Could DeKalb schools survive without 129 assistant principals? Could any metro system?

More dramatic school budget news, this time out of DeKalb where a hired consultant has recommended the financially battered system cut 129 assistant principal jobs and scores of other positions in order to save money.

Like every other metro system, DeKalb is staring down a gaping deficit. School board member Paul Womack, who is chair of the board’s budget committee, estimates it may be a $77 million deficit.

But it sounds unlikely that the school chief will fully adopt the consultant’s advice and slash that many APs.

According to AJC reporter Ty Tagami:

The report by Virginia-based Management Advisory Group says the school system has too many employees when compared with peers, and the system could save more than $15 million in payroll and benefits by cutting the assistant principals, plus 40 school secretaries and 11 media specialists. The consultants also recommended looking for savings in other positions, including art, music and physical education teachers, mail couriers, graduation coaches and custodians.

Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson has called a meeting for Friday to vote on cutting 182 employees, for a savings of $12.7 million.

System spokesman Walter Woods said he didn’t know which positions Atkinson wanted to cut, but said she would not be doing what the consultant recommended.

“We would never fire 130 [assistant principals],” Woods said. “It would never happen. We would never even consider it.”

Management Advisory Group is being paid up to $175,420 to determine the need for all 15,000 school system positions. In January, the consultant issued a report that said DeKalb had at least 300 too many employees on the central office payroll.

Atkinson then got the board to approve shifting hundreds of positions from that central payroll out to the payrolls of more than 100 school principals. The shifted personnel included instructional coaches, psychologists and physical therapists who already were working in the schools, but not reporting to principals. It meant about $109 million in personnel spending went from administrators out to the principals.

The idea was to allow principals to decide whether they were needed. Woods said in February, when the board approved that shift, it would save $5.6 million this year, but this week he couldn’t say how many of the positions were actually eliminated.

“We did not get rid of 300 people, or anything close to it,” he said, referring to the consultant’s January recommendation.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

100 comments Add your comment

HS Public Teacher

April 27th, 2012
11:13 am

So it seems that everyone, even consultants, continue to tell school systems (in this case DeKalb) that they are top heavy. However, they refuse to listen and then they continue to cut the number of teachers.

When will the madness stop?


April 27th, 2012
11:20 am

Now, I’m the first to complain that administrators can be a huge PITA, but a good assistant prinicipal, who is willing to deal with unruly parents and students is worth their weight in gold. I guess the teachers will just have to deal with major discipline problems in the classroom. And there goes even more teaching time. But the figureheads in the Central Office who are pulling down enormous salaries will get to keep all of their jobs.

Does this make sense to anyone else?

Van Jones

April 27th, 2012
11:20 am

System spokesman Walter Woods said Atkinson “would not be doing what the consultant recommended.”
Woods said. “It would never happen. We would never even consider it.”

Par for the course Dekalb County.


April 27th, 2012
11:35 am

and the moral of the story is… hire an outside consultant whom you pay an enormous amount of $ so that their recommendation is without bias…….then when they tell you how to cut to meet a budget, you refuse…..that’s $175,000 you could have saved – probably one administrative position, 3-4 teacher positions right there……sigh…….


April 27th, 2012
11:44 am


April 27th, 2012
11:10 am
The collapse of Real Estate in Metro Atlanta now is worst in nation with prices back to 16 year ago levels .The blight of sub prime over extension to poor credit risk, abandoned properties and freefall of values will now continue to devastate Metro Atlanta counties well into 2013 and 2014 budget years .School Boards that refuse to set up realistic budgets and refuse to fire cronies will continue to see flight from their counties. Some problem counties include Gwinnett down by 600 teachers , Cobb who knows ? Dekalb — refused to fire redundant 102 Vps recommended by $175,000 consultant study despite being overpopulated to comparable county systems, Rockdale 70 teachers , Clayton 15mm shortfall outsourcing sport programs !, Fayette voting to close several schools , Fulton closed 7 out of recommend 15 ..Fulton has not published status of terminations
Newton county shrinking real estate has decimated tax base with open revolt of tax assessments,(I reside in this county and have seen property values drop by 60% with taxation still kept at about 25% above market.

Common problems: all shrinking systems with flight to private schools . redundant populations of administrations, extra support people and too few students.

Serious review of personnel should be conducted and reported by AJC to head off this budget crisis covering the bulk of Metro Atlanta public school systems.

Dekalb taxpayer

April 27th, 2012
11:45 am

Why pay a consultant if you have no intention of acting on any of their recommendations? All Walter Woods ever seems to do is reassure system employees that they are in no danger of losing their jobs. He’s being paid with my tax dollars, isn’t he?


April 27th, 2012
11:54 am

When I was in high school, years ago, we had a principal. To the best of my knowledge, we did not have an assistant principal.

Gwenola Grier

April 27th, 2012
11:57 am

They never eliminate the ones in the county office. Now that is top and salary heavy.


April 27th, 2012
11:58 am

For larger middle and high schools that have more than 1 assistant principal, I think they can cut back to 1 assistant principal. I’d rather they cut an assistant principal than a teacher. The classes are too big already!

A Conservative Voice

April 27th, 2012
12:02 pm

Folks, we did this same thing on the Federal Level…….Remember “Bowles-Simpson”?…….lot of money spent and then our “glorious leader” just ignored the recommendations. Folks, we’re drowning ourselves in debt……when is the idiocy gonna stop? Can we do without 129 Assistant Principals? I don’t know and you don’t know but, “why don’t we give it a try?” You know, it could work. I don’t see anything coming out of this recommendation because it wouldn’t be “Politically Correct” to put 129 AP’s in the unemployment line……..however, I do know one thing…..”This deficit spending cannot continue”….

Ron F.

April 27th, 2012
12:02 pm

Let’s ask this question. Given the choice between 129 AP’s or 129 teachers, which would we pick as parents? An AP is a lot easier to live without than a teacher, I would think.

Also, they spent $175k so Atkinson could say “No, we’re not doing that.” That money could have been used to pay at least two teachers.

William Casey

April 27th, 2012
12:07 pm

@carlosgvv: We only had one AP when I was at Southwest DeKalb in the ’60’s. However, we did NOT have: (1) massive federal regulations, especially special ed, (2) massive state regulations, (3) an unruly student population and waves of dysfunctional parents; teachers could actually teach. Although DeKalb probably has too many AP’s, I don’t believe that your experience (or mine) has much relevance in todays school world.


April 27th, 2012
12:11 pm

Too many administrators because of too much micromanagement of teachers from the top. Cut the administrators. Keep the teachers.


April 27th, 2012
12:12 pm

Other nations manage to educate their children without multiple boards of education, multiple ‘central’ offices, etc. We could consolidate, lowering greatly the number of ‘overseers.’ We could empower veteran teachers to take over many of the administrative tasks. We could eliminate all of the “cya” work through changes in the laws that address the schools and their personnel. This would require that those in positions of power and influence relinquish those positions. Ain’t gonna happen. It’s just like the university system in Italy. Nepotism and cronyism reign. It would take a near revolution to change this entrenched system.


April 27th, 2012
12:13 pm

Big problems ahead if DeKalb announces a property tax hike.

There is quiet talk right now of changing the state constitution to allow the creation of more school districts, a property tax increase will change that to a roar. DCSS can choose to do something about the waste and bloat now, or they can cry and whine about the system is being broken up later.


April 27th, 2012
12:16 pm

DeKalb is going to have a huge problem when the lawsuit regarding the Board Sponsored Annuity is won by the plaintiffs and they have to back pay YEARS of money owed, likely with interest. They gave the workers the shaft because they thought they could get away with it. I hope the court system handles this quickly.

Now for the new Superintendent – you spent ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS TO IGNORE THE RESULTING ADVICE???? Pay me FIFTY THOUSAND and you have my permission to ignore my advice also. Just kidding, it’s a DeKalb tradition to buy things that don’t work and aren’t needed, especially when we are short on money.

Teachers in DeKalb County have not had a pay raise in what, 5 or 6 years? First there was the “temporary set back” to step increases so they always came about 6 months late – with a promise to make it up. Then came “temporary pay freezes” – don’t worry, we’ll make it up. Then came “furlough days” i.e., pay cuts. Which simply mean – do the work at home. Thank goodness there’s been no inflation for the last five years, otherwise teachers would really be hurting.

Pay Freeze for years, Pay cut for years, Retirement cut for years, Increase the cost of health care coverage, increase the number of students per classroom, increase the amount of paperwork.

Gee, why can’t DeKalb graduate more students from such a finely run system. Someone should get a trophy.

What are schools for? Education. Pay the people actually responsible for teaching the students and start following local counties structure for how many non-teachers are needed to get the job done. No excuses. No more studies.

No “shifting” people from the board to the schoolhouse to make it appear that more money is being spent on the schools “for the children.” Playing the shell game and hiding the ball. Really?

Dear Lord, I pray that you will convince the Legislature for the state of GA to implement a state-wide voucher system and in the process destroy the public school system which has led to such waste, corruption, inefficiency and non-education. Parents will vote with their vouchers and I’m sure that they will choose schools where the voucher money is actually spent on quality teachers in the classroom with decent supplies and class sizes. I doubt they will send their child to the school that has 1.5 workers for every 1 teacher – in a classroom crammed with 32 students.


April 27th, 2012
12:23 pm

William Casey – 12:07

And, for reasons neither of us can talk about, we had a far safer environment and far fewer thug classmates.


April 27th, 2012
12:29 pm

I suspect that these APs are from schools with more than 1 AP.

Notice the slick trick: The Central Office can say they have reduced their budget by x, but actually they have merely shifted the cost accounting to the individual schools by shifting the psychologist, PTs, etc.


April 27th, 2012
12:33 pm

Apparently the consultant did not get the word: He was supposed to say, “5You are top-heavy on too many janitors and lunchroom ladies–that’s all.

Colonel Jack

April 27th, 2012
12:38 pm

If the choice came down to “Could the system survive without 129 APs” or “Could the system survive without 129 teachers,” guess which question gets answered “Yes”!

Not surprised

April 27th, 2012
12:42 pm

I will hire an inspector to inspect a house I want to buy. The inspector tells me the roof is in very poor condition and it should be repaired. I pay the inspector 350.00 and disregard his expertise. I move into the house and after the first downpour, all my stuff is ruined. Hell, make sense to me.


April 27th, 2012
12:55 pm

I suggest that we look at consilidating principals one principal for 1 – elem., middle school, and high school. That would automatically cut 200k out of the buget for each two principals released.
Keeep the vice principals, because they interact more on a day to day with students, teachers, etc.
You could even appoint a head vice principle tobe over that particular school.
We havetoo many principals who do not even know the students in the schools the preside over…sowhy are they there, what do they do anyway…

Not surprised

April 27th, 2012
12:55 pm

One more vent. The tax payers will help a billionare to build his billion dollars toy.
Where can I sign up for chinese classes because we will be under their rule in the near future.

what's best for kids???

April 27th, 2012
12:56 pm

I have no idea what our school would do without our APs. I wish we had two more of them.
APs, good ones, are worth their wieght in gold. Unfortunately, like a small amount of teachers, there is a small amount of Assistant Principals who aren’t stellar.


April 27th, 2012
12:58 pm

not surprised… need to sign up..for chinese classes, if it is as you say they will be offered free of charge…lol

Don't Tread

April 27th, 2012
1:21 pm

This is the same thing corporations do when profits are down and they have too many vice presidents.


April 27th, 2012
1:22 pm

What is the total number of APs in the DCSS? What proportion do those 129 represent?

When I read the AJC’s report this morning, I immediately thought, “If Walter Woods chooses to pre-empt his Superintendent’s budget proposal and in so doing dismiss the recommendations that cost $175K to generate, they should add 1 spokesman position to all those APs, janitors and secretaries that are getting shown the door.”

V for Vendetta

April 27th, 2012
1:28 pm

Though this is frightfully stupid, if you really want to save money, turn our sights on technology. Yes, technology! Take a good hard look at the waste in technology funds and the overpaying that is rampant. Check Dekalb, check Gwinnett, and check Cobb.

I would be willing to bet some investigative reporting of the kind that exposed all the cheating would expose MASSIVE waste and corruption in how much money the school systems spedn on tech.


April 27th, 2012
1:32 pm

Interesting..this all is….In New Orleans, after Katrina the school system was rebuilt as mostly charter schools. I understand they have been very successful there. So successful that in Louisiana is now considering legislation to have the money follow the child. This way parents can choose what is best for their child instead of the government doing it. I do hope the children will be the winners. We need to do something.
No one seems to cut people at the county office levels. Many metro schools are now the pit. Maybe it is time to really begin again, try something different.

High School Parent

April 27th, 2012
1:34 pm

Eliminate the APs for attendance in all schools. This work can easily be done by a much lower paid employee. I think high schools need APs for discipline and curriculum in DeKalb high schools because the problems are so huge.

No elementary school should have an AP. None.

Eliminate the instructional counselors and coaches. If they want to stay- they need to be certified, current on the curriculum and teaching 180 days a year in the classroom.

Eliminate Fernbank Science Center positions- we need these folks in the classrooms and in the high schools every day teaching students and mentoring the other teachers.


April 27th, 2012
1:35 pm

Advice: Get rid of ALL district personnel who are not qualified to lead a district with transparency and honesty, but the salary is irresistable. Get rid of poor incompetent administrators who have no clue of instruction or management skills, and have inflated egos based on low self esteem. Get rid of ALL teachers who hide behind the “umbrella of teaching”, but behind closed doors sit down, eat, curse students, do graduate work on the computers, blog, and do not like anyone in their classrooms seeing this nor even like the students. Get rid of all support roles that do not service or enhance student achievement (there are many roles that are necessary beyond the teacher, though). Get rid of the parental opinion of those do not participate in their child’s well-being and academic growth who are in the business of parenting for tax write-off, or check, as well as those who hurt others so that their children can recieve the best of everything. If you are one of these individuals, just resign from leadership, administration, support roles, teaching, and blogging. I know this advice is worth $175,000 in common sense, but no charge, it’s on me.


April 27th, 2012
1:35 pm

Oh and when I first began teaching…a school of 2000 had one administrator, 2 sec. and a couple of coaches that helped with discipline. But also, much less paperwork.


April 27th, 2012
1:46 pm

Graduation coaches, physical therapists, media specialist…. are these administrations for real? Pardon me but kids have been graduating for decades without all these figureheads. My highschool had 2 vice-principals and a principal, 2 or 3 guidance counselors and that was it.


April 27th, 2012
2:05 pm

OH, could it be possible that the consulting firm is just as unknowledgable of the needs of the county as MAYBE the DeKalb servants who hired them? The missed part of this is that DeKalb paid $175,000 for an OPINION, in the midst of economic dismay, layoffs and balancing the budget? The real value of the CONSULTING firm may be JUST to pose as a scapegoat, to mask the opinions and decisions WHICH COME FROM THE NEW ADMINISTRATION, maybe?

Concerned DeKalb Mom

April 27th, 2012
2:07 pm

@High School Parent…I think the parents of elementary schools with populations near or over 1000 students would disagree with eliminating AP’s in all elementary schools.


April 27th, 2012
2:23 pm

HECK YEAH THEY COULD!!! Every system in the metro Atlanta area is absolutely BLOATED at the top! They should get rid of at least half of everyone that works in the so called “central offices”.

A couple of years ago Cobb Co sent out a survey to parents and stakeholders asking them where they thought they should make cuts. I said: ANYWHERE but in the schools. (Almost) every person I know in the school building works their butts off: principals, vice-principals, teachers, parapros, even the custodial staff and the lunch people. I cannot say the same for bloated central offices.


April 27th, 2012
2:25 pm

DeKalb spends $25,000,000+ in salary and benefits for 276 Assistant Principals – over $93,000 a year for every Assistant Principal.

In the not so distant past (before Crawford Lewis) Assistant Principals for the DeKalb elementary schools were paid a teacher’s salary plus a stipend for two weeks – they worked one week after the teachers left for summer break and one week before the teachers came back from summer break.

It’s odd how Walter Woods says DeKalb can’t do without 129 APs, but he thinks it so easy for us to do without 600+ teachers (Lewis eliminated 275 teaching positions for 2009-10 and then Tyson eliminated over 300 for 2010-11.)

IMO – many “family and friends” are APs.

We already have too many highly paid non teaching “Coaches” (Instructional Coaches, Graduation Coaches, Instructional Change Coaches, ELL Coaches, Literacy Coaches, Prevention/Intervention Coaches – BTW the Prevention/Intervention Coaches are NOT even certified teachers).

We have around 190 non teaching “Coaches” (see state Salary and Travel audit – Graduation Specialists, Instructional Specialists, Literacy Coaches, and around 20 of the Parents Coordinators hold the title of Prevention/Intervention Coach) and they are paid around $15,000,000 in salary and benefits or $79,000 for each “Coach”. And this does not even include the Staff Development group. They are a whole other group even though “Coaches” are supposed to be doing staff development as a majority of their job function.

So for 276 APs and 190+ Coaches we pay $40,000,000 a year. No wonder MAG found we are so out of line with other counties.

And why is Fernbank Science Center off the table? Taxpayers pay around $7,000,000 a year for this center even as our science scores continue to decline and are at the bottom of the metro area. With only 29 science teachers and 30+ admin and support personnel, the science center is a huge drain on our science education dollars. This past year, science equipment and supplies for ALL 95,481 students came to $55,000 or around 55 cents a student while we pay $7,000,000 for 29 science teachers at Fernbank. Yes – that is 55 pennies a year per child for science equipment and supplies. You would think DCSS would have some shame for that figure or certainly have some shame for the science scores.

DeKalb Schools has lost its focus. It clearly is not focused on students.


April 27th, 2012
2:34 pm

I’m wondering why the Feds can’t pay for all the SpEd costs such as therapists, speech, parapros, etc. since they are the ones who require the massive and expensive positions to be available….it’s not that I don’t believe that these students shouldn’t be served by public schools, but when you have a parapro hired specifically to accompany one student throughout the day – this is just crazy!

Just Saying

April 27th, 2012
2:47 pm

I have no idea how big the Dekalb system is, but 129 extra AP’s seems outrageous. Having said that, people should remember that Assistant Principals do more than just handle discipline. They are responsible for overseeing the administration of standardized tests, organizing activities like graduation and baccalaureate ceremonies, and take on the role of Athletic Director at most high schools. Like most jobs, there is more to being an Assistant Principal than one would assume without further inquiry.

Lane Meyers

April 27th, 2012
2:53 pm

@ Ashley
The media specialist is the school librarian. There has been major cuts already for the school librarians in DeKalb. Most schools only have one librarian and no help. They are expected to run a library media center and teach classes.


April 27th, 2012
2:54 pm

Dr. Atkinson is making huge cuts a central office as we speak. It all started several weeks ago. These are additional cuts because there were NO savings from shifting phusical thearpist ets. fron county payroll to school payroll. The PT’s work with severly handicapped students via Federal Law. A consultant is hired to make recommendations, in this case based onone piece of the puzzle- numbers. The Supt. must look at many variables such as demographics, size and needs of schools.
Anyone who thinks teachers can teach without strong administrative support is out of touch with the challenges educators face today. Certainly cuts have to be made, but principals and Schools Councils should be involved in where those cuts can be made based on the needs of their school.Also, the personnel to be cut should not be based on experience but performance. Those who are eligible to retire should do so voluntarily if they really care about the school. As for Walter Woods..”an excellent example of a poor mistake”. Bringing in 8 outsiders at $159,000 was also a major mistake. The very Top got heavier while the middle working levels got cut, so very sad.

Dekalb taxpayer

April 27th, 2012
2:55 pm

Ashley, I also wanted to mention that the media specialist is what used to be the librarian and a GOOD ONE is not a figurehead but a very useful resource for teachers and students.

C Jae of EAV

April 27th, 2012
3:00 pm

@cris – Its my understanding that “the Feds” do cover the vast majority if not the total cost of SpEd aka Title 1 costs. I could be wrong. Someone else with a more knowledgable position please weigh in.

Dr. John Trotter

April 27th, 2012
3:17 pm

@ William Casey: At was at Southwest DeKalb in the 1970s. By then, we had two assistant principals, and the discipline was in fairly good order. That is the difference. The discipline. These days, the superintendents don’t have the stomach to set the tone about student discipline. If there was a semblence of discipline in place in DeKalb, you could get rid of 200 to 300 assistant principals. I think that the ones who are apparently on the chopping block now won’t be that sorely missed. What are they doing now? The discipline is rotten in DeKalb.

Dr. John Trotter

April 27th, 2012
3:19 pm

Sorry, Mr. Casey, I left off two words: “[I was] at Southwest Dekalb…”


April 27th, 2012
3:40 pm

While I don’t have a lot of respect for anything Walter Woods says, I don’t read his comment as “we’re disregarding the entire consultant report.” Instead, I read it as “we’re disregarding parts of it.” I’ve been told that Dr. A has stated she wants full-time art teachers in every elementary school of x students of more next year (maybe it’s even every school but mine are only in elementary and I didn’t pay as much attention to Middle and High). Well the consultants say maybe you can knock off some art teachers. That can’t happen if we’re moving to a system that mandates more art teachers. Before everyone loses their minds, maybe we should see what, in fact, the woman proposes that we do with all of these positions. From info posted above, 129 is not all APs, so clearly we’re not proposing to get rid of all of them, just some of them and maybe there are really good reasons to do that. I think Dr. A’s biggest problem is that she’s relying on Woods to share the message. He just creates problems with his absolute statements.


April 27th, 2012
3:41 pm

@ C Jae…pretty sure Title 1 and SpEd are 2 entirely different things – I think Title 1 has to do with socio-economic percentages at schools

Beverly Fraud

April 27th, 2012
3:53 pm

“We did not get rid of 300 people, or anything close to it,” he said, referring to the consultant’s January recommendation.

Talk about disconnect. Walter the Mouth Organ says they didn’t get rid of 300 people like that’s a GOOD thing.

Unbelievable, but then again it’s DCSS.


April 27th, 2012
4:02 pm

Look at Security expenditures in DeKalb compared to other school systems:

DeKalb County Schools – 95,481 students – $10,844,887 for 204 Security personnel

Security Cost per pupil – $114
*Atlanta Public Schools (APS) – 48,805 students – $5,126,593 for 282 Security Personnel

Security Cost per pupil – $105
*Clayton School System – 49,551 students – $1,020,186 for 180 Security Personnel

Security Cost per pupil – $21
Gwinnett County Schools – 159,814 students – $2,755,802 for 48 Security Personnel

Security Cost per pupil – $17
*Rockdale County Schools – 15,582 students – $101,582 for 5 Security Personnel

Security Cost per pupil – $7
Fulton County Schools – 89,920 students – $4,292,198 for 66 Security Personnel

Security Cost per pupil – $48
Cobb County Schools – 106,619 students – $2,313,225 for 44 Security Personnel

Security Cost per pupil – $22
*Marietta City Schools – No expenditure in school budget for Security personnel

*Marietta City Schools contracts with the Marietta City Police Department for 191 days of SRO services

Security was an area where MAG consultants recommended eliminating 95 positions as well as instituting some other cost saving measures such as they found the Security staff overpaid when compared to like systems (with the exception of the SROs – they were slightly underpaid).

From the MAG report:
“Public Safety: Eliminate Deputy Director position. Move responsibility for DCA AIC
Security position from Facilities to Public Safety. Eliminate night shift. Move six positions
to daytime school assignments. Seek memoranda of agreement with other local law
enforcement agencies for nighttime alarms. Hire additional 22 SROs. Combined with
former night SROs, increased staffing will provide two SROs per high school.”

Public Safety: Allocate Campus Supervisor positions at the school level, as part of the
school funding. Move 117 positions from central office to school funding (two of 119
campus supervisor positions are part of central public safety). Campus Supervisors would
maintain joint reporting responsibility (to SRO and school administrator) noted in the
budget. Staffing from 195.0 to 100.0.”

Below is link to the MAG report (see page 33, 50, 69, and 81 are the main pages dealing with Security).

Once Again

April 27th, 2012
4:04 pm

Why are we relying on the failed model of central planning to decide what is the appropriate amount of staffing for these schools. End all government involvement in education, let the market forces decide what an appropriate cost is for educating a child and what an appropriate level of staffing is for the schools that exist. Everyone and their brother doesn’t worry about too much staffing at a private business. They focus on cost, quality, and value. That is all any parent should have to worry about.