We may not have many librarians left, but the lights remain on with nobody home

CBS Atlanta News has uncovered a major waste that could save the district millions. We are asking the Tough Questions about why lights are being left on at all hours of the day and night at schools that are supposed to be closed for the summer.

“You can count every book in the library because the lights are on so bright,” said parent Cheryl Miller.

CBS Atlanta News found lights left on in hallways, cafeterias and classrooms night after night at schools around the district.

“If they are not being careful and watching how money is being spent on something so obvious, how else are they wasting money?” Miller asked.

Miller and her husband Paul contacted CBS Atlanta when they saw lights left on at Brockett Elementary.

“Seventy percent of our taxes go to the school board and they are squandering it,” Paul Miler said.

“The only thing I can think is maybe someone is in there cleaning. But cleaning up from what? School is out,” board member Paul Womack said.

Chief Investigative Reporter Wendy Saltzman took video of five schools with lights on to district staff and board members for a response.

“Our electricity expenses are terribly over budget, so this is an area where we do need to exert control,” says board member Nancy Jester.

Jester first brought the problem about electricity waste to the school boards attention last year.

“We are $1 million over budget on our electricity,” she said at an October 2011 board meeting.

Now, nine months later the district is $6 million over budget in electricity alone.

“There’s waste, and I know there’s waste,” Jester said.

“It’s all over the place, and it is not acceptable and we are going to make sure it gets fixed,” school spokesperson Jeff Dickerson told Saltzman.

Dickerson said as a result of our investigation, the district is in the process of checking school timers and alerting school staff.

“These are not just security lights, these are people forgetting to turn the lights off,” he said.

Click here to read the full article and view the report:
School lights left on, Tough Questions about waste

Thank you Wendy Saltzman!
ps- Curious – Is Jeff Dickerson our spokesperson again? Did he ever really leave? Where’s Walter?

About dekalbschoolwatch

Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
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91 Responses to We may not have many librarians left, but the lights remain on with nobody home

  1. justwatch says:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: DeKalb Schools Communications Office
    DeKalb County School District invites you to attend a Parent Meeting
    Tuesday, July 24, 2012
    5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
    Join us to discuss plans for the Consolidated Application Funding
    • Program plans – Federal and some State, including Title I
    • Review funding
    • Restrictions
    DeKalb County School District
    Administration and Instructional Complex Board Room
    1701 Mountain

  2. Whoshelpingthekids says:

    Remember the BOE changed the policy from $50,000 to $99,000 that the superintendent can use without coming to the BOE for consultants.. She could easily have hired Jeff D and any number of others- she can hire 10 and that’s a million dollars gone!

  3. Educate says:

    I think this topic deserves its own thread.

    The Boy Scouts of America discriminate against a subset of our CHILDREN, yet DCSS allows them to send home flyers to recruit students, hold pep rallies at schools, and sell popcorn on school property. This should not be allowed. How can we go about banning the BSA from using our schools? Does this need to be done school by school or with a district policy? Any advice would be appreciated.

  4. No. That is not exactly the agreement with K&S. They have moved to a ‘contingency’ contract, however (BIG caveat here), they can go back and collect hourly fees if things do not go well… Not a lot of risk for K&S in this ‘contingency’.

    The fee contract, inked in June 2008, allows King & Spalding to collect both its standard hourly rates and a contingency share of whatever damages the school district may collect-should it win its $100 million counterclaim.

    If the case settles in a way the firm does not like, it can convert its contingency payment to hourly fees. [see links below]

    Also, ER Mitchell did not switch sides, they settled. Since they were the minority partner of the Heery-Mitchell partnership, the school system probably assumed they do not have assets worth pursuing. (This is just my guess though. We have no idea why they settled.)

    To read up on the reports we have posted about the case, click the links below:


  5. Well, now that sounds like a lively forum — sorry I missed it! Send in a full report, along with info from the last one and we’ll post it!

  6. We’ve always been told that the principals are responsible for submitting the work orders. If your building needs attention, it is the principal who gets it done. If your principal is passing the buck, you may have a lazy principal…

  7. justwatch says:

    I certainly understand your concerns however, this is not the time for DeKalb schools to incur another distraction and that is what it would become. I suggest you raise the issue with your school council and see if you can set local policy to address this.

  8. A South DeKalb Parent says:

    The board was emailed last year about how the utilities budget was repeatedly underfunded year after year. That was an easy source of bad budgeting to spot. Just because you want electricity to cost ~$10 million doesn’t make it so, especially if there aren’t many conservation efforts put in place/enforced. The reality is that the district has had actual electricity costs of $12-15 million for a while now. We’re lucky that whoever does the predictive purchases of natural gas (“consultants… [who purchased] natural gas at reduced rates through daily monitoring of the natural gas market”) has either been pretty spot on or ‘saved’ us money each year.

    Personally, I’m waiting for them to release the ACTUAL expenditures of utilities for FY11 since the current budget does not disclose those amounts separately (lumped in under “supplies”). Right now it looks like they’ve budgeted $6 million for electricity in the FY13 budget, so who knows what’s going on there. THAT is some wishful thinking unless the students will have no heat, AC, and lights will only be on for a few hours a day.

  9. I think the entire budget was wishful thinking on the part of Turk and his finance department.

  10. Interestingly, we believe the request to change the amount that could be spent without competitive bidding came from Atkinson, herself. Planning ahead, maybe? And, we think it was raised from $50,000 to $100,000. At the time, we said that, if anything, the amount should have been dropped to $25,000 — making it more difficult to spend money that DCSS really doesn’t have.

  11. tired of them all says:

    In the building I work in we have the original HVAC system from 1975.

  12. Retired and working part-time says:

    This is exactly what I posted yesterday.

  13. Whoshelpingthekids says:

    He’s still on first class. Dickerson is on first class too- listed as “contractor, communications”. Are consultants listed on the HR report? Wonder how many consultants we have these days and for what?

  14. Cigi says:

    I HEARD the security guys say that lights must be left on in the halls or the cameras cannot record images. If someone breaks into the schools and lights are off, there will be no way to recognize them. Also, many buildings have heating and air systems that are at the “end of life of them.’ My room had no air in the summer and no heat in the winter. My principal DID put in the orders. When the workman came, she would talk with them about the room and getting my system fixed. It would work for a while and break again. Remember over 100 people were cut from Plant Services, but we need an Executive Leadership Program, Two Coordinators in each Region Office, a Chief of Staff, a Full Time Spokes person. If anyone remembers, we use to have Directors and Executive, Directors. Our former superintendent created all these Chief Deputy Superintendents and Chief officers of Transportation, Finance, HR, MIS, Senior Associate Superintendents. Executive Administrative Assistants. In July 2006, once of our Board Members warned against this, but we kept right on adding these jobs. Please do a blog on how people learned that their jobs were eliminated. I think that you will see that in some cases the job title changed a little and people were replaced by other people. We have 5 Area Assistant Superintendents, we now have 5 Region Superintendents. We had one coordinator per office, we now have posting for 2 coordinators per office. We had a Chief of Staff, we now have a job posting for a Chief of Staff and the person that was Chief of Staff still working in an administrative role. We had one person as an HR Director, now we have another person as an HR Director. Teachers, Paras, Bloggers, very one should look at the HR list that is published at the end of July,
    Oh I forgot, we also got a memo once from Plant Services that told us that we could only report heating and air problems with our rooms if the temperature in the rooms were a at a certain level. Many things have been going on for a long time. Not to excuse neglect on any levels, but please know that the people in the schools are on the front line and have the least authority to do anything. They are TOLD, even the principals, what they must do and then not given the staff or resource to do it. You cannot even get a person at AIC or EDC to return your calls or e-mails. Please, please, do a post about how people have been informed of their jobs being eliminated and the help and support that they did not get,

  15. sick of dekalb says:

    I think a blog on how people were notified they lost their jobs would be a good ideal.

  16. longtime vet says:

    Lights are left on for security reasons…so cameras can monitor what is going on in a building if the alarm goes off. It certainly isn’t a matter of anyone “forgetting to turn them off.” Good grief!!! Once we “forgot” and turned them off and public safety came through at 2 AM and turned them on for us.

  17. The overall issue here is not that the electricity has gone “over budget” but that the budget is a complete farce!!!

  18. justwatch says:

    And this, my dear, is “On the Money!”

  19. sick of dekalb says:

    It would help to show if the cuts followed these crazy peoples rationale and policies for making the cuts. It would also show if the layoff decisions were arbitrary or capricious. We all know that DeKalb will protect their Friends and Family and keep them in a position. Many of us do not know what exactly is going on in other buildings. This way there will be some type of accountability that if the people who actually work and are the backbone of the system are laid off …..then those who are not qualified, incompetent and well connected also are sent to the unemployment line.

  20. sick of dekalb says:

    I personally think its time for the Board to hold Ms Atkinson accountable for the decisions she now makes. She came into office and did nothing for 90 days while she composed her entry plan”. by that point she should have some semblance on how DeKalb works (or in my opinion does not work). She should have known that 750 people were not going to retire or resign. A more rational number would have been 300 to 500 people.

  21. sick of dekalb says:

    I also wonder how much in interest is DeKalb losing now that it is paying all of us teachers biweekly as opposed to monthly. I love the biweekly, but if it is a choice between that and staying employed, I will take the latter.

  22. sick of dekalb says:

    They’re too busy stealing to answer the phone!!!

  23. sick of dekalb says:

    Too many…..they are mostly hiding in the schools all day doing nothing creating useless busy work for teachers

  24. sick of da cab says:

    Good…does a school really need a PR department…..we are in the business of educating children…You don’t see the police dept. with PR people. Maybe we should get back to what our core business is…..

  25. sick of da cab says:

    You would think they would also have insurance in case someone DID break in….

  26. sick of da cab says:

    Where are all of the SRO’s that we have and noone wants to cut…Isnt this what they are supposed to be doing since they are 12 month employees that no one seems to want to cut…

  27. sick of da cab says:

    I agree we have the same problem in our building….it has been that way forever….

  28. Whoshelpingthekids says:

    Bingo. She’s been here over 9 months. The Board should hold her accountable- she holds sole responsibility for hiring the HR Director; The BOE should ask her to take a pay cut like everyone else, rescind Ramsey’s raise she recommended, ask her to reduce her personal budget and revoke the policy change earlier this year that allows her to hire consultants for $99,999 without BOE approval!

  29. sick of da cab says:

    Where on Earth do you get a job that provides 90 days to decide what needs to be done and you get to keep the person you are replacing to advise you indefinitely around too…Ramona Tyson needs to be shown the door because a lot of this financial mess took place on her watch and if Dr. Atkinson can’t cut the mustard….she should be quickly shown the door too……

  30. sick of da cab says:

    What exactly does all of these directors, deputy directors, executive directors, coordinators, supervisors and associate superintendent’s do all day. The only time they come to my school is to deliver bad news and fire the principal. They mostly walk around the school with an attitude and grumble about how clean the floors need to be. I also hear that Bob Mosley has been demoted to a principal. I thought he would have retired. Hasn’t he stolen enough money already.

  31. DeKalb BOE for dummies says:

    I just talked about the plastics utensils and trays. I wonder how much could we save if we were to go back to the old trays and utensils. Also, I heard that they let go a lot of their lunch managers. Who will train new workers.

  32. DCSSteacher75 says:

    Yes, let’s talk about how people were notified that they had lost their positions. A very good friend of mine had a graduation coach position. The letter she received stated she had been “demoted” to a teaching position. Now I know what the superintendent and her posse at the “Palace” really think of the teachers of Dekalb County. Is it just me, or could her letter have said she had been “reassigned” to a teaching position?

  33. sick of da cab says:

    People need to be aware that they may have a story to tell that the media will pick up on and hold finally hold people accountable for the decisions that they make (or do not make). I would love to see a huge expose’ on the Gangsta School System!

  34. SRO says:

    What I find so disgusting is Dr. Atkinson spent $300,000 to find out that DeKalb had hundreds of extra administrative positions and only cut 70. If she wasn’t going to implement the recommendations she should have saved the money and used it on the teachers she is about to lay off. COMMON SENSE should tell you that if you over staff your organization by 300 people year after year, then yes eventually you are going to run out of money. THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE! Is is no wonder why they are broke and now have to look to the teachers for cuts?

  35. dekalbite2 says:

    Ms. Tyson was given an 18 month contract by the BOE. They need to take some responsibility.

  36. eyes R open says:

    Sorry your friend lost her position as graduation coach. Tell her to go see the newly assigned principal @ Rockbridge Elementary and act like a kisser- up. Looks like he is still in the business of promoting his friends. He took Ronald Price the highly paid Parent Resource Facilitator from Rock Chapel School that he gave an $18,000 increase last year with him to his new school. So now, Ron Price is a Student Support Specialist at Rockbridge. Watch out parents and teachers @ Rockbridge. Take a look at the people your new Principal took with him and it’ll give you a good idea of where your school is headed. Hear this Principal talks a good game, but doesn’t give a damn about the students or staff.

  37. Then how do you explain the outside lights that are left on all day? We don’t think it is a matter of forgetting to turn them off, either. Perhaps it is a case of small elementary schools that the district wants to close will have high utility costs so that the comparisons on the facilities reports will show on paper that it costs far too much to keep them open and therefore we must build, build, build.

    We also do not buy the security excuse. Lights on a motion sensor are common as are security systems with night vision. And the night vision is not a new technolgoy. We have an old security system that a small doctor’s office with only one doctor was going to throw away after at least 10 years of use and it has night vision and requires wires to run from cameas to monitors and the monitors connect to VHS tape decks, so that dates it for you. We rececived it 10 years ago and it was already 10 years old, so that makes it very, very outdated. I cannot imagine the schools with all the SPLOST funds they have spent actually have something older than that! And, if they do, then it is very, very unlikely that the technology in the school, or anything else for that matter, would be worth any amount of money today that someone would risk breaking into it in order to steal.

    It just doesn’t add up, DeKalb County. Getting tired of lame excuses!

  38. Mildred says:

    SIgned contracts were sent to the schools today for dissemination to those lucky to have jobs.

  39. SRO says:

    Thanks for the information…

  40. Food For Thought says:

    The food service dept . is not part of the DCSD budget. Plastic utensils help them to continue to keep their staff employed. I do beliieve that cuts were made to some staff members, just because it would not be right for everyone to be reassigned/restructured and food service not show any changes. I do not understand why a dept. that pays all of their employees salary and benefits, retirement, bills and everything else that deals with food service, NO MONIES FROM DCSD, need to make changes at all.If they are self-supporting let them continue to handle their business. WATCH, a story will come out in the future about how the food service dept. was made to Give Plant Services MONEY to make their books look good..

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