BROKEN.

Right now … the Georgia Department of Education needs to call a halt to the charter school process in DeKalb County.  It is broken.  Seriously.  Broken.

There is no better illustration of why this needs to happen than last Wednesday’s unanimous vote to approve the “McNair” College and Career Charter Academy or the “DeKalb” College and Career Charter Academy (depending on which part of the cut-and-paste petition you read) vs Thurmond’s recommendation that Druid Hills Charter Cluster (DHCC) be denied – again.

What has Thurmond’s panties in a wad is most likely that the Druid Hills Charter Cluster proposal revealed that DeKalb County Schools (DCS) was siphoning off $11 million that should rightfully have gone to the schools in the DHCC – more specifically to students, teachers and classrooms in DHCC.  The students in these schools earned those allotted funds, yet the actual funding the DeKalb administration allocated to the cluster came up short by $11 million.

Because the school district collects money from the state and then allocates it to individual schools according to their own unpublished formula, we suspect that many of these dollars are being spent at the top or allocated to small schools that do not qualify for enough funding to continue to operate as a self-funded individual school. Of course, these are simply guesses and the only true way to find out about spending is to conduct an independent, full forensic audit.

The Truth About Per-Pupil Funding

Here’s what needs to be understood about school funding by all those who scream that charter schools and charter clusters take money away from other schools or poor schools in DeKalb:

  1. Property tax is assessed based on the supposed market value of the property and any improvements (i.e., a house).
  2. North DeKalb properties seem to be worth quite a lot more than South DeKalb properties.
  3. Nevertheless, property tax does NOT stay in the community from which it is received. It all goes into one big bucket.  Approximately 70% of that bucket is used to fund schools, leaving 30% to fund all other county government including libraries, the courts, refuse collection, police and fire.
  4. A per-pupil dollar amount is determined by dividing the number of public school students in DeKalb County into the property tax (approximately 70¢ of every dollar collected) that goes to fund K-12 education.
  5. Regardless of how poor the community, every community could and should start with the same basic amount of money per student – even if every school in wealthier North DeKalb became a charter school.
  6. A separate big bucket of money comes in the form of federal Title I funds provided to high poverty schools. DCS has approximately 41 Title I schools.
  7. South DeKalb schools receive more money per pupil than North DeKalb Schools because very few North DeKalb schools are Title I.
  8. Confusingly, apparently Title I funds do not follow the student. In fact, students who leave a low-performing Title I school to enroll in a non-Title I magnet or charter school are leaving behind a lot of money and costing the receiving school more money to address the students’ needs and deficiencies.  Those needs and deficiencies are not rectified by osmosis, not rectified by sitting in a classroom next to higher performing students.

Charter schools and charter clusters do NOT take money away from public schools that serve poorer communities.  In fact, when a student leaves a Title I school to enroll in a charter school or charter cluster more money becomes available to educate the students who stay in the Title I school.

Ask …

  • … Thurmond and the school board members to explain why they cannot get the job done when they really get more money – not less – to educate students in Title I schools.
  • … Thurmond and the school board to explain why they begrudge DHCC a level playing field of per-pupil funding when Title I schools automatically get more funding above the per-pupil level.
  • … Thurmond and the school board where all the money goes.

Yes, we mean you, Jim McMahan and Marshall Orson, who made the vote unanimous in favor of the poorly planned and executed McNair/DeKalb College and Career Academy petition.  Yes, we mean you, Michael Erwin, who voted for McNair/DeKalb and against DHCC even though your own child attends a high-quality DCS charter school.  Yes, we mean you, John Coleman, a no-show for board meetings now.  Still collecting that paycheck, are you, compliments of your wife?

The Truth About The McNair/DeKalb Charter School Petition

We have read and studied both the DHCC charter petition and the McNair/DeKalb College and Career Academy petition:

  • DHCC petition is well-done and should become a model template for a charter cluster. It ticks all the boxes.  It should have been approved the first time.

McNair/DeKalb, who received a $50,000 planning grant in 2013 to put together a charter school petition apparently assembled both the charter school petition and the grant application for $3 million to become a college and career academy in fewer than 15 working days. When and where was the $50,000 grant spent?

Among the glaring errors with the McNair/DeKalb petition:

  • They can’t decide on a name. Is it the McNair College and Career Charter Academy or is it the DeKalb College and Career Charter Academy?
  • The current DCS superintendent sits on the board of this school and used his ex officio school board position to strongly recommend board approval of this school. This was a blatant and unacceptable conflict of interest!
  • The full board for McNair/DeKalb was not named, therefore many resumes and conflict of interest forms are missing, including Thurmond’s.
  • Their petition promotes dual enrollment with Georgia Perimeter College, NOT with Georgia Piedmont Technical College, McNair/DeKalb’s supposed “partner.”
  • It appears that they have an application form which requires an essay (totally a no-no) and suggests the applicant might not be accepted (another total no-no) and a registration form that requires test scores, but does not explain that those test score may not be used to determine admission.
  • McNair/DeKalb suggests they will have an extended year. This is not allowed by DCS in their charter school guidelines.
  • No noticeable involvement of stakeholders (parents, teachers) in creating this charter school.  Nada.  None.
  • No petitions signed by parents in feeder schools saying that they would send — or even consider sending — their child(ren) to McNair/DeKalb.
  • McNair/DeKalb is clearly duplicating the offerings at the Technology North campus (housed within Cross Keys High School) and the DeKalb High School of Technology South. However, oddly, the DHSTS is mentioned twice in the McNair proposal; once when they mention that the two schools under consideration are already owned by DCSS (without actually mentioning DHSTS) and in another place, they include the entire floor plan of DHSTS as part of the proposed school site.

The list above is just a glimpse of the problems with the McNair/DeKalb petition. There is so much that is wrong with this charter petition on so many levels – it can’t even be called a rough first draft.

Perhaps the most egregious error is this:

  • McNair/DeKalb will begin their first year serving 8th grade students (no explanation of what this does financially to the middle schools from which these students come).

But, wait – there’s more!

  • The College and Career Academy Grant guidelines are clear: to be eligible for the grant, McNair/DeKalb must serve, at a minimum, 11th and 12th  It will be 4 years before McNair/DeKalb reaches that point.  Therefore, McNair/DeKalb is ineligible for the $3 million grant.  Meanwhile, when asked what would happen if McNair/DeKalb did not get the grant, Thurmond said that he would request that the school system fund McNair/DeKalb (which could be a continuing conflict of interest, since he sits on the McNair/DeKalb Charter Board.  Who didn’t do their homework – and why?

In a nutshell: Thurmond, in another major conflict of interest, has committed to fund a school that breaks DeKalb County Schools’ own charter school guidelines many times and that was pushed through a last-minute called board vote so it could apply for a $3 million grant for which it is not eligible. 

 

 

 

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100 Responses to BROKEN.

  1. Kirk Lunde says:

    All valid points. The petition is an excellent example of the lack of competency in the central office.

  2. thedeal2 says:

    The sad thing is that absolutely nothing will ever, ever come of your very valid points or your sound logic. The administration is so full of roaches that it will always be a roach motel regardless of the individual Board of Ed members we replace. We’ll never get a Board of Education that is ballsy enough to hire a superintendent who will completely clean house. DeKalb is a southern Chicago or New Jersey with its politics.

  3. Basically, with Coleman no longer showing up for meetings but collecting the $1,800 per month check, Brookhaven and Dunwoody have no representation. There should be away that he can be removed for abandonment of the office and Stan Jester the board member elect sworn in early. At least their would not be radio silence at the meetings.

  4. dsw2contributor says:

    Region 2 Area Superintendent selected to be Superintendent of Richmond County School System:

    http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/education/2014-08-04/angela-pringle-selected-superintendent-finalist-rcboe?v=1407181776

  5. It is too bad it is past the date to appeal your taxes. It would have served these jokers right for every homeowner in Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Chamblee, tucker, Briarcliff, Lakeside, and Druid Hills would have appealed their taxes. This would have gotten the owners an automatic 15% cut in their taxes until they received a hearing before the board of appeals. This is the part of town where the tax increases were arbitrarily made to the tax base. It is the area where the tax money is stolen from to support the Southside of town. If they really wanted to see what loosing the money would be like, just let all the Northside single family homeowners appeal their taxes. See them squirm with 15% less. So many in these areas pay $5,000, 7,500, $10,000, 20,000 to $30,000 and more in Druid Hills and Brookhaven in Property taxes. Then the kicker is these same people feel forced out of the public school into private schools at,almost $25,000 per student.

    My former neighbors both Harvard Grads, had a $400k house here, because they were paying $70,000 a year in ($7,500 mo) in tuition to Lovett. He was able to take his dream job of teaching at Harvard Medical school, because they could buy a $1.2 M house in a fairly close-in suburb to Boston with Great schools and the three kids could attend public school. Yes, he was also taking a pay cut to go teach at Harvard. Atlanta looses top people like this all the time. The Clifton Cooridor Has never turned into the biotechnology corridor that has been envisioned for over 20 years because of two things Top notch Education k-12 in the neighbor hood ( these workers don’t want to commute to gwinnett or Cobb for 1 hr each way) and 2. Lack of rail rapid transit.

  6. curious says:

    DeKalb school officials admit overspending millions on lawyers
    Posted: 8:31 p.m. Monday, Aug. 4, 2014
    Email 0Facebook 0Twitter 0ShareThis New
    By Ty Tagami – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    
    DeKalb County school officials overpaid so much money to lawyers during the early years of the new millennium that there was nothing left in the rainy day fund when a monumental recession arrived, according to a new review of legal spending by the current finance chief.
    Over the decade that ended in 2012, the DeKalb County School District spent nearly $32 million more than it budgeted for legal fees, routinely overshooting — or underestimating — the planned expenditures for lawyers and forcing some of the harshest cutbacks in metro Atlanta when reckoning day arrived.

    The spending led to an unprecedented, and illegal, deficit of about $15 million in 2012. That led to layoffs as a historic recession undermined tax revenue. High legal costs drew the attention of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which placed the district on probation in 2012, alleging myriad governance problems, including legal fees that were diverting resources from the classroom.

    This is the first comprehensive assessment of the legal costs and their effect on the district’s bottom line.

    DeKalb finance chief Mike Bell, on the job about a year, said he discovered the payouts hidden in “other” expenses disbursed from the district’s reserve fund. This happened year after year, including the four-year stretch from 2008 through 2011 when the amount budgeted for legal costs remained at $912,316 annually while real expenditures soared to $10.5 million in one year and didn’t drop below $6 million.

    Bell said that if DeKalb had kept its legal costs within budget, the district would have had millions in reserves instead of a deficit when those layoffs became necessary.

    Superintendent Michael Thurmond, who tasked Bell with uncovering what happened, called the spending a “breathtaking” failure in oversight.

    Thurmond, appointed a little over a year ago, took on the reduction of legal fees as a core mission after noting their corrosive effect on public sentiment.

    “This is the ghost that has haunted DeKalb for 10 years,” he said in an interview Monday, after Bell told school board members about his discovery.

    The revelations came as the school board moved to end its controversial retainer agreement with two law firms, an unusual arrangement engineered five years ago by a previous school board that was riven by racial politics and could not agree on hiring just one firm for legal services. The board members involved back then openly admitted that their vote to spend more on attorneys was taken to ensure they had a black female attorney working with them. The district hired Sutherland Asbill & Brennan as general counsel and a firm led by Josie Alexander, who is black, to handle personnel matters.

    At the time of that 2009 vote, then board member Eugene Walker, said he was “a very, very race-conscious person. … I will never ever try to lead you to believe that I am race-neutral. I see color. I appreciate color. I celebrate color and I love color.”

    Walker was removed from the board by Gov. Nathan Deal after SACS threatened to strip the district’s accreditation over governance issues. He lost a lawsuit that went all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court and has since left DeKalb for rural Georgia. Contacted Monday, he defended the decision to hire two law firms and said he knew legal expenses were coming out of reserve funds even if other board members might have had “amnesia” about it. “We had to pay the lawyers and we didn’t have the money, so we had to go to reserve moneys,” he said. He blamed the budget overruns on unexpected legal costs from lawsuits and “personnel” cases and praised Thurmond’s handling of the district. Walker was on the board that hired Thurmond, and voted for him to get the job.

    The budget revelation left parent Damon Stewart with more questions. He was among the big crowds that descended on school board meetings in 2012 to protest the deep budget cuts of that time.

    Stewart, whose son will be attending fourth grade at a DeKalb school, wanted to know why it took so long to unearth the expenditures. He also wanted to know what, if anything, would happen to the people who spent the money.

    “I’d like to know what the game plan is in holding these individuals accountable for withholding this information from the taxpayers,” he said. “Someone has to be held accountable.”

    One concrete action Monday: the school board unanimously agreed to hire a new general counsel: Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough will begin representing the district immediately in most matters as the Sutherland and Alexander firms withdraw, though that could take months in some cases. The board will continue to retain the firm Drew, Eckl & Farnham to handle workers compensation cases. DeKalb legal chief Ron Ramsey said that firm has been handling that portion of the personnel caseload since before Alexander was hired and that she ceded the work to them. He said the monthly retainer fees will be capped at $125,000 a month for the two firms instead of the previous $275,000 for three firms.

    After Thurmond arrived in early 2013, he increased the budget for legal costs to an amount more consistent with history, then reduced actual costs to come in below budget. Expenditures last year were $4.5 million and are budgeted at $3 million this year.

    DeKalb County Schools’ legal costs
    YEAR* BUDGET EXPENSE OVER/UNDER

    2003 $550,000 $792,855.08 $242,855.08

    2004 $475,002 $877,303.16 $402,301.16

    2005 $1,000,030 $1,090,443.59 $90,413.59

    2006 $1,400,031 $1,515,818.86 $115,787.86

    2007 $1,750,000 $3,410,740.65 $1,660,740.65

    2008 $912,316 $10,161,881.01 $9,249,565.01

    2009 $912,316 $11,407,610.18 $10,495,294.18

    2010 $912,316 $6,488,537.92 $5,576,221.92

    2011 $912,316 $6,195,156.73 $5,282,840.73

    2012 $3,402,816 $5,645,834.11 $2,243,018.11

    2013 $10,550,000 $7,413,286.45 $(3,136,713.55)

    2014 $4,850,000 $4,490,462.32 $(359,537.68)

    Total 2003-2014 $27,627,143.00 $59,489,930.06 $31,862,787.06

    *Years are fiscal years (summer to summer). The current budget, for fiscal year 2015, runs to next summer. It is $3,050,000.

  7. teachermom says:

    Thank you Ty and the AJC. I have to wonder why it’s taken years for this to actually be covered but I’m hoping this will help. A forensic audit of all monies would have blown this up years ago. If Thurmond wants a legacy of cleaning up this county he can start by letting the light shine on the books some more. Forensic audit, please.

  8. Kirk Lunde says:

    The FY 2014 total for legal fees is at least $300,000 low. There are six months of McKenna Long & Aldridge invoices that haven’t been paid yet. Who know how many other invoices haven’t been put on the books yet?

    Last year over $23M was billed in FY ’13 and paid after July 1. That was the total, not just legal fees.

  9. We noticed this too Kirk. There are A LOT of line items that were deferred payment and then, 6 months to a year later, AFTER the books were ‘balanced’ they went back and applied these costs to last year’s budget.

    It’s sort of like when your kid shows you his A on a pop quiz for which you praise him, but neglects to tell you that he has not finished a term paper that was due last week.

  10. All this explains why Crawford Lewis hid or lost that one audit? The Palace gravy train had been exposed and ignored by the “new” leadership. Most of the Clew Crew, who are still running the place, should be shown the door immediately. Who can the stakeholders trust at the Palace? The budget process should start in the classroom and the schools, then the Palace can use the rest for their “leadership”. Why is Ramona Tyson still working for DCSS? How can we expect change if the same folks who drove us in the ditch are still making the decisions and hiding as much as possible from the taxpayers, with their “creative” accounting and day long meetings? It is Deja Vu all over again at DCSS! Thurmond needs to change the culture at the Palace, but I don’t think he is willing, DCSS continues to be a jobs program for the well-connected families and friends of DeKalb.

    OUR money needs to go to the classrooms and teachers FIRST not the Palace guard, who continue to get us into legal issues we can not afford! Why do we have Ron Ramsey on the payroll, if we pay to retain lawyers to do his work? To this day, Ron Ramsey does not mention his day job on his State Senate website? Why? Is he embarrassed that he works at such a messed up Government bureaucracy like DCSS?

    We can find good honest people to get our district back to the way it was, before Dr. Walker left his “color” stain. His word not mine! DCSS still mired in the muck of mediocrity for over 12 years!

  11. thedeal2 says:

    This is such OLD news to those of us who have been on this for years and years. So, in addition to the overwhelming frustration with DCSD in general, we are adding frustration that we (in particular, DSW2, Cere, Kirk Lunde, bu2, and others) have been screaming about this for years and some people act so shocked. Why won’t our board order a forensic audit? Stan Jester, will you? Kirk, you have advocated for Jimmy Mac on here, does he have a specific reason why he will not bring up the forensic audit?

  12. kirklunde says:

    thedeal2,

    I haven’t spoken with McMahan about a forensic audit. My assumption is something like that would cost several million dollars and take nearly a year to complete.

    Remember the limited audit Atkinson had done? The report spoke of uncooperative employees, missing paperwork, and confusion regarding bank accounts. Using the accrual method of accounting will solve some issues. I hope Mr. Thurmond will keep his word and use accrual accounting from now on.

    I prefer the money a forensic audit would cost be spent in the classrooms because even when the wrong-doers are identified and their abuses exposed, nothing will come of it. The central office will not hold anyone accountable and the DA clearly doesn’t want to do his job if any friends or family are involved.

  13. Stan Jester says:

    Obviously I can’t order a forensic audit. I can ask the board to ask the Superintendent for a forensic audit. If the board requested a forensic audit at the beginning of the year, we’ll have a new superintendent before the audit is completed.

    Brad Freeman gave the FY11 State Audit Report on DeKalb Schools back in August 2012. They discussed a forensic audit at length.

  14. Stan Jester says:

    DeKalb school officials admit overspending millions on lawyers

    I find this quote notable. Ty Tagami writes,

    DeKalb finance chief Mike Bell, on the job about a year, said he discovered the payouts hidden in “other” expenses disbursed from the district’s reserve fund … Superintendent Michael Thurmond, who tasked Bell with uncovering what happened, called the spending a “breathtaking” failure in oversight.

  15. A BIG step forward would be an open checkbook showing all monies that passed through DCS — deposits, transfers, payments.

  16. thedeal2 says:

    There is always an excuse for not doing the audit. New superintendent, elections coming up, too busy with SACS demands. We can’t use prior audits (“light” or not) because “things have changed too much” and we don’t have any records of those shifts in staffing and apparently can’t trust the salary data we get online. Just too much of a mess.

  17. THANK YOU for the link to the meeting with Brad Freeman, Stan! There is some very important information in the text … for example:

    Freeman
    It is managements responsibility to design internal controls and to evaluate internal controls. We recommend you have an audit committee. In the absence of that, you’re relying on divisions to monitor themselves.

    Nancy Jester
    I’d like to pick up where Mr. Womack left off and hopefully this can offer some clarity. This is the first audit I have received as a board member. This is an audit prior to my service on the board. Subsequent to my service on the board, I’ve become aware of our under budgeting our fixed costs and pointed that out quite regularly at every board meeting. It has been going on since I’ve been on the board.

    When you look back at this and you see a situation where we budgeted $10 million and we spent $16.5 million in electricity, that is a 55% overage. If you look at the sheer volume of expense items that are significantly over budget, then it’s a huge number. My point, and I’ll tie this into what Dr. Speaks was talking about, you’re not auditing the validity of our budget. Whether it was a well constructed budget. You’re auditing transactions. You’re auditing what happened, not what was presented as our plan, this is our budget.

    Freeman
    Correct. The budget is basically board policy and we do not audit that.

    Nancy Jester
    Right. You’re not making a statement about whether it was good or bad.

    Freeman
    Nor do we agree with it.

    Nancy Jester
    To clarify what Dr. Speaks was trying to get to, they’re not looking at the budget. They’re looking at transactions. For example, electricity. They’re looking at the ledger, did we get the bill, yes, did we pay that bill, yes, did it come out of the right bucket, check check check … we’re good. Right?

    Freeman
    Correct.

    Nancy Jester
    One of the things I’ve been concerned about is a control issue. Do we have the same chart of accounts as the state?

    Freeman
    No.

    Nancy Jester
    That is a big risk. Wouldn’t you agree?

    Freeman
    Yes.

    Nancy Jester
    And, you have been telling people that for years.

    Freeman
    Yes.

    Nancy Jester
    Has it ever been communicated directly to the board?

    Freeman
    No.

    Nancy Jester
    So, the board didn’t receive that type of control problem information. That went to management.

    Freeman
    Correct. We evaluate control deficiencies and certain things rise to the level of a significant deficiency and certain things rise to a level of a material weakness. Those two things get reported in your financial statements. Other things do not.

    We are more likely to report more things we notice with new management which was the case here.

    We strongly encourage EVERYONE to carefully read the transcript of this audit meeting. Pay attention to the careful, considered questions raised by Nancy Jester and compare her concern for correcting what ails the budget to John Coleman’s complete lack of concern. (Coleman was appointed by the Governor to take Nancy’s seat; calling him a replacement is way too strong a term. Coleman no longer even attends meetings for the most part, but we bet he still cashes his $1,800 monthly check for school board “service”, compliments of his wife who has connections to Gov. Let’s-Make-A-Deal.) Then check out former board member (the late) (CPA) Donna Edler’s very knowledgeable questions on the subject – and ask — why exactly did the Governor do what he did?

  18. The takeaway from the meeting with the state auditor is that the ADMINISTRATION withheld information from the board regarding the budget. And then Mark Elgart of SACS and the Governor stepped in and removed THE BOARD. Most of these administrators remain. Gladly, the CFO has been replaced and Mr. Bell seems to be digging in and reporting the curious transactions he sees. And Mr. Thurmond IS an attorney, so he does have a law license to protect. But truly – the only thing that will satisfy the taxpayers of DeKalb will be a full forensic and salary audit. One that get distributed directly to the board and cannot be buried and withheld the way Dr. Lewis and Ramona Tyson did in the past. But even then, we apparently must rely on the administration to point the auditors to areas that need attention. Cover up is still very doable.

    Freeman
    I want to make sure the board knows that the forensic audit is a short term solution. That is not going to fix any internal control issues long term. We gave Dr Atkinson and the finance committee and example of charters. What you should ask the forensic auditors. That a start. Then you’ve got to have internal auditors in there. The internal audit function isn’t to monitor internal controls. It’s to verify that those controls are in place. You have to have a functioning internal audit in place.

    Ms. Tyson (after becoming interim and full superintendent at Dr. Lewis’ recommendation) tried to make it appear as if she ‘cared’ about the buried audit. The moderators of this and the original DSW blog were able to acquire 4 boxes of paperwork produced by that 2004 audit, which showed some serious over-payments to many staff members, including our current board chair, a former (overpaid) DCSS administrator – forcing Tyson to admit that an audit existed. Read about those findings here.

    Backed into a corner, Tyson ‘promised’ a full forensic audit – and even provided a timeline. But it was all lies – no action was ever taken. It was all just drama to appease angry taxpayers until they forgot – which occurred when Mr. Thurmond was appointed super by the former board (the board that was fired by the Governor).

    Read Ramona’s words here >>

    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/05/ramona-tysons-report-on-2004-ernst.html

  19. Here’s a mind-blowing statement from the transcript >> We assume the auditor is referring to the former CFO during 2004-05 – the years the car purchases and other irregular purchases were allowed through.

    Termination Procedures
    Due to all the turnover related to this year, one of the individuals had to go back to their current role. We recommend that if somebody in a key financial role is terminated, just eliminate all their access.

    So, really – no one limited the access to the books to the CFO that was fired? Bad management. Just really poor.

  20. And – here’s one of the reasons schools like the Druid Hills cluster are not allocated the full funding due to their students >>

    Freeman
    Your taxpayers are supplementing the federal program. This has been an issue we have brought up in previous years.

  21. Walker
    Dr. Atkinson, the board is saying not to spend more than you have on those programs.

    Dr. Atkinson
    There are issues with that. There are things that have been assigned and personnel have been assigned to those dollars. In order to correct that, we have to reduce it. I just want everybody to hear me say that. If you’re going to right size into the budget, you have to take the things out. We’ve been operating with a large number of personnel in our budgets because it’s a deficit and an economic down turn.

    I haven’t looked at all of them specifically. We’ve worked hard for this coming year getting into budget.

    Freeman
    This isn’t easy. There’s a lot of people involved. The important thing is to get competent people involved managing those projects. Many times instructional people are in charge of these grants and they aren’t properly trained in accounting procedures.

    So — guess what — Atkinson is gone… but the people who were being discussed as cut backs – still there for the most part.

  22. nannerpuddin39 says:

    How will we be able to get Thurmond OUT….the majority of this board will keep him or another joke! How can we demand a search and be sure a qualified leader is chosen? Deal did us no favor with the replacements he named. The Palace needs to be purged..Ramsey, Tyson, etc. must be removed. And why in the world should a school system need more than one law firm? Money is spent on everything but students and teachers. I sincerely feel with Mr. Jester arriving in January we will begin to see a difference. I don’t understand how the county can abuse tax money without some charges being brought. Don’t tax payers have any recourse? I am so sick of the county in general…county government, the D.A.’s office, school system. I moved here in 1968 when it was in its prime. It makes me angry to see how it has been destroyed overtime. I’m rambling but so angry after reading the AJC this morning!

  23. nannerpuddin39 says:

    One more thing..thank you Stan and Nancy for all your work!

  24. anothercomment says:

    There will be a real push for the new cities. Perhaps the Milton County push will be stronger, with those in North Druid Hills north wanting join Milton County as well.

  25. Cedar says:

    Please forgive me but I am so sick of Thurmond and the whole crew.

  26. dsw2contributor says:

    The Palace trolled Maureen’s Get Schooled blog with a fake story today, August 5, 2014. Check it out yourself.

    At 9:12 AM, Maureen posted a non-story about David and Goliath. The “complaint” was from someone who took a picture while sitting in the front row of the Dekalb Summer Leadership Conference. The Conference is only open to Principals and “Leaders” from the Palace.

    At 10:24 AM, Maureen posted the story about Dekalb overspending $32 million on lawyers.

    At 6:42 PM, Maureen posted an essay from Mr. Thurmond, responding to the blog posted at 9:12 AM. The timing is suspicious; the “complaint” was posted at 9:12 AM and just a few hours later, Thurmond/Dekalb have a written response ready. Mmmmmkay…. DCS never responds that quickly.

    Then there are the first and last sentences of Mr. Thurmond’s essay:

    The David and Goliath theme usage during the DeKalb County School District’s Summer Leadership Conference was based on the bestseller of the same name by Malcolm Gladwell, not any religious tradition….. I regret the teacher did not understand the metaphor and was distracted by a misinterpretation.

    The problem with this is that there were not any teachers present at the Summer Leadership Conference….

  27. howdy1942 says:

    Whatever the cost of a forensic audit may be, I think that it will be well worth the price. As it stands now, a very large portion of Dekalb County residents have no confidence in this school administration. Such an audit would, I believe, show numerous and serious deficiencies and I think that would lead to a demand from the State for serious reform and change. Legal expenses have always been one of my great concerns. And I find it difficult to assess the settlement of the Heery case relative to the addition of the teachers’ case regarding the lost of their TSA (Tax-Sheltered Annuity) contributions. As pointed out by the AJC, the Dekalb School System’s expenditures seem to have always been so much “now you see it, now you don’t” or “hokus pokus”.

    I am very pessimistic about this current school board or the one to take office in January being able to effectively turn things around. Stan Jester is certainly a very welcome addition to the board, but I have questions about Jim McMahan and a lot more about Marshal Orson. And with the loss of Thad Mayfield, I see little chance for the Druid Hills Charter Petition to make it past either the current or the newly elected school board. And I see little change for any meaningful changes to occur. Thurmond is there for another year and we are not likely to get a much better replacement. The vote for a new superintendent will likely be 6-1 (With the 1 being Jester) or, at best, 4-3.

    For a long time, I had so hoped that we could keep DCSS together, that we could find ways to work together, and that the kids who were in the greatest need of a good school system would be able to find that in the DCSS. Barring some miracle, the new school board is not going to deliver that. So that leaves other options. I will support the new cities of Tucker, Briarcliff, and Lakeside more than ever. I will upgrade my lukewarm support of changing (read that as eliminating) that Georgia Constitutional Amendment that currently bars the creation of new school districts. We don’t need to get fancy by putting in “ifs” and “buts” and “dates” – that Amendment just needs to go away. There is simply no reason why Decatur can have its own school district and Tucker can’t (assuming Tucker incorporates and becomes a city). A third approach is that suggested by Dekalb School Watch – for the State to step in and fix Dekalb County. When you get right down to the crux of all “Dekalb issues” at the State Government, it is about a failed and broken school system. As long as the DCSS remains broken, a large portion of Dekalb County will seek to remedy its grievances at the State Level.

    I’ll close on what I see as two bright notes. First, Stan Jester is a welcome addition to the school board come January. Stan – I wish you the very best. A lot of us, even those of us who don’t live in your District, are pulling for you. Second, did I read it right in the AJC that Eugene Walker has left Dekalb County? If so, I do wish him well, but also hopes that he stays gone!

  28. concernedmome30329 says:

    With all due respect to Stan, he will be an island of 1 as the result of the elections and while Nancy was effective at asking questions, nothing really changed. With the loss of Thad and the fact that Atticus didn’t win, we aren’t going to see real progress.

  29. concernedmome30329 says:

    Posted to quickly

    Until there is a majority of a board that gets status quo isn’t working, board members will continue to ask questions and behavior of the staff will remain unchanged, which means that they won’t be answered. Nancy raised lots of issues but at the end of the day no behaviors changed. I am not hopeful at all that DCSS will be any different 10 years from now than it is today, without allowing city school systems or charter clusters or some other such changes.

  30. concerned citizen says:

    I am especially disappointed in the loss of Atticus LeBlanc; he is a true leader and could have helped Stan to make the board function by #1 kicking out the supt. and the rest of the crew. Have you ever seen such corruption and incompetence in one place as we have with our school system “leaders”? Let’s get rid of Thurmond, Ramsey, Smith, Howe, Beastly, and all the area supts. Then, let’s search for a supt who will clean up the debris left after firing all the named people. BTW, Howe came to a teacher meeting on Tuesday singing Thurmond’s praises! Yes, she did. The audience of about 300 was stone-cold silent. Howdy, I appreciate your comments so much and feel the same way. It’s going to be another year-from-hell, no doubt – too bad about the children and teachers, isn’t it? But ONWARD and UPWARD, Thurmond and the fools in the Palace.

  31. concerned citizen says:

    I would like to see an update on personnel who have not been hired, yet. The children are coming to school Monday, and what will they find? In a few schools that don’t let the Palace dominate, there will be peace and harmony. For most of us, however, there will be chaos and lies, and no books, paper, pencils, white boards, black boards, anything. It’s very, very depressing. There will be no administrative support for the teachers, either, because these principals are afraid of their own shadows and don’t give a damn about the teachers. I was told that since I didn’t order specific supplies, I would get a few things for my classroom! Isn’t that a lovely way to start the year? Then, again, I have already bought everything I need for my students because I know the reality of the schoolhouse. Shame, shame, on DeKalb

  32. concerned citizen says:

    DSW2: Your blog “Broken” is a fine piece of journalism. In fact, it’s brilliant and totally on target. Thank you for seeing the truth and pointing it out. Now, all the backwards supt and board and Palace minions are shelled out for what they truly are: self-seeking weaklings who are only about lining their pockets (and of course their F&Fs’ pockets of course!)

  33. Actually, Howdy, only eight (8) words must be removed from Article V, Paragraph I of the Georgia Constitution to enable taxpayers to take local control of K-12 education in their cities, if they so desire. Those eight (8) words are: “No independent school system shall hereafter be established.”

  34. nannerpuddin39 says:

    A dear friend who teaches in DeKalb at a small school told me they had 18 new teachers! That blows my mind!

  35. dsw2contributor says:

    nannerpuddin39, 18 new teachers in a single school does not surprise me at all.

    We know that Dekalb lost hundreds of teachers over the summer – 688 had left according to the last HR report. My guess is that the total number of departuring teachers will be in the 750 to 900 range. We also know that Academic Coaches, Assistant Principals, Principals and an Area Superintendent also quit Dekalb – all those opening create teacher vacancies too because teachers get promoted to be Academic Coaches and Asst. Principals.

    (A Principal might get promoted an Asst. Principal gets promoted to be Principal, an Academic Coach gets promoted to Asst. Principal, and a teacher gets promoted to Academic Coach…. then somebody new has to be hired to fill the teaching vacancy.)

    Let’s assume that DCS had 900 teaching vacancies. If those 900 vacancies were distributed equally across 120 DCS schools, then there would need to be 7.5 new teachers per school.
    However, the vacancies are not distributed equally — some amazing Dekalb Principals have managed to retain nearly all their teachers.

  36. dsw2contributor says:

    P.S. For a sign of just how desperate Dekalb County Schools are right now, see the DCS “Quality Teachers Wanted” billboard posted outside of the Atlanta City Jail….

  37. nannerpuddin39 says:

    I see your point but I don’t remember that many at one time during my teaching. But then this is a completely different situation!

  38. niah says:

    dsw2contributor,

    most of those positions are not being filled by current employees. Most of them are being filled through retired subs that keep getting the same positions over and over again. There are no opportunities for loyal employees to get promotions that’s why a lot of people are leaving.

    Here is the good old retired supply list that keeps getting a sub position

    Vivan Terry (currently interim at Salem) but she also has been a Lithonia and MLK
    Quentin Fretwell (safes schools)
    Cynthia Swanson (Alice Thompson sister)
    Ronald Williams
    Phillip James
    and the list goes on and on
    Also the say there is no nepotism, well Sandra Nunez daughter (24 years old) just got AP at Kingsley and has only taught for two years. Got to love dekalb. Everyone is leaving board and this is why.

  39. anothercomment says:

    My daughters Sandy Spring School line backs up two DeKalb county. In fact, while I was in-between house sale and purchases once I rented a townhouse. During a snowday, the kids in the complex met the kids in the house subdivision in back found out that they were zoned to DeKalb and went to Private school. All that separated the two complexes were a then forest and two sledding hills the kids found on the snow day. There is another high end apartment condo complex that the front entrance is on Peachtree Dunwoody, Fulton County Schools, the rear entrance is DeKalb County. They made it that every condo has a Peachtree Dunwoody Rd. Address.

    This year at the Fulton County School they are no longer providing Fulton County employees to notarize the annual declaration and proof of residency on site for every student. They are requiring everyone to go to a regular notary instead ( which is actually a bigger burden to the honest home owner, than the illegals, we do live in the world of going to the notary, we live in the on-line banking and bill paying world.) My daughter has told me for the last several years the reason why she never gets any invites, is because many of the white girls, really live in Dunwoody, but they have been told not to tell anyone where they really live to stay at the school. You also see the DeKalb cars exit the car pool and turn left and right. Then the other issue is Sandy Springs allowed the tear down of a Class C apartment complex that is suppose to remove 1000 students from the schools, in exchange for a higher density higher end mixed use complex at the Southern End of Sandy Springs. So they want to make sure that no one comes back with a dirt pile of those two torn down complexes.

    I have always been shocked at how Fulton makes you recertify every year and had the notary every year. But now this making everyone going to a private notary is a bit much. I don’t; see why they can not check on line for a single family or townhouse that has a homestead exemption to see if the homestead and title is still held in one of the parents name every year. This could be pre-done in ten seconds each on-line. While you have the tax map up you just move the mouse along. You just need to take the bus list, and look at the addresses.

    Now renters are a different issue. Most of those landlords have less than a 50K value even on nicer apartments which brings at most $250 or so in school taxes. Then they have multiple kids. Where the residential areas have $5000+ from many houses going to school taxes and in my neighborhood of 20 houses we might have 3-4 kids in Public K-8 the rest are in Private school. We are in a top Elementary too.

    DeKalb is going to end up after mid week with a bunch of kids returning, that have been denied entrance to places like Fulton. That is clearly what I saw going on in a Fulton Middle that bordered Dunwoody and Brookhaven. I can only imagine in areas of DeKalb that have worse schools.

  40. DeKalb Teacher 1999 says:

    Here’s the situation at Cross Keys:

    We’re short two math teachers, three English teachers, one assistant principal, and a principal.

    Because the former principal left and took her API with her, the schedule was left incomplete. The new API was hired just a few weeks ago and has been working nonstop since her first day to get the schedule finished. Some teachers didn’t get their schedule until today.

    Because enrollment increased by over three hundred students, there are several new teaching positions (some of them still unfilled as noted above). The extra teachers mean trailers for some teachers and floating for others. Today, the teachers assigned to trailers were told that they wouldn’t be ready for classroom use until the end of next week even though these trailers have been on campus since the spring! Where will these teachers hold class until then? Just about every teacher with a classroom already has another floating teacher assigned to it during his planning period.

    Despite this crazy chaos, morale doesn’t seem as bad as you’d think. The interim principal, Mr. Jenkins, seems very positive and supportive. The new API has also seemed supportive, hard working, pleasant, and competent.

    Cynthia Brictson addressed staff first thing Monday and I was greatly encouraged by what she said. She plans on sending out a survey to staff on to find out what they’d like in a principal. This is unheard of. Teachers have never been asked for this kind of input. She was also at the school on a Saturday to help interview teachers, though at this point, it’s slim pickings.

    So while the short notice departures of Dr. Wilson and Ms. Harrell has really screwed over the school, most of us are happy they’re gone. There’s a possibility of having an administration that understands our community, supports teachers, and actually likes our students!

    Dr. Wilson called several of CK’s best teachers and tried to get them to go with her to APS. Only one went.

    A huge shout out to Mr. Searcy who was the only administrator working at CK in July. He’s maintained a positive attitude throughout all if this craziness.

    Oh, and even though there are still tons of unfilled positions all over the county, I heard that HR was closed last Friday because of the compressed work week.

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