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DeKalb school chief tells teachers district values them. Do they believe him? 

It is still unclear how the DeKalb County School District botched its new salary step schedule.

Was it the fault of a HR department that’s had two leaders since Steve Green became DeKalb superintendent in 2015?

Was it unrealistic expectations that human resources chief Bernice Gregory and her staff could update salaries and clarify steps in the time allowed, as alleged by her supporters, including school board member Joyce Morley?

“I won’t let them throw Dr. Gregory under the bus,” Morley told my colleague Marlon Walker. “I’ve said all along that it cannot be done that fast. It should have taken at least nine months. You’ve got a small group of people working to change the salaries of 16,000 people.”

The timing of all of this seems off, at least to me.

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Two weeks ago, I interviewed Green on the phone about the new salary structure, which he pledged would enable DeKalb to compete with other metro districts for teacher talent. Green described a video the district was about to release in which he would explain the new salary schedule to teachers, many of whom insisted the raises were wrong.

I was still working on my story when Green called me back two hours later to say the video was scrubbed. DeKalb had to start over on hashing out raises and steps. Since we had talked, Green said he’d learned teachers were right – the formula for setting the steps had errors.

“We need to recalculate the step process for everybody,” he told me. “We need to go in and correct the whole thing. We found some flaws in the algorithm. There is going to be a revaluation with an aim to put in steps that recognize their experience.”

The next morning, Gregory resigned after holding the job for less than a year. She told the AJC she submitted her resignation earlier in the month unrelated to the salary schedule roll-out, but Green wouldn’t accept it.

Teachers are angry over the entire saga. This weekend, Green sent them a letter, which I’m not sure will appease them:

Dear DeKalb County School District Employees,

The DeKalb County School District values your commitment to our district, its students and families.

Over the past several years, the Board of Education and I have worked together to invest more money into your compensation package in various ways.

During our most recent efforts to address how you are compensated in a new salary step schedule, we discovered serious errors were made. Specifically, some employees received pay at rates different than what was approved by the Board of Education on January 7, 2019. I apologize for that.

The district has been working diligently to determine what went wrong, and the actions needed to correct it. I have directed a senior management team to develop, without a delay, a recommendation that we will present to the Board to remedy the situation.

We value you. I promise we will get it right. In the interim, we ask for your patience while a solution is being developed. You will be provided regular updates throughout the process through communications channels such as News Flash and the e-portal.

For more information, please contact the DCSD Compensation team at compensation@dekalbschoolsga.org

Thank you for your time and commitment to our student and families.

Regards,
Dr. R. Stephen Green

I received a note from a longtime DeKalb education advocate raising concerns about the district and the string of high-profile resignations. That resignation list now includes Gregory and the chief legal officer, who stepped down last month.

On the DeKalb Schools site, half of Green’s 10 cabinet posts are held by interim appointments.

The advocate said:

Most top positions are not filled. The system can't even adequately heat some school buildings. A few weeks ago, I watched a mother cry about the conditions at her child's school. There is no chief operating officer, chief information officer, system counsel and more.

The graduation date debacle is just a small taste of system that is in disarray. 

I think something is really broken in the central office. I am concerned for the 100,000-plus students that DCSS is charged with educating. This incompetence is affecting the schoolhouse. 

I understand change doesn’t come easily and that cultures aren’t remade overnight, but this bleed of leaders, most of whom Green chose, creates instability. It’s hard to understand how Green can build a new and better DeKalb on this shaky foundation.

Your thoughts? 

About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.

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