DeKalb explains $53,000 to $72,000 secretarial job in central office. I still don’t get it.

UPDATED at 1:42 p.m.

Here is the official response to my questions about the DeKalb school system’s ad seeking a secretary with a high school diploma or GED and at least a year’s experience for a position that pays between $53,186 and $72,285

If you read the original blog I posted at midnight, you will see that many posters are stunned by this level of pay, which exceeds what some teachers with advanced degrees earn.

This came just now from DeKalb spokesman Walter Woods: Below is my response to him about his explanation:

Appreciate the opportunity to respond. I saw the teacher’s post on Get Schooled this a.m. and they, and some of the posters, make valid points. The School System’s resources and attention should be in the classroom, not the central office.

That said, DeKalb Schools is advertising for the position, which has been vacant since March. The salary range is based on the position description from eight years ago.

You may know that we are in the process of assigning new salary ranges. The School System just this week hired an independent firm to review every salary in the central office, including positions like this one. That review will be complete by Jan. 15. So, today, we don’t actually know what the salary will be for this position.

The review is meant to compare this and other salaries with comparable positions in other districts. It will also look at the number of positions in each department, with the intent of finding areas where the School System can save resources and drive them back into the classroom.

Also, a word on teacher compensation: The Theory of Action for Change,the mission document outlining how the new leadership plans to improve school and student success, was endorsed by the Board of Education Oct. 31. A key part of that plan focuses on compensating and recognizing teachers. We firmly believe that enhancing teacher compensation and recognition is a powerful way to move the School System forward, and we hope to announce new ideas and initiatives around this in the coming months.

My response to Woods:

I don’t understand why the salary was this high eight years ago based on the description, which sounds like a standard secretarial post.

Also, why does that matter? The world is far different today and companies adjust their salaries to supply and demand — and right now there is a massive supply.

Was this job created for a specific individual eight years ago?

Again, given today’s realities, why doesn’t DeKalb simply lower the salary per those being paid for similar positions in the private sector or in other school systems?

I have suggested that AJC news do a news story on this job posting and that is now in the works. In the meantime, DeKalb spokesman Walter Woods sent me a follow-up e-mail in response to a second e-mail from me about getting answers to the questions above.

I think that the main question still remains unanswered: Why not either hold off  filling this job until the new salaries are set or lower the salary to reflect the market conditions?

Here is his latest response, which I still think falls short of responding to the obvious questions about why this salary is so high when the job requirements appear so minimal:

You are correct, times have changed, and we agree with many of the points you and your readers have raised. And I’ll tell you this is not the only forum where this has come up. In Dr. Atkinson’s meetings with teachers and parents in recent weeks, many questions about the efficiency of central office staff have been raised, and rightly so.

That’s why Dr. Atkinson insisted that the salary and position review happen immediately, not next year, not next summer, but now. And she ordered that it had to be complete by January so we can urgently address
the issues people in the community have raised about central office staff.

In the mean time, the School System has to proceed under the current system, and has advertised for open positions in a number of departments using the previous salary range from 2004.

We expect to have a new organizational chart of positions and salaries early next year, and again, the intent of the study is to find efficiencies in how the central office operates.

But, I would urge your readers and people in the community to continue posting, blogging, raising their hand at community forums and speaking their mind about the job we are doing. We’re making a number of decisions based on what we’re hearing from parents and citizens, and we want people in the community to know we’re responsive to the best of our ability.

That led to this follow-up from me to Woods:

I remain confused and need these simple questions answered as I think they speak to the heart of the issue and the credibility of the system:

Why does this job have to be filled now when there is so much in flux, including the salary review?

Is there a legal compulsion to fill it now and at such a high salary range? If there is no legal compulsion, why not wait?

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

133 comments Add your comment

Dunwoody Mom

November 11th, 2011
10:39 am

Oh, please….That was PR mumbo-jumbo. How does he know what that position paid 8 years ago? I thought the audit was “lost”?

College Professor

November 11th, 2011
10:51 am

The salary for this position is obscene, and it goes a long way toward explaining why the DeKalb County School Board could have more money than the GDP and still insist that it needs to raise taxes.

Beverly Fraud

November 11th, 2011
10:52 am

Maureen is asking TOUGH yet FAIR questions.

Now THAT’s what we need from the “watchdog” AJC!

Kudos!

Now let’s get some follow up (Let’s put the pressure on one Walter Woods, since it is the CITIZENS who pay his salary.)

Beverly Fraud

November 11th, 2011
10:54 am

Too bad Woods didn’t consult with Keith Bromney of APS. Perhaps then he could have found a way of winding charges of “racism” into his narrative.

Beverly Fraud

November 11th, 2011
10:56 am

“The salary range is based on the position description from eight years ago.”

And this guy wants us to believe that eight years ago, a secretary with a GED and one year’s experience was making 72K?

Yep, I’d buy a used car from this guy!

HS Public Teacher

November 11th, 2011
10:57 am

Wow.

If DeKalb admits that this salary is too high, why do they need to “wait” for any other information? Why are they posting the “wrong” salary today?

Is the person that is hired suddenly be offered a lower salary? No.

Will the person AFTER they are hired suddenly get a descrease in pay? No.

This is just another way for DeKalb to allow a big wig to hire their nephew (or similar) in the central office with big pay. That is all it is – period!

Woody

November 11th, 2011
10:59 am

Abandon pay hierarchies entirely. Pay everyone in the organization the same flat rate. Allow greater movement within the organization. Then, people will naturally move to positions where they excel. That a superintendent actually does ‘more work’ than a first-year teacher, is not accurate. They do ‘different’ work, that in the current system is rewarded or penalized according to warped social values. People who actually interact with our children should be paid every bit as much as people who crank out implausible five-year-plans and defensive public announcements, even if those people are actually quite good at cranking out implausible five-year-plans and defensive public announcements.

Double Zero Eight

November 11th, 2011
11:06 am

“Deja Vu”………some things never change.
Tax dollars being wasted is the norm for Dekalb,
APS(3 or 4 principals for one high school),
Gwinnett (land deals for schools).

oldtimer

November 11th, 2011
11:07 am

And, this is one reason I would not have voted for the SPLOT had I lived in Dekalb. School systems must get a handle on the value of a job, Very few are paid according to their skill and contact with kids.

[...] UPDATE: at 10: 39 a.m. Go here for county explanation but it’s not a clear one, at least not to me. [...]

LegalGal

November 11th, 2011
11:13 am

This is an outrage!! I am an educated, highly skilled legal secretary. In 34 years in this field, working for a top-of-the-line law firm, in a well-paid position, I make nowhere NEAR $72,000 a year. What a taxpayer ripoff!! And what a load of *#%@ from Mr. Woods . . .

Mike McQueary

November 11th, 2011
11:14 am

Did I make a mistake? Should I have called the police or intervene?

“As the graduate assistant entered the locker doors, he was surprised to find the lights and showers on. He then heard, rhythmic, slapping sounds. He believed the sounds to be those of sexual activity. As the graduate assistant put his sneakers into his locker, he looked into the shower. He saw a naked boy, Victim 2, whose age he estimated to be 10 years old, with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky. The graduate assistant was shocked but noticed that Victim 2 and Sandusky saw him. The graduate assistant left immediately, distraught.”

common sense

November 11th, 2011
11:14 am

This is amazing. Our system has layers of secretarial jobs and I am sure these people are well compensated while I continue to get pay cuts.

carlosgvv

November 11th, 2011
11:14 am

This is just another case of some politician wanting a cushy job for his mistress. This sort of thing happens all the time in DeKalb County politics. And you wonder why our property taxes keep going up?

Janet

November 11th, 2011
11:15 am

He is clearly talking out of his behind. I’m looking for a job, maybe I should apply. I even have a college degree! But I’m sure I wouldn’t get hired. Jobs like that, with ridciulous paychecks for a very basic skill set, are usaully set aside for nepotistic opportunities. I would be interested to see who actually does get this job though.

Dunwoody Mom

November 11th, 2011
11:24 am

Here is a thought: freeze all hiring and salaries until this audit is complete.

Laurie

November 11th, 2011
11:26 am

Executive secretaries can make around 72,000 easy. Obviously the yahoos at central office fancy themselves executive types that need over paid assistants to complement their over paid egos.

mum

November 11th, 2011
11:29 am

Lame excuse. This salary was high 8 years ago given that county jobs usually pay lower then the private sector. That said, I know very few people, myself included that are making the same money that we did even 2 years ago. The market has changed dramatically and Dekalb County as an entity funded by taxpayer dollars, is way out of step.

I know highly experienced executive assistants with years of private-sector experience who have applied to the county, even recently, and have never, ever, gotten any response to their applications. Many people believe that they publish the jobs but they are reserved for cronies. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Mikedawg

November 11th, 2011
11:32 am

Now, aren’t you glad you voted for SPLOST!!! Just imagine how that money will be spent.

Former Teacher

November 11th, 2011
11:35 am

I’ve been trying to get a job as a teacher…silly me…I should have been looking for a secretarial job!

howard

November 11th, 2011
11:36 am

A salary that high that for a secretarial position requiring only a GED far exceeds that of starting teachers. Something smells rotten about this situation. There should be a complete investigation that goes back to when this salary was established. No doubt personal politics and loyalty were involved because no comp and class professionals would have ever established such a range.

TiTi

November 11th, 2011
11:36 am

LegalGal. . FYI: Atlanta is behind in the salary for educated, experienced legal assistants!

Fred

November 11th, 2011
11:41 am

Ya’ll hush, I’m trying to fill out a job application. How do you spell sekertery?

Test Tube Tommy

November 11th, 2011
11:42 am

Dekalb voters just passed SPLOST….I guess the new sales tax could pay for these exorbitant salaries eh?

Dunwoody Mom

November 11th, 2011
11:43 am

No, SPLOST can’t pay for the salaries, but it did pay for the $2,000 chairs these administrators sit in.

makes no sense

November 11th, 2011
11:43 am

There are plenty of secretaries being paid $70,000+ a year in DCSS. Check the state audit website…title 1 is filled with them not to mention a few with prominent last names making almost six figure salaries with only a HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA working in the Central Office….this is an outrage to say the least….someone needs to take a leaf blower and blow all the clutter out of that school system immediately. And I am sorry but the new Superintendent can’t get it done because she’s blinded by the salary she was awarded with too little experience. She is being led by the backwards BOE who approved all of those Lewis/Pope criminal acts.

Fred

November 11th, 2011
11:43 am

Oh, and kan 1 of you lye for me and say I was yur sekertery for a year? i think thta wil make me a purfct fit for Dekalb County……..

Ole Guy

November 11th, 2011
11:44 am

It’s all for the…AHM!…children. This is precisely why education is in the toilet. Soothing words to the contrary, the powers that be couldn’t care less about the education of kids. The entire educational community is nothing but a cash cow. Every time someone dares to drum up support for educational financing schemes…ie SPLOST, and any number of guilt-induced and guilt-motivated “programs”…it is aimed solely at the enrichment of those who, quite frankly, would be quite fortunate, indeed, to hold any job paying twice the min wage. Only in the education field can someone armed only with a high school diploma (…which, by nominal standards, is roughly equivalent to graduation from Ding Dong School (Ms Francis, 1950s)…) and a year or two shuffling papers make this sort of income. But remember…it’s for the children (GD hypocrites!).

Mikkie

November 11th, 2011
11:46 am

I have friends who are teachers in Dekalb county who have advanced degrees and minimum 10yrs experience that don’t make this salary. I also have friends in the private sector with BA’s and more experience that dream of making a salary in this range. Obviously they had a specific person in mind for the job and altered the qualifications to fit those of the person they wanted to hire. This is a disgrace. Its funny how they can cut teachers’ pay, not provide items for the classrooms (teachers have to purchase out of their salaries), not give cost of living increases for years etc but they can give someone with a Good Enough Diploma (GED) and 1yr experience this salary. smh

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

November 11th, 2011
11:47 am

Perhaps putting elementary school children in charge might yield more positive results. They are after all going to be grading teachers.

Former Teacher

November 11th, 2011
11:47 am

And why are we trying so hard to have students graduate from high school when they could earn this kind of money as a secretary with a GED? We could save everybody a great deal of grief if we would recognize that there are high paying jobs for people without college degrees!

Muhammad

November 11th, 2011
11:53 am

This is just another example of why DeKalb needs to change and we as taxpayers need to ask for transparency when it comes to tax dollars. Hopefully, this and other information will make everyone pay attention to what is happening within Government–Schools, County, State, etc.–because we keep financing their inability to manage money properly.

Ernest

November 11th, 2011
11:55 am

I spoke to a friend that is a labor lawyer about this and he had some interesting insights. He ’speculated’ that the old job description had to be used because IF there were other employee in the same job classification working in that salary range and you brought someone in new for the same job yet with a different salary range, the school district could be subjected to a lawsuit through the EEOC. He recalled hearing there will be a salary audit and also speculated that when that is completed, it would be the opportunity to ‘adjust’ salaries across the board, if needed. The same applies for redoing the job description. I asked if there would be any ‘grandfathering’ for secretaries that have been in the position for years yet may lack some of the skills in the new job description. His answer was ‘it depends’ because it could open up an ‘ageism’ charge against the district.

Sometimes decisions are made with the consideration of the possibility of the least amount of legal action. It is the world we live in today.

V for Vendetta

November 11th, 2011
11:59 am

I wonder how long it will take for change to happen . . . We’ve had a lot of good topics on here over the past month or so–especially in light of the enormous pressures currently facing teachers and the education profession. I think stories such as this and the one about the student at Westlake high school are the most relevant, though, because they highlight the utterly absurb amount of corruption and barbarism that daily stares us in the face.

In light of these odds, how can we expect to properly educate students much less be evaluated based on their performance or our own?

I can’t remember the details, but a friend of mine told me that at South Gwinnett high school in Snellville–a known cesspool–an attempted after school study/tutoring program funded by grant money yielded ZERO participants. I don’t know if that is hyperbole, but, considering the massive academic black hole centered there, I think that says a lot about the types of students walking through their doors. My friend also told me to YouTube search “South Gwinnett” and “fights.”

Good Lord.

Dunwoody Mom

November 11th, 2011
11:59 am

I’m sorry that does not wash Ernest. There are employees in the company I work for with the same job descriptions with different salaries. And this is a company where HR watches its p’s and q’s to the infinite degree.

Ned

November 11th, 2011
12:01 pm

Let’s see, the position has been vacant since March and a lower salary kicks in in January.

Kind of sounds like they’re rushing to hire somebody before the salary drops.

Ladre Weathersby aka Mr. W.

November 11th, 2011
12:10 pm

I completely understand the feels of fumes. I taught for seven years, most recently in Dekalb County school. I had 100% pass rates on the GHSWT,94-95% pass rates on the Ninth Grade and American Literature EOCT as well as the GHSGT in Language Arts. Without a step increase for the last five to seven years, my salary for this coming year would have been $48k- including my Specialist degree in Curriculum & Instruction, which is just $5k less than I made teaching in APS the 06-07 year. Of course Im fuming over this. Thank God I quit. It just wasnt worth dealing with all of the hell, highwater, politics, and barrier to qualified educators. The $3000 for this year would not have been enough to pay my student loans for my Masters and Specialist degrees.

Fed-up Dekalb Taxpayer

November 11th, 2011
12:14 pm

Maureen, sometimes I get the feeling that you can’t understand the disgust that some Dekalb County parents and citizens have for their school board and school system. You have highlighted beautifully why many of us feel the way we do. Thank you.

nocman_2

November 11th, 2011
12:15 pm

Keep voting in the Splost tax….

This is what happens when you do. You will never learn…

Ole Guy

November 11th, 2011
12:16 pm

GD _ mit, Vendetta, THERE’S the problem…You WAIT for things to happen, for change to miraciously happen by way of social osmosis. MAKE it happen…IF you dare.

Former DCBOE Employee

November 11th, 2011
12:16 pm

That position was probably one that was given to a “favorite”. The Salary was inputed or overided in the system so this particular favorite could get that salary. DeKalb has had upteen Salary audits over the last 20 or so years. It doesn’t matter, the suits are going to pick and choose who they want.

common sense

November 11th, 2011
12:20 pm

Does Walt Woods work for Delta? I get this type of “versed” mumbo-jumbo all the time!

retiredexec

November 11th, 2011
12:22 pm

DeKalb County and its school system is simply an embarrassment. In March of this year the county lost its favorable bond rating and its new rating plummeted more than 3 levels to below investment grade due to mismanagement at the county level. The school system is dominated by teacher union hacks. The students perform below grade level across the board. Many students never graduate and even those who do are ill equipped to read or write. Teachers, no matter how bad, have lifetime tenure and there are no requirements that teachers teaching specific subjects have degrees in those subjects. Yet the county is spending more than $12,000 per student for substandard results. Someone should be embarrassed, but apparently county and school officials are not even capable of that.

alm

November 11th, 2011
12:28 pm

I wish this had come out BEFORE election day.

Ernest

November 11th, 2011
12:31 pm

Dunwoody Mom, perhaps I was not clear. Of course you can have people with the same job description and different salaries. That’s why there is a salary range so that you can differentiate salaries based on skills and length of service. I don’t think you can have two different job descriptions for the same job that have radically different salaries. That’s the point my friend was making. If the school district changed the job description just for the sake of paying a lower salary while others kept their existing salaries for the same job, that could be a means of circumventing the Fair Pay Act.

Until the job classification audit is done and job descriptions along with salary ranges are re-worked, they may be stuck with what they have.

David Granger

November 11th, 2011
12:32 pm

Another thing I want to see is just exactly WHO ends up in this position? Is it a long-time secretary from one of the schools, perhaps..whose put in her time and served the county? Or does it “just happen” to go to the wife of one of the administrators or their friends? (We sure saw lots of executive spouses getting cushy, high-paying jobs at ACOG.)

Debora

November 11th, 2011
12:35 pm

Dekalb taxpayers. Enjoy another BIG property tax increase. Burrell Ellis is already foaming at the mouth for more money and property tax increases again next year. But the residents continue to vote these people in.

Here are the link to the contact information to the Dekalb Board of Commissioners. Get off your sofas and tell them what you think. I do. Not that it helps. They don’t care. They have lifetime jobs and know it.

http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/boc/contact.html

Judy

November 11th, 2011
12:36 pm

Seriously, this is nothing new… it occurs in every metro county from Gwinnett to Fulton. Everyone in the county office is overpaid. You can check on salaries online. Yet, SPLOST passed… what a joke.

Beverly Fraud

November 11th, 2011
12:38 pm

When you voted for the SPLOST you told the board this type of action was PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE.

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, paying 70+k for secretaries with GED’s.

You RICHLY and FULLY deserve it.

Debora

November 11th, 2011
12:40 pm

For those that think voting for SPLOT was a bad idea. Those of us that wanted to vote no were threatened by a new property tax increase. Which quite franky, Ellis and his board are going to want do anyway. Oh the board will pretend to push back but in the end the property tax increase will happen. The property owners can not continue to fund the goverment of an entire county. Most of us are trying just to hold on to our homes. But they just don’t get that. When there are most vacant foreclosed on homes in the county that lived in homes, maybe they will wake up. But I doubt it.