Two steps forward, three back: DeKalb now has to repay the feds nearly $1 million

How broke are we? We already borrowed $90 million (costing taxpayers $330,000 in interest) to cover our expenses while we await tax collections but we aren’t seeing a way clear to running a balanced budget for our billion dollar a year school system as we continue to run our system on credit.

It has now been discovered that DeKalb County Schools misspent nearly a million Title 1 federal tax dollars and now must repay those dollars using our already debt-ridden general fund.

Read more here:
Federal payback deepens DeKalb schools’ budget woes

On top of this, we still do not have proof that the cuts to the budget approved by the board in June have been made by the administration. Dr. Atkinson continues to insist that she cut 300 jobs from the Central Office, however, last night’s HR report revealed that the dollar amount for general administration is holding steady. When pressed, the head of HR, Takshia Ward-Smith admitted that she has not been tracking the so-called “RIFs”, but will do so ‘going forward’. So for now, the promised implemented cuts to the Central Office remain a mystery.

To review the approved budget cuts approved by the board in June, read our post on the subject:

We do know that many jobs were re-coded from CO to other departments and schools, but while a good idea, there is no cost savings to that kind of ‘action’. We also know that the most harmful cuts to students – those made to the schoolhouses in the form of paraprofessionals, media clerks, etc. were definitely made. We did the best we could to track the RIFs mandated by the board budget cuts. To review our documents, read the post below.

The HR & Budget Reports: 2008-2011

For details on the history of the budget, and to see our documents on the subject, view our page called Budgets and Audits under the DCSS FILES tab.

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26 Responses to Two steps forward, three back: DeKalb now has to repay the feds nearly $1 million

  1. We have to wonder if this could be the reason there was a rush to sell off property at last night’s board meeting.

  2. Below is a memo sent out to staff on the subject:


    To: All DeKalb Employees
    From: Dr. Cheryl L.H. Atkinson, Superintendent
    Subject: Title I Audit Finds DCSD Must Repay Funds

    Date: 5 November 2012

    In March 2012, the Georgia Department of Education conducted its annual Cross-Functional Monitoring of the Title I Part A Program in DeKalb. Each year, they take a random sampling of expenditures to audit Title I funds. This year, they selected as one of their random samplings the Communities In Schools (CIS) contract. The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) has been under a contract with CIS since 2008 similar to other metro districts. This year, they deemed that the CIS services provided in the contract did not qualify as an allowable activity. As a result, the district will be required to repay $885,000 from the general fund to resolve the matter. Since the expenditure had not been cited in the past four years, DCSD had no indication it was unallowable. The Title I administration is undergoing restructuring this year to ensure more streamlined accountability going forward.
    In addition, there is $25,000 of additional expenditures related to unallowable costs for Title I activities that are also required to be repaid. As a result, the total amount of $910,000 must be repaid from the general fund budget. The DCSD is working within the Finance department to determine how the general fund budget must be modified since this repayment expenditure was not planned for within this year’s budget.

  3. ursokm16 says:

    There is indeed Title 1 fraud, but the audits won’t “go there”. Fill the seats with the poor and you get the money. Then you pass on the money to suppliers. The problem is in the racket of creating seats.

  4. midvaledad says:

    I looked through the Communities In Schools website pretty thoroughly and it seems they provide the same services that school counselors provide.

    CIS could probably improve their program after spending a week with Mrs. Griffin at Midvale Elementary School. She does everything CIS does and more.

    So DeKalb County School District paid $900K to a group to do what their employees are supposed to be doing.

    Why am I not surprised?

  5. Shouldn’t Ms. Tyson be shown the door now!…. This was all done under her supervision. lease resign Ramona, we can not afford you any longer!

  6. midvaledad says:

    I just looked at the CIS “Local Affiliate” list. Dekalb County isn’t on it. Did their contract get renewed for this year?

  7. This comment was also left on the AJC’s Get Schooled blog for @ dekalbed and others …
    For the DeKalb County School System Organizational Chart WITH names, go to “Who’s On First?”, published on October 21, 2012 by DeKalb School Watch blog [].

    Through an Open Records Request, DeKalb School Watch asked for an Organizational Chart with names on August 28, 2012. It took a month for Atkinson and DeKalb County Schools to respond. When they did, they sent an organizational chart with NO names and a roster of mostly Palace employees. It took DeKalb School Watch editors another month, working part-time, to connect the roster names with the positions shown on the chart.

    Many position names on the roster did not match with position names on the organization chart. It was critical that there be an exact match. For example, a Coordinator II is different — at least in salary — from a Coordinator III. In spite of what highly paid consultants have advised, DeKalb County Schools continues to have a plethora of job titles, primarily to enable giving raises at will to Palace employees. So, there are still a number of positions without names because job titles did not match.

    DeKalb School Watch welcomes corrections and additions to the organizational chart. Please send them to, along with documentation.

  8. dsw2contributor says:

    The $900K is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Read Atkinson’s memo carefully, especially this line:
    “Each year, they [Georgia’s Department of Education] take a RANDOM SAMPLING of expenditures to audit Title I funds.”

    My interpretation is that the GA-DOE randomly selected a single contract that DCS used Title-I funds to pay for. When GA-DOE examined that single contract, they found that contract was not a proper use of Title-I funds, and so DCS now has to pay back all the Title-I money spent on that contract.

    I wonder: How much is DCS going to have to pay back once ALL of DCS’s Title-I expenditures are audited?

  9. bettyandveronica1 says:

    These people are idiots. How can an HR person not know the $ effect of the cuts made. This is stupidity at it’s highest. She needs to go now. If Perone can’t get the number from her, she shouldn’t be able to continue working for the “people”. I am so sick of these folks. Can’t work in the private sector with this kind of work ethic, a government job is perfect. No accountability, wasteful spenders and lack of work ethic. These people are the problem, forget the board.

  10. How can “Dr.” Tek-Shia not know or understand the difference between “resign,” “retire,” and “RIF” (reduction in force)?

  11. thefacts says:

    Several principals just had their pay cut in order to pay for this error. The cuts to pay were not part of the voted budget cuts-it is cruel, disrespectful, and ridiculous to cut people’s pay with such short notice—however, I’m not surprised.

  12. mojo says:

    I’ve confirmed this through several sources, Donna Edler and Marshall Orson are working together. They have made a deal to make Donna the chair of the board and Marshall the vice chair next year. This is bad news. What are we going to do to make sure this doesn’t happen?

  13. teacherwantingachange says:

    dsw2 contributor,

    I’m thinking the same thing. I’m especially concerned about the Superintendent’s including other districts’ contracts with CIS in the memo. So far there has been no mention of any other system having to pay back funds and from what I can see on CIS’s website, other systems use grants.

    So how many other programs, conferences, etc.. has Dekalb paid for inappropriately?

    Is anyone else as concerned as I am that the Superintendent has had a year to sort things out and only now is she “streamlining” Title I and finance? Aren’t 70% of Dekalb’s students Title I eligible? Seems to me that Title I would generate alot of money and require much oversight.

    I’d be curious to see how time and energy devoted to instruction and oversight compares to time and energy spent on the calendar, mismanaging mistakes, and public relations.


  14. Quagmire says:

    I would love to see the list of CIS staff from last year and then take a look at how many of them were Family & Friends. I know one of them was a retired Area Superintendent from DCSS and another was a retired principal. Can’t remember the principal’s name at the moment.

  15. You can request this information through an Open Records Request. The updated Open Records Act allows you to request that information from CIS, if you think they might have it. Otherwise request it directly from Atkinson.

  16. Concernedmom30329 says:

    Marshall is desperate to have 5 votes with him. He is desperate to protect his version of the status quo. For the record, Fernbank is 30 kids smaller than last year, which is about 5 percent. AFAIK, they don’t have trailers, yet somehow their new building starts this winter. Are you kidding me?

  17. Weary worker says:

    It appeared last year that the system knew their title 1 funding was out of control at the school house level. Internal auditors from the Title1 department were scouring the schools trying to find out where many of the items purchased under the program had gone to. Over the years I have seen last minute Title one purchases being made for items that may or may not be needed or acceptable under the program. The items were not inventoried or bar coded. Staff often had no idea how the items were purchased. There was no systematic way for keeping track of the materials. A full audit could be a nightmare.

  18. A big part of this problem was that Dr. Lewis put Dr. Audria Berry in charge of Title 1. We all know the rest of that story.

  19. dcssfrustratedparent says:

    @Concernedmom30329 – incorrect information :
    Currently 4th grade is in trailers @ Fernbank Elementary – 7 total trailers. Take a look on Google Maps.

  20. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    Talked with someone very close to CIS, at church this morning. The individual said the CIS mistake was a coding error by someone in the Central Office. How many million dollar mistakes must the Central Office make before someone is held accountable…. just asking……

  21. Concernedmom30329 says:

    That is not at all what I am hearing. I have heard that The Title One folks were notified years ago, by someone inside of DCSS, that CIS was not an allowable expense. Person (no longer working for system) was ignored. (CIS has a vested interest in making this look better than it is.)
    Also, this audit was done in late Spring, before budgeting process was completed. While Atkinson and her staff were not accountable for the initial mistake, I suspect they were avoiding having to budget to repay this debt.

  22. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    Guess we need to find out which service was not allowable by Title 1, since other systems use CIS services. One thing for sure, Audria Berry left Title 1 in a mess. Her boss should be held accountable….

  23. momfromhe11 says:

    AMG –

    I will try to track down what I read, but the article said that the expenses for CIS mentoring at-risk high school students outside of school (in a Big Brother / Big Sister sort of arrangement) were deemed non-allowable, as well a a separate amount earmarked for teacher training that DCSS used to send administrators and staff to conferences.

  24. I don’t think I can leave a thoughtful, respectful comment anymore…

  25. gramster1 says:

    This is NOT an isolated event. Check with the Superintendent’s previous districts and see what she left behind to be cleaned up by others.

  26. educator90 says:

    The Audit of the District shows that the cuts that were supposed to be made weren’t. Heads should roll and people should lose their job. Anyone who made the mistakes for the Title One expenditures should be losing money from their salary and their job. Really when will we hold people accountable for the errors that they make?

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