Monday, November 14, 2011

Can DeKalb Become a Classroom Centered School System?

“Concentrating On Our Core Business of Educating Students”

Until DeKalb looks at special programs and schools as cost centers and compares them with other systems that are managing those cost centers more efficiently and cost effectively in terms of student safety and student progress, students will be sitting in larger classes while our taxes rise and our student achievement decreases. The core business of DCSS is what happens in the classroom. Dr. Atkinson must concentrate on the core business to ensure its success. Getting a handle on DCSS cost centers is critical. 

Ms. Tyson is Special Assistant to the Superintendent under Dr. Atkinson. Is she up to the task of implementing the changes necessary to direct our resources back into the classroom? Business as usual cannot be the order of the day.

Drastic cuts in the non-teaching personnel pay and numbers is our only option since staff salaries and benefits account for 90+% of our budget. Taxes cannot be raised the way they were in the past to fund the admin and support side increases in number of personnel and compensation. Teacher ranks have been thinned to the point that students cannot get the individual help they need resulting in the lowest student achievement in the metro area. The core business of educating students has been severely and negatively impacted as the DCSS administration and the BOE has not been able to bring about the personnel and cost center changes needed.

Taxpayers/parents expect Dr. Atkinson to make real cuts in the Central Office and support side and leave nothing off the table including outsourcing some functions and eliminating and consolidating others. Salaries of the non-teaching employees MUST be "right sized". Teacher compensation in DeKalb is on the verge of being completely non-competitive in the marketplace.

Every non-teaching position in DeKalb needs to be evaluated as to how necessary it is to student progress. Every employee from accounting to technology to grounds maintenance needs to understand how his/her job supports teachers and students. ALL job performance objectives need to be tied to what is happening in the classroom. ALL departments and personnel need to be evaluated for their customer service level to the members of the classroom.

Surveys completed by teachers, students, and parents need to be evaluating any and every department that impacts the classroom. Is the technology working the way teachers need it to work? Is the Office of School Improvement making an impact on your students/children? Are benchmark tests giving you as a teacher the information you need for formative assessment? Are you satisfied with the training offered and given by the Staff Development group? Are the Instructional Coaches helping the students who are not achieving? Is the gifted program meeting the needs of your gifted students? Are parents more involved because of the Parent Center? How many parents are using the Parent Centers, how often, and what for? Are security officers available at the school? Are the security officers at your school visible throughout the day and do they improve the level of safety for the school? Do students and teachers feel safe? Do parents feel their child is safe at the school? Is discipline what it should be? Is there pressure on teachers to change grades? How is the no zero policy affecting student achievement? Is your content level coordinator visible and is he/she responsive to the classroom needs? Are the Prevention/Intervention personnel lowering the rate of bullying, altercations and need for student discipline referrals in your classroom and in your school? Are school lunches adequate, nutritious and served in a reasonable time frame with a cheerful attitude? Is transportation convenient and safe and timely?

Fireside chats are very nice, and we certainly applaud Dr. Atkinson for her early aggressive efforts to understand the communities, but ultimately, quantifiable data from the teachers, students and parents should be driving the admin and support train. Teachers and students are the members of the classroom, and the classroom is the ONLY reason the school system exists and the ONLY reason we pay school taxes. Parents are the ones who pay the taxes and are the people most responsible for their children. The school system must revolve around these three groups – students, teachers and parents - to be effective. Support the classroom and parents will be supportive of the school system and the job it is endeavoring to do. The question is “Can DeKalb Become a Classroom Centered School System”?

103 comments:

Cerebration said...

Reminds me of the accountant's creed, "Take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves."

Same thing but different.

dundevil said...

The "core business" of DCSS, or DCSD, is maintaining the largest possible number of administrative jobs at the highest possible salaries. The DC taxpayers finance the education system, which is the source of funds for doing this. The administration does not try to educate children. It just makes IT LOOK LIKE they are trying to educate children. Teachers are the unwitting pawns of this charade.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Cere, How many surveys, charettes, blue ribbon panels and alike do we need to find out that DCSS has a problem? I would hope Ms. Tyson and company would have poured over the information collected by the methods mentioned over the past three years.

I think they actually DID pour over the information and data, then they realized that the majority of stakeholders want the Central Office cut back. But the very people, whose jobs would be in jeopardy, are the ones writing the results and reports regarding the surveys, charettes and blue ribbon whatevers!

Sunshine is all the public wants. We want an honest Central Office with staff that will SUPPORT the mission and the classrooms. But as long as the current BOE and clueless Clew bunch remains, this poster does not see change ahead for DCSS(D?). Treat the teachers to their EARNED cola's retroactively and NO more furlough days. You can find the money for these MOST important expenses in MIS, DCSS POLICE, Office of Improvement, Legal fees and the Central Office.

I honestly think we can become a classroom centered school system/district. Dr. Atkinson has a helluva lot of work to do to achieve the results we have not seen in our system/district? for many years. The time is perfect for a Palace cleaning!

Anonymous said...

Data surveys are a terrific idea for every deparment that serves the classroom members and parents. However, a data survey should not be developed by the department policing itself. MIS went through that a number of years ago, and the questions were asked in a way that the outcome would look good for that department. The questions that needed to be asked about software, hardware and support were not on the survey.

Surveys need to start with the objectives of the department and the objectives always need to be linked to serving the end user - in this case students.

An independent group needs to develop these questions. Some departments will come out looking better than others depending on how they support the classroom. Feedback needs to be real and constructive.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait until springtime! Cause if you have been following this blog and keeping up with (or down with) previously premier DeKalb, you know that the school system releases contracts in March. The "proof will be in the pudding" if Dr. Atkinson takes her leadership position seriously and actually lets people in high places go. And, I don't mean "rearrange" or "laterally reassign" people to lesser positions with the same high pay. (As they continue to do.) A year and a half ago, many hard working and talented employees were "let go" under the premise that DeKalb didn't have enough money. So, people have been let go in DeKalb. Now is the time to let go of all of those employees that have been so frequently mentioned in this blog as being underperforming and over paid. If they are as talented as their relatives and friends think they are, they should be able to find high paying jobs in neighboring systems. Every position, every department and every compensation schedule should be brought to the cutting table. People, and positions and over compensation in DeKalb should be eliminated.

Anonymous said...

Coralwood has a great program, but
it is not a core mission. Either is the Fernbank Science Center.

Both should be affilaited non-profits, with a fundraiser/grant writer. Both should be bringing in funding and grants. Both should have partnerships with local colleges.

Anonymous said...

"Teacher ranks have been thinned to the point that students cannot get the individual help they need resulting in the lowest student achievement in the metro area. The core business of educating students has been severely and negatively impacted as the DCSS administration and the BOE has not been able to bring about the personnel and cost center changes needed."


Where the heck is David Schutten and ODE regarding the $73,000 no- high school degree secretary? It is a major slap in the face to every veteran teacher in the system.

Schutten has no problem endorsing Gene Walker through eduKALB, but is nowhere to be found during the $73k secretary mess, while the teachers he supposedly represents get no raises and have to pay more for insurance.

David Schutten: You should be the leading person in DeKalb for the fight to put resources back into the classroom, not the Central Office and non-academic departments.


Oh yeah, Jamie Wilson, head of HR: Why aren't you requiring admin assistants to have a 2 year degree? Admin assistants/secretaries should have some basic computer knowledge, and should be getting a 2 year degree from a school like GA Perimeter or DeKalb Tech, especially if you, Jamie Wilson, as head of HR, choose to pay them up to $73k per.

And remember that Crawford Lewis' admin asst was making almost $100,000k per year, double our teachers!!

Jamie Wilson: One more former principal keeping the fetid Central Office wasteful and bloated beyond reason.

Anonymous said...

According to Marcus Turk's presentation at the Open Budget Hearing, at the end of the FY2011 budget year DCSS will have $40 million MORE than budgeted in reserves.

How can any board member justify furlough days next year when this budget year will have a $40 million surplus.

Anonymous said...

Very disappointed by Ernest B's defense of the Central Office at the Get Schooled blog. He is very likely to be elected to the BOE one day. His cheerleading of the system for this mess and other messes shows he is not in touch with reality.


http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2011/11/11/dekalb-teacher-why-is-county-hiring-a-secretary-at-an-annual-salary-of-53186-to-72285-good-question/?cp=all

Atlanta Media Guy said...

We must keep track of the Ernest's of the world, especially if they run for office. We must hold him and the others accountable for what they have said in the past. Ernest cheer leads for the system and I have no problem with that, but what's his agenda?

I hope teachers hold David Schutten accountable, what's in it for him and eduKalb?

All I want is an honest transparent school system that goes beyond the norms for the classroom, everything else is waste.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Let me make this point about Ernest Brown...I spent about 2.5 hours in a conversation with Ernest. This man loves this school system, he understands what the problems are, he has good ideas about how to turn things around and I believe he would make a wonderful board member. I hope he runs again.

Ernest and I do see things different on occasion, but I do not believe we have to always agree with individuals, as long as our goals are the same - to make DCSS a top flight school again.

Just my two cents.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Thanks Mom! I look forward to listening to him, if he runs again. I wonder which district he will be in? He and I have had spirited debate here and elsewhere and I hope he is sincere in making our system workable again.

Anonymous said...

I don't know Ernest Brown, and our opinions often clash on this blog and on Get Schooled, but he always presents a cogent argument and appears to truly care for the DeKalb County School System. Perhaps he wants to counter balance the negativity that pervades DCSS. I think he would make an good BOE member. I believe walker beat him for the BOE seat. Ernest would get my vote. I hope he runs for the BOE again.

Cerebration said...

Yes! We all love Ernest Brown. He is a very highly involved SW DeKalb parent and now I think an Arabia parent. But wherever he goes he takes along his cheerful, positive attitude.

Anonymous said...

Here's another job posting that shows that DCSS does not value the primary business of educating students as it continues to pay non-teaching jobs more than teachers.

A painter's assistant job is listed (only high school or GED required) with a salary range of $38,304.00 to $52,108.80.

As a teacher with a Masters degree and 5 years of experience I make approximately $43000 (Less than my first day of teaching 5 years ago!). So DCSS is going to potentially pay a painter's assistant more than an experienced teacher? Disgusting!

This is a perfect example of a job that should be contracted out. Why should we pay retirement benefits and a full time salary for work that may not be consistent and could easily be contracted?

Kim Gokce said...

I have to add my voice to the Ernest Brown fan club/chorus. I met Ernest when he was running for office. He arrived at our neighborhood annual party and I proceeded to begin to bounce him.

As the association president at the time, I just had my board spend the previous two weeks arguing loudly to ensure no candidates showed up at our party. He had come as a guest of a County Commissioner (we do invite current public servants of all parties - just not those in the running!). Ernest was there with his son and I felt like a jackass for treating them so inhospitably.

As I explained to him the reason for the cold greeting, he was incredibly gracious in that very awkward situation. In short, his clear and sincere representations carried the day and he and Ernest, Jr stayed for the fun with no harm nor foul.

Since then, we have had many conversations and I consider him to be one of the most earnest (pardon me), informed, and dedicated citizens of our County who has devoted an inordinate amount of time in our public schools. Any fair criticism of Ernest is welcome. The fact that he speaks with moderation in tone and subject will never bother me.

Kim Gokce said...

Regarding the subject of this post, the position of teacher should be of the highest possible status in our system. Instead, teachers are considered a necessary cost center and not much more.

One notch above students in the pecking order and just below parents, our teachers are not champions of the system but viewed more as moles.

This is Teacher Appreciation Week folks. Why don't we have "Administrator Appreciation Week?" Riddle me this ...

atl said...

@ Kim

LOL - So if the pecking order is student as low man on the totem pole, then teachers and then parents, where does that leave the other 8,500 employees of DCSS?

I think the DCSS administration considers students a necessary cost center as well.

Cerebration said...

Brace yourselves: Below are the salaries we reported for salaried employees of the Fernbank Science Center (some decent teacher salaries, plus some nice 'other' jobs:

Teacher - Science $75,888
Teacher - Science $45,467
Teacher - Science $52,688
Teacher - Science $56,662
Teacher - Science $70,913
Teacher - Science $77,467
Teacher - Science $75,888
Teacher - Science $67,488
Teacher - Science $93,192
Teacher - Science $42,084
Teacher - Robotics and Engineering $98,556
Teacher - Physics $49,728
Teacher - Physics $66,424
Teacher - Meterology $71,543
Teacher - Ecology $81,504
Teacher - Ecology $61,692
Teacher - Ecology $91,320
Teacher - Ecology $57,714
Teacher - Ecology $98,556
Teacher - Earth and Space $81,504
Teacher - Chemistry $56,695
Teacher - chemistry $61,752
Teacher - Botany $76,089
Teacher - Botany $50,227
Teacher - Biology $71,556
Teacher - Biology $74,674
Teacher - Biology $83,112
Teacher - Astronomy $98,556
Teacher - Agriculture $87,876

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

TOTAL: $3,941,401

Cerebration said...

Not too effective, however. Consider these DCSS science achievement facts Fall, 2009:

Biology:
Number tested: 3,161
Pass rate: 52% (Georgia 64%)

Physical Science:
Number tested: 2,536
Pass rate: 63% (Georgia 71%)

Anonymous said...

How about these?

"Support - Exhibit Designer $77,892
Support - Exhibit Designer $69,516
Support - Exhibit Designer $84,720
Support - Exhibit Designer $63,576
Support - Designer/Photographer $66,096"

Has anyone seen those sad, old exhibits lately? This is ridiculous.

No wonder we only have 50 cents per child for science supplies and equipment for the regular education science classes that meet every day and serve 98,000 students.

And the worse science scores we've ever had in 2010.

Look at the Science CRCT Failed by Grade Level for 2010:
3rd - 29.5%
4th - 35.8
5th - 44.2
6th - 42.4
7th - 43.5
8th - 42.7

This is a perfect example of a cost center that NEVER gets evaluated.

I'm not blaming the Fernbank Science Center personnel for these low science scores. 29 teachers cannot possibly impact the scores of 98,000 students. Why keep this center funded? The $7,000,000 that goes into this center for salaries and benefits, transportation for thousands of buses for a once a year science experience, and the maintenance for the grounds and buildings would buy us over 107 Masters Level regular education science teachers with years of experience to teach science content EVERY day to our students who are having such difficulties.

When are we going to start putting our money with the teachers who teach the content that students are in school to learn - science, math, social studies and language arts? If the grade level and content regular ed teachers are going to be held accountable for student progress, then for gosh sakes hire as many as you can and pay them.

What are DCSS's priorities? Certainly not student achievement.

Anonymous said...

What is a "masters level regular education science teacher"? Most of the teachers at the Science Center have bachelors, masters, and even PhDs is a REAL science field, not in education. Unlike many science teachers in the schools, they actually are masters of the material they are teaching. And they still get paid on the same salary schedule as all teachers in DCSS.

Anonymous said...

What is a "masters level regular education science teacher"?

That is a teacher with a masters in science or science education who teaches science content to the same students in a school (McNair, MLK, Chamblee, tucker, etc.) every day. You know - the science teachers in our classrooms that will be paid based on student performance while they struggle with 35 in a classroom. Who are the losers here - the students packed into science classes like sardines in a can.

These are the science teachers that have 35 per classroom and can't teach labs safely because their classes are too large. Why are their science so large? Because the DCSS administration says we don't have the money to make classes smaller. Why not use the $7,000,000 spent on Fernbank to hire 107 science teachers for our 44 middle and high schools. Why not use part of the money to ensure that students aren't getting by on 50 CENTS a year per science student for science supplies and equipment in the science classes that meet every day.

DAILY high quality science instruction for EVERY student EVERY day is the ONLY way for MOST of our students to master science content. There are no shortcuts.

Cerebration said...

FWIW, that 50 CENTS figure comes directly from one of those "spending requests" at a board meeting. The request was for $50,000 for science materials countywide. For the whole year! Don McChesney questioned the request, asking if it was a typo, or if it was just for some particular item. He was told No, this is for the science supplies for all teachers, all year. Don was appalled.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we need an Assistant superintendant for STEM, someone with an advanced degree in science/ math and with teaching experience who can provide substantive leadership on science curriculum and instruction throughout the system.

There is not a direct link between the science center and average size for science classes. Close the science center and you will still have 35 kids per science class, just like we have 35 in history, English, math and foreign language.

Anonymous said...

biggest problem for science education - many teachers in the system, including many with advanced degrees in science ed, do not have a full grasp of the subject matter they are teaching. We need science teachers who were, themselves, excellent science students, who are passionate about science, and who can share their knowledge with students. We have few of these teachers in DCSS - this is why our scores are low.

Anonymous said...

"DAILY high quality science instruction for EVERY student EVERY day is the ONLY way for MOST of our students to master science content. There are no shortcuts."

My son learned more from a few outreach programs by a Fernbank Science Center teacher than he learned in an entire year from his 6th grade science teacher.

Anonymous said...

"There is not a direct link between the science center and average size for science classes. Close the science center and you will still have 35 kids per science class, just like we have 35 in history, English, math and foreign language."

Class sizes can be set any way the superintendent wants them to be set. NSTA research says hands-on activities and laboratory experiments are the most efficacious way to learn science. Their research also shows a dramatic increase in lab accidents that harm students when lab class sizes get above 24. College classes set limits on student labs (which BTW - every college student who takes a science class must have) because of this safety issue as well as the fact that science labs are what let students make those learning connections. The very nature of science is experimentation.

If DCSS wants better student achievement in science they must hire highly qualified science teachers and let them have smaller classes in order to conduct labs. Where wold this money come from? Start with Fernbank Science Center that spends $7,000,000 on once a year lessons and daily lessons for the. elite few.

Many posters say the Science Center personnel would leave if they get put into a regular Ed class. That says to me that they have little confidence in the average DeKalb student. Is that what we want? Teachers who believe most of our students are not capable of learning science content? Science is not an elite subject. It is the study of the world everyone of us live in. Science is for everyone.

Anonymous said...

"My son learned more from a few outreach programs by a Fernbank Science Center teacher than he learned in an entire year from his 6th grade science teacher."

And how much would he have learned if he had a highly qualified teacher in small classes with access to lab equipment and supplies EVERY DAY?

Doesn't he deserve quality science instruction EVERY DAY?

$7,000,000 would go a long way in our middle and high schools towards that.

Wouldn't you like to have a Fernbank instructor as your son's regular science teacher teaching him evey day?

Parents need to ask why DAILY high quality science instruction is being denied to our children.

Anonymous said...

Why has Fernbank not partnered with another non-profit or become it's own non-profit instead of asking the school system to divert millions from everyday science instruction in the classrooms?

My guess is that it is extremely "top heavy" in the admin and support end (more of them than actual science teachers). A non-profit would not keep all those admin and support personnel and certainly the ones they kept would not be paid at the same rate.

Why would they want to leave the safe cocon of the school system? But DCSS is not a jobs program. It is about the most achievement for most students. That includes science.

Anonymous said...

Even the top private schools don't offer science everyday to elementary children. The elementary children visit or have someone come to their school 4 times a year-2 times per semester. While this may not seem like a lot, the experiments that they perform with the children are more than elementary teachers could be able to do. They use gases and equipment that we don't have access to and aren't knowledgeable to use. Putting a science teacher in every elementary school isn't the answer. They need equipment and such that the county isn't able to provide.

If I had my choice of four times a year with Fernbank and a science teacher in my school with no equipment to do more than what I am capable of doing with my kids than I choose Fernbank.

What bloggers should be asking is why aren't science and social studies being integrated into all aspects of the elementary school day. Having science and social studies integrated would better educate our children and would not make these subjects seem so isolated. This would also provide our children with more instructional time in these subjects.

I realize that integrating subjects is a great deal of work, and I am not sure that the curriculum department in DCSS is capable of doing this, as they keep screwing up math, but to me integration of subjects is what will provide our children with the best education.

Anonymous said...

"Start with Fernbank Science Center that spends $7,000,000 on once a year lessons and daily lessons for the. elite few."

my neighbor teaches at Fernbank Science Center. He is an excellent and highly educated teacher and he certainly does not just teach the elite few. He spends 4 out of 5 days every week in schools across the county. He is at the school all day, with no planning period,and lugs all his equipment with him. He spends a lot of his time at high schools in South DeKalb where he is certainly not teaching the "elite."

Anonymous said...

Why can't we start by hiring some smart, dynamic, and qualified science teachers for our schools? I am tired of knowing more, from my one year of college chemistry, physics, and biology, that most of the science teachers at my kids' high school.

Anonymous said...

Time in the lab is no substitute for solid instruction from a smart, well-educated science teacher.

Anonymous said...

"If I had my choice of four times a year with Fernbank and a science teacher in my school with no equipment to do more than what I am capable of doing with my kids than I choose Fernbank."

Well, for my child I want frequent high quality science instruction in a small classroom setting with hands-on science.

How sad that we are grateful for hands-on science 4 times a year.

Are you aware that Fernbank Elementary has as part of their faculty a Special highly qualified science teacher that conducts hands-on science activities and labs with all of the students in the elementary school. She's a dynamic teacher who formerly taught at Grayson elementary. Listen to what her former principal says about her:
""You know. Best of the best. Top of the top. Cream of the crop," enthuses Dr. Christopher Ray, Grayson Elementary School principal. "You can't ask for a better teacher. She's engaging, innovative. Just a wonderful role model for the children here at Grayson Elementary School and it's been just a pleasure having her here."

What a great opportunity for Fernbank elementary students to have such a terrific science teacher dedicated to their school.
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/fernbank/facultystaff/specialareas.html

The Fernbank PTA pays for the Special science teacher who runs the hands-on science activities and labs because those parents know that science is one of the most critical areas for future academic and professional success.

Wouldn't you love for your son to have a dynamic Special science teacher at his school like this? Imagine how enthusiastic he would be about science content. Wouldn't that be preferable to 4 times a year in Outreach programs where they don't even know his name? Think of the continuity he would have in science instruction.

If this is effective for Fernbank Elementary students, why is it not effective for the rest of DCSS students?

Why aren't we putting those Fernbank Science Center millions into ensuring we have a Special highly qualified science teacher in every elementary schools that will conduct hands-on activities and labs with all of the students in the elementary school?

We are a Tale of Two Systems in DeKalb. It's time for that to end.

Science instruction in our schools needs to change or we will always lag in science achievement.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 12:21

"my neighbor teaches at Fernbank Science Center. He is an excellent and highly educated teacher and he certainly does not just teach the elite few. He spends 4 out of 5 days every week in schools across the county."

So tell me this. If we have moved from bringing all those children into the science center to having mainly Outreach programs, why do we still have the EXACT same number of admin and support personnel in Fernbank Science Center? Why can't these teachers be stationed in selected schools throughout the county and do their outreach from theie "home" school.

Look at what we are paying for the admin and support (35 employees) for Fernbank Science Center while these terrific teachers (29 of them) are in the schools doing Outreach programs:

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

(and these figures don't even include our benefit costs)

Is our priority to keep a nice piece of green space open or is it to teach the most students the most science content?

Cerebration said...

That was my point exactly for posting those salaries. This was not intended in any way to bash the great science teachers at Fernbank. One does have to wonder, is it REALLY necessary to employ all of these expensive support personnel? Is it REALLY important to only offer great science out of one particular building? Is there not some way to divide these excellent science teachers among groups of schools and bring the lessons to the school? The planetarium could be run by a private foundation, and students could still attend there as a field trip of choice (among other choices for field trips)....

I know quite a few excellent photographers who would love that $66,000 plus benefits job. (Do they work all year or just 10 months?) Same for the exhibit designers (I know some pretty talented exhibit designers who don't make this kind of money.)

When the 'regular' science classes are struggling, is it really a prudent idea to continue to fund this kind of program at this level?

Also - everyone needs to really understand -- schools in other states provide science instruction steadily from elementary school on. (Well, the ones whose students test well in science.)

Anonymous said...

Bad data Cere-only one admininstrative coordinator at Fernbank not two, no photographer position, it was cut several years ago, any science title like Geologist is not a support person but a teacher with advanced degrees who would make the same salary if they were at a school. The gardeners work with Warren Tech special education classes. It's not what you don't know that will hurt you-it's what you think you know that isn't so. Fernbank's budget of around 5 million (not 7!) is dedicated to teaching. If I asked former DeKalb students who owed their college and career success to post on this blog your server would go down.

BhutrasGolly said...

An il in our society is that good teachers have to become administrators to make more money. Perhaps we should pay our best teacher $1 more than the principal instead of the other way around.

Cerebration said...

Well, it's good news that some of the positions have been cut. It's also good to know that some students have really benefited from the center. We're just saying that this kind of instruction is costing a whole lot of money, while our 'regular' science scores are in the toilet. These are the students for whom the total science supplies budget is a mere $50,000. (Teachers are extra of course.)

I'm sure the students who failed the science test, if asked to post on this blog, would crash the server as well. Do you have a concern for them? We do, and that's all we're saying here - the system is out of balance. I can see why those who benefit continue to defend it though.

Anonymous said...

The 2011 DCSS Systemwide Teacher of the Year is a teacher at Fernbank Science Center.

Anonymous said...

Highest paid Fernbank teachers.

Are they teaching Gobal warming?

Teacher - Meterology $71,543
Teacher - Ecology $81,504
Teacher - Ecology $61,692
Teacher - Ecology $91,320
Teacher - Ecology $57,714
Teacher - Ecology $98,556
Teacher - Earth and Space $81,500

Cerebration said...

Also, the folks out at the Evergreen Convention Center at Stone Mountain work with the Warren Tech students as well. Several businesses do in fact. I'm not sure if this has a cost to the school system other than transportation though.

Dunwoody Mom said...

If I asked former DeKalb students who owed their college and career success to post on this blog your server would go down.

I would doubt that as most DCSS students have never seen the light of day of the Fernbank Science Center - with the exception of visiting the planetarium in Elementary School.

Anonymous said...

@12:35 I don't have the money that Fernbank parents must have to employ a teacher or teachers according to various reports. Most parents do not have this money.

I believe that we need to be realistic, getting highly qualified science teachers in all of our schools isn't going to happen for some time. There are bigger problems in DCSS than science instruction, that will impact children for the rest of their lives.

Having a science teacher is not all that schools need. They need equipment. Teachers are told to not worry about teaching science and social studies-do you parents realize this?!!!? Principals and APs in elementary schools push reading in kindergarten-3rd, as reading is tested in 3rd grade and then math and reading in 4th and fifth. You see, our children's problems are significantly larger than science. Shoot, our kids don't know history. They are taught it piece meal at best and only the aspects that will be tested on the CRCT. We leave out large parts of our country's history that would help our children to understand our country, why it was founded, and other aspects of history that are so important, so that it is not repeated.

Is money wasted at Fernbank Science Center? Yes, but it's wasted throughout DCSS. Above average salaries are the norm for non-teachers in DCSS. Do the teachers of Fernbank offer students a way to see how real scientists work, and work with equipment that there is little way or reason for schools to have to use once or twice a year? I believe that the teachers of Fernbank Science Center offer the children a valuable resource. The center itself has a lot to be desired, and is very outdated and dilapidated. The planetarium shows are boring and are more fun than educational for the fourth grade crowd-we should be focusing on education and not having to make it "fun" by adding cartoon characters. A real planetarium experience can be interesting and capture children's attention if done correctly-with the money being spent at Fernbank, they should be able to get it right and make learning real science interesting.

Good for Fernbank Elementary for being able to afford to pay for a teacher or two. This isn't reality for most of our schools. Not really sure that Fernbank parents should be able to do this, as this is not what PTAs are supposed to be about.

There are bigger issues here. Science teachers graduating with little science knowledge. Our district spending 50 cents a child on science supplies for classrooms. Our principals and APs telling elementary teachers that science and social studies aren't as important as reading and math. Nothing being done to solve the above problems, and others that effect the education of our children.

Anonymous said...

"I would doubt that as most DCSS students have never seen the light of day of the Fernbank Science Center - with the exception of visiting the planetarium in Elementary School"

Kids across the county see FSC teachers at their schools every day. And many kids (including several from Dunwoody and Chamblee!) take advanced studies courses at the science center after school, or are part of the award winning robotics team.

Cerebration said...

Here are the Average Test Scores in Science in DCSS -

3rd Grade: 29.5% FAILED

4th Grade: 35.8% FAILED

5th Grade: 44.2% FAILED

6th Grade: 42.4% FAILED

7th Grade: 43.5% FAILED

8th Grade: 42.7% FAILED

Anonymous said...

Ramona Tyson sent to all top level DCSS staff a memo wherein she informed them of the Superintendent's "Zero Tolerance" for "Superintendent's Name Protocol." With all that this school system needs, why are principals now being beat and threatened with the superintendent's "Zero Tolerance" for anything not addressed properly to her? I suppose the high paying secretary will be the one to return all correspondence that is not addressed properly. A GED is all that is required to perform such a task. Can you believe it! A "Zero tolerance" letter to staff regarding the superintendent's name!! No one is going anywhere! Keep your eyes on Alice Thompson and the salary she makes for doing nothing! She has not spoken a sentence in public since she left Nancy Creek as principal years ago! Do you really expect Ramona to assist in clearing house of the CLEW Crew?

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 1:38

"I don't have the money that Fernbank parents must have to employ a teacher or teachers according to various reports. Most parents do not have this money. "

Well, the data would show that you do. $7,000,000 taxpayer dollars spent on Fernbank Science Center would "buy" us 109 Masters Level teachers with 13 years of teaching experience (and this includes benefits).
Look at the numbers:
$7,000,000 divided by $64,000 (includes 20% benefits) = 109 science teachers with a Masters level and 13 years of experience.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the pay scale for DCSS teachers with a Masters and 13 years of experience and add that 20% benefit cost in:
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/human-resources/teacher-salary-schedule

I counted 75 elementary schools in DCSS. We could put a Special science teacher in every elementary school that conducts hands-on activities and labs with students and still have abundant funds left over for adequate science supplies and equipment.

Look at Fernbank Elementary’s Science CRCT Pass Rate:
3rd grade: 94.1%
4th grade: 96.7%
5th grade: 92.1%

More importantly, they have kids that are excited by science because they have a dedicated Special science teacher. They get ample opportunities to make those connections between what they read in the science book and what they observe in hands-on activities and experiments.

Why aren't we asking our BOE members and Dr. Atkinson about science education in Dekalb? Why are we settling for so little in the way of science education?

Why are we continuing to spend millions on a science center when our science scores are at the bottom of the barrel in the metro area? No other metro school system has a science center, and they have MUCH better science achievement.

When questions came up even about minimal cuts in funding for the science center, the Fernbank Elementary School Council wrote an open letter to the Board requesting they keep Fernbank Science Center intact even as they urged the Boad to close neighborhood schools. Meanwhile, they fund a special Science teacher for their school.
Look at the letter:
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/03/letter-from-fernbank-elementary-school.html

Fernbank is a lovely area, and they have a dynamic community with lots of support for their school and terrific kids. They are to be greatly admired for their commitment to the educational opportunities they seek for their children.

However, the $7,000,000 that goes for the Fernbank Science Center impacts all schools and all students in DeKalb. This cost center needs to be looked at for a Return on Investment for all of our students regardless of politics.

Politics as usual will not give our children the science education opportunities they deserve and you and I pay for.

Anonymous said...

"Superintendent's "Zero Tolerance" for "Superintendent's Name Protocol." "

What the heck is that and how will it improve student achievement?

Anonymous said...

Why are our elementary school students not learning science? The elementary ed certificate is for teaching all subjects. Why can't these teachers just teach the subject? At the elementary level, there are no labs or experiments.

Anonymous said...

Without leadership for science education, in the Central Office, cutting the science center WILL NOT result in improvements in science education at the school house level. Who will see to this happening? Dr. Berry? Dr. Beasley? the Board? Seriously.

Anonymous said...

"Why can't these teachers just teach the subject? At the elementary level, there are no labs or experiments."

That's an easy question to answer:
Lack of supplies - try to do labs with 50 cents a child per year. That's what teachers are allotted. (Where is our science money going?)

Huge classes. Lab safety takes a sharp increase after 24 students per lab class.

Lack of planning time. It takes time to set up a lab, especially at the elementary level.

The Central Office knows this. So they tell teachers they are not required to conduct labs - even on the high school level.

Look at this quote from the National Science Teachers Association:
"Overcrowding has two research-based safety concerns: sufficient supervision and adequate individual workspace. Classes containing more than 24 students engaged in science activities cannot safely be supervised by one teacher. Additionally, research data show that accidents rise dramatically as class enrollments exceed 24 students or when inadequate individual workspace is provided (West et al. 2005)."
Heres is the source:
http://www.nsta.org/about/positions/liability.aspx

Anonymous said...

"Without leadership for science education, in the Central Office, cutting the science center WILL NOT result in improvements in science education at the school house level.'"

Then science achievement will continue to decline in DeKalb. There is nothing happening to improve it. 29 Fernbank Science Center teachers cannot improve science scores for 98,000 students or they would have done so.

Now about those 35 admin and support personnel at Fernbank Science Center - what are they doing now that the Fernbank Science Center teachers are on the road all the time? Quite frankly, the FSC teachers could just be based in the schools.

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

Cerebration said...

UPDATE: We have rechecked our staffing figures for Fernbank. Going solely by the employees listed on the website, we calculated the salary costs for Fernbank personnel. (This is because we were called out as having 'bad data' above by a blog visitor.) We don't want to have wrong info, so we found each of these persons on the GA Salary Schedule. Below is the new listing (without names of course.)

Director $98,172.00
Administrative Coordinator $91,512.00
Administrative Assistant $50,316.00
Scheduler $43,341.60
Administrative Assistant $39,268.80
Administrative Assistant $39,118.54
Bookkeeper $34,109.10
Ecologist $98,160.00
Ecologist $90,960.00
Biologist $77,528.00
Ornithologist $61,452.00
Biologist $82,776.00
Biologist $71,268.00
Biologist $52,578.23
Biologist $45,496.00
Biologist $75,348.00
Biologist $72,064.92
Botanist $52,822.00
Biologist $67,224.00
Entomologist $57,770.00
Horticulturist $80,908.80
Biologist $81,180.00
Horticulturist $87,528.00
Geologist $75,498.00
Geologist $81,180.00
Physicist $67,406.00
Physicist $49,782.00
Physical Science Instructor $56,184.00
Aeronautics Instructor $98,160.00
Physical Science Instructor $75,588.00
Chemist $55,795.18
Chemist $61,512.00
Meteorologist $74,418.00
Astronomer $75,588.00
Astronomer $98,160.00
Astronomer $87,726.40
Librarian $90,960.00
CTSS $46,207.76
Cabinetmaker $46,960.80
Designer $77,580.00
Designer $65,832.00
Designer $63,324.00
Designer $84,384.00
Designer $69,240.00
Planetarium Technician $56,174.40
Planetarium Technician $65,822.40
Reception $37,334.40
Reception $7,038.78
Reception $6,481.27
Reception
Security $46,960.80
Security $47,899.20
Security $46,523.53
Plant Engineer $46,179.90
Custodial Staff $27,762.96
Custodial Staff $25,912.78
Custodial Staff $30,924.00
Grounds Crew $34,137.60
Grounds Crew $44,656.80
Grounds Crew $33,482.40
Grounds Crew $33,506.23
Grounds Crew $44,656.80
Grounds Crew $32,139.99


TOTAL COST OF SALARIED EMPLOYEES AT FERNBANK SCIENCE CENTER:

$3,719,982.37

In addition, these employees also turned in expenses totaling $ $20,148.29

Add to this the cost of benefits, transportation, building upkeep costs, materials, etc and yes, this is a very pricey facility to maintain.

Anonymous said...

The elementary school curriculum does not include formal science labs. The teachers simply are not teaching the material.

and as was stated before, multiple time, the science center does not cost $7,000,000

Anonymous said...

Just curious, but how do these figures compare to the amount of money that is spent in DCSS on athletics, including transportation, facilities, and bonus $$ for coaches? Any how do these dollars result in academic achievement? did you ever notice that there is an inverse correlation between success of the sport program at a high school and test scores (and graduation rates). Why aren't these numbers ever posted on this blog???

Cerebration said...

If you're interested, you can also see the difference between the job description on the Fernbank website and the official job description submitted to the state (in ALL CAPS):

Director $98,172.00
INSTRUCTIONAL SUPERVISOR
Administrative Coordinator $91,512.00 INSTRUCTIONAL SUPERVISOR
Administrative Assistant $50,316.00 GENERAL ADMIN SECRETARY/CLERK
Scheduler $43,341.60
SUPPORT SERV SECRETARY/CLERK
Administrative Assistant $39,268.80 CENTRAL SUPPORT CLERK
Administrative Assistant $39,118.54 CENTRAL SUPPORT CLERK
Bookkeeper $34,109.10
BOOKKEEPER
Ecologist $98,160.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Ecologist $90,960.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Biologist $77,528.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Ornithologist $61,452.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Biologist $82,776.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Biologist $71,268.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Biologist $52,578.23
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Biologist $45,496.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Biologist $75,348.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Biologist $72,064.92
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Botanist $52,822.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Biologist $67,224.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Entomologist $57,770.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Horticulturist $80,908.80
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Biologist $81,180.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Horticulturist $87,528.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Geologist $75,498.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Geologist $81,180.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Physicist $67,406.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Physicist $49,782.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Physical Science Instructor, $56,184.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Aeronautics Instructor $98,160.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Physical Science Instructor $75,588.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Chemist $55,795.18
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Chemist $61,512.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Meteorologist $74,418.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Astronomer $75,588.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Astronomer $98,160.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Astronomer $87,726.40
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Librarian $90,960.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
CTSS $46,207.76
TECHNOLOGY SPECIALIST
Cabinetmaker $46,960.80
MAINTENANCE PERSONNEL
Designer $77,580.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Designer $65,832.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Designer $63,324.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Designer $84,384.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Designer $69,240.00
OTHER INSTRUCTIONAL PROVIDER
Planetarium Technician $56,174.40 MAINTENANCE PERSONNEL
Planetarium Technician $65,822.40 PLANT OPERATIONS DIRECTOR/MGR
Reception $37,334.40
SUPPORT SERV SECRETARY/CLERK
Reception $7,038.78
SUPPORT SERV SECRETARY/CLERK
Reception $6,481.27
SUPPORT SERV SECRETARY/CLERK
Security $46,960.80
SECURITY PERSONNEL/SECURITY OFFICER
Security $47,899.20
SECURITY PERSONNEL/SECURITY OFFICER
Security $46,523.53
SECURITY PERSONNEL/SECURITY OFFICER
Plant Engineer $46,179.90
MAINTENANCE PERSONNEL
Custodial Staff $27,762.96
CUSTODIAL PERSONNEL
Custodial Staff $25,912.78
CUSTODIAL PERSONNEL
Custodial Staff $30,924.00
CUSTODIAL PERSONNEL
Grounds Crew $34,137.60
MAINTENANCE PERSONNEL
Grounds Crew $44,656.80
MAINTENANCE PERSONNEL
Grounds Crew $33,482.40
MAINTENANCE PERSONNEL
Grounds Crew $33,506.23
MAINTENANCE PERSONNEL
Grounds Crew $44,656.80
MAINTENANCE PERSONNEL
Grounds Crew $32,139.99
MAINTENANCE PERSONNEL

Anonymous said...

"....how do these figures compare to the amount of money that is spent in DCSS on athletics, including transportation, facilities, and bonus $$ for coaches? Any how do these dollars result in academic achievement? Why aren't these numbers ever posted on this blog???"

Why don't you post them?

There is no staff running this blog. Just posters who look up facts and figures.

And BTW - that's an excellent question.

Cerebration said...

@ 4:01 PM. How do you figure? The salaries alone are $3.7 million. Add 30% for benefits and you now have $4.9 million in employee costs. Add the light bill, the transportation, materials for displays and projects and upkeep for the grounds as well as keeping the old planetarium up and running (parts)... you don't think it's possible to cost $2 million more? The electric bill alone must be quite a lot. How about door to door bus transportation for students in STT?

Cerebration said...

We have posted several blog posts about the cost of athletics. We have had several discussions regarding the fuzzy accounting associated with athletics in DCSS.

Booster Clubs and Sports Funding

In Case You Missed It

This just in..."DeKalb schools propose cuts in programs, teacher pay"

Here's a quote - a variation of our standard theme:

It is heartening to see that at least Womack and McChesney are talking "tough". These are serious times, and it is no longer acceptable for BOE members to allow perks like take home vehicles (which the school police dept. has taken full advantage of), hold onto their own pet projects (Zepora, Copelin-Wood), allow nepotism & cronyism, allow retired employees back in the system as consultants, or allow departments like MIS, school police and Athletics to go without forensic audits and personnel audits. Every DCSS department needs to have a forensic and personnel audit every 3 to 4 years. All fees, like Athletics, need to be studies and increased if appropriate.

Every penny spent from this point on needs to be accounted for in a transparent manner.


Perhaps you only have your Google search terms set to "Fernbank"...

Anonymous said...

I have a simple concise question. I am a parent who wants to know the answer to this question, and because it is such a ridiculous question I'm not even sure to whom I should direct it at the county office. IS there or IS there NOT a mandate to "not fail students"?

(Of course, one question leads to many more, so here goes....) If there is such a mandate, where is that mandate in writing? What is the source of the mandate? Is it the head of instruction for the district? Is it a regional (area?) superintendent mandate? A school mandate? What is this source of teacher angst regarding failing students? Is this mandate published? If so, where? If there is such a mandate, why will some teachers "buck" this mandate, and why will others not? I'm not turning this into a teacher advocacy discussion, but what happens, if this is true, to the teachers who DO buck the mandate? Is the mandate in selected areas of the county? Selected schools? IF there is such a mandate, has this been discussed with the superintendent, and if so what is the response?

I have a son, a rather bright young man with some learning disabilities but who cannot lay the blame for his poor performance in ALL things on these disabilities. Poor French teacher calls me yesterday. He's pulling his hair out (the teacher). He realizes that this bright young man is primarily lazy and has great potential. He wants a grand conspiracy between him and myself, something I'm happily on board for -- y'know, to send "the message". I then specifically ask the teacher to request my son's notebook and promptly fail him if the notebook doesn't pass muster. You see I too am struggling to get the message across to my son, and I fully support the notion that sometimes failure must be factored into the equation of success for our more hard-headed young people. I'm willing to 'take' the failing notebook grade. The teacher tells me he can't fail him. He's not ALLOWED to fail him. My young man has only been at this school for a few months, but how many times have I heard this?? No one is ALLOWED to fail a student? Based on what??

I realize that test grades are what they are (another discussion is coming on why these students are not allowed to see their tests after they take them), and that a student can carry a failing grade right up until the end of the semester. But by some miracle, voila!! The grade is passing at the end of the semester.

I need to know if this "not allowed to fail them" is a rule. I need to know this now. On behalf of my own hard-headed young man and all those like him, I need to know if THEY know that they will not be failed. This, to me, is the axis upon which the earth will turn properly -- or not.

BTW, I realize that I can file an open records act request and get the summarized data for number of grades less than C for all secondary students across all schools, in core courses, blah blah. And I just may do that. But want to put it here first.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:18pm.

It is called a "Promotion Policy" and DCSS has NO "Promotion Policy" currently in place.

Which means there is no "Policy" in place to retain or hold back students.

This is a HUGE issue within DCSS and I have heard that DCSS is currently drafting a "Promotion Policy" for either this or next school year.

What happens in our school system is that NO ONE is held ACCOUNTABLE for NOT TEACHING OUR KIDS!!!!

The teachers promote the kids to the next grade without the knowledge or skills to handle the educational workload.

This is the reason you have children in 7th grade with a 3rd grade reading and math level.

This is also the reason that SOOO MANY kids in our schools can not get a quality education because there are children in these grades that do NOT BELONG in them and drag the rest of the class DOWN!!!

Send your inquiry to Dr. Atkinson, the entire BOE and to our communications director, Mr. Walter Woods.

I would LOVE to hear their response.

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration
"TOTAL COST OF SALARIED EMPLOYEES AT FERNBANK SCIENCE CENTER:

$3,719,982.37 "

I noticed you did not have the benefits listed for the Fernbank Science Center personnel.

The DeKalb administration pegs benefits at 20%.

So......
$3,719,982 x 1.20 = $4,463, 978 in salary and benefits alone.

This seems like quite a lot to get 29 science teachers.

And you are right the building and grounds maintenance as well as the transportation costs add - what? Another couple of million?

Now if the argument is that the transportation cost is down because teachers are now going out to the schools so often, than what is the use of having so many admin and support (they out number the teachers). Do they just rattle around an empty building all day or do they serve the few students who come for the STT (did I get that acronym right?) every day? Doesn't the STT serve 90 students one semester and then a different 90 students another semester?

Someone needs to remind me again why the county has this very expensive cost center as our science achievement is in continuing decline.

Anonymous said...

@ anon 4:40:
"So......
$3,719,982 x 1.20 = $4,463, 978 in salary and benefits alone.

This seems like quite a lot to get 29 science teachers" What is your point? This is what 29 teachers, based on education level and years in service, are paid according to pay schedule E. Are you saying we should pay less for 29 teachers, many who have masters or PhDs IN SUBJECT AREA? what is the point of your comment?

Anonymous said...

Cabinetmaker $46,960.80
Designer $77,580.00
Designer $65,832.00
Designer $63,324.00
Designer $84,384.00
Designer $69,240.00
Planetarium Technician $56,174.40
Planetarium Technician $65,822.40
Reception $37,334.40
Reception $7,038.78
Reception $6,481.27
Reception



4 Receptionists?

6 people for exhibits??? Have you been there lately? The exhibits are old and embarassing!!!

Planetarium Tech's making much more than 80% of DCSS teachers?

THIS IS INSANE!!

FSC NEEDS TO BECOME A NON_PROFIT!!!

Anonymous said...

"This seems like quite a lot to get 29 science teachers" What is your point? This is what 29 teachers, based on education level and years in service, are paid according to pay schedule E. Are you saying we should pay less for 29 teachers, many who have masters or PhDs IN SUBJECT AREA? what is the point of your comment?"

$4,463, 978 in salary and benefits alone to run Fernbank Science Center. This comes to $153,930 per science teacher.

Most of Fernbank Science Center teachers do not have PhDs and few of them have 26 years of classroom experience. And even if they did, they would not make this amount of money.

Of course I realize that the Fernbank teachers don't actually see paychecks of $153,930, but we taxpayers SPEND this amount per Fernbank Science Center teacher.

The admin and support numbers (35 admin and support versus 29 teachers who according to many posters are not even in the building most of the time) add to what is termed "overhead" for these teachers.

Why not place these Fernbank teachers in schools all around the county and let them do their Outreach from those schools? This would eliminate most of the admin and support needs for Fernbank. As a matter of fact, we could close the center if most Fernbank teachers are in the schools anyway doing Out Reach. Why are we even keeping it open?

Why not plow the admin and support salaries and benefits back into science education for all of the schools?

Business as usual in DCSS science education has resulted in the following science CRCT scores. Do you know that the CRCT tests only the most BASIC science content mastery? Look at these scores:
Here are the Average Test Scores in Science in DCSS. These are the children who do not know even the most BASIC science concepts:

3rd Grade: 29.5% FAILED

4th Grade: 35.8% FAILED

5th Grade: 44.2% FAILED

6th Grade: 42.4% FAILED

7th Grade: 43.5% FAILED

8th Grade: 42.7% FAILED

If you think we have students incapable of learning science content, just say so. I don't think that is the problem. Our science teachers in the classrooms teaching science to 98,000 students have class sizes that make labs dangerous and they have 50 cents a student for science equipment and supplies. Do you suggest the science teachers in the classrooms spend their own money for science equipment and supplies? That's what most of them do.

Dr. Atkinson needs to direct those millions that go to Fernbank Science Center back into our science classrooms. Maybe then we will have our students achieving in science.

One thing I can guarantee - if we keep 35+ in science classes and give them 50 cents a child for a year's science supplies - in other words, maintain the status quo - less children this year will master basic science concepts than last year. That's my real point.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 4:18 pm

"I have a simple concise question. I am a parent who wants to know the answer to this question, and because it is such a ridiculous question I'm not even sure to whom I should direct it at the county office. IS there or IS there NOT a mandate to "not fail students"? "

Here is the person to whom you should direct your inquiry.
Kathleen Howe, Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.

She sets the policy for all grades. She decides if teachers cannot issue failing grades or must give students multiple chances to make up work, etc. She is the head of Curriculum and Instruction. Everything to do with grades is her call.

Here is her county email address:
Kathy_S_Howe@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

Here is Ms. Howe's office telephone number:
678-676-0731

Here is her fax number:
678-676-0193
Ms. Howe's assistant is Jackie Simmons:
Same telephone number

Ms. Howe's supervisor is Cheryl Atkinson, Superintendent of DeKalb Schools:
email and office telephone number:
cheryl_atkinson@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us
678-676-0790

I would advise you to ask for a meeting with her. Perhaps you have other parents who have similar concerns and would like to meet with her as well.

Please let us know what she tells you.

If you are not satisfied with your response, then I would advise you to contact your BOE member:
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/board-of-education

Click on districts if you don't know who your BOE member is. Click on their name to email them.

JustStand said...

Dekalb can and will become a Classroom Centered School System as Dr. Atkinson and Company continue to separate the wheat from the chaff. This also means addressing administrators determined to major in the minor at the cost of our children.

Anonymous said...

Earlier posters mentioned "superintendent's name protocol" and a memo from Ms. Tyson. Can someone please explain what this is? Is there a memo?

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Anon 5:50 should mention Ms. Howe's assistant, Jackie Simmons, who, if she is Jacquelyn A. Simmons, made $72, 669.60 last year at DCSS(D) as a secretary! It's a little ironic that, in her title, the word "secretary" is abbreviated "secret"!

This post may have revealed more than the poster intended.

Hmmm. Wonder if Walter Woods posted at 5:50 as Anon?

Anonymous said...

The Question was "Can DeKalb Become a Classroom Centered School System?"

The answer is: Not with this current Central Office Administration. Atkinson needs to "clear" house sooner than later. The longer she waits, they harder it will be. The Moseley's, the Thompson's, the Berry's, the Beaseley's, the Guillory's, the Tyson's, etc. didn't get where they are without knowing how to master the system.

Anonymous said...

"Hmmm. Wonder if Walter Woods posted at 5:50 as Anon?"

LOL - Nothing so nefarious. I just got the contact information for all of these people off the DCSS website and sent it to the parent that was worried about the school mandate for grades and promotions.

I knew the person in charge of Instruction would be the one to set the policy for this. I found the name of the new Curriculum and Instruction Director on the DeKalb County School Watch blog.

Knowing who is responsible for what in DeKalb can be difficult for parents since there are often layers upon layers of bureaucracy to plow through. I don't anything about Ms. Simmons. She was listed as Ms. Howe's assistant so I put that information in as well thinking she would probably be the person who answers Ms. Howe's phone.

Anonymous said...

@ 4:18

The policy -whether written or unwritten goes something like this:
* Teachers are not able to give students zeros-even if earned and no work is turned in by the student.
* Teachers are not able to give grades lower than a 70 without permission from an administrator.
* If a student has an unpassing grade, than teacher must allow student as many times as necessary to make up work, give new work and change grade, and/or do whatever it takes to make the grade a passing grade.

I remember sitting in the meeting when the area superintendent told us this and flipped. We (teachers) were basically told, that if a child was failing or completing his work, than it was our fault. Being new to the system and not knowing that a teacher is to be seen and not heard in DCSS, I questioned and questioned and questioned and told the area superintendent, the AP, and the principal that this policy was failing our students, as we were not giving them the grades that they had earned and were not teaching them how to work hard to get what they wanted. I was told to do what they said.

These meetings happened in my school around this time of year in 2007-when the No Excuses mantra was being used.

This policy probably isn't written anywhere, but the teacher isn't lying. I know a number of kids in first grade who were given passing grades (C's, B's and even A's) who could not read-not a single word. This policy is one of a number of reasons why are schools do not have passing scores on standardized tests and why our schools are not making AYP. Kids know these rules, and use them to their advantage constantly.

JustStand said...

@ Can Dekalb Become...how about putting competent, sincere building leaders in place on the south side of the city, with the necessary supports, of course, and leaving them in place for longer than two years?
Then, let's work to train or remove those teachers who do not have the best interest of the communities we serve (have their own agendas, are content where they are because of convenience, do not respect the children and families they serve, etc).
Thirdly, let's hold parents responsible for the actions and behaviors of the students they send us. We must stop accommodating parents who do not collaborate with the school system in the education of their children. No more excuses.

Anonymous said...

As stated before, every single instructor at FSC is paid according to the same teacher pay school as every other teacher in DCSS. These teachers don't get extra pay or benefits. Their transportation costs are incurred driving all over the county.

Cerebration said...

@8:59, just to clarify, the transportation costs we are referring to are for the buses and bus drivers needed to transport students door to door to STT and then back to their home high schools -- this and the transportation for all of the regular student field trips to the Center...

But you're right, the teachers who drive from school to school do incur some mileage expenses most likely.

Anonymous said...

I know a number of kids in first grade who were given passing grades (C's, B's and even A's) who could not read-not a single word. This policy is one of a number of reasons why are schools do not have passing scores on standardized tests and why our schools are not making AYP. Kids know these rules, and use them to their advantage constantly."

This doesn't seem to me to be a policy that is for the child's advantage - quite the contrary.

Teachers in DeKalb have said before that this is DeKalb's policy, and it's a disgrace. Any school administration that supports such shoddy policies are cheaters. Grade changing, grade inflation, no zeros when student don't do their work. Rig the system so children who are not learning do not get the assessments they earned and the help they need. Sound familiar? This is not any different from what APS did except it is more egregious because this is more widespread.

If any teacher would like to write an article about these shady practices, you should do so and send it to the moderator of this blog for posting consideration. See email address below:
reparteeforfun@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

@ 8:59 om
"As stated before, every single instructor at FSC is paid according to the same teacher pay school as every other teacher in DCSS.....Their transportation costs are incurred driving all over the county."

No one disputes this. But if the teachers are generally out in the schools teaching, why do we need to spend millions a year on admin and support salaries and benefits? The EXACT same number of admin and support personnel is in place that Fernbank Science Center had BEFORE the push to change to more Outreach programs and less programs at the Science center.

Close the science center and place the Fernbank instructors in schools all over the county. They can still travel to schools to do Outreach programs. What's the difference if they are based out Fernbank Science Center or if they are based out of a school? No difference to them, but a difference of millions of dollars in admin and support costs and building and grounds maintenance.

The STT program serves only 90 students a semester so this should be worked out. Other programs such as Robotics can be done at a school as well. We can re-employ those millions to have some great labs in schools.

Science education should not be for the lucky few. Every child deserves high quality science instruction.

Anonymous said...

@8:34: Thank you -- really appreciate your response. I'm 4:18, and I suppose I should have clarified that I know exactly who I could talk to at both central office and on the BOE -- but I have no expectation that anyone would own up to such a thing. The people who hear these "mandates" are the ones who really know.

Couple of observations: I'm careful to make the distinction between 'policy' and something someone tells me in a meeting. So I certainly hope this mantra of "not allowed to fail students" is not construed as policy. Second, if this was started in 2007, do you mean to say that various leaders have carried that on for so long since then? Has this mandate been continued in communications with teachers for that long? What do the organizations who represent teachers say about this? It ties your hands, to be sure. Do you know if teachers have communicated this hamstrung position in the roundtables with the superintendent?

And it ties MY hands. Given the chance, I could make a cogent argument that my parental rights are being violated if my child walks around school each day thinking that no matter how minimal his effort, he will not fail.

Good thing for us that this is unlikely to happen -- in THIS family. And not because he was "passed". You may have gleaned by now that the mere atmosphere in my household decries that. But for heaven's sake -- what about all the others??

Anonymous said...

@anon 9:25
I encourage you to check out the after school classes offered by FSC and attended by high school students throughout the county. These are courses that are not offered in the schools, including an advanced level physics AP course taught only in one other school, Chamblee magnet.

Cerebration said...

FWIW -- Cross Keys has an awesome new robotics program in place. Kim wrote about it on the blog a while back - anyone can apply and participate!

RAMP Comes to Cross Keys to Serve Area High Schoolers

A Choice Worth Choosing! Cross Keys offers some very special programs"

CK Update: Here Comes the Sun

Anonymous said...

@ 9:31 8:34 here.

I am sure that this policy is not in writing, but I know that it is practiced. I left teaching in DCSS in May 2010, because I was tired of fighting to try and give my students an education. I realized that the good teachers were leaving, and I couldn't consider myself a good mother and bring my child to the school in which I worked, which is considered a "good" school in the system.

Really good, smart, caring, and educated teachers are the teachers that I saw leaving. They knew that they could not stay and watch children get passed along who did not have basic skills, as they felt responsible for this. They watched principals and APs change grades, making parents happy to think that little Suzie was a straight A student, when in fact she was in first grade and simply wasn't learning.

I tutor a child from my neighborhood school, also considered a "good" elementary school, whose mother didn't find out that the boy didn't know his alphabet or letter sounds until mid January of first grade. The boy was earning passing grades of As, Bs, and Cs. I'll never forget the mom calling me in tears. The boy obviously has a speech problem with the letter r, and the school blows that off, but is testing the boy for special education because he hasn't memorized all of his sight words. They've over looked that he has learned his letter sounds, can read short vowel words, and is now learning long vowel words. It's obvious that this school has no clue about reading and the 5 essential components, as sight words should never be used for testing a child for special education, when his original problem was not knowing the alphabet letter names and letter sounds, something that he quickly mastered with my help.

To me, the system works against parents who want their child to understand that their actions have consequences. There are no consequences in DCSS. None. As a teacher, I was threatened by a fifth grade student that she would punch me in my pregnant stomach and wanted to kill my baby, because I did everything in my power for my students to have consequences for their actions. That child had little done to her. I could go on with stories like this. I've watched young elementary students throw chairs in the classroom, only to be able to stay in the classroom, even after the chair hit another student and the aggressive child hit the teacher. Is this what we want our children to witness and be exposed to on a daily basis.

As I've stated in early remarks on this post, parents are worried about the money spent on Fernbank, and in my professional opinion, that is the least of any parents true worries. I am not saying that there isn't waste there, but we have bigger and more important problems. Until these bigger problems are worked on and really addressed, you will continue to have parents like myself not put their children in DCSS schools-even Fernbank. How many good teachers have sent or are sending their children to a DCSS school? Ask around, because it's not many. The really good teachers that I know work or did work just to put their child in private school and would never consider sending them to the school that they currently work in.

Anonymous said...

@9:25 pm on 11/15 said "Other programs such as Robotics can be done at a school as well."

They aren't. Chamblee used to have a robotics team, but now Chamblee students interested in robotics do it at FSC. Lakeside, which is now the largest high school in the county, doesn't have a robotics team either.

9:41 points out that the advanced physics class offered at FSC is taught in only one other DCSS high school, Chamblee Magnet. Lakeside used to have a lower level AP Physics class, but this year they don't even offer that one.

If there are not the numbers at even the largest school in the county to justify robotics teams or AP Physics classes, the only way to provide these opportunities for STEM-oriented students is to offer them at a central location like Fernbank.

Anonymous said...

Dunwoody has 3 robotics teams; Cross Keys has a robotics team. Arabia Mountain has a robotics team. All 3 are award-winning teams at that! I believe Chamblee Middle School is trying to start a robotics program.

It only takes one interested and motivated teacher to start a robotics program at a school. Students do not need to travel all the way to Fernbank to participate in robotics. This is another fallacy with regards to Fernbank.

Cerebration said...

Actually, it would be very sad to think that of the 21 high schools in DeKalb, the only opportunity to learn robotics would be to drive across the county for a special after school program at Fernbank.

So glad to hear so many of our schools are doing such great things!

Dunwoody Mom said...

In fact, Cross Keys 2 robotic teams did VERY well at their first competition a few weeks ago!

I believe that there are several other high schools that have teams as well.

CNN ran an Education Special a few months ago that dedicated most of the show to robotics competitions in several schools across the country. A couple of the "experts" interviewed believe that Robotics Competitions are the Science Fairs of the future.

This is actually one area where DCSS could actually be out front on. Many schools have an engineering course(s) as part of their Career Tech offering - this would fit right in.

Dunwoody Mom said...

In other news...it's early admission day for Tech and UGA. Nervous seniors everywhere!!!

Anonymous said...

This is Anon 11:12 again.

Thank every teacher you know who makes time to sponsor academic extracurriculars. Teachers are busier every year, and it is not easy to find a teacher with the energy and expertise to be an "interested and motivated" club sponsor who isn't already doing something else.

Anonymous said...

@anon11:12 - don't know who told you Lakeside doesn't have AP Physics. They obviously don't know what they are talking about!

Anonymous said...

I am the parent of a Lakeside student and I know what I'm talking about. There is no AP Physics class this year because not enough students signed up for it.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 5:21 pm
"I am the parent of a Lakeside student and I know what I'm talking about. There is no AP Physics class this year because not enough students signed up for it."

On the Lakeside website, there is an AP Physics class listed:
http://lakesideblogs.com/kswitzer/class-schedule.htm

The teacher has the syllabus online
http://lakesideblogs.com/kswitzer/ap-physics/syllabus/

She also has the AP Physics assignment for this coming Monday online.

Anonymous said...

The previous poster is wrong. A couple Chamblee students may be on the Fernbank Science Ctr robotics team, but Chamblee High School has a robotics team this year. My son is on it. They don't have much in the way of resources, but they have a team this year.

Anonymous said...

Very glad to hear about the existence of the Chamblee robotics team. I jumped to a conclusion and am very sorry for making an assertion I did not have direct knowledge about.

I hope that activities like it will spring up or rejuvenate at more schools.

What period is AP Physics taught at LHS? Anybody out there know someone currently taking the class?

Anonymous said...

LHS AP Physics
The link was to the schedule. Here it is again:
http://lakesideblogs.com/kswitzer/class-schedule.htm

Anonymous said...

AMEN! I LOVE THIS COMMENT:

Thank every teacher you know who makes time to sponsor academic extracurriculars. Teachers are busier every year, and it is not easy to find a teacher with the energy and expertise to be an "interested and motivated" club sponsor who isn't already doing something else.

Cerebration said...

Glad you noticed the comment about the Chamblee robotics team Anon. Also, please note that as stated above, Cross Keys, Arabia and Dunwoody all have robotics teams (Dunwoody has 3!) Cross Keys has a couple of wonderful programs in the tech school with a terrific teaching staff --- anyone can apply!

Anonymous said...

@November 19, 2011 9:40 PM
Your link to Ms. Switzer's schedule is not working. Did you mean this one, which doesn't show an AP Physics period? http://lakesideblogs.com/kswitzer/class-schedule.html

Also curious whether you're posting from direct knowledge or from what you could gather with a web search? That's a question that could be asked about any post as we pool our knowledge to try to understand what is happening at various schools across DCSS. Unfortunately a blog format don't let us hash these things out as well as a face-to-face discussion would. (Or just asking Ms. Switzer.)

Anonymous said...

@November 19, 2011 9:40 PM,
Your link doesn't work. I tried a slightly different spelling, http://lakesideblogs.com/kswitzer/class-schedule.html. That link works but doesn't show an AP Physics class on the schedule.

I am curious whether you have direct knowledge of Lakeside's AP Physics class or whether you are contributing information from a web search. The reason I'm asking is that someone just posted a "you are wrong" comment on another thread: "Lakeside is not the only high school with counselors assigned alphabetically. I'm not sure where you got that information." They may well be right, but they should have named the other schools they knew of which had alphabetical counselor assignments.

This blog is the only way I know of for us to share information to figure out what is going on in schools across the county, but posts are not a good format for sorting out information. If we were talking face-to-face, we could settle the question in a minute by explaining to each other where we got our information, and, if that didn't satisfy, we could go together to ask Ms. Switzer personally.

Dunwoody Mom said...

We can add some more $$$$ to those legal fees that DCSS is paying out.

I saw a segment on WSBTV last night where the school system settled the race discrimination lawsuit brought against the Fernbank Science Center. Terms were not disclosed.

Here is the background on this:

http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/fernbank-science-center-accused-of-racial-discrimi/nFBTW/

Anonymous said...

RE: AP Physics:

College Board has 2 different AP Physics classes - AP Physics B, which is taught at several DCSS high schools, including Lakeside and Druid Hills, and does not utilize calculus, and AP Physics C, taught at Fernbank Science Center and Chamblee, I believe, which is calculus-based and recommended for students who want to study math, science, or engineering. The AP Physics C class has 2 separate AP exams at the end.

Anonymous said...

"If there are not the numbers at even the largest school in the county to justify robotics teams or AP Physics classes, the only way to provide these opportunities for STEM-oriented students is to offer them at a central location like Fernbank."

Great point. Even Cross Keys HS, with its technology programs, has only one physics class section (not AP, just general) this year and it is not even full.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 1:37
"
I am curious whether you have direct knowledge of Lakeside's AP Physics class or whether you are contributing information from a web search."

A web search. Why would the teacher have the AP assignment on her website if she wasn't teaching the class?

You said you didn't see the AP Physics class listed. Go to the website and look on the left menu bar under categories. It clearly says AP Physics:
http://lakesideblogs.com/kswitzer/class-schedule.html