Local school board representative talks budget and more

DeKalb School Board representative Nancy Jester writes constituents about the upcoming budget, teacher pay cuts and the district's new Twitter account.

Editors note: Nancy Jester, Dunwoody's representative on the DeKalb school board, sent out this letter to constituents Friday on some of the ongoing issues in the district.

Recent Events

I am writing to share with you what I have learned in recent days about DCSD's plans for the 2012-13 school year.  As you are aware, teachers received their contracts this week and, unfortunately, this cyclical process was problematic.  As the board is prohibited from being involved in operations, I have forwarded the community's concerns to the district's administration for their review and action. Below, please find a brief discussion of the major issues brought to me.

1.  Are teachers getting a pay cut?
The Superintendent has stated that she does not intend to ask the Board for a pay cut.  Click here to view an ajc.com article about the error in the contract letter to teachers.

Please also know that the Board has yet to receive a proposed budget from the Superintendent.  I expect to get this near mid-May.  The Superintendent has employed a modified zero-based budget (ZBB) approach to the 2012-13 SY budget (7/1/12-6/30/13).  This approach is something I spoke about when I ran for the Board so I am pleased that we are now using this methodology.  Many components of a public entities' budgets are simply carried forward without determining their continued relevance or effectiveness.  For DCSD some programs have been carried forward even though the state, which might have first mandated them, has long since cut off funding.  So, with ZBB and the hiring of a new CFO (4/30/12), the budget planning process has taken additional time. 

Once the budget receives approval from the full Board, it is my understanding that teachers will receive updated communications regarding their salary.  Please know that this lag frustrates me too.  I share your concerns.  I will continue to monitor this issue, ask questions and keep you informed of what I learn.  As a mom with three young children, who will all be in DeKalb schools next year (finally my youngest will be in Kindergarten!), I continue to be grateful to the teachers in this district.  My two oldest (3rd and 1st grade) have been the beneficiaries of the tremendous dedication and effort that teachers provide everyday. My gratitude to the teachers is beyond measure. 

On a side note:  The two largest components of our funding are property taxes and state education allotments.  We have not received confirmation of the value of either of those revenues.  The budget cycle for school districts and revenue determinations are not in sync.  Given the economic realities, this dissonance makes the budgeting process very precarious.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could make the component variables align?! 

2.  Programs

I have received numerous emails with concerns about various programs; in particular German Language instruction. Many of you have emailed your thoughts to the Superintendent. It is my understanding that various programs were determined to be "overstaffed" (by an outside consultant) when looking at the number of students served in comparison to the number of teachers.  I further understand that the district does not intend to abandon or eliminate those programs but rather is determining how best to scale them appropriately for demand. The Superintendent and Board received a letter from the  Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany  regarding this very issue.  Dr. Atkinson, replied thoughtfully and timely with the following email: 

Greetings Ms. Heery:

Thank you for the letter from the Honorable German Consulate General.

Please share the following information:

The DeKalb County School District is pleased to have a German Education program. The positive effect on intellectual growth which enriches and enhances a child's mental development alone will open doors to other cultures and help children understand and appreciate cultural diversity.

It is the DeKalb County School District's intention to keep the German Education program. Through the zero based budgeting process, several categories of positions were considered as overstaffed. As we are balancing the budget with the staff necessary to serve students' needs, several educators received a delay notification. Please note that this delay notification is not synonymous with a non-renewal notification.

This is simply a request for additional time to balance allotments based upon student needs. It is our intent to forward a contract to all teachers who are within the District allotment of positions on or before May 15, 2012.

We are very proud of the students at Chamblee Charter HS for receiving the Partner Schools of the Future designation and the other great works they are doing. We look forward to working with you in the future.

Warmest Regards,

Dr. Atkinson

Cheryl L. H. Atkinson, Ed.D.

3.  Grand Jury

 A DeKalb Grand Jury released their presentments today and again called for a Special Grand Jury to be appointed.  Specifically they were concerned about pending legal issues and counsel. Click here to read the ajc.com story.  

4. Meeting

The next regularly schedule Board of Education meeting is Monday, May 7th at 6pm.

5.  Tweet!
You can now follow DeKalb Schools on Twitter @DeKalbSchools .   

As always, please stay in touch.  I look forward to hearing any questions and concerns you have.              



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