Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Time to re-examine how business is conducted in DeKalb County Schools

It is clear it is time to re-examine how business is conducted in DeKalb County Schools. I acknowledge how difficult a school board member‘s job is, especially so these past few months. I fear this stems from a misunderstanding in the role and I think it is appropriate now to convey some truths that have been crying out to be shared.

First, the job of a school board member is that of a “public servant.” A board member is a steward of public funds for the benefit of children, who absolutely depend upon the school system for his or her future well being (that is, the ability to earn a living in the future). But some on the DeKalb Board see their election as life-long employment. They network with system employees to find work for family members and push for high pay. Educating children does not appear to be their top priority.

Secondly, the taxpayer is forced to pay the taxes to the county through property taxes, to the state through state income taxes and to the federal government through federal taxes. These taxes create the pool to fund DeKalb County School System’s billion-plus-dollar budget. Unlike the ill-fated investors of Bernie Madoff, who understood, at least at some level, there was risk when they chose to invest, the taxpayer has no choice. The taxpayer must pay or risk 1) criminal prosecution for tax evasion and/or 2) foreclosure of his/her property. The taxpayer, in turn, has a reasonable expectation that elected stewards will use these monies for the purposes for which they are legally tasked. In the case of DCSS, those funds are obligated for use to educate children.

It is obvious to those of us “on the outside” that there have not been appropriate “checks and balances” in place on the use of our taxpayer money within DCSS. To wit:
  • Former principals oversee the Transportation Department – not leaders from UPS or Federal Express who understand efficient delivery of goods (students) from point A to point B;
  • A former principal has headed a Health and Wellness program, selected over a candidate with a PhD in this very field. (An aside: the program wasn’t needed in the first place.)

Further evidence is the “Friends and Family” plan in DCSS. It is clear to us “on the outside” that in its recent downsizing, DCSS retained employees who are related to current and former Board of Education members and higher echelon members of the administration, rather than those employees critical to educating children in the schoolhouse. One wonders if this is the standard SACS requires the school system to follow.

It is past time the DeKalb Board of Education initiate work to begin to restore the trust and confidence of the community it serves. It clearly failed to monitor, supervise and question issues related to the massive construction program, which makes members essentially complicit in the activity that triggered the indictments against the former superintendent and his deputy. Several years ago, former board member Cassandra Anderson-Littlejohn attempted to question this very activity. Her fellow board members refused to support her demand for greater transparency. Now, the community must compel the board to implement changes immediately:

  1. Post all financial transactions (P-card, checks, statements, etc.) online. It is the taxpayer’s money and the public is entitled to this information.
  2. Implement Dr. Johnny Brown’s compensation audit to reduce salaries for all top- level officials. Any position that was not needed during his tenure five years ago should not be needed now.
  3. Follow the example of the DeKalb Board of Commissioners and work with our local universities. Ask Emory’s Business School to take on DCSS as a case study to discern how to restore integrity in all areas of DeKalb Schools. Ask Georgia State to conduct another audit/compensation study.
  4. Implement an Ethics Policy that is unequivocal and clear. Clarity would end ongoing conflicts of interests and bickering over minor issues like dollar limits for dinners.
  5. Engage external auditors and publish their findings. There does not appear to be a functional internal auditing department that reports directly to the Board. For example: when the principal and bookkeeper departed from Lakeside High School in 2008, an audit was allegedly conducted. Parents and PTA members were aware that items were purchased for the school that never arrived at the building. The audit, which parents were told was “in the works,” was never released nor the discrepancies resolved. The same thing happened more recently at Chamblee High and apparently at Cross Keys High School as well. External auditors could determine if this is happening all over the district.
  6. Signatures – how many signatures are needed for which purchases and checks? Do purchases and checks over a certain amount (say $1000 or $1500) require two signatures?

While Bernie Madoff’s investors have a trustee to unravel his financial misdeeds, the taxpayers must rely on the Board of Education to elucidate what has happened in DeKalb Schools. There is no trustee or receiver to untangle the money trail, although many taxpayers are appealing to SACS to investigate these issues. But at present, it is up to the elected Board of Education to rise to the challenge. Its Members have a fiduciary obligation to the students and taxpayers of DeKalb County. It is past time that this duty be followed and observed.

Last month’s news has made the national headlines and may well be used in Board training rooms throughout the country as examples of irresponsibility and what not to do. The DeKalb Board can choose to handle this crisis by exercising integrity and taking bold steps, selecting a strong new, outside, Interim Superintendant who is unaffiliated with the current mess to start the restructuring that needs to occur. In this way, the Interim Superintendant can prepare DCSS for a permanent hire that can restore our broken system.

The time is now, Board Members. Our children deserve it and the taxpayers – and voters – demand it.

Shayna Steinfeld
citizen/taxpayer/mother

*Note: Shayna Steinfeld, former president of the Atlanta Bar Association, ran for the DeKalb School Board in 2008.

77 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is the author of this post committed to standing for election at the next opportunity? If not why not?

Cerebration said...

Not sure what you mean, but Shayna is District 4 and that seat is not up for reelection. Paul Womack is the District 4 rep.

Anonymous said...

@ @ An onymous 10:11 pm

What Cerebration said is true. Did you know Shayna ran against Paul Womack in the last election and lost? Paul Womanck is not up for election which is unfortunate for the children of DeKalb County.

Nancy Jester is running against Jim Redovian. I'm in Paul Womack's district, but I'm going to donate to her campaign and offer any help I can give her. I'm going to do the same for Corey Wilson (running against Copelin-Woods) and Jacques Willie Hall, Sr. (running against Cunnigham).

These candidates can't stand up to the current BOE members and win without our support. Remember, even though they are elected by only the people in their district, they represent and affect every student in every district in DeKalb County.

Anonymous said...

Please let's work hard to find a good candidate to run against Zepora. Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

Ms. Steinfeld, An incredible piece and it should be sent to the AJC, DeKalb Neighbor and any other DeKalb County newspaper.

The mere fact we have to "compel" the BOE to do anything, after the past two months, is ludicrous. One would think that the headlines created by our broken school system would change things. In my eyes nothing has changed because we still have the foxes guarding the hen house. Mr. Bowen you are the Chairman of the BOE, show some leadership and start asking for resignations of the entire cabinet of our former crook in chief, Crawford Lewis.

Even though Casandra Littlejohn had some ethics issues of her own, she was one we could trust to ask the tough questions of DCSS leadership. Her questions were often laughed at, ridiculed and ignored. Ms. Littlejohn has been vindicated and I look forward to seeing her testify against the crooks who have turned the "premier" DCSS into a nationwide laughing stock.

Taxpayers deserve action and a whole lot more than what we're seeing right now. Once again, until we see the resignations of Tyson, Turk, Moseley, Mitchell-Mayfield, Thompson, Ramsey, any Guilroy, Edwards family member or any other employee who is remotely involved in the crimes that are taking place in OUR school system, nothing will change.

Come on BOE have some guts and get rid of these poor examples of people who are only in this to line their pockets with OUR money.

PLEASE GET RID OF THAT PREMIER MONIKER TODAY! We're not premier, we're a joke until the resignations of every person hired by Clew-less and his minions are sitting on Tom Bowen's $5000 desk. Excuse me, on the taxpayers $5000 desk.

Ms. Steinfeld thank you for your eloquence and please run for BOE!

Renate said...

Shayna - true.
"Educating children does not appear to be their top priority."

I agree. I ask a board member during the budget cuts if they were weighing their decisions against their mission statement. He didn't know what or where the mission statement was.

I told him that by the cuts they were proposing, it did not look like the mission was to educate the children and that it looked like it leaned more toward protecting jobs and keeping the central office as fat as possible.

The mission statement is below, but could it be changed to “Educating the children of Dekalb County in the best way possible with the resources available”?

Board of Education Mission Statement
The mission of the DeKalb County School System is to form a collaborative effort between home and school that maximizes students' social and academic potential preparing them to compete in a global society.
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/board/goals/index.html

Anonymous said...

For at least a decade, I had thought the City of Atlanta had turned a corner because of the work of Edupac, which is heavily funded by the City of Atlanta Chamber of Commerce to fund candidates for school board. Those board members supported Dr. Hall, almost regardless. I thought Dr.Hall was doing a bang up job. I visited city of Atlanta schools multiple times to see what they were doing right.

The board members in Atlanta are educated, articulated and seemingly committed. The have often been attorneys, accountants, lawyers, professors, etc.

Now, we have a cheating scandal that, to me at least, clearly indicates that cheating is pervasive and the eRate issue, which is happening again after CoA schools had to pay back millions just a few years ago.

It is beyond discouraging to me.

In Dekalb, our challenge going into this election, is that it is unlikely a majority of the Board will change. Because of this, if I am voting in this election I need to support the person who can represent my area the best and fight for our "crumbs."

What we really need is a way to replace the entire board at once.
Would a recall effort be successful for the other 4 seats?

Dunwoody Mom said...

If we had a BOE full of Shayna's - wow, what a school system we would have!

Anonymous said...

BRAVO!!! Agree 100%. If the Board has any integrity at all they'll sign on to the points in this proposal if for no other reason than to show that they themselves are not criminals.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bowen, as Chair, please respond to Ms. Steinfeld's submission. Please let us know you and the other board members have read her submission. Every taxpayer is waiting to hear the Board's plan of turning this system around. We want you all to rise to the occasion. With courage, you can do it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Shayna!

No one could have said it better.

Quite frankly, I was horrified that Paul Womack managed to win a DCSS BOE seat, instead of you. I had occasion to speak with him the first time he was on the DCSS BOE and every other word out of his mouth was profanity. I wonder if that is still the case when he speaks with constituents, if he even does speak with them?

I completely agree with Anonymous, 8:29 AM:

The mere fact we have to "compel" the BOE to do anything, after the past two months, is ludicrous. Nothing has changed because we still have the foxes guarding the hen house.

Mr. Bowen you are the Chairman of the BOE. Show some leadership and start asking for resignations of the entire cabinet of DCSS's former crook-in-chief, Crawford Lewis.

Former DCSS BOE member Cassandra Littlejohn asked the tough questions of DCSS leadership. Her questions were often laughed at, ridiculed and ignored. Ms. Littlejohn has been vindicated and I look forward to seeing her testify against the crooks who have turned the "premier" DCSS into a nationwide laughing stock.

GET RID OF THAT "PREMIER" MONIKER TODAY! DCSS is not "premier"; DCSS is a joke and a national embarrassment until the resignations of every person hired by Clew-less and his minions are sitting on the taxpayers $5000 desk.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:35 AM

What we really need is a way to replace the entire board at once. Would a recall effort be successful for the other 4 seats?

Maybe. Could a recall effort be mounted quickly enough to have those other 4 seats on the ballot in November? What would be the downside to trying?

Anonymous said...

REGARDING
Anonymous said...
@ Anonymous 8:35 AM

What we really need is a way to replace the entire board at once. Would a recall effort be successful for the other 4 seats?

Maybe. Could a recall effort be mounted quickly enough to have those other 4 seats on the ballot in November? What would be the downside to trying?

June 23, 2010 10:21 AM

DOES ANYONE OUT THERE KNOW TO WHOM WE WOULD POSE THIS QUESTION?

Anonymous said...

A recall effort will waste time and is unlikely to succeed. We need to find viable candidates to run for the current open positions and to actively support them both financially and with votes and door to door campaigning. This is the BEST opportunity DeKalb residents have to make a change.

And please, please stop contacting SACS. We DO NOT WANT to lose accreditation. Take a look at Clayton county. The property values plummeted and have never recovered. Many people pulled their students out of Clayton county schools, especially high schools, so their children could get into a decent college.

Anonymous said...

I was disappointed when Shayna Steinfeld did not win the seat on our school board. This posting is right on target. I especially like the idea of hiring an outside interim Superintendent to clean things up, while we complete a national search for a new permanent Superintendent. The size of the DeKalb County School System is, in my opinion, part of the reason we are in such trouble. We should be hiring individuals with the right experience and skill set for county office jobs. Why are we promoting principals into jobs when they don't have the training or experience to do the job?

Reality Check said...

Let's be honest with our selves. Shayna Steinfeld should have been elected to the school board last November because she was the best candidate. BUT the voters -- you and me an our neighbors -- did not elect her.

We -- all of us -- are responsible for the Board of Education. We elected them. And we need to take ownership of this.

It's not just the Board of Education that failed the students and destroyed the DeKalb County Schools. It's all of us who stood by and allowed it to happen.

Anonymous said...

A good principal or displaced principal should not be placed in the county office for which specific skills are needed. It has been going on too long.... Stan Pritchett over Project Management before Pat Pope. We need qualified people and for one I think Mr. Drake should be promoted to transportation efficiency because I understand that is where his background lies.

Shayna we need you to stay involved and I hope that when District 4 has elections you will run again.

Anonymous said...

When you have a billion dollar budget the questions I would have would include is any of the money in interest bearing accounts? Does the system take credit card payments to insure better collection of fees for lost text books? Are banks and ban services rotated or bid out? Are the banks used donors to the foundation or supporters of the system? The question is not are there two signatures required but is there accountability?

In an electronic age signatures on checks are passé. Moreover, with a yearly half a billion dollar operating budget and a capital expenditure budget of the same it would take a real person or persons more time to sign the checks than is efficient or reasonable. Presently, all expenditures require at least two "signatures" or authorizations.
The electronic process requires someone to fill out a paper purchase request and the site manager-not always the same person to sign it. The bookkeeper then enters the purchase order into TERMS. Then the site manager must approve it electronically. The site manager's supervisor then must approve the purchase order electronically. These purchase orders are sent to the vendors. Once the item or service purchased is received then the bookkeeper must check to see if the order or service is complete and again go to TERMS to OK the actual payment. Checks are then issued and signed by a machine.

Each school or site may also have a local account that does not run through TERMS. It may consist of fees, vending, or other sales. These revenues are receipted by someone other than the bookkeeper, deposited and may be expended for site needs. These still require purchase orders and the site manager’s authorization. They are on separate local accounting software. There are some thoughts that these should all go through finance but TERMS paperwork means that payment to vendors is slow. Usually payments from local accounts are not.

Internal auditors review purchases each year and issue a list of any violations of policy. Sometimes they are a year behind. Larger the purchase amounts then require either quotes or bids. Here’s the present board policy as found on the DCSS website.

A. Purchases for the DeKalb County School System shall be made on the basis of quality, price, and service. With the exceptions provided in this policy, acquisitions of all goods and services shall be subject to the following limits except when a clear emergency exists or a particular item may be obtained from only one known supply source. Proper documentation shall be maintained regarding all such exceptions.
1) Purchases of item(s) with a total estimated value of $5,000 or less shall be made with effort to provide the least expense to the Board.
2) Purchase of item(s) with a total estimated value greater than $5,000, but $10,000 or less, shall be made on the basis of at least two verbal quotations, if obtainable.
3) Purchase of item(s) with a total estimated value greater than $10,000, but $25,000 or less, shall be made on the basis of two or more written quotations, if obtainable.
4) All purchases and contracts for goods and services which exceed $25,000 shall be awarded after public advertisement for bid in, at least, two issues of the official organ of DeKalb County and after a review of the sale proposals at a time and place specified in the advertisement.
SEE
https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/ePolicy/policy.aspx?PC=DJE&Sch=4054&S=4054&RevNo=1.01&C=D&Z=P

Ella Smith said...

Shayna we do need an outside school superintendent to come in with a vision to take the school system forward into the 21st century.

However, when we brought a highly qualified superintendent into this school system before who could not be minipulated by school board members and other politicians in the community they turned on him and got rid of him.

I did not agree with all of Dr. Brown's policies. However, I did take the time to get to know him and I realized he had a vision to take the Dekalb County School System forward into the 21st century and I supported him in his efforts. He apparently wanted the school system ran correctly. He ran the school system and the school board made the policies and approved decisions he made, hired him and evaluated him. However this apparently was not what the old school board wanted and we lost a visionary school superintendent from the outside that we spent a great amount of time searching for, interviewing for, and finally hiring. All of this was absolutely for nothing in the long run as the school board fired Dr. Brown and took the school system in another direction.

Anonymous said...

RealIty check makes some good points. We have the board we elected. That said, many of his constituents are thrilled with womack. They love Joe Reed

be very careful if you donate to candidates running against Roberts, SCW, and Walker. If you don't live in their district, they can use that in their favor. Contributions under $99 don't have to be disclosed.

Anonymous said...

I know this is off topic, but you may want to look at the 2010 CRCT scores. AJC has a link where you can pull up scores released today for school systems. The state has still not released scores for individual schools.

While DCSS improved in some areas compared to last year, DeKalb scores are not a pretty sight, especially 8th grade math, science and social studies. Compare to City of Decatur or Fulton County.

Anonymous said...

I am growing weary of all the comments about the current school board. I fully agree with the writer who said we now "own" this board. We had a golden opportunity during the 2008 election year also to get qualified individuals on the board. The local voters went to the polls to cast their votes for president and failed to take our school board elections seriously. Now, unfortunately, we are paying dearly. PLEASE, PLEASE every concerned DeKalb County parent, taxpayer, educator, community activists, etc., DO NOT let history repeat itself in November. We will not be able to resolve the problems in our school system by simply removing the Superintendent. We have to replace ineffective, inept, and unprofessional board members as well. Let's organize all these wonderful ideas from this blog and take this information to the individuals who can bring about REAL change.

~Sick & Tired-Of-Being-Sick & Tired

No Duh said...

What district did Anderson-Littlejohn represent? Can she run again?

Anonymous said...

Anderson-Littlejohn moved to Texas. And while she had hunches (probably fed to her by someone on the inside of the system) of the misbehavior, she could never quite articulate them.

In addition, because of her own ethics issue, Dr. Lewis could tell the rest of the board that Anderson-Littlejohn was vindictive and out to get him because he wouldn't protect her from the fallout of her selling uniforms to a DCSS school. Many of the board members, who are all long gone now, weren't particulary fond of Anderson-Littlejohn, which made them doubt her even more.

Dr. Lewis was a master manipulator. If someone had a viable complaint, he would lead the investigators, be it the board or others, down a totally different lane. Dr. Lewis would usually do this by devising a perfectly believable story that would make someone doubt the accuser's credibility.

In addition, the only two board members from Anderson-Littlejohn's days are Roberts and Copelin-Woods. That and $3 might get you a cup of coffee.

Anonymous said...

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


DeKalb Schools ranked close to the bottom in reading, ranking 154th on the third-grade test, 142nd on the fifth-grade test and 159th on the eighth-grade test, an AJC data analysis showed.

* Added by me This is out of about 180 school districts state wide.

Anonymous said...

@ Sick of being Sick:

You make valid points. I'd like to add one. That is, the 121K+ bloggers that have visited this site don't comprise the mass to make the needed change.

While the number of hits is impressive, multiple visits I think (could be wrong) are counted as such.

As it relates to the upcoming elections it will take a true grass roots effort. Those endorsing a candidate will need to pull THEIR "Friends & Family... and their F&F's" behind the effort, otherwise there simply won't be enough down-ballot votes collected to make change.

Fellow former board members looking for change, weigh in. Maybe this is the one point we all can now agree on.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to the less than 50% of DCSS 8th graders that passed the CRCT in Math!

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 9:27 here. Sorry. I made a mistake.

Congrats to the 65.6% of DCSS 8th graders who passed CRCT Math.

Congrats also to the 44.1% 6th graders and the 41.27% 7th graders who also passed the CRCT social studies test.

Anonymous said...

What is ultimately sad is that just about all that failed the CRCT will be passed on. Passing kids on who do not have the necessary skills is a disservice to those children.

Anonymous said...

I found this comment about the CRCT very interesting:

"Gwinnett County, the state's largest school district, put a priority on helping students reach the "exceeds standards" category and saw some payoff, particularly at the elementary school level. Fifty-five percent of Gwinnett fourth-graders were top scorers on the CRCT science test."

My biggest fear is that DeKalb spends all its scarce resources on
the perpetually failing students and virtually no resources on the students who are (or should be) exceeding expectations.

Passionate... said...

I totally agree with Anon @10:02 p.m. We should be focusing on students exceeding standards. In many instances passing a CRCT section with an 800 score is equivalent to a score of @ 50%. Items [other than field test items] on the test have been taught during the year. If students are truly earning A's and B's, than scores should be in the exceed range. We should want all students to maximize their potential and not "settle" for an 800 score.
For example:
5th grade Reading
800 score = 19/40 correct
850 score = 34/40 correct
5th grade Mathematics
800 score = 32/60 correct
850 score = 48/60 correct.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that teachers are not able to hold students to meeting standards. They have to give students multiple times to make up work (missing, poorly completed, not turned in, late) and are not able to give a child a zero, even when it's been earned. The school district is more worried about making parents happy with children receiving As and Bs on their report cards, instead of focusing on what their children are capable of doing.

Raising the bar in our classrooms, will help student achievement. To me, it's not who is focused on, but what. The other problem is that the lower grade (1st and 2nd grade) CRCT do not really show student achievement. We have children who cannot read, passing these CRCTs, because they can listen, as these tests or parts of these tests are read to them. This gives parents mixed messages. They hear from the teacher, that the child is struggling, but the CRCT score shows that their child is on track. They are going to believe the CRCT score, as it is the better news of the two.

Focusing on helping students achieve on the CRCT, means that students need to work for their grades, earn the actual grade that they receive, and administrators and school officials need to back teachers up. Focusing on helping students with earning higher scores on the CRCT, will also mean to teach above the state standards.

I do not see either of these things happening under the current administration, although they would be happening if DeKalb were truly premier.

Anonymous said...

Mistake in the original post. The person who oversees purchasing is not a former principal. She and the entire purchasing department are certified and are constantly improving the knowledge and skills in the department. The problem is that the job they do is not appreciated. They have very strict guidelines and for example when they did not allow Pat Pope to have her way, she was allowed to manage her own purchasing. She circumvented the procedures with the blessing of the superintendent. Now we all know why.

Anonymous said...

It isn't just the Board that is a problem. It wasn't just the Superintendent that was a problem. It is the parents. Together, a rather lethal triangle has been formed.

DCSS has many uneducated parents who don't know what a quality education looks like. This was most evident in the school closing discussions. As I watched and read news coverage, I wanted to scream, "please look at your school's test scores and your own child's test scores and think again."

Add to this the many that are content with their own schools and don't see the larger problems of DCSS as affecting them.

Then there is the school choice factor. Before the economy tanked, Dr. Lewis was well on his way to offering far more choice. I actually pity Jay Cunningham. He knows that Arabia Mountain is damaging enrollment at some other schools in his district, but the parents at Arabia Mountain are far stronger than the parents at say Lithonia. Same can be said for all theme and magnet parents. Dr. Lewis knew their power and played into it, over and over again.

Case in point, the transportation for magnet programs. Many of this blog have expressed opposition for it. Did you write/call your board member? I did and that person said I was the only person on that side they had heard from.

Add to this the fact that there are probably 1000s of other students not attending their home school with permission and you have a rather large group of folks interested in protecting their status quo. About a decade ago, there was a DCSS board member who would arrange an administrative transfer for any child whose parent complained about their local school. She showed no interest in fixing the problem, just wanted that parent gone.

The latest test scores show that Gwinnett, even as their students become more diverse and poorer, is still succeeding academically. It is possible that there is cheating there, but I would think widespread cheating would have been figured out by now. No, I think their superintendent rules with an iron fist to make sure a consistent educational produce is offered. I also hear they have fabulous professional development!

Could DeKalb parents tolerate a superintendent like Alvin Wilbanks? I don't know if we could.

We have become very use to believing that what we say, want and demand matters and should happen.

While I believe that Johnny Brown was ultimately done in by central office staff and board members, many parents were after him as well for such things as system wide uniforms and algebra in 8th grade and threatening the choice programs.

What ultimately will determine the future of this school system is the caliber of superintendent who is picked. Are we ready for a strong leader?

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1993877,00.html

Anonymous said...

educational product not produce...

Anonymous said...

ANNOUNCEMENT -

As you may already know, our county school system is undergoing restructuring of its personnel duties for next year. No longer will there be a county-level employee who is completely dedicated to overseeing gifted programs and services. Instead, this task will be handled by Mrs. Pat Copeland, who will also retain her responsibility for overseeing magnet programs.

In light of this development, I am exploring the formation of a grassroots, countywide group of parents and teachers who are stakeholders in DeKalb's gifted ed programs. The group would be affiliated with the Georgia Association of Gifted Children. Such groups already exist in Fulton, Cobb, Douglas and Gwinnett counties. Activities would likely include advocacy on the county and state levels, as well as support for parents and teachers.

If you believe that such a group would be useful and are willing to spend 3-5 hours per month working on advocacy activities, please contact Dori Kleber at

doritoot@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 7:44 AM

It is common practice for DCSS BOE members to respond (if they do at all) to a constituent's concern by saying this constituent is the only one they have heard from about that particular concern.

They do this to make you feel isolated, unimportant and out of touch with reality.

It would be eye-opening if, in the interests of transparency, DCSS BOE members were required to record the date and topic(s) of every contact they have with stakeholders.

Anonymous said...

Did you contact your board member about the system getting out of the magnet transportation business?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I did. Got an equivocal answer - "Thank you for expressing your concerns. I will take them under consideration."

Shayna said...

To Anon: June 23, 2010 10:47 PM

If this is the case and I am mistaken -- I apologize -- they need to let them do their jobs. The experts should be allowed to do their jobs. As I began the post with, I am clearly "on the outside" and we get our information from "the outside." Thanks so much for enlightening us. Let's push for letting experts run their departments.

Thanks to everyone who keeps urging me to run again. I think Paul really fears this. I live in District 4/8. This seat is not up again for another 2 years. The landscape may be very different by then. I urge everyone to get involved and to make a difference. I'm doing what I believe I need to do.

Anonymous said...

Posters @9:07 and 9:54. I have a question, and it is sincere. I have a gifted child at a local school (not a magnet). I do not understand the animosity of providing transportation to the gifted magnet programs. If a local school has a gifted population of under, say, 5%, no foreign language offered to native english speakers, low passage of CRCT and any nationally normed test, what do YOU think that a gifted child is gaining by being in this school? I can tell you not much. The pull-out gifted models used in such schools target gifted kids for bullying and animosity from other children. What are parents in these schools supposed to do? There seems to be an assumption that parents of gifted kids are a) wealthy; b) receiving what they need for their children to learn and grow (not possible if they have no peers who are also exceptional), or c) not working.

What is the beef with gifted kids? Title I monies augment state and county dollars in attempts to reach those at the lower levels (I think that is the purpose) and gifted magnet programs work for those who "win" the lottery and under your framework don't work and can provide transportation for their child (e.g., have money). One poster above is clearly demonstrating that the gifted coordinator for the county is gone (I called that office recently and heard the same) and I know of a couple of local schools who are losing gifted coordinators. The message.....we don't care about kids at all levels of learning.....

So, really. What is your issue with transportation? I'd argue that the gifted magnet programs should be expanded so that every student who qualified and was not receiving adequate resources in their local schools according to state requirements should be granted permission to attend these schools and transportation to them. Instead, have you seen all the busses traversing the county this summer?

Anonymous said...

The magnet programs are not for "gifted" - they are for "high-achievers". There is a difference.

Cerebration said...

Thanks for the clarity Anon. I have removed the line you referenced as incorrect. I think Shayna was speaking historically - but was not aware of the newest person in the position.

Cerebration said...

Anon 11:22 AM - I don't think anyone would have an issue with providing transportation to magnet programs if the budgets were not so disasterous at all levels. This was a line item on the $115 million in budget cuts that was only reduced by $2 million instead of $4 million (and it's debatable that the transportation will only cost $2 million - it could cost much more). In order to keep the magnet transportation, other areas had to take cuts - one major area was paraprofessionals. $2 million would have paid for at least 68 paras in our regular schools. It just seemed like something that is now, more or less a luxury, was saved - at the expense of everyday jobs cut.

But truly, we do understand the dilemma of having a gifted child whose needs are not being met at the local school. These are very tough choices.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:22- It's not animosity it's a matter of money...no extra money is laying around school choice transportation. Many, many working families drive their kids to school. You, as a parent have to be willing to sacrifice your time to get them to where you feel they will receive the best education. It is not the county's responsibility, nor should parents expect them to transport students out of their home district. If your gifted child's needs are not being met per state requirements you need to report it. Keep going up the chain of command until you get what you need for your child at your school. A lot of families relocate so their kids can attend a better school, maybe that is an option to consider or what about a carpool? If you make the choice to send your kid out of district your should have to get them there, period. Rich, poor, working, not working, black, purple, white or whatever, it doesn't matter...it should be the responsibility of the family.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 11:22:

I agree with you somewhat. To me the issue is that we don't have a gifted magnet program. I agree that truly gifted (top 4-5% of population based on IQ) kids have special needs that can be difficult to meet at the local school. I would certainly be in favor of magnet schools for those students -- with transportation. I am not sure that the same thing can be said about someone at the 80th percentile -- I think these kids' needs should be able to be met by their local school. Unfortunately our "high achievers" magnets do not distinguish between the 96% (gifted) child and the 80% ("high achieving") child and thus many of the kids who fall into the truly gifted category are not allowed into the magnets because so many spots are allocated by lotter to those whose kids' needs can be met at their home school.

One caveat: I also think in order to qualify for transportation, kids should have to go to the magnet school (of that type) closest to their house. If we have a high achiever's school in a kids' neighborhood, he should go to that one -- if his parents choose to send him to one 20 miles away, his parents should transport him.

Anonymous said...

Do you know that Regions have been realigned? Region 1 - Terry Segovis - Chamblee, Druid Hills, Dunwoody, Lakeside, Kittridge, Coralwood, Int'l Center, Maragret Harris and Warren Tech. Region 2 - Ralph Simpson - Avondale, SWD, Columbia, Towers, Wadsworth Magnet, DSA. Region 3- Debra White - Cedar Grove, Clarkston, McNair, DESA, Elizabeth Andrews, DECA. Region 4- Horace Dunson - Lithonia, MLK, Miller Grove, Tucker, Arabia and DOLA. Region 5 - Ken Bradshaw- Cross Keys, Redan, Stephenson, Stone Mountain, Shadow Rock and Eagle Woods.

Anonymous said...

Response to Anon @ 1:54. If we are going to cut all transportation to magnet programs, which could be being used by parents who have kids whose needs are not being met at the local schools, because it is the responsibility of a family, then why isn't it the responsibility of all families to provide transportation for all kids? Wouldn't that make more sense? Shouldn't all parents be able to afford to take their kids to school under your logic? Why are we busing kids in home districts whose parents only need to transport them a few miles at most? And why are there so many half empty buses on the road this summer? (I'm perplexed by this).

Anonymous said...

Where is the realignment published? Is there any information out about what they are thinking in terms of redistricting?

Anonymous said...

First of all the CRCT is way too easy. We should hold all our students to a higher standard or realize that only “highly proficient” students have much of a chance in college.

Second DeKalb although it ranks low it exceeds Atlanta Public and also shows some slight improvement

Finally if we compare DeKalb to Decatur and Fulton let’s look at the rest of the story.



Figutes for Decatur Fulton DCSS


Free &
Reduced
Lunch 53% 39% 66%

ELL 2% 6% 8%

black 39% 42% 74%

white 52% 35% 10%

Hispanic 2% 10% 9%

DeKalb has the highest number of at risk students economically. It has the highest number of minority students. Traditionally across the entire US students with the DCSS profile perform poorly. If our school system is to be the sole factor in overcoming this trend then we will truly be Premier rather than aspiring to be premier.

Anonymous said...

The realignment should be effective July 1. The principals have met with their area directors.

It has not been updated on the website.

Redistricting has not been touched yet!

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:48

I agree that the demographics of DCSS are challenging. And yes I am very glad that DCSS made some improvement in some areas on the CRCT. (although many say that the state DOE lowered the cut scores this year because it was an election year and Cox wanted to look good.)

But these scores are still terrible and these tests are not that hard. We have far too few children in the exceeds expectation category.

I fear that DeKalb has dug itself into a very deep hole and I don't know how this county is going to climb out of it.

Teachers, any suggestions?

Dekalbparent said...

@Anon 4:23 -

"And why are there so many half empty buses on the road this summer? (I'm perplexed by this)."

I believe the buses are for summer school. This is what I ahve been told. Kids who need to re-take a course they failed get to go to summer school for free and get free transportation.

My question is: might it not be cheaper to pay for them to take the course online through DOLA or Virtual Academy than to bus them and air-condition the schools?

As far as magnet transportation, I agree with Cere and Anons 1:54 and 3:38. The problem is that the High Achiever magnets do not have high enough requirements to restrict them to Gifted - a truly gifted child might find the pace too slow. There is cheating on those lotteries and on the gifted qualification tests just as there is in other areas of DCSS, and this leaves a lot of kids out in the cold.

In my area of the county (35 minutes from the nearest high achievers magnet), the parents formed carpools to get their kids to the magnet - there was a designated pick-up place that's about 10 minutes from everybody, and each family drove once every 4 or 5 weeks.

If DCSS had a school for the truly gifted (95% and above), there would probably not be a need for more than one building, and then I would have no trouble with transportation being provided.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 9:34pm (June 23, 2010);

In the past years, those same students who failed the 8th grade CRCT, were given the opportunity to take it again during the summer, and then offered a waiver into high school when they failed it a second time.

The CRCT is nothing more than a data generator. It has no real bearing on whether a student actually moves on to the next grade level. The other data generating tests - EOCT and GHSGT - continue to help in producing too many DCSS students who will graduate from high school without the tools needed to be truly academically successful on the next level.


These days, receiving a DCSS high school diploma is not the monumental achievement it should be considering the minimal amount of effort it takes to obtain one.

Ella Smith said...

Summer school is online this year I believe. However, this may be just for high school students. I do know also that they are providing transportations for students who do not have trasportation to get to computer labs at schools.

Technology is a new trend for the future. After taken a mixture of classes online and on week-ends and then going class during the week at night I was totally blown away by how much time is wasted in the class at night when I could be completing assignments and turning them in for the most part.

I find the classes online more flexible as a working mom and I have more contact with the professor. The professors allow us to pick up the phone and call them during certain hours during the night normally and also are available online during certain times of the night to answer questions we have. Many times I get faster feedback on assignments and when I do them wrong they readily allow me to correct my eras and learn from my mistakes.

It is all about learning and not about punishing students. It allow a student also to push themselves to learn information independently and to research information with guidance from a professor.

Anonymous said...

If you didn't pass school during the school year, it should be your parents responsibility to get your butt to school for any type of summer school. If the district is going to provide buses, then you should pay what it is costing the district to operate them. The child should also pay for the cost of the actual class, and I do mean the true cost.

Tax payers should not have to pay twice for a child to learn. I feel this way about the CRCT summer school as well.

As a child growing up in the Northeast, there were no freebies for summer school. If you failed, you paid during the summer.

Anonymous said...

I taught summer school (elementary) in DCSS this year. At first (the first week), the buses only ran from select pickup points (students' home schools) to the Summer School site. If students were attending their home school for summer school, then they had to find their own transportation. Of course, DCSS being what it is, had already told these students that transportation would be provided. The first week at my school attendance was down - and the county was talking about transferring teachers to other schools. Then, without telling the students, buses ran normal routes the second week. Once kids realized their buses would pick them up in their neighborhoods, attendance improved. So, in my view, although expensive, the buses were a good thing. What was difficult was that we were expected to reteach a full year's worth of material in 13 days. I have a hard time believing that Summer School was helpful to my kids - 13 days is not a sufficient time to master math concepts.

Anonymous said...

In the BOE election there need to be some set questions established that should be asked of all candidates.
The first should be related to this issue. The second should address an audit. And the third should ask what experience the candidate has had in making decisions involving 100's of millions of dollars.
I see the problem as being that there are board members who are only on this board for personal gain and other board members who are apologist for them.

Anonymous said...

A grave concern: I think people read these blogs and think "Yes!" "Right on!" "Let's go get 'em!" "Let's make changes!!" And for a moment they are caught up in the horror of what has happened, and fired up to do something about it. THEN they/we go back to our lives and do nothing more ,,, some because they are busy and some who have the time but just don't know where to start. In November, there will be another upsurge of interest, but too late to really do anything before the election takes place. Good thing is we will get new fresh people on the board if no one does anything, because I think people will turn out in droves (surely) to vote the new people in. But that's only half a board of new people. The chair will be the same. Zepora will be there. Etc. Etc. There will be bickering between the old regime who, for personal reasons, want to keep things the way they are ... and the new people who want change and transparency, etc. Sorry ... I don't want to predict doom. But I'm feeling it.

Anonymous said...

Incumbents win an overwhelming amount of the time, so I sense that your fears are correct. Add to this that this is a general election which will bring out a ton of voters who will be uneducated/unconcerned about school board and I uo share your concerms. In addition, changing only one or two seats will make very little difference.

Anonymous said...

To all at the bottom of this thread...thanks for the information about transportation. I'm discouraged.

Dekalbparent said...

Cere - could we post the list of questions to ask a school board candidate under the School Board sidebar?

I will try to locate it - if I find it, I'll post it.

Dekalbparent said...

Found them - thanks again to No Duh for finding the AJC article they were originally referenced in. I might have to post them in two posts - as I recall they exceeded the limit for Blogger comments:

• What’s been their historic involvement with the schools? Can they name the schools in their districts and the principals? As surprising as it may seem, some candidates can’t list the schools in the areas they want to represent.
• Have they attended school board meetings on a regular basis? Potential board members don’t have to show up at every meeting, but they have to attend enough to understand what the board does.
* What are their plans to improve student achievement? At some forums, candidates never address student achievement except to complain that it’s not high enough. But they offer no ideas about how to raise it.
• Beware the candidates running because of a private gripe with the school district over how their child was treated. Such candidates may be great advocates for their own kids, but lack a broader interest in the success of all students.
• Can the candidates work as part of a team? Everyone loves a rebel, but at some point board members have to work together to pass policy, hire superintendents and create goals for students. A board overrun with mavericks may be a hoot to watch in action, but it will likely accomplish very little.
• Can the candidates put forth any proposals to improve student learning that don’t require piles of cash? Because there won’t be piles. Anywhere. Every school district in the state will have less money next year.
• Listen carefully when candidates talk about their goals. Are they compliance-driven — do they talk about meeting the mandates set by the state Department of Education? Or are they performance-driven — do they focus on how to get students achieving not only to the state bar, but to national and international levels? You don’t want schools that just comply; you want schools that perform.
• What is their broader vision for the schools? And how will they hold the superintendent accountable for acting on the vision? Candidates ought to spell out specific sets of measures they’d use to assess whether superintendents are doing a good job.
• What do they know about the range of programs offered to students? For instance, are they aware of the state’s Virtual High School? If so, can they tell you how many high schoolers in the district are taking Advanced Placement courses online? Can they report how many kids are taking AP classes, period? Do they know why it’s important for high school students to not only take AP classes, but to take and score high on AP tests?
• Do they have other sources of income or are they regarding the school board stipend as their livelihood? As a rule, people with dire money problems — houses in foreclosure, no clear source of income, collection agencies at their heels — don’t make strong board members. They ought to straighten out their own finances before they manage a school district’s finances. (One tip: If a candidate’s phone has been disconnected, he or she is not a good bet.)
• Is the candidate a current or retired school employee? A blue-ribbon task force has recommended a ban on working educators on boards. In concept, boards are supposed to give parents a hand in their local schools, but they’ve come to be dominated by educators. That skews the focus of boards from student concerns to teacher concerns. Look for candidates without financial ties to the school system, either their own or family members.
• Watch for the perennial candidates who envision a career in politics and are looking for any foothold. School boards require people willing to slog through reports, scrutinize budgets and read the fine print. Don’t waste a vote on someone who sees the school board as way to get their name in the paper on their way to the Legislature.
• On the other hand, be wary of lifetime school board members. After two decades on a board, a member ought to step down and make room for new voices and ideas.

Dekalbparent said...

Good - it worked.

Cerebration said...

Ok DeKalb Parent - you now have a page dedicated to questions for candidates - under PAGES on the right. Please email additional questions as you think of them everyone.

reparteeforfun@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

As you may already know, our county school system is undergoing restructuring of its personnel duties for next year. No longer will there be a county-level employee who is completely dedicated to overseeing gifted programs and services. Instead, this task will be handled by Mrs. Pat Copeland, who will also retain her responsibility for overseeing magnet programs.

In light of this development, I am exploring the formation of a grassroots, countywide group of parents and teachers who are stakeholders in DeKalb's gifted ed programs. The group would be affiliated with the Georgia Association of Gifted Children. Such groups already exist in Fulton, Cobb, Douglas and Gwinnett counties. Activities would likely include advocacy on the county and state levels, as well as support for parents and teachers.

If you believe that such a group would be useful and are willing to spend 3-5 hours per month working on advocacy activities, please contact Dori Kleber at doritoot@yahoo.com.

Anonymous said...

Cobb County's superintendent announces he'll retire a year from now, the board launches search for a replacement.

Meanwhile DeKalb is without a superintendent, the board will wait over a year to decide what to do.

AHHHHHHHH!!!!! SACS, Governor, someone help us!!!!

http://www.ajc.com/news/cobb/cobb-to-search-for-557881.html

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:27 pm

They seem comfortable with Ms. Tyson. A new superintendent might shake things up a bit more than they would be comfortable with.

Anonymous said...

@10:45 -- I agree they're comfortable with Ms. T. The problem is that the system is broken and it needs change. To do so effectively it takes time.

No-one is going to follow long-term directives of an "acting" superintendent, realizing the real superintendent will have his/her own initiatives that replaces those laid out in the interim.

In the meantime, this year, next, and the one following, my kids and yours are in the classroom...

Anonymous said...

Check this out:
2 contenders in District 5:
Jacques Willie Hall, Jr.
3762 Tree Bark Trl
Decatur, GA 30034

Tyrone Presley
5017 Burling Mill Dr
Lithonia, GA 30038

Let's hope someone runs against Zepora Roberts.

Anonymous said...

Cobb has its own problems, including a community that is divided nearly evenly on everything. Polls on the very controversial calendar showed a nearly even 50 percent split either for or against. They had a huge SPLOST scandal under the previous superintendent, though the funds were never actually spent.

However, please don't laud the Cobb school board to quickly.

Following Sanderson's Thursday announcement that he will step down June 30, 2011, in Cobb, board chair Lynnda Crowder-Eagle said that seven-member board will meet to discuss how to go about its search in the state's second-largest district.

No decision has been made on whether a national search will be launched, she said. "If there are internal candidates that meet our criteria, we will consider them."

Steven Constantino was recently promoted to deputy superintendent. Crowder-Eagle said that if he is interested in the position, "I feel like he will be someone we will want to speak with."

So, I am thinking that the decision has been made. Except that now that the BoE chair made her remarks publicly, Cobb will have to go through a national search and pretend to look, only to hire him anyway. Though they may not pretend, the current Cobb BoE seems pretty immune to pressure from parents.

Anonymous said...

Tell us again where the candidates must live to run against Zepora and I personally will start searching. I'm sure others will help me.

Anonymous said...

You can go to the DCSS website and click on BoE and then districts to get an idea of the area represented by each board member.

I am trying to think of a nice way to say this, but here goes. We need no more crazies on the BoE.

The last time they ran, the AJC endorsed either SCW or ZR because their opponent was so bad. Simply having an opponent doesn't automatically mean an improvement.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 7:47 am

Here is the DeKalb County website page that will show you every street in Zepora Roberts' district. She represents District 7. Go to the web address below and click on:
Board of Education District map.
A downloadable pdf file will show you the districts and every street within each district.

Web address:
http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/voter/maps.html#


Below is how individuals can find out who their BOE rep is:
http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/voter/locator.asp

Good Luck! We look like we have some good candidates to run against some of the other BOE reps. I've met Ms. Roberts. She's seems like a nice person, but she needs to go as well as every single other BOE member. What a mess they've gotten our kids in.

Anonymous said...

I don't really understand all this rush over finding a new superintendent. Does ANYONE really want THIS school board choosing the next Superintendent? I sure as hell don't. I'm happy to wait and see what happens in November and then let's see. Because I can GUARANTEE you that if this board, in it's present makeup gets to hire the next one, it will be same ol', same ol.'

Anonymous said...

There isn't necessarily a rush to find a superintendent, though a new interim is totally the way to go.

Rather, there is a sense that a process needs to be defined.

Four years ago, when most of this board came into office, they were convinced to renew Dr. Lewis' contract because as a board they didn't know each other.

Having a process defined would at least ensure some forward progress.

By the way, I believe that come Jan 2011, after the election, the majority of the board will remain the same. Gene Walker isn't beatable. The votes will mostly remain the same as well... 5 to 4, possibly 6 to 3. The voters in District 5, if they do choose to replace Jay Cunningham, will expect the replacement to vote the same as he does.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 7:59

So you are saying Cunningham's constituents are pleased he approved all of Lewis and Reid's expenditures and Lewis's $15,000 raise? I think District 5 constituents can see what's happened with this BOE as well as anyone. He does have 2 candidates running against him.