Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Letter From the Fernbank Elementary School Council

Well, at least it looks like we're not the only ones writing open letters to Ms. Tyson and the board! The letter below was sent by the Fernbank Elementary School Council to the board, outlining their viewpoints on the proposed budget cuts. The letter is long, so I will simply highlight the key points.

We recognize the difficult, and sometimes painful, cuts which must be made and we appreciate the range of comments and criticisms which permeate the conversations about the budget. We are but one perspective which we hope reflects the broader interests of all students served by DCSS.
We urge an approach which, as far as possible, keeps intact the instructional environment and needs at the school house. To this end, we believe that certain selected cuts may appear easy on their face but will have significant ramifications in the day-to-day school life. 

     For example, we note the proposed elimination of library clerks. We understand how this position might seem redundant of the role of the librarian. However, as you know, DeKalb librarians are teacher-librarians—they provide regular collaborative whole-class instruction that supports classroom curriculum. ... Eliminating the library clerk position will require librarians to choose which services to provide. In many situations, librarians will be relegated to the role of clerk and we will effectively lose the teaching services of a number of highly trained professionals and impair learning throughout our schools. ...
      We also urge that DCSS avoid cuts that appear to have a cost savings but at the expense of other monies. Pre-K would fit this role. Though DCSS may have responsibility for some paraprofessional costs, lead teachers are paid for by the state. We would lose substantially more money then we saved by reductions or eliminations in this program area. In addition, paraprofessionals provide invaluable services at a much lower cost than certified teachers. This last observation is not meant to suggest reducing certified teachers; rather that the critical work provided by the paraprofessionals enable certified teachers to engage the entire class in a way that would not otherwise be possible. The net effect of their loss would be to impair learning for entire classes.
      In these difficult times, we also believe it is critical to save programs that provide a point of distinction for DCSS and which are instrumental in recruiting and retaining students. The High Achievers Magnet programs fit this role as does the Fernbank Science Center and its programs. We do understand the perceived higher cost of programs such as Scientific Tools and Techniques at the Fernbank Science Center but we also note that this program addresses a critical shortcoming in national education delivery and serves a substantially underserved population, all in a program of national renown which simply cannot be duplicated in the typical schoolhouse.  ...At the same time, we believe that Fernbank Science Center is one of the DCSS entities best positioned to seek longer term third party external support, particularly in the absence of any other science museum or center in the close-in Metro Atlanta area.
      Reluctantly, we must also urge the consolidation of more than four schools. DeKalb has a long history of small neighborhood schools, an arrangement we can no longer afford. Based on the stated projected cost savings of nearly $600,000 per school, the consolidation of additional schools should realize a significant savings. And, we believe the savings would be greater when you account for shortfalls in state funding (based on 450 elementary school minimums) coupled with lower central staffing requirements to serve fewer facilities.
      Revenue enhancements may also be necessary, though we understand the challenges DCSS will still face in budget out-years. Such enhancements should not be in place of making changes which are needed but should be used to bridge short-to intermediate revenue shortfalls. In fact, the Board might consider sun-setting any increases if they are viewed as a stopgap measure. However, we also believe that the issue of per pupil expenditures, as reflected in the available revenue from all sources (local, state, etc.), is much larger than the immediate economic crisis. The crisis presents an opportunity to discuss what level of investment in education we really need to ensure our children receive a first-rate education and that our graduates are competitive nationally and internationally.
      With all the challenges faced by the system, there is a rare opportunity for a wholesale re-imagining of the system. We believe devolving decision-making and accountability closer to the point of implementation can create an environment of innovation and success while enabling DCSS to realize greater savings in non-instructional/non-schoolhouse expenses. We certainly do not wish to adversely affect the lives of many of DCSS’ tireless employees but economic realities dictate a change in our economic structure. At the same time, we can reinvent how our school system works, to the betterment of all DeKalb children.
      These are no doubt difficult times, but from adversity can come success. We urge you to retain a long-term point of view which will best position the children of DeKalb for success in the future.

Marshall D. Orson
Fernbank Elementary School Council


Anonymous said...

Way to through the small schools under the bus.

Let's wreck those communities but keep spending big money on programs that serve a few students.

I don't suppose you have any sympathy for the communities that will be losing their schools at the great expense of keeping the "jewel" Fernbank in your community.

Anonymous said...

Marshall Orson would have been a tremendous asset to the school board.
We need educated people who understand and care about education advising and running our school system.

Anonymous said...

Awesome letter. Where can we get a copy of the full text?

Anonymous said...

Only in this letter do I see defense of some specific positions being cut. Why not in the other letter? Or did I miss it?

No defense of the CTSS positions in either open letter. I guess no technical support is better than a little.

After today's 430 announcement, it's obvious the board doesn't care about the kids anymore. No amount of letter writing is going to help. Teachers won't strike. If they did, then the parents might actually wake up and pay attention to what is happening when they have to stay home with their kids. But since no teachers are being cut, this won't happen, and the abuse will continue.

Congratulations BOE. You found a way to screw the kids and teachers while keeping yourselves safe for a while longer - until election time, that is.

Vote these morons out and put in some regular people, parents, and teachers.

Anonymous said...

great job, Marshall! It is also necessary to re-draw district lines to account for our current population and not the 50's. Re-draw lines, or rather circles, around schools to build strong communities. While everything is a mess and up in the air, make drastic changes for the greater good.

Anonymous said...

Teachers basically CAN'T strike. This is Georgia

Anonymous said...

The Fernbank parents that are drawn out of Fernbank are going to love it. Just love it. Should be a lot of fun to watch.

Anonymous said...

I know that teachers can't strike without losing their teaching cert. However, I wonder what would happen if every metro Atlanta teacher did, and things fell apart fast for businesses - parents would suddenly have to stay home instead of working. We know how politics work - big business isn't about to let itself get hurt and might actually step in to help and/or fight for the teachers.

I know it's a dream, but it would be nice.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that Fernbank is quick to align with the high achieving magnet identity. Could it be because of comments and blantant awareness that the BOE is scared to death to anger the magnet parents? Humm

Talk about shifting focus to some other entities to take the budgetary ax... Oh yes, those small schools - what possible good could they be doing each and every day for children when we have Fernbank to visit once a year.

Anonymous said...

I've attended the CPTF meetings and have closely looked at the data available through that site as the county looks at consolidating low enrollment schools and redrawing lines. To date the only data available involve elementary schools. I read this letter and see conversations about closing more than 4 schools, with particular focus on getting rid of small schools and I simply do not see how these arguments play out in the short term. Are you wanting the county to redraw lines vertically, requiring significant travel times north to south or south to north? Clearly, there are under-enrolled schools. However, if you look at capacities and enrollments, how are more than 5 schools going to be closed within the area that has undercapacity buildings? Consolidating means folding them into the same building right? So, you cannot close them all or the students in that area will have NO WHERE to go?

Beyond this, on the north end, you have overcapacity schools and schools significantly nearing capacity (at 85% or higher). Some of these schools are considered small. But, if you look at capacities of schools around these "small" schools, there is not a capacity available nearby that would allow for the students to attend if one of these schools is closed?

So, what is this "close small schools" group proposing? In the next year we spend money in a "broken" budget to build new "high capacity" schools and close the small currently full or near full small schools so that we can meet state funding formulas? And, BTW, we can hold onto those small school buildings and waste money on upkeep? I don't mind suggestions that make sense, but many of these calls to "close small schools," such as is made in the Fernbank letter posted herein, provide no insights as to what should happen to the students at those schools. Finish the suggest if it is going to be made. Are you interested in your child traveling for an hour on the bus each way so that we can save fernbank for a few field trips.

PS. I was a supporter of Fernbank until this letter....but if protecting themselves is more important than the local schools, than we can play at that game too.

Anonymous said...

While your letter is quite eloquent, you completely missed out on the main purpose of a public school system, namely educating the general education population in the regular classroom.

While Fernbank Science Center has some very good programs to serve an intellectually gifted population and the magnet program does an excellent job with select students, the regular classroom is the heart and soul of public education.

I'm quite disappointed you did not stand up for smaller class sizes and an administration that is less about students and more about career opportunities for personnel outside the classroom. My family and I have enjoyed Fernbank immensely since it's so close to our house, and my child went to Kittredge. However, being a strong proponent of public education, I support the regular education classroom and its teachers and students above all else.

As citizens of the DeKalb County community, we need to advocate for EVERY child in DeKalb Schools to have:
1. Reasonable class sizes
2. Competent, well compensated teachers
3. Access to abundant and cutting edge technology and science equipment

After every child has access to those three things, then we can allocate funds for administrative and support personnel and programs that do not serve the entire population of students. That's actually how a good public education system works.

Anonymous said...

Let's not discount the high value of Fernbank Science's outreach program.

You're forgetting the Fox-in-a-Box that's shippable to any DCSS elementary school which finds the logistics of getting to Fernbank impractical. Now that's teaching science! And I must say coupled with the Owl-in-a-Box it makes a very strong argument to keep the multi-million dollar location open instead of using these funds across the county dispersed among the local school houses.

Too bad there's not a Superintendent-in-a-Box and a BOE-in-a-Box we could also swap around.

Cynical? Yes!

Anonymous said...

DeKalb cannot afford schools that have so many vacant seats. This is what this letter from Fernbank is saying. Small schools cost the district money. I read the letter as asking the board to make more school closings because we have so many elementary schools that have hundreds of open seats. This makes sense. I thought redistricting was suppose to happen earlier this school year, but was stopped and is now sorta kinda back on.

Closing schools that do not have the enrollment for funding makes total sense. I know that no one wants their precious schools to close, but closing schools could mean a better education for all of our students.

I wish that Mr. Orson would have won when he ran for school board. I voted for him and urged others to as well. He is the kind of thinker that we need on the board. I hope and pray that we get thinkers in the next elections. He is looking at the budget for all of the children and not his own.

Anonymous said...

I whole-heartedly agree that some consolidation must occur when there are so many unfilled seats. I'm the anon@4:41 poster and do NOT have a child at a school on the closure list.

However, again, having looked at the capacities, I still do not see how consolidation can close 10-12 small schools without overcrowding schools that are left, even if the schools are "small" when location and drive time are included in the equation.

If you have 6 schools that are under capacty and near one another, you cannot close all six! You can close the number that coincides with the number that allows students in the attendance area to continue to have a school to attend. You cannot merely look at an "underenrolled" school without also considering that there are some students in that school and they have to go somewhere.

Again, are you proposing that we put up a "large" schoolhouse in the next year (that likely will be poorly built because of the need for cost-cutting - hence immediately requiring repairs) solely so you can close schools that "fit" the state formula?

Someone needs to think through the whole question. It cannot stop at "close small schools" without consideration of where the enrolled students will go.

Anonymous said...

Wahoo. Yes! Let's save Fernbank, which touches a few students in the system perhaps once a year. Let's displace more students in small schools that are being served by their classroom teachers and counselors so that we can preserve more administrative fluff and bluff. Let's save the administrators and ancillary resources and throw students under the bus. This makes good sense and will certainly lead to increases in jobs and economic resources for the county. I mean, who in their right mind would NOT want to come here.

Anonymous said...

Well, if that is how Marshall Orson thinks it's a good thing he isn't on the BOE.

And I'm not sure why Mr. Orson tried to draw a parallel between Fernbank and the HA Magnet programs.

Anonymous said...

"Reluctantly, we must also urge the consolidation of more than four schools. DeKalb has a long history of small neighborhood schools, an arrangement we can no longer afford."


Fernbank Elem parents are now and always have been "in it for themselves".

You're darn right they want the FSC to remain open, as it's pretty much their own private science center.

Marshall Orson, you just lost a whole lot of votes. You mention closing four schools in the letter without mentioning the tens of millions of ridiculous Central office bloat and waste.

Some of us Medlock, McLendon and Laurel Ridge parents wouldn't mind closing Fernbank and taking in your students.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad the rest of the county is beginning to feel what we felt when DCSS closed Nancy Creek. We had three schools close together and now two are busting at the seams, Huntley Hills has trailers and Nancy Creek is now Kittredge. Plus, there is an empty building just on the other side of 285. Why is 285 a dividing line? I really think DCSS could do better. Ask Jim Redovian, why the kids in Dunwoody can't go to a closer school that sits just inside 285? They can use our Parks, Murphey Candler,but they refuse to use our schools? What's up with that?

Do not trust the numbers that Mr. Moseley keeps in his Black Notebook. They're as bogus as our school system.

Folks it took DCSS years to hire a "true" demographer, he jjust started a couple of months ago. The last demographer they hired actually marketed himself as a "number cruncher that will make the numbers reflect exactly what the system needs". Premier? HA HA HA HA HA

Anonymous said...

I believe the Fernbank Science Center supporters believe if they link themselves to the magnet schools, there will be strength in numbers. That's true in most counties and particularly true in DeKalb County.

Fernbank Science Center is a lovely addition to the Fernbank neighborhood. Considering our nightmarish metro traffic jams, ts programs are convenient for the local community. It has gardeners and landscapers to ensure it's beautifully kept, and its an oasis of green space. I'm sure Fernbank folks can't imagine their neighborhood without Fernbank Science Center in its center.

Since all DeKalb taxpayers support Fernbank Science Center, the question becomes:
Is the $5,000,000 (salaries and benefits) to $7,000,000 (adding in transportation and physical plant) DeKalb schools spends on Fernbank Science the most efficacious expenditure for science education?

Many DeKalb high schools students are going to be in science classrooms this coming year with 33 other students. For safety's sake, these class sizes should preclude labs and hands-on science. Can students really master science content in these conditions?

I think the argument is that the millions spent on Fernbank Science Center will not be spent on science education for all students. Maybe every day science education for every student is what the Fernbank parents should be lobbying for.

Anonymous said...

Anon@5:30 One of the clear questions, which I sent to the school board, asked when they moved Kittredge to Nancy Creek was how it impacted accessibility to the HA Magnet once removed from the center of the county. That was addressed by Wadsworth; I have no issues with the southside wanting accessibility to an HA program, but to push the north end to bursting at the seams seems like poor advance planning to me.

On the HA Magnets, while I understand that people who do not have their kids in these programs are resentful (we're entering the lottery this year, and I'll be upset too), I also think that it is unlikely that most local school houses can address (or are interested in addressing) the kids at the upper end of the spectrum. Indeed, no administration - federal levels to local levels - seem very interested in serving kids who need to be challenged at the upper fringes. Instead, it is assumed that parents of these kids already have the resources they need.

These days, at all levels, getting a good education seems to be a lottery system. Can you get into a magnet? can you get RTTT funds? It's clearly NOT about the kids.

Anonymous said...

A strike is an organized event where demands are made and efforts are made to prevent it. A sickout is NOT a strike. No one says they are striking, no one is making demands people simply do not show up for work or come in then walk out saying they are sick. No one takes credit for the action no one admits knowledge of the event or its planning. Last year there was fear of a sickout and the school admin went in fear mode making threats against anyone who might call in sick. None of the professional (none of which are unions) organizations want anything to do with something like this.

Anonymous said...

After reading these posts, I see why DeKalb schools SUCK! Many of you are very closed minded.

After taking a close look at the proposed budget, I am sickened that the people in charge of educating our children are sticking it to the kids. I believe that the magnet type programs should be available to all kids, because all children deserve the best education possible. This could easily happen in Title 1 schools, if the Title 1 money were used in other ways, but DeKalb's good old friends and family plan won't allow this to happen. We have signed contracts that do not make sense. I fear that the people running our schools, the superintendent, area superintendents, and other mucky mucks who make decisions to the school board do not know what a good education looks like.

Instead of spending money on a trip to LA for a program that isn't working, why wasn't money spent for teachers, administrators, parents, and school board members to go to schools around the country that are working. Observe at these schools. Talk to those in charge and working in them. Talk to students and parents who attend these schools and find out what makes their plans work. See how we can do this in DeKalb. Make a plan for making DeKalb a premier school district.

With the millions of dollars that is done in research in our country on learning and education, there is not one reason why we should have failing schools in our county. I have seen schools in far worse areas of the country that are far superior to ANY school in DeKalb. What people need to realize is that the magnet programs are what is happening in many mediocre schools in our country already.

Making a school district highly sought after does not take millions of dollars. It does not take fancy machinery or equipment or even fancy schools. It requires an environment where students come to school to learn. It requires teachers to receive superior training, that models what should be taking place in the classroom. It requires administrators and teachers working together to utilize good, solid data to see where students have weaknesses and areas of need and to focus instruction on children's needs. It requires manageable class sizes, so that learning is the focus. It requires parents, to support teachers and not make excuses for their children and themselves. It requires teachers to stop making excuses for themselves and their children. It requires school administrators to be able to kick children out who are not coming to school to learn, and the county providing an alternative education setting. It requires students to act like ladies and gentleman, and have respect for each other, themselves, and the school building.

Ladies and gentlemen, significant change must take place in DeKalb, not only on the part of the school board and administrators running the schools, but also of the parents and what they wish for their children. If parents demanded a Kittredge education for their children all over the county, it would have to be provided. What happens at Kittredge and other magnet programs where students are achieving, is not magic and can happen in any school. The parents must first want that for their children and demand for it to happen.

Parents, you are bickering about stupid, petty, trivial matters in the greater scheme of things. The quality of education for every child in DCSS is laying in the balance. We need to fight for all of the children. Instead of being bitter about your child not getting picked or in a magnet school, begin demanding that quality of education in your local schools. That is truly what you want, but the board has you where they want you, parents bickering amongst themselves and not looking closely as the quality of education your child receives gets lessened and the pockets of friends and family continue to get deeper and fatter.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:41 nailed it. Fernbank Elem's PTA is aligning themselves and the FSC to magnet schools & parents, 'cause Tyson, C Lew, Bob Moseley and the Central office bloaters are scared @#$&-less of magnet parents.

"I believe the Fernbank Science Center supporters believe if they link themselves to the magnet schools, there will be strength in numbers."

Anonymous said...

It depends on what school your child attends. Some schools have well funded PTAs with many parent volunteers and mainly composed of students that come prepared to learn. My local school is like that. Fernbank Elementary epitomizes that. Some of us have it fine, and some of us don't. The ones that have it fine want to keep it just the way it is. My child went to Kittredge, but I would have been perfectly happy for him to have stayed at our local school.

The DeKalb administration is busy playing divide and conquer which they play so well. Even the Fernbank parents have fallen for it. Meanwhile, we suffer with the worst admin and support bloat in the state and in the history of DeKalb County Schools. What sleight of hand!

Anonymous said...

Living in the Laurel Ridge neighborhood, I'd be up for sending my child to Fernbank. Look at the test scores, they are much better than McClendon, Laurel Ridge, and Medlock. Jealous?

Anonymous said...

Anon@5:57: I"m not sure what posts on this are making you sick. what I'm reading are posts that are frustrated that Fernbank is willing to throw small neighborhood schools under the bus to ensure that their jobs are preserved. I'd rather preserve these neighborhood schools.

Most parents would not seek movement out of their local school if it provided an education for a top performing student. But until it does, how can you fault "involved" parents from moving someplace that can address their kids needs rather than staying in a school where the focus is on kids at the bottom whose parents and communities are not involved.

It takes all of the parents of a school to be interested for it to succeed, not just a few.

Anonymous said...

@ anon 5:57 - over and over, not a magnet hater, not a sour grape - but i do live in the real world. the class size and offerings at Kittridge are not going to be offered at every school, i don't care how loud you demand it.
the desire is simply for finances to be distributed equally - just that....... this does not have to be an emotional issue - at least if you are not the one with so much to potentially lose

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:04 PM, this Laurel Ridge parent will take LRE over Fernbank anyday. We mainstream special needs children. We have a tight knit community of parents without the entitlement, snottiness and snark of Fernbank parents. We're much more diverse on every level. No jealously here. Kind of feel bad for the Fernbank administration who have to deal with such self-absorbed, self-obsessed parents. I've seen you in action and wow are y'all a mess over there.

Marshall Orson Campaign said...

Ladies and Gentlemen, Marshall Orson !!!"

Anonymous said...

Anon@6:04. I've got nothing to lose either. I'm in a neighborhood school that is the size that FSC wants to throw under the bus to save administrative jobs. I just know that some of these larger schools are so busy teaching to the bottom that the kids at the top are left out. what are you offering these kids in your missive? Everything that comes up on this blog points to the bulk of parents in this county buying the mantra that all parents of gifted kids have the resources to challenge them on their own....can't we say the same about all of the monies, Federal as well as local, that are spent trying to bring up the bottom?

Again, my kids are NOT at Kittredge. I think there should be programs at ALL schools or at least available to ALL children that can address their particular needs, at ALL levels....this includes top performing as well as bottom performing children, along with those in the middle. The feds clearly care about only one group.

Ella Smith said...

DEkalb County can no longer afford schools with empty seats. This is all that Marshall is trying to say. Four schools is not enough to close in the current economic crisis. We must close the schools which are not economically feesible to keep open.

We must put the money into schools that are feesible responsible. We cannot through our money to the wind anymore just to have small schools when our states formula system will penalize us for doing this. In doing so we are hurting all the children in Dekalb County. Some are playing politics and not doing what is best for the students of Dekalb. Some are more worried about getting re-elected that they are to doing what is best for the students of Dekalb. This is sad for the students and citizens of Dekalb County. The students of Dekalb should be the top priority.

Nice letter Marshall.

Anonymous said...

The misinformation (packaged as "fact") on this blog has become unbearable. Since when has FSC been trying to throw schools under the bus to protect its administration? If I worked at Fernbank Science Center, as a teacher, with an advanced degree, in field (not in education, earned online), dedicating my time to teaching kids THROUGHOUT the county, I would be jumping to the private sector to take a much higher paying job, where my efforts are appreciated and not bashed on a blog. There are science jobs out there and I would bet science teachers will be thinking twice about this line of work.

Let's kill everything excellent and be left with dumbed down mediocrity. We may pass AYP but not much more. We will lose excellent teachers, dedicated parents and all the smart and motivated kids. All reminds me of the "joe the plumber" argument.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Orson's letter has a tone and sense of "entitlement" all through it. I guess he would fit real well on this BOE.

Anonymous said...

Of course everyone is going to try to protect their own special interest. The fighting within over these programs is what the administration wants. They want the attention directed away from themselves.
Quit fighting over this stuff and pay attention to the real problem - administrative bloat. For one minute, forget the special interest stuff and focus.
200 paras. teacher salary cut. why isn't administration cutting themselves back? why are they keeping the micro managers? why aren't they cutting their own salary? why is there more and more and more corruption at the top?
These are the questions that need to be answered first. Fight over the other stuff later, after fixing the initial problem.

Anonymous said...

Many years ago, there was a major law suit to desegragate DCSS. It resulted in M to M transfers and the growth of Magnet Programs...to insure that all DeKalb students had equal access to education. Does anyone know if it is true that Zepora Roberts was a plantiff on the original suit?

Anonymous said...

@ Ella

Pay attention to what Marshall is not saying. He's not saying to Ms. Tyson and the BOE need to cut admin and support outside the schoolhouse. Only then will you have the credibility to begin shuttering small schools.

I'm sorry, but this letter comes across as self serving for the Fernbank Community. It's verbal fluency does not disguise its intention.

It's intention is to preserve Fernbank Science Center and the $7,000,000 in taxpayer dollars that goes to fund it. The Fernbank Elementary Council thinks that their weight as the most erudite members of the DeKalb community combined with their high property tax assessments will ensure that Fernbank Science Center remains the centerpiece of their community. They think if Fernbank Science Center can dodge the axe now that the economy will eventually right itself and this integral part of their community will be spared.

If Marshall Orson and the Fernbank Elementary School Council had ever spent their days in the some of the incredibly wretched conditions that so many of DeKalb students and teachers face every day, they might realize how $7,000,000 a year spent on a facility that truly impacts so few students must prove its educational worth.

In all honesty, the economic downturn has shined a light on an idea that was laudable in 1967 but unrealistic in 2008.

Anonymous said...

If Fernbank parents spent half their energy they are spending on Fernbank Science Center advocating that the incredible admin and support bloat needed to be cut in DeKalb Schools before any program that touches students was cut, they might be more effective members of the larger DeKalb educational community.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 7:01 pm

Very true. By neutralizing the "agitators" in communities, DCSS is hoping to dodge the bullet that Anonymous 7:46 refers to. The DCSS administration thinks if they can just make it through this recession, they will come out intact on the other end. No thought for the future of DCSS students.

Anonymous said...

For those who say teachers should go on strike - it is against the law. For those who say teachers should have a sick out - it violates their code of ethics.

"No public employee shall promote, encourage, or participate in any strike . . . [a]ny public employee who violates [this] . . . shall be deemed to have terminated his or her employment; shall forfeit his or her civil service status, job rights, seniority, and emoluments, if any; and subsequent to such violation shall not be eligible for appointment or reappointment or employment or reemployment in public employment for a period of three years after such violation . . . . " (See O.C.G.A. Title 45)

It is not an accomplishment to distribute mediocrity equally.

Anonymous said...

Like it or not, The Fernbank Elem PTA is one of the most organized and most respected PTA's in the system, possibly the top PTA in the system.

Instead of being a leader, and demanding that the BOE stop its incredibly excessive spending and bloat, the Fernbank PTA self-servingly advocates closing schools before addressing the number one problem: an administration that has been left unchecked by the BOE to spend away tens of millions.

I expect more and better from the Fernbank PTA. But they gave up without a fight, saying, hey BOE, do what you have to do, just don't touch our school or the science center across the street from us.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8"10 pm

Get a grip. No one is going to strike. Teachers will just bide their time and get new jobs.

Meanwhile, students in DCSS will suffer the consequences of Ms. Tyson and the BOE spending more on admin and support than on teachers and the classroom. Parents in communities like Fernbank will use their influence to protect their "turf". After all they've worked extremely hard to get where they are, and they pay the heavy property taxes.

I think it's telling that the strand Cerebration did questioning the validity of DCSS continuing to fund Fernbank Science Center (see "Are the proposed DCSS budget cuts going to harm the classroom while leaving expensive, special programs intact?") had so many angry and indignant posts. This one has had absolutely no angry posts regarding closing Fernbank Science Center. That can only mean that the Fernbank parents know the clout they bring to Ms. Tyson and the BOE will preserve FSC, and no cost benefit analysis will be seriously considered.

You're right to stay out of this commenting on this one Cerebration. Fernbank parents are smart, powerful, and know how to work the system. I'll bet one of them sent you this letter.

I'm just sorry that Fernbank parents who really could be terrific allies of public education have been so successfully neutered in this debate over resources in the classroom versus outside the classroom.

Anonymous said...

"With all the challenges faced by the system, there is a rare opportunity for a wholesale re-imagining of the system. We believe devolving decision-making and accountability closer to the point of implementation can create an environment of innovation and success while enabling DCSS to realize greater savings in non-instructional/non-schoolhouse expenses. We certainly do not wish to adversely affect the lives of many of DCSS’ tireless employees but economic realities dictate a change in our economic structure. At the same time, we can reinvent how our school system works, to the betterment of all DeKalb children."

The entire point of the letter is to preserve the classroom and cut the administration. Marshall is trying to say this diplomatically but the point is, don't cut in the schools, cut in the administration.

Unfortunately, there is simply no way to continue with as many unused seats as we now have. Like it or not, schools will be closed. Let's hope the decision is made with accurate information.

Anonymous said...

The posts on this are unbelievable. This letter was written BY the Fernbank School Council FOR Fernbank! Of course it's going to advocate for Fernbank's interest! That's what a school council does!

If your community has an interest, get involved and advocate for it. Don't sit around criticizing Fernbank and Fernbank parents because they're involved and advocating for their school. Get off your blog and go work for your school and your community.

This is the same reaction you folks have to the magnet schools and parents (and Montessori schools and parents and on and on and on). And it sounds like a bunch of haters!!!

Anonymous said...

Like it or not, The Fernbank Elem PTA is one of the most organized and most respected PTA's in the system, possibly the top PTA in the system.

Well, not really.

Cerebration said...

Our friends at DeKalb Parent have a post simply called "Fernbank" that seeks to clarify a lot of misinformation on the subject. Thanks again DeKalb Parent blog - you guys rock!


Anonymous said...

To anonymous @ 8:35pm

You said: Get a grip. No one is going to strike. Teachers will just bide their time and get new jobs.

Did you read all the comments on this page before jumping? I didn't think so. It was a response to people in previous posts saying teachers should strike or sick out. It is an explanation of why teachers cannot and will not strike or sick out. It was not a warning to teachers.

Anonymous said...

"We believe devolving decision-making and accountability closer to the point of implementation can create an environment of innovation and success while enabling DCSS to realize greater savings in non-instructional/non-schoolhouse expenses. We certainly do not wish to adversely affect the lives of many of DCSS’ tireless employees but economic realities dictate a change in our economic structure."

Everyone, you are ignoring this section of the letter. Sure it is a little stilted, but he is saying what ALL of you have been griping about. Use this economic crisis as an opportunity or excuse to finally cut the fat and the waste. And that may mean that some folks lose their job.

Unfortuantely, I am afraid this "diplomacy" may be lost on a few of our board members.

BTW, my kids went to Fernbank and they each only got to go to FSC once in 6 years as a science class trip! I think Fernbank should be temporarily closed due to the budget crisis and all the certified teachers assigned to individual schools as classroom teachers and science curriculum coaches. Maybe some private foundation or college will take it over but I have been very disappointed in some of the science courses in the middle and high schools.

Cerebration said...

From the Feb 8 Board minutes -

Dr. Sonja Alexander, Director, Department of Professional Learning, recommended that the Board of Education enter into a subcontract agreement with Georgia State University for expenditures incurred from the Mathematics\Science Transition to Teaching Program (MSTT) Project for the performance period of October 1, 2009 through September 30, 2014, the total amount reimbursed to Georgia State University shall not exceed $150,000 per year.

Dr. Walker asked if this program is replacing another program or a new program. Dr. Alexander answered that it is a federal funded grant recently awarded to the District to assist with the retention of highly qualified math and science teachers.

Mr. McChesney asked for clarification regarding the financial impact. Dr. Alexander responded that funds will be reimbursed to the District with no impact to the general budget.

Dr. Lewis added that the grant is for a five-year period, in the total amount of $1,947,200 and anticipates that it will strongly support teachers in the math and science areas.

On a motion by Ms. Roberts, seconded by Dr. Speaks, and with a unanimous vote, the motion passed.

Combine that with the programs at Fernbank Science Center and we can expect to see our science test scores improve in the very near future!

Anonymous said...

There is way too much mixing and confusing on this blog between Fernbank Elementary School and Fernbank Science Center. These are not connected entitities in any way, shape, or form. The Science Center serves the entire county and teachers from the Science Center conduct programs in and for all students in every school of the county. Some Science Center teachers, in fact, spend the majority of their time in high schools, all over the county, and rarely anywhere near the Science Center. The Science Center provides no special service for Fernbank Elementary.

Cerebration said...

I have to defend Marshall's letter here.

First, he says,

We urge an approach which, as far as possible, keeps intact the instructional environment and needs at the school house. To this end, we believe that certain selected cuts may appear easy on their face but will have significant ramifications in the day-to-day school life.

And then to bullet point his letter he defends

-Library clerks
-Pre-K parapros
-Good quality high achiever programs
-Consolidating school buildings
-Sunsetting any new revenue (temp tax increase)
-Giving more responsibility to schools
-Seizing the opportunity to "reimagine" the system
-A long-term point of view

Not a bad agenda when you bullet point it.

Good for you for taking the time to pen your thoughts and share them with the board and the community, Marshall.

Anyone else? We'll post other letters if you'll send them. (And they're printable!)

Fire The Five said...

Any truth to the rumor the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce is going to bankroll Marshall Orson's campaign against Eugene Walker in the BoE District 9 race???

Anonymous said...

"I think Fernbank should be temporarily closed due to the budget crisis and all the certified teachers assigned to individual schools as classroom teachers and science curriculum coaches. Maybe some private foundation or college will take it over but I have been very disappointed in some of the science courses in the middle and high schools."

Close the Science Center and it will never reopen. No college will take it over (Emory's endowment is in the toilet, and the state universities are cutting like mad). Instead, how about people work together to come up with sustainable public/private partnership that can kick in a year from now? In the meantime, reduce the support staff, keep the teachers (many who aren't certified, although several on this blog rafuse to believe this), and develop a transition plan.

I am sorry this blogger found the science classes "disappointing." Our kids found quite the opposite - that is was worth traveling large distances to take courses taught by real experts as opposed to the mediocre class at the local school.

Square Peg said...

Re Cere's 9:30 post - the Math and Science Transition to Teaching approval is a relatively trivial matter with no net cost to DCSS, but it is interesting because it illustrates a case in which the board appears to have been misled. I was curious about MSTT and did a little web search. Turns out that MSTT pays for paraprofessionals with associate's degrees to get a bachelor's degree in middle childhood education. It apparently has nothing to do with retaining highly qualified math and science teachers as described in the board minutes. Huh?????

Description of the program on the DCSS website:

Description of the grant on the US DOE website: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/transitionteach/2009abstracts/ga.html

Anonymous said...

The unnecessary animosity on this blog is really hard to take. What's with all the Fernbank ES haters? My kids did not go to Fernbank ES but are in high school with kids from this school and I am grateful for it. Many of these kids are motivated, smart and raise the bar in the classroom, making for better more challenging classroom environments for everyone. Many of the parents are productively and effectively engaged in the school. This benefits EVERYONE in the school. I am grateful for every smart kid who stays in the system through middle and high school because it makes for a better and more challenging learning environment for all the kids. If smart and motivated kids start dropping from the system, everyone suffers. Sure, the school may pass AYP but no one will excell. DCSS needs to keep special programs (like FSC, magnets, arts, etc.) to retain smart kids in the system. While this may not be directly measurable via AYP, it is critical!! Quit bashing one group as elitist, wealthy, or whatever, and be grateful to have supporters of quality education.

Anonymous said...

I hope the BOE and acting Super will take a moment and reflect on the opinions of those so committed to the success of the District that they (BOE & Super) will give deep thought to the decisions they are about to make and in doing so put DeKalb's students first.

Cerebration said...

Well, now that's interesting, 9:55.

You all might be interested in this story at the School Matters blog -

Cliffside, NJ Students Walk Out to Protest Teacher Cuts

All over a $1.8 million budget cut!

Anonymous said...

Stop deluding your self. They won't. They don't care about the children or the schools. They only care about themselves, their jobs and their status. End of story.

Anonymous said...

"We urge you to retain a long-term point of view which will best position the children of DeKalb for success in the future."

Thank you, Marshall Orson for your thoughtful, measured, and cogent arguments, and for reminding us that we need to consider the "long term point of view." It is foolish to slash long-standing programs rashly for the sake of balancing the budget in the near term. We must take a balanced approach to dealing with the deficit, preserving the important pieces of important resources and programs while developing a long term plan for sustainance and growth. We need to be open to a small tax increase if it allows for 1 fewer child per classroom. We are talking about the education of our children. Education is not a business and should not be run like one. The BOE should not be populated by business people but by educators and parents, and most of all, by educated people. AYP should not be the overriding principle in budget decisions. NCLB has ruined our schools and it will take a long time to recover. But in the meantime, we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater.

fedupindcss said...

Was talking to my mom in northeast this weekend, who is a former school staff member there (retired). I told her about the teacher pay cut here, and the extra planning time being attached to a portion of the high school teaching staff. Then I added that it was illegal for teachers to strike here, and she lost it. Mind you, this woman is a Republican down to her toes, but she is also all about good public education. She told me that the teachers up there were going to have a day of furlough this coming year (yes, one day) and they are on the verge of a walkout. And they have the complete backing of the parents, in a very upper middle class community where they are already taxed to the hilt.

Nothing, I mean nothing, is going to happen in DCSS with letter writing, a couple dozen people at BOE meetings, and a complete collapse of the local news in Atlanta. The BOE doesn't care because there isn't a hammer that we have against them. Based on the last election, they know no one is going to vote them out (heck, the voters probably thought Paul Womack was an incumbent, because he had been on the board before). Only total nuclear war (in the metaphorical sense) is going to work here.

Anonymous said...

How did Paul Womack end up back on the Board, anyhow - just because he is a white, conservative, and male? Are there any basic quailifications for the BOE? Apparently, you don't need a college degree (though you don't need one to run for governor either). DCSS is just a reflection of the incompetence of the state government. No coincidence that our schools began a rapid decline when Sonny Perdue took office.

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration 9:30 pm and SquarePeg 9:55 pm

SquarePeg is right:
"The DeKalb County School System (DCSS) and Georgia State University (GSU) are collaborating to recruit 90 paraprofessionals (30 paraprofessionals a year for three years) with associate degrees, and to train them to be highly qualified middle school mathematics and science teachers.... Participants will complete coursework while they work at DCSS, and are committed to working in a high-need school for three years after completing the program."

"Project Director: Sonja Alexander"

Sounds like DCSS needs to get some science teachers into some low income schools. Maybe they could try decently sized science classrooms, taking administrative nonsensical paperwork off their backs, and paying them commensurate with their rigorous education.

Many of our DCSS science teachers are not highly qualified, most of whom are teaching in low performing schools. This doesn't seem the greatest solution for those students.

Please read further before endorsing this program:

Science and math education are an enormous problem throughout the U.S. since students don't want to major in science and math. My son went to UGA and majored in science. 2/3 of the science majors at UGA drop out of their science major after the first chemistry class. They simply aren't prepared, even the UGA students.

Students in middle and high school need science teachers steeped in science content in college classes. While history and English and even math stay the same for the most part, science content is constantly changing. That's why highly qualified science majors need to be attracted to science education. This solution seems more expedient than long lasting.

Anonymous said...

Is a teachers union that bad?

Massachusetts has a teachers union (one of the nation's strongest):
Per capita income: $65,401
SAT Math: 522 SAT Reading: 513

Georgia does not have a teachers union:
Per capita income: $50,861
SAT Math: 495 SAT Reading: 494

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:12 pm

"Education is not a business and should not be run like one."

Well, you don't have that to worry about with our current superintendent and BOE.

Anonymous said...

To Anon @ 10:33pm

You said: How did Paul Womack end up back on the Board, anyhow - just because he is a white, conservative, and male?

Really? Do you really want to bring race and gender into this? Gender Bias is a two way street. Is the new female acting Superintendent doing OK by your standards? Racism can be directed at or against any race - even by their own race. Why don't you just apologize and be done with it, because you were wrong to make such a statement.

As for being a conservative or liberal - well you tell me, was it a liberal or conservative that hired so many non-school house employees? Was it a liberal or conservative B.O.E. that rubber-stamped the change from more teachers to more admin and support.

Yeah, I thought so.

Square Peg said...

What bothered me most about MSTT is that either the board or the minutes taker didn't understand the nature of the program the board was voting on. "Dr. Alexander answered that it is a federal funded grant ... to assist with the retention of highly qualified math and science teachers." "Dr. Lewis added that the grant is for a five-year period ... and anticipates that it will strongly support teachers in the math and science areas."

I hope that communication between the administration and board about cuts is clearer than this was.

Anonymous said...

Thanks SquarePeg and Cere for the info about MSTT. Pretty disappointing that we are putting the future of science education on folks with associates degrees and very concerning that the board did not seem to understand the program.

Anonymous said...

The recruiting and retention of science teachers to K-12 education is a serious crisis for our state and our country. Most people with significant depth of education and knowledge in science can get much more lucrative jobs in the private sector. Even the federal government agencies offer incentives and bonuses for recruiting and retaining scientists.
In many of the high schools, teacher trained in biology, are called upon to teach chemistry or even physics, when they might have taken only college level class in these subjects. To be a good teacher, the teacher needs to have learned significantly more about the subject than the level of the course he/she is teacher. Not the case in our high schools, and it really shows.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 11:20 pm

Well, that's science education in DeKalb. Now you see why folks on this blog are so concerned with scarce science dollars in our county. That's the reality for most of our students.

Anonymous said...

And the city of Boston has some of the worst schools in the country.

Cerebration said...

This is a bit of a diversion on the topic, but on the news, they reported that they are hiring NASA scientists to study why Toyota and other cars are accelerating. The cost of the study; $3 million.

DeKalb spent $3.6 million to a company called Nielsen-Wurster/Marsh for a 54 volume study to determine how much they should sue Heery Mitchell for.

I'd say the accountants and attorneys are the ones DeKalb schools value.

Open + Transparent said...

"The BOE should not be populated by business people but by educators and parents, and most of all, by educated people."

What a silly comment. Our BOE needs to be a diverse group, and that includes those with a business background. DCSS is a billion dollar operation. While property tax revenue was flush, the BOE, past and present, allowed tens of millions of ridiculous spending and non-stop hiring of non-teaching staff. The BOE and administration ignored trying to forge partnerships, did a horrible job securing grant funding, and allowed too many friends and family members of administration and staff to be hired.

If you think the BOE should only be populated with educators and parents, you're asking for more of the same. Even if there were mch needed term limits in place.

Anonymous said...

@ Cere
Too bad DCSS didn't spend the 3 M on NASA scientists to teach in their schools.
I laugh, but the money wasted on lawsuits, attorneys, and contracts at DCSS is absolutely sickening, and I fear we have only seen the tip of the iceberg.

Anonymous said...

@open and transparent:
I agree that the board needs to be a diverse group. The problem now is there are few members of the board who seem to really care about or understand what it takes to educate children. Same goes for the current DCSS administration. Yes, the system is a billion dollar enterprise but it is much more than a spreadsheet and haphazard slashing.

Anonymous said...

If we need science teachers so badly, why not take the $7,000,000 a year for Fernbank Science Center and employ experienced Masters Level Science teachers in the schools that will teach science every day to all students?

A Masters Level Science teacher with 3 years of classroom teaching experience cost $57,800 (including salary and 25% benefits). $7,000,000 divided by $57,800 would mean DeKalb could hire 123 experienced Masters Level science teachers with 3 years of teaching experience.

If consistent science education every day for every child with class sizes that make science instruction and labs safe and effective in our middle and high schools, 123 additional teachers are the way to go.

I know no one wants to hear that - particularly the Fernbank Science Center supporters. They'll have a million different "well stated and cogent" reasons why this idea won't work. They'll huff and puff and pontificate about the wonders of the 180 students a year served by SST and speak of the incredible outreach programs that touch each child once a year. Meanwhile, many of them are scientists and MDs who know full well that science is a difficult subject that requires constant instruction every day.

The reality of DCSS is that science instruction in so many of our schools is woefully inadequate.

The members of the Fernbank Elementary School Council should work in some of these DCSS science classrooms for a few months before they go to battle for a program that costs so much and serves so few.

Anonymous said...

Good luck finding 123 masters level science teachers. There are 29 at Fernbank Science Center and I would suspect many of them are considering non-teaching job options. DCSS has been lucky to be able to retain many of these Fernbank scientists.

We can go back and forth all day long about how to improve science eduation, whether to keep Fernbank, etc. but seems like we need to hear from the science educators. These teachers at the schools and at Fernbank know better than most of us about what is really needed to teach kids science. The Fernbank SC teachers have a particularly unique perspective because many of them are in schools across the entire county and work with kids across all points of the spectrum.

Cerebration said...

How about some decent science labs and equipment for starters? I challenge anyone to stop by Lakeside and ask for a tour - including a science "lab" - directly out of 1968. The few working microscopes were purchased by teachers with their own money. The gas (last I knew) lines don't feed the chemistry burners... yada yada. There's no way to teach labs in there - especially when you really only have about a 45 minute window.

On the flip side - take a tour of the brand new, gorgeous facility and miles of science lab stations at Archer High School (probably enhanced with some of our "equalization" funding.)

Here's a listing of Gwinnett's schools that opened in 09

And - also, check out how Gwinnett is able to plan for the future - they actually list school sites and future attendance boundaries -


This should not be this hard to do. All we have to do is start thinking in terms of planning and being proactive instead of reactive in our leadership. Luckily, I'm told the new planning guy is awesome.
Bless him.

Marshall Orson Campaign said...

I'm voting for MARSHALL ORSON in the BoE District 9 election this November. How about YOU?

Anonymous said...

As a former Fernbank Elementary parent I found Marshall Orson to be nonreceptive to ideas not his own or outside of the typical Fernbank economic and social group. I'll definitely wait to see if he sends his own kids to Shamrock instead of siphoning them to private school like so many Fernbabnk parents do before even considering to vote for him.

Anonymous said...

Guys...I agree with you totally. These magnet and centers are really providing a private education within the public school system. If we had lots of extra money that could be ok. But we don't have the funds now. increasing class size is a death blow for many of our teachers. Teachers used to beg to teach in DeKalb...now they're running in the opposite direction. We are the joke of the metro area.

Anonymous said...

Lack of competent and properly educated science teachers in k12 is such a huge problem. Even my friends at private schools complain that their science programs are "weak." The rest of the world is moving ahead of us because of deficiencies in science education. Qualified and inspired teachers can make up for lack of lab equipment, poor facilities, and even crowded classrooms. But these teachers are few and far between. Many of the best science teachers at our high school have been hired without certification and are working on the certificates as they teach. While these teachers are great, they will most certainly bail out to higher paid jobs once they have the opportunity. If you have a masters or PhD is science, why stay in a job where you are making 50% of what you could make elsewhere?

One Fernbank Family said...

Hey Bloggers, I'm a Fernbank parent. All my children attend or did. My family's very involved in the school. And I agree with the previous poster that Marshall Orson does NOT listen to all of us. In fact, he does NOT represent the views or opinions of all of us. And, I'm very upset this letter went out on behalf of the Fernbank School Council because it DOES NOT accurately represent what this Fernbank Family (and many of our peers) think about these issues. Who gave Marsall Orson permission to write this? Not me! So, don't hold it agains all of the Fernbank families. It's not us. It's not our opinion. It's his. And his alone.

Anonymous said...

I've also noticed that some of the best science and math teachers my kids have known were hired without certification. I'm worried that when layoffs come because of proposed teacher workload increases, some of these great teachers will be the first to be discarded. On paper a teacher who is still working on his or her certification doesn't look as qualified as another teacher who has a lot of seniority, but a much weaker grasp of the subject. Hope I'm wrong about the rules.

Some of my friends and ex-colleagues didn't originally plan on teaching. But they chose teaching because they felt a call, and they won't leave if they are treated right. Unfortunately, the school system doesn't seem to value teachers enough to treat them right. Example: the Tech-educated math teacher who quit her job at Redan after she was pressured to change a student's grade. http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/01/did-frankie-callaway-encourage-cheating.html

Anonymous said...

I am not a Fernbank parent and do not live in the Fernbank area but I do think Marshall Orson presents an important perspective that should be included in the many voices speaking for our school system.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:26
I share your concerns. These new and often uncertified teachers will be the first to go and some of the former teacher/no administrators in the Central Office will get pushed into the schools to take their places.

We simply have to change the model for math and science teaching in our high schools and be willing to pay science teachers more. Teachers get extra pay for all kinds of bogus add-ons and certifications that they can earn online.

Anon 10:26 said...

Raising teachers' salaries won't help if we lay them off. The only thing higher pay will do is give higher salaries to the central office people who are pushed to the classroom in their place.

STEM jobs were hit hard by the recession, and before that by the bursting of the tech bubble. So raising pay for science and math teachers is not the immediate problem. The big problem is knowing the difference between a great teacher and a poor one, and keeping the great ones. This is very political and I can't see how it will be solved.

Anonymous said...

One Fernbank Family--the letter came from the School Council and Marshall is the Chair of the council. This letter is in line with the role of school councils. The council meetings are open to the public and posted on the calendar - perhaps you should attend one - it will help you to understand what is going on outside of Fernbank.

Anonymous said...

We want good schools, we have to be willing to pay for them. In other parts of the country, the communities with the best public schools pay much more in property tax. Yes, we first need to eliminate excessive admin and waste, but then we have to be willing to pay for better science labs, better teachers, art, and music. As it stands now, much of these extras are paid for parents and teachers.

Anonymous said...

"We want good schools, we have to be willing to pay for them."

We do pay for them, and tens of millions are wasted by poor decision making and a completely out of control bureuacracy that focuses on itself instead of the classroom or teacher.

Less than one out of five hosueholds in DeKalb have children in the school system. So more than eighty percent of the county households are paying property and sales tax to a system that has wasted millions (eSIS, America's Choice, bloated non-academic departments, cronyism & nepotism, questionable SPLOST contracts, etc.).

The Board of Education has also failed us in terms of developing partnerships and bring in foundation and corporate dollars, which even the formerly troubled Atlanta school system has figured out how to do. We can have a fine school system without paying any more than we do in property and sales tax.

Anonymous said...

I think that we need equality for all the chldren in Dekalb County. At the Title I schools there should be more points given to work with at-risk students. Also these points should be for extra teahers and not coaches. Instead schools like Fernbank and magnet programs are given more points toward language teachers etc.

Anonymous said...

George Maddox was an utter embarassment last night. Sarah Copelin-Wood appointed him to the citizen school closing committee. He shamefully played the North DeKalb vs. South DeKalb angle, failing to mention that the schools closed during the last round of closings were mostly North DK schools.

I give the committee members much credit, especially chair Thad Mayfield, for performing such a thankless task.

Marshall Orson Campaign said...

How many of you will support Marshall Orson's BoE campaign this fall? I will!

Let's elect Marshall Orson to the DCSS School Board in November!

Dekalbparent said...

I just came across this as I was surfing. Gives a perspective on our current hot debates. Attempts at consolidation have been made before, but they have always been dropped in the face of protest.


Ella Smith said...

I think it is interesting that Marshall is getting into the race. It will be an interesting race for district 9. I do not think I can support Marshall at this point as I will have to support myself if I continue to think about getting into the race and do not change my mind. I have three more weeks of class before I make a final decision right now.

Ella Smith said...

Times are tough throughout our state currently. Any educator knows that the problem is much more complicated that one person being able to step in on a white horse and make everything ok.

No school board member can do that currently. This is about how we get our money for our schools. We do not have money for our schools because of all the foreclosures in the state.

We need changes on our school board. However, changes on our school board are not going to make our money situation better. All the school systems in the state are in the same situation. The money is not there. All these schools need to be closed. We need to do away with block schedule as the data is not there is show it is producing results with our students. We must be a data driven school system.

This would save the county the money needed to save alot of money to save many programs that need to be saved. Teachers must teach 6 out of 7 classes. I have been teaching 6 out of 7 classes for a few years now.

Para positions have to be cut. Teaching positions probable have to be cut. Administration positions have to be cut. WE DO NOT HAVE THE MONEY. We want all these things for our children. I want all these things for my son also. However, we have to have money for these things. The state is broke and does not have money to give us.

As an educator I always thought I would have a job. However, at my school in Fulton County we all wait daily to see who will be back next year. Times are tough and the picture is not pretty. I am a special education teacher and lucky. However, many of my friends are not so lucky.

It is about surviving as school systems throughout the state. It is about cutting the fat throughout the state. I would like to see all the funds at Fernbank stay also. I am a science teacher. However, cuts must be made across the board to be fair to all the students in the Dekalb County School System. All programs must be cut to be fair in my opinion. I believe in fairness for all children in all of Dekalb County regardless of where they live.

Anonymous said...


Marshall has not entered the race. At this point it is just wishful speculation.

Ella Smith said...

I still feel the same way. No one board member is going to come in on a white horse and change the way things are in the current education climate.

We do not have money. The state does not have money to give us. The foreclosed property is still not collecting tax money and our schools are suffering horrible.

It is real easy to look at problems from a local level and be concerned with how this affects your individuals schools. However, this is affecting every school in Georgia. It is not just the schools in our backyard. It is a state problem and even a national issue regarding money in several locations throughout the nation. However, it appears GA is one of the first states to go as far as to forlough its teachers so things are much worse here than other states.

Again, other counties are cutting their fat to the bone and for instance we have already been told in Fulton County we will have 40 students per class at Northsprings High School.

I know it is going to be tough on Media Specialist to pick up slack of not having help. I know it will be tough for teachers not to have paras. In fact it will be horrible. No one wants this. I am sure that none of the current school board members want this either. I may disagree with Dr. Walker on occassion but I also agree with him on many occassions and I can assure you Dr. Walker does not want to make any of these cuts. I know him well enough to assure you of this. I assure you many of our school board members are upset by the cuts they are making. They do not have money. They cannot grow money from trees. However, I bet they wise that they could at this point.

Dan M said...

You're right, Ella. Gene Walker doesn't want to make any cuts. He wants to raise taxes. He wants to keep the status quo. He wants to keep the administrative bloat. He wants to keep the non-academic departments like MIS and school police bloated and inefficent with overpaid and underperforming administrators.

Ella Smith said...

I agree on many of these points. However, he does not want to cut funds to Fernbank or cut those other positions out either. None of the school board members want to do this.

Now as far as needed police officers in the schoolhouses. We do need them but I do not know to what extent.

I was grabbed from behind and injuried by a student in Dekalb County that I had no idea that would ever hurt me. This student was on special permission to be at the school I taught by the school superintendent who lived across the street from the young man. The young man had a violent past which was kept a top-secret to protect the student. However no one thought about protecting other students or the teachers from this students.

I do believe we need police officers on every high school and middle school campus today. We probable need two police officers at every high school campus in Dekalb County to keep our children safe. I teach at a high school so I know what goes on in high schools.

Safety of our childen should always come first. I do not know how much fat is at the county office but if there is fat I agree it needs to be cut lean currently. However, the police officers need to stay at our middle schools and high schools to keep our children safe.

Anonymous said...

What are other school systems doing more cost effectively than Dekalb?
Gwinnett made changes last year in the county office which has helped them. Teachers are not getting a paycut for the next school year.
No Pre-K in the local schools.
No magnet or montessori programs.
More efficiency in the county office.
Better use of Title I money and it is used for direct instruction of students instead of all the coaches.
Very few neighborhood schools.
Less salaries for administrators across the board in the schools and county office. Quite a few years ago a spreadsheet was on the ajc and it compared salaries of administrator in metro Altanta. At that time Dekalb County salaries for administrators were higher than most other systems.

Anonymous said...

Five Stephenson Middle School students are facing criminal charges for their roles in a sexual battery incident, said Dale Davis, spokesman for DeKalb County schools.

A male student was allegedly the victim of sexual battery on March 10, Davis said Wednesday. Six students at the school were identified as participants, he said. Five of those have been charged and face school disciplinary action.

The victim, a 12-year-old, was held by students, touched inappropriately, and stuffed in a locker following track practice at the school, according to WSB-TV.

Anonymous said...

"What are other school systems doing more cost effectively than Dekalb?"

No small elementary schools

Teachers teach 6/7 periods (no block schedule)

No empty facilities

Fewer special ed services (people move to DeKalb for the services, particulary for autism)

Anonymous said...

The depths of the financial crises in other school systems - just now emerging:

from AJC-
"Cobb County might have to raise classroom sizes to 40 students, cut hundreds of teachers, cut bus routes and use prisoners to maintain school grounds to slash its budget next year."

Cerebration said...

Use prisoners to maintain school grounds????


Anonymous said...

@ Ella
"Again, other counties are cutting their fat to the bone and for instance we have already been told in Fulton County we will have 40 students per class at Northsprings High School. "

How is that possible? Is Georgia going to raise the maximum class size to 40? That's not what Perdue says. If you are out of compliance on class size, you don't get state funds.

Quite frankly, if your child is a class of 40, they will be learning very little, and trust me they will be physically and psychologically miserable. How would you like to be a teenager crammed into a classroom that is built for 30 all day long with 39 other teenagers?

I think most parents would advocate a 10% to 15% budget cut to the admin and support side of DCSS in order to keep class sizes down to a reasonable level.

If our kids are not getting an education (which they won't with huge class sizes), then we don't need the admin and support anyway. Realistically, where are those admin and support personnel going to go of they don't like their salary adjustments? Pay them what the market will bear. I'm being serious here. Times are touch. If we can get a security employee for $35,000 plus benefits, that's better than being unemployed.

If that doesn't do it, then do like Gwinnett - eliminate programs - America's Choice ($8,000,000), Instructional Coaches (8,000,000), FSC ($7,000,000), magnet, pre-K, etc.

Anonymous said...

Before Fulton, Cobb, or DCSS has 40 to a classroom, they need to send half of the Central Office personnel out to teach in the schools. Most of them are certified teachers and we have 1,239 of them. And don't forget we have close to 90 Instructional Coaches (not counted as Central Office staff since they sit in schools all day). If they can't teach in a classroom situation under Title 1 rules, they can teach select groups of students. That's what the Title 1 math and Title 1 reading teachers did for years.

DCSS has 155 employees for every 1000 students (no other system even comes close except Cobb) according to Maureen Downey's calculations. That a ratio of 6.45 students per employee.

Don't feel sorry for the teachers. They'll be plotting their escape (probably to be maintenance people in the system - more money, less stress). Feel sorry for the students. Most have no place else to go.

Molly said...

Ella wrote Safety of our childen should always come first. I do not know how much fat is at the county office but if there is fat I agree it needs to be cut lean currently. However, the police officers need to stay at our middle schools and high schools to keep our children safe.

We certainly need police officers in our schools. But do we really need four police officers at a Budget, Finance, and Facilities committee meeting? I've never seen fewer than 2 at these meetings, and at the most recent one there were four. Four police officers for a meeting that attracted no more than 25 citizens.

Anonymous said...

I'm more concerned about the safety of students packed in classrooms of 40. What teacher could possible monitor them - what a volatile situation. Who would want that liability?

Anonymous said...

Shooting today at Chapel Hill Middle School.

Cerebration said...

Here's the story -

Student fires gun at DeKalb middle school; no one hurt

By Ty Tagami
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

5:07 p.m. Thursday, April 1, 2010
A student fired a gun at a DeKalb County middle school Thursday, but no one was hurt.

Parents with children attending Chapel Hill Middle School received a letter when their kids got home.

It said a 13-year-old boy fired a handgun in the boy's restroom at about 12:15 p.m.

Two other students were there at the time, the letter said, but no one was hurt.

A school police officer took the boy into custody.

Dale Davis, a spokesman for the county school system, confirmed that there was a shooting there and issued a news release that said the same thing as the letter that went to parents.

Find this article at:

Kim Gokce said...

I hate to be such a Debbie-downer but ... I think the reason why everyone is so frustrated is because we created an untenable situation.

Our system was already big and old in the 80s/90s. When the middle school format came, did we migrate to this model in an orderly fashion after a smart new construction campaign and attendance planning? No. We accomplished it "on the cheap" using the existing plant and attendance maps - bam!

When I look at the DCSS map, I see a picture of rotting k-7/8-12 infrastructure. In this environment, a "scarcity" mentality has developed and neighboring attendance areas see each other as rivals for limited resources - thus the sometimes rabid activism by various parent groups and perceptions about the North v South and Have v Have-nots.

Where on earth did we get the idea that we could get away with this (old k-7/8-12 plant and attendance areas)? Since we have allowed ourselves and our leaders to maintain this collective self-delusion for decades, we have an impossible situation.

We can't support the number of schools and programs we have unless we are willing to spend much more cash and I don't sense there's stomach for that.

Do we need to see a more professionally run and efficient central office operation? Yes. If we get this, will it solve all the problems we face? No. It would, however, create a trusted partner for the public and private sector stakeholders to BEGIN to attack the bigger issues of new construction funding and program management.

Right now, I feel like the general DeKalb voter is as disengaged as ever and, for the most part, it is only current parents who are focusing on the needs of the system ... I'm not feeling optimistic tonight. Tomorrow is another day ...

Kim Gokce said...

Regarding the quality of education/teachers available in DeKalb County ...

If there is a attendance area that faces a combination of all the problems we highlight on this blog, it is Cross Keys' area - old buildings, issues with parental involvement, crowding, lack of amenities, lack of business community support, readiness of incoming students, America's Choice (CKHS is one using this program) and the list goes on ...

In this environment this year, our high school has produced the County Champion Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl team, the overall Grand Prize winner, and the 1st and 2nd place Biology category Science Fair winners (both go to State this month and one goes to San Jose, CA for Int'l competition in May), a robotics team that is going to compete in World Championships in Dallas, TX, and we're graduating the top award-winning, incoming freshman at Georgia Tech (President's Scholarship - 1 out of 6900 competitive applications).

In the case of the Grand Prize winner of the science fair, she is a product of Woodward ES, Sequoyah MS, and Cross Keys HS and from immigrant family from Mexico that has made DeKalb their home 15+ years.

These accomplishments occur in what few argue are the worst facilities in DeKalb County. Surely these individual kids were destined to succeed because their parents are well-off and educated themselves, right?

Wrong on both counts - these young people are supported by working class and poor households with none of the common indicators for academic "success." They are all non-white. They are all "dreaded" apartment dwellers, too.

Ah, but I've got on my high horse again ... let me climb down. My point is that we are making the job of public education much too complicated in DeKalb because of the politics of the past. While everyone snarls and barks over their little slice of shrinking, stinking corpse of the budget, our area kids put left foot, then right foot out and keep moving forward with the help of a loving and competent faculty.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Cross Keys faculty are known to be extremely dedicated. I taught at Woodward in the 70s and again during the 80s, 90s and some in the 2000s. Before that I taught at Jim Cherry ES. I know the students you are talking about because we sent them on to Cross Keys.

I think in a situation like Cross Keys, the students themselves give rise to such a great faculty. I don't know who could work with students like those and not be affected.

Anonymous said...

To Kim Gokce,

You shouldn't tell everyone that Cross Keys is successful.

They'll want to close it down because it's "sucking" up the resources from other schools.


Kim Gokce said...

@Anon 1:13: "I think in a situation like Cross Keys, the students themselves give rise to such a great faculty."

That is what every volunteer I have brought to CKHS has experienced. It's a "Magnet" school for anyone who takes the time to work with the students. Thank you for taking my rant and distilling it to the positive point.