Tuesday, June 8, 2010

DeKalb Schools Forfeit Millions in State Money

This warrants a posting unto itself. I am simply floored. Flabbergasted. Outraged. How on earth can we have such pitiful "leadership" endorsed and continually rubber-stamped by our board of education? How can anyone expect a student to turn in an essay on time - when our school leaders cannot seem to make a 5 year deadline with millions of dollars hanging in the balance?

I just have no words.

From WSB today:

Lynn Jackson, Associate Superintendent for Business Operations for Georgia’s Department of Education told Investigative Reporter Jodie Fleischer the district repeatedly missed deadlines to submit paperwork and failed to follow state guidelines to qualify for the reimbursements.

“I was perplexed by this. Truly, I could not understand why DeKalb County could not comply," said Jackson.

When the DeKalb County School District built McNair High School, the state was planning to contribute $297,010. However, the district missed the deadline to turn in paperwork, thereby forfeiting the money for that project. The same 18-month deadline was also missed for projects at Stone Mountain Middle and Peachtree Middle. 


. . .

Fleischer approached DeKalb County School Board Budget Chairman, Paul Womack, about the forfeited funds for at least nine schools.

"It makes me sick, as it will the rest of the board I'm quite sure," Womack said He said he planned to raise the issue in Executive Session at Monday night’s School Board meeting.

He’s been working to steer the school system through a major budget crunch, during which parents have criticized financial waste and priorities. "I think they would be outraged and rightly so," Womack said.

According to Fleischer, he’s wondering how many more millions of dollars the alleged construction scheme and mismanagement will end up costing.

"I can't comment on whether it's criminal or incompetence, but I'm going to take the latter and say maybe it was a willful disregard," added Womack.


. . .

You said it, Paul. Personally, I think it's criminal - at least to the extent that Pope and Lewis were fearful of the state looking closely at their shenanigans.

For a full listing of the forfeited funds, click here.

83 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why would we not request the money?
If it was a matter of paper work someone could have been assigned to do this.

For the amount of money involved it would have been well worth a person being assigned to make certain that this was done.

What were the ramifications of us not getting this money?

What could we have done or saved with that money?




"Larger class sizes, fewer school based people, less suport with technology, furlough days, fewer buildings being repaired."

What could 10 million dollars have provided for us?

"I know the money may not have been able to be applied to those things listed, but did we take money from other resources and use it to cover the money we did not get from the state?"

I am sure that there is much that we do not know.

It is going to be so hard to regain trust.

There are so many unanswered questions.

I copied part of my comments from my 12:39.

Anonymous said...

So I just spoke to someone in the know about the construction money (and that is what the 10 million dollars is, unfortunately not money that can be used for operations.)

Here is the situation, if the projects haven't been finished and officially closed, then the paperwork can be put in order and the money can be recouped. That is what happened with the $24 million that Fran Millar helped get restored.

What is lost is the time value of money. Were any projects delayed because of this?

Lynn Deutsch

Dunwoody Mom said...

Interesting, Lynn. Since the new Peachtree Middle School building has not been officially "closed out", can they recoup the money for that and use it to pay the remaining $200,00+ thousand dollars owed on that project?

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, the way it works is that the state money is allocated to certain qualifying projects. So, the funding is project specific, know what I mean.

So, if DCSS was due money for Peachtree and the paper work wasn't in proper order, if Ms. Colman and her staff get it done then the money will come.

Lynn Deutsch

Dunwoody Mom said...

So, maybe they can throw in some money for a new marquee in front of the school that 1990's marquee is about to fall apart. :)

I jest...sort of. If schools can get Lion statues in front of their new schools, at least Peachtree should get a new marquee? I see that Dunwoody Elementary got 2 new marquees.

Anonymous said...

You may have heard the expression "Too many cooks spoil the broth"? Sometimes, when you have too many people doing a job, it doesn't get done. Either everyone thinks someone else is working on it, or it was never assigned to someone on the team. Either way, there is no accountability here. One person in charge of a small team might help with this situation. Those oversized teams at the County Office might be part of this problem.

Clearly, there is no accountability here. Pat (Pope) Reid certainly had enough people on staff to get all of this paperwork done. Instead of sending her secretary out to take care of her personal business, the woman should have been keeping track of the details on these projects and reporting back to her boss on a regular basis. Then, if you are willfully violating the law, you don't want anyone to know. Just push it under the rug.

Anonymous said...

Thanks everyone for the information. Forgive me if I still seem confused, the money that we spent on these projects came out of what fund?
Since we didn't get the state money, how did we pay for these.
I echo the sentiments of Anon 1:55:
Why would we have not taken steps to apply for this money?
People had to know that at some point this information would be made public.
This just does not make sense. We are a large urban school system. An error as large as this was bond to be revealed.
Were there no checks and balances in place?
If this money had been collected, then could the 10 million we did use, be used for other projects?
Lynn,
I did appreciate your comments last night. I also appreciated the ones of John Evans.

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain this part to me?

"Flat Rock Elementary-- $4,747,248.00
After money was approved, DeKalb Schools opted to fund with local bonds instead Mountain Industrial Center. No money forfeited. Failed to submit architectural plans for approval until AFTER students were already in the completed building"

So the state approved reimbursement of $4,747,248
for Flat Rock Elementary and DCSS did what? Does it mean we didn't build Flat Rock Elementary instead we used SPLOST for Mountain Industrial Center? Or am I misreading and am totally confused?? Thanks for any clarification anyone can give on this.

Cerebration said...

I'm certain this is money that would have shored up SPLOST projects - so it didn't effect the classroom - other than we could have used SPLOST money for additional projects had we also recovered state funds.

It's just sloppiness, greed, ignorant, self-absorbed attitudes, ineptitude, buffoonery, incompetence... shall I go on? Ironic that these deadlines were missed for 5 years - and Lewis was superintendent for gee -- 5 years! With his egomaniacal sidekick Pat (Pope) Reid practically the whole way. Too bad she didn't keep her first husband's last name - Clark. They could be the antithesis Lewis & Clark.

Idiots. With oversight by more idiots.

Cerebration said...

Anon, 2:54 PM - I think this paragraph just needs a return... Reread it like this:

"Flat Rock Elementary-- $4,747,248.00
After money was approved, DeKalb Schools opted to fund with local bonds instead.

Mountain Industrial Center. No money forfeited.
Failed to submit architectural plans for approval until AFTER students were already in the completed building"

Cerebration said...

Too many cooks? I disagree. This is millions of dollars and a basic funding mechanism for school construction. ALL other school systems in the state managed to get their fair share. No. The buck stops at Pat Pope, Crawford Lewis and ultimately the Board of Education.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Should not there be some type of report coming from DCSS Operations that indicates the amount of money the district should receive from the state and some process to check to make sure that is occurring. That report should be a standard part of the information given to the Board each month. This never entered the BOE members that, gee, where is the money we are supposed to receive from the state? So far, it's $34 million - the $10 million referenced in this article and the $24 million Fran Millar worked out.

Anonymous said...

Well, Pat Pope had all these staff members and they didn't file the paperwork? She obviously never asked anyone to work on this paperwork and nobody took the initiative. That's too many cooks and you are correct it was her responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Most important question right now is, "Has the Board required procedures be put in place to secure the "lost" funds and what are they doing to make sure it does not happen again?"
I suspect most of this Board does not have a clue.
Gets more unbelievable every day!!

Tax Payer said...

Dear DeKalb Board of Education:

I have merely one question for each of you:

"Are you stupid or do you just not care?"

Respectfully,

Your Tax Payer

C Lew said...

C'mon!

Look on the bright side: We didn't need those millions of dollars. We had plenty of P Card money for booty calls at the Ritz Carlton!

C Lew

Anonymous said...

Enough is enough. I am sick and tired of incompetent people. We are paying enough people in the central office that this should never happen, let alone happen so many times. One time is too much.

This should have been talked about during the regular board meeting. Not hidden behind closed doors. I call for no more meetings behind closed doors.

Board Members, people do not trust you or believe you. Show us that you really want what is best for DCSS and care about our children.

Cerebration said...

Personally, I am most disappointed in Gene Walker. Gene has a PhD from Duke - he is a smart guy. He's retired. He was a civil rights activist. He should be fighting the hardest for the children of anyone on this board. He has the clout, the leadership and the ability, yet he barely speaks up for the children. Focus Gene - please - make your mark for the children of DeKalb County - let the high salaried moochers of the system make their own way. You owe this to the world and your own karma. I really mean it - I want to see you booming and fighting for the kids. Why are you so meek? Why do you just sit back and demand that we increase taxes to pay for everything under the sun - the moochers AND the kids? That's too easy. Get out the budget - the list of people asking for contract renewals and start chopping. Obviously - we can't really count on Ramona to do it. If Womack and McChesney do it, they will be called racists. Zepora, Sarah and Jay don't have backbones. It's you - Gene Walker - step up.

Teaching at a DCSS High School said...

So, Here I am trying to get a summer position at Quick Trip to supplement my income while my employer has been found to waste/forfeit millions of dollars just because they didn't file paperwork. Oh wait, "they" happens to be a whole boatload of people who HAD TO know these deadlines were not being met but passed the buck and blamed those who are under indictment.

Bye,bye BOARDie.

...not hudreds, not thousands, but MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.

I never thought I'd say this, but I welcome a state takeover of DCSS.....Oh wait, people keep leaving the state Dept. of Ed. Maybe they know something we don't. But then again, we don't know a whole lot about DCSS.... just foulup after foulup.

We've only just begun to scratch the surface of what seems like OUR OWN version of the BP OILSPILL.

.

Ella Smith said...

I was called by the newcaster yesterday afternoon as she wanted to interview me. I had been busy working on school work all day for my class and had not even taken a shower so I talked to her on the phone and told her I was going to the school board meeting. If she was there I would be glad to talk to her. However, I had to get ready to go to the school board meeting so I could not be interviewed at that time.

I said to her on the phone that the most important thing the school board must do right now is find the right school superintendent to assure that the school system is in good hands. IMO in the past too many people want to be able to micro-manage and have a say in how the school system is run. This may have got up in this situation to start with.

Many of the school system officials are so busy dealing with the micro-management issues of certain politicians that they may not be attending to the paperwork they need to be attending to.

I went to a workshop on Wed. afternoon given by the Ga. School Board Association and they continued to discuss how important it was to allow the school superintendent staff run the school system and that the school board not micro-manage. However, the school board is to oversee the budget, make guidelines for the school system, hire the school superintendent to run the school system, set the vision and goals of the school system, and make final decisions that oversee the school system.

I think this is sad. The school system did just hire a superintendent auditor that is suppose to audit these type of things. I think this was probable a necessary position at this point with all the problems we have had lately. We need someone who is in charge of auditing all these departments and make sure they are in compliance.

With all the school administration we currently have and all the secretaries at the county office I think this is a disgrace and the school board is going to have to have audits done and turned over to them by the school superintendent and audit superintendent on a regular basis. There has got to be a check and balance system.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps someone can provide me with this information. Maybe a month ago information was in the AJC that Fran Mullis assisted us in finding out that we had not done the paper work to get funds from the state of Georgia related to our building program. I think that this came to light after April 16, 2010 the day Dr. Lewis left DeKalb.
I seem to remember that since we did not get the funds from the state that we used "local funds'.
Is this correct?
If I am correct, could these local funds have been used to help with the budget crisis in other ways? I hope that someone can explain this.

Also, this should be a crime. If we allowed our schools, students and staff to suffer because we did not turn in paper work we may have finally reached the bottom.

I do feel that it will take us a long time to find the right superintendent.
Anyone in their right mind would want answers to some of the same questions that are asked on this blog.

Anonymous said...

The May 6 AJC article

http://www.ajc.com/news/sloppy-paperwork-missed-deadlines-521866.html

This is an earlier report on the same story, isn't it?

Deborah

Dekalbparent said...

Seems to me that the "local funds" are SPLOST funds. Had the paperwork been done, and the state money received, the SPLOST money could have been used for projects on the SPLOST list that are currently "on hold". So even if the money saved could not have been used in the classroom, it could have been used to fix roofs, repair HVAC, clean up mold, etc. Still would have been "for the cheeeldren".

Second, Ms Jackson of the DOE is quoted as saying she spoke with Lewis and Reid about the money: Jackson said she couldn't think of another school district with a worse track record. “It was Pat Pope and Crawford Lewis that I met with repeatedly and I handed these documents to," said Jackson. What did they do with them - make airplanes???

There is no other reason - even if someone else was supposed to be taking care of the paperwork, the two top honchos KNEW it hadn"t been done.

Cerebration said...

I do believe that's correct, Deborah. Recently, we learned that Fran Millar (Rep from Dunwoody) rescued us from this abyss and was able to work with the state to recover millions of dollars of these lost funds.

Thank you Fran!

The AJC synopsizes our situation quite well -

The AJC has learned that DeKalb taxpayers have spent millions of dollars in sales tax to help build and renovate schools, instead of relying on state funds as other districts do. State law allows for reimbursement of up to 90 percent of construction costs.

“Taxpayers are having to pay more local dollars for these projects because they’re not getting their state portion,” said Lynn Jackson, the Georgia Department of Education’s associate superintendent for business operations. “Other projects could have lost out.”


Yet another reason to vote down SPLOST 4. Chamblee people - claim your promised money - do not fall for this trick --- Oh! IF you vote for SPLOST 4 you'll get what's behind door #3! Grrr - we've fallen for that 3 times already...

Cerebration said...

“It was Pat Pope and Crawford Lewis that I met with repeatedly and I handed these documents to," said Jackson.

Sort of says it all, doesn't it? We've been hosed - by a sneaky, greedy construction fake and an even sneakier, greedier, fakier superintendent.

This board fell for it all -

Hook.

Line.

Sinker.

Like someone said earlier -

"Bye, bye Boardie"

Cerebration said...

“I’ve had discussions with the superintendent in past years and he told us it would be taken care of,” Jackson said.

Sure. AFTER I get back from the Ritz!

Anonymous said...

Any "legal eagles" want to comment on the idea of civil action against all culpable parties on the basis of the following:

Unjust Enrichment

Look up the term because it has made for some interesting reading.

Cerebration said...

Millar said he will continue to monitor the state funding, but he wonders why no one in the district noticed the discrepancy.

“When you see something that abnormal, a flag should be raised,” he said. “We have elected officials with the school board. These people should be able to handle this. You are talking about a good bit of money.”

Anonymous said...

"Bye, bye Boardie" is right, Cere.

We can't wait for the election and the mere possibility of a partial replacement of board members. This board needs to be removed entirely.

We need to have an honest, untainted, competent, interim board appointed NOW. They need to hire an honest, untainted, effective, experienced, superintendant NOW. Someone with the right knowledge, skills, abilities, and especially, the right motivations.

We need to put together the argument and petition the right people to make this happen. Is there a precedent from which we can learn? Can SACS help, or is there a national organization that can provide assistance?

Certainly, I would hope that some day in the future, we will have good governance overseen by an elected board, but for now, we need a take-over and complete overhaul.

Our children can't wait for things to gradually improve over YEARS. Quality of life, home values, employment opportunities in Dekalb County will not withstand continued degradation of our public school system.

Honest, dedicated teachers, principals and staff are afraid to speak out, except anonymously. Parents and neighborhoods are pitted against one another in petty arguments. Most of us (parents and neighbors) have no idea what's going on, and when we catch an ugly glimpse, recoil in distaste and despair. Well, it's all coming out, and we have to be brave and look at it. We have to be brave and speak out. We need to CLEAN HOUSE NOW so all can participate freely, with complete and correct information, in the discussion of what to do next to fix things and make our schools what they ought to be.

Deborah Rolka

Anonymous said...

From AJC, update on Clayton County progress: BOE still has work to do.

http://www.ajc.com/news/clayton/sacs-clayton-school-board-544428.html

Deborah

Cerebration said...

This actually isn't even news -- below is an excerpt from an email Don McChesney sent to DeKalb Parent that we published on this blog in Feb, 2009.

Also in our discussions with the Ga. legislature we seem to have found $20 million more for DeKalb than was listed in the newspaper about a month ago. The only thing we don't know is if we will get it this year or it will be shuffled off to next year, because the governor's budget had already been set. We are pleading for now, but all we can do is ask. This money would go directly to buildings.

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2009/02/maybe-dcss-was-real-leader-in-cutting.html

Cerebration said...

Gee, DeKalb better go on ahead and get started on implementing Clayton's "to-do" list - these are certainly things DeKalb needs to do too - ASAP!

Mandates in progress:

--Establish a governing board that is capable of fulfilling its roles and responsibilities.

--Remove the influence of outside groups/individuals.

--Review all board policies. Train board members on policies.

Mandates completed:

--Enact and commit to an ethics policy.

--Conduct a full forensic audit of finances.

--Conduct a comprehensive audit of student attendance records.

--Ensure each board member is a legal resident of the county and is eligible to hold office.

--Hire outside consultants with expertise in conflict resolution, governance and organizational effectiveness.

--Appoint a permanent superintendent with the experience to lead the district.

Recommendations completed:

--Initiate a comprehensive, community-based process to review and revise the school system’s vision, mission and values.

--Implement a systematic and comprehensive strategic planning process that focuses on improving student achievement.

--Conduct a comprehensive review of the school system’s organization and job descriptions.

--Establish an action plan for the resolution of problems and conflicts.

Anonymous said...

Cere @ 8:51 quoted Dunwoody House Rep Fran Millar as saying: "“When you see something that abnormal, a flag should be raised,” he said. “We have elected officials with the school board. These people should be able to handle this. You are talking about a good bit of money.”

Didn't school board elected official Jim Redovian recently submit a letter to the editor of the Dunwoody Crier in support of Mr. Millar's campaign for a senate seat?

Go figure. Fran dis's Redovian; Redovian responds with an endorsement.

WTF?

Anonymous said...

I think Fran Millar should ditch the House and the Senate, and become Superintendent Millar.

Cerebration said...

He'd better endorse Fran Millar - they all better. Without him, we'd be $26 million MORE in the hole. If Ron Ramsey hadn't spent so much time and energy campaigning to boycott Dunwoody - perhaps HE would have noticed DeKalb's lack of funding and gone to bat for us... He's a state rep too - AND head of Internal Affairs for DCSS. If ANYONE should have known or at least figured out a way to work with the state to get back some money it should have been Ron Ramsey. But he's too chummy with Lewis to embarrass him for not turning in paperwork worth millions of taxpayer's dollars for children.

Heck - I wish Fran would take the superintendent's job! Help us Fran!

Anonymous said...

GET RID OF RON RAMSEY ... FOR MANY REASONS. HAS ANYONE OUT THERE EVER DEALT WITH HIM? VERY VERY INEFFECTIVE. AND UNPROFESSIONAL. VERY RUDE TO VISITORS. I'VE HEARD MANY MANY COMPLAINTS. BUT HE'S STILL THERE GOING AFTER THE LITTLE PEOPLE AND IGNORING THE OBVIOUS RIGHT UNDER HIS NOSE.

BY THE WAY, ISN'T AGAINST SOME LAW FOR HIM TO HAVE THE DCSS JOB AND BE A STATE SENATOR?? HOW CAN HE EARN HIS SALARY ON BOTH JOBS WITHOUT TAKING TIME OFF FROM ONE?

IF ANYONE HAS AN ANSWER TO THIS, WE'D LOVE TO HEAR IT.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that we've found interest in the AJC article re: the Clayton County School System. As a former board member, I found this excerpt from the article particularly impactful:

"Board member Pam Adamson agreed with the criticism that the board doesn’t take enough initiative. She noted previous school boards were accused of micromanaging.

“We’re trying to feel our way and learn how to take a leadership role without usurping the superintendent’s authority,” she said. “That’s something a new board has to learn.”"

And THAT is the great conundrum a board faces, especially one which had previously come under (SACS) fire for micromanaging. Ella alluded to this point earlier in the day. Board members can't meddle, but they're supposed to be leaders. And all that we've seen lately in DeKalb is a leadership vacuum -- a vacuum which created all those licenses to harm children. Oh, the number of training sessions we underwent on how to be compliant and silent. Given by GSBA. Oh, how some of us were admonished for asking too many questions during meetings because that would appear as though we're meddling. And the same John Evans who spoke so passionately last night was the very one who (with a current board member's help) brought the wrath of SACS upon our heads during the previous superintendent's departure.

But should any of that serve as an excuse for the vacuum of leadership? NO. And that's what Clayton is now stepping through and what DeKalb will have to step through for some time to come. State law is very clear as to the makeup of boards and superintendents. Just as the U.S. Constitution has its own built-in conundrums to keep checks and balances, so does Georgia law on this issue. A board must be savvy enough to comply with the law, negotiate the manure and still serve children and taxpayers.

It is the lack of a leadership culture which is really under indictment here, and that culture is mandated and demonstrated (and earned) by the BOE. Period. If any board member -- current or former -- somehow feels vindicated because SACS or anyone else said it couldn't meddle and it therefore didn't know the details, s/he should be ashamed. It IS true that many details are not evidenced to the BOE because it receives an agenda and an opportunity for up-or-down votes. On this, this board is correct. However, the intelligent board knows how to navigate the waters. By asking tough questions. By caucasing on important matters and crossing barriers. Because at the end of the day, the BOE sets the tone and the culture of leadership -- everything else follows.

Ella Smith said...

Annoymous 10:39

Very well said.

Anonymous said...

I've said it before, and I will say it again. The key to understanding how this fraud went down, how dates were missed and why qualifying projects were changed to COPs or other funding sources lies with the P. Pope whistleblower. She's an attorney--very sharp. It is not such a secret that she has been working with the DA Office on the investigation--she knows what happened and can explain how it happened. She is above reproach. She should be the next CCO--assuming she could survive among the current "interim" administration that I am sure are still beholden to Lewis, Pope, Turk and the status quo. Such a shame. DCSS will lose those employees that truly could change the ways of DCSS.

Whistleblower: we stand behind you...we are thankful for your efforts to better DCSS.

Anonymous said...

In response to support for Whistleblower...I think it would be very interesting to give all DCSS employees a free pass to talk of the issues they have faced under the Lewis/Pope-Reid regime. Give them 30 days to give specifics of money issues, or problems they had with this lot..and work to fix them before we lose any more of the good people that have not been fired/ laid off or quit in frustration. There is a lot of fear from the ranks to tell what they know as they need their jobs!!!

Insider said...

Only 21 calendar days (15 work days) till a certain former COO is off the payroll!

Anonymous said...

Re: Anon 9:40 am
What I'd really like to see is a way for any staff working for a BOE member to anonymously blow the whistle.
A fish, as the saying goes, stinks from the head down.

Anonymous said...

Zepora Roberts, when asked if she was going to run for re-election, was quoted as saying , “Why shouldn’t I run? My record speaks for itself.”

Jim Redovian, when asked the same question, said “I plan to run and let the voters decide what kind of job I’ve done," “I’m just not done yet.”

I think it’s important that the board keep as much of its "experience" as it can.”
I think it's obvious how "great" your record has been and what "wonderful" job you all have done. I'm sorry but we don't need anymore of that kind of "experience."

It's time we get rid of this Old Guard. We need to elected people who actually have kids in our schools (or at least have had kids there in the last 20 years, unlike the current Board). We need a Board who actually visits our schools and talks to our teachers and principals.

To re-use a slogan used by a recent politician It's time for CHANGE

I think I'll step down from my soap box now.

T

Anonymous said...

T,

One person thinking about running for school board told a board member that she was running because her board member doesn't pay enough attention to her child's school.

There is a long legacy of board members who are only interested in a few schools. What we need, is in fact, the latter of what you described, candidates whose children are done with school and get take a critical eye to the needs of the whole county.

The board that was in place until 2006 was notorious for trading votes. Tons of tit for tats going on and this was with a near majority or majority of the board being current parents of children in DCSS at the time.

What we don't need are Johnny or Janies come lately to this situation. We need folks who have been attending board meetings and have developed enough instincts to know when not to trust the staff and when to trust them.

I am greatly concerned that candidates that are to green and to new will take to long to get up to speed. That is why, we have the correct candidates to replace the current board.

I ask again -- has anyone heard about candidates for Cunningham's, Robert's and Walker's districts? Asking again another way -- has anyone heard of candidates running in those districts that can win?

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised Zepora didn't complain she wasn't getting paid enough to campaign

Anonymous said...

Why can't we get our act together here in DeKalb County??

http://www.wsbtv.com/video/23835380/index.html

Anonymous said...

Great stuff at Kingsley. You'd think with the hundreds of Central Office administrators, DCSS would have a system-wide garden program. But the effective and efficient staff like Dr. Shannon Williams have left. So every school is on their own.


http://www.thecrier.net/articles/2010/06/09/news/kingsleygarden.txt

One of the most unattractive parts of the Kingsley Charter Elementary School campus has received a much-needed face-lift courtesy of members of the school’s garden club.

The side of the campus most visible to parents and visitors in the carpool lane now has a picturesque view of an array of well-landscaped blooming flowers and young trees. The area also showcases a raised planter’s box and picnic tables. Initially, the school’s satellite dish was located in that area along with a couple of trees. The dish was taken out years ago along with the trees and slowly, but surely, weeds took over.


Lincoln, a longtime paraprofessional at Kingsley, along with first grade teacher, Bernardette Cummings; Lenn Reed, special education teacher, and parents Mettina Van der Veen and Amanda Hensley began training and volunteering last year after receiving support to pursue the project from the school’s charter council.

In its inaugural year, the Kingsley Charter School garden club was well represented last month when the five Master Gardeners (Cummings, Reed, Lincoln, Hensley, Van der Veen) received their certificates. Other awards were also given at the ceremony.

Members of the garden club are taught lessons utilizing the Georgia Performance Standards. They are taught gardening and landscaping techniques tailored for school grounds to create an outdoor classroom.

The school garden club was implemented this school year. It has been a labor of love for the adults and students involved. It was important to make the club available to students because, “too many children have nature deficit disorder,” Lincoln said of today’s youth lack of knowledge of nature. “It’s been documented that nature is essential for the brain,” she acknowledged.

“I think that it is important that we humans understand that other living things, plant or animal, have an impact on our daily lives...literally our every breath,” Lincoln added. “It is sad to me to think that children are being raised without the knowledge of who or what to be thankful for in nature. Here in America, we take so many things for granted.”

So far, there were 40 students from kindergarten to fifth grade who participated in the club that meets on Thursdays after school. Because of the large number of students involved, one week Kindergarten through second graders participated in the club and the following week third through fifth grade had their turn.


As the three teachers talked of the club’s future plans, their love for working outdoors and nursing their plants is evident. Cummings, whose specialty is science, believes that the club is an opportunity to teach the students much-needed critical thinking experiences.

“There is so much you can teach in the garden,” Cummings added. “It’s cross-curriculum, and it’s all hands on experiences.”

Anonymous said...

How long before we start seeing some resignations from the CLew-less mob? If the BOE had any smarts they would have asked for the entire CLew-less cabinet's resignation by now.

There are enough grounds to fire every single person on the Clew-less cabinet. How long must we put up with these frauds?

Time for tough decisions is now, not next month or 16 months down the line. Our kids would be better off if the entire Central Office resigned and we started fom scratch.

Come on Redovian, show some leadership and start asking for resignations.

Anonymous said...

Well Gloria Talley is going in a few weeks. But not before she tries to ensure DCSS teachers will have a little more instructional time drained from the business is teaching students - she's trying to institute that teachers give up hoirs of planning time and meeting with parents so the legions of non teaching trainers can still justify their jobs by requiring them to train during their busy day or after they've worked all day and are exhausted. She's helped create the current system and how has that worked out for our kids?

Anonymous said...

Crawford is giving interviews to the NYT on cheating LOL http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/education/11cheat.html?hp

Dunwoody Mom said...

OT here, but Education Week has a "Graduation by the Number" presentation. It is full of articles and information. Here is a link to their profile for DeKalb County Graduation Report (based on 2007 data - which is the latest data available). It's not very pretty.

http://www.edweek.org/apps/gmap/details.html?year=2009&zoom=8&type=2&id=1301740

Square Peg said...

Very, very interesting.

Note that the formula calculates students who graduate on time. Students who repeat 9th grade -- and there are a lot of them, as can be seen by comparing the number of 8th graders with the number of 9th graders -- can't be distinguished from dropouts on the basis of this calculation.

Cerebration said...

This is where we get the different numbers. DeKalb (as I understand - at least at Lakeside) calculates their graduation rate using the number of students who began that year as a senior divided into the number who actually graduated. Even then, the rate is never 100% - it's in the 80-90's...

When, in reality, if you calculated the rate using the number of students who began as freshmen with the recent graduating class, the graduation rate (in 4 years) would be closer to only 50-60%. (Example: Lakeside has consistently had 500-600 freshmen, however usually less than 300 graduates every year for the last 5-6 years.) The unanswered question is - do those 200-300 students ever actually graduate? From Lakeside? From anywhere?

This method used by Education Week (which reveals where problems lie in preparation for high school) sheds light on exactly how many students are not able to make it through high school in 4 years - however, it still does not reveal the dropout rate.

I remember once - Dr Lewis proclaimed that over 80% of our graduates go on to college. Now, with denial like that, how are we to make the changes necessary (obviously in middle school) to provide better opportunities for our students?

It's hard to look at the truth -- but until you do, you cannot make changes for the better.

Cerebration said...

I do agree with what Lewis says to the NYT -

Crawford Lewis, the district superintendent at the time, summoned Dr. Berry and Ms. Alexander to separate meetings. During four hours of questioning — “back and forth, back and forth, back and forth,” Dr. Lewis said — principal and assistant principal admitted to cheating.

“They both broke down” in tears, Dr. Lewis said.

Dr. Lewis said that Dr. Berry, whom he had appointed in 2005, had buckled under the pressure of making yearly progress goals. Dr. Berry was a former music teacher and leader of celebrated marching bands who, Dr, Lewis said, had transferred some of that spirit to passing the state tests in a district where schools hold pep rallies to get ready.

Dr. Berry, who declined interview requests, resigned and was arrested in June 2009 on charges of falsifying a state document. In December, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation. The state suspended him from education for two years and Ms. Alexander for one year.

Dr. Lewis, now retired as superintendent, called for refocusing education away from high-stakes testing because of the distorted incentives it introduces for teachers. “When you add in performance pay and your evaluation could possibly be predicated on how well your kids do testing-wise, it’s just an enormous amount of pressure,” he said.

“I don’t say there’s any excuse for doing what was done, but I believe this problem is going to intensify before it gets better.”

Square Peg said...

Cere, perhaps a more accurate method is to compare the number graduating in 2007 with regular diplomas (4730) or completing high school (5539) with the class size when these same students were 8th graders in Fall, 2002 (7704). That gives a district-wide graduation rate of 61.3% or a "completion" rate of 71.9%.

(1) the number of 9th graders is always artificially high because of repeaters - the number of 8th graders is a more accurate base

(2) not all the students who don't graduate are dropouts: in addition to the 4730 regular diplomas, there were 208 special education diplomas and 601 certificates of attendance

I'm not saying we don't have a problem. I'm saying that finer-grained analysis gives us a better understanding of the various aspects of the problem. Can't hope to fix it without understanding it.

I wanted to make sure I was using the right numbers, so I got the 2006 and 2007 numbers off the state website and plugged them into EPE's formula. I got the same result that they did:

CPI = 7155/9647 * 6319/7006 * 6264/6798 * 4730/6149 = 47.4%

where 7155 is the number of 10th graders in Fall, 2007, etc.

---------------------

http://public.doe.k12.ga.us/ReportingFW.aspx?PageReq=102&CountyId=644&T=1&FY=2008

Go to Student and School Demographics, then Enrollment by Demographics

for 2007 graduates, back up to the 2006-2007 page, click Indicators, then HS Completer Credentials

Cerebration said...

Great research as usual, Square Peg!

I think that moving to "one diploma" which includes all college-prep courses (minimally Algebra II) created a big hurdle for many kids. We owe it to all students to provide a pathway to productive citizenship. A majority of people do not attend college - but should expect to have work-ready skills upon graduation. That's why I advocate strongly for career and vo-tech schools.

We need to go back to offering 2 or 3 diploma choices. Johnny Brown was the one who created this one diploma system, and mandated Algebra 1 for 8th graders. His mantra was, "If you raise the bar, students will meet it." Well, time is telling us that he was wrong for many students. Overall "rates" do not tell individual stories. We need to provide life pathways for students to ensure their success as citizens and family leaders.

Cerebration said...

The telling number to me is the "percentage of students lost by grade" -- in DeKalb, the percent of students lost as 9th graders 49.1%

Square Peg said...

"Lakeside has consistently had 500-600 freshmen, however usually less than 300 graduates every year..." I looked it up and was surprised to see that this huge discrepancy started suddenly in 2007-2008 and continued in 2008-2009.

Fall 2007:
580 freshmen (481 in Fall 2006)
352 sophomores (421 in Fall 2006)
339 juniors
319 seniors

The earliest charts on the state website, on the 2002-2003 report card page are for 2002-2003, 2001-2002, and 2000-2001. They look pretty flat from grade to grade. 2001-2002 is extremely flat: 370 freshmen, 363 sophomores, 392 juniors, and 347 seniors.

So what happened in 2007 - did the school get a large influx of new students primarily into 9th grade (probably more people would be willing to change schools in 9th grade than later), or did the state tighten the promotion requirements out of 9th grade (inflating the 9th grade numbers), or both?

http://public.doe.k12.ga.us/ReportingFW.aspx?PageReq=102&SchoolId=717&T=1&FY=2009

Anonymous said...

Or was 2007, the year that NCLB transfers whalloped Lakeside, Chamblee and Dunwoody?

Square Peg said...

"The telling number to me is the "percentage of students lost by grade" -- in DeKalb, the percent of students lost as 9th graders 49.1%"

This is NOT the number of 9th graders who don't make it to 10th grade. Actually, 74.2% of 9th graders are in 10th grade the following year. (Using EPE's formula, 7155/9647 = 74.2% of Fall 2006 9th graders were in 10th grade in Fall 2007.)

What the number really is is what fraction of the total drop in student numbers is accounted for by 9th graders. EPE's interest is in FOUR-YEAR graduation rates, so it might be valid for their purposes, but we know a lot of 9th graders get held back. Therefore the number of 9th graders is artificially high compared to the number of 8th graders, so the proportion of lost students who are lost in 9th grade is misleading for our purposes.

9647-7155 = 2492 students "lost" from 9th to 10th
7006-6319 = 687 "lost" from 10th to 11th
6798-6264 = 534 "lost" from 11th to 12th
6149-4730 = 1419 seniors failed to graduate WITH REGULAR DIPLOMAS

Total: 5132 "lost" students, of whom 2492, or 48.6% were lost in 9th grade, 13.4% in 10th, 10.4% in 11th, and 27.7% in 12th. My numbers don't exactly match theirs -- since they didn't give a formula for number lost, my recreation of their method of calculating might be slightly off from what they actually did -- but my numbers are awfully close to theirs.

These "lost" students aren't really "lost." Many of the 9th graders are repeating 9th grade instead of getting promoted to 10th. Many of the 12th graders get certificates of attendance or special ed diplomas.

Keep in mind:
7704 8th graders in Fall 2002
5539 "completers" in Spring 2007
4917 regular diplomas in 2007

Cerebration said...

You got it, Anon. And there are untold numbers of administrative transfers as well. So - whittling that down, we could possibly surmise that students in the attendance zone (Henderson MS) were and are prepared, but the transfers coming from other middle schools in the county are not -- and do not make it through their freshman year.

My personal experience with this large freshman class is that it causes a lot of stress on teachers of freshmen. It also causes a lot of stress on the students from Henderson, who are not used to these enormous classes, trailers and extremely crowded and boisterous hallways at class change. On top of that, they are now introduced to over-stressed teachers who don't have the time or inclination to help those who are struggling. It's really become quite toxic -- but then, as you move along and the class sizes dwindle, the junior and senior years are very relaxed, with AP level classes and the top teachers.

It's basically two totally different schools within the same crumbling building and dozens of trailers needed to accommodate the 1700 students crammed into a building designed for 1300. Yet - still - our crown jewel, Arabia - the most expensive newly built high school (except Tucker which was a rebuild) - basically has students rattling around with only 1000 students in a building that can accommodate between 1600-2100 (depending on which news reports you read.)

This influx of out of zone students is what's causing the stress on Lakeside. Our in-district student population is far fewer than 1700 (probably about 1300 or less). Some say that these extras (beyond what Henderson sends) are coming from private schools. Well, maybe a 'few'. But a majority of the extra 400-600 in the building come from somewhere "else". That old, leaky building can't handle it. A transfer to Arabia is touted as an option - but it's about 28 miles away for Lakeside zoned students. Nice "choice"...

Some in the district have been wondering if this assault on Lakeside was purposeful... I've begun to wonder this myself. Our construction project has been promised and delayed for 4 years now. My theory is that Pat Pope refused to work on Lakeside because she was afraid that the community was too attentive and would figure out her "shenanigans"... Lewis just plain likes to give the Lakeside community a hard time - he messed up the school badly for two years with his on again, off again firing of Wayne Chelf. I personally was in a meeting when Lewis offered to take another look at Lakeside's construction needs if we could get parents to not challenge his firing of Chelf. It's like he's the type of guy who likes to torture fish before catching them.

Hasta lavista Lewis and Pope... Maybe Lakeside can finally get what they are due with the two of you out of the picture. I pray that we can begin the healing process back to an honest, equitable system.

Cerebration said...

Thanks for the clarification, Square Peg. You were able to present that better than I.

I don't think the special ed diplomas have much of an impact on the missing numbers of graduates. I would hesitate to "assume" any reason for missing numbers of students. It seems to me, our $19 million MIS department would have the capability of individually tracking students and presenting reliable data from which to make new plans.

Cerebration said...

Pope's defense is that taxpayers did not end up harmed - in that we did not pay more for construction than we would have with other vendors. This is simply not true, according to various news reports -

Not only have we lost out on millions from the state (as outlined in the text of this post), we seriously overpaid for the projects we did get done under Pope's leadership --

Exclusive: DeKalb School Construction Costs Top Other Districts

Posted: 3:37 pm EDT May 28, 2010
Updated: 9:20 pm EDT May 28, 2010

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. -- A Channel 2 Action News investigation found that school construction costs in DeKalb County appear to be higher than costs in any other school district in the metro area.
The two most expensive new high schools are in DeKalb, and the cost of one of them is nearly double what some other districts have paid for brand new schools.

Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Richard Belcher has been crunching the numbers.
The DeKalb County district attorney dropped the hammer on the DeKalb school system's construction program, indicting -- among others -- the woman who ran the program for four years until last fall.

The district attorney said millions were stolen by the defendants. Belcher went looking for comparisons to see if that affected overall construction costs.

Square Peg said...

Regarding the frustration in the Lakeside community - we have heard stories of extreme frustration from bloggers across the county: Miller Grove High, Nancy Creek, Browns Mill (I think - I don't remember whether the school was named), and many others.

This debacle teaches us that we stand or fall together. The whole county has to unite to elect a new board. This blog lists challengers from Districts 1 and 3 - maybe also from 9 - but if nobody steps up in districts 5 and 7, nothing will change.

Anonymous said...

I agree, everyone should attend the school in your own neighbor.
Build where you live. Support
your community.

Stop moving the top students out of
the South Dekalb schools because DCSS failed to control the students or hire the right teachers to challenge smart students.

If a principal wants to expel a child, the principal is blamed.

Move the problem. Stop forcing people to look to Lakeside. Just apply the rule of "no crap allowed."

Enforce the policies and offer the programs equally.

This can be done........

Anonymous said...

Cere, I drove past Lakeside today and saw that all the trailers have been removed? I wondered what will happen when the school year begins. What will happen with all the students?

Cerebration said...

They just moved them back to the softball fields - quite a bit further from the building and harder (impossible) to access if you are disabled. I guess (hope?) this is due to the fact that they will need the tennis courts (former trailer area) for a construction zone. Now would be a most excellent time to be very stringent on transfers - Lakeside will not be able to handle 400 students beyond capacity AND a major construction project.

Dekalbparent said...

When they started on DHHS construction, they used the tennis courts to hold stuff - a "staging area", so your surmise is probably correct, Cere.

They also took no more transfers, because there was only room for 6 trailers on the property - needed to house classes displaced by construction. (This wasn't really enough, and they still had to put a lot of teachers on carts because there weren't enough classrooms inside.) Perhaps Lakeside's construction will cause the same moratorium.

Cerebration said...

Lakeside was already using at least 21 trailers to accommodate the students - without construction issues.

Dekalbparent said...

Cere - I meant that the construction may allow Lakeside to refuse any new students from out of district, the way DHHS was allowed to.

Cerebration said...

Let's hope. It just seems impossible to be this much over-capacity on top of major construction.

Dunwoody Mom said...

I saw the HB 251 transfer list a few weeks ago and Lakeside was not on that list. As far as NCLB transfers, I have not seen the list of "receiving" schools yet, but here is hoping they are not on the list. It's ludicrous that any piece of educatin legislation would allow the overcrowding of schools as NCLB has done.

Cerebration said...

Yes, that was a big concern we brought up from the very first year of NCLB transfers. We were promised less than 75 transfers, but were actually sent nearly 300 (with no warning). But beyond the law, Lakeside has to take on literally hundreds of students who attend using a letter of transfer from admin or some other means like 'guardianship' (they do not live in district). The administration is very lax in following the enrollment procedures. The latest scam involves people claiming homelessness (McKinney Vento Act) and therefore they are allowed to attend wherever they choose.

Now, with schools like Arabia, Miller Grove and SW DeKalb in South DeKalb, why is there still a perception that you have to travel cross-county to get a decent education? What's not happening at these home schools that feeds this transfer behavior? I have to say, I think it's simply politics - I think people are still being fed a "north/south" inequity so that certain people can use that to win elections.

Dunwoody Mom said...

The prinicpals of the schools that were inundated with transfers beyond their capacity were either afraid to tell Lewis "enough, no more, you are destroying my school and I'm not taking any more students", or they needed Lewis to "get ahead".

What year was it? the 2008-2009 school year, where there were hundreds of transfer requests processed AFTER the deadline. Again, another shameful act by Lewis.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Here is another "doozie". As someone who also has a "corporate job", we all know what "conferences" in Las Vegas means...all play.

In DeKalb County, Everett Patrick, principal of Martin Luther King Jr. High School, went to several conferences this year, including a $7,000 trip for four nights in Las Vegas with four staffers for the National Council on Educating Black Children .

http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/atlanta-schools-travel-tab-548005.html

Anonymous said...

Marcus Turk, who in the blank watches expenditures? $7,000 for a principal and four teachers to attend a four night conference trip to...Las Vegas?? A whoping $1400 per person. DCSS' auditors and their supervisors are all a big joke. Shame on you Marucs Turk, and then head of Business and Administration Ramona Tyson.

We are we paying four or five full-time auditors when they stink at their jobs?? $7,000 for five people to attend a four night conference in vegas? WTF?


http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/atlanta-schools-travel-tab-548005.html

Check out how much more DCSS spend on travel compared to much bigger school systems. The DCSS Central Office and this BOE are still addicted to spending on everything except the classroom adn school house. Look at the travel cost per pupil. Yeah Dekalb, we beat Gwinnett, Cobb and Fulton. Except it's a competition we don't want to win.


Gwinnett County Schools
Travel ’08-’09: $1.52 million
Per student: $9.70
Title 1 travel ’09-’10: $337,870
Per student: $2.15
Enrollment ’08-’09:
156,484

Cobb County Schools:
Travel ’08-’09: $1.17 million
Per student: $11.04
Title 1 travel ’09-’10: $175,400
Per student: $1.65
Enrollment ’08-’09:
106,079

DeKalb County Schools
Travel ’08-’09: $1.73 million
Per student: $17.90
Title 1 travel ’09-’10: $364,990
Per student: $3.76
Enrollment ’08-’09:
96,907
Potential cuts: 105

Fulton County Schools
Travel ’08-’09: $956,200
Per student: $11.07
Title 1 travel ’09-’10: $29,000
Per student: 33 cents
Enrollment ’08-’09:
86,380

Cerebration said...

Interesting info from the "Educating Black Children" website - I actually think this is good training and a high-level discussion that needs to occur all over DCSS. In fact, I think we need to send our entire board to the next conference.

Background Information

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, education in the United States focused on the “disadvantaged” and everyone worried about why “Johnny” could not read. From this framework, the idea emerged that urban Black and poor children could not learn and that their schools were in shambles. However, the late Dr. Ron Edmonds, then Professor of Education at Harvard University, found in his urban school visitations that some schools were effectively educating Black and poor children. During these visits, he ascertained that these successful schools shared certain similar characteristics. These characteristics became a set of five correlates that Dr. Edmonds believed to be necessary for a school to effectively educate African-American students. He insisted that these characteristics or principles of successful schools should be adopted and implemented by staff in all schools at all grade levels. Dr. Edmonds’ five correlates require schools to implement the following strategies:

1) Have a principal who is a strong instructional leader;
2) Provide a safe community-like climate conducive for learning;
3) Be staffed with professionals who have high expectations for all students;
4) Provide a curriculum that relates to the experiences of the learners; and
5) Maintain constant evaluation with remediation for mastery of content.


Personally, I don't see a difference in these tenets and the ideas that work for all children. But hey, if it creates a positive energy for education - go for it! This group is providing what appears to be quality, important information and really, a $1400 per person investment is not much, if these ideas truly sink in and become part of the fiber of MLK high school.

To download the brochure for the recently held event - go here -

http://www.ncebc.org/documents/NCEBC%202010%20convention%20Final%20Brochure.pdf

Anonymous said...

Yes, Cere, those a good ideals. But, they are common-sense and should not take a trip to Vegas to "discuss" these ideas - especially when a school system is in dire financial straits.

Dekalbparent said...

But Cere,

what if you brought the speakers here - bring in the BOE, bring in the principals - would it amount to 1400 per person?

What about publicizing it around the state (even around the Southeast) - have it here in DeKalb (income for the county - perhaps get the C of C to help sponsor, and get the county to kick in). Maybe book the Porter Sanford III Center...

Yes, conferences can be beneficial, but what about figuring out how to do it for less $$.

Dunwoody Mom said...

DCSS has proposed reducing professional development for our teachers. The type of travel/training as outlined in the AJC article needs to be eliminated for Principals and other "staff". As DeKalbparent stated, in today's world more companies are going to webinars and having speakers/training sessions brought "in-house". There is NO justification for this type of expense when we are cutting programs that directly affect our students.

Cerebration said...

All the better, DeKalb Parent - I do think we should bring training and seminars here. We could impact many more teachers and administrators -- for less $$. Hopefully, someone will propose these ideas to groups like Educating Black Children.

Cerebration said...

Great idea for webinars Dunwoody Mom. This kind of training is very cost-effective, consistent in message and can be viewed at one's leisure.

Anonymous said...

June 8, 2010 10:38 PM- Also look at Representative Ernest Williams, did he take off while he was in session from teaching before he retired. Someone should ask.