Report: DeKalb schools have too many administrators

Taxpayers in DeKalb County have been funding a top-heavy school system that could stand to shed more than 300 administrators, according to an outside review.

The audit of management positions was commissioned by new Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson as she sculpts a new organizational structure for the 15,000-employee district. It's the first comprehensive study of staffing in years.

The report, released Wednesday , said DeKalb has 1,499 employees in the central office -- too many for a system its size. The consultant, Virginia-based Management Advisory Group, recommends that DeKalb slim down to 1,162 administrative slots.

But don't expect immediate cuts. Job titles, and their lack of descriptiveness, are a problem, Atkinson said. The district employs directors, coordinators, secretaries and others in the central office whose titles don't reflect their responsibilities.

The audit focused mostly on white collar positions. It found confusion about who does what and how much they should be paid. Some secretaries, for instance, have more responsibility than the presumably higher title of coordinator. Atkinson said it would take at least 30 days to review the titles, redefine them and place them in a proper hierarchy -- work that must be done before major organizational changes.

Atkinson said she's not sure how closely she'll follow the consultant's proposal.

"This is their recommendation," she said. "We'll take it now and massage it."

The DeKalb school district has long been maligned as a bloated operation, but evidence supporting those charges has never been this clear. Atkinson, who just finished her first 90 days on the job, has been saying that she'd make substantial personnel changes. She's already reassigned a few high-level administrators, replacing the chiefs of finance, curriculum and instruction, operations and information, for instance.

But this report says the district needs a whole new organizational chart, and a top-down reclassification of all positions.

"I think what this has really found is massive redundancy," said school board member Don McChesney, who attended Atkinson's presentation Thursday. "We've got secretaries making more than our teachers. That might be justified, but somebody's got to show me how it's justified."

The audit says DeKalb has 15.5 central office positions per 1,000 students and should have more like 12, according to the consultants. Comparable school districts had numbers ranging from 18.5 central office positions per 1,000 students in Fulton County to 5.8 in Cobb and 6.1 in Gwinnett, the report said. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools -- a city against which Atlanta jurisdictions are often compared -- had 14.5 central office jobs per 1,000 students.

This was the first phase of the review. The next phase will look at all of the school system's positions. It's due March 15.