Tuesday, July 20, 2010

At least the lawyers are getting rich...

This is the latest sickening, disheartening news uncovered by the AJC.

DeKalb schools overspent on lawyers

DeKalb County schools spent six times what they had budgeted for legal expenses last year and have stalled on looking for a new attorney.

Records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show the troubled school system paid lawyers $5,792,239 from July 1, 2009 t0 June 30, 2010. That includes money for 16 firms, although the district’s budget only calls for two firms.

The legal bills -- which were more than the those of Cobb, Fulton and Clayton schools combined -- come at a time when DeKalb is cutting tens of millions out of its budget and laying off hundreds of school employees.


Click this link to read the entire article. But get a tissue first.

90 comments:

UN-BE-LIEVABLE said...

This nugget is just too much:

"The legal budget – both last year and this year – is $934,816, according to chief financial officer Marcus Turk. For this year, however, the system signed contracts for nearly $400,000 more than the budgeted figure; school board members were not aware of the discrepancy."

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why we didn't put a bid out for the current fiscal year and get the best price. We are spending millions more than other districts.

As a tax payer, until the district gets its house in order and it's spending, administrative costs, and other unneeded expenses in line, than I will never support the district getting more tax dollars. This is just a gross waste of money. Why didn't they have a flat fee to begin with? For a large system, that is what makes sense.

Someone else is getting rich, while our children suffer in larger classes. When will we get leadership who puts our children first?

Cerebration said...

I'm confused. King & Spalding has represented DCSS in the Heery lawsuit to date. This article states that K&S are no longer being paid by DCSS-

"Almost half of DeKalb’s legal payments – $2.48 million – went to King & Spalding, which is representing the district in its suit against construction manager Heery International. The district is no longer paying legal costs to King & Spalding, but still must pay for expert witnesses to review the construction documents, Bowen said."

But - the case has yet to go to trial. Certainly, there will be legal fees when it does...(BTW - When will that begin? It used to be March 2010, then May 2010, now - crickets.)

The article also states, "The "current issues" include the indictments of former Superintendent Crawford Lewis and former chief operating officer Patricia Reid, who are charged with running a criminal enterprise within the school system. Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, the district's general counsel, increased its rates to represent the district in the ongoing case."

So, now the Lewis/Pope criminal trial is costing us big bucks to Sutherland - on top of the legal fees for the HM trial.

And, yet, the YMCA has to take up the challenge to renovate Cross Keys athletic fields for the students because there's not enough tax money for the system to do this for the students. You know - the students - the people for whom we collect all of these tax dollars in the first place!

Anonymous said...

Why are we paying the Sutherlin firm to represent DCSS in the criminal charges against Pat Pope, etc? Has DCSS been charged with anything? Not sure why they need lawyers for that one.

Anonymous said...

What about the comment about how the more expensive firm was hired because it offered more "diversity"?

Cerebration said...

Oh - if you insist on revisiting THAT discussion - here's the link to the decision to keep Josie Alexander's firm as well as add Sutherlin - due to "diversity" -

The School Board Needs To Make Decisions Based On What Is Best For the School System Now in the 21st Century

Some quotes -

Walker obviously (from his own recounting at the meeting) has long-held racial bitterness due to his childhood of segregation in south GA. He attended segregated schools in Thomaston, which may have been a very difficult burden to bear, as he still harbors much resentment all these years later. His words to the board included these comments, "I am a very race-conscious person. I know discrimination. I will not lead you to believe that I am race neutral. I see color. I love color. I do see in black and white, but judge me by my actions."

===

“They really had planned to get rid of Alexander,” said Evans, who showed up at the meeting in overhauls and a red shirt.

“Some of them were sitting up there saying they didn’t care anything about diversity. The whole process from the beginning was a process to get rid of that firm. Little by little our strength is being eroded, if we ever had any.”

Be True to Your School said...

Someone else is getting rich, while our children suffer in larger classes. When will we get leadership who puts our children first?

TODAY is the day to take the FIRST STEP toward "voting the bums out" and getting new leadership -- county and state. EVERYONE who is registered to vote needs to go to the polls TODAY!

Not sure who to vote for? The League of Women Voters offers help. You can even print out a ballot with your choices to take with you to the polls. Or, e-mail it to yourself and read it on your smartphone.

There are several places to obtain information on candidates. They include:

(1)Champion Newspaper and the Champion Free Press issues July 8 and July 9, 2010. They are located on news stands and the local library.

(2)There is also a portal link to the AJC from the GA LWV website at: www.lwvga.org

(3)AJC On-line: On the computer, go to: www.ajc.com

No time to check out candidates now? As a last resort, simply vote for anyone other than the incumbent, who is indicated on the ballot.

Anonymous said...

I suspect we have pre-paid for the trial, so that is why we are done paying them.

I think Zepora Robert's comments about running policies by the attorneys are wrong. She just doesn't like the recent changes in the ethics' policy that will keep her from protecting her children and other friends and family who are employees of the system. The Board needs to know that the actions they are taking pass the legal test.

Anonymous said...

In the DCSS Diversity article in today's paper Tom Bowen says ".... DeKalb is a very diverse system, ...was this was a case of bringing more diversity to the school system..." How can you say DCSS is diverse? I don't have numbers but you can look around at any DCSS meeting and see that the vast majority of the uppper level staff present are all black. If you are trying to be diverse it's time to start hiring staff other than New Birth church members and sorority/frat members. I know of many very qualified white candidates that applied for management type positions w/in the county and were never given an opportunity to interview.

Does anyone know if Josie Alexander was a member of the sisterhood that is promenient w/in the system or if she attends New Birth? I would like to know if there is a way to find out the racial make-up/diversity numbers w/in the DCSS management.

Anonymous said...

Every time Tom Bowen opens his mouth it's an embarassment. Didn't he get the memo? It's better to keep your mouth shut and let people suspect you're an idiot than it is to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Anonymous said...

Crawford Lewis, his "cabinet" and the entire BOE should be tried for crimes against children and child abuse, as well as for stealing from both children (stealing years of education that cannot be recouped) and taxpayers (stealing federal, state and county tax dollars).

Tried and if found guilty -- how could they not be guilty? -- sent to jail for a long, long time! They are all the lowest of the low.

Anonymous said...

There is very little diversity in the DCSS administration -- from the AP's up. There are only token whites. And what about Hispanics? Patterns of corruption, nepotism, cronyism, etc. that were put in place by the old system, which was clearly racist, have gotten much, much worse since Hallford left. It really is a cultural issue. One that goes unaddressed because folks down here aren't comfortable talking about it, and because so much of the black middle class in places like Dekalb depends on public sector employment.

Be True to Your School said...

@ Anonymous, 11:05 AM

You have nailed it! The true elephant in the room: Reverse Racism.

The curious thing is that the African-Americans in DCSS and the BOE -- aided and abetted by others who will not speak honestly and directly either due to their own ignorance or undue sensitivity -- are irrevocably damaging African-American children.

The greed and pettiness rampant in DCSS is consigning a generation or more of African-American children to a lifetime of poverty-level existence.

Cerebration said...

Anon 10:03 AM - how can you pre-pay for a trial? How would they know how long it will take and much it will cost? Perhaps we've paid for "pre-trial" and now must pay experts to testify at trial - and then maybe there's a percentage of the award that goes to K&S? I'm just guessing - but I can't believe that there's a way to "prepay" entirely for a trial.

Lawyers - please clarify.

A Mother said...

UN-BE-LIEVABLE said...
This nugget is just too much:

"The legal budget – both last year and this year – is $934,816, according to chief financial officer Marcus Turk. For this year, however, the system signed contracts for nearly $400,000 more than the budgeted figure; school board members were not aware of the discrepancy."
July 20, 2010 8:49 AM


"I was not aware of that …" is the mantra of the Board (and perhaps the administration). It is code for "It was my job to know. Now that I can no longer pretend not to know better I'm still going to keep doing what I'm doing and I'm not going to do anything to correct what I have already done". It's almost as if they all took the same course, taught by the same instructor, at the same time. ...And, it seems to make sense to them. They think they have explained it. It's done. Finished. There is nothing more to say or do about that.

It's just the strangest thing to me when I hear that response given in press conferences by so many of them so often. Do they hear themselves?

I'm still trying to make sense of how this could even have happened. Isn’t Ms Roberts talking about actions that were ALL approved by the Board?

Wow! I’m just speechless!

Anonymous said...

Promoting staff to administrative positions before they have sufficient experience is one reason for high attorney costs. In the old days, a principal would have to have moved up the ranks very slowly, gaining experience with each step. He/she would have been an assistant principal or ILT for a minimum of seven years before being considered for a principalship. The attorneys are called to fix issues created by administrative inexperience. It is not a race thing, it is simple, you just need to be ready and knowledgeable when you get the job. The good ole boy system creates a lot of gaps that need "fixin" by lawyers. Then of course you have the other side of the story with unscrupulous attorneys and parents who pick and pick and pick until they run off the good staff, but the poor administrators stay and the cycle keeps going. Solution: Stop hiring your friends, cousins, sorority sisters, church buddies, etc. Ethics rules are needed in DeKalb starting with Human Resources.

Anonymous said...

DCSS is letting children of all races down, but it is especially sad to see that the majority in power are African American and our majority African American schools are the weakest and have the poorest test scores. I do not as a white person, understand how this is okay. I worked in South DeKalb and saw this for my own eyes and would argue for better for the kids. I was never trying to make them "White," only educated.

The problem that I see, is that it has become too easy for people to get higher level degrees in Education. They are easily paid for and do not require the rigor of such degrees in other fields. Masters degrees and PhDs have become money making degrees for our colleges and universities. There are too many people walking around with higher level degrees in education who do not speak, write or understand proper English, and they are American. They do not understand the basics of English grammar. They also do not seem to understand the power of using true data to guide quality instruction.

Until it stops becoming so easy to get the paid for education degree, I do not see the quality of education improving in our country any time soon.

Anonymous said...

12:06, if you go by not enough experience, than many should never have been given an AP job in the first place, as many have taught for just a few years themselves. They do not have the teaching experience either. The problem that we have is that our administrators are under experienced from all stand points and until that changes, we will never have a better system.

Cerebration said...

Interesting shifts are occurring in DeKalb, according to the 2008 US Census data - DeKalb County is 40% white. However, our school system is just a bit over 10% white. The county is 53% black but the school system is 71% black.

http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/13/13089.html

Here's the info from the DCSS webpage - Fast Facts:

Diversity

Asian 4.40%;
Black 71.30%;
Hispanic 11.75%;
White 10.70%;
Native American 0.25%%
Multiracial 1.60%

Cerebration said...

As you can see, there are more Hispanics than whites in DCSS. I rarely have encountered a Hispanic administrator in any capacity.

Anonymous said...

Cere @ 9:49 -- While you're asking for lawyers to weigh in, I hope they can answer this one too:

Is it OK for a black man to hire a black person based on race as Dr. Walker claims he's done, why is it that if a white man hires a white person based on race it's illegal?

Molly said...

I don't understand how the board could be unaware of the discrepancy between the budgeted amount and the contracts they have entered into. I would think that the Budget, Finance and Facilities committee would get monthly reports that detail expenditures and budget projections.

Anonymous said...

Molly, I am convinced that the board members only see what they want to see. They don't ask prudent questions and do not have our children's best interests at the top of their priorities.

Anonymous said...

If diversity is important for a law firm to prove they're hiring minorities, then how many African Americans, Latinos, and Asians does Alexander & Associates employ full time? How does this compare to Southerland?

I thought A&A was a two or three person firm. Southerland has hundreds. Again the school board is hiding something from us. What is the REAL reason they are paying A&A double?

Anonymous said...

The real reason we're paying more, is the good old friends and family plan.

Anonymous said...

Hispanic Administrators?

I believe the principal at Montgomery School is Hispanic. However, she has a giant chip on her shoulder. The one time I met her was last summer when I was at the school and stopped by to say, "Hi!" and introduce myself. I live in the neighborhood and was an active Montgomery parent when my children were there. I did not realize at first that she was the principal. She was not dressed professionally -- not even business casual. She was so rude that I have no interest in interacting with her again. Not a stellar example of an administrator and certainly not a good role model.

Cerebration said...

I would just personally love to know exactly how much money we have spent on attorneys in the last 2 years - to whom and for what exactly. On top of that - I would love to know what budget these fees are paid from - as they never, ever show up in any kind of accounting sheet produced by the board.

(FWIW - interestingly, no board meeting minutes have been posted to the website since Tyson took charge. So much for transparency... sigh!)

Anonymous said...

I just clicked on the DeKalb County School Watch link to the superintendent and the BOE link and emailed all concerned my concerns with the legal fees we have been paying. I would recommend everyone do the same. It doesn't even take 5 minutes to voice your opinion.

Anonymous said...

Tom Bowen, as chair of the BOE, you have failed students, parents and taxpayers yet again. $6 million on attorney fees while teachers and staff are laid off, classroom sizes are increased, and the out of his league HR Director is shipping in teachers from overseas.

This BOE continues to fail at every single one of its assigned tasks. Y'all are pathetically incompetent.

Anonymous said...

“They really had planned to get rid of Alexander,” said Evans, who showed up at the meeting in overhauls and a red shirt.
“Some of them were sitting up there saying they didn’t care anything about diversity. The whole process from the beginning was a process to get rid of that firm. Little by little our strength is being eroded, if we ever had any.”


Thanks John Evans, convicted felon.

Questions Questions said...

Hypothetical questions to consider: What if DCSS did not have a Board of Education? Would things get worse? Could it possibly get any worse? It does not seem possible.

This Board of Education is an abject failure. The condition of our school system is deplorable. The lack of oversight, management and accountability is astounding. The more we learn, the worse it gets.

fedupindcss said...

Chip Franzoni was complaining years ago about the huge legal fees paid by DCSS, and we here at the blog have known for awhile that DCSS is a lawyer's fantasy. They have high legal bills because they do not follow protocol in any area--personnel, purchasing, construction, etc. They end up in trouble, and have to hire lawyers to get out of it.

If the system were run professionally by professionals, most of these issues would be gone. Not all (you still get frivolous lawsuits) but generally DCSS loses--which means they are usually wrong.

Anonymous said...

Now can we have a recall?

DCSS Teacher said...

Please, parents, keep pushing for accountability and competence in the BOE! For every issue you read about in the AJC that's important enough to make the news, there are many additional screw-ups by the Board that don't make the news, but that affect teachers and children on a daily basis. Only parents and concerned citizens/taxpayers can successfully challenge any Board, and given the absurd level of power these incompetents have in the absence of leadership from DCSS administrators, they really need to be carefully monitored and challenged often. Without a Superintendent, we run the risk of all curriculum and personnel decisions being made by these people,none of whom is a skilled educator.

A BOE was never intended as a governing body in isolation from school leadership. It wouldn't work in a corporation, but yet we allow it in public education. And we see no signs of the BOE exerting itself to find a Superintendent--why should they share the power until they absolutely have to?

Even with Lewis and Talley, you felt that someone at least had a hand on the pulse of how schools work. Now--we're controlled by some part-timers who love to pull strings, but who wouldn't last a day in a classroom. Parents and taxpayers are the system's only hope.

Anonymous said...

Talk about inexperienced leaders. DeKalb just promoted an AP who has 1(0ne) yr experience as the new principal at Brockett. How's that for inexperienced.

Anonymous said...

@4:04 I don't think a recall is a real option.

However, I wonder what the impact would be if there was County-wide momentum to boycott any business which financially supports an incumbent. Required financial disclosure reports show the company names.

Be True to Your School said...

@ Anonymous 1:45 PM ...
and everyone else who keeps insisting that writing Ramona Tyson and the BOE members and showing up at BOE meetings is what is needed to make a difference:


It makes NO difference.

First, they (BOE) are convinced that they are completely untouchable. They believe this will all blow over because they know that most people will quickly lose interest.

Second, the people who are in DCSS leadership roles are convinced that an impotent BOE is not going to do anything. They believe this will all blow over because they know that most people will quickly lose interest.

Third, the organizations who are supposed to provide some oversight are sitting on their hands -- this includes SACS and the media, among others.

Show up to VOTE and vote the bums out! Make it clear to new board members that everyone down to the assistant principal level has got to go. If they did not actually do wrong, they knew about it and did nothing to stop it. No interviewing for their jobs. Just GO!

So, don't bother sending e-mail. I am quite sure BOE members and Tyson and her cronies whose jobs she protected at the expense of our children do not read anything you send. It probably does not even get opened. (Although you can sign up for ReadNotify at www.readnotify.com and there will be an invisible attachment that you can place on outgoing e-mail, as desired. It automatically reports to you if and when your e-mail was opened, how long it was read, if it was forwarded, and the general location of the recipient when it was opened. It all happens without the recipient even knowing or agreeing to a read receipt. Each time your e-mail is opened, you will get a notification.)

The BEST, most effective thing you can do is to VOTE THE BUMS OUT!

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration
"(FWIW - interestingly, no board meeting minutes have been posted to the website since Tyson took charge. So much for transparency... sigh!)

"

I guess they don't want the BOE notes to appear on blogs like this one. Or for taxpayers to read what transpired in the BOE meeting. I wonder if anyone has asked the BOE members why no notes have been posted. I'm going to email my BOE member and ask why no notes have been posted. Some of the rest of you should do that as well. I'll post the reply from my BOE member here.

Be True to Your School said...

@ Anonymous 4:04 PM

BOYCOTT!! WOW! What a great idea!

BOYCOTT the businesses who have supported the sorry, worthless BOE members. Yesss!

Do you want to write to someone who will actually open your e-mails and care? Write to those businesses and tell them why you won't be buying from them anymore -- why you are voting with your feet.

Can we list on this blog the contributors for each candidate as listed on their required financial disclosure form?

Anonymous said...

These are the BOE meetings that have not have notes posted. As you can see, the notes have been approved, but they have never been uploaded for taxpayers. I just emailed my BOE representative. You may want to copy and paste this and email your BOE representative:

5/14
5/24
5/26
6/7
It is requested that the minutes of the May 3, 2010 called meeting (executive session); May 3, 2010 work session & meeting; May 10, 2010 called meeting (executive session); May 10, 2010 business meeting; May 14, 2010 called meeting (executive session); May 14, 2010 called meeting; May 24, 2010 called meeting (executive session); and May 26, 2010 called meeting (executive session) be approved.
6/14 (3) meetings
It is requested that the minutes of the May 3, 2010 called meeting (executive session); May 3, 2010 work session & meeting; May 10, 2010 called meeting (executive session); May 10, 2010 business meeting; May 14, 2010 called meeting (executive session); May 14, 2010 called meeting; May 24, 2010 called meeting (executive session); and May 26, 2010 called meeting (executive session) be approved.
6/22
6/30
7/12
It is requested that the Board of Education approve the minutes of the June 7, 2010 Called Meeting (executive session); June 7, 2010 Work Session & Meeting; June 14, 2010 Public Millage Rate Hearing (12:00noon); June 14, 2010 Called Meeting (executive session); June 14, 2010 Public Millage Rate Hearing (6:00pm); June 14, 2010 Business Meeting; and June 22, 2010 Public Millage Rate Hearing & Called Meeting.
7/19

Anonymous said...

Parents,
If you weren't concerned before then you should be now about the class sizes this BOE approved rather than scale back on an admin and support group that outnumbers teachers (8,500 admin and support to 6800 teachers).

This is excellent information to walk door to door with and share with your neighbors when it comes time for BOE elections. These are Third World county class sizes. But by golly, we'll keep our admin and support numbers in place and pay our lawyers.

This was proposed by Ms. Tyson and approved by the BOE - going to 36 for high school Core subjects including math and science (so much for raising test scores) and up to 39 in other subjects!! Wow!!

What are they thinking? Can 36 or 39 even be crammed into a class? How miserable for our students.


160-5-1-.08 Proposed Class Sizes for 2010-2011 for DCSS Code: IEC
GRADE(S)/SUBJECT(S) 160-5-1-.08 CLASS SIZE 2009-2010 MAXIMUM CLASS SIZE (PER GADOE) 2010-2011 DCSS PROPOSED MAXIMUM CLASS SIZE
(+2 OVER
2009-2010 )* 2010-2011 DCSS PROPOSED FTE BUFFER (+2)**
Kindergarten 18 20 22 24
Kindergarten w/Para 20 22 24 26
K-5 Early Intervention (EIP) self-contained & pull-out classes 14 16 18 20
1-3 21 23 25 27
4-5 (E/LA, Math, Science, Social Studies) 28 30 32 34
6-8 (E/LA, Math, Science, Social Studies) 28 30 32 34
K-3 Fine Arts 33 33 35 37
6-8 Fine Arts & World Language (taught as part of Connections) 33 33 35 37
6-8 World Language for Carnegie Unit credit 32 32 34 36
4-8 (all others) 33 33 35 37
9-12 (E/LA, Math, Science, Social Studies, World Languages) 32 32 34 36
9-12 (all other subjects) 35 35 37 39
Vocational Labs 28 28 30 32
Typing/Keyboarding 35 35 37 39
Instrumental Music (Band) 100 100 102 104
Choral Music 80 80 82 84
Physical Education (no para) 40 42 44 46
Physical Education (with para – Elem Schools only) 54 54 56 58
Co-op Supervision (Work Study) 56 56 58 60
K-5 Gifted (Resource) 17 19 21 23
6-8 Gifted (Resource and Advanced Content) 21 23 25 27
9-12 Gifted (Resource and Advanced Content) 21 23 25 27
6-12 Remedial (REP) No para 18 20 22 24
6-12 Remedial (REP) With para 24 26 28 30
Alternative Programs (no para) 18 18 20 22
Alternative Programs (with para) 24 24 26 28
K-3 ESOL/English for Speakers of Other Languages (no para) 11 11 13 15
K-3 ESOL/English for Speakers of Other Languages (with para) 13 13 15 17
4-8 ESOL/English for Speakers of Other Languages (no para) 14 14 16 18
4-8 ESOL/English for Speakers of Other Languages (with para) 15 15 17 19
9-12 ESOL/English for Speakers of Other Languages (no para) 18 18 20 22
9-12 ESOL/English for Speakers of Other Languages (with para) 20 20 22 24


THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that effective for the 2010-2011 school year only, the DeKalb Board of Education authorizes the interim Superintendent of Schools to increase the class size maximums to exceed the levels identified in Rule 160-5-1-.08 CLASS SIZE by:
1 to 6 students in grades K-12 in Regular Education, 1 to 6 students in English Language Learners (ELL), 1 to 6 students in Gifted, 1 to 6 students in Early Intervention Program (EIP), 1 to 6 students in Remedial Education Program (REP), 1 to 6 students in Vocational (CTAE), and 1 to 6 students in Alternative Education Program (AEP).
Adopted this the 22nd day of June 2010.

Anonymous said...

Accept that the election that matters as it relates to class size is the one today. If we don't elect officials who agree to new revenue sources, we are basically screwed. We will have higher property taxes and will have fewer services.

Even cutting the substantial waste in DCSS won't solve the coming budget crisis.

The lack of state funding for schools is a big part of the challenge. Those are the class sizes set by the state.

My understanding is that DCSS has retained most teaching positions for next year. At the end of the day, most requests by principals were honored to retain or add staff.

That said, at the high school level, the risk is unfilled positions. If the school is short a math teacher, the system has nothing stopping them from cramming students into the classroom.

With the release of the recent AYP reports, high schools is where we can least afford this kind of behavior.

Anonymous said...

Gene Walker has about 60K in his account fund at the end of March. Zepora and Sarah each have less than 3K, if I recall correctly. No one else has more than 500 or so.

Voting the bums out is only going to do so much. For the most part, these board members do a good job representing their constituencies.

Don't you think that many of ZR's and SCW's constituents approve of the retention of Josie Alexander?

Until the coutny cha

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 6:24 pm

"Voting the bums out is only going to do so much. For the most part, these board members do a good job representing their constituencies.

Don't you think that many of ZR's and SCW's constituents approve of the retention of Josie Alexander? "

No, they do not do a good job for students, and I think the parents/taxpayers in their districts know it.

No, I don't think the parents in Ms. Roberts and Ms. Woods district approve of the legal contracts the BOE negotiated including Ms. Alexander.

Ms. Woods and Ms. Roberts constituents are not driven by race to the detriment of their children. Their children are just as important to them as they are in any of the other DCSS districts. They want what every parent wants - a safe environment with a competent teacher in a reasonably sized class and abundant access to cutting edge technology and science equipment. They want their kids to be able to compete in the 21st Century.

Anonymous said...

@6:24pm, unless I'm reading it wrong Dr. Walker has only $158 in his account. Yes at one time he had $57K, but he spent $57K. How you spend $57K on a school board race numbs my brain, but hey, he did. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised the way they spend taxpayer money too.

Here's a link to his March 2010 filing. Be sure to scroll through the Expenditure page:

http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/voter/reports/boe10/EugenePierceWalkerMarch2010.pdf

Anonymous said...

You are right. I did read it wrong. Wow, that is a lot of money to spend on a campaign.

I still think that many support Affirmative Action in all its forms, for better or worse.

Gene Walker wins votes when he talks about race.

Anonymous said...

Jim Redovian told parents at a PTA meeting last year that King & Spalding was converted to a "contingent" fee some time ago. If DeKalb County wins the case, King & Spalding will be paid out of the damage proceeds.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:07

Well, I guess they will be backing off this case.

Anonymous said...

Cere, re your 12:35:
"according to the 2008 US Census data - DeKalb County is 40% white. However, our school system is just a bit over 10% white. The county is 53% black but the school system is 71% black.

http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/13/13089.html

Here's the info from the DCSS webpage - Fast Facts:

Diversity

Asian 4.40%;
Black 71.30%;
Hispanic 11.75%;
White 10.70%;
Native American 0.25%%
Multiracial 1.60%"

You can't compare Black vs. Hispanic or White vs. Hispanic in census figures. One can be "Black Hispanic" (or "Black non-Hispanic") and the same holds for White. For example, a Dominican is both racially Black and ethnically Hispanic, at least according to the census.

Also, comparing the percentage of residents in ethnic or racial group with students in racial or ethnic group is invalid--some races and ethnicities simply have a higher percentage of their population of school age than others.

I don't dispute your central point--the racial and ethnic make-up of the county is indeed changing (though census figures become quickly dated with regard to more mobile populations when the economy is down) but the numbers aren't as, um, black and white as they appear.
Al

Anonymous said...

This is amazing.

I remember sometime in the school system's guidelines and procedures that indicates if charges are brought against an employee while representing the school system the school system will provide legal defense. However, I would have read this years ago and have no idea if this is still true today. However, it might be true for the school superintendent or Ms. Pope. Both would pay a big fee up front I am sure we are talking about a retainer of up to $100,000. This would be money up-front to take the case. The school board may have been paying that money for these individuals particularly to start with.

The school board also knows things we do not know. They know many things and they have to protect the school system. They must protect the school system. This is their job.

I am glad I am not a member of this board right now.

Cerebration said...

Along the lines of the lawyers fees, we have to revisit the discussion on the decision to keep Josie Alexander's firm as well as add Sutherlin - due to "diversity" - At the Sept 28th board meeting - one of the most pitiful on record.

Scroll up to my comment at
July 20, 2010 9:49 AM
for the link to our report as well as a snippet.

The AJC revisited this issue in yesterday's paper as well -
DeKalb schools: Diversity trumps costs

Most metro school systems hire lawyers based on price and the needs of the district. DeKalb schools hired its attorneys based on race.

For those who want to know - the board members who voted YES to the higher cost of keeping both law firms are:

Dr. Walker, Mr. Cunningham, Ms. Roberts, Mr. Bowen, Ms. Copelin-Wood and Mr. Redovian

Mr. McChesney, Mr. Womack and Dr. Speaks voted no.

Anonymous said...

Redovian and Bowen.

Like Gomer Pyle says . . .

"Sur-prise! Sur-prise! Sur-prise!"

Crammed in a Classroom said...

@Anon 6:06

How miserable for the students to be crammed in a classroom when the AC does not work and it is 90 degrees out. Don't forget that not all buildings have windows.

Perhaps we can get the lawyers to come fan the students.

Anonymous said...

TO ANONYMOUS WHO SPOKE ABOUT THE PRINCIPAL AT MONTGOMERY.

First of all, your note stated you met her last summer, when the school was not in session. I know her very well and have worked with her since she was the principal at Nancy Creek. I bet you did not realize that last summer many classrooms were being moved around at the school and she worked very hard on that project moving boxes and furniture. Do you wear business clothes when you move or clean up rooms?

Also, under her leadership the test scores at Nancy Creek improved three fold, plus the last year, the most diverse school in the county before being closed to be "equitable", received platinum status from the state. Last year, Montgomery received an award for being most improved and gold status. I could care less what the principal wears or might not greet people well, she is in the business of educating our children and does a great job with the teachers and staff to make sure they maintain a high level of success.

This should be the criteria on how we evaluate principals, not what they wear.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 12:11

"Also, under her leadership the test scores at Nancy Creek improved three fold, plus the last year, the most diverse school in the county before being closed to be "equitable", received platinum status from the state."

She was there before 2004-05 and did improve Reading scores, but not three-fold. I certainly wouldn't wear business attire when I was moving boxes either. Perhaps an appointment would have been in order if you want to speak with the principal. It sounds like she was just caught at t busy time.

CRCT scores for Nancy Creek:
04-05
Math – 88%
Reading – 81.4%

05-06
Math – 83.2%
Reading – 84.1%

06-07
Math - 87.3%
Reading – 82.7%

07-08
Math - 87%
Reading – 89.5%
Source: Georgia DOE

A Mother said...

Anonymous said...

Also, under her leadership the test scores at Nancy Creek improved three fold, plus the last year, the most diverse school in the county before being closed to be "equitable", received platinum status from the state. Last year, Montgomery received an award for being most improved and gold status. I could care less what the principal wears or might not greet people well, she is in the business of educating our children and does a great job with the teachers and staff to make sure they maintain a high level of success.

This should be the criteria on how we evaluate principals, not what they wear.

July 21, 2010 12:11 PM


I agree. This a time when the things that matter have got to be the focus and frivolous things put aside. Anybody can put on a suit.

Cerebration said...

I always read someone's opinion of a teacher or principal with a degree of skepticism. The rules here ask you to refrain from simply criticizing to a higher level of discourse. We are all very aware that a principal is a very visible person and will have those who like and those who dislike how the principal handles the job. So please, just bring facts and ideas here, not personal criticisms of people trying to do their job to the best of their ability.

That said, on a similar note, after my 3 experiences with them this week, I can now say with no doubt that Comcast does not employ anyone intelligent.

Cerebration said...

More distressing quotes from the AJC article -

Alexander, which is owned by a black female attorney, was awarded the contract to handle only human resources issues.

The two other firms – which also have African-American, Indian and Hispanic attorneys on staff – offered to do the human resources work for about $500,000 less.

During the heated debate, board member Walker argued that to him diversity is only black and white.


Sigh!

A Mother said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Mother said...

Here's what cooks my goose -

The lawyers’ nine-month contracts expired June 30, but the district has not issued another request for proposals or publicly discussed a new contract.

Instead, the board has opted to continue business with the two companies on a month-to-month basis. They are paying Sutherland $120,555 a month and Alexander $68,333 a month, Turk said.


Since attorney contracts expired June 30, the decision to pay $188,000+ per month for just 2 attorneys and to keep Alexander was made recently. Nothing's been done to get a contract in place that is all/more inclusive at a better price. These 2 contracts alone exceeds the amount budgeted for attorneys/ legal services by ($188,555 x12 =$2,262,660 - 934,816 =)$1,327,844 over budget on this one item, 3 weeks into the fiscal year.

We are all aware of the huge deficit. The Board knows that we know. Yet they continue doing the same things that caused at least part of the problem in the first place.

They all knew what to do and how to do the things involved with running a campaign and getting themselves elected to the school board, several times for some of them. I don't think they are uninformed, ignorant or stupid. They think we are!

Anonymous said...

"These 2 contracts alone exceeds the amount budgeted for attorneys/ legal services by ($188,555 x12 =$2,262,660 - 934,816 =)$1,327,844 over budget on this one item, 3 weeks into the fiscal year.
"

I guess these 2 attorneys are worth more than 25 teachers with a Masters degree and 3 years of experience. That's what we would pay in salary and benefits for them. The next time Ms. Tyson and the BOE say we need to cut teacher positions and pack up to 36 kids in our math and science classes, we need to remember these 2 attorneys and ask them what is the return on investment we have gotten with these lawyers. We know the return on investment in our children's education we would receive with 25 highly qualified teachers.

A Mother said...

Cerebration said...

The two other firms – which also have African-American, Indian and Hispanic attorneys on staff – offered to do the human resources work for about $500,000 less.

Sigh!

July 21, 2010 4:08 PM


Again, is it that they (especial Dr. Walker) don't know what "diversity" means or they think we don't?

My money is on "they think we don't".

Anonymous said...

I apologize for saying three fold in my earlier post about the Nancy Creek/Montgomery principal. I should have pulled out the scores like Anonymous 12:56 did.

I will say however, this principal is an excellent leader and the majority of the teachers have grown to like her very much. At the time her leadership was very welcomed at Nancy Creek we had been struggling with a principal that had no business being there.

Once again I apologize for the "three-fold" comment. But to hammer someone for the way they dress is pretty shallow.

Anonymous said...

One thing I'd like to say about Eugene Walkers comment about "celebrating color".

Imagine, if you will, if a white man had said those comments? I'm afraid he would have been railroaded and forced to resign. I am proud that Ms. Speaks voted with her conscience and not with her race.

An interesting question for Mr. Redovian would be, Jim what were you promised for your yes vote to this clearly racist decision? Was it to get the Dunwoody High School renovation approved? I'm just saying.. Jim your vote is highly suspect amongst friends in our neighborhood. I for one expect an answer to this question before I vote for you in November.

Thanks again Ms. Speaks for speaking out.

A Mother said...

Anonymous said...

I guess these 2 attorneys are worth more than 25 teachers with a Masters degree and 3 years of experience. That's what we would pay in salary and benefits for them. The next time Ms. Tyson and the BOE say we need to cut teacher positions and pack up to 36 kids in our math and science classes, we need to remember these 2 attorneys and ask them what is the return on investment we have gotten with these lawyers. We know the return on investment in our children's education we would receive with 25 highly qualified teachers.

July 21, 2010 6:03 PM


Great observation! Maybe this is a correlation the Board and administration can't pretend not to understand the impact of reckless spending on peripheral items.

Anonymous said...

I have said this before in other posts. This will continue until everyone in CLew-less' former cabinet is fired and we elect real BOE members in November.

I'm so happy Ms. Mateucci of the AJC is doing some incredible reporting on DCSS. Kristina Torres never did anything like this when she was on the DCSS beat. I still think Clew and Ms. Torres had some kind of agreement where she would not to report any of the shenanigans that have been happening for the past 5 years.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 6:29 pm

Jen Sansbury certainly tried her best. She's the one that published the 2004 Compensation Ernst and Young's auditor's presentation to the BOE (the meeting that you won't find on the BOE website - no notes, no agenda or record of the meeting). Jen's article from the AJC archives:

“Study: DeKalb schools overpay workers”
Date: April 2, 2004 Publication: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The DeKalb County School System overpays more than 2,500 nonteaching employees to the tune of $14.8 million, but officials said the district may not be able to address the issue in time to affect next school year's budget.

Ernst &Young consultant Jim Landry told school board members Thursday that some positions are "overvalued" and carry "inflated titles. "He did not cite specific examples and took care to ……….”

I downloaded the full article for a small fee. It's interesting reading.

Anonymous said...

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-schools-diversity-trumps-575198.html

This is the link for an artice on AJC.com. It discuss additional money paid for the DCSS lawyers.

How many para educators, or teachers or necessary support staff members could we have hired for that amount?
Please remember these words. You will see a change this year. Whatever you want to believe, we have lost some valuable staff members. Even though all of them did not work in the schools, they did things to support the schools.
There is no use in trying to agrue this point now. But, just wait and see the ramifications.

Anonymous said...

Do anyone out there know when the trail will start for lewis, pope/reid and the others?

Anonymous said...

How can anyone vote for any member of this board who would allow two attorneys firms to be paid this kind of money. We are the laughing stock of the school board legal attorney groups. First of all they cannot believe Ms. Alexander has been making all the money she has the last few years. That is unthinkable as she has farmed so much of the school business out and second of all the school system keeps her on because of race and continues to pay her a big salary along with another big firm.

Decisions should not be made along race. Decisions should always be made on what is best for the children. Today it is discriminatory to not hire a firm because they are too black or too white or not to hire a firm because of this. However, this is what happen here in Dekalb. Dr. Walker admits he did see color when making his decision. How can this be just and fair in the 21st century? The color of a person's skin does not justify if he/she should get a job. A decision should be made today on qualifications along and the price given by the firm.

How can we allow these board members who voted "yes" to remain on the board? We must vote against them regardless of who we are. We must move this school system into the 21st century. We must have board members who have visions in the 21st century and are not stuck back in time.

Anonymous said...

Let me start by saying that I don't support the decision to use two firms or how it was made. However, reading the minutes is very insightful to understand how the board ended up here.

Unfortunately, the minutes are in word form and so I can simply attach the link, but I can tell you how to find them.

https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/ViewMeetingOrder.aspx?S=4054&MID=10513

If you pull up the agenda for the Nov. 2 2009 meeting and read the minutes for the 9-28 (not the exec session one) and 10-2 meetings, you get a much better picture of what was going on.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link 6:55am.

What stuck out to me wasn't so much the dysfunction of the board, but the dysfunction of the finance staff. According to Anon (July 20, 8:49am) Turk set the legal budget at $934,816. According to the minutes provided the past few years legal expense has been between $3M and $3.2M., not including expenses from more "complicated" cases.

Why would the board intentionally under-budget legal fees by a couple of million dollars knowing they'll need to make a mid year budget adjustment? Maybe the answer is to either 1) to stay under the radar that there's so many legal problems due to poor leadership or 2) to keep paying 2 law firms for legal work, some of which may overlap.

Regardless, they significantly under budgeted. And we should be told the truth why.

Cerebration said...

On Common Ground News published a pretty good concise report on the meeting at the time as well -

Tempers flare over School District’s legal services

Anonymous said...

OMG CERE!!!!

With all the alleged corruption in the district this thread got me wondering if this could happen:

Suppose you had a rogue attorney who supported the friends & family plan. Is it possible for them to recommend to someone to file a lawsuit, which then the district would settle behind the scenes?

With $3M+ per year in legal fees, some of these lawsuits must have been settled. I have never seen a settlement judgment come as a board agenda item, have you?

While the details of a case is, the judgment award should not be protected by Executive Session / Open Meetings. So who's making these decisions? And who's approving the payments? And who's receiving the payments????

They can't hide behind the insurance companies as the district was for several years self insured. I can't believe in all these years no settlements were made. Does anyone know where the checks-and-balances are on this topic?

A Mother said...

Maybe I need to clean up my mind but I was thinking the same thing. That's a lot on money being spent on legal fees yet nobody in position to do something about it, is really concerned about it.

I was thinking along the lines of kickbacks (RICO), though.

Cerebration said...

See what happens when a board loses the public trust? We "go to" the worst possible scenario at every announcement. Sad.

I don't think it's so much hidden though. I mean, it's well-known (thanks to Jim Walls at Atlanta Unfiltered) that we paid Judge Moore about a half-million dollars to deem Atherton "bully-free" after Jaheem's suicide.

We do have many, many cases settled with the school system - it would be interesting to review an in-depth accounting of every penny.

Time for that audit! Any candidate who does not promise to push hard for an audit will not get my vote.

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Anonymous said...

Looks like there's a called meeting to discuss legal fees. Good. I only hope someone asks the question that if diversity is the issue and DeKalb taxpayers are footing the legal bills, how many "diverse" attorneys and support staff are benefiting from the decision to use that particular firm.

And while they're at it, a clarification of the term "diverse" would be appropriate. Does this mean only African American? Or in the case of DeKalb County does it equally include Caucasian, Indian, Latino, Asian, African, Island Pacific and others?

Anonymous said...

So, I went and read the minutes of the meeting and the article is a bit misleading. At first, both firms were individually over what the board wanted to spend.

There was a second called meeting on October 2, 2009 where the firms came back and had put together a package that combined was about the same as each had originally proposed together.

So, the new law firm offered to do all services for 1.7 million. A few days later, Sutherland et al and Alexander had worked out a deal to do the job together for the same 1.7 million.

Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan as General Counsel for the period beginning October 1, 2009 and ending June 30, 2010 in a total amount of $1,085,000 and Alexander & Associates for the period beginning October 1, 2009 and ending June 30, 2010, in a total amount of $615,000. It is further recommended that the General Counsel (Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan) will be responsible for the legal health of the district and all other counsel present and\or future will report to the General Counsel. As General Counsel for the District, Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan will make the assignment and determination of how cases will be shared going forward, consistent with the Board’s previous action. Dr. Speaks seconded the motion. With a unanimous vote, the motion passed.

Anonymous said...

...And so are the superintendent/assistant administrators/coordinators/directorsin Dekalb County Schools!!!!

BOE needs to restructure salaries outside of the local schools!!!

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_bell_salaries

Cerebration said...

From the Sept 28 Called Meeting Minutes -

Dr. Lewis reaffirmed that during the called meeting on Friday, August 28, 2009, the Board of Education charged him with moving forward to begin negotiations of flat rate fees with the newly appointed General Counsel – Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan and Alexander and Associates. He also reaffirmed that both firms had previously submitted their proposed flat rate fees, however, given the current financial challenges of the school district, the Board felt that both firms’ proposed fees were too high. Dr. Lewis stated that during the negotiation period, he spoke with both firms individually to talk about their flat rate fees and the Board’s objective to save money given the current state of the economy and budget challenges. During those discussions, each firm was provided with a copy of the school district’s legal fees from the past two fiscal years, as well as fees for the immediate past calendar year, which averaged approximately $3 - $3.2 million dollars. Dr. Lewis concluded that both firms - Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan and Alexander & Associates have now submitted their final flat rate fee proposals for the Board’s consideration.

ok, so but bruhaha is about this Sept 28 meeting where Lewis was supposed to have presented flat rate fees to the board from both Alexander and Sutherland that would show a savings to the district. There was also a proposal from Sutherland that they would do all of the work for $1.7 million (a savings of over a half-million). But Alexander did not submit a similar proposal - just a proposal for the same work they had always done only at a flat rate instead of hourly billing. Cunningham and Walker thought this was very unfair and racially motivated. They could have voted to reject Womack's proposal to accept Sutherland's bid and then they could move on and vote on the two separate proposals on the table. Cunningham suggested using Sutherland's $1.7 million price for the total legal contract, but splitting it up between them and Alexander. That's what the board passed at this meeting. Of course, the firms had to agree and Lewis was to renegotiate - which is what was presented at the Oct 2 meeting.

Cerebration said...

Now comes the Oct 2 meeting -

Mr. Bowen reminded the Board that the purpose of this meeting was to receive information from the Superintendent, as requested by the Board during the September 28, 2009 called meeting, regarding re-negotiating the flat fee rate for legal services.

Dr. Lewis stated that he had met with the two firms (Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan and Alexander & Associates), and that an agreement had been reached. He noted that both firms had agreed to provide legal services to the school district and to the Board of Education at a flat rate of $1.7 million beginning October 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010. Dr. Lewis stated that this flat rate fee excluded complex litigation, bond work and expenses. He stated that Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan’s fees, beginning October 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010 would be $1,085,000, and Alexander & Associates would receive $615,000 for the same time period. Dr. Lewis further recommended that the General Counsel will be responsible for the legal health of the district, and all other counsel present and\or future will report to the General Counsel. As General Counsel for the District, Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan will make the assignment and determination of how cases will be shared going forward, consistent with the Board’s previous action. Dr. Lewis concluded that after several long and exhausting meetings, both firms have now agreed to the conditions outlined in the recommendation and also noted that both firms are very supportive of this agreement. He asked that the Board accept and approve the recommendations to allow the District to move forward and fulfill its mission of educating all students in DeKalb County Schools.


This is when the vote to accept the plan was unanimous...

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that King and Spalding will get their share, irregardless.
They RUN Georgia. Sutherland Asbill
was connected to Vernon Jones during his last unsuccessful congressional run. Walker probably pushed to get them on board, as a former Vernon disciple. As for Alexander? Maybe she belongs to the right church.
Interesting idea about kickbacks- are these firms hired on a billable hour basis? If someone at the school board keeps the meter running there might be a
"gentleman's understanding".
I used to wonder about some of the constantly deferred zoning decisions that the county board of comissioners made, moreso after noticing that most of the deferrals were handled by a firm that many on the board were rather fond of.

Anonymous said...

Does the total dollars spent on legal fees include money spent on special education legal fees? The county spends an exceptional amount of money fighting with families on their definition of what the system should provide their child. To take that a step further, the county not only pays the Dekalb lawyers to argue these private lawyers, Dekalb pays to privatly educate a child in their home despite appropriate services offered in schools.

Cerebration said...

Well, now, we have no idea because there is no transparency on the issue. We have no way of accessing exactly how much of our tax dollars our school officials are spending on attorneys - unless we file an open records request ($). Even then, I have a feeling we would not get the whole picture.

The only truly transparent action the board could take would be to join the hundreds of school districts nationwide who are posting their check registers online for taxpayers to see.

Check out the movement promoted by a Texas education advocate -

http://www.peytonwolcott.com/CheckRegisters_Alaska_Louisiana.html

Anonymous said...

Special ed cases are probably included. This is a national issue about appropriateness of services and who provides what.

School systems often fight provision of services for fear of setting a precedent!

Cerebration said...

To your point, Anon July 20, 2010 8:46 PM -

You are correct, and the Census is very clear regarding the "Hispanic" label. They do tag the extra "white/non-Hispanic" separately. In fact, using that label, DeKalb county is only 31% white. (Just "white" accounts for 40%.) But they have no Hispanic/black label. Strictly labeled Latinos account for 10.4%.

http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/13/13089.html

Our school collection data is somewhat murkier. I began questioning this when I read the principal's report from Lakeside dated Feb 9, 2010. In it, Principal Reed claims Lakeside is 55% white, 33% black, 2% Indian, 1% multiple race, and 8% Asian, however, there is no category at all for Hispanic.

Well, that is until you scroll down the page to the attendance numbers. There he categorizes the 165 students who missed more than 15 days of school into categories of male/female and Hispanic/Not Hispanic. (38 are Hispanic.) So - apparently, there are Hispanics at Lakeside after all. In fact, in another column he points out that there are 37 Hispanics in 11th grade, along with 35 Asian, 94 black, and 154 white. Of the total 330, 27 with disabilities, 31 English learners and 87 Economically Disadvantaged.

So, 37 of 330 juniors are Hispanic which is about 11%. I wonder what that number is school-wide. He doesn't tell us - we only get 11th grade so that we can see who is passing the graduation test (AYP data).

Cerebration said...

UPDATE:

Ex-schools chief's trial means more legal fees for DeKalb

Former Superintendent Crawford Lewis’ trial at the end of August likely will mean higher attorney bills for DeKalb County schools, which has already overspent its legal budget by millions of dollars.

This doesn't even touch on the civil case with Heery/Mitchell. We've already spent enough on lawyers to have built an auditorium at Cross Keys or Chamblee - the last two remaining high schools that were not included or were bumped from plans for auditoriums at all high schools.

Nice trough these lawyers have been feeding at - from both sides!

Cerebration said...

The additional legal costs were spent as the board cut $104 million from its budget, including laying off 289 workers and mandating furlough days for staff.

Anonymous said...

All the demographic data for a school can be found on the GADOE State Report cards. Here is Lakeside's, does not include this past school year:

http://reportcard2009.gaosa.org/(S(nwmnbj455tu1rs555rwtx055))/k12/demographics.aspX?ID=644:3060&TestKey=EnR&TestType=demographics