DeKalb school audit shows office cuts not made

According to Ty Tagami at the AJC, DeKalb school audit shows office cuts not made.

“A long-awaited forensic audit has been delivered to the DeKalb County school system, and it may help explain why officials there have had to cut so deeply in the classroom.

“Some of the central office staff eliminations the school board ordered in 2010 were not carried out, the audit says. For that and other reasons, the system wound up paying $20 million more than budgeted for central office salaries in fiscal year 2010 and $29 million more the next year, according to the audit, which was obtained by Channel 2 Action News.

“The audit, which was produced by the firm KPMG and leaked to Channel 2 Action News, says the board ordered the elimination of 150 central office positions in May 2010 for an expected savings of $11.5 million. Records from the school system’s finance and human resources departments differ about how many of those jobs were actually cut. Of 109 people listed by human resources as laid off, 56 remained on the payroll in different jobs, either because they were rehired or reassigned, the audit says.”

Click here to read more …

At any rate, although it doesn’t make us happy, it appears that we were right. The 2010 cuts that were approved by the board were never actually implemented by Ramona Tyson and we also must wonder if the 2011 cuts (at least to the administration) have been made by Cheryl Atkinson. The lesson of the day is: The school board is powerless. The superintendents can do as they please.

Nancy Jester once posted a chart making exactly the same point:

This chart shows that not only were the cuts not fully implemented, the budget overages over a 5 year span add up to over $50 million over budget.

The most interesting part to DSW is that the school system apparently refused to release this 31 page draft of the audit. This is an audit that taxpayers paid dearly for and should be available via Open Records, however, system officials are claiming that the accountants’ work is “privileged.”

Isn’t that the lamest excuse ever?


Click here for the link to the WSB report:

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This entry was posted in Budget Cuts, Ramona Howell Tyson, School Funding, Superintendent Cheryl Howell Atkinson. Bookmark the permalink.

71 Responses to DeKalb school audit shows office cuts not made

  1. tracy white says:

    Any of this part of that Grand Jury finding?

  2. Concernedmom30329 says:

    As I read it, the system didn’t release this. It was leaked to WSB TV, The AJC reports that the system won’t release it.

  3. Concernedmom30329 says:

    By the way, Sutherlin quit today. Wonder if the refusal to release the audit has anything to do with this?

  4. Dawg93 says:

    Not all surprised to hear the results of the audit but it doesn’t make it any less disgusting to hear. Is there some mechanism that would allow the state to temporarily take over this school system’s administration until some real changes can be made at the Palace?

  5. howdy1942 says:

    I just read this article on the AJC Website. This report, if true as reported, is an outrageous insult to the people of Dekalb County. If the School Board ordered the cuts and the Superintendent failed to carry them out for whatever reason, heads should roll. The superintendent at that time, Ramona Tyson, should be reduced to her former level and terminated effective the date of the infraction.

    It is way, way past time for changes to be made in the Administration of the School System. What do the residents of Dekalb County have to do – physically go to the palace, remove furniture, and escort people out? This administration just wasted over $20 million of tax money our people paid and stands to waste another $29 million this year. I can assure you that a charter school would dismiss anyone whose responsibility it was to carry out this order by the School Board.

    Once again, this is another glaring example of why the people of this County hold the School Board and the Administration in such low regard. This has got to change!!

  6. decaturparent says:

    Shameful, but no surprise. We must, as parents (taxpayers with children), demand action. Please forward this to everyone on your email list!

  7. midvaledad says:

    This is the same audit Dr. Atkinson told those of us who stayed after the Tucker Parent Round Table would be posted on the county web site. She said it was public information and would be shared with the public.

    Thanks for the transparency and keeping your word Dr. Atkinson. Can you now understand why you are so unpopular?

  8. midvaledad says:

    How can we make sure Nancy Jester is the next board chairperson? She is the only one who seems to care about the kids.

  9. Is this REALLY a surprise to anyone? Let’s sit back and watch as this continues to unfold- Just wait…It’s going to get deeper and perhaps some serious Shocks (as we anticipate) will be unveiled.

  10. We have been trying to dog this for a year.

    To read some of our posts on the subject click these links (there are documents to download in these posts as well):

    The original budget cut worksheet from Ramona Tyson’s 2010-11 budget cuts:

  11. Bamay says:

    This year’s layoffs should also be investigated – they laid off staff and demoted some and brought in new people. I have never heard of people being laid and and new people are hired. DeKalb needs new administrators. Put the educators back into the schools and get people who are trained in HR to be over HR.

  12. School board hunts for new lawyer after firm resigns

    By Ty Tagami
    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    The DeKalb County school board voted Monday to hunt for a new lawyer after learning that general counsel Sutherland Asbill & Brennan had resigned.

    System spokesman Jeff Dickerson said the firm informed the school system by writing Friday that it was canceling its contract, which Dickerson said was worth $2.5 million to $3 million a year.

    The firm will stay only long enough to finish work it was involved in, Dickerson said. “This new counsel will cover new items as they arise.”

  13. Exactly right, Bamay. We are so frustrated with the way HR does their reporting. They have only produced (mostly incomplete) scanned pdfs that we cannot sort or search. We have had to do our best to recreate our own Excel documents of the information. Now, at the last meeting, Takshia Ward-Smith produced a searchable, computer-generated pdf, and stated that they would do this as well as indicate jobs allocated as RIFs ‘going forward’. To us that is simply NOT good enough. These documents should have been transparent all along. They have only kept such inefficient, opaque records in order to pull the wool over the public’s eyes making it impossible for us to see that they are not doing as the board has mandated. They need to go back and generate a full and complete list of the RIFFED employees showing that they complied with the board’s edict. But they won’t, as they can’t. They still haven’t cut the central office – the more recent ‘cuts’ of ‘300’ Atkinson says she made to the CO have not actually been completed. It’s the samo samo.

  14. We believe that trials and fines, as well as jail time, are warranted for DeKalb County Schools’ senior administrators and their lackeys who so egregiously betrayed the public trust. You know who you are.

    We don’t understand how or why top-level administrators — especially those who came from outside the school system and supposedly had stellar credentials to match their stellar salaries — did not see right away that a form of “misappropriation” of tax dollars was taking place when Palace employee cuts were not made as directed … that giving raises to Palace employees (including some who were supposed to be cut) while cutting classroom teachers and others who had direct student contact was flying in the face of what they were directed to do. Again, these people — Atkinson, Brantley, Howe, March, Ramsey, Tyson and especially Perrone, Ward-Smith and Wilkins — have not behaved professionally or honorably.

    There is simply no excuse for this kind of mismanagement of tax dollars. They knew it was wrong which is why they stonewalled and tried desperately to hide what they had done — or rather, had NOT done.

    Again, we believe that trials and fines, as well as jail time, are warranted for DeKalb County Schools’ senior administrators — Atkinson, Brantley, Howe, March, Ramsey, Tyson and especially Perrone, Ward-Smith and Wilkins –and their lackeys who so egregiously betrayed the public trust. They have behaved in a particularly mean and despicable manner because they went after the weakest, those with no real voice, and have negatively affected children’s lives — maybe for the rest of their lives.

    Some of you who are reading this know “where the bodies are buried” — or you have friends who know “where the bodies are buried.” So, you have a choice to make: You can either be thrown under the bus or you can pull up your big girl/big boy panties and go to the U. S. Attorney or the Georgia Attorney General and be a protected whistleblower, telling what you know. The main page of this blog tells you who to contact and how.

  15. howdy1942 says:

    Can these people in the Administration not count? On the date the School Board issued its order to cut 150 staff positions, the Administration had “x” number of people in Administration. By some date, it should have had “x – 150”. How difficult is that? I’ve seen downsizings in private business and when they say that 150 people must be gone by December 31, 2010, Human Resources can provide you with the names, salaries, departments, and savings on that date. I just can’t believe that this is being done in our School System where so many of the top echelon are “doctors”!

    The School Board should have been very clear about reductions – rather than specifying 150 positions, it should have clearly stated that “y” million dollars needs to go away by a specific date – and authorized a personnel budget for that amount. If that amount was not met, then the School Board should have begun reducing compensation in the Administration – beginning at the top! The Superintendent should have been reduced 20%, the next tier reduced 15%, etc. until the budget had been satisfied.

    Does anyone else get the feeling that the Administration and this School Board cannot count? Why did it take an audit to discover the shortcoming? Why can’t the Superintendent count and insure that the reductions have occurred and inform the Board? Why did the Board not follow up to insure that the reductions had been made? Why? Why? Why?

    We need to clean out this Administration – as in terminate these people who cannot count to 150. And we need a new School Board that also can count to 150, follow up on expectations from the Superintendent, and manage the County’s School System.

    And on the 11:00 p.m. news, Mr. Dickerson either could not or would not answer the reporter’s basic questions and could only asked the report how he got the report. That is just sad.

    This must end! Incompetence, ineptitude, embarrassment!

  16. former dekalb parent says:

    I know the list you provided earlier wth names, postions, etc for RIF’d, terminated or retired employees was not correct as an employee I know was RIF’d was not on there and a retirement was not on the list. The HR department is worthless, but what really qualified person would they hire for that job? They would be found out. In the corporate world, it is being done everyday, and the information is readily available. Disgusting!

  17. Leo says:

    I think we should all be very concerned about the reasons a top-tier law firm would resign from doing work for DCSD given the amount of revenue the work generates for the firm year after year. From the report, it appears as if this was the firm’s decision not the county’s. Law firm only fire clients for a small number of reasons.

  18. B Anderson says:

    As folks begin the finger-pointing, and already lots of people are getting the finger, let’s ask ourselves who is really upset?.
    Is this really getting traction with local print outlets? Are communities, neighborhood organizations and leadership organizations speaking out? Is there any real outrage throughout the county demanding change?
    If the answer is no then we are getting the school system we deserve … or, at least, we are getting a system that meets the needs of a large part of DeKalb County.

  19. fallenstar says:

    Remember this is further complicated by the moving of legit employees from “county office” to “school”. Instructional coaches, speech therapists, maybe some other special ed support people (like psychologists or social wrokers) –I don’t know all of the classifications that were affected. These people didn’t actually work at the physical CO, they worked in the schools, but were counted as CO. So they kept their jobs (most of them important, doing good jobs serving the children) but were on paper changed from CO to schoolhouse. So in the end they can count those jobs in the total when say the CO cut X jobs — but that is just shell game antics.
    When everyone says “The county office needs cuts” they mean the bloat, overpayment, F&F, etc. But since the CO doesn’t want to do that they found a way around it — Just reclasifying jobs is a sneaky way to get a higher number of “cuts”. They are counting on people only looking at the total jobs cut and breathe a sigh of relief and feel good that they are finally doing something about reducing county office. But take a closer look and the shell game is there, and CO jobs are NOT decreased, perhaps even increasing…

  20. Yes, we suspected as much about the accuracy of the lists we published. But, all we had to work with was the pitiful and dishonest information provided by Wilson, Ward-Smith and their HR minions. To add insult to injury the information was provided in PDF form which was not searchable. This was done repeatedly even though we asked for it to be provided in spreadsheet form. We were astounded to realize, that the highly-paid staff in HR was using their computer as a typewriter! They were NOT using an Excel spreadsheet to do calculations. We found error after error after error that would not have happened with Excel. Apparently they refused to use Excel because they don’t know how to use Excel. How astounding is that?

  21. thedeal2 says:

    B Anderson, there are plenty of people outraged. What is happening is that we are stuck in a system, on the local and state and federal level, that does not provide for correction without legislative action. It takes years and years to build support for the type of legislative action we need to clear out our school system administration and board. Our only temporary hope is that SACS will reduce our accreditation to the point where the governor can take action. However, that is not without its consequences. For one, our governor isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, so there’s no guarantee his “fix” would help. For years after losing accreditation, DeKalb will lose businesses, new families, and existing families will move away, regardless of how quickly it is restored. If you have any ideas, put them out there. I’m pretty sure most of the people on this blog, including the moderators, have researched every possible option, and, the truth is, there isn’t one clean way out of this.

  22. Yes, we have been saying to anyone who would listen that this whole “employee cuts” business was a giant shell game and a boondoggle. Take a look at the continued proliferation of job titles as shown on the DeKalb County Schools organization chart. Through an Open Records Request, DSW asked for a DCSS org chart with names. What DCSS sent to us was an org chart without names and a separate roster of allegedly Palace employees. It took awhile, but we matched up as many employees and job titles with boxes on the org chart as we could. What we found was that DCSS either had no idea who was working for them and where they were working or they were hiding as much information as they thought they could get away with. Take a look at all of this in the DSW archives.

  23. Frankly, DeKalb School Watch doesn’t understand the lack of outrage, either. The last part of your last sentence says it all: “we are getting a system that meets the needs of a large part of DeKalb County.” That “large part of DeKalb County” is made up of people who elected Sarah Copelin-Woods (ill-informed and unprepared for any board meeting), Jay Cunningham (convicted felon), and Gene Walker (several sexual harassment cases settled with tax dollars, not to mention highly questionable campaign contributions). In turn, these board members selected a superintendent with multiple personal bankruptcies to oversee a billion $$$ budget.

    A huge school system like DeKalb County School System must be divided into at least 3 independent school systems (North DeKalb, Southwest DeKalb and Southeast DeKalb — so chosen because of DeKalb County’s pear shape). There is NO racist intent, no economic or cultural separation. The reality is that banks can no longer redline; by law, sales and rentals cannot be race-based. North DeKalb, for example, is very diverse with a wide socio-economic range of residents and plenty of housing to choose from — sales and rentals — in all price ranges. If we are going to keep DeKalb County growing economically, we must be allowed to have smaller school systems that can be competitive with Decatur City Schools.

  24. dsw2contributor says:

    From the AJC: “System spokesman Jeff Dickerson said the firm informed the school system by writing Friday that it was canceling its contract, which Dickerson said was worth $2.5 million to $3 million a year.”

    No, Jeff, a contract is only worth the amount of money that the firm is able to collect from its client. Sutherland Asbill & Brennan are not idiots – they know that when their client (DCS) is not able to pay its invoices, it is time to fire that client.

  25. Ok, so SACS thinks the board is the problem. Well that may be true, but how can SACS say with a straight face that the Board is interfering with day to day operations. At this point, the board needs to interfere. I want answers to the qestions the board asks publicly given at the next board meeting. There is too many, we’ll have to get back to you’s happening and the board just shrugs it off. The board is a problem for not holding TYSON accountable here. She should go, NOW!


  26. Just how fast do you think it will take those 12 lawyers in DCSS to pen a strongly worded letter to KPMG?

  27. thedeal2 says:

    Funny that we haven’t heard one word from SACS. Maybe they write their report, then they see DCSD has done something else stupid, then they revise their report, then they see DCSD has done something ELSE stupid, they revise the report to reflect that, and on and on and the report never gets done because the sh&t never ends?

  28. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    What are the sentencing and punishment provisions for breaking OCGA code as it relates to the Super following the laws and policy of the board? I don’t understand how what the DCSD administration has done can land them in jail.

    O.C.G.A. § 20-2-109
    It shall be the local school superintendent’s duty to enforce all regulations and rules of the State School Superintendent and of the local board according to the laws of the state and the rules and regulations made by the local board that are not in conflict with state laws.

  29. joatlanta says:

    IMHO, you will NEVER see an indictment over any of this mess. EVER. The DA, James, will never indict any of these people. The legal team has been re-elected.

    There needs to be a mass demonstration by the public at every board meeting. And, BTW, why is the AJC not obtaining these reports, current and passed, through the FOIMA on behalf of the people? I understand this on has not been publically released yet, but they should be 1st in line to demand it be made public.

  30. joatlanta says:

    oops, meant “past”

  31. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    I don’t understand. Can anybody tell me what laws have been broken?

  32. howdy1942 says:

    I commend the Dekalb School Watch for its diligence and its efforts to bring some kind of transparency to what is happening in the Dekalb County School System. This is a very sad situation and hurts all of us in Dekalb County – whatever our race, wherever we live in the county, and whatever your political persuasion.

    That report from KMPG will eventually come out for everyone to read. It would be far, far better for the School Board and the Administration to take the lead in releasing it. By not doing so, they are only digging their hole deeper.

    I cannot imagine that SACS will find this situation acceptable and choose not to make changes. Walker, Copelin-Wood, and Cunningham will be re-elected and all of us will pay a price. That is so sad. Why, why do their constituencies do that? I just wish that the Governor would replace this School Board.

    Again, thanks to the Dekalb School Watch for your work and efforts.

  33. @InsideOut: We don’t know if it’s criminal for the super not to follow board policy and directives – but it is criminal to misspend federal funds if that occurred… We are interested in the punishment for not complying with the Open Records Act. The board is saying that the audit does not have to be released due to the fact that it’s accounting privileges. That’s hogwash. Check out the website for the Georgia First Amendment Foundation

    There, they have a powerpoint presentation highlighting the changes to the FOI law. One big change is the amount of the penalties for non-compliance. The fees are $2,500 per incident. Also, broad changes have been made as to what kinds of documents can be requested and from whom.

    To download the PPT, go to and click on the word “here” in the last paragraph. Or just click this link:

  34. Teachingmom says:

    I hope the real numbers come out. Teachers and staff in the school house are actually doing the work of the system, ie TEACHING STUDENTS, and having to make do with with bare bones support and large class sizes due to the “necessary cuts.” Meanwhile, palace folks got “fake riffed” and rehired more than we may ever know… Secretaries making more than teachers are probably all still there, the whole mess just irks me because the real victims are the kids.

  35. The KPMG Audit Draft is now posted on the DeKalb County Schools website. Your thoughts?

  36. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    As everyone knows, who know me, may I now ask………Can Ms. Tyson be shown the door immediately! This is either criminal, negligent or down right incompetence…maybe all the above. I would love to hear HER excuse for this one…..

  37. Tim McGaughey says:

    The draft KPMG report sheds great light on the failures of Ms Tyson and others to comply with Board budget requirements, particularly regarding Central Office salary expenses. The report concludes that in May, 2010 the Board ordered a reduction in force of 150 Central Office personnel, for $11,500,000 in annual savings. However, the best that KPMG can find is that only 109 such employees were coded by HR as being subject to a reduction in force. Of those, 56 were moved to a different position. KPMG concludes that actual Central Office salary expenses exceeded the budgeted amount by $20,000,000 in FY 10 and $29,200,000 in FY 11. That totals almost $50,000,000 in unapproved expenses. What is worse, if anything can be worse, is that the Finance Department appears not to have known the true numbers, because it recorded 148 positions being terminated.

    Two conclusions are clear: (I) records are very poorly kept, leading to enormous confusion within different departments of the Central Office; and (II) Administrators blatantly refused to implement Board policy. The results are the tax increases, bond rating cuts, emergency teacher layoffs and salary cuts of this year, and the SACS investigation.

    The responsible leaders of DeKalb, need to act to punish the wrong doers. The attitude of protecting bad actors, and re-electing politicians who look the other way at such failures must cease. DeKalb’s children, particularly it’s poorest children, need substantially better School leadership to receive a decent education.

    Tim McGaughey

  38. Name One says:

    Ron Ramsey. How is he still employed by DCSS? All of the tens of millions on legal bills spent by DCSS over the past decade are millions that should have been spent on the school house. This area is specifically Ramsey’s responsibility. His failure is remarkable. But he still is sticking around. And he’s a state senator with a number of family businesses too.

    Here he is again, as a state senator on a “little-known legislative committee that oversees the state authority”, and the commitee sure loves to receive as many free tickets as possible from the Georgia World Congress Center, Arthur Blank, etc.

    The Georgia World Congress Center has given state lawmakers thousands of dollars in tickets to enjoy football games, Wrestlemania and monster truck races from a luxury box, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of lobbying records shows.

    Some of the recipients sit on a little-known legislative committee charged with overseeing that state authority, which is poised to ask legislators to boost its borrowing limit as part of a deal to build a $1 billion retractable-roof stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.

    The panel’s current members have received more than $9,000 worth of gifts since 2010, when key legislation was passed that set the stage for the proposed stadium. Some said they were concerned about accepting gifts as negotiations over a new stadium heated up. Others were unapologetic.

    The legislative panel has attracted little attention but nice perks. Officials say the 12 members of the Georgia World Congress Center Legislative Overview Committee get first dibs on the coveted luxury box seats at the Georgia Dome.

    Georgia World Congress Center Legislative Overview Committee members

    Sen. Ronnie Chance, R-Tyrone
    Sen. Judson Hill, R-Marietta
    Sen. Bill Hamrick (who has since left the state senate), R-Carrollton
    Sen. Ronald Ramsey, D-Decatur
    Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock
    Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth

    Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton
    Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta
    Rep. Billy Mitchell, D-Stone Mountain
    Rep. Butch Parrish, R-Swainsboro
    Rep. Jimmy Pruett, R-Eastman
    Rep. Donna Sheldon, R-Dacula

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