On Throw Back Thursday I welcome Ty Tagami to DeKalb Schools. For years Nancy Jester has been pointing out that the DeKalb Schools budget was a “a weak suggestion on how to spend money and, at worst, a document based on deception.”
Earlier this week, the AJC printed Ty Tagami’s article, DeKalb school officials admit overspending millions on lawyers. He noted, “Over the decade that ended in 2012, the DeKalb County School District spent nearly $32 million more than it budgeted for legal fees”.
Tagami spoke recently with DeKalb Schools officials. Chief Financial Officer Mike Bell said he discovered the payouts hidden in “other” expenses disbursed from the district’s reserve fund. Superintendent Michael Thurmond, who tasked Bell with uncovering what happened, called the spending a “breathtaking” failure in oversight.
Let’s journey back in time to Aug 28, 2012 when AdvancedEd sent a letter to DeKalb Schools stating, “The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council (SACS) has received numerous complaints … [that] allege that the Board of Education has failed to ensure that the financial resources of the school system are budgeted and allocated within the means of the school system”. Note that SACS didn’t investigate themselves but just forwarded the complaints.
The Superintendent du jour, Dr. Atkinson replied, “As the new Superintendent, I have worked with the Board to address the budget and financial concerns and have aligned the budget within our projected revenue. We will monitor the FY 2013 budget carefully for compliance.” (September 13, 2012)
Nancy Jester’s response (September 13, 2012) to the letters from SACS and Dr. Atkinson included,
“Regarding the fiscal management of the district, since almost the very beginning of my time on the board (January 11), I began to unravel what appeared to me to be a budget that was, at best, a weak suggestion on how to spend money and, at worst, a document based on deception. Monthly, I queried, the CFO at the time and did not receive answers that could withstand the scrutiny of the facts. I have been specifically focused on the large variance in our electricity budget and our legal fees.”
Better late than never on confirming what Nancy has been saying for years. I look forward to reading the AJC in 2016 to see what is really going on this year at DeKalb Schools.