Thursday, October 1, 2009

Schools suffer maintenance neglect countywide

Parents at Southwest DeKalb High are getting justifiably upset with the condition of the school grounds. Trees fall down and they are left they for days until a parent asks how long it will take to clean up. There is trash everywhere, including the front of the school. Sidewalks aren't edged and get overgrown. The curbs are overgrown. It's a mess. And it wasn't too long ago that the school had a $21 million dollar renovation.

A lot of the blame goes to the students, who are responsible for almost all the trash, and are old enough to know better. But a school's principal and administrative staff have to a) set an example for the students and remind them to be responsible, and b) they need to inspect their grounds often, and make sure the Sam Moss staff is doing their job with keeping a school's grounds the right way (because Sam Moss staff won't and don't if no one stays on them).

This is a perfect example of why parents and taxpayers around the county have had enough with the Crawford Lewis administration. We spend hundreds of millions on new and renovated facilities, and the facilities are simply not maintained to any kind of competent, professional standard. It's county-wide, too, not just at Cross Keys, Lakeside and Sequoyah. Parents are not happy at both ends of the county.

Sent to us anonymously via email including photos.


Kim Gokce said...

I have only visited a half dozen or so high schools in DeKalb and I have to say I have been unimpressed with the grounds maintenance in all cases.

Now, I'm sure that if I were a DCSS administrator, I would say that our business is not landscape maintenance but rather educating children. Fair enough, right?

But how about this ... shouldn't our schools be expected to obey the law? County ordinances forbid property owners from allowing their properties to become overgrown or littered with trash or debris. I don't see how the schools should be exempt from being "good neighbors."

If the answer is, "we don't have enough money," then I say dismantle the landscape maintenance division and pay vendors to do the work - businesses, homeowners, churches, and even the government use this approach. Why not DCSS?

Ella Smith said...


I agree the main duty of the Dekalb County School System is to educate our children. However, we should have pride in our school facilities. Visit other county facilities and then visit Dekalb County facilities. There is a difference.

I do believe some of the new school board members do want to make a difference and I am pleased to see this. However, we are too top heavy and if we would clean out some administrative buildings we could afford to keep our property cleaned up and our facilities in better shape.

I am sorry. I saw the data. No one can convince me otherwise. Too many school board members do not want to have to cut positions at the county office. We have got to put our children and citizens of Dekalb County first and make hard decisions. Cut the fat.

Anonymous said...

I've been to about half of the schools in the county. And DCSS schools are in deplorable condition compared to every other system in the metro area.

Yes, academics come first. But the point is that DCSS has a huge budget, and many of its departments and divisions do not meet any kind of professsional standards. Tony Hunter's MIS Division is a perfect example. eSIS at the high school's has been a diaster, even though Crawford Lewis and the BOE are in denial about it. Yet Tony goes froma director to an "Exective Director", which basically means his got a big bump in pay for doing what he was doing, like failing with eSIS (which our high school teachers HATE!).

Lewis, Bob Moseley, Marcus Turk, Pat Pope and the BOE expect voters to approve a new SPLOST every five years, but they simply can not maintain school facilities. Why should a taxpayer vote for hundreds of millions in sales tax dollars to be spent on facilities that will not last as long as they should because of poor maintenance? Remember the issues with mold in school HVAC systems? That would never ever happen with routine scheduled maintenance and inspection. We still have schools with leaking roofs!

Kim is right. Contract it out, whether grounds maintenance, HVAC and roofs, IT, etc. Our old and aging BOE is so out of touch they are blind to the pitiful day to day operations of DCSS. We're stuck with a superintendent who plays favorites and make sure his friends get big salaries and benefits (Yvonne Bulter!), but has no clue how to make sure all the little things needed to run a school system are functioning like clockwork (a registered school nurse in every school).

Call, write and e-mail your BOE members, and demand a change.

Cerebration said...

What irks me is - according to the CIP from Feb, 2009, SPLOST money was spent to renovate the Sam Moss Center -- before it was spent on schools!!! (Which is what I thought I was voting to spend it on when I voted for SPLOST!)

Sam Moss Service Center: The installation of interior walls and hard ceilings is complete and has been scheduled for painting. All overhead supply and return ductwork work is 100 percent complete. All in-wall electrical conduit and wiring is approximately 98 percent complete. Overhead linear lighting and lay-in lighting and can lights have been installed throughout Phase I. Roofing repairs for the Warehouse and roof patching work for Phase I is 100 percent complete. Substantial completion for Phase I is anticipated in March 2009. ...

Sam Moss Center: Bus Driver Aisle Repair and Repaving: Specifications are complete and are
currently being reviewed by DeKalb County School System.

They are not willing to tolerate the same conditions they expect so many students and teachers to tolerate. Ditto for the administration - the A/B buildings were simply not good enough and they had to build themselves tricked out new offices out at Stone Mt.

Meanwhile - so many schools look like the pictures on this blog.

Anonymous said...

You're all right: our school grounds are disgusting. Does anyone know the names of those in charge of DCSS facilities and grounds?

Please tell me the school system is going to see the the A/B buildings on North Decatur Rd. when they all move into the new buidlings on Mountain Industrial?!

Cerebration said...

Here's the link to plant services -

The dept falls under Pat Pope. (There's a nice picture of the newly renovated Sam Moss Center)

This is the name I found in the 2008 salary listing -


Cerebration said...

There's also a guy, Harold Lewis, who is Asst Director of Maintenance. ($101,720.00 salary plus $2,182.56 travel/exp )

But bottom line - and I got this directly from Dr. Lewis in the case of Wayne Chelf - if you have a maintenance problem - what you really have is a principal problem. (That's a quote.) It's up to the principals to maintain the buildings and grounds and to request additional services of plant maintenance.

Paula Caldarella said...

Just about every day I see a gentleman, I believe his title is Plant Engineer, at Dunwoody HS picking up trash, emptying trash cans and tidying up the grounds around the school. Does every high school have one?

Cerebration said...

Our principals are paid very well, also. We should easily be able to recruit good ones from around the country. Here are 2008 salaries - just the ones who made over $100k (this info is all available at the State's website).

RHODES,CHERYL L, $132,420.23
PRINGLE,ANGELA D, $122,715.20
JONES,JAMES H, $122,605.94
THEDFORD,SELINA C, $120,336.40
FREEMAN,SUSAN L, $117,672.00
HOGAN,JERRY K ,$113,448.00
EMERSON,BRENDA K, $113,364.00
DODSON,GLORIA J, $112,996.00
WRIGHT,SHELTON D, $112,496.00
LETCHER,JUANITA B, $112,340.00
BEAL,CHRISTOPHER L. (asst) $112,267.56
YOUNG,FARRELL L, $112,194.00
BUTLER,YVONNE S, $112,140.00
SWINTON,VALERIE D, $111,646.00
BOSWELL,KAREN G, $111,580.00
SPEER,ANNEICE M, $111,466.00
SHAKIR,ZAHEERAH , $111,404.00
JENKINS,LEROY, $111,368.00
JACKSON,REBECCA O, $111,356.00
WALKER,ROBERTA R, $111,284.00
BLAYLOCK,WILLA B, $111,124.00
REYNOLDS,KEITH L, $111,094.00
MAPP,DENISE D, $111,088.00
HUMBLE,GAIL A, $111,034.00
ALLEN,JOALVETA A, $110,994.00
FALLON,TONI M, $110,978.00
SILVERS,ESTHER R, $110,926.00
LEISSA,ANGELA C, $110,896.00
BURGER,CHARLENE S, $110,874.00
BARNES,BARBARA H, $110,870.00
ALLEN,VERONICA B, $110,816.00
REED,JOSEPH P, $110,658.05
DORTCH,STANLEY L, $110,164.59
D'AMBRA,JOSEPH S, $109,964.00
SMITH,MARGIE M, $109,716.00
SMALL,MATTIE L, $109,674.00
ENGLISH,CAROLYN M, $109,604.00
NORMAN,DEBORAH K, $109,214.00
ARNOLD,TRENTON J, $108,568.00
FRAZER,LINDA D, $107,860.00
CRUM,CORNELLIA , $107,826.87
THORPE,ROBERT B, $107,712.80
PRIESTER,LINDA , $107,706.00
JOURNIGAN,TROY D, $107,600.00
JAMES,JEREMIAH , $107,524.00
WARREN,JESSICA B, $107,488.00
ROBERTS,ANNETTE S, $107,188.00
BERRY,JAMES L, $107,134.00
CULBREATH,ANN M, $107,132.00
JENKINS,JEFFERY T, $107,022.00
MAY,PATRICIA E, $106,904.00
REID,RICHARD W, $106,786.00
DONAHUE,STEVEN E, $106,524.00
AMEY,STEPHANIE R, $106,390.00
FLANAGAN,AGNES R, $106,384.00
EVERETT,SHERRY A, $105,976.00
MOTON,ANGELA J, $105,492.00
TURNER,YOLANDA M, $104,898.00
JACKSON,BEVERLY L, $104,722.00
PRICE,SHENANDRA W, $104,680.00
GRAHAM,KAREN R, $104,560.00
SHARPER,LUCILLE, $104,384.00
WILSON,SANDRA L, $104,262.00
JACKSON,CYNTHIA G, $103,862.00
JONES,MERLON B, $103,542.00
JONES,BERNETTA, $103,068.00
ZEIGLER,RACHEL R, $103,016.00
BEAVERS,YOLANDA M ,$102,960.00
LONG,BARBARA A (ASST), $102,643.90
WELLS,KATHY L, $102,592.00
SCOTT,SADIE L , $102,314.00
JONES,CARLA T, $102,194.00
CLAY,SANDRA , $102,034.00
MOORE,AARON , $102,010.00
TUTSON,AUGRETTA W , $101,962.00
WILSON,SUSAN C, $101,958.00
GORDON,MARK B v$101,890.00
ALLEN,JOY T, $101,852.00
STEPNEY,STACY E , $101,476.00
HEARN,JAMES R, $101,422.50
SALEEM,ARDELL Z, $101,220.00
PRINCE,JOHN R, $100,018.00
STROZIER,ANGELA D,(ASSt) $100,014.84

Note: There are probably as many people labeled "Instructional Supervisors" who earn over $100k also. (I don't think that job is nearly as stressful.)

No Duh said...

Isn't the "plant engineer" what us old farts call the "janitor"? All schools should have at least one of those (a rose by any other name would smell as sweet -- that's for you, DunMom)

When I am at the schools and see trash, if no kids are around, I pick it up. If kids are around I ask the kid closest to the trash to please pick it up and throw it any -- nine times out of ten the kid's immediate response is "It's not mine." Arrrrhhhh.

Needless to say, I pity the fool who responses to me that way. And they don't respond that way twice.

Best part of being a parent in the school building is you can say what you want without threat of being sued or losing your job. And, even better -- you can even HUG a child, and wipe away tears!!

Anonymous said...

Ronnie Kitchens and Harold Lewis need to start earning their $100,000+ pler year salaries and the $20,000 in benefits we pay them!!

Crawford Lewis is a complete and utter idiot if he think principals are at fault when there are facilities and grounds issues. Principals are first and foremost responsible for academics, managing teachers and staff, and creating a learning community. Hey C Lew, how much more busy work are you and your legion at DCSS Central Office going to push off on principals. My principal spent six hours at school on a Sunday for a clean-up day, because he cares, but that's not what he should be doing on a weekend. Let him re-charge and spend time with his family!

Principals have no formal training in facilities and grounds. I'd much rather have my principal working to secure a registered school nurse, art and music teachers than spending time doing the job of Pat Pope, Ronnie Kitchens and Harold Lewis.

Push has come to shove. Contract out facilites and grounds maintenance, and save the salaries and benefits we pay Kitchens and Lewis. The Sam Moss administration and staff do not have the competence to do the job properly.

Cerebration said...

Yes, all schools have maintenance and custodial staff. I'm not sure of the number or mix - but they do report to the principal. So if there's an issue to be addressed - pick it up with the principal first. Then go to the plant maintenance chief at Sam Moss - and then if need be - Pat Pope.

This isn't a Dr. Lewis issue.

Cerebration said...

I agree, Anon. Contracting out maintenance would most likely save a bundle. You do have the issue of safety to contend with - but as long as the suppliers have to send qualified, drug-free, record-free workers - we may actually benefit. As it is now - if you look through the listings of staff and salaries for plant supervision - there are quite a few who make over $70k. There are also a whole lot of secretaries in that dept.

See - when DCSS takes on a "business" such as maintenance/groundskeeping - it just becomes an inflated jobs program. We don't seem to be able to ever "weed" out the bad employees.

Cerebration said...

Let's see -

There are about 784 custodians - avg salary - aound $30k - 278 Maintenance Personnel - avg salary - $45k - plus 37 plant operations "directors" - avg salary - $60k, and 27 plant operations Sec/Clerks - avg salary $40k.

For comparison, we have 222 security officers - avg salary $45k. Isn't that a sad statement?

Not to mention that there are most likely over 2250 people in special education - as interrelated teachers, teachers of hearing/visual/emotiona etc, parapros, speech and OT, SE nurses etc.
(That's over 17% of the total 13,000 DCSS workforce.)

Cerebration said...

And back to the issue of maintenance -- here's what it says in the official (green) custodial manual -

page 11 of 46 - Safety & Grounds

1 - Sweep outside walkways
2 - Clear all loose paper and debris from grounds
3 - Check drains and clear debris
4- Inspect building for any signs of graffiti: follow appropriate procedures to remove graffiti
5- Inspect grounds for fallen trees
6- Inspect grounds for any signs of insect infestation, ant mounds, etc
7- Establish a MSDA station to monitor all green products
8 - Comply and wear all required PP&E when necessary (gloves, safety glasses, slip resistant shoes or shoe covers)
9 - Report all incidents and accidents in accordance with DCSS policies

No Duh said...

Wow. If you just counted the 114 schools and centers in DCSS (realizing there are many more buildings owned by DCSS), each Plant Operations Director would have to oversee just 3 schools each! They could probably get around the three campuses even just once a week to check on problems.

I know, some of those directors oversee things other than just maintenance of the plants (i.e. PO includes the mail service between buildings, etc.), but that is unbelievably bloated.

Kim Gokce said...

The only other major property owner I know of that has its own grounds maintenance department do all the work is Post Properties. In their case, one could argue it is a core competency and competitive differentiation they must manage and protect.

It is baffling to me that a school system would have all of the grounds maintenance in-house. To me, this is one of the few easy cases for change in DCSS-land.

We do have a complex set of problems and a long history muddying the decision-making overall. But what defense is there for keeping this grounds organization and process in place? I do not think there is one.

If there were a service delivery contract for these type of services and each school had a designated account manager at the vendor, then I'd be happy to hold the principals' accountable for the grounds appearance knowing they could pick up the phone for service with an expectation of responsiveness.

Cerebration said...

Bottom line - and the reason I post the salaries - is that we are paying plenty of people plenty of money to oversee our schools - educationally and with respect to maintenance.

We are not getting our money's worth in any way.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the maintenance people at the schools are also responsible for keeping up the playing fields, at least in the case of middle and high schools. That in itself is a huge job.

I have to say that Henderson Middle is one of the cleanest schools in the county. I actually saw a custodian there cleaning the door frame above the double fire doors in the hallways. They have a chart in each bathroom (available from the county) to keep track of cleaning, which happens several times a day. After each class change, when the kids have gone to their lockers and trash is all over the halls, they sweep the floors.

It can be done folks. It just requires a good supervisor and good employees. And I know the principal there is on top of this all the time.

Anonymous said...

There is a difference between facilities maintenance, grounds maintenance and athletic field maintenence.

Facilities maintenance is everything inside the building, and some outside, such as gutters, scuppers, drains, etc.

Grounds maintenance is just that, the grounds around the school. There are a copule of hundred companies in metro Atlanta who would fight hard for the DCSS grounds maintenance contract. We'd get a low price and great service and efficiency as that industry is ultra-competitive and dying for steady contracts.

Athletic field maintenance is much more specialized, and DCSS absolutely sucks at it. The equipment is more specialized, and there is a lot of expertise and education involved with maintaining athletic fields. Even so, there are well over 50 companies in the greater metro area specializing in athletic field maintenance, and they too are ultra competitive and would provide a much higher level of athletic turf and efficiency.

If you have a grounds maintenance or athletic field contractor who's not getting the job done, you have scores more wanting the work, so it behooves tghem to be on top of their game.

There is no security worry for grounds and athletic field maintenance as they do not enter the school, have a crew supervisor, and they can work around the school schedule.

Kim, you mentioned Post Properties grounds maintenance. They actually started as in house for all the Post apartment complexes, but they are so good at what they do, they also contract all over the place to non-Post porperties.

Has anyone seen the grounds maintenance at a Post property? They are beautiful, and our schools could look like that, by a company like Post Properties, and we could actually spend less then we do now if you take into account the equipment cost, equipment maintenance cost, salaries and benefits.

Many private schools contract out grounds and field maintenance not just for the higher quality of work, but because they can't afford to purchase and maintain the equipment needed. If you do it right, you need good equipment that has a lot of maintenance needs, and that adds up. DCSS has to buy and maintain their equipment. That's no a worry when you contract out.

In DeKalb, the BOE and administrators like Crawford Lewis and Stan Prichett have built a mega jobs program, where the quality of work is a distant second to having a bunch of jobs to hand out at their disposal. The politics within the Sam Moss Center are absolutely brutal. People only move up if they "play the game", not because they excel at their work.

It high time DCSS becomes more efficient, and focuses its budget and resources back into the classroom. Contracting out grounds and athletic field maintenance is an east start.

Anonymous said...

There is only one safe, hygenic way to clean a school restroom, and it's not mopping. This is what colleges and good school systems use, especially with the H1N1 and even worse MSRA staff infection:

DCSS has been approached by county resident, Dr. Tom Keating, the top school restroom expert in the counttry,, to improve the way DCSS cleans and sanitizes its restrooms. But of course the DCSS Central Office and Sam Moss staff blew him off. And he lives here in DeKalb??

Cerebration said...

Tom was literally tossed out of Lakeside due to pressure from above. However, he is revered all across the country as the guru of the restroom!

Anonymous said...

We should keep Dr. Keating away from the restrooms at Cross Keys and Sequoyah or he might have a stroke.

Cerebration said...

Dr. Tom Keating of He lives right here in DeKalb County, and is considered the top expert in the USA on school restrooms. Contact info.: and (404) 373-4973.

He is actually in Germany right now working with the German Dept. of Education on their school restroom cleaning policies. That's how good he is. Maybe when he returns, he could be the first DeKalb County School Watch interview.

Anonymous said...

This post is really hitting a nreve with parents. SW DeKalb has assistant principals who sure do dress well, but they're "posers". Gotta love it when kids in the cafeteria leave their trays with food and trash left on them, right in front of the assistant principals, then walk away, and the assistant principal doesn't even notice and have the gumption to say, "Son, please pick up your tray and dispose of your trash, RIGHT NOW YOUNG MAN!".

The principals have enough to do. The assistant principals at some of our schools look the part, but that's all they do. They should be checking school grounds and facilities. They should be getting on kids driving into the parking lot with their radio's blaring at full blast with every other lyric a "F#$% this" or N!@#$" that.

Makes me want to put the kids in private school right now. DCSS is such a massive, bloated, slow buraucracy, they just can't do the little (or big) things right.

Anonymous said...

It’s not only the school campuses that are a wreck. Has anyone seen DeKalb Campus East? This is mainly an administrative center. It looks like an abandoned/neglected shopping center.

Anonymous said...

I know a lot of people are talking about this topic. More importantly, I hope BOE members are reading it. The Sam Moss Center and staff needs complete overhaul and staff changes. DOn't blame the principals, Superintendent Lewis.

Anonymous said...

"Has anyone seen DeKalb Campus East?"

What's the address of it? I'd like to see it and maybe take some photo's for the blog. If you have photo's of poorly kept DCSS facilities, and they are all over, I'm sure Cere would post some of them.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone that responded to this post visit the property that the tree is on? I happen to live in the area and the tree belongs to and is on church property not SWDHS. In reading the posts I also find it interesting that responses are critical of the Sam Moss Center. Have you viewed the property prior to the comments about how the money should be spent in the schools? I was and am on committees that meet at that location and it is not even remotely close the Operations photo. The photo referenced to the Operations web page changes. The current picture is Miller Grove HS when it was being built. Visit the web page and put your curser on the picture, it will tell you the school name. You are correct that certain properties are not maintained well but that responsibility does reside at the local school. Principals are responsible for hiring the custodial staff and monitoring the appearance of the facility and grounds.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post by anonymous. I follow the DeKalb, Clayton and two Gwinnett blogs related to schools and education. Each has its own identity. This blog has some informed participants and others that submit items as fact when they are personal opinion and all posters thereafter feed the chain of prior posts. This blog posts salaries researched on the state web page and uses them as comparison in funding. May I suggest that those willing to do the research apply an apples to apples comparison and not view the state pay scale and research actual pay. From my research the only two large systems that publish valid figures are DeKalb and Cobb. APS pays schools and administrators bonuses on test score performance. Gwinnett principals earn $ for each student in the school. I believe Gwinnett has a Foundation that rewarded principals with a monetary bonus as well. These figures are not on the state scale nor published. DeKalb attempted to offer a bonus but cut the plan balance the budget. I enjoy the commentary and the concern the majority of participants express on this web-site much better than the Clayton and Gwinnett sites.

Cerebration said...

Well, Anon, I guess we have conflicting info, as these photos were sent by someone who lives in the area also. Anyone else want to weigh in with a third opinion about these trees? (Not the trash, that is obviously school property and we have more photos of that.)

As far as the photo of the Sam Moss Center goes - maybe I did paste the wrong link (it happens) --

Anyway - here's a link to the real Sam Moss Center - renovated before renovations have been done to several actual school buildings with actual students waiting their turn for promised renovations and auditoriums and additions that voters thought they were voting for...Still inexcusable and selfish IMHO.

Lots of good info here.

Cerebration said...

Anon 6:27 PM - I'm not following your point. The salaries we post here, although they come from the state of GA website are actual salaries of DCSS employees - name by name, with job titles and expense accounts.

Here's the link to the salaries - all jobs paid even partially by the state are listed here...

Ella Smith said...

Anonymous, it is interesting that some school systems pay may not actually be the principals overal yearly salary. I find this extremely interesting.

In doing the research Kim and I were very shocked at all the jobes that Dekalb County had in administration that the other surrounding counties did not have.

Now I do have a difference of opinion on principals salaries. I see principals as underpayed for the hours they work and the responsibilities that they have. Principals are responsible for the grounds, and all the other things mentioned. They are responsible for everything which happens in those schools. Compared to other positions outside of education with this amount of responsibility principals are underpaid.

Cerebration said...

Oh - I think I get your meaning. You're saying that other school systems pay more on top of their published salaries... gotcha. Didn't know that.

Anonymous said...

DeKalb really needs the Bathroom cleaning expert to come in. I won't use even the teacher bathroom at my school. The urine smell trickles out into hall when you walk past the boys' bathroom.

Many of our schools have buckets in the hall to catch water from the holes in the ceiling. The principal can only write up work orders. When someone finally comes out, they usually aren't competent. We have buildings that have leaky roofs since they were first built. I don't understand why the county didn't call the contractor up and have them come and fix their mistakes. Makes no sense to me.

Cerebration said...

Good News in Dunwoody! According to Heneghan's Dunwoody blog, there will be a meeting Tuesday eve in the Dunwoody High School cafeteria for the purpose of briefing the neighbors on the plans for the addition to Dunwoody High School!

Dekalbparent said...

I re-read Cere's Oct 2 post concerning the duties of the maintenance staff, and it got my smart-@ss mind going. Regarding DHHS:

4- Inspect building for any signs of graffiti: follow appropriate procedures to remove graffiti

- I think this is occupying a good deal of the maintenance staff's time...

6- Inspect grounds for any signs of insect infestation, ant mounds, etc

- well, they may well be inspecting, but it doesn't actually say they have to DO anything about it... The BIG question I have is whether they are supposed to do anything about other infestation - the rodent kind. There are rats at DHHS that have been there so long they have names (I'm not kidding), and show up in classrooms while class is going on.

It is quite possible that the staff is stretched too far, considering the extra mess the neverending construction is causing.

Anonymous said...

Since the children are partly responsible for the trash on the campus grounds, instead of suspension, make them do grounds keeping instead of releasing them to the streets or sitting in a classroom doing nothing(ISS). Just a thought...this is how you show students that there are consequences for their actions...but who am I kidding the BOE and Dr. Lewis aren't accountable for their personal/professional actions and they are adults who are paid to perform their jobs and failure to comply should come with stiffer consequences...just my thoughts