I do not work in the DeKalb County School System, but I am privileged to much of what is occurring. Everyone who works in the school system and has children in the school system should be alarmed and pay close attention to the decisions the Board of Education and the superintendent, Cheryl Atkinson, is making and will be making in the coming weeks. A couple of their goals are to reduce salaries and make demotions. Everyone in DeKalb doesn’t make the large salaries you hear about in the news. There are employees who have been with DeKalb for many years who have earned their pay. You can’t tell someone who makes $40,000 per year that they are overpaid, especially when they have been working in the school system for at least six, seven or eight years. You can’t post positions that your employees have to re-apply for, not give qualified applicants an interview and hand pick the least qualified applicants as finalists. Loyalty should be rewarded.
Those individuals who stuck through all the turmoil of the DeKalb County School System over the past few years should be applauded. During the superintendent’s tenure, she will be paid somewhere over $1.2 million. Where is her good faith effort concerning her paycheck? Why doesn’t she refuse some of the perks she received being that DeKalb has money issues? On top of her $275,000 annual salary, she receives $31,200 for expenses; she can submit reimbursement requests “for all other reasonable expenses” above that amount, $750 per month for driving her car for work, and the taxpayers paid for her moving costs. I heard a report on the news where the school board was considering reducing the number of school police. The employees who monitor and service the security systems are being reassigned. Is that a good idea coming off the heels of a stabbing incident at Columbia High School and other violent situations at other schools? Fernbank was on the cutting table. Make the cuts there. Where is all the outrage coming from in relation to the Fernbank cuts? Probably the people not being affected by the cutbacks.
The central office staff has gone to 10 hour days, Monday through Thursday and off on Friday. This approach seems a bit juvenile. Wouldn’t a teleworking schedule make more sense and save more money? The entire budget should be reviewed with a fine toothcomb. Who provides the food for the schools? Can we get it at a better price from local growers and distributors? Who supplies the sporting equipment and uniforms? You don’t always have to go with the most expensive and most popular brand. Raise the price of school sporting event tickets by $1. Set a standard price for school parking decals. Don’t allow the principals to set their own price. Allow large corporations to advertise on school buses, baseball, and football stadiums. This may sound extreme but a school district in Florida raises $500,000 per year by doing so. Have the students who get in trouble at school clean up the gyms and football fields after games. Cut the least popular sports programs with the lowest attendance.
If you are going to make the unpopular choice and fire people, make some of the other unpopular choices. No area of DeKalb County, geographically or organizationally, should get a free pass. If I could personally address Superintendent Atkinson, I would ask her to be fair. I would also ask her to forego politics and procedures and give the next groups of employees who will be let go, a two-week notice even though it is not required in Georgia. Show some compassion. Have you ever showed up at work and been fired on the spot? Do you know how that feels? Any good will efforts on your part going forward will go along way in improving your standing with the 68 percent of DeKalb county parents that didn’t support your hiring.
— Ms. Roberta Walker