Monday, April 5, 2010

Could it be? The money is really there... at least the amount needed to educate children

Let's back up.  Instead of arguing like people in third world countries over bags of rice, let's see if there aren't some areas that, if cut, would nearly put our budget back in balance, and allow the task of educating children (the entire purpose of the school system) to go on unharmed.

Although there are many people who feel strongly that magnet, choice, theme and other programs are using more dollars per student than "regular" schools, we don't have all of the data on the subject yet. We also doubt that the board has all of the data either. But logic tells us that there are areas here that have some wiggle room for budget cuts - another day - when we have a board and administration who we can trust will make fair decisions using solid data.

HOWEVER - most of us agree that the task before us must not BEGIN with the classroom - any classroom. No one (and I think I can safely say no one) currently trusts that the board is dealing with true, fair data. The first task - and the task that will serve as an olive branch extending trust - is to make the heaviest - hardest cuts to the administration and central office. And by that I mean anyone who does not directly have an effect on learning in the classroom.

We have gathered so much evidence and published it here showing that there is no excuse for our board to avoid the task of cutting admin staff first - and deepest. When push comes to shove, honestly, our students and teachers can get through the day without many of these people. But taking away teachers, crowding classrooms and shuttering programs haphazardly will not fly. Check out the link to the right (under Pages) titled, "Facts & Sources" for a compilation of verified information we have acquired.

Roll up those sleeves board. Dig for some good, reliable data. We'd like to see researched, quantifiable reasons for the decisions being made.

To quote one of our astute bloggers:
There is enough money in the budget to provide education to students. There is not enough money in the budget to employ THOUSANDS of individuals who have jobs that other counties do without. THOUSANDS. This is the ONLY thing you should be focused on.

#1 - What is the job of a school system?
To educate kids. Nothing more, nothing less.

#2 - What jobs do we eliminate?
See question #1 to determine if a job is truly needed.

------------

DATA RECAP:

DCSS spends $19,000,000 in salary and benefits for their technology group (MIS) for 99,000 students. Gwinnett Schools spends $22,500,000 in salary and benefits for their technology group for 150,000 students. So DCSS has 30% less students and infinitely less equipment to maintain, but only spends 15% less than Gwinnett, and doesn’t provide anywhere the service of Gwinnett’s technology group.

Even a great sounding idea like security personnel has morphed into DeKalb spending $12,500,000 a year for 217 personnel – a figure so out of line it’s laughable – Gwinnett which has 150,000 students compared to DCSS 100,0000 students spends $2,500,000 on security. No other county even comes close to DCSS’s expenditure on Security.

Then there are ineffective scripted learning programs like America’s Choice ($8,000,000) and Springboard ($1,400,000) which the teachers dislike intensely and don’t support. And the 80+ Instructional Coaches ($8,000,000) who do not teach students, but were hired to support America’s Choice and Springboard.

We have spent at least $14 million on lawsuits. Some say that number is closer to $20 million. Who endorses this? Why are these lawsuits not questioned? What budget does this money actually come from?

Central Office can stand some cuts (223 people account for $25,000,000 in salaries without even considering benefits), but obviously it will also take collapsing and combining and outsourcing lower level administrative jobs as well.

-----------

Charles Hill, a member of the school closings task force, suggested that DCSS needs a task force of citizens to look into overall expenses rather than shuttering 4 schools for a savings of $2,000,000. I think he’s absolutely right.

67 comments:

Dan M said...

I'd love to see how much spending has increased over the past 5 and 10 years on MIS, school police, the Central Office, instructional coaches, etc. I'm guessing those budgets have increased exponentially over the past decade, even though the school system's enrollment has slightly decreased over that time.

The BOE enabled and allowed the massive buildup. They really need to look at previous spending levels, and previous administrator numbers, and their salaries (which has also increased dramatically).

Gone are the days when we need so many administrators, and gone are the days when they are guaranteed six figure salaries. They need to make no more than what teachers make. Even the ex-principals.

Anonymous said...

Well, Instructional Coaches are easy. There simply weren't any 5 years ago. Title 1 federal funds were spent on Title 1 teachers helping small groups of struggling math and/or reading students rather than on Instructional Coaches telling teachers how to teach. The inception of 80 Instructional Coaches drains $7,000,000 out of DCSS classrooms a year.

Since there is no teacher buy-in of this program that generates realms of paperwork and meetings for regular education classroom instructors, the morale damage that they do is not calculable in monetary terms.

Anonymous said...

So sorry. I forgot the 13 Literacy Coaches. They cost $1,000,000 and are similar to the Instructional Coaches.

So the Coaching program is costing around $8,000,000. I'm even counting the 48 Graduation Coaches for another $3,500,000.

(source: state Salary and Travel audit for DeKalb Schools 2009)

Cerebration said...

I may have to rename this blog, "The Broken Record" since that's what this place is beginning to sound like. But it's so important - I will continue to rehash this info until the points are hammered into the atmosphere.

Below are reposts of comments from other threads --

Cerebration said...

Fulton County
Number of Security personnel: 63
Total Salary: $3,941,026

Cobb County:
Number of Security personnel: 42
Total Salary: $1,875,202

Gwinnett County:Number of Security personnel: 47
Total Salary: $1,948,913

DeKalb County:
Number of Security personnel: 217
Total Salary : $9,859,889

(Source: Georgia Salary and Travel Audit
http://www.open.georgia.gov/sta/entryPoint.aud)

Cerebration said...

According to this budget document -

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/superintendent/budget/files/E4FE1FD427E5488E83C6C5C48A68947B.pdf

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

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

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

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

Download some of these budgets and look them over!

Cerebration said...

Georgia school systems percentage of schools making AYP:
Forsyth Schools: 100%
Fayette Schools: 100%
Gwinnett Schools: 99.1%
Cobb Schools: 94.7%
Cherokee County: 94.3%
Clayton County: 81.7%
Fulton Schools: 94.6%
Atlanta Public Schools: 80%
*DeKalb Schools: 77.8

(source: state of Georgia Department of Education website:
http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/ReportingFW.aspx?PageReq=103&StateId=ALL&T=1&FY=2009)

Cerebration said...

Reduce the graduation requirement to meet the state (23 credits - one less in social studies).

In fact, Gwinnett only requires the state graduation requirements (although they "recommend" 4 units of SS).

High School Graduation Requirements
In order to earn a regular Gwinnett County high school diploma, students must:
Learn the AKS to pass each class and earn the necessary Carnegie units (class credits);
Pass Gwinnett's high school Gateway, which is first administered in the 10th grade; and
Pass Georgia's High School Graduation Tests (content-area subtests and writing test), which are administered in the 11th grade.
Fulfill Georgia's Graduation Requirements.

http://www.gwinnett.k12.ga.us/gcps-mainweb01.nsf/3920DB3FDC7120D285257399006691AA/$file/GCPSgraduationruleflyer.pdf

Cerebration said...

Shut down DOLA (DeKalb Online Academy) completely. The state has a better online academy and the credits transfer seamlessly - so DOLA in effect - is a redundant, unnecessary department.

Cerebration said...

DCSS SAT Scores –

2004 – Verbal 464 Math 459 No data
2005 – Verbal 465 Math 457 No data
2006 – Verbal 462 Math 451 Writing 452
2007 - Verbal 457 Math 443 Writing 446
2008 - Verbal 452 Math 443 Writing 444
2009 - Verbal 451 Math 441 Writing 442

DCSS lost 13 points in Verbal, 18 points in Math, and 10 points in Writing on the SAT between 2004 and 2009.

Dr. Lewis increased the admin and support levels to 8,800 while cutting teachers positions to 7,000 (soon to be 6700 per Ms. Tyson). Is it any wonder our SAT scores are going down? There is a direct correlation between decreasing the number of teachers and falling SAT scores.

Anonymous said...

But if we shut down DOLA, County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton will have to go back into the classroom, and will have to decide whether she wants to teach (and check her e-mail all day long including while in the classroom), or attend all those county commission meetings.

Cerebration said...

Our board reps keep repeating the mantra - "we have 101,000 students" -- We do not.

The number reported to the state on the October 2009 Official FTE count for DeKalb was 97,958, however, the State website currently shows DeKalb with 96,907 students.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recap, that is, in terms of the numbers. What does ANY good businessperson do when running their business? Compile and analyze ALL of the data. Given these numbers, it is a NOBRAINER as to where the "fat" needs to be cut. This MIS numbers are rediculous. Wait-a-minute, I thought information technology is supposed to help DECREASE costs. Something just doesn't "compute!" Seems like some "debugging" needs to be done in MIS. Mechanization, or should I say, automation, should REDUCE the amount of labor needed. I think MIS should know a little something about this... Ms. Tyson, nobody should understand that better than you. Check!

Cerebration said...

If you look at the Georgia Open Records you will find many other areas that can be examined for cuts before cutting the people who work with the students directly at the local school.

Figures include:
562 employees at a cost of $28,800,437 in salaries and $228,868 in travel expenses.

Job titles for the above include:
79 BUSINESS SERV SECRETARY/CLERK
And CENTRAL SUPPORT/DATA CLERK
17 DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT
46 GENERAL ADMIN SECRETARY/CLERK
48 GRADUATION SPECIALIST
51 INFORMATION SERVICES CLERK
219 MISCELLANEOUS ACTIVITIES
(over $5.5 million)
42 OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
20 PLANT OPERATIONS SEC/CLERK
93 STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST
(over $6.5 million)
26 SUPPORT SERV SECRETARY/CLERK

In addition, the salaries for many clerical staff are larger than that of our classroom teachers.
The salary schedule for clerical needs to be revised and brought back to reality.

Cerebration said...

We also need to demand a thorough, public accounting of the buildings the school system owns and their utilization (or lack thereof). One blogger clued us in to a listing available online - do a search here:

http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/PropertyAppraisal/realSearch.asp

using the term

DEKALB BOARD OF EDUCATION

=======

Obviously it will take some time to unload these buildings, but it needs to be done. It is my opinion that the school system, by leaving vacant, unkept buildings in our communities, they are causing blight - and causing property values to erode further.

Cerebration said...

Reevaluate the pay scales in the administration's "inner circle" and weed out the nepotism and overpayment.

Here is a comparison between 2004 salaries and 2009 salaries:

NAME - 2004 salary - 2009 salary

LEWIS,CRAWFORD $112,074 - $287,991.63
REID,PATRICIA A $100,010- $197,592.50
CALLAWAY,FRANKIE B $106,698- $165,035.69
MOSELEY,ROBERT G $106,698- $165,035.69
TALLEY,GLORIA S no data available - $165,035.69
TURK,MARCUS T $75,558 - $165,035.69
TYSON,RAMONA H $99,960- $165,035.69
WILSON,JAMIE L $85,502 - $165,035.69
SATTARI,DARYUSH $49,451- $147,539.80
MITCHELL,FELICIA M $96,354- $125,284.87
FREEMAN,TIMOTHY W $106,598 - $124,049.27
GILLIARD,WANDA S $102,594 - $124,049.27
THOMPSON,ALICE A $99,960- $124,049.27
NORRIS-BOUIE,WENDOLYN $100,060 - $122,345.84
DUNSON,HORACE C $90,606- $122,195.84
SEGOVIS,TERRY M $93,888 - $122,195.84
SIMPSON,RALPH L $95,826- $122,195.84
WHITE,DEBRA A $90,426 - $122,195.84
RHODES,CHERYL L $88,804 - $121,202.40
FREEMAN,SUSAN L $85,578 - $120,844.00

====

During this same time, classroom teachers have suffered furloughs, loss of retirement contributions, cut-backs and other affronts. I make the claim that the school system has bred bad morale by taking money from the classroom and giving it to the upper administration.

Anonymous said...

Remember when Harold Lewis filed a sexual harassment claim against Pat Pope? Crawford personally and immediately gave him a promotion to head of Special Projects for Transportation at a six figure salary, even though he had no experience in school transportation.

Know how to end the insanity? Make positions like that have the same salaries as teachers, and at pay levels under what master teachers make. Stop rewarding the burueacrats. Start rewarding teachers and in school personnel. it has to stop and stop now.

Cerebration said...

Once, bloggers here worked together to write up a very simple Students' Bill of Rights:



1. Every child HAS THE RIGHT to be in a decent, clean, safe environment.



2. Every child HAS THE RIGHT to be in a classroom with a reasonable pupil teacher ratio.



3. Every child HAS THE RIGHT to highly qualified, competent teachers who are paid well and have adequate schoolhouse support staff as well as abundant access to state of the art science and technology equipment.





Teacher said...

Your call for a rational cost/benefit accounting of how DCSS spends its money, is right on. I'd just caution against any kind of reflexive responses, though, even to the seemingly excess security staff. I DO think it's excessive; however, the nature of the demographics might be enough different in DCSS versus Gwinnett, to support some additional personnel.

I see so many of the problems countywide stemming from the highly centralized structure of DCSS. Everyone feels like you have to "ask the Dept Chair" (a non-admin position that involves lots more work but no more pay), who has to "Ask the Principal" who in turn has to "Ask the Area Supervisor", who must "Ask the Superintendent." By the time all the asking is done, the original issue has molded on the shelf. And this can occur for a query as classroom-centered as whether students could be put into a single-desk configuration (favored by many teachers, but not allowed by "Administration"), or into the popular pod groupings, which many teachers feel contributed to classroom noise and lack of focus.

Teachers should be empowered to make their own decisions about what works best in their classroom, given the 30-plus kids that they have that semester or that year. Each level of "asking" requires one more highly-paid administrator.

On the Central Office cuts: I've read negative comments on Fernbank Science Center on this blog, and some corrections are in order. The 30-plus teachers at FSC are DeKalb County teachers and are paid on the same salary scale as all teachers. In addition to the required student-contact hours each week, these teachers also conduct numerous Staff Development programs.

To an outsider, staff development might sound like teachers flying off to Las Vegas for a good time: but in reality, in science at least, it is the core of helping teachers keep up with new technologies and teaching strategies. It takes some serious thinking by an expert science teacher to come up with lab experiments, for instance, that will work in a classroom that may lack water or any basic materials--not uncommon in DCSS. (But you can be sure there will be a Promethean Board, even if the teacher doesn't know how to use it or isn't allowed to keep the special Promethean pen in her classroom!). At present, many teachers say they can't find time to "do science." Children whose teachers didn't "find time for science" are more likely to graduate poorly equipped for careers in technology and science, which are among the most lucrative.

Next time you visit an elementary school classroom, look around. You'll see the GPS for math and English posted, but you usually won't see any GPS for math or science. Science does't "count" for now in DCSS--but it will, when higher science scores become necessay for promotion. Ask your children's teachers how much time they spend on teaching science. You will not be encouraged by the answer.

FSC is a major county resource for both teaching science--one program alone, which I have seen in action as a teacher and a parent, serves close to 10,000 students a year, and that is just ONE of FSC's programs--and for teaching teachers how to improve their science teaching. FSC teachers also present auditorium programs to students, where an entire grade level can participate, with follow-up activities for the classroom.

FSC has no more to do with Fernbank Elementary School than it does with any other particular school in the County. Before people make pronouncements about the worth of FSC, they should acquaint themeselves with the facts. It's part of thinking long-term. Throw out the bathwater, not the babies.

Anonymous said...

http://www.ajc.com/news/uneven-toll-on-government-436552.html

DeKalb County teachers aren’t required to take furlough days this school year, but Lisa Morgan, a kindergarten teacher at Midway Elementary School in Decatur, will have to take seven next year.

“Are we expecting parents who are already struggling to make ends meet, to take time off work?” Morgan asked.

Anonymous said...

@ Teacher 2:05 pm

DCSS Security expenditure is still way out of line. Let's compare DeKalb County with Atlanta Public Schools (APS).

Is APS close enough in demographics to suit you?

Atlanta Public Schools Security Expenditure: $4,300,000 on salary and benefits.

The $4,300,000 APS security figure is on the high side. Looking at the state Salary and Travel audit pay for APS security personnel, it's obvious that over 50% are part time security personnel since over 50% of them make less than $10,000 a year. Without a doubt, those 50% do not have benefit associated with their jobs. About 30% of their security make between $10,000 to $20,000 a year. Only about a dozen make anywhere near the salaries of DCSS security. I calculated that all APS security have benefits though just to give these figures the "benefit of the doubt" (pardon my pun).

APS has around 48,000 students while DCSS has around 97,000 students.

APS spends $4,300,000 on Security while DCSS spends $12,500,000 on Security including salary and benefits.

DCSS spends almost 300% more on security as APS does, yet we only have 100% more students. That's considered out of line with the marketplace to me.

Anonymous said...

@ Teacher 2:05 pm
Are you a Fernbank Science teacher? Yous spent so much time in the defense of FSC I thought maybe you are.

I couldn't agree more with you that we need stronger science and math instruction. I just would like all students to have a reasonably sized science classroom with science instruction every day. That's not happening now, and we need to make it happen every day for all students. That's the only way we'll get our kids literate in science.

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration 1:56 pm

A Student's Bill of Rights should be at the heart of DCSS. That's more important than the current "job program" or a "Teacher's Bill of Rights".

If DCSS provides a safe environment with reasonable class sizes and abundant access to science and technology equipment, then teachers will flock to teach in DCSS.

Do what's right by kids, and you can't go wrong. DCSS's administration and BOE has lost their focus.

Anonymous said...

Whether we have the money or not, I think we should END the magnet program because my precious little darling did not win the lottery and it's just not fair!!!

Cerebration said...

Please, the point of this post is to stop fighting over magnets, etc (bags of rice) and insist that the board complete their due diligence and make every single possible cut OUTSIDE the classroom before having the nerve to cut spending on people and items that directly effect instruction.

Magnets should be revisited and most likely can be restructured to save some money - but can we trust the current board and admin to take on that task? NO. They simply must look to themselves first.

Anonymous said...

I'm getting fed up with this crap. Given the aftermath of the ENRONs, WORLDCOMs, AUTHUR ANDERSENs, City of Atlanta under the leadership of Bill Campbell, and now WALL STREET...when the heck are y'all going to learn. You better do right by the teachers. If you fail to do so, there are consequences -- just as we teach our children.

Now don't get this twisted. Downsizing means pruning the workforce in order to squeeze maximum effort out of the remaining employees. The object is to TRIM LOSSES and RESTORE PROFITABILITY. But if the BOE resorts to laying off teachers and paras, and NOT cut the CENTRAL OFFICE, MIS, SECURITY, and other areas Celebration pointed out, it is no different than CEOs and other executives handing out pink slips to raise PROFITS for shareholders and pad their own pocket$. Haven't we learned anything since the Enron scandel, and the Wall Street bailouts? This behavior is DESTRUCTIVE, and don't you see that this is how we are in this current economic downturn. Drive around DeKalb County and pay close attention. If you see what I see, you will agree that we need to cut the real fat--not teachers and paras. Our teachers and paras are the real leaders in our communities--whom consume goods and services. The point I'm driving at is teachers and paras are already watching every dollar to survive. This is a very "hot" issue, so DO THE RIGHT THING!

Anonymous said...

I would like to see the board institute a policy that going forward no (new) administrator appointed to a central office position can ever earn more than the lowest paid principal in the district. Think of the message, and the dynamics such a policy would create.

Anonymous said...

"I would like to see the board institute a policy that going forward no (new) administrator appointed to a central office position can ever earn more than the lowest paid principal in the district. Think of the message, and the dynamics such a policy would create."

Great idea, but it makes too much common sense for this BOE to every approve it.

Anonymous said...

@ Teacher 2:05 pm

"To an outsider, staff development might sound like teachers flying off to Las Vegas for a good time: but in reality, in science at least, it is the core of helping teachers keep up with new technologies and teaching strategies."

I'm certainly not against staff development, however when I've worked all day with my 30+ students in each class that might not be the best time to "develop" me. Inevitably, that's when my school's staff development happens. I've been at work since 7:30 am, I've taught all day, I'm tired, I have papers to grade and lessons to plan, parents to meet with, and my own kids to go home to take care of. Staff development is wasted on me and my colleagues at that point.

Regarding Fernbank Science Center. It probably has some good programs, but I'm a science teacher, and I've never been scheduled to go there so I really can't say. I sure would love to have some of the equipment for my science lab I've heard Fernbank Science Center has. You're absolutely right in that we have very little in the way of science equipment out in the schools.

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration 3:09 pm

I wish magnet, center, and other program supporters would join in pressing Ms. Tyson and the BOE for real change in the regular education classroom. The DCSS administration and the BOE are using whatever they can to leverage one group against another. It's like the idea is implicit that if you support Ms. Tyson and the BOE, then your school/center/program will be left alone. As if there could possibly be winners and losers in this mess.

Since we're all part of the larger community, everyone needs to advocate for all students in all schools. Our school system is on the verge of going over the waterfall so no logs floating in the river are safe.

Teacher said...

If it's true that "you get what you pay for", then we should consider going for, rather than a lowly-paid person motivated by some kind of idealized commitment to making things better, a highly experienced, PROVEN-success-in-turning-around-failing-school-districts-type person for both our next superintendent and next Director of Curriculum (or whatever fancy title they come up with). No more hiring from within, in a system that is rife with cronyism and so-and-so's cousin, brother-in-law, ex-wife/-husband,pet turtle, etc.

If DCSS were a business, that is how many people would think about leadership--buy the best. Entice someone with the credentials we need to come here and make a difference in our kids' lives. Such people don't work for free--why should they?

Someone from the outside would, and should, demand to be paid a market salary for this kind of work. So much money is at risk, and so many lives will be affected, by this choice.

What was missing behind Dr. Lewis's ill-fated remarks about "not being a rookie" was any demonstration that he wasn't a rookie. Had he been able to point to significant accomplishments that were real--kids learning, parents satisfied, teachers feeling supported by the Administration--his high salary might have led to discontent, but it might have been more of a "fighting over bags of rice" lower-level uproar, not his dethroning. We should demand clear-cut proof of accomplishment from someone at that level.

Look at http://www.aasa.org/content.aspx?id=3030, the American Association of School Administrators. It's a little hard to follow--the columns aren't in numerical order--but if I read it right, the average for a superintendent of a district of 25,000 or more is $211,867. So, I don't think that is as big a problem as what we will ask of this person.

At the least, we should demand fiscal accountability, the appointment of a CFO who explains things in ways we can understand, a smart and up-to-date curriculum director who actually takes the time to include teachers in important decisions like textbook and "cool" curricula selection, the inclusion of all stakeholders in key decisions, experience in dealing with a multicultural community, and a solid academic background. This last is very important--we need someone who makes coherent arguments and seems at least as smart as most of the stakeholders. The position is "Super" intendent, as in, "above." Maybe that's aiming TOO high, but to stay up there, you need to earn, and deserve, it.

Cerebration said...

You are all so wonderful! This is the one reason I believe that this system will be revived - because of ordinary parents, teachers and community members who finally speak up for what is right. There are some truly awesome people in DeKalb - make yourselves known.

Anon 5:53 PM - you made a good point - we are ALL in this together. I have posted comments here before expressing my disappointment in small factions of people who only advocate for their small corner of the school system. It truly is time for us all to band together and speak up for EVERY child and EVERY teacher and EVERY classroom in our school system.

Anonymous said...

Cerebration,
Thanks for quoting me. When I made that post this morning, I thought I may actually make readers angry. And you've created the page of verified facts - thank you.

I think this blog has opened my eyes to much of what is wrong within the system. Most of it comes down to wasting our financial resources through greed, corruption and inept leadership.


The fox is guarding the hen house
This Board will not budge. We have seen the direction the cuts will take. They only have to finalize them.

These problems did not start overnight, they won't be solved that way either. I'm not suggesting that we give up on swaying the B.O.E. But, we do have a solution. The B.O.E. will retain local control, but it has to be by a new set of rules. We must prepare for the next legislative session. We can do it. We can put the lid back on the cookie jar. This is going to take a lot of research to see how other states mandate the expenditure of funds within school systems, but that is what we need to do. Then we have to formalize the proposal, gain support among taxpayers throughout the state and present it to every legislator within the state.

This is not a pipe dream. I think it may be the only way to reign in the excesses of a system gone wild.

-Earlybird

Anonymous said...

I hope that you all show up at the next Budget meeting (4/12?) and share your ideas. Also, make it known that you will be supporting campaigns to unseat incumbents that do not make choices in the best interests of Dekalb students.

Anonymous said...

I agree!
Every child, every teacher, every classroom!
That's it!!
Clean house [deep spring cleaning] starting at the top!
Leave the schools alone!!
It will require decisions [hard and fast] to make it happen!

Kim Gokce said...

Very good information to keep circulating! However, I wonder if enough folks will take the time to digest all of this good information much less form an opinion about how to remedy the excesses on a line item basis.

How about this for a digestible plan:

1) 10% operating expense cut across the board within 6 months. Leave it to the front line and department managers to decide how to get the 10% because they know best how things REALLY operate.

2) Six month hiring freeze for all positions not DIRECTLY engaged in instruction or in-school admin. No back-filling as folks retire, are fired, or quit (or jailed!) for these positions, either! Renew every six months until we are "right-sized." Emergency exception process but only with unanimous BoE vote. If it's debatable, we can do without it.

3) Mandate gathering and quarterly public reporting of organizational efficiency metrics (no more than 20) and upper/lower tolerance levels. This should include metrics for admin/teacher ratios, aggregate capital costs/pupil, aggregate operating costs/pupil, aggregate transport costs/pupil, etc., etc. No more drift allowed without alarms loudly sounding publicly and clearly!

4) Quit pussy-footing around and close the damn schools and redraw attendance for the love of Pete! We have to consolidate and we just keep putting it off - it is killing our long-term expense money. I'm tired of looking at our dilapidated and neglected schools! Our electorate will never fund the necessary $$$ to maintain our current infrastructure - let realism reign in these matters and get to it!

If we demanded just these four things, wouldn't the rest of the $ problem work itself out? Everyone would get to keep their pet programs with just a small haircut. And wouldn't we end up with physical plant worthy of the DeKalb taxpayer and our children?

Arguing through the minutiae of a budget this size is a byzantine, political and fruitless process - demand they cut clean, fair, and quick!

What is the folly in this? I'm a simple, busy man looking for a simple, if temporarily painful, solution ...

Kim Gokce said...

Let me correct myself: "... much less form an opinion about how to remedy the excesses on a line item basis."

Forget forming an opinion about a line item remedy ... how about just getting a consensus on an action plan?!

I'm trying to say that I think we have to work at a higher level of consensus to affect change ...

Kim Gokce said...

... and we can continue arguing about more targeted cuts to specific areas while we do the disciplined, "blind" approach I've outline ... but for heaven's sake, let's get started! Anything else is irresponsible in my way of thinking ...

Anonymous said...

Do you know that there was a committee 4 or 5 years ago to study the future of FSC? It met for many months and in the end had clear and concise recommendations. At the time, very few schools were represented in STT (most students came from a small handful of schools), teachers and FSC specialist could not account for their time and the cost of transporting students there for field trips was out of control. Nothing happened with the report and its recommendations.

The cost of magnet programs are easy to find (for now). Go to last year's budget and look at individual magnet programs and schools. Where it says magnet points -- those are teaching positions solely paid for by local tax dollars. There are no state dollars involved those positions. Pay special attention to DSA.

For the record, I am a magnet parent -- no sour grapes here. BUT I am so tired of the sense of entitlement we find in DCSS among these parents.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous at 10:35pm

For that matter, to Everyone . . .

Notice how as soon as we seem to be consolidating a plan, when we finally begin to have a shared vision of getting the B.O.E. to force cuts in non-essential, non-teaching positions, someone does it? They throw magnet back out there.

And the light bulb goes off . . .

Magnet is the red herring. Don't chase it. When someone brings up magnet, it's just to throw us off course.

We finally realize that the money is in the budget to run schools, there just isn't money for all the pencil-sharpener positions that most districts have never even heard of.

To Kim Gokce, nice post.

Jessica said...

"Then there are ineffective scripted learning programs like America’s Choice ($8,000,000) and Springboard ($1,400,000) which the teachers dislike intensely and don’t support. And the 80+ Instructional Coaches ($8,000,000) who do not teach students, but were hired to support America’s Choice and Springboard."

These are being paid for by Title 1 monies that are very restrictive. America's Choice is being paid for by Stimulus Money that will go away after this next school year. (When asked about this at the time of adoption, Dr. Lewis said he hoped that the economy would have improved by the time the stimulus money was gone and that the revenue would be there to continue.)

Many of the Instructional Coaches were also hired with Stimulus Monies. Their job description said that the positions were time limited. However, many senior teachers moved into these positions. When these jobs disappear, and they will because Title 1 will no longer have the funds to pay for them, I expect that some of these teachers will want to move back into the classroom.

Cutting these programs/instructional coaches is meaningless to the bottom line of the deficit. Title 1 monies cannont replace regular spending. You can use them differently, but you can't pay everyday bills with that money.

As a former teacher in several DCSS Title 1 schools, I can say that there isn't much that those schools really lack for at the elementary level. I am curious what the restrictions are for Title 1 monies at the middle and high school level. If the money could be spent on extra teachers this would be great. Even if it is restricted to math and reading (like it appears to be in the elementary school), there is something to be said to pouring these resources into the middle and high schools.

Competency is a huge issue in DeKalb. I suspect that the MIS department is so large because there is simply a lot of incompetence. Of course, many of the incompetent people should be fired....

I would be careful using GCSS to compare anything with DeKalb. There is so much secrecy in Gwinnett that it is hard to know what is real and what isn't. What are Fulton's expenditures?

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:35 pm

Interesting. Sounds like the study happened during Johnny Brown's tenure, before Lewis.

Anonymous said...

I served on the Study Committee for Fernbank Science Center. It was put together by Crawford Lewis.

My subcommittee co-chair and I finally requested and got a meeting with Lewis to present our findings because it was clear they were not going anywhere otherwise. We met initially with Lewis and Debbie Loeb. Then Lewis called in Gloria Talley. We met for about an hour.

After the meeting, we left a copy of the findings with Lewis -- and never heard anything further.

We believe that the FSC Study Committee was trumped up by Lewis -- in the same way the faux demographic study was put together (cut and paste from other studies of other school systems)-- simply to enable Lewis to do what he wanted to do without having to take any responsibility for it.

If you ever do find the FSC Study, could it be posted here on this blog somewhere? I would like to look and see if it includes my subcommittee's report and conclusions.

Cerebration said...

Thanks for posting Jessica. We have discussed this issue (almost ad nauseam) here for over a year. There is a lot of data available on this blog. You may want to begin by clicking on Mr. Potato Head and reading about the bloat uncovered by Kim and Ella as compared to other counties. Then look through the archives - we've had many discussions relating to the budget cuts. And finally, click the page called "Facts & Sources" to check on information we have double-checked and found to be reliable.

As far as Title 1 jobs go - we are aware that Title 1 funds cover the salary - but we are concerned about the commitment to benefits, office space, technology resources, expenses and the demand these "supervisors" place on classroom teachers. There is a very large intangible cost associated with so many Title 1 curriculum supervisors or coaches or whatever.

In the past, Title 1 funds were used to hire supplementary teachers to focus on more or less individual and small group tutoring in math and English. This is a better use of the funds for student outcomes and for teacher support.

Anonymous said...

@ Jessica 8:45 am

"These are being paid for by Title 1 monies that are very restrictive. America's Choice is being paid for by Stimulus Money that will go away after this next school year. (When asked about this at the time of adoption, Dr. Lewis said he hoped that the economy would have improved by the time the stimulus money was gone and that the revenue would be there to continue.) "

We keep hearing that DCSS can't use the federal money any other way but to pay for America's Choice and the Instructional Coaches, and you've probably been told that, but it's simply not true. Stimulus money is not very restrictive at all.

According to many newspaper stories, stimulus money is much more flexible thatn Title 1 and IDEA (students with disabilities) money.

Stimulus money was spent by many school systems to preserve jobs inside the schoolhouse including teachers who actually teach children. Dr. Lewis just decided to spend it on America's Choice and Instructional Coaches.

Look at this quote from the Sacramento Bee (Sacramento's newspaper):

"Understandably, the federal stimulus money was a godsend to the districts. Elk Grove Unified – the area's largest district – used $26 million of its $39.5 million in stimulus funds to save the jobs of teachers, counselors, library technicians, vice principals and administrative assistants."

""Schools have been hit with pretty big budget cuts, but the Title I money and IDEA money are dedicated for particular purposes, so it's difficult for them to use it for specific budget cuts,"

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/02/22/2554374/sacramento-school-districts-used.html#ixzz0kKNl4a1t

Stimulus money is fairly open-ended. IDEA and Title 1 (low income students) money are more restrictive than stimulus money.

Title 1 money is the "big" money for DCSS to the tune of around $30,000,000 a year. The main restrictions on Title 1 money are:
1. Can be used only for Title 1 students in Title 1 schools
2. Cannot be used to supplant expenditures that are countywide (e.g. I can't take the Title 1 money and use it to fund technology labs in Title 1 schools while I fund the non-Title 1 schools with general fund money)

Because you can't supplant existing program funding with Title 1 money, you can't hire regular education classroom teachers with it. Can you hire math or reading teachers to help struggling students in elementary, middle and high school? Absolutely. That's what Title 1 was used for until Lewis got hold of the Title 1 funds.

I've been in most of the Title 1 schools in DCSS, in particular the elementary schools, and have taught regular ed and other special programs. Title 1 schools do not have everything they need. The difference in working in our non-Title 1 schools in affluent areas (have you worked in those?) versus the Title 1 schools is night and day for the teachers and the students.

$30,000,000 in Title 1 funds and millions in stimulus dollars became a Central Office "piggybank" under Lewis and the administrators of DCSS's Title 1 program and the DCSS Office of School Improvement (now there's an oxymoron).

Spending $9,000,000 for 90 Instructional and Literacy Coaches (and by the way DCSS local tax dollars are paying the $2,250,000 in benefits) who do not teach students is not "meaningless to the bottom line of the deficit."

As for the incompetence of MIS, I think DCSS needs to come in line with the other counties in technology funding and have a customer service level survey by an independent agency.

Gwinnett may be secretive, but DCSS is more so. The state Salary and Travel audit for Gwinnett shows only $700,000 of it's personnel assigned to the non-descriptive "Miscellaneous" category. DCSS assigned almost $6,000,000 to the "Miscellaneous" category including 8 employees who make over $100,000 a year.

Cerebration said...

Thanks Anon. I will add - Ron Ramsey is actually listed with two job titles at the state salary site. One is called LEGAL PERSONNEL - $112,120.37 and MISCELLANEOUS ACTIVITIES - $3,261.00 (this is in addition to his pay from the state for being a state senator and attending the legislative sessions fro 40 days per year (creating his absence at DCSS?)

Anonymous said...

Is the MONEY really there? I wanna know...SHOW ME THE MONEY! How many "hits" us teachers and paras gotta take? I can't even take time off (i.e., SICK) to handle my business without it showing up on my performance review. Take, take, take...DCSS needs to understand that TIME IS MONEY and the principle of QUID-PRO-QUO. If the MONEY is there, I want to CA$H in my sick time hours and walk. On the other hand, if the BOE does right by the kids, then I'll gladly let it go. Wishful thinking on my part, I'll NEVER see a check cut for my remaining sick time. Now tell me who's really sacraficing? I ain't NO ROOKIE either!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:01, I pray you really are not an actual DCSS teacher with that grammar, and attitude.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:01

It's sad that teachers get into teaching for money. As a teacher, I became a teacher to give children the best education that I could. I knew that I'd never get rich, but the teachers in DCSS get paid well, especially when you look at the benefits. When I hear teachers complain about their pay and not about the quality of education that they must give their students because of the DCSS "rules," it makes me happy that I resigned from DCSS as your attitude is more prevalent in DCSS than that of my own.

The problem with DCSS is that it can't keep teachers who care about educating the children of DCSS. This is probably because the administration itself does not know what a quality education looks like or is.

The entire situation with DCSS will not get fixed until Lewis is out and someone outside of Georgia comes in and shakes things up and moves people out. Hopefully that will happen sooner than later.

I pray for the children of DeKalb and hope that they all receive the quality of education that they deserve and are all not receiving now.

Anonymous said...

This is going to make for great T-shirts:

Front Side
#1 - What is the job of a school system?
To educate kids. Nothing more, nothing less.

Back Side
#2 - What jobs do we eliminate?
See question #1 to determine if a job is truly needed.

Can we have them ready for the April 12th meeting?

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous April 6th, 5:21pm and 6:19pm.

I grant you the person who typed the post that 5:21pm was addressing does not come across in the best way.

But, let me be clear, especially to you 6:19pm: For teachers, it is NOT an EITHER / OR scenario. We (yes, I'm a teacher) can actually care about the kids AND care about our paycheck.

Teaching is not preaching. It does not have to be an altruistic adventure into poverty. We are not monks, we did not take a vow of silence. Teachers have a right to complain about their ever smaller salaries. Are we not degreed individuals, each and every one? Those that have not quit because the going got tough (unlike you Anon 6:19 - by your own admission) have an ethical duty to speak out about financial mismanagement and misallocated resources.

You, Anon 6:19, placed yourself on a pedestal saying you became a teacher to give children the best education you could. I suppose that included the lesson of resigning when your holier-than-thou attitude was not appreciated.

Why is it, that when it comes to ongoing educational requirements, daily work load, additional responsibilities, parent and community interaction, meetings and conferences . . . we are called, we are reminded, and we are expected to be, "professional." But, when it comes time for compensation, we are basically told to sit down and shut up otherwise we are not "professional." Really?

Anon 6:19 said "but the teachers in DCSS get paid well, especially when you look at the benefits." THAT IS SHEER BULL%^&*!
We have not had a state raise in years, we have not had a step increase and will not get one, our Board-sponsored retirement was taken back and will be again this year and on top of this, our pay is to be decreased this year and probably the next. From previous posts, you can see that there are janitors and A/C repairmen making more than the teachers . . . as do the media specialists, the counselors, the assistant principals, the principals, and all the thousands who work at the Board level. I just looked at the pay scale for a GA school system smaller than DeKalb with a lower cost of living - if I were there, I'd be getting paid more than in DeKalb. Am I going to move as soon as possible? Will I jump ship? The answer is obvious.

I am not a monk.

Cerebration said...

Love the t-shirt idea!! Can anyone get this done, really? I'll take two!

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear, Anon 8:05!

When I was an impossible 20-year-old in my BSEd program at the University of Georgia, a fellow student in my field center made a comment to me about how teacher salaries were going to have to improve or he would leave the profession.

I looked down my snout at him and said something about how any teacher who was concerned about money was in the wrong field.

He looked back at me and quickly shut me up by saying, "But you can afford to say things like that."

He knew I was lucky enough to have parents with six-figure salaries. I had no idea, I repeat, NO IDEA what the reality of financial responsibility was, especially for someone like him who didn't have a mommy and daddy to turn to when his car broke down. He'd done a tour of duty in Desert Storm and was putting himself through school on the GI Bill.

I think of the stupid thing I said to him all the time.

I especially began to think it when I started teaching and had to live on the salary without my parents' support. For the first five years, I had to work two jobs to be able to support myself as a single woman in Atlanta. I could not have kept the lights on otherwise-- and all I was trying to feed and clothe was ME.

There's something essentially wrong about that. Right out of college, I had friends who delivered pizzas full time who made more than I did, so the incentive to quit teaching was pretty high.

I didn't quit because I felt the "calling" that so many others cite as the reason that I should not complain about money. But what is my motivation now to keep working as hard as I always have? My salary is being slashed more than I ever imagined, especially back when I bought a house and carefully calculated how much money I'd have to spend on my mortgage payment.

If this trend continues, I'm going to have to get a second job again, or I'm going to have to get a new job, period.

People, I didn't get into teaching for the money, and I love your kids. But YOUR kids are not MY kids. I shouldn't have to sacrifice my family for yours.

Cerebration said...

I completely agree. Teachers should be valued and paid a reasonably respectable salary.

FWIW - our minister makes a six-figure salary!

Anonymous said...

Cere,
I want a t-shirt too! I hope someone can make them and sell them before the board meeting.

In regard to teacher salaries, pay and benefits. It's frustrating to see the list you posted with all those officials who have gotten such large raises while teacher pay has remained stagnant and is now set to decline.

Anonymous said...

Ever wonder how all those non-teaching personnel got raises when teachers didn't? New positions with new titles and corresponding new and better salaries were the reason. You want to give someone a raise (outside the classroom)? Give them a different title and different pay to go along with it. Ms. Tyson had plenty of those.

DCSS needs to have a set classification of non-teaching jobs and job titles (currently there are over 400 job titles) and compensation needs to be set for each classification.

Kim Gokce said...

Anon 9:43 "... currently there are over 400 job titles ..."

When Ella and I reviewed the salary data a year ago, this was one of the biggest problems we had with DCSS data - simply trying to identify what some of the job titles actually represented. This is a marker for bureaucracy - proliferation and obscurity of job titles.

Cerebration said...

It's bad enough that Crawford Lewis used this "promotion" method to give people raises (ie: naming them "Executive Director" instead of "Director") - but every damn time - the board endorsed and approved it. There's plenty of blame to go around...

Anonymous said...

@ Anon April 6 8:05

"From previous posts, you can see that there are janitors and A/C repairmen making more than the teachers . . . as do the media specialists"

Media Specialists are REQUIRED to have a Master's degree. We are on the same salary schedule as the teachers. My children have needs as well so that pay decrease puts me in a bind. I don't live extravagantly because my kids require every penny.
Therefore, I'm designing my exit strategy. It's a shame because I really ENJOY my school, the wonderful teachers, and the fantastic kids that I serve.

BTW, what do all the Area Superintendents do? What is their purpose? Cutting all of them could prevent layoffs for paras and clerks.

Cerebration said...

BTW -- no t-shirts on the horizon (we have no budget to front the money...) But - I would encourage you to make a sign and bring it to Monday's meeting!

Just write this on the sign:

What is the job of a school system?
To educate kids. Nothing more, nothing less.

or some modified version of that message that fits.

Molly said...

BTW, what do all the Area Superintendents do? What is their purpose? Cutting all of them could prevent layoffs for paras and clerks.

Most of the area assistant superintendents will be eliminated. The proposed reorganization has only 3 Area Superintendents - one for north, one for central and one for south DeKalb.

Anonymous said...

I wrote the comment about being concerned with constantly taking "hits" (i.e. pay) and DCSS employees not being compensated for their sick time. I can speak and write English as good and probably BETTER than the one who commented on my grammer and attitude. The point is, I can act as UNPROFESSIONAL, UNSKILLFUL, and INAPPROPRIATE as those mismanaging DCSS. Am I upset? The answer is a resounding YES! I can project a FALSE IMAGE just like those clowns charged with the responsibility of leading DCSS. I am more than qualified to speak in this forum, and I'm not going to be "fake" about it either. The approach in my post was to MIRROR the behavior I see transpiring at the Central Office and the BOE. Go figga! Excuse me dear reader for my improper English grammer and attitude.

FWIW, I have been concerned for years about American education and its decline. Our children are NOT PREPARED to handle the sophisticated technologies in use today and tomorrow. How are we going to compete in this global economy? This question is at the core of my belief system as a teacher. I am pissed off at having to deal with the crap that's going on within so-called leadership circles.

Anonymous said...

BTW, what do all the Area Superintendents do? What is their purpose? Cutting all of them could prevent layoffs for paras and clerks.

Most of the area assistant superintendents will be eliminated. The proposed reorganization has only 3 Area Superintendents - one for north, one for central and one for south DeKalb.


We need to push for more specific information about the proposed cuts. The fact that the specific jobs being cut are not being revealed until the 9th hour cannot be good.

I have heard rumors that part of these cuts include the Elementary, Middle and High School Instruction Depratments (which already operate on the bare minimum). Aren't these positions directly linked to the support of teachers in the classroom. Cutting these positions would leave folks like America's Choice, High Schools That Work (if not cut), SpringBoard, Graduation Coaches, Instructional Change Coaches, TSS Coaches, ELL Coaches and Instructional Coaches driving instruction in the district!

The cuts should start with the multiple "Executive Directors" and "Directors" and ... yes... unecessary programs like America's Choice, Spring Board and High Schools That Work.

If the Board and the "Powers that be" want to be totally transparent... they should share the proposed positions to cut at central office.

BUT- I suspect... that much like the elusive "Organizational Chart" (which by the way does not include the positions mentioned above)... things will remain under cover until it is too late.

Anonymous said...

I've been gone for a while, but DCSS was at one time the only County offering free driver's ed. If this is still the case, it's probably time to join our neighbors and charge for it. The costs to run the program are real. Maybe the BOE discovered this some time back...

M G said...

Driver's Ed was eliminated last year.

Anonymous said...

Please excuse my grammer and attitude once again, but I have a final comment for the BOE and Central Office to ponder as we approach April 12th.

Dear BOE members,

You need to be practical by placing the students', teachers', and paras' concerns and needs at the center of your decision-making processes--NOT YOURS. Shift your focus from seeing the physical machinery of DCSS to seeing the lives of the people using it. Some of the facts set forth in many threads of this blog are not difficult to quantify--and it's obvious in not hard to even identify. Look at this data herein and use it in your decision-making.

Take a broad view of the possibilities I've read just in this blog and be for God's sake responsible. The challenge before you is large, as are the consequences. Given the record of DCSS mismanagement over the past few years, we have every reason to expect you to hold those accountable for the predicament we find ourselves in today. The students, teachers, and paras didn't do it, so focus you undivided attention on the SOURCES of the problem(s). ERADICATE IT, and DO IT NOW! Please. If you fail to do your job properly, then I hope the citizenry will deal with each of you swiftly in your respective districts. Sit down quietly (individually and collectively) and discern the privileged position you are in and the responsibility your job entails. Play your numbers game, but don't REPEAT the same mistakes that got us all in of this mess in the first place. Consult this blog and sift through the data as I have done. Compare and contrast the data with yours. I see some very intelligent posts in the many threads of this blog that more than adequately point out where all the "fat" is. IT'S YOUR MOVE.

A Concerned DCSS Educator

Dekalbparent said...

Excuse me if this posted elsewhere.

I HAVE NOT SEEN THIS ADDRESSED:

If stimulus $ pays for America's Choice and Springboard, what happens when the stimulus $ is gone (and the hoped-for recovery doesn't happen)?

Will these programs be dropped after 2 years? I can hardly imagine there is DCSS money to pay for it. If they are dropped, will teachers be forced to re-do their lessons? (More work for the same disappearing salary.) Since those programs come with their own special materials, will DCSS have to purchase new materials?

Teachers / Title I-aware people?