Sunday, July 31, 2011

Back to School Message from Ms. Tyson

August 1, 2011

Dear Parents and Guardians:

Welcome to the 2011-2012 school year in DeKalb County School System. As we begin this school year, I want parents and guardians to know that student learning is the foremost priority of the Board and Interim Superintendent. The academic challenges facing this District are serious, but rest assured that each area of concern has been confronted and issues are being addressed so that students enrolled in DeKalb Schools will be able to achieve at the highest levels. We will insist that students needing improvement receive the additional services they need to improve learning, and commit to challenging students who are meeting and exceeding expectations to reach higher levels of academic performance.

It is well-documented that 21st century students must possess extensive amounts of knowledge and have strong skill-sets in order to be successful in college and the workforce. Therefore, to enable the school system to deliver on its responsibility to produce college and work-ready students, the following strategies, processes, and procedures will be utilized during 2011-2012 in all schools and departments.

  • Triage the lowest performing schools and provide the knowledge base to all schools in order to establish the connection between student assessment data, government and stakeholder accountability measures, and tactical classroom instruction
  • Accountability and performance training for our principals
  • Deeper collaboration between school operations and curriculum and instruction
  • Restructure the use of federal/state/local dollars to better impact success in low performing schools
  • Conduct a salary class/compensation and efficiency study of all positions
  • Engage in developing a system-wide strategic plan during 2011-2012 to ensure that the District has an ongoing systematic continuous improvement process in place
  • Prepare for the district’s five-year accreditation AdvancEd SACS renewal
  • Complete the 10-Year master facilities plan
  • Continue implementation of Race to the Top (RT3) initiatives and expectations of the Race to the Top GA initiative

The task to improve student achievement in DeKalb looms large and is somewhat daunting, but it is not overwhelming. Our response to the condition of academics in DeKalb cannot be sugar-coated or swept under the rug. Change must occur. However, real change requires that each employee, parent, and stakeholder step up, assume responsibility for ensuring student success, and refuse to look down or look back. I am committed to our students, and I ask that you join with me on behalf of the 100,000 students of DeKalb County School System.

Sincerely,

Ramona H. Tyson
Interim Superintendent

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tactical classroom instruction?

Anonymous said...

"Accountability and performance training for our principals"

Where is the accountability for Dr. Beasley, Dr. Berry, Mr. Moseley, the Deputy Superintendents and the Directors, Managers, Supervisors, and Coordinators? Since these personnel make the decisions for the principals and teachers, they must be held accountable.

Not one "Upper Management" employee lost his/her job or was even moved out of his/her position while DCSS had the lowest percent of low income and all schools in the system meeting AYP in the entire metro area.

The same personnel making the same decisions and using the same "strategies" are still in place. Replacing these personnel would go a long way towards ensuring a different approach to a very serious problem.

The Deal said...

As usual, this is just lip service. She says all of the right things - mostly things the contributors to this blog have been saying for years. But the chances that ANY of this will be done? Absolutely zero. That is one of the more frustrating things with Tyson. She says the right things; therefore, on some level, she must understand what needs to be done. And then she doesn't do it.

Sagamore 7 said...

You think she came up with this on her own?

She is reacting to OUR demands.

We deserve leaders who can think for themselves.

I'd like to hear something from her that is unique and worthy of a $300,000 annual salary.(Including benefits)

When does she revert back to her old job and severly bloated salary?

S7

momofthree said...

Now is the time to fill the BOE members mailboxes and phone lines with the voter demand that the superintendent position be filled without further delay. When asked about the status of the search, the response is that they cannot say because all discussions are held in executive committee. Somehow the status quo must be moved. It has been suggested to me that the most persuasive means is to hear en mass from the voter base. I encourage each of the blog readers to write and request the same from friends and neighbors.

Anon said...

Momofthree is right. They are finally not saying anything, but they have a 3 (!) hour meeting scheduled before the board meeting tomorrow night to discuss a personnel issue.

If you do email, remind them that they can't just hire "anybody" and have the community accept that. They must hire someone who can make real, sustainable changes.

I am worried that they will hire someone that won't make any difference.

Anon said...

For whatever reason, the BOE likes the status quo and is going out of their way to remain there. I'm afraid that the only thing that will change it, is for the "old guard" to leave or for the governor to step in. Write away but I'm not holding my breath. Some folks are protecting something that's worth alot to them to protect, it isn't what's in the student's best interests.

Cerebration said...

This is from Dr. Lewis in 2007

STRATEGIC PLAN

MISSION
The mission of DeKalb County School System is to form a collaborative effort between home and school that maximizes students’ social and academic potential preparing them to compete in a global society

VISION
“Premier DeKalb Schools - Setting the standard for Excellence through unity and purpose"

VALUES
• Value and promote parental involvement
• Regard quality public education as essential
• Honor universal human rights
• Contribute to the common good of our community
• Hold high expectations for ALL

PARAMETERS/DECISION MAKING CRITERIA
• Educationally Sound
• Philosophically Based
• Fiscally Responsible

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES
• Improve Student Achievement
• Ensure Quality Personnel
• Provide A Risk Free Learning Environment
• Create Financial Stability
• Increase The Effectiveness Of Educational Programs

STRATEGIC ACTIONS
• Define and Communicate Priorities
• Establish Curricula
• Improve All Instructional Delivery
• Establish Monitoring Systems
• Develop Leaders

ANNUAL GOALS 2007-2010
• To narrow the achievement gap and improve the graduation rate by
creating a high performance learning culture in all schools and sites
• To increase rigor and academic achievement in Reading/Language Arts, Mathematics and Science in PreK-12
• To ensure quality personnel in all positions
• To ensure fiscal responsibility in order to maintain safe and healthy learning environments that support academic programs, resources and services

“The School Cannot Live Apart From The Community”

Cerebration said...

And this went out from the board in May of 2010

To: DeKalb County Parents and Members of the Public
From: Board of Education
Interim Superintendent
Subject: Communications ‐ Recent News
Date: May 27, 2010

The DeKalb County District Attorney notified the Board of Education on May 26, 2010, that
former Superintendent Crawford Lewis, Patricia A. Reid, the former Chief Operations Officer,
and Cointa Moody, Executive Administrative Assistant to Ms. Reid, had been indicted on
criminal charges. The DeKalb County Board of Education takes these charges very seriously,
and will continue to fully cooperate with legal authorities as this process moves forward.
Dr. Lewis’ last day of employment with the school system was April 16, 2010. As of July 1, 2010,
Ms. Reid will not be returning to the DeKalb County School System. The employment status of
Ms. Moody is being reviewed by the Interim Superintendent and the Board of Education. The
school system will continue to cooperate with legal authorities, to await the outcome of the
judicial process, and to respect the rights of the accused.

As parents in our school system and members of the public, you deserve to learn of major developments affecting the DeKalb County School District from the DeKalb County School System. Therefore, it is our intent to communicate and keep you apprised of major developments as appropriate and in a timely manner.

We are committed to remaining focused on the important job of educating the children of DeKalb County and to performing our work with the highest ethical and professional standards. We know that you, our stakeholders, deserve and will accept nothing less.

In less than eight weeks, we will open our doors and accept nearly 100,000 precious children into our schools. We don’t take that civic responsibility or parental trust lightly, but we need your support and involvement in order to be most effective; so that together we will provide our students with the best education possible.

“The School Cannot Live Apart From The Community”
www.dekalb.k12.ga.us

resident2012 said...

I just wish that DCSS and all other systems would stop using the term stakeholder. It's an empty term that means whatever you want it to mean. To me Stake Holder sounds like someone who's assisting a vampire killer. Tax payers, residents, voters and parents are far better terms and actually have some real meaning. Please stop hiding behind the useless gibberish.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Anon 11:51. The "palace" people who were in charge during the dramatic drop in test scores are still in charge. The only change I can see coming is to put more work on the backs of the teachers so that we can continue to be the scapegoats. A new and fresh perspective is needed at the top ASAP.

Anonymous said...

We tell the Board to be professional and protect the Supt. applicants privacy and when they do we complain thhat nothing is leaking. Some folk just can't be pleased. I am a blogger and I know we are definately in the minority and do not represent the feelings of most citizens. Otherwise, they would be complaining.

Ella Smith said...

DeKalb needs new leadership at the county office. I could not agree more.

Dr. Tyson has done a great job but it is time for a permanent replacement.

I would not be shocked if an ex-board chairman becomes the next school superintendent. I think that might be a good move, except he is a republican and the members on the board who are not a part of that party will never vote for him. However, there are 5 republicans on the school board now so they could move forward.

Cerebration said...

So nice to have you back, Ella!

Everyone - tune in to the board meeting tomorrow on Comcast 24 or live on the DCSS website at 6 pm - or attend in person -

DeKalb school board meets Monday

By Jaime Sarrio
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The DeKalb school board will meet Monday at 3 p.m. for an executive session related to personnel matters, and at 6 p.m. for the work session and business meeting. Both meetings will be held at the district's headquarters, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard Stone Mountain, 30083. Information: www.dekalb.k12.ga.us

Anon said...

I don't think we are frustrated that there are no leaks. I think many of us are amazed and disappointed at what a train wreck of a process this has been.

It is unbelievable how poorly the search has been handled. It is the Board's main responsibility and they have more than blown it.

I don't think Bryant will get the job. Trust me when I say, they all aren't really keeping their mouths shut.

Anonymous said...

All of the Board is NOT keeping their mouth shut. Zepora knows way too much for someone no longer on the Board so someone is feeding her info. The top priority of most, not all, but most of them is to keep Tyson in that job. That is not acceptable. I agree it is way past time to get rid of Beasley, Berry, Moseley and the rest but this won't happen until we get a Superintendent who will stand up to the Board.

resident2012 said...

No corporation would allow a department with such poor results to continue under the same leadership. C&I has witnessed epic failure. Tyson and the board need to admit that the current leadership of that department is failing in it's mission and clean house. No excuses should start at the top.

Cerebration said...

On that subject, the AJC had an interesting article yesterday asking just that question of a variety of business leaders and Ron Clark:

A business approach to fixing the APS system

One of those interviewed was David Moody, who used to sit on our SPLOST oversight committee.

C. David Moody Jr., CEO of C.D. Moody, Construction Co. Inc.

The first thing I would do is take the report and information gathered and go off to my favorite place in nature and review it, then think and pray for wisdom and guidance. Next, I would talk with other leaders that have successfully navigated a crisis in their company for additional ideas to have a successful turnaround.

Then I would meet with the entire staff that was not implicated in the event and get their ideas and opportunity to vent and express anything needed for them to start their healing. I would assure them that together we can turn the system around and make this the best system in the nation.

I would then meet with students, parents, business leaders, city leaders and all stakeholders to get their ideas, buy in, and ask for their help and assure them that together with hard work we can turn around the system. I would ask that they never give up hope or lose faith. We would work together to make sure the kids affected were helped until they were up to a level that would help them succeed in school and life.

I would make sure all of the staff implicated would have their fair and due process as required by their contract and the law, and those found guilty would be removed from the system.

My team and I would complete our plan and start the turnaround process with regular scheduled updates on success and never look back or dwell on the past.

We would focus on the kids and building a great system. We would find a way to heal and smile again and enjoy our passion for educating children.

Cerebration said...

And here's Ron Clark's response (think he would be our superintendent?!!)

Ron Clark, Founder of Ron Clark Academy; author of “The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck — 101 Extraordinary Solutions For Parents and Teachers”

There are a lot of outstanding and dedicated educators in the APS system who earned their scores and who are professional, trustworthy and phenomenal at what they do. In my first few weeks I would meet with every one of them to let them know how I appreciate and value their commitment as professionals. I would fire them up and hopefully renew any sparks that could have been recently diminished.

I would stress what I value from members of my team: excellence with integrity, support of each other, parent involvement based on trust, and a dedication to doing whatever it takes to help children succeed. All of this, I would explain, must be done in a school culture that cultivates the feeling of family.

Most importantly, I would tell every staff member in the APS that they are to avoid mentioning test scores. They are not to say, “We need to learn this because it might be on the test.” And they are not to tell children that the reason they need to work hard is because they want to score highly on an end-of-year exam.

I would stress the importance of teaching kids to have a love of learning that will last a lifetime. We must have high standards and make sure that our students are prepared for any test that comes their way. But we have to educate them in a way that is exciting, hands-on and meaningful. Achieve that and the road to high test scores becomes a much easier path.

● Long term: I would encourage principals to place any educator who isn’t performing at high levels on a professional development plan. I would ask for documentation of the educators’ efforts. I would strongly suggest that the ones who did not show marked improvement be dismissed.

I would meet with principals throughout the school year in order to make sure they are instilling a climate and culture of passion, high expectations and mutual respect. I would insist they reach out to the families to build bonds, visit homes and invite them into the school. Teachers would need to contact parents with positive news; respond within 24 hours to emails and phone calls; invite parents into their classrooms to learn what is being taught; and, first and foremost, learn their names. Learning someone’s name is the key to building a relationship.

Principals who weren’t on board with the vision would be encouraged to make a change within themselves or be prepared to make a change of occupation. Finally, I would make high-quality professional development for every educator a top priority.

Ella Smith said...

The board will never get a leader that all of them agree on.

But it is time to get a new superintendent.

I like Ms. Tyson. She has done an excellent job, but if we are going toward new leadership it is time to go in that direction.

It would appear that the school system is not making academic progress for the students who need it the most.

Are they even using the data system that all teachers were suppose to us? Are they doing the checkpoint testing to see what needs to be re-taught to the students? Are teachers meeting who teach the same subject and comparing test scores. They all need to give the same tests in order to do this. Are these teachers planning together and looking at what works and what does not work. Testing should be used to determine this in order to move forward.

Teachers can no longer go into the classroom and do what they want. They must do what works. Many teachers do not like not being able to go into the classroom and do things the way they want but the time has come for change. Teamwork is the way things are done in many successful school districts. DeKalb needs to look at the new trends and stop doing things the same old way. It is not working.

Kim Gokce said...

Ron Clark does seem to have the fundamentals mastered!

The distinction between what Mr. Clark offered and what we are most often offered is this ... everyone (mostly) agrees on the objectives but he is describing actionable plans. So much of what we hear in public education is simply a bromide with no plan of action to back it up.

He is talking about actually managing while we hear little about that - instead we hear about initiatives and goals. He is talking about people like principals and teachers and how to recruit, motivate, develop and retain the best and how to identify, mitigate and purge the worst.

Hiring and managing the Superintendent is the Board's job. Managing people is the Superintendent's job. Neither has done a stellar job in too many years in DeKalb. Test scores are not the problem but just one symptom of poor management ...

Anonymous said...

@ Ella

"Are they even using the data system that all teachers were suppose to us? Are they doing the checkpoint testing to see what needs to be re-taught to the students?"

You work in Fulton County, a system that provides easy access to benchmark testing. That is not the case in DCSS.

Until students have adequate access to computers to take the benchmark tests, the programming is up and working that delivers the results to the teacher's desktop, and the software that allows teachers the ability to analyze the assessments is in place, efficient utilization of student data cannot happen. In addition, the benchmark tests created by Central Office personnel often have flaws that preclude an accurate picture of student strengths and weaknesses when assessing student achievement objectives.

MIS and Central Office personnel need to have a dialogue with content area teachers to see what is an easy way to capture the data, what is meaningful data to them, and how and in what time frame would they like the data delivered. After all, they are the end users.

MIS and Central Office personnel need to ensure benchmark testing is not burdensome to students and teachers, and that the real time data is delivered in a timely and efficient manner to the personnel who can use it for student progress. That's not happening now even after the $11,000,000 spent for eSis and Schoolnet specifically for this purpose and the tens of millions spent on student computers.

Jim Cramer said...

I prefer Matt Damon to anything else I've read;

"I flew overnight from Vancouver to be with you today. I landed in New York a few hours ago and caught a flight down here because I needed to tell you all in person that I think you’re awesome.
I was raised by a teacher. My mother is a professor of early childhood education. And from the time I went to kindergarten through my senior year in high school, I went to public schools. I wouldn’t trade that education and experience for anything.
I had incredible teachers. As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself — my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity — all come from how I was parented and taught.
And none of these qualities that I’ve just mentioned — none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success — none of these qualities that make me who I am ... can be tested.
I said before that I had incredible teachers. And that’s true. But it’s more than that. My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me. Their time wasn’t taken up with a bunch of test prep — this silly drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn’t promote real learning. No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle. They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to best make the lessons resonate with each of us. They were empowered to unlock our potential. They were allowed to be teachers.
Now don’t get me wrong. I did have a brush with standardized tests at one point. I remember because my mom went to the principal’s office and said, ‘My kid ain’t taking that. It’s stupid, it won’t tell you anything and it’ll just make him nervous.’ That was in the ’70s when you could talk like that.
I shudder to think that these tests are being used today to control where funding goes.
I don’t know where I would be today if my teachers’ job security was based on how I performed on some standardized test. If their very survival as teachers was based on whether I actually fell in love with the process of learning but rather if I could fill in the right bubble on a test. If they had to spend most of their time desperately drilling us and less time encouraging creativity and original ideas; less time knowing who we were, seeing our strengths and helping us realize our talents.
I honestly don’t know where I’d be today if that was the type of education I had. I sure as hell wouldn’t be here. I do know that.
This has been a horrible decade for teachers. I can’t imagine how demoralized you must feel. But I came here today to deliver an important message to you: As I get older, I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up. And I’m not alone. There are millions of people just like me.
So the next time you’re feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated, or at the end of your rope; the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called “overpaid;” the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy that’s been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything. ... Please know that there are millions of us behind you. You have an army of regular people standing right behind you, and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt. We love you, we thank you and we will always have your back."

A Blue State of Mind said...

'Bout time in the afternoon for another leak to spring!

We're waiting, Zepora.

Anonymous said...

I like the part about telling teachers to stow it when it comes to talking about learning it for the test. Refering to a child's requirements as simply "what's on the test" is like saying we are just spinning our wheels here. No reason really to learn it except is on the test.

Teachers should stop talking about crct. However, every scap of paper that comes home, every pretest,post test, quiz and chapter test is done in bubble format. End of the unit tests at my dd school is spelled out "CRCT Format". It is a constant reminder.

For those of you who say they should bubble in cuz its a skill they need for the crct, why aren't they doing better then.