There was a large crowd that filled entire cafeteria. Board members in attendance were McChesney, Redovian and Speaks (only Redovian spoke, briefly, towards the end). Huge crowd from CO, including Marcus Turk, Beasley, and the new auditor. Mary Margaret Oliver and Fran Millar was there as well, and Scott Holcomb (who will replace Kevin Levitas) and Nancy Jester.
Marshall said the next ELPC in October will be at Briarlake and will cover the process of redistricting (not what will actually be done, but how the process works).
Tyson was very professional, very well spoken, but made it clear that she is in crisis management mode and not happy about her lot in life. Key points on this:
- The first 5 ½ months seems to her as it has been 5 ½ years.
- She was naive about crisis management. She didn’t expect how much of her time it would consume.
- She wants to be held accountable to the best of her ability.
- She will always give the facts when asked and will not EVER hide the truth.
- Against the wishes of her staff, she answers her own email.
--Movement of data center: Before she got into the State of the System address, she wanted to address a situation that she has had to deal with this week. MIS Department move and the $5,000,000 costs.
Ms. Tyson stated that everyone was getting in an uproar over the project. What was published on the website was the wrong cost analysis. They aren’t going to spend all that money on renovating the building; they just need to move the data servers to a secure environment. [When available, we will publish the new, improved, correct projected line item estimate for the move.]
When the decision was made to move buildings A&B to Mtn. Industrial (which was purchased under SPLOST II), there was no money to do anything until SPLOST III and Mtn. Industrial sat empty for years. Tyson said when the renovation started, she told "people" that they also needed to make sure the data center was included in that move, but no one listened to her and so it was not included in the budget. The data center was thus left behind in the now abandoned A&B, and it holds all personnel records, student records, vendor payment info, and the entire telecom system for DCSS (she added that all DCSS phones from every school connect back to the data center, including 911 calls, so they all have to route through there!). Additionally, the entire fiber optic network for DCSS runs out of there (she was very proud that DCSS owns it, and does not lease it like other systems; she said for once "we have something Gwinnett wants"). So, if the Data center falls apart, the whole system crumbles, and this is a risk if it is left in a decommissioned building.
Tyson said there are no extras, that all they are doing in paying for moving the engineering of it all to Mtn. Ind. The plan that was out there and got to the blog was a "cadillac plan" that the board had put together. There will be no data center "wish list" items [editorial: why did they even propose one as a board request for funds?]. The money for it will not come out of the $40 million surplus, but out of 'contingency' [editorial: how is that not SPLOST money?], and they hope the sale of A&B will pay for it all (A&B are valued at $7.3 million, but don't expect to get that). [Note: previously, we reported that Marcus Turk informed us that the sale of buildings goes into the regular capital funds (not SPLOST construction funds) and can roll into general operations if needed. So, using the proceeds from the sale to cover the cost is not possible, according to Turk.]
--SACS report: a huge staff worked on it 24/7 for 45 days, said she will not hide the truth, and will give all the facts. SACS said they will respond in 30 days, which she said will be around 10/10/10 [interesting date], and she is very anxious. Of the 243 DCSS policies and procedures that are in place, 4 of them occupied DCSS’s time and attention.
2. Conflicts of Interest
She said she read it 19 times and it went through multiple drafts. She also proudly admitted she withheld it from the AJC, because she wanted SACS to see it first. Tyson said she talked to Dr. Elgart regularly about the progress of the report [!], and gave her explanation for the quick turnaround of the posting of the 4 policy changes (whistleblower, nepotism, etc.). Her story is that normally they would give 30 days for comment, but that they wanted to get them approved and into the SACS report to show that they were making a good faith effort to move forward with revising the school policies (which have not been looked at since 2000).
--Culture of DCSS: (her term): the pattern of employee self-dealing shocked her. She couldn't talk too much about it because of hearings, privacy laws, etc., but they are making it clear what you can and cannot do if you draw a DCSS paycheck.
--Whistleblower rule: employees need to feel comfortable to talk about issues to the administration, but they also need to know that it isn't a free for all to get back at people (like your prinicpal) that you don't like.
--Superintendent search: Board voted to bid for search firm, and the bids were unsealed as she spoke. The vote will take place at the October board meeting.
--Budget: DCSS will get $18 million from the $400 million GA got for the Jobs Education Act (stimulus to cover salaries and benefits at the school level). It will come in two payments between now and the end of October. She is going to work the Turk (!) to bring relief to the schools. Possibilities include releasing furlough days, step increases, cost of living adjustments. The planning for FY 2012 has begun and we should expect more cuts. They built this year's cuts that they expect the state to announce mid year into their budget already, so they don't expect that they will have to do any adjustments in January.
--$40 million SPLOST III surplus: will be dedicated to school needs. We are also eligible for $58 million in school construction bonds to go with the $40 million, and the board will decide on whether to accept it. The Board will sit with the capital improvements people (unclear who they are) in county to decide who to spend it. The $58 million in QSCAB bonds that the federal government will issue to us at very low interest rates. (We have no money to pay them back currently.)
--Outsourcing: Turk (him again!) is working with Tyson to look at how to outsource CO duties (examples included maintenance, operations, transportation, food services). There are 3 or 4 firms in GA who do this, and they are researching them. One issue is that they know that people (who? Board member relatives?) are worried that this will displace a number of DCSS employees, but the word is that many of them get hired back by the outsourcer (after they pass a drug test and if they are found to be competent).
--Facilities & Operations: DCSS wants “Shared Leadership” in the months of September and October. “Shared Leadership is asking the community about redistricting and engaging us in solving the challenges about consolidation.” [Sounds like Jeff Dickerson might have helped write that one.]
In November DCSS will present to the BOE their “Shared” recommendations. That is when the BOE goes back to the community and presents the recommendations to the public and asks for further recommendations to go back to DCSS.
Then in February 2011, DCSS will make suggestions for redistricting and consolidation.
They are going to hire Dr. Humbolt and his company, who recently assisted St. Louis Missouri in redistricting and consolidation, to help in this process. [I haven’t googled him yet.] Along with Dr. Humbolt’s recommendations, DCSS will present their plan along with a STRONG marketing and PR plan. [I guess this is where Jeff Dickerson gets paid again.]
I don’t know if Dr. Humbolt’s company does this also, but Dr. Tyson stated that DCSS is going to hire a 3rd party company to analyze every school in the system. They will analyze the following for recommendations for SPLOST IV.
- The existing school structure and buildings for age and future sustainability.
- Buildings and Operations.
--2020 master facilities plan: it is now on the website. Another third party company will come in to look at every school to see needs from an engineering POV, and this will be the road map for (wait for it...) SPLOST IV!! [Sounds like they are creating a "wish list" for various constituencies to make them think they will get something].
--Remaining focus for her tenure: the new Super will need 3-5 years to fix all this. What she wants to focus on is the following:
- Crisis management
- New culture of DCSS, giving more power back to principals.
- School consolidation/redistricting (she said it will happen, and she won't wait to do it).
- Comprehensive policy revisions.
- Teacher support and effectiveness
At this point she introduced Gary Babst, the new internal auditor, and touted his experience with GM.
[I will add, in an entire hour of talking, she did not once mention academics, curriculum, or how to improve student achievement.]
Here is the Q&A:
Faye Andresen did not ask a question, but instead spoke to the importance of getting county business and political leaders together to counter a possible negative SACS report. She pointed out that we do not want to become another Clayton County, and we do not want our high school students to suffer the consequences.
A woman who identified herself as an Oak Grove/HMS parent said that parents want to know what they can do to help DCSS with their facility issues. Tyson responded that she will have DCSS work with every principal to set up meetings at the schools to present and discuss facilities issues (this sounds a lot like the old Need Assessment committees).
A high school student was there; it was difficult to hear him, but he had a specific personal question, and then he asked about why the Chamblee AYP transfers were put in the annex instead of at Chamblee proper. He also asked why the schools that were heavily renovated or built new did not make AYP, while the schools that made AYP are old and unrenovated (ah, the guilelessness of youth). On the latter, Tyson said that there is no correlation, that schools were renovated or built based solely on safety issues (!), and it was just ironic that it worked out the way it did. There is, she said, no relationship between physical plant and AYP. As to the Chamblee Annex issue, when she found out that over 200 students had chosen it as their first choice, she looked at the logistics and decided that it would be unsafe for the students. While the fire marshal approved the extra students, she said that it would be too difficult and unsafe to do class changes, get to lunch, and get to lockers with the extra bodies. She took full, personal responsibility for making this decision.
Shayna Steinfeld asked her to unbury the 2002 salary audit done by Dr. Brown's administration. It had been paid for but was never used. Tyson said she plans to look hard at CO salaries, and there will need to be a bridge between the '02 audit and a newer audit. She admitted the audit got buried, and said one should have been done every five years (meaning there should have been one in 2007).
Finally, someone asked her to please speak about academics, and how she intends to address student achievement. Tyson passed this question off to Morcease Beasley, head of instruction. He said there is a 7 step process on teaching and engaging. However, since it was not exactly clear what they were you will unfortunately not read about them here. The word "rigor" was used, though. Beasley said he would work with principals to ensure that teachers are ready to move students to "higher order" thinking skills in preparation for the coming national standards.
The last question was about why school starts to early in August, given that we are in financial straits and must spend a lot of money on A/C, expensive August gas, etc. Tyson said that this is an "age old" problem [editorial comment: an age in this case is about 10 years]. Savannah tried to do start after Labor Day for two years, and had to throw in the towel because the state would give no latitude in its testing window to accommodate them. So the metro calendars are held hostage to state testing windows, and it is up to the state (DOE? Legislature?) to change this.
Tyson wrapped up by admitting that communication between DCSS and parents is not good, and she said that once they get that fixed it will help with parent involvement. She admitted that they had offered the PR job to some people who turned it down because the salary was too low, so they are pursuing outsourcing that, instead.