Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ensuring we don't put the charrette before the horse

According to a new flyer created by DCSS, the origin of a charrette, or "little cart" can be traced to 19th century Paris, France. Back then, architectural students at Ecole des Beaux wishing for their plans to be considered would scurry to submit their drawings by the designated hour. These "little carts" or charrettes would be brought around to collect the drawings and deliver them to a certain location for them to be displayed for the public to view. According to Wikipedia, the word charrette may refer to any collaborative session in which a group of designers drafts a solution to a design problem. In fact, the charrette protocol is used in many business, civic and educational planning - especially in early design stages, or when a group is more or less "stuck". Basically, architecturally speaking, a charrette is usually a public work session that seeks to formulate a plan or vision for the future of the community.

In their 2020 Vision, DCSS will be hosting a series of public discussions on plans for redistricting in the fashion of old Paris and in fact calling them "Public Charrettes". Attendees at the meetings will participate via an audience response system, answering questions regarding their opinions. The school system is looking for a broad base of public input, yet you can attend all of the meetings and ensure that your opinion is counted every time. (A very good idea, in my opinion.)

According to the discussion at today's Emory Lavista Parent Council, the redistricting plan will have a more or less, three-pronged approach. First, representatives will assess every single school building by conducting a physical walk-through (led by Parsons), then a group of DCSS staff will conduct a second set of walk-throughs focusing on the instructional use of the building (are rooms being used as intended -- are programs equitable -- are similar classes offered at every school) and third is the community input, the charrettes, which are being conducted by a third party consultant. Although overall, I think this is a wonderful plan, the one concern I have about the entire plan is the schedule - it is very compact - in fact, Ms. Tyson informed us that in order to complete these visits within the timeline, the teams will need to visit five schools per day.

The meetings (charrettes) are scheduled below. For a copy of the flyer, click here.

  1. Chamblee High School, Tuesday November 9, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
  2. Towers High School, Wednesday November 10, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
  3. McNair High School, Monday November 15, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
  4. MLK High School, Tuesday November 16, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
  5. Stephenson High School, Wed. November 17, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
Two charrettes have been added: Nov 29th, Lakeside High School, and Nov 30, Peachtree Middle School, both at 6:30

The feedback from these charrettes will be summarized and presented to the board at its December 6, 2010 6:00 PM work session.

According to the DCSS website, "The 2020 Vision process is an 11-month process (October 2010 - August 2011) that will culminate in a 2020 Master Plan that will describe the facilities, programs, and other needs of the system over the next ten years and the recommended facility improvements required to meet these needs.

The master planning process will culminate in August 2011, which will lead up to a vote on SPLOST IV in mid-2012."


Anonymous said...

Ms. Tyson indicated that the number one issue in emails she is receiving is the lack of enough Charrettes.

I think the time line is to compact. I have emailed my board members and Ms. Tyson my concerns. I suggest that you all do the same.

Anonymous said...

"a group of DCSS staff will conduct a second set of walk-throughs focusing on the instructional use of the building"

The main concern I have is that when the word DCSS staff is used, it usually doesn't include teachers. Teacher input is rarely solicited. That's why the science labs in some of the new and renovated schools are not correctly sized or designed. For example, in some, the sinks are too shallow, the demonstration station and the columns in the front of the room preclude students seeing the whiteboards and/or interactive boards. The desks are so heavy that students cannot pull them together for group work. If the "DCSS staff" doing this walk through, they should have a teacher from every area that is taught in their group.

And I agree that 5 a day is way too much. Why is there always such a tight time frame in DCSS? Remember the SACS responses asking for teacher input were - what was it 2 or 3 days over the weekend? DCSS is always playing catch up and it shows. Did anyone read Maureen Downey's blog?

"While I know that Wilbanks has his critics, I have to share a conversation I had last week with a former DOE official. He said that he dealt with the leadership teams of all the districts, and he understood why DeKalb and Atlanta had so many more problems that Gwinnett.

He said Wilbanks assembled a leadership team that was sharp, responsive and together, while the other two systems’ teams were disorganized and non-responsive."

Cerebration said...

They did say that all kinds of input would be solicited, from principals, to teachers to custodians.

Anonymous said...

The education walk throughs at minimum will have the principal, two teachers, the head custodian, the PTA president, and another parent. There may be more but it by nature can not be a large group.

No Duh said...

Went on the walk thru yesterday. Can't really say how the report will come out other than I think it will ultimately be a form-like report with items checked as "adequate to not adequate."

Key to the process is the second walk-thru by DCSS personnel to focus on "instructional use of the building." What does DCSS think the first walk-thru with the consultant and building leadership team was focused on? Nice to haves?

I pray DCSS really uses the info garnered in the first walk-thrus and doesn't just use the second walk-thru to justify what they want to do anyway.

I want so much to start trusting DCSS again. Baby steps, I guess.

Anonymous said...

@ 4:06
I think it all depends on the objective of the leadership team in these situations: do they want to be responsive to the interests, questions and needs of the inquirer, be it state DOE or a DeKalb parent, or are they more interested in ensuring that there is no hindrance to what they have already decided to do?
In other words, it is a question of organizational culture.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Tyson also mentioned at this meeting and that last ELPC meeting that the board has set the 5 month deadline (which is really a 4 month deadline) for the recommendations for redistricting. Why the hurry? This is BOE business as usual - some on the board are forcing this process to fit their personal agendas. Paul Womack actually had the temerity to stand up and tell the audience that the board could close schools regardless of community input (and then proceeded to recount a round of closings that took place 25 years ago)and the kids would get over it. Make no mistake, nothing has changed since the SACS response - the board has no accountability and no transparency.

Anonymous said...

As someone who works in facilities, they better darn sure make sure they spend some time on the walk-throughs. Five in one day? Two a day should be the max.

Anonymous said...

I hope they walk around their buildings and throughout the grounds. It's amazing to me how many principals do not ever walk around their buildings and grounds.

Remember how Kim G. brought attention to the homeless camp at the back of the Cross Keys grounds??? Principals are very busy, but need to walk their grounds at least every four weeks, and have a staff member walk around each building a few times each walk and walk the entire grounds at least twice a month, in addition to the principal walk through.

Heck, there are many schools who have custodians who don't walk around their school buildings.

I hope Sam Moss head. former princial of course Steve Donahue walks in and around every school building once during the summer. He's busy too, but he has a duty to do so annually for every DCSS facility.

DeKalb Teacher said...

It sounds like the system is planning on a good chunk of the budget being reduced by school consolidation and redistricting. If this is the case, they will need to have a pretty aggressive time line to get the study done.. they need to have it completed before they can start to look at the budget for 2011.

The alternative might be to put off consolidation/redistricting to 2012, but I am not sure that is such a good idea.

Anonymous said...

An "instructional use of the building walk-thru" was conducted at my school. It was led by a consultant who was from another state. No DCSS county office staff were present. Parents and teachers were included.
This may be the most objective school assessment we have seen in DeKalb in a long time.

Cerebration said...

That's good news, Anon. As far as the redistricting - the benefits are two-fold. One -- we can save money by operating fewer buildings (along with fewer buses) and two - we will collect much more money from the state for building construction and maintenance. This should have been done many years ago - not doing it has cost us literally millions and millions.

Also - I think the SPLOST IV vote is what's pushing the timeline - they want to back it out of that November, 2012 vote. People will vote "no" if they still see waste.

Also - it's probably a very good idea to have all of this redistricting done before the new super comes on board. What a horrible first task that would be. (We owe Ramona Tyson a big thank-you for taking on this very thankless task.)

Anonymous said...

Womack is a pain and a problem. He may have even more power come January.

Scary? Very!

Paula Caldarella said...

If anyone is intrested, the site visit schedule is on the website now:

Paula Caldarella said...

Actually, this is the schedule for the "Educational Adequacy" Site visits.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a good idea since so few people do have a grasp of the facilities and how they are being used. Many administrators don't know a thing about facilities management and many custodian are two caught up in on going clean up projects (a spill on the first grade hall etc..) to really get an understanding of the building. Our current custodians who has been there for at least six years still doesn't know where a lot of the electrical breakers are. But unless there's a good workable formula in place redistricting will need to be amount more than just the buildings. You can have a great school in a lousy building and a dreadful school in a great building.

Anonymous said...

Well current school board members are already promises parents in the community there school district lines will not change at all on the campaign trail. Vote for me and I will protect your school from being closed. I assure you! Vote for me and I will assure you I will not vote to have your school district lines moved regardless of how crowded your school is. These promises may put some of our current school board members back in office. They are being made in public forums. Back door deals are being made regardless of what the school officials decide and the data may show. School board members have not even seen the data or had information presented and they have went public with their decision. Somethings never change in DeKalb. SAC just needs to go ahead and step in before it is too late.

Anonymous said...

Charrette, charade, tomato, tomahtoe, call it whatever you want.

I'll pick Charade, like the countless others where the board (less SCW) has requested public input but already had their minds made up.

What's changed this go-round?

Cynical? Yes!

Anonymous said...

This process has nothing to do with the Board.....

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else feel like applauding today when Ms. Tyson took the microphone away from Mr. Womack? Why he thought we wanted to hear him babble on about something that happened 25 years ago is hard to imagine.

Anonymous said...

However, if current school board members like Roberts, Woods, Walker, Redovian, and Cunningham are all promising that they will not close down the small schools or change the lines to the overcrowded schools many of the citizens will be happy to vote for them again for selfish reasons.

DeKalb County could have the same problems again because of putting the school board members making the charrette before the horse is bought and trained to see if he will work or not. Before the all the work is done by the work force to try to make the best decision our school board members have already made their promises so it does not really matter what is best for the students or the system as a whole.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could have seen that.

Anonymous said...

Copelin-Woods hasn't been at one forum and I haven't heard any of the other board members promise not to close schools. In fact, in a rare moment of restraint, Roberts never interfered in last round of attempted school closings. In fact, she often said schools needed to close and that included some of her own. I am so not a Robert's fan by the way.

This week they are meeting with the state department of ed person to make sure they understand how to maximize the entitlements from the state.

The consultants will be making the charrettes.

Womack is bad news.

DCSS Science Teacher said...

Teachers absolutely must have input on the long-term plan, but when our principal explained the process to us, he said we were "welcome" to join in any of the charettes. That worries me--that approach does not take seriously our expertise and daily experience in these buildings. Things like hanging the Smartboards in the same place in every school, regardless of how the teacher wants to structure the classroom: science labs that are poorly equipped or built without sufficient storage space; the intrusive, deafening PA system that interrupts ongoing work; heavy, immovable desks and chairs in some labs with wheels so that the kids get really excited scooting around...just a few examples of things that teachers would have changed.

Including teachers as a key element of the planning process makes it much more likely that the results will be optimal for learning. We are the ones who live with the "infrastructure", day by day.

Anonymous said...

@7:20, it has everything to do with the board. They are the ones that approve the new lines. Crafty politics keeps them appearing at an arms-length though they are in reality a knee-deep.

SCW is going to raise Cain when they propose closing schools in her district, which are underpopulated and need to be consolidated. Cqll me a sooth-sayer, a cynic, or an idiot. It's gonna happen.

Anonymous said...

Each school will be sending teachers to focus groups. The key is making sure that at the middle and high school there are representatives of each discipline. Science, art, English etc all need to be heard from.

Of course, teachers can also attend the charrettes.

Anonymous said...

Anon, 8:20

Zepora did interfere with the school closing process. She was the one insisting that they had to close a school in the North part of the county to be "equitable" since they were closing three in the south.

The problem with this was most of the elementary schools in the north were stuffed and had multiple "learning cottages" on the property. They never thought about redrawing lines and balancing attendance, since they had no one on staff back then that knew how to operate the software that Dan Drake is using currently.

I think it was those pesky parents at Nancy Creek that uncovered the fact that no one knew how to operate the software that helped in redrawing the lines and balancing attendance zones. It clearly was NOT the goal during the last go around.
CLew needed a building to put Kittredge, in a hurry, since Sembler had made an offer for that property on Briarcliff. A deal that thankfully fell through, due to the economy.

This round will be full of information, my fear is that there will not be enough time to go through all the data and study it carefully. Dan Drake has a huge task in front of him with the help of the "Charette" company.

You can also count me as a cynic, when I read that DCSS staff was walking through buildings making decisions. Please! These folks are incapable of touring a building,let alone 5 of them each day.

I do agree that the new Super will appreciate that this process will be finished, by the time they are on board. They'll just have to implement the plan. The new Super MUST be an outsider with NO ties to the county. Time for the Central Office to get cut back and return those funds to the class room!

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:59, SCW might not be able to make those claims about her precious small schools, if someone can beat her on November 2nd!

Anonymous said...

8:20 pm said: "... A deal that thankfully fell through, due to the economy."

Surprisingly the board quashed that one 8:20 pm, and it was not the economy.

Tally: 1 (one) good decision for the board (Was it even this board??) Credit where credit is due.

Anonymous said...

If you look at the schedule of when school visits are being made, you will see that there are 4 or 5 teams making those visits. If you click on date, it will sort by date and you will see that with the exception of closed facilities no team is visiting more than one school a day. And that team looks to be specializing in closed buildings.

Anonymous said...

Charrettes?! I think it's dumb that they are calling them charrettes. We are not that sophisticated ... certainly not.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have a clear explanation as to why the focus of this consolidation/redistricting is seemingly based primarily on buildings and building condition? Shouldn't the primary criteria be that data which we already have - enrollment, home school attendance, capacity, projections, performance, and programs? Then once a first-pass list is created from that criteria, they dive in and study the buildings in that area for necessary additions and/or improvements? Studying the condition of every school should be tied more to SPLOST than redistricting/consolidation. Right?

Anonymous said...

Walker is already making promises regarding his votes.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:00 PM.

Condition of the building is just one factor. But all things being equal if you have two buildings adjacent to each other, and you only need one, doesn't it make sense to keep the one that is in better shape?

Most of this work that is being done is for the master plan and SPLOST IV. Building condition is an essential part of that.

Cerebration said...

Thanks for the clarification, 9:46 PM.

Paula Caldarella said...

Just curious, why would facilities that are closed be on the "Educational Adequacy" list? Also, I don't see the old Shallowford ES/Chamblee MS site on the list.

Anonymous said...

I would think that they need to know the potential of those buildings.

Email Dan Drake to let him know it is missing.

Anonymous said...

The board did squash the Sembler deal, however if the economy had been roaring at the time, Sembler might have made a new deal that would have been too good to refuse.

One of the BOE members, from Dunwoody, had told a group of parents back then that Sembler was trying to put a new deal together but they had spread themselves too thin in a couple of other projects in Florida. The neighborhood around Briarcliff and North Druid was also vehemently against the project, due to traffic concerns and quality of life issues in the area.

Great catch Dunwoody Mom, why isn't the old Shallowford ES/Chamblee Middle on the list? Are there other properties not on the list? I have sent an email to Drake and asked him this question, others do it too so we can get a reply!

Anonymous said...

I would like to better understand how all of the data points are going to be combined, how they will be weighted. I'm glad this organization has prior experience but I'd like to better understand what "success" means in these other school systems! While Bill was very motivational there was a lack of detail on the methodology.

While I'm not a big fan of Paul Womack at least he had the guts to stand up and state the facts. Ok, I don't want to hear about the school closures 25 years ago either but he's right in that it needs to happen. We need to be more efficient and we can't do that with small schools of 200-300 students.While the deadline is tight I don't think we really gain much by dragging out the process. This topic has been "on the books" for several years and I really don't think folks need too much time to get their thoughts together. The school evaluations need to be done now since data from 2006 is outdated but with enough staff and a well-defined outline of evaluation it is reasonable to do this well in a short time.

Paula Caldarella said...

I just got back from the committee meeting with Lynn Jackson. All I can say is head is still spinning with all of the information she provided.

The redistricting and closing/consolidation plan needs to get done as soon as possible so that DCSS can become eligible for more state funding.....

Anonymous said...

So, then, hurry up hurry up hurry up. It is about the state funding. If it's hurry up for this reason, I'm convinced it will not be well done. Again, it would be nice if parents who are rezoned would be informed of changes to lines soon enough that they can move if they are changed to a different school cluster. I understand that the northern schools clearly do not want those transfers in....but I come back to what I said several months ago, when the course offerings and special topics classes are equitible across the different schools, then you have a right to exclude, but that is not the case at this point. While this is something that is to be addressed (think someone mentioned this on an earlier / different blog), what is GOING to happen is that the changes will be made first, then programmatic changes will follow - Ha ha I believe the last part will happen. Suffer the poor children forced into a cluster that doesn't care about kids in the middle or at the top, because the academics simply will not be there for them in many of these schools - they're aren't now....this is clearly not an issue for folks here though.

Molly said...

I was also at the Budget committee mtg. After hearing Lynn Jackson's presentation, I agree totally with Dunwoody Mom. The redistricting/ consolidation plan absolutely cannot wait. We are losing out on both QBE funds and Capital Entitlement funds, and have been for years. Our children are not receiving an equitable share of state funding and will not until lines are redrawn and schools are closed.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:22 you are right in that the courses offered aren't consistent across the district. This is true from elem. through high school. I know some elem. schools in my cluster have foreign language, art, band and/or orchestra while others may only have orchestra or maybe art and foreign lang. The same goes for the high schools in regards to AP offerings. That said, I feel it should be up to each school's principal to use their points for what best fills their school's needs but there has to be better course consistency between the schools. If this were the case now, I don't think we would see so many kids transferring to the schools in the north end of the county.

Cerebration said...

DM - if you write up a report on your blog - will you please share it here? That sounded like a very informative meeting - one I couldn't attend... We'd all appreciate your thoughts!

Anonymous said...

DCSS has known there has been a lack of funding, due to school size , for years! Clew knew that having the small schools open was costing the system funding. But he couldn't decide at whose costs it would be, the incumbent BOE rep or the taxpayer? SCW, Cunningham and Zepora were screaming about the children, three years ago.

I think if DCSS had accepted some of these funds, there would have been more scrutiny to the use of those funds and maybe Clew thought his plan with Pope would be uncovered by the State?

So now that it's Fall 2010, everything must be done in a hurry. Folks this bunch wants a SPLOST 4 vote next year, not 2012 when more people vote!

I guess another reason for the delay, in the search for the super and consolidation, is the fact that DCSS staff has been tied up with lawsuit after lawsuit, costing the taxpayers more and more everyday.

Anonymous said...

The vote for Splost IV will be held in 2012 because it must be held in conjunction with City of Atlanta, Decatur and Fulton school systems.

It has to do with overlapping districts or some such thing.

It has been known forever that small schools were a problem. Dr. Halford knew and ignored it, even though some schools really went without certain resources.

Anonymous said...

If we rush the redistricting process for the bucks, chances are any gains will be wiped out by the costs of attoney fees needed to defend the county against the barage of lawsuits.

Anonymous said...

I am curious on what grounds you think people could sue and win? Remember that there has to be a violation of a law or contract for a law suit to be valid. Perhaps a civil rights violation or other constitutional issue. But suing just because?

Paula Caldarella said...

Cere, I will try to write something up to send to you if you wish. It may just be bullet points - hope that is ok. I took about bout 2.5 pages of hand-written notes and then I had to stop. Ms. Jackson really brought it down to a DCSS level and it really is just a lot of information to absorb and get ones "hands around".

The session was taped and Mrs. Tyson indicated it would be available via PDS-24. I would suggest that everyone interested view it - like I said, I just came away with my jaw dropping at the process.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm not sure where to post this, but I find the photos in the slideshows at the right of the homepage to be extremely misleading. Under the slideshow entitled "No SPLOST/NOT PRETTY" there are multiple pictures of Cross Keys. This slideshow implies that no SPLOST moneys were spent at Cross Keys which is just not true. The renovations over there are very nice and the school is not at all like the pictures depict. I am not sure whether these pictures were taken during contruction or what (one does show a dump truck in the background so that might be the reason) but it just seems wrong to make it seem like that is how the school looks now when it is not. I think there are legitimate issues with the way SPLOST is being spent -- but you undermine this point when you post misleading information like that.

Anonymous said...

Good info.:

Anonymous said...

"You can also count me as a cynic, when I read that DCSS staff was walking through buildings making decisions. Please! These folks are incapable of touring a building,let alone 5 of them each day. "

DCSS staff are not doing these assessments. The project is being done by an outside organization. They are using a computer program to analyze the data. The instructional and building condition walk-thru of every building are pieces of the puzzle. The public meetings are another. Please stop being cynical and get involved in the process. Everyone wants to be heard. This is your chance.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me Anon 8:13. DCSS staff are making the rounds. The private company is making contractor recommendations and upgrade suggestions.

DCSS staff are doing a separate tour, making sure the buildings are being used properly for each instruction category. I know, since I am scheduled to do one at our school next week, representing the PTA.

Anonymous said...

"DCSS staff are making the rounds. The private company is making contractor recommendations and upgrade suggestions. "

Sorry, I participated in an instructional walk thru. There were no DCSS County Office People present. Just the consultant, principal, AP, teachers, and parents. The consultant explained the process in detail. What is your source of information?

Anonymous said...

OK. Let's be real about public input with roughly 100,000 students now in DCSS.

Suppose 25to 30 parents contact the media, show up at the board offices waiving signs, and jump in front of the TV cameras to raise hell on an issue. If you were a board member or administrator, based on this should you change policy because the "community" (of 25-30) has come together to send a message?

It's effective, unconscionable, and happens all the time.


Anonymous said...

"Suppose 25to 30 parents contact the media, show up at the board offices waiving signs, and jump in front of the TV cameras to raise hell on an issue."

They would probably be arrested.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:24
The educational adequacy assessments are being led by a representative of MGT of America. There is an initial discussion group that includes the principal, teacher rep, custodian, and PTA/school council reps. It is followed by a walk through with the MGT rep. and anyone in the group that wants to walk the building/grounds with the rep. The rep. requests that at least one person that knows all the programs in the building, all the closets/converted spaces, etc. go on the walk (think principal and custodian) No one from Central Office or Facilities is present. I know because I participated in one this week. Our rep. indicated another group would come through to do the mechanical assessment (roof, lighting, HVAC, paving, plumbing, gutters, etc). It was presented as an outside group performing this assessment as well - not DCSS Facilities folks -but I could have heard wrong.

Anonymous said...

To a large extent, we (the parents) are the enemy on this issue. Close someone else's school - not mine. The pain will (and must be) widespread or the system will go bankrupt (while those we loathe collect their TRS check). With the exception of a few clusters that are bursting and/or projected to burst (such as Dunwoody ... and that's about it) . . . closures must be widespread. Chamblee (and yes that may mean HS), some elementaries around Tucker, and large swaths of south-central/south-west DeKalb. Do it ... or pay through the teeth...or go bankrupt. Those are your choices...North/South, White/Black...Doesn't matter. The money knows no geography or color.

Anonymous said...

Fixing the school size issue may mean conoslidations in the future that are made possible by new construction.

For example, McNair Learning Academy houses students from three now closed schools.

The reality is that the remaining McNair Elementary Schools could eventually do the same thing.

Part of the solution lies in construction, either new buildings or additions to existing ones so that we can have fewer facilities moving forward.

Anonymous said...

Good points, anon 10:04 and 10:06, which is why I hope that, with facilities issues being roughly equal, I hope they take school performance into consideration. When you're consolidating like this, please don't make everyone reinvent the wheel on the academic success side.

Anonymous said...

10:04 Better use of funds would also help the system from not going bankrupt. Right now, it is my humble opinion that why right sizing the number of schools needs to occur, we also need to right size the staff and salaries in the administration offices, MIS, Grounds/Maintenance and other areas of the system that have over paid workers that are genuinely not needed to run the schools. We also need to stop purchasing expensive programs that aren't helping our children receive a better education. Programs such as Esis, America's Choice, and others have been nothing but a waste of tax dollars whether purchased through Title One or regular funds, they are purchases that could have led to better use of money to affect the children and their education.

I agree that we need to right size our schools, but I do not believe that this will solve all of the ills of DCSS.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 10:18. When we right size the non-teaching personnel and expensive and ineffectual learning programs, we will gain the credibility to right size our schools.

Cerebration said...

MGT - thank you - that was the name of the company I couldn't remember... Yes, as I understood, they are doing the initial building walk-throughs (hired by Parsons?) and then there is a second walk-through with DCSS staff and school members to discuss the actual educational usage of the rooms. (Counting rooms and identifying what they are used for). There are two walk-throughs - correct?

Anonymous said...

Educational usage is being done by MGT now. They want to know if the "art room" is truly an art room with all the components of an art room or is it a spare space/room that you have put an art class into, is the science room equipped to be a science room, is the computer lab a true lab or is it a large closet someone added desks and computers to to make a "computer lab"; do the classes have what is needed instructionally: proper technology, desks, white boards, student work stations, storage, display cases, etc...can the cafeteria accommodate the students, do you have a space to accommodate an orchestra concert, an assembly, 5 PE classes at a time, etc?

Paula Caldarella said...

Sorry, I was under the weather yesterday afternoon (reaction from flu shot?...). Anyway I hope to get my thoughts about the meeting yesterday completed this morning.

Just remember when you are talking about new construction....At this time because DCSS has a surplus of seats across ES, MS and HS, the county will be unable to get State funds for any new buildings - they would all have to be paid for with local funds. This is one of the reasons we must not delay with the redistricting, closing/consolidation process.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Tyson indicated that the number one issue in emails she is receiving is the lack of enough Charrettes.

I attended the South DeKalb Parent Council Meeting last night (10/21). Dr. Humble of MGT indicated they will probably increase the number of Charrettes due to community feedback thus far. Several comments were made during the discussion of the 2020 Vision of wanting to ensure opportunities were provided to the community to participate in the process.

As Dunwoody Mom indicated, Ms. Tyson mentioned the need to move forward with the plan sooner rather than later with the consolidation & redistricting so the district can qualify for more state reimbursement dollars. The reason is we have too many empty seats around the district and that hurts our ability to qualify for these dollars.

Paula Caldarella said...
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Anonymous said...

I am awed by the focus on buildings and the continued lack of recognition that the reason parents are concerned in most parts of the county have to do with the educational qualities of their schools. Instead of focusing on ensuring that all kids have equal access to programs, such as gifted coordinators or art, we leave these decisions up to local principles who are under pressure to spend their points on programs that address only students at the bottom. Buildings aren't going to change this, consolidation will likely be used to force many kids into failing schools in order to close small schools that are educationally successful, gifted programs will remain in the north where schools are already successful, and kids in the middle will continue to be an afterthought. Skeptical? Yes, I am. We are focusing on buildings rather than educational needs to get money that will just be used to continue to fund a top heavy administration and likely pay mb more to require teachers to continue to do tasks that justify his job but do nothing for student success. Unless focus on educational quality runs concurrent in this process, parents and communities will remain skeptical and bitter about school closures. This board and admin need to work much harder than they are currently to demonstrate to the constituents most likely to be affected by school closures that educational outcomes will be better- immediately, not in kids will be affected now. A promise of eventual improvement if you are moved into a school that is not currently successful does not promote any degree of trust in the system.

Cerebration said...

I agree, and that is what is so different about DeKalb as compared to say, Gwinnett. Our schools are very hit or miss -- for example, we have some incredibly high-performing elementary schools within an easy walk of others that continually miss the mark, by a lot. So the apprehension about redistricting and having your children transferred to a nearby school is very real - many of our nearby schools are not very good at all.

I've always said that DCSS test scores, although the averages seem decent, actually read like an inverted bell curve when you plot out all of the data. Say a school's average test score is a '70'. One would assume that is what most students scored, however, instead, this number is an average of half a building scoring in the '90s and half in the 50's. Some of our children are getting a perfectly fine education, while others are not at all. This is why I have always agreed with the basic premise of No Child Left Behind -- it forced schools to aggregate data by sub-category to show that we are definitely not educating certain groups of students.

That said - this whole "charrette" escapade is definitely only about buildings. This is about poising our system to ask for another SPLOST from the public (no way would one pass if we voted on it next month!) It also has to do with getting money from the state for construction.

Identifying the inequities in what each school offers educationally is a whole 'nother area that definitely needs addressed. Hopefully, we will hire a new superintendent who is an expert in education and curriculum and that person will work toward improving education for all students in DeKalb.

Anonymous said...

You are right Anon 8:15, there usually in not a correlation between the quality of the building and the quality of instruction. We've seen students achieve great things in poor buildings and underachieve in great facilities.

You must admit that the quality of the building can reduce the distractions for getting a great education. It should allow for everyone to focus entirely on the instruction that is going on.

Paula Caldarella said...

Cere, I sent you an email.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Anon 8:15 AM. I posted October 20, 2010 10:01 PM trying to make the same point.

The reason why this process is getting more convoluted is because they are wrapping up all of the building improvement work into the consolidation/redistricting process. I agree you cannot consolidate and redistrict without some awareness of the state of the buildings you are looking to close or move hundreds of students into. But I smell something rotten in the detailed look at facilities. I feel like SPLOST is their priority, and they are using this redistricting effort to gather the information they will need to ask for SPLOST IV.

I haven't heard one word thus far from Ramona or MGT about other criteria to be used for consolidation. Dan Drake has school and student data as recent as last month, so there is plenty of data to see where our gaps are and where they are projected to be. They need to get to a short list quickly and start investigating exactly where those kids would go and get the receiving buildings into shape. That would actually leave plenty of time to balance out the programs to make sure kids who are being moved are not losing a lot.

I also feel like they are assessing building condition because they dread a fight over the leftover construction dollars. This should NOT be lumped into the redistricting effort; it is muddying the waters.

pscexb said...

Anonymous 8:56 said,

"I feel like SPLOST is their priority, and they are using this redistricting effort to gather the information they will need to ask for SPLOST IV."

There is not question that SPLOST is the end goal for this process. If they want citizens to consider extending SPLOST, they must present a comprehensive plan to show how those dollars would be used. Several members of the CPTF were concerned about closing schools without a full plan, not knowing what long term impact the closings might have.

We have rehabilitated schools in isolation in the past, without considering the long term use of the facilities. Does it make sense to replace the heating system at a school that have less than 450 students and is close to another school that has less than 450 students? I say that decision should not be made until you can show how the facilities will be used.

Food for thought, the district is going to great lengths to get the community involved in this process. Someone above said that more Charrettes may be added. Would the Gwinnett County School Board do this or would they simply make the decision they feel is best?

Anonymous said...

any news on the called board meeting to pick the search firm and decide how to use the stimulus money? The meeting should be going on now.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to the millions that Ms. Tyson and the BOE wanted to use for the Bryant Center that houses MIS? Did that go through?

Anonymous said...

We can not sell building a or b until they move out the telphone switch, the internet connection for the county and the computer system there that does payrool, pays the bills, keeps track of student records, and personnel records. It only occupies a small prtion of building A but it will be expensive to move it. First you have to have secure room to put it in. Second you need super air conditioning because of the heat the equipment makes. Third you have to provide upgraded electrical service and wiring and emergency electrical service(via a natural gas generator). You will also need to upgrade the security system and pay to have all the upgraded phone lines and electical service installed. The is no room in WBB that presently fits that description. So you will have to pay to move it and the construction will be several millions. At present the lone remaining operation in building a is not as secure as it was when when everyone worked near by. Why didn't they put it at Mountain Industrial? There is no room left there. It houses two high schools and the CHamblee HS annex, along with all the offices which after the downsizing are in less space than before. There is a much larger board room and public auditorium that was not available in Buildng A or B.

Anonymous said...

pscexb - In answer to Gwinnett making redistricting decisions, I feel they would just do it. No community input & no apoligizing for not getting it either, no board member haggling for their district. When you have a functional, right-sized BoE with everyone on it serving for the greater good of the system this works. Gwinnett schools are all pretty evenly balanced academically and the redistricting isn't much more than a bus ride to a different school. The same can be said for Forsyth County. The attendance lines are redrawn quite often without a peep from the community, that's because the education is consistently good regardless of which building your child sits in. Dekalb is nowhere near having educational consistentcy between attendance zones, particularly at the high school level. This is what gets folks very twitchy.

Anonymous said...

Dekalb is nowhere near having educational consistentcy between attendance zones, particularly at the high school level. This is what gets folks very twitchy.


Anonymous said...

Another sad video clip regarding our school board!

Ex-DeKalb School Board Member Accused Of Bribery:

Anonymous said...

Heery Mitchell has a reputation of playing really dirty. Really dirty.

While I think that little surprises us about DCSS, I think that we have to be very skeptical of Heery Mitchell.

They have had this information for years. We should wonder about the timing of this as the Heery Mitchell attorneys have just been rebuked on another delay, despite what Belcher said. The trial is set to begin end of February, I believe.

pscexb said...

Great post @ 11:24! Perhaps you knew where I was going with that question. Is it possible that over the years our 'well intentioned' BOE and supers have allowed themselves to be compromised by the communinty and inadvertently created a 'culture of appeasement'? It's not secret we've heard about the 'squeaky wheels' getting attention, perhaps to the detriment of addressing real needs.

Would it be better for the powers that be make the tough decisions, present them for discussion, allow for tweaks if needed, then implement? Would the culture of our community allow that, even if it was in the best interest of the community and for the education of our children?

You also had another thought provoking point, "Dekalb is nowhere near having educational consistentcy between attendance zones, particularly at the high school level." Is the goal to ensure consistency of educational opportunities or outcomes? I say we want the former because each student will determine their outcome by their individual efforts and self motivation. What is the baseline that every school should have to ensure every student has an equal opportunity to succeed academically is the never ending question.

Anonymous said...

Close Chamblee eh? This after they'll be breaking ground on a new building? I think they plan to redraw lines to make sure there are enough kids at Chamblee. Right now, Chamblee houses, 700 residents,300 charter students(which doesn't end until 2014 t will most likely will be extended) and 200+ magnet kids who are at the school and the annex/palace.

With the BOE approval of going after the QSCB Bonds, the BOE is very close to approving a new building for CCHS. This vote is also happening very soon, due to the deadlines that are a part of the QSCB funding.

The BOE has been told, with DHS about to explode, CCHS losing magnet, the time is perfect to redraw lines and balance attendance zones.

The sad thing in all this is the decisions for using the QSCB have to be made during the time were having the Charettes. It's great for the Chamblee folks, since they are in dire need of a new building and was not looking forward to having to wait until SPLOST 4.

Paula Caldarella said...

There was some discussion about how to find funds for a new Chamblee HS in the meetings. Bottom line is until the school system loses the surplus seats there is no state money for new schools.

This conversation led me to believe, at the time, that there is not a deal in place for a new Chamblee HS - I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:56
At Emory LaVista Parent Council, Ms. Tyson introduced Dan Drake and another individual also named Dan who is a demographer with MGT. She stated they would be working together looking at the enrollment/projections/demographic information which would be added to the educational adequacy assessment, the facility assessment, the charrettes, etc. as another piece of data to help create a complete picture.

Anonymous said...

This little jewel from CBS Atlanta

DeKalb School Redistricting
Children Will Be Moved From Fernbank Elementary School

POSTED: 2:45 pm EDT October 22, 2010

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. -- DeKalb County Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson addressed the media Friday about big changes that will take place at several schools in the county as a part of the district's 2020 Vision plan.

DeKalb County is working on a redistricting and consolidation plan that will force some students to change schools.

"Before one decision is made we are going to go to the public," said Tyson. "We need to go to the communities and talk to the parents."

Parents in the Druid Hills neighborhood told CBS Atlanta that they are concerned that their children will be moved from Fernbank Elementary School to a lower performing school like Briar Vista Elementary.

Tyson assured parents that children will not be moved to a lower performing school because the school system plans to conduct an instructional audit to make sure students continue to receive the same level of education if they are asked to change schools.

The DeKalb County School System plans to hold a series of public forums on this issue.

For anyone who was there, did Tyson really say this? Also, love the misleading headline, CBS Atlanta!

Anonymous said...

Opps, here is the link

Anonymous said...

"Tyson assured parents that children will not be moved to a lower performing school because the school system plans to conduct an instructional audit to make sure students continue to receive the same level of education if they are asked to change schools."

Ms. Tyson may mean they will move Fernbank teachers to the receiving schools for Fernbank students, thus ensuring that the quality of educational opportunity remains the same.

This is misleading though. I taught at Fernbank and also other schools as a resource teacher. Most Fernbank students are at or above grade level so the teachers do not have to worry about a considerable percentage of their class not having the basic skills. They are free to teach advanced skills since the basics have been mastered by virtually all of the students in the class - and boy does it show in math.

My students at other schools who were just as capable of advanced work did not receive the advanced instruction in all of their regular education classes as the Fernbank students because the teacher had so many students who were on or below grade level in skills.

This is a huge problem when you move high achieving students from a school that has most of their students above grade level to a school that has most of their students on or below grade level.

Parents of high achieving students realize that teachers aren't miracle workers, and that class sizes nearing or surpassing 30 students will ensure that the majority of the students (those performing on or below grade level) are the ones that MUST be targeted in order for that teacher to ensure that his/her class makes AYP. Look at how AYP is calculated, and it's easy to see that the teacher's performance does not hinge on accelerated teaching and learning, but merely a greater percentage "meeting" or "exceeding" expectations.

This sounds like a promise that can't be kept, and Fernbank parents know it. I think they'll fight tooth and nail to keep their kids in classes where the teacher is free to spend most of his/her time teaching accelerated skills because most of the class has already mastered the basics.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone feel sorry for Briar Vista? It seems unfair for Fernbank parents to brush them in a negative light.

Anonymous said...

How many parents of high achieving students want their child to go to a school that has primarily high achieving students in their classes? I would say most of them.

What parent of a high achieving student picks a lower achieving school for their child? Very few.

Look at the ITBS scores for Fernbank and then look at the ITBS scores for some of the schools near Fernbank.

Parents of high achieving students ALL over DCSS are the same. They want their high achiever child challenged, and most feel that their child will be taught at a higher level if they are sitting in classes where most of the students have already mastered the basics.

I don't think Briar Vista is being particularly singled out.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Tyson was promising that teachers would move (although some teachers would move - they discussed this last year in the closings debacle). I think she was saying they wouldn't move kids from a school with, just for example, music, PE, art, and Discovery to a school that has only PE and music. In that case, I would assume they would add the missing specials to the receiving school.

Anonymous said...

It is easy to have high test scores, if all of your children come in with solid skills and good intellectual ability. Just weed out or keep out any child you think might lower the average test scores in your school. This is part of the reason we have a consistency problem in DeKalb schools.

At-risk students learn more when placed in middle class learning environments. As long as your percentage of at-risk children remains at or below 25% it will not negatively impact instruction in the classroom.

IMHO the real test of a school is what it does for the student who is struggling for any reason. The student who arrives with less than necessary basic skills. The unmotivated student. The gifted child who isn't interested. I look for solid instruction going on in classrooms. It is possible to challenge high performing students while helping struggling students. It all comes down to expectations. Good teachers make a difference in the lives of children every day.

Anonymous said...

What about the International Baccalaureate curriculum? It will be impossible to move kids from Fernbank (IB school) to another (non-IB) school and say they are receiving the same educational opportunities.

Anonymous said...

And thus begins the problems. DCSS has nearly an impossible situation.

The City of Atlanta schools choose not to fight the battle of Buckhead (sorry, I couldn't resist) and instead has or is adding annexes for each of the Buckhead elementary schools. No redistricting there.

Anonymous said...

Potential CRCT questions, perhaps?

Q? If 200 students from school A are moved to School B, and school B only has 300 students or so, what do you think happens to School B?

A. The culture of School B changes! Actually, it depends on if the school cultures were that different to begin with.

Q. If School A loses 200 students, what do you think happens with the teachers?

A. The teachers leave School A, presumably to follow the students to their new school.

Briar Vista Parent said...

The primary difference between Fernbank and Briar Vista is that Fernbank is homogeneously upper middle class, while Briar Vista is a diverse mixture of families who are homeowners, Emory grad students, CDC visiting scholars, and working class kids with varying immigration statuses. I'm sure that some Fernbank parents do want to build a wall to keep out people who aren't like them. Emory University itself serves to perpetuate the special status that Fernbank families may attach to themselves by providing extra resources only to Fernbank, Shamrock and Druid Hills but not to other neighborhood schools. The IB program at Fernbank is great, but so is the Montessori program at Briar Vista. Briar Vista families have fought DCSS long and hard whenever they have inaccurately attributed extra costs to the Montessori program and therefore threatened to cancel it. My experience at school board and redistricting meetings is that families from different schools have felt solidarity with one another against the institutionalized stupidity of DCSS, rather than feeling rivalry between families from different areas of the county.

It doesn't surprise me that CBS would try to gin up ratings by instigating a rivalry that is not felt by most parents. It only serves to distract from the real issue, which is the historically flawed DCSS decision-making process.

Anonymous said...

Do you think parents who are at a school they choose, by virtue of a housing decision, are going to be happy to go to a school that is very different from their current school?

Anonymous said...

Reading the discussion of Fernbank ES and Briar Visata ES should give any person a real and true sense of why any school succeeds or fails. Reading this candid discussion should also de-fang any and all of the Republican and Democratic diatribes about TEACHERS!!

Schools are great PRINCIPALLY because of the QUALITY of its students as reflected by the SOCIAL/ASPIRATIONAL and the ECONOMIC status of the parents!

Anonymous said...

Two elementary schools separated by the Emory University and only 3.3 miles apart!

Families and children living just 3.3 miles away from each other.

Based on the location, should we suspect that we are speaking of mostly white middle class families?

Well, well, well....

Anonymous said...

"At-risk students learn more when placed in middle class learning environments. As long as your percentage of at-risk children remains at or below 25% it will not negatively impact instruction in the classroom. "

The discussion was not about "at risk" students or even the student in the middle. The discussion was about high achieving students. High achieving students are the group that benefits the least academically from heterogeneous grouping. That is not to say they don't benefit from the social aspect of going to school with a diverse group of learners (race is only one small aspect of diversity - religious, cultural, physical - i.e. differently abled physically, motivational, intellectual, etc.). All of these are extremely important to the social aspect of high achievers just as it is to all learners. We live in a diverse world and social skills are critical.

However, if your child can handle AP Calculus or AP Chemistry, don't you want him/her to be in a classroom with other students who can? Students who have been taught at an accelerated level will be better able to handle challenging classes like APs if they can speed ahead not waiting for the rest of the class. This is why you see so many South Dekalb parents of high achieving children trying to make sure their children get into schools that challenge them academically. They use transfers, charters, magnets and theme school options - they are passionate about their children being able to move quickly through the curriculum and having access to more challenging classes.

The northern schools (and to a large extent the southern schools as well - e.g. SW Dekalb, Arabia Mtn.) have carved out areas of affluence when it comes to schools. There is a reason for that. Most parents do not want to sacrifice their children on their altar of social beliefs.

Redistricting will be tough.

Kim Gokce said...

What is troubling to me isn't that most parents want the best for their particular child. It isn't that high achievers benefit from being isolated from "under achievers." It isn't that some communities have successfully organized and petitioned for specialized programs to offer their children. All of these things are wonderful.

What is troubling to me is that at some point, some folks start to believe that somehow these things are not a privilege but a right. It bothers me, too, that some folks are willing to go so far as to provide these things to some children at the expense of other children.

Let's make no mistake, there has always been and always will be limited funds for DeKalb Public Schools. So any major funding decisions we make are made in a "zero sum game" milieu - that is there will be winners and losers in this game at any point in time and we cannot provide equitable facilities and programs to all children.

As a political system, the politically strong communities will fare better over time in their fight for limited resources. The realities of DeKalb public education seem driven by these dynamics and I see no reason to expect this to change. Certainly, human nature isn't going to change.

So, my friends, gird your loins for more of the same - fight to the death to ensure your neighborhood school gets the priority and the devil take the hindmost.

Lefty said...

Too bad for some of those Fernbank parents if their kids are redistricted to Briar Vista or Medlock. The large size of Fernbank's attendance area is ridiculous. Overcrowded Fernbank has students that live less than a mile from Medlock yet go 3+ miles to FB. As a homeowner, if you buy a home because of a school yet live closer to a different school, you may face a school change. That is reality.

Kim Gokce said...

Anon 10:30a "Do you think parents who are at a school they choose, by virtue of a housing decision, are going to be happy to go to a school that is very different from their current school?"

Call me crazy but the contract we have with our public system is to provide education at public expense - not to guarantee access to a particular school. To me, this is the fatal flaw in our community's view of public education and we have to be more sophisticated about it.

It is NOT reasonable to move into a school district that is miles wide and expect it to NEVER change. If this home owner is SO concerned about their school district NEVER changing, this homeowner needs to move across the street from the school. Even in this scenario, the school can close and deprive this sad homeowner from his/her "right" to their local school.

Kim Gokce said...

There is one way to guarantee the school your child attends - it is called private. Public education cannot make these guarantees unless we want to invest the same levels of capital and operating expenses as private schools. Look at the tuition charged at the Westminsters, Marists, etc. of the world and realize that the tuition DOES NOT cover the cost of operating those schools.

So before anyone says, "We spend as much per pupil in DeKalb," please understand this fact: the capital anc expense cost per pupil at private schools is HIGHER than the published rate of tuition paid by parents.

Anonymous said...

Kim, I am not sure your analysis that some provide certain things "for some children at the expense of other children" is accurate. Maybe I do not understand what you meant by this.

Coming from a family of public educators, the Title I schools get vastly more public funding than the average non-Title I school. Most of this funding is used per Title I requirements to help the students who are not meeting grade level proficiency requirements.

Many believe that DCSS has not used its Title I funds in a wise manner, but that is a different issue.

My teacher parents and siblings fault the public education trend du jour of "differentiated" instruction for many of the problems facing teachers in public schools. As the resource teacher blogger pointed out, it is difficult to provide appropriate and high quality instruction to every student in a large class of students who have such a broad spectrum of learning levels.

For example, differentiated instruction can work with a very experienced teacher in a class of 20 middle schoolers. It will not work in a class of 35 middle school students where a substantial percentage start the class several years behind in reading skills. It also fails where there are not enough english language learners to justify a separate ELL class.

It is a tough issue for both parents and teachers.

Anonymous said...

As long as the majority of property owners' property taxes are used to fund public schools, parents will continue to expect that their children will attend a particular school in the school zone that existed when they purchased the house.

Many folks pay top dollar for tiny ranch homes in neighborhoods like Fernbank, Oak Grove, etc. so that their children can attend a particlar school cluster.

This isn't going to change until we overhaul the way we fund public schools.

Kim Gokce said...

For two issues in a row, The Reporter Newspaper has joined the effort to promote a $50m new school for the Chamblee communities:

Chamblee High could receive funds to rebuild

Revamped facility or brand new high school?

It will be interesting to watch the $$$ grab unfold. As a property owner in the CCHS attendance zone, I suppose I should join the chorus but I wish we could look beyond our noses at our capital decisions.

Kim Gokce said...

@Anon 12p: "not sure your analysis that some provide certain things "for some children at the expense of other children" is accurate. Maybe I do not understand what you meant by this."

My comment was in reference to redistricting policies and capital investments. The lines are drawn under political pressure not for any pedagogical reasons. The captial investments are made often for political reasons not for pedagogical reasons.

On instructional decisions, I claim no insights or authority whatsoever.

Kim Gokce said...

"Many folks pay top dollar for tiny ranch homes in neighborhoods like Fernbank, Oak Grove, etc. so that their children can attend a particlar school cluster."

I get that. I guess my point is that "the public" is not obligated to guarantee that privilege for individual home owners. If the fiduciary responsibility of the BoE is requires lines be redrawn, then lines should be redrawn. To me, this is inherent in the nature of the public system.

My DeKalb County tax bill does not say 70% of my taxes go to fund Chamblee High or Cross Keys High or Arabia High School depending on where I live - it says it is for public education in DeKalb County. Whether this is the right funding mechanism or not is an interesting question but it is the funding system we have.

Anonymous said...

Since Fernbank seems to be a repeating topic on this thread let's examine the pertinent facts. The school is not overcrowded when you look at the resident population of the current district. Therefore, there is no need to redistrict Fernbank. The size of the school district is no different than most other school districts - if it looks wide on the map it's because the city of Decatur forms the southern border.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 12:02pm

"For example, differentiated instruction can work with a very experienced teacher in a class of 20 middle schoolers. It will not work in a class of 35 middle school students where a substantial percentage start the class several years behind in reading skills. It also fails where there are not enough english language learners to justify a separate ELL class."

Thank you. That was really my point. Differentiated instruction is NOT going to happen in most classrooms of 30 or 35 children with even the best of instructors. That is the reality we find ourselves in public education and in particular in DCSS.

Money has flowed into public education at a tremendous rate in the last 40 years - enough to dramatically lower class sizes and attract great teachers. Yet we still have huge class sizes and the profession does not have the top of the class in many instances.

Isn't it time we asked where the money is going since it's obvious it's not going into the classroom? DCSS classrooms have the same amount of children, and most of them look no different than classrooms of the 1950s.

Title 1 money is not spent wisely. If it was spent wisely, students in Title 1 schools would be experiencing increases in achievement. Please don't give me the same tired old argument of NCLB and how the percentage of students with the "meets" and "exceeds" CRCT scores must go up every year at an ever increasing rate. Go to the DCSS website and download the ITBS scores. ITBS scores are norm referenced and do not demand the percentage increases of the NCLB CRCT scores. They are a truer measure of what is happening in DCSS for students in Title 1 schools.

In DCSS OBTAINING Title 1 money is seen as more important than how this money is spent and the efficacy of the programs it is spent on. Just get the money is the objective. Little thought is given to planning, executing and measuring the expenditure.

@ Kim Glocke
I taught at Woodward off and on for 40 years (70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s) and am ESOL certified as well so I know a little about that area. I've also taught at Fernbank and Medlock and Briarlake and many other schools in DCSS. This is not a "class" or "culture" issue. When I talk about high achievers, I'm not talking about wealth or culture or race or even gifted. I'm talking about students who have the ability and the drive to comprehend at an advanced level. They are in EVERY classroom and in EVERY school in DCSS. They deserve the chance to advance rapidly. Private education should not be their only option. High achievers disproportionately become our doctors and scientists and inventors.

Many of my Woodward high achieving students' parents could not afford private education. Many of my Fernbank students' parents could. This seems inherently unfair to me.

Anonymous said...

At many elementary schools around here, a tremendous amount of ability grouping is going on. Kids as young as 1st grade are changing classes.

Of course, it is harder to implement at small schools, but it is a solution to some challenges.

Anonymous said...

These comments caused me to think about the following:

Anon 1:58 --
Ability grouping was a fact of life in DeKalb County schools 30 years ago --- when DCSS was acknowledged as one of the top school systems in the nation.

Maybe there is something to seperating students into classes based on ability

Re the discussion about Fernbank vs. Medlock vs. Briar Vista and redistricting...

Gwinnett County schools - remember the system that many on this blog think is the greatest thing since sliced bread since they won the Broad prize - redistricts on a fairly regular basis. You don't hear, or at least I don't see voter frustration, over property value declines when school lines change. It appears to just be accepted as a way of life in Gwinnett. GCPS has a demongraphic beginning to mirror DCSS.

I wonder what the difference is?

Anonymous said...

"Re the discussion about Fernbank vs. Medlock vs. Briar Vista and redistricting...

Gwinnett County schools - remember the system that many on this blog think is the greatest thing since sliced bread since they won the Broad prize - redistricts on a fairly regular basis. You don't hear, or at least I don't see voter frustration, over property value declines when school lines change. It appears to just be accepted as a way of life in Gwinnett. GCPS has a demongraphic beginning to mirror DCSS.

I wonder what the difference is?"

There is equity among schools in Gwinnett unlike DeKalb. Gwinnett schools make AYP consistently and test scores are more uniform than in DeKalb. Just compare test scores at the 3 schools you mention.

Anonymous said...

Could it be that Gwinnett holds the line at a "minimum acceptable behavior" from students?

And because of the prospects of finding their children with no place to be or to go the parents prepare their children better for schooling?

Dekalb wants to educate everyone regardless of the student's or parent's level of civil or social cooperation.

Anonymous said...

Could it be that Gwinnett holds the line at a "minimum acceptable behavior" from students?

And because of the prospects of finding their children with no place to be or to go the parents prepare their children better for schooling?

Dekalb wants to educate everyone regardless of the student's or parent's level of civil or social cooperation.

Lefty said...

Anon 1:00 pm, perhaps you live in a Fernbank neighborhood that is closer to Medlock or Briar Vista as shown on this map:

Fernbank attendance area does have an unusual shape because it butts up against Decatur and City of Atlanta. But some Fernbank neighborhoods come to within a mile of Briar Vista on the north and Medlock on the east.

With Fernbank overenrolled by 150+ students and the neighboring schools underenrolled by 100+ students each, it makes sense to redistrict and balance enrollment.

It's the same story in the overcrowded Oak Grove district. Some OG students could easily be shifted to Briarlake or Laurel Ridge.

Anonymous said...

Fernbank's overcrowding can be explained in part by school choice. There are about 100 students from outside the Fernbank attendance zone.

Anonymous said...

@ Lefty

So if Fernbank is over crowded by 100 transfers out of the Fernbank area, do you redraw the attendance lines to send enough Fernbank students to Medlock or another school so you'll have room for those 100 transfer students? Or do you send those 100 transfer students back to their home schools and then redraw the lines based on +50 students?

I don't think people realize the number of transfer students we have in DCSS. Many of them are high achievers. Those parents transferred them for a reason. This is one reason we need to deal with the inequity between schools, and inequity is not always just if you have an auditorium or art, music and PE in every school.

If DCSS was not so set on always doing things the "DeKalb Way", the administration and BOE might take a look at how other successful school systems are handling the issue of redistricting.

Anonymous said...

Re: Fernbank "overcrowding" ...

It is NOT okay to re-district when "overcrowding" is caused by school choice.

DCSS has done so badly for so long they should definitely be using other allowed remedies --like closing and re-opening schools with an all new staff and administration.

It would be interesting to know if administrators at DCSS's poorest performing schools are part of the Friends-and-Family cadre. Does anyone know?

Meanwhile, if you wonder why GaDOE is letting DCSS get away with wasting Title I monies and a repeatedly, year-after-year-after-year, ineffective response to schools not making AYP, write to Deputy Superintendent Clara Keith and ASK:

If the answer you get back suggests that GaDOE does not have the authority -- then you need to seriously consider who you vote to send to the Georgia General Assembly. Ask the candidates what they will do in 2011 to give the GaDOE some teeth -- and vote accordingly. And make it impossible for GaDOE to continue to protect DCSS.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 4:53 pm

And why shouldn't the Ga DOE want to protect DCSS? The Ga DOE is filled and with retired DCSS administrators and many more retired DCSS administrators have worked there for various lengths of time. A friend of mine was at the Ga DOE a number of years ago and she said it looked like a DCSS reunion as she passed so many ex-DCSS administrators in the hallways.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 4:58 pm

You're right. And boy does it show. Go to the 2009 Salary and Travel audit and you will see that as all the school systems in Georgia were cutting teaching personnel and Gov. Perdue and the legislature were cutting funding for schools, the Ga DOE actually increased in personnel numbers as well as personnel expenditures. Sounds a lot like DCSS.

Go to:

Click on Salaries and Travel Reimbursements>Organizations>State Agencies,Boards,Authorities and Commissions>Education, Department Of. Compare the number and salary and Travel expenditure total from 2008 and 2009. The Georgia DOE was busy growing while the state was busy cutting local school funding.

Lefty said...

It's true that there are out of district students at Fernbank. I do hope that when school capacities are finalized and redistricting occurs, it considers resident families and eliminates trailers at all schools.

But even after adjusting for those Choice students, Fernbank is still over-enrolled by at least 50 students. Probably the same number of students that are in neighborhoods closer to Medlock and Briar Vista.

It just doesn't make sense that the county is bussing children to a neighborhood school that is outside that child's neighborhood. Clairmont Road should be the east boundary for Fernbank, not Willivee.

Clearly, there are no easy answers. But just because one buys a home in a certain attendance area, they don't have the right to that attendance area. I find the indignant, "but I bought my house for this school" argument a little hollow. To me, it makes fiscal sense to district neighborhoods to the closest school that has available space.

Perhaps the county should move the Choice program to Medlock to help fill that school. I wonder what would happen then.

BTW, I have no personal interest in this topic as I have already taken the route that Kim Gokce suggests and put my child in Catholic school. I just am tired of seeing the waste and the attitudes of entitlement across the county among all parties. It's time for objective decisions by people who have expertise. No more whiny parents calling the shots.

Anonymous said...

"BTW, I have no personal interest in this topic as I have already taken the route that Kim Gokce suggests and put my child in Catholic school. I just am tired of seeing the waste and the attitudes of entitlement across the county among all parties. It's time for objective decisions by people who have expertise. No more whiny parents calling the shots."

Got tired of waiting to be redistricted into Lakeside did you?

Anonymous said...

Lefty, if you are really concerned about fiscal responsibility you must be an advocate for closing Medlock since it does not even have the capacity for the magical 450 student population threshold that brings state money into the system.

Anonymous said...

abslutely some students receive at the expense of others, just take a look at the magnet system - not evidenced based, costly in provision and transportation and a disproportionate allocation of county resources for a small number of students.

Lefty said...

I gave public schools 3 years. I volunteered and worked my butt off at the school my child attended. I finally got tired of watching teachers underpaid and undermined by the county. I got tired of teaching to the test. I got tired of teachers telling me that kids should be allowed to talk after finishing their work even though others are still working. I got tired of watching the above-average students like my child over-looked while the teacher spent all of her time working with kids still mastering English (I'm a fan of ability grouping which coincidentally began this year at the school we left).

Ultimately, I decided I didn't want to gamble on the education of my only child.

At our Catholic school, the classroom is quiet. The teachers have assistants. There is no teaching to the test. There is ability grouping for math. All of the students are at least average, if not above, so the teacher can teach a subject and move on. If a child needs extra help, it becomes the parent's responsibility. And I am volunteering even more to support the school as tuition comes nowhere near to covering the education provided.

I stand by the philosophy that students should attend their neighborhood school. The focus should be making all neighborhood schools excellent. Then perhaps no students would want to transfer to an already crowded school.

I wasn't involved in the Lakeside issue for myself. I honestly never intended to send my child to public high school. I was in it to support neighbors. And because it is unreasonable and illogical to send kids to a school that is further away from their neighborhood. Druid Hills and Lakeside are pretty comparable schools.

Lefty said...

"if you are really concerned about fiscal responsibility you must be an advocate for closing Medlock since it does not even have the capacity for the magical 450 student population threshold that brings state money into the system."

Medlock is small, but it's impossible to close it because it would overburden surrounding schools. And it still makes sense to fill it to capacity, especially if it helps crowding at another school.

"abslutely some students receive at the expense of others, just take a look at the magnet system - not evidenced based, costly in provision and transportation and a disproportionate allocation of county resources for a small number of students."

I tend to be of the philosophy that magnets should not take resources away from neighborhood schools. Before paying for magnet programs (especially at the elementary level), every neighborhood school should have art, music, foreign language, PE, etc. Parents should foot the bill for transportation. And incremental costs of running the magnet programs should be covered by grants, etc.

Anonymous said...

@ Lefty

"It just doesn't make sense that the county is bussing children to a neighborhood school that is outside that child's neighborhood. Clairmont Road should be the east boundary for Fernbank, not Willivee. "

Students can walk to Medlock from Willivee. It is one block from the school. One side of Willivee is zoned to Medlock and the other side is zoned to Fernbank (they must be bussed to Fernbank). Which side of the street has houses sold for tens of thousands of dollars more?

There are more high achieving students at Fernbank than at Medlock based on CRCT and ITBS scores. Reading is not such a problem since high achieving students can read and comprehend. Math is the real differential for high achieving students. Math is a vertical subject, and generally you must be taught math in order to master it since one skill builds upon the next.

If your child is a high achiever and is in a math class where most of the students easily and quickly master the skills that are taught, your child can move quickly and has a greater opportunity to learn accelerated material. That's just the way it is.

I'm a proponent of ability grouping if we're going to have classes above 25 in the intermediate (4th and 5th grade) grades. There is simply no way a teacher can differentiate for that many students of differing ability groups in today's paperwork driven climate. Central Office personnel will say you can (good PR), but reality would say otherwise. Title 1 funds used to be used for struggling students - 12 was the maximum for a Title 1 math group - while the classroom teachers then taught larger classes by ability grouping. This ensured students did not move on to skills that depended on skills they had not mastered.

This will be is a huge problem since redistricting and sending high achieving transfer students back to their home schools will have a negative impact on so many of them. What we have now is the luck of the draw, who you know and parents scrambling to find a good situation for their child so that's not good either.

This is why it's so disappointing to have such an absence of Instructional leadership in DCSS. The Instructional leadership in DCSS is so focused on data that will show their success and secure their jobs that they have taken their focus off the students. Title 1 funding is used primarily to fund non-teaching personnel and scripted learning "one size fits all" learning programs.

Anonymous said...

-I wonder how many Central Office staffers and other have children at Fernbank?

-The Fernbank parent group may be the most powerful in the county. They will go ape-blank if Dan Drake and Tyson make one little change to the Fernbank attendance zone.

Let me be very clear: Fernbank parents want to see DCSS change dramatically, stop wasting money, etc. But if anyone from DCSS makes even the smallest change to the attendance zone, expect a firestorm that no BOE member will stand up to.

The squeaky wheel always wins in DeKalb. And the Fernbank parents are the squeakiest.

Anonymous said...

During these hard economic times and the Fernbank parents protected Fernbank Science Center, a $7,000,000 facility with less than 30 teachers and only 180 students that are seen for part of a day with any consistency (90 per semester for 4 hours a day).

It's a lovely addition to the Fernbank community and many of the 90 students a semester as well as the weekend and summer programs are very convenient for them.

However, the fact remains that Fernbank Science Center is outmoded, ecologically unfriendly (thousands of buses belching CO2 into the air), horrifically expensive (where else would you find buses bringing 30 students to a teacher once a year for an hour and half hour science lesson), and exceptionally inefficient (no child can master a deep understanding of science principals without day to day science instruction).

Fernbank parents trotted out the big guns and pontificated on the incredible student diversity and sense of wonderment that a single Fernbank visit imparts. They even had Dr. Connor write an editorial in the AJC and the Fernbank Council wrote an extremely erudite open letter to the DeKalb BOE.

Meanwhile, children all over DCSS are packed like sardines into science classes with scant and outdated science equipment. Shameful.

Lefty said...

Anon 10:55 - it's the same situation in the Oak Grove/Sagamore area. Houses with an Oak Grove Drive address are zoned to OG. A house that is on the west corner but with a side street address goes to Sagamore. Next door neighbors go to different high schools.

And like Fernbank, OG has over 70 out of district students. Who are those kids? OG is nearly 180 kids over capacity. It makes no sense.

Although the scores show more high achievers at Fernbank, I'm sure there are still some high achievers at Medlock. And wouldn't those students benefit if there were more high achievers at Medlock.

I hired a tutor for my child last year to ensure that they were being challenged. I didn't feel like school was challenging enough.

No easy answers and there will be some unhappy people no matter what the decisions will be.

Lefty said...

No doubt that Fernbank Science Center should be a non-profit separate from DCSS and funded by private grants, etc.

Anonymous said...

@ Lefty

"Although the scores show more high achievers at Fernbank, I'm sure there are still some high achievers at Medlock. And wouldn't those students benefit if there were more high achievers at Medlock.

Yes. There are high achievers at Medlock, and they would be benefited with more high achievers that are currently zoned into Fernbank. But would those students get the same educational experience as they would get at Fernbank? That's what Fernbank parents will be asking.

Anonymous said...

Remember the 2020 plan is a a multi-year plan. This plan may involve adding on to some schools so others can be closed down the road.

The examples of price differences on homes happens in many districts across DeKalb.

It is going to get ugly and get ugly pretty quickly I think.

Anonymous said...

If the Board votes to build a new school that could add seats prior to having some type of plan to eliminate seats and get more state reimbursement dollars, it could add to getting ugly.

Anonymous said...

What I meant was that they might close a school and add seats to an adjoining school. Say you have a school that is at capacity next to a school that is under capacity. You can't really move students from one school to the other, because there aren't enough students to fill both buildings. However, if you enlarge one building enough to encompass both populations, you have eliminated the surplus seats at the other building and reduced the number of facilities DCSS has.

Anonymous said...

And this would be part of the long-term plan, not a short term plan.

It might be part of the solution, not the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

The principals do not want teacher input. As one poster put it, it is phrased, that teacher input is "welcomed." It is orchestrated as such because principals are given autonomy at every school. Really, they want no teacher's input, but lead others to believe they do, and that they are receiving EACH teacher's input. They're not. Inputs must be done anonymously, no teacher wants to be harassed.

Anonymous said...

All schools need to be providing the same quality and type of education. Why is one school offering a better education for the children than another. I understand that parents at Oak Grove and Fernbank are protective of their high quality of education, but they and all other parents should be fighting to have the same for all of the children in our district. This would be easily obtained if money was spent properly and expectations were set at a higher bar for all students-no matter where they live, come from, or disability that they have. Low expectations=low quality of learning and that is what we have right now. As expectations are low for students, teachers, administrators, and anyone else working in the district. We don't expect much, as we are used to not getting much.

Anonymous said...

Many schools that are claiming overcrowding, are not using all their classrooms as such. Some rooms are being used as meeting rooms. Some Special Needs teachers have may have three students, but occupy an entire classroom, when they could have paired up with another Special Needs teacher. Half the time the Special Needs teacher is not utilizing the room, but is supplementing in a homeroom. Then there are the certified teachers whose job it is to do ancillary work instead of teaching. No one is making the principals accountable for staff and space usage.

Anonymous said...

7:01 AM There are price differences across DeKalb. Some based on Schools, others based on location. There are people who will loose even more home value by having their schools change. Hopefully there will also be some that have their home values improve because of a new school.

Redistricting is going to get very ugly. I believe that as a previous poster wrote things have to be done without giving away school names, so that people look at the facts and don't have the emotions in it. Not sure if this could be done, but it would make life easier for all because people would be focused on the facts and not on their personal loss or gain.

Anonymous said...

How many DCSS principals are in their positions because they are part of the Friends-and-Family Plan?

More specifically, how many principals of schools that are low-performing, underperforming and/or cannot make AYP are part of the Friends-and-Family Plan?

Anonymous said...

Great Questions 10:22.

I believe that the only way to make DCSS better is to fire everyone and start over. A new superintendent will be undermined by the current DCSS culture that is not going to change if people aren't removed from key positions.

I believe that we really need to look at each principal, the time that they have taught, the subject and grades that they have taught, and their schools record during their time there. Remove any and all that are not making the grade-don't move them to another school or position, but REMOVE them from the district or offer them a teaching position if one is available and they were honestly good at teaching.

This should be done up the administration line-including the coaches, and all other staff.

I fear that a new superintendent will not be able to do his/her job because of the dead wood and people with small vision but big pockets for dollars that are currently running the show.

Anonymous said...

I would match the kittridge parents against the fernbank parents anyday - they realize that they won the " lottery " and they will fight to keep their children in a class of 20
( something we should all take a lesson from ); They came out of the gate with an entitled attitude to have their children bused all over the county (at the expense of millions of dollars to all of the county) Lastly though , having been a pet sociololgy project of DCSS , they can always play " the card " if they need to .
I bet no board member will have the guts to that system on.

Anonymous said...

Who attends a school does make a difference.

For all the money, energy and time being poured into school reforms, there isn't much evidence that efforts are making much of a difference at schools that educate an population that is overwhelmingly poor.

Do you think taking the teachers from a high performing school and dropping them into a low performing school will suddenly change the outcomes at that school?

Anonymous said...

I agree that we need better teachers in these under performing schools, but I would even go as far as to say that we need better principals as well.

Raising the bar and stopping the no zero policy, having students turn their work in on time and not giving them countless chances to get it turned in and done properly will also help to raise the bar.

Not teaching to tests and using the standards as the lowest amount of learning a child will do instead of the most is another way to raise the bar.

All of our children deserve better. I don't understand why what is being offered at Kittridge isn't be offered throughout the county. All children deserve a top notch education, not just a few lucky kids who were drawn through the lottery or whose parents know someone who can get them in.

Anonymous said...

redistricting will solve a resource problem-there is no guarantee that it will solve the achievement problem.

If you look at the DADOE website for the report cards on various DCSS schools at

One high school showed that 26.8% of its students were absent more than 15 days and 29.7% were absent more than 5 days but less than 15. How does that school every make AYP on the test when over one forth of its students are gone more than three weeks of school? There are high schools with worse attendance.

On a more positive note after the retest nine more DCSS schools made AYP. They are Browns Mill ES, Cedar Grove ES, Sky Haven ES, Toney ES, Woodridge ES, Peachtree MS, Shamrock MS, Stone Mountain MS, and Cross Keys HS (congrats Kim)

Now 79 out 126 DCSS schools made AYP.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone find it ironic that standardized testing, widely considered by educators as the single biggest factor taking the country's education system in the wrong direction, is also the primary factor considered when "ranking" a school? Briar Vista is one of the most unique, warm and welcoming schools I have ever seen yet in spite of making AYP 6 out of last 7 years (amazing given the diversity) we have been dubbed as lower performing??

I've got news for you Druid Hills parents, there is more to learning than a number handed out by a web site. Believe it or not, we want Briar Vista to remain open so our kids can continue to learn tolerance, diversity, and now what it means to fight for what you believe in.

DCSS Hawk said...

The primary cause of under population in North Dekalb is the school boards continuous policy of appeasement as it pertains to opting out of the school to which they are districted. Now the politicizing at the expense of children continues as the board makes districting promises to parents who whine the loudest.

Much of the performance issues in this county are tied to language challenges and have nothing to do with intelligence. I have news for any school with a homogeneous are one child with a language barrier away from failing AYP.

Anonymous said...

Sorry if this is repeating news, but two charrettes have been added: Nov 29th, Lakeside High School, and Nov 30,Peachtree Middle School, both at 6:30