Friday, September 11, 2009

The school of discord

Disclaimer: This is a very bad translation of an article published yesterday in Mundo Hispanico. But you will get the general idea -- things aren't going too well at Woodward ES apparently.

Parents are offended by the treatment of teachers in the Woodward Elementary School in Dekalb

By Mario Guevara

Showered with complaints against the new director of the Woodward Elementary.

AMILY of several public school students in DeKalb County reported that the director Latinos look bad and therefore is taking action against him.

"When we started the year gathered us (parents) to tell us that we would let in (to school) because it was very messy, but the truth is that disorder is made worse out here," said the Mexican Mireya Hernandez, whose grandchildren are studying at Woodward Elementary School, the school in question.

According to Hernandez, former parents of students entering the institution, located on the side of Cross Keys High School in Atlanta, when they went to drop off and pick up the kids, something that now does not allow the new director Reginald Stephens.

Most of Woodward's students are entitled to use the buses DeKalb School System. Under the rules of the institution, who must be transported by parents are those children who live near the school.

MundoHispánico verified that no parent is allowed entry to the school in the morning when they leave their small, or in the evening, when to go pick them up when they finish their classes. Several women and unemployed men wait outside the school and low sun out of their children.

According to Omar Ruiz, the only thing he has served Stephens Director's decision to suspend the entry of parents to campus is to create more chaos and expose children to danger.

"One of these days my child was seven years alone with another classmate's apartment and when I came here to pick it were not," said Ruiz. "After a while we learned that they had left alone."

The Mexican said that when the school asked for explanations for what happened was promised that was not going to repeat itself and that would pay closer attention.

"One is afraid that children walk all alone on the street because there are gangs in this area," he said Ruiz.

"I want to Hispanics"

A school employee who requested anonymity Woodward to "stay out of trouble" told this means that since Stephens took over the institution began referring evil against Latinos.

"The first thing he said at a meeting of teachers was that he was puzzled by both Hispanic child in school and had a nice little gesture," said the source. "After that came with it was that they did not want parents to enter.

The informant also reported that there is an African American teacher who is mean to students.

"He yells too much to the kids and some even hit them, the worst is that the manager conceals" he said. "Unfortunately, parents are silent and as there is no interpreter in school, have no way to communicate."

According to the source, some people come sporadically to translate to parents but are not certified, does not guarantee effective communication.

"The county already knows all these things and even the doctor (Crawford) Lewis, (overseer of the DeKalb School System), came two weeks ago to check all these complaints," he said.

MundoHispánico could not verify this with the official version, or get the county's official position on these allegations because until press time had not been possible to contact his spokesperson.

This media Stephens approached and said he intended to make statements, but would do so have the authorization of the county. He also denied permission to do interviews on school property.


A former employee of the DeKalb School System, who for many years worked as an interpreter, stated that there were anomalies in some schools in the county and even the International Center, which is to provide services to immigrant communities.

"In schools there is no certified translators, I myself was one of them" admitted Xochitl Araica. "Whoever does that work. I think the 25 only two are certified interpreters, although the regulation requires that everyone be".

According to Araica, the International Center receives federal funds to help foreign students who speak English. The Nicaraguan noted that in that state are not very fond of Latinos.

"The director told me once that as the majority of Latinos are undocumented, not interested because he did not bring money, only those who are seeking asylum and refugees," said Araica.

"I started to educate parents about their rights and get involved with some community organizations and none of it liked, so I had to leave," he said.

Until press time, MundoHispánico also unable to obtain the International Center of DeKalb, because its director Sandra Nuñez, had not returned calls.

I once said that as the majority of Latinos are undocumented, not interested because he did not bring money, only those who are seeking asylum and refugees.

Xochitl Araica, a former employee of the DeKalb School System.


Good news - one of our bloggers had contributed a better translation - read it in the comments section.


Dunwoody Mom said...

Oh, my gosh. What is going on here? I know when my kids were in Kindergarten, they could not leave the room until I picked them up. (they did not ride the bus).

Maybe Kim, with his connections, can do some digging.

Ella Smith said...

These parents need to be treated with respect. This is sad.

S. P. said...

Here's a smoother translation. I made the attempt because nobody else had posted one yet. Be aware that I'm not a certified translator, though.


Relatives of several students at a public school in DeKalb County report that the principal dislikes Latinos and is therefore taking measures against them.

"When the year started he got all of us (parents) together to tell us that he wasn’t going to allow us to enter the school because it used to create a lot of disorder, but really the disorder here outside now is worse," said Mexican Mireya Hernandez, whose grandchildren study at Woodward Elementary, the school in question.

According to Hernandez, formerly parents used to enter the school, located at the side of Cross Keys High in Atlanta, when they came to drop off and pick up their children. The new principal, Reginald Stephens, has now forbidden this practice.

The majority of Woodward students can ride DeKalb school buses. But according to DCSS rules, the children who live close to the school have to be brought by their parents.

MundoHispanico verifed that no parent is allowed to enter the shchool in the morning when they arrive to drop off their little ones, nor in the afternoon, when they come to pick them up at the end of classes. Several women and men were standing in front of the school under the sun to wait for their children to come out.

According to Omar Ruiz, the only thing accomplished by Principal Stephens’ decision to discontinue the entrance of parents into the building is to create more chaos and to expose the little ones to danger.

"One day my 7-year-old went by himself with his little friend to the apartment, and when I came here to pick him up, I couldn’t find him," commented Ruiz. "After a while we realized that they had left by themselves."

The Mexican indicated that when he asked the school to explain what had happened, they promised him that this wouldn’t happen again and that they would pay more attention.

"It is scary to think that children walk by themselves down the street, because there are gangs around here," said Ruiz.


An employee of Woodward School who asked for anonymity so as "not to get involved in problems" told this paper that from the time Stephens assumed the reins of the institution he began to speak badly of Latinos.

"The first thing he said in a teachers meeting was that he was astonished by how many Hispanic children there were in the school, making a face that wasn’t very nice," said the source. "Afterwards it came out (?) that now they didn’t want the parents to enter."

The informant said also that there is an African American teacher who treats the students badly.

"She yells at the kids too much and has even hit some. The worst is that the principal covers it up," she said. "Unfortunately the parents keep quiet, and because there isn’t even an interpreter in the school, they don’t have a way to communicate."

According to the source, some people come sporadically to translate for parents, but they aren’t certified, so there is no guarantee of effective communication.

"The county already knows all these things and even Dr. (Crawford) Lewis himself (Superintendent of DeKalb County School System) came two weeks ago to verify all these complaints," she added.

MundoHispanico couldn’t verify this story with the superintendent, nor obtain the official position of the county with respect to these complaints, because when this issue went to print we had not been able to establish contact with his spokesperson.

This paper approached Stephens, and he said he intended to give a statement, but he wouldn’t do it (?) until he obtained county authorization. Likewise, he refused permission to do interviews on school property.

S. P. said...

And the rest of it...


An ex-employee of the Dekalb County School system, who worked as an interpreter for several years, declared that there are anomalies in some county schools, even in the International Center, whose purpose is to provide services to immigrant communities.

The schools don’t have certified translators. I myself was one of them," said Xochitl Araica. "Anybody works in this job. I think that out of 25 interpreters, only two were certified, in spite of the rule which requires all to be certified.

According to Araica, the International Center receives federal funds to help all foreign students who do not speak English. The Nicaraguan indicated that in that organization Latinos were not very welcome, either.

"The director told me on one occasion that because the majority of Latinos are undocumented, she isn’t interested in them because they don’t bring funds. She’s only interested in the ones who have asylum or are refugees," said Araica.

"I began to educate parents about their rights and to involve myself with community organizations, and she didn’t like any of this, so I had to leave," she added.

When this issue went to print, MundoHispanico had not been able to obtain the DeKalb International Center's side of the story either, because its director, Sandra Nunez, had not returned calls.

Anonymous said...

Just like at Cross Keys, DCSS staffs a predominantly Hispanic school with non-Spanish speaking, non-Latino admins who have no sensitivity, none at all, to the needs of Hispanic and other non-native English language learners. I know that there are potential DCSS admins out there who speak Spanish and/or are Latino. But DCSS rarely, if ever, hires them. There is institutional bias in DCSS against Latinos.

Ella Smith said...

I hope that their is not bias toward Latino individuals.

I was at a football game last night and I was talking to two of my Latino students who talked to me about what people call them to be mean to them and put them down on a regular basis. They both said they get call "Wet Backs" and "Beaners" on a regular basis by other students and adults. To the other who call them these names they think it is cute and it makes them feel good probable because they do not feel very good about themselves but these young men was bothered by the names and so I am.

When are we going to treat all individuals with respect regardless or who they are? What type of a civilization are we that we look down on any group of individuals? Over the years I have turned into a civil rights advocate in the schools because I have seen so many injustices. These young men should be treated with respect, just like these parents need to be treated with respect.

If the parents want to come into the school and check out their children at the end of the day I think they have a legal right to do so. I might be wrong but I do think the parents have rights also.

Cerebration said...

Thanks so much for the much more understandable translation, S.P. My Google Translator didn't do a very good job...

Here at the blog, we have uncovered many outward signs of discrimination toward Latinos in DeKalb schools. They are at the very least as marginalized as blacks were back when they filed a lawsuit against the school system. Actually, I would say that Latinos today suffer more neglect and discrimination than anyone else in the system. All you have to do is go to Cross Keys and check out their lack of supplies, lack of access to technology and sports resources and the general overall poor condition of the facilities they are given and you can see the blatant disregard for their educational environment and their well-being.

andi said...

I'm in shock. How on earth can they expect 4 and 5 year olds to enter a big crowded school by themselves and get to their classes. They're just adding to the kid's stress of being in a new environment.

My son is 5 and we still walk him in a few days a week. They have a sign in sheet right by the door.

Anonymous said...

Parents are not allowed in my school during dismissal. All children are dismissed to either the busses, carpool, or to the front of the school to walk home. If you want to come inside to get your child, you must arrive before 2:00 and check him/her out through the office.

I'm not sure if parents are allowed inside in the morning, but I know it's discouraged.

Anonymous said...

We need someone like Kim Gocke to help advocate for this school like he does for Cross Keys. One thing is clear: The Crawford Lewis administration unintentionally ignores the needs of Latino students and families. And they have for his entire tenure as superintendent.

Part of the problem is the Lewis administration is almost all African-American with some Caucasian. We are a very diverse county, but the DCSS Central office is black and white. Almost all of the administrative hires under Lewis have been black.

From the 2000 Census:
The racial makeup of the county was 54.23% Black or African American, 35.82% White, 0.23% Native American, 4.01% Asian, 0.05%Pacific Islander, 3.53% from other races, and 2.12% from two or more races. 7.89% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

In 2009, I'm guessing DeKalb is over 10 percent Latino, with a high concentration in the Buford Highway/Cross Keys/Sequoyah area.

No one, no one at the incredibly bloated DCSS Central Office advocates for and understands the county's Latino population. No one on the BOE advocates for and understands the county's Latino population.

This is DCSS's dirty little secret, and it's been this way for a while, and it's not going to change. Just walk in and around Cross Keys and Sequoyah Middle, and you'll see firsthand what the Lewis administration and BOE thinks of our county's Latino students and their families. Sarah Copelin-Wood, Zepora Roberts, and Gene Walker would go apes#$% if any school in South DeKalb were in the condition that Cross Keys and Sequoyah are.

Hopefully, the AJC, local TV stations, and other media outlets will turn their attention on this. It really is DCSS's dirty little secret.

Anonymous said...

My elementary school lets parents in during the mornings. My five year old isn't ready to navigate the hallways yet by himslef, but hopefully he will be soon.

I am really disturbed by the statement that most DCSS interpreters aren't certified. I believe they are all supposed to be certified to receive federal funds.

This is an issue the Board of Education needs to tackle. The BOE also really, really needs to look at the treatment of Latino students. I've heard some really, really disturbing stories out of Sequoyah Middle school.

Things have to change. And they are not going to change as long as Crawford Lewis is in charge.

Cerebration said...

To be fair, the attendance lines for Cross Keys have been gerrymandered over many years. Also the school was allowed to fall into disrepair over many years. There is a plan to spend $20 million on Cross Keys - but this is for renovations as well as creating the space for a high school of technology north. IMO, we should be spending $20 million on each of those items.

I hope they get in there and do as good of job on Cross Keys as they have on Columbia and SW DeKalb and others.

Anonymous said...

"To be fair, the attendance lines for Cross Keys have been gerrymandered over many years. Also the school was allowed to fall into disrepair over many years."

Yep, and for many, many of those years, Crawford Lewis was part of the upper management of the school system. He was a major cog in the wheel that allowed Cross Keys to be in the situation it is in today.

Anonymous said...

First of all, since the first week of school, parents at Oak Grove have not been allowed into the school at all to get our kids or drop them off. However, patrols and teachers do make sure the little ones get to their classrooms.
We have to meet them in the front of school or behind, NOT in the school. And of course, we have to provide the teacher with instructions for how they will get home. Perhaps that is something that was not properly conveyed to the parent whose child walked home with someone else.

I've interviewed principal Reginald Stephens twice and I think he is committed to improving the school, tho justifiably overwhelmed with the job - but not complaining.
At no time did he speak about the community in a disparaging way. He has worked at Woodward before with special programs and says he loves the school - and lives in the community. I don't think he was surprised by the number of Hispanic students in his community.
He is frustrated, tho and did not start the year with a translator (tho ICS sent one for every grade for curriculum night). first time I spoke with him (3-4 weeks ago) he had interviewed translators and was trying to get one on staff ASAP. He is definitely a DCSS man and talks highly of DCSS. He NEVER said anything amiss, but my omission, I get the feeling he wishes that some of his teachers were a little better at relating to their students.
The first time we spoke he told me that Hispanic parents tend to baby their kids and not let the teachers do their jobs. He said he especially told parents of first graders at Curriculum Night that they need to let children go into the classrooms themselves. He also mentioned that the parents come into the cafeteria in the a.m. and spoon feed their "babies" breakfast.
He also said that parents are in the cafeteria every morning and he intends to use that to get parents involved. so I'm surprised that they say they are not allowed in the schools - maybe just not to walk the kids to the classrooms?
Tho DCSS should have appointed at least one administrator who is fluent in Spanish there - they didn't. I have to wonder if the reporter did their job fully investigating the claims. What is the policy inside the school walls?
BTW, there are awnings around the entrance of the school (several parents standing under the sun).
I don't know him well, and he is a "company man" but I've been impressed with Stephens in a sense that I think he is really trying to make the school better and BUILD the community, not divide it.
FYI, this was their first Curriculum night and he got the parents to come b/c he had local police make ID cards for the kids. Maybe he just did that to read them the "riot act" but he also had statewide PTA people there to try to recruit a PTA (they don't have one). he is trying. I think some of these accusations are over the top.
He was interviewed twice for Brookhaven Reporter, you can find it at

Jody said...

I didn't mean to hit anonymous with the above post

Anonymous said...

Here's a crazy idea: How about about a principal for Woodward Elementary who actually speaks Spanish? Sequoyah Middle too.

But DCSS doesn't have Latino administrators or potential principals or asst. principals.

Wonder if DCSS has ever placed employment openings on any national website? How hard would it be to advertise job openings online on national websites to attract Latino principals, asst. principals and administrators?

I guanrantee Yvone Butler's made up DCSS Corporate Wellness Executive Director job wasn't posted online.

Cerebration said...

I think there's a graduation coach or counselor at Lakeside (if he's still there) who is Hispanic and can relate very well to the community - and speaks fluent Spanish. He should be better utilized.

DeKalb really, really, really needs to employ some Spanish-speaking leaders. Regardless of who has the true story here, there is obviously a severe breakdown in communication and trust. MundoHispanico wouldn't go out on a limb and report this if it wasn't true from the community's perspective.

I liken it to the old Georgia flag - some saw it as a symbol of pride in Southern heritage and others were completely insulted. It was replaced. "What is" is always in the eyes of the beholder. We need to be more sensitive to cultural differences.

Cerebration said...

I would also hope that the reason for keeping parents out of the building is partly due to keeping the H1N1 germ levels down.

Square Peg said...

Jody, I'm very glad to read your comments and the interview in the Brookhaven Reporter.

Regarding awnings, I may have mistranslated "parados frente a la escuela y bajo sol" - that's why certified translators are needed!

I wish Mr. Stephens all the best as he tries to reach out to the community and as he starts learning Spanish. Hope the optimism and energy he showed in the interview won't get worn down too quickly. I hope he can take the MundoHispano article as a useful indicator that communication needs to be improved and that there are some significant cultural divides to be bridged.

Really hope that those interpreters are in place soon and that Stephens is successful at getting the whole community to become involved in the school.

You'd think that this recession would make it easier to find talented Spanish-speaking candidates for school jobs. DCSS really ought to make language skills a preferred qualification when hiring for schools with a large Spanish-speaking population.

Cerebration said...

Do any of the 500+ Instructional Leaders speak Spanish? Any?!

Cerebration said...

I'm perplexed regarding these two very different takes on the same principal. Jody, were you able to confirm with Dr. Lewis regarding the issues parents have complained about? I noticed that the informant for the MundoHispanico article is an employee, not a parent.

I remain cautiously cautious.

I also deeply blame DCSS for the giant mess that has developed in that whole area over the years, which I do think is prejudicial. The schools are in such horrible shape that the area residents who can afford to, either move or go private, leaving only the low-income non-English speakers. All three schools in this feeder have been allowed to fester into decrepit (yes, Pat Pope - decrepit), embarrassing, forgotten properties.

Kim Gokce said...

I was on the road all day Saturday and missed this one - I have to echo what Jody noted above. I also sat down with Mr. Stephens a little over a week ago or so right after his first Friday AM "breakfast/coffee" for parents (he can't get folks to a regular PTA meeting).

He does seem to be quite serious about changing the focus of the school and actively looking to appeal to parents beyond the predominately Latino population. He was quite clear that he was going to be demanding of the parents and I could see how this would have come across as very harsh in translation. We cannot underestimate the impact of the cultural and language barriers faced at Woodward ES. By barriers, I mean primarily between parents and school, not children and school.

He also indicated that he was frustrated by the language barrier as a leader and was interviewing translators for the office but would start to learn Spanish himself to better communicate with parents. Overall, I found him to be very dedicated and also disinclined to be overly accommodating to parental preferences when it came to the managing of the children in the school.

One example I found revealing - the issue of the day when I was there was the fact that he moved the Spanish version of the school announcements to the reverse side of the street-facing school sign. I can see where this would annoy the Spanish-only speaking parents but it is hard to argue with his decision to make English the public-facing language of the school that serves so many language groups.

Another example I believe I heard was regarding school announcements - they will be sent home in English. He wants to encourage the children to help their parents with English!

On the question of child safety, I would be shocked if Mr. Stephens has not fixed the logistics problems described in the report with drop-off and pick-up. I would have to believe that this does not mean the pre-K/K crowd goes unescorted to and from classrooms but will find out.

I will definitely follow-up to learn what I can. I think there is a far stretch between having trouble with the new access and egress policies for 1st-5th graders to he has no respect for Latinos and doesn't care about their children's safety.

Whether there is any discrimination against Latinos in hiring practices at DCSS is an entirely different matter. I would like to believe that our leaders of any stripe should be expected to work in a multi-cultural milieu - because that's our world folks! That said, there's no disputing Cross Keys has been at the bottom of priorities for a long, long time.

I do know that there are bilinguals in counseling at both Sequoyah and Cross Keys. That said, I am sure that given the population we could certainly use more help in these areas. In the end, it boils down to how much $$$ should be spent on language help for the parents at the potential expense of resources otherwise spent on the children - that is a tough one. There are opportunities for parents to improve their English - for example, the Mexican Consulate offers classes for adults. I know one parent who has undertaken this approach but she already has passable English comprehension.

I suspect this is more of a case of sensitivity - perhaps too little on one hand and perhaps too much on the other. It is an important subject to dig into and Woodward ES has been on my list for homework for a month or so. I claim no special expertise here and hope to learn with the rest of the concerned bloggers here!

Kim Gokce said...

@Cerebration: "I'm perplexed regarding these two very different takes on the same principal."

Mr. Stephens struck me as a very direct person who has little use for pretense or formality - that could be perceived very negatively among the Latino parents and be mis-construed as uncaring and rude. I am no expert but I have studied the Spanish language, idioms, and various cultures since the 4th grade. And, I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night ...

Kim Gokce said...

@Cerebration: "The schools are in such horrible shape that the area residents who can afford to, either move or go private, leaving only the low-income non-English speakers."

Ding-ding! You rang the bell! I have said and will repeat, St. Pius X, Marist, Our Lady of Assumption, St. Martin in the Fields, Immaculate Heart of Mary and many others should be paying DCSS commission for driving so much business their way.

As a tax-payer and a person proud of his State and Country, it is unacceptable to have come to what we've come to in our zone. I do blame DCSS' and BoE leadership over the past decades but I also feel our community gave up on the zone. Perhaps my predecessors simply felt they couldn't "win" with DCSS and ran up the flag of surrender. I'm not one for running ...

Cerebration said...

Well, obviously, relying on Google Translator is not the best solution!

One question - if the principal was so concerned about learning Spanish, why didn't he learn during the last two years when he was employed at Woodward for the two years previous to becoming the principal?

"Stephens served as a Title I Supplemental Educational Services coordinator for the DeKalb County School System for four years.

He spent two of those years working at Woodward, where he taught a program on Saturdays that focused on testing standards and the individual academic needs of students.

"I'm very familiar with the demographics of the school," Stephens said. "I'm very familiar with the parents and the students and the specific needs of the school.""

"Nice guy" reports aside, I just have to wonder if this principal placement wasn't too challenging for someone who has never served as a principal before. It seems to me that he is now under the gun, learning to be a principal, and has realized that he cannot communicate with the community of parents whose children he is supposed to lead.

Gwinnett seems to be able to find plenty of Hispanic leaders for their school system. I don't understand why DeKalb seems to have such an issue bridging the language gap.

Cerebration said...

Kim - you are so funny.

Molly said...

Kim said "Another example I believe I heard was regarding school announcements - they will be sent home in English. He wants to encourage the children to help their parents with English!"

And if the child doesn't speak or read well enough in English yet, then what? If a Spanish speaking family sends their 4 year old to pre-K, the school doesn't value its partnership with the parents enough to make sure they understand what is going on in the school? Frankly, I am horrified by this attitude. Title 1 schools receive funds specifically for the purpose of parent outreach. If you are not communicating in a language parents can understand, you are not doing outreach.

Cerebration said...

Heck - even the Lakeside PTA sends out Spanish versions of all of their communication.

Anonymous said...

It's too much for a school to take on the job of getting parents to learn English. Start by solving the problems under the school's control.

I used to volunteer at an ESOL program targeted toward adult Spanish speakers. Despite the students' good intentions, attendance dropped sharply by the end of each 6-week session because adults tend to have very busy lives. I predict Mr. Stephens will have the same problem carrying out his intention to learn Spanish.

Cerebration said...

I hear good things about Rosetta Stone - learn a language on your computer!

Shayna Steinfeld said...

There are also a good number of Spanish 3 and Spanish 4+ students in DCSS High Schools who could take on this zone as a good project for college puposes and translate for community service credit and to improve their own Spanish language skills. If we were really good, the home school could work it to give them a "study hall" period to go off campus and work at one of the schools to help out.

Kim Gokce said...

@Anonymous: "Here's a crazy idea: How about about a principal for Woodward Elementary who actually speaks Spanish? Sequoyah Middle too."

With respect for your concern, I have what I think is a better one for you - why don't we simply stop isolating the immigrant population in one Balkanized zone?

While I totally agree Spanish skills would be an advantage for anyone currently serving in these roles I do believe we have to be careful about thinking about this as a requirement. While the dominant demographic speaks a dialect of Spanish, we also have Arabic, Assamese, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Hindi, Malayalam, Mandarin, Marathi, Panjabi, Pidgin, Oromo, Tamil, Urdu, Yue - there's something on the order of 50+ languages spoken in the current zone. Heck, we even have native English speakers. :)

We have principals and faculty in our zone as good or better than anywhere else in DCSS. I do agree with Cere's point above about Mr. Stephens - he has jumped into the deep end and has quite a challenge. We'll have to see how he manages but he will need a whole lot of help.

More importantly than a principal that speaks Spanish, I would like to see an engaged and active parent community. For a whole lot of reasons, this has not been the norm at Woodward nor at Cross Keys. It's deeper than language - the general education level of many parents is low or non-existent. There isn't a more isolated group of parents in the County System concentrated in one zone. The ESOL issues make a difficult situation virtually impossible. Yet many of the teachers and students succeed in spite of these unique challenges and what we have done by isolating them.

While Cross Keys' zone may run as high as 60%+ Latino in current enrollment, County-wide I think it's something like 7% or less. What percentage of the enrollment of the County does a language group need to reach before we require our administrators and principals to be fluent in a given language?

To be provocative: If previous leadership at the school has been more accommodating and sensitive with the Latino parents, what has it accomplished? Making parents feel better about their school is important but is it really job #1?

I am not unsympathetic to the parents with language issues. On the contrary, I want our zone's schools to receive more support and resources. I am simply not sure a bi-lingual principal is a solution in and of itself.

I would like to see the community of parents to try as hard as the school leadership to make it work. We can all learn from each other and Mr. Stephens has my confidence to lose at this point.

Kim Gokce said...

@Shayna: "There are also a good number of Spanish 3 and Spanish 4+ students in DCSS High Schools who could take on this zone ..."

Now that is a great idea!

Kim Gokce said...

@Molly: "And if the child doesn't speak or read well enough in English yet, then what?"

I think that's a valid question - I took the spirit of what Mr. Stephens said to apply only to those families where the children were already English-speaking. Worth clarifying, though. I'll see if I can and post back soon.

Anonymous said...

Security at all schools is a great problem. This is not to offend, but I want the schools to be careful about allowing people to "just come in and walk children to the classroom." There are many schools not only in the DCSS where parents must sign in and sign out to either bring their children or check out their children. From a stand point of security a school cannot be too open. This man has just gotten at the school. Please given him a chance. Safety always has to be the main consideration.Think about the many doors that lead into and out of a school.There has to be a way to monitor the people that enter a school, even the parents. Parents are always welcomed at a school, but even as a parent I want someone to make sure that there is security.

Square Peg said...

In this case making parents feel better about their school might be job #0, because apparently a group of parents think the principal is biased against them. When newspapers no longer label Woodward the "school of discord," it will be easier to move on to job #1.

The school needs to make an effort to understand parents' concerns. Then they can communicate their position in a manner that conveys respect and empathy. For instance, consider Anon 8:02's point about security. Since one of the parents quoted in the MundoHispano article expresses his complaints in terms of security, security might be a useful common ground for explaining the dropoff policy.

themommy said...

I betcha anything that the principal has put no thoughts into sending the announcements home in English only. Rather, I suspect this was a reaction to not having a permanent/full time translator.

I think that a new principal needs to proceed gingerly when taking over a school. However, almost without exception, they all seem to be out to prove something rather than sitting back, assessing the situation, and then determining what needs to be changed and what doesn't.

DCSS does a really horrible job of training principals and frankly, of selecting them. On the job training is not acceptable nor is it effective.

It also sounds like this principal needs some cultural sensitivity training -- understanding the community you are working in and what the culture is goes a long way to endearing a community to you.

Cerebration said...

I agree, SP and themommy. Obviously, the community really feels marginalized, otherwise MundoHispanico would not have published the article.

They must find a common ground. They need a PTA leader and an interpreter to smooth out these rough edges and begin again.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you that Xochitl Araica was always trying to stir up trouble when she was in DCSS. I happened to get on her email list. How I do not know but things she would try to start were not always in the best interest of the children. Only her personal gain. So I really take what Ms. Araica says with a grain of salt.

#2) There is a principal in DCSS that speaks Spainish and that is her calling is that she really wants to be at a high Spanish school that has a lot of special educations needs. Did DCSS put her there... NO.. They put Dr. Silvers at Montgomery where she is not liked by the parents because we are not highly Spanish.

Put Principals at schools were they can use their experitise. Not at a school were they do not fit in and it is a struggle between parents and Principal.

Kim Gokce said...

@Anonymous from 9/12: "Just like at Cross Keys, DCSS staffs a predominantly Hispanic school with non-Spanish speaking, non-Latino admins who have no sensitivity, none at all, to the needs of Hispanic and other non-native English language learners."

I have to call foul on that one - the leadership at Cross Keys HS is everything but unsympathetic to not only the Latino immigrant families but to all of their immigrant families. You may have a point in there somewhere but it doesn't stand on your claim about CKHS - the admins and faculty are great advocates for their kids and conduct themselves with great sensitivity. All parent meetings are conducted with translators present for parents and I know that great energy and affection is demonstrated towards the young people and their families every day.

Cerebration said...

Oh boy, do I agree with you there, Kim. I am crazy about the teachers and staff at Cross Keys!

andi said...

'There are also a good number of Spanish 3 and Spanish 4+ students in DCSS High Schools...'

At our first PTA meeting we had a student available for parents that speak Bengali. I'm not sure which school he came from but I'll check.

Anonymous said...

On principal training -- I learned recently that under Dr.Hollford, they (new principals and folks that wanted to be principal) had monthly meetings where they were actually trained. The met with someone (one of those higher ups at the county level) each and every month and worked through a chapter of a two volume (or more) manual on how to be a principal -- staffing, budgetting, hiring/firing, etc. Further, under Dr. Hollford, principals were left at their jobs for more than 2 or 3 years so that they could become good at what they did. We've lost both of those components since Dr. Brown and Dr. Lewis. I don't think we could name more than 6 schools with a principal who has been there more than 5 years and the monhtly training sessions were suspended under Dr. Brown and were never reinstated. The county has never been the same.

Anonymous said...

On principal training -- I learned recently that under Dr.Hollford, they (new principals and folks that wanted to be principal) had monthly meetings where they were actually trained. The met with someone (one of those higher ups at the county level) each and every month and worked through a chapter of a two volume (or more) manual on how to be a principal -- staffing, budgetting, hiring/firing, etc. Further, under Dr. Hollford, principals were left at their jobs for more than 2 or 3 years so that they could become good at what they did. We've lost both of those components since Dr. Brown and Dr. Lewis. I don't think we could name more than 6 schools with a principal who has been there more than 5 years and the monhtly training sessions were suspended under Dr. Brown and were never reinstated. The county has never been the same.

themommy said...

Dr. Silbers was moved to Montgomery because the parents at Nancy Creek wanter her. Dr. Lewis was trying to quell the anger over the closing of Nancy Creek.

I think she needs to be moved. It is a wasted resource. Not only do I think she ought to be at a school with Hispanic students, she is good at "turning around" schools, something not needed at MES nearly as much as many DCSS schools.

Anonymous said...

How much faith should I put into the bias of internal affairs? Did anyone see dcss in the news regarding the frankie calloway resignation? I heard it had something to do with trying to force a teacher to change a grade.

Cerebration said...

"How much faith should I put into the bias of internal affairs?"

Absolutely none, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

There were six people in Ron Ramsey's DCSS Internal Affairs Office. Now, they're up to seven.
Ron spends a good chunk of the year as a state senator at the Gold Dome. Out of all the numerous administrators in DCSS, he's arguably the most unproductive. It's shameful he's making a huge salary with great benefits. We have a few thousand non-resident children in our schools costing us millions to educate.

But he's part of the Crawford Lewis inner circle, so he's untouchable.

Anonymous said...

Monitor compliance with state and federal regulations and the DeKalb County School Board Policies prohibiting sexual harassment and discrimination.


One could argue there is discrimination against Latino students is DCSS. But that would be embarassing to Crawford, so there is no chance of Ron ever going down that road.

Kim Gokce said...

I have some more details on the subjects in this article today. According to a highly placed source in the school, a series of standard policies and procedures were implemented by Mr. Stephens this year.

These included a mandatory sign-in policy for all visitors, including parents. No one is allowed to enter the school without first signing in as a visitor at the front office. All other entrances remained locked to the outside. This is surprising to me only because I would have assumed this was the policy at all DCSS schools.

Regarding pick-up and drop-off procedures: The Pre-K crowd still goes to the rooms to pick-up their kids but only after signing in at the office. The K and 1st grade each have a designated exit to which they are escorted by faculty and staff to meet their parents. 2nd-5th graders are escorted to a third door to meet up with their parents.

These procedures were created, documented in a bi-lingual parent's handbook distributed to each parent, and are now being enforced by Mr. Stephens and staff.

Regarding allegations of abuse of students, my source says there have been no complaints of any such mis-treatment of children and that any reports would lead to swift action to investigate.

In short, I very much get the impression that there is little substance to the article published. There may be parents who disagree with the policies on school and child access and there may be parents who have misunderstood the motivation behind the policies. My impression from my sources is that these policies would have been put in place by Mr. Stephens if the children were from the moon and there's no bigotry involved but simply security of the school.

Personally, I'm surprised that there was any other policy prior to Mr. Stephens. I will be speaking to faculty members in the coming days and will try to get their take on these allegations.

Kim Gokce said...

"They need a PTA leader and an interpreter to smooth out these rough edges and begin again."

Right. However, both Cross Keys and Woodward have had a very unsuccessful recent history with PTA ... as in, neither has been able to get parents to lead. I know I sound increasingly like a one-trick pony but to me this goes back to the isolating boundaries of the zones - this truly is a fundamental problem that I have little hope of DCSS addressing. With all the tough talk about school closings and re-districting, I don't see the spine stiffing needed to address our particular situation. It would take unprecedented courage to tackle these decades old mistakes.

In the meantime, the kids suffer ...

Dekalbparent said...

The policies Kim describes in his post at 11:10 are the same ones that have always been in place in elementary schools my kids attended and the ones I worked in.

I have always been required to sign in whenever I went into a building for any purpose and I am glad of it. The safety of the kids is of the utmost importance.

Anonymous said...

My elem school allows parents in during the morning. There are multiple staff members present in and around the school entrance, and it works out smoothly and efficiently. Throwing out the safety card is too easy. And at most DCSS elem schools, parents aren't made to sign in each morning to bring their little ones to the classroom, whether pre-K, kindergarten, or 1st.

Kim Gokce said...

@Anon: "Throwing out the safety card is too easy."

So what other motivation would you ascribe to the enforcement of the policy? I can't imagine any value other than safety but I may be challenged in that department.

Ella Smith said...

Kim, I agree saftey of our children must always come first. It sounds like a communication problem to me. Simple communication between the school and the parents.

Kim Gokce said...

Still waiting to see if there are any subpoenas issued based on this MundoHispanico article ... seriously! Reporting that there's a black teacher there who abuses the Latino children and that the black principal covers it up is rather inflammatory don't you think? The more I look for the problems reported in this piece the more ethereal they seem and the less credibility has the paper.

On a more positive note, in the Brookhaven Reporter this past week I found this coverage on Cousteau's visit to Dunwoody Elementary and Principal Stephens of Woodward ES has a bit to say. Here's the link and an excerpt (we have Promethean Boards now!):

Message to students: Study your world

"That's the goal of Discovery Education, a package of interactive and cross-curricular media designed for the classroom. With subscription access, teachers can download over 60,000 film clips and 120,000 other forms of media. The tools are designed to carry a lesson across multiple subject areas, and are all aligned to Georgia Performance Standards.

Woodward Elementary principal Reginald Stephens is very familiar with Discovery Education, which was heavily utilized at Shadow Rock Elementary, where he was assistant principal last year.

"The students love it. It really gives them another insight, especially with the Science connection," he said. But, he adds, it's just one of many tools in the arsenal at his school. With their recent renovation, "smart" Promethean boards were installed in every finished classroom. The boards enable teachers and students to add, delete, enlarge and move elements to their work, project content from a computer and save board work to files.

Woodward school has a computer lab as well as a laptop cart that teachers can check for their classrooms. Woodward media specialist Judy Marsh, he adds, is an expert at multi media and uses it with every class she teaches – even for reading stories.

"The good thing about education today," Stephens said, "is you don't have any choice but to embrace technology in the classroom."

Kelli Harris-Wright, DeKalb County Schools' Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning wants teachers to use Discovery Education in every elementary school. Wright, who participated in a week-long Discovery Education national training institute last summer, plans to ask the DeKalb Board of Education to allocate funds for a subscription for Discovery Education Science for the elementary schools."

Dekalbparent said...

Question to all: Do any of the high schools or middle schools have Promethian (or any other brand of interactive white boards)boards in every classroom?

Anonymous said...

It's not like MundoHispanico is some fly by night newspaper.

MundoHispanico is owned by the
Atlanta Journal Constitution/Cox Enterprises.

Kim Gokce said...

All the more reason to be concerned about the seriousness of the accusations made anonymously. I'm surprised they published it without more digging. Very serious allegations should be researched and substantiated before being published ... otherwise, it simply spreading slander and rumor.

Cerebration said...

You're correct, Kim. I would hope that any newspaper would have sources and back-ups to their sources before going to press with accusations. That said, we must remember that we are also dealing with a school system leader who asked all 13,000 employees to write a letter of support to a principal who cheated on the CRCTs. There is a major trust issue between the school administration and the community. In fact, it alone is the reason this blog exists.

Kim Gokce said...

They are the subject of a big anniversary celebration as we speak:

Through the Lens of MundoHispanico

A very powerful media outlet should use its power carefully. I hope they are wrong about Mr. Stephens and the alleged abuse of children at Woodward. I don't want to believe that kind of thing could be going on in my neighborhood elementary.

If they are false allegations, shame on MundoHispanico for publishing what may turn out to be a simple "hit job."

Kim Gokce said...

I understand the mistrust of the DCSS leadership but I don't see any reason to put any more trust in media outlets. My own local paper in one issue attributed an extra child to me that I don't have and changed the gender of one of my neighbor's children.

When it comes to protecting children, I take information and mis-information very seriously. Hopefully, the reporter has more information to back up what was published. Waiting for the other shoe to drop ...

Cerebration said...

There are plenty more shoes awaiting the drop -- they just may not be where you expect them! I also know what you mean - I've been misquoted often by reporters - or something I've said has been somehow edited to sound other than how it was meant. I don't think it's done purposely - I think they just rush to press and don't have a methodical work ethic. However, this article posted accusations of discrimination which should at least be seriously investigated.

Is Ron Ramsey in his office these days? I don't think the GA Assembly is needing him at the moment, so he may actually do his DCSS job and investigate this. Or maybe they'll extend Crack Investigator Judge Moore's $325/hour contract so that she can proclaim "no evidence of discrimination in DeKalb schools".

See what I mean about the trust factor?

Kim Gokce said...

I do see it and it is a point well-made. However, the accusation here is that a teacher actually physically abuses small children in their classroom. To me, that's not a call from Ramsey it's a call from the District Attorney's office on criminal charges.

Anonymous said...

Response to dekalbparent re: Promethean or interactive white boards. No, not all middle or high schools have Promethean boards. In fact, most of the older schools have very few. DCSS IT (Tony Hunter) told me that the boards are installed in all new schools.

Yet another inequity and a very important one based on the math teachers I have met who are struggling to teach the new GPS math.

The technology in the older schools like DHHS, LHS and CCHS is woefully behind the rest of the metro area.

Dekalbparent said...

Thank you, Anon 8:22. That's sort of what I was thinking, but I wasn't sure. The few teachers who have them at DHHS are using the h&ll out of them.

You're right about the technology being far behind. My dd took the required technology credit last year and she and her buds were pretty bored - they were doing more stuff at home than they did in class.

The tech-savvy teachers are really helping, though. My daughter's history teacher sent out the outline notes for the recent unit as a Google docs document, and the kids are collectively editing it to make a comprehensive study guide.

Kim Gokce said...

Just to close the loop on this (hopefully), Mundo Hispanico did interview Principal Stephens and mostly climbed down from the tree they ran up:

Director rechaza denuncias
Funcionarios del Sistema Escolar del de DeKalb desacreditaron quejas sobre conducta del director de la primaria Woodward.

(Principal rejects allegations -
Officials from the DeKalb School System discredited complaints about the conduct of the principal of Woodward Elementary.

It has been over 25 years since I would claim any fluency in Spanish. However, I can still read it well enough to notice there is no more discussion of conspiracy by a black teacher and the black principal to abuse latino children. Here is my (sarcastic) summary:

MundoHispanico: Is it true that you hate latinos?
Stephens: No.
MundoHispanico: Is it true that you told the faculty you were surprised by the number of latinos at Woodward? [even though you worked there for the 2 years prior in instructional support)
Stephens: No.
MundoHispanico: Is it true that you make parents stand in line in the blistering Georgia sun and the freezing rain and refuse to let them pick-up their kids?
Stephens: No.
MundoHispanico: Is it true that you are an African-American?
Stephens: Um. Yes.
MundoHispanico: Ms. Nunez, is true that you do not provide certified translators to help the Latino families at Woodward?
Nunez: That is true. The State does not require certified translators. Woodward has professional translators available continuously.
MundoHispanico: Are you saying you don't withhold service from and discriminate against latinos?
Nunez: That is what I'm saying. I am latina and want the best education for all of our children.

These two scoundrels are insidious and must be stopped.