Rather than slash 10 days, could DeKalb schools shut down for month of July?

I watched the DeKalb school board meeting long enough today to hear the school chief announce that the state DOE said DeKalb could cut its school year by additional days.

With an $85 million deficit and no reserves, a proposal is on the table for DeKalb to slash 10 more days.

According to the AJC:

Paul Womack wants to cut an additional 10 days from the school calendar.In approving a tentative general fund budget, the board had already voted to reduce the school calendar for students by two days. Four furlough days approved for teachers in prior years would also remain, but they would not affect students.

Officials said it costs the system $3 million a day to operate, so the proposal could save $30 million — enough to balance the budget without a tax increase. But they needed time to check on the details, so the budget deliberations were postponed until 6 p.m. Thursday.

But Lisa Morgan, a teacher and representative of the advocacy group Organization of DeKalb Educators, said Womack’s proposal wouldn’t save as much as he thinks. Womack wants to make up the lost school days by lengthening the rest of them. Another county in Georgia tried that several years ago, Morgan said.

“Because teachers were providing the equivalent of 180 days of instruction, they had to be paid for 180 days,” she said. The proposal, Morgan said, could still save money on utilities, gasoline for buses and pay for support personnel, such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers.

Womack threatened to cut teacher pay if his colleagues don’t find some other way to avoid new taxes. “I’m going to get $30 million somewhere,” he said. “I’m not going to vote for a millage increase.”

Here is another idea on how DeKalb could cut costs from a reader — she suggests that DeKalb shut down its whole operation for the month of July.

I think parents would prefer this alternative to slashing instructional days (And I don’t think those lost instructional hours can be mitigated by adding 10 or 20 minutes to the remaining days.)

Please note that several posters have said this idea would not save much money because many DeKalb employees are on 11 month contracts already. In that case, could some of them go to 10 months?

From a reader:

A school-level administrator posited an interesting, creative idea for restructuring the DCSD budget that I thought I’d pass along to you. DeKalb now has 12-month employees (principals, some assistant principals, custodians, and the central office) and 10-month employees (teachers and elementary assistant principals). The idea is to make the 12-month employees into 11-month employees and shut everything down for the month of July.

This administrator explained that everything that schools need to do over the summer to get ready for the next year can be accomplished in the month of June and in that first week or so of August (this year we start back August 13). CRCTs are back and reported in June; AYP has been certified, etc. The buildings can be prepped and planning can be done in June.

And the same goes for the central office — with a competent BOE, get the budget approved by the end of May and then work efficiently and effectively through June.

Yes, it’s a cut in pay for non-classroom personnel, but that should be the priority — cut pay there before you cut teacher pay or increase class size.

This kind of idea has plenty of precedence elsewhere. Back when I worked full-time, a major car manufacturer was a client (I was a lawyer). It shuts down for four weeks a year — from the highest level corporate executives to the assembly line workers at each and every plant. Shut down. Period.

It’s done in the last two weeks of July and the last two weeks of December, and employees are not paid during that time. It saves the company a substantial amount of money.

In these dire financial straits, an idea like this merits at least a try for a couple of years — who knows, we may find that the work gets done just fine and we have actually built up reserves. We need innovative, creative thinking like this, and not the constant bickering that this BOE gives us.

The other suggestion this administrator had was as follows:  Have middle and high schools designate one “lead AP” who is the now 11-month employee who works the month of June to prepare for next year.

In reality, many of those assistant principals right now are sitting idle — there’s simply not work for them to do. Anyway, just thought I’d pass these ideas along in case you thought readers would find them interesting to discuss.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

131 comments Add your comment

Just a Mom

June 20th, 2012
6:17 pm

Watching the meeting was just plain embarrassing to this Dekalb citizen! Dekalb students already lag in achievement – less class days is certainly not going to narrow the gap. I like the idea of 11 month employees but sadly it may be too forward thinking for this board (or friends and family will ensure it doesn’t happen because, after all, they are the ones who would affected by this proposal the most)

mountain man

June 20th, 2012
6:27 pm

Typical response – “I will NOT increase the millage rate”, even though your assessments have gone down and you are enjoying a big tax decrease as a result. Instead, let’s cut the number of teaching days, but we WON”T cut the amount of material that hass to be covered. If it doesn’t get covered, it is the teachers’ fault and they should be fired.

d

June 20th, 2012
6:32 pm

My concern is Mr. Womack saying *I* will not…. Mr. Womack is not *the* board of education.

Donaldo

June 20th, 2012
6:32 pm

It seems to me that the quality of education will be significantly affected by slashing learning days. A few things could be done immediately without directly impacting the students. Cut all administrative pay across the board, starting at the top, make all non teaching personnel that a 4 day work week, work with local colleges to offer teaching internships to help support the teachers, allow parents to organize tutorial programs and enrichment programs supported by local community and business groups. These are just a few ideas, fundamentally we need to rethink our educational model, saw a very interesting interview on MSNBC today on this precise topic, active learning vs rote, memory teaching to the test.

cello12000

June 20th, 2012
6:40 pm

To clarify some of the information in the above posting: In DCSD, no assistant principals or counselors are 12 month employees. Some are 11 month, some are 10 month – depending on the level or classification. 12 month employees assigned to the school house for the summer are principal, custodians and a secretary (or some clerical classification person to act as registrar for students enrolling or performing other office tasks.

Work being done in the building by assistant principals and counselors during the month of June includes refining the master schedule and making sure all students have appropriate classes for the following next school year. The last day for DCSD 11 month counselors and APs is June 21.

Custodians have the enormous task of cleaning huge buildings, maintaining grounds, and performing routine maintenance which is difficult to do with students in the building during the school year.

12 month employees (including the custodians) already have 7 furlough days – with additional 2 possibly to be added).

There may be a way to close for a week or two to combine those days which would give 12 month employees a welcome break, but please do not think that those in the building during the months of June and July are “no working” or that there is “nothing” for them to do.

Dekalb County Taxpayers are SHEEP

June 20th, 2012
6:40 pm

How much does it cost to bus kids from S. Dekalb to the northern district schools? What a waste. Poor Dekalb taxpayers have to pay for private education for their kids and high taxes for school that are debased by kids who create problems in the schools. Don’t call me a racist because I’m not; just show me where busing makes a positive difference except for what I alluded to. Just give parents vouchers and let them choose where they buy their education. I’m sure private enterprise will come up with good alternatives for the handicapped and low SES students….better than what the public experience provides. I don’t understand why the northern district parents don’t demand this instead of always giving in to the minorities. What a waste.

Mr. Sixth Grade

June 20th, 2012
6:42 pm

This is all very troubling for me. I am graduating from my teaching program in a few weeks and am awaiting certification any day now. What are us new teachers to do for the 2012-2013 school year? Look out of state, or at the boondock counties? I’m really concerned over the lack of middle school positions that seem to be available or will be available.

mg

June 20th, 2012
6:50 pm

Maureen,

What Mr. Perrone actually said was that the district saves $3million for each furlough day. A furlough day is for ALL employees. Shutting down in July and/or the end of December will not save that amount since the vast majority of the school based staff are already not working during that time and thus not earning any salary for those days.

Roc-a-Fella

June 20th, 2012
6:51 pm

I’m a DeKalb County resident. Please raise the taxes to keep the kids in school. To cut education for so many to save $40 per year in property taxes is an idiotic thing to do. This clown that won’t raise the millage rate should be voted off the board immediately. I get it that we shouldn’t just continue to raise taxes whenever the wind blows. We should start to find ways to spend tax money efficiently (should’ve thought of this before getting involved in that multi-million dollar lawsuit with the construction company). However, desperate times call for desperate measures. The slight increase in property taxes (which I own 3 properties in DeKalb County) is well worth it to keep our future on track by educating the kids. It totally baffles me that we have teachers that actually support these Republicans that constantly attack the system of public education and it’s servants.

anotherthought

June 20th, 2012
7:00 pm

I know that it might be too late for this next but maybe not. Times are desperate. I know of several school districts that were on block scheduling but have returned to the traditional 6 period day to save money. Students in high schools now take 8 classes (8 teachers a year instead of 6). If a student passes all classes in high school, they earn 32 credits (I think only 24 are needed to graduate). DeKalb requires more than the state, perhaps we could move to be more in line with the state requirements. Our high school students take more electives. I agree that I would like for our children to be exposed to more, but electives usually cost more. Think about supplies for art, band, computer classes etc… There are other academic disadvantages to the block schedule. Students sometimes take a math class or foreign language class during the first semester of one year and do not take the next class the second semester of the next year. Ugh!! Someone needs to look into how much could be saved by stopping the block scheduling.

Old timer

June 20th, 2012
7:01 pm

I like the idea of just shutting done in July. That would affect children the least. I also wonder if money could be saved by outsourcing some of the maintenance..yard work…., painting and the like.

catlady

June 20th, 2012
7:05 pm

I DO like the idea of furlough days for principals and CO staff for 3-4 weeks during July. As for principals and planning–maybe they should take it home to work on during their own time, like teachers have to! Sauce for the goose, etc.

justbrowsing

June 20th, 2012
7:05 pm

@Mr. Sixth Grade- I am so sorry that you chose the middle grades level to major in at this time. I would consider obtaining additional certifications (GACE) to increase my marketability to get my foot in the door at various levels in case no position is open. These are troubling times.

Ernest

June 20th, 2012
7:13 pm

An earlier headline on the AJC was somewhat misleading. It seemed to suggest DeKalb would have 164 instructional days. I interpreted Womack’s proposal to eliminate 10 instructional days. Most forget that teachers are/were paid for 190 days. The additional 10 days were for professional development and planning days. The furlough days have been taken from these 10 days, i.e. only having one day at the end of the school year for close out rather than the 2-3 in years past.

When you factor in the other 6 furlough days and increasing health benefit payments, teachers are really taking on the chin in DeKalb. The budget Dr. Atkinson presented attempted to minimize the impact on employees while spreading the burden over the community and staff. Unfortunately the Board wanted to micromanage and examine each line item of the budget. Eliminating 10 instructional days (and pay) would probably push many teachers over the edge and out of DeKalb. I think this discussion will cause a lot of reflection about what we are willing to cut in the budget.

Tired

June 20th, 2012
7:14 pm

Cutting instruction days is not the answer, and neither is raising on taxes on people who never have and never will send kids to school (because they don’t have them, home school, etc.). If closing in July will get us there, then I say we do it.

Tired

June 20th, 2012
7:16 pm

Now that I’ve read Ernest’s comment, I think eliminating 10 non-instructional days is perfect. I have to prepare and engage in professional development for my job on my own time, I don’t feel badly about asking anyone else to do the same.

catlady

June 20th, 2012
7:16 pm

One thing about block scheduling: Teachers are teaching only 3 periods a day (75%) but with regular scheduling you have much better return on teacher time–up to 87% per day. And school boards need to stop employing people not to work with kids! (I am talking about coaches who teach half time and then do things related to their sport half time, or even less) All teachers should have the same “planning time,” not 25 minutes for elementary and 2 hours for middle and high school!

d

June 20th, 2012
7:18 pm

@anotherthought going off block would require a huge investment in textbooks. For just my department at my school, that would be about $50,000. Another problem, with the state’s new CCRPI measurement, it would be more difficult for students to complete career pathways that are part of the measurement.

Angela

June 20th, 2012
7:19 pm

Is it just me or does anyone else realize that every time the board meets there is more and more money missing or short falls?

Student Advocate

June 20th, 2012
7:20 pm

this teacher is planning her exit from DCSS ASAP. Some students and schools excel *despite* the central office and school board spineless incompetence. I have never felt more disrespected or used as a pawn.

Taxpayer and Teacher

June 20th, 2012
7:22 pm

Why is it that when I went to school we ended in May, came back after Labor Day and learned a HUGE AMOUNT more than these students? I’ll tell you why–we were taught discipline, self control, to be motivated to learn, study habits and strategies, basic skills mastery, rote education while sharpening critical thinking skills and life skills. Many of us worked in high school and in summers. Some of us were from single parent households. We lacked health care, we didn’t wear helmets when we rode our bicycles or skate boarded and we lived in what is now called THE HOOD. Our group includes an anesthesiologist, dentists, ministers, nurses, engineers, teachers, artists, actors, musicians, accountants, clerks, mechanics all about to RETIRE from WORKING. We wore hand me downs to school and our parents slapped the taste out of our mouths if we sassed the teacher. We were celebrated by the neighborhood when we achieved, and shunned when we lived below expectation. I am not a native, however I know from the inside that the budget is not the problem the system setup, lack of expertise and experience at the board level and cronyism is the problem. Unless the system is revamped from the state to the student Georgia will forever be at the bottom in education. Stop putting emphasis on college and tests and teach these students how to make good choices and master basic skills in writing, reading, math and thinking. It takes everyone to make society run successfully. There are few geniuses in the world, most citizens are regular folk. Get rid of so called High Achiever Classes! You are either gifted or you’re not! Just because a student can read on grade level does not reflect a gift! The gifted are people who show an exceptional skill or talent beyond the norm. I have not witnessed many truly gifted students in my career. And since when has being “normal” been considered a sin? Let’s be realistic in our expectations and prepare students for career readiness. Your dropout rate would decrease and your labor force would become more competitive.

NTLB

June 20th, 2012
7:28 pm

If the 10 furlough days are spread out on the Fridays or the days before a long holiday weekend, or the day(s) before Thanksgiving/Winter/Spring Break, then no learning days will be affected. These are typically days of high student and teacher absenteeism and are also days with little or no learning takes place during the school year. Not much learning goes on during CRCT testing days either. Why not furlough half days during CRCT testing week?

Althought I am against furlough days when other types of irresponsible spending recoccurs in this state’s government, the 10 furlough days don’t necessarily have to impact student learning, if planned well.

SuperDad1

June 20th, 2012
7:31 pm

I see where closing the entire county down in July. What about summer school, band and football practices? I agree that all 12 month employees take July off.

William

June 20th, 2012
7:33 pm

Yeah… cut the teachers salary another 16% and make ‘em work longer hours. That ought to get the standards up.

catlady

June 20th, 2012
7:33 pm

I have suggested that our middle school teachers, who have 2 consecutive 50 minute planning periods, use the first 30 minutes for planning, then come to the elementary school and remediate (RTI) students. In the long run, not only will it make things more equitable, but also it should assist the students who are headed to the middle school, years behind, to have interventions in very small groups. This would work here because the middle school is 7 minutes from one elementary school, and 3 minutes from the other! The other middle school would have a 10-12 minute commute. Best use of resources available.

Angela

June 20th, 2012
7:36 pm

@Donaldo

“allow parents to organize tutorial programs and enrichment programs supported by local community and business groups.”

************************************************************************************************************************************************

The county and staff would be greatful for parents to organize outside of the school these programs. However, because the parents in this county on the south end especially would rather complain, attack teachers, etc. The northern end of the county have these programs because they realize that the students are their children. They realize and know that education and the support of education begins at home and not with the school and teachers.

As for the cuts in pay why don’t we start with Cheryl’s 300K PLUS salary. It is most amazing that they can find money to pay her and her right hand people but cut others pay. Again, if they don’t find money to pay the teachers it will be a huge you get what you pay for year(s). Teachers have not had a raise in over 6 years and have endured continued cuts in pay. Each super has gotten a continued raise. The super does not make the county it is the teachers who make or break it. There is not one teacher or person who works for the shear pleasure of working. We all work for pay. And, before some person gracefully says be glad that you have a job. Please come and work for free we teachers will step aside and let you do the job.

Taxpayer and Teacher

June 20th, 2012
7:37 pm

Furlough days will affect teacher pay! If we get furloughed ten days look for a mass exodus! What you don’t realize is that teachers can leave and go elsewhere as long they receive a pay raise. This is considered a promotion and you are not obligated to your contract. So if the citizens of Dekalb allow this to happen be prepared to see a record number of permanent subs in the classrooms.

Dave

June 20th, 2012
7:38 pm

I’m just fed up!
Where do we get to vote to get off this train wreck?
I live in Dunwoody and my taxes have NEVER gone down $1 in the last 7 years. Instead, I’m hit with a 5-15% increase EVERY year, while down in South Dekalb their taxes go DOWN every year… do they have less children going to school? use less resources? have their incomes lowered? NO.. just some arbitrary assessment

It’s time we left the Titanic and found a lifeboat.. (Forsythe, Milton?) HELP! we can bring resources….

Bill

June 20th, 2012
7:40 pm

I got a great idea!. Shut the whole thing down and let me keep my school property taxes to educate my child as I see fit.

bilbo799

June 20th, 2012
7:43 pm

What happened to all of that talk about cutting central administration in DeKalb?

PatDowns

June 20th, 2012
7:51 pm

Make additional CO staff cuts and then reduce the pay by 15% for those who remain, 10% for principals and 7% for APs. Then, I would be for a millage rate increase to make up the difference to balance the budget.

It is absolutely foolish to cut more student instruction days, especially from a school system already at the bottom of the barrel. Plus, leave the teachers alone. They have shouldered enough of the burden.

[...] I watched the DeKalb school board meeting long enough today to hear the school chief announce that the state DOE said DeKalb could cut its school year by…  [...]

Fulton Employee

June 20th, 2012
7:55 pm

When Fulton County reduced its school year from 180 to 177 days, any concern about lost instructional time was countered by the reminder that 10 whole minutes would be added to the school day to make up for the lost three days of instruction. Needless to say, teachers and administrators have seen no demonstrable, measurable instructional gains from the 10 minute addition to the school day; in fact, most teachers express frustration about the three lost days of instruction. Fortunately for Fulton employees, their contracts were not reduced along with the reduction in instructional days. A reduction in instructional days, especially the ten suggested by Mr. Womack, would be a disaster for a school system like Dekalb that is already struggling academically. The cost cutting proposal made by the Dekalb employee to reduce 12-month employees to 11-month contracts along with the suggestion to shut Dekalb schools for the month of July seem the most logical. In fact, Fulton County would benefit greatly from a similar proposal because as I go to my building this summer and see APs (11-month employees) sitting around bemoaning their summer boredom in the office, I cannot help but think their time would be better served at home tending their yards rather than sitting around the office on the taxpayer’s dime. The same could be said for central offices employees as well.

DeKalb Teacher

June 20th, 2012
8:02 pm

As a 17 year veteran in DeKalb, I am so disappointed in the way things have gone. While not having any sort of pay raise since 2007, I am expected to enthusiastically and whole-heartedly give everything I can to raise student achievement in my classroom. At the same time, I am struggling to pay my mortgage due to increased property taxes, health insurance premiums, etc. And with the coming of Common Core Standards, you want me to do this on less days and pay? This kind of reminds of a segment on SNL”s weekly update…REALLY????

Donaldo

June 20th, 2012
8:07 pm

Angela: Thanks for your comment. As a former educator & parent, I have walked in your shoes, and yes, actually helped organize a group of parents to precisely do what I suggested earlier. However, I will say it is not easy, it is hard, but our kids are worth the fight…we adults need to set the example for them by fighting for improvements, I choose not to blame others for not sharing my values, your job as parents is to convince those less willing to participate, that it is worth their interest to get involved and be active parents to encourage active learning. We need to raise the bar, not lower it any further. Remember, majority rules in this country, so if you are unhappy with governmental programs, organize and build a majority……it is not easy, it is challenging, but our kids are worth the effort..This entire conversation is about commitment..

FMX

June 20th, 2012
8:08 pm

This is just the hens coming home to roost. There is too much waste in public education any. Its a shame it took a bad economy for the public to realize. We put too much money into the schools for what we get in return. It kills me that teachers get on here crying poor. You go to any school and look in the teachers parking lot; I guarantee you will see more luxury cars than in a rap video. I blame the parents as well because they aren’t involving themselves in the education of our children but don’t give me that bs about salaries because you all are grossly overpaid (especially in administration).

Solutions

June 20th, 2012
8:08 pm

Dekalb is turning into another Kansas City schools disaster: “Kansas City came to national attention ten years ago, when federal District Judge Russell Clark ordered the school district to build and staff the best, most expensive public schools in the country—perhaps in the world. They were to be so dazzlingly good that they would both lure white students out of their safe suburbs and raise black student achievement to the white level. Judge Clark was even willing to wield dictatorial power to get what he wanted, looting both the city and the state to fund the gold-plated schools that desegregation was thought to require.

Of course, the grand experiment failed. The wondrous schools were duly built but blacks learned no more in them than before. Whites stayed in the suburbs. And now a recent Supreme Court decision will probably cut off massive subsidies from the state, leaving the city with a hugely expensive system to run and no money. If Kansas City cannot dream up new ways to make whites pay for them, the dream schools will slide back into the ramshackled mediocrity from which Judge Clark thought he had lifted them.” The rest of the story is here: http://amren.com/oldnews/archives/2008/05/catastrophe_in_1.php

Proud Teacher

June 20th, 2012
8:08 pm

What are they financing instead of school? Follow the money. This just doesn’t sound right.

Taxpayer and Teacher

June 20th, 2012
8:14 pm

@FMX I don’t know what teacher parking lot you’ve been watching because we barely have running cars in ours. You must have us mixed up with another school district. They have already cut back on toilet tissue and most student bathrooms don’t have soap. So, maybe you are either visiting the North end of the county or you just made up your observations.

BlahBlahBlah

June 20th, 2012
8:17 pm

We live in Dekalb. We’re thankful we can homeschool, but dread trying to possibly sell our house next year.

incredulous

June 20th, 2012
8:17 pm

!Solutions? Com’on, quoting an offshoot of StormFront.org (however slick the design) that’s 17 years old isn’t lending you any credibility or traction. Get some new news. Come on Lee! If you’re going to spout racist, misanthropic, hate filled rhetoric, do a better job.

DeKalb Teacher

June 20th, 2012
8:17 pm

To FMX: I would love to know what schools you are driving by…lots of old cars in our parking lot and along the streets where we teach.I may drive an Acura but it’s a 1996! I have a feeling you don’t have many teaching/schooling experiences from the past 10 years. Would love for you to spend a day or two in a classroom. You might be surprised by what actually goes on.

Bobby

June 20th, 2012
8:18 pm

I’m a 35 year Dekalb County resident. And while I sympathize with Dekalb teachers, I haven’t had a raise in 5 years, my bonus has been eliminated, my health care insurance has gone up tremendously and my living expenses have gone up. I just don’t want a tax increase at this time. We are all in a hard spot right now but the County, whether school board or DC Commissioners must learn to live within a budget. And if FernBank has to be closed, so be it. Should conditions get better in the future it can be reopened.

James

June 20th, 2012
8:22 pm

I remember when Dekalb County schools had some of the
best HS in the state- Lakeside, Tucker, Avondale and others…

The idiots running the school system the last 20-30 years have ruined
it. It’s a shame that the only good schools left around are mostly
private now…only a few decent public schools left in Dekalb & Fulton…

WAR

June 20th, 2012
8:22 pm

dekalb is embarrassing.

Dave

June 20th, 2012
8:23 pm

3.5 years of Obama has brought us to this….
Thank and praise Almighty God that the Obamanation’s Reign will soon come to an end, and our time of tribulation might soon be over. Amen.

WAR

June 20th, 2012
8:24 pm

@fmx

you are embarrassing too.

MB

June 20th, 2012
8:24 pm

Fulton cut assistant principals back to 220-day contracts two years ago and 240-day contracts back to 235 days. Think some downtown folks could still absorb some more cuts in the length of their contracts – as others have noted, those of us on 190-day contracts work on our own time to catch up. They cut classroom and media assistants to 177 days; don’t you think they could get by without their assistants for less than 235 days?. Agree with the block scheduling deficit: my friend has worked with both schedules and says block is easier for teachers but NOT better for student learning. (And don’t you think the savings from teachers in the classroom 87% of their day would offset any textbook expenses???)

WAR

June 20th, 2012
8:28 pm

@dave

really? dekalbs problems are because of the president? besides, what if Almighty God provides us another 4 years of Obamanations Reign?

Solutions

June 20th, 2012
8:30 pm

The Kansas City Schools disaster was real, I have not read enough about it to determine if the article I posted was extreme or not, they pulled no punches in their comments, I did note that.