Everyone seems to be up in arms about the latest article concerning DCS, but the information provided in this report did not surprise me at all. The article did answer my question in regards to the DCS rainy day fund and finances. I have a lot to share, but let me start with the rainy day fund.
I now understand what Milton was saying at the OB Chamber Luncheon. When he leaves office, we will have $73,000,000 in that fund. Based on the numbers provided in the article below, we are dipping into that fund this next year to the tune of about $30,000,000 (approximately). That explains how we went/are going from $100,000,000+ to a $73,000,000 fund balance. I am curious as to what that money is going to fund. I am also curious as to why our audits from the State Auditor’s Office reflect $19,000,000+ more in revenues than expenditures for our district over the last few years. Which numbers are correct, and what are we missing here? Why have our expenditures increased from $235,000,000 (roughly)/year to $300,000,000 this next year? Let’s look at some other points of interest here.
Next, Milton says that they will be cutting the budgets at the central office, including travel, supplies and equipment. Haven’t I been saying that needed to happen for almost 3 years now? When the same circle of people continuously travel to places like Las Vegas, New York, Salt Lake City or Colorado Springs (just to name a few), how does that benefit the district and most especially when it was the location that was the basis for the trip as opposed to the actual training that was provided? It hasn’t. It has cost us valuable money that could have been spent on teachers and students. How does it benefit the district for certain administrators to spend tons of money on redecorating their offices with high dollar furniture and decor? It doesn’t! The county office has been living life like district funds are their funds to use as they please. This is exactly why I took issue with the $4000 shabby chic remodeling job at one of our most poverty stricken elementary schools for their lobby. But why expect from them what we don’t expect from our county office leaders? They do what they see their leaders doing. The spending priorities are out of whack at the top and that trickles down into our schools, impacting the decision making of school leaders. But the one item I found to be most disturbing after their presentation of the numbers is that administrators still got pay raises!!!
Teachers, have any one of you ever taken a second to actually read and review your contracts, especially the one involving the 2010-2011 school year pay cut you agreed to take or the following year’s contract? WHY wasn’t your pay restored the following school year when the contract you signed agreed to a cut ONLY for the 2010-2011 school year? Before you say budget cuts and the district said this or that, I encourage you all to do your research! The numbers speak for themselves. If you get out to petition people to fully fund the MAEP and the Ballot 42 Initiative, shouldn’t you have a basic understanding of the finances, the facts, your contracts and the actual funding. Just because Milton says so does NOT make it so! If you aren’t willing to question your boss about the money taken from you, why ask citizens to give more money to the very people that deceitfully took money from you?! If you take just a second to do your research, you may just find that YOU are owed some money.
Now, let’s discuss the statements in regards to unfunded mandates, such as the third grade reading gate and testing. Let’s just be honest here! We chose as a district to do all of our testing online. Two of our district leaders have been the champions of support for the PARCC testing! They have spent several years working in their leader cadres, preparing for and learning what was to come. Those same two people are the ones that have pushed the online testing AND the MacBook 1:1 Initiative. Maybe the real spending problems and financial issues (especially in regards to testing) are a direct result of certain leaders at the county office, because one positive thing they skirted around was the approximate $15,000,000+ increase in funding the district got for next year’s annual budget. We have increased from a $240,000,000 annual budget to a $272,000,000 annual budget in about 5+ years. We keep getting more, but we keep blaming others for our shortfalls!
I do want to address the MacBook 1:1 Initiative. It has been made clear on the school district’s anti-DCR FB page that the person(s) responsible for that initiative claim I have been untruthful in my representation of the numbers and of the district’s ability to implement such a program. Well, let it be noted that not only was I spot on, but we are no longer implementing that program. Due to money and infrastructure, the district has decided to not implement that program. Because I disagreed with the implementation, it in no way makes me anti-technology or is representative of a vendetta against anyone. My concerns were valid, and the more information that comes to light proves this to be true. The fact that this program will not be implemented should be proof enough that I had legitimate concerns.
What I never hear from our district are funding solutions outside of government funding. If we have community members and businesses that are willing to donate an indoor athletic field to one of our high schools, why is our district not more focused on revamping the way our schools fundraise? We have citizens that are able to contribute to the district, so why are we not networking more to get the things we need instead of spending countless hours and wasted money on lobbying politicians or involved with a funding petition? Most of the time people contribute what they are told is needed. People can’t donate what they don’t know our schools need.
One local coach and principal raised over $2,000,000 for their school’s athletic program, so why aren’t others doing the same?
Why do we not have official grant writers and district fundraisers at the county office as opposed to the surplus of unnecessary jobs that we have?
Why do we waste time selling cookie dough and wrapping paper each year (which only contributes 50% of the money raised to the school) instead of finding better ways to raise money, netting the schools 100% of all funds they raise?
Right now, we could get rid of two people at the county office and save the district $250,000/year. I will go out on a limb here and say that we could easily cut $2,000,000 from the county office in the way of salaries and jobs without blinking an eye.
And if you think the reading gate is the problem, ask the teachers how many of the coaches or specialists actually spend any kind of time in their schools or helping their students. We always seem to have people able to tutor the students on the cusp of reaching a higher testing level, but where are all of the tutors or aide for the teachers and students when it comes to reading? Why not involve the community and implement a community reading support team? Considering these would be volunteers, it would cost the district absolutely nothing to implement.
How many teachers complain that their $85,000-$100,000/yr. paid principal is never at school? Should we not address some of these issues?!
And before anyone starts claiming I am anti-teachers or anti-DCS, let me ask you all some questions. Why is it wrong of me to want those that do not do their jobs, commit crimes, cost us tons of money in legal fees, violate their ethics codes, embezzle money, have affairs with co-workers, misappropriate funds, lie, scheme against co-workers and the like to be held accountable and punished accordingly?! Is it fair to all of the overly qualified, highly educated, dedicated, hardworking teachers, administrators and staff members to be stuck in a work environment with these people?! Is it fair for the excellent educators and employees to work their butts off but are never promoted because a friend, family member, church member or criminal gets promoted time and time again?! Do we not owe it to our students to ensure that only the best are responsible for them in the classroom and are responsible for managing the business of our district for citizens?! How much money has it cost us dealing with the issues that have erupted due to poor management, these promotions and the administration of our schools?
Since Milton used the article to promote the Ballot 42 Initiative, let me use this part of my response to promote one of my agendas. Think long and hard, DeSoto County, about who you are planning on voting for when it comes to superintendent!! This is not a decision to be based on friendship, who you know the best, who you think will give you a job promotion, who was a good principal or coach, who has lived in DeSoto the longest or any of the other myriad of reasons people seem to be using!!
Things to Consider When Deciding on Who to Support for Superintendent
• $450,000,000+ in assets
• $73,000,000 in rainy day fund
• $272,000,000 annual operating budget
• $230,000,000-$300,000,000 in annual expenditures
• 4,000 employees (approximately)
• 42 schools + county office
• 160,000 citizens in the county
• 33,000 students
• diverse student and citizen population
• 25+ different languages spoken by DCS students and their families with English as their second language
• 55% of district’s funding comes from the state
• 35% of district’s funding comes from local taxes and revenues
• 10% of district’s funding comes from the federal government
• Approximately 50% of our students are on a reduced or free lunch
The school district should be viewed as a business and run as such. I may love my cousin, brother or best friend, but that does not qualify them to run a business of this magnitude. If you won the lottery tomorrow for $450,000,000, which one of the four candidates would you trust to start a business for you? Until people can separate business from their personal relationships, we will continue to have these financial issues and problems. If you truly care for DCS, then put in some time to research the choices before casting a vote based on who was the best principal or who you know the best. Unfortunately, those characteristics do not qualify anyone to run the largest school district in the state of Mississippi. It’s time to get down to business, get real with where we are, set realistic goals for the future, trust our teachers to teach and hire business people to run the business at the county office.