Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Monopoly® Money?

The DeKalb County School System Board of Education must think they are spending Monopoly® money.
Last night’s BOE meeting, which started after 6 PM -- almost 10 minutes late -- and adjourned before 7 PM, spent more than $4 million of your money – taxpayers’ dollars – in less time than they spent on recognitions and photo ops at the beginning of the session. In less than a minute, the BOE quickly and unanimously signed off on the “Consent Agenda.” No discussion. That accounted for approximately $3.7 million ($3,791,429). Earlier, in less than five minutes, the BOE did the same thing with a $262,000 annual fee for more PR assistance from Cohn & Wolfe.

Whatever happened to Jeff Dickerson and the contract DCSS had with him? I must have missed something.

Jim Redovian was the only BOE member to openly admit that he had not seen the BOE packet of information sent out on Friday, October 8 (for a Monday October 11 meeting). I am betting he was not the only one who had not seen it, though. Most boards of large corporations are given the courtesy of receiving a packet of board agenda-related information – especially budget information -- at least a week prior to the actual meeting. Why is that not happening in DCSS with a $1.2 BILLION budget and an announced $50 million shortfall for 2011-2012?

Regarding the Consent Agenda, both the BOE and Tony Hunter, executive director of MIS/IT were informed via e-mail (sent out Sunday and waiting on them Monday morning) that there was a $$$ error in the Excel spreadsheets supplied with Consent Agenda Item #18. Could that be because MIS/IT personnel do not know how to use Excel formulas to do the calculations? The agenda item was approved anyhow – with the error uncorrected. Sorry, SWD.

Wouldn’t you really like to know why MIS/IT is paying $600 each for 75 Dell Netbooks with undisclosed specs when you can walk into any office supply store and get a single netbook for less than $300? Actually, Dell’s most expensive netbook is available online directly from Dell – single netbook purchase; no discounts – for less than $600.

A similar e-mail was sent to Felicia Mayfield and the BOE at the same time concerning the need to spend $100,000 more on contract occupational and physical therapists (Consent Agenda Items #22 and #23) when DCSS already has the following on staff (according to 2009 salaries shown on Open.Georgia.gov):

  • 8 physical therapists at a cost exceeding $600,000 -- not including benefits.
  • 28 occupational therapists at a cost exceeding $1.7 million -- not including benefits.
How can DCSS propose to provide more in student services when DCSS cannot even confirm that the students in our schools are enrolled legally? Ron Ramsey, I am talking to you.

For a copy of the e-mails sent to Felicia Mayfield and Tony Hunter, as well as Mayfield’s answer – Hunter did not bother to answer – please e-mail me at shspruill@gmail.com. BTW – the BOE members were all copied on these e-mails, as well. To date, no response.

Money is tight and the BOE members should be openly evaluating and weighing each expense very carefully. They need to know, “Is it necessary?” “Why?” “Is there an alternative?” What is it?” or “Why not?” The staff answers to those questions must be backed up with clear and compelling documentation.

And in the case of additional personnel expense (including “contract” personnel), the BOE must also ask, “Can this be done by current staff?” “If not, why not?”

The BOE had no problem increasing class sizes for teachers and dumping more useless paperwork on them, thereby lengthening their workdays and increasing the demands on their time – putting positive educational outcomes at risk.

Education is DCSS’s only business. But, the way they protect central office personnel and other non-classroom personnel makes it very clear that, as far as DCSS and the BOE are concerned, education is simply an afterthought.

If eduKALB endorses even one (1) incumbent, eduKALB’s credibility is shot and their agenda is suspect.

Monopoly®, anyone? Pick your playing piece and throw the dice!

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

I want the race car!

Good lord Sandy, I was remarking to my wife last night while watching these folks adjourn, was it even worth turning on the $35K lighting system for this meeting?

I honestly wonder sometime if these folks that run DCSS and the BOE know that we're watching them very closely. Yet, they continue to spend OUR tax dollars like drunken sailors, out on the town, in Phuket, Thailand!

There is no way these folks know how to operate Excel. This is so embarrassing.

After the revelation that our Super search is a super failure so far, I do not have any confidence in this BOE or administration to turn things around. It's time for a major Palace cleaning!

Anonymous said...

This is great work. Keep holding the Board's and staff's feet to the fire. Rank incompetence must be exposed. Someone has to stand up for the students. Maybe the palace mentality will change and the focus will be on the children for a change. Clearly edukalb has missed the boat on its silly endorsements.

PolitiMom said...

Should Redovian even get half credit for admitting he didn't read the packet? I think not. How EduKalb can endorse him over Nancy Jester or Bobbe Gillis is beyond me. Shame on DeKalb Chamber for this blatant money grab. How many more times are the parents of school aged children going to get fleeced with the promise of better schools, better administrators, yada yada yada. Thanking my lucky stars my husband talked me out of donating to EduKalb. So many people were waiting for those endorsements. Hopefully they won't carry any weight and the truth about what goes on in the BOE meetings will speak louder than questionable endorsements.

Anonymous said...

I am guessing that since OTs and PTs leave all the time, there is a need for new ones. As a parent of a child who has received both PT and OT services, I can tell you that the system never has enough of them.

In fact, every school system struggles with filling these positions. The pay in the private sector and the case load are both much better.

Anonymous said...

"8 physical therapists at a cost exceeding $600,000 -- not including benefits.
28 occupational therapists at a cost exceeding $1.7 million -- not including benefits."


Are these full-time staff members, and are they for special education?

---

"Earlier, in less than five minutes, the BOE did the same thing with a $262,000 annual fee for more PR assistance from Cohn & Wolfe."

Is the BOE paying Jeff Dickerson and Cohn & Wolfe too??

---

"In less than a minute, the BOE quickly and unanimously signed off on the “Consent Agenda.” No discussion. That accounted for approximately $3.7 million ($3,791,429)."

Sandy,

Was the Consent Order all for MIS? Wonder who's getting the netbooks (Central Office admin's of course)?

Anonymous said...

Dickerson was a short term contract to help with crisis communications while they hired an agency.

"Most boards of large corporations are given the courtesy of receiving a packet of board agenda-related information – especially budget information -- at least a week prior to the actual meeting." Since the work session is a week before the voting (business) meeting, the board does get a packet a week ahead of time.

The items on the consent agenda are vetted at the work session and then placed on the consent agenda. In theory, nothing should change in the documentation. If there are to many questions or concerns, an item is usually pulled from the consent agenda.

Anonymous said...

Monday night's info is the same as reviewed and discussed at the 10/4 Work Session. There were a few items removed, the remainder of the items were covered last Monday.

EduKalb = Joke said...

EduKalb does NOT have ANY credibility at all. None.

Endorsing ANY incumbant member of this BoE reveals their incompetence. (And it eliminates their integrity.)

Endorsing an incumbant who does not attend BoE meetings, admits he is unprepared when he does attend, and consistently fails to respond to his constituents' phone calls, emails and messages???

Really.

EduKalb is a fraud and is providing a disservice to our school system.

Anonymous said...

EduKALB endorsements are: Redovian, Wilson, Nooks, Edler, and Walker.

Redovian AND Walker ?

What a JOKE!

Anonymous said...

I am embarrassed that David Schutten and Ken Wright are on the board of directors for eduKALB. I thought they were better than that. I guess not. Their credibility and integrity are toast, too.

Anonymous said...

How anyone could endorse Redovian over Jester is beyond me! Jim Redovian voted to give Lewis a raise and he voted for all those expensive programs and non-teaching personnel who put taxpayers in a financial hole and increased class sizes for students.

Walker is not any better than Redovian.

Anonymous said...

Walker wanted to raise the millage and increase taxes rather than eliminate high paying do nothing central office jobs!!!

eduKalb endorsed HIM?!?!?!

Add another train wreck to the incompetence in DeKalb County. Thanks for nothing edukalb.

Anonymous said...

I did not believe you guys were serious about the edukalb endorsements. But now that I see that it's not a prank (they really DID endorse two members of the current BoE), I'm convinced:

edukalb is either (1) stupid or (2) it just doesn't care.

Anonymous said...

"edukalb is either (1) stupid or (2) it just doesn't care."

I don't believe there is a choice. They are both.

Does anyone know the affiliations of the eduKALB officers and board members? I cannot find it on their website.

Anonymous said...

I think the main mouthpiece for edukalb is a stay at home mom who's never held a full time job since graduating from Oklahoma State University about 20 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we should change the name from DeKalb County School Watch to Sandy Spruil holds forth on DCSS.

The therapist are for the students and funded via federal Title money that can not be used in another manner.

Anonymous said...

I think Donna Elder and Corey Wilson were excellent choices.

Anonymous said...

Sandy, did you not watch the BOE meeting 10/4? This is the exact same information that was covered then. Did you think last night's info was new?

Anonymous said...

From the eduKALB website:

"*eduKALB is a nonprofit organization that registered with the Georgia Secretary of State Ethics Commission in 2010.

"*eduKALB files regular disclosure reports on its receipts and disbursements with the Ethics Commission. The names and mailing addresses of all contributors are listed on these reports along with the occupations and employers of individual contributors.

"*Contributions to eduKALB are not tax deductible."


Does anyone know where to find the regular disclosure reports eduKALB is supposedly filing with the SOS Ethic Commission? What is the URL? I can't find it and eduKALB conveniently "forgot" to provide a link.

Anonymous said...

For someone who claims to be keeping the fire on the BOE, well, you certainly did not read the agenda items closely with regard to the OT and PT funding. This is for the 504 plan - required by the Federal Government. This money can only be used for those students covered as part of 504 plan. Sandy, please educate yourself on the 504 requirements.

Anonymous said...

EduKalb was filled with old Vernon Jones lackeys. Can't trust them! I knew this was going to happen! What's even funnier did Redovian even attend one of their forums? I knew he missed the one that was held in his district.

Can it get any worse!

Dunwoody Mom said...

Who on eduKalb are Vernon Jones "lackeys"? Surely not Ken Wright.

You know, you can disagree with the candidates eduKalb has endorsed, though I happily agree with the Donna Elder endorsement, but please don't take to character assinations because you don't agree with some of their endorsements. Your vote is your vote - no one can tell you how to vote.

This ugliness in this thread really drags down the blog.

Anonymous said...

Dunwoody Mom, I know of four huge Vernon Jones supporters that were a part of EduKalb. I just did not want to mention their names.

No one is going to tell me who to vote for and no one will tell you. However, when people from the Metro Chamber of Commerce has questioned the EduKalb strategy, I never trusted them from the beginning.

Please explain to me how I was ugly? I might be a bit passionate but I'm angry since I am seeing no change at the Palace and this DCSS administration continues to make huge mistakes. Plus, when Redovian said last night he had not seen the files on what he was voting for before the vote. He should have abstained right there or asked for a delay.

Anonymous said...

Dunwoody Mom, your posts are priceless. Really. Please don't delete them (like you've done in the past).

Anonymous said...

Wouldn’t you really like to know why MIS/IT is paying $600 each for 75 Dell Netbooks with undisclosed specs when you can walk into any office supply store and get a single netbook for less than $300? Actually, Dell’s most expensive netbook is available online directly from Dell – single netbook purchase; no discounts – for less than $600.

ex CTSS here. I can explain this one. Dell has two divisions - consumer (regular people) and business. The business side has incredible support, along with a very short repair/replacement turn around time for warranty items. Now I hear you say the turn around time for laptop replair or replacement is slow. This is not Dell's fault. You know who is to blame. I think most can agree that laptops within DCSS are not treated as gingerly as they should be. They are even left on (in suspend mode) and put in their bags for hours on end. MIS supplies the wrong power bricks for the HP laptops sometimes, which causes the burning out or smoking of the units and/or power bricks. Dell power bricks are all the same, even if they look different. Given this kind of scenario for the laptops, it pays to spend a little more for the support.
BTW, I am in no way giving my support to MIS. I am simply explaining why the extra money for the Dell laptops is a good idea. $600? That's it? My old company spent over $1000 each for that a couple of years ago.

Sagamore 7 said...

Edukalb has their own agenda and it's not for the kids, that's for sure.

Their email indicated that they chose endorsements because of specific grades that they gave each candidate for answering a questionnaire.

Here is the link to go to edukalb's website for the candidates.

http://edukalb.org/?page_id=69

Click on a District; try District 1 and see the persons running for BOE. Click on their bio and then click on their:
"Candidate Survey Responses."

Question 1:

"Please briefly describe the qualifications and abilities which you believe make you best suited to serve on the DC BOE."

Redovian's answer is:

Have owned my own business since 1985. 33 year resident of Dekalb. Have been involved with schools for over 30 years, with 6 children. Served as Blue Ribbon Task Force.

Was it a BILLION $$ organization Jim? I don't think so!

Does being a resident of Dekalb County for 33 years give you an advantage over a resident with college degrees in economics and actuarial consulting?
Once again I don't think so.

See Nancy Jester's response to this question for her detailed answer and her qualifications.
Quite impressive.

Question 4:

"The DC BOE oversees and approves an annual budget of $1.2 BILLION. As a school board member, how would you approach making certain that those dollars are spent most effectively to support our educational mission?"

Redovians response:

"The question would assume I have not been following an effective plan. I would continue to be as diligent as the past."

Jim, are you kidding me? Answer the DAMN question instead of avoiding it like you have for the past 4 years!

Please read Nancy's detailed response on her answer sheet. She goes into detail with a 5 point system for accuracy, transparency and measuring the success in the classroom.
It is a well thought response with a clear action plan and not an answer that hides from the past with no direction for the future.

This is the type of information that makes my decision making clear and further questions the legitimacy of EDUKALB and their agenda.

Who is going to the meeting tonight to hear the candidates?
I was told that the "Search for the Super" will be discussed this evening. I can't make it tonight because I have family commitments, but I'm not a candidate running.

Sagamore 7

Dunwoody Mom said...

Only 4? You said eduKalb was "filled" with Vernon Jones lackeys? Who were the 4 people that were Vernon Jones supporters?

Anonymous said...

Dunwoody Mom, eduKalb's Leonardo McClarty and Arnie SIlverman were two of the biggest boosters of Vernon Jones, even after his numerous scandals and X-rated exploits.

Arnie, in particular. He and his wife made sure they each gave Vernon the max campaign contribution allowable by law each year, $2,300 at the time.

No surprise that Arnie scored a large county parks & rec contract before Vern left office.

It is sad that eduKalb doesn't have bio's of its members on its website. Thought they would be transparent.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Their email indicated that they chose endorsements because of specific grades that they gave each candidate for answering a questionnaire.

Each candidate, with the exception of Robert Holt, was also interviewed by eduKalb.

Anonymous said...

@ Sandy Spruill

"Wouldn’t you really like to know why MIS/IT is paying $600 each for 75 Dell Netbooks with undisclosed specs when you can walk into any office supply store and get a single netbook for less than $300? Actually, Dell’s most expensive netbook is available online directly from Dell – single netbook purchase; no discounts – for less than $600."

Why does it cost so much for a Dell laptop? MIS personnel handle the network. They subcontract out the installation, maintenance, etc. of the Activboards and computers to Dell. DCSS spent tens of millions on a private network (almost all SPLOST II technology dollars) and every year they spend tens of millions in personnel cost to maintain it. That we have little technology for teachers and students to hang off that great big pipe has not been a concern for MIS.

Dell won the contract to supply desktops and laptops to DCSS through an RFP. See RFP attachment from 10-01-07 BOE meeting:
"Recommendation:
It is recommended that the Board of Education award RFP 8-10 Workstations, Laptops, & Services to Dell Computers as the lowest responsible, responsive bid. Unit costs are as follows:
Basic workstation: $734.96
Laptop: $891.25"

Look what Dell is responsible for:
"RFP 8-10 is a five-year award with a required annual renewal by the Board of Education. Services which are included in the price include warehousing, imaging, delivery, installation, configuration, and on-site warranty. The vendor will also provide the lockdown device and the disposal of packaging materials from school property as a part of the price. Schools and departments will be able to purchase from the bid using local, federal, and grant funds."

SPLOST III funds were/are used to purchase these computers. Built into the price is the installation, maintenance, storage, etc. by Dell personnel. Schools are not allowed to purchase computers "off the shelf" no matter how cheap they are. All computers need to be purchased via the Dell contract so Dell personnel can do the installation and maintenance.

Anonymous said...

Hindsight is indeed 20/20.

Thank goodness I didn't give those charlatans at edukalb ANY of my hard earned money! What a fraud!

Anonymous said...

Isn't eduKALB subject to the same financial contribution limits per candidate as everyone else? If so, that's hardly enough to get someone elected -- unless of course it's Gene Walker and questionable contributions from a group of concerned "individuals" coincidentally all employed at Sembler.

No Duh said...

What does EduKalb need money for exactly?

Anonymous said...

EduKalb needed funds to have a big kegger on election night to watch the returns come in!

This bunch is highly suspect now, they are free to support anyone they want. However, I smell a big conflict of interest rat and these folks do not have the best interests of the taxpayer or the students at heart.