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. “When you look at something that seems implausible,” Jester said, “it just might be.”

    Smart. But wait. The Governor fired Nancy Jester. Oh well.

  2. “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.

    Can’t get past that: Thurmond himself thought the numbers “didn’t look right,” so he asked outside experts for guidance, and they suggested where to look.

    Really? Wow.

  3. hopespringseternal says:

    The obvious sometimes escapes us. When there’s been a universal lack of trust, warranted or not, you have to take time to thoroughly answer questions and not allow the conversation to get ahead of you. So if you blindside the public and possibly the BOE (HUGE SIN if you’re a super), you gleefully announce “found” money, the reporter rushes straight to his device to submit this factoid and you suddenly realize your quote sounds stupid, would you retire for the evening before waking up the press person and forming your in-depth response, complete with a tweet and uploading the press release to the web site? When there’s an absence of trust, a late budget, a shallow 90-day plan which includes as one of its tenets community engagement, you work harder in the short term to explain stuff. It’s how public trust is earned. What might otherwise be good or tepid news (in that at least it’s not bad) is now lost because from Lithonia to Dunwoody a lot of eyes just rolled way back in a lot of heads. Ugh.

  4. Tired Mom says:

    DSW2Contributor is correct…our principal’s P-card was frozen 2 months ago, as were our funds generated from our After School Program. The ASP funds were going to be combined with leftover PTO monies to purchase some pricey needed items for the school that the district wouldn’t purchase. Now we are left high and dry.

    Ask around. I bet that IS where the “extra” money came from. Not that the teacher needed supplies for the last 3 months of school…

    And yes, I realize some schools purchased supplies for the year at the beginning of the year. Seems highly suspect to penalize principals who worked to budget monies well so as to spend some at the end of the year on things the school wants.

  5. info says:

    Does anyone know if principals or the central office choose interpreters, academic data coaches?

    A Dekalb high school with the largest Spanish speaking population in the system had to let go of its Spanish interpreter in January because of a lack of Title 1 money. Last year this interpreter made $36,000. Want to know how much this same school paid its academic data coach? $91,000.

    And I’d love to know how many of Dekalb’s administrators speak another language. Shouldn’t this be a requirement at some of our schools?

  6. info says:

    Employees received email notices about Academies for Aspiring Leaders-one for teachers who want to become assistant principals or principals and another for those who want to “move up” (my words not the email’s) to central office.

    Does anyone know if Dekalb is going to continue to use RTT funds for these?

  7. dsw2contributor says:

    info@May 7, 2013 at 6:34 AM “Does anyone know if principals or the central office choose interpreters, academic data coaches?”

    Interpreters: Last summer, Central Office laid-off all of the interpreters employed by the DCS. Schools were told to call the “language line” whenever they needed an interpreter; that line is very expensive to use and, as I understand it, the cost of it comes out of the individual school’s budget.

    Some schools are lucky and have teachers and other staff members who happen to be bilingual. Those employees get used as interpreters, but interpreting is not their job.

  8. psdad says:

    B&V
    @ your comment Lets not pretend the Hispanic community has been completely engaged and the county is just ignoring them…

    I should clarify…Based on my experience the Hispanic community is normally dis-engaged and the county and other parents simply expect this from them. At my children’s elementary school we (the PTA and parents) had great success after reaching out to the parents of Hispanic children through the few parents that were involved and inviting them to participate in PTA meetings and other events (both school wide and in the classroom.

    We found out that there are many reasons for their perceived lack of interest in being involved, but the primary reasons were the communication/language barriers and a cultural belief that parents should be as unobtrusive as possible and just let the teachers do their job. Sure we had to make special efforts to accommodate some by doing things like providing head sets and a translator at large meeting (PTA etc.) or by identifying bi-lingual teachers/parents to act as liaisons. It only took a little effort to make the Hispanic parents feel welcome and to start seeing a significant contribution from them. For the most part, these parents place a high value on education and share many of the concerns that we all have for our children’s education.

    Historically, the Hispanic community has not participated in the election process, but reaching out to them in your local community is the first step toward getting them to the voting booth and their vote will be important if we are to change this system from the top.

  9. As mentioned at the Board meeting, this week is Teacher Appreciation Week, with today being National Teacher Day. Do something nice for your child’s teacher – even if it’s something as small as ‘trusting’ his or her opinions and advice. As you can see from the NEA poll answers below, DeKalb leadership does not provide any of the most important things on teachers’ wish lists.

    This is from the National Education Association:

    As part of this year’s celebration, the National Education Association conducted an online poll, asking teachers, “What do you want for National Teacher Day?”

    Nearly 1,000 educators participated in the poll. Poll responses indicate that teachers still appreciate thank you cards, flowers and drawings from their students, but teachers also expressed growing concern and frustration with high stakes testing and the lack of classroom autonomy.

    According to those participating in the online poll, the best “thank you” would be to:

    •“Trust my education and experience. Give me control over my students’ instruction and assessment” (29.1%)

    •“Stop the standardized testing mania (28.06%)

    •“Pay me the salary I deserve” (19.98%)

    •“Smaller classes so I can give more individualized attention” (11.66%) “

    •”A classroom with adequate school supplies” (5.66%)

    •“More time for class preparation and grading” (5.54%)

    “National Teacher Day and Teacher Appreciation Week provide a wonderful opportunity to thank teachers for their hard work throughout the year to help ensure the success of each and every student,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

    “We’re asking everyone to take the time to recognize and thank a favorite teacher,” said Van Roekel. “We know that appreciation alone will not reduce the challenges teachers face, but it will let them know their efforts are not going unnoticed.”

  10. John Dewey III says:

    Seven million dollars for seven thousand teachers? Thats one thousand dollars per teacher. After years of furloughs, unpaid SSI annuities, un-honored step raises and classroom size increases, teachers have earned it. Or you can put it into the Palace’s “curriculum supervisors” and favored vendors. Which one will it be?

  11. I personally know an interpreter who works for the school system. He is a contract employee and has had no changes in employment status. Maybe they still have translators at some schools, but they are contractors? Maybe it is a way to encourage parents to use “school choice” to gravitate toward certain schools? I forgot to ask what school he works for. I think he is in the Druid Hills area.

    Btw, when I worked at Turner Broadcasting, there is no way we would have let a consultant actually write a strategic plan. Only the upper echelon (like senior VPs and up) would know enough about where the business was headed and have enough understanding of all the components of the industry to clearly be able to write such an important document and have it approved by the Division Heads and the Board of Directors. Consultants might be needed for various components but you don’t place your entire business in the hands of a consultant. That gives far too much power and authority as well as trade secrets to the consultant. I don’t know how it works in education, but I would think that someone paid what Thrumond is paid and with Tyson being paid for “strategy” in her title, the two of them should be able to come up with the plan better than an outside consultant who will not know all the delicate details of how DeKalb is put together and where we might possibly be headed, esp. when these things seem to change in the blink of an eye or the defunding/refunding of line items in our general account. As a taxpayer, I really don’t want any more money going for bad advice. We’re paying top dollar for these employees to be their own in-house consultants. You pay for these services in-house, or as outside agencies but not both.

  12. IS says:

    This is what Ana (Spanish speaker) to the Board:
    Good afternoon Mr. Superintended and Board Members. My name is Ana Salas and I am a Pleasantdale Elementary parent.
    The reason why I am addressing you today is to make you aware of the needs of the Hispanic community in our area. Although the administration team at Pleasantdale is making a great effort bringing programs to our school to help us understand the school system and how to become more engage in our children’s education, we have serious communications problems. Due to the language barrier we have to face these issues on a daily basis. There are not enough translators or bilingual staff, in our schools to help us express our concerns and suggestions. Many of us, even though we are trying to learn English, are not able to effectively communicate. For instance, Pleasantdale has more than 700 Hispanic families, and there is just one person, the Community Liaison, who speaks Spanish. Oftentimes, there are so many people in need of interpretation that even though the school wants to help us they can’t. It is frustrating that we want to talk to the people who are educating our children but we are unable to do so because of the language barrier. This situation doesn’t only happen at Pleasantdale, it happens in all school where there are high percentages of Hispanic students. We want to have a better line of communication with our principal and teachers; however, we are faced with this barrier that we can’t avoid. In many occasions when we have parent teacher conferences we are forced to use our children as interpreters. Our children don’t have the vocabulary needed to interpret a specialized adult conversation.
    Another serious problem we have is transportation. In many occasions buses are, either, late or don’t even come to pick up our children. Bus drivers are stressed out and under pressure and don’t take care of our children appropriately. We understand that their salaries and benefits were cut and they are having a difficult time, yet, it doesn’t justify losing their patience with our children constantly.
    There is a great need for tutoring services in our community; many Hispanic children are not ready for test and the CRCT exam. Finally, if ESOL classes were provided for parents at the school we will be able to better help our children with their school work.
    Thank you very much!

  13. dekalbite2 says:

    @ dsw
    Most of those teachers that retired in January were replaced with $80 a day subs (some short term and some long term) who BTW were not required to have any educational experience or certification. That had a very substantial impact on this “surplus”.

    For example, if 100 teachers retired, replacing them with substitute teachers would save around $5,000,000 this year from January to July.

    Of course, this method of saving money by not providing highly qualified teachers to students, but rather providing substitutes is detrimental to student achievement. But it does give Mr. Thurmnond millions of dollars to carry forward to the next year. And other posters are correct in that principals and therefore students and teachers have not been able to receive educationsl supplies since Janaury so that has “saved money” (again bad outcomes for students, but it makes the budget look good for Mr. Thurmond and his direct reports.).

    Mr. Mayfield is totally correct when he wants to know where the “extra” money is coming from. The “savings” may not be sustainable. That is to say it may be a series of one time events or it may be from practices so egregious that it further erodes public confidence in the management of the school system and causes an even lower student achievement rate (e.g. When Mr. Thurmond chose to give all those students subs instead of teachers and refused to give the teachers and students supplies for the rest of the school year in order to preserve non teaching jobs).

    If the “extra money” is from unsound educational practices like those Mr. Thurmnond indulged in above, then this cannot be considered fiscally prudent. A good analogy is a company that has a well compensated top notch sales force that beings in a lot of revenue. If management gets rid of these personnel, then the company’s expenses will go down immediately. Of course, in a short amount of time the revenue will go down as well so the overall Return on Investment will plummet. Cutting into your core business may produce short term results, but it produces long term deficits. That has been DeKalb’s modus operendi under Lewis, Tyson and Atkinson, and look what happened to our schools and to our students.

    Mr. Thurmond has a lot of explaining to so. It appears no one really understands the budgets (past, present, or future) on his management team. DeKalb needs a permanent superintendent who will concentrate on our Return on Investment (student achievement) and invest in the personnel who can provide that ROI – teachers in the classroom directly instructing students. This new superintendent needs a management team that is untainted by friends and family connections and has a solid track record in financial and educational competence. Unfortunately, neither Mr. Thurmond nor his upper level administrators have demonstrated those characteristics.

  14. Thank You IS!! I think this would be worthy of its own post… sound ok?

  15. When a system is in need of a total overhaul and was on the brink of being lost completely, it is fair to assume that there will be some time frame of doing without which is far better than money being thrown in all kinds of directions, none of them strategic or meaningful. Thurmond doesn’t need to be the enemy here. He has been more willing to listen and engage the parents and communities than any other person in his position has probably ever done. If he acts too quickly, everyone will jump on him for throwing a plan into action without fulling knowing all the details or listening to all the problems. That would be a sure way to fail. If he jumps on a pre-packaged plan of reform like what any other run of the mill superintendent would likely bring into play, he would have no better rate of success than our former Superintendent and we’ve been down that road already. He’s an innovator. He has fires to put out first and foremost and then he has to put together the vision for where we want to be and the plan for how to get there. These things take time, but I still believe he is the right person in the right place at the right time to actually accomplish this task. You’ve heard about not seeing the forest for the trees? Well, in our case, those trees are also on fire. If you really want the system to head in a new direction, this interim time frame is not something to rush. I’m guessing he will give us more of his time if that is what’s required. I, personally, am in no rush to get a permanent superintendent out of the pool of educators out there right now. The kind that want to work here are not interested in helping the children. They want to help themselves. He hasn’t claimed to know the answers, yet, but he also hasn’t made things worse. That’s a better track record than the last three superintendents, imo. It’s going to be a loooong Summer and I’m guessing a lot more strategy will be revealed before school opens in the Fall.

  16. Stan Jester says:

    Michael Thurmond
    * B.A. in Philosophy and Religion
    * Law Degree
    * Elected to Ga General Assembly and Labor Commissioner

    Michael Perrone
    * B.S. Economics
    * Masters of Public Administration
    * 8+ years CFO for Duval County Public Schools
    * 1+ years CFO for DeKalb County School District

    Thurmond said the numbers “didn’t look right”. OK. What did Mr. Thurmond see that Mr. Perrone did not?

    Thurmond said he asked outside experts for guidance. OK. Who?

    Thurmond said they suggested where to look. OK. Where?

    Looks like Perrone doesn’t condone whatever Thurmond is doing.

  17. Dekalbite2 says:

    @get the cell out Atl
    “He hasn’t claimed to know the answers, yet, but he also hasn’t made things worse”

    I’m not sure the students who have had multiple subs and the classroom members – teachers and students – who have not had the educational supplies and materials they have needed would agree with you. You are not in the classroom as a student or a teacher so it is difficult for you to understand the impediments to learning students experience when they do not have a qualified teacher that they can depend on every day and in addition must do without the tools and materials needed to teach them the urriculum.

    IMHO – Mr. Thurmond has not shown the slightest interest in decreasing class sizes and ensuring every student has a highly qualified, well compensated teacher with access to adequate educational materials and supplies. His interest has been in preserving the status quo as he professes how shocked he is that the Central Office personnel are small in number. He is not interested in the fact that many of the non teaching personnel who are certified to teach have been moved “off of the Central Office books” and onto the schoolhouse rolls. How personnel are coded makes no difference to kids. They need direct instruction in the content areas. That is why they call it teaching.

  18. Concerned Citizen says:

    That’s right – he had a hunch-I just knew he would save us – and yes, I believe that pigs fly. This latest antic suggests he should go into comedy, for there’s no way Thurmond found millions! Oh, he loves the drama – I kept watching throughout the meeting smirking – surely the staff who were “working over theweekend” saw what “he” found. This is not over yet. DSW, can anyone make him responsible for initiating a search for a new supt? Because this man’s dreaming or smoking.

  19. Ok, so it looks like we might finally get a glimpse of this much-anticipated budget. We are wondering – what happened at the first public hearing for the budget? It was to be held April 28, but there was no budget for the public to review. Did anyone attend that meeting? Was anything presented? We never heard.

    NOTICE OF DEKALB BOARD OF EDUCATION CALLED MEETING & PUBLIC BUDGET HEARING

    The DeKalb Board of Education will hold the following meeting\hearing on
    Wednesday, May 8, 2013:

    4:00pm Called Meeting to adjourn to an executive session for the purpose
    of discussing a personnel matter
    Cabinet Room
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
    1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
    Stone Mountain, GA 30083

    6:00pm Public Budget Hearing & Committee of the Whole
    J. David Williamson Board Room
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
    1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
    Stone Mountain, GA 30083

    The called meeting and public hearing agendas an be accessed online by going to: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us,
    click on Leadership, go to eBoard Home Page and click on the date for the meeting agenda\information.

  20. Concerned Citizen says:

    What Thurmond did was pure theatre last night. The newly found money is from the poor schools who did without and from hiring subs instead of fully certified teachers. HR enforced this scheme. I tried to warn Mr. Thurmod that he needed to be hring fully certified subs – with no response. HR has been of real assistance to Thurmond, trying to make Thurmond look good. Also, HR saved multiple thousands by cheating PT retirees out of proper pay as advrtised, and demting them to Tutors instead of Teachers. That’s another long story of DeKalb’s duplicity and one that few know of. Very sad. Screw the students and teachers and pay the fat cats.

  21. bettyandveronica1 says:

    proposed budget posted on their webiste:

    Click to access proposed-budget-%282014%29.pdf

  22. Dunwoody parent says:
  23. Concerned Citizen says:

    DeKalbite2 – And some of those teachers who retired in January were replaced by CO personnel, even though HR put prospective fully-certified teachers through the dog and pony show of interviewing for positions that were never open. Yet another way that money has been found and lots of it. Thurmond is going to have to prove where he says “he” found this money because I know where he found this money. This, Thurmond, could prove to be your undoing – just so cocky and arrogant and sure no one gets it but you.

  24. Concerned Citizen says:

    Well, excuse me – Isn’t once again a budget missing? Wasn’t this announced with glee to be due today at 4:00 PM? Huh, duh

  25. concernedmom30329 says:
  26. Concerned Citizen says:

    WHERE IS THE BUDGET THAT YOU PROMISED ALONG WITH A SURPRISE BY 4:00 pm TODAY? MILLIONS MORE ‘you” found to spend on the CO and friends and family. Very, very slick! we teachers and students are just thrilled at your resourcefulness! Betcha, by golly, wow, you’re the one that we’ve been waiting for forever….

  27. Concerned Citizen says:

    You know, twenty minutes late is just not acceptable.

  28. Concerned Citizen says:

    On March 20, in the board mtg, Dr. Smith said that in early March (it was already the 20th!) HR would bring in “certified teachers” to fill vacancies; unfortunately, that didn’t happen. As of this minute there are 40 teachers missing, no even a sub there. So, yes, I’m sure “he” found money. Liars and cheaters. The DeKalb School System doesn’t want to do right, and its top clowns and buffons continue pulling huge paychecks. How much disdain they must have for the lowly peons who pay their wages.

  29. info says:

    A few questions:

    1. Thurmond, who likes to talk, is still spending almost $1,000,000 on communications. Really?
    2. Principals need a morale booster? Is this $100,000 to give them raises? Has he compared their salaries to teachers’ salaries? And how many of these “leaders” appointed under Lewis are even qualified?
    3. Is Thurmond really spending another $1,000, 000 on [diagnostic] testing? How many different ways can a student be tested?

  30. OK People! The ALL NEW Budget Hearing Schedule is below!!! (It’s VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE to stay ahead of the changes in the schedules and deadlines… sigh!… we do the best we can!)

    1) Public budget hearing. Monday, April 29, 2013 (6:00 p.m.) (Whoops! Missed that deadline to present a budget to review! What did people review at this meeting? Did anyone attend!??)
    2) 2nd Public budget hearing and Superintendent to present a preliminary budget for Board discussion. Wednesday, May 8, 2013 (6:00 p.m.)
    3) 3rd Public Input Hearing & Committee of the Whole (input hearing to receive final comments from stakeholders & committee of the whole for Board to make final decisions on the budget. Wednesday, May 15, 2013 (3:00p.m.)
    4) The Board of Education will adopt the Tentative Budget (15 days prior to adopting Final Budget). June (TBD)
    5) Combined Meeting: Board of Education adopts tentative property tax millage rate, and adopts Final FY2014 Budget for fiscal year July 1, 2013 to June 20, 2014.

  31. concernedmom30329 says:

    3 PM . Are you kidding me? Who do they think can attend? Wrong, wrong, wrong!

  32. Stan Jester says:

    Excel Format – DeKalb County School District FY2014 Budget Proposal
    I’ve taken the liberty of migrating the budget proposal to a more useful format, excel. You can find that here http://factchecker.stanjester.com/documents/

    The fact that DCSD can’t or won’t give us this doc in excel to begin with is noteworthy.

  33. Concerned Citizen says:

    Stan Jester – thank you for your amazing work on behalf of the school system. If we had you as supt. we would not be in the dumps.You’re amazing I love the picture of Pin. So you have a fine mind and a sense of humor! Love the combination. I’ll bet the people at the Palace are none too happy with you, and they certainly don’t appreciate your wit! They just don’t like you, imagine that! Bravo

  34. Stan Jester says:

    Concerned Citizen. That’s very nice of you to say, thank you. Nancy and I are the anti-bully and anti-evil-doer. I’ve been working the issues from behind the scenes, but now I’m stepping up and taking a stand. 10% of my traffic is from the Ga DOE and DCSD …. they’re watching 🙂

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