On the heels of the first meeting of the new DeKalb School Board, and now that reality has set in, we would like to revisit several “Big” items that are still lurking in the halls of the Palace, presenting major hurdles for this Board to jump.
First, of course, is the SACS accreditation. Remember now, that Ramona Tyson was superintendent when DCSS was placed on Academic Warning. In response to SACS, Ramona filed a massive, 25,000 page hard copy paper dump on SACS–the result of which is that today, we are now on Probation and facing a complete loss of accreditation in December.
[BTW – Ramona did the same thing when we requested a copy of the Ernst & Young Salary Study. At first she stalled and said it was lost. Then she put together various pages from related and unrelated information. Then, when we persisted, she sent us four (4!) legal boxes of an unorganized paper dump — mostly e-mails — we estimate approximately 16,000 pages. All she had to do was request copies of the survey and audit from Ernst & Young. She later made a statement about the Ernst & Young findings and promised to conduct a full compensation audit—which to this day has not been done.]
Oddly, Ramona is still on the payroll. Even stranger, our new superintendent, Michael Thurmond, has placed Ramona in charge of responding to SACS again. It sort of reminds us of the Republicans running Mitt Romney for President after he already lost once. Not the best choice.
Second, we have several looming lawsuits which in reality, could bankrupt us if we lose them. Of course there’s the one between Gene Walker and the State and Governor. The new Board voted Monday to disengage themselves from this lawsuit and cease funding the attorney (who already charged taxpayers over $160,000 in the last seven weeks). But, thanks to Orson, McMahan and Johnson and the rest of the former Board except Nancy Jester (who voted NO), the case was filed while Gene Walker was still de facto board chair. So, Walker could carry on and win this case, and the current Board could find they have some financial liability, as well as find themselves in the precarious predicament of having to reinstate the former Board members—the very people the Governor chose them to replace.
Further, we have the teachers’ lawsuit over the former Board’s decision to remove the matching contributions to teacher’s pensions. The Board broke their own policy to give a two-year notice for such action in order to make this enormous cut. On the surface, that sounds like a reasonable budget cut, however, in reality, this matching contribution was originally adopted in order to opt out of Social Security, where employees pay 7% and employers BY LAW pay a matching 7%. The matching TSA contribution was supposed to be in lieu of the matching Social Security 7%. Private sector employers cannot choose to opt out of paying the match to Social Security, so this would essentially be some form of tax evasion on the part of the school board. They will lose, in our opinion. And it will cost us upwards of $50 million or more. >> Read more.
Then, there is the mother of all lawsuits—Heery Mitchell vs DeKalb County School System. Heery originally sued DCSS for unpaid invoices and breach of contract for around $1.5 million in total. Dr. Lewis then convinced the Board to spend $3.6 million to pay a consultant to conduct a study on how to respond. Their suggestion? Counter-sue for one hundred million dollars! (Say that with your pinkie upturned at the corner of your mouth.) Now, we have already paid King & Spalding lawyers and other vendors well over $30 million in this civil action and haven’t seen the inside of a courtroom! In addition, we are paying lawyers in this case to defend Dr. Lewis and several former Board members – to the tune of over [an estimated] $200,000 thus far. This is, of course, a different lawsuit from the criminal case against Dr. Lewis and his COO, Pat (Pope) Reid. Much of that cost will fall to taxpayers through the DA’s office.
>> Click here to read Heery’s new very interesting website highlighting their side of the case.
The Board should not be spending a penny more than it takes to keep the lights and water on and teachers in the classrooms, yet they spent millions at their very first meeting. Mr. Perrone did not present the February financials at the March meeting, but he did say that they don’t look good. This Board may not realize that they may be in charge of a historic public financial disaster—they would be wise to start doing some very serious research on the school system’s liabilities. Research they do on their own–not simply soaking in the story they are told by the staff and attorneys.