Vote With THEIR Money

DeKalb County Schools seem to be doing an upstanding job of pissing folks off lately and while this is causing a lot of consternation and whining in the blogosphere not much is really getting done. Why? Because, to quote Dr. Phil, the whiners don’t understand their “currency”. And their currency is simple: money.

Ironically parents in DeKalb actually control that money. Not by way of the local taxes, but by way of the state funding. You must understand that each and every child, sleepy or rested, hungry or full, stoned or sober arrives with significant state funding (figuratively) in their book bag. And parents can take that money away by simply withholding their child from school.

A sick-out is a short-term shout out not likely to make a significant dent in the County budget especially given the return to “creative” accounting so what we need is something better. We need homeschoolers. If everyone who can homeschool, and many more can than you might think, took that simple step they would send forth a powerful, lasting message.

They are just getting cozy with their smoke and mirrors budget so now is the time to act and it only needs to last one semester–though you may find you like it and simply never look back at the hell you’ve been putting your children thru. And if concentrated pockets of parents take this path they can share the work load across families. And the cost is no more than filing some papers, a few good books and a fast internet connection. This is simply not as daunting as some believe.

Thurmond makes no effort to hide his disdain for Dunwoody and much of the rest of North DeKalb. It is time for those folks to eliminate as much of his funding as they possibly can.

Money talks…Thurmond walks.

This post, reprinted from The Other Dunwoody blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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26 Responses to Vote With THEIR Money

  1. Bucky Rogers says:

    This is petty, irresponsible drivel. If the parents who have chosen homeschooling as an option write as poorly as the author of this post, then woe betide the coming generation of sub-literate DeKalb County children.

    I recognize that everyone is angry with DeKalb County leadership, but let’s please not denigrate the quality of education that our many excellent teachers can and do provide to the children of DeKalb County every day. Let’s not propagate the myth that there is nothing worthwhile about the experience of school and that “homeschooling” is– or even should be– a viable option for every family.

  2. Kenwoody says:

    A lot of comments on this blog speak to the wasteful use of money by the DeKalb County School District and others about how the best teachers–those who can–are fleeing DCSD for other endeavours perhaps including career change. There have also been many comments lamenting the fact that someone else isn’t doing something–oft cited are Maureen Downey, Richard Belcher, The Governor, “The State”, and even SACS. Others have commented on the lack of textbooks and the overall decrease of information content over time in these texts and by implication in the classroom. Everyone wants to know what others are going to do.

    But what is a responsible parent to do? For that matter, what is a responsible parent? How bad does it have to get? At some point does it not become incumbent upon the parent to take the best interests of their own child into their own hands even if that is at great cost to the parent? Perhaps this need not be dramatic or immediate as suggested in that “petty, irresponsible drivel” with parents fleeing to home or private schools or virtual academies. Perhaps parents will simply follow the lead of those former DCSD teachers and slowly migrate to a different (none dare say better) place.

    Or perhaps some things never change. Perhaps others do.

  3. dsw2contributor says:

    Kenwoody@August 27, 2013 at 10:18 AM asked “At some point does it not become incumbent upon the parent to take the best interests of their own child into their own hands even if that is at great cost to the parent?”

    It appears that parents in the Chamblee, Lakeside & Tucker areas have done just that — I am told that many children from apartment communities have left DCS and, presumably, enrolled in Gwinett. (An apartment renter can change school districts whenever their lease is up; homeowners are not so fortunate.)

    Back on August 9, 2013 at 11:23 AM in the “So, are we solvent?” thread, Stan Jester pointed out that the 2013 DCS FY 2013 “budget is based on deception” because it assumes enrollment jumped this year, causing QBE funding to go up…. but everything I’m hearing says that enrollment is actually down.

    (If anyone wants to investigate further, try requesting the current enrollment numbers for each DCS school…)

  4. Kenwoody says:

    DSW2: I would say that quite a few homeowners in North DeKalb are luckier than many others throughout the metro area. If you’re in North DeKalb and you really feel your child is being short-changed most likely you have more flexibility than most.

    If the projected DCSD revenue is based on inflated QBE figures is there a point in time where the budget is reconciled against actual figures? If so is that after the funds have been disbursed and how does the state recover the funds? If not how is it that any school district does not balance their budget based on inflated attendance estimates (AKA “deception”)?

  5. @Kenwoody: Not exactly. The ‘flexibility’ in north DeKalb is basically to use private schools or the Kittredge/Chamblee magnet. The rest of the county has open access to many ‘specialty’ ‘theme’ and ‘magnet’ schools. Please read a post on the subject from the old DSW blog:

    North vs Central vs South – what’s the deal?

  6. Kenwoody says:

    By flexibility I mean : “sell your home quickly at or near asking price” rather than “a magnet school saved my child from an educational wasteland”. On my little street of 16 homes (all built in the ’70s so not new mcmansions) we have had two sales in the last 18 months. One had offers in a week and the other was a pocket sale. I don’t think selling your home in Dunwoody is the same as winning the lottery but it isn’t “I’m way underwater and cannot afford to take that kind of loss” that it might be in other parts of metro Atlanta. But I confess ignorance of most other areas beyond what I read in the paper.

    I’m not speaking to a DeKalb divide per se, but to broader regional variances and the context I am familiar with in Dunwoody which is very, very limited. It may (or may not) be equally easy to sell your home in Tucker or Lithonia–I just don’t know. I am pretty sure most folks in Dunwoody would leave a closing with cash in pocket and this gives them greater mobility than those who have to write a check to unload their house. While I feel sorry for those that are trapped I cannot blame anyone who pulls up stakes and heads for greener pastures. If in so doing that makes it more difficult for DCSD to sweep their budget woes under a rug, well sometimes things just happen.

  7. thedeal2 says:

    @DSW, Kittredge is open to the entire county; it isn’t just a “north” option. With a waiting list of 200 or so, it isn’t really an “option” anyway.

    Also, isn’t this entire post moot given that the school receives its money from property taxes? Homeschoolers pay the same property taxes as the family that sends 10 children to the public schools. Selling your home and moving doesn’t make a statement, either because the people who purchased your home will be paying property taxes, too.

    A drastic statement would be to withdraw your child for homeschooling around the time the QBE formula counts are done (late September – early October). No one thinks our administration would actually reallocate any lost QBE money from administrative salaries, though, so this would ultimately be punishing our children.

    Michael Thurmond cares about press. If you can raise a big stink in the press, you’re going to get his attention. He’s a politician through-and-through.

  8. Stan Jester says:

    Budget Shenanigans
    DeKalb Schools FY 2014 budget is based on deception.

    Budget Trick #2
    The 8/5/2013 financial report is the last financial report we will see for FY ’13. In September, the administration will start reporting on FY ’14. However, the administration will keep dumping expenses into the FY ’13 budget through September.

    Cash Basis of Accounting
    Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and the Ga DOE require that the modified accrual basis of accounting be used for governmental fund types. DeKalb Schools, however, uses a cash basis of accounting and the Ga DOE is OK with this. (If only we had a State Superintendent that wouldn’t let this happen: #SuperJester)

    Under the cash method, income is not counted until cash (or a check) is actually received, and expenses are not counted until they are actually paid.

    End Of FY ’13 Report
    Mr Bell says in the 8/5/2013 Fiscal Report, “You have the FY ’13 June report. The end of june is the end of our fiscal year.” This report neglects to mention the liabilities accrued but not yet paid for. I’m told, for instance, there is a laundry list of invoices billed that were intentionally not paid for until after this report went out.

    DE46 – Financial Report
    The state DOE requires school districts to report their end of year finances in the DE46 format by September 30.
    1. DCSD doesn’t keep records in this format, so they must do their best to crosswalk the data into DE46.
    2. 8/5 to 9/30 gives the administration 2 months to dump expenses into the old fiscal year budget.

    FY’13 Audit
    The FY’13 audit won’t be until June or July of 2014. By that time they will be working on FY’15. When I ask about the audit in July I will be met with, “Why are you asking about FY’13, we are on FY’15. Stop living in the past”

    Sorry this comment was so rich and thick and chocolatey …

  9. @thedeal2: I wasn’t clear. Kittredge is open countywide, but is one of a few options north DeKalb parents use. (They rarely send their children across the county on a bus for any reason.)

    FWIW — here’s a fun video going around FaceBook — about the ‘old’ days —

  10. Sarah says:

    I think this is a fantastic idea. Also, Georgia has a virtual high school online that is paid for by your district high school on a first come, first served basis. This literally takes that funding for your child and applies it to the online program rather than your child’s district high school. Maybe that is an option for those that feel homeschooling is somehow irresponsible (and opinion I am not touching lol)

    http://www.gavirtualschool.org/

  11. @thedeal2

    Actually, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, 52% of public education funds come from the state (these are the funds that are dependent upon the twice-a-year student head count): “The average annual per-pupil expenditure for 2007-8 was $9,120. More than 40 percent of this money comes from local property taxes, and 52 percent comes from state funds. Approximately 6 percent of funding comes from the federal government. State law provides for local systems to hold a referendum to authorize a 1 percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), with funds restricted for use in capital improvement projects, capital outlay projects, or debt retirement for capital outlay projects.”

    We know that Michael Thurmond cares about the press. He has his eye on joining Congress — either as a Senator or a Representative, whichever one the polls show he has a chance of winning. We think “Representative” because of his oft-voiced statement that he doesn’t “need” Dunwoody. It’s a choice gig — easy money, a generous retirement program, lots of travel opportunities on someone else’s dime (while building his personal frequent flyer miles) and stellar, untouchable health care not available to the average citizen.

    Yes, indeed, Michael Thurmond cares about the press and he has no shame, no integrity — look at how he tried to push Antoinette Tuff out of the way and, failing that, went for the reflected glory. Antoinette Tuff put her life on the line to save a school full of children and teachers from a deranged person with an AK-47 and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Thurmond merely loosened his tie and rolled up his sleeves, photo-op-ready, probably at the direction of his personal spin maven (PSM), Quinn Hudson. Hudson flat-out made up stories to tell the media. Can any of the media spell “fact-check”? Embarrassingly, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan took the bait — hook, line and sinker.

    However, what Michael Thurmond, Ramona Tyson, Kathy Howe, and other Palace administrators of their ilk know is to not respond to any charges of malfeasance and corruption. The DA has their back. And neither the local media nor the national media (CNN, we are talking to you) does any meaningful fact-checking. Thurmond is interested in one thing and one thing only: press coverage where he is the shining star. Thurmond’s PSM Hudson has his back.

  12. You Are Superman says:

    Hello DSW, it’s been a while since I looked in on you. First let me remind you that Thurman is interim Superintendent and the board needs to be reminded of that fact. He does not have the qualifications to run a school system. Secondly, place the blame correctly; it’s the new board that approved the budget request at their first meeting. I guess the spirits of the former board members still lingered in the atmosphere and caused the new members to vote without any knowledge of the operations, budget, problems, dilemmas for which caused their historical appointments.
    The only difference with this board and the one it preceded is the new members are “educated professionals”. Sadly, the district remains no better off post Walker and gang, Lewis, Tyson, Atkinson and now Thurman. Their priority is the same Friends, Family Employment and Benefit Company at-large (FFEBCA).
    Dunwoody separate from South DeKalb but not because we’re better off, which is grossly untrue. The Southeast corridor of DeKalb continues to do extremely well and at the expense of the Southwest and central DeKalb communities. A new twist that you may not be aware of is that substitute teachers are now only allowed to work 130 hours per month. This will greatly impact school safety, interrupt teaching, and violate ADA laws when special needs students do not have proper coverage in their classrooms. Through the years principals have taken a substitute designated for self-contained or collaborative classes and used those to cover regular classes, because teacher absences in the building exceeded the number of substitutes needed. Fridays and Mondays are the worst days of the week for teacher absences. Because schools often take planning breaks from substitutes, many substitutes will not work at schools that regularly need them for all periods.
    The reason for the reduction of work hours is because of the need to “comply with the pending implementation of the New Time Management Process for Substitute Employees (Revised 8-16-2013) in anticipation of the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Effective for the 2013-2014 school years, only Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GAPSC) In-field Certified Substitutes will be allowed to work in a long term assignment in the DeKalb County School District. All other day-to-day Substitute Employees may not exceed an average of 29 hours in any given week over the course of the school year. Nor may such an employee exceed 130 hours (16 days) in any given month. To clarify, please note that Substitute Employees may not work more than 16 days in any given month. The days can be sporadic or consecutive; however, NO more than 16 days per month. (Example: A sub may work 10 straight 8 hour days in the same job which equates to 40 hours/week for 2 weeks = 80.00 hours for 10 days; and then will have 50 hours remaining for the month, DCSS, 8/16/13).”
    This reduction in support staff in the absence of the regular teachers is not because of the (PPACA). This action is reduction in operational expenses to pay for all of the material things this board approved i.e. cars. Where is the regard for the educational environment and implementation of active learning without profound interruption’s caused by staff shortages. If the district cared about educating and keeping our schools functioning safely, they would make all substitutes private vendors and give them a 1099. This would eliminate any potential violations of enrollment of part-time employees in the PPACA. Perhaps, North DeKalb can utilize their political influence and encourage the governor to accept the free federal aid to implement PPACA.
    I am not aware of the board approving the bonus for teachers who maintain zero absence’s for the school year. However, the root cause of teacher absences is low moral because of being devalued. Instead of buying new cars the board could have returned wages to the teachers, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, maintenance workers, etc. I meet maintenance workers recently in a school making repairs. I observed that they work new professional work shirts with the school system logo on them. When asked about the new shirts the worker politely told me that “he would rather have a raise”.

  13. Fascinating info, Superman. I hadn’t considered the effect of “ObamaCare” on substitutes. I guess the limit on the hours is due to not having to offer the subs access to the healthcare plan at DCSS… Interesting.

    And Sarah — we agree — just… wow. Yes, please post the emails — just leave off the names and the school.

  14. former dekalb parent says:

    and let me just share that we still do not know where the money came from to pay for these uniforms, and the company that is providing them has already dropped the ball with no CLEAN uniform delivery last week or yet this week, so no uniforms available, back to the jeans and t shirts of old….

  15. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    You Are Superman … couple questions/thoughts …

    1. Who is more responsible for a fraudulent budget … the board who approves the budget or the administration that created it? The administration has a finance team of 29 people working 40hrs/week. 6 of them make over $80K. The board makes $18K and does this in their spare time.

    2. How do you figure the new board are more “educated professionals”? Woods and Cunningham’s education are equivalent to McMahan’s education. Here are the other old board’s resumes …

    Walker – State Senator, PhD History from Duke, Teacher for 15 years
    Womack – Bachelors from UGA, VP of Trailways, President of Georgia Courier, VP of First Financial Group (Fortune 400)
    Bowen – BS Accounting, Attorney and CPA, Director of U.S. Transaction with Hewlett Packard, JD from Georgia State University, College of Law
    Redovian – BA degree in Finance from Ohio University, President and Owner of Atlantic Southern Products
    McChesney – BA History, Masters in Education, Teacher for 34 years
    Jester – BS Economics, Actuary
    Edler – MS Business, BS Accounting, CPA
    Speaks – Masters, Ed. S. and Ed. D in Education. Special Ed teacher for 25 years

  16. dekalbite2 says:

    @DSW

    “I hadn’t considered the effect of “ObamaCare” on substitutes. I guess the limit on the hours is due to not having to offer the subs access to the healthcare plan at DCSS… Interesting.”

    That doesn’t make sense to me. The limit on retirees working less than 20 hours a week has always been about part time workers cannot receive benefits. I have a friend at APS that works around 140 days a year as a substitute (she is retired from APS). I’ll ask her if she has heard if they have to offer her benefits like current teachers. Being retired she has health coverage, but retiree health coverage is much less coverage than that of a teacher in a classroom. Perhaps DeKalb is using that as an excuse to cut down on their sub days and force teachers and parapros to take on extra duties – e.g. make a 4th grade teacher take on 60 kids for the half day while your colleague has a doctor visit regarding her stomach flu. This results in crowd control and no learning for kids, but the county sees it as a way to reduce paying for a sub that half day. You can’t always trust what the administration uses as a reason.

  17. As aside: The Vanderlyn trailers are finally up and running. Ironically, the school system paid subs to mind the teachers classrooms while the teachers moved the classroom contents to the trailers and got them set up. [Something that could have and should have been done during planning week] So – the continuum of the interruption of learning for students at Vanderlyn continues… Hopefully, they are finally on track and able to actually get some focused school work done.

  18. dsw2contributor says:

    dekalbschoolwatch @August 28, 2013 at 11:29 AM – “while the teachers moved the classroom contents to the trailers and got them set up. [Something that could have and should have been done during planning week]”

    NO! MOVERS should have done the moving and they should have done it PRIOR to planning week! The purpose of planning week is for teachers to get ready, not be working as movers.

  19. Oh I agree, contributor. I also assume that movers were hired to carry the big stuff and hopefully the boxes of heavy books, etc… But certainly, teachers had a lot to do — on top of full school teaching/learning mode! Overall though — What’s that army saying? FUBAR?

  20. whyaminotsurprised says:

    @Kenwoody,
    “sell your home quickly at or near asking price” – our house lost over 1/4 of its value between 2007 and 2012. It hasn’t bounced back close to that amount. It will be years before we could move out of our North Dekalb home (the down payment is all tied up in the lost equity/value – forget closing costs and moving costs), and we can’t afford a private school. I’m glad you recognize that a street of 16 homes does not mean just because one lives in N. Dekalb that you have that much financial flexibility.

    We are incredibly lucky. Our kids at least are in schools where they still have good opportunities, great faculty/staff, and aren’t taught to the lowest common denominator. They don’t need free lunch. But all this nonsense about the large numbers of folks who have all this ‘flexibility’ to home school (it often takes 2 incomes to manage living in these neighborhoods) or just “vote with your feet” (as Clark Howard might say), doesn’t fly with most families in DeKalb, north or south.

    This post is one of the most divisive I’ve seen in terms of north/south in a while. Honestly, it sounds a bit like what Mr. Thurmond is saying – putting everything on parents and telling N. Dekalb parents to leave if they want to.

  21. PHDJTM says:

    It is time that we as tax payers turn this off and ask the State Ed. TO TAKE control of this 1 Billion $ a year SNAFU…… but most of them are RETIRED DeKalb yes men & women…..

  22. Dekalbite2 says:

    @PHDJTM
    You are right. Many former DeKalb administrators have high levels positions at the Georgia Department of Education. The State Deputy Superintendent reporting to Barge is a former DCSS administrator. Another is an Associate Superintendent. This seems bizarre.

  23. Quagmire says:

    Many former DeKalb administrators have high level positions in Atlanta Public Schools as well. Friends and Family extends beyond the border of DCSD

  24. concerned citizen says:

    These former DeKalb administrators are now out of luck re their double-dipping for many, many years! Beginning this July, retirees are NOT allowed to work full-time, unless they surrender their pension. If any of these good old boys are working in the state, or in any system as principals, etc., they are doing so in violation of TRS rules. But, of course, in DeKalb anything unethical or against the law, is considered acceptable or even good! Certainly, we don’t need a Martha Raichet in the state board of education in a high position, just to mention one person who was a total flop as an administrator in DeKalb and moved on to greatness! Wow, totally disgusting.

  25. Here is what the Teachers Retirement system (TRS) says about TRS retirees working after retirement:

    “As a TRS retiree you can pursue other employment, but doing so could affect the continuation of your monthly benefit. Before accepting employment after retirement, you are urged to contact TRS to discuss your situation. Per Georgia law, audits are routinely conducted, and discrepancies are investigated. If warranted, retirement benefits can be terminated and/or funds collected for benefits wrongly paid.

    “All TRS retirees may engage in the following types of employment without jeopardizing their monthly benefit:
    “Substitute teaching at the substitute daily rate;
    “Private school teaching;
    “Teaching in a state other than Georgia;
    “Employment in the private sector;
    “Employment with a State of Georgia agency;
    “Self employment;
    “Employment in non-TRS covered positions; and
    “‘Temporary’ employment in a TRS covered position (not to exceed 3 months in a fiscal year).

    “TRS retirees must report all employment in Georgia’s public school systems, regional and county libraries, the University System of Georgia, and RESA units. Before returning to work in any capacity in Georgia’s public school system, you must have a “break-in-service” of at least one month; i.e., if you retire effective July 1, you cannot begin work in a public school system until August 1, at the earliest.(Penalties apply for non-adherence.)”

    If you know someone working for DeKalb County Schools who is breaking these simple, fair-to-all and reasonable rules, please tell us (dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com) and we will ask TRS to conduct an audit. No one will know or has to know the reason for our request.

  26. @ concerned citizen

    Sometimes you make very good comments, but far too often you clearly don’t know what you are talking about. Worse you don’t bother to do your homework and obtain correct information. We considered removing this comment because you so obviously had not done your homework before publishing it. However, we are letting it stand for the time being as a cautionary tale.

    (1) You said, “Beginning this July, retirees are NOT allowed to work full-time, unless they surrender their pension. If any of these good old boys are working in the state, or in any system as principals, etc., they are doing so in violation of TRS rules.”

    You are mostly wrong. We have published an overview of the TRS rules for retirees who want to work after retirement. The information is easily found right here.

    (2) You said, “We don’t need a Martha Raichet in the state board of education in a high position, just to mention one person who was a total flop as an administrator in DeKalb and moved on to greatness! Wow, totally disgusting.”

    Martha Raichet? We think you must mean Martha Reichrath. She is the Deputy Superintendent of Schools for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for the State of Georgia; she is NOT on the State Board of Education. The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) is (1) a state agency and (2) not covered by TRS. Martha Reichrath was a remarkable, skilled and successful principal in DeKalb County Schools. Chamblee Charter High School exists because of Martha Reichrath. As a DCSS administrator, she was also remarkable, highly skilled and successful. In all DCSS administrative roles, her primary concern was what was best for the student(s). She left DCSS when it became apparent that only the corrupt would survive. Martha Reichrath was not and is not corrupt. Others who left the DCSS corruption and followed her to the GaDOE, hoping to make a difference in Georgia education, included Garry McGiboney, JoAnne Leonard (recently retired) and Becky Chambers, to name a few. Unfortunately, their hands are all tied by an inept and highly political governor; a state superintendent of schools who, having done nothing for the state of education in Georgia now wants to be Georgia’s governor; and a state legislature for which there are no words because it is so awful.

    Do you want to be taken seriously, concerned citizen? Do your homework and get your facts straight. The least you could do is to get the names right of those you are trashing.

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