Saturday, May 2, 2009
Notes from DeKalb Community Cabinet Meeting on 5/2
Dr. Lewis and six members of his leadership team spoke at the monthly DeKalb Community Cabinet meeting on 5/2. Following reflects my best recollection of topics discussed:
-Dr. Lewis opened by discussing the tragic death of Jaheem Herrera. He began with a timeline. He initially found out about Jaheem’s death on Friday, 4/17. At the time, he understood it to be a suicide. He learned of the bullying allegations possibly being tied to Jaheem’s death while he was attending an out of town conference. He remained in touch with his staff throughout the week but wanted to speak on behalf of the district in person.
Dr. Lewis shared that retired Judge Thelma Moore has been asked to perform an investigation of the events surrounding Jaheem’s death. He indicated he expected the investigation to take about 30 days. Dr. Lewis wanted someone outside the district to perform this to reassure the community of the independence regarding the process. He reminded the community that there is a lot of information that we do not know about this situation. Dr. Lewis requested that the community let the process work. He also mentioned reaching out to Ms. Bermudez and hopes to meeting with her shortly.
Two interesting points came up later in the meeting. It seems some children are participating in the ‘choking’ game. This is where children may choke one another and attempt to choke themselves in order to get a ‘high’. A question was also raised about Jaheem not living in the Dunaire attendance zone yet attending that school. I want to be clear that these are points that were simply raised as discussion topics. Dr. Lewis was adamant that the investigation must be performed with any action taken based on the findings.
-Dr. Lewis also addressed the proposed Marine Academy. He shared many points that have already been discussed about the academy. Though a choice option for any student, it hopes to offer opportunities for underserved, at risk students. He emphasized that this is not a recruiting school. DCSS will be the first system in the nation to have this type of school. Las Vegas, NV is expected to have the second. The school will have at most 150 students during the first year, all 9th graders. He expects to add a grade per year. The school will have at most 650 students once all grades are added. It will be a college preparatory program, requiring all prospective students to pass Math 1 prior to admission. Dr. Lewis expects there will be some ‘hiccups’ but expects the staff to get them all resolved.
Other topics discussed during the meeting were:
-On May 11, the National School Safety Center will visit DCSS.
-Dress Code – Efforts will be made to be more aggressive in this area. The community was informed that if 85% of a school votes to have uniforms, that can do so. They were also reminded that they could also send their children to school wearing a uniform, regardless of the school policy.
-Principals – There is a plan to redeploy, demote, or terminate principals, where needed. Dr. Lewis mentioned moving principals that have consistently demonstrated leadership skills and moving them to schools that have historically had leadership voids. Wants to ‘Redistribute the Leadership’. Also commented that discipline will be part of the measurement criteria for principals.
-Cell phone – there is a desire to ensure cell phones are turned off or eliminated from schools.
-Old Chamblee MS – commented that the explosive growth formerly seen in south DeKalb is projected for the Dunwoody area. There is an expectation that this site will be used to provide some type of relief in that area.
-Tilson ES - this school was consolidated into the new McNair Academy. It was mentioned that DCSS is considering converting this to a Pre-K academy, and perhaps serving children as young as 1. Commissioner Larry Johnson was mentioned as a government official DCSS is speaking with regarding this initiative (I believe this is in his district).
-Arabia Mountain – mentioned this school is 2 points from being gold certified LEED school (How about that O&T???). There is a move to have this school become gold certified over the summer. Hybrid buses were mentioned as the possible mode of transportation for this school.
-Comprehensive Restructuring Plan – Final tally is this resulted in a 25.7 million dollar cut to the budget. Included in that are 217 positions eliminated from the central office.
-Budget – This is the seventh consecutive year that the school system has not raised taxes. There is a 1.32 Billion dollar budget that is proposed and awaiting board approval. 851.1 million of that represents the general operating budget. No layoffs are expected for the 09-10 school year however there will not be a step increase for employees. School nurses were mentioned however I don't recall the context of the comment.
-Stimulus Money – DCSS expects to receive about 52 million dollars over two years for Title 1 and IDEA. These funds cannot be used in general operations.
DCSS expects to receive about 23 million dollars from the state stabilization fund for the 09-10 school year. When you factor in the 37 million dollar cut in state revenue, this represents an overall cut of 14 million dollars.
-MIS Initiatives – There are three primary initiatives:
1) New Grade book application. Starting next year, elementary schools will have real time information.
2) Login ids to Instructional Data Management System. This will provide a longitudinal view to student data. It will provide historical data, curriculum resources, etc.
3) Ecommunications – real time information that can be sent to a smart device of what is going on in the school system. This is subject to board approval.
It is also mentioned that students will walk into a 21st century media center during the next school year.
As you can see, a LOT was discussed during this meeting. Again, this represents my best recollection of what was shared.
Another tidbit from another meeting, several board members discussed they would like to see two positions restored to the central office, a Senior Internal Auditor and Director of Planning. Both positions were approved by previous boards however were eliminated due to them not being filled as a part of the restructuring.