Thursday, September 15, 2011

A good start by Dr. Atkinson

Dear DeKalb Parents, Staff, Students, and Community Members:

Today begins a new chapter in the history of the DeKalb County School District (DCSD), and it is a privilege for me to be part of the legacy. I am honored the Board of Education has entrusted me to focus our District’s efforts on student success, and I am confident that by working together we can reach our goal.

In the next few days, I will provide the Board with a 90-day transition plan to fully assess the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities of the District. I will use those first 90 days to listen and learn from the community, parents, teachers and principals.

My plan is to visit each school and speak with each principal. I plan to meet with the civic community and to gain their support for a comprehensive plan that will put Students First. I plan to meet with parents, students, teachers, parent-teacher organizations, representatives of teachers’ groups, board members, elected officials, and key business leaders. The message will be the same everywhere. If we band together, keep our eyes on the goal, and put Students First, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.

In the first 90 days, a complete assessment of the senior instructional team will be conducted to help uncover ways to begin working immediately to enhance student success. A complete assessment of our financial priorities will be conducted with a focus on shifting more of our resources to the schools and classrooms. More ways will be learned to enhance instructional capacity, operational processes, personnel quality, and financial priorities of the District.

The challenges are great, but I firmly believe that by working together and putting Students First, we can reach our goal of building a world-class school district. With the support of the community, parents and the Board of Education, we will be the catalyst for improving the academic skills and lifetime opportunities of our students.

The citizens of DeKalb County expect quality education, and the children of DCSD deserve nothing less. I am committed to educational excellence and ask that you join me in achieving this goal throughout DCSD.

Sincerely,


Cheryl L. H. Atkinson, Ed. D.
Superintendent

131 comments:

Cerebration said...

Good letter -- I really like it.

No Duh said...

"I will use those first 90 days to listen and learn from the community, parents, teachers and principals."

She plans to issue a "transition" plan in the next few days. It will be interesting to see what she plans to "transition" before she has "listened and learned" from the stakeholders.

Maybe the "transition plan" is a way to put senior staff on notice that they are about to be assessed, and she will create an Operational Plan based on what she hears and learns from "community, parents, teachers and principals."

Don't like that she put community first in that list and didn't include students, but not going to pick at nits until I see how she handles the ELPC meeting next week.

Welcome aboard Dr. Atkinson!

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why Students First is capitalized. Is she talking about Michelle Rhee's organization? This doesn't make sense to me, and question her letter and her true intentions.

JT Carlton said...

This letter was sent to all DeKalb employees today on our message server. She has also sent out a detailed description later on this afternoon. (I forwarded the DCSS copy to reparteeforfun@gmail.com- hopefully we will see it up on here soon!)

Ella Smith said...

The following statements make me happy and hopeful for change:

"A complete assessment of our financial priorities will be conducted with a focus on shifting more of our resources to the schools and classrooms. More ways will be learned to enhance instructional capacity, operational processes, personnel quality, and financial priorities of the District."

I feel strongly this needs to be done. Too much money is spend on personnel and this money is not getting into the classroom. Some administrative positions need to go and excess spending needs to go and more funds should be available to enhance learning in the classroom.

As a teacher I continue to be frustrated that so much money is spent and then I continue to have to go out and buy simple supplies like markers, big rolls of paper, files, etc. in order to change the way I teach to meet the needs of my students to ensure learning occurs.

As teachers we do not just stand and lecture anymore or give out assignments in books for students to complete. We do so much more cooperative learning (group learning activities), etc. However, this takes supplies that are not always provided to us.

Many students today have no study skills and many do not have the support at home they usually need to ensure academics are the top priority. Teachers today have to fill in the gaps and do more activities to make sure students learn the standards. (more repetition) It does not matter where the blame falls. Teachers have no control of what go on when students are not in the classroom. However, we are responsible to make sure all students are learning the standards. It does not matter who they are. At the end of the day the responsibility of educating the students falls on the school system and teachers.

Teachers need the supplies to enhance learning to make sure this is happening. I sincerly hope Dr. Atkinson can make some changes in this way. I remember how horrible it was when I taught in DeKalb County several years ago. It was not a good situation then.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Atkinson needs to look at the Title 1 presentation on the Dekalb website. According to the site the total budget is 18,000,000 from the federal government. Sorry to say, 3.8 million dollars is used for the instructional coaches.

Cerebration said...

Thanks JT. Below is the detailed plan - I'll post it in sections. It was 5 pages long!

SUPERINTENDENT’S 90-DAY ENTRY PLAN
Immediate Focus

The purpose of this plan is to establish a set of activities that will fully immerse Dr. Cheryl L. H. Atkinson in the workings of the DeKalb County School District, the communities and external structures that provide support. All executive leadership transition is critical, and it is particularly true in this case where student achievement has decreased and other critical issues have recently been exposed that require urgent action. These activities are designed to enable the new Superintendent to gather information quickly about the community and the organization. This time also presents an opportunity for the development and communication of the message and purpose of the new Superintendent’s administration.

To that end, the Superintendent must:

􀂾 Establish a strong community presence promptly
􀂾 Assess the organization’s strengths and weaknesses
􀂾 Identify critical issues facing the District
􀂾 Correct weaknesses and build on strengths
􀂾 Create a network of contacts and resources
􀂾 Engage stakeholders in mutual transformation and accountability

There are five guiding principles that must be followed in decision-making. The first and most important principle is Students First. Student achievement is our business and must be the central theme in all initiatives. A standard belief that must exist in every school is that parents are our partners. It is our responsibility to include and value their input into their children’s education and school. Victory is in the classroom; daily teaching and learning is where the battle for improvement in student achievement is fought. Keys to success are leadership and accountability; therefore, each school and department must have a strong leader. It takes the entire community to ensure the success of the District, and we must tap into the knowledge, skills, and support they can offer to assist in providing a quality education for all students.

Cerebration said...

The overall objective of the entry plan is to listen, learn, and lead. The entry plan has three distinct phases which encompasses business work days:

Phase I: Pre-Entry (9 days) September 1 – September 14
􀂾 Begin Personnel Audit (Central Office Staff)
Phase II: Entry (50 days) September 15 – November 23
􀂾 Continue Personnel Audit
􀂾 Begin Program Audits (Divisions/Departments)
Phase III: Development of Action Plan (31 days) November 28 – January 24
􀂾 Develop Excellence for Education Plan
The final phase of the entry plan is to develop and present to the Board of Education and community the Excellence for Education Plan which will be the explicit and tactical strategy to improve the achievement of all students, internal operations, reporting, and accountability systems. The Excellence for Education Plan will also serve to actualize and prioritize the levers necessary to deliver a balanced scorecard and an aligned management system that reiterates our core values and mission. The Excellence for Education Plan will become an essential and critical guiding document for continuous improvement.

Listening and learning sessions will dominate the early stages of Phases I and II. These sessions will consist of numerous meetings with constituent groups, internal leadership groups, and direct reports, as well as external leaders and members of business, service, not for profit, philanthropic, political, and community organizations of all kind.
It should be noted that the work of entry occurs simultaneously with the responsibility for operations of the District. The obvious duties of day-to-day operations and problem solving are addressed while entry takes place.

The set of activities and their primary purpose are as follows:

District/Site Tour

Purpose: To understand the District’s geographic size and survey distances.
• Visit each school in the District
• Hold principal “one-on-one” academic conferences
• Host “fire-side chats” with teachers and school-based staff for personal communication about critical issues facing our organization
• Meet with each Area Assistant Superintendent to discuss the results of each school performance
• Ride school bus routes throughout the District

Cerebration said...

Board of Education

Purpose: To establish strong team-oriented working relationships with each individual board member and the Board as a whole.

• Schedule meeting with Board Chair to discuss a framework, dates, and format for two Board retreats
• Secure a facilitator, schedule and conduct retreats
• Establish regular meeting times with the Board Chair and Vice Chair for reviewing Board agendas, etc.
• Schedule an individual meeting with each Board Member
• Establish regular communication systems with the Board

Cerebration said...

Parents & Community Leadership

Purpose: To meet with parents and community members to establish good will, build support, and establish communication channels.

• Schedule and hold parent round table meetings around the county
• Identify and schedule community leaders, professional organizations and affiliations for an initial listening and learning session, and establish a routine communication protocol with these groups
• Schedule meetings with the established parent organizations for initial listening and learning sessions
• Schedule meetings with the established student leadership organizations for initial listening and learning sessions

Cerebration said...

Political Leadership

Purpose: To meet local and state elected officials and establish means for consistent communication.

• Meet with the CEO, County Commissioners, Mayors, Legislative Delegation, other government officials to establish regular meetings and an acceptable format for ongoing communication regarding district’s needs; establish accountability protocols and work plans for mutually agreed upon areas of interest
• Meet with the State Superintendent and other appropriate GADOE staff
• Meet with the Chamber of Commerce, business partners, local colleges/university presidents, faith-based, civic, community, and professional education organizations
• Meet with the District’s legal counsel and legislative liaisons to review legislative action efforts at the local, state, and national level

Media

Purpose: To clearly articulate the vision early so that the public, press, and educational community know what to expect and to demonstrate seriousness of purpose to transform DeKalb Schools into a world-class education enterprise.

• Hold meetings with the media and offer to meet with the editorial boards of all local media partners to establish routine communication and meeting protocols
• Be accessible, a good listener and build relationships of trust
• Secure an external organization to conduct a communications audit
• Ensure that the Media understands they are welcome and that mutual communication and reporting is open
• Increase media exposure that emphasizes the District’s strengths through invites to key significant events

Cerebration said...

District Organization Structure

Purpose: To determine the District’s direction for division, department, and direct reports within the organization to ensure a student achievement focused agenda.

• Request resumes, job descriptions, and list of major projects from all departments and central office personnel during pre-entry
• Meet with Senior Staff and Cabinet to establish clear understanding of roles, responsibilities, expectations, accountability, and initiate program and personnel quality performance reviews
• Identify key staff to assist with the transition within the organization and hire critical new team members to join Executive and Senior Staff
• Meet with all division heads to assess district and departmental capacity for effectiveness and efficiency of services:

Curriculum & Instruction
Human Resources
School Operations
Student Support Services Transportation
Capital Development
Finance
Communications
Facilities & Maintenance
Information Technology

• Review, assess, and reorganize the central organizational structure to enhance effectiveness and maximize service delivery to the school site
• Review all accreditation reports and commissioned studies by outside agencies
• Review funding streams supporting each area of district operations and redirect as appropriate to enhance service delivery at the school site

Cerebration said...

CULMINATION OF THE PLAN

Upon successful completion of the activities in this plan, the Superintendent will report to the Board of Education a summary outlining findings and proposed plans at the second Board-Superintendent retreat in January. This will enable the Board-Superintendent team to create, revise, and/or adjust the direction of the District and modify the individual and District goals in the Superintendent’s evaluation.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting that in its entirety, Cere. That all sounds well-thought out and, frankly, more comprehensive -- both short- and long-term -- than I expected.

Here's to hoping we're embarking on a new, exciting path to academic success for all.

Oh, and to Anon at 6:33, I wouldn't fret about a tag or brand of "Students First." That's to be expected in this age -- I mean, GE has its Six Sigma. So many companies and organizations do the same thing to plant a flag in the organization's timeline and/or development in order to mark a new effort or direction.

Passionate... said...

Students First-yea! Finally-someone who will listen and act. Looking forward to the actions!

Anonymous said...

I certainly hope visiting EVERY school will include the county charter schools--for a change!

Cerebration said...

Actually, I hope she visits the International Community School and then the recently closed Medlock school and decides to make it the new home for ICS. I hope she visits the closed Heritage School and decides to sell it to the county for a park. I hope she visits all of the closed and crumbling properties owned by DCSS scattered about the county causing blight.

Another S. DeKalb Parent said...

It will be a very full 90 days. I hope she has an excellent planner/assistant to ensure her success. There were a few things I was most excited about:

- Personnel audit
- Visiting each school (I agree, charters and empty schools as well)
- Review of funding streams

I do wonder what a "communications audit" would entail (in the Media section).

As an aside, the new banner stating that "It's a new day in DeKalb!" that pops up when you click the link to the Superintendent's plan on the DCSS webpage makes me feel like the technology people are getting better.

Anonymous said...

Rumor is that some changes have already occurred. Any one have specifics?

Anonymous said...

I, and many teachers I know, remain realistic skeptics until these mere words become action. I'm not holding my breath.

Again, the Board and its press lackeys can talk a good game, but if you're on the inside looking out for the student sitting in your classroom, you know what deep change must come.

I'm still very much among the beleaguered doubters.

DCSS Teacher said...

I had the same reaction as Anonymous @6:33. Is it good scholarship when someone uses a branded name ("Students First") to promote his or her own product? In the version of the email that we received today, "Students First" was italicized. StudentsFirst is the name of the organization that Michelle Rhee founded: its website is http://www.studentsfirst.org/.

Quoting without attribution? There's a not-very-nice name for it, but even if it's not plagiarism, her choice of words doesn't show much originality. And although I like Michelle Rhee, there are plenty of teachers and administrators who don't. Dr. Atkinson probably wouldn't want to come in promising to be "the next Michelle Rhee."

And why, WHY, is she planning to visit every school? Even at two each day, she'd be doing nothing else for the first two-three months. She doesn't need to lay eyes on every school to get an idea of what needs changing...theoretically, Dr. Atkinson has experience turning around school districts, so she should be able to tell a lot from looking at data, performance evaluations, and test scores. Visiting a school just tests how effective the principal is in forcing everyone to act nice. We well remember the days of Dr. Brown's and Dr. Lewis's resolutions to visit "every school."

Please, no more bull@#$%!

Anonymous said...

Amen DCSS Teacher! G-d bless our children, as they are going to need all the blessings that they can get.

I've taught in 2 DCSS schools and been to 2 others, that are the ones in my district, and shoot I can tell you what needs to be done in the district. It doesn't take a PhD to figure it out. Look at the scores, the amount of money being spent, where it's being spent, etc. We're not talking rocket science.

Anonymous said...

If we are to focus resources and prioritize instruction, then SPLOST discussions should be put on hold. SPLOST immdiately puts focus back on capital and costruction...and I promise will dominate the day.

Syncopated pickle said...

Rumor has it that the long lost salary survey is hidden in the catacombs of one of the closed schools.

Fred said...

I'll post below in a different blog.

The Title 1 presentation given at the 9/12 Board meeting is online and accessible from the main school system webpage. Please take a look at it as it provides information that has been audited regarding allocations to each funding category along with whether it is a mandate. I believe many will be surprised when they look at this presentation on where this money goes.

Leo said...

I think this woman's heart is in the right place. I just hope that she doesn't do all of this hard work, come up with what might actually be a worthwhile plan and have it shot down during the Culmination of The Plan phase:

Upon successful completion of the activities in this plan, the Superintendent will report to the Board of Education a summary outlining findings and proposed plans at the second Board-Superintendent retreat in January. This will enable the Board-Superintendent team to create, revise, and/or adjust the direction of the District and modify the individual and District goals in the Superintendent’s evaluation.

This just sounds like an opportunity for the Board to ensure that the new super doesn't make any changes. Hopefully she has the fortitude to stand up to these guys (and gals).

Anonymous said...

Someone with an understanding of Title ! programs, please look into this: Inside infor from DCSS Finance Division indicates that Title 1/Crawford's galpal failed to spend necessary amounts of fed. $--and have been in a spending frenzy the past two weeks to make amends. To the tune of just over $2 million! ORR NOW!

Anonymous said...

I'm shocked at how little of the Title 1 funds go to the schools.

dundevil said...

Could someone please explain this to me. The DCSS Title I presentation contains the following

"Rubric is used to determine the impact on student achievement"

dictionary definition

ru·bric
   [roo-brik] Show IPA
noun
1.a title, heading, direction, or the like, in a manuscript, book, statute, etc., written or printed in red or otherwise distinguished from the rest of the text.
2. a direction for the conduct of divine service or the administration of the sacraments, inserted in liturgical books.
3. any established mode of conduct or procedure; protocol.
4. an explanatory comment; gloss.
5. a class or category

Does the school system have some sort of protocol against which achievement is measured? Maybe I just do not understand government language.

There was no money in the Title I program for teaching how to tie shoelaces or to brush teeth. I won't get into bathroom protocol. The federal government is really falling down on the job.

The day of parental and personal responsibility giving rise to individuality, and learning by making mistakes is gone. No more risk-taking. Big Brother knows how everyone public-school student, perhaps everyone, should lead their lives.

But maybe there is hope. On C-SPAN this morning I watched presentation of a Congressional Medal of Honor to a 21-year-old Marine, now 23 years old, who made five trips through heavy enemy fire in Afghanistan to rescue 36 people.
So maybe a few did slip through the mediocrity net.

Anonymous said...

As a veteran DCSS teacher, I, as always, will hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Overall, I liked the tone of the letter and the depth of her entry plan. The only thing that bothered me about the letter was the capitalization of "District." It reminds me of the young adult dystopian novel The Hunger Games. Scary!

Anonymous said...

Worry not, anon @ 8:09, that is standard practice (and I assume proper grammar, but I'm not pulling out Strunk & White to cite the page at the moment) to shorten a proper noun to the one-word, capitalized, generic organizational name, so long as the reference is to the specific entity previously identified. For example, when you refer to the DeKalb County Board of Education, it is perfectly acceptable to thereafter refer to "the Board," but not correct to refer to "the board." Similarly, one may refer to the Georgia Court of Appeals, and thereafter use the term "the Court."

That type of usage is what I saw in the document Cerebration posted. The early reference is to the "DeKalb County School District," and later references are to "the District." What stood out to me immediately was the attention to detail in breaking from the past -- notice that, at least in recent years, the entity has been referred to as the "DeKalb County School System," or "DCSS." I noticed -- what I expect was deliberate -- her use of "DeKalb County School District" and "the District," instead of "DCSS" or "the System."

Just my nerdly two cents, as I tend to zero in on word choice and am a big dork about rules (well, at least the rules I know -- the difference between "lie" and "lay" can't stick with me no matter what I try! :-)

Since you are a veteran teacher, let me just way, you absolutely rock! If there's anything we can do on a blog to lessen your stress or worry (even if it's as lame as saying, "District" is perfectly fine), I want to do it, because teachers are hands-down phenomenal. Period! Thanks for all that you do, really.

Anonymous said...

If Atkinson is re-branding DeKalb Schools from "System" to "District" she should have alerted the webmaster. She'll need to repaint the buses, reprint the letterhead, the magnet brochures - pretty much every single document heretofore produced by the DeKalb "District" because those - as you can see on just about every page of the website - say "System." For me, this signals a lack of thoroughness and due diligence: renaming an organization or institution is a very big deal.

Anon said...

I hope that the BOE is able to allow her the opportunity to "put students first." She may have the best of intentions. She may be able to develop an incredible plan of action that is precisely what the students need. But so long as the BOE has the fingers in the mix and want to protect their 'friends and family' -- I'm afraid that Dr. A's hands are going to be tied and she won't be allowed to do that which she may really set out out to do. I hope I'm wrong... Also, anyone really wanting Title I answers and those with legitimate questions about Title I funding and how the program works and with what is really happening within DCSS should contact Dr. Speaks as she really does have an expertise on this issue.

Daniel said...

Just one thing that Dr. Atkinson needs to remember, we cannot possibly put students first if we keep putting the teachers and other school-based employees last.

Anonymous said...

If Dr. Atkinson even remotely mentions anything tied to Michelle Rhee, she's on the right track. During her first 90 days, I hope she knows when she's hearing BS. If you clean the mess up first, i.e., central office and principals, she'll see how much easier her job will be. You have people earning 6 figure incomes who are not worth it. Dr. Atkinson should just do random visits without any school knowing when she's going to show up. Don't say anything...just walk in and look around...sit in a few classrooms and meetings, then visit the principal on the backend. That way she won't be taken hook, line, and sinker. Dr. Atkinson, you have to think through this one carefully. On the issue of personnel quality. How are you going to measure math or science teachers to social studies teachers? Math and science are much more difficult to teach, not to mention looking at the CRCT scores. I walk by a social studies classroom with the lights off most times and students are not being taught anything but how to regurgitate information. Other times they're in the library, and the teacher is not showing nor teaching them how to do research. Be aware of this. SPECIALIZATION is one of the variables to DCSS success.

Daniel said...

Anon 11:46 - I take great offence to the fact that you seem to think there is little value to the social studies. There is much more to social studies than regurgitation. Math and science could be accused of also being regurgitation subjects. When I was in elementary school, I had to regurgitate the multiplication tables (a fact that many people seem to think we need students to still be able to do). Social studies is about building the citizens who will take us into the future. I honestly feel our Republic is at a crossroads as it is and without students being able to understand where we have come from and where we are going, I don't like our prospects. I will also say that I find our students coming to my social studies class woefully unprepared - and not at the fault of their previous teachers - but more so at the entitlement mentality that many of our students seem to have. I blame a large part of that on NCLB. We are constantly being told we have to give extra chances for students to get an assignment right (or even just get an assignment in). If a student isn't prepared to move on, I think that student shouldn't move on, but thanks to NCLB mandates, a lot of times they are because heaven forbid too many students don't graduate. The school must just be doing something wrong. I had a student last semester not graduate in part because he failed my class. He did not show effort, he did not show mastery. Should I have passed him on so our graduation rate didn't take a hit?

I'll end my rant here, but to insult the social studies is just ignorant. Maybe, however, the reason the state only requires 3 years of social studies to graduate is the people making policy are afraid that intelligent citizens may vote them out of office.

Anonymous said...

Daniel - Anon's comments were observational. Social Studies are not taken seriously in this school system. I resonate with Anon's description of the lights off in the classroom and a concern that nothing valid is actually being taught. I have lived this scenario. GA. History is fascinating and deeply entwined with the founding of the country and our complicated racial history. Instead, my kid's 8th grade history book went in to hideous detail about the rock formations in GA and how old the earth was. That's nice, but it lost the kids from the outset. Thank you for being a prepared teacher of civics to help our young people understand their role in our society. I am grateful to you for taking it seriously. I'm sure you - even more than I - wish it were given the respect it deserves by administrators who only look at Math and Reading results vis a vis he CRCT.

Anonymous said...

RE: September 17, 2011 1:40 PM

I apologize. It was not intended to come across that way, but I see how you got that perception after reading my post. I guess I got caught up into the CRCT scores per se. There is this perception at my school (middle), that I may not be doing my job as well as say compared to some other teachers. Let's just say that they teach social studies. I am wrong for labeling social studies teachers. I did not handle that very well. I do not want to come across as if social studies is NOT important. Of course it is! But don't expect the intellectual citizen you're talking about to come out of public schools. They're being TRAINED to think and act a certain way according to public policy--NOT EDUCATED. Happy Constitution Day! I am genuinely sorry.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous, September 15, 2011, 10:27 PM

RE: What needs to be done in DCSS ...
"It doesn't take a Ph.D. to figure it out."

You're right. Maybe DCSS is in luck. Atkinson does not have a Ph.D. Now if she can just get our name right.

Anonymous said...

Atkinson needs to do something immediately to shore up the morale of teachers....like bringing back the system-funded annuity in lieu of Social Security. For over two years now, while other teachers in other systems in GA have been paying into Social Security we have nothing but teacher's retirement.

Those other teachers in other systems will have both Social Security and teacher retirement.

Our future retirement income potential has been ruined by DCSS (the "System") and its financial shenanigans.

Anonymous said...

@Anon September 17, 2011 11:46 AM

I know you didn't mention Michelle Rhee in a serious conversation?

Do some research of your own, please.

Unlike most individuals, I read newspapers in other states and cities and she is the Beverly Hall of D.C.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 5:15PM. and just where is the money supposed to come from to pay for this? Raise taxes at the county level to pay for the Social Security and raise taxes at the state level to pay for the TRS? Maybe the new cell towers are really money trees from which hundred dollar bills will be falling.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 5:38

The money is there. It is being redirected from the classroom to non-teaching admin and support positions - $10,000,000 for Instructional Coaches, $8,000,000 for America's Choice, $7,000,000 for Fernbank Scince Center (more admin than support and no improvement in science scores), $12,000,000 for Security personnel, millions for non-teaching coordinators, directors and managers in the Office of School Improvement, tens of millions Information Systems personnel, etc. The list is staggering. There are tens of millions that could be redirected into classrooms without tax increases.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 5:38 - I'm not sure you understand the sordid story behind the Board's refusing to fund that annuity. DCSS teachers are now in a worse retirement situation than almost all other teachers in Georgia.

Tell that to someone applying for a job here.

5:38: Do some research on this blog about this clearly anti-teacher budgetary maneuver by the county! Ramona even once promised to give it back. She never did.

When you understand what we're talking about, then you can continue with your argument.

And to Dr. Atkinson, if you are reading this blog: Please put this towards the top of your to-do-immediately agenda!!!

Anonymous said...

@ Anon Sept 17 2:43pm

You hit the nail on the head. Parents, and most teachers don't realize that the children in our schools are NOT being educated, but indoctrinated into a way that the government wants them to think. Begin reading those that are talking out. Watch the documentary Indocrinated (take the religious spin out of and it's still the truth).

Teachers need to stop worrying about money for their retirement and start worrying about the quality of education, true thinking, and learning skills that they are honestly providing to the children. If teachers were honest with themselves, they would realize that they are being used by schools system and the government to dumb down the kids and make them know less and less.

I have spoken to elderly people in my life who have not graduated from high school, let a lone college. Most had a sixth or eighth grade education, who understood more about history, our world, mathematics, and were better read than those coming out of college and high school.

Is money being misspent, yes, but is it really the most important issue in education? Nope. What our kids are and are not learning is much more important, and as Anon. Sept 17 2:43 pm said, your kids are being trained not educated and until parents and education advocates wake up to this fact, change in education won't happen. The national standards are frightening for anyone who understands how they were written and come about.

Anon said...

time for vouchers....

Anonymous said...

Anon September 17, 2011 11:46 AM

We should Michele Rhee and others like to run Emory Hospital and Grady Hospital.

Based on the mortality and morbidity rate of their patients, she could fire any doctor whose patient did not make medical AYP-that is all Emory patients should live at least 5 years after their initial cancer diagnosis.

Anon, seriously, you were you born with a rational brain! Don't let the right-wing no substance debate cloud your beautiful mind!

No Duh said...

Off subject.

Anyone else notice the SouthPoint (I think that's the name) Church signs all over Tucker High School. This "church" is definitely using the THS parking lot, hard to say where the actual church is -- in the school??

Anyone in the loop?

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:23--I am both a dedicated educator AND an employee who has been swindled by my employer. I can give my full attention to properly educating my students and still hold my employer accountable for providing the benefits I am due.

Why is it that teachers who advocate for themselves are seen as uncaring or somehow off task? Don't other professionals continue to do their jobs while having reasonable discussions with their employers regarding wages and benefits?

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but one of Atkinson's priorities:

The AJC in its article about tax delinquencies owed by legislators mentions a tax lien against Ronald Ramsey's wife's day care business that provides pre-K. Ramsey is named as VP. Nowhere does the article mention Ramsey as a DCSS employee. His wife's biz, of which he is an officer, competes w/DCSS as a pre-K providor and for state money.

Here's the relevant part at http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-officials-past-due-1183242.html :

Taxes owed by the Kingdom Group, a Decatur child care business run by Doris V. Carrington-Ramsey, the wife of Sen. Ronald Ramsey, D-Lithonia, also were blamed on the economy.

The IRS filed $173,000 in liens against the center for unpaid taxes from 2007-2010. While owing the federal government, the Kingdom Group was getting money from the state for childcare services. The center received $278,122 in pre-k money from the state last year and has received about $850,000 in state money since 2006.

Sen. Ramsey lists himself as vice president and general counsel for the company, although his wife said he has not played an active role in the business since he took office in 2007.

“I am solely responsible for this tax matter which I hope to resolve in the near future,” she said, adding that lower enrollment in recent years has hurt the business. The Kingdom Group is making installment payments to the IRS to pay off the debt.

Anonymous said...

How dare Ramsey lecture teachers and staff on ethics at the beginning of every school year!!!!!!

Anon said...

Under a Supreme Court decision from many years ago, if public schools open their doors to any outside group, they are required to let churches/religious organization use their facilities as well. These churches are renting the facilities though, the money goes to the system not the individual school.

Open+Transparent said...

DCSS Internal Affairs Chief Ron Ramsey in the news again.

And in addition to his DCSS and state senator salaries, this is interesting: "The center received $278,122 in pre-k money from the state last year and has received about $850,000 in state money since 2006."

http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-officials-past-due-1183242.html

Taxes owed by the Kingdom Group, a Decatur child care business run by Doris V. Carrington-Ramsey, the wife of Sen. Ronald Ramsey, D-Lithonia, also were blamed on the economy.

The IRS filed $173,000 in liens against the center for unpaid taxes from 2007-2010. While owing the federal government, the Kingdom Group was getting money from the state for childcare services. The center received $278,122 in pre-k money from the state last year and has received about $850,000 in state money since 2006.

Sen. Ramsey lists himself as vice president and general counsel for the company, although his wife said he has not played an active role in the business since he took office in 2007.

“I am solely responsible for this tax matter which I hope to resolve in the near future,” she said, adding that lower enrollment in recent years has hurt the business. The Kingdom Group is making installment payments to the IRS to pay off the debt.


And maybe one day Ron Ramsey, his assistant but also receiving DCSS retirement pay Robert Tucker, and the rest of the Internal Affairs staff will finally address the issue of non-county residents attending DCSS schools. Other school systems are addressing it. But does DCSS look the other way because these students add to Title 1 funding?


http://www.ajc.com/news/fayette/fayette-schools-crack-down-1164339.html
Fayette schools crack down on stealth students
In an attempt to crack down on children being sneaked across county lines in search of better schools, Fayette County is charging $8,000 per child in back tuition of parents who falsely claim residency, Channel 2 Action News reports.

Open+Transparent said...

Fulton County address it, why can't DeKalb?

"To deter unlawful enrollments, Fulton County schools require parents to submit a notarized affidavit of residence for each student. Proof of residency also is required for newly enrolled students, children entering the sixth or ninth grades and students who have moved since submitting their last affidavit."

Dekalbparent said...

It's quite possible that DCSS also requires the notarized proof (they used to do so if you did not produce a utility bill or other proff), but I would be they aren't following up on them - just taking them at face value.

When I worked for DCSS, this was indeed the case - they wouldn't even follow up on it when mail addressed to the parent at that address was returned for "no such address/addressee".

BhutrasGolly said...

To September 17, 2011 8:56 PM Blatant misinformation! Fernbank science center does not cost 7 million. Look at the budgets. The instuctional coaches salaries can not be redirected their salaries come out of money that is only available for teacher training. Look at the title I presentation on the DCSS website. Tile I expenditures have percentage set asides for parental involvement, transportation, and teacher training that can not legally be redirected to paying teachers.

Anonymous said...

@ Bhutras Golly
"To September 17, 2011 8:56 PM Blatant misinformation! Fernbank science center does not cost 7 million. Look at the budgets."

You're right. It's probably more than $7,000,000 a year to run the science center. All the while, $50,000 was allotted for supplies for the regular education schools for science supplies and equipment (around 50 cents a student for the entire year) and everyone wonders why our science achievement is so low.

To see where i got my figures, I looked at the 2010 state Salary and Travel audit. For 28 teachers and 36 admin and support personnel at Fernbank Science Center, the cost is around $4,000,000 a year. Add a 20% benefits figure of $800,000 and that's close to $5,000,000.

That leaves an approximation of $2,000,000 for:
A. Physical plant
E.g. light, heat, air conditioning, roofing, paint, repairs, water, lab equipment, telescope, science materials, technology upgrades (are you aware they have a technology lab?), etc. In other words - everything it takes to maintain acres and acres of trails and landscaping, and an old and energy inefficient building).
B. Transportation
Thousands of buses come every year to Fernbank bringing students to the science center. The cost to the school system is enormous as DCSS pays for these thousands of buses to come in some instances 30 to 35 miles roundtrip (4 miles per gallon of diesel fuel) and bus drivers are paid $13.50 per hour plus benefits. Bus drivers who bring students for 1 hour class are paid for the duration of the trip to, during and from. Calculate the thousands and thousands of miles of wear and tear, cost of diesel gas, and bus drivers who sit there being paid while the students are in the class.

On my next post, I'll list the personnel titles of Fernbank personnel and their salaries (benefit figures are not included).

Do you see where the $7,000,000 comes from now?

Anonymous said...

@ BhutrasGolly

Add this up for yourself.

Fernbank personnel titles and salary:
Teacher - Science $75,888
Teacher - Science $52,688
Teacher - Science $56,662
Teacher - Science $70,913
Teacher - Science $77,467
Teacher - Science $75,888
Teacher - Science $67,488
Teacher - Science $93,192
Teacher - Science $42,084
Teacher - Robotics and Engineering $98,556
Teacher - Physics $49,728
Teacher - Physics $66,424
Teacher - Meterology $71,543
Teacher - Ecology $81,504
Teacher - Ecology $61,692
Teacher - Ecology $91,320
Teacher - Ecology $57,714
Teacher - Ecology $98,556
Teacher - Earth and Space $81,504
Teacher - Chemistry $56,695
Teacher - chemistry $61,752
Teacher - Botany $76,089
Teacher - Botany $50,227
Teacher - Biology $71,556
Teacher - Biology $74,674
Teacher - Biology $83,112
Teacher - Astronomy $98,556
Teacher - Agriculture $87,876
Support Maintenance $56,402
Support - Technical Support $66,088
Support - Support Services $6,790
Support - Security $48,093
Support - Security $47,150
Support - Security $46,929
Support - Secretary $39,427
Support - Secretary $39,427
Support - Scheduler $43,516
Support - Photographer $67,380
Support - Media Specialist $91,320
Support - Maintenance $47,150
Support - Maintenance $34,276
Support - Maintenance $44,836
Support - Maintenance $33,616
Support - Maintenance $32,426
Support - Maintenance $39,276
Support - Head Custodian $52,091
Support - Geologist $75,430
Support - General Administration $50,520
Support - Gardener $44,836
Support - Exhibit Designer $77,892
Support - Exhibit Designer $69,516
Support - Exhibit Designer $84,720
Support - Exhibit Designer $63,576
Support - Designer/Photographer $66,096
Support - Custodial $31,048
Support - Custodial $29,310
Support - Custodial $31,048
Support - CTSS $49,194
Support - Clerical $7,679
Support - Clerical $37,485
Support - Bookkeeper $27,707
Administrator - Director, Fernbank $98,568
Administrator - Administrative Coordinator $91,884

Total Salary (benefits NOT included) for Fernbank Science Center personnel:
$3,804,050

Add in benefits, physical plant and transportation.

Source:
http://www.open.georgia.gov/

http://fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us/directory/

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/transportation/index/frequently-asked-questions

http://fsc.fernbank.edu/

Anonymous said...

As a counselor, when I do not enroll a student due to improper address or guardianship ifo, it only takes the parent a quick call to the area office for immediate approval for enrollment.

Anonymous said...

@ BhutrasGolly


“The instuctional coaches salaries can not be redirected their salaries come out of money that is only available for teacher training. “

Let’s talk about teacher training – also known as Staff Development.

Look at the 2010 state salary and travel audit figures for DCSS Staff Development personnel. The total spent for Staff Development salaries in 2010 was $8,381,305 (NOT including benefits).

This is up from $6,169,962 in 2009 (NOT including benefits).

We spent over $2,000,000 in 2010 for Staff Development personnel, but less students made adequate yearly progress. Now Dr. Berry proposes adding Instructional Coaches (Staff Development personnel).

It is strange that these figures in the state and travel audit reflect over $8,000,000 in salaries alone spent for personnel who do teacher training, yet the Title 1 presentation osays 10% must be allocated for Staff Development and then lists $4,323,037 as the cost for Staff Development. So why is DCSS spending over $8,000,000 ($10,000,000 including benefits) a year for Staff Development?

The Instructional Coaches salary is not part of this 10% figure ($4,323,037). Rather the Instructional Coaches salary is listed as a line item separate from the 10% already allocated to Staff Development (see Part A – Improving Basic Programs…Legislation – Sec. 1116 – iii) “address the professional developent needs of the instructional staf serving the agency by committing to spend not less than 10 percent of the funds received y the locat educational agency under subpart 2 for each fiscal year in which the agency is identified for improvement for professional developent…”

Instructional Coaches are listed separately from the 10% Staff Development allocation as a line item. See PD (Professional Development – another term for Staff Development) – Amount needed to fully fund 96 Instructional Coaches ($3,895,430).

In summary – Dr. Berry lists $4,323,037 DCSS is spending for Staff Development which is the 10% required (no details for the money), and then goes on to list close to $4,000,000 for Instructional Coaches.

Something does not add up here and the lack of transparency as to where these Title 1 funds are going is alarming.


Please go to this link to see the Title 1 presentation:
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/school-improvement/boe-presentation-(2011-09-12).pdf

Go to opengeorgia.gov, download the 2009 and 2010 salary and travel audits for DeKalb Schools and then sort on Staff Development.

Anonymous said...

“The instuctional coaches salaries can not be redirected their salaries come out of money that is only available for teacher training. “

Let’s talk about teacher training – also known as Staff Development.

Look at the 2010 state salary and travel audit figures for DCSS Staff Development personnel. The total spent for Staff Development salaries in 2010 was $8,381,305 (NOT including benefits).

This is up from $6,169,962 in 2009 (NOT including benefits).

We spent over $2,000,000 in 2010 for Staff Development personnel, but less students made adequate yearly progress. Now Dr. Berry proposes adding Instructional Coaches (Staff Development personnel).

It is strange that these figures in the state and travel audit reflect over $8,000,000 in salaries alone spent for personnel who do teacher training, yet the Title 1 presentation osays 10% must be allocated for Staff Development and then lists $4,323,037 as the cost for Staff Development. So why is DCSS spending over $8,000,000 ($10,000,000 including benefits) a year for Staff Development?

The Instructional Coaches salary is not part of this 10% figure ($4,323,037). Rather the Instructional Coaches salary is listed as a line item separate from the 10% already allocated to Staff Development. See Part A – Improving Basic Programs…Legislation – Sec. 1116 – iii) “address the professional developent needs of the instructional staf serving the agency by committing to spend not less than 10 percent of the funds received y the locat educational agency under subpart 2 for each fiscal year in which the agency is identified for improvement for professional developent…”)

Instructional Coaches are listed separately from the 10% Staff Development allocation as a line item. See PD (Professional Development – another term for Staff Development) – Amount needed to fully fund 96 Instructional Coaches ($3,895,430).

In summary – Dr. Berry lists the figure of $4,323,037 DCSS is spending for Staff Development which is the 10% required (no details for the money), and then goes on to list close to $4,000,000 for Instructional Coaches. So it appears she is spending double the required amount for staff development.

Something does not add up here and the lack of transparency as to where these Title 1 funds are going is alarming.

Go to this address to see the Title 1 presentation:
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/school-improvement/boe-presentation-(2011-09-12).pdf

Go to opengeorgia.gov, download the 2009 and 2010 salary and travel audits for DeKalb Schools and then sort on Staff Development to see the salary totals for Staff Development.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Dr. Berry's Title 1 presentation:

Dr. Berry has listed 96 coaches for $3,895,430. This would be only $40,577 per coach.
See from the state website below that the average salary for a DCSS teacher is $54,000. Coaches are paid much more than that (around $76,000 NOT including benefits).
http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/ReportingFW.aspx?PageReq=102&CountyId=644&T=1&FY=2010

opengeorgia.gov

Look at the titles and salaries in the next comment for Staff Development personnel (taken from the 2010 state salary and travel audit). The Instructional Coaches are the bulk of the Staff Development employees.

The average salary of the Staff Development employees (most of whom are Instructional Coaches is around $76,000 a year - NOT including benefits). Including benefits would put them at $90,000 a year.

The total for these Staff Development employees is $8,000,000+ (benefits NOT included). Yet DCSS is only required to allocate 10% of their Title 1 funds (around $4,000,000 out of $40,000,000) for Staff Development.

Why are we not spending $4,000,000 for Staff Development and then spending the other $4,000,000 on staff that can directly instruct students?

DAILY direct instruction in small groups by Title 1 Reading and Math teachers is critical for every student who is behind in order for them to progress academically. Teachers cannot individually address the needs of struggling students with 30+ to a class.

There are some real questions about Dr. Berry's presentation that the BOE and Dr. Atkinson need to be asking.

Again, look closely at the Title 1 presentation stating what is required for spending on Staff Development 10% or $4,000,000) and then look at what DCSS is actually spending for Staff Development salaries ($8,000,000 NOT including benefits):

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/school-improvement/boe-presentation-(2011-09-12).pdf

Anonymous said...

Here are the Staff Development Titles and salary from the 2010 state Salary and Travel audit 2010. The bulk of these personnel are Instructional Coaches. Add it up to see that is it $8,000,000+ (NOT including benefits) for 109 employees - thus the average is around $76,000 per employee (NOT including benefits).
There are so many, I'll have to split them into two parts:

Staff Development personnel Part I:

STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $107,064.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $104,583.30
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $103,157.65
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $102,626.40
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $102,416.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $101,495.69
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $100,993.88
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $98,339.50
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $96,888.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $91,573.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $91,386.61
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $91,079.95
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $87,601.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $87,118.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $86,893.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $86,693.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $86,575.50
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $86,193.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $85,910.31
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $85,570.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $85,452.50
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $85,125.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $85,085.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $84,586.25
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $84,545.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $84,236.25
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $84,130.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $83,881.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $83,779.09
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $83,232.83
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $83,205.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $83,195.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $82,880.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $82,805.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $82,472.37
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $81,988.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $81,955.20
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $81,813.00

Anonymous said...

Staff Development Personnel Part II:

STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $81,322.50
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $81,084.28
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $81,032.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $80,946.25
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $80,182.15
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $79,901.33
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $79,657.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $79,323.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $79,131.50
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $78,663.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $78,379.68
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $78,194.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $78,082.14
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $77,784.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $77,440.25
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $76,895.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $76,771.40
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $76,472.50
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $76,470.26
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $76,432.48
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $76,304.45
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $76,124.43
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $76,038.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $75,513.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $75,176.52
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $75,128.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $74,887.89
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $74,664.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $74,326.50
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $73,895.70
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $73,889.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $73,014.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $72,973.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $72,769.47
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $72,664.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $71,216.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $69,583.79
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $69,389.25
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $69,358.28
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $68,558.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $68,301.50
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $68,005.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $66,706.90
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $66,481.62
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $65,729.36
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $65,260.88
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $63,981.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $63,186.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $63,098.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $63,089.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $63,057.73
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $62,906.08
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $62,373.50
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $62,346.89
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $62,082.91
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $61,901.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $60,607.89
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $60,088.96
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $59,851.91
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $58,027.07
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $56,947.19
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $56,866.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $56,328.11
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $56,327.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $56,278.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $50,973.88
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $49,328.25
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $49,272.00
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $48,179.08
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $44,005.92
STAFF DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST $42,766.23

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the wonderful learning program called America's Choice funded with Title I money? I know one school spent many thousands of dollars on instructional material with Title I money for America's Choice classes. At one point it wasn't clear whether the Instructional Coaches were working for the County or America's Choice. Dekalb people moved smoothly into America's Choice paid positions and then bossed around the Instructional Coaches.

And remember the "Administrators Gone Hollywood" trip?

America's Choice was one big scam the way Dekalb bought into it and threw millions down its hungry maw.

Hopefully that piece of work will see the bright glare of public scrutiny one day...but, lest we hope, when will the Lewis trial ever happen?

Anonymous said...

According to Dr. Berry's Title 1 Presentation Dekalb is spending $1,115,150 in Title 1 funds for three Parent Liaison Specialists and 22 Parent enter Facilitators and Interpreters.
See page 4:
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/school-improvement/boe-presentation-(2011-09-12).pdf

According to the 2010 state Salary and Travel audit Dekalb is spending $3,580,842 (NOT including benefits) for 73 Family Services Coordinators (these are what the Parent Center personnel are labeled on the state Salary and Travel audit). With benefits, Dekalb is spending over $4,000,000 on the Parent Center personnel (most of which are not certified personnel and a number of them are related to BOE members or high ranking former and present administrative personnel).

Where is the extra $3,000,000 coming from to keep this department that has no accountability for student performance and is extremely redundant. we already have 245 counselors ($22,000,000) and 41 Social Workers ($2,900,000) who perform many of the same functions.

Meanwhile, DCSS cut hundreds of teaching positions and increased class sizes to historical levels.

Write Dr. Atkinson and your BOE members to ask them why the Title 1 presentation figures do not match the 2010 state Salary and Travel audit for DeKalb County. Stress that you want teacher positions restored to the classroom, class sizes decreased and struggling students served EVERY day with qualified teachers.

Dr. Atkinson's email address:

cheryl_atkinson@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

Anonymous said...

Here are the Family Services Coordinator salaries:

FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $63,103.74
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $32,168.26
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $71,105.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $55,468.50
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $24,797.50
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $64,086.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $34,296.50
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $24,470.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $71,788.50
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $17,030.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $21,878.92
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $38,042.44
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $54,390.19
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $61,821.53
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $62,436.54
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $40,928.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $61,917.47
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $62,835.74
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $51,643.98
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $53,386.34
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $27,352.50
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $109,091.12
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $26,280.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $49,799.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $45,935.14
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $52,996.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $56,234.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $38,398.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $70,522.92
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $38,660.50
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $59,515.50
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $56,453.40
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $18,512.50
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $62,914.75
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $17,141.47
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $44,908.55
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $57,945.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $38,892.84
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $65,048.47
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $52,140.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $18,070.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $37,716.70
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $39,082.81
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $26,195.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $52,640.43
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $36,089.70
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $44,548.63
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $57,807.09
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $94,004.32
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $72,736.52
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $81,075.68
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $35,773.49
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $61,046.53
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $60,259.03
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $53,306.10
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $59,015.50
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $17,825.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $62,863.92
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $20,265.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $65,628.31
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $63,121.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $43,371.10
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $63,869.50
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $58,707.84
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $56,895.57
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $38,398.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $48,742.12
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $54,090.08
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $29,485.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $56,718.28
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $49,906.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $26,685.00
FAMILY SERVICES COORDINATOR $38,566.20

Total (NOT including benefits): $3,580,842

Source:
opengeorgia.gov

Anonymous said...

"Wasn't the wonderful learning program called America's Choice funded with Title I money? "

America's Choice was funded by Title 1 funds and then by other federal funds. $8,164,703 was the price tag for 2009-2010 using Stimulus funds while Lewis cut 275 teaching positions. Not sure what funds they are using now.

America's Choice has not moved students forward even though tens of millions have been spent in the last 5 years. Meanwhile, hundreds more teaching positions have been eliminated.

Anonymous said...

Correction from Anonymous 5:57:

We spent over $2,000,000 MORE in 2010 for Staff Development personnel THAN 2009, but less students made adequate yearly progress. Now Dr. Berry proposes adding Instructional Coaches (Staff Development personnel).

But the main point is that DCSS is only required to spend $4,000,000 on Staff Development yet we spend $10,000,000 (including benefits).

Dr. Berry and DCSS upper management has chosen to cut teacher positions and increase class sizes to pay for these ineffective and highly paid personnel who never teach a child.

Anonymous said...

@ BhutrasGolly
Regarding Fernbank Science Center personnel cost.

Not sure why the post showing titles and salaries for Fernbank Science Center personnel did not show up but here they are:
Teacher - Science $75,888
Teacher - Science $45,467
Teacher - Science $52,688
Teacher - Science $56,662
Teacher - Science $70,913
Teacher - Science $77,467
Teacher - Science $75,888
Teacher - Science $67,488
Teacher - Science $93,192
Teacher - Robotics and Engineering $98,556
Teacher - Physics $49,728
Teacher - Physics $66,424
Teacher - Meterology $71,543
Teacher - Ecology $81,504
Teacher - Ecology $61,692
Teacher - Ecology $91,320
Teacher - Ecology $57,714
Teacher - Ecology $98,556
Teacher - Earth and Space $81,504
Teacher - Chemistry $56,695
Teacher - chemistry $61,752
Teacher - Botany $76,089
Teacher - Botany $50,227
Teacher - Biology $71,556
Teacher - Biology $74,674
Teacher - Biology $83,112
Teacher - Astronomy $98,556
Teacher - Agriculture $87,876
Support Maintenance $56,402
Support - Technical Support $66,088
Support - Support Services $6,790
Support - Security $48,093
Support - Security $47,150
Support - Security $46,929
Support - Secretary $39,427
Support - Secretary $39,427
Support - Scheduler $43,516
Support - Photographer $67,380
Support - Media Specialist $91,320
Support - Maintenance $47,150
Support - Maintenance $34,276
Support - Maintenance $44,836
Support - Maintenance $33,616
Support - Maintenance $32,426
Support - Maintenance $39,276
Support - Head Custodian $52,091
Support - Geologist $75,430
Support - General Administration $50,520
Support - Gardener $44,836
Support - Exhibit Designer $77,892
Support - Exhibit Designer $69,516
Support - Exhibit Designer $84,720
Support - Exhibit Designer $63,576
Support - Designer/Photographer $66,096
Support - Custodial $31,048
Support - Custodial $29,310
Support - Custodial $31,048
Support - CTSS $49,194
Support - Clerical $7,679
Support - Clerical $37,485
Support - Bookkeeper $27,707
Administrator - Director, Fernbank $98,568
Administrator - Administrative Coordinator $91,884

Total: Almost $4,000,000
Add around $1,000,000 for benefits

Now add Physical Plant cost and the cost for thousands of buses coming to Fernbank Science Center. Easily $2,000,000 more.

Meanwhile, our science scores decline and we have 50 cents per student to spend on science supplies and equipment for the entire year.

Anonymous said...

Reminder for Tomorrow's Community Engagement Meeting. Sorry for the poor copy/paste formatting!

Lend Your Voice to DeKalb County
School System’s Future

The DeKalb County School System is re-establishing a strategic planning process and invites you to participate!

We want to hear from you regarding what you want your public schools to provide for students, what the schools are doing well, and what challenges the schools and students face. The input that you provide at the session will be used to revise the district’s strategic plan for approval by the Board of Education in February, 2012.

What: A Community Engagement Session to gather input from stakeholders

When: Tuesday, September 20, 2011, 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Where: The DeKalb County School System Administrative and Instructional Complex
(AIC) Auditorium, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain, GA 30083

Who: All DeKalb County School System stakeholders are invited to participate.

RSVPs are encouraged but not required. RSVP by calling 678-676-0023 or emailing
research@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us.

If you need an interpreter in order to participate, please
notify us of your specific needs when you RSVP.


For those who can’t attend the meeting, an on-line survey will be available on the
district’s website from September 21 – September 30.

DCSS Teacher said...

Fernbank Science Center teachers are paid according to the DCSS Teacher Salary Scale. However, most, if not all, have a Master's degree in a science--not just in teaching a science--and many have PhD's. In addition, many of the staff have been at Fernbank for many years, and so they are at higher levels on the pay scale.

Don't blame Fernbank for the County's abysmal science scores, especially while complaining how much it costs to get kids there. Do you want more kids, or fewer, to visit Fernbank? Can't have it both ways.

Fernbank teachers don't control curriculum any more than any other teachers do--DCSS has totally disempowered teachers to have any voice in what we teach, regardless of where we work. But it's a myth to believe that "Fernbank teachers should go out into the classrooms", as some have said. First, they wouldn't (they have great allegiance to FSC's mission, which includes a lot of teacher training, and many would be snapped up by school districts that truly support science); and second, it wouldn't matter anyway, with class sizes of over 40 kids, poor tech support, and outdated facilities--grades would still be low.

Why should Fernbank Science Center teachers have to be heroes, taking on the burden of rescuing science education in a setting where no one in Administration seems to really care (at least until someone wins a statewide award)? The County as a whole has to declare that science education is at least as important as math or English--then we can start to develop a realistic science curriculum. And as a parent and teacher, from what I've seen, I'd want folks like those at Fernbank to be among the leaders of that effort.

High School Mom said...

Well said. Dismantling Fernbank Science Center is not going to improve science education around the county. It will just eliminate opportunities for students who seek out STT, Advanced Studies, SEMAA, etc., and will remove a resource for teacher training.

There is a simple reason why science education is not important in our county. It's because AYP depends primarily on reading and math tests. There is not much incentive for the county to spend money or time on science at the elementary level. If Fernbank Science Center were closed, it would make more sense under NCLB to spend the savings on CRCT drills than on science education. (High schools are judged by graduation rate also, so their students need to pass just enough science to graduate.)

I am thankful that Fernbank still exists to provide science education to motivated students. My daughter is in her second year of participation in the Advanced Studies program. She is taking AP Physics C from an excellent teacher -- without having to go through a lottery. Her high school does not even offer Physics B this year, even though they have a teacher who could teach it. When there aren't enough interested students at each high school to make a class, it makes sense to offer science programs at a location open to all students in the county.

Anonymous said...

@ DCSS Teacher

Fernbank Science Center should be self supporting with grants or by merging with another non-profit entity. It is ironic that DeKalb Schools is the only school system in the metro area that has a stand alone science center paid for by taxpayers and has close to the lowest science scores as well. 49.9% of 8th graders could not pass the science CRCT. Half of our 8th graders do not comprehend the most BASIC science content .


"Don't blame Fernbank for the County's abysmal science scores...."

28 Fernbank Science teachers cannot take the burden of making our children proficient in science content. However, $7,000,000 invested in classroom science teachers would provide the salary and benefits for 107 science teachers. What an impact that could make for our students who are struggling to comprehend the most basic science content.

"But it's a myth to believe that "Fernbank teachers should go out into the classrooms".... it wouldn't matter anyway, with class sizes of over 40 kids, poor tech support, and outdated facilities--grades would still be low."

Redeploying $7,000,000 into regular education science would lower class sizes and update science facilities.

$7,000,000 a year in scare science funds in an environment where there are 40 students in the regular education science classes and each child receives 50 cents a year for lab equipment and supplies requires some consideration as to the Return on Investment for DeKalb taxpayers. Yet no one in the DCSS administration wants to touch this antiquated, outdated, and ineffective method of science education delivery. Why is that?

Some questions taxpayers need to ask Dr. Atkinson and their BOE members:

1. Are you comfortable with the fact that the admin and support personnel outnumber teachers at Fernbank Science Center? There are 35 admin and support versus 28 teachers at Fernbank Science Center.

2. What is the academic impact the Fernbank Science Center admin and support positions have on our student achievement in science?

3. Do we really need to spend $350,840 a year including salaries and benefits on 4 Exhibit designers?

4. Do we really need a full time Photorapher/Designer for $79,316 in salary and benefits? This is 50% more than the entire science and equipment budget for almost 100,000 DCSS students.

5. For $109,000 in salary and benefits shouldn't we require the Media Specialist to hold a current certificate?

Fernbank Science Center support positions:
Support Maintenance $56,402
Support - Technical Support $66,088
Support - Support Services $6,790
Support - Security $48,093
Support - Security $47,150
Support - Security $46,929
Support - Secretary $39,427
Support - Secretary $39,427
Support - Scheduler $43,516
Support - Photographer $67,380
Support - Media Specialist $91,320
Support - Maintenance $47,150
Support - Maintenance $34,276
Support - Maintenance $44,836
Support - Maintenance $33,616
Support - Maintenance $32,426
Support - Maintenance $39,276
Support - Head Custodian $52,091
Support - Geologist $75,430
Support - General Administration $50,520
Support - Gardener $44,836
Support - Exhibit Designer $77,892
Support - Exhibit Designer $69,516
Support - Exhibit Designer $84,720
Support - Exhibit Designer $63,576
Support - Designer/Photographer $66,096
Support - Custodial $31,048
Support - Custodial $29,310
Support - Custodial $31,048
Support - CTSS $49,194
Support - Clerical $7,679
Support - Clerical $37,485
Support - Bookkeeper $27,707
Administrator - Director, Fernbank $98,568
Administrator - Administrative Coordinator $91,884

Anonymous said...

@ DCSS Teacher

Fernbank Science Center should be self supporting with grants or by merging with another non-profit entity. It is ironic that DeKalb Schools is the only school system in the metro area that has a stand alone science center paid for by taxpayers and has close to the lowest science scores as well. 49.9% of 8th graders could not pass the science CRCT. Half of our 8th graders do not comprehend the most BASIC science content .


"Don't blame Fernbank for the County's abysmal science scores, especially while complaining how much it costs to get kids there."

Fernbank Science Center should not cost $7,000,000 to run while the rest of the schools which teach science concepts daily to ALL students receive 50 cents a year per student for science supplies and equipment. Surely you see a misallocation of science dollars in that scenario, and it shows in our abysmal science achievement.

28 Fernbank Science teachers cannot take the burden of making our children proficient in science content. However, $7,000,000 invested in classroom science teachers would provide the salary and benefits for 107 science teachers. What an impact that could make for our students who are struggling to comprehend the most basic science content.

"But it's a myth to believe that "Fernbank teachers should go out into the classrooms".... it wouldn't matter anyway, with class sizes of over 40 kids, poor tech support, and outdated facilities--grades would still be low."

Redeploying $7,000,000 into regular education science would lower class sizes and update science facilities. Adequate tech support is a Dr. Atkinson problem. She needs to make major changes in the MIS area.

$7,000,000 a year in scare science funds in an environment where there are 40 students in the regular education science classes and each child receives 50 cents a year for lab equipment and supplies requires some consideration as to the Return on Investment for DeKalb taxpayers. Yet no one in the DCSS administration wants to touch this antiquated, outdated, and ineffective method of science education delivery. Why is that?

Some questions taxpayers need to ask Dr. Atkinson and their BOE members:

1. Are you comfortable with the fact that the admin and support personnel outnumber teachers at Fernbank Science Center? There are 35 admin and support versus 28 teachers at Fernbank Science Center.

2. What is the academic impact the Fernbank Science Center admin and support positions have on our student achievement in science?

3. Do we really need to spend $350,840 a year including salaries and benefits on 4 Exhibit designers?

4. Do we really need a full time Photorapher/Designer for $79,316 in salary and benefits? This is 50% more than the entire science and equipment budget for almost 100,000 DCSS students.

5. For $109,000 in salary and benefits shouldn't we require the Media Specialist to hold a current certificate?

Anonymous said...

@ High School Mom

Do you see everyone of the admin and support positions at Fernbank Science Center as absolutely necessary? Admin and support outnumber the teachers at Fernbank Science Center. Meanwhile, our regular science education classes are operating on a shoe string. No one wants to make any changes.

A science teacher with a doctorate in Physics and 15 years of classroom experience makes $67,947 a year in Dekalb County schools.

Do you think we need to pay 4 Exhibit Designers more than seasoned Physics teachers with doctorates make in the classroom?

Support Maintenance $56,402
Support - Technical Support $66,088
Support - Support Services $6,790
Support - Security $48,093
Support - Security $47,150
Support - Security $46,929
Support - Secretary $39,427
Support - Secretary $39,427
Support - Scheduler $43,516
Support - Photographer $67,380
Support - Media Specialist $91,320
Support - Maintenance $47,150
Support - Maintenance $34,276
Support - Maintenance $44,836
Support - Maintenance $33,616
Support - Maintenance $32,426
Support - Maintenance $39,276
Support - Head Custodian $52,091
Support - Geologist $75,430
Support - General Administration $50,520
Support - Gardener $44,836
Support - Exhibit Designer $77,892
Support - Exhibit Designer $69,516
Support - Exhibit Designer $84,720
Support - Exhibit Designer $63,576
Support - Designer/Photographer $66,096
Support - Custodial $31,048
Support - Custodial $29,310
Support - Custodial $31,048
Support - CTSS $49,194
Support - Clerical $7,679
Support - Clerical $37,485
Support - Bookkeeper $27,707
Administrator - Director, Fernbank $98,568
Administrator - Administrative Coordinator $91,884

No one wants to touch this cost center. How low will science scores go before someone addresses the problem of allocation of science resources in DeKalb? Why is this cost center off limits when it comes to any significant reorganization?

Anonymous said...

@ High School Mom

Do you see everyone of the admin and support positions at Fernbank Science Center as absolutely necessary? Admin and support outnumber the teachers at Fernbank Science Center. Meanwhile, our regular science education classes are operating on a shoe string. No one wants to make any changes.

A science teacher with a doctorate in Physics and 15 years of classroom experience makes $67,947 a year in Dekalb County schools.

Do you think we need to pay 4 Exhibit Designers more than seasoned Physics teachers with doctorates make in the classroom?

No one wants to touch this cost center. How low will science scores go before someone addresses the problem of allocation of science resources in DeKalb? Why is this cost center off limits when it comes to any significant reorganization?

Anonymous said...

@ High School Mom
Here are the admin and support positions at Fernbank Science Center. Look how many make so much more than those Physics teachers with doctorates and many years of experience:

Support Maintenance $56,402
Support - Technical Support $66,088
Support - Support Services $6,790
Support - Security $48,093
Support - Security $47,150
Support - Security $46,929
Support - Secretary $39,427
Support - Secretary $39,427
Support - Scheduler $43,516
Support - Photographer $67,380
Support - Media Specialist $91,320
Support - Maintenance $47,150
Support - Maintenance $34,276
Support - Maintenance $44,836
Support - Maintenance $33,616
Support - Maintenance $32,426
Support - Maintenance $39,276
Support - Head Custodian $52,091
Support - Geologist $75,430
Support - General Administration $50,520
Support - Gardener $44,836
Support - Exhibit Designer $77,892
Support - Exhibit Designer $69,516
Support - Exhibit Designer $84,720
Support - Exhibit Designer $63,576
Support - Designer/Photographer $66,096
Support - Custodial $31,048
Support - Custodial $29,310
Support - Custodial $31,048
Support - CTSS $49,194
Support - Clerical $7,679
Support - Clerical $37,485
Support - Bookkeeper $27,707
Administrator - Director, Fernbank $98,568
Administrator - Administrative Coordinator $91,884

High School Mom said...

I count 7 on your list and 2,316 total in DCSS who make more than those $67,947 physics teachers.

My point was that closing Fernbank Science Center will not improve science education in DCSS, nor will dispersing the FSC teachers to schools.

It is very wrong to close Fernbank Science Center unless there is a clear plan guaranteeing that the money saved will be put to good use and that strong science programs will be available to motivated students. I am worried that by harping on a handful of exhibit designers' salaries over and over, you are encouraging DCSS to destroy one of the dwindling resources for motivated students, while any savings would very likely be wasted.

Anonymous said...

To ANON September 19, 2011 5:03 PM
The Fernbank Science Center budget is $4,438,796 according to http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/budget.
That clearly matches my additon of the line items in the budget. The Fernbank Library is a separate line item for about $40,000. It sereves as the science library for the entire system. Get some cred.

Anonymous said...

@ anoonymous 11:58

"The Fernbank Science Center budget is $4,438,796 according to http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/budget...
.....Get some cred."

The figures for the salaries of Fernbank Science Center are listed on the state Salary and Travel website. The total is a little over $3,800,000 (add them up yourself - see post 8:43 pm for the detailed list of salaries that came directly from the state of Georgia opengeorgia.gov website).

The benefits figure is 20%. This is what Ms. Tyson and Dr. Lewis use for teachers. Benefits would be around $760,000 ($3,800,00 x .20 = $760,000).

The salary and benefits figure is approximately $4,500,000 - within a few thousands of the figure I projected for Fernbank Science Center in the budget.

However, there are considerable costs apparently left out of the budget. Where is it listed in the budget the substantial cost for the Physical Plant or the Transportation of students to and from Fernbank?

Does the budget for Fernbank Science Center cover the transportation expense or is that a just under transportation line items somewhere else in the budget?

Does the budget for Fernbank Science Center cover the heating, cooling, water, lights, painting, technology equipment, roofing, lawn care, lab equipment, lab supplies, etc. In other words is the the Physical Plant maintenance of this facility listed under Fernbank Science Center or is that under many line items in the budget?

These are questions Dr. Atkinson needs to ask. She needs to:
1. Look at the salary and benefits for every Fernbank employs
2. Look at the cost of maintaining the Physical Plant
3. Look at the cost of transportation of students to and from Fernbank

Then she needs to share this with taxpayers who have their children sitting in science classes of 35+ in trailers.

Credibility requires that EVERY every expense related to a cost center be considered. That's why they are called "cost centers".

Anonymous said...

"Why should Fernbank Science Center teachers have to be heroes, taking on the burden of rescuing science education in a setting where no one in Administration seems to really care (at least until someone wins a statewide award)?"

Answer: 1) Because that is what they should be doing based on their experience and extremely high salaries. 2) Because they are needed MUCH MUCH MORE in the schools than at a largely inaccessible location.

If Fernbank science teachers want to go into private industry and work 365 days a year with only 2 weeks of vacation and no retirement-then no one is holding them back.

This is simply a program that the county cannot afford as it benefits too few.

Anonymous said...

@ High School Mom

Fernbank Science Center should be a non-profit. As long as taxpayers pay for it, it is easier to just let it come out of money that would be spent for science education in DeKalb.

Is everyone comfortable with the fact that there are more admin and support personnel than science teachers at Fernbank Science Center? Does anyone think that if this was a non-profit entity teaching science that there would be such a top heavy number of non-teaching personnel? If a non-profit cannot afford this, how can taxpayers afford it?

Fernbank Science Center is a very touchy subject. By completely refusing to recognize that Fernbank Science Center needs major reorganization as a cost center, the existence of the entire center is put in jeopardy.

What do parents/taxpayers expect from the millions they pour into the science center?

Could the science classes and academic expectations be met in a more efficacious and cost effective manner for students in the entire county?

Is there room to evaluate the cost effectiveness of every employee position at Fernbank Science Center or is somehow "off limits"?

What makes the most academic sense for students as to the methodology of science content delivery in DeKalb County?

Until we ask these questions, science scores will continue to decline.

Science and math are the most difficult subjects for most students in the U.S., and DCSS students are no different.

Mastery of science content requires DAILY instruction by a competent teacher with a reasonable class size that allows for hands-on learning in a laboratory setting.

Reference these quotes from NSTA (National Science Teachers Association):
"A hallmark of science is that it generates theories and laws that must be consistent with observations....

....While reading about science, using computer simulations, and observing teacher demonstrations may be valuable, they are not a substitute for laboratory investigations by students (NRC 2006, p. 3)....

...Furthermore, NSTA is committed to ensuring that all students—including students with academic, remedial, or physical needs; gifted and talented students; and English language learners—have the opportunity to participate in laboratory investigations in a safe environment....

....With the expectation of science instruction every day, all students at the preschool and elementary level should receive multiple opportunities every week to explore science labs that fit the definition described in the Introduction....

......At the high school level, all students should be in the science lab or field, collecting data every week while exploring science labs.".....

.....For science to be taught properly and effectively, labs must be an integral part of the science curriculum.....

....NSTA strongly believes that developmentally appropriate laboratory investigations are essential for students of all ages and ability levels. They should not be a rote exercise....."

Source:
http://www.nsta.org/about/positions/laboratory.aspx

So High School Mom...
How do we ensure ALL students get DAILY instruction by a competent teacher with a reasonable class size that allows for hands-on learning in a laboratory setting?

The most effective way to ensure science content mastery for ALL students should be driving this train - not emotions, politics and opinions.

Anonymous said...

@ High School Mom

Fernbank Science Center should be a non-profit. As long as taxpayers pay for it, it is easier to just let it come out of money that would be spent for science education in DeKalb.

Is everyone comfortable with the fact that there are more admin and support personnel than science teachers at Fernbank Science Center? Does anyone think that if this was a non-profit entity teaching science that there would be such a top heavy number of non-teaching personnel? If a non-profit cannot afford this, how can taxpayers afford it?

Fernbank Science Center is a very touchy subject. By completely refusing to recognize that Fernbank Science Center needs major reorganization as a cost center, the existence of the entire center is put in jeopardy.

What do parents/taxpayers expect from the millions they pour into the science center?

Could the science classes and academic expectations be met in a more efficacious and cost effective manner for students in the entire county?

Is there room to evaluate the cost effectiveness of every employee position at Fernbank Science Center or is somehow "off limits"?

What makes the most academic sense for students as to the methodology of science content delivery in DeKalb County?

Until we ask these questions, science scores will continue to decline.

Science and math are the most difficult subjects for most students in the U.S., and DCSS students are no different.

Mastery of science content requires DAILY instruction by a competent teacher with a reasonable class size that allows for hands-on learning in a laboratory setting.

Reference these quotes from NSTA (National Science Teachers Association):
"A hallmark of science is that it generates theories and laws that must be consistent with observations....

....While reading about science, using computer simulations, and observing teacher demonstrations may be valuable, they are not a substitute for laboratory investigations by students (NRC 2006, p. 3)....

...Furthermore, NSTA is committed to ensuring that all students—including students with academic, remedial, or physical needs; gifted and talented students; and English language learners—have the opportunity to participate in laboratory investigations in a safe environment....

....With the expectation of science instruction every day, all students at the preschool and elementary level should receive multiple opportunities every week to explore science labs that fit the definition described in the Introduction....

......At the high school level, all students should be in the science lab or field, collecting data every week while exploring science labs.".....

.....For science to be taught properly and effectively, labs must be an integral part of the science curriculum.....

....NSTA strongly believes that developmentally appropriate laboratory investigations are essential for students of all ages and ability levels. They should not be a rote exercise....."

Source:
http://www.nsta.org/about/positions/laboratory.aspx

Anonymous said...

So High School Mom and other posters:

How do we ensure ALL students get DAILY instruction by a competent teacher with a reasonable class size that allows for hands-on learning in a laboratory setting?

The most effective way to ensure science content mastery for ALL students should be driving this train - not emotions, politics and opinions.

High School Mom said...

"How do we ensure ALL students get DAILY instruction by a competent teacher with a reasonable class size that allows for hands-on learning in a laboratory setting?"

1. Nice goal, but you have not given any evidence that eliminating Fernbank Science Center would move the county one nanometer closer to it.

2. This may be my goal and your goal and the goal of the NSTA, but it is not a national or county priority. The overwhelming priority is to make AYP.

Right now Fernbank Science Center gives as many students as it can reach an opportunity to get themselves some quality science education in spite of the fact that science is not a priority. Eliminate FSC and that opportunity will be gone.

That's my last word. You have brought FSC up many times before on this blog, and the topic has been talked to death.

Anonymous said...

@ High School Mom

"1. Nice goal, but you have not given any evidence that eliminating Fernbank Science Center would move the county one nanometer closer to it.

2. This may be my goal and your goal and the goal of the NSTA, but it is not a national or county priority. "

Many studies have been done that prove that reasonable science classes with engaged science labs have allowed more students to master more science content. If that were not so, why would you want your own child in a small advanced physics class with a competent Fernbank Science Center teacher?

As DCSS science classes have increased in size and funds for science supplies and equipment have decreased, our science achievement score have decreased.

Many parents in DeKalb are concerned with the quality of science instruction their children are receiving - including you. They are not content that their child is sitting in a trailer with 34 other students unable to safely conduct labs.

I guess we'll see if Dr. Atkinson is concerned about the low state of science achievement in DeKalb Schools.

You are absolutely right in that parents need to let Dr. Atkinson know that science instruction and achievement in DeKalb County is critical to the future of their children.

They can let her know in person at the meetings she holds or by email:
cheryl_atkinson@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

Something tells me she's going to be looking closely at the expenditures for science in DeKalb and trying to understand how we can increase our science achievement. I wish her much success.

BhutrasGolly said...

Here's my vote to keep Fernbank Science Center. If you compare its staffing to a like nonprofit-say the Museum of Natural History that has a budget roughly double the size very little of the nonprofit money is spent on scientists or educators-the top 3 admininstrative staff at the Natural History Museum make around $1,000,000 counting benefits. How many scientists or science teachers do they spend their budget on?

Fernbank staff benefit costs, and supply costs are in the Fernbank budget found on line and are included in the approximately $4,000,000 budget. You are right that the transportation costs are not in the budget but unless you can show me a line item detailing them I say they are small. According to the National Science Board the student who regularly attends science centers and planetariums does better in school. The National Science Board is comprised of Nobel Prize winners and distingusihed scientists. NASA did an evaluation of the 23 NASA science programs and found the one at Fernbank to be the model. The Natural History Museum does not want the science center to be a nonprofit because they do not want the competition. So the science center should remain true to its educational mission providing a school population that is 70% economically disadvantaged that would not have that opportunity to go to a science center otherwise. As one of those who is not economically disadvantaged because I was once inspired by the science center I am proud to pay taxes that go to Fernbank Science Center.

Anonymous said...

@ BhutrasGolly

"Fernbank staff benefit costs, and supply costs are in the Fernbank budget found on line and are included in the approximately $4,000,000 budget..."

Very interesting. A number of the employees who physically work at Fernbank Science Center have been moved to a different cost center - Teaching and Learning under Dr. Beasley in the Central Office. They were moved from Fernbank Science Center to Teaching and Learning even though they work all day at Fernbank Science Center.

All of these individuals that work at Fernbank Science Center were moved under Teaching and Learning in the budget - The Director of Fernbank Science Center, Administrative Coordinator, 3 Administrative Assistants, and the Scheduler.

Fernbank still lists them as employees, and they physically work there, but they are listed on payroll as belonging to Teaching and Learning. Posters need to look for themselves:
http://fsc.fernbank.edu/faculty/admin.htm

Now look each of these employees up on CommunityNet, and you will see that they have been moved to Teaching and Learning for budgetary purposes:
http://fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us/directory/

What's up with moving employees out of the cost center they clearly work in to another cost center they do not work in and then saying that cost center has reduced its expenses? How honest and transparent is that? Do BOE members understand what has been done with the budget they approved? Does Dr. Atkinson know that some personnel who physically work in one area are on the budget in another area?

What functions does the scheduler who schedules classes at Fernbank perform for Dr. Beasley in Teaching and Learning?

DCSS recently added a Cabinet maker ($56,000 including benefits) to Fernbank Science Center staff as well as a number of other personnel since the cuts to regular science education began:
http://fsc.fernbank.edu/faculty/instructionalmedia.htm

The salaries that DCSS is paying for the personnel to run Fernbank do not in ANY way match what you are quoting on the budget.

Is this transparency for the taxpayers or for Dr. Atkinson to evaluate the cost centers in DCSS?

I urge posters to look up this information to verify.

Anonymous said...

@ BhutrasGolly

"You are right that the transportation costs are not in the budget but unless you can show me a line item detailing them I say they are small."

Transporting 100,000 students a year to Fernbank Science Center for an hour long class is not small. Considering a bus carries around 35 students - 100,000/35 equals around 2,800 round trip bus trips a year.

I guess 2,800 roundtrips by bus is small change to you, but to taxpayers that is a considerable amount of money.

And just why is there no line item for transportation to Fernbank? Every bus trip to Fernbank Science Center has a transportation form and is entered into the data base. It's quite easy to obtain the information.

Why are BOE members not asking these budgetary questions?

Anonymous said...

From an ex-teacher point of view, I would love to see Fernbank stay. I am sure that there are things that could be cut, but the programs that the children get each month is more than I frankly had time to prepare for or the money to buy the supplies. Even the fourth grade planetarium presentation that needed updating was well done. It would be a shame for Fernbank to close and for our elementary kids to not get any science instruction, as that is what would happen, and virtually already does happen. At least with the trips to Fernbank, most teachers will teach the material to be covered for the trip, so that they don't appear to not be doing their job.

There are fewer trips via the school bus and more trips where the scientists come to the school and perform the experiments where possible. There are just some experiments where it is not feasible to bring the equipment or materials, and being that only $50,000 was spent on science materials for the entire district quite frankly I don't see the district purchasing them for every school to have.

To me, Fernbank and the programs that it offers the children make for a unique program for DCSS. It is something that no other district in the area that has.

Charge parents a $10 fee to help off set the bus for the field trip, but to cut the programs that Fernbank offers is cutting into the quality education that our children need and deserve.

I agree that major cuts need to happen, but cutting staff in the office and administration, not signing multi-million dollar multi-year contracts, and so many other cuts could be made before education programs like Fernbank are cut.

In my opinion if Fernbank is cut, than so should every magnet and special program that is offered. All children should stay in their home schools and receive the same education. This is not what I want to happen, but why is so much money spent on some programs and that is okay, why a program that every child in the district participates in is a waste of funds.

People, you really need to think long and hard about the quality of education that you want your child to have. I am a firm believer that a district can provide a quality education and spend less money per pupil, but some of you only want to keep programs that your children benefit from and that frankly just is not right.

Anonymous said...

Any reports from folks who attended the strategic planning session tonight? I'm sorry I couldn't make it. Would love to hear what transpired, so please share if you were there.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:01

"All children should stay in their home schools and receive the same education. This is not what I want to happen, but why is so much money spent on some programs and that is okay, why a program that every child in the district participates in is a waste of funds. "

But this is what happens in Gwinnett County and their low, middle and high income students do very well. Regardless of the income level of the families in Gwinnett, all schools are more or less equal in their offerings. Parents in Gwinnett are not rushing to AYP transfers because the education is so unequal from school to school. The same is true in Rockdale County. Schools offer equal opportunities all over Rockdale County.

Anonymous said...

"It would be a shame for Fernbank to close and for our elementary kids to not get any science instruction, as that is what would happen, and virtually already does happen.'

What a sad commentary on science education for DeKalb County students - That our students are lucky to get once a year science instruction.

No wonder we have these scores (use the link below to compare science scores to systems who are demographically comparable to DCSS):

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-eqZBWzD0h24/TgTXf0e8rUI/AAAAAAAAANg/EKSXVak2lAg/s1600/crct%2Bcomparison%2Bscience%2Bsocial%2Bstudies%2Bmetro%2Batlanta.JPG

Anonymous said...

We are the only system in GA to have a Fernbank and we have some of the lowest science test scores in the state.

Get over it people -- it isn't working.

Anonymous said...

RE: Any reports from folks who attended the strategic planning session tonight? I'm sorry I couldn't make it. Would love to hear what transpired, so please share if you were there.

The meeting was nice, it was professional, and presented in an attempt to look towards the future. However, all of the whole group introductory presentations tried to prime the audience for the fact that DCSS has limited funds b/c 90% is spent on personnel even in light of QBE reductions annually. They tried focus on stats like there were 18 million meals served or 12 million miles driven. Ok but why are we counting up our breakfasts and lunches? It was a distraction attempt in my opinion. Then they showed how HS scores have mainly improved which was nice. Dr Atkinson spoke from the heart. Audience clapped before she came on but did not clap after she spoke. This was an awkward moment.

Next we broke into small groups facilitated by outside people with generic standardized questions allowing for input but very controlled types of responses...it's ok but these types of questions never get to the heart of systemic problems.

1. What's good that you would keep about DCSS?

2. What could be improved upon?

3. Challenges of the student?

I cannot remember the other two questions...

Good teachers are tired of bad teachers who do not "practice" best practices. Parents and teachers are tired of ineffective administrators, inexperienced administrators, and administrators who are unprofessional.

Charter and theme schools were popular. Lots of people wanted to have more of them. Nobody brought up the fact that the reason they want them is to make up for a weak home school hence the vicious cycle.

The North versus South resource debated raged on. "Equity needed"....The North has the new buildings, etc etc etc...old arguments that pass as facts even though the comments have been shown to be unsubstantiated.

The attempt is sincere but little will change...the system is too big and tangled up to be fixed. There is a survey somewhere that they want people to fill out but I don't remember where it is.

There was tons and tons of security.

Anonymous said...

Fact is that teachers in kindergarten through third grade focus on reading and then math. If time is left for social studies and science, than the kids get it. DeKalb doesn't understand that reading and math can be taught across the curriculum. What is tested is taught. Period. That is what principals tell the teachers and feel will get the best results for their schools.

Why we're at closing Fernbank, lets also close all of the other programs and make everyone get the same education just like every other county. No one gets a good education, as we need to be fair and save money.

So many more important changes need to happen in DCSS that focusing on Fernbank is one of the most ridiculous things that I have heard of in reforming DCSS. Shoot, thank G-d that I can afford to educate my children out of the system, because the changes that are being brought up are not where DCSS needs to begin, and the things that are happening in the schools are more than many of you understand. Fernbank and the money that is spent to keep it open and provide the children with 4 hands on science experiences a year should not be an issue right now. Those making the curriculum (and I use that term loosely) decisions and use of Title One funds should be examined much closer than Fernbank, and the numerous programs that it offers our children.

Anonymous said...

Atl, why are you posting as anoymous again?

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:51
"Why we're at closing Fernbank, lets also close all of the other programs and make everyone get the same education just like every other county. No one gets a good education, as we need to be fair and save money. "

Every other metro county that offers basically the same education to all students have much higher student achievement than DCSS so maybe we need to emulate them. They all get very good educations while the uneven and inadequate educations come in systems like APS and DCSS that offer too many special programs and no consistency from school to school.

Title 1 consumes around $42,000,000 dollars and Fernbank Science Center consumes around $7,000,000. Both are programs that are in desperate need of drastic reorganization, gut no one wants to touch these programs for political reasons. The same is true of the $4,000,000 spent on Parent Centers, and the $12,000,000 spent on Security (for middle and high alone). This is true of so many multi million dollar program. Everyone has their pet program. That's why our kids sit in gigantic class sizes and our teacher turnover is frightening.

Anon said...

No other system in metro Atlanta offers the programs that DCSS does and almost all have better outcomes for all students, regardless of subgroup, than DeKalb.

Go spend a day in a Gwinnett high school, a Fulton middle school or a Cobb elementary school and then come back and say you aren't disgusted and disappointed in DeKalb.

Anonymous said...

While Fernbank is a nice idea, it is just simply inequitable. Many students who would like to take STT classes there are denied on a seemingly arbitrary basis. If we keep STT it should be done on a lottery basis.

As for Advanced Studies is concerned, this is also inequitable because it is nearly impossible for the students whose schools have chosen the block schedule to participate. Students on the block have to take two Advanced Studies classes per year in order to participate, while those on the 7 period day can take only one. That is just simply too difficult to fit in for many students, especially since it means jamming the remaining required classes into the first three periods of the day (because Advanced Studies begins so early, they cannot attend 4th period at their home schools) and many classes are ONLY OFFERED 4th period. In order to be more equitable, they should offer at least a few block schedule-friendly Advanced Studies classes at Fernbank that would last for only one semester.

If Fernbank cannot be made more equitable in these ways, I would support closing it. It is just too much money to spend on a resource that benefits so few -- at least at the high school level. In terms of elementary students, I disagree that science is not taught in the home schools in the early years. I have a third grader at a DCSS elementary and they have a VERY rigorous science curriculum which is actually her hardest class. I do see the advantage of having traveling teachers who come and do supplemental science classes at the elementary level as in house field trips, but I am not sure we need to keep Fernbank open in order to do that -- those teachers could be housed at one of our many, many other facilities.

betty said...

I believe Students First is a policy plan adopted by Ms. Atkinson. I don't know this for sure but it seems too conincidental.

This is an organization, founded by Michelle Rhee, committed to quality teaching. Working within government systems to create change locally.

I have copyied and excerpt of StudentsFirst agenda:

Policy Agenda: To elevate the teaching profession by
valuing teachers’ impact on students, StudentsFirst will
pursue the following policy objectives:

* State law must require evaluation that is based substantially on student achievement. Evaluation tools should measure at least half of a teacher’s performance based on student achievement, using a valueadded growth model. The other aspects of a teacher’s evaluations should derive from measures that align with student results, including high-quality observations and student evaluations of teacher
practice.
• To avoid all teachers being ranked as effective without meaningful assessment, evaluations must
anchor effectiveness around a year’s worth of growth.
• State law must require principal evaluation that is based on student achievement and effective
management of teachers. Districts should evaluate at least half of a school administrator’s performance
based on student achievement, and the remaining portion should mostly relate to their ability to attract,
retain, manage,!and develop excellent teachers.
• State law should give districts the autonomy to develop teacher evaluation systems apart from the
collective bargaining process. Evaluations should be a matter of district policy.
• States must reduce legal barriers to entry in the teaching profession, including complicated
credentialing or certification schemes that rely upon factors that do not clearly correlate with teacher effectiveness.

You can see the rest at StudentsFirst.org

Anonymous said...

While I respect and once argued that all schools should offer the same programming so that all students would have access to a quality education, regardless of where they reside, I am finding it hard to support this in this county at this point.

As noted in earlier posts, the north/south debate rages. More and more schools are not making AYP. Discipline problems abound (my kids have been bullied, so I've seen it first hand).

More problematically, I am concerned that in this county (and increasingly across the country), the proposal to offer the same education across all schools and to all students would necessarily mean that we would be moving to once again embark on a "dumbing down" of our curriculum - across the board.

From viewing our local schools it is clear that the county is not committed, and from viewing these blogs it is clear that parents are not committed, to providing quality gifted education to our students. The magnet coordinator is the gifted coordinator. Schools have been allowed (and perhaps encouraged if principals are to be believed) to get rid of Discovery teachers and programs in order to create classrooms where mixed level classes are created. Why, well read board minutes, because gifted kids can help teachers instruct kids who aren't getting it. Again, no commitment in this county to kids in the middle or kids on top.

No offense, but what this blog, Atkinson, and all who have gone before are proposing appears to be just more of the same....teach to the bottom, the rest will be ok on their own.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 8:40

I never really thought too much about how DCSS may be failing the Discovery/Gifted population, but I'm afraid you may be on to something. For this first time that I'm aware of, the standardized testing (ITBS and CoGat) necessary to identify gifted children is not scheduled to be offered to 1st graders (I am assuming it is due to budget constraints). My biggest concern with this is that these children will not have the opportunity to take these tests until the 3rd grade; therefore, they will be missing out the opportunity to participate in the enrichment programs for the end of 1st grade, all of second grade and the majority of the 3rd grade. We as tax payers should be outraged at this! Once again DCSS seems to have all the money in the world to support the central office, but not enough money to educate our children.

Anonymous said...

thanks anon. Most don't care about this issue, as they see gifted kids as taking away from their schools due to magnet programs. But, let's be honest, magnet programs are LOTTERIES, that can be filled with high achievers, defined as scoring a 75% on ITBS.

Really, think about that. If you are a gifted kid in this county, you are entered into a pool with kids scoring (what I've always defined as average) and your access to gifted services relies on WINNING A LOTTERY! Yep, the county considers provision of gifted services through lotteries. That's dedication to teaching our best and brightest! There is not consistent dedication to these kids receiving services in all local schools, and there is a stacked deck against their receiving services at Magnet programs.

Further, those kids in the middle and upper middle ability levels get NOTHING! All of our attention, on this blog, in county funding formulas, and certainly in the schools, is on only the kids who are not making the grade. There is no push to help those kids on a B level gain motivation and skills to make an A, nor for moving the average student up to a B. And these are the majority of our students.

Ah, I shouldn't have gotten started. Yes, I do want those who are struggling to have access to help. Unfortunately, in this county such assistance comes at a cost to all of the other kids, who are discounted as they can make it on their own.

Anonymous said...

On another note, I have asked several times if all students at a school that missed AYP have access to tutoring programs, and have been told that they do. NOT TRUE! I received a letter from my local school regarding the availability of tutoring services because this year the school did not make AYP.

The letter states, IN BOLD PRINT, that "Only parent(s)/legal guardian(s) of students who qualify to receive free or reduced priced meals may request SES." (Supplemental Educational Services)

Furthermore, "If the school district does not have sufficient funds to provide services to all eligible services to all eligible students, priority will be given to those eligible students with the lowest test scores, starting with the highest grade level."

Finally, "DeKalb County School System will (bold) NOT BE ACCEPTING STUDENTS IN GRADES K-2 FOR SES)."

Am I the only one who sees holes in this approach? Where are Title I funds going that we cannot provide tutoring services to ALL STUDENTS who did not receive adequate instruction at a failing school.

This letter indicates that if you are a working class parent who has been zoned into a Title I FAILURE, whose child received subpar instruction and was unsuccessful, well, YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN.

Furthermore, the system is going to take care of upper grades first, rather than foundational levels. Yep, let's push the problem back and continue the triage approach to education. Geez, does anyone in DCSS actually read educational literature (let alone have common sense). We know we have kids who have already fallen behind in grades K-2, but we are NOT going to provide assistance at this level; instead we'll wait until they fail in a critical testing grade (grade 3). Research indicates that kids who are not reading proficiently by grade three will likely struggle throughout their educational careers, and are at increased risk to drop out, but DCSS doesn't care about that.

I'm speechless. I've been saying for some time that not everyone at a failing school has access, only the kids at the VERY bottom and only if you are receiving financial assistance. Everybody else......

Anonymous said...

@ September 21, 2011 8:40 AM
Well said. The needs of advanced kids are being ignored.

To 8:18 am, "I have a third grader at a DCSS elementary and they have a VERY rigorous science curriculum which is actually her hardest class." What school is that? Your school is also "a resource which benefits a few." I bet it is more economically segregated than my neighborhood elementary, and is therefore more able to spend more of its resources on science. In a sense it is more inequitable than the Fernbank Advanced Studies class which is inconvenient for students at your high school. The difference is that students from anywhere in the county can choose to attend Fernbank ASC classes at the cost of some inconvenience. (Advanced Studies is not oversubscribed like STT.) They can't choose to attend your elementary.

FSC is a relatively equitable "inequity" as far as the county's special programs go because it tries to offer a variety of programs to benefit students across the county (that's why buses are needed for elementary field trips and that's why the STT selection process is contentious).

To various posters who claim that other counties have somehow solved this difficult problem and all schools are equal in Gwinnett, Rockdale, Fulton, or Cobb, let's redistrict some Walton neighborhoods to McEachern and see if they object. (BTW Gwinnett, Rockdale, and Cobb have magnet high school programs - GSMST, Rockdale Magnet, Wheeler.)

Anonymous said...

Do NOT let it become known to the BOE that some/a school in North DK has a good program. There are some members of the BOE who take this as an act of unfairness and will do their best to dumb down the good program. DCSS BOE goal is LCD (lowest common denominator) results. "Excellence" is a forbidden word.

Anonymous said...

The approved budget for Fernbank Science Center includes a listing for a Director and a Coordinator. The salaries have not been moved or hidden. Fernbank Science Center is under Teaching and Learning in the administrative hierarchy but the budget of just of 4,000,000 is just that. The figure of 100,000 students bused to the center is also incorrect and way too high. Is someone who has an axe to grind purposely distorting the facts or can they not download the published budget from http://www.dekalb.k1.ga.us/budget ?

Cerebration said...

Well, it certainly looks like you have all been having a lively conversation. I've been out of town for a number of days due to a death in the family sadly. If anyone was able to attend the strategic planning meeting yesterday - or the ELPC meeting today and took notes, please consider sending them to us via email and we will post -

reparteeforfun@gmail.com

That said, we could use some more "volunteer reporters" to attend and report on meetings. If you would like to help out, please email us.

And as far as I understand regarding the tutoring. This is funded with federal Title 1 money - thus it can only be used for students considered Title 1 students (free and reduced lunch). As with the transfer option, the tutoring is offered to the poorest and those most behind in test scores first. Sadly, many students will not qualify for the tutoring -- or a transfer. I have been saying for quite a long time that most students I know who do very well in DCSS schools use private tutors. It's difficult to keep up with the workload in high school without support - either parents or tutors.

And I agree - it seems like a bad choice to put the tutoring help with the 3rd graders. Seems that if we tackled the early learning at the starting gate, then deficits would resolve by third or fourth grade. This is why I'm a proponent of using empty buildings for Pre-K academies. Lots of early intervention could be focused there.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 12:53
"The figure of 100,000 students bused to the center is also incorrect and way too high."

How many students does Fernbank Science Center serve a year?

If DCSS has around 100,000 students and every student gets to go to Fernbank once a year, then that's 100,000 students.

If Fernbank Science Center has on average 50,000 students a year, that means on DCSS students get to go to Fernbank on average once every 2 years.

A science visit once every 2 years doesn't seem like a lot of of science education IMHO.

Surely, Fernbank has the numbers to easily pull up.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:29 am

You are right.

From the brochure:
"This service provides ‘free tutoring’ to enhance instruction provided outside
the regular school day. Only parent(s)/legal guardian(s) of students in grades 3 -12, who
qualify to receive free or reduced price meals may request SES. If the school district does not
have sufficient funds to provide services to all eligible children, priority will be given to those eligible children with the lowest test scores. "

Here is the link to download the brochure.
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/school-improvement/supplemental-educational-services/open-enrollment-brochure.pdf

DeKalb Mom said...

There is a big difference between offering the same basic opportunities across all schools and "dumbing down". At this point, DeKalb does not offer even the same basics at each school level - # of science/social studies days, PE, music, art, language, recess, gifted. If every DeKalb school would offer the exact same basics, I bet the transfers and leaving for theme/magnet would drastically decrease. I know people who have transferred schools just because of the lack of one or two of these basics.

Leo said...

Our school indicated that any student who didn't pass or meet key indicators in their Fall testing was eligible for small group testing. There did not appear to be a limitation that you had to qualify for free/reduced lunch to participate. Instead, you had to not pass your CRCT. While they didn't specify grades, if CRCT is the requirement, then that would only get current 4 and 5 graders. That seems pretty foolish to me too.

Leo said...

Also, we're still showing the CoGAT testing will be given to 1, 3 and 5 grades the first week of August. Is it true that they aren't testing grade 1 throughout the county?

Anonymous said...

Well, let's be clear, one way to save money is to not identify gifted students for whom the state requires provision of services. If we don't test first graders, then we don't need to serve them, right? And we can keep the money train goin'.

I strongly disagree that provision of services doesn't equate to "dumbing down" in this particular county. Again, gifted services in the local schools have been gutted in most instances, with the system moving to a cluster model that allows them to use these students for assistance with other students at lower levels. Again, if you read the minutes of "triage" meeting, this is a planned response for dealing with AYP outcomes last year promoted by our divine leadership. How does this not equate to lowering standards?

Furthermore, this blog has many readers who would see the few gifted services that are offered further depleted, as you want to eliminate the magnets. As I noted before, I stayed in a home school, trying to make it better, and got nowhere; the principal indicated that she had the support of the District to eliminate the part-time Discovery teacher that we did have.

Name one set of services that are being provided by this district to help mid-level performers rise up.

Name one program that is consistently and equitably available to gifted students across home schools that is actively monitored to ensure that high performers are being pushed to excel. Indeed, name one county-wide program that solely targets all gifted learners county-wide. Go further, name one single occasion where our leadership have pointed to these students as having needs that should be addressed.

Now, name the programs that are available to low performers at all home schools, whether parents and children are taking advantage of them or not.

Where is the desire to address the needs of ALL learners, to push the limits for those at all levels.

Nope, let's cut testing so that we don't have to provide these services to those kids.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that many students who have been identified as gifted truly are not gifted. Parents know that it's the way to better classes in the middle and high school. Tests for giftedness are fudged, so that kids get in. I've seen it happen. It's easier to make a parent happy, and quiet them, than to say to the parent your child is just average or slightly above average, but not gifted.

I say stop labeling the kids. Give them all a quality education and have them all meet the standards. Right now we have too many haves and have nots. Stop spending more on some kids than others. Everyone deserves to have a good education, not just those who have been labeled.

I do believe that we could meet the needs of all students in their home school, if the standards were raised, excuses stopped, and students received help as early as possible, as third, fourth, and fifth grade and later is way too late in many instances and the interventions take more time, which costs more money.

I am glad that a few parents feel that their children are getting a good education, but the fact is that it's not happening in all of our schools, and more students are not receiving an inferior education than those that receive a decent one.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Atkinson is bringing in outside people to fill the following positions:

Deputy Supt for Curriculum and Instruction
Deputy Supt for School Leadership
and
Chief Information Officer

Anonymous said...

Who are they and where are they from?

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

All of you (or should I say the one of you that blogs constantly) is absolutely wrong that other counties do not offer magnet schools. As 10:51 a.m. pointed out, ALL the surrounding counties have magnet schools. In fact Gwinnett opened its Science and Technology magnet a few years ago and it is one of the highest rated schools in the state. It is incredible. A school where nothing is dumbed down - where being really smart is celebrated and rewarded.

Why did Gwinnett do this? Because this was a way to keep the really bright students and their families in the school system. No BS about not giving zeros or extra credit for bringing Kleenex. And there is no effort to make the school body mirror the diversity of the community.

In DeKalb, "equity" unfortunately means lower standards for everyone. No thanks.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 5:29
"Well, let's be clear, one way to save money is to not identify gifted students for whom the state requires provision of services. If we don't test first graders, then we don't need to serve them, right? And we can keep the money train goin'. "

Quite the contrary. Gifted kids are given 1.66 funding of regular ed kids. DCSS receives 66% more in state funding for gifted students. DCSS figured out long ago that if they certify every teacher in a school in Gifted, they can use a state inclusion model that says the regular education teachers are providing the gifted services and collect the money without hiring special resource teachers who only teach gifted students.

Very few students are identified as gifted in K-2 so perhaps this is why they do not want to put the money into testing. Be assured however that they are well compensated by the state of Georgia for serving gifted students. Parents need to ask how the services are differentiated for gifted as compared to regular ed kids in the classrooms. DCSS is collecting the money for differentiation of instruction for gifted students. Nor can they decide to serve gifted kids in some schools and not serve gifted kids in other schools (e.g. schools that do not have high populations of gifted students). When you take money for serving gifted students, you must serve all gifted students.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 754

I know the models (inclusion, cluster, pull-out) intimately. Have read the state directives, have had conversations with a principal with an education advocate present, have talked to the county "gifted" coordinator. Yes, I know the rules. I also know that the county is taking the cheap, easy way out and is providing NO FOLLOW-UP to ensure that the inclusion/cluster model is actually providing services - real services - not those that look like services on paper - in our schools. For example, on the inclusion model, a parent should be able to request a copy of the individual contract that indicates how the gifted education will be provided along with the evidence of their advanced curriculum. After a year of trying to get this information from our local school, and only receiving a copy of a teacher's plan with page numbers and lesson titles for different leveled groups, it became clear that the school was accepting those dollars for providing gifted education to my child and others identified as gifted, but providing her with NOTHING. And calls to the central office indicated that they were fine with this model and felt the school was doing what it should be.

After trying to educate the principal (which seems like something that I shouldn't have to do with an advocate in tow), and recognizing that I have a full time job, our family gave up.

I would fully support the magnet system if it were for gifted students. But I do agree that the lottery to include high achievers completely puts providing services to those who truly need them at risk for not receiving them.

And to you parents (Anon @ 5:46) who say that very few of the kids identified as gifted really are...my response is that this is an easy response for someone who does not live with a truly gifted child. For your information, truly gifted kids DO EXIST - even if you don't want them to. Truly gifted kids are BORED TO DEATH in the regular classroom in elementary schools (and should not be labor for the school system and teachers to teach to the bottom as indicated by our esteemed Beasley). Truly gifted kids DO have a set of circumstances that puts them, often, at risk in regular schools - where they get bullied and called names because they excel in the classroom. Truly gifted kids are at a higher risk of DROPPING OUT and of DEPRESSION and of COMMITTING SUICIDE. Educate yourself. The issue isn't that we should just do away with providing gifted services (the state requires that we do), but that we should ACTUALLY PROVIDE GIFTED SERVICES.

Choose to believe they do not exist or that their numbers are so small they are irrelevant. I honestly hope that you don't have one of these kids because they will suffer in your home (and in your school).

Yes, I'm very bitter about my experiences in DeKalb in a fairly well-respected school that refused to respond to gifted needs. Yes, I do know what it is like for kids in the middle, who also are pushed aside because the only kids who really matter are non-performers. My experiences span the the learning spectrum and I can honestly say that truly gifted kids are less likely to receive the services that they need than other students. Hope you win the lottery!

Anonymous said...

ps. Can someone please tell me where the gifted monies go when a school uses the inclusion model, place a gifted certified teacher (and not all are worth their certification) in the classroom, and do not have a Discovery teacher to provide additional instruction, assistance, and/or pull out services? How are these schools spending that extra .66%? Is anyone ensuring that the funds actually go to services/personnel that affect the students who qualified the school for that money? From my discussions at my local school, I couldn't get a straight answer. Seems to me that the provision of funds goes to the principal who can spend them as they want. No follow-up from the county.

Cerebration said...

We attempted a report on this once. It was incredibly frustrating. We found three sources of gifted reporting, none of which had matching data. The numbers reported to the state, reported by DCSS on the website and the numbers reported by individual principals.

Gifted and Magnet School Data Now Available

Anonymous said...

@ Cere.... that's my point. The money comes to the county, but there is no accountability that it directly impacts the students. With the cluster model in a school where there is no discovery teacher, I'm pretty hard pressed to see that the additional FTE is impacting gifted education. Looks like a shifting shell game to me. Of course, I'm sure there's some formula. : )

Fred said...

I wanted to wait a while an let atl determine how to respond to the presentation given by Dr. Berry. Despite this information which confirmed much of what I tried to clarify, atl still doesn't want to believe it. The Federal and State governments audit this information regularly along with internal audits yet atl still wants to insists fraud is occuring.

atl, you are taking the data on the open.gov site out of context. I will agree more information should be provided so citizens can understand how various positions are funded. To simply list all positions and say they are funded by Title 1 is incorrect unless you have additional information.

Title 1 has discretion with 16% of their 42 million dollar budget, which is just under 7 million dollars. Some of this discretion is to satisfy mandates but it is still discretion on how to use it. Much of it is in personnel that in turn helps take some of the paperwork load off the local schools. This amount is less than 1% of the total operating budget. You blame the total failings of all schools in DCSS on the Title 1 (School Improvement) department and I disagree. I still contend there is enough blame for the challenges in DCSS to go around.

Ironically there have been several recent articles in the Journal-Constitution and by reputable education advocates that confirm my statement at a high level for education. State school superintendent John Barge agrees that one should not solely judge a student/school/district on the results of a single test. That also means one should not judge employees on the results of that same test. Hopefully the witch hunt will end and we can concentrate on helping more students succeed. I know that is what I will be doing.

Fred said...

Cerebration, thanks for sharing that link on the earlier blog on gifted and magnet. It was extremely informative.

Anon said...

Honestly, if you have a child who is gifted and the county is receiving extra money for your child who is gifted and that money is not getting gifted services to your child (i.e. there is actual harm to your child and the county appears to be receiving funds to provide such services), I think there's a law suit in there, possibly even a class action, if you e-mail repartee and ask for lawyers, you may be able to pursue it (there needs to be a "nexsus" between what the county receives and the "services" going - or not - to your child).

atl said...

@ Fred

"I wanted to wait a while an let atl determine how to respond to the presentation given by Dr. Berry. "

I've already responded to the presentation. I guess you missed it.

Here it is in summation.

See Title 1 presentation:
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/school-improvement/boe-presentation-(2011-09-12).pdf

10% of Title 1 money is required to be spent for Staff Development (also known as Professional Development). See page 1 of the presentation. $4,232,037 out of $43,000,000+ in Title 1 funding is earmarked for Staff Development. No details are given as to what these millions are spent on.

In addition, $3,895,430 is earmarked for 96 PD (Professional Development) Instructional Coaches. See page 4 of the presentation.

The 10% Staff Development (Professional Development) constraint was already fulfilled on page 1. Now on page 4 another $3,895,430 is poured into Staff Development in the form of Instructional Coaches (no federal rules are cited).

Of course this $3,895,430 ($40,577 per Coach) does not cover the cost of these 96 Coaches since their average salary is $76,000 (around $90,000 including benefits).

I suspect that the Instructional Coaches salaries as well as the coordinators and a number of other titles are listed as Staff Development. Since the money to cover their salaries is more than required 10% of Title 1 funds, this is where the line item for Instructional Coaches on page 4 came in.

There are probably millions in additional federal funding designated so non-teaching personnel can be moved under one department or another to fund their salaries.
Go to:
http://www.open.ga.gov/psa/poeMain.aud
Click on Payments>2010>Local Boards of Education>Organization:(Select DeKalb County Board of Education)>Funding Source:(Select Federal)

...to see the non-teaching personnel salaries funded by various federal funding (Title 1 being a small portion of these federal funds).

This presentation was by no means transparent.

But your focus is off target. Student progress is the ONLY measure to consider. That is why the school system exists and the only reason for taxpayer dollars to be spent.

The bottom line is that the Office of School Improvement has utterly failed at its mission - yes, it does have a mission:
"Our goal in the Office of School Improvement is to provide a coherent and sustained system of support and a systematic process for continuous improvement. Schools and centers are provided with the tools and resources to facilitate academic progress, including intensive support for schools not making adequate yearly progress (AYP)."

See http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/school-improvement

We are down to only 20% of DCSS Title 1 schools making AYP so their goal has clearly not been met.

DCSS needs a new director for the Office of School Improvement since Dr. Berry has presided over consistently declining scores as compared to demographically similar metro school systems for over 6 years.

Doing the same - only more of it - will ensure more Title 1 schools do not make adequate yearly progress next year.

Dr. Berry can give PowerPoint presentations, but she has not been able to move students forward. This is not right for kids.

atl said...

@ Fred
I've already responded to the presentation. I guess you missed it.

Here it is in summation.

See Title 1 presentation:
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/school-improvement/boe-presentation-(2011-09-12).pdf

10% of Title 1 money is required to be spent for Staff Development (also known as Professional Development). See page 1 of the presentation. $4,232,037 out of $43,000,000+ in Title 1 funding is earmarked for Staff Development. No details are given as to what these millions are spent on.

In addition, $3,895,430 is earmarked for 96 PD (Professional Development) Instructional Coaches. See page 4 of the presentation.

The 10% Staff Development (Professional Development) constraint was already fulfilled on page 1. Now on page 4 another $3,895,430 is poured into Staff Development in the form of Instructional Coaches (no federal rules are cited).

Of course this $3,895,430 ($40,577 per Coach) does not cover the cost of these 96 Coaches since their average salary is $76,000 (around $90,000 including benefits).

I suspect that the Instructional Coaches salaries as well as the coordinators and a number of other titles are listed as Staff Development. Since the money to cover their salaries is more than required 10% of Title 1 funds, this is where the line item for Instructional Coaches on page 4 came in.

There are probably millions in additional federal funding designated so non-teaching personnel can be moved under one department or another to fund their salaries.
Go to:
http://www.open.ga.gov/psa/poeMain.aud
Click on Payments>2010>Local Boards of Education>Organization:(Select DeKalb County Board of Education)>Funding Source:(Select Federal)

...to see the non-teaching personnel salaries funded by various federal funding (Title 1 being a small portion of these federal funds).

This presentation was by no means transparent.

But your focus is off target. Student progress is the ONLY measure to consider. That is why the school system exists and the only reason for taxpayer dollars to be spent.

The bottom line is that the Office of School Improvement has utterly failed at its mission - yes, it does have a mission:
"Our goal in the Office of School Improvement is to provide a coherent and sustained system of support and a systematic process for continuous improvement. Schools and centers are provided with the tools and resources to facilitate academic progress, including intensive support for schools not making adequate yearly progress (AYP)."

See http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/school-improvement

We are down to only 20% of DCSS Title 1 schools making AYP so their goal has clearly not been met.

DCSS needs a new director for the Office of School Improvement since Dr. Berry has presided over consistently declining scores as compared to demographically similar metro school systems for over 6 years.

Doing the same - only more of it - will ensure more Title 1 schools do not make adequate yearly progress next year.

Dr. Berry can give PowerPoint presentations, but she has not been able to move students forward. This is not right for kids.

Anonymous said...

"Seems to me that the provision of funds goes to the principal who can spend them as they want."

That's more or less true. Many use gifted funds as extra money to fund more grade level teachers and reduce their pupil teacher ratio. Not a bad thing for all students, but not really why gifted funds are allotted by the state.