DeKalb Schools in the AJC

This weekend an entire page in the AJC, Opinion – A23, was dedicated to various editorials regarding DeKalb Schools.
Maureen Downey pointed out DeKalb’s reputation is still a problem with parents, and despite the convictions of a recent school administration, leadership is still a “protectorate of the status quo”.
While I agree with Ms. Downey’s observation, I also observe that a majority of DeKalb’s citizens often vote to support that status quo. State Representative Tom Taylor noted out of 23 members of the DeKalb Delegation, only 6 stood with the Governor in the removal of the DeKalb School Board. The Druid Hills Cluster vote, cityhood movements, and HR 486 (referendum to form new school districts) are evidence that a number of local communities are left with no other alternatives given the effects of the tyranny of the majority.
Michael Thurmond started his editorial with a victory lap on the budget and accreditation. Regarding the budget, the budgeted amount for legal fees may have been reduced by $6 million, but as of the October Financial Report, we are on track to spend as much, if not more, than usual on legal fees. Simply saying “we cut the budget” isn’t the same as actually spending less. Are we seeing the same rouse as we did under previous superintendents? Remember, the budget technique where the budgeted expense was not even close to what was actually spent? What does a budget mean if it bears no relationship to the actual money spent? Why has the administration removed the monthly budgeted numbers, preventing comparisons to monthly actual expenditures? Why are the expenses paid to some law firms, absent from any financial reports this year? The financial reports produced by the administration for the “fiscal year to date” do not reflect our actual finiancial situation. Regarding accreditation, Thurmond has successfully made the current board fall in line behind him which is ultimately what SACS accredits. The board’s obedience to the administration resulted in the rejection of the Druid Hills Charter Cluster application.
Michael Thurmond dedicated most of his editorial space to the sale of his new Bridge Initiative, describing it as a “comprehensive strategy designed to improve growth and achievement outcomes among students from economically disadvantaged families.” Thurmond proclaims, “by celebrating our current and reclaimed parent partners, we will improve educational outcomes for all 100,000 students in DeKalb County.”
I’m curious how the millions spent on Thurmond’s Bridge Initiative will improve the outcomes for all 100,000 students when, as stated in the 08/05 board meeting, the parental engagement initiaive will be based in South DeKalb, primarily in District 5. I do, however, see how reviving parent centers will help unemployment in South DeKalb. Just 2 years ago, DeKalb Schools was spending $4.5 million a year on 79 DeKalb parent center personnel.
As parent of three students in Chamblee, Bill Armstrong pointed out many positives in the Chamblee schools “in spite of the school board, superintendents, and central office.” Mr. Armstrong did give Thurmond credit for settling the Heery lawsuit. While I’m relieved the lawsuit is behind us, I’m disappointed with the value of the settlement. Let us not forget that it was an administration that pushed a board to enter this lawsuit in the first place. Remember, board obedience is rewarded in accreditation.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

6 responses to “DeKalb Schools in the AJC

  1. I think you are making an assumption when you write, “Why are the expenses paid to some law firms, absent from any financial reports this year?”
    Your assumption is they have been paid. Based on the vendor spends report, it is not uncommon for invoices to sit 3 or 4 months before being entered into the system.

  2. Hello Guy Midvale,
    We know that many invoices sit for 5+ months before being entered into the system. We also know that millions of dollars every year never show up on the current fiscal year report. The problem is the DeKalb Schools’ monthly financial report is not an accurate representation of the health or status of the school district’s finances . Here are some of the indicators I’m using to make this judgement:
    McKenna, Long & Aldridge (MLA)
    MLA is a law firm hired at the 02/18/2013 Called Board Meeting for 3 months at $170,000. Later the board authorized $50,000/month for an additional 16 months starting June 1, 2013. The $170K shows up on last years fiscal reports. The $50K/month since June 1 does not.
    Q1: How many millions of dollars are not showing up in the vendor spend report and are not reflected in the monthly financial report?
    Basis of Accounting
    Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and the Ga DOE requires that the modified accrual basis of accounting be used for governmental fund types. Dr. Bell reported in October that, “This spend report is really on a cash basis.” How can the financial report be on a modified accrual basis when 95% of the data is salaries and vendor spends report, both of which are reported on a cash basis?
    FY ’13
    According to the latest FY’14 Vendor Spend Report, over $2 million dollars are reported as “Expensed To Prior Year” that never showed up in a FY’13 report.
    Q1: The final DE46 data for FY ’13 was turned in back in September. Where is that report?
    Q2: What other vendor spends were expensed to FY ’13 that never showed up on a report.
    Note: As testified under oath by Marcus Turk, he never reported a June (End of Year) financial report where expenses exceeded revenue.
    FTE Counts
    FTE count day was 10/01/2013. We need a reconciliation report on QBE earnings for the FY’14 budget.

  3. You are being kind only mention the legal fees when you write, “over $2 million dollars are reported as “Expensed To Prior Year” that never showed up in a FY’13 report.”
    I had Excel do autosum for that entire column and the total amount is over $24 million.

  4. GETtheCELLoutATL

    It is possible that the school board is having to defend itself against Tmobile over the cell towers. I don’t know anything specifically, but I do know that they are suing the county over the issue.
    Specific in the lease (that the removed BOE signed thus locking this board into obeying its terms) was a clause that the board not do anything that could interfere with the permit process.
    Once the suit is settled, T-mobile is supposed to cover the attorney costs. We’ll see!
    Meanwhile, Lakeside High and Margaret Harris Comprehensive are first on the list. Check out our site if you are interested in any other details: www. If a tower goes up at even one of our schools, it sets a legal presidence that could lead to every school being left vulnerable to the same treatment.

  5. Bill Armstrong

    I’ve obviously just stumbled on this site – actually from a comment on Maureen’s blog. In my editorial referred to in this post I made it clear I would like Thurmond gone ASAP & I’ve posted the same repeatedly on the AJC in response to yesterday’s “now we are only on WARNING victory.”
    I’d like to know more of your thoughts on Mr. Thurmond & how best to get a new permanent hire – I still consider him a “quasi-interim” regardless of the contract. With a new board coming on next year – perhaps including you, how best to get the search started? I don’t want to wait until 2015 to even start looking – an offer maybe made in 2016 – it’s too long to wait.
    Your thoughts? Thanks. – Bill aka ChambleeDad

  6. Hi there, I just noticed that on occasion this website renders a 403 error. I figured that you would like to know. Thanks