DeKalb School’s mission is to ensure student success, leading to higher education, work, and lifelong learning. Should the school district provide services that don’t improve academic achievement?
This is a picture of the parking lot at the central office. There are more cars parked outside than I have ever seen. Why?
The central office is rapidly expanding and providing new services. For example, on Jan 9 the school district appropriated $623,000 annually for the communications department and central office staff. I was the only board member to vote NO. At the same Jan 9 meeting three senior level central office staff were promoted to executive level positions.
Some of the appropriations did go to the classroom that day. The board also approved a 2% raise for the teachers.
In FY2014 the General Operating budget was $788 million. Since then it has increased over 20% and is now approaching $1 billion. Has academic achievement increased 20% … has it budged?
Not yet, but we do have a new Communications Department and a new Student Support and Intervention Division to provide “Wrap Around Services”. Parents like communication and many of our students need social services, so I ask again …
Should the school district provide services that don’t seem to improve academic achievement?
The public speaks up about this issue …
‘What about our kids?’ High salaries of new school employees questioned (WSB-TV)
Parents say they have lots of questions after recent hires nearly doubled the DeKalb County School communications department’s budget for salaries and benefits. The new top communications officer makes more than the governor.
DeKalb school board questions employee pay (The Champion Newspaper)
DCSD’s director of strategic communication and marketing position, filled in September 2016 by André Riley, is facing scrutiny from the district’s board in relation to other administrative positions. According to district documents, Riley receives an annual salary of $120,000, which is near the highest he can receive in accordance to DCSD’s pay range for such a position.
Board discussion on Position Additions
Stan Jester (Board of Education) – Dr. Green, I want to know your thoughts about the Return On Investment on this. Ultimately our goal is academic achievement. And you’re saying right now the best way to spend the nex $500,000 is on these positions as opposed to teachers, counselors and school house employees.
Dr. Stephen Green (Superintendent) – It’s a both/and. I think we’ve already taken significant steps towards the school house and the teachers, counselors, and those with immediate contact with our children. The other part of that is getting the message out about the great work they’re doing. There is a role that communication plays in getting that message out. I think the two go hand and hand.
Stan Jester – I’m not a big fan of getting the message out and tooting our own horn. I would rather just spend the money on academic achievement.
Still a jobs program I see…
I earned my degree in education from Georgia State University. Perhaps I missed something. I was never taught that having a school district pay a Communications Director $170,000 would go hand-in-hand with academic achievement. If someone can explain the connection, I would love to see it.
I understand that parents are key partners in the education of children. It is vital that a school communicates with parents. I have copied a quote from the article in the Champion Newspaper. The kind of communication that the article is addressing is not school based communication.
There’s a role communications plays in getting the message out about the great work that we’re doing,” Green said. “Academic achievement and communications go hand-in-hand.”
Here we go again. According to the HR report, more than 1,100 employees left the DCSD this current school year. Each month I have noticed the names that are listed as ” another system in Georgia.”
Perhaps the Communication Department could communicate with the many people we are losing and find our why?
I was taught that strong teachers had a direct impact on student achievement. As a school district, we have lost strong teachers. Everyone that is leaving is not a “bad educator.” It is amazing that people who are just hired at AIC can make salaries that are a lot higher than people who have worked there for years.
I have included the video of the board discussion and a snippet of the transcript. I asked Dr. Green about the Return on Investment. If academic achievement is our goal, is this the best way to spend this money? He alluded to the 2% raise we approved for the teachers and said we need to spend this money on the getting the word out about the great work we are doing.
I disagreed and said I would rather see the money go toward academic achievement in the classroom.
It was pulled from the consent agenda, but I was the only one to vote NO.
Did I miss something, or has the DCSD Communications Department failed to celebrate the recently announced STAR students and teachers for DCSD high schools?
Why not celebrate this? Every school is included, and what an easy way to support high achievers.
Communications. Online content coordinator. Huh. You are on the clock.
As I’ll say this, and I know others here might agree: as someone who had spent way too much time on the DeKalb Schools website going on 12 years, the current incarnation – sorry to get all technical – but it just – sux.
The money should be spent on teacher steps and salary increases. Period.
Agree Bill Armstrong! The web site has gone from poor to worse. We have spent a boatload of money on IT and have some well paid staff in that department with little to show for it.
Results speak for themselves – a school system needs a marketing person when they need to spin their “achievements” but prospective parents will look at scores/ratings/stats to determine whether they want to live in a particular attendance zone/school district, not the spin.
What’s wrong with Jim M amd Marshall O? They are parents and used to be all over this kind of stuff before they became BOE members. Shame on them. Thank you Stan for voting for the kids and staff – it’s lonely out there.
I have mixed feelings on this. If you are hiring top talent then you are competing with the commercial sector so you need to pay top dollar. Just cuz you work in education doesn’t mean you should be underpaid (yeah yeah I know teachers are underpaid).
The exec level compensation should be performance rated. If they come in get paid top whack and don’t show an ROI on student/school performance then they get the boot.
I would say give them a chance.
If you want to claw back the big salaries dished out then just shut down the IT dept and outsource it to a local ATL shop. Plenty of talented smaller IT shops in town that could do all that stuff with their eyes closed.
My 2 cents.
The 2% raise isn’t just for “teachers,” is it? Isn’t it for all employees?
I know that the governor announced a raise for “teachers,” but what that really means is that the state is giving the money to those positions on the teacher authorized salary schedule (the actual teachers working in the classrooms, media center specialists,counselors, principals, and some assistant principals). After that, the salaries and any raises come from the local funds don’t they?
Bill Armstrong is correct. The district’s website is worse than ever.
With our highly paid communications team, we have Ward Smith listed in the staff directory on the web site as “Director, Community Athletics” but on the org chart, it says she is “Director of Athletics: Special Projects”. Who knows what she does.
What qualifications does Manomay Malathip have to be an Executive Director when her previous position in Kansas City was similiar to a Graduation Coach? She has no teaching experience, a marketing degree and a 5-year provisional granted by DCSD for Support Personnel. $115,000 salary.
DeKalbTeacher, The 2% raise is for all school based employees.
This does not include the money the Governor is talking about now. Last year, the Governor appropriated an additional $300 million for k-12 education, which was “more than is required to give teachers a three percent pay raise,” said Deal.
Many school districts did not pass that along to the teachers. DeKalb Schools did. I expect DeKalb Schools will pass along whatever raise the state earmarks for teachers again this year.
I like the website. I completely disagree with Kirk and Bill. After reading their comments I went to several metro area district websites and some of the largest districts in the country and I found the DCSD site to be one of the best. Secondly, why would any one be spending hours on the site anyway? As a parent we need to be talking about achievement not about a website. Large salaries in school districts are nothing new so why are we acting surprised? This seems much to do about nothing! Stan its always ” shoulda, coulda, woulda,” with you. Every time something is done you want to come back after the fact with all of this stuff you said in the meeting. How about you work behind the scenes to convince your colleagues to vote the correct way. Toff and AB your comments are are totally of base. The comments are so far off that they don’t deserve a response. FOCUS ON PRINCIPALS IN THESE SCHOOLS THAT AREN’T WORTH MUCH! What about the fact that we don’t have a curriculum? Where is the outrage around that? Our students are suffering while you want to spend time on salaries and departments that are all paid the same around metro Atlanta for the most part. This is a comical.
@Retired: Not comical at all. This has been an issue for a very very long time. We hear over and over comments like one above, “If you are hiring top talent then you are competing with the commercial sector so you need to pay top dollar.” Well, I work in communications and $170,000 is pretty well unheard of. This is just government, putting people in charge of a billion dollar a year budget who don’t really have managerial skills. So, they dole out jobs to their friends and pay them kindly for it. Notice, the new communications person is from Kansas. Thurmonds’ old communications person was his former campaign advisor. Lewis had highly paid people too who were strictly beholden to HIM. Why? Because these leaders need to be insulated by loyals and so they hire friends who will be beholden to them as they know there is no way in H E double toothpicks they would ever get this level of compensation (don’t forget about the pension!) in the private sector. So that argument, IMHO, is moot. On top of that – the communication has always, does and will continue to be practically non-existent. I have advocated for a simple blog for a decade. I even volunteered to help set one up. I can appreciate Stan’s work here – he personally puts out more information to the public than the school district. But you can set up a blog where people can’t go to argue or vent but one that just posts what is going on every day on every subject. You can monitor comments and just allow for respectable questions. You know – just the facts, ma’am. And the fun stories – submitted by individual schools. But no – nope. No such public communication exists.
And on the subject of curriculum – I started asking that question back in about 1999. Still can’t put my eyes on a curriculum. I’ve been told that DeKalb just follows the state’s curriculum. Can’t put eyes on that one either. It’s no wonder Georgia ranks so very low in education. Truly, our schools are mostly a jobs program for adults. Focused on adults and the needs of adults. Don’t believe me? Then tell me why Ramona Tyson is still on staff? What exactly is she doing these days? Every new superintendent layers on their own ‘new’ people, but fails to weed out the old staff. So we get bloat. Layer upon layer of administrators, collecting very high salaries (and later, pensions) but not really doing anything for children. In fact, our board chair is one of them, so how is he supposed to be unbiased about doling out the same thing he has received? Children are still trying to learn in crowded schools, with large classrooms and scant supplies. What’s the science supply budget these days? We once reported it to only be $10,000 for the entire system!
The more things change in DCSD, the more things stay the same. You can read any one of our old blog posts and it will still be an issue today. (Except the Heery lawsuit and the Crawford Lewis corruption trial, which finally ended.) Are the Popes still in jail? Isn’t it interesting that they are the only people who are?
ps – I do agree with you about principals. I consider them to be part of that highly compensated administration. These days, many of them are in place because they have curried favor with the superintendent’s office. These are often paid well over the ‘norm’ as principals’ salaries show quite a range in DeKalb. Again, a rewards/jobs program. And it’s the teachers and students who suffer when a weak principal is in place.
Here’s an example of an old blog post that is still, sadly, very relevant. There has been a lot of lip service given to fixing up the blighted properties highlighted in this post, but very, very slow action. This post was written in January of 2012 – FIVE years ago! Still, nothing has been done at the former Briarcliff HS, which looks horribly blighted, nothing has been done at Avondale HS, except squeeze DSA in the back portion of the school, the rest looks like horrible blight – nothing has been done about many of the shuttered properties highlighted in this post. This is terrible for DeKalb – blight harms neighborhoods, raises the opportunity for crime, decreases property values and generally harms morale and neighborhood pride. The school district itself is still responsible for the shuttered buildings scattered all about the county causing this blight. We have lots of available land on which to build schools – yet they go to the easy answer and decide to add hundreds more seats onto already over-built, land-locked, traffic-choked schools. That is not planning – that is reacting. It’s the management style DeKalb has exhibited for decades. And it’s not progressive, it’s not thoughtful, it’s not forward-thinking. It’s just plain bandages.
If anyone can update the status of the buildings in this post, it would be good to know and discuss.
I do know these updates: Hooper was sold (I believe) – Forrest Hills became the Museum School (charter). Heritage is currently housing part of the Globe Academy (charter). Peachcrest? Glen Haven? Atherton? Atherton especially broke our hearts. Here is sits in the middle of the neighborhood – with potential to impact the entire community if it were a vibrant, happy, open, busy place. Instead, it was boarded up and shuttered. An invitation to crime and a depressing comment to the status of the community. A happy, vibrant school within a community can change lives. This school had potential to do just that. However, I think it may simply still be closed and shuttered.
@Cere I do agree that the communications salary is not in alignment. That was the only one I found that was not in alignment with what other school districts were paying. I am not ok with that salary at all. I think the position is extremely over paid and was put in place for a friend. AB and Kirk at times post comments that are not getting to the big picture and takes everyone off track around what the real issues are. Lets be honest. The board of education approved the superintendent to create the position and hire the person in it. I’m concerned that the board is allowing Dr. Green to hire employees who are in over their head. Rumor is that Dr. Brown hasn’t been to work in weeks. Not sure if its true but employees are talking and communicating that he hasn’t been to work in about 4 weeks. How will we hire teachers and have a fully staffed district if this is true.
Who is Dr. Brown?
Dr. Leo Brown replaced Tekshia Ward-Smith.
Leo Brown – Dr. Leo Brown (resume) was the Assistant Director of Human Resources for Emory University from 2005 – 2011. He was also the Chief Human Capital Officer for Kansas City Public Schools from 2011 – 2012 where he met Superintendent Green. Dr. Brown started as DeKalb Schools’ Chief Human Capital Officer in January 2016.
Ah – so where’s Tekshia? Not still on the payroll I hope …
Looks like he was Chief in Kansas from December of 2011 to June of 2012. I wonder what went wrong. Emory was for the school of medicine only.
Cere, Tekshia is still being paid very well by DCSD!
The text below is copied from Stan’s post of Feb 8, 2017 at 10:06pm in the Betsy DeVos topic:
Tekshia Ward-Smith was moved from Chief Human Resources officer to the Athletics Department. She kept the salary of $175K until her contract ran out. The new Chief HCM Officer, Dr. Leo Brown, says as of 7/1/16 the salary assigned is $122,853.13, and job title is now Director of Athletics.
Dear Retired Educator,
All my respect and gratitude goes to you. Bless you for your work and dedication. The frustration with the large salary for all of the chiefs is that I am not sure how some of these jobs improve the outcome of the schools. My experience is at a Center. Our principal is a nice man who allows the staff to do anything. People come late and leave early. You go in a classroom and there is no learning taking place. Staff has complained, but nothing changes. If you are friends with the right people, you seem to be able to do anything in our school system.
In the last year we have lost some of our strongest staff members either go to other jobs in DeKalb or other school systems. So if there is that kind of money floating around, use it to help for real, meaningful training. Have some kind of goals or benchmarks that a principal must achieve that is not connected to if he is liked, but connected to the growth of the students.
It is my view that after the BOE members were moved a few years ago by the governor, that it has caused some of our BOE members to feel that they must agree with the superintendent. About every 2 weeks Dr. Green comes out with an open letter, or an essay or some way to share his thoughts with the media. Perhaps he is setting the ground work for his next job. But how does this help our students? Especially the ones that need the most help, like our special education students. Is there any data on how these “wrap around services” have improved the life of our students.
I am not trying to sound angry or bitter. If we have the most beautiful web page in the country, how does this help our students? Is there any real actual data that is tied to the growth of our most needful children? I often wonder why we do not here a greater out cry from some of our most needful schools.
Dr. Green has brought our county to such a good place and I can’t understand why you are looking for issues to be negative about. I have had kids in Dekalb County Schools for 10 years and this past year has been the best year in communications yet. I was embarrassed by the news segment last night and the fact that this issue made us a target for negative publicity. After all of the efforts we have made to make our county a financially desirable place to work I can’t believe you decided to highlight this as an issue. I have given hours and hours of my time to help this district improve and it bothers me that you went our of your way to make this issue more important than building a good reputation for our schools. This issue has only stirred up trouble where there is none.
Embarrassed? You should be. Speaking for the rest of us, if I may, I’m glad to see decisions like this highlighted. Central office bloat and big fat raises for senior administrators. Please, Lord, somebody help us.
@Jeanie Christian. I am glad you are seeing great success in the communications department. It does sadden me greatly when so many of our school desperately need full-time interpreters. Do you realize these hefty salaries could have put 16 interpreters at $50k per year? Every “Tweet” or “Facebook” post I see has less that has less that 10 likes and only a few of them have a comment or retweet. The ROI is very low with the communications department in this area. There are more of us reading this column every day than the DCSD Facebook or Twitter page.
FWIW – Star Students have been announced this past week and their teachers have been selected for this high honor. Where was the press announcement? Also, homeschooled and private school students needed to have MAP testing to qualify for the Magnet lottery this year. Do you want to know how I found out about it? Through the KMS Facebook page. Not the DCSD Facebook or Twitter account.
Our students should always come first and to do a raise like this is telling me that Central Office comes first.
@Anonymous. Too bad. That was my fear. He is just layering more highly paid administrators on top of those hired by previous superintendents. We have had far too many superintendents over the past decade or so, and therefore we have a full onion of admin layers. Wish ‘someone’ would clean house. I’m pretty sure some of these folks have iron clad contracts though. Sad for the kids.
I have no desire to offend anyone. I respect your point of view, but everyone is not going to feel the same way. Perhaps you do not understand that there are NO AVENUES for people in the schools to express their true feelings. When there are so many needs in every school, it is very hard to get excited about the communications department. To me the fact that para educators, bus drivers and custodians make such low salaries is a reason we should be ashamed. These people impact the day to day life of the students.
When a teacher communicates with a parent, that is not a component of the communications department. That is a teacher or a school doing the right thing to keep the parents informed.
I appreciate Mr. Jester for providing this forum for people to write and share information.
I cited the governor’s raise because, as you said, Dekalb did pass on that raise. However, Dekalb also gave raises to all those “teachers” not covered by the governor’s raise. This is important because the 2% raise for all “school based employees” may not be covered by any increased money from the state but from local funds that may, inevitably, be either taking away from students’ needs or actually increasing the need for the very wrap around services you’ve discussed in previous posts.
Dekalb employs many “teachers” who don’t actually teach but serve in some type of “instructional support” category. Such positions are considered promotions and actually pay more than the teacher working each day with students. Dekalb has also re-classified or moved positions, so “school based employee” may be a misleading description that suggests that these employees are actually working daily in a school house or even part of the day-to-day operations of the school when some may only be “supporting” the school.
It would seem that any discussion of student achievement and salaries would start here.
Do you know why our school district tends to favor the across the board raise, and why the school district would pay a “teacher” ” supporting” instruction more than a teacher who actually teaches when both “school based employees” have the same qualifications?
DeKalb Teacher, That’s a pretty big conversation. So, who needs what and how do you effectively allocate limited resources?
While academic achievement is important, the board and school district seem to value a number of other things and is the basis of this article. Should the school district provide services that don’t improve academic achievement?
“Getting the message out about the good work [teachers] are doing” doesn’t improve academic achievement. John Evans would like to use the school district as a jobs program so “somebody make some money for Christ’s sake.” A common refrain is we need to pay livable wages. It goes on and on, so student achievement takes a back seat on these occasions.
I can only guess as to why the school district does many of the things it does. Across the board raises probably cause the administration less grief. In theory teacher coaches are supposed to be the best of the best imparting their knowledge to the other teachers. Traditionally it’s how leaders reward their friends and sycophants.
The teachers received .5 raise, with taxes, insurances prices you know they won’t see a penny raise. How can he say 2.5 raise?
Until someone, somehow can get these people out of the control of the money we WON’T SEE SCORES IMPROVED. Green is only interested in MONEY MONEY MONEY…he doesn’t care for students, teachers, staff, building maintenance only central office and himself. Sorry state of affairs and bless you Stan one alone can’t stop it!
The Mid year adjusment included a 1.5% increase for school based employees. In January, the board approved an additional .5%.
I respectfully disagree with your comment. I see Stan, whom I like and support, posting blogs about things which are small potatoes.
Why not address the horrible conditions students with disabilities, their families, and special education teachers face?
Why no blog post on the multitude of factual errors in the Facility Condition Assessments and Facility Educational Adequacy Assessments done prior to the eSPLOST V project list being put together?
Why not address the issues of leaking roofs and non-functioning HVAC systems which many schools deal with?
Why no posts about the fact there are thousands of times every month when a teacher is absent and there is no substitute?
Why no discussion on the classrooms that don’t have textbooks?
Why no posts about the thousands of work orders that go ignored every year?
Why not a discussion regarding the fact only 81% of contracts went through the RFP/RFQ process during FY ’16?
I could go on, but the point is, those are the “Big Picture” issues.
Four years ago DCSD did not have a communications department. Did the budget double? Yes. Is it inflated? Maybe.
My opinion is Quinn Hudson’s priorities were wrong. Instead of trying to win awards for student produced content, he should have been putting together an infrastructure for effectively communicating with parents. He needs to go. The social media person does not need to be making $90K a year for taking pictures and posting them. Are those “Big Picture” issues? Not to me. Those are just a few of the thousands of things that need to be corrected.
Mr Lunde. Please send me your big potatoes submission. I’ll be happy to post it.
I would like to know who are the teachers creating this so-called curriculum. Rumor is that these teachers are being paid a $2,000 stipend for their services.
I would like to know who are the teachers creating this so-called curriculum. Rumor is that these teachers are being paid a $2,000 stipend for their services. I agree with paying teachers. Few questions:
1) How were the teachers selected?
2) Will there be a listing of their names and certifications?
3) What training did they receive to write curriculum for the entire district?
4) Is it true the curriculum will be voted on and accepted by the board at the March meeting?
Teachers told me raise was .5 % what is the truth?
How are they qualified to write such curriculum?
What happened to all of the curriculum that was written by DCSD teachers with RTTT money? There were pacing guides, flowcharts, and idea that were put together and turned into county level department heads. Why do we keep wasting money to reinvent the wheel?
I’m guessing the new administration wants their own new curriculum. The last two administrations can’t seem to find the curriculum Kathy Howe put together a few years ago.
At Stan. This was not Kathy Howe’s thing. This was Dr. Beasley’s thing. He was the one in charge at that time.
Mr. Lunde do you have suggestions for Mr. Jester as to how he convince his fellow board members onboard He alone can’t do it. The others seems to rubber stamp Green’s budgets.
As in the past twenty years those in control at the PALACE and their friends continue to get richer and the students, teachers, paras, custodial staff, maintaince in the buildings are forgotten!
Green is in control and his way always. The board other than Mr. Jester don’t seem to care about these matters.
Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment, and Accountability (CIA2)
The minute Dr. Green arrived in DeKalb he put together a CIA2 Task Force. The Superintendent is instituting an education framework centered around the philosophy of a sustainable curriculum using effective instructional strategies that encompasses an account-ability-driven environment. We will have a laser focus on rigor, relevance, and relationships that speaks to the importance of learning and the engagement relationship between the student, teacher, and parent. Teaching and learning is the CORE busi-ness of the district and everything else (e.g. human resources, finance, facilities, technology) is wraparound support.
The CIA2 – Curriculum Audit – FINAL_R (532 pages) Finds DeKalb Schools to be “Inadequate” in Many Curriculum Areas
May 9, 2016 – CIA2 Update
Sometime last year the task force morphed into a committee. They visited every school conducted classroom visits in over “2,000 classrooms”.
… etc …
sent via email
Dear Mr. Green,
I was so disappointed to hear that the local news was critiquing your judgement on the salary of Eileen Houston-Steward. I am personally so thankful that you are hiring competent people and have seen much fruit. The communication has been clear, transparent, positive and often. ( I hope you got my voice mail of gratitude yesterday Ms. Houston-Stewart). It is such a great difference from my experience in the past 10 years and I hope you continue to use whatever funds are necessary to get the team you need. I am shocked that anyone would make a comment on the salaries of our school employees after the reputation we are trying to overcome for not paying people enough. I know you and the board are continuing to work on to bring qualified teachers and staff to Dekalb and knowing that you are paying your cabinet well instills trust in me that you will continue down that path. I honestly think it is shameful for someone to bring up such a nit-picky subject and it comes across as trying to stir up trouble and drama at a time when we are doing so well. It was embarrassing to me that the news decided to air it and I hope the negative intentions from the instigator had the opposite effect – I know that my community is hearing from me about how ridiculous the accusation was. It begs the question if the criticism stems from missing the old days of hiring “friends and family” and if this is a personal issue taken public.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for your amazing leadership and please know that I am so glad to have you in Dekalb and the choices that go with it! I am behind you 100%.
With Warm Regards,
(Parent at Druid Hills High School and Laurel Ridge Elementary ,School Council Chair at Laurel Ridge Elementary, ELPC board member, PCU board member. )
I nominate Jeanie Christian for the naïveté award of the year for DeKalb county schools. Kim Gokce will be presenting the award to her at the next board meeting.
I agree Chamblee getting screwed.
I agree that the district is communicating better. However, I can’t say I see much emphasis on the students. It’s easy to say we’re focusing on instruction. I wish I could say that students and the school houses govern personnel choices, budgets, and job responsibilities.
Lynn and Elizabeth,
In June, the school district sent all teachers an email about a curriculum writing opportunity. It appeared that anyone who was interested could apply. From what I could tell, the school district wasn’t turning people away. When interested teachers attended the first meeting in August, they were told they would be working something like two Saturdays a month in the fall and some school days. so I don’t think the $2,000 is a lot of money for the number of hours they may have worked. I don’t know how much the company facilitating the curriculum creation is being paid.
I’m more concerned that this curriculum may look no different from the any other, and that we haven’t addressed this part of the audit “Determine if the school district has the internal capacity to develop rigorous assessments and use the results to adjust, improve, or abandon ineffective instructional practices, programs, or curriculum.”
If we don’t have people in curriculum and instruction who’ve been designing curriculum, then what have they been doing?