Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Meanwhile, back at the Board of Education meeting...


Well, after the suspense leading up to Obama's speech today at noon, this meeting was a pretty dull ending to the day. The speakers all did a really nice job, but there weren't many of them. Kim Gokce spoke about an unusual topic - Cross Keys High School! (Good job, Kim!) He reminded us all to join him at the Waffle House for the dedication of Abu Bangura's jersey on SAT, SEPT 26 @ 2:00pm. Several very articulate moms advocated for recess. (One of them was a doctor.) They brought research to back their claims and suggested text for an amendment. Click here to sign their online petition. What Girl Scouts - very prepared!

As for the rest, I think I'll copy Kim's style and just bullet-point the whole thing.

• Three new positions were requested by Dr. Lewis and unanimously approved by the board: A new position has been created for Dr. Yvonne Butler as Executive Director, Corporate Wellness Program. Dr. Butler is a former Principal at Browns Mill Elementary School. Mr. Steve Donahue was promoted to Executive Director, Plant Services. Mr. Donahue is the former principal of Peachtree MS. And Mr. Tony Hunter was appointed Executive Director, Management Information Systems (MIS). Mr. Hunter is currently employed as Director, Management Information Systems (MIS).

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?!! Sigh.

• Marcus Turk says our funds are low because property tax bills went out late. He says we will be on track when all is collected. Mr. Womack asked if we have money in a "rainy day fund", to which Mr. Turk replied, "Mr. Womack, it's been raining pretty hard for a while now."

• The topic of FTE's came up. Jay Cunningham questioned how we could allow some schools like Murphy Candler to have no art or music when others seem to have plenty. He said that some elementary schools are lacking a science teacher. Dr. Lewis pointed out that principals are free to spend their FTE's as they wish and that smaller schools cannot afford to employ art, music and PE teachers as each FTE equates to a $65,000 expense (including benefits). He went so far as to say that if we did that, we would be bankrupt in about 24 hours! However, Dr. Lewis suggested that 4 small schools can share a teacher if they use .25 FTE each. I think Jay has an excellent point and I think it could be time for the school board to step in and "redistribute the FTE's" so that every child has art, music and PE. This is just not right.

• Womack, McChesney and a couple of others requested that Pat Pope make all bids and offers available for them to review in her office before they vote on them at these meetings. She said she would but can't make them available to the public by law.

• Pam Speaks asked how we came up with the list of schools on the request for the state capital outlay. Pope said that the state makes that list themselves. Schools on the list are: Martin Luther King, Jr. High Facility Addition, Miller Grove High Facility Addition, Hambrick Elementary Facility Modification, Woodridge Elementary Facility Modification, Hawthorne Elementary Facility Modification, Glen Haven Elementary Facility Modification, Southwest DeKalb High Facility Addition and Modification

• The board deferred the vote on the requested waivers from the state because it was written for K-8 and the state has changed the form to K-12. They intend to request the following 5 of the 7 waivers sometimes allowed by the state when a system can show fiscal need:

Personnel Required
A waiver from this rule would allow DCSS some flexibility in employing personnel for positions according to the unweighted full-time equivalent (FTE) count that is shown on the midterm adjustment allotment sheet. Examples of positions listed in this rule are: school psychologists; social workers; school counselors; technology specialists; art, music, & PE specialists; and media specialists.

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.

Instructional Extension/20-Day Money
A waiver from this rule would allow DCSS some flexibility in providing an instructional program beyond the regular school day to address the academic needs of low-performing students.

Dr. Walker closed by saying that he was very proud of DeKalb County Schools for showing Obama's speech today and not bowing to public pressure as other school systems did. Jay Cunningham encouraged parents to join the school council and PTSA, to download the parent resource guide and enforce the dress code.

============

All in all, I felt that although it was boring, it was still frustrating. It really bothers me to hear Dr. Lewis fret over the fact that a full time classroom teacher is a $65,000 expense (including benefits) and then turn around and promote people into high paying administrative jobs. It bothers me that this board plans to request a waiver of the law that requires 65% of the budget to be spent in the classroom and one that would put more students in each of those classrooms. It bothers me that 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, yet we have children who do not have art, music and PE teachers - they're entitled to one of each - they shouldn't have to choose. I am bothered by the fact that our superintendent and board seem to cry "poor" when it comes to funding the classroom, but can always find the money to bloat the administration. Our children deserve better.

151 comments:

Anonymous said...

DCSS is top heavy...it is time for the monies to be back at the schoolhouse for not only PE, Art, and Music...but also for school based instructional staff...Getting rid of the "fat" at the central office will enable schools to do a better job with students in all subjects including the "arts."

themommy said...

It is time for the board members to start asking much harder questions -- ok, if we pay for this (ie the new positions) what are we not able to pay for.

It is also time for a frank, public talk about the instructional costs of the magnet program. Why should DESA have 11+ specials teachers for about 540 students? What about the fact that KMS has 2 PE teachers for about 450 students?

Dunwoody Mom said...

It is time for the board members to start asking much harder questions -- ok, if we pay for this (ie the new positions) what are we not able to pay for

Alas, it seems the BOE for the most part "rubberstamps" Dr. Lewis requests. You would not move an individual from Plant Services to a Principal's position, so why does the BOE believe that moving a Principal into a Plant Services position is acceptable with no questions asked?

Yes, there have been cuts made in the Central Office, but not nearly enough. I just wish someone had the strength of character to put our students first.

Cerebration said...

I give Jay Cunningham a whole bunch of credit. He speaks up for the children and the schools. In my opinion, he is correct in that no elementary school should have to go without art, music or PE. He said that perhaps it's time for the board to require it and not leave it up to principals. You go, Jay! That's what a board rep should do -- stand for the students!

One way to cover the costs -- get rid of about half of the "Instructional Specialists" -- we have 473 of them - enough for at least 3 per school -PLUS 72 "Instructional Supervisors" -- and every one of these folks cost WAY more than a teacher. I don't know - but I think the answer is more teachers - and less supervisors!

No Duh said...

Responding to Dunwoody Mom from Dr. Lewis at the DCPC thread and to Cere's excellent recap of the BOE meeting....

Stunning.

Can't wait for the reruns. Was there any discussion at all about Tony Hunter?

Square Peg said...

What is an "Instructional Specialist?" At our elementary school I believe there is a "Reading Specialist" and a "Math Specialist." They are teachers who spend their days working with groups of children who are pulled out for extra help. These children are the ones at risk of not passing the CRCT. If that is what an "Instructional Specialist" is, they sound like a good idea to me. And when I divide $23.9M by 473, I calculate a modest $50K cost for each of these people.

Cerebration said...

We've been trying to figure out the definition of an Instructional Specialist for a while... and certainly, some are highly valued by teachers as we've heard. They are generally paid a salary in the '50s and then the benefits are on top of that. Additionally, the Instructional Supervisors are paid in the high '90s.

I just have to wonder if the "management" isn't a little out of balance with direct impact on children - plus, now they are asking for a waiver of the 65% rule -- that's very unnerving.

Cerebration said...

There was mention (in a teasing way) of Hunter's dealing with the intense rollout of eSIS but it was more or less a nervous joke. The only other discussion regarding Tony Hunter and the promotions of the three listed people into administrative jobs was for Dr Walker to highly compliment and endorse Dr. Lewis on his "excellent choices"...

Square Peg said...

The reading specialist and math specialist I'm thinking of are real teachers who used to be classroom teachers at the same school. They could easily go back to teaching in a regular classroom depending on the ebb and flow of funding, but I think there is a lot of value in giving focused attention to groups of kids who need extra help.

On the other hand, it would take a lot of convincing to persuade me that snoopervision is productive or that anyone responsible for eSIS deserves a promotion. 4 weeks out and we still are suffering its effects. I'm mighty curious to see how the 4.5-week progress reports go.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Dr. Lewis pointed out that principals are free to spend their FTE's as they wish and that smaller schools cannot afford to employ art, music and PE teachers

So, once school consolidation and closing occur, can we assume that all schools will have access to art, music and PE teachers?

Anonymous said...

Stunning that CLew wants to increase class size and reduce spending on class room instruction, given his bloated, ever growing bureaucracy.

This disgusts me, as does the promotion of Tony Hunter, who, by any measure, failed to implement eSIS successfully.

Cerebration said...

I agree. Something about the Tony Hunter promotion has an air of nose-thumbing about it.

Cerebration said...

Here's a quote from the article in the Dunwoody Crier about eSIS

# The much-anticipated launch of the county’s new student information system, eSIS, has had problems and is still not fully operational. Lewis admitted that the school system’s internal training program for eSIS had been poorly managed and timed, and that several school officials no longer had jobs as a result. The Parent Portal aspect of eSIS, a web-based tool giving parents online access to their child’s student information, is still expected to go live in October.

http://www.thecrier.net/articles/2009/09/08/front/schoollines.txt

Cerebration said...

And then there's this - from Atlanta Unfiltered --

DeKalb County schools have paid attorney Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore $389,161 to investigate bullying at Dunaire Elementary School.

The school system has consistently declined to release copies of Moore’s invoices. But the latest summary of payments, released today, shows the school district paid Moore:

May 12, 2009 — $ 3,423
June 5, 2009 — $166,955
July 13, 2009 — $128,628
Aug. 18, 2009 — $ 90,155
Total — $389,161

Click here for more of the story.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Wow, that's a lot of money. Just think of the amount of hand sanitizer that could have been purchased with that money. :)

Dunwoody Mom said...

Also, I'm assuming that since the report released in August was the "final" report that there will no longer be any payments to Dr. Moore?

Cerebration said...

No, the article says that she is under contract until Oct 30 - so this will probably cost us a half-million - - just for Judge Moore.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Why is she still under contract? If the report is "final", her job is done. Or at least the job I thought she was hired to do.

No Duh said...

They giggled as they approved Hunter's promotion!?

Who is Dr. Lewis' boss? I'm quite sure it's the BOE -- right? Is the BOE blind/deaf/dumb to what their constituents are telling them about their schools?

Would Womack -- with all his corporate experience he likes to tout -- hire Tony Hunter to run the MIS department at HIS company? Has Womack ever even seen Hunter's resume?

Paul, what was the reasoning and rationale you and your co-horts used to unanimously agree to upgrade Tony Hunter? What did Dr. Lewis say to each of you that made you so whole-heartedly agree?

Paul, just answer here on the blog, it will save a lot of us writing you letters.

No Duh said...

Before the BOE meeting I decided to click through all the documents backing the HR deparment's portion of the meeting.

If I am reading the attachment Appendix A, Report of Termination correctly then hear this...

Under the category "Dismissals"
In year 08-09:
Only 31 people (4 professional, 27 Auxiliary)
In year 07-08:
Only 35 people (7 prof. 28 Aux.)
In year 06-07:
Only 16 people (2 prof. 14 Aux.)

Let's just assume that "dismissal" is a euphuism for "fired."

With all the thousands and thousands of ppl working for DCSS, only 31 in a whole year are actually fired! I'm no HR professional, but I would suspect that companies equivalent in size to DCSS are firing a whole heck of a lot more people than 31 a year. Maybe 31 a month!

Does this number seem extremely low to anyone else?

Anonymous said...

All of our students (at all levels)should be provided with the option to take PE, Art & Music.CLew is giving these principals way to much leeway to make decisions that are "personal" to them in nature. If the Principal doesn't feel PE, Art or Music is important,they just cut it using the FTE count as a reason to not have these teachers.And, they won't fix it unless we as parents speak up and demand it.

Case in point at Arabia, the principal Dr.Pringle doesn't feel the arts are important so she didn't make any of them a pathway (something the students can take for 4 years). And she's been quoted saying that "she doesn't want a band with a reputation bigger than the school", a la Stephenson(where she used to be principal) or Southwest Dekalb.

Makes you wonder why it's a month into school (and 2 weeks into football season) and there's a posting for a band director at Arabia on the DCSS website...CLew and his Principals with too much power...

Pattie Baker said...

Cere; Do you know how to get a copy of the recess presentation to which you referred? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of the moms who spoke about recess. The petition is located on: http://www.petitiononline.com/recess09/petition.html

Dekalbparent said...

I hear Jay Cunningham speaking up for the children in BOE meetings, as he did last night. He sometimes asks hard questions. Then I hear crickets. Is there NOBODY supporting him? Are they not brave enough to agree with him publicly (or at least privately, so he will feel the support). Jeez, folks, seconding someone's excellent observation or question is not nearly as hard as asking it in the first place!

Is Jay being left shouting into the void, so that admin feels safe in ignoring him?

Cerebration said...

Yes! I had that same feeling. I sometimes feel that Jay pipes up with his concerns and then just fizzles out like a boy who responds to a teacher only to get the evil eye... No one is standing with Jay and I find that very disappointing. Very. Disappointing.

Cerebration said...

Thanks for the link to the petition. I have included it in the main text of the post. Good luck, ladies!

Cerebration said...

An announcement from The Center for an Educated Georgia -

Join Us for a Town Hall Meeting on Education Reform!

The Center for an Educated Georgia and Sophia Academy will host a parent-driven town hall meeting on education reform on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 7 p.m.

Find out what your options are for:

* Choosing your public school
* Accessing scholarships to attend private school
* Finding a charter school
* Communicating with your legislators about supporting better schools and more options

Parents will share how reforms and increased parental options have improved their child's education and experts from the Center for an Educated Georgia will answer questions about current education options as well as future reform ideas.

Additionally, legislators will be on hand to hear from parents how current choices are benefiting children as well as from parents who need additional help meeting their child's educational needs.

Already exercising parental choice in education? Come show your support and share your story.

Please join us at:

Sophia Academy
2880 Dresden Road
Atlanta, GA 30341
770-303-8722

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to figure out how new principals are chosen. Our principal at Hawthorne Elementary announced she was leaving and one week later we were told the new replacement is the current assist.principal from Fernbank. I have nothing against any of this, I'm just confused as to how a principal is chosen and is it typical to not seek input from the school/pta/parents?

themommy said...

Anon

Dr. Lewis spoke at DCPC about what he believed are the poor choices that have been made by many communities when allowed to have a voice in principal section.
Keep in mind that the candidates for the positions are chosen by DCSS. In my experience, the system has often been rigged so that there is only one decent candidate in the bunch, so his comments left me scratching my head and saying UM.

However, I think the problem is that the community (parents, teachers, community members) make a stink if their candidate of choice doesn't make it into the interview pool. So, instead of manning up and saying those candidates aren't appropriate, he has chosen to disregard all parental input.

In case you are wondering, this is legal. Here is the response from the state when I inquired.

Principals are assigned by the local board of education upon recommendation of the superintendent (20-2-211(a))

- The role of the school council in the principal selection process is determined by local board policy (20-2-86(t))

Where did Jennifer Pitman go?

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:47. If your elementary school is getting Mr. Singh from Fernbank you should jump for joy. He is fabulous. I understand your concern about selection, but in this case you are the winner and Fernbank is the loser.

Anonymous said...

@themommy: Jennifer Pittman is moving to North Carolina. I don't know if she has another position lined-up. Her letter to parents indicated she was moving due to her husband's job. I believe she got married this summer.

As for Mr. Singh, he spoke to the staff today and assured them he didn't plan on making major changes, rather just strengthening the programs already there.

He seemed very knowledgeable and very approachable. My only confusion or maybe consternation is the right word..is I am totally in the dark about how the process works. Apparently, the PTA had no prior information about the pick either.

I wonder if anyone else was in the running or was it a done deal from the moment Pittman handed in her resignation. @anon 7:14... I heard good things from Fernbank about him too. I wonder who will be appointed to Fernbank assist.principal position?

Isn't it unusual to leave a position only a month in to the new school year?

Cerebration said...

I thought these people signed contracts... I guess I don't understand the process either.

themommy said...

They do sign contracts and DCSS (and any other school system) can choose to have their licenses pulled if the employee breaks it. However, I suspect that this was employment related and perhaps her husband just landed a new job after being unemployed.

It is possible that she has known she was leaving for a while and someone (Terry Segovis or higher) decided that it needed to be kept hush hush.

Prior to the first School Council law, which I believe required school systems to allow the School Council to participate in the selection of principals, I always thought that Halford had a "list" of people ready to be principal and that is where new principals came from. I suspect Lewis now has such a list...

Anonymous said...

Gloria Talley is great and well worth her $162,648.00. I hope she replaces Dr. Lewis. I am also extremely fond of Marilyn Steele and very sorry to see her retire. She was an outstanding advocate for our children.

I was told by an insider that the county requires so many Instructional Supervisors because there are so many poor teachers who need close supervision. Their job is damage control. They carefully monitor the lesson plans and classroom performance of poor teachers. They seem to serve an important function. Of course poor teachers should be fired, but can not be with tenure.

I know some science and math teachers, even a few considered "top" teachers, who will not present any problem to their students without having complete solutions with no missing details. Somebody needs to supply teachers with these.

Shayna Steinfeld said...

They sign contracts with the County and can be moved at will within the County as County employees (the contracts are not with a particular school). School Counci is (or was) supposed to have some "say so" over the process but since late last year (the principal shuffle), Dr. Lewis took the position that if he was going to be critiqued on school performace he should be allowed to (and repsponsible for) choosing who should be at the helm of each school without such input. There was (appeared to be) a tremendous shift in the "say so" School Councils and PTAs received in the selection processes late last spring versus prior openinings. In previous openings, when a principal opening was available, it was posted for some period of time (ranging from 1-3 weeks) and then candidates, pre-selected by HR for the County, were "interviewed" (via pre-selected, pre-determined and set questions, without any ability to "delve" behind the preset question -- e.g. not the way a corporation would interview and hire a head of a department or company and without resumes and background information) by a committee consisisting of members of School Council and, sometimes other members of the school's community. Sometimes, historically, suverys have been taken of the parents within a school or of the PTA to see what the "school" or "community" is looking for or prioritizing in the new, in-coming principal. This seems to have also changed over the past 6 or so months.

Anonymous said...

I apologize for posting off topic but need the advice of this audience. What recommendations do you have to deal with a principal who is not a team player? First year, micro-manager, holds up development with controlling attitude and then blames others
( i.e. teachers with initiation ); Tends to back seat drive and takes the "gotcha" game to a blood sport level. I am very frustrated with the impact on the school, am concerned that DCSS would not be
aware or invested even if brought to their attention. Don't want to be a complainer but want to make am impact for positive change... Recommendations?

Cerebration said...

Anon - I'm sorry, but I think you don't have a choice except to request a move to another school as soon as the jobs open up.

-- and regarding this statement by the other Anon --

"I was told by an insider that the county requires so many Instructional Supervisors because there are so many poor teachers who need close supervision. Their job is damage control."

Oh boy - if that's true, we have a big problem.

Anonymous said...

cerebration,
omg - re-read anon at 9:26 and it does sound like a teacher, this is actually from a parent!! love, love, love the teachers but the organizational structure,etc is problematic because of the problems noted with the "legend in my own mind" principal... have no desire to elevate this to a witch hunt, just want the p to learn to play nicely with others !!

Anonymous said...

Shana,

I sat on a principal interview panel as part of my school's council. We were allowed to ask any questions we wanted.

Cerebration said...

Thanks for the clarification, Anon - I obviously didn't pick up that that post was from a parent. I still don't know what to recommend... Stacy Stepney (former principal at Dunwoody HS) is now the head of high schools for Lewis' admin - maybe she can help?! She's a pretty great lady.

Anonymous said...

Tucker Mom - To Anonymous about a micromanaging principal - there was an instance in one of our elementary schools with this issue about 10 years ago. Parents banded together and also PTA officers took the professional approach. We documented incidents, typed up what the problems were and possible solutions. We ended successfully moving this principal and in typical Dekalb fashion the person was just moved to another school with nothing done about his professionalism. This was done under Dr. Hallford's administration. We ended up losing some great teachers because of this... so fight the good fight!

Anonymous said...

Instructional Specialists are in some schools because they are 1) A Targeted Title 1 School - means extra money that can be spent only on Level 1 students 60% of students are on free and reduced lunch or 2) They are a full Title 1 school. They are there to help teachers help low level 1 students.

As a sidebar - we should not be pushing students out of elementary schools if they can't read or do simple multiplication and division! Start keeping them back early and we may not have the discipline problems in middle school because of their frustration or drop outs in high school!!!

No Duh said...

Cere -- keep forgetting to show my appreciation for this month's Scream motive. I cracked up laughing.

"If we didn't laugh, we would all go insane." Jimmy Buffett

Cerebration said...

Glad you liked it, No Duh -- the George Bush scream just tickled me... couldn't let it pass on the day of Obama's speech...

Anonymous said...

anon 10:41 p.m. Agree with comments that we should not be promoting students to middle and high school who have not mastered the math basics.

Bad News: AJC is reporting that Kathy Cox has announced where the cuts in state DOE will be for next fiscal year. She is cutting math and science coaches.

So the DOE foists a completely new and experimental math program on the entire state and then immediately (last year) begins to eliminate the promised training and support to math teachers. The GPS math program has to be the most misguided and poorly implemented curriculum in history.

Anonymous said...

Three new positions were requested by Dr. Lewis and unanimously approved by the board: A new position has been created for Dr. Yvonne Butler as Executive Director, Corporate Wellness Program. Dr. Butler is a former Principal at Browns Mill Elementary School. Mr. Steve Donahue was promoted to Executive Director, Plant Services. Mr. Donahue is the former principal of Peachtree MS. And Mr. Tony Hunter was appointed Executive Director, Management Information Systems (MIS). Mr. Hunter is currently employed as Director, Management Information Systems (MIS).

---

THIS IS CRAZY!!! WHY CAN'T THE BOE EVER STAND UP FOR TAXPAYERS & PARENTS??!!

Crawford Lewis complains about not having enough money, and he CREATES a position for Yvonne Butler??!!

After the Sta prichett mess, he yet again appoints Steve Donahue, a principal who knows nothing about Facilities Management, to an "Executive Director" position??!!

And after the eSIS mess, and the general lack of performance and productivity from MIS in general, Tony Hunter goes from a director to executive director??? if there is one employee in the entire DCSS who doesn't deserve a promotion, it's Tony Hunter.

WHAT IN THE HECK IS GOING ON?? Doesn't the BOE see that Crawford Lewis has no intention to ever reduce Central Office bloat? He spends money outside of the classoon, not inside the classroom.

This is craziness, and the BOE is oblivious to it.

Anonymous said...

Well I guess today is the day that we see if Mr. Hunter's promotion is well deserved. My money is the system crashes.

4.5 grades have to be in by 12 noon.

Parents I will go ahead and tell you know.... I don't know how well to trust what is printed. Go ask the teacher is probably the best thing.

I sent several screen shots to MIS yesterday with problems that I was having.... Only to have the response.. "I have never seen that before". These were screen shots where I was putting in student grades. The system would say it had saved successfully then reload the screen only to not have any grades posted.

I did go back for 6 more hours and keep typing in the same grades until I could get a screen shot from where they system actually said it was there. If I did not keep going back after every grade and checking the spreadsheet I would not know that there was a problem.

I am so thankful that our last few meetings as a school was how to post attendance correctly. Nothing about posting our grades. The county is on all AP's to make sure the attendance is up to date. I wouldn't worry about attendance so much as telling us how to post grades and fixing those problems in eSIS first.

No Duh said...

Thanks for your dedication Anon 6:28. Your post sort of underscores one of my worst fears for our students (okay, selfishly, my fears for MY student!). After all this work, and frustration and rework, the chance for teacher error increases. For example, accidentally skipping a line and recording another child's grade for another student. Repeating the same grade twice (recording two C's instead of a C and an A, for example).

Of course, I'm not saying teachers are making mistakes -- I'm only saying the situation sets them up for making mistakes. And, unless it's obvious the student's 4.5 week grade is wrong (i.e. a typically A student suddenly is getting an F), it could mean the difference between a B and an A for a student. And since we no longer get ANY graded assignments back, how would the parent ever know.

Cerebration said...

No Duh, I think you have made a good point here. Teachers today never seem to actually return tests and quizzes, etc and go over them. I remember my teachers always doing this - and I learned a lot because they explained the answers I got wrong (or even more importantly - I actually knew what I got wrong). It's called FEEDBACK - and it's how you learn. (Pretty basic step that's being skipped.)

Also - the school system is hyper-focused on attendance because they have to have those numbers by October for the state -- it's how they get funding. They are surely going to focus on this over grades.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a teacher... Have many of you checked your child's bookbag, room, locker, the floor in their school, one of their many desks.

You can only imagine the number of papers I pass back out only 1) to be left in the desk, 2) left on the floor, or 3) put in the trash can. So it is not all the teachers fault.


By the way posting was loads of fun today. So glad DCSS told us how to do it (hahaha) Some of us stayed up til 1 or 2 this morning. Others of us got up early 4 or 5 in the morning. Why because we knew the system at school would be s... l... o... w... or would not work. That's exactly what happened.

Only to find out that there is this secret tab that they do not tell you about. If you do not check the tab in folder that you have to go and look for, the grades you thought were posted.. Aren't.

I hope parents are screaming about this. Because now the only thing the county cares about are if our grades our posted.

Sure wished I could get a county job like that.

Ella Smith said...

I am disappointed in all the new hires in administrative staff at the county office. I thought we had a problem with funds. If this is true then why is the school board added to the bloat of administrators at the county office. I do not understand.

Anonymous said...

TONY HUNTER SHOULD BE DEMOTED. Instead, he is now an "Executive Director", which almost certainly means a pay raise.

Hey, it pays to be part of Crawford's inner circle.

The administrative bloat of DCSS is at an all-time disaster level. Yet, the BOE votes yes, yes, yes on made up jobs, promotions for the inefficient, and new jobs for principals with no experience in their new assignment.

Anonymous said...

My colleague who spoke about graded papers and posting grades hit the mark dead on. I return graded papers on a regular basis, but at conferences parents say that haven't seen any and students look befuddled when asked where they are. It's a three-way deal, guys- teachers+parents+students. Please stop looking in our direction every time there is a problem. We'll work with you to fix it even though we may not have caused it.
It's a good thing I work for and with people who have a sense of humor. That's the only thing that got us through the fiasco known as "posting" today.

Cerebration said...

I may not have been clear. I was referring to tests mainly. My children's teachers (in MS and HS) didn't return the test with the questions and answers on it - so the students don't know what they answered wrong. They were only told their score.

Teachers told me that they do this because they reuse the tests and don't want them circulated from year to year. I'm glad to hear that there are teachers who really do return the tests and go over the answers. I think students learn better when the teacher goes over the test and explains the correct answers. At least I learned better that way -- oh so long ago.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:32 Thank you ... I really needed it after today. I hope you had a better time posting than I did.

Dekalbparent said...

My kid needs to send transcripts to colleges - one of them needs to go in the next week or two. She asked me what I thought might show up on them, since two of her teachers cannot even establish her class on eSys, and one of them was never trained...

I know the counselors are apprehensive about transcript requests that will come in early in the year.

Anonymous said...

Folks - complaining about the great increase of high level administrative positions on this blog is not effective.

Send a simple and civil email message to all the Board members and copy C. Lewis. You can cut and paste all their addresses from the Board webpage.

They don't read this blog but most look at their email. Some even respond!

Anonymous said...

My nephew attended an excellent high school and is now a freshmen at college. Before I went to any teacher conferences, I always checked his book bag and had him check his locker. Many, many times he had gotten back his test, his book reports, his assignments and his labs. He had not put them in the correct place. As many teens can be, he was not very organized. I helped him get organized with color coded folders, and other strategies. As he got older, he knew that the price of getting to use the car and go out, was that I saw his returned assignments and the assignment book that his school required him to keep.I am sure at the time he was not too happy about this,but he did develop some great skills. It is a very hard balance between helping and not making them be too dependent on us. Sometimes out kids do need support with organizational skills until at least util they can develp their own methods. Back in the day ( as the kids say) study skills was taught as part of the three social studies classes a student had to take. That was a wonderful class and taught at a great age. That was before the day of the endless testing that our students now have to take. My nephew was also able to take music every year in middle school and high school. There has to somehow be a balanced. We want our children to be academically strong, but there is a truly a place for fine arts in our schools.

Dekalbparent said...

@Anon 8:47 -

I agree that we should be expressing our frustration to our Board reps.

The problem for me is that when I email my at-large rep, I get no reply or acknowledgement, and when I email my district Board rep, I get Dr. Lewis' sunshine blown back at me. NEVER have I had a reply indicating that what I am asking/observing has the least validity, and I have been careful to sound polite and reasonable always.

Anonymous said...

Transcripts will only reflect completed classes and I believe they are still able to pull them off of AS400. If it does include this semester and next, it is very important to make sure the course titles are correct.

Dekalbparent said...

Anon 10:15

Thanks - that's a relief. It will be interesting to see what is on the progress reports. I'm sure we on the blog will have no shortage of reports, both from the parental and the teacher view.

Anonymous said...

DeKalb parent: I also get no response from the Board members assigned to my school.

However, if it is a system wide issue, i.e. creating a ridiculous number of senior admin positions in this economy and after pledging to reduce the admin, I always email all the board members at once and copy Lewis. They may not respond, but they will discuss among themselves.

Anonymous said...

Another eSIS issue:

My son told me last night that the new software only rounds up, never rounds down. The teachers pointed this out to them.

So if your child has an 89.9, the software rounds their grade down to 89, not 90. It is not even rounding-it just drops everything after the decimal. The old software followed the mathematically correct rounding rules.

Cerebration said...

Anon, do you mean it rounds down, not up?

That's not good news if it's true.

Dunwoody Mom said...

In the old Parent Portal system, the grades appeared online with their percentages, i.e. 89.9. However, when report cards were created, they did "round up"- I don't recall if the "round up" occurred with progress reports or not.

Cerebration said...

Just making clear, this job "A new position has been created for Dr. Yvonne Butler as Executive Director, Corporate Wellness Program. Dr. Butler is a former Principal at Browns Mill Elementary School," - is a newly created position. Dr. Lewis was very proud of the fact that DeKalb is the very first system in the state to start such a department and assign such a position. That's nice, but I wonder why we have to do it now, when the mantra is cut, cut, cut. Most certainly this woman can't do this job alone - how large a department will she eventually build? How many cuts to the classroom will it take to pay for it? Where exactly is the money coming from to fund this department? Why does the board not admonish Dr. Lewis for adding to his administration during a budget crisis?

What sort of "grade" did Ms. Butler get as a principal? Was she an "A" principal? If so, wouldn't she be more effective remaining a principal? Weren't the bonuses given because Dr. Lewis needed "highly effective principals" in failing schools?

Sometimes watching the moves of Dr. Lewis is like watching a shell game to me.

No Duh said...

Sorry teachers. The reason I said we get "no papers" back is because our middle school teachers and elementary school teachers all explained at Open House that they would not be sending home completed/graded work.

The elementary teachers said the county implemented the "portfolio" system at their level. They were told they had to keep ALL of the work. They are sending ALL of the work home today (after four and half weeks of school) and we have to send it ALL back on Monday.

The middle school has been using the portfolio system. This year the teachers told us the students would be allowed to pick which assignments they wanted to go in the portfolio. Last year, I asked the LA teacher if I was ever going to see any of the writing assignments my child had completed. She said the portfolio would come home at the end of the year. It did not.

So, what's with this portfolio system and where does DCSS expect the elementary school teachers to keep all this paper? Or, are my child's elementary school teachers misinterpreting what DCSS expects of them?

Anonymous said...

Just to let you know... AS 400 has been disconnected. It no longer works.

Anonymous said...

If I read your statement correctly "No Duh"... It's not the teachers fault (but you pharsed it as so). It is another County requirement of the teachers. They have to do what their bosses tell them. You are not their boss the County is. It sounds like if you want to get the papers back you need to talk to the County. And GOOD LUCK with that.

Cerebration said...

Oh yeah, I remember that portfolio thing. They tried to implement that at Lakeside - for college apps - we all wondered where on earth they were planning to store 1600+ stuffed files. They were also supposed to have a team to help go over their final portfolio as well as assess it along the way. Never happened for my kids - anyone know if this ever came to be?

Also - how about the 100 hours of service? My kids did the 25 the first year - filled out the paperwork and then were told to hold onto it - and it was never mentioned again.

Great ideas - gone down under somewhere...

Anonymous said...

this is Anon 7:52 a.m.

Cere is correct. I meant that the new eSIS software only rounds down, never up.

not enough coffee yet....

Anonymous said...

"Executive Director, Corporate Wellness Program"

First, why is it an "Executive Director" instead of a "Director"?

Secondly, what in the heck is C Lew doing creating administrative positions out of thin air when he constantly cries about lack of funding? The BOE has no problem with this???

Thirdly, I've talked to some people about this position. In the corporate world, this person would always have a Master's in Public Health. They wouldn't hire someone without that degree, plus the proper experience.

I'ts nice for Yvonne Butler to be part of the Crawford Lewis clique. Bad for taxpayers and students who need respurces, but good for Yvonne Butler.

Anonymous said...

Next week, tune in to THE PRINCIPAL STORY, which follows two dedicated principals facing the challenge of turning around low-performing schools. This one-hour documentary begins airing in the U.S. over PBS television stations Tuesday, September 15. Enter your zip code here for broadcast times in your area: http://www.pbs.org/pov/tvschedule/

Also, check out the film site for videos, printable guides and other PRINCIPAL STORY extras meant to spur more conversation about school leadership:
http://www.wallacefoundation.org/principal-story/Pages/default.aspx

Anonymous said...

Wow, here are clips from The Principal Story, and it's very, very well done:

http://www.wallacefoundation.org/principal-story/clips-from-the-film/Pages/default.aspx

Please spread the word to teachers, parents, etc.

Anonymous said...

Folks, Ramona Tyson isn't going to let Tony Hunter have too long of a leash...MIS will be fine (or at least stay the way it is now).

The Bulter promotion--that is just good ole Crawford politics. Who knows what their past is together and why he owes her. There is already an AD of Wellness--why wasn't she promoted??? Oh, wait...she's white.

Still find it interesting that the DA's investigation of Pat Pope is now in its 8th month (right, or has it been 9 months)? Still think they are "just looking into a few things" like Crawford said back in February?

BOE--are you even asking questions about this investigation? Where is the mysterious whistleblower we keep hearing about? What in the world is going on???

Anonymous said...

Dunwoody HS progress reports came out today (9/12/09). They were handwritten, not computerized.

Students began the day in homeroom and were told to list their name and 4 classes (block sched) on the form. Students then took the form to every class for the teacher to handwrite in their numeric and letter grade, plus add any brief comments.

Is this what e-SIS brings us? No doubt, Tony Hunter deserved that promotion!

Anonymous said...

fyi....the DCSS employee assigned the responsibilities for Employee Health and Wellness prior to Dr. Butler's promotion was Dr. Shannon Williams. Dr. Williams is also the Coordinator for Health and Physical Education, K-12, and has raised thousands of dollars through grants to DCSS. Her expertise and leadership in Health and Wellness is the best that DCSS has had in 30 years. However, when she was assigned the extra responsibilities of being in charge of Employee Wellness ALONG with her responsibilities as the Coordinator of H&PE, she did not receive a raise.....just more responsibilities. Dr. Williams has been in DCSS for 4 years and Health, PE, and Wellness is her expertise. She's never been a principal. I wish I knew Dr. Butler's background in Health & Wellness.

Anonymous said...

I think Butler instituted some lunch program at the elementary school that she worked at. If it the school I am thinking of, it received a lot of attention and has lasted for a long time.

Not sure how that exactly qualifies her for this position and not sure why this position is needed...

Pattie Baker said...

Re:Dr. Butler--I interviewed her and wrote a post about her two years ago, in conjunction with National School Lunch Week. See here: http://www.foodshedplanet.com/2007/10/noatinal-school-lunch-week-dr-butlers.html

Anonymous said...

Apparently, Dr. Lewis told an auxiliary luncheon (for parapros and staff) that the 2009 school opening was the smoothest in years, and that Esis is up and running without a hitch. Of what other planet's school system is he the superintendent?

Anonymous said...

Shannon Williams is awesome and extremely knowledgeable and effective.

If Crawford Lewis is going to make up jobs for his inner circle, he should at least make them a "Director" instead of an "Executive Director". The only difference between the two is the exta salary for the so-called "Executive Director".

Cerebration said...

Interesting article about Dr Butler, Pattie. Thanks for sharing. May I quote a portion?

Dr. Butler implemented the Sugar-Free Zone; got rid of all sodas in the machines; nixed the chocolate milk; threw out the fried and high-fat foods; added daily PE, nutrition education, cooking classes, and one of my favorite details, ten minutes of dance every morning in every classroom right after morning announcements; and even said "see ya'" to food kids brought from home that did not fit in as healthy choices.

The results over these last eight years? The 40% of kindergarteners who come to her overweight leave her at a normal weight. Test scores are up, clinic visits are down, discipline problems are minimal, and she has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars for the school system. Not to mention lives.

"I'm not a scientist. I'm not a nutritionist. I'm not a dietician," explained Dr. Butler. "But now people who never would have invited me to the table want to talk to me. Because what we are doing is working."


Just curious -- DCSS has a nutrition/school lunch dept. As far as I understand, they operate on their own - outside the system more or less. Is this principal inferring that the school lunch program is full of fried, high-fat food? I thought they had regulations they had to strictly follow...

I will assume that her focus will be to educate the children as to healthy choices - and that the food actually served will still come from the cafeteria. I'm a little confused as to what the plan is for this department. Could simply replacing the person over food service have the same effect?

Cerebration said...

How amazing that Dr. Lewis would actually state that eSIS is up and running and came off without a hitch... when we have people telling us that their children are receiving handwritten progress reports... I guess it's sort of like stating that the system is "Premier" -- he apparently thinks that just saying it will make it so.

BTW - parents, I would hang on to those handwritten reports until you have a diploma in hand... no kidding.

Anonymous said...

I have worked with Shannon Williams, and she is simply one of the best employees in the school system. Just awesome. But the way you lose good employees is to promote other employees with little to no experience in an area over your good employees. Crawford sure loves to make up jobs for the principals he's buddy buddy with.


"I'm not a scientist. I'm not a nutritionist. I'm not a dietician," explained Dr. Butler.

No, you're not Dr. Butler. But somehow you're now an Executive Director in an area where any other school system would require you to be a scientist, a nutritionist, a dietician, or at least have a degree in Public Health. Really, really hoping that Shannon Williams stays with our school system.

Anonymous said...

eSIS was implemented without any problems in the vast majority of schools. It's just that they were all elementary schoosl. The schools that had problems were the schools with schedules and those where parents are used to Parent Portal -- middle and high school -- but that isn't the majority of the school of the schools or the school children in the system. So he can claim "success" based on numbers because the "failure" is watered down by the "clean" implementation at the elementary school level, coupled with the middle schools that were able to fairly quickly fix their problems, at least with the schedules (jury is still out on grades....).

Anonymous said...

I've come to the conclusion that no one knows how to really use esis. No one can tell me how to run reports for individual students. It's not working properly in the elementary schools, or at least not my school. The whole system is a mess. Little forethought was put into it's implementation. It freezes. Teachers can't get on when they need to. Esis is another DeKalb joke.

Good teachers are tired of the DCSS way. I know many good teachers who are planning on looking for jobs with other systems next year. The parents and school board member of DeKalb need to wake up and realize that their education system is falling apart. Having a new school with new stuff doesn't mean a quality education, if the policies are to stop law suits and not to educating children.

Dunwoody Mom said...

My middle-schooler came home with a computerized progress report today, which I am assuming was generated via esis.

Cerebration said...

Glad to hear the computers are starting to work!

Here's a bit of financial trivia I downloaded from the state DOE website -- Keep these numbers in mind when discussing our school system's performance - are we getting our money's worth? Could $10k+ per child be better spent on private schools? Charters? A breakdown of the system into 5-6 smaller systems? Should Dr. Lewis have control of a BILLION dollars? Should we instead look for a more corporate trained, CEO type person?

FWIW - you can go to the state doe and run revenue reports by county -

http://app.doe.k12.ga.us/ows-bin/owa/fin_pack_revenue.display_proc

Basically, in 2008 DCSS collected

$543,013,211.99 Local Rev plus
$417,623,041.76 State Rev plus
$50,533,143.57 Fed Rev

totaling

$1,011,169,397.32 (yes, that's a Billion $)

or

$10,232.95 per FTE (Full time student)

Cerebration said...

For comparison, Gwinnett operates a $1.3 billion school system - equating to 8,517.48 per student.

Cobb's revenue is just over $900 million - 8,753.31 per student.

Fulton - just over $838 million or 9,809.87 per student.

Clayton - $440 million - 8,358.80 per student.

Cerebration said...

But get this - Atlanta had revenue just over $400 million - equating to a whopping 14,767.45 per student!

Anonymous said...

I dream that we could have Bernie Marcus or Herman Cain as our school CEO -- then they could hire someone superb as an Exec. VP to be in charge of education (or various education issues) and our taxpayer money could really be put to use to revamp and revitalize our school system.... to dream the impossible dream....

Shayna Steinfeld said...

One gets a splendid private school education for between $18,000 and $20,000 a child per year -- now, there is significantly less beaurocratic mess to deal with so that has to be taken into account.... Dividing the school system into quarters or sixths would help a lot to minimize some of the beuarocracy.

Kim Gokce said...

Shayna, you have hit on what I think is a fundamental obstacle ... I really question whether there is any value added whatsoever by having a "system" like DCSS. There are a handful of key reasons why many private schools seem to produce results (competitive applications, parental support, etc.) but I have to believe that the ability to simply run a school house is a lot easier than running a "system." Whatever we can do to squeeze out all expenses possible from non-schoolhouse items in DCSS-land, the happier I'll be.

Regarding the dollar figures per pupil above, I believe those leave off the Title I and other Federal dollars do they not? The figure per pupil for DCSS 2008 according to the State Boe was $9896.29 of which only $6262.28 was for instruction. Somewhere I saw a list by school of the per pupil numbers and remember some DCSS high schools running as high as $14-16k.

I would love to see the financials for a school like Marist or St. Pius or Woodward Academy - I wonder what the "overhead" expense is versus instructional expenses. I have to believe there is a much higher percentage in instructional but have no evidence.

Cerebration said...

You're correct, Kim. That number does not include the $34 million DCSS received in Title 1 funds. Also, those are 08 numbers, and I think you and Ella used 07 numbers when you did your research last year.

Everyone - this is a clear example of why our board should NOT approve Dr Lewis' request to circumvent the states 65% rule for spending in the classroom.

Please email your rep (or all the reps) and let them know that you oppose this - they need to make Dr Lewis make more cuts to his administration - not to the classroom. (I can't believe he actually asked for this reduction - as well as a waiver to break state rules for class size when he just promoted several people at the very top and even created several new positions so that he could give certain people "raises".) This is really unacceptable management, in my opinion.

themommy said...

Make no mistake, depending on your expectations, there are some really crummy private schools out there. For some families, it is primarily about religion and/or choosing who your child sits next to.

Westminster gets so many students into Harvard each year because they start with a highly qualified study body with about as highly educated and/or wealthy parent pool as a school can do in the southeast. On top of that, I suspect that a disproportionate number of parents there are Ivy or near Ivy grads.

There is no central office bureaucracy for private schools to contend with. Also, for the most part, they pay their teachers and all but their top administrators less. Schools with big endowments (Westminster and Marist, etc) spend more per child than the tuition generally.

Most of those state of the art facilities are built not with tuition dollars but generally with a capital or other special fund raising campaign. Every year, Atlanta Magazine does that guide to private schools issue. One year, it pointed out that almost no private schools are honest with prospective parents about the amount of contributions requested outside of tuition. (It saluted, if I recall correctly, Wesleyan for being honest on this detail.)

I have had children in public and private schools. I find that one of the biggest differences (in terms of fund raising) is the size of donations that the private school parents make with great ease. For example, a coach will put together an extensive pre-season wish list that includes rather expensive items and individual families will simply provide those items rather than the team fundraising for them.

Anonymous said...

Kim and Cere are correct. It is blatantly shaneful and even unethical that Crawford is requesting a waiver regarding the 65% for classroom spending.

We should be spending 75 or 80% for classroom spending. Crawford Lewis has been an administrator for decades. He needs to spend a week back teaching in a classroom. Even when he was not superintendent, he still helped push for more and more bureuacratic spending. How many non-teaching administrators have been added in the past 20+ years that Crawford was part of the inner circle?

It's time that the BOE asks Lewis to retire, and we bring in a CEO-type who can champion efficiencies and cut the bloat. The waste and made p jobs and unqualified principals in positions they have no background in has to stop and stop now.

Cerebration said...

For in-depth info on enrollment and spending, click on Mr. Potato Head and read the in-depth research Kim and Ella conducted last April.

Anonymous said...

According to a BOE member, the waiver was requested by the STATE OF GEORGIA, which is planning even further cuts to education funds. The State also requested a waiver on student seat count, to increase class size. Oh, joy.

Cerebration said...

Well, that's sort of true. The State has recommended that counties apply for waivers if they need them to balance the budget. The state has offered optional waivers for LEAs to apply for in order to provide relief to their budgets. DeKalb has applied for all of these -

Reduction of the number of personnel required per FTE

Reduction of the requirement to spend 65% in the classroom

Reduction in time counselors must spend engaging in counseling activities

Increasing maximum class size requirement

Decreasing the beyond the school day instructional requirements

======= the official reasoning ========

WHEREAS, the DeKalb County Board of Education finds that a substantial hardship exists because reductions in state funding persist due to a sour state economy, and no other resources are available to the LEA; and

WHEREAS, receiving waivers from the aforementioned State Board of Education Rules would exempt the DeKalb County Board of Education from expending the funds necessary for compliance; and

WHEREAS, the DeKalb County Board of Education approves the DeKalb County School District’s request to seek a waiver of State Board of Education Rules 160-5-1-.22 Personnel Required, 160-5-1-.29 Minimum Direct Classroom Expenditures, 160-4-8-.05 Guidance Counselors, 160-5-1-.08 Class Size for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 50-13-9.1.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the DeKalb County Board of Education requests a waiver from all of the mandates or requirements as required by the State Board of Education Rules 160-5-1-.22 Personnel Required, 160-5-1-.29 Minimum Direct Classroom Expenditures, 160-4-8-.05 Guidance Counselors, 160-5-1-.08 Class Size.


I think this is an easy way out -- there are plenty of other areas that can be cut. I don't understand how Lewis can ask for all of these allowed waivers from the state on one hand - and on the other hand, continue to create new high-level administrative positions and promote administrators.

Cerebration said...

"Hopefully" they are applying for all of these waivers just to have them - in case they need them for the coming couple of years. (Tax collections are going to be waaaaay down.)

Anonymous said...

Cerebration said...
"Hopefully" they are applying for all of these waivers just to have them - in case they need them for the coming couple of years. (Tax collections are going to be waaaaay down.)


Based on Dr. Lewis' comments on 9/8 when they pulled the original K-8 waiver resolution to bring back a K-12 resolution, I think the plan is to use the waivers immediately. He said they would save over $1 million (I think it was 1.1million). He went on to mention that every time a teacher is hired, it costs $65,000 for salary and benefits.

If you read the waiver resolution, you'll notice really quick that the requested rules all deal directly with instruction.... employees who spend the majority of their days with STUDENTS.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Lewis is not going to cut administration. He's obviously going to cut teacher/student ratios et al in order to demonstrate need for funding - a la Gwinnett County. He's going to have to close schools, intensify crowding in existing schools, and increase class size to demonstrate need.

Cerebration said...

I was hoping... but I know that you are right. The cuts will be made to the classroom - now that Dr Lewis has convinced the board that he has cut as deeply as possible everywhere else. (He has not, though, in my opinion and hiring new admin staff with six figure salaries + benefits is proof. Each new admin could pay for 2 or more teachers.)

No Duh said...

Can anyone report on the ELPC meeting today? Anything interesting?

Anonymous said...

I wasn't there, but here's what I heard about the ELPC meeting: Dr. Lewis showed up late, left after answering only 2 questions, and presented the exact same information that he presented at the DCPC meetings. This summary is based on friends who were at Briar Vista today with notes from the 9/2 DCPC meeting in front of them for reference.

Cerebration said...

I didn't make it either, but let me guess. His "entourage" of about 50 staff and area principals didn't make it nor did many of the area's politicians. Fran Millar seemed to have a lot of interaction with Lewis and the crowd at dcpc - and he had he own - albeit much smaller - entourage. It was a very well-attended political event, IMO.

Maybe ELPC has lost their political clout with Lewis?!

Anonymous said...

Actually 7 of the 9 board members were there so it didn't look very good that Lewis showed up so late, especially after he had requested an earlier start time. Lots of central office staff were there and a pretty good parent turn-out as well. I don't think it's a matter of ELCP losing any "clout" at all. More like Lewis has already experienced some uproar over the speech after the DCPC meeting and wanted to minimize the fall out this time around.

Cerebration said...

Thanks for the input, Anon.

Dekalbparent said...

Dr Lewis showed up late, citing traffic. He left early, citing a meeting at State DOE - I think it had to do with three schools that had finally made AYP, and removing some sort of state constraints. Something that required his signature.

I wasn't at the DCPC meeting, but this seemed a rehash. I will refrain from editorializing:

The last grade/attendance system implementation was just as bad as this one. It's always that way.

School closures w/b discussed with BOE in Oct, announced late Oct, start execution Jan 2010.

Pledged he "will not recommend to the BOE that we sell any of the properties that we close."

DCSS will stick with current calendar - no long days/ short weeks or shortening of school year.

Have to make empty seats go away to obtain more state funding - this requires redistricting and school closures - starting 2010-11 school year.

Block scheduling is "not aas effective as it might be", and they are going to seriously reconsider. SAid he would probably recommend 7-period day in most schools, with a modified block in the schools where block scheduling has been sort of successful. Recommendations to be presented in October.

They are going to "look at using other certified personnel for instruction". He specifically mentioned school counselors.

"We must be a standards-driven district" [as opposed to a program-driven one] "We need to take the best of the programs we have tried. We need to develop our own standards so we are not pushed in all directions" by state programs.

Then he left, and Bob Mosely took over.

H1N1 - pretty much the CDC recommendations - practice good hygiene, keep sick kids home. Said there would be a letter coming home.

The data on flu-like symptoms in the schools is being tracked and sent to the Bd of Health [question: where does the data come from - if a kid is home sick, the parent is not necessarily telling the sshool if it was b/c of flu]

The custodians are wiping all faucets, toilets, door handles desks, etc DAILY.

"There are hand sanitizers in each building". A question was asked about who is responsible for refilling them, and he said DCSS will, but the principal must send a request.

DCSS is considering offering free H1N1 vaccinations in some schools during evenings. They need to craft an agreement w/ Bd of Health. "School-age children and staff members will be offered shots at school" No details on this.

Then Tony Hunter spoke.

"All schedules were resolved within the first week"

All teachers were trained in their schools during preplanning. This was done by teachers who were selected to be trained during the summer.

Lockups and slow processing occurred b/c all the teachers were hitting the system at once. NO teacher is experiencing lockups any more.

The application is working for everyone - attendance is being taken and grades are being entered.

Teachers are getting email "tip of the week" There is an eSys resource online available to all teachers. On Tuesdays 4pm - 6:30pm and Saturdays 9-11 the Bryant Center is open to teachers for hands-on help.

Parent Portal available 10/23.

All current transcripts (i.e. grades as of 5/09) are available on AS400. eSys-generated transcripts will be available OCtober.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Block scheduling is "not aas effective as it might be", and they are going to seriously reconsider. SAid he would probably recommend 7-period day in most schools, with a modified block in the schools where block scheduling has been sort of successful

Hallelujah!!!

Anonymous said...

Pledged he "will not recommend to the BOE that we sell any of the properties that we close."

WHY NOT???

And Tony Hunter lives in a fanstasy world. Nothing he said about eSIS was true. It was a complete diaster on the high school level. And no one from the BOE is going to challenge him or Crawford on it.

We have an out to lunch BOE.

Anonymous said...

The budget is so bad that we allegedly can't spend even 2/3 (3/4 would be more ethical) in the classrooms, yet Lewis "will not recommend to the BOE that we sell any of the properties that we close."
Does he have some plan to use them to generate revenue, or will they sit empty and decaying, like Forest Hills? This makes NO sense at all.
Al

Dekalbparent said...

@Anon 1:18 (and everybody else)

I reported "just the facts", hoping that everyone who was not able to be there could come to their own conclusions. Frankly, I hoped some of the statements I reported would get you all fired up!

Write to all the BOE members and TELL THEM that what Tony Hunter said wasn't true. TELL THEM the specific incidents in your schools. I can't know what's happening anywhere but DHHS, because that's the only place I have actually seen what is happening. I know for an absolute fact that my kid did not have two of her classes on her progress report because the teachers still can't get eSys to recognize that the class exists...

I told the board members I could catch, and I'll email the rest.

Cerebration said...

Wow - school closures will be implemented in January?!!

Dekalbparent said...

No, I don't think he meant implementation in January at all - he meant the planning would start in January for an August 2010 implementation.

Dunwoody Mom said...

If esis is working why were the Dunwoody HS progress reports hand-written?

Anonymous said...

Apparently when it was suggested that the old Briarcliff High School property be sold one of the board members said it would never happen during his tenure.

Cerebration said...

I have also heard that said about Heritage school - even though it is far too tiny to serve as a school and the county could buy it and convert the whole area into a much needed park for the area. But this board rep will block that from ever happening "on my watch".

Anonymous said...

Why? What has the BOE got against selling properties for which they no longer have a need--especially when the BOE is short of cash? Seriously, have any of them ever offered a reason why this won't happen "on my watch"?
Al

Anonymous said...

Not a logical reason. I believe with respect to Briarcliff it's because that is where the board member in question attended high school - at least that is the only explanation I have ever heard. Interesting way to approach public service.

Cerebration said...

wah! don't tear down my old high school - that will make me look old!!

Anonymous said...

Cross Keys is falling apart? Whatever. Sell the Briarcliff property? Not on my watch.

At least he is decisive on something.

Anonymous said...

There are certainly properties that DCSS owns that should be sold. They are in parts of DeKalb where land remains cheap and plentiful and there is no indication that this will change any time soon.

On the other hand, there are parts of DeKalb that are built out and offer little to no potential for large pieces of property to be available and affordable. (Fulton County paid over a million dollars an acre for the property for one of the new elementary schools in Sandy Springs.) In those areas, DeKalb shouldn't sell the land and that includes Briarcliff.

Anonymous said...

But that doesn't necessarily apply to Heritage, which could possibly be sold to the County to be used as Green space and preserved in that fashion -- it's too small to really be used well as a school in the future.

Anonymous said...

Tony Hunter is certainly incorrect when he posits that schedules were "fixed" the first week. PCMS schedules were still being entered as new the third week of school, staff couldn't finish balancing classes until week four - all because counselors and administrators couldn't get eSis to accept entries and retain them. Even today, classes are not completely balanced. Teachers report still pulling up rosters that DO NOT MATCH the kids sitting in front of them. As for DHS, there are monster size classes, student schedules were still being changed week 3, and, as Dunwoody Mom said, we got handwritten progress reports.

Dunwoody Mom said...

I did not mind the hand-written progress report, but let's be honest about what is going on with esis. Most of us understand that there will be issues with any new system. People can handle issues, delays, etc., if they are getting honest and timely information. It's the misinformation and untruths that make the situation worse than it needs to be.

Cerebration said...

I'm a bit bothered by the following statements reportedly said by Tony Hunter:

"All schedules were resolved within the first week"

"All teachers were trained in their schools during preplanning. This was done by teachers who were selected to be trained during the summer."

"Lockups and slow processing occurred b/c all the teachers were hitting the system at once. NO teacher is experiencing lockups any more."

"The application is working for everyone - attendance is being taken and grades are being entered."

========

There's just something dismissive in how that sounds. To me it sounds like, "we have rolled this out perfectly, they system was working perfectly after one week and everyone has been perfectly trained. (If they are having issues, then they are just slow learners.) We will open our arms and offer extra help for those who still need it - on their own free time."

No culpability. No recognition of the issues. Just a pass the buck statement and a condescending effort to help those who still lag behind.

Promotion please!

fedupindcss said...

Cere: this is DCSS in a nutshell. No accountability at the top, all blame down below.

The big problem with eSIS isn't grades: for AYP they mean nothing. It is attendance. Teachers have been told to concentrate on that, because whole classes are still disappearing from daily attendance. This could impact AYP and create faulty data that could result in faulty transfer numbers.

Cerebration said...

Yep -- and you will all love this little tidbit we just received via email --

"I just found out today that Yvonne Butler will be making a full $40,000 more per year than Dr. Shannon Williams. Unbelievable."

Cerebration said...

Let's just say that this is about a $145,000 newly created position that took an apparently good principal out of the schoolhouse and placed her as executive director in an area she is not trained for over an already highly effective director who is highly trained in this expertise.

I have to disagree with Dr. Walker, I'm not impressed with that kind of management. It screams lawsuit to me.

Cerebration said...

On another fiscal note -- does anyone know what DCSS has done or plans to do with the $140 million they have received in Stimulus funds? Could these new positions be funded with this money, perhaps?

Check out the Stimulus tracking in GA at 11 Alive's website.

Cerebration said...

From 11 Alive reports --

The biggest, single chunk of the money -- $900 million -- is merely bailout money for Georgia's schools following the huge state budget cuts.

It's not enough to prevent teacher furloughs.

But much of the rest of the education stimulus is extra cash for two areas:

$351.4 million for schools in poor neighborhoods, and $324.3 million for special education programs.

And special ed programs, in particular, are suddenly awash in more cash than they've ever seen at once.

"Has this ever happened before in your experience?" 11Alive's Jon Shirek asked Philip Mellor of the Henry County Schools.

"In twenty-four years," Mellor answered. "No."

Mellor is executive director of Henry County's Special Education Program. His share of stimulus money for special ed -- $7.5 million. And that more than doubles what he usually receives every year from the feds for special ed.

So, at Hickory Flat Elementary, special ed students learn alongside general education students. And in one classroom, you will find two teachers for 13 students -- because of the stimulus grant.

"We have an incredible opportunity to shore up some of the programs for students with disabilities," Mellor said, "and to have a great impact in a very short period of time from this incredible influx of money."

The state is still figuring out how to track actual spending, after the fact. Because ultimately the feds could demand wasted money back.

"I think the hardest thing about this money is going to be documenting what actually happened with it," Cox said. "And that's okay, because I'm a taxpayer, too."

Anonymous said...

Shannon Williams worked hard for grants to pay for her job. The new person and I am so sorry I forgot who that got for half of Ms. Williams job is PAID by US!!!! What's wrong with that picture.

Anonymous said...

Why does the BOE allow Crawford Lewis to make up new highly paid administrative positions out of thin air? Why does the BOE listen to the insane Tony Hunter that eSIS has been a success, and not call him out on it? Wht doesn't the public know where the stimulus money is going?

DCSS is not only mismanaged, its overly managed by too many managers!

Lefty said...

I was at the ELPC meeting on Wed. I recall Tony Hunter saying that complaints about system lock-ups went from 30 about two weeks ago to at the most 10 last week. I did not hear him say "no more problems." I don't recall any comments regarding student schedules. Unfortunately, with an elementary student, that's not part of my mindset.

He did say that system tweaks are still ongoing at this point. Tony said that "instructional technology specialists visited every school every day last week to assist with progress reports." Obviously that didn't help some schools.

Anonymous said...

All the teachers I know are thankfully keeping attendance by hand. Even after DCSS speant millions on eSIS.

Tony Hunter is absolutely full of himslef, and full of sh%^ too.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that the stimulus funds were used to pay for America's Choice. I also understand that some DCSS schools have a shortage of Special Services teachers and are not able to serve special needs populations as required by federal law. Many DCSS ex-employees have profited from DCSS' purchase of the program...those ex-employees now work for America's Choice.

Anonymous said...

Laughing at the cleaning of the schools. I had a child vomit in my classroom and had to argue with the custodian to clean it up properly. I ended up doing it myself. Give me a break, they may be asking people to do this, but I haven't seen a door knob or handle cleaned in my school. My students do it.

DeKalb County can't do it's own standards. They can't even do the math curriculum right for elementary the third time around. There are still mistakes. DeKalb needs to use the state Frameworks, as they are a very rigorous way to teach the children math and incorporate all aspects of their learning into the activities.

As far as giving someone a raise, it disgusts me, as teachers haven't had one or a step increase. We're top heavy and the kids education is suffering. Dr. Lewis needs to go!!

Cerebration said...

I didn't think Stimulus money was used for America's Choice - I thought it was Title 1. Although, maybe it was Title 1 stimulus money. At any rate - what about the rest of the $140 million???

Dekalbparent said...

Again, thinking of DCSS spending:

Today I passed by Fernbank Science Center and I counted 17 or 18 DCSS school buses parked (idling) in the drive and on Heaton Park Drive (in front of Fernbank Elementary). They are all there every day to transport students to and from the STT (Scientific Tools and Techniques)program - a program for selected 9th graders.

I have heard the program is very good, and I don't have a beef with the program itself. However, I began to wonder how many kids are served by the STT program. I know it is not open to all students - they have to be recommended and then they are selected to attend. Where are they being bussed from and back to? They are there for about two hours, but some students leave early every day, I am told, because they have to travel a long way back to their schools.

I will try to find out how many kids are in the program and where the busses are traveling.

Anonymous said...

My son is in STT. The bus picks up each child in their neighborhood (not at their doorstep but at the closest school bus stop). I believe there are 15 kids from each school. I'm not sure how many schools participate in the program each semester.

My son gets picked up at 6:15AM (STT starts at 8:00). We are the 2nd stop. I finally realized that the bus driver takes a ridculous, convoluted route between some of the stops. Between my son's stop and the next one, it is probably one mile through the neighborhood. It should take no more than 5 minutes. The route the driver takes goes out onto some main roads, makes left turns that are near impossible in the mornings and takes at least 15-20 minutes to get to the next stop. I printed out a map and highlighted the 2 routes to show him how he could more efficiently make the trip and asked him to call me with his thoughts. I never heard from him. I haven't tried to call him because, frankly, I got tired of the whole thing.

I had previously spoken to and emailed both Pamela Sanders (DCSS in charge of routing) and Alma Blackmon (in charge of Lakeside transportation), as well as the bus driver to try to get a stop put at Lakeside. There were several parents who would prefer to drop their kids off at Lakeside, rather than have to be picked up so early. We all have called and emailed and finally just dropped the idea since nothing ever got resolved.

It is only one semester and we feel the inconvenience is worth it because STT is just fantastic. But, the bus driver wastes so much gas and so much time. I wonder who give him the route or if he made it up himself (note: there are other stops on the route where he does the same thing. Takes a longer route when there is a much shorter way he could go). I've asked that question in my emails to Alma Blackmon and Pamela Sanders and did not get an answer. I think a lot of money/time/gas would be saved if instead of picking up each child in their neighborhood, they just had a central pick-up spot at the high school.

Cerebration said...

An issue has come up about that program. It seems that our local public middle schools could only secure a seat for about 10% of the applicants into the program. However, a local area (very, very small) private school was able to get almost all or all of their applicants into the program. We here at the blog can't figure this out - since you have to apply in the spring of 8th grade, and these kids were applying from a private school -- not yet counted for FTE at Lakeside or Druid Hills - yet they all - or almost all - got a seat at the STT table.

huh?!! Does anyone get how this happened?

Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you are talking about and I have no idea how that happens. Makes no sense and does not seem fair at all. It seems that those kids from that private school are not competing directly with the kids from Henderson Middle school (they are being chosen by their own teachers, counselors, etc.), yet they come out of Lakeside's pool of kids. I do not understand it at all. Has anyone requested an explanation from STT?

Anonymous said...

Alma Blackmon and Pamela Sanders work for David Guillory, son in law of former BOE member Frances Edwards, who's daughter also works for DCSS. Both her daughter and David Guillory make well over $100,000 per year. There is much waste and inefficieny in the DCSS transportation dept., but all the administrators and managers there sure make nice salaries.

Cerebration said...

Interesting minutes I found from a Tucker Parent Council meeting - dated February 16, 2006:

Update from Bebe Joyner

State budget will state 65% must be spent on teachers and supplies for students. Does not cover libraries, food, counselors, utilities, social workers or transportation.

COPS projects are able to get money quicker and get revenue from monthly tax receipts.

Fairington and Evans Mill have 40 trailers. The question of bonds was addressed and reason is they cost more and interest is high.

DCSS is looking at large school scenarios – smaller schools may be a thing of the past. The mission of some schools will change. No schools will be closed.

Ann Cain came from the Parent Advisory Meeting and said Dr. Lewis indicated that they are looking at hiring an outside demographer to redraw school district lines. Proposal would be submitted to the superintendent in December 2006.

The state funds the schools to a certain point then the local dollars fund what is not covered.

The status of the NCLB plan is targeted for end of February. Crawford Lewis said TMS and THS would not get additional students in the following year.


And these from November, 2005:

Q: What is the status of plans to bring schools that have not made adequate yearly progress back into compliance?

A: Dr. Lewis said that failing schools are receiving state and county support. Coaches for math and reading have been assigned to struggling schools. There been 20 coaches assigned to elementary schools, 6 to middles schools, and 12 to high schools. Teachers are receiving on site support with feedback when classes end.

We have 13 Title One Schools in DeKalb County. Teachers in these schools are being trained in Spring Board*. Grades 6, 7, and 8 are mandated to participate in this program.

Only six middle schools met AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) last year. The county has hired three High School Coordinators for “High Schools That Work”. Their job is to ensure that practices that should be prevalent are in place. The school board approved the “High Schools That Work” program three years ago. There is no system in place to monitor progress or the lack thereof.

Dr. Lewis with Dr. Gloria Talley has issued a call to action to every administrator and counselor to be playing his or her role in the operation of the school. Principals welcome and embrace help from the county.

Dr. Lewis promised to do a better job of keeping us informed about AYP and how schools have performed. He will not leave it until the end of the year to let the community know which schools are on the failing list. He will communicate better with the public and the school principals.

Not meeting AYP is not a death sentence. Dr. Lewis said he knew the numbers would go up from the previous year. Never thought the number would go from 252 students exercising school choice to approximately 1600. He will meet with all receiving and sending schools. There is a good possibility that school choice will not be an option next year.

A state task force for AYP and school choice has been formed. It will hear from the public and incorporate their ideas.

*Spring Board is a web-based program designed to expose students to the rigors they will face in High School reading and math. It is a five days a week program integrated into the Language Arts Curriculum. Title One funds paid for the program this year.


I don't know about you - but I just find these minutes interesting. It's been over 3 years of the same talking points.

Cerebration said...

There's more -- how about these from October, 2006:

Program – Pat Pope – SPLOST
• Pat’s first community meeting with DeKalb County was TPC at THS. She has been invited to more TPC meetings than any other in county.
• Updates: Last Friday Demographic Study was presented by independent team. Study with summary of most interesting points will be on Website Friday.
• Final discussion for capital improvements will be Tuesday at 2:30pm. Board will vote November 6th during board member work session

Robert Moseley
3 points regarding school choice:
o School Choice was result of Blue Ribbon Task Force conceived by previous superintendent to provide choices to students at the sub-district regional level. Dr. Lewis created sub ad hoc committee and plan was implemented this fall.
o District was divided into 6 regions each represented by a design team and a facilitator.
o Each design team has 2 responsibilities What choice program recommendations and where will they be.

Dr. Alice Thompson
System Overview
• 2003-04 Blue Ribbon Task Force formed to address overcrowding, 5yr plan, balance enrollment
• Dec 2004- Dec 2005 Ad Hoc committee formed
• Recommendation #2 School Choice: High Achievers, Magnet, Special Interest Magnet, Theme, Montessori, IB and other areas.
• Visited Regional Areas to see what they had
o Charlotte, NC
o Houston, TX: DeBakey High School for Health Professions
o Hamilton County, Chattanooga, TN: Academy and small learning centers
o Duvall County, Ft. Lauderdale, FL: Dillard Center for Arts
o Wake County, Raleigh, NC: Conn Active Discovery Learning Technology
o Brevard County, FL

• Looked at Regional and System Options for High Schools, Middle Schools, Elementary Schools
• Looked at Transportation at regional and system levels
• After visits returned to create 6 Regions consisting of 2-4 high schools with 12000-21000 students. All departments are involved.
• Design Teams were created to identify school choice options and recommend school choice sites.
• July - met with demographer
• August - met with principals
• Sept-May - Design Teams at work
• June – Town Hall meetings
• June 07 – August 08 prep for opening of phase 1 in August 08
• Phase in process


What ever became of the plan to implement Regions?

Cerebration said...

And - November, 2006 minutes tell us a bit about SPLOST 3 plans originally --

The plan recap is as follows:

COPS Retire Debt - $66,000,000
SPLOST ll Deferred - $25,000,000
Healthy & Safe Environments - $79,560,464
High Schools - $163,760,745
Career Tech Classroom/Fine Arts - $62,092,095
Technology - $36,011,091
Other (Buses, Local School, Site Improvements and Land) - $33,574,405

Effects:
o All Schools and Centers, Smart Schools @ all Media Centers
. $226,000 Million for High School Improvements
o Buses 140 replacements

Cerebration said...

You'll notice there is no mention in these SPLOST 3 plans of spending money on new administrative offices at Mountain Industrial or a complete overhaul of the Sam Moss Center or a brand new Wellness Center at Mt Industrial. (BTW - are we planning to sell the Freeman A/B buildings?)

Also - these projects are still listed as in progress - even though Lithonia and Miller Grove are under-enrolled (and Arabia could more than handle MLK's overflow if they would designate it so.)

Project #421-126 Lithonia High School, Project #421-127 Martin Luther King High School, and
Project #421-128 Miller Grove High School are all Large Scale Model Additions. These
projects will be procured utilizing the Design/Build delivery method. An RFP for Design/Build
Services will be issued in May 2009, May 2009, and June 2009, respectively.

These are RFPs for work to begin. My dollar says that these additions will be built before Lakeside, Chamblee, Dunwoody and Cross Keys.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, Cere. Just more proof that the Crawford Lewis administration just reacts and reacts some more. All of the meeting minutes from years past mean nothing, but it's never followed up on. There's no plan. There's no foresight. He just makes it up as he goes along.

Dekalbparent said...

I did some cursory research on STT, and came up with this:

STT serves 180 DeKalb 9th graders per year. They run the same program twice each year, so the student takes it either first or second semester.

That comes out to 90 students per semester. (I do not know if each semester is completely filled.)

Assuming 90 students per semester, and assuming the 18 buses I counted, that comes out to 5 students per bus.

Even if 8 of those buses were there for something else (e.g. field trip), that's still 9 students per bus.

I think that the higher number may be closer, however, because there are that many buses there at 11 am each day.

The things I don't know are

1)where the buses go (how many miles they travel)

2) how many kids are actually on each one (however, it as much fuel/driver time to transport 2 students as to transport 30 to a given destination)

3) what the actual per-mile cost is to run a school bus.

Am I getting into an unnecessary hornet's nest here?

My question is not about the value of the program to the students who attend (and I agree with other posters to this thread that the selection criteria are screwy). It is about the cost to provide it to such a small number of students. Similar situation to KMS, Brown's Mill magnet, DSA, etc.

Cerebration said...

And here's the story from yesterday's Atlanta Business Chronicle highlighting a decision by the DDA (when Dr Walker was a part of it) -

DeKalb County cannot issue bonds for completion of a performing arts center without voter approval, a unanimous Georgia Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The justices upheld a lower court decision in favor of a challenge to the DeKalb County Development Authority brought by state Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Atlanta.

Citing a law passed by the General Assembly in 2007, Jacobs maintained that the agency had no legal authority to sell $4.3 million in bonds to finish the project without going to DeKalb voters.
...


Click the article link above for more.