Serious Concerns About Tonight’s Agenda

About the agenda for the March 20, 2013 (tonight) board meeting – we have some serious concerns. Looking at the reports, nothing much seems to have changed.  We are shocked that Michael Thurmond is not doing his job as superintendent and managing his direct reports (Perrone, Wilkins, Ward-Smith).  For example:

G1. Approval of Minutes
Please explain how a substantially new board can legally approve minutes of meetings most did not attend.  Will approval of the minutes rely upon the self-serving “memories” of Orson, McMahan and Johnson?

G2. Monthly Financial Report
We have asked repeatedly to have the financial reports published in Excel spreadsheet form. This will make them easier to understand and dissect. More transparent. Our requests have been ignored.

G3. Human Resources Report
We don’t like being lied to. We want to see the names and positions of those 600 employees that Superintendent Thurmond says he dismissed. And, we want to know that those positions have been permanently eliminated.

For months we have been told that the bloated and redundant non-teaching staff at the Palace, as well as the ineffective, incompetent and overpaid friends-and-family have been cut. Not true. And none of what we have been told has ever been reflected in the HR reports.

Thurmond and Ward-Smith really should get together and get their stories straight before making them public.

Further, because we have found math errors, we have asked for the HR reports to be prepared in Excel and made available in Excel. This also will make them easier to understand and dissect. More transparent. Our requests have been ignored.

G4. SPLOST IV Acquisition of Support Service Vehicles
Whether using SPLOST monies or General Fund monies, DCSS has no business buying $1.6 million for 167 new vehicles when all of that money could and should be put to use in building and furnishing facilities to educate our children.

DCSS has no business providing new cars for the Regional Superintendents. They can use their own personal vehicles.  No matter how these cars are purchased, DCSS then becomes responsible for the costs of licensing, insuring, gas and maintenance. Regional superintendents can record and turn in their mileage to be reimbursed. In fact, because no other cars are being traded in, we do not believe regional superintendents previously were provided cars.  If they were, are those cars being passed on to others to use — or being sold off the books?

DCSS has no business providing new school police vehicles. It’s not like they use those cars for essential and/or dangerous police work; they drive them to-and-from work. This is something we have long opposed.  Ostensibly they have these cars so they can rush to the schools if there is a crime or other problem during non-operational hours.  We have had many serious thefts and the DCSS “police force” has never been around to prevent any theft.  Nor have they ever solved any theft or identified and arrested the culprits.

DCSS has no business providing new vehicles for SPLOST-funded work. We have hired well-paid contractors and presumably they furnish their employees with the necessary vehicles and other equipment.

Plus, we are uninterested in “The acquisition of these vehicles will improve operational readiness, driver safety and fuel efficiency.” That’s marketing talk. Prove it with documentation.

Many taxpayers drive cars and trucks as old or older than many of those DCSS wants to replace.  They know that being on the verge of bankruptcy is not the appropriate time to buy a new vehicle.  “Belt-tightening” is called for.  SPLOST or General Fund — it is all tax dollars.  Money is tight – and what we have must go directly to educating children.

G5. Approval of Resolution to Phase Out Twelve Instructional Facilities
• “Georgia state law requires that a replacement school must first be closed before a new one can be built.”

Cite the specific law.

• “This requested action for the Board to approve the resolution to phase out the twelve facilities does not impact the SPLOST IV project list voted upon by the Board in June 2011 and approved in a referendum by the voters in November 2011.”

Vote to approve capital improvements for facilities that are scheduled to be torn down? What kind of reasoning is that?

• “There is no immediate financial impact for this Fiscal Year, but staff anticipates an increase in the amount of capital entitlement dollars earned by the State of Georgia Capital Outlay Program during this five year period.”

No immediate financial impact? When will there be an impact?

An increase in capital entitlement dollars? Really? Every year the Georgia General Assembly has cut funding to education in one way or another. Why should capital entitlement be different?

Show us the calculations and the documentation – not guesswork – on which this statement is based.

• “It is also anticipated a reduction in the administrative operating costs at many of the schools listed here.”

There is NO history of DCSS ever reducing administrative operating costs.

Show us the calculations and the documentation – not guesswork – on which this statement is based.

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This entry was posted in Board of Education Meetings, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, DeKalb County, Georgia, Fraud & Corruption, Friends-and-Family, Jim McMahan, Michael Thurmond, School Construction, SPLOST IV, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Serious Concerns About Tonight’s Agenda

  1. concerned citizen says:

    Thank you; I think I said most of this yesterday, but there were no comments. Can you please pull up my remarks about this absurd agenda?

  2. dsw2contributor says:

    Monthly Financial Report: As usual for DCS, things are not how they appear due to backroom shenanigans. For the real story, head over to your local school and ask the principal and/or school bookkeeper how *their* school budget is looking.

    At the beginning of the year, each school receives a purchase-card account. The amount of money put into that account is determined by the school’s enrollment – the more students the school has, the more money budgeted for the school. The account is then used to buy supplies for that individual school — when a school runs low on paper or other needed supplies, the bookkeeper uses the purchase card to pay for more.

    A few weeks ago, central office froze the school purchase card accounts and took back all the unspent money from the accounts. In other words, they robbed from the local schools to make the central office’s books look better.

    Now, if a school runs out of paper or other needed supply, the Principal has to personally call Ms. March and subject themselves to her intimidation and bullying while they beg her for badly needed supplies.

  3. @ concerned citizen

    We did a search and we don’t find anything from you yesterday (3/19) or the day before (3/18) that makes any specific comments about tonight’s BOE agenda. If you can find them, please feel free to repost them on this thread if you’d like.

  4. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    PDS-24 : Tonight’s board meeting is not on the schedule
    http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/pds-tv24

    6:00 PM: Board of Education Work Session & Meeting (11 Feb 2013)

  5. This came in to DSW e-mail close to noon. Sorry for the delay — we are just now seeing it.

    Would anyone be available for an interview regarding tonight’s meeting with the new school board? I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks! I can be reached at 404-518-7686.

    Renee Starzyk
    Reporter
    CBS Atlanta & Peachtree TV
    425 14TH Street NW, Atlanta GA, 30318
    Direct: 404-327-3124
    Cell: 404-217-9407
    renee.starzyk@cbsatlanta.com

  6. The DeKalb GOP is hosting their monthly 4th Saturday Breakfast on Saturday, March 23, 2013, 8:30 AM – 10 AM at Wright’s Gourmet in Dunwoody. Featured speakers include State Representative Tom Taylor* (R-Dunwoody, District 79) and DBOE appointee John Coleman, as well as Virginia Galloway of Americans for Prosperity and Dr. Mary Grabar. The cost is $10 and that includes breakfast.

    We would love to get notes from the meeting — or a complete write-up — from anyone who is going. We can publish it with or without your name — your choice. Send to our e-mail: dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com

    *Rep Taylor submitted HR 486 that, when passed, will enable Dunwoody and Chamblee-Brookhaven to establish their own city-based school systems, thereby enabling those cities (and others who choose to take advantage of it) to sidestep the fraud, waste, bullying and corruption that defines DeKalb County School System.

  7. curious says:

    DIO,

    In my experience, the PDS-24 listing is often inaccurate, at least as far as live streaming of board meetings goes. I wouldn’t depend on it and instead would check the channel at 6 regardless of what the schedule says should be playing then.

  8. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    Curious, Errors are the norm, PDS-24 is run by none other than Philandrea Guilroy, she is the daughter of a former BOE Chair, Frances Edwards. Ms. Guilroy is paid $125,000 plus benefits to run the cable access channel, only seen in DeKalb. The average program director at a local commercial TV station here in Atlanta is paid much less than that. Ms. Guilroy’s husband also works for DCSS at $125,000 plus benefits, he works in transportation. But Frances Edwards family working for DCSS does not end there, there are others. But it is the culture of the Palace, will Mr Thurmond change it, does he want to change it….As long as he has Tyson at his side, things will not change, unless the new BOE holds Thurmond accountable.

  9. Curious says:

    AMG, I think Ms. Guillory has been moved to another job. I tried to find her email on first class and, if I remember correctly, she’s now at a parent center or some such. Whether she still has her outrageous $110,000+ salary is a whole other question.

  10. Barbara says:

    This is the first meeting of this new board. They must be held to task from the beginning. All the questions stated in this article need to have answers and answered swiftly,

  11. I disagree that Thurmond said he personally fired anyone. I was at the Dunwoody meeting. He said that he heard that supposedly there were something like 600 people who were let go from the central office just before he got there. Hope that helps put at least one concern to rest. I don’t think he’s going to keep a bloated administration. I think he has to first present his plan for the operations of the district to the board for approval before he gets down to determining how many people it takes to run things his way. Be patient, if possible, he is really very accomplished and inspirational in terms of motivating people who work under him as well as getting people to take accountability for their own actions. We are just concerned that he does not understand how deeply the old way of doing things is entrenched here. Orson and McMahan don’t even understand that other areas of the county don’t have anything equivalent to the Emory-Lavista Parent Council.

  12. howdy1942 says:

    I watched the board meeting and am encouraged that it was a refreshing change from the past. They did vote 9 – 0 to remove the Dekalb School Board as a plaintiff in its case against the State and the vote also included termination of the Board’s agreement with Bob Wilson’s firm. I interpret that to mean that there is no more funding for Eugene Walker to pursue his case before the Georgia Supreme Court – none after 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 21, 2013. If that statement is incorrect, I would appreciate anyone posting your understanding.

    There is a hiring freeze for the remainder of this year and all teachers added will be temporary. Dr. Howe explained this as more of a timing issue that has to do with the administration of CRCT tests. Again, I welcome your comments as to other thoughts on this.

    DSW2 – I am also wondering about the $1.7 million purchase of new vehicles. I can understand maintenance vehicles, etc. But I question the need to purchase, maintain, and buy gas for other positions such as that of Deputy Superintendent. Why can’t these people drive their own vehicles and be reimbursed for mileage from the School System? Doctors, nurses, teachers, principals, and private industry employees drive their own vehicles to and from work and also drive them for official purposes for which they are reimbursed mileage. Those employees buy their own gas and maintain their own cars. How many other people that work for the school system are provided vehicles by the school system? We need more answers on this. There was a question on whether SPLOST funds used for these purchases would take any funds out of the classroom. The answer was no, followed by the statement that the voters authorized SPLOST funds for this purpose. When do we get to vote again on SPLOST?

    I was struck by the sheer volume of surplus properties owned by the school system. These systems, including the old palace on North Decatur Road and a Transition School on Memorial Drive, will be sold at no less than the appraised value. I noted that the Dunwoody High School parking lot will be repaved at a cost of $143,000 and the paving company will provide a one year warranty. I just had my parents’ driveway paved and received a five year warranty.

    On a very positive note, the subject of students, teachers, and classrooms was discussed – I think for the first time this year. There was a lot of discussion on the SFA program that Dr. Atkinson apparently “forced” on the system. Dr. Howe stated that programs such as this one required an 80% buy-in on the part of teachers and principals but that this did not occur for SFA. Yes, that was apparently Dr. Atkinson, but the board had to approve the funding.

    Just from tonight’s meeting, I can see that there has been a lot of disagreement on many issues. Discontent seems to be bubbling up. There also seems to have been little, if any, opportunity for teachers, principals, and other subordinates to comment or provide any input to the administrators (the palace). Also, it appears that the school board took deliberate action to minimize and disregard any such input. Those actually performing the functions were deliberately cutoff by the board from the decision making process regarding those functions. Also apparently cutoff were school organizations including those involving the community. The superintendent, the school board, and the higher echelon ran things “top-down” – with no feedback or suggestions welcome. That isn’t just dysfunction – that is blatant stupidity! As the sunshine is focused on the way things have been run, it looks like we had a dysfunctional mess – one big mess!

  13. dekalbite2 says:

    @ Curious
    “AMG, I think Ms. Guillory has been moved to another job. I tried to find her email on first class and, if I remember correctly, she’s now at a parent center or some such. Whether she still has her outrageous $110,000+ salary is a whole other question.”

    Yes. She is now a Parent Coordinator. She does not have Teacher certification, nor does she have a Social Worker license. Since her background is strictly in Public Relations, how is she qualified to be a Parent Coordinator counseling parents?

  14. sodekalb teacher says:

    regarding $ for supplies – our school just hired an art teacher (our third this year); the previous teacher took all of the supplies with her. I gave him a ream of paper and some pencils. He has no supplies and when he asked our administration about getting what he needs to have students do art, he was told he would have to buy those things himself. nice.

  15. The Parent Council input on principal selection was brought up last night. The community has 30 days to provide input before the board votes. They did not really explain how you are supposed to provide your input, so I’m guessing it’s still the standard email your board rep. or the entire board even though I thought SACS wanted the system to stop that level of interaction between the public and the school board. Is this really the official chain of command they were telling us we should be following?? I smell a SACS violation here, does anyone else??

    Anyway, Marshall Orson wants to give the Parent Councils the right to provide input and feedback on the selection of the principal whenever a new one is needed, even if it is an internal candidate (of which there are only four “clusters” but every school is supposed to have its own. I don’t know if they do. I think not.).

    The discussion was whether or not it would allow the general public to have input or just a select few? I think Orson intended it for a select few and Thurmond was clarifying the problem for the new board members who can now consider it for the next 30 days. Thurmond said that the power was taken away from the school councils because if the community didn’t get the principal they wanted then they would harbor hostility toward the incoming principal for no fault of his or her own.

    The issue not discussed was what input the community SHOULD have on when, why, how good principals who are beloved by the community and getting great results are ripped away from the school with no explanation and no notice and sent to work elsewhere just because someone with higher power deemed it necessary. (Livsey Elementary, Stephenson High School, MLK, etc.)

    And, what we are wondering is whether Orson wants this change because LAKESIDE’s principal is up for retirement and the community want to pick the replacement. That was the whole way Womack was ushered in for his second dreadful reign of terror wasn’t it? The principal was ousted and a new one put in place before anyone knew what was going on. Here was have another SACS violation of micromanaging the schools by a board member making personnel decisions at the request of a select few booster club members (who live in Fulton County, by the way).

    Is it wise to revert our policies to where they were when our woes were started? Is it fair to let four councils: Dunwoody, Emory-Lavista, Tucker and South DeKalb, make this level of recommendations for staffing? Do you really think they take the suggestions from the ones at Tucker or South-DeKalb? That’s when the “advisory only” portion of the rule is put into play, yet again chasing more good parents away from their own schools in search of something better.

    Been there. Done that. Don’t want to see it continue. If you agree, please make some noise on this topic. Local control is only effective when you have local citizens in this positions who are not above being bought out by outside interests.

  16. Before any attacks about how great the people are in the school councils, PTAs, etc., I am not stating that every person to ever hold a volunteer position in one of these groups is corrupt. I was also in the PTA and a parent representative in the school council (for a summer). What I think Thurmond was suggesting and what I would agree with is that maybe this is a great opportunity for our NEW board members to provide input so that we can find a BETTER way of doing things. If we want the public to participate in the process and become more heavily invested in saving our school system, as a whole, then we need to offer them LEGITIMATE means for providing their input in a way that is EQUALLY ACCESSIBLE to anyone who has an opinion and in a format that lets us know that our opinions are truly being considered, not just pandered to.

    I do not know a single parent who has ever spent time putting together public comments for a school board meeting that thought they would have zero shot at actually getting their point across to someone who might understand or be sympathetic to their complaint or issue. I know plenty of parents who have gone through that process once and realized they were played and would never try it again.

    There are so many folks who have come and gone through our schools because when they tried to stand up and make a difference they were shut down, turned away, ignored, harassed or ridiculed. When good people leave and are no longer emotionally invested, the path is made that much more clear for more questionable interests of much small groups to control the process. It’s how they get away with swaying votes for particular candidates and it is how they get away with speaking as if they have their finger on the pulse of the community.

    The reality is the community no longer pays attention and your leaders speak only for what will benefit themselves. If we really want to make things work, we have to uncover the faulty processes that led to our own demise and step up to demand that our system works for us and protects our children so that these same things do not happen all over again!

  17. plusone says:

    Last nights meeting was a production. I am confident that some type of memo went out that said play nice boys and girls. The mere fact that no one asked one solitary question about why the need NOW for area supers to get new cars is testimony that its bizness as usual at dekalb. So not only is Ziegler getting a FREE education (allegedly) she now gets a FREE ride. This is a brutal slap in the face to the thousands of hardworking employees that haven’t seen a pay raise in YEARS. To add the cherry on top the board and super had a laugh festival for about a good two minutes about this. To add the whipcream Thurmond was quick to remind the audience that you all approved this splost so don’t be looking loony now. But come on play fair, splost wasn’t written to say if you vote yes to this it includes free rides for area supers. If people don’t stop falling for the okie doke this misfortune of a production will just keep playing. Over and over……

  18. murphey says:

    @Get the Cell Out, I think School Council refers to the School Council that every school is required to have, rather than the various organizations such as Emory-Lavista Council or the Dunwoody Chamblee Council. That’s the only way it makes sense.

  19. Chamblee Dad says:

    @murphey You are 100% correct on that. Our school just went thru it. There was minimal involvement, this would expand it. I’m making no comment on good idea or not, just the facts.

  20. Chamblee Dad says:

    @DeKalb inside out & others I have been told by McMahan (via prompt e-mail reply) that the rest of the board should have e-mail addresses updated online by the end of business day. I know I’ve been looking for it.

  21. thedeal2 says:

    I also don’t understand Orson’s big push for this particular policy, but I know he and everyone he shares information with talk about it every chance they get at various meetings. There has to be a specific reason. All the ELPC talks about is local control, local control. Orson used to be Fernbank’s council chair, so I’m sure he’s got something in mind that can be used there or DHMS.

    Normally I would be in favor of more parental input, but I think hiring decisions are a delicate area. Thurmond was right in that if they take parental input and then hire a different person than the council recommended, the new principal is starting behind the 8 ball. He was also correct in that there is only so much information HR can share with the council for legal and privacy reasons and that sometimes that withheld information could give certain candidates advantages or disadvantages that the parent council cannot know.

    This policy change seems benign, but I’m sure there’s something going on. It will pass, though, unless someone figures it out.

  22. Concerned Citizen says:

    To thedea2: You better believe something’s up, and we need to find out what. Tampering around already is not a good sign. Again, the board mtg last night was a dog and pony show of immense size! A lot of people spent a lot of time arranging all that mess, and again, where are our students and teachers. Yes, a concert is fine before the mtg, but can I see through that?

  23. Frustrated Dekalb Parent says:

    sodekalb teacher – I saw on 11Alive Random Acts of Kindness that there is a website where teachers can put a wish list of items they need and people can buy them for the teachers. The 11Alive website should have their link. Maybe that could help.

  24. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    We have a wonderful school council at our school. There are teachers, parents and an administrator on the council. I do recall the school council at our elementary school, during the Clew days, was involved in the hiring process of the principal. The council members were able to ask questions and gave feedback to the Super, but Clew still made the final decision.

  25. Kim says:

    Frustrated DeKalb Parent: DonorsChoose.org is the best way to reach classrooms. We use this extensively at Cross Keys Foundation for our seven area schools and have helped deliver over $20k in classroom supplies and/or project materials. Everything from ipods to mosaic kits to aquariums to classroom novel sets and more.

    This service is the perfect model because the people who know best what is needed in the classroom (a teacher) request the materials and donors get to pick and choose what they support in response.

    Regarding School Councils and Principal hiring … I think that Thurmond’s comment was spot on – HR and the Administration have to have the final say-so due to privacy and liability issues. I serve on School Councils and would be hesitant to rely on them as a sustainable mechanism.

    I believe the whole idea that a principal must be “liked” by a community before they fill the position is a bit absurd. They will be qualified or not. They will perform well or they will not. The key for improving outcomes with our principal corps is having their performance evaluations be more aligned with objective measures that are applied to all principals rather.

    Today, they seem to be subject to the whims of the chain of command and judged very subjectively by central office and parents alike. We need tenured, experienced, and highly committed principals with full engagement in our communities.

    Years ago on this blog I proposed a salary model that would require that the no central office administrator, including the Supers, could be paid more than the highest paid principal in the system and that no principal could be paid more than the highest paid teacher in a school. My reasoning was that we need to eliminate the financial incentive to leave teaching or schoolhouse administration so that we have greater tenure in both roles for all of our schools.

    I still believe this approach would lead to the DeKalb system to become the most respected public system in Georgia within a few years.

  26. Ella says:

    Right on Kim.

    The school counsel does not always know all the confidential information. I feel Marshall wants to counsel to have more control. However, there were problems in the county when the superintendent did not offer the job to some school counsels like Fernbank.

    I do believe input is important. However, this can be done by surveys for the community, teachers, and parents. North Springs HS is looking for a new principal and we all were asked to do a survey. I think this was a good way to get imput. I think the school counsel and the county officials both wanted this.

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