The Law of Unintended Consequences: Here We Go. Again.

For just about any other school system, these stories would be unbelieveable.  DeKalb School Watch has been receiving emails telling us about the incredible, unorganized, insensitive, haphazard, and highly unprofessional RIF’ing and rearranging of school staff the week before they must report to work.

There are stories like the para who just received an email via First Class titled “Transfer,” and it informed her she was to report on August 7 to another school. She immediately called her principal, who said they had just gotten that email too. Principals have been on the phone for hours informing employees that they were RIF’d or transferred. For many teachers and paras, the principal’s call was their only notification.  We wonder how many such notifications have been made callously via voice mail?

In addition, pre-K teachers are quitting, because their pay was reduced. Many of the kindergarten paras have been moved to Special Ed, so kindergarten classes have 25 kids, one teacher, no para. The media clerks have all been RIF’d, too.

We also heard from several Lakeside parents that only Spanish and French will be offered, and AP classes may be cut. And Terry Segovis, former area superintendent was, oddly, assigned as principal for two elementary schools.

Adding to the confusion, First Class has a “claw back” function, so HR has been pulling back emails, with no explanation, after sending mistaken decisions .  Note to employees:  Immediately print hard copies of all e-mail notifications you receive from DCSS HR.  If possible, make sure the header on the e-mail is showing so it prints, too.  This will be vital evidence if any legal action is taken.

Obviously, the ill-conceived cuts-by-attrition “plan” didn’t pan out. Then the board would not approve last-minute, additional cuts to the classroom requested by the superintendent. Atkinson is obviously in crisis mode — as is Tekshia Ward-Smith — the new head of HR, recently promoted to that position by Atkinson. Naming Ward-Smith to run HR was a very serious mistake. There is no more critical job in which to place a true, experienced professional. However we have Ward-Smith, an educator who learned HR under Jamie Wilson, also a former educator. We have said for a very long time that the egos of these “Educrats” are astounding — and insulting to the real world. These Educrats continue to believe that they are qualified to do ANY job, while no one else is qualified to teach or serve as a principal unless holding teaching “credentials” — regardless of which diploma mill they come from.  A “real” HR person would not handle this like Facebook friending and unfriending.

We desperately need a majority board who considers themselves stewards of taxpayers’ money — all taxpayers. To begin with, a fiscally responsible board would not have voted on a list of budget cuts and called those cuts a budget. (Nancy Jester has been stating this issue publicly. She refused to vote on a “budget” that was merely a list of cuts and cost adjustments. Don McChesney and Pam Speaks also voted no, but the Block of Five ruled and classroom cuts were made without looking deeper or even revealing the full budget to the board.)

A fiscally responsible board would not have chosen to fund so many specialty programs along with special transportation to those programs over evenly funding all classrooms and schools.

A fiscally responsible board would not continue funding small, expensive programs and unnecessary programs like DOLA, along with too many SROs (school resource officers) — and paying them over the summer, even though they have nothing to do — instead of properly funding ordinary classrooms.

A fiscally responsible board would not have cut teachers when our students’ test scores are already in the tank because of the cuts made to the classroom under Crawford Lewis (now indicted under RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations]) and Ramona Tyson (un-indicted, so far).

A fiscally responsible board would have insisted on seeing an actual budget, not a list of cuts. A fiscally responsible board would have insisted that Atkinson make every single cut possible outside of the classroom FIRST before heading into the classroom.  Atkinson and the Block of Five are harming the very children whose education is the board’s only mission.

DCSS is very obviously a system of haves and have nots — bigs and littles — insiders and outsiders — special and not-so-special  — well-connected and “who?”.  And, it has nothing to do with north vs. south or black vs. white.

The DCSS reality is black-on-black classism — the vast majority of the negatively affected students are black.  Classism is the systematic oppression of subordinated class groups to advantage and strengthen the dominant class groups.

Please share what’s really happening to our teachers and school staff in the comments below. Do NOT use your real name; DO use your home computer.  Or you may send your stories to dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com.  Either way, your identity will be kept completely confidential.

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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205 Responses to The Law of Unintended Consequences: Here We Go. Again.

  1. Complete Chaos says:

    DekalbELMom– I actually considered this when all this budget mess started up in June. I found that there are quite a lot of rules about home schooling. You have to basically homeschool your own child most of the day. Then, I checked on Home Daycare Learning Center ideas– There are two types: A Daycare Home or a Daycare Center. You can only have 6 to be a home daycare. Both have to have special licenses. To be a Daycare Center, you have to have zoning too which can be a major hassle. Neverless, I am still extremely interested in starting one.

  2. dekalbite2 says:

    I agree that Special Education Lead Teachers are critical. However, our Special Ed teachers do not have any more paperwork than Special Education teachers in Gwinnett. They function with many less non teaching Special Ed personnel and with much better outcomes for Special Education students while serving over twice the number of Special Ed students (8,000 for DeKalb and 17,000 for Gwinnett – latest numbers for 2012).

    Why are we laying off Special Ed teachers while we keep the non teaching Special Ed personnel intact?

    90 Special Ed non teaching personnel for DeKalb versus 20 non teaching personnel for Gwinnett is just untenable. Gwinnett has 130+ schools – even more schools than DeKalb. Gwinnett puts its money into more Special Ed teachers and less Special Ed non teaching personnel. DeKalb spends $8,000,000 on these 90 non teaching special Ed personnel while Gwinnett spends $1,800,000 on their 20+ non teaching Special Ed personnel.

    If we even came CLOSE to Gwinnett figures, we could reinvest that $6,000,000 in Special Ed teachers – 100 of them ($6,000,000 divided by $60,000 – cost of a teacher with benefits). Would 100 more Special Ed teachers be able to move some of our Special Education students forward?

  3. dekalbite2 says:

    Where is the Office of Internal Affairs in all of this?

  4. fernbankmom says:

    @Jim McMahan
    Why are you and Marshall attending a coffee by Don, Nancy, and Pam? Why don’t you and Marshall hold your own events?

  5. dekalbteach says:

    This is from his website:Friday, July 27th
    10am – 11:30am
    Starbucks
    Hwy 29 and Lavista Rd (Tucker)

  6. DeKalb Teacher says:

    @Disgusted Teacher, Don McChesney’s website has the following:
    Friday, July 27th
    10am – 11:30am @ Starbucks
    Hwy 29 and Lavista Rd (Tucker)

    @Jim
    Can you, Orson and Schutten do us a favor and not show up? Last week I poured my heart out to Mr McChesney and really told him how I felt. He gave me some honest answers to my questions. I don’t trust Schutten and I think it would change the tone of the conversation if any of you guys were there. Thank you for supporting us!

  7. no name says:

    Rumor inside DCS is that the Ward-Smith has had two nervous breakdowns, the second one happening last week. She clearly is in way over her head, so she can probably use the prayers, positive thoughts, and any good karma we can send her way!

    Demoting Segovis was an incredibly bone-headed move; unfortunately, it is just one of many bone-headed moves that Dr. Atkinson’s administration has made. I predict that Dr. Atkinson will be gone before the school year is up.

  8. no name says:

    Rumor inside DCS is that the principals themselves did not know about the media specialists being RIFed until the media specialists themselves called the principals and told them that they had been terminated…. by mail.

  9. dekalbite2 says:

    @frustrated
    Looking at the state Salary and Travel audit, DeKalb has 165 Coaches – Instructional, Literacy, Graduation, Instructional Change, ESOL, etc. We spend almost $13,000,000 for these non teaching employees. This is unacceptable when we can’t make payroll, pack students like rats into the classrooms and lay off teachers. In addition, the very schools where these Coaches have been all these years are the ones that have experienced the greatest loss in making adequate yearly progress. This is the epitome of NO ACCOUNTABILITY for ANY employee except teachers. Maybe a different model is needed. The “Coaching” model doesn’t seem to be working according to the data.

    Why is it that the DeKalb administration and BOE have never met a non teaching position they didn’t like while they don’t value personnel who directly instruct students?

  10. dekalbite2 says:

    @ no name
    So the BOE can name an insider who will hire all those Friends and Family back no doubt. That’s what happened to Dr. Brown.

  11. sosad says:

    Yes, we do not wish anything bad on anyone but at the same time, God works in very mysterious ways. When you treat people wrong and unfairly, it comes back on you in ways that you would never think possible. Ward Smith has done some very unethical, unprofessional, and down right dirty things to many employees in this district. Pleasing Dr. Atkinson should be the least of her worries. It is so hard for people to stand up for what is right! Money and titles have made these people feel like they are invincible….but their time is coming to an end.

  12. dekalbite2 says:

    @sosad

    But it is precisely because of the Friends and Family squandering our money that we are forced to cut services. The budget MUST be balanced. The BOE majority led by Eugene Walker would rather cut teachers than touch non teaching positions and the special programs and special schools that serve the few.

    Why did the majority of the BOE drag their feet when it came to voting on a budget? They should have voted and been done with it in the spring. They should have cut deeply into the non teaching side and asked Dr. Atkinson to right size the pay of positions that are overpaid. Of course that would have cut into the Friends and Family members so they delayed and delayed. They are still delaying even though by law they must have a balanced budget.

    Most of this falls on the shoulders of the Board of Education members who delayed and delayed and are still hoping that something will save their power base.

    Ward Smith is a Lewis holdover who is in over her head. I’ll bet Dr. Atkinson regrets that promotion.

  13. Disgusted DeKalb Teacher says:

    @Complete Chaos – you make many good points. I agree that at this point there does not seem to be legal way restructure the pre k program this year. The legal way to do it was to move all teachers who taught pre k last year into other grade levels and then create new job titles/salary scales for pre k lead teacher and pre k para. And I do think that was the original plan. However, that does not appear to be possible at this point. Even if enough positions become available to move everyone, there is not enough time to hire in new pre k staff to start the school year.

    Singling out teachers who happened to teach pre k last year for a pay cut IS NOT LEGAL. All people in the same job category HAVE to be paid on the same pay scale. Pay cuts CANNOT be given to just some people in a job category. People who taught pre k last year are Teachers- in the same job category as any other teacher. If there are not enough teaching positions for everyone with a certain certification, then a RIF can be requested and carried out (if approved by the Board) according to a blend of senority and performance, NOT according to what grade level was taught the previous year.This may be what Atkinson was trying to do when she asked for the RIF. But the Board seemed very clear that they were not willing to approve a RIF without revisiting other possible cuts. Why Atkinson has not come back with another proposal yet is a mystery!

    I know many pre k teachers are looking for other jobs – and I’ve heard more than one say she doesn’t care what it is, anything is better than working for DeKalb. Starting the year with substitues in pre k will be a DISASTER! Parents need to voice their concerns over this!! And don’t just call/email the county. Contact Bright From the Start – that’s the state agency that administers the prek program. People leading a prek class have to be approved by Bright From the Start, including long term substitutes.

    People who taught prek last year — contact your professional organization if you belong to one. You pay for legal advice in your dues every month. Now is the time to get it!!

  14. justwatch says:

    Actually, I think the plan was to allow the pre-k teachers to fill vacancies, if they were qualified and had enough senority. (Any new to the system teachers for the 2011-2012 school year are probably stuck in pre-k. Then the system would allow displaced teachers (again those most recently hired) to make a decision about whether they were willing to work for Pre-k salaries.
    However, the board not approving the RIF apparently throw a wrench in these plans. They haven’t been able to displace newer teachers (those at risk for being laid off) to create the openings they need for the longer serving pre-k teachers.

  15. justwatch says:

    My understanding is that Ward-Smith is gone on medical leave. She isn’t making any decisions.

  16. SRO says:

    DeKabite, KUDOS for being all over this information!!!! For a school district that loves DATA so much, these people have a serious problem CRUNCHING NUMBERS!!!! The coaches are definitely a good place to start cutting. We definitely have an excess of them as this has become another plush position for the lazy, well connected, and often F&F. They mostly sit in their offices and very rarely have anything substantive to offer teachers. Most coaching an be done by the dept head or the academic principal. They should also stop all of these retired employees from returning and double dipping.

  17. dekalbite2 says:

    @justwatch
    So who is overseeing HR?

  18. dekalbite2 says:

    Since Lewis became superintendent the BOE has been cutting teaching positions as they raised class sizes to pay for all those programs and departments Lewis added. Lewis cut 275 teaching positions and Tyson but over 300 teaching positions in order to keep the non teaching side intact. I guess Walker and his BOE majority thought they could keep going back to the well and cutting teaching positions. But they were caught up short this time. Now they are trying to figure out how to keep their pet programs and departments afloat, but they are having a hard time as teachers being laid off are vocal and parents have woken up to see what has been happening.

  19. sosad says:

    I don’t think Dr. Atkinson regrets promoting Dr. Ward Smith because she has used Ward Smith to get in her own old co workers and friends. Dr. Atkinson has employed more of her “people” than most people know. Not all of them hold the big positions. You see, if Dr. A can control Ward Smith to hire who she wants it, she has it made. Some of these people that Dr. A brought to the system were not even qualified for their respective positions. I have been told that some didn’t even submit the proper documents needed to be hired. A teacher can not be hired without transcripts and certain documents such as test scores but yet Dr. Atkinson can bring in anyone she wants without anyone even checking to see who these people are. You are correct, the Board is completely out of the loop and they have no idea what is going on behind closed doors. I was even told the board members were told not to visit certain departments. A friend of mine told me since the big move to the palace, no board members have visited HR or Finance. Dr. Atkinson hasn’t even stepped foot in these departments.

  20. dekalbmom says:

    Why in the world is there a 1) “Discipline principal”, and 2) why does he or she have a secretary? THAT is insane!

  21. dekalbite2 says:

    @ Disgusted
    “All people in the same job category HAVE to be paid on the same pay scale. Pay cuts CANNOT be given to just some people in a job category.”

    But isn’t that what Fulton is doing with Pre-K? Read their pay scale for Pre-K:
    They kept the salary schedule for the Pre-K teachers employed for School Year 2010-2011 the same but changed it to the state schedule for 2012-2013.

    http://portal.fultonschools.org/departments/Human_Resources/Documents/Salaries%202012-2013/FY13_PreK_Schedule.pdf

  22. dekalbmom says:

    Augustus, why can’t one $30,000 secretary do the paperwork for all the Special Ed Teachers in a school? Does anyone have an inkling about how ridiculous and wasteful this appears to the rest of the world?

  23. SMH says:

    A friend of mine got a job in Rockdale. She was told that the contracts were binding and that she would have to go through the proper procedures to be let out of her contract. She was not able to start Monday with the rest of the Rockdale teachers because she is waiting for Dekalb to process her paperwork.

  24. DeKalb Teacher says:

    @Dekalbite2,
    There are a lot of questions about who did what and when regarding the budget. Nancy Jester does an excellent job of explaining it on her blog at WhatsUpWithThat.NancyJester.com/2012/07/19/budget-discussion/

    From what I can gather there is no official budget yet. Has anybody seen the budget for this coming year?

  25. justwatch says:

    This is true,but I think DeKalb is not rejecting anyone’s request to leave. They need (desperately need) attrition.

  26. dekalbmom says:

    Why does DOLA need a principal? What other administrative staff are assigned to the DOLA budget line?

  27. Gardenerontheside says:

    Not insane. Very necessary for student discipline issues, ISS, OSS, ESS, and ALL the paperwork that goes with the suspensions. A secretary, and a good one, is also very necessary.

  28. Confused DCSS teacher says:

    @Disgusted DeKalb Teacher and all 2011-2012 Pre-K teachers:

    All the other metro counties have nixed their Pre-K programs with the exception of Fulton County, which continues to compensate their veteran Pre-K teachers (previously employed during the the 2010-2011 school year) with whatever years teaching and experience they had at the end of the 2010-2011 school year. All newly hired Pre-K teachers were funded at the DECAL salary. Fulton did not reduce the salaries of veteran Pre-K teachers by as much as 50%, but only by 21 days, which will now only be reduced by 10 days based on the salary schedule for 2012-2013. What happened to the idea of DeKalb using the Fulton county Pre-K salary model? I would be more agreeable to a reduction in salary of 10 days rather than losing all of my years of teaching and experience. I agree it is NOT LEGAL for DeKalb to cut salaries to those of us who happened to teach Pre-K last year. (Again, I stress that I am not just a Pre-K teacher, but a TEACHER). However, I’m really questioning the way things go down in DCSS these days.

    Pre-K restructuring needs to be revisted next year! We need parents to speak out as well, subs in Pre-K would be a disaster!

  29. dekalbmom says:

    I’ve seen a few empty DeKalb buses on my neighborhood streets the past day or two. I presumed that these are drivers practicing the routes. I took this as a postive sign that someone was working on bus routes.

  30. Gardenerontheside says:

    Teachers would love to have a secretary BUT, each teacher has many students on their caseload for which they must keep running records of work, behavior, parent contacts, teacher support, etc in addition to the very labor intensive IEPs. This paperwork is in addition to their courses, planning, grading papers, gradebook, attendance, parent conferences, etc etc. A secretary would be ADDITIONAL staff. and propably loved

  31. dekalbmom says:

    Please, please someone tell be that The Beasley is no longer working for this school system in any capacity. If he is, that is the final straw and a major insult to all teachers.

  32. Ned says:

    You left out the millions lost to “equalization” annually 😉

  33. tired of them all says:

    Academic data coaches and SFA coordinators are paid teacher salaries. I have not heard of these positions having any assistants. News to me.

  34. no name says:

    I think the situation in HR can be explained by the old Napoleon quote “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence”!

  35. no name says:

    “Actually, I think the plan was to allow the pre-k teachers to fill vacancies, if they were qualified and had enough senority.”

    No! No! No! No!

    I’m told that there was an actual email (that HR sent out) that said pre-k teachers could *NOT* be moved to other vacancies in the district.

    (The Board was told one thing, but the paper trail inside the system says other.)

  36. DeKalb Teacher says:

    I don’t condone those kind of remarks, but I think the Fernbank guy and associates are grasping at straws. We have a lot of issues we are dealing with and I’m not sure if I’ll have a job by the time school starts (especially if Schutten has his way) …… Yet WSBTV is running that?

    If WSBTV spent 5 minutes reading DSW2 posts, they could find a plethora of good material.

    Carol Napier, quoted heavily in this story, is a Fernbank lawyer just like Orson.

    Fernbank guy and associates are just embarrassing themselves now.

  37. Disgusted DeKalb Teacher says:

    @dekalbite 2
    Fulton has two different job categories and two different payscales – “Regular Teacher” and “Pre K Teacher”. Whether they had both last year or not, I do not know. And whether the same people are leading those classrooms this coming year as did so last year, again I do not know. There is certainly nothing illegal with having prek teachers in a separate category and only paying them the state salary. The problem is that DeKalb has never had different job titles or pay scales for people teaching pre k. Teachers were hired as just that, teachers. They were assigned to pre k as a grade level, and many who taught pre k last year previously taught other grades. If DeKalb wants to now create two separate job categories/payscales, they can do so. However, people employed as teachers for DeKalb last year who happened to teach pre k cannot legally be singled out of the group of all teachers for a pay cut. They can be reassigned, or they could be RIF’d IF they fall low enough in a ranking of all teachers with P-5 certification according to seniority and performance AND the Board approved of such a RIF. To force teachers who taught pre k last year to remain in pre k this coming year and take a paycut is parsing out a GRADE LEVEL for a pay cut. My uncerstanding, from statements made by lawyers at the Board meeting, is that pay cuts have to be done by job category. If they said everyone who taught 4th grade last year has to teach 4th grade this year and, by the way, take a 30% pay cut while no other grade level does – don’t you see the problem with that?
    Now, I say all this as a reasonably intelligent and well informed teacher, but not as a lawyer. As I encouraged before – people who taught pre k last year need to be talking to a lawyer.

  38. dekalbteach says:

    Oh, he’s working alright. In fact, he was the presenter at today’s CCGPS training today at AIC. I thought I had read here that he was in charge of our Race To The Top grant?

  39. no name says:

    dekalbite2,

    A suggestion: you should look into how much federal money Dr. Atkinson has sent to the Success for All Foundation (http://www.successforall.org/), first in Lorain County and now in DCS.

    While you are at it, go to Guidestar.org and download the “Success for All” foundation’s IRS Form 990s. In 2010, the CEO only worked 28 hours a week, but was paid $98,828.00 and had $15,790.00 in other expenses….again, for only 28 hours a week! The same year, the Foundation itself spent $13,386,396.00 in Salaries and employee benefits…. and all they do is the following, their answer to the IRS’s “Briefly describe the organization’s mission” question:

    “THE FOUNDATION RESEARCHES, DEVELOPS AND DISSEMINATES SCHOOL REFORM MODELS THAT ARE COMPREHENSIVE, REPLICABLE APPROACHES TO CURRRICULUM, INSTRUCTION AND SCHOOL ORGANIZATION. THEIR FOCUS IS ON IMPLEMENTING THESE PROGRAMS IN SCHOOLS SERVING CHILDREN PLACED AT RISK.”

    $13 Million in salaries to “research, develop and disseminate”…. WTF? How is it possible for the Foundation itself to spend that much federal money when DCS is also hiring employees to be coordinators for this program? Something is not right here; I’m betting there is a sorority or other F&F connection that crosses state lines.

    You do a great job of documenting wasted money, dekalbite2… keep it up!

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