Thursday, June 23, 2011

What is in the Best Interest of DeKalb Schools' Core Business of Educating Students?

This is the question Ms. Tyson and the DeKalb Board of Education should have been asking as they made budget cuts.

Consider this recent article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution regarding how Marietta City Schools is avoiding budget-cutting impacts to instruction as they consider what is in the best interest of their students.

Marietta City Schools is a diverse school system of 8,000 students with 50%+ African American, 30%+ Hispanic, and 15% White. 74% of Marietta City School students are classified as Economically Disadvantaged (a greater percentage than DCSS), and 11% as Students With Disabilities (also a greater percentage than DCSS). Every regular education school in Marietta City Schools is a Title 1 school.

Every school in Marietta City Schools made adequate yearly progress, and the entire system of Marietta made AYP in 2008-09 and 2009-10. Is there a correlation between improving student achievement and keeping your core business intact when you make budget-cutting decisions? Read what the Marietta City Schools superintendent Emily Lembeck says about her decisions to “protect what happens in the classroom”. Posters have said that they want a superintendent from a school system the size of DCSS. Is that more important than a fiscally responsible superintendent with a solid track record in moving students forward academically?

AJC article published June 20, 2011:
“Marietta City Schools plans to cut its budget 4 percent through belt-tightening measures that include outsourcing 22 custodial positions. There are no furlough days or teacher layoffs planned.

Superintendent Emily Lembeck said that could change if the system doesn’t receive the funds expected from state and federal sources. Last year’s budget was based on a revenue shortfall of $5.9 million.

The district’s Board of Education will vote on the 2012 budget at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the school headquarters at 250 Howard St. A public comment hearing will be held a half hour before the meeting. The $74.5 million budget is $3.1 million less than last year’s.

The proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 will eliminate a food service warehouse position, consolidate two bus routes and use $3.4 million in reserves. Two alternative and special education facilities will be combined at one location. The city system has 11 schools and 8,000 students.

School officials said the budget process has been challenging since 2008. Lembeck said privatizing custodial jobs was a difficult decision based on the economy, which has driven school systems to look at business and staffing practices.

“It becomes more difficult to protect what happens in the classroom without looking at some services that are not directly related,” Lembeck said. “Reducing days of instruction through furloughs and larger class sizes is not in the best interest of our core business of educating students.”

Marietta City Schools started outsourcing custodial jobs seven years ago through attrition. Schools spokesman Thomas Algarin said increasing the privatization will save the district $223,242 a year. Thirteen head custodians will continue as school employees and those left will have to apply to ICS Contract Services in Atlanta for custodial work after June 30.

Many other school systems have outsourced jobs to save money. Joe Edgens, executive director of facilities for the Nashville Public Schools System, said his district privatized about 618 custodial and 44 ground services positions in 2010, saving the system $5 million to $6 million a year. Nashville has 78,000 students and a proposed 2012 budget of $670 million.


Anonymous said...

Ms Tyson did try to privatize the custodian function last year. It was met by weeping parents who maintained that the custodians were like fathers to their children.
I had sent the BOE info on a national company that privatizes the bus system for schools. I am sure that you can imagine the tremendous response that I got.

DCSS operates in reverse to Marietta. As seen in the last belt tightening round, the instructional staff got cut and the administrators went untouched. The teaching function comes in last.

I wonder how much money cold be saved just by eliminating or privatizing the "jobs" of the BOE family members employed by DCSS. lol

Gayle said...

When she took over as Interim Superintendent and cut teaching positions and raised class sizes, she said outsourcing custodial, security, and grounds maintenance would be a consideration for 2011 and 2012. Have we ever heard Ms. Tyson say the core business is educating students and then take the steps necessary to protect our core business? I guess Dr. Walker would be very upset with that since his son is a security officer.

DCSS Teacher said...

Note that the Marietta budget was filled partly by using $3.4 million from reserve funds. That surely will help.

The custodian thing...surprisingly, last year, many DCSS teachers sided with the weeping parents and supported keeping all support staff, part of the false sentiment of "supporting each other" by treating all DCSS employees "the same." This was one of Dr. Lewis's main mantras. How many times have we heard this in industry: we're just one big family. Except, we aren't.

To me, this really made no sense in a crumbling school system like DCSS: the custodians would have been, as in Marietta, given the opportunity to apply to the private company, which is more of a guarantee than any of the teachers got who were fired. Also, let's be frank: is it the teachers that make a school district desirable for parents to move to and invest in, or is it the support staff? Making teaching a priority means that you have to push hard for the conditions that facilitate good teaching: smaller classes, consistent and consistently enforced discipline policies, useful professional development, effective administrators, and, yes, respectful treatment of employees. Paying them the salaries they expected when they were hired doesn't hurt, either.

Morale was pretty bad last semester and so far, nothing has happened that seems likely to improve it. Most teachers don't quit the profession because of the students: they quit because of the administration and working conditions. DCSS is not doing much to keep us here.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the bottom line, the "core business" of DCSS is to keep the administrative job machine chugging along at the present or increased rate of salaries and benefits. Education of the children is used as the vehicle to get the tax money necessary to keep the core business going.

Anon said...

Yes, exactly, it depends on how you define "core business" ... the board members who keep sabotaging the superintendant search are clearly part of the Francis Edwards/Ron Ramsey "jobs progrm".

teacher said...

Well said dundevil!!!!

Gayle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.