Friday, October 29, 2010

Friends of DeKalb Schools survey school board candidates about posting check register online

Lower incomes, higher costs, and an uncertain future have combined with state and local governments’ constant search for new and increased tax revenue streams, creating a fervent demand by the public for detailed information about government spending. People want to know where their money is going. Turns out that about 60% of our state and local taxes in DeKalb County, Georgia are going toward public education!

In an unusual display of camaraderie, free-market activists calling for the separation of school and state have joined forces with parents seeking to raise the quality of their children’s public school education and teachers struggling with administrative overgrowth and misuse of funds, in the common goal of creating transparency in school spending.

Friends of DeKalb Schools is a non-partisan committee organized by the Libertarian Party of DeKalb to encourage the Board of Education to bring transparency to the local public school system. The DeKalb County School System has over 14,000 employees and an annual budget of over $1.2 Billion (down from a high of $1.7 Billion).

The Friends of DeKalb Schools committee has discovered that one good way to obtain the desired transparency is to gently persuade the elected members of the Board of Education (BOE) to follow the lead of 800+ schools in 36 states across the country – including all public school systems in our neighboring states of Alabama and South Carolina – and take action to post the school system’s check register online.

The committee feels this issue is the perfect “litmus test” for the BOE candidates in the upcoming general election. We asked all the candidates to respond to the simple question, "What are your feelings regarding posting the school system's check register online?" The candidates responses ranged from Nancy Jester’s answer of “YES!” and blogging about her commitment to make this happen, to incumbent Sarah Copelin-Woods’ total non-response after two phone messages and an e-mail from one of her constituents on the committee. Below are the results of our survey.

Friends of DeKalb Schools
David Montané, Committee Chair
Mobile phone: 404-276-8701
E-address: me@davidmontane.com


Click the chart for a larger, printable view.

34 comments:

Dunwoody Mom said...

I have to ask...I have heard rumors that David Montane wants to away with public education. So, the question becomes: why does he care about BOE candidates views on online check registers?

Anonymous said...

David Montané and his group are doing a great job. We spend over a billion dollars a year on DCSS, and it seems to go everywhere else other than the school house. But the Central Office staff and facilities sure make out nice.

Thanks David and crew for trying to bringing accountability to the BOE and Central Office!

Anonymous said...

I've conversed with David Montane, and yes, while he's a Liberterian, his group is just focused on the spending by the school system administration. I don't think the public understands how much the school system spends annually (yet with have children in school siwht leaky roofs, mold in air conditioning vents, homeless living on the grounds at the back of Cross Keys High, etc., while the Central Office staff and BOE are living it up in the beautiful and swanky Mountain Industrial mega-complex).

I was impressed by him, and he never mentioned anything about doing away with public education.
Write him an e-mail, and talk to him, DM, before you acuse him of trying to do away with public education.

Heck, the idea for DCSS using an online check register came right here from this blog from a great post by Cere!

Dunwoody Mom said...

Is this the David Montane of "Friends of DeKalb Schools"? I hope not...

"My vision for the future of education in Georgia is that, by 2035, there will be NO MORE TAXPAYER-SUPPORTED EDUCATION in Georgia. Formal education will no longer be mandatory. The stakeholders in education will be the parents and students and teachers ONLY.

If students want to learn something or their parents want their children to be taught something, the students and/or parents will pay the tuition. Teachers will receive the full benefit of the tuition paid. Private schools which directly meet the educational needs or desires of families will proliferate, and children will learn to be responsible for their own learning. Grandparents, uncles and aunts, friends, neighbors, and charities will step forward to voluntarily contribute.

Non-stakeholders will no longer be forced to financially support the uncontrollable mass of administrators and teachers who in turn force the institutionalization of an unknown mass of children. The burden of state and local claims on our homes, our incomes and our purchases will be more than halved.

Your website states that 'everyone has a stake in the success of our public education system.' Actually, many of us have a stake in its failure."

http://davidmontane.blogspot.com/2010_08_01_archive.html

Anonymous said...

Almost regardless of the outcome of the election on Tuesday, the majority of the board will have said they support/have no problem with this.

It would have been interesting for them to survey the members not up for election, though I guess they would have no incentive to respond.

Dunwoody Mom said...

I looked at a few of the on-line registers in Alabama. The description column seems quite vague. I would hope if DCSS moves to this, more, specific information would be supplied.

Anonymous said...

The best online check registers right now for school systems are in State of Texas:

http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/school.finance/forecasting/financial_reports/0708_FinActRep.html

I believe our own Cere has actually had e-mail conversation with Peyton Wolcott:
http://www.peytonwolcott.com/CheckRegistersTexas_SpendingData_20082009.html


Anyway, I have a great idea: How about the first DCSW interview? Would love to see Dunwoody Mom interview David Montane' for the blog! I bet we could all learn a lot from both of them! We need solutions for this school system, and this BOE is not stepping up to do so.

Anonymous said...

Are schools open on election day, next Tuesday? I just received word that transportation (buses) will not be provided to charter schools that day, and wondered if that applied to all schools--or, if it only applies to charters, how this squares with state requirements to treat charter students equally

Cerebration said...

Great idea for an interview - how about it DM?

And yes, I've conversed on email with Peyton - she is an amazing person. This idea of the check register is the way of the future - it's the ultimate in transparency. Maybe - just maybe - public access to the books will make it more difficult for people to milk some money from the system. (After all - it's our money!)

And if what DM quoted from David's blog is true, to me, it has no relevancy on this topic - as publishing the check register online is simply a statement of openness and trust. I think we can all agree that it would only be a positive step in the right direction.

Dunwoody Mom said...

I just viewed the Plano, TX Check Register. It has even less information than Alabama. Any check register adopted should have a description, reason for the purchase and justification for the purchase.

And, I have no desire to interview David Montane. If, he is indeed the individual who made the statement I posted, he has no desire to "save" public education, I do.

Dunwoody Mom said...

There is no school in DCSS on Tuesday.

Anonymous said...

Thanks DM.
I guess it was just the communication to the charter schools that was running a little late, which is not unusual (just try to find the charters on the DCSS website!).

Cerebration said...

Here is the link to a check register online for Pike County Georgia (they also have Twitter! - that would be handy for communicating things like the fact that there's no school Tuesday due to voting.)

http://www.pike.k12.ga.us/files/708276/January%202010%20Check%20Register1.pdf

It's really no different from your own check register at home - simply shows the number, to whom and how much. It might be nice to ask for a memo line - but this is not the actual budget. Anyone who would like to review the school system's budget (it's a massive document) can always do so at the main office. That's very different from the check register online.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Yeah, looking at some sites around the country, most just have date, amount and to whom the check is paid.

I don't know, I would really like to know why DCSS paid $350,000 to so and so, but I guess whatever we can get.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Here's a good one:

http://www.capmetro.org/InsideMetro/findata/apcr.asp

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:08

Voting day off has been on the calendar since May. The administrators at your charter school should be on top of these things.

Anonymous said...

Voting day wasn't off on our calendar and we have been getting conflicting information from the county on this for a while. Buses for charters don't run the same as the other buses, nor is our schedule 100% the same as the other schools. Please don't make assumptions.

Anonymous said...

I asked my Board rep (one of the four not up for re-election) what his opinion of the open check register was, and he said that he was sick and tired of all this "transparency" stuff. It is just one more thing that the "bloggers" are bringing up to mess things up.

So. there is one current Board member's opinion.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 3:26
Let me guess Womack said that, right?
That darn transparency sure does suck! The truth will set DCSS free!

Anonymous said...

Has Mr Turk been asked about the check register? Does DCSS have the capability to do it?. How many more MIS people will be needed? That department is rather thin isn't it? Maybe Waldo can be found and he can be taught to run the system.

How about a register for the P cards? If there was one then maybe a citizen could have caught CLew at an earlier date and saved him the trouble of siphoning gas between his cars.

@3:26 has it pinned. DCSS does not want transparency.

Dan Magee said...

Regading David Montane':

1) The committee is non-partisan.

2) His belief about how schools should function 25 years from now is his personal opinion, and not one he's spouting to the committee.

Hey, we need all the help we can get with demanding financial transparency for DCSS' spending. SPLOST raises hundreds of millions of dollars, and the last administrator in charge of that spending is now under indictment.

Props to David and his group for exploring ways for the BOE and Central Office to improve communicating information on spending to the public who pays for the spending!

Anonymous said...

J. Cunningham has been standing outside on a traffic island on Wesley Chapel Road for a couple of days this week wearing a shirt with his name on it and holding up a sign with his name...He looked very miserable but I guess he does not want to lose his $1,900 a month stipend. I guess he wants people to remember his name when they go to vote. And, if people have not been reading the latest and greatest news stories about him, they might just remember his sign and his shirt and go and vote for him. He looked so pathetic. There was a young man with him also holding up a sign. He was standing in an area where traffic stops but it's not like he was talking to anyone in their cars with a message. It was quite a sad sight.

Anonymous said...

There is an opinion piece by Jay's attorney in the recent Crossroad News. It seems to address the arrest allegations. It also points out the pizza sales are much ado about nothing. Read it for yourself at

http://www.crossroadsnews.com/view/full_story/10091736/article-Jay-Cunningham-has-become-productive-leader?instance=secondary_stories_left_column

Anonymous said...

I do not think MIS could handle the posting of the check register online. They have not had one initiative that has has been implemented correctly.

Cerebration said...

Certainly they can. If Miami-Dade, with a $6.8 Billion budget can do it, then anyone can. I would also imagine that the bank has a hand in posting the register online - after all - it's no different than your personal checkbook online and the bank already has this info ready electronically.

I think that Ms. Tyson, as she leads the system into the 20-20 Vision will certainly come to the revelation that this check register online is a good idea to build back the trust that she is working so hard to do. Ms. Tyson is very smart and very logical and our board is supportive of all of her new efforts. I feel confident that posting the check register online is something that she will strongly consider - it answers to her most favored topics - transparency and technology.

For some helpful information on school districts that have already implemented the check register - download this pdf flyer -

http://www.peytonwolcott.com/CheckRegistersReport2009.html

Anonymous said...

For the check register, maybe DCSS could borrow Commissioner Sutton from the DeKalb County BOC. She is great with checks.

Ella Smith said...

I just wish that Ms. Tyson could go ahead and do what is needed to make some more positive changes that need to be made. She does know what needs to be done and actually has done a very good job under the current circumstance. I am sure she will a great deal of information and suggestions to pass on to the new school superintendent in a few months.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. DCSS has an antiquated and/or untested internet/email/grade system compliments of R. Tyson.

Yet, we seem to praise her as a superintendent because she has not stolen, has not had extra-marital affairs, has answered SACS' email.

It's like we are praising a teenager for being able to brush his own teeth and being able to walk upright!

How did we fall so low?

By the way, there must be a "power behind the throne" or a "eminence grise" that keeps her upright because nothing in her past did or could have prepared her to be a superintendent! Any bet on the puppeteer is?

David Montané said...

I voted early yesterday as it was more convenient for me than Tuesday. I had heard that there were "at-large" districts, but it was never mentioned anywhere I read that District 9 was one. (Why do they call it a "district" then?)

Based on getting more "warm fuzzies" from Ella Smith about online check registers AND the fact that she is not an incumbent, I voted for her and was gratified to read good things about her today by people who apparently have direct experience with her.

Please tell all your DeKalb voter friends they will be voting for District 9 also!

I'd be glad to discuss the rationale for my long-term vision of education on this website when appropriate, but right now, the important thing is to get this information on the candidates feelings about posting the check register online to as many voters as possible. After the election, Friends of DeKalb Schools will turn its attention from the voters to the BOE and the Super, to remove barriers to implementing the check register online program.

If you want to be on the committee, please contact me.

Ella Smith said...

I would love to be involved in helping get this done. It will help with the preception of the school system.

I have no idea what will happen on Tuesday. I just hope that there is change for our students and citizens. If I am part of this change this will be great. If I am not part of the change this will never stop me for advocating for this school system to make positive changes for the students and the taxpayers in this county. I will continue to stay involved.

David Montané, thank you for the kind words. I appreciate your vote.

Anonymous said...

The at large district is a district because it is not the entire county. Some residents live in District 8 and others District 9. Prior to the board expansion, the at large districts were north or south. When the board was expanded to 9 seats it was decided to try and heal old wounds and make the districts east/west.

David Montané said...

Where can voters go to find out which at-large district they are in? It did not come up on the League of Women Voters website, nor on the Secretary of State's website. Also, the property tax freeze extension did not come up on the SoS website. Fortunately, I was prepared for that one too.

If you cannot determine this ahead of time, just be prepared to vote in District 9 when you get to the polls.

Anonymous said...

@ David Montane 8:19 pm
"Where can voters go to find out which at-large district they are in? "

http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/Voter/maps.html
Click on Board of Education District Map layout graphic to see which specific district you are in

Board of Education Super District Map layout graphic to see what at-large district you are in

You may want to send this to the League of Women Voters website,and/or the Secretary of State's website so they can post this information as a link.

Ella Smith said...

Actually the county site that indicates representative does show what at-large district you are in.

I have copied it below. If you check this site it will tell you what district you are in.

http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/Voter/locator.asp

However, district 9 starts at Cross Keys and then follows district 2 down and then cuts across and covers the bottom of the county. It is like a fat L. However, the top of the L on the left side is actually dictrict 8.

If you will look on my blog you also will see a letter from (Emmuel Jones) one of our representatives. The representatives going to look at doing away with district 8 and 9 in the future. They feel there are too many school board members. Because of this I had not put a great deal of money into this campaign as the position may be done away with shortly.

http://georgiaschoolhousenews.blogspot.com/