Adding to its woes: DeKalb Schools has to repay $910,000 in misused Title I funds. (And rumor about school chief leaving was untrue.)

The AJC has a news story on this today, but here is the memo from Cheryl L.H. Atkinson to DeKalb school employees alerting them that a state review of Title I found an ineligible program being funded so the district has to return the money.

The state report says most of the money — $885,000 — went to Communities in Schools, an Arlington, Va.-based dropout prevention organization hired to improve performance at 15 DeKalb schools.

Communities in Schools had been providing the service since 2008, but it wasn’t until the state conducted its random review that it discovered spending on uncovered costs, such as mentoring students who’d been suspended.

Please note that there is nothing nefarious alleged. Speaking of alleged,  a rumor flew from one end of the county to the other this weekend that Atkinson had resigned to take a job in Texas.  Not true.

As the AJC story states today:

The money came from the federal Title 1 program, which subsidizes schools with concentrations of students from low-income households. The Georgia Department of Education found the money was spent on purposes that don’t fall under Title 1.

“We’re not saying they weren’t good things for students,” said Margo DeLaune, who oversaw the state review, which was first obtained by Channel 2 Action News. “We’re not saying anything was illegal. We’re just saying there were some items that were not Title 1 allowable.”

Here is the official memo:

From: Dr. Cheryl L.H. Atkinson, Superintendent

Subject: Title I Audit Finds DCSD Must Repay Funds

Date: 5 November 2012

In March 2012, the Georgia Department of Education conducted its annual Cross-Functional Monitoring of the Title I Part A Program in DeKalb. Each year, they take a random sampling of expenditures to audit Title I funds. This year, they selected as one of their random samplings the Communities In Schools (CIS) contract. The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) has been under a contract with CIS since 2008 similar to other metro districts.

This year, they deemed that the CIS services provided in the contract did not qualify as an allowable activity. As a result, the district will be required to repay $885,000 from the general fund to resolve the matter. Since the expenditure had not been cited in the past four years, DCSD had no indication it was unallowable. The Title I administration is undergoing restructuring this year to ensure more streamlined accountability going forward.

In addition, there is $25,000 of additional expenditures related to unallowable costs for Title I activities that are also required to be repaid. As a result, the total amount of $910,000 must be repaid from the general fund budget. The DCSD is working within the Finance department to determine how the general fund budget must be modified since this repayment expenditure was not planned for within this year’s budget.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

72 comments Add your comment

No Dog in the Fight

November 6th, 2012
8:01 am

Question for you Maureen, if a child is in a failing school, what options do we as parents and taxpayers have to move the child within the district? Dekalb is a mess with no end in sight.

Pride and Joy

November 6th, 2012
8:05 am

This is nearly a million bucks we have to pay back to the feds. Where will this money come from?
This is why we need charter schools, so that WE parents have more control, more oversight, more HONESTY in our schools.

d

November 6th, 2012
8:21 am

Simple question PaJ (and remember DeKalb has quite a few Charters already) …. Where does the money for Charters come from if we are trying to figure out where to find this million dollars?

d

November 6th, 2012
8:21 am

Simple question PaJ (and remember DeKalb has quite a few Charters already) …. Where does the money for Charters come from if we are trying to figure out where to find this million dollars?

Van Jones

November 6th, 2012
8:35 am

Dekalb, the new Clayton county.

Dekalb Debacle

November 6th, 2012
9:03 am

The beat goes on.

living in an outdated ed system

November 6th, 2012
9:04 am

And you all want local school boards to have EXCLUSIVE authority over public charter schools? This is PRECISELY why monopolies don’t work!

Support the amendment today!!!

Digger

November 6th, 2012
9:05 am

Money wasted in education? Who woulda thunk it?

AnonMom

November 6th, 2012
9:07 am

When does the Media & the Feds actually investigate, as if they is actually something really going on – as would happen in any other situation with “misappropriation” of this magnitude (and I am sure that this is just the tip of the iceberg and it’s taxpayer money — this particular one is federal tax dollars to be repaid with local tax dollars)?

indigo

November 6th, 2012
9:17 am

“Adding to it’s woes”

You mean, adding to DeKalb property owners woes. This will mean yet another hike in property taxes.

Top School

November 6th, 2012
9:17 am

All you have to do is return the money …after you cheat or steal??
OUR children are watching…and you wonder why there is so much corruption in our banks…on Wall Street…and now in education.

Pride and Joy

November 6th, 2012
9:18 am

to d — a simple answer.
State education money follows the student.
the traditional public school will not need the state money because they won’t have to educate the student — the charter school will.
Local tax money stays with the traditional public school.
So, traditional public schools will have actually less students but MORE money per student.

dekalbed

November 6th, 2012
9:18 am

Maureen,

Can you find out how many other systems paid or attempted to pay CIS using Title 1 funds? According to the CIS website, Fulton County Schools secured an AT&T grant to pay for its partnership. And how do other districts like Gwinnet and Rockdale ensure compliance?

Dekalb’s organizational chart (still lacking names) indicates numerous directors, coordinators, accounting associates, and a compliance specialist for federal programs.At what point is the superintendent “accountable” for any of these problems?

When does persistent ineptitude and dissembling become nefarious?

And how will this latest “mistake” factor into the review and recommendations of SACS?

Rush

November 6th, 2012
9:31 am

What a freakin’ mess…..wonder what political party most of the Dekalb “administrators” belong to? I would hazard to guess the same political party that serves in Clayton County “scrools”.

Concernedmom30329

November 6th, 2012
9:33 am

To add to DeKalbed’s questions, I also wonder if the Feds changed the policy on CIS and someone in DeKalb just missed it. School systems across the country partner with CIS. It would be great if the AJC could get someone to go on record from CIS.

DeKalb Wonkette

November 6th, 2012
9:37 am

And they won’t sell the unused property worth $20M at Briarcliff & Druid Hills? Because they think they may need to expand? Laughable except that it shows so much contempt for the taxpayers.

Dunwoody Mom

November 6th, 2012
9:41 am

I’m not sure what is going on here – overreaching perhaps??? My church is a big supporter of CIS, and one our members is CEO, or was last time I checked. CIS does a great job of mentoring students to and keep them in school. Some of the bigger companies in Atlanta are sponsors and supporters of CIS.

concernedmom30329

November 6th, 2012
9:50 am

Without a plan to replace the stadium, it was laughable that the Superintendent even presented it last night.

Democrat Man

November 6th, 2012
10:03 am

DeKalb County BOE is a model for the rest of the State.

Disgusted in Dekalb

November 6th, 2012
10:13 am

Before I go to a doctor or other health care provider, I MAKE SURE that all of my insurance company’s provisions are met in order to have that service covered. Then, and only then, do I incur a charge. Why didn’t DCSS confirm that CIS was a valid Title I expense BEFORE they spent the $900,000? We all know why—because it is taxpayer money!!! You don’t have to be careful with taxpayer dollars because there is a seemingly endless supply of them.

DeKalb Inside Out

November 6th, 2012
10:15 am

d
Where does the money for Charters come from?
Locally approved charter schools are funded like traditional schools. State chartered schools are funded with Q.B.E money plus a supplement coming from state capital funds.

The state’s total FY2012 appropriations: $15.9 billion.
Appropriations part for Education: $9.97 billion
Amount of money spent on charters commissioned by the state: $56.1 million

So, 62% of state appropriates goes to education. 0.35% (less than half of 1%) of state appropriates goes to funding state charters.

Toni

November 6th, 2012
10:18 am

If there was an audit done in 2008,09,10,and 2011, How did this mistake just come to light in 2012? Was it accepted by the other auditors or is there something more elusive going on( by SACS)?

cpandy

November 6th, 2012
10:18 am

Well, the good news is that the Feds are checking on how their money is spent. The bad news is that it wasn’t being spent for the right things. Federal government 1, Dekalb 0.

gsmith

November 6th, 2012
10:19 am

dekalb schools will never recover because the demographics have changed in the county. the majority of wealthy intelligent white people have either moved out of the county or have put their kids in private school. all that is left are future rocket scientist that fill our schools in south dekalb and the hispanic and black apartment dwellers that have overtaken the one time best schools in the state in north dekalb…. you add this problem with a school board that is made up of incompetent leaders that only care about race, transportation and getting more black people on the county payroll and you have a recipe for disaster !!!!

veterandekalbteacher

November 6th, 2012
10:26 am

According to the memo, the money is supposed to come from the “general fund.” If I am not mistaken, that is the fund that salaries are paid from. So…..will our salaries decrease again? That would make the third decrease in the last 4 years. Also, we have not recieved a raise in the last 6 years. Really?????

As for Charter Schools…. Dekalb has several. Most of the people that support this amendment could care less about public schools because their children or grandchildren don’t even attend public school. They want a FREE private school.

Kitty

November 6th, 2012
10:36 am

OUCH !!! gsmith, that hurt… You really know how to throw a uppercut…

Don't Tread

November 6th, 2012
11:01 am

Misappropriation of funds in DeKalb County…color me shocked.

shiri

November 6th, 2012
11:10 am

Dekalb citizens, don’t worry the county will just raise taxes, very simple. Taxes in Dekalb are used for scamming, cheating, buying, Fraud, back-door pay outs…etc. Very simple.

PublicTeacher

November 6th, 2012
11:16 am

Wow! All the fussing has been that it’s just charter schools that spend money to private companies. Who would’a thought? Traditional public schools waste money like this every day and aren’t accountable to the parents for what they do. Another reason to vote YES! More local accountability to parents, YES YES YES.

Michelle

November 6th, 2012
11:23 am

@gsmith

Clearly, your exposure to educated people of color is non-existent. The problem with people like you is that you think only white people can achieve great things and are blessed with intelligence. Maybe you should take a look at Arabia Mountain HS in south Dekalb County. This school is 96 % African American and the students are bright, well behaved, respectful and are a part of the ONLY Green Ribbon HS in GA. This is a magnet school where the students are taking only accelerated courses including AP courses. I am proud to say my son is a rising ninth grader at AMHS and is doing great. The emphasis at this school is engineering along with environmental studies. The teachers and adminstrators are preparing ALL the students for success in college. I am tired of people like you trying to convince everyone that only white people can do well in society. Get over yourself and your obvious bigotry! God loves variety and has NO favorites.

DCSS will pay the money back and yes, there should have been better oversight but as the article stated, there is NO nefarious activities going on.

MaddZach

November 6th, 2012
11:26 am

WHAT A SHAME!!!
DEKALB COUNTY HAS NEVER BEEN MY CHOICE OF RESIDENCE!!!
The reason for all this mess is because you have too many buddies putting money in each others pockets.
INVESTIGATE and your county PROUD!!!!

Concernedmom30329

November 6th, 2012
12:00 pm

Michelle,
I am pleased your child is doing well at Arabia Mt. How about we end Magnet transportation to pay this money back? This would impact the fewest students and would protect our teachers and schoolhouses from further cuts.

dekalbed

November 6th, 2012
12:10 pm

Michelle,

I think gsmith’s comments are offensive. But I would be more concerned about what is or isn’t happening at Arabia. It touts numerous AP and gifted classes,so it looks as if most of the students take at least one AP exam since more than a thousand AP exams were taken last year and the year before.

But only 7% of these exams earned a 3 or higher in 2011 and only 13% earned a 3 or higher in 2012. On the other hand, 70% and 69.3% of the nearly 1000 exams taken at Chamblee for these same years earned a 3 or higher. Lakeside also had a similar number of exams taken and 49.8% and 58.5% of these esams earned a 3 or higher.

Unlike Gwinnett County, Dekalb doesn’t publish number of students and number of exams taken. So it is possible that the number of students taking AP exams is considerably less than the number of exams taken.

Chris

November 6th, 2012
12:16 pm

How can you possibly blame this on students?

Adults throughout the county vote for the school board. Who are you voting for? Are you voting for people who are looking to bring accountability and financial security or are you voting for people who are there to defend and deflect for their union?
Its an easy and obvious difference.

People are talking today about voting for Libertarians for president. Hogwash. Vote Libertarian for your school board.
But no, keep voting the same way you have voted for the past 30 years in DeKalb. Keep wondering why there hasnt been a sheriff that can complete a term without being indicted or worse. Keep wondering why your schools are getting worse and worse. Keep wondering why the county becomes more trashy and has less opportunity to get a good job (unless you like working at a title pawn store).
Keep voting for a school board that has setup requirements for teaching economics to a 6 week course in 9th grade.
Of course, maybe you really are worried that if we send more military equipment to Guam, the island will tip over.

I was educated in public school in DeKalb. It taught me that the first thing I needed to do was get out of DeKalb.

Chris

November 6th, 2012
12:18 pm

And I’m still over here laughing uncontrollably at the mention of God in a forum about a school system that does everything it can to banish any conversation about God or the values of decency.

Cellophane

November 6th, 2012
12:27 pm

The problem with Pride and Joy’s math is that if a charter draws from all across a school district (like in Cherokee), it may only take 10 kids from a given school, and they are scattered across five or six grade levels. Losing 2 or 3 kids from one grade is rarely enough to cut an entire teacher, which is the biggest cost in a school budget. The state funds follow those 10 kids to a charter school, but no dent is made in the expenses at the existing school. Same fixed costs, number of teachers, same part-time school nurse, same eletrical bill, same buses. It’s bleeding by a thousand cuts. Local money does not “increase” because all the tax digests are plummeting.

Ronin

November 6th, 2012
12:49 pm

Does the Dekalb government education system do anything well other than spend money?

Prof

November 6th, 2012
12:57 pm

PublicTeacher writes at 11:16 am: “Wow! All the fussing has been that it’s just charter schools that spend money to private companies. Who would’a thought? Traditional public schools waste money like this every day and aren’t accountable to the parents for what they do. Another reason to vote YES! More local accountability to parents, YES YES YES.”

My thoughts: this out-of-state (Arlington, VA) for-profit “drop-out prevention company” managed to get a sizable chunk of federal taxpayers’ funds ($885K) but misspent these Title I funds that the local Georgia taxpayers now have to make good. This seems exactly like the future scenario if Amendment One is passed, with the out-of-state for-profit charter management companies flocking to start Georgia public charter schools and get federal funds for poor students (reduced/free lunch ones), which Georgia taxpayers will have to repay when the rules are broken. What will the out-of-state charter management companies care? They won’t be beholden to our taxpayers in any way.

Another reason to vote NO! More accountability to local taxpayers. NO NO NO.

gsmith

November 6th, 2012
12:59 pm

im not sorry if i offended anyone with my comments because they are true. dunwoody, peachtree, lakeside high schools used to be the envy of everyone else in the state. people used to WANT TO MOVE INTO those neighborhoods because the schools were the BEST…. BUT NOW FOR REASONS I HAVE ALREADY GIVEN THEY HAVE BECOME ALMOST AS BAD AS THE SCHOOLS IN THE SOUTH OF THE COUNTY. NOW PEOPLE ARE MOVING OUT NOT MOVING IN AND PROPERTY VALUES ARE FALLING.. hey but who CARES about property taxes if you live with about 10 people in an apartment near the public school!!

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

November 6th, 2012
1:09 pm

Hmmm…where to find $910K? Cut three C-level positions at the mall on Mountain Industrial or add a students to every classroom, add a furlough day and cut a few more teachers and parapros? Let me guess…

bu2

November 6th, 2012
1:10 pm

It made no sense to sell the Briarcliff property at this time. 4 of the 5 North Dekalb high schools are over capacity and Cross Keys, the 5th, is on a small site and probably in need of a major renovation or rebuilding. Plus, the prices are probably as low as they are going to be.

Miss Management

November 6th, 2012
1:33 pm

What? The rumor’s not true? To quote Herman Munster, “Darn, Darn, Darn, Darn, Darn, Darn, Darn.”

THE_DUDE

November 6th, 2012
1:34 pm

You are all a bunch of Arm Chair Quarterbacks and Back-Seat Drivers. Go to the School Board meetings and let these scumbag board memebers have it. You won’t make a difference posting to this blog. Go on, get out there and let them feel the wrath of the TaxPayers. Vote them out today if any of the fools are running.

DeKalb Inside Out

November 6th, 2012
1:48 pm

Prof
charter management companies flocking to start Georgia public charter schools – Charter management companies cannot start charter schools.

[charter management companies] won’t be beholden to our taxpayers in any way. – You seem very concerned about accountability. Who is being held accountable for the misspent Title 1 funds in this article? Nobody and the taxpayers are left holding the debt.

Sure the same thing could happen with state chartered schools, but state chartered schools get much less money. They are also independently run. The exposure to blow ups like that are greatly reduced and divided up with a state chartered school model.

Pat & Mike

November 6th, 2012
2:05 pm

@ dekalbed and others …
For the DeKalb County School System Organizational Chart WITH names, go to “Who’s On First?”, published on October 21, 2012 by DeKalb School Watch blog [http://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/].

Through an Open Records Request, DeKalb School Watch asked for an Organizational Chart with names on August 28, 2012. It took a month for Atkinson and DeKalb County Schools to respond. When they did, they sent an organizational chart with NO names and a roster of mostly Palace employees. It took DeKalb School Watch editors another month, working part-time, to connect the roster names with the positions shown on the chart.

Many position names on the roster did not match with position names on the organization chart. It was critical that there be an exact match. For example, a Coordinator II is different — at least in salary — from a Coordinator III. In spite of what highly paid consultants have advised, DeKalb County Schools continues to have a plethora of job titles, primarily to enable giving raises at will to Palace employees. So, there are still a number of positions without names because job titles did not match.

DeKalb School Watch welcomes corrections and additions to the organizational chart. Please send them to dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com, along with documentation.

Prof

November 6th, 2012
2:08 pm

@ DeKalb Inside Out. Sorry–you’re right of course. The charter management companies won’t be flocking to Georgia, but the for-profit charter schools that hire them will be.

Yes, I am concerned about accountability when the seven members of the state charter commission board will be appointed by a few politicians (including our ethically-challenged governor), not elected. As to the rest of your paragraphs here, two wrongs don’t make a right.

Tired Taxpayer

November 6th, 2012
2:18 pm

Dr Atkinson:
Please consider firiing any affirmative action of equal opportunity employees. Of particular note, you might want to charge employees for their trip expenses. With all of the other issues in Dekalb, please DON’T try to stick us with this blunder of ignorance. We’re tired of misapplication of funds and shear stupidity.

DeKalb Inside Out

November 6th, 2012
2:29 pm

Prof
For profit – OK. Let’s take your worst nightmare and a for-profit company is running a state chartered school and raking in the moola. I proffer this question … “So What?”. As long as they are providing a superior education than the traditional school down the street … So What? As long as they close if they are not providing a superior education and parents choose not to go there … So What? Might I add they are doing it for 62% of the cost of traditional schools.

Where is your indignation for the enormous profits made by our superintendents, textbook companies, law firms, et al? Where is your call to Vote No on traditional schools?

I hope traditional schools thrive. Unfortunately the people in place to make changes are the people who profit the most from the status quo. “Hope” is not a method for fixing education in Georgia. Creating state chartered schools is a method.

Teacher in DeKalb

November 6th, 2012
2:35 pm

Dekalb School Watch: More slanted and bias than the AJC.

Michelle

November 6th, 2012
2:36 pm

@gsmith

You should get out more and meet people cause you clearly have issues with people that are not like you.
As I said earlier, get over yourself.

@dekalbed

I am aware of the number of students taking AP exams at AMHS. AP classes are not allowed for students in grades 9 and 10. I am very familiar with the success of Chamblee HS as my daughter graduated from Chamblee HS with honors. My point is I support AMHS and what they are doing to educate young people and prepare them for college. Keep in mind that AMHS opened in 2009 and in my opinion, is improving every year which is why I took my son out of a private school to send him there. I voted YES to Amendment One. We need good charter schools as an alternative to the traditional public schools and the boards that run them.