Friday, September 23, 2011

Suggestions for Dr. Atkinson


A recent article in the AJC says the following about Dr. Atkinson's plans for the next few months:

Atkinson called it “a new day in DeKalb,” on her fourth day on the job in leading Georgia's third-largest school district.

“Victory is in the classroom,” she said. “It will take the entire community to ensure success.”

Formerly of Lorain, Ohio, Atkinson said she would call on the DeKalb community for guidance. The Tuesday night meeting was part of her 90-day "entry plan," a study of the school system's strengths and weaknesses. After the brief introduction, the audience of roughly 300 people was broken into smaller groups and led to several classrooms where facilitators sought ideas.

While Atkinson called on the community for ideas, the Tuesday participants noted that they represented a fraction of the parents and teachers in a school system with 99,000 students.

Atkinson will contact more people. She’ll meet with administrators, teachers, students, parents, government leaders and civic and business leaders. She plans to ride school buses. She'll review reports, studies, resumes and job descriptions. The school system will host a survey on its website.

The results of the research will be revealed in four months. Atkinson plans to present her findings to the school board in January, and the school system says she'll use the information to identify key staffers and potential new hires to form her leadership team.

To that end, this blog will offer our own "Virtual Suggestion Box". Please add detailed suggestions, plans and observations in the comments of this post which we will share with Dr. Atkinson in a few months. Be succinct. Be specific. Be helpful and kind. We really do have a chance for a new day to dawn and we expect that our bloggers will exert every effort to help make that dawn break.

104 comments:

Open+Transparent said...

1) Complete revamp the Central Office!!! Dramatically lower the number of Central Office administrators, and the salaries of the remaining staff. The Central Office is so incredibly top heavy and bloated, with ruthless politics, and has been the biggest impediment to this school system rising above mediocrity. And no more administrators with advanced degrees from online diploma mills like "Sarasota University", Argosy, etc. GA State is a real school down the street, and UGA is close too.

2) Eliminate the Office of School Improvement! This office has shown absolutely no return on investment, and takes tens of millions of dollars out of the classroom. OSI staff can go back to the classroom as teachers. I won't even get into the Audria Berry p-card travel mess.

3) Eliminate or revamp Parent Resources Centers! Not only do they provide no return on investment, they have been one of the leading areas of nepotism and cronyism in the entire system. it is shameful that PRC staff make more than teachers, when most have no degrees or valid experience. They could/should be eliminated, but the Board of Ed. will fight it. if they are to be kept, then staff them with retired teachers and part-time staff, only on actual school days and the week or two before school. There is no reason to have PRC staff to be paid benefits and pensions. They need to be a support service, not a place for BOE members and Central Officers to get high paid jobs for family and friends who aren't even qualified to teach!

4) Audit MIS, School Police, Sam Moss, every department! MIS is dysfunctional and out of touch. They are in love with the pipeline, while teachers have old and malfunctioning equipment. And Where in the World is Jamal Edwards?

The School Police Dept. is bloated and ineffective. And what in the heck do they do in the summer? Gene Walker will fight it, as he has a son or relative in the department, of course making more than the average teacher.

Sam Moss? Can't clean schools well, has never taken good care of HVAC, school grounds are embarassing, etc. Somehow Pat pope as head of Sam Moss pushed through possibly illegal contracts, etc.

5) No more ridiculous multi-million dollar purchases like America's Choice, eSIS, etc.! Again, Central office administrators spend tens of millions with no return on investment and no accountability from the BOE. But then again, this BOE spent millions of the Mountain Industrial place/mega-complex, while schools have leaking roofs and mold in their ductwork.

Dr. Atkinson, this school system needs reform. The money is there, but it doesn't go to the classroom. It goes to an incredibly political, dog eat dog Central Office, with a Board of Ed. who has no issues with nepotism and cronyism.

FOCUS ON THE CLASSROOM, INSTEAD OF HIRING EVEN MORE ADMINISTRATORS, AND LETTING THE CURRENT ONES WASTE TENS OF MILLIONS ON WASTEFUL DEPARTMENTS, PROGRAMS AND THEIR OWN BLOATED SALARIES!

It's about students. It's not about the people at the Mountain Industrial Palace.

DeKalb Mom said...

Eliminate annexes and most AYP transfers. Focus improvement in the home school.

Guarantee that every school will have a core educational experience - core subjects, PE, music, art, language, and gifted.

Consolidate severely under-populated schools.

Raise requirements for high achiever schools and do a tiered approach to admission. Start with top 3%. If there is still space, open up to next .5%, etc. If a school has more than x% of gifted (in other words, they have a ton of gifted services), they cannot send students to high achiever magnets.

Reduce teacher paperwork

Open+Transparent said...

Great list DeKalb Mom! Big yes to reducing mindless teacher paperwork.

I forgot two easy ones:

-Make public a list of EVERY single property owned by DCSS. Pat Pope promised this before her indictment. The BOE never held the Central Office accountable to make good on her promise. I believe the BOE and Central Office do not want the public to know how many non-school properties it owns. Some of these properties could be sold so the county could receive property tax revenue from them, instead of sitting in squalor.

-Take care of EVERY single DCSS property. Heritage is in deplorable condition, especially in the back of the property.

Rent out unused buildings. Let charter schools uses the facilities. No more allowing shuttered facilities to rot in disgracefil condition.

This is solely on the hands of Steve Donahue and the Sam Moss staff. They simply don't do their jobs well. Steve will complain about his lack of resources. Well is Steve and Sam Moss staff can't properly maintain shuttered schools and other DCSS properties, sell them, rent them out, or give a charter school a chance to make a difference.

One of these days I'll work with Cere to put a slide show on the blog of shuttered schools and other poorly maintained DCSS properties. I'm not exxagerating about how disgraceful they are. Y'all will be shocked.

Dunwoody Mom said...

1. Make sure that there are strong, qualified, Principals in every school with the real authority to discipline students with the authority to have a say in the teachers that teacher in her/his building.


2. Downsize the Central Office.

3. Do away with the magnet programs as they currently exist. We need programs for students who are truly gifted.

Just a few off the top of my head.

Anonymous said...

Show us how the county is using the gifted monies. Ensure that the extra funding received from the state is actually reaching gifted students and is not being simply turned over to principals to spend on whole school initiatives.

Ensure that gifted kids across the county have access to truly gifted services. Be real about the cluster model in traditional schools and ask schools that do not have a Discovery teacher providing in class services to demonstrate how they are spending gifted funding to reach the gifted students in those schools where inclusion is the model. Right now principals cannot provide deliverables to demonstrate a differentiated curriculum for these students. Follow all of the state guidelines about how to deliver these services - ensure that schools are not just picking and choosing so that they can use the money as they please.

Revisit Beasley's approach suggesting that gifted kids be used as support services for those students who are not performing at the same level. These kids are not receiving salaries and have the same rights to be challenged in school as other kids do.

Love the tiered entrance approach to the magnets proposed above.

Ensure that schools have the appropriate resources and supports to discipline students who are distractions for other students. Bullying should not be tolerated, at all.

How much testing (pre-benchmark, benchmark, along with all of the others) is really needed? Examine how much instructional time is spent on testing rather than instruction. Reconsider assessment formats to provide actual learning time. Reduce grading and such testing requirements so that teachers have time to plan creative lessons (and ensure that they spend time doing such).

ACTUALLY CALL for FUNDING A SCIENCE CURRICULUM at all levels of education.

Consider not spending money on double salaries at administrative levels. This is just more and more money spent at the top that deprives kids of real access. We're already paying costs for two supers. Please understand that with such high costs at levels that are far removed from classrooms, combined with all of the legal fees that we are paying to defend people who stole from our kids (awkward huh), it is hard for us as taxpayers and parents to feel good about paying even more to support schools (e.g., SPLOST) when the system is apparently doing such a bad job educating students and such a good job taking care of adult administrators. We've good reasons to be cynical.

Please, please, please, keep kids and learning at the forefront. Don't let the desires of adults detract from the business of education.

Thank you for opening the door.

Anonymous said...

Do a cost benefit analysis of Fernbank Science Center to see where our science dollars are best spent to improve DCSS students' mastery of science content. Eliminate the excess admin and support from the science center and plow that money back into science classrooms in the regular education schools.

parent said...

Good article leading in the NYT today on charter schools in LA. Interesting law, the 51% of parents rule. This may be worth bringing up with our local state leaders to consider for Georgia.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/24/education/24trigger.html?_r=1&hp

Anonymous said...

Open+Transparent: Good luck with that. Our Central Office staff grew during her tenure in Lorain.Right after promoting herself to CEO, a position that did not exist when she was hired, she even invented a whole new position--Deputy Chief Superintendent--for one of her buddies. I see she's already got a good start there by bringing Gary Brantley with her.

Dunwoody Mom: Gifted did not fare well under Dr. Atkinson. My son was in an elementary gifted classroom, which was one of the first things she eliminated when she came to Lorain. Now we have so-called "Honors" classes. My son is in one, and believe me when I tell you that they certainly do not replace the gifted program. In fact, most of the students in his class go to below level reading classes.

Just a heads-up: If you don't already have SFA reading, you will be getting it. Dr. Atkinson did her dissertation on SFA, and it is one of the main initiatives of the Broad Foundation, which is the organization that produced her. Parents, do your research NOW and be ready to push back. I wish I had known more about this so-called "reading" program from the start, because I sure would have raised a ruckus about it.

Anonymous said...

I believe that if and when Dr. Aktinson does an internal audit of each department, she will quickly find that there may be funds that are not accounted for along with many individuals that no where near qualified for the positions that they have.

I am apart of one these said Departments and have brought it to the attention of OIA and to no avail have they even attempted to investigate the matter.

If Dr. Aktinsins wants to truly access DCSS, she will need to use some outside resources that do not have ties to DCSS. Too many people within the system have too much to lose to truly assist her.

I personally have no problem with her hiring people with whom she is familiar with and may trust to assist her, many coorporations do this. And with all of the publicity that DCSS has had the past couple of years who could blame her.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:51 Am is totally correct about the reading program that Dr. Atkinson did her dissertation on. It's expensive and doesn't work. It's just another guided reading program that makes a company money.

Anonymous said...

Time to find a replacement for Ron Ramsey.

Another article showing Ron Ramsey's lack of accountability and siphoning of our taxes for his wife's child care business! This is disgraceful!

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.

Why is it not a conflict of interest for Ramsey, state rep and head of DCSS Internal Affairs, to run a state-funded Pre-K (in his wife's name). It may not be illegal, but it smells bad.

Anonymous said...

My advice to Dr. Atkinson is not to hire any more failed administrators from her previous school system in Ohio. Beverly Hall of APS tried that and it was a complete failure. There are many capable, competent school administrators right here in Atlanta. Also, I suggest you hire more employees from Morehouse, Spelman and Clark Atlanta are real schools with outstanding graduates. I have no problem with employees with advanced degrees from Central Michigan and other online colleges. You need not look any further than the Governor's Office and some of these other failed government agencies to see that UGA, GA State, etc are not the answer. We expect you to represent and do what is in the best interest of the majority of residents and students of Dekalb County.

No Duh said...

Abandon Math I, II, III, etc.!

The state Superintendent has released local systems from the mandate to use this ill-conceived curriculum. DCSS chose to offer BOTH Mish-Mash Math (i.e. Math I, II, III) and Discreet Math (i.e. Algebra, Geometry, Alg II, etc.).

ELIMINATE MATH I, II, III...

Anonymous said...

Please, please, please refund the annuity for teachers in lieu of Social Security.

Teachers in Dekalb are in a worse financial situation than all other systems that take Social Security (FICA) deductions for their teachers paychecks.

We won't have the benefit of any Social Security credit when we retire.

Please do this. It was an unfair move by the County to stop funding this annuity. We were told that we would avoid furlough days because of the County's savings when they stopped funding the annuities.

Well, now we are taking furlough days, and the annuity is not being funded. We were lied to then.

Ms. Tyson stated unequivocally that the annuities would be funded again. They were not. We were lied to again.

Dr. Atkinson, you will go along way to reestablishing trust among your teachers if you push for refunding this annuity. Or have FICA deducted, so we can begin earning Social Security credit.

Please, please, please!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon 3:11, Ramsey needs to be gone, and he should have been gone yesterday.

I suggest those of you who are disgusted by the unethical behavior of the man who lectures us on ethics complain to the State Bar and the Ethics Committee or the equivalent thereof in the state Legislature.

I believe he is also responsible for inflicting Eddie Long on us all.

This guy reeks of corruption.

Anonymous said...

No Duh, I'm not so sure that the "discrete" math courses are substantially different from the "integrated" ones.

In August I downloaded the state's Accelerated Math 1 standards and the Accelerated GPS Algebra Geometry standards so I could compare them. They appeared to be word-for-word the same except for the title, the page footer, and one minor item added to the algebra/geometry standard, MA1D5 part d, which was about correlation vs. causation (a statistics topic, not an algebra/geometry topic).

georgiastandards.org is down right now. The old link was https://georgiastandards.org/Standards/Pages/BrowseStandards/MathStandards9-12.aspx

Anonymous said...

Amen Anon @4:42!! DeKalb must restore the annuities in order to compete with other metro counties.

No matter how many programs and new initiatives DeKalb implements it all comes down to teacher quality. DeKalb is not recruiting and retaining high quality teachers because they are underpaid compared to metro counties.

Some food for thought- On my salary pay scale this year from DCSS there was an asterisk that said:
"A recent audit of our records indicated that your DCSS salary is currently below the state minimum salary guidelines for the 2011-2012 school year." As a result they are giving me a whopping extra $52 in order to just meet the MINIMUM guidelines! So essentially I'm making the same as a teacher with the same credentials would in South Georgia where the cost of living is significantly less!

Anonymous said...

I am a para. My experience is those at the helm at my school, and some teachers have this outlook of looking down upon me as if I am less than them. I have talked with other paras and most of them feel the same way. I come to work and do my job just as anyone else does. I don't know if this comes from some kind of superiority complex but I am tired of it. It is demeaning to me. I don't want to come to work everyday to be made to feel like I am inferior to them when I know I'm not. I believe this is bad for morale and our kids. I would like to suggest the superintendent talk to all employees and say that any condescending attitude or remarks made toward a para will not be tolerated and must be reported. Thank you.

DCSS Teacher said...

Speaking as a teacher:

Ask teachers what they think would improve student learning. Find out what keeps them from doing their jobs well (the HUGE classes, outdated equipment, minimal training, slack discipline, etc), and rectify it.

Re-establish the Teachers Advisory Council, or something like it, to provide regular, unfiltered feedback from teachers elected by their peers to represent them. (Not the Teachers of the Year). If teachers trust the Superintendent, they are more likely to enthusiastically support her programs.

Restore the Board TSA. At present, we aren't paying into Social Security, and we aren't paying into this, either. Hiring people with one set of promises, then reneging on them, hurts morale.

Develop a concrete, consistent approach for dealing with the behavior problems that plague DCSS. One child should not be able to disrupt learning for a whole classroom, but at present, this often occurs. Study schools in the County that use effective approaches--they do exist.

Overall--ask the people who work in DCSS for their suggestions, and take the time to hear them out.

Anonymous said...

Para 8:47 I taught in DCSS and was treated like that because I questioned the rules and regulations or lack of on some occasions. Treating people with respect is not part of the DCSS culture. I believe that you have to have that F-U attitude and really not care (Cee Lo Green's song comes to mind). You are there for the kids and that is what is important that you do what you should be for them.

To me the paras in many cases are under paid and do a better job than the teacher that they are working for.

I agree with you that disrespectful behavior should not be tolerated and reported, but given the current make up of those running DCSS, I do not see the climate changing any time soon. Too many are fearful for their plush jobs and will be kissing up and anything else that they can think of to keep them.

I am sorry that you are going through this, but I hope that you will keep a smile on your face and keep those rotten people wondering why you are so happy. Kill them with kindness.

Anonymous said...

Please change the ITBS testing dates. Oct 31 and Nov 1 are the worst selections of the testing window. How many kids are going o be well rested and not on a sugar high on Nov 1? Craziness.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:42's suggestion is the one we MUST do if all others are ignored--restore teacher retirement funds as promised!

A parent

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:11

"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."

Does this statement sound eerily similar to his performance within DCSS and the Senate?

I agree with his law breaking wife. He has NOT played an active role in the school system or as an elected official! His greatest achievement as a Senator has been to rename streets within his district!
He has NO accomplishments within DCSS except for accepting a paycheck for years without ANY performance!

This is what kills me about his wife's company. Here are the facts:

$850,000 in OUR tax dollars to run a child care business for the last 5 years.

$278,122 just last year!

How many times do people complain that "I didn't know the rules!"

She DOES know the rules! That's why she started the company because she knew the rules and wanted to ENRICH herself with our tax dollars! If you want to play by the rules and get PAID by the rules then you must be held accountable by the rules!

There is NO ACCOUNTABLITY!
Her husband is not accepting ANY RESPONSIBILITY for this!

Dr. Atkinson, please rid our school system of this BAD EXAMPLE!
Leadership takes courage and accountability! Show us that you are a leader! Do the right thing and get rid of ALL of the BAD APPLES from within DCSS.

Starting with the leach and cheat Ron Ramsey is a beginning.

Don't let us down.

Cerebration said...

My comments:

I don't understand how the system gets away with not contributing a matching share to TSA. Every other employer has to kick in a matching 7% to the employees 7% Social Security tax. Somehow our school leaders have been able to get around this due to the "budget" (which IMO, would be in much better shape without all the legal fees for criminal and civil cases). No one can "delete" the social security matching contribution from their budget. That one's not a choice - It's the law.

I do find it interesting that none of Ron Ramsey's professional online resumes at the state, his law practices - nowhere - does he claim his six-figure job at DCSS. Why does he keep it hidden from his public persona?

And to the para - I'm so sorry. My cousin is a kindergarten para at a school in Fulton and her lead teacher is her biggest supporter. She is highly appreciated and personally rewarded by this teacher. I would suggest that you go looking for someone nice to work with. Life is too short. And to take it one more step - Atkinson needs to rid the system of people with attitude and/or performance problems. This process needs to start now and continue until we are back in balance.

And my own suggestion is to place highly qualified corporate-trained people in business-based jobs.

This would include hiring a UPS or similarly trained executive to manage our transportation dept, a broadcast professional to manage our tv station and a construction professional to act as our owner's rep (I thought the contract with Parsons was short-term -- ? Barbara Colman is not an owner's rep - she is a construction manager. We need a professional owner's rep - someone who understands construction and who will look out for taxpayer dollars).

Same goes for maintenance. This is an enormous job that requires leadership with construction experience. Someone who can plan maintenance, rather than react to issues. Someone who has the knowledge to be able to manage and follow up with contracted work.

We need someone over Marcus Turk who has many years of experience over billion dollar budgets. Marcus does a good job but he needs a mentor and some guidance - there are still things he does not know - and areas where he needs to be transparent and is not - like the legal fees. He buries those.

We need a corporate-trained human resources director. There is much to know about managing 15,000 employees and they deserve a leader with decades of corporate experience under their belt, a thorough understanding of the hiring process and of benefit administration.

In general, we have placed former principals, or children of former board members in these critical jobs. The job market is hurting now - there are many highly qualified professionals out of work - I suggest we start acting like a professional organization and go out and hire some of these corporately trained professionals.

It's time to start acting like the Billion Dollar operation that we are.

Open+Transparent said...

Regarding Ron Ramsey, if you're new to the blog:
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/01/ron-ramsey.html

Here's what a Peach Pundit poster said about him:
Diana January 6, 2011 at 6:50 am

I’d say the information is probably accurate. Ramsey
* receives a 6-figure salary + expenses + benefits from DeKalb County Schools…paid for by the tax payer
* receives that salary in addition to his salary as a State Senator even when he is missing in action from DeKalb County Schools…paid for by the tax payer
* and his wife receive an additional 6-figures of tax dollars for their daycare/school…paid for by the tax payer
* cannot vote for many issues regarding education because he is an employee of DeKalb County Schools

Considering Education makes up approximately 60% of the state budget, don’t you think having a State Senator who can can actually be there and vote on these issues is important?

Not to mention he employs a convicted felon to do his PR/Video work (which he doesn’t list on his campaign disclosures).

He’s quite the snake, but then aren’t a lot of politicians out there?

---

And I hope Atkinson gets a chance to watch Zepora's rant filled with insider information:
"Ms. Zepora Roberts giving public comment on a subject that is suppose to be held in strict confidence by the sitting school board members"
http://dunwoodynorth.blogspot.com/2011/06/dekalb-county-boe-public-comment.html


Another oldie but goodie for the new supt.:
"DeKalb County School System sends 200 employees to Hollywood for $380,000.00"
http://dunwoodynorth.blogspot.com/2010/02/dekalb-county-school-system-sends-200.html

Anonymous said...

Dr. Atkinson should publish the salary schedules for all non-teaching jobs like every other metro school system does.

And to be really transparent in a school system where our last top managers are indicted for racketeering, an online check register should be published.

Currently, DCSS only publishes the salary schedule for teachers.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Atkinson needs to address the teacher attrition rate in DeKalb. The fact that Lewis and Tyson could eliminate close to 600 teaching jobs in 2 years through attrition alone points to a huge teacher turnover problem.

SW said...

The DeKalb County School System is inviting all parents to participate in one of the Superintendent's parent roundtable discussions. These meetings are a part of the overall objective of the Superintendent's Ninety-Day Entry Plan which will be to listen, learn, and lead.

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/superintendent/parent-roundtable-meetings

In accordance with the Superintendent's Ninety-Day Entry Plan, teacher fireside chat meetings with Superintendent Dr. Cheryl L. H. Atkinson have been scheduled. These meetings are a critical component of the Ninety-Day Plan and will allow Dr. Atkinson the opportunity to meet with teachers and discuss critical issues facing our organization.

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/superintendent/teacher-fireside-chat-meetings

Anonymous said...

1. Pull the plug on the TV station. If you have ever tuned in, it is embarrassing. There are reruns of a graduation speaker whose remarks objectify women. Useless.

2. Here is how DeKalb has such poor leadership. There is a real problem with the easy road to becoming a principal, and can be seen by the number of incompetent principals and APs. Anyone - even a lazy disengaged teacher - just needs to get a leadership certificate. Sit around in a school as an intern for 6 months and you are handed an AP slot. Everyone does NOT have leadership skills. No one is weeded out. Then they get promoted twice and end up in the Central Office which is how we have a CO where incompetence rules the day.
I know of teachers whose ultimate goal used to be to get a job in building B where they knew it would be easy street.

3. Fernbank is a lot of money with little bang for the buck. Close it. There are a few good science resource personnel that should be kept to take our science program to another level. But there are also some do-nothings there and some extremely rude people who treat teachers as an inconvenience.

4. Create a way for teachers to have a voice in evaluating the county people who oversee their area or are support to their area. This will be a help to identifying employees who aren't seeking the best interests of educating children but have a goal of the easy life with a fat salary.

Anonymous said...

In regards to the para's comment, I understand his or her perspective. It reminded me of the movie, "The Help" by ANONYMOUS. If you haven't seen the movie you should. The setting is in the 60s in Jackson, MS. It's pitiful that paras are HELPING teachers and students and have to go through what negro maids went through taking care of white babies and help run the households of whites in the deep South. For God's sake we live in the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr. The said thing about it is we're doing it to ourselves today in DeKalb County. I guess some teachers and administrators believe that they have arrived and can make someone feel like a misfit. I've heard paras are underpaid for the work they do in our schools and in many cases work harder and do a better job than some certified teachers. I've also heard teachers pass on work they don't want to do to paras as if they're an intern or something. If the County values its paras, they should pay them better. I've also heard about negative comments about substitute teachers being made by administrators. As a parent, I think the superintendent should have a meeting with paras and substitute teachers to let them know there is no room for this kind of behavior and that it's totally unacceptable under her leadership. Please respect one another.

Anonymous said...

Many of you seem to expect a lot from Dr. Atkinson. Give the woman a chance. You cannot expect her to correct years of neglect, misfeasance, malfeasance and corruption immediately. She has a daunting task before her, particularly when she will be sabotaged along the way whenever she tries to make a change to anything that will upset the entrenched administration bureaucracy. They have had their way for so long that it will be hard to dislodge them, assuming that she even makes the attempt.

I wish her well as she sets off on her task of trying to improve the education of children in the face of those who want to protect what they think is rightfully theirs. Many of your suggestions are good and practical. But remember, this is DCSS which has an anti-education culture and not the best raw material. Do not expect wonders.

The people of North DeKalb really should pursue the idea of two separate school systems. I know that it sounds selfish, but somewhere along the line you have to cut your losses and throw dead weight overboard to save yourself and your children. Considering the bigger picture, DeKalb County is a sinking ship. It only exists because
the worst fear of democracy is being realized, the people who do not contribute have now reached the majority number and have learned that they can vote to get for themselves what the contributors have earned. Forced wealth redistribution.

Anonymous said...

Keep PDS24 bur put the school board meeting on a loop and cut everything else. I can't attend the meetings and watch them on PDS24.

Anonymous said...

Eliminate the school within a school for the Magnet Programs. Many of the teachers and staff promote elitism amongst the students. Resident children who may or may not have applied for the lottery are made to feel less than the Magnet students. The Magnet students are not allowed to have friendships with the resident students and it creates division.

If the school within a school program remains, change the mindset of the teachers and administration.

Raise the bar for applying to the High Achiever Magnet Programs. It is too low. It would allow the school system to apply for additional funds to support the program. It would also reduce the number of applications and open the door for children who are really at the top of their class. It would also keep a greater percentage of students at their home schools, which would help the home school.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Proud Educator said...

I am also a paraprofessional in the system and wholeheartedly support the comments from previous posts about the role of "ESP" (Education Support Personnel) in our schools. Most of us are college educated and many possess graduate degrees sometimes with more formal education than certified staff we work with (not for).
Our roles are essential in the classroom and with instruction. Many of us deliver services far above what is reflected in our job descriptions yet we receive little appreciation or financial compensation. In some cases parapro's are the primary contact for many parents and service providers because of our relationships with our students and availability. Make no mistake, I do not under-value the roles of certified staff but with recent classroom policy changes they are often bogged down under the weight of the paperwork that seems redundant and, in many situations, worthless and counter productive.
Since many of us work in special education programs we are confronted with the same issues as our certified colleagues. Yet we receive little effective professional development (PD) or training and end up sitting through slap-dash PD seemingly thrown together at the last minute and with very little thought. This approach allows our school to mark as complete some vague requirement for staff development. Come on, stop treating us like fodder and see us as valuable foot soldiers that face the same battles certified staff does everyday.
The days of the "teacher aide" as some stay at home mom that has free time to work at the school running off copies and monitoring the cafeteria, are over. We deliver lessons in class, as well as discipline, encourage, and support our students with as much dedication as any other. We meet with parents, support services staff, and others on a frequent basis. Yet you would think that there would be a stampede to train and retain this pool of experienced classroom educators who are better prepared than many of those recruited through transitional certification programs.
DCSS, like many systems across our state and nation, are hindered by a certification process that needs a greater sensitivity to the changing demographics and roles in our society. Currently, a candidate for teacher certification must participate in a 6 to 12 week student teaching practicum that requires you to be unemployed for that length of time. Additionally, those currently employed in our schools who wish to attain certification must quit their jobs and endure a period no steady income or medical insurance although programs like COBRA are available. This particularly hinders single parents as well as working parents who can ill afford not having a regular income while trying to accomplish their goals.
Madam superintendent, I encourage you to meet with as many ESP's as possible and listen to, and value, what we have to say. We can provide additional insight into what is going on in our classrooms, schools, and system. Reform the methods and practices of the Auxiliary Advisory Committee so that it becomes an effective voice not just a rubber stamp for the narrow vision and agenda of the few people that really rum the group. Spend time with the para's, the service center staff, the drivers and mechanics in transportation, food service workers, and others who have lived in our communities longer than some teachers and/or have children in some of the very neighborhood schools that we talk about everyday. Children, parents, and families are not "stakeholders." We are individuals with love, dreams, and hope for our families that should parallel and reflect the goals and direction of our schools.

Cerebration said...

I should have been more specific in directions. We aren't naming regular employees by name here. If you have a complaint about a certain person, you should forward that in an email to your board rep, area super and Dr. Atkinson directly. Here, we are only talking about overall suggestions for her. That said, naming high-ranking officials and staff is ok, as they are held to a more public standard and can be seen making reports directly to the super on the televised board meetings.

Proud Educator said...

I am also a paraprofessional in the system and wholeheartedly support the comments from previous posts about the role of "ESP" (Education Support Personnel) in our schools. Most of us are college educated and many possess graduate degrees sometimes with more formal education than certified staff we work with (not for).
Our roles are essential in the classroom and with instruction. Many of us deliver services far above what is reflected in our job descriptions yet we receive little appreciation or financial compensation. In some cases parapro's are the primary contact for many parents and service providers because of our relationships with our students and availability. Make no mistake, I do not under-value the roles of certified staff but with recent classroom policy changes they are often bogged down under the weight of the paperwork that seems redundant and, in many situations, worthless and counter productive.
Since many of us work in special education programs we are confronted with the same issues as our certified colleagues. Yet we receive little effective professional development (PD) or training and end up sitting through slap-dash PD seemingly thrown together at the last minute and with very little thought. This approach allows our school to mark as complete some vague requirement for staff development. Come on, stop treat us like fodder and see us as valuable foot soldiers that face the same battles certified staff does everyday.
The days of the "teacher aide" as some stay at home mom that has free time to work at the school running off copies and monitoring the cafeteria, are over. We deliver lessons in class, as well as discipline, encourage, and support our students with as much dedication as any other. We meet with parents, support services staff, and others on a frequent basis. Yet you would think that there would be a stampede to train and retain these pool of experienced classroom educators who are better prepared than many of those recruited through transitional certification programs.
DCSS, like many systems across our state and nation, are hindered by a certification process that needs a greater sensitivity to the changing demographics and roles in our society. Currently, a candidate for teacher certification must participate in a 6 to 12 week student teaching practicum that requires you to be unemployed for that length of time. Additionally, those currently employed in our schools who wish to attain certification must quit their jobs and endure a period no steady income or medical insurance although programs like COBRA are available. This particularly hinders single parents as well as working parents who can ill afford not having a regular income while trying to accomplish their goals.
Madam superintendent, I encourage you to meet with as many ESP's as possible and listen to, and value, what we have to say. We can provide additional insight into what is going on in our classrooms, schools, and system. Reform the methods and practices of the Auxiliary Advisory Committee so that it becomes an effective voice not just a rubber stamp for the narrow vision and agenda of the few people that really rum the group. Spend time with the para's, the service center staff, the drivers and mechanics in transportation, food service workers, and others who have lived in our communities longer than some teachers and/or have children in some of the very neighborhood schools that we talk about everyday. Children, parents, and families are not "stakeholders." We are individuals with love, dreams, and hope for our families that should parallel and reflect the the goals and direction of our schools.

Cerebration said...

FWIW - another blogger has posted an interesting article advocating for breaking the system into 5 parts.

Read it here:

Too Big to Succeed"

I found some very sound points in the above post.

Anonymous said...

I am not a fan of magnet programs. In my opinion we are offering two tiers of education. One with lots of special resources and curriculum options and another that provides only a very basic education. A magnet school can stop accepting students when it reaches capacity. Families can be returned to their home school, if they don't comply with all the requirements of the program. A regular school must continue to accept all students, no matter how overcrowded it becomes.

Anonymous said...

I think we all should give Dr. Atkinson a chance.

Anonymous said...

The link to a proposal for dividing DCSS into 5 smaller school systems is interesting. I worked in a Georgia school system that had 3 high schools. They had their own county offices and an elected school board of 5 people.

They still had a personnel office, some subject area coordinators, etc. They hired their own custodians and food service personnel. You don't lose all of the infrastructure you have in a large system. The advantage as I saw it was that the smaller size made everything easier.

Georgia has some smaller county systems. It would be easy to look at the way these systems are organized to learn if there are any real advantages to be gained by dividing DCSS into smaller systems. Working from an existing model might be easier than starting from scratch. What are the real advantages and disadvantages to doing this?

David Montané said...

On behalf of Friends of DeKalb Schools, a non-partisan committee of taxpayers, parents and teachers committed to transparency in DeKalb's public school system, I want to emphasize the gem of a suggestion, buried in the multitude of suggestions here, by yesterday's Anonymous poster at 1:36pm, that "an online check register should be published." If that were the ONLY change Dr. Atkinson made, it would give the public much more power to help the Superintendent see how inefficiently our tax money is now being spent, and able to offer concrete, reality-based reforms. If her goal is to spend our tax money efficiently, she should have no problem with this. Several school systems even larger than ours across the country are doing this. All other reforms will benefit from transparency, and posting the monthly check register online is the first step toward transparency.

Friends of DeKalb Schools is working and watching for this one little baby step. There has been no effort so far on the part of any board or superintendent in this direction, of which we know.

Anonlymous 1:36 also said, "Currently, DCSS only publishes the salary schedule for teachers." This is incorrect. The information is posted by the state Department of Audits and Accounts, and is included in a list of the salaries and travel reimbursements of all other state employees as well.

DM, chairman
Friends of DeKalb Schools

Anonymous said...

@ David Montane
" Several school systems even larger than ours across the country are doing this."

Go to the website below to see the list of school systems (132 of them) in Alabama that have online check registers.
http://www.peytonwolcott.com/CheckRegisters_Alabama.html

" "Currently, DCSS only publishes the salary schedule for teachers." This is incorrect. The information is posted by the state Department of Audits and Accounts, and is included in a list of the salaries and travel reimbursements of all other state employees as well."

No. I am correct. The Salary SCHEDULE is not published for any personnel in DCSS except teachers. A salary schedule gives the titles of the positions, and then the salary schedule tells what that title is paid depending on years of experience, education, certifications, etc.

Here are some Salary Schedules published by a few of the metro systems:
Fulton County Schools:
https://portal.fultonschools.org/departments/Human_Resources/Pages/Salary_Schedules_10_11.aspx

Forsyth County Schools:
http://www.forsyth.k12.ga.us/129410616211729590/blank/browse.asp?a=383&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&c=116857

Here is the link to DCSS Salary Schedule page. ONLY the Teacher Salary Schedule is published:
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/human-resources

The state Salary and Travel audit just publishes every employee's salary, but where is the set salary schedule?

A published Set Salary Schedule of manageable length is critical for any organization that utilizes taxpayer dollars.

The 2004 Ernst and Young Audit found literally hundreds of positions and titles and no set salary schedules for employees that performed the same functions. It's now 7 years later, and DCSS still does not have a published Salary Schedule for non-teaching personnel. Non-teaching personnel consume the lion's share of the budget and our tax dollars. Taxpayers deserve to have a published Salary Schedule that covers all employees.

DeKalb County School Watch has done a blog on this before entitled "Taxpayers Need to Demand Transparency". It includes links to EVERY metro system's publication of non-teaching salary schedules :
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/05/taxpayers-need-to-demand-transparency.html

David Montané said...

I read "Too Big To Succeed", linked by Cerebration above. As your "resident libertarian" (Cere's words), I must agree and ask: Why stop at only 5 school districts? Why not do away with the Central Office entirely? Why not let parents decide which school to send their children? Why not let those parents elect the school board for that school? (They could call it the Board of Education if they want.) Why not let each school board hire a principal to run that school? (They could call her or him a School Superintendent if they want.) Since parents could send their children to any school, there would be tremendous competition between the schools to demonstrate their superiority and attract more students.

Why not have the parents pay tuition for their own children so they will choose more carefully between schools? Also, people who have no school-age children could give money to the schools they feel are worthy of support. Now we're talking accountability! The schools that teach what parents and community contributors approve, in the most cost-efficient way, would grow.

To help the parents be better able to afford the tuition, our state and local taxes could be reduced to less than 40% of what they are now, because there would no longer be any need at all for school taxes.

For those unfamiliar, this method is called "free enterprise", a concept less well known now than in earlier times in American history. Our "American Way" educational system would become the envy of other countries. As they follow our lead, the world could be transformed!

DM, vice chairman
Libertarian Party of DeKalb County

Anonymous said...

@ David Montane
Alabama has 100% of their schools publishing an online check register or in the process of setting this up:
http://www.peytonwolcott.com/CheckRegisters_Alabama.html

"Anonlymous 1:36 also said, "Currently, DCSS only publishes the salary schedule for teachers." This is incorrect."

No. I'm correct. The state Salary and Travel audit publishes the salaries of employees, but that is very different from a published set Salary SCHEDULES. Salary Schedules place various positions/titles on a schedule and then the schedule is differentiated by experience, education, training and/or certifications or licenses.

See that DCSS only publishes the Teacher Salary Schedule:
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/human-resources

EVERY other metro school system publishes the set Salary Schedules for teachers and most non-teaching personnel.

Look at the post on DeKalb County School Watch entitled "Taxpayers Need to Demand Transparency" that discusses this:
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/05/taxpayers-need-to-demand-transparency.html

The 2004 Ernst and Young Compensation audit (the "lost" study) had this as one of their main goals. It's 7 years later and we still don't have a published set Salary Schedule for non-teaching personnel. The lion's share of the budget goes for non-teaching personnel in DCSS, yet we have no way of comparing the salary schedules of our admin and support personnel with the salary schedules in the metro area.

David Montané said...

Thanks for that clarification and link, Anonymous. FYI, actual salaries of state employees, including Boards of Education, are listed at www.open.georgia.gov.

You linked to Peyton Wolcott's website (isn't she great?), where I also learned that the person who led the push for transparency in Alabama way back in 2005 was Willie Davis, the CFO of Bessemer county school district, a black man. He's a real, living hero! They should tell his story during black history month at our public schools!

Ms. Wolcott also links to a 2009 online article revealing that Mr. Davis brought up AGAIN to the Bessemer school board that a whistleblower alerted them that someone was paid nearly $5,000 for work they were not employed to do, and that two employees had used school gas cards to put over 1,400 gallons of fuel in their personal vehicles. The board, once again, did not address these items.

Many feel that transparency will lead to reform, including my fellow members on the Friends of DeKalb Schools committee. But this Bessemer incident brings up a good question - Is reform even possible?

As a libertarian, my view is that only a total conversion of the tax-and-spend system to a free-enterprise system will work. My personal goal in starting Friends of DeKalb Schools was similar to Ron Paul's purpose in auditing the Federal Reserve, to expose their fraudulence so the people clamor to End the Fed. This is revolution, not reform, which is what I feel is needed in education as well.

These are my personal feelings, not that of the group.

Anonymous said...

Completely revamp the leadership (or rather lack thereof) at the Sam Moss Service Center. Please do not overlook this Center of do-what-you-want how-you-want support center. The Service Center is run by two former Principals who have no clue of leadership. One is an Army Bully and the other avoids looking you in the face. This center needs a true COO which is definitely not Barbara Colman. She is a Contractor, not a DeKalb County Employee. Barbara Colman is NOT a strong leader over the Capital Improvement Program either. Barbara Colman, Steve Donahue, Mike Worthington MUST be replaced - then the employees over there will straighten up.

Anonymous said...

Get rid of administrators in Internal Affairs, such as Ronald Ramsey and Goosby. They plot with the human resource dept., county office adm.,such as B. Moseley, T. Segovis, and principals to get rid of teachers, and refuse to follow the policy of IA, and are unethical. They have endorsed the unprofessional behavior of administrators. Please interview several of the teachers who have lost their jobs.Teachers have been falsely accused, and terminated for exposing the unethical behavior and corrupt rincipal/administrators.

Anonymous said...

David brings up a great issue in discussing the case of the Bessemer school system. The Board refused to do anything about the fraud.

I am afraid that is where we are today. We have multiple board members who are actively resisting changes to personnel and procedures to protect the status quo.

I wish Dr. Atkinson well -- I hope the board gets out of her way.

Anonymous said...

SPLOST must fail.

The Sam Moss Center is problematic at best and for us to give these people more than 500 million dollars to mismanage makes us foolish.

Let us see progress for the next year, then bring it back up to vote.

Cerebration said...

For those who wonder why we have this Suggestion Box, it's simply because Dr. Atkinson has asked for community input. She WANTS to know our thoughts, suggestions and past experiences. I personally appreciate the fact that she wants to gather this information from communities. I don't like it when people just say, "that's in the past, let's move on..." We have to learn lessons from the past and try our best not to repeat the mistakes of the past. I credit the lady for working so hard to get out with the masses! I hope you will all get out and share our thoughts with her at the public meetings she has scheduled below.

Cerebration said...

DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Dr. Cheryl L.H. Atkinson will hold parent roundtable meetings starting on Oct. 20, with five meetings in total until Nov. 3.

As part of her 90-day entry plan, Dr. Atkinson aims to meet with parents and community members to establish good will, build support and establish communication channels, the district said in a release.

"I strongly encourage parents and guardians to attend a roundtable meeting and actively participate in discussions pertaining to their children’s academic success," Atkinson said in a district press release. "Together we can build a stronger community and school system."

Schedule:

Thursday, Oct. 20 - McNair High School from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 25 - Columbia High School from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 27 - Dunwoody High School from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 1 - Miller Grove High School from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 3 - Stephenson High School from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Anonymous said...

why do they never hold forums in central DeKalb unless we complain about it? This gets old.

Anonymous said...

Just looked at the maps of these schools; really, McNair High School, Columbia High School, Miller Grove High School, and Stephenson High School all fall on the southern ends of the county (all below Memorial Drive). We have only one northern DeKalb high school, Dunwoody High School, on the list and it is above I-285.

At least there is transparency. I can see what constituencies the Central Office continues to be interested in hearing from.

Anonymous said...

It must be just about time to refill the Kool-Aid dispenser if you all believe this suggestion box will be used for anything else but window dressing. Something DCSS can point to, claim as their own and then boast about being sensitive to their constituents needs and concerns.

This will be the virtual equivalent of your desk top recycle bin. An electronic file 13!

We hope to be proven wrong!

Ben and Jim

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Where's Cross Keys, Tucker or Lakeside on the list of these roundtables? I guess DCSS is looking for another traffic jam at a North DeKalb High School. Do they think no one on the north side cares about DCSS? Could the old Palace guard be nervous that Dr. Atkinson will find out a lot of truths that the old guard has tried to bury at an abandoned DCSS property?

Where in the world is Jamal "I got a $15k raise and didn't report to my new job for 6 months, and Ms. Tyson never fired me!" Edwards?

Anonymous said...

@Anon 9:03, 9:11, and Atlanta Media Guy: The roundtables are by region.

"The schedule below can assist all parents within the five district regions in deciding which meeting to attend:

Thursday, October 20 McNair High School (Region 3) 7:00 P.M.

Tuesday, October 25 Columbia High School (Region 2) 7:00 P.M.

Thursday, October 27 Dunwoody High School (Region 1) 7:00 P.M.

Tuesday, November 1 Miller Grove High School (Region 4) 7:00 P.M.

Thursday, November 3 Stephenson High School (Region 5) 7:00 P.M.
"

For a list of the schools in each region, see http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/superintendent/assistants

Atlanta Media Guy said...

I want to believe, I really do!

I think we need a Blue Ribbon panel to discuss why the Palace decided on only one school above Memorial Drive, to host a Dr. Atkinson Round Table. After that, we can have an engagement seminar at the Palace to discuss ways how DCSS can do better at being more inclusive county-wide. Then SACS can demand a 25 page report on why North DeKalb stakeholders were not treated equitably, like their south DeKalb counterparts. Then after 6 months of waiting, the Supers office can release a statement saying there needs to be more discussion, another Blue Ribbon panel is seated and the thing goes round and round and round and nothing ever gets done.

Call me cynical, what will be the format for these roundtables? Will Moseley be picking and choosing questions? Will Dr. Atkinson listen to EVERYONE with questions, concerns and comments?

Atlanta Media Guy said...

I understand about the regions. However, the staff should look at travel concerns. The traffic in our county is ridiculous!

These meetings are scheduled at or just after rush hours. I'm glad there are four meetings below Memorial Drive. But don't you think there should be just one more in the central or northern part of the county? Tucker has just been remodeled, wouldn't it be nice to show off the new facility? I know there are parking concerns with Lakeside and Chamblee High due to construction. But one more meeting above Memorial Drive would not be too much to ask.

Anon said...

I think she needs to collect resumes from all of her employees in position of "leadership" (principals/assistant principals and running departments and divisions and look at "fit" for the position.
Definitely don't lose the on-line check register and p-card posting idea.

Anonymous said...

@anon 12:06::: Then, pray tell, how on earth were the regions generated. It looks like a hodgepodege that totally eliminates any voice for the central area, and limits the northern voice to a single soprano. Let's really look at the numbers and representation:

McNair: District 3, Coplin-Wood
Columbia: District 5, Cunningham
Dunwoody: District 1, Jester
Miller Grove: District 5, Cunningham (hmmmm, he's here twice??)
Stephenson: Distric 6, Bowen.

Let's also revisit the redistricting fiasco when the central area of the county had numerous schools on the consolidation list, southern constituents and board members stated in task force meetings that a school on the north (here really identified as the center as no northern schools were on the list) should be closed if southern schools were consolidated, but meetings on consolidation were not originally scheduled in the area until residents raised the question.

History repeats itself. And, honestly, if one was choosing by "Region" in an honest and fair approach, looking at the schools, it was certainly possible to include more schools about Memorial Drive....that is if those in power were so inclined. Again, at least they are being transparent. Two meetings for our district 5 rep, one for district 6, one for district 3 and one for district 1. Where are most of the students? Where are the active parents? Where is the desire of the NEW administration to engage with them?

Anonymous said...

Engaged parents are a threat to the kingdom! DCSS would rather have them take a big dose of STFU and leave the "business of education" to them! Why on earth would you want to take the dog and pony show on the road into hostile territory.

Makes perfect sense to us to hold the revival meetings where the threat of having the curtain pulled back is far, far less.

Jim and Ben

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, I also read "Too Big to Succeed." What the author apparently didn't realize is that under Article VIII, Section V, Paragraph 1 of the Georgia Constitution, the creation of new local school districts is expressly prohibited. The constitution contains a mechanism for consolidating one or more school districts, but the peeling off and creation of new districts is constitutionally off the table.

Anonymous said...

Um.... anon 12:27: The regions (right or wrong) don't compare to the 'districts' you mention. For example, Columbia is in 'Region 2' of the school district, but is located in 'District' 7. I am a resident of District 7, and I voted for no one named Cunningham last year. As for 'regional' representation and logistical planning, I suppose the district would have to say if it checked the schedules of the other high schools in Region 1 -- Chamblee, Druid Hills and Lakeside -- to see if it was feasible, given the herculean task of trying to schedule any event at a school.

Anonymous said...

@1:48: That is pretty much my point. When it services them well, they do things by District, when it serves them well, they use Regions instead. Questions have been raised on this blog before about how the Regions were created since they clumped together with no rhyme or reason (except perhaps political expediency).

Nonetheless, it I am dismayed that there is not more consideration of "Region" by actual geographic area. I stand by my point that the southern end of the county will have significantly greater access to input and discussions with the new Super given the "Regional" schools chosen. Regardless of the method by which they determined the schools (and I am personally skeptical that was not purposeful), the outcome is the same...greater access of the southern end of the county.

Anonymous said...

Your point is well taken. In the scheduling of events such as this one, I'm not sure why it was necessary to hold 'regional' meetings. We all know that this county is huge from its northernmost to southernmost point, and simply choosing the best physical location irrespective of regions would have made sense. Also, I believe there are times when the only people who have a vested interest in what a region does are those in charge of the region.

That said, I have a hunch that despite the appearance of lesser access, those in the central and northernmost parts of the county will lodge feedback which will at least parallel that of those with 'greater access'. And as someone who remembers well the issue in reverse, I remain bemused. Oh, and yes -- sympathetic.

Help Us JC said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

There are actually some well educated, smart Paraprofessionals in DCSS. Many of them have BS & Masters Degrees. The ones that I know are smarter than some of the classroom teachers. The only difference is that the Paraprofessionals are at a crossroads and haven't decided whether or not they would like to take the Teacher Certification Exam. Personally, I think that DCSS should revise the pay scale (increase it) for those Paraprofessionals that have college & advanced degrees. I'm happily retired, was never a Paraprofessional, but I have much appreciation and respect for them.

Anonymous said...

I believe City of Decatur pays paraprofessionals more if they have a Bachelor's or Master's.

Anonymous said...

I would really like to see Dr. Atkinson work on getting some of these folks back into classrooms. We can now have up to 36 students in our HS classes, according to our administration.

This number is OUTRAGEOUS! Most of the classrooms aren't built for this many students, nor do they have that many seats.

Also, don't think that 36 students are getting any sort of individual attention or differentiated learning.

Here's hoping Dr. Atkinson can reduce class sizes to a more realistic level.

Anonymous said...

I fear that there are some so firmly entrenched in the county office, that they'll do all they possible can to hide all the unbelievable FUBARs in DCSS.

The power structure in DCSS right now is a house of card. It could tumble, but not before the powers that be fight with all their might to keep it intact, at Dr. Atkinson's expense. I

She's just not politically strong enough to do anything about anything.

Anonymous said...

Cere,
I can't believe that you deleted my posting regarding the issues at Chamblee Middle, but did not remove the post from Help Us JC @2:25 who clearly mentioned the actions of a principal by name. Really?!?

Anonymous said...

@ ANon 8:15pm. I so agree, you see the adults in charge do not care about the children. They care about themselves, their pay checks, and retirement. They care about keeping those that they know (friends and family) employed.

Parents need to open their eyes and realize that even in those "good" schools, their children are not receiving the best education possible. There is no way that they can be if the school is following the DCSS mandates.

So much money has been spent on law suits. Really if those in charge had integrity and were doing their job, there would not be need for half of the law suits DCSS is embattled in.

Waste and corruption are the DCSS way. Until this stops, along with the racial divide, which is just out of hand and really one sided, I don't see DCSS getting better. I see DCSS staying as it is unless, Atkinson has the strength to fire them all and start from scratch, but that would take a very strong leader. I knew after the Cox fiasco, that we would never get a strong, child focused leader in under the current board. That kind of person would rain on their parade and stop the DCSS cash cow in its tracks.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if any of our 7th grade middle school social studies classes have used the worksheet titled “My Name is Ahlima” and copyright by InspirEd Educators Inc. As I have read about happening in the Cobb Schools? It is supposedly something created or handed out by the state.

http://www.mdjonline.com/view/full_story/15623492/article-School%E2%80%99s-curriculum-on-Mideast-adjusted-after-parent-protests?instance=secondary_story_left_column

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NHICUcDWf24

Just curious, as this is what parents need to be watching out for. The beliefs that many of us have and grew up with are not being promoted in our public schools. Parents need to be vigilant.

Cerebration said...

You're right, Anon. However, I must admit, I don't have time to monitor this blog every minute of the day. in the future, if anyone sees a comment that they think is offensive, names everyday employees or is just rude, please send me an email at

reparteeforfun@gmail.com

It takes a village to run a blog... comment is now deleted. No names people. (Unless it's "sit up here staff" or board members - and even then, just the facts please, no personal attacks.)

Proud Educator said...

Refer: anom. 341pm

Your observations and comments regarding paraprofessionals is appreciated and right on. As was stated previously, I would venture to say most are DeKalb County residents and have children attending county schools. You would also find that many of the ESP's in the district are graduates of DeKalb County schools and have educations ranging from two to three years of college to graduate level degrees.
But the comment referring to "...being at a crossroads..." when it comes to obtaining certification is off the mark.
If there is a crossroads then it is blockaded by the arcane and self-defeating reasoning regarding student teaching. As it stands now, while a prospective teacher must (and should) complete a six to twelve week practicum there is also the stipulation that said person must be unemployed during that time.
The tiers of this policy are reinforced by district, state, and teacher education programs that impose draconian and overlapping regulations that make this a very complex and difficult problem. Doing this time of economic uncertainty the experiences of these dedicated professionals mirror situations seen amongst many working-class people today. Situations where the district employee make be the primary bread winner for their family and just trying to eke out a living, topped by not receiving a pay raise in more than five years have caused enough stress and pain.
Yet, if that same dedicated, educated, and trained employee must go without a wage for up to three months the "crossroads" become better defined.
Current district programs to identify and support potential teacher candidates are inadequate. While instructional paraprofessionals have become invaluable in the day-to-day delivery of instruction, supervision,and service in our classrooms, our contributions are not appreciated and utilized to their fullest potential. In some cases we work alongside certified educators whose mastery of core curriculum and classroom management skills leave much to be desired yet we are relegated, and treated like, second-class citizens and gophers. Now, that is not to say there aren't some (ESP's) who are under-motivated and ineffective but no more so than our certified colleagues.
But we are missing a wonderful opportunity to identify and nurture future teachers truly from within. One suggestion would be to revise and update job descriptions for some classified positions. In the case of paraprofessionals engaged in classroom instruction, planning, and management a job description more aligned with these requirements should lead to a restructured pay scale reflecting education, training, and experience. Another step would be to offer more productive and effective professional development for classified staff addressing many of the issues we face in the classroom and with our certified instructors and administrator. Since many of these individuals work in special education environments specific PD would be beneficial to better teamwork and service delivery. Provide a supportive mechanism supporting teacher certification that will allow DCSS to identify, support, and streamline prohibitive policies and procedures that impede the growth of our home
grown talent as opposed to the alphabet soup of programs that is currently relied on of inexperienced, and often ineffective, that we seem to rely on.
Finally, look at the pay scales and conditions of our food service workers. They face the tremendous task of providing thousands of meals each day to our children working ungodly hours for very little money. Many of them are parents and significant contributors to their households. Pay them a wage commensurate with their responsibilities and allow them the dignity they deserve.

Anonymous said...

I'm also a paraprofessional. I am disgusted with what I've seen when it comes to the condescending attitudes toward the SUPPORT staff. It's a fact there are DCSS paraprofessionals that are doing some REAL work and teaching in the classroom and are not adequately compensated for it. When the superintendent talked about moving money within THE FAMILY to ensure everyone is HEALTHY, she ought to take a REAL CLOSE LOOK AT THE PARAPROFESSIONAL PAY SCALE. The pay is not in harmony with the work output paras are producing. Teachers comment, "I couldn't do what you do EVERYDAY. You work harder than any teacher in the building." Until changes are made, no permanent solution is possible in solving this REAL problem. It's a sin!

I have worked with alleged teachers that hold advanced degrees that are lazy and do minimal work. I'm puzzled why principals do not fire these teachers that DO NOT teach. After close observation, the answer became crystal clear: MUTUAL BUTT KISSING. It's not that difficult to learn which teachers teach and which ones don't. Simply ask the kids. They'll tell you.

There is a real stigma attached to paraprofessionals in DCSS. I resonated with the post that used the movie "THE HELP" as a metaphor to describe how paraprofessionals are treated. There is this misguided thinking that paras come a dime a dozen and can be easily replaced. It depends on your mental and spiritual development, or maybe it's the "capitalist" in you talking. Live a little longer to become wiser and you'll see differently. You should not forget even for a moment that the person that can HELP you with a problem in your life may very well be a paraprofessiona--as the movie portrayed in many ways. I learned from a student overhearing a teacher say to another teacher, "He just a para." These are the kind of afflicted and ignorant people we have teaching and in leardership in DCSS--laughing and carrying on like children. I'm burning the midnight oil night after night trying to build wealth to HELP OTHERS. What are you doing? If the tax base continues to decline with more budget cuts and you lose your precious title and salary, let's see how well you handle it. Maybe then you'll be "cured" of such affliction and ingorance in your STINKIN' THINKIN' !!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Open+Transparent.

1. The administration of the Dekalb County school system has lost all credibility with the people and a high priority must be given to cleaning it up. Senior officers have been indicted. Others are plainly overpaid and often give mind-numbing, boring PowerPoint presentations to the school board. The size of the staff must be reduced to no more than our neighboring counties. Nepotism must end.

2. All issues that SACS has with the county must be resolved with a bias toward action. That 2500 page response was a waste of taxpayer dollars. I wonder if SACS even read it!

3. I believe in the No Child Left Behind Act and disagree with Senator Isakson and others who would "dumb it down". Teach the material, test the material frequently, and the results will follow. Focus on getting our schools to the point where they can make AYP rather than seeking exceptions. Ultimately, our children will face that test in real life - it is called the job market.

3. Eliminate redundancy and waste. Right now, my understanding is that we are paying the people you recently appointed to perform the jobs of failed administrators who are under contract. What are they doing other than just waiting for their contracts to expire?

4. Set measurable objectives. Focus on results. Demand performance and do not tolerate poor performance. Make our school system great once again. Achieve results that exceed other counties in the metro area.

Anonymous said...

@ Proud Educator and paraprofessionals who have commented

There is an easy way to be certified to teach without taking time off of work. Be hired as through the Teacher Alternative Preparation Program. DeKalb is one of the biggest users of this program. You will have your own classroom and will be paid as a teacher while you get certified.

I know many teachers who went through this program while they were teaching in a DeKalb classroom.

Here is a link to the information about the Georgia TAPP program:
http://www.sw-georgia.resa.k12.ga.us/SW%20Georgia%20%20TAPP%20Program%20Details.pdf

Anonymous said...

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-parent-pulls-gun-1190060.html

DeKalb parent pulls gun on another parent at Arabia Mountain High School

Anonymous said...

Please look into how state money that is sent the schools for students in the gifted program is being used. Generally, gifted teachers do not see any of it being used for resources for gifted programs. The money is mixed in the proverbial school budget pot and gets used however the principal sees fit. Gifted teachers are generally not provided with any resources for the instruction of gifted students. We are expected to created enrichment curriculum with literally nothing. Gifted students deserve to have resources provided for their specific needs. There seems to be a general lack of concern for the specific educational needs of students in this population except for when it is time to count, collect and spend the state allotted funds. Gifted teachers should not have to be put in the position of having to beg for resources!! This has gone on unchecked for far too long. Ask your school principal how much money is set aside for resources for gifted programs in your school.

shark bait said...

After you down-size the central office... use that money to:

------------------------------------
REDUCE CLASS SIZES ACROSS THE BOARD!
------------------------------------

Our children could all use a little more individual attention.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the earlier post about scrutinizing how the funds for the gifted program are allocated. Please take the time to make sure that those funds are truly being used to enrich the education provided to the gifted student population. Oftentimes, the Discovery program is not receiving the appropriate financial support.

Cerebration said...

Once again, I must mention that we attempted to look into how the gifted dollars were earned and allocated. We gave up. This is an untrackable endeavor. We found three different sources for data - none of which even closely matched. We compared what DCSS submitted to the state for FTE reporting, what DCSS allocated back to individual schools and what principals told us as far as the numbers of gifted in their building. Our conclusion was that gifted dollars are being collected, but then somehow redistributed in an inequitable way. (We suspect this is in order to fund the magnets and other specialty programs, but we just don't know.)

Read on -

Gifted and Magnet School Data Now Available

Another discussion about gifted points and programs - are we offering what's required?

For more, just enter "gifted" in the "search this blog" bar on the right side panel of the home page.

Cerebration said...

After you read about the gifted and the magnets, then read our post about the mass exodus these specialty schools have created in south DeKalb - resulting in the need to close and consolidate neighborhood schools.

North vs Central vs South - what's the deal?

Anonymous said...

@cere:

I'm one of those who spoke early on this post that there is a desperate need to check the gifted funding. We left a local school after fighting the battle to have resources for the gifted kids (the principal eliminated Discovery, and moved to an inclusion model, but couldn't provide any information about differentiate curriculums - besides references to extra worksheets being available). We gave up and went to a magnet and the learning experience is worth it. I too wonder where the funds are going and truly believe that the funds are being sent back to the schools to use as principals see fit - but there is no accountability and assurance that these kids are receiving appropriate (and funded) services.

HOWEVER, I do not think that you can blame the need for consolidation in the south end of the county on Wadsworth as a high achiever magnet and I would HATE to see this resource disappear from this end of the county when the provision of gifted services is so poor at the local schools. Indeed, this would be, in my humble opinion, a travesty. And frankly, Kittridege is everything BUT accessible to many in the central and southern ends of the county. AND this is ignores the fact, completely, the fact that such services are not for the "gifted population" per se.

The point, I think, that many are trying to make is that the county must either provide TRUE (not inclusion) gifted services to these kids - BY STATE MANDATE - or move to a magnet model that is open to gifted students first - before opening the door to high achievers. These kids deserve services - by STATE MANDATE - regardless of how many of you on this blog think that they are "not real" but just a label. Some of these kids are "real" and the state, by law, says that they must be served.

Frankly, I'm ready for the state to audit how these funds are being spent. Where do you think that will end the county? Atkinson really needs to sit up and take note on this one. There has been and continues to be no accountability.

Anon said...

anon 9:06 - write your legislators and to the state school superintendant and request that audit....

Anonymous said...

I agree with Open+Transparent...the Office of School Improvement has not shown a consistent growth in recovery of student gains in several years especially this last school year. We have several "right-hand" people who assist Dr. Berry with policing the schools but show NO concrete stats or methods on their effectiveness. However, they are very persistent in policing schools where their own children attend in Dekalb County to oversee that their child receives the best from each teacher by threats, flashing their DCSS badge and very blatantly stating "I am the assistant to Dr. Berry." Enough is enough. Put those who have had these positions back into the classroom and put this office out of its misery. STOP the waste of money and focus back on our children. Also, please reinstate Social Security to the teachers. The TRS has failed. Many of us are carrying the burden of the county pulling its matching donations by having to work more years (now that retirement is upon us)because of financial hardship.

Cerebration said...

The article about consolidating schools does not just cite Wadsworth (although I have to question the need for a school with its own devoted full staff for fewer than 200 students. The same thing occurs at DSA. These schools couldn't possibly be self-funded by FTE.)

Anyway - the point of the post cited above was that so many "boutique" schools have cropped up -- especially in south DeKalb, that it has caused real damage to the neighborhood schools, leaving them under-enrolled enough to require consolidation. I continue to wonder how so many small "boutique" (magnet, theme, charter, choice) schools can afford to offer so much for so few. Could it be through the magic of reallocation of gifted and other funds?

Here's a quote:

In the north, we have Kittredge Magnet (capacity: 443 and enrollment of 416), and Oakcliff Theme (capacity: 662, enrollment: 593) that's 1,009 students in theme/magnet schools in the north - central DeKalb offers Robert Shaw Theme (capacity: 512, enrollment: 485) and Wynbrooke Theme (capacity: 837, enrollment: 933) totaling 1,418 students in theme schools in the central zone - but south DeKalb has the most— Bouie Theme (capacity: 787, enrollment: 853), DESA Magnet school for the arts (capacity: 600, enrollment: 528), Marbut Theme (capacity: 787, enrollment: 844), Narvie Harris Theme (capacity: 837, enrollment: 984), Wadsworth Magnet (capacity: 462, enrollment: 166) and the soon to open Leadership Academy Charter School. There are 3,375 students attending these theme/magnet/charter elementary schools in south DeKalb (just about the same number of "empty" seats in neighborhood elementary schools in the south.)

3) So, somewhere around 3,200 students in South DeKalb do not attend their neighborhood zoned school—many certainly have opted for magnet and theme schools, but many must be attending neighborhood schools in the north on administrative transfers. Central DeKalb is over-enrolled by 446, and has the actual population of 458 students more than the zone's capacity. North DeKalb neighborhood schools are under-capacity for area residents by 809 seats, however the schools are actually over-capacity by 2,216 students, most likely due to transfers (this number does not include Kittredge or Oakcliff).

Cerebration said...

BTW - that post was obviously written before the Leadership Academy Charter opened in New Birth Church. This additional "boutique" elementary school has a meager enrollment of around 160-180.

Is it no wonder we're going broke?

Is it no wonder that 'some' schools have less so that we can fund these specialty programs?

Is it no wonder that we are selling off school property to corporate interests in order to generate the funds needed to continue this kind of inequity?

Anonymous said...

Just completed the Community Engagement Survey. It is yet another example of DCSS asking the wrong questions, in the wrong way, to obfuscate what is really wrong in schools. The very notion that we are asked to RANK whether smaller class sizes or safety is more important is ludicrous. It does not matter what size classes are in an unsafe environment. And how can those values be considered apart from fiscal responsibility and qualified teachers? We need to move on all fronts to correct this deeply troubled system. If Dr. Atkinson was a part of the creation of this "survey," I have no hope that we have the insightful leadership we need to move the ball down the field. This is truly a primitive, shallow and purpose-less survey that fails to acknowledge the crisis that exists in our schools.

BhutrasGolly said...

Cere, some (seven) of these “boutique schools” are not part of any strategy on the part of DeKalb County Schools-rather they are Start-Up Charter Schools, new schools created by private individuals, private organizations or state or public entities and not part of DeKalb County Schools.

DeKalb Academy of Technology and the Environment in Stone Mountain
International Community School (2 sites) in Decatur and Stone Mountain
DeKalb PATH near Oglethorpe University
Gateway to College Academy in Clarkston
Leadership Preparatory Academy in Lithonia
Destiny Achievers Academy of Excellence in Ellenwood
Museum School of Avondale Estates in Avondale


I am not sure that I would characterize them as all being in the south. Nor would I fault DCSS if parents want to put their children in a charter school. If there are empty seats and/or trailers at other schools, then by all means redistrict, consolidate and close some more schools.

By the way, there is no definitive evidence that charter schools do any better than public schools. In the case of DeKalb the Museum School has goood test scores for a small population of students-however, if you disaggregate the data you find that while DeKalb is 70% free and reduced lunch, the Museum school students are far more affluent and test no better than their economic peers in any public school.

Anonymous said...

@cere: I am with you 90% of the time; not sure about this one. If those "some" schools that you are talking about were actually providing a safe, effective, challenging learning environment, were preventing bullying of smart kids, and were addressing the needs of "gifted" students, perhaps parents would not be removing their children from "some" schools. While I have heard your voice that parents should "stay" and make the schools better, I wish that you would hear our voices that many of us have tried. Unfortunately, my primary "job" as a parent is to ensure "first" that my child is safe, engaged, challenged and learning. If I can benefit other kids through my efforts at the school level, that is always my first approach. However, you cannot beat a dead horse and get him to move any faster. At some point, you have to, as a parent, move on. Do you think that it is possible that this is what some parents have legitimately done?

At some level, what I see on this blog is the expectation that parents put the needs of the system ahead of their own kids. Unfortunately, each parent's child has a delimited time period for receiving a quality education in this system. It is worth the efforts, I think, for about a year to push a principal and the school to do the right thing (in this instance - provide gifted kids with a true gifted curriculum). But, in the end, many are unwilling (and in my opinion SHOULD be unwilling) to put their child at risk any longer.

What is your real, honest solution for these parents? Shut down the high achiever magnets, eliminate gifted options for kids (or just some kids if you want to close only Wadsworth), BEFORE you have a solid gifted commitment and curriculum at the local school and a commitment to truly gifted programming in locals schools where there are fewer than 100 kids? In other words, if you are not at a school with a high gifted population, where the county administrators overseeing gifted have said "oh, this is too bad, there simply aren't enough students to justify points to provide a Discovery teacher, so the school simply has to come up with a way to try to provide these services," to bad for your kid.... I don't see how this is a reasonable, or even legal, solution in the state of GA. And it reeks, to me, of an acceptance of "dumbing down" standards....teach to the lowest common denominator in the local classrooms, and forget about the kids who are capable of moving beyond that.

Cerebration said...

Actually, I think we are in agreement. I don't blame parents for seeking a better school for their child - I blame our decades long system of offering "escape" hatches to those who have the wherewithal to find it. We have a system that only responds to squeaky wheels and rearranges funding to support those emergency responses. What we need is a carefully thought out system that offers quality neighborhood schools - AND a few selections for those who wish for something different. But people shouldn't have to seek something different in order to escape the situation at their home school. That is wrong-headed thinking. And it's a self-perpetuating vortex of destruction.

Our system has for far too long been reactive. We need to become proactive. We need planning. We need to offer alternatives that have reasons to exist other than escaping the alternative. We need education-focused leaders - not leaders who simply respond to the most vocal in the community and let the others flounder.

Anonymous said...

@Cere: Full Agreement.

The concern that I have is that the new administration will either
a) envision and enact no REAL change (the survey and location of meet and greets gives me little hope that ALL constituents are of interest or real change is the focus)

OR

b) the new administration will move too fast, forcing people who have been fighting for years to "accept the worst" for their own kids while the administration, consistent with all other forces in education, focuses on the bottom with no real efforts to address kids in the middle or kids who are excelling.

Anonymous said...

I choose a something different than my home school not because I wanted my child to escape. My child did well in his home school. I wanted to try something that had more discipline where misbehaving students could be kicked out rather than go through the torturous process our state requires before they could be removed from the classroom. I wanted my child to be in an a school where all the parents blamed themselves if their child didn't do well rather than gripe about some poor teacher who had to spend the better part of her out of class time phining deliqeunt parents. In short I got sick of other parents neglecting their children.

Cerebration said...

NOTICE from Chain Gang Elementary:

A free eBook version of Chain Gang Elementary is there for the asking.

Here’s the deal in a nutshell:

We’re giving away the eBook version of Chain Gang Elementary this week. Just go to Chain Gang Elementary’s facebook page

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Chain-Gang-Elementary/268343289846138?v=wall

and hit "like." We'll send a message with the coupon code that will allow you to download the book's file from Smashwords.com for your reader. It's a no-strings-attached, nothing-to-buy offer and I'll give away books until I hit the limit. It's open to everyone, so please feel free to share this post with your friends, and they can sign up for a book, too. If you have any questions, you can contact us at

info@chaingangelementary.com

Anonymous said...

At our faculty meeting the other day, we were told to expect a visit from the new super at any time. Our principal said that she (new super) had been announcing visits, but was no longer going to because of the hoopla that happened when she visited one high school - the marching band was brought out, students escorted her around, etc. She was apparently not happy that students were out of class for non-instructional purposes. Go her!!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Atkinson, if you want to keep the good teachers that you have and encourage new teachers to stay in DCSS, allow us to hold students (and their parents) accountable for the lack of self-discipline and the apathetic attitude towards their education. DCSS desperately needa a promotion policy that says loud and clear, "If you don't pass, you don't move ahead!" Currently, it is the teachers doing all the work, jumping through all the documentation hoops to get kids who could care less to care at least enough to come to class prepared. Believe me when I say that we go the extra mile for a child that shows a desire to learn. But, we're growing weary of those who don't and know that they will go to the next grade. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, the state of public education is in big, big trouble.

Anonymous said...

I'm embarrassed that I published a comment with an error, but it has been another twelve hour day for this teacher. I meant to say that DCSS desperately needs a promotion policy....

atl said...

@ BhutrasGolly
" if you disaggregate the data you find that while DeKalb is 70% free and reduced lunch, the Museum school students are far more affluent and test no better than their economic peers in any public school."

Please give the data and a link to a reputable site that backs your statement up. Otherwise, this is just your opinion.

JustStand said...

Dr. Atkinson, welcome and thank you for accepting the task of DCSS.

Please have the boldness to help the district recover from the pettiness of administrative personnel interested in personal agendas, their "feelings" and hired (incompetent) family and friends.

It's time to move forward with the business of school.

Administratorsarenutty said...

Welcome to Dekalb! It's a daunting task. You are going to have many road blocks from the old entrenched administration - but deal with it please-clean house!!!
It's about the children!!
2 things:

1. Smaller class sizes (return to lowering the class size).

2. Get rid of the top heavy administration (highly over paid) who were awful & lazy classroom teachers or school level employees who have conned their way to an administration position, and know nothing about "teaching and learning," curriculum, or finances, or in general - school administration. I am a teacher. I will give you my full support.

JustStand said...

Suggestion: Examine closely the relationship, integrity and motives of James Yawn, Ron Ramsey and Robert Moseley.