Saturday, February 21, 2009

Enrollment Shrinking/Beverly Hall

Two pertinent articles in the AJC regarding education today.

Dale Davis, a spokesman for the DeKalb County School System, said his district has been in the 100,000-student range for several years with little change. Enrollment spiked a little after Hurricane Katrina bashed Louisiana and Mississippi and brought refugees to the area. But Davis said, “As things got back to normal, about 99 percent of them went home.” He described DeKalb as a “mature community” where not a lot of growth in enrollment is expected.

Student enrollment growth has slowed throughout Georgia. Here are the October enrollment figures for some of the big Metro Atlanta systems the past four falls.

2005 144,598
2008 157,219

2005 81,100
2008 88,299

2005 102,310
2008 99,775


Enrollment is down, yet we never hear from Crawford Lewis, Marcus Turk, Bob Moseley, or the BOE, about "righting the ship". The DCSS Central Office administration has grown and grown unchecked for years. It's just not the high salaries that cost taxpayers and take away resources from students, it's the benefits and pensions. The benefits and pensions cost us for decades after an employee retires. I've said it before, no pensions for staff with no student contact, give them nice 403b's/401k's instead.

Crawford Lewis and Marcus Turk put out small fire after small fire, but long range planning never seems to be a priority.

Also, I'm being frank and agressive with this accusation: The enrollment numbers are actually inflated! DCSS Central Office, Crawford Lewis, Turk, Moseley, etc. know this and ignore the number of students, most likely in the few thousand, who do not live in DeKalb. DCSS is arguably the most lax system in the state when it comes to checking both residency and FRL qualifications.

The system has taken on hundreds if not more Clayton County students. But there is no effort to check residency. I've heard from many teachers in the southeast part of the county, and they all tell of parents with license plates from Rockdale, Clayton, and Henry. When teachers point this out the principals and administrators, they are told to quiet down.

The actual enrollment number for DCSS should be closer to 97,000 or 96,000 or even 95,000. We are spending our precious few resources on parents who are gaming the system. And there is no doubt that parents from Clayton, Henry and Rockdale are going to try to sneak in their children to the beautiful new Arabia Mountain High School. What is the plan to stop it?

We need to push and push the BOE to make student residency and FRL qualifications a priority. We need to educate and focus resources on actual county resident students. Lewis and Turk need to continue to downsize the Central Office, and make it known very publicly that DCSS will not tolerate parents who break the law trying to sneak in non-county residents into the school system.
Atlanta superintendent named nation’s best
Beverly Hall honored by the American Association of School Administrators

Hall came to Atlanta in 1999 and has steadily improved students’ test scores and increased graduation rates through various academic programs. She required low-performing schools to implement rigorous programs that focus on literacy and math skills. She increased the amount of training teachers received and she removed weak principals and replaced them with those she deemed better equipped to improve student learning. State data shows the programs are working. For example, about 72 percent of the system’s students graduated on time in 2008, up from 39 percent in 2002.


Not to kick Crawford Lewis whens he's down, but...

Beverly Hall has focused on academics. More rigorous literacy and math skills. It's a big, big thing to hold principals more accountable. DCSS is infamous for a very, very political scene for principals and assistant principals. It's a whole lot more who you know than what you know. Many asst. principals are getting their advanced degrees from these online diploma mills. We have way too many principals getting involved in areas where they know nothing, like facilities and grounds and athletics, instead of constantly focusing on academics. We have some weak principals and weak asst. principals who will do whatever they can behind the scenes to advance. And once a principal gets a little burned out, he or she always scores a cushy Central Office gig at the same salary of higher. Heck, the BOE allowed a former principal to run the Sam Moss Center and over a billion dollars worth of facilities for years with no qualifications to do so.

Here's the easiest way to know you have a good principal at your school: He or she audits at least one class a day. If your principal isn't in at least one classroom for an entire period a day, he or she simply isn't getting the job done.

Hall had a huge, disgusting scandal on her hands with the federal computer/school technology program. Millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted and there were criminal charges. She's far from perfect. But Crawford Lewis has been a DCSS insider for four decades. He's not going to change. He's not going to suddenly reduce the Central Office waste & bloat. He's not going to emphasize academics over everything else. He's not going to make the long overdue changes needed for the growing Hispanic population in the northern part of the county (we don't even have one mid- to high level Latino DCSS administrator).

I thank Lewis much for his service, but it's high time to bring in a new superintendent from a top school system, preferably from Ohio or another part of the country that gets education done right.


Cerebration said...

Great article, O&T. This is a very good overview of our discussions here over the past 6 months. All true and all very serious issues. Nicely articulated in one place and backed up with resources.

Some key points for support --

From Dr. Lewis' 11/03/08 State of the System presentation - here are his statements about the cuts -- (I copied and pasted this from his PPT)

Current Reality
􀁻 General operations budget FY2007 ($820M)
􀁻 General operations budget FY2009 ($890M)
􀁻 91% of Budget for Salaries & Benefits
􀁻 Goal is 87% Salaries & Benefits

Notice that the budget has increased by $70 million in the last two years - even though enrollment has decreased by 2,500 in recent years. So now - to claim that you are suffering and enforcing "difficult" cuts when in fact - the budget had bloated beyond belief in the last two years is preposterous. It's all smoke and mirrors.

Making cuts now on a budget that has increased $70 million in the last year and a half is not going to make a dent or a difference. These cuts won't even get us back to our original budget levels in 2006.

Anonymous said...

􀁻 General operations budget FY2007 ($820M)
􀁻 General operations budget FY2009 ($890M)

Cere, please tell me those figures are wrong? Is there any explanation for the huge increase despite a shrinking enrollment?

Cerebration said...

Yes - anonymous, it's true. I copied and pasted that from Dr. Lewis' presentation entitled, "Highlights - BOE Approved (11/3/2008)
Comprehensive Restructuring Plan"

Page 2

Current Reality
􀁻 General operations budget FY2007 ($820M)
􀁻 General operations budget FY2009 ($890M)
􀁻 91% of Budget for Salaries & Benefits
􀁻 Goal is 87% Salaries & Benefits
􀁻 State austerity cuts total $93 Million
􀁻 State 2% cut summer 2008 resulted in $10
Million cut to DCSS after FY2009 budget

Page 3

CRP Cost Savings – Level I (FY 2009)
􀁻 Hiring Freeze Vacancies ~$3M (46 positions)
􀁻 Transportation Efficiency Plan ~$2M
􀁻 Non-Essential Part-time eliminations ~$706K (63 positions)
􀁻 Staff Restructure & Eliminations ~$4.4M (64 positions)
􀁻 Equipment/Travel/Supplies Budget Cuts ~$1.1M
􀁻 2% Central Office Salary $100K Cut ~$93K
􀁻 Principal $2.00 Per Student Supplement ~$200K
􀁻 Program Eliminations ~$311K
􀁺 Henderson MS Magnet, Year Round Schools, Driver’s Ed
􀁻 Positions Reallocations from Gen to Federal ~$1.2M
􀁻 Early Retirement Incentive ~$1.1M (44 positions)
􀁻 Rescind Step Increase ~$7.5M (presented as a separate agenda item)
TOTAL: ~$21.7M (217 positions of which 127 current employees)

Page 4

CRP Cost Savings – Level II (FY2010)
􀁻 Furlough 100% Employees ~$3.2M
􀁺 14,500 total
􀁺 One day only
􀁺 Proposed day - May 25, 2010
􀁺 Exclusions (bus drivers, bus aides, and school
nutrition workers)
􀁻 Outsource Grounds Staff ~$686K
􀁺 28 employees
􀁻 Streamline Professional Travel ~$126K
􀁺 25% reduction

Page 5

CRP Cost Savings Summary
􀁻 CRP Cost Savings – Level I (FY 2009) ~$21.7M
􀁻 CRP Cost Savings – Level II (FY2010) ~$4M

Double check with Lewis - perhaps there is a typo in his presentation? We can only hope!

Anonymous said...

Great post!

Celebration, these figures are shocking.

Cerebration said...

Further, there is an abundance of interesting information from the ELPC minutes from the JAN 12, 2008 State of the System address -- strange Q&A, such as

Q: How can you ignore all the statistics and hard core facts that prove Nancy Creek’s closing is a terrible, tragic decision that will result in extreme overcrowding at Huntley Hills and Montgomery within just a few years?

A: The redistricting plan was developed from the demographers report and system enrollment data.

Q: Dr. Lewis said, “We are being driven by the numbers…” in regards to consolidation. What numbers? Academic performance? No. Growth numbers? No. Demographer’s numbers? No. Numbers from a cost/benefits analysis? No. Numbers given to NCTS parents? No. Personnel numbers or salary studies when NCTS is at 65% capacity? Apparently not since no personnel will supposedly be dismissed. So, please tell us what numbers are you being driven by?

A: The numbers are from the demographic report and system enrollment data.

Q: Your demographer’s projections show Montgomery growing by 16% and Nancy Creek by 12%. How will you handle this growth? Will you add more trailers or move special needs classes out?

A; Our plan provides for the amount of projected growth

Q: How do you justify sending kids to Montgomery when it will need trailers to accept them?

A: The enrollment projections will allow for the students to attend Montgomery.

Q: I did not see anything during the presentation that is going to help the overcrowding at Lakeside HS. Teachers are frustrated, and some of the good teachers are leaving. The quality of education has declined since NCLB.

A; At this time we are able to manage the enrollment at Lakeside.

Q: What is being done to improve equipment in music programs in the DeKalb County School System? Schools such as Lakeside HS and Henderson MS have deplorable instruments that are decades old? Please address future plans to supply band instruments for our DeKalb County schools.

A: The Lakeside High School and Henderson Middle School Bands and Orchestras collectively received more than $50,000 to support the total programs for the 2008-09 school year. This total includes funds allocated for new instruments, equipment, and repairs. Henderson Middle School is slated to receive new lockers within a year, which would add approximately $30,000 or more to their total funding.

In terms of future funding, it is our hope that we will continue to receive additional funds to support the instrumental music programs throughout the school system.

Q;Please provide an explanation of school Choice.
Are these schools elementary, middle or high schools? If elementary will it be extended to middle and high schools? Will these be lottery schools? Why wasn’t DECA announced as a school of choice?

A: School Choice is a term that is used to describe an opportunity parents have to apply for specific programs or schools offered in the DCSS at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. There are school choice opportunities through NCLB, magnet programs, theme schools, Regional School Choice options and administrative transfers. The School Choice options discussed during the State of the System address referred to Regional School Choice options being offered for the first time in 2008-2009. DECA is not a school choice option.

Q: How do or can I get my child involved in an International Baccalaureate program? He is presently scheduled to attend Chamblee HS in 2008. How can we transfer to the Academy of World Language program scheduled to start in 2009?

A: International Baccalaureate (IB) is offered at MLK, Jr. HS, Druid Hills HS, and Tucker HS. Students may apply for the program through the Regional School Choice applications which are expected to be available in March. Students may apply in the Spring of their tenth grade year for IB. World Language Academy applications will be available in the spring of 2009.

Q: What criteria were used to determine which schools would house a theme school program? Has the county considered adding an ethics class to the mandatory curriculum? What are the plans for the North Shallowford building?

A: Primarily, theme schools were built in communities to relieve overcrowding for specified schools in a specific area. Presently, the theme schools have not been made aware of the interest to include an ethics class.
All courses offered in the DCSS must be approved through the GA DOE.
Plans for the North Shallowford building have not been decided.

Q: Is there a plan to construct a theme high school?

A: Presently, no decision has been made to construct a theme high school. (My note: What about Arabia? Oh, that's technically called a Choice School now... wonder why it wasn't mentioned here.??)

Q: What are the feeder schools for Arabia Mountain HS?

A: Arabia Mountain High School is designed to relieve overcrowding at Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lithonia High School. (Oh - that's right -- that USED to be the story...)

Q: Why is it so hard to place your child in any DeKalb County school, especially when you want them to be able to go to a school that is culturally diverse?

A: The DeKalb County School System provides a home attendance area school for every student residing within the boundaries of the DCSS. However, enrollment and instructional capacity numbers may limit the number of students who may be approved to transfer schools. (Note - there is very little cultural diversity in DCSS anymore.)

Q: Block scheduling enables higher graduation rates, but yields lower test scores on the EOCT, AP exams, and the SAT. Which is more important to the school system? What is the future of block scheduling? A return to the six period day would result in an 8% savings in staff. What would the DCSS do with the savings?

A: Each year the local school administration communicates with their stakeholders (students, parents and teachers) verbally and via surveys for feedback on the effectiveness of block scheduling in there school. This feedback is complied, review and a recommendation is made, inclusive of the stakeholder input.

Q: What’s on the agenda for young men of DeKalb County in 2008? How do we get our boys involved?

And the curious answer -

A Youth Leadership Summit 2008 is being held on February 15 at McNair High School. The summit will focus on Gangs. The following are topics on the agenda:

Making a Difference
Dress for Success
Making Decisions
Gang Identification
Overcoming Peer Pressure

This is just to name a few. There is one topic designed for parents only that involves gang identification. Parents are encouraged to have their children to participate in this summit.

Wonder how that went -- anyone know?

Ella Smith said...

We can blame Dr. Lewis and the current school board all we want to, but the problem with all the administrators and personnel (who do not have direct contact daily with our children at the county offices) did not start with Dr. Lewis or the current school board. This problem started years ago with past school boards and school supers. I do think Dr. Brown wanted to do some house cleaning and he received strong opposition from the school board.

But now we are expecting the current school board and school super to clean up the mess that its precious school board members and super made. Many hard decisions are going to have to be made and I am hopeful that our school super and school board is up for the challenge.

Ella Smith said...

not precious but past school board. Who knows they might actually be precious but this is not what I meant to say.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we can blame Dr. Lewis and some of the BOE'ers. He has been a DCSS administrator for decades.
He's an insider's insider. As is Bob Moseley. As was Stan Prichett.

Sarah Copelin-Wood has been a BOE'er for a while. What in the heck does Jim Redovian do? Nada.

I disagree Ella. Lewis was more than happy to see Dr. Johnny Brown pushed out when he tried to tame the massive Central Office bureaucratic beast. Dr. Brown recognized the huge amount of bloat and was reasy to take drastic steps. Crawford Lewis went back to the status quo.

We can hold Lewis, Moseley, and some of the BOE'ers accountable for the massive Central Office bloat.

Anonymous said...

Jim Redovian does a lot. I see him in the schools constantly, he's happy to take the time to discuss issues with his constituents, and he cares about the kids. And what does he earn for all this time and effort? A few thousand dollars a year and a lot of grief. I have nothing but respect for Mr. Redovian.

Anonymous said...

What an insightful posting from O&T. Thank you. It is sadly validating to see factual information linked to what I anticipate has been an opinion of many a DCSS parent over the years. One of the unfortunate perils of being at the top is that you are held accountable and, indeed, you should be. The number of years you have been in that position just increases the justification for the level of accountability. When a system has been not operating efficiently or effectively for years, even fluffy terms like " choice" and "premiere" will not cover up inequalities and inadequacies in the north or south ends of the county.

Ella Smith said...

Jim Redovian is a great school board member. We are extremely lucky to have him. He takes the time to talk to his constituents, and he cares about the education of every student in Dekalb County. He has a great deal of interest in the arts and is an added addition to the school board. He cares about all the students in the county.

The current school board did not have anything to do with the fat in personnel that does not have contact with the students. When I used to teach in Dekalb it was a joke that if you screw up as a principal then they sent you to the county office until you retired. I do not know how much truth is to the joke but the county office did get full as some principals took jobs at the county office.

The current school board have a problem that they must deal with and hopefully as a group they can put the school system administration on a diet and trim the fat so more money can be spent on instructional support for the students.

Anonymous said...

I am not so sure that the BOE has the ability to work for an equitable approach in all of Dekalb County due to allgiance to their individual areas. Secondly, it does not seem that they have the true power to move upstream for change at the level that is indicated. And lastly, I have not seen or heard strong indications that they see the need. Frankly, it seems somewhat naive to think that they are the key to promoting change.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see the DCSS BOE website list how long each board member has been in office.

Can anyone list how long each board member has been serving?

And check this out:

Dr Gene Walker, Sembler's $18,000 lackey, does not list any info. on him serving on THREE county bond-issuing authorities, including the powerful DeKalb Development Authority. That is incredibly unethical and just void of transparency.

Hey Gene-O, if you're going to fight so hard to stay on the DDA while on the BOE, at least have the cajones to be public about it on your BOE website.

I've heard from veteran local journalists the stories on why Walker suddenly left the State Senate. I pray there is no truth to them.

It hurts that we had candidates for BOE like Ernest Brown and Ella, and we get a guy like Gene Walker, who only won because of his DDA position led to huge donations from an out of state company, Sembler, which made its money from building crappy strip malls. Their Town Brookhaven development clear cut every single freaking tree on the entire property. The property had some beautiful tree specimens, and then looked like a moonscape after Sembler nuked all signs of life.

Sorry for the digression. Knowing that Gene Walker is in office, instead of Ernest Brown, because of money from Mel Sembler/Jeff Fuqua/Angelo Fuster, is a travesty.

Ella Smith said...

Open+Transparent I agree with your comments about Dr. Walker. As a person I really like him but when I heard about the donations I became very concerned and think it is a conflict of interest. I had thought about starting a campaign to recall him but I do not have the energy right now. I worked so hard during the election that I actually made myself sick the month of November. I would have been fine if I had not had to go into the run-off but I decided to put my health first over the election.

I do not want to get sick again right now so I am going to take it easy and I do not want to take on a job like this currently. I am currently working full time. In a couple of years I may retire and then I will have more time to get more politically involved.

Anonymous said...

Regarding not "keeping track" of out-of-county students. As long as they take a seat, DCSS gets Federal funds for each one under Title 1 circumstances.

One needs to review the growth of our Title 1 office and audit its activities. Then compare to other counties' Title 1 offices (if they have one).

One other thing about out-of-county numbers--
why does the AJC simply accept the DCSS response to questions instead of pursuing the information whether immediately available?
Why didn't the AJC simply ask the question--
WHY doesn't the DCSS keep numbers, when all other jurisdictions do?