Education letters 01/25

Good leaders sacrifice for their employees

Chief executive officers, company presidents or school superintendents who accept bonuses or pay raises while their employees face layoffs, furloughs or devastating pay cuts fail to provide organization leadership when it’s needed the most. While they may be excellent administrators, managers or business people, they lack the necessary skill of selfless service that is the epitome of every great leader.

DeKalb Superintendent Crawford Lewis acknowledges a need to work on “communication.” What he really needs is the fortitude and integrity to admit the school board made a mistake and refuse the pay raise until the layoffs and furloughs stop, step increases return and operating expenses are met. A leader would serve his staff, administrators and teachers first before securing his own financial security.

Craig Zimmerman, WOODSTOCK

Lewis loses credibility with his $15,000 raise

With the acceptance of a $15,000 raise while teachers and other crucial education employees are being denied raises or laid off, Crawford Lewis has effectively destroyed his credibility with his employees.

The DeKalb County School Board has been snookered by a man whose administration is beginning to reek with scandal, e.g. Patricia Pope, who is currently doing nothing and still receiving $200,000 per year from this cash-strapped system while being investigated for possible criminal activity.

If the contracts of Lewis and Pope cannot be immediately voided with no further obligation on taxpayers, then the school board should be investigated for signing contracts that obligate taxpayers to continue to support employees who exploit the system and become ineffective.

We need look no further than Clayton County to see how an incompetent school board can bring a county to the brink of collapse.

Brenda Bynum, Atlanta

Uninformed voters made a bad choice

What is the difference between the big bank CEOs and the Georgia CEO? Gov. Sonny Perdue orders pay cuts for state employees and teachers, yet goes on gulping down his full share at the state welfare trough. Georgians got what they voted for and are happy with Lester Maddox II. Georgia voters reflect their failure in education. Stupid is as stupid does.

Mike McGowan, Peachtree City

We treat prisoners better than students

As an employee of the Barrow Board of Education, we were told last week, per Gov. Sonny Perdue, that we were to take at least three furlough days, added to the previous furlough days. I have a house note, car note, grocery bills, electric and water bills, just like everyone else except one segment of the population that receives benefits from the state — prisoners.

My question is, “Are prisoners required to take furlough days also?” You may say that prisoners don’t work. But the annual cost to house and care for one inmate is $25,000.

Barrow County just spent $53 million on a new jail and courthouse. There are students and employees in Barrow living in substandard housing or on the verge of losing their homes because of furlough days.

What if prisons cut one meal per day to prisoners or turned off the A/C and heat for a couple of hours per day? What if they lived in tents rather than multimillion-dollar buildings? What if we actually carried out death sentences instead of overwhelming the court system with appeals?

Nationally, the average cost to educate a child is $6,500. What if we were to spend $25,000 per year on educating a child and $6,500 on housing and feeding a prisoner?

Stephen Duplantis, Winder

Lewis is dedicated to DeKalb, deserves raise

I can understand the frustration of DeKalb school employees. They’ve had salary reductions, step increases erased, programs cut, class sizes increased. Most of it is a result of financial situations they can’t control, but must respond to.

Good leadership is essential, and the system has that in Superintendent Crawford Lewis and a school board that supports him. I’ve known Lewis as a friend and colleague for over 35 years, and he has been successful as a teacher, principal and central office administrator. He’s dedicated to the children, parents and employees.

I did not see or hear much from employees and parents last year when he turned down a 4.2 percent raise that he was contractually entitled to. Considering that he is superintendent of a school system that has 99,000 students, approximately 15,000 employees and an $851 million general operating budget, a $15,000 raise does not seem out of line.

His responsibility is great, and he has shown leadership in doing what is necessary to deal with the budget crisis caused by circumstances he has little control over. He deserves the support of DeKalb County employees, not their condemnation.

Jerry Schwartz, Alpharetta

All Georgians should bear financial burden

At what point do we stop diminishing the value of our children’s education and our dedicated teachers by forcing them to suffer the burden of the financial deficit of the state? Every citizen needs to share the burden.

No, I’m not a teacher. I am a legal secretary, wife and mother of five, and I’m appalled that our schools continue to be deprived of the funds necessary to provide a world-class education to our children — our future leaders.

It is time to do the unpopular thing and temporarily adjust Georgia taxes so that we all share the burden of the deficit. How will Georgia ever rise out of the bottom of the educational rankings if we continue to take away our schools’ funding?

Dawna Baker, Lawrenceville

Rogers misses point and mark on schools

The interview with state Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) is a good look into his thinking on the state’s major issues. He lists some firsts for Georgia’s public educational system but questions the overall results of the system.

Unfortunately, he ignored the state’s continued reduced funding of education and its criticism from school officials across the state as well as suits filed by local jurisdictions against unnecessary state mandates, such as charter schools.

The latter is certainly an infringement on the freedom and liberty of local school systems. My understanding is that his children are not enrolled in public schools.

He doesn’t seem to have a problem with raising sales taxes to fund transportation needs. This type of tax would negatively impact low-income and middle-income families, for the most part.

Surprisingly, he remarked that the state’s biggest special tax break is the lack of sales taxes on food. He seemed to put the food tax in the same category as all other special-interest tax breaks. The food tax would have a huge impact on low- and middle-income families.

Regarding gifts from lobbyists, he thinks they have no influence, provided there is disclosure. That is an incredibly naive point of view.

Jerry Hulshult, Canton