Today's AJC has an update from Dr. Lewis on school closings. I couldn't read it without blowing a gasket so I have reprinted the article here, embellished with my personal commentary - apologizing in advance for my high level of cynicism.
DeKalb County’s superintendent said he will cut about 15 top administrators and close four schools to help with the district’s $88 million deficit. (Wonder what he considers "top".)
“We can no longer afford to operate schools which are at half capacity,” Superintendent Crawford Lewis told about 100 business leaders Friday at his State of the System address. Could we ever?
With 152 schools, DeKalb has the most school buildings in the state -- despite being the third-largest district and closing five schools in 2008, Lewis said. The DCSS website states, " 143 schools and centers". The State DOE says 140.
Next week, school officials will identify the four elementary schools that will close at the end of the school year in May. They plan to close another eight to 10 schools in May 2011. Why wait?
The schools will be selected out of the 29 schools with enrollments of less than 300 students. District officials are eyeing schools in south DeKalb now that Dunwoody has become the fastest-growing area of the county, Lewis said. There are only 14 schools with enrollments under 300 according to the data submitted by DCSS to the State of Georgia for the official October 2009 FTE count.
They are - DeKalb Alternative Night School (90), Wadsworth Magnet School for High Achievers (165), DeKalb Transition School (116), Dekalb Early College Academy (206), DeKalb School of the Arts (291), DeKalb Alternative School (25), Margaret Harris Comprehensive School (78), Gateway to College Academy (104), UHS of Laurel Heights (26), International Student Center (163), Gresham Park Elementary School (294), Knollwood Elementary School (289), Coralwood Education Center (218), DeKalb/Rockdale PsychoEducation Center (135). As you can see, many of these are special schools so of course, they have fewer students.
The Citizens Planning Task Force, a group of 20 residents appointed by school board members, will work with school officials to make a recommendation on which schools to close. The board will then vote on the final closings, school system spokesman Dale Davis said.
Last year, DeKalb’s enrollment grew by about 1,500 students to 101,000 children. What? Again, the official October, 2009 FTE count shows that DeKalb officially reported 99,406 students to the state.
The school closings will allow the district to save about $2.5 million. Teachers from those schools will move with their students and be allowed to keep their jobs, but some other staff may be affected, Davis said. Well thank goodness for that - the students will continue to have teachers!
The closings will mean the district will have to redraw the attendance boundaries and reroute buses before school starts in August.
The school closures are part of a systemwide trimming to meet a loss in state funding and property tax revenue. Or to finally have to deal with the bloat that has occurred in the last 5 years.
“We are working really, really hard not to raise anyone’s taxes,” Lewis said.
Last month, Lewis proposed a series of program cuts, staff furloughs and other reductions to meet what officials thought was a $56 million deficit. He now is scrambling to identify $32 million more to cut from next year’s budget after learning the county’s property values dove 6.7 percent.
“This year’s budget will go back to the figure we had in 2005. That kind of tells you exactly how bad things are,” Lewis said. Guess what? We're all living off 2005 income - or less. Well, unless you work in the school administration. Top administrators in DeKalb have seen their salaries increase an average of 7% year over year since 2004.
Lewis said he will unveil those additional proposed cuts next Friday.
“There will be layoffs in these cuts. I don’t anticipate cutting any teachers at the local level,” he said. “But there is no way for me to come back to the board with an $88 million deficit and no layoffs.” I don't follow this statement at all. Teachers at the local level? Are there teachers at other levels?
Most of those job losses will be at the central office, including narrowing his cabinet of 27 administrators down to about 12, Lewis said. TWENTY-SEVEN administrators? Most Fortune 500 CEOs don't have half that number. BTW- he doesn't have a "cabinet" - he is not the president.
Some of those administrators will be able to apply for principal and teaching positions, but others will be out of a job. At what pay scale will these new principals/teachers be paid?
“It’s important now that every salary counts,” he said. * So why are you still paying Pat Pope almost $200,000 to do nothing?
The district has about 14,000 full-time employees, including 8,000 teachers. No - check the website - DCSS has 13,285 full-time employees, only about 7,300 of whom are teachers. Perhaps they were including the entire sub list?
The proposed administrative cuts come less than a week after the AJC reported that the district posted a job to replace a deputy superintendent of teaching and learning for $163,900 while calling for teacher pay cuts. Yes, they do live in different worlds from the teachers and their students, don't they? After all, it IS all about the administration! We just love paying taxes to support these high salaried people!
The other staff in his cabinet will see pay cuts, Lewis said. I'll believe it when I see in on the GA salary schedule for 2010.
However, the superintendent does not plan to give back the $15,000 raise and contract extension that the board approved in January. Lewis told business leaders that the raise comes after he lost $30,000 in salary and bonuses last year. Yes, yes, we're all always aware of the severe sacrifices you have made Dr. Lewis - you remind us every single chance you get.
“I don’t think $15,000 is going to have a profound impact on an $88 million deficit,” he added. Then give it back if you think it's such a pittance - didn't you just state above* that "every salary counts? Well, $15,000 represents someone's salary for sure.
On Friday, Lewis said some programs will be cut, but he is reconsidering his proposal to get rid of magnet schools and the Montessori program. He always "reconsiders" (aka; backs down) when anyone gives him a hard time. He has no moxie.
“We’re trying to do what’s right for the children, but we have to do it with the resources we have,” he said. Sure, we ALL believe that the children are your priority - right after your gas tank, of course.