trends and forecasts justify this.

That said, I will go on a limb and say you will hear a recommendation to the BoE shortly to redirect the funds for the Lithonia expansion. Ms. Pope had a handout at the Arabia Mountain meetings that clearly showed that IF the expansion project proceeded, Lithonia would be at 63% capacity, based on population forecasts. The suggested minimum would be around 80-85%. That 11-12 million could be used to perform a 'Murphey' on 5-6 schools or address other pressing infrastructure needs. IMO, this is what you WANT your head of the Facilities department to do, continually evaluate needs versus the plan, then make recommendations that make good business sense. This is what stakeholders want and should expect. When we prioritize 'needs' over 'wants' in a transparent manner, it should bring about greater confidence with all.

themommy said...

Keep in mind that a high school or even the converted middle schools will cost far more to repair/renovate than the much smaller Murphy Candler elementary school did.

Even pre-recession/real estate market meltdown, the property on which the current DCSS central office sits is almost worthless. It isn't in a great part of town. The main campus of GPC, around the corner from there, is struggling to attract and retain students because of the perception/reality of crime levels in the area.

There is so much underutilized acreage in the area, I can't imagine that it will sell for very much.

No Duh said...

I really believe Pat Pope wants to move those unneccessary additions off of the newest schools and plow that money into these emergency situations. She knows and WANTS to help LHS, et. al. Her problem is the BOE members who will scream bloody murder when "their" schools are denied the planned additions. I believe the superintendent wants to do the right thing, too. Again, the BOE members vote on the final allotment. We must remember the Power of Five. Some of these BOE members will never support the superintendent.

Some BOE members (and even the superintendent, believe it or not)are working to eliminate Admin transfers. Let's just hope they don't allow grandfathering in of the existing admin transfers (wouldn't you like to see the look on Boyer's face when she's told her kids have to leave LHS?).

I suspect the Administation is betting on Arabia Mountain as a magnet school attracting many admin transfers away from the north schools and into the gleaming new facility (slightly closer to home). This could help our overcrowding.

Does any one know if AYP kids can be transferred into a NEW school -- a school with no passing/failing history?

Cerebration said...

The harder one tries, the more resistance one creates for oneself.

This principle of the Tao expresses how I feel about our current relations with DCSS. The more we try to impress our frustrations, our sense of inequity and our possible solutions with our school system - the more we are met with resistance. However - what is the option? Shall we just leave it alone and hope that eventually our schools will naturally receive our fair share of attention? So far, judging by the system's choices and resulting actions, I don't have a lot of confidence that is the way things will go.

PSC - Although you may not believe me - I actually do understand your fiscal issue regarding the admin office renovation, however, my point has never been defined by logic (that's definitely your area of expertise) my point has always been about what's just "right".

SPLOST money - at least the way I perceived it when I voted for it three times - was supposed to go toward building new schools and renovating old ones - for our children. To spend one single dollar on administrative offices before every single school is fixed - no matter how "fiscally responsible" it may be - or how much money it will supposedly save - is still wrong. It's even worse than wrong - it's a thumbing of the nose to parents like me who have fought so hard to bring attention to our old, crumbling schools.

Frankly, I'm mortified.

Cerebration said...

Some answers to question posed here -

No - Arabia will not be a receiving school for AYP transfers. You have to APPLY and be accepted to Arabia. That means - cherry picking the best and brightest. Which also means leaving failing schools utterly no hope of becoming passing schools anytime soon. Arabia darn well better become an AYP receiving school as soon as it can - building a brand new school to serve special magnets at this point in time is just snobbery.

ALL of the photos on the slideshow here that depict crummy buildings were taken by parents and sent to me. No children took them - nor did a Board member. ALL of the beautiful photos of new buildings came from press releases or one of the DCSS websites.

BTW - I absolutely don't buy the line that moving the admin offices will save an estimated $1 million a year just in utilities. I gotta call "that's a crock" on that one. My word - that's an $83,000 per month savings -- do the math. No way! That would mean that the actual BILLS are over $100,000 a month - C'mon. I didn't fall off a turnip truck yesterday.

PSC - Lakeside has trailers due to the fact that we have so many transfer students. Ironically - the home schools of these students have hundreds of empty seats. This is educational malpractice. The school system is producing an abundance of under-used, under-performing schools - and now thanks to NCLB, the "simple" new solution is to just let them all transfer to a select few "passing" schools. Get your stuff together DCSS!! Fix your bloody schools! Figure out how to educate these children you are in charge of or get yourselves out of the way and let someone capable take over -- (Beverly Hall comes to mind.)

Atlanta superintendent named nation’s best
Beverly Hall honored by the American Association of School Administrators

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/atlanta/stories/2009/02/20/beverly_hall_superintendent.html?cxntlid=homepage_tab_newstab

Cerebration said...

Maybe Obama will address our transfer problem. He seems committed to improving schools - not punishing them.

from Georgia Partnership’s Top Ten Issues to Watch in Education in 2009
http://www.gpee.org/fileadmin/files/pdf/GPEE_Top_Ten_2009.pdf

ReformNo Child Left Behind
Obama has said that he believes in the overarching goal of this federal law—ensuring that all students canmeet high standards—but contends that the law has significant flaws that must be addressed. He proposes to provide additional funding for states to develop improved assessments that measure higher-order thinking skills. He has also called for the accountability armof No Child Left Behind to focus on incentives for school improvements rather than sanctions for failure and to considermeasures beyond just reading and mathematics assessments.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR GEORGIA?
While Georgia’s students, policymakers, and school practitioners wait to see what changes Obama will bring to the federal education landscape, our state is responding to a few recent announcements issued by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and the U.S. Department of Education. Foremost, in July 2008, Georgia was named one of six states that will pilot a differentiated accountability plan under the current iteration of the No Child Left Behind Act. Additionally, in October, the Education Department announced a set of new regulations for NCLB that will add new requirements for states, districts, and schools.

Secretary Spellings announced the differentiated accountability pilot project in early 2008, largely in response to criticisms that the NCLB systemestablishes accountabilitymeasures that are one-size-fits-all. Seventeen states applied to join the project, and Georgia was one of six—including Florida, Illinois, Indiana Maryland, and Ohio—to receive approval for their plans. Already in implementation, Georgia’s plan allows for greater flexibility that will givemore students the opportunity to receive federally funded tutoring. Included in the state’s new plan are the following provisions:

School systems will have the option of offering free
tutoring to students at first-year “Needs Improvement” (NI) schools. The systems can then offer public school choice to students at second-year “Needs Improvement” schools. Previously, NCLB required that public school choice be offered first.

Consequences for schools in years three and four of “Needs Improvement” status are tiered,meaning that the requirements for corrective action plans are based on a school’s academic achievement rank.

Schools that remain in Needs Improvement for five or more years are placed in a new category called “state directed.” These schools will enter into an improvement contract with the Georgia Department of Education, and a state director will be assigned to the school full-time to assist with implementation.

Hopes are high that Georgia’s new,more flexible accountability system will increase the number of students receiving supplemental tutoring, thereby helping to boost student achievement across the state. Along with the other five states piloting new plans, Georgia will be under close scrutiny by officials at the U.S. Department of Education. The experiences of these states will help informpolicymakers when (and if) the issue of NCLB renewal resurfaces during the next Congressional session.

Despite the likelihood of impending legislative changes to the NCLB Act in 2009, the Secretary of Education issued a set of new regulations for the law that took effect in November 2008. States are now required to adopt the samemethod of calculating high school graduation rates and tomake public data that compares student achievement on state tests with national-assessment scores. The requirements for graduation rate calculation reflect the Graduation Counts Compact, a commitment made in 2005 by the governors of all 50 states to use amore consistent and more accurate graduation rate formula. According to a 2008 report by the National Governors Association, Georgia plans to begin reporting our high school graduation rate using this method— a four-year adjusted cohort rate formula—in 2009.

As we enter into a new year, our state and country remain beleaguered by data that suggest we are losing our footing as a well-educated, internationally competitive nation. Now, at the crossroads between two very different federal administrations, the American people wait to see whether our new President will elevate public education to a higher level of national significance.

Anonymous said...

Cere- I believe you are wrong that Arabia Mtn cannot receive NCLB transfer students. First, the entire school is not a magnet school, only a very tiny portion. Remember that Chamblee HS which houses one of the high achiever magnets has always been a receiving school for NCLB and received a record number of students this school year. Chamblee Middle also takes NCLB transfer students.

The question is whether with no record of making AYP, it can be a receiving scool. I have researched that question and cannot find anything one way or the other.

My inclination is that it must be a receiving school if there is space and there definitely is space. NCLB requires the county to offer school choice to ALL students in any school that fails to make AYP two years in a row. Federal guidance says that even if the schools that make AVP are overcrowded that the school system must still offer transfers even if this means the receiving schools have to use trailers!

I read all the "flexibility" information on the DOE website and could find no exception for the school choice transfers for schools who have failed AVP two years in a row.

DCSS must provide transportation to NCLB transfer students who transfer from a failing Title I school. But the feds pay for this with Title I money and that is why DCSS elected to stop busing and reimburse the parents for transportation. Since reimbursement is based on miles, it would save a lot of federal dollars to send students from the southeast part of the county to Arabia Mtn rather than to Lakeside, Chamblee or DH.

Cerebration said...

Anonymous said...
Cere and everyone else, does anyone know which DCSS properties are being leased out for $1 per year?

February 19, 2009 6:37 PM

Marcus Turk brought this up in his (I believe December) presentation to the Board - asking for some kind of confirmation. Maybe it was November. Cassandra was still on and questioned if we could sell. Turk said no - these people had 5 year leases. He certainly must know who they are - why not try emailing him?

Cerebration said...

Psc - help us out - you've been to all of the Arabia meetings - are they going to be a receiving school for AYP transfers? If not, why not?