Saturday, June 27, 2009
What in the heck is going on here?
I’m confused. I need people to come to this blog to enlighten us. There are some things going in the leadership of DeKalb County schools that are perplexing and a bit shocking. Allow me to simply list them and hopefully you will fill the comment box with details regarding some of these issues. These are all events just from the 2008-09 school year:
• The Marine Corps Institute, after much attention, focus and debate, has been sidelined. The Marines have not signed the “Memorandum of Understanding”. Sadly, in order to make room for the marines, caught in the middle are over 40 children with highly special needs who were moved from their school (Heritage), where they were happy and thriving and merged in with Margaret Harris High School, another school for children with special needs. Now, these children face the prospect of attending school in the same small building their whole lives. And what is the plan now for Heritage? After all of the debate, it was finally ‘revealed’ by Dr. Lewis that he was only planning to use it for one year for the military institute anyway. So what will become of Heritage school and park?
• Pat Pope. All of a sudden, one day out of the blue last December, the DeKalb County DA stormed Pope’s office and confiscated her computers along with other work items. Dr. Lewis, who asked for the investigation, said he would reveal results in one week. Months later, we were told that the DA was very busy and the results would not be available until May. Now, it is nearly July. Any news?
• Cheating! We all know the story. The AJC revealed suspicious increases in test results last September for Atherton ES. Dr. Lewis vehemently defended the school’s results and leadership. Now, it has been proven, and apparently the principal and AP have admitted erasing students answers and changing them to correct answers – catapulting the school from the 10th percentile to the 77th. And so to respond, Dr. Lewis sent out a system-wide memo asking all 13,000+ DCSS employees to send these two cheaters a note of support. Has anyone in the system written one? What is the Board’s response to the scandal? Is anyone in the school system going to admonish these people for their behavior and hold them up as a warning to anyone else pondering such an action?
• Dr. Gene Walker, one of our newly elected school board members has immersed himself in a controversy so deep, I wonder if he can possibly render any effective decisions as a BOE member in the future. According to a report by Atlanta Unfiltered, his other role as director of the DeKalb Development Authority has created a huge divide among members of the BOE, inciting a majority of them to go so far as to file a lawsuit which originally named him in the complaint (the amended version deleted references to Walker). Walker was just about to take part in voting on a bond structure increase from around $20 million to $50+ million benefiting the Sembler Company, members of which donated around $20,000 to Walkers school board campaign. The vote was to have taken place on June 18th. The Board retained legal counsel on June 17. Walker recused himself from the vote. The remaining authority members voted to postpone the vote. What are we to do about a Board of Education who has plummeted so low into the abyss that they resort to lawsuits?
• Meanwhile, our school system as a whole continues to hold the label “Did Not Make AYP.” We have a bullying problem so bad that one family has claimed it drove their child to commit suicide. Yet, the $350/hour retired judge Dr. Lewis hired to investigate, found no evidence of bullying in her verbal (not written) report. We have an imbalance in school populations that leave some schools, like Lakeside, so crowded from transfers that they must bring in 22 trailers, while other schools like McNair, Clarkston and Towers as well as many elementary schools have hundreds of empty seats (totally nearly 4,000 empty seats.) We also boast new buildings with national recognition for being “green” (Arabia) while simultaneously, we have buildings with grounds so overgrown that homeless people have been found living on campus! (Cross Keys)
How can we ignore the disparities – not only in structure but in test scores and delivery of education? What is going on here? Has this billion dollar school system simply become too massive and wily to control? Is the system such a big spender, with so little oversight that the opportunities for corruption have flourished? Is there anyone with a strong focus on the future and a plan of action as to how we will get there? When I visit the school system’s website and look up the Strategic Plan, I find a one page description of a plan that was approved in 2006 and introduces the theme, “Premier DeKalb Schools - Setting the standard for Excellence through unity and purpose.” The page has a bit more information with some boxed text that reads, “The Strategic Plan will be reviewed with the full incoming Board of Education members January 2009. Dr. Sonja Alexander, Director of Professional Learning will lead the effort of the strategic plan review. Please monitor the website for continual updates.”
Well, it’s now July and I’m still monitoring and waiting for updates. Does anyone out there know anything?