Revenues are expected to be down for this fiscal year. Ditto for the tax collection rates. DeKalb School’s administration is recommending that the Board of Education, tax payers, parents and employees contemplate these budget considerations.
11% Reduction in State QBE Funds
The Governor originally asked school districts to anticipate a 14% ($76 million in DeKalb) reduction in the state education budget. The Georgia State Legislature suspended their session due to the Covid-19 crisis but will be returning to work on Monday. The legislature has not yet passed a budget, but they are indicating a 11% ($60 million) reduction in the education budget. As with anything at the Gold Dome, all bets are off until we see the final legislation passed and signed.
Keep Employees Working
The DeKalb Schools administration team is working on the FY2021 budget recommendation for the Fiscal Year that begins on July 1, 2020. The Board was told that the “foundation of that budget is to keep employees working…and not contribute to the unemployment rate.”
That being said, I am concerned about a budget process that is based on a “foundation” of “keeping employees working”. My philosophy remains that we should begin every decision making process with the student and the classroom in mind.
What preserves and protects the classroom environment? Everything should follow from that. If the first approach is how to keep the most people employed, the classroom will suffer. We’ve seen this before in the mid-2000’s.
These are the big budget issues to consider:
- Contingent Liabilities – DeKalb Schools will have to pay out $117.5 million over the next 5 years for the Gold case settlement.
- Significant reduction in revenue
- Budget is 80-85% employee salaries
Instructional Support Specialists (ISS)
Administration emphasizes the focus on not reducing the work force. On that note, one of the administration’s recommendations is to realign Instructional Support Specialists (ISS) to fill teacher vacancies. Using ISS employees to fill teacher vacancies will save the school district $16 million.
(Update)Title I can fund Academic Coaches, but Title I funds cannot currently fund ISS as the job description exists today. As you can see from the comments in my last article, ISSs have fluid responsibilities as defined by each principal at each school. In order to use Title I funds, DeKalb Schools would have to write a job description that is not fluid and submit it to the GADOE Title I office for review and approval.
Fund Balance – FY2021 – Beginning estimated fund balance – $120 million
RAMP – Resource Allocation Methodology Plan (RAMP) is the funding model to “equitably” allocate state and local funds to all schools in the district.
- 11% QBE state funding reduction
- 11 central office and school furlough days
- IIS realignment
- Central Office Hiring Delay Freeze
- Full step for employees
- Add $10 million for district support of RAMP (low performing schools)
- Reduce fund balance by $19 million
- 11% QBE state funding reduction
- 10 central office and school furlough days
- IIS realignment
- Half a step for employees
- Central Office Hiring Delay Freeze
- Add $10 million for district support of RAMP (low performing schools)
- Reduce fund balance by $17 million
- 11% ($60 million) QBE state funding reduction
- 8 central office and school furlough days
- IIS realignment
- No step for employees
- Central Office Hiring Delay Freeze
- Add $10 million for district support of RAMP (low performing schools)
- Reduce fund balance by $19 million
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on March 27th, 2020. This over $2 trillion economic relief package is intended to protect the American people from the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Learn more about the CARES Act >>
DeKalb Schools is receiving $33.5 million in CARES Act monies. The DeKalb Schools administration has put together this menu list of options to spend the Cares Act money on.
Furlough Days Buy Backs
Considering buying back some of the furlough days mentioned above.
- $28 million – Buy back 8 calendar days for school based personnel
- $24.5 million – Buy back 7 calendar days for school based personnel
- $21 million – Buy back 6 calendar days for school based personnel
- $17.5 million – Buy back 5 calendar days for school based personnel
- $2.5 million – Buy back 5 calendar days for central office personnel
Chromebooks were originally purchased in K-5 so there would be 1 Chromebook for every 2 students. This obviously doesn’t work in virtual learning environments. It would be roughly $3 million per grade for K-5 to buy additional Chromebooks for a 1 to 1 ratio of elementary students to Chromebooks.
My point … I’m not happy that only half the increase in revenues has gone to the classroom yet we are going to balance the budget on the backs of teachers.
Mr. Jester, thank you for the detailed information. I think furlough days are not a good option. However, if employees are furloughed, can employees file unemployment claims with the Georgia Department of Labor?
Give us traditional learning, no new chromebooks, whole pay step, and buy back as many school-based days as possible!!!
So, let me get this straight…and please correct me if I misinterpreted the information.
Teachers are facing, on avg, 1 furlough day per month AND no salary increase? We work our behinds off during the abrupt closure. I personally did more and worked longer than when school was in. Teachers should not feel the brunt of the budget. We are the ones in the classroom, putting in the work. I suspect if a cut was made to teachers, the effects would show in the classroom. After all, many of us supply or classes and students, work after hours, and this is the thanks we get?
So once again the teachers are supposed to do more with less. And the CARES Act is supposed to help us how?
How about we start at the top restructuring salaries. Help me to understand why the classroom teachers & students suffer.
Teachers need to receive the salary step increase even if there are other cuts to their take home pay. These steps are never restored and many teachers left the district when they were frozen on their salary step for years and years. The only way they could be restored to their true experience step was to leave the district. Then, a few came back and were rehired on their rightful step while those teachers who stayed in the district are still years behind them in pay. These steps affect the teachers’ earnings as retirees. To retain teachers, the step increase is crucial.
Cuts in employees at the central office level are what is needed. Those employees can be returned to the schoolhouse and put in the classroom just as well as the ISSs can be. The danger in the plan to return anyone back to the classroom is that they do not do a good job teaching, because they do no want to be there.
And what about substitute teachers? There has been no communication to the hundreds of substitutes about renewing employment for next year. This is usually done in April or May so these important workers can renew and update their status before July.
I am confused.
How will the 10 million dollars for low performing schools be used? What will those schools get?
Will employees get a step with no pay increase?
If employees get step and a pay increase, then they have furlough days how does this benefit the employee? They would still lose money.
Whichever option is chosen, this school year will prove interesting. With that written, to my mind – Option One is the choice. I write this not because I believe that it is the best choice for me – it is not, but I believe that is the best option for most teachers.
Thank you for your service to the school system. Often a thankless, difficult, and a time-consuming job I am sure, but so critical, important, and worthy. Also, thank you for this blog – thank you very much.
My best to you and your family. Good luck in your future endeavors.
Mike Pastirik – Lakeside High School
I can’t imagine that ALL administration positions are needed. Why not take a hard look there before at the teachers who directly impact the students? There are SO many county level administrators making 6 figures and no one can tell you what their value add is to the children!!
Will DeKalb continue paying back the State $13 million per year for its under-enrolled building?
Frankly, the Gold settlement amount should not be a factor in the current budget. DeKalb should have been planning for this payout for the last few years. How much did it spend fighting the lawsuit when they could have done the right thing from the beginning and paid the teachers who lost this promised retirement fund which the district organized when they pulled employees out of social security? That amount would cover more than the first year’s payment on the settlement.
Mismanagement of money is synonymous with DeKalb County School District and the teachers and building staff are always expected to take the pay cut or step cut and continue being happy to work harder with fewer resources, because “at least they still have a job.”
Lemuel, no, teachers cannot get unemployment pay, because they are still employed and receiving a paycheck. The CARES act is specifically for businesses to pay employees so they don’t lose their jobs and apply for unemployment. The district cannot use these funds to pay employees of those employees are receiving any unemployment benefit.
@Cut the fat each district level staff member should be justifying their position and salary.
Curious — is this an 11% decrease from what DeKalb schools actually received from the state last year – or is this an 11% decrease from the proposed 2021 state education budget that had a 2.1% increase in it? DeKalb has a history of calling cuts to budgets that were actually only proposed new (higher) budgets. https://gbpi.org/overview-georgia-2021-fiscal-year-budget-k-12-education/ Plus – wouldn’t there be a whole lot of unspent budget this year – as we aren’t spending on transportation, lunches, activities, utilities, etc… etc … Won’t there be a carry in the budget? At any rate, we are all going to suffer from the overall economic mess we are in now due to COVID-19. Things are not as they were, nor will they be likely ever again.
I think the elective bill will still be significant considering every time (day or night) I drive by a school there are a bunch of lights on.
Why is there a $10 million increase in Resource Allocation Methodology Plan (RAMP)? The district already sends more resources to low performing schools and has for the last four years.
My alternative proposal for that $10 million is dedicate it to building maintenance. FIX THE ROOFS! STOP THE LEAKS! This will prevent further building damage.
Regions 1 & 2 need to start asking for facility equity. Our schools are in the worse shape and still most of the maintenance is done in regions 3-7.
Sorry if you are sick of me saying the same thing every year, but y’all haven’t done it yet.
Also, I agree with your editorial note.
Tyson is continuing the Friends and Family “Jobs Program” with her goal of “keeping employees working.”
The goal should be educating children.
Hopefully, the new superintendent will focus on students and not on keeping employees working.
ISS & Title I Funds – Title I can fund Academic Coaches, but Title I funds cannot currently fund ISS as the job description exists today. As you can see from the comments in my last article, ISSs have fluid responsibilities as defined by each principal at each school. In order to use Title I funds, DeKalb Schools would have to write a job description that is not fluid and submit it to the GADOE Title I office for review and approval.
Gold Case – Legal Fees – DeKalb Schools has spent over $2 million in the last 12 months alone and over $14 million total between their original and current firms.
$117.5 million settlement – Increment payments are: First payment of $27.5 million payable at the conclusion of the court approval process and expiration of the appeals deadline. The initial payment is followed by 4 annual payments of $22.5 million due on the anniversary of the first payment.
Thank for sharing all of this information Stan. Every taxpayer needs to be aware! Kay
Once again thank you for your service and providing an open forum for citizens of DeKalb to vent. Hopefully your predecessor will take the ropes from you and allow this forum to continue as a positive open dialogue for the future of DeKalb. Just a couple of points as a DeKalb taxpayer. Feel free to correct me for any inaccurate statements.
1. In January there was nearly 100 million dollars in fund equity as of January. You are getting nearly 35 million extra from the relief package. The district should have saved nearly 50 million in school operational costs with the shut down of over a 1/4 of the school year. (outside of employees salaries). This should put the district at some where near 185 million surplus in fund equity. Where is that surplus going? With this kind of fund equity, there should be absolutely no cuts to the classroom at all this year. This is what a fund equity balance is for, to bail districts out in hard times. Then during good economic turn around you build your fund equity back up again.
2. If you are furloughing teachers this year and possibly in the future years to come, then the board of education is not paying that TSA lawsuit settlement back to the teachers. The board is basically taking 2,000-4,000 of each teachers salary and basically transferring it back to the employees that are part of the legal settlement, So basically the teachers are paying their own settlement out of their own pay checks by you reducing their salaries. Very smart on the boards behalf so they actually are not liable for any of the settlement. Nice job board of education you pulled the wool over your teachers eyes once again. If there was not a reduction in salaries then the board of education would actually be paying the legal settlement. This is just not the case. So the teachers take a reduction in salary to get only 3 of the 11 years that was owed to them in the TSA case. Why the heck did the teachers agree to only be compensated for 3 of the 11 years?
3. From what I am hearing in the district from your teachers is this regarding the last 1/4 of the year teaching digitally from home. The teachers, a few school based administrators and tech support at various levels ran the county the last 1/4 of the school year and busted their bottoms teaching kids and keeping the digital platforms up and running. Some teachers mentioned they were behind their computers sometimes 10 hours a day and in to the weekends to keep the learning going. There approximately 20,000 employees in the county and roughly 5,000 truly certified teachers. So basically about 60 percent of non-essential staff meaning not directly tied to the classroom was able to stay home and sit out the remainder of the school year and do absolutely nothing and still take home a paycheck the remainder of the school year. Why were these non essential employees not laid off and forced to collect un-employment? There was no need for these individuals. They had no responsibilities or duties once the schools shut down. DeKalb still paid literally thousands of non-classroom personnel to sit home and do nothing, while those teachers carried the district to the finish line. Now after all they did for you, you want to cut their salaries and punish them as DeKalb has done in the past? How about letting employees go out side of the classroom and do what is right for the district as a whole? Many can not justify their positions in the county other than taking up space.
4. The final question I have is in the 3 options, The board of education wants to move ISS employees to the classroom and give them base teacher salary? Are these individuals even qualified to be in the classroom and teach? If not, and I assume many are not or they would already be there, the board of education is continuing to do a disservice to the taxpayers of DeKalb county and putting unqualified people in front of the children to teach them. WOW! How are you saving the district money by moving ISS teachers to the classroom and giving them base teacher salary which is around 43,000 dollars year? This is nearly a 20,000 dollar increase from their ISS position.
Again thank you Stan for your service to the district, you will be surely missed.
Anna Hill will be his successor, not his predecessor.
1. The district should’ve saved some money, but lights were still on, HVAC doesn’t get shut completely off so that mold doesn’t grow, and transportation and nutrition were delivering meals. Non of this was to the level of the normal school year, but none of it ceased entirely to function.
2. I largely agree that the district is robbing teachers to pay teachers, but if Gold, etc are retired already they are not affected by furloughs and don’t care about them when setting.
3. I largely agree, if someone can not justify their position we should cut it.
4. In this context ISS is Istructional Support Specialist, not In School Suspension.
Hello @DeKalb Taxpayer. Excellent commentary and questions.
1. Fund Balance – The beginning general operating fund balance is estimated to be $120 million plus $34 million CARES money. The board has been clear that they don’t want to drop below $100 million in the fund balance. The three options dip into the fund balance and take us close to $100 million.
2. “Why the heck did the teachers agree to only be compensated for 3 of the 11 years?” … that’s a question for the Gold attorneys.
3. “DeKalb still paid literally thousands of non-classroom personnel to sit home and do nothing” … Many employees worked twice as much while many did nothing. I agree. I’m very disappointed that keeping people out of the unemployment line (so to speak) is the district’s number one goal.
4. ISS – there are 100+ ISS employees. Are they qualified to teach? Good question. I suspect most are qualified to teach but prefer not to. We would paying teacher salaries for the open teacher positions either way, so this isn’t a budget increase.
Cere, it does seem like there should be extra money, but transportation was utilized to continue distributing lunches. The costs for AC, lights, and day to day maintenance and supplies should be recaptured. Note that employees, full and PT, continued to receive pay even if they weren’t working in the buildings; however the PPP or CARES act money should have paid for those costs.
Thank you for your response and service to the district for all these years. I hope your Successor not (predecessor) typo earlier, carries on your significant impacting role as board member in DeKalb. You will truly be missed and the county will have lost a truly transparent member of their board. Regards in your future endeavors.
These are a few thoughts:
1. Furlough central office employees more than school employees.
Has anyone explained why central office and school days must have equal number of furlough days? The district had no problem adapting central office work days to four over the summer the past few years ( many people were suspicious that administrator in school buildings and central office employees were actually working 10 hours for four days), so I see no reason why the central office wouldn’t have more furlough days, especially over the summer. Wouldn’t this also preserve the instruction district administrators love to cite so often?
2. Teachers should get the step but administrators shouldn’t.
The lack of step affects our retirement, so furloughing us and holding any amount of a step is, effectively, dinging us twice. Administrators don’t deserve this because they are automatically put on a higher salary no matter how few years they’ve worked in that administrative position. Administrators are already making more than teachers, so their retirement salary will already more than teachers. Administrators also received more generous salary increases last year. In addition, Dekalb has refused to evaluate administrators by anyone other than themselves since Green came and left, so the district has little objective information to justify why it’s increased the number of administrators, increased the pay of administrators, and allowed administrators to stay in their positions other than “that’s what other districts pay.”
3. Determine what jobs are necessary to offer a Covid-affected education and fill those and pay those accordingly.
I can appreciate why the district wouldn’t want to add to the unemployment rate. However, Delta or United isn’t telling its employees we’ll keep paying you your full salary. Too many demoted administrators at the central office collecting hefty sums for what? How many “fluid” positions and non-essential jobs will be taking taxpayer money, money from people who are now or will be unemployed or underemployed, to keep someone employed and over-compensated? Has the district even explained how it’s re-imagining jobs and services in this new way of life? What about students and how they benefit from keeping people employed?
Everyone understands this is a challenge, and we knew the budget cuts were coming. As always seems the case, the district keeps the fat and trims from the rest. At least it’s recognizing that it’s a jobs program more than a system of education.
The Dekalb County Athletics office has more employees than any other athletics office in the metro area. They also get less done than any athletics office in the metro. Most county athletics offices have three or four employees, Dekalb has 10+. So, how is it possible that Gwinnett and APS had plans for restarting athletics within days and it took the overstaffed Dekalb office almost a month to put a plan together?
Not to mention the fact that athletics is a dumping ground for administrators who failed in other positions. For example, Tekeshia Ward-Smith, removed from an HR position, with no relevant experience in athletics, being listed with the title of Athletics Director (even though she is not the county AD) and being paid $127.879.09.
In the wake of a deadly pandemic, teachers are going to be forced to put our health and lives at risk, AND we’re going to be paid less?? I am disgusted.
I think option #1 is the best option for teachers if the board decides to buy back 8 of the furlough days. The 3 remaining furlough days would eat up our step increases, but at least we won’t lose any monthly income and we’ll be on track with our steps.
There is no way that budget cuts should rest on the backs of teachers! Everyone talks about the bloated Palace but none want to cut the layers of expensive positions.
Remember the disaster created when the county office based employees of school who never saw them, but they were on payroll? Just a way to circumvent the real admin headcount.
Why are administrators who are removed from their positions due to public outcry still played at WBBC in IT?
The board should add option 4 (add more furlough days to 12 month employees and reduce teacher furlough days)
Most 12 month employees are rarely working 8 hour days when the school is close. Do a drive by and you will find empty parking lots or the staff is gone by 12 noon. It will be interesting to know, if district level or school level admin is turning in a leave of absence forms when they take off. Of course when teachers are out, leave of absence forms are left in their boxes in demanded within a day. lol If the district is not going to reduce the excess fat, then more furlough days can be given to 12 month employees. Just my 2 cents (That is all I can afford)
Related in one way–
There has been a lot of activity at the soon to close Pleasantdale Elementary School. I am seeing reports of desks, chairs, bookshelves and other things available at the curb for any to have for FREE. Why are we not having a public auction to recoup some of the monies spent.
Buy Nothing Lilburn (West) & Tucker, GA FB Page
The ISS is instructional support specialists. They are (mostly, not at all schools) responsible for creating instructional plans for students in intervention. My ISS colleagues are master teachers and highly qualified to teach. They are actually qualified and would make excellent administrators. The RTI/MTSS process has changed greatly in the past few years and to expect my counselor (Who is an amazing counselor in a high needs school) to take on their work is ridiculous. She has enough counseling work to do and does not have an instructional background. It’s typical of Dekalb to finally develop a plan, train people to implement the plan and then abandon the plan. It will definitely do my students a disservice.
I am a librarian and I check which schools are closing so that I can use some of their old furniture in my library. Thanks for the heads up but do you think it might be people like me that are picking up furniture from Pleasantdale?
We must remember “Central Office Staff” includes all 12 month maintenance personnel that were added to this group mid 2000s so they could be laid off and show up as Central Office cuts,resulting in a 70% loss of maintenance staff the remainder received the most furlough days for any group to date.These same remaining 12month maintenance employees have been on call during the entire pandemic handling transportation,vandalism,system failures,security,grounds emergencies,the list goes on.So yes,many did not work full time at the beginning,but have been back at work for over 2months.
According to this website, we are going back to school as usual on August 3rd. And they are not going to force anyone to wear masks as it is just a suggestions but the CDC.
Business as usual in DeKalb… Gear up
@Dunwoody Diva…this article is not about Dekalb County, Georgia. This is about schools in Smithville, TN, a small town east of Nashville.
@Stan: Please tell me how counties like Fulton and Cobb are having NO furlough days for their employees but DCSD is looking at a possibility of 11? I know that this could not all be be because of Covid-19. Are we paying for years of sloppy bookkeeping before the new Superintendent comes on board to make our financials look even better?
If you have to look at furloughs, I am requesting that any school house employee not be touched, and yes that included maintenance workers.
@This and That, Board TSA – The Board of Education elected to opt out of Social Security in 1978. As an alternative to Social Security, they established the Board TSA for the district’s employees. The Board of Education provided contributions into an account for each eligible employee (thus the name Board TSA). Administrators (Central Office) did not continue receive Board TSA contributions.
@Lynn King … off the top of my head …
1. DeKalb Schools is looking into using CARES Act money to buy back furlough days. If the school district uses some of the CARES Act money to buy Chromebooks for elementary students, that will reduce the number of furlough day buy backs.
2. Sometime in FY2021 it looks like DeKalb Schools will have to cut a check for $27.5 million for the first Gold case settlement installment.
3. Since FY2014 the budget has increased by $366 million. I would like for us to roll back the programs we have been implementing. However, the superintendent said, “the foundation of that budget is to keep employees working … and not contribute to the unemployment rate.”
Thank you for all of your information and help. I understand, but I hate that you are leaving. You will be missed.
Did DeKalb ever do any kind of audit to determine the value of any of the programs that we have implemented. For example, we are talking about 10 million as RAMP, to benefit certain schools.
Do we know how the funds that have been used for that purpose in the past helped our students?
How about the 7 Regions? Did increasing the number of Region Offices help?
Did we ever do a financial audit? How about financial audits of the schools?
Wouldn’t hiring a trained HR Head, perhaps improve our teacher retention and utilization of benefits
We are in some critical financial times.
But if we don’t know where our money has gone in the past, how can we make informed decisions in the future?
Again, thank you for all that you do
Board TSA contributions never stopped for Central Office employees that were not on TRS.If a Central Office employee was on PERS they continued to recieve Board TSA contributions.
I’d love to see a budget with the line items below. I believe the reorganization two or three superintendents ago and Green’s affinity for spending on programs has made it impossible for anyone to know just how many central office employees are supposedly tied to schools even if they don’t work at the school, no one knows who they are, or no one could explain what they do for the school daily.
$ for teachers, the ones with actual classes, the educators working with students daily, responsible for planning, differentiating, creating assessments, accessing/grading, entering grades, contacting parents, attending professional learning sessions, helping with testing
$ for classified staff in school buildings, the ones who make sure students get fed, students can use the bathroom, students can get to school
$ for administrators in school buildings
$ for certified staff that don’t teach students but go to a school building each day, don’t have rosters of classes, who may be supporting students or, as some on this blog have explained, work mostly as highly compensated assistants for administrators
$ for classified staff in building that are employed to support the in-school administrators
$ for certified staff that don’t report to school buildings, they work in instruction or professional learning doing what daily?
$ for certified support staff that support administrators, the people who can stay in their office, cover for administrators during meetings, organize testing for administrators, etc…
$ for administrators out of school buildings
$ for classified staff out of school buildings that work directly with or on the school buildings, the tech people, the building facilities people
$ for classified staff that support those administrators working at the central office
You’ve highlighted the scariest part of this year’s budget. We are starting with an employment program and then cutting everyone’s salaries to address a shortfall without ever examining how we’ve been spending money and why all people need to remain employed in their current positions with that salary.
I hope Dekalb taxpayers understand this and Georgia legislators can justify this use of education money.
Good afternoon. I am writing this message with the total disbelief that some of the board members that are here to support the children of the DCSD— thought that the role of the ISS was In School Suspension! Furthermore, that some of the board members were not aware that the ISS are already paid on a teachers salary, while many ISS wear several hats, and performed Instructional and administrative duties as the third AP without the pay. I am am also alarmed that some think that we do Not have credentials to teach. Let’s state some facts about credentials, we have doctorates, specialized certifications, specialist concentrations in many core areas, and double master’s degrees. As an ISS in its original inception; we were hired because of our expertise to lead teachers, students, and parents, and to fulfill corrective actions that needed to be supported. I alone have several degrees, and 30 plus years in the state of Georgia, 30 in DCSD, and classroom experiences in K-6 in this state. I have 8 years in another state, 4 of those years as a coordinator, and I am enthusiastically still growing strong! So, yes, I am offended that the DCSD board members did not do their homework. They did not ask the Coordinators who so rely on ISS’s to obtain pertinent data regarding the work that is part of one of our many roles as MTSS chairpersons. I am offended that our current district officials did not communicate with each other in- house; as the answers are there within DCSD’s very own departments. Where is the communication? How are decisions being made without facts? Has anyone taken a look at all of the duplicate jobs that could be merged? It is my humble opinion based on the numerical calculations that I have discovered, that in this next school term 2020-2021, that no one needs to loose their current placement, even with the 11% reduction. What we must do, is be wise with what we have, and work to pull us all together, not decide that the essential persons in the trenches who are so greatly needed, be thrown away with the trash. It is my hope that all of the board members will do their homework, that they will respond to the numerous letters that ISS’ s across this district have written detailing the roles that they execute in their perspective schools, that board members will communicate with vital district departments officials to find out why this is not the role that should be taken off the table whether we return to school virtually, and especially if we are hybrid. I thought it notable to state to those of you who think that ISS are not vital to hear this little tidbit from me, and consider what is in the best interest of what our children, teachers, and parents will need educationally, in instructional support, and especially socially/emotionally as we move forward during this pandemic challenge before us.
@Kimi, Where did you see a board member or anybody else confuse Instructional Support Specialist with In School Suspension? For better or for worse, the job role of the ISS is not clearly defined. DeKalb Schools has roughly 150 ISS employees. I think it’s safe to say their skill sets, job responsibilities and effectiveness vary.
I appreciate how hard you work. I am also sorry that you are experiencing the stress of not knowing how and where you’ll be working this school year.
Unfortunately, my experience with people in your position has not evidenced the great work you describe. In addition, your working as a third AP invites these questions: “What, exactly, are the other APs doing” and “How much ‘instructional support’ is actually ‘administrative support’?”
In my many years of teaching in Dekalb, I have worked with a few great administrators, some good administrators and some downright horrible ones. The ones that seem woefully inept and problematic for staff morale as well as student learning are often the ones that rely on numerous other nebulously defined job titles to get their administrative work done. Unfortunately, Dekalb tends to adopt the attitude that teachers can just figure out how to get it all done, while administrators can get all the paid help they claim to need. That may explain why some people are not seeing why ISS is a necessary position, even if there are some or even many stand-outs like you.
Stan and DeKalb Teacher.
I totally agree that the job descriptions are not clearly defined. That is why I hope that all ISS send to you and the persons who crafted the budget proposals details of what various ISS’s do. I hope that what might come from this that a better description will be developed, and that would include the role of MTSS chairperson/s.
I am optimistic even in light of my disdain. A new superintendent has now been selected. We will have to see what happens from there. We are already in the final hour, I hope that displacement of many who will not be able to fill teaching positions for whatever reason will find a home.
PS. Excuse the errors, I was unable to re- read and edit, my time ran out while dealing with two little ones. LOL.
@Stan…thank you for this discussion. I appreciate it. I just want to respond to a few of your points….
#1. “For better or for worse, the job role of the ISS is not clearly defined.“ It IS clearly defined by the job description that is posted in the DeKalb PATS (employment) system. It is as clearly defined as the job description for teacher, principal, academic coach (which I know is loved by all as long as it is covers by Title I money), cafeteria worker, etc. and all ISS work within that role, SUPPORTING the unique needs of the school.
#2. “I think it’s safe to say their skill sets, job responsibilities and effectiveness vary.” Come on….this can easily be said about any role in DeKalb from the top on down…BOE members, principals, teachers, custodians, School nurses, counselors, IT, security, etc. But no one is saying to get rid of another entire position because there are “bad apples”. If the issue is that effectiveness is not measured (like teacher keys for teachers) then maybe the board could develop a measure.
To speak further on the “bad apples”, I’ve known very efficient ISS in partnership with the leadership teams of schools turn them around by working with teachers whose “skill sets, job responsibilities, and effectiveness vary”. They say your team is only as effective as your weakest link and many ISS I know have worked tirelessly to raise the level of all teachers through their own expertise and ability to train, model, etc.
I would challenge the BOE to reach out to principals to see how they feel about the loss of this position. I would think back to the days of the watchful eye of the state due to MTSS/RTI noncompliance and to see how far we’ve come as a district with the unwavering dedication of ISSs serving in that role. I trust the board will still consider and work with our incoming superintendent to determine that ISSs fit right into the individualized school support and autonomy she speaks of wanting schools to have to address and fix their greatest challenges. ISS = the ”handy (wo)man”…not the plumber, not the electrician, not the mason,… the jack of all trades, the person who takes on all things. There is VALUE to that. There is value in having individuals in buildings who can change the outcome of a school in ways outside the classroom.
Thank you for your time.
I am sorry you feel the way you do about the ISS position at your school. I can assure you that is not he case in most instances and ISS is critical in the “support” rather than “administrative” role you mentioned. I personally do not consider the position to be anything along the AP line. Yes, ISS May work with data, offer PL to staff, develop teaching strategies with teachers, support the school’s CSIP, oversee MTSS/RTI, etc. but these are unlike the typical administrator roles. If you look at the AP job description vs. an ISS in PATS you will find the ISS has unique ways they can serve the school. Unfortunately, as you mentioned, some do not follow those descriptions and take on more admin roles. I wish this were not the case as APs SHOULD be able to handle their roles and responsibilities.
You stated, “Unfortunately, Dekalb tends to adopt the attitude that teachers can just figure out how to get it all done, while administrators can get all the paid help they claim to need. That may explain why some people are not seeing why ISS is a necessary position, even if there are some or even many stand-outs like you.”
Again, I am sorry if that is the trend at your school. At mine, our admin and ISS do not believe teachers can figure it out and do it on their own. An Effective ISS will be the support mechanism needed to drive all teachers forward and meet their individual needs.
As I shared in my response to Stan above, I heard you speak in your post about bad admin and their poor use of the ISS position. Again, I am sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, there is a range of quality, as you mentioned, from the top to the bottom in any organization, educational or not… there will always be good and bad administrators, teachers, counselors, coaches, nurses, custodians, etc. Knowing this does not warrant the removal of the entire position, it more so warrants the further training, monitoring, and appraisal of the position just as we do with teachers (TKES).
Thanks for the explanations. Like Kimi, it sounds like you do a lot.
Seems like the the description of your job isn’t a problem as much as understanding how other people employed by the district are also supposed to be doing those jobs. Maybe you can help me understand why we need a professional learning department, so many online resources paid for by the district, and mandatory professional learning communities, and ISS also doing professional development?
Last year Dekalb opted to pay lead teachers more. How does the lead special education teacher differ from the overlapping tasks you would do in ISS?
It’s great that your school supports your teachers. I’m sure the students are better off for it. I’m referring to how things are planned and implemented. For example, I would much rather have someone come in to my class and model an effective teaching strategy than have me attend a meeting to hear about how this strategy works. We could save much more time if we got see things happening instead of hear about how they can happen. I have never had anyone in professional learning or instructional support come into my classroom and work with my students nor am I aware of any school visit in which this happened. Again, maybe my school is unusual. The time and need is what I was referring to in “figuring it out.”
From what I’ve seen, and as you said this may be more unusual than people at my school have noticed, “teachers” not in the classroom often have the freedom to determine what they can work on that day and how much time they can devote to tasks, so if you’re working on CSIP, you might be able to shut your door and work on it all day. When we classroom “teachers” are working on CSIP, we have to figure out how to do it in between classes and after all other obligations. Of course there’s also the question of why the CSIP isn’t worked on over the summer when administrators are largely uninterrupted by the day-to-day school activities.
As “teachers,” how are ISS employees evaluated? Do you have the same levels of expectations for multiple observations of your teaching with required features of assessments and differentiation and rigor? Do you have to submit weekly lesson plans? Do you have a daily set of work duties the way we teachers have to take roll, teach, create assessments, grade, respond to emails, attend meetings, etc…? I hope I don’t sound confrontational, but I do wonder how these drastically different work experiences can be considered equal in the world of “teachers.” As you and Kimi have pointed out, maybe enough of us just don’t know enough.
How about they consider defunding the Dekalb County Schools Police Department instead of cutting school personnel? Our district is predominately black and many of our black students living in predominately black communities are already overpoliced on a daily basis. As a teacher with 20+ years of experience, I have yet to see the usefulness of campus police in any of the many school districts in which I’ve worked. They do not play any significant role in day-to-day instruction or programs that support the needs of the whole child. I rarely see them and their presence does little to make me feel any more or less safe. And, in my most humble opinion, they often do more harm than good when they make contact with our students, often causing situations to escalate (sometimes from their mere presence). Let’s stop treating schools like mini-prisons and allow monies that fund this department to be used to provide schools with additional support personnel (such as ISSs, counselors, psychologists, etc.) and programs that support our students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs (which under our current circumstances is going to be of greater need than before). In short, stop cutting education and expecting educators to do a better job with less. It’s just dumb. And as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. We will ALL have to live with the consequences of that.
I agree with you in principle. However, in more budget related terms I have questions which my board rep. didn’t ask for me, so I will write them here for Stan.
When schools shut down did SROs still get paid? I assume they did, but may be wrong.
Why is the SRO a 12 month position when the majority of them are school based? What do they do during the summer?
How many SRO positions are in the budget?
Why did the BOE approve more than $100,000 for “bus security” when there were SROs who were not doing their regular “day jobs?” Why couldn’t they guard the buses?
I disagree with Defund DCSDPD. I previously worked in a middle school in DeKalb and we had an 8th student who was wanted for murder in another county. The young man came to school, slept threw most of the classes, as usual, and no one even knew. Our SRO at the time received the warrant and informed our staff. The next day the student was dropped off at school and was immediately put into protective custody by our SRO. Had we not had an SRO, we could have endangered the lives of our students, staff and parents. There perform so many essential duties that regular classroom teachers are unaware of. Additionally, they have access to information and resources that we are not always are of so not so please, do not defund the department.
@Justcurious there is a whole entire police department in Dekalb County that does the exact same thing. How do you think the SRO found out about the warrant? And where do you think they took the kid once he showed up on campus? Just curious. (No pun intended.)
@Stan- Kemp is asking the GA for a 10% cut now instead of 11% – if this happens I’m hoping that reduces furloughs.
@DefundDCSDPD – I’ve only ever had positive interactions with SROs as a student and as a staff member. That being said I know that is not the case in many schools. Personally I think most/ all should be replaced with social workers, counselors, psychologists, etc. by addressing root problems we can prevent most of the behavior that concern people.
If you are a Dekalb educator, you need to check your email (that you are not required to check in the summer) and sign your contract again.
I believe they are emailing our contracts signed by the superintendent. We already signed them in early spring. I think the confusion is the statement In our letter regarding accepting the contract in 10 days… I’ve emailed DHS to get clarification as I’m sure they’re not expecting all employees to sign again mid summer. This has never been the protocol. We sign then the superintendent signs. We are employed. Will post if I hear different.
Please excuse the previous typos!
I have been in this District for 31 years and a counselor for 27. I remember when the District did not have a Police Department so I am not ignorant about how the SRO received the information and certainly not ignorant about the location in which they took the student. Maybe you work in a middle school with less bullying by students and parents, less fighting and more students making good choices and good decisions in class and by going to class. Unfortunately, many of us do not, have not or did not work in the “White House” schools and the SRO’s are a welcomed for e to assist with removing unruly students and parents. Yes, the community policing from the Dekalb County Police Department was sufficient back in the day (early 90’s) is not enough to ensure the safety of students, parents and staff in today’s schools. Yes, I also agree that more mental health counselors are needed.
@dekalbteacher. My apologies for the 5+ day delay. Summer has been a busy one so far and I look forward to discussing this topic further…I will address question by question (and a few topics you raised without direct questions). 🙂
1) “Maybe you can help me understand why we need a professional learning department, so many online resources paid for by the district, and mandatory professional learning communities, and ISS also doing professional development?”
The PL Department works directly with the Curriculum & Instruction and Content Area Coordinators (ELA, Math, etc.) to establish the district expectations in terms of instructional strategies, researched based practices, etc. They mainly work at the district level, meeting with teachers who attend their PL sessions, instructional leaders, etc. disseminating their expectations to the masses as much as possible with the few staff they have (maybe 2-3 people per subject area?)…good luck reaching the 120+ schools. By online resources, I am guessing you mean VERGE, Engage, etc. and “mandatory PLCs” being the typical collaborative planning and staff meetings that occur at schools…these can be found in any normal school district budget in the 21st century. As for the role of ISS, we are instrumental in communicating the DCSD instructional norms to staff at the school level through training, modeling, observing, feedback, etc. We adapt as needed to fit the needs of our unique school. A large part of our job description discusses this PL and teacher support.
To summarize… PL Dept. = Whole District, Online and PLC = sharing of PL topics by school/district leaders, ISS = School Level Support.
2) “How does the lead special education teacher differ from the overlapping tasks you would do in ISS?”
The LTSE does not overlap with the work of ISS. ISS normally works with MTSS/RTI/SST (Tier 2 and Tier 3 plans). This involves helping teachers identify students in need of interventions, scheduling weekly meetings with parents, counselors, social workers, etc. to determine interventions that teachers can use with students in the classroom. The LTSE is called upon when a student is not responding to the T2/T3 interventions and being considered for additional testing and possible special education services (formally Tier 4). When you study the RTI “pyramid” you will notice that many more students in a school should be in T2/T3 than special education. The documentation, meetings, etc. are very different. Once a student exits T3, he/she are in the hands of the LTSE. It is essentially a “passing of the torch”.
3) “For example, I would much rather have someone come in to my class and model an effective teaching strategy than have me attend a meeting to hear about how this strategy works.”
Again, I agree 100% that instructional support (ISS and academic coaches) SHOULD be in the classrooms working with the teachers. There must be a balance between the presentation you mentioned, “Active learning” (i.e. teacher practicing what is taught), collaboration, modeling, support, reflection, etc. This is the basic coaching method and most ISS do carry this out as a part of their roles/responsibilities.
4) Speaking to your CSIP points…
You are correct that ISS do have more flexibility to “shut their door” to support this work on occasion if needed. If/when classroom teachers are involved with the CSIP it would be during a typical meeting or planning time. While the admin team does MOST of the editing, refining, budgeting, etc. it is ideal to have teacher input as they will ultimately carry the plan out. As for it not being done over the summer, that is largely because DCSD timelines require submission of plans prior to the summer break as many others need to review it (Title I, Regional leaders, etc.). It is mainly an ongoing/fluid process that most staff don’t even get the chance to experience (multiple leadership meetings throughout the year at the district headquarters are used to work on this).
5) “As “teachers,” how are ISS employees evaluated?”
Just as classroom teachers work with students (depending on being self-contained or departmentalized…anywhere from 20-100+), the ISS “teacher” role is that of ensuring all teachers (20-60?) are as effective as they can possibly be. This is what we are evaluated on. We receive a more descriptive evaluation as to tasks we carry out, effectiveness with those tasks, support for teachers and students, etc. Principals write it up and we sign each year. As shared prior, I am all for a more formal evaluation if DCSD elects to go that route. I am happy to meet the demands of a rubric as classroom teachers do.
6) “Do you have the same levels of expectations for multiple observations of your teaching with required features of assessments and differentiation and rigor?”
I cannot speak for all ISS, but my school leaders do observe me and work with me on various tasks. I am sure I interact with them more over the course of the year than most teachers, so they are quite knowledgeable of my work/abilities. They do look for my “differentiation and rigor” of PL with teachers.
7)“Do you have to submit weekly lesson plans?”
We have a weekly “log” that we input what we do every minute of every day. Not a lesson plan, but a record of our time spent (8 hours a day). This is shared and discussed with my principal weekly. My typical schedule might be teacher support (modeling, observing, resources), parent contacts, etc. Monday…MTSS/RTI meetings all day Tuesday…Lead grade level team collaborative planning meetings Wednesday….Study Group (PL) with teachers all day during their planning time (based on CSIP areas of focus)…Teacher support, PL planning, etc. Friday…Morning duty, lunch duty, afternoon duty, after school clubs, tutorial, tech support, teacher coverage, etc. every day as well.
8) “Do you have a daily set of work duties the way we teachers have to take roll, teach, create assessments, grade, respond to emails, attend meetings, etc…?”
Absolutely…those listed above and many more. My assessments look different than class assessments, but I assure I am an awesome evaluator of instructional practices. The one thing I do not do is “grade” teachers. My role is not evaluative…we leave that to the building leaders.
9) “I hope I don’t sound confrontational, but I do wonder how these drastically different work experiences can be considered equal in the world of “teachers.””
By “equal” I am not sure if you are speaking to us being on the same pay scale?… roles & responsibilities…? All I can say is you teach your students in the classroom (plan, deliver, keep records, assess, adjust, repeat) and I teach my 50+ teachers all over the building (plan, deliver, keep records, assess, adjust, repeat) and do so very well (our school gains, data use, and improvement in instructional practices the past 4-5 years reflects this). So well, in fact, that I have the trust of many regional/district leaders, I am qualified to teach graduate level ESOL Endorsement courses, I serve as administrator for DCSD Summer programs serving 300+ kids with 30+ staff, work with district leaders/coordinators to form curriculum pacing, develop collaborative planning guides, etc. I certainly consider myself a “teacher” every day. I don’t know what qualifies as “equal”, but the importance and impact I have in the school are definitely comparable. I would argue that the loss of effective ISS at a school will be equally or more impactful than losing an effective teacher in the classroom. The reach/scope of this single position is far greater than many are giving credit.
In conclusion…Yes, I believe there are great and bad ISS…great and bad admin….great and bad teachers…however, a great ISS can make a bad teacher great and therein lies their value. Just as an effective teacher can improve the lowest performing students and improve the standing of the school as a whole, so can the ISS.
@Just Curious, thanks for your assumptions. However, in my 20+ years of education I have been fortunate enough to teach at ALL levels (currently teaching H.S.), in several different districts (within and outside of GA), in schools with varying populations of students (predominately black, predominately white, as well as diverse populations). The bottom line is: police should not be used to deal with the social, emotional, or economic ills of society. And for anyone who thinks it is ok to call the police on black kids for bullying or “bad behavior” in a school building is perpetuating the school to prison pipeline and the ideals of our racist society. If you are teaching (counseling) in an environment where you believe there is a need for that, please leave because your preconceived notions about teaching in desireable “White House” schools and undesireable “Black House” schools is disgusting and detrimental to the most vulnerable and marginalized students in our society . (I can read between the lines). So if you really believe that police are needed for black students who exhibit so-called “bad behavior” then maybe it’s time for you to take your 31 years and retire or change your mindset. Thanks for your service. Be Best!
Since the state just announced the budget cuts will not be as bad as originally thought (cutting $950 million instead of $1 billion), will the school board consider removing the teacher furlough days from the DeKalb budget? I have yet to hear of any other school system in metro Atlanta that plans on furloughing teachers to make up for lost funds. It would look really bad for DeKalb if we are the only metro system that has to furlough teachers, especially with responsibilities that will probably be added to the teacher’s list of duties due to the Coronavirus.
@Curious. What to do with the extra budget … Buying Chromebooks for the K-5 students that don’t have them, buy back furlough days, pay for ISS positions, deferred maintenance. These are probably the big ticket items the administration and board will look at.
While I appreciate the decisions you listed, can we please also talk about ways to cut the budget?
For starters, get rid of regional cabinets and outsource HR. How many years is abject failure to perform going to be supported by the BOE?
Does DCSD really need to participate in football, at any level? Did the BOE get a presentation which explained why the athletics department loses money every year, and the explanation was NOT blatant theft as the audit showed? If the district is losing money every Friday night, maybe we ought not do that?
Have you forwarded my questions about SROs? If we can’t defund them, why not at least make them more efficient? Cut the number by 50% and have them do bus security.
If we start there, it will be a good start.
Most K-2 can’t reasonably be expected to do virtual Learning. Realistically many 3-5 won’t do independent virtual learning (online teacher but parent not standing over them). Spend the money on the teachers, who you know you need to retain. If I was furloughed 8-11 days in DCSD and every other metro district had no furlough days I’d jump ship ASAP.
Not to mention we need school level staff working as much as possible to support the kids as they return from a long break in learning.
I hear you Kirk. As you know, it’s an uphill battle. 80% of the budget is various salaries in and out of the school house. The Board was told that the “foundation of [this budget] is to keep employees working … and not contribute to the unemployment rate.”
Hi AJ, and @dekalbteacher who requested a response from Kimi a few days ago. I apologize for the delay. I can only respond that AJ summed up the answers about ISS’ s pretty good. I cannot put it any better. As I stated previously, I am always a teacher. A teacher to other teachers, to students, to parents, and the community. The ISS role is very broad, and our charge is to help all stakeholders in many ways. We juggle all of this without credit for being the “lead” in many of our buildings, and definitely without murmuring that we do not get paid the Lead Teacher salary that is a part of the salary schedules. You know the salary schedule that no one in the district can answer the question as to who gets paid this salary, or even who does the work. I’ll even step out on the limb and say that this should be where our salaries should be since ISS’s wear so many hats, (but I won’t say it), as I love what I do, and I am thankful that I can share my years of experience in the classroom with others. It is not always about the money. We just need money to survive, not to make us happy. I will agree with you that there may be a few lackadaisical ISS around, but even they must do some work. But, thank you AJ for making it clear that we have rules, guidelines, and protocols that we must follow too, and not for a classroom alone, but for the good of all stakeholders. Also. No, I did not feel that anyone was being confrontational, I thought it is great that people are asking these questions to bring clarity for those that don’t understand our relevance. I am also optimistic that things will work out for the betterment of our children, as everyone will be needed as we go back into the school with the number of COVID 19 cases on the rise, and no end in sight. Right now, I am hoping that DCSD move forward with a plan of action for virtual learning. We will see.
Again, thank you Stan for this forum. I hope you can convince someone from the board to continue it, as it has been a great source of information for those of us who do attend/watch board meetings, and for those may not.
@Stan It’s reassuring to hear that you all going to look at bug ticket items and that it will include the ISS position. Honestly, if that position didn’t exist, much of the MTSS work wouldn’t get done or it wouldn’t get done effectively. And Dekalb would be in a pickle of a mess in failing to provide appropriate supports to struggling students. I was on the brink of lawyering up concerning my child not adequately being supported in the RTI process. Luckily, the school finally included that position and began implementing systems to adequately support students through MTSS. Probably the best decision they made. And struggling students are going to need that support times 10 now! My 2 cents. Thanks again!
Hi AJ and Kimi,
Thank you for sharing so much. I feel more comfortable supporting this budget cut and explaining how ISS positions should not be paid as classroom “teachers.” However, I’m sure I would hate losing you from my school if I knew you because it sounds like you do a lot of work.
Under Green, the district hired or appointed many school administrators and, as Kirk points out, additional higher paid personnel in regional cabinets in addition to so many support positions. Dekalb pays more administrators than Cobb County even though Cobb County is bigger. Our school district says it has at least 6,600 “teachers”, but more than 2,000 of those teachers don’t work in a classroom every day with students. For that money, I want to see more students succeeding and I want to know why we don’t have enough certified educators to work with students when the classroom teacher is absent.
If we’re going to pay so many people out of the classroom and out of the school house, I want to know that we’re spending our money smartly and that our students are benefiting from this use of “human capital” or “human resources.” Right now we have a personnel evaluation system that is driven by job preservation. Regional superintendents evaluate principals and principals evaluate assistant principals and other non-classroom teachers. Green did away with teachers evaluating administrators and no one has asked us to evaluate support positions, so who is going to admit they hired the wrong people, that what’s been sold as improvement actually took away from something else, they let someone in charge grossly mismanage a school and funds? Dekalb won’t even agree to have its finances audited. More often parents seem to be the ones that do the personnel evaluation job that the district should do by going to the AJC or WSB.
Until the district requires all “teachers” to teach some students, in the same way private schools and universities have heads of school and those in administration do, and reduce class sizes for our elementary school students, I can’t get behind keeping support positions or the 2,000 thousand teachers not working directly with students regularly, just because some do an outstanding job. You may “teach” teachers, but we work with our students and all their parents. Many teachers in some schools and regions work with more than 150 students. You get to log your hours, which sounds like you have a lot of professional autonomy that we teachers don’t. We don’t get to choose whether to complete lesson plans, no matter how effective we are, or attend professional development meetings, even when we may not need that specific training, and then write a log of how we chose to spend our time working for our students. Instead, we may have to do as we’re told and then use our own time to do what we know our students need.
I appreciate having this blog as a way to learn more about our school district and the way it does things. I hope the new superintendent does more than change program and department titles and figures out how to keep people like you while also prioritizing small classes for our elementary school students.
“That will allow the district to not only keep its employees, but also offer a step increase in salaries for employees who have not already reached the maximum step on the district’s pay scale.”
Hi again @dekalbteacher. I hear your response. I just thought that I would like to add that since school has been closed. Many of us have been working, making sure that teachers were able to retrieve their data that was left in the building during COVID, and getting that data to us, so that we can ensure everything is ready for the upcoming year , and for the next teacher. I have been calling parents to see how their children are doing, (as many teachers and others have been doing), I have been attending webinars and Zoom meetings that will help me be even more effective under our new learning, and I have been creating new methods to help ease our teachers loads when it comes to MTSS when return to school. Many of us are still working to in various capacities not paid, but dedicated, as are many teachers. School is out, and I am still on. “I’m just saying!” This is our life as educators who care about the students, teachers, parents, and the community that we serve. I hope that as someone here mentioned— we don’t find ourselves under another corrective action by SACS, for not having the necessary actions in place to perform important task with fidelity that affect children and their families.
I am optimistic as I learned that the state is not wanting furloughs, happy that many districts have ways to keep their personnel, but very concerned about the direction our district might take under new leadership that does not fully understand or know our history, and that this decision may come at the final hour. We will see. Thinking positive.
I agree with you on most topics, but I respectfully disagree about athletics. I’m an athletics guy and I’ll defend the value of athletics with everything I’ve got, so I’m biased, but let me try to change your mind because I think you’re a really bright guy who is very thoughtful. but I don’t think you have all the facts about Dekalb athletics.
First, hundreds of students from Dekalb Schools earn athletic scholarships every year and I think that makes athletics worthwhile…but Dekalb does a horrible job with athletics in ways that can be easily fixed.
A good athletics program can be an amazing ambassador for a school. A wise, old administrator (not from Dekalb) once told me that athletics were important to schools because athletics is to the school what the front porch is to the house in that it is the only thing about the school that most people will ever see.
…but Dekalb County sets up the schools to fail at athletics in almost every way imaginable.
I understand that athletics is a drain on finances right now, but I completely disagree with the notion that Dekalb Athletics isn’t rife with opportunities to spend less and make more.
Last year, there were FIVE people in all of Georgia Public Schools making more than $120,000 with the title of ATHLETICS DIRECTOR & Dekalb County School District is home to TWO of those FIVE people. Let’s get Dekalb in line with every other district in the state, cut one of those positions, and save $100,000+ before we even really get going!
It would be EASY for Dekalb Athletics to be profitable or at least break even. Cut the bloat, secure partnerships and advertisers (Dekalb football stadiums are just about the only ones in the state without lots of sponsor banners, even districts like APS have big Superior Plumbing signs that bring in a lot of cash).
Student tickets for football and basketball should be no more than a $1 or $2, maybe even FREE with a student ID. If the kids would come, you’d make a killing on concessions, but we want to charge $5 or $6 and the kids often don’t show up, especially on the south end of the county. Spirit buses to the football stadiums could probably make money if marketed correctly, but where is the incentive for the schools to try something like that when they don’t get any money from the games?
If the county is going to keep ALL the ticket money and ALL the concession money in football as well as ALL the ticket money in basketball, what incentive is there for the schools to encourage stakeholders to attend games? No incentive at all.
Also, the county spends way too much money on Gameday Operations for football. I’m sure there would be schools that would be more than happy to take stadium operations away from the county for their individual games, because they’d find ways to make money. I know Stephenson, SWD, Cedar Grove, Dunwoody, Druid Hills, Lakeside, Chamblee, Arabia Mountain, and Tucker (and maybe others) would take over the administration of their games in a heartbeat if the county charged a stadium rental fee and let the schools keep the ticket/concessions revenue.
DCSD Athletics also loses money because of an incredibly bloated staff. Most local districts have less than 5 full-time employees dedicated to athletics.
Again keeping in mind that most county athletics offices in the metro have 3 people…
WARD-SMITH,TEKSHIA M ATHLETICS DIRECTOR $127,879.09
JACKSON,JAMES P ATHLETICS DIRECTOR $121,120.22
HARWELL,JOHN M INSTRUCTIONAL SUPERVISOR $93,749.71
BROCK,MARK ATHLETICS PERSONNEL $61,136.90
CHILTON,CHRISTOPHER C ATHLETICS PERSONNEL $66,703.44
SEWELL,LORENZO K ATHLETICS PERSONNEL $66,553.44
SCOTT,JANET D GENERAL ADMIN SECRETA… $48,580.32
WEBB,ALETHEA T BOOKKEEPER $38,125.75
Some of those folks work really hard, but there are too many positions and a pretty clear lack of accountability for those that don’t do their job well.
Unfortunately, athletics gets lost in the shuffle of all the other problems in Dekalb Schools and put on the back-burner because people focus their energy and activism on other issues…but the Athletics issues are totally fixable and have been for a very long time.
Truer words were never written!!!
Thank you for taking the time, and especially for highlighting the differences between DCSD and reputable districts where Athletics is concerned. Wow.
I agree with you that the Athletics problems are totally fixable. I had hopes for the new AD, James Jackson, but haven’t seen any progress. As with most things in DCSD, it’s not clear whether Mr. Jackson is trying to make changes and is getting shut down, or if he is happy to be the top guy even though he doesn’t get the top salary.
I’m hoping Mr. Jackson is a good guy but I’ve heard from athletic parents that I shouldn’t be hopeful.
BOE member Mr. Dacosta speaks up for Athletics frequently but he hasn’t gotten any changes nor has any other BOE member given strong support.
Mr. Jackson is a wonderful man and a very hard worker. He’s not perfect. of course, but no one is. You couldn’t ask for a better person to be in charge.
And I’m not sure which athletic parents you’ve talked to, but I would say that more often than not, you would get just the opposite report on him. He ALWAYS does what’s best for the kids. He has had that philosophy as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, and principal. The students always respected him, because they knew that everything he did was for them and to make them into better people.
Shade should not be cast on James P. Jackson.
Hello athletics. You have stunned me with the new info, duplicate salaries, and Ward-Smith! I guess I need to pay attention to other roles in the district. But, if memory serves me right— wasn’t she and another remain nameless person escorted out of HR a few years ago for various reasons? Now, that is what is alarming! “I’m just saying. I don’t want to start rumors, but really?
Yes, I have wondered what sort of contract Ms. Ward-Smith has, that she can continue to earn an outrageously high salary even though she is no longer in charge of HR. Perhaps she is a super employee but I cannot fathom that the “Administrative Director, Athletics” is worth that kind of money.
I urge those of you who want this to change to email the BOE members. The other Board members don’t read this blog. They only know about stakeholder issues if stakeholders directly let them know.
I admire your enthusiasm, but some of your statements are not based on correct information or assumptions. Football generates ZERO concessions revenue for the district. I have copies of the contracts for the vendors (which are beyond embarrassing). The district gets nothing. The vendors get to retain all revenues.
I have asked my BOE rep., Allyson, to request an accounting of the cost of football to the district. I doubt she will get it even if she asks.
I never said there weren’t opportunities to improve the efficiency of the athletics department and agree with you regarding salaries and staffing. Before the pandemic, I would have agreed with using spirit buses to raise revenue for booster clubs or schools. Maybe someday?
The most recent audit of the athletics department showed a lack of bookkeeping and accountability in handling funds. That was 2017. A follow-up audit has not been done. I did an ORR for the documentation referenced in the audit and the district told me it would cost more than $400 to provide. Makes me think the documentation is fiction.
Please understand, I only mentioned football because I know ticket sales have been declining and the district has been losing money. I am not against athletics.
Regarding Dr. Ward-Smith, she is Mrs. Tyson’s friend. Mrs. Tyson’s friends do very well in the school district without doing much work. This is an example of what people mean when they say “Friends and Family.” If you ask the school level people who deal with her, you will quickly find out she is NOT an exceptional employee.
True story; I once had a conversation with the HR director from a “neighboring school district” who said he would not hire Ward-Smith to walk his dog because his dog was smarter than she.
The football concessions deal is MIND BOGGLING. A concession stand should be a consistent money-maker. As I recall, the way the county justified was to say they were losing money on the concession stands. Either somebody was lying or somebody was staggeringly incompetent. It is damn near impossible to lose money on a concession stand.
Again, I guarantee you that a bunch of the schools/booster clubs would be willing to run the concession stands at the stadiums because they are essentially a license to print money.
Ticket sales are also declining because some of the stadiums are staffed with rude, petulant children posing as adults. People who have to deal with the stadium staff for any reason, especially visiting fans, often promise never to come back. Nobody is thinking about providing a great experience because everybody is going to end up with the same benefits no matter what. Also, I think it would help ticket sales if the schools/programs received some benefit from people attending games. If the county gave back a minimal amount per ticket sold, the schools would have a much greater interest in getting people to attend the games.
Give the schools/booster clubs some responsibility and some skin in the game and I think you’d quickly see some different outcomes. It’ll never happen though, because the Dekalb County mantra is that all things must be equal, so if Tucker could make $2,000 at the concession stand in a game while Cross Keys made $50, we must, MUST, make it so that everybody gets $0 so that all can be fair.
Another great example of this insanity is the athletic department telling Chamblee being they can’t practice at North Dekalb stadium because it isn’t fair to the other schools who don’t have a stadium on campus. So, once again, to be FAIR, a resource that the county put a lot of money into cannot be fully utilized so that everybody in the county can have an equal share of nothing.
Stan, does the revenue from ticket sales go into the athletic department budget? I’ve never been able to find a line item in the county budget for ticket revenue. Is it possible that the county is dumping ticket revenue into some other pot and then claiming athletics is a terrible money loser without counting any of the money that comes in?
Athletics, like many other things, are a mess. Red flags go up with every conversation I have with the administration regarding athletics and concessions/ticket sales. This conversation I had with Tinsley about boosters taking over concessions is typical …
From: Stan Jester (School Board Members)
To: Vasanne Tinsley (Student Support & Intervention)
Sent: Friday, September 20, 2019 10:42 AM
Subject: RE: N DeKalb Stadium
We recently discussed Dunwoody HS and Chamblee Charter HS taking over ticket sales and concessions … like many/most high schools. Obviously it would be for home games and the school/boosters would take over many of the expenses as well.
I don’t want to misquote or mischaracterize what you said. Can you explain to us your thoughts on this? It seems to be a best practice.
From: Vasanne Tinsley (Student Support & Intervention)
Sent: Tuesday, September 24, 2019 10:06 AM
To: Stan Jester (School Board Members)
Subject: Re: N DeKalb Stadium
Thank you for the email, Mr. Jester.
As shared during our previous conversation, there are many considerations that the District would need to evaluate prior to allowing the revenue from sales of tickets at stadiums and concessions to be issued to schools.
1. The primary consideration would be equity. If a change were to be made regarding concessions, the District would need to ensure that all schools were able to participate in concessions sales. Not all schools have strong clubs or parent groups that would be able to promote and assist with concession sales.
2. The current district budgetary structure for the athletics department is revenue based on ticket sales. A change in this structure may impact the provision of athletic support for schools and all programs throughout the district, such as uniforms, fees, equipment, field maintenance, tournament travel, officials, security and other necessary components associated with the District athletic program.
3. There are health considerations regarding food prep and sales at the regional stadiums. Current vendors must have liability insurance. We would need to communicate with the Office of Legal Affairs to determine the best course of action should a change in this direction be issued.
We also discussed that DeKalb has a 5 regional stadium model (that all schools use) and many of the other school districts that have been referenced have stadiums on school grounds operated by one local school. Stadiums attached to schools make local school oversight of ticket sales and concessions easier. This is not the current model in DeKalb.
The Athletics Department is considering a request to the Finance Division to change the current budgeting formula for Athletics (possibly for the 2020-2021 school year).
We are also investigating a pilot for all schools that would allow local schools to benefit more from the sales at identified athletic events. Input will be solicited from schools, administration, members of the Board of Education and community stakeholders prior to change in this area.
Dr. Vasanne S. Tinsley
“1. The primary consideration would be equity. If a change were to be made regarding concessions, the District would need to ensure that all schools were able to participate in concessions sales. Not all schools have strong clubs or parent groups that would be able to promote and assist with concession sales.”
Why is the primary consideration not that which would do the most good for the most number of schools right now?
That makes me want to scream! If everybody has nothing, then everybody is equal. How is that the policy?!
Thanks for the quick response, Stan…. But Argh! How infuriating…
At Allyson Gervertz’s last listening session, she said Ms. Tyson had no problem cutting Central Office staff when needed and that she felt the statement about keeping employees working as the foundation of the budget related mostly to teachers.
I don’t believe it but that is what she said.
The new superintendent needs to look very closely at the staffing at Central Office. All CO employees need to be qualified for their roles and actually contributing to the operation of the district. Removing those that don’t could save the district a lot of money.
Stan, has the board or administration every discussed zero based budgeting? Seems appropriate for the CO during these times.
Wow– what does an Instructional Supervisor at almost $95,000 do in an Athletics Department?
Glad to be gone. For so many reasons.
I woner how far the DeKalb school board anticipates they can continue to grind teachers down? The folly of this year’s contract re-issue (I’m not a lawyer, but name one other professional context in which an employer could change the amount an employee will make, on a contract already signed by that employee) was the very illustration of a corrupt district. Now, furloughs amidst a pandemic, and no visible plan to keep teachers and students safe if and when we reopen. Other non-union states have seen their teachers strike over far less. What will Dekalb do, with so many positions left unfilled and a dearth of substitutes if teachers refuse to go back? Maybe it’s time we find out.
Of course I meant “wonder.”
The budget should also include a pay cut for the BOE. They are the highest paid BOE in the state – almost $24,000 (not counting travel expenses) and their own calendar requires them to only meet 12 days a month. Joyce Morley got $10,435.15 for travel in 2019!
Gwinnett BOE in 2019 earned $17,341.68
APS BOE in 2019 earned $16,588.08
Come on DCSD BOE. If you can cut others’ pay, cut yours too.
It appears that most cuts should be some principals, coaches and sub teachers who are hired to work full time at schools. When enrollments are down these people should be moved or cut. DeKalb have a shortage of teachers; therefore, it makes since to place these people back into the classrooms. This would take care of the teacher shortage. Also, at some schools paraprofessionals are teaching students without certified teachers in the classroom full time. So, use what we have and look for cuts somewhere else. Why always cutting teachers pay. Teachers work hard enough and spend out of their pockets to maintain their classrooms with supplies etc…
I encourage teachers, if you have not already, to reach out to the area contact for your professional organization and learn what rights we still maintain as Georgia educators. The assumption by DCSD BOE has long been that teachers will simply accept the pay cuts, the step holds, and weak support for teachers both at the macro and micro levels of leadership. We do have some rights.
Stan can you break down the new budget proposal as it compares to the prior proposal