Strategic Management and Accountability … and Other Myths

myth-v-truthIn FY ’14, the budget for the division of Strategic Management & Accountability was $205,053. During this year there was one full time employee and the travel budget was $10,000.

In the FY ’15 budget, the division of Strategic Management & Accountability had a budget of $228,066 and did not show up on the organizational chart of the district. It had no employees.

In the FY ’16 budget $215,016 is budgeted for the division of Strategic Management & Accountability. This division still is not included in the organizational chart of the district and still doesn’t have any employees.

You wouldn’t think that could get any worse, but the amount budgeted for travel in FY ’15 and FY ’16 is $9,500. Remember, no employees.

There is a reason for this division to show up in the budget even if it doesn’t exist. On August 5, 2013, the BOE voted to outsource the creation and monitoring of the district’s strategic plan to Georgia School Boards Association at a cost of $250,000. This cost was to be allocated to the Division of Strategic Management and Accountability. The cost was $45,000 more than the total budget for the division, but the BOE doesn’t look at the details of what they are asked to approve. The agenda item which the BOE approved lists ten services the Georgia School Boards Association are to do as part of the contract. None of them are currently uploaded on the BOE’s eBoard Strategic Plan 2019 page. It has only been 22 months. No sense in rushing into something like this. (Please reread the previous sentence as sarcastic.)

Math shows us the district has spent $478,066 for Strategic Management and doesn’t have a strategic plan. Stan Jester posted a link in the comments of a post on his page to what used to be the Strategic Plan web page, but the district took the link to that page down after he posted it. That page promised the strategic plan would be presented to the BOE for “Final Approval” before June 30, 2014. Stakeholders are still waiting for that to happen.

On a side note, in place of the strategic plan, the district’s website is currently referencing the Comprehensive Restructuring Plan from 2008. Another example of communication by C.Y.A.

Add in the FY ’16 budget and the total budgeted for a strategic plan will be $693,082. What are the odds of Dr. Green being able to put a strategic plan together within his first year? I would say close to zero if he doesn’t remove the central office staff who don’t want to be held accountable for results. The current administration doesn’t believe in Accountability.

For example, Dr. Smith, the head of HR, told the BOE that the district’s goal for teacher retention is 93%. However, using the monthly HR reports and a little more math, you can see the teacher retention rate for the last twelve months is just under 85%. This is worse than it was for the 2013-14 school year. The district’s media machine is saying teacher morale has been restored, but they don’t say how that was measured. Clearly, teacher retention is not part of the equation.

Dr. Smith doesn’t report the teacher retention rate to the BOE and they don’t bother to ask or do the math.

The absence of accountability within the DeKalb County Schools administration would laughable if it wasn’t so sad.

The only thing more sad is how the BOE lets them get away with it.

Posted in Board of Education Meetings, Budget Cuts, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, Michael Thurmond, Open Records Requests, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 17 Comments

Updates from the Monday, June 1 Board Meeting

The Monday, June 1 Board meeting was held and a few items of interest are listed below.

Of course our main news item is the hiring of Dr. Stephen Green as our new superintendent. Below are links to his resume and contract. You can read his bio at Stan Jester’s post on the Fact Checker blog.

StephenGreenResume05292015

StephenGreenContract05292015

Employment Contract Overview

  • Salary – $300K/year
  • Length – 3 years (Pursuant to § 20-2-101)
  • Expenses – $2,600/month
  • Car allowance – $750/month
  • Supplemental retirement plan in addition to TRS
  • Retention bonus – $15K/year

For more on the subject of Dr. Green’s generous pay, read our post, Superintendent Green’s Contract: Giving Away The Farm?

Dr. Green has a lot of work to do and a lot of house cleaning in order to win the support of most of us in the community. We are withholding enthusiasm for now. We hope to have news of bold initiatives and personnel replacements. Time will tell if Dr. Green really has what it takes or if he will simply try to convince us that he can work with the current administration to make miraculous change as he collects a lovely salary and monthly stipend. In fact, we would question the character of a person who would accept an additional retirement package, when hired to lead teachers who have had theirs taken away. We will be watching to see if Dr. Green makes the teachers pay [proposed raises], annuities, benefits, and workload [class size and professional support] a first order of business.   DeKalb continues to rank at or near the bottom in student achievement and hiring and retaining the best teachers is the only way to improve student outcomes.

Dr. Green does sound enthusiastic in his first video interview for PDS24.

Additionally, the 2nd Public Budget Hearing, Community Input Session & 1st Public Millage Rate Hearing was held at 5:45. The DeKalb School Board is about to vote to keep your property tax millage rate at the very high [temporary] rate set by the previous board when property values declined during the recession. Read our post on the subject below. We strongly urge you to attend these millage rate hearings and voice your concern. Your ‘rate’ may remain the same, but your property value will definitely increase when set by the county tax assessor. This is very hard to contest once set.

Yes, your property taxes are in fact increasing, as values increase and the Board refuses to lower the millage rate accordingly. Can you say, “Windfall”?

News has been swirling that the school formerly known as DSA, Open Campus and Briarcliff High School is now on the docket to be rebuilt in order to house the burgeoning student growth in the Cross Keys cluster. Read Mr. Thurmond’s plan here:

Over Capacity in the Cross Keys Cluster_619548chejyz22amkkvu552432rgf1

Below is a link to the school district’s proposed very healthy, $875 million FY2016 budget, due to the increased property tax rate as well as a substantial increase in FTE credits from the state.

fy-2016-proposed-budget

fy-2016-proposed-budget-detail

QBE Budget Analysis FY 2008-2016_619553chejyz22amkkvu552432rgf1

Further, Mr. Thurmond, after nearly three years at the helm, finally ‘discovered’ that DeKalb has no curriculum! Better late than never. He has committed $500,000 to develop one. Of course, he thinks this is possible using the very same people who have happily ‘led’ the system sans curriculum for over 15 years. Bear in mind, Michael Thurmond allocated over $72.5 million* to his “Bridge Initiative” which has no measurable goals and from what we can tell, is essentially a tv show.  [Look up cognitive dissonance theory.]

And if you’re wondering what is going on with the deadline to choose which kind of school district DeKalb will select, read this post: DeKalb Charter System Update, at the Fact Checker blog.

ANNOUNCEMENTS
1. DeKalb Board of Education 2nd Millage Rate Hearing, 11:30am, Wednesday, June 17, 2015 and 3rd Millage Rate Hearing & Called Meeting, 6:15pm, Wednesday, June 17, 2015, J. David Williamson Board Room, Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain
2. SPLOST Oversight Committee Meeting, 6:00pm, Thursday, June 25, 2015, Conference Room, Same A. Moss Service Center, 1780 Montreal Road, Tucker
3. DeKalb Board of Education Work Session (2:00pm), Community Input Session (5:45pm) and Business Meeting (7:00pm), Monday, July 13, 2015, J. David Williamson Board Room, Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain

For more information on meetings, click here.

 

+++

* We originally reported this number as $3 million, but that is only the ‘unbudgeted’ amount of the Bridge Initiative. The true budget for the program was $72.5 million — virtually the ENTIRE Ttitle 1 budget for ALL schools — proposed by Michael Thurmond and rubber-stamped approved by the DeKalb Board of Education!!

Posted in Board of Education Meetings, Budget Cuts, Charter School Amendment, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, GA Legislature / Laws / O.C.G.A., Michael Thurmond, Stan Jester, Superintendent R. Stephen Green, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 47 Comments

Superintendent Green’s Contract: Giving Away The Farm?

Stephen-GreenAfter seeing the “overview” of Superintendent Green’s contract, we were curious to see what he was really being paid. See below for Year One and Year Two — with a whole lot of blank spaces.  Who is so fiscally irresponsible as to approve and then sign a contract with blank spaces?

RSGreen Contract Years One and Two_8.5×14 Page

NOTE: The contract attachment (above in PDF) may be printed on a single 8-1/2 x 14 page. The attachment in Excel 2010 is also available via email from DSW on request.  

In addition to filling in the blanks with dollar amounts (or percentage of salary — annual or monthly) we also have a few questions.  We have asked for answers.  We think you will agree that these questions are entirely appropriate given the following facts:

We are paying top dollar for a superintendent (1)who comes from an unaccredited system 1/7th the size of DeKalb County Schools where he was (2)unable to meet academic achievement goals while (3)spending about $20,000 per student and (4) who misled the Kansas City taxpayers about seeing the K.C. job through even as he was (5)looking for another job in another city.

Plus, DeKalb County Schools already spends so much money on the bloated Palace that DCS is financially unable to: (6)pay teachers a competitive salary; (7)make teachers whole regarding lost contributions to the Tax Sheltered Annuity and (8)the resulting loss of earned interest; (9)provide textbooks and technology for all students; (10)properly supply classrooms, teachers and students; (11)provide substitute teachers as needed; (12)provide well-deserved and promised raises to ALL certified personnel, including media specialists (who teach every student); and (13)reimburse the federal government for mis-used Title 1 funds (in 2014) thereby continuing to shortchange students who require Title 1 services since all federal funding — at least for Title 1 — has stopped.

Here are the questions:

[1]  What is the dollar amount or percentage of salary for each item (green cells) in the Standard Benefits Package for 12-month Certified Administrative Employees?

[2]  What other insurance is provided to 12-month Certified Administrative Employees? Social Security?  Supplemental Retirement Plan?  Tax-Sheltered Annuity?  How much is this additional insurance?

[3]  Green should pay his own share of TRS — just like teachers do.  Will DCS be paying anything additional to “buy” credits for the years Green has worked elsewhere in education?

[4]  How much paid leave (not vacation) is part of this contract?

[5]  How much unpaid leave is part of this contract?  At what point does unpaid leave become job abandonment? (Remembering Cheryl Atkinson’s antics …)

[6]  Why?  We don’t see the point of this expense except to add to Green’s already overblown compensation.

[7]  What is the difference between the Life Insurance that is part of the Standard Benefits Package for 12-month Certified Administrative Employees and this term life insurance?  Isn’t this duplicating what is already in the Standard Benefits Package for 12-month Certified Administrative Employees?  Why is it included?

[8]  The contract reads, “Shall previously been budgeted for as general expenses of the Superintendent.”  How much is that?  What does it cover?  How much are the membership dues for the Georgia Superintendents Association and the American Association of School Administrators?  Does reimbursement require receipts?

[9]  Why?  Have threats been made?  If so, involve the DeKalb County police.  What constitutes security, anyhow?  Installing an alarm system in the Superintendent’s house? Full-time security person as the Superintendent’s driver (like Atkinson had)?  Round-the-clock security at home and at the Palace?

[10]  According to the contract this equipment remains the property of DeKalb County Schools.  Will the Superintendent be financially responsible for damage, destruction and loss — and replacement? (Also remembering Cheryl Atkinson’s antics …)

[11]  How is this different from the Tax Sheltered Annuity taken away from teachers? Why is it provided to a new superintendent, who is new to DeKalb County Schools, when teachers are denied?  Actually, we have heard rumors that senior administrative employees at the Palace still receive Tax Sheltered Annuity contributions.

[12]  Why are our tax dollars paying for this when the Affordable Care Act makes reasonably-priced health care available for just such a situation.  What other unintended costs might we incur by extending Missouri-based health insurance for a month?  For example, suppose Green’s current plan allows insured healthcare treatment in Missouri only.  Who pays for transportation and lodging if Green or his wife need healthcare during June?

[13]  Not included in the contract:  Who is paying for Green’s relocation expenses such as packing and moving costs, real estate fees, house-hunting travel between Kansas City and the Atlanta area, etc?  DeKalb County Schools?  How much will those costs be? They are not in the contract.

[14]  Not included in the contract:  Will Green be asked to live in DeKalb County where his success — or lack of — will have a serious effect on home values (including his home value), business relocation and job opportunities?  This, also, is not in the contract.  Why?

Do you have any other questions?  Ask your board member and let us know, too. We will add your questions to the list and track the answers you get when you share them with us.  Meanwhile, you might find it eye-opening to compare Green’s salary and perks with your own paycheck report.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 33 Comments

Yes, your property taxes are in fact increasing, as values increase and the Board refuses to lower the millage rate accordingly. Can you say, “Windfall”?

free-moneyWe have long said that our budgetary recovery is simply due to the fact that although property values have recovered, the Board has never returned the ‘temporary’ millage rate increase approved by the Board for 2012, endorsed and upheld by Ramona Tyson, Cheryl Atkinson and Michael Thurmond as sitting superintendents, in order to recover property tax revenues lost from decreasing property values of the recession. This increased tax collection due to increased property values has resulted in at least a $100 million Windfall for the school board’s ‘budgets’ the last two years.

Read this perfectly explained letter sent to us from David S, a District 4 Taxpayer >>

Dr. Melvin Johnson, Chair
DeKalb County Board of Education
1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd.
Stone Mountain, GA

Dr. Johnson:

As a long-time resident and tax-payer in DeKalb County, I am quite disappointed that the Board has decided to raise property taxes once again to fund a burgeoning budget rather than taking a more responsible position and getting rid of unneeded programs and excessive administrative staff. Disappointed, but not surprised.

Having accepted this action of the Board, I’ve looked for the Notice of Property Tax Increase that you are required by law to post and have been unable to find it, either in a local newspaper, as required, or on the School Board website, also required. Nor have I seen a DCBOE press release advertising your intention to raise property taxes (also required).

I do note, however, that you have scheduled “Public Budget and Millage Rate Hearings,” on both June 1 and June 17. I sincerely hope that these scheduled meetings are not meant to take the place of the Property Tax Increase hearings because (1) it violates Georgia law, and (2) it would appear that the Board is hiding something from the public (we certainly don’t want that).

Since, at times, it seems as though we have more lawyers working for the school system than we do educators, I’m wondering if you might have one of them review Georgia Department of Revenue Regulation 560-11-2-58 (http://dor.georgia.gov/rollback-millage-rate-when-digest-value-increased-reassessments) and verify if my understanding is correct. As I read it, in order for you, as a “levying authority,” to raise property taxes, you must do the following:

  • Schedule three Property Tax Increase hearings [Par (4) (b) 1]
  • Advertise each, at least a week prior to the hearing [Par (4) (b) 2(i)]
  • Advertise each in a local paper, and on your website [Par (4) (b) 2(i)].
  • The advertisements must be specifically titled, “Notice of Property Tax Increase,” and contain specific information regarding the dollar increase in property tax [Par (4) (b) 2(i)].
  • Along with the advertisements, the Board must issue a press release to local media announcing its intention to raise property taxes [Par (4) (b) 2(viii)].
  • The Board must provide evidence of compliance with these and all other requirements in this regulation before the tax commissioner can authorize the collection of higher property taxes [Par (5) (a)].

Please let me know when this process will begin. Or, if I have simply missed the advertisements and the press release, please direct me to them.

Thank you.

You may also wish to read >>

Property Taxes Increasing In DeKalb

Something does not compute

DeKalb School District Boosts Budget Surplus to $30.9 Million: Truth be Told

So, exactly how did Michael Thurmond ‘balance’ DeKalb Schools’ budget?

Posted in Board of Education Meetings, Budget Cuts, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, GA Legislature / Laws / O.C.G.A., Michael Thurmond, Ramona Howell Tyson | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

New Superintendent Contract

Reprinted from Stan Jester’s post on the Fact Checker blog >>

On Thursday May 28, the DeKalb County Board of Education approved an employment contract with Dr. R. Stephen Green as Superintendent of DeKalb County Schools, effective July 1, 2015.

Employment Contract With Dr. R. Stephen Green

Employment Contract Overview

Salary – $300K/year
Length – 3 years (Pursuant to § 20-2-101)
Expenses – $2,600/month
Car allowance – $750/month
Supplemental retirement plan in addition to TRS
Retention bonus – $15K/year

Termination of Employment

Termination for the Superintendent’s Convenience – The Superintendent may at his option terminate the contract. Superintendent shall pay the Board $150K.

Termination for Cause By Board – The School District may terminate the Superintendent for cause by a positive vote of at least five of the seven of the members of the whole Board pursuant to O.C.G.A 20-2-940.

Termination for the Board’s Convenience – The Board, upon a supermajority vote of at least five of its seven members, may terminate the contract for its convenience. The Board shall pay to the Superintendent severance pay in the amount of $150K.

Posted in Board of Education Meetings, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, DeKalb County [GA] School System Retirees, DeKalb County, Georgia, Education in the South, GA Legislature / Laws / O.C.G.A., Georgia Independent Schools, Superintendent R. Stephen Green, Superintendent Search | Tagged , , , , | 47 Comments