Sunday, January 31, 2010
Dr. Lewis will be presenting the "State of the System" address to the business community on Friday, February 19, 2010.
Details include -
7:30 AM Refreshments
8:00 AM to 9:00 AM Superintendent's Address
Oglethorpe Power Corporation
2100 East Exchange Place
Tucker, GA 30085
The event is FREE but RSVP is MANDATORY
Please register by Monday, February 13, 2010
For additional questions, contact
Sara Neeley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 678.875.2032
Pam Talmadge at email@example.com or 678.875.2033
Click the invitation for a larger, printable version.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Changing from the block to a 7-period day is one of the current ideas batted about as a cost-saver. Personally, I think it is probably a great idea, and actually would save money, however, there are some details in the current proposal that need to be addressed - details that would effect teacher morale and student outcomes.
Currently, at the block schools, teachers teach three long classes and have one long planning period. At the current 7-period day schools, teachers teach 5 short classes and have 2 short planning periods. Block teachers have a maximum of 102 students (34 per class) and 7-period teachers have a maximum of 170 students.
Apparently, Crawford Lewis was unaware until recently that at most of the high schools on the 7-period day, teachers "only" teach 5 out of 7 periods. His recommendation to the board is that all teachers at 7-period day schools will now teach 6 periods a day next year. This will allow them to cut staff by about 10 teachers per school at the schools currently on the 7PD.
I don't even know where to start to explain how damaging this move would be. This means that 7-period-per-day teachers would then have a maximum of 204 students every day and they will have only 50 minutes per day to plan for and grade work from all of those children. Currently teachers do their best to give the 140 students they see every day the best education that they possibly can within the already tight constraints of the school day. Crawford Lewis apparently thinks that "teaching" for 71% of the day is not enough -- but it's not about the amount of time teachers spend at the front of the classroom, it's about sheer number of students for whom they have to prepare and grade.
Unfortunately, I am very worried that these teachers will not be able to maintain the same level of quality that they do now if they lose 50 minutes per day of planning and gain 34 more students next year. For example, for an English teacher, the sheer volume makes the prospect of grading that many essays simply impossible. With 204 students, if a teacher spends five minutes grading each student's essay, it will take 17 hours to grade each set of essays assigned.
Further, if teachers on the 7PD answer the call and work themselves into the ground next year (for 5% less pay!), and students continue to do well on standardized tests, the BOE will have absolutely no incentive to put schedules back to the way they were, even after our budget crisis passes. I am extremely apprehensive about the possibility of maintaining test scores though -- morale is beyond low, and if an entire faculty is put on what used to be considered an "extended day" schedule and are paid less for doing it, I can't imagine that many teachers will continue to bring the same level of commitment to all of their classes.
I think this is a crisis, not only for the faculty members but also for the children enrolled in all of our 7-period day high schools. Believe me when I tell you that the feeling among these is that of despair. The board needs to step in and create a policy regarding the 7-period day. They need to add the wording that teachers on this schedule will teach 5 periods and use the remaining 2 periods for planning and conferences. Wording is everything.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Like the character created by Dr. Seuss, Marvin K. Mooney, it is time for Superintendent Lewis to go.
1. It is demoralizing for teachers to face salary cuts when he accepts a salary increase and other perks that were not made clear. How much did he receive in other compensation including increases in his retirement pay?
2. During his tenure, there have been two reverse discrimination cases filed against the Dekalb County for disparate treatment of nonAfrican-American students in the magnet programs. The first plaintiff prevailed. These lawsuits are costly and defending and then settling them cost the taxpayers bundles. By eliminating the magnet programs, the lawsuits over discriminatory admission policies will also be eliminated.
3. He continues to support magnet programs when the original impetus for their creation is gone. The magnet programs were the court-ordered creative solution to desegregate the schools. There is no longer any legal decree that the county is compelled to integrate the schools. The magnet programs along with transporting students cost us quite a lot and are antiquated. The money used to support these schools which discriminate against nonAfrican-American students can be put back in the neighborhood schools. The magnet programs spend considerably more to educate a child when compared to the cost of educating a child in a local neighborhood. The cost of testing the children for these schools would also be eliminated.
4. He hired Pat Pope whose credentials for the $200,000.00 job are questionable. He hired her creating a conflict of interest between Pope and her husband. He offered her a second contract after she has cost taxpayers a million dollars in matching funds. Who is laughing now? Pat is twiddling her thumbs doing no significant work while the County continues to pay her $200,000.00.
5. He continues to retain Ms. Pope after settling a lawsuit against her for sexual harassment. How much did this lawsuit cost the County? Her continued employment puts the County at risk for another lawsuit of this flavor. Pope denied the allegations of sexual abuse, but there must have been enough compelling evidence against her to compel a settlement. It is obvious that her denials were neither credible nor believed by the legal team settling the case.
6. He also hired three upper level personnel including a person to head a nutrition program. Does the County really need a person formally, a High School principal, in charge of nutrition. It would be easier to hire a dietician on a contract basis. Do we really need to pay some one to add more fresh fruit and vegetables to our children's diet?
Finally, I had the pleasure of meeting Pat Pope at a meeting to present the new Dunwoody Elementary School to the public. She was arrogant and uninformed. She was rude to parents including myself and did not seem to possess the knowledge of her title and inflated salary.
In the law, there is a concept called respondeat superior which means that supervisors are resonsible for the actions of their subordinates. Accordingly, Superintendent Lewis is responsible for the actions and untoward behavior of Pat Pope and all the other employees who engage in discriminatory practices resulting in lawsuits against the County.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
I had some emergency work to do - and couldn't get to the budget meeting tonight. Please report what you heard and saw - they didn't televise it - so you guys are the official reporters! Did they get their 'asses whooped'???
UPDATE -- There has been a link set up to submit budget cut ideas -- send your ideas to (copy & paste the address below)
In his State of the Union address, President Obama was quoted as saying:
“In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world class education.”
Do you suppose our school system leaders heard?
A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Part 6 of Article 6 of Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to employment under the "Quality Basic Education Act"; so as to prohibit the use of state funds to provide a salary increase for the local school superintendent or administrators during a school year in which a local board of education furloughs teachers, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, support staff, or other nonadministrative positions; to require the local board to provide notice and a hearing if local or private funds are intended to be used for such salary increases; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
This Board of Ed is a dysfunctional rubber stamp. Five seats are open this fall. Lets see five new competent, tough, responsible, and ethical board members (Ernest, Kim, Shayna, Ella, Marshall?)
Board Member Wants School Investigation
By Megan Matteucci
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A DeKalb County school board member said he is in the dark about actions by the district's embattled construction chief and wants the board to conduct its own investigation.< The board will meet behind closed doors Feb. 8 for an update on the district attorney’s investigation of Pat Pope, the district’s former chief operating officer, board chairman Thomas Bowen said.< On Wednesday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Superintendent Crawford Lewis said in an interview taped in 2008 that he had concerns about Pope hiring her friends and associates for school construction projects.
After reading the story, board member Eugene Walker requested the board conduct its own investigation into Pope's activity.
“It’s very troubling,” Walker told the AJC. “I’m hoping as a board we can look at these things. We’ve seen all of this damaging information coming out in the media and we need to get to the bottom of it. The board will certainly look into it.”
Bowen said he is not aware of any call for an investigation by the board, but said the board will be updated about the case at its next session.
Walker said he had hoped to skirt the issue while the district attorney completed the investigation. But he became concerned after learning the extent of Pope’s involvement in pushing contracts to her associates.
“You’re handicapped and you don’t know what to do,” said Walker, who represents District 9. “But we can’t ignore all the information you are reporting.”
The district attorney is investigating whether Pope, who oversaw all school construction, broke the law by allegedly steering contracts to her husband Tony Pope's architecture firm and two other construction companies where she has connections.
While under investigation in 2008 for purchasing a school district car and questionable purchases on his district credit card, Lewis told investigators he was concerned about Pope’s management of construction projects.
“What we are finding out is that anybody that Ms. Pope has ever worked with ... in some form or fashion, they are architects now for the system, they are contractors doing work for the system, they are with management firms doing work for the system,” Lewis told an investigator.
Despite this misgiving, Lewis renewed Pope’s contract with the school system.
Walker, Bowen and board member Don McChesney said they have not heard Lewis’ taped interview.
McChesney said he could not comment on the investigation.
“I have no idea what’s going on,” he said Wednesday. “We are not at liberty legally to make any comments on that case.”
The board's vice chairman, Zepora Roberts, said she would only comment after the investigation is closed.
“I will not be a part of you running these stories,” she said. “Whatever I have to say, I will say it in my deposition and to the court. I’m not going to say it to the media.”
Board members Jim Redovian, Pamela Speaks, Jay Cunningham and Sarah Copelin-Wood did not immediately return phone calls Wednesday.
Lewis did not return a request for an interview.
Pope has declined to talk to the AJC and her attorney said Lewis’ statements were “self-serving” and without merit.
But that's not happening here in DeKalb. Our bright and honorable BOE Chair, Tom Bowen, a good man, did not see the obvious conflict of interest in naming David Moody to chair of the school construction citizen's committee, even though he owns a school contruction company that continues to bid on DCSS projects (and there are hundreds of millions of dollars in projects).
Our superintendent was concerned way back in November of 2008, by alleged "half-truths" from the Chief Operating Officer, and her farming work to her husband and also her "friend" David Moody. He said there were grounds to let her go, but instead he decided to renew her $200,000 per year contract, because "not renewing her contract at that time might jeopardize the progress of our construction program”. Our superintendent also had the Board of Ed approve an expensive purchase of America's Choice curriculum, conveniently after America's Choice just happened to hire a former high-ranking DCSS administrator.
And the most severe case of questionable ethics was from Gene Walker, who was chair of the DeKalb Development Authority while being a BOE member. Even though the two entities have sometime competing goals, he saw no problem with holding both positions. He received over $20,000 in campaign contributions from Mel Sembler and cohorts, an amount never seen before in Georgia for a board of education election. Walker only left after public pressure forced him to do the right thing, not because he recognized the ethical dilemma.
State Rep. Kevin Levitas (who listens to and responds to the public) heard from his constituents about DCSS and BOE ethics, and did something about it. Walker's response today to Levitas' legislation on the AJC website is head shaking. It tells us all we need to know about how some of our Board of Education members view ethics. To Gene, it's "an axe to grind", not something he should hold in the highest regard as an elected official who oversees close to a billion dollars a year in taxpayer funds.
Oy vey. Let's find five fresh candidates for the BOE seats up for reelection in November. We can do better.
A brewing fight over ethics legislation, as applied to DeKalb County
11:06 am January 27, 2010, by Jim Galloway
It looks like last year’s feud within DeKalb County’s ranks will continue at the state Capitol this session. The following note from Eugene Walker, a member of the DeKalb County Board of Education, is making the rounds.
The ethics bill he refers to is H.B. 888, sponsored by state Rep. Kevin Levitas (D-Atlanta).
More often than not, when there is a political ax to grind, the unforeseen collateral damages harm a far greater number of people than the originally intended target.
Take state Rep. Mike Jacobs, for example. Angry with former CEO Vernon Jones and myself, this Republican lawmaker sought to legislatively exact political revenge. He convinced the Georgia General Assembly to pass a law that only affected the Development Authority of DeKalb County.
The Development Authority of DeKalb County used to bring in hundreds of millions in new investment and thousands of jobs every year. No more. Thanks to Mike Jacobs’ law, the Development Authority of DeKalb County can no longer do that. Companies seeking to relocate simply consider other metro areas. Fulton, Cobb and Gwinnett couldn’t be happier, as they capitalize on DeKalb’s petty politicking.
But the lesson has not been learned. Now comes state Rep. Kevin Levitas who, with disgruntled school board member Paul Womack, wants to create a special set of ethics laws that apply only to the DeKalb County school board and nowhere else.
Among other things, this would preclude a part-time school board member from serving on another board. I used to be the chair of the Development Authority of DeKalb County, but I have since resigned. The Atlanta Development Authority proudly seats an Atlanta School Board member in its ranks. Why would it be unethical for this arrangement to exist in DeKalb County , but not Atlanta ?
[Moreover], why would any ethics law not be good enough to be applied statewide? Furthermore, if any new ethics law is appropriate for School Boards in general, would it not be good enough for the entire Georgia General Assembly? Given its recent history, I might recommend that Mr. Levitas clean his own house first.
Please understand: I support guidelines that ensure honesty and integrity throughout the public sector. But Mr. Levitas’ current proposal is really not about that at all. His proposal, like Jacobs’ law before it, is just the latest salvo of political infighting. The real tragedy is if it is passed, and it places the DeKalb schools in a compromising situation relative to other school systems, it’s the children who will suffer – not the politicians.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Reprinted from the website, Control Congress.
Posted by John Konop on Monday, January 25th, 2010
Our high schools are facing skyrocketing drop out rates, declining test scores, and limited tax revenue (because of the recession). No Child Left Behind’s one-size-fits-all education model, with its unfunded mandates from the state and federal government, has been a massive failure by any measurement.
Georgia has unfortunately followed No Child Left Behind’s lead and established a one-track-fits-all philosophy, which forces all students into a college-bound curriculum. The result: students with an aptitude for vocational/tech curriculum are demoralized (and dropping out in greater numbers) and college-bound students are not challenged by an increasingly watered-down curriculum aimed at accommodating everyone (including students who would be better served by a vocational/tech curriculum).
A common sense approach
The solution to these problems requires only common sense and familiarity with an already proven approach. For example, Macon, GA, has developed a multi-track (college-bound and vocational/tech) system based on each student’s aptitudes. By putting vocational students and college bound students on different tracks, the school has realized amazing results.
From Macon.com: “…the immediate benefits from the career academy include lower dropout rates, higher graduation rates, and a more skilled labor pool in the county, [school administrator Carpenter] said. The Newnan school’s web site states the county’s dropout rate has fallen by half since it opened, and the graduation rate for students in dual enrollment programs is 98 percent.”
HB-215, the "Graduating Everyone Matters Act"
Georgia State Representative Steve Davis has proposed a bipartisan bill (HB-215) to promote this multi-track concept. The bill will provide separate tracks for high school students (a college-bound track and a vocational/tech track) using joint enrollment programs with local colleges and technical schools to support honors and vocational programs.
HB-215 would 1) increase graduation rates, 2) provide our local economy with work-ready students who will increase tax revenues, and 3) decrease the money governments spend on welfare and crime. It will also lower the overall cost of education by better utilizing college and technical school resources, many of which have surplus capacity.
Please contact the new Speaker of the House David Ralston, who promised to put Georgia’s kids before lobbyist interests. Hold him accountable by demanding that he bring HB-215 to a vote. And please forward this e-mail to your friends who care about the quality of Georgia schools.
E-MAIL AND OR CALL!
If you care about how the school system spends your tax dollars and where they intend to either make cuts - or raise revenue - you won't want to miss this Thursday's meeting.
On Thursday, January 28, 2010, at 6:00 pm, the DeKalb Board of Education will hold a Public Budget Input Meeting at the DeKalb County School System's William Bradley Bryant Center of Technology, 2652 Lawrenceville Highway, Decatur.
The purpose of the meeting is to receive input from the public regarding the taxpayers’ priorities in preparation for the development of the 2010--2011 school system budget. The agenda for the meeting is (below).
Meeting information can be accessed online by going to:
www.dekalb.k12.ga.us, click on Board of Education and Meeting Information.
Thomas E. Bowen, Chair
DeKalb Board of Education
C. ADOPTION OF THE AGENDA
It is requested that the DeKalb Board of Education adopt the January 28, 2010, public budget input meeting agenda.
Motion by: ___ Seconded by: ___ Vote: ___
By: Dr. Crawford Lewis, Superintendent
E. CITIZEN COMMENTS
There is no advance sign up for the Public Budget Input Meeting. Individuals will be allowed to sign up the day of the meeting between 4:45- 5:45 pm. Each speaker will be allowed 2 minutes to address the Board, for a total of 30 speakers.
1. Community Informational Math Meeting (Regions 3 & 4), 8:30am, Saturday, January 30, 2010, Oakview Elementary School, 3574 Oakville Road, Decatur
2. 11th Annual Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl, 9:00am, Saturday, January 30, 2010, Miller Grove High School, 2645 DeKalb Medical Parkway, Lithonia
3. Dunwoody-Chamblee Parent Council Meeting, 8:45am, Wednesday, February 3, 2010, Vanderlyn Elementary School, 1877 Vanderlyn Drive, Dunwoody
4. Auxiliary Advisory Committee Meeting, 10:00am, Wednesday, February 3, 2010, Sam Moss Service Center, 1780 Montreal Road, Lawrenceville
5. Business Advisory Committee Meeting, 8:30am, Thursday, February 4, 2010, Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center, Building A, J. David Williamson Board Room, 3770 North Decatur Road, Decatur
6. DeKalb Board of Education Work Session & Business Meeting, 6:00pm, Monday, February 8, 2010, William Bradley Bryant Center of Technology, 2652 Lawrenceville Highway, Decatur
Monday, January 25, 2010
Do these schools need big administrative staffs, with the salaries, pensions and benefits that go with them, when Crawford is expecting teachers to take furlough days, along with a big property tax increase? When it's other people's money, it sure seems easier to spend, doesn't it Dr. Lewis?
High schools (200 or more empty seats by the year 2016)
657 Southwest DeKalb
452 Martin Luther King Jr.
Middle schools (200 or more empty seats)
426 Chapel Hill
396 Stone Mountain
Elementary schools (150 or more empty seats)
350 Oak View
281 Pine Ridge Princeton
257 Flat Shoals
253 Sky Haven
243 Rock Chapel
215 Cedar Grove
214 Princeton Pine Ridge
214 Panola Way
202 Gresham Park
196 Stone Mountain
190 Bob Mathis
171 Laurel Ridge
166 Briar Vista
Avondale and DSA each have their own principal and admin staff (total about 800-900 kids)
Open Campus and DeKalb Early College Academy each have their own principal and admin staff (total about 700-800 kids)
Destiny Academy - with far less than 100 students has it's own building and it's own principal and admin staff
Wadsworth ES - with far less than 200 students has it's own building and it's own principal and admin staff
Does the HS of Technology North still have their own principal or do they share Cross Keys? (The website still lists the principal as Vivian H. Terry)
How about DeKalb Night School? With 60-100 students, they have their own principal and staff - separate from DeKalb Alternative School!
Same for DeKalb Transition Academy (140-160 students)
Same for DeKalb Truancy School, with 7th, 8th, 9th,
Amidst all of the bad news about our school administration, we need to keep in mind that we are raising a new generation. We need to keep their future at the forefront of all of our decisions and do whatever is necessary to keep their pathways clear. They deserve a solid education and the necessary tools to live as positive contributors to the future. This video reminds us that these kids are good and we need to lift them up -- every day.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Moody's role in DeKalb construction case a twisting tale
A Lithonia construction company owner caught up in a DeKalb County criminal investigation into school construction projects heads a committee that oversees such projects, documents show.
David Moody, owner of C.D. Moody Construction Company, has been chairman of the Citizens Advisory Committee since August 2008 and has served on the committee since July 2008, documents show.
The committee monitors construction projects, primarily focusing on whether the projects are on time and under budget. The committee informs the DeKalb school board of any delays or overruns, but does not get directly involved in the projects.
School officials do not plan to remove Moody as the group’s chairman — no criminal charges have been filed against him — but some members of the oversight committee are questioning whether he should remain while the investigation continues.
Moody is one of three business owners or businesses being scrutinized by the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office in its criminal investigation of the district’s former chief operating officer, Patricia Pope.
Authorities are probing whether Pope broke Georgia law by allegedly steering construction contracts to her husband, architect Tony Pope, Moody and a third company, Turner Construction, according to school district documents. In October, authorities searched the homes and offices of Moody and the Popes.
Pat Pope is friends with Moody and officials at Turner Construction, her husband has told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Moody, who declined to comment for this article, has worked on 19 DeKalb school construction projects since 2003, collecting nearly $40 million, documents show. All those projects had been completed by the time Moody joined the board, according to Garet Hayes, a public relations specialist who spoke to the AJC on Moody’s behalf.
Moody has previously said through Hayes that he is cooperating in the investigation.
Click the link above for the rest of the story. And then, if you still have energy, come back and discuss your thoughts. (This is all wearing very, very thin.)
Education 2010: No money. Zip. Nada. None. Go fish.
January 24, 2010, Maureen Downey
I was at the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education program for education writers most of Friday. Here is the message of the day in a single line:
THERE IS NO MONEY. NONE. NOT EVEN A DIME IN THE COUCH CUSHIONS.
Among the presenters: Kathy Cox, state school superintendent, Erin Hames, education policy director for the governor, Alan Essig of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute and Herb Garrett of the Georgia Superintendents Association. The teacher of the year was there as were many state people and representatives of the state’s education groups. Without tax increases, Georgia schools will most certainly take considerable hits in the next two years. How deep is the financial hole at the state level? So deep, said Essig, that even wiping out 20 state agencies and the legislative branch and firing the 13,000 employees in those agencies wouldn’t plug it.
Click the "Get Schooled" link above to read Maureen's whole post at the AJC. We really do need to keep our eyes on what the state is up to. It's pretty scary for Georgia's schools.
(Some may find the term "Weasel" to be harsh and offensive, and I apologize for the severity. But please read the entire post first, especially if you pay DeKalb property taxes, 70% of which go to the school system)
Another day, another front page headline in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the DeKalb County School System, which will be read by hundreds of thousands of people and potential teachers throughout the state.
No-bid deal costs DeKalb schools
Embattled DeKalb County school official Patricia “Pat” Pope cost the school system nearly $1 million in state matching funds when she awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to a construction company without competitive bids, a move that resulted in more work for her architect husband.
State officials say they withheld the money because Pope broke state law when she awarded the contract to Merit Construction Co. in 2007 and because she failed to get state approval for the school renovation project.
"But midway through the interview, he veered off topic to discuss Pat Pope and what he had recently learned about her. Lewis said the school district’s internal affairs office had been investigating Pope for several weeks, after one of Pope’s employees “made lots of allegations about Ms. Pope and other things that she had seen in the office that are not right, about contracts.” Lewis also said that internal affairs had been investigating allegations that Pope had tampered with the competitive bidding process on construction projects. Then he quickly focused on the Columbia High situation."
But, three months later in February, while the investigation into Pope was under way, Superintendent Lewis chose to continue Pope’s employment and gave her a new contract making nearly $200,000 a year.
Embattled DeKalb County school official Patricia “Pat” Pope cost the school system nearly $1 million in state matching funds when she awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to a construction company without competitive bids, a move that resulted in more work for her architect husband. ...
The six school construction projects being scrutinized are valued at more than $110 million, and county authorities are investigating whether Pope broke the law by allegedly steering contracts to her husband’s architecture firm, her friend Moody’s company and another construction company, Turner Construction.
DeKalb schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis alerted authorities to Pope’s actions on the Columbia High project during a taped interview with a District Attorney’s Office investigator on Nov. 26, 2008.
In the interview, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Lewis suggests that Pope could have been trying to direct business to her husband.
Lewis, who has declined to talk to the AJC about the criminal case, told the investigator that Pope should have allowed construction companies a chance to compete for the multimillion-dollar contract.
But by giving it to a company that had been working on two previous phases of the project with Pope’s husband, “it means that he [Tony Pope] keeps getting paid.” ...
But midway through the interview, he veered off topic to discuss Pat Pope and what he had recently learned about her.
Lewis said the school district’s internal affairs office had been investigating Pope for several weeks, after one of Pope’s employees “made lots of allegations about Ms. Pope and other things that she had seen in the office that are not right, about contracts.”
Lewis also said that internal affairs had been investigating allegations that Pope had tampered with the competitive bidding process on construction projects.
Then he quickly focused on the Columbia High situation.
“The bottom line is we know that Ms. Pope should have re-bid the third phase of the Columbia High School project,” Lewis told the investigator. “She was told to do that by our construction attorney and by Lynn Jackson, who is the director of capital outlay for the state. I’ve talked to these people. They all tell me they told Pat to do it. Lynn said that Pat is very stubborn. She does things her way.”
In the interview, Lewis said he confronted Pope about the Columbia project.
“So I called Pat the next day and said, ‘Pat, were you told to re-bid that project by Greg Morgan [the school district’s former construction attorney] or by Lynn Jackson?’ And she said no. Now I’d already talked to them, so I know that they told her to do it.”
Less than two weeks after Lewis’ interview, school system police officers and information system employees examined records from Pope’s office, and school officials began interviewing Pope’s employees.
But, three months later in February, while the investigation into Pope was under way, Superintendent Lewis chose to continue Pope’s employment and gave her a new contract making nearly $200,000 a year.
Did you catch the date of this original "interview"? -- Nov. 26, 2008. That was 14 months ago. I have no hope anymore that this will be resolved. It's all just smoke and mirrors. There are no laws against what Pope did. These people will walk. Thus - the Cheshire Cat smiles.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Check out this report from CrossRoads News on the bloat in the central office of the school system - then do a double-take at the date the article was written.
- There are approximately 1,300 employees in the Central Office. This represents approximately 10 percent of all DCSS employees.
- Salaries currently make up approximately 91 percent of the general budget. SACS suggests salaries should be between 87- 93 percent of the budget. The target set by DCSS is 86 percent.
- There is a hiring freeze for “non-essential” positions.
- Forty-two Central Office positions have been identified for possible elimination. This could result in an annual savings of $2.64 million.
- Considering an Early Retirement Incentive Option that could take effect July 1: Targeted employees would be those who have completed at least 30 years of service. It has been determined this would impact around 170 employees. If this program is approved, it could result in an annual savings of up to $2.3 million.
- Staffing levels should be further studied in the Transportation, Public Safety and Security, Public Relations, Plant Services, and Student Relations departments.
- The Athletics program is not “self-sustaining,” and an evaluation may be needed regarding the number of sports teams currently supported.
- Employee salaries and benefits need to be balanced with financial constraints. Dr. Reico mentioned that DCSS has been “generous” over the years with respect to annual increases and that may need to be reviewed.
- Determine where technology modernization and applications could reduce labor costs. Four-day work weeks should be considered during the summer months. There should be cross training of Service Center employees.
- A Compensation and Classification study is recommended. The last one was done in 2003 and these are typically valid for 5 years.
- After the presentation, board members asked questions to get a better understanding of the initial finding along with the costs for proceeding. One member noted that while staffing algorithms should help guide each school, common sense should be used based on the needs of that school.
- The number of assistant principals at each school seemed subjective to some. Another raised the question whether early retirement should be offered prior to the completion of the Performance and Management Audit.
Friday, January 22, 2010
It is also nice to see that he used the term "taxpayers", and mentioned the massive amount of DCSS employees (13,285), and huge operating budget ($850 million per year).
He also recognizes that DeKalb County taxpayers no longer trust the BOE and DCSS Central office ("We need to be transparent in our motivations, honest in our dealings, and accountable for our actions. These are the elements necessary to re-build public trust in our school board, our school system and government."). Great job, Paul...things may be changing!
By Paul Womack
In the Federalist Papers, James Madison wrote that “if men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Well, if elected officials were angels, no codes of ethics would be necessary either. But elected officials are merely people, flawed and imperfect and subject to temptation, ignorance and error, which means that they should be controlled by external rules that provide transparency, and most importantly, accountability.
The DeKalb County School Board desperately needs a set of rules governing the official behavior of its members — not because we’re bad, but because we are human beings who have taken on an awesome responsibility.
Imagine a private company with an annual budget of more than $850 million, more than 102,000 customers, and 13,285 employees — without a clear set of rules governing its directors. Give that company the ability to levy taxes and condemn property, and you have the DeKalb school board. That’s too much power without the checks or balances that taxpayers expect and deserve.
There’s currently no rule against me using my position as a member of the school board to get a job in the school system for one of my relatives. There’s nothing that says I can’t serve on some other DeKalb County board, even if serving on that board would create an obvious conflict of interest. There’s no oversight board, official watchdog or ombudsman watching over me (or any of the other board members); no clear set of rules we could turn to if I had an ethical question. And were I to do something that was obviously wrong, there’s no mechanism to punish me, remove me from office, or undo any damage I might have done to the school system. This lack of guidance is not some mere loophole in the law — there’s no law to even put a loophole in!
Today, school board members are guided only by their own instincts. And since we’re all only human, we are subject to both honest mistakes and errors of opportunity. That’s no way to run any government. Yet when presented with an opportunity to take a single, tiny step to protect taxpayers and students from potentially unethical actions by board members, a majority of my colleagues recently voted to table the discussion. I can’t think of a good reason why any elected official would vote against ethical standards — but I can think of a few bad ones.
If the school board is not willing to create a common-sense code of ethics for itself, we may just find the state Legislature will do it for us. State Rep. Kevin Levitas (D-Atlanta) has pre-filed the DeKalb School Board Transparency Act, which would give our board a clear set of principles to follow. Among them would be disclosure requirements, prohibitions on accepting gifts or money, and most importantly, consequences for violating the rules. Levitas has good intentions, and a pretty good bill that’s worthy of public support. It would be a shame if the DeKalb school board were unable to govern ourselves and adopt a strong set of ethics guidelines. But whether from the state or ourselves, we need an ethics code.
Voters and taxpayers understand that we don’t live in a perfect world, and that neither humans nor elected officials are “angels.” They did not elect us to be perfect. They elected us to do the best job we can in making sure that every child in DeKalb County has an education that will allow them to compete in the 21st century. They expect us to be honest with them while we do that. We need to be transparent in our motivations, honest in our dealings, and accountable for our actions. These are the elements necessary to re-build public trust in our school board, our school system and government.
Paul Womack is a member of the DeKalb County School Board.
An Anonymous poster has done some research on the subject of police in our schools. Visit this link to download the detailed budget for support services (the police budget begins on page 157). The total budget for campus security for 2009 was $11,458,886. The proposed 2010 budget 'slashes' that amount to 11,084,805 and reduces the number of positions from 209 down to 203. The 2010 budget includes the same amount for canines and other /extra activities (gang prevention) - $95,998.
WOOD-SHUFFETT, J M - DIRECTOR OF SCHOOL SAFETY $114,627.65
2 Administrators (Directors)
5 Supervisors (1 Lieutenant, 4 Srgnt)
63 School Resource Officers
4 Civilian (Secretary)
120 Campus Supervisors
Wow, that's a massive number. What metrics are used to measure their performance? 9 detectives? 4 secretaries?
I know for a fact that it is MARTA Police that are dealing with many of the problems with the Dekalb Aleternative School (which is out of control). it is MARTA Police who are picking up so many truant students from that school. The school police are nowhere to be found. 9 detectives? Seriously, what do they do!!!
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Reposted with permission from John Heneghan's Dunwoody blog.
I was going to post (a simple piece about an exhibit at Spruill Arts Center called "Run for Cover") but the name of the exhibit in relationship to the DeKalb County School System news coming out, just touched me on so many levels.
Like all governmental budgets that depend on property taxes the DeKalb County School System is facing financial crisis, yet we have school board members already saying publicly that they are in favor of tax increases along with cuts in teacher pay vs deep cuts in administrative overhead.
DeKalb County pre-kindergarten classes, magnet schools and art courses will be slashed and teachers will likely see another pay cut to offset a $56 million deficit in the school system. The only other option is to raise property taxes, DeKalb Superintendent Crawford Lewis said Wednesday. Either way, students, teachers and administrators will feel the pinch next year.
The AJC also quotes board member, Eugene Walker who suggested the board raise property taxes 2 mills, which would raise the taxes of a $200,000 homeowner’s tax bill by about $135 more a year.
I read a comment on the DeKalb County School Watch Blog where a resident matter of factly stated that his decision had been made, that he is now going to move out of DeKalb vs. put up with the degradation of the school system, paying higher taxes that he can not afford, for it to be wasted on administrative bloat.
I don't know about you but as a father of three children in the DeKalb County School System, I truely respect my children's teachers, they work hard and are dedicated to the education of my children, sometimes it seems in spite of the obstacles placed upon them by the current administration. Unlike that person who is ready to move out of DeKalb, we the residents of DeKalb County need to stay and fight for quality education for our children and support the teachers who educate them.
I refuse to do differently and if you feel the same I would ask you stay engaged in the process, stay educated on what is happening in DeKalb and be ready to fill the auditorium of Peachtree Charter Middle School on Monday March 1st for the DeKalb County School Board work session where budget alternatives will most likely be discussed.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
It is time for taxpayers and parents demand that the DCSS Central Office be forced to make real cuts. The Transportation Dept. and Info. Systems are two bloated examples. The Sam Moss Center staff is extremely ineffective with the most basic of maintenance, such as HVAC, roofing and grounds. The Athletics Dept. desperately needs to have a forensic audit. Poor spending choices for worthless products such as eSIS and America's Choice. An administration which doesn't even have a list of all the facilities it owns. Nepotism is out on control at DCSS.
And as Cere has pointed out before, here is where the cuts have to be made first by the BOE, to Gloria Talley's Army: 72 "Instructional Supervisors" at a cost of almost $6.4 million - plus 473 "Instructional Specialists" totaling $23.9 million
Crawford Lewis (when not issuing letters to all DCSS employees defending a principal who changed test scores and is now a convicted criminal for doing so, and when not making up unnecessary new departments like Corporate Wellness led by Yvonne Bulter, with no previous experience in public health) is clearly not the person who should be leading the downsizing of DCSS. He created the bloated, wasteful mess as superintendent, and before that, as part of the upper management inner circle. Johnny Brown was on his way to serious downsize the DCSS Central Office, and the overpaid Central Office administrators turned on him, and convinced the weak and blind BOE to let him go.
How dare he propose that teachers take 5 percent pay cut, right after he demanded to the BOE an increase for his salary and ridiculously high expense account, and after he was allowed to purchase a DCSS vehicle for one-third of its book value. How dare you, Crawford Lewis.
DeKalb schools propose cuts in programs, teacher pay
By Megan Matteucci
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
5:29 p.m. Wednesday, January 20, 2010
DeKalb County pre-kindergarten classes, magnet schools and art courses will be slashed and teachers will likely see another pay cut to offset a $56 million deficit in the school system.
The only other option is to raise property taxes, DeKalb Superintendent Crawford Lewis said Wednesday.
Either way, students, teachers and administrators will feel the pinch next year.
On Wednesday, Lewis outlined several budget proposals to help trim $56 million from next year’s budget, which starts July 1.
A loss in revenue from declining property taxes and state aid caused the shortfall, he said.
The school board will spend the next few months deciding whether to raise property taxes or slash employees’ salaries through furloughs or a pay decrease.
“No one will lose their job,” Lewis told the board Wednesday. “But some employees will be offered a different position.”
Lewis said his goal is to avoid a property tax hike by trimming programs which have low attendance.
"We’re trying to be sensitive to people who are out of work, lost their homes to foreclosure and are struggling,” he said.
At 22.98 mills, DeKalb already has the third highest school tax rate in the metro area, according to Lewis.
Lewis’ proposal calls for teachers to take seven furlough days next school year or a 5 percent pay cut, an annual loss of about $3,200 for the average teacher. Administrators would take 15 furlough days under the proposal.
Bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers would not be affected. Substitute teachers would have their salary cut from $90 to $80 a day.
Those reductions would be in addition to about $11 million in cuts to school programs, including magnet and Montessori schools, classes at Fernbank Science Center, standardized testing in first and second grades, single gender schools and Lithonia Charter School and DeKalb Early College Academy. Summer school classes would be offered online only and half of the 104-pre-kindergarten classes would be cut. The state lottery funds pre-K teachers but not paraprofessionals, Lewis said.
The superintendent’s proposal also calls for 45 administrators in the central office to be transferred to schools, where they will become teachers.
The proposal also calls for cuts in the ranks of paraprofessionals, assistant principals and counselors. Once positions become vacant, they will not be filled.
Some board members said they would rather see a tax increase than cuts to teacher pay and programs.
If the board raises property taxes 1 mill, teachers would only face two furlough days or a 1.25 percent pay cut. The tax increase would cost a homeowner with a property valued at $200,000, about $68 more a year.
Board member Eugene Walker suggested the board raise taxes 2 mills, which would raise the average homeowner’s tax bill by about $135 more a year.
The county commission is also considering raising property taxes.
Teachers said they understand everyone will feel the effects of the recession and they are willing to take a cut. But they don’t understand why their furloughs are coming at the same time Lewis is getting a raise.
“Dr. Lewis just doesn’t get it with this pay issue,” said David Schutten, president of Organization of DeKalb Educators. “We’re willing to pitch in, but that continues to irk all of the employees.”
Earlier this month, the board voted to raise the superintendent’s pay from $240,000 to $255,000 and extend his contract to 2013.
On Wednesday, Lewis defended his raise and pointed out that he voluntarily took a pay cut last year.
“I don’t know any other superintendent who did that,” Lewis said. “Nothing I can say would be sufficient for anybody. If the board thought I was not a good deal, they would have gone outside and hired someone else.”
Despite the proposed cuts for next year, teachers said they are happy not to have to take any more furlough days this school year. Instead, they will not get contributions to their tax-sheltered annuity.
On Friday, Gov. Sonny Perdue asked teachers across Georgia to take three more days off to offset a decrease in state revenue.
The three furlough days equal about a $10.5 million budget cut in DeKalb, the state’s third largest school district.
Last year, the DeKalb board halted contributions to all school employees’ tax-sheltered annuity. By continuing with that cut, the board will save $9 million for the rest of the school year, Lewis said. The remaining $1.5 million will be trimmed from other spending.
The tax-sheltered annuity contributions will be re-instated July 1, Lewis said.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Atlanta schools top peers – by far – in $100K+ salaries
Monday, January 18, 2010
delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!