Monday, May 31, 2010

With leaders like these . . .

In an article titled, Former DeKalb schools chief, three others indicted, the AJC shared the charges listed in the District Attorney's indictment in the past week. Below is a sampling from the article:

A grand jury returned indictments on Lewis, Reid, also known as Pat Pope, her former husband Tony Pope and her secretary Cointa Moody.

“It’s hard for us to assess the full dollar amount, but Tony Pope made over $2 million,” Fleming said. “More than $80 million in contracts were all obtained through some type of fraud.”

Much of that money went to construction companies where Reid and Pope had connections, but no one from those firms were charged.

All four were either arrested by or turned themselves into sheriff’s deputies by Wednesday evening.

Lewis was booked into the DeKalb jail just before 8 p.m. Wednesday and was released on $200,000 bond about 90 minutes later.

Reid and Pope remained jailed Thursday morning, with bond set at $1 million each, according to jail records. Moody was being held Thursday on $200,000 bond.

The indictment includes the following:

Four counts of violating the racketeer influenced and corruption act against Lewis, Reid, Pope and Moody.

One count of theft by a government employee against Lewis, Reid and Moody.

One count of bribery against Lewis and Reid.

One count of falsifying public documents against Reid.

Lewis, 56, faces a maximum of 105 years in prison.

Reid, 52, faces up to 115 years in prison, investigators said. . . .

According to investigators, the scheme had begun in 2006 and involved the three school officials concealing information from the school board, altering documents and giving work to Pope’s architectural firm.

“All of the parties used their positions and the resources of school system to facilitate theft, fraud and obstruction, whether for personal gain or for the benefit of others,” Fleming said. “The money received by Tony Pope was then funneled to Pat Pope.” . . .

When she was hired, the couple was told he could complete one on-going school construction contract but could not work on any additional school projects, Fleming said.

But Lewis and Reid ignored that stipulation, the indictment alleges. The two, along with secretary Moody, 48, conspired to get Pope contracts. This was accomplished by issuing illegal change orders, altering construction projects and leaking information to Pope, all behind the school board’s back, Fleming said.

Those projects included work on Columbia High School, Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, Arabia Mountain High School and the Mountain Industrial Complex.

For the Arabia Mountain project, Reid forged the signatures of several members of a bid selection committee to steer the work to her husband, Fleming said.

Pope also collected money by working as a subcontractor for the McNair project, investigators said. . . .

For a tally on the amount of money possibly redirected to Pope Architects check out this article -

DeKalb indictments box

Wednesday's indictments charged Tony Pope with fraudulently taking money from four school building projects in the DeKalb County school system. How much did each project bring him?

Columbia High: $1.122 million

McNair: $193,217

Mountain Industrial: $1.075 million

Total: $2.391 million

All of the accused are claiming innocence.


Now - we have the following issues that need to be addressed by the board and the interim superintendent WHILE these indictments continue and a possible trial goes forth, creating enormous diversion:

  • Redistricting - will it happen? Will the board implement a plan for 2010 or 2011?
  • Block Scheduling vs 7 Period Days - will the board save money by eliminating the block?
  • Magnet costs and the associated transportation costs - will the board continue to pay for magnet transportation?
  • Will the board conduct an audit of the entire system's pay structure and job descriptions?
  • And the biggest question of the day - will SACS threaten to take DCSS's accreditation and if so, will the governor step in as the new law allows?

Governor Sonny Perdue today signed into law Senate Bill 84, landmark school board governance legislation.

SB 84 gives the state the ability to step in when a local school system’s accreditation is threatened. This bill strikes the appropriate balance between local control and state intervention when a system is in crisis,” said Gov. Perdue. “I want to thank my floor leaders, Rep. Jim Cole and Sen. Bill Heath, as well as our Education Committee Chairs, Rep. Brooks Coleman and Sen. Dan Weber for their hard work and leadership on this issue over the past two sessions.”

The legislation standardizes board ethics policies and board training, clarifies the law delineating the roles and responsibilities of superintendents and board members, creates minimum qualifications for board candidates, and gives the state the ability to find responsible citizens to serve on school boards when existing members fail to serve the interests of their students.


Download the indictment here:
Crawford Lewis DeKalb RICO Indictment

See also:

Are we gearing up for a trial yet?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pope pushed Lewis into it - according to the AJC...

Today's AJC article is strange.  It makes the case that Lewis was "more of a supporting character to the woman who ran the district’s construction program."

In a 127-page indictment handed down Wednesday, Lewis is portrayed as a superintendent who turned a blind eye to violations of district policy and state law, compromising himself for little in return. . . .

The indictment does not allege that Lewis took any money, but that he received free tickets to sports, theater or social events. So, if that allegation is true, why would Lewis sacrifice his career for free tickets?

The indictment does not offer a direct answer, though it states that Reid “knew things about him which would damage him...” The damaging information is not spelled out in the indictment. . . .

When asked about the ticket allegations, Lewis said, “In the five years that I was superintendent, I received two tickets to go to the Masters [golf tournament] in 2008. When I received the tickets, I didn’t know where the tickets came from.”

So, I guess they want us to believe that Pat Pope Reid did this all by her little lonesome. If true, then our school system is a very weak steward of the public trust of over a billion dollars a year. If not, then there simply must be others who want us to buy this story for some reason. Wonder who - wonder why...

Friday, May 28, 2010

More Questions Than Answers

We've had quite the conversation about the indictments against Crawford Lewis, Pat Reid (FKA Pat Pope), Vincent (Tony) Pope and Reid's secretary Cointa Moody.

That thread netted a list of questions that we need answers to such as:

  • Why didn't the Board of Education challenge some line items presented by Pat Pope at monthly board meetings?
  • The state even brought some issues to the BOE's attention that would have saved them millions, why was Pope never fired for wasting tax dollars or not filing proper paperwork?
  • What did board members know and when did you know there was a problem?
  • Why did you agree to allow Pope/Reid to continue to do business as usual when you red flagged some key construction problems?
  • Why did you allow Lewis/Pope/Reid to pour tax dollars into a new mega-office complex instead of repairing all the schools for our students?
  • Who is responsible for checking over and signing off on Crawford Lewis' P Card bills and why were the Bahamas hotel and the Ritz hotel bills paid? Who signed that payment?
  • Who is responsible for paying construction contracts? Who signed the checks made out to Anthony Pope's Architecture Company knowing that Pope was not supposed to be doing further business with DCSS? Who signed those checks knowing that paperwork showing board approval should be attached?
  • Why did the architect "quit" the Cross Keys project in the middle of the Pope/Lewis manipulations? Why did the board not question the lack of progress on promised SCHOOL projects such as Lakeside, Cross Keys, Dunwoody and Chamblee and instead rubber-stamp multi-millions being spent on administrative offices?
  • What exactly did the board know about allegations against Lewis when they "agreed" to separate with him, giving him a $90,000 severance package?
  • Additionally, are taxpayers REALLY saddled with $100,000 in legal fees for Lewis' defense of his actions against those same taxpayers?
  • How on earth were two people capable of manipulating multi-millions of dollars right under the noses of the elected officials charged with the fiduciary responsibility of monitoring school tax dollars and SPLOST dollars?
  • What does our board expect ordinary parents and taxpayers to think? There has been suspiciously little information coming forth from the board to the public on this catastrophe.  Why?
If you have answers, please post them in the comments.  If you (like most of us) only seem to have more questions, then post those as well. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Superintendent Lewis, Pat Pope and others indicted

From Fox 5 this evening

Crawford Lewis, three others face charges

Updated: Wednesday, 26 May 2010, 10:37 PM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 26 May 2010, 4:56 PM EDT


DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Former DeKalb County Schools superintendent Crawford Lewis was among four people indicted Wednesday on racketeering and theft charges after an investigation into school construction contracts.

District Attorney Gwen Keyes announced the indictment against Lewis and three others, including former schools chief operating officer Patricia Reid, her former husband Anthony Pope, and Cointa Moody, Reid’s former secretary. Keyes presented a 50-page long Powerpoint presentation summarizing the indictment, which was approximately 1,000 pages long.

The indictment lists approximately $2.3 million in fraudulently-received school funds, and possibly $80 million in illegal fraud as a part of the scheme allegedly conducted by the four. It’s not clear how long the alleged scheme when on before it was discovered.


And earlier -

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. -- Channel 2 Action News has learned a DeKalb County grand jury has indicted 4 people, including former school Superintendant Crawford Lewis, on racketeering and other charges in connection with the district attorney's investigation into school construction contracts.

In addition to Lewis, the indicted named Pat Reid (formerly Pope), her ex-husband Tony Pope and Reid’s former secretary Cointa Moody. Reid was formerly DeKalb School's chief operating officer and oversaw the system’s massive school construction program.

Tony Pope, Reid's ex-husband, is an architect who has done work for the system.

The district attorney's office has called a 4:30 p.m. news conference.

A team of Channel 2 reporters is working this story right now and will provide more information as the story develops.

Stay tuned to Channel 2 Action News at 5 and refresh this story on for more breaking developments.


Here's a link to the AJC's report on the subject.

Former DeKalb schools' chief indicted


DCSS Press Conference


To download the entire indictment click this in-depth article at Atlanta Unfiltered.


To download the Powerpoint Presentation the DA used for the press conference, click here and then click the link at the end of the article.


Download the indictment here:
Crawford Lewis DeKalb RICO Indictment

Georgia "Out of it's Mind"

This state is messing up badly.

First, as Maureen Downey reported at her AJC "Get Schooled" blog, State funding pays for 147 days of school. Districts are on their own for the remaining 33.

Maureen tells us that state Superintendent, Kathy Cox's criticisms of state cuts to education are growing more forthright, including a statement this week that the Legislature only approved enough funding next year to cover 147 days of the mandated 180-day school year. Cox is leaving her post in a few weeks. (She announced last week that she is resigning to head a think tank in D.C. and is no longer seeing election to a third term running Georgia’s schools.) 

So nice of you to finally speak up, Ms. Cox.

Jim Galloway recently posted a "Political Insider" column called, A wave of teacher layoffs set to wash over Georgia politics. Jim reports:

A wave that Georgia Republicans have feared for the better part of a year is approaching the shoreline.

This month, thousands of public school teachers across the state were formally notified that their services were no longer required. They will be joined in the unemployment line by thousands of others — school clerks, cafeteria workers and bus drivers.

Roughly 3,500 of the state’s 118,000 public school teachers are at risk, according to one estimate — although the state Department of Education says an exact count won’t be available until this fall.

State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond says his department has prepared for 8,000 school-related applications for jobless benefits this summer.

Even more teachers and school workers could lose their jobs next year, as federal stimulus funding is depleted.

Not good. Not good at all. In so many ways.

For a look at just how poorly our state has funded education in the past decade, read this report called, THE UNFULFILLED PROMISE TO GEORGIA’S CHILDREN, compiled by the Georgia School Funding Association. The report states:

The State must do more than provide enough financial support, but this is still a primary obligation which it has neglected. Even though the absolute amount of State funds for K-12 education has increased in recent years, the increases have not kept pace with the growth in enrollment and the effect of inflation, much less the needs of our students. In fact, the total amount of all funds allotted by the State to local school systems decreased on a per-student, inflation-adjusted basis by 18% between Fiscal Year (“FY’) 2002 and FY 2009.

Support for education in Georgia seems to have hit rock-bottom - or has it?


To learn how QBE (Quality Basic Education), which is GA’s formula for funding education, is figured download this Powerpoint:

Funding Georgia’s Public Schools: An Overview

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What the Budget Cuts Mean
AJC Special: School
central offices costly
Gloria Talley, deputy superintendent for teaching and learning with DeKalb schools, explained the many functions the central office performs.

“Let me tell you what we do,” Talley said. “We recruit and hire teachers. We write their checks. We train teachers in current practices and current strategies. We monitor teachers. We monitor principals. We assist principals in how they work with teachers. We have textbooks to purchase. We write curriculum. We have technology to oversee and to help implement.

“There’s a testing component that we need to oversee. There’s planning that we assist our schools with, and data analysis to help schools make decisions. That list doesn’t even include student security and safety.”

She continued: “I don’t want to get into the debate about how many bodies you need to run a central office because people sit on different sides of the fence. I believe that schools need support and that’s what we’re here for.”

Cobb County
106,079 Students
$34,470,248 spent on General Administration
DeKalb County
96,907 Students
$49,159,245 spent on General Administration
Yep, it's all about you and the Central Office, Gloria Talley.
In an unbelievable display of insouciance, completely ignoring the reasons why there was a $100 million budget deficit and what led to it, the DCSS Central Office led by Ramona Tyson, and approved by the Board of Education, cowardly made cuts to the lowest paid staff and new teachers, you know, the people who actually work in the classroom and school house, where the students are.

In fact, the only administrative department/division that had any substantial cuts was the public relations division. And the one reason why this division had administrator layoffs is that Board of Ed members and the highest ranking Central Office administrators (Tyson, Bob Moseley, Gloria Talley, Marcus Turk, Ron Ramsey) felt the PR staff allowed the media to report too many negative stories on DCSS, whether the stories were deserved or not. The BOE, Crawford Lewis, Tyson, etc. got egg on their face, so the PR staff was gone. Of course, the only upper level PR administrator who did not lose her job, Philandria Guillory, is the daughter of a powerful former board member, Frances Edwards. Funny how family members of board members fared well in the budget cuts.

The most telling budget cuts comes from the the systems IT department, aka MIS, Management Information Systems. Ramona Tyson was the administrator in charge of this department while it grew from a small support services department to a massively bloated and ineffective monster of a department, with hundreds of employees and a $20 million annual budget. The annual budget doesn't count the millions spent on eSIS. And many parents and taxpayers don't know that even with hundreds of employees, MIS relies on Dell for much of the real technical dirty work of installations, server maintenance, etc.

The cuts made by Ramona Tyson to MIS are the lead proof on how she doesn't get it, no one else from the Central Office gets it, and that the Board of Education has never "got it". What cuts were made to MIS? Well, a few CTSS employees were let go. Who are the CTSS'ers? The employees who provide front level support to teachers and staff in the school building. Did any MIS administrators have to worry about the budget cuts? Nope, Tyson took care of her own.

Because the MIS Dept. has little quality control, yes, there are stories on how some CTSS'ers are unprofessional and unhelpful, like son of Frances Edwards, Jamal Edwards, who went six months not being seen in his assigned school. But the majority of CTSS'ers were productive employees who tried their best to serve their assigned schools and navigate the ridiculous MIS procurement and equipment replacement process. Again, it's telling that whenever a Central Office administrator wants a new computer, he/she receives it in a flash, while many teachers, especially in elementary schools, have ten year old desktops and smart boards that don't work because Tyson picked a brand with incredibly expensive replacement bulbs. You should see the technology, especially flat screen TV's, in the new Central Office HQ at Mountain Industrial.

So the budget was balanced, with some early retirement, but the bulk of the cuts came from the school house, with teachers and in school support staff being let go. The source of the bloat, and the decision-makers who spent millions with no return on investment from #$%^ like America's Choice, eSIS, etc., are still in place with their six figure salaries and their complete lack of understanding of what the school house needs, or that some older schools are falling apart. Tens of millions are spent anually on Instructional Coaches or Supervisors or whatever Deborah Rives (former DCSS regional super who now works for America's Choice) and Gloria Talley call them are still out of the classroom assigning nonsense busy work to actual teachers who actually teacher our children.

The bloat is still there. The massive upper management is still in place. Hundreds of administrators, managers and staff who have nothing to do with the classroom are still there. My hope is the new superintendent will instantly recognize this and clean house. But without a new Board of Education, that will be extremely difficult and unlikely.

I'd like to hear from you where the real budget and personnel cuts should have been made, and what we can do as parents and taxpayers to out those focus back on the student, teacher and school house!!! Post away!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Graduation Test Results are In!

Check it out - the GHSGT results are in.  Download the pdf at the system's website here. Some highlights to note:

Arabia outscored Chamblee High in every category except Social Studies (of course, Chamblee is not totally a magnet school and Arabia pretty much is). But DeKalb Early College (DECA) outscored them both! Of course, DSA pretty much ran away with the top scores...with 100% pass rates in every category! Although only by a hair, as DECA had 100s in every category except science (only a 96!)

The top-scoring non-magnet schools are Lakeside, Dunwoody, Druid Hills, Redan, Stephenson and Cross Keys!

We did see some falling down of Social Studies test scores especially in our alternative programs. But overall, our high school students seem to be doing very well with the GHSGT.  Good going, everyone!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Congratulations Graduates!

Congratulations to the DeKalb County students who will receive their high school diplomas throughout this weekend.

You made it!!!

Now, go out and make the world a better place!!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Facebook – Jekyll or Hyde?

I’ve mentioned before that I work in corporate communications. My business partner and I have been delving into the relatively new marketing frontier often referred to as “social media” or “social network marketing”. Corporations are putting a lot of resources into finding ways to infiltrate these markets, which include Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and most everyone’s favorite—Facebook. As marketers, we benefit from this.

But as parents, we have found that Facebook, while on it’s “face” is fun, entertaining and a good way to connect with friends and family, also has a more sinister, dangerous side. Facebook can be like Dr. Jekyll or like Mr. Hyde.

What? We love Facebook! It's like a favorite aunt, your best friend or and old running buddy you shared many a road trip with down through the years. How could FB turn on us by selling our personal data and private information? How could FB be a place where terrible bullying occurs? How can the pictures we post on FB ruin relationships or cause us to lose a scholarship or a job?

They do it for money. According to ComScore, online marketers showed a record 1.1 trillion display ads to U.S. Internet users in the first quarter of 2010 … a 15% increase from last year. At the head of the line is Facebook with 176 billion display impressions and a 16.2% market share. (And we thought Facebook was about family vacations and embarrassing pictures from that party when people got really drunk.) Social media sites are building humongous databases on every member, friend and visitor. All this insight is sold to advertisers and marketers who target their display ads to our individual interests.

The Writing On The Wall - Your Facebook Wall

The idea is to create a network to help friends, family and people with similar interests connect with each other. Thanks to Facebook, high school classmates I've avoided for over 20 years can find me. None of this could have happened if I had kept my name and my personal information locked away and totally secure.

With very few exceptions no one has hacked into the social media sites and stolen data. We have simply given it away. Over a third of us have posted something online that has come back to haunt us. According to a survey by Retrevo, nearly 1/3 of the people who ‘posted before they thought’ said it ruined their marriage, relationships or caused problems at home or work. I know it's obvious but if you'd be embarrassed, compromised or penalized by something on a social media site … don't put it there! FB may feel like your BFF but that's certainly not their goal.

Standby for Paranoia

Look at it this way. Your individual data is what you put onto the Internet. You think it's private, but it's not, never was and shall be forever archived for the CIA to dig up (or just someone with an interest in your skeletons).

Tell your children now: Everything you've ever said, sent, viewed, spoken or entered on the Internet is still out there. You might 'remove' it but it's not gone. Even old websites never disappear. The Internet Archive has 150 billion web pages archived from 1996. Forget diamonds, the Internet is forever. As a wise man once said, "Trying to take something off the Internet is like trying to take pee out of a pool."

The Dollars Make Sense

Marketing is a tough business. Social marketing is a relatively new channel and Facebook is struggling to deliver a ROI. They have to provide an effective way for their marketers to capitalize on all those relationships. Facebook is only five years old and valued at approximately $15 billion. But it never made a profit until 2010 when CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced it was "free cash flow positive." How does a company lose money for five years and yet have a worth of $15 billion?

Every time you Google or search in Yahoo, Facebook or elsewhere, a cookie of sorts is created by marketers capturing your intention. Have you ever noticed that? Say you Google “hotels in Miami” and you search the results, checking prices, availability, etc, but you don’t buy. Then you head over to Yahoo and do a similar search. The top choices happen to be the choices you had narrowed your search to in Google! In fact, there is a display ad in the right column enticing you to that certain hotel you were very interested in! Trust me, that’s all done on purpose. As a marketing tool, this “leading” the customer is actually pretty helpful. The data analyzes your "Likes", "Diggits", "Stumbles" and general interests and scours the web looking for offers to plate up on your search results. Great for shopping or planning a vacation—not so great for children and teens.

What About the Children?

In addition to the possibility of cyber-hacking, parents must also be concerned about bullying on social network sites. According to,
"Cyberbullying" is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones. It has to have a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. Once adults become involved, it is plain and simple cyber-harassment or cyberstalking. Adult cyber-harassment or cyberstalking is NEVER called cyberbullying.
It isn't when adult are trying to lure children into offline meetings, that is called sexual exploitation or luring by a sexual predator. But sometimes when a minor starts a cyberbullying campaign it involves sexual predators who are intrigued by the sexual harassment or even ads posted by the cyberbullying offering up the victim for sex.
The methods used are limited only by the child's imagination and access to technology. A child can be cyberbully one moment and victim the next. The kids often change roles, going from victim to bully and back again.
The director of a very well-known private school in Atlanta recently sent home an email addressing the concerns parents have about social media. He makes some excellent points, which are quoted below:

Digital communities have enabled a new economy and more exciting ways to communicate and network with friends. Unfortunately, the use of both the Internet and Internet enabled phones raises significant developmental issues for young people and has led to numerous problems both in our community and beyond.

Parents today need guidance regarding how to regulate the Internet, social networking, texting, the use of Internet enabled phones, and private e-mail addresses for your children. Schools have seen an increase in the misuse of these technologies this year, resulting in hurt feelings, cruel behavior, broken friendships and dangerous situations.

Our school offers students a private email address ( beginning in 6th grade. We believe this is the proper time and environment to learn about having their own private email address. As we head into the summer months, we would like to suggest that you spend time understanding what your children are using these technologies for and how often they are using them.

We urge you to adopt the following beliefs in your home:

  • Lower School students do not need a mobile phone.
  • Middle School students do not need an Internet enabled phone (texting is OK, no pictures).
  • Middle School students should not have a presence on Facebook or other social networking sites.
  • Parents should set appropriate stop times at night for mobile phone (texting) use and make sure that phones are charged in a central location in the home.
  • Parents should not allow computers in private spaces at home. If possible, computers with Internet access should be used in public areas and students should understand that there is no expectation of privacy regarding their use of the Internet.
  • Recently there has been much talk about a website called, which targets middle school students through their Facebook accounts. We believe that this site is pernicious and inappropriate for all, regardless of age. But the of today will take another form tomorrow and we hope that by setting some expectations we can help families in our community better set boundaries around the positive use of technology.
Many of you probably enjoy Facebook as adults and I understand what a helpful vehicle it can be for keeping people connected. Nonetheless, we believe that before 9th grade, children should not have Facebook pages. High School is soon enough – and even then parents should regularly monitor their children’s Facebook page.

What works best is parents communicating with parents about these issues. If this letter helps open that dialog, then we have been successful. Questions for parents like, “at this sleepover will you be collecting all of the phones?” or, “is there a computer in the room where they will be having a play date?” are relevant and appropriate. Parents should communicate with each other about these important issues and understand the seriousness of the challenges that lurk in the unknown.

So Do You Follow Dr. Jekyll Or Mr. Hyde?

Social media isn't a right and users don't own the experience. Just because it's free doesn't mean that the tooth fairy pops up once a month to pay the bills. The intent has always been to make a profit. To increase revenue, social media sites have two obvious alternatives - charge subscription fees, increase advertising options - or both. So, how do you use social marketing without compromising too much privacy?

Monitoring children works—organizing a boycott against Facebook does not. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Linkedin are like social crack. They are addictive. They have 400 million active users … so a small boycott somewhere in the world has no effect on their power. The average Facebook user visits the site at least once a day and spends an astounding 55 minutes engaging friends and family. What will they do without it? Social media companies know this and make this addiction their business models.

Facebook needs the warm, friendly Jekyll image to attract the 1-billion users worldwide that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has targeted. And they need the action-driven, pragmatic Mr. Hyde to generate the revenue they need. What we are seeing is the social media sites facing the reality that they are in the business of selling advertising and our preferences and personal data is the marketing bait. So warn your children and heed this advice:  Be very careful what pictures you post and what you say on Facebook. After all, they aren't really in the relationship business—they’re in the data-mining business.

This summer, help your children navigate the internet and teach them to recognize the difference between a "Dr. Jekyll" and "Mr. Hyde".  Monitoring is great - but for long-term protection of your children on the internet - Education is Key!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ask the Teachers? Apparently, they already are...

One very interesting thing about speaking during the Public Comments portion of a BOE meeting is the letter one receives a few weeks later from the office of the Superintendent. At the May working BOE meeting, a parent begged the BOE to "Ask the Teachers" before making their decisions. That parent received the customary "we heard you" type letter. That letter contained the following paragraph:

"During your comments, you suggested that the leadership use teachers as consultants as a cost-saving measure and before making any major decisions. You may in interested in knowing that our Superintendent's Teacher Advisory Committee serves to provide a systemic process for problem solving for staff and leadership. Using teacher input is one of the action areas within our Strategic Planning initiative, as well."

So, the question(s) is: Teachers, have you ever heard of the "Superintendent's Teacher Advisory Committee"? Have you ever been a member of that committee? How long has the Superintendent had this committee in place? How often do the members change? How are the members selected? Who selects the members? How often does the committee meet? Where does it meet? Is the meeting open to the public? Where are the meeting dates posted? Who are the current members of the committee? At which schools do they teach? What grades do they teach? What subjects do they teach? Are the meetings of the STAC like the "Parents' Advisory Committee" at which the parents are never actually asked for advice? Which staff member is responsible for STAC and what does this staff member(s) do with the "advice" the teachers provide?

I searched the DCSS website: "Your search for "teacher advisory committee" returned 0 results."

Does "Using teacher input is one of the action areas within our Strategic Planning initiative, as well" mean more surveys stacked with questions that only lead to favorable outcomes?

Teachers? Help us out ... been on this committee? Know anyone who has?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bridge Over Trouble Waters (cross post from FC blog)

It is no secret I am a cheerleader for the schools of the Cross Keys attendance area. So, please forgive me for the coincidental fact that this great blog entry I found in my Community Radar feed today came from Sequoyah's principal, Brittany Cunningham. She offers what I think is a very important message for our DCSS employees ...

Ms. Cunningham is completing her first year as a DCSS principal ... pretty sweet time to start, eh? I met Trenton Arnold, her predecessor, two weeks before he was pulled to serve at Stone Mountain by Dr. Lewis. Just when I thought I found someone to develop a working relationship with he was gone! Enter Ms. Cunningham ...

Among all the progressive and positive things she does for the Sequoyah community, she also contributes occasionally to the blogosphere at her "First Class" blog. The role of principals as #1 communicator in their schools and communities is one of their most important roles in my opinion and we can all thank Ms. Cunningham for excelling in this area, too.

After reading her latest entry, I thought it was important to share it with our "Watch" blog readers because there is so much strain on our DCSS workforce right now and surely in the coming year. Let's take five minutes and thank our educators and all the folks who empower them to patrol what Sequoyah's principal calls a "bridge over trouble waters."

Here's the text of the post::


I apologize for not writing a blog last week.  Instead of blogging, I was trying to complete a fifteen page analysis of the budgeting process of Independence, MO.  Unfortunately, all the work was for naught, as my laptop's hard drive decided to die right before I was to submit the paper (students - always save valued work to a secondary source!)

So, this week I am writing the blog I wanted to write last week, had I known what would occur in 24 hours time.  

One of the cool things about "The Remix,"  my new car, is that I can hook up my ipod without the highly erratic, old-school tape deck connection.  So, I have been downloading all my favorite podcasts to cram in during my seven minute commute (or during my travels to meetings and GSU).  

As I have stated in a previous blog, one of my favorite podcasts is "This American Life."  The May 7 episode featured a story about Chen Sah and his work on the Yangtze River Bridge in Naan-jing China.  This four mile bridge happens to be notorious for the number of people who choose to jump off that bridge and travel nearly 80 miles to their probable death in the hands of the River.  

Mr. Chen is an army of one determined to save people from themselves.  He regularly drives across the bridge in a rickety moped on the lookout for people crossing the barriers in an attempt to get on the wrong side of the bridge.  Mr. Chen is not paid to do this, nor is he trained for this role.  Mr. Chen simply feels compelled to serve for something greater than himself - humanity.  

According to Mr. Chen's blog, which regularly accounts for his activity on the bridge, from September 2003 to December 2009, Mr. Chen has prevented 125 people from physically jumping, counseled 5,510 on the bridge, counseled 16,000 on the phone, and received 51,000 text messages.  

Reporter Mike Paterniti had the opportunity recently to visit Mr. Chen.  Ironically, it was Paterniti who actually wrestled a man down who was about to jump off the bridge.  Paterniti was amazed to witness Mr. Chen's dose of tough love counseling, questioning the man's loyalty to his country and family, while also working the address the root causes of his state of depression.

In many ways teachers are like Mr. Chen.  Instead of traveling on that rickety moped over a four mile bridge, teachers travel through the minds and hearts of hundreds of students and parents each year.  Both are life saving callings,  as research shows that minds without education or hope suffer slow, painful deaths.  Neither receive much for the huge impact they have on humanity.  And just as Mr. Chen varies his methods for dealing with potential bridge jumpers, great teachers differentiate instruction for their students, making sure that teaching is relevant, rigorous, and engaging for the students they have been charged to teach.

But teaching isn't entirely about instruction, nor is the title teacher fixed solely to people certified to do so.  Everyone in the building is potentially a teacher - from food services to custodial, from the front office to the security desk, from the bus drivers to the volunteers. Everyone in the building is responsible for doing exactly what Mr. Chen does - ensuring that every student who walks into Sequoyah realizes their worth as people, their immediate value to their friends and family, and their future value to society.  

The month of May is a time for celebrating - celebrating the end of a successful school year and all of the people who worked so hard to make it happen.  I have truly enjoyed the past couple weeks of celebrations, whether we were recognizing teachers, food service workers, or the accomplishments of students.  And as we bring the school year to a close, I want to thank the adults of Sequoyah for their life-saving work.  If you don't think you are making a difference, take a look at Cross Keys' Senior Class, whose members have received local, state, and national recognition for their outstanding work as students, whether for academic prowess or for their commitment to service.  The vast majority of those students walked through the hallways of Sequoyah Middle.  Your life-saving commitment to teaching the whole child has made, is making, and will make a difference for our society.  

Please know that, even in the midst of paycuts, and diminishing financial support to K-12 education, your work is important and you are appreciated.  May this final week be both academically stimulating and rewarding.  I hope that in the weeks ahead, your summer is a mix of opportunities to rejuvenate, whether through thought-provoking professional development or through relaxation.  Thanks for a great year. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

So, please share what you know about who has been let go...

A recent commenter made the following request - and I think it's a good idea. Apparently, the axes have begun to fall - and it is surprising just how many school-based employees are getting their pink slips. Please, if you feel comfortable, share with us who has been let go from your school and how that will effect education this fall. (Just share their job type and the effect it will have, no names, please.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

North vs Central vs South - what's the deal?

Ok, so I got tired of listening to the imaginary north/south debate and Sarah Copelin-Wood's claim that "82% of all students live in the southernmost part of the county". So I went to the Citizen's Task Force website and downloaded pretty much all of their data posted about our elementary schools (this is all they've studied so far). I took their map of the elementary schools and randomly divided it into three zones; north, central and south.  Then I went to the "matrix" data sheet and added up the numbers relevant to the the neighborhood schools in these random zones and added those totals to the map graphic—no magnets, themes or charters were counted in these totals. (Click on the map to get a large version to view or print out if you'd like.)  Pretty unscientific, I know, but who really knows where "north", "central" and "south" DeKalb begin and end?

Below are the student numbers for each zone:

North DCSS students:
Living in zone: 13,202
Enrollment: 14,519
Capacity: 12,393 (2,126 over-capacity)

Central DCSS students:
Living in zone: 9,702
Enrollment: 9,244
Capacity: 8,798 (446 over-capacity)

South DCSS students:
Living in zone: 21,513
Enrollment: 18,267
Capacity: 21,192 (2,925 available seats)

Basically, here are my takeaways -

1) We have a fairly even balance between the numbers of students living in the south and the capacity to offer seats to them in their own zone. School by school these numbers vary greatly, however, closing schools may actually cause us to have to build additions elsewhere to accommodate students if they decide to stay in their neighborhood school. It appears as though about 3,200+ students living in the south end do not attend their neighborhood school—creating the "empty seats" syndrome. Simple re-districting should be able to solve much of the under/over enrollments, in my view. The north and central zones are under-capacity by about 1,000-2,000 students in each zone, and a few classroom additions to current over-capacity buildings could alleviate the crowding.

2) Since these capacity figures do not include magnet, theme or charter schools, perhaps these options are causing our neighborhood schools to lose enrollment and creating the empty seats. In the north, we have Kittredge Magnet (capacity: 443 and enrollment of 416), and Oakcliff Theme (capacity: 662, enrollment: 593) that's 1,009 students in theme/magnet schools in the north - central DeKalb offers Robert Shaw Theme (capacity: 512, enrollment: 485) and Wynbrooke Theme (capacity: 837, enrollment: 933) totaling 1,418 students in theme schools in the central zone - but south DeKalb has the most— Bouie Theme (capacity: 787, enrollment: 853), DESA Magnet school for the arts (capacity: 600, enrollment: 528), Marbut Theme (capacity: 787, enrollment: 844), Narvie Harris Theme (capacity: 837, enrollment: 984), Wadsworth Magnet (capacity: 462, enrollment: 166) and the soon to open Leadership Academy Charter School. There are 3,375 students attending these theme/magnet/charter elementary schools in south DeKalb (just about the same number of "empty" seats in neighborhood elementary schools in the south.)

3) So, somewhere around 3,200 students in South DeKalb do not attend their neighborhood zoned school—many certainly have opted for magnet and theme schools, but many must be attending neighborhood schools in the north on administrative transfers. Central DeKalb is over-enrolled by 446, and has the actual population of 458 students more than the zone's capacity. North DeKalb neighborhood schools are under-capacity for area residents by 809 seats, however the schools are actually over-capacity by 2,216 students, most likely due to transfers (this number does not include Kittredge or Oakcliff).

4) Of the 44,417 elementary school students who live in DeKalb county, approximately 30% live in what I roped off as north DeKalb, 22% live in central and 48% live in the southern part of the county. (Even if you give all of central over to Sarah, the total is just 70% of students who live outside of the north end—nowhere near 82%.)

Feel free to visit the Citizen's Planning Task Force webpage and download the files.  I used the files called "grid map ES" and the "matrix ES corrected".

Click here for the School Choice explanation on the DCSS website.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Amazing May 10 Board Meeting

First, I have to say, I simply must start a Twitter page.  By the time the meeting was over, this blog already had about three dozen (pretty witty) comments posted on the meeting announcement thread! I was so happy to see you all paying so much attention!

Let's start - and this meeting was action-packed, so I'll try to bullet point my way through. Click the photo of the proposed budget cuts and print one out if you'd like to follow along. Items proposed as amended to the budget on the table:

  • Kelli Wright told us that the Briarvista Montessori will become a hybrid model like Huntley Hills and Midway, offering regular education in addition to the Montessori. 
  • Womack proposed cutting only 100 paras instead of 200 and deleting the change to the 7 period day altogether from the budget. PASSED
  • Cunningham proposed instead of cutting the magnet transportation completely (as has been the plan since last year when the hub system was implemented), to go to 9 hub locations instead of the current 18. Oddly, they simply cut the savings of that line item in half, but I just can't believe that was logical.  The savings to implement the full transportation cut plan was $4 million - this change won't simply cut that in half - you still have to get drivers to fire up buses to make the trips, regardless of how many hubs you pick up from. Plus, there were other transportation cuts in that line item.  This may be a net zero savings.  But I did understand that if they save the magnet school points, but eliminate transportation, it's kind of senseless. PASSED (Although, I don't understand why Sarah voted on this at all, she had no idea where the satellite hubs were, she seemed totally unaware of their existence, and confused as to what she was voting on.)
  • Jay also proposed cutting only 9 CTSS staff instead of 18 and only 30 media clerks instead of 59. PASSED.
  • Walker proposed fewer furlough days (going with line item 40 instead of 42), going ahead and paying the TSA (using line item 36 instead of 35) and increasing the tax rate 1 mill. FAILED. (Although, Walker, Roberts, Cunningham and Copelin-Wood all advocated to increase property taxes.) This means that the cut will stick; ten month employees (teachers) will have 7 furlough days, eleven month employees will have 10 furlough days and twelve month employees will have 15 furlough days. The dates of those days have yet to be determined, but teacher furlough days must occur when students are not in school.
  • The board also approved a voluntary board compensation reduction of 10% (proposed at 5% by Womack and raised to 10% by Redovian) to show support for the sacrifices they are imposing on teachers.  Zepora vehemently opposed this, stating that "only the rich and famous will be able to serve". Sarah agreed with Zepora, but voted for it, since it is voluntary and she can choose not to do it. (Each board member must submit a request in writing to Tyson and Turk to implement the payroll deduction.) For those interested, the board pay is $1,500 per month plus $450 per month sent as an expense check plus an additional $4,000 travel account (which most don't use in it's entirety). I'm not certain if they receive healthcare or other benefits.
  • The board also found out that the decision they made last year (per Dr. Lewis) to withhold contributions to teacher's TSA accounts was against their own board policy.  They voted to consider a change to the policy (it must lay for a month and will be voted on in June) and promised to go back and make the contributions that were withheld last year against policy when they have the funds. Going forward, after the policy change in June, TSA contributions will once again be withheld next year.
  • Here's a wild card:  There was an agenda item asking to approve the cellular contract with AT&T. Zepora made a speech against this due to the fact that the AT&T community liasion is a member of eduKALB, the group formed by the DeKalb Chamber to vet and endorse new school board candidates.  She claimed any new candidate would be beholden to AT&T due to the "company's" support of that candidate. Redovian and Cunningham agreed, but the AT&T contract PASSED anyway.

Overall, there was a lot of emotionally-charged discussion about the perceived disparities between "north" and "south" DeKalb schools.  Sarah Copelin-Wood, Zepora Roberts and Jay Cunningham heavily complained on this issue (you might even call it political grandstanding).  Oddly, Sarah keeps insisting that 82% of DeKalb's FTE (which basically means students) live in the "southernmost areas of DeKalb".  Huh?  Is she saying that only 18% of all of our 100,000 students live in central and north DeKalb?  I do believe that she really thinks that ALL black students live in south DeKalb! (Even if they did, this would only account for 72% of all students.)  That is so twisted—and so wrong.  Later this week, I will dig through the task force data and report exactly where all of our students live.

That said, these three seem to agree that the schools in south DeKalb are inferior.  They stated that all of the magnets and charters are in north DeKalb and all these poor south DeKalb children "have to get up at 5 am to ride a bus to a decent school, since they are ALL located in the north."  (Seems they are forgetting about DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts, McNair Learning Academy, Wadsworth Magnet for High Achievers, Champion Middle, SW DeKalb Magnet HS, Arabia Mt High's Environmental Energy and Engineering Magnet Program, the new "Leadership Academy" Charter, etc, all in south DeKalb.) Jay made the weirdest point about this. While he pontificated about how they need to work on their under-performing schools, he implored parents in his district over and over to get their children to school on time and dressed appropriately.

To wrap up the meeting, Zepora went off during the board two minute comment time. She literally ripped into David Schutten, President of ODE (Organization of DeKalb Educators). She railed that "the board has no agreement to have to negotiate with him, yet he comes before them every month making false accusations". She called him "untruthful, untrustworthy, negative and disrespectful", stating that she thinks "he is getting bolder and bolder with his nasty antics". Interestingly, David Schutten is a member of that doggone eduKALB board.  Hmmmm.  I sense a theme.


The final tally of the budget cuts was $104,473,918.00.
The final General Fund for 2010-11 was $746,636,912.00
The final Consolidated Budget was $1,037,292,826.00

To read the Megan Matteucci's report for the AJC, click here.
To read the meeting notes from the DeKalb Parent blog, click here.

Budget to be approved at board meeting today


6:00pm Business Meeting
Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center
Building A, J. David Williamson Board Room
3770 North Decatur Road
Decatur, GA 30032


Sunday, May 9, 2010

DeKalb businesses want better school board leaders

This is an interesting article from last week's AJC. It announces the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce's establishment of eduKalb, the nonprofit committee that will identify and endorse school board candidates to replace the five up for reelection in November.  (Odd numbered districts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 represented by Jim Redovian, Sarah Copelin-Wood, Jay Cunningham, Zepora Roberts and Gene Walker respectively.)

Another key issue the Chamber is focusing on is some kind of ethics policy for the board of education. Kevin Levitas attempted to address this in the legislature and the board itself responded with some kind of ethics policy of their own, but got hung up arguing about whether to limit "gifts" to $50 or $100. (Click here for our post on that board meeting.)

The AJC article states,

Discussion about school ethics legislation comes as District 3 board member Sarah Copelin-Wood, (pictured) who is up for re-election, faces an ethics complaint. She is accused of meddling in the school closure process by directing members of the Citizens Planning Task Force how to vote.

The complaint against Wood is pending and will be addressed after the board finalizes its budget, Bowen said.

With all our board has to contend with at the moment, I foresee this ethics policy and follow-up on Ms. Copeland-Wood's ethics complaint possibly getting buried or falling by the wayside. I hope that doesn't happen, as a strong ethics policy is vital to restoring some level of trust in the board. But I am concerned that all of the discussion this past year about ethics will be swept under the rug and in the end become "much ado about nothing". We need to continue to follow up on this situation and see that a strong ethics policy is put in place, and that Ms. Woods provides answers to the complaint against her. This is an important issue.


You may also be interested in reading our post on eduKALB. If so, click here.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

SPLOST 3 projects vs enrollments, capacity and racial make up at DeKalb High Schools

The school closure/consolidation plans discussed thus far have only included elementary schools. Many of these 11,000 stated available seats are located in middle and high schools. (We now know that about 2,000 of these 11,000 are attributed to the now closed Open Campus and Heritage schools, leaving 9,000 empty seats or less.)

Since high schools were supposed to be the focus of SPLOST 3 spending, we have compiled the best data we could regarding high school enrollments vs capacity along with the racial makeup of these schools (for those who still insist that there are "white" schools in the "north" that get more money. As you can see, there are high schools with white students, but they are simply a portion of incredibly diverse schools.)

The facts are the facts. Please read them with an open mind. If you know for certain that we have something incorrect, please let us know and we will fix it. This is entirely possible with capacity numbers, as those have been mysteriously fluctuating in the last year. The enrollment numbers came from the October, 209 FTE count submitted to the state DOE website.

Avondale HS – 639 students - (91.5% black), Having completed an HVAC replacement, they received $10 million for preparing and upgrading the building for moving the HS of the Arts into Avondale HS (to operate as a separate school within a school – 2 principals, 2 sets of teachers, counselors, etc…$$$). The building capacity is 1155. When you add 639 plus 284 from DSA, the total enrollment at Avondale will be 923 – with 232 seats available.

Cedar Grove HS – 1,177 students - (96.8% black), With a design capacity of 1,430, Cedar Grove offers 253 available seats.

Chamblee HS – 1,512 students - (53.9% black, 24.7% white, 7.8% Hispanic, 9.8% Asian, 3.8% other); NO construction so far. No plans drawn. They are scheduled to receive the Auditorium/Career Tech package, but no movement has been made in this effort. The building is old and has problems with mold and other quality of life issues. The current building’s design capacity is 1,364 putting them 148 students over capacity.

Clarkston HS – 1,001 students – (79.4% black, 3.1% white, 3.9% Hispanic, 11.0% Asian, 2.6% other); With a design capacity of 1260, Clarkston offers 259 available seats. With $11,694,682 for an Auditorium/Career Tech Center - Plus an additional $4 million for other improvements – Clarkston should soon be a sought after, very roomy, newly remodeled high school.

Columbia HS – 1,294 students – (98.6% black); Total renovation of the building, including the pool. Also recently completed the auditorium/fine arts/career tech addition. The original design capacity of this building was 1,474 giving Columbia currently at least 180 available seats.

Cross Keys HS – 900 students - (14.0% black, 2.7% white, 69.7% Hispanic, 12.5% Asian, 1.1% other); Cross Keys has been second on the list for a renovation using SPLOST 3 since it’s original proposal—before the vote. Second only to emergency HVAC projects and finishing SPLOST 2 projects. The original amount of money slated for CC was $16,927,348, however a contract was awarded to MEJA Construction at the Oct 08 Board meeting for a mere $11,000,000. Somehow, now that contract was pulled and the Cross Keys renovation was tabled for several months. The High School of Technology North, which was sold to GA Perimeter College, merged with Cross Keys last fall, and much of the new plans for renovation currently started are for the Tech program. The original design capacity of CC is 1,342, however some of the building is now unusable. Including the merge with HSTN, but there are probably at least 100 available seats, if not more. However, if this school becomes the vocational school for the north end of the county – and it’s good – it will grow. Sadly, there are currently NO plans for fixing the outdoor sports track and field, no plans for an auditorium or much more than a “fluff up” of the 1960s-era building.

DeKalb School of Arts – 291 students - (64.8% black, 26.1% white, 2.5% Hispanic, 3.2% Asian, 3.5% other); $10,000,000 has been allocated to move this school to Avondale. (This equates to spending $35,211.00 per student.) Could a better option have been to designate Lakeside as a Magnet School for the Arts, allowing Lakeside (which already has over 400 students in arts programs) to absorb the 284 from DSA and use some of the $10 million for renovations to Lakeside? Why the heavy focus and heavy spending on 284 students at DSA, when there are over 1700 at Lakeside – squeezed into a building designed for 1300? Wasteful spending here. We don’t have the luxury of over-spending on so few.

Druid Hills HS – 1,393 students – (51.8% black, 28.0% white, 6.3% Hispanic, 9.3% Asian, 4.6% other); Druid Hills has enjoyed a renovation and classroom addition – it’s almost completed, however since the classrooms are smaller, the design capacity of 1,218 will not increase and may in fact, decrease, leaving DHHS overcrowded by at least 175 seats.

Dunwoody HS – 1,515 students - (36.5% black, 41.1% white, 13.9% Hispanic, 5.7% Asian, 2.9% other); They have approved bids on the Auditorium/Career Tech addition, which is good news, as it appears that Dunwoody was tabled for quite some time, due to the Pat Pope investigation. Work is scheduled for this summer. (Capacity is 1386 for Dunwoody – currently putting them at 129 over capacity and growth projections put them at over 700 over capacity by 2016.)

Martin Luther King Jr. HS – 1,833 students - (98.1% black); From the website: “MLK opened in August, 2001, as the newest high school in the DeKalb School system. This beautiful facility is home to grades 9-12. This beautiful new school has a green and inviting campus, an ideal place for students to learn.” Scheduled to receive a multi-classroom addition with SPLOST 3. Plus a new project has been discussed and temporarily tabled for this school - MLK HS - 9th Grade Academy - $6,858,842 With a current capacity of 1,407, MLK is over-capacity by 426, however, this crowding was supposed to have been relieved by the brand new Arabia HS in August, 2009—but Arabia opened as a magnet program of sorts instead.

Lakeside HS – 1,703 students - (33.0% black, 41.1% white, 12.3% Hispanic, 8.3% Asian, 3.3% other); Lakeside received an emergency HVAC replacement using SPLOST 2 funding (the AC had actually shut down and students took final exams in 95 degree heat.) They say they have asked for bids on the Auditorium/Career Tech addition, designs been drawn but ground has not been broken and in fact, the promised construction start date of May has been moved yet again several months. This school is currently approaching 400 students OVER design capacity and has 21 trailers sitting on the unusable tennis courts.

Lithonia HS – 1,506 students - (95.4% black); “Moved into a beautiful new, totally wireless facility on October 21, 2002. The school has 188, 000 square feet of space and is one of the largest schools in DeKalb County. Lithonia has a state-of-the-art media center, a music, art, and NJROTC wings, a cyber cafe for parents to communicate online with teachers, and a 500-seat auditorium.” Scheduled to receive an addition with SPLOST 3 but that was tabled. Capacity is currently 1,407, leaving them over-capacity by 99, but again, the original promise was that Arabia would relieve over-crowding here, yet Arabia became a magnet instead.

McNair HS – 1,035 students - (98.5% black); COMPLETELY RENOVATED 2006 – including a new auditorium. Even going so far as to spend $25,000 for the Mustang Statues on the pillars at the entry. The building with a capacity of 1,701 – currently only has 1,035 students leaving 666 available seats.

Miller Grove HS – 1,650 students - (96.9% black); A couple of years ago, the website stated, “Miller Grove High is the newest and largest constructed high school in the history of The DeKalb County System. All instructional spaces receive natural daylight through walls of windows. The media center and cafeteria are state of the art, and the gymnasium comfortably seats over 2,000 people. Miller Grove High School is located next to the new DeKalb Medical Center. Key personnel at the hospital have made a commitment to work closely with MGHS. Having a 2,345 square foot Health Occupations Center is just another dynamic feature of Miller Grove High School. Miller Grove High School is truly a state of the art 21st century school facility.” With a current capacity of 1,764, Miller Grove is has 114 available seats. Even so, a SPLOST 3 funded addition is still planned for this facility to relieve over-crowding.

Open Campus HS – 604 students - (82.4% black, 3.1% white, 10.3% Hispanic, 2.3% Asian, 1.9% other); $10 million was allocated to “move” Open Campus to  the Mtn Industrial facility.

Redan HS – 1,433 students - (96.8% black); With an original design capacity of 1,298, Redan is over capacity by 135 students. Redan is scheduled to receive a $4,819,395 Classroom/Career Tech addition using SPLOST 3 dollars, which will alleviate the overcrowding.

Southwest DeKalb HS – 1,782 students - (96.8% black); SW enjoyed a total renovation and Auditorium/Career Tech addition using SPLOST 2 funding. Additional funding (approx $2 million) for construction beyond the original scope was also built and plans are underway for a performing arts auditorium. With a design capacity of 1,365, SWDK is still 417 students over capacity – requiring over 20 trailers on site. This is a magnet school, some would say enrollment should be limited to the number of available seats.

Stephenson HS – 1,783 students - (96.4% black); Stephenson HS - 9th Grade Academy was built using millions from the SPLOST 2 funds. The capacity is 2,098 for this building, leaving 315 seats available.

Stone Mountain HS – 1,341 students - (89.3% black); With an original design capacity of 1,298, Stone Mountain is fairly well-balanced with only 43 students over capacity.

Towers HS – 1,007 students - (94.8% black); Received a total renovation using SPLOST 2 including new bleachers as an extra budget item. Interestingly, the building capacity is 1,365 – so it would seem an addition was not necessary. (At least compared to other schools’ needs.) Yet - here we spent $1,500,000 SPLOST 3 funding for 8 Classrooms Additions - 12,000 SF). PLUS $350,000 for an addition of an art studio. Moreover, they have received a auditorium/tech addition. This leaves Towers with 358 available seats.

Tucker HS – 1,414 students - (72.0% black, 15.1% white, 5.4% Hispanic, 3.9% Asian, 3.5% other); Scheduled with SPLOST 3 to be renovate, Tucker had to be TORN DOWN and REPLACED, due to asbestos and other contaminants and is currently in the process of being completely rebuilt. (Original school’s design capacity was 1,474) Tucker will be a nice high school when finished, with the first county-built school auditorium in north DeKalb.  And their state champion football team will have an impressive practice field.

ARABIA MOUNTAIN HS – Just opened in August, 2009, Arabia was originally designed to alleviate overcrowding in the Lithonia area of South DeKalb, however, the three other high schools (Lithonia, Miller Grove and MLK) – that were supposed to be sending students to Arabia – were also scheduled to receive millions for classroom additions – to relieve overcrowding! This spending MUST be reassigned to alleviate real over-crowding in other high schools. Arabia currently has 1,001 students in grades 9-11. Building capacity is a minimum of 1,600 with expansion to over 2,100 according to the original press release.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Millions more down the tube

The AJC is now reporting, "Sloppy paperwork, missed deadlines cost DeKalb schools millions".

Sloppy paperwork cost DeKalb County schools $25 million dollars last year and almost cost millions more again this year, officials said.

The mistakes caused the state Department of Education to revoke $11 million in construction funds and temporarily withhold another $14 million, according to records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. DeKalb taxpayers ended up paying for the $14 million in construction projects with sales tax dollars, which could have been used for other purposes.

Further, the district’s rocky relationship with the state almost cost the troubled school system another $27 million this year.

“We lost more than $20 million last year because of sloppy paperwork on behalf of the school district,” school board member H. Paul Womack said this week.

Read the rest at the AJC link above.

One more quote first -

The only reason the school system didn’t make the multi-million-dollar mistake again this year was because State Rep. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) intervened, securing a special extension that ended up bringing the district $27 million in state funding, Womack said.

Thank you Fran.

Let's discuss education - since no one else is

This week's issue of Newsweek has a thought-provoking and saddening column on the state of school science and math standards. More interesting to me is the indictment of education research pertaining to various teaching programs. I know we have touched on the subject before, but while we are all watching the circus being performed by Dr. Lewis, Pat Pope and the board, our teacher's morale has tanked and the quality of education continues to sink. It's time that someone start discussing education reform in DCSS. The question of science education at Fernbank Science Center has been actively discussed here. I love the science center, but I do have to wonder if we shouldn't be spending our time, money and energy on direct, daily science instruction in the everyday classroom. It's a topic with passion on both sides.

" 'There is a dearth of carefully crafted, quantitative studies on what works," says William Cobern of Western Michigan University. "It's a crazy situation.' " Cobern tried to fix that in a study comparing direct instruction with inquiry learning, competing ways to teach science. The smart money has been on the latter, in which students explore a question on their own by, say, growing some seedlings in a closet and others on a windowsill to discover photosynthesis rather than being given the concept by the teacher. Contrary to received wisdom, " 'as long as students are actively engaged, direct instruction does just as well as inquiry-based teaching" in how well kids learn science concepts, he told me. Yet national and state standards push inquiry learning. As Cobern's team diplomatically put it, "Some claims for inquiry methods regarding understanding the nature of science are not sufficiently supported by evidence. ' "

Click here to read the Newsweek article.

DeKalb County Principal Under Investigation For Book Purchases

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Audio of the May 5, 2010 Dunwoody Chamblee Parents Council Meeting

As a parent of three children in the DeKalb County School System, I attended this mornings DCPC meeting and as I have a tendency to do at public meetings, I recorded it in order to share the presentation with my neighbors.

I was very impressed with the candor and honesty of Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson.

I won't attempt to give a complete recap of the meeting since DunwoodyMom did such a nice job on her new Dunwoody School Daze blog, but the full audio of the meeting can be found in the links below.


School leaders say they need a PR firm to help clean up the mess

The AJC is reporting that DCSS has approved $25,000 to hire an outside PR firm to help clean up the public relations mess they have created by years of rubber-stamping the actions of our former superintendent. I say, pay for this yourselves! This will never only be a $25,0000 expenditure - it will take hundreds of thousands to get us through the next few months as the indictments start to fall. Add to this the millions upon millions we have spent and will continue to spend on lawyers and I would wonder if we shouldn't somehow recall the entire board and school administration for malfeasance.

Are they saying that Dale Davis ($101,675.64), Julie Rhame ($116,314.76) and the six other people (totaling $351,266.00) listed under Public Relations in the 2009 salary schedule can't get the job done?! That's over a half million for the in-house PR department! (Before benefits and expenses!)

I have to admit, I'm not exactly a fan of ODE, but David Schutten has redeemed himself somewhat in my eyes for making this comment -

While the cost is small, it doesn’t send the right message to parents and teachers who are worried about cuts in the classroom, said David Schutten, president of the Organization of DeKalb Educators.

“Their public relations are disastrous,” he said. “They can hire all the PR people they want, but if the school board members don’t understand how to treat people it will never work. This money is not going to help them operate like responsible, caring adults, so it’s a waste.”

But then Zepora makes this statement -

“The interim superintendent recommended it,” she said. “Our staff is not strong enough to handle these things. Regardless of the cost, there are things needed to run this school system.”

Yeah, Z, they're called "teachers"... Why can you not "get" that? Parents want their children to have a nice day, with a reasonably sized classroom, a clean, safe, disciplined environment and a qualified teacher who is respected enough by leadership to be allowed to teach. These are simple wishes—please grant them.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

eduKALB Announces Intent to Guide School Board Advancement

A press conference was held today by eduKALB, a nonprofit organization with ties to the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, that is "seeking quality school board leadership in DeKalb County." The stated mission of eduKALB is to facilitate improved school board leadership through civic engagement, community awareness and enhanced professional training. eduKALB plans to host community forums around the county to identify, support and train candidates for school board this November. Five of the nine school board seats are up for reelection this fall. They will endorse a slate on candidates and create voter awareness surrounding this election. Beyond the election, eduKALB plans to continue to offer training to the board of education.

The group's website states, "During election cycles, the eduKALB Board advocates for credible and competent candidates who will provide effective governance to the DeKalb County School System. The organization will endorse a slate of candidates beginning with the November 2, 2010 General Election. The organization also hosts various education forums and seminars to educate the public regarding the roles and responsibilities of school board members and to educate potential candidates on sound governing principles."

"The eduKALB Board is comprised of business, civic, government and community stakeholders representing the diversity that is DeKalb. These men and women are committed to public education and the role it plays in shaping the workforce of tomorrow."

Watch for them. Sign up for their newsletters. They will be hosting events in your area and seek the support of the entire community, as our communities are only as good as our schools.

For more information, visit the website: 

Board Members

Gregory B. Levett, Sr. - Co-Chair
Chris Marquardt, Esq. - Co-Chair
Robert Newcomer, Esq. - Treasurer
Leonardo McClarty - Secretary

Delores Crowell
Ernest Brown
Bettye Davis
Sadie Dennard
Sara Fountain
Allyson Gevertz
Barbara Holliman
Brenda Landers
Kerry Ramsey
Donata Renfrow, Ph.D.
David Schutten
Arnie Silverman
Rocio Woody
Honorable Ken Wright