Monday, January 23, 2012

Budget decisions can sometimes return to haunt

It may be time to pay that piper.

Read this article by Ty Tagami at the AJC:

Suit could cost DeKalb millions

The school system in DeKalb County experienced a setback in a lawsuit brought by employees that could someday cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, yet a top official says he’s unaware of plans to set money aside in case the county is forced to pay.

Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger ruled in October against DeKalb’s claim that it was immune to a lawsuit over suspended payments to a supplemental retirement fund for teachers, bus drivers and other employees.

The case is on appeal, with hearings scheduled for April. If the school system loses the appeal, the lawsuit will continue in the DeKalb court system. So far, the case involves only two plaintiffs, but they are seeking class action status. If it is granted and if the county loses the case, taxpayers could be compelled to make back payments to the thousands of employees in the retirement plan.

The school system had been paying into the plan since 1979, but suspended payments in 2009 because of a budget shortfall. A teacher and a school counselor sued last March, charging the suspension was a breach of contract. They are demanding the restoration of all payments for three years and counting. It’s unclear how much the total could be.

The only calculation available in the court record is for the 2009-10 school year, when DeKalb was scheduled to pay $26.5 million into the tax-sheltered annuity plan.

Assuming the annual contribution — about 6 percent of each employee’s pay — didn’t change much, the total could exceed $50 million, said John Salter, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

Yet school board Chairman Eugene Walker said he knows of no plan to save money for the possibility of a payout.

That's the word from the former finance chair who is now our board chair.

Click this link to read the rest...


LaLaMeeka Chadwalli said...

Please tell me K & S is not at the School System trough once again. If they are, add another 10 million to the final payout for legal fees.

Anonymous said...

The BOE needs to do the right thing - either pay the teachers their retirement money promised or pay Social Security. How can DCSS keep good teachers when they keep reneging on promises made to teachers? I am an excellent teacher from NC looking for a teaching job in GA (family move), and I will not consider DCSS because of this issue alone.

Anonymous said...

Gee whiz...on the watch of our highly touted CPA/Lawyer!

This is what happens when we elect amatures to do what professionals need to be doing.

We're so hosed!

Anonymous said...

The other metro school systems that do not pay into a TSA pay into Social Security (with the exception of APS which pays $4,000 to $5,000 more a year in teacher salary). DeKalb needs to either pay into Social Security or the TSA for teachers.

If I teach for DeKalb for 15 or 20 years (say from age 22 until age 38 or 42) and then leave the teaching field in Georgia, I do not get Teacher's Retirement benefits OR Social Security monthly benefits when I retire.

There are extenuating circumstances - e.g. If I work somewhere in my 40s and 50s and I pay into Social Security, then I can get substantially reduced Social Security benefits when I turn 62 or 66.

In general, the negative retirement implications are substantial for teachers who do not pay into Social Security. The TSA has always offset this - that's why we voted to leave the Social Security system. I was teaching in 1977 and voted on this measure that started in 1978. I remember the very serious debates that went on among the teachers and other employees. We would never have voted to leave the Social Security system if the Board TSA had not been substituted.

At the time it seemed like a good idea for both parties. The DCSS Board of Education would stabilize their alternative contributions, and teachers would still have some retirement alternative (many teachers do not make 30 years). The arrangement worked very well for both parties. For over 30 years the DCSS Board was able to pay the SAME percent into the Board TSA as they paid into Social Security in 1977 even as Social Security contributions percentages climbed.

Lewis started using the TSA to balance the budget in 2009 during the recession because along with letting 275 teaching positions go unfilled as teachers left the system, this was an intellectually lazy and politically expedient way to balance the budget. It ensured no one on the admin and support side was let go (politically expedient) and did not require any analysis of programs' and positions' effectiveness (intellectually lazy) for students in order to be continually and fully funded.

Ms. Tyson balanced the budget the exact same way Lewis did - around 300 MORE teaching positions went unfilled as teachers left the system and she kept the TSA suspended (so easy to just lop off this money rather than drill down into the data to look at eliminating redundant and ineffective positions and programs). The BOE approved these measures because they did not want to get "under the hood" of the DeKalb School System any more than Ms. Tyson did.

Having LOW teacher salaries as well as NO Social Security and NO TSA in a LOW income school system when performance based pay is being implemented for Georgia teachers is NOT the way to attract and retain good teachers. This is now the situation DeKalb Schools now finds itself in. Who will be the ultimate losers in this situation? Readers of this comment can figure that out for themselves.

Anonymous said...

I think that this case could be Dekalb's new major problem. The BOE without much consideration of consequences easily voted to stop TSA contributions for teachers. This was absolutely a betrayal to faculty and promises made to them.. Teachers were never given a two year warning before this was "done" to them. Now, our BOE chairman so nonchalantly states there are no plans to right this wrong. As he says, "not to my knowledge". Unfortunately, there is no knowledge in his participation on the board and I now fear with his floundering leadership. Dekalb teachers have every right to expect either the TSA contribution or participation in SS. I believe that this case will be won by teachers and become another nightmare for Dekalb School finances. We desperately need knowledgable, qualified people to sit on our BOE.

Anonymous said...

Lewis and Tyson presented their recommendations for the budget to the finance committee and then to the full BOE. Public hearings were held on the budget as required by law. Citizens spoke against this method of balancing the budget. And like it always does, the BOE chose to ignore those concerns, deny their moral/legal obligation for fair treatment of employees and used this easy fix to help their budget. The BOE holds total responsibility for this - they are the only ones that vote on the budget. Given how they respond to proposals to cut their own salary or travel expenses, you can bet if it was their TSA or social security, they would be screaming "foul".

Cerebration said...

Recall that Womack was on the board way back in the 70s when the decision was made to drop out of Social Security and go with this "new" plan.

Recall also, that rather than make cuts, Gene Walker wanted to simply raise taxes to pay for it all:

Walker said he was disappointed that the board didn’t have the “courage” to raise taxes.

“I said from the beginning it was wrong to balance the budget 100 percent on the back of our programs and our employees, and that’s precisely what’s been done,” Walker said. “It has nothing to with black and white. I think it has more to do with republicans and democrats.”

No tax hike for DeKalb schools

Anonymous said...

Yet we continue to elect some BOE members who are not concerned about the entire school system. It amazes me how they expect the teachers to be pleased and comfortable with the LOW teacher salaries as well as NO Social Security and NO TSA! Dekalb is definitely a LOW income school system and they will base teacher pay on student performance. A teacher can teach, teach, and teach but the she cannot take the test for the student. Why not evaluate student performance on the poor leadership of female administrators in DCSS?

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 12:27

Student achievement is the total responsibility of the DCSS Upper Management administrators and the Board of Education members. They have hired the teachers and principals, made all funding decisions, and set all of the policies, procedures and programs for the school system. Until they are held accountable nothing will change for students.

Anonymous said...

Great...another lawsuit for Dekalb to be involed in.
Because the BOE does not know how to handle finances...respect our teachers and do the right thing for them!
I have heard virtually no discussion of this TSA travesty at board meetings, but I do remember quite a long discussion of the value of gifts that staff and board could accept. And I do remember a certain board member not wanting to take a small decline in their board compensation to help the deficit. Is there another Board of Education so incompetent anywhere else in the U.S?

Anonymous said...

Nope...none other so incompetent. Our DeKalb board of ed -circling the bowl, headed by a troll.

Sorry, that wasn't nice...but it was accurate.

Anonymous said...

"Yet school board Chairman Eugene Walker said he knows of no plan to save money for the possibility of a payout.
Not to my knowledge, Walker said, because we anticipate success in the courts.
Walker said the decision to cease payments was necessary to balance the budget."

-Thank you Fernbank, for electing Gene Walker.

The school system countered in court that it had authority to cancel the payments at any time, without notice.

-Thank you Josie Alexnader, and the army of lawyers DCSS pays obscene amounts of our tax dollars to, for not only making up stuff as they go, but also being arrogant about it.

Anonymous said...

Great post by Anon 11:13 AM.

Tom Bowen needs to take a big part of the blame for this. He allowed Crawford Lewis/Pope/TysonTurk/Moseley to constantly take shortcuts that left the Central Office bloat in place while sticking it to teachers.

Ramona Tyson needs to take a big part of the blame, as she was in charge of business and administration. Marcus Turk reported to her. What did Tyson ever accomplish, as head of B & A, and as interim Supt.? Why is she so untouchable? Atkinson should realize already that Tyson is part of the problem.

Maybe we should do an Open Records Request for all e-mails from Lewis, Tyson, Turk and Bowen regarding using the TSA to balance the budget.

Anonymous said...

"Dekalb teachers have every right to expect either the TSA contribution or participation in SS."

To which I respond that DKC taxpayers have every right to expect that every dollar of their hard earned tax money is wisely spent by both the County and School System.

So.. both the teachers and taxpayers have not had their expectations met. It's a draw. Taxpayers pay the second highest school taxes in the Metro area and about the same for County taxes.

So teacher, as a taxpayer ... I am taxed out. Both of us should move to a County run by more intelligent people who really serve the public and not have the public serve them.

Anonymous said...

Look at this ridiculous puff piece in The Champion about Gene Walker: If they

If they only Googled him, they'd find out what we all already know. Howevewr, his son is now the head of the DeKalb Housing Authority, which pays to post public notices in The Champion. Cough, cough.

Officials failing to disclose finances

Parole board member on trial for sexual harassment

State paid $190,000 to settle earlier sex harassment suit

Streat's lawyers file another motion on AG

Suit accuses parole board member of sexual harassment

DK Development Authority: Walker resigns, ‘stimulus’ draft released

DeKalb school board tables discussion of ethics code

Sembler donations went undisclosed until election was over

DeKalb school board drops Sembler suit

Developer seeking tax break gave $45K to DeKalb political races

Anonymous said...

My mom is a teacher in this messed up backward district and was gutted when DCSS pulled this trick. This is money she's going to need to pay for things like nursing homes in the future. End of life care isn't cheap.

As a widow, she could get my father's Social Security, but they've already told her that because DCSS doesn't pay into they system, those widow payments will be cut to nothing. They will confiscate HIS Social Security that he had paid into his whole life, because her retirement will be drawn from a rogue system.

I have yet to hear of any plan to get DCSS into Social Security, by any teacher's union or movement or initiative. That frustrates me. Surely some union rep can call up the Social Security office and just ask them the procedure for how to get back in the system. Does another teachers' vote need to be taken? A petition? What? How can we make this happen?

Anonymous said...

"Assuming the annual contribution about 6 percent of each employee’s pay didn’t change much, the total could exceed $50 million"

The Big Question is: Will we taxpayers hold the BOE and Central Office accountable? $50 million? even if the county wins the lawsuit, this was an incredible risk, taken by Tom Bowen/BOE/Crawford Lewis/Marcus Turk/Ramona Tyson.

Yet, we allow the same players to stay in place, and the bloat, nepotism, waste, etc. to fester and fester.

Also, if DCSS does lose the lawsuit, Gene Walker will convince the rest of the BOE to raise our taxes!!

Jo said...

Thanks, Anonymous 3:48 PM!

I came to this article [] via a link in the DeKalb School Watch blog. The kind of unsubstantiated fluff in this article by Daniel Beauregard is the very reason why I have no regard for The Champion. It is certainly not a newspaper with journalistic integrity.

Speculation on DeKalb School Watch is that this puff piece was written because Gene Walker's son now heads the DeKalb Housing Authority and they advertise in The Champion. A quid pro quo, if you will.

But I suspect it is more than that. After all, where else would the DeKalb Housing Authority place ads? The Champion is DeKalb County's legal organ.

I knew Carolyn Glenn when she was bound and determined that The Champion would become the legal organ for DeKalb County, come hell or high water. I suspect that she owes Gene Walker big time for making that happen. After all, quid pro quo --you know, tit-for-tat ... you-scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours -- is the way things work in South DeKalb and in the DeKalb County School System, regardless of qualifications and to the exclusion of all else.

Anonymous said...

Lay off Dr. Walker. He was the Board Member who pushed for a tax increase Now,that he is Chair, maybe we can get some help either with SS or TSA. The county raised taxes so much last year until I don't think a school tax will pass.
Okay, Dr. Atkinson, it is time for you to prove your loyalty to teachers. The paychecks coming twice per month is just a pain in the checkbook. It didn,t do anything foe me but maybe it helped other employees, so I am appreciative. Now, you have the opportunity to do the right thing for all employees.

Anonymous said...

It is time to cut those 300 extra administrators. It just might save enough money to cover the annual payments into those Board sponsored TSA accounts.

Anonymous said...

"As a widow, she could get my father's Social Security, but they've already told her that because DCSS doesn't pay into they system, those widow payments will be cut to nothing. "

Yes. That is another downside. When teachers voted in 1977, the "Windfall Elimination Provision" was not in place (passed under Reagan in the 80s). If your husband (or wife) who had paid into Social Security all his/her life died, his/her some of his Social Security could pass on to the spouse. The "Windfall Elimination Provision" stopped this.

Another thing the "Windfall Elimination Provision" did is penalize you if you went to collect Social Security on earnings in other jobs where you paid Social Security if you collected a pension from any entity that does not pay into Social Security. So if you worked in private industry for 20 years and paid into Social Security and then worked as a teacher for DeKalb for 10 and then retire at age 62 at 20% of your pay, you will pay a monthly penalty on any Social Security you pay for the rest of your life.

Another negative with not being in Social Security is that SSDI does not apply to many teachers. As long as you work in the school system in Georgia, you have LTD (Long Term Disability). if you leave before retirement (30 years or 10 years and age 60), then you will need to have contributed a certain numbers of quarters and a certain amount to Social Security in order to qualify for SSDI (Disability). While no one thinks they will ever become unable to work, this happens to a certain percentage of our population. That's why we have Disability protection. If you started at 22 teaching in DCSS and then you leave 15 years later and do not teach, you will need to start from scratch qualifying for SSDI.

There are huge implications to the suspension of the Board TSA while also not electing Social Security. Lewis, Tyson and the BOE did not and judging from Eugene Walker's comment does not care to think this matter through from the standpoint of being competitive when hiring and retaining good teachers.

It seems so odd that the BOE has ensured the non teaching admin and support personnel are paid so much over the marketplace rate. Comparing the pay and benefits for DCSS teachers with teachers in the metro area show that the BOE has no interest in assuring DeKalb teaching compensation is competitive. Just another example of putting members of the classroom last.

Anonymous said...

I just want a step increase. Is that too much to ask? Its sad when metro counties are outpacing us in pay without steps. Hopefully I can get out of this system and into a system where I am respected and my pay reflects it.

Anonymous said...

The board violated it's own policy by not giving sufficient notice (I believe 1 year) before suspending payments.

Of course this wasn't caught until months after the budget vote. Yet they did not correct their mistake and reinstate payments. Instead in an effort to sweep it under the rug they quietly voted to change the policy.

DCSS will certainly lose this lawsuit!

Anonymous said...

It was the May 10, 2010 board meeting when they "discovered" it was against their own policy to stop the TSA.

From the post on 5/10/10:
"The board also found out that the decision they made last year (per Dr. Lewis) to withhold contributions to teacher's TSA accounts was against their own board policy. They voted to consider a change to the policy (it must lay for a month and will be voted on in June) and promised to go back and make the contributions that were withheld last year against policy when they have the funds. Going forward, after the policy change in June, TSA contributions will once again be withheld next year."

Of course the minutes for this meeting are not on the DCSS website...

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 3:26

"Taxpayers pay the second highest school taxes in the Metro area and about the same for County taxes."

So why is our compensation for teachers in DeKalb lower than other systems? We can easily compare our teachers compensation to other systems' teacher salary schedules and we know that every system except APS (which has much higher teacher salaries) contributes between 6% to 7.5% to TSAs or Social Security.

Of course since NONE of the DCSS non teaching personnel have ANY salary schedules posted in DeKalb we can't compare them to other systems (are there even salary schedules for the non teaching employees?) Where is the money going?

Anonymous said...

The AJC says the referendum vote on discontinuing paying Social Security was in 1979, but that's not correct. The referendum was in school year 1977-78. I remember because I voted on this school year 1977-78 to start in school year 1978-79. I took a job in private industry fall, 1978 so by 1979 I hadn't worked for the school system for quite a while. We had spirited debates about this in school year 1977-78.

I wonder if the AJC got their timeline from DCSS's PR department?

Anonymous said...

What we need is a good and thorough investigative reporter to look under all the rocks and shuttered closets of the Dekalb School System. It could be as big a blockbuster as the CRCT cheating scandal.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Anon 11:13 and others for this post, and thanks to the courageous teachers who are pursuing this lawsuit. Proper retirement planning is crucial to everyone, and DeKalb's abdication of the TSA and Social Security is a terrible decision. Qualified teachers will seek work elsewhere, where the modest salaries are mitigated by a decent retirement plan. To me, this trumps step increases and furlough days in importance. I've been around long enough to see the value of the TSA over many years, and the new folks in the system are losing tens of thousands of dollars toward their retirements. This issue needs immediate solutions, not another perpetual legal battle where only the lawyers benefit.

Anonymous said...

Poor teachers! Not only do they not deserve a salary, they do not deserve the minimum coverage of social security!

Anonymous said...

We were promised that the money was to be returned to us. I think that there was something in board policy that stated that the to stop payments that staff had to be given advanced notice of a year.
Staff never had any input before the decision was made to stop paying into TSA. It was just done. I think (my opinion) once issues began to surface that individuals in the DCSS MAY have used money in an incorrect way,it was hard to have faith in the system.
Please do not complain that staff in DeKalb got these payments and you may have been in a job that did not have that benefit. Just as we selected education, you picked your career.
Perhaps if so many charges had not surfaced, people would have been willing to make this kind of sacrifice. But we do not know if it was due to a very bad economic climate, or was it due to the greed of people that were suppose to safe guard the welfare of the staff and students.

Anonymous said...

@anon 7:30 - What exactly are you trying to say? I'm confused. Sarcasm on a blog is often misunderstood, since there is no body language or verbal cue to read with it.

Anonymous said...

To me what is worse, is the new teachers have to wait 3 years for TSA to kick in. That is anyone newly hired to the district. This is entire TSA is robbing teachers and stinks to high heavens. Yes, the teachers are due their money, but it should be available to them from day one in the district, not after their third year.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:01 pm

"To me what is worse, is the new teachers have to wait 3 years for TSA to kick in"

This is not what we voted on in 1977-78. The TSA contributions would start on the first day you started to work. From 1978 until 2003 it started when employees started working for DCSS.

Aren't TEACHING employees the ONLY ones affected by the TSA cut? I thought non teaching employees are still getting TSA contributions. Correct me if I'm wrong here.

Cerebration said...

My mom worked in the library in Ohio for years. They opted out of SS and opted in the Ohio Pension Program. She retired and what a mess! The SS office has done nothing but mess up her accounting - they send her money, and then a year later, they want it back! It's ridiculous! Take note too - our US Congress fiddled with these SS rules -- for everyone except themselves. These SS adjustments do not apply to Congress.

Anonymous said...

The Dekalb County School Board needs to do the right thing. If it committed to pay this retirement, then it needs to do just that. We don't need another expensive lawsuit.

Sometimes I get the feeling that the School Board is the Welfare Agency for Attorneys (WAA!)

Anonymous said...

In the Lewis era, the TSA funds of mostly 12 month staff were sometimes used to make payroll for all staff instead of being deposited into the staff TSA accounts. Don't ask me how I know, I just do.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Hey Anon 6:30 - There are parents who have tried to help the media to investigate DCSS. A group approached the I-Team at Fox 5 after the fraudulent demographers report came out. After multiple document dumps, with them as well as WSB-TV, the reporters and producers told the group the story was too difficult to tell. Until of course the indictments rained down, my wife was called the next day for a comment and she told them she was no longer interested and that they have the documents.

The AJC were given the same documents. Their beat reporter, who is no longer on the beat, gave the documents and the names of some in the group directly to Clew. The former beat reporter wrote that this group was "loud and vociferous". Needless to say the group lost their momentum after the AJC marginalized them. I'm still not sure how Clew had that reporter wrapped around his finger like he had, but they were tight.

One thing this group has learned through all this is that Karma can be a Beyotch sometimes. The Walker, Edward's, Clew Crew is starting to reap what they sowed. Let's hope the media stays on it. I'm glad the AJC put Ty Tygami and Megan Meteucci (sp?) on the DCSS beat. I haven't heard from that former beat writer lately, though her byline still appears on the AJC website.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 5:22 PM - No, the TSA contributions were stopped for all eligible employees, not just teachers.

Anonymous said...

TSA was dropped for all employees who qualify for TRS....if yu notice new job postings...for most non-teaching positions, this is no longer being offered to these employees, and the Employee retirement system is an insult to any worker. They also have no one to work with the retiring employees to make the best decisions for long term financial health. WHAT A JOKE! GET READY TO PAY UP AGAIN DEKALB COUNTY!!!!

Anonymous said...

@ 10:16. You're absolutely dead on about the total absence of retirement counseling for employees, especially newer employees who are not yet savvy in the deceptive ways of the County office, and who do not realize that DCSS has robbed their financial future.

All Dekalb offers are outside hucksters who try to sell you on one of their investment plans. One came to a school and the rap on her bad character that preceded her torpedoed that. What person wants to entrust some of these sharks with what the County should be doing?

Of course, the trust factor between the County office and teachers is just as rotten.

Teachers think they were done a favor by the County's moving to bimonthly checks. DCSS was hoping that, in their delight over having their checks split, teachers would forget that they have been robbed.

But, thankfully, some light has been shed with the news of Judge Seeliger's ruling.

Anonymous said...

And, by the way, where was ODE during all this? Do they support the Plaintiffs?

Anonymous said...

ODE is a sad joke.

David Schutten should be screaming about how poor the teacher retirement plan is. He should be all over the AJC about the possible $50 mil owed to teachers. We deserve better.

But Schutten had plenty of time to join eduKALB and endorse Gene Huckster Walker.

Schutten should be furious how DCSS concentrates on admin and staff at the expense of teachers.

Schutten and ODE are one big bad joke!

Anonymous said...

Hilarious...The Champion took down the article on Gene Walker after some comments questioning the fluff piece.

Here's a Decatur schools article. it's a great school system run very professionally, unlike DCSS.

Each student at Oakhurst, which is a K-3 school, selected work throughout the year to create a portfolio with the help of their teachers. The work each student selected demonstrated a learning process they went through over a period of time.

The students then presented these portfolios to their parents during the conference. Fowler said each student prepared for their conference by practicing scripts and skills such as eye contact, clear articulation of ideas and presenting evidence to support statements.

“We want to get feedback from the parents because their view on this whole process is very important. We also want to go back and get some feedback from our teachers,” Fowler said.

Mack said last year Oakhurst sent a team of teachers, including Fowler, to a seminar in Kansas City, Mo., where a similar pilot program was being implemented. She said most schools using the program have at least two student-led conferences a year.

“Hopefully some of the other schools will say, ‘OK, Oakhurst has tried this and now we’re ready to take on this new initiative also.’ Since it’s included in the strategic plan it’s probably going to be something that will be required of each school within the next five years,” Mack said.

Before the school decides whether to have another conference in the spring, Fowler said it first needed to review all the feedback collected from parents and teachers.

“There are some teachers who are already willing to automatically say they want to do it again in the springtime but because it’s a pilot we want to make sure that it’s something done seamlessly and not too stressful for students or teachers,” Fowler said.

After the conference, parents were asked to give their child feedback. Mack said another important part of the process was giving each student a chance to give their feedback.

Both Mack and Fowler said the conferences wouldn’t impact student grades, they were just a way to build confidence and student achievement. She also said the school would still have the same number of parent/teacher conferences each year.

“Just like educators have to stop and reflect and think about the things that they did right and they’re proud of, we’re trying to get kids into that too…if you can get kids to that point at five or six, just imagine what will happen as they continue to grow in life,” Mack said.

Anonymous said...

Board member Jay Cunningham implied the resolution was a tool of Womack’s “personal vendetta” against Walker and was trying to remove him from the board. Walker has been a source of controversy since his dual role as a board member and a member of the DeKalb County Development Authority led to a clash over economic incentives for developers.

“The calls that I’m getting is that Paul Womack is trying to get Gene Walker off this board,” Cunningham said.

Anonymous said...

Gene will definitely try to raise taxes!

How the board avoids that could come in the form of cuts, tax increases or both. Several board members, including Womack and Don McChesney, have vocally opposed a tax increase and others, including Eugene Walker, have advocated for it. The board has not raised school taxes in several years. Walker said he believes the school system should not bear the full burden of cuts. Other board members and district officials, including Lewis, have admitted that the central office has grown too fast compared to enrollment growth and is ripe for reductions.

Anonymous said...

Does one really have to PAY to hear the state of the schools address in Dekalb County? Can someone explain the logic?

Why are the having it at a hotel and requiring payments? Shouldn't our tax dollars suffice as payment?

Anonymous said...

The school system is represented by Sutherland Asbill in this litigation.

I keep seeing comments that the "school system" should pay the teachers either the TSA or the social security benefits. You do realize don't you that while employers pay about 6.2% into the SS system, the employee also must pay about 6.2% of their pay up to $106,000.

I am curious whether DeKalb teachers pay into both the state Teachers Retirement System and the TSA? Are the payments mandatory like SS? And at what rate?

In retrospect, my guess is that teachers and DCSS chose the route of the TSA because it was less money than SS back in 1978 or 1979. But in retrospect it seems as if it is more risky. I wonder how the TSA has been invested, what are the investment returns and expenses.

Anonymous said...

Womack and Walker are huge buddies now, allies of sorts. It will be interesting to see when budget discussions really start what happens.

Walker who will want to raise taxes and Womack who won't.

Walker-- board chair, Womack, finance committee chair (app't by Walker by the way)

Anonymous said...

I was a young teacher in 1978 when DCSS employees were asked to attend a series of meetings in which the pros of voting "yes" to withdrawing from Social Security were discussed.

We were told that Social Security would not be there for us when we were ready to retire, and the TSA would far outperform any Social Security earnings. We were also promised that the Board of Education would contribute the same percentage they were currently contributing to Social Security. This seemed to be a win-win situation. I, along with the majority of employees, voted "yes" to the DCSS proposal.

I was very young and mistakenly believed the Board of Education would uphold their promise.
Instead the Board of Education has saved millions of dollars by
1) not covering teachers in the first three years. 2)reducing the contribution percentage to the TSA and finally, 3)voting to suspend the TSA and balance the budget on the backs of their teachers.

I will be retiring soon after a long and distinguished teaching career. I will have no Social Security and with the TSA suspension, I will have much less retirement income. I truly wish I had known then what I know now about broken promises.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:19 pm

Here are two posts. I hope they help clarify this for you as well as readers and commenters.

Part 1: TRS

Members of TRS (including quite a few non teaching employees) and DCSS both pay into TRS (Teachers Retirement System). TRS members pay around 6% out of their salary, and the county pays around a 14% override of the TRS member's salary - e.g. on $40,000 a teacher would pay $2,400 a year out of his paycheck, and the county would pay around $5,600 a year in an override. Since this is a percentage, the more you make, the more is paid in by you and your employer. This occurs during a 30 year time span for a TRS member. This money is invested in the marketplace by Georgia TRS professional money managers. Sometimes the ROI is down and sometimes it is up.

Teacher contributions are stationary, but this is not true of the school system. Since the benefits are defined, when the economy is good, less contributions are required of the school system. When the economy is bad, more contributions are required to keep the defined benefits consistent. However, when the economy is bad, this arrangement actually does affect the members of TRS in a very draconian way. Remember, defined benefits must be funded by a transfer of money from working members to retired members, and remember that the percentage that teachers pay stays fairly stationary. Therefore, when the county has to pay more, it simply does not give COLAs to the working teachers and in the last few years have cut compensation through furloughs and increased class sizes by funding less teaching positions, etc.

That's a major reason that teachers have such downward pressure on their wages - they must pay for the benefits the retired teachers receive so when the TRS payments go up, the current teachers get stagnant or less pay. The tacit agreement is that the current teachers will receive these defined benefits when they retire so they defer the raises that private industry take for granted. Well - took for granted before the Great Recession. But you have to look at 30, 40 or 50 years over time that this system has been in place - not this recession which is a transient although very deep and painful economic experience.

For example, during the go-go years of the mid-2000's, DeKalb teachers experienced freezes on their pay while DeKalb paid more to teachers retirement (we had/have a lot of boomers retiring). In summary, teachers are arguably the most well educated group of our populace and take less pay for more security and a stable retirement.

I'm a retired teacher and can remember the times I got little to no COLAs because the TRS contributions from the county went up. I took this leveling of pay in stride since I was looking at retirement myself one day.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:19

Part II: TSA

When we opted out of Social Security in 1978, the BOE committed to paying the 6% they contributed to Social Security into a Tax Sheltered Annuity. They would choose a company to manage the investments. This was much debated. Social Security is a defined benefit while the TSA is a defined contribution so the TSA was seen more risky. Social Security ends when you die. The TSA money is intact at your death so it's a form of insurance for your family. You cannot opt out of Social Security, but this new way meant you got more money upfront to spend or invest. The pros seemed overweigh the cons of trading Social Security for the TSA so teachers voted to opt out of Social Security.

I don't know about most teachers. I invested as much as possible in my personal TSA because I knew that one day I would retire. You were not required to match the county contribution, but most teachers I know matched it simply for this reason. At one point in time, I was investing as much as 20% (403Bs are different than 401Ks in several respects ) of my income in my personal TSA . That was very difficult for me financially, but I wanted a secure retirement. Teachers are generally an exceptionally economically conservative group.

There were 2 TSAs - the Board TSA that invested 6% and the Personal TSA - your own account that you invested and managed and came off the top of your income. This was and remains optional.

All of the metro Atlanta systems with the exception of APS (which pays around $4,000 to $5,000 more a year in salary to teachers) pay Social Security and TRS or they have TSAs and TRS. That is the real crux of this post. Can DeKalb be competitive in the compensation realm for teachers?

Since we can place a monetary value on the Board TSA and/or Social Security, a system like DeKalb is simply much less competitive when contrasted to the other metro systems that have the same salary but offer more advantageous retirement benefits in the way of Social Security and/or Board TSAs. Teachers are a conservative group - as they should be - don't most parents want stable and reliable adults taking care of and teaching their children? So benefits including retirement matter very much to them.

Most DeKalb schools are behind in rates of academic achievement, and teachers are being pressured to "bootstrap" them to grade level. Indeed, their pay will in part be tied to that. Do you see how we can't attract and retain the most effective teachers when we are behind in total compensation for teachers?

DeKalb has the highest percent of their budget going to the non teaching employee sector than any metro system with the possible exception of APS. Dr. Atkinson must "rightsize" the non teaching side and reinvest in the teaching side of DeKalb. We must offer teacher compensation equal to other systems. That needs to frame this debate.

Anonymous said...

"I am curious whether DeKalb teachers pay into both the state Teachers Retirement System and the TSA? Are the payments mandatory like SS? And at what rate?"

Yes all Georgia teachers must pay into the Teachers Retirement System. It is automatically deducted from your paycheck. TSA was meant to replace Social Security payments.

As you know, you pay into Social Security in the form of a tax. Your employer is also required to pay into Social Security in the form of a tax. Your employer may also offer the opportunity to contribute to a private retirement account. Some employers contribute money to that private account in the form of matching funds.

When DCSS left the Social Security system, they agreed to pay into a private account the money they would have paid in Social Security taxes for their employees. Teachers were encouraged to contribute the money that they would have paid in Social Security taxes into a retirement account. Unlike Social Security, these contributions are voluntary.

The problem is that DCSS has reneged on their part of the deal that was made when teachers voted to leave Social Security. DCSS does not do a good job of explaining this situation to employees. Many people don't realize that they need to set up a retirement account and contribute the money that they would have paid in Social Security taxes.

Anonymous said...

My eighty year old mother will tell you that when she was young, she was told that Social Security would not be there for her either.

Cerebration said...

From an online Q&A:

What is the Social Security contribution rate, or tax rate, for 2011?

The 2011 tax rate is 4.2 percent for employees, 6.2 percent for employers, and 10.4 percent for self-employed people. These rates apply to earnings up to the maximum taxable amount ($106,800 in 2011).

The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 reduced 2011 Social Security tax rates for employees and self-employed people by two percentage points, from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent for employees and from 12.4 percent to 10.4 percent for self-employed people. Without further changes in the law, these tax rates will return to 6.2 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively, beginning in 2012.

Anonymous said...

I think the Board TSA was 5%. When Social Security was exchanged for the TSA in 1978, it was around 5%.

Even while Social Security rates went up, the Board TSA stayed the same. Then in the early 2000s, the BOE decided that employees could only get the Board TSA after 3 years of service. This is not an option they had under Social Security. You cannot suspend Social Security for the first 3 years of your employees time with your company.

Lewis said he was going to suspend it for a year and then Tyson pretty much permanently axed it - the BOE agreeing of course.

This will be an interesting court case.

Anonymous said...

This could put a huge hole in DCSS's budget. Add to that the fact that more and more non teaching personnel have been added with stimulus money and now Race to the Top money. At some point in time, federal funding will decrease. Dr. Atkinson needs to start cutting and "rightsizing" those non teaching personnel now - not later.

I don't think taxes can be raised enough to plug these holes.

Cerebration said...

I don't consider this a hole in the budget. I consider it fixing a hole that was created. They never should have balanced the budget this way. They should have dug elsewhere. And, as I recall, they dug too deep anyway - and cut more than they actually needed to cut.

Anonymous said...

@ Cere

You are right. Ms. Tyson cut more than she needed to thinking she could quickly get this over and have some change to spare. The BOE was extremely pleased because it left all their "friends and family" intact.

Her cuts were more of the meat cleaver kind though than a scalpel. Rather than do the hard work of closely evaluating personnel, programs and departments, she just lopped off teaching positions and the TSA.

Ms. Tyson had been the head of Human Resources and Finance before she was the Interim Superintendent so it wasn't like she din't have the access and opportunity to know about the holes in the budget and the personnel and programs of DCSS. I expected much more of her.

Anyone with a calculator could have done the simplistic budget cutting she did. Ms. Tyson basically just did what Lewis did the year before - suspend the TSA and eliminate teaching positions. Not surprising since she was his direct support and he recommended her for the position of Interim Superintendent.

Cerebration said...

Well the board carries a lot of the blame. Paul Womack made a plea to aim for over $100 million in cuts - just to be prepared for a worse economy. The prediction was something like $80 million short - but he thought they should just go ahead and cut more 'in case'! And - the mantra then became, even if we cut the CO, it wouldn't make a dent in the deficit. And, word on the street is that the board then tied Tyson's hands as far as cutting administration. They brag that 'no teachers lost their jobs' - which is technically true - except for paras, media clerks, CTSS, and other school house based staff. However, once again, the majority of teachers who left the system were simply not replaced.

The increase in class size is what was the result.

Click this link to revisit that budget sheet. It was pretty simplistic, IMO...

The Amazing May 10 Board Meeting

Passionate... said...

You are so right about this is a hole that should never have been dug. BOE needs to do the right thing. Stop lawsuit and restore monies now for all eligible employees. Then continue either TSA as previously agreed upon or start Social Security. Don't raise taxes and don't add furlough days to staff members. Cut AIC staff including Tyson to help defray the cost. And take 15 effective teaching coaches from AIC to put in place by February 28th deadline for RTT dollars.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! Now the Board is in an adversarial relationship with its teachers! Especially if teacher plaintiffs are granted class cert in a class action suit. Then the Board will probably spend millions of dollars in litigation costs and attorney's fees to fight its own teachers. What an utterly disgsting situation we're in. It's vicious! Shame on DCSS! Shame on the Dekalb BOE!

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Let's also not forget. If Obama wins re-election Federal taxes are going up, income tax, Cap gains, gas tax and the death tax will all be higher. DeKalb County taxes are already higher and if Walker has his way school taxes will go up as well. Gas prices are up 83%, over the past three years, meat is up 24% and poultry up 18%. Prices are going up yet we're paying our teachers less as well as making sure their retirement sucks. Why would anyone want to work here?

The outcome of this suit does not bode well for the DCSS stakeholders. The BOE should pay the back TSA payments immediately and continue it or move to SS. This is ludicrous!

When Tyson managed MIS she never knew where her people were or what systems could benefit DCSS. Purchasing large networks but no equipment to hook up to it. Uh? She even gave a $15k promotion to a former BOE chairpersons son and he didn't show up for work for 6 months, she had no idea!

She kept the gravy train fueled for another year of contracts and NOTHING improved. TWO deadlines missed for Federal and state funding, while she was in charge. I seem to recall some BOE reps saying that the interim needs to be Tyson so school operations would be unaffected during the transition. It seems to me her hands were tied by the BOE or she was part of the former regime. I think it was a little of both. Ms. Tyson, thank you for your service to DCSS. The numbers speak for themselves, it's time to take your money and resign.

The BOE and past leadership circles have driven DCSS off the cliff and I fear Dr. Atkinson will only be allowed to make some cosmetic changes as the regime lives on. For Pete's sake, Gene Walker is the BOE Chairman! Is this the change DCSS stakeholders wanted?

Anonymous said...

@ Atlanta Media Guy

"If Obama wins re-election Federal taxes are going up, income tax, Cap gains, gas tax and the death tax will all be higher"

Let's not obfuscate the issue by dragging Obama and the Democrats or Republicans into this debate. The Upper Administration and the BOE have made this mess all by themselves. Let them take the responsibility for it.

Paul Womack is a professed Republican and Eugene Walker is a professed Democract. Are you pleased with Paul Womack? Are you pleased with Eugene Walker? Can you tell any difference between the two of them when it has come to good decision making or putting students first?

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Sorry, didn't mean to obfuscate. I'm just saying, everyone is grabbing more money out of OUR pockets, R's and D's! Yet here at DCSS the very people we expect to educate our kids successfully are getting the screws put to them with less pay and no step increases.

Again, I apologize for the obfuscation, the point I'm trying to make is that life is costing us more and yet our feckless BOE decided to balance their budget on the teachers backs. Don't forget there were a lot of raises given to personnel NOT in the schools during this time. Cut the 300 positions at the Central Office FREEZE all non-classroom pay and get this hole filled in quickly.

Cerebration said...


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Atlanta Media Guy said...

To answer your question, I'm just as angry at Womack(R) as I am Walker(D).

The only political parties ruining DCSS are the past good ole boy and current friends and family networks. I think as more attention is brought before the public, during the upcoming trials, we're going to find out what has been discussed on the blogs and elsewhere were not far from the truth.

Anonymous said...

@ Atlanta Media Guy

You might be interested in a news article in the AJC this morning. The state has said that equalization grants will be hitting the "wealthy" counties harder next year. We need to expect the "wealthy" counties (like DeKalb) to pay more and get back less next year. Deal and the legislature must approve this. Since our lawmakers are disproportionately from rural areas, there is probably no doubt how they will vote.

DeKalb is considered a "wealthy" county because our property tax millage rate is so high. Every time our property tax millage rate is raised, we are considered even "wealthier" and more tax dollars flow from our county to the "poor" rural counties (like Gwinnett who has low property tax millage rates).

If the BOE raises our millage rate, then a substantial portion of that raise will NOT go to the students of DeKalb. It will go to the students of the "poor" rural students like Gwinnett.

Dr. Atkinson needs to start trimming those non teaching personnel as quickly as possible.

Voters need to start contacting their legislative representatives, and the BOE needs to hold the millage rate down and start lobbying against this change that will be so deleterious on our budget and the students of DeKalb.

AJC - A8 "Plan: Poor districts get more, others less"

Anonymous said...

@ 10:38 This is scary. We definitely need an overhaul of the entire school system. Jobs need to be cut, and I would go as far as to say we could lose more than what the study showed. It's time to really tighten up the spending. Raising our taxes even more, will not necessarily bring in more money, as the home values will fall even further. Any sane person, doesn't want to pay for an Acura and get a Yugo in return.

This one law is something that drives me crazy about Georgia. I have lived in other states with rural areas, and these people's local money stayed local and didn't get distributed according to what politicians thought was "fair."

Anonymous said...

I went to a meeting with our legislators and this was on the top of their items for this session.

Gwinnett is NOT a rural county and should not receive DeKalb County funds!

Stay active and let your representative hear your VOICE!

If you think the BOE doesn't listen, try and get in touch with your legislator!

Town Hall meeting tomorrow at Decatur City Hall with MMO and Jason CArter to discuss current issues for this session.

That would be a good start to letting them know our feelings!

Anonymous said...

The information about Gwinnett is dead on.

Unfortunately, MMO (Who I adore) and Jason Carter and the other democrats in the DeKalb delegation have virtually no influence in what happens at the capital. Democrats are a dying breed in GA politics.

For those of you so inclined, if you live in Fran Millar, Tom Taylor or Mike Jacob's district, that is who can make a difference on these issues. Contact them. OFTEN.

Anonymous said...

Just to expand on a couple of facts/issues concerning the lawsuit:

Whenever there is any court proceeding on the lawsuit (and there have been several already), two or three Sutherland Asbill attorneys attend, including the lead attorney, Thomas R. Bundy III, who the Board is paying to fly in from Washington, DC every time, despite the fact that there are around 200 Sutherland Asbill lawyers based in the Atlanta office. More money going to pay for lawyers and their airfare instead of going to educate our children.

It is a two-year notice that was required to alter any funding to the TSA. This notice provision was included in the original resolution establishing the TSA. It was later incorporated into a Board policy. One legal defense of the Board to the lawsuit is that they can change any of their policies any time that they want. This ignores the fact that it was a material part of the resolution establishing the TSA, not a mere policy that can be changed on a whim or whenever it is expedient.

Anonymous said...

New Birth Reopens with help from Aurora Schools.

Anonymous said...

More bad news. It seems that Susan Hurst has been named the interim CFO. She is in desperate need of anger management classes. The decisions keep getting worst.

Anonymous said...

Who is Susan Hurst and who is she replacing?

Anonymous said...

As much as I cannot stand Nathan Deal, it would be poetic justice if he took control of the Board from Eugene Walker. After his BS about the lawsuit and the super-expensive legal team.

Good riddance. They all need to go, including the newly elected members.

Occupy Dekalb!

Anonymous said...

There's a press release about the budget hearing tomorrow at 6:00 pm. It was published at 1:34 pm this afternoon.

Hope that gives all of you plenty of good notice to change your plans or make your plans to drive over to the Palace in rush hour traffic to attend the meeting.

The announcement's not on the friggin' DCSS website!

Transparency my ass!

Anonymous said...

I read about the board meeting on the DCSS website earlier this afternoon- you have to go to the school board page, and there they have a link to meetings.
I also was able to look at Dr. A's reform outline, released on the 24th... pretty vague, full of edu-speak.

Anonymous said...

"ODE is a sad joke.

David Schutten should be screaming about how poor the teacher retirement plan is. He should be all over the AJC about the possible $50 mil owed to teachers. We deserve better."

That is why I am not a member of ODE. The membership dues can be better spent. All you are doing with the membership fees are paying the ODE employees' salary. They did absolutely nothing for me when I had a problem.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I just sat through a presentation at Lakeside by PAGE. I am an ODE member, but at $12 a month for legal insurance as opposed for $47 for legal insurance and ineffective lobbying and representation from ODE.........I'm canceling my ODE membership

Anonymous said...

Did Anyone else see WSBTV 6pm news broadcast? They were asking the same questions we all want answered.

"Why is the DCSS paying so much money on employee studies only to ignore them."

I smell trouble brewing on the horizon. It always start with a tremble then the bog KABOOM!!!

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:29

Regarding the public input meeting for next year's budget.

It is posted on the ESIS website.

Go to the DeKalb School System website.
Under the lack of "Leaderhship" tab, click on the link to "eboard Home Page" which is the eboard website.

This will bring up another internet page for the eboard home page.

Under the "Meetings" tab is the list of allthe school board meetings currently scheduled.

You can find the notice for the meeting there, nothing else. No documents for review, no explanation of the meeting, just a note that the "Interim" CFO, Susan Hurst, will be giving a presentation of the 2012-2013 school budget.

This is very important and I recommend people SHOW UP, take notes and even video the meeting for accountability.

I hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the agenda for the meeting? Is the purpose of the meeting to listen to citizen requests and comments, or will the meeting include budgetary commitments from the staff or the board? If it only for citizen request/comment, then perhaps there should be specific requests made for actual feedback from the staff. If each request is ultimately reflected in the budget, then ask that staff get back with the citizens to point them directly to where it is reflected; if the request is not reflected in the budget, then ask them to tell you and explain why. This is why it is important to be specific with requests. Refrain from stratospheric wishes like "better educating children". If you have opinions about the myriad of scheduling models (4x4, etc.) and their impact on the budget, make them known. This is your one opportunity to speak before numbers are heavily crunched.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how many of you know this, but those employees of DCSS who were hired between coming out of SS and before 1985, also do not qualify for Medicare. If they have worked somewhere else and pay into SS for the 40 quarters that are required, they will qualify, but otherwise they are out of luck for now. I have asked that this be checked into, so that those of us who this has happened to can elect to begin to pay into it, but have yet to hear one way or another about it.

I hope that the legal system does right by all of us who would like to join the class action suit. You just don't mess with peoples' money the way DCSS has in the last few years. I beleive that is why their relatives have been given the higher paying jobs was to make up for the lack of funding elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

You're right, ODE is a JOKE! If you need representation from this organization , forget it. They represent administrators also and will share everything that you tell them about your case to the DCSS investigators or principals.
They do nothing for teachers! Check to see how many cases they've won aganist principals Bullying teachers and placing untrue information in their files. Donot leave out the area directors.

Anonymous said...

Not sure about the agenda for the Board Meeting on Thursday, just wear a pink and green sorority shirt and let the board know that you're applying for a principal or AP position on the south end of the county.
Or, should administrators practice stepping for Black History month?
That's your agenda from the south end of the county.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:10 pm
"It is posted on the ESIS website."

Speaking of eSis.....

eSis/SchoolNet cost DeKalb taxpayers $11,000,000 ($4,000,000 for eSis and $7,000,000 for SchoolNet) and was recommended by Tony Hunter (Executive Director of MIS) and Ramona Tyson. Taxpayers just got through paying off the esis/SchoolNet system this year after 4 years of multimillion dollar payments. Unstable, difficult to use, and did not perform as promised, teachers intensely disliked this multimillion dollar system.

Look at what is happening in Canada with eSis, just acquired by Pearson. The entire province of British Columbia is getting rid of eSis which was an $89,000,000 investment for them.

"According to that story, district secretary-treasurer Bob Harper heard from Education Ministry officials that Pearson, the company that owns the BCeSIS software intends to replace it with other software."

Will DCSS MIS now ask for more millions more for yet ANOTHER online grading system as Pearson discontinues support for eSis?

Why does this sound so familiar to taxpayers? Who in MIS makes these decisions?

Anonymous said...

If you wear the pink and green then it’s a Sure Job for you very Soon! They do not have the stepping on the North end but there is the immaturity wearing jackets and signals going on!! This is the agenda where you have some of the AKA’s in the North end schools.

Anonymous said...

eSis is a pain!!! It gets locked up and teachers are frustrated of it being time consuming! It seems as though DCSS buy into everything. I wonder who got a profit (deal) from buying onto this?

Anonymous said...

Anyone following the controversy at Smokerise discussed at length on the AJC Get Schooled blog? Unreal. Now the county is stealing money intended for a playground. Folks, we have, so low in this county.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

I remember a presentation that Tyson gave when they were thinking about purchasing eSIS for DCSS. She was justifying it, since Tony Hunter sold DCSS the huge network that nothing was running through, at the time. Ironic that Tony is working for Tyson as her interim at MIS. (Do I have the name right Hunter?)

I wonder how much it will cost DCSS to purchase a new program to track grades?

I do love the announcement about a very important meeting, regarding the new budget, with just 28 hours notice. DCSS meetings at SACS, with no SACS personnel in attendance and the topic of discussion is the new audit. Then we have meetings with no notice regarding a very important subject like the budget. Just think in May, Eugene Walker will say you people had plenty of notice for the meeting when the budget was discussed publicly. We will remember this short notice for an important budget meeting.

Transparency is NOT DCSS' strong suit.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 8:10 p.m.

Even your instructions look daunting.

There's a frame on the left side of the DCSS homepage for news announcements.

Why the hell wasn't the announcement placed there?

I'm really pissed. This is Eugene Walker's "keeping-the-complaining public,-teachers,-and-parents-in-the-dark" modus.

Not only that. They don't want to be scolded for paying out to attorneys, once again, more than the TRA back-payment contributions will cost.

I bet most of what was originally designated as DCSS' TRA contribution is now in the pockets of the attorneys at King & Spalding and Sutherland Asbill

Anonymous said...

Another blanking DCSS mess...

Clearing the smoke in the Smoke Rise Elementary dispute over parent-raised funds for new playground

Anonymous said...

Read the Get schooled post.

Walter Woods is an arrogant, unimpressive, dismissive blankety blank.

Anonymous said...

Kaboom,, does an incredible job with granting funds for playgrounds across the country. It is affilaited with the Home Depot, headquarted not too far from DeKalb.

If the Kaboom grant isn't used for the playground as intended, DCSS, Dr. Atkinson, and the Gene Walker Board of Ed. will be giving the proverbial middle finger to Kaboom, and good luck getting any more grants from this impeccable foundation.

Anonymous said...

Smoke Rise parents: Please take some photo's of the current playground and Cere can post them on the blog!

Anonymous said...

Smoke Rise is scheduled to be rebuilt. Is a new playground part of that plan? Does anyone know? Why would you not wait until the new school is built to put in a playground? Why would you spend foundation money on a playground, if SPLOST money is scheduled to be used for a playground?

Are these parents upset about the playground, not becoming a stand alone charter school, that the principal doesn't do what they want? There seems to be more than the playground here.

But if it's really just about the playground, then why not wait until the new school is built, as anything new would probably be ruined by construction equipment.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:15 (most likely a Central Office plant, or even Walter Woods himself):

Because they have been fundraising for three years with the sole intent of replacing a miserable very old playground that the Sam Moss Dept. does not maintain.

Because everyone who contributed a penny did so under the promise that their hard-earned money was going to a playground, not another pencil pusher.

Because they were awarded a grant in a competitive process for the sole intent of building a playground.

Because it might be who knows how many years before a SPLOST-built playground is installed.

Because DCSS has enough non-teacher staff, and it is incredibly arrogant and galling for DCSS to want parents to fund the salary of another non-teaching staff member.


Great post on the Get Schooled blog about this:

Did the Parent Liaison meet the goals set?

January 25th, 2012
6:52 pm
The Smoke Rise Elementary Parent Liaison was supposed to establish very specific quantitative goals:
Track Volunteer hours
Manage Parental agreements
Implement programs to increase family attendance at meetings, functions and school activities
Increase PTA membership

What are the statistics? By what percent did the Parent Liaison meet or not meet these goals? Did the principal present the data showing these goals were met to the parent foundation?

Anonymous said...

Ya'll are so screwed. The sad thing is most of you don't see it. Those that do are unwilling to take any real action. Enjoy your criminally run county.

Anonymous said...

"But if it's really just about the playground, then why not wait until the new school is built, as anything new would probably be ruined by construction equipment."
January 26, 2012 10:15 AM

It's fairly common for a certified playground inspector to have a small or meidum-sized playground removed before a construction project and re-installed. But it needs to be done be a certified playground inspector, not just any construction company.

Anonymous said...

@ 10:32 No, I am just a tax payer and parent. Sam Moss doesn't take care of most buildings in the district.

My next question, is did they work this hard to get a new board member in, or did they vote for the same board members that have always been there? Real change isn't going to happen in DeKalb until the board members change, and parents aren't making this change and it's coming back to bite them now. Our current board president is fine with the way things have always been.

Cerebration said...

To anyone concerned with the playground, feel free to write up a post and send us a link to some photos. We'll certainly post them.

Anonymous said...

Ask your school principal or the Sam Moss Center for a copy of your school playground's last inspection report performed by a Certified School Playground Inspector. They should be inspected monthly. The safety of our children deserves it.

Anonymous said...

Check out the comments on the Get Schooled post. Multiple parents are complaining about an issue with a number of Smoke Rise 4th grade female students being harassed last year, with no action taken, and it being covered up.

Sounds like Smoke Rise is a real mess, and needs a new principal.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

The sad thing is all these little arguments and sniping back and forth between parents and DCSS Central Office lackeys is taking our focus off the real problems.

I agree and congratulate the parents at Smokrise. When my kids were in Elementary School in DeKalb, the parents had a playground installed and we had to promise Clew that any maintenance for it would be charged to the parents. The parents discovered, the National PTA does not like for their school groups to purchase Playground equipment for this very reason. The PTA feels it's the responsibility of the school district. Plus, districts have to think of liability issues.

The playground was built via a non-PTA sponsored fund raiser. It was a great addition to the school and the kids had a blast! The parents also made sure to pay for any improvements or refurbishing.

I'm in agreement with the earlier poster who said these parents should hold their BOE members accountable at election time.

I hope Belcher at WSB-TV asks Dr. Atkinson and the BOE Chair Gene Walker, why DCSS would spend so much on an audit in 2004 and today and not follow the recommendations? Be interesting to hear what their answer would be, or do we know it already?

Anonymous said...

Smoke Rise is a mess, and Walter Woods is an arrogant SOB.

DeKalb school, fundraising arm at odds over playground

Foundation members said school officials demanded they turn over their funds for other uses. School officials deny that.

“We have no authority over the funding that the foundation collects,” DeKalb spokesman Walter Woods said. “But the playground is not a priority.”

Anonymous said...

Bye Bye all future Kaboom grants.

Anonymous said...

When New Birth reopens, will it be called, "Re-Birth?"

Anonymous said...

according to the Bible, it will be the anti-christ.

Anonymous said...

If this new guy is going to oversee transportation, does that mean David Guillory, Frances Edwards son-in-law, who had no prior school or transportation experience, will be let go or demoted?

I hope the new guy can actually teach Steve Donahue a thing or two about maintenance!!!

Wilkins, a retired U.S. Army colonel, was Chief of Human Capital Initiatives for the Alexandria City Public Schools in Alexandria, Va. and facilities director for the Chicago Public Schools. He will oversee areas including facilities and maintenance, transportation, school nutrition and construction.

Anonymous said...

The playground equipment was bought by the system for all the systems in the early 90's. I have been at two schools since that time. At each school there were cases of children breaking their arms on the monkey bars. They are extremely dangerous and most schools and teacher do not let their students play on them. The other equipment is fine as long as there is no more than one or two classes on them and the teachers are constantly monitoring the students.

Anonymous said...

Thank God. I hope he gets that sam moss center under control. No more two hour lunches. And please make the admin. assistant answer there phones.

Watch out for the snakes because you are walking into a pit out there. Watch out for the good old boys for there are many.

Anonymous said...

"And please make the admin. assistant answer there phones."

Anon 12:01 isn't joking. I've called there many times and no one ever picks up, despite having a ton of admin. assistants there.

Maybe Col. Wilkins can install a sense of customer service there, instead of Steve Donahue's constant "We don't have the money or resources...".

DeKalbCoTeacher said...

As a DeKalb County teacher, I can assure you that many quality teachers (including myself) are leaving the DCSS for other districts. Not only is our pay ridiculous, the overall climate is negative and discouraging. There is no longer any buy-in by the teachers, as everything DeKalb decides is changed within a year or so. I have been a teacher in DCSS for 8 years and have gone through three different math textbooks (none of which are used by most teachers), countless plans for benchmark testing (which isn't being done by the count anymore), and more (now defunct) trainings than I can count. All of this while my pay is going down each year despite earning my masters degree and gaining more experience. In fact, there are teachers at my school that have only been teaching for two years that make more than I do. How? Well, DeKalb has to stay competitive when it comes to the salary that they hire teachers in at. The other teachers are paying for it though. It's all ridiculous.

While I love my students and I greatly respect 99% of the teachers I work with, I, along with several co-workers, will be leaving DeKalb at the end of this school year. I am willing to do whatever is necessary to work for a system that can be trusted and supports its teachers.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe Col. Wilkins can install a sense of customer service there, instead of Steve Donahue's constant "We don't have the money or resources...".

I am laughing my head off because that is Donahue's favorite line...he uses it all the time.

Yes we do have a heap of directors at sam moss; worthington, amy mann, dan drake,joshua williams. rick williamson is a asst director to dan drake - and a whole boatload of admins and we are getting more admins for joshua williams and dan drake.Some maintenance coordinators have admins. soon our admins will have admins but "we don't have the money or resources"....

Anonymous said...

Glad teachers have a choice and do not have to stay stuck in a one sided (one mind) system who have no respect for teachers and others who may be low on the systems philosophy. The system would rather quarrel over minute things that does not benefit our children. Wish you well professional educator and hope that your future system will support your talent.