Monday, February 7, 2011

“Without a vision, the people perish…”

And so will the future of public education in DeKalb County if we don’t see radical change. Bloggers –parents, teachers and students – demand those in charge either lead or get out of the way. We are tired of the blaming, the excuses, the diversion tactics. It is still possible to educate children within a public system – but it requires skilled leadership and a sense of mission - a sense of purpose; a clear vision we have not had in this district in easily 20 years. In the past, we have blamed the old boys’ network, the federal court case, M to M, Dr. Brown – when the real culprit behind all of this has been an abject failure of leadership. How is it Fulton and Gwinnett have not become the public school embarrassments DeKalb has? Because when challenges emerged, demographics shifted and the feds made new rules, these counties adapted. They are not perfect: but they installed capable leadership and communicated a clear mission: educate kids. Let us do likewise.

The consequences of failing in this mission are grave. We polled our regular bloggers, contributors and consultants asking their input on a vision for our schools. Herewith, our own 2020 vision:
  • A trained, experienced superintendent who possesses the utmost integrity and character, who can guide DeKalb Schools in a way that develops teachers, staff and students; a leader not heretofore connected to this school system, who will end cronyism and nepotism, who can restore trust and is dedicated to putting student learning first; a leader qualified to re-structure a Central Office to serve children first.
  • A chief financial officer of the utmost integrity and character who is trustworthy and transparent in overseeing wise expenditures of the people’s money.
  • Board of Education members who adhere to codified ethical and legal standards; who are themselves educated; who are engaged in the mission of student learning; whose family members are not employed by the DeKalb County School System.
  • The completion of a thorough, outside audit of the budget, all SPLOST expenditures and financial practices of the school system.
  • A re-configuring of the pay scale to redirect monies to classroom teachers from the Central Office personnel.
  • A qualified, skilled principal in every school, gifted at harnessing the power of teachers and parents to work in harmony for the development of every child; empowered principals who can remove inadequate teachers and staff.
  • A system of schools that offer an equitable course of study in a safe, clean and welcoming environment – no matter where you live.
  • A qualified teacher in every classroom, each encouraged to seek national certification, and each supported by the network of resources – including student teachers – available at area colleges.
  • Aligned feeder patterns that afford vertical planning time for all teachers to eliminate educational gaps as children move from elementary to middle school to high school.
  • A philosophy that encourages children to “advance when ready:” a nimble school environment that can meet the needs of early readers and those demonstrating unusual early facility, allowing them to move on to new academic challenges instead of marking time.
  • A system of schools sized to maximize collection of state and federal funding.

Elementary Vision:

  • A safe, clean environment with appropriate resources in every classroom – from teaching tools to tissues.
  • Individualized learning support for struggling students that begins in Kindergarten.
  • Small learning groups to support solid reading and math skills.
  • An exploration of “looping” to allow a teacher to stay with a group two or even three years to focus on building on known strengths and addressing known deficits.
  • Refashioned art, music, PE and foreign language instruction for all students that builds on and is integrated into the core learning curriculum.
  • Technology: Wi-fi, SmartBoards, laptops, Kindles, iPads and/or other identified resources – plus the teacher training that ensures technology will be utilized to extend learning.
  • Fully-equipped science labs.
  • A quality program to meet the needs of gifted learners.
  • Recess every day.
  • A magnet program that begins in the upper elementary years – after children begin to demonstrate certain proficiencies – to address the needs of the top five-percent of students.
  • After-school programs that address learning struggles, while providing other life-enhancing and wellness activities.

Middle School Vision:

  • A place where children are known by the adults around them – where they are supported in academic pursuits and extra-curriculars.
  • A clean, safe environment, where adults are trained to develop students and coach them into better choices and behaviors; where intransigent students are removed in deference to the entire school community.
  • Refashioned art, music, PE and foreign language instruction for all students that builds on and is integrated into the core learning curriculum.
  • Technology: Wi-fi, SmartBoards, laptops, Kindles, iPads and other identified resources – plus the teacher training that ensure resources will be utilized to extend learning.
  • Fully-equipped science labs.
  • A quality program to meet the needs of gifted learners.
  • A full complement of sports, academic competitions (including science, debate, Hi-Q, chess, engineering) leadership and musical opportunities – with qualified adult leadership – to develop students’ gifts and talents.
  • Intra-mural programs to promote cooperation and play.

High School Vision:

  • A place where children are known by the adults around them – where they are supported in academic pursuits and extra-curriculars.
  • A clean, safe environment, where adults are trained to develop students and coach them into better choices and behaviors; where intransigent students are removed in deference to the entire school community.
  • Multi-track diplomas that recognize not every child will attend college – but every child needs a high school diploma. Vo-Tech and Career-Tech paths that will ensure students graduate prepared to support themselves and capable of functioning in society.
  • Courses of study for the brightest students, supported by the resources of area colleges and undergirded by IB, AP and nationally-recognized standards.
  • General-level classes that do not warehouse children – that are engaging and develop all students.
  • Mandatory Saturday school for failing students.
  • Meaningful and informed college counseling.
  • Technology: Wi-fi, SmartBoards, laptops, Kindles, iPads and other identified resources – plus the teacher training that ensure technology resources will be utilized to extend learning.
  • Parents Centers for all schools within a cluster that truly offer needed resources, especially to non-English speaking parents.
  • A full complement of sports, academic competitions (including science, debate, Hi-Q, chess, engineering) leadership and musical opportunities – with qualified adult leadership – to develop students’ gifts and talents.
  • Intra-mural programs to promote cooperation and play.


Anonymous said...

Where can we sign THIS petition???

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything, except pushing National Certification. I have seen excellent Nationally certified teachers and others that I wonder how the heck they received this recognition. I also know of fabulous teachers who were denied National certification. This is not an area with all of the ills of DCSS, that I would want to see pushed or money spent on.

Other than that, it's very nicely done.

Anonymous said...

Looping makes me nervous. We have a teacher right now that I would not like to see continue with the class. Looping prevents students from experiencing new ways of teaching/accessing material...a problem if teachers have not clicked with a student in the classroom.

Other than this, I'm in agreement.....this seems like the approach the board and dear wealthy undereducated Tyson should be trying to take. One has to wny they are not. One has to wonder why they are solely focused on filling buildings, not filling minds. Ooops.....guess I don't really wonder - it is about money - money for them - not education for kids.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a great vision. I would love to see how this could be put in place. Ironically (or not), you are describing most of the good private schools in the city.

Ella Smith said...

I would like to see DeKalb County have a vision statement on their website. The last time I looked there was not one. However, not having one is better than the one they had on the site a few years ago.

I questioned the vision statement to school board members as I was reviewing vision statements in school systems in Atlanta. Our vision statement made no sense at all. I first of all think a vision statement should be listed on the website like other school systems. The vision statement should be posted for all to see.

Doris from Decatur said...

There is an elephant in the room as to why DeKalb is not doing well. Look and you shall see.

Dawn said...

Sounds like Utopia. Sign my kids up.

Anonymous said...

I believe this "Vision" is to get taxpayers to pass SPLOST IV and possibly a property tax increase. SPLOST III yielded very little for students during a booming economy. Does anyone else think this is an overreach in terms of a Great Recession?

Ella Smith said...

"I believe this "Vision" is to get taxpayers to pass SPLOST IV and possibly a property tax increase."

Both are on the table very soon and I think it will be interesting how the public relates to both of these things.

I am not supportive of a property tax increase when so many people are already having trouble making their house payments. I do believe the county must tighten their belts without cutting services to the public.

This may be the first time I vote no for a penny sales tax. I do not like what I have seen in the past few years. I do believe the money has been handed out many times in a political manner verses really where the need is.

Anonymous said...

I disagree that SPLOST III did not benefit our students. The building programs have supplied renovations and improvements across the county that were decades in arriving, in some cases. McNair has a state-of-the-art auditorium , used not only by its own studetns, but for educational programs for all elementary students in its area. Lakeside HS has a badly needed expansion currnetly underway, Cross Keys HS has improved facilities. I will definitely support SPLOST IV.

Anonymous said...

DeKalb cannot pass a SPLOST without Fulton and APS joining in and APS has already announced they are not going to participate in another SPLOST. There won't be any SPLOST without APS.

Anonymous said...

Where did you see/hear this about Atlanta? They are planning on spending the money so I have a hard time believing they are passing on another SPLOST.

They very well may not want to hold the vote in 2012.

But they will want the money. Have no doubt.

Anonymous said...

National Certification may not be perfect but the exam is much more stringent than the Georgia exam. We have teachers in DeKalb who are not certified (they are provisionally certified) -- they really need to go. We have had teachers mark students wrong for not knowing there were 52 states (yes, I am telling you the truth). We had an English teacher who didn't really speak English. We have had some trully excellent teachers and they should be fully compensated and rewared. Their supervisors should be just as or more excellent than they are -- issues arise when the teacher is more qualified than the supervisor.... National Certification is a level of quality control -- albeit, maybe not perfect. Use it as a carrot.

Anonymous said...

Also, if our teachers were all really well credentialled across the board, the "higher ups" would not feel so oblighed to be looking into "crutches" such as America's Choice to help the weak ones along. (I think the crutches work too for the higher ups that are weak in what they are doing--let's fix it with adequate credtentials in the first place).

Anonymous said...

Some of the provisionally certified are excellent, professionals who have changed careers and are gaining certification. Do not kick these people out. Allow to complete their certification. Many of these are math and science teachers, with lots of education in their fields of study. Way too much is made of certification. Private schools don't require it and they have superior teachers.

Anonymous said...

I teach in Dekalb and even though loss of tax revenue will impact my salary, I could not support any tax increase. How coud anyone other than overpaid administrators support a tax increase.

How does Dekalb escape meaningful local, state, and federal scrutiny when we pay so many directors and supervisors (with sketchy credentials) three times the amount of teachers and "invest" in ineffective or out-of-date technology and packaged curricula while the students continue to wallow?

Anonymous said...

I do not see why members of the BOE cannot have relatives working for the school system. All of the relatives are very qualified and could make much more money working in private sector. They are sacrificing to perform public service. Just joking

By the way, what is the count of BOE relatives working for the school system when you add in the
6 ex- members for whom we are now going to pay legal fees? I come up with something near 15. Is that about right? Probably about $1.5 million -- $2 million per year. Who said that serving on the BOE is not financially rewarding?

Anonymous said...

Anonynmous 8:51 notes:

"We have had teachers mark students wrong for not knowing there were 52 states (yes, I am telling you the truth)."

Anonymous 8:51 must be a proud product of the DCSS school system!


Anonymous said...

@ 8:54 I believe that the programs that the board relies on are crutches for the administrators more than the teachers. The administrators don't have the experience on how to educate children and help those in need, so finding a program gets people off their backs and puts the focus on the teachers. They may get a kickback for purchasing a program for a friend or family member in the process.

Good teachers do not like the programs. That tells me that the programs aren't much good, as well as all data/research on America's Choice is done by the company who owns America's Choice.

There are very good provisional teachers and not so good provisional teachers. I believe that not having provisional teachers would hurt our science and math programs which are areas were finding good, qualified teachers is already difficult.

I agree that certification is not all what it is cracked up to be. If it were, our certified principals and administrators would be doing an exceptional job.

Anonymous said...

The certification standards in GA are mickey mouse. We need teachers who really know the subjects they are teaching, not have minimal knowledge (as is currently required by the high school certification tests).

Anonymous said...

This is a great vision and I would love to teach in a system that would enforce this vision. My friend who is also a foreign language teacher has said yesterday "I almost wish they would fire me to not have the constant worries every year about having a job next year or not". So, here we are, two former Fuhlbright scholars, who studied several years in our home country ( it takes more than 6 years to be a certified teacher in Germany), making a lot less than other Fuhlbright scholars, worrying about our teaching job. We are teaching the students so much...preparing them for the global world..but they are cutting on art, music,recess, foreign languages...all the things that make life so much more beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I agree that GACE exams are Mickey Mouse. They are also a money making scam. They are expensive to take, and probably cost taxpayers a bundle to develop and maintain. Instead of having Georgia-specific subject certification tests, we should use existing tests which have a good reputation. For instance, the GRE subject tests are much harder than the secondary GACE tests, and Georgia wouldn't have to pay for the development of a test on its own. Also, for subjects not covered by GRE tests such as early childhood education, Georgia could buy certification tests developed by other states instead of developing its own tests of dubious quality.

These are state, not county, issues, btw.

Anonymous said...

Why not just use the Praxis like other states?

Anonymous said...

Georgia used to use the Praxis until they decided they needed their own state specific test. Just like they decided they needed their own unproven math curriculum. Georgia can't seem to understand that they should learn from other states that have more successful models for education.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but if the state uses proven formulas (tests, training, etc.) then they cannot hide the lack of improvement, indeed the low performance overall, behind these unproven walls.

Anonymous said...

It's all so interesting what comes out when we all start to compare notes.... I have always wondered why we allow Georgia to reinvent the wheel on so many different fronts... it wastes money on so many levels and doesn't take us anywhere (although it may line pockets of friends and family at various levels). Perhaps the truth may hurt..... Sharing notes is oh so interesting. Too bad not enough people just want to do the right, best thing across the board (local, state and federal levels). Just how much money do we waste to line pockets and go nowhere?

Anonymous said...

How about a BOE without members who've stolen $13,000 from their employers ( or have had two sexual harassment lawsuits against them (

Anonymous said...

Cerebration ... Bravo! This is the BEST, most concise, to the point thing I've read thus far. You have given THEM a bullet point, guide line to follow ... if they just will do it. Big IF.

For example, this one:
A qualified, skilled principal in every school, gifted at harnessing the power of teachers and parents to work in harmony for the development of every child; empowered principals who can remove inadequate teachers and staff.

The new super that you mention needs to require each principal to re-apply to see if they meet the necessary qualifications.

There is SUCH a TREMENDOUS breakdown in leadership (and more of a focus instead on SELF SERVING) that we are doomed.

I'm so very very surprised SACS, the D.A., and other governing bodies of public school systems don't see this GLARING at them at every turn.

debora said...

A small correction to the vision: I think you mean "academic quiz team" for middle and high schoolers, not "High Q." There are many academic quiz competitions on Saturdays for middle and high school students, and they are open to all interested teams.

High Q is just one competition run by WSB TV, and WSB has a limited number of slots. This year Stacey Stepney ran a small competition to select one DeKalb team from 6 who expressed interest (Arabia Mtn, Dunwoody, Lakeside, Southwest DeKalb, Stephenson, and Tucker). Lakeside got the spot. They are doing an impressive job so far on the show; video is on WSB's website:

I'd add middle and high school math teams to the vision list. It's a way to reinforce the math curriculum (our kids need it!) and provide a challenge for gifted kids.

Be aware that running an active academic quiz team, math team, debate team, etc., takes a huge amount of time. I salute the teachers who are willing to do this.

debora said...

Still trying to reach talented math students who need more challenge but who don't have math team at their school: Emory University's math department is offering the American Math Competition (AMC) on Wednesday, February 23 at 5:30 pm for free. Contact Victor Larsen ( this week to sign up. The AMC is THE big national math competition for high school students.

Anonymous said...

Love this "without a vision, the people perish..." If the parents of Atlanta's children can demand that the powers that be 'step up or step down", why can't Dekalb parents demand the same?

Anonymous said...

Have I misunderstood something? You want Dekalb county taxpayers to pay for Ipads, kindles and laptops for all students? I'm not sure I understand. Can you please explain?

Cerebration said...

You betcha! iPads can hold all of a student's textbooks and access all of the electronic files students need on the internet as often assigned by teachers. We are spending a fortune on heavy old textbooks (bad for backs) and when students lose a set, it often sets them back far more than the cost of an iPad (the state would get a very nice price break from Apple).

Read on - I'm not the only one thinking our students need to start being educated in the 21st century...

Tommie Williams: State considering iPads for students

Anonymous said...

I'm a retired teacher. I just got a Kindle and after a day or two I kept thinking this would be an ideal and inexpensive way to deliver textbooks and other reading materials to students. When I mentioned this to my daughter who a former Georgia teacher and now lives in another state, she said lots of school systems are going to netbooks with all the students' textbooks online and access to software programs and Internet.

I guess a lot of people don't realize the expenditure on textbooks is tremendous. And think about the space for computer labs. They are not a regular classroom so the state considers them wasted space. I think if you looked at the wiring etc. MIS spends to maintain the pitifully little access we have in the classrooms, you would see Cerebration is correct.

Cerebration said...

Consider this: 100,000 x $500 = $50,000,000 to start the program. Annual upgrades would be significantly less.

Last year the board approved $7 million for updated textbooks - just for Language Arts. Add to that, whatever on earth they have spent on wi-fi, and other textbooks (that we keep for years and years getting beat up and outdated...) and we could very well already be spending this amount. Not only that, but apparently, the textbooks take forever to arrive after the order is placed. Check out our conversations - first when the books were approved in March, and then in October, as we wonder where they are!

The Board Meeting at Peachtree MS and the Budget

The October 4 Board Meeting

Cerebration said...

One more thing - Kindles and iPads have the ability to read the text out loud -- an amazing help for a struggling reader!

Cerebration said...

Or how about this - the $8 million plus that we spend on "America's Choice" program for teachers could also be converted (or subscribe to a new supplier) to a third party teacher's website that actually has video lessons students can watch! Videos, animations, lectures, etc can all be accessed with a click of an iPad. Teachers then become facilitators, discussion leaders and help bridge the road to understanding...

Anonymous said...

I would recommend issuing the IPads only for middle and high schoolers full time, take home daily use. Elementary is too young to have the responsibility of not doing damage to the equipment. Issue classroom sets only for the K-5 kids.

Anonymous said...

Interesting headline in today's NYTimes. Why are we paying school superintendants more than we are paying governors?

Cuomo, Pushing School Cuts, Offers a Target: Superintendent Salaries

Carole G. Hankin, the schools superintendent in Syosset on Long Island, made an unexpected cameo appearance in Albany last week: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo cast her salary as a prime example of wasteful spending by school districts.

Mr. Cuomo did not mention Dr. Hankin by name in his budget address, but he did offer her salary: $386,868, more than the pay of any other superintendent in the state. “I applied for that job,” the governor joked, adding that he had decided to run for governor, which pays $179,000, only after he had been rejected.

Anonymous said...


I understand the sentiment shared here to punish the DCSS and withhold your SPLOST support. Be careful. The state continues to underfund the educational system in GA. Let's fix the poor planning and corruption - don't starve the system.

Anonymous said...

Debora 8:52 is right about academic quiz teams. On Saturday, Feb. 5, the Chamblee MS Academic Team finished first in the state in the PAGE Academic Bowl for Middle Schools. How about that DCSS!

Wyndy Amerson said...

Excellent points about VISION rather than the current theme of GREED. I hope the BOE takes notice and starts to become pro-active rather than reactive. Let's see how their meeting goes tonight. Not much to hope for at this time but I we may be surprised.

Anonymous said...

Marcus Turk is not the only "Chief" that needs to go. The HR "Chief" and his band of misfits(Ramsey,Tucker) can also let the door hit hit them on the way out.

debora said...
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debora said...
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debora said...

@12:13: congratulations to the team! That's outstanding.

A team becomes terrific by having a motivated group of kids, going to a lot of tournaments, and having a great coach. My dream for DCSS would be to clone Mr. Donegan.

No Duh said...

According to the AJC today, DCSS lost the Ernst and Young Compensation Study we paid $341K for. Hmmmm..

Sandy, thanks for taking this on. Tenacity is a good thing.

Just an innocent question...Can't DCSS just ask E&Y to send us another copy??

Anonymous said...

Ernst and Young should have a copy of the $341,000 Compensation audit DCSS lost.

The questions are:
1. Will DCSS ask for it
2. Will Ernst and Young charge for the copy
3. Will DCSS ask Sandy to pay for the copy

At least DCSS is admitting the audit did exist.

Anonymous said...

Can someone post the link to the E&Y Audit story at Thanks.

Anonymous said...

It is not online yet.

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to Jim Walls' blog. He is the one who wrote the column in the AJC.

Not sure if it is identical or not.

Anonymous said...

No Duh,

Can you provide a link to the AJC article for the lost E&Y report by DCSS?

Anonymous said...

That was a good point about reinventing the wheel in Georgia. I've lived in a number of other states and just moved here 3 years ago. Whether it be education or transportation or government, there seems to be very insular viewpoints. The first questions should be how do they do it elsewhere and how well does it work? Instead they try to start from scratch. I'd bet they had no idea what the answers to those questions were when they approved the integrated math ciriculum.

Anonymous said...

@ 2:03 pm

Here is the article at Atlanta Unfiltered. The AJC ran it in the print section, but I haven't seen it online except at Atlanta Unfiltered. Jim Walls is the editor of Atlanta Unfiltered, and the AJC ran his article on this today. This is the article I read in the print section of the AJC today:

Anonymous said...

Regarding the next SPLOST, I do know that APS is definitely interesting in going forward - as is City of Decatur Schools - who also has to be included and definitely needs it. Those of you who don't want to vote for the next SPLOST because of the past corruption have good reasons not to; HOWEVER, you're going to cut your nose off to spite your face because our kids need decent facilities, so the board will just have to raise the millage making your taxes go up.

Why not "spread the burden" and tax those who come into our county and spend money (it's not just us who spend money here) to help pay for these renovations and upgrades? Goodness knows the state isn't going to help us (or any school system) out with adequate funding for education, much less construction or transportation.

Granted, we need a brand new, reduced-size board and a decent superintendent and admin team to move us forward, but those are separate issues that we need to address via other avenues, not SPLOST. For starters, contact your legislative reps and senators and let them know you support reducing the BOE to five....or seven members. Five would be ideal!

Anonymous said...

From the end of the article:

"[Schools spokesman Walter] Woods, a former AJC colleague of mine, said interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson has instructed him to streamline the process and make sure DeKalb is 'totally compliant' with the Open Records Act.

'She has heard from the community that it’s not working like it should,' he said. 'We take this seriously and I have been directed to make sure this happens in a better way.'"

So, if we are "committed to total transparency", why are we not posting the BOE meeting minutes?

Anonymous said...

Sadly the people are already perishing.. and it is the kids that are suffering.

This is my child's first year in Middle School and we've had some real eye opening lessons as to how the school/county works.

Language Arts teacher texting during class, falling asleep in class, leaving class unattended - all of this witnessed by children on more than several occasions, different periods, etc. When brought up to the Asst. Principal & Principal - little if anything has been done. Teacher is still there "teaching". Recently had a conference with all 3 - when asked for my child's current reading level - no one can give me a straight answer, not even said teacher. Teacher did not even have a portfolio to show progression of writing for student.

Is this the standard for Dekalb County?? I recently got a call from the "Coordinator" of our region, and when asked about these particular things I was told that teachers are not "required" to 1. Maintain or assess regular reading levels for students. 2. Keep portfolio of student's work - that is left up to the teacher.

It is beyond me how these basic things are not required, especially the proper assessment of these kids reading/writing levels at such a critical time in learning. Not sure how they expect them to be prepared for High School if this is the way they operate.

There is a serious lack of communication between school & parents at our school, so that does not help either.

Definitely lots of changes need to happen, and hopefully sooner rather than later!

Anonymous said...

Go back and review your child's 5th Grade CRCT results - those will show you his/her reading level.

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that some of the longtime current DCSS administrators, like Bob Moseley, Ron Ramsey, Alice Thompson, etc., have a copy of that 2004 Ernst & Young audit.

Ramona Tyson was a high ranking administrator at the time. Doesn't the big budget MIS Dept. store documents on a server?

DCSS has that audit somewhere. If they can't locate it, then they are completely incompetent for paying over $300,000 of taxpayer money on a document they can't find!

No Duh said...

Investigators cleaned out CLewis' home. Maybe it's in a box at the police station....

Anonymous said...

The report was probably shredded. I keep hoping Ernest and Young will step up and produce an electronic version of the report. They must have it in their files.

Cerebration said...

Good News! Some minutes have been published. Go to the link below and click on the 01/18/2011 meeting. Click approval of minutes and you can download November and December of 2010's minutes --

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 4:35

As of 2006, it must have been around. Look at the BOE minutes from the Janury 9, 2006 BOE meeting. Lewis used this study as justifying a raise for a DCSS employee. You can download the BOE meeting notes on the DCSS BOE section.

"Dr. Lewis recommended a change in salary based on verified years of experience for Chanda White, a relative of a board member, in her current position as a Title I Parent Facilitator.

In discussion that followed, Dr. Lewis stated that Ms. White is one of nine people in this category requiring a salary adjustment based on verified years of experience as identified in the Compensation Classification Study.

Ms. Grant made a motion to approve the recommendation, and Ms. Andrews seconded. The motion passed by a vote of 8/0/1, with Ms. Anderson-Littlejohn, Ms. Andrews, Ms. Copelin-Wood, Mrs. Edwards, Mr. Franzoni, Ms. Grant, Ms. Joyner, and Ms. Manning-Moon voting affirmatively, and Ms. Roberts abstaining."

Cerebration said...

And we all know the REST of the story - Chanda White is Zepora's daughter... and so it goes.

Anonymous said...

Agreed...this is primarily a "failure of leadership." Before people support the idea national certification,it is not necessarily a cure-all. First DCSS's HR should be ***audited*** for presenting unqualified candidates for certification. Some people work feverishly to push their minimally qualified friends and family into titles requiring testing, coursework and certification. Some have even bragged about personal, family connections in HR and the fact they never passed state mandated coursework (HB671) or tests. Tablet PC's would be a great investment and would actively engage even low readers. Books are quickly outdated, lost, and damaged and rarely used.

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration 5:23

That's good news, but the July through most of November meeting notes are still missing. And Ms. Tyson must be conferring with legal on this one. These are the briefest notes ever. It's pretty much just:

November 19:
"Mr. Bowen called the meeting to order at 9:00am and called for a motion to adopt the agenda as posted. On a motion by Mr. Redovian, seconded by Dr. Walker, and with a unanimous vote, the agenda for the November 19, 2010 called meeting was adopted."

December 6:
"Mr. Bowen called the meeting to order at 5:25pm and noted that it had become necessary to amend the agenda to include a personnel matter and legal matters. He called for a motion to adopt the amended agenda. On a motion by Ms. Roberts, seconded by Dr. Speaks, and with a unanimous vote, the amended agenda for the December 6, 2010 called meeting was adopted.

December 10:
"Ms. Roberts called the meeting to order at 1:34pm and noted that it had become necessary to amend the agenda to add an action item ~ Hiring of one or more law firms to represent one or more former\current Board Members named as Defendants in the Heery Mitchell lawsuit. She called for a motion to adopt the amended agenda. On a motion by Mr. Womack, seconded by Mr. McChesney, and with a unanimous vote, the action item was added to the agenda.

December 16:
"Mr. Bowen called the meeting to order at 10:37am and called for a motion to adopt the agenda. On a motion by Mr. McChesney, seconded by Ms. Roberts, and with a unanimous vote, the agenda for the December 16, 2010 called meeting was adopted.

December 17:
"Mr. Bowen called the meeting to order at 9:21am and called for a motion to adopt the agenda. On a motion by Mr. Womack, seconded by Mr. McChesney, and with a unanimous vote, the agenda for the December 17, 2010 called meeting was adopted."

Did the note taker cut and paste? No discussion is included at all. And did anyone else notice that there are a slew of high priced lawyers at every meeting? Looking at the past BOE meetings, lawyers were only present occasionally. Now they're there every time. Wonder what that's costing taxpayers?

Do you think they've been trying to consult with the lawyers to ensure they give as little information out as possible and still meet the letter of the Open Meeting public minutes law?

I'll bet Ms. Tyson's going over these BOE minutes with a fine tooth comb before they get posted. She's probably still reviewing the other meeting notes.

At least they tell us who voted for what.

Anonymous said...

I looked at the meeting notes and how the BOE members voted was not on the BOE meeting notes for most of the policy changes and expenditures.

Where would we go to see the vote our BOE member cast? I used to go to the BOE minutes and it listed information like Ms. X, Ms. Y and Ms. Z voted for this measure, while Mr. R voted against it and Mr. L abstained.

Aren't they supposed to list how each member votes on each issue? How else could taxpayers/voters know how the candidates are voting on the issue? Not every taxpayer/voter can be present for every BOE meeting. I thought that was the purpose of the Open Meeting Act and the requirement to publish meeting minutes within 3 days.

Maybe the governor's office knows where we can go to get information published on how DCSS BOE members vote on the issues.

Anonymous said...

Here's the Open Meetings Act verbiage on the Meeting Notes:

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

So I guess we have to assume all the BOE members voted yes unless otherwise specified. I'll be interested in seeing the one that records who voted for and who voted against Ms. Tyson's raise.

Looking at the problems the public is having getting any information on BOE meetings and the extreme brevity of the meeting minutes, it seems to me that Ms. Tyson is by far the least forthcoming superintendent we've ever had in DCSS. Do we really need to have a superintendent who feels the need to "lawyer up" and only provide the barest of information to taxpayers. Look at what Sandy Spruill is going through to get the Compensation audit. This is not the way to gain the trust of the people who pay your salaries. Are I being too rough here? I really don't mean to be.

Anonymous said...

Note to MS Spruill: Ernest and Young cannot release the report, assuming that it still has it, unless authorized by DCSS. Accountant -client confidentiality. I would suggest that you write MS Tyson to get the DCSS OK for Ernest and Young to release. Inform the newspaper guy that you are doing this.

Anonymous said...

Marcus Turk is not the only "Chief" that needs to go. The HR "Chief" and his band of misfits(Ramsey,Tucker) can also let the door hit hit them on the way out.

Marcus Turk is not the only "Chief" that needs to go. The HR "Chief" and his band of misfits(Ramsey,Tucker) can also let the door hit hit them on the way out.

Repeating for emphasis. Dear God, let this be so. There is so much arrogance among this small group of do no gooders ... there are usually two sides to every story, but with this group I have heard NOTHING to the contrary.

Ms. Tyson, please start cleaning central office house with these people who's names are always associated with negativity.

Anonymous said...

@ 9:05
"I would suggest that you write MS Tyson to get the DCSS OK for Ernest and Young to release. Inform the newspaper guy that you are doing this"

Is there no one at the state level that can get DCSS to obey the state laws?

They certainly have gone to great lengths to hide this report.

Anonymous said...

Was Marcus Turk's entry into the school system due to being related to a former principal? What were his qualifications and what was his path to his current position? What does his resume look like?

Anonymous said...

After you clone Mr. Donegan, please clone Mr. Kent Hite, math master teacher!!!! He and Donegan are a great team!!!

the boys' mom said...

@ 4:13 anoymous...your kid must be a Henderson Middle with mine. That school is a joke.
@NCC for teachers and those who are entering teaching on with any business, there are some that have a gift and passion for their job and others that should be assisted in finding another job. Schools are the same. There must be a more effective way to keep great teachers and dismiss those that are not.
@technonlgy-IPads and Kindles. We are a military family. While stationed in VA, our counties 6-12 graders received IBooks and has a discounted internet service for those who needed it. Systems spend millions of dollars on books that are outdated as soon as they hit the schools. There has to be a better way.
@ looping-If you get a great teacher, you want your child to stay with them forever. conversely, if you get a dud, then its a long year!
The educational product that our county is presenting is not acceptable. As I've done when I am not pleased with a peditrician, I'm looking elsewhere for educators for my chlidren. Like their physical health, it's just that important.

Anonymous said...

M. Turk is related to a "friend and famnilY" and has his job through such a connection. Probably is also connected to NB.... Do not believe he's held other CFO job prior to this one....

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 1:27

His mother is Catherine Turk, former DCSS Area Administrator (new title for Area Administrator - Regional Superintendent as point of reference). She is currently Program Director of the Ronald M. Simon Family Foundation.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting:

Anonymous said...

J,Wilson(HR) is R.Tuckers godsonand he was having a improper relationship with the wife of a former Dep. Super. This started when he was assist. prin. at Shadow Rock.

Anonymous said...

@Anynomous 2/7/11 4:18 PM
That's the response I received during my conference. I do already have her reading score from 5th Grade CRCT. What I was looking to get is her "current" level, after being in school for about 6 months, and given this particular teacher's lack of interest in her class for the majority part of the year. But I suppose asking the teacher for current information is too much.

@the boys' mom said
Nope, totally different school. They must all be the same?? Sad!

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 8:36

"What I was looking to get is her "current" level, after being in school for about 6 months, and given this particular teacher's lack of interest in her class for the majority part of the year. But I suppose asking the teacher for current information is too much. "

To obtain that information definitively, your child would need a reading assessment normed against other children her age (ITBS) or based on the reading standards set forth by the state (CRCT).

A regular education teacher is supposed to administer the CRCT ONLY once a year. That's the way it's set up in Georgia. Teachers don't have access to a standardized test to give randomly throughout the year to your child or any other child. Do you think a teacher has access to the CRCT or any other standardized test and can just pull that out of his/her desk and give it to one child whenever a parent asks for it?

What the county SHOULD be doing - IF they had the proper MIS support - is having students go the the computer lab once every 6 weeks to take a brief benchmark test that see if the reading skills taught during that 6 weeks were mastered. This information on each student in the class should be delivered to the teachers' desktop computer by that afternoon. Then the teacher could share that with you via email, phone or face to face conference that day or the next.

ALL parents should be getting consistent, reliable, frequent and timely feedback regarding the mastery of all content for their children.

This does NOT happen in DCSS because this is not controlled by the teacher. Rather it is a failure on the part of the DCSS administration and in particular MIS to provide an easy to use, timely, frequent assessment system that doesn't drain instructional time from the classroom.

This is the 21st Century, and online assessment that does not overburden students and teachers and provides timely and frequent feedback to parents should be in place. It is in place for many other school systems - just NOT in DCSS. That's what you need to be asking for.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 10:56AM

After going back and forth with them, we did end up getting those "benchmark" scores, which were another issue in itself. The information given is very vague, and we did see a bunch of "intervention required" throughout the year already, which would cause concern to any parent viewing it - coupled with the fact that no teacher has even mentioned of any intervention being necessary.

In our elementary school, the kids had been set up with Accelerated Reader & STAR reader, which often gave you periodical assessments of where the child was at in regards to reading. Come to find out, none of these systems are in place at the Middle School level. Well they do have AR set up, but guess what? NONE of the kids had used the system this year so far. Only after a group of us parents expressed concerns and had meetings upon meetings, are they actually getting the ball rolling on this. And they "should" be implementing STAR reader sometime in the future, once the teachers have been trained on the system. We'll see how long that takes.

Of course I did not expect them to administer a CRCT test to find out my child's current level. But they ought to have better systems in place (or a system since there seems to be nothing in place) in order to see the progress of the children throughout the year. I don't want to have to wait until my child takes this year's CRCT's to see how this teacher's lack of effort or concern affected my child. And trust me, I don't want to overburden my child with more tests and what knot either!

Cerebration said...

Anon, 6:17, I wish I could take credit, but all I did for this one was collect a whole bunch of input from our regular bloggers. One person in our front page publishers is a professional writer and was gracious enough to pull all of the input together in a cogent posting. Many thanks to everyone who participated in the "survey". We had so many thoughtful responses from long-time DCSS parents, teachers, staff, and students. We also appreciate all of the great additional ideas and input in the comments. This was a very important posting. We plan to share it with the entire board soon.

Anonymous said...

@ 1:52 STAR READER results vary and are not a very valid measure of a reading level. They are a range and have can have great variety in the scores that they produce. I can have a student do a STAR reading test and earn a 2.3 reading level and then go up to 4.5 in the next test on the same day.

Accelerated Reader does nothing but ask level 1 and 2 questions of Bloom's taxonomy. It does not ask deep thinking questions, to show if kids truly understood what they read. Knowing who so and so's best friend is and other factual questions does not demonstrate a true understanding or comprehension of the book read.

For these reasons I do not find Accelerated Reader or STAR reading to be valid measures of a child's "reading" ability. Also for these reasons, many of the school districts up North where I used to teach have stopped using these programs because they do not provide valid data.

The benchmarks that the children take are also not valid measurements of how children are doing, as many are poorly written or questions are given for material not covered. The benchmarks derived from the county are a joke and waste of classroom time and give little knowledge to the parent or the teacher.

Anonymous said...

@ 12:54

I am working with a child who just began GCA (Georgia Cyber Acadmey)and I must say that the curriculum is hands down superior to that offered in DCSS. There are lots of activities that GCA provides for the children for socialization and such. It's what I will consider for my son when he gets ready for school, if we can't afford private school.

Anonymous said...

I was okay until I read the needed technology part.

Heck NO. There were times in my household when all we had were 2 pencils, of which, 1 worked. An electric typewriter (versus a manual) was preferred. Any of the items you mentioned I feel learned enough to pick up and read the instructions, today. That's because I acquired the skills to figure them out and those skills stay with me today. As a childless taxpayer in this system I do NOT want to pay for this technology which will be outdated within 1 year. Upon entering a university our classes were told that we were not there to learn a skill but to learn how to think and apply our learning.

Among many other things, that's what I want to see in DCSS.

Andrea Allen, CPA
Educated 1-12 (no kindergarten) & University Alabama
...NASA kid schools integrated in 1962
...with transient kids, families with one foreign parent and kids from the projects
...3 years Georgia Society of CPAs
Professional Ethics Committee
(left to endure the military
deployment of my spouse)
...YEARS of volunteer service
beginning around 12 years old
...with a father who volunteered with the US Department of Justice as a civil rights worker in South Alabama during the 1960's.

(I encounter a lot of preconceived notions when mentioning an education in Alabama- so I always put that out there first.)

Don't accept excuses from Dekalb County. I want to see results.

Cerebration said...

I found these tenets at the Gwinnett Public Schools website. I thought they were very impressive - we need to develop a set of core values for DeKalb as part of the 2020 Vision.

Core Beliefs and Commitments of the Gwinnett County Board of Education

Our core business is teaching and learning. And we will give it priority over all other functions of the school system.

All children can learn at or above grade level. It is our job to see that every Gwinnett student does so.

All children should reach their learning potential. And through our best efforts, and theirs, Gwinnett’s students will.

The school effect is important and has a profound impact on every child’s life. Gwinnett County Public Schools will have a positive impact
on every child’s life.

A quality instructional program requires a rigorous curriculum, effective teaching, and ongoing assessment. We will settle for nothing less in every Gwinnett school and classroom.

All children should be taught in a safe and secure learning environment. We pledge to provide that for every Gwinnett student.

Tucker Parent said...

I appreciate the way that this information has been organized and simplified so that even the BOE might be able to understand it.

I do question the need for wi-fi, however, since there are still questions about the health effects a wi-fi network could have on children. Here is one example: