Friday, October 8, 2010

Downsizing necessary as school system grapples with revenue shortfalls

School advocate, fellow blogger and my friend, Ernest Brown wrote this very interesting and informative article about the need for an audit and downsizing in DCSS -- back in July of 2008! I simply had to repost it as it is imperative that we revisit these goals and insist that a thorough audit be conducted asap.

Downsizing or rightsizing the labor force in an organization is a reality in today’s economic climate. It is not surprising that the DeKalb Board of Education requested that Superintendent Dr. Crawford Lewis review staffing levels at the Central Office.

There has always been a concern by many that our Central Office is top-heavy, hence part of the motivation for this request. Dr. Lewis unveiled his preliminary findings at a called Board meeting on June 30th.

The school interviewed several firms to help assess the staffing levels and overall performance. Evergreen Solutions LLC ( was selected to perform this service. Dr. Linda Reico, president of Evergreen, co-presented their initial findings with Dr. Lewis.

Following are some of my recollections of major points discussed:

  • There are approximately 1,300 employees in the Central Office. This represents approximately 10 percent of all DCSS employees.
  • Salaries currently make up approximately 91 percent of the general budget. SACS suggests salaries should be between 87-93 percent of the budget. The target set by DCSS is 86 percent.
  • There is a hiring freeze for “non-essential” positions.
  • Forty-two Central Office positions have been identified for possible elimination. This could result in an annual savings of $2.64 million.
  • Considering an Early Retirement Incentive Option that could take effect July 1: Targeted employees would be those who have completed at least 30 years of service.

It has been determined this would impact around 170 employees. If this program is approved, it could result in an annual savings of up to $2.3 million.

  • Staffing levels should be further studied in the Transportation, Public Safety and Security, Public Relations, Plant Services, and Student Relations departments.
  • The Athletics program is not “self-sustaining,” and an evaluation may be needed regarding the number of sports teams currently supported.
  • Employee salaries and benefits need to be balanced with financial constraints. Dr. Reico mentioned that DCSS has been “generous” over the years with respect to annual increases and that may need to be reviewed.
  • Determine where technology modernization and applications could reduce labor costs. Four-day work weeks should be considered during the summer months. There should be cross training of Service Center employees.
  • A Compensation and Classification study is recommended. The last one was done in 2003 and these are typically valid for 5 years.

After the presentation, board members asked questions to get a better understanding of the initial finding along with the costs for proceeding. One member noted that while staffing algorithms should help guide each school, common sense should be used based on the needs of that school.

The number of assistant principals at each school seemed subjective to some. Another raised the question whether early retirement should be offered prior to the completion of the Performance and Management Audit.

Two studies proposed

Evergreen submitted a proposal of $475,000 for a Management and Performance Audit. It was estimated this could be completed in four to five months, hence delivered by Thanksgiving if begun during July. They also proposed a Compensation and Classification study for $350,000. This could start in December and would also last four to five months.

Both could be done for $775,000 if the Board used Evergreen, representing a savings of $50,000.

The Board was advised the Compensation and Classification study should be opened to other vendors for consideration before proceeding. Dr. Lewis committed to have a recommendation for a vendor by the August work session. The Board will vote on the Management and Performance Audit at the July 14th meeting.

Dr. Lewis began setting expectations with the Board that the entire process could take three to five years to reach the target of 86 percent. He requested consideration that the study be expanded to the entire school system, not just the Central office.

Dr. Lewis also indicated he would meet with CFO Marcus Turk regarding how the audits would be funded and would present that to the Board.

Hiring an outside firm to help with this process is the right thing to do because reduction-in-force efforts are occasionally met with some litigation. Having proper documentation along with making these decisions based on industry best practices and standards would reduce that likelihood.

With possible cuts to the labor force, expectations should be set with stakeholders that there could be cuts in service. If everyone understands and accepts this possibility, it should be easier to deal with the outcome of this process.

Ernest Brown lives in Lithonia.
07.23.08 2008


Anonymous said...

Ernest wrote this before crawford Lewis appointed him to the re- districting committee. Ernest was very, very supportive of Lewis over the past two years. not sure why.

Anonymous said...

Well we all know....the rest of the story (Paul Harvey voice). CLewis and Pope scrapped that plan and wen with their own...which saved nothing and created havoc throughout the DCSS most precious jewels....the students.

I wonder how the new/interim administration plans to repair the massive hemmorrage of monies with over inflated salaries in the central office staff and parent centers.

Accountability is everything and has been lacking since CLewis got to sit in the big chair. He created more worthless job titles that have not helped the schools reach AYP. This is the worst form of leadership.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to know what SACS recommends on salary/admin breakdown on percentages -- the percentage given in Earnest's article has this number as a combined figure and we know in DCSS the figure is very skewed towards Central office -- and we desperately need to balance it back to an appropriate level at the teacher level.

Anonymous said...

we're at it again..please read this news story about our beloved BOE.

Anonymous said...

Someone should address the amount of money being spent in MIS. The only people truly needed in that department are the CTSS's that are located IN school buildings, and some of them were let go last year! Meanwhile, the MIS dept. sent contractors to replace teacher workstations and a contractor to explain the changes in windows 2010. What exactly do the people in MIS do?

Cerebration said...

The point that hit me in this article was that these audits should be conducted every 5 years at a minimum. The last time DCSS did one was 2003 and they pretty much tossed it to the curb, ignored the findings and moved on.

Time for some audits!!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of me understand this. 4 to 5 of the CTSSs they let go were brought back as contractors. I'm happy for the CTSSs because they have a job, but why not bring them back as regular employees. It's not like their salaries made that much of a difference as it relates to the budget.

That's just my thought.

Anonymous said...

Georgia State University, did an analysis for the County for about $50,000. It recommended that at least 900 of the 8000+ County employees be terminated. The County Board of Commissioners proposed an early retirement buyout program instead of the terminating the 900. The BOC was concerned that not enough of the employees would take advantage of the program. To the amazement of the BOC it was like rats deserting a sinking ship. That is, more than twice as many people took advantage of the early buy out as was estimated. The County borrowed $43 million from the pension fund to pay for the buyout. The interest rate being paid is unknown. The person who wrote the buyout program (Dr. Bell) was the first to leave. The proverbial fox in the henhouse

The CEO of the County is fighting restructuring as best as he can. To him, every employee is "critical"

Be realistic. With the current members of the BOE, what would make you think that they would accept recommendations to terminate any members of the administration? Remember, five of the current BOE members have relatives "working" (or at least supposed to be) for the DCSS administration.

Anonymous said...

Remember, DCSS had to say they were cutting "central office" employees to look good, all while those employees worked in and were needed in the schools. I'm so glad I got cut.

To make matters worse, $50 mil shortfall, and they're talking about cutting teachers:

None cuts to the upper administration, again.

"The district’s saving grace this year is $18.3 million in federal stimulus funds to help ease the burden of last year’s cut. The money must be used for staff, Turk said."

Wow. How bold to just lie like that.

Paula Caldarella said...

Board member H. Paul Womack said he fears any additional budget cuts next year – including further declined in property taxes or state funding – will have to mean teacher layoffs or a tax increase.

It's rather disturbing that the first thing out of Womack's is "teacher layoffs". There is a whole "palace" of salaries you need to cut before you start on the teachers.

Why do I feel this will fall on deaf ears?

Anonymous said...

I am one of the CTSSes who got cut. I wasn't asked to come back to contract. Thank God. They would have not liked my response had they asked. BTW, CTSSes make 32-45k. That is what HR reports as the cap, anyways. Yeah, I bet 9 of us really broke the bank, as opposed to 9 of the 80-100k/yr admins.

Anonymous said...

There was a loss of nearly 160,000 government jobs nationally last month. I tell you not to say that DCSS doesn't need to downsize (THEY DO.), but that the need for all government agencies to downsize is going to really slow the economic recovery.

It is scary when even the government is laying off.

Anonymous said...

OMG, did anyone see the article about the search firms selected to find a DeKalb superintendent?
They narrowed the scope to two firms: the GA School Board Association and Ray and Associates.

The GSBA is a local group but I went to their website and it looks like a bunch of state "insiders" and worse of all, the District rep. is Zepora Roberts. I also looked at their current searches and it looks like they mostly help small school systems. I doubt they have any experience in finding and recruiting big urban school system superintendents. This is AWFUL. We need a top notch firm to recruit from OUTSIDE the state.

Then I looked at Ray & Associates. They are a little better but I could not find much on them. The largest system they are currently recruiting for is Columbus OH with an enrollment of 53,000.

Please, Please BOE, do not go with the low bidder!

Anonymous said...

The GSBA is a local group but I went to their website and it looks like a bunch of state "insiders" and worse of all, the District rep. is Zepora Roberts.

Wouldn't that be the ultimate conflict of interest?

Anonymous said...

Did anyone go to the business meeting on Friday? Why did the BOE pick a local organization as a finalist instead of an experienced national search firm?

Also, did the BOE vote to authorize the system to accept and issue the federal interest free stimulus bonds available for school construction? If so, how much did they authorize?

Kim Gokce said...

Cere: "Time for some audits!!"

Indeed! And think, it is not just about rooting out waste or corruption, a rigorous audit would keep all the administration so busy they'd have to leave the running of the schools to, well, the schools.

Cerebration said...

Yikes! This is very weird - and it is true - Zepora is a district rep for the one search firm - the Georgia School Boards Association - currently (ironically) the low bidder... we are in deep doo doo...

Search firm finalists named for DeKalb schools' job

By Megan Matteucci
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The DeKalb County school board says it is still on track with hiring a new superintendent by July 1, despite not choosing a search firm yet.

On Friday, the board selected two finalists out of the four firms that submitted bids: the Georgia School Boards Association and Iowa firm Ray and Associates. GSBA bid $15,000 and Ray bid $34,000.

The two firms will be interviewed in the next two weeks, board chairman Tom Bowen said.

The board excluded Marietta firm BrockClay, which also bid $15,000, and Illinois firm PROACT Search, which bid $43,750.

It’s unclear why the two firms were selected as finalists. There was no public discussion about qualifications, price or scope of the search.

The board fired superintendent Crawford Lewis in April. In May, a grand jury indicted Lewis and three others on charges of running a criminal enterprise at the school system. A trial is scheduled for January.

Check out the district directors - Zepora is definitely the rep to DeKalb for this group.

M G said...

The board voted to invite the two firms for interviews. Mr. Bowen said the interviews would occur in an open meeting. It sounds like the firms will give a presentation and then the board can ask questions.

The only other votes were concerning tribunal cases.

The board received four possibilities for using the $18.3 million from the jobs bill. That discussion was what led to the statement that there was a $50 million shortfall for next year. In actuality, that was Mr. Turk's "guess" as to what might happen during the state budgeting process.

M G said...

To answer Anon 10:42's question. The board didn't discuss any of the firms. They simply voted yes or no whether to invite the firm to the interview process. They voted on each one individually.

Anonymous said...

"The board excluded Marietta firm BrockClay, which also bid $15,000"

Wonder why BrockClay was excluded.

Cere was right, we need a search firm that will find national candidates. Having Zepora involved with the possible search firm is a major no-no-no!

Anonymous said...

One of the items on the agenda was a resolution to accept the Qualified School Construction Bonds (aka federal stimulus bonds). Did the BOE not vote on this?

M G said...

It's on the agenda as an action item for the meeting on Monday at 6:00pm, it was not on the agenda for today. They revised the agenda for today twice yesterday. One of those changes may have been to move the item to Monday.

Anonymous said...

BrockClay is a law firm with a quesitonable reputation in their legal dealings at least as it deals with students with special needs. I wonder why they put in the proposal. It could be they are just trying to stir the pot, something they are very good at.

Remember there are only 25 systems bigger than DeKalb and several of them are controlled by the mayors or city councils of their governments. Others don't need to use search companies because they hire from within.

If we are going to hire someone with an education background, then we need someone who has been running a system of 50,000+or so students. Not an associated, not an assistant, but someone who has been a superintendent.

There is also the potential to bring in an outsider and a turn around specialist might be exactly what this system needs. I am afraid teachers might not like the idea of a non-traditional superintendent though.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious as to why Brock Clay was excluded from the superintendent search. They were one of the two low bids received. Of course, they were also the low bid received for legal services and were excluded in favor of a much more costly contract that favored a black law firm.

(If Gene Walker wants to support the African American community, I wish he would do it by making sure funds were spent in the classroom. You know, where the African American children are desperate for a decent education so that maybe they can grow up to have their own law firms one day.)

Anonymous said...

Did you read the post above yours?

I agree with what you said about Walker.

Anonymous said...

I did not realize BrockClay was a law firm. In that case, they probably did not have the experience required in the Request for Proposal. And experience in recruiting is essential so that they can locate a large enough pool of qualified candidates.

I guess I am surprised that more of the national executive search firms weren't on the list.

Anonymous said...

I like what that Ray and Associates doesn't currently have any searches in the south.

I also like this page on their website about non-traditional candidates.

Non-traditional leaders are more data-driven. Traditional educators are often steeped in pedagogy and fail to embrace change until mandated

Anonymous said...

BrockClay is a law firm with a quesitonable reputation in their legal dealings at least as it deals with students with special needs.

Questionable among whom? The school districts they represent or the parents who have lost appeals? I imagine that the districts they represent are happy with the service they provide, otherwise they would find another law firm.

Anonymous said...

Hey, let's not forget about Zepora being a district rep. of the GA School Board Assoc. Major conflict of interest!!

Anonymous said...

Do we really need an administrator??? earning more then $90,000 annually writing (while sitting in her new chair at her new desk)petty e-mails warning itinerant teachers that their mileage claims will be checked against google maps to make sure teachers use the shortest possible route.(whether it's quicker or not) and after the local principal has signed off on the expenses. Or to put it another way; who decided it was worth $90,000 a year to maybe(emphasis on maybe) catch a traveling teacher from over-billing $5 a week on an expense report. Oh, and to put it in an e-mail that reeks with threats of power usage. The e-mail

"• From: LISA A. DOMZAL Monday, October 04, 2010 4:56:24 PM
• Subject: Reminder: August/September travel is due October 15th!!
• To: Itinerant Art 10-11 Itinerant Chorus 10-11 Itinerant ESOL 10-11
• Itinerant Gifted 10-11 Itinerant Music 10-11 Itinerant WL 10-11
• Itinerant Teachers ~

• Please remember that your August and September travel reimbursement forms are due no later than October 15, 2010 -- next Friday. We will be unable to process forms received after that date, so make sure that they are complete, signed by both you and your principal, and in my office by Friday. Courier delivery is fine, or if you prefer to hand-deliver them, bring them to the DCSS Administrative & Instructional Complex (AIC) at 1707 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain, GA 30083, to the entrance at the far right of the complex, and give them to the receptionist. There will be a drop-box on the counter with my name on it in which you can place your forms (I'll check it several times a day). Please DO NOT take them directly to Finance. I must approve the forms, review the mileage, & sign off on your forms before they go to Finance. If you send them anywhere but my office, they may not be processed or your reimbursement may be extremely delayed.

• I will be verifying all travel with Google Maps and making adjustments where necessary. Please recall that you will be reimbursed only for the most direct route from school to school, as was indicated in the Reimbursement Info 10-11 attachment that you received earlier this fall:
• Where do I find the mileage between my schools? We recommend that you use Google Maps to determine accurate mileage between your schools. Regardless of the route you choose to take, the most direct route from school to school will be used for mileage reimbursement. Guessing is never an option, as all mileage will be verified, and if yours is incorrect, it will delay the processing of your reimbursement by Finance. Round all mileage up or down to the nearest whole mile.

• I have attached the informational memo, as well as the example and blank local travel forms for your use. As we are continuing to process the forms in 2-month blocks this year, your next forms (for October & November travel) will be due in my office on December 15th.

• As happens every year at this time, new itinerant teachers are hired and their names may not have made it to me yet. If you know of any itinerant teachers who did not receive this information, please pass this e-mail and the forms along and ask the teachers to let me know who they are so I can include them on the mailing list. I appreciate your help in getting the word out.

• Should you have any questions, please contact me at 60217 or via e-mail.

Lisa A. Domzal
Director of Instructional Budgeting, Staffing, and Scheduling
DeKalb County School System
1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd.
Stone Mountain, GA 30083

Office: (678) 676-0217
Fax: (678) 676-0229

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a clerk position. Is the pay $90,000 + benefits - $120,000+ ? This is a huge problem with central Office personnel. No wonder we have to cut teacher positions and increase class sizes.

Anonymous said...

Given the budget concerns, talk of cutbacks and budget shortfalls and lack of an acceptable audit, why is the system still promoting/hiring instructional coaches? How many have been hired/promoted since August? How much more is going on that is not transparent?

Anonymous said...

I think most of the regular workers at the service center have not seen raises in quite some time. I think they need to look at every employee that received a significant promotion or raise in the last 5 years, and verify the validity of the raise and postion. No more sweetheart deals.
The workers of the sytem are being mistreated by the BOD, and I do not see an end in sight. We need our teachers, and the people maintaining our buildings,(since we can't afford to build new)and others that directly work with students to be treated right...the madness at the top of the corporate ladder needs to go!

Anonymous said...

Ernest is supportive over anyone who sits on the throne at this time. Trying hard for a seat on the BOE.

Anonymous said...

October 5 was the official "count" day. Does anyone know where the school enrollment numbers are posted?

Anonymous said...

Dan Drake has the data up on the planning website from Sept 15. I don't imagine it has changed much since then.

Anonymous said...

Tony Eitel just retired from DCSS and landed a job at the Georgia DOE - hired by Martha Reichrath (ex-DOE Area Executive Director). I told you the Georgia DOE is like a retirement community for ex-DCSS executives. No wonder the state doesn't do anything about the mess DCSS is in.

Cerebration said...

It gets reported to the state - they will publish the official count.

Anonymous said...

Folks, losing Tony Eitel is a big loss for DCSS. He really was great at his job. My guess is with RTTT, the state DOE knows it needs some great people to be crunching all the data that they will have to submit to the feds.

I for one am VERY sorry that we lost Mr. Eitel.