Lots of news from District 1 board rep Nancy Jester

From “Nancy’s News” email blast May 21, 2012:

Budget Update

Last Wednesday, the Superintendent and CFO presented a summary of their proposed FY2013 budget to the Budget Committee. Here are links to the documents that were presented:

Budget Cover Letter
Budget Detail
Budget Summary

There will be two public budget hearings:

Tuesday, May 22nd at 6pm
Wednesday, May 30th at 6pm

Administrative and Instructional Complex
1701 Stone Mountain Blvd.
Stone Mountain, GA 30083

Please note that this proposal was drafted by staff for the Board and is a starting point for our budget discussions. For the past year, I have publicly inquired about, and expressed my frustration with, many line items that were significantly over budget. Their consistent variances from the budget suggested that these items were not properly budgeted for years. Still other discretionary items were also over-budget because of a lack of fiscal restraint. These factors, along with a $15 million increase in benefit costs from the state, and falling property tax revenue have resulted in DCSD starting the budgeting process assuming a $73.8 million budget deficit.

The new Superintendent and CFO have also recognized the budget problems that I have pointed out consistently since before they arrived in DeKalb. Their new budget has approached the fixed costs realistically. The Superintendent has reorganized the central office and eliminated many positions there. (I await her final tally regarding the number of positions. When I have these numbers, I will share them with you.) In my opinion we need to make even further cuts to the central office. We will need to take a hard look at all of our services and programs. We also need to usher in a culture of fiscal restraint. I have shared my thoughts about this publicly at meetings and privately with the new leadership team. While it is true that DeKalb’s millage rate has not been raised in 8 years, it is also the highest in the metro area. ( Click here for a listing of millage rates from around the state.) Sadly the opportunity to build greater reserves when the property tax base was expanding was not taken.

SPLOST IV

On Thursday, May 17th, the Superintendent and COO provided an overview of their planning for the upcoming SPLOST IV program. Below are links to the documents that were presented to the Board.

SPLOST IV Overview Presentation
SPLOST IV Schedule

New tab on my website

I’ve added a new tab on my website called “What’s Up With That?”. It’s an interactive blog where I’ll put up common questions that I receive along with my answers. You can also leave your comments. If you have something that you think might be a good topic for the blog, please drop me a line at:

nancywhatsupwiththat@gmail.com

–Nancy

===
Thank you Nancy!
Click here
to visit Nancy’s website.

About dekalbschoolwatch

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104 Responses to Lots of news from District 1 board rep Nancy Jester

  1. dekalbite2 says:

    “I wish smeone who was computer savy and internet savy would add up the cost of all these pockets of special programs”

    I believe that’s what Dr. Atkinson and her upper management group are supposed to do.

  2. concernforthekids says:

    Freedom Of Information Act!
    Send a letter and they have to respond within 3 days!

  3. justwatch says:

    This map only benefited one area — Fernbank and one person. Walker had nothing to do with this — this was the work of some influential Druid Hills residents and Mary Margaret Oliver

  4. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    Justwatch I understand what you are saying. However, don’t be surprised when you find out that Walker had something to do with this.

  5. There are over a hundred positions advertised on PATS right now. Many of them in the range of $70,000 to over $100,000 per year. Many of them for internal hires, and many look like new positions. Lots of coordinators. Kind of a shell game. I don’t see how, once these hires are made, Dekalb would save that much money. You can go to PATS, register as a non-employee and see the positions. What’s really a bummer is Atkinson is just renaming the Area Dept Superintendents’ positions. Lots of crap paying positions for the Instructional dept or whatever she calls Dr. Beasley’s former parish. And they’re hiring a lawyer for their legal department. Wouldn’t you just love working for Ronald Ramsey? Wonder if he’ll announce his new position on his Legislative website…NOT! Trimming fat and packing in a different place on the carcass that use to be a great school system.

    Garbage in, garbage out.

    Not only that, Atkinson wants to get rid of the international teachers who are here on visas. Most of them teach math and science. Where do you think Dekalb will hire good math and science teachers to replace these? And at the pitiful salaries as misrepresented in the joke of a salary schedule published on the HR page of the system’s website?

  6. Be careful of what goes into print... says:

    There not only was a line item for substitute teachers, it had its own budget area, complete with charge codes AND funds. Substitute teacher salaries and benefits have been budgeted for years. Please review the budget before you make statements like that. People in the blogs grab onto them and won’t let go. A year from now, someone will be bringing that up as the Gospel truth.

  7. Just another day in Paradise says:

    @ dekalbite2

    They can’t even add up the number of positions cut at the central office. $5 million in savings, my eye. How many of those got teacher contracts and will be going out to the schools in the fall (the law is the law). And how many of THOSE were federally funded employees who are now moving over to the general fund? She’s adding to the deficit in an attempt to make her central office cuts look good. It’s all a shell game.

  8. Name One says:

    I’m not impressed with Atkinson. At All. There are tens of millions to be saved by eliminating the Office of School Improvement, Parent Resource Centers, re-vamping School Police, MIS and Sam Moss, contracting out many area’s, cutting back on assistant principals and all the overpaid Central Office admin. assistants, and as dissonancetheory states, eliminating so many of the coordinators, assistant directors of this & that, etc. who do nothing to improve performance in the classroom.

    How dare you Dr. Atkinson, advocate for a property tax increase, when you have done little to eliminate the rampant waste still present throughout DCSS. You have a long way to go to establish the credibility needed to even dream about proposing a tax increase for a system with a long, embarrassing history of blatant scandal, waste and fraud.

    And when in the heck are you going to fire Ron Ramsey and Robert Tucker??!!

  9. concernforthekids says:

    Name One,
    I can honestly say that I think the new administration is currently dealing with years of “Inaccurate Accounting” from our former CFO and the finance department.
    The new CFO is having to redo the previous years or financials to find out where we actually are financially.
    They are asking for a millage increase but I doubt the board will support one.
    This is a vey unique year for our school system and I think the current administration will have a better knowledge of our financials after this budget process. (2 to 3 months?)
    I am not in favor of a millage increase and will not support any board member who votes for one.
    IMHO, this pattern of inaccurate accounting is gone because we have a “QUALIFIED CFO” and not a person who was not qualified.
    I’ll let the DA, Robert James, elaborate about our past CFO during his investigation.
    Please be patient with our current administration. They are trying to “Right the ship” and have a very short period of time to get all the financial information out to the public.
    Please stay an active parent and we will sort all of this out.
    BTW, I am not an employee or a member of the “F&F”.

    CFTK

  10. Name One says:

    concernforthekids, please check this out below. Dr. Atkinson and her new crew need to stop the madness. Now.

    There are millions to be saved by dramatically downsizing the Central Office. These are just some of the endless number of pencil pushing jobs available on the DCSS PATS jobs website:

    JOBS on PATS:
    Chief of Staff 1
    Coordinator II, Research, Gran 1
    Director – Ed Media 1
    Director – Leadership Development 1
    Director, C/I-Core Instruction 1
    Director, C/I-Electives & Spec 1
    Director, Federal Programs 1
    Director, Research Assessment 1
    Director, Staff Services 1
    Exec. Director – Curr. & Instruction 1
    Exec. Director – Special Prgrms 1
    Exec. Director, Diverse Learni 1
    Exec. Director, Federal Progra 1
    Exec. Director, Research, Asse 1
    Executive Legal Officer 1
    Regional Superintendent 5
    Director – Operations/StudentTransportation 1
    Director, Facilities Adm Svcs 1
    Analyst I, Insurance Report 1
    Coordinator III – Athletics 1
    Coordinator II – K-12 Music 1
    Coord. II-Secondary Curriculum 5
    Coord. II, Elem. Curriculum 5
    Coordinator/School Leadership 2
    Coordinator II, Aspiring Lead 1
    Coordinator II, Charter School 1
    Coordinator/Secondary 6
    Coordinator II – Safe Schools 1
    Coordinator III, Federal Prgms 1
    Coordinator III, Research/Asse 1
    Coordinator II, Career Tech/In 1
    Coordinator II, Federal Prgms. 1
    Coordinator II, Inst. Material 1
    Coordinator II – Gifted & Talen 1
    Coordinator II – School Psychol 1
    Secretary – Onboarding 1
    Secretary – Tech Support 1
    Specialist, FMLA Leaves 1
    Technician I, Insurance 1
    Technician I, Staffing 1
    Instructional 3
    Director of Accounting 1
    Director of Treasury Services 1
    Instructional/Elementary 4
    Liaison, Academic Enrich Elem 3
    Facilitator – SFA 4
    Facilitator, SFA 23
    Coach, Academic Data 1

  11. The Deal says:

    Dr. Atkinson has a full system audit and a round of contracts behind her now. She also decided on her own to do a zero budget process, so she is completely driving this ship. She is now fully responsible for the current mess, given that she chose NOT to implement the audit’s recommendations of cutting the central office by 336 and that the wrong contracts were distributed to all teachers. She knows exactly what she is doing, and she is fully responsible for her inaction as well as her actions. That’s why we pay her the big bucks. Honeymoon. Over.

  12. educator90 says:

    We can no longer afford programs like DSA, Theme Schools, Magnet programs of any kind, Fernbank, or any other program costing more than the average per pupil cost at home schools. The money is not there. They are very nice to have, but not needs and therefore must go immediately.

  13. educator90 says:

    School boards have the power to not finance programs that they do not see fit, just or needed. Our board has not taken a stance where they are laser focused on the quality of education that ALL children in DeKalb receive. Everyone has their pet projects and no one is looking out for the benefit of the majority of the children, so they are the ones that suffer.

  14. Fred in DeKalb says:

    **Not only that, Atkinson wants to get rid of the international teachers who are here on visas. Most of them teach math and science. Where do you think Dekalb will hire good math and science teachers to replace these?**

    Just a reminder about the international teachers as they were part of Zepora Robert’s pet peeve. True, many teach math and science however they were primarily placed in South DeKalb schools. Add to that, many students mentioned they had trouble understanding some of the teachers because of their thick accents. Many also had challenges with classroom discipline (many of the students were not angels). Every year when the contract came up for renewal, Zepora always questioned whether students were getting a quality education from these teachers..

    Call me a nationalist but if teacher positions are going to be eliminated, those from other countries should be the first to go, protecting jobs of native Americans.

  15. educator90 says:

    No, it’s choice. The costs of the choice programs are significantly more than educating the child in their home school. They have much smaller class sizes and have more opportunities. We have a few haves in the choice programs and too many have nots in their home schools. The choice programs need to be cut immediately, and focus needs to be on providing a quality education to all.

  16. educator90 says:

    Have been all over the county working and driving around. Where are there no daycare centers? Sorry this is an area that needs to be cut now!!! We cannot afford to pay more than the state gives us for salary and benefits on top of the extra salary. There are schools that could use this classroom space as well. These programs need to go ASAP.

  17. First of all, “Fred,” I find this the most offensive and disgusting in a long line of patronizing posts.

    Now your attacking a dedicated cadre of well-educated teachers. How do you expect Dekalb to hire math and science teachers to replace them?

    I don’t call you nationalist, I call you xenophobic. Can’t understand their accents? I’m convinced that you were or are one of the anti-teacher, rude administrators that teachers have to deal with at the county office.

    And you’re using Zepora as a source for your xenophobic rant against international teachers?

    Native Americans? I think there are few, if any, Native Americans teaching in Dekalb. You’ve lost all credibility with me, and if I told you that to your face, I think you could understand my accent.

    You’re decloked, so you must be Romulan.

    Native American? I’m still lauging at that one.

    BTW, re: your Heery and FERPA posts, (1) there are no “prosecutors” in a civil case, and (2) you don’t seem to understand what FERPA protects and what it doesn’t protect.

  18. Suzette says:

    Some of these jobs are for more than one position. Under the new system, just because a job is posted one time, it does not mean that there is only one job. There are two Deputy Superintendents, I am not sure of the purpose of a chief of staff. We have one coordinator per Region now. Under the new plan, there will be two coordinators per Region, Why do we need a full time PR Person? The suggestion always seems to be cut the custodians. You want custodians that are invested in the school. Atlanta just had a problem with contract custodians. The PR Rep makes more than 5 custodians. A chief of staff makes more than 4 custodians. Close the wellness center. Go to a 4 day work week for some of the time during the summer. I am willing to accept a tax increase for the purpose of schools.

  19. Fred in DeKalb says:

    dissonancetheory, I’ll give you this, instead of saying native Americans I should have said US citizens. My mistake.

    Does your personal disagreements with Zepora negate what her constituents told her? She spoke about this several years when the contract came up for renewal. It’s ironic that several here talk about US citizens that don’t speak the King’s English in classrooms yet when a legitimate concern was expressed about an international teacher, you call it xenophobic. I’m sure others here can relate to that experience, especially with some college professors.

    I just responded to Fred the Chairman regarding your other point. Read that for the full context.

  20. professor222 says:

    There is even less transparency in the budget that even under Lewis. We need complete on-line transparency. A $50,000 expenditure without Board approval is okay but without their knowledge and the public’s knowledge opens the door for Freinds & Family or simply hiring consultants to do what the Supt. and her chosen staff was hired to do. Don’t tell me they don’t know how or haven’t had experience at this level. With all of the needed cuts how on earth can Atkinson & the Board buy into another canned, scripted program (Success For All). It is no different from America’s Choice and is being pushed down the school’s throats out of fear of job. We are in the ditch and getting further down.

  21. Name One says:

    Unbelievable, $30 mil in new taxes to pay the Ramona Tyson’s, the Ron Ramsey’s and the Robert Tucker’s:

    http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-schools-draft-spending-1443910.html

  22. justwatch says:

    The worst teachers my children ever had were from this program. One was a special ed teacher from India, where they don’t even have special ed, they actually don’t educate students with disabilities. Blessedly, she only lasted a couple of weeks, but she didn’t even know what an IEP was, let alone how to follow it.

    At our local high school, several of these teachers work in math and science, but they kids do dreadful in their classes. Yes, some are difficult to understand, but they just are crummy teachers with no ability to teach. (I know because I have sat in their classrooms to observe so I am thinking they were doing their best, but gotta tell you their best was pretty bad.)

    While there is a shortage of math and science teachers, this has not been a good way to solve it.

  23. Tit For Tat says:

    Thank you, Nancy Jester, for not voting for this early draft of the $759.7 million budget. You seem to be the only voice of reason on this “sharp as a cue ball” Board of Education. Asking ciitizens of Dekalb to approve a tax increase when this system has been incompetently run into the ground for years is outrageous. BOE: you were charged with over-seeing the operations of this school system…this is the result of your negligence.

  24. dekalbite2 says:

    Ms. Tyson should have made these cuts in personnel and programs when she was the Interim Superintendent. Her 18 month contract comes to $400,000 – with benefits this figure rises to close to half a million, not to think of what taxpayers will be on the hook for with retirement costs – 60% of her highest two years for the rest of their life. Did she even look at the budget or did she just kick the can down the road for the next superintendent? IMO – this should have been done done last year and we would have been in much better shape. Why didn’t she make these cuts? Dr. Atkinson has inherited one hot mess.

  25. Tit For Tat says:

    I totally agree…this “hot mess” has been brewing and brewing…she (Tyson) should have started reforms from day 1 of her time as interim superintendent…we did not need someone to babysit this simmering financial fiasco….and on top of that receive top dollar!
    Now, it is time to surgically remove the extras…school-housed Pre K, magnet school transportation, even Middle School athletics should go before one more student is added to a teachers roster and our over-burdened taxes are increased..

  26. elemteacher1 says:

    The priorities of the board are made clear if you look at the SPLOST priorities listed on Nancy’s website. The jobs are listed chroniogically by start-up dates. Of course, stadiiums are the first jobs on the spreadsheet. THen latere refurbished air condioning sysems of the schools are listed.. Children get hot and physically sick on the days when there is no air conditioning. Mmmm..

  27. concernforthekids says:

    Name One,
    Thanks for the positions available from DCSD.
    I think these positions are the ones that have been reassigned or reallocated due to the new organizational chart.
    I think (I am purely guessing) that these jobs are posted because they consolidated numerous positions into just one position. DCSD has not renewed these employees contracts and are allowed to apply for these newly repositioned titles.
    I know it is confusing at the present time, but I hope that is what is happening.
    I will tell you this, if this is another “Bait & Switch” with the Central Office population then I will lose any and all confidence with our current administration.
    I feel that all of our employees contracts should have binding LEGAL language for accountability purposes. If you say you are going to do something then you should be held accountable for what you say! If you say one thing and then do another then you should got to JAIL!

    I hope this clarifies my position.

    CFTK

  28. MsMerty says:

    I agree…There is no reason to keep schools open all summer. Waste of payroll and utilities.

  29. Name One says:

    This Get Schooled post is bringing in major traffic; people get fired up over high school athletics. If you are a parent and do not want to see cuts to DCSS Athletics, you have a duty to make sure the Central Office waste and fraud ends now (and the best place to start is voting Gene Walker and Tom Bowen out of office):

    http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2012/05/23/desperate-in-dekalb-should-schools-drop-sports-programs-how-about-band-and-drama/

  30. jackiehar says:

    Name One: How can we vote Bowen and Walker off the Board when niether of them are running. Please get your facts in order before you give bad advice.

  31. Marney Mayo says:

    When did you see all these. I can’t find very many of them?

  32. Name One says:

    Chill out jackiehar. Which one of those two are you related to or friends with?
    Obviously I meant the next time Walker is up for re-election. I believe Bowen is attempting to run for county commission, but he has zero chance of winning that election. If he attempts to retain his BOE office, he deserves not one single vote for his years of failure.

  33. DeKalbLogic says:

    I would like to put out the rallying cry to unseat this entire Board with a move by the Legislature that changes these seats from elected positions to appointed positions. We are not going to break the noose around the county’s neck that is is pulled by the religious affiliations (dare I say, “New Birth”), sorority and fraternity affiliations (just drive by the Palace and check out the license plates and decal) and friends/family affiliations. Not only are our elected BOE officials not qualified, but the fact that we do not have a viable system of checks and balances on close to a $1B budget is absurd. Hence, their LEGAL abuse and waste of our tax dollars and Dr. Walker’s fantastic statement on the news telling people to run if they can do a better job. He has a point.

    I laugh over the transparency comments because the stupidity and negligence has been in broad daylight. The bloated salaries are PUBLISHED and public knowledge. The abuses are well known and this Board (especially the long-term members) has mastered the art of skirting the law and has probably avoided breaking the law because they have insurance against their own stupidity in the bylaws. They are so stupid that I would elevate them to savant status. They want to stay in their seats not because of the great salary of $19k/year but because of the power they get when they watch the constituents who care try to affect change for the betterment of the county and then no one runs to go head to head with them. The sirens are rung at the 11th hour because there is no community structure nor in our local government (Ellis has not stepped in like Kasim Reed did) and everyone is allowed to cast a vote for unqualified people.

    Atkinson is not delivering on cutting the bloat and the 70-something spots in the Central Office needs to be more like 300+. She needs to eliminate Last in-first out (LIFO), which sadly is in place right now and keep qualified teachers.

    Fixing the DeKalb public school system is beyond its constituents. It is time for an intervention and a complete purge of the cancer that has infested every corridor in the county. Please find the loophole that will allow us to rid ourselves of these leeches and allow our teachers to teach and our children to go to school to at least learn the basics.

  34. concernforthekids says:

    Conspiracy theorists unite!
    The DeKalb County Elections office has not received the DOJ approved map for the new board districts. It is rumored that the DeKalb County elections office will use the old map?
    Even though the new maps have been approved by the legislature.
    WOW!

  35. Are you Kidding me? says:

    This comment makes no sense. These jobs are apart of the reorganization she is doing. Please lets entertain comments that have meat to them. Comments like this solve nothing and contributes to the do nothing but complain culture. This district has been a mess for years don’t shoot the messenger. This budget is messed up and the reserve is gone because this board spent 40 million plus on legal fees that we not in the budget. Now thats the monkey in the room nobody wants to talk about. The same board we as tax payers voted in. This includes the beloved Nancy Jester. It pains me to see her complain over and over about a budget mess she helped contribute to. While she may only have been in office for a short time she should of been asking these questions from the beginning. We get a new Superintendent in here and now everybody has a fix for the person who has been in this the shortest amount of time. Its a disgrace for anyone on here to knock Dr Atkinson for exposing the mess others have created. Everyone has a solution now but where were those solutions years ago? Where was everyone when Harry Mitchell wanted to settle for a few hundred thousand dollars and the board took a different route and wasted tax payer money. This is a joke. Its a joke for people to get on here and forget the mess we ALL CREATED!

  36. dekalbite2 says:

    Hasn’t Bowen announced his seat will be vacated because he is running for commissioner? Do they “save his seat” for him until the commissioner election is over?

  37. dekalbite2 says:

    Nancy has been asking these questions ever since she was elected.

  38. The Deal says:

    Can you say the source of the rumor? Would like to know before getting worked up.

  39. dekalbite2 says:

    I think concernforthekids is referring to Maureen Downey’s post:
    Did DeKalb School Board Ever Vote on Redistricting?
    http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2012/05/22/state-rep-did-dekalb-school-board-ever-vote-on-redistricting/

    Mary Margaret Oliver apparently filed an Open Records request since she couldn’t find out if they actually voted on a new map. Ms. Oliver wants to know if they took a public vote in the open?

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