Monday, August 3, 2009

Back to School "Need to Knows"

Oh boy! Summer is almost over and the "Back to School" sales are in full swing. We have decided to list items we see as "Need to Knows" for students and parents in DeKalb County Schools as they head back to school on Monday, August 10.

First, the biggest deal is the new dress code. The important, new changes include: No low-cut shirts, blouses or tops. No cleavage at all. No see-throught clothing. No short shorts. No short skirts. No low-hanging pants with underwear showing. No clothing with vulgar or offensive language. No bedroom shoes. No flip-flops. No between the toe shoes without heels at all. Of course, included in this initiative there will be basically zero tolerance for cell phones and texting. Students can expect to have their cell phones confiscated if they are caught using them in school.

The first offense includes a verbal reprimand, contacting parents AND In-School Suspension.
Second offense: Parent conference and two days ISS.
Third offense: Three days ISS, a local hearing that could result in 10 days ISS, local probation and/or - (my favorite) a parent can attend classes with the student in lieu of ISS.
Chronic violators may be referred to an alternative setting.

Dr. Lewis has introduced a very important parental involvement initiative. He plans to improve parental involvement across the entire school system and has set this as a top priority. A task force made up of parents, community leaders, teachers and principals was organized to study parental involvement throughout the U.S. and as a result, the group created the Parental Involvement Framework, a tool to map out strategies to improve involvement. A major component of the program ins the newly created Parent Resource Guide, which describes the initiatives and will be distributed countywide, as well as available online.

From DCSS Press Releases: Another component within the parental involvement framework is the E-Parent Communications system that is currently being piloted at nine schools throughout the district. The pilot program aims to bridge the communication gap between schools and homes by providing instant information to the parents via telephone, cellular phones and text messaging communication. The program will operate on the local school level as well as the system-wide level.

Principals, for example will be able to keep parents updated on PTA meetings, testing schedules and other school related activities. At the county-wide level, parents will be able to stay further informed about educational initiatives via message posts. The system will also provide instant communication with parents in the event of an emergency.

“Right now, we are dependent upon notes that go home to parents in backpacks and we all know sometimes those notes don’t make it home,” Tyson said. “[E-Parent Communications] will allow the district to connect directly with the parents electronically, so that there is an instant delivery of information.”

The pilot program began in May. The nine schools participating this summer are located within the Cross Keys, Redan, and Martin Luther King High School attendance areas. When the pilot period concludes in August, DeKalb will then evaluate the efficiency of the pilot program, make any corrections or adjustments that may be needed, and make preparations to launch E-Parent Communications system-wide in 2010.

This system will greatly improve the power of the Parent Portal.

Another new program is called, "America's Choice" and is being implemented in 40 schools in DCSS. You can read more about this on the DCSS homepage or by reading the press release.

To read about how DCSS is handling the new state law called HB 251, which allows for transfers within a district, visit this link. The deadline to apply for a transfer has already passed, but look for this program to increase offerings in the future, as many at the state level are pushing for more and more flexibility and school choice.

Of course, one very big continuation of a new program is the new math, which has it's own thread for discussion.

Please add any relevant "Need to Know" back to school info in the comments section.


Cerebration said...

I came across an interesting statement about Facebook and it's effect on young people -

Catholic Bishop Slams Facebook

Sunday, August 2, 2009 8:57 PM

Article Font Size

Facebook, Twitter, texts and e-mails are undermining communities, families and friendships, according to the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols said Sunday that these and other Web-based services have led young people to seek "transient" friendships, with quantity becoming more important than quality.

Nichols said a key factor in suicide among young people was the trauma caused when such loose relationships collapsed.

"Friendship is not a commodity," he told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

He added: "Friendship is something that is hard work and enduring when it's right".

Read the full story at BBC News.

Soccer Dad said...

How will CLew's "very important" Parental Involvement Initiative work and how will it's results be measured?

Are there benchmarks the initiative should/must meet?

Will there be any progress reports to track the effectiveness of this initiative?

Or, will it be like all the other "very important" initiatives CLew has rolled out in the past? Lots of self congratulations at the ribbon cutting and absolutely no follow up or accountability.

Which reminds me. How much money -- if any -- has DCSS saved as a result of last year's "very important" initiative known as "The Superintendent's Transportation Efficiency Plan"?

Cerebration said...

Actually, there are evaluation methods for each initiative. Click on the words "parental involvement initiative" in the article and it will take you to the "measurable objectives".

Of course, we at DeKalb School Watch will be watching and demanding a report in May.

If you can't capture the link, here it is to copy & paste -

Cerebration said...

Well, the board meeting tonight was a bit - well - boring. I guess I won't bother to write up a full report, but I'll go ahead and bullet point some key items -

• In the public portion, there were several speakers who addressed the bullying issue and were defending Jaheem Herrera's bullying claim - including his mother, sister and best friend. It was heart wrenching.

• Zepora joined us again telephonically - which they should just not allow. Watch a meeting and you'll agree.

• Dr. Bouie's school readiness report included mentioning the movement of 6 "turnaround" principals and 14 promotions to principal. She also introduced a new "evaluation" tool which will be used to evaluate principals and area supers (and her position). She stated that we are nearly fully staffed, being short only 16 positions. And Math has been identified as the area needing the most improvement in high schools. The America's Choice program will begin in 41 Title 1 ESs. And there are only 11 ES AYP transfers, but there are 180 MS AYP transfers and 416 HS AYP transfers. She listed the receiving schools (they can be found at the DCSS website.)

• The new e SYS will be up and running someday soon. In the meantime, principals and teachers have been given a hotline to call for tech support. (If I was a teacher, I would keep a hand-written grade book for back-up!)

• Then came some "trouble with grammar" and a typo - where the board spent 30 minutes trying to rewrite - and then decide whether to rewrite an amendment to the board policy regarding hiring counsel. After much, much debate, they finally decided to go with Dr. Walkers proposal from the first minute of the debate. Whew!

• Lots of members commented on the new dress code. The best thing said was by Tom Bowen (IMO) who stated, "Parents, we need you to be parents - not your kids friend. Send them to school in proper clothing, ready to learn and we'll take it from there."

• Key point - the school system has not raised property taxes! You now must pay your own portion of the state's Homestead Tax Relief Grant. In addition, as Jim R pointed out, our tax millage rate is 22.98 mills - of which, 5 mills goes to the state. We then get plugged into a "formula" to see if we get some of that returned. We usually don't. Additionally, the county CEO and BOE raised our county portion of property taxes, but sent out a letter insinuating that the increases were all due to school taxes... not nice! (Weren't they supposed to be entering an era of cooperation?!!)

Cerebration said...

Apparently, though, outside the board meeting was where all of the action was going on. As many of you know, I sometimes don't actually attend meetings (Arabia is too darn far away) - so I watch on my big screen with my merlot. Of course, when I do that, I don't get the story behind the story...

At any rate, Dr. John Trotter reports on the August 3rd, 2009, 9:49 pm AJC blog that they were picketing outside of Arabia before the board meeting. (BTW, the blog is now being monitored by Maureen Downey, so we can look forward to some good discussions over there!)

Ella Smith said...

I saw no action outside the board meeting and I was there.

I accidently posted my comments on the previously article regarding the school board meeting and what I heard at the meeting.

Cerebration said...

That's interesting, Ella. Thanks for the report. I'll move your comments here because they are very relevant. I was shocked to find out that the Jackson 3 don't live in DeKalb!


Ella Smith said...
School board members and county administrative staff will be out policing the schools the first day of school regarding dress code is my understanding.

I feel any program to get parents involved is important as this is a key to improving our education of our students in Dekalb County.

I discussed my concerned for lack of policies to ensure supplemental positions hired like coaches are posted and the principal at least looks at qualifications of all individuals interested before hiring.

Principals appoint individuals normally who are their friends and then the other employees hear there is a supplemental opening.
My concern for coaches is safety. Coaches should be hired who are qualified to protect our children from athletic injuries.

I actually have heard from the school officials regarding my concerns. I am very impressed as to how two assistant supertendents have either called me at home or emailed me after I signed up to speak.

On another note, our three favorite speakers (who always make things interesting and are always good speakers) were banned from speaking this week at the school board which I thought was interesting. Those two precious children live in Gwinnett County (on the line) and their dad is an employee for Dekalb County School System. He is not an employee at the Dekalb County School of the Arts. I think because they do not live in the county the school officials are questioning if they have a right to speak at the board meetings each month. I also think it is in question if the children have a right to go to school in Dekalb since they are not residence of Dekalb and their dad does not work at the Dekalb School of the Arts.

Now there is a board policy which does indicate that these children can attend school in Dekalb County if there father works for the school system. The policy was provided to the parents by the school system upon request of a copy. But, the state law indicates that they do not have the right to attend our county schools unless they attend their father's school. I feel for the kids as they are caught in the middle now of a bad situation.

It looks like to me that the school system is going to have to either make some changes on policies or go back on its statements regarding employees children attending this school system as it appears to be coming to a head as there is conflict between the law and apparently the Dekalb County School Policies.

The children will remain enrolled in the school until the situation is figured out but I did find it interesting. I have heard that the school board has been looking for a way to prevent them from speaking weekly. Maybe they finally found a way to stop them from speaking. I did not think you had to be a Dekalb County citizen to speak at a school board meeting. Of, course I could be wrong. Maybe there should be a policy that prevents more than one person from a family speaking to the same issue to give more individuals or families more opportunities to voice their concerns. I actually could see this as a tool to enable more interaction from the public.


August 4, 2009 7:50 AM
Anonymous said...
I am amazed that the family who has monopolized precious Board time at meetings does not even live in DeKalb County. These poor children. Perhaps Mom should have given this some thought before taking the actions that she did.

Pay tuition like everyone else who wants to attend a school outside your district. Or better yet - send your kids to private school.

I think everyone (except the mother) would support a Board policy that limits the number of family members that can address the same issue. It seems to me that this would be a reasonable restriction without running afoul of the 1st Amendment.

August 4, 2009 10:05 AM

Ella Smith said...

Ms. Jackson is a very nice person and stands up for what she believes in. She used to teach in the Dekalb County School System but I believe she stays at home currently. I believe her husband works at Cross Keys.

The school administration provided her with the policy documentation that does indicate they have a policy that the students can go to school in the county when she requested it which I find very interesting. How can they come out with a statement that children of employees outside the county cannot go to school anywhere in the county that they are accepted (other than where their parent teachers) if they have a policy that indicates that they can do just opposite as the letter that was sent out to employees. This is what I find interesting. They are not following their own polices. Maybe this policy needs to be updated as the needs of the county have changed and the county can no longer afford to educate the children of its educators who live in surrounding counties.

It will be interesting to see if this policy gets updated soon to reflect the state law revise.

I also thought it was interesting that the County CEO and Commissioners appear to be taxing the citizens of Dekalb and are blaming it on the school board and apparently sending out a letter indicating that the tax is coming from the school board and not the commissioners. The warm fuzzy working relationship of working together has just come to a halt and not because of anything apparently the school board has done. (As far as we know) Some of the school board members were very upset at the CEO and commissioners for blaming the school board for the additional taxes on the citizens.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure whether this is what you are referring to, but my county tax bill every year for years has included a notice explaining that most of the taxes go to the schools, not to the CEO's office, Board of Commissioners, or any other part of county government.

Anonymous said...

I think you are forgetting my favorite part of this year's boards changes:

1. Late homework: Teachers must be able to demonstrate that they have given a child 3 chances to complete their homework. (Do you get 3 chances to do something at work?)
2. No Zeros. Teachers have to give children 3 chances to do their work and then principals get the final say.
3. School wide discipline plans that (according to my principal this is school wide) that reward kids for good behavior.

As a teacher, this is just disgusting. We aren't preparing our kids for the real world, although someone is suing her college because they didn't get her a job. Our kids will be all set to not take responsibility for their lives. Why aren't we teaching our children that life is about choices and suffering any consequences that come with that choice?

Anonymous said...

WHAT? Teacher/Anon at 6:20. Does this policy apply in high school? Is it in writing?

I agree that this does not prepare students for college or the real world. And it means the letter grades are even more inflated and meaningless in DCSS.

Anonymous said...

Ella, I don't understand. A July 2, anonymous post leaked Bob Moseley's memo that stated:

"Any student may be allowed to attend and be enrolled in the school in which a parent or guardian of such student is a full-time teacher, paraprofessional, or other employee. A student who resides outside of the DeKalb County School District and who attends a school in the DeKalb County School District under this provision shall not be required to pay non-resident tuition as defined in Board Policy Code JBCBA."

Yet you've determined that they're ignoring this policy to allow children of teachers who are not DeKalb County residents to attend any school in the county?

Do you know the code section of the recently enacted state law that indicates that out-of-county students only have the right to attend their parent's school? I can't find it. Perhaps it's this:

§ 20-2-293. Student attending school in system other than system of student's residence

(a) The provisions of this article and other statutes to the contrary notwithstanding, the State Board of Education is authorized to provide a procedure whereby a student shall, for such compelling reasons and circumstances as may be specified by the state board, be permitted to attend and to be included as an enrolled student in the public schools of a local unit of administration other than the local unit of administration wherein the student resides for the purpose of allotting state funds under this article, notwithstanding absence of an agreement between the two local units and a refusal by the board of education of the local unit wherein the student resides to approve voluntarily such transfer of the student to the public schools of the other local unit; provided, however, that the board of education of the local unit is willing to receive and to permit such student to enroll in and to attend the public schools of such local unit. The state board shall adopt such rules, regulations, and policies as may be necessary for implementation of this Code section. Grant or refusal of permission for students to attend such schools, for the purpose of permitting state funds to follow such students, shall be entirely discretionary with the state board and shall, in the absence of a clear abuse of discretion by the state board, be final and conclusive. Local units of administration may contract with each other for the care, education, and transportation of students and for such other activities as they may be authorized by law to perform.

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this Code section or any other general law, and except as provided by the General Assembly by local law, a student shall be allowed to attend and be enrolled in the school in which a parent or guardian of such student is a full-time teacher, professional, or other employee, notwithstanding the fact that such school is not located in the local unit of administration in which such student resides. Each school system of this state shall provide procedures to implement the provisions of this subsection.

I would not read this statute to prohibit systems from allowing out-of-system students. Rather, it allows the state board to implement procedures for out-of-district transfers, and allows such transfers even if the home school doesn't agree -- as long as the receiving district consents. Additionally, it allows kids to attend their parents' schools. In any event, it does not seem to remove DeKalb's discretion to accept out-of-district kids.

Perhaps the Jackson children and others like them are grandfathered in?

Just doesn't make sense. (I'm not surprised, though.)

Anonymous said...

I teach elementary and was told that zeros policy is already in place for middle and high school.

I am assuming that it's district wide, as we were given a power point presentation which had DeKalb County Logo on it.

Grades will be inflated and then parents will wonder why their child scored low on the CRCT with such good grades. Did we forget that C is average?

Anonymous said...

I can tell you that teachers at CCHS gave out many zeros on missed homework assignments last year. In fact, many students received so many that they seriously impacted their grade point average.

Ella Smith said...

I have actually read the law regarding children of teachers attending the schools their parents teach at. I looked it up about 10 or 15 years ago so it is by no means a new law. It has been on the books for years. It was originally put on the books to prevent a conflict for teachers who might have students at the same level of school in different schools meetings (PTA meeting, football games, etc). It was not put into effect originally to allow students to attend anywhere in the feeder pattern or school system they wanted to attend. I will look it up on my husband's online law connection or have him look it up and get back to you as to the statue.

I am upset as to the conflict of the policy of the school board. If indeed they do have a policy on their books as I was told then they need to amend it as to clear up any misunderstanding this may cause. It either needs to be one way or another. They do not need to send mixed messages to their staff.

Ella Smith said...

I can see the possibility of giving a student 24 additional hours to turn in an assignment with a 10-30% penalty as we are talking about young adults but we do need to be teaching them to become adults. The problem is that so many of our students are failing because they will not turn in assignments. Now, I believe classroom assignments and homework is important. I do believe in teaching discipline. But there are others that believe (not me) that if a student knows the material and masters the objective it does not matter if there turn any of their class work or homework in. Again, this in not my believe, but I do know that turning in assignments is a major problem with many children today and this does pull down their grades. The school board is obviously getting a great deal of pressure from parents to do somethimg about it.

fedupindcss said...

Has anyone heard that their kid's school will not have homerooms and/or schedules at registration or on the first day of school? The Henderson PTA has sent out an alert that the new software system put in place by DCSS is having major glitches, so they may not be ready for the first day. Elementaries can get by with this, and maybe middle schools, but at the high school this type of technical issue will be a disaster.

I ran into a high school counselor last month who told me that the county was switching over, but that they waited to roll it out and had not yet trained the APs on it. It seems like every year there is a last minute problem, as though they seem to think that summer is longer than it really is.

Paula Caldarella said...

Jim Redovian asked about the new system, eSIS at the BOE meeting - as he had heard there were problems. Tony Hunter indicated the system had been up and running since April and that people had been trained on it, but additional training was scheduled.

We've been told that the rollout period to parents for sign-up is September, with the system being online and operational in October.

We'll see. From what I've read and seen, this looks like a great system, if it works as advertised.

Cerebration said...

Is it eSIS? I didn't know if it was with a Y or an I -- thanks DM --

At any rate, apparently the system will take care of all communication to students and parents (eliminating the need for all of those take home notes that get crammed in the bottom of backpacks!) As well as all grading, testing, etc... pretty much everything will be stored in one handy-dandy place. It'll get up and running soon - computer software installations are always a bit dicey...

Also - regarding the tax issue - yes, our property tax bill is mostly made up of school tax (about 70% or more) - but our school tax millage rate has not increased in years. You will only pay more in school tax if your home is reassessed at a higher value. Also, we will all pay more this year because the state is ditching the Homestead Tax Relief grant for homeowners. We get to pay that now.

Additionally, we send the first 5 mils of the 22.98 mils charged for school taxes directly to the state. The state, after collecting from all counties, works up a formula to redistribute what it collected based on some kind of "wealth" calculation that uses acreage per person. DeKalb hasn't seen any of this money back since 2005. It's a "redistribution of wealth" scheme employed by the state (I think because they were sued by poor, rural districts) -- and the state apparently thinks that DeKalb county is rich. (Oddly, they think Gwinnett is poor - Gwinnett received millions back from the state last year.)

This is an issue to take up with your local state rep.

The property tax issue should be discussed with your commissioner. The letter was misleading - it made it sound like our school tax rate had increased, it has not. Even so, they are correct in saying that a majority of your property tax bill goes to schools.

Paula Caldarella said...

I just returned from Dunwoody HS and things could not have gone smoother. Schedules were on-hand and my child's was correct.

Unknown said...

I am glad that things went well at Dunwoody. Our daughter moved from Sequoyah to Peachtree Charter Middle and thanks to the new computer system, we still have no schedule. All of this due to not being able to confirm her gifted status from 2004. Hard copies of the forms are needed, so we drove to Sequoyah to get them today. Perhaps our third trip to Peachtree tomorrow will result in schedule.

Dekalbparent said...

I want give a GIANT shout-out to the Druid Hills HS team!

Registration went very smoothly, and almost every kid had a schedule in hand despite:

1)Registration had to be held at Shamrock because of the construction at DHHS (no gym yet - that will make the semester interesting).

2)Counselors have no offices - they cannot even get into the building yet. They have been working all summer out of a trailer that has been shared with the rest of the administrative team.

3)New administrative team. Additionally, the principal (Mindee Adamson) has spent much of her time this summer just managing the displacement of the construction and trying to get as much real estate as possible functional for the opening of school.

Anonymous said...

No schedules were available at Lakeside. Schedules were available at Chamblee High.

Paula Caldarella said...

Registration went smoothly at Peachtree Charter Middle School as well.

Much thanks to admin, teachers and parent volunteers. I think this was my first year in and out in under an hour for both schools. Having all of the necessary forms sent early via email and on the school websites was a great help.

Hopefully, the school year goes as smoothly!!!

Anonymous said...

From what I have been told... It may be Tuesday or Wednesday before middle schools get a schedule. Keep your fingers crossed that they can get it done. Please remember not to get angry at the teachers or the administrators.. It is not their fault.

As for E-sis... From what I heard from a few teachers that have had the training... There is no book or guide easily available for them to use. It take a long time to get everything in. They can not use it at home. It has to be done at school.. Many teachers are very confused and there is very little help out there for them.

Let's pray for a good year and know that there are going to be kinks in the system. I know I will.

One Fed Up Insider said...

Cere.... I don't know how to do this but today's Dunwoody Crier has a great editorial from Ms. Shari B. Ariail in it. She states how CLew has broken all these promises to Dunwoody about the new 4 - 5 academy.

It is a very well thought out editorial. You should post it. At least CLew is consistant... He keeps promises to no one unless they are his buddies.

Cerebration said...

Easy! Thanks for the tip, FedUpInsider---

Here's the letter to the editor (FWIW, Kittredge Magnet is designated a high achievers magnet and therefore can offer more programs as they somehow get more funding due to the concentration of high achievers - I'm not certain how it works - it's complicated. But bottom line - Kittredge is strictly magnet - and the new Dunwoody ES is open to all.)

To the Editor:

It is time to wake up and smell the roses! Last year, Superintendent Crawford Lewis promised Dunwoody parents that “the new elementary school would be better than Kittredge.” He also promised a foreign language. Yet, is he now offering us dandelions? Why isn’t the new school receiving the same funding as Kittredge, the school for allegedly High Achievers, located less than five miles from the new Dunwoody Elementary School? (The new school will have approximately the same number of gifted students, 240, in grades four and five as Kittredge yet will receive considerably less funding). Why? Let us not be fooled by exterior appearances. What counts is what’s going on inside the building and the key to quality education is funding. Consider the following facts about the new Dunwoody Elementary School:

1. Class size: Thirty students per class. Kittredge Magnet School for High Achievers has a student teacher ratio of 1 to 17.

2. Music: Band and orchestra may not be offered at the new school yet Kittredge has one general music teacher, two band teachers, and one orchestra teacher. That translates into four music teachers for approximately 409 students in grades four through six.

3. Foreign Language: Spanish may be offered but once every six days. Kittredge offers German language instruction every other day and employs three German teachers, one for each grade.

4. After school programs and tutoring: Will the new school offer free tutoring in the mornings and afternoons to every student, not just those who fail the CRCT? Kittredge provides this amenity to gifted and nongifted students, along with free after school programs in art and music.

5. Gifted Programs: There will be no pull-out program for the gifted children at the new Dunwoody school. All children will be taught together, alongside special needs and children who do not speak English. Children in these categories do not all learn at the same rate. The new school will receive extra funding for children in the gifted, ESOL, and special needs categories. How are these funds being spent?

Why does Kittredge continue to receive more funding although it may have the same number of gifted children enrolled as the new Dunwoody Elementary School? The answer is because we continue to tolerate an antiquated system that commenced more than 25 years ago when Dekalb County was under court order to integrate the schools. A magnet program was a creative way to achieve this end. The court order is now a dead issue. Yet, DeKalb County continues to utilize tax payers’ money to fund an alleged High Achievers program which drains our local neighborhood schools of much- needed money. It is time we inform Superintendent Crawford Lewis, Representative Fran Millar and board member Jim Redovian that we will no longer tolerate affirmative action plans disguised as magnet programs. Dunwoody can run its own government. It can certainly do a better job educating our children.

Shari B. Ariail

No Duh said...

Open House was great at Henderson Middle. But, like many of the schools there was trouble with "the system" -- staff was up past midnight Tuesday making sure that all students at least had a homeroom assignment. They missed very few, and those were taken care of today very efficiently. Very dedicated people.

No schedules, though.

I wonder why some schools were able to produce schedules and not others. Was it a matter of training? Some got better training, or perhaps understood how to use it? Why were the glitches "selective" to some schools and not others? Did some administrations "hand do" the schedules somehow? If you think about, that's very strange.

Cerebration said...

FWIW - Shari - I couldn't agree with you more. The very first words out of my mouth when Dunwoody became it's own city were "I hope they take control of their schools and make them "City of Dunwoody Schools" ASAP!" That's what I would do if I lived in Dunwoody! (Apparently, this will take a state mandate as they currently have a ban on creating new school systems -- but bans were only created to be broken, IMO!)

Cerebration said...

ps - No Duh - I've had experience with Lakeside for the last 7 years and guess what -- they've NEVER had schedules ready at registration! Not with Lee, not with Chelf, not with Moton and now - not with Reed. (4 principals in 6 years -- gee could that be part of the problem?!!)

Paula Caldarella said...

The new schedules are titled called "Student Timetable" and contain the schedules for both semesters, rather than just the first semester as in the past. The schedule I received at PCMS actually had a guide on how to read the schedule and a reminder to visit the teachers and tour the school, so I guess these were modified by the schools.

It is odd that some schools had schedules and some did not.

Oh, and Shari Ariail, she's "right on". But this is not a new complaint about the privileges Kittredge receives - that complains has been going on for years and has fallen on deaf ears.

Ella Smith said...

Lakeside and some of the other schools do not provide schedules sometimes because they do not want to deal with parents and students who want their schedule changed because of teachers, etc. It is easier to say no to students on Monday than parents on registration. It is harder for some parents to get off work again. Sometimes their is a reason schedules are not given until Monday.

North Springs HS gave out schedules today. In fact I worked at the locker table and we gave out lockers based on where the student's fourth period class was. We are on a 7 period day. Fourth period is the lunch period and the period that we expect them to drop on their books from the morning and to pick up their afternoon books. It actually was a good idea.

Shayna Steinfeld said...

Kittredge is an amazing program. It gets to spend more dollars per pupil than any other program in the county because of how it is funded based on extra FTEs. KMS is unfair because students are not selected to the program based on "merit". They are selected based on a "high achiever" cut that is far below what a child needs to be in "gifted" (when it began the students needed to be gifted eligible). Initially, the theory was that the teachers at KMS would "incubate' and learn how to teach in this environment and then they would go to other schools and teach those teachers how to teach with the compacting that they use at KMS and using other methods they use at KMS to keep those children engaged. If you think that really gifted children are really easy to teach and have in the classroom -- you haven't seen a child like my middle son who would get into trouble (all the time) if it wasn't interesting enough for him when he was younger. You need certain skills as a teacher to keep kids like this engaged. And there are kids much smarter than my middle one floating around the county. Yet, KMS is done on "lottery" -- if you meet the stated percentage scores for the given year (80% or 75% depending on the year we were in the lottery -- we tried 4 times and never got a spot) -- the 2 or 3 children from each school gets a spot and then for one child one year no one went into a general pool (that year headed into litigation) and another year everyone not chosen headed into the general bin for 30 more spots (or so) -- nothing to do with who may have needed the environment the most. And, yes, most everyone who goes benefits from the environment, which is a clear argument to be made that "level 3" kids perform better when kept with 'level 3' kids in the smaller class sizes with art and music and foreign langauge and compacting and without things like Spring Board. Also, all core subjects are taught by specialists (like Middle School or High School) and the kids change classes for these subjects. And, they have work to do over the summer! Math and English. But perhaps, this model would work for Level 2 kids too. All of our kids would benefit from the KMS model brought into all schools -- but DCSS would need to respect the studies that show the high level 3 kids need to be together to move each other further along and to not shut down the level 2s and the level 1s. The studies show that level 2s can pull level 1s up (Ms. Allen has been successful with this at HMS). But if you put Level 1 general kids in with the really gifted kids, the general kids clam up. KMS gets many more dollars with which to run their program and I get the sense that many of their parents don't fully appreciate how lucky they are to have gotten their spots (and I do have some very good friends who are very appreciative of their spots and saddened that their other children did not get spots so they understand better than others). Final thought: KMS has had consistent administratin and faculty. It's hard to do greath things if the administration at a school is turned over every 2-3 years....

One Fed Up Insider said...

Ella... I hate to tell you... LHS and other schools could not give schedules today because Esis does not work... Period the end.

themommy said...

Cere (and everyone else)

The magnet programs receive extra funding from the system that has nothing to do with their population. On each school's allocation sheet, the sheet that tells each school how much staff they get to hire, there is actually a line for magnet programs.

If you go to page 66 of this document and look at the KMS sheet, you will see that they are receiving 8 extra points for simply being a magnet school.

There is ZERO state reimbursement for these positions. Last year, they had 10 of these points. So, in the midst of a major budget crisis, KMS had to sacrifice one ART teacher (they still have another) and they were suppose to lose one of their band teachers, but since no other elementary school could hire him (they don't have the points) he gets to stay at KMS because he has a contract. All this with only 450 or so students. Wadsworth is only getting 5 (plus a "loan" of 1 with the hope they will earn it)

Dunwoody and Lakeside both are actually projected to have a higher FTE count than Chamblee but has 2.5 fewer points to hire staff with. Tell me, does this make sense to anyone?

Chamblee uses many of those points to have specials like chorus? Shouldn't all high school students have similar opportunities?

Last time I asked for the information, DCSS was spending 6 million dollars of LOCAL monies on the magnet program just for instruction (not buildings, not transportation, nothing else but instruction.)

Paula Caldarella said...

The issue with the "Kttredge" model is that is expensive and benefits few. All students should have the benefit of what Kittredge offers - not just those who win a lottery or whose parents whine long and loud enough at a board member to get their child into Kittredge.

Cerebration said...

Full disclosure - my son went to Kittredge. It was wonderful - the best teachers in the entire school system, IMO. (It was the only time he actually had "hands-on" science. He never saw a microscope at Lakeside.) There really is some formula for extra "points" and funding that has to do with the fact that they serve a disproportionate percentage of gifted students. State and federal law mandates the class sizes in these cases.

Truly, I wish that instead of criticizing KMS and trying to dismantle it, the system would try more to emulate what is going on in that building in our neighborhood schools. All schools should offer art, music and language along with smaller class sizes. (An aside, there are only about 185 students at Wadsworth, so it's hard to compare.)

themommy said...

Feds have nothing to do with gifted funding formulas. This varies greatly by state. They do leverage a model that the state allows for self contained gifted classes to earn extra points. But so does PCMS but even there they don't get to keep the class sizes quite so small. DCSS allows KMS to do so.

The extra funding you are spekaing about it reflected in the point allocation shown by grade level at the top of the budget sheet.

It says LOCAL above where the magnet points are listed.

You just have to believe me -- I have it straight from the system. The magnet programs cost 6 million dollars extra a year that is strictly local dollars.

This is a fundamental problem when trying to discuss the inequity of magnet program funding in DeKalb. The parents who utilize these programs have no understanding what the costs are and where the money comes from. There is a genuine lack of grace associated with many of these parents. There is also a sense of tremendous entitlement.

As I have shown over and over again, there are very few magnet programs nationally that spend the per pupil dollars extra that DCSS spends.

KMS is not replicatable without a significant increase in revenue and decrease in spending. Even cutting the central office to its core wouldn't let every 4th through 6th grader be in a class of 18.

The most expensive program is probably DESA.

Anonymous said...

No schedule (or locker) for my daughterat Peachtree Middle. They said they would have it for her Monday morning.

themommy said...

I have (probably pretty obviously) researched this subject closely. With the cutting of transportation and the very slight reduction in the number of locally funded magnet points, the system has begun to cut what they spend. However, they did this at a time of (and probably because of) austerity. So, now students at middle schools and elementary schools that are lacking what should be regularly funded programs won't benefit from any shift in budget.

Did you know that every Fulton County elementary school has a science teacher? Totally paid for by Fulton LOCAL dollars, but an awesome addition. $6 million dollars could do this or it could put three extra math teachers in every high school. Or a foreign language teacher in every elementary school. Or three in every middle school.

These are the level of budget discussions we had not had in DeKalb and it is a shame...

Cerebration said...

I totally see your points, the mommy, I'm just saying that there are really good things going on at Kittredge that go ignored by other schools due to envy, I guess. Many of these programs could be duplicated at no extra cost. Math compacting is one. The social studies "journey to the wild west" homesteaders project is another. Science really was lab-oriented - and they used microscopes along with other equipment (all old) to perform experiments. (That's the last time I heard of one of my children using a microscope.) The music teachers are incredible and the fact that students learn to play an instrument and read music is so important. (And it can't be outrageous -- I learned that back in the '60's in Catholic school from nuns!)

You did say, "The most expensive program is probably DESA." True - and DSA is also outrageous. But the most expensive programs are the specialty programs for behavior, discipline and special ed. I read once that "Destiny Academy" (which serves about 100 at-risk high school students costs over $15,000 per student!

fedupindcss said...

Several HS teachers I spoke with today were happy to admit that they had no idea what to do with eSIS. One told me that she was telling parents to make sure that their kids save every graded piece of paper, and note all other grades in their agenda, because the teachers were going to have to transfer all the info from their gradebooks when they can get on in Sept/Oct, and something will be missed. Good advice.

Another person on staff told me that the API was sequestered with the dept. chairs, because the AP had misunderstood the new system and none of the students were properly entered in classes by ability (all band, english, math, etc. were assigned randomly, not by gifted, general, etc.). Her take was that although eSIS has good advance press, it has no failsafes in it like the older system. One mistake and boom, all hell breaks loose.

That said, they hope to have schedules by Monday, but if not I am sure the kids would be glad to stay home.

Anonymous said...

I had one child at Kittredge for one year who got in at 6th grade after not being selected in the lottery for the previous two years. We spent 5 years in a non-magnet elementary school that is considered to be one of the best.
So we had a lot to compare.

I agree with Cerebration that Kittredge was an incredible experience-even for just one year. But this is why:

1) The teachers are very, very dedicated. They could easily teach a class of 25 or 30. I don't think the smaller class size made any difference. If there was a field trip or a concert every 6th grade teacher went on the trip and showed up to help. Not just a couple teachers. I think this is required at KMS and never happened in our prior school. Everything was turned into a learning experience-even field day.

2) Science was all hands on unlike 5th grade at prior elementary school or even 7th and 8th in magnet at CMS. Equipment was old or nonexistent, but Kittredge classes did great experiments with donations from families or by simply using common stuff like cotton balls or empty soda cans.

3) Building was old, leaky, dumpy and doesn't even have a lunch program, but no one cared.

4) Parents, parents, parents. KMS administration really scares parents into active participation. If your child is at KMS, then you have to work to get there (no transportation). Parents were expected to buy supplemental vocabulary books. Math teachers showed us good, free websites to fill in the gaps left by the new GPS math. Parents really participate and help make many of the programs work. At prior elementary, parents were expected to organize parties and teacher appreciation day, not run a math classroom on pi day. It takes extra work for parents and I think they expect their children to do well and behave. No one wants to get kicked out of KMS.

5) Most of all- and I know this is not PC- the grouping of high achieving children really has a positive effect. Teachers will tell you that differentiated teaching (mixing all abilities in one class) is very tough. KMS teachers gave zeros on neon pink sheets (very painful at first) and I do not think there was a lot of grade inflation.

And yes, we had Springboard, there was NO technology in the classrooms and my child hated German.

So, many of the factors that made KMS could be duplicated in other elementary shcools without the expenditure of funds.

themommy said...

Right and KMS could operate with far less funding. And Anon's number 5 is why.

However, grade inflation is pretty rampant there, per several of my friends and is one of the reasons why so few kids are asked to leave. I have several friends whose children rarely did their homework or did it well there -- and they were never getting anything less than a B. (Of course, this was in grades 4 and 5, when the elementary grading formula is fairly funky.)

All I am suggesting is that it is time to significantly reduce the local supplement to the magnet program. Last I checked, DESA has something like 14 specials teachers for 530ish kids. They are also Title 1 so add in at least one Title teacher as well.

The other programs you mentioned (psych ed) are highly subsidized by both the feds and the state. The state actually nearly fully funds some of the psych ed programs. (There is a huge amount of controversy about how these programs are operated.) While special ed costs local systems money, it is federally funded.

In the city of Atlanta, they have spent a ton of money reducing class size nearly across the board. I am talking less than 16 in most elementary classes. At the very popular Buckhead schools, though, because of space constraints, they haven't been able to do this.

In DeKalb, the smallest classes are at the schools with the children most likely to be successful. Is it any wonder that CoA has seen such huge gains at the elementary level and DCSS has not?

Every time I speak about this issue, the majority of the board agrees -- but they are fearful of changing these programs because the parents will scream. What a shame.

Sight Edman said...

themommy said:

"The parents who utilize these programs have no understanding what the costs are and where the money comes from. There is a genuine lack of grace associated with many of these parents. There is also a sense of tremendous entitlement."

in the context of magnet programs. Same can generally be said of public schools in general.

Paula Caldarella said...

Every time I speak about this issue, the majority of the board agrees -- but they are fearful of changing these programs because the parents will scream. What a shame.

Let them scream. The board should not be afraid to do the right thing for ALL of DCSS students for fear of a few loud and whiny parents (the majority of which would be from the Dunwoody area). Most of the parents will be most thankful that the extra $6 million spent on KMS can go to provide desperately needed programs at other schools.

Cerebration said...

Destiny Academy is not a psych-ed program (neither is the Alternative School or DeKalb Truancy School or DeKalb Transition Academy - all expensive, but no one seems to mind.

(Destiny Academy of Excellence, a DeKalb Charter School, is an at-risk youth high school program designed to meet the needs of students who are not currently succeeding in their conventional high school, attending sporadically or may be in danger of leaving school prior to graduation. Destiny Academy will provide an environment designed to meet the comprehensive needs of these at-risk students by utilizing small learning groups and interaction with a multi-disciplinary staff that is trained and committed to successfully educating each student.)

I think the main reason the Board won't dismantle Kittredge is that it is the number one school in test scores in the state. Often, when the AJC lists schools in order of performance, KMS is one of only a few or sometimes the only one on the list under DeKalb. It's good PR for the system. Same goes for Chamblee and Lakeside (which is not a magnet).

They keep pumping up the prospects of Arabia HS as a high-achieving magnet (choice), but I sure don't see people beating down the doors to get a seat there like they do for KMS, Lakeside and Chamblee.

Anonymous said...

Believe me, test scores and PR are not the reason Kittredge has not been closed.

Cerebration said...

The boost in funding to KMS is due to their service to so many "gifted" students in one setting (actually a cost savings to the system). If the system didn't spend it here, legally they still must offer gifted services to gifted students and would have to hire more teachers to float around to serve these students in their home schools. The cost would not go away - it actually could end up costing more. You can't simply not serve gifted students - they come with additional FTE funding. You have to use it for them - just like you have to use additional FTE funding for special ed students. You wouldn't expect to close a special ed facility, send all of those students back to their home schools and not incur costs.

Beyond that, it's really not about the money. I think it's about the "scarcity" mentality - the perceived elite opportunity some are given to attend Kittredge. If we expand the KMS model, rather than shut it down, we would better serve the system and the many students who qualify but don't "win" a seat at the table.

Paula Caldarella said...

But, cere, not all of the students at KMS are categorized as "gifted". A student does not have to test out at the gifted level to get into Kittredge - just what is considered a "high-achiever", which quite honestly, is not that hard to do.

Anonymous said...

This discussion hasn't yet mentioned Dekalb's hands-on science magnet program for 9th graders, which has a selection process effectively like the 4th grade magnet lottery only more so.

See for information about the Scientific Tools and Techniques program at Fernbank. STT is supposed to be for students who have demonstrated high interest and shown achievement in science, but the selection process is actually all about geographic dispersion.

Each Dekalb middle school gets to select a number of rising 9th graders based on population, which is what makes the process like the 4th grade magnet lottery. The middle school fills its quota based on its own opaque evaluation of an application that includes teacher recommendations, grades, and a response to a essay question like "Discuss the most important discovery in science. What is its impact on society?" (A strange question, in my opinion.)

At Henderson there are several times as many applicants as slots, so whether the school counselor picks your application is a question of luck. Schools at which there is less interest end up sending students who are not committed to doing the work required by the program.

Paula Caldarella said...

I've heard the same issues anonymous with the SST program. There are inherent discrepancies with any selection process for any of the magnet schools. I've heard from one parent that admission to Dekalb School of the Arts is more about test scores and less about any actual talent that students may have, though this could just be one disappointed parents reaction. However, with such an emphasis on test scores these days it would not surprise me that her complaint is valid.

As far as SST goes, though, it does get the students out of the dreaded Biology class. AT DHS, the students who go through the SST program are allowed to take AP Environmental Science 2nd semester. Quite honestly, I would like to see all 9th graders be given the option of taking an AP course, if desired.

Cerebration said...

Exactly on all points! The school system should provide high quality education opportunities to each and every student who desires or needs it. The current method of creating elite programs with a limit on the number of available seats only creates a divide among the people. It's wrong. And instead of dismantling what I see as really good educational programs, we should expand them so that every child who is interested, receives the same opportunity.

(BTW - Johnny Brown was the person who 'lowered the bar' for KMS. He decided that the most important thing to do was to go out and hand-pick 2 students from each ES - many of whom did not apply or even seem interested - or were qualified. KMS effectively had to lower the entrance scores to allow this policy. I'm not sure anyone has returned the original requirement levels.)

themommy said...


You are right, KMS does receive extra funds from the state to because of the gifted clustering model that they use. However, above and beyond that, KMS (and every other magnet program) receives teachers that are totally funded by DCSS.

This is one area where DCSS is very transparent. On the budget sheet for each school, when you see the word LOCAL it means that these "points" (which equal teachers or other staff) are totally funded by local dollars. My child's 11th grade teacher for example has a base salary that is covered, in some form, by state dollars. If a school has more staffing than the state says it earns -- then those positions are funded locally.

DSA can (and does) ask students to leave who don't perform well academically.

Imagine if every public school could do so.

My argument remains that until every school has the basics (and define them as you will) we should spend local funds with great care and thought. This isn't what is happening now.

Paula Caldarella said...

Yes, cere, it used to be that the standards were higher to get into Kittredge.

However, now it only takes a 3.0 GPA and a 75% percentile scores on the Math and Reading portion of the ITBS.

I'm sorry, but I just do not see anything "special" enough about these requirements that a require a separate school for these students.

Cerebration said...

I agree with you there, Dunwoody Mom. That standard is far too low to be considered "high achieving".

And, the mommy - DSA must think pretty highly of themselves if they actually think they can ask people to leave a program that only serves 285 students (and that's from 8th-12th grades!) - and they get $10 million for renovations for their move to Avondale. That equates to over $35,000 per student.

And - Dr. Lewis had the audacity to make Pat Pope have an architect draw up plans for a brand new performing arts magnet school to "shop around" for private help in funding... the price? $80-100 million!!

And yet - we have many schools with children in trailers, horrible bathrooms, no auditoriums at all (and no plans for one, such as at Cross Keys), little technology, no elevators for handicapped access, old books, etc.

Heck - I remember once back in 1996 or so, Mr Tippins picked up one of the old dictionaries in the media center at Oak Grove. He proceeded to look up the word, "computer" -- it wasn't in there! DCSS would not replenish our 1948 reference books - so once again, the PTA stepped in.

The inequity in this system is absurd. Arabia stands as testimony to that. How many are they planning to attend there on Monday? Anyone know?

No Duh said...

"DSA can (and does) ask students to leave who don't perform well academically."

Alarm bell, alarm bell!!! Ding, ding, ding!

At a school called the DeKalb (Elementary)School of the ARTS, shouldn't a student be asked to leave who doesn't perform well on stage, in the lighting booth, in the chorus, in the band, with a paint brush, etc.?

DSEA/DSA would kick out Meryl Streep if she were making C's. What a joke.

The giant sucking sound you hear is the money that could be going to your child's school for art and language teachers flowing into three overstaffed, over-funded schools that serve just over 1,000 DCSS students. Oh and the poor step-child, Wadsworth Elementary.

Believe me, this is not sour grapes from a parent who has lost the lottery a few times. Our children have what it takes twice over to "qualify" for the KMS and DESA. We've never been interested because we know what a sham it is to suggest that the students there are a "better quality" than the ones in their home school and we'd prefer our kids have the full experience of making friends who live close to them.

I would be thrilled if DCSS scrapped KMS completely and created a school for the truly brilliant -- you know, those kids who could be in college at 12, but need to be HIGHLY stimulated intellectually while they grow up some. Believe me, that's a school my highly motivated, creative, gifted children would not qualify for.

Square Peg said...

It would be nice to have an auditorium and no trailers, but that's not the most important thing. Chamblee High has trailers and no auditorium, but one of their strengths is that they generally encourage their students to achieve as much as possible. It would be nice to have money to spend, but first let's create a culture at the "home" schools of removing artificial barriers that keep capable and interested students from taking high level courses and participating in other challenging activities. I am getting really frustrated after years of trying to work around can'ts and won'ts and don'ts.

Ella Smith said...

I did go to Lakeside this morning and get my son's schedule to make sure his classes are correct.

It does appear that there are problems though the county with the new computer program and printing of schedules. I did get my son's schedule this morning to make sure it was correct but the program is very frustrating to the workers apparently in the system due to apparent lack of training.

Apparently very little training was provided and they are shouting in the dark and learning how to use the program on their own.

I also agree that too much money is spent on magnet programs and much of this money instead should be spent on our community schools. We have spread ourselves too thin in Dekalb County and it is hurting our community schools.

Cerebration said...

Tell teachers not to despair! DeKalb Schools (according to my board meeting notes) has set up a Hotline for tech support on eSYS --

Share it -- Call it!


Paula Caldarella said...

No need for the schools to try and figure the system out on their own. As cere has said, there is a hotline for the schools to call and according to Tony Hunter that hotline will be manned all weekend as well.

Anonymous said...

WOW - Hats off to Shari for speaking up; Agreed, Agreed, Agreed, How in the world do we continue to rationalize these expenses???? How in the world do we continue to accept 75% as a high achiever????? How in the world do you get DCSS to listen and get it?

Ella Smith said...

Shayna is correct and the money spent on the magnet programs in the county is draining our local schools of needed resources in this time of need. I am not for sure how we can justify the continuous of such spending. It is true that the county does get more money. They also get more money for special needs students but they do not get enough money to begin to cover the expense of either of these programs or any of the other special programs. Now in saying this I am not saying we do not need special programs because we do. But we need these programs within our community schools whenever possible to reduce expenses of transportation and to provide more funds to the community schools.

fedupindcss said...

Spoke with a DSA parent today, said that registration over there at new Avondale location was not great. Did get their schedule, but they think the kids may have to wear "protective gear" in the hallways while they finish the construction. She meant hardhats. That is weird.

Cerebration said...

Well, there's a guy from Avondale, I believe a teacher, who has been speaking up at the last 2 board meetings that the football team has had to "dress out" outside -- and their workout facility has been moved to a trailer to accommodate the DSA renovations. I'm under the impression that there are no plans for renovations to the rest of the school for the rest of the Avondale students.

Plus -- I mean, I hope those kids got schedules -- there's only 285 or so of them -- seems the AP could work it out by hand if need be. BTW - how many teachers and staff members do they employ to educate the 285 students (from 8th-12th grades) at DSA? (In addition to the $10 million spent on special renovations for them.)

Kim Gokce said...

"... according to Tony Hunter that hotline will be manned all weekend as well."

I was at The Keys (yes, we are the coolest HS) during open house Wed and picked up a copy of a memo on eSIS Support dated July 27. It states that the hotline will be Mon-Fri 7:30am - 5:30pm and it will be disconnected at 5:00pm on August 14.

For those without the alpha keys on your phones (mobile perhaps), the number is 678-676-3747.

Cerebration said...

Oh - so then it's eSIS -- not eSYS -- confusing! Thanks for the number, Kim. And yes, since I've been meeting so many staff members at Cross Keys I can't tell you how impressed I am with the teachers there. They are so upbeat and happy!!

Kim Gokce said...

Yes, it's eSIS (Electronic Student Information System). With apologies to Elvis, "Little sister, dont you
Do what your big sister done ..."

Here's hoping eSIS provides years of productive service after the dust settles.

I will refrain from turning this into another Cross Keys thread - yes, the faculty is great. Skeptical, but great! :)

Cerebration said...

BTW -- Congratulations, Kim -- on a very successful book drive benefiting the classroom teachers at Cross Keys -- over 100 books were donated and a celebration coffee at the Library Coffee House hosted dozens of people - including many from the community -- even Jeff Rader and Mike Jacobs!!

Great going!!!

Paula Caldarella said...

Congrats Kim!!! I am ecstatic to see that Jeff Radar and Mike Jacobs attended - good for them to show support for CKHS.

I'm sorry I was not able to make the coffee - I was unable to get away from work as I had hoped.

Anonymous said...

Been at LHS for one hour. Not enough seats, no air, and Dr. Lewis waiting to make his grand entrance. What a joke. Let me do my job. Will keep you updated

Cerebration said...

I actually think this is his worst idea ever. He should have used technology and the CH 24 crew. He could have recorded a really sincere message and posted it on YouTube for teachers to view at their leisure. It would take 10 minutes of each teacher's time --- and no gas or bus drivers. Forcing teachers to put their work aside during the last days they have to prepare for class and expecting them to devote what will amount to at least 2-3 hours to attend his speech will backfire - badly.

Anonymous said...

Dunwoody Mom wrote:

"The parents who utilize these programs have no understanding what the costs are and where the money comes from. There is a genuine lack of grace associated with many of these parents. There is also a sense of tremendous entitlement."

Wow, thanks for painting everyone with such a broad brush. That is an incredible misstatement.

Anonymous said...

The number of issues with schedules cannot be understated. MANY students' schedules at DHS and PCMS are incorrect or blank. Parents are told they'll be fixed by Monday. But the counseling staff at PCMS is entering fixes, only to have the fixes immediately disappear. As one staffer said, whoever rolled out this new software should be FIRED. It's been a debacle.

Cerebration said...

Oh boy, this hasn't been the best day. Between the frustrations of the new computer system and the teachers having to stop working and attend Lewis' pep rally, it may as well be a day scratched off the calendar.

At least it's Friday!! Enjoy the weekend everyone - come to school Monday prepared to let it all roll off your shoulders. It will all work out eventually...

Paula Caldarella said...

@anonymous 12:06 - Dunwoody Mom did not make the statement you are attributing to me, but Dunwoody Mom agrees with the statement.

One Fed Up Insider said...

I just loved how Clew stated today "that we are not going to teach to the test". Then the next thing he said was that we need to raise test scores.

The sad thing about today is that the camera crew was there taping the event.... If they did this for one school then there is no reason why he could not have cut a DVD and sent it to all schools. We would not have had to waste time.

He could not put it on YouTube since the county has blocked YouTube and we can not use it at school. Even though there are several things on there that we could supplement our teaching at the school level.

Cerebration said...

Ok then - but this is the 21st century -- he could have posted it on the homepage or even sent it out in an email - these technologies exist!

I drove by Lakeside today after his dog and pony show and saw hundreds of teachers - many walking down the sidewalk back to Oak Grove, etc... many getting on buses -- lots and lots of buses (with lots and lots of paid drivers and tanks full of gas) -- as well as security officers out directing traffic. It was over the top. I think we deserve and accounting of how much this nonsense cost us taxpayers.

fedupindcss said...

Anon 12:28--
This is what I was told by a counselor, that although the program is new and perhaps better on several levels, it has no failsafes like the old program. Thus, when something goes wrong it really goes wrong, and stuff just disappears.

Also heard that Lakeside was having issues with how to group the 9th grade math students. Not sure what the issue is, but working on details. Anyone heard anything?

Anonymous said...

@anon 12:06 Did you happen to get to attend the meetings last year about transportation elimination for magnet schools? Do you really, I mean really, think that the majority of parents at magnet schools have any idea of how much DCSS monies go for their precious schools that deliver services for so few? I don't and I don't think that most people would...... Sorry, another one on the side of D mom.

Julie said...

Shayna Steinfe said... "but DCSS would need to respect the studies that show the high level 3 kids need to be together to move each other further along and to not shut down the level 2s and the level 1s. The studies show that level 2s can pull level 1s up (Ms. Allen has been successful with this at HMS). But if you put Level 1 general kids in with the really gifted kids, the general kids clam up.

How about the hege benefit of Level 3's pulling up Level 2's. It seems that across the board the kids that get the shaft are very bright (real high achiever) children who are very capable and eager to perform at the "gifted" level but their cirriculum is dumbed down for the 1's or to differeniate them from the coveted gifted program. They get fewer rsources all around, both time and money.

Cerebration said...

That's the point of Jay Mathews, creator of Newsweek's "Challenge List"... All students should be encouraged to take at least one or two AP courses to prepare themselves for college-level work.

I would imagine that theory rings true in ES too. There are methods being employed in "Discovery" that should be used across the board. In my hometown, they mix students across grade levels. One 4th grade nephew does art with the 6th graders, one is pulled for a full day each week to do "special projects" for the gifted (which he really is). They built a racing go-cart from scratch and raced it, built and launched rockets, etc. They try to challenge each student in their area of strength.

I'm disappointed in what has become of Kittredge. If in fact it's true that you only need to be in the 75th percentile to apply, then the program isn't serving it's purpose. Since there are more who fit that category, ballooning applications, then surely, there must be many students who truly test in the "gifted" range (90th+ percentile, etc.) who are being turned away. They have to hope to be challenged in a classroom of mixed abilities. That's tough for teachers.

It sounds egotistical to say that gifted kids need special services, but ask any teacher who has taught a group of them -- they will wear you out. They really do need special services in order to stay engaged in ES. Once they get to middle and high school, classes start to divide by difficulty - General, Advanced, Impact, Gifted, AP, IB, etc...

Cerebration said...

The transportation statement perked up my ears -- are we still doing the "hub" buses? I thought that was a band-aid on the way to "No" transportation to magnet programs. We sure could save a whole lotta money in transportation...

I thought of this when I saw probably 40 buses at Lakeside yesterday - having brought teachers in for Dr. Lewis' speech. That is the most congested corner in the morning -- except, I'll bet Womack Road will be wild with the new Dunwoody ES, Dunwoody HS, two other ES's a private school and Perimeter College!

Anonymous said...

There are truly many incredible scholars in the magnet program. See article excerpted below:

"At the 2009 International Chemistry Olympiad, the U.S. team performed brilliantly by winning
one gold and three silver medals. The medals signify that the teams’ scores ranged in the top
10%-20% of participants; and this year was the first time that the U.S obtained a gold medal
since 2002. At the center of this success was DeKalb County School System’s own Brian
Seifried who placed 37th in the world by excelling in theoretical and practical exams, earning
him a silver medal!
Chamblee Charter High School’s Brian Seifried was among four high school students who
earned spots on the U.S. team that competed in the 41st International Chemistry Olympiad in
Cambridge, England, held on July 18–27."

Kudos to Brian! What an awesome accomplishment.

Anonymous said...

And there are truly incredible scholars not in magnet programs.

Anonymous said...

In case you missed this one:

Teacher alleges DeKalb denied services, facilities to disabled students
August 7, 2009 --
DeKalb County denied disabled students access to school facilities and services and then fired a teacher who complained about it, the teacher claims in a lawsuit filed this week in federal court.

Social studies teacher Gordon Rolle taught at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Lithonia. He was fired in March 2009, he says, because he spoke out about discriminatory practices, including:

– “failure to provide textbooks, teaching assistants, technology, IEP and CEP updates,
testing for conditions such as autism, and other educational

– “repeated imposition of disciplinary action against disabled students without consideration
of and due to the students’ disabilities.”

– “limiting disabled students’ access to restrooms and other school facilities as well as
limiting their access to materials and services that were available to non-disabled students, such as denying disabled students access
to the school’s media center.”

– “refusing to
permit disabled students to attend (a) seminars and workshops
designed to improve academic performance, achievement of goals,
morale, and social skills, and (b) field trips and pep rallies, all
of which were made available to students without disabilities.”

– “denying disabled students access to counseling and other student
support services that were made available to students without

– “making material misrepresentations concerning the status,
condition and progress of disabled students to the students’
parents and guardians.”

Anonymous said...

There are outstanding scholars at many schools and to insinuate that a magnet school is necessary for this to happen is just a continuation of the myth about magnets in DeKalb. Much of these type of things rely on parental and teacher motivation. Brian lives in Dunwoody not some underserved part of DeKalb County.

Dunwoody had several science award winners this year at the national level.

Cerebration said...

Wow - that is an incredible lawsuit. If it's true, then DCSS is in big trouble, because special education students come to the school with big bucks attached (as much as twice the FTE credits as a general ed student). If the school was not using all of that funding for the students the funding was attached to, then they are in big deal trouble. This is state and federal money.

This is a lawsuit to watch. It's imperative that parents can trust the school system with their special education student.

Dekalbparent said...

Have to agree with Anonymous 7:56.

I cannot credit the DCSS magnet program with Brian's accomplishments - he would have excelled even if he had not attended the magnet program. He is that kind of student. He deserves all the praise he has received, and I know he worked very hard for his place on the team.

Another student in the magnet program received a full scholarship to Harvard (in 2006) based in part on work on brain cancer research at Emory. This research was spurred by a personal interest in the subject, and I know this student would have found a way to do the research regardless of the high school attended.

These students are special. They are driven by an interest in the subject, by personal need to compete, or any number of things. They are supported by family members, their community and the people who mentor them in their work.

Are the magnet schools responsible for their achievements, or are the magnet schools where sponsors and mentors LOOK for these students, ignoring capable students at non-magnet schools? I think it's the latter.

I would like to see the opportunities available to bright ambitious kids all over DeKalb. Set up a pipeline to teachers so they can guide promising kids to these chances to excel. If the magnet school teachers can let kids know about these opportunities, why can't other teachers be made aware of them??

Shayna Steinfeld said...

FYI: The "reduction in standards" done for KMS under Dr. Brown was for the class of kids going into 9th grade at Chamblee -- so the awards mentioned would have been in a class before that happened. Also, there are plenty of gifted kids winning awards at other HS such that I do agree wholeheartedly with the comments being made here - I think Lakeside has sent more teams to Washington DC for the "We the People" National competition than Chamblee has over the past few years -- with much less funding to do so because there is not extra "magnet" credit given to the high school and the school has really been in turmoil over the past 6 years (LHS is on its 4th principal in 6 years). Finally, all 3 of my boys qualify as "gifted" in DCSS, all on acadmics -- but they range from the low 90th percentiles to the high 99th percentile and none of them are such geniuses that I think they will be doing college-level brain research in high school. Those are the kids who, I believe we should be providing a "public elite" school based on merit alone -- the "rocket scientists" ready for college in high school academically but not socially. And to the earlier comment about the high level 2s needing to be with the level 3s to be "pushed" I'd like to point out that my "low level 3" has commented over the past few years (while he was in gifted and AP classes at LHS) that he "felt stupid"; that "grades didn't matter" and he made other comments along those lines -- he runs As and Bs for the most part and is a good student but being surrounded by those really gifted "high level 3s" wasn't necessarily so good for him -- he is now in a new environment around kids more at his level and in all Honors classes (with 2 AP classes as a Senior this coming year) and his confidence is back and he's stopped making thise comments ... so it's not necessarily so good to have the kids at the bottom of the pecking order always in with kids smarter than they are -- sometimes, I've come to learn, it's good for them to be at the top of their class (although I always insisted on him being there). They should not, I agree, be in situations where everything is "dumbed down..." There is a balance to be walked and I have only, since being in DCSS since 1996 with 3 kids, experienced 2 or 3 teachers (mostly who came from the Bristish school system) who can differentiate teaching in the same classroom really well and the best one was a kindergarten (now first grade) teacher.

Cerebration said...

I don't know if I fully agree with you, anonymous. I think it's difficult for parents of gifted children to advocate for them as it's seen as snobbery. But truly, if these children's needs are not met in the classroom, the result is disastrous. They need high levels of stimulation and most teachers are incapable of delivering it - especially if they are grouped in with multi-levels.

While it's true that there are highly successful kids in just about every high school, there is still a certain group who really are beyond what we all think of as "smart". Chamblee could even serve them better. Chamblee would be better off as a small learning environment full of students who think it's fun to memorize "A Midsummer Night's Dream" or build robots and work out physics theories in their free time. I actually know a student like this personally (not a child of mine) who was bored all through high school and became a recluse. (She even attended Chamblee.) Now she attends Georgia Tech, majoring in physics and for the first time feels like she fits in somewhere. (She actually told me this.)

I think the problem is that our magnet programs have been watered down to serve all "smart" kids - rather than those who are truly gifted. If we only offered this program to the top 2% of all of our 28,000 high school students, we would have 560 students in the program. Most regular high schools can handle AP and advanced courses for the very smart kids who attend.

There's a big difference - and the "gifted" should be nurtured -- as they are in so many school districts in this country. It could mean the difference in a new mode of transportation or cure for cancer for us all.

Julie said...

The problem with our gifted program is it is not objectively measured, and is really gifted and high achievers, making. It is true that the few truly gifted students need something different and need to be together. But that is not 10-20 perecent of Dekalb students. My experience is this then waters down the high acheivers for the children that are left behind by the so called gifted program.

Anonymous said...

The problem with our gifted program is it is not objectively measured,

Actually, the criteria for "gifted" eligibility is spelled out by the State of Georgia

Cerebration said...

True! To read all about it you can visit this link at

Option 1, the Psychometric Approach:

The student may qualify on the basis of mental ability and achievement assessment results only (regardless of the assessment results in creativity and motivation). In this case the mental ability test score must be a composite or full-scale score. The composite score must be at the 99th percentile for students in grades K-2. The composite score may be at the 96th percentile or higher for students in grades 3-12. In addition, students (grades K-12) must meet at least one of the achievement standards described in the SBOE Rule 160-4-2-.38: 90th percentile Total Reading, 90th percentile Total Math, 90th percentile total achievement test battery, or superior product/performance assessment. No student may qualify on the basis of a mental ability test score alone.

Option 2, the Multiple-Criteria Approach:

The student may qualify by meeting the standards in any three of the four data categories, at least one of which must be on a nationally-normed standardized test. Component scores (e.g., Nonverbal Ability), as well as full scale scores, may be used in the area of mental ability. However, component scores must meet the criteria specified in the Gifted Education Regulations (Pages 7-13).

We believe that these abilities (mental ability, achievement, creativity, and motivation) may be demonstrated in a variety of ways, thus there are assessment options in each of the data categories. We are also committed to the belief that gifted students may be found within any race, ethnicity, gender, economic class, or nationality.

fedupindcss said...

I love the way DCSS puts up these PR releases when kids win something. As you pointed out, Brian or Lev (Harvard brain researcher) are going to succeed no matter where they were. While they may have had the occasional inspiring instructor, they most likely sought that out outside the DCSS classroom. Even the Lakeside We the People team is self selected and taught--their instructor, while a nice man, is not responsible for their ability or motivation.

What would impress me would be a teacher who took a group of kids who were on the edge of the abyss, then turned them on to learning in such a way that they didn't drop out, went on to college, and had a nice, ordinary life. Given the stats in DCSS, that seems to be out of their reach an astonishing amount of the time.

Paula Caldarella said...

Since I am a packrat, I still have my child's eligibility report for Gifted status.

The COGAT was used to determine Mental Ability (96% required in at least one subject area). Achievement was determined by the ITBS (90% minimum). The Renzulli test as used for creativity (minimum 90%) and GPA (minimum 3.5) was used for the Motivation aspect.

In order to remain in the gifted program a student must maintain a "B" average in the gifted classes.

Anonymous said...

For those with children at Lakeside that have not been by the school since registration, the student's homeroom assignments are posted on the front doors.

Cerebration said...

"What would impress me would be a teacher who took a group of kids who were on the edge of the abyss, then turned them on to learning in such a way that they didn't drop out, went on to college, and had a nice, ordinary life."

I kid you not -- this is what is going on at Cross Keys!

Dekalbparent said...

The criteria for "Gifted" is clearly spelled out. However, a student does not have to qualify as "Gifted" to go to one of the High Achiever Magnets, and THIS is the reason for the controversy.

A lot of the kids benefiting from the extra $$ and enriched instruction are no different from a bunch of the kids in the schools they left behind - except they are luckier.

Anonymous said...

Exactly, Dekalbparent, and the reason why I would love to see these Magnet schools closed or at least be an alternative for the truly "gifted".

Cerebration said...

Yes, that's what I was trying to say. Well said, dekalbparent.

Dekalbparent said...

As models for schools for the highly gifted, we have our own Advanced Academy of Georgia, the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, the South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics, the Early College at Guilford, Greensboro College Middle College.

It's not like it's never been done.

Cerebration said...

Good examples. It's not even that it needs to be for "highly" gifted - just sticking to a program that requires a real "gifted" label following state guidelines would be great.

Cerebration said...

Enrollment projections are available at the planning dept website -- Download the files if you're interested -

I'll recap for

Arabia - (Capacity - 1600+) projects 1169 (9th-11th)
Avondale (Cap 1155) projects 604 plus DSA's 289 totaling 893.
Cedar Grove (Cap 1323) projects 1162
Chamblee HS (Cap 1260) projects 1205 (including 571 magnet)
Clarkston (Cap 1260) projects 892
Columbia (Cap 1365) projects 1242
Cross Keys (Cap 1239) projects 726
Druid Hills HS (Cap 1218) projects 1391
Dunwoody HS (Cap 1386) projects 1597
Lakeside HS (Cap 1386) projects 1654
Lithonia HS (Cap 1407) projects 1368
MLK (Cap 1407) projects 1718
McNair (Cap 1701) projects 1010
Miller Grove (Cap 1764) projects 1488
Open Campus (Cap unsure - new facility) projects 769
Redan (Cap 1197) projects 1377
SW DeKalb (Cap 1365) projects 1611 (includes 344 in the magnet program)
Stephenson HS (Cap 2058) projects 1554
Stone Mt HS (Cap 1197) projects 1304
Towers HS (Cap 1365+ new addition holds more) projects 872
Tucker HS (Cap was 1365 but new school holds more) projects 1158


These are projected numbers only. An official count will be done soon and again in October. We'll report the actual enrollment numbers then for comparison.

Cerebration said...

For those interested in the official magnet program head count - here's what I compiled from the reports

Clifton ES has 163 students in their magnet program.
(Snapfinger magnet students merged with Clifton magnet students this year.)
Evansdale ES has 195 in their magnet program.
DeKalb ES of the Arts has 546 students - stand-alone program.
Kittredge Magnet has 413 students - stand-alone.
Wadsworth Magnet has 181 students - stand-alone.

Arabia HS has 1169 students, but it's unclear how many are there as magnet/choice students. It's listed as a stand-alone school, so we will assume that they are all magnet/choice students.

Champion Theme stand-alone MS has 713 students.

DSA has 289 students in their stand-alone magnet.

Chamblee HS has 571 magnet students in magnet program.
Chamblee MS has 308 magnet students.
Chapel Hill MS has 124 magnet students.
Columbia HS has 312 magnet students.
Columbia MS has 241 magnet students.
Henderson MS has 45 magnet students.
SW DeKalb has 334 magnet students.


Again, these are July projections. We will report actual enrollment as the data is released.

Cerebration said...

And as for low enrollment ES's - these schools have under 400 students projected:

Briar Vista (398)
Flat Shoals (385)
Gresham Park (370)
Kelley Lake (402) - close enough to list
Knollwood (281)
Livsey (367)
Bob Mathis (348)
Meadowview (296)
Medlock (311)
Midvale (395)
Peachcrest (361)
Sky Haven (309)
Wadsworth (181)

Paula Caldarella said...

There are several schools seriously under-populated. And if not for the magnet program Chamblee High School would be right up there.

There is obviously room for closures and redistricting here. I'll be interested to see the plan when it is presented.

Cerebration said...

"Miller Grove (Cap 1764) projects 1488"

This is one to watch. Miller Grove is still listed on the Capital Improvement list (SPLOST $) for a major addition costing over $6 million. Doesn't look like they need it to me.

Instead, that money should be directed toward renovating crumbling buildings that house students (not office, maintenance, etc as been happening).

Or toward additions for schools with chronic over-crowding - such as Lakeside (which has been told they will get classroom additions), Dunwoody, Druid Hills, Redan and Stone MT.

MLK has been on the list for classroom additions for quite a while. Have they started anything there?

And some of Lakeside's over-crowding could be relieved by the new Tucker HS, which has not published its new capacity number - but only has 1158 students (500 less than Lakeside).

No Duh said...

I seriously doubt that magnet population for Evansdale. There are only 6 classrooms of magnet students (one in each grade) with an average of 21 students in each class. That's just 126.

Evansdale has a state-sponsored Pre-K program, but that is not part of the magnet program.

Perhaps the numbers you quoted were old and included a sixth grade class -- and, maybe the Pre-K. But, EES would never have nearly 200 magnet students. Due, to strict class size requirements and number of grades taught it would be mathematically impossible.

Cerebration said...

I would suggest that you follow these numbers carefully, No Duh. As it stands now, the projections (dated July 23, 2009) state that Evansdale has 252 regular students, 195 magnet students and 15 Special Ed students for a total of 462. If that number is much lower, Evansdale will fall into that "under 400" category and be evaluated for merger.

To download the latest projections from the DCSS planning department (where my numbers came from)
go to this link --

Again, these are just projections. The actual enrollment numbers will be reported in a couple of weeks and yet again in October. The October number is most reliable. We'll report the numbers for comparison as they are released.

Kim Gokce said...

@Cerebration: "Congratulations, Kim -- on a very successful book drive at Library Coffee hosted dozens of people - including many from the community -- even Jeff Rader and Mike Jacobs!!"

Somehow I missed this earlier comment - the drive was amazing and the support came from as far away as Texas. It was a very, very successful event and one of the best days I've had in years. The interest of our public officials is encouraging, too.

Rep. Jacobs asked for a tour of the school and I'll be walking him around with our principal during a school day soon. Comm. Rader has already walked the property with me and is greatly interested in the future of the school.

Some members of this blog contributed books and I want to let them know that the faculty members were as giddy as kids for the attention that is so rare for them! I will be publishing a formal thank you to the community this week and will name names from the packing slips! :)

themommy said...

Please don't put to much stock in these projections. For example, there is an elementary school that has multiple Pre-K classes but the projections only show 1.

No Duh is right on about the Evansdale numbers--

Cerebration said...

It will be interesting to do the comparisons in September and October. Projections are difficult to do given the transiency of today's families.

Anonymous said...

Chamblee HS had 1508 students at end of last year. I was told that the enrollment would be close to the same for fall '09. So I don't see how DCSS could project 1205. This must not include charter and NCLB transfers.

Anonymous said...


What does the FTSE column mean on the planning dept list?

Cerebration said...

Full time special education. They get more FTE credits than regular students (so do gifted).

Cerebration said...

You know, with all of the late registrations, NCLB and Admin transfers, etc... you have to wonder why they would bother to make projections in July.

Like I said, nothing is reliable until the October numbers.

No Duh said...

"I would suggest that you follow these numbers carefully, No Duh."


Either my skin is getting thin, or that was a tad bitchy, Cere. I wasn't trying to correct you, I questioned the numbers, not you personally.

No Duh said...

And, at least half of all the magnet seats are filled with in district children.

Last year's enrollment hovered around 480. If magnet left only about 60 kids would leave. Then, there would be 420. Still above the cut-off (and the neighborhood continues to regentrify as older neighbors leave). One of the neighborhood pools enrolled 25 new members over the summer -- virtually all of whom have young children.

Didn't someone post earlier about a 500-student capacity cut-off. Where did that number come from?

Cerebration said...

Well, luckily, I do not have thin skin, so your comment didn't bother me, No Duh -- but I must clarify. It's actually too bad that so much of our conversation is written, as the reader tends to read voice infliction and tone that often isn't meant. On top of that, I tend to be very direct and that puts people off sometimes. I apologize - I'll try to choose my words more carefully.

The reason I mentioned that you should be following these numbers (projections or otherwise) is that Dr Lewis has more than inferred that he will be surprising people with his soon-to-be-announced redistricting plans. As one teacher posted here, he mentioned the 500 number (and that number could have been misheard or misspoken) at his Friday speeches to the teachers. He stated that we simply can't afford to maintain these small schools and that some consolidating and redistricting will definitely occur.

I can see from the numbers that Evansdale is already below 500 but if your projections for fewer magnet students are correct, Evansdale may even fall under 400. That's the danger zone.

So - rather than intending to be bitchy - I really was intending to warn you to pay attention to enrollment numbers and fight for your school.

Forewarned is forearmed as they say!

No Duh said...

Ahh, yes, I hear your voice now.


Cerebration said...

no worries -- I'm on your side, No Duh... just know that.