The DeSoto County Schools central office salaries post on DCR has been viewed over 40,000 times and has received huge attention from citizens statewide. With all of the current discussion about education funding, someone told me recently that cutting the salaries at the central office would not significantly help our district with additional funding. Cutting those salaries would only help us save a few million dollars. That comment is the reason for this post. I want to make sure that people know what our spending concerns are. There are many, but here are just a few.
Spending Issues in DeSoto County:
1. Yearly changing (non-required) programs: reading programs, math programs, testing programs, data analyzer programs, etc. In the past, we have paid as much as $65,000/school for a program (sold by a district leader’s family member) that we only used for one year and was of no benefit to the district whatsoever. Since Jennifer Weeks took control of the district, we have changed programs as many as 20 times. The amount of money we have wasted is astronomical!
2. Approved Vendor List: We pay excessive amounts of money to vendors on the approved list, and we can’t get approval for qualified, cost saving vendors to be on the list. The vendor list is ridiculous. If you have ever researched products or services for the district, then you know how true this is. Many times, it appears that friends, family and associates are on the list and others are not. This needs to be reviewed. (Refer to #7).
3. Travel and Expenditures: District leaders have spared no expense in their travel and expenditures. Trips to Maine (this summer), New York City, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City (so MK could explore his ancestry), Colorado Springs, the coast and more. They pay for each person to have their own hotel room……no one shares a room! And if the travel is simply to Jackson, people that carpool oftentimes all claim mileage even though only one person drove. The amount of money we spend in mileage reimbursement for things that should not count are ridiculous. This needs to be audited. Trips should be determined based on necessity as opposed to vacations for the clique at the central office.
4. Department heads exceeding their budgets: One year, one of the department heads went over budget by $1,000,000. What happened to that person? He/She was simply moved into a new position. This is not something that should be overlooked or rewarded. We need to have strong, qualified individuals overseeing departments and finances. Too often, we have too many non-business people running the business office.
5. Turning the Budgets in to the State on Time: I have documentation that shows Jennifer Weeks, telling another employee, that the district failed to submit their budget to the state in July as required one year. The budget, according to Weeks, was not submitted until September, causing our district to not receive funding until after January. This caused our district’s funding to be delayed by several months due to our leaders lack of time management and lack of preparedness.
6. The Treadway Law Firm: We have spent millions on this law firm for absolutely no good reason. First of all, if our district is sued, the insurance company for DCS has their own attorneys that handle the cases. Treadway is not the attorney of record, yet we are now employing his entire law firm and for what? Treadway is seen regularly in court for business outside of school district business. Judges and attorneys in town will tell you that this is true. But to be fair, DCS gave Keith an incredible contract (which Keith wrote himself), and it allows him to do outside business with board approval. Guess we should call the board and ask them if they have ever given him permission to work on outside work. I bet the answer would be NO. The Treadway Law Firm and Keith Treadway have had so many federal tax liens against them that his homestead exemption was charged back (meaning he didn’t get the homestead exemption this year). All of this is a matter of public record. So basically what we have is Milton Kuykendall helping out Keith Treadway because he is the brother in-law of Milton’s daughter, Jeannie Kuykendall-Treadway who happens to be the principal of LPS. It should also be noted that Jeannie and her husband Jay Treadway have other joint business ventures with Keith, therefore giving them many reasons to care about his financial well being. Is this ethical? Keith Treadway is the highest paid person in the district at over $165,000/yr. We have paid the legal department/law firm over half a million dollars just in the last year. Does any of this sound like smart business or good stewardship of our tax dollars? It was documented that the way Treadway was first hired was illegal, yet the Deputy Attorney General said that a lawsuit would have to he brought against the district. Who would do that? What citizen would have the time or money to pursue that? It should also be noted that every time we have had a bond deal to go through, Treadway made commission on that as well. One commission alone paid him $166,000 and that was documented in the newspaper. DCS has been a financial windfall for Treadway. There is much more to this story, but hopefully, you get my point. The main point is that we need to rid ourselves of this law firm and start saving our district some money in legal fees.
7. Copier Sales: One of the many running jokes in the district is that if a person gets into trouble enough, they will either be promoted to the county office or can go into copy machine sales. We need to review our purchase history. I suspect that a friend or family member has a business that our district has willingly helped out over the years. The same can be said for the cleaning company(s). It seems to be the new place for former employees with troubled pasts to go for work. I am willing to bet good money on the fact that these vendors are NOT saving us money.
8. Title Funds Misappropriated: I have been discussing this issue for years, and more and more info continues to surface, verifying my concerns. A title school is one that has a high enough amount of free and reduced lunch students that qualify the school for federal funding. This money is intended to help bridge the gap between the high poverty schools and the more affluent schools. Districts across the country have been very creative at finding ways to take this money and use it for all schools (even the more affluent ones). Our district falls into this category. If we don’t use the Title money as the law dictates, two things of importance can and will happen. First, we can cause our district to lose the federal funding altogether. Secondly, we cause the high poverty schools to stay in a poor condition and in need of additional funding and resources. The Title funds in our district have not been spent in accordance to the law in many cases. If we had the right people in place and qualified to do the jobs they hold, this issue would be non-existent or minimal at best. If we used professional development and CEUs the way they are intended, this problem could be avoided. Proper use of funding saves our district money. Supplanting vs. supplementing is also an issue that our district struggles to follow.
There are many areas of funding concerns that I could discuss with you. The county office salaries are problematic and need to be changed, BUT those salaries are more hurtful to people as opposed to being the key to saving our district tons of money. They are hurtful to teachers who have been under paid while unqualified, troublemakers (in many cases) have moved up the ladder and into the county office, making salaries that supersede those of our highest qualified educators. Too many jobs have been created that are unnecessary, leaving those promoted to the central office deservingly to feel less proud of their accomplishments. The central office salaries are more of a reflection of what our district leaders consider to be important vs. expendable. The salaries bring down morale and cause those on the front lines to feel as though they are insignificant. I think we need to make some big changes in the county office, but I know that is by far not the only financial issue we have, needing to be corrected. Its significance is more personal to those that have sacrificed so much for the betterment of our children and our schools only to be left struggling while others have won the central office lottery.
Many of our funding issues are internal within our district. We have too many non-business employees running the business office. We have too many people that have been promoted to jobs they are not qualified to hold. I use Jennifer Weeks as the greatest example of this fact.
During the superintendent race, district employees openly debated over WHO was the most qualified person for the job. Resumes were spouted off by employees and citizens alike, leaving me to wonder why I have been criticized for questioning Weeks’s resume. We have a person that never taught in a regular classroom, never worked as an Assistant Principal and never worked as a Principal, yet she has been running the largest school district in the state for years. If people can debate the qualifications of the superintendent candidates, why do we not question the qualifications of our other district leaders and especially that of our one and only Assistant Superintendent?!
We need to make some major changes internally to repair any financial issues we may be experiencing. I know too much to know that our funding issues are NOT state related. They are most definitely internal and must be corrected as soon as possible.