Wednesday, June 22, 2011

DeKalb School Board waiting for Superman

Atlanta Public Schools have two things that we don't:  A professional interim superintendent chosen from outside the school system to lead them through the rough waters ahead and a whistleblower.

We were supposed to have a 'new' whistleblower hotline installed last September. (Read our post.) In fact, it made big news and gave our board public credibility in an AJC article entitled, "DeKalb School Board protects whistleblowers".  But listen - hear the crickets? We still do not have a whistleblower hotline -- much less, a whistleblower.  I guess when there are none, it makes them easier to protect.

But worse, our board seems to be in some kind of cloud, imagining that some superman of a superintendent is "still out there" waiting to jump aboard and save our ship!  This candidate must be really special in their minds, as they have already (purposely, in my opinion) sabotaged two excellent candidates that have emerged as finalists and then been sent packing by the board -- via media leaks regarding privileged contract negotiations of the first and vicious attacks on the perceived record of success of the second. These attacks came from people like Zepora Roberts, who is no longer on the board and should never have known this candidate's name, much less anything else (including race). How could she have known what the board had discussed in private?  Someone on the board must have told her - and no one stopped her rant against the candidate at the board meeting (which I believe was Tom's duty as chair.) Our board members need to wear Depends when they go into executive session.

We had THREE excellent candidate finalists back in March! Somehow, our board has managed to drive each one away.  Two of these three dropped out and the board focused on Lilly Cox, a PhD and Superintendent of Hickory (NC) schools.  She spoke of being a moral and ethical leader with a laser-like focus on children. But someone on the board managed to leak the contract negotiations, violating the trust between board and superintendent well before the partnership was even formed!  Cox, understandably, removed herself from further consideration.

Then, the board was apparently refocusing on Dr. Robert Duron, Superintendent from San Antonio schools (in Texas - a state with extremely stringent markers for passing their version of "AYP").  Duron's district passed in all categories, except that of high school completion, which he "failed" due to nine students who had left the system and could not be tracked.  Now, it appears that test scores are soon to be released, showing that San Antonio has passed the Texas requirements.  During all of this, it was revealed that Duron was seeking employment elsewhere (here and in Florida) and his board voted 'no confidence' in his leadership, a political response common in this arena. Again, this private, executive session information was leaked (ironically to the same reporter, Richard Belcher) and Duron negotiations broke down among board members.

Nancy Jester, Pam Speaks, Paul Womack and Don McChesney responded to the leaks in a letter to the public - citing the reasons for their strong support of Duron and encouraging the public to support him as well.  Oddly, in yet another interview with Richard Belcher (after the rest of the board had left town for training in Savannah), Board Chair Tom Bowen did not mention one word about the leaks, however described Jester's email as 'inappropriate'.  Then, shockingly, Tom goes on to report on the discussions in executive session regarding keeping Ramona Tyson on for three more months!  Executive session discussions - not yet voted on or ready for public announcement!  (Cue the Cheshire Cat.)

Now, the excuse is that the board is looking for a candidate who has led a large, urban, mostly poor, minority school system that has passed AYP.  Well, I wish them luck, but it sounds a bit like a young lady hoping for a knight in shining armor while remaining holed up in a tower growing old alone.

34 comments:

Atlanta Media Guy said...

I look forward to hear the excuses our BOE makes, now that the CRCT scores are out. Looks like DCSS' 8th grade math scores are lower than Clayton's. SUCCESS!

These CRCT numbers speak for themselves. This is clearly not the teachers fault, it's the fault of the BOE and reckless staffers that continue to pillage DCSS, as we race for the bottom!

Berry, Beasley, Moseley, Thompson, Mitchell-Mayfield, Turk, Ramsey, Tucker and Francine Edward's entire family, who work for the system, need to be shown the door! NOW! ENOUGH!

themommy said...

I hope to post something later on the test scores, but our scores are the lowest in metro Atlanta in 3rd and 8th grades and tied with Atlanta for the lowest in 5th.

I haven't looked at the other grade levels, but in some cases our scores are in the bottom 15 school systems in the state. (Out of about 180 systems in the state.)

While our schools didn't fall in most cases, they appear to be mostly flat and therefore other systems that improved have continued to pass us by.

For example, 8th grade reading. In 2010, DCSS was 23rd from the bottom, this year 18th from the bottom.

We are moving in the wrong direction, but that is really no surprise.

atl said...

Yet Ms. Tyson handed out contracts to the same upper management personnel? Does anyone know if that is correct?

dundevil said...

ATL And why wouldn't Ms Tyson hand out new contracts to the insiders? That is the way that the game is played. She was deliberately held over so that the jobs of the favored ones could be maintained for at least one more year.
The jockeying that is taking place in the BOE selection of a new superintendent is the majority trying to get a superintendent who is an insider or at least one who does not have the backbone to clean house.

Cerebration said...

I don't understand the need to "EXTEND" Tyson's contract. Her contract is good through June of 2012 - what's to extend??? Will they rewrite it to now read Sept 2012?

Judas said...

I fault Belcher for not having the sense to realize the damage he would do to the kids. Oh no, he has got to run with the story. Too bad Sally didn't ask him to hold off. I used to be a Belcher fan......

Sagamore 7 said...

If anyone wants a reason to demand change within DCSS, look at Gwinnett's scores and all of the people who left DCSS from prior adminstrations to work in Gwinnett.

8th grade math passing 85.3%
DCSS 8th grade passing 65.8%

8th grade science passing 78.9%
DCSS 8th grade passing 50.1%

8th grade social studies 81.3%
DCSS 8th grade passing 57.3%

8th grade Language Arts passing 95.4%
DCSS 8th grade passing 87.1%

8th grade Reading passing 97.2%
DCSS 8th grade passing 91.5%

Gwinnett County School System has a very similar diverse and socio-economic student population but are GETTING results from their schools and students.

I challenge every parent to speak out for your child! DEMAND a quality education and DEMAND for change with our current system.
The school system is NOT preparing our children for a higher education but a life of POVERTY and CRIME!

Please do what is right and end the madness within the administration called DeKalb County Schools!

S7

anonymous said...

Can someone please outline the precise steps that need to be taken to spit DCSS into 2 or 3 districts?

Our board is clearly divided on what they want. If we split, we can each manage our districts to meet our local needs. I understand that it is pretty hard to make the split occur, but I also understand that it is possible. I just have not seen all the steps that must happen and in what order.

atl said...

@ anonymous

"I understand that it is pretty hard to make the split occur, but I also understand that it is possible."

Not "pretty hard" - unconstitutional. The Georgia Constitution forbids any new school systems being established. Your efforts may be better spent understanding we are in this together and we need to replace the current DCSS administration with personnel who can move ALL students forward.

Oh Well said...

Any attempt to break an existing county school system into smaller parts would be a direct violation of the Georgia State Constitution. So, to answer your question, the precise steps required must necessarily include an amendment to the Georgia Constitution. This is typically done in the legislature followed by a state wide vote for approval. The first precise step would be to contact your State Representative or Senator to begin the process.

From the Official Code of Georgia (O.C.G.A.)

“TITLE 20. EDUCATION
CHAPTER 2. ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
ARTICLE 3. LOCAL BOARDS OF EDUCATION

§ 20-2-50. County school districts; county board for each county
Each county of this state, exclusive of any independent school system in existence in a county, shall compose one school district and shall be confined to the control and management of a county board of education, except to the extent that area school systems are created pursuant to Article VIII, Section V, Paragraph I of the Constitution of Georgia.”

and

“CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF GEORGIA
ARTICLE VIII. EDUCATION
SECTION V. LOCAL SCHOOL SYSTEMS

Ga. Const. Art. VIII, § V, Para. I (2011)

PARAGRAPH I. School systems continued; consolidation of school systems authorized; new independent school systems prohibited.

Authority is granted to county and area boards of education to establish and maintain public schools within their limits. Existing county and independent school systems shall be continued, except that the General Assembly may provide by law for the consolidation of two or more county school systems, independent school systems, portions thereof, or any combination thereof into a single county or area school system under the control and management of a county or area board of education, under such terms and conditions as the General Assembly may prescribe; but no such consolidation shall become effective until approved by a majority of the qualified voters voting thereon in each separate school system proposed to be consolidated. No independent school system shall hereafter be established."

These clauses specifically require all school systems to be county based, and thereby disallow any smaller school system within a single county. The only exceptions were those local school systems that existed before this requirement was enacted, which was, I believe, in 1946. Since enacted, many of the smaller city school systems have consolidated with their respective county school system. So, locally, only the Atlanta, Decatur, Marietta and Buford school systems have retained their independence, having been grandfathered in.

Oh Well said...

That being said, formulating and passing an amendment for the purpose of breaking up a county school system will be, for all practical purposes, impossible. As a body the DeKalb legislators will never allow such an amendment to go forward, and no one else in the state really cares.

ben dover said...

Anyone know if the Lakeside and Druid Hills clusters are in discussions with the City of Decatur to join their school system?

Anon76 said...

"We were supposed to have a 'new' whistleblower hotline installed last September. (Read our post.) In fact, it made big news and gave our board public credibility in an AJC article entitled, "DeKalb School Board protects whistleblowers"."

So why doesn't someone ask what the super-duper AUDITOR is doing? He got a lot of kudos when he was hired, but has anything happened since? Everyone sang his praises and assumed he'd save the district. It's almost been a year. The one bookkeeper who was caught stealing would have been caught under the normal audit procedures anyway. What are we paying for??? He is the employee of the BOARD, not the district (per SACS). Ask the BOARD why they're not asking him for results.

Anon said...

The DeKalb delegation would have nothing to do with it. It would have to be changed state wide.

As the state legislature showed this year, when they reduced the size of the DCSS board without the cooperation of the delegation, our delegation has become yet another worthless group of elected officials from DeKalb.

atl said...

Constitutional amendments have nothing to do with DeKalb. They have to do with the legislature and state wide votes. This would be possible with a Republican legislature but not probable. It would be better to put your efforts into other ways of ridding DCSS of inept management.

And ask yourself - did the children in DCSS cause this mess? Don't give up on them. They are capable. They just need to have the resources spent efficiently. Since they are children, they depend on us.

resident2012 said...

The only possible scenario is that a municipality merge into another school system. If Druid Hills became a city and if they bordered on the city limits of Decatur they could legally attempt to become part of the Decatur Schools. If north DeKalb went the way of north Fulton and became a solid collection of cities they could follow suit. It would take the approval of Decatur I do not know if it would take the approval of all of DeKalb.

SHS said...

Separate School Systems in DeKalb

I am in favor of splitting DeKalb County School System into 3 separate systems. It will, in fact, take a constitutional amendment (go figure!) to do this.

Here are my reasons for favoring this approach:
1. Smaller systems mean fewer employees and more citizen oversight which should cut down on the thievery and corruption that defines DCSS now.

2. State law makes it nearly impossible to recall the sitting BOE members.

3. If DCSS no longer exists, then getting rid of the corrupt employees is easy. No more begging for Tyson and the BOE to do the right thing. The "company" that ran the friends-and-family jobs program went bust and is no longer in business.

4. The new school systems can "start over," hiring only necessary employees who are qualified by skills, knowledge, training and experience. No more fake degrees. No more failed principals or family members running departments for which they are completely unsuited by skills, knowledge, training and experience.

5. Smaller systems are more manageable -- fewer layers between teachers and the superintendent. In fact, smaller systems won't be able to afford a multi-layered, corrupt, do-nothing bureaucracy.

6. Smaller systems are more nimble and better able to respond quickly to identified, real-time school, classroom and student needs.

7. Smaller systems business practices can be set up according to community preferences -- i.e., a transparent open checkbook; an understandable, detailed budget on an Excel spreadsheet; monthly revenue and expense detail on an Excel spreadsheet.

8. Smaller systems are friendlier and more inclusive because everyone's participation and involvement are needed. No more BOE sitting high above everyone else like ruling kings in a palace, staring, unspeaking, at the peons who have come, hat-in-hand, to beg for what is rightfully theirs.

9. Smaller systems enable teachers and principals to be the highest paid employees because they are charged with carrying out the school system's mission to educate our students well. Poorly performing teachers and principals cannot hide.

10. In smaller systems, all central office positions exist for one reason and one reason, only: to provide excellent service to students, teachers and principals, thereby facilitating the school system's mission. Central office jobs are service jobs and under-performing employees cannot hide.

Cerebration said...

This is an email response to a constituent who wrote Gene Walker in support of Robert Duron. Gene Walker was one board member telling the public that Duron was an unacceptable candidate - thus prompting the letter in Duron's defense written by those in support of him. These issues should be dealt with in confidence, but our board likes to take their debates to the street. Leaks have a way of turning into massive flooding...

Mr. African-American Voter ~

Shame on you for declaring "we've lost another great candidate because none of you want to clean house". How dare you to describe a candidate for Superintendent great whose record show the accrediting agency graded his last 3 years as academically unacceptable. In addition, he received a no confidence vote by his Board, and they refused to change it. I hasten to tell you that we don't need to clean house because our System is not toxic. Clearly, your understanding and expectation of excellence, success and high accomplishment are vastly different from mine. In fact, you sound like the Negro of old who did not earn respect for being independent thinking, manly, courageous or assertive, but rather for being accommodating - for fulfilling the stereotype of what was expected of him.

I definitely cannot tell you how to vote, but it saddens me that you do not share my sense of a pursuit of excellence and high accomplishment
rather than, mediocrity as the standard in this selection process.

Gene Walker

bu2 said...

A couple of items need correcting.

Per a San Antonio article (can't locate it anymore) quoting Dr. Duron, he interviewed in Florida AFTER receiving the vote of no confidence. He did say it was a total surprise. And he was also quoted as saying they were 9 short one year and 6 the next of meeting the graduation requirements. I'm sure there are always people they can't locate, so that's not a valid excuse and he didn't make it in this article.

That said, San Antonio ISD is much poorer, has many more ESL and highly mobile undocumented students but still scores much higher than DCSS.

bu2 said...

School districts all over the state would be opposed to a constitutional amendment. I don't think it would get out of the legislature. My understanding is that no new districts can be created. So the only current way to get out of DCSS would be to get your unicorporated area annexed by Decatur, who seems pretty happy as they are, or Atlanta (frying pan into the fire).

And unless there is a different funding mechanism than property tax, splitting districts creates other serious problems. In San Antonio, for example, there is the Edgewood district which is one of the poorest in the state as it only includes poor residential neighborhoods and the San Antonio ISD which is very poor (but at least has downtown in its tax base). The Northside ISD and Northeast ISD are fairly well off. Then there are several other smaller school districts in the county. Texas has had decades of court fights and issues relating to this.

Imagine having a Dekalb south of I-20 school district. It would have no resources.

We should work with what we have. The next superintendent should look at ways to delegate authority and accountability to the 5 sub-districts.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

hey bu2, Wouldn't the DeKalb South of I-20 district have the awesome and EXCLUSIVE Mt. Arabia High School? Didn't SW DeKalb get a huge renovation a couple of years ago? What resources might they lack?

Mr. Walker's email reply is awful and shows that he is a status quo man. Walker's definition of success is FAILURE! The numbers speak for themselves, Mr. Dr. Walker. DCSS = EPIC FAILURE!

sharon said...

Whi is a Raven like a Writing Desk? I am sorry but you need to look of the definition of similar. (Gwinnett County School System has a very similar diverse and socio-economic student population but are GETTING results from their schools and students.)

Gwinnett has 27% black students and DeKalb has 72%. Gwinnett has 50% of its students on free and reduced lunch and DeKalb has 69%.

45% of Gwinnett's students are white while 10% of DeKalb's students are white.

In a good year only about 4000 of DDeKlab students are classified as homeless while less than 1000 of Gwinnetts students are classified as homeless.

And finally according to the US department of Education 15$ of Gwinnetts students are from families below the poverty line while 22% of DeKlab's students are from families below the poverty line.

Anon said...

I do agree that it isn't a fair comparison with Gwinnett. Clayton on the other hand is a fair comparison and we did much worse than Clayton in most subjects and grade levels.

Gene Walker's letter is horrible and clearly out of step with reality.

Does he really think things are going well here? Can he not read the test scores?

teacher said...

Gene Walker's letter is the exact reason why I no longer babysit, I mean teach, in DCSS. If what we have now is excellent, I hate to see what he considers poor.

Frankly, I am tired of the race game. Our poor scores have nothing to do with race, and everything to do with low expectations of students, poor parenting that think the status quo is sufficient, schools that allow students that do not have basic skills to pass year after year, excessive paper work for teachers, not enough student assistance, misspending of funds to give friends and family members high paying unnecessary jobs, administrators with little teaching experience, and little focus on our children.

I just want to thank Gene for cementing why my child won't attend a DCSS school. I want better for him!

Oh Well said...

@Anon, 9:02pm “The DeKalb delegation would have nothing to do with it. It would have to be changed state wide.”

@atl, 9:47pm “Constitutional amendments have nothing to do with DeKalb.”

Traditionally, the General Assembly generally defers to the wishes of the local delegation when it comes to enacting bills or amendments that target specific counties. If the DeKalb delegation is unanimously in support of a bill specific to DeKalb, the General Assembly would generally go along. If against – no. Regarding the change to the size of the BoE, those bills were sponsored by several DeKalb County delegates, including Democrats, as described by Rep. Mike Jacobs on DeKalb School Watch, May 11, 2011. The bill moved forward despite the objections of several black legislators, as it was in support of the existing Georgia Constitutional requirement for Boards of Education to have seven members or less, the general consensus among experts that a 5 or 7 member Board is more effective than our current 9, and because our delegation was not unified.

The bill, SB 79, reduces the DeKalb BoE by eliminating the two Super Districts. As the two Super Districts were created in 2001 primarily as a means to lock in the black voting majority on the BoE, it would seem that the issue could soon move into a voting rights question. As the two affected districts are currently represented by Dr. Pamela Speaks and Dr. Eugene Walker, African Americans, the bill effectively serves to disenfranchise the African American vote in DeKalb. The current 6-3 black/white breakdown would change to 4-3. Given DeKalb’s and Georgia’s history of being under Federal review regarding African American voting rights, I fully expect this law to come under review by the Department of Justice, and for it to be challenged in the State courts.

State wide, there is very little interest in changing the county based school systems, and a new amendment to the Constitution would require a state wide vote. All the discussion seems to be here in DeKalb. No one talks about a need to break up Cobb or Gwinnett Counties into smaller school districts. Therefore the Republican dominated General Assembly would seemingly have little or no interest to support it. However, Republicans do have an interest in the Milton County movement, where the North Fulton cities and residents desperately wish to divorce themselves from Fulton County and the City of Atlanta. With the history and geographical circumstances in Fulton County, breaking up the county would actually make sense. Were they to succeed, this would also serve to break the Fulton County School District in two, with a wealthy and white Milton County School System on the north end, and a relatively black and poor Fulton County Schools remnant in the south end. As the Milton County movement will also require a constitutional amendment, and a voting rights review by the Feds, its prospect for success remain questionable. If it fails or continues to flounder, then Fulton Republicans might see an opportunity to work with DeKalb Republicans to enact an amendment to allow for the breakup of large county school systems. But that is going to be a long way off, and the prospects for success very, very dim. As many have argued, we must work to change DCSS from within.

teacher said...

The data doesn't hide that what DCSS is doing to educate our children isn't working. It doesn't matter what county you compare us with, we are at the bottom. Enough of excuses. Whites/blacks/ESOL numbers really doesn't matter. DCSS isn't doing its job.

The coaches need to go. America's Choice needs to go. We need to thoroughly educate our parents and show them how to parent, how to raise their expectations for their children, and how to get their children services that they may need. We need Title One teachers instructing our struggling students and giving these kids the help that they really need and deserve. Too many of our kids are falling through the holes that are left by a system that cares more about creating jobs for adults than educating our children.

Mr. Walker, I believe that the true civil rights leaders of the past would be disgusted by the black leaders in DCSS as they are the ones failing the children.

Anon said...

In 2001, the two districts were added to balance representation not increase the number of African-Americans on the board of ed. At that time, we had 5 district reps and two at large reps. The super districts already existed.

Because of the rapid growth in S. DeKalb, there were huge discrepancies in the number of students in each district. This was rectified by adding two more districts. The at large districts, previously had been N and S and were swithed to East/West in an effort to try and unify the county. (See Dr. Walker's email above to see how well that is working out.)

So, there was never an issue of race at the time. It was all about balancing representation.

Anon said...

Also, the local legislation on reducing the size of the board was blocked because the chair of the DeKalb delegation is dating a board member's sister.

DeKalb is an unbelievable mess. Not just the schools mind you, but the entire county.

Cerebration said...

Read the AJC article about the APS whistleblower -

Ex-APS official: Hall ordered destruction of documents tied to cheating


So, let's say that we do have a whistleblower... say someone knows who allowed Lewis to pass off all of his 'vacations' on his Pcard... say that someone brought it up and stated that it was illegal... and say that someone was told to let it go by his boss. So, now, could that boss be staying in place in order to attempt to throw that employee under the bus?

I've 'heard' several high ranking officials have been 'lawyering up'. I surely would if I were in their shoes. This is a very thin cover up - it won't be too tough for the DA to unravel...

Cerebration said...

Below is what the AJC is reporting about Beverly Hall -- a former national superintendent of the year!

Superintendent Beverly Hall ordered the destruction of investigative documents that detailed “systematic” cheating on standardized tests in the Atlanta Public Schools, according to a former high-ranking district official.

Hall also instructed subordinates to omit “adverse findings” from a new version of the report and then publicly cited the revised document in an aggressive rebuttal of the cheating allegations, the former official says.

When she protested, the former official says, her supervisor said the district had the right to “sanitize” the investigation and that “the matter was closed” because Hall “had directed that all other documents be destroyed.”

Destroying or altering government records is a felony in Georgia, carrying a prison sentence of as much as 10 years.

Marie said...

Actually no, Anon. The super- districts were created to obviate the "problem" of the four white board members who continued to maintain voting control of the BoE. There were no super-districts until Sen Nadine Thomas introduced the bill to expand the board. Sen. Thomas and others believed - with Dr. Hallford's retirement nearing - that it was essential to create a black majority on the board to ensure a black superintendent would be selected to succeed him. Sadly, when the issues revolve around color and voting blocks and not the educational needs of children, you get the mess we have. And to Sharon's point that Gwinnett and Dekalb are not comparable districts: check your data school by school, Sharon. Look at any number of schools across the metro with similar racial profiles to a DeKalb school and you'll see DeKalb schools are outperformed time and again.

Yes, parents have a role here. But as I look around, I see staggering (and I am not overstating this) numbers of families with involved parents and bright kids who are decamping to private school or to Alpharetta and points north. These are the families, black and white, who used to work sacrificially inside schools and insist on higher standards and quality leadership. After years of beating their heads against a wall of uninspired, inarticulate leaders who don't even follow written policy - these parents have taken their resources - and the positive influence they had on Dekalb schools - elsewhere.

ben dover said...

Well said Marie, you've described my family to a tee. We left DCSS for private and are very pleased w/ the education our children are now getting. However, I do enjoy keeping up w/ the latest DCSS happenings via this blog.

No Duh said...

I "graded" Walker's two paragraph letter.

I counted at least five grammatical errors -- including the entire last paragraph which is an incomprehensible run-on sentence.

However, using Walker's "standard of excellence," I gave him an A+ --because he spelled "accommodating" correctly.

I mean come on. This outstanding Negro deserves praise and adulation for correctly spelling one of the most misspelled words in the English language. Any criticism of his outrageously poorly written letter is nothing more than the Man keeping this poor aggrieved Negro down.

And that poor, stupid Uncle Tom who wrote to the great Negro Lord...tsk, tsk, tsk.

FieldsGrove said...

Gene Walker's email disgusts me. "Negro of old"... Is that really how a member of our BoE describes an individual who disagrees with him? It's 2011, Mr. Walker! Stop insulting the hard-working people of Dekalb County with your ridiculous behavior. Please start taking your responsibility to the children and taxpayers of Dekalb county seriously. We need Dr. Duron to clean house in DCSS.