Monday, March 8, 2010

Are the proposed DCSS budget cuts going to harm the classroom while leaving expensive, special programs intact?


















We have had much discussion here lately about the proposed budget cuts. Many bloggers have made reasonable requests, backed up with data, asking for reductions to central office staff, special and magnet programs and departments such as maintenance, security (we could quite possibly have too many police officers on staff), health and wellness, MIS, and instructional and graduation coaches. As one person shared, Ms. Tyson is not even considering putting the 80 Instructional Coaches ($7,5000000), 13 literacy coaches ($835,000), and 48 graduation coaches ($3,500,000) back into the classroom. That's 141 teachers who don't ever teach children, and they represent almost $12,000,000 in salary and benefit cost to DCSS.

The consensus among parents, teachers and community members who have posted comments here has been - cut everything else to the bone before you start hacking away at classrooms!

Our alarm bells were first set by learning that a proposal has been floated to increase class sizes as well as demand that high school teachers on the 7-period day teach 6 of 7 periods, rather than 5. (For an in-depth discussion on this, visit this link.) Beyond that, cuts have been proposed to parapros, who help teachers tremendously in the classroom as well as media specialists - a vital member of a teacher's support team.

We've had several discussions on the costs of the magnet programs. One more interesting topic to visit is the fiscal ROI of the Fernbank Science Center. Here are some interesting numbers regarding the Center, which some feel should be privatized. One of our regular contributors compiled the following research to share with readers. Give us your thoughts. Where can we best cut in order to save the classroom teacher?
All of Ms. Tyson's proposals include a decrease in Fernbank Science Center Funding of only $104,000. That is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the cost of the center.

Only 45% of Fernbank Science Center personnel teach while 55% of Fernbank Science personnel are support and admin.

Total cost of salaries for employees directly assigned to Fernbank: $3,941,401 (approximately $4,000,000 annually)
Total cost salaries and benefits (25% assumed) for employees directly assigned to Fernbank: $4,926751 (approximately $5,000,000 annually)

Extra cost to run FSC (above the $5,000,000 annually)

1. 33 part time teachers (these teachers are regular ed teachers who work on a part time basis for Fernbank teaching classes on the weekends and summers)
2. Physical Plant - year round heat and air, air, lights, electricity for equipment, science equipment purchase, installs and repair, animal supplies, plants and greenhouse materials, office supplies, computer replacement parts, general building maintenance, etc.
3. Transportation - Bus transportation for the students who come to Fernbank - transportation costs are huge. The costs for bus drivers and gasoline may run into the millions. Fernbank trips are probably the single highest contributor to bus driver extra pay cost.
Interesting fact about the 33 part time teachers. 13 of the part time teachers are from McNair Elementary. FSC is a McNair ES partner. No doubt this has been a good partnership for both Fernbank Science Center and McNair ES.

Fernbank Science Center probably costs at least $7,000,000 to $8,000,000 a year. It may very well cost considerably more when all transportation costs are figured into the total.

An interesting note on the salary schedule is that the Director of the Fernbank is paid $12 more than his highest paid employee who is paid $98,556 . My understanding is that SACS only requires this pay variance or "bump" to happen within schools. Please note the heading of the DeKalb County School System Consolidated School Improvement Plan 2006-2007 states that "Fernbank Science Center does not function as a school and is not required to complete all sections of the DCSS Consolidated School Improvement Plan." So apparently the DCSS does use the SACS rule of supervisors making more than their highest paid employee even outside of the schools. This seems a luxury we can no longer afford and obviously could not all along.
$7,000,000 (an extremely modest estimate of running FSC) would furnish our classrooms with 123 Science teachers with Masters degrees and 3 years of experience (Assuming $45,456 for a Masters Level science teacher with 3 years of experience - plus 25% benefits for total of $56,820). 123 superbly qualified science teachers would go a long way towards helping our students increase their achievement in the area of science.

Consider these DCSS science achievement facts Fall, 2009:
Biology:
Number tested: 3,161
Pass rate: 52% (Georgia 64%)

Physical Science:
Number tested: 2,536
Pass rate: 63% (Georgia 71%)

CONCLUSIONS
DeKalb Schools can no longer afford to support Fernbank Science Center. The budget situation is going to last a very long time, and it won't allow for the extras that Fernbank provides even if they are great extras. The pupil to teacher ratio in the regular science classroom is very dire and getting worse.

Science teachers in DeKalb County are under the gun to produce results on the EOCT and the GHSGT. The science classrooms are strapped for funds and facing enormous class sizes. It’s extremely difficult to get a science teacher for the high schools since the colleges just don’t produce them. We certainly won’t get them if we give them class sizes that make experiments unsafe to conduct. Consider this recommendation by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA):

"Science classes should have no more than 24 students even if the occupancy load limit might accommodate more. (NSTA 2004) Research data shows that accidents rise dramatically as class enrollments exceed this level. (West 2001) Teachers should not be faced with a Hobson's choice—teach in an unsafe environment or sacrifice the quality of teaching by not doing labs."

Perhaps the safety issue is why DeKalb Schools has said that science teachers are under no obligation to conduct science experiments. Science teachers are allowed to have alternative learning experiences. Most parents and all students and scientists would say that conducting experiments is the heart of science proficiency so our teachers are already facing that Hobson's choice.

The funds spent on Fernbank Science Center should be redirected back to science teachers in the science classrooms in DeKalb. This is the most efficient way to make the most DeKalb students proficient in the subject of science. Day after day after day of consistent science instruction for thousands of students is the only way our students can get a basic understanding of science, let alone make AYP, the only measure that the state of Georgia uses to assess a school. If we cannot afford the basics, then how can we afford the extras?

Although I do believe Fernbank Science does not belong in the public school realm, I would not like to see Fernbank Science Center closed. It is a wonderful community resource. I do believe it should be seeking other funding, perhaps grants and/or combining with the Fernbank Natural History Center.


The time is now - the board and Ms. Tyson need to take a scalpel to the budget and fine tune the cuts - deleting first those line items that do not directly effect the classroom. After all, without a classroom full of children, there is simply no need for a school at all.

246 comments:

1 – 200 of 246   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

So what are you proposing for the current instructors at FSC? Many, if not most, do not hold teaching certificates but have masters or PhD in a scientific field. Should DCSS let these passionate and dedicated teachers go? Most of the high schools cannot find or retain good science teachers, hence the poor EOCT results.

Cerebration said...

That's shocking, if true. They're not certified teachers? At any rate, I think the writer was proposing privatizing the center - which would still require employees - it would just make the center have to earn it's keep.

Anonymous said...

The FSC has some of the most enthusiastic teachers around. DCSS would be absolutely crazy to lose them, especially since they are desperately looking for qualified science teachers every year. Fact is, most people qualified to teach advanced high school science (like AP Physics or Chemistry) can find much higher paying jobs elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 6:43

Why would you think the Fernbank science instructors are not certified?

Every single science instructor at Fernbank has an up-to-date science certificate. They could all go back into classrooms and teach science to students in DeKalb. As you stated..."we cannot find or retain good science teachers, hence the poor EOCT results."

I went online and looked up the certification status of all 29 instructors at Fernbank. (Certification status is open to the public. Here is the link to check certification status:
http://www.gapsc.com/Certification/index.asp
"You can check your application and certificate status on-line by clicking HERE and then entering Certification ID Number.)

Fernbank should be privatized. However, if it can't stand on its own, DCSS cannot afford the yearly cost of $7,000,000 to $8,000,000 or higher for 29 instructors, especially when we need science instructor so desperately in the classroom.

Anonymous said...

For facts about Fernbank and the value for our students in the DCSS, read

http://dekalbparent.wordpress.com/documents/fernbank/

Anonymous said...

They may be enthusiastic, but as the author says, "Day after day after day of consistent science instruction for thousands of students is the only way our students can get a basic understanding of science."

Once or twice a year of science instruction by an excellent teacher will not provide the science background our students need.

And consider that the money spent for the 36 support and admin employees, let alone the physical plant, and the millions for bus transportation to and from Fernbank could be re-invested in so many more top notch credentialed science teachers.

What parent would rather have a once or twice a year trip to Fernbank over more science teachers in the school able to teach their children every day?

Anonymous said...

If Fernbank were to go, which each child in DeKalb gets to attend. Than the Magnet Programs effecting so few should also go. I agree that Fernbank is an expensive program, but it is one that all child in DeKalb benefit from, not so of the magnet programs.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 6:43

I know, everyone loves Fernbank. I love it too. I used to pay for my son to go to the bird watching classes and the pond classes in the summer. It's a great place for kids to go.

But can we afford the Fernbank model where most kids are transported at a cost of millions of dollars to a facility for a once or twice a year experience?

Look at the overhead. Millions and millions for support and admin that add to the overall cost in addition to the grounds maintenance and bus transportation while our schools are starved for consistent, every day science instruction.

The question has to be - what is the most effective use of our scarce educational dollars to guarantee proficiency in science for all DeKalb students?

29 instructors cannot possibly accomplish that. They are the extras - not the basics. We have to at least give our students the basics in science, especially in our competitive world. To let them languish in over packed, understaffed science classrooms is just not thinking of the majority of our children.

If Fernbank is as valuable as you believe, then it should be privatized and able to stand on its own. Many people that love Fernbank have stated that over and over on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Lets face it: DCSS is turning into "too many chiefs, not enough indians".

Why are teachers taking the brunt of this mess, and therefore the children? Look at Fulton - going to lay off 400 of them? What brain surgeon of that? Some well paid chief. I'm about ready to walk away from this whole mess.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 7:21 pm

What kind of benefit is it to go once or twice a year to Fernbank? Wouldn't you rather your child had a competent science teacher at your school every day instructing them?

Cerebration said...

Simply increasing class sizes in high schools and making teachers on the 7 period day teach 6/7 periods instead of 5/7 will result in about 300 lost jobs in high schools alone in DeKalb. They just don't announce it as such - they announce it as - increase class sizes and ensure all teachers only get one planning period (which for teachers on the block is a 90 minute break, while teaching 3 classes - as opposed to a 50 minute break and teaching 6 classes on the 7 period day) - and decrease teachers as a result of "attrition"... as in - do not replace the ones who leave - just readjust the remaining teachers.

BTW - How many other school systems in the US operate a planetarium? Does anyone know?

Anonymous said...

As an elementary teacher, I am the science teacher. My kids get to have a scientist from a different ethnic background, learn something that I do not have equipment for in my classroom to do or the skill set or knowledge. They also get to ask the instructor questions and learn more about going to college and what it takes to get a real PhD, and not one from an on-line scam.

I have seen the child who doesn't like coming to school get turned on by a science experiment done with the Fernbank instructor. That's priceless in my book. If the "high achievers" can get turned on my the costly magnet programs, than the average child should be able to have something like Fernbank.

I am just asking that we be fair with what and where we cut. For some students the trip to Fernbank is the only field trip that they get to go on all year. Charge parents for the bus. Charge parents for the materials for the class, but find a way to keep this program, if no changes are going to be made to magnet programs. As a teacher and county resident, that is all that I ask. Our average kids shouldn't get even further short changed.

Anonymous said...

Thank you to the elementary tescher who stated so eloquently the intangible value of FSC.
For more of these benefits, please read the facts about FSC on the Dekalb Parent site:
http://dekalbparent.wordpress.com/documents/fernbank/

Anonymous said...

Combine FSC with the Fernbank Museum and our kids will never be able to afford the programs. The Museum is first and foremost a money-making operation. FSC is about education and exciting kids to explore and pursue science.

Anonymous said...

Board of Education,

Speaking of equity so dear to Dekalb County, how in God's holy name can you ask a high school teacher to teach 180-230 students in 6 X 50 minutes classes with 50 minutes of planning while having another teacher teach just 90-105 students in 3 X 90 minutes classes with 90 minutes of planning?

Whatever happened to "involuntary servitude"???

Vox

Anonymous said...

As a science teacher who stays in the classroom day after day trying to achieve success with my students, a once or twice a year Fernbank experience is wonderful, but it does not provide the sustenance needed for my students to have a level of scientific competency equal to that of their peers in other states (or even in other counties in Georgia). DeKalb students preform abysmally in science and cramming 32 kids per classroom without resources will not allow us to achieve the goal of educated youth. Science and technology are the way of the future, and we are raising scientifically illiterate students that will not be able to compete. I love Fernbank, and have very fond memories of visiting Fernbank as a student. If Fernbank has to be sacrificed in order for our students to get better teachers and more resources it needs to be done for the betterment of ALL our students.

Cerebration said...

Remember, we're dealing with EOCT scores like these:

Fall, 2009:

Biology:
Number tested: 3,161
Pass rate: 52% (Georgia 64%)

Physical Science:
Number tested: 2,536
Pass rate: 63% (Georgia 71%)

Anonymous said...

Having just spent $10.10 for today's science lesson and $20.31 for tomorrow's science lesson - all on materials that the kids needed that DCSS does not provide - I almost understand why elementary teachers do not teach science on a regular basis. (Not even going to open the must pass in reading and math can of worms...) Fernbank provides my kids science experiences (both at FSC and at my school) that I cannot afford to provide. As far as the transportation, our school is billed from our own budget for the gas and the driver's salary to Fernbank. We charge kids $5.00 each to offset this cost. I vote keep FSC, and get rid of Instructional Coaches, all afterschool programs (sports), and all magnet schools.

Anonymous said...

Money saved by sacrificing Fernbank is not likely to be directed towards improving science throughout all schools in the county. The money is not likely to go to science education at all but instead to maintain MIS, Montesorri and the like. Improvements would need to include not only smaller class sizes but truly educated and competent science teachers in EVERY high school and improvements in equipment across the board. Without FSC, there would be no County wide science events, like Science Olympiad, Science Fair, high school robotics teams. Currently in FSC's advanced studies for-credit classes which are offered after school and open to all high school kids in the county, FSC is able to offer advanced science courses that could never be offered in all the schools (AP classes which would never have enough enrollment at a most high school, or hands-on classes that cannot be taught in a school setting).
As a scientist who attended DeKalb County Schools years ago, I can honestly say that the few experiences I had in Fernbank programs were more memorable and influential in my career than the years I had in my science classes at my local DeKalb high school. There is a reason FSC has existed for decades and any decisions to change the model should be approached with a scientific review of decades of evidence.

Cerebration said...

"a scientific review of decades of evidence" - does that exist? Again, reference the passing scores for the EOCTs for DeKalb vs Georgia (never mind how GA compares to the US). Does evidence exist as to the benefits for science learning provided by an annual trip to Fernbank? Or a special program for already high achievers? STT has shown to be very difficult to get a seat, however, one local private school was able to get a seat for virtually every single 8th grader they helped apply.

Anonymous said...

The problem, as it stands today, is that no one in DeKalb is having this kind of debate. If we spend $ on A, what we will be sacrificing?

It is imperative, that people write their board members and tell them that the magnet/choice programs must be operated at zero extra dollars and we must move towards a self-sufficient (or nearly self sufficient) plan for Fernbank.

In addition, Fernbank must start taking their programs like sex ed for the 5th graders to the schools, rather than having the schools come to them.

Write your board members, folks!

Dekalbparent said...

I looked into the Roper Mountain Science Center, in Greenville, S.C., which is similar to Fernbank in that it primarily serves the school system. This is what I found:

Roper Mountain Science Center exists because of a unique partnership of public ownership, corporate sponsorship, private support, and volunteers. The primary mission of the center is to foster enhanced learning and growth opportunities through educational excellence and high quality instructional programs for students, teachers, and the general public. Science enrichment programs are presented in an exciting and entertaining manner that makes learning fun.

The center is owned by the School District of Greenville County, which provides the full-time staff and operational support. A private support group, the Roper Mountain Science Center Association, actively supports and promotes the center through memberships and corporate sponsorships.

Many of the center's activities are made possible or enhanced by active volunteer support. Opportunities to help at the center represent a wide variety of interests and skills-everything from plant and animal care to being a costumed living history farm volunteer.

Roper Mountain Science Center also understands the importance of teacher training in science education. After-school teacher workshops and mini-courses abound during the school year. However, the most intense teacher workshops occur in the summer. The largest one of these is the Science P.L.U.S. Institute, funded by a South Carolina EIA Grant, which benefits several hundred public school science teachers each year.


The corporate sponsors are:

BMW
The Spinx Company (chain of gas stations in SC and NC, and maybe elsewhere)
Greenville Hospital University Medical Center
Blue Ridge Electric Co-Op
Duke Energy
Fluor Corp.
Lockheed-Martin
Michelin
Publix
Hubbell Lighting
Interim Healthcare

It seems to be a resource for the entire area as well as statewide - hence the wide sponsorship. I presume that the [quite large] Science Center Association Board also helps bring in sponsors, like any non-profit board.

Food for thought.

Cerebration said...

There's an essay at DeKalb Parent blog defending the cost of Fernbank. It's interesting - and it sounds wonderful - for those who are lucky enough to win a seat in the STT lottery.

http://dekalbparent.wordpress.com/documents/fernbank/

Cerebration said...

Interesting info on Roper Science Center! Curious - isn't Lockheed-Martin based in Atlanta? How ironic.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 8:44, you say that experiences in your science classroom as a student never matched up to the few experiences at Fernbank. That's a shameful thing to say about the state of our everyday science classroom experiences. Students should be able to participate in hands on science constantly, not once a year.
In some schools science departments share a budget of $1000. (For those of you out there, that's not much when it comes to science equipment) How can we compare when so little is spent on us?

And I know you are also afraid that the science fair will suffer with the dismantling of the science center, but I do not believe that would be true. Other school systems simply host science fair at one of their schools. The science fair is not organized by Fernbank. It's the teachers that have to get their kids to do the work and submit their projects and the science fair committee that organizes the fair. The science fair in DeKalb is already poorly attended by its high school level students. (I sense a connection between this, low test scores, and poor science classroom conditions)
I don't want to cut Fernbank funding, but in a budget situation this dire, desperate measures need to be taken.
I would like to hear from other science teachers on this. More money in classrooms to use everyday, or more money on Fernbank?

Anonymous said...

Would somebody from the school system please clarify how the STT selection process really works? When we went to STT open house, we were told that each (nonmagnet) high school was given a quota based on school size. It was up to the feeder middle school to choose rising 8th graders to fill their quota. (So if you come from a middle school which has a lot of applicants, it is extremely difficult to be part of the lucky few who get selected.) So how does a private school get so many of its graduating 8th graders into the program?

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:01 pm

Unfortunately, Ms. Tyson's five budget plans have not shown the business acumen and in depth financial analysis that is needed to produce zero extra dollars for programs such as magnet and Fernbank Science Center.

Cerebration said...

The reality of the option --
DeKalb schools must cut staff or raise taxes

DeKalb County class sizes likely will grow, teacher pay will be cut and 154 central officer workers will lose their jobs under budget proposals unveiled Friday.

Almost every area of the state’s third largest school district will be affected by what officials are calling the worst budget crisis in its history. The only option to spare impacting the education of DeKalb’s 101,000 students is to raise taxes, some board members said.

After only a week on the job, Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson on Friday presented five proposals to cut the budget to meet an anticipated $88 million deficit in next school year’s budget.

“This is a precedent-setting task that requires very hard decisions,” she said.

Friday was the first unveiling of the full slate of cuts, which will be approved by the board on May 10. Part of the budget proposal calls for four elementary schools to be shut down at the end of the school year, which would save about $2.35 million.

The newest list of cuts includes laying off 154 central office workers, cutting JV athletics by 25 percent and getting rid of standardized testing in the first grade. Other possible cuts include paraprofessionals, counselors, media clerks and assistant principals. ...

A 5 percent pay cut across the board would save the district $26 million, Tyson said.

Tyson revamped the items on the chopping block after the district learned the deficit had grown from $56 million to $88 million, and hundreds of parents complained about cuts to pre-kindergarten, magnet and Montessori programs.

Mother of three Marty DeStefano is pleased to see DeKalb is now looking at keeping the district’s 104 pre-kindergarten classes but doesn’t think the district’s proposal to cut paraprofessionals from those classrooms makes sense.

“I’d like them to bring 20 4-year-olds up here and let them run around. Let them see if one person can care for them all day, especially when you’re talking about increasing class sizes” said DeStefano, who lives in Tucker.

After seeing that 89.1 percent of the district’s operating budget goes to salaries and benefits, Tyson decided to do more layoffs. The DeKalb figure is more than school systems in Clayton, Cobb, Fulton, Gwinnett and Henry counties spend, Tyson said.

Board member Jay Cunningham said he thinks that there still are a lot more cuts that can be made before cutting at the school level, including getting rid of a surplus of buses, offering an early retirement program and outsourcing services like maintenance and security. ...

Despite the dire budget situation, some board members are continuing to advocate that certain programs remain.

Board member Sarah Copelin-Wood wants the technology program at Clifton Elementary School saved and board vice chair Zepora Roberts is fighting to save the Fernbank science program.

But those programs surviving is very unlikely given that the school system could see the deficit grow even more as the county’s tax digest and state aid shrink.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you are fooling yourself and your community, if you don’t think we have some very tough decisions to make right now,” board member H. Paul Womack said. “I don’t like it. It’s not pleasant. But our entire county’s future rests in the education of our kids. ... We cannot protect our own little areas of concern.”

Anonymous said...

How do you insure that money not spent on Fernbank will go to science? Do you trust the board and central office to make that happen? Think again. YOu will lose the science center and have the status quo.

The Science Center does not do a good time of "advertising" itself and its programs but it is much more than STT. The Advanced STudies classes, typically for juniors and seniors, are not just for high achievers. The teachers don't just visit elementary schools but middle and high schools, as well. For many of these programs, the FSC teachers haul specialized experiments and equipment that are too expensive to be owned by every school.

As for science fair, the only high schools who have successful kids at the fair each year are Lakeside and Chamblee. Why is this? Because these schools encourage participation. An issue separate from FSC but a troublesome sign, all the same.

Anonymous said...

Pre-k in our schools is not a necessity. I would rather see this cut, as there are many lottery pre-k programs found and other districts in our area have cut their pre-k programs. We cannot afford pre-k programs-free babysitting-on tax payer dollars. If the lottery isn't funding these programs, they need to be out of DCSS.

Smaller class sizes will do the children more benefit, than having a pre-k program that only 20 kids get to participate in and little learning takes place.

Anonymous said...

While not yet specified, there are cuts to FSC included in the Central Office layoffs. So the cuts already are significantly greater than the $104,000 for STT. Meanwhile, the proposal is to keep a Montessori program that benefits only a few schools with no immediate benefit.
So there will be cuts to science no matter which proposal is adopted, yet there are other programs NOT cut.

Anonymous said...

DeKalb County is paying way more than the state reimburses by choice. DCSS (as Pam Speaks has said repeatedly) needs to pay what the state reimburses.

Then it would be virtually free to DCSS. DeKalb should be like Fulton, if a school is overcrowded they don't get pre-k. (In otherwords, Pre-k won't cause the system to have to pay for another trailer.)

DeKalb has the longest waitlist in the state for lottery funded pre-k spaces.

Anonymous said...

Everybody loves Fernbank Science Center, and we've always taken it for granted the school system will pay for it, and it'll always be there for us folks in the neighborhood.

But can we afford the $7,000,000 for Fernbank while we cram 32 students into science classes (Ms. Tyson's proposes this)?

It's absolutely unsafe to run science experiments within a lab setting of 32 students, and I don't think parents want their child in an unsafe situation. Yet experiments are how students learn scientific principals. Therein lies the problem.

Perhaps we should just admit that DCSS can't afford adequate science instruction for all our students, so why not go for good instruction for a select few? If we admit that, Fernbank is a good option.

Anonymous said...

“Ladies and gentlemen, you are fooling yourself and your community, if you don’t think we have some very tough decisions to make right now,” board member H. Paul Womack said. “I don’t like it. It’s not pleasant. But our entire county’s future rests in the education of our kids. ... We cannot protect our own little areas of concern.”

If Mr. Womack thinks that the Clifton Elementary technology program is in any way equivalent to the FSC programs, then we really are in trouble.

Anonymous said...

The selections for STT are made by the science teacher(s) at the middle school your child attends or is districted for. Although I would like to think that these selections are made completely based on objective criteria, this is not necessarily the case when there are several kids who qualify.

Again the problem of a VERY beneficial program that shuts out kids who want to be there. Yes, it offers an excellent science education, but the 180 kids who get to go cannot bring up the DCSS science scores all by themselves.

I find it a little ironic that my kid, who was not selected because the science teacher did not know her, has spent the last four years helping a classmate (who did attend STT) through science.

To borrow a phrase, Cynical? Yes?scencrit

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a simple fix to redirect Fernbank SC money into the schools. Problem is that the money saved from cutting Fernbank will end up elsewhere. Sure, we many have 1 fewer student per class but will that really translate into improved science education, in the absence of equipment, qualified teachers.and any additional science enrichment activities?

As atated on the DeKalb Parent website,
" Laying off Fernbank teachers is cutting support for science. That money won’t be going back into science. It will just be lost from science altogether."

Anonymous said...

These FSC offerings are open to students across the county - no lottery nor high achiever status required. The are all "for credit", taught after school.

http://www.fernbank.edu/advancedstudies.htm

Anonymous said...

Magnets always seem to get a pass, whether Lewis, the BOE or this posting. I just don't get it.

If Fernbank has the potential to benefit ALL of Dekalb county students, what the heck is the question ? Clearly, and I do mean, CLEARLY this is not the case with magnets, millions of county instructional dollars to a small number and millions of dollars in transportation to a school attended out of area by parental choice....

Wake up Dekalb, Have a voice - Do you want to see your class size increased while a small number get a private ed on your tax dollar? I just don't get it... Why the pass?

Cerebration said...

Parts of Fernbank are accessible to all - but the STT program is a magnet "lottery" type of program. It appears that we have now created the euphemism "choice" programs for magnets - such as the programs now available at Arabia HS, which was originally approved as a solution to over-crowding in South DeKalb, then mysteriously became a "choice" school where students must apply and be accepted. Many of these special programs are absolutely not available to everyone - across the board - with no holds barred.

Cerebration said...

In fact, since Arabia has become a "Choice" school and did not relieve over-crowding in South DeKalb, additions are still in the plans to be built to the relatively new MLK and Miller Grove high schools - which are about 5 miles from Arabia. SW DeKalb also continues to suffer crowding issues, but is getting construction relief. SW DeKalb also serves a magnet program for high achievers.

Anonymous said...

If parts of FSC are available to all then FSC is not itself a magnet program and should not be classified as such when considering cuts - period.

Cerebration said...

Ah - and therein lies the rub. The tactic has become - provide an additional "track", "program" or "service" that is available to all, and then you can still maintain a "special" program for those who qualify/win a seat. Great tactic. It's what they claim about Arabia - only guess what - pretty much every student at Arabia is a "choice" student who applied and won a seat. I'd love to know the list of "home" schools from which the Arabia students come.

Cerebration said...

Bottom line - we have segregated education - disguised as "choice" or "magnet" or whatever. Fernbank is fabulous - but terribly expensive. We have to cut $100 million from the budget. Other systems have to cut more - and they don't even have an expensive planetarium to operate.

Womack is right. People are blinded and won't agree to cut "their" programs - but where on earth are we to cut??? Is it really fair to keep putting this on the backs of the classroom teachers?

Cerebration said...

And by segregated -- I mean by "achievement" - not by race.

Cerebration said...

You know, if Fernbank was a private entity, we could pay $20 per student (including transportation) to visit there once per year and it would only cost the system -- or parents - $2 million. The center could host intense teacher trainings - which we could also pay for - and they could offer after school programs - which parents again could pay for - or corporations could provide scholarships. The place could actually end up even better.

Anonymous said...

I guess the solution is to get rid of everything and anything special or unique that is not available to each student in every school. Dumb down the entire system so everyone passes but no exceeds the minimum or is inspired by a special experience, a talented teacher. If we attack every special program, that is what we will have.
Take a look at other public school systems around the country, many that are very successful, in both meeting standards and producing kids who go on to top notch colleges and beyond. None operates without programs that are available to some but not all students. Unfair? perhaps. More successful that DCSS? yes.

Cerebration said...

I realize that I am conversing with myself here, but this conversation and the defense of Fernbank is what I wish people would rally about when those very same kinds of cuts and sacrifices are asked of our teachers. Why the passion for Fernbank teachers - but not the every day teacher in the trenches?

Anonymous said...

The financial figures and numbers of positions by type presented in the original posting are not correct. If someone from FSC could post the actual $$ figures (which are less), that would be helpful.

Cerebration said...

So, I guess you would also think that in a drought, it would be fine to pass out clean, bottled water to the lucky folks who won one in a lottery because they are "smarter" than others - and let everyone else fight over the dribbles from the public fountain.

Ah - Darwin - yes - it's science!

When you can't afford to pay for "special" or "unique" programs unless you take from regular programs - then no - you don't provide them.

Anonymous said...

Man, there are a lot of haters on this blog. Fernbank in one of the best things in this county. So are the High Achiever and Performing Arts magnet programs. Let's not kill what's good in an effort to repair what's largely already broken. The budget focus should be on the masses of non-teaching staff that make up an enormous expense. Let's start there, and seek to build, not destroy.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:35 pm
"If parts of FSC are available to all then FSC is not itself a magnet program and should not be classified as such when considering cuts - period."

So you would have DeKalb pay $7,000,000 for a program that has 29 teachers, and maybe the students get to go once or twice a year to a one hour program rather than invest in 123 Masters level experienced teachers that teach science every day in the schools?

We only have 21 high schools I guess you've never taught science or you would realize that science is a subject that takes day after day after day of instruction to master the concepts.

What kind of an impact do you think 123 extra science teachers would make on the 21 high schools? That's 6 extra science teachers per high school.

Most posters here don't trust Ms. Tyson and the BOE enough to think they would reinvest the money in science instruction. That's an even bigger issue.

Fernbank does serve all the schools, but can we afford it? It gives equal but the most scant instruction in science and doesn't produce results for 99.9% of our students.

BTW, my daughter went to Kittredge, and we really loved the small classes, abundant resources and top rate teachers. We live near Emory and CDC and many of our friends sent their childen through the Fernbank SST program. The system works pretty well for a few people. Maybe we need to just leave it like that and let the rest get by on what's left over.

Anonymous said...

"Let's not kill what's good in an effort to repair what's largely already broken."

Well said.

Cerebration said...

I'm going to leave off the names attached to these Fernbank personnel - unless you'd like me to post them. I don't want to embarrass these folks -- but here is the list of salaried employees attached to the Center -

Teacher - Science $75,888
Teacher - Science $45,467
Teacher - Science $52,688
Teacher - Science $56,662
Teacher - Science $70,913
Teacher - Science $77,467
Teacher - Science $75,888
Teacher - Science $67,488
Teacher - Science $93,192
Teacher - Science $42,084
Teacher - Robotics and Engineering $98,556
Teacher - Physics $49,728
Teacher - Physics $66,424
Teacher - Meterology $71,543
Teacher - Ecology $81,504
Teacher - Ecology $61,692
Teacher - Ecology $91,320
Teacher - Ecology $57,714
Teacher - Ecology $98,556
Teacher - Earth and Space $81,504
Teacher - Chemistry $56,695
Teacher - chemistry $61,752
Teacher - Botany $76,089
Teacher - Botany $50,227
Teacher - Biology $71,556
Teacher - Biology $74,674
Teacher - Biology $83,112
Teacher - Astronomy $98,556
Teacher - Agriculture $87,876
Support Maintenance $56,402
Support - Technical Support $66,088
Support - Support Services $6,790
Support - Security $48,093
Support - Security $47,150
Support - Security $46,929
Support - Secretary $39,427
Support - Secretary $39,427
Support - Scheduler $43,516
Support - Photographer $67,380
Support - Media Specialist $91,320
Support - Maintenance $47,150
Support - Maintenance $34,276
Support - Maintenance $44,836
Support - Maintenance $33,616
Support - Maintenance $32,426
Support - Maintenance $39,276
Support - Head Custodian $52,091
Support - Geologist $75,430
Support - General Administration $50,520
Support - Gardener $44,836
Support - Exhibit Designer $77,892
Support - Exhibit Designer $69,516
Support - Exhibit Designer $84,720
Support - Exhibit Designer $63,576
Support - Designer/Photographer $66,096
Support - Custodial $31,048
Support - Custodial $29,310
Support - Custodial $31,048
Support - CTSS $49,194
Support - Clerical $7,679
Support - Clerical $37,485
Support - Bookkeeper $27,707
Administrator - Director, Fernbank $98,568
Administrator - Administrative Coordinator $91,884
Administrator - Administrative Coordinator $91,884

TOTAL: $3,941,401

Anonymous said...

Biggest problem is lack of consistently good science teachers in the high schools. How do we fix that? Taking money from FSC won't remove these teachers or replace them with better ones.

Cerebration said...

I am not following you people. You really think it's acceptable to cut the regular classrooms so that we can keep extra programs? How is my perspective a "hater"?

Anonymous said...

FYi - the teachers at FSC are all paid on the same pay scale as all other teachers in DCSS.

Anonymous said...

The AJC has a proposed list of school closures- a necessary step that's already too little, too late.

Here's the problem. Closing programs down and spreading the money around the county probably won't help anyone, and will hurt those whose programs vanish.

Merging small schools is a good idea however, as it definitely improves efficiency. Tough to terminate a neighborhood school, but a necessary evil.

Anonymous said...

Cere- If I thought cutting a few of our legitimately premier programs would seriously have a positve impact on class size or course offerings, I'd be all for it. But I don't see that happening.

I do agree that keeping class size low is of paramount importance, but so is offering programs that appeal to and serve our special needs population- whether their need is special ed, the arts, science, or academically gifted.

Anonymous said...

EOCT scores: The scores are scaled -- the raw scores are actually much lower.... just thought you might like that info.

Schools like LHS don't have current science labs (they haven't been updated since the 1960s). Teachers are buying science equipment (eg chemistry kits and burners) at Target to run simple experiments -- there is no way to really learn science in such an environment but somehow the kids and the teachers manage to pull it off. Wonder what it would look like if they could really do the experiments we saw when we were kids or that they can do in the newer facilities......

Cerebration said...

This is not a matter of making a choice to close a program and spread the money around. This is about cuts that HAVE to occur. $100 million. Where do you propose we cut that money beyond what has already been proposed by the BOE? We are miles away from the goal of $100 million. Even raising taxes to the full millage will only give us (as I recall) $29 million or so... and that's the limit - we can't raise taxes anymore. We will be maxed out - while we are still spiraling down the foreclosure vortex.

Wake up for real here! You can't defend every program. (Special ed is not on the chopping block - it's protected by federal law for the most part.) Do you really want ordinary classroom teachers to take more cuts while simultaneously taking on more students? We will only lose the good ones if we do that.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:53 pm

Actually, the figures are very precise. I was extremely meticulous because I really wanted to know to the penny the total salary and benefits cost of Fernbank personnel - especially since I feel if we are going to pack our kids into classrooms like sardines, we need to know the actual cost of every program.

I know exactly what happens when you increase that all important pupil teacher ratio. Our science scores in DeKalb are extremely low. Science teachers face special challenges due to the difficulty of the content material and the need to perform labs. I taught science to middle school students and ran many a lab.
My students learned science using the scientific method. Experiments always carry a safety risk, and students need a lower pupil teacher ratio because this kind of learning uses a discovery methodology. In other words, the teacher guides the students to discover the scientific principals through the experiments. The teacher moves from group to group helping the students. Strictly lecture is not nearly as effective in science instruction as running labs and hands-on learning. Labs also require time to set them up. I have a friend who used to come into her middle school at 6:30 am in order to set up her labs for the students.

This was my methodology.
1. I looked up every Fernbank employee on Community Net (DCSSs website that tells you what center/school employees are assigned to) I wanted to make sure that their budget center was indeed Fernbank.

2. I looked up each Fernbank employee's salary on the state Salary and Travel audit and entered them into an Excel spreadsheet

4. I looked up every Fernbank teacher's certificate status to make sure they were certified teachers

5. I used Autosum to calculate the total salary cost

6. I added 25% in benefits

So yes. The figures are very precise.

Ms. Tyson and the BOE should be doing this kind of research and analysis for every department and every cost center. That's part of what businesses do in order to help calculate the Cost/Benefit ratios and Return on Investment of their departments. You must know your exact cost before you calculate your benefits.

I would invite other posters to do some of their own calculations on DCSS departments and cost centers if Ms. Tyson and the BOE won't or can't do this.

Cerebration is right. Before we gut the classrooms that serve our children, we need some real world analysis of every special program in the county and every budget center - including HVSC, MIS, magnets, Fernbank, etc.

Anonymous said...

I for one would do just about anything to get just one or two of the current Fernbank teachers to teach science at my kid's high school. I'll pick them up everyday and drive them there. Heck, I will fix their lunch every day. DCSS has a HUGE deficit of science teachers and cannot find ones to fill the positions being vacated.

Folks, the county needs to get Ga Tech and Emory to run Fernbank and we need to have each of the FSC teachers teaching 150 students in our high schools every day for the entire year. We just can't afford to continue the program as it is right now.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 11:01 pm

According to the state Salary and Travel audit (figures supplied by DeKalb to the state with the salary figures for every single employee, available online as part of Transparency in Government) 7 of the Fernbank teachers' salaries are in excess of $ 82,104, the top of the pay scale for a DCSS teacher with 23 years of experience and a PhD (Reference Cerebration 11:01 pm). 2 are over $98,000. I'm not saying these teachers are not worth this. I'm just saying they must be on a different pay scale.

Please use the state salary audit to verify this:
http://www.open.georgia.gov/sta/viewMain.aud;jsessionid=45EDCB095AA44F47F42ACB1EF39B2625

Please go to the DeKalb website to see the Teacher Salary schedule:
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/administration/humanresources/salaryschedules.html

Anonymous said...

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/four-south-dekalb-schools-356138.html?cxtype=rss_news_81960

Late Monday, two lists of possible closures were made available:

• Sky Haven on Sky Haven Road in Atlanta, Gresham Park on Vicki Lane in Atlanta, Midway on Midway Road in Decatur and Kelley Lake on Kelley Lake Road in Decatur;

• Sky Haven, Meadowview on Wee Kirk Road in Atlanta, Toney on Oakland Terrace in Decatur and Peachcrest on Joy Lane in Decatur.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution received the school closure candidates from the Citizens Planning Task Force, which will discuss them at a public forum Tuesday night. The school system declined to release the information. A final decision will be made in April over which schools to close at the end of the school year.

Anonymous said...

All this haggling over FSC.... I cannot believe that there have been no comments about Ms. Tyson's "not even considering" cutting Title 1 Instructional coaches, Graduation Coaches, SLC Coaches or Instructional Change Coaches.

At the very least- they should be in the Office of Instruction (which from my understanding will also be heavily affected) so that they all have the same motivation, speak the same language and have the same instructional focus. As of now- they are all fragmented and none are in the Instructional Division.

On another note- though cuts are needed.... if the board and system goals are the increase student achievement then logically the Division of Instruction should be the last place to consider cuts. I expected the "not even considering" comment to be made about instruction- not coaches.

Anonymous said...

Here goes. I don't hate anything.

Well, that isn't true. I hate that there are so many local schools that don't have the programs that they need.

I hate that so many proponents of this program or that program don't understand that other systems do operate the sames types of programs for far less money.

I have extensively researched it. A few years ago, on his erstwhile quest to expand choice in DeKalb, Dr. Lewis sent teams of folks to visit school systems across the country. I research each of those systems and found that none spent more than $500 extra per student in the choice programs. Consistently, we spend over $1,000.

Need hard data to believe me--

the Montessori program costs $683,242 (not including classroom teachers). There are 651 students in the program. This comes out to $1,049.53 a student. This includes a Montessori specialist who makes over 100K a year.

The High achievers magnet program costs about 2 million dollars, per a document distributed to the board. There are about 1850 students enrolled for a total of $1, 078 a student. This doesn't include the salaries of the staff assigned to the magnet office.

I have asked for (and not yet received) the costs of the arts programs.

We know from the proposal to close the programs at Evansdale, Clifton, Columbia Middle and Columbia High that those programs cost about 1.2 million dollars.

We know, from discussions at board meetings, that transportation costs associated with the magnet programs are at about 2.5 million dollars.

I love that the Montessori folks have come up with a plan to operate their program at zero extra dollars. The school system should immediately adopt this plan.

Anonymous said...

FYi - some Fernbank teachers are 12 month employees, and work on summer programming, hence larger salaries.

Anonymous said...

this is anon 6:54.

I think I need to clarify that I don't want the programs to close, I simply want them to operate much closer to zero extra dollars.

The Montessori folks have done a good job making their case that they can do it for less. It is time for the magnet program to do the same.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 6:35 am
I agree with cutting the Instructional Coaches. Teachers feel these 80 employees who cost over $7,500,000 a year actually impede instruction via their constant demands for paperwork and meetings. Their salary and benefits averages close to $94,000 for each Instructional Coach.

The 13 Literacy Coaches and 48 Graduation Coaches are also based in schools and do not teach students.

Together this represents 141 employees based in the schools that are teachers who don't teach. $12,000,000 in salary and benefit costs cold be avoided by cutting these positions. Or as has been suggested so often on this blog, 141 teachers could go back to the classroom and teach students.

I remember when Dr. Lewis asked the BOE to approve the first 40 Instructional Coaches over 4 years ago. I was at the BOE meeting. He made an impassioned plea for creating these positions as they were needed to improve student achievement.

Well, it's 4 year later, the 40 have grown to 141 and student achievement has not improved student achievement one iota. A more useless expenditure is not imaginable. But it is a passion of Dr. Lewis's so Ms. Tyson has left it alone (with the exception of reducing the extra supplement for the graduation coaches).

The elimination of the Instructional Coaches program would be a very popular move with teachers who were never sold on the program and chafe under the busy work given them by the Coaches. Coaches argue that they do a lot of NCLB and AYP paperwork and instruct teachers. Whatever they do, it's not working out for teachers or students.

Getting Ms. Tyson to touch Dr. Lewis's $12,000,000 pet project will be next to impossible. I honestly think that's what Jim Redoivian meant when he said teachers might be more amenable to changes if DCSS could do away with some of the paperwork - In a nice way I think he was talking about coaches.

If the BOE doesn't have the courage to do away with a $12,000,000 program that does not impact instruction and they feel impedes instruction, then they need to be replaced.

Dr. Lewis bought America's Choice ($8,000,000 - don't know the annual cost), eSis ($4,000,000 - don't know the annual cost), Springboard ($1,200,000 annually), Instructional Coaches ($12,000,000 annually) and the BOE has never been presented with figures that show an analysis of the expenditures or the effectiveness of any program. And they've never asked for it.

NCLB and AYP is a burden to any school system, but in particular to school systems that have large numbers of students who do not make AYP. If DCSS’s administration had implemented policies that improved student achievement, then much of the NCLB paperwork would be gone. I know from firsthand experience the tremendous amount of paperwork that is involved if a school DOES NOT MAKE AYP. Consider the MADE AYP rate for DeKalb over time (source Georgia DOE):
2003 - 2004 86%
2004 - 2005 77%
2005 - 2006 71%
2006 - 2007 79%
2008 – 2009 71%
2008 - 2009 78%

So we are no better off than 2005 and 2006 and much worse off than 2004. The huge expenditures for learning programs such as America’s Choice, Springboard, HSTW, etc. that have been chosen by Central Office staff and tried in the 5 last years have not worked if measured by AYP figures. Dr. Lewis took the helm in January, 2005, and AYP numbers have decreased since then. Accountability should work at the highest levels.

That's why teachers are so upset about the Instructional Coaches program, and parents should be upset too.

All parents should be emailing Ms. Tyson and the BOE to find out why this combined $12,000,000 expenditure so disliked by teachers is off the chopping block.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like last night's board meeting was good (or bad) depending on your perspective. Some board members not behaving? Can someone post notes or perspective? I read another post on the blog making reference to it.

I couldn't watch it.

Cerebration said...

Excellent post, Anon 7:19 AM. Just excellent. We may have to make it a post all it's own.

Speaking of new posts - if anyone caught last night's meeting (I missed it, due to work) please email your notes or comments and I'll begin a new post on the subject if there's anything to report.

reparteeforfun@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Expensive programs like magnets, Fernbank Science Center, America's Choice, Instructional Coaches, Springboard, HSTW, etc. represent tens of millions of dollars of expenditure.

But so do the enormous cost we bear in construction lawsuits, shoddy construction that costs millions in cost overruns and many millions more in redoing those construction mistakes. I didn't see anything in Ms. Tyson's proposal that addressed the scandal that we call construction.

HVAC and MIS salaries are a huge expenditure for exceptionally poor service. The only item I saw in Ms. Tyson's proposal was to lop off a few of the lowest paid members of MIS while keeping the higher paid employees who have made the poor decisions that have resulted in DCSS having the least technology for teachers and students in the metro area.

HVAC mistakes has left many of our classrooms with a raging furnace one day and freezing temperatures the next day. A fine film of dust from inadequate filtration systems and dangerous mold in many buildings all relates back to how HVAC does its job. Meanwhile HVAC employees who are required to have a high school diploma and 3 years experience have a higher starting salary than a techer with a Masters degree. How can we pay through the nose for such an unhealthy environment for our students, many of which already suffer with asthma.

Ms. Tyson and the BOE need to cut, consolidate and outsource in the admin and support departments in the worse possible way.

That's something we can all agree on and write Ms. Tyson and the BOE.

Anonymous said...

One of my frustrations with this process -- the process of cutting $100 million from our budget -- is the overall way it is being handled. I think that it should be taken from "scratch". That is to say that we should first look to see who all of our resident students are. We should not be paying to educate our non-resident students. They should be reassigned to home schools (perhaps, put aside magnet kids and leave them alone...). Take administrative transfers and cheaters and stick them back at their home schools. Redistrict and get the schools balanced to where we maximize state funding formalas. Then you eliminate the number of schools that need to be eliminated to further maximize state fundig formulas and reduce those costs. Then you staff and build the schools that are left -- with the best teachers and ideal pupil/student ratios you can. It's an opportunity to eliminate staff that has needed to go for a while.... You recognize that you need paras once you go over a certain per pupil in different age ranges. Follow the Fulton/APS example and let the principal be in charge of his/her budget and put together the school. Work it from the bottom up from there and take what you need for the customer -- here that being the student.... Elementary students really do need and deserve art, pe and music along with math and language arts and science. Math scores are better with art and music and foreign language. Title 1 funds should be used appropriately and within the bounds of the law for the benefit of the student. What's left should go for extra asst. principals/coaches/and central office. Okay -- I know it will never happen.

Anonymous said...

I honestly believe both FSC and the magnet programs to be, to a large extent, though not fully, red herrings that distract us from where the cuts need to begin:
America's Choice ($8,000,000),
eSis ($4,000,000)
Springboard ($1,200,000 annually)
Instructional Coaches ($12,000,000)
School police force
Take home cars
P-cards
etc.
Yes, we need to work towards making FSC more of a public-private partnership.
Yes, we need to re-examine the inequitable resource allocation between magnets and home schools.
But we need to start with ELIMINATING programs that do not work, moving ineffective instructional coaches into the classroom (or better yet, letting a few of them go and keeping the paraprofessionals already in the classroom), and not wasting money on friends and family 'events' like Dr. A Tuart's (sp?)book promotion disguised as educational event(we have enough of these special events that they do add up to real $)

We need to look at everything in this budget, but we need to start with eliminating the things that are simply ineffectual and wasteful and then look at how to better manage things like FSC and magnets that do work.

Al

Cerebration said...

Right on, Al! $100 million is going to hurt - there's no way to make these cuts without a whole lot of sacrifice - but let's not start with the teachers, please.

Cerebration said...

And Anon 9:10 AM - how about running for school board? Your ideas are very sound - if we had more methodical people like you on the board, perhaps they could get this done. It's starting to look more and more like political turf wars -- sad.

Anonymous said...

Instead of educational coaches, why not hire consultants that have a proven track record of turning schools around? It would be cheaper, and I am sure that we'd get better results.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a Anon (Al) 9:17. Great points. All this brou-ha-ha over FSC and Magnets are a red herring. Fernbank is one of the best things DCSS has to offer. Yes, my children were in STT, but my daughter took Independent study there in high school as an elective for credit. She had in-depth instruction on her chosen topics (ecology & herptology). Her experiences at Fernbank definitely have influenced her to major in Biology in college. FSC can really get kids excited about science - even those 1-2 field trips a year are invaluable. And to a previous poster. STT kids are not chosen by the science teacher. That is how it used to be done, but now there are other criteria: grades; teacher recommendations; student's answers to the questionnaire. All students can apply, not just the ones chosen by the science teacher (although I'm not sure how that local private school gamed the system and got all their kids into STT). Stop focusing on magnets, FSC and talk to the school board about:
America's Choice ($8,000,000),
eSis ($4,000,000)
Springboard ($1,200,000 annually)
Instructional Coaches ($12,000,000)
School police force
Take home cars
P-cards
etc.

Dekalbparent said...

Anon 9:10 and Al said everything I have been thinking but unable to put together in words.

Don't start with what we want to save.

Start with what we NEED - safe, healthy schools, good teachers, teachers who feel respected and valued, adequate supplies and facilities, autonomy for principals to deal with discipline and truancy problems in their schools without fear of reprisals (same for teachers).

Look at what we need to deliver the above. Make sure every school has it. Then think about the most economical way to deliver it. THEN, if there is leftover $$$ (LOL), put it out to a vote of the PUBLIC - don't let the BOE decide all by themselves.

Anonymous said...

If you ever considered running for the DCSS school board, now is the time to do it. Parents/taxpayers are scrutinizing every misspent dollar and they are not liking what they see.

According to the updated FAQ section of the DCSS website, only 44% of our employees are teachers. DCSS has 15,859 employees and only 7,031 are teachers and media specialists. (source: DCSS FAQ web page)

All five of Ms. Tyson's proposals call for classroom cuts to keep the enormous and ever growing admin and support staff employed. There is little variance in classroom impact from proposal to proposal. I guess Ms Tyson won't be satisfied until we are down to 30% of our employees as teachers (and parents wonder why their children can't get the attention they need!).

The BOE is still in "Lewis mode" accepting whatever the superintendent recommends without asking her to do the due diligence critical to determining the effectiveness of each expensive programs and cost center.

Lord knows Ms. Tyson has enough help. If she is too busy to do her due diligence, she has 1,238 other employees to help her. DeKalb's Central Office staff numbers 1,239 (source: DCSS FAQ page).

Wait until this fall when parents see the packed classrooms their kids are in, wait until their child can't get the attention he needs because the teacher is so busy with "crowd control". Wait until the bullhorns are revving up even louder in the middle school hallways (the children are herded like cattle as bullhorns are wielded to keep them in line).

Ms. Tyson proposes to cut teachers, furlough teachers, cut classroom planning time, cut parapros, cut teachers pay...Ms. Tyson would cut students if she could.

All the while, DCSS scores will continue to go down as Ms. Tyson is in "Lewis mode" herself.

So now is the time if you ever wanted to serve your schools. Fall, 2010 we have the opportunity to elect 5 brand new BOE members. One group you can count on are the majority of the readers on this blog, and they number in the thousands.

Anonymous said...

If you think cutting Fernbank would redirect money into local schools, I have a bridge I want to sell you.

I have a great idea. Let's cut the all the magnet and special programs and teach to the lowest common denominator. The all our students will grow up as stupid and vote like sheep the politicians with the simple solutions that count on an unsuspecting public.

The Fernbank weekend programs are mainly supported from grants. There are more than 29 teachers at Fernbank. The 29 are the ones that are certified teachers. The rest have titles like physicist, chemist, biologist, etc. Those scientists provide a high quality of instruction in AP courses, advanced study courses, and STT where almost every student makes a high pass on the test and goes on to a college career. That alumni Fernbank alumni group includes a host of scientists, doctors, and two astronauts. One of the distinctions of a good educational system is that it realizes one size does not fit all. The students who are motivated to learn, work and excel deserved a place to develop their gifts just as much as students with learning disabilities deserve the best we can give them. What we ought to be dong is figuring out how to make every school like Fernbank- but my friends that won't come from cutting-it will come from paying teachers more, finding more qualified scientists who want to teach science and supporting better education for all.

Fernbank teachers and scientists also spend a great deal of time traveling to the schools providing specialized lessons that some schools just can not do. Cut all that out and see the science scores go into the toilet.

Many of Fernbank's weekend programs are supported by NASA grants and NASA has maintained data on every student in those programs. There is clear and evident proof of their efficacy. NASA named the Fernbank SEMAA their number one educational program and they have replicated it in more than 20 other places.

Fernbank could be a nonprofit and raise part of its budget but the museum of natural history might object to that approach as unfair competition.

Anonymous said...

Clean, safe school with reasonably sized classroom and access to abundant cutting edge science and technology equipment. I didn't see this in any of Ms. Tyson's proposals. I didn't hear any of the BOE members mention these simple rules for a sound education.

Those few items need to form the basis for every school. If we had schools like that in DeKalb, special programs would not be the issue it is now.

With 15,859 employees and only 7,031 of them teachers that won't happen. With 1,239 Central Office employees that won't happen.

Nothing however should be off the table when it comes to expenditures outside the regular classrooms and that includes HVAC and MIS personnel, transportation, magnets, Fernbank Science Center, America's Choice, Instructional Coaches, p cards, etc. $100,000,000 is a big hole. It's going to take a lot of cuts to fill it. Right now Ms. Tyson and the BOE are wanting to take the easy way out for themselves and the hard way for students and teachers.

Anonymous said...

Fernbank having 29 teachers and costing $7,000,000 annually is not a red herring. Didn't some poster say less than 200 students a year are served by SST? Where is the proof that FSC is raising our science achievement in DCSS. Not in EOCT scores:
Fall, 2009:

Biology:
Number tested: 3,161
Pass rate: 52% (Georgia 64%)

Physical Science:
Number tested: 2,536
Pass rate: 63% (Georgia 71%)

As the saying goes "show me the money".

Instructional Coaches cost us $12,000,000.

These two special programs alone cost us $20,000,000 a year - 20% of a $100,000,000 hole DCSS administration and the BOe dug for us.

By all means cut, consolidate and outsource the immensely bloated admins and support side, but at the end of the day special programs need to show their efficacy for all students. That's one reason we have such such growth in admin and support - through the growth of special programs.

For example, consider that Fernbank Science Center's support and admin constitute 55% of the total employees. Doesn't that bother anyone? Actually those figures correspond almost perfectly with the overall DCSS admin support to admin ratio. Coincidence - I don;t think so.

Give me the hard facts of student achievement, not the warm and fuzzies of why you like a particular program.

Cerebration said...

Anon, 11:04 AM you make good points. Points we have made here at the blog time and time again. However, now the reality is - we have to cut about $100 million from the budget. All of your ideas are expensive - do you have any ideas of where to cut $100 million and still keep all of the extras? This is the point - this is not about what people think of Fernbank at all - it's about the cost.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 11:04

I'm sorry, but are incorrect.

I looked up every single FSC teacher's certificate to ensure they were a certified teacher with an up-to-date certificate even if their title was physicist or biologist or geologist or chemist.

I also went to the Internet to get descriptions of exactly what each person does. For example, the employees listed as exhibit designers describe what they do and it's not teaching. I even looked up the exhibit designers on the Georgia certification page to make sure the exhibit designers weren't certified teachers.

I looked up every singe FSC employee (part time and fulltime employees) on DCSS's website Community Net to ensure they belonged to Fernbank, not another school entity.

That's how I knew 33 of the teachers at Fernbank are really teachers at other schools who teach at Fernbank part time. I looked up each one of those 33 part time teachers - that's how I know that 13 of them are McNair ES teachers. I didn't include the 33 teachers in the $5,000,000 salary and benefits cost because they are not fulltime FSC teachers. They are 4th grade, gifted, 7th grade, etc. teachers in the schools. They are the part timers and are paid as teachers. I don't know what Fernbank pays those 33 part timers to teach classes on weekends and in the summer so I of course I didn't put any figures down for them.

I can assure you the $5,000,000 in salary and benefit costs are in the 29 teachers and 37 support and admin personnel that work full time at FSC.

They may have grants and that is great, but the state Salary and Travel audit shows the exact amount in salary for each full time employee at FSC.

It was really just a matter of entering the state salary cost into an Excel spreadsheet next to each fulltime FSC employee's name and then doing an Autosum. The benefits were calculated at 25% (9.25% for TRS, 5.5% for TSA, and an average of $9,600 annually for health care costs).

In my opinion, FSC is a valuable community resource. It should be dependent on grants and fees, and/or perhaps merge with another entity such as the Fernbank Natural History Museum. That would encourage FSC to reduce an outsized support and admin staff, still provide the community programs we all love, and relieve the school system of millions in monetary obligations.

Anonymous said...

Simple solution- keep the programs, cut the salaries. Morale might decline, but few will quit to work elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

We should all watch Fulton County with some interest the next few weeks/days. Among the many proposed cuts there is one that will end band and strings in the elementary schools. Parents have collected (as of last night) 4,000 signatures, but the Superintendent hasn't backed down.

In DeKalb, it took 15 parents in red shirts to convince the Board, that a program that their head of instruction expressed serious concerns about, should be saved.

Leaders lead ... We don't have any leaders in DeKalb.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone looked into the fact that...until HS...there is no real promotion policy or attendance policy? Of course there is something on paper with no real guts b/c parents can appeal the decision to retain. The 3, 5, 8 CRCT requirements can easily be appealed (As counselors, we are required to set up the appeal meetings and invite the parent.) And then continue to invite them until they show up......... Somebody check to see how many students who failed the CRCT are actually retained.
I'm not a fan of retention....but if you know that you are automatically promoted, much of the incentive to learn is negated.

Anonymous said...

As long as Zepora Roberts' daughter is an instructional coach..we will have instructional coaches!

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 11:57 am

"Simple solution- keep the programs, cut the salaries. Morale might decline, but few will quit to work elsewhere."

You must work for Ms. Tyson - your proposal sounds so similar to her five proposals.

BTW: I think that's a super idea. That's who I want teaching my child - a harried teacher with low morale and no time to give individual attention to any of her 32 (or is it 33 or 34?) students. Wow! How do I get that situation for my child?

I'm sure all our children want to be in classrooms with teachers dreading the "crowd control" they face everyday.

But hey, it's simple, and there will be bodies in the classroom - teachers and students. Students and teachers just need to get real.

And think what little work will have to be done at the Central Office level. That's a definite plus.

Works for Ms. Tyson, works for the BOE, works for admin and support pesonnel.

Am I missing anyone - oh, yeah those pesky teachers and students. They're always asking for something.

Anonymous said...

Is that true. Zepora Roberts' daughter is really one of the Instructional Coaches. No names please. Just can anyone verify that fact?

themommy said...

I thought she (ZR's daughter) was an assistant principal at one of the alternative schools, a job generally deemed to be pretty undesirable.

Anonymous said...

I know that she was in the past couple of years b/c I've seen her at school meetings. Now 1st class she is with the Department of school improvement.

Anonymous said...

Administrative and other postions at Alternative sites are plum postions. They are coveted. Low numbers and no discipline problems.

Anonymous said...

Administrative and other postions at Alternative sites are plum postions. They are coveted. Low numbers and no discipline problems.

Are you serious? The alternative sites are for students with discipline issues.

Anonymous said...

But it is their last chance...they are removed permanently if disruptive.

Anonymous said...

Gee Anon 12:32, are you a little sarcastic? Reduced salaries might also protect class sizes and the integrity of the 180 day year, which are essential to effective instruction. Along with other cuts which have been extensively discussed, salary cuts (with the restoration of the TSA) might be enough to keep class sizes at a remotely reasonable level, though still greater than they should be. Most teachers would trade a little $$ for a good teaching situation.

Cerebration said...

One time, while investigating per student costs, we found out that the per student cost at "Destiny Academy of Excellence" - is over $13,000 - for an alternative high school with less than 100 students, and it's own full time principal and administration. Now - you'd be hard-pressed to find any data on the costs of this program at all...

Anonymous said...

"Simple solution- keep the programs, cut the salaries. MORALE MIGHT DECLINE, but few will quit to work elsewhere."

"Gee Anon 12:32, are you a little sarcastic....MOST TEACHERS WOULD TRADE A LITTLE $$ FOR A GOOD TEACHING SITUATION."

Sorry - you can't have it both ways. First you say "morale might decline". Then you say "Most teachers would trade a little $$ for a good teaching situation". If the teachers are getting such a good teaching situation, why would they have low morale?

Let's do the math to see how much salaries will be impacted without cutting any admin and support or programs. It's easy math since it's only percentages.

Remember we are $100,000,000 short on a $900,000,000 budget. 89.5% of our cost is salary and benefits.....and we can't control Retirement, and health care costs which are around 20% of that cost. The TSA is around 5% so lets cut that. Now let's cut salaries which represent 64.5% of the cost. That's around $600,000,000. If we cut $75,000,000 off that (we already too $25,000,000 in TSA contributions), then that is a 12.5% salary cut across the board in addition to the 5% TSA cut.

Let's ask teachers to weigh in.

Teachers, do you think a simple salary cut of 17.5% with no cuts in support and admin and special programs is a good deal?

Will a simple fix like this be beneficial for you and your students?

Anonymous said...

Yikes! More sarcasm!

Salary cuts are only one piece of this abysmal pie. Of course there are bunches of other cuts needed as well- no duh. There's not a teacher working who wouldn't like to see fleets of county office support staff vanish, or better yet, get jobs in the schools to reduce class loads.

But consider this- teachers routinely flee the public system for what are generally lower paying jobs in private schools. Why? Small class, reduced disciplinary issues, fewer administrative headaches, and a better teaching environment.

We can have that in the public schools, but it will take a range of cuts, along with some serious external funding that the public isn't willing to support.

Dekalbparent said...

DeKalb Early College Academy, too... This is a program of joint enrollment with GPC. Does DCSS pay GPC? Is GPC picking up part of the tab (thus making this school less expensive per student)?

Actually, here's the elephant in the room as I see it:

We keep discussing the cost/benefit of everything - programs, transportation, non-teaching staff (Instructional Coaches, Graduation Coaches, etc.)

We can't know any of this stuff for sure because DCSS is not forthcoming with the information. Pretty much everyone on this blog is interested in improving all DCSS for the kids, but we have varying opinions about how to do so - we float ideas that sound great, and each argument looks logical. BUT we don't REALLY have the information to be sure our ideas make sense.

Thus, the Admin and BOE can keep ignoring our ideas (and this includes the suggestions of the teachers and school staffs) because we "don't know the whole story". Well, freakin' TELL US!!

Last night's BOE meeting (I watched on TV) steamed me for exactly this reason - they argued about the proposed ethics policy, and they argued about the proposed reduction in board members from 9 to 7. But there was no elicidation to the public about what is in these proposals. (Dr. Speakes - ever the adult here - insisted that the ethics policy be posted on the DCSS website and that comments from everyone be taken during the 30-day wait period before they vote on it.)

They listened to a presentation from an America's Choice official about how well DCSS is doing, as well as reports from two principals about how it is going in their schools. WAY full of jargon, which I suspect comes from the AC program, but no real clear idea about what is happening - it's all good, though...

We don't trust the DCSS admin or BOE to make decisions for the benefit of the children, but we don't have enough information to justify the better ones we suggest. They don't want us to have it.

Anonymous said...

May we just be a little logical?
When your budget is tight at home, you cut the frills not the necessities.
Leave the teachers alone. They're dumped on enough.
Look at special programs...cut them in lean times ...add'em back when there's surplus in the budget. If DCSS cut the specials and administrative bloat...they could solve the crisis.
BTW...the only consistently research supported way to improve achievement??? SMALLER CLASS SIZE!
That's why the specials work.

Anonymous said...

Dekalbparent,

What else happened at the meeting for those of us who were unable to attend/watch??

Anonymous said...

If DCSS wants to cut waste, they should be lobbying Kathy Cox like crazy to eliminate the GPS math mandate. How much is it costing in repeat classes? How many more students will drop out because of it? How can we consider a 6-period day when many high school students are in both Math 1 and Math 1 Support? (If I recall correctly, a previous thread mentioned a study which found that if you want an algebra-for-all mandate to be reasonably successful, you need to provide an extra period of math.) Undoubtedly the cost of Math 1-2-3 is a statewide problem.

The state should look at what Georgia students can realistically achieve with the money available, then come up with realistic diploma choices. A general diploma could require mastery of arithmetic and consumer/business math, and a college prep diploma could require mastery of algebra 1 and 2, geometry, and trigonometry.

(I did not mention calculus as a diploma requirement, but qualified math students countywide should have equal access to it - as well as access to a track that will lead them to junior year calculus if they're up to the challenge.)

Dekalbparent said...

I was hoping someone who was actually there would post, since I only got the camera's-eye view.

They did the proclamations. Ironically, they were for Art in Schools and Music in Schools, with a lot of Whereas's about the necessity of both.

Committee reports:
1)Budget, Finance & Facilities - short conversation I couldn't hear, hopefully that since budget is being discussed later this week, they would talk then.

2)Business, Community & Government relations - nothing

3)Instruction and Board Policy since the proposed ethics policy was being presented for first reading, deferred discussion until later in the meeting. Ms. Roberts began to object that the proposed policy was not what she had seen before, there were a lot of versions, and some of her proposals were not included. She was quite put out. This went on for a while, and finally Bowen said she could bring this up when they were discussing the policy.

Ms. Tyson said they were still working on budget stuff...Long presentation on AC - I discussed earlier. No reaction from BOE except "thank you for your presentation"

Then the fan was hit. The proposal to reduce size of Board was discussed hotly, several members saying there had been an end run (Walker, Cunningham, Roberts) to get it on the agenda (reference to sneakiness on the part of five people???), it had not been on the original agenda. Accusations of sneaky underhanded dealings. Walker saying it was an attempt to reduce the number of African-Americans on the BOE, Cunningham agreeing. Accusations of racism. Walker and Cunningham saying their constituents were calling with concerns about racist tendencies on the Board. Walker said he would run no matter what seat it was for. Said the 9 seats were created because of inequalities in representation in the county, and we could not go backwards.

Womack said it was supposed to be on original agenda, and was left off and he asked Bowen to get it back on. Racism discussed again - Womack said he was not a racist and called attention to the various African-Americans in office in the county, as well as the demographic makeup of the DeKalb Schools. We have heard this before. Redovian said he resented being called a racist. Walker and Cunningham said they deeply resented what seemed to be continuing efforts to unseat African-Americans. We have heard this before, too. Womack insisting he had run the whole thing by the attorney, asking only that they check and make sure there were no legal problems. Bowen asked attorney to verify that if the proposal was adopted, it would then go to the DeKalb Delegation, and if the Delegation passed it, it would then be checked by the Justice Department. Bowen emphasized that once it went to the Delegation, it was out of the hands of the BOE, and they would have to abide by whatever came out of it. Much discussion on whether to vote on it. Finally tabled it to be discussed in a public meeting by entire BOE, but promised that it would be before the Legislative Cut-Over Day so it would be considered this year.

Here is the sad part - there was apparently a Boy Scout Troop there who were there to view a BOE meeting. They were not introduced at the beginning and then the nasty discussion ensued. Bowen (clearly embarrassed) called them up to be introduced after the discussion ended, but apparently they had left the room (possibly removed by an embarrassed scoutmaster). About 5 shuffled up, but I don't know if that was all of them, and I doubt they stayed. It was really sad.

Will post on discussion of ethics policy next.

Anonymous said...

@ Dekalbparent 1:29

We know the costs for many programs, but not the benefits.

The state Salary and Travel audit is a wealth of data that lists the salary of every singe employee in DCSS. It also lists their titles. A lot of people inside and outside the system have been pretty surprised at this information.

Community Net is the DCSS site that lets you know what budget center each employee is in. Community Net is current since it gets updated every day.

Another good source of data is PATS. Salary information and job descriptions are published there as well.

There are many departments buried deep in DeKalb data. It is more difficult to find the costs associated with them, and in many instances impossible. Many cost centers may not have data even for Ms. Tyson - let alone us. The departments have built up over time and a virtual labyrinth.

Benefits are supposed to transparent in the form of test scores. This works for the admin side of DeKalb - thanks to the maniacal attention to publishing test scores on the Georgia website (courtesy of NCLB).

The massive testing data website run by the state lets us know how our students are faring in science, math, language arts and social studies at every grade level. As most people who take the time to plow through it, DCSS is at the bottom of the barrel in achievement in all areas.

The support side of DeKalb (and that is an enormous piece) is much more difficult to assign benefits since nothing is published for them, a fact they're probably grateful for right now.

I think the data crunching done by posters on this website is very important.

The importance of this data crunching is evidenced by the recent FAQ webpage added to the DCSS website. It addresses many of the concerns and data presented here. I don't think that is coincidence.

This website's hits have gone up dramatically since the budget crunch hit. Cerebration could probably tell us how many hits a day DeKalb School Watch is receiving now versus 6 months ago. This is indicative of the level of concern on the part of teachers and parents.

Personally, I have learned a lot about where to find useful data from posters on this website. Many times I go to the state Salary and Travel audit site or Community Net or the DCSS website to verify if the information I read here is true. A blog is not a peer reviewed publication after all.

I also find teacher's comments very interesting and enlightening. How would the Instructional Coaches position been spotlighted without the input of teachers?

Trust DCSS to be forthcoming with the information? Of course not. no one really does. It's just no one knows what to do about it.

The best 3 suggestions on what to do with a superintendent and BOe you don't trust have been expressed many times on this website:
1. Fill the email boxes of Ms. Tyson and the BOE with ideas of how you want and expect your child's classroom to be
2. Show up at BOE meetings
3. Organize to elect a new BOE in the fall

Dekalbparent said...

The BOE then moved on to discussion of the proposed ethics policy. Dr. Speakes made clear that what was being presented was "first reading" - that it was being set on the table for the Board's review. Ms. Roberts again objected that her changes/additions were not included and Dr. Speakes said that many proposals were considered and included or not included. It seemed that the fact that the policy was not being voted on last night was not universally understood. Ms. Copeland-Wood became irritated (she was on the committee) and reiterated that the Board would have 30 days to discuss the policy - it did not need to be hashed out tonight, and it should not be. Dr. Speakes said that the proposed policy should be published on the website ASAP so it was available to the Board and the public, and that public comments should be invited.

A first.

They discussed the urgency of getting the policy accepted before Rep. Levitas' policy was voted on by the General Assembly.

Item H (consent items) was voted on in a New York minute, only one comment was given (don't remember what it was - anyone else?) They adjourned in a big hurry.

Along the way an observation was made by more than one person that when the issue of race comes up, whatever was being discussed was tabled and not discussed again for a long time, if ever. This is what happened to the previous proposal to reduce Board size. A Board member (I can't remember who) said that they needed to hash this stuff out at a meeting dedicated to just that - I am under the impression that this will be done at the meeting where they vote on the Board size reduction, which will be a public meeting. Hopefully they will have conversations among themselves prior to this meeting, so the discussion there does go haywire.

Open + Transparent said...

Do we need this many maintenance staff members at Fernbank? We sure as heck don't need five "designers". In addition to the director, there are two admin coordinators and a general administrator?

Three custodians? Contract out janitorial services for half the price of three custodians!

If Fernbank is as important as people have posted on this blog, it has to cut its administrative overheard too.


Support - Maintenance $47,150
Support - Maintenance $34,276
Support - Maintenance $44,836
Support - Maintenance $33,616
Support - Maintenance $32,426
Support - Maintenance $39,276
Support - Head Custodian $52,091
Support - General Administration $50,520
Support - Exhibit Designer $77,892
Support - Exhibit Designer $69,516
Support - Exhibit Designer $84,720
Support - Exhibit Designer $63,576
Support - Designer/Photographer $66,096
Support - Custodial $31,048
Support - Custodial $29,310
Support - Custodial $31,048
Administrator - Administrative Coordinator $91,884
Administrator - Administrative Coordinator $91,884

Anonymous said...

We have 7 members on the County Board of Commissioners. Why is it racist to have 7 members on the County Board of Education?

But more important than the NUMBER of members would be electing them all "at large" so the endless fighting for what members see as "their" schools could end. It might get us a few new members as well.

Anonymous said...

I could care less what color the board is - I just want them all replaced.

This is an incredibly dysfunctional BOE, and all of them have rubber stamped the wasteful spending proposed and implemented by Lewis and now Tyson.

Not one BOE member has stood up for ordinary students in ordinary classrooms, the majority of our children.

The BOE members need to be thinking about the November election. Maybe we need to send them emails reminding them that's right around the corner. Hopefully, all 5 will go, and then this argument will be moot.

Dekalbparent said...

Anon 2:54 - how do you find which employees are assigned to which budget center from CommunityNet? I have only used it for emailing people.

Anonymous said...

@ Dekalbparent 3:07 pm

Go to Community Net:
http://fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us/directory/

Input the name of the employee you are seeking information.

Click the Search button.

When the name of the employee appears, look to the right of the name (title of that column is Organization). The budget Center they are assigned to will be under Organization to the right of the name.

For example, a maintenance person, a teacher, an admin employee, or a custodian may be listed on the state Salary and Travel audit as just maintenance or custodian teacher or admin. When you input their name into Community Net, you will see the Organization they are a part of (e.g. the name of a school). Even itinerant personnel have to have a home school or budget center.

That's actually how I ascertained which employees were actually Fernbank Science Center employees. From using Community Net, I knew that 33 part time teachers at Fernbank are in schools, 13 of them at McNair ES.

Community Net is more up to date than the DCSS website. It is updated daily. If an employee drops retires, they are dropped from Community Net in a matter of days.

Dekalbparent said...

Oh, I kept thinking I should be able to get the whole group aggregated by cost center. So you looked up the names of everyone at FSC one at a time and then checked them out on CommunityNet?

Wow. That's dedicated. It's what we have to do to get accurate information, and that's what we need. Thank you.

fedupindcss said...

Somehow Gwinnett County, which has more students than Dekalb, manages on just five board members. They also manage a huge building program, and redistrict constantly without too much gnashing of teeth. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

@ Dekalbparent 4:06 pm

Yes. That's exactly what I did. I looked up over 100 names to verify exactly what cost center they belonged to. Then I checked and doubled checked their salaries on the state Salary and Travel audit before I entered them into an spreadsheet. It was pretty labor intensive, but I would not put information on this blog that I had not checked and verified.

Once someone sees an inaccuracy in your statements and can prove it, all of your data is called into question.

In addition, not checking to make sure all personnel costs are really within the FSC budget center would not be fair to FSC.

I really do love FSC. Everyone does that I know of. It should be a non-profit and taken out of the realm of fighting for scarce school system resources.

FSC as a community resource would certainly be more secure if it was a standalone non-profit center or was paired with a non-profit center like the Fernbank Museum. The school system would be able to free up additional funds for regular science instruction, or at least avoid increasing the pupil teacher ratio in our science classes. More fluent people than I have said that time and again on this blog.

Anonymous said...

I am so tired of the race card that appears to be the end-all and be-all of every decision by the BOE. The three who whined "racism" should be ashamed of themselves. Pretty sure there's NO BLASTED WAY THE BOE can be all white since DeKalb County is MAJORITY AFRICAN AMERICAN and, increasingly, Hispanic. Our children are our children, regardless of race, religion, or intelligence of the grown-ups who are running the show.

Things will get much worse before they get better because many people on this board just don't get it. The administration is running the show, not the BOE. DCSS gives the BOE just enough information to get the requisite head-nods, then delays or misplaces information the BOE wants that just may negate the shaky rationale for DCSS policy, purchased/canned curricula, unnecessary CO staffing (hello, 1099's!), obstruction of charters (wait until the state starts kicking those back because DCSS wouldn't allow charters to innovate) and on and on and on.

DunMoody

DeKalb Teacher said...

Anonymous writes"That's actually how I ascertained which employees were actually Fernbank Science Center employees. From using Community Net, I knew that 33 part time teachers at Fernbank are in schools, 13 of them at McNair ES."

Anonymous, I think your research might be a bit off. I talked to several of the part time teachers you mention, and none of the money they earn for summer and weekend work is from the DCSS budget. The money they are paid is part of a grant that Fernbank receives to teach science to underserved populations. As a part of the grant they hire DeKalb teachers from underserved schools (like McNair ES) to learn the science content and then teach it to students on saturdays and in the summer. These same teachers then take the lessons and content they have learned at Fernbank Science Center and use it in their classrooms. All in all it is a pretty cool way to get staff development to teachers, and help them earn a little extra cash, not a dollar of which is part of the DCSS budget.
The Grant money goes to Fernbank, and they pay the teachers out of the Grant... that is why it looks to you like they are part time teachers working for FSC. There are no part-time teachers at Fernbank...Call FCS directly and ask them if you are still unsure.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 5:50 pm and Dekalbparent 5:57 pm

LOL. I'm sure the Instructional Coach who told you this had absolutely no conflict of interest. That's why it's in all caps.

All humor aside, you are right that the Instructional Coach's salaries are paid by federal funds.

What your Instructional Coach "friend" didn't say was that the "federal grants" are really Title 1 funds. This is not a special grant that only be used for Instructional Coaches. Title 1 funds are automatically granted for any school that has a defined percentage of students on free or reduced price lunch.

Title 1 does not pay the 25% benefit cost for any employees. In other words, Title 1 does not pay the Instructional Coaches 9.25% annual retirement cost or their $10,000 a year health care cost.

There are 80 Instructional Coaches, and they account for $6,169,962 in salaries and around $1,542,490 (25% override)in benefits per year. We taxpayers pay those benefits.

In addition, we need to ask if Title 1 funds could be used in a more efficacious manner than to employ personnel that the teachers feel impede the learning process?

These same Title 1 funds could be used to supply extra teachers or tutors in our low income schools. For example, all Title 1 elementary schools used to use Title 1 funds to supply math teachers who taught small groups of struggling math students. That was a great program for kids. Another Title 1 program supplied reading tutors in Title 1 schools.

Our science labs in Title 1 schools could use state of the art equipment and supplies, an issue that has been discussed ad infinitum on this particular strand.

The DCSS administration has pretty much total discretion as to how they use these Title 1 funds with two main exceptions:
1. Title 1 funds must be spent on Title 1 schools (they can't be spent non-Title 1 schools)
2. Title 1 funds can only fund programs and equipment that non-Title 1 schools don't have. In other words, DCSS can't use the general fund (local and state dollars) to fund math tutors in the non-Title 1 schools, and then use Title 1 funds to fund the math tutors in the non-Title 1 schools. Title 1 funding is the federal government's attempt to mimic higher income schools' PTA funding and wealthier parents who provide extra educational opportunities.

Parents/taxpayers please go to the state of Georgia website to see that DCSS received $34,095,715 in Title 1 funds in the 2007-2008 school year (2008-2009 not posted yet by the state). DCSS Title 1 funds were surely even greater this year since Title 1 funds to DCSS have been going up every year.

http://public.doe.k12.ga.us/ReportingFW.aspx?PageReq=104&CountyId=644&T=1&FY=2007

I urge you to go to the state website above. You will see that DCSS Title 1 students have not improved in academic achievement even though close to $100,000,000 dollars of Title 1 funds have passed through Dr. Lewis's hands.

The $34,000,000+ per year in Title 1 funds has long been used by Dr. Lewis and the DCSS administration as a piggy bank for any program they want to fund. Title 1 funds do not follow the students to their schools/budget centers like gifted funds.

Conclusions:
1.The Instructional Coach program costs DeKalb a considerable amount in benefits ($1,542,490).
2. Most teachers do not support the Instructional Coaches program as a learning tool that benefits their students.
3. Most Title 1 expenditure decisions are not made at the local school level by the personnel who teach students, the local school administration or parents of these students.
4. The $5,813,863 in salaries that are paid to the 62 Instructional Coaches ($94,000 per employee) could be used for state of the art science and technology equipment in every Title 1 school or for teachers who actually teach struggling students.
5. $100,000,000 in Title 1 funds spent by Dr. Lewis during the last 3 years has not produced student achievement gains in Title 1 schools

Anonymous said...

All well and good for FSC to be a stand-alone, non-profit, but plans for this must be in place before cutting all current funds. The Museum is not going to help. They can barely fund themselves even after renting the place out every night for Martinis and other expensive functions. Emory and GA Tech are suffering economically, as well, and cutting their own programs and staff. Cuts made to established program must be done after careful deliberation and should be made after cutting less established programs, like new magnets (Medical Magnet at Druid Hills, for example - why in the world is this being stood up now, in this budget climate).

Many have said to cut FSC will mean better science in the schools. Who will be overseeing those improvements?

Have similar line-listings of postions and salaries been compiled for all schools, centers, programs and offices in DCSS? It would be valuable to see these in considering cuts and redirects. I suspect such a compliation would reveal lots of surprises (hidden positions, inflated salaries, duplication of effort) throughout the system.

Anonymous said...

@ DeKalb Teacher 8:30 pm

Thank you for your excellent research. That's what we need on this blog. I'm glad to learn that the 33 part time FSC teachers are paid for by a grant. I had no hard data on who paid them, and that's why I took them out of the FSC salary and benefit cost, but now you've filled in that blank.

I'm even happier to note that students in the regular education program are benefiting from the part time teacher program. As I wrote, "13 of the part time teachers are from McNair Elementary. FSC is a McNair ES partner. No doubt this has been a good partnership for both Fernbank Science Center and McNair ES."

Your findings are extremely encouraging. They show that Fernbank Science Center could be a thriving non-profit entity that could survive on its own without DCSS's continued funding. Having Fernbank Science become a self sufficient non-profit entity is what I advocate and many bloggers on this site have advocated much more eloquently than I ever could. FSC and DCSS would be better off is FSC was not dependent on the battle for DCSS's scarce science funding dollars.

DCSS should not continue to pay for the 66 employees (29 teachers and 37 admin and support personnel) who cost approximately $5,000,000 a year.

DeKalb Teacher, if you doubt this $5,000,000 salary and benefits figure, please look up each or any of the full time 66 FSC employees on the state Salary and Travel audit website. Here are the directions to the state website:
1.Go to:
http://www.open.georgia.gov/sta/viewMain.aud;jsessionid=5118CBB7E2938E199C2ECB51A8AD35D6
2. Scroll down and click "I understand:Proceed"
3. Click on Organization
4. Click on Local Boards of Education
5. To the right of Organization, use the drop down menu to select DeKalb County Board of Education
6. Click the Search button
7. Use the Export option at the bottom of the page to Export to a csv file.
8. Look up any of the fulltime fSC personnel to see the salary DCSS pays them. Please double check any of my figures for the salaries DCSS pays these 66 full time FSC employees


As I said in the article, I don't know the facilities costs and the transportation costs for FSC, but it seems like it must be considerable. After all, the grounds are beautiful - so much better kept than our regular school facilities. Of course, FSC has full time gardeners and landscapers as part of their dedicated support personnel so we would expect they would be carefully tended. Other physical maintenance like heating and air, technology, cleanliness of the facility also seems to be superior to DCSS regular education schools.

And of course, multitudes of buses bring students to FSC.

If you have information that the facilities maintenance and buses are all or in part paid for by grants, please let us know on this blog. Otherwise, we must assume that DCSS pays for both of these.

candace said...

DCSS needs to retire teachers and admins who have 30 years plus. that would cut millions right there. most of them hate teaching now and complain about everything.

Anonymous said...

@anon 9:40 "DCSS should not continue to pay for the 66 employees (29 teachers and 37 admin and support personnel) who cost approximately $5,000,000 a year."
So do you propose that DeKalb just let these excellent FSC teachers go? FSC is going to be able to operated independently anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:48 pm

This compilation was extremely tedious and took an enormous amount of time because DCSS is not very transparent. I did this analysis a DCSS cost center to show that:
1. It could be done
2. It needed to be done
3. Ms. Tyson and her army of administrators should be doing this
4. Our BOE should be demanding these figures before deciding on expenditures or salary and funding cuts

Ms. Tyson has 1,238 Central Office personnel to help her do the number crunching. If one person can do this kind of analysis, what could/should 1,238 be doing? For all I know this is being done, but it's not being shared with taxpayers or at open BOE meetings.

You hit the nail on the head - data on cost centers should be routine and transparent to parents/taxpayers when asking us to have our child sit in classrooms with an increasing number of classmates as the teacher has less and less time to provide individual instruction.

Our DCSS administration and BOE has failed us parents and taxpayers miserably, but more importantly they have failed our children.

Anonymous said...

Candace - excellent point. Many other government organizations have mandatory retirement at 30 years. Has early retirement or "encouraged retirement" been put forward in any of the budget plans?

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:50 pm

I would never suggest we let these terrific science teachers go. All school systems have a terrible time finding science teachers, DCSS especially.

Currently, PATS is advertising for science teachers. These master science teachers could teach science every day in a DCSS classroom. They all have up to date certificates - I looked up all 29 teachers on the state certification website.

As Anonymous 11:56 pm said:
"I for one would do just about anything to get just one or two of the current Fernbank teachers to teach science at my kid's high school. I'll pick them up everyday and drive them there. Heck, I will fix their lunch every day. DCSS has a HUGE deficit of science teachers and cannot find ones to fill the positions being vacated."

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:49pm and 9:53pm

Excellent point. I find it strange that millions have been spent in "buyouts" twice in the last 5 years as first Dr. Brown and then Dr. Lewis got the BOE to pay employees with 30+ years tens of thousands of dollars per employee to retire. Of course, the only employees exempted from the "buyout" offer was teachers in the schoolhouse.

DeKalb Teacher said...

Anonymous said..LOL. I'm sure the Instructional Coach who told you this had absolutely no conflict of interest. That's why it's in all caps.All humor aside, you are right that the Instructional Coach's salaries are paid by federal funds.What your Instructional Coach "friend" didn't say was that the "federal grants" are really Title 1 funds.

Wow... you really didn't really read my post. My friend is just a good old teacher like all of us, not an Instructional Coach. The Grant was from a private company, not Federal Title 1 funds. The company gave the grant money to Fernbank Science Center because they wanted to improve science learning. Fernbank used the grant money to hire regular old, underpaid teachers to come to Fernbank in the summer, learn science content and teach it to kids. The teachers were able to earn non-DCSS, non-Title 1 money and take what they learn back to their own classrooms to use with their students.

Anonymous, you have done a lot of hard work, and raised a lot of questions that need to be addressed. But you also asked us to let you know when your info is off, and I think, in this instance, it is. If you still have concerns, why not contact Fernbank directly about this, or talk directly to one of the "part-time" teachers like I have.

Anonymous said...

If you are going to post in a blog people need to make sure that the facts are correct. There are several sources of income for FSC that pay for the part time staff, so no cost to DeKalb tax payers. The SEMAA program is funded by NASA. All you need to do is ask any staff member at FSC and they will tell you. There are several other inaccurate statements in this article that make it slanderous. Consider that when checking the sources of your "research." As a SEMAA parent, all you need to do is ask and you will see the value of FSC to this county and to the students of DeKalb for years to come.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:15 pm
I'm so sorry. Too many posts.

I addressed my comment to 8:30 and should have typed 8:39 pm - that was your non de plume. I responded to your comment as you posted a correction about the part time teachers - please reference my probably too long response as Anonymous 9:40 pm.

I responded about Instructional Coaches and Title 1 to @ Anonymous 5:50 pm and Dekalbparent 5:57 pm.

I did read your comment quite closely. I understand you talked to one of your friends who is one of the 33 part time teachers at Fernbank Science Center and they told you they are paid via a grant Fernbank obtained - I never said or assumed it was Title 1. I figured it was a NASA grant or some other science organization. I am so glad that they are taking back ideas and materials to the regular ed classroom.

Your post shows that Fernbank should not have a problem being a stand alone entity since they are good grant writers.

I did not include the part time teachers in the $5,000,000 salary and benefit cost for the 66 full time FSC employees. That's paid for by DeKalb ,and their salary figures are on line on the Georgia Transparency in Government website.

I will state again that FSC is no longer affordable for DCSS, but that it is a valuable community resource that should become a viable non-profit.

And I will talk to one of the part time teachers. I know some of them quite well. I haven't seen them in a long time. I really didn't consider them closely in my number crunching or include them in the definitive $5,000,000 salary and benefits cost because I knew they were not part of FSC's cost center.

Thanks for your correction. We can safely assume DCSS is not responsible for any part time teacher pay.

BTW I know quite a few of the Fernbank instructors too, and I think they would consider themselves just "plain old teachers." That's one thing that makes them terrific teachers. We could really use them as classroom science teachers instructing students every day.

Anonymous said...

Any idea how much band and orchestra cost in the elementary schools? Our kids get instruction once every 6 days...not enough to be useful. Seems like that's an easy cut. Spanish is also once every 6 days and would not be missed.

Anonymous said...

For those that don't take advantage of the services provided at FSC that is your problem as a parent. I have taken my child through the forest that is maintained by FSC staff, we have looked at and studied the live animals that are at the center as well as the exhibits that are on display. FSC is a gem to the community and is a beacon of hope in our world of education. Has anyone thought of what the EOCT scores would be without the programs provided by FSC? From what I understand as well that some of the staff salaries listed in this blog are shared expenses of other Dekalb schools. From my research, CTSS staff are split between several buildings. My assumption is that the salary noted needs to be split between some other building in the system. That is just the tip of the iceburg when looking at what the real cost of FSC is.

Dunwoody Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cerebration said...

Well, we wouldn't be the only ones to have to put our planetarium on "hiatus"...

For more than 40 years, the Fairfax County School Planetariums have served more than 16,000 elementary school students each year. In recent years, every fourth and sixth grade class in our school district has the opportunity to experience the excitement of astronomy through an instructional field trip to one of our planetariums. Beginning in the fall of 2009, the FCPS planetariums are on hiatus due to budget constraints. Although FCPS is no longer providing funding for field trips, most of our facilities continue to be used for high school instruction. Some planetarium/astronomy teachers may be able to provide presentations on a limited basis. Please contact the planetarium closest to you for information.

Isn't Fairfax Co one of the wealthiest counties in the country?

Cerebration said...

It's the economy guys -- we can't have a "Let them eat cake" attitude. These are serious, deep cuts that need to be made.

I think the author of this post did the best job possible researching some possible expenses to cut. The main point the author continues to drive home is - please - school system - do the same for every department! We know nothing of the reasons/research or motivation behind the proposed cuts. They have shared no data, no numbers. In fact, since the need for these deep cuts have had to come about so quickly, with the loss of our leader in the midst of the storm - we simply don't trust that due diligence is being conducted. We're very afraid these cuts will simply be made with a broad brush stroking across the backs of our teachers and ordinary students.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:35 pm and Anonymlous 11:00 pm.

What does not cost DCSS?
33 teachers who do not get any funds form Fernbank, but get training from the Fernbank teachers do not cost DCSS. Their funding is through a NASA grant.

What costs DCSS?
A. Personnel
There are 66 full time personnel at FSC - 29 teachers and 37 admin ad support personnel. They are a budget center and their salaries and benefits are paid for by DCSS. Their salary and benefits come to around $5,000,000. (source: state salary and travel website)This is a DCSS cost.

B The Physical plant
The physical plant is well kept with a number of FSC support personnel such as gardeners and landscapers. The heat, air, electricity, equipment, equipment maintenance, garden and forest supplies, greeenhouse upkeep and associated plants, etc. have a considerable cost to them. This is a DCSS cost.

C Transportation
The thousands of buses who bring students to DCSS are paid for by DCSS at $25 an hour to the drivers and $1.50 a mile for mileage. This is DCSS cost.

DCSS spends an estimated $7,00,000 yearly for Fernbank with:
1. Definitive cost for 66 full time staff is $5,000,000 considering salary and benefits.
2. Plant facility, greenhouse, forest, grounds, animals, etc. and transportation probably add an additional $2,000,000

I hope you find this accurate and helpful.

Anonymous said...

@Dekalb Parent, Dekalb Early College Academy is one of the few programs in this county that work. Check the EOCT scores. These are not high achieving kids, in fact it is a Title One school. They come to DECA below grade level and then in two years are able to pass the COMPASS test and take courses at GPC. GPC is a poor partner and does not do as much for the program. Also, DCSS used Gates Foundation funds to get this program but was unprepared when the funding expired. Typical. This program already is getting cut to the bone and will render it basically dead eventually. A shame.

Anonymous said...

Cere,

Fairfax county schools have planetariums IN THE SCHOOLS - the high school I attended (which is now a middle school) had its own planetarium and it was one of the older buildings in the area. All the newer facilities had their own planetariums as well. . .

Anonymous said...

The fact that the Gates' funding wasn't renewed is just another example of the incompetence of Dr. Lewis and his staff.

But what really burns me up is that no one on the board seems to get it.

They don't hold Lewis accountable so he doesn't hold his staff accountable.

Anonymous said...

too many anonymouses...as far as I can tell this blog is the work of about 5 posters, one of us call anonymous :)
anyway, fellow anonymous brings up a good point that anonymous might want to research; how much money needs to be credited to FSC for the services they provide? How many children have they taught, and how much would the county have had to pay for someone (most likely related to the superintendent) to do this from the outside? How much would the county or teachers have had to pay for the staff development they provided last year? It would be good to generate a list of the services Fernbank provides to students, teachers and the community and the fair market value of those services. Then we would be able to more fairly judge it's value to DCSS. This is something that should be done with EVERY program in the county, starting with America's Choice!

Anonymous said...

Also, DCSS used Gates Foundation funds to get this program

The Gates Foundation funds were part of a larger 5-year grant given to University System of Georgia's P-16 department - the grants were not give to DCSS directly, but spread out among 12 other entities in the state. DECA is a joing collaboration between DCSS and GPC.

Anonymous said...

Dekalb Early College Academy is not for underachieving students. It only accepts highly motivated, focused students.........The state funds joint enrollment programs...This just fluff.

Anonymous said...

DCSS has a PTA specialist position at $42000 yearly.

Anonymous said...

Does the Fernbank Science Center look expensive? Is it expensive relative to the cost of providing direct classroom instruction? Are these the right questions?
FSC and its STT program provide a program of national renown. While it is easy to target the direct financial savings, there is a potential great loss with its elimination. Losing those programs that work and that differentiate DCSS in a positive manner put the entire system at risk. Further, FSC targets an area which all agree needs more attention and success.
The talk of privatization is also simplistic. FSC actually would like to increase its self-support but has been hamstrung both by DCSS and by the Fernbank Natural History Museum which views even the use of the name Fernbank as a competitive infringement. With the disappearance of SciTrek a few years ago, FSC is essentially the only science center in metro Atlanta--a stunning commentary on our metro area. We should be pushing to save FSC and its programs as well as encouraging all parties to allow FSC to become more entrepreneurial.

Dunwoody Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dunwoody Mom said...

Why couldn't the STT programs be brought into the schools directly? If it so great and wonderful (though I never heard of until my oldest child was in 9th grade and some of her friends were part of the program), why not have it available to all high schools instead of the select few. There are certainly enough instructors at FSC that they could hold these classes at the inidividual high schools. AGAIN, we come down to trying to justify keeping programs that benefit only a few students.

DeKalb Teacher said...

As a teacher I have to take board mandated staff development classes each year. Some of the best courses I have ever had were taught by Fernbank Science Center Staff. Many of the folks there also teach courses at GSU, Emory and GPC. I would have to pay a lot of money to take the courses that Fernbank teaches for free if I took them through Georgia State.
I have always thought that one of the best reasons to teach in DeKalb is the free support teachers get from Fernbank Science Cneter, things like visits to our classrooms to teach our students, media kits that we can check out for free, on-line support on the curriculum center and at their website, the trips they take teachers on to natural areas across the state, the scientists that are always there to help your students with their reports or science fair projects... I could go on and on. Do we really want to add loosing Fernbank support to all the other hits teachers are going to have to take next year... a pay cut, larger class sizes and ever-lovin eSIS? The recent post is right... we need to factor that into this equation.

Anonymous said...

It is so, SO unfortunate that Fernbank Science Center has been used throughout this blog discussion as the biggest example of what is wasteful, what is wrong, and what should be cut, as Fernbank is one of very few examples of excellence left in a school system filled with failed programs. The big picture of the planetarium coupled with the list of salaries and negative comments puts FSC in the spotlight, while all the other wastes, programs, and inflated salaries are still hidden away. After all this discussion and argument, the saddest outcome may be that FSCC will be the first program to be axed other millions of dollars of bloat will remain. The board listens to whomever yells the loudest and if waste at FSC is the loudest comment they hear, then that may be where they look first and many never get to the programs that really deserve to be examined under a microscope. FSC could be lost, the teachers, who work just as hard as all teachers in DCSS, will take their advanced degrees, their wealth of knowledge, and their unwavering enthusiasm for inpiring and working with kids, and move to private schools or industry where they can make more money with significantly fewer hassles. At the very least, they won't have to read on a blog about how their hard work, the hundreds of personal dollars that spend each year on materials for their classes, and their passion for helping kids, are not appreciated. And our schools will be left with mediocre-poor science classes, broken lab equipment, and not a single experience using an electron microscope, seeing real life exciting examples of chemistry and physics, or experience first-hand of the importance of forest ecology.

Time to focus energies on what REALLY needs to be cut and to share this list with the board and hope that FSC is not stuck in anyone's mind and the worst example of waste in DCSS.

Cerebration said...

I wonder if the county could become a partner - at least with the forest - they still have lots of bond money in the bank for greenspace and have spent sore little of it in North or Central DeKalb.

My hope for this discussion is to motivate those of you who see the ridiculousness and sadness in shuttering a great program like FSC into also seeing the ridiculousness of cutting teacher pay and benefits and increasing class size.

A side issue we need to admit needs addressing is the fact that there really are too many special programs that are difficult at best for many to access. Dunwoody Mom has a good point - the FSC should be contributing more directly to ordinary science students. Too many students never interact with these scientists. Equitable access would ensure survival - otherwise, we will continue to revisit the "fighting over the small pie" discussion.

Unless and until the superintendent and the board make the necessary DEEP cuts to upper administration and consolidate under-utilized buildings, etc - then they should not consider a single item that will effect students in the classroom or student learning in any way.

DeKalb Teacher said...

Cerebration, I agree with you completely! It is wrong to cut teacher benefits! That is why I attend all the board meetings I can and read this post. And Fernbank Science Center is one of the teacher benefits that I don't want to see cut.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Hopefully others can explain it to me, with specific examples, how the benefits of FSC outweigh the costs? I just don't see that my children received any benefits from FSC, other than a few field trips, long since forgotten, and "the talk" in 5th grade. Truly, if someone can provide me with specific examples as to how FSC and STT benefit all DCSS children, I would be willing to rethink my view that DCSS needs to turn FSC over to a private entity.

Cerebration said...

Anon 8:19 AM (and yes, it would help if you all would create monikers) - you must be new to this blog. For sure, this is absolutely the first time we have discussed Fernbank Science Center. We have identified many MANY areas that need cutting - areas full of waste and bloat. For a primer, click on Mr. Potato Head and read that overview of the system bloat. Then look through the over 300 posts in the Blog Archive with ensuing discussion we have held here over the last year. Or use the Search button at the top and the search term "budget cuts" to find more posts on the subject.

deKalb Teacher said...

Dunwoody Mom, as a teacher I think the most valuable resource they provide the county and your children is teacher support, which is something that is hard for parents to see. Every teacher that attends a Fernbank Science Center staff development class takes what they learn and uses it with their students... for an ES teacher that is 20-30 kids, for a MS teacher that is 90-120 kids, and for a HS teacher that is around 150 kids, each of whom benefited from that course taught by a Fernbank Science Center Scientist.

Teachers are not great teachers when the graduate from College... it takes many years to become a great teacher, and we attend many, many hours of courses to improve our teaching skills and increase our content knowledge. I have been taking staff development classes at Fernbank for all of my 20 years as a teacher for DCSS, and I am a much better teacher as a result.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 7:41

FSC is too expensive for DCSS. The $7,000,000 cost to run FSC and provide 29 excellent teachers represents the cost of giving our schools 123 Masters level science teachers with 3 years of classroom experience (this figure assumes benefits).

Fernbank Science Center has many supporters while the children in our schools who can't get adequate science instruction because of overcrowded classes and lack of basic science materials have no one to stand up for them. That's obvious from the budget proposals Ms. Tyson presented to the BOE.

Who will speak for the thousands of DCSS children who need more science instructors, not less?

If you have an area of great need such as science education, you address that first and then provide the extras.

Look at our science EOCT scores and then say our allocation of science resources is just fine:

Fall, 2009:

Biology:
Number tested: 3,161
Pass rate: 52% (Georgia 64%)

Physical Science:
Number tested: 2,536
Pass rate: 63% (Georgia 71%)

What impact is FSC making on the student achievement of our students in science? What would be the impact would 123 additional experienced Masters level science teachers in our classrooms?

Educational dollars have become so scarce that we can no longer afford to allocate them without constant review of every program.

Doesn't it also bother anyone that a teaching center such as Fernbank has only 29 out of 66 employees teaching. 37 of the employees are support and administrative.

The figures are so startling, that many posters say, "that doesn't seem right". I invite you to do your own calculations. Look up every single full time employee at Fernbank and enter their salary into a spreadsheet and see the total cost for yourself.

Anonymous said...

Dunwoody Mom - all the schools can request visits from FSC teachers. These teachers take their equipment and demonstrations to the local schools and spend the day in one or more teachers' classes. My kids (middle school and high school) have had FSC teachers at their schools at least a few times every year and have found these experiences very positive. The Fernbank teachers bring equipment and demonstrations that are too elaborate or expensive to be housed at all the schools throughout the county. I believe the local schools request the visits, and from talking to a Fernbank SC teacher, it sounds like some schools utilize the resource more than others, but regardless the Fernbank teachers, if not teaching STT, an on-site program or an after school class, are in the schools.

Anonymous said...

While it may indeed be necessary to impact programs like Fernbank, Magnet and Montessori, the Board of Education must DEMAND that Ms Tyson (Dr. Lewis)present them with what the impacts would be to double the planned reductions in the Central Office.
Unless they take a closer look at the waste in the Central Office, we are going to be arguing over cuts to many program helpful to the teachers and students.
I just cannot understand why no Board Member has even requested that the Central Office absorb more that the $11,500,000 in reductions. It is absolutely absurd that even when the total cuts reach $119,170,000 in Plan I, they do not affect the Central Office more than when looking for $90,000,000 in cuts.
Let's have some Board Members show a little courage!!

Cerebration said...

Well said, Anon 8:51 AM - Everyone should reiterate that point to your board rep -- or all of them! Click the link on the right hand side of the home page just above the Recent Comments to easily generate an Email the Entire BOE.

Cerebration said...

Totally random aside - but I hope that we are encouraging some of our students to apply for the
SOU Ronald E. McNair Achievement Program, a doctoral program in science at Southern Oregon University.

The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program was established in 1989 to increase the number of students from underrepresented segments of society in doctoral programs, and thus increase representation of these groups in higher education. In October 2003 Southern Oregon University received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to offer this program.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Question, is the Teacher training at Fernbank free or do the teachers have to pay for it?

And I guess I'm with anonymous 8:46 - I don't see any perceptible difference in Science test scores to believe that FSC makes a difference in the classroom.

Middle School Mom said...

Anonymous at 8:46
Could you please stop cutting and pasting your previous comments into new posts? It really does nothing to further this discussion and actually hurts your credibility and the credibility of all of our arguments because it sounds like we have an agenda.
And everyone, could you pick a cute name to go by, like DeKalb Watchdog, or DCSS Investigator... this way we don't come off looking like one person with way too much time on our hands.

Middle School Mom said...

If I reading DeKalb Teacher’s responses to Dunwoody Mom correctly, it sounds like the Fernbank Science courses for teachers are free.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:19 am

"It is so, SO unfortunate that Fernbank Science Center has been used throughout this blog discussion as the biggest example of what is wasteful,..our schools will be left with mediocre-poor science classes, broken lab equipment, and not a single experience ..."

This is the day to day reality in many of ours schools now, and if science classroom sizes are increased it will get worse.

As one high school science teacher posted:
"Students should be able to participate in hands on science constantly, not once a year. In some schools science departments share a budget of $1000. (For those of you out there, that's not much when it comes to science equipment) How can we compare when so little is spent on us?"

Not one supporter of Fernbank Science Center has offered a suggestion on how to improve science instruction within the schools while keeping Fernbank open.

Currently, DCSS science instruction doesn't work for thousands of students. We cannot expect it to change if we keep the status quo, and we know it will get worse if science classroom sizes swell (which is what Ms. Tyson proposes).

I think most posters and supporters have concluded that it's impossible to offer quality science instruction to all our students. FSC is a good option if we want to offer in depth science education to a few.

Anonymous said...

8:51 is right:
"While it may indeed be necessary to impact programs like Fernbank, Magnet and Montessori, the Board of Education must DEMAND that Ms Tyson (Dr. Lewis)present them with what the impacts would be to double the planned reductions in the Central Office.
Unless they take a closer look at the waste in the Central Office, we are going to be arguing over cuts to many program helpful to the teachers and students."

That is why I said yesterday this FSC discussion is a red herring--not because we don't have to look at more equitable distribution of funds going today to magnets, FSC, and others places--we definitely do--but because we shouldn't be looking there first, and taking the heat off the Central Office and its bloat. Just yesterday my son brought home the flyer for Dr. Alvin Tuartt's half-day presentation this Saturday--complete with complimentary breakfast, free childcare, and bus service (as an aside, it's fascinating that Dr. Tuartt describes himself as a "humanitarian"--I've known a few humanitarians and to a one they had the humility not to so describe themseleves). I think someone on these boards has identified Dr. Tuartt as being related to a BOE or Central Office official, and as using this event to sell his book. This is just one small example of the kind of thing we need to CUT OUT COMPLETELY before we go about cutting FSCs, magnets, etc. And let me be clear--as a parent of 2 kids in a charter school, I would love to see a more equitable distribution of funds, given that DCSS gives charters less per pupil $ than both home schools and magnets.
Al

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:58 am

As Cerebration noted:

If you think Ms. Tyson needs to make deeper cuts in the 1,239 Central Office employees and those 7,589 support employees before she cuts our 7,031 teaching positions, then write your BOE members.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Al, no one is taking the heat off the Central Office. But layoffs alone even there will not solve the huge financial problem DCSS faces. There is nothing wrong with discussions that center around programs that only benefit a few of our students, but cost a lot of money, money that can better be used for all students. I don't consider these type of conversations as "red herrings", but necessary.

Anonymous said...

Guess I will have to disagreed about no one taking the heat off the Central Office.
The Plans presented so far show no change in any cuts to the Central Office even as the necessary reductions go higher.
In Plan I, it shows that they would rather eliminate the Magnets, Montessori and Pre-K before they take one more dime from the Central Office. In fact in Plan I if they would just reduce the Central Office by another $2.5 million they could leave Montessori, Magnets, and Pre-K alone.
Just seems to me they are unwilling to look at anything else in the Central Office.

Anonymous said...

Dunwoordy Mom--
The Central Office folks may be more clever than we give them credit for. The concerned parents on this blog and the AJC blog have clearly been diverted, in part by "anonymous" commenters with a clear agenda, into debating which schools to cut (i.e., fighting each other) rather than maintaining concentration on the bloat and corruption in the central office.
Again, I don't debate that we need to re-allocate funds more equitably within the actual schools (as opposed to the non-education part of DCSS), and WOULD EVEN LIKE TO SEE IT HAPPEN as it would benefit my kids' school, but it seems clear to me that the BOE and DCSS have tried to focus discussion on which schools to cut, pitting parent vs. parent, to divert attention from themselves.
Al

Cerebration said...

One idea to impact science instruction could be to drop the graduation requirements for Social Studies. The state of Georgia (and most colleges) only requires 3 credits in SS (23 total credits to graduate) - but DCSS requires 4 (24 total credits to graduate). If we didn't have to supply so many SS options, perhaps we could focus more energy on science.(?)

Cerebration said...

This is all true, Anons (Anonomi?) - the school administration loves it when we scrap like third world inhabitants over bags of UN rice! If you will all please re-read the first 2 paragraphs of this original post, you will see that the main focus certainly should be on the cuts that can be made first and foremost - outside the schoolhouse.

Anonymous said...

agree and disagree - the recent budget crisis has simply elevated issues that have been present for a long time - that being, the tolerance of inequitable services ( i.e. magnets, montessoris )

though i am not a " magnet hater" i don't think these programs should get a pass for scrutiny - i don't perceive myself as being diverted or tricked because i have an opinion.... 2.5 million in county funds for magnet transporation is not an equitable distribution, it is that simple

each and every program and position should be evaluated for cuts - we can't drive a luxury car on a thrifty budget.... i think people have been sick and tired of the magnet situation for a long time and this just puts light on it as the pie is shrinking...

totally agree that we have to look collectively at all options -whether or not it is favorable for vocal groups.

Dunwoody Mom said...

I'm sorry, I don't buy into the theory that somehow DCSS is trying to somehow use this blog in order to turn the conversation around from DCSS cuts. If you have proof of such a thing, then offer it. There are anonymous posters on this blog and other blogs whose sole joy in life is to cause havoc in blogs and some have done a good job on this blog. This blog, the AJC etc., have all reported on our view that the Central Office staff needs to be cut. The BOE has heard this, whether they act on it is another issue altogether.

However, there are also needs to be conversations, serious conversations, about other inequities in the programs offered to our children in DCSS, such as Magnet, STT, Montesorri, etc.,

Cerebration said...

Here are some recommended links to other posts on this blog where we have discussed a whole host of areas that could be cut -

Take Home Vehicles??

So, what about the DCSS budget and school closings?

Or just click on the @ symbol on the right hand column of the home page to link to the BUDGET CUTS post.

Anonymous said...

Just saw an article on AJC website that Board is now looking at closing 10-12 schools during this mornings Budget Committee meeting.
Let the games begin!!!!

Anonymous said...

Nope, "we can't drive a luxury car on a thrifty budget.." so let's get rid of all the take-home cars (and everything they symbolize) and not solve this crisis solely on the backs of our taxpayers, children, and teachers, as DCSS and the BOE would clearly prefer.

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt we face difficult choices, a problem compounded by a lack of leadership in our administration and board. But, we must be careful not to make choices that seem fiscally prudent in the short-term but which sap whatever remaining strength remains in the system. A steady march to mediocrity will harm not only those students who benefit from selected programs but every student. This is not meant to create an either/or argument or to set high achieving students against their school peers but rather to make sure that we fully appreciate the implications of the choices we make beyond the simplistic analysis of dollars and cents. It reminds me of big companies which cut their sales forces in difficult times and then wonder why they are lagging in sales when the economy rebounds. Short-sightedness is not a virtue.

Anonymous said...

"I can assure you that the salary and benefit costs are in the 29 teachers and 37 support and administrative staff." Fernbank also oversees elementary science instruction in the county. Rather than have a coordinator in the general office as high school and misddle school science do-Fernbank staff provide the support. Other support staff build and maintain science kits and displays that are cirrculated to the schools. In addition to the Cherry planetarium at Fernbank, Fernbank staff provide two portable planteriums (or is it planeteria?) that visit DeKalb schools for lessons. The landscapper work with special education classes to help high school students find a trade and regularly place students in jobs in greenhouses, nurseries, and landscaping companies. Some of the scientists at Fernbank are not certified-I guess you missed some. Finally, Fernbank staff have a great deal more contact with classrooms and students than you would think. They keep good numbers.

Anonymous said...

Only one scientist is not certified - a geologist. He is listed in support.

Cerebration said...

Anon, 12:50 PM and others, you make valid points, many of us even agree, however, we need to cut $88-100 million from the budget. No one wants their area to suffer a cut - do you have any suggestions as to where to cut that much? Or should we just put on our blinders and let the system fall into bankruptcy and lose accreditation for all? I mean, it's that serious.

Anonymous said...

Probably should not bother me so much, but it is just unbelievable that during what is likely to be the most critical time in Dekalb Schools, the Superintendent, who had a lot to do with the current situation, is on self-requested vacation.

Cerebration said...

Are you kidding? That bothers me immensely! Not only that - his sidekick in construction is sitting alongside him playing Tiddly-Winks! It's sickening! These two are probably costing us at least $500,000+++ and they are doing nothing!!! The DA doesn't seem to be talking either -- what happened to the trial that was supposed to start in March?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 1:03PM said..."Only one scientist is not certified - a geologist. He is listed in support".

Here is another area where your information is WRONG, and it calls into question all of the "facts" you have posted. Again, please contact the Science Center directly to get the CORRECT information before you post.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 1:56 pm

Cerebration has all of the names of the FSC personnel, their titles and their salaries. If she decides to publish them, you can look each employee up yourself.

Cerebration said...

I guess we'll have to - just to clear the air...

Breen, Mary C
Teacher - Science
Clay, Molly M
Teacher - Science
Felton, Tonja
Teacher - Science
Haeck, Nathaniel C
Teacher - Science
Jenkins, Patricia B
Teacher - Science
Logdberg, Linda A
Teacher - Science
Sarrazine, Angela R
Teacher - Science
Snow, Philippi H
Teacher - Science
Whitt, April S
Teacher - Science
Wittkamp, Jacquelyn T
Teacher - Science
Huffman, Deborah J
Teacher - Robotics and Engineering
Brown, Steven V
Teacher - Physics
Dowling, Michael F
Teacher - Physics
Mozer, Lisa
Teacher - Meterology
Byrd, Stacy A
Teacher - Ecology
Showalter, Christopher R
Teacher - Ecology
Tate, Albert L
Teacher - Ecology
Tilgner, Erich H
Teacher - Ecology
Wilson, Lawrence A
Teacher - Ecology
Huebner, Nancy J
Teacher - Earth and Space
Davis, Vashonda Y
Teacher - Chemistry
Elliott, Adrian A
Teacher - chemistry
Collins, David B
Teacher - Botany
Nye, Terrell D
Teacher - Botany
Brown, Terri T
Teacher - Biology
Fiore, Rachel S
Teacher - Biology
Neal, Trecia E
Teacher - Biology
Albin, Edward F
Teacher - Astronomy
Hamby, Douglas E
Teacher - Agriculture

Witherspoon, William D
Support - Geologist

Hrabe, Douglas J
Administrator - Director, Fernbank
Gamble, Joyce A
Administrator - Administrative Coordinator
Preston, Pamela P
Administrator - Administrative Coordinator

Cerebration said...

BTW - yes, there are 3 custodians and one head custodian - total cost - $143,497 plus benefits and pensions

Support - Head Custodian $52,091
Support - Custodial $31,048
Support - Custodial $29,310
Support - Custodial $31,048

Plus 6 maintenance employees - total cost - $231,580 plus benefits and pensions

Support - Maintenance $47,150
Support - Maintenance $34,276
Support - Maintenance $44,836
Support - Maintenance $33,616
Support - Maintenance $32,426
Support - Maintenance $39,276

And 3 security people (Lakeside HS, with over 1700 students also has 3 plus 1 SRO) total cost - $142,172 plus benefits and pensions

Support - Security $48,093
Support - Security $47,150
Support - Security $46,929

Anonymous said...

While DCSS salary info is public information, what has been gained by publishing names and teacher salaries on this blog? Are we questioning whether any one teacher deserves what he or she is paid? What are we trying to accomplish?

Cerebration said...

Look again - I didn't include the salaries with the names. Besides, anyone who works anywhere in the state can find out what their co-workers make by checking http://www.open.georgia.gov/

Anonymous said...

One thing we all need to remember-no matter who gets cut.

The children will be with us next year.

And as we do that we might also remember that it costs three to four times as much to house an inmate a year as it does to educate a student. Moreover, students who grow up to be productive citizens pay taxes rather than use tax money.

There is no free lunch in nature.

Anonymous said...

so, you get caught giving out false info (number of uncertified teachers... anomyous 1:03) and you answer by 1) not contacting Fernbank and getting the correct info, and 2) posting the names of the Fernbank Staff. What exactly did this accomplish? The question was, how many are certified. Again, why are you so unwilling to get the correct information? The number for Fernbank in on their website... give them a call.

Anonymous said...

Is this discussion even relevant for the much bigger issue at hand - how to cut waste in the DCSS budget?

Cerebration said...

I'm lost. Are you saying these teachers are not certified? They wouldn't be listed as teachers if they weren't. Why is it relevant? I can't even remember... All this info is relevant to is whether or not FSC could be cut back... in addition to the other things listed in the post. We publish salaries here all the time - actually the maintenance and security costs are what surprise me most. On another subject, we have several very small schools (300 or less, some even under 200) that have their own principal, asst principal, counselor, etc... full staff. Now, is it fair Joe Reed has to handle over 1700 students at Lakeside when principal X gets the same salary for under 200 in a special program?

Anonymous said...

Cerebration, here is why it is relevant...many of the "facts" that are being posted here about Fernbank are questionable and inconsistent. Don't ask me to give you facts about Fernbank... I could be anyone, someone with an agenda, someone trying to throw out a red herring to distract the focus of the DCSS budget discussion, someone whose kid got into STT, someone whose kid did not get into STT, someone who thinks Fernbank is the best thing since sliced bread... I could be anyone because I post as anonymous.
Have any of the "fact" posters ever called Fernbank or scheduled an appointment with someone there to check your facts before you post them? And if you haven't, why?

Anonymous said...

Go to this web address and check the certification status of Fernbank employees since that seems to be what so many posters take issue with.
http://www.gapsc.com/Certification/index.asp

You are obfuscating the main issue. Cutting DCSS admin and support numbers is paramount in this budget crisis. The DCSS administration will save admin and support jobs before they will save FSC. Ignoring the top heavy admin and support numbers of FSC is prudent in this fiscal environment.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, what so many of us are taking issue with is not the certification status of employees at Fernbank... we all agree they do a great job, regardless of certification status. What we are taking issue with is incorrect information that is being posted as "fact" on this board.

I am not confusing the issue... the issue here is that you refuse again and again to contact Fernbank and check your "facts" before you post them. If you had, you would have found out that the geologist you list as support staff is an instructor in the STT program, one of several uncertified instructors that teach there. This means that what you have posted regarding the ratio of support staff to instructors, a ratio that you once again referenced as fact" in your most recent post, is wrong. This is one example of the misinformation I am talking about which calls into question all the information posted here and hurts the credibility of all of our posts.

Please, please explain why you are so unwilling to contact Fernbank to check your "facts" before you post them?

Cerebration said...

If it will truly make you happy, I will call the person in charge at Fernbank. But I'm curious why you want to "prove" that the ratio of support staff to teachers is even higher than the research found online within DCSS and the State of Georgia's reporting sites. So often, I read articles in the AJC that are factually incorrect and you want to know why? The writer got her "facts" from a representative at the school system. We prefer to get our facts at the legal reporting sites.

But if you insist - I will call. If it doesn't rain. (Otherwise - ALTA tennis calls!)

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:52

Yes. I know that. However, FSC listed the geologist you speak of in the role/position of Instructional Scheduling on FSC's DCSS Consolidated School Improvement Plan. All the certified teachers that participated in the writing of this official school document were listed as Instructor.

BTW - Did you know that this geologist helped write the Science standards for Georgia students? His credibility as an expert in the field of geology is unquestioned.

If you or Fernbank Science Center personnel would like to add personnel to this list, please do so. Bloggers can cross check the FSC personnel list on the public records websites listed in this strand.

Instead of continuing to try to find a "crack in the data", maybe FSC supporters should start looking at the financial situation of the entire school system and how the cost center at FSC could be streamlined. All programs should be scrutinized in this economic environment, even one as vaunted as FSC.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:52 pm
You do realize that students earn one Carnegie Unit in Earth Science when they take SST. Can an uncertified instructor teach a class that earns high school carnegie units?

Anonymous said...

Back to reality. Every penny of Fernbank Science Center non-teaching related spending needs to be carefully examined. Contract out its custodial and grounds maintenance. They don't need three of four exhibit staff. I'll pay for the teachers and academic related needs, but we're facing a possible $100 million budget hole. Every department needs to cut back and cut back now.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Anon 4:33!! Let's agree to consider cuts to the support functions at FSC and re-direct our energies to cutting other larger pockets of waste throughout the DCSS budget. I vote to end this blog about FSC on that note, and move on to bigger and better things.

Anonymous said...

At Anonymous 5:33 pm

And what do you propose DCSS does about the tremendous expense of bus transportation (thousands of buses a year) and upkeep of the physical plant that Fernbank/DCSS incurs? Those expenses are big and getting bigger.

Parents have said time and again on this blog and others that bus transportation except to school and back should be eliminated. Is Fernbank an exception? Fernbank is one of our biggest transportation expenses.

Anonymous said...

A must read from yesterday's AJC:
http://www.ajc.com/opinion/dekalb-county-cant-lose-366585.html

by Mel Konner, MD, PhD (Harvard), Emory professor

"DeKalb: County can’t lose its science jewel" - .....Comparing students who had gone through the program with otherwise matched students who had not, the STT students were found on follow-up to be twice as likely to major in science in college, three times as likely to be involved in a career in science and four times as likely to have won an award for science in college.

The impact was already evident by the end of high school, but the difference was much greater for African-American males. Average STT students had a science grade point average 7 percent higher than non-STT youngsters, but for African-American males the difference was 19 percent. The number of science courses taken in high school was almost 4 percent higher for typical STT students than those who did not go through the program, but for African-American males this difference was over 20 percent.

Thus one of the most at-risk groups in our student population seems to benefit most from this program, which some people mistakenly think of as a luxury directed at an elite group. Something that works for such vulnerable kids should be held onto and expanded, not cut."

Anonymous said...

In the interest of FULL DISCLOSURE, posts to this blog in support of the Fernbank Science Center should indicate whether they work at the center or not! Since it is such an unbelievable misuse of school dollars, over half the posts in support must be FSC employees.

And, I challenge anyone out there to state what the annual budget is for the FSC, since no one (not even the FSC!) knows what it is. However unbelievable as that sounds, no one at DCSS nor the FSC could produce a budget for the center. How can they operate or make sound fiscal decisions in the dark?

In the interest of oversight and transparancy, let's put everything on the table. Only 180 out of 101,000 students have access to excellent science education through STT? Outrageous. Let's teach excellent science in ALL DeKalb schools and get a handle on this runaway cost center with ever increasing non-teaching expenses!

It appears at any given time that half of the FSC staff is out of the state attending conferences, helping other organizations on their "special" projects and generally not teaching kids. The madness has to stop, and this is a great time to cut the waste. Science teachers who are not teaching in this tough economic time? Unbelievable.

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