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?"