The Cost of Maintenance

The expenditure data for DCSS Maintenance personnel shows that DeKalb is on the high side of spending for Maintenance personnel when compared to eight other metro Atlanta school systems. Clayton County Schools ($188) and Atlanta Public Schools ($162) consume the most per pupil dollars for maintenance with DeKalb coming in third ($137). The other six metro school systems spend under $100 per pupil on Maintenance.

Looking at each cost center in terms of per pupil dollars consumed is critical to DeKalb Schools. How low can Dr. Atkinson and the DeKalb Board of Education get those non-teaching expenditures is the question. There is a finite amount of per pupil funding. If student achievement is to improve, more per pupil allocation must go into direct instruction and equipment and supplies for the classroom.

Dr. Atkinson has experience with outsourcing in her last school district Lorain City Schools. She proposed and was successful in outsourcing non-core functions when there was a budget crunch. When she interviewed for the CEO position for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, she stated, “My passion is for urban schools districts. I enjoy putting in place programs that are designed around students’ needs. It is my belief that we can educate all children at high levels.…I subscribe to the practice of zero-based budgeting…..I have negotiated contracts to outsource operational services as well as managed internal support services.” Dr. Atkinson has the will and experience to do what is necessary in order to redirect taxpayer dollars into the classrooms, but the citizens of DeKalb must diligently and vigorously support her efforts.

Around 600 teaching positions (also known as the “core business”) were cut in 2009-10 and 2010-11 in order to ensure the continued employment of all DeKalb Schools personnel. Student achievement also fell to the lowest level in the history of the school system and the lowest in the metro area in our Title 1 schools during the last two years as literally hundreds of teaching positions were left unfilled when teachers left the system.

Much has been made of the Compensation audit that Dr. Atkinson is using to assess where DeKalb can save money and reinvest in the classroom. The audit is an excellent start. However, Dr. Atkinson and the Board members must look at the numbers of personnel that perform the functions as well their compensation. Dekalb employs 280 Maintenance personnel for our 95,481 students while Gwinnett employs 154 Maintenance personnel for 159,814 students and Cobb County employs 133 Maintenance personnel for 106,619 students. Gwinnett County has 131 schools while DeKalb has 133 schools. In addition, Gwinnett County has 64,333 more students than DeKalb. That is to say, 64,333 more students are using the equipment that must be maintained in Gwinnett than DeKalb, yet Gwinnett is maintaining that equipment with considerably less maintenance personnel. “Rightsizing” the number of personnel is just as important as “rightsizing” the compensation of those personnel. Protecting jobs should never take precedence over the “core business” of the classroom, which is to educate students. Students are the only reason we have a school system and the reason taxpayers pay school taxes. As Marietta Superintendent Emily Lembeck said when she had to make tough budget decisions, “It becomes more difficult to protect what happens in the classroom without looking at some services that are not directly related… Reducing days of instruction through furloughs and larger class sizes is not in the best interest of our core business of educating students.” Dr. Lembeck ought to know. Marietta City students have had remarkable achievement rates (before and after strict test monitoring) over the last 10 years under Dr. Lembeck even as the school system’s poverty rates have edged higher than DeKalb. That’s exactly why she was named Georgia’s 2012 Superintendent of the Year last week.

School year 2004-2005:
DeKalb Schools employed 280 Maintenance personnel to serve 97,282 students.

School year 2010-2011:
DeKalb employed 251 Security personnel to serve 95,481 students.

The charts below compare DeKalb School System’s current number of and expenditure for Security personnel with other metro Atlanta school systems (* references demographically similar systems).

Every Per Pupil dollar spent for Maintenance is a Per Pupil dollar NOT spent for Instruction.

Comparison Summary (including benefits calculated at 20%):

DeKalb County Schools – 95,481 students – $12,761,613 for 251 Maintenance personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil – $137

*Atlanta Public Schools (APS) – 48,805 students – $7,891,496 for 169 Maintenance Personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil – $162

*Clayton School System – 49,551 students – $9,322,532 for 360 Maintenance Personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil – $188

Gwinnett County Schools – 159,814 students – $9,616,462 for 154 Maintenance Personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil – $60

*Rockdale County Schools – 15,582 students – $1,381,985 for 26 Maintenance Personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil – $89

Fulton County Schools – 89,920 students – $8,105,289 for 129 Maintenance Personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil – $90

Cobb County Schools – 106,619 students – $6,754,106 for 133 Maintenance Personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil – $63

*Marietta City Schools – 8,010 students – $359,738 for 8 Maintenance Personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil – $45

Decatur City Schools – 2,894 students – $269,057 for 5 Maintenance Personnel
Maintenance Cost per pupil – $93

9 Responses to The Cost of Maintenance

  1. Jeep says:

    Well i sure hope all the money will go to the large class room ? but that will do no good if the class room is falling down around them. All the cuts to the maintenance people is going to be a big problem when school opens because we do not have the people to get the job done.One other problem is the people that got let go will not be doing anything but waiting to leave at the end of the month.It is a real shame all employee’s have to pay for all the bad management and the theft from the management. I am quit sure that GOD will be on those who are doing wrong and that includes the board members.Please remember that if you do not like what the board of education is doing then quit voting them in year after year.

  2. AGAIN — Nancy, Don, Paul and Pam did not vote for this budget. Blame can be squarely laid on Gene, Sarah, Jay, Tom and Donna.

  3. atlanta wombat says:

    What we are seeing is not only malfeasance, but also extremely poor planning.

    Money has been wasted FOR YEARS renting trailers. Lithonia HS was built to be a middle school. Poor construction planning (and corruption) lead to the multi-year rental of trailers. Stone Mountain HS still has 9 trailers (and they are in horrible condition).

    No one ever thinks about other creative cost cutting measures. For example, (and I know it would take some adjustment for the entire county), why not start school in September and finish in June. Isn’t August the hottest month (except for this July so far :))? What would be the savings in electricity system-wide?

  4. Exactly. To that point, read this very good comment I’ve copied from the AJC Get Schooled blog:


    July 10th, 2012
    9:09 pm

    Agree with much you say catlady, especially about Central Office. They are SO sure to not give schools more teachers than they earn. How about cutting back CO staff to what is earned there? See the System Allotment here:

    DeKalb earns, for central administration: 1 superintendent, 6 asst superintendents, 1 secretary, 1 accountant, and some VT/SW, psych and SpEd folks. Everybody else (not Fed funded) can go home.

    However, does EVERY school need an assistant principal? Every school certainly doesn’t EARN an assistant principal.(The system earns state funds for 133 principals and 155 assistant principals.) Can one principal and assistant principal handle 995 kids but one principal can’t manage 350? Does every school NEED a FT data clerk? If one can manage a school of 2000 students, why can’t one split days between 2 schools under 500?

    Even though DeKalb EARNS state funding for 169 media positions, they want to ask Dr. Barge for a waiver on minimum staffing. Do they plan to refuse the state funds that would follow those media specialists they are RIFing? If they RIF all of their media clerks and only have media specialists part-time at some schools, guess they need to return the state money for folks they’re not placing!

    As has been noted here before (ad nauseum), WHY are all of the politically-placed central administration staffers KEEPING their jobs, while teachers, media specialists, and parapros, who interact with children in the schools throughout the day every day, being removed from the employ of DCSD?

  5. whoshelpingthekids says:

    right…Arabia was approved as a new school to relieve overcrowding at Lithonia and MLK -could have ditched those trailers a few years ago if the plan had been followed. Then we were promised that if we built this new LEED school, all kinds of companies were eager to help fund/support our new environmental school. Now we’ve paid for trailers for years and are paying for renovations at both high schools – how is that efficient spending and where exactly are those companies now? Heck – forget the money they might contribute – I would gladly settle for some of these businesses speaking up for the children of DeKalb and holding our administrators, Board members, county officials, and DA accountable.

  6. MicktheMagician says:

    Does anyone know how you can enter a work request for facilities maintenance? I have emailed and called the school and the school system maintenance department but I never get a response.
    I am trying to call in about a dangerous section of fencing at my local school.

  7. Usually requests must be made by the principal. You should deal directly with your principal.

  8. MicktheMagician says:

    Thanks. I tried that. I emailed 2 HS principals and 1 middle school (both schools are next to each other). None of them got back to me. Its hard to take this school district seriously when they cannot respond to a parent over a safety request.

  9. Since you have tried the principals, now go to your area superintendent and copy Michael Thurmond and the entire board in an email. Include the previous unanswered emails. If you need the emails of the board, click our link ’email the super and the board’ on the right side panel of our blog.

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