Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why? Here's Why ...

Guest Post by Lucy Ke
I live in DeKalb. My child has been in one DeKalb public school and one independent school within the Atlanta region. As a parent, I was active in both. I also went through regional and local leadership training, in part to educate myself on a personal question:
Why do our elected officials pay lip service in exaltation of public education and then totally fail us in protecting and enhancing it? What keeps any of us from seeing the link between public education and economic development?
I may’ve learned the reasons why.
I’m not sure if this is Georgia politics, all politics, or just human nature, but here’s why I think nothing gets done to support or improve public ed, especially when it’s in a slow-mo crash like it is in DeKalb:
The more the merrier. Let’s get a committee or task force together to study / oppose / watchdog the personalities and the issues of public ed. Let’s dilute the original grassroots energy to resolve the real problems. Let’s study the minutiae and then self-congratulate on the tiniest steps forward. Let’s forget the questions that brought us together in the first place and allow ourselves to become repurposed, from a Mustang into a jalopy.
To even engage with grassroots efforts to improve and defend DeKalb’s public ed entails jumping into an alphabet soup of groups, and some of them are sham, like Hollywood-set storefronts for other agendas.
Nervous Nellie leaders. Elected officials see public education as labor-intensive, costly, and emotionally charged, so it’s easier to tapdance around it. Express concern but promise nothing concrete or actionable, and tapdance around it. Eventually, the elected officials advance to other roles or skulk into obscurity, but the problems of public ed remain.
Our teachers know because guess who’s left holding the bag, year in, year out?
C’mon. As adults you know what’s right, and you know what’s wrong. What’s happening in DeKalb schools is wrong, it’s as wrong as it can be, and we need to be vocal about it. Don’t just express outrage among yourselves.
Let your elected representatives know how you feel about this cesspool, and ask them what you and they will do about it. And then make sure they do their part. Don’t let them just advise you on a good course of action, like it’s your schtick and nothing to do with them. I’m sick and tired of elected officials acting like summer camp civics counselors to concerned grassroots parents and activists.
Math problems. I’m always astonished by our elected officials’ inability to do the simple math: if you were elected in 1998, the 8-year-olds who watched their parents vote for you then are old enough to vote for you now. These young constituents may be in college, in their first jobs, or out of work because they dropped out of high school.
I ask each local public servant, If you are not now an expert on DeKalb’s public ed issues, then when will you be up to speed? What else could be more important for DeKalb? Do you think you can get anything done with a thinly educated workforce that’s been raised on a systemwide obsession with standardized testing?
Placid and passive groups. If you’re an active parent, you know who these groups are. Their raison d’etre is to represent teachers’ interests or to safeguard standards, but they often remind me of NATO forces in 1994 Rwanda — good show of presence and intention, then pull back or pull out when the massacres begin, and lament problems with “logistics capability.” Thus they prefer to steer clear of local controversies and do not express indignation or outrage over the betrayals (eg, a school superintendent who, with several of his colleagues, stole in a brazen and systematic fashion from the students and teachers of this county, and a school board whose subsequent responses can best be described as profound stupidity).
A “village” of complacency and inaction permitted Crawford Lewis & Co. to happen, and that will continue long after those sentences are passed out and served.
I’m more worried about the residue—the current school board; the DeKalb school system’s bloated size; and a grossly underserved teacher population.
Lucy Ke is a parent in DeKalb County.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading "Why? Here's Why . . . " It was well written, but I'm not really sure what the article is for. Is there a specific problem being addressed and I just missed it? Or is this article just expressing a general frustration with the system. (In which case, I'm totally sympathetic.)

Ella Smith said...

I thought the article was great. There is a great deal of lip service but no action. The issues are danced around so much of the time.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure what the author was attempting to accomplish with this. It appears more emotion-driven than fact driven. If you want people to stand up and take action, you have to give them facts with which to work with.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE LUCY!

Anonymous said...

CLew and Pope have not been to trial, so they must be presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, this article articulates what most parents in DeKalb feel. The parents that do get involved, ask for Freedom of Information requests and are at most BOE meetings are usually called names by Clew's henchmen and women. My wife was called "loud and vociferous" by Clew in an article in the AJC. But I'm glad to report that the reporter who wrote the article and used to be on the DCSS beat, has been taken off and now adults are actually reporting the truth.

What MUST happen soon is everyone that was a part of Clew's leadership must be fired. It's time they find jobs somewhere else. As long as these people stay in place, Tyson, Moseley, Thompson, Mitchell-Mayfield, Beasley, Audria Berry AND "her army", Ramsey, Tucker, the Guilroy's, Jeff Dickerson and who ever else is reaping our tax dollars as the "spokesperson" for DCSS, must be shown the palace door. Nothing is going to change for the better until we show DCSS who is in charge, the people who actually pay the salaries of these awful leaders, who for years looked the other way as CLew and Pope allegedly stole from our kids.

DCSS LEADERSHIP = DISGRACEFUL MESS

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 6:49 AM

Have you been reading this blog? It is chock-full of the facts you say you want.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid that this blog is fast losing its purpose - it seems to have become more of a bully-pulpit for people with their own personal agendas.

Why is it that the few times that positive posts and opinions are brought forth on this blog that there are few comments or negative comments within that post?

Anonymous said...

Taxpayers should receive our money's worth for the education dollars we are forced to pay. Dekalb needs a voucher system that allows our tax money to go to the private school of our choice in order to not only properly educate our children but to allow communities to develop and improve around quality school choice.

Anonymous said...

@ 9:22

If all our schools were successful, then there would be no need for this blog. It would be very nice to have that problem. It's like the newspapers. If the world were perfect, there would be no newspapers.

Anonymous said...

The main purpose of DCSS is NOT to educate children, It is to foster and grow an (upper) middle class Af-Am society in the form of the administration. These administrators pay lip service to educating the majority student population of Af-Am children, who really need it, but really look upon them as pawns to be used for their own purposes of securing more pay and power.
Most teachers are dedicated to what they do. Administrators are like mercenaries plundering the countryside. What is needed is to get rid of the "generals" in the Palace and put more boots on the ground in the classrooms.

Anonymous said...

What does it say about Tom Bowen and the Board of Education that while the school system's superintendent and Chief Operating Officer were indicted for criminal enterprise, that every single other administrator from the Lewis/Pope administration is still in place today???

That more than anything else tells you the mindset of the Board of Education.

Cerebration said...

@ 9:22. please, do tell what you perceive the people who post on this blog's "personal agendas" to be. I'd really like to know if you have information about the personal agendas of our bloggers. Please email me directly at

reparteeforfun@gmail.com

I think of this post as more of an Op-Ed column. Lucy is expressing the frustration many people in the school system have experienced. I'm happy for you, 9:22 that you have not encountered such frustration. However, I don't consider Lucy's post, "bullying". You are always welcome to write a rebuttal and share your positive experiences with us.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed Ms. Ke’s article. She got me to thinking:

1 – “What keeps any of us from seeing the link between public education and economic development?” This is the result of the dumbing down of our population by public education and is a problem across our nation. Talk to DCSS students taking economics and see what they are being taught. The teacher my child has is an acknowledged socialist and has lengthy conversations about wealth distribution. There are teachers in education in this county and country that have no business being in the classroom.

2 – The more the merrier – Input is good, but at some point decisions have to be made. These decisions need to be made on sound research of what has been productive in the past, not based on pipe dreams of a head in the clouds bureaucrat educator using us as a guinea pig for his or her latest pet education concept. The only way DCSS can be improved is to do a clean sweep of the current administration including Ms. Tyson.

3 - Nervous Nellie leaders - Although citizens have to continue making their concerns known to elected officials, we have to stop electing our “buddies” to public office and elect candidates capable of making positive changes. Just how many effective folks are currently on the DCSS school board?

4 - Math problems – Again, the result of the dumbing down of the voting public in this nation via public education. Look how many idiot DCSS board members were recently re-elected. What had they accomplished during their previous term in office? Yet their publicly educated constituents re-elected them. Clearly, they are satisfied with the undereducated students DCSS is producing. As for our undereducated students entering the work place, I am sure we all have stories about our experiences in dealing with these youths in the workforce.

5 - Placid and passive groups – There are many folks in DeKalb actively working to make positive changes in the DCSS. However, we need more folks getting involved if we want changes. Although unlikely in out apathetic county, I often wonder what would come of a peaceful presence of 500 or 1,000 men, women, and children showing up regularly at school board meetings making them standing room only events. Can you imagine a large, peaceful gathering at board members homes respectfully expressing concerns on a Saturday morning? Elected officials and bureaucrat educators react differently when they realize folks are paying attention. In the past, when stonewalled by local government bureaucrats, a polite visit to their home has resulted in action for me. I expect government to be responsive and responding to their inaction outside of the box has gotten me results. Back in the day this is what folks did regularly to encourage action.

I realize private schools may have their own set of problems or challenges, but they have nowhere near the problems that DCSS has had for years. If I were a DeKalb County parent of young children soon to enter school, DCSS, as it is now, would give me all the encouragement I would need to start looking for the right private school for them. Additionally, it seems like the more government is involved in local public education on a state and national basis, the worse public education gets.

Anonymous said...

Good article Ms Ke. I'm as frustrated as you are. My children were victims of the local schools. Fortunately they were able to overcome much of the pathetic situation called DCSS and succeeded in college. But I'm still paying taxes for a broken system.

I agree with one of the comments about the point of DCSS is to make an upper-middle class of African Americans.

Here's an idea. Toss out the existing program and let parents choose the private school of their choice. Just pump all the Dekalb County money into vouchers. You could keep school buses and drivers and fire everyone else. Parents would vote with their money and the great public school teachers would be snapped up immediately.

Anonymous said...

Sandy, where did you get with your request of the audit?

Anonymous said...

Here is one problem with going all private... private schools can choose their students. I am a proponent of vouchers, but we need to make it clear to all parents that having a voucher will not get you into the private school of your choice. The reason private schools work better than public is mostly because they get to choose the students and parents they admit.

I pay my taxes and send my child to private school. I would welcome a voucher to help pay for it. I also expect that the private school my child attends will dramatically raise tuition once they realize parents have the extra cash, and in the end private schools will be as much a financial sacrifice as ever.

The better private schools cost almost $20K a year... vouchers will not cover even half that. What we will end up with is a two tier educational system, one for parents that have been able to escape public schools, and one for the families left behind. And the good teachers will escape as well, leaving the disadvantage to be taught by the incompetent.

Sandy Spruill said...

@ Anonymous 1:16 PM

"Where did you get with your request of the [Salary] audit?"

Still in pursuit with a lot of help from Jim Walls. Be sure to stay current with Jim's Atlanta Unfiltered blog (link to it from this blog) and read his column in the AJC.

DCSS's reluctance to simply hand over the study, as required by law, indicates that there is something they are desperate to hide in that study -- probably something huge and incredibly damning.

Stay tuned ...

Anonymous said...

Sandy

Maybe the audit was included by accident in the 2,500 pages of material that Ramona gave to SACS. Why not call and ask them?

How about asking your BOE member to ask Ramona to get you the E&Y copy?

Anonymous said...

Sandy,
You're right about the leadership trying to hide something in that audit. Just think if we ever see the "real audit". The one that E&Y actually handed over to DCSS.

Something tells me if it ever did see the light of day, like it should, that we would have to fire the entire Palace guard. To me that should have been done over the past summer.

Everyone must go or it will be the same forever. DCSS can no longer be a jobs program. Audria Berry, you and your entire army should be shown the door. The office of "improvement" has done nothing to improve the DCSS schools. Since being implemented schools have only declined and continued to slide. more schools are failing now then when we did not have an office of improvement. Ms. Berry your gravy train has run out of gravy. I'm sure you can find work in another system. Please start looking today!

Anonymous said...

I think the audit was commissioned in the Johnny Brown days. To be fair to the district there's a chance he took it with him to Texas. This doesn't explain why E&Y can't produce another copy though. Another thought is that it may be in the stuff the DA took from Crawford's house. Still doesn't explain why they can't ask for another copy...

Anonymous said...

i just heard some pretty disturbing news on wsbtv 6pm news broadcast...why are DCSS BOE paying principals $87.14 per student. There needs to be some adjustments made here. This throwing money around like it's growing on trees around the palace is just crazy.
Are we dealing with an educated BOE...just how much should principals be making...Channel 2 news broke it down by the counties how much principals are paid per pupil so let's figure this out
Cobb $50.48, Gwinnett $55.06, Fulton $63.39, DeKalb $87.14 and Atlanta $221.29.
Now both Atlanta and DCSS have fewer students than Cobb and Gwinnett so what gives....why so much in DCSS...They have no more education than other principals in neighboring counties...so riddle me this BOE and I agree with Richard Belcher something's not right here.
These local school systems need to get their act together..have they forgotten wht they are paid to do...educate the future not rob them of a future...jmo

Anonymous said...

@6:15 pm
"I think the audit was commissioned in the Johnny Brown days. To be fair to the district there's a chance he took it with him to Texas. "

Crawford Lewis used this audit as the reason to give a raise to Zepora Roberts daughter in 2006 long after Brown was gone.

Cerebration said...

Anon 9:22, did you perhaps mean that we use this blog as a bully pulpit akin to Roosevelt?

From the Rogers Institute's blog, Bully Pulpit: The term "bully pulpit" stems from President Theodore Roosevelt's reference to the White House as a "bully pulpit," meaning a terrific platform from which to persuasively advocate an agenda. Roosevelt often used the word "bully" as an adjective meaning superb/wonderful.

IF that's the case, then perhaps I have no argument with you. We do, in fact, use this blog to try to present a perspective, backed up with facts and data as best we can, in order to help persuade opinions. You are correct.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the hundreds of DCSS administrators and staff making over $100k per year, and the hundreds more making over $90k per year: So many of them are New Birth Church members, and it's not by coincidence.

Wondering if Eddie Long wil keep his hold on DCSS after his mess sorts out;
http://www.wsbtv.com/news/25394921/detail.html

Anonymous said...

@6:15: "Still doesn't explain why they can't ask for another copy..."

...especially after spending >$300K for the first one not so long ago. Surely E&Y would be happy to provide a duplicate if asked. Otherwise I can't imagine other government entities soliciting their expertise in the future.

The shame is that if the board spent this amount of money on something so important, wouldn't they have as much interest as we do in obtaining a duplicate copy?

Anonymous said...

The Open Records Act is a Georgia law. Why can't the state of Georgia compel them to turn this over?
http://www.gfaf.org/open_records.html

themommy said...

Anon 6:15 PM

While I didn't see the exact report, remember that DCSS has very small schools and more schools that any other system in the state.

This is why. In addition, the fact that the principals at Livsey, Kittridge, Peachcrest, etc all make over 100,000 dollars with less than 500 students. Heck, the Wadsworth prinicpal makes 100,000+ for less than 200 students.

Who are we kidding here? How does this make sense to anyone?

themommy said...

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/redistricting/financial-analysis-individual-schools.pdf

Anonymous said...

E&Y would be obligated to provide a copy of the audit if it were requested by DCSS. My brother-in-law is an auditor for one of the Big 4 firms and feels that DCSS has not followed through on requesting a copy of the audit. I suspect they haven't put in the request because it's unnecessary. I'd bet my house they have a copy in their possession that likely exposes some ugly truths that need to be closely guarded or heads will roll. This is a horror movie in the making.

Anonymous said...

@ themommy - great chart and thanks for sharing the link.

i'm not so fussed about the salaries for the principals or even vice principals, so long as they're doing well by an objective metric.

a few that do look odd, though, are the very high amounts for an elementary school counselor and the head custodian in the HS and MS. also, i'm hoping kittredge has multiple staff being counted for music and art or those numbers are egregiously high (and i'm in the wrong profession).

Anonymous said...

@949 -- if DCSS won't ask for a copy, the board should.

Anonymous said...

The BOE may be less inclined to want the audit released than Ms. Tyson and they may be the ones holding back -- maybe someone should get Nancy and Donna interested in figuring out why it's not being released.... could be that it's sheltering BOE members in addition to others.

Anonymous said...

I'm now ready for our 3rd math curriculum in 5 years. I think folks have previously posted that the elementary teachers haven't gone 3 years without the math curriculum changing. The state teacher training budget has been cut in half over the past 3-6 years and the AJC has just reported that DCSS spent significantly less training teachers on Math 1-2-3 than the other counties. The teacher turnover rate is very high and retention rate is very low in DCSS and the certification standards in Georgia are miserable. Any wonder that Georgia is lagging behind the rest of the country in public ed?

My solution: The state legislature needs to restrict the state board of ed. Curriculum must only be adopted (in toto) from a state that is doing it well (top 5 ranking -- already working -- not alreay failing -- not take bits and pieces -- truly succeeding somewhere else) -- take math from Mass., English from Iowa -- take from somewhere in the top 5 -- in toto -- K-12 no tinkering! (maybe even take the trained teachers....). Take the tests. Take the textbooks. Take the curriculum. Take it all. No tax dollars spent on Research & Development of curriculum and testing. No Tax dollars wasted shifting curriculum every 3 years. Take something that works already. No tinkering. State Board of Ed can modify a top 5 US History program from somewhere to add in component parts of Georgia History -- which is unique to Georgia (although as an original 13 colony, other states would study Georgia history). Stop using our children as guinea pigs and using tax dollars to do so -- this is lunacy.

Anonymous said...

Ella Smith said...
I thought the article was great. There is a great deal of lip service but no action. The issues are danced around so much of the time.

Very well said, Ella. I couldn't agree more!

Anonymous said...

If it turns out that the BOE (or certain members of the BOE) are seeking to hide the audit, there may be some "self-preservation" that could be gained by Nancy and Donna figuring out a way to have DCSS comply with the Freedom of Information Request for it while they're both "clean" and "new."

Anonymous said...

On the voucher front - I'm all for vouchers but I think that they should be usable by everyone akin to a European system -- everyone uses one and applies for their school: full vouchers ($10k) for public schools with first dibs to your local residential disstricted schools with some "guidance" for how to control for capacity and residency but with a way to open it up if there are seats and then with an option to "shop" other public schools for those other open seats by some mechanism -- then the particular school can contribute some sum to the "system" for "common functions" (like buses). Parents could use a "smaller" voucher for private school and the differnce would then go to the "home" school to help improve the home school so you get competition within the public schools, everyone gets to attend a school and they could be used for private. You would "spread" the money out so it would be much harder for anyone to siphon from the top. There could be some "default" in case the parent refuses to actively choose what to do with a voucher. I think the system could work really well but even if there were problems,it would have to be better than what is currently happening. It can't be much worse.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see the data to back up the "private schools are better" rhetoric being bandied about by several commenters.

Dunwoody Mom said...

And ANOTHER board member behaving badly. This time it is Paul Womack...

State Senator Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) has accused the DeKalb County school board vice chairman of attacking him and said he plans to file an ethics complaint.
Jones and board member H. Paul Womack got into a dispute Thursday night at a DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce banquet over a pending ethics bill. Jones said Womack pointed his finger in the legislator’s face, used profanity and said he was God.


http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/legislator-claims-ethics-violation-853174.html

Anonymous said...

There are some excellent private schools and there are probably some not so excellent private schools. There are fewere controls on private schools and they get to choose and boot kids. This cuts both good and bad. Teachers have more freedom in private schools than in public schools --if you get a bad teacher -- you're stuck but I think that there's a much greater liklihood that the teacher won't be back the next year. At the Westminsters, Paces, Woodwards, Paideas, etc. the schools have their acts together -- even they aren't perfect for all kids and each have their fans and naysayers because there is definitely a "fit" component to attending the school. The baeuty to me of the voucher plan that has "full" vouchers for public "choice" (with preference for "home" or resident schools) and "half" vouchers for private schools is two fold: (1) competitition is always better than monopolies (anyone remember how expensive and dull it was with only MaBell or when the airlines had a tighter monopoly? I am a fan of capitalism and competition) and (2) the money would have be spread out and then flow up -- 90,000 parents with vounchers spreading the wealth instead of a handful of administrators spreading money down-- that leaves less room for corruption and requires more cooperation to siphon the funds into the wrong hands. If the situation anyone found themselves in with a voucher was a fake or a fruad or a sham, you take your voucher and go somewhere else the next year and the school would be empty. That's the idea. It's not that there aren't good public schools and bad private schools -- it's just that this gives the control to the parents instead of the administrators.

Anonymous said...

Public education in America will not recover until it is agreed that it is an important factor in the overall health and survival of this nation. Yes, many say it is important but few treat it as such. For those with resources, public education is simply a pitiful option they do not bother to consider. For so many who don't have resources it is something to be tolerated until our children are done. We view teaching as a missionary effort, not as a profession held by regular people with lives and aspirations. Yet, we have struggled to find ways to hold it accountable as a profession. So, until America makes up its mind that public education is important we will continue to get these hit or miss efforts.

Anonymous said...

I think some form of vouchers to instill competition between public schools with partial vounchers (a"ding") for privaate schools is an incentive to improve the public schools and to get them actually working for the kids again. It also puts the money at the school level and would feed it up to the administrative level rather than what we having going now, which has raised at least one or two (if not more) generations of illiterate kids while costing us billions of dollars -- it is not working very well at all and we need a new paradigm.