The $164,000 question: Is DeKalb really cutting back on its spending?

Do DeKalb County schools really need to spend $163,908 for a deputy superintendent?

Parent and teachers in DeKalb schools are asking hard questions about system spending and priorities in the wake of the budget crisis.

Parent and teachers in DeKalb schools are asking hard questions about system spending and priorities in the wake of the budget crisis.

That’s one of the many questions being asked by parents in the county facing school closings and larger classes because of the budget shortfall.

Many Georgia parents get into the nitty-gritty of their school systems, but I would have to say that DeKalb parents and teachers are among the most vigilant. In responding to the budget crisis, I have received many thoughtful e-mails raising issues about DeKalb’s spending and where possible cuts could be made.

Here are some sharp comments and questions from DeKalb parents and teachers that we ought to consider:

-We are told that there is a “budget crisis,” but administrators are still willing to spend $7 million on new textbooks. As an English teacher , I have found that the best grammar books are the Warriner’s handbooks, and much of the literature we teach is already accessible, so my peers and I can’t understand why we need these “updated”materials. What is the purpose of the Promethean Boards and online textbooks purchased by the county if we can’t use this “updated” technology to supplement the material in the existing texts?

-Could you look into the textbook adoption and purchase procedure? Other than an “expiration date” on the existing text or a lease agreement with a company, what determines the necessity of a new text, especially in language arts?

-How, exactly, does the administration use the feedback of teachers in the decision making? What research supports these decisions? If there is research, how current is this and how does it address online materials?

-Could you also investigate the $8 million for America’s Choice scripted curriculum? Why is this such a sound purchase? What, exactly, is DeKalb County saying about the quality of its teachers by purchasing a curriculum that presents everything a teacher should say and teach? Doesn’t this approach defy the RTI approach — demanding that teachers individualize lessons and assessments for students doing poorly- that the county is trying to implement? (This is a question that applies across counties in Georgia.)

-Is there a way for you to also investigate communication in the county? It seems that with the 900+ positions in the county, one person from one department makes decisions and institutes policies that contradict those from someone else. Also, what type of review does the county conduct to determine which policies and initiatives are working or redundant?

-How many different programs is the county currently instituting, and to what effect? Is “success,” as addressed by Superintendent Lewis, determined only by increased graduation rates and AYP? What about End of Course Test scores? What is the link between these programs and his “success”?

-Could you find out more about the central office positions the superintendent (Lewis or Uyson) is proposing cutting? Is it true that some of these people will be moving back into the classrooms? if so, how will their qualifications and experience be weighed? Some of these people taught for only two or three years more than 20 years ago. Despite the long absence of teaching, will they still be granted seniority?

-And what about this ad? Amidst scandals, a massive deficit and layoffs, not only in DeKalb County but nationwide, don’t you think they could find someone to fill this position for a LOT less than $163k?

“The DeKalb County School System is seeking a well qualified individual to serve as Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning in a large urban school district. One of the major responsibilities of this position will be to ensure the daily, effective and efficient delivery of instructional programs. This position will report to the Deputy Chief Superintendent for School Operations.
Position Title Deputy Supt, Teach & Learning Qualifying Certification
Areas(s):
Educational Leadership (P-12) (704/)
Location / Responsibility Centers Number DEPUTY SUPT-TEACHING&LEARNING /721
Salary $163,908.00 to $163,908.00″

80 comments Add your comment

Attentive Parent

March 2nd, 2010
9:53 am

Filter rescue request on the Obama story below.

Help Maureen!

hmmmm

March 2nd, 2010
9:55 am

Isn’t there some sort of law that requires new textbooks every five years? If so, it needs to be rescinded.

MOBFIGURE

March 2nd, 2010
10:20 am

DA Fleming,

In your investigation you will discover that Chief Financial Officer Marcus Turk has been laundering federal funds through dummy accounts and extracting the funds covertly and disbursing those funds in offshore accounts. Additionally, you will discover that Ronald Ramsey, Crawford Lewis and Jamie Wilson are involved in RICO activities. Thanks for your thorough analysis of these crooks.

@ Dekalbite

March 2nd, 2010
10:28 am

If DeKalb had invested in instructional technology, students could use online textbooks and supplement with hard copy textbooks for students without internet access.

Students have so little access to technology that the content area benchmark tests that teachers have to administer every 6 weeks are bubbled in by students and graded by scantron. Students wait while benchmark tests are passed out, sit there until everyone is finished, and then wait until the tests are taken up. Teachers spend their plan periods scanning in tests instead of having that time to grade papers or plan for their classes. No technology efficiency for teachers and students in Dekalb..

Even the state mandated student technology test (supposed to be given to all 8th graders to see if they have been taught technology such as how to create text documents, presentations, spreadsheets, use the internet, etc.) is a paper pencil test done with only small sampling of students, and then the results are tabulated with a scantron! All because DeKalb Schools has so little access to technology for students.

The irony in this situation is that the MIS Department has 291 employees and cost $24,000,000 a year in salary and benefits (figures from the state 2009 Salary and Travel Audit). $24,000,000 divided by 291 employees = $82,400 average salary with benefits per employee. What is the average teacher’s pay with benefits – I’ll bet it’s not $82,400. Please ask any teacher the level of service they and their students receive from this department.

By the way, the MIS department was headed by Ms. Tyson, the new interim superintendent, for 5 years until Dr. Lewis promoted her last fall, 2009. MIS employee numbers increased and so did salaries. Perhaps that is the reason teachers have little faith that Ms. Tyson will “tame the beast” of DeKalb support and admin cost.

catlady

March 2nd, 2010
10:52 am

I think it has to be said–I think there is SOME kind of quid pro quo that goes on. That is the ONLY way to account for the stupid uses of money we see for stupid reading/math programs, and software that doesn’t work properly. Someone is getting some “inducements.”

Attentive Parent

March 2nd, 2010
11:02 am

Some of it is the chance for travel to places and hotels, teachers and administrators would never stay at on their own dime.

For example, there was a Math and Science Partnership Program Regional Conference in March 2006 in Boston. Some states sent no one, and others sent 2 or 3. There were 40 individuals from various school districts in Georgia attending. Does that sound like a boondoggle?

Teacher&mom

March 2nd, 2010
11:06 am

@Dekalbite: online textbooks sound like great idea…until the technology to support the textbooks fails. A couple of school systems have tried issuing laptops to students instead of books. After a couple of years, they gave up the programs. Why? At any given time, dozens of laptops were not working and in need of repair. Yes, initially it seems like a good idea but the logistics of keeping 500+ student laptops in working order is monumental. You never have to worry about a textbook getting a virus.

The more a school system invests in technology at the classroom level, the greater the need for technology support at the district level. You can’t have one without the other.

LSH

March 2nd, 2010
11:06 am

I know it’s only a small amount, but could someone please explain, why in a time of budget crunch, and teacher lay-offs did Dekalb County pay to fly two recruiters to Memphis to recruit new teachers?
The recrutiers flew to Memphis, spent the night, got to the fair late and left early- flying back on Dekalbs money.

Linguistic Analyst

March 2nd, 2010
11:11 am

Catlady: Don’t you and yours get tired? Blackberry Curve will be blogging again as soon as he gets out of treatment for Bolgging OCD. I am sure that he will lapse as he always does. He can’t stay off of Maureen’s Get School blog in particular.

Sick&Tired

March 2nd, 2010
11:18 am

I think the Dekalb parents are more vigil because their story has been hitting the news a lot more often due to controversy. Last year, the big news story was Clayton County. I think Gwinnett and the other counties do a better job at hiding their controversy behind closed doors.

1. That position is definitely a waste of taxpayer money, even if they hired from within.
2. The only books that need updating every five years are our history and science textbooks.
3. We are definitely going to have to move toward online textbooks and laptops in the very near future, but not in this economy.

MB

March 2nd, 2010
11:33 am

Questions I want answered about Crawford Lewis and his paid leave –

Does he get to retain the use of his school system own car while he is on leave?

Does he get to continue using his $2500 monthly expense account while on leave?

Does he get to continue using the county purchasing card while on leave?

I understand the reasoning behind the paid leave as he has not been indicted, but do the other benefits continue as well?

Linguistic Analyst

March 2nd, 2010
11:33 am

I agree with S & T (and others) about the junk that is happening in Alvin Wilbanks’ “Gwinnett is Great” and “Success Lives Here” County. Gwinnett is full of it like DeKalb. They do a better job of covering up the junk in Gwinnett and Cobb. Plus, they have a lot of GOP friends (even at the newspaper) who keep them out of the news. Gwinnett would wither with the AJC’s fine microscope truly focusing on them. Clayton was just STUPID. Ericka Davis, the Chair, and her co-hort, Rod Johnson, the Vice Chair, actually INVITED SACS to investigate the Clayton County School System. This cost the taxpayers in Clayton hundreds of millions of dollars in property appraisals. It totally destroyed Clayton County.

Linguistic Analyst

March 2nd, 2010
11:40 am

Crawford Lewis is a clown and should never be allowed back into the Circus (DeKalb County Schools). That’s bad, eh? A clown not being allowed back into the Circus? That’s how bad of a clown that he is. They need to clean house in DeKalb. I would get rid of Josie Alexander as the attorney. They need to get some reputable school board attorneys like Harbin, Hartley, and Hawkins. The entire Office of Internal Resolution is dysfunctional. The people in this office, under the non-leadership of State Senator Ronald B. Ramsey, need to learn the Georgia School Law and abide by them. Ramsey spends so much time at the Capitol. This office in pitiful and is a complete joke among teachers. [The Filter got me again!]

@ Teacher and Mom

March 2nd, 2010
11:43 am

I was not necessarily suggesting issuing laptops.

There are many wireless reading devices such as the Kindle or here are some more:
http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/E-book_Reader_Matrix

These are fairly inexpensive and require little maintenance (good since DeKalb’s technology support is so poor), and all books could be loaded on one device.

I wouldn’t ever suggest that every student in DeKalb has this, but a trial of one or two schools could be done and the ROI determined. I’m just amazed that the lack of support for any instructional technology for students in DeKalb. Many DeKalb students do not have internet access at home, but I have never talked to a high school students who doesn’t have a personal email address so they must be getting access to the Internet somewhere.

Read this article about e-textbooks in California as one of their ways to balance the budget:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/09/arnold-schwarzenegger-school-textbooks-ebooks

http://chronicle.com/blogPost/California-Law-Requires/20526/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/403231-Pearson_Answers_Schwarzenegger_s_Call_for_E_Textbooks.php

We seem to have $8,000,000 for America’s Choice every year + $8,000,000 annually in salaries and benefits more for the 80 non-classroom staff (Instructional Coaches) who we are told are necessary to facilitate the program. And there is very little teacher buy-in for this scripted teaching program.

The DeKalb administration always seems to be looking for ways to spend Title 1 money. I know for a fact that they can spend it on technology equipment.

DeKalb administration is still using 20th century tools to teach 21st century learners.

Linguistic Analyst

March 2nd, 2010
11:49 am

Third attempt to post…Crawford Lewis is a clown and should never be allowed back into the Circus (DeKalb County Schools). That’s bad, eh? A clown not being allowed back into the Circus? That’s how bad of a clown that he is. They need to clean house in DeKalb. I would get rid of Josie Alexander as the attorney. They need to get some reputable school board attorneys like Harbin, Hartley, and Hawkins. The entire Office of Internal Resolution is dysfunctional. The people in this office, under the non-leadership of State Senator Ronald B. Ramsey, need to learn the Georgia School Law and abide by them. Ramsey spends so much time at the Capitol. This office in pitiful and is a complete joke among teachers. [The Filter got me again!]

Linguistic Analyst

March 2nd, 2010
12:08 pm

I presume that my last comment about DeKalb. was censored. I submitted it three time, but to no avail. Are we protecting State Senator Ronald B. Ramsey?

Linguistic Analyst

March 2nd, 2010
12:10 pm

Or, are we protecting the dysfunctional Office of Internal Resolution in the DeKalb County School System?

DunMoody

March 2nd, 2010
12:11 pm

Great questions. I believe we won’t get answers from this School Board because they have to be very careful not to get too intrusive into the managing of the school district. Do we WANT SACS to cut us off? So while I’m exasperated with the weak personalities of several of the Board members, I appreciate the fine line they walk. Natch, they brought this upon themselves hiring Dr. Lewis and indulging the cronyism that’s rampant in the DCSS administration. Until the DA finishes the investigation, makes any (if any) charges, we’re all going to continue to be very, very frustrated with the status quo.

Maureen Downey

March 2nd, 2010
12:35 pm

Linguistic, Considering Gwinnett schools once sent its school police to an AJC colleague’s house, I am not sure what friendships you mean. I think the system has a good record – and I don’t see the evidence of falsification that some of you allege — but I don’t think we have been boosters for Gwinnett.
Maureen

Gwinnett Parent

March 2nd, 2010
12:41 pm

Prometian Boards are covered by the budget? My daughter’s school has been doing fundraising for these things for 2 yrs. When you run out of money just send your children door to door raising money to cover any public school/tax funded shortfall. Wonder if a good audit would help us reatin teachers and keep our 5&6 yr olds from having to raise money for their tax payer funded public school.

Gwinnett Parent

March 2nd, 2010
12:41 pm

Oops, meant to say “retain teachers”

Linguistic Analyst

March 2nd, 2010
12:43 pm

Maureen, you are too close to be objective. Good record? Alvin Wilbanks did not report about 43,000 serious disciplinary cases as required by state law. You say that this is “a good record”? The Gwinnett County School System also routinely dismisses teachers’ grievances in direct and flagrant violation of the Georgia law: “…the complainant [the teacher] shall be entitled to an opportunity to be heard, to present relevant evidence, and to examine witnesses at each level” (O.C.G.A. 20-2-989.8[4]). Not so in the Gwinnett County School System! This is the most arrogant school system in the state!

Linguistic Analyst

March 2nd, 2010
12:55 pm

Today is March 2, 2010. By March 2, 2015, the Gwinnett County School System will be metaphorically about to explode. The county itself has nearly 1,000,000 people. It is a metropolis in and of itself. Dozens of languages. Fast influx of minorities and immigrants. White rulership on a five-member school board. Complaints of insensitivity will be forthcoming in droves. Gwinnett will not be so “great” after all. Write down this date…March 2, 2015. Remember that the Linguistic Analist told you so. He’s seen it happen over and over again. It is an inexorable pattern.

Linguistic Analyst

March 2nd, 2010
12:56 pm

Analyst, not Analist. Sorry, but I misspelled my own name!

Sounder

March 2nd, 2010
1:11 pm

Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School has the largest, or one of the largest, independent school laptop programs in the United States. Every student, from 5th through 12th grades, has their own MacBook. The program has been in place for three years now, and it is pretty impressive to see what the students and faculty are doing with the technology.

Yes, this kind of program takes a great deal of pre-planning and technical support. But it can be done.

By the way, online textbooks (which are actually usually in the form of CD-ROMS, cost the same amount as hard copies. Holy Innocents’ is using some digital textbooks, but most of it’s students still primarily use the old-fashioned hard copy textbooks. The technology is used to support and enhance what is already in place.

what's right for kids?

March 2nd, 2010
1:25 pm

Every employee who does not have direct contact with children should be on the chopping block. EVERY employee, including the superintendent. IST, SST, Instructional Coach, Graduation Coach, area superintendents, superintendents of curriculum, curriculum coordinators, curriculum supervisors, their assistants and their secretaries are all a waste of taxpayer money and take from the students. Look up how much these people make, and then look at the job descriptions. Ridiculous amounts of money go toward their salaries, which are, on average, twice as much as the teachers’. Have any of these people taken a pay cut? Well, I’m glad you asked. No, they have not. Some have taken three furlough days.

Maureen Downey

March 2nd, 2010
1:32 pm

Linguistic, My judgment is based on the district’s academic performance, especially in comparison with systems dealing with the same demographic shifts.
Maureen

Linguistic Analyst

March 2nd, 2010
1:41 pm

Maureen, The shift is just beginning. March 2, 2015. Look at the situation then. Then, check out the cheating too.

catlady

March 2nd, 2010
3:23 pm

LA: I think your self-appelation of Language Analist is MUCH more fitting! I will smile for quite a while. : ) However, I agree with many of your comments.

I can comment today before lunch time because of the snow, BTW.

Teacher&mom

March 2nd, 2010
3:26 pm

@Dekalbite: Thanks for the links. I’m not opposed to technology in the classroom. However, I’m just not sure your suggestions about etextbooks will save money. Textbooks companies will not lose money. They’ll just charge the same $$ for electronic versions.

Also, I’ve been in this business long enough to have been burned by the “tech bug.” Our small school system has invested heavily in technology and its great when it running. Unfortunately, computer cables break, LCD projector bulbs blow, and battery packs wear out. You can’t depend on the money to replace or repair the items to be there when you need it. I spent an entire year building powerpoints to enhance my lessons, complete with embedded videos, virtual labs, etc only to have my LCD projector blow a bulb. My school couldn’t replace the $400 bulb and I went for several months w/o the projector.

I do agree with your statement about the lack of teacher buy-in and how Title I funds are wasted. It is a shame.

DawgPhan

March 2nd, 2010
3:43 pm

wouldnt we be better off looking into teacher salaries and benefits than complaining about 1 position or text books. Aren’t salaries and benefits making up at least 80% of the dekalb school budget? kindles, really that is a solution? how about we cut 10% of the teachers and make larger classrooms, that would save more money than dekalb spends on every other budget item that isnt teacher salaries and benefits.

Allen

March 2nd, 2010
4:34 pm

DawgPhan–
Before we cut teacher salaries, we need to cut administration. Not salaries–or not salaries alone–just the administration. We could save more than half of that $88 million just by having the same classroom/non-classroom balance in personnel expenditures as surrounding counties.
Second, we can look at offering unused properties for lease at rates of long enough term and reasonable cost to actually attract renters.
Third, we can look at cutting EXTRAcurricular budgets, which by definition are “extra” to the curriculum, the core function of a school system.
Then talk to me about teacher salaries, but at that point I’d argue we could make a good argument for a millage increase–after a good faith effort, a TRULY good faith effort, to make up at least half the deficit outside the classroom.

Change the BOE

March 2nd, 2010
4:37 pm

Nepotism is incredibly rampant in DCSS. The Central Office has ballooned to massive proportions. But no one on the DeKalb Board of Ed sees the bloat. There will be some minor cuts made, but in DeKalb, the resources go to the Central Office first, and the classroom is an afterthought.

I’d love for the AJC to investigate what we get for the $25 million spent on MIS, and why we have a 180 person school police force.

Jabberwocky

March 2nd, 2010
4:37 pm

@DawgPhan….RE: “.wouldnt we be better off looking into teacher salaries and benefits than complaining about 1 position or text books “?

NO!

Getting rid of people who never have contact with, nor aid in any way the students in Dekalb are the ones who need to go…It’s like those charities that use 70% of their donations on “Adminstrative costs”. Dekalb spends more on administrative costs, purchasing useless materials, programs WITHOUT INPUT, hiring incompetent people [ read that friends and relatives"],pushing paper, and covering the :top echlon’s rear than any other school system in the nation…..

“What;s right for kids @1;25 is right on target. The expendable positions that he/she mentioned and exactly that EXPENDABLE.

Jabberwocky

March 2nd, 2010
4:39 pm

Filter victim….again!

DawgPhan

March 2nd, 2010
4:49 pm

Allen-

EVERYTHING you listed makes up around 10% of the Dekalb school budget…it is a drop in the bucket. Over 80% of the budget is teacher’s salaries. 80% goes towards paying for salaries and benefits. That is where you have to look for budget cuts. All this other stuff are just red herrings meant to trick people into thinking that having new textbooks or an MIS department or school police officers is a bad thing. There is no money to be saved by cutting everything else. Small changes in the budget for salaries and benefits would equal huge changes on the bottom line. Getting rid of football isn’t going to help anyone.

Dunwoody Mom

March 2nd, 2010
5:02 pm

Maureen, do a little digging with regards to Alvin Wilbanks. Interview James Hope and ask his opinion of Alvin Wilbanks and his merry bank of robots. Ask Frankey Jones about her impressions of Alvin Wilbanks. Ask teachers about his personal vendettas against teachers who dare question him. You might find this interesting, if you really believe everything is all good in Gwinnett.

http://www.talkgwinnett.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=117&Itemid=88888897

teacher

March 2nd, 2010
5:07 pm

Real change can only come from outside the system. The Board could appoint some respected retired administrators as caretakers and request that they come up with a budget for 2010-11. Then the Board could fill the top positions in the central office with reputable professionals who have no history with DCSS.

This is the only way to begin to set things right. The central office is far too dysfunctional, corrupt, and self-interested to generate the needed reforms.

This will probably not happen. The engaged parents at Chamblee, Druid Hills, Lakeside, and Dunwoody high schools and their feeder schools will fight a rearguard action against further decline (look at what has been happening most recently at Lakeside as a good example).

The south Dekalb schools will get even worse. Property values will fall even more, and the system will continue to suffer from budgetary problems.

More and more people in the northern portion of the county will begin to wonder if they can follow the example of Dunwoody’s recent separation from Dekalb.

Maureen Downey

March 2nd, 2010
5:09 pm

Dunwoody Mom, I have talked to James Hope, who was clearly mistreated by the system. I am not sure why folks think the AJC is unaware of the problems in Gwinnett. I have written several pieces where I cited Hope’s experiences and Wilbanks’ leadership, including this one, but I also recognize that Dr. Wilbanks has some strengths, including hiring strong principals. And he has pretty well run schools.

The leadership of the Gwinnett County school system has a history of suppressing dissent. Now it appears to be suppressing information as well. School officials have withheld thousands of serious disciplinary infractions from a state-mandated report, causing the county to look almost crime-free compared with other school districts.

The revelation fuels Gwinnett’s reputation as a police state where information is tightly controlled and where dissenting parents are intimidated by school security officers.

The blame falls directly on the arrogance of Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks and the complacency of the Gwinnett school board.

By many accounts a visionary educator, Wilbanks is also an autocratic and thin-skinned leader who stifles debate rather than encourages it.

The most damning example of his dictatorial style was his vendetta against parents and teachers who dared to question the Gateway Test, a high-stakes and flawed exam that Gwinnett introduced in 1999.

After a copy of the test was stolen, parents who had publicly criticized the test faced bullying interrogations by school officers. Wilbanks’ three-year crusade against teacher and Gateway critic James Hope ended only after a court ruled against the county. Too often, the superintendent’s message to parents and staff seems to be “you’re either with me or you’re against me.”

School board members have allowed Wilbanks to run roughshod over parents and have abdicated their responsibility to act as overseers. The board conspired in the deception on disciplinary problems by meeting in secret to review incident reports.

Those closed sessions constitute a blatant violation of the open meetings law.

To save their jobs and their credibility, Wilbanks and the school board have to move fast in declaring a new openness in Gwinnett County. On Monday, Wilbanks embarked on that process by taking responsibility for Gwinnett’s failure to report as many as 24,000 serious incidents to the state Department of Education last school year.

However, Wilbanks’ claim that the county’s gross underreporting was an unintentional error just doesn’t work. Gwinnett failed to report 260 incidents of vandalism, 109 weapon offenses, 46 sex-related offenses, 180 drug and alcohol offenses and 326 incidents involving serious threat or intimidation. The fact that school board members were given private briefings with the real numbers makes the official explanation particularly hard to swallow.

The deception, in other words, has not ceased.

The missing information would be vital for Gwinnett parents trying to judge the safety of their schools; it is also critical to enforcement of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which allows parents to transfer their kids out of persistently dangerous schools.

Because of the gross reporting discrepancies, Gwinnett ranked among the three school systems with the lowest discipline rates in the state, certainly sparing it any danger of being labeled dangerous. But the district is now stuck with an equally troubling label: deceptive and intimidating.

Dunwoody Mom

March 2nd, 2010
5:15 pm

Kudos, Maureen………

Dunwoody Mom

March 2nd, 2010
5:18 pm

Maureen, I am sorry, but I don’t see the effort by the AJC to expose what is going on in Gwinnett. All I see are daily “updates” on the DeKalb situation, which is easy for the AJC to take on because it is so public. Have Tim Eberly go after Gwinnett with the same veracity with which he wrote up the Crawford Long testimony and maybe then I’ll be impressed.

Dunwoody Mom

March 2nd, 2010
5:20 pm

LOL – Crawford Long – I meant Crawford Lewis.

Maureen Downey

March 2nd, 2010
5:29 pm

Dunwoody Mom, We have reported a great deal on open meetings violations in Gwinnett, but the public doesn’t care about that issue. (That is not just the case in Gwinnett. People just don’t get worked up over violations of the sunshine laws anywhere.) We also have written on the under reporting of school crime data in the past. If someone has real evidence of misdeeds in Gwinnett, please let us know. We care most about misdeeds or policy violations that affect students.
Maureen

Dunwoody Mom

March 2nd, 2010
6:07 pm

Maureen, did you even read the article I posted?

Dunwoody Mom

March 2nd, 2010
6:10 pm

“Passage and implementation of the first and subsequent SPLOST programs dramatically altered the relationship between local business leaders and GCPS. With hundreds of millions of dollars becoming available, the county powerbrokers , in return for their growing cooperation as ‘School Business Partners’, now fully expected a healthy share of the action in the form of supply, construction, maintenance, and/or consulting contracts .

Strangely, many such contracts would not be subject to competitive bids, but rather, given to favored enterprises. Many of these no-bid contracts, especially those involving technology services, would later soar far over the costs agreed to between the parties, with GCPS pumping more and more money into the coffers of the provider. This situation virtually guaranteed that the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce/Business Roundtable crowd would defend and protect Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, at all costs, for at least as long as the money spigot was left on at full throttle”

gwinnett educator

March 2nd, 2010
7:04 pm

Hired strong principals?? HA! I can tell you of a school that loses 25-30 yearly..7 left ONE grade level at the same time (when I got there)..

gwinnett educator

March 2nd, 2010
7:18 pm

oops..the year I came in, he hired 30-32 (I forgot)..the year before, I was told that a little over 20 was hired. (more than 20 each year for a minute).

@ Maureen and Dunwoody Mom

March 2nd, 2010
9:08 pm

Most parents and teachers I know are delighted at that the AJC is shedding light on DCSS problems and parental concerns. Perhaps you are in a position that you wish to deflect from DCSS to Gwinnett. Are you sure you’re not a DCSS Central Office employee?

I’m an old timer (30+ years in DeKalb, retired from the school system). I started working for DeKalb in 1972 when it really was “Premier DeKalb” except we didn’t call ourselves that – everyone just knew we were. We were not top heavy with coordinators – we had one per content area – math, science, language arts, and social studies. We had around 70,000 students then (source: Freeman versus Pitts landmark case) versus 99,000 now. The incredible growth in admin and support at the expense of teacher positions has brought us to the unsustainable situation of almost half of our employees actually teaching (source: DCSS website Fast Facts page).

We must make deep cuts in all levels of admin and support personnel while making much more modest cuts in teaching positions. Only in this way will we balance our school system ratio of admin and support to teachers in a manner that provides our students with a reasonable pupil teacher ratio. Dr. Lewis and the DeKalb BOE have placed DeKalb students in a most precarious academic situation; I would argue it is more egregious than Clayton County Schools which received a lot more press than DeKalb has received.

I saw that 82% of Clayton County Schools made AYP versus 78% in DeKalb (source: GA DOE website). The demographics of both systems are very similar, with slightly higher median income in Dekalb.

However, the per pupil spending is almost 20% higher in DeKalb Schools (source: American Schools and Universities – http://asumag.com/asu100/2009/ppe/) versus Clayton Schools.

Where is this extra per pupil spending going to? Not to teacher salaries. Comparing Clayton with 20% less per pupil expenditure to DeKalb, we find that Clayton starting salaries are $1,000 lower for a teacher starting with a Bachelors and $1,300 more for teachers starting with a Masters – so salaries are comparable between the two systems. The 20% extra DeKalb spends on per pupil can only be going to admin and support (91% of our $900,000,000 budget is spent on personnel salaries and benefits). 20% of almost a billion dollar budget is enormous. That more than meets our budget shortfall.

DeKalb parents are fighting for the life of their schools. They are vocal, but I disagree that the DeKalb administration has been more “open and transparent” than Gwinnett. DeKalb parents have been very good at ferreting out information and sharing it via email and blogs. They are angry, and they are getting organized.

Perhaps if the DeKalb administration had been more forthcoming with parents, you would not have seen such tremendous anger directed toward the BOE and the DeKalb Schools administration. Maureen would not have seen so many emails from DeKalb parents and taxpayers. The budget missteps of this DeKalb administration and BOE are huge as are the stakes for almost 100,000 Georgia students. That’s worth reporting.

Dr. John Trotter

March 2nd, 2010
9:56 pm

Dunwoody Mom: That was a great link that you provided on Gwinnett County. Maureen, I appreciate your analysis of Gwinnett. But, like Dunwoody Mom, I feel that the AJC has tip-toed around the egregious violations of Georgia Law (Open Meetings, Teacher Grievances, Reporting of Serious Student Disciplinary Cases, etc.) that routinely characterizes the Gwinnett County School System. The AJC touches upon the violations and then moves on to other stories. Why not deal with Gwinnett like you dealt with Clayton and are now beginning to deal with DeKalb? The drama in Clayton must have really spiked the selling of copies of the AJC in the QTs because for a while it was an almost everyday coverage on the front page or in the editorial pages. The residents of Gwinnett County deserve a disinfecting of the Gwinnett County School System. Maureen, you are indeed right about Alvin Wilbanks being so arrogant. I have often described him as “the most arrogant superintendent in Georgia.” BTW, I sort of liked George Thompson and thought that he was a breath of fresh air compared to his predecessor, Alton Crews.

Cere

March 2nd, 2010
11:57 pm

Since Dr. Lewis has not been banished to play Tiddly Winks with Pat Pope, it appears as though it is now up to the school board, the new, interim super, Ramona Tyson and the financial guy, Marcus Turk to present a revised budget to the public. If you would like to hear their plans first-hand plan to attend this Friday’s meeting.

The Budget, Finance and Building Committee will be meeting at 10:30 on Friday, March 5 at the board offices – boardroom in Building A.

PLAN TO ATTEND!

DunMoody

March 3rd, 2010
7:03 am

Dr. Trotter: “disinfecting” – what a great word! That’s exactly what DCSS needs – a good dose of administrative Lysol.

Dunwoody Mom

March 3rd, 2010
8:30 am

Dunwoody Mom

March 3rd, 2010
8:32 am

You gotta love certain posters, because they happen to post something that does not fit their agenda,I have to work for DCSS. No, I am a DCSS parent, I am a product of the DCSS, so I think I have quite a stake in all of this, thank you very much.

Dunwoody Mom

March 3rd, 2010
8:33 am

Oh, and just a little tidbid, you all know the J. Alvin Wilbanks was an administor in DCSS at one time….just sayin’ how I might know a little bit about him.

Allen

March 3rd, 2010
9:15 am

Dawg Phan—
Are you new here? All of the following has appeared in comments on this board, and DeKalb School Watch, in just the past month:

DCSS has 6,500 support staff. 6,500!

According to the DeKalb County website Fast Facts page (http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/about/fastfacts.html), this is the employee breakdown:
Employees Total: 13,842
Teachers, Media Specialists and Counselors: 53.1%
Support Personnel: 42.3%
Administrators: 4.6%
That means DeKalb has:
7,100 teachers (approximately 200 media specialists and counselors)
6,500 support and administrative staff

And you say only 20% of the budget is something other than “teacher’s salaries”? Just in case you think the majority of those 6,500 support and admin staff are volunteers please visit this link to see the salaries of DeKalb employees http://www.open.georgia.gov/sta/viewMain.aud

Again drawing from previous posters’ research:
For example, DCSS has 61 people employed in Human Resources. Nine of them make over $100,000 a year and three more make over $90,000 a year. Their combined salaries, including benefits, come to $4,504,816.

In the area of non-personnel costs there are also questionable costs, for example, the failed America’s Choice program cost $8,000,000–just for the program.

Offhand, I’m guessing some of the folks who did these data dives can come up with more examples of non-teaching costs.

In any event, the point is one of principle, as much as money: before one dime is cut from the classroom, we need to trim the friends and family employment program, and a few other things, to the bone, and then some.

Maureen Downey

March 3rd, 2010
9:44 am

Dunwoody, I read the articles and again want to say that Gwinnett may not be a beacon of enlightened leadership but my concern is how well the students do in the system. Frankly – and I know I have to duck here – I am not that concerned about how kindly employees are treated. We are all adults and we can go elsewhere if we don’t like management, as I have had many bosses tell me in my career. I read the evaluations of the system from the Broad Foundation awards for which Gwinnett was a finalist
Outsiders — with no stake in the system and no fealty to the superintendent – found many impressive things about the schools. Is the superintendent an autocrat? Probably. Is he getting results? Yes and that is what matters to parents.
Maureen

Dunwoody Mom

March 3rd, 2010
9:53 am

Alvin Wilbanksis more than an autocrat – he’s a bully who harasses and goes after anyone who crosses him. So, I guess what you are saying Maureen is that the AJC has no interest in exposing situations for which actual work has to be done? As with the Clayton and DeKalb situations, all the AJC has to do is copy other people’s work, i.e. SACS, DA investigation, etc., place a by-line on it and the work is done – no actual hard investigation is done by the AJC anymore. And I can understand that as it seems the true journalists were either let go or forced into retirement by the AJC.

Maureen Downey

March 3rd, 2010
11:11 am

Dunwoody, Not sure what you are talking about because all the initial CRCT stuff was the result of the AJC’s months of database reporting on score discrepancies. Nobody handed us a report that said. “Hey, these scores are at out whack.”
Again, I don’t mind debate but let’s not distort the facts.
Maureen

EchoToo

March 3rd, 2010
11:37 am

Marueen, I find your post at 9:44 today to be one of the most revealing things about you that you have said here. So, my question is why are you running this blog? This, I thought, was about EDUCATION. All the parts must work together and to say you could care less about any one says that your whole interest here is disingenuous.

You may as well shut the blog down because obviously you are the wrong person to lead it. Sometimes it takes a minute to figure out where a person is coming from, but if you stay around them long enough, it becomes crystal clear.

Maureen Downey

March 3rd, 2010
11:57 am

EchoToo, Let me explain something about the blog. The blog has thousands of new readers – we count them every day. Only a fraction of those readers post comments, although a surprising number of them send me e-mails, sometimes as many as 50 a day. Those folks are not just teachers. In fact, many are parents. I also speak a lot to groups, again most of whom are parent readers.
Their interest in education is on how it impacts their kids. That has always been my focus and always will be. But I have made clear from the time I spent reporting on the Barrow County teacher that I don’t like bullies – whether students, teachers or principals – and I will write about that when it happens. I also hate stupid rules and laws and will report on them as well.
But I make no apology for believing that the main measure of a school system is student achievement. I have worked for newspapers where the reporters were happy and the paper was lousy. It doesn’t work for me. Sorry.
The AJC is a mainstream media publication whose mission both in print and online is to reflect the total community. If you feel that the blog should only reflect teacher issues, then you are at the wrong place. The surge in readership of this blog – and it has been considerable – tells me that I am picking topics a lot of people want to read. Again, I am sorry to lose any readers, but I don’t intend to shift gears.
Maureen

Cere

March 3rd, 2010
12:10 pm

Updated meeting announcement – seems they aren’t ready to discuss the budget after all.

The Budget, Finance and Building Committee is now a CALLED BOARD MEETING and will take place at 10:30 on Friday, March 5 at the board offices – boardroom in Building A.

They will be discussing possible salary cuts and furloughs for teachers. According to the posted agenda, there will not be any public comment period.

ps – Hang in there Maureen. We’re getting beat up at the DeKalb School Watch blog too. I think the DCSS PR machine is out in full force. I find it to be a compliment actually.

Cere

March 3rd, 2010
12:13 pm

One more thing, to MOBFIGURE March 2nd, 2010 10:20 am who wrote:

“DA Fleming,

In your investigation you will discover that Chief Financial Officer Marcus Turk has been laundering federal funds through dummy accounts and extracting the funds covertly and disbursing those funds in offshore accounts. Additionally, you will discover that Ronald Ramsey, Crawford Lewis and Jamie Wilson are involved in RICO activities. Thanks for your thorough analysis of these crooks.”

=============
IF you have proof of these allegations, you had better get your little anonymous self directly over to the US Attorney Sally Yates ASAP! Those are some serious allegations.

Maureen Downey

March 3rd, 2010
12:13 pm

Cere, Thanks for both the meeting update and the encouragement. Maureen

EchoToo

March 3rd, 2010
1:04 pm

Maureen, if I am not mistaken, the name of the blog is “Get Schooled.” It is described as “Your source for information and conversation about education in Atlanta, Georgia and the nation.” Education has working parts, all of which work together with the ultimate goal of educating. I have been blogging here even before you took it over. I will give my opinion when I have one and have time.

DunMoody

March 3rd, 2010
2:29 pm

EchoToo – I’m curious. Why are you trying to shut Maureen down? Could it be that the information and opinions are contrary to your agenda? The value of its blog is its inherent freewheeling “persona” which extends to the variety of topics, links, postings, and even tangents. I strongly disagree with many posters, “hear” at times a certain political bent that I do not subscribe to, and find much to learn in the thoughts and postings of others. “Get Schooled” does a tremendous service to the topic of education.

Cere – I agree that the DCSS press machine is lurking on your blog. There are have some illuminating posts this week that are obviously scripted. But they’re nonetheless interesting since we’re finally getting some insight into their thought processes. I’ve thought for quite a while that DCSS’ biggest achilles heel is its raise-the-drawbridge mentality. If they’d communicate better (rather than waving a party line), They wouldn’t paint themselves into so many corners.

Dunwoody Mom

March 3rd, 2010
2:34 pm

Maureen, I was not referring to the CRCT issue – and I do give the AJC kudos for taking this one. However, I wonder if they would do so today, this day, with all the downsizing they have done? Anyway, I’m done talking about Gwinnett. I guess those parents will have to start their own blog. Oh, wait, they did and Wilbanks tried to find out who was behind it. Okay, I promise, last word on Gwinnett….

Maureen Downey

March 3rd, 2010
3:28 pm

Dunwoody, My last word: The team on the CRCT is still at the AJC and still working on major investigations. You can expect more from them on a variety of issues.
Maureen

Dunwoody Mom

March 3rd, 2010
5:42 pm

If members of DCSS read Cere’s blog or this one – that’s fine, more power to them. I think they can get a somewhat good view of how we feel about how they do their job. HOWEVER, I also feel that people within DCSS have a right to post to try and correct misinformation, along with out and out lies, whether inadverdent or intentional, that are posted on this blog and Cere’s blog. There are 2 sides to every issue and a meaningful discussion requires that both sides be heard. I’m sorry that I am not willing to arrest, try and convict Pope and Lewis. One or both may very well be guilty of legal or ethical discretions, but the legal system do its job and make that determination. My parents always taught me to treat others as I would like to be treated, and while I admit, I fall short of that at times, I do try to make this a part of who I am. If Pope and/or Lewis are guilty, then I will be the first to call for their removal from DCSS.

I would say that is my last rant for the day, but I could be wrong.

To DunMoody

March 3rd, 2010
5:49 pm

You silly goose! You have misunderstood the issue from Echo Too altogether. The point that I think that Echo Too has brought up is that educators work experiences ARE important to the student experience. For this Blog to just to cater to the student is a gross injustice to everyone. Remember that for a student to have a good, if not excellent experience, it is based on THE TEACHER. So, to not care about the work experience of the teacher is negligent at best. Let’s not also consider that teachers enter a year-long contract of employment. So, if she is not happy, she suffers for the ENTIRE YEAR. Now, place your child in HER class. To think that personal vendettas of administrators on teachers is irrelevant to students is laughable at best. Do you think that teacher morale has nothing to do with the education that your child receives? THINK AGAIN!

I do not think that Echo Too is necessarily saying that the blog is unwarranted. Instead, the Blog is necessary for ALL aspects of education. The way your child’s teacher feels is VERY relevant.

If you don’t think so, wait to see how your child performed academically.

Ellen Maxwell

March 3rd, 2010
6:55 pm

Ms. Downey can defend herself very well, but I want to say as a parent that I’m happy to see someone speak up for students. The teachers here seem so unhappy in their jobs. Why not go do something else? I know many people in my field of real estate who would love, love to be in your shoes My kids and I have no health insurance. I am borrowing from family to pay bills. The teacher complaints get really old.

lightbulb

March 3rd, 2010
7:53 pm

“The teacher complaints get really old.”

You would love to be in a teacher’s shoes? Go ahead. I know where you can find an open position. It’s the one I will be vacating at the end of the year. After the last few hellish years, this 14 year vet is calling it quits. I have no job plans and no spouse to support me but I would rather take my chances than go on teaching. No health insurance is worth the kind of abuse we take on a daily basis. You just have no idea.

Dekalbite

March 3rd, 2010
8:37 pm

Going back to Maureen’s original question:
Consider the MADE AYP rate for DeKalb over time (source Georgia DOE):
2003 – 2004 86%
2004 – 2005 77%
2005 – 2006 71%
2006 – 2007 79%
2008 – 2009 71%
2008 – 2009 78%

So we are no better off than 2005 and 2006 and much worse off than 2004. The tens of millions of dollars for learning programs such as America’s Choice, Springboard, HSTW, etc. that have been chosen by Central Office staff and tried in the 5 last years have not worked if measured by AYP figures. Dr. Lewis took the helm in January, 2005, and AYP numbers have decreased since then. Accountability should work at the highest levels.

DunMoody

March 3rd, 2010
8:51 pm

Silly goose? That’s hilarious. Didn’t misunderstand – got the message that EchoToo would prefer no blog to one that didn’t focus solely on a single issue. Teachers’ morale is important. Most parents in DeKalb are fighting very hard to give students AND teachers the support they need for the business at hand – quality education in the classroom.

But I also keep things in perspective. This awful economy, which is the cause of the tremendous budget cuts coming within our school system, also impacts parents. We can’t “quit” our children, even when we ourselves have lost jobs, are drowning in healthcare debt, and our costs are dramatically higher than they were a few years ago.

Let’s not be myopic. That’s the point of Get Schooled – there’s a world of perspectives and life experiences out here, but thank goodness we have a forum to share, learn, and make an impact.

@ Dunwoody Mom

March 3rd, 2010
9:40 pm

Based on your comments here and on DeKalb School Watch, I’m more sure than ever that you work for DCSS, and I can guess in what capacity.

YeahItsMe

March 3rd, 2010
10:00 pm

Yeah well Dekalb County Public Schools has one more time to blackball me for a job I apply for. I have had it with them.

To Yeah

March 4th, 2010
4:27 am

Dekalb County is not the only one that blackballs applicants. It is rampant. No, they don’t do it in writing. Instead, they call. Then the conversations are veiled in subtle disdain for the applicant.

Oh, and to Dunwoody Mom. Don’t think that teacher abuse does not affect your child. Contracts are legally binding on BOTH SIDES. Administrators know that they have a captive audience at least for the year and often abuse that fact.

Teachers, by nature, actually work WAY MORE than the normal number of hours that are listed on the contracts and statistically spend money out of their own pockets to be sure your child has a great experience. How can a teacher wantingly do that when she feels taken advantage of? The work environment of your child’s teacher affects the education of your child. Like it or not. If you don’t think so, ask a public school teacher.

Dunwoody Mom

March 4th, 2010
6:44 am

LOL – you know I don’t work for DCSS. I’ve mentioned that several times. Just because I don’t go all hysterical at every little incident at DCSS, then, wow, I must work for DCSS. It’s disrespective, dismissive and disingenuous to keep accusing me of working for DCSS simply because I do not happen to share the same views of some of you who take great joy in the events unfolding. No, as I have said, I have 2 children in DCSS. I attended DCSS schools from 3rd Grade until Graduation from high school. I. more than most of you, have a bigger stake in this.

Um, I never said that teacher abuse does not affect my child. In fact, I never weighed into that conversation. But, nice try….

MOBFIGURE

March 4th, 2010
11:18 am

TO CERE:

I assure you that this is not an allegation, this is factual information. I’m sure the U.S. Attorney’s office is already monitoring the investigation because of the prevalent culture of corruption in Dekalb County Schools, Dekalb County Courts and Dekalb County government. Also, Cere, if you want to know who I am, watch the GODFATHER it will become abundantly clear to you who I am. I have considerable expertise in conducting investigations but my services are not free. The U.S. Attorney’s office has unlimited resources and investigators at their disposal. Stay tuned. Millions of dollars have been embezzled from the School District and Marcus Turk is the mastermind behind the money laundering scheme.

Dekalbite

March 5th, 2010
7:39 pm

If the BOE were really concerned about class sizes and ensuring teachers could provide individual help for struggling students, they would have cut, consolidated and outsourced in every area but the classroom. I think we need a BOE that puts the classroom first.

Please email your BOE members and also email our new interim superintendent Ms. Ramona Tyson.

Ms. Tyson’s email is:
Ramona_Tyson@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

I’m sure Ms. Tyson would be like to hear comments from DeKalb parents and taxpayers regarding the budget proposals.

John Hill

March 16th, 2010
12:19 am

Why does DeKalb still have foreign teachers?