Saturday, October 30, 2010

The “Problem” With Transparency

In a nutshell – the “problem” with transparency is that it is frightening to anyone in DCSS – BOE member and/or administrator – who has something to hide. Transparency makes it crystal clear – no pun intended – that the emperor has no clothes.

Per Anonymous, 3:26 PM, 10/29/2010: I asked my Board rep (one of the four not up for re-election) what his opinion of the open check register was, and he said that he was sick and tired of all this ‘transparency’ stuff. It is just one more thing that the ‘bloggers’ are bringing up to mess things up.”

Hmmm … this sounds a whole lot like Don McChesney. Although, it also has Paul Womack’s tone, minus the edge of profanity. Both should resign. Unfortunately, neither one is up for re-election until 2012.

On October 6, 2010, I wrote to the entire BOE and asked why the October 6 called meeting to discuss major financial matters was not televised on PDS-24.

  • Jim Redovian, my BOE representative, did not respond. Typical. Jim’s attitude toward constitutents is just one reason – of many! – why I have voted for Nancy Jester. She is knowledgeable, interested, capable, has valuable professional skills and she responds promptly.
  • Zepora Roberts did respond: “I don't know. I will forward your email on to our interim superintendent, Mrs. Ramona Tyson, and staff, to give you a response. Thanks.” To date – for 23 days – no response from Ramona Tyson or anyone else on her staff.
  • But, Don McChesney’s clueless response takes the cake: “This was an open and public meeting which you could attend. Please check our website for posting of meetings so you can arrange your schedule to attend.”

Here was my response to Don:

“Thank you for the suggestion, Don.

“Currently, I am medical leave from my job with a debilitating back problem that makes walking extremely difficult, painful and somewhat dangerous. I am certain I am not the only handicapped person who is interested in the DCSS BOE meetings, but unable to be there in person.

“When I go back to work, which I am expecting to do, I will not be able to go to daytime meetings because I will be on the job.

“Let me assure you, it is not laziness on my part or an inability to “arrange my schedule” that made it impossible for me to go to Wednesday's meeting and will make it impossible for me to attend non-work-related daytime meetings when I go back to work.

“However, I do have television access -- at home and at work. It seems like broadcasting all BOE meetings over PDS-24 and podcasting would be the open and transparent thing for the DCSS BOE to do.

“How may I get a copy of minutes of the Wednesday, October 6, 2010 meeting, please?

“Thank you, again, for your response. I know you did not mean to be insensitive to a handicapped person -- but you were.”

To date: no response from McChesney. That includes no answer to my question about how I may get a copy of the minutes of the meeting. They certainly aren't available at e-Board.

Don McChesney seems oblivious to the fact that most taxpayers must work these days. Maybe I should have begun my e-mail to him with that very obvious fact?

Since McChesney suggests that I “just arrange” my schedule to attend board meetings, then may we assume that he would have no issue with teachers and others employed by DCSS “just arranging” their schedules to be at BOE meetings (including daytime meetings) and other meetings in which they have a vested interest? How about it, teachers?

Or, does it make more sense – good financial sense – to fully utilize PDS-24? Use PDS-24 to open up DCSS (day meetings, night meetings, called meetings, committee meetings, retreats), encourage transparency, and engage all stakeholders: taxpayers, parents, teachers, community members and – yes – students! Use PDS-24 to “pay for its keep” and let it partner in fully demonstrating the democratic process, community service and ethical, honorable behavior.

(Of course, it wouldn't hurt to make the minutes of all BOE meetings publicly available. When I requested minutes, I was told they were available only through an open records request.)

Part of the democratic process is to “Throw the bums out!” when transparency shows a complete breakdown in ethics, honesty, service, good judgment, commitment and honorable behavior on the part of elected officials.

Apparently the only ones who have a “problem” with transparency are those who have something to hide – or who support those with something to hide.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree that all board meetings should be on PDS 24. I would also like to see video of meetings made available on the website. As for minutes, this is a public entity. If minutes are taken, as this post indicates they are, they should be made available to members of the public. Posting them to the school system website might be appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Nobody is going to respond to you Sandy until you find a civil and gracious way in which to address people.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Add me to those who don't understand why all BOE meetings are not televised.

I attended the recent Budget and Finance committee meeting. I was able to attend only because I was off that week on vacation. The meeting was taped, so why not televise as it is happening? I still don't see it on the PDS-24 schedule despite Ms. Tyson indicating it would be on PDS-24.

Ella Smith said...

Transparency is a problem in my opinion. It is easier to discuss issues without the public ey upon the school board.

I hate to know your back is hurt Sandy. I am sorry you got that response. I feel sure Don did not know that you were unable to attend school board meetings. However, I did publicly acknowledge that I believe board meetings should go back to time when more of the public can attend. I discussed this at a forum at South DeKalb High School. It is easy to indicate that school board members must be retired to be a school board member and to set meetings early in the morning while other school board meetings around are set in the afternoon. Some meetings start as early as 3:00 or 4:00 for meetings that the public may not be as interested in but the major meetings start after most individuals get off work.

I agree with your comments that transparency would be improved by either putting on meetings on PDS 24 and/or setting the meetings at a time that most citizens of DeKalb have an opportunity to attend.

Anonymous said...

"Since McChesney suggests that I “just arrange” my schedule to attend board meetings, then may we assume that he would have no issue with teachers and others employed by DCSS “just arranging” their schedules to be at BOE meetings (including daytime meetings) and other meetings in which they have a vested interest? How about it, teachers?"

Great point. When I was a teacher, parent conference nights for my students almost always fell on the nights of my daughter's parent conference nights. We were told we could not have the night off to attend our children's parent conference night meetings. In the same faculty meeting, we would hear how involved parents always show up for parent conference nights, and we needed to get our parents in no matter how busy they were. Bizarre-O-Land.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 6:02

You post quite often on this blog regarding Sandy. Why don't you write an article that adds to the discussion in a productive way?

Anonymous said...

Regarding Dunwoody Mom's somment :
"Add me to those who don't understand why all BOE meetings are not televised."

Perhaps we should ask BOE member Zepora Roberts's daughter Philandrea Guillory, MIS employee and Director of PDS-24 ($143,000 in salary and benefits - source: state Salary and Travel audit) why all BOE meetings are not televised.

Ms. Guillory has a substantial and well paid staff. It seems they could televise all BOE meetings since this comprises virtually their entire job.

Go to DCSS Community Net and type in Mr.s Guillory's name. You will see she is listed as being in the Public Relations Department. That entire department was cut - except for Mrs. Roberts's daughter.

Please go to Community Net and search for Philandrea:
http://fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us/directory/
http://fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us/directory/

Anonymous said...

Guillory was not cut because the current DCSS policy on layoffs has severe limitations on who can be laid off. If the board had tried to change the policy as they were laying off people, they would have faced a lawsuit that would have left them vulnerable to a decision that would have left them financially liable.

At Monday's meeting, the board will put on the table significant changes to the professional employee layoff policy. This should address that problem.

If I recall correctly, this policy should then be adopted in December well before any decisions are made for the following contract year.

Dunwoody Mom said...

I think Ms. Gillory is the daughter of former board member, Frances Edwards, not Ms. Roberts daughter.

Now, back to Auburn football.

Cerebration said...

Philadrea Guillory is not Zepora's daughter. She is the daughter of former board member Frances Edwards. Her husband also works for the school system in the transportation dept.

Silent Partner said...

Everyone should cast a vote for Kirk Nooks. People have to realize that he is the most qualified candidate for District 5. I work for DCSS. He always asks for my input on possible school system improvements. Do not vote for Cunningham based on familiarity. Pass on Hall for his inexperienced passion. Kirk Nooks will lead District 5 into a new age of sensibility and structure.

Anonymous said...

"Guillory was not cut because the current DCSS policy on layoffs has severe limitations on who can be laid off. If the board had tried to change the policy as they were laying off people, they would have faced a lawsuit that would have left them vulnerable to a decision that would have left them financially liable."

Exactly what was that DCSS policy on layoffs that could not be changed? Please cite your sources.

The DCSS BOE went against their own policy and completely eliminated the TSA contributions for DCSS employees ($28,000,000 contribution in lieu of Social Security contributions). When the DCSS BOE realized they had violated Board Policy, they simply changed the Board Policy. So why would DCSS BOE policy be sacrosanct in this instance of one employee?

Mrs. Guillory is part of the Public Relations Department, and the Public Relations Department was eliminated - except for Mrs. Guillory, daughter of Francis Edwards, former head of the DCSS BOE.

The former poster was correct in that Mrs. Guillory is a BOE member's daughter - however, she is Mrs. Francis Edward's daughter, not Zepora Roberts' daughter. Zepora has two other daughters who work for DCSS. Neither are teachers, and both make more than teachers would ever hope to make.

Please see how many family members Francis Edwards has in DCSS:

Son - Jamal Edwards ($73,000 in salary and benefits) - the employee who did not show up for work for 6 months after he was promoted from the technical specialist at Nancy Creek to a network position in MIS at the Bryant Center.

Daughter - Philandrea Guillory ($143,00 in salary and benefits), Public Relations Department, head of PDS-24 - no experience in broadcasting.

Son-in-law - David Guillory ($143,000 in salary and benefits), head of DCSS transportation - no experience in transportation when he was hired.

Total for the Edwards family (ALL NON-TEACHING employees with no background in their respective positions) - $358,000 a year.

Almost ALL of the highly paid administrators of DCSS owe their positions to Francis Edwards. They will be backing her relatives no matter what transpires.

Silent Partner said...

Every supporter for Kirk Nooks should flood every social networking site and say something positive about Kirk Nooks. Some of the people commenting have no idea about this mans capabilities. Go to local and district web sites such as AJC.com, EduDekalb.com, and DeKalb County School Watch and let everyone know what Kirk Nooks can do. A vote for Kirk Nooks in District 5 is the best choice.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Been away for a couple of days, so much to catch up on!

I love the Edwards Family update by a previous poster. Remember, Jamal hid out at a school for 6 months, after receiving a $15K raise and a new job. Parents finally called Super, CLew and Asst. Super Loeb, Ms. Loeb put Jamal's supervisor, Ramona Tyson on a speaker phone for the parents to hear, Ms. Tyson had no idea for 6 months why Jamal had not reported for his new job! 6 MONTHS! He should have been fired then.

My wife and I had to do a FOIA request for meeting transcripts and we discovered that some of the them had been edited. The transcript from the meeting regarding the last AUDIT, that Clew hid, is still missing.

Thanks for the read Sandy! Hope you're feeling better soon! Also, thanks for keeping them honest.

Dan Magee said...

John Heneghan is well known for his incredibly informative blog. He's an average guy, husband, father, involved with charity, needs 100+ SPF on a sunny day, etc., etc.

When Dunwoody first started out as a city, he was elected a council person. The city was completely brand new, so he personally recorded meetings and posted the audio and minutes online himself. Didn't matter that he had to stay up late countless nights to do so.
He made sure every pertinent document was posted to city residents as immediately as possible.

The difference between John and DCSS when it comes to transparency: John did it for free and did so well; DCSS spends hundreds of millions, but despite that doesn't do transparency well.
It ain't rocket science.

But it is disgraceful. Simply put, transparency is absolutely no priority of the current Board of Ed. or DCSS Central Office. Again, the BOE supervises a Central Office in charge of spending over a billion dollars per year.

Would the Pat Pope/Crawford Lewis/SPLOST contract/RICO indictment/millions wasted mess have happened if all pertinent documentation and contracts posted
for public review? I wonder if the public will ever see any of the documents from the Sembler pursuit of the old Open Campus property (the same out of state company that gave Gene Walker tens of thousands in contributions).

Despite that astronomical figure DCSS spends annually, neither board members or Central Office bureaucrats believe communicating information to the residents of DeKalb is of value.

And it isn't going to change without a major sweeping change of BOE members and Central Office administrators.

Anonymous said...

Under the leadership of Tom Bowen, Zepora Roberts, Sarah Copelin-Wood, Paul Womack, Don McChesney, Jim Redovian, Pam Speak, Sembler's best buddy Gene Walker and Jay $12,500 is missing" Cunningham,
sixty three percent of black males in South DeKalb aren't graduating high school. 63 percent!

Five of those BOE members could and should be voted out of office on Tuesday.

http://www.crossroadsnews.com/pages/full_story/push?article-14+DeKalb+schools+saw+graduation+rates+fall+as+state+rates+soared%20&id=10091175#comments_10091175

Anonymous said...

Lack of transparency in DCSS is endemic. Last Wednesday, our faculty was supposed to vote for Teacher of the Year and some eligible teachers were left off the list. Nothing being hid by that, just incompetence that could have easily been corrected if the people in power would just not try to keep all info limited to as few people as possible. So the vote was held anyway and we were told that a second vote would be taken the next day with the top three or four finishers and the teachers who had been inadvertently? Left off the original list. Come Thursday afternoon, we voted again but the list had ALL the eligible teachers on the list. Friday morning the winner was announced!!!!! The winner didn't even have the most votes the first time (although) those totals were never revealed. And we have no idea how many votes were cast this time but most teachers know that the winner is far from being the best teacher in our school.

Transparency just doesn't work for the sorority or fraternity crowd.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure the Sembler discussions ever got to contract phase, Dan.

The reason I say this is that the board members had way more unanswered questions then answered ones.

Sembler is one of my least favorite companies and there is no doubt, at the time at least, that somehow that would have ended up being a bad deal for DCSS.

Anonymous said...

In DeKalb there is as much incompetence as there is intent to do bad.

Anonymous said...

https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/meetings/Attachment.aspx?S=4054&AID=262371&MID=14124

This is the existing policy, it clearly says that

Reduction-in-force actions shall be based on position classifications, EEOC classifications, lengths of continuous service, and certification if applicable.

The proposed policy is here:

https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/meetings/Attachment.aspx?S=4054&AID=262372&MID=14124


Only where demonstrated job performance is equal among employees, shall other factors such as length of continuous service with the District be considered in order to make recommendations for the termination of an employee’s position. In all cases, the process shall be based on legitimate, nondiscriminatory criteria.

Anonymous said...

Hear is a transparancy question that I hope is answered at the meeting tomorrow night. The Board agenda item H.8. announces that DeKalb received 4 huge science grants from the state which is great news. The grants are funded by federal money for STEM programs.

But look at the schools that received the grants. All are pairings of middle schools and the high school they feed into except Chamblee Middle is paired with DSA, a tiny ARTS high school that is very far away and has nothing to do with Chamblee Middle. And Avondale High and Avondale Middle are already getting the grant. Why in the world is Chamblee Middle not paired with Chamblee High School? Or even Cross Keys or South West DeKalb. Something stinks here. This is $2.7 Million dollars.

I hope Tony Hunter is prepared to explain this discrepancy tomorrow night.

Dunwoody Mom said...

From what I understand, each High School applying for the STEM grant had to include its feeder middle school. DSA does not have a feeder school, so it appears Chamblee MS was chosen as DSA's "partner".

Anonymous said...

The process of Teacher of The Year is a joke. Teachers get together and vote for their sorority sisters or friends 98% of the time. The teachers who are really hard workers and deserve the title are never chosen if they are not in the popularity clique. Which is usually the case. Each year, this process gets more unprofessional and undeserving as more incompetent teachers enter the field of education in DCSS.

Anonymous said...

"But look at the schools that received the grants. All are pairings of middle schools and the high school they feed into except Chamblee Middle is paired with DSA"
The grant competition was for high schools that needed to include a middle school. DCSS applied for many high schools and only received 4 based on how the state graded the grant requests. The pairing of DSA with CMS was therefore attractive to the state reviewers.

Anonymous said...

The 4 grants do represent something to clebrate when you consider how other districts fared in the competiton.