Wednesday, February 24, 2010

SPLOST IV

In a article in the newest DeKalb Neighbor, "County to close four schools after this year", Crawford Lewis asks for support for SPLOST IV:

Lewis said he would be asking DeKalb County voters to support an extension of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax program to help fund capital improvement projects at school facilities. DeKalb County shoppers pay a voter-approved 1 percent sales tax that goes to the school system. The current tax, SPLOST III, expires in 2012. Lewis said he will ask voters to approve SPLOST IV in November 2011. “Our needs are great and we need your support.”

Here is the big question, can taxpayers and parents trust the current Board of Education and Crawford Lewis-led school system administration with another SPLOST that will raise tens of millions of dollars, if not more?

There is no question the needs are great, especially if you have walked the facilities (and rest rooms) at Cross Keys, Lakeside and Sequoyah Middle.

However, this current administration and BOE has had scandal after scandal after mistake with handling our taxes. Whether the Pat Pope debacle, the addition of countless administrators, the incredible increase in pay for administrators over the past five years, nepotism, the Heery Mitchell lawsuit, the bait and switch with Arabia Mountain High, $300,000 for BOE lights, hundreds of thousands to redo the in fine condition parking lot at the Mountain Industrial mega-complex, half a million of dollars for an investigation by a retired judge that wasn't written down (?) but given verbally, millions for America's Choice, millions for the failed eSIS software, tens of millions for MIS with little to show for it in the classrooms, the $400k California trip, millions on instructional coaches/supervisors, Tony Hunter's promotion from director to executive director despite a very bad year from MIS, Executive Director of Corporate Wellness, Crawford's vehicle purchase and gas fillup disgrace, the school system fighting in court stream buffer violations in Dunwoody which cost more than making the fixes, the failure of the school system to share facilities with the county, the insistance by Paul Womack that the tiny Heritage school could fit 600 students and staff, the complete and utter failure by the Lewis administration to thoroughly check residency, etc., etc., etc.

There are so many facility needs in our schools, but this current administration focuses first on the needs of administrators, and the BOE has been their enabler. Ignoring school needs like mold and mildew in HVAC systems, leaking roofs, holes in floors, etc., all a common refrain from our school teachers. The beautiful Arabia Mountain High School was supposed to relieve overcrowding in South DeKalb but was then switched to a magnet school and did not relieve overcrowding.

As parents and taxpayers, do we allow the Lewis administration and current Board of Education to spend millions while we cross our hands, or do we send a message that waste, inefficiency, and administrative bloat will no longer be tolerated? Tough call. Let's hear your take, DCSW-er's!!

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-schools-chief-proposes-325918.html?cxtype=rss_news_82007

“One of the things we’re doing is erasing layers in DeKalb schools and minimizing layers in other places,” Lewis said.
Some of the people cut will be able to apply for teacher and lower positions, but there won’t be enough openings for the majority of the laid-off workers.
“There will be people going home,” Lewis said.

After years of building up the Central Office, now he suddenly sees the light? Your words ring hollow, C Lew.

Anonymous said...

"Some of the people cut will be able to apply for teacher and lower positions"

Ya know what...they are listening to us. This suggestion came from this blog first. The emperor has no clothes. It is clear for all that the administrative bloat needs to end now. And unproductive, overstaffed departments like MIS, school police and Sam Moss have to lean up while producing more than before.

Anonymous said...

Well, that's the whole problem isn't it?

Even if the friends and family budget were cut in administration were cut back to where it ought to be, we'd still have a deficit and still need more revenue, but the fact is the BOE, DCSS, and CLew are neither competent nor ethical enough to be trusted with the money they already have, let alone more money.

Al

Anonymous said...

Al is right. Positions needs to be eliminated, so they won't be brought back if the economy turns. Focus on the classroom and school building. Everything else is unnecessary fluff. No more Executive Directors of Corporate Wellness. Start contracting out services like IT and HVAC.

Funny that Lewis led DCSS to the administrative bloat mess, but now the BOE expects him to get us out of the mess. He is clearly not the person to lead the downsizing.

Anonymous said...

I will not vote for SPLOST 4. I have no trust in the system and no confidence in their ability to spend our tax dollars wisely - or even ethically.

DCSS and DeKalb School Board: show me you can use the money you have EFFICIENTLY and EFFECTIVELY . . . Then maybe I'll give you some more.

Anonymous said...

Yes, they are listening. That's good! But keep in mind, these are just more "words" from CLew. What has he really done since he's been in charge that makes us think he's telling the truth this time? All of a sudden he's become competent and ethical? I don't think so. (Wonder if any of the "friends and family" employees will be among the 'people going home'?)

I say it should be a "NO" vote for SPLOST this time around. (And I'm in a teacher in a school that's falling apart, a school where I have to buy all my own paper and school/office supplies and supplementary student materials. I'm also a DeKalb County resident.) Let's give it a year and make CLew & the BOE prove they can handle their DCSS responsibilities well and ethically. Actions speak louder than words.

How does that saying go? "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Let's be honest. We've let him/them make fools out of us, too many times to count.

Anonymous said...

As a a parent and taxpayer, it pains me to hear about so many teachers having to buy their own supplies, not have access to a working copier, leaks in the ceiling, etc., while Crawford added an Executive Director of Corporate Wellness only partially covered by a grant, gets a $30,000 per year expense account, promotes Hunter from a Director to an Executive Director even as eSIS was a hot steaming mess, refuses to sell surplus properties, etc., etc. Focus on the classroom!!

Anonymous said...

I'm really torn about this. On one hand, I certainly distrust this administration, and am loathe to give them any more money.

On the other hand, SPLOST funds are reasonably protected, and can't be spent on things like SUVs and beautiful lighting. What happens if the money for construction and repairs dries up entirely? I don't think anyone's going to go without so much as a pencil at the county office, so I think it will just mean EVEN LESS for our schools if the SPLOST is voted down.

M G said...

Does the current SPLOST expire Jan 1, 2012 or Dec 31, 2012?

If it's Dec 31, 2012, why would taxpayers be asked to vote in 2011? Attempting to ensure passage due to an extremely low turn-out?

M G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Anon 6:45, they did spend SPLOST money on the fabulous, new $300,000 lighting, if I'm not mistaken.

Anonymous said...

As a Dekalb County teacher I'm against the SPLOST IV funds. I work at a school that needs a new boiler (I've only had heat 4 days this winter in my classroom - and my room is not the only one!), has mold issues, has numerous leaks, and desperately needs a new parking lot (most of us park on the playground - sorry, kids). However, I have no confidence that the administration and the BOE will spend the money on school needs. If there were a way to specify that these SPLOST IV funds could not be used for any Central Office/BOE improvements, then I would support them.

Anonymous said...

I will not vote for SPLOST IV if Crawford Lewis is superintendent of the school system.

Anonymous said...

While the frustration regarding SPLOST IV is understandable, don't cut off your nose to spite your face. If SPLOST is not passed, property taxes will likely increase as the maintenance needs for the schools will not go away.

Something else to consider, if the school system does not pass a SPLOST, the county may look to use that penny for infrastructure needs. A vote would need to take place to approve that.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the others and will vote NO. If and when the BOE can show me that they will spend what money there is on schools then maybe next I'll vote for it the next time.

Anonymous said...

How much SPLOST money is left?

Cerebration said...

The Mid-Program Assessment (April 2009) has this to say about the bond (the $300 million borrowed against the anticipated $466 million in SPLOST 3 collection) -

Apparently, much of it has been sitting in the bank earning income (albeit, not much more that we are spending in legal fees).

COO James R Wilson wrote in a memo that as of Dec 2008, DeKalb had received $136,871,026 (29.4% of the $466 million SPLOST 3 goal).

"As of December 2008, the school district had earned a total of $17,372,007 on the invested bond money versus our total budget of $28.4 million. As you know, the bond funds have not been expended as quickly a contemplated so the investment income is running ahead of budget. However, the current investment rates are less than we projected so that going forward we are not likely to earn a much investment income as we have thus far. ... I believe the original $28.4 million budget is attainable."

In addition, DCSS was able to sell the $300 million bonds for about $313 million - netting a profit of over $11 million in the end. Of course, they also have debt service to pay.

He was also expecting to receive a total of $100 million in State Entitlement Funds (about $20 million per year for qualified projects).

So you see, who knows how much money is sitting in the bank? The last time I heard it mentioned at a board meeting I recall it was around $100 million.

Anonymous said...

They let the WRONG director go in Transportation. Dean Robinson was over Special Needs, he is not anymore.

Why is Harold Lewis still there and Dean Robinson not?

Anonymous said...

"Fleet Operations Asst Director", Harold Lewis ($101,720.00 salary in 2008).

He got a big pay increase after he claimed sexual harassment against Pat Pope. Somehow Harold was transferred from Environmental Services (not sure what that dept. is about). How does working in Environmental Services qualify you for special projects in transportation? It doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Before environmental services he was in MIS as a project manager.

Anonymous said...

Read this quote from the AJC:

"The reduction in staff is necessary to meet a projected $88 million deficit, Superintendent Crawford Lewis told board members Wednesday morning. The staff cuts will save the district about $10.7 million, Lewis said.

The 148 positions represent about 15 percent of the district’s 982 employees in the central office, according to Ramona Tyson, the district’s deputy chief superintendent of business operations. The district is also looking at furloughs or pay cuts, along with closing schools and cutting programs."

Did you get the part about 982 employees in the Central Office?

7.4% of our employees work in the Central Office. What do they need with 982 Central office people?

They need to slim down that number before they even consider raising the pupil teacher ratio in our classrooms.

Let's not forget the Internal Memorandum that Lewis sent to the employees of DeKalb:

..."When dealing with the projected deficit, there are two primary goals: to maintain employment for all employees with NO layoffs and do the absolute best not to raise the millage rate."

and

....."I will present a balanced budget that includes reduction of positions, reduction of programs, and possibly a reduction of a certain percentage of pay or work calendar days. But no one loses employment".....

Reduction of positions means:
They cut 275 teacher positions last year by increasing the pupil teacher ratio. We can't let that happen again.

From the DeKalb Website regarding the 2009-10 budget:"Further proposed reductions include an increase to class sizes. The increase in class size will still keep DeKalb Schools below the state maximum requirements, prior to the state’s increase. This action will save $18.1 million and will reduce the staffing needs by 275 teachers. "

Anonymous said...

The new proposed class sizes will put us much larger than the state's requirements. (this is why they will need a wavier.)

Also, the only way a class size increase results in savings is if there are fewer teachers in the building. Is Dr. Lewis proposing massive teacher layoffs?

For example, at our elementary school, the proposed class size increases would result in a loss of 1 teacher per grade level. That is 6 fewer teachers.

Not one teacher is retiring. Does Dr. Lewis plan to layoff teachers?

Anonymous said...

Check the AJC website for article just posted.

Anonymous said...

What some districts are doing is laying off teachers that do not have tenure. Those are usually the ones with less the 3 years of service.

Dekalbparent said...

DeKalb DA raid's CL's home!! NEWS BREAK!!!
http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/da-searches-dekalb-schools-328667.html

Dunwoody Mom said...

Yes, I saw that. And and guess who was right there on the scene when the raid occurred? Tim
Eberly and the AJC!! I wonder how they knew? LOL.

Anonymous said...

Can I tell you how happy all the teachers were at my child's school this morning. You would have thought Santa had come to town.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Can I tell you how happy all the teachers were at my child's school this morning. You would have thought Santa had come to town.


That's a bizzare reaction....

Cerebration said...

Well, this is sad and a bit crazy. We need to prepare ourselves for a downward spiral this month as the Heery trial approaches. This trial will command the attention of Lewis and the board and they will be hard-pressed to pay attention to it and the budget deficit and cuts that need to be made all at the same time. (Unless they simply don't sleep.)

Anonymous said...

Very sad and disturbing. Dr. Lewis has lost the respect of so many personnel at the schoolhouse. How can he be an effective leader?

Anonymous said...

It appears this has hit all the news sources in Atlanta.
The sooner all the facts come out the better for all concerned.

Anonymous said...

An emergency called executive session board meeting has been announced for tomorrow at 9 AM.

NOTICE OF DEKALB BOARD OF EDUCATION EMERGENCY CALLED MEETING:

The DeKalb Board of Education will hold an emergency called meeting at
9:00am, Friday, February 26, 2010 at the DeKalb County School System's
Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center, Building A, Superintendent's
Conference Room, 3770 North Decatur Road, Decatur. The called meeting will
adjourn to executive session to discuss a personnel matter.

According to DeKalb Board of Education Board Policy BCBB, “When special
circumstances occur and are so declared by the Board or committee, a
meeting may be held with less than a 24-hour notice upon giving such
notice as is reasonable under circumstances, including notice to the legal
organ.”

Anonymous said...

Cere

Do you want to start a news of the day Blog entree or something along those lines...

Cerebration said...

News of the Day or News of the Weird?

I used to have that - better put it back!

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 9:25, I think they're meeting to vote to give him another raise to compensate him for all he went through this morning.

Can't wait till the DA searches their homes!

Anonymous said...

Do you think that it is just a coincidence that the DA is searching C Lew's house the day after he calls for 148 central office jobs to be cut?

The AJC says these job cuts ,"will be made in the nine departments that make up the central office, including the superintendent’s cabinet, human resources, finance, transportation and other areas. Of those cuts, about 15 will come from the superintendent’s cabinet, which includes chief officers, along with deputy, associate and assistant superintendents."

If anyone had dirt on C Lew... it would probably come from the group he's about to can. What new evidence has come to light so quickly that the DA would raid his house & office? Disgruntled employees seeking revenge?

Dunwoody Mom said...

Sorry, this is all too much of coincidence for my tastes. First, the slow "leak" of legal depositions by the AJC to a reporter with little experience, now today's search of Dr. Lewis' house, all the while Gwen Keyes sat on this investigations for over a year? Sorry, call me suspicious.

Anonymous said...

Look at this picture from today's AJC article:

http://www.ajc.com/multimedia/dynamic/00419/superintendent0226__419953l.jpg

The picture shows Mr. Lewis opening the door for the DA search warrant. How did the AJC get to the scene before they even knocked on his door? Who keeps tipping off the AJC?

Cerebration said...

"First, the slow "leak" of legal depositions by the AJC to a reporter with little experience,..."

Exactly who do you mean, DM? If you mean the blog, let me just clarify right up front that in no way did we get the legal docs from anyone at the AJC. Go to the courthouse and sort through the boxes and boxes of files - they are there for review. I personally have never met Tim Eberly - wouldn't know him if I saw him on the street. But I've heard he has quite a bit of experience. And as far as arriving on scene - they were also on the scene when Pope's offices and homes were raided. This is their job - news reporters scramble to get the scoop. Would you rather they just reprint the press releases sent out by the school system? That's been done too.

Insider said...

Any news organization (or reporter) worth anything has a police scanner close by so they can hear radio traffic.

But I still think there's a mole in DCSS - or the DA's office - (or both) that's tipping off the AJC.

Anonymous said...

Is this thread about SPLOST 4, or SPLOST IV (eye-vee)? Cuz DCSS could really use a full transfusion right about now.

Anonymous said...

Why was that school computers being taken out of Lewis' house. Why does the Dekalb schools supply the school board with computers and phones? Why are Principals still getting raises when employees transfer into their schoolhouse and they are making more money than the Principal they give the Principal a raise?

Anonymous said...

Board of Education take notice: Not a single resident in my neighborhood will vote for SPLOST 4 so long as Lewis is the Superintendent and there are no changes on the Board. No more status quo.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:37

SACS requires that the principal be the highest paid employee in a building within a certain amount of time. (The adjustment doesn't have to happen right away, though DCSS may do it right away anyway.)

Some principals may be gaming the system.

Kim Gokce said...

On the original topic ... not voting for SPLOST IV is like quitting your job because you are spending unwisely.

The needs don't go away if we simply recognize we are doing a poor job of managing our money. I don't think the issue should be framed as a 'yes' vs. 'no' vote for SPLOST IV.

Isn't the real matter: Who shall we trust with our money? How will be be sure this job is managed ethically and effectively?

Are we really prepared to enter into a suicide pact with DCSS and vote 'no?'

Anonymous said...

Kim, I love ya, but disagree on this. SPLOST can come up for a vote again next year if it doesn't pass in 2010. Voting no to SPLOST is the only leverage taxpayers and parents have with the BOE. After three easy SPLOST votes, it would send an incredibly powerful message to the administration and BOE. The needs are long, but nothing has worked with the BOE and administration to stop the massive Central Office buildup.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:27 pm

I know SACS requires that principals be the highest paid employee in the building.

Does this SACS requirement extend outside the school building? Is this a requirement for every department in the Service Center, or the Central Office?

I know that in other departments outside the school system this occurs as well.

Some of the Central Office Departments are very small. This rule seems like it is very costly.

For example, if a Central office Director hired an instructional coordinator with 28 years service and a PhD, and the director had 10 years and a masters or EdS, would he/she now get a raise in salary?

Kim Gokce said...

Anon 2:41: "The needs are long, but nothing has worked with the BOE and administration to stop the massive Central Office buildup"

Isn't that independent of SPLOST? All the staffing growth is funding from property tax if I understand. So, start a property tax revolt and I'll sign up but don't ask me to play with capital that directly affects the daily quality of life for our students (and teachers) and that erodes the competitive position of DeKalb.

Voting 'no' for a year also puts off capital planning for a year. For me, it is unacceptable to continue putting off long over due capital investments.

Look how long it has taken for what we have when WE DO vote for SPLOST ...

Anonymous said...

Electing new BOE members seems to be a better choice.

Anonymous said...

@Kim Gokce and Anonymous 2:41 PM

I am voting NO for SPLOST.

I am a Chamblee Charter High School parent. We have been repeatedly lied to about when CCHS would be renovated and updated. It is a very, very old facility that has NEVER been renovated. In fact, with the rampant roaches, rot, rust and pervasive mildew, I am not sure that renovation would be possible. The school needs to be re-built.

I am voting NO for SPLOST when it is on the ballot next. If the BOE (1)fires and prosecutes those employees who have stolen from DCSS; (2)cuts the central office staff by at least half; (3)ends the ongoing fraud with Title I and Per-pupil funds; and (4)agrees to provide a new building for Chamblee Charter High School, then I will vote for SPLOST if it is on the ballot in 2011.

Meanwhile, I am voting NO for SPLOST and will campaign against it.

Anonymous said...

This administration has done such a poor job with its administration of SPLOST funds, from the change orders, poor quality of work, cost overruns, the bait and switches, the Heery-Mitchell mess, the politicization of which schools are renovated, etc., it is hard for me as a taxpayer to allow this current administration and BOE to continue to administrate tens of millions of SPLOST taxes.

Allowing the same administrators and same BOE members to have access to such a large sum is a mistake.

Anonymous said...

The SACs rule only extends to the schoolhouse. And again, as I understand it, the principal has to be the highest paid at the time of the SACs accreditation audit. But I think DCSS raises salaries pretty quickly in these cases, though I am not sure.

Anonymous said...

The School Board is nowhere near ready to seek taxpayers' support for another Splost.
They have to make decisions as to what schools should be operating and which should be closed. Once this decision is made they will have to look at the operating schools to determine needs to accomodate the planned student enrollment. I wonder how many of the past Splost funds have been spent on schools now needing to be closed?
Also, the current Board and Superintendent have been such poor stewards of the dollars they do not need to be making decisions on what to do more millions.
Additionally, the Superintendent does not even have a person to oversee the program that he can evidently trust.
When the Board and Superintendent get their house in order, they can request another Splost.

Anonymous said...

I will most definitely vote NO to another SPLOST.

The School Board and DCSS Administration have demonstrated the worst possible financial management. When they cut the central office to a reasonable level (as in far more teachers than administrators, far more money spent in the classroom than int he Central Office), then I'll consider it.

Anonymous said...

The thing is, the same crew is in place that made so many mistakes and poor decisions with the previous SPLOST's. Crawford Lewis brought in Pat Pope himself to manage SPLOST, and look where that got us. Arabia Mountain High was supposed to be for relieving overcrowding in South DeKalb. Then it became a magnet, just like that. The Southwest DeKalb High renovation went from $9 mil to $21 mil, and no one from the BOE even blinked.

Please tell me that not one penny of SPLOST taxes has gone to the Mountain Industrial complex. It would be incredibly hypocritical to spend SPLOST money on a fancy Central Office when we have schools like Sequoyah and Cross Keys in filthy, disgusting condition.

Anonymous said...

I share the disgust with our DCSS leaders, but think everyone should take a deep breath and count to 10 before they decide how to vote for SPLOST 4.

The fact is that the one penny sales tax is paid by everyone who shops in DeKalb County, not just our county residents. Thank you Fulton, Gwinnett, Clayton, Henry residents for shopping at Stonecrest and Perimeter and supporting our schools -- you and everyone else who spends a dime in DeKalb are helping to keep our taxes under control.

In a normal economy the district collects roughly $100,000,000 each year through this tax -- this is what you're giving up if you put it off a year. $100M bucks can go a long way, sorry to say so even if it's mismanaged.

Ugh, that was painful to write!

Kim Gokce said...

@Anon 3:35 ...

I understand your frustration but based on your reasoning we would have had no SPLOST II or SPLOST III approved, either. I have to believe the issues are with the management not with the funding.

Look at what is going on at Cross Keys HS reno now - the majority of the money is being spent on the 4th wing to host the Technology programs. This need was the result of a controversial decision to close/move Tech North from Perimeter, not anything envisioned to renovate CK.

The remaining 3 wings will have classroom and hallway renovations but the school will largely appear as it does today and retain many, many shortcomings in facilities and grounds.

So, decades after it was needed, and 8 years after being promised, a partial update is being made at Cross Keys. At the last public meeting on the subject, DCSS leadership agreed that there will be much left undone at CKHS that is needed after the completion of the SPLOST III project.

So, when does "our school" get attention again for these gaps? Probably many years out at best. So, does the entire CK "community" vote "no" for every SPLOST where they're not on the list of projects?

I just don't think that is how we need to view public education facilities in DeKalb. We really need to try and take the high road and keep supporting the long-term effort to restore ALL facilities in the County - I don't think it can be all done at once.

While Cross Keys may be an extreme example, I don't think Chamblee, Lakeside, Dunwoody, and other HSs around the county are going to fare much better unless they get "a Tucker" and I don't see that happening with the current budget/SPLOST funds.

We need to stay on top of BoE and DCSS leaders to ensure they have a capital plan that makes sense for the future of the ENTIRE COUNTY.

Kim Gokce said...

I agree with those mentioning above that the closures/redistricting recommendations must be accepted before any viable capital plan for SPLOST IV can be formulated.