Part 2: Populist proposal for school budget woes

Cal Beverly's picture

This week, I’m printing the second part of a Fayette County resident’s prescriptions for cutting the school system’s budget.

The purpose of presenting it in this space is to facilitate a reasoned alternative to what the system is doing already. Last week in this space, the anonymous writer laid out the case against high pay and abundant administrators in the Fayette County School System.

In Part 2, the writer makes specific proposals for where to start cutting and explains the reason for remaining anonymous:


Allow me to suggest where to begin by posting below the total 2008 compensation for the top four Fayette County school administrators (ref:

1. Supt. John DeCotis: $214,651.34

2. Deputy Supt. Fred Oliver: $135,859.52

3. Asst. Supt. Sam Sweat: $132,668.08

4. Asst. Supt. Lyn Wenzel: $131,459.74

Now, rather than comparing with other overpaid administrators, let’s compare with the top positions at the state level:

1. Gov. Sonny Perdue: $137,310.24

2. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle: $90,275.34

3. State School Supt. Kathy Cox: $129,528.88

Here’s the math: John DeCotis’ base salary is 56.1 percent more than the governor, 66.8 percent more than the superintendent of ALL Georgia schools (Kathy Cox) and 137.5 percent more than the lieutenant governor.

The remaining three all earn considerably more than the lieutenant governor and are in the running with Kathy Cox and the governor.

The total cost to Fayette County taxpayers in 2008 in compensation for just these four county employees was $614,638.68.

In total, 49 administrators in John DeCotis’ administration earned over $100,000 last year at a cost to the Fayette County taxpayers of $5.26 million.

High salaries have also permeated down to school-level administrators, where principals earn over $100,000 for less than a year’s work.

As evidence of this, my daughter’s elementary school principal earned $102,108 last year and the FCHS principal came in at $122,064. The latter has four assistant principals with three in the $80,000 per year range. Annualized, all of these salaries are well into the six-figure range.

It’s no wonder that our school system is going broke with salary levels like these.

Corporate greed is rampant in our country and is all over the news. Unfortunately, it has also manifested itself in local school administrations, to include Fayette County.

For John DeCotis in particular, his salary is nothing short of obscene for a county-level employee. And while the city of Atlanta School District Superintendent Beverly Hall has done good things, I hardly believe that she is worth her outrageous 2008 salary of $353,710.95.

Here is a school district superintendent with a salary that approaches that of the President of the United States and is nearly triple that of her state’s governor.

We aren’t talking about Fortune 500 company executives here, but county-level employees whose salaries are paid by hard-earned tax dollars rather than by a “for-profit” corporation.

Commanders in the field are also compensated by tax dollars, but their salaries pale by comparison, although faced with danger and much greater responsibility. As a military perspective of John DeCotis to Gov. Purdue, I’ve never heard of a captain making more than a general.

Again, it’s time to clean up this mess statewide, but we must begin here in Fayette County. By reining in this administration, we may be able to keep some of the dedicated teaching positions that are hands-on with our kids. Here’s what I suggest:

1. Reduce the county school superintendent’s salary to 10 percent below that of the state superintendent. At present, this would provide John DeCotis with a generous annual salary of $115,000, well above the Fayette County per capita income of $40,691 (latest data). His contract was altered for the 4.5 percent cut and it must be altered yet again.

If he is unwilling to work for this salary, I’m certain that there are many laid-off local executives or retired military who would excel in his stead. A doctorate in education is not required for this post as much as a person with leadership and management skills.

2. Eliminate the deputy superintendent position.

3. Consolidate the assistant superintendent positions into one, eliminating one of these positions.

4. Eliminate many assistant principal positions. Evaluate the necessity of these personnel at the elementary school level and limit those at the high school level to two.

5. Most successful school districts have one instructional supervisor per level of education (elementary, middle, and high school). We have 10 at over $100K each for a total cost in 2008 of $1,095,190.80. Eliminate seven of these positions for a savings of roughly $750,000.

6. Reduce all remaining administrator salaries by an additional 20 percent over and above the 4.5 percent cut. This does not apply to secretaries and support staff.

7. Coordinate with state government to reduce the school year so as to begin later in the summer. This has the added benefit of reducing energy costs during the hottest time of the year and gives more summer back to Fayette families. I am confident that the curriculum can still be completed in the allotted time.

8. Consolidate some of our half-empty schools so that we might lease the remaining structures to outlying county school districts that are overcapacity, e.g., Coweta County. With the equivalent of two empty schools in our system, this could bring substantial revenue to our district.

9. Mandate that FCBOE abide by state IE2 accountability standards.

Remember that John DeCotis and his fellow administrators’ salaries are determined by the FCBOE. They are his shield, making him untouchable in county elections.

It is time to let the FCBOE know that they must answer to Fayette County taxpayers and demand that they follow our mandate or face a recall.

Nicole File had the courage and tenacity to run for a school board position in her effort to clean up the improprieties taking place there. Had her name not been a write-in, I’m certain she would have prevailed.

We need responsible citizens like Nicole and Kim Learnard to hold this school bureaucracy accountable and to fight for the taxpayer and our teachers so that we may maintain excellence in education for our children without administrative avarice and incompetence.

We have good schools in Fayette County, but most of the credit belongs to this county’s educated and dedicated parents, our great kids and their wonderful teachers, not to overpaid administrators.

And throwing more money at administrators does not guarantee a better education for our children, as proven in Clayton County where the superintendent has a ridiculous annual salary of over $285,000.

I hope that you’ll join me as a fellow parent who wants the best for our kids or as one who simply wants to end this taxpayer abuse.

There have been many fruitless vents in this publication, but now is the time for action lest our children and their teachers suffer from misplaced budget cuts in making up for our remaining $5.8 million school budget shortage.

I hope that you can also understand that I must remain nameless as I further this campaign to protect my children from being vilified in the school system.

This should not invalidate the problem we face or the impetus and unity of our resolve. Let us regain control of our school district and eliminate this taxpayer-funded corporate greed that has run amok.

I have developed an electronic petition for this purpose that will be delivered to the FCBOE so that our direction to them may be heard loud and clear. If you believe as I do that our school district is entirely too top-heavy, kindly log on to and let your voice be heard. An email link associated with this site will allow you to spread the word to others.

Together, we can effect a positive change in our school district and place the cuts with the administrators and not with those who directly benefit our children. It is time that this school district understands that it works for the taxpayer, and not vice versa.

Name withheld to protect my children in the school system

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sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Thu, 04/09/2009 - 3:13pm.

I realize the popular sentiment is that we got too many gosh darn administrative types working for the FCBOE, and to a great extent that is true.

What people fail to realize is that this is symptomatic of a larger problem: the FCBOE is bursting at the seams at virtually every position, including teachers.

There is a finite amount of money to spread around to pay for the various number of initiatives within the school system.

There are, as I see it, four distinct areas competing for the same scarce dollars:

  • Extra Teachers
  • Extra Parapros
  • Popular Extras
  • Technology

EXTRA TEACHERS: We as a county brag about how low our teacher-to-student ratio is. The state will only pay for a certain ratio, if we want to do better, it comes out of local taxes. We've done this by default for the past 4 years because the FCBOE kept hiring more teachers, refusing to accept the reality of stagnant/declining enrollment.

EXTRA PARAPROS: The state recommends hiring a parapro staff of 38 for a school system our size. The FCBOE has instead hired almost 150 parapros. This costs several MILLION dollars per year in LOCAL taxes (i.e. no state funding above the 38 recommended).

POPULAR EXTRAS: The FCBOE has given the public what they wanted in the form of popular "extras", particularly school nurses and orchestra teachers. The vast majority of funding is LOCAL.

TECHNOLOGY: The FCBOE has chosen to skimp on virtually every opportunity to use technology to automate routine tasks. ("Computers don't vote"). In the absence of technology, things still need to be done, just as they were in the 1940s, largely by hand. The absence of technology requires additional support staff (clerks and secretaries) to keep the organization flowing. For example, there is a cadre of people assigned to do nothing but fill out state-mandated reports required to receive state funding. These reports MUST be filled out to receive the nearly $100 MILLION dollars our school system gets from the state each year.

Right now, we are overstaffed in each of the above areas, owing largely to the school board's inability to make tough decisions. Yeah, you could cut senior admin salaries by 20% and save some money, but the really big savings will be significant cuts in a combination of the above four areas.

So, all you armchair quarterbacks....who takes the "hit" in the above functions?

I'll be back with my recommendations later.

SPQR's picture
Submitted by SPQR on Thu, 04/09/2009 - 9:44am.

If there was a choice between a publication that reports facts as they are vs just the facts that make us feel better guess which one would win the day. A successful and useful publication has to go around turning over rocks and reporting on the findings. Sometimes painful at times, but the other option would be Pravda.

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Wed, 04/08/2009 - 6:44pm.

Unfortunaly, the people here are going to do nothing. The BOE knows this, that is the whole point.

They know who they are dealing with, and what they can get away with. That is why things are the way they are.

People just don't care enough to do anything. They are reaping the rewards of their indifference, and so is the BOE!

mapleleaf's picture
Submitted by mapleleaf on Wed, 04/08/2009 - 4:17pm.

For years, the people of Fayette County, including the Citizen editor, have been running down all people who would dare call themselves Democrat, to the point of destroying the two-party system in the county.

As a result, we have no meaningful local elections in November, in Fayette County.

In politics, timing is everything.

Nicole File’s timing was too late. And so is the timing of this so-called populist manifest. It will accomplish precisely nothing, because it is way too late.

Moreover, the people of Fayette County, after being repeatedly told, in detail, about the Board of Education’s mismanagement and waste, and with full knowledge of the deviousness of the board members right after three of them had been re-elected in July (against opponents too wishy-washy to call them to account) still voted their support in November by approving the one percent sales tax increase the board asked for.

Let’s face it, the people of Fayette County have precisely what they voted for, and I suspect they have what they deserve. They called the tune, and now they pay the piper.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Wed, 04/08/2009 - 5:33am.

I know you think you are being cute with your "Name withheld" sign off to protect your kids, but how about some thought being given to the protection of the people whose salaries you published? I know its public record and all newspapers feel the public's right to know outweighs any common sense or responsible behavior, but consider that that in bad economic times combined with the wealth envy that a sizable portion of our population is infected with that you are doing more harm than good by publishing their salaries.

Sure they are overpaid, but their salaries were approved in public using proper procedures. It is not the place of a newspaper to set salaries or stir up public unrest that could endanger public officials who are trying to educate our chillren'. That's almost as irresponsible as telling us who to vote for and no self-respecting newspaper would ever do that. Would they?

Submitted by FayetteFlyer on Wed, 04/08/2009 - 4:31pm.

Maybe we can make a few dollars on the side organizing bus trips passed their homes? Whatcha think?!

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Wed, 04/08/2009 - 6:46pm.

Nor has he apologized to our dedicated school professionals - the overpaid ones. But they are still professionals.

FayetteFlyer has it right. What Cal did was the same thing that what passes for "responsible media" in NY - MSNBC. What MSNBC did was out the AIG bonus recipients by giving out their names which resulted in bus tours to their houses (organized by Acorn, but that's another story) - some AIG people were innocent, some not, but all in the focus of the wealth-envy mob.

Cal? Want to be responsible for something that your "freedom of the press" caused?

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