Better late than never?

michael-thurmond-mighty-mouseHere he comes to save the day!

It looks like Mr. Thurmond is recommending spending $10 million on a campaign contribution retirement “option” [tax-sheltered annuity?] contributions for teachers!

JUST RELEASED by Thurmond’s campaign manager turned communications officer for DeKalb County Schools >>


DeKalb County School District Considers Restoring Retirement Options for All Employees

Superintendent Michael Thurmond recommends “assignment” of $10 million in the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2015 – 2016 to reestablish a DeKalb County School District supported retirement option for all employees. The funds have been identified in the District’s fund balance, which is expected to exceed $80 million at the beginning of the new fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2015.

The DeKalb Board of Education will consider this recommendation on Wednesday, June 17, when the final budget for FY2016 is adopted.

“We have been working diligently for the past two years to find ways to help our loyal employees, who have been the victims of a bad economy and poor management decisions in years past,” said Superintendent Thurmond. “With the new budget, the District will have the ability to assist employees with their pre-tax retirement savings in addition to allocating $20 million for significant salary increases for qualified, veteran teachers as well as improved salaries for all other employees. I am particularly proud of the much needed and deserved proposed salary increases for our lowest paid employees.”

In March, Superintendent Thurmond recommended a three-tier salary increase that emphasizes improved salaries for veteran teachers for FY2015-2016. The proposed increases include:

• 4 percent cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for all veteran teachers with 6 or more years of experience
• 3 percent COLA increase to teachers with 0-5 years of experience; and,
• 2 percent COLA increase for all other employees.

The District has 14,000 total employees including 6,000 teachers.

Quinn Hudson


Kidding aside: If he is able to restore these contributions, regardless of his motivation  – we will be thrilled! This 11th hour action by Michael Thurmond before he leaves his post as superintendent would be a much needed very big first step towards restoring trust and integrity with our teachers. Here’s hoping!

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This entry was posted in Board of Education Meetings, Budget Cuts, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, Stan Jester, Superintendent R. Stephen Green, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to Better late than never?

  1. This and That says:

    First word I noticed is “recommends”. I just hope the board listens to his recommendation!

  2. Julie Jones says:

    Thanks, Mr. Thurmond. Now restore the salary losses.

  3. frustrateddekalbparent says:

    Great news, and so nice to read about a positive direction for DCSS! Sincerely hope the board performs its role.

  4. Truly better late than never? It depends. With DeKalb County Schools it is always critical to parse the wording and do the math. And we are always surprised — with so much at stake — that no one seems able or willing to do that. Well, a few people are, but most are not. The first thing to keep in mind is that the people who run DeKalb County Schools are not well-intentioned. They are bullies who are incompetent to do their jobs and could never get the jobs they have for the outrageous salaries they receive, with no accountability, anywhere else. They are interested in one thing and one thing only: keeping their jobs and outrageous salaries. Keeping the Jobs Program going for friends-and-family enables their power trips. Educating children? You are kidding, right?

    So let’s parse the wording and do the math, shall we?

    First, Thurmond says, “retirement option.” He does not say “Tax-Sheltered Annuity.” We don’t know what he is talking about or how he defines “retirement option.” You are thinking he wants to restore TSA. Probably not. Next he says, “recommend.” That’s like saying “up to” as in “up to three candidates for final consideration.” We have seen how Thurmond works behind the scenes to ensure the board will do what he wants. He is like a bulldog — or shall we say “chihuahua” — with a bone. Remember the well-written, innovative Druid Hills Charter Cluster application that could have benefited so many students — many of whom are minority and poor?

    Next, the math. We have not calculated the average salary for DCS teachers. But, dividing $10,000,000 by 6,000 equals $1,667 per teacher. However, more employees than just teachers were/are eligible for and have been cheated out of the Tax-Sheltered Annuity and the interest it would have earned since 2009. So, let’s divide $10,000,000 by an estimated 10,000 employees and that equals $1,000 per employee. Let’s assume that the Tax-Sheltered Annuity agreement called for a 5% annual contribution per eligible employee. That’s less than what Social Security requires employers to pay. And let’s further assume that the average employee salary is $40,000. The TSA contribution for one year would be $2,000 per employee. More than what Thurmond is “recommending.”

    Further, the pittance Thurmond is offering does not cover the years of lost contributions or the interest that would have been earned since 2009. We would bet Thurmond’s recommendation does nothing to settle the lawsuit against DCS, although it might negatively affect the appeal by the plaintiffs. Thurmond is a lawyer and you can bet he has thought of how his recommendation will affect the appeal.

    Meanwhile, teachers have gone without STEP increases, without raises, earning less than their colleagues teaching for public schools in neighboring counties, swallowing furloughs, doing without textbooks and technology, working in overcrowded classrooms, and on and on.

    Ten Million dollars? Seriously? Maybe teachers could get this “retirement option” paid in bitcoin. That has a better chance of being worth more.

  5. Tired says:

    Amen Dekalb School Watch! I have lost thousands of dollars since they took away my TSA! I know I will never see that money because DCS will never do the right thing for the teachers! Just makes me sick!

  6. Teachermom says:

    I would like to be wrong and jaded. However it occurs to me that he is saying this so he can say he recommended it. Without being around to follow through it feels a little like lip service. It would be nice to get some sort of “consideration” though. It really would go a long way towards improving morale.

  7. Weary Worker says:

    My guess is the option he’s offering is a matching fund from the county, where they will match dollar for dollar up to a certain amount based of pay. Perhaps 3 to 5 percent for your pay. This is very common in many employment situations. I think that a lot of staff will not participate so that will bring down the amount of dollars DeKalb will spend. The other part is that that the “options” offered may be with investment companies that charge a lot of fees and don’t offer the same returns as say Vanguard or TIAA Cref. They may have a deal that is too good for the county (not the employee investors) to turn down.

  8. It sounds like he plans on either running for one of the following ; Isakson’s Senate seat or Hank Johnson Congressional seat or The Dekalb CEO position as soon as Ellis is convicted in a couple of weeks.

    Iasakson’s health announcement make him vulnerable. Johnson has been Vulnerable since his tipping comment. Then of course Lee May, has been found to have that check he didn’t sign! Sure!

    This sure seems like a lot of posturing since he was not successful with his little behind the scenes deal to sabatoge the superintendent selection so he could stay on and continue collecting the $300k a year.

    I would ask, why did he not do something with the TSA funding for two years. Why did he make sure to shut down Stan.

    I want to make sure that if anyone is run by them Dems for the Senate seat in 2016, it is an electable candidate like Ms. Nunn or Mr. Carter. The same thing, I would rather see Mr. Carter challenge Hank than the chain of jokes the 4th have had.

  9. We went to Stan Jester’s website, Fact Checker, and came up with more information:
    Spending on instruction for FY15 is about $8M under what it is supposed to be. In case you are wondering FY15 ends on June 30, 2015. Go here for more details on the dollars.

    At the May 4, 2015 board meeting, during the financial report, Stan moved to use that $8 million to restore the Tax-Sheltered Annuity for teachers. Discussion was postponed until the budget report where $10 million was then earmarked for “DeKalb Employees.” That earmark is at the top left of this document.

    In a follow-up, Stan asked the crucial question: “What percent of each employee’s earned annual income is proposed to go to board TSA contributions?” Michael Bell’s non-reply in an email was, [MICHAEL BELL] Board TSA contributions for employees under PSERS (custodians, bus drivers and monitors, food service assistants, etc.), are included in the proposed budget. These employees get a TSA of 8% of their salary. There are approximately 2,170 individuals, per HR, under this status.” Stan has documented financial questions here.

    Bell’s non-response to Stan’s question said that the $10M was earmarked for PSERS employees, NOT for teachers and other eligible DCS employees. That’s Bell’s M.O. — give an answer for a question that was not asked, but that Bell wishes had been asked. In this case, Bell was unintentionally helpful. Stan noted, “Michael Thurmond didn’t tell us about the ‘All Employees’ thing until the press release went out.” Thurmond has been asked for more details, but he’s not replying to any emails.

    Here is Stan’s comment on DSW on May 29, 2015 (see below):
    “As you may or may not know, I have been an advocate for pushing money into the classroom. Over the last 5 months I have made numerous motions to reinstate teacher TSA and raise teacher salaries to no avail.

    Public school employees covered under the PSERS retirement system are school bus drivers, school lunchroom personnel, school maintenance personnel, and school custodial personnel, etc. In the Proposed FY16 Budget employees covered under PSERS get an 8% TSA contribution. Teachers get nothing.

    65% Rule
    Classrooms First for Georgia – requires, at a minimum, 65% of a system’s total operating funds to be spent in the classroom. Based upon the Proposed FY2016 Operating Budget, the projected percent expended in the classroom would come to 63.64% this coming year.

    “This is disheartening, folks. Once again DeKalb Schools is balancing the budget on the backs of teachers. DSW has a link at the top right to “Email the Board of Education”. Please avail yourself of that link and let the board know what you think.”

    If you don’t go to Stan Jester’s website, Fact Checker, regularly you are missing out on a huge amount of factual information not provided by DeKalb County Schools or by any other DCS board member. “Just the facts, Ma’am”

  10. Donna says:

    I think all the employees in DeKalb County School System should all get the same percentage increase. I know people in the school system who take their jobs very serious and really work hard.

  11. The Wiz says:

    I am not a tax attorney or a tax law specialist, but from running small businesses and being self employed, I believe that by law, all employers or working persons HAVE to pay into the Social Security System or pay into an equivalent, approved retirement program. The Georgia State Teachers Retirement Fund is in addition to the afore mentioned. So, how could a lawyer and the former Georgia State Labor Commissioner not understand that from day one, DeKalb was not in compliance with the law. And, that this problem should have been a top, budgeted priority.

    I know of businesses that have been closed down by the Internal Revenue Service for not making the proper payroll withholding deductions and for not forwarding the money on to the federal and state governments’ treasuries.

    So, Mr. Thurmond, thanks for remembering the employees, by throwing them a bone that they cannot chew, as you slide out the back door over at the A.I.C. But, how do you explain that you totally ignored to even try to fix this important situation, until the last minute?

    Oh, I know! Now that it has been mentioned and documented in a press release, Mr. Hudson, your private Spin-Meister can fluff it up, and include it in your next resume!

    I guess that you weren’t against it before you were for it, before it was too late. Now that it is on the Internet, it must be true. Problem solved.

  12. September says:

    When I earned money that counted as salary and the Social Security taxes weren’t paid by the person I did the work for, I paid those taxes when I did my federal tax return. The Wiz is right most employers would be in serious legal trouble if they didn’t pay their Social Security taxes. DCS probably got a legal pass on that requirement when teachers voted to leave Social Security. Otherwise, why would the Social Security Administration allow this to go on for so many years without stepping in?

  13. @ Donna: Did you send this comment to your board representative or to the whole board? If not, why not? Even if you live outside DeKalb County you may still message the whole board.

  14. Word Wall says:

    Thurmond still hasn’t had the courage to actually say the words “Dekalb Tax Sheltered Annuity” or “Social Security” …. too little, too late.

  15. @ Word Wall: Thurmond can’t say “Tax Sheltered Annuity” or “Social Security.” That $10 million Thurmond so disingenuously “recommended” as a “retirement option” for DeKalb County Schools teachers was already spoken for to fund the 8% Tax Sheltered Annuity (TSA) contribution per DCS employee in the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). If Thurmond thinks we are even going to suggest, much less support, taking away the TSA contribution for the lowest paid employees in DCS he is very, very wrong. Arrogant, too.

    Further, $10 million would not even come close to paying one year’s TSA contribution for all DCS employees who are part of the Teachers Retirement System. It certainly won’t pay all the suspended contributions and lost interest since 2009.

    Instead of fighting the teachers when it was clear that the board had ignored their own policy, which they then hurriedly changed, DCS should have followed policy and given the required two-year notice. Then the teachers could have gotten back into Social Security which would have been much better anyhow. DCS could not allow that because the feds are so picky about businesses not weaseling out of required Social Security payments. The only way DCS could allow TSA or SS was to reduce the seriously bloated payroll for the Palace. DCS absolutely was not going to do that!

    NOTE: Speaking of Social Security … there is going to be a Social Security “seminar” at the Palace on Wednesday morning, June 17, 2015. We have asked Stan Jester to find out if it will be streamed live and/or available for playback. As soon as we get an answer from Stan we will post the information.

  16. And in other news, at least two-dozen Principals and Assistant Principals have been moved to new schools….

  17. This and That says:

    What? That happened in May ’11. County moved 50 principals and APs all-around the county. Very sad decision. What was the reasoning this time?

  18. This and That says:

    Now that I think about it, it was the end of the 2011-2012 school year. We were told the last day of school that our principal was going to another school. We would get both a new principal and assistant principal.

  19. Teachermom says:

    Dsw2contributor-is there a list somewhere of who has been moved? I know of some but haven’t heard that number.

  20. dekalbteach says:

    That big principal shuffle at the end of SY 2011-2012 was one of the best things that happened for our school!

  21. We don’t have a list of the principal assignments. If anyone gets a list, please post it. The last time this happened, it went out in a press release, so maybe that will be forthcoming.

  22. dekalbteacher says:

    Does anyone else think it’s strange (and another example of the school district’s mismanagement and dysfunction) that these administrative moves-if they are actually happening- take place during the summer after things for the following school year have been, for the most part, determined?

    Why aren’t such moves happening in the last few weeks of school when the administrator can get a feel for the new school, students, and communities? How much can a new administrator help schedules, teacher/staff assignments, etc… when those things have already been decided?

    Notice that Thurmond doesn’t wait until the last minute when it comes to finding a PR person or getting an announcement out. Those are important things. The running of schools? Not so much.

  23. DeKalb Educators’ Annual Conference – Promoting Excellence in Education
    DeKalb County School District
    Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at 7:30 AM – Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 4:30 PM (EDT)
    Stone Mountain, GA

  24. dsw2contributor says:

    ^ Slumberparty!

  25. dekalbteacher says:

    Isn’t it strange how public meetings intended to get the public’s input, ideas, and suggestions get so little attention or explanation when so many of Thurmond’s salute-worthy actions or the board’s justifications warrant repeated news releases and newsflashes?

    Look at the (dated) new releases announcing Thurmond’s specious retirement plan recommendation or the new superintendent; now look at the announcement for the CLIP meeting tonight. I guess when you’re spending so much of these federal funds with little to no accountability you probably don’t want much input. Nevertheless, it’s pretty shocking, especially when our school district appears to have been spending Title 1 funds inappropriately.

  26. Insider says:

    I was talking to three co-workers who had been hired in the last few years, and they thought the board was still contributing to the TSA! Why? Because they were told that during their new employe orientation. Sadly, I had to set them straight.

    While I appreciate the 2% raise I’ll be getting, I’m still subject to furlough days, because the “eliminate all furlough days” mantra applies only to teachers – not support staff. I’d love to get those days back as well.

  27. former dekalb parent says:

    so true Insider– if we could video the HR team at work, we would certainly have an incompetency lawsuit….they never know what they are talking about, do not know how to assist anyone, and the rub is the huge amounts of money being paid to this department. I am hearing of people set to retire only to be told that they need a few more months, because of the probationary new hire time at the beginning……these are dedicated employees they are dealing with– the employees deserve so much more!

  28. Tired says:

    What is the “probationary new hire time ” for teachers who want to retire? I have never heard of this.

  29. sawyerbrown68 says:

    HR disguises vacancies by posting 1 vacancy instead of several vacancies.

    In some cases, the vacancies are cured by shifting an applicant to one school to another. The general public and the school board members think the number of teachers on the run is small while it is actually huge. Clever HR, right?

    This ruse provides cover for the district and for the low teacher morale school principals.

    How can we document this ruse? Indirectly.

    Lakeside bled 6 Science teachers per Ivan Igotasecret: not a single vacancy was posted.

    Lakeside bled 3 English teachers in June: only one is advertized.

    Lakeside seniors are going to be very disappointed in August when they find out the English Star-teacher listed on their schedules is actually teaching in another system. Yes, Doctor H. is gone after just 3 years. She was so appreciated by students and parents.

    Wake up, Dekalb! Wake up, Lakeside!

  30. Frustrated Dekalb Parent says:

    Is anyone aware that the district is not pursuing a charter designation for the McNair College and Career Academy?

    However it does appear that there are funds still in the budget to support this implementation. Can someone confirm?

  31. We have never heard of a “probationary new hire time” for teachers in DeKalb County Schools. Maybe the board will have to create a retroactive “board policy” at tonight’s board meeting.

    That said, we have never understood teachers who retire (or otherwise leave) during the school year. That kind of thing creates issues for students and sometimes classes are taught for months by a substitute teacher who is paid considerably less and may or may not be fully qualified to teach in a particular subject area. Retire before or after a school year.

  32. former dekalb parent says:

    not all employees are teachers……but these retirements are by people who qualify for TRS….

  33. We are not sure what you are trying to say here. However, TRS is not limited to certified teachers and administrators. Clerical employees are also members of TRS. That’s one reason why we have asked repeatedly about rumors we have heard that there are people in the Palace who still receive DCS contributions to the Tax Sheltered Annuity (TSA).

  34. former dekalb parent says:

    in your comment to my comment about the “probationary” period, you asked about teachers, I was just reminding you that not all the employees are teachers, I am well aware of that fact and know that this blog is aware. There have been many employees who have had to extend their retirement date due to this “probationary” period….yet they paid into the accounts from day 1. Let’s not quibble about this, the key is the incompetent HR department messing with the employees and their lives.

  35. NEWS FLASH .. Board approved lowering millage rate by .25

    It’s a start – but not much, considering they raised the millage rate 1 full point in 2012 during the ‘Great Recession’… This was done at the request of then superintendent Ramona Tyson, by a vote of 5 to 4 by the board that was later ‘fired’ by the Governor.

    It is also worth noting that DeKalb County School System (DCSS) required 5 mils of property taxes when it established DeKalb Community College when Jim Cherry was superintendent. Years later, when DeKalb Community College became part of the University System of Georgia and was no longer owned or funded by DCSS the 5 mils was not rolled back.

    DeKalb schools vote to raise taxes, cut 477 jobs [And no, those were not central office jobs]

    [Interesting comment from the above article, “The good thing about all this negativity is that a sleeping giant has been awakened. We now, as parents, are going to be very active in our school board,” said parent Tanya Graham.” .. Where oh where are you Tanya Graham? Are you very active in your school board? Let us know how it’s going for you.]

    More history on the Subject >>

    Property Taxes Increasing In DeKalb
    Posted on June 18, 2014 by Stan Jester

    The Schoolhouse Squeeze, A report from the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute

    Click to access Schoolhouse-Squeeze-Report-09232013.pdf

    The millage rate cap of 20 mills was set in the Georgia Constitution of 1983. City school districts, however, are exempt from the cap as are those districts whose millage rates were above 20 when the Constitution was passed. (Ross Rubenstein and David Sjoquist, Financing Georgia’s Schools: A Primer. Fiscal Research Center, Georgia State University, 2003. In 2012, the most recent year available, there were five districts with millage rates above 20: Atlanta City, Decatur City, DeKalb County, Muscogee County and Rockdale County.

    And for a little truth o meter by Stan, read one of our favorite posts of his >>

    04/17/2013 Michael Thurmond at ELPC

    We do hope Stan continues reporting the Truth o Meter!

  36. We are having trouble reconciling the principal shuffles with DCSD Policy BBFA-R(1), listed below:

    DeKalb Board of Education Policy BBFA: Local School Councils and Georgia School Council Law 2007 O.C.G.A. 20-2-85 and O.C.G.A. 20-2-86

    “Each school in the DeKalb County School District is required to have a local school council that meets the requirements of state law and operates in an advisory capacity pursuant to appropriately adopted school council by-laws.

    The role of the school council in the principal selection process shall be advisory and will be specified in regulations developed by the Superintendent”

    Therefore, the following regulations regarding the role of the school council in the selection process of the local school principal include the following:

    · Each local school council should solicit input from internal and external stakeholders in the form of parent, teacher, student, and community surveys, questionnaires, or other means of gathering input identifying the characteristics of a great principal.

    · The Regional Superintendent will meet with a local school council and teachers to discuss and identify the needs of a particular school related to the selection process of the school principal and review results of input gathered.

    · The Regional Superintendents and the local school council should use the input from school stakeholders to compile a list of recommended characteristics of a great principal and communicate the information to all school stakeholders.

    · The Regional Superintendent will submit the list of the identified desirable characteristics of a great principal to the Superintendent on behalf of the local school council.

    · The Superintendent has the executive authority to transfer a principal due to extenuating circumstances or emergencies not limited to FMLA, death of a sitting principal, legal implications, professional performance or low academic student achievement.

  37. Hopefully, you have all seen Stan Jester’s post on the principal reassignments >>

    School Principal Update

  38. Be careful when you get your raises. Make sure that you are getting a 4% increase. The District needs to be clear that this is a 4% of the state minum base salary for someone at your step on the scale. All the District is paying you now is the state minimum. I may be mistaken, but it may be that this comes from the state money that the District is given for teachers’ salaries. Other districts pay local supplements, and you could get a decent raise just by signing a contract with those districts. And raises in those districts are calculated from those supplemented salaries.

    I once totalled all my gross from the beginning of my contract through the end, and I was receiving BELOW the amount on the salary scale for that year. Far less in fact. I got a notice that Dekalb was not even paying me at the state minimum, and so I was paid a supplement to get me UP TO THE STATE MINIMUM. Dekalb had to do this because DOE annually audits these salaries, and mine happened to have been pulled. Many of you teachers may not, yourself, even be paid the state minium. This was a budget cutting trick on teachers by the county.

    I bet any new teachers to Dekalb don’t know any of this. Hell, they’re still being told about the annuity that Crawford stole from the teachers.

    I know that during my years in Dekalb my income steadily decreased until I realized I had lost about $6000 in annual income over the years.

    My past experiences with salary issues in Dekalb would suggest that it’s going to be hard to figure out exactly how much your salary increases. When the District went to bimonthly checks (a bone thrown to the teachers by Atkinson), I could never figure what my salary was, it never seemed to add up to the salary scale pay, and it often differed month-to-month. I believe, paranoid it may be, that the District was able to pay us less under the bimonthly system. Taking different deductions each pay period confused the hell out of me, I don’t know about you guys.

    Also, I often wonder if the District counts the zero-year step on the salary scale.

    And another, question/observation: I assume that our stellar HR department is handling all the employment issues involved in hiring the new Superintendent. If so, wow, that brings my confidence in the District down a notch on the far end of the negative side of the scale.

  39. dsw2contributor says:

    ^Thanks for pointing that it out, DSW.

    Stan: I don’t think you have all the Principal and Assistant Principal changes listed.

  40. Stan Jester says:

    The new and reassigned principals report was run on 5/22.

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