Monday, February 1, 2010

Budget Suggestions

This was sent out by DCSS -

Dekalb Community,

We want to hear from you. Your input is solicited, valued, and respected. Please forward any suggestions or ideas you may have regarding the budget that may serve as workable solutions.

Email your suggestions or ideas to:

Budget Suggestions

In addition, you can learn more about the budget planning process and view 4 proposed budgets for the 2010-2011 school year if you click here. We encourage each of you to let Dr. Lewis and the Board of Education members know what your priorities are as a parent and taxpayer regarding the budget for your child's education.

Suggestions may be made in the comments section of this blog. But do not just leave your comments here, please send them directly to the email link above also.

To check out the budget review calendar and public hearing schedule, click here.

School Closings and Transparency
Take Home Vehicles??


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Anonymous said...


That is from the reductions done for this school year. Those things already happened.

Cerebration said...

Also, according to this budget document -

It appears that the 2010 budget of the Office of the Superintendent has increased 10.1% from 2009.

It seems the superintendent has quite a staff - totaling over a million dollars in cost -

Superintendent of Schools M21
Superintendent's Travel L09
Superintendent's TSA M21
Chief of Staff M21
Asst. Director, Media/PR M21
Executive Secretary Supplement T21
Executive Secretary Supplement T21
Secretary II SUPT T21
Secretary to Asst to Supt T21
Secretary to the Supt. T21
Secretary, Executive Supt. T21
Secretary, Executive Supt. T21

PLUS another million for the school board budget. (Did you know that each school board member has a $4,000 travel budget?) How about over $900,000 in legal fees?

Download some of these budgets and look them over!

Dekalbparent said...

Copied over from another thread:

The Druid Hills PTSA sent out the following email from the PTSA president alerting school families to the budget crisis, and it included a note from the Tucker Middle School PTA President, mentioning this blog (YAY! - the first time DHHS has ever mentioned that it exists!)


Dear Druid Hills Community,

The letter below summarizes comments made by DeKalb School Superintendant Dr. Crawford Lewis at a regularly scheduled PTA dinner meeting held on Thursday, February 11, 2010. We heard similar predictions at our own PTA meeting last week, where our local school board member, Mr. Don McChesney,
commented on our school system's budget crisis.

The DCSS administration provides information related to this on its web site:

Please note that the budget proposals provided on the DCSS web site only reflect the ORIGINAL budget deficit; we now face one that is substantially larger. The Druid Hills PTA cannot vouch for the accuracy of the blog website mentioned in Ms. Carlysle's email below; statements (made anonymously) by contributors may be factually incorrect, for example.
(Bolding mine.) Nevertheless, we encourage parents to stay informed.

At the PTA Council dinner this evening, Dr. Lewis updated us on the budget crisis for DeKalb County Schools. The deficit has gone from $56 to $88 million dollars. He stated that 20 parents have been appointed to a Citizens Planning Task Force to recommend school closures and redistricting. He also stated that sometime in March it will be announced that 4 elementary schools will be closed and that for the
'11-'12 school year 8 - 10 mix of elementary, middle and high schools will be closed. The properties will not be sold immediately.

He said there will be layoffs and program cuts but could not give out details. There may be more itinerant music and art teachers serving more schools.

I urge everyone to forward this information on to your neighborhood groups and stay aware of the changes affecting our communities and schools.

An interesting website to access about school community news is

Lisa Carlysle

A big thank you to Ms. Carlysle!

Cerebration said...

I must add - for anyone who likes staying informed, Lakeside's PTA puts out a terrific weekly email chock full of info. (We reprint some of it here often.) They work really hard to keep the Lakeside community "in the know" - You can sign up for their email newsletter by clicking here.

Cerebration said...

How about a little balance?

Did you know that we currently spend $15,225,010 on salaries for MIS staff yet only $1,411,000 on school nurses?

Anonymous said...

$15,000,000 a year in salaries for the computer people who brought us eSis? Where are all the computhe's they are servicing. I can rarely book the one lab we have in our school and I have only 2 computers for 26 students. Am I the only one who's amazed?

Cerebration said...

Yep - this is Tony Hunter's department of 290 people. (Compared to 50 nurses.) The eSis program cost is in addition to these salaries. I believe the eSis contract was $4 million this year. Correct me if I"m wrong, please.

Anonymous said...

Yet Tony Hunter, who has no background in educational technology, was promoted from Director to Executive Director with a pay increase. Shameful.

Anonymous said...

Why are Theme schools not being brought up? It seems to me that there are great expenditures at these schools as well that are not available to the regular everyday DCSS school.

Cerebration said...

Dr Lewis is very proud of the fact that DeKalb offers more school choice than any other system - these types of schools are not going away, I swear. In fact, the NCLB and now RTTT laws encourage school choice - it's something they look for. Look at the new Arabia - built with the stated goal to relieve over-crowding, but actually a magnet school more or less in the end. Magnets, themes, etc are growing, not going away.

Transportation to special programs would be a good cut but every time this is attempted, lawsuits are filed. In fact, this is why Wadsworth remains open despite only having 165 students. There are discrimination lawsuits involved.

Anonymous said...

What 'great' expenditures do you think are with Theme schools? They are some of the largest elementary schools in the district and were created to relieve overcrowding for a defined area without having to redraw lines. There is slightly more spent with transportation however they house the equivalent of 2 schools in other parts of the district.

Anonymous said...

Excellent point about Wadsworth Cerebration! Most taxpayers may not be aware of the lawsuits within the district that keep some schools/programs alive.

Dekalbparent said...

I would be interested in finding out about the lawsuits - it would be relevant to the whole budget issue - because it would give us insight into the reasoning going into budget decisions.
If you know anything, please post, anonymously, of course, and you can be general if that is necessary to keep anonymity.

Anonymous said...

There are 3 schools in Shaw's district that are on the list and another with 300 kids. How is Shaw relieving any over crowding issues?

Would putting these kids back into their home schools fill these schools up and make the district more efficiently run? This is something that must be considered if magnet and Montessori schools could be cut.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that doing away with magnet transportation involves discrimination or that closing Wadsworth involves discrimination?

If not allowing all eligible children to receive magnet services does not involve discrimination , how in the world does it involve spending millions to bus kids from one end of the county to the other??

This kind of *$%#@ is exactly why the county should just do away with special programs and invest in local schools. Someone will always have a beef, legitimate or not. Although, I think that the magnet system is loaded with legitimate beefs......

Cerebration said...

I'm only saying that there are lawsuits. When DCSS moved Kittredge to an even more northerly location, there were claims of discrimination - people from south DeKalb had a harder time accessing the school. (Some of these kids get on a bus at 6 am as it is!) They demanded a mirror program in south DeKalb - not a program within a school as it was when it was part of Brown's Mill.

There have been other lawsuits filed against the magnets - one from a private school trying to transfer - they won. These are additional costs associated with running these schools. You'd have to ask for the information with an Open Records request.

Here's a link to help you formulate the letter (you have to pay for the time and materials it takes to gather your info).

Anonymous said...

I had the same concerns when Kittredge was moved to the northern part of DeKalb. I felt the move made it less accessible to students in south DeKalb.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes you just have to do what's right for kids regardless of lawsuits. However, I'm not convinced closing all magnets is a great idea. With the huge number of personnel who don't teach contributing so substantially to our budget woes, it's hard to see cutting schools that teach students so effectively. We need to cut, consolidate and outsource in support areas as much as possible as our first option.

We spent $8,000,000 for America's Choice. I'm sure there is a substantial ongoing cost. We spend $24,000,000 on Information Systems salaries and benefits, close to $8,000,000 on the 80 Instructional Coaches salaries and benefits, and $7,000,000 on the 62 Coordinator's salaries and benefits. Has anyone even posted what the Service Center HVAC cost us? Let's not lose sight of these enormous expenditures on non-teaching personnel.

It's sad that DeKalb has gotten into this shape. What were Dr. Lewis and the BOE thinking? Did they think the party would never end? They blame the economy, but the fact is they have not been fiscally prudent, purchasing and growing pet programs that don't benefit students as fast as they possibly can. Never looking to shrink the bureaucracy - stretching DeKalb's existing teaching personnel ever thinner.

If Dr. Lewis and the board had been concentrating on making all our existing schools safe, clean environments with competent teachers and reasonably sized classes, magnet programs would not be so coveted and so controversial.

giftedkids said...

If the funds had been allocated correctly in the first place & the BOE & CL not been allowed to spend so carelessly, the DCSS would not be in the disarray that it is in right now. Recession or not, the DCSS has not done right by its children. My child is in a Magnet Program because the elementary school in my area is horrific! Overcrowded classrooms, poor test scores, rude admin staff, rowdy parents, disorganized teachers, discipline issues, the whole shabang. I know this for a fact, my niece attended that school.

My child's school has been one of the "BEST" environments I have seen educationally since I moved here. Why consider punishing the students who are excelling in the Magnet Programs (& the awesome teachers who teach them) by removing them from the very place that taught them to excel? If we want our children to soar we shouldn't clip their wings.

I would move to another county before I allowed her to attend her zoned school! Transportation is a small part of the issue/big picture for us Magnet parents. Most of us will carry our kids on our backs if we have to in order to keep our programs intact. Want to know why?...Because they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. Provding our kids with " A Premier Education"!!

There are a plethora of wasteful things being done with the money. We should start with the obvious, (like admin people who make too much money, or have way too many personal perks & other wasteful spending like $400,000 trips to Vegas or anywhere else) not with the children...ANY of the children!!

Anonymous said...

Why consider punishing the students who are excelling in the Magnet Programs (& the awesome teachers who teach them) by removing them from the very place that taught them to excel? If we want our children to soar we shouldn't clip their wings.

Why punish the students who aren't lucky enough to win the lottery by denying them the awesome teachers and the resources that are being spent on the magnet program? Plenty of children are no less qualified than yours, just unlucky. Why is it okay with you that all those other children are trapped in the "horrific" neighborhood school, as long as your precious child isn't?

giftedkids said...

"Why punish the students who aren't lucky enough to win the lottery by denying them the awesome teachers and the resources that are being spent on the magnet program? Plenty of children are no less qualified than yours, just unlucky. Why is it okay with you that all those other children are trapped in the "horrific" neighborhood school, as long as your precious child isn't"

WOW....really??? You see, this is why we have the comm"unity" disconnect that exists now. Perhaps you missed the part where I stated do right by ALL of the children? No child should be punished by not getting or prevented from getting a good education & all children are qualified to get it honey. Every school should have awesome teachers of their own, especially when they teach nontraditional subjects & the resources belong to all of us. Many people pay $$ into these schools & they've never had a child in DCSS.

I just don't want my child to be removed from the only academic environment they've ever known & disrupt the continuity of education that's being received.
If something is working, you don't break it to put it's working parts into something else that's not. You fix what's not working. This is not about who should have & who should not. That is selfish & that mindset is how the children learn & grow up to be that way. They all should have... period!

And heck yes, my child is very, very precious as every other child is as well, particularly when it comes to their education. If we get on the same page, work together & some stop having that "crabs in a barrel mentality", we could have everything in Dekalb that we need for our children. My family & I go to Board Meetings, write letters, volunteer time & donate money & talents to ANY school that needs it, not just the Magnets. I always have & so should anyone else who's able. They are our future...ALL of them, but yes I'm most concerned right now about mine. As a parent I think I have the right to be. Instead of sour grapes, how about we work together to change the way things are? Today I'm fighting for my child's school because they need me to. Tomorrow your child(ren) may need me (& others like me) to fight for theirs.

BTW, apparently you are also not aware that some of the Magnet programs are NOT entries by lottery. Your child has to make it into the school by audition, academic scores & exemplary behavior.

Paula Caldarella said...

Instead of sour grapes, how about we work together to change the way things are?

You see, therein lies the problem. The Magnet parents love to use the word "sour grapes" whenever there is a discussion about dismantling these expensive programs that serve such a small amount of students. The rest of us see it as trying to level the playing field for our children.

giftedkids said...

If the playing field had been level from the beginning, perhaps many of the parents would not have chosen their particular Magnet program to begin with. I am not such a parent. I would pay tuition for my child to attend the school because my child & I love it that much. Many of the parents I speak to would sacrifice to do the same. Why must this be "us vs. them"?

Anonymous said...

You can close all the magnets in the county and we'll still have an enormous shortfall because Dr. Lewis and the BOE:
1. Grew non teaching personnel (admin and support) at the expense of teaching personnel. That worsened our pupil teacher ratio (the single factor that time and again has been proven to increase student achievement)
2. Invested heavily in educational programs that did not have the support of the classroom teacher and continued to fund these programs long after they were shown not to be effective for DeKalb students (e.g. America's Choice, Springboard, Instructional Coaches, HSTW, etc.)

Unless those areas which comprise much of the budget woes are tamed, we will still have devastating cuts to all classrooms.

Make no mistake - magnets will be sacrificed if it means keeping full employment and pet programs.

I'm not a magnet fan, but I know the system from the inside for 40 years. I've seen it change from classroom centered to Central Office centered.

I've seen schools go from a set rotation for all schools to get new roofs, toilets, carpets, books, etc. to parents begging for these basic needs.

If magnets are cut, insist on cuts in the non-teaching areas or the only people who experience pain will be the students.

Anonymous said...

Why must this be "us vs. them"?

Because the magnet students are getting far more than their fair share of the limited resources available. Make the magnet programs budget neutral (as the Montessori parents have proposed for their programs) and no one will complain.

Anonymous said...

Not only must they be "budget neutral", they must not impact the home schools. They should go back to limiting how many students can be taken from any one school and the loss of students cannot impact the number of teachers or classes in the home school.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:11, I have to disagree with you. While I believe that the magnet program needs to be budget neutral, I don't think that the home school has any hold on students who want to go elsewhere. If the funding playing field is level, then the home school needs to be able to compete for those students on its merits. The difficulty for the neighborhood schools is that they are currently in an unfair competition. The magnet schools draw students because they can afford resources other schools can't.

giftedkids said...

I agree with it being budget neutral. It should be up to the parents or whomever will help to "fill in the gaps" for things like productions, costuming, trips or special science provisions & whatnot. Perhaps that should have been a given in the first place. I've only been in the DCSS for 4 years but that's the way it was done where I'm from. My older children have always attended Magnet programs & the schools there were very good. I just felt the programs in Magnet were a better fit personally for my kids & they did well in it. There was & is no in-fighting amongst the community about who gets what when it came to the kids education. That was first & foremost & we did it together.

However, I do think some people here will complain anyway, budget neutral or not. It seems this county is very divided when it comes to procuring a good education & environment for everyone's kids. When I first got involved, it was North Dekalb vs. South Dekalb. Now Magnet vs. zoned school. My child's school was still one of the schools that had no working sinks in the bathrooms, no doors on the stalls, no heat in some classes, no working water fountains, no a/c in others, buckets in the middle of the hall every time it rained, etc. It's not like we've been getting the star treatment either.

As far as impacting the local school numbers; the place where my child was slated to attend was very overcrowded. They had the Kindergarten babies in the trailers! Where is the rest of the money for the children's needs in general? Why is it spent the way it has been? Shouldn't that be the first focus? There will have to be some changes, that's a given, but we shouldn't fighting over the table scraps of what's left after the BOE does "whatever" it is they do with the money.

Dekalbparent said...

Anon 9:06 - making the magnet programs budget-neutral would go a long way, I think. I don't have the info I need to be sure, but I think some of the magnet programs are already that way, or almost so.

What do you all think - if none of the magnet programs took any money from any of the neighborhood schools, would you still object to them?

For me, there is still the inequity in the education offered, as long as there is a lottery to get into a school. This means there are kids who would benefit from the program and want to go who cannot. I have no problem with the magnets having entrance requirements, such as GPA or audition, as long as every child/family who chooses the program can go.

Unfortunately, the above situation is not very likely, and the current situation where it is suspected that there are ways into programs (having a friend in the central office) that are not open to everyone is what sets me on edge.

(I know of a witnessed incident of a child's name being quietly removed from the lottery before it began, as the request of a principal. It happened 8 years ago, and the parent was not able to prevail, despite valiant efforts. The child was removed from DCSS and sent to a private school.) I cannot say that this still happens, but it keeps me from trusting that the system is on the level.

giftedkids said...

Dekalbparent, I don't think there would be a way for every child who wanted to attend to do so if they did not meet the criteria. (although it might seem like a good idea) Passing the entrance exam, maintaining the GPA or being trained/naturally gifted enough to make it through the arts audition is part of the competition process that we prepare the kids to go through. Sometimes, they have to try for a few years before it happens. (like my niece; 3 tries & she finally got 1 year in the program but was gratelul for that year) Sometimes, it just doesn't happen.

This is another reason why the teachers & programs in the neighborhood schools are so important. Every child can't be accepted into a DSA (or wherever) or have to go some place like it. They should have a chance to do that at their local school. It's just that those students know they want to be performers, engineers, etc when they graduate.

I firmly believe that one of the keys to filling in quite a few of the gaps is volunteerism. We have the talent equity, academic & artistic, right here in our communities. It could be incorporated into the classroom & programs, it wouldn't take away from the budget & each school could benefit. It would also reinforce to the kids the importance of giving back to their community is about more than money.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:58 AM has a great point. Spending has gone from classroom-based to administration based. Arguing over magnets is exactly what C Lew wants to take away attention from the real cuts that need to be made (Central Office, MIS, instructional supervisors, Corporate Wellness, etc.).

Anonymous said...

Arguing over magnets is exactly what C Lew wants to take away attention from the real cuts that need to be made

Actually, the magnet parents seem to want to use this argument to take away the focus from those programs.

Anonymous said...

C Lew intentionally mentioned magnets and Montesorri at the front of the list for possible cuts knowing that those parents would freak, deflecting attention from where the cuts need to be made first: a bloated, inefficient, top down administration. He's no genius, but he is crazy like a fox.

Anonymous said...

Making magnet programs budget-neutral addresses the central argument of this strand which is the budget woes of DeKalb County Schools.

If DeKalb makes the magnet programs budget-neutral, parents wanting every child who qualifies to be accepted into a magnet is a entirely different issue.

First of all it's entirely possible. That's what New York City has done for many years.

I have a friend who teaches at in the LaGuardia, The School for Performing Arts (the one the TV series and movie Fame is based on). It is the crown jewel in NYC's educational crown. Before she got her job at LaGuardia, she taught at a Zoned School. In NYC there are many magnet schools. Every child who qualifies can go to a magnet school - if he/she qualifies. If they don't get accepted to a magnet school they have to go to a Zoned school. Zoned Schools are schools for kids who don't qualify for a magnet school. They have to accept all students regardless of ability to learn, behavior, etc.

When my friend taught at a Zoned school, she had approximately 40 kids on her roll per art class. She was told not to worry, less than 30 would show up a day. And sure enough, most classes were less than 30 every day (remember that the state funds you for Average Daily Attendance) as different student opted in and out every day. Her Zoned School started out with a couple of thousand kids in the 9th grade class, and maybe 400 ended up as 12th graders. So many of the students had babies there was a daycare center in the high school paid for by the school system.

Does DeKalb want a two tier system like NYC?

Consider the poster who said....
"My child is in a Magnet Program because the elementary school in my area is horrific! Overcrowded classrooms, poor test scores, rude admin staff, rowdy parents, disorganized teachers, discipline issues, the whole shabang."

Accepting every student into a magnet program that wants to go will mean a de facto two tier system in the poorest areas of DeKalb. Maybe that is what parents really want. It certainly addresses the issue of school choice.

Cerebration said...

In response to the data we have published about the level of spending on administration, this email from Don McChesney was forwarded to us by a friend of the blog in the Lakeside community.

I did some research on your figures. I hope this will help you in the future. The actual figures from our general operations budget for 2009-2010 shows that salaries and benefits are under 89%. Over 92% of our employees are school based. This includes teachers, paraprofessionals. counselors, AP's, principals, school nutrition workers, bus drivers, and bus aides.

I agree with you about the taxes. I see the millage rate as the only place we will be able to go next year. The legislature has told us that the projections for next year are even worse. Probably a $2 BILLION statewide shortfall. The news from downtown is anything but encouraging.

Thank you,

Don McChesney

Anonymous said...

Hey Don,

1) There are way too many AP's.

2) And I hope instructional supervisors/coaches are considered Central office staff and not school-based.

Cerebration said...


The DeKalb Board of Education Committee on Budget, Finance & Facilities will hold a meeting on Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 10:30am in the J. David Williamson Board Room at the DeKalb County School System's 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.

Meeting information can be accessed online by going to:
click on Board of Education and Meeting Information.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see if any board member has the courage to demand that Dr. Lewis and Ms. Tyson go beyond "Plan I" and make additional reductions in the Central Office at tomorrow's Budget Committee meeting.
All Board members say the schoolhouse is most important.
Now let's see if they mean it.

Cerebration said...

Check out this article I just found -

Here's a legal way to print money: change the font

MILWAUKEE – Here's a way you might save $20 this year: Change the font in the documents you print.

Because different fonts require different amounts of ink to print, you could be buying new printer cartridges less often if you wrote in, say, Century Gothic rather than Arial. Schools and businesses could save thousands of dollars with font changes.

Data on the subject from, a Dutch company that evaluates printer attributes, persuaded the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay to make a switch. Diane Blohowiak, coordinator of information-technology user support, has asked faculty and staff to use Century Gothic for all printed documents. The school also plans to change its e-mail system so it uses Century Gothic.
"The feedback we've gotten so far has been positive," she said. "Century Gothic is very readable."

The school of 6,500 students spends about $100,000 per year on ink and toner cartridges. Although students and staff can change the default font to something more ink-intensive, Blohowiak said the university expects to save $5,000 to $10,000 per year with the font switch.

When tested popular fonts for their ink-friendly ways, Century Gothic and Times New Roman topped the list. Calibri, Verdana, Arial and Sans Serif were next, followed by Trebuchet, Tahoma and Franklin Gothic Medium. Century Gothic uses about 30 percent less ink than Arial.

The amount of ink a font drains is mainly driven by the thickness of its lines. A font with "narrow" or "light" in its name is usually better than its "bold" or "black" counterpart, said Thom Brown, an ink researcher at Hewlett-Packard Co., the world's top maker of printers.

Also, serif fonts — those with short horizontal lines at the top and bottom of characters — tend to use thinner lines and thus less ink than a "sans serif" counterpart.

Cerebration said...

Students in NJ are rising up demanding their education dollars -

New Jersey Students Plan Statewide Walkout

Hey, guess what. Students like their school libraries, teachers, sports teams, school nurses and guidance counselors. So students in New Jersey are planning a statewide walkout to protest the cuts to the state education budget, which have created havoc across the Garden State.

The students are mobilizing via Facebook, and thousands have already signed up to support the walkout. Offer these students your support by going to their site. This is the kind of organized action that will get results, so let this kind of action spread across the nation.

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