Monthly Board Meetings Tonight: May 6, 2013

The newly reformatted monthly Board meetings will be held today. In the past, the work sessions were held the week before the actual Board meeting where the voting takes place. Occasionally, they were combined. Now, the work sessions are held at 2 PM – the same day as the meeting.

Today, also, a meeting of the Committee of the Whole will be held at 3:00 pm. The “COW” meetings are not usually broadcast nor recorded, but are full of important information and decisions. If anyone can attend and report back, we would all appreciate it.

Here’s the schedule for today’s meetings:

Work Session – 2:00 pm  Click here for the agenda.
Committee of the Whole – 3:00 pm (Cabinet Room)
Executive Session – 4:00 pm – for a student appeal and a legal matter
(Cabinet Room)
Public comments – 5:45 pm  (New, Town Hall style) (J. David Williamson Board Room)
Business Meeting – 7:00 pm  (J. David Williamson Board Room) Click here for the agenda.

The main meetings are broadcast on Comcast 24 and streamed on the DCSS website here.

You can participate in the live blog for the meetings beginning at 2pm. Click here for the link. We will try to stream it here on the right side panel of the blog. Follow along and join the conversations – both at the live blog and here in the comments.

From Nancy Jester’s email newsletter:

The discussion and approval for dual accreditation through GAC has been postponed until June.

There are a number of important agenda items today. As always, I encourage everyone to closely examine the financial report. There is a sharp increase in legal fees for March. In the last fiscal year (FY12) YTD legal fees were $3.78 million and this fiscal year (FY13) the YTD fees are $6.3 million. I routinely voted against incurring additional legal fees and rejected accepting financial and HR reports with discrepancies. Unfortunately I was not joined in my dissent by most members of the board.

The board is going to approve several policies tonight, including one addressing nepotism. From what I read, I don’t think the new language offers a substantive change. What remains my main concern is the enforcement of the policy. The administration must vigorously enforce the policy.

At the 7pm Business Meeting the CFO will give a FY14 budget update.

In the most recent reports available on the GA DOE websites (FY11), if DeKalb reduced its per pupil general administration costs ($206) to the levels of Cobb County ($83), it could save the district approximately $12 million. I thought it was interesting that Gwinnett’s last report showed that they spent $240 per pupil on general administration. I’m disappointed that these numbers aren’t the most current but they can give insight into budget decisions.

I have long been an advocate for restructuring compensation. Outside of the Superintendent, no central office employee should make more money than the average principal. Highly effective teachers should receive compensation that incentivizes them to remain in the classroom.

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74 Responses to Monthly Board Meetings Tonight: May 6, 2013

  1. Very interesting item on the agenda. It seems we are in great need of “somewhere” to store over 25,000 ‘exhibits’ created by the Fernbank Science Center. This has been an issue for a few years – ever since discussions about cutting back the FSC budget began and since the privately-owned Fernbank Museum decided to disengage from DeKalb schools (several of our FSC ’employees’ actually maintained an office and worked at the private museum). We have since had this absolutely ginormous collection of ‘exhibits’ (bones, taxidermy, etc.) that needed a home. Thankfully, the Patillo Company (an old DeKalb family) has stepped up and offered a storage facility. Maybe this will remove a major hurdle to the school system releasing the science center to a private interest – or a private-public partnership…

    Roughly 25,000 objects that make up part of Fernbank Science Center’s collection will be moved from the Heritage School site. The Patillo Group, Inc. is offering the pro bono lease of 5,000 square feet of storage space at 5830 East Ponce de Leon Ave, Stone Mtn. 30083 to house these items. The normal lease of 5,000 square feet would cost $1,500 per month, making this donation of service is worth $18,000 per year. This service would require a signed lease between the District and the Patillo Group, Inc, though no cost would be associated with the lease. This space will be used to store the science exhibits and museum collections associated with the Fernbank Science Center.

    The District and the Patillo Group, Inc will be signing a one year lease that may be renewed. This donation acceptance approval would cover the initial year and any subsequent year, if all terms and conditions remain the same over such extended time period.

  2. BIG QUESTION: It appears they have STILL not presented a budget! And it’s been pulled from this agenda! So – the question is — HOW can they have BUDGET hearings when they have not yet cobbled together a budget for the public to review?

    One date in the most recent press release has passed — did anyone go? It was supposed to have been recorded, but we can’t find a video. The next date is in 2 days and we still don’t know the third date.

    Communications Office

    DeKalb Schools to Hold Budget Hearings

    The district will host three hearings on the $728 million budget
    April 16, 2013 –

    The DeKalb County School District wi ll hold three public hearings on the district’s estimated $728 million budget for the 2014 fiscal year. The hearings will be held at 6 p.m. on April 29 and May 8 at the J. David Williamson Board Room, Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd., Stone Mountain. The third date will be announced at a later time.

    The hearings will be broadcast live on PDS-TV24 and streamed on the DCSD website,
    The public is encouraged to share feedback by emailing

  3. So – here we go again – lots of discussion about an all new STRATEGIC PLAN! How many of these have we watched, paid for, and then got new leadership that promptly acted as if no plan exists…

    Can we use ANY of the plans we paid for that was done under Tyson and/or Atkinson?

    Further, here is a questionnaire that we PAID for and has apparently gone unnoticed by this Board – as they just had a big discussion to hire an agency to do a survey!!

    Click to access community-engagement-session-report-%282011-10-07%29.pdf

  4. It seems like they are blasting through these items, however it’s 3:45 and they were supposed to adjourn to the COW at 3:00 – then Executive Session at 4:00… With public comments beginning at 5:45 — Looks like they’re trying to cram 10 pounds of sugar in a five pound bag! Overly enthusiastic about their time management!??

  5. Mr. Wilkins just said they are ready to submit their big 5 year plan — turned it over to Dan Drake. Said they started with the 2020 plan. Said they hired a consultant to come up with an assessment. Then developed a $400+ million SPLOST IV project list. Followed by a ten year plan approved in 2011 by the board. Now comes the 5 year plan that goes to the state. Eligible to earn over $194 million. Highest known for DeKalb ever. $40 million earned so far but not yet earmarked. SPLOST IV incorporates the $21 million we expect to get from the state entitlement plan.

    State Employee (Name?) tells us that the state didn’t think school systems were properly planning so they developed this system to encourage a project. Then funded “seed” money – doesn’t fund all. Entitlement sheet shows ‘eligible needs’. That’s where the $194 million comes from. Capital outlay program is shared statewide – set up on a needs basis. If you participate, you have to create a local program. The $194 million of needs that DeKalb submits goes into a ‘big pot’ of needs – then the legislature funds the state needs and you get your percentage of the total. Last year the total was $300 million. Percentage of needs is very important. Board approved a resolution in July 2011 that approved the state to create a facilities plan. Did an orientation for DeKalb to help lay out a plan. Thinks this is one of the most thorough plans he’s seen in his 30+ years. Evaluated every space in every facility.

  6. Requested Action
    It is requested that the Board of Education adopt the resolution to approve the July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2017 Local Facilities Plan and approve the subsequent submittal to the Georgia Department of Education for their approval.

    I have to assume he’s asking to approve a plan that was formulated quite a while ago? It’s not attached to the agenda —

  7. The plan we’re operating under now ended in June of 2012. Board had asked for an extension. If we don’t approve one by June of 2013, DeKalb will be operating without a plan.

    No decision has been made that didn’t keep students first – taxpayers second.
    Sets up facilities to house all the programs we can offer.
    Planning is aligned.
    Board has to prioritize the needs – and the needs must be real needs – not just a made up need because there’s money there.
    DeKalb has maximized state and local funds.
    Commends board and staff for proposed organization in phasing out old schools.

  8. Thurmond just asked for an extension to tomorrow at 4 PM to produce the proposed budget. (Once again, he came to class unprepared… and without his assignment. Teachers – should he suffer a lower grade?)

  9. When are they going to start a search for a permanent superintendent? That’s all I care about right now.

  10. Orson says the strategic plan of the last board’s was an administrative plan with some strategies in it. And that the superintendent wrote the plan. He wants to take a year to make a new strategic plan. He justifies it by saying that it’s not fair to the public to work this out over the summer.

    Melvin says they need to hire a consultant and rely on that consultant to formulate the plan.

    Accelerating the plan is a bad idea…but 18 months is too long – that’s the consensus.

    (You’ve all read our post called the Vortex, right?)

    They need to set up a committee to write a RFP and then evaluate the applicants. Morley says the problem has been ‘haste’ to make decisions… (Isn’t that how we got Thurmond?)

  11. If you are paid the salary that he is paid, you work your tail off to get your work done. You were after 5pm, stay up all night, and on the weekends to get it done. People that earn that salary don’t work 9-5, well maybe things are different in DeKalb.

  12. This teacher from SW DeKalb is saying he had over 500 books to repair – using tape! So, what happened to the millions upon millions said to have been spent on textbooks?

  13. What is sad is that he is correct that many of the books fell apart the first year they were issued. Why wasn’t that addressed? Textbooks should last longer than a year. This happened throughout the system with numerous textbooks and nothing was done.

  14. ok, so now this woman is making her presentation to the Board completely in Espanol. I wonder if anyone has any idea what she is saying to them…

  15. This speaker is encouraging the Board members to get out in their communities and engage with the people… no no! That’s exactly what Mark Elgart says they are NOT to do! They are not to even reply to emails other than a rehearsed script and a referral to a staff person.

  16. Bucky Rogers says:

    Have heard rumors that the Lakeside principal will be announced/confirmed at the board meeting tonight. Can anyone confirm?

  17. David Schutten: Parents have to get kids to school on time! Plus over 70% of teachers did not support Success For All.

  18. A lady is complaining about bullying by the Redan principal. Oddly, they are letting her go on. She says the admin is stalling. She is publicly requesting a meeting with Thurmond. Says John Evans [NAACP] has tried to contact Thurmond several times but gets no response.

  19. Dolo says:

    Maybe the lady addressing the BOE in Spanish is emphasizing the need to have translators in some DeKalb schools. I understand that some schools don’t need them but some of the schools are not meeting the needs of the students without translators. If you only knew all of the red tape there is for a school to secure a translator you would be imagined.

  20. My Editorial Comment: This set up is dumb. It’s exactly the same – it’s still very formal except they set up a long banquet-style table for the Board members to sit facing the speakers. They say nothing except, “Thank You” and then call the next person.

  21. Dolo says:

    oops you would be amazed

  22. Teacher wants to know how many of the employees are teachers — why are class sizes so large? Can’t we reduce from 35 to something reasonable? Bring certified employees into classrooms. “Occupy the Classroom”… shocked about legal spending. How well do we handle issues? Non-renewals cost 2-3 months of a teacher salary! Produces a 45 page doc to help admin enforce PDPs – which can be retaliatory. Lots of ideas of how to better spend money. [Tracey Anderson at Lakeside High School.]

  23. Ashford Park ES wants to become a charter. Dr. McMillan is principal (used to be principal at Cross Keys – then Arabia). Seems she’s a good fit here. Overwhelming public support for a charter. Local control and authority at the schoolhouse level. Same autonomy is not given to conversion charters as start up charters. Wants the same – esp staffing and financials.

  24. Marian Martin – media specialist. They started Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl. Libraries are the equalizer. ‘The library media staff works real hard.’

  25. Embarrassed Employee says:

    Really David, really? Every time David speaks he should be speaking about 3 things.
    1. Reduce furlough days
    2. Decrease class size
    3. Restore step increases or give an across the board COLA.
    Simple David.

  26. September says:

    We have many, many Latino families in DeKalb. Speaking in Spanish reminds the board that they need to serve this community. I think this speaker shows a lot of courage. Personal opinion. School board members are elected officials. We should be able to contact them. I didn’t vote for Elgart.

  27. Concerned Citizen says:

    Board meeting tonight was tough to watch – so much stupidity.

  28. psdad says:

    Support from the hispanic community is the key to winning back our school systems. Until now they have been completely ignored by DCSS and the county as a whole. They could be the key to changing the balance of power and taking our schools back from the F&F.

  29. Concerned Citizen says:

    So, there is a big pile of money available that no one knew about? Really? That’s the reason the “budget” is late? Does anyone at all believe anything he says? Is Thurmond going to use this secret stash to raise the teachers’ salaries? I think not. Thurmond simply has to go. Just watching the meeting causes me to see how low level the skill sets of the supt and board and staff are. Why is Smith”yes, sirring” Johnson? Seems very inappropriate especially since she is known for her meanness. But, of course, not to “the boss”! Why does Johnson literally kiss Ramona’s by saying in a very very sincere tone, “Thank you so very, very much.” What is this woman paid. I don’t care if she works 24-7; she admitted tonight again that she got started in February. Whose fault is that????

  30. Motion to adjourn: 9:50 PM. Moved. Seconded.

    Called meeting this Wednesday with Dr Elgart. 6 PM in the same room.

    Adjourn to Executive Session…

  31. concernedmom30329 says:

    Dr. Elgart? Isn’t that the budget hearing on Wednesday?

  32. Geesh. Who thought these back to back meetings was a good idea? What a marathon!!! [And the Board’s not done — they are in Executive Session!] Oh, wait a minute. Marshall Orson was the person who pushed through having the work session and business meeting on the same day. He certainly succeeded in hiding the BOE’s discussions from public scrutiny while still following the letter of Georgia’s Open Meetings Law. Televised, yes. But, most people are working at 2 PM on Monday. And, then Mark Elgart has dictated that BOE members cannot speak freely with their constituents.

  33. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Sorry PSDAD, I disagree.
    Lets not pretend the Hispanic community has been completely engaged and the county is just ignoring them…not so fast. Stupid of the county to get rid of interpreters though.

    As to Thurmond and Ramona and the big pile of stashed cash…this little bedtime story, a fractured fairytale, was told before when they FORGOT to budget an important item, what was it? the electricity? Looks like we’re gonna have to dig through it to make sure they remembered to include items like toilet paper, paper towels, teachers salaries and a few other important items. When they finally get around to posting it online that is. Not sure if this is sposh funds or general funds but no matter what pot it comes out of if there is a mistake we all pay.

  34. So – what did the Latino woman say? I know enough Spanish to be totally dangerous. I swear she was asking about music and art education…

  35. dekalbite2 says:

    Ms. Tyson proposed the 2010-11 and 2011-12 budget. Because millions of dollars of interest on a capital debt was not included in the 2011-12 budget, the “surplus” turned into a deficit and contributed greatly to the debt DeKalb currently faces in the 2012-13 current budget.

    Atkinson found the “balanced” budget Tyson handed her was actually a $41,000,000 deficit including multimillion dollars of the interest DCSS owed on a capital debt that was somehow ommited from the budget – DCSS was really in a deficit from July, 2011 until Atkinson had to balance it by cutting teaching positions and raising class sizes even further).

    2010-11 budget

    Click to access approved-budget-(2011).pdf

    2011-12 budget

    Click to access approved-budget-(2012).pdf

    Around $100,000,000 a year was given to DeKalb via the federal Stimulus from 2010-12 (look at the two budgets links above). Does anyone think that money was spent wisely or improved student achievement?

    While Mr. Thurmond says that the Central Office has been cut, the AJC says differently:

    Look at the 2010-11 budget (see page 8). The executive summary says $73,000,000+ was being spent on the Central Office:
    ” This means that if all central office staff were to be eliminated, a reduction of less than $73.5 million would result”.
    They can recode these non teaching personnel so they are on the schoolhouse budget on paper, but they still are not teaching students and they still are costing tens of millions that should be spent on teachers in the classroom instructing students in math, science, language arts and social studies content.

  36. Estee says:

    You couldn’t make out what the Latino woman said and she can’t understand the teachers and administration at the school because of language barriers. She is a parent from Pleasantdale Elementary. Currently there are 700 hispanic families and only one school employee that speaks Spanish. It is impossible for this one school employee to help all families that need interpreters. When the Latino woman makes arrangements to sit in teacher conferences there is no clear understanding what is being said and she can’t trust her son/daughter to interpret for the parent because of their limited vocabulary. ALSO, school buses show up late or don’t show up at all. She understands the drivers are frustrated about their pensions and lower wages but drivers seem to take it out on the children that they transport to school by being mean and nasty.

    She had some guts to stand up there and make this point…If you can’t understand what she is saying in Spanish, she can’t understand what you are saying in English. EVERYONE deserves an education in DeKalb County and that includes Latinos. Most Latinos are helpless and hopeless without interpreters.

  37. This budget thing is bizarre. For weeks, Thurmond was saying at every meeting he spoke at, that everything would become clear when the budget was presented — “it’s all in the budget”… he said it over and over again – as if he knew – as if the budget was already fine tuned – as if these things were crystal clear! And now – we find out that we still don’t have a budget to review or make comments on – even after the first public hearing date has passed. And further, Thurmond has asked for another extension due to ‘finding an extra $7 million’ about which he actually chuckled during the Board meeting tonight. So odd!! And even odder – our ‘newly reconstituted Board’ doesn’t seem to have a problem with any of this! And NO ONE has even said a peep about starting a search for a new superintendent – even as we wrap up the school year – the very best time to find the very best prospects!

  38. dsw2contributor says:

    Concerned Citizen @ May 6, 2013 at 8:31 PM – “So, there is a big pile of money available that no one knew about? Really?”

    That found money came out of the budgets of individual schools. A few months ago, the central office froze the purchase cards that principals use to order supplies for their schools. Ms. March then began refusing to approve purchase requests the schools send to her.

    To confirm my explanation, simply ask your local school’s bookkeeper whether or not the school was actually able to spend all the money they were budgeted.

  39. Please don’t misunderstand. I really do want to know what the Latino woman actually said – in English. I am sorry that I don’t understand Spanish very well. I just want to know what she wanted to tell the Board. Did anyone hear her speak who can interpret for us? Was it really just a ploy to get us to understand her frustration with a language barrier?

  40. The AJC has already filed a report on the ‘found’ money:

    Found money turns DeKalb school budget from shortfall to surplus

    When DeKalb County school officials combed through financial records over the weekend, they made an astonishing discovery: The district has millions more dollars than they’d thought.

    Revenue that had gone unnoticed within those pages stared back at them. The windfall is only projected but can still buoy the bottom line for next year’s budget, Superintendent Michael Thurmond told stunned school board members Monday. They sat speechless as they learned that a $15 million budget shortfall had just become a surplus.

    “We were able to capture and validate an additional $21 million, which dramatically changes the trajectory of how we were looking at the budget,” Thurmond said. If this is real money and not some accounting mix-up, it will be the first surplus in years.

    Thurmond said he was pretty sure his find is real and that there are no hidden costs to undermine it, but he cautioned that he wanted to “re-re-validate” the numbers overnight before releasing his budget proposal for fiscal year 2014. The school board must approve the budget before the new fiscal year starts in July.

    Board member Thad Mayfield struggled on Monday to understand what had to go wrong with the bookkeeping to produce such last-minute news, albeit good news. Why had they failed to notice the money before, he asked. Was it the result of a “process” error? Of human “oversight”?

    “Both,” Thurmond answered. He said in a later interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the numbers “didn’t look right,” so he asked outside experts for guidance, and they suggested where to look.

    Bizarre. So, Michael Thurmond ‘had a hunch’ that the numbers didn’t ‘look right’ and voila! a surplus!!

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