Thursday, February 12, 2009
The Jan. 6, 2009 DeKalb School Board Meeting – as I saw it.
I just had to take a couple of Tylenol so that I could sit down and write up my meeting “minutes” after watching the first televised DeKalb School Board meeting of 2009 – featuring our new Board in it’s entirety. First, I must say, that after seeing Shayna Steinfeld on the tele greeting everyone and listening to Dierdre Pierce as one of the citizen commentators, I am sad that these two were not elected – they would have been terrific! As far as the citizen comments go, I was impressed most with the firm eloquence Jeff Bragg, a teacher at Cross Keys stated his case for showing some immediate support for not only Cross Keys, which was listed as #2 on the SPLOST 3 priorities, but also for the High School of Technology North, scheduled to merge with Cross Keys. However, not one shovel of dirt has been turned nor has one pencil been moved from the HSTN. For shame! This is really, REALLY sad and completely frustrating. Why on earth do these schools continue to suffer complete dismissal by the Board? They should be so proud of Cross Keys – having made AYP – in spite of a majority minority population along with poverty. Get on this people – they need to schedule classes for August ASAP!
I must mention the tearful plea made by Belinda Joines begging the Board to revisit their decision to eliminate daytime driver’s ed. Her best line was something like, “What good does it do our kids to take all these AP courses if they die in a car crash?” Powerful.
Another great line came from a parent who asked, "Why do we have people with degrees in Education running our Transportation department?" Great question.
I can’t even articulate the diatribe from a parent speaker who dissed the school board worse than I’ve ever witnessed. I never knew there were so many ways to say, “you guys suck”. Wow.
I always enjoy the enthusiasm of Sandy Purkett, parent extraordinaire from the GREAT Redan High School and the Blue Thunder Band! Sandy works harder than just about any other parent I’ve ever known. She loves these Redan kids and has guided and mentored hundreds through the PILOT program. Love that lady! She is a gift to our community and represents everything good in this school system.
After a 10+ minute break, this meeting took off at a snail’s pace, due to the fact that Paul Womack tried to add an item to the agenda. He proposed that the Board create some kind of non-binding referendum which would allow them to reduce their own salaries by 2.5% (about $30/month) - in a show of support for the teachers loss of their STEP increase. Weird – but he somehow thought it would be a nice gesture of support for teachers. That is – until Gene Walker piped up stated that he would vote “no”. (Remember, this was just a vote to get it added to the agenda for later discussion.) He called the idea “grandiose” and a “farce”. Zepora says she’d vote “no” because she needs her $30. Sarah agreed as well and reminded the Board that they already return their unused travel expenses. Dr. Lewis clarified that everyone in the system got a 2.5% raise. The people earning over $100,000 had to take a 2% pay cut (he took even more), and the teachers were denied their earned STEP increase, which would have been on top of the 2.5% raise. This was all part of the package to save the $10 million withheld by the State. Dr. Lewis asked them to please not revisit the $10 million cut – to do so would cause a “train wreck”. This entire little motion (which failed) and it’s resulting discussion took nearly 20 minutes – BEFORE they even passed the agenda! Knife – please!!!
I had a thought during all of this. Weren’t the Board members supposed to have some kind of training? Better get on that.
Votes were taken on who gets to be the new Chair (Tom Bowen) and Vice-Chair (Zepora Roberts).
Marcus Turk reiterated that yet again, our budget is in the red by exactly the amount the State owes us in Homestead Relief Grant money.
One item that REALLY perked up my ears came from Jay Cunningham. He stated that his committee decided to spend the money to buy 1,500 new toilets, 1,500 new sinks and 500 new drinking fountains to be installed in some of the older buildings. (!!!) Best idea of the meeting, in my humble opinion. I hope Tom Keating, "The Bathroom Guy" finds out that someone besides him (and me) cares about working toilets!
There were other action items, but let me just end by saying that as Pat Pope stood at the podium as she always does in these meetings, asking for this contract or that to be approved for the lowest price from the responsible bidders, I couldn’t help but think about how truly lucky we are to have her on our team. I greatly admire her poise, her ability to articulate her agenda and the wealth of knowledge she is able to maintain and access in her own head! We really need her. I hope you will all support her in the coming weeks. I have a feeling she’s going to need us.