Something does not compute

Again and again, we are told that things are going so much better with Thurmond and the (mostly) Governor-appointed school board at the helm – and some things are better.  Our credit rating has greatly improved. We have been taken off accreditation probation (but are still at warning status), our budget has been balanced as the new CFO found over $20 million in federal and local revenue that somehow been unaccounted for, and we have received a $3 million grant to hire more principal supervisors (will they get new cars too?). Our expected tax increase for the coming year will serve as a windfall to the schools, as property values increased up to 13% in some areas of the county and the school board decided not to roll back the tax rate, but to leave it at the increased rate set by the former board to compensate for the drop in property values during the Great Recession.

That seems mostly good on the surface and sounds good in a press release, but how have things been going for students and their teachers?  For starters, teachers continue to remain in a lawsuit with the Board over the 2009 decision to cut out contributions to their retirement annuities in lieu of Social Security (matching the former board portion of the SS contribution). This board-promised tax-sheltered annuity was originally implemented in order to convince teachers to forgo Social Security back in the early 80s. The school board reneged suddenly in 2009 in order to balance the budget more easily in big chunks (Ramona Tyson’s exact words were ‘We have to go after the big nuts’). In addition, teachers have not had a raise or step increase in over six years, although their responsibilities have increased exponentially in terms of class size, testing expectations, ‘data’ collection and paperwork. Add to this, the board agreed to pay over $3 million to hire foreign supply teachers through a local company at a cost per teacher totaling $66,500 (including the agency’s $11,500 finders fee per teacher).

In contrast, in spite of the accrediting agency AdvancED (SACS) calling our multi-million dollar contracts with two outside law firms excessive, superintendent Thurmond has secured the services of yet a third law firm, McKenna, Long & Aldridge, to the tune of $50,000 per month (nearly the annual cost of one teacher) to consult on ‘board governance’.  The money is there for teachers–the administration and the board simply so often choose to spend it elsewhereplaces never mentioned when budgets are passed. Happily, after years of cuts, Governor Deal recently announced that the state will be increasing the education budget in order for local systems to afford to decrease class sizes, restore furlough days and grant a raise to teacher salaries. Let’s hope DeKalb uses this increase of state funds as they are intended.

Students and teachers in our traditional schools continue to suffer from over-crowding and violence as the school board once again asked the state for a waiver on class size. ( Click here to review class size limits for students on regular schools.) In addition, many of our school buildings are still in great need of repair and renovations. Now, if you are lucky enough to be in a magnet or specialty school of some kind like the recent schools held up as DeKalb success stories such as DeKalb School of the Arts (average class size is 15-18) or Kittredge or Wadsworth magnet schools (low class sizes due to the numbers of ‘gifted’ students attending – plus a full staff and building of their own.) The same holds true for the DeKalb Early College program, also highlighted for their success. This is a joint venture with Georgia Perimeter College, and many classes are held at the college, as well as in the DeKalb County Schools space at Mountain Industrial, with a full staff allocated to these students.  (There is a duplicate program at GPC called Gateway to College as well.) These are the schools you read about in the news as being some of DeKalb’s finest. Why, yes they are fine schools, however, are they partially successful because they usurp funds, attention and staff? What would happen if you employed the same luxuries to the other 130+ DeKalb schools? Would traditional students fare better if they could have reduced class sizes and much more individualized attention? Would their teachers be more energetic and focused with so few students in total comparatively? We certainly know the answer to that.

Contrast recent news reports about these ‘high performing’ specialty schools against the recent annual test score results of the system overall as FY2014 CRCT district results were released by the Georgia DOE yesterday. When averaging the CRCT scores, DeKalb Schools “anchors” metro Atlanta in every grade.

https://i0.wp.com/factchecker.stanjester.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/4thGradeCRCT.png

https://i2.wp.com/factchecker.stanjester.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/5thGradeCRCT.png

6th Grade CRCT

https://i1.wp.com/factchecker.stanjester.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/7thGradeCRCT.png

https://i0.wp.com/factchecker.stanjester.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/8thGradeCRCT.png

Now, take a look at what we pay for these poor outcomes in DeKalb – we are the highest taxed county in the metro area and the second highest in the state.

Millage Rate
DeKalb 23.98
APS 21.640
Decatur City 20.9
Clayton 20
Gwinnett 19.25
Cobb 18.9
Marietta City 18.682
Fulton 18.502
Decatur County 15.99

lemmingsForgive us if we don’t join the lemmings and proclaim DeKalb ‘healed’! We’ll continue to wear the safety parachute. Real Data shows that we still have a very long way to go in DeKalb.

 

 

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Many thanks to Stan Jester and his “Fact Checker” blog for providing so much data and great charts! Check out Stan’s blog here >> Stan Jester’s Fact Checker

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This entry was posted in Board of Education Meetings, Budget Cuts, Charter School, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, DeKalb County, Georgia, DeKalb School Board Elections, Education in the South, Friends-and-Family, GA Legislature / Laws / O.C.G.A., SACS/Accreditation, School Funding, SPLOST IV, Stan Jester, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to Something does not compute

  1. dsw2contributor says:

    DSW, you overlooked an issue: on the Paperless Applicant Tracking System (PATS) job application website (https://pats.dekalb.k12.ga.us/), Dekalb currently has openings for 4 Principals, 17 Assistant Principals and 262 Teachers.

    All these vacancies need to filled in time for pre-planning week, which begins August 4 according to the School District calendar:
    http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/calendar/board-approved-modified-traditional.pdf

  2. IntheTrenches says:

    It’s important to emphasize, when discussing the reinstatement of monies stolen from DCSD teachers, i.e. step/pay raises, furloughs, with holding of retirement monies and cessation of health benefit contributions, that 2 furlough days were made PERMANENT 2 years ago when teacher contracts were reduced from a full time contract consisting of 190 days to a part time contract of 188 days.

    No discussion of pay “raises” is valid until ALL stolen monies are reinstated including the retirement monies, benefit monies and especially every single furlough day. The Board needs to delete the term “pay raise” from their collective vocabulary permanently…because we all know that these stolen monies will NEVER be seen again…ever! A PAY RAISE…for those on the Board that don’t own a dictionary, is when an employee receives ADDITIONAL INCREASES in pay. It does NOT apply to small additional income increases that occur whilst other monies continue to be withheld.

    Happily, this no longer applies to me. I accepted an amazing job with a fully functional metro school district that, miraculously, has NEVER had a superintendent nor any BOE member indicted or convicted of a felony. Imagine that!

    However, in the past 5 weeks since I accepted my new position, I’ve continued to be bombarded with offers from every major metro county on an almost daily basis. SOOO…I encourage ALL DCSD teachers reading this to to go out there and get yourselves a better job pronto! There’s PLENTY out there and I cannot tell you how professional, sympathetic and appreciative these administrators are when interviewing DeKalb vets. I was shocked and honestly overwhelmed. You know, we’re all so used to being treated like dog scat that we don’t’ even notice it anymore.

    Don’t be afraid to cut ties with “Chicago County,” (my pet name for DCSD-corruption central,) because there are LOTS and LOTS of jobs out there!It’s totally worth it to pay the petty $750 fee that Board has instituted in it’s desperate attempt to keep you all hostage.

    Pay you own RANSOM and get the he** outta there! You’ll get a new job in a week…along with a big fat pay raise and more importantly…RESPECT!

  3. IntheTrenches says:

    Let me add also that hold a master’s degree and am certified in 2 core subjects (math isn’t one of them) so that means I’m no different than the majority of DCSD teachers. Don’t be scared or intimidated…get out there…NOW!

  4. IntheTrenches says:

    Sorry for the few typos…using my phone, not my PC.

  5. inthetrenches says:

    How much you want to bet that the only person who posted a thumbs down on my comment was either the superintendent, assistant superintendent, crony of said Superintendent, or member of the BOE?!

    Geez, you might as well if placed your thumb print on it!

  6. idabelle25 says:

    Thank u for not leaving this issue and I would love the day when the issues you speak about in your excellent article are no longer an issue but I think the teachers and other school house personnel were more than understanding when cuts to our salary had to be made when told that people would lose their jobs but when the same person ( Lewis) took a pay raise the next week it felt like a sucker punch and it has felt like sucker punches ever since. I know in this county we have excellent professional teachers . I have worked with many of them and they don’t deserve to be treated like anything else and we abuse them because you know they care and will do a good job any way. Its not right. Every class in this county still does not have an active board or the best heating and air equipment and I sure others can go on . I don’t know about you but before I eat my child eats before I look good my child looks good and I equate that to central office and the school house and all that inhabits it especially the children end you must take care of those who handle the children in a fair and decent way. I want to evolve into us talking about the latest in ways to make us truly the premier in the world but you can’t do that when everyone in the house is starving ( maslow:)

  7. H.A. Hurley says:

    DCS does not deserve the dedicated educators who have been programmed to remain and are afraid to trust their skills and experience. Our kids need you, but the Super & his do-nothing BOE have no interest, urgency, decency or reasons to do anything different to make your job doable or tolerable. Believe those teachers who ran like HE** to other counties where you will be treated with more respect, possibly a raise, and you may even reach your classroom without falling into school parking lot potholes.
    Dekalb is DONE! Majority residents are not demanding or marching to fix just about everything in Dekalb County…a haven for criminals, shysters, SCHLUMPERS, thieves and backslappers.
    Others can’t wait to secede from DC and form their own cities. Go for it!

  8. @IntheTrenches: Congratulations!! Our thousands of daily readers will read your comment and give pause. Thanks for sharing your story and good luck to you – you will be missed by the DeKalb students who will never get you for their teacher!

  9. idabelle25 says:

    Mark my words . Dekalb central office administrators will solely put the the blame on its easiest scapegoats and punching bag that they have been using for years ( the teachers) I am pretty sure it has already started to happen as a matter of fact it has . Remember when Thurmond said that teachers won’t get pay raises, excuse me , the money taken from them, until scores went up, until he was shamed by the honorable behavior of counties who treat employees decently. Don’t be fooled people. It is ignorant to blame any one factor or group on having the lowest scores in the metro area but it is smart to look at research based proven ways that restore and heal and increase scores and use that research to drive instruction and leadership. On the leadership end, there is tons to prove that a good morale and fair professional environment for your teachers can certainly be a factor. I’ve yet to see where beating them down any way you possibly can and depriving them of a decent living when given opportunity to heal and restore ever worked on any research I studied for successful districts in schools and guess what I do all my research for free with free libraries and the internet but if Dekalb wants to give me any funds I’d be happy to put together a concise researched based leadership program.

  10. howdy1942 says:

    To once again use Ramona’s words “we have to go after the big nuts”. I agree – her’s would be the very first that I would go after and I would follow that up with many other “big nuts” before I every got to anything involving our teachers!!

  11. We completely agree! Not only must all monies stolen from teachers be reinstated, but the lost interest on those stolen monies must be paid back as well. Never gonna happen! Not in DeKalb County Schools.

    Teachers: It’s time to take care of yourself. It is time to be treated like the respected and competent professionals you are, ensure your family’s financial well-being and secure your retirement. It must be galling to the competent professionals who are still working for DeKalb County Schools to look at the outrageous salaries (go to: open.georgia.gov for an eye-opening shock) of the incompetent non-professionals who staff the Palace (beginning at the very top), “supervise” and “train” principals, and “coach” and “train” teachers — not to mention those who warm a school board seat one day a month in return for a salary that exceeds that of some paras and clerical staff.

  12. “…dedicated educators who have been programmed to remain and are afraid to trust their skills and experience.”

    See: the Stockholm Syndrome and/or Abused Spouse Syndrome. We are not overstating to say there is a lot of similarity between the inexplicable behavior caused by what we now know as those syndromes and the resistance of teachers to leave the abuse they have endured and continue to endure at the hands of the Palace people in DeKalb County Schools and the uncaring school board.

    “We must learn that passively to accept an unjust system is to cooperate with that system, and thereby to become a participant in its evil.”
    ― Martin Luther King Jr.

    “If you’re are paralyzed with fear it’s a good sign. It shows you what you have to do.”
    ― Steven Pressfield

  13. Cedar says:

    Sue all the people responsible for the theft of our money. Sue them for malfeasance; individually or class action.

  14. howdy1942 says:

    In my earlier post, I did not thank DSW and Stan Jester for these statistics – they provide a lot of information. So, thank you for this post. As one reviews the numbers, the negative gap between Dekalb and the other districts listed only grows worse. Why?

    I also appreciate settling the Heery case, “finding” that $21 million (why was it “lost” in the first place?), and moving up one notch from that probation status, I continue to ask why an administration that did so much to drive our school system into the ditch has been left largely intact and in place. Our school system clearly is in such a deep hole that it will take years to claw our way out and I’m convinced that other leaders, paid the salaries that our administrators receive, could get us out far faster that this one (if they ever can). We need new governance, new administration, and new leadership.

    I just heard on the news that those teachers in the Atlanta Public School System hired before 2009 will get a 5% raise, those with 6 months or less service will receive a $500 one-time payment, and the remainder will get a 1% – 4% increase. Contrast that with Dekalb where all will get a 1% increase. And we have the highest millage rate in the metro area? And taxes for many of our residents are going up as much as 12%? Where is this money going? Does anyone have any updates on administration to teacher staff ratios in Dekalb relative to neighboring counties? Does anyone honestly expect good teachers to remain in the Dekalb School System? Would you? Would Mr. Thurmond remain as superintendent if another body offered him $310,000?

    Finally, look at the tax rates in districts such as Fulton and Dekalb and compare that to the students results in the same respective districts. Looking at these numbers, can anyone honestly question why communities such as Druid Hills, Brookhaven, Dunwoody, and others want independence from Dekalb County? This snowball is rolling at an increasing pace and it is only growing bigger as it turns. A school board has been removed, the Georgia Supreme Court has unanimously backed the authority of the Governor to remove an incompetent school board, three large areas in Dekalb County are seeking to become cities, legislation has been introduced to allow new districts to be created, Druid Hills has petitioned to form a Charter Cluster that would manage itself, and that chorus is only growing louder. Change is coming.

  15. DSW2Contributor says:

    For a comment over at Maureen’s AJC blog, I checked the number of vacancies in other local school districts. Here’s a comparison:

    Clayton: 250 (approximately)
    Cobb: 133
    Dekalb: 263
    Gwinett: 214

    (I couldn’t figure out how to get just the teacher vacancies on Clayton’s website, so I estimated 250 instead of counting them up by hand.)

  16. Two comments: The 403(b) money we used to get was a straight percentage (5% I think) of salary and had nothing to do with matching. I would love to know the status of the appeal regarding class action status. Does anyone know?
    Also, I am being told by friends that teachers who are willing to pay the $750 to get out of contracts are not being released by Dekalb after all. Incredibly vindictive and short-sighted behavior by the county but no surprise. God forbid that the Palace people would ask what kind of job will these teachers might do if they are disgruntled over bring held hostage in this county.

  17. Stan Jester has a new post with the school system’s slant on the CRCT scores. They actually present it as an improvement!

    News Release – 2014 CRCT RESULTS

  18. Wandering says:

    Let me begin by saying that I am not trying to be negative. Mr. Thurmond is a much kinder and respectful superintendent than we have had in the last few years. I do feel that he cares. I am not sure how certain decisions are being made. Again, let me state that I am expressing my opinion. I am a school based teacher.with more than 25 years in DeKalb. We are losing teachers at my school. We have had some excellent math and special education teachers that went to other systems and are making more money.
    How are we making our decisions?.
    Three million dollars to hire additional Region Superintendents.. In December additional people were hired to provide professional learning to each of the regions. The number of people in that job grew from 5 to 20.Three people were added to each Region. There are now four professional learning people per Region. Then there is a person who is over Leadership Development.. Another person was added to the Deputy Superintendents Staff. Since that person came from the HR Department someone was added to take her place.
    Does anyone see a pattern here?
    Another thought each Region has a coordinator and an executive administrative assistant. If there are going to be new Region Superintendents, then there will need to be more new staff to support them, If the five current ones have cars, then the new ones will need cars. I am sure that they are compensated for the miles that they drive. They also do not have to put the wear and tear on their personal cars. That to me equates to a salary increase. (I heard today to continue to expect higher gas prices.)
    Wasn’t there a grant that could have been used to hire more school based reading specialist, or math specialist, or security, or para educators or teachers? How was it decided that the pressing need was more Region Superintendents?
    Even though the state has mandated that the evaluation instrument that is going to be used is the TKES and the LKES all of the principals had to be evaluated by another message so that the school system could attempt to qualify for the grant to hire more Region Superintendents.
    These are the kinds of decisions that make it very difficult for every school based person to understand. How about us???
    Thank you for a platform to speak.

  19. @teachertaxpayer: Re: “The 403(b) money we used to get was a straight percentage (5% I think) of salary and had nothing to do with matching.”

    Thanks for making us clarify that. It was not a match of contributions to the annuity it was a match of what the board formerly paid as their percentage of the Social Security tax. (Traditionally, employees pay half and their employers pay half. Currently the SS tax is 13%, with each paying 6.5% and self-employed folks paying the full amount.) Now teachers have no Annuity contribution OR Social Security. They have only their TSA retirement fund. Correct? (We are not accountants or attorneys or employees of DCSS.)

    One thing that didn’t pass us by was that Paul Womack was on the board when this plan was first hatched and sold to teachers. And Paul Womack was on the board when it voted to eliminate it (against its own policy requiring a 2 year notification). Paul Womack was even on the board when the school system was declared “unified” and the oversight of a federal judge was relinquished. Paul Womack gave Crawford Lewis a raise and then Paul Womack voted to hire the very inept Cheryl Atkinson after someone on the board sabotaged the efforts to hire at least two other much more qualified individuals. Isn’t it interesting that one person can have so much local influence? Next up: The Gene Walker report.

  20. As for an update on the case, you can always check the Barnes Law Group’s website.
    Click here for the link >> http://www.barneslawgroup.com/DeKalbTeacherTSAPlan.aspx


    DeKalb teacher Elaine Gold and school psychologist Amy Shaye filed suit against the district in June 2011. Their suit seeks class action status, which would allow other DeKalb Schools employees to join the suit against the district.

    Our hats are off to Elaine Gold and Amy Shaye for filing this lawsuit on behalf of teachers! They are trying to gain class action status, which was denied once and has been appealed. They are fighting for all of you and deserve your support and praise! This simply cannot be easy – good for them for being fearless for the (hopeful) benefit of all!

  21. Wandering says:

    The retirement fund is the TRS (Teachers Retirement System) fund. That is the one that comes from the state. It alone is not enough to fund retirement. It is a help. We never get a single word from the school system concerning the TSA or Social Security. Many of us will not be able to qualify for Social Security. That is because we have not paid into it for so many years. Check out the Wind Fall provision on the SSA site.

    Also, I am sorry. I did not proof my previous post. I was trying to finish it in go and pick up a family member. I was emotional while writing. Please do not get me on the subject of our Tax Shelter.
    I wonder how much money is being used to fight the lawsuit that is trying to get the DeKalb School System to honor its word about our TSA.

  22. @wandering

    You are 100% correct — but missing one small, but critical, fact. Even for teachers who qualify for Social Security based on previous employment with employer(s) who did pay into Social Security, the Windfall Elimination Provision reduces Social Security by about 30% for anyone who works for and retires from an employer who does not withhold Social Security taxes. This holds true even for a retiree who plans to take Social Security benefits on a spouse’s work history. 30%! That’s a big chunk of change to lose at a time when you are most vulnerable because of age and health. Read all about it here.

    The Tax-sheltered Annuity was intended to make up for loss of (or reduction in) Social Security benefits.

    Employees who paid Social Security tax on 30 years of substantial earnings are not affected by the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). Read all about that here.

    Which DCSS administrative employees or board members could you name who have “substantial” earnings (therefore their Social Security will not be reduced) and have been with the DeKalb County School System or another employer for 30 years (or retired from DCSS or another employer after 30 years) and are in a decision-making (or influential) position concerning whether or not DCSS will reinstate the TSA (Tax-sheltered Annuity) or re-join Social Security? We are just sayin’ …counselor

    Teachers — don’t take our word for it. Make an appointment for a face-to-face meeting with a Social Security. Get your financial and SociaL Security ducks in a row before you lock yourself in to retiring from DCSS and losing at least 30% of your Social Security benefit. It’s better to know the truth now and move on to a school system or employer who does pay into Social Security.

  23. Thanks for clarification on the matching and for the link for the TSA case update. I am not a lawyer, but if anything could justify the category of class action, this would seem to be it. Given that this is DeKalb County, the land of inept and/or dishonest governance, I am wondering how much of our school budget money might have been passed over to someone in our Justice system to ensure class action status was not granted. That ruling certain stands to save the school system a lot of money. Corruption, anyone?

  24. DCSD FOR DUMMIES says:

    I would like to commend each of you for your dedication to this blog and to the students, teachers, and community members. Several of my current and former colleagues have left for greener pastures. At this point, I’ll take my 98 and 100 percent CRCT scores of my students and present it to another system. If I can find something before the school year begins, I’ll resign.

  25. You are absolutely correct. Meanwhile, the overpaid Palace fat cats are not at all affected by the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).
    The WEP is a clever scheme and one that the Palace fat cats were quick to take advantage of. You might write to your Congressional representatives and ask if they voted for WEP. All you need is a “Yes” or “No” answer. A “Yes” means you should seriously reconsider voting for them again.

  26. It’s all getting so pitifully embarrassing >> READ THIS:

    ‘Stigma of corruption’ haunts DeKalb

    DeKalb County is the proud owner of a “Comprehensive Market Development Strategy” that notes, in mulitple places, the continuing “stigma of political corruption,” poor county leadership and other problems the county faces.

    To prepare the report, the county hired a private contractor, which in turn hired a subcontractor to supply research and background. That subcontractor was Michael Hightower, who knows a thing or two about political corruption, having pleaded guilty to it in 2000 after accepting nearly $25,000 in bribes while serving on the Fulton County Commission.

    …Hightower, founder of the Collaborative Firm, which has handled many local government contracts, is a certified policy wonk with deep experience and deep local connections. He tells the AJC that he can’t talk much about the market assessment contract, since he is a subcontractor, but he says he committed no wrongdoing.

    “As one who understands challenges and obstacles often associated with politics and business, I recognize the importance of moving forward and not dwelling in the past, as it stunts growth and doesn’t provide a path towards the future,” Hightower told Bill Torpy.

  27. howdy1942 says:

    I’m getting really sick and fed up the corruption in Dekalb County, both in the school system and in the County government. We are now up to at least three of seven County commissioners who have been cited for personal usage of their County credit cards. Did the County even have any instructions up front about personal usage of County credit cards? If not, why not? Most companies have such corporate credit cards and rest assured that they have very clear rules for usage and very clear consequences for misusing them. And this misconduct is likewise true in the school system. We have a school superintendent who has been indicted and, depending on what you read, convicted of RICO violations. The school’s chief operations officer and her ex-husband are in jail. At least two school board members knew of their misdeeds and there has been no investigation into those allegations. The District Attorney thinks that the school board can police itself.

    Even more discouraging is the tolerance for this kind of behavior by so many voters in Dekalb County. Folks, if we don’t do something about this corruption and behavior by our senior leadership, then Dekalb will surely collapse. In fact, that is something that even Steen Miles fears.

    Let’s start with the very next election on July 22, 2014, and let’s get as many of these people out of office as possible. We don’t know how deep the corruption runs in the County and the District Attorney seems to be more interested in defending an indicted and convicted superintendent from a judge than he does about investigating wrongdoing in Dekalb. As residents of Dekalb County, we must take matters into our own hands and get all of these people out of office. In some cases, we have no choice other than to vote for the “lesser of two evils”, but let us begin.

    I suppose that Thurmond is an improvement over his predecessors, but we don’t need somebody that is “nice” – we need someone with experience who is tough and will come in and clean up the mess. Audit the finances and the personnel structure. Get the focus on the classroom, teachers, and students and get everyone else out of the way. Establish responsibilities, write job descriptions, create a performance plan that establishes measurable goals, place an emphasis on improving teacher morale, settle that teacher lawsuit and restore those Tax-sheltered Annuity (TSA) contributions, establish a plan to retain the best and best performing teachers (and find the money to give them more than a 1% raise), forget about creating additional regional superintendents for now, reduce the size of the administration and especially the size of the senior staff (with an emphasis on removing those who led us into this mess out), reduce the number of law firms on retainer and certainly eliminate any “white” and “black” redundancy, This is not rocket science. We don’t need a long, drawn out “strategic” plan. We need a person who will reduce what needs to be done to just a few pages. One of my bosses taught me to define no more than five objectives for each year each of which would be measurable and all of which could be written on a single piece of paper. He bought me a “bulletin board” on which I could pin them so I would see them every time I sat down in my chair. It worked!! That’s what we need in Dekalb. (By the way, that boss was retired military – hint!).

  28. H.A. Hurley says:

    Howdy1942~
    The only time criminals and unethical people feel remorse is when they get caught.
    DC has become a heaven for such sociopaths! What conflict? Claiming not to know about charging personal items on County credit cards? Are you kidding? Of course they knew the regulations. But, if you don’t get caught, those rules are not for them. I wonder if this is just the tip of the iceberg? When there is a culture of corruption, the honest people get kicked out or they leave…result, high number of corrupt people in one organization – all looking away or owing tons of favors. Welcome to DC & DCS. Will there be enough honest individuals to stand up, clean up or get the he** out of Dodge? Unreal!

  29. Frustrated citizen says:

    Why are people in the county office not impacted by WEP. I also heard the people in the county office didn’t have their Board Tax Sheltered Annuity (TSA) taken away, I don’t know if it is true.
    Also, I don’t get any Social Security because I do not have the 40 quarters needed. And the WEP calculator works in my disadvantage and I don’t get anything from my spouse too. So some teachers are in that dilemma if they haven’t worked in Social Security long enough they don’t get anything.

  30. @Howdy
    DSW normally follows a policy of not making any corrections to comments unless specifically requested to do so by the comment writer. However, where you used “TRA” we changed it to TSA (the correct acronym).

    It is critical that readers understand that there is a big difference between:
    TRS (Teachers Retirement System) which is a State of Georgia pension plan for teachers and school system clerical employees for which school systems, including DeKalb County Schools, are required to make contributions for each eligible employee
    and
    TSA (Tax-sheltered Annuity) set up by DeKalb County Schools to convince teachers and school system clerical employees to vote to leave Social Security.

    In fact, this is so critical that we request that ALL commenters use the correct term followed by the acronym in parentheses in each instance of usage. Thank you!

    We are not picking on you, Howdy. We just know that you, of all people, would want to use the correct terms — and it is so easy to use incorrect acronyms when using acronyms only.

  31. Exactly.

    We have heard, from reliable sources, what you have heard: that DeKalb County Schools administrators, friends-and-family and Palace employees continue to receive Tax-sheltered Annuity (TSA) contributions from DeKalb County Schools. However, we cannot document that. All we need is one (1) employee in payroll to send us copies of one or more check stubs (now called pay stubs or payroll information) showing Tax-sheltered Annuity (TSA) contributions. Send it to DeKalb School Watch, P.O. Box 660221, Atlanta, GA 30341. Using the POB, the provider of this information is virtually untraceable if identifying information is not included. Remember Al Capone!*

    Teachers and others who work for government organizations are generally paid less than market-rate (except in the case of DeKalb County Schools administrators, friends-and-family and Palace employees who are paid more than market-rate; see open.georgia.gov). Teachers and others who work for government organizations in lesser paid positions are definitely damaged by the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). Any hope of a comfortable retirement goes right out the window. In fact, it is extremely unfair to penalize lower-paid employees with WEP while doing nothing about highly paid employees who, quite reasonably, should have been able to put aside monies for retirement.

    We strongly suggest that you and others write to your Congressional representatives and ask if they voted “Yes” or “No” for WEP. If they voted “Yes” for WEP then you should vote “No” for them at the next election.

    *America’s best known gangster and the single greatest symbol of the collapse of law and order in the United States during the 1920s Prohibition. Brought down not by his heinous crimes, but by the IRS for income tax evasion.

  32. Here’s another article about the Ellis/Ross corruption case. It’s a wonder we aren’t broke simply due to the costs of these corruption cases back to back to back in this county…

    Vendors in DeKalb government probe earned millions

    But The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found:

    Four of the companies have been paid more than $4 million by DeKalb County since Ellis took office in January 2009, compared to less than $25,000 before Ellis’ election, according to financial data obtained by the AJC.
    A fifth vendor named in the search warrant affidavits, an ambulance company, is paid directly by patients, not by the county, for services it provides in DeKalb. But that contract has been previously estimated to generate at least $8.5 million a year.
    Four of the companies have hired Ross, Ellis’ friend and adviser, as a consultant.
    Five of the companies, their employees or their relatives contributed nearly $20,000 combined to Ellis’ campaigns, according to an AJC analysis.
    

    Neither Ellis nor Ross has been charged with a crime in connection with the investigation.

    Ellis declined comment for this story, referring to previous statements that he had never made any promises to campaign contributors or told vendors they must be contributors to win DeKalb projects.

    Ross, in a statement provided by a spokesman, also denied wrongdoing.

    How much have we spent on this?! On Crawford Lewis? On Pat Pope? On Derwin Brown?

  33. howdy1942 says:

    @DSW – Thank you for your corrections. There are many acts by the past and present school boards that really get my dander up, but the one about the Tax Sheltered Annuity (TSA) is one that is right at the top of my list. Had the teachers remained in the Social Security System, there is no way that any school board could have stopped paying into that System. As bad as that is, my feelings about that would be compounded many times over if we learned that the administration continues to receive this TSA. And possible reasons for even breaching this commitment are clearly rooted in extremely poor management, administration, and governance and in no way were the teacher the cause. We continued to pay lawyers, recruit in distant cities, fly many people to distant and “resort” cities for conferences, write voluminous documents to SACS findings (unsuccessfully), write “strategic” plan after “strategic” plan, hire additional administrators, and on and on. Yes, we had a recession and yes property values decreased, but we had to keep on performing the most critical function of the Dekalb County School System – teaching our kids. Asking our teachers to forego any salary increases would have been one thing, but forcing them to take furlough days and breaking this obligation that would have remained by law had they remained in the Social Security System was totally unnecessary and unwarranted. This was done, as best I can determine, without ever talking to the teachers or involving them in any way. Who knows what positive results would have been possible by bringing all parties to the issue together, having an honest discussion about the situation facing the school system, and finding ways to mutually find an amenable solution. We found at least $100,000 for Lewis to defend himself, money for Walker to fight the State, money for Atkinson’s severance, and Heaven only knows what else we spent money on.

    We have the worst test scores in the Metro Atlanta area for a reason – we have a very poorly managed school system that had made adversaries of its teachers and that has led to one of the highest turnover rates anywhere. We have already read on this blog of teachers who have left and found jobs in neighboring counties. For whatever reason, Mr. Thurmond seems to be content on taking only “incremental” steps to address the teacher situation when he really needs to take a number of bold steps – settle that teacher lawsuit, reduce the size of the administration, find the funds to restore the TSA contributions, and increase the size of the teacher raises. And the school board has one direct report – the superintendent – and this board need to find the courage to demand action from Thurmond or set about finding someone who will do so.

    Once again, I am not a present or former teacher in the Dekalb County School System nor do I have any relative who is, even in the most remote sense, connected with the school system. I care about our kids and the quality of education they are getting and it is so very, very clear to me what we need to do in order to fix that. And we can’t teach our kids, improve test scores, or do anything until we drastically change the relationship between our teachers and their supervision.

  34. DonewithDekalb says:

    As a former Dekalb educator (yes I finally said “ENOUGH!” last year and didn’t sign my contract) I
    Am saddened to continue to hear about the low test scores, low teacher morale, low graduation rates in certain schools and the seemingly constant self-denial of the folk who make the decisions. There is an undeniable correlation between over-populated classrooms and low test scores. Like wise, the brilliant idea to balance the budget on the backs of teachers by illegally discontinuing to contribute to the teacher’s tax-sheltered annuity while forcing us to endure years of furloughs along with a lack of even a small raise has had a direct effect on the continuing mass exodus of qualified educators from Dekalb’s woefully mismanaged school system. The advice to check on your retirement/social security benefits cannot be overstated. If you plan to stick it out in Dekalb, don’t depend on this lawsuit which may be years of appeals as Dekalb continues to dodge it’s responsibilities to educators. Find out what you need to do in order to avoid the 30% penalty from retiring from an organization that doesn’t pay into SS.

    If you are trying to leave I wish you well. I was hired in a school system in another state with an almost $30k raise, great benefits and a system that treats its employees with respect . I’ve never been happier and I am paying into SS to prepare for my retirement. Don’t let fear keep you bound. I am proof that there is a happy ending after Dekalb.

  35. H.A. Hurley says:

    DoneWithDekalb~ exactly! Dekalb is Done!
    Please explore the elegibility for Social Security benefits upon retirement. In GA, public school teachers who pay into TRS – Teacher Retirement System, are NOT eligible for SS benefits, even if they have paid into SS and have earned all their quarters, or their spouse receives SS. If your spouse passes, you are still not eligible for part of his/her SS.
    I did not understand this, made an appointment at SSA, and was told loud and clear that I am receiving retirement benefits through TRS. Forgot what that regulation is called, but there are no options available to receive SS, too.

  36. concerned citizen says:

    DSW and All (except you numb nuts who vote down because you ARE the Palace – I can’t wait for the day when someone will step up to the plate and present the evidence needed that top Palace do receive benefits. It is a well-hidden but known fact. Soon, someone will tell. DSW, may I offer a reward of $2,500 to anyone who will present evidence? If I had more, I would offer a bigger reward, but money seems the only way to get someone to tell the truth. I am so sick of the supt and the Palace and sorry, nice person, that you feel the supt is kind. But, I don’t see that at all in him, and I don’t think he has a kind bone in his body. The way the teachers are treated in DeKalb is a pure disgrace. And don’t even mention the children.

  37. Seriously Concerned? You would actually offer a reward? We will have to talk about this – it’s a GREAT idea – just not sure how to do it (escrow?)… Send us an email about it if you want to continue…

  38. The Windfall Elimination Provision was passed during the Reagan Administration so I doubt any of our representatives voted for it. It is an incredibly unfair rule. Did anyone own a dictionary back then? Someone should have looked up the definition of Windfall (an unexpected, unearned, or sudden gain or advantage). Anyone who has taught anywhere knows that anything teachers can get for retirement is not unearned! I believe Rep. Hank Johnson did sponsor a bill to repeal WEP, but it was destined to fail in this economic environment, of course.

    The amount of SS forfeited depends on the number of years one contributed to SS. (I think married women in the system are the ones who really get ripped off as it affects what they can get from their husbands’ SS benefits.) In my case as a single person, 26 years of contributions from my first career put me in the position of only losing $125 per month of SS because of the TRS I receive. When I accepted a job with DCSS, I had no idea that teachers did not pay into SS or that WEP existed; HR never mentioned it.

    I read with interest your comments about Womack being on the board and having a say in so many bad choices. I hope that Stan Jester will be able to have that same level of influence, only for good choices.

    I am so fed up with this county. If you discover the Palace people are still getting the TSA money, then I will wonder how any teacher in this county can teach children about integrity, justice or ethics with a straight face.

  39. Check out Michael Thurmond’s new baby — a tv show featuring DeKalb students, called “The Bridge” on Comcast 24 (and YouTube):

    Very cute! A great idea to bring kids together and discuss all kinds of important and interesting things – along with some nice entertainment! Thurmond gets a star for this one … we like it!

  40. September says:

    We could try a letter writing campaign to get the WEP law changed. There are people all over the US who are affected by this provision. There are also organizations that are working to change the law. This is an election year. We should tell our story to the people who represent us in Washington.

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