DeKalb: Protecting teachers by outsourcing other jobs?

Facing an estimated $50 million shortfall in next year’s budget, DeKalb schools may resort to outsourcing custodial and maintenance work now done by  700 employees. The district is exploring whether outsourcing the work will be cheaper than paying its own personnel.

While I understand the pain caused by any job losses, it seems that DeKalb is looking at a better solution than laying off teachers. If some of these non classroom jobs can be performed more cheaply by outside contractors, it would save the taxpayers money.

With the size of the shortfalls that DeKalb and other counties are confronting, jobs are going to have to be eliminated.

Shouldn’t those jobs be outside the classroom?

According to the AJC:

The school system is considering privatizing custodians and maintenance jobs, including grounds-keeping, painting, window glazing, heating and air-conditioning, equipment repair and pest control.

“The objective is not to eliminate employees, but to save taxpayer dollars,” DeKalb schools spokesman Jeff Dickerson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.

School officials said the outsourcing is still a proposal and the amount of potential savings was not available this week.

However, the proposal could mean layoffs. Dickerson said about 700 jobs would be impacted. Board chairman Tom Bowen said the proposal impacts 900 jobs – 600 custodians and 350 at the school service center.

Dickerson said the district “strongly encourages vendors to give preference to existing employees,” and it is too early to determine who would retain employment.

That’s not enough for the Organization of DeKalb Educators, which represents about 4,700 school employees.

“It’s a huge concern for us,” said David Schutten, the union’s president. “People in the schools are very upset that privatizing custodians will take away the family feel in schools.”

Outsourcing is one of several suggestions that came up earlier this year as part of budget cuts. Facing an estimated $50 million shortfall in next year’s budget, the proposal is back on the table.

Last week, the school system received several bids in response to Requests For Proposals advertised for custodians and maintenance positions. School staff are now reviewing those bids to determine if the move is cost-effective and will make a recommendation to the board over the next two months.

“This is purely an investigation of a possible cost-savings measure. If it turns out that it does not materially benefit the district, it won’t be pursued,” Bowen told the AJC. “It is a good idea to understand what other school districts across the country have done to cut costs in the area of support services.”

Schutten said he too needs more information. He plans to ask questions about employee pay, benefits, seniority and job security at Monday’s school board meeting. Other school employees have suggested a protest.

“Over the long haul, privatization will hurt us far too much,” Schutten said. “They think privatization will save money, but that’s not necessarily true.”

–Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

148 comments Add your comment


December 30th, 2010
11:00 pm

I see the interactions every day between our custodians and students – these people are educators just the same. Now, the question I have is did we really need to replace Gloria Talley? Do we need to spend who knows how much money on SchoolNet to do benchmarks that students aren’t taking seriously? Do we really need to have 25% of our payroll going to administrative functions at Mountain Industrial? Can’t the instructional coach and ICE coach be better off in a classroom rather than making us jump through hoops just to do our job? How many people do we need with the word “superintendent” in his or her job title? Let’s fix that bloat first and then we’ll look at what positions at the school house are unnecessary.


December 30th, 2010
11:03 pm

Outsource the teachers as well. Why should we give them large salaries and pensions ? Make them contractors. Let the teachers bargain for raises with the third party. We do not need teachers unions.
Teachers unions will love me. You the citizen are paying for ther ineptness. Simplifies the entire process of determines who to keep and who to reject each school year or what ever.

Toto: speakin' the truth to power

December 30th, 2010
11:04 pm

Why pick on the lowest wage earners whose job loss might put them on the street? An across the board cut for ALL state government workers and elected officials is the only moral thing to do. Eliminate all but ITBS testing. Encourage home schooling and private schooling for those with means. This will free up seats and money for the truly needy. The only long -term solution is to repeal the compulsory school attendance law and start over with private and home schools. No state or Federal taxes should be used to educate our children. It should be funded solely by the parents and benevolent 501c3 societies. This is the only way to release our schools from the clutches of centralized corruption. Georgia has had compulsory school attendance laws in effect since 1912! There has always been a strata of society that defies being educated and our state and national debt has increased exponentially. This is what happens when parents turn over their God-given responsibilities to others.


December 30th, 2010
11:15 pm

I’m not in Dekalb, but in our system, one unnecessary central office position could pay for 4-5 custodial jobs. FGS, some departments at the central office have 2-4 secretaries!

My spouse works in private industry. When the departmental secretary retired, they were told they could not replace her: “You all have voice mail. You all have computers with word processors. You do not need a secretary.”

Why does one department at the school board need multiple secretaries? Why do departments need superintendents, deputy superintendents, and assistant superintendents?

Leave the custodians and maintenance workers alone! If Dekalb is like our county, they are barely making a living wage as it is!

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December 30th, 2010
11:22 pm

I have been in a system where many positions outsourced….Far superior..complaints = eleminations….


December 30th, 2010
11:24 pm

GA really ought drop the facade that it cares at all about educating it’s kids.


December 30th, 2010
11:36 pm

Great idea. Let’s let 400 more teacher positions go and keep the custodians. Maybe they can teach our children. This conversation is ridiculous. If we can reduce money we spend on custodians or MIS or any other non-teaching group, I say let’s do it. Move on. We need teachers more than we need any other employee in the county. Getting rid of any more teachers will finally make us a NON-educational system.


December 30th, 2010
11:36 pm

Ms. Tyson said she was going to do this last spring. Did you think she would forget about it and just get rid of more teacher positions and pack even more kids into the classrooms. Do we want kids sitting on the floors so custodians can have their jobs? Thank you Ms. Tyson for making some hard decisions in favor of students.

DeKalb Teacher

December 30th, 2010
11:37 pm

Children are more vulnerable than custodians. Custodians need to be outsourced if possible. DCSS is an educational institution – not a jobs program. However, the Central Office needs to be rightsized, salaries of non-teaching employees need to be cut (DO NOT cut teachers salaries or we will not be competitive with other metro systems), non-teaching high paying jobs like the Parent Centers ($4,000,000), 90 Instructional Coaches ($9,000,000), ineffectual learning programs like America’s Choice (($8,000,000) need to be cut as well.

Henry County Mom

December 30th, 2010
11:42 pm

Undo the super’s $75K raise.


December 30th, 2010
11:43 pm

You need to save your compassion for our students who are getting shortchanged on their education. They only get one shot at an education. Where is your compassion as these kids are packed into classrooms with 33 other students? You do realize that many of them are in classrooms where they have no more than 2 feet to move in any direction. I don’t have any skin in this game. But packing students into classrooms where they can’t move and can’t get any help seems pretty callous to me. Kids are the most vulnerable members of our society. Who is their advocate?

The classroom (teachers and students) have given enough blood. Something has to give or we will not have anyone wanting to teach our kids. Where was the outcry when Lewis cut 275 teaching positions last year and Tyson cut 100 teaching positions for this year? Students come before adults. I’m sorry for the people who will lose their jobs, but I’m sorrier for the students who are are losing their opportunity for a good education.

I think Ms. Tyson will be cutting many non-teaching positions. We have 8,000+ non-teaching admin and support personnel and only 6,500 teachers. We need to rightsize that number so we have more teachers than non-teachers. This is a start.


December 30th, 2010
11:44 pm

100 years ago they didn’t need no stinkin’ custodians! Teachers cleaned up their own rooms! It was part of the job, if you couldn’t give a student detention and make him/her do it instead!

Dekalbite@Swamp rat

December 30th, 2010
11:47 pm

“Outsource the teachers as well. Why should we give them large salaries and pensions ? ”

Yes. And while we’re at it let’s just get rid of those pesky students. Just collect the taxes for kids and then spend it all on admin and support – oh – I’m sorry – I thought that’s the way we’re moving now. How ridiculous. Teachers and students are the only members of the classroom. Without them we have no reason to pay 70% of our property taxes.

@Science Teacher

December 30th, 2010
11:49 pm

No one wants to get rid of the custodial staff. But you obviously don’t work for DCSS. Sometimes they’re great – sometimes teachers end up sweeping their rooms and wiping down the cafeteria tables. Who’s to say that the service will not be better?

@ @Science Teacher

December 30th, 2010
11:51 pm

I agree. I worked for the DeKalb Schools for 7 years and then went to work for BellSouth. I remember that some custodians were good and some not so good in DeKalb Schools. Whatever – we were stuck with what we had.

When I went to BellSouth, I remember that my department moved to a different building and the custodial care was okay, but not stellar. This went on for a few months and then all of a sudden the building was noticeably immaculate. I mentioned this to someone, and they said there had been some complaints about the custodial service so the building owners contracted with a new custodial service. I’ll never forget that I marveled that you could get a new custodial group if the first one didn’t work out. I was used to the being stuck with “the luck of the draw”. What an eye opener.

DCSS has to make decisions

December 30th, 2010
11:55 pm

Everyone wants to cut admin and support, but when it comes to cutting personnel they shrink from the task. It’s so easy to just not replace teachers when they leave (aka cut teacher positions). Of course, it does hurt someone very badly – students. This conversation is not about students. It’s about grown-ups. Is that what our educational system has become – a conversation about the grown-ups and not about the students. They don’t have a voice and they don’t vote. I guess they don’t count. How do you think they feel being packed into classrooms all day with 30+ other kids – not able to do any hands-on activities and bumping into other kids every time they turn around? They are who we need to feel sorry for.

It's about time

December 31st, 2010
12:03 am

It’s about time Ms. Tyson and the BOE cut somewhere besides the classroom. At least these people will be replaced. The almost 400 teacher positions they cut were not replaced. I hope the BOE doesn’t get cold feet and decide they can just do without more teachers and cram more students into classrooms.

say what?

December 31st, 2010
12:13 am

There are too many unanswered questions for the entire county to be outsourced. At least one DCSS employee(plant engineer) at each school to monitor this new group. Currently, custodians DO not get paid overtime for coming to work early to open a building, remaining late for school functions, using their own vehicles to pick up landscape materials for the school, etc. I hope that DCSS has included those expenses in the expectations- your employees will be expected to work without pay and/or comp time.
I doubt that leadership had enough sense to add a requirement that potential placements go through 2 background checks- one with the employer and one with DCSS, as DCSS is ultimately financially responsible for the criminal activities of these outsourced employees.
They should also be required to meet code of ethics and sexual harrasment training with the rest of the employees.

How does a prinicpal fire these outsourced people? When a parent has a complaint where will it go? If we are going to go on a new trajectory, may as well correct as much as possible in the contract.

We may save $500K overall going ahead with this plan, but the tax revenue will decrease because the new jobs pay $8.50-$10 per hour. In order to get around paying for benefits most, if not all 900 positions will be part-time. I understand outsourcing service center jobs, but not those who are in the building with access to DCSS resources- teachers and students as well as physical resources. I see the theft rate increasing.

Cut central staff- are chief of staff, deputy super., assistant super, coordinators,area supers., area coordinators, really necessary? These are highly paid customer service representatives who do not need a Ph.D/Ed.D to get the job done.

Ask them

December 31st, 2010
12:15 am

Why don’t you ask the teachers if they want even more kids in their classroom or do they want outsourcing? Why not ask the students if they want to rub elbows with a even more students and get even less attention from their teacher because they’re in larger classes? These were the ones affected when Lewis and Tyson cut hundreds of teaching positions. I guess custodians are more important than students being in a decent sized classroom.

Now Ms. Tyson needs to take on the bloated MIS and Central Office. That should prove interesting.

@ Say what

December 31st, 2010
12:20 am

Many government agencies and private industry have been successfully outsourcing custodial services for many years. Often the service is better. And if it isn’t then DCSS is not stuck. They can change contractors. I don’t think there is any room left to cut in the classroom. Students and teachers have born all the burden of cuts these last two years, and students cannot bear any more. Ever wonder why we have such attrition in the teaching end, but little attrition in the admin and support end. We have made it miserable to be a teacher. What a sad state of affairs.

HS Public Teacher

December 31st, 2010
12:40 am

News Flash….

DeKalb County already outsources its teachers. There are many teachers from other Countries that teach in DeKalb under “contract”. They are not fully certified. They are paid very very little and most are forced to live in shared apartments.

The joy of paying taxes and living in DeKalb!

Fire Bad Teachers

December 31st, 2010
1:03 am

The fact Dekalb County is looking to outsource speaks volumes. If the current workers were being paid the going market wage, this would not even be an option. Maybe Dekalb could get some bids from private companies and then allow the current employees to keep their jobs at the going market rate or maybe a little under that rate since the private companies would be making a profit.

It’s simple, pay the market rate for the work or call it an entitlement program.

I wonder if any of these employees end up drawing unemployment during the summer?

say what?

December 31st, 2010
1:04 am

@@ Dec 31st- What recent outsourcing that has occurred in new governments is that there was little savings/more expenses ( Sandy Springs, Milton,etc).If DCSS is netting a savings of less than $3Million, then the process needs to be re-evaluated. With these jobs paying less than $10/hour and no benefits, turn over will be high, and how safe is that for our students.

Other government and private sector entities are not responsible for the daily safety and care of so many minors. something must be done, and teachers have taken a hard hit with the expectation to create miracles with fewer and fewer resources.
I remember when a principal at columbia HS felt that he should have been promoted to some big titled job, and threatened to leave DCSS. A job was created- Leadership Development program Liaison, or something worthless, so that he would stay with the county instead of going to APS. The Leadership “training” was a bunch of fluff fluff stuff only for those who were selected by the powers that be with the blessings of your administrator. Well he has gone to APS as first planned, so why is this nonsense still in place. Shouldn”t all professional developement occur in the professional development unit? There are 2 administrators for the program at over $120K annual salary and benefits for each of them. Save that money and put it back in the classroom.


December 31st, 2010
1:26 am

It doesn’t matter what county or state you live in the school systems are a disgrace. With all the tax money we take in it’s a damn shame our urban school districts across the country are failing. 20yrs ago when I was deciding on a career I was constantly told there will always be a need for teachers and nurses. When I see headlines about corporate CEO leaving their positions with 100 mil or more it just makes me sick. We spend too much on the military. We spend too much on elections. When I hear that a billionaire spent 100 mil of their own money only to lose an election I privately wish they would burn in hell. I stop giving to my church when they started taking in 200k a week but the only thing the church was offering was financial classes on how to get out of debt so you can give more to the church. Homelessness & ignorance run rampant through out the city while mega church pasters drive 350k Bentley’s and fly in private jets. The easiest people in this world to control are the poor, the stupid or both. That’s the real reason politicians (ON BOTH SIDES) could care less about our educational system.

@ Say what

December 31st, 2010
1:27 am

Then let’s see how other school systems have done and avoid some of the pitfalls. Also, it could be done in phases to see how well DCSS manages it. I’ve had good custodians and bad custodians. I know what it’s like to have to sweep your own room.

Personally, I think there are many non-teaching areas that need to be outsourced and many more need to be reformed or have personnel cut from them.

Keep Jobs

December 31st, 2010
2:30 am

I am not in favor of outsourcing the custodial jobs.
The budget deficit should be bridged with cuts
to salary, and benefit concessions instead of
laying off staff, and hiring a firm to provide
custodians. Part of the reason why school
districts maintain a maintenance staff is
to ensure the safety of students by controlling
the labor pool with legitimate and uncompromised
background checks-the bottom line should be safety

Feds Need to Take Over

December 31st, 2010
4:55 am

The governance and administration of Georgia’s schools is corrupt, dishonest, and self-serving for the lawyers and politicians. No one at DeKalb, or APS, or Clayton, or many other system is interested in the kids or parents. All they want to do is control the money and put it in their pockets. They skim the money and throw the kids out on the street. If the feds would step in, they could stop this disgraceful rout. Not by running the systems, but exposing Glenn Brock, SACS, and their co-conspirators.


December 31st, 2010
6:02 am

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Write Your Board Members

December 31st, 2010
6:32 am

DeKalb won’t get this right. They certainly won’t ask other school systems what they have done in terms of outsourcing. The powers that be won’t ask the right questions.

There is a fair amount of corruption in processes like this. Why do you think DCSS officials won’t get caught again?


December 31st, 2010
6:34 am

@ Science Teacher & @@ Science Teacher: I already said I wasn’t in Dekalb. I’m down south in “the other Georgia,” but I went to to see how you do things up there.

Wow! Down here, our custodians are lucky to make over $20K/year! Some of your custodians make as much as our beginning teachers! And the bus drivers! Not that I would drive a school bus down here, much less in Atlanta, but the bus drivers make as much as beginning teachers, too! Bus drivers down this way are more likely to make in the $10-15K range, although there are a few paid over $20K.

One can only imagine what they pay the bloated central office staff! (Actually, one doesn’t have to imagine, but I got tired of looking…)

Write Your Board Members

December 31st, 2010
6:34 am

A major problem with this discussion is that bloggers both here and on DeKalb School Watch Blog presume that DCSS will actually use the savings for anything related to the classroom.

The state is coming with big cuts. DCSS will have to cut lots. This time next year, how different will the personnel and salaries be at the central office?

Seen it all before

December 31st, 2010
6:47 am

Recipe for failure – cut workers at the bottom of the pay scale, who perform actual, visible, tangible services for students and educators, and who work far away from the central offices. Recipe for success, cut workers at the top of the pay scale, who perform services for administrators, and who work at the central offices.


December 31st, 2010
7:08 am


It is not clear to me what state you live in. There are NO teachers unions in Georgia, and teachers certainly do not receive big salaries.


December 31st, 2010
7:14 am

How can outsourcing like this save money? The only difference is you are adding a layer of management, and a layer of profit. If it works, it is because no one was managing the process in the first place. If the custodial process is inefficient, improve it. If those managing the process won’t or can’t improve it, replace them.

Road Scholar

December 31st, 2010
7:34 am

Let the students clean the schools! With the lack of education they seem to be getting (GA 49-50th in the country), it will be on the job trainning for their future occupation!


December 31st, 2010
7:46 am

Lay off the teachers and let the janitors teach the kids. They are not not learning anyway and it will be a whole let cheaper. I am sick of paying the high property taxes and getting nothing in return.


December 31st, 2010
7:48 am

Will the BOE use the savings to give another bonus to the teachers and not realize that money wont be there a the end of the year to keep teachers

destin dawg

December 31st, 2010
7:52 am

Don’t need UNIONS for any gov’t job…. they’re working for their city, State, or Fed…. they should be proud to serve their neighbors and their country.. like the military….. Unions have an immense negative effect on productivity… I never had tenure on any job…. pay for performance … no body needs that many days off, holidays with pay, etc.

destin dawg

December 31st, 2010
7:55 am

Look at Greece and Southern Europe… . look at California… where Demos and Unions have sold their kids futures !!!


December 31st, 2010
7:56 am

TW, You should give proper credit to whomever coined the phrase. I first say it as a little boy under the glass on my father’s desk. It refered to the Nazi’s. This is not Berlin and it is not the thirties. This is DeKalb Co. and it is 2010. No comparison.

destin dawg

December 31st, 2010
7:58 am

Pay kids over 16 who need part time jobs to janitor jobs ??? as a parent would be better than fast food/retail !!??!!

Teacher for Life

December 31st, 2010
8:06 am

APS outsources. I still clean my room everyday because the non speakers of English just move the desks and do nothing. If I don’t clean up, ants and other insects will come.

Do they understand what a broom is? That big push crap they have leaves black marks and gets up nothing. I use a dustpan too. I clean and wipe my board down daily and wipe down the desks. I just am amazed that parents don’t realize that maid is part of my job description.

Tom Teacher

December 31st, 2010
8:14 am

The salaries of the custodians are not the expensive part; it’s the benefits. That is where the savings is. Until we cut the fat at the central offices of all the metro counties, we won’t make a difference in the budgets. The waste at the various central offices is disgusting.


December 31st, 2010
8:21 am

Interesting topic… This is the first step to cut costs, next it will be the teaching assistants, then the teachers. Last, the boated administration will come under scrutiny.

The school system is another government jobs program. Sure, there are some wonderful teachers and there are some hacks, but most full time staff are eligible for health care and pension benefits.
There simply is not enough money to keep funding long term pension benefits for school support staff, which will include teachers. Privatizing custodial staff will save money, a lot. The same argument will be applied to the teaching staff. The only people that will remain safe, in the short term, are the fat cat administrative staff. Within the next ten years, the days of a teacher retiring at age 52 and spending 35 plus years in retirement will be over. The cost of maintain the long term pension and medical plans is staggering. Next on the list will be fire departments and yes, even police services.
Current state policy rewards teachers for “advanced” degrees, many of which were on line diploma mills. Until there are major changes made in the government education program, you can expect the same abysmal results.

Peter Smagorinsky

December 31st, 2010
8:33 am

Bill’s comment is worth repeating for anyone who believes that there are teacher unions in Georgia, and that unions are raising wages, protecting bad teachers, etc.:


It is not clear to me what state you live in. There are NO teachers unions in Georgia, and teachers certainly do not receive big salaries.


December 31st, 2010
8:42 am

more concerning as reported by the AJC is the 25% failure rate of our students coming out of our school system who cannot pass a simple military test exam. do whatever is necessary to educate the young people better so they can contribute to society


December 31st, 2010
8:45 am

About 35% of black kids don’t pass the AVSAB. Would be interesting to see stats for Dekalb. Many of the grads from the south Dekalb schools are close to illiterate.

Maureen Downey

December 31st, 2010
8:52 am

@road scholar, A principal from Atlanta went to Japan five years ago where he told me saw two remarkable things in a village school. All the children in all grades went outside for recess unattended. Teachers remained in the building working on lesson plans. And the kids make their lunches in the cafeteria in an organized, assembly-line fashion.
Not sure either idea would fly in America where parents would fear for their children’s safety both on the playground and in kitchen.

An American Patriot

December 31st, 2010
8:54 am

@Maureen – Shouldn’t those jobs be outside the classroom?

Well, of course, Maureen, but I’ve come to the conclusion that nothing short of a revolution is gonna solve this mess that we’ve let our politicians and self serving public servants get us into. You parents with children in the system need to march, in mass, to your county or city offices and demand that your school system be fixed……talking and writing is not gonna get it done. To relieve the budget crisis I’m gonna throw this out one more time…..”The student transportation system (school buses) needs to either be 1) eliminated, or 2) start charging for the priviledge of using the system……our local school systems can no longer afford to provide this service for free.

Well, Maureen and everyone else (particularly you, DPBM) I am signing off. I, An American Patriot will no longer comment on these blogs. They have become a useless waste of my time and energy. I have served my time participating with my three sons in school and sports activities in DeKalb County Schools in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s when they were actually worth attending and a good education could be received. I have sympathy for those of you who have to suffer through these tough times……but, take heart, if you instill in your children the need to get the most out of their educational opportunities, they will succeed…..but, you need to actively participate in the process. I’m 10/10 and on the side :)