Who’s On First?

This article is being written with the expectation that DSW risks retaliation by Atkinson, Marsh, Ramsey and their minions.  They have already given us a taste of their arrogant determination to withhold information from public view by demanding a total upfront payment of  $10,888 and telling us it will take a total of 223 business days for them to make the information available.  Of that, $10,500 is to provide information on the cars DCSS owns and who they are assigned to, as well as a list of 1099 Forms since 2005, if possible. So now we know what they particularly do NOT want us to know.

DCSS files must be mostly manual and a mess! Regular readers of DSW may recall that a request for an electronic copy of the Ernst and Young 2004 Study ultimately led to 4 bank boxes of mostly undated photocopies, many of which were duplicates and triplicates.  (That’s approximately 40 reams of paper – 20,000 sheets – a couple of trees’ worth.)  This is unacceptable considering the number of highly paid secretaries and other similar functionaries on the payroll.  More than 11% of the employees on the attached org chart are classified as “Secretary.”  And that does not include other similar jobs such as “Office Specialist,” “Administrative Assistant,” “Executive Assistant,” “Executive Administrative Assistant” and “Receptionist.”

DSW’s Open Records Requests and DCSS’s very late responses are available on the blog website under DSW Files.

Under the auspices of Georgia’s Open Records law, DSW requested the current DeKalb County Schools organization chart, with employee names and titles.  After several weeks with no response in any manner to a request (dated August 29, 2012) sent directly to Atkinson’s e-mail – DCSS claimed they never received the e-mail, although ReadNotify told us that Atkinson simply doesn’t bother to open her e-mail – we finally received a response, after some prodding, (dated September 27, 2012) containing a 16-page org chart without names, dated August 28, 2012, and an undated (typical for DCSS) Excel-based roster (16 spreadsheets) of Palace employees by division.

Score one for Atkinson, her Palace Guard and her flying monkeys (per The Wizard of Oz).

After investing untold hours matching up employee names and stated job titles with the job titles on the massive org chart we have reached an inescapable, critical conclusion:

Atkinson, et al, have no idea who is working for DeKalb County Schools, what they are doing (including their correct job titles) and their pay grades.

And that begs the question:  Why wouldn’t a superintendent worth his or her salt know exactly how the org chart is made up – who, where, what and how much?  How could decisions be made regarding who to keep and who to cut if you don’t know who, where, what and how much?  Unless, of course, personnel decisions have nothing to do with reality and everything to do with friends-and-family connections.

How’s that been working out for ya?

DeKalb County Schools is a billion-dollar business – a billion dollar tax-supported non-profit – that pays way over market rate for its friends-and-family employees in the Palace.

The organization chart and employee roster was sloppily done and incomplete.  Excellence is not on anyone’s radar at the Palace.

Here are examples of the blatant spelling errors that jumped out from these documents (we weren’t proofreading):  supeonas instead of subpoenas; assistaint instead of assistant; communittee  instead of community; adimisrative instead of administrative; rounting instead of routing.   <SIGH>

We are attaching the documents that we worked with.  These are the same documents sent by Atkinson on September 27, 2012 in response to our Open Records Request (which are still available, un-annotated, in DSW Files).  We did not change the documents in any way except:

(1) we used a color-coding system to try to make sense of what we were given;

(2) we alphabetized the job titles to make it somewhat easier to find them on the org chart pages;

(3) we totaled the salaries in each division/department; and

(4) we changed the salary column to the accounting format because that also lines up decimal points and makes salaries easier to read – although, most certainly, not easier to swallow.

The color code we used is as follows:

  • Bright Yellow on the roster means we cannot find a match between the roster and the org chart.  Please note that we were looking for exact job titles – i.e., Coordinator II instead of just Coordinator because Coordinator II implies different responsibilities and a different pay grade.  So, if we could not match up a person’s exact job title with the exact same title on the org chart, it is probably highlighted in bright yellow.  There were a few minor exceptions.
  • Light Blue on the roster means a match.
  • Light Pink on the roster with a red oval around the job title on the org chart is also a match.  It simply means there was not enough space on the chart to insert names.

Here, in no particular order, are things we noted because we find them questionable:

  • There is a huge discrepancy between the various division heads in the span of control they are expected to manage, yet all division heads are paid exactly the same, regardless of responsibility and education.  Howe and Wilkins seem to have the most responsibility and apparently are the work horses.
  • All Kendra March, FF (Friends-and-Family), is in charge of, on paper, is the “Leadership” Division.  Interestingly, in her division she pays Linda D. Frazier (another FF?) $84,000 for a part-time position – yes, that’s right, a part-time job – for the highly questionable Aspiring Leaders program.
  • Gary Brantley, FF, is in charge of the huge and hugely ineffective Information Technology Division built by Ramona Howell Tyson, who is still on the payroll, doing nothing much and being paid 85% of the superintendent’s salary.  An informal review of board meetings shows near constant requests (and approvals) for funds to purchase computers and to pay for IT service contracts – all approved with little-or-no question by the board.  Yet, DCSS does not have enough computers for students to use for state mandated testing.
  • We know there have been many thefts of computers (and other valuable items), none of which have been replaced because DCSS is “self-insured.”  Maybe it is time to do a cost analysis and think about getting “real” insurance?  You know – insurance that comes from a for-profit company who will investigate these repeated “losses” and consider fraud and insider thefts.
  • Many columns on the spreadsheets were “hidden.”  When we “unhid” them we found lots of missing department numbers and EID (employee identification) numbers.  The interesting thing to know about the EIDs is that the first 4 digits are the year the employee was hired.  With complete and correct EIDs it is possible to determine whether the board’s directive concerning hiring was followed or not.  There should be very few – i.e., fewer than a dozen – EIDs beginning with 2010, 2011 or 2012.
  • Based on the critical missing information and some of the questionable names used, we wonder if the DCSS employee roster consists of “ghost employees”? Ghost employees don’t really exist, but nevertheless manage to cash their paychecks.  We also believe that nepotism is far more rampant than anyone knows.

At the least, the information we mined from the DCSS Central Office employee roster (526 employees at a cost of more than $40 million per year and growing) and the “related” org chart should make a very strong case for 3 smaller, very transparent, less expensive, more effective and more manageable school systems in DeKalb County, Georgia.


Organizational Chart 2012-2013.DSW Edit

Organizational Roster 2012-2013.DSW Edit

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18 Responses to Who’s On First?

  1. Wow.

    According to the spreadsheet, the Office of Legal Affairs spends $858,976.86 for salaries each year…. and that figure does not include the salaries of four vacant positions.

    Throw in the cost of benefits, and that office alone is already spending at least $1.6 Million a year on personnel…. and if the vacant positions were filled, they would put the total up into the $2.25 to $2.5 million a year range.

    Why do they need to hire any outside attorneys?

  2. midvaledad says:

    I am very disturbed by DCSD’s responses (and lack thereof) to open records requests. Why isn’t that a story in the AJC?

    I am not surprised to find your conclusion “Atkinson, et al, have no idea who is working for DeKalb County Schools, what they are doing (including their correct job titles) and their pay grades.” is supported by a cursory glance at the documents you linked.

  3. The spreadsheet also does not include Robert Tucker’s salary. We are not sure why. Tucker is a double-dipping DCSS retiree who most recently (2011) was paid $56,037 — mostly to be on hand during the 40 days every year that Ronald Ramsey is double-dipping by being a state senator at the Georgia General Assembly. Ramsey collects his full DCSS salary (he got a $50,000 raise this year) AND his state senator salary (the base salary is $17,000/ year; there is an additional $134/day when in session, typically 40 days; so roughly, 24,000/year).

  4. From a DSW reader, sent to DSW e-mail (dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com):

    ” I was looking through the organization roster you posted and noticed that the Area Superintendents are not listed correctly – for example, Bradshaw is listed as Region 5 on the roster and as Region 3 on the public website (http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/superintendent/assistants).

    “Also, Brictson makes $14.6K less than the other Area Superintendents; my guess is that her missing $14.6K is being paid to her as “moving expenses”. Doing so is a normal practice in the private sector (a past employer did that for me once), but it would also be a way of reducing the compensation shown on the roster.”

    DSW Response:
    We appreciate knowing this and we always count on our sharp-eyed readers to keep us informed. However, we will not be making any changes because we want to emphasize the sloppy and careless manner in which DCSS Palace administrators do their work. We simply used the information they sent to us.

    We publicly pointed out similar careless errors and mistakes on Atkinson’s resume before she was hired. We noted that if she was that sloppy with a document as important as her resume we should not expect better if she was hired. It made no difference to the Gang of Five on the board.

  5. tenbsmith says:

    DSW explanation for the sloppy records they received is incompetent record keeping, a likely explanation. An alternate theory, people with something to hide may intentionally mess things up before providing records in order to obfuscate the findings. Using the reversible Excel ‘hide’ feature seems almost like a combination of the two.

  6. Yes, we thought so, too.

  7. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    This makes me sick Ron Ramsey, the Howell sisters, and the rest of the CLEW regime should resign. Until we cut out the cancer, DCSS will remain to be a terminal case. How Ramsey can hold elected office is beyond me. He can not even be honest with his constituents, regarding his day job at DCSS.

  8. They will NOT resign. Why should they? DCSS is a gravy train and they have become increasingly more bold. They don’t think they will ever get caught. They don’t care what you or DSW or anyone else thinks. What they know is that they cannot earn this kind of money anywhere else. And they are not giving that up.

    Here’s what you (and others reading this blog) can do to hurry their demise — and, hopefully their incarceration … write to:
    Mark Giuliano, special agent in charge (SAC) of the FBI’s Atlanta field office
    U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates
    William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, a citizen watchdog group

    Here’s how:
    Mark Guiliano, Special Agent in Charge
    2635 Century Parkway N.E.,
    Suite 400
    Atlanta, GA 30345
    Phone: (404) 679-9000

    Assistant Special Agents in Charge include:
    – Ricky Maxwell
    – Sean Ragan
    – Eric Sporre
    – Angela M. Tobon

    You also may use the FBI’s online tip form to report suspected terrorism or criminal activity.

    Don’t bother with the GBI. They cannot get involved unless asked to by local law enforcement. Can you imagine that ever happening?

    Sally Quillian Yates
    U. S. Attorney
    Northern District of Georgia
    Richard B. Russell Federal Building
    75 Spring Street, S.W.
    Suite 600
    Atlanta, GA 30303-3309
    Tel: 404.581.6000
    Fax: 404.581.6181

    William Perry
    Executive Director
    Common Cause Georgia
    100 Edgewood Avenue, NE, Suite 1275
    Atlanta, GA 30303
    Phone: 404.524.4598

    You may also submit information to Common Cause Georgia online using this form.

    Maybe one or more of the above people will act if they hear from many of you.

    Again, we caution you — do NOT use a DCSS-provided computer or DCSS-provided phone and do NOT use a personal computer connected to the Internet using DCSS-provided broadband or a personal phone in the vicinity of DCSS. You have whistleblower protection only if you reveal what you know to the U. S. Attorney and, possibly, the FBI.

  9. Sweet Jesus. I just learned that the new gifted coordinator’s last name is Atkinson. Please tell me rhis is not another example of friends and family benefits?

  10. Today, Dekalb is spending approximately $150k paying teachers to view a powerpoint about the “new” curriculum.

  11. Where is the Gifted Coordinator on the Organization Chart? We are not being sarcastic. We just don’t see a space for that job.

    Shouldn’t a position of that nature already be on the org chart? This is just one more indication that Atkinson and her minions do not have a clue about what they should be doing and who is or should be working for the organization. This is one more reason to have three smaller, more manageable school systems in DeKalb County.

  12. thedeal2 says:

    Three smaller systems, or more!! How about systems with just 2-3 high schools? A person can dream…

    Is there any attorney familiar with Freedom of Information law who knows if what DCSD is doing is legal with respect to the hours and projected cost?

  13. The gifted coordinator is on page 11 under Howe. I have since learned that Atkinson is her married name and she’s been in the system a long time so ignore my previous comment.

  14. Have you made the State Attorney General’s office aware of the response you received regarding the open records request?

  15. No. Not yet. We have tried to work cooperatively with DCSS. However, we have just about reached the end of our patience. Atkinson’s demand for nearly $11,000 to provide information did it. We feel like we, as taxpayers, have already paid that and more for highly paid employees (secretarial and IT) who should be able to easily obtain the information we requested with just a few keystrokes. Whoever heard of a $billion dollar business being unable to quickly retrieve information? We also have reminded Atkinson that she has the authority to waive any charges and we have asked that she do so, reminding her that we are volunteers.

  16. thedeal2 says:

    It sounds like you definitely have the basis for a waiver:

    From: http://www.foia.gov/faq.html#cost

    Can I ask that any fees be waived?
    You may request a waiver of fees. Under the FOIA fee waivers are limited to situations in which a requester can show that the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. Requests for fee waivers from individuals who are seeking records pertaining to themselves usually do not meet this standard. In addition, a requester’s inability to pay fees is not a legal basis for granting a fee waiver.

  17. DSW received this comment today, but the person making the comment was clearly identified and we weren’t sure they intended that. So, we made an executive decision to withhold that person’s name “to protect the innocent” as they used to say on Dragnet. Consider this:

    “It is criminal that coordinators make more than principals and assistant principals who have responsibility for children and are blamed for everything that happens in a school. Even Dr. Atkinson’s special assistant makes more than my wife who has been a principal for over five years. Things are out of control and upside down. Parent roundtable meetings are mandatory for principals who will lead the discussions. Is it true that Dr. Atkinson isn’t answering questions? What are principals supposed to say – they aren’t told anythng. Will they be given a script of the things they are allowed to say. Wouldn’t want to get fired for saying the wrong thing.”

  18. Thanks. But, we don’t think this same provision is in Georgia’s Open Records Act. FOIA is a federal law. We would love it if you would research it for us, though.

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