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.