Were 300 jobs really eliminated from the central office?

Or were they simply reshuffled to other departments resulting in little to no savings to our budget?

Dr. Atkinson is quoted as stating to many people that 303 jobs were eliminated from the central office. The operative words are “central office” (i.e., the Palace). We have received information that, among other things, central office staff were shuffled into schools, who had to provide an office, but these repositioned central office staff members did not provide services to the schools where they were relocated. So, yes, it may have been possible to move 303 people out of the central office building (the Palace), but most, if not all, of them did not lose their jobs. In fact, we have found instances where some were “re-hired” at a higher salary.

There was a great deal of pressure to reduce the top-heavy school system. Atkinson responded, with claims that she eliminated exactly the number recommended by the salary review audit. However, many of those ‘reductions in force’ (RIFs) were simply re-coded or moved to other jobs or departments.  In addition, Atkinson replaced nearly all of the senior staff she had eliminated and after eliminating the entire PR department, has been paying consultants to do the work.

Below is a recent quote from the Patch in response to the December SACS report:
“Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson’s staff responded by saying she has cooperated with SACS investigators and more than 300 central office jobs have been eliminated. ‘We not only had to deal with our budget and a deficit, we worked hard to address whatever concerns were brought,’ said Atkinson, through her staff.”

DeKalb School Watch (DSW) has filed several Open Records Requests on the subject of 303 jobs that were supposedly eliminated, but Atkinson has yet to provide what surely must be available, if indeed, 303 people were “reduced in force” (RIF’d): a list of those 303 employees and their position titles. The monthly human resources reports are so antiquated, unorganized and poorly done that it has been nearly impossible for us to identify the 303 RIF’d employees by simply examining the monthly HR reports to the Board. We repeatedly asked for the original spreadsheets, but they were never provided.

We did the best we could and some of the documents we dug up can be found at these links:

ORR 8 termed since 091511-but-replaced

ORR-9-hired since 091511-by-salary

This spreadsheet is more in-depth on the restructuring. See if you can follow it:
Copy of Restructuring Presentation- Final.-Highlights1 2

Dr. Atkinson continues to insist that she cut 300 jobs from the Central Office, however, October’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.

Basically, we found that yes, 303 jobs may have been eliminated from what was called the Central Office. However, of those 303, over 90 were immediately rehired into different jobs and many more were rehired in what could essentially be the same job with a new title or replaced with a contracted employee who receives a 1099 and is not reported on the state salary schedule. The result of this reshuffling of highly compensated personnel has not been much of a savings — and certainly nowhere near the savings touted by Dr. Atkinson. It all appears to be yet another shell game, overlaid with DeKalb County Schools’ patented “smoke and mirrors.” In the end, we expect the actual spending to far outpace the board approved budget once again.

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73 Responses to Were 300 jobs really eliminated from the central office?

  1. I think Ray and Assoc is the search firm we used to find Atkinson.

  2. dekalbite2 says:

    I’m amazed that DeKalb Schools could spend $860,000 in Federal funds alone for employee travel in 2011 – 2012 school year while packing classes with 35+ students, cutting the teachers’ salaries and TSA contributions, all the while experiencing the lowest achievement scores in metro Atlanta. One travel expenditure vendor is listed as DeKalb County Board of Education for $361,431. Another travel expenditure vendor is Capitol Group tours for $36,742. It seems that teachers’ salaries and students’ class sizes are “discretionary” expenditures but travel is not.

  3. dekalbite2 says:

    DCSS used federal funding pay BRUSTEIN & MANASEVIT $6,465 DUES AND FEES

    Is this a law firm because this is not listed as legal fees?

  4. Concernedmom30329 says:

    I bet that was for registration fees, that law firm does conferences, etc.

  5. dekalbite2 says:

    Looking at the State and Other expenditures shows almost $418,000 spent for travel out of State and Local funds. Add this with the $860,000 for travel spent from Federal funding and this equals $1,278,000 DCSS spent for travel in the school year 2011 – 2012. There is something very wrong with this when students are packed into classrooms like sardines.

  6. dekalbite2 says:

    Comparing DCSS Travel expenditures with Gwinnett which have over 50% more students and infinitely greater student achievement shows that their superintendent and BOE spent less than $140,000 (Federal and State and Local dollars) for Travel in school year 2011 – 2012. Contrast this to DCSS spending $1,278,000 for Travel. Why are Travel expenses so out of line with other school systems? Why are DCSS Cost Centers not compared with other school systems? If our Cost Centers are out of line, why are they not corrected?

  7. no name says:

    This one is interesting:

    WILLIAMS SCOTSMAN INC $525,595.70 (rental of trailers)

    There are DCS schools where trailers have been sitting empty, unused, all year long.

  8. Concernedmom30329 says:

    Do we think this is for background checks?

  9. Interesting. The expense for Dickerson Communications for FY 2012 is $48,000. There are also two entries for cost for the staff communications specialist Walter Woods for 2011:
    Details Woods, Walter Chief Communications Officer $159,886 2011-03-30
    Details Woods, Walter Chief Communication Officer $116,994 2011-09-15

    Then there are his Fired Details:

    Job Title: Chief Communication Officer
    372 Woods, Walter Walter Woods Chief Communication Officer 116994.0000 6/29/2012

    Also, during this time, the school system also used the services of a PR firm (anyone remember which?)

    One of the big ‘cuts’ Atkinson touts is the entire PR department. Obviously, they were replaced with (at least) these two. So, again, where’s the savings?

  10. The restructuring data states CO staffing was reduced from 1073 to 772. Below is the before and after staffing data:

    2011-2012 DATA
    Superintendent $772,479 (Cost) 16.00 (people)
    Communications $545,699 7.00
    Strategic Mgt $328,227 4.00
    Finance $2,156,927 26.25
    Human Resource $2,761,375 48.00
    Information Technology $10,649,697 192.00
    Legal Affairs $1,227,865 20.00
    Curriculum & Instr. Prof. Learn $3,689,247 51.80
    Curriculum Special Programs $1,162,339 23.70
    Curriculum & Instr. Diverse Learn $2,665,934 48.00
    Leadership $5,030,279 69.00
    Buisness Operations $1,745,099 41.00
    Facilities Management $8,699,222 194.00
    School Nutrition $454,404 11.00
    Transportation $4,667,603 92.00

    General Fund Salaries $46,556,396 841.75
    Benefit Cost $13,966,919
    TOTAL: $60,523,315


    2012-2013 DATA
    Superintendent $991,314 (Cost) 19.00 (People)
    Communications $- 0.00
    Strategic Mgt $242,003 3.00
    Finance $1,753,955 30.25
    Human Resource $2,274,580 40.00
    Information Technology $9,102,877 161.00
    Legal Affairs $1,270,593.99 19.00
    Curriculum & Instr. Prof. Learn $3,135,501 41.00
    Curriculum Special Programs $1,082,076 17.00
    Curriculum & Instr. Diverse Learn $3,016,658 44.00
    Leadership $4,882,972 69.00
    Buisness Operations $2,048,875 51.15
    Facilities Management $6,146,923 127.90
    School Nutrition $- 0.00
    Transportation $3,348,511 67.00

    General Fund Salaries $39,296,838 689.30
    Benefit Cost $11,682,388
    TOTAL: $50,979,226

    General Funding Savings $7,259,558
    Benefit Savings $2,284,531
    Additional Savings General Fund – Intelage Teacher Contracts $5,000,000
    (Sub total) $14,544,089

    Other Funding Savings $8,730,482
    Benefit Savings $2,619,523
    (Sub total) $11,350,005

    Total Salary & Benefits Savings $25,894,094

    QUESTION: If we never get an in-depth forensic audit, and we have no way of knowing how many of these people have been replaced by a new but similar job title or a contracted employee, then how can we know if these savings are being kept? Do we have to once again wait until the final actual spending is posted against the board approved budget? Considering that we have no reserves, this is quite dangerous.

  11. Concernedmom30329 says:

    How can school nutrition be zero? That makes zero (pun intended)

  12. Mary says:

    The link for the “hired by salary” list is grossly inaccurate. It lists paraprofessionals that were RIF’d from my school as making $104,000+!! That is NOT accurate!

  13. Yes, that is whacky. The reports that the system runs are strange at times. Most of those people were low level salaries – under $20,000. We ignored the salaries and looked at the jobs. A little over 2200 people were ‘termed’ since Sept 2011. 843 people were hired since Sept, 2011. This equates to a net loss of about 1350+ jobs. We’re not sure if more have been rehired, or how many are being replaced with contracted employees. We are simply concerned that the budget cut number the administration is using is for the full 2200 – and not taking into account the over 800 newly hired (and thus a cost to the budget). There is no balance sheet tracking the cuts and spending so we have no sure way of knowing. And history tells us…

  14. another comment says:

    Here is a big difference between Fulton County. In Fulton County, the County pays absolutly zero for sports. That includes everything, but the minimul teacher supplements of the actual teacher coaches. Community coaches must be paid out of Atletic Association funds. This also includes the costs for refs, the costs for the different divisions, uniforms everything. It all must be paid in Fulton County at all levels by the PTA- Athletic Foundations. There is no free ride for those that claim they are too poor or entitled to a free education. They are not entitled to fee afterschool or Varsity Athletics. In Fulton every student must pay $60 per Sport they intend to play in High School plus an additional amount based on the cost of the sport ( so Football might be $240 and Cheerleading might be $160, golf could be $300 because they have a small team.). Even the line jumpers from down in at West lake that come North and those that come over from Dunwoody must pay to play. You are not allowed to register and pick up your class schedule until you get you pay your Athletic fees.

    Also in both Cobb and Fulton they no longer pay for the AP tests. My daughter was in one class in Cobb that only 3 kids in the class actually took the exam once they stopped paying for the AP test.

  15. another comment says:

    Why is Dekalb paying for so many memberships? Why are they paying all these Universities a few hundred dollars? Don’t the Universities come recruiting for free or is Dekalb so bad, they have to pay their expenses to come? Why are they making what looks like donations to churches and religious organizatiions. This looks like a conflict of interest in Seperation of Church and State.

    How many employees are putting in for millage expenses. Why would teachers be putting in for so much millage? Who is reviewing all of this, or have some just figured it is a good way to get back some of the money they took away from us.

    There are sure alot of payouts to people leaving the system for unused leave, or are these parents who have gotten the District to pay for Private School are these the voucher payments for kids with IEPs. I see one lucky parent got the full tution to the George Walton Academy, another got about $8Kto a school I never heard of in Cobb. Then there are a whole bunch of payments to Mr. and Mrs. ______ then alot to individual females. This listing leaves alot out by not telling what the payment is for.

    This spread sheet clearly shows that Dekalb is picking up nothing or paying more for being a large district. They are going out and buying retail at malls. Alot of the purchases are really questionable. $750 in Car washes off of Jimmy Carter Blvd.

  16. another comment says:

    Is Dekalb making any effort to get reimbursed from Medicaid, Peachcare, Parents Health Insurance for Speech, Occupational or Physical Therapy. The Speech, OT, and PT should be able to cover a good part of their income by seeking reimbursement from Medicaid, Peachcare and Private Insurance. My Private insurance paid for 50 visits per year. Cobb won’t even pay for these services for speech until your child is 8. They will fight you so you cave in and use your private insurance. They go after Medicaid and Peachcare,reimbursement. I was told this by the Speech Therapist that treated my child at Childrens. Children’s outpatient has finally fought BC/BS to get their out patient services covered with a $25 co pay again, after BC/BS would only cover with a Hospital copay of $150 per session for 3 years. Fulton County seeks reimbursement for these services from at least Medicaid and Peachcare, so they offer at a younger age.

  17. @another comment and others: Racially inflammatory comments have been removed. Refrain from inserting them into your comments. We really do try to keep our discussions intelligent and informative. Please participate with respect.

  18. @embarrassed: we deleted that portion of the comment as well as your reference to it. thanks for helping us monitor the blog.

  19. Tax waste says:

    The people at the Sam Moss Service Center where reclassified as Central Office Personal and thats where they made the cuts.

    Why else would they be classified as Central Office.

  20. I think you are exactly correct, tax waste.

    The chart I posted earlier [10:09 PM] shows the following reduction in facilities management –

    Facilities Management $8,699,222 — 194.00 employees

    Facilities Management $6,146,923 — 127.90 employees

  21. Interesting also that school nutrition was reduced to zero (saving almost a half-million) Can this be real?
    Communications was reduced to zero – but we know they have been replaced with contracted employees/consultants.
    Transportation and IT both were reduced about the same amount, but these were not the high-paying jobs. (Bus monitors, media clerks, in-school IT support…)
    Finance and HR were also reduced a bit. The problems in those departments isn’t numbers, it’s competence.

    But –

    Business operations increased.
    The superintendent’s budget increased.
    Curriculum & Instr. Diverse Learning increased.

    Can these departments hold to these budgets? We’re seriously concerned that we won’t be able to hold the budget after seeing the list showing the outside purchases/contracted employees/consultants, supplies, etc. Last year these outside costs totaled a BILLION dollars.

  22. info says:

    I think Jim Huge and Associates were the ones conducting the super search. They were paid $45,000. And what would account for the county’s website publishing $79,000 for the Karaton audit but this list indicating that we paid more than $99,000?

    Also notice that Wellsys Corp. received $104,500. This is the corporation run from the same residential address in Stone Mountain w/ the same co-founders of Wellstone Consulting LLC, a company that was listed on the last board meeting’s agenda.

    We teachers may not be making any money, but the lawyers, consultants, and tutoring outfits are.

  23. No, it was Ray and Associates — Not sure what Jim Huge helped search for – maybe the CFO?

    Ray and Associates – Did they really do the job we paid for?


    Opinions mixed for superintendent finalist

    “I have to say that if we look at the record the fact is, academically we are not as high as we were when she got here,” Smith said. “When she got here in 2007 we were ranked by the state as ‘Continuous Improvement’ and last year we fell to ‘Academic Watch’. Previously we had made six of the benchmarks lined out by the Ohio Department of Education and this past year we only made one.”

    However, according to the information provided by Atkinson in her application to search firm Ray and Associates, she listed a host of achievements.

  24. TryingtoFlee says:

    Well I know that at my school I have seen 2 extra mailboxes appear this year with the owners appearing 1 day during the first week of school and that’s about it. I forgot the ‘title’ they were given and supposed reason they were added to our staff, but I know they are part of that 300 from central office. I and others at my school think it sad that we lost our Media Center clerk, paras, and CTSS only to gain 2 new SFA coordinators and ghost staff members and we wonder how system can afford those added position here and elsewhere if we were so broke considering the salary of a media clerk, a CTSS and perhaps a para or two would probably equal the salary of all four of those people..

  25. concerned citizen says:

    The school nutrition salaries were probably coded to Central Office in error and moved to the Food Service fund where they belong.

  26. You are exactly right, concerned citizen. If you download the termedsince091511-but-replaced Excel file, you will see that we’ve highlighted in yellow those people or jobs we could find as hired (or rehired) after the RIFs. The list of food service hires looks like those who lost their jobs [or left their jobs?] were almost all replaced by new people.

    As far as we were able to tell, the total for the new hires in food service is $1,272,415.81. So that would need to be added back into these so-called CO cuts/budget savings Atkinson is touting. Again, our worry is that there are plenty more areas where this is happening.

    For example, the list shows 25 principals ‘termed’. We could find 6 that were rehired, and certainly others were replaced. Although Atkinson probably isn’t claiming them as CO savings, they still show as reductions and we’re not sure they’re no longer counted as budget reductions after replaced.

    And – the short list of CO highly-compensated staff hired by Atkinson that we can find so far totals $1,366,944.16

    Sears-Ellis, Venae Sheri Assistant to Superintendent $111,540.73
    Bell, Michael James Auditor, Senior Compliance $105,713.90
    Price, Fonda L Director, Staff Services $111,540.73
    High School $101,765.60
    Woods, Walter Chief Communication Officer $116,994.00 [we know Woods has been replaced now]
    Taylor, Ralph W. Associate Supt. Support Serv. $121,726.80
    Perrone, Michael J Chief Financial Officer $159,885.60
    March, Kendra Dorrette Deputy Supt, Lead/Oper/Support $159,885.60
    Wilkins, Stephen M Chief Operations Officer $159,885.60
    Brantley, Gary L Chief Information Officer $159,885.60
    Howe, Kathleen S Deputy Supt, Teach & Learning $159,885.60

  27. concerned citizen says:

    With all the accounting errors there is no telling what the financial situation really is. It seems like the State auditors would have caught a million dollar mistake like that.

  28. dekalbmom says:

    I think it is now obvious to all that Atkinson did not “eliminate” 300 central office positions. Her use of the word “eliminate” implied that the FTEs were removed from the county payroll. All she did was transfer the positions to another account on the general ledger and physically move some of these folks to office space in a school.

    However, I don’t know why SACS did not call her out for this clear misrepresentation. She misrepresented the factual/financial situation to her Board and to SACS. SACS has repeatedly expressed concern that this school system is teetering on the brink of insolvency. These kinds of games contribute to that impending disaster.

  29. concerned citizen says:

    I wonder if SACS will be at the hearing with the full list of violations that were “too numerous” to include in their report.

  30. jd says:

    Does anyone even know how close the school system may be to running out of money? Surely Elgart did not raise the possibility of insolvency just to make small talk.

  31. @dekalbmom and others: You can read about the history of diminishing teachers and increasing or stabilized administrators at the old blog here:

  32. Concernedmom30329 says:

    I have wondered that as well. However, local governments, including DCSS, can borrow on anticipation of future tax revenues. Not ideal, and of course, it comes with cost, but I find it hard to believe that we could simply run out of money for payroll.
    That said, we must remember the lawsuit that is making its way through the courts about teacher retirement. At every turn, so far, DeKalb has lost. When it gets to trial, there is chance that DCSS could lose and owe about 50 million to teachers. Gene Walker has said that it won’t matter if DCSS loses because the system wont’ have the money and won’t have to pay. Don’t think it works that way.

  33. MadTeacherinDEkalb says:

    Dekalb cut several media specialist also. I never see this on the list. They cut the positions then posted new media positons to external applicants instead of hiring back the RIF media specialist. That was really a dirty move. Just hire back the RIF people

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