Monday, July 20, 2009

DCSS BOE Meeting July 20, 2009

Even with Zepora Roberts, Paul Womack and Gene Walker missing from tonight's Board of Education meeting, it still ran about 3 hours long - 1/3 of which was Pat Pope's laundry list of construction requests and grease trap contracts. But I'll try to summarize what I found interesting as best I can - excuse me if I do it in a stream of consciousness fashion.

Dr. Lewis told us that we have just enrolled 250 new refugee students. Ella Smith asked if we could schedule a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the demolition of Cross Keys scheduled to begin August 1. The Jackson three made their usual monthly speeches, however, this time they seemed a bit incoherent to me. Maybe I just no longer listen.

A very proud Mr. Ditmann, principal of the International Community (Charter) School announced that ICS student Genevieve Wilson won a national poster contest for World Refugee Day (today!) and was flown to DC, stayed at the Ritz and was presented an award by Angelina Jolie! Her poster will be exhibited at the National Geographic Museum.

Mr. Roberson from Avondale stated that students are being squeezed out of band and workout rooms to make way for DSA construction. Ernest Brown commented that his tax bill declined by 20% which perked up my ears because ours didn't go down a dime - in fact, ours went UP!! (by $350!!!)

A couple of people complained about trailers being placed in front of Ashford Park ES near a busy road which doesn't seem safe. Lots of people referenced the bullying, the cheating and Dr. Lewis' strange email defending the administrators who did the cheating. Someone mentioned HB 2262, the Safe Schools Improvement Act supported by US Congressman Hank Johnson.

Committee reports were non-existent. All of them were covered in about one minute. Jay Cunningham stated that if anyone would like to read committee minutes, they are available to review at the main office. (There are some minutes available online if you're willing to check through the agendas.) Dr. Lewis had Josie Alexander explain that the "bonuses" which he now prefers to call "incentives" are legal use of funds from the recovery act. The Board supports the incentive pay for principals. Oddly, Don McChesney spoke for Dr. Walker and stated that Dr. Walker supports the principals incentive pay.

HB 251 transfers were covered. There is detailed info on this at the school system's website.

There was much discussion regarding an $885,000 contract using Title 1 funds to Communities in Schools Atlanta. They are being paid to improve attendance, increase parent engagement, improve school behavior and academic achievement and forge community partnerships. Jay Cunningham was concerned that there may be crossover with what the school system is already doing and that there is no method to evaluate the results.

The Board approved a partial bill of $850,000 to eSIS for the student information software that is to come. They also approved a bunch of money for printers/scanners for all schools.

Then Pat Pope took to the mic - and I hope for her sake that she was wearing her Buster Browns. There were several roofing and HVAC/ceiling tile replacement contracts approved. The interesting contracts went to Tucker HS and Lakeside HS for architectural drawings. (Tucker for amended drawings due to adjustments necessary for unexpected bad soil and Lakeside for new plans for a 28 classroom addition.) Additionally, we learned that the final price for the new Tucker high school is guaranteed at $52,928,252 - well under budget.

One most interesting point during Pope's time was the revelation that a whole lotta money gets allocated through a CIP vehicle called, "Local School Priority Requests" (Projects to be Determined on an "As Needed" Basis). These are formal requests made by principals for improvements to their school. Jim Redovian stated that if your school isn't getting money for necessary projects, then your principal is not doing their job. As I understand that, he means that the school system is not sending out people to check on needs, they instead rely on principals to report their needs. A committee does go to the schools to review the requests however.

Charter schools approved - Leadership Prep Academy and Destiny Academy. Denied - all the rest.

After all that, several board members used their alloted two minutes to make points such as the fact that most all employees who lost their jobs have been placed in other jobs, we cut $40 million from the budget without letting teachers go or increasing the millage rate, speakers during the public forum can be grossly incorrect, but the board cannot respond, and decisions made by the board are for the benefit of our children. Sarah C-Wood implored parents and community members to participate and stay involved in your local schools - they belong to you - even if you don't have a child in one. And finally, Dr. Lewis defended himself against media attacks, listing many of the systems accomplishments and saying, "Instead of calling the media, why do people not pick up the phone and follow protocol?"


Ella Smith said...

Now I do not know about the teacher who was the whistle blower. But, I do know that Kim has taken the Cross Keys situation to everyone through the correct protocol.

On the other hand if the teacher had went through the correct protocol nothing would have probable happened. It would have been sweep under the rug.

Great report Celebration.

Cerebration said...

The girl winning the poster contest is a BIG DEAL! Here's a little blog report I found on the event --

A broken elbow kept Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from attending, a "bad hair day" was the joke about why emcee Anderson Cooper was replaced last minute by NBC's Ann Curry, but we bet it didn't matter to most in attendance at the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) event Thursday - the clear star of the panel was actress and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie. Jolie, who has been working on helping displaced refugees since 2001, moved the crowd with her emotional speech at the National Geographic Museum in honor of World Refugee Day, serving as a model for other celeb-activists. "I am here today to talk about millions of desperate families, families so far out from civilization they don't even know a day like this exists on their behalf," she began her speech which she used as a chance to illustrate the real people behind the statistics.

The slim actress dressed head-to-toe in black looked as stunning in person as she does behind the camera, but it was easy to see her more the humanitarian on one of her 30 missions to Africa than the starlet and wife of Brad Pitt while she spoke with deep emotion (even tearing-up) while recalling her times with the "most impressive people" she has ever met.

A pregnant Afghani woman "taught [her] how to be a mother"...a little girl that survived in the jungle for two weeks with her brother "taught [her] how to be brave"... and a paralyzed boy victim to a gunshot wound in the back "taught [her] the strength of an unbreakable spirit."-lessons she no doubt uses on her six young children, two of whom (Maddox and Pax) arrived with her last night and checked into the Hay Adams Hotel.

Jolie later cried listening to Humanitarian of the Year Award winner Rose Mapendo speak about her time in a Congolese prison (who admit to not knowing who Jolie was before meeting her that day, which broke the sadness in the room for a moment) and smiled and hugged the three student winners of the World Refugee Day Poster Contest.

Anonymous said...

'scuse my ingnorance .., but who are the Jackson Three?

Anonymous said...

the Jackson three -- a mother who brings her two elementary age children every month to ramble about DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts, though now some months she simply rambles about other things.

I only saw the last two speakers, I am curious what speaker had both Bowen saying at the conclusion of the speakers and board members at the end of the meeting saying that speakers aren't always correct. Any guesses?

I find this hilarious because (really hilarious) for more than a decade the board members have not been correcting each other when one of them says something wrong. It is a huge problem, because often their "errors" are taken as fact by the listening public. This problem is amplified by the fact that these meetings are now on TV - so when a board member says the northside schools get more for example, and no one speaks up, what is the audience suppose to believe?

Anon South Side said...


I know for a parents have gone through the correct protocol and nothing happened other than putting that parent on notice for everyone to watch. This too is the reason I chose to go North. I've been met with nothing less than professionalism and common courtesy.

Molly said...

Is the Local School Priority Request the only mechanism for school improvements?

While president of my school's school council, I drafted a Local School Priority Request application that was submitted in April 2008. (The request was for a complete renovation of restroom facilities in an elementary school.) We received approval of our request in May 2008. Work began sometime after the last day of school 2009. I was informed by the principal work should be completed before the start of school.

Writing the application and gathering all the supplementary documents was not particularly difficult or time consuming. There were only 3 small narrative sections that need to be completed: one describing the requested improvements (300 words or less), one describing the safety, security and ADA implications (200 words or less) and one describing the process followed to complete the application and a list of all the committee members or stakeholders who were involved (200 words or less). I was led to believe that if was very important that the final "stakeholder" section reflect as broad a group as possible - school council members, PTA officers, teachers, parents etc. A school without an active PTA or parents willing to get involved with the application would be at a disadvantage, even if the need for improvements were carefully clear and the rest of the application was compelling.

If you feel that your school needs improvements that fit under these guidelines, I suggest that you speak to your principal and school council. Volunteer to lead the application committee. The information about Local School Priority Requests is here:

Of all the school related volunteering I've done, this project certainly had the greatest impact for the amount of time and effort it required. With less than 10 hours work, the results benefit every child in the school and will remain in place for years to come.

themommy said...


Do you recall the total value of the renovation? Our experience, during the next school year, was similar to yours in preparation, but dissimilar in outcome. It was clear last school year, that they "rewarded" many schools that applied, but generally with the least expensive request.

IE -- repaving a driveway vs redoing bathrooms.

I do know that the first few application cycles had far fewer applicants than future ones -- so perhaps that played a role in the differences in costs of awarded projects.

Cerebration said...

I certainly have been enlightened as to the "Local School Priority Request" method. For some reason, I just figured that Pat Pope's office had a bigger part in determining needs. No wonder Cross Keys has been in limbo!

I saw a recent list of LSPR's and there were only probably 6-8 schools who had submitted requests, but they submitted lots of them - individually. Seems some people have figured out the "system" and others have not.

Hopefully - this blog will serve to inform. Thanks for sharing your experience, Molly. Perhaps we need to write a post dedicated to explaining the process...? Volunteers?

mykidsmom said...

Maybe it is just my reaction, but did anyone find Tom Bowen's defensiveness a little disturbing? We've come to expect that from Dr. Lewis, but from a BOE member, I don't know, seemed a little unprofessional to me.

mykidsmom said...

Cere, there seem to be some guidelines on the DCSS website. How clear they are, I'm not sure.

Molly said...

themommy - I don't know the dollar value of our request, but it included replacement of 29 toilets, 19 sinks and 11 urinals, as well as missing stall doors and latches, and bringing restrooms into ADA compliance. I won't know whether all the work will actually be completed as requested until school opens in August.

Cerebration said...

You're right, mykidsmom! Here's the link to some helpful documents. Those of you with PTA's (some schools actually don't have much of a PTA) - go ahead and fill out some requests!

Local School Priority Request Info

It looks like they accept applications 3X per year and a deadline looms at August 31. Forms must be submitted by a school's principal and the more detail the better - including photos.

Cerebration said...

mykidsmom - I didn't really get Tom's point. He was a little "cryptic" - as if there was one thing in particular that bothered him, but I sure couldn't tell what it was. Nothing really stood out as particularly untrue. There was one speaker who complained that a Clarkston HS employee had threatened to shoot other employees, and was not fired, was simply moved to another area, where he still threatens people. After that speaker finished, Bowen stated that he should have stopped the speaker, as that was a personnel matter and is not allowed to be addressed publicly. But - according to that speaker, this incident is public knowledge.

I think that overall, due to the many issues that have come up over the last several months (the suicide, bullying, paying the retired judge $170,000 so far to investigate, CRCT cheating, Dr Walker's relationship with Sembler and other members filing a lawsuit against him, Lewis' own investigation of Pat Pope and calling in the DA to raid her office, the revelation that Dr. Lewis only paid $5000 for a car from inventory, a teacher caught having sex in his truck with a middle school student, and now, the reports on the inequities in facilities) - the Board is battered. They are really on the defensive over just about everything right now.

Oh well!

Anonymous said...

The Local School Priority Request is ridiculous and unacceptable. As Cere said, it boils down to the incompetence of the Sam Moss Center. It should not be up to principals to have to apply in a lottery-type format when they need new toilets, backboards in the gym, etc.

The Sam Moss Center staff should be inspecting every school and its grounds often, and they should be aware of any and all facility needs. Principals have little expertise in facilities and grounds. They are educators, not construction and facility professionals.

The elementary school by me has requested replacing an important facility need for years. it shouldn't be the up to the principal to beg. The Sam Moss staff's complete lack of competence affects the student bdy, staff and even our taxpayer dollars. The madness has to stop.

Anonymous said...

Please correct the link for the International Community School. Here's the right one:

mykidsmom said...

I differ somewhat from you anon 10:03 - it is, and always has been, one of the responsibilities of a prinicpal to make sure his/her school campus is up to par.

Cerebration said...

Oh! thanks for the link, Anon. I really didn't realize this was a totally different school from the International School -- so sorry!

Anonymous said...

(I'm not sure if this is the right place to post feel free to move it)
I'm a teacher in DCSS (hence the anonymous posting!) and I am fed up with all money DCSS wastes while not spending money on worthwhile causes like building renovations and teacher salaries. For the upcoming 09-10 school year I will make approx. $44,000. If I were teaching in Atlanta City Schools I would be making $55,000. I am a highly trained special education teacher and have had great success with very hard to reach students. Yet, I'm not sure how much longer I can take DCSS- DeKalb is probably going to lose me after this year. Something has to change!

The latest that brought me to your blog today was the news that Dr. Lewis is going to bus all the teachers during pre-planning to various locations to speak to us about his vision for the upcoming school year. Aren't we in a budget crisis?? Why does he think it's okay to spend money to bus teachers all over the county when a video conference would do just fine? I hope the BOE starts making some serious changes fast!

Sheena said...

Did anyone find Tom Bowen's defensiveness a little disturbing?

YES. My husband and I both agreed Bowen's behavior was embarassing. That is, to say, he acted a lot like Crawford Lewis. Perhaps Bowen is taking Lewis's "book club" lessons to heart?

Common Sense said...

Busing teachers all over the county for C Lew's Dog and Pony Show is part of the Superintendent's Transportation Efficiency Plan. He's saving us money!

Molly said...

A Local School Priority Request has to been done in conjunction withe the principal. The application should include not just photos, but any work order requests that are related, copies of any violations or warnings from gov't agencies (such as a fire marshal warning or code violations), a facility map, and a list of stake holders complaints.

My application included a 1/2 inch thick stack of plumbing work orders, minutes from school council mtgs where the conditions of the bathrooms had been discussed, and summaries of interviews with teachers, students, janitorial staff and the school nurse.

Cerebration said...

I agree with the waste of time, money and energy to bus the teachers to a variety of locations to listen to the stump speech. (If I were a teacher, I'd skip it and continue with my planning...)

If Lewis would fast forward to the 21st century, he would create a video - speaking directly to the teachers - and post it on YouTube - and embedded in the front page of the school systems website - for teachers to view at their leisure - or to run during staff meetings. So Easy - So Cheap - So Efficient! And probably much more effective.

In fact, he would be wise to produce such an animal monthly or weekly... communication is key! Steady - even - consistent communication makes for a great leader - and nips misinformation in the bud!

Anonymous said...

Molly, that's great about your application.

BUT THIS SHOULD BE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SAM MOSS CENTER STAFF!!! Their job is all facilities & grounds. Yes, a principal and school council need to advocate for their school, but fixing and repair school facilities has to be the sole responsibility of Sam Moss'ers.

The administration of DCSS is simply f-ed up. It is mond boggling to me that principals have to beg to repair toilets. Pat Pope may be doing a nice job with the big construction projects, but this is just as important and needs her attention. Now.

Molly said...

Anonymous - I agree that it should be the responsibility of the Sam Moss Center Staff. But until they are forced to step and take responsibility, this is the system we are stuck with. I am sharing my experience in the hopes that other people who are unfamiliar with the process can try to get something done in their own schools.

No Duh said...

"In fact, he would be wise to produce such an animal monthly or weekly... communication is key! Steady - even - consistent communication makes for a great leader - and nips misinformation in the bud!"

A theme of poor communications was in virtually all the community speakers' remarks last night -- either directly or indirectly. The last speaker's remarks were solely about the dismal state of communicating internally and externally at DCSS.

A video on the DCSS website would be a great idea. But, if you think about it, what is Dr. Lewis going to say to the teachers that he wouldn't want parents to hear? Nothing, right?

DCSS needs immediate help from Public Relations professionals who can help Dr. Lewis and the BOE create communications strategies (for both internal and external communications). In every successful company the Public Relations executive is in EVERY meeting with the CEO, and plays a HUGE part in planning. DCSS could save a lot of Lawyers fees if it would just hire a competent PR team (from outside of the educational world, not just some ex-principal!, or some recent college graduate. It is not an entry-level position.)

Anonymous said...

We spend so much money on new facilities, but why should we when Sam Moss staff can't maintain its facilities? Lakeside, Corss Keys, Sequoyah, etc. would all have needs due to their age but they wouldn't be in the desperate shape they are now if the Sam Moss staff performed their jobs in a competent manner.

Anonymous said...

No Duh, we already pay a huge amount of salaries to DCSS public relations staff. We waste millions of taxpayer dollars on staff who just can't get the job done.

Anonymous said...

About the staff at Sam Moss....Some of the most experienced staff/managers were let go as the result of the reduction in force and many of them were well aware of the special needs supported by the LSPR's. Hand picked forced retirements and staff reductions were done at the same time the construction department was hiring new project managers and new program managers. Some staff were promoted instead of others keeping their unfair is that?

Anon South Side said...

This is great information to know!!!!

Anonymous said...

It seems reasonable to me that principals fill out an online list of needed repairs. After researching this process I found that someone from Sam Moss then reviews the request and inspects the site in person. In some cases that person is even Pat Pope. Sam Moss employees are responsible for maintaining over 147 facilities including 145 schools and centers in a 240 square mile area. Because of the court mandate there was a long delay in building new centers so that some of the facilities are outdated. The last two SPLOST programs could only fund less than half of the list of needed repairs and facilities. We are talking the need for new roofs, replacing 20 year old air conditioning units, and some sites like Cross Keys that need to be gutted. It seems unfair to complain about a bloated payroll and then gripe that Sam Moss should do more after losing some of their staff. We do not want SPLOST funds to pay salaries, we would rather it go to new facilities and contract out the major jobs.

A good principal can keep their school clean and in decent repair simply by being a good administrator. The only thing better than a good principal is a good principal and a group of supportive parents. We need more parents who are willing to volunteer to insure that their school gets every thing it needs. The people who fight for our schools (including the supporters of a better Cross Keys) are special and deserve our thanks. However, fighting to improve your schools is not served by denigrating the school system personnel. Our power is much stronger when we see school staff as partners.

I am surprised that Lewis or the Board members are not more defensive. Who would want their jobs? I have seen little gratitude for anything they have done. If you were earnest at your job and no matter what you did or said there would be someone saying everything you do is wrong or stupid or both, how would you feel? I do not agree with everything DCSS employees or the school board has done, but when we disagree let us disagree with some respect. I was trained to be critical so I have to remember to include some sincere praise in my discourse.

No Duh said...

That's my point! Who are they and where did they come from? And, they work for the organization that is the problem!!

DCSS needs outside PR counsel. A PR firm that can "Dutch Uncle" the Administration without fear of losing their jobs (PR firms lose clients all the time because the client doesn't like or take their advice -- but, the client has to pay for the advice none the less).

Dutch Uncling is telling someone you care about something you know will be hard for them to hear, but because you love them, you feel they need to know. Like if you have a friend or relative who has bad breath. Out of love for them you Dutch Uncle them -- tell them kindly and help them solve the problem.

Believe me, I want more than anything to see DCSS become all it can be -- for the children and for the taxpayers' sakes. And there are indeed many, many excellent people in the organization.

But, it will continue to rot as long as the top administration can't handle a little Dutch Uncling (i.e. stop being so defensive and take some advice from the customers!!).

So, here's my advice: HIRE an OUTSIDE PR firm and FOLLOW their ADVICE!
Your Favorite Uncle (in Holland)

Cerebration said...

I think we're all just surprised that it's up to the principal to ask for improvements to the building. We all had sort of assumed that this was done by someone from facilities.

That's what we try to do here -- figure out the processes - how do we get what we need for our schools?

Anonymous said...

"Sam Moss employees are responsible for maintaining over 147 facilities including 145 schools and centers in a 240 square mile area."

SO contract it oput. HVAC, grounds maintenance, etc.

Anonymous said...

Gwinnett County and the City of Atlanta maintain their schools infinitiely better than Sam Moss staff. Sam Moss'ers deserve the criticism they receive.

Cerebration said...

Actually - we're pretty nice here - and reserved in our criticism. Have any of you read the comments on the school blogs at the ajc online?! Yikes!!

pscexb said...

30+ posts the day after the meeting. Very good to see that along with new posters at DeKalbSchoolWatch. Here's hoping the community grows. Tell your friends....

I wanted to respond to this comment by Anon 11:27:


I understand it is a little of both. The custodial staff reports up through the local school NOT the Sam Moss Center. We talked about this earlier and it was an eye opener to some. Custodians are allocated to schools based on square footage and I'm not sure if that takes trailers into consideration. Some question whether we have enough custodians at our local schools, especially some of the older ones.

Some schools have better 'curb appeal' than others partly due to the local community. The school system can't do it all by itself. Most of the money for day to day maintenance comes out of the general budget. When schools cut budgets with the goal of not compromising instruction, most look to the maintenance and operations budget to see what they can get by without. This is not the only place they look but it is always on the list.

Prior to SPLOST 3, it was announced that 2 BILLION dollars of needs were identified however they HOPED SPLOST 3 would generate about 500 MILLION dollars. You can do the math regarding how much will not get done.

The LPSR allows us to utilize some of the SPLOST dollars to address needs beyond the general budget. Given the size and age of our plant inventory, the money goes but so far.

Anyone want to talk about a tax increase for schools?

Cerebration said...

News about an upcoming meeting - The North Druid Hills Residents Association --

Community Meeting and 3rd Annual Cook-out & Pool Party at Emory University, Clairmont Campus on Sunday, July 26th, rain or shine
Community Meeting 2:00-3:30 in Room 211 of the Student Activity & Academic Center

Many important agenda items will be discussed that affect our neighborhood and Association, including:
· Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) Study of the North Druid Hills Corridor to address traffic & land use in our area.
· Friends of Kittredge Park’s efforts to transform this 35-acre sanctuary into a magnificent park for us all to enjoy.
· A.W.A.R.E. (Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort) president and wildlife expert, Mike Ellis, will make us aware of what we can do about the Coyotes that are roaming through NDHRA.
· DeKalb County District 2 School Board Rep, Don McChesney, will discuss future plans for the schools in our district – particularly school properties along North Druid Hills Road and Adams Stadium.
· Cook-out & Pool Party immediately following Community Meeting at the Lower Terrace. (Costs apply.)

Directions to Emory SAAC: The Student Activity & Academic Center (SAAC) at Emory University’s Clairmont Campus is located at 1946 Starvine Way, Decatur, GA 30033. Take Clairmont Road south towards Decatur. At the first traffic signal that’s immediately past the VA Hospital, turn right onto Starvine Way. Follow the winding driveway to the left up the hill to the second driveway entrance into the large parking deck on your left. Parking is free. The SAAC is directly across Starvine Way from the parking deck. Tell the attendant at the SAAC desk that you are attending the NDHRA Community Meeting in Room 211 for admission (free). You can sign up and and pay for for the optional cookout here as well.

Open+Transparent said...

pscexb, pscexb, pscexb

Love 'ya but defending the status quo again. Grounds maintenance is not about money. Actually, grounds can be maintained for a low cost in an efficient system. Simply, the Sam Moss staff doesn't put forth the proper effort, and they are in no way efficient.

When it comes to facilities maintenance, like HVAC, preventative maintenance and regularly scheduled inspections cost much less over the lifespan of equipment than waiting until equipment breaks down, which is the Sam Moss way.

Facilities and grounds can be done much, much better than what the Sam Moss does now, for no increase in costs.

Cerebration said...

The Local School Priority Requests cannot be for regular maintenance or janitorial services. They also cannot be for items covered by the Capital Improvement Plan (HVAC, roofs, etc.) They need to be things like replace toilets, sinks, art tables, white boards, etc... things that need updated or replaced.

That said -- how's this for the community taking up the flag for maintenance? Read on - and see what makes Lakeside -- Lakeside. From the LHS PTA eNewsletter - Feel free to pitch in!

#1. Join us this Friday, July 24th anytime between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. to help clean the inside of the building....bring staple removers, buckets, small paint rollers and a lot of energy! Stay for an hour, stay for 1/2 day, stay for the whole day - we hope you will come for whatever amount of time you are able!

#2. Join us this Saturday, July 25th from 8 a.m. - 12 p.m. to help clean the exterior of the building, the sidewalks, the parking lots and the grounds...bring rakes, brooms, gloves, hoses, and/or pressure washers and again a LOT of energy!

Cerebration said...

Hard as they try though - they fight an uphill battle - as this is also in that same newsletter --

Vandals Strike!

This past weekend someone vandalized our football field by attempting to trench the field and by ramming the goalposts with their vehicle. If you know someone with a 1998-2000 Mazda B-series pickup truck with damage to the left front headlight, please send Mr. Reed his/her name or ask the owner of the truck to contact Mr. Reed at 770-441-1683.

That is so frustrating.

Anonymous said...

I watched most of the meeting. I thought Crawford Lewis' comment at the end was immature. It was Lewis who issued a highly inappropriate memo about a very public issue and then foolishly sent it to all employees. The employee who leaked it to the press is not the problem. I thought the best speaker was the last lady who is a PR professional and took Lewis to task. I like Lewis as a person and I think he works very hard, but we need someone more professional and savvy running the school system.

And I agree with one other commentor. I also thought that Bowen's comment at the end was unnecessary and he sounded like a whiner. I thought he was commenting on Cross Keys. The Bd needs to head off these issues, not "react" to them. They can read this bolg and they know what the hot button issues are.

Kim Gokce said...

"You're only paranoid if they are not out to get you."

Let's face it, the BOE and Super take a whole lotta of heat. I can forgive them for sounding a bit on the defensive when they are clearly experiencing "incoming" from all sides - deserved or not.

The bottom line is there seems to be a lack of trust all the way around. Restoring that trust is going to take a longer time than anyone would like.

While I'm feeling the love, let me also make a positive observation about my BOE member. Don McChesney once again appeared to be the member who did the best job of homework - he clearly read the contracts up for approval and had pertinent questions. I like the vigilance. Now I just need to line up with Don somehow about Cross Keys future - need a vision!

I've watched only 2 BOE meetings so far this year (I have a 2 1/2 year old folks!) and Don is 2 for 2 on preparedness. Frankly, he kinda makes the rest look a little unprepared.

So there! Something positive - see! I can do it!! :)

Re: UN poster winner - a very, very bright spot in an otherwise hum-drum BOE meeting. I don't want to ruin my streak of turning every thread into a CKHS talking point so ...

I recently learned about a young man who just graduated from CKHS who survived 4 years in a Sierra Leone refugee camp. His homeland was one of those in the throws of the most horrible kind of internecine conflict with armed bands of youths running amok.

He came here to CKHS and managed to succeed in academics and athletics and is headed to Piedmont College on a full ride.

Based on the comment during last night's meeting, it looks like there's a significant number of refugees heading our way this year, too - they are welcome at Cross Keys!

Anonymous said...

Wake up people.....consider who is running Sam Moss. Construction should be separated from operations. Good staff were let go in the reduction in force and excused as a "restructuring" of Plant Operations.Good and caring staff still works there but they are handcuffed by their budget restrictions and lack of get what you pay for.

Kim Gokce said...

"A couple of people complained about trailers being placed in front of Ashford Park ES near a busy road which doesn't seem safe."

While I have sympathy for these neighbors' concerns (I have a home there), the placement of the 4 trailers is not really "in front of" the ES. As you approach the school on Cynthia Dr (the front), you can just make out the edge of the 1st trailer on the left of the building.

They are really next to the side entrance. The only other place I could imagine they could've been placed would have been on the playground far from entrances. This one will be interesting to watch - some folks are hot but overcrowding sure beats under-enrollment! Ashford ES was on the chopping block just 3 years ago due to under-enrollment.

Not taking sides on this one - just offering a clarification from what was stated in the public comments. Great community, great ES and principal - mis-leading info about the placement of the trailers was delivered by the 2 gentlemen IMHO.

Kim Gokce said...

@Ella: "CKHS Ground breaking"

Thank you for mentioning this to the BOE and Super - I hope at some point the BOE can find a way to show very public support for CKHS which has been such an orphaned school. Did someone say something about PR? :)

pscexb said...

O&T, O&T, O&T....

Gee I missed saying that! :) Not to make excuses but many government entities have been governed by 'That's the way we've always done it'. The concerns I've heard from school custodians have centered around too much space to maintain. This is partially due to budget cuts, not recently but over the years. They are using 'green' cleaning products as a part of the overall green initiative.

Seems I've heard that other school systems contract out grounds maintenance to private contractors. Maybe DCSS should consider that?

Thanks for the clarification regarding LSPRs, Cere. Your clarification reinforced that if schools have needs not addressed by the current SLOST, they can submit requests for consideration. We should remember that this is still within the 1/4 total needs that SPLOST 3 will address.

Cerebration said...

Actually, luckily, SPLOST 3 is generating more income than projected - AND we've made a whole lotta money from investments. SO it's looking pretty positive that much will get done.

My complaint is that the process is still too political. Not nearly as bad as it was with SPLOST 2 - but still pretty much board members fighting for "their" schools. I don't see the "countywide" perspective that was promised during the campaigns. Thus - Cross Keys is what it still is.

Here's to August 1st - demo begins at Cross Keys!

Kim Gokce said...

I think I just had an epiphany ... could it be that the reason the process is so political is the relative scarcity of funds in one SPLOST plan versus the "countywide" need? pscexb dropped the tax bill increase comment somewhere this evening and no one bit ...

If there were a strategic plan showing the scope and priority all the projects deemed necessary to bring our infrastructure "current," then we could just fight over the overall, countywide order of project execution and funding, right? Wouldn't the political rancor go down if there were placeholders for everything that needed to be accomplished rather than just within a single SPLOST scope?

Today, it seems like we take a few of the hungriest tigers at a time and throw them in the cage with a pound of meat. Then, the next group of tigers (who've been watching what happens when the meat hits the floor) go into the cage, repeat, etc.(SPOST I, II, III).

fedupindcss said...

Kim--my concern about Don is his stance on the issue of whether Sagamore should all go to DHHS or Lakeside. This is an issue that, much like other decisions in DCSS, seems to be driven by emotion, not data (like which high schools became middle schools, for example). He made a number of promises as a candidate that appeared to be based less on facts and more on who was in the room at the time.

Of course, it may be asking a lot to expect board members to work from the factual world. That requires proaction, not reaction. Watching this meeting there was a lot of the latter.

Dekalbparent said...

"Seems I've heard that other school systems contract out grounds maintenance to private contractors. Maybe DCSS should consider that?"

Certainly worth considering and investigating re cost effectiveness.

Another thing, though: "The way we've always done it" has resulted (in my opinion) in some inefficient (read: expensive)grounds maintenance practices.

You don't need to shear bushes into geometric shapes. You can prune them three or four times a year. They will be healthier and look better.

You don't need to continue to plant grass everywhere there are no bushes (then you have to mow it. I have seen custodians "mowing the dirt" many times at several schools - they cut the grass so short it dies and then the mowing schedule continues despite the fact there is no grass.) There are several very tough ground covers that never need mowing.

You can plant flowers. They are cheaper than grass.

The Extension Service is a fount of information, and often they will consult.

Anonymous said...

Great post by DeKalbparent. Many areas around the schools can be pine-strawed or mulched. I've seen school system grounds employees mow dirt(?).

The front line school system ground staff have little pride in their work. Their supervisors have little pride in the conditions of the grounds. I don't want to hear any more bunk about them having so many facilities to maintain. If they can't get the job done in a somewhat competent and professional manner, then contract it out. It embarassing and it's maddening that the Central Office and BOE members tolerate such pitiful conditions

Ella Smith said...

I am sure that what I said about Cross Keys made some mad.

I was just relying questions from this web but they did upset some.

My intent was not to upset anyone. I was just asking questions for the most part posted on this web as an advocate. I was told I was not making any friends on the school board more or less. In fact I more or less was told I was going to lose friends. My intent was to support the community but that was not at all appreciated by particular board members.

Mr. Bowen is a fine guy and I am sure that many things have frustrated him but I think he is super for this school board.

I also agree that Don is well prepared. I know he puts a great deal of time preparing for meetings. It would be nice if all the school board members would. On the other hand the majority of them are prepared.

I am impressed at how well they have worked together. I am not happy about how long the Cross Keys project has taken. I do feel it is unfair to the students at Cross Keys. But, none of us know the facts the school board know so they actually may be frustrated because they are working on things we know nothing about.

No Duh said...

Just how does one "make friends with the BOE"? Agree with them on everything? Agree to push their agenda in their communities (i.e. be their lackey)?

BTW, when Paul Womack was asked to talk to Don McChesney about this whole Sagamore Hills thing (at the expense of Evansdale as the story was going) -- McChesney told Womack that was flat out not true. So, IF (notice, I said "if") Don is telling a fellow board member that he is not pushing for all of SH to go to HMS/LHS and then telling his constituents something different why would any of us trust any of them about anything!?

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on, shame on can't get fooled again."

Ella Smith said...

There is no doubt it that Don wants Sagamore in the Lakeside district. This was part of his partform that he ran on. His supportors definitely supported him knowing he would support this happening.

I also feel that Sagamore should be in the Lakeside School district.

NO DUH, you are extremely preceptive.

I suspect the school board is very upset with anyone who brings dirty laundry out. Anyone who brought any of the news worthy information about Cross Keys to the news media are not friends of the school board.

I do like many of the school board members and I sincerely believe they are working together to go what is best for the children of Dekalb County. I also know that some of them know I will run for school board again so because of this they are not probable going to speak highly of me. In fact I was shocked at all the support for Dr. Walker upon his absence.

Anonymous said...

Didn't know where to put this--

From the Lakeside PTA Newsletter--

Congratulations Lakeside!
It may have been late in coming ...but once again you have been recognized by Newsweek as one of the Top 1500 Public Schools .... ranked as #315 in the nation...the 7th highest in Georgia...the 2nd highest in Dekalb County!

For more information on how schools are ranked, visit the Newsweek website.

Cerebration said...

This could be why both Walker and Womack were missing from the Monday night board meeting...

From "Atlanta Unfiltered" -

The DeKalb County school board has dropped a suit seeking to block a controversial tax break sought by the Sembler Co.

But the board still wants a say on any tax abatement being considered for the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based development firm. So, “the parties are trying to put together representatives who could sit down and talk about how to represent everybody’s interests,” attorney Keith Hasson, representing the school board, said Thursday.

In other words, attorneys for the board and DeKalb Development Authority are talking about how the two bodies can talk about it.

The board’s suit was dismissed Tuesday without prejudice, meaning it could be filed again at any time.

For the full article click here:
DeKalb school board drops Sembler suit

Anonymous said...

As a DeKalb teacher, I don't understand being bused to another school to hear Lewis speak. This is not only a waste of time, but money that could be used for the kids. Lewis' email saying that we should support the cheaters took what little respect I had for him away. Many teachers don't even know about this email, as it has been removed from our News Flash Email. I am glad that it was leaked, as it shows what is really taking place in the county.

Parents wise up and elect school board members who are really wanting to better our county and not simply their area. We are in big trouble if things continue as status quo.

Cerebration said...

There's no choice for teachers - since they can't drive themselves - they must be bussed - and therefore, attendance will be known. Seems a bit over the top - when he could just record a speech and post it on You Tube. (Cheaply!!)

Interesting that the email has been removed - didn't know that - thanks for sharing!

Cerebration said...

This announcement arrived via email from Motivating People to Action -

This Monday August 3, the DeKalb Board of Education meets at 6:00pm, at Arabia Mountain High School, 6610 Browns Mill
Road, Lithonia.

As many of you know there was a group of DeKalb mothers and students that stood with us against the DeKalb Marine Corps Institute. That group and many other DeKalb residents/community activists will hold a press conference outside of the BOE meeting at 5pm to share collective concerns with DeKalb BOE's track record and lack of transparency.
I really hope you are about to join us!!!
The Bus will be leaving the new AFSC office( 189a sam street Decatur 30030) at 4:15pm, after the BOE meeting, I'm sure we'll all hang out!!!!!Come!!!

I might even play my one man jam, if everyone's good:)

Anonymous said...

Are all DeKalb schools in the same boat as DHS and PCMS? The new software system has blocked counselors and registrars from accessing student schedules and records ALL SUMMER. As of yesterday, our case manager still couldn't pull up a single student's schedule to prepare for IEP accommodations. I'm expecting a perfect storm on Wednesday - no schedules, or whatever schedules are available, to be completely wrong. Funny how the BOE and the DCSS administration are keeping this so quiet.

Anonymous said...

This sounds awful. I heard from our HS PTA president that there have been problems with the DCSS transfer to a new data management program. I also heard that Parent Portal will be taken down but the new replacement program may not be up and usable for several months.

My child's high school schedule was incorrect and I have yet to see a corrected one despite several requests. We hoped to obtain the revised schedule on Wednesday.

DCSS: I hope you are reading. Students and teachers need current and accurate schedules no later than Wednesday. Also, do not dismantle Parent Portal until you have pilot tested the new program and you are sure it works. Parent Portal was one of the FEW GOOD things DCSS has done. Parents love it.

Dekalbparent said...

This seems like the perfect storm! Druid Hills HS counselors have not had access to the scheduling system all summer because of the construction - all scheduling has been done on paper, with the intent to enter it into the system the week before school.

If the entirety of DCSS has been torpedoed by the new system, then the first several weeks of school will be an uproar.

My questions - as a veteran of commercial software production: Who bought this system? / Who tested it? / Was it never field tested with real DCSS data?

Dekalbparent said...

Passing this on - got it thru several community email links:

Good afternoon,
I'm a reporter for the AJC working on a project about public school maintenance in the metro area. I was looking through some of the posts on your blog, and it's clear that the condition of DeKalb schools has been an issue for some time. I'm interested in your insight -- What have you heard about maintenance problems or excellence from parents and teachers? Please give me a call at 404-526-7045 so we can talk about this.

Thank you,
Claudia Koerner
The Atlanta Journal-Constitutio n

Anonymous said...

According to a newsletter I received from my child's school, the new student software program is eSIS and it includes a "gradebook." Teachers "will receive training on the electronic gradebook during pre-planning and the first few weeks of school." Parents will not have access to grades until October.

I can't imagine starting the school year without the scheduling program working. And why can't the county run parallel programs until eSIS has all the kinks worked out?

Anonymous said...

What's fun is that this discussion is buried in this post. It should be front page news in the media. Effectively, the system-wide software problem means that students may begin school WITHOUT SCHEDULES.

Dr. Lewis - the emperor has no clothes. Again.

Dunwoody Mom said...

And why can't the county run parallel programs until eSIS has all the kinks worked out?

Most likely the contract with the Smartweb company has expired.

It's not unusual at all when companies are changing over software that there are delays and kinks that need to be worked out.

Anonymous said...

You can still access Parent Portal for last year's grades.

I disagree that there should ever be a gap or major "kinks" in implementing software. I work for a medium sized company and we always test and train key folks on new software BEFORE dismantling the old. Yes, you have to pay to have contracts that overlap for 30 days but that is better than chaos.

However, I don't know if the scheduling software is part of the new eSIS program.

No Duh said...

Don't know where to post this.

I was filling out my calendar for the school year. I was putting in the dates of the DCSS Board Meetings when I noticed that starting in September, all the meetings seem to shift to Mondays through the rest of the calendar year.

Has BOE changed its usual schedule of Tuesday meetings (except when a holiday conflicts)?

Dunwoody Mom said...

Month-to-month contracts are very expensive. As far as training the teachers, the system is just a data-entry requirement for them. If it takes longer than a few hours to train the teachers on how to input their data, well, we've got more problems than a delay in the new system.

Anonymous said...

Wednesday at the high school is going to be bad. Our high school just sent out a call for 40 (!) volunteers (this is not PTA, but the school itself) to free up every clerical and admin person's regular duties so that they can try and make it run smoother.

I hope that at least one board member asks at the meeting tonight, during the school readiness report, what is being done from the central office to support the high school.

Everyone from Moseley down ought to be sitting in a high school assisting on Wednesday. Won't happen of course, but it should.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Wednesday at the high school is going to be bad. Our high school just sent out a call for 40 (!) volunteers (this is not PTA, but the school itself) to free up every clerical and admin person's regular duties so that they can try and make it run smoother.

That's been standard procedure for years at my children's schools. Volunteers are what makes registration work and work smoothly. The administration cannot handle is by themselves. They are busy registering new students, hearing complaints about schedules, kids who can't get their schedules because they did not return books the previous school year, etc.

No Duh said...

@Dunwoody Mom

You sure your school let parents literally register the students into the database, etc. and work directly with parents on school/academic related issues?

A lot of people confuse registering their children with signing up for PTA-related events and items (phone directory, yearbook in elementary, school store, spiritwear, etc.)

Of course, I remember as a senior in high school having the privilege to "schedule" other students. I think we got to do it because we were in Beta club, or something. Anyway, we were given a copy of what the student wanted to take, and then we walked around the library taking cards from "class boxes" until we had a card for each class the student wanted. We handed that stack of cards to a school administer who then typed it up and filed it. The perk was getting to register ourselves first -- choosing the teacher and class we wanted! Ahhh, the good old days!

Dunwoody Mom said...

no duh, Wednesday is schedule pickup day/open house in DCSS. Returning students registered last spring and new student registration in DCSS was to occur in June. If there are any students that need to register on Wednesday, they will do so with the appropriate administration personnel.

Cerebration said...

What high school are you from Anon? I do recall that at Lakeside, we as PTA reps, were not allowed to be involved in actual registration even a tiny bit. The registration even takes place in a different area of the building from where we set up. We weren't allowed to know addresses, or any registration info. We were only allowed to hand out agendas and ask for PTA info for the directory (which is voluntary) and PTA dues, membership, class fees, spiritwear, etc.

Cerebration said...

No Duh -- I'm pretty sure the BOE main meetings (work sessions) have always been held on Mondays.

No Duh said...

No Duh, saying "duh.." Monday it was, Monday it is, Monday it shall be. Guess I was havin' a moment!

DunMom: I know what Wednesday is. I know exactly the difference between REGISTERING a student versus the functions the PTA performs on Open House day.

Your response to Anon 7:21 seemed to confirm that your school also uses parent volunteers to REGISTER students "Volunteers are what makes registration work and work smoothly. The administration cannot handle is by themselves."

As Cere pointed out, it would be against all privacy/confidentiality agreements to have non-DCSS employees collecting personal info about students and their families. There's a big difference between what Staff does during Open House and what parent volunteers do. That's why Anon 7:21's comment got my attention (and obviously Cere's, too).