Monday, May 3, 2010

The May 3, 2010 Board Meeting

I'm "reading" a new book "written" by a citizen who addressed the board last month called, "As DeKalb Schools Turn on the Young, Restless Edge of Night". This book is a page-turner. You just can never see what is coming around the bend. The latest twist in the story was the first item discussed at tonight's board meeting. Paul Womack made the request to remove the closure of up to four elementary schools from the budget currently being discussed. It seems that Ms. Tyson met with the Deputy Superintendent of Education for the state, Lynn Jackson and was enlightened to new ways to approach entitlement money. She says she plans to re-engineer the approach to maximize earnings awarded by the state. So, the vote was taken and the discussion about school closings, re-districting and re-balancing enrollment will take place again starting September 15. Therefore, no schools will close during the 2010-2011 school year but the board and Tyson plan to roll up their sleeves and step back to evaluate how to remove the 11,000 seats currently empty in the system overall. Sounds smart. Would have been really smart to do at least a year or two ago --- but better late than never! Good job, Ramona!

I had the funniest feeling though, that the upcoming elections sparked this sudden desire to "postpone" this decision. Whatever the motivator, I do agree with the decision. It was a $2 million line item in a $115 million list of cuts and was causing waaaaaay too much distraction from the big task at hand. Let it be known though, that this does not mean that some schools won't close - some certainly will - it will just be later - rather than sooner.

Then, there was a whole bunch of boring stuff and suddenly Sarah (in full campaign mode) starting questioning every construction expense posed by Ms. Colman with more or less, "so what are you doing in southern DeKalb?" Further, she insisted that 82% of students live in southern DeKalb. I mean, I'm pretty sure that's what she was saying - I couldn't really follow exactly...

Also, there was a discussion at the end about the fact that the board is committed to working together to evaluate pretty much every single program, including America's Choice, to see if they are producing the promised results. If not - they will be cut. In doing so, I hope they heed the advice of one of tonight's citizen commenters, "Ask the teachers what they think!"

85 comments:

Anonymous said...

That is great news! Any other discussions from the meeting? I noticed that there was a presentation from Dr. Audria Berry on America's Choice on the agenda. By the way- on this website she is listed as "Executive Director of Instruction".... in reality she is Executive Director of the Office of Schol Improvement (Title 1).

Anonymous said...

So, without the school closings, where are they going to find the $2.35 M??

Anonymous said...

It does make you wonder Anon 9:43

Anonymous said...

She may be right about the number of students in south DeKalb. Of course it depends on what you term south DeKalb. There are infinitely more schools in South DeKalb.

I agree with Cerebration. This was a very small line item and a distraction to addressing the real waste in DCSS - the disparity between the vast numbers of admin and support and their inflated salaries and the relatively small number of DCSS teachers.

Address those issues before closing any schools. If students get squeezed hard enough, maybe parents will vote in a new BOE - how sad is that. At least parents will have the chance to see how dire the schools have become before the November BOE elections. Parents need to get out and campaign to get rid of this BOE. Maybe then an audit can occur and a new superintendent will have the support he/she needs to bring the thousands of admin and support numbers in line with other metro systems and salaries in line with the marketplace.

Anonymous said...

At this point, I am most concerned with balancing the budget. Now at the "last minute," the BOE will need to pull 2 million + out of their hats. Have they articulated a plan? Do they have one? What will be eliminated next? Elementary orchestra and band? Art? Teacher layoffs?

Anonymous said...

Sarah Copelin-Wood is one of only two BOE members left that let Dr. Lewis get away with disregarding the Ernst and Young audit that showed thousands of non-teaching personnel overpaid to the tune of millions of dollars a year. Those tax dollars would have gone a long way to balancing the current DCSS budget.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:03 pm

Of course, Ms. Tyson and the BOE will balance the budget on the backs of students as almost every cut she has proposed will impact schoolhouse personnel.

Anonymous said...

With over 8,000 admin and support and less than 7,000 teachers you would think Ms. Tyson could find some way to trim the budget that would not cause anymore harm to students.

Anonymous said...

I think this decision is a travesty and politically motivated. Ms Tyson gets zero respect and credit in my opinion. Putting aside the state funding issue it is irresponsible for the BOE to pay the expenses to keep grossly underpopulated schools open. It is still a waste of the taxpayers' money and it is still taking money away from students and teachers, including those in the affected areas!

As ususal, the BOE caved at the last minute rather than making the hard decisions. I am nauseated.

Still Teaching in Dekalb for Only God Knows How Much Longer said...

I believe that the decision to postpone school closings was motivated by politics, public clamor, and the threat of lawsuits - which dekalb taxpayers cannot afford. I sincerely hope that a new set of board members (can someone please, please, please find a viable candidate to run and win against SCW and ZR) can handle this issue next year with a bit more professionalism.

Of course, the board now has to cut an additional $2+ million out of an already anemic budget. Are they still trying to sell the idea of raising taxes in order to accomplish this? ....Can we continue to support initiatives like America's Choice during this crisis? .....Are teaching staffs about to be cut, shuffled , transferred? .......WHO KNOWS??

Tune in next week as Dekalb BOE continues its "Search for Tomorrow"s Headlines...

Teacher said...

Thank you for thinking of including the teachers in future DCSS planning for schools where, after all, teachers are often to be seen! One might ask the Board what's become of the survey they did a few weeks ago of selected teachers' views on the budget, under the pretense of finding out what we think. Survey forms were dutifully filled out by more than 100 teachers, ideally, one from each school--and never heard of since.

The lack of follow-through on this is so typical of how the Board treats the very people whom it says it so highly values. We're way beyond needing to hear "Thank you for all that you do": we need to hear, "Let us hear from you what will most help you do all that you CAN do!"

Anonymous said...

According to the Dunwoody North blog, the entire county is going to be redistricted. Funny how no one thought of that when Dunwoody area schools were shut down. So all anyone has to do is convince the NAACP to threaten a lawsuit so they get what they want? Nice lesson. I'm going to send my kids to private school. I won't be bullied by South DeKalb racists.

Anonymous said...

Without school closings, central office bloat cut, BOE changes...the local school will get hit hard...interim superintendent to address all schools this Thursday...elementary at 3:30 and all others at 4:30...many schools have already heard...increased class sizes again, more furlough days plus huge pay increase...doesn't look pretty...more news to follow after Thursday..when Ramona Tyson is heard for real

That said...

As a task force member, I want to say to the Board -- Take That! All the criticism they so easily heaped on the CPTF after the initial vote and now this.

I do believe that this is the right decision. In the end, I expect that many of these same schools will be closed, but I think that you do redistrict first and develop a master plan. While I can't quite see 12 closed schools without some capital expenditure, I have looked at so many maps the last three months that I can tell you there is ample opportunity to bring schools enrollment up via redistricting.

While I am skeptical that the next SPLOST vote will be successful, I, along with several other task force members, believe that there needs to be a tie in with plans for redistricting and school consolidation with future capital improvement plans.

I also hope that this extra time will give the board a chance to come up with a plan for empty buildings. Simply not selling them JUST BECAUSE, is really not an option. If we wait until the economy improves, we will be waiting a very long time in some areas. These properties weren't worth much in a strong economy. For other properties, I believe there is merit in waiting, but DCSS needs professional advice in this, not just someone's best guess. The City of Atlanta actually has a real estate contact person if you want to buy property from COA schools. DCSS needs to have the same in place moving forward. (It was part of Pat Pope's job.)

Remember, that the original charge to the committee members, when asked to join the committee, was to spend 8-10 months closing (consolidating) and redistricting elementary, middle and high schools at all levels. At a Board budget Committee meeting in Feb. or March, one of the members of the committee suggested closing some schools for 2010 school year and viola that charge was changed.

We have high schools with under 700 students and elementary schools with under 300. Now that I have a much better sense of how state funding works, I can say unequivocally that we must address school size. Anon 12:42, the whole county does need to be redistricted.

Ella Smith said...

Redistricting the whole county is a great idea. I am all for it.

However, parents have to be ready to change to other schools that they are not accustomed to.

For instance in my school area along Sagamore, Oak Grove, Briarlake,and Coralwood parents have to be ready to go where the county sents your children. This is much more difficult on the back end that on the front end. People have a hard time with changing their schools. Some people buy a house to go to a certain school. Changing that school to them is a big deal. Parents must be willing to change for the good of the system. We must be flexible for this to work. Can parents throughout the county be this flexible?

Anonymous said...

We thought the outcry over school closings was bad this year, just wait until we start redistricting. At least with school closings, peer groups (and parents) all move together to a new location. With redistricting, friend groups are split up. I am in the north end of the county and agree that it is time to bit the bullet and redistrict, but I can say with all certainty, that redistricting will be wildly unpopular here. Redrawing Fernbank and Oakgrove districts will be particularly sticky.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking that it is time for redistricting, school consolidation, closing, vouchers and, breaking the system into 2, 4 or 6 parts to make it more transparent and manageable. No more pushing things under the carpet. Voucher need to work so the money feeds directly to the local school with some portion up the ladder to the central office so DCSS can be more like Decatur and work with a larger system when appropriate and work down when not. The whites and hispanics in the system have been more discriminated against recenly as the "minority" populations (at 8-10% each in the school system) in the past decade and they have sat back and listened to the rants of others. It's time to move beyond all of this for what is in the best interest of the kids and the only way to do that is to get the dollars into the local schools asap (not that it would be perfect --nothing is perfect).

Cerebration said...

I am greatly encouraged that Ms. Tyson was able to forge a working relationship with the Deputy Superintendent at the State, Lynn Jackson. We have never had this kind of cooperation and support at the state level before. I commend her for reaching out and asking for their guidance in how to better access our state dollars. Dr. Lewis was never able to grasp how to do this and worse, would never admit it and ask for help. Hopefully, this is a sign of a new direction for DCSS.

Kim Gokce said...

@That: "I [...] believe that there needs to be a tie in with plans for redistricting and school consolidation with future capital improvement plans."

This is describing the ONLY thing that sounds like a plan - all that I have experienced to-date has been the bluster of politics and the whims of demagogues. I have been asking for a vision of the future plant. If DCSS can actually produce this with a rationalized district map and a modernized and efficient physical plant, I'll vote for SPLOST IV.

Without this truly comprehensive road map, I'm not interested.

Cerebration said...

In other good news -- the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce has decided to step up to the plate and work to improve (save!) our schools by identifying and supporting candidates for school board. They will be announcing details later today.

The DeKalb Chamber of Commerce will announce Tuesday the establishment of eduKALB, a nonprofit organization that will help identify and endorse candidates for the November election.

Five of the nine board seats – Districts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 – are up for election this year.


For the rest of the story - read the AJC report in today's paper -

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-businesses-want-better-517184.html

Anonymous said...

I would like to commend 2 speakers from last night's board meeting -- kudos to the teacher with the courage to speak for what she believed to be right (she was articulate and had excellent points) and Julie McKenna did a great job with "ask the teachers" before making expenditures or changes--she is correct -- they are on the front lines and should have input to the decisions. I would like to add another "ask" point for the BOE before voting on anything in the future. Before any vote, they should always ask, "who" is behind the particular item -- be it a texbook or program (e.g. America's Choice) or speaker, etc. -- is that person related to a current BOE member, a former BOE member, a current employee of the DCSS or a former employee of the DCSS. If the answer is "yes" -- they need to know who the "insider" is and how much that "insider" stands to "benefit" from the transaction (by way of commission or fee or payment) -- they also need to know why that particular purchase or program is particuarly necessary in lieu of something else or nothing at all -- that transaction needs to be subject to special scrutiny. This is taxpayer money (either local dollars, state dollars or federal dollars -- it's our tax money). In the "real world" the tax laws require these disclosures but I think there's an exemption for the school system that baffles me (particularly given the level of taxpayer money at play).

Anonymous said...

Cere 8:39 -- Is Crawford still on the board of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce?

Kim Gokce said...

The School System maintains a seat so I believe it transfers to who ever is in the Superintendent's chairr.

Kim Gokce said...

The Board of Education itself maintains a seat, too ...

Cerebration said...

Funny - he's still listed as a member of the board of directors...

http://dekalbchamberofcommerce.org/dekalbchamber/boardofdirectors.asp

DR. CRAWFORD LEWIS
Superintendent, DeKalb County School System
Ex-Officio

Kim Gokce said...

I think that is simply an out-of-date, static web page. The "Ex Officio" part of that makes me pretty confident that it is the Ramona. The always are ex officio part of the Board by convention ...

Kim Gokce said...

... notice that all other members have an term expiration date. The DCSS seat is always there. So, no, I don't think Dr. Lewis occupies that seat - it "belongs" to the Superintendent's office.

Anonymous said...

This parent is concerned with his child first. This parent is going to have very limited flexibility when it comes to redistricting. If my children are moved out of their elementary school, the only other options are very low-performing score-wise and I will not sacrifice my childrens' well-being for some agenda on the other side of the county. That is asking too much. The BOE has made it clear they don't give a damn about North DeKalb and everyone seems to be OK with that. Turnabout is fair play.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday at Oak Grove three classes were flooded by waterfalls coming through the ceiling/roof. Floors were covered in water, ceiling tiles crashed down the the middle of classrooms. Administrators and parents spent all day with wet-vacs, mops, and mold/mildew cleaner. Think the North is treated better than the South? Think again. It's a bunch of hooey Sarah Copelin-Wood wants you to think. Buildings in the north end are so pitiful I'm surprised they are allowed to stay open. And the maintenance workers who make more than teachers? They stood out front at their truck and talked for an entire hour - no doubt waiting on a wet-vac or something to arrive. You guys have no clue what really happens. The waste in this county is astounding, yet schools are falling apart.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:48 am

Many parents in DeKalb pay a premium for homes - in some instances tens of thousands of dollars more (with the monthly mortgage payment that comes with that money) - just to get their children into schools that have high scores, lots of parent involvement, and a hard working wealthy PTA that help provide the "extras" for children.

Real estate agents put the school the property is zoned into on their real estate signs in my neighborhood. That says a lot about the value of your property in relation to your school.

Parents bought these homes and accepted the higher mortgage payments so they could send their children to a high performing school. They shoulder increased property taxes because their homes are valued as much for the school as any other factor. I can understand why they are upset with redistricting.

DCSS Central Office administrators and probably many DCSS Support administrators can live anywhere in DeKalb and pick and choose what school to send their children to. Some of them send their children to the local school in their neighborhood (I understand Ms. Tyson does this). Others choose to send them out of their local school district. It's a personal choice for them. DCSS Central Office and Support administrators have a difficult time understanding the frustration of parents who do not have their choices.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:48 AM shows the battle we have on our hands. Too many parents could care less about the system as a whole and are only concerned with what they believe will benefit their offspring, with the rest of the system to be damned. Thanks 10:48, for showing us how selfishness will always lead to discord in DeKalb.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 11:39 am

I disagree. I think you hear frustration rather than divisiveness in 10:48 am. Parents deserve to want the best school possible for their children. No responsible parent would sacrifice their children for an "ideal". If they do, I wouldn't want to be that child.

The problem with DCSS schools is that money has not been put into the schoolhouse and compounding that problem is that it is now the entity the DCSS administration and the BOE are choosing to gut with the new budget.

Leaky roofs, computers that don't work, maintenance people who give poor service and are paid more than teachers, proposals to pack 34 (or is it 35) kids into a classroom, and the list goes on.

If all schools were safe and clean, had well compensated teachers with reasonably sized classrooms, and abundant science and technology equipment, there would not be such controversy.

DCSS administration has chosen to put money outside the classroom into admin and support, not into the classroom.

Electing a new BOE could go a long way towards bringing the focus back to students, but it has to be BOE members who do not want the status quo and seek a superintendent who will right size the school system. It will be interesting to see who the Chamber of Commerce backs. At last the business leaders are realizing the connection between economic development and an education system that is falling apart at the seams.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Come on Folks

The school system as a whole is failing. We as parents on the North and South of Dekalb have GOT TO COME TOGETHER to save DCSS!

It is a clear face that because DCSS is 60% black with a 20% other minority, the other 20% Caucasion has been overlooked.

Some say a taste of their own medicine from things done in the past.

I say a wrong doing just on the other side of the track.

It is time for the district to flow some splosh money on the North side of Dekalb as they have been doing over the past 10 year on the south dise of dekalb.

I also look at the mishandled Kaiser grant funds that could have been used to help upgrade and renovate the Crosskeys and Lakesides.

We need to come together, clean house and save DCSS.

ONE PREMIER DEKALB COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM!!!!!!!

Cerebration said...

Sorry - had to remove the above comment. Go ahead and repost it - but leave off info about children - we have all agreed not to cross that line here.

Anonymous said...

The primary litmus test of any candidate for the DCSS is to ask how many school systems are we... one or two?

Anonymous said...

I understand and accept the necessity of redistricting. However, I also know that our neighborhood will be redistricted out of a "bragging rights" ES into a ES that was on the closure list. It is a good school with a bad reputation.

My brain tells me that we all need to take what comes for the good of the children, but my brain also tells me that the children in our neighborhood will lose out on some incredible opportunities, and that my home's value will decrease.

My brain also tells me (I have done the research) that the ES we are currently in has approximately the same number of out-of-district students (i.e. children of administrators and teachers in other schools) as there are ES children in our entire neighborhood, and I wonder why they still get to go to that school and we don't.

Sorry to be selfish, and I know for the good of the county it has to be done, but I have to say I don't like it.

Anonymous said...

Some food for thought:
Is it possible that the school district has grown beyond the capability of a county-based BOE to adminster it?

In every other major metro area in the USA, school districts are based on a city or community, not a county. If the county is very rural, like most of GA, AL, etc, it may make sense. But the Atlanta metro area has grown exponentially in recent years: the thinking of the people involved has not. (For example, because of racial politics, someone will always be bent on revenge because of past wrongs, real or perceived. That will never change.)

So maybe it's time for ALL communities to administer their own schools in their best interests.

Does this idea get a fair hearing or does the poster get burned at the stake for thinking it? :-)

Heard It All Before said...

The British scientist Michael Faraday once studied the polar forces dividing the DeKalb Board of Education from any somewhat difficult decision to prove his theories of magnetism.

The concept of splitting the DeKalb school district in two has much merit. Unfortunately, the state Constitution stands in the way, and don't look for Kevin Levitas or any other nominally sympathetic legislator to stand up and take arrows in the back championing that idea.

Square Peg said...

I'd love to see smaller school systems. Hopefully that would help reduce waste and leakage - or at least contain it - and would make schools more responsive to the needs of the community.

The big problem with fragmenting our school systems into smaller pieces is that schools are funded from property taxes, and local tax bases vary widely. If poorer communities can't raise enough taxes to fund decent schools, we lose the American dream of education as a way for people to improve their economic status.

You could theoretically solve that problem if you funded schools from a national tax, which would then be sent back to communities on a per capita basis to be spent by the local school boards. This would never fly in the US. We in Dekalb don't even trust our state government to use state revenues for partial school funding equalization.

Anonymous said...

It's a sad day when you see BOE members without a spine. When will someone in this county see that it is all about politics and race. I have never seen our country and county so divided and now it's infected our school system.

8000 employees vs. 7000 teachers it's simple to see. Nepotism, and the former friends and family plan has squandered our tax dollars to the point that no one has spine to make the right decision regarding our kids.

I can only imagine what's about to happen and I fear that we're about to lose a lot of good teachers. Can we please lose the "Premier" moniker? It really makes our county look foolish to the other spectators in the metro area.

This soap opera is about to get a lot worse. You know CLew is really enjoying this from the sidelines. I for one am really happy he is watching from the sidelines. But, I'm also a little leery of Ernest Brown, he speaks a good game but it's hard to trust him. Not sure what to think of the Chamber's Edukalb group.

The plot certainly thickens! What will happen next on the Edge of Night?

No Duh said...

Who's idea was it to go to the State BOE for help shaking out more money? Womack made the motion and seemed to know the facts. Did Ms. Tyson ask a board member to investigate? Did she reach out herself?

The smirk on SCW's face the whole time made it look like she was taking some kind of credit for "saving her schools." Her face said "Don't mess with me, I'm more powerful than you think. I win every time." But, from the sounds of it, SCW had absolutely nothing to do with the outreach to the State BOE. How will we EVER convince her constituents that their ranting and raving didn't solve the problem (like SCW said it did last night, thanking her parents for all their passion and hard work to make the BOE listen)? That her racism stirred the pot, but that OTHER board members pulled "her" schools off the chopping block at the last minute?

How do we get SCW's and ZR's constituents to see them for what they are: short-sighted, myopic, uninformed, self-centered, ignorant, hateful...

Anonymous said...

Why isn't a degree, from a 4 year college/university, part of the eligibility criteria for serving on the BOE??? Seems fundamental to me.

Anonymous said...

Let's see. Re-engineering will get (free up?) $2.5 million to keep open 4 schools that will be closed next year. Sounds like a waste to me. T

The DCSS has to find th3 $2.5 mil somewhere. I smell a tax increase coming on. Redovian wants 0.5 mils and the big spender Walker wants 2.0 mils. So we end up with 1.0 mil.

They are just kicking the can down the road.

Anonymous said...

I do not think that a 4 year degree is necessary to be a good school board member. My father has a high school education and served on the school board where I grew up. He knew more about what the children of our town needed as far as a quality education than a number of the people that had a 4 year or more education.

What we need on the school board are people who are willing to ask tough questions and who do not care about friends and family working for or with the district, but have the children's best interest at heart.

Our current board does not appear to have the children as the focus of their job. They appear to be afraid to ask tough questions to those working for DCSS. They do not ask probing questions required to gather significant information to make good decisions. They do think about the long term ramifications about decisions and contracts.

Having a 4 year degree means squat. It's kind of like having an advanced degree in education from an online university or lower quality university-it looks good on paper, but doesn't necessarily mean that you know any more than anyone else.

Cerebration said...

Ms. Wood's behavior was very disappointing once again. Finally - finally - after all these years, Cross Keys is getting some work done (mostly on the part that houses the merged HS of Technology North). As Ms. Colman asked for approvals on the various components and change orders (there was an unforeseen fee for having to take up the flooring in the whole building) - she mentioned that in this economy, the construction costs are actually coming in much lower than what they were bid for several years ago. The Cross Keys project is coming in well under-budget. I was pleased, thinking - gee, maybe that means they'll have money to fix the cracked running track or create a real weight room or band room (an auditorium perhaps?!) -- but to my horror - Sarah practically claimed that extra money for "her" schools! She demanded to know what work was planned for the HS Tech South. She actually asked Ms. Colman to get back to her as to when and how she could build covered walkways for students at one of her high schools. She claimed it's the only school without covered walkways and those poor children have to walk outside in the wind, rain, snow, ice (I guess she forgot that we cancel school on days like that).

Sarah, you are once again, mistaken and putting misinformation out into the world so that your voters will believe your claims of inequity and vote for you once again. You are very transparent. And in your greed to win your board seat, you are once again, as always, serving to do nothing but damage race relations in this county. I'll bet you have never bothered to tour Lakeside, Cross Keys, Chamblee or other old buildings up here. You have no idea. No one has covered walkways - in fact, even students who use wheelchairs have to wheel around outside these buildings to get from one level to another due to a lack of elevators. The antiquated "lift" on the stairs at Lakeside nearly killed a kid a few years ago as it malfunctioned and the wheelchair began to topple over onto the stairs. A nearby male teacher saved this student's life by stopping the student and the whole chair with his bare hands!

Stop race-baiting, Sarah. Just stop.

Anonymous said...

A tax increase is certainly going to be brought up, because the board does not have the guts to cut unnecessary jobs. Until the number of unnecessary employees is lowered, I am not for any raise in taxes. Our property values go down each time DCSS is in the news, as there hasn't been anything positive. Many people are on the financial edge right now, higher taxes could effect the foreclosure rate in DeKalb and make it even higher.

Anonymous said...

I teach in the Cross Keys zone and live in District 3, and I can assure you that I have already started talking to my neighbors about voting SCW out of office. Many of my neighbors either don't have children or send them to private school. Assuming we have a qualified candidate running against her (and let's face it, it doesn't take much to be more qualified than Sarah), I cannot wait to vote against her in the election.

Dekalbparent said...

Check the agenda for the May 10 Board meeting - they are calling for a tax increase (Item F.2 on the Agenda):

Requested Action

It is recommended that the Board of Education approve the Proposed Tax Levy Resolution setting the millage rate at 22.98 mills for Maintenance and Operations for the Fiscal Year 2010-2011.


Implementation Date(s)
July 1, 2010

Anonymous said...

Seems like the logical democratic response. Let's increase spending, increase the size of government and then react to the deficits by raising taxes. How easy is that? We need a CEO Ellis at the DCSS to make some hard decisions like CUTTING the size of government. To think of all the relatives of current and former BOE members.
(Cut them and cut the deficit in half..sarc off)

It's so easy to raise taxes instead of cutting bloat!

Anonymous said...

No schools cut this year and very few people in admin. Teachers got a contract that said DCSS "may cut salaries by 6.25%". That may is a definite yes. Can't wait to hear from our fearless leader Thursday. Happy Teacher's Appreciation Week Everybody!

Anonymous said...

DeKalb Parent

I thought the milage rate was already 22.98.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 6:07 PM

There is no strong decision maker at DCSS. Board or otherwise . . . But they will tell you what you want to hear.

Additionally, I was surprised to learn from a well placed source that CEO Ellis is very much involved in all the drama at DCSS. Unfortunately, according to this individual, Black politics is creating problems for all of DeKalb’s citizens with regard to DCSS. All, both Black, White, and other . . .

@ Anon 10:48 AM

I understand your feelings. My journey is almost complete with my children’s education. However, if yours is just about to begin and you like the convenience of living in DeKalb County, start now building your case against public education in DeKalb with regard to fighting your property taxes and saving for private education for your children. We are talking about your children. You can let them be status quo or give them a giant leap forward.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me . . .

Did I say playing hard ball with the Property Tax Man with regard to DCSS taxes would bring attention to a dysfunctional DCSS and eventually, with strong objection in the county pocketbook from DeKalb County citizens, public education would be reformed in our county?

Being polite for all of these years and begging has not done much to change the situation.

Teaching in Dekalb for God Only Knows How Much Longer said...

I've been teaching in Dekalb for the past 10 years(20-total).Only once have I had to sign a contract for less pay, that was when I took a pay cut to transfer from Fulton County to Dekalb. Right now I wish I was still teaching in Fulton. Although they face a similar budget crisis, their organizational structure (BOE & Superintendent's offices) is enviable compared to Dekalb.
So much of what we do in this business of education is driven by MONEY and POLITICS, as clearly seen by the antics of our own BOE, Superintendent(s), and even contributors to this blog.

How can we "save" DCSS?
1)Run this system like a real Business & make the tough necessary decisions to cut costs.
2)Vote in a new set of Board members that can work closely with the Superintendents' office without using him/her to impose their self-serving will
3)Liquidate some assets by consolidating schools and selling off old buildings.
4)Downsize by eliminating some middle management positions (assoc. superintendents)
5)Hire efficiency experts (can you say - audit) to find more ways to effective manage/remove the plethora of "special programs" we currently have running and overlapping in DCSS (America's Choice, HSTW, etc.)
6)Give Principals the POWER to actually run their schools instead of just kowtowing to the whims of their Area Superintendent.
7)..and for God's sake LET TEACHERS TEACH!!! --sure hold them accountable- but let's get rid of all the fluff of paperwork, benchmarks, wordwalls, etc.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with Anon 4:23:
"Having a 4 year degree means squat."

I sure hope our DCSS students don't ever hear a message like this from our BOE or anyone in their schools.

In DCSS, our BOE holds a great deal of power in making decisions about the education of your children. I want our BOE to be the most educated and experienced group we can find, not folks who are unable, due to lack of education and experience, to even qualify for a decent job. There must be some basic prerequisites for a such an important and powerful position.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:31

Not having a four year degree does not mean that you are not able to think or unintelligent. Sorry. It just means that you have chosen a different career path.

Maybe many of the current board members do not have degrees and I personally feel that these people are just plain ignorant. The racist comments that come out of their mouths should embarrass them. They do not truly care about ALL children in DeKalb and more concerned about keeping friends and family employed than having a descent school system that puts the education of children above anything else.

Just because these people are not your choice or mine, for quality board members, I do not like the idea of making a 4 year degree a requirement for running for office. That does not make sense. There are people without 4 year degrees, who would do a fine job and truly care about the children and the quality of education that they are not receiving.

I have many friends who graduated from Tech School and make way more money than I do as a teacher running a plumbing or electrical business. They have more business smarts than the people running the school district.

Having a four year degree does not equal success. Having a four year degree does not mean that you are qualified to question those in DCSS who are bringing information for you to make decisions about the education of our kids. Having a four year degree does not mean that you are not educated.

I was raised that we had to go on with our education after high school and do something else, whether it was learn a trade or go on to college. I do not look down on people who do not hold advanced degrees or think that they are less of a person or know less than I do. There are many types of education that you cannot get in school.

The type of person that we need to run for school board needs to care about ALL children in DeKalb-not just the black kids, not just the white kids, not just the Hispanic kids, but all of the children. They need to not be afraid to ask tough questions of the superintendent and his/her busy bees who present the board with information to make decisions. They need to want to learn what a quality education is, as most of the people with education degrees in DCSS really don't know what one looks like. They need to want DCSS to be the best it can be, as we need to make huge improvements in what our children are currently receiving.

No my friend, having a four year degree or any other advanced degree, does not make one more intelligent or better prepared for being a school board member or run for any kind of office. Some of the smartest people that I know don't have any advanced degree, but are well read and know much more than those that have masters and doctorates in DCSS.

The message that I hope children in DCSS receive about education, is that it never stops. Whether you go to college, trade school, join the military, or get a job, you will always need to learn. I also tell my students to love what they do and do it to the best of their ability. It doesn't matter if someone is a garbage man or a lawyer. What matters is that they are honest human beings, and do what they love to the best of their ability. I don't think that educators should push children towards college, as it is not the right choice for everyone.

Kim Gokce said...

Anon: "Yesterday at Oak Grove three classes were flooded by waterfalls coming through the ceiling/roof."

I feel your pain. Montclair ES was evacuated to Cross Keys HS during the rain Monday due to flooding.

@Cere: "Cross Keys"

Are you kidding me? I had to leave to make story time at home and missed the rest of the meeting after public speaking agenda item. SCW wanting to take the crumbs from the crumbs that are being spent at CKHS? Wow.

If that becomes a cause for her, we are going to have a long, ugly summer campaign. Ugly. Period. Antietam comes to mind ... carnage, waste of life and youth. Ugh ...

Cerebration said...

No man, it's true. Watch a re-run of the meeting on Channel 24.

BTW - here's the link to the AJC story on the subject of the school closing turnaround - some interesting tidbits in it -

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-school-closures-delayed-516000.html

Kim Gokce said...

Well, I guess she is just acting out of habit of being able to take from Cross Keys without much trouble. Them days is over ma'am!

By the leadership's own statements about CKHS SPOST II & III, it is well established that the scope of the renovation is far short of what is necessary for this school. Far short ...

I'll go ahead and lay down in front of this tank. It's not going to happen. Not one dollar. I'll start making calls tomorrow ... absurd.

On the article, yes, interesting that both Walker and Wood seemed to leap at the microphone to take credit for killing the 4 schools closure this year while the Chairman is saying directly in this article that it is due to the opportunity for $$$ at the State.

The fact that this has swirled for over a year and we're now apparently taking a sober and professional look at this with partners at State is about as damning evidence I see of bad leadership.

I have no knowledge of the inner working but it smells like a more humble superintendent opened the dialog with State. "Help us ..." ... imagine that!

andi said...

Ms Woods trying to take money from Cross Keys?!?!

I look forward to sending a check to the qualified person that runs against her.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Tyson, Why did you schedule a mandatory meeting for elementary school folks to begin at 3:30? Our paid workday ENDS at 3:30 (although most of us work well past that time). Show a little respect. Your schedule should work around ours. HAPPY TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK!

Anonymous said...

Hey Cere

Did any of the other board members correct SCW?

Anonymous said...

Trying Again.

Cere

Did any of the other board members correct SCW about the covered pathways?

Anonymous said...

Received this email:



This is Matt Pearl from 11Alive, following up on our phone call this morning. We are working on a special report about the current budget crisis surrounding Georgia’s public schools, and we are looking to speak with teachers who have been directly affected by the current year’s issues. We’d like to represent a point of view that doesn’t always get its share of attention. If possible I’d like to talk with teachers who have either:



(1) lost their job this year as a result of a budget shortfall

(2) lost their job this year but are “on the bubble”, meaning they might get their job back depending on how the budgets shake out



Please note this story is NOT about pitting the teachers against their respective school districts; rather, it is a look at the uncertainty surrounding the profession and how it affects the lives of those who work so hard in the field of education. This is not a contentious story by any means; instead, it is a chance to put a human face on the many educators whose jobs are in jeopardy.



I would greatly appreciate if teachers interested in discussing this subject would respond to me at the e-mail address or cell phone number below. Thank you so much for your time and cooperation.



Sincerely,



===========

MATT PEARL

Reporter, 11Alive / WXIA-TV

mpearl@wxia.gannett.com

Cell: 404.545.5129

Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/MattPearlWXIA11

teachercreature said...

No board member corrected Sarah C-W about the covered walk areas. It is so humiliating to watch the incompetence that goes on during these meetings. This simply can't continue. S.he C.an't W.in!!

Kim Gokce said...

@andi: "Ms Woods trying to take money from Cross Keys?!?!

I look forward to sending a check to the qualified person that runs against her."

That is what Cere reported from Monday's meeting. I will be watching online tonight if the video is posted as per usual.

After sleeping on it, I realized that Ms. Woods can't be blamed for going back to the well. A well that has been free flowing for so many years. How can we blame her for bullying away the money that might go to an under-represented group like the latinos and immigrants that dominate our attendance area. They've never had any particular political power before.

So, Andi, let's undertake a gentle re-education campaign to Ms. Wood and others vultures who may be circling the corpse of the CK SPLOST II & III budgets. She can't help herself, poor lady.

Good Lord! Just when we were starting to show our young people that the BoE does truly care about their school ...

Anonymous said...

So I take it Sarah Copelin-Wood is receiving hundreds of emails and phone calls about trying to take money from Cross-Keys. Sounds like that might be the only thing that motivates her of the BOE. Cere has a link to the BOE above the Recent Comments section. You know how they feel about emails - click that link and let them know how you feel.

Email EVERYONE you know and have them click that link and let them know how you feel.

Direct connections such as email, letters and phone calls are the best way ordinary citizens have to counter elected officials.

Cerebration said...

S.he C.an't W.in!! Awesome Acronym.

To clarify -- SCW did not specifically state - give me that extra money. It's just that when Barbara Colman offered up that they were very much under budget, she kept piping up with the many "needs" at "her" schools. (The assumption was mine. - Ohh! Extra money! I'll take it!) But she did "campaign" throughout the entire meeting (why not? it's free televised advertising of how she fights for her schools!) Walker was just about as guilty. "I voted no to the closings due to the concerns of the wonderful people in my district..". It was a night of posturing. I heard Sarah mumble "southern DeKalb" many times - underlining that old racial divide that must be maintained in the minds of voters in order for her to win her seat. Cynthia McKinney was the expert in this kind of divisive politics. It's deplorable in my opinion. North DeKalb has plenty of blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and people from all around the globe. Our schools are not "white"...

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that SCW and Gene Walker are operating under an automatic knee-jerk response born out of their past experiences. Unfortunately, knee-jerk reactions serve as a substitute for actual thinking - a short cut around the brain.

I admire all those who have worked for human rights (racial, gender and religious), but everyone needs to keep their brain in gear. "Is this way of thinking still relevant in current circumstances?" SCW is not doing this, and neither is Gene Walker. And I really wonder about Womack and McChesney.

Cerebration said...

Teachers, I hope you will feel free to contact Matt Pearl and help with his report. (See info above.)

Dunwoody Mom said...

The postponement of the school closings had nothing to do with SCW or politics. The Georgia DOE will be assisting DCSS with the Local School Facilities Plan. As it was explained to us today, for years DCSS, i.e. Crawford Lewis did not feel like DCSS needed the help of the GA DOE. Ms. Tyson and others are working hard to mend the relationship with the GA DOE - they in fact me with the GA DOE on Monday. Ms. Tyson reiterated today that 10 to 12 schools will be closed.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:09 here. I want to clarify what I posted earlier regarding knee-jerk responses. The idea that S. DeKalb is not getting what N. DeKalb gets is what I was talking about. SCW seems to look at everything through a lens of "We need to make things even, because they aren't".

I suspect that there are inequities - several DCSS teachers have posted here that there is a difference in the education and attitude in S. DeKalb. But more money for tracks, sidewalk coverings or new auditoriums isn't going to get at the root cause. It is going to take a countywide commitment to providing a quality education by putting the children first and returning autonomy to qualified teachers and schoolhouse administrators.

Cerebration said...

You are correct, Dunwoody Mom. Tyson was bold enough and yet humble enough to swing the door open to working with the state. I applaud her for that. However, some board members have twisted this action to make it appear as though it is in response to the protests and community outcry - it is not. We will definitely still see schools closed - just most likely not until next May. Along with this, we will most likely see a completely new attendance zone plan.

My main consideration is that they either sell or raze old buildings - not leave them to cause blight on neighborhoods as they have in the past. (Shallowford ES, Heritage ES, Druid Hills property...)

Cerebration said...

Anon, 2:18 PM, Kim Gokce shared with us the fabulous accomplishments of the students at Cross Keys this year (which have not been promoted by the system at all) - but along with that - I can tell you for sure that some money for a new track or an auditorium would be most welcomed and appreciated by these fabulous students and the staff at CKHS. They succeed IN SPITE of the lack of support they endure. I applaud them.

BTW - Kim, would you mind sharing a list of those award-winning CKHS students and their accomplishments this year? I was so impressed with what you presented to the board.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 2:18 pm
"I suspect that there are inequities - several DCSS teachers have posted here that there is a difference in the education and attitude in S. DeKalb."

One of the most glaring inequities is the expenditure of Title 1 funds. Here is quote from the Federal Title 1 Department:
"More than 50,000 public schools across the country use Title I funds to provide additional academic support and learning opportunities to help low-achieving children master challenging curricula and meet state standards in core academic subjects. For example, funds support extra instruction in reading and mathematics, as well as special preschool, after-school, and summer programs to extend and reinforce the regular school curriculum."

Title 1 funds have been used like a piggy bank at the Central Office to purchase expensive, ineffective programs like America's Choice ($8,000,000) and Springboard ($1,4000,000) and to hire 80 Instructional ($8,000,000) and 13 Literacy Coaches ($1,000,000) who never instruct or interact with students.

A greater percentage of Title 1 fund expenditure decisions used to be at the local level, and even system wide (Central Office driven) Title 1 decisions resulted in Title 1 Reading and Title 1 Math teachers who worked directly with small groups of struggling math and reading students. These Title 1 Reading and Math teachers pre-tested at the beginning of school and post-tested at the end. It was easy to see if there were gains in achievement for their students. This was "accountability before accountability was cool". The goal was to get these students to grade level so they could be mainstreamed back into the regular math and/or reading classes. Title 1 funds were used for science, math, reading and technology materials, and equipment that local school teachers knew their students needed. In some schools the teachers and the principal decided reading and math tutors were a good expenditure of Title 1 funds. Title 1 school parents, teachers and students could see the benefits of those tens of millions of dollars.

Dr. Lewis assumed greater and greater control of Title 1 funds which were subsequently spent on programs and personnel that produced no academic benefits.

The inequities are exacerbated by the withdrawal of funds from many Title 1 schools as those tens of millions of dollars are now are used for programs and personnel who have no impact on students.

Title 1 schools used to use those funds to provide the "extras" that many PTAs provide in more affluent areas. Now those "extras" are gone - not because the money is not there - DCSS has more Title 1 money than ever - but because the money is tucked away in the Central Office and used on administrative and support staff and programs that have no impact at the local level. (A good analogy is that Title 1 in DCSS has become a lot like a charity that spends most of its money on administration and staff with little impact on the people it's supposed to help).

Sarah Copelin-Wood has participated in the approval of Title 1 funds being used for ineffective programs and personnel. She’s as culpable as anyone, perhaps more so since she has so many schools in her district are Title 1. She has not lifted a finger to help them get these funds back down to a school level.

Parents in Title 1 schools should be asking their BOE members hard questions about what their children are getting with the expenditure of Title 1 funds.

DCSS taxpayers are always told that Instructional Coaches and America's Choice and Springboard, etc. don't cost anything and that they can only be used for those programs. That is simply not true. Title 1 funds can be used many different ways, and someone always pays the bill. In a way, you could say the students in Title 1 schools foot the bill for all those $93,000 a year Instructional Coaches and that $400,000 Hollywood trip. The funds have flowed from the students to these expenditures.

Cerebration said...

Excellent post, Anon. Please forward your comment to Pam Speaks. As a former high-ranking Title 1 administrator in DCSS, she is the one board member who will grasp what you are saying.

Anonymous said...

If you want to know if your school is a Title 1 school so you can contact your BOE member, go to this DCSS webpage:

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/instruction/improvement/files/F708316B4669445D86E24919986F7158.pdf

andi said...

Thank you for clearing it up.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, DCSS will never move beyond the "race riots" of the 1960s and all that it brought with it so long as the leadership of the system is of an age and background to have personally been a part of it all. The vast majority (all but 2 in my estimation) of the DCSS board of ed was either on the receiving end of the stick or on the "granting" end of the stick. So long as those are the people who are in power, rather than a younger generation which wasn't a part of it all, I do not believe we will ever move forward.

The fact that the folks like ZR and SCW refuse to grasp that the county is 80% of their own and that all of those children need them and that another 10% are latino and really need them is beyond me. This ought to be a violation of SACS as no individual represents only one part of the county -- they represent the entire county. White students are a mere 8-10% of the county school child population. It's time to move into the 21st Century. It is absolutely criminal, if not illegal, for them to pay such little attention to the Lation population and I believe it is a brewing law suit.

Cerebration said...

As far as the future closings of schools - especially those in South DeKalb - one big reason for declining neighborhood enrollments is the charters the system is forming in the area. These charters are serving to take students from local neighborhood schools. This fall, we will have two of them opening in South DeKalb - Peachtree Hope and DeKalb Leadership Academy.

Maureen Downey has written an excellent post on the subject - here's an excerpt -

At the same public hearings last month where DeKalb school planners detailed the diminishing population of schoolchildren in vast swatches of south DeKalb, an employee of a new charter school approved by the commission was in the audience talking up the school to parents.

The representative of Peachtree Hope Charter School explained that the school plans to open in August on Memorial Drive with 540 elementary school students and eventually more than double in size to include a high school.

Does it make sense to approve a school designed for 1,200 students in an area of the county that’s losing school-age population?


Read the rest of the post at this link:
A court will decide: Are charter schools a choice the state should make?

Anonymous said...

Why isn't a degree, from a 4 year college/university, part of the eligibility criteria for serving on the BOE??? Seems fundamental to me.

May 4, 2010 3:25 PM

I would settle for someone who could pass the Georgia High School Graduation Test. In fact, I think candidates should take it to be eligible to run.

Anonymous said...

The most recent Sunday NY Times ran an in depth article on charter schools. It is worth a look. I will quote one part-

“But for all their support and cultural cachet, the majority of the 5,000 or so charter schools nationwide appear to be no better and in many cases worse, than local public schools when measured by achievement on standardized tests, according to experts citing years of research. Last year one of the most comprehensive studies, by researchers from Stanford University, found that fewer than one-fifth of charter schools nationally offered a better education than comparable local schools, almost half offered an equivalent education and more than a third, 37 percent, were “significantly worse.”

Here’s a link that I hope will work.


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/education/02charters.html?scp=4&sq=charter%20schools&st=cse

Cerebration said...

A bit of news this eve from the AJC about Monday's final budget meeting.

About a dozen school police officers join more than 300 DeKalb County school employees whose jobs will be on the chopping block on Monday.

The DeKalb school board is scheduled to give its final approval Monday night on the fiscal year 2011 budget, which includes at least $107 million in cuts.

Among those cuts are 150 central office employees. Last week, the school system’s 83-officer police force learned they are part of that group, which also includes administrators and secretaries.

Board Chairman Tom Bowen told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the central office layoffs will be spread evenly among departments, each receiving a 15 percent cut.

He insisted that every middle and high school still will have a school resource officer, and cuts will be made only to "excess" positions.


Read the rest here:

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/police-included-in-dekalb-522935.html

Cerebration said...

These figures are at the end of the AJC article -

Proposed fiscal year 2011 budget

Total budget: $1.191 billion

Operating budget: $735.3 million

Budgeted for instruction: $567.9 million

Budgeted for administration: $70.4 million

Budgeted for transportation: $32.6 million

Budgeted for pupil services: $43.6 million

Budgeted for instructional staff services: $17.6 million

Budgeted for maintenance and operations: $71.1 million

Proposed cuts: $107 million