Sunday, June 12, 2011

More on the "Office of School Improvement" $$$

The DCSS Office of School Improvement is spending $4,400,000 annually in salary and benefits on the Parent Centers. The Parent Facilitators are supposed to be ensuring parents have the skills that will give their children the support that is conducive to educational success. Yet year after year, fewer and fewer of DCSS Title I schools are making adequate yearly progress.

The Parent Centers were established in 2005 the year after Dr. Lewis became superintendent. He immediately put Audria Berry in charge of the centers as a  "school improvement" initiative funded with federal Title 1 dollars, of which DeKalb brings in $128 million annually.

At $4,000,000+ in salary and benefits annually, taxpayers have spent $24,000,000 on these Parent Centers since their inception.

It is interesting to look at the highly paid members listed under title Parent Coordinator in the state Salary and Travel Report.

One of them is Zepora Roberts daughter ($76,495 in salary and benefits), one of them is Frankie Callaway's daughter ($61,775 in salary and benefits), and there is even a Guillory in there ($81,095 in salary and benefits). Not one of them is listed as a certified teacher at the Georgia Certification site although Ms. Callaway's daughter has an expired paraprofesssional certificate.

[BTW - Ms. Roberts daughter made $4,300 more in salary in 2010 than in 2009 and up $8,000 since 2008 during a time of frozen staff and teacher wages.]

We have little reporting on this initiative other than their own in-house newsletter. There are NO statistics on how many parents this group sees. NO tracking of results. Absolutely NO accountability in an area that should be producing academic progress, not academic decline.

The ineffectiveness and lack of accountability of these expensive Parent Centers must be audited and investigated for results.


State Salary and Travel audit 2008,2009,2010

Georgia Certification:

DCSS newsletter:


Fred said...

There is an old saying, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink. A question to that saying is should you stop providing water.

Parent Centers are a mandate from Title 1. Those in Title 1 schools can speak to the communications that go out to parents encouraging them to take advantage of this and other services. Free food and childcare are some of the examples of additional services provided to get parents to get information about how to help their child.

Yes, taxpayers should question this to see if we are getting a return on this investment. But do you blame the schools for not following mandates even if parents don't take advantage of the services? This is more a question for the Feds that anyone else.

teacher said...

@ Fred

Read this document:

Yes parents are a part of Title One, but districts are not mandated to have Parent Centers.

"Conducting other activities, such as parent resource centers, that encourage and support parents
in participating more fully in the education of their children;" From Page 5 of the above document. A parent center is one idea, but is not a mandate.

Parents and getting parents on board to support their child's education is part of Title One, but Parent Centers are not part of the mandate, just a suggestion on how to fulfill that mandate.

Let's get our facts straight. This is why we have Coaches and not Title One teachers helping our children with reading and math. We need to do what is actually going to help parents, what parents are actually going to use, and stop wasting money. The salaries are way too high. People working in those centers should be on a paras salary, not making more than teachers. These centers don't have to be open all of the time or located throughout the county. We could have one at our central office, or a bus made into a parent center (I am thinking of the book mobile model of my youth) and have it cruise the county and make stops at schools. What we're doing isn't working and we could be doing something else that does.

atl said...

@ Fred
The Feds DO NOT mandate DCSS to spend $4,000,000+ a year on Parent Centers. Other counties hire paraprofessionals or part time retired or active teachers to staff their Parent Centers.

DCSS has chosen the most expensive way to staff these Parent Centers with staff that by and large have never taught in a classroom - most are NOT CERTIFIED teachers and several are relatives of highly placed DCSS staff or former staff. Spot check the Gwinnett Parent Coordinators to see that EVERY ONE is a Certified teacher.

Gwinnett has 46 Parent Coordinators to DCSS's 63 Parent Coordinators.

Clayton County has 45 Family Facilitators (title of their Parent Center staff) and ALL are Certified Paraprofessionals.

DCSS pays their Parent Center staff $64,000 on average per employee including benefits while Clayton County pays their Parent Center staff $42,000 on average per employee. Please note that Clayton County with 100% of their schools being Title I schools had 80% of their Title I schools make adequate yearly progress (before and after strict test monitoring).

Ms. Berry (and Dr. Lewis) and the Office of School Improvement chose the most expensive, ineffective way to staff the Parent Centers. Parental support is a tremendously vital component of a child's educational success. That's why taxpayers need to be asking these questions.

Please check out the way other systems are meeting this mandate. I guarantee it's not with the Friends and Family plan.

Georgia Teacher Certification:

State Salary and Travel audit:

Below is a link to the 2010 Georgia DOE Title I Handbook. Download it and read it and see if you even find the word Parent Center in there. The Feds ask for a Parent Involvement policy, not Parent Centers:

keepsilent said...

Granted they have fewer schools, but each Title 1 school in Gwinnett County houses a Parent Center.

From my understanding, the parent center concept is quite popular among Title 1 schools nationwide.

FieldsGrove said...

Any initiative costing taxpayers $24,000,000 should have data to prove that the program has merit. It's that simple. Not surprisingly, this is another situation that needs transparency to restore confidence in DCSS.

Fred said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fred said...

teacher and atl, you are technically correct that parent centers are not a mandate but it is a mandate that every school district receiving Title 1 funding reserve no less than 1% of it's funding to parental involvement programming. That could include but is not limited to parent centers, which can provide resources to help promote family literacy and parenting skills. Check Part A and section 1118 for more on the Parental Involvement policies.

My point was I think many well meaning people are making statements about what Title 1 money should be used for without understanding the purpose of those funds. As I also said, I believe there should be measurables to determine if it is doing what it is intended for. Change requests for Title 1 should go to the Federal government since they develop the guidelines for how this money should be used for each school district.

How many of you knew that Title 1 principals are the ones the make the decisions on how most of the Title 1 dollars are used? Yes, some decisions come from the central office on the dollars that are pooled but principals manage most of those dollars. Those in the central office handle a lot of the regulatory and compliance requirements. Remember there are strings attached with these dollars. Would you prefer classroom teachers or principals handle most of this paperwork?

Anon said...

Parent Centers became popular after they proved very successful in Kentucky, I think.

The problem is that sometimes what works in one system/state just won't work as well somewhere else.

And as always seems the case in education, the national roll out of parent centers came very quickly after they started in Kentucky. No real long term measures were available.

I think this article is a good one:

keepsilent said...

@teacher and atl - please provide us with the criteria you would use to determine if these Parent Centers are worth the money.

A Blue State of Mind said...

I once taught at a Title I school in DCSS and I was a victim of the mismanagement of Title I funds on the local level, by the Principal and Bookkeeper.

Often, vendors were not paid and we ended up with delinquent accounts for stuff that the Principal was supposed to draw down Title I funds to pay. These vendors would no longer accept our orders. I was contacted once directly by a vendor because they refused to fulfill our order because our school was "seriously delinquent." I was not an administrator. I was just a teacher. I was the contact person for the order though.

Often, Title I money that was left at the end of the year was spent on expensive out-of-state conferences primarily for administrators and administrator's BFF among the teaching staff. Remember the infamous Hollywood America's Choice (RIP) junket?

If we tried to take a trip on our own, to some small conference WITHIN Georgia to which we drove, on the ground, reimbursement of our infamous T1 forms by the DCSS Title I office was a horrendous bureaucratic nightmare, often taking several months.

There were even rumors that local administrators catered their own luncheons with Title I funds. Mind you, these were only rumors. The grunt teachers would never be the beneficiaries of Title I largesse at that school, nor would we be in position to gain first hand knowledge of how the money was spent.

Local in-school control of Title I money would lead to as much abuse as there is at the central office. Local control is no panacea with some of the principals and APs who are now running DCSS schools.

atl said...

@ Keepsilent

1. Parent Centers should be tied to Title 1 schools adequate yearly progress. Less and less Title 1 schools that have a high level of parental involvement should not be making adequate yearly progress in DCSS. Since parental involvement is the most definitive factor in student achievement, tying student achievement to Parent Centers is of the utmost importance.

2. Parent Centers should have measurable academic objectives stated in terms of student achievement. Those objectives should be easily accessible to DCSS citizens. The data that shows if those objectives have been met need to be published.

3. Parent Centers should have data stating the number of parents served, the services provided, and the outcomes of the services provided. This should be transparent to taxpayers.

4. There should be several Parental Involvement models which can be tracked against measurable academic objectives to see which is the most cost effective in terms of money spent to academic progress made.

I know this is alien to you and many in the Central Office, but ANY and ALL programs that pull money from direct instruction of students (i.e. less teachers and increased class sizes) should be measured in terms of student achievement.

teacher said...

@ KeepSilent

The fact that the people working in the Parent Centers make more money than many teachers teaching in over crowded classrooms is one reason I find the parent centers to be ineffective. Another reason is that they are not staffed by educators. This would be a great part time job for a retired teacher. Data should be kept on how many parents come into the parent centers each day, for how long, and what they came to do/learn. How are these parent centers giving parents help/advice?

A parent center does not need to be open for the entire school day. They should be open for limited hours. They should also be staffed by people in the know of how to help these parents. A great workshop that each center should have is the importance of talking to your child to build your child's vocabulary which will also help your child with reading comprehension.

I don't see any statics that we are getting our millions of dollars that we pay out in any form of improvement. I feel the same way about America's Choice and the Coaches. Right now DCSS wastes its Title One funds and the education and benefits that our children should receive is wasted, while the pockets of adults are heavily lined with more and more green backs.

Like many government programs Title One was meant to help poor children, but it is the adults that it helps with inflated salaries and unnecessary jobs the most.

atl said...

@ Teacher and KeepSilent

The ONLY statistics DCSS has published so far regarding the efficacy of Title 1 funds is that more Title 1 schools than ever are failing to make adequate yearly progress. This is the MOST important statistic of all since AYP is the ONLY reason the Office of School Improvement even exists.

Over the last 6 years, Ms. Berry has been assuring the BOE these programs are necessary for our Title I schools to make adequate yearly progress while as the data clearly shows, less and less Title I schools have made adequate yearly progress.

Overcrowding of schools in an ever shrinking number of non-Title I and Title I schools that made adequate yearly progress is a direct result of the inefficient use of Title I funds.

The Office of School Improvement cannot dispute the facts. Ms. Berry and this department have presided over a greater percentage of Title I schools failing to make adequate yearly progress than any system in metro Atlanta.

The expenditure of $128,000,000 a year in federal funding (close to $40,000,000 in Title 1 alone) has utterly failed our students. A change in leadership MUST occur for our students in Title 1 schools to move forward.

Parent Centers may be but one relatively small expenditure that has led to declining student achievement in our Title I schools, but this program is a good example of the ineptitude of this department.

Posters - see for yourself how effective the hundreds of millions of funding expenditures Ms. Berry has presided over has been.







atl said...

@ Fred

"teacher and atl, you are technically correct that parent centers are not a mandate but it is a mandate that every school district receiving Title 1 funding reserve no less than 1% of it's funding to parental involvement programming. "

Currently, DCSS receives around $40,000,000 in Title 1 funding (although we receive around $128,000,000 in total federal funding).

The formula you quote of 1% would mean DCSS is committed to using $400,000 for Parental Involvement. Instead DCSS uses $4,000,000 (TEN times the mandated allocation) to fund the Parent Centers.

Please tell me in terms of student achievement what we are getting for this expenditure.

$40,000,000 x .01 (1%) = $400,000

$4,000,000+ currently spent on a program that has presided over less and less Title 1 schools making adequate yearly progress.

See the Title I funding numbers for DCSS below ($37,228,884):

atl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
atl said...

@ Fred
"How many of you knew that Title 1 principals are the ones the make the decisions on how most of the Title 1 dollars are used? Yes, some decisions come from the central office on the dollars that are pooled but principals manage most of those dollars. "

That is simply not true. Why would you say that?

Did you attend BOE meetings where Lewis and Berry used Title I funding to install Instructional Coaches, America's Choice, Springboard, etc. I have. After BOE approval, principals have been told that if they want to use Title I money, they must use the Instructional Coaches, America's Choice, Springboard, etc.

If principals, faculty and parents were making the decisions for Title I funding, the schools would have a wide variety of personnel and programs funded by Title I. The BOE meeting notes show that Berry and Lewis recommended/recommend the programs and personnel and the BOE approved/approve them. The principals can then choose to participate or not although in the case of Instructional Coaches ($9,000,000+ a year) they have had NO choice. Nor do they have a choice in the Parent Centers ($4,000,000+ a year).

dundevil said...

You all ignore the positive. Look how man people are being employed at good salaries and future pensions who otherwise might not have a job. Forget about this teaching the children nonsense.

teacher said...

I have heard that the district could have more schools qualifying for Title One status. This would mean more money for the district and under the current running of Title One more jobs for friends and family.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Audria Berry = Epic failure
Crawford Lewis = Epic Failure
Pat Pope = Epic Failure

Now let's talk about Tyson, Turk, Moseley, Thompson, Mitchell-Mayfield, Tucker, Ramsey, Beasley, and the rest of Crawford's inner-circle. They still have a job!

This is criminal! DCSS = Epic Failure

BOE can we please move along and take our system back! Why are you letting this criminal enterprise continue? Private meetings getting public access. Public meetings going private with no minutes or edited minutes.

My question, why is the current leadership still in place over 1 year since Crawford fired/resigned in DISGRACE!?

Cerebration said...

Dr. Lewis did not respect teachers much - that's why he bought into so many programs and placed people in the position of "coaching" teachers.

I believe these things work if done correctly. We have just taken it overboard. I also think Parent Centers have the potential to make an enormous impact on family dynamics and student support at home. However, each of these positions has been distorted into some kind of power play - overpaid positions that have been handed out to those with connections for the most part.

If we truly focused on these initiatives, as well as Title 1 teachers offering small group or one on one support, we could certainly offer the true lift needed in the classroom to elevate all students to their highest potential.

Fred said...

What does the salary of someone working at the Parent Center have to do with whether or not parents are taking advantage of this tremendous resource? Are the salaries for these employees set by Title 1 or the local school district (I'll admit I don't know). Do we tell the schools to openly violate provisions of the parental involvement mandates by not offering programs such as this because not enough parents are using them?

Your beefs, while legitimate, is more with the Federal government. Think about the Federal programs that give money to banks, agricultural interest, oil companies, and other special interests without accountability. At least there is an audit for Title 1 dollars spent to make sure they are used as the program specifies.

Fred said...

How about this for a proactive idea for Title 1 dollars? Establish either 1/2 or full day summer school sessions for Title 1 schools? If we believe that having a more education citizenry will help drive the economy, perhaps more days in the classroom for those that can benefit most from it should be considered.

I agree having more small groups in the lower grades that focus on reading and reading comprehension is a must but maybe extending the school year for some could help? What is so magical about 180 days for the school year?

Cerebration said...

Personally, Fred, I have long advocated for using funds to send poor children to summer camp. Real, true, in the mountains, playing in the rivers, marshmallows around the campfire, silly songs summer camp. There is nothing better for self-actualization, physical and intellectual growth as well as happy memories as summer camp. These camps could make an enormous impact on children's futures. There is a proven connection between physical activity like the kind you do all day at camp -- and learning.

In addition to a week away at mountain camp - I would push for a countywide parks commitment to day camps at our county parks. I know we have some -- but there must be an enormous expansion in these, IMHO...

teacher said...

The problem that I have with summer school is that many parents will view that as free babysitting. Title One money, needs to be spent on giving children small group instruction and experiences that they compliment/supplement their education. Summer programs are not the best use of funds and will be viewed as extra money for teachers who apply and free summer camp for those that attend and their families. I look at this like the summer help offered for kids that did not pass the CRCT.

If a parent wants to decrease the amount of knowledge lost, limit video games and tv and require their child to participate in the free programs found at the library and bookstores. Parents should also talk to their child and interact with them. Parents need to step to the plate and do some parenting.

Parent involvement does not have to be done through parent centers. Salaries are set by the district, hence the outrageous salaries for friends and family members. Parent centers do not have to be open for the entire school day, and probably should be open at different hours during the day and after school, so that all parents have access.

Parent involvement could be done by having family nights where parents learn about and are encouraged to do activities that will help their child succeed in the areas of math and reading. The school can purchase pizza for these types of meetings, pay teachers extra to work on them and attend, and also pay for materials needed for these types of events.

Parent involvement is also done by the parent meetings the district holds every so often, at least once a year, for parents on Saturday's where they offer free food and babysitting.

Parent involvement is very flexible and is supposed to be tailored to the needs of the school and the district. Parent involvement needs to be at least 1% of Title One budget of the district and needs to be offered at varied times so that all families can make one or more events. Title One does not tell a district/school what parent involvement looks like, it is up for the district/school to decide that.

Cerebration said...

Tell me you couldn't learn just as much if not more than summer school at a camp like this --

Truly Living Well Summer Camp

I am concerned about whole child growth - mentally, physically, emotionally -- a total education in life and the skills necessary to lead a happy, productive one. I do not care if the parents consider it "babysitting" - it's a chance to break a cycle of poverty - which is critical to a successful community.

atl said...

@ Fred

"Your beefs, while legitimate, is more with the Federal government. Think about the Federal programs that give money to banks, agricultural interest, oil companies, and other special interests without accountability."

1. DCSS is getting a negative ROI on the Parent Centers. Please see the rate of adequate yearly progress decline is worse in DCSS than any other school system even though the Office of School Improvement has spent hundreds of millions of dollars of federal money (ARRA, Title I, etc.). Reference the links in my post at 8:31 pm to see the sharp decline.

2. The DCSS BOE following the recommendations of Ms. Berry (and formerly Lewis) has made choices on the programs and expenditures of federal dollars. There is a wide range of choices regarding the use of Title I, ARRA and now RTT dollars. DCSS has not set quantifiable objectives in terms of student academic progress, measured the efficacy of these objectives, and then changed course when programs were not working.

3. Federal dollars have become virtually the ONLY (and certainly the largest)source of discretionary educational dollars in DCSS. Therefore the choices Ms. Berry, Mr. Lewis, Ms. Tyson and the BOE has made/make with these dollars has become extremely critical for the academic success of DCSS students.

4. DCSS is using the most inefficient, ineffective and expensive choice for the federally mandated Parental Involvement. Please go to and download the metro counties Salary and Travel Reports. Sort on Parent Coordinators or Family Facilitators. Check on the certification of the personnel who staff the Parent Centers. Autosum and run the salary averages of these employees and compare them to DCSS.

5. DCSS should never have installed the relatives of BOE members and high level personnel in these highly paid non-teaching positions.

6. DeKalb taxpayers' "beef" is not with the Federal Government. How the federal guidelines are met vary widely from school system to school system. The federal government gives wide latitude to DCSS and the Office of School Improvement, but they have not made wise choices. If they had make wise choices, taxpayers would not be seeing such a steep decline in our schools making adequate yearly progress.

7. The Office of School Improvement, other Central Office personnel, the superintendent and the BOE MUST be held accountable for poor decisions that have resulted in more and more of our schools not making adequate yearly progress. DCSS teachers have done exactly as they have been asked to do. They have taught the way the Office of School Improvement and the Central Office has directed them and used the programs allotted. Teachers have taken on increased class sizes even as the admin and support non-teaching ranks have swelled. The DCSS administration and BOE does not want to be held accountable for their missteps, but the sad truth is no one else is responsible. The buck must stop at the top.

dadfirst said...

@atl - you keep harping (for lack of a more appropriate term) on AYP. I would much prefer to see an analysis of actual test scores with these schools versus a blanket AYP comment.

The following is an excerpt from an Education Week article outlining Arne Duncan's own frustration with NCLB:

For example, Mr. Duncan said he’d like to give states the ability to focus on student gains rather than absolute test scores, as current growth models do. And he’d like to grant more flexibility in how Title I money for disadvantaged students is spent. Though he didn’t offer specifics, that could mean waiving the requirement that schools in need of improvement under the law must set aside a specific amount of money to provide tutoring or school choice.

atl said...

@ dadfirst

The concept of AYP is the sole reason the Office of School Improvement exists. That has been the rationale for spending tens of millions on non-teaching "coaches" and tens of millions on scripted learning programs. The concept of improving AYP is the rationale Ms. Tyson and Mr. Hunter gave for recommending DCSS spend $11,000,000 on a new Student Data Management System. It is the reason for transfers from Did Not Make AYP to Made AYP schools leading to student overcrowding and dollars going to transportation and trailers rather than teachers for our students. AYP is driving property values and skewing taxes in DeKalb. Not making AYP means teachers have more paperwork and less time to plan for their students' lessons.

You may not realize it but AYP is based on standardized test scores, and scores are based on questions such as:
Can a student identify the main idea, setting and characters in a story?

Can a student divide and multiply in double digit, convert fractions to decimals, and solve for X in a simple equation?

AYP is important for many reasons all of which have real consequences for teachers, students, parents, homeowners and taxpayers in DeKalb County.

sharon said...

AYP is not an adequate measure. AYP is based on th econcept that all student will eventually pass the high stakes test. The percentage of students who must pass goes up incrementally each year until it reaches 100. In additon the percentage applies to any subgroup of 40 or more and could include, econonmically disadvanted, limited English profvient, special education students, or any ethnic group. Finally if 5% of any of the subroups or the student body miss taking the test then the school fails to make AYP. In some cases while test scores have increased they did not meet the target for increase and the school did not make AYP. DeKalb schools include over 10,000 students who miss more than 16 days. One third are misisng 6 to 15 days a year. Try making AYP with 10% of your students missing that many days. School improvement is there because 69% of our students are on free and reduced lunch and 22% are from families far below the poverty line. Parental involvement is a mandate because research shows that parents are one of the factors that influence academic success.

atl said...

@ Sharon

AYP has the same rules for DCSS as any other metro school system including Clayton County which has 100% of their schools as Title I. BTW posters - AYP only counts for Title I schools - no transfers for non-Title I schools if they do not make AYP. Not surprising since student achievement strongly correlates with income level.

DCSS's AYP rate is lower than EVERY other metro school system because we invest more in non-teaching personnel as we starve the classroom and increase class sizes. DCSS's disproportionate investment in non-teaching personnel (8,500 admin and support to 6,400 teachers) has ensured that struggling students do not get the direct instruction they need in order to master content level skills. DCSS invests more in non-teaching admin and support personnel than ANY other metro system (posters - please ask me for links to the Georgia DOE website if you have ANY doubt about the support staff to teacher ratios in metro Atlanta as compared to DCSS).

All of the highly paid non-teaching "coaches" in the world cannot substitute for knowledgeable, effective teachers directly instructing small groups of struggling students. Asking a grade level or content area teacher with 30+ children to effectively differentiate instruction for 40% or more of his/her students who are below grade level in reading and/or math is counterproductive, and you should know that if you spent any time as a regular education teacher.

You are correct that educational studies support and anyone who has ever taught recognizes that parental involvement is critical to a child's academic success.

Ms. Berry along with Mr. Lewis established the Parent Centers in August, 2005. DCSS and the Office of School Improvement has had six years and spent $24,000,000 on these Parent Centers. Where is the student academic progress? Please show me the data that supports the idea that DCSS Title I schools have progressed at the same rate that Title I schools in other Atlanta metro systems have. State data show that DCSS Title I schools have progressed at the lowest rate in the metro area.

The Office of School Improvement has an incredibly strong power center since this department controls hundreds of millions of dollars annually in funding and salaries. $128,000,000 which translates into 14% of DCSS funding is the driving factor in this arrangement. A half a billion dollars speaks volumes. Who will speak for the students in the low income areas who are the very reason these funds are allocated?

Cerebration said...

"Ms. Berry along with Dr. Lewis" - the crux of the problem...

Anon76 said...

Apparently schools will have to have 60% of their kids on free/reduced lunch next year to qualify for Title I funds. I heard that it was announced today in meetings. How sad is that, when the Federal guidelines say we can go down as far as 35%? 40% was the level spoken about for several months. Wonder what changed Tyson, Beasley, and Berry's minds? Too much money being diverted from Audria's Army? How sad is that when a school can have over HALF of its students on FRL and still receive NO Federal funds??

On a brighter note, only a few schools will be added to the Title I roster, so we won't be adding that many more coaches. Pah.