What do all these support personnel in DeKalb do? Are the positions and salaries justified?

I am not sure new DeKalb school chief Cheryl Atkinson has to hire an outside firm to audit district payroll and priorities to figure out if district resources are aligned with goals. She could loose a team of teachers on the juggernaut and probably get all the detail she needs.

Here is one such researcher’s/teacher’s effort, sent to me to share with the blog:

According to Open.Georgia.gov, the DeKalb County school district employs 208 secretaries, 11 business service secretaries, 16 transportation secretaries, 44 general administration secretaries, 49 information services clerks, and 56 central support clerks.

From what I can tell, these 384 secretaries or clerks do not work in school buildings since DeKalb also employs  236 school secretaries/clerks.

Gwinnett County, with 161,000 students compared to DeKalb’s 98,688, employs 84 business service clerks, 46 transportation secretaries/clerks, 82 central support clerks, 165 data clerks, and five general administration secretaries.

So it appears that Gwinnett County employs two fewer secretaries or clerks even though it educates 62,000 more students than DeKalb.

DeKalb also employs 20 transportation directors, of which five make between $107,064 and $115,308 and three of whom earn at least $90,000. Gwinnett employs only one transportation director who earns $116,129. DeKalb employs 38 mechanics; Gwinnett employs 40.

So, it would seem that there is one director for every two mechanics working for DeKalb County Schools. By the way, the maximum salary a Ph.D-holding teacher with 26 years-experience will earn is $80,798.

I’m one of the more than 1,434 teachers in grades 9-12. I prepare lessons for three different classes, photocopy materials, grade assignments, and enter grades for more than 150 students. I also conference with students, prepare make-up work for absent students, revise lessons to accommodate the needs of individual students, e-mail or telephone parents, meet with parents, attend departmental and faculty meetings, and attend professional development sessions.

In the past few years, my colleagues and I have been forced to adapt to larger classes, more responsibilities, stagnant or reduced salaries, and furlough days. In the meantime, other DeKalb employees have profited. One business service secretary who earned $54,628 in 2008 received a $16,000 salary increase to earn $71,251 in 2010. A transportation director earning $88,000 in 2008 also received a generous $21,000 salary increase by 2009.

How, exactly, do all these secretaries/clerks and transportation directors –  to cite only two examples of DeKalb’s business enterprise — help achieve the school system’s purported intent to “narrow the achievement gap,” while also “increasing rigor and academic achievement” and “ensuring fiscal responsibility”?

All of this misapplied money and manpower should benefit schools and students, not an administrative superstructure.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

148 comments Add your comment

KMM

November 16th, 2011
11:04 am

Thank you, Maureen, for bringing these issues to a larger audience. Unless you supervise teachers, including, principals and maybe AP’s, you shouldn’t earn a dime more than the top teacher salary. Period. Principals could earn 10% more than top teacher pay, Superintendent 10% more than that.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

November 16th, 2011
11:11 am

Massive waste just MASSIVE. This is exactly the problem with public sector. NO accountability whatsoever. If there is a problem then whats the answer? More money.

And these empty headed lawmakers calling for a tax increase that is obviously not needed. In fact if anything a tax decrease is in order.

HS Public Teacher

November 16th, 2011
11:15 am

All school systems in the metro area are doing this. Money is shifted away from the classroom (where the students are, by the way) towards the central office.

There is no accountability. There is no checks-and-balance in place. This will continue until they are truely held accountable.

The State may “audit” them, but all an “audit” does is to ensure that the money is going where they say it is going. An “audit” does not determine that the place the money is going is “good” or “bad.”

In other States, the Teacher Union (which is legal there and not in Georgia) does provide the check-and-balance for school systems. Too bad Georgia makes it illegal……

alm

November 16th, 2011
11:17 am

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the attention you are bringing to DeKalb schools. We really need it.

disgusted

November 16th, 2011
11:21 am

Maureen – are you planning on confronting the new superintendent with this information as you did with the secretarial job posting? It would be very interesting to hear her response when given the comparisons made between Gwinnett and DeKalb (assuming they are accurate).

Dunwoody Mom

November 16th, 2011
11:25 am

The results of the audit should be interesting to say the least. Let’s hope the company performing the audit is actually reputable.

carlosgvv

November 16th, 2011
11:25 am

A thorough investigation most likely would show a large amount of nepotism here along with a generous amount of “good ole boy” networking thrown in. Does anyone know who would do this kind of investigating?

Janet

November 16th, 2011
11:28 am

WOW… that’s unbelievable!

posterchild

November 16th, 2011
11:32 am

@carlosgvv, more like the good ole gurl networking in DeKalb. Sorority affiliation is the golden ticket.

Beverly Fraud

November 16th, 2011
11:34 am

Yet you voted for SPLOST.When given a chance to send a message to the board, you sent this:

WE TRUST YOUR JUDGEMENT. We are NOT bothered ENOUGH by your actions, to send a message.

Enjoy the administrative bloat, as it is what you RICHLY and FULLY deserve.

posterchild

November 16th, 2011
11:38 am

The positions and salaries most likely aren’t justified, but I’m sure the bonds of friendship or family are.

Inman Park Boy

November 16th, 2011
11:43 am

Basically, this is called “using the government as a jobs provider”. Unfortunately, governments do not make any money; they merely use wealth already made and earned by others. But try to explain this to your average employee in the DeKalb Schools’ Central office. I promise, they will just stare at you.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

November 16th, 2011
11:48 am

And Arne Duncan/Stalin wants to double salaries…

V for Vendetta

November 16th, 2011
11:50 am

As some others have already said, this is no different in any metro county. Though Gwinnett seems tame by comparison, I’d be willing to bet that there is plenty of waste there, too. Cobb and Fulton should also be looked at.

HS Teacher,

We do NOT need a union. Union’s use nothing more than bully tactics and the collectivist mentality to get things that they do not deserve. Maureen is doing a good job shedding light on this. The free market is at work.

Wrong message to reward School mismanagement

November 16th, 2011
11:53 am

Maureen: Please apply this same analysis against Fulton and prepare to be shocked. DeKalb is a good steward of its monies when compared to the bloated administration of the Fulton system. Yet, we don’t challenge these same systems when we blindly affirm SPLOST. Do the math, look at how the money is truly spent, look at the incredible variance in per capita student spend in each system in the metro area–it makes no sense.

Ned

November 16th, 2011
12:00 pm

Maureen–
Thank you for posting this, and the eaqrlier piece about the secretary job opening. I would add that the DeKalb schools police force of 200+ (IIRC) needs to be up for scrutiny as well.

Does anyone else remember Crawford Lewis 2-3 years ago assuring the Board that his top priority was no one losing their job? Education/schmeducation so long as the gravy keeps flowing.

Linda

November 16th, 2011
12:06 pm

Wow, if the AJC can bring the same attention to this issue that they did to cheating we will be eternally grateful. I would not be opposed to allowing a pool of secretaries for teachers. Imagine what they could accomplish if they could delegate some of the junk and focus on lesson planning.

HS Public Teacher

November 16th, 2011
12:08 pm

@V for Vendetta -

We must agree to disagree. A real teacher union would have never allowed this from the start. Here we are years after the fact. Think of the wasted money already that could have been saved.

Also, consider that for it not for the weak economy, the general public (us) likely would not even bat an eye because the money would still be flowing.

We do need a real teacher union. They do NOT just use “bully tactics and the collectivist mentality to get things that they do not deserve.” You have an uninformed perspective – which is very common in the South.

Atlanta Media Guy

November 16th, 2011
12:08 pm

ADMINISTRATIVE SUPERSTRUCTURE! (a.k.a. The Palace) There it is, two words that describe DCSS(D?). This problem persists at DeKalb County Government as well as the school system(district?). The only accountability we have is at the ballot box. Change will be slow until the entire culture inside DCSS(D?) removed. Like a cyst, if you don’t get to the very root of the problem the problem will persist. Clew’s Crew must be shown the door, they have failed the stakeholders miserably!

Linda OG

November 16th, 2011
12:09 pm

@Wrong Message 11:53 – actually Fulton County seems to have much less administrative bloat, according to an analysis done by some folks over at the DeKalb County Schoolwatch blog. Here’s what they found:

DCSS Total Salaries 2008: $682,709,025.22
DCSS Admin/”Central Office” Salaries 2008: $170,590,619.93
Ratio 2008: 24.987%

FCSS Total Salaries 2008 $552,969,891.22
FCSS Admin/”Central Office” Salaries 2008: $56,194,268.83
Ratio 2008: 10.162%

Granted the info is a few years old, but Fulton can’t have added more than DeKalb in the last 3 years.

jess

November 16th, 2011
12:11 pm

Wrong message………Dekalb is not a good steward of it’s monies regardless of what Fulton does. Government is out of control and all they know how to do is throw money at problems. It’s across the board; federal, state and local.

Linda OG

November 16th, 2011
12:13 pm

Atlanta Media Guy

November 16th, 2011
12:13 pm

What I also find sad is that this post as well as the Job Posting for Secretary post were both published AFTER SPLOST IV PASSED! Just think if these stories had been published 4 or 5 days before the election, would it have made a difference? I think it would have been closer than it was, but it would have passed, but we’ll never know. Maureen, like former BOE members have told me…. follow the money!

jess

November 16th, 2011
12:14 pm

HS……..We saw the unionized teachers in Wisconsin. It’s hard to sell your story with that as a backdrop.

HS Public Teacher

November 16th, 2011
12:19 pm

There was nothing wrong with the teacher union in Wisconsin. The politicans there were determined to bust the union. They fed slanted and wrong information to the public to do that.

Again, please become better informed (and that does not mean to watch more of FOX news!).

HS Public Teacher

November 16th, 2011
12:20 pm

jess – The reason Wisconsin politicans wanted to bust the union was because of just what I am saying….. they are the check-and-balance against the crooked administration and politicans.

Of course the politicans/administration wanted the union gone. Now, they have no one to answer to – just like in DeKalb, Fulton, and all of GA.

Shar

November 16th, 2011
12:26 pm

This is what unchecked bureaucracies do. They bloat, protect each others’ jobs, suck resources away from productive areas, and react to threat by using their administrative control to make the most painful possible cuts to the productive positions in order to discredit calls for cost control.

School systems are particularly prone to this, as their primary customers – students and parents – are subservient and frequently not sufficiently knowledgable to demand improvements, they own a monopoly and they have an automatic emotive response to outside demands for change: “It’s for the children.” See the most recent SPLOST.

The only way to combat this is to drain resources. Since SPLOST passed (and I would be very interested to see what percentage of registered voters foisted that package of corruption on the rest of us – I’d be willing to bet it was not more than 10%, and probably less – a number that is far too easy to manipulate given the low total turnout the SPLOST thieves were counting on), it appears that voters are unable or unwilling to see behind the curtain of lies spun by these behemoth bureaucracies. The only hope is that damning and indefensible information like this will force the new superintendents, who are not yet as thoroughly and corruptly entrenched as their DCSS and APS predecessors, to order across the board cuts of a sufficient magnitude that the existing internal alliances are broken up and administrators are no longer politically protected from termination.

Perhaps then the bureaucrats will become more concerned with earning their jobs than with defending the status quo.

HS Public Teacher

November 16th, 2011
12:32 pm

Shar -

I don’t think that “draining” resources is the answer. We already have seen what “their” decisions would be in that case…. reduce teacher pay, give furlough days, etc. Their “waste” continues (and in fact increases).

They feel empowered and will continue their ways.

A true check-and-balance would be some other authority that the school system DOES have to answer to – and there be some consequences if a balance is not reached.

A State audit does no good. An audit simply ensures that the money is going to where they said the money would go. So, if they said that they would pay this secretary a salary of $80,000 and they actually did pay $80,000, then an audit would not raise a flag at all.

Again, I feel that Georgia desperately needs a real teacher union to serve as an authority to balance the politicans/administration. A real teacher union would review and “approve” the annual budget and would quickly point out problems such as too many clerks or an over paid secretary.

Pluto

November 16th, 2011
12:34 pm

This is not an isolated incident to Dekalb county; there are 158 other counties that piss away too many resources. You can’t sling a dead cat at our school’s front office without hitting a secretary or two yet whenever something needs to be done; it’s the teachers that do the job.

Dunwoody Mom

November 16th, 2011
12:38 pm

@Shar….The total DeKalb vote for SPLOST was 33,149 yes 20,156 no. However, take out the City of Decatur schools and city of Atlanta Schools in DeKalb, the DCSS SPLOST vote was 27,632 YES votes and 18.455 NO Votes – less than 13% DCSS registered voters from the polls and most of that was Dunwoody where there were multiple items on the ballot and of course, the Fernbank area.

So, Monday night, I had a good laught at the BOE patting themselves on the back for the passage of SPLOST.

cris

November 16th, 2011
12:39 pm

School systems are particularly prone to this, as their primary customers – students and parents – are subservient and frequently not sufficiently knowledgable to demand improvements, they own a monopoly and they have an automatic emotive response to outside demands for change: “It’s for the children.”

@Shar…not only the students and parents, but the teachers that work for them as well! For all those out there who say that teachers aren’t held accountable….may I offer the simple fact that I have 6 classes a day that average 30 students each….what am I going to do if I’m doing nothing? Are we all just going to sit and stare at each other? I’m directly accountable to those students I face every day! On the other hand, who is a system secretary/clerk directly accountable to? A boss that is out of the office 3 days out of 5 and if he/she is there, the door is closed? If you want to complain about being the taxpayer that pays a salary, complain about THOSE salaries, not teacher’s salaries!!

BlahBlahBlah

November 16th, 2011
12:40 pm

Great job here. Keep the pressure on Dekalb. Keep pounding on them until they change or are forced out!

Shar

November 16th, 2011
12:50 pm

HS teacher, I’d love to share your optimism about a teachers’ union, but I don’t. Unions, too, become far too concerned with protection and inherently defensive about change. Their customers are teachers, not students, and because of this they inevitably prioritize the benefit to teachers above everything else, including students or appropriate use of tax money.

There are far too many examples of teachers’ unions protecting and prolonging the classroom life of teachers who are substandard, unsuccessful and/or incapable of imparting skills and knowledge. They are no more proof against corruption than are the administrative bureaucracies, and usually end up splitting the take, as it were.

Unions that exist within the free market are constrained by the reality of market forces. They’ll fight with management over the available money, not pretend to but actually work with management for a bigger pie from the beleagured taxpayer.

The superintendents should mandate a 35% administrative cut from their subordinates, with an action plan and justification for those positions left intact. They should also issue compensation guidelines for Board approval, to force their systems to put their salary money where their priorities are supposed to be. Of course, it all comes back to the voters, and in an environment where the people who are using the services are not the people who are paying for them voters tend to approve as much spending as the bureaucracy wants.

Legislatively, we should look at a state cap on administrative spending per-pupil, with perhaps an additional factor as consideration for a system’s percent of free/reduced lunch population. With no realistic brake on admin spending, an enforced cap is a blunt instrument but better than no instrument at all.

Lee

November 16th, 2011
12:58 pm

Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! said Gomer Pyle…

But really. Are we surprised of the apparent bloat of a government entity?

Not me.

It would be interesting for the AJC to get it’s data crunchers to conduct a trend analysis of school system personnel for the past 5-10 years and compare them with each other as you did with DeKalb and Gwinnett.

Beverly Fraud

November 16th, 2011
1:04 pm

Why are you complaining? Don’t complain, RELISH and REJOICE that SCORES of under qualified are being OVER paid.

YOU told the BOE you were FINE with this when you passed SPLOST. So rejoice in the fact you are an ACTIVE co-creator in this.

You are getting EXACTLY what you RICHLY and FULLY deserve, so embrace it!

no mas

November 16th, 2011
1:23 pm

From DCSS PATS Job Listings:

Painter Assistant

EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE: High school diploma or GED equivalent required.

Minimum of three (3) years experience in commercial painting required.

Knowledge of the methods, materials, tools, equipment and practices used in painting (both interior and exterior); principles attendant to the painting of paved surfaces

Skill in effective oral, written, and interpersonal communication; and paint applications

Ability to climb ladders, scaffolds, boom trucks; and work in compact areas

CERTIFICATES, LICENSES, PERMITS: A valid Georgia Driver’s License required.

Salary$38,304.00 to $52,108.80

Cere

November 16th, 2011
1:46 pm

Thank you so much for highlighting the administrative waste and bloat in DeKalb county schools, Maureen. We have worked so hard on the blog to bring the imbalance in spending to light. We are pinning our hopes on Dr. Atkinson’s promise to focus on the classroom. We will continue to watch carefully as (hopefully) the system is radically restructured, bringing the majority of our tax dollars to the children and the teachers in the classroom – as it is intended when we pay those taxes. This is the only way we will see improvement in student achievement in DeKalb.

Name One

November 16th, 2011
1:51 pm

The DeKalb Count School System’s Board of Education, led by Tom Bowen, is ultimately responsible for the incredible bloat and waste at DCSS. The buch is supposed to start and stop with them. Of course, this is mostly the same board that sung the praises of Crawford Lewis and Pat Pope, because the board had and still has a bunch of relatives working for the system.

And where is ODE’s David Schutten?? He is supposed to be the advocate for DCSS teachers. Why doesn’t he demand that resources go back into the classroom, that the bloat is eliminated, that teachers are paid properly, etc., etc???

Beverly Fraud

November 16th, 2011
1:54 pm

Terrible day. Just came to from a bout of SELF INDUCED amnesia.

Turns out, much to my dismay, I’ve only completed the 3rd grade, score .6 on the SAT (that’s six TENTHS of a point) and have only a three week work history, in which I was unceremoniously fired from Domino’s for insisting on cutting pizza slices into irregular polygons.

The good news? I’m the neighbor of a 3rd cousin of a BOE member’s hairdresser, and as such I’ve been offered a $95,000 a year job as Director of Ambiguous Services.

Life is GOOD!

Teacher Reader

November 16th, 2011
2:35 pm

High School Teacher, It’s obvious that you’ve never taught in a teacher union state. There are no differences, expect the teachers unions are all for getting the teachers the most money and benefits regardless of the community and what it’s able to afford and the education that the teachers provide the children. Teachers are truly protected and nearly impossible to firer for being incompetent. Teachers unions do not provide a checks and balances for a school system. A teacher’s union is focused on the teacher and getting the teacher what the teachers want, not educating the children and providing the children with the best education possible.

I have worked as a teacher where unions were in several states (not joining the unions, but having to have the dues taken out because they worked with the district for my salary) and was also a student who went through two teacher strikes. When the teachers went on strike my senior year of high school they refused to write letters of recommendations, work as our class advisers, coaches, and anything else that they did after school, all of which they got paid for. The strike lasted so long, that the teachers were forced back, so that we could get our 180 days in before June 30. This meant no breaks during our school year and teachers who did not care about educating us. There was a huge difference in the same teachers that I had my junior year to my senior year.

I could go on about the two alcoholic teachers that I know of. One was finally fired after a child who was deathly allergic to bee stings was stung by a bee and she was so wasted that she did not know what to do and a second grader in that class had to act fast to keep the boy alive. Or my own sixth grade teacher who had lunch at the local tavern smelling like alcohol every day. Nothing was done to him, as no incidents happened on his watch. I could go on about the teachers who didn’t teach or know their subject areas and were similar to a number of the teachers that I taught with in DCSS.

Teachers in Wisconsin were looking out for themselves, not wanting to give back when communities/the state did not have the money to pay for their full salaries, even though many workers have had to give back to keep their jobs or have been laid off.

Teacher unions and unions in general are not what the media has made them out to be. They are not the answer and if they did come to Georgia would possibly increase teacher salaries and raise taxes, but I doubt that the quality of education that our children in public schools receive would increase in any way shape or form.

William Casey

November 16th, 2011
3:00 pm

This is a topic that needs MUCH more exploration and not just of the secretatial jobs. A former principal of mine in Fulton County finished up his career as an Associate Superintendent for Curriculum at $205,000 per year. Had he retired a year earlier, nobody in the classroom would have noticed. I never met an “educator” less interested in curriculum. Obscene waste of money!

Giving a drink to a drunk

November 16th, 2011
3:26 pm

This news is old news to those of us who do our research and who voted against SPLOST IV because of this very type of bloating and waste. Our BOE is rolling in money and can keep their seats as long as they provide cush jobs to key people and their relatives.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that the audit will be done thoroughly and honestly. Heaven help us if it isn’t. We’ll be stuck with its findings for years.

HS Public Teacher

November 16th, 2011
3:33 pm

@Shar and Teacher Reader….

Real teacher unions have power and authority as much as the particular State allows. In some States, the unions have none at all – Georgia, for example.

In some States, the teacher unions are not allowed to participate in the budget process. They can do the “other” things but they have no say at all in looking at, suggesting, or including any line item in the budge.

In some States, the teacher unions are welcomed with open arms. They are considered an asset to education and have a seat at the table of every Board of Educatin meeting at all levels (local and State). They vote on budet items and do everything else. The unions in those States really DO provide a check-and-balance to the administrators/politicans. They are the ones that really do look out for the best interest of the student and not for ‘Mr. Smith’s mistress’ who is slated to get a secretary job in the central office. THOSE are the people (the unions) that would blow the whistle if that sort of thing is even proposed – in other words, they can stop it before it even happens.

irisheyes

November 16th, 2011
3:47 pm

“Teachers in Wisconsin were looking out for themselves, not wanting to give back when communities/the state did not have the money to pay for their full salaries, even though many workers have had to give back to keep their jobs or have been laid off. ”

That is incorrect. The public unions in WI were willing to make the financial concessions the governor was insisting upon including pay freezes and additional contributions to pensions and insurance premiums, but they did not want to give up the right to collectively bargain regarding work conditions (class size, curriculum control, etc.). The governor refused to compromise by taking the financial concessions. What didn’t get reported very much was the fact that Wisconsin’s public retirement funds are actually in great shape (one of the best in the country).

HS Public Teacher

November 16th, 2011
3:56 pm

@irisheyes – Thank you. Too many people in Georgia are so very uninformed. They hear total crap from FOX news and actually believe them.

Teacher2

November 16th, 2011
3:57 pm

This is what the blog should be about iInvestigating! The secretaries are family members, friends, sorority sisters, etc. of those in the county office and school board.

@ Maureen, please check the transportation department (especially), county consultants, parent liaisons, county coordinators and all the other county office positions. These are the areas were “friends and family” and retired principals (who collect a salary and retirement) are placed in the DCSS. The salaries are outrageous. Custodians, heating and air employees and maintenance personnel make more than the teachers. The focus on the county office, administrative office and transportation department will be an eye opening experience.

Teacher2

November 16th, 2011
3:58 pm

Correction- “investigating”

Dekalbite

November 16th, 2011
4:07 pm

It’s not just the number of non-teaching personnel in DeKalb Schools. It’s complicated by the fact that the non-teaching personnel have such high salaries as compared to the rest of the metro area for the same jobs.

I saw the painter job advertised. I thought why don’t they pay that by the hour. Why hire a painter and then be on the hook for benefits?

If Governor Deal wants to know where the taxpayer dollars are going, he should be asking his Department of Education to do these comparisons. Of course many of the Georgia DOE are former DeKalb administrators. That’s a problem IMO.

Fred

November 16th, 2011
4:09 pm

Thank you Maureen. You ARE making a difference, apparently teachers trust you enough to tell you what is really going on. And thanks to the teacher for her good essay.

Teacher2

November 16th, 2011
4:18 pm

@Dekalbite

You are right there are too many non-teaching personnel in all the school systems. I have noticed that the people who have the least amount of interaction with children are the people who make the most money-COMPLETELY BACKWARDS!