Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Power of This Blog and Jeff Dickerson's Non-Response Response

Well, here it is:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M73neGug3EM

And please forgive me if this seems petty and whiny. I actually enjoy watching The Georgia Gang. But the situation with Jeff Dickerson has far-reaching consequences in terms of shaping public opinion on the performance of the DeKalb Board of Education and the DCSS Central Office administration.

The non-response response by Dickerson regarding my post last week on his failure to disclose that, while he frequently comments on the show about the DeKalb and Atlanta school systems, almost always in support, he is/was actually paid tens of thousands of dollars by those school systems.

This is what fired me up originally:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3PvPVZabcM&feature=related

Making comments that support both of their embattled administrations while he has contracts with them is not the behavior of a practicing journalist, and when The Georgia Gang presents Dickerson each week, it is as "Jeff Dickerson, The Atlanta Tribune". Despite that the AJC often has quotes in news stories regarding DCSS listing him as a Jeff Dickerson, DCSS spokesperson", not "Jeff Dickerson, Media Consultant". His profile on the show's website has not been updated since June 2009, and has no mention of his fat DCSS consulting fee (the profile does mention his Atlanta school system work).

The Georgia Gang is THE premier tv show in the state on politics. That they took the time to address this issue shows that this blog has arrived as one of the most important blogs in the metro Atlanta region. Cere, you rock!!

AND KUDO'S TO DICK WILLIAMS AND JEFF KENT!!

Dick Williams is a longtime DeKalb County resident, a top high school basketball referees in the metro area, and is the editor of The Crier, which does a fine coverage of covering Dunwoody, with a little Doraville, Chamblee and DeKalb news too. Although some would say the great Cathy Cobbs is the brains behind The Crier ;) !!

Dick addressed the Dickerson issue head on. He didn't press much, and of course the highly compensated Dickerson shifted the subject to "The Demand", Ramona Tyson's push for a $240k salary even after she's no longer Supt., plus an insane $2,000 in personal expenses and a $500 stipend per month for "transportation". But big prop's to Dick for being upfront to the show's viewership. Respect is earned, and Dick earned it.

Jeff Dickerson is a master spinmeister, and instead of addressing the ethical issue of whether he should make comments on the show supporting Beverly Hall, Ramona Tyson, the DCSS BOE, etc. when he has been paid tens of thousands of dollars by them, he switched the topic to Tyson's compensation. H evene threw in the very disingenous figure of $240,000k, even though Tyson is now being compensated $270,000 (salary, expenses, transportation stipend) through 2012.

Dick, and then Phil Kent, the show's resident conservative Republican, quickly brought up repurcussions of "The Demand", that it may cost taxpayers an EXTRA million dollars over the courseof her retirement package. Kent even questioned whether she deserved the huge raise in the first place. Kent was adamant, his view was one looking out for the taxpayer. He even said the word "taxpayer" a few times.

Kent can be overly idealogical; he rarely acknowledges anything positive orginating from any local or state Georgia Democrat in elected office, or from any heavy Democrat-voting city or county like DeKalb, Clayton, Decatur, etc. But he does seem to look out for Joe Taxpayer (accept when Sonny Perdue is fleecing us via Oaky Woods). Thanks much Phil for pressing hard on what had to be an uncomfortable situation on set!

Jeff Dickerson seemed ready for it, and brought up some nonsense that a bonus would be illegal. Even though other supt.'s in Georgia has received similar benefit awards.

Alexis Scott, the show's resident liberal Democrat does what she always does: parroting Dickerson's every comment and always supporting anything Atlanta and DeKalb political leadership/school system-related. More money for Tyson? Of course. Is Beverly Hall the bee's knees despite the cheating scandal? In Alexis' world, of course she is. A big property tax increase and huge bump in our water bills? Hey if the DeKalb's Democratic CEO and County Commison want it, then of course it should be passed with no tough questions asked by a journalist, or the public. She's not one for deep thought.

Anyway, Dickerson never addressed the original topic. He has been paid tens of thousands of dollars by the DeKalb and Atlanta school systems for spinmeistering, uh, "media consulting" and "crisis management", but hasn't disclosed it this calendar year on the show, even while he has made a number of comments supporting Beverly Hall, Ramona Tyson, the embarassing DeKalb Board of Education, etc.

Heck, Jeff Dickerson was/is a major supporter of Vernon Jones despite the too numerous to mention scandals by Jones personally and professionally, and Jeff still throws in comments on how well DeKalb Countywas managed under the morally/ethically corrupt, and just plain creepy Jones.

Dickerson and Alexis Hall earlier this year wee both were praising and defending Crawford Lewis during the initial scandal mess, but even they eventually backed down with their support when the District Attorney's RICO indictment went public and gave an overwhelming picture of a lack of control and leadership by Lewis, along with trips to resorts with women not his wife on DCSS p-card, even a Bahamas trip with a current high ranking Central Office administrator. Yep, Dickerson and Scott had Lewis' back for a while after the DA's indictment, but moved on whe it was clear the public was justifiably outraged.

Am I being too hard of Jeff Dickerson, who seems to be a very likeable guy? Heck no.

Taxpayers pays hundreds of millions to DCSS, whether by property tax, SPLOST penny sales tax, federal taxes, etc. The number of mistakes, poor decisions and scandals by the Central Office and Board of Education were and are unacceptable.

Jeff Dickerson is in an extremely unique and powerful position to sway public opinion in favor of the DeKalb Board of Ed. and DCSS Central Office.

His failure to disclose his paid relationship with the DCSS Central Office and BOE (and the Atlanta school system) was a professional ethics failure on his part.

One has to ask, did the DCSS Central Office and Board of Ed., along with their Atlanta counterparts, seek out Dickerson specifically because of his perch on The Georgia Gang? He is paid by our tax dollars, so it's a valid question.

Thanks much to Dick Williams and Phil Kent.

To Jeff Dickerson: You expertly deflected the issue at hand. Not much has changed after today's show, and your credibility on any comments you make on The Georgia Gang related to the DCSS Supt. and Central Office, the DeKalb BOE, DeKalb property taxes (and the Atlanta school system) will still be in question.

105 comments:

Anonymous said...

Listen closely to Dickerson on the Tyson raise. He truly is a spin expert. Dick or Phil mentions the huge salary bump goes through 2012, even though she's only interim supt. though July 2011. Dickerson brushes it aside like it's nothing, even though she gets the $270k for another full 12 months when she goes back to her original position.

The guy is so smooth. Heck, I'd buy a bridge off him. He never answers the important questions. And he sure doesn't care if DeKalbites have to pay.

Anonymous said...

Dickerson is getting his. He doesn't care that Ramona Tyson is going to make an extra MILLIOn DOLLARS in retirement for serving as interim superintendent for less than eighteen months.

Albeit she has done so under harsch circumsatnces.. Read it again: For less than 18 months as interim supt., she will benefit with an extra $1,000,000.

Anonymous said...

Dick Williams does not live in Dunwoody.

Anonymous said...

Williams lives in unincorporated DeKalb. There is a chance that where he lives may become part of Dunwoody eventually now that more of the area is going to be annexed by Chamblee. His neighborhood and points north are now wedged between Atlanta to one side, Sandy Springs to another and Dunwoody on another side.

Anonymous said...

It was disappointing to hear that a bonus is not a possible solution to this issue of compensation for Ms. Tyson. That is to bad.

Anonymous said...

I didn't see the show. Was the issue of the retirement "bump" discussed? Or was future obligations by DCSS taxpayers not an issue for Mr. Dickerson? Was employee morale addressed as another round of pay cuts will follow and no doubt another round of schoolhouse position cuts are in order while Ms. Tyson gets a 44% pay raise?

Anonymous said...

LOL
I guess if you hire Jeff Dickerson, that's a sign that your school system must be in real trouble. What other organizations have hired him?

Anonymous said...

I doubt Dunwoody is looking to expand their city boundaries ITP.

Besides the new Dunwoody Reporter (a first class publication - hardcopy and on-line) highlights even more the pitiful job The Crier does in reporting Dunwoody events.

Anonymous said...

The issue of Dunwoody expanding was discussed on this blog in the not so recent past and yes, apparently there have been some discussions held between Dunwoody officials and neighborhood leaders from the area around Ashford Dunwoody inside the perimeter. I was as surprised as anyone.

Anonymous said...

From the TRS website. It seems like many are miscalculating retirement benefits Tyson will receive.

How is your retirement benefit calculated?

Your retirement benefit is calculated by using the percentage of salary formula. Simply stated, two percent is multiplied by your years of creditable service, including partial years (not to exceed 40 years). This product is then multiplied by your average monthly salary for your two highest consecutive years of membership service.

Nine or more months of service within a fiscal year will equal a full year of service credit. Likewise, salary earned for nine or more months of service within a fiscal year will equal a full year of salary for calculating retirement benefits. Members who work under the semester system will be awarded one-eighth year of service credit for each month of membership service.

The salary earned during any eight or more months will also constitute a full year of salary. Limitations are placed on salary earned and salary increases when calculating retirement benefits.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Dickerson and his relationship has become the story. That's not how public relations is supposed to operate is it?

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 5:15
"Limitations are placed on salary earned and salary increases when calculating retirement benefits. "

I just went through retirement process with TRS and the posters that quote a million are correct.

TRS bases your salary on your highest two years. Salary increases are calculated into the equation when they affect your yearly average. Bonuses or one time payments (e.g. a class taught by a teacher for staff development) is not put into the equation. It's actually easy to tell if the salary or salary increase counts - Do you pay TRS a percentage of your salary? If you pay TRS a percentage of any salary increase you get, then that increase must be counted into your retirement.

Cerebration said...

I don't know why you are all so focused on Jeff Dickerson. He is doing the job he was hired to do by the DCSS board. They knew they would need a professional to spin their actions in as positive light as possible - that's what people like Dickerson do. Is it respectable? That's an individual response - people have different thresholds as to what they will do for money. But know that Dickerson is a Public Relations specialist - as in - he is a professional at trying to control the media response to crisis situations. He is NOT an advisor - not that this board would listen to one if they had one.

Cerebration said...

Basically, what I'm saying is that this board hired a crisis PR person to help them navigate the bad press they keep setting themselves up for. What they fail to realize is that if they made respectable, responsible, education-oriented decisions, they would not need someone to cover their "actions"...

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 5:23,

1)How many full years will Tyson have at those salaries by the rules provided?

2) Is it possible the next 18 months will not represent her highest 2 years of salary before she retires?

Anonymous said...

1)How many full years will Tyson have at those salaries by the rules provided?

I believe she will be at 22 years when her $244 salary bump ends on July 1, 2012.

2) Is it possible the next 18 months will not represent her highest 2 years of salary before she retires?

Well, she'll have 19 months of salary at $244,000 unless the board makes it retroactive. It is highly unlikely she goes back to her previous $168,000 per year. So at the very least, her retirement will be 2% x 22 or how many years x at the very least $244 for 19 months and $168,000 for five months (but likely more than that).

Ya factor in the cost of living retirement bump, which is not completely guaranteed but usually goes through, and Ramona's 19 months as interim superintendent will net her an EXTRA million dollars more, give or take, for her retirement, on top of her regular retirement for an administrator with almost no teaching experience at $168,000 annually, even though she ran the very troubled, ineffective, no return on investment DCSS MIS Dept.

Anonymous said...

Something that was left out from 5:15

"In the event you do not have credit for two years of service within the two-year period, additional salaried months of your work history will be included to complete two years of service. The resulting product (2% x service x salary) is your monthly retirement benefit under the Maximum Plan of retirement. "

One full year at $240,000, 6 months at $240,000 & 6 months at $165,00 is what I get.

For b, it is possible these two years may not be her highest consecutive years of salary.

Anonymous said...

Before one goes crowing about a good job Williams did, just remember, Williams and Dickerson are good friends. Dickeron's response on Williams show was orchestrated and the responses were agreed upon beforehand.

Anonymous said...

I love reading this blog!! I wish there was a blog about the DeKalb County government, like GoDeKalb.com did back in the day.
because DeKslb County is a hot steaming mess these days. I even had a commissioner tell me that Burrell Ellis is a major disappointment and is never around. He lives in a fantasy world if he wants to raise property taxes two plus mills the same year he increased water & sewer bills, which will actually double in only five years. Open your wallets DeKalb County residents.

Back to the blog: Calling the Ramona pay raise, while teachers and para's get screwed, "Ramona's Demand" and the Jeff Dickerson lack of any professional ethics blow-up "The Non-Response Response" are both pitch perfect!!!!

I'm new here, but am very interested in how (alledgely) a current Central Office administrator had an affair with the previous superintendent and traveled out of the country to the Bahamas but still has her job.

The info. we get here is awesome.
I now know to hire Jeff Dickerson is I'm ever in a self-allicted
sh#$ storm. He could talk a Braves fan into cheering for the Mets.

I love this blog!!!

Anonymous said...

Cere: "But know that Dickerson is a Public Relations specialist - as in - he is a professional at trying to control the media response to crisis situations. He is NOT an advisor - not that this board would listen to one if they had one."

Cere, then why does Jeff Dickerson have The Georgia Gang present him as "Jeff Dickerson, Atlanta Tribune"?? Does this guy have any, any professional ethics.

Anonymous said...

The million dollar retirement payout is valid:

"1)How many full years will Tyson have at those salaries by the rules provided?

2) Is it possible the next 18 months will not represent her highest 2 years of salary before she retires? "

Remember TRS averages your highest two years.
1. 6 months at $165,000 would be $82,500 (6 months or .5 years x $165,000)

...plus...

2. 18 months at $240,000 would be $360,000 (18 months or 1.5 years x $240,000)

$82,500 (for 6 months) + $360,000 (for 18 months) = $442,500

Divide $442,500 by 2 (24 months total or 2 years) and you get $221,250 as the high two average.

New retirement: $221,250 x .60 (60%) = $132,750

Old retirement (before the raise): $165,000 x .60 (60%) = $99,000

Factor in a 3% COLA a year (yes - this is pretty much set in stone unless the courts repeal it - Perdue already tried to get rid of it, but TRS active members voted in the '80s to donate .5% more out of their paycheck into a separate fund to ensure this COLA so the state of Georgia lawyers had a hard time taking money out of a fund that was funded solely by employees - it would have been appropriation of money deducted from employees' salaries).

That's how you get the million in retirement because the base retirement is based on the highest two years average, and the COLA will probably survive court scrutiny.

This is very simple math. Please go to TRS to see how these calculations work:
http://www.trsga.com/active-members/educate-yourself/determining-your-retirement-benefit.aspx

Most teachers plod along at a measured and steady increase (the 6,500 DCSS teachers' salary schedule is published while the 8,500 admin and support salaries are not published - see link below), and the high two for a teacher is dependent on their last two years.
(source:
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/administration/humanresources/salaryschedules.html)

No retirement "bump" is possible with a teacher's salary. The retirement "bump" occurs in the non-teaching admin and support salaries of upper management. Place someone in a "higher position" with higher pay for their last two years and....Voila - their retirement pay is enhanced.

Anonymous said...

"I love reading this blog!! I wish there was a blog about the DeKalb County government, like GoDeKalb.com did back in the day.
because DeKslb County is a hot steaming mess these days. I even had a commissioner tell me that Burrell Ellis is a major "

It would be nice if there was a county government blog, but we must be thankful for what we have. Remember that DCSS takes 70% of the property taxes to run the system so really it's great that this blog deals with the school system. This is more bang for your buck (although Cerebration doesn't make any money off of it so maybe that's not a good phrase).

Anonymous said...

"I'm new here, but am very interested in how (alledgely) a current Central Office administrator had an affair with the previous superintendent and traveled out of the country to the Bahamas but still has her job."

Have you read the District Attorney's charges? They come flat out and say that's what has happened, and then they are taking depositons. Why are depositions from this female employee not being discussed by the DCSS BOE? Students need to be placed above politics.

Anonymous said...

First, as has already been mentioned, Dick Williams does not live in Dunwoody. He lives on Byrnwyck Road, inside I-285, in unincorporated DeKalb County.

Second -- and more important -- Dick Williams is a long-time print journalist. He is married to Rebecca Chase, a longtime television journalist for ABC News (now retired).

Both of Dick's children went to private schools, instead of Montgomery Elementary, Chamblee Middle and Chamblee Charter High. He was not even interested in exploring the public school option. Dick has no experience with or commitment to public schools.

So, as a long-time professional journalist, Dick does not deserve any kudos for finally doing the right thing. Dick simply chose not to do the right thing. He waited until he was called out in this blog -- numerous times -- for his violation of common journalistic ethics.

Frankly, when appearing on Georgia Gang, Jeff Dickerson should recuse himself from any on-air discussions involving Atlanta Public Schools, DeKalb County School System and New Birth. It is not enough to just preface Dickerson's comments by saying that he is/was a paid flack. With DCSS's complete lack of transparency, for all we know, Dickerson may still be getting money from DCSS.

Dick Williams is still not doing the right thing -- and he knows it.

Cerebration said...

You are absolutely right, Anon 7:12. Dick Williams explained that apparently Dickerson always announces his paid affiliation with DCSS whenever discussions on the topic take place... apparently this time he didn't. I agree that he should state it each and every time if he wants to maintain ethical credibility.

That said, hard as he tries, he is unable to polish the board's image as they had hoped when they secured his services. I know I sure wouldn't want to be the person responsible for clearing up the air on the actions of the board.

This is one of the main reasons I truly supported Ella. She is the one candidate who truly focused on the students - all the time. She didn't get caught up in many racial or other tangential discussions - she has a big, golden heart for kids. If ALL of the board simply followed Ella's compass, they would not end up with these side issues running the show and having to pay someone to run around behind them making their actions seem palpable to the public.

No one can do this for them.

Cerebration said...

Paul Womack stated that the board plans to make the superintendent "clean house' - removing many staff members currently in leadership positions. If this is true - and Ramona takes the bull by the horns and cleans the house at DCSS - I say - pay up!

But if she sits by idly managing one outside consultant after another and taking credit for the resulting transparency - then yes, we've wasted our money.

My gut tells me that we are about to see big change. I hope my guy is correct. I hope Ramona realizes the support she would receive from the community if she streamlined the top-heavy system and focused only on what's best for students in the classrooms.

Cerebration said...

If you would like to read some testimony researched and copied at the courthouse by one of our reporters regarding the case against Lewis and Pope, click back to this post

Some testimony for your reading pleasure

And check out this old post hosting Amanda Davis' very interesting interview with Lewis after the charges were filed --

Channel 5's Amanda Davis interviews Dr. Lewis

And for a bunch more info, including links to the DA's Powerpoint and the actual indictment, go to this link --

Superintendent Lewis, Pat Pope and others indicted

Cerebration said...

This is from page 59 of the indictment --

For example, on June 17, 2008, CRAWFORD LEWIS called Marcus Turk, CFO of DCSS and stated to Turk that he was going on vacation and was short on funds. He asked if he could use the P-Card to pay for his hotel. Turk advised CRAWFORD LEWIS that such actions were illegal. The next day, Lewis repeated the same request and received the same response. Despite these warnings, CRAWFORD LEWIS used his DCSS P-Card to pay for a hotel room at The Lucayan in Freeport, Bahamas for Two Hundred Ninety-Five and Twenty cents ($295.20). (See Exhibit DDD). No official business was conducted during this stay.

Turk subsequently paid these bills and never brought it to the attention of the board. I have to wonder why the board continues to employ and trust him.

Page 60 continues on the topic --

CRAWFORD LEWIS used his position at DCSS to initiate and facilitate personal
relationships with female employees. Specifically, he paid for a room at The Ritz Carlton in Greensboro, Georgia, on March 12, 2008, which he used exclusively for personal use with a female su1Jordinate accompanying him. (See Exhibit EEE). No official county business was conducted despite the county P-Card being used for payment. CRAWFORD LEWIS also used county-purchased gasoline to travel to these locations.


Page 100-

Act Involving Theft
139
Illegal purchase of his county-issued car
140
Illegal use of county-issued gasoline to travel to The Ritz Carlton in Reynolds Plantation for personal activity with a female employee which was not authorized
141
Paying for a hotel room at The Ritz Carlton in Reynolds Plantation for personal activity with a female employee which was not authorized
142
Paying for a hotel room at The Lucayan in the Bahamas for a personal vacation

Anonymous said...

@ cerebration
"I hope Ramona realizes the support she would receive from the community if she streamlined the top-heavy system and focused only on what's best for students in the classrooms. "

Ramona Tyson taught typing for two years in the 1980s. Do you really think she's focused on or even understands what's best for students in the classroom? Sitting in meetings at MIS where she describes her vision of a "career path" (her words) for MIS employees convinced me that she is not looking at attracting and retaining the most competent teachers in the schoolhouse. She considers herself part of "corporate" upper management.

She is however very political so she may be realizing that there is a limit to packing students into classrooms and to protecting highly paid non-teaching personnel. The loss of two BOE seats, the prospect of the BOE experiencing a reduction of two members, and new elections for all BOE members have no doubt unsettled her view of the DCSS world (i.e. "the DeKalb Way").

I really don't care why she would do the right thing and rightsizes non-teaching personnel. I'd be glad to see her get her extra million if she pares the admin and support legions and redirects the resources into the classroom. Very sticky wicket for her - she's at the heart of the system so it's going to be difficult to cut within the system. I certainly hope you're right. Only if taxpayers/parents keep the pressure on will anything constructive for children be done.

Cerebration said...

I hope I'm right too. If I were she, I would do the necessary cutting, take my pension and apply for a job as superintendent at a nice, small school system somewhere else... and put DCSS far behind in my rear-view mirror. (If she doesn't believe me - she should call Johnny Brown and ask for his advice...)

Anonymous said...

Who is the female employee who the District Attorney says accompanied Lewis to Reynold's Plantation ($600 a night) and the Bahamas on the DCSS county credit card?

Is she highly ranked and making decisions on students' education?

Is the DCSS administration and BOE looking to see if she received her promotions while she was involved with Lewis?

Does she make decisions about how teachers teach our children?

Why is she not being investigated by the BOE and Ms. Tyson?

Surely the DA has depositions by now from this woman.

Why is SACS not looking into an improper relationship with the superintendent putting a woman in charge of educational decisions for students? This goes beyond croynism.

Cerebration said...

They don't specify who in the indictment - or even if both trips involve the same person.

Don't know why the board continues to act as if all is well and treats her as if nothing is amiss (cognitive dissonance?)

Don't know why SACS doesn't seem to care. But apparently, they need direct complaints filed by employees, parents, community members in order to have an actionable item. They don't go out and do investigations.

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration

If Marcus Turk KNEW Lewis had used the credit cards illegally, isn't he legally and ethically bound to turn him into the proper authorities? If you as the head of Finance know someone is breaking the law, and you stay silent, are you not at all culpable? Did Marcus Turk tell Ron Ramsey, head of Internal Investigations, that Dr. Lewis had used the county P-card for personal business? Is Mr. Ramsey culpable if he suspected a law was broken?

Doesn't the DA assert that Marcus Turk admitted that he knew a crime was committed and did nothing about it?

"This is from page 59 of the indictment --

For example, on June 17, 2008, CRAWFORD LEWIS called Marcus Turk, CFO of DCSS and stated to Turk that he was going on vacation and was short on funds. He asked if he could use the P-Card to pay for his hotel. Turk advised CRAWFORD LEWIS that such actions were illegal. The next day, Lewis repeated the same request and received the same response. Despite these warnings, CRAWFORD LEWIS used his DCSS P-Card to pay for a hotel room at The Lucayan in Freeport, Bahamas for Two Hundred Ninety-Five and Twenty cents ($295.20). (See Exhibit DDD). "
Did Marcus Turk tell his boss Ramona Tyson that Lewis had illegally used the DCSS P-card?

Am I wrong in my assumption?

Marcus Turk is currently paid $207,000 in salary and benefits (assuming 25% benefits). Mr. Turk was paid approximately $94,500 in salary and benefits in 2004 and zoomed up to $206,000 in salary and benefits by 2009 under Lewis with BOE approval.

(sources:
State Salary and Travel audit 2004, 2009 and 2010
Notes from the DA charges against Dr. Lewis)

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration

"Don't know why SACS doesn't seem to care. But apparently, they need direct complaints filed by employees, parents, community members in order to have an actionable item. They don't go out and do investigations. "

How would we know if SACS has direct complaints filed? Do they publish this on their website so we can see it? For all we know they have complaints filed and are sitting on them.

PolitiMom said...

Holy cow-I leave town for a week and come back to pay-raisegate?! Unbelievable. How could Tyson and the BOE not see the damage this would cause. Even if she does deserve it, its just not the time! Perception is reality and to ask the taxpayers to give a raise when we just got screwed by the CLew payraise two years ago, and with the teacher furloughs, etc etc. Just wrong on so many levels. I've spent the last hour catching up on posts and comments and saw one about a Jan 18th meeting about public comment regarding this raise. What is that? Did they already approve the raise or will they do so at this meeting? Could the new board recind it? I feel so behind but thankful to all of you for catching me up.

PolitiMom said...

And how come Dick doesn't mention the fact that the raise is for salary thru 2012 even though the new supt is supposed to be on board for Aug 2011? So we are basically going to be paying 2 supt-level salaries for a full year--when she won't even be doing the work anymore!!! Agravating!

Anonymous said...

SACs regulates policies and how they are being followed by the BoE. Their main mission is to make sure that BoE's don't meddle. Frankly, while they often portray themselves as advocates for good governance I find that some of SACs requirements are hindrances to what they say that they want.

I believe that the DA has asked Tyson to protect some of the people they intend to use as witnesses for the prosecution. It will be interesting, come this Spring, when contracts are given out to see who gets to stay and who is gone.

Anonymous said...

"Dick doesn't mention the fact that the raise is for salary thru 2012 even though the new supt is supposed to be on board for Aug 2011? "

Dick Williams probably rehearsed what was going to be said on the Georgia Gang. How can this man have any credibility? Why is he protecting the most corrupt school system in Georgia?

Anonymous said...

"I believe that the DA has asked Tyson to protect some of the people they intend to use as witnesses for the prosecution."

So Marcus Turk, our Financial leader, may be on the witness stand saying he knew Lewis broke the law and kept silent and may keep his almost a quarter of a million dollar a year job. And a female employee who may be setting educational policy for students and teachers may be on the witness stand saying she had an improper relationship with Lewis and went on trips using the county P-car and may keep her high paying job and still affect the educational opportunities for our students?

What will the BOE do if witnesses admit to wrongdoing? Will they still be in charge of our educational system?

Anonymous said...

"Dick Williams explained that apparently Dickerson always announces his paid affiliation with DCSS whenever discussions on the topic take place... apparently this time he didn't."

I've watched The Georgia Gang regularly over the past five years, and have NEVER heard Jeff Dickerson ever disclose any of his clients.

Also, why can't at least one meber of The Georgia Gang panel be in her/his 20's, 30's, 40's, or early to mid-50's? How come every panel member is in her/his late 50's or 60's??

Anonymous said...

"I've watched The Georgia Gang regularly over the past five years, and have NEVER heard Jeff Dickerson ever disclose any of his clients.'

Are you saying Dick Williams didn't tell his audience the truth?

Anonymous said...

I've never watch this program and judging by this blog it sounds like the worst example of journalism - if you can call it journalism - so I guess I'm not missing anything.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Dickerson and Dick Williams can do basic math - right?

Here are the math computations for Mrs. Tyson's raise in relation to her retirement (Did they really think someone would not do the math?):

Here are the precise calculations for Ms. Tyson's $76,000 raise for 18 months:
1/2 year at $165,000 (.5 x $165,000 = $82,500)
1 1/2 years at $240,000 (1.5 x $240,000 = $360,000)
$82,500 + $360,000 = $442,500 divided by 2 years = $221,250 average high 2 years
$221,250 x .60% (retirement percentage) = $132,750

So if she gets this raise, she will retire at $132,750 ($33,750 more than she would have if she retired at her current salary of $165,000). But the magic of COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) will be at work:

If she retired at the current salary of $165,000:
2 years x $165,000 = $330,000/2 years = $165,000 average high 2 years
$165,000 x .60 (retirement percentage) = $99,000

Let’s look at her 3%”guaranteed” COLA a year Look at the 3% a year *guaranteed" COLA a year (this is conservative since it's actually compounded every 6 months at 1.5%):
101,970
105,029
108,179
111,425
114,768
118,211
121,757
137,039
141,150
145,384
149,746
154,238
158,865
163,631
168,540
173,596
178,803
184,167
189,693
195,383
201,244
207,281
213,500
219,905
226,502
Total: $399,0006


Look at the 3% a year *guaranteed" COLA a year (this is conservative since it's actually compounded every 6 months at 1.5%):
136,732
140,834
145,059
149,411
153,893
158,510
163,265
168,163
173,208
178,404
184,757
190,299
196,008
201,888
207,945
214,184
220,609
227,227
234,044
241,065
248,296
255,745
263,418
271,320
279,460
Total: $5,003,744


I know she may get some raises over the next 7 or 8 years, but if we throw in the extra $76,000 x 1.5 years (18 months), that $114,000 should cover the raises she gets. So if she collects retirement for 25 years, DCSS is indeed “on the hook” for over $1,000,000. Please show me how these figures are incorrect.

Anonymous said...

The AJC says that according to the indictment, "In March 2008, Lewis and “a female subordinate” spent a night at the Ritz-Carlton on school money, but no school business was conducted, according to the indictment." (http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-board-this-is-536785.htmlhttp://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-board-this-is-536785.html)

Was this female subordinate being paid by DCSS while she was staying in the Ritz Carlton with Lewis conducting "no school business". Why are Ms. Tyson and the BOE not asking if this female subordinate was "stealing time"? In other words, being paid for work that she was not doing? Isn't that an offense that would warrant dismissal for any other employee? Who is this employee and was she "stealing time" (i.e. being paid work she was not doing)from DCSS taxpayers?

This seems very simple to find out. Why has Ms. Tyson and the BOE not moved on this person. That she will be a witness in the prosecution's case against Lewis does not help our students who may be suffering under educational policies and directives she makes and executes (it is said in the deposition she is a high ranking employee).

Anonymous said...

The Georgia Teacher Retirement System is independent of any TAX MONEY and the School Board nor lay citizens have any control or input unless they are members of the GTRS. So if the rule fits white males why not black females. These comments are both race and gender based. What happened to the drunken Supt. who the Georgia Gang supported? Why conveniently, we forget.
Why isn't pressure being put on this BOARD to hire a new. Supt. It has been way too long ( 10 months) and it may be 10 more months before someone of decency wants to give us a try. With all of this "continous negative publicity" being raised by the "Joe Public", who wants to come here except for a short highly paid visit? Find Johnny Brown and beg him to help us out.

Anonymous said...

"The Georgia Teacher Retirement System is independent of any TAX MONEY and the School Board nor lay citizens have any control or input unless they are members of the GTRS. So if the rule fits white males why not black females. These comments are both race and gender based. What happened to the drunken Supt. who the Georgia Gang supported? Why conveniently, we forget."

Are you comparing Dr. Hallford's arrest for a DUI with Ms. Tyson's demand for a raise? Ms. Tyson has never had any run ins with the law so your analogy is confusing. I think its quite inappropriate to compare her request for a raise with Dr. Hallford's arrest.

You are correct in that TRS is independent in its execution of the dispersal of funds, but where on earth do you think TRS actually gets its funding? Its funding comes from teachers paychecks and the Board of Education (i.e our tax dollars). See this DCSS webpage:
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/administration/humanresources/benefits.html
Quote from DCSS webpage:
"The Teachers Retirement System of Georgia is one of the best in the nation with 10.28% of salary paid by the DeKalb Board of Education with teachers contributing only 5.53%. For more information regarding the Teacher Retirement System, please visit the TRS website at www.trsga.com"

So you see taxpayers pay a 10.28% override on every employee's salary. Since 90% of our billion dollar budget goes for personnel cost, this equates to around $90,000,000 of our budget (around 9%) going to TRS. The last time I looked the DCSS funding came out of taxpayers pockets. Where did you think the money to run DCSS comes from?

Taxpayers are upset with ms. Tyson's demand for a 44% raise ($76,000) when she has no proof of raising student achievement in the last decade while she was a top level administrator. They are concerned that this will result in a $1,000,000 payout in retirement which will be funded by DCSS taxpayers (see above link to DCSS webpage to see that taxpayers are responsible for much of the funding of TRS).

Teachers are concerned that they have had pay cuts while they are being required to take on many extra students and work many extra hours.

A more apt comparison would be to compare Mrs. Tyson with the many black female teachers who are taking pay cuts and working more hours and serving more students. What is happening to their TRS defined benefits? Why is Ms. Tyson held to a different standard that they are? Maybe you need to explain that to them. There are thousands of them, and they have worked harder for less for our students.

Anonymous said...

The GTRS is the same for every Georgia School who participates in it and the rules are the same and should be.
I am most supportive of teachers and regret that DeKalb does not pay into Social Security nor Tax Sheltered Annunity now. However, that has nothing to do with paying Ms. Tyson for the job she is doing over a long period of time when it was suppose to be for a few weeks.

I am afraid that Cobb and Atlanta
will get better applicants than DeKalb because we air too much negativity based on opinions not facts. None of us will know who knoew what and when about Lewis situations.

So in my own personal opponion, Ramona is going a fantastic job and inherited a true mess. She works 80 hours a week and even speak at school and parent meetings in the South, which Lewis refused to do. She has been all over the county and if you think you can do as well or better, please apply and get the job done. I will support your pay for the job if done well.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 11:54
"
So in my own personal opponion, Ramona is going a fantastic job and inherited a true mess."

IMHO Ramona has worked hard, but with little results for students. Please tell me how she has improved student achievement or any action she has taken that will result in improved student achievement.

Improved student achievement is the ONLY goal parents/taxpayers are interested in since that's the only reason any of the 15,000 DCSS employees have their jobs and the ONLY reason DeKalb citizens pay taxes. That has been missing in Ms. Tyson's actions since Day 1.

Just name one concrete example of student achievement that has improved and is attributable to her since Ms. Tyson has been in upper level management positions for years.

As far as the colossal mess, maybe we could look at MIS which has left DCSS classrooms in the 20th Century. eSis, Schoolnet, manually scanned benchmarks, reams of paperwork for teachers which should be streamlined by technology, etc. These are all a legacy of the years Ms. Tyson ran MIS.

In addition, in one of her first and most important moves as Interim Superintendent, Ms. Tyson cut schoolhouse personnel and teacher positions while protecting highly paid non-teaching positions. These are the very same highly paid personnel who put practices into place over the last 6 years that actually caused a steep decline in student achievement.

You can work hard, but results are what matter.

I disagree with your conclusion about finding a superintenent. DeKalb has many vibrant, close-in neighborhoods, and the vast majority of our kids are not trouble makers. We have committed teachers all over the county who have dedicated themselves to the education of our children. This school system would welcome a superintendent with open arms who puts students first. The citizens of DeKalb have had a very involved discussion on the blogs, in their neighborhoods, churches and friends' homes about what they want for their children. Informed consensus and transparency is actually a good thing.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 11:54

It is obvious you are a Central Office employee, not a teacher so I can see why you feel this way. But the DCSS administration and BOE must be made to realize that they - not the teachers - are ultimately responsible for student achievement. They hire the teachers and tell them what and how to teach. If student achievement declines, it's on their shoulders. The buck really does stop at Mountain Industrial.

Anonymous said...

You're right the rules for GTRS are the same for everyone, but the rules for DCSS compensation are not the same for everyone. I know many, many teachers who are working 80 hours a week in more stressful jobs and doing so with reduced pay. It's insulting to them to give Ms. Tyson so much money - particularly since their retirement is being cut since their high two years are now being reduced.

Anonymous said...

"I've watched The Georgia Gang regularly over the past five years, and have NEVER heard Jeff Dickerson ever disclose any of his clients.'

I have heard Dickerson mention his clients in the past, though I can't be sure which ones. He certainly has disclosed relationships.

Anonymous said...

Atlanta will most likely have a more interesting pool of candidates that DeKalb. This is not because the position is any more or less challenging, but because Atlanta is a brand name school system, DeKalb is not. the system is and what it can go.

Cobb is expected to hire from within.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick reminder, the BoE's only employee is the the superintendent. SACs is just waiting for one of them to mess up.

I believe that they have put the policy in place that will now allow Tyson to do the right thing by removing some of the most senior employees who happen to be among the least competent.

That is a first step.

The second step is to bring central office salaries in line with what the position should really pay. In my opinion, there are central office administrators making far to much salary for the position. This isn't necessarily a reflection on them, but rather the job title has been inflated so much that the salary is way out of line with reality. Let's hope that Tyson can address this as well.

Cerebration said...

Exactly true. Not only did Lewis ignore the results of the Ernst & Young study showing that the system was over-paying staff by millions each year, he went on to give out enormous raises to those in upper management (not teachers - who were cited in the study as being paid about right...)

The question is - would people in these kinds of positions make anywhere near this much money in the free market? Not to mention the pension and benefits? Government in general has been found to over-pay in recent years. Have a look at these increases under Lewis -

Here is a comparison between 2004 salaries and 2009 salaries:

NAME - 2004 salary - 2009 salary

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

For more, click on our link listed under pages on the right side panel of the home page -

Facts and Sources

We try our best to bring out only the facts as we dig them up.

Cerebration said...

Same exercise with a few new names comparing 2003 and 2009

Salary increases from 2003-2009

Name--2003--2009

Lewis, Crawford--111,665--287,991
Lewis, Harold--51,276--109,385
Tyson, Ramona--99,960--165,035
Mitchell, Felicia--94,732--125,284
Yvonne Sanders-Butler--85,428--112,956
Berry, Audria--83,008--116,314
Turk, Marcus--74,188--165,035
Moseley, Robert--104,255--165,039
Thompson, Alice--99,810--124,049
Moody, Cointa--32,773--92,192
Guillory, David--70,574--114,639
Guillory, Philandrea--64,392--114,627
Wilson, Jamie L, Jr.--85,902--165,035
Freeman, Timothy --104,973--124,049

Cerebration said...

And know this (2009)

Cobb County
106,079 Students
$34,470,248 spent on General Administration
-
DeKalb County
96,907 Students
$49,159,245 spent on General Administration

pscexb said...

Part 1

Always interesting reading on the blog! It now seems that most are ready to go to the next level of analysis though. By that I mean additional comparisons and research.

For examples, I've always said that how average student funding values are simplistic calculations, divide the general operations budget by the number of students. Unless you understand what makes up the budget from the various funding sources, you will get wide ranges. DeKalb has a larger number of students receiving free and reduced lunch which results in additional federal funding (through Title 1) than Cobb. I would submit that access to both MARTA and Grady plays a part in this. At the same time, DeKalb citizens pay a smaller percentage of their overall property taxes for schools than most metro counties (chart appeared in Sunday, 12/26 AJC). Nonetheless many would argue that too many of our students are being left behind, considering the investment made.

I bring this up to ask, are we using the right measures to determine instructional effectiveness? We know that despite how much we lower the standardize test cut scores, DeKalb has many students that will not do well. Ask some of their teachers and you might hear of 'growth' from the beginning of the school year. Yet because of the measure we us, the student, teacher and school could be considered failures.

pscexb said...

Part 2

Regarding the salaries of all employees in DeKalb, Dr. Brown did the right thing in commissioning the salary audit. One thing he noticed was that because there were not any job classifications, it allowed some employees, i.e. administrative assistants, to make much more than classroom teachers. Same applied to the bloated Central office, created under Freeman and Hallford. Longetivity and regular increases during the good times led to the salary disparities. I recall many questioned the need to do this audit however it has taken several years to past for citizens to understand what Dr. Brown was doing. He was hired to 'clean up' but as he came across skeletons from years past, well lets just say it got a little too close to home for some.

Yes, DeKalb was a very affluent school district years ago however there were also many poor business practices in place. This 'Friends and Family' most speak of was encouraged under Jim Cherry, Jim Hinson and Robert Freeman. The rationale was an employee would not recommend someone that was not qualified as it would look bad on the recommender for doing so. There was in situation at Chamblee High School in the early 90's where two teachers got married (that happens a lot in education and business). There was outrage in the community because policies at the time indicated they could not work in the same building. I think it was Lynn Cherry Grant that was instrumental in making a change so that married couples could remain at a school as long as they did not report to one another.

Regarding the salaries posted, we should be mindful that offering a salary too low will eliminate top shelf candidates. You can't have it both ways, expecting to get quality candidates while paying peanuts. You also do not compare Education executive salaries to the business community, you compare them to like school districts. If someone can provide 2nd and 3rd level salaries (assuming the Superintendent is
1st level) for neighboring school districts and show that what DeKalb pays is out of line, we have a reasonable point. Another factor would be the demographics of our school district when compared to others. DeKalb is an URBAN school district, which also suggests a higher salary.

We are definitely getting close with the analysis. I believe more 'Why' questions should be asked to get a better understanding.

Anonymous said...

The system is built on overemployment. 5 ap's in a high school!!!??? How many does Decatur High School have? 2. It is not about the students. It is about the jobs. And these are people with fake degrees, making salaries that would be unimaginable anywhere else. This is why change will not come, unless the money is taken away. They have no where to go. The same problem exists in APS and south Fulton -- too many government salaries based on who you know not what you know.

Anonymous said...

"So if the rule fits white males why not black females. These comments are both race and gender based. What happened to the drunken Supt. who the Georgia Gang supported? Why conveniently, we forget. Why isn't pressure being put on this BOARD to hire a new. Supt. It has been way too long ( 10 months) and it may be 10 more months before someone of decency wants to give us a try. With all of this "continous negative publicity" being raised by the "Joe Public", who wants to come here except for a short highly paid visit? Find Johnny Brown and beg him to help us out."



Anon 10:43 PM, I can assure you that this blog is in no way made up of "comments are both race and gender based".

Crawford Lewis, Bob Moseley, Steve Donahue, Gloria Talley, Lynn Cherry-Grant, Paul Womack, Jim Redovian, etc. have all been scrutinized here for their performance/lack of performance.

Regarding Halford:
1) Many of us parents did not have kids in the school system during his tenure, and 2) If this blog were around during his DUI arrest, he would have been called out to resign!!

It is fair for parents and taxpayers to be offended by Tyson's huge pay raise. Teachers and in school staff hae had their salaries frozen, their retirement underfunded, and just overall have been treated poorly while Central Office administrators snap and have their every request fulfilled.

And also when it comes to Tyson's 'Demand", for only 19 months work as interim superintendent, not only will she be well compensated for it, she will receive an EXTRA MILLION DOLLARS in retirement for 19 months of work.

You're off base with saying comments on Tyson "are both race and gender based". This blog has actually been very supportive of female administrators for DCSS, with much praise here praised for Tyson being the FIRST EVER FEMALE SUPERINTENDENT of the DeKalb County School System.

This blog brings an important public service that was long overdue: scrutiny to a BOE and Central Office that spends a BILLIOn DOLLARS per year and educates 96,000+ students.

Anonymous said...

The friends and family plan did exist under the white regime. However, there was much more attention paid to competence. Also, a very overt decision was made to expand dramtically the payrolls in the school system and the county government with one aim: to help create a black middle class where none existed. This model is no longer sustainable.

Anonymous said...

People whose children had Dr. Halford's daughter might not agree with you about competence What about Dr. Freeman's son -- he isn't so great either. Lynn Cherry Grant, a former board member whose father was also a former superintendent, had two sisters who were among the highest paid secretaries in the system.

My mother is in her 70s and a retired teacher. This has been going on forever.

Cerebration said...

What's the point that it's been going on forever? Does that mean we should tolerate it now? Hurrah for the internet - the great leveler! You are correct Anon - had this blog been around back then, we would have scrutinized leadership in the past. However, they never actually provided a catalyst like having your COO and Superintendent indicted on RICO charges.

But it's true - there are people in the system who are in their positions due to relation to a high-ranking school system official - we have called them out here often - The Francis Edwards crew - including our head of transportation and our head of the tv station (both positions I would challenge could be filled with much more highly qualified candidates from the free market - say tv news or UPS/Fed-Ex). And Tim Freeman, a Deputy Super is the son of former Super Robert Freeman - the list goes on.

Good points psc - I did chuckle at this one though -

Regarding the salaries posted, we should be mindful that offering a salary too low will eliminate top shelf candidates.

Top shelf -- we don't have any of those.

Anonymous said...

It has not been going on forever on this huge, system-pervading scale. That is simply not true. People are too quick to make excuses. They do not want to face up to the reality and its implications.

pscexb said...

Part of the motivation for my posts came from this comment at 7:45,

The second step is to bring central office salaries in line with what the position should really pay. In my opinion, there are central office administrators making far to much salary for the position. This isn't necessarily a reflection on them, but rather the job title has been inflated so much that the salary is way out of line with reality.

along with the subsequent posts with salaries. I consider myself an insightful person but I don't know the salary ranges for most of the positions listed for similarly sized school districts. Does anyone know?

Yes, we are in tough economic times but I've also seen executive compensation slow down slightly over the past few years. The rationale seems to be that the supply of qualified leaders is small and the demand for them is great which can drive up the compensation packages offered. This is basic Econ 101 on how prices are impacted with Supply and Demand.

I also brought up points on 'Friends and Family' more for a historical perspective. I see this in public and private entities and don't believe it is going away. I do believe the additional scrutiny will cause some to look elsewhere for opportunities.

A while back a blogger posted that late during the Freeman Administration, he created multiple area superintendents which 'grew' the central office. I think this is when there were two Deputy Superintendents, Dr. Hallford and Dr. Johnson. When they realized this was a mistake, they never sent people back to the school house thus had to find things for them to do at the Central office. Again, this is simply trying to understand how we got to where we are today.

Sometimes I wonder how things might have turned out if Dr. Brown got the job in 1996 (he and Dr. Hallford were the final two candidates).

Cerebration said...

No kidding? Didn't know that!

You are right about the history of the "bloat" psc. That's not to say that we have to live with it. This "new economy" will force a change and an admin diet! The board has cut the classroom staffing as much as possible - it's time to start the hard work - cutting unnecessary admin - and consolidating. We can save an enormous amount simply by reeling in all of the out of date, very expensive, tiny, special "programs". Check out the recent comments on the thread below -

Educational Adequacy Reports

Anonymous said...

I think it has been going on forever. Perhaps not at such a huge scale, but Halford was quick to promote friends and family.

What was different, perhaps, was that he had higher standards for school house administrators, to the point that he would promote less competent principals to the central office, where many of them still are today. Halford fired no one as is the case with many educators.

pscexb said...

Cere, I agree with you in that this new economy will force schools around the country to change, including ours. I am fearful that as we see additional corrections to housing prices thus property tax valuations, we will have even less income to work with. I'm sure the remedy that will be offered again by the state will be increasing class sizes. When labor costs take up between 85 - 90% of your general budget, that is the only area that you can cut and try to present a balanced budget.

Many will keep saying cut the Central Office but due to all the regulation and compliance requirements, you have to keep many of them (DeKalb probably has more lawsuits due to allegations of not complying to some regulation or another). You cut the people but the paperwork does not go away. Salaries have been cut via furlough days. They were restored with stimulus money that may not be there again.

I believe in 2011 we will find out how important some of the extra curricular activities are in our school systems. Same goes for some of our district wide choice programs. We may have discussions on what schools must legally provide versus the extras we've come to expect. This conversation will be going on around the country.

Cerebration said...

Exactly, psc. I think this is why Gwinnett is better poised to ride out this economy. They have been fiscally responsible as Job #1 for a very long time. Say what you will, but our "love" of small schools, special programs and the associated admin and transportation costs are what's coming home to roost on us now.

Anonymous said...

The "small school" concept has been a mantra of DeKalb County School System from the time the population growth moved out from the city of Atlanta in the mid-60's.

I'm not saying not to change this culture, but changing it, i.e. small school "mindset" is going to be difficult. It is all life-long residents of DeKalb know.

Cerebration said...

We need to explore which direction is best to go. Shall we keep the small schools? Some are ridiculously small IMO, so even if we stay with small schools, there should be some kind of threshold. Really, 100-300 students with a full staff and their own building? We have several of these and it's breaking us. If we want to consolidate and still maintain small schools, it will definitely require a tax increase I'm afraid. If we want them to be good, they will cost us.

Otherwise, the option is to model Gwinnett. This system is a very efficient model to emulate. Large schools have their advantages too. They have much more diverse course offerings as well as sports and the arts. Some would say that it limits your child's access to participate, but I would say that in a large school, they would put on larger productions and more of them, so surely anyone interested would get their chance.

Bottom line - we will have to make a conscious decision as to what direction to take, formulate a plan and then carefully execute it.

Possible? I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but I predict we will just get mired in community meetings, arguments and push-back from all kinds of very vocal special interest groups and end up with a slightly spruced up version of same old same old... sorry.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 12/26 @ 9:25:

How do you know he DIDN'T blow the whistle? Someone on the inside obviously did. The DA doesn't go wandering around randomly looking for white collar crimes. They get their information from tips! Whoever blew the whistle is probably not going to speak up and identify themselves as the whistelblower to the media or this blog. So please wait for the facts before passing judgment about people knowing about crimes and keeping silent.

Anonymous said...

Audria Berry spent $5,434.02 on travel last year. I wonder where she went? We may want to see those receipts.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 2:35

"How do you know he DIDN'T blow the whistle? Someone on the inside obviously did"

The DA mentioned his name in the indictment so it's not a well kept secret.

Mr. Turk was/is head of Finance when DCSS finances fell apart and for a number of years preceding the financial debacle. Are you going to say he bears no responsibility for any financial problems DCSS has? What sort of accountability should taxpayers expect of the person who runs the school finances? None?

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 2:57
I think taxpayers would like to see who those checks were written to since it's their money Berry spent. All the more reason for an online check registry. No checks should be sheltered from the public. It is after all the public's money DCSS is spending.

Anonymous said...

New BOE battle cry for 2011

I suggest changing from the tiresome "It's for the children" to something more accurate,like "It's for the jobs, paychecks and pensions"

Anonymous said...

Anon@ 3:24: Mentioned whose name in the indictment? Who do you think he should have told? HIs boss -- Crawford Lewis?? The DA's office? How do you know he didnt'??

Anonymous said...

"Audria Berry spent $5,434.02 on travel last year."

Again...WHAT THE...?????????????

That's just travel, not conference fees. Is she flying first class? How often is she out of the office? What kind of hotels is she staying in?

How in the world does an administrator spend that much when the system was $100 mil in the hole last year and is now supposedly $50 mil in the hole?

Why does DCSS have trainings at Callaway Gardens? Those couldn't be held here in the many available local facilities right here in our own county, so we don't have to pay for hotel stays (Stone Mountain Conference Center, Emory CC, Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center, GA Perimeter College, etc., etc.)???

Audria Berry should play the lottery as much as she can, for she has to be the luckiest person in this county, just to have a job after the p-card out of country trip and the lack of any academic improvement since she's led the Orwellian-named Office of School Improvement.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3:28pm

If we could add one additional beneficiary to your brilliant battle cry:

"It's for the jobs, paychecks and pensions"

(and "THE Church"


JB and BD

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 3:33

"Who do you think he should have told? HIs boss -- Crawford Lewis??"

You do realize that Marcus Turk reported to Ramona Tyson - not Crawford Lewis. Did he tell Ms. Tyson that Crawford Lewis was illegally using the P-card? Is that what you're saying? Crawford Lewis recommended that Ms. Tyson replace him as Interim Superintendent. That really doesn't make much sense.

Anonymous said...

Could we come up with a list of administrators who embody this new slogan? The most inept and overpaid?

Anonymous said...

Marcus Turk is not the one who turned in evidence that got this whole investigation against Pope and Lewis started. It was one of Pope's employee's who went to internal affairs with evidence. Turk only starting "singing" when he thought his butt was on the line to be indicted. This will all come out during the trial.

Anonymous said...

"Turk only starting "singing" when he thought his butt was on the line to be indicted. This will all come out during the trial. "

So Turk stayed silent while he knew Lewis was illegally using student funds for personal use? Why is he still head of DCSS Finance? He reported to Ramona Tyson. Did he inform her of this? Why haven't Ms. Tyson and the BOE fired him if he stayed silent when he knew Lewis used the P card illegally?

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:27
"This will all come out during the trial."

So will the high ranking DCSS administrator who received promotions due to an improper relationship come out during the trial? Are students and teachers going to have to wait until the trial until this person can be terminated from DCSS? Why is the BOE allowing educational policy to be set by a woman who received her position due to an improper relationship with the superintendent? If DCSS needs to go to court, this would be a good reason to go.

Cerebration said...

And now they are saying the trial could be postponed as late as 2012. Sigh!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Cere for this great post. It seems to me that some folks are beginning to understand why I have been asking for the resignations of Moseley, Turk, Berry, Thompson, Mitchell-Mayfield, Ramsey, Guilroys and others. These folks kept their mouths shut while CLew and others were having fun in the Bahamas and Reynolds Plantation Ritz. It's tough being King....

Plus, they build a 50 million dollar facility using funds that should have been used on the school houses and instead bought $5000 chairs for their big bu... you understand.

It's also amazing to me how they can be so surprised by the public's reaction. Really? Surprised? Please, these folks are calculating and know exactly what they're up to. They can't be that stupid.. can they? Hmmmmmm..

Anonymous said...

Taxpayers will not pay for any pension increase Ms. Tyson gets. The Georgia Teacher Retirement System is self funded out of employee contributions. It has clearly defined rules. Nor would Ms. Tyson get millions in pension money-this is very bad math. She would have to work eight more years to get 60% of the average salary of her highest two years of pay. However, whatever she would get would come from the pension fund which is not funded by tax payers.

Anonymous said...

The TRS is funded out of EMPLOYER contributions as well. Employer contributions currently exceed employee contributions by roughly 100%. Where do you think this money comes from? In addition, why do non-teaching personnel have access to the system, which, like so many other defined benefit programs, is sailing into the rough waters of underfunding and underearning. The ignorance in display here at times is frightening. No wonder Georgia ranks so badly in public education.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:00 must be someone from the Central Office, because everything listed in that post is wrong.

And do the math: For being the interim supt. for 19 months, Tyson will receive an EXTRA million in retirement if she works another eight years. Not a bad gig if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

When I was a lowly secretary at Georgia State I was required to make contributions to Teacher's Retirement. We weren't given the option of not contributing. It is my understanding that anyone who works in public education in Georgia is required to pay into the system. There might be some job categories that are excluded, but I would be surprised if an upper-level administrator is in such a category.

Anonymous said...

Here is the funding:
1. School system employees contribute a little over 5%
2. DCSS contributes a little over 10%
The TRS fund itself is managed by fund managers who invest in different financial instruments and this adds to the fund. During good investment years the fund adds a lot by investments. During this recession the fund decreased, but now is on the upswing again.

DCSS has a lot of older employees who are retiring, a lot of highly paid employees (admin and support), and a lot of more employees PER STUDENT (we're have a tremendous number of admin and support - less so with teachers). This results in DCSS (taxpayer money) paying more than other systems for TRS (i.e. a greater percentage).

We desperately need to decrease our admin and support and right size our salaries so we are more in line with other systems who contribute to TRS. We know DCSS teachers are not responsible for our inflated retirement per employee figures because our teachers are paid on par and lower than other metro systems so their retirement is on par or lower than other systems. Who is left to "bump up" our retirement per employee - admin and support?

Look at these figures. Divide the Annual Gross Benefit by the number of retirees and you will see what I mean:

Dekalb:
4,133 Retirees
$175,827,370 Annual Gross Benefit Payments
13,365 Active Members

Fulton:
5,169 Retirees
$213,870,755 Annual Gross Benefit Payments
17,559 Active Members

Gwinnett:
2,528 Retirees
$101,545,940 Annual Benefit payments
17,440 Active Members

Cobb:
3,533 Retirees
$132,141,269 Annual Benefit payments
15,334 Active Members

(source: http://www.trsga.com/stats-at-a-glance.aspx)

Anonymous said...

Employees pay 5% of their salaries and TAXPAYERS pay 10%.

Unlike a 401k, the pensions are defined benefit (number of years served x 2% x 2 years of highest salary) GUARANTEED BY THE TAXPAYERS if the fund does not perform


Average pension per current retiree
(based on lower salaries)

DeKalb
175,827,370 total benefits paid
4,133 ÷ number of retirees
--------------------------
42,542.3106702153399 = per retiree

Fulton
213,870,755
5,169 ÷
--------------------------
41,375.6538982395047 =

Gwinnett
101,545,940
2,528 ÷
--------------------------
40,168.4889240506329 =

Cobb
132,141,269
3,533 ÷
--------------------------
37,402.000849136711 =

Who pays the medical benefits? These will increase because of Obamacare.


Has the DCSS forecast withdrawals as the aging workforce retires and the increased salary scale?

I heard Wes Moss the financial guru on WSB on a Sunday morning remark (part in jest)that Georgia teachers were some of the wealthiest people in GA. A caller was trying to figure the best way to combine two TRS pensions.

Anonymous said...

Part 1 of post

@ Anonymous 3:33

I'm the one who posted those pension figures you're quoting, so let's look a little more in depth at the figures.

To be fair the pension fund in Georgia is quite large, and it is invested in vehicles like mutual funds, individual stocks, money market funds, Treasury bonds, corporate bonds, etc. So it's like any pension fund - managed by professionals, invested in the market, and generally providing a good return. Pension funds are a mainstay of our stock market and provide much of the capital for investment in private industry.

Teachers by and large are NOT wealthy. I was a teacher for a number of years in DCSS and left to make more money in the private sector. I was employed by a large company in Atlanta. I worked my way quickly up the corporate ladder and was making 4 times the income I made as a teacher within 5 years as an account executive with many large account corporate customers. It was pretty easy since I just applied my teacher work ethic to the workplace. I returned to teaching after many years, and my pay cut was quite substantial. I was married by then so money was not such an issue (and I always loved teaching).

Consider that 5% of your income is deducted from your pay every month for 30 years, and your employer contributes another 10%. Put this money out in the market, and it should grow substantially over time.

Remember that teachers accept greater security in lieu of higher pay. I can remember when Dr. Lewis didn't give teachers any raises at all for 2 years even though the state funded teacher raises because DeKalb had to use so much of the extra money to fund TRS.

Much of the problem with DeKalb is that teachers are on a set salary schedule, and teacher pay is quite low compared to the admin and support group. And of course, the administration has created positions that are on a higher pay scale, and then placed personnel there in order to give them a raise. That's impossible for teachers since the salary schedule is published.

Anonymous said...

Part 2 of post

@ Anonymous 3:33

I'm the one who posted those pension figures you're quoting, so let's look a little more in depth at the figures.

To be fair the pension fund in Georgia is quite large, and it is invested in vehicles like mutual funds, individual stocks, money market funds, Treasury bonds, corporate bonds, etc. So it's like any pension fund - managed by professionals, invested in the market, and generally providing a good return. Pension funds are a mainstay of our stock market and provide much of the capital for investment in private industry.

Teachers by and large are NOT wealthy. I was a teacher for a number of years in DCSS and left to make more money in the private sector. I was employed by a large company in Atlanta. I worked my way quickly up the corporate ladder and was making 4 times the income I made as a teacher within 5 years as an account executive with many large account corporate customers. It was pretty easy since I just applied my teacher work ethic to the workplace. I returned to teaching after many years, and my pay cut was quite substantial. I was married by then so money was not such an issue (and I always loved teaching).

Consider that 5% of your income is deducted from your pay every month for 30 years, and your employer contributes another 10%. Put this money out in the market, and it should grow substantially over time.

Remember that teachers accept greater security in lieu of higher pay. I can remember when Dr. Lewis didn't give teachers any raises at all for 2 years even though the state funded teacher raises because DeKalb had to use so much of the extra money to fund TRS.

Much of the problem with DeKalb is that teachers are on a set salary schedule, and teacher pay is quite low compared to the admin and support group. And of course, the administration has created positions that are on a higher pay scale, and then placed personnel there in order to give them a raise. That's impossible for teachers since the salary schedule is published.

Anonymous said...

Often admin and support personnel get a "bump" in into a higher paying position right before they retire so they get 60% of those highest two years. This is impossible for teachers because - again the salary schedule is set for teachers.

I agree that benefits are getting very tight to provide, however it's really not teachers that are causing the problem. The admin and support group numbers 8,500, and they have no published salary schedules so their placement is quite fluid and many collect overtime. Teachers number only 6,500, their raises are modest - it takes 6 years for a physics teacher with a masters degree to increase his/her pay by $1282 (that's $213 a YEAR in raises).

I think anyone who has been in both groups (admin and support versus teacher) will agree that the teacher group is infinitely more difficult in terms of stress and hours worked (f.y.i. most support personnel get overtime - but not teachers).

Teachers should have a decent retirement or we will have to end up paying them considerably more. You do realize that Georgia produces less than a dozen physics and chemistry majors in education each year. Ask a chemist or a physicist how much he/she is worth on the open market. Do you think they get raises of only $200 a year? Do our children really need to learn math, physics, chemistry, and biology?

My mother who is 90+ years old was a nurse, and she says what's happening to teaching is just like nursing. They drove women out of nursing like crazy in the 70s and 80s with long hours, lots of stress and low pay. Then when they needed them back, nurses (who are generally quite bright) had moved on into other areas of the economy. To get them back, we now have to pay nurses $80,000 to $100,000 on average, and they set their own hours. My mom says teaching will end up the same way. That's a pretty astute analogy for a nonagenarian.

Because benefits are such an enormous cost, Ms. Tyson and the BOE need to be cutting, consolidating and outsourcing every admin and support job possible in order to reduce the large numbers of admin and support personnel. We need MORE highly qualified teachers, not less. We need SMALLER class sizes, not larger class sizes. Pay our teachers on par with the rest of the metro area, and for gosh sakes please pay them as much as a Kitchen or HVAC Mechanic.

Anonymous said...

Sorry. My comments of 4:41 pm and 4:43 pm go together (last two posts are really one long post).

Anonymous said...

Just a side thought to the trial post -- anyone wondering like I am if somehow someone in DC got G. Keyes removed from DA to impact whether the prosecution goes forward, then a new DA comes in (there was only one obvious choice to vote for) -- if this new DA is too well connected to NB and others, the delay may be a way to "make it disappear." Just wonderin.

Anonymous said...

I really think that it is important to understand why the new delay is happening. Dr. Lewis' attorney works for a firm that also represents Parsons, the employer of Barbara Colman. Colman will be testifying on behalf of the prosecutor, I am guessing showing the wrongdoing of Pat Pope. Lewis, Pope etc are all being tried together.

Judge Becker believes that if Lewis goes to trial with his current attorney and loese, he will have grounds for an appeal by arguing that his attorney did not provide the best defense because of conflict of interest. Dr. Lewis disagrees and has filed an appeal with the GA appeals court.

Once the appeals court rules, depending on their decision, either side can then appeal to the GA supreme court.

That is why there is the possibility of such a long delay. If no one appeals, the appellate court's ruling, the case may start sooner.

I think Keys was worried about losing and what that would mean for her future and she orchestrated this transfer. By no means is this an easy case.

Kim Gokce said...

Cere: "I hate to be a Debbie Downer..."

Now you're drinking my brand of liquor! So much truth and history on this thread to support our drinking habit, too ...

I've been away for a bit but I'm ready to bring up the call to arms I did a few weeks ago ...

Digging into the gritty details is a great role for a public blog like ours and should continue. Serving as an instant distribution point for breaking news on our public schools is an invaluable service and continue. Providing reference information and networking opportunities is also a great service of this blog I hope continues indefinitely.

What I would like to see our community do, though, it to get a few good brains together with some willing hands and hammer out some long-term key performance indicators (kpi) that we can hang our hat on as a community. I do not claim to know what the right kpi are for public education but I am sure we can find a reasonable consensus on one half dozen or so that will hold water.

To pscexb's comment above about complexities of analysis, yes - so true! Yet I also believe what my statistics professor taught me decades ago during MBA when challenged by a student ...

We spent over an hour watching the prof as he chalked out an arcane (to us) analysis on probability and certainty. In the end, the conclusion was something like, " ... so, in this way we can say with 85% confidence that 75% of the observed behavior is explained by 'x'" ... a student quickly barbed, "75%? How can a business make a $1m decision based on knowing only 75% of what is really happening 85% of the time?"

The professor's response was crisp and on point, "What did you know before the analysis?"

Even though kpi's will certainly only provide an approximation of reality, we will benefit from tracking them.

Anonymous said...

@ 12/28 4:41 and 4:43 PM

"Consider that 5% of your income is deducted from your pay every month for 30 years, and your employer contributes another 10%. Put this money out in the market, and it should grow substantially over time."

TRS is a defined benefit plan. If the
market goes bad the taxpayers are ultimately responsible to pay the benefits. Private sector 401Ks are defined contribution plans. Most employers will make only a 1:1 match compared to TRS 2:1 match. In a
401K if the market goes South, only the employee loses (personal experience on this). He has no guarantee. Also, while the 401K guy is suffering his losses he will be paying taxes to keep the TRS defined benefits going.

"Often admin and support personnel get a "bump" in into a higher paying position right before they retire so they get 60% of those highest two years. This is impossible for teachers because - again the salary schedule is set for teachers."

This is the perk being given by our generous BOE to Ms Tyson. I did not know that it was endemic in DCSS. It is out and out thievery of taxpayer money. They do this in NY and California. Both are going bankrupt.

"Because benefits are such an enormous cost, Ms. Tyson and the BOE need to be cutting, consolidating and outsourcing every admin and support job possible in order to reduce the large numbers of admin and support personnel."

No disagreement here. But it is contrary to the real mission of DCSS which is ... protecting and increasing administration jobs, paychecks and pensions.

"We need MORE highly qualified teachers, not less. We need SMALLER class sizes, not larger class sizes. Pay our teachers on par with the rest of the metro area, and for gosh sakes please pay them as much as a Kitchen or HVAC Mechanic."

Teachers of DCSS are reputed to be paid comparably to teachers in other Metro area schools. Maybe Cere could get some real numbers on this.
As to "more highly qualified teachers", how do you define that? Teachers are educated in the liberal tradition where all are (supposed to be)equal. A teacher educated at a fourth rate GA ed college is supposed to be just as qualified as one educated at an Ivy League school.

Last but not least taxpayers, many of whom work in the private sector or live on fixed incomes, do not have an infinite amount of money to support smaller classes, higher pay, etc. Even if you gave a school system an infinite amount of money it still wouldn't be enough. (Partial Joke...I do know the mathematical definition of infinite, but true). And then there are those anti-establishment studies showing that more money does not guarantee better results. CLew was improving results as his budget was declining.

Anonymous said...

Barnes may have been arrogant, but he had the right idea. He reduced class sizes requirements dramatically. The superintendents screamed and cried that they could not hire all those teachers. But he told them to reduce outside the classroom. In the end, the admin and support had to be cut so they could hire enough teachers to have smaller class sizes (without an increase in expenditures). That's the only time I've seen DCSS admin and support reduced. I've come to the conclusion that's the only way. They will continue to figure out a way to siphon the money from the classroom unless you hold the line on classroom and make them cut in the admin and support side. already Ms. Tyson cut personnel in the schoolhouse and cut teacher positions resulting in larger class sizes. That's just the way they think.

Anonymous said...

Could you provide proof where Ms. Tyson cut teacher positions?

Anonymous said...

"And then there are those anti-establishment studies showing that more money does not guarantee better results. '

Please provide a link to one of these studies.

The most recent harvard study concerned reducing student class sizes from 27 to 24. I think raising class sizes from 28 to 36 is quite different. I have had classes that large in the past, and it is physically impossible for students and teachers to move around the classroom. This causes more fights and disagreements and face it - your child will not get any personal attention.

I've seen no longitudinal studies that track children throughout their lives. That's what we're interested in as parents - what happens when they grow up. My child had 31 in her Kindergarten, first, second and third grade at a very highly ranked DCSS school in the 1980s. She did fine since she had no problem listening in class and was a fluent reader by 1st grade. However, she has friends who had some reading and math difficulties - not special ed - they just needed extra help. Two of them ended up in general ed classes at Lakeside, had tutors in high school, etc. Three other ones eventually went to private school (costly for their parents). Only two out of those five graduated from college although every one of them had college educated parents (several with post graduate degrees).

I attribute their life altering learning problems to being in 30+ classes at a critical time of their lives. I remember their difficulties so well. The teachers just couldn't do the remediation necessary and still keep the rest of the class at a good pace. Make no mistake, class size matters for those who have any difficulties.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Dickerson is still "the spokesman" for DCSS and here's the proof from today's AJC.

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-school-workers-could-790624.html?cxtype=rss_news_82007&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

BUSTED!! He's fast-talking to cover up his conflict of interest in speaking on the Georgia Gang without giving a caveat regarding his position.

So he and his friend Dick Bowtie are still liars at heart.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 6:13
"Could you provide proof where Ms. Tyson cut teacher positions?

Of course. Why would I post this otherwise?

Go to this link on the DCSS website and look at the 2010 and 2011 approved budgets. You will see the number of teacher allotments per school. Compare each school and you will see she reduced teacher positions. Total those teacher points up for all of the schools and you can see the teacher position deduction.

You do understand that Ms. Tyson increased the number of students per class - correct? There is no need to increase the number of students per class unless you reduce teacher positions.

Exact numbers can be seen by spending some time analyzing the FY2011 Approved Budget and FY2010 Approved Budget:
http://oldwww.dekalb.k12.ga.us/superintendent/budget/

It makes no difference to children if Ms. Tyson cuts teachers or cuts teacher positions. Suppose I'm a 3rd grader, and I move to the 4th grade. I will be in a much larger class if Ms. Tyson cuts a 4th grade teacher or if that 4th grade teacher leaves and Ms. Tyson doesn't fill that position. If there are 64 in the 4th grade and there are 3 teachers, I'll be a class of 21. If I have a problem, my teacher has the time to help me. If Ms. Tyson cuts a 4th grade teacher position (say a 4th grade teacher leaves), I'll be in class of 32. If I have problems, my teacher will try but she only has so many minutes in the day. Mathematics says she will not have the time for me she would have with 21 in the class.

Ms. Tyson does not see the distinction in this because she believes that job preservation is more important than students. Students don't have a voice and can't write letters to the BOE. But for students whether Ms. Tyson cuts teachers jobs or cuts teacher positions, the results are just the same for them - there is less teacher attention available with larger class sizes. The bottom line for students is no different.