Audit: Some DeKalb Schools salaries inflated

According to a recent article in The Champion newspaper, Some DeKalb Schools salaries inflated.

Click here to read the entire article, but the key points follow:

A recent central office audit found, when compared to similar systems, the DeKalb County School System has some positions paying “substantially” above market and called for a unified salary schedule for all employees.

The referenced audit was the first part of a two-phase project to audit every position within the system; it is slated to be completed in March. It compared DCSS to systems such as Cobb, Gwinnett, Fulton and even the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.) School System.

The report states that currently, there is “no clear core responsibility definition for various job families such as secretaries, specialists, coordinators, managers or directors, which makes classification of new positions problematic. In the absence of clear guidelines, jobs can be legitimately placed anywhere.”

Woods said the system has not undergone an audit similar to the one performed by MAG in several years, an Ernst and Young study in 2005 being the closest thing. He said the system is looking closely at the report and its suggestions for central office realignment.

“We’re taking it under advisement—ultimately the final decision will be up to the superintendent. I can tell you the goal here is to drive resources to the classroom level,” Woods said.

It is sickening to think that the DeKalb County School System Board  of Education (BOE) had no problem directing the Interim Superintendent, Ramona Tyson, to cut hundreds of parapros, library clerks, in-school tech support and other school-based staff as well as to raise class sizes, allowing for our number of teachers to decline significantly over the years through attrition.  In fact, this attrition, combined with increased class sizes has enabled much of the school closure blight found by this blog (see the DeKalb School Watch Two archives post, “DCSS vacant properties causing blight countywide“).

The BOE turned a deaf ear to the concerns that many in the central office and elsewhere were overpaid, under-qualified, under-performing and/or not critical and should be cut. The BOE actually mocked those who pleaded for them to dig outside the schoolhouse to make their cuts. Meanwhile, student achievement continued to plummet — especially in South DeKalb. Now, this MAG report vindicates those outcries, but it’s not a vindication that makes up happy in any way.

The last audit, done in 2004 came to the very same conclusions. The superintendent at the time, Johnny Brown, attempted to redefine jobs and rejuggle the budget away from the administration. He was fired. His replacement, Crawford Lewis*, buried the audit and never implemented the suggestions, instead growing his staff even more and inflating their salaries further.

True to history, the board is once again diverting attention to things unrelated to the classroom: their own redistricting. Don’t allow them to sweep another audit under the rug. Let’s keep our eyes on the board and make sure that Superintendent Atkinson is allowed to do the right thing and shrink the administration, placing qualified resources in the classroom – where the children are.

*Indicted on RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) charges in 2010 and still avoiding trial.

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15 Responses to Audit: Some DeKalb Schools salaries inflated

  1. Watching... says:

    I get e-mail announcements of the upcoming meetings. At 2:21 today I got a notice for a Monthly board policy meeting at 2:30 tomorrow (the 15th). Looking at the agenda it has the policy on board visits to schools and staff interaction with board members up for discussion. But more interesting is that it has an agenda item that is an “Update from Superintendent Atkinson”. No details, but it is unusual for this subcommittee to have an item that is not policy and presented by the Super.
    These daytime/carpool time/24 hr only notice mtgs, that aren’t televised, are often the ones where the most interesting discussion and important decisions are made. And we have not seen the audit or new org chart. Is there anyone out there who can please attend and give us a report?

  2. Wow says:

    Will be hard to make salary adjustments when the BOE has so many family and friends in overpaid positions.

  3. Teacher Reader says:

    Salary adjustments need to be made and if not, these board members need to be voted out. I don’t care who you are related to. If you are being over paid, than it needs to stop for the next calendar year. If we as a community vote these jokers in yet again, we deserve what we get. We need to bombard the Atkinson and the board with emails and phone calls to let them know that we’ve had enough and want cuts to salaries that are too large effective ASAP!!!!

  4. momfromhe11 says:

    Completely agree with the sentiments in the blog entry. We MUST keep our eyes on the important things!

  5. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    Several people spent days rummaging through the 7 boxes of paper given to Sandy Spruill after she made several FOI requests to see everything related to the 2004 audit. The group uncovered a list of names of people who were paid over and above the top end of the scale for their pay range for their job. The list was published on the old DSW blog. Read in here:

    Back to the topic of the Ernst & Young 2004 audit

  6. Wow says:
    Lawmakers in DeKalb feud over school-board map

    Experts say there is no clear evidence that smaller school boards are better, and some parents question whether there are more important things for lawmakers to consider. Nonetheless, members of DeKalb’s delegation to the state House are expected to try their hands at cartography again today after a failed, and some say embarrassing, attempt to re-draw the political lines for school board posts last week.

    Lawmakers seeking to shrink the board are attempting to fix what has become a familiar problem in metro Atlanta: a school board that has been told by a national accrediting agency that its in-fighting has made it dysfunctional. DeKalb recently escaped sanctions. Boards in Clayton County and Atlanta have faced similar penalties in recent years.

    Facing a deadline imposed by leaders of the General Assembly, the DeKalb’s representatives in the Gold Dome must somehow compromise on a new map, despite divisions by race, geography and party.

    The prize over which they fight: control over the second-largest employer in DeKalb, a school system with 15,000 employees, an annual operations budget of $775 million and a sales tax that is expected to generate $475 million for construction projects over the next five years.

    John Oselette, the father of an elementary school student in the Northlake area, said political factions are vying to control those taxpayer dollars. He lives on the county’s north side and worked on the campaign of a North DeKalb school board member. “People underestimate the power of these elected officials,” he said. “What this is about is who controls the money and the purse strings in the county.”

    The map scuffle was caused by a state law last year that orders the DeKalb school board to shrink from the current nine seats to, at most, seven. The law offered no direction on how to get there, and county delegates are fighting over the steering wheel.

    “I think we’re in a ditch right now,” said Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Druid Hills, after she and her fellow delegates in the state House failed to settle on a map last week.

  7. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    I have to say, Ty Tagami is doing the best job of reporting on and explaining the complex reality of the DeKalb School board. He actually makes the story understandable! Best AJC reporter yet!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone asked for the recent audit? It should be posted on the DCSS Board of Education site since it is an electronic document. This is not confidential information. It belongs to the taxpayers who paid for it. It would be a shame for it to be “lost” like the last audit.

  9. Why don’t you request it under Georgia’s Open Records Act?

  10. howdy1942 says:

    As I see it, the only real solution is to vote the entire School Board out with the possible exception of Elder and Jester. Elder and Jester have only been in office for two years and deserve a chance. I encourage all Dekalb County voters to consider their choices carefully and think long and hard before voting for Walker, Cunningham, Bowen, Copelin-Wood, Womack, McChesney out.

  11. Just Watch says:

    Re — When we advocated for a reduction in size of the board, it was because we believed that the law would trigger a referendum that would require all the board to run again in 2012. It would give us a clean slate to start 2013 with and perhaps a fighting chance.

    Then, the Delegation wouldn’t do anything and SB 79 was passed. It wasn’t until after the SPLOST vote that we heard that SB 79 didn’t clean house.

    So, while reduction to 7 is a good thing, the goal was really the opportunity to vote all new board in.

  12. Jim McMahan says:

    On top of everything else going on today with ELPC, Gold Dome for maps, Dr. Atkinson update, Mr. Womack has decided to have his Budget committee meeting at 11am in the Cabinet room at AIC to discuss:

    “Allocation of Cell Tower Funds”.

    Anyone interested in that?

  13. Anonymous says:

    I agree, Ty is so much better than Kristina Torres who was wrapped around CLew’s finger so tight, she would never write an article that made Clew look bad and she never wrote about the frustrations of the stakeholders.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I know Ms. Gullroy is incapable of running PDS-24, how about that buzz the other night. Dr. Atkinson would make some new friends fast if she insisted that all these last minute meetings be broadcast on PDS-24.or at least the web. The BOE and their head ding dong Gene Walker does not know the definition of transparency. They will hold meetings with the shortest notice allowed by law and good luck getting any audit out of these bozos. Tyson’s staff took several weeks to go through the 2004 audit and failed, so why do we think they will treat the new audit any differently?

  15. momfromhe11 says:

    DeKalb schools to shake employees from central office

    School principals in DeKalb County will have more control over how taxpayers’ money gets spent on education if a major reorganization pushed by the county’s new superintendent rolls out as she promises.
    The school board met behind closed doors Tuesday for more than three hours with Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson, then emerged for a public vote to approve her proposal to reclassify jobs and alter salaries.
    The goal, said Atkinson, is to “drive as many of our resources as we can to schools.”
    The net effect: a shift in the oversight of about $109 million in annual spending from central office administrators to principals and a savings of $5.6 million this year, system spokesman Walter Woods said.
    The vote comes after a consultant commissioned by Atkinson reported that there are at least 300 too many positions in the central office. Woods, the district spokesman, said most of the changes must be implemented by May, when employee contracts expire and must be renewed……

    Nancy Jester, a school board member from Dunwoody, said lines of authority in the 15,000-employee district are “severely misaligned” and that the reorganization should help fix that. For instance, she said, about 1,750 employees in the curriculum and instruction department are on the central office payroll. About 1,500 of them work in the schools but do not report to principals, she said. Instead, these employees — such as instructional coaches, psychologists and physical therapists — report to distant administrators who can’t always keep close tabs on them and do not necessarily know what each school needs, she said.
    Under the reorganization, principals will cut the paychecks, judge job performance and determine whether they want all these positions in their schools. They could decide to put the money elsewhere.

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