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Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Perhaps someone is "eating" too much?
Well, as we've all recently learned, DeKalb board member Jay Cunningham is not too good with money. Read all about his garnishments, business failures and yes, criminal past at the Champion.
"Financial Problems Plague School Board Member"
Apparently, Jay and board member Gene Walker are making extra trips to the board "salad bar" or something, as one of our researchers found that Jay and Gene are far and away our biggest spenders on the board. We're not sure why, perhaps they drive gas-guzzling cars or perhaps they attend more meetings than the other seven, but their expenses just popped out when posted in chart form against the others in FY 2010. (Interestingly, it also looks like Jim Redovian didn't use a dime of his expense fund last year.)
We thought you'd like to know.
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If you look at the Monthly Financial Reports, the expenses of the BOE are detailed at the end of the report.
Gene Walker has always lived off the government dime. When he was sued twice for sexual harassment, the State of Georgia was stuck paying his legal bill.
And he used his position on the DeKalb Development Authority to secure an unheard of $20,000+ in campaign donations from the out of state Sembler Corporation.
Our weak and feckless BOE Chair Tom Bowen gushes over Gene Walker, and was crushed when Womack beat out Walker for Vice Chair.
Jay is Jay. The BOE stipend is pretty much his salary these days, even though being on the BOE isn't meant to be a full-time gig.
Shows me that this should be a volunteer position like it was where I grew up.
Corruption and fraud are a huge problem throughout DeKalb.
How about this for a suggestion.
Increase the pay to $65,000 per board member. Then they might take some time and actually work at the job! $23,400 is pathetic for an individual to oversee a BILLION organization! This would be considered ludicrous in the private sector!
Require each of them to pass an annual Credit Check and a Criminal Background check! I have to and I don't oversee a BILLION $$$ dollar organization!
Require elections to be county wide, not just district wide.
They are all about to be LAME DUCK board members when the State legistlature changes the law and redistricts the county.
Any thoughts, comments or concerns?
I completely agree with a criminal background check and credit check. Should that be required before someone is permitted to run for the school board? (I think so).
Not so sure about the salaries, though. I looked at the salaries and travel expenses of school board members in surrounding districts and this is what I found:
Source: open.georgia.gov (FY2010)
DeKalb board members are actually paid more than most school board members in surrounding districts – Decatur board members aren’t paid at all.
In regards to travel, DeKalb board members’ median travel reimbursement is actually on the low end – even the travel of Gene Walker is low comparatively. The Gwinnett board members either don’t travel or they pay for their own travel.
$65,000, NO. That's out of my pocket. DCSS has shown that higher salaries do not guarantee better employees.
It wasn't the State of Georgia who paid the legal fees for the Gene Walker sexual harassment trials.
It was you and I and all the the other taxpayers.
I'd like to require them to pass the high school graduation test and to swear to uphold the first amendment
I'm not a fan of the Board but this post is off the mark, in my opinion. I think the Board should travel MORE....to see school districts around the country, around the world, who are doing innovative things...and bring them back to DeKalb. Administrators and teachers should do the same thing. A world class organization borrows ideas, learns what works, and innovates them and integrates them at every level.
Also, traveling to DC to visit the DOE to lobby for more funding, or to present a grant, etc. should be a priority. I'm not saying its necessarily the board that does this, but someone should.
You want a world class system (and at one time DeKalb was that), you need to pay for it. I admit though, the guys on this Board won't get you there.
Unless the bloggers know exactly where the money is being spent I too think this posting could be off the mark.
BOE members should travel to school board specific training seminars to become better civil servants. These seminars have registration fees, and at times require air travel and overnight accommodations. If that's where they're spending the money, good for them. Maybe if they went to more we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now.
@ Dunwoody Mom - can you post a link to the Monthly Financial Reports?
Amazing there was such a push to get rid of the one board member who did not bill the county for eating and gas.
"Unless the bloggers know exactly where the money is being spent I too think this posting could be off the mark. '
Is it off the mark to say that Gwinnett Co. with 150,000 students spent considerably less than DCSS with 97,000 students in 2009. I haven't looked up the 2008 and 2010, but I will and we'll compare our overall travel costs with Gwinnett's, a much larger school system. Are we getting our money's worth with travel - i.e. are we experiencing an increase in student achievement?
I do not believe DCSS travel audit figures reflect Title 1 travel money or federal funds trvel money (remember the infamous Hollywood America's Choice trip for $400,000 that brought all those Central Office personnel to California while bringing very few teachers who actually had to re-deliver the training at their schools). That's what I want to see. Audria Berry has literally hundreds of millions she makes decisions on for Title 1 and other federal dollar expenditures. How much goes for travel and who travels? Is this travel money calculated into the state travel figure?
There are some very good questions with respect to travel in DCSS.
The reports are embedded within the agenda items. Here is the report from Monday's BOE meeting.
DCSS should not be paying for board members to lobby Washington or for "professional development." When teachers take courses outside of DCSS for professional development, there is no money for them to be reimbursed, why should others be reimbursed if teachers do not get this perk?
While we are looking at dollars and expenses, let's not forget the ongoing CRCT scandal. With a conservative estimate of salary and benefits, we are paying 5 principals at $110,000, 5 assistant principals at $85,000 and 14 teachers at $60,000 for basically doing nothing, while they continue this investigation. This could be an extra annual expense of $1,815,000 and is over $150,000 per month that is being taken away from the schools. And, don't believe the new PR firm when they say that "DCSS normally moves teachers and administrators during the school year." Because moving 24 individuals away from the schools into an already bloated central office for "special assignments" is not the same as moving a math teacher from one school to another. Or replacing a retiring principal at the end of the semester. From past experience, these people are reporting for work, doing nothing, getting paid and receiving benefits--just like Pat Reid (Pope) did for months. What a waste.
And lets not forget outright theft:
I do not have a problem with the expense reports of the school board members. Now maybe some stayed at more expensive hotels than others and ate more expensive meals but I think the school board members make every penny they earned. Think of all the phone calls and emails they must get.
However, I also think they should be reasonable in their spending. I think there should be a cap on meals etc. Someone could spend $100.00 for their meal, $75.00 for their meal, $50.00 for their meal, or $25.00 for their meal while traveling. I think it is reasonable to keep meals under $50.00 at a minimum. I do feel the school board members should be stewart of our money and try not to overspend on items like this. Otherwise they could take advantage of their job position when traveling which also is not appropriate when the school system has all the leaky roofs it does.
Hats off to Mr. Redovian for not using his stipend.
Hats off to many school board members who used discretion in their spending. Many of these school board members put a great deal of time into their job and really did not spend that much.
When I worked as a consultant and traveled extensively. I was able to spend $50 on meals per day (no alcohol) which was pro-rated for half days and quarter days when I was traveling to and from. I also had to stay in Days Inn, Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn, Best Western-whatever was cheap. Also, I had to take whatever plane was cheapest. If the 6am flight was a $100 cheaper, that is what I had to take, even if I didn't have to be at the city until the next day. I was spending clients money and had to do so wisely. I would expect for the school board to do the same.
There should be rules like this within the school district like this for travel as well. The school board members should be setting a precedent for the rest of the employees in the district.
Point of clarification: serving on the school board is a PART TIME position. It is not a "job" in the sense that it's supposed to pay your bills. It is PUBLIC SERVICE. If you don't have the time or the cash flow to handle your responsibilities DON'T RUN FOR THE BOARD. I'll say this for Redovian: he obviously understood this and approached his ELECTED role appropriately.
Anon 8:23, public service does not mean you come out of your own pocket to serve. If that was the case, only those with money could serve.
There are required training sessions that citizens have required Board members take. Some of the sessions are out of town and state.
One would assume travel guidelines exists given theirs is a government job. If anyone has questions about the expenses and trips taken, they can problem get an Opens Records Request for the expense reports.
Despite the discussions about whether or not school board member should be paid to cover expenses associated with building a 'world class' school system, the fact remains that Jay Cunningham has left fiscal carnage all over the community in managing his own money. He has a real history of failure where money and credit are concerned. This is not someone who experienced a financial problem during an economic downturn. This is a habitual offender where the mismanaegment of money and credit is concerned, and he cannot possibly be trusted to be a good steward of anyone else's money.
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