Is it time to take a breath? Should we delay the start of school until we have some answers?

In response to the chaos of the budget cuts, the unresolved and unannounced forthcoming “RIFs” (Reduction in Force, or layoffs) and the resulting pandemonium, low morale and inability to prepare for a start date for school, Denise McGill, School Board Candidate for District 6 has proposed delaying the start of school until the school superintendent and Board can lay out responsible, equitable, enforceable plans. It is patently unfair to students and teachers to begin a school year under chaos, disorder and fear.

What say you?  Add your input in the comments. Please be serious and as creative as you can. If you have other ideas, please include them.

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140 Responses to Is it time to take a breath? Should we delay the start of school until we have some answers?

  1. Matt W. says:

    A delay will NOT solve the issues facing the DCSS. A delay could compound the current problems and interfere with:
    -timing finals to occur before Christmas for the first semester
    -hourly workers waiting for the school year to begin so they can earn a paycheck
    -teachers who will be let go need to know now, not after the school year begins. It will be tough enough for them, don’t make it harder for them. Any teacher let go after the start of the school year deserves severance pay, not just a pink slip.

    Sadly, this Board and Superintendent have frittered away the time they had to prepare. Giving them more of what they already waste will not help.

    One idea may be to keep all the teachers on as “permanent substitute teachers” and not hire subs this year. Has anyone EVER seen a line item budget for the amount spent annually on substitute teachers?

  2. Dunwoody Mom says:

    Due to the number of schools on the 4 x 4 block a delay in starting school by weeks is not feasible. These students have to complete their coursework and take their EOCT’s prior to Winter Break. I guess I have more faith in our teachers than some of you. Most of our teachers are veteran teachers and can get their classes up and going without a week’s worth of pre-planning. The true work in all of this is going to fall on the AP’s of Instruction, who now have to redo schedules, classload, etc., I cannot speak fo rhe AP’s at other schools, but I know we have a good one at DHS in Ms. Watts, so my prayers go out to her. I know that the parent communities in our schools will provide whatever assistance we can for our adminiistrators, teachers, etc. I am sure Ms. McGill and all other parents and community members who post and read here will do the same for your school community.

    It is imperative that this school district hire a qualified Director of Human Resources. HR is more than just hiring and firing people and you don’t need a huge staff to run a competent HR division. I work for a company with a world-wide presence. Our HR department numbers around 15 people. Our payroll is outsourced to ADP. This is something Dr. Atkinson really needs to look once this current crisis settles down a bit.

  3. dekalbmom says:

    Delay would be awful for working parents (especially single parents) because there are no camps for children to attend.
    The idea of only using teachers laid off in 2012 as subs is an excellent one.
    Also, I know of several teachers who retired several years ago and immediately were rehired as part time teachers. DCSS should not be paying any retired teachers. If they want to continue teaching part time they should be in private schools.

  4. Mildred says:

    No delay.

    Delay would just allow the corrupt powers-that-be to RIF further employees and create more disorder. At least with school starting, they’ll be forced to start doing something (anything) on behalf of the students who fill the buildings.

    This idea is yet another reason why McGill should not be voted onto the BOE.

  5. Bye bye says:

    Are you a Melvin Johnson supporter?

  6. mike p says:

    There is much to be be saddened by and concerned with, but with this said, I believe school should start on the previously posted date. I respect Ms. McGill for floating the idea of delaying the commencement of school this year. However, amidst the apparent chaos one thing is sure – Teachers can teach and children can learn. I encourage each of you (us) – teachers, administrators, community leaders, parents, neighbors (meaning all in the county), etc. to focus on the task at hand which is the success of our students. DeKalb County residents, please remember that the best way out of our financial difficulties is to focus on improving the schools. Better schools will draw families to Dekalb County, and with the familes arrival – businesses will follow. Then, with an improved business environment, our tax base will improve, and the downward spiral can not only be stopped, it can be reversed. Let the business of Dekalb be education. Your best chance of seeing this through is a competent teaching staff. Endeavor to improve the lot of classroom teachers by working hard to keep the number of students in each class to a minimum so that teachers can work with individual students, renumerate teachers correctly (TSA, step increases, salary, classroom budgets, etc.), minimize unnecessary paperwork, and support a teacher’s decisions in the classroom. Additionally, volunteer at your school, build a school budget through PTSA, when you disagree with something – keep the tone civil – sometimes good people simply see things differently – the “other opinion” is not necessarily wrong – often it is just different, work for the greater good, and smile. I look forward to greeting your (our) children on the first day of school, and doing my best to teach them what they will need to know in order for each child to best be able to succeed. I believe that my anticipation and hope is mirrored by nearly every educator in the DCSS.

  7. Dura lex sed lex says:

    “permanent substitute teachers”

    That is a great idea.

    The teachers can be contracted from a Teacher Temporary Worker Agency. Better yet, let’s have them all hang out next to the local QuickTrip every school morning at 6:00 AM.

    By the way, if I were a certified teacher who signed a contract with Dekalb County in April or May 2012, I would not resign and I would not accept any other job paying less than I would be receiving in Dekalb County for 2012-2013.

    The contract was extended per the practice of more than 20 years. The contract had stipulations that were enforceable during the summer–Teachers had to get a release from Dekalb County to accept employment in adjoining districts. Thus, one party already performed part of the contract and istands ready to perform the rest.

    Every one needs to be at Monday’s meeting at 1PM.

  8. Dura lex sed lex says:

    Mike P.

    Well said! I’d love to have my children in your classroom!

  9. Just a Mom says:

    subs make $80 per day and no benefits. The figure typically used for the cost of a teacher is $65,000 (pay and benefits). So using 177 days of instruction this coming year, paying a sub every day would be around $14,000. That being said, I think keeping a small pool of permanent teacher subs, especially at a high or middle school, is a reasonable idea. I don’t think subs can be completely eliminated.

  10. concernforthekids says:

    What school board candidate in District 6 really gets you excited and encouraged about their plans for the school system?
    I greatly appreciate you letting us concerned citizens hear your thoughts.


  11. Dekalbite2 says:

    DeKalb used to start around the third week in August. The decision to start earlier was to ensure we ended the semester before Christmas break so the students could take their finals before Christmas break. The theory was that the students had just learned the concepts and would perform better on the tests if they didn’t have all that time to “forget the material”. It seems to me that if students can’t remember the material for two weeks that we have a much larger problem. Pollution is much higher in the hottest months (July and August), and additional air conditioning is also a financial factor when starting school so early (not that DeKalb is worried about any unnecessar expenditures). Many DeKalb citizens have wondered why we are not looking at changing the calendar in light of these factors.

    Ms. McGill’s suggestion has much merit because it willemotion assuredly be chaotic for several weeks in quite a few schools, and chaos is never good in an educational setting. Children thrive on stability.

    Will this administration and Board of Education contemplate delaying the start of school? I don’t think there is even a remote possibility of that because they would not want to contend with the publicity surrounding such a move. It would be tantamount to saying – we don’t know what we are doing, and we are so woefully incompetent we can’t even start school on time. They would rather push on through, mistakes and all, than admit the colossal mess they have presided over.

  12. Kim W says:

    @mike p

    So true, and so eloquently stated. If only we could be lucky enough to have someone with your outlook on the school board. Your students are very fortunate to be in a classroom with you.

  13. hopespringseternal says:

    I support outside the box thinking — and therefore have great respect for anyone who floats an idea. Before we dive too deep into the veracity of the idea presented, let’s see if it can be tweaked. This, folks, is not about whether teachers can teach and students can learn — we all know that’s possible under many adverse circumstances. This is about in some cases “which teachers?”, master scheduling, and supporting even the very act of rolling a bus off the lot which is in top shape. SO — given the level of chaos with supporting principals and teachers, consider things like phasing in school starts — e.g., elementary one week, middle/high the next week, etc. Let’s allow the departments who have to support these schools the chance to get their act together. If the 4×4 won’t allow for such a thing, I can see where we would need another solution. So let’s come up with one, rather than continuing to barrel down the path of chaos on August 13th. Let’s give the BOE some ideas to consider. Supplies and materials must be in place, food must be served, AC must work and toilets must flush. All on the first day. If there is no sound plan in place for rolling any of that out, then why roll it on a date certain — who said they have to stick to that date? And we parents have a pesky habit of wanting our children in a safe environment. Also, please consider that skill sets among personnel in our schools vary wildly. This means that one parent’s experience with an AP’s ability to produce a master schedule may be very different from another parent’s experience. We can bemoan the circumstances which brought us all here for years to come. But since we’re here, maybe we can start thinking about how best to get through it.

    Now — let’s say we’re all wet and there really is a sound, reasoned plan for opening school. Uh — if there is one parents sure would love to hear about it. We’ll wait breathlessly to hear.

  14. momfromhe11 says:

    Retirees who have returned to work for DCSS should be thanked for their service and returned to retirement. It is absolutely wrong for active employees to be let go while retirees stay employed. I have no idea at this point how many positions it would save, but it would be a good number.

    Is there time to figure out what DCSS really needs and make a good budget? Forget the F&F considerations and the North/South biases and consider what the children need. I don’t know. I know that we on the blog have arrived at a good set of guidelines any number of times. Mr. Perrone said DCSS doesn’t have to have a final budget until Sept 30, and I am afraid this time will be frittered away on petty political infighting

  15. Tit For Tat says:

    I think postponing school opening should be considered…but not this year. It is way too close for this to successfully happen this current year.There are many valid reasons for a late August opening or even as the schools up north do, open Tuesday after Labor Day. The reasoning that Exams must be given before the 2 week Winter break, so that students do not forget the material is nonsense. I think it probably has more to do with athletic schedules. Power bills are usually excessive in August, a late opening would certainly help with this.

  16. Mildred says:

    I am not a supporter per se, but in considering the differences between McGill and Johnson, I would choose Johnson. Why? He has educational experience at every level in DeKalb, so he knows how all the elements of the school system mesh. He knows how the system worked pretty well under Robert Freeman and clearly sees how it is not working well now. His advisers (and probably he) saw through the current administration’s “efforts” early on and publicly warned everyone about the employment debacle that was just around the corner. They were prescient. I would vote for him over McGill in a cool heartbeat, but I can’t. He’s a known commodity. She isn’t.

    I am voting for McChesney.

  17. Dekalbite2 says:

    @Tit for Tat

    As someone who has been in DeKalb for 40 years, I can assure you that is the reason the school calendar was changed. The rationale was that students would do better on standardized testing if they were tested at the end of the semester. The “forget the material” factor was the driving force behind this.

  18. Dekalbite2 says:

    @ Mildred

    Melvin Johnson, the ultimate DCSS insider. He was a PE teacher and then went into administration. Looking at his platform, he promises low pupil teacher ratio, an end to furlough days and a return to step increases. But how will he pay for those planks? Does anyone think he will thin the administrative ranks and end the Friends and Family promotions? His advisors were the power structure in DeKalb Schools.

  19. Tracey says:

    School should start on time and the administration/board should have made decisions on time. One of the problems that adds to the confusion is that we vote on a fiscal year and have operations, teacher salaries and such on a school year. The budget that was voted on doesn’t start until January. I don’t think that the Board had enough information regarding impact to teachers being have to let go or how much reduction in salary would be in effect for the decision to raise class sizes AND the reduction to PreK salaries to 1/2 what their contracts promised. Also, these decisions to not honor contracts open the County up to MAJOR class action lawsuits. But, the admin is so wishy washy right now… With a budget that they CAN’T legally implement. They need to at least amend the budget to honor existing contracts, start school on time (because we can’t just postpone business) and start planning to get this mess cleaned up BEFORE contracts are even considered for 2013-2014 school year. They should be voting on two year budget plans that can be amended if necessary. Point being….PLAN AHEAD!

  20. @ Tracey

    You should check the accuracy of what you are saying. In Georgia, for schools and all other Georgia government agencies, the fiscal year begins July 1 and runs through June 30. Before making a statement of fact, Tracey, we expect you to be sure of its accuracy.

    We will call you and other posters on statement of fact inaccuracies every time we see them. But, we will tolerate that kind of carelessness only a few times before you will no longer be allowed to post comments. We are volunteers and we don’t have time to police every statement of fact. The information on this blog is too important — and the stakes (our children’s futures) are too high — to allow commenting by people who say whatever they think is true without confirming it. Double-check for accuracy before you publish.

  21. There was another big reason that the dates were changed. In the 80’s and 90’s when school started in late August, parents would keep their children out of school until after Labor Day for that last vacation, thinking they wouldn’t miss much in the first few days of school. The student counts were taken during these days and it hurt the system financially. By starting school earlier more students were present for the count and FTE funds were increased. That was when counts were done and reported with pencil and paper.

  22. Weary worker says:

    Will the state DOE please step in and take over this disaster. Morale is at an all time low, no one trusts anyone, administrators are uniformed, there is a dreadful lack of communication and the board has lost control by their failure to make decisions that should have been made early in the year. At this point I expect Atkinson to fly the coop. Mr. Deal, Mr. Barge please come take the keys away from these people and run this place until a real solution can be found.

  23. J. LaRoue says:

    Hey, hey … don’t hire me as a permanent sub! Who canl live off pernmanent sub pay?You know that will be the answer. As a professional educator for 25+ yrs that is an insult. But, on with the delay of school. Did you know all staff, teachers definitely, are going to get ALL of our furlough days at the beginning of the school year? Does that mean no pay for that period of time? Who knows Dont count on those fun 3 day weekends.

    I, for one would like to go back to Tuesday after Labor Day with day/evening,etc for final registration, open house, meet your overworked teacher, the principal, counselor& media specialist (if you are lucky enough to have one) and underpaid paras, secretaries, custodians, bus drivers,and cafeteria workers. In south Dekalb the AC doesn’t work & both students and teachers get sick. Going to school 2 weeks in June is definitely better than August. Oh, I forgot. If parents complain that it interfers with vacations & child care the board will back off. Who cares about the good of the whole system? Or my plans? Must be a political thing.

    The whole mess has always sounded fishy to me. Who “misplaces” $73,000,000 without indictments? AND has the audacity to make the kids and those who work DIRECTLY with them pay for it? Do the kids really come first?
    Cuts, especially pay, should come from the top … big cuts, and the supertendant should not be allowed to hire xtra highly paid staff from out of state, AND spend $1,000,000 on testing materials, AND board members should suspend travel for the year instead of arguing about it at a board meeting. Heck, everybody should suspend travel. I don’t think DCSS will be sending me to a Montessori conference this year .
    Uh, Oh. I guess not since there is no Montessori in south DeKalb. One of those surprise cuts as of Thursday. But only the parents know. Guess we teachers are not privy to that info.
    Any more questions? Next board meeting Monday, July 16 at 1 p.m. Numbers are powerful!

  24. Dekalbite2 says:

    Aren’t FTE counts now done in October?

  25. Dunwoody Mom says:

    Yes. FTE counts are done in October and March.

  26. I was a single mom and I dealt with it. Camps will appear. I promise you, and teachers, or ex teachers, will be working them!

  27. Dunwoody Mom says:

    Please remember that for schools on the 4 x 4 block schedule the end of 1st semester is the “end of the year” for those subjects taken in 1st semester. They are onto other subjects when they return from Winter Break, so their exams must be taken prior to the break.

  28. dekalbteach says:

    Where did you hear that all furlough days are at the beginning of the school year? The proposed calendar from two meetings ago had Aug. 6 as one furlough and the rest spread out during the year, with the final few coming after Memorial Day. Also, there was a newsflash sent out this week stating that the pay reduction is being spread out over all paychecks starting with yesterday’s one.

  29. Maybe Johnson knows too much. Don’t know either one. Certainly don’t wan to hear “We’vealways done it that way.” or “It worked when I was there.” I am sure they both mean well, but new blood is always a plus in conflicted organizations.
    Just an observation.

  30. Published earlier today:

    Please. We would love to see SACS — or anyone else — step in to resolve DCSS’s management, financial, friends-and-family and [lack of] education issues. SACS won’t do it. Mark Elgart knows that DCSS is the cash cow that supports his lifestyle and SACS’s fancy digs. Without SACS’s cooperation, the governor is precluded by law from taking definitive action. State Superintendent John Barge also has no power. In fact, as far as we can tell, all John Barge has done, since being voted in to a powerless job with a cushy salary, is to change (but not improve) the GaDOE website. Quite frankly, we believe SACS accreditation is worthless and DCSS students would be far better served by the quantitative standards set by the Georgia Accrediting Commission. That is unless, of course, the DCSS board is trying to run board meetings without following Robert’s Rules of Order. Just ask Warren County.

  31. I heard it from a reliable source. We have never had more than 3 days to do anything at my school ahead of time. The school calenday may be right … or it may not. everyday something new happens. keep informing us. You are appreciated.

  32. dekalbteach says:

    No, my paycheck from yesterday already has been reduced thanks to the budget passed in late June. January is when our insurance plans can change. However, thanks to the BOE, my insurance rates did increase with this paycheck because of the reduction in supplementation by the BOE.

  33. Former DCSS Teacher says:

    How can they begin the reduction in pay with this past paycheck? I left Dekalb this year and am moving to another system. I am still being paid for my work this past school year. I worked every day of my contract period, and to reduce my pay would be illegal. Of course, I can’t get the News Flash anymore, but I’d love to see it if you can post it.

  34. Mildred says:

    Donna Edler is “new blood” and she’s working quite well, eh?

  35. Sorry about the typos. I teach cursive to my little ones, but my school purchased a great writing program that includes keyboarding as one of the goals. And a very good reading addition for students. We can’t use them because they don’t fit into Success for All. 😦

  36. dekalbteach says:

    I understand not having more than 3 days, but that’s very different from saying all 6 furlough days are coming at the start of school, as J. LaRue stated. Registration takes up one of those days and I’m sure SFA will take up at least half of another. I keep checking the DCSS website and the calendar up doesn’t reflect any furlough days, as of yet. As mentioned earlier also, there’s already been an email sent out regarding pay reduction. For as long as we’ve had furlough days, they have been spread out over the pay periods. You are right in that things are changing quickly.

  37. Ditto. Get the word out.

  38. dekalbteach says:

    Here you go, this came out July 12.
    Calendar Reduction Days Information

    The Board of Education passed the FY 2013 budget on June 21, 2012. Included in the budget are 6 work calendar reduction days for 10 and 11 month personnel and 9 work calendar reduction days for all 12 month personnel. The adjustment in pay for the calendar reduction days will be equally divided among all checks received for the 2012-2013 school year; therefore, your paycheck will be the same amount each pay period for 12 months regardless of when work calendar reduction days are scheduled. The reductions will be reflected beginning the July 2012 payroll. If you have any questions, please contact your direct supervisor.

  39. Thanks to dekalbteach for the info. Do I trust it? hmmmmm I’ll keep checking.

  40. DeKalb Lite2, good response. Yep, it appears that decisions made are all about looking good. Children do thrive on stability, but they adapt to change much better than adults. Kids are great! Adults are often not. The board should have enough professional confidence to admit they made a few mistakes.

    Don’t forget how hot a school bus gets plus all of the other good comments made.
    As I remember, the budget doesn’t even have to be submitted to the state until sometime after the school start date. Wouldn’t school employees & parentsike to see the budget ahead of time?

    I definitely agree with the two week forgetfulness statement. Not much confidence in our students. Doesn’t it appear that the folks in charge keep dumming down the student expectations. I was kind of horrified that passing the CRCT was tantamount to a “C”average early on. ood thing my kids are grown. A “C” was never aceptavle for them.

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