Saturday, January 23, 2010

It's Deja Vu All Over Again!

Check out this report from CrossRoads News on the bloat in the central office of the school system - then do a double-take at the date the article was written.

Downsizing necessary as school system grapples with revenue shortfalls
by Ernest Brown 07.23.08

Downsizing or rightsizing the labor force in an organization is a reality in today’s economic climate. It is not surprising that the DeKalb Board of Education requested that Superintendent Dr. Crawford Lewis review staffing levels at the Central Office.

There has always been a concern by many that our Central Office is top-heavy, hence part of the motivation for this request. Dr. Lewis unveiled his preliminary findings at a called Board meeting on June 30th.

The school interviewed several firms to help assess the staffing levels and overall performance. Evergreen Solutions LLC ( was selected to perform this service. Dr. Linda Reico, president of Evergreen, co-presented their initial findings with Dr. Lewis.

Following are some of my recollections of major points discussed:
  • There are approximately 1,300 employees in the Central Office. This represents approximately 10 percent of all DCSS employees.
  • Salaries currently make up approximately 91 percent of the general budget. SACS suggests salaries should be between 87- 93 percent of the budget. The target set by DCSS is 86 percent.
  • There is a hiring freeze for “non-essential” positions.
  • Forty-two Central Office positions have been identified for possible elimination. This could result in an annual savings of $2.64 million.
  • Considering an Early Retirement Incentive Option that could take effect July 1: Targeted employees would be those who have completed at least 30 years of service. It has been determined this would impact around 170 employees. If this program is approved, it could result in an annual savings of up to $2.3 million.
  • Staffing levels should be further studied in the Transportation, Public Safety and Security, Public Relations, Plant Services, and Student Relations departments.
  • The Athletics program is not “self-sustaining,” and an evaluation may be needed regarding the number of sports teams currently supported.
  • Employee salaries and benefits need to be balanced with financial constraints. Dr. Reico mentioned that DCSS has been “generous” over the years with respect to annual increases and that may need to be reviewed.
  • Determine where technology modernization and applications could reduce labor costs. Four-day work weeks should be considered during the summer months. There should be cross training of Service Center employees.
  • A Compensation and Classification study is recommended. The last one was done in 2003 and these are typically valid for 5 years.
  • After the presentation, board members asked questions to get a better understanding of the initial finding along with the costs for proceeding. One member noted that while staffing algorithms should help guide each school, common sense should be used based on the needs of that school.
  • The number of assistant principals at each school seemed subjective to some. Another raised the question whether early retirement should be offered prior to the completion of the Performance and Management Audit.

Two studies proposed

Evergreen submitted a proposal of $475,000 for a Management and Performance Audit. It was estimated this could be completed in four to five months, hence delivered by Thanksgiving if begun during July. They also proposed a Compensation and Classification study for $350,000. This could start in December and would also last four to five months.

Both could be done for $775,000 if the Board used Evergreen, representing a savings of $50,000.

The Board was advised the Compensation and Classification study should be opened to other vendors for consideration before proceeding. Dr. Lewis committed to have a recommendation for a vendor by the August work session. The Board will vote on the Management and Performance Audit at the July 14th meeting.

Dr. Lewis began setting expectations with the Board that the entire process could take three to five years to reach the target of 86 percent. He requested consideration that the study be expanded to the entire school system, not just the Central office.

Dr. Lewis also indicated he would meet with CFO Marcus Turk regarding how the audits would be funded and would present that to the Board.

Hiring an outside firm to help with this process is the right thing to do because reduction-in-force efforts are occasionally met with some litigation. Having proper documentation along with making these decisions based on industry best practices and standards would reduce that likelihood.

With possible cuts to the labor force, expectations should be set with stakeholders that there could be cuts in service. If everyone understands and accepts this possibility, it should be easier to deal with the outcome of this process.

Ernest Brown lives in Lithonia. © 2008


Ella Smith said...

Very well written.

Anonymous said...

I live in a stable, fairly nice Central DeKalb neighborhood. We have a ton of homes for sale here. I asked a realtor about how the school system affects sales. She said it's not a major factor, but when she has a family with school age kids deciding between a home in Gwinnett and DeKalb, then it becomes a huge factor.

Right or wrong, Gwinnett has a reputation for being a much better school system than DeKalb. The clear difference between the two systems is that Gwinnett is very, very efficient and tight with its spending. They had to be with the explosion in student population since 1990. But they never allowed administration to become bloated. They never allowed school construction to become wasteful. They always focus on the clasroom before anything else.

Here in DCSS, it's the Central Office , then the Sam Moss Center, then the classroom. It's just the way it is, and it's not going to change until we demand change.

P.S. The realtor did say that Lakeside High is a huge draw for families. Even though the BOE, Central Office and Sam Moss staff let the school go for years (with the worst restrooms in the school system), it's nice to see such a fine academic school, despite the poor facilities.

Ella Smith said...

Lakeside has a tradition and the citizens of the area are not willing to let go of that tradition. This is a good thing from one sense.

Lakeside does have a good principal who understands the tradition and the excellence expected from the community. However, for a little time there was a problem with the understanding of this tradition and the demands of this community. This is one of the reasons for the huge fight over the district 4 school board position. Whether the position had went to Shayna or Womack the Lakeside community would have had the type of representation needed for the areas. You also had a fight for the district 2 position and the Lakeside districting was the reason in my opinion that the run-off ended up the way it dis and was truely the reason I lost the race. I did believe that Sagamore Hills should be in the Lakeside district. However, I also taught to individuals in the district who were in similar situations that also needed the district lines looked at. The boundary lines where not just a Sagamore issue to me as I saw problems also for some families in the Druid Hill area and I believed that the situation needed to be looked at throughout the county as I felt there should be more sensitivity when drawing the lines.

Lakeside also picked up Pam Speaks as a supporter of Lakeside as her children went to Lakeside.

However, the truth of it is my school board representative at large also represents Lakeside. Many members of district nine vote live in the Lakeside district.

Lakeside has a great deal of pull currently on the school board. This is four school board members out of nine that represent Lakeside in some fashion or another.

Anonymous said...

Please check the front page of the print addition of the AJC today. Also, the artice is on AJC.Com. Please keep the DCSS and the County in your prayers. The Fulton County School are facing a 61 million budget short fall. We must in every county keep our eyes on the State Government and the decisions being made. Money is being taken from Metro Counties and given to smaller counties. Every child deserves an education, but what other options has the state explored. As a wise lady stated at the "GAE Rally" at the state on yesterday. Before a big business relocates to a state, the educational system of that state is considered. We have a huge state department of education that seems to only find more "things" for the schools to do, such as the new math. Please forgive any errors. We were on our way out of the door, when I saw the paper. Every school system is facing very serious financial problems. This is not good for the future of all our children or the state.

Anonymous said...

Did Dekalb Lose a Million Dollars?

Anonymous said...

Just another reason, why each and every item and expense in the budget needs to be looked at under a microscope. Tough questions need to be asked: Is this the best way to spend money to educate our children? When I say each and every item and expense-I mean EVERYTHING! All jobs and job salaries, construction expenditures, ALL programs, EACH school's points, police/security, ALL offices in the central office, Esis, America's Choice, etc. I MEAN EVERYTHING. If the board of education and Dr. Lewis do not know how to budget the money that they are receiving, I am willing to help them. I could not run my household budget the way that they are spending my family's hard earned taxes dollars-whether this money comes from my county taxes or those from the state. As my family's income shrink, I must take a hard look at each of our expenditures and ask myself is this a need or a want. I do not want to see anyone lose their job, but the children of DeKalb NEED an education. I need my money to be spent responsibly by the DCSS, as I cannot afford to pay any more and will not pay more when the people who are supposed to be running the system are clearly NOT doing their jobs.

Anonymous said...

Any employment/contract/tort lawyers out there?

If Ms. Pope is willfully responsible for forgoing $1 000 000 on a whim (criminal or negligent--I don't care!, she should be forced to restore these funds to DCSS.

Why can't DCSS withhold & place Ms. Pope's salary in escroc until the case is resolved.(Of course, she would receive a portion to maintain adequate living and meet reasonable expenses)

Since her suspension, the salary that she is currently receiving is "unearned" by the "handfull" of projects she manages. Until she is fired or reinstated assuming the Dekalb DA is unable to obtain a conviction, a large part of her salary should be held in escroc.

Vox Noctae

SongCue said...

Ernest, we need you to run again for the school board! Please consider it! You've got a lot of supporters out here who will work hard for you. Please consider it.