$50 Million More For DeKalb Teachers?

Posted at the Fact Checker on March 4, 2015 by Stan Jester

At the DeKalb School Board meeting this past Monday (March 2), the CFO said it would take $50 million to $60 million to get us to 65% classroom expenditures in FY16.

Vice Chair Jim McMahan moved to make 65% of the operating expenditures spent in the classroom a requirement for the budget next year.

Perhaps we should start from the beginning. As discussed in Just Say NO to Waivers over the weekend, “Classrooms First for Georgia” requires, at a minimum, 65% of a system’s total operating funds to be spent in the classroom. FY14 fell woefully short of that requirement which brings us to this discussion at the board meeting on Monday where the administration requested a waiver for FY14.

(Transcript from 3/2 Board Meeting – edited for brevity)

Stan Jester (School Board) – Over the last few years we’ve needed this waiver and we are en route to needing this waiver again for FY15.

Dr. Michael Bell (CFO) – There are a number of variables that go into answering that question.

Michael Thurmond (Superintendent) – If the state would allow us to count this $50 million dollars we are using to pay off the deficit and grow the fund balance, then that percentage would look differently.

Bell – If we spent the fund balance on classroom instruction, it would take us over 65%.

Jester – We’ve built up a respectable fund balance. In FY16 I look forward to us being over that 65%.

Marshall Orson (School Board) – That’s where I was headed. Remember, that 65% is a floor … it’s not a ceiling. I hope we can all agree the most bang for our buck comes from the investments we make in the classrooms with our teachers that directly benefit students. I would like to ask that as we go into the FY16 budgeting cycle, that we be more ambitious with the investments in the classroom.

Thurmond – I agree with everything that has been said. We’ve been living in the basement, the first floor looks pretty nice.

Vickie Turner (School Board)
Not to belabor the point, I want to echo what Mr. Thurmond said. I expect that FY16 will render the results that we can all say we’re proud of. It may not be the ceiling, but progress is progress.

Jim McMahan (Board Vice Chair)
We have made huge strides in a short period of time. With the board’s support, I move that we make 65% of the operating expenditures spent in the classroom a requirement for the budget next year.

Nina Gupta (Nelson Mullins – General Counsel)
There isn’t anything that’s been noticed on the agenda for this kind of action. So, unless we can articulate an emergency that would require this kind of notice, I recommend that there not be a formal motion. But, if you would like to express a board aspiration that this is an expectation you would like to see, then certainly you can express that sentiment. But, I don’t think there is any basis for a formal board motion and vote at this time.”

Nina Gupta later told me the Georgia Open Meetings Act can be interpreted this way. We didn’t have the Georgia Open Meetings Act in front of us, so we were in no position to argue. Unfortunately, McMahan subsequently withdrew his motion.

I have asked the Board Chair and Superintendent to document the exact wording in the Georgia Open Meetings Act that legal counsel was relying on for their interpretation. Furthermore, I requested legal counsel explain how they arrived at their interpretation.

That’s where we stand with sending $50 million to $60 million more into the classroom next year. We welcome your thoughts.

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Watch the portion of the meeting where the Title 50 Waiver was discussed >>

Posted in Board of Education Meetings, Budget Cuts, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, GA Legislature / Laws / O.C.G.A., Michael Thurmond, School Funding, Stan Jester | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Just Say NO to Waivers

Originally posted at The Fact Checker on February 28, 2015 by Stan Jester

SayNoToWaivers“Classrooms First for Georgia” – Requires, at a minimum, 65% of a system’s total operating funds to be spent in the classroom. The statute was enacted in FY2008 and DeKalb Schools has never been in compliance.

On Monday the board will vote to waive the 65% rule for FY2014.

School districts are considered compliant if they increase their direct classroom expenditures as a percent of total operating expenditures by two or more percentage points over the previous fiscal year.

Screen shot 2015-03-01 at 9.41.35 AM

Fiscal Year 2014
The FY14 operating expenditures increased by $50 million from the previous year. Unfortunately they spent the exact same percent on classroom expenditures.

Fiscal Year 2015 – Budgeted
FY15 will see an estimated increase of $66 million in operating expenditures and should move classroom instruction to 62.40%.

Fiscal Year 2016
The budgeting season is approaching us. We can’t do anything about FY14 or FY15. Moving forward, shouldn’t the school board’s top budget priority be to construct a budget with at least 65% of the operating expenditures going into the classroom for FY16? As Nancy Jester use to say, “More classroom, less bureaucracy.”

#JustSayNoToWaivers #MoreClassroomLessBureaucracy

Posted in Board of Education Meetings, Budget Cuts, Michael Thurmond, Ramona Howell Tyson, SACS/Accreditation, School Funding, Stan Jester, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

School board nominates superintendent search committee

Here we go! We now have the committee. So, who has been chosen to choose?

Search committee members and the board member who chose them —

Mr. Stan Jester  District 1  Rick Callihan Al Tiede
Mr. Marshall Orson District 2 Carolyn Finnerty Betty Willis
Dr. Michael Erwin District 3 Urcel Ray Fields Katherine Kelbaugh
Mr. James McMahan District 4 Michelle Penkava Al Edwards
Mrs. Vickie Turner District 5 William Boone Eliezer Velez
Dr. Melvin Johnson District 6 Lance L. Hammonds John Evans
Dr. Joyce Morley District 7 Gwen Johnson Kerwin Lee, Senior Pastor

Also serving (elected at-large) are: Rhina Fernandes Williams, Asst. Professor of Multicultural Education, GA State and Barbara Lee, citizen Read the rest of the story here >> School board nominates superintendent search committee

Check out their credentials here >> DeKalb County School District – Superintendent Search Community Liaison Group Nominations

Posted in Superintendent Search | 29 Comments

The Monday, March 2, 2015 Board Meeting

The DeKalb Board of Education will hold the following meetings on Monday, March 2, 2015:

2:00pm Work Session, Committee of the Whole & Executive Session for personnel & legal matters

5:45pm Community Input Session

7:00pm Business Meeting

All will be held at the Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain, GA 30083

Meeting information can be accessed online by going to: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us, click on Leadership, go to eBoard Home Page and click on the date for the meeting agenda\information.

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CONSENT AGENDA

1. Approval of Minutes
Presented by: Mr. Michael L. Thurmond, Superintendent
2. Approval of Monthly Financial Report
Presented by: Dr. Michael J. Bell, Chief Financial Officer, Division of Finance
3. Approval of **Title 50 Waiver Have a look at the actual request HERE.
Presented by: Dr. Michael J. Bell, Chief Financial Officer, Division of Finance

**Here is a chart of DeKalb’s classroom spending (2013-2015 budgeted)
Percent-Classroom-SpendingDSW NOTE: As you can see, we haven’t even increased classroom spending by 1% in the two years Thurmond has been at the helm. The law requires increasing by 2% each year until you reach the goal of 65%. We aren’t even doing that. And here they are asking for a waiver in hindsight–long after having not spent the budget as required by law.

4. Approval of Monthly Human Resources Report
Presented by: Dr. Tekshia M. Ward-Smith, Chief Human Resources Officer, Division of Human Resources
5. Catalog Discount for Hand Tools & Supplies & Equipment Related to Career Technical and Agricultural Education, Bid #15-134
Presented by: Dr. Delmas L. Watkins, Director, Career, Technical and Agricultural Education, Division of Curriculum & Instruction
6. Catalog Discount for Audio Visual Equipment, Supplies and Accessories, Bid #15-131
Presented by: Dr. Delmas L. Watkins, Director, Career, Technical and Agricultural Education, Division of Curriculum & Instruction
7. Approval of 2nd Conversion Charter Amendment for Chamblee Charter High School
Presented by: Dr. Jose’ G. Boza, Jr., Director, Leadership Development & Charter Schools, Division of School Leadership & Operational Support
8. Approval of Petition for Voluntary Termination of Gateway to College Academy Charter Contract
Presented by: Dr. Jose’ G. Boza, Jr., Director, Leadership Development & Charter Schools, Division of School Leadership & Operational Support
9. Purchase of Title I Summer Reading Resources from Scholastic, Inc.
Presented by: Dr. Morcease J. Beasley, Executive Director for Curriculum & Instruction, Professional Learning and the Office of Federal Programs, Division of Curriculum & Instruction
10. Approval of the DeKalb County School District School Nutrition Three-Year Meal Price Plan
Presented by: Mr. Joshua L. Williams, Chief Operations Officer, Division of Operations
11. RFP No. 14-460 Global Positioning System (GPS)/Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) and Driver Time and Attendance Software System Contract Extension Approval
Presented by: Mr. Joshua L. Williams, Chief Operations Officer, Division of Operations
12. Sam Moss Fleet Service Center Paving Project Award Approval
Presented by: Mr. Joshua L. Williams, Chief Operations Officer, Division of Operations
13. Attendance Area Alterations for Peachcrest Elementary School
Presented by: Mr. Joshua L. Williams, Chief Operations Officer, Division of Operations
14. Approval of the Submittal of the Revised FY2015 Capital Outlay Application to the Georgia
Department of Education for the Henderson Middle School Project (#15-644-001)
Presented by: Mr. Joshua L. Williams, Chief Operations Officer, Division of Operations
15. E-SPLOST IV Project: Clifton/Gresham Park Elementary School Construction Contract Award
Presented by: Mr. Joshua L. Williams, Chief Operations Officer, Division of Operations

D. OTHER\BOARD COMMENTS (2 minutes each)

E. ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. Student Advisory Committee Meeting, 9:00am, Tuesday, March 4, 2015, Auditorium, Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain
2. Teacher Advisory Committee Meeting, 2:00pm, Thursday, March 12, 2015, Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain
3. SPLOST Oversight Committee Meeting, 6:00pm, Thursday, March 12, 2015, Conference Room, Sam A. Moss Service Center, 1780 Montreal Road, Tucker
4. School Board Member Appreciation Week, Monday, March 16 – Friday, March 20, 2015
5. District-Wide Administrators Academy, 8:30am, Tuesday, March 24, 2015, Auditorium, Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain
6. DeKalb Board of Education Work Session (2pm) Cabinet Room, Community Input Session (5:45pm) & Business Meeting (7pm), Wednesday, April 1, 2015, J. David Williamson Board Room, Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain

Posted in Board of Education Meetings, Charter School, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, Michael Thurmond, SPLOST IV | 29 Comments

Gov. Deal’s overhaul list of failing schools gets mixed reactions

Written by Joshua Smith for “On Common Ground News”

Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposal to overhaul 141 failing schools is receiving mixed reactions in DeKalb County, which has 26 schools on the list, the second-highest number behind the Atlanta Public School System, which has 27 failing schools.

Deal’s proposal would give the state control over struggling schools to bring them up to par, convert them to charters or shut them down. The governor wants to launch what he is calling the “Opportunity School District” in the 2017 school year.

“Most of you will never understand what it’s like to work as hard as you possibly can in a failing school and fall further and further behind each year. This region has the highest homeless rate in the county and an extremely high rate of transience among students,” said Allen, responding to bloggers on the site. “I watched my school excel when it was a primary school with a class size reduction grant and fall deeper into the abyss every year since the grant was ended. Check the data on Midway Elementary.”

The measure requires a constitutional amendment and Deal says he will work with lawmakers this legislative lesion to put the amendment on the 2016 ballot to create the district.

The proposal is one that has Donna Priest-Brown, who serves as the South DeKalb Parent Council, concerned.

“The pulse I’m getting from parents is at least give us a chance to fix it first before the governor comes in and takes over our schools with people that are complete strangers to our children,” said Priest-Brown, who also serves as co-chair of the Parent Councils United. “A lot of parents are telling me that they don’t think the proposed plan is even about the children, but more so a way for the governor and others to make money by bringing in vendors that specialize in improving education.”

Priest-Brown has a sophomore at Chamblee High School and says that she would like to hear a response from the Superintendent or the school district about what they plan to do.

“As I get mixed reactions on this, I have to say I agree with some aspects of it but disagree with others. I have been checking the (DeKalb School District’s) website daily, but I don’t see a game plan from the school system on this. We don’t have to know the game plan, but we just want to know that the school district has plans to work on this before the governor just moves in on us,” said Priest-Brown.

Marshall Orson, who represents District 2 of the DeKalb County Board of Education, says he believes people need to keep an open mind about the governor’s proposal.

“I believe the governor’s proposed plan is just in the exploratory phase, but we should hear it out,” said Orson. “We have to do something. Parents at failing schools in this district and across the state are eager to find the solution, whatever that may be. As more and more meetings pop up across the county and state on this issue, I expect them to be well attended by parents looking for answers.”


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Read the rest here >> Gov. Deal’s overhaul list of failing schools gets mixed reactions

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The Georgia Partnership for Educational Excellence, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocate for public education, is hosting a community discussion on the proposal on Tuesday, Feb. 24. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Economic Developers Association founded the group in 1992.

The discussion will be held from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at the Georgia Freight Depot, 65 Martin Luther King, Jr., Drive, S.E., Atlanta. For more information, call 404-223- 2280.

“Our duty is to inform Georgia leaders and stakeholders through research and non-partisan advocacy. By hosting meetings like this one, we want to make an impact on education policies and practices for the improvement of student achievement,” said Stephen D. Dolinger, Ed.D, the group’s president.

Posted in Budget Cuts, Charter School, Charter School Amendment, Education in the South, GA Legislature / Laws / O.C.G.A. | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments