Thursday, December 30, 2010

THEY JUST DON'T GET IT (PART TWO)

Talk about timing. In the midst of what promises to be a very tumultuous period, with redistricting, school closings, outsourcing, superintendent search, and probable budget cuts all going to occur, our Board of Education has seen fit to decide that now is the time to reduce the number of slots for the public to address the Board. Because I am basically speechless, I present the redlined policy for your review. (Redlined is the old policy, blue underlined is the new proposed policy.) This policy is going to the Board of Ed at Monday's meeting to be put on the table for 30 days before adoption.

This policy proposes to go from 20 speakers to 10 with a maximum of 30 minutes for public comment. Regardless of whether this would be a good policy change long term, I question the timing of this change. There are other more subtle changes embedded in this policy change, so read it carefully and let your board members know what you think.

Redlined Policy

Board Policy

Public Participation in Board Meetings Descriptor Code: BCBI

The DeKalb County Board of Education encourages citizensthe public to be involved in public education. To facilitate this involvement, the Board will listen to citizen comments immediately following the call to order and prior to the adoption of the agenda for its regularly scheduled work sessions.sets aside time for public comments at each regular monthly Work Session or combined Work Session and Business Meeting. The public comment period is intended to allow speakers to address issues before the Board or other subjects pertinent to the Board or the DeKalb County School District.

The following guidelines will be observed for receiving and hearing comments from citizens duringIn order to assure that persons who wish to appear before the Board may be heard and, at the same time, allow the Board to conduct its meetings in an orderly and efficient manner, the Board adopts the following guidelines for the public comment portion of the work sessions:its meetings:

1. The opportunity to provide public comment is limited to District parents, students, residents, employees, businesses, and organizations.

2. 1. The Board encourages individuals to contact the Superintendent, his administrative staff and/or local school administrators in an effort to secureBefore addressing the Board, individuals are urged to seek a satisfactory solution to any concerns prior to referral to the Board of Educationtheir concerns by following the proper staff and administrative channels.

2. All persons wishing to address the Board during the citizen comment portion of the work sessions will be given a copy of this policy.

3. To be eligible thoseIndividuals wishing to speak mustmay submit a request in writing to the board officeBoard Office via letter, fax, or e-mail a request to speak which must be received no later than 12:00 noon on the day of the Board Work Session or combined Work Session and Business Meeting. Such requestsrequest shall include information regarding the individual’s name, address, topic to be addressed and, previous steps taken to resolve the concern prior to making the request to speak. In addition, speakers may complete their own Request to Comment card in person between 4:45 and 5:45 p.m. on the day of the work session. Cards must be completely filled out. Speakers will be heard in the order they submit their requests. Each speaker addressing the Board shall have a maximum of three (3) minutes to speak., and the group (if any) that the individual is representing. If an individual is unable to attend the meeting after signing up in advance, he/she may appoint a substitute speaker by calling the Board Office by noon of the meeting day.

4. The public comment portion of the meeting will be a maximum of one (1) hour or 20 speakers.In addition, speakers may complete a Request to Comment card in person between 4:45 and 5:45 p.m. on the day of the meeting. Cards must be completely filled out, providing the information listed in the preceding paragraph.

5. It shall be out of order for any citizen to verbally and/or physically attack an employee of the school system in a public meeting.An organization may sign up to speak by designating a duly authorized spokesperson and one alternate, who may speak only if the primary spokesperson is unable to attend. By signing up and addressing the Board on behalf of an organization, the speaker is representing that he or she has been duly authorized by that organization to make the comments presented.

6. Speakers will be heard in the order in which they submit their requests. However, if more than ten speakers sign up, the Board may give priority to individuals who will be speaking about a specific agenda item.

7. Speakers shall have a maximum of three (3) minutes each and must stop speaking promptly when their time is up.

8. To allow time for the Board's other business, the public comment period will end after thirty (30) minutes, or when all speakers signing up to speak have been heard, whichever occurs first. At the Board’s discretion, the comment period may be extended for a specified amount of time or a specific number of additional speakers.

9. Speakers should begin their comments by stating their name, address, connection with the District, and the organization (if any) on whose behalf they are authorized to speak.

10. To allow the Board to receive input from as many stakeholders as possible, individuals who speak during the Public Comment period one month may only speak at the next month’s meeting if there are spaces remaining after all non-repeating speakers have signed up.

11. Speakers should be courteous and professional. Speakers may offer objective criticisms of school operations and programs, but the Board will not hear complaints about specific personnel or individuals connected with the District in a public session. Other channels provide a more appropriate forum for consideration and resolution of legitimate complaints involving individuals.

12. 6. TheIndividuals will not be denied the opportunity to address the Board on the basis of their viewpoint. However, the Board will not allow abusive language, threats, comments, jeers, applause, or shouts from the floor. Disruptive persons will be asked to leave the meeting room. The presiding officer may terminate public comments that are profane, vulgar, defamatory, or disruptive.

13. Speakers may not address confidential student or personnel matters, but may submit such concerns to the Superintendent in writing.

14. Speakers are encouraged to provide the Board with a written copy of their comments and other appropriate supporting documentation.

15. The Public Comment period is designed to gain input from the public and not for immediate responses by the Board. While the Board cannot assure each speaker of a specific or individualized response, the Board will consider the public comments and any supporting materials provided by speakers.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

This part REALLY concerns me...

6. Speakers will be heard in the order in which they submit their requests. However, if more than ten speakers sign up, the Board may give priority to individuals who will be speaking about a specific agenda item.

In a way it's good, as one school/topic can't totally dominate the meetings, but this just gives too much power for the Board to not allow certain people to speak and/or certain topics to not be addressed.

Anonymous said...

If this policy were in effect for the January meeting, and say 20 people had signed up to speak, they could choose the 10 speakers. None of which could be someone wanting to talk about Tyson's raise because it isn't on that agenda.

Kim Gokce said...

In my business experience, polices and procedures are put in place to protect organizations from "pain" - the more pain, the more policies.

I get that the BOE would like folks to stay on topic and stop the repetitiveness of some speakers month-to-month. I also understand from my experience as a speaker that the current 20 slots are rarely used to capacity.

But look at it this way: in a year of twelve monthly meetings, the BOE and the public will not hear from more than 120 speakers. For a district this size, this is not adequate.

If we are too much for the BOE meetings to handle, perhaps our district is too large to be managed by one BOE.

Dan Magee said...

Squashing public comment. Sounds like something recommended by Jeff Dickerson and Cohn & Associates.

themommy said...

Dan

That was one of the first things that crossed my minds when I read this policy.

Passionate... said...

Based on this blog alone, 10 speakers is not adequate. Policy should reflect up to 20 speakers and up to 1 hour. Public must be heard. We have too much to say and have gone through all the proper channels-"protocol."

Anonymous said...

Tom Bowen should be ashamed at himself. Instead of "manning up" and having the BOE takes its lumps for the nonstop scandals of the past two years, he goes the opposite route, and cuts public comments by half at each meeting.

With the new rules, it looks like we can't complain about Ramona's huge pay increase that gives her supt. pay for a full year after she's supt., plus her million extra in retirement?

The part about you being required to addres your issue in advance is crazy. How the heck are we supposed to do that for the millions the BOE and Central Office have thrown down the drain (eSIS, America's Choice, every penny Audria Berry spends on travel, etc.), and continue to do so?

These new rules show the lack of character and ethics or our BOE. They're digging in, and my gosh I bet they'll try to squash any changes proposed by Edler and Jester.

Anonymous said...

Some of these policy changes seem specifically addressed at ODE. Organizations are only permitted one speaking slot under the new changes, where in the past ODE has often used 2 or more. The changes would also prevent ODE (and others)from speaking every month. Few individuals have a need to speak month after month, but ODE has legitimate reason to be on the list every month.

Anonymous said...

I for one, think ODE should be limited in the number of speakers. This organization is more about themselves and little about what is best for the education of the students of DeKalb County Schools. Just take a look at the initiatives and policies they want to protect and the ones they speak out against.

Dunwoody Mom said...

I am confused as to Jeff Dickerson's continued role as "spokesman". His contract with DCSS, as approved by the BOE, ended in October. I don't find any agenda items in the Nov. or Dec. BOE meetings extending his contract.

Is Dickerson now a DCSS employee or is he a subcontractor of Cohn and Wolf?

Anonymous said...

Dunwoody Mom, I believe Jeff is a sub to Cohn and Wolf as his contract with the district ended.

Anonymous said...

I'm concerned about reducing the public comment time to 10 speakers and 30 minutes. I will definitely write the Board regarding my concerns to the policy change request. For committee meetings, this may be appropriate but not for the Work Sessions.

Maybe we need to ask for our legislators to get involved in this.

Sagamore 7 said...

With the adoption of these policies you can see what will happen in the future.

Reasons for denying someone / group to speak.

1)We never received your email request to speak at the next meeting through our MIS Department.
Please resend your email.
Your request to speak has been denied.

2)You did not communicate through proper channels in place to resolve these issues.
Your request to speak has been denied.

3)The Board has already accepted 10 people to speak at this months meeting.
Your request to speak has been denied.

4)Your list of action items taken to resolve this concern is not complete, please see the department of internal affairs for your grievance.
Your request to speak has been denied.

5)Your organization has not selected you as the official spokesperson nor did we get notification that you are the replacement spokesperson by noon today.
Your request to speak has been denied.

6)We have 10 people who want to speak about band uniforms, a specific agenda item. Your request to speak regarding Superintendent pay is not an agenda item.
Your request to speak has been denied.

7)Your request to speak about "friends and family" annual pay increases is a confidential personnel matter.
Your request to speak has been denied.

Is this what the Cohn/Wolfe/Dickerson gets paid $270,000 annually to provide?

I will submit an email to the "Georgia Gang" to address this topic and the topic of Dickerson's continued relationship with DCSS on their next show and see if it is addressed. He has never left the payroll!

Food for thought.

Happy New Year and I'll see you at the DCSS BOE meeting on Monday!

Be there if you care!

Sagamore 7

Anonymous said...

Contracting out to Cohn who then secretly subcontracted out to Jeff Dickerson - sounds like a Pope/Reid move to me.

Anonymous said...

IMHO - they like Dickerson, but he was supposed to SHAPE the news. When he BECAME the news due to his ties to New Birth, Eddie Long and Beverly Hall, they gave the contract to Cohn. When they thought the scrutiny of Dickerson had died down (they think the public has a short attention span), they brought him back through the side door of subcontracting.

It's these kinds of actions that make trusting the BOE questionable. They think they're so clever. I can see them huddling now - trying to figure out how transparency can be thwarted. For example, Ms. Tyson has suspended the BOE minutes. Please take a minute to email Ms. Tyson and all BOE members along with Nancy Jester and Donna Edler and ask that the BOE minutes (which are supposed to be public documents) get reinstated into the DCSS BOE website. We should not have to do an open records request just to see BOE minute notes.

email all BOE members:
Go to the DeKalb School Watch main page and on the right hand side you can click on the email link to reach Ms. Tyson and all of the BOE members.

email for Nancy Jester:
nancyjester@gmail.com
or here is link to a form email on her website:
http://www.nancyjester.com/ContactUs.aspx

email for Donna Edler:
Here's a link to contact her:
http://www.donnaedler.com/Contact_Us_1VDM.html

Here is the law about BOE minutes being made public. Much of dealings that has been made public on this blog came from BOE minutes so I can see why they want to make them inaccessible to the public. But by law they have to be written and available for public view.

"A summary of the subjects acted on and those members present at a meeting of any agency shall be written and made available to the public for inspection within two business days of the adjournment of a meeting of any agency. The minutes of a meeting of any agency shall be promptly recorded and such records shall be open to public inspection once approved as official by the agency, but in no case later than immediately following the next regular meeting of the agency; provided, however, nothing contained in this chapter shall prohibit the earlier release of minutes, whether approved by the agency or not. Said minutes shall, as a minimum, include the names of the members present at the meeting, a description of each motion or other proposal made, and a record of all votes. In the case of a roll-call vote the name of each person voting for or against a proposal shall be recorded and in all other cases it shall be presumed that the action taken was approved by each person in attendance unless the minutes reflect the name of the persons voting against the proposal or abstaining."

http://www.gfaf.org/open_meetings.html

Below is the Locator to email your state representative to find out why these meeting minutes are not being made public (they passed the law):
Representative Locator:
http://www.votesmart.org/official_state_legislator.php?type=office&state_id=GA&criteria=lower

Here's also a great organization to address this question to:
http://www.gfaf.org/about.html

Anonymous said...

@Anon 6:36am

Did you ever stop to think that an educator's working condition is a student's learning condition? Advocating for the educators and the students go hand in hand.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 6:36

Also, if you were at the December board meeting, you would have seen that 3 of the board members left the room during one of the ODE speaker's comments. Seems that they don't need to change policy to ignore the public comment section of the work session.

Anonymous said...

It was the three who didn't get ODE's endorsement, Cunningham, Roberts and Woods.

We are fooling ourselves if we think they really listen. They don't because their behavior never seems to change.

Make no mistake the majority of the board still thinks parents are fools.

Anonymous said...

"
Did you ever stop to think that an educator's working condition is a student's learning condition? '

Yes. And right now packing as many students into a classroom as you can is awful. Students should have more than 2 square feet to move around. Prisoners get more than that. Parents should be measuring the square footage of the classroom and dividing by the number of students. You would be sick at the cramped and unhealthy (diseases spread more rapidly when you put all those kids in such close proximity) conditions.

What happened to students rights to have:
1. A safe and clean environment
2. A competent teacher in a reasonably sized classroom
3. Abundant access to cutting edge science and technology equipment

While everyone is crying about outsourcing, why don't you look at the medieval conditions many of our students are in. NO one puts them first.

Anonymous said...

There really will be only 9 slots. There is this one lady that has a permanent slot at each meeting to effusively speak about the glories of Redan High School, its parents, teachers, students, band, water fountains, bus trips, fund raisers, cafeteria menu, etc., etc.

BOE policy 22.7/9 Rev 4 as modified 01/4/2011 will be voted on to allow this to continue.

Question: How can you comment on the "consent agenda", the back room deals?

The DKC Commissioners pretty much did the same thing.

There is the ruling class and then the rest of us. DCSS is just following the Federal Government.

No Duh said...

Many of us are represented by a BOE member who publicly states he doesn't read his emails and snorts at constituents who are democrats. So, the only way to be heard is to force him to listen during the public comments segment.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I were just talking about what we'd do for school for our son. We both agreed that public education in DeKalb was out. These developments seal the deal. I am not a snob. I am a product of a mediocre public school up North-which still looks superior to DeKalb. At least the children graduating can read and write.

Limiting the number of speakers to 10 in a district this large is ridiculous. We are a PUBLIC school. The board gets PAID for its job-something I never heard of before coming to Georgia. The education most children in DeKalb receive and have offered to them sucks. Too many kids graduate from a DCSS school and are not able to function in the real world.

Lowering the number of board members and having them voted on district wide is what needs to happen. Too many incompetent people making important decisions that effect our children in a very negative way. Maybe you live in an area where there is a good DCSS school, but most kids in DCSS don't.

I am tired of paying high prices for taxes and seeing waste. Too many have received jobs based on who they are related to or the sorority they joined-most of these hires are not competent to do their job. Too many are making way too much money for their job. When the superintendents secretary makes more than the top paid teachers, we have a huge problem, and there are many secretaries and other employees that fall into this category or just about.

I feel that the school board has forgotten that they are a public school. This means that the public needs to have it's say. If it weren't for this blog, many would not know what the heck is going on. Getting reliable information about the schools is very difficult. Our children, ALL CHILDREN DESERVE BETTER THAN WHAT THEY ARE GETTING.

Stopping the specialty schools and putting all children into our neighborhood schools is a start that I'd like to see. Why should a few kids whose names are supposedly drawn at random receive a better education than what my child would receive in his neighborhood school? Too much of this goes on in DCSS. Choice is not an option, when the only schools that are working are those that people choose to attend and the neighborhood schools continue to go to pot.

As an ex-white teacher in DCSS, I was and remain bothered by the lack of education most of our black students receive. I wonder where the black leadership is fighting for the black child... They are taking the money and turning their head to the crimes that are being committed to our children. Not educating our children will cost us more in the long run, but I do not see the school board or administration capable of making decisions for the children and the bettering of their education. I even wonder if they care about the children that they ultimately work for and instead care more about lining their pockets and those of family and friends with the gold of the school district.

I have the money (with great sacrifices) to pay for private school, but most do not. I am tired of paying high taxes and the children of DeKalb receiving less than a used Ugo as an education.

Anonymous said...

Public Opinion should be completed deleted from the grandstanding of the supposedly teacher organizations and same elitic communities who constantly keep me from attending Board Meetings. If you have a complaint, concern oe suggestion GO TO YOUR BOARD MEMBERS : NOY MINE. LEt me share my concerns with my Board Members and not have to listen to your elitism. Let's cut the negitives and go positive fro 2021. Just came from watch services; "AWESOME".

Anonymous said...

Go positive for 2011-2012. We are moving forward with unforseen negitives in the forecast. WHY AIR ALL OF OUR DIRTY LINEN ON THE WEB SO NO DECECENT SUPT WILL EVER WANT TO COME HERE>>>NOT BECAUSE OF THE PROPBLEM BUT BECAUSE OF THE PUBLIC. ATLANTA HAS LEARDED TO "SHUT UP ON NEGITAVES" CAN WE DO THE SAME?

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 2:04---I work for Dekalb, and I will continue to "air our dirty laundry" until they are shamed into doing what is right for children.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 10:20 AM. I agree. We don't do the children of DeKalb any good by hiding the problems. We need to fix the problems. That will only happen when we are willing to talk about what is going wrong. IMHO we will find a highly qualified superintendent who will take the job. There are people in this world who enjoy a good challenge.

Anonymous said...

Anons 1:57 and 2:04
First, please use spellcheck and proofread your posts. You undermine your arguments when your prose is so hard to decipher.
Secondly, it is not a negative public attitude that has created the disastrous public headlines that litter the news about DCSS. It is a superintendent and COO under indictment – and having Board of Education that aided in their racketeering and corruption. It is a spendthrift Central Office that sits in $3000 chairs while there is no hand soap for children to use in most DeKalb schools. We will continue to be positive – positively insisting that the BOE follow the law by observing state code on Open Meetings /Open Records. We will stand up for the poorest children in this county who are suffering the most – the children who will leave school if we don’t educate them and will be essentially lost to us. You reference attending Watch Night on New Year’s Eve. Consider how Jesus dealt with those in positions of power who were unfair and in it for themselves: he told them to truth and it cost him dearly. He didn’t pretend it wasn’t happening. And what did he say? Let the little children come to me, because he recognized children are the most vulnerable and deserved his time and attention. What he didn’t do was protect corrupt adults at the children’s expense.

Anonymous said...

YEAH!


http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-board-decides-not-794520.html

DeKalb board decides not to cut public comments