Please, Sir, May I Have Some More?*

The essentially miniscule 1% pay “increase” grandly announced by Thurmond is an insult. As Miss Daisy disgustedly declared in Driving Miss Daisy … “I think I may spit up.”

Run the numbers. A 1% increase for a $60,000 salary is $600. $50 per month. Before taxes. Meanwhile, teachers have gone without base salary cost-of-living increases for six years. Inflation was more than 9% during that time, while teachers were hit with hikes in health insurance premiums of about 10% from 2010 to 2012 and about 7.5% in 2013. See more here.

Even with furlough days restored, this is a “raise” in name only.

Add that Thurmond says this will be an “across-the-board” increase – including the likes of Ramona Tyson and the rest of the overpaid, under-talented Palace minions – and this “raise” becomes a slap in the face.

DeKalb County Schools has always had enough money to pay our teachers well and to make sure schools were in good repair and classrooms had necessary supplies and equipment.

Read the sentence above once more and let it sink it.

DeKalb County Schools superintendents Lewis, Tyson, Atkinson and Thurmond, as well as the inept board members – current and previous – have preferred to spend most of the money on overpaid friends-and-family and the well-connected and questionable construction projects, as well as huge, unnecessary legal bills and 3 or 4 law firms on retainer.

DeKalb County Schools is not about educating students. Declining test scores for the past 10 years confirm that. DeKalb County Schools is a jobs program for friends-and-family and for the well-connected. Those pesky teachers and students are a mere impotent annoyance –  like gnats.

We have heard from teachers saying they signed their contracts because they have only a few more years until retirement. Yet, in counties surrounding DeKalb, school systems are hiring – paying more and including “perks” like Social Security, decent raises and COLAs, smaller classes, competent administrators, qualified superintendents. Moving from one Georgia public school system to another, teachers are still a part of the Teachers Retirement System.

Here are the facts:
(1) your Teachers Retirement System (TRS) pension is based on your two (2) highest years of salary while part of the TRS (working for any Georgia public school system) and
(2) by retiring from DeKalb County Schools or any public school system that does not pay into Social Security, you will take a big hit (an approximate 33% reduction) in whatever Social Security you may be eligible to receive, whether it is based on your earnings or your spouses’s earnings. (Check it out: Windfall Elimination Provision)
(3) you have already lost six years of tax-sheltered annuity (TSA) payments, even though it was created to make up what you will lose in Social Security. Will you ever recover those non-funded years when the board reneged on its promise and all of the lost compound interest? Probably not.

Your retirement income — especially for those teachers nearing retirement — is very much in jeopardy.  For teachers nearing retirement, you are out of time to recover unless you make the decision to teach elsewhere.

The pittance that Thurmond has thrown to you is like throwing a bone to a dog. Not much to eat but it will grab your attention.

Thurmond’s real reason for doing this is likely a combination of the following:
(1) ensure election/re-election of board members who are willing to do his bidding
(2) stop charter schools (which do not have to be part of a charter system) because he knows that truly autonomous charter schools (now required by the state) can and will pay better, offer better working conditions, may choose to join Social Security and/or reinstate TSA, and fund teachers and classrooms first because their mission is educating students.
(3) muffle criticism while keeping the gravy train rolling for friends-and-family and the well-connected for as long as possible
(4) appear to be a great guy who “gets it” and “works miracles” … as if

*Oliver, in the orphanage, asking for more gruel while the workhouse governors feast; from Oliver! The Musical

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This entry was posted in Budget Cuts, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, Education in the South, Friends-and-Family, Michael Thurmond, School Funding, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to Please, Sir, May I Have Some More?*

  1. tracy says:

    The sudden emergence of millions of “lost” dollars in the budget.

    And they lost Fernbank forever.

    Questions? Answers?

  2. Another comment says:

    They still need to fire the friends and family. Looks like Atlanta is thinning the friends and family ranks out of secretary, clerk and some other non professional ranks. These positions just aren’t need any more when professionals do much of their own correspondence via e-mail.

  3. howdy1942 says:

    Ah – the election is now less than two weeks away! As small as it is, I am pleased that the teachers will at least get something – finally! Remember that all of this is based on unaudited numbers and, if that were done, we likely be able to do more. I am hoping that after May 20, we will finally get that audit, emphasis on the classroom, emphasis on teachers, restoration of TSA funds and much less emphasis on administration. We need to get our teachers where they should be and worry about support staff later.

    Don’t forget to vote and let’s get an entirely new school board.

  4. teachermom says:

    This 1% increase is not miraculous. You are right DSW2, the money has always been there to pay teachers well and support student and the school house. It was and is in the pockets of the elite few who have done nothing to earn it. In fact, it’s almost as if someone paid them to run this county into the ground. There certainly has been very little monetary consequences for people like Ward-Smith who has been incompetently asleep at the wheel while sex offenders were hired and staff profited by selling books to their principal friends.Meanwhile, students attend schools with no interpreters, math and language arts books, or curriculum that matches our standards.

    If Thurmond is sincere he would have announced reformation efforts, that’s what we need desperately. Instead he came up with another expensive initiative. Building a bridge on the rubble without cleaning it up first. Then he threw us the tiniest bone, only after every school system in the metro area announced that they were giving teachers increases. It’s hard for me to ignore his statement earlier this month when he said that no one was getting a raise with the money the state was passing out to pay TEACHERS more. In the end, he watered it down so he could lay some in the hand of every body in the county… Let me say again that the money given to local districts was intended to increase TEACHER PAY. I feel robbed, again.

    And for the record, I’m not bitter, I’m mad.

  5. From the Decatur/Avondale Estates Patch>> DeKalb Schools Dig Out of Financial Hole

    The FY2015 proposed budget includes estimated revenues of $801,547,870, excluding the $20 million fund balance, against estimated expenditures of $800,144,877 for the period July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015.

    “Providing quality educational opportunities for the children of DeKalb County is contingent upon the construction of a solid fiscal foundation,” said Thurmond. “We are restoring fiscal integrity by balancing the budget, rebuilding our general fund balance and increasing funding for classroom instruction, without raising taxes. We have made significant progress on the journey back from the fiscal crisis that existed a little over 12 months ago.”

    During the 2013 fiscal year, the district has hampered by a $14 million deficit from the previous year and had roughly $100,000 in its general fund. Employees were forced to take six furlough days and had worked for six years without pay raises.

    After his appointment in February 2013, Thurmond told Board of Education members there were millions of dollars in federal and local revenue that had not been included in previous budget projections. The board adopted Thurmond’s FY2014 budget proposal that included the newly discovered revenue and deep cuts in legal fees and central office costs.

    A state report later confirmed that the deficit had been eliminated and the district ended the fiscal year with a small surplus.

    To be clear, much of this is spin. (Remember, our ‘communications’ officer is Thurmond’s former campaign manager, making us conclude that his #1 responsibility is protecting and influencing Thurmond’s reputation in the press.) First, we have all seen $800 million operating budgets in years past. The problem is, the budget is never followed. One can write a family budget every month, but if you then decide to go out and buy a new tv, your budget is compromised. This is what DCSS consistently has done. No one has to take responsibility for the spending of the budget. Even the board doesn’t have the big picture on where we are in budget spending at any given time. So, yes, an $800 million budget to match the expected revenues is good, but managing and monitoring every penny of spending is a whole ‘nother story. Also, we don’t see anything about lowering class size. We have raised it by 2, 3 years in a row. That’s 6 students over state limits per class! There is no remedy in this plan to resolve that. And third, this business about being ‘miraculous’ is simply Thurmond trying to get the media to apply that term to him. Being very good at putting out purposeful sound bites, he wants his press to read “Michael Thurmond and the miraculous turnaround of DeKalb schools”. However — he has not turned around the test scores and graduation rates for students. He simply ‘found’ money that apparently hadn’t been included in the general operating budget in the past – which is a big concern of course. >> The board adopted Thurmond’s FY2014 budget proposal that included the newly discovered revenue and deep cuts in legal fees and central office costs. We do give him kudos for ending the construction lawsuits. However, he has not done anything to resolve the lawsuit with teachers regarding their retirement contributions that were halted several years back. This has been very harmful to teacher morale – requiring action much stronger than a $50 a month pay raise.

    Most importantly, this ‘newly’ found revenue is mostly due to an increase in property values – especially in central and north DeKalb. The claim that they have not raised taxes is the biggest spin of all. They did not raise the tax ‘rate’, however, they are increasing pretty much everyone’s assessment (the value of your home) and therefore your tax bill will increase. This is why the language of the budget item about the property tax rate states that they intend to maintain a higher rate than the ‘rollback’ rate – the rate at which they should roll back to because property values have increased and now they will receive a windfall. (Over 60% of your property tax bill is school tax. This is a lot of power and money.)

  6. Again, Here is a link to the rules regarding property taxes in Georgia >> https://etax.dor.ga.gov/ptd/adm/taxguide/gen/rate.aspx

    Your property should only be taxed based on 40% of its fair market value. (If your house is worth $100,000, the taxes you pay should be based on an assessed value of $40,000.) In my case, my assessed value is set far too high. If yours is, you can file a dispute.

    Additionally, in reality, they are in essence, increasing your taxes by not decreasing the millage rate to accommodate for the increases in value (called the ‘rollback’ rate), which it what the verbiage about “intent to adopt a millage rate above the rollback rate” that taxpayers are entitled to according to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights adopted in 1999:
    https://etax.dor.ga.gov/ptd/adm/taxguide/rights.aspx

    Senate Bill 177, Act 431 was signed April 30, 1999 and became effective January 1, 2000. The bill has two main thrusts:

    • prevention of indirect tax increases resulting from increases to existing property values in a county due to inflation,

    • and enhancement of an individual property owner’s rights when objecting to and appealing an increase made by a county board of tax assessors to the value of the owner’s property.

    Rules for Rollback of Millage Rate When Digest Value Increased by Reassessments

    The Revenue Commissioner developed rules and regulations to implement the terms and provisions of O.C.G.A. 48-5-32.1.

    Prevention of Indirect Tax Increases

    Each year there are two types of value increases made to a county tax digest, increases due to inflation, and increases due to new or improved properties. There are no additional requirements if the levying authority rolls back the millage rate each year to offset any inflationary increases in the digest. If it does not, a local levying authority must notify the public that taxes are being increased.

    Local levying authorities would include the county governing authorities, school boards and municipal governing authorities.

    The Revenue Commissioner will not authorize the collection of taxes on any digest without a showing by the official submitting the digest that the local levying authorities have complied with the law.

    • Rollback of Millage Rate to Offset Inflationary Increases

    When the total digest of taxable property is prepared, Georgia Law requires that a rollback millage rate must be computed that will produce the same total revenue on the current year’s new digest that last year’s millage rate would have produced had no reassessments occurred.

    If the county elects to set their millage rate higher than the rollback rate, they will be required to hold three public hearings, place notices of the increase in the paper and issue press releases.

    [Watch this. We are being misled when told that they are not ‘raising the tax rate’. They are making it seem as if they are not increasing taxes, but according to the taxpayer bill of rights, they are, as they should have lowered the millage rate when the property values went up. When the rate was increased, under Atkinson’s leadership to make up for the decrease in property values, we predicted that this would never go back down when property values went back up. Looks like we were right.]

    Read about the board decision to raise the tax rate over the objections of 4 board members on Don McChesney’s blog >>
    Millage rates – Last year DeKalb increased its millage rate from 22.98 to 23.98 over the objections of four board members. That puts the county 1.02mills from its limit. Our rate is one of the highest in the state.
    http://www.donfordekalb.com/2013/04/29/222/

  7. D. Brown says:

    What will it take to please you folks.

  8. Insider says:

    Thurmond says there there will be “no teacher furlough days” this year. That means teachers get back 4 days, correct? Do the other folks like me get all 7 furlough days restored? Or just 4?

  9. @ D. Brown. While we did say this 1% raise and return of a few furlough days is a start, we remain committed to our mantra of ‘what it will take to please’ us.

      -Reducing class sizes back to state maximums or below (no waivers).
      -Across the board equitable funding per pupil (vs the wild variances in school by school funding now).
      -Use Title 1 funding to hire reading and math specialists to work directly with students in all grades to offer additional tutoring and support in school during the day – one on one or in small groups. (Eliminating ‘coaches’ and other teacher supervisors who do not work directly with students.)
      -Resolve the teachers lawsuit and repay the losses to their retirement funds as well as return to funding them going forward, as was promised when leadership convinced them to drop Social Security in order to get a matching contribution to their annuities.
      -Reduce spending on administration and the central office, and fund the school system from the classrooms (first) on up. Eliminate unnecessary positions along the way.
      -Conduct a full forensic and salary audit.
      -Publish the entire checkbook (spending) online as transparent systems around the country do. (See CheckbookRegister.com)
      -Fund all support materials, technology and extra-curricular areas equitably across the entire system. (Teachers should not have to purchase their own supplies and there should be NO tracks like the one at Cross Keys while the board decides to go outside the budget and spend hundreds of thousands on a special ball field at another school that was never on a project list anywhere.)

    Anything else? Please add them below.

  10. Cautiously Optimistic says:

    Though I totally agree that our teachers need more support, across the board, I would like to remind everyone that many people in the private sector, if still employed, have taken pay decreases and foregone raises as well, and the people I know of, are in highly valued IT jobs. Do our teachers deserve more, absolutely, though this is a small step, its still a step in the right direction.

  11. teachermom says:

    @Optimistic
    Employees in the private sector are probably paying in to Social Security as well. They probably have a 401k that is still being matched if they are working at a company of any size (and Dekalb is a big employer). Their companies are subject to regular audits and accountability. They have boards of directors that they actually answer to and if they are public they have to answer to shareholders.

    They make across the board cuts when downsizing, they usually do not cut the bone and then the fat. They may or may not have overpaid and top heavy administration, we do and I have not heard of a single cut to it, not one! The cuts were applied to teachers, paras, interpreters, and other staff who directly serve students.

    This is not the same at all.. I will say again we aren’t asking for a raise, we want that which was taken to be restored. And if not give us a forensic audit to prove that the money wasn’t there.

  12. Teachers Matter says:

    What will it take to please me, D. Brown? It dawned on me this morning that without teachers there would be no schools. So, we should be at the top of the food chain, not eating the leftover scraps. What exactly do those at the Palace do to directly affect the kids in any way similar to teachers? Answer: nothing! As I’ve stated before, the system is broken.

  13. Cautiously Optimistic says:

    @teachermom – I agree that’s Dekalb still owes its teachers much. The budget has been balanced on the teacher’s backs, and that should have been the very last place it should have come from. I also agree a forensic audit is way overdue.

  14. Had enough says:

    I have been a loyal DCSD employee for over 30 years. I started when dekalb was the place for teachers to be. Getting a job in the DCSD was an honor. I am and will always be loyal to my district. Why? Because all the condescending, insulting comments made by so many about our district don’t get us any closer to solving our district’s problems. If everything was exemplary in the DCSD, there would still be those of you who would feel compelled to pontificate on a dirty restroom, rude employee, etc. just to bring the DCSD ship down. What is the point?
    For God’s sake, try appreciating what you have for a change. . . dedicated teachers and schoolhouse administrators. You also have some pretty doggone good people at the “crystal palace” as so many lovingly refer to the district office, but to acknowledge that would fail to achieve your agenda. . .to make everyone in this district as miserable as you are.
    I have read this blog off and on for years. I refuse to read it anymore, so comment away on how wrong I am. God save me from you people. Get a life and put your public school volunteer hours where your mouths are.

  15. Well, ‘Had enough’, obviously, you have not really read DeKalb School Watch blog over the years or you would know that the moderators and many contributors of this blog have put in hundreds – perhaps thousands – of volunteer hours each into DeKalb schools (in addition to holding down full time, year-round jobs, as well as taking care of family responsibilities and community commitments). In fact, we ‘could’ wager a guess that as a DCSS employee, you yourself have not logged similar volunteer hours there or anywhere else. But we wouldn’t want to make that accusation. Perhaps you are a weekend or evening volunteer somewhere where you help out the homeless.

    The point is, we know what we are talking about.

    Further, we have never called the DCSS headquarters the “crystal palace.” The word “crystal” would imply transparency which DCSS definitely is not. DCSS is murky with corruption.

    The only way someone would not have a problem with the way DeKalb County Schools has operated in the last decade would be if that person was a highly compensated DCSS administrator, which we would guess you are. Certainly, you are not a teacher.

    If you have put in 30 years with DCSS you are close to retirement, yet you are clearly not worried about retirement monies. Otherwise, you would be very concerned about losing DCSS contributions to your TSA account since any Social Security (if you have earned any at all) will be reduced by about 33% when you retire from DCSS and get a pension from TRS. That includes Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s earnings. That may confirm what we have heard — that TSA contributions were never ended for highly paid palace administrators. For example, we understood that continuing TSA contributions was in Crawford Lewis’ most recent contract with DCSS.

    It is astonishing that you accuse DeKalb School Watch blog of bringing down the ‘DCSD’ (an admin term) ship. How on Earth can a blog do that? All of the credit for sinking DCSS goes to the sorry superintendents (Lewis, Tyson, Atkinson, Thurmond) and poor administrative “leadership” from overpaid, under talented friends-and-family and the well-connected.

    Look up “cognitive dissonance.” You have it, my dear.

  16. mike p says:

    Good day all.

     I will take the 1% pay increase, etc.  I do need the funds.   Thank you.
    
     I would like the following addressed too.
    
      1.  The TSA funds.  Its loss of funding has hurt me significantly.  No, greatly.  It was a promise   
           made.  Please meet the promise.  It is an awful spectacle to be litigating with employees 
           over a promise broken.
      2.  Class size does matter.  Folks want us to know their children as people.  When we know 
           children as people we do a better job.  Large class sizes prevent us from knowing your (our) 
           children as well (recommendations, learning styles, etc.), and large class sizes affect how 
           we teach and evaluate students.
     3.  Funding classrooms.  Let's fully fund them.  I have spent a goodly sum of out-of-pocket 
          money in order to make things work in my classroom.  I am not alone in this regard.
     4.  Step increases.  If we accepted funds for step increases, and we did not use at least some 
          of this money (most, all?), then this was wrong.
    

    I call on the new school board to address these concerns (and others). Citizens, schools and the educators found within them are important. Important because our children learn about the world in them and from educators that by-and-large know what they are doing. They are also important because good schools attract businesses and businesses provide opportunity – and prosperity.

    Please, support us. Candidates, please go on record as supporting us. Citizens, please ask for a public voicing of this support by candidates. Citizens, please vote for candidates that publically voice support for us (and, thereby support your child and our community). Citizens, please keep up with your board member’s performance in office. Yes, it is a difficult job, but a person chooses to run for school board – and it is a noble choice – but, not necessarily easy one. Let’s help make DeKalb great again. It can be done, but it will take all of us to do it. .

    Be well.

    mike p

  17. concerned citizen says:

    Oh, you are a big part of the problem in DeKalb, “had enough.” I’m sure we’ve all had enough of you; again, obviously you are NOT a teacher and are even further down the bottom with misplaced loyalty than most principals. What do you get out of enslaving our teachers and stomping on our students? You will never, ever be missed by anyone. Fade out into the sunset….

  18. Kim says:

    Folks were so incensed by Had Enough’s comment I think we overlooked a key phrase. Had Enough: When you use the phrase, “solving our district’s problems,” what do you include in your list of our top problems? I am truly curious if your view of what the problems are, are in fact, the same as mine. It may be that we you sit and what is in your field of view is not so dire as where I sit and what I see every day.

  19. thedeal2 says:

    Let’s see, Had Enough (who isn’t reading this), be grateful for what we have? Well, what do we have an abundance of? Superintendents over the last 5 years? Lawsuits? Embarrassment? Low test scores? Teachers leaving for neighboring counties? Central office employees who never see a student? Wow, you are so right? We are so rich… in all the wrong places.

  20. Here’s something for Fun Friday >> Teachers, have your students take this quiz from the Pew Research Center – and adults – take it yourself. Let us know how you do!

    Science and Technology Knowledge Quiz

  21. Gregory Walker says:

    Folks, the issue of teacher pay (and the relative inequality) is a structural problem that isn’t going to be solved any time soon. Yes, there are unique circumstances in DeKalb right now that should be addressed and redressed (the TSA contributions being the most striking and blatant). But the reality is, teachers (and I’m using that term to define “front line” or “classroom” teachers) make less – and almost always have made less – than they should.
    Here’s a little group of charts to show you just how bad it is around the country: http://www.vox.com/2014/5/6/5686918/teachers-get-an-appreciation-week-lawyers-take-home-70000-more-per
    And, for those of you who missed it this morning, the top 25 hedge fund managers in the US took home a collective income last year that was nearly 2x the total combined income of ALL the kindergarten teachers in the US. http://www.vox.com/2014/5/6/5687788/last-year-25-hedge-fund-managers-earned-more-than-double-every
    Yes, it’s depressing. Management has always made more than labor. And the reality is that classroom teachers are not management.
    I’ll restate for some who don’t know: I’ve taught adjunct (university level) which, admittedly, isn’t the same as a full time secondary teacher in terms of responsibility, time, etc. But I’m pretty willing to bet it’s very comparable in terms of finances. (to wit – the case of the homeless adjunct: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/homeless-professor-protests-conditions-adjuncts/)

  22. Retired teacher says:

    The only way to not have your social security not reduced is to teach I a public school system that has social security for five years. Decatur City and Henry County are two examples. You still have a better chance of receiving widower’s benefits if you haven’t taught the full 30 years….as long as you were married for ten years. That holds true if you were married or divorced. That is the situation that I am in. The best thing to do is to switch NOW!

  23. Thank you! Teachers, please take note. Finances look very scary when you are staring down retirement with significantly reduced Social Security, little-to no Tax Sheltered Annuity (TSA) proceeds and your Teachers Retirement System (TRS) pension based on your two highest-paid years as a TRS member. That is not a light at the end of the tunnel. It is a train!

  24. @ Gregory Walker: Wait. You are saying that DeKalb County Schools teachers are supposed to submit to low pay, abuse and reduced circumstances when they retire because teachers as a group make less and have always made less? Further, this is acceptable because, “Management has always made more than labor. And the reality is that classroom teachers are not management.”

    We have a news flash for you: Teachers who work in a properly designed autonomous charter school are part of “management” and their salaries reflect that. This is one reason why it is correct that the Georgia Department of Education is finally getting its head out of the sand and requiring all charter schools to be truly autonomous. Autonomous charter schools are not the same as schools within a charter system. Charter schools may elect to not be part of a charter system. In DeKalb, a charter system will simply be more of the same old, same old with little-to-no transparency and teachers at the bottom of the heap.

  25. On the subject of charter schools. It is charter school week! And Maureen at the AJC has a very good post about charters written by a former AJC reporter, who is also a parent at the International Community School, an independent charter school in DeKalb county.

    Stop lumping all charter schools together

  26. Gregory Walker says:

    dsw – I’m not saying they (or anyone) ‘has’ to do something/anything. But I would suggest that the problem (the overall level of pay for ‘regular’ teachers) is much larger than DeKalb. Are there examples, anywhere, that can be documented that a regular classroom teacher makes more than a mid-level manager in the administrative offices? Any? How many?

    I’ll admit my position is fairly cynical and I’m personally not suggesting that it has to be accepted as the status quo. But acting like we’re the only district in the world who treats their teachers as more expendable isn’t going to get us to solve the problems.

    Put another way: why is it that, despite all the protestations to the contrary on this blog (and others) is there no ability to make actual changes? Of course it’s the individuals in charge but why are they still in charge? Why can’t a group of actual reformers be voted in? Why can’t they take up this kind of change? And why is this the status quo for so many other school districts nationwide?

    I don’t pretend to have all those answers but a lot of times I wonder if we’re asking the right questions.

  27. Gregory Walker says:

    One follow up thought/question: if it’s so blindingly obvious that the right thing to do is fund teachers first, followed by everything else second, why isn’t this the prevailing model throughout the profession/industry? Because it isn’t. At all. And, I don’t think the answer can be that everyone is blind to what they do – generally teachers get the highest marks in terms of ‘community respect’. And I think all of us here genuinely love and appreciate what they do (double for the really good ones).

    But that’s different from the realities of how almost every single school district manages education. And it’s not radically different at a lot of private schools. Even there, with all the autonomy, responsibility, and potential finances in the world, teachers are – by far – not compensated the way management is. Not upper level, C-suite management – the rest of the administrative functions that you’re equating in your response above.

    Why? Why hasn’t a teacher centric model been shown, conclusively, to work better – so much so that the superiority of it is irrefutable? Again, I’m not asking to be an ass – I’m asking because I don’t think we’re always asking the right questions (and, no, I don’t believe charter schools – however autonomous – are the panacea they’re made out to be as a whole).

  28. @Gregory: Why? Because DeKalb County School System is first and foremost a $1.2 Billion jobs and contract controlling enterprise. Jobs and contracts are controlled by the people who ‘win’ a seat on the Board of Education and the superintendent they hire.

  29. And, we’re not sure where you’re looking, but there certainly are examples of places where high teacher pay attracts the best teachers and yields better results for students. Usually a teachers union is involved. Personally, I can say that where I’m from up north, the teachers are all paid very well (averages in the $90,000 range) and the public schools are consistently excellent – and there’s something for everyone, regardless of whether students plan to attend college or enter the work force.

  30. dsw2contributor says:

    Gregory Walker asks several pointed questions, including “Why can’t a group of actual reformers be voted in? Why can’t they take up this kind of change? And why is this the status quo for so many other school districts nationwide?”

    The reform you are looking for seems to be actually happening in Buffalo, now that Carl Paladino is a member of their school board.

    Paladino (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Paladino), a real estate developer with an estimated net worth of $150 million, was the Republican candidate for NY State Governor in 2010. He is NOT a role model – he has sent racist & sexist emails, made bigoted remarks in public, had numerous extramarital affairs, fathered a child out of wedlock, etc. Yet, last year, he was elected (by a 4 to 1 margin) to the Buffalo School Board.

    Buffalo’s school district is doing worse than Dekalb: Buffalo’s graduation rate hovers around 50 percent and than less than one-third of students are proficient in Math and English.

    During his campaign, Paladino alleged that the Buffalo Superintendent and other key leaders were hired primarily because of their race…. which is the same charge many posters here on DSW2 make about the DCSD.

    After getting elected to the board, Paladino found that Buffalo’s Chief of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction (Yamilette Williams) and its Chief of School Leadership (Faith Morrison Alexander) both lacked required NY State certifications. That is all documented in this Buffalo News article, “Two top Buffalo school district officials lack state certifications”: http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/buffalo-public-schools/two-top-buffalo-school-district-officials-lack-state-certifications-20140318

    The newspaper also documented their resumes in this blog article, “Background of Yamilette Williams and Faith Alexander”: http://blogs.buffalonews.com/school_zone/2014/03/background-of-yamilette-williams-and-faith-alexander.html

    Both administrators were fired and are now planning on suing, per this article “Two fired Buffalo school administrators intend to sue district”:
    http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/buffalo-public-schools/two-fired-buffalo-school-administrators-intend-to-sue-district-20140504

    The newspaper doesn’t think they have a case, per this “2 unqualified school administrators should get over anger, go away quietly” editorial: http://www.buffalonews.com/opinion/buffalo-news-editorials/2-unqualified-school-administrators-should-get-over-anger-go-away-quietly-20140509

    That editorial states that the Superintendent tried to turn Yamilette Williams and Faith Alexander into highly paid interns while they sought the certification they should have had before showing up to work in NY State.

    Today, the story got even stranger. Previously, on his website (http://www.carlpaladino.com/), Paladino alleged that the current Board majority was planning to extend the current Superintendent’s contract and also going to hire back Yamilette Williams and Faith Alexander, but as principals… doing that would make it necessary for the incoming Board (July 1, 2014) to buyout all three contracts.

    Paladino has now gone to court, asking for a preliminary injunction to deny the (appointed) School Board President the right to vote on issues between now and July, when new board members take office…. the new board will include the same Board President he is trying to deny a vote to now. (He thinks the Board President shouldn’t be able to vote now because she is currently an appointed board member, but he doesn’t have a problem with her voting aftetr July 1 because that is when she takes a seat as an elected board member.)

    Basically, Paladino is attempting to deadlock the board until new members take their seats…. so that the current board cannot approve three contracts that the next board will have to buyout.

    Here is a TV-station’s report about the mess:
    http://wivb.com/2014/05/09/paladino-attempts-to-deprive-nevergold-of-vote/

    I find it all fascinating – a board member who I would never have voted for is actually starting to shake up Buffalo’s central office around all by himself.

  31. teachermom says:

    Gregory Walker says:
    “But acting like we’re the only district in the world who treats their teachers as more expendable isn’t going to get us to solve the problems.”

    We aren’t talking about every district in the world. This is not a philosophical conversation. Change cannot be made with philosophical conversations, no matter how interesting they are. This is a crises in our own county. We have been in crises for a while due to a nepotistic and corrupt administration. There is lots and lots of evidence to support the nepotism and corruption in our system. Just check the AJC archives or this blog. It is a FACT, not an opinion. See the DSW2 list earlier in the comments for SPECIFIC changes that need to be made to address this crises.

    The nepotism runs deep and overlaps with several political and social arenas. That’s
    why I think it is difficult to break.

    Specific to the discussion: there is no retention plan. Teachers have been bearing the brunt unfairly of the financial fluctuations of this school district. For example: Gee, we seem to be collecting less property tax, no problem, just shut off the matching TSA funds. We are violating our own policy? No problem, lets have a secret meeting and change it then do what ever we want. Another financial bump in the road results in furlough days, elimination of step increases, larger class sizes and no interpreters. The budget is fixed on the backs of teachers, and students. Etc, etc. you read the blog for the history…

    You also said:
    “Are there examples, anywhere, that can be documented that a regular classroom teacher makes more than a mid-level manager in the administrative offices? ”
    This isn’t how you should compare inequity in this school district. The inequity is applied differently and there are great inconsistencies. Check out opengeorgia.gov for salaries. Mechanics, custodial staff, secretaries, and lots of “Directors” making lots more than teachers. These staff are not necessarily subject to pay scales as teachers are. Titles can be changed if you want a big raise (see past DSW2 for examples).

    We went in to teaching knowing the lower salaries to expect. However, taking what little we have on a systemic basis without significantly reducing salaries and benefits at the same time in the administrative offices is wrong.

    Many years ago I took a course on the Sociology of Change. The first step is to do just what we are doing here, which is to stand up and speak out. It may take a long time but I believe that change will come.

  32. Interesting story from Buffalo. We can go back and forth anecdotally about the successes and failures of other school districts, but this blog (not a newspaper – and served by volunteers) is about DeKalb County Georgia Schools. We can take good and bad lessons away from these examples, but we have to move forward with our own plans for improvement. Our opinion is that we can’t truly begin the process unless and until a full forensic audit is conducted (like the one that was done in 2004 and hidden by Dr. Lewis and his ‘cabinet’ as he like to call them – one of whom is our current board chair). Then we need a forward-thinking board that can take the race issue set down by Dr. Walker off the table and rebuild a system equitably from the ground up focusing first on the classrooms, the teachers and students and then building necessary buildings, materials, technology and support staff from there. For too long, leaders at the top have simply juggled the top staff, assigning new job titles, sometimes skipping over staff who was there for years, hiring or promoting new and different people in those titles and letting the chips fall where they may, or as advocated by certain board members, to the schools and classrooms. We have a serious problem with our expensive, top-down, lawyer-driven management style.

  33. We have 10 days until we can vote in a new board. Please choose your candidate wisely!!

    VOTE on MAY 20

    Or vote early at the locations found here >> http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/voter/pdf/GPAdvanceVotingSitesTimes.pdf

  34. DecaturMax says:

    I predicted this scenario including the late pay raise announcement. If I knew money would be abundant for 2014-2015 based on increased Real Estate values, so did they.

    The central office mentality rewards loyalty over quality. While many of the best teachers in Dekalb were interviewing in other districts or just thinking of retiring early, Mr Thurmond was threatening no raises without improved teacher performance. There is going to be a massive out flow of quality teachers this year. The central office has pushed the teachers to the point where this is a personal decision. The money is important but not if it comes without dignity

    .

  35. A bit off topic >>> Yet somehow relevant worldwide >>>

    Vatican City (AFP) – Pope Francis on Saturday attended a giant rally for children and teachers from Italy’s Catholic schools, with the Vatican saying that 300,000 people turned out for the event in and around St Peter’s Square.

    Excited children threw baseball caps, kerchiefs and even a paper plane at the 77-year-old Argentine pontiff as he toured the Vatican piazza and the avenue leading to St Peter’s Basilica on his white “popemobile”.

    “This is not a lament, it’s a celebration for education! We know there are problems and things that don’t work but you are here, we are here because we love school,” the pontiff told the crowd.

    Francis also shared a memory about his first teacher, adding: “We love school because it is synonymous with openness to reality, or at least it should be”.

    The event was organised by the Italian Bishops’ Conference whose leader Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco pointed to “problems” and “difficulties” in Italy’s education sector and said: “Sometimes it’s a struggle to rekindle the hope of being able to teach”.

    Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has promised to invest more in education after successive austerity budget cuts that have hit schools in recent years.

  36. wiserthanmyself says:

    Change won’t “come” in DeKalb: it doesn’t drop from the sky any more than the stork brings babies. Teachers have to MAKE it come by threatening to strike unless they are adequately compensated and see their Board TSA returned, or allowed to enroll in Social Security. From the NY Times, May 1, 2014: “Mayor Bill de Blasio, confronting the unsettled labor agreements that have loomed over his first months in office, announced a deal on Thursday with New York City’s largest teachers’ union that would raise wages by 18 percent over nine years in exchange for a $1.3 billion reduction in health care costs.” Teachers did have to make some concessions about firing procedures: no free lunch, but at least a recognition that the requirements of their work are equivalent to those of other jobs that, like teaching,require academic degrees and professional training and accreditation. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge that waiting for the Board to decide to raise wages–and why should they ever want to do that, anyway?–is wasted time. All those “Oh, I sure hope they can find the money” and “Gee, I don’t know….they said…they promised…blah blah.” Can anyone name a situation in history where employers just “decided” to raise wages out of the goodness of their hearts? As long as teachers accept low pay, no raises,and impossibly difficulty working conditions without any significant protest, they, the students,and the community won’t be able to be their very best.

  37. teachermom says:

    @wiser
    Teachers cannot strike in Georgia. It’s a right to work state. Unlike NY which has unions. We can be fired at the will of the employer not matter how badly they treat us or justified our complaints are. We are not allowed to even talk to the press without permission. So don’t blame the victim. Teachers are striking unofficially by walking away. It is up to the voters in this county to fix it, we can’t. How about someone organize a citizens march or protest and call the press? I can’t do it because I have a mortgage and a family who needs my income.

  38. @wiserthanmyself ≥≥ Exceptional point! In addition, teachers and staff must pressure their only thing close to group representation, ODE, to advocate for them. The leadership at ODE is very weak, their website is bland and uninformative and even though they have a paid staff — they have no blog! The calendar has nothing on it! Their ‘latest news’ is from 2011. Their latest home page article is about the election in March, but there is no info about the results. They used an online voting system, which they promised is secure. However, no results were posted, including how many total votes were cast and how they broke down by candidate. Further, many upper level staff are allowed to vote in choosing the only reps teachers have in DeKalb!!

    Get involved! Run for ODE office next year! Vote in new ODE leadership — and stop allowing manager level DCSS staff to join the group. ODE should represent teachers and teacher support staff in the schools. Period. And they should never agree to the horrible concessions and pay cuts agreed to by current and past ODE leadership. Jump in and take charge of your destiny. Demand what is fair — teachers are the only employees who are tracked and rated and responsible for student results! You deserve compensation and support for that kind of responsibility. ODE recently held elections and teachers (and probably mostly the high-ranking DCSS staff members) voted in the same old same old. That made us very sad, and informed us that our little blog is just ‘blowing in the wind’. Unless and until teachers make the effort to rise up and insist on certain levels of compensation, support and class size, nothing will change. And anonymously posting on our blog won’t make a difference. Blogging, sharing, brainstorming, discussing and then taking action is what can create change. Wiserthanmyself couldn’t be more correct. We can provide a source for news and information and a place to discuss the issues – it’s a first step as teachermom pointed out – but real change will require action. Action only teachers and staff can take for themselves. Start with the ODE.

  39. Amen! to that.

    In addition >> May we just add to teachers and clerical staff (the employees who are most negatively affected by greed and corruption in DeKalb County Schools): Please tell us what you know and send accompanying documentation so we can print it (without identifying the source — yes, we know how to do that) and/or take it to the U. S. Attorney. Send documentation to dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com. Or, to be entirely unidentifiable and untraceable, send what you know and the supporting documentation to the DSW post office box: P. O. Box 660221, Atlanta, GA 30341. All we need to tell the U. S. Attorney is where to look and what documents to look for. Misuse of Title I funds (federal funds) is a good place to start. You can rest assured that we won’t take anything to the DeKalb Board of Education, the DeKalb County District Attorney, the Georgia Attorney General or anyone else in DeKalb County or the State of Georgia. In the 6,000 or so employees of DeKalb County Schools are several, at least, lower-level employees who are privy to what keeps the greed-fueled corruption rolling. You may be one of those employees with access to inside information or you know someone who is.

  40. howdy1942 says:

    We do need change – and big change in the Dekalb County School System. As we approach election day, let’s not forget all that’s happened during the past four years. Our school system has been governed and led into one big mess. It came as close as it could to losing its accreditation – that’s fact! It was so bad that the Governor removed six of nine members of the school board. It had and still has too many law firms on the books and is paying too many lawyers. It is so bad that the teachers are suing the school system because it abruptly ended TSA contributions without giving the required notice. The Chairman of the School Board was pictured in the Atlanta Constitution asleep in the middle of hearings by the State Board of education considering removal of him and the board.

    Our school system is where it is because that is where it was led. It did not happen because of bad luck nor did it happen because the people did not care. The school board was inept and incompetent and it hired leadership that was likewise inept and incompetent.

    Because of heavy traffic on I85 south today, I cut through the countryside, passing through Winder and down through Lawrenceville. I was amazed at the endless array of new housing developments and saw other areas where trees had been torn down to make way for still more developments. Entering Dekalb County, I saw house after house for sale. And why? At the top of the list of reasons would be schools. I don’t know about Barrow, but the Gwinnett School System does have, based on what I have read, reasonably good governance and leadership. That goes to the heart of the challenge and opportunity we have on May 20. If we are to restore Dekalb County’s property values, its economic development, and opportunities for our kids, then we must begin with our schools. We must elect a new school board – a completely new school board! And we must elect those who will bring in new, qualified, and competent leadership who will set their priorities right, starting with the classroom.

    We already have the tax resources in place – we are already paying for a very good school system. We just need to elect the people who can make that happen. Don’t forget to vote on or before May 20.

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