Thursday, December 30, 2010

Consolidation - Thinking Smarter not Harder

Consolidation. It's a good idea to save millions and recover pupil funding we should be getting from the state if schools operated at full capacity by state standards. The current focus is on regular elementary schools, but what about our magnet programs? We've done some math on the subject.

$767,386 in administrative costs could be eliminated if DSA's 322 students combined with, for example, Lakeside HS to create a "North Springs-like" magnet (Fulton). The redundancy in DSA's administrative and support positions of Principal, Assistant Principal, Counselor, Bookkeeper, Cafeteria Manager, Media Specialist, CTSS, Campus Security, Custodian, Paraprofessional, and Secretary cost DCSS $767,386 in annual salary and benefits.

The entire teaching staff (including all drama, dance, art, etc.) and small class sizes at DSA could be left TOTALLY intact while DCSS could reclaim the money to furnish Lakeside with 14 more Content Area (math, science, social studies, and language arts) teachers with Masters degrees and 5 years of teaching experience.

$1,157,546 in administrative and support costs could be eliminated if the Wadsworth High Achievers magnet program was housed in an existing elementary school while still leaving this educational magnet program TOTALLY intact.

Wadsworth has 153 students (state FTE figures) with 9 homeroom teachers, 2 Spanish teachers, and a Fine Arts Enrichment teacher. The redundancy in Wadsworth’s administrative and support positions of Principal, Assistant Principal, Counselor, Bookkeeper, Cafeteria Manager, Media Specialist, CTSS, 3 Custodians, Music teacher, Band teacher, Orchestra teacher, PE teacher, Administrative Assistant, 6 Food Services Workers, a Nurse, and a Media Specialist cost $1,157,546 annually.

Wadsworth has 153 students with a staff of 36, only 9 of who teach math, reading, social studies and language arts. The personnel cost alone are over $14,000 per pupil a year, mainly due to redundancy in admin and support personnel.

Chamblee Middle School, Chamblee High School, Southwest DeKalb High School and  DeKalb HS of Technology North all share administrative and support personnel between the magnet and regular education students without any degradation of service for either group. On the contrary, the magnet students in these schools have access to facilities that can only come with larger schools. The rationale for consolidation is compelling, and could take much of the resentment for magnet programs out of the picture as cost per pupil would be more closely aligned with the regular education program. Many posters have said they have nothing against "choice" as long as the per pupil cost is brought in line with the regular education programs.

Thinking out of the DCSS box is critical if we are to preserve programs that meet the needs of talented students, provide parents with educational choices, and ensure content equity for students that stay in the regular education program. These financial efficiencies would grow exponentially if DSA, Wadsworth, Kittredge, DECA, Destiny, Dekalb HS of Technology South, Clifton, etc. were all housed within an existing school/facility and shared administrative and support personnel. Reduced facilities maintenance and utility costs would also add substantially to the cost savings.

It's odd that DCSS is so quick to increase class sizes and anxious to close neighborhood schools and redraw district lines all the while leaving millions on the table by ignoring cost efficiencies that should be put into place for these special programs. Although small schools will and must be closed and lines redrawn, it will be a bitter pill for those parents to swallow if DCSS's administration and BOE refuse to decrease the costs of these special programs and keep increasing class sizes for students.

Sources: DSA, Wadsworth and Lakeside website, 2010 state Salary and Travel audit, and DCSS salary schedule


Anonymous said...

Being a parent of a child at Wadsworth, I do value your research into this public domain information. But, Wadsworth is competing with other top schools within Dekalb County and throughout the state. It is fairing very well. I still think that the Teaching and Learning component of Dekalb County still has alot of "fat" to cut especially in the testing and research component. The children at Wadsworth are thriving. Create the draw for more students to that school (i.e., making transportation easier for interested parents). Look at the students' welfare! It is not always about the money. If it is not broken LEAVE IT ALONE.

Cerebration said...

That may be true, but it appears expensive to leave it alone. Is it fair to consolidate other 'regular' schools and leave numbers like these in place for a very "lucky" 153 students? I can give you similar numbers for DSA.

Look at the makeup of the personnel (from the school website):

9 Homeroom (Content area) teachers
5 Enrichment teachers
1 PE teacher
2 Spanish teachers
1 Nurse
3 Custodians
6 Cafeteria Workers
1 Principal
1 Assistant Principal
1 Counselor
1 Bookkeeper
1 Administrative Assistant

So we have 9 classes of students with 9 homeroom teachers and 24 admin and support personnel. That's almost a 2.5 to 1 ratio of admin and support personnel to content area teachers.

Cerebration said...

Not to mention the maintenance and utilities to keep up the building and the special transportation costs.

Anonymous said...

@ 1:13 am

"Look at the students' welfare! It is not always about the money. If it is not broken LEAVE IT ALONE.'

But most of the other 96,000 students are in a "broken" school system. I think consolidation is a good idea if the components in the magnet program can can be retained and the money can be used to expand the choice programs.

Has it ever occurred to you that maybe more students could be in the magnet program if we saved that money with consolidation? I hear parents all the time who are unhappy with the lottery. They would love to have a chance for their children to participate. What would you say to them?

Cerebration said...

Exactly. We're not saying dismantle it, just share resources.

Anonymous said...

Remember that Wadsworth has only been stand alone for the last couple of years. Before that, it was housed at Browns Mill.

One easy way to measure things, is to look at the scores of the students pre move and post move to see what the impact of being in a separate school has been.

One of the problems at Browns Mill was the principal who didn't seem to realize that managing the magnet program was to be a priority. This was a personnel issue, one that the DCSS central office people should have addressed.

Anonymous said...

Not sure where else to post this link, so I'll put it here. It's a response to "Waiting for Superman"

Anonymous said...

Boy, you opened a can of worms on this one! The magnet parents want anything changed but their system. Just take a look at the first response to this post.
When you were looking at potential monies - consider also that we are STILL spending millions on transportation for magnet schools. Frankly, I have a difficult time uttering choice in the same sentence with DCSS. I think that the resources sucked up by the magnet system would be better used to make EVERY child's education in our system better.
Perhaps some " mingling" of populations would at least be a step in that direction.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps some " mingling" of populations would at least be a step in that direction. "

We're not talking about mingling of population. We're only talking about sharing space and sharing admin and support personnel who are not germane to the program. This is already done at Chamglee MS and Chamblee HS.

I don't think it's a question of test scores. I think it's a question of saving money and using that money to make the educational system better for all students - whether it's adding more teachers for the regular education program or being able to expand the magnet program so more parents who want to choose the magnet program can do so.

Anonymous said...

Real consolidation of the magnets would be to combine them into a central location. That eliminates several administrative layers and eliminates the current north/south controversies.

Anonymous said...

"Real consolidation of the magnets would be to combine them into a central location. "

I live in Central Dekalb and getting to Central DeKalb from north and south can be daunting in our traffic. Most school systems have magnet programs tucked away in schools located all over the county. The point is to save money, preserve the features of the magnet program, and allow more access to the program for parents that want to take that route.

Magnet parents need to push for consolidation. They need to consider themselves part of the school system. They really see these schools as a private school option because they've been run like private schools so long. But magnets are to attract students with particular talent or interest.

Expanding these programs so that there was no lottery - every student who is qualified has the choice of going to them is the ideal. This needs to be the goal and Ms. Tyson and the BOE need to figure out the most economical way to make this happen without cutting services for the regular ed students. Eliminating redundant admin and support staff seems a good start.

Anonymous said...

If you want to share your opinion on this publicly, send an email to

Anonymous said...

In most of the country, magnets are put at inner-city type schools to retain bright students and attract others to those less desirable schools, thus the term magnets.

DCSS must learn to offer magnets at no extra cost, something that isn't happening right now.

Most schools sytems nationally also offer little to no transportation for these programs. Again, DCSS must get to this.

Cerebration said...

I'm curious - if the "lottery" is holding some students out of the magnets - then does that mean that the lottery is only actually allowing for 150 seats at Wadsworth? I can't believe that to be true. I would think that every student who qualifies and applies gets in. However, only 150 have done so. Do these lucky few deserve a full support system of their own? Now that really does seem like winning a lottery.

How much is this actually costing us? And why do the recipients continue to believe they are entitled to so much more than regular students?

Anonymous said...

Why would you combine DSA with Lakeside which is across town when you could simply merge DSA and Avondale in their existing building (which by the way has been upgraded to please the DSA parents)?? No one has said anything about the fact that these two schools with less than 1200 students total are operating seperating under one roof. By the way... DSA got its reovations first (shortly after they moved in). Avondale is still suffering through renovations!

Anonymous said...

the whole "lottery" process is hogwash along with "school choice." Lithonia parents (for instance) should be in an outrage that their school choice students are bused to Arabia but kept seperate from the pure Arabia students in a trailer camp!

Anonymous said...

Why is it that DCSS continues month after month to pour millions into improving facilities when the short-term plan is to close a number of schools.

All improvements beyond band-aid repairs should be put on hold until the keep/close list is put together and voted on to prevent from yet again wasting tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.

Anonymous said...

Magnets should be for the high achievers, students should have to want to be there and be willing to work to stay there.

The basis should not be to escape their local school. These issues are the root of the problem. Then you throw in the lottery process and the busing of kids all over the county and the mess gets even worse.

Why in the world should a child qualify for these special "choice " programs if they only score in the 75% ? I think that is where parents start to say " WTH ? " Especially is they are looking to escape !

The goal should be to level the field for all. Believe me no one and I mean no one in DCSS or the BOE is willing to take on the magnet parents. I guarantee it. So, at least, look at how those resources aren't TAKEN from the other students. Even if we continue to have a system that is a disproportionate allocation of county monies....

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:51 PM, your post is 100% ON THE MARK!

You wrote what many of us have been thinking for years!!

Cerebration said...

True that DSA and Avondale share a building - but that's it. They still maintain completely separate staffs. DSA has their own principal, AP, counselors, language instructors, etc. That's where the extra $767,386 in administrative costs comes from. But you are correct, at least they are saving on the library and utility, custodian, etc. by sharing physical facilities.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:04 I imagine you are neither an Avondale HS parent nor a DSA parent because your post is not accurate.

The money that was set aside for the move of DSA back to Avondale was used to renovate BOTH spaces---inadequately, incompletely, and late. And the county did NOT spend all of the $10 million set aside for the renovation.

For instance, if your child is in music at other DeKalb County high schools their facilities are MUCH better than DSA. The music rooms at DSA are the size of classrooms, with 7-8 foot ceilings. The theatre has new seats and a few other renovations but there is still not an adequate place to build and store sets and NO storage for costumes and props. The dance spaces are great and the faculty are very good. They and the students they teach make it work. Don't call me a whiner; this is DeKalb County's premier pre-professional school of the arts that has never had the facilities it's needed.

At Avondale the renovation money paid for the 9th grade academy (which does not have any restrooms), renovating the stage in the gym to become the band room, and other "upgrades." And their locker room situation is shameful. Again, the county allowed these inadequate renovations to occur and still left money on the table.

As far as consolidation is concerned, I'm fine with that, if it is truly like North Springs, with facilities that are worthy of state of the art science, math, and the arts. It would be quite interesting to see how the county did the administration at a consolidated high school. The DSA principal is a musician and taught orchestra for several years. Either consolidate or (finally) make DSA the size it should be....that program has needed to be expanded for a LONG time, but the county refused to put it in a facility large enough. (DSA has never hosted the regional orchestra, choral, or band contests---we always go to Miller Grove, Lithonia, and last year to Avondale Baptist Church). I think it's shameful that the county high school of the arts cannot host these competitions.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 1:55 - thank you from Anon 1:51..... I have followed this issue for some time, and am proud ( yes, proud ) to be a 3 time magnet lottery loser.

Honestly, my disappointment for my own situation has decreased each time. However, my disdain for the entire magnet situation has increased each time.

I have decided that it is not my child that needs to be there , even though she is Duke TIP and scores 95% or above in all standardized testing. She is not at the level of motivation that should exist in that setting.

Frankly, I think that educationally she is probably more deserving than some of the children that had their number selected ( i.e. the lottery ). Wow, 75% - you have to be kidding me !! But, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that the way that the system exists is crap.... And, the politics and the money aspects are ridiculous. Especially as we are asked to accept more students in the classroom and other cutbacks...

Best of luck to those still in a magnet setting and don't be disappointed if you don't make it in and your local school is decent. Enrich or go private.... Your child will be still be successful...

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration
"But you are correct, at least they are saving on the library and utility, custodian, etc. by sharing physical facilities."

No. DSA has separate custodial staff.

Anonymous said...

Part of the reason that N. Springs works well is that the parents and students in both the magnet programs there consider themselves part of the N. Springs School community. What I find, time and time again, in DeKalb is that our magnet parents need to believe they are separate and therefore special.

Parents of magnet students at SWD and at CCHS are quick to point out that they are in the magnet programs. At N. Springs, in my experience, they view their children as N. Springs students and participants in the magnet programs.

We have high schools that don't have drama electives or choral electives. This is not acceptable.

SongCue said...

Anon 3:04 You've hit several items that ring my bells in your post.
1) I SO agree about N. Springs, etc. That's how we need to approach this atmosphere issue.
2) One of the reasons there aren't choral/drama (and I'll add orchestra and band) programs at some high schools is the 4 X 4 block schedule. The performing arts are designed to be practiced continuously throughout a school year. Concerts, contests, all-state auditions, etc. occur throughout the year. The 4 X 4 block, however great it is for many academic classes, is not the be-all and end-all it's touted as being. I think some classes could be paired with others that are better when taught all year (math, World languages, performing arts, etc.)
I've mentioned this to a few decision-makers but it never goes anywhere.


Anonymous said...

Magnets are not the magic answer that we would like for them to be. Anyone ever wonder how many parents were dissuaded from making a fuss about their local school with the mystical choice dangled in front of them? DCSS used this as a carrot for parents to keep them invested in a sinking ship.
Long held is the opinion that the lottery and the back up list are bogus, so who is gonna make a stink if you think that you have a chance of getting out of a crappy neighborhood school?
This blog always proposes that the admin uses this topic to split parents but there is plenty of diverting to go around.

Anonymous said...

Song Cue

I am anonymous 3:03.

I am a huge opponent of the block and have pulled a child out of public school because of it. I will say that my one in public high school did take drama twice on the block from a very competent English teacher, but the productions the school put on left much to be desired.

Band and orchestra work because the students are willing to either take a semester off for health/pe or take those classes in the summer at their own expense.

Anonymous said...

I am absolutely sick of the snide and rude comments about magnet parents. I have been one of these despicable "magnet" parents for years. My child is at CCHS and the magenet students only make up 1/3 of the school but the magnet parents are extremely active on the Governance Council, the PTSA, the Blue and Gold Foundation, the booster club, the swim team, the cross country team, the soccer team, the baseball team, etc. We contribute hundreds of personal hours (and funds) to the school- yes the ENTIRE school. ASK ANY CCHS TEACHER, COACH OR ADMINISTRATOR! They do not share your mean spirited pronouncements about the "magnet parents."

Anonymous said...

If your child wasn't in the magnet program, would you still be in DCSS?

Do you think that it is right that nearly 4 million dollars was spent on magnet transportation last year alone?

Do you think it is right that DSA has a principal for 300 students?

Will you fight for benefits for the magnet program even if other students suffer?

(I ask the last question knowing that DCSS has plenty of fat to cut, but for arguments sake, pretend that the central office is a lean mean fighting machine, and there isn't much left to cut.)

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 10:09
"I am absolutely sick of the snide and rude comments about magnet parents."

I'm sorry you've gotten that opinion by reading this blog. It's just most magnet parents have not wanted to compromise on cutting costs in the magnet program so we don't have to increase class sizes in the regular education schools.

Would you support your child being in the magnet program (completely separate teachers and the same classmates) but being housed in another school so administration and support costs would be saved?

My child went to Kittredge and then CHS so she was in the magnet program for 9 years. When she went to 8th grade, it was the first year it was separated from the elementary school (before that 8th grade was part of Kittredge). They were housed at Chamblee High School (CMS had not been built) for her 8th grade year. She and her classmates had their own teachers, they were in a separate wing, etc. One terrific thing was she got to be on the swim team (they have a pool at Chamblee HS). She was on the cross country team and made friends with the "resident" students. She joined the drama club. There were so many great experiences for her as a person.

We can save millions if we house the magnet programs in facilities that share space and non-teaching admin and support personnel with regular ed students. This is a win-win situation. This would bring magnet costs more in line with regular education costs and that's a good thing. No one wants to think they are taking from another child. On the other hand it would defuse much of the criticism about magnets from the regular ed parents.

Anonymous said...

so, 10:09 magnet parent we are all waiting? sheds a different light on it, huh? many parents volunteer hours, dollars , etc but we don't feel entitled to our "good fortune" because of it.
put yourself in the regular guy's shoes for a few moments and try not to resent the spending of shrinking dollars on a small percentage of dcss students - i.e. FOUR million on transportation
well, we are waiting?

Passionate... said...

Wadsworth and other worthwhile programs may not be broken. However, the "non instructional staff" could easily be shared between two or three schools. Share the principal, AP, counselor, custodians, etc. Currently larger schools earn FTE dollars that the district, at one time said was theirs to keep and use, but currently DCSS issues directives to give up selected personnel. Example: large school has several paraprofessionals by proper scheduling in eSIS, but smaller school is out of compliance and secures a few parapros from larger school instead of smaller school sharing Music and PE teacher with another smaller school. Or principal from larger school cannot give up "dead weight" that they inherited from the district as an alternative to losing paraprofessionals working with children. Schools should go back to employing staff based on FTE dollars earned.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the underlying concept here. But why in the world would you move DSA again--and to Lakeside, which is already overcrowded by 300 students? What an outrageous suggestion!

Anonymous said...

What about these "annex" schools, which are housed in the same building but have different adminstrative teams? Can someone explain to me what that is all about?

Anonymous said...

"But why in the world would you move DSA again--and to Lakeside, which is already overcrowded by 300 students? What an outrageous suggestion! "
Lakeside was used as an example. It currently is being renovated and expanded fo it won't be overcrowded. It has several hundred "administrative transfers". That means it serves the students of the Central Office staff and managers in the support area.

Cerebration said...

That's correct. If Lakeside was not inundated with so many transfers of all kinds, then there would be plenty of room for this merge. On top of that, Lakeside has over 400 students already participating in the arts - their concerts and plays are wonderful - even though they must be performed in the cafetorium or the gym. Now that Lakeside is finally getting an auditorium and classroom addition, this building could serve easily as a North Springs model.

Anonymous said...

"We can save millions if we house the magnet programs in facilities that share space and non-teaching admin and support personnel with regular ed students. This is a win-win situation. "

This post makes many good points. Placing a small program like the one at Wadsworth in a school building with other instructional programs makes good financial sense. We could maintain the program and save some money by doing this.

Nobody wants a child to sit through boring, unchallenging classes. However, there is a lot to be said for making sure that gifted students have the opportunity to mix with their more average peers. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. What do you do when you suddenly realize that there is a subject or activity that you don't excel in? Do you quit? Do you drop out? Do you keep working at it? Having a friend who really works be good at something, may be helpful. I was in college before I realized that most people spend a lot of time studying to learn something new.

Anonymous said...

Some comments made by parents of gifted children come across as elitist. That isn't every parent or every comment and I don't think this is intentional, but a few comments can make a big impact. Every child deserves to be challenged, sit in a small class, and have access to science labs, technology, art and music instruction. Parents all across this county volunteer at school, contribute to PTA , raise money and serve on school council.

This isn't about who is more entitled, it is about what all of our kids need. Unfortunately, we are working with limited resources and we need to be sure that every student is taken care of. Just so you know, I raised a gifted child. It wasn't easy. He went to college early and never looked back. As a parent you have to do what is right for your child.

Anonymous said...

I am married to a gifted child, who wasn't challenged until he was getting his PhD (a real one, not like those working in DCSS have). Every child in DCSS and across the nation should be challenged mentally regardless of being labeled gifted or not. Too many regular ed children sit in classes going through the motions with never understanding their full potential.

Sitting in line at Kennedy Space Center this week, I spoke with a retired educator and we were talking about why our children get turned off to learning. It's such a problem for all children and one that needs to be solved if our country is going to be prosperous.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:31
You are so right.

EVERY child has a right to:
1. A safe and clean learning environment
2. A competent teacher in a reasonably sized classroom
3. Abundant access to cutting edge science and technology equipment

Anonymous said...

Anxious to hear about the plan for consolidation? Please post new info if you have any? Is is true that no changes would be made until 2013?