Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Message from Dr. Atkinson - DCSD Citizens SPLOST Oversight Committee

Date: Tue, 18 Oct 2011 11:11:25 -0400
Subject: DCSD Citizens SPLOST Oversight Committee
From: cheryl_atkinson@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

Greetings ~

The DeKalb County School System today announced a series of initiatives to ensure transparency, accountability and effectiveness in the operations and finances of all departments of the School System.

Today’s actions are a key component of Superintendent Dr. Cheryl L.H. Atkinson’s 90-Day Entry Plan, which pledged to identify and correct critical issues facing DeKalb Schools.

The accountability initiatives include establishing a Citizens SPLOST Oversight Committee, a 12-member body of community representatives formed to provide oversight of SPLOST-funded construction projects and to report to DeKalb County residents on how SPLOST funds are being spent.

The SPLOST, or special purpose local option sales tax, is an opportunity for voters to continue a one-cent sales tax that funds new school construction and ongoing facilities improvements. An extension of the SPLOST, known as SPLOST IV, will be decided by voters on Nov. 8.

In addition to the Citizens SPLOST Oversight Committee, the School System also has recently implemented a number of internal operational and financial checks and balances, including:

Independent Auditor. The auditor, who works in conjunction with the Office of Internal Affairs, conducts ongoing review of the School System’s finances and makes monthly public reports to the Board of Education

EthicsLine. Available on the DeKalb Schools website, the EthicsLine allows employees, parents, citizens and others to alert School District officials and the internal auditor of irregularities in finances or operations. Citizens can access the EthicsLine at
www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/audit-and-compliance
or by calling 888-475-0482

Purchasing Oversight. New purchasing reporting policies have been implemented in all departments to establish improved transparency and oversight of School System expenditures

“One of the central missions of our administration is to assure parents, citizens and taxpayers that we are committed to accountability at all levels,” Dr. Atkinson said. “We will continue to enact policies to ensure oversight, transparency and efficiency. Our schools, parents and, most importantly, our children deserve nothing less.”

For more information about SPLOST IV and the DeKalb County School System accountability measures, please visit www.dekalb.k12.ga.us.


Cheryl L. H. Atkinson, Ed.D.
Superintendent
DeKalb County School District

45 comments:

Open+Transparent said...

"Independent Auditor. The auditor, who works in conjunction with the Office of Internal Affairs, conducts ongoing review of the School System’s finances and makes monthly public reports to the Board of Education"


Ron Ramsey and Robert Tucker willfully working with a truly independent auditor? Not until pigs fly.

Atkinson would be doing herself a MAJOR favor by showing those two the proverbial door.

Anonymous said...

Where is that Compensation audit? Wasn't the RFP supposed to go out this month?

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Dr. Atkinson, as long as Ramsey and Tucker are still in the loop, your little SPLOST committee is a complete failure. These are the two I do not trust the most at DCSS. Ethics have lacked in DCSS since the beginning of time.

It's hard to trust this bunch, since so many remain from the corrupt times of Crawford Lewis and Pat Pope. Who is the independent auditor? Where is Compensation Audit? My vote is NO until all past SPLOSTS have an accurate and honest audit and reporting of all expenditures.

Anonymous said...

Well said Atlanta Media Guy! I concure!

Anonymous said...

I second that AMG! This announcement is a PR tactic designed to "reassure us" and the Fernbank efforts are clearly PR tactics designed to frighten us into voting yes even though items in SPLOST IV reveal that it is the same old, same old politics and most of the same people are still running the ship. You notice no one said who the oversight committee would be. Doesn't reassure me. Until the list addresses all the children and a sound educational plan and not political favors, I have to vote no.

Viola Davis said...

Please tell me Dr. Atkinson is joking. These actions are due to build "trust"?

Cerebration said...

DeKalb schools chief tries to build trust as tax vote nears

No Duh said...

Apparently the Vote YES for SPLOST dog and pony was presented at the ELPC yesterday. They brought out the point about no pass/no 7 member BOE.

Can someone PLEASE explain this to poor little old me one more time? I thought the bill to reduce our Board to seven has already passed. And that the two positions to be eliminated were the super district ones -- these positions don't serve a single district. I've see the code references to Board size and taxes, etc., but remain as confused as ever.

Anonymous said...

Everyone please email her directly with your comments with regard to personnel and why you would like to see them go (Ramsey/Tucker.

Anonymous said...

who paid for those pretty little signs i see cropping up everywhere? such a different design and they really stand out!

Anonymous said...

To simplify...yes, it is true that language right now exists that says that only counties with SPLOST must have 7 person board (incredibly superficial summary, I know). If SPLOST does not pass, DeKalb is not beholden to reduce the 9 members to 7.

BUT...AND THIS IS IMPORTANT...legislation will likely be filed early in January to amend the language in the original bill. I don't see Mike Jacobs and others sitting around and saying, "Oh well," if SPLOST doesn't pass.

Add that to the fact that the voting districts for School Board members will be changing...and the "NO" vote for SPLOST does not worry me with regard to Board size.

No Duh said...

Friends of DeKalb Education paid for them. You can donate on their website.

Anonymous said...

From the Druid Hills Civic Association website:
What happens if the school SPLOST does not pass?

"If SPLOST does not pass, a portion of the homestead exemption for DeKalb homeowners will automatically disappear, thereby raising property taxes for 2012 and beyond.....Finally, without funding for a new Fernbank facility, school system officials have advised that Fernbank will be placed on the next redistricting agenda."

http://druidhills.org/2011/10/06/special-purpose-local-option-sales-tax-splost-faq/

Sounds like the DCSS administration leaned on them pretty hard.

Anonymous said...

Is there any way to confirm the legislation will be changed? Any idea who to check with? That is turning into a major argument for the YES side.

Anonymous said...

This was passed as statewide legislation as the only counties impacted by the current section were DeKalb and Rockdale. If there is an attempt to change the legislation so that it only impacts DeKalb, you can be sure the Department of Justice would have questions. If any changes are made to the current legislation, the Department of Justice would review it anyway.

It may come down to what is more important to citizens, voting No on SPLOST or having good board governance with a smaller number of members.

Anonymous said...

It may come down to what is more important to citizens, voting No on SPLOST or having good board governance with a smaller number of members.

This is really one of the more ridiculous arguments the Fernbank mafia has come up with.

1. Even if the Board were trimmed to 7 members, there is no guarantee that the 7 members would not be current board members.

2. The DeKalb County BOE was at 7 members prior to the addition of the "at-large" districts and there were just as many issues with the Board of Education.

3. Redistricting will cause the Board lines to be redrawn giving voters a chance to revamp the Board of Education.

I wish the "Friends of DeKalb" would cease with their constant and deliberate misinformation.

Anonymous said...

Well, apparently the DCSS administration has told them if SPLOST doesn't pass, there will be no new school and they will be subject to redistricting. This is according to the Friends of DeKalb website looking at then link Anoymous 5:56 pm posted. And everyone knows how they feel about redistricting - okay for others, but not for them. LOL.

Cerebration said...

Once again - to clarify - the property tax increase will be a flat $57 per year per homestead. It's the flat tax break we all get on the first $2500 we pay in property taxes.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

I'm sending Mike Jacobs an email and I will post his response once I receive it.

Anonymous said...

"Once again - to clarify - the property tax increase will be a flat $57 per year per homestead. It's the flat tax break we all get on the first $2500 we pay in property taxes."

Right, but the inevitable millage rate increase will be significantly more. The votes are there on the board for it right now. And unlike a SPLOST which is subject to voter approval, a millage rate increase is only up to the board. This current board.

Just because SPLOST doesn't pass does not mean these projects go away or are postponed - on the contrary it makes a millage rate increase necessary. And guess who pays that? Not the part of the county with all the foreclosures. When was the last time the millage rate was reduced?

Anonymous said...

I agree Anon 9:21. I am frightened if SPLOST doesn't pass, as I see our taxes going up to the fullest extent allowable. This board wants what they want and will do whatever it takes to make it happen. They don't care about our taxes, many have their taxes reduced for being senior citizens, or live in areas where the taxes are not as high as where I live.

Cerebration said...

Speaking of taxes, I hope you will all pressure your state legislators to stop redistributing school tax dollars from counties like ours to "poor, rural" counties like Gwinnett. We lose millions upon millions every year due to this reallocation scheme. Add to that the decades long "austerity" cuts to the overall school allotments and we have been taken to the cleaners by the state.

Anonymous said...

I think Dr. Atkinson sees that this is one Dept. that needs to be eliminated. Ramsey,Tucker & their staffs of 11 or 12 are truly a waste of taxpayers money and indeed create unnecessary lawsuits. No other Metro system has this Dept. and waste this kind of money. How many lawyers and law firms do we realy need? How about more paras and lower pupil-teacher ratios.

Anonymous said...

Viola Davis: Hasn't the voters told you what they think of you? Did you not get it? I think you should now try again and run for DeKalb CEO, certainly you can beat Burris Ellis. He is a joke!!!

Anonymous said...

1. Even if the Board were trimmed to 7 members, there is no guarantee that the 7 members would not be current board members.

2. The DeKalb County BOE was at 7 members prior to the addition of the "at-large" districts and there were just as many issues with the Board of Education.

3. Redistricting will cause the Board lines to be redrawn giving voters a chance to revamp the Board of Education.


Then what do you say to those that say they want to vote No to send a message to the Board? What will that No vote mean if all 9 Board members remain if the No vote wins? What is the message, to ignore the needs of the school buildings, buses, and technology? Voting No does not eliminate those needs.

Cerebration said...

We need to settle or somehow finish all of the lawsuits that have piled up stemming from the past SPLOST construction projects. These lawsuits are costing us tens of millions of dollars - from the General Operating Budget - not from the SPLOST budget. These lawsuits are directly harming our schoolhouses and our children.

That said, in order to avoid these kinds of damaging lawsuits and head off criminal activity in future SPLOSTs, we need a completely transparent accounting and reporting of any new SPLOST dollars. We need a whole new way to handle new money. I would suggest that Dr. Atkinson send all SPLOST accounting to an independent accounting firm. Marcus Turk has his hands full with the $1.2 billion annual school budget. Construction accounting is a completely different animal. Send SPLOST accounting to an independent firm. That way it's transparent - not easily manipulated to move money into special interest projects and when SPLOST is over, the firm goes away. Now, if we've added staff to handle SPLOST accounting, what happens to them when we finish with SPLOST in 5 years?

A lot has to change in the way we handle the half-billion annual SPLOST dollars. An "oversight committee" is a start, but that's all.

Cerebration said...

We must also demand a completely transparent accounting of legal fees. We are kept in the dark as to how much we really spend and how much goes to which law firms - for what kind of services. These legal fees need to be dragged into the light.

These are taxpayer dollars. We are entitled to see the details of how they are spent. This is not an outrageous demand.

Anonymous said...

A YES vote for SPLOST IV does not prevent the board from raising the millage rate. They wanted to raise it last year, and SPLOST was being collected then. If we vote YES for SPLOST, the board gets the message that what they are doing fiscally is fine. Given the limited use (in the grand scheme of the budget) of SPLOST, I do not doubt that our millage rate will increase anyway.

Anonymous said...

Property owners in north DeKaln are already paying about what the people in the City of Decatur are paying and what we get for that money is much, much worse. Many of us pay the property taxes and send our children to private schools. The people in south DeKalb pay hardly anything now. Anybody been to Stonecrest recently? It is scary! Time for secession.

DCSSFrustratedParent said...

@Anonymous 17:23 10/20 - You have some interesting speculation on what "might" happen with the legislation.

I am not sure I buy that the legislators didn't foresee that SPLOST might not pass and the wording is very specific so I would very surprised if there were changes made.

THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT NOW -dealing in facts - as the law stands - unless all of the criteria is met the BoE does not shrink. Everyone on this blog can speculate all they want about legislators changing the law or whatever else but the facts are what they are - No SPLOST then BoE stays @ 9.

@NO DUH - this is a math or logic equation - if A AND B THEN C. If a county has homestead AND SPLOST THEN the BoE is reduced. If A but NOT B THEN BoE stays as it is.

Anonymous said...

AGAIN, a reduction in the Board of Education does equal to a difference Board of Education. It is possible, even probable, the same individuals on the board will be re-elected. Voters had a chance to bote out Cunningham, Woods and Walker (supported by Fernbank) last November. They did not. What makes you think these people would be gone with a smaller board?

Quit trying to convince people that a reduction in numbers equates to a different BOE.

Anonymous said...

If you can guarantee that is would be Womack and Walker to go, I'd be all in. Can they write THAT in the legislation?

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone can guarantee the outcome of an election, unless they are willing to break the law. The representatives from the two districts that are eliminated have the right to run for election in one of the existing districts. That is just how it is. The only thing we, as voters, can do is to go to the polls and vote.

Anonymous said...

So, what law would we have to break?

dundevil said...

Going from 9 to 7

Dr. Speaks and Dr Walker are the two 'At Large" members. Dr Speaks really does seem to want a good system. If Dr Walker wants to stay, he will just tell one of Edler, Cunningham and SCW to stand down.

Planetary traveler and non-school tax paying Womack would remain.

9 to 7 will make no difference in majority culture and goals and no difference in the outcome..

School taxes (second highest in the Metro area) are at 22.8 mils. Don't you feel that you are getting your money's worth? Limit is 25 mils. If SPLOST 4 fails, would the BOE raise rate the remaining 2.2 mils?

The Republican State legislature will not revise the distribution formula to take money from Gwinnett (now has the highest home foreclosure rate) which votes Republican and give it to the DeKalb majority Obama voters.

Voting yes on SPLOST IV sends a message to Dr Atkinson that you are satisfied with the first three SPLOSTs since the same players will still be there to spend the SPLOST IV money.

Talking about a lot of Drs. Maybe we all should change our screen names. How about "Dr Cerebration?"

Anonymous said...

Has the name DeKalb County School System (DCSS) been changed to DeKalb County School District? On the website it still says DeKalb County School System.

Anonymous said...

So where is the RFP for the Compensation Audit? After missing the summer deadline Ms. Tyson set, she said that it would come out in October under the new superintendent. It's not on the DCSS Purchasing webpage:

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/administration/purchasing/solicitations.html

If they drag their feet this much on this Compensation Audit which has been promised for so long, what confidence does anyone have that this SPLOST IV audit will really happen. After all they promised a SPLOST III audit 5 years ago, and that is missing.

From the May 9, 2011 Board Meeting. Did the Board members make Ms. Tyson back off from this Compensation Audit? Do they think taxpayers will just forget about it?

Now today, as a part of the transitional plan, the next steps are to complete the following over the next 6-9 months with a direct focus on central office positions and administration salaries:
By May 30, 2011, we will develop a request for proposal to conduct a compensation study partnering either with a college or university or a company that specializes in organizational structure/compensation study.
By June, 2011, I will transition this plan to the new superintendent and I will include the documents that were found under the E&Y study for full disclosure and receipt to the new superintendent.
By the end of June we will ask the legal team to review the RFP.
By July of 2011, a public advertisement of the RFP will occur.
By August of 2011, the RFP will be acknowledged with vendors that will reply to that RFP.
By September of 2011, the RVP evaluation and vendor selection will occur.
And by October, board approval and award to such vendor.

All of this is subject to change dependent on the new superintendent, but I did want to give the board the complete commitment to follow through on the charge of seeing that the study is begun."

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/05/ramona-tysons-report-on-2004-ernst.html

Anonymous said...

Dr. Atkinson's commitment sounds eerily reminiscent of the promise to audit SPLOST III. That promise is found in the DCSS website:

See SPLOST III FAQ webpage question and DCSS administration response:
""How can we be sure our tax money is being used efficiently?

As with the SPLOST II program, the DeKalb County Board of Education will appoint an independent Citizens Review Committee. Their purpose is to oversee and monitor DeKalb County School System SPLOST III projects in an advisory capacity. The goal of this committee will be to develop and foster public trust in the management of SPLOST funds."

Source - DCSS webpage regarding SPLOST III (link below).
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/progress/splost/faq.html

When you go to this webpage, click on the right hand menu bar "Forensic Audit Report Follow Up".. You will be taken to a page that says:
"Page Not Found
We apologize for the inconvenience, but we were unable to locate the requested resource (web page, file, service, etc.)."

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/forensic.audit.follow-up.html

Taxpayers were promised a Forensic Audit 5 years ago before SPLOST III was passed, and nothing has been published.

Before we believe there will be an audit published for SPLOST IV, let's see the promised audit for SPLOST III. "

Anonymous said...

Check out this budget saving idea.
12:06 a.m. Saturday, October 22, 2011
Retirees can't continue careers in APS By Jaime Sarrio
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Retired educators rehired by Atlanta Public Schools to work well-paid central office jobs will be fired by the district in a cost-cutting move intended to weed out wasteful positions.
Superintendent Erroll Davis ordered the firing of about 70 retirees, some who earn handsome hourly wages out-of-step with the district's salary scale. Contracts for the retirees will be terminated Oct. 31 and could amount to $1.7 million in annual savings, the equivalent of one furlough day.
Almost half of the targeted positions fall under the office of former Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Kathy Augustine, a key figure in the state's test-cheating scandal, and some worked as assistants to major players in the investigation. Critics say some positions are evidence of the district's culture of cronyism.

“Returning will not be a reward for having worked here,” Davis said.

According to documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an open records request, educators who retired as principals returned to the district in ill-defined central office jobs such as "administrator" earning $33 an hour. With the exception of classroom teachers, most retired district employees can only come back part-time and at the rate the position would normally pay.

Check out the entire article

Ella Smith said...

I am glad to see that there is going to be an oversight committee. However, we had a school superintendent and board members who are in place to approve spending decisions. Something went very wrong here in the past and now we have the lawsuits pending which have cost up millions of dollars. IF the school system loses they have lost millions of dollars which should have been spend on the children of DeKalb and not on lawyer fees.

There should have been oversight to start with. This is the citizen's or taxpayers money and the taxpayers do have a right to see what it is being spent on.

If I could be convinced that the oversight would be extensive then I may consider voting "YES." I am open minded. However, I am cocnerned about how money has been spent in the past.

Anonymous said...

Secret Service, IRS investigate Ga. megachurch

http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/secret-service-irs-investigate-1206980.html

The good Bishop of New Birth and mentor of the DCSS administration is being investigated for trying to make a few extra shekels.

Anonymous said...

Looks like this blog is being called out at parent council meetings for being negative about SPLOST IV.

http://tucker.patch.com/articles/tucker-parent-council-met-to-discuss-splost-iv

Anonymous said...

Looks like this blog is being called out ...

@ Anonymous 10:13 AM

And your point is ...?

DeKalb School Watch Blog is the ONLY source of information for taxpayers and parents concerned about the obvious corruption -- completely ignored by the AJC, the DeKalb DA (a DCSS insider), and the U.S. Attorney -- that continues to this day in DCSS.

Anonymous said...

I just thought it was a useful piece of information that this blog is being called out in official Tucker Parent Council meetings as a source of negativity. I agree with you that this source has no reason to be anything other than honest. Those who are voting FOR SPLOST, however, have a myriad of other motives.

Anonymous said...

Is Ramona Tyson the person guiding Dr. Atkinson through the 90day period? Who's intercepting the suggestions to Dr. Atkinson? Again, it's not a new recipe just because you change the order of the original ingredients. What has really changed? Who is untouchable at the cabinet level? Until Robert Tucker,Ron Ramsey, Ramona Tyson, Audria Berry, Robert Mosely,and Alice Thompson are out the door, no change will take place!