Looking at each cost center in terms of per pupil dollars consumed is critical to DeKalb Schools. How low can Dr. Atkinson and the DeKalb Board of Education get those non-teaching expenditures is the question. There is a finite amount of per pupil funding. If student achievement is to improve, more per pupil allocation must go into direct instruction and equipment and supplies for the classroom.
Dr. Atkinson has experience with outsourcing in her last school district Lorain City Schools. She proposed and was successful in outsourcing non-core functions when there was a budget crunch. When she interviewed for the CEO position for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, she stated, “My passion is for urban schools districts. I enjoy putting in place programs that are designed around students’ needs. It is my belief that we can educate all children at high levels.…I subscribe to the practice of zero-based budgeting…..I have negotiated contracts to outsource operational services as well as managed internal support services.” Dr. Atkinson has the will and experience to do what is necessary in order to redirect taxpayer dollars into the classrooms, but the citizens of DeKalb must diligently and vigorously support her efforts.
Around 600 teaching positions (also known as the “core business”) were cut in 2009-10 and 2010-11 in order to ensure the continued employment of all DeKalb Schools personnel. Student achievement also fell to the lowest level in the history of the school system and the lowest in the metro area in our Title 1 schools during the last two years as literally hundreds of teaching positions were left unfilled when teachers left the system.
Much has been made of the Compensation audit that Dr. Atkinson is using to assess where DeKalb can save money and reinvest in the classroom. The audit is an excellent start. However, Dr. Atkinson and the Board members must look at the numbers of personnel that perform the functions as well their compensation. Dekalb employs 280 Maintenance personnel for our 95,481 students while Gwinnett employs 154 Maintenance personnel for 159,814 students and Cobb County employs 133 Maintenance personnel for 106,619 students. Gwinnett County has 131 schools while DeKalb has 133 schools. In addition, Gwinnett County has 64,333 more students than DeKalb. That is to say, 64,333 more students are using the equipment that must be maintained in Gwinnett than DeKalb, yet Gwinnett is maintaining that equipment with considerably less maintenance personnel. “Rightsizing” the number of personnel is just as important as “rightsizing” the compensation of those personnel. Protecting jobs should never take precedence over the “core business” of the classroom, which is to educate students. Students are the only reason we have a school system and the reason taxpayers pay school taxes. As Marietta Superintendent Emily Lembeck said when she had to make tough budget decisions, “It becomes more difficult to protect what happens in the classroom without looking at some services that are not directly related... Reducing days of instruction through furloughs and larger class sizes is not in the best interest of our core business of educating students.” Dr. Lembeck ought to know. Marietta City students have had remarkable achievement rates (before and after strict test monitoring) over the last 10 years under Dr. Lembeck even as the school system’s poverty rates have edged higher than DeKalb. That’s exactly why she was named Georgia’s 2012 Superintendent of the Year last week.
School year 2004-2005:
DeKalb Schools employed 280 Maintenance personnel to serve 97,282 students.
School year 2010-2011:
DeKalb employed 251 Security personnel to serve 95,481 students.
The charts below compare DeKalb School System’s current number of and expenditure for Security personnel with other metro Atlanta school systems (* references demographically similar systems).
Every Per Pupil dollar spent for Maintenance is a Per Pupil dollar NOT spent for Instruction.
Comparison Summary (including benefits calculated at 20%):
DeKalb County Schools – 95,481 students – $12,761,613 for 251 Maintenance personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil - $137
*Atlanta Public Schools (APS) – 48,805 students - $7,891,496 for 169 Maintenance Personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil - $162
*Clayton School System – 49,551 students - $9,322,532 for 360 Maintenance Personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil - $188
Gwinnett County Schools – 159,814 students - $9,616,462 for 154 Maintenance Personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil - $60
*Rockdale County Schools – 15,582 students - $1,381,985 for 26 Maintenance Personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil - $89
Fulton County Schools – 89,920 students - $8,105,289 for 129 Maintenance Personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil - $90
Cobb County Schools - 106,619 students - $6,754,106 for 133 Maintenance Personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil - $63
*Marietta City Schools - 8,010 students - $359,738 for 8 Maintenance Personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil - $45
Decatur City Schools – 2,894 students - $269,057 for 5 Maintenance Personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil - $93