Outside audit of DeKalb school system: Slash the central office by more than 300 jobs

Many of you have been insisting for a long time that DeKalb County Schools has too many central office staff. A newly released audit by outside consultants now confirms it.

According to the AJC story by Ty Tagami:

The report, released Wednesday , said DeKalb has 1,499 employees in the central office — too many for a system its size. The consultant, Virginia-based Management Advisory Group, recommends that DeKalb slim down to 1,162 administrative slots.

But don’t expect immediate cuts. Job titles, and their lack of descriptiveness, are a problem, Atkinson said. The district employs directors, coordinators, secretaries and others in the central office whose titles don’t reflect their responsibilities.

The audit focused mostly on white collar positions. It found confusion about who does what and how much they should be paid. Some secretaries, for instance, have more responsibility than the presumably higher title of coordinator. Atkinson said it would take at least 30 days to review the titles, redefine them and place them in a proper hierarchy — work that must be done before major organizational changes.

The DeKalb school district has long been maligned as a bloated operation, but evidence supporting those charges has never been this clear. Atkinson, who just finished her first 90 days on the job, has been saying that she’d make substantial personnel changes. She’s already reassigned a few high-level administrators, replacing the chiefs of finance, curriculum and instruction, operations and information, for instance.

But this report says the district needs a whole new organizational chart, and a top-down reclassification of all positions. “I think what this has really found is massive redundancy,” said school board member Don McChesney, who attended Atkinson’s presentation Thursday. “We’ve got secretaries making more than our teachers. That might be justified, but somebody’s got to show me how it’s justified.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

122 comments Add your comment

WAR

January 18th, 2012
7:56 pm

Lee

January 18th, 2012
7:58 pm

Give Atkinson credit, she has taken the first step. Now, it’s just a matter to see if she follows through.

Time will tell….

WAR

January 18th, 2012
7:58 pm

Maureen

you wrote “…..but evidence supporting those charges has never this clear.” it appears a word is missing. please correct it before these people start yacking!

sincerely WAR

William Casey

January 18th, 2012
8:01 pm

I’m glad this has finally been clarified, though nothing will come of it. The DCSS has long been known as a glorified middle class “jobs” program. Concern for students has been a distant second for at least forty years.

WAR

January 18th, 2012
8:02 pm

had a watch once that told the right time twice a day. i simply needed a new battery. but the watch was old and the battery expensive… so i just wore it because the trouble was not worth the time. after a while, i ignored it and acted surprised each time someone pointed out that the battery had obviously stopped! but i knew that i wouldnt wear it much longer anyway so it didnt matter.

Maureen Downey

January 18th, 2012
8:02 pm

@War, Thanks. I will send your note to the news writer. I assume the missing word is “been,” which is what I added, but I will alert the reporter.
Maureen

Former SPARK parent

January 18th, 2012
8:09 pm

This gives Atkinson political cover to remove dead weight. If she doesn’t follow through, her critics will be all over her. Now, can we please commission a similar study for APS?

WAR

January 18th, 2012
8:14 pm

Maureen
;) no problem
just didnt want these people to start yacking about spelling and all other kinds of stuff. they act as if they have never misspelled nayhting or left a word out a sen—ce!

WAR

January 18th, 2012
8:18 pm

f SPARK p

political cover? please. people who are well connected in the county wont be touched. the rest will be reassigned or unemployed. the end result will be the same. problem is not at the central office. problem is at the schools.

Melanie

January 18th, 2012
8:26 pm

I hope Ms. Akinson doesn’t interfer with the good schools in DeKalb. There are so few of them these days. I have moved to get into a good school. I hope she doesn’t try to fix what is not broken.

WAR

January 18th, 2012
8:27 pm

melanie

i am curious which schools in dekalb do you think are good?

Sade

January 18th, 2012
8:33 pm

I heard through the grapevine that somewhere out there is an indepth report identifying all the members of the friends and family jobs program. Now would be a great time for this report to make an appearance don’t you think?

dteacher

January 18th, 2012
8:41 pm

Maureen,

Who approves salaries? As a DCSS teacher who has never understood what much of the administrative and central office does, I don’t understand why board members would need an audit to tell them how much secretaries or other personnel make.

Understanding Atlanta

January 18th, 2012
9:04 pm

This is indeed a good first step at deflating the overbloard DCSS central office. I like others on here am eager to see what Atkinson does wtih it. I suspect that she will get rod of quite a few admin positions but probably not as many as suggested.

To Just so ....from Good Mom

January 18th, 2012
9:07 pm

This is a major understatement: “It found confusion about who does what and how much they should be paid.”

Education consultants such as the wicked, James Wilson fall into this category.

Has anyone done the math? There are 1,400 positions and the study recommends 1,162, a decrease of 337 jobs. If those positions pay higher than a teacher’s salary, say, just 50k each, that’s 16,850,000. 16.8 million dollars. Think what an honest school system could do with 16.8 million dollars every year. Why, we could hire 337 teachers and reduce the class size in Dekalb county to 20 students each or fewer.

It was this Get Schooled blog that also revealed those secretarial positions that pay more than a teacher’s salary did not require a college degree and required only one year of experience.

Corruption is so thick here we need a chain saw to cut through it. Perhaps we can chip in and buy Dr. Atkinson a Black and Decker model at Home Depot. She’s gonna need it.

Make that 1499 ....from Good Mom

January 18th, 2012
9:08 pm

Whoops. I meant 1499 positions, not 1400.

exteacher

January 18th, 2012
9:14 pm

The report is out, but I would be amazed if anything actually will happen. Having witnessed firsthand the amazing incompetence of this office, while demanding excellence from others and declaring that the district is superior to others, I can wait to see how this goes. I also want to see all the administrators’ kids out of the schools that they do not reside in attendance areas of. Time to get rid of all the special privileges, nepotism, and cronies. If nothing big happens, no street cred, EVER!

Paid TWICE A month

January 18th, 2012
9:35 pm

All I know is, we didn’t have to wait 45 days to get paid for the first time EVER! Thank you very much Dr Atkinson for hearing THAT!

A teacher thankful for a JOB

BlahBlahBlah

January 18th, 2012
9:38 pm

Paying a consultant to prepare a report is the easy part. Having the guts to follow through on their recommendations, rather than marginalize what they have said, is the tough part. Dekalb County is in “I’ll believe it when I see it” status when it comes to reducing the bloat.

What Evidence?

January 18th, 2012
9:58 pm

What evidence was presented? Was there a comparison of other local
school districts servicing approximately the same number of students?
I don’t like the fact that teachers have lost jobs, but I’m also not happy
about the prospect of 300 more people losing their jobs.

Dekalbite@What Evidence?

January 18th, 2012
10:06 pm

Enter your comments here

proed

January 18th, 2012
10:13 pm

WAR – You want to know where the good schools are? Look around – Oak Grove Elementary, Briarlake Elementary, Vanderlyn Elementary, Dekalb High School of the Arts, Lakeside High School, ……. there are many, many good schools in Dekalb, and even more good and honest teachers and staff members who desire to be even better.

Dekalbite@What Evidence?

January 18th, 2012
10:14 pm

“What evidence was presented?…. I’m also not happy
about the prospect of 300 more people losing their jobs.”

Are you happier that 600 teaching positions were eliminated in 2009-10 and 2010-11 by Dr. Lewis and Ms. Tyson and class sizes increased to historic proportions so that non-teaching personnel could keep their jobs? Student achievement in our Title 1 schools fell to historic proportions at the same time.

You want data about those 600 positions. Look at this article on Get Schooled. Links in the article are provided – all links to DeKalb Schools and state websites so you can check the sources and data yourself:
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/11/where-have-all-our-teachers-gone.html

DeKalb has an obligation to educate its children, not provide jobs. Students only get one chance at an education and sadly many students, particularly in our low income schools, have missed their chance.

The Deal

January 18th, 2012
10:17 pm

Start cutting the fat, Dr. A. It’s loooong overdue. Thank you for not burying this report.

Fred in DeKalb

January 18th, 2012
10:17 pm

“Paying a consultant to prepare a report is the easy part. Having the guts to follow through on their recommendations, rather than marginalize what they have said, is the tough part.”

A true comment! Didn’t a consultant recommend more schools be consolidated and closed yet DeKalb citizens fought it, even though it would save money? It will be interesting to see which group will defend status quo.

It was interesting to read that Fulton has a greater problem on central office bloat, according to the study done. Perhaps residents there are OK with their staffing levels, especially since the North Fulton schools are doing well academically.

Dekalb Tax Payer

January 18th, 2012
10:26 pm

The last audit was done by Ernst and Young in 2004 at Superintendent Johnny Brown’s request and was presented to the DeKalb BOE April 1, 2004.

“See AJC archived article:

“Study: DeKalb schools overpay workers
BYLINE: JEN SANSBURY
DATE: April 2, 2004
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
The DeKalb County School System overpays more than 2,500 nonteaching employees to the tune of $14.8 million…. Ernst & Young consultant Jim Landry told school board members Thursday that some positions are “overvalued” and carry “inflated titles.” … About 35 percent of 7,355 full-time employees who are not in the classrooms appear to be paid above the maximum recommended pay range for their jobs. Only 233 employees are paid below appropriate pay ranges, which would cost about $325,000 to fix, he said…. The 98,000-student district also employs about 7,000 teachers. Landry said DeKalb’s teacher pay scale is lower than some other metro Atlanta systems, but higher than the national market. …Ernst & Young has been comparing job descriptions and actual duties based on questionnaires completed by thousands of employees….There have been elevations of people into jobs that really the overall market [indicates] what you should be paying is considerably less” than they are currently earning.”
(This article is copyright protected so to pay for and read the entire article, go to – http://www.newslibrary.com/sites/ajc/)

Then Johnny Brown was fired by the BOE and Crawford Lewis came on board. He buried the audit, and all minutes of the April 1, 2004 meeting are missing from the DeKalb BOE website. It took an Open Meetings request by Jim Walls last year to get access to a few unorganized boxes of information. The summary by Jim Landry was never produced. Nor were the minutes ever posted.

http://www.atlantaunfiltered.com/2011/02/07/dekalb-school-audit-found-bloated-salaries-then-what/

http://www.atlantaunfiltered.com/2011/02/28/despite-the-law-dekalb-school-minutes-vanish-without-a-trace/

DeKalb is the ONLY metro school system that does not publish the titles and salary schedules of non-teaching employees online. Taxpayers must insist that this information is published so that titles and compensation is transparent:
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/05/taxpayers-need-to-demand-transparency.html

@Fred in DeKalb

January 18th, 2012
10:38 pm

You are comparing apples to oranges.

I can see why parents would not want their neighborhood schools to close. But really, what group of parents would rather see their children in larger class sizes and hundreds of teaching positions lost so non-teaching personnel can keep their jobs and maintain compensation that is out of line with the marketplace?

Now we do have quite a few former and current BOE members and current and former “Upper Management” personnel with relatives in highly paid non-teaching positions (aka “Family and Friends” plan). Of course, they will be protecting their family members and friends. Taxpayers/parents need to watch closely to see if they try to sabotage Dr. A in her efforts.

Truth

January 18th, 2012
10:53 pm

I’d bet that APS, Fulton, Cobb, and Gwin school systems could also slash their administration “top heavy” staffing – but it’ll never happen.

Fred in DeKalb

January 18th, 2012
10:55 pm

No one wants to see larger class sizes. It is a reality in the current economic climate. You would be hard pressed to find any school district around the country that has not increased the teacher-student ratio as a means to reduce costs. This does not excuse doing more to right size central office staff but it still is a reality. There is an article in today’s AJC that Cobb may need to cut up to 250 teaching positions. I’m sure this isn’t the first time and won’t be the last that we hear about this.

When Dr. Freeman retired, the two finalist for the superintendent position were Dr. Johnny Brown and Dr. James Hallford. The Board decided to go with the familiar candidate, who continued the culture of ‘friends and family’ program that has existed since the first ‘good old boy’ gave to job to someone that did not deserve it. When Dr. Brown was hired after Dr. Hallford retired, he thought he had a mandate to clean up the mess that had been created over the years. Obviously he got to close to a few skeletons and he was hustled out of town shortly after commissioning the Salary and Personnel Audit. The Board turned to another familiar insider in Dr. Crawford Lewis who continued the culture established by superintendents prior to Dr. Brown. Combine this with NCLB which gave greater attention to all students and exposed even the ‘good’ schools for not helping low income students, we are where we are today.

We have another outsider in Dr. Atkinson. Will she be given the support by the Board and community to do what needs to be done with respect to staffing and instruction or will she be undermined as Dr. Brown was? Only time will tell….

What Evidence?

January 18th, 2012
10:57 pm

@ Dekalbite

You know that cuts were made across the state from districts
with much smaller administrative personnel.Cuts were made
,because legislators and voters were not willing to maintain
educational funding at levels prior to the recession. I would
have liked to have seen the teachers maintain their jobs,but
the fact of the matter is union representation really doesn’t
exist and the losing of the 600 teaching jobs is a much
bigger problem than the 300 central office jobs. Take out
the “excessive” central office jobs, and you still have an
obscene number of teachers that would have lost their
jobs (300 teachers losing their jobs would better than 600
,but still way too high). You are right in stating that the
goal of the district is to educate students, but who is
responsible for funding the schools at levels that provide
for that education?

I know.

January 18th, 2012
11:03 pm

They need to start in Transportation.

What Evidence?

January 18th, 2012
11:04 pm

mistake-(300 teachers losing their jobs would be better than 600
,but still way too high)

Cere

January 18th, 2012
11:15 pm

Thanks for posting that old AJC report Dekalb Tax Payer…. I had been looking for that!

Can’t wait to see Phase II of the study! I’m betting they’ll find that the school-based staffs are short by more than 300 people! So you see What Evidence?, you have nothing to fear — those jobs will be replaced with jobs that are needed in other areas. In fact, you can probably employ MORE than 300 because teachers don’t make as much money as central office staff. Just imagine — replacing 300 central office staff with about 500 teachers!!!!!

Now that’s exciting!!!

Instructional Coaches

January 18th, 2012
11:18 pm

That 300 over in central office must be the instructional coaches who are housed there. Why are they grossly overpaid according to a national study? Put them in a classroom, they have no accountability what so ever and they all need to be a teacher of the record.

Put the money in the teachers!

January 18th, 2012
11:21 pm

Pay the teachers now.

Brian

January 18th, 2012
11:39 pm

THIS is the reason that I voted against the SPLOST in November. It really is too bad that enough other people didn’t vote the same way I did.

another comment

January 18th, 2012
11:39 pm

Look at Fulton it has an even higher Ratio of Central Office Staff. Some of Fulton’s better schools have big problems. Cobb and Gwinnett have real low rates of Central Office per the report.

If you take a look in the Fulton County School Offices you will find that they are loaded down with none teaching personnel as well. Where Cobb County has one office lady (secretary). Fulton County will have at least two additional that just translate for the Hispanic population. Cobb schools of the same demographics just say speak English or bring some with you that can Mama.

Then a Cobb High School of 2200 students will only have 4 guidance conselers and a Fulton school of only 1200 students will have 4-5 guidance counslers, plus another counsler that just works on college stuff. Again the same thing in the High School Office more front office to speak Spanish, when at the Cobb County School that has lower SES no translators for Spanish full time. So you have to look at the Schools non-teaching staff.

Dekalbite@what evidence

January 18th, 2012
11:40 pm

Non-teaching levels of employment stayed virtually the same in DeKalb comparing the state Salary and Compensation audit (details the number of employees per personnel titles) from 2009 through 2011. The audit has ONLY addressed the Central Office with around 1500 employees. The support side Classified employees) has not been addressed yet. There are around 8,000 support personnel. So you see DeKalb should have addressed this in the first place rather than cutting teaching positions. But Lewis, Tyson and the Board did not want anyone to lose their jobs so they let 600 teaching positions go unfilled and packed the classrooms with more and more students. Lewis buried the audit in 2004. If he had made the necessary cuts to non-teaching salaries at that time, DeKalb would have beenin very good shape to weather this recession without hurting students. They truly balanced the budget on the backs of the students. IMO – no one is “owed” a job by the school system. But students are “owed” a decent education. When you throw students overboard to ensure everyone keeps their job, that’s just wrong and it will show up in decreased student performance.

Look at Marietta City Schools, a small school system with greater poverty level than DeKalb. They have excellent student achievement – 88% of their low income schools made AYP (before and after strict test monitoring) because they invest in the classroom. Their superintendent Emily Lembeck took a very different approach when faced with reduced funding from the state:
http://www.ajc.com/news/cobb/marietta-schools-may-outsource-979948.html

Rockdale County Schools, a relatively small school system as well with 16,000 students, with every single school low income Title 1, had every single school making AYP (only 2 other much wealthier systems did that – Decatur City and Forsyth). Again, the Rockdale superintendent has invested in teachers rather than non-teaching personnel (although the schools are clean and well maintained – you should visit some of them).

Name One

January 18th, 2012
11:40 pm

YES!!!!!

This report comes from one impetus: The DeKalb County School Watch Blog, http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/. The Get Schooled Blog was helpful, but it was the DCSW Blog that truly is responsible for this needed exposition.

The contributors for this blog has long since railed against the bloat of the DCSS Central Office, the nepotism, the cronyism, the ridiculous influence in South DeKalb principals/AP’s who are members of the AKA Sorority, the influence of New Birth Church member administrators, the feckless, weak leadership of former BOE Chair Tom Bowen, multiple BOE members who have multiple relatives working for the school system, tens of millions wasted on America’s Choice, eSIS, the Office of School Improvement and Parent Resource Centers, non-academic departments such as Sam Moss, School Police, MIS who are inefficient and provide no return on investment, the arching influence of the Frances Edwards and Callaway/Guillory families, etc., etc., etc.

Thank you DeKalb County School Watch, for being the one entity who’s brought sunlight to the unethical, shady, corrupt DCSS Central Office.

(Interim Supt. Ramona Tyson did nothing during her tenure to make any significant changes. She needs to be the next administrator who’s fired).

Dekalbite@Feed in DeKalb

January 18th, 2012
11:47 pm

“No one wants to see larger class sizes. It is a reality in the current economic climate.”

Not necessarily. Look how the Marietta City Schools superintendent Emily Lembeck handled it.

““It becomes more difficult to protect what happens in the classroom without looking at some services that are not directly related,” Lembeck said. “Reducing days of instruction through furloughs and larger class sizes is not in the best interest of our core business of educating students.”

http://www.ajc.com/news/cobb/marietta-schools-may-outsource-979948.html

Totally different approach. Have you ever looked at the student performance of Marietta City Schools? Excellent student performance. And demographically almost the same as DeKalb.

Like I said before...

January 19th, 2012
1:00 am

good points about Marietta City Schools, but they also have a school that was millions over budget and they are now trying to get a auditorium that has a price tag that is very McEachernesque.

Dekalbite

January 19th, 2012
1:12 am

They have a much lower pupil teacher ratio than Dekalb and they have great student achievement.

cherylhoneycutt

January 19th, 2012
1:46 am

Indeed, workers lacking high school diplomas saw their unemployment rate jump 6.6 percentage points in June vs. a 2.3 point increase for college grads who has their degree from one of the High Speed Universities

Chris S

January 19th, 2012
2:09 am

One of the problems cutting jobs (in government, anyway) is that the ones that have to cut have to document the deficiencies of the employee and give them a chance to improve. Instead, they just use LIFO (last in, first out), makes it easier for them and they can’t be criticized. If there could be a way to lay off the employees that “should” go…
And if you want to know the salary of anyone that works in any school system:
*log in to open.ga.gov
*click on “click here” under “Salaries and Travel Reimbursements”
*Click on “Organization”
*Click on “Local Boards of Education”
*Select your school district
*Click on “Search”
Prepare to be amazed. For even more fun, you can export the list as a .CVS file and open it with Excel. Sort, filter, etc.

School Counselor

January 19th, 2012
5:34 am

Interesting that Dekalb has 15.5 central office people per 1,000 students. Typical counselor ratios in Dekalb schools is almost 2 counselors for every 1,000 students…there is something wrong here!

Fred in DeKalb

January 19th, 2012
6:15 am

@Dekalbite, did Marietta City Schools actually outsource the 22 custodian jobs? A lot of fanfare was made about what they may do. I can’t find any article or Board minutes that say they did. Please share that if you have that link. Maybe someone from Marietta can comment.

I wonder if Marietta City Schools has a relationship with the larger Cobb County schools to provide services it is not cost effective to provide for its students? City of Decatur schools uses DeKalb Schools to provide transportation services among things. I’m sure they realize a large savings by not having their own buses, staff, etc. That can impact your expenditures. One needs to look at the total makeup of the student body along with service requests from residents to fully understand all expenditures. The teacher-student ratio in DeKalb is lower than that in City of Marietta if you simply divide the number of students by the number of teachers. Simply looking at numbers without context can be misleading.

Interestingly while researching this information I saw that Cobb County schools eliminated just under 600 teaching positions last year with more to come. Maybe the folks at DSW need to help Cobb residents start a similar site.

Questions

January 19th, 2012
7:36 am

@Name One- DeKalb Schools Watch is a cover for anonymous racist bigots!

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

January 19th, 2012
7:49 am

“Give Atkinson credit, she has taken the first step. Now, it’s just a matter to see if she follows through.”

You’re kidding right! What exactly did Atkinson do? Detail please…

V for Vendetta

January 19th, 2012
8:04 am

I agree with Truth. Let’s turn this spotlight on the other big systems in metro Atlanta–heck, ALL of them. Maybe we can spot a trend, no? My guess would be that ALL metro systems have a central office staff that is too large, full of ambiguous job titles, and consistently overpaid.

Hummon

January 19th, 2012
8:07 am

I hope Dr. Atkinson realizes what a long way it would go toward restoring the Dekalb public’s confidence in DCSS if she takes a scalpel to this bloat. Not indiscriminately, of course. A well-wielded scalpel.

Speaking as a former public school teacher, I want to note that one pernicious effect of excess employees in the central office is that their efforts to justify their positions tend to create more pointless work for teachers.