Good news from Superintendent Atkinson and the board: Streamlining spending to focus on classrooms

Today’s DeKalb News from the AJC
DeKalb schools to shake employees from central office

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.

Few details were made public Tuesday. The 8-0 vote authorizes Atkinson to proceed with her plan, which will shift oversight over potentially hundreds of central office personnel to principals at more than 100 schools. She and her principals still must determine whether particular positions need to be eliminated and others added.

“This is the first step in a very long process,” school board Chairman Eugene Walker said. He was the lone board member to abstain, but he said his non-vote “had nothing to do with the overall thrust of the superintendent’s plan.”

Walker, of South DeKalb, said he had unanswered “legal” and “fiscal” questions. He said he will have opportunities to vote on specific elements of the plan as details emerge.

Read the AJC article linked above for the rest of the story.

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50 Responses to Good news from Superintendent Atkinson and the board: Streamlining spending to focus on classrooms

  1. justwatch says:

    What is wrong with Gene Walker? Who exactly does he represent? The employees, constituents, the children?

    His never ending desire to keep the status quo should worry us all.

    Those of you in his district need to push him hard to do the right thing here. If you don’t hold him accountable, no one else can.

  2. Tucker Guy says:

    While I wholeheartedly support cutting central office staff and putting more resources into the schools, this looks like a plan to cut staff and avoid responsibility. Dekalb County Schools need LEADERSHIP and it looks as though the board found someone who 1) will protect them and 2) wants to avoid being the “bad person” who cuts staff. We need to cut, at a minimum, 300 jobs and she wants the principals to do it.

    I will offer a couple suggestions. Ramona Tyson, and everyone else who has been replaced need to go NOW. Why are we paying two people to do the same job?

  3. justwatch says:

    Tyson’s contract is up this summer. I would think the over 5 million in savings is from personnel cuts.

    I can promise you that if there WERE NOT personnel cuts at the central office, Dr. Walker would have supported this.

  4. Gene Walker is so feckless. We all know why he abstained, his constituents are the friends and family he allowed hired for so many years. Gene Walker is NOT a leader! Get ready for another Steen Miles dress down of Atkinson.

  5. I was thinking now that the Palace cleansing is about to begin it would help if those of us, who support getting the money and resources back to the schools, to flood Dr. Atkinson’s email box full of support. She is going to need a lot of it as the pink slips start to rain down. We must let her know that we have her back. I am sure the Gene Walker crew will begin to flood her email box with disagreements and threats so we must counter it. Good luck Dr. Atkinson and thanks so much for bringing common sense back to the Palace. I hope the constituents also support you when election time rolls around, whenever that will be.

  6. Anon says:

    I agree — Dr. Walker’s abstention says this is about letting go of a lot of “friends and family” in administration.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Dr. Atkinson is doing exactly what she should do by assigning those coaches, psychologists, etc. to the schools. The principals can then decide if they need 3 or 4 Instructional coaches or would they rather have teachers. Title 1 funds only require DCSS to spend 10% of around 40,000,000+ of their Title 1 funds on Instructional Coaches which comes to around $4,000,000 yet we employ over 100 non teaching Instructional Coaches for around $10,000,000. Our local tax dollars make up the $6,000,000 difference. A principal should be able to decide if he would rather for example have 2 math teachers (2 math teachers being about the same price as 1 non teaching Coach) and 1 Coach rather than 2 Coaches. Perhaps the principal does not see a need for a psychologist and would rather have extra special ed teachers. Driving personnel decisions to the school level is a good idea and needs time to play out.

    I agree that an email to Dr. Atkinson congratulating her on her plan is in order. I would go further and say email the entire BOE to express your support for Dr. Atkinson.

  8. Brook-Dekalb Parent says:

    +1 to Anonymous. The plan is good, now is the time to show support for Atkinson.

  9. I Agree says:

    I agree. For the life of me I can’t figure out why Tyson is still hanging around. Oooh wee what’s up with that? She needs to GO. I don’t care if she goes and takes her paycheck home with her. She needs to GO. She has no business hanging around. She has nothing more to bring to the table. She needs to Get GONE.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Employment contracts run from July 1 to June 30. You cannot arbitrarily break them. Look at APS with their over reaction to the cheating scandal. They sidelined over 150 teachers, some which will be cleared of charges, yet still have to pay them. Because they’ve taken so long in resolving their cases, some may have their contracts automatically renewed for another year. Wouldn’t it have been better to have them perform some task (non teaching) that would have helped the district rather than just sitting home and getting a pay check?

  11. I would like to know where the savings are coming from if we are just moving services whose offices were at central office but the work and services were performed in the school houseie. school psychologists and intructional coaches. Is this going to affect what happens in the classroom? Will my child’s pupil teacher ratio decrease? Will furlough days be athing of the past? Will employees get a step increase and a raise? How will these changes improve instruction and where will these offices come from as my child is in a school already at compacity. I am not ready to jump on board until I have some answers. This is how Crawford Lewis got us in the mess we are in now. I hope I am wrong and answers will come soon.

  12. justwatch says:

    I imagine that 6 million dollars of savings will be realized by the elimination of positions (horray!) or from reductions in salary and perhaps replacements of people.

    I expect that many of the “reassignments” of personnel to school won’t be noticeable because the people (ie physical therapists, occuptional therapists, instructional coaches, etc) are already in the buildings.

  13. Susan Curtis says:

    I totally agree with you about principals being able to choose teachers or coaches. But I think the principals should have to justify their choices with specific, measurable goals with several periods of reporting success or non-success back to the Central Office. Then if the choice is to have 4 instructional coaches instead of 8 teachers, the principal will have data to show effectiveness of that approach.

  14. Anonymous says:

    @ Just Watch

    But Instructional Coaches can be reassigned as teachers. Ms. Tyson told the BOE that the Coaches could not “teach” struggling students because it would violate Title 1 guidelines that say 10% of Title1 funds need to go to Coaches and Dr. Berry said Coaches can’t teach. However, DCSS is spending around $10,000,000 for the Coaches and only $4,000,000 of that’s coming from Title 1 funding. The rest is coming from local tax dollars. So that was rather disingenous of her. Ms. Tyson could have said to Dr. Berry – you have $4,000,000 for Coaches – what DCSS is required to spend out of Title 1 funds funds for Coaches. She could have then recommended that the other $6,000,000 be spent on personnel who will teach content mastery to struggling students. Perhaps she didn’t want to get into “family and friends” politics since so many of those highly paid positions were politically sensitive and Dr. Berry had hired these personnel.

    Principals need to have the flexibility to transition a Coach to a teacher with an assigned classroom. Some schools have 3 or 4 Coaches. Maybe the principal wants to keep 1 or 2 and reassign the others. The 22 Prevention/Intervention Coaches cost around $80,000 each in salary and benefits. They are not certified personnel. As a matter of fact they are like the Parent Center personnel – no licensing or certificates needed for the highly paid and according to student achievement data ineffective personnel. Parent Center personnel who make much more than teachers only need 2 years of college (Associate degrees – see recent audit). The principals should be able to eliminate some of these personnel and hire actual teachers. 2 teachers could be hired for what we pay for 1 uncertified and unlicensed Prevention/Intervention employee. Those few Parent Center and Prevention/Intervention Coaches who are certified to teach could apply for any teaching or paraprofessional positions that the principal carves out.

    Personnel decisions need to be driven to the school level. If the math achievement for a particular school is low, then the principal may make the decision to use his/her resources for a math teacher rather than a Prevention/Intervention employee. Or perhaps for that $80,000 a year she can hire 3 paraprofessionals to work one-on-one or in very small groups with those struggling math students.

    Parents need to be asking principals how this new realignment will SPECIFICALLY benefit their children IN THE CLASSROOM with DIRECT INSTRUCTION of the students.

  15. no duh says:

    I support this theory. I question whether principals will risk their jobs to “fire” one of Walker’s friends or family members because the school doesn’t need their “services.” If Tyson was afraid to try it, and now that Dr. Atkinson appears to be delegating the difficult task to principals, will our principals solve the problem? Can they, really? And what about those principals we keep hearing about who ARE friends and family??

    SACS has reprimanded our board for meddling at the school house level. While I like the idea of this approach, I suspect it will greatly increase the level of BOE interference within the school house. Just a prediction.

  16. The principals are going to be responsible for their progress. Like in any company or government organization you EARN raises based on your performance, not who you know. The principals are going to have to account for their results. I hope this “coach” money could go to REAL teachers or paras but the Feds thought different. A savings of 6 million could help balance the budget for real instead of on the backs of teachers via furlough days, no step increases and let’s not forget that pesky pension fund thing that DCSS hasn’t matched in two or three years.

    Every plan can be gamed by smart folks and the sheer size of DCSS will cause something or someone to game the system. However, if there are enough checks and balances maybe this will be a start of something good.

    Dr. Atkinson please release and place on the website EVERY page of the audit that came out a few weeks ago and the one that is coming up in March. Dr. Atkinson please ask your new CFO to place the check register online like so many other systems already do. A more transparent operation will improve EVERYTHING!

    Dr. Walker you have shown very little support for the new Super YOU voted for. I know what you have said on the record and at other functions, but after Steen Miles op-ed, in The Champion, I really question your agenda and what you’re trying to do to Dr. Atkinson. If you disagree with Steen Miles ridiculous assessment then come out and write your own op-ed in support of OUR new Super and the school system, the very system you claim to be in charge of.

  17. Miss Management says:

    And the option is??? Principals should be given latitude to run their schools as they see fit. If they aren’t able to get results, as shown by an increase in student learning and test scores, then their jobs will be on the line. How’s that for a motivator to do the right thing? Every organization holds a certain percentage of baggage–people under-qualified for their jobs, but keep them due to the right relationships. The problem with DeKalb is, that percentage grew too high. We are saturated with under-qualified people collecting ridiculous salaries and not making one iota of difference for children. I support Atkinson in her effort to invert the triangle and shake the funding back down to the schoolhouse. Somewhere along the line, our leaders completely forgot the reason for a school at all. Atkinson will hopefully be able to remind them, or find new people who understand the true mission of a school system: to educate children!

  18. I’ve been saying this since Atkinson came on board. Tyson exploded spending in MIS for expenditures that really haven’t helped DCSS. Her handling of personnel was also suspect, seeing how people that reported to her would go missing for weeks and she had no idea. Please take your money and run! You’re one of the lucky ones. I still wonder to this day how Clew and Pope did so much and she didn’t have a clue about it.

  19. Anonymous says:

    “I hope this “coach” money could go to REAL teachers or paras but the Feds thought different”

    No. The Feds said 10% of Title 1 funds which is $4,000,000. DCSS took it upon themselves to hire $10,000,000 a year worth of Coaches. In addition, DCSS is spending way in excess of what they are required to for the Parent Centers. They do not even have to have Parent Centers. They just need to spend a certain percent (which DCSS far exceeds) on Parental Involvement. All of this additional money for these non teaching highly paid personnel has been coming from local taxes – recommended by the 2 superintendents before Atkinson and passed by the BOE.

  20. Anon, I’m sorry you’re right. I always thought the Title 1 game was a racket. So much money being poured down waste bins with no accountability. This game had to stop and it seems like Atkinson is going to try. Anon, this is the very reason I love this blog, people can be called out rather quickly and corrected. Thanks for clarifying!

  21. I don’t always agree with Dr. alker but I admit that he is the most qualified Board member. He understands school operations. All board members should ask questions and not just rubber stamp a plan because is is a plan. This one is simply a plan to house folk in the school house that were house on Memorial Drive & Mt. Ind. Blvd. No more instructional support has been added. I can’t help bur to remember that it was Dr. Walker who was the ONLY board to vote against Crawford Lewis’ raise.

  22. I meant Dr. Walker. This move may save some money since we can move the Central Office back to Meririal Dr. ans sell that big empty Palace. Brilliant, Dr. Atkinson, Brilliant!

  23. Jackie,
    May I add a little substance to the Crawford Lewis contract and Dr. Walker.

    Crawford Lewis was given the same contract as Mr. Brown, his predecessor that was previously released.
    The termination clause in the contract gave the superintendant FULL PAYMENT OF THEIR EXISTING CONTRACT upon termination. Mr. Brown received several years of compensation for his termination.
    Mr. Lewis had several YEARS left on his contract.
    The board FORCED Mr. Lewis to restructure his contract PRIOR to his termination and reduced his severance from the full length of the contract to a mere 4 months. A HUGE savings to us, the taxpayers.
    The board agreed to increase his pay $20,000 annually. $15,000 of it was due from a previous performance bonus that he did not receive due to budgetary constraints. So the board essentially gave him a $5,000 bonus for restructuring his BLOATED contract to remove the termination clause that would have paid him YEARS of fraudulent salary!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    His contract also paid for $100,000 of his legal defense after he frauded the children of DeKalb County!
    As you have mentioned before, Dr. Walker was the ONLY board member to vote AGAINST the raise.
    I would love to hear your comments after knowing this information.

    By the way, Crawford Lewis still has a relative working in a high level administrative position within the school system. He is 2nd in command in the transportation department working for a former board member’s son.
    Can you say nepotism?

  24. momfromhe11 says:

    However, as Tucker Guy said above, this essentially shifts the responsibility for cutting people to the principals. If a coach or other person currently assigned to Central Office is shifted to a school, and the principal decides they don’t need a person in that position, THE PRINCIPAL has to decide whether they want the person as a teacher or not. If not, then the person in essence has no job with DCSS, but THE PRINCIPAL is the one who made the decision. No one else is on the hook for any of these reductions in force…

  25. dekalbdoyenne@gmail.com says:

    @ Anonymous, 1:07 PM

    I am not so sure you are correct about not being able to break contracts. What about when Julie Rhame and her staff were RIF’d?

  26. The Deal says:

    Tyson is going to be the head of a new department under Atkinson that manages processes in DCSD. She isn’t going anywhere.

  27. anonymous321 says:

    Contracts are coming up sometime soon. I wonder what they couny is going to do about the contracts. Wiil an instructional coach still make the same amount if they are assigned to a school and the principal wants them to be a teacher? Also, they are on a 11-month salary schedule. Last year I heard that there contracts were not given out at the same time that we recieved ours.

  28. Once again this is why I love this blog. The truth hurts doesn’t it Jackie? I can honestly say Dr. Walker knows nothing about school operations, if he did we wouldn’t be in this mess. He makes decisions regarding the color of people’s skin, he has even admitted it on the record. He is also an accused sexual harasser that cost Georgia taxpayers over a $100k to settle. I’d love to know how many accused sexual harassers have become a Chairman of a Board of Education?

  29. Atlanta Media Guy
    Please show me whre Dr. Walker was indicted of ANYTof or American Court System. Lots of folk are falsely accused that is why we have the court system. Can you not accept the verdict because you too see color but do not admit it. I see color, also, I am white and my husband is black, our children are considered black. OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT REALLY SEEN AS BIRACIAL, THEY ARE SEEN AS BLACK. That does not mean they are traeted unfairly. When I see a Japanese person, I don’t see black nor white, I see color. I am glad I am not color blind. Peasce!

  30. The Deal says:

    Jackie, you can avoid the humiliation of a trial in court by settling out of court, which is what Dr. Walker did. Read this, if you dare: http://www.accessnorthga.com/detail.php?n=165732

    Walker is scum.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Jackie,
    Where are you?
    I can’t hear you from the sound of the crickets this evening?
    Dr. Walker’s advocate has not shown up this evening?
    Hello?
    Jackie, where are you?
    Jackie?
    Hello?
    Silence is golden…………………………..
    I wish our childrens education was golden also. Jackie.
    Get with the reform movement and not the status quo.
    Please.
    Thank you.

  32. justwatch says:

    Jackie

    Now that you have seen the article about Dr. Walker, does that influence your opinion of him.

    I know that you are very interested in protecting the status quo. It is a shame really, because many DeKalb schools rank at the bottom of the state in a state that ranks at the bottom of the US. Things are terrible in many schools and many of the central office employees and board members have turned a blind eye for decades. They need to go.

    Dr. Atkinson has my support to do a total overhaul. If she doesn’t, I will be disappointed.

  33. Tucker Guy says:

    I agree with justwatch. If Dr. Atkinson doesn’t do a total overhaul, then it will continue to be be more of the same.

    The unfortunate thing is that some of her ideas (scripted instruction) have been proven to be failures. Read her plan of action. The county is going to write the lesson plans then hold the teachers accountable for the results. Her plan is to tell the teachers what to say and then make the teachers responsible for the outcomes.

    Everyone agrees it is a good idea to give principals more flexibility. Why not give the teachers more flexibility in their classrooms? RTTT ties teacher’s pay to student performance as if parents didn’t have any influence.

    Parents are children’s primary teachers. Kids come to the classroom with their parents’ expectations, no breakfast, not enough sleep, and without doing their homework. Why should the teachers be held responsible for those things?

  34. Anonymous says:

    @ Tucker Guy
    “The county is going to write the lesson plans then hold the teachers accountable for the results.”

    You are right. If teachers must follow a script and the script doesn’t produce overall results, then the people supplying the script are the ones who need to be held accountable. When you call the shots, you need to be responsible for the results. That said, Dr. Atkinson needs time to turn DCSS around. She hasn’t even been in the job for even a year. Her time has been sucked up just trying to wade through the over staffing and over payment mess in the non teaching side. How sad for students that she’s had so little time to focus on instruction because the “clean up” has had to come first.

  35. Brook-Dekalb Parent says:

    After catching up on the posts here, I think my supportive email to Dr. Atkinson will include a statement that we will be watching and expect real change, not just shuffling of over-paid under-performers.
    Her plan to implement change is potentially good news, but the devil is in the details of how she implements the plan.

  36. The clean up should have already happen, that what most interim supers do. The majority of our board decided to let the indicted former super pick his successor. I know Atkinson is keeping Ms. Tyson in another roll, I asked the question earlier, If she is such a great leader, how can so much happen around her and she not have a clue anything was happening? She was Clew’s right hand and Turk reported to her too!

    I agree anon it is very sad that Dr. Atkinson has had to spend the majority of her time putting out the flames, that have been wreaking havoc at the Palace for years. I really believe she will try to right the ship and she will be held accountable, there are too many people watching now.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Superintendents do as they are directed by their bosses, the Board of Education. If you know any Board members, you may want to ask the ‘off the record’ how much latitude they provided to Ms. Tyson for clearing the plate for Dr. Atkinson.

  38. lpdekalb says:

    YES on monthly online check register, transparency and publicizing the audit! Let the taxpayers know how their money is being spent.

  39. Anonymous says:

    The dynamics of the relationship between Eugene Walker and Dr. Atkinson are weird in the extreme. You wonder what kind of deals behind closed doors were made in which Walker “allowed” Atkinson to keep her job contingent on her treating the Walker family and friends employment service gently. Walker is full of it. And he intimidates with his height and manner. The picture of him over the D.A.’s right shoulder speaks volume about who held the power in that deal. The expression on the D.A.’s face is wrought with intimidation…and fear.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Oh please! Why the frig does County have to write teachers’ lesson plans? Can you say poorly scripted curriculum? That brings up horrible memories of America’s Choice. And to think, someone just either wasn’t a great teacher, or just wanted to make more money by getting out of that “stressful, challenging” classroom, and took a job doing curriculum work for a school. Reminds me of an education professor who told our class that she started teaching, but a girl called her something that she just could not repeat to our class. So she quit teaching and went back to school to be an education professor. Poor thing.

    Amen to the poster who said that teachers should be given more freedom in class, not new curriculum standards, which, despite their great heralding as a savior to our state schools, are just as hokey, dumbed-down as the GPS and QCC. They’re just teacher-control-evaluating fads.

    Teaching is just teaching. It’s not theory, it’s hard practice. And if you’re good at it, then your kids learn despite your screw-ups because your constantly thinking of new ways to teach the same old thing. Neither the state nor the county can tell you how to do your job. Instinctively, naturally, and expertly, you know more than an “curriculum writer” can ever impart.

    Unfortunately, with their numb-skulled attempts at improving on this, they’re driving these very maestros and maestras away in droves. Pretty soon Dekalb’s gonna have some very mediocre and poor teachers left, and student achievement will penetrate the basement.

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