Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sarah Copelin-Wood: Look at her as why the system is the way it is

Unprofessional. Unprepared at meetings. Constantly using race to divide. Nonsensical, random comments at meetings. Meddling into day to day system affairs. Divide instead of unite. A big fan of cronyism and nepotism. And she forgets the last time schools were closed they were in the northern section of the county.

If Sarah Copelin-Wood isn't the worst and most embarassing board of education elected official in the state, lord help the person who is. Copelin-Wood is Example No. 1 on why there should be term limits for board of ed members, not just in DeKalb, but state-wide. If we're going to elect her to multiple times on the board that supervises education for our children and votes on a billion dollar entity, maybe we deserve what we get.

The DeKalb County school closings process was derailed by a board member telling task force members how to vote, pitting schools against each other and charging racism is a factor, one task force member said.

Citizens Planning Task Force member Marcia Coward said she is filing a complaint against board member Sarah Copelin-Wood with the board and the superintendent.

“I know that Sarah Wood made phone calls and pitted one school against the other in her own district. I think that’s very wrong,” Coward said Saturday. “She’s supposed to represent all of the schools in her district.”

Coward’s complaint is the latest drama in the state’s third-largest school district, which also is facing a $115 million budget shortfall, a superintendent under criminal investigation and a standardized test cheating scandal.

The board assembled the 20-member task force and charged the group with recommending four elementary schools to close at the end of this school year. But after weeks of reviewing data, the task force voted on Thursday to not close any schools, leaving the decision up to the school board.

The nine-member board will have to do that without the leadership of Superintendent Crawford Lewis, a DeKalb educator for 33 years. The board is in the midst of negotiating a “mutual separation” agreement with Lewis, one of several people under investigation by the district attorney’s office for possible wrongdoing involving the district’s multimillion-dollar school construction program.

Coward said the task force would have been able to move forward with its decision on school closures if Copelin-Wood had not intervened in numerous task force meetings.

Reached at her home on Saturday, Copelin-Wood denied the allegations and refused to answer some questions.

“This is a lie,” said Copelin-Wood, who represents District 3. “The person who would do that [made the allegations] was mad they didn’t get their way. I don’t have to answer to them.”

Chairman Tom Bowen said the school board will review the complaint, but he said no board members were supposed to be involved in the task force.

“The public task force was instituted by the board to get independent, direct feedback from the public on the issue of school closings,” he said on Saturday. “The board will have the final say on any school closings. So there should be absolutely no board influence on that process.”

Coward left Thursday’s task force meeting early to attend a DeKalb Council of PTAs meeting, where she was elected president. She did not participate in the final vote when the task force chose not to close any schools, but said she would have voted on four closures.

“In my opinion, we had all of the data relative in making that decision, but we were not able to because of all of the turmoil,” she said. “We felt pressure because Sarah passed notes back and forth to the people [task force members] that she knew she could influence. That kept the confusion going and made it an unfair process.”

Copelin-Wood said it was a public meeting and she had the right to distribute information. “I had things I wanted people to consider,” she said.

Each of the nine board members, along with Lewis, appointed two residents to the task force. At the first meeting, Copelin-Wood did not appoint any residents to serve and said she wanted to be the representative for her district. After task force members made complaints about her behavior to the board, Copelin-Wood appointed two citizens.

However, she attended all of the other meetings and sat in the front, passing out fliers and encouraging parents to speak during the public comment session.

“As a board member, she [Copelin-Wood] has the responsibility to stay neutral and not make this a racial issue because it was not a racial issue,” Coward said. “But she kept making comments about black and white task force members.”

Copelin-Wood declined to talk about allegations of racism on Saturday or say if she wanted schools to close. However, she said she is angry that all of the schools on the closure list are in south DeKalb. The 10 schools on the possible closure list -- eight of which are in Copelin-Wood’s district -- are primarily in African-American neighborhoods.

“What I wanted is none of anybody’s business,” Copelin-Wood said. “If she [Coward] wants to ask me something, I think she will be a big enough woman to ask me.”

Copelin-Wood has served on the DeKalb County Board of Education since 1998 and is up for re-election later this year.

Vice Chair Zepora Roberts was the only other board member to attend any of the task force meetings, but she made no statements.

The board is slated to vote April 12 on $115 million in budget cuts, including closing four schools to save $2.35 million.


Anonymous said...

Hey, she's good at some things. Like getting her friends and family hired by DCSS.

No Duh said...

Sad. So sad. Just sad. Incredibly sad.

Anonymous said...

Nothing about the BOE surprises me anymore. Who expected professional?

Julie said...

Anyone who is surprised by this has had their head in the sand for a long time. The fact that Ms. Copelin-Woood's ineptitude, is finally getting attention demonstrates we might finally be heading in the right direction. She is an embarassment to Dekalb County. More importantly she has done an incredible disservice to all the children, but inparticular, the children and neighborhoods the purports to be advocating for the most.

Fire The Five said...

It's difficult to determine which current DeKalb BoE member is THE WORST BoE member in the state of Georgia. We've basically got NINE finalist for "Worst in State". But, certainly, Sarah Copelin-Wood is front runner for the blue ribbon.

Anonymous said...

You are very correct this is why the system is in such a mess. Just another reason to elect someone else.

Well i do know she will miss all the free food she would get every time there would be a eating event.

She is another one who has friends and family working in the system.

Maybe the board will let her join lewis and leave also.

Anonymous said...

The dekalb school system has turn into a money making system for friends and family. I am not sure if we will ever recover from this, our children will pay the price.

Pray for our children

Anonymous said...

@ Fire the Five - I'd say Tom Bowen, Jim Redovian and Jay Cunningham are neck and neck with Sarah Copelin-Wood. They're all looting DCSS for their friends, family and campaign contributors.

As far as 'rookie of the year', it's close b/w Don McChesney and Eugene Green. Each brings a unique brand of incompetence to the Board.

But I agree, all nine are "worst in state". There's not a worse school board in Georgia. And, outside of South Carolina, there's not a worse school board in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

Good point. All nine BoE members are awful. Each in their own special way. What a mess!

Anonymous said...

Woods statement to the ajc sound like someone standing on a corner having a cat fight, not lady like at all.

Anonymous said...

Sarah Copelin-Wood is bad. But her eight fellow board members are just as bad (if not worse).

Anonymous said...

Isn't there enough people who are sick of this nonsense to march in mass and demand better administration? Until some real action occurs, only more of the same will happen. Can BOE members be impeached? Can we get some real people on there instead of greedy ones? These people aren't just happy with being able to make enough to live - they want to ROB everyone else for their own benefit, even if it is robbing CHILDREN.

You DO NOT EVER mess with children!!

Get some people in there who ACTUALLY CARE about the kids! I don't care if they don't know one thing about "big business". I bet the ones who care about kids would be willing to learn. I'd do it on my current pay, which is less than 40k. I have a decent car, too.

Administration should be paid less and the valuable teachers more.

I'm SO SICK of the garbage. Isn't anyone else? Guam capsizing? REALLY? Are all the parents and teachers in Dekalb complete and utter sheep? What ever happened to "FOR the people, BY the PEOPLE"?

themommy said...

I am curious what the previous poster knows about Bowen and Redovian in terms of friends and family. As far as I know, neither has relatives or friends working for the system.

What all 9 seem to be guilty of is buying hook, sink, and anchor everything that is told to them by the staff. This is a problem across the country with local school boards and is a reason that some advocate to rid the education system of them. (I don't nor do I think the Super. should be an elected position.)

However, I think that we have to elect people that have the ability to think and ask hard questions. Skepticism is the word that comes to mind.

As to SCW, I generally think her heart is in the right place and frankly, she is the only board member to express concern publicly about test scores. However, it is like she needs an adviser, someone to help her understand things better and yes, better prepare for the meetings.

I suspect that she will be, though, the hardest candidate to defeat. She is so loved in her community because of the dynamics (grandparents raising grandchildren and great-grandchildren) and because she raises h*ll.

Cerebration said...

Wow - you guys have been having quite the chat while I was away!

I agree with you mommy - SCW appears to sometimes almost "get" that there's "something" here that should be questioned... but then, somehow, she loses her thought and well - the question isn't asked - or asked in the right way.

We do need leaders who will dig, do their own research (much of this data is available at state doe sites) and question - question - question.

And- Anon 11:24 PM - although we have a very serious "friends and family" problem with admin and board members, I agree that I don't think it's Redovian. It's also not McChesney or Womack. (Eugene's last name is Walker, not Green.) Zepora definitely has several relatives in the system (two of her own children) and actually requested a special stipulation in the recently proposed ethics policy that if her children "happen" to get investigated by Internal Affairs (yeah, like Ramsey will do that!) - that policy will allow her to attend their hearing! What's up with that? (At least the board voted her idea down.)

Francis Edwards was probably the worst - she has a daughter and son-in-law (the Guillorys) bringing home a combined quarter million a year from the system - in fields where you could easily have found much more qualified, competent applicants.

Anyone know of other relatives in the system? Let's start a list --

Cerebration said...

Maureen has an interesting blog post on this topic - with the questioning headline, "Is DeKalb becoming the new Clayton?"

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration 8:46 AM

Pam Tallmadge works for DCSS. She is Jim Redovian's friend and was his campaign manager.

I am unaware of any qualifications she has for her job with the DeKalb County Public Schools Foundation (formerly known as the DeKalb County Partners in Education Foundation). Certainly the 990-PF (filed annually with the IRS) available free online from the Foundation Center shows no charitable contributions to the foundation or grants obtained to fund the foundation. It's apparently just another "Jobs for Friends and Family" program.

For those interested, go to
You can easily look up the foundation using their EIN: 58-1843454.

Open + Transparent said...

Anon 2:31,

I agree with you on this:
"Administration should be paid less and the valuable teachers more". Yes!

But this, oh vey:
"Get some people in there who ACTUALLY CARE about the kids! I don't care if they don't know one thing about "big business". I bet the ones who care about kids would be willing to learn. I'd do it on my current pay, which is less than 40k."

Oh no. Heck no. This is exactly part of the problem.

We need the best of the best.
The Board of Education members have a duty first to make sure our county students are receiving a quality education.

BOE'ers have an equal responsiblity to taxpayers, and the eighty percent of county households who do not have children in the system.

Sarah Copelin-wood "cares about the kids". Zepora Roberts "cares about the kids". That doesn't make them good board members.

DCSS is a billion dollar operation. The money is there right now, if used wisely, to provide a high quality education, at the same if not lower millage rate than we pay now. But the Board of Education allowed the Lewis administration to spend our tax money like there were spending a holiday gift card.

Millions for America's Choice and eSIS. Tens of millions for the Heery-Mitchel lawsuit. Millions for non-academic departments, like MIS and school police. Millions for ineffective staff like instructional coaches. Millions for improvements to Sam Moss and Mountain Industrial even though they were at the bottom of the list for SPLOST III.

We need board members that have an understanding of basic education concepts, but also an understanding of fiscal responsibility. A good board has a mix of professionals, business leaders, parents who have been active in volunteering and PTA, former educators, etc.

We don't need nice people who "care about the kids" but don't have specific skills and experience to bring to the table.

"I bet the ones who care about kids would be willing to learn."
Copelin-Wood and Zepora have not learned. They did learn about nepotism and cronyism. But they did not learn about building DCSS to be sustainable financially or personnel-wise. They allowed the Lewis administration to favor administration over the classroom.

Recruiting top flight BOE candidates, along with implementing term limits, is important. "Caring about the kids" is nice. We're way past being nice.

Anonymous said...

Is Sarah Copelin-Woods the BOE member who slept through the parents' speeches at the January hearing at the Bryant Center? Incredibly rude.

Anonymous said...

"Is Sarah Copelin-Woods the BOE member who slept through the parents' speeches at the January hearing at the Bryant Center?"

Yes, SCW falls asleep at meetings more than al the other BOE mebers combined.

In her defense, I'd probably fall asleep occassionally too. The BOE needs less meetings not more. It is supposed to advise and guide administration, and is too involved in day to day decision making. SCW and Zepora sure do love getting mileage reimbursements for all the various meetings and events.

candace said...


what kind of list? Just board members children and relatives or in general at DCSS?

If in general, I'll start.

Fannie Tartt (retired. she founded the theme schools.) Her son is the principal, I mean Chief Learning Officer at Narvie J Harris Theme School. Early thirties, just finished his doctorate. Taught PE before becoming an assistant principal at Lithonia Middle. I hear he is actually a good principal.

The entire Edward L Bouie Family

Cerebration said...

Exactly this kind of info. BTW - Is this another Tartt - different from this one?

The Premier DeKalb County School System Office of School Improvement Presents
The Year of The Parent

Dr. Alduan Tartt, a practicing psychologist and accomplished author, community servant and humanitarian, is the keynote speaker. He will speak on the topic “Effective Parenting in Today’s Society”.

Anonymous said...

You must be certified to teach in the Public Schools of Georgia. You must take classes to renew your certificate. You must pass a background check. There needs to be some standard for an individual to serve on the board of education. There can be good kind and well meaning people, but that does not mean they are qualified for every job they may desire. As goes the schools, so goes the county. Yes, you may have your children in private schools. You may not have any children, but the schools must be important to everyone. Think about the kinds of people that you want living in your county. This is not aboout race. The issues with our schools must be resolved. The focus on everyone should be every child. We must want all of our schools to be excellent. What minds are we wasting? The cure for cancer could be within the mind of a DCSS child. We must support the schools. It takes teachers, principals, AP's, counselors, paras, custodians, security, a secretary, food service workers, bus drivers and media specialist to have quality schools. These people must be supported. I know that my list is not all inclusive, but the schools cannot bear the weight of the budget cuts. We will lose our best people. Even people that love their job, must feel like their is hope. They must feel appreciated. We are tired. We are tired. I am deeply sorry that things have occured as they have in our system. I hate to see anyone hurt. But we must again be able to have confidence in our leadership. I pray that we do not make another change immediately. Give Ms Tyson at least time to try and stablize the system. Today is Easter. Pray for the DCSS. That the truth will be revealed and the right things will be done. Bless you. Perhaps one day we can all post without hiding our name, and that we can all come together for the good of every child. There are people that want every child to do well. I pray that we do not lose them in this storm.

candace said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cerebration said...

Candace, had to delete that last comment - I will repost your comment without the last line though -

That Tartt is his brother from what I read on another blog.

Frankie Calloway, retired deputy super. her son clarence started out as a special ed para at bouie, then the special ed teacher at bouie. he joins the Delta Cohort and all of a sudden becomes the assistant principal at Pine Ridge and then Wynbrooke. He is barely 30.

Anonymous said...

Frankie Calloway, don't forget, is the woman who was forced to retire due to a grading scandal earlier this year. Don't know about her son's capabilities, but do know former teachers who loved her as a Principal.

Cerebration said...

According to "The Champion", Frankie Callaway has been hired as the new principal for The Leadership Preparatory Academy - a new charter school in Lithonia.

Anonymous said...

Ok fannie tart husband al Tart came in as a admin. retired a couple of years ago. They said he came from the richway stores. Jamal edwards son of frances also works for the system,(bryant center) they had him on the pay roll years ago as a monitor on a school bus, which he never was.
Andrea brown, lewis went to school with her. Brought her in about two years ago, she was first at the moss center until she had a run in with pope and he moved her to east dekalb. Tiffany knowlin that's pope girlfriend daughter not sure if i spell her name right.
The school interm program hires all the school admin. children so
regular kids are left out. Pat pope had a whole crew of friends and famiy. Stan pritchett retired now but his daughter-in-law, wife, and sons worked for the system. One of his sons got into some trouble back some months ago. something about a student. vickie durbin her sister was lynn cherry grant former board member. When i think of more i will add.