Friday, March 20, 2009

DCSS Central Office - Let's Keep the Heat On!

One of the major themes of this fantastic blog Cere started has been the massive bloat and waste of the ever growing DCSS bureaucracy. Bureaucracies tend to propagate themselves, ever growing and ever hungry...sort of like Pac-Man (for you children of the '80s).

School enrollment is down, but a large bureaucracy makes up busy work and projects just to make it seem vital and irreplaceable (even though it's not). Taxpayers of tired of it. Parents are tired of it. I know DCSS teachers are tired of it. The huge staff of the Central Office eats up resources that should be directed inside the schools.

All those administrators have big phat salaries. They have a large number of support staff, blackberries, laptops, etc., etc. They all have pensions and sweet benefits. Too many administrators have take home cars.

And none of it improves actual student achievement (or test scores).

Being a DCSS administrator is such a sweet gig that many teachers and asst. principals become politcial animals. doing anything within their means to score an admin gig. In the better school systems (Ohio!), teachers go back and get a Master's degree in their subject matter, and get paid accordingly. In DCSS, its about playing political games at any cost to secure a desk job.

Taxpayers, parents and teachers are frustrated, and clearly want a DCSS Central Office that is lean and mean. Gwinnett's and Fulton's are much leaner and meaner than DeKalb's, and both of those counties are much more populated than DeKalb.

The bigger the bloated bureaucracy grows, the less nimble and responsive it is. It becomes less aware of the needs in the schools and more concerned with its own internal needs. Example: The superintendent's take home vehicle was less than two years old, and was allowed to purchased by the superintendent for a fraction of its blue book value. Where in America does a vehicle that cost over $20,000 become a $5,000 vehicle in a year and a half? Especially in this economy? Again, how does any piece of property over $20,000 become $5,000 is 18 months?
How many DCSS administrators have take home cars who actually need take home cars?

The Board of Education has been out to lunch over the past decade and a half, allowing the Central Office to explode, even as the student population is shrinking. And the student population should be even smaller than it actually is, but our Central Office has the worst checks and balances system of any school system in the state when it comes to residency. Talk to DCSS teachers and they'll estimate between 1500 to 3500 non-county resident children attending DCSS schools. Yeah, it sure helps with Title 1 and FRL, but it kills taxpayers in the long run, meaning more facilities needed, more facility needs, more staff needed, more pensions and benefits to pay, etc.

I've said it before, Crawford Lewis and Marcus Turk want all the Title 1 and FRL money they can get, and do not want a tough checks and balance system for student residency.

Some of the BOE members are sharp and seem to push for change. There are still some holdovers that want the status quo. And there's one who's more concerned about serving on the DeKalb Development Authority than focusing on academics and cutting the waste and bloat.

DCSS does not contract out services it could and should. We could get a higher quality of service and save money at the same time by contracting out much custodial, HVAC, grounds maintenance, athletic field maintenance, roofing, and much of informational technology support. The DCSS IT Dept. is one of its weakest and most underperforming. Administrative transfers under Crawford Lewis are out of control, with Lakeside being the chief example. What does it say about a system when its superintendent approves so many admin transfers, instead of advocating for students and families to stay at their neighborhood schools; why not be a leader and motivate parents to get involved and active with the school in their own backyards?

I've talked about DCSS with hundreds of people. Everyone supports our teachers and in school staff who interact daily with schoolchildren, such as the school nurses, school front desk staff, cafeteria staff, counselors and school resource officers. We know their value. Give them decent pay, benefits and even pensions for in school staff.

But when it comes to the administrators and their massive support staff (which includs IT and Sam Moss), things are out of control. There are way too many administrators. There are way too many middle managers. No one blinks an eye when the head of Internal Affairs is out of the office for over two months of the year as a state senator, because he has a big staff to cover for him.

All these administrators do not need the sweet pensions they are receiving. They should have 403b's (401k's for educators). They don't need such a huge support staff, dont need so many middle managers, don't need four staff members only assigned to HVAC but who still can't keep mold and mildew out of school HVAC systems, etc. Only a very small number of administrators and middle managers need take home vehicles. Not every administrator needs a laptop and Blackberry. Not every admin. ast. of a administrator needs a Blackberry. Heck, there is a number of surplus DCSS buildings, unused or leased out for sweetheart $1 a year give away leases. The more you look closely, the more waste & bloat you discover.

It's time to have a DCSS Central office that is lean and mean. That focuses on academics and the needs in the schools. That takes student residency seriously. That puts much more specific budget information online, so we know about change orders, so we know how many take home vehicles there are, so we know how every penny is spent. That works closely with DeKalb County to share facilities and programs, to make sure county planning & zoning is working hand in hand when locating schools, to even sharing some contracts to save taxpayers hundreds of thousands, like sharing the contract for supplying gas for county and DCSS vehicles.

Change is not going to come from within, especially when the current superintendent has been ingrained in the system and Central Office for way over thirty years, and until just recently, enabled and allowed 80 plus retired Central Office administrators to stay on as well paid "consultants" (yes 80+) while they received sweet pensions and bene's.

Since change will not come from within, keep the heat on your BOE members. Demand accountability. Demand transparency. Demand change. Talk about this to fellow parents. Tell them about this blog. Tell teachers about the blog, and for them to post suggestions for needed change. We can have a better school system, with better academics, with LEED certified, healthier school buildings, and we can have it paying lower school property taxes than we do now. But this can only happen with a lean and mean DCSS Central Office.

The time has come. Please keep the heat on.


Cerebration said...

All I can say is, "Amen"!

Ella Smith said...

Great post! All I can say is also, "Amen"! I agree with everything you said.

Anonymous said...

Wake up, dreamer. With Gene Walker on the BOE, he'll make sure the DCSS budget increases and increases, and throws some contracts to his buddies too.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Open &... said--
"I've said it before, Crawford Lewis and Marcus Turk want all the Title 1 and FRL money they can get..."

Cerebration said--
"Dr. Lewis is a nice man, but..."

Does this mean he's a nice man who is defrauding the Federal government?
Cere and Open don't appear to agree where Lewis is concerned.

I'll go with the corrupt official scenario (or at least a corrupt system).

One has to wonder tho--why would the counties that DO keep track of "visitors" and answer the press questions--why don't THEY want to defraud the Feds? Could it be that DeKalb wrote the book (a long time ago)?

Cerebration said...

I don't think we disagree on outcome - just motivation. I think Dr. Lewis is a bleeding heart for poor minority students no matter where they're from - which is nice, but not fiscally responsible to the taxpayers.

On to waste and bloat - I've been digging and found out some things about a few of those random buildings we own and lease out.

The school system owns some properties that we are leasing to communities and churches. For example, the Old Rock Gym in the city of Stone Mt (which probably should be condemned) is the original high school gym and is an historic building. The city rents it for the recreation department. The old Clarkston High School facility was leased to the Clarkston Community Center for something like 25 years and the community center has raised lots of money (maybe a million or two) to renovate the place). It is used for recreation (the soccer fields), community meetings and classes. We also lease a building in Scottdale to the Health Department for a health center which is not big enough for anything useful to the school system. The old school leased to New Birth (I think) is being used to house one of our Charter schools (Destiny). I really don't understand that set up.

To me - these programs all fall under the COUNTY's budget. The county should buy the recreational property from the school system as well as the health dept building. We have no need for these facilities and I don't think we make any money on the leases either. We should not be subsidizing what should be county programs. The county has millions and millions of tax dollars collected for the park bond in the bank. They need to spend some to buy these properties from the school system and take on the management of them.

Additionally - if there are lawyers out there who can help - I am finding out that there is a state law that says that once a governmental entity declares property surplus it has to be offered to other governmental entities first....considering the interest in the North Druid Hills Rd property that could get interesting - if the law exists. Lawyers?

Of course, maybe this is why the school system is working so hard to get this property condemned rather than declared "surplus"... hmmm.

Cerebration said...

Here are the enrollment numbers for the past several years --

2005-2006 102,330 (see note) +2,280 2.279%
2006-2007 101,817 (513) -0.501%
2007-2008 100,526 (1,291) -1.268%
2008-2009 99,778 (748) -0.744%
2009-2010 - hasn't been published, however it was stated at 97,000 in news reports in August.

Note: Enrollments for 2005-2006 include 1,622 students relocated due to Katrina.
Without Katrina: Enrollment: 100,708 / Change: 658 / 0.657%

HOWEVER -- here are budget numbers

From Dr. Lewis' 11/03/08 State of the System powerpoint presentation - here are his statements about the budget -- (I copied and pasted this from his PPT)

Current Reality
􀁻 General operations budget FY2007 ($820M)
􀁻 General operations budget FY2009 ($890M)
􀁻 91% of Budget for Salaries & Benefits

SO - under Dr. Lewis' leadership - we have continual declines in enrollment (even after factoring in Katrina AND Clayton) and an enormous increase in the operations budget.

Ella Smith said...

Very interesting Cerebration. I see the property on North Druid Hills as needings some renovations but I do not see it being condemned. That to me would be a political move for the county to have access to the property. But, the new bill being proposed requires school systems to offer school buildings first to Charter Schools. I am not sure at what place the bill is currently. I will try to check on this.

Cerebration said...

Here's one more interesting item to note --

Did the Board extend Dr. Lewis' contract legally? They are supposed to post these types of meetings/decisions for 24 hours to give the public time to make their opinions known. The item was only posted as a "personnel matter" -- no mention of Dr. Lewis....

IF you are on the email list, you received this:

March 16, 2009


The DeKalb Board of Education will hold a called meeting at 4:00pm, Wednesday, March 18, 2009, at the DeKalb County School System's Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center, Building A, Superintendent's Conference Room, 3770 North Decatur Road, Decatur. The purpose of the meeting is to adjourn to executive session to discuss a student appeal and a personnel matter.


IMO - the extension of the contract was added to the agenda at the Board meeting (not posted 24 hours before - other than to the email list - as prescribed by the Open Meetings Law). That kind of secrecy and manipulation says a lot about how this BOE feels about communicating with the public. And - it's the kind of thing that can get us in trouble with SACS.

Ella Smith said...

I also feel strongly that Dr. Lewis' heart is in the right place. His job is an extremely difficult job. He inherited many problems that he is having to deal with.

Cerebration said...

Gee - couldn't the military academy be a charter school?!!

Cerebration said...

As stated on the NCLB thread - Block schedules cost big $$$$$ - the schools on a Block have to offer an incredible plethora of electives in order to fulfill offering 32 credits to each student over 4 years. There could be an enormous savings incurred by simply putting all high schools back on the 7-period day.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Lewis's heart is in his pocketbooks and his relatives' pocketbooks. How can his family and friends have a free ride from DCSS at the expense of children. He is an insider who knows the way the system works, and he works to perpetuate the nepotism and fraud. His p card purchases need to be audited. His car needs to be audited. His phd needs to be investigated. Central admin does not need blackberries; esp since when I send an email to all of them, I get NO response. They do not need private cars. And they certainly don't need unregulated p cards.

Cerebration said...

I have to say, Dr. Lewis didn't actually "inherit" the system. He has been deeply engrained in the system for well over 30 years. He helped created this monstrosity. Do you really think he has plans to trim it back? Really? Especially when much of the necessary pruning involves his own friends, and church members? He's a good old boy. He knows exactly what he's doing - with a smile on his face - telling you he completely agrees with you and cares about your input - and then turning around and doing exactly what he had planned all along.

Transparency is nearly non-existent in this school system - which is very scary, considering they are in charge of a Billion dollar budget and a Billion dollars worth of construction. That's a lot of power! Hence - Eugene Walker's (Lewis' Commerce Club sponsor's) interest in DCSS.

Cerebration said...

Since we can't get direct answers as to how Ron Ramsey can skip 2 months of work at DCSS and still collect full pay - why not attend the following meeting and just ASK him?

All parents are invited to attend an open meeting of the Parent Advisory Council on Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:30 p.m. It will be held at the William Bradley Bryant Center on Lawrenceville Hwy.

This will be a very exciting meeting - Ms. Ramona Tyson will present a sneak preview of the new eSIS Parent Portal System. She will give the parents a corporate overview of what's to come next year! The new parent portal will have your student's complete school portfolio that not only includes transcripts, but also will incorporate extra-curricular activities as well. You all will be the first group of parents to preview.

Also on the agenda will be Senator Ronald B. Ramsey, Sr. from District 43. Senator Ramsey will give parents a legislative update on what transpired under the Gold Dome. Joining the Senator will be Ms. Nicole Knighten, DCSS Interim Director, Governmental Relations/Special Projects. (The 2009 legislative session is tentatively scheduled to end the last week of March, and will reconvene the first week of June.)

Anonymous said...

Dr. Lewis may be a nice person, but when you say he's a bleeding heart for minority students, that's misleading. DeKalb is a majority African-American county. Lewis may be anice man, but every single thing he does (and the same goes for Zepora Roberts and Sarah Copelin-Wood) is for African-American students.

Lewis completely ignores Hispanic students, Asian students, etc. He may champion African-American students, but it ends right there.

Cerebration said...

True enough. Case in point, at the last board meeting he made a big production out of awarding a plaque or certificate or something to a young black man who became an Eagle scout. I know several white Eagle scouts, but have never heard of Dr. Lewis congratulating them in any way.

I mean, really, bloggers, have you ever seen Dr. Lewis present a proclamation or a certificate or any other accolade to a white or Hispanic student at a board meeting? I find that very telling.

Anonymous said...

Isn't crawford lewis's behavior that of a racist then? His heart is not in the right place. Why? He does not treat all children with the same respect or give them the same attention.

Cerebration said...

No he isn't a racist for Pete's sake. He just really wants young black children to succeed and doesn't much pay attention to anyone else. He isn't purposely exclusionary - he just only focuses on what he focuses on. He has to stop and think about the message he's projecting though.

Anonymous said...

Please don't accuse the superintendent of being racist. That's ridiculous and will make this blog lose the credibility it has earned.

Most of the upper management at DCSS Central Office is African-American, with some Caucasian. Most of the support staff is African-American, with some Caucasian.

There are NO Latino's in any upper management positions. No Asian-Americans. No Indian. Are there any Latino, Indian or Asian-American principals?

The DCSS Central office is in no way diverse. It's predominately African-American and a little Caucasian.

DCSS Central Office and its management has made a choice, conscious or unconscious, not to be racially diverse. The huge Hispanic population in the north part of the county along Buford Highway is not politically active. The schools they attend, like Sequoyah, will always be the last to be renovated. South DeKalb schools will always be the priority, always the ones at the top of the list for the major new or renovated facility dollars.

Students and families who are Hispanic, Asian, Indian, etc. are not represented in any way. The Board of Ed. condones and enables this.

It is what it is.


Cerebration said...

I agree. Dr. Lewis is not a racist (the definition of racist was defined here on the race discussion thread) - he is simply an enthusiastic cheerleader for African-American students - to the point where he really doesn't spend much time thinking about anyone else.

I am saddened that the BOE extended his contract. We need a progressive leader who realizes that African-Americans are no longer the dejected underdogs they were 50 years ago. He, like several members of the BOE, has tired, old school thinking - we need new, enlightened thinking. Someone who doesn't focus on race at all - someone who focuses on education. Someone who will go out and find the best principals and teachers we can from a national pool. Not someone who surrounds himself with friends and supporters as together, they rearrange the chairs on the deck of the Titanic.

Anonymous said...

One should consider what would happen if the tables were reversed. What if we had a white superintendent who only promoted White children? That would not be tolerated and viewed as racist. So what's the difference here? The bigger question is how to keep the heat on.

Cerebration said...

Well, for starters - if you know of a recently promoted Eagle Scout who didn't receive recognition - please let Dr. Lewis know that he overlooked many others who achieved the same honor.

His email address is

Cerebration said...

I will bring over the definitions of racism vs prejudiced as written by No Duh on the Race Discussion thread

"prejudice": an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge; an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race,or their supposed characteristics.

"racism": a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

Prejudice is ignorance. Racism is hate.

Cerebration said...

There are points being discussed on the NCLB thread that are relevant here.

Two things --

Why does DeKalb insist on requiring 24 credits for graduation, while the State, Fulton, Forsyth and Gwinnett counties only require 23?

If we do only require 23 - or even 24 -- why are we providing 32 credits to high school students at most of our high schools? That's costing us big $$$

Let's do some math. Let's say that we are offering 28 credits to high school students. Let's say that we have 7,000 freshmen (which is fairly accurate). That means that over 4 years, we will have to offer a total of 196,000 classes for those 7,000 students to take in their high school career.

However, on the block, we offer 32 credits for each student across 4 years - for a total of 224,000 classes.

Which one costs more to offer - 196,000 classes or 224,000 classes?

Ella Smith said...

There is no doubt that the block schedule is too expensive for Dekalb County in the current economic situation.

Cerebration said...

BTW - I downloaded a PPT of Dr. Lewis' from 11/03/08 - here are his statements about the budget cuts -- have these goals been reached? As far as I know - no. The number of people taking early retirement is nowhere near the projection, and I'm uncertain as to whether the part-timers have been eliminated. Mostly, there's no way that the new Transportation Efficiency Plan could be saving much money.

On top of that - he is trying to "cut" a budget that has bloated by $70 million in 2 years. His cuts won't even take us back to where we were before he came on board as superintendent - even though we have a few thousand FEWER students.

Basically - I've never seen a follow up report on these goals - hopefully the progress will be addressed at the BOE Pubic Budget Hearing on WED, APRIL 22 @ 6:00 PM, at GA Perimeter College, Central Campus

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

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

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

Cerebration said...

To recap --- under Dr. Lewis' leadership, along with the complicit BOE, the DCSS budget increased by $70 million in two years (2007-2009) - even though the system lost almost 3,000 students. Is this correct or what that a typo in his PPT? I just can't believe that. On top of the raw number, there's the little shocker that 91% is spent on administration!!!

Now - Dr. Lewis is being hailed as a fiscally responsible leader by this BOE because he will "cut" $25 million from the budget over the next 2 years.

If the budget numbers are correct - and not a typo - then even after these cuts, the budget will still be $45 million higher than it was in 2006 when Lewis took over - a 5% increase in spending, while losing thousands of students.

None of this includes construction. The SPLOST budget is a completely separate gig.

Cerebration said...

As far as the race issue goes - we really can't say that we have a diverse system anymore.

Lakeside is currently not even close to half white (41%). In fact, there are only 701 white students in the building. There are 596 African-Americans (35%) 210 Hispanics (12%) and 47 Asians (3%).

Beyond that there are only two other high schools that are not yet majority African-American - Dunwoody (at 36.5% - 585 AA students, = 41% white at 658 students, 14% Hispanic - 91 students and 3% Asian - 46 students) and Cross Keys at 69% Hispanic, 14% AA, and 12% Asian.)

Yes, ALL of the rest of DeKalb County High Schools are now a majority (well over 50%) African-American... So the "white" north is really just a myth anymore. Now, can we move past this racial discussion? I'm fully convinced that it has only been kept alive by politicians seeking votes.

Cerebration said...


The DeKalb Board of Education Committee on Budget, Finance & Facilities will hold a meeting on Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 8:00am in the Superintendent's Conference Room at the Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center, Building A, 3770 North Decatur Road in Decatur, Georgia. The purpose of the meeting is to review Board policies and system-wide operations as it relates to finance & facilities. The meeting agenda is attached.


1. DCSS FY10 Budget
By: Mr. Marcus Turk, Chief Financial Officer

2. Athletic Department Review

3. Safety and Security

4. Additional Goals
a. The Foundation
b. Title I

5. Meeting Date Change
a. Alternate Date for Friday, April 3rd Committee Meeting

Anonymous said...

Looks like this issue with Patricia Pope is being dragged out until May. From the ajc:

may be at least May before we learn the results of an internal review into allegations of irregularities with DeKalb County school construction contracts, according to a spokeswoman with the district attorney’s office.

The school system forwarded the review to the D.A., asking that a few things be looked into and whether a criminal investigation was warranted.
An investigator in the district attorney’s office is juggling the schools review along with several other cases, said D.A. spokeswoman Jada Hudspeth, and it may take until May to complete them all.

Hudspeth declined to give specifics about the schools review. It involves the office of Patricia Pope, the school system’s chief operating officer. In December, school system police officers and information systems employees examined records from Pope’s office.

Cerebration said...

I don't know whether to be disgusted or heartbroken. This is such a sad, horrible thing to do to Pat Pope - dragging this on and on and hanging a cloud of suspicion over her for months on end.

My heart goes out to her. I am so impressed that she holds her head high and continues to do such a remarkable job.

Her predecessor can't seem to keep the water bill paid at his new job.

Anonymous said...

"Her predecessor can't seem to keep the water bill paid at his new job"

That's a low blow. He inherited the fiscal problems.

No Duh said...

Even in a bad economy, I'm sure a black female construction expert is extremely marketable. I am amazed Ms. Pope hasn't said "up yours" and walked.

It's just so sad that DCSS can't tolerate excellence. Not that I consider myself all that "excellent," but I would not be able to work in an organization like DCSS. As a teacher, administrator or custodian, I would not be able to work day in and day out with the lowest common denominators that exist -- and persist -- in DCSS.

Ms. Pope thanks for being the only true professional I've encountered at DCSS in seven years. I really hope you aren't stealing money or pocketing kickbacks. That would extinguish the last small flame of hope I still carry for DCSS.

Please know, Ms. Pope that the majority of your customers are behind you 100 percent. And you ARE innocent until proven otherwise.

Dekalbparent said...

Posting this here and at the construction investigation thread. It appears DCSS needs to been looking a lot harder at "greening" the schools - money is literally going out the windows and doors:

Anonymous said...

Great stuff DK Parent! Every DCSS administrator and BOE member needs to watch this!!

All of the local colleges and universities around the area are "greening" their buildings.
And don't be mistaken by their press releases. The No. 1 reason they are doing it is to save money from their utility bills.

Georgia Tech is one of the leaders nationwide. Hey DCSS, Crawford Lewis and the BOE: Partner witrh GA Tech.

Save our dollars. Make every DCSS facility energy efficient. Even all those surplus properties that no one from DCSS will give a complete list of to the public.

Dekalbparent said...


Fact I learned on BBC History: the Romans created double glazed windows in order to keep the heat in the warm rooms at the baths.

They realized single-glazed windows let out too much heat.

This was 1500 years ago.