Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The April 21, 2010 ELPC Town Hall Meeting



Frank. Open. Knowledgeable. Articulate.

The Emory Lavista Parent Council hosted a town hall meeting this morning featuring our interim superintendent, Ramona Tyson. I thought of a flood of adjectives during the meeting to describe my impression of Tyson and the new direction and determination the school system seems to be exhibiting. Tyson and her staff are concerned. They are aware. They are working very hard. Really.

Sincere. Focused. Determined. Caring.

I think Tyson is an excellent choice for an interim leader. She is a mother of two young children in DeKalb schools—she wants them to succeed. She plans to ‘focus on the core business’ with a ‘laser light’ and work to restore trust and rebuild morale. I believed her.

These are some of the tough decisions on the plate:

Balancing the budget for FY 2011.

This must, by law, be done by June 30. We are certain to have an $88 million shortage, however she recommends that the board plan for $115 million. It is the board’s final decision, however, in the past, the board has chosen to accommodate the immediate shortage, and then consistently been hit with more reductions from the state over the summer. This requires emergency budget changes and Tyson wants to just go ahead and plan for that now. Smart.

School Consolidations.

We have 11,0000 empty seats in our system. The board discovered that three schools—Heritage ES, Briarcliff HS and Hooper Alexander—although they have been closed are still counted by the state as having “open seats”. The board plans to take these schools out of commission, which will take the seats off the list. This will reduce the 11,000 to around 9,000.

Next, we have several elementary schools operating at far below the magic number of 450, where state funding kicks in. Consolidating those schools will reduce the number of “open seats” another 2,000 to around 7,000.

We must recover as much as we can from the state. Property tax collections are down and can no longer fill the gap. The state has steadily decreased school funding to the point that funding has flip-flopped. The state used to pay 60% and the county covered 40%. Now, it’s exactly the opposite. We can’t afford the luxury of tiny schools funded entirely with local dollars. The money is just not there and Tyson, staff and the board have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of DeKalb.

Transportation.

The staff recommends implementing the full transportation savings plan, meaning eliminating all magnet and extra-curricular transportation. They are also looking into electric buses, which are manufactured by a company in China, as well as hybrid buses in order to save fuel costs.

Central Office.

Tyson gave us some numbers. We have 15,859 employees, 13,873 are full-time and 1,906 are part-time. Of these, 14,620 are school-based and 1,239 are central office staff. The current proposed budget cut eliminates 152 of these central office positions, but they will continue to evaluate and streamline the central office and other areas of administration.

Business-like. Engaging. Prepared. Capable.

Overall, the one take-away message stated by Tyson was, “We need to protect services that are closest to students.” She wants to do a forensic audit to take a hard look at the programs that are not working. She understands that the system is asking a lot of teachers and wants to offer things in return, such as eliminating some of their paperwork, creating a venue for communication and creating a classroom environment that allows teachers to do their job.

Overall, Tyson exhibited a deep understanding of the issues at the fore. She reads the news reports but warned us that she has made the decision not to comment to the media. She can’t control how what she says is reported, so she will choose not to comment. She was impressive in her commitment to take the very serious legal and other issues about to come to fruition and place them aside, with her focus remaining on the children.

She certainly didn’t sugar-coat the fact that the “train” is coming. We will be in for a world of bad press here very shortly. A board member even indicated that indictments will most likely be filed soon. This is not going to be pretty. But Tyson has steeled her team and they plan to put on their blinders, allowing all "that" to live on the sidelines, while they execute their “laser light focus” on the task of rebuilding our school system. She wants to “put the students in a cocoon and push through”.

And I believed her.

Light.

96 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cere, based on all your excellent research, do you agree with her comment about staffing? "Tyson gave us some numbers. We have 15,859 employees, 13,873 are full-time and 1,906 are part-time. Of these, 14,620 are school-based and 1,239 are central office staff."

Perhaps we need to know her definition of "school based?"

Cerebration said...

I wondered the same, however, I realized that "school-based" includes anyone not "central office" by this definition. That said, Tyson more than eluded that we have several "programs" that we need to take a good hard look at. She didn't seem personally impressed with some of these - in light of the fact that they demand time from teachers.

Audience members were highly supportive of teachers also - the message was received loud and clear. I predict change in the number of people employed in program administration in the future. Tyson promised more deep looks into administrative costs and ways to streamline services even after this first round of cuts.

Dunwoody Mom said...

I hope your observations are spot-on Cere.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps "school-based" simply means they don't have a desk at the Central office, and not "classroom-based"

Given that the County now pays 60% and the state 40% it seems more important than ever to discontinue the practice of "equalization" whereby the county gives money to the state for distribution to other counties. If the state wants to do that they need to find another source of funds. Like closing fishing holes, horse parks . . .

Cerebration said...

Dunwoody Mom (glad you're back, BTW!) - Ms. Tyson will be making a similar appearance at the next Chamblee-Dunwoody PC. Try to catch that and bring your impressions back here.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Yes, I'm trying to take a day off from work and attend.

btw, you've inspired me to start my own blog!!!

Cerebration said...

And back to the issue of the staffing numbers - remember, even though the actual number of full time employees is 13,873 with 1,239 of them in CO, that leaves 12,634 school-based employees, of which only about 7,500 are teachers. We certainly can work to balance that even more.

Cerebration said...

DM - I'm thrilled! Send us the link when you're up and running!

Dunwoody Mom said...

Here is my initial stab. It's really mostly about the schools in Dunwoody as "The Crier" does such a poor job of covering our schools. Any suggestions, Cere, would be most welcome.

http://dunwoodyschooldaze.blogspot.com/

Cerebration said...

Awesome! People - visit DunwoodyMom's blog - and then think about starting one for your own cluster. It would be terrific to have one for each high school and it's feeders across the entire system!

Anonymous said...

Let's look at the record on Ms. Tyson.

The BOE said Ms. Tyson was heavily involved in all of the decisions and programs of the last few years.
Either Ms. Tyson:
A. Sat in meetings and agreed with Dr. Lewis because she didn't want to make waves
B. Agreed with him because she really believed all of the programs and non-teaching personnel he added were good ideas

There is no doubt she told Dr. Lewis she agreed with him on his policies or he would not have recommended her as Interim Superintendent.

Ms. Tyson was the Deputy Superintendent over Business Operations for the last year which meant she was one of only 4 direct reports to Dr. Lewis. In addition, she was also over Human Resources and Finance. Surely she knew the Financial impact of spending $8,000,000 on America's Choice, $1,400,000 on Springboard, $9,000,000 on Instruction and Literacy Coaches, etc. As the overseer of Finance, didn't she see a problem with increasing expenditures while revenues were decreasing?

In the 5 years she ran MIS, Ms. Tyson grew MIS personnel and expenses until it is now totally out of proportion to other metro school systems while giving the worse possible customer service to teachers and students.

Ms. Tyson is very personable and well spoken, but her track record as an DCSS administrator has been terrible. She's been an administrator in DCSS for at least 20 years. Have teachers and students seen any actions she implemented that positively impacted instruction?

DCSS leaders need to be judged by their results because that's what produces positive results for our children. It doesn't matter how "nice" someone is (Dr. Lewis was extremely amiable). It matters if they have produced positive or negative results for students.

Am I the only "bottom-line" person on this blog?

pscexb said...

Cerebration:

Great report! As you indicated, she has two young children in the school system. Recommendations she presents could impact them and I'm sure that plays a part in how she looks at various issues.

Anon @ 2:13 said,

There is no doubt she told Dr. Lewis she agreed with him on his policies or he would not have recommended her as Interim Superintendent.

I don't claim to know what went on in their meetings but is it possible that he recommended her because she was willing to say 'No' or not be a 'Yes Woman' to his recommendations in meetings? Is it possible he saw her as being an independent thinker?

Dunwoody Mom:

Good luck with your blog!

Cerebration said...

Or, maybe, sometimes, leaders simply do not allow their "cabinet" to actually have power - they expect them to be answer people - as I imagine Lewis did. Maybe (hopefully) now that Tyson really has full control of the reins, she will make decisions based on her very own thoughts, ideas and paradigm. Lewis may have actually recommended her simply because she really is the most "can-do" person of the choices he had. Maybe he made a last ditch effort to recommend someone he knew could re-route this ship (the one that he so badly misguided).

That said, I do have concerns about the size, power and general ineffectiveness of the MIS department.

Anonymous said...

@pscexb and Crerbration

Dr. Lewis was a PE teacher. He never taught Reading, Writing, Mathematics, or Social Studies a day in his entire educational career.

Everyone in his cabinet bears responsibility for his missteps. They were his advisors.

Does anyone truly believe Dr. Lewis surrounded himself with "independent thinkers"?

Does anyone think Dr. Lewis came up with all of those expensive ideas, promotions and programs on his own? His top level administrators came to him with programs and promotions and additional staff requests, and he went along with them. They are all complicit and all culpable. Collectively, they produced poor results for students. I'm reminded of the Wall Street "bailout". The same people are still in charge who produced this economic crisis, and how's that working out for us?

Cerebration, I'm glad you feel Ms. Tyson's will produce change. I wish I felt like that. If I might modify a quote from Albert Einstein, expecting the same leaders to do things differently is like "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".

Anonymous said...

Why is there mention of eliminating athletics? Or elimination transportation of athletics?

Anonymous said...

Thank you, anon 2:13, for your reality check on Ms. Tyson. She may be more articulate than the average school system bureaucrat, but she is COMPLETELY out of her league running DCSS. She has 2 years experience as a business ed teacher, after which she strategically maneuvered her advancement in the County Office. Let's remind ourselves of the doubling of her salary in the past 5 years, to her current salary of over $160,000. She has been solely responsible for MIS and part of the business operations of DCSS that oversaw the bloating of the County Office. The emperor has no clothes!!

Green Mountain said...

We can only hope that Tyson does a good job. Now back to budget items . . whatever happened to pushing back the start of school? Why is Dekalb starting Aug. 9? There really is no benefit for the kids or teachers to be in these schools hot, sweaty, and not wanting to pay attention due to being so uncomfortable as the air conditioning does not work effectively. Please let me know how we can get this changed!

Ella Smith said...

I strongly disagree with the qualifications of a PE teacher. I was a PE teacher once and actually of all the Praxis teaching exams I had to pass to be certified to teach in an area I will have to saw the Health and PE Praxis exam was the hardest. There is just so much information in this area to know. You cannot know it all.

To major in Health and Physical Education you graduation with a Bachelors of Science and due to the number of classes Health and Physical Education Teachers have to take in Science to be Health and PE teachers it does not take many more classes in science to be certified also in science. Most of the classes I took were right along with Pre-med students. I do find it interesting how some want to run down professions when possible there is lack of knowledge of what it takes to become a Health and PE certified teacher.

After working the last 1 1/2 year on my EdS in Leadership and Adminstration I can assure you that individuals who get certified in Leadership and Administration do have a great deal of training in running a school. Most supertintendents start out as assistant principals and become principals, then move to the county office and eventually after years get a chance to be the school superintendent. By the time they get to this level they have learned a great deal regarding running a school, and a system. The administrative team around them is critical in the decision making process. However, the school board members always make the final decisions.

I think we need to look to the future of this school system. The cuts are going to be big and painful and it is not going to be pretty. However, the budget must be balanced.

We know the bad press is coming. I will be glad when it comes and goes so the School Board can get back to the business of running the school system.

pscexb said...

Anon @ 3:37:

Not to defend Dr. Lewis or any superintendent but are you suggesting only those that have come through the classroom can be a superintendent? I look at many corporations and would submit that many are run by MBAs that may not have sweated at the operational level of their organization. I've always understood the one of the keys to leadership is surrounding yourself with knowledgeable people to provide expertise in the 'gap areas' that exist with every leader. One is only as successful as the lieutenants they surround themselves with. I recall Cobb had a former general as superintendent a few years ago.

Per the AJC, Ms. Tyson is not interested in this as a permanent job. I would guess it is due to having young children and wanting to be a mother more than being a superintendent. I believe she is quite capable of holding the fort down as the interim until the Board decides which direction they want to go regarding a permanent superintendent.

Anonymous said...

Cere, I am glad you felt good after ELPC, but I think we need to remember that Tyson is only the interim superintendent, and while she needs to deal with immediate budget problems, I hope she will not take it upon herself to make large changes to DCSS programs. She may have the ability to balance a budget and run spreadsheets, and she is a mom of small kids, but she is NOT an experienced educator (2 years as business ed teacher) nor does she have expertise in academic programs. She has been tasked with "tending the store" not making sweeping change.

Keep in mind the Peter Principle:
"In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence"

Anonymous said...

RE: "I don't claim to know what went on in their meetings but is it possible that he recommended her because she was willing to say 'No' or not be a 'Yes Woman' to his recommendations in meetings? Is it possible he saw her as being an independent thinker?"
My understanding from talking to MIS colleagues of Tyson was that she was not an independent thinker, but did what she needed to do to move up the gravy train.

Anonymous said...

Is history being rewritten?

Was Dr. Lewis was a good leader, all his administrators stellar, and DCSS students achieving at unprecedented levels?

I'm still convinced we have plenty of money for clean, safe schools with reasonable class sizes and abundant and cutting edge technology equipment. A billion dollars is a lot of money for 97,000 students.

If the school environment described above is one that prospective BOE candidates do not believe in, they should not run for office.

That's what parents want for their children, that's what parents have not gotten, and that's what parents need to continue to demand.

Cerebration said...

Tyson did confirm that she does not want the job permanently. She stated that these cuts are just the beginning of a long look at future streamlining. And Zepora stated that the board will be engaging the services of an employment placement contractor to begin the search for a new super, sooner than later. Zepora was emphatic about that.

Anonymous said...

What DCSS really needs, in its senior staff and BOE, is smart people, people with high IQs and common sense, who value education and have demonstrated their appreciation for education by pursining higher education themselves. Period.

Anonymous said...

@ pscexb

"One is only as successful as the lieutenants they surround themselves with."

Let's wait and see if Ms. Tyson keeps the same administrators in place that advised Dr. Lewis or if she makes a clean sweep and changes them. If she is depending on the same lieutenants, do you think she will be successful?

A forensic audit should be done and not "filtered" by DCSS personnel like the Ernst and Young Compensation and Classification Study. One action she could take that would show good faith is to publish the $341,000 independent audit that taxpayers paid for on the BOE website.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon 2:13. I think what we have here is a case of The Emperor's New Clothes. No one in CLew's cabinet was going to tell him he was "naked" or wrong. Furthermore, everytime I heard one of them talk about him, it was as if he were a god ... "Our Premier Leader." Kind of reminds me of North Korea!

Anonymous said...

I hope Cere's impressions of Ms. Tyson are borne out for the sake of the teachers and students. However, she does not get my vote based on the very poor service and quality provided by the MIS department. In addition, if Ms Tyson really wants the respect of the taxpaying public and teachers, she should have proposed significant cuts in the MIS staff and budget. She hand selected the items to be placed on the chopping block and MIS is noticably absent.

pscexb said...

Anon @ 7:04:

You and I are in agreement with respect to the Ernst and Young Compensation and Classification Study. I recall hearing the results from these are good for about 5 years so I'm not sure what could be gained by looking at the study now. Nonetheless, we paid for it and should be able to request a copy, even if via an Open Records request.

Ms. Tyson is the interim superintendent however she still serves at the pleasure of the Board. We don't know what powers have been given to her by the Board. They very well may have instructed her to make minimal changes while navigating through the budget process. They may want to allow the next superintendent to make the major changes. Time will tell what if any changes she is allowed to make.

Anonymous said...

How come the "live feed" for the public meeting is showing an old BOE meeting? I wanted to watch the budget hearing.

pscexb said...

Let me throw something out for consideration and discussion. Would anyone consider a 'corrective' superintendent, similar to what Clayton did with John Thompson? The idea would be a true outsider that has served as a superintendent of a large system before that would come in on a 18-24 month contract with the objective of getting through the financial challenges and streamlining the staff. Perhaps during their tenure, they could hire, train and groom their replacement.

The idea behind this is that many unpopular decisions will need to be made in the short term. Would we want that all on a new superintendent or get a 'hatchet' person to help get our house in order first?

Cere, perhaps this is 'blog topic worth'???

Anonymous said...

How young are these young children of Ms. Tyson?

These BOE seemed to be happy to manipulate puppets....

Just how old is Ms. Tyson?

Anonymous said...

Her children are 5 and 8.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Tyson taught for 2 years in the late 1980s so her age is not a secret. I don't think her age or her personal life are remotely pertinent. It's a question of competence and past performance.

Tremendous changes were made under Dr. Lewis that negatively impacted students. Can Ms. Tyson turn the ship around? She has not shown any proof that she can. To the contrary, the only results she can be measured on is her management of MIS. She grew and managed the top heavy MIS group which provides little in the way of customer service to teachers and students. Please, please ask any teacher the level of service they and their students have received and continue to receive from this department.

Can any poster give even one example of past performance that suggests Ms. Tyson will do a better job with the entire school system than she has done with MIS?

Ms. Tyson is very pleasant and a good public speaker. She knows all of the "buzz" words and platitudes. However much we want to believe that she represents change, we must be resigned to the fact that she will continue business as usual until the BOE decides on a new superintendent.

Ms. Tyson worked closely with all of Lewis's top level advisors and indeed she became Dr. Lewis's main advisor. Since we know Lewis's administration was all about relationships and not about competence, does anyone think Ms. Tyson will jettison the same staff that Lewis put in place? Was Ms. Tyson the only staff member who was not a part of the Central Office cronyism?

Dr. Lewis's former and Ms. Tyson's present staff "don't get it" and never will "get it". That is why we will mark time and hope that a new BOE gets in place and hires a superintendent who can clean up the mess.

I suspect that this is a resume builder for Ms. Tyson. I would not be surprised to see her in a Georgia DOE position after this stint as interim superintendent.

Ella Smith said...

pscexb you are so on target.

We have missed you. I have not been here much.

Email me @ ella.smith@att.net. We need to have coffee and talk. Maybe we can meet with Celeb and all have coffee together. I would love that.

Anonymous said...

The Accidental superintendent is replaced by another?

Even if positions are kept at the Central Office, the salary must be brought down to realistic levels.

For exemple, a person with little or no experience in human resources should be heading human resources at his current salary level...ditto for a person manging Premier Dekalb TV.

Anonymous said...

For exemple, a person with little or no experience in human resources should NOT be heading human resources at his current salary level...ditto for a person manging Premier Dekalb TV.

Cerebration said...

...a 'corrective' superintendent,... Hmmm - I like that idea... it certainly is blog topic worthy, psc... We'll start a thread soon.

ps - Also glad you're back!

Anonymous said...

I've been reading this blog for a long time but have avoided commenting because I am too close to the lunacy in DCSS. I've been biting my tongue reading posts disparaging Mrs. Tyson by people who don't know her.

Glad to see someone is finally getting it right. She is exactly what this system needs right now. As far as I'm concerned, her only downside is that she does not want the job permanently.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:50 pm

Why would you assume that? I am Anonymous 8:47 pm.
I've know Ms. Tyson, worked with her for many years, sat in meetings with her and also with many of the Central Office people that support her. I always found her to be a very pleasant person and very goal oriented. But I also found that her goals did not align with classroom goals. This is why MIS did not and has not met the needs of the students and teachers.

There is nothing personal or disparaging in pointing out the performance results have not been there for Ms. Tyson in the past 20 years so why would we expect something different?

As someone close to the administrative scene, please given even one example of past performance that suggests Ms. Tyson will do a better job with the entire school system than she has done with MIS? I truly am interested.

Anonymous said...

I just don't see Tyson as an effective administrator. Her tenure running MIS is nothing to be proud of. A performance and personnel audit of MIS would uncover a huge mess and more embarassment for DCSS.

Cerebration said...

The board needs someone honest and direct, who will give them the hard data in order to make these tough decisions. Tyson made the point that she would defer to the board on decisions - it's protocol. The board is responsible for the budget. I think she's a solid choice to help them gather the info they need. When she doesn't personally have the info, she knows exactly where and who to go to to get it. The rest of the team seemed very poised to jump in. Truly, I got the feeling that they are very dedicated to righting this ship.

Anonymous said...

Cere I was impressed with how she not only deferred to the board on decision-making but called them out on their responsibilities to make decisions. I have seen that same group of administrators standing behind Crawford Lewis in countless meetings but never did I get the sense of determination and openness from the group as I did at yesterday's meeting. I walked away from that meeting feeling that Ms. Tyson will honestly try her best to fix what she can and that is the best thing I have heard in 5+ years from the DCSS administration.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if Tyson is someone Zepora Roberts wants to replace, we should consider keeping her.

Cerebration said...

I didn't attend the budget meeting last night. Does anyone have a report? The AJC is reporting that there was heavy parent protests over the proposed school consolidations...

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-parents-rally-against-481147.html

See - IMO - this is why Sarah and Gene and Zepora continue to act as if they don't support these closings - and tried to pawn the decision off on a task force. They knew it was a political hot potato with their constituency. The north/south issue is our biggest hurdle.

Cerebration said...

Being raised in Ohio in farm country (along a river on the path of the Underground RR) - and never having even seen a segregated restroom, bus or anything, I don't have the understanding (emotionally) of the race issue here in DeKalb. Although I have lived here for 25 years, I just didn't live the whole, painful experience. However, I really do recognize that there is a lot of lingering hurt, doubt and mistrust. We really need to deal with this issue. I can't fathom how to get past it - but we really must try.

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration 7:44 pm
Re Ms. Tyson
"When she doesn't personally have the info, she knows exactly where and who to go to to get it. "

I wasn't at the meeting, but I'm interested in exactly who and whre Ms. Tyson will get her information from.

I'm not aware of a single person in a top level position that has ever honestly asked teachers what is working or not working for their students in the classroom, what expenditures at the school level could be trimmed, or what is wasteful spending in their particular school.

Even what seems a small waste such as 80 degree heat in classrooms in the winter forcing teachers to open their windows in January cost DCSS when multiplied many times over. Purchasing textbooks that teachers don't need cost DCSS. Technology equipment that constantly breaks, but DCSS continues to order costs DCSS. Programs that drain teachers' instructional time and don't produce results costs DCSS. Teachers and students doctor visits due to excessive mold in a building cost DCSS. An incredible amount of waste occurs at the school level, but no data has ever been gathered.

Will Ms. Tyson develop meaningful customer service surveys, seek input from a large cross section of the best teachers, and gather information from parents as to the programs and services they have seen effective (or ineffective) for their children?

Is there anyone in the administration that has the will to gather data that show the return on investment for each program and department?

Until her administrators gather meaningful data, any analysis Ms. Tyson does will be flawed.

Can you name just one department head who has shown the will to fully involve teachers and parents in the DCSS decision making process and take an honest look at the efficacy of their own departments.

Molly said...

I attended the budget hearing last night. While there was a fair size crowd, there weren't nearly as many people as I had expected. There were 30 speaking slots available, yet fewer than 20 people signed up to speak. There were representatives from most of the schools on the closure list, but the one school that showed up in significant number was Glen Haven. They were a very strong, well organized presence and made a good argument for why their school should remain open. There were some accusations of racism, but most of the speaker pointed to the fact that Glenn Haven had over 450 students, has consistently made AYP and wasn't on the original list.

Anonymous said...

First baby step forward... How about taking CLew's picture and bio off the Superintendent tab on DCSS's web site and replace it with Tyson's for the interim.

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration 9:29 am
"Corrective" superintendent - great idea for a blog! I look forward to reading it.

Kim Gokce said...

DM: Do you have a CommunityRadar.com account? If so, I can hook up your blog to it so that it automatically syndicates your posts to anyone interested in 30338. Let me know at kim AT community radar dot com.

Anon 4/22 8am: "... but never did I get the sense of determination and openness from the group as I did at yesterday's meeting."

I had drop-off duty for my son's pre-school and was quite late to the meeting. But I had the same thought as you.

As for Ms. Tyson's competency or lack of it, I have no first hand knowledge of it. Let's be fair - much of the criticism I am reading here is in the category of what I'll call "the Transitive Property of Competency" ...

How often do ineffective people bask in the glow of others' efforts in your company? Have you ever had a boss, co-worker, or teammate that somehow always was considered a "star" but you and others were due the credit?

My point is that the success of MIS or the failure of MIS may or may not be due to Ms. Tyson's personal ability. I do not know.

I don't know if her boss(es) hamstrung her. I do not know if she was a conduit for her boss(es) decisions and not an independent, empowered manager. I don't know if every recommendation she made was accepted, rejected, or ignored.

I see no reason to assume she is incompetent in spite of the arguments I've heard here so far. To those lambasting her, which of Dr. Lewis' staff WOULD YOU have put in place as interim instead?

And I don't accept answers like Ross Perot, Bill Clinton, or General Schwarzkopf as valid responses - in this kind if organizational crisis, it makes sense to tap into someone who knows the system to keep it operating in the interim.

So who?

Perhaps more importantly, does it matter what we think of her as the Interim?

She is the Superintendent. Let's work with her as long as she is and try to make as much progress as possible.

Anonymous said...

@ Kim Gocke

Do you really think Dr. Lewis or anyone else in DCSS requested the rise in Technology personnel and the subsequent rise in its expenditures? Go back and read the BOE meeting notes to see who proposed all personnel additions and promotions for MIS. Ms. Tyson proposed all of the additional personnel (webmaster, project managers, additional NLS and SEs, Assistant Directors,Directors, etc.)per BOE minutes.

Did Dr. Lewis or Ms. Tyson's supervisors (at first Stan Pritchett, subsequently Gloria Talley and ultimately Crawford Lewis) keep her from ensuring teachers and students got good customer service from the MIS group? Ask teachers if any surveys were done or input solicited to ensure their students were getting the kind of service they needed.

Ms. Tyson was greatly respected by the BOE. I sat in BOE meetings 4 years ago where the BOE members said time and again that they deferred to Ms. Tyson in all matters of technology.

Did Dr. Lewis or any of the technology illiterates at the top choose eSis for our teachers? They relied on Mr. Hunter and Ms. Tyson to find and recommend a system that would handle student data management for data reporting and analysis as well as performing the function of an electronic gradebook.

The sad fact is that there is probably no one else in DCSS in a high administrative position that would be better than her as an interim superintendent. I understand the need to get behind Ms. Tyson, but please do not try to excuse the poor performance of her department by saying it must be "her boss(es) hamstrung her".

The warning here is to keep up the pressure to concentrate on what is best for the classroom. Ms. Tyson is a very savvy politician (not necessarily a bad thing). If the pressure is there, she just may make the necessary cuts to administration that will help alleviate the "train wreck" that DCSS has become for students.

Kim Gokce said...

@Anon 12:25: "Do you really think Dr. Lewis or anyone else in DCSS requested the rise in Technology personnel and the subsequent rise in its expenditures?"

Requested? Perhaps, I don't know. But there is no doubt who approved - both Dr. Lewis and the BoE.

"Did Dr. Lewis or Ms. Tyson's supervisors (at first Stan Pritchett, subsequently Gloria Talley and ultimately Crawford Lewis) keep her from ensuring teachers and students got good customer service from the MIS group?"

I don't know. We don't know. What technical support group or helpdesk would you say provides "good" customer service? My experience is that technical support is uniformly bad in the public and private sector.

All I am saying is this, are we judging this individual by a fair standard? For example, you say that customer service is poor ... would it be better if there were fewer resources spent in MIS???? I think you have a contradictory criticism here ... she should have provided more and higher quality customer service and technical support for far less money. Really?

"I understand the need to get behind Ms. Tyson, but please do not try to excuse the poor performance of her department by saying it must be "her boss(es) hamstrung her"

I'm not excusing her or endorsing her. I am in no position to judge her performance as a manager of MIS.

As you say, she is perhaps the only and logical choice for the time. So, what value in attacking her record if you think she was a valid choice? She's clearly not a candidate for the permanent job ... I'm baffled by the vitriol and have no fundamental argument with you, really.

I'm not asking you to endorse her or MIS just be fair.

Kim Gokce said...

On the general question of the quality of our DCSS employees: If they are mostly useless slugs as many on this blog seem to propose, how will reducing the number of slugs improve performance?

Now, if you are saying since all slugs are bad, let's get rid of slugs to save money and performance be damned, I get that - a pure cost cutting argument makes sense to me. Make half the slugs responsible for all the needs and let's accept poor performance as the future expectation at a reduced cost.

Anonymous said...

@ Kim Gokce

I am with Anonymous 12:25. I work for a state agency. When I left DCSS and joined this agency, I thought I had died and gone to heaven! The IT support was amazing (still is!) and the IT folks actually know what they are doing.

So, Kim, don't paint everyone with the same brush. High expectations, coming from the top, and careful hiring of good, knowledgeable people is the key to excellent customer service.

If MIS at DCSS was doing their job and providing excellent customer service, they could make such a positive difference for DCSS teachers that there would probably be little discussion about big cuts in the MIS department.

As it is, DCSS's MIS staff are not helpful, they actually make more work for teachers and mostly they are just a boil on teachers' backsides. All of this compliments of Ramona Tyson.

Cerebration said...

Anon 8:36 AM - and everyone else - very good points about asking for teacher input and creating steady dialogue between teachers and admin staff. Tyson was well aware that this is an issue and promised to address it - and you can be sure that this blog will hold her feet to that fire!

I am disappointed to hear so many bad MIS reports. Seems that department could use an audit. (Another thing Tyson was recommending - a systemwide audit.)

This first round of cuts are simply to stop the bleeding. Tyson promised a future of digging around in every area of the system and cutting waste even after this first budget cut. You can bet we will hold her to that as well. I'm a stickler for keeping promises.

For now, I've heard the promises and I choose to give her the support and trust to implement them. It's so important so that when we do get a new super, we aren't so underwater -- I mean, really who would take the job with the system in it's current condition?

Cerebration said...

Town Hall Meeting on School Closings
Hosted by the DeKalb County NAACP
Thursday, April 29, 2010
6:30 pm-8:30 pm
(Gallery at South DeKalb) South DeKalb Mall Community Room

You are invited to the South DeKalb Mall Community room on Thursday, April 29, 2010, beginning at 6:30 pm to discuss the school closings in DeKalb County. Information will be provided on the possible impact that school closings will have on the community and other options available to the county.
For more information and to RSVP, please e-mail naacpdek@bellsouth.net or call 404-241-8006.


DeKalb NAACP
Yvonne Hawks, Esq., President
3011 Rainbow Drive, Suite 180A
Decatur, Georgia 30034
Telephone 404 241-8006
Fax 404 751-2743
E-mail naacpdek@bellsouth.net
Website www.dekalbganaacp.org
Serving DeKalb County Georgia
Partner - United States Census 2010
www.2010.census.gov
MAKE SURE YOU'RE COUNTED!
To comment on this and other subjects go to our blog at www.dekalbganaacp.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

A word I did not see used by Ms. Tyson is TRUST! I simply cannot trust her since I know she was in charge of MIS a few years ago.

My kids school had a major issue with a person who was staffed by MIS, this gentleman was given a new job by MIS, given a raise by MIS and never showed up for his new job for 6 months until we exposed him.

He was a son of a former Board member. When we exposed him to the Asst.Super. back then, who is now retired, Ramona was called and we heard her on the other end of the line. She was unaware that this person had not showed up for his new, higher paid position. 6 months this went on.

TRUST! Ms. Tyson. You might speak a good game but show me you are willing to change the way things have been done in the past!

Sorry for being negative here but MIS has folks that have very little experience in MIS.

I look forward to the DCPC meeting, My wife and I will be there!

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration

"I mean, really who would take the job with the system in it's current condition?'

On the contrary, I think DeKalb has a lot to offer. It is a vibrant diverse community with access to all that a close-in community has to offer.

We have wonderful children in DCSS. They are smart and capable. If given the opportunity, the teachers and the tools, their accomplishments cannot overstated.

We have many great teachers who give it their all every day. They buy supplies, constantly strive to improve themselves, and plan and grade into the wee hours.

As we can see from BOE meeting attendance, the various blogs, Ms. Tyson's meeting with parents, emails, phone calls and other means of communication, we have many involved and terrific parents.

It will not be an easy task to dismantle the swollen bureaucracy and begin to involve and support the schoolhouse personnel who work in the classrooms, and it may very well take BOE members being replaced, but I think DCSS can find a person to take on that challenge.

Our school system is hungry for leadership. Parents/taxpayers have educated themselves and are willing to look at a different way of doing things in DeKalb. They are not sitting on the sidelines anymore. Sometimes it takes a crisis situation to bring about change.

Anonymous said...

I have a story about DCSS MIS that would be funny if it were not actually true.

I was in a meeting with folks from DCSS MIS to discuss how my organization and a couple of others could work with DCSS to pilot a program regarding Internet safety for children and youth. We were talking about the dangers and the difficulties presented by the Internet.

Finally, a man from DCSS MIS - who shall remain nameless - spoke up and said "Georgia is a sovereign state. Therefore," he continued, "we could just stop Internet traffic, especially objectionable sites, at our border because we are a sovereign state."

No one laughed. Some nodded their heads in agreement. This guy was speaking the truth as he knew it. I was neither surprised nor amused. I closed my notebook. There would be no working with DCSS on this project. I left the meeting as soon as I could gracefully do so.

This was just too weird to make up!

Anonymous said...

Another reminder that our state does not value education:
"A longstanding summer enrichment program for high achieving Georgia high school students loses funding next year year under a Senate vote." The Georgia Governor's Honors summer program is on the chopping block. This 40 year old program, which serves 600+, high school juniors and seniors statewide each summer, is life-changing for students, many who could not affort to attend similar private program at universities. Some may say that in times of budget crisis we can't afford extras, but like the scenario in DCSS, there are other larger budget items that could cut (how about $10M for the college football hall of fame, for starters). No matter how hard we try to improve DCSS, how can we ever achieve excellence when the state does not care about education?

Cerebration said...

All true, what you say Anon 4:29 PM - thanks for the reminder!

Hopefully, the DA will finally move on the criminal cases they are investigating - and hopefully the Heery case will see it's day in court very soon... and hopefully, the budget cuts will be made without causing too much pain to the children and the classroom.

Then - hopefully, we will find our "superintendent in shining armor" to take us to the next level. Perhaps instead of simply saying we are "premier" - maybe we can get back to actually BEING premier.

Tyson can steer the rudder until we find that next person. I do agree with Zepora - they need to get started on the search - and not choose anyone until they find exactly the right person.

Which will be the discussion of our next post!

Cerebration said...

And wow, what weird stories! First, there was a guy who didn't even show up for work for 6 months? (Wasn't that an episode of South Park?)

And then hearing that another guy says Georgia's "sovereign"? (Maybe that guy needs to go with the Lakeside team to the "We the People" competition in DC!)

And the Governor's Honor's program being dumped is a disgrace. Sonny couldn't really want to see that dismantled on his watch could he?!

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 4:25 pm

LOL - everyone in MIS knew that story. You guys caused quite a stir. Truthfully, although Ms. Tyson was his supervisor on paper, she probably felt she couldn't do anything about the situation due to his relative on the BOE. It took parents like you guys to come in and make some waves.

I remember when he was in the schoolhouse, he was like a ghost. I used to ask where he was when I would go to that school to work and needed his assistance, and no one ever knew. All calls would go out over the PA system, and he would never answer them, and the school was not that big. I went there off and on for close to a year and never once saw him. It was bizarre.

Anonymous said...

Cerebration,
What I speak about the person with MIS, hiding out and not reporting for his new higher paying job, is the absolute truth and NOT an episode of South Park.

Please, I hope you were just kidding. We have major trust issues with anyone that our former Super recommended for the interim job.

Like I said, my wife and I look forward to speaking with Ms. Tyson at the DCPC and are willing to give her a chance.

Anonymous at 7:02, thanks for the back-up. If it wasn't for the WSB-TV story about nepotism we would have never figured it out. The subject of the piece was the son of the former BOE member. His raise apparently was never brought to the attention of the BOE until after the fact. Back then that was against the ethics rules regarding family of BOE members and their promotions and raises. This happened just months after CLew was named the new Super.

By the way, we did find out where he was spending most of his time. He could always be found taking fast food orders for his favorite teachers and hung out at the Radio Shack.

I just wish he could have spent some time fixing the numerous problems with printers and computers we had then. His replacement was able to fix most of our computer problems within two weeks of starting. As far as I know he continues to work for MIS today.

Cerebration said...

No, that was tongue-in-cheek. There really was an episode of South Park where one of the boys got a job, and never went, and kept getting promoted. All his friends who showed up for work got laid off... it's a good one.

I know you were sharing the truth...maybe the South Park creators knew this guy? (Again - tongue-in-cheek)... I shouldn't do that - it's hard to tell on a blog when someone is kidding around.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 7:40 pm
He is still in MIS! He makes $58,000 a year plus benefits. I found him on the state Salary and Travel website.

To see for yourself, go and look him up:
http://www.open.georgia.gov/
1. At Salary and Travel Reimbursements – click on click here
2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the button - I understand:Proceed
3. Click on Organization
4. Click on Local Boards of Education
5. Use the drop down menu to the right of Organization on the bottom of the page to select DeKalb County board of Education
6. Click the Search button

No Duh said...

I think I agree with Kim. Adding another slug to work with a slug doesn't make the first slug any more productive.

DCSS MUST learn the difference between quantity and quality.

It MUST learn to value excellence.

It MUST learn to embrace and hold up excellence as standard behavior.

It MUST learn to say "no" to mediocrity and less.

It MUST learn to differentiate the performance from the personnel.

It MUST learn to evaluate and analyze programs and people in a way that embraces and rewards excellence.

It MUST allow full and honest discussions with the stake holders.

It MUST learn that morale does not respond to slogans and hyperbole. Morale responds to actions, period.

Anonymous said...

Cerebration,
Having read your comments for weeks here, I thought it might be tongue and cheek. This was such an egregious situation, the parents even had the principal reassigned to another school.

The parents had gone to the principal and asked if he had a problem that a DCSS employee hiding out at his school. he said, "He is not my concern, the MIS folks are not his worry." After that several parents got together and contacted CLew and his Asst. Super, who retired several years ago. By the next week he reported to his high paying new job.

To hear how Ms. Tyson reacted when the Asst. Super called her, it was surreal, she had no idea he had not reported to the new job.

Personally, I would have fired him on the spot. I'm sure since his mom was on the BOE they decided not to do that. But it's incidents like this that cause me not to trust anyone in the Central Office.

$58,000 WOW! This former BOE members family has reaped some huge salaries, it's sad most are still in place. I believe the current count of her family members and in-laws employed is 6 or 7. Our tax dollars hard at work!

No Duh said...

Mr. Moseley tells the group that electric buses are being investigated. My first thought (yes, my very first thought) was "I wonder which BOE member's family member is now selling electric buses."

It's like Dr. Phil says. "You teach people how to treat you." Maybe that wouldn't have been my first thought and I could have faith that the right things are being done for our system if DCSS' previous actions had taught me better.

Help me DCSS -- teach me how to be less cynical! I beg you.

Anonymous said...

The employee who didn't show up, didn't just have a mother who was on the BOE, but his mother was considered one of the most powerful politicians in her community. To this day, though she is not on the BOE anymore, she holds tremendous influence and this is a problem.

Amongst the current board, how many have relatives with the system? I know ZR does. I am not sure that any of the others do. Rather, the much more pressing problem is the number of high level central office folks who have relatives in non-teaching positions.

Kim Gokce said...

For those who keep mixing up my points as endorsements of Ms. Tyson or DCSS MIS, let me help move this thread beyond that ... I curse the day Ms. Tyson was born and all who work in MIS and disavow any ounce of possible empathy that may have inadvertently slipped into my observations about the individual and the organization. There - settled.

Cerebration said...

Kim - I must say, as a tech guy who runs some very high-end systems, surely you have to agree that our MIS department needs new leadership. Maybe Tyson tried, as an administrator, however, we need someone to take that department who really understands technology. Apparently, Lewis promoted Tony Hunter into this level, but I don't think he's really a techie either - seems to me, all he's done is get bids for systems and then picked (the wrong) one.

In the corporate world, the people in charge of MIS are practically martians - I can't hardly understand a word they speak - due to the high level of jargon and their "geekiness" when talking about technology. I haven't met anyone like that in DCSS. Anywhere. Even the website is far from "Web 2.0"... Check out Gwinnett's or Clayton's for comparison.

We really need to hire some true techies to get our systems back on track. (Trust me, if we hired good ones, we would need far fewer...)

Cerebration said...

Tyson was a bit defensive about the push to reduce central office, stating that it's only comprised of about 1,200 people, but I think we may be mixing terms. When we (on the blog anyway) refer to "administrative" cuts - we mean ALL administrators anywhere - even and especially those who are "technically" assigned to the schoolhouse. (I would count security, APs, Instructional Coaches, Graduation Coaches, etc...)

Tyson herself stated that we have 14,620 "school-based employees and we know that of those, only about 7,300 are teachers (about to be less)... so this number is still far out of balance. I'm all for cafeteria staff (although, they may actually be under a separate budget), bus drivers, a security officer, principal, media, an AP or two, counselors, etc - but not at a 1:1 ratio to teachers. This is bloated, IMO. We can thin out the extra staff who have expanded their departments such as MIS and Instructional Coaches, etc. More and better teachers is absolutely key. In fact a study of twins over many years in the state of Florida has recently been released proving this.

We need a professional audit. To his credit, Dr. Lewis had proposed doing one quite a while ago - but the board tabled it (at $350,000 they deemed it too expensive). But we do need an outside, professional firm to evaluate each and every department - doing time/motion studies, etc and evaluate their effectiveness. And we need to do this now. ASAP. Should have done it long ago. Dr. Lewis even stated at that board meeting that the recommendation was either every 3 or 5 years (can't remember) and we haven't had one done since Johnny Brown. This should not be a hunt and peck guessing game by anyone - Tyson, the board. teachers OR the community - it should be done by pros. They do this for a living and they're impartial.

Anonymous said...

"She may be more articulate than the average school system bureaucrat, but she is COMPLETELY out of her league running DCSS. She has 2 years experience as a business ed teacher, after which she strategically maneuvered her advancement in the County Office. Let's remind ourselves of the doubling of her salary in the past 5 years, to her current salary of over $160,000. She has been solely responsible for MIS and part of the business operations of DCSS that oversaw the bloating of the County Office."
Thanks, thanks, thanks! We have to keep in mind that, no matter how personable she may be, she has been part of the problem for years. Her salary keeps increasing while mine (teacher) keeps decreasing. Yet, our computers do not work, are old, and our programs are out of date. Nice, maybe. Effective? We'll see.

Anonymous said...

I believe Dr. Lewis said an audit was advised every 5 years. The last Compensation and Classification audit was commissioned by the BOE in 2002, approved in December, 2003 and it was December, 2005 before Dr. Lewis brought the final version to the BOE.

It should not take 3 years to get an audit which has the information that is the heart of our budget to the BOE. If Ms. Tyson asks the BOE to commission an audit, hopefully it won't take 3 years to come to fruition. She will not even be in the Superintendent position by then.

Meanwhile, I hope Ms. Tyson moves forward to begin reviewing the programs DCSS has instituted and the customer service the various admin and support personnel provide. I also hope she involves our best career teachers and develops system wide teacher and parent surveys when evaluating programs to see if they are working academically for students. Teachers and parents need to have a greater voice. Teacher and parent input needs to be institutionalized, not addressed on a "squeaky wheel" basis. The "squeaky wheel" basis of addressing parents and teachers and leads to charges of unequal treatment and silences valuable voices in DCSS.

I saw on her budget proposal that she has proposed looking at outsourcing in several departments including security. She should move forward with this as soon as possible.

No Duh said...

Kim, my apologies.

Kim Gokce said...

@Cere: "Kim - I must say, as a tech guy who runs some very high-end systems, surely you have to agree that our MIS department needs new leadership."

Well, that is exactly where I've departed with what has been said in this thread - I do not know what the problem with DCSS MIS is, exactly.

I have heard great endorsements for some of the in-school resources and some pretty harsh criticisms of some of these resources. I have heard some valid complaints about the way eSIS was rolled out (late, inadequate training, data integrity, availability issues, etc.) but I haven't heard anyone say what the root causes of these problems were, in fact. Or, have I heard anyone say eSIS is the WRONG solution for DCSS.

Is it possible that it was the right solution poorly implemented? And, if so, how did the implementation of the right thing go wrong?

Did MIS request the project resources necessary to conduct a more phased rollout and get denied based on cost and/or an arbitrary "deadline?" Did Ms. Tyson and other senior MIS managers have a "Plan B" scoped as backup that was denied by their bosses? Did they have a completely different project strategy or even a different recommended solution that was over-ruled by the Superintendent and/or BoE?

There are a thousand possible explanations besides "Ms. Tyson is an incompetent" to the serious problem of eSIS' deployment. I am simply saying that I DO NOT KNOW what is at the root of that particular problem.

As for MIS bloat, it is undeniable that the organization's budget and headcount has grown significantly. It should certainly not be immune from audit/down-sizing discussions and I've never claimed it should be.

I do not accept the argument that because MIS grew, Ms. Tyson is a "bad leader."

Kim Gokce said...

@No Duh: "Kim, my apologies."

Honestly, my Dear No Duh, I have no idea what you have to apologize for ... but thanks! I apologize, too.

Reminds me of a scene from "A Fish Called Wanda" ... I'm posting this as a stress reliever on the main blog ...

Cerebration said...

Point well-taken, Kim.

Our board and Tyson really do need to take a deeper look at other admin areas to streamline. MIS is certainly one. There are others. I think the problem is that the bloat has festered for so long and the school consolidations that were so necessary have been consistently tabled, etc, etc... until now, we have this giant snowball rolling toward Whoville...

It's an emergency. And it really shouldn't be.

Kim Gokce said...

@Cerebration: "It's an emergency. And it really shouldn't be."

I agree completely and this is why I am so frustrated with some of the debate. I'm not going to make any friends here with this but ...

Haven't we gotten what "we" asked for all these years? Aren't we the reason the consolidation that needed to happen never happened? Aren't we the reason that leadership seems to never rise above reactionary in nature?

Every neighborhood, every individual parent, and every advocacy group has lobbied, politicked, and pressured this system for decades.

Whenever I hear things like, "those Druid Hills folks are well-connected and powerful," or "They'll never mess with Chamblee High Achievers because those parents will go ballistic," or etc., etc. it drives me crazy ... haven't we lost before starting when it boils down to how powerful your "lobby" is?

There have been winners and losers and it remains a political process. With the general populace not paying attention, only intrepid parent groups and vendors who stand to gain venture into the viper pit that has been DCSS-land.

Fast forward to the budget meltdown and the pressure is on the system and the cracks that were forming over the years snap and we see gaping, wide holes in the form of nepotism, ethics violations, and conspiracies.

When will we take collective responsibility for the overall conditions of our schools?

"We have met the enemy and he is us ..." -Pogo

Kim Gokce said...

Not that folks haven't worked hard ... I think that the painful efforts of so many parents have been focused on local or narrow issues and we'd be better off with a system-wide pressure mechanism.

Anonymous said...

@ Kim Cocke 12:00 pm

Well said. DCSS has always been a top down organization utilizing the "Squeaky wheel" system of addressing problems. Cere is right that the problems we have now have been there for some time. The economy just made the cracks become full breaks.

Ella Smith said...

The problems have been there along time and the economy times just made the cracks become full breaks.

The problem to start with is political in nature. Many politicians are not in the schools and do not know what is happening. However, they are making laws and making decisions like passing the new math curriculum the state board passed that caused the problems. The Georgia Secretary of Education makes decisions that affect the state in education. This is a political position. The legislature branch and governor makes decisions regarding budget which has devestated the school systems in the metro area.

I agree that we could tighten our belt more. However to do this political decisions would have to be made like going off block schedule, closing down more schools than we have closed, actually doing a job audit and inventory of needs verses frills and excess and making necessary cuts. More cuts need to be made to make our school system a more financially sound school system. However, these decisions will not be made when 5 school board members are up for election.

I believe that we need a strong leadership team around the superintendent who are willing to disagree and work with the superintendent to help turn the system around. Disagreement is healthy actually. Difference of view is good. Everyone just needs to be on the same page at the end of the day.

No Duh said...

Kim is absolutely correct. We don't know why the "implementation" of eSIS was so horrible.

I typically view things from a public relations/employee communications perspective. When a company screws up it needs to man-up and admit it. Apologize, make the group that messed up fix the mess and write up a very thorough "post mortem"
so it won't happen again.

I wasn't there, but I suspect the "post mortum" would point to zero upfront input from end-users, zero customization, poorly designed and implemented training, zero field testing (as quoted by Tony Hunter himself) and horrible communications across the board. It was a debacle waiting to happen. That kind of thing should never happen again in DCSS. Don't our students learn from their mistakes? DCSS should, too.

"Sorry it won't happen again" would go a long way to build morale and trust. Two things Ms. Tyson wants to do.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all and truly believe that we have to tighten our belts. I also understand that it will not be pretty. I am just afraid that this "tightening" will come at the expense of instruction and student achievement. I am not confident that the board or Ms. Tyson have the savvy to cut what is not directly impacting the classroom. For instance, there have been longstanding rumors of a consolidation of the instructional departments (elementary, middle and high) in the proposed cuts. This would leave one content area expert for all three grade levels. This is ludicrous. Especially if the proposal leaves non content experts like HSTW Liasons, State Department folks, instructional coaches, graduation coaches, America's Choice Liasons, instructional change coaches, ELL coaches (I could go on and on) running around in our buildings orchestrating curriculum to benefit their own agendas. What are we thinking????? Have we changed our goals from increasing student achievement?

I realize that some of these positions are tied to grants or federal funds. I understand that. However, if we do not keep a cadre of folks that know content and the needs of the teachers in that area, we are doomed!

I believe that cuts should be well thought out and long term fall out should be considered.

Anonymous said...

I am very concerned about the competency of the DCSS board members. They have shown to me and others that they are unable to make wise decisions concerning our tax dollars. True, we as citizens are the ones who voted them in, however, we are also the ones to remove them from position. I don't take it lightly on some of the issues they have voted in favor of.

Anonymous said...

Kim,

It took me a while but I have realized that in addition to being a champion for Crosskeys you are also a rational person. Hang in there.

Kim Gokce said...

" ... a rational person ..."

Well, that is high praise - thank you! My commitment to the young people of the Cross Keys attendance area is only matched by my commitment to see DCSS complete the long over due consolidation of our school plant county-wide.

We can no longer afford the luxury of the neighborhood schoolhouse. Personally, I prefer that model but the message from the public seems pretty clear - no more money for DCSS and public education! So, let's get on with it ...

Anonymous said...

Kim,
I couldn't agree with you more about a lot of your assessments about the DCSS. But in our neighborhood, near Chamblee, they did consolidate our schools just 3 years ago, to make room for Kittredge.

A public housing project was closed, Nancy Creek lost 75 kids from that development. Now that development has been rebuilt and kids are coming back. Plus, growth in our area is one of the fastest in metro Atlanta. DeKalb County planning has been rezoning up here for more dense growth. So with that growth the schools are now close to full up here in the north.

Tonight, a woman was screaming on channel 5 that all the schools that were on the list were in south DeKalb. Of course the reporter never explained that most of the empty seats were located in areas that are in the south.

Montgomery Elementary is packed, Huntley Hills is packed and has trailers, Kittredge at Nancy Creek has empty seats, maybe they could open up the lottery for more kids to attend that Magnate School. We all know Dunwoody schools are packed except for the 4th & 5th grade school which I think was a politically motivated decision since there was no real demographers plan in place. Maybe they should have kept that school at PreK-5 school and redrawn some lines smartly.

Politics and indecision by the BOE has been our problem all over the DCSS, we never had an experienced demographer on staff to give REAL data to board members to make informed decisions, it was all about being equitable and politics.

Finally, DCSS has an experienced demographer on staff. Let this man do his job and let's redraw some lines to place the students equally in all DCSS properties.

Our school closed 3 years ago and we tried to keep it open, only to be called names by board members and Atlanta media. One AJC reporter called the parents at our school "vociferous". Please let's stop the name calling and let the demographer do his job so we can get rid of these 11,000 empty seats. Let's also cut the central office staff in half. Time to tighten our belts but we must keep our teachers, if we cut their pay we will lose the good ones to other systems.

Thanks Kim for your comments!

Kim Gokce said...

Hey, Anon, watching Nancy Creek parents was one of my first experiences in DCSS-land. I remember my first public Board meeting - it was at CKHS (and the last time the BoE stooped to CK standards for hosting mtg). I was very impressed with the organized and articulate turnout of NC ES parents. I thought at the time, "Now that is how you get it done!" What a lesson that was for all of us ...

On the consolidation question in our region, my concern isn't that we have under-enrolled schools - I'm aware of the crowding throughout Region 1, especially in the ESes. My problem is that we seem to have 1950s era schools trying to serve 21st century DeKalb's needs.

Not only are they all run down and lacking amenities, their capacities were designed to serve on a neighborhood scale - the hub and spoke HS model of my day. And as much I like and prefer this model personally, it seems clear to me that our times, our community, and our purses do not have the capacity to support these smaller, older buildings whether they are full or not.

The combined attendance zone enrollment of Dunwoody, Chamblee, and Cross Keys would add up to a good-sized, modern 5-A high school. How is it that we have the luxury (rhetorical) of having three high schools where current standards would provide us with one, maybe one and one half?

Continuing the rhetorical proposition (small vs large scale plant), the combined enrollment of Huntley Hills ES and Montgomery ES is barely 1,000 currently. Again, I realize they are at or over capacity in the current plant and I love neighborhood schools personally but 1,000 is considered at most an average elementary enrollment in Gwinnett or Cobb.

I am not anti-Huntley Hills or Montgomery. I have personal friends with children enrolled at each. These are good schools. That isn't my issue.

My concern is really about the long-term future of our area in terms of enrollment and plant. If the current attendance areas of HH and Montgomery ES doubled enrollment, then we might still need 2 ESes. Short of that, are we willing to pay for double everything when we could pay once?

I really, really wish this wasn't the equation I see emerging but I do. And it's not just in Chamblee area, we have a lot of small capacity schools. I'd gladly pay more to preserve smaller schools and even more for small student teacher ratios. I'm afraid I am in a distinct, and shrinking minority.

Kim Gokce said...

We're going to need a lot of inspiration and hard work to replicate the success of our predecessors who built out DeKalb's public system in the 50's and early 60's. It's our turn to envision the future for public education in DeKalb.

May we and our leaders be guided by this man's thought:

"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." - Martin Luther King, jr.

Do enough of us realize this truth about DeKalb education? Do our leaders?

Anonymous said...

Kim,

Small schools are better than large ones.

Gwinnett is able to function with larger schools because a good portion of the students have a stay-at-home parent or at least one parent with job flexibility.

In lesser affluent areas where families are not below the poverty line, the parent(s) may not have job flexibility.

The small schools compensate for that.

Anonymous said...

But what exactly is the definition of small?

The way GA funds schools, moving forward with the huge hit DeKalb has taken in property values, we have to have bigger schools, because even the maximum property tax increase won't fund the minimums -- even if we shut the central office down.

Keep in mind that for this coming school year, the state fully funds 1 PE, Art or Music teacher at the formula of 1 / 345 FTE in Grades 1 - 12. It is important to note that kindergarten isn't included in funding for this. 1 per 450 FTE in Grades K – 5 funds a librarian. However, the state doesn't believe that elementary schools need Assistant principals so the funding is at 1 to 900 k-5 students. (This is an area where DCSS is taking a huge hit, because by the time our elementary schools hit 900 students they have 2 assistant principals.)

As a parent, I would much prefer my child be in an elementary school of 600-700 students and know that there will be a full cadre of extras (PE, Art, Music, reading and math specialists, etc) than a school of 420 where there is always tremendous uncertainty each year what the next year will bring.

At the high school level, the question is far more complex. If you are the parent of a child who wants access to "different" electives, then a bigger school will serve that student better. Indeed, even finding AP physics offered regularly at DCSS high schools is rare.

But we have to have a plan to even begin to move this direction. As Kim points out, our infrastructure is no where near this, our buildings are out dated and to small.

Dunwoody Mom said...

So, it appears the Board is still intent on closing 12 schools.

Kim Gokce said...

@DunwoodyMom

Yep. For other readers, see: School Board Chairman: DeKalb Will Close 12 Schools Over 2 Years

Kim Gokce said...

For the sake of public education, I wish DeKalb's budget circumstance was unique. For general consideration, another system devastated by revenue free-fall:

Paulding Co Board Cuts 274 Teachers - more on the way