The April 16 ELPC meeting

From our Emails >>

bluemarine_logoToday I attended the Emory-LaVista Parent Council meeting at Lakeside. Our superintendent , Mr. Thurmond, was the primary speaker. It was advertised as a state of the system update. It really did not follow that kind of format, but some interesting nuggets of information were discussed.

Mr. Thurmond initially tried to show us how he has built such a surplus into the budget. His estimate was that we would have a $20 million surplus in the FY 2015 budget. He attributed this to Dr. Bell and a hard working BOE. It certainly was not clear where this money was coming from, but I will hazard a guess. If memory serves me correctly Governor Deal returned approximately $540 million to the educational establishments across the state. It was generally intended to be used for teachers. It would hopefully be used to take away furlough days and give the teachers a salary increase. Of course our legislature neglected to say specifically how this money was to be used. Because of the lack of specifics, school systems could use the money at their discretion. I believe this is where we are getting some of our money that is going into the surplus. If all of this $540 million the state gave to all the school systems was used for salary increases, as it was intended, each teacher in the state might see as much as $4000 in salary increases. It would be less than that if the money was used to buy back furlough days too.

Some of the questions from the audience were about furlough days and salary increases. My take on his statements were that the teachers would at least have their furlough days decreased or possibly eliminated. He sounded pretty negative on salary increases for teachers. He basically said that he wanted $60 million in surplus before he could address raises. He also said that would be three budget cycles before we got there. He chided our sister school systems for spending portions of their surplus on their teachers. My take on this is that we have to be competitive with other systems to compete for the best teachers. I guess that is on the back burner.

Mr. Thurmond also appeared to be somewhat confused about the general state of our economy. He stated that the current recession had ended in 2009. He also stated that a new recession was starting now. I believe he attributed this to other “authorities” but he did not specifically say who. I found his economics lesson to be somewhat confusing.

He also spoke of the DeKalb School District eventually becoming an urban school model. This one confused me even further. I was not aware that we had made such strides in the last two years.

He took several questions from the audience. I felt like he did not answer any of them. He would ramble from one subject to another and do the political thing. Talk about what you want to talk about if you cannot answer the question.

He was quizzed about DeKalb becoming a charter system. One questioner said … how will this change things from the past? I am still waiting for an answer for that one. He talked a while, but I never clearly heard the question addressed.

He emphasized having to educate the parents. I guess this was to give support to his “bridge initiative”.

He was also asked about zero based budgeting so the budget can be crafted on money going to the classroom first. In a five minute discussion there was no answer to the question. He basically said everything will be decided by a committee and the superintendent would only have one vote. I will leave this to you to figure out what he meant by that.

He also referenced how they cut $6 million in legal fees. When Mr. Thurmond came on board the system was served by two full-time legal firms. This current BOE and Mr. Thurmond hired a third at $50,000 a month. He also leaves out that at any one time the BOE may have 5 to 10 additional attorney’s on the payroll that are handling many cases that are referred to as “complex litigation”. This is where your day to day firms say they have a conflict of interest and ask for additional attorney(s) to be brought on board or increase their fees because it is beyond the general scope of their retainer.

I think Mr. Thurmond tries to put a positive face on almost everything. I will give him credit for that. Unfortunately, not answering specific questions with real answers that include facts and data are damaging to him. There were people there that know he skirted almost all the issues. DeKalb has had this long enough. We need real answers to our questions.

– Don McChesney

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25 Responses to The April 16 ELPC meeting

  1. tracy says:

    Gwinnett already restored all of the furlough days for their teachers. 10 days pay – that’s two weeks.

  2. momfromhe11 says:

    Thank you, Don.
    I wonder if your opponent would have had the clarity to make any of these observations

  3. Bucky Rogers says:

    Mr. Thurmond addressed a group of teachers (department chairs called to the AIC to discuss the county’s big last-minute push to increase CRCT and EOCT scores) and told them that there would be no raises until test scores improved (implying that the state would see it that way). Based on what I know about politics, education, and money, if test scores improve while payroll and morale is so low, DeKalb County will use that as evidence that the status quo is working and take more away from teachers as soon as they can.

  4. Beverly Fraud says:

    Meanwhile DeKalb County continues to distinguish itself by having some of the most violence riddled schools in the state. In honor of CRCT, which phrase best describes Thurmond:

    A) asleep at the wheel
    B) Nero fiddles while Rome burns
    C) asleep at the switch
    D) all of the above

  5. idabelle25 says:

    How can money set aside for teachers, can be used for anything else but teachers. How can Thurmond be allowed to get away with this? Other districts around this nation have been hit by lawsuits for similar behaviors.

  6. idabelle25 says:

    Do we all need to write to the governor about How Thurmond’s intentions contradict with his own about taxpayer money. Some of which belongs to the teachers that he must enjoy torturing. Let me start my letter campaign today anyone wants to join me?

  7. midvaledad says:

    SACS wants to see over $60 million in reserves. DeKalb may have $20 at the end of June, but only if Superintendent Thurmond is telling the truth.

    From an operational point of view, $60 is about one month of teachers’ salaries.

  8. Beverly Fraud says:

    The last thing on Earth that SACS wants to do is to yank DeKalb’s accreditation, because it’s going to raise too many questions about how SACS operates.

    Oh sure, they will threaten, cajole, and otherwise try to intimidate, like they did in Atlanta when they tried to protect Beverly Hall from the fallout of from the cheating scandal. (“SACS tried to PROTECT Beverly Hall?” you ask? Look at the AJC stories from a couple of years back)

    Or don’t; just be happy in the knowledge that SACS actually pulling the trigger and revoking accreditation is extremely unlikely to happen. Unfortunately, about as unlikely as DeKalb dealing honestly with the discipline problems that still plague their schools.

  9. September says:

    @Idabelle25. Most metro school systems supplement teacher salaries with local money. All Dekalb has to do is to lower the county salary supplement. As long as a teacher is making the salary on the state’s salary scale, DeKalb can do whatever it wants with that money. This is one reason why everyone needs to participate in the next election.

  10. howdy1942 says:

    Don, thank you for sharing your observations. I’ve attended a number of meetings where Mr. Thurmond spoke and really said nothing. My first was last February in Dunwoody where Mr. Thurmond promised to provide details of those 600 administrative jobs that had been “eliminated”, but never did. He also promised to initiate a full audit of the DCSS, but never did. He didn’t forget because he asked two staffers to record the questions and I know that he was given the email address of the President of the Dunwoody Homeowners’ Association.

    Mr. Thurmond is the first person who has mentioned that we are in a “new” recession. All stock markets are at record highs, unemployment has dropped to 6.7%, housing sales have been restored to pre-2007 levels.

    Given Mr. Thurmond’s record of delivering on his promises to those who have posed questions, I doubt that I will be attending any more of his meetings – the next most important meeting that I will be having regarding Mr. Thurmond and his administration is on May 20, 2014, at the ballot box. Hope you will also be there!!

  11. Teachermom says:

    I hate to say it but just as I predicted teachers are getting nothing from this money given by the state. Thurmond is a politician who is longer representing anyone but his own aspirations. What kind of an educator would threaten to not restore furloughed days if CRCT scores aren’t high enough?

  12. Does the threat not to restore furlough days apply only to elementary and middle school teachers (who give the CRCT)? What threat applies to high school teachers? Thurmond doesn’t deserve the good teachers that have remained and continue to suffer through his “leadership.”

  13. Thurmond probably doesn’t even know that the CRCT is not given to high school students.

  14. Beverly Fraud says:

    When CRCT scores go up, then you’ll get paid.

    Gee THAT sure worked well at APS, didn’t it?

  15. teachermom says:

    High schoolers take the EOCTs. I was referring to what Bucky Rogers said:

    “Mr. Thurmond addressed a group of teachers (department chairs called to the AIC to discuss the county’s big last-minute push to increase CRCT and EOCT scores) and told them that there would be no raises until test scores improved (implying that the state would see it that way).”

    Just totally wrong. Teachers are already given lots of accountability through Teachers Keys (the new evaluation system) for their test scores. Apparently Thurmond has no confidence and is taking it upon himself to sanction teachers whose test score do not measure up. I’m sure he could not tell you the rubric that is being used for this Teacher Keys standard.

    Let’s face it he will use anything, from manufacturing a new economy (Thurmondomics anyone) to test scores, as an excuse to not pay us our fair market salary. What he seems UNWILLING to do, however, is look around him in the offices next door, and CUT their salaries and positions… Hey, layoffs happen in bad economic times Mr. T.

  16. teachermom says:

    I meant to say “Thurmond has no confidence IN IT.” Referring to the Teacher Keys evaluation system (which incidentally I’m not crazy about either but that is another can of worms).

    In any case, this is the system that is used to evaluate teachers and is accepted as the standard right now. He cannot go off the rails and start marching around talking about taking our money away (or withholding it) if our test scores aren’t’ high enough. So totally unprofessional and anyway, this won’t help teachers make students score better, especially a week before testing.

    Sorry for the double post, a little tired from holiday travel.

  17. Yep – Threaten and demand higher test scores — I think that’s how Bev Hall did it…

    “The beatings will continue until morale improves…”

  18. Ella Smith says:

    The positive thing about becoming a charter is that the school system gets a great deal of additional money.

    However, I teach in a Charter School System, in a Charter School and I can assure you that changing the name of the school system itself will not result in the reform changes we need in DeKalb County. We need to start with putting the classroom first in our budget. We need to return benefits and salaries so we can at least compete for the best teachers available in the metro area.

  19. Word Wall says:

    Did anyone ask about The TABOO WORDS? (Social Security Equity?)….Basically teachers are on ice until the Palace is 60,000,000 dollars ahead… pathetic…

  20. Another comment says:

    Cobb County is hiring an additional 300 teachers. They are getting rid of all forlough days, giving back 1% of the 2% pay cut they took during the recession. The additional teachers are to reduce the class sizes. They were able to do this despite previously projecting a $70 million dollar hole in the budget for next year. They were gaining $35 million from the State ( I would guess Dekalb would get a similar amount). They had seen an increase in property valuations due to the Real Estate recovery. They had been frugal this year in operations and would be able to turn some of the money from this years budget over to next year.

    Sounds as though a lot of Dekalb teachers need to apply for the Cobb County Jobs that were approved tentatively last night. The final budget vote will be next month. My guess is the positions will be advertised by next week.

  21. Another comment says:

    Thurmond is also ensuring that the current board does not get re-elected with his repeated accolades for himself and them.

    Thurmond if he is so conceded to ever think of running for another public office, has just given any opponent an abundance of “Willey Horton” moments to run against him.

  22. DSW – Do you think the AJC is joining to endorse school board candidates and state supt of schools?

  23. Does the Emory Lavista Parent Council hold elections? If so, when does that take place? Does anyone know the origin of these councils and why Lakeside and Tucker must share a board seat but not have to be a part of the same parent council? I would like to see the structure changed to a North, Central and South if we must keep these meetings separate, but the way it is not is completely unfair to those of us who live in Tucker and pay taxes like everyone else. I can see this concept of all schools being charter schools as a potential for disaster if you have some areas where parent involvement is possible and others where it just isn’t. Should you be forced to submit an inferior charter or have leaders who don’t know what the hell they are doing? Doesn’t sound like that will help the kids very much. I’m disappointed to hear that Thurmond did not explain this charter system vision to anyone very well. It must be a work in progress.

  24. @CC: We have no idea what the AJC will do. Maureen has been posting bios and questionnaires from state superintendent candidates. She also moderated a recent town hall candidate forum for the DeKalb school board elections. Other than that, we haven’t heard much from the AJC about these elections yet.

  25. Frustrated DeKalb Parent says:

    Has anyone posted anywhere how the recent forums went and what people thought? I have not been able to find much othr than the bios and questionnaires.

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