Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dr. Lewis at DCPC

I attended Dunwoody Chamblee Parents Council's meeting today at Dunwoody High School and here are my rough notes for those who did not attend. Others that may have attended should post items of note I missed in the comments.

Dr. Lewis changed the format of his presentation this time around and addressed specific questions that had been provide in advance. Here is a bullet point recap:

1. Workweek/Calendar: DCSS is keeping a 180 calendar but has prepared a list of non-school days that could be added to the schedule if some mandate comes externally. The example he gave was the Monday and Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving. DCSS wants to be prepared to act if mandated but has no intention of modifying the calendar at this point.

2. eSIS - The launch has been tough all around but the pain will be worth it in Dr. Lewis' eyes. He indicated that any major legacy system replacement is going to be painful and this one is no different. He did say that the training could have been better managed and timed.

3. Parent Portal - The plan has always been to hold back Portal launch until the teachers and system have mastered eSIS and have the data right. The plan is still to release the new Parent Portal in October.

4. Transportation Effiiciency - DCSS is projecting $4 million in savings for 2010.

5. Textbooks - looking at CD/DVD option but there are challenges to work out.

6. Arts/Music instruction - points available to principals will be more tightly managed and when a school leader has to choose between a math or science teacher and an art or music teacher, they're most often going to choose math or science.

7. Budget Cuts Status - hiring freeze is still in place and attrition has lead to 50 positions eliminated saving $3.3 million.

8. Comprehensive Restructuring Plan - DCSS is looking for up to $26 million in total savings by June 2010.

9. AYP - general success in improving ES and MS level, not so much in HS. McNair MS made AYP for the first time ever.

10. Principal apppointments - Dr. Lewis has been and intends to request the BoE support his efforts to select principals for schools. He feels he is best suited to identify the talent for the jobs.

11. eCommunity web site - He was very excited to announce a new web resource coming up by the end of September. He was very effusive about the amount of parent resources that would be available via this site.

12. Block Schedule - DCSS will make recommendations in November to BoE and plans to offer flexibility to schools.

13. School closings/Re-Districting - DCSS will make recommendations to the BoE in January for implementation by Aug 2010 that according to Pat Pope will, "... hit every areaa of the County ..."

14. Pat Pope hired a Planning Director to oversee the planning process for the system (wow! this could be really good news!)

That's all I have for now - please add your own commentary!

138 comments:

Dunwoody Mom said...

Well, since I've down a complete 360 on my block schedule outlook, I look forward to hearing more about the "flexibility".

Dunwoody Mom said...

Also, interesting comment that "all areas of the county" will be affected with regards to closings/redistricting. I thought in the final DCPC Meeting last May, Dr. Lewis indicated the Dunwoody schools would not be involved.

Anonymous said...

Kim or anyone who was there: what was the question or comment about textbooks? There are several high schools without sufficient AP World History textbooks and one school that doesn't even have an AP World History teacher for several course sections.

Also, it seems that the item on Pat Pope hiring a Planning Director contradicts the hiring freeze.

Anonymous said...

DunwoodyMom....as the mother of an 8th grader at PCMS (whose first inclination is to dislike the block) what do you think about it? And, do you think it will be gone next year?

Cerebration said...

Great report Kim - thanks!

I love that we now have a planning person!!!

I was impressed with the fact that Dr Lewis seemed so much more focused, driven and hard-hitting than ever. Lewis, Pope and Moseley functioned more as a team than ever before. They all agree that the last round of school closings and redistricting did not go far enough. I couldn't agree more. Moseley emphasized that they intend to close - not repurpose - many school buildings.

As Pat Pope pointed out, our ratio of students to seats in part, produces our entitlement funding from the state. We currently have 100,000 students, and 140,000 seats. (Not good.) As a result, last year, DeKalb got $0 for construction/capital projects from the state while Gwinnett got $20 million! To their huge credit, Pope and State Rep Fran Millar were later able to secure $19 million for DeKalb. But our numbers have to look much better in the future in order for the state to continue to send us that enrichment money. We've discussed and made many suggestions regarding closing or redistricting here at the blog - be sure to share your thoughts on that with Lewis, Pope and your board rep. And keep an open mind when a closing or redistricting comes your way. This is going to be "painful" -- that's a quote.

As far as the block scheduling goes - this is an issue I think we can do a whole lot better on - and doing so can save the system a bunch of money. There is no need to offer students 32 credits over 4 years of high school when they only need 24 to graduate. Some kind of modified block or a hybrid of some kind as Arabia has would be best. Some classes, like art, music, technology and science could use a longer instructional period - but some need daily instruction across the entire year. The 7 period day is not the best solution either - it's very tough to handle that heavy of a load, even for high-achievers.

I totally agree with Dr Lewis that he should choose principals. He is correct when he says that when the community gets involved, it can become a popularity contest. Also - he made a very valid point that if he is to be judged on how schools perform (which has a lot to do with who is leading the schools) then, it is unfair to tie his hands and allow others to choose those principals. He said, "If I fail at fixing schools my way, then so be it. " To which I say, 'hear, hear!'. I completely agree with him.

Beyond that, on the subject of principals, he stated that he chooses better principals (which can be confirmed by the test data improvements at schools where he has placed the principal) and that he trusts his principals. Again - I agree! Principals need to have a huge amount of trust and autonomy and should trust in the fact that their decisions will be supported and their leadership valued. This is exactly the same way teachers should feel about their principals. We need to rid the system of the fear and mistrust and work as professionals, capable of doing the job. Dr Lewis went further to say that he trusts principals to rid their schools of ineffective teachers as well.

Overall, I found Dr Lewis to have a new attitude of tough thinking, support of staff, budget-minded decisions, and school improvements at the neighborhood level. He wants people to only use magnets and transfers to access a special need - not because they don't think their neighborhood school is good.

I like the tough talk - a lot! I can't wait to see these initiatives rollout. I think that Dr Lewis has the support of the entire board in making these tough decisions and that has empowered him. In addition, our legislators like Fran Millar are working hard to improve our school system.

Great job everyone -- stay focused and don't let the squeaky wheels get you off track!

(To read more about the GA entitlement earnings go here

Dunwoody Mom said...

Anonymous, that's hard to say. I know that with the exception of the Science teachers, the teachers at DHS are not in favor of the block schedule. Most of the parents I speak with are not either. I think doing away with the block at DHS would be well received (well, not the students :) - but just an observation on my part.

My child is taking AP World History this year and it is being "team taught" (for lack of a better word) with the Literature class and both end up being full year courses. I'm not sure if this is a move toward a modified block or an experiment. I was unable to make the DHS Open House on Monday to do some digging on this.

Cerebration said...

The textbook question was about using technology over books - as in books on CD or online. Dr Lewis stated that keeping track of the textbooks is a big issue. But the CDs are actually more expensive...

Also- they did say the Dunwoody cluster would not be nearly as impacted as South DeKalb for closing and redistricting. Of course, I'm sure they may jostle some attendance lines, but the cluster schools are pretty darn full. Hopefully, they will figure out what to do with the old Shallowford ES - and its fairly new multi-purpose gym... Could make a really great park or community center - Same for the Heritage school over by Lakeside. It all would still belong to the taxpayers.

As far as the hiring freeze - I don't know how they worked in a planning person - but we sure in the heck needed one. If I was rich - I'd pay that salary myself! Actually, the freeze was for "non-essential" staff - and IMO, this person couldn't be more essential.

Lewis did talk about the Comprehensive Restructuring Plan (CRP) - and the cuts he has made in the last year or so. He deleted 79 part-time staff (saving $862,000), reduced equipment, travel and supplies by $1.1 million, put the $2 per student principal funds on hold, got rid of the Henderson MS magnet program ($130,000), got rid of the lobbyist ($82,000), got rid of year round school at Mountainview and Flat Shoals, shifted $1.3 million to federal funds (not sure how he did this exactly), offered early retirement ($925,000 saved - as long as they're not replaced), saved $7.5 million by denying the STEP increase, and $4 million this year (plus $2 million last year) on transportation.

By June, 2010, he will have reduced costs by $26 million. (Sounds like a lot -- but remember, the total budget is about $850 million -- plus.)

Cerebration said...

One more thing Dr Lewis said that impressed me. He said that We need to make learning fun again! He wasn't sure if learning was fun or if it's become a chore. That we need to be creative in how we are educating. That for too many, the flame goes out around 9th grade and we need to invigorate the learning environment.

Anonymous said...

I heard, and applauded, what Dr. Lewis said this morning about making learning fun and stimulating children's imaginations. I was not sure how to reconcile that with scripted programs such as the newly rolled-out America's Choice, however. Does that mean that education will be fun for everyone but the below average kids?

Momfirst said...

Thanks Kim & Cerebration. I was there but didn't take notes - I believe you hit it all. As a DHS Mom, I would love a hybrid for DHS. For my freshman last year to come in and have biology for 90 minutes/day - years worth of work in one semester - it was a killer. I'm so glad Crawford Lewis is not opposed to a hybrid as I think that's the best choice. I, too, came away upbeat and impressed w/ his can do attitude and although some topics went on a bit long, overall a good meeting! I asked Pat Pope about our renovation at DHS and "Spring" was my answer - but it does sound like it's going to be a good one. Sorry Kim, they sort of shot you down - I'm confused as I've seen on this board that a lot of that Splost money is in the bank and yet they said money was the reason cross keys isn't getting anything (plus being left of the list for some reason). We'll continue to fight for that jewel in the rough w/ you.

Kim Gokce said...

@Dunwoody Mom: "I thought in the final DCPC Meeting last May, Dr. Lewis indicated the Dunwoody schools would not be involved."

He did and used language like "Dunwoody is safe" at that meeting. When a follow-up was asked by a Montgomery ES (Chamblee feeder), he repeated assurances. When I chimed in about CKHS, not so many assurances ...

Today, he did say the majority of the dramatic actions (HS closings, new attendance lines, re-districting) would occur in South DeKalb. When Mrs. Pope spoke on this subject, she indicated that the recommendations she and Bob Moseley were working on would affect "every area of the County."

In the case of Dunwoody, I don't see how they could leave the lines alone with such an imbalanced enrollment at the ES level. In the case of Cross Keys, I don't see how they could do much.

Based on their hesitancy to draw lines across interstates, the only way to "grow" CKHS attendance lines would be north. North means Chamblee HS and there's only Montgomery, Ashford Park (formerly CKHS feeder), and Huntley Hills.

Ashford Park is between Montgomery and CKHS, so Montgomery wouldn't make sense. Huntley Hills is in the heart of Chamblee's zone so that doesn't really make sense.

Ashford Park is the only obvious choice and that community moved heaven and earth to be re-districted to Chamblee ES last decade and would likely dissolve into chaos if chosen to be a "prodigal son."

So, I just don't see an easy way to do it in our zone. As much as Dr. Lewis talked about pain, I don't think they are looking for the pure hell this type of change would spark. So for Region 1, it looks like same old to me ...

Kim Gokce said...

@Momfirst: "Sorry Kim, they sort of shot you down - I'm confused as I've seen on this board that a lot of that Splost money is in the bank and yet they said money was the reason cross keys ..."

I appreciate it - I did sort of feel I was getting the hook there :)

Millar did actually miss the point of my question - it was about SPLOST dollars, not state BoE.

SPLOST III is running ahead of projections and projects are coming in under estimates - Pat Pope has been clear about this on multiple occasions.

Cerebration said...

I think the point about the SPLOST allocations for Cross Keys is that the school has been 2nd on the priority list for SPLOST 3 - just after unfinished SPLOST 2 carryover. (And ahead of Tucker, BTW.) But the budget item has always only been for a renovation - the budget of which has combined to total around $20 million. There was never an auditorium slated for Cross Keys. Apparently, we have been enlightened that a couple of other schools don't have auditoriums either - although I've heard that Jay Cunningham is rallying for them. (Cedar Grove, Avondale and Clarkston - although Avondale got a black box theatre for the DSA portion of the school.)

But yes, I do think Fran misunderstood. Kim was not asking about state money - he was asking about SPLOST money (a penny sales tax that the DeKalb voters imposed upon ourselves specifically for school construction) and the fact that Cross Keys is not on the list to receive and auditorium as are almost all other high schools. Logical question, IMO. Hopefully, money will come available as we continue to collect and spend the SPLOST.

themommy said...

I actually think Fran wanted to throw out the state's fiscal crisis information without actually presenting it and having to answer questions, KWIM? In other words, I think he didn't want his constituents to get angry with him.

So, he just heard something about money and inserted his two cents, pun intended.

I wonder if SPLOST revenues are still steady or if they are finally starting to drop?

Cerebration said...

One really exciting thing that Dr Lewis introduced is the soon to be unveiled eCommunity online. This is going to be a website dedicated for parents. It will be available as a link from the main DCSS webpage. He said there is nothing else like it in the country! This is a place for parents to sign up for meetings, get questions answered, and find information and support. The system will launch at the end of the month.

Gee -- maybe they'll even host a blog! If it's a good one - maybe it will make this blog unnecessary! I would welcome that -- I would certainly welcome the day that the school system hosted its own blog that functions very much along the lines of this one - honestly answering questions and posting timely - daily - news and information for parents and students alike.

Maybe they'd even pay someone to do what we do here for free... I'd be so glad to see that day.

Cerebration said...

As far as stating that the SPLOST 3 collections may not stay at their current level, we'll see. If collections have even dropped to projected levels, we're good. (They have been above projection since SPLOST 3 began.)

Below are some comments from another post I'm moving here-

---

Interesting SPLOST 3 tidbit -- We have collected $185 million in SPLOST 3 dollars. (20% above projections) Yet, we have only spent $85 million, leaving $100 million in the bank, collecting interest.

---

Question -- since we have collected over $185 million and only spent $85 million, what are the plans for use of the interest earnings? And, exactly how long can a government agency hold on to tax revenues before they have to spend it on the promises made. I didn't vote to tax myself so that the school system could put it all in the bank... this only encourages them to progress slowly on projects.

Cerebration said...

another moved comment --

Key point - board reps fighting for SPLOST - shouldn't happen. I would think that a professional group - consultants if you will - should evaluate the condition and needs of the buildings as well as the growth in the area and recommend where the spending should occur. It's true that some board members tossed aside the findings of the demographer (which they paid thousands for) because he projected growth in the Lakeside, Tucker, Dunwoody corridor. Instead, the spending continued to flow to south DeKalb - and now we have thousands of empty seats in several high schools. In fact, Miller Grove and Lithonia HSs are less than a mile and a half apart!

Anonymous said...

eSIS - He indicated that any major legacy system replacement is going to be painful and this one is no different. He did say that the training could have been better managed and timed.


Well, is he going to hold anyone in IT responsible? There are a bunch of people in IT making HUGE salaries. This was their biggest project in years, and it's been a terrible mess. Will any of the administrators there be reprimanded, demoted, etc.?

The answer is "No". Lewis takes care of high ranking administrators. Doesn't matter how badly they screw up; they're untouchable.

Anonymous said...

He deleted 79 part-time staff (saving $862,000), reduced equipment, travel and supplies by $1.1 million, put the $2 per student principal funds on hold, got rid of the Henderson MS magnet program ($130,000), got rid of the lobbyist ($82,000), got rid of year round school at Mountainview and Flat Shoals, shifted $1.3 million to federal funds (not sure how he did this exactly), offered early retirement ($925,000 saved - as long as they're not replaced), saved $7.5 million by denying the STEP increase, and $4 million this year (plus $2 million last year) on transportation. By June, 2010, he will have reduced costs by $26 million.


Those were all somewhat easy cuts. He's still not addressing the top heavy administration. It's way outta whack and he could easily drop 20% of the DCSS administrative personnel and without missing a beat. Lewis is still going to keep the DCSS Central Office way too bloated.

Anonymous said...

Based on their hesitancy to draw lines across interstates, the only way to "grow" CKHS attendance lines would be north

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That's a "hesitancy" they need to get over. The attendance lines for Cross Keys is disgraceful.

Ella Smith said...

I opened up a can of wormed when I asked the questioned about Cross Key's attendance area and the changes over the years which had hurt Cross Keys. I would like to see the attendance area changed back. I would like to see the attendace area more racially balanced which could be done by going across 85 and also by picking up some of Chamblee's students. Hopefully this will happen. If not I see Briarcliff opened up as a high school and the attendance lines moved. It will be interesting to see what happens.

I love the books online. I use them with my students. The Biology book I use actually reads to my special education students in English and Spanish. They just have to have books in the classroom and then they have passwords to get in on the website at home. The problem is when they do not have a computer or the internet.

Ella Smith said...

I also am teaching on a modified block schedule. We have 7 periods. On Tuesday and Wed. we have 4 classes with advisement also onn Wed. for the 8th period. This is nice for Science labs.

Dekalb County would save tons of money if they did not have the block schedule. They even have to give teachers who are on the traditional schedule (at Lakeside) two planning periods due to the planning time teachers get on block schedules. On the traditional schedule you get one planning period so the county gets more work for their money.

Cerebration said...

Reposting from another thread -

We've discussed the University of Michigan professor, Dr. Yong Zhao (ASCD), a native of China here before.

It is well worth your time to watch this video where he advocates for cutting back on testing and returning to our creative teaching roots called, A 21st Century Education

The description reads, In this film, Zhao, a university professor, argues for giving kids room to innovate by following their passions, not subscribing to a set of rules and interests dictated to them from the outside.

He is very much against NCLB and the testing frenzy - he think it is only moving America away from its history as a creative culture and turning everyone into lower level "workers".

Check out this article and introduction of his new book on the subject, called,
Catching Up or Leading the Way


I sincerely hope that Dr. Lewis - in his spirit of getting back to teaching basics and adding creativity back into schools will add this book to his book club reading list!

Anonymous said...

If Lewis seemed agressive and ready to go, it's because he realizes this is his last stand. All of the very valid complaints on this blog and other forums are starting to slowly (very slowly) open the eyes of BOE members. There have been so many major messes under the Lewis administration, none bigger than a principal and asst. principal changing test scores. Lewis had the gall to attack those who didn't show sympathy to these criminals.

Crawford Lewis has been with DCSS for over three decades, and has been an upper level administrator for many of those years. He can't blame others for the problems, like the pathetic condition of Cross Keys, Lakeside and Sequoyah.
The eSIS mess is at crisis level. It's unacceptable and unforgiveable. He asked DA Gwen Keys to investigate Pat Pope, head on construction for the school system. He somehow managed to get a DCSS owned $16,000 vehicle for $5,000 and gave it to his son.

BOE: Let Lewis finish the school year, and them move on. Replace the entire administration, cut the waste and bloat, and bring in all new management.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a lack of focus by the DCSS and the BOE. There are far too many board members getting in each other’s way and short changing the students they were voted to educate and secure a safe, learning environment. Well everyone has his/her own personal agenda and the taxpayers of Dekalb get screwed again.

The county would be wise to par down the size of the board....one simple reason is due to the high dropout rate and high foreclosure rates in which the number of students has dropped by a much larger number than being reported.

With this administration nothing has ever been clear during Lewis' reign, but now everyone can sit back, watch and wait for none of these pathetic promises spewed on Sept. 2 to be unfulfilled, which everyone should be accustomed to by now.

The jobs and retirement cuts were done with much malice and left the county hurting in pivotal such as printing and maintenance. These terminations were personal in nature spearheaded by Pat Pope, who was under investigation at the time and no report has yet to be publically made of those findings.

Someone should have checked the credentials of the MIS department before allowing them to purchase esis. Anyone could have visited multiple sites to see that this type of software requires a thorough testing and retesting before a proper training can begin. I am offended that the county pays for such incompetence.

Cerebration said...

True points, Anon. We have had many unfulfilled promises disappear by the wayside. And - I keep asking -- what ever became of the big "Pat Pope Investigation"? How can you go from newsworthy reporting of Dr Lewis calling in the DA to storm Pope's offices and confiscate her files - to - "crickets"?

Let's hope we really have found a new day - and a focused effort to implement these stated promises. If not Lewis- maybe the next person.

As far as the MIS dept - we discussed the costs of just the admin for this group on the eSys thread - I'll repost here -

As far as I could tell - and this topic was hardly discussed at the Sept 2 meeting - the problems were in training. Many teachers and staff claim to have had no training. Dr Lewis, at the meeting stated that they trained many people last April/May but that the people "forgot" over the summer.

========

Management Information Systems
P: 678-676-1000
F: 678-676-1052

Departments and Key Contacts:

Tony Hunter ($113,094)
Director, MIS

Joseph Swing ($110,196)
Assistant Director, Technical and Support Services

Joyce Miller ($108,846)
Assistant Director, Telecommunications

Dr. Mindy DiSalvo ($110,196)
Assistant Director, Grants and Community Programs

Dr. Regina Merriwether ($113,094)
Assistant Director, Instructional Technology

Natalie Terrell ($87,156)
Assistant Director, Project Management

Cerebration said...

For more salary fun - check out the bloat at the "Asst Superintendent" level. There is vast room for cutting here, IMO. I can't believe this -- from 2008

BERRY,AUDRIA M DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $114,774.00
CALLAWAY,FRANKIE B DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $162,200.87
CROFT,SHERYL J DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $120,558.00
DUNSON,HORACE C DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $120,558.00
EITEL,ANTHONY W DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $116,196.00
FLETCHER,REGINA R DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $69,678.10
FREEMAN,TIMOTHY W DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $122,232.00
GILLIARD,WANDA S DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $122,382.00
MCGIBONEY,GARRY W DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $35,855.17
MITCHELL,FELICIA M DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $123,594.00
MOSELEY,ROBERT G DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $151,563.70
NORRIS-BOUIE,WENDOLYN DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $120,558.00
RIVES,DEBORAH J DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $11,245.69 **
SEGOVIS,TERRY M DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $120,558.00
SIMPSON,RALPH L DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $120,558.00
STEELE,MARILYN L DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $120,408.00
TALLEY,GLORIA S DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $162,648.00
THOMPSON,ALICE A DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $118,673.12
TYSON,RAMONA H DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $131,104.82

** Rives retired and now works for -- drumroll please -- America's Choice!

=====

So - basically, these "Assistants" to Dr Lewis total $1,632,511.53 (over a million and a half dollars worth of assistance - requiring at least 19 people.) I can't think of a corporate CEO who has this many assistants (VP's)

Cerebration said...

On top of that, we spend over $2.5 million on 45 graduation coaches (on top of 108 HS counselors)

In the area of "Curriculum", we have our Asst Superintendent of curriculum, Gloria Talley, with her salary of $162,648.00 - 5 directors of curriculum instruction at a cost of $438,500.00, 72 "Instructional Supervisors" at a cost of almost $6.4 million - plus 473 "Instructional Specialists" totaling $23.9 million.

That's a grand total of nearly $31 million for 551 people in the curriculum department.

(For comparison, we have 982 food service employees at a cost of $16.8 million.)

Dunwoody Mom said...

Someone just retired and moved to Columbia University - was it Wanda Gilliard?

Anonymous said...

Regarding block scheduling: I'm for it, for the most part, although I think it's best suited for active classes, as opposed to lectures. (science labs, dance, visual arts, PE) That said, DSA's AB block works well for its purposes: all students have the same classes all year, but on alternate days. Like the 4 X 4 block, the classes last app. 1 1/2 hours. However, no matter what Dr. Lewis and principals say, there are teachers who have adapted well to the block schedule and those who have not. One would think that all music teachers would love to have the kids for 1 1/2 hours, but my daughter's choral music teacher has NEVER adapted to the block schedule and he's been teaching on that schedule for a long time. He wastes a LOT of time!
And, while I understand the attraction of the 4 x 4 block (being able to concentrate on 4 classes per semester), that type of scheduling is killing the performing arts in DeKalb County high schools. Most students cannot afford the credits to stay in band, chorus, or orchestra 2 semesters each year (essentially using up 2 credits). But those subjects are, by definition performance classes and all festivals take place in the spring; concerts take place all year long.
I have suggested in the past that high schools try to "partner" classes that might be better taught for the entire year, rather than one semester. These might include math, foreign language, performing arts, etc. Each class period would last 45 minutes, students switching to the partnered class for another 45 minute period. Both classes would last the entire year. I've never seen anyone consider this, but think it's worth some thought.

Regarding SPLOST III spending, I'm a DSA parent. We didn't ask to be moved to Avondale. In fact, we need more students at DSA but the county keeps insisting on moving us to small spaces. I know many of you don't like public money going to magnets, but almost every large school system in the United States has an arts magnet. They fill a need that most high schools cannot meet. DeKalb County Schools has spent years bragging about the success of DSA without giving it any support. The original plan was to move DSA to the North Druid Hills location temporarily and build a school of the arts. Nearly 10 years later and, after years of speaking at school board meetings, we received $10 million to be moved--temporarily again--back to Avondale. By the way, a portion of that money is being used to improve Avondale High School, too. And I think Pat Pope is absolutely incompetent. DSA knew it was being moved to Avondale for 1 1/2 years, yet the county did not start the construction until June of this year. When I questioned Ms. Pope about the planned start (back in February) she ASSURED me and everyone else who questioned the late start, that construction would be completed by the middle of July.
As of today, our school is only able to use 1/2 of our space, Avondale students are in trailers, and Ms. Pope is totally cool about it. That, combined with the atrocities at Cross Keys and other construction delays across the county make her performance inexcusable.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it is striking when you look at the graduation coaches and curriculum "specialists" as a group. I would give anything to eliminate all the graduation coaches and instead give each school an extra, lower paid, administrative or technical staffer to fix minor computer problems, handle paperwork, make copies, etc.

And what the heck do all these instructional specialists and supervisors do? Are they classroom teachers?

Anonymous said...

"In the area of "Curriculum", we have our Asst Superintendent of curriculum, Gloria Talley, with her salary of $162,648.00 - 5 directors of curriculum instruction at a cost of $438,500.00, 72 "Instructional Supervisors" at a cost of almost $6.4 million - plus 473 "Instructional Specialists" totaling $23.9 million."

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Cere, thank you, thank you, thank you for exposing the incredible amount of bloat under Gloria Talley!!!

Wow, I knew there was bloat under State Senator Ron Ramsey and Infernal Affairs, oops, Internal Affairs. And I knew there were way, way too many associate/assistant superintendents all making HUGE salaries with great benefits.

And why in the heck are there 45"graduation coaches" when there are already 108 HS counselors???

But you absolutely schocked my with those figures on Gloria Talley's staff.

This is the type of bloat that typifies the Crawford Lewis administration. He has built up a massive bureaucracy. Please let your school board members know we are tired, so tired, of this waste of resources. Lewis has built a kingdom. All these administrations are incredibly loyal to Lewis since they get great salaries. There are tens of millions of dollars that should be going to our schools, but are going to bureuacrats instead. It's shameful.

Cerebration said...

Great input, Anon. I really think that people don't have issues with the concept of a school of the arts, but with DeKalb applying funding completely without equity across the county and so many other high schools suffering the horrors of their facilities, they have created a scarcity mentality and caused us all to act like animals, fighting for the scraps they occasionally toss our way while they spend wildly on themselves, their own, new, plush offices and new schools and additions for their favored districts.

I advocated very hard for absorbing DSA into Lakeside. The county could build a fab - performing arts auditorium and resources could be shared. Lakeside already has a whole lot of talent in its building - it's a perfect match. Plus, it would make Lakeside a northside equivalent of SW DeKalb.

But - in reality - Avondale needed bodies in the building - you know - state funding as it is and all.
Putting the military academy in Avondale would have worked well instead (MARTA is within reach.)
But no - once again - the BOE instead decides to wreak havoc on the Lakeside community by trying to cram potentially 600 HS military students into a tiny ES with 18 classrooms and no gym.

Amazing. Then they all wonder why we get so upset.

Cerebration said...

Think about it -- there are no auditoriums in the north end of the county - except for the one built with private funds at Druid Hills HS. We ALL hold our events in the "cafetoriums"... Shameful!

Of course, when Tucker gets theirs built - maybe they'll share. Seems Lakeside's construction has now been pushed back to April 2010 start - don't know about Dunwoody or Chamblee. Of course, Cross Keys is not scheduled to get the HS auditorium package.

Anonymous said...

The Michigan professor Dr.Zhao is correct in saying we need to let our students follow their passions. There are too many principals concerened about "moving up" and "getting promoted", that they are hendering our students creative passions.

Case in point, Dr.Pringle at Arabia Mountain has set her master schedule so that students cannot take the fine arts for four consecutive years. She clearly does not want the chorus, band or art departments to flourish. She still has not hired another/a band teacher for our students. They are all marching at other schools such Lithonia and ML King. She is not focused on the "whole" education of the child. Only the percieved test scores, that would make her look good to the higher ups. AMHS doesn't even offer ROTC or Woodshop!!

But, you can take Culinary Arts(Home Ec) for 4 years, it's been deemed a Pathway by Dictator Pringle...

Cerebration said...

hmmm - so are you an Arabia person? I'm curious - exactly how many students are attending? How many of them are from outside that area's attendance zone - do you know? How many from neighboring counties (1-2 miles away)?

Arabia has been in my craw for quite some time - I may need to get back on my meds - but how dare the BOE built a showcase school of this magnitude and then thumb their noses at all of us enduring horrendous, crumbling buildings by making it a "magnet" or "choice" or whatever -- as in - "If you don't like your crappy building - you're welcome to drive yourself all the way to the edge of the Rockdale/Henry/DeKalb county line and attend the Taj Mahal! Oh - and we're still going to keep millions and millions of SPLOST 3 dollars to add on to our other schools within a few miles of Arabia - because they are still over-crowded, since we didn't use Arabia to relieve the crowding - as originally promised - and as the reason for selling the project to the public at all.

It's been a bait and switch - So irritating, selfish and mean-spirited, IMO.

Cerebration said...

Sorry Anon - I glossed over your point. Yes - I'm certain that the main focus of Arabia will be the test scores. Period. Dr. Lewis has to improve the number of AYP passing schools or else. He's trying to be very hard-hitting - I hope he's actually able to. But he also did say himself - that school needs to be fun - and it's not - it's a chore. So -- which will he focus on - which message should principals listen to? If I were a principal (with a salary over $100k - and knowing I couldn't get a job that paid that well anywhere else if my life depended on it) - I'd go with testing too.

Sadly, that's the reality we live in.

Anonymous said...

Good grief! Is Gary McGibbony part time? He's one of the best people at the county level. He's one of the truly competent, talented people and he makes $35K?!
Arabia Mountain students can't take 4 years of the fine arts?! Atrocious!

Cerebration said...

No - I think he got a promotion and a new job title. These are 2008 numbers (easily downloaded at the state website - for all employees funded by tax dollars). I would imagine this is just a few months worth of pay at his new level...

Anonymous said...

For a school system that is shrinking in numbers, the amount of administrative bloat is astounding.

Square Peg said...

Recently I got curious enough to look at the Strategic Math Plan on the DCSS website. That Plan makes it pretty evident that we have too many county administrators. They have time to do Focused Walks (inspections) every six weeks to make sure that each teacher has a word wall and that he or she "points to the standard of the day," and that "students communicate with other students about mathematics using the Language of the Standards (accountable math talk)." Reading about such micromanagement makes me very thankful that I am not a teacher.

Oh, and worked-out examples and predictable approaches to tasks are forbidden, at least in middle and high school. They apparently keep students from engaging in complex and non-algorithmic thinking. Enjoy the new standards-based math curriculum!

Cerebration said...

We employ 786 parapros (who work directly in the classroom) at a cost of around $18 million. (This is in comparison to $31 million for 551 curriculum experts.)

This amounts to about 1.5 paras (avg: $23k each) for each curriculum expert (avg; $55k each). Now, which one do you think has more impact on the students?

Do you think it's wise to make cuts at the parapro level (which is being done) or at the curriculum expert level (which is not being done)?

Which one would you think could have more of an impact on your child's learning?

Dollar for dollar - which one provides the most student impact for the buck?

Fred said...

From the list Cerebration shared with us earlier:

BERRY,AUDRIA M DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $114,774.00
CALLAWAY,FRANKIE B (retired)
CROFT,SHERYL J (retired)
DUNSON,HORACE C DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $120,558.00
EITEL,ANTHONY W DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $116,196.00
FLETCHER,REGINA R (retired)
FREEMAN,TIMOTHY W DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $122,232.00
GILLIARD,WANDA S (retired)
MCGIBONEY,GARRY W (retired)
MITCHELL,FELICIA M DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $123,594.00
MOSELEY,ROBERT G DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $151,563.70
NORRIS-BOUIE,WENDOLYN DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $120,558.00
RIVES,DEBORAH J (retired)
SEGOVIS,TERRY M DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $120,558.00
SIMPSON,RALPH L DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $120,558.00
STEELE,MARILYN L (retired)
TALLEY,GLORIA S DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $162,648.00
THOMPSON,ALICE A DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $118,673.12
TYSON,RAMONA H DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $131,104.82

Notice that many of these employees are no longer with the district. In fairness, I'm not sure if any of these positions have been replaced but several play a part in the overall salary reductions.

Cerebration said...

Thank you for that input, Fred. We need to make sure we have our facts straight here.

Anonymous said...

I know this is not on the topic, but I'm interested in how people feel about the president addressing the students on September 8. I'm very uncomfortable with it.

Cerebration said...

He needs to fix the economy.

Dunwoody Mom said...

It does not bother me. Shouldn't our children be engaged in discussion and information-gathering that will affect their futures?

Dunwoody Mom said...

The text of the speech will be released on Monday. Why don't we wait and see what it's all about before deciding whether it's good or bad?

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'd be perfectly delighted if he spent all of his efforts on encouraging kids to take control of their educations and convincing them that anyone from anywhere can grow up to be anything they want to be if they set their mind to it and take charge of their own educations... he can be a great role model even if he isn't good at anything else!

Anonymous said...

No one has a problem with the whole "captive audience" aspect of this along with the suggested follow-up activities? Why not air this after school, protect instructional time, and let parents decide if their children should watch it?

Kim Gokce said...

Warning: Multi-post comment coming ...

Oh boy! I love a good digression :)

Here's the "Pledge" video produced by Ashton and Demi via Oprah that was shown in a Utah school.

Pledge

I heard earlier today the Dept of Ed is pulling back some of the classroom materials they had planned to distribute to teachers for use in conjunction with the broadcast speech.

I'm sure the speech will be harmless and inspirational but the plans as they originally were constituted are clearly over the top and over the line. But then again, I'm a dinosaur living in the Age of Mammals.

I'm going to post in the next comment what is circulating on the web as the text of classroom instructions from the Dept of Ed.

Kim Gokce said...

2 of 3:

The text of classroom instructions from the Dept of Ed.

"Menu of Classroom Activities:
President Obama’s Address to Students Across America
Produced by Teaching Ambassador Fellows, U.S. Department of Education
September 8, 2009


Before the Speech:

Teachers can build background knowledge about the President of the United States and his speech by reading books about presidents and Barack Obama and motivate students by asking the following questions:

Who is the President of the United States?
What do you think it takes to be President?
To whom do you think the President is going to be speaking?
Why do you think he wants to speak to you?
What do you think he will say to you?

Teachers can ask students to imagine being the President delivering a speech to all of the students in the United States. What would you tell students? What can students do to help in our schools? Teachers can chart ideas about what they would say.

Why is it important that we listen to the President and other elected officials, like the mayor, senators, members of congress, or the governor? Why is what they say important?


During the Speech:

As the President speaks, teachers can ask students to write down key ideas or phrases that are important or personally meaningful. Students could use a note-taking graphic organizer such as a Cluster Web, or students could record their thoughts on sticky notes. Younger children can draw pictures and write as appropriate. As students listen to the speech, they could think about the following:

What is the President trying to tell me?
What is the President asking me to do?
What new ideas and actions is the President challenging me to think about?

Students can record important parts of the speech where the President is asking them to do something. Students might think about:

What specific job is he asking me to do?
Is he asking anything of anyone else?
Teachers?
Principals?
Parents?
The American people?

Students can record any questions they have while he is speaking and then discuss them after the speech. Younger children may need to dictate their questions."

Kim Gokce said...

3 of 3:

"After the Speech:

Teachers could ask students to share the ideas they recorded, exchange sticky notes or stick notes on a butcher paper poster in the classroom to discuss main ideas from the speech, i.e. citizenship, personal responsibility, civic duty.

Students could discuss their responses to the following questions:

What do you think the President wants us to do?
Does the speech make you want to do anything?
Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?
What would you like to tell the President?

Teachers could encourage students to participate in the Department of Education’s “I Am What I Learn” video contest. On September 8th the Department will invite K-12 students to submit a 2 video no longer than 2 min, explaining why education is important and how their education will help them achieve their dreams. Teachers are welcome to incorporate the same or a similar video project into an assignment. More details will be released via www.ed.gov


Extension of the Speech: Teachers can extend learning by having students:

Create posters of their goals. Posters could be formatted in quadrants or puzzle pieces or trails marked with the labels: personal, academic, community, country. Each area could be labeled with three steps for achieving goals in those areas. It might make sense to focus on personal and academic so community and country goals come more readily.

Write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals.

Write goals on colored index cards or precut designs to post around the classroom.

Interview and share about their goals with one another to create a supportive community.

Participate in School wide incentive programs or contests for students who achieve their goals.

Write about their goals in a variety of genres, i.e. poems, songs, personal essays.

Create artistic projects based on the themes of their goals.

Graph student progress toward goals."

Anonymous said...

I think the President addressing students is fabulous. What an incredible role model and I think it sends a good message to our students that the current President thinks "the students" (not administrators, or teachers or principals) are important and worthy of his time.

themommy said...

Gary McGibbony is gone. He works for the state.

Graduation Coaches are paid for by the Governor. One of Perdue's ideas to decrease the drop out rate. (pass through dollars). Every school didn't need them (come on, Northview High School) but every school got them. Then he added them to middle schools as well.

I believe they will be gone (if they aren't already) as of this school year except at the schools with the highest drop out rates.

Anonymous said...

Can someone please tell me what Instructional Specialists and Instructional Supervisors do?

Cerebration said...

Hopefully he'll just send out an encouraging, uplifting message about how important education is to their futures -- just like Bush and Reagan did when they addressed schoolchildren the same way.

At any rate - I found a link to the White House streaming video where you can watch it live on Tuesday at 1 pm.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/live/

But -- just in case you think "indoctrination" isn't happening in public schools - check out this YouTube video of a teacher in (I believe) North Carolina. She is obviously imparting her politics on her students - and nearly reduces one girl to tears, whose father is in the military and they are McCain supporters.

Which leads me to encourage parents to watch the video with your young child and have your own discussion about politics. High schoolers can stand more on their own and form their own opinions.

Kim Gokce said...

... Now, back on topic! :)

@Cerebration: "Question -- since we have collected over $185 million and only spent $85 million, what are the plans for use of the interest earnings?"

I discussed this in a way with Patricia Pope after the meeting. My questions were along these lines ...

If SPLOST 3 revenues continue to run ahead of projections and projects keep coming in under budget, how will the "extra" capital be allocated?

Mrs. Pope indicated that all the projects that are targeted for the next 12-18 months are the extent of SPLOST 3 capital allocations to new projects and that only at the end of the current projects in the pipeline were there be an assessment of any "extra' revenues/capital that might remain.

I presume the earnings on any of these funds would be included in that future assessment and prioritization of any new work to be considered.

I followed up by asking her to confirm this conclusion (mine):

Even if there is "extra" SPLOST 3 money at the present time or during approximately the next 12-18 months, the organization is running at full capacity now and could not take on additional projects.

She agreed that this was a reasonable perspective on the situation. In essence, her organization is running at 100% or higher resource allocation from a project management perspective.

fedupindcss said...

It would be nice if Dr. Lewis followed the lead of the Houston Co. superintendent down in Warner Robins and enforced attendance zones. He would find that he would save a lot of money by getting an accurate assessment of exactly how many students were really supposed to be in each school, instead of putting additions on schools that don't need them (because they are full of out-of-district students). He needs to understand that policing this policy is a fiscal matter that directly relates to capitol expenditures.

It is very, very hard to listen to Dr. Lewis tell people they have to do without arts, music, etc. to save money, while maintaining such a large administrative staff. Does anyone know what kind of admin bureaucracy Gwinnett has?

Cerebration said...

We have these numbers at the PotatoHead thread --

http://app3.doe.k12.ga.us/ows-bin/owa/fin_pack_revenue.entry_form

Interesting bottom line numbers (2008 per FTE total expenditure)

Clayton $8145. ($396 Gen Admin/$443 School Admin)
Gwinnett $8338. ($467 Gen Admin/$576 School Admin)
Cobb $8816. ($284 Gen Admin/$506 School Admin)
Fulton $9746. ($483 Gen Admin/$574 School Admin)
DeKalb $9896. ($480 Gen Admin/$663 School Admin)
Atlanta $13,710 ($2791 Gen Admin/$580 School Admin)
Decatur $13,443 ($760 Gen Admin/$1157 School Admin)

Especially interesting to note - back in 2004, we only spent $7827 per FTE ($250 Gen Admin/$540 school Admin) and in 2005, we spent $7914 per FTE, but the admin cost per FTE dropped to $243 Gen Admin/$550 school admin)

Wow, how we've blossomed under Dr. Lewis' leadership. No wonder he is having to make so many cuts - it will be hard to just get back to where we were.

But what the heck - Atlanta PS spends over $2,700 per FTE on General Administration -- and their super was named Best of the Year! (I would wage a guess that her massive staff helped her look good.)'

northlakeinfo said...

Thanks Kim for posting President article on Radar.

Note that the Pres address is at Wakefield High School in Fairfax County--best school in the nation--best school system in the nation.

Maybe kids, parents and teachers--and admin should just tune in to get the "vibes of excellence"--or is that "exceptional" Dr. Lew?

Anonymous said...

"That's a grand total of nearly $31million for 551 people in the curriculum department."

Back to Gloria Talley and the huge amount we spend on her curriculum staff. I'm not sure if the cost of pension and benefits is included in that $31 mil figure, but if it's not, then it's millions more than $31 mil.

551 curriculum employees??? This is an incredible example of how bloat festers and festers.

I want to see each school with a school nurse, a librarian, music teacher, art teacher, and some para-pro's. My school's PTA has to pay for our art teacher.

I don't want to see Gloria Talley with such a massive staff when the DCSS population decreases and decreases, and would decrease even more if Ron Ramsey and his staff ever investigated residency.

Our Board of Education members are so un-curious it's shameful. They should be comparing staffing levels with not just neighborhing school districts, but similar districts to DeKalb around the country. They enable the Central Office bloat. Maybe it's too hard for them to find other districts around the country with such a large administration while its enrollment numbers decrease every year.

Cerebration said...

No - those are just salaries. You are correct, Anon, benefits are in addition to these numbers.

This is a topic at the AJC blog also - brought up by a teacher. What do these "curriculum experts" do? Actually, in Dekalb, we are calling them either "Instructional Supervisors" (which I counted 20 who make over $100k and many others in the high 90s) or "Instructional Specialist P-8s" - each making in the 50s, 60s and up.

Do we really need this many highly paid people to (what John Trotter calls) "snoopervise" our teachers? Parapros are about half the price and could possibly provide more direct assistance.

I wish some teachers would weigh in here on this topic.

Lefty said...

Fernbank PTA pays for a 2nd PE teacher so that every child has daily PE and the teachers get more planning time. That's the beauty of enrichment teachers - kids learn more and teachers get some planning time.

Cerebration said...

BTW - so that you all know - the Obama speech to schoolchildren has changed the time to NOON on Tuesday the 8th.

Stream it live here
http://www.whitehouse.gov/live/

or watch live on CSPAN

Dunwoody Mom said...

I was just informed that Kittredge will not be showing the President's speech. Not really surprising.

Anonymous said...

I thought that it was technically against PTA bylaws to spend PTA funds on hiring school staff. . . is that really what is going on at Fernbank?

Also, does anyone know whether DCSS is enforcing the new regs prohibiting the children of faculty members who live outside of DeKalb County from attending any DCSS school except for the ones at which their parents actually teach?

Cerebration said...

Interesting. Actually, I have to wonder how many of our schools around here even possess the technology to show live video to the entire school at once.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Schools that do not have televisions in each room could just use their PA systems to hear the audio portion, I would think.

Anonymous, I know several years back, my children's ES school PTA paid for the art teacher. Whether the rules have changed since then, I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Lefty the Fernbank PTA does not pay for a PE teacher. In the past they have paid for the Art teacher but that is no longer the case due to PTA regulations.

I am also interested to know if the attendance "rules" are being enforced - I suspect not.

Cerebration said...

I would have no idea if they are enforcing the teachers attendance rules. I guess you would have to personally be aware of a case to check. Personally, I have no problem with a teacher bringing their child to their school and the feeder schools -- say Lakeside, Henderson, Briarlake. But when teachers use the privilege to get a spot for their child in a magnet or special program, that can be hard for others to have to take - especially if your kid didn't get a spot.

Say for instance, Ms Jackson who abused her privilege for her and her children to address the board one time too many. I think her children were (are?) in a coveted magnet program because their father teaches in a DCSS school - but I didn't think he taught at DESA. Does she expect to be able to send them to DSA - and take advantage of its high cost and low teacher/student ratio? Perhaps DSA should consider charging tuition for outsiders - maybe they would grow the program.

I find it amazing that so many people who are using a school via transfer, fake residency or some other special circumstance are so often the most vocal parents in the school. This is definitely true at Lakeside.

Anonymous said...

No... There is an area superintendent who lives in Gwinnett County who's child is in a DCSS. School.

Wonder if he pays tuition?

Cerebration said...

Dr Lewis did mention at this meeting that enrollment was up over 100,000. That's a gain of about 1,500 students.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Jackson's children are no longer at DESA.

Cerebration said...

Wow. Lesson learned - do not mess with the BOE month after month. Any other teacher kids get the boot?

Anonymous said...

Yes. Chamblee Charter did not admit the children of teachers in their feeder patterns that were 8th graders at Chamblee Middle.

Anonymous said...

I know of at least 2 children at Chamblee Middle, one in the magnet program, from DCSS employees who reside outside of DeKalb County. So once again, it appears that the rules were not enforced equally.

Mary Kay Woodworth said...

Regarding video broadcasts, permission slips, my nephew at Montgomery (5th grade) reported to his mother on Monday that they had gone on field trip to Fernbank for the "boys talk". No permission slip was sent home for sign-off re: sex-ed or notice to parents that they'd be going off campus (he has peanut allergy, needs to carry epi-pen with him, didn't take it). She contacted principal, explained that she would have liked prior notice of content for discussion with him, and asked for outline of what was covered. It's Friday, and no outline or explanation of what happened.

She and other Montgomery 5th grade parents are pretty upset about lack of communication.

As I recall for my kids, I signed sex-ed permission slip and was informed ahead of time of when they would be going - is my memory correct?

By the way, they did get permission slip today for viewing of President's talk.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Mary Kay, I recall as you do. At elementary school registration part of the paperwork we completed was the permission slip for Fernbank field trips.

Anonymous said...

Snoopervise-I love it! As a teacher, that is exactly how it appears to my colleagues and myself. We are becoming more and more micromanaged and overloaded with paperwork/documentation so that these upper level positions can be justified. Does it make us better teachers? Absolutely not, quite the opposite. I work with amazing teachers who are overwhelmed, stressed, and unable to get a good night's sleep. We love our kids and take our responsibilities seriously, which is why we do what has to be done. But honestly, a lot of the work is unnecessary and if it was eliminated, we could actually TEACH.

Anonymous said...

As for the epi pen. The principal at Montgomery is famous for not following 504 plans. I have personally called Phyllis Daniel and reported her on 2 different occassions. I suggest that your parent does the same Mary Kay. It will only be a matter of time before a child is seriously hurt or dies from one of Dr. Silvers mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Anon

Was the child at CCHS there already (ie not a freshman)? DCSS is allowing students to finish to the end of the school they were enrolled in. It was my understanding from some CMS teachers that they weren't allowed to send their children for this year to CCHS. One even spoke at a DCSS board meeting.

Anonymous said...

Parent and Teacher Alert: On 9/8/09 the Board will vote on a resolution to seek a waiver from the State regarding class sizes and a host of other state regulations. While the Board write up indicates that they are only seeking a waiver of class sizes for K-8 the written resolution attached to the agenda shows that they are seeking a blanket waiver. And the waiver is retroactive for this school year and applies to next school year.

Please join me in writing the Board to vigorously oppose this planned action for three reasons:

1) Our high school students are failing the EOCT in reccord numbers and have abysmal scores on national tests such as ACT and SAT. They need all the individualized instruction they can get, especially in math, science and english.

2) As Cere pointed out we have hundreds of high paid Instructional Specialists. These folks should all be put in classrooms before jacking up the class size. If they are not certified or unwilling to teach a regular classroom, then fire them and hire classroom teachers.

3) The classrooms in many of our older schools are small and are already cramped with 32 high school students crammed into a room designed for 25.

Parents and teachers of K-8 students may want to weigh in also.

Cerebration said...

Great advice, Anon. There are 10 slots still available to speak your 3 minutes at the microphone at the Sept 8 meeting - sign up and speak - or recruit a willing volunteer to read something you write. It's easy!

Send an email to
MARGARET C. FRANCOIS
MARGARET_C_FRANCOIS@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

And ask to be put on the list of speakers for the board meeting.

If it is full, go to the meeting anyway, as usually several speakers don't make it and you can get on an alternate list to speak in their place. (Ask as soon as you arrive.)

No Duh said...

The first time our daughter came home from school (in K or 1st grade, can't remember) and said they had gone to Fernbank, I was stunned. A) I didn't know what "Fernbank" was and B) I had not been notified that she would be leaving the campus and going to an off-site event. and C) What if she had a doctor's appointment scheduled and I had arrived at school to pick her up only find out she was at Fernbank?!

I think I asked the teacher or the principal, can't remember. But, I do remember the response. DCSS considers Fernbank trips as being a part of the curriculum, therefore, they are not considered "field trips" for which permission is needed.

We probably do sign something at registration about field trip permission, but I don't know if it mentions Fernbank. But, why would it, if DCSS doesn't considered Fernbank a "field trip?"

The fact that our schools are not asking parents for permission to take their kids to Fernbank to talk about "wet dreams" and such, but they are requiring parents' permission to watch the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA talk about the value of education in an inspirational way -- IS STUNNING!!!

Please don't say a word about "missed instructional time." My son has been taken from his elementary classroom every year for more than 20 minutes to watch a promotional video about Boy Scouts and listen to a grown man wearing shorts and a kerchief trying to PERSUADE him to join the BoyScouts! ALWAYS WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. Our Superintendent has given specific permission to the BoyScouts for this invasion of instructional time.

It would make far more fiscal sense to have teachers from Fernbank come to each elementary school to present the "Fifth Grade Field Trip" to the students. No costly busses, no permission slips, etc.

On Tuesday, teachers in DCSS have been given the option of watching our President's message with their students. Students who don't "want" to watch must be given an alternate activity.

In a school system that is more than 80% minority, I so hope that our teachers will intrinsically feel the value of our children hearing directly from the President (not related through CNN, or Fox, etc.)his thoughts on education and learning.

Lefty said...

How Fernbank funds their second PE teacher aside -- the point about specials classes is that it gives students an enriched learning experience and gives classroom teachers a chance to plan and prepare.

A study published in the Feb issue of Pediatrics showed that daily PE or recess greatly improves classroom behavior and learning.

Ditch the instructional specialists and make sure every school has daily PE/recess as well as weekly art, music and a foreign language.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:04:

Best I can tell from reading the state rules, a system may not be granted a class size waiver for high school clases. You're right, though. The board resolution asks for a blanket waiver.

According to the state rules,
Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. r. 160-5-1-.08 (2) (d):

The number of students taught by a teacher at any time after the first 15 school days of a school year may not exceed the maximum such number unless requested authorization for a specific larger number is approved by the State Board. The State Board may approve a request only in the limited circumstances where educationally justified and where an act of God or other unforeseen event led to the precipitous rise in enrollment within that system, or led to another occurrence which resulted in the local board's inability to comply with the maximum class size requirement. The State Board may approve requests for increases to maximum individual class sizes only. It shall not approve requests for increases to system average class sizes and it shall not approve requests for language arts, math, science, or social studies in grades 9-12.

The current circumstances are neither "educationally justified" nor "an act of God or other unforeseen event," particularly when the bureaucratic bloat is considered!

Anonymous said...

Interestingly and outrageously, they are proposing to askin for a waiver of the requirement that "local school systems are required to either spend a minimum of 65 percent of their total operating expenditures on direct classroom expenditures, or increase their direct classroom expenditures as a percent of total operating expenditures by two or more percentage points over the previous fiscal year."

This is particularly galling in light of the administrative bloat. They want to take money away from classroom expenditures to pay salaries of administrators.

Anonymous said...

I also see from the agenda that C. Lewis is proposing to promote Tony Hunter from Director, Management Information Systems to Executive Director, Management Information Systems. Nice!

Cerebration said...

No kidding?!! Promoted? After the eSys debacle?

Sigh!

Anonymous said...

I can see where Lewis is having principals make a decision for either a music/art teacher or a science/math teacher.. I agree I would go for the science/math first.. Then I would go and plead with the county for help...

But at what point do the music teachers need help... There are some middle schools out there where there is a band teacher with 300, a chorus teacher with 330 and an orchestra teacher with 270. They are doing this by themselves.

Don't they need help? I beleive so.. Are they getting it? NO!!!!! Because the principal had to make a choice between a music teacher or a core teacher. The county would not give them the extra help. Are they getting punished because they had three dedicated professionals that built a strong program?

What do you think should happen?

Cerebration said...

So, effectively, they are asking to reduce class sizes, which will result in teachers losing jobs - while all the time, we have 500 or so "Instructional Specialist or Instructional Supervisors" who will remain - of course, with fewer teachers to supervise.

Smart!

Cerebration said...

Again, you have to wonder if the block schedule comes into play here. The schools on a block have to creatively offer SO many more electives than non-blocks that maybe things like art, music, etc get watered down to compete with web design, Pe 303 or "entrepreneurship" -- ?

Anonymous said...

This comment was misplaced and responds to your 2:06 p.m. comment, Cere. I think that their intent, although it's not clear from the proposed board resolution, is to be able to increase class size beyond the state-mandated maximum so that they won't have to hire more teachers.

Cerebration said...

Sorry about the misplacement -- I'm curious - were they thinking they are going to have to hire more teachers? What about Arabia? How many students do they have now? Are they going to enjoy small classes (same with DSA) while the "regular" schools have to endure larger classes?

If they do this, I am going to send out a team to personally do a classroom by classroom head count.

Anonymous said...

I can only believe that they're seeking a waiver from the state-mandated maximum number of students per class so that they can increase class size. This is because there is no state-mandated minimum, best I can tell.

Cerebration said...

So the inequity will continue.

Cerebration said...

Hopefully, they have at least rid themselves of the guy caught having sex with his former student, a 15 year old, in his truck behind a Mexican restaurant at 2am.

http://www.wsbtv.com/news/20078168/detail.html

There's an interesting slideshow you can click on embedded in the story at the link above - highlighting a bunch of teachers who committed crimes against their students. Such sad head cases.

Anonymous said...

My concern with a 2 year blanket wavier request is that the state will soon expand the "emergency waiver" to high school classes and with the blanket waiver, DCSS will automatically be grandfathered in. Then we will see huge classes across the county.

I question the wisdom of expanding class sizes in middle school. This is a difficult time to begin with and our students are ariving at high school with extremely poor math, science and reading skills. Hence the high failure rate on the EOCT tests.

Are all these Instructional Specialists also certified teachers? If so, they need to hop in the classroom.

Fred said...

I noticed comments regarding the number of students at Arabia Mountain. Word on the street is that they met their target of about 1200 students. Not bad when you consider they have only 9th, 10th, and 11th graders. There also is a waiting list to get in. It probably just took a while for the message to get out to everyone when you consider the slow start initially getting applications.

Also as Dr. Lewis mentioned at the DCPC meeting, the current enrollment for the system is over 100,000. We need to check the numbers again on Friday to see if Labor Day has any effect on the enrollment numbers. Seems there were several schools that closed (private and charter) along with the economy impacting several families that had children in private school. Speaking with some students at Arabia Mountain, several indicated that there are several students from the McNair cluster that were not in our system (private or APS) that enrolled in that school.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the newer schools can handle huge classes, but when you try to get more than 30 kids into a classroom at Lakeside, it's over. They literally are crammed in there, usually without enough desks (the leftovers use tables in the back). And forget the trailers, if they are not double wide (of which none are at LHS). I am sure it is the same situation at Chamblee, etc. schools of that vintage.

I bet the classrooms in the newly built schools are huge--that's for a reason. To have these larger classes.

Is this waiver going to also affect science classes, which are supposed to be a little smaller by state rule to keep the kids from setting fire to the building?

Anonymous said...

http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/despite-big-savings-131849.htm

See the AJC article about the amount in the reserve for several school systems. See the agenda for the DCSS Board of education meeting.

Is this the time to upgrade positions and give raises? Teachers, paras, custodians, bus drivers, school based individuals have not been given raises. This is nothing personal against those three individuals, but is this the best time to make this kind of change?

Anonymous said...

Good point about the reserves Anon. The AJC article reflects that the DCSS reserves were only $11.7 M at the end of fiscal year 2008. This is far less than large systems like Gwinnett and Cobb that have over $100M in reserves.

I looked at the DCSS monthly financial report attached to the 9/8/09 agenda. Page 15 mentions reserves but not being a CPA, I'm not sure how to interpret. The AJC article reflects reserves less future expeditures that are already obligated. I guess they mean unrestricted reserves.

If DCSS is really down to $11M that is awful for a school system this size.

Any accountants out there who can help interpret?

Dunwoody Mom said...

Gwinnett and Fulton - both with the largest reserves are furloughing teachers. I find this unbelievable and if I were a teacher in those systems I would be livid.

Cerebration said...

That's a great article. I hadn't seen it. I'm amazed that we only have $11 million in reserve, yet Gwinnett and Cobb each have over $100 million - wow!

I have noticed that Marcus Turk always mentions the state austerity cuts accounting for our anemic budget numbers, however, that doesn't seem to affect other counties as much apparently.

I wonder - Rick Cost, of Gwinnett, used to be our CFO - does anyone have old budgets from then to see if perhaps we had more in reserve when he was in charge? I think that would be interesting to know.

Cerebration said...

Fred, that's good news about Arabia. Do you happen to know where they pulled these students from? Has Arabia helped alleviate crowding at MLK and SW DeKalb? That would be good news.

Kim Gokce said...

if I were a gwinnett taxpayer, I'd be livid.

Cerebration said...

Even though those numbers sound huge, remember that the annual operating budgets for these systems hover around a Billion dollars. So - that's around $5-7 million per school day. $11 million won't go far - and actually, neither will $100 million if the well dries up.

In fact, all of us would be wise to ensure that we have personal reserves in the bank to cover at least 6 months of expenses - probably more given this bad economy and the toll it's taking on personal income (and the resulting toll on tax collections).

Spending reserves now is unwise. Cuts are the way to go, IMO. Just wait until the 2010-2011 school year - this is when the budget is going to crash due to really low property tax collection in 2009 and 2010. The state is going to really suffer from the huge dip in income tax they will collect - and the feds are going to feel it the most.

But unlike the feds, the state and the school system can't just fire up the presses and print up some more money.

Cerebration said...

That said, the cuts should not come from the classroom. As we have discussed here, we have plenty of people who could be cut before we turn to teachers.

Kim Gokce said...

now that I've read the article, I retract my statement ... According Gwinnet officials, the $100m is only 1 month operating expenses. That's not unreasonable, is it? $11m does seem unreasonable, though.

Cerebration said...

True, Kim, it's as much as being broke. We have enough money to survive for 2 days if we run out of operating budget.

Why not cut some of the 500+ Instructional experts we have identified here who are costing us millions upon millions and do not directly impact children. (I personally think that teachers are professionals and can handle their jobs just fine with simply a principal's oversight.)

Also - get rid of the block for the 2010-11 school year. Get rid of all of the extra classes that are totally unnecessary for a diploma. Offer what the state requires and then send them on to college or wherever. Keep music and art classes, but we don't need so many nonsense courses like web design, nutrition, all kinds of different PE choices, etc that are needed just to fill those extra, unnecessary credits offered on the block.

Spend some of the savings on a really impressive vocational/tech school for those who choose to learn job skills along with their diploma.

Cerebration said...

Here's the latest on sending teachers children back to their home schools - from the AJC -

DeKalb tightens rules on teachers enrolling their children

By Kristina Torres
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

As school budgets get tighter, a perk for teachers and other staff at one metro Atlanta system has bitten the dust.

DeKalb County officials this semester began to limit the number of employees’ children allowed to enroll in local schools despite not living in the county.

The move affects 200 to 300 families, said Robert Moseley, the system’s deputy chief superintendent for school operations. The move came after school board members asked administrators to be stricter about the cost and enforcement of its “administrative transfers” process. That process governs the enrollment of children of full-time employees.

The county, like others in metro Atlanta, has a long-standing policy of allowing employee to enroll their children in the school where they work. But, Moseley said, “it just kind of got away from us over the years.”



http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-tightens-rules-on-133110.html

Anonymous said...

But, Moseley said, “it just kind of got away from us over the years.”


Yeah, like the Elaine Boyer admin transfers! Hey Bob (and Crawford), don't flippantly blame the admin transfer mess just on teachers and their children. Admin transfers come from one place: the Superintendent's Office. Crawford Lewis and his staff has handed these out like party favors.

BOE: The public wants an annual listing of admin transfers, the scool, and the reason why. We don't need the name of the students, but we want to see the numbers and reasons why. And actually checking residency must become a priority.

Checks and balances, people...checks and balances.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think school house level administrators had the ability to approve transfer request from teachers/employees. In fact, I think a teacher/employee only had to go to the central office is that administrator said no.

It put school principals in a terrible position.

Dunwoody Mom said...

BOE members, or their office staff, approved transfer requests as well.

Anonymous said...

I heard over the weekend that Lakeside is now holding several classes in the caferteria. These class enrollments are so high the students can't safely fit into a trailer or a classroom.

Anonymous said...

Chamblee HS has many more students than expected also. It is very crowded, especially 9th and 10th grades.

Everyone keeps asking: Where did these students come from?

Cerebration said...

This is interesting. My notes from the meeting show that Dr Lewis said the number of transfers dropped from 1100 to 400. I wish someone would have specifically asked him if he was referring to ALL transfers or just AYP transfers... Cause it sure seems like we still have a transfer issue.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Chamblee was the only in the northern end of DeKalb County to be a receiving school under NCLB - I'll bet that's the reason.

Lakeside and Dunwoody had that privilege the last few years.

Cerebration said...

Well, then, why is Lakeside having to hold classes in the cafeteria (which I checked out and it's true!)

I think we have an issue with administrative transfers and other kinds of "non-residents"... It's just not right - it's wrong for Lakeside kids to be crammed into trailers and the cafeteria when schools like Arabia and others have plenty of beautiful space.

Paul Womack - you need to investigate this!

Anonymous said...

I think we need to figure out how many type of transfer classifications there are at DCSS. I have been told multiple times that "administrative transfers" are solely the purview of the Superintendent's Office. Maybe transfers by children of teacher and staff are considered something else. Including NCLB transfers, I'd like to know how many actual transfers there are, with school location and a reason why for each.

And don't forget that non-resident students lying about their residency is still a big deal. We are paying to educate students who should be educated in the county they actually live in (that's you Clayton County!).

Cerebration said...

Right, Anon. I have been wondering if those illegal transfers from other counties are partially what put our enrollment over 100,000. If I lived near the new Arabia HS in Rockdale or Henry county (1-2 miles away) I would probably work out a way for my kid to get in there...

One really, really big way to do this is by using an affidavit or "Educational Guardianship" - virtually sponsoring any child to attend the school in your district.

Again - it really wouldn't bother me as much if the schools in my district were habitable!

Dunwoody Mom said...

The agenda for tonight's BOE meeting is up. I wondered what happened to Steve Donhue - former Prinicpal of Peachtree Middle School. He is now the Executive Director of Plant Mangement.

Cerebration said...

It looks like there are still 6 spots available for citizen comments -- if you would like one, send an email to

MARGARET_C_FRANCOIS@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

or just go to the meeting a little bit early and ask to be put on the list of alternates. You can usually get a spot.

Anonymous said...

Can't go but can someone ask Dr. Lewis why he is denying hand sanitizer to charter school students? Reportedly the plans to stock "every" county classroom with Purell (or equivalent) exclude charter schools.

Cerebration said...

This kind of stuff bugs me - (from the agenda for tonight's meeting)

Requested Action
It is recommended that the DeKalb Board of Education approve the appointment of Dr. Yvonne Butler as Executive Director, Corporate Wellness Program.

Dr. Butler is a former Principal at Browns Mill Elementary School.

Requested Action
It is recommended that the DeKalb Board of Education approve the appointment of Mr. Steve Donahue as Executive Director, Plant Services.

Mr. Donahue is currently employed as Interim Director, Plant Services.


(But as DunwoodyMom pointed out, Donahue is the former principal of Peachtree MS.)

Two things: If good principals are so hard to come by - why promote good principals into corporate jobs? And - why not actually hire someone with expertise in things like Corporate Wellness and Plant Services to fill those jobs instead of filling them with people trained in education?!!

This kind of management drives me nuts.

Cerebration said...

I'm also not thrilled with the waiver requests our BOE is making to the state -

Examples -

Minimum Direct Instruction
A waiver from this rule would allow DCSS flexibility in spending a minimum of 65 percent of the total operating expenditures on direct classroom expenditures or increasing the direct classroom expenditures as a percent of total operating expenditures by two or more percentage points over the previous fiscal year.

Guidance Counselors
A waiver from this rule would allow DCSS to waive the requirement that guidance counselors are engaged in counseling or guidance activities, including advising students, parents, or guardians, for a minimum of five of six full-time segments during the school day.

Class Size Waiver for K-8
A waiver from this rule would allow DCSS flexibility in complying with maximum class sizes and to capture FTE funds that would have been lost if a class was over the limit on the FTE Count Days.

Anonymous said...

Wanna bet that Steve Donahue has no education or experience in facilities management? Principals are educators. They need to remain as educators. Hire professionals with education and experience in their field to perform those jobs.

And why do we even need a "Corporate Wellness" program???

Dunwoody Mom said...

About Mr. Donahue: How is an educator qualified to run a plant services department? Just wondering........

Dekalbparent said...

@Anon 3:00:

There are no hand sanitizers at Druid Hills High School, either. The secretary said they were distributed during the summer, and they did not bring any to DHHS - she has been trying to get one ever since, with no luck.

I wonder how many other schools are in this boat. Clearly it's not just charters.

I, too, am upset by the waiver request. I understand the concept of Corporate Wellness, and it's admirable, but unless this "Wellness" also applies to all the kids, the waiver request and creation of a new position really grate on me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dekalbparent.

I think with county charter schools the different is that this is a policy decision, not a matter of neglect.

Functionally of course, the same result.

Dunwoody Mom said...

My child reports there are none in her classrooms at Dunwoody HS.

Anonymous said...

Corporate Wellness directors are almost always doctors, nurses or someone in public health. Why in the world would they be promoting a former principal to an "Executive Director" of Wellness position? I hope they post her resume and the job description.

BTW - don't they have to advertise for positions?

No Duh said...

The hand sanitizers that were distributed ran out of the actual liquid within a day. DCSS is not providing refills. Schools don't have money for this kind of thing. PTAs will probably have to pick up the slack -- or the stands will remain empty.

Am I correct that Tony Hunter currently holds the highest MIS job in DCSS? And, if I am, doesn't that mean promoting him to "Executive Director" probably gives him more money and opens up yet another central office position (Hunter's old title). I wasn't at the BOE meeting tonight and couldn't watch on t.v. I REALLY hope the BOE denied this request.

DCSS always has the same response to poor performance. "Well, we finally got the problems worked out and the system is up and running now." And, they are in complete denial that the botched implementation of the new system was utterly unnecessary. If true MIS professionals were in charge, proper testing and field tests would have been conducted. They absolutely don't care that the local schools were turned up-side-down for nearly four weeks. They don't care that the principals, guidance counselors and teachers were truly on their own -- no support and no way to explain the problem to their customers without implying that DCSS didn't/doesn't know what it was/is doing -- the cardinal sin.

I've noticed that DCSS is never ashamed of its poor performances. Their response is always PollyAnna -- "Well, when we implemented the last system it was like this, too. It will all work out eventually! And all the parents and teachers will be thrilled with the system." Not even a "Sorry."

If we were in Japan, Tony Hunter would have commited suicide by now for having brought shame to his organization. Maybe Dr. Lewis thinks Hunter will do better next time and Hunter just needed a title and salary boost to get motivated.

If our BOE approved this promotion tonight, we need to take a serious look at who and how they voted. Taxpayers should demand a written explanation from all the BOE members who voted "yes" -- detailing their reasoning.

While this Tony Hunter thing clearly annoys me, I am thrilled that many principals and teachers stood up to the complainers and let our students watch the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES deliver his very inspirational message.

I will not join the conversation over socialism and keeping children from hearing the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES encouraging them. I can't join the discussion because when I try to understand why a parent wouldn't allow their child to listen to the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, it makes my brain hurt.

Cerebration said...

well, no duh, they approved all 3 positions - unanimously - and then went on to compliment Dr. Lewis for his excellent choices.

Sigh.

Dunwoody Mom said...

well, no duh, they approved all 3 positions - unanimously - and then went on to compliment Dr. Lewis for his excellent choices.

Seriously? Wow.

Anonymous said...

What about the Resolution to ask the state for a waiver on the class size maximum and a lot of other state requirements?

Was there any discussion?

Cerebration said...

We were sent this article written about the dcpc meeting in the Dunwoody Crier --

New Dunwoody school lines?
Tuesday, September 8, 2009 10:48 AM EDT

By Bill Florence
For The Crier

Will Dunwoody schools have new attendance lines next fall?

The answer may be “yes” based on a countywide school reorganization plan announced last week by DeKalb School Superintendent Dr. Crawford Lewis and his staff at last week’s meeting of the Dunwoody-Chamblee Parents Council held at Dunwoody High School.

The plan, which Lewis said he will present to the DeKalb school board before year’s end so it can be implemented for the 2010 school year, will close low-enrollment elementary, middle, and high schools, requiring school attendance lines to be redrawn throughout the county.


The redistricting issue did not come up at all at the board meeting that followed the dcpc meeting, however, we can look for redistricting announcements to be made by December, I believe.