Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Are DeKalb Schools really that bad? Are we magnifying the wrong things?

by Mpaza S. Kapembwa

It is heartbreaking to see all the negative news surrounding the DeKalb County School system over the past year. We shouldn’t end the year on a negative note. There is a lot of good in our schools beneath everything that we hear. I can’t speak for every school or student, but I will speak of my experience at one school that has changed my life. I know other students have had similar experiences at their respective schools too.

I am a 2011 Cross Keys High School Alumni. I currently attend Williams College in Massachusetts. I know what most of you are thinking. “Williams? Never heard of it.” That’s okay because I didn’t either until senior year of high school. Williams is a liberal arts college. It has been ranked the number one college in America for the past two years by Forbes magazine and its alumni, 10-19 years out, make the most money out of any college in America.

Almost everyone at Williams who comes from Atlanta attended private school. When I met other students from a DeKalb public school, I was thrilled. One Friday night, I was in the student center and two other DeKalb students joined me. We talked about the schools we came from and one of the students said she was proud of me because I came from the worst school in the county. She went on to say Cross Keys might as well not be considered a DeKalb school because it is “different.”

I have heard this many times but it never bothers me. I wanted to be mad at her but I couldn’t. I live by a simple saying; I won’t let other people’s ignorance define who I am. I know that person is not alone in thinking that Cross Keys is the worst school in DeKalb. Some parents may think that if they send their kids to Cross Keys or any of its feeder schools, they are doing them a disservice. Others have the perception that Cross Keys is run by gangs and they won’t have their kids sit next to “those kids.” I don’t have resentment to anyone who thinks like that because they don’t know the real Cross Keys.

It’s no secret, parental involvement at Cross Keys is very low. My mother works two jobs, and I barely see her and that’s the case with many of the parents. Unlike many schools, we don’t have a strong Parent Teacher Association or a Booster Club for any of our sports teams and YES, we don’t have a lot of things that your school or child’s school may have. We know those who don’t know about us think very low of us. I saw it at one of the nation’s elite colleges, I saw it when our school was featured on WSB TV and called “disgusting,” and I see it when we are wait-listed for critical renovations.

Please don’t get me wrong. Despite all this, I have never felt like a victim. I went to school with some of the most courageous people I have ever known. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch says, “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” We rarely get all the resources we want, we have a hard time raising money to pay for our robotics team to compete or get the new track we want, but we never stop fighting. After fighting for years, we finally saw some of the renovations we needed; that was a rare victory. Our football team is the laughingstock of DeKalb football. I was part of the football team for two years. We wore our green and gold uniforms with pride and went to take on powerhouses like Buford. We knew we had already been licked but we fought till the last whistle. 70-0. Coaches of the opposing teams would tell us how much heart we had, and we played for that every Friday night. In two years I won two games, but I wouldn’t trade that for a state championship.

I used to get upset when people confused my college with the College of William & Mary. I would try to straighten them out and tell them to go look up Williams College because it was the best school in America and it was absurd that they didn’t know about it. My admission officer put me out of my misery. “Mpaza, those who matter know about Williams.” It didn’t take me long to figure that out. Every major Wall Street firm shows up on campus weekly to try to snatch up seniors and get everyone else to know that they will be coming for them.

We at Cross Keys might be looked down upon by most of DeKalb County but those who matter, know the real Cross Keys. Williams College, Pomona College, Stanford University and the University College London, some of the best institutes of higher learning on the planet, all know about Cross Keys. The Gates Millennium Scholarship, arguably the most prestigious scholarship a high-schooler can be awarded, knows about us, the Coca Cola Scholars Foundation, the most competitive high school scholarship in the country, the Dell Scholars Program, The Buick Achievement Program, Questbridge Scholars Program, The Bank of America Student Leaders Program, 100 Black Men of Atlanta, the Comcast Scholars Program, the Atlanta National Football Foundation and many more all know about Cross Keys. Those who think Cross Keys is a place for gangs and “those kids” are focusing on the wrong thing. What we focus on, we magnify. When your child comes to Cross Keys, chances are he or she will be sitting next to a future scholar and not a gang member as other may have you believe. These types of achievements are also found at just about every high school in the county.

I am proud to be a Cross Keys Indian, and I represent that everywhere I go. At the Coca Cola Scholarship Banquet in April, I was the only student from Atlanta being honored; therefore I had the privilege to sit with Mayor Kasim Reed, the First Lady of Georgia Mrs. Sandra Deal, and The Coca-Cola Company CEO Mr. Muhtar Kent. I talked to Mr. Kent and he told me he was from an immigrant family, like most of us at Cross Keys, and that he started out as a truck driver in Coca-Cola in 1978 and now, he is heading the company worldwide. I was amazed.

When I hear people saying Cross Keys only produces students who attend technical schools, I just smile because I know some of the world’s great leaders started out from humble beginnings. It’s funny how quickly we condemn young people to failure. The First Lady asked me why I had decided to go to Massachusetts instead of attend school in Georgia, I hesitated in answering that question. A minute later, I went back to her and told her I didn’t want to enter the Georgia University System because of how unfairly the state colleges treat certain students, mainly Hispanics.

When I got to the mayor, I just dared him to run for senator after his term was up. Everywhere I go I look to represent my school. I know that night the people at the table not only looked at me as a great student but knew I had to be coming from a great place. I was. Later that summer I was in D.C representing the Cross Keys Indians as I met Congressmen Hank Johnson and John Lewis.

I consider myself very blessed for the three years I spent at Cross Keys. I helped captain the soccer team to its first ever final four appearance, and I am very hopeful the team will go further this year. I was there to witness Leonel Ayala, a good friend, win back to back Cross Country State Championships, and to watch our track team compete in the state championships every year. I am very fortunate to have been on the football team that broke a 40 game losing streak and went on to win two in a row and was honored as FOX 5 Team of the week and to have played for a soccer coach who garnered 50 wins in four years.

I do realize that a lot of problems exist in DeKalb and within individual schools, but the negativity of the past year has not been very constructive. It is almost self-destructive. As I continue to embark on a remarkable journey at Williams, I will keep fighting for Cross Keys. Not by offending anyone or by extortion but by representing it in my actions. I hope hearing from a Cross Keys alum will change the way you look at Cross Keys and start looking deeper in other schools that you might be disparaging. What you focus on, you will magnify.

===
Mpaza S. Kapembwa, a student at Williams College, is a 2011 Cross Keys graduate, Gates Millennium Scholar, Coca Cola Scholar, Dell Scholar and Bank of America Student Leader.

67 comments:

No Duh said...

Now THAT'S well-written.

Cerebration said...

I am grateful to Mpaza for speaking up and sharing his perspective. I hope more students will be encouraged to come forward and share their views of the school system and the world they live in. Thanks Mpaza!

Anonymous said...

Mazda, you and your fellow students are DeKalb County Schools. Thanks for sharing all the terrific assets that make up Cross Keys.

Anonymous said...

I'm by myself in the family room giving a standing ovation. Well done, Mpaza. What a wonderful example of how hard work truly pays off--hard work by teachers, parents, community members, and most importantly, students themselves.

Anon said...

I know Williams. It is a fabulous school. They are lucky to have you.

It is the teachers and students at CKHS, like yourself, that deserve recognition and commendation for rising above,despite the obstacles placed in front of you.

Congrats and enjoy.

Anonymous said...

WOW! Well written and well said Mpaza.

I think DCSS can use a "Communications Director" like this kid!

I'm sure Kim G. is as proud as his parents!

Congrats to CKHS for helping children be the best and get the best education they can!

I think he speaks VOLUMES when he says he accomplished ALL of this WITHOUT the Central Office being involved in his school.

Makes you wonder, hmmm.....

Anonymous said...

Our question is this:

For every one Mpaza, how many children has DCSS failed?

How many DCSS middle school kids are functionally illiterate?

How many DCSS students fail to graduate?

How many of the DCSS students that do graduate are functionally illiterate?


We take nothing away from Mpaza and wish him all the best but a few feel good stories should not be used to validate the effectiveness of the DCSS.

Anonymous said...

I think the point is he succeeded WITHOUT the Central Office!

Local Control is the answer, not control from the Central Office, State of Georgia and especially our federal department of education.

Yes, DeKalb County School System has deprived thousands of children a quality education because of nepotism and cronyism.

Friends and Family First in DeKalb.

Take a look at our hispanic population and then look at how many hispanic administrators we have......2 maybe?

Sad.

Anonymous said...

Can we please honor Mpaza by stopping the negative comments. I hope one day this blog will be used to lift people up instead of tearing them down, develop positive solutions to the issues this and many school systems are facing, and support our students, teachers and administrators.

Congratulations Mpaza! I am proud of the fact that you did not allow the opinions of others to determine the path that you have walked. You are an inspiration to other students and to parents who want the best for their children.

May we all understand that words have power, negative or positive. Please stop the bashing that takes place on this blog. Our children need solutions not destruction.

Happy New Year to each of you!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:46AM, thank you for that paid political announcement courtesy of the DCSS machine!

If the only thing we were able to report or read is the occasional "success story", the sad state of affairs that is our education system here and across the country will continue to exist.

Your "it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood" perspective is unrealistic and sad!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon 8:21....wonderful achievement by this young man. He sounds like someone that would have been a success in any high school.

But I don't want these 1%'s to be glorified as to saying "look, our school system is working." We need to continue to focus on corruption, missteps, and getting the other 99% properly educated.

Anonymous said...

8:21 Well said.

Anonymous said...

It must be emphasized that all of Mpaza's amazing accomplishments have been made in spite of the incompetence of DCSS and because of teachers who constantly have to ignore the barriers put up by people looking to justify their jobs (and CK has people like this sent not only from the central office but also from the state). Really want to know how bad it is in our schools? Talk to some of the teachers who were there when they lost control of Arabia. There was an absolutely vicious fight at CK on the last day before break, but no security or administrator could be gotten to stop it. Instead, a teacher had to break it up -- something that most of us will no longer do because we are so tired of being abused, ignored, and stepped on by people who do so little and who don't have a clue.

Megan said...

Congratulations to Mpaza and everyone involved in his education over at Cross Keys High. I'm very glad to hear that he's doing well up at Williams College.

Mpaza, any chance you're playing soccer for Williams?

Mpaza S. Kapembwa said...

@Megan. Yes, I do play soccer at Williams. And thank you for the comment. I hope we can have a different outlook on our schools in 2012. Not saying everyone is like me or should be but we should be fair. Negative and Positive. Not one sided.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Mpaza. You are living proof that school systems don't create success stories, rather, it's motivated students and parents with high expectations that create high achievers.

I read this blog occasionally and get the feeling that for some, it's purpose is to bash DCSS for every failure of every child in the county. The truth is that there is no such thing as a perfect school system. My children have been in DeKalb County schools for two years now and we came from a private school where things weren't perfect, either. My experiences lead me to believe that what happens in my home is more indicative of my childrens' success than what school they attend. Perhaps the parents who can find nothing positive to say about DCSS should enroll their kids in private school and throw away tens of thousands of dollars only to realize that educational utopia doesn't exist - whether you go to school for free or pay $20k for tutition.

The reason we don't hear more about these success stories is that "good news" isn't news. It's the same reason that the six o'clock news is full of crime reports. The truth is that DCSS SHOULD be held accountable for doing the best job possible for all of our children. The flip side is that there are some good things taking place in our schools. I just prefer to see the glass as half full instead of half empty.

Cerebration said...

All that said, we are not a news source. We are technically a watchdog, so to serve our purpose, we uncover corruption and inequity. We do like to post positive stories when they come our way though. Thanks again Mpaza!

Cerebration said...

BTW - everyone should encourage the school system to resurrect the "Kaleidoscope" newsletter that was produced by Julie Rhame - the riffed DCSS PR administrator who actually did write quite a lot of positive news about DCSS students and schools. Ever since Julie and her department were riffed, no good news has come directly from DCSS' PR department - the new PR department simply exists to react to the bad news in the real news like the AJC, etc. They're waiting for the trials to begin..... so are we. Actually, we're waiting for the trial to END.

Anonymous said...

@Cerebratoion - Yes, I do realize you are not a news source. I was using the news as an example of how, in general, negative information tends to garner the most interest and travels the furthest.

Thank you about the information re: Kaleidoscope. I had never heard of it and will inquire about it's demise once school reopens. It would be nice to hear more good news stories.

Anonymous said...

Well done and well said. Mpaza is also a life time member of the Cross Keys Foundation.

I have lived in the Cross Keys district for 10 years and now my kids attend a Cross Keys feeder school. Some of my neighbors will not send their kids to our neighborhood or theme school for some of the reasons Mpaza mentioned.

I'm trying to decide if my family and I should stay put or move. It's not due to the school my kids attend or Cross Keys. My big issue is with The Palace and the BOE. I'm cautiously optimistic and waiting to see who gets a contract renewal in the coming year.

Mpaza S. Kapembwa said...

@annoymous... Thank you.I would say don't move because of the school. " Cast down your bucket where you are"- Booker T. Washington. In College now and I figured that what masters the most is not what school you went to but what you did at that school. I know alot of people disagree with that and I am not trying to start that debate. BUT, if you do decide to let your kids go to CK, I will be more than glad to be a mentor. No student does it alone and I got tired of my CK teachers being criticized so I wanted to help by mentoring students. I spend most of my free time reading scholarship/essay applications for CK students and I hope to recruit more people to join me in mentoring freshmen and sophomores so that they can get on the right track. Just wanted to put it out there if you decide to let your kids attend CK. Let me know and I can give you my email. I also believe that we are more products of our expectations that our environment.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1:10 . . .

Please go to the DCSS web site and click on Public Relations under the 'Departments' heading. You can find a previous edition or two of the former e-Kaleidoscope. Hopefully, the links are still active. Every month a new edition was broadcast through out the community to hundreds of businesses, the media, DCSS employees, etc. Each edition included a variety of still photography, videos, and a positive narrative about student achievement and/or student interest or accomplishments. You can view and judge the merits for yourself.

Anonymous said...

Kaleidoscope was great "back in the day". It is a least 20 years old. Now we are in the technology age. Why not visit the schools web site. Some of them have excellent coverage and the DCSS's web site also cover many events as well as PB 24. No need to waste all of that paper, time & staff on a written communicatiob like Kaleidoscope. Julie Rhame was talented an a great asset to DCSS...where as Francis Edwards daughter is just a highly paid "place holder".

Anonymous said...

Mpaza,
That's very sweet of you but it will be several years before they hit high school.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2:27

You are correct Kaleidoscope has been around for many years, but due to costs, the "print" version had been reduced annually from 4 to 2 then no editions. The new, updated version produced by Mrs. Rhame's staff was e-Kaleidoscope, the electronic version. No paper was being wasted or trees killed!

Anonymous said...

Mpaza, you and Vy deserve all that you have gotten and more. You are both good, highly positive examples of what can be done, given the drive and support. But the simple fact remains that CK and DCSS as a whole are very poorly run. As a direct result, way too many children are being cheated out of opportunities to succeed. It really is that simple.

Anonymous said...

" " Cast down your bucket where you are"- Booker T. Washington. In College now and I figured that what masters the most is not what school you went to but what you did at that school. "

Thanks Mpaza for your insight. Your education is really what you make of it. At some point every student must take personal responsibility for his or her learning. After reading the accounts of what happened at AMHS, this post was refreshing. I am encouraged that things maybe aren't as bad as they sometimes appear.

Mpaza S. Kapembwa said...

@annoymous...I agree that a lot of work needs to be done. I understand that DeKalb isn't PARADISE. I know CKers and alot of students are cheated out by some irresponsible adults. I also know that within all that, there are success stories that we need to tell. And I join the many teachers and residents who want to make this system better. * I will make sure VY knows she got a shoutout, I wish you could put your face to your comment though so I wont just have to say annoymous to her.

Anonymous said...

Refering to Mpaza @ 1:42 PM, this is what this young man is all about. His mentoring is not only as he described in his post, but also on a discrete, personal level when he sees one of his younger CK classmates do or says something that could use redirection from a more mature perspective. The boy really cares and is doing his best to make a difference. Mpaza is just one of many success stories at CK.

There is a lot to be done in steering DCSS back on course. Radical changes need to be made to the management at DCSS. The responsibility of the family in setting the education course for their children needs to be emphasized and demanded. Internally, students and alumni like Mpaza in a dysfunctional school system that is DCSS are shining lights. As DCSS makes changes to once again become a respected school system known for encouraging, challenging, and turning out well educated students, incorporation of a skillfully organized student mentoring program would go a long way to assist in student success. Possibly a YMCA sponsored program at DCSS schools could be the genesis for such a program?

Mpaza, you are a unique young man with strong faith in your beliefs and wise beyond your age. Although you still have a lot to learn, with your youth and zeal your elders could learn volumes from you!

No Duh said...

After reading Mpaza's beautifully crafted and executed submission, I got to thinking about issuing a "challenge" to seniors from all the DCSS high schools. I think it would be wonderful for a senior (or seniors) from each DCSS high school to follow in Mpaza's footsteps and submit to the blog a "Why my high school is academically great" essay.

We do tend to be myopic (and yes, sometimes too negative) in our thoughts about DCSS. But, as Mpaza and many of the fine teachers who post here point out, at the school level some wonderful things are happening.

How about it seniors? Can you make the case for your high school?

No Duh said...

I started a small fire storm with my personal belief that students should be required to learn proper grammar and how to employ it in their own writing. I believe this is just as important as ensuring students know what the parenthesis and equals signs mean in algebraic equations.

I'm curious Mpaza. How would you say you learned to be such an effective and stylistically accurate writer?

I assume you came up through the public school system. At what point did you start to really write and how was your writing graded (or critiqued)? Did your teachers "red pen" your writing? How would you say you learned grammar -- and how to properly insert it into your own writing?

Do you remember what grade you were in when you started to want to write using proper writing conventions? Do you remember the teacher(s) who encouraged that? Do you remember HOW they encouraged you to WANT to use proper grammar, etc.?

Anonymous said...

this

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/panel-recommends-special-grand-1280639.html

Anonymous said...

Mpaza, You really want to make a difference using your own experience? Mobilize those similar to you from such schools as Cross Keys, McNair, Columbia, SWD, MLK, Clarkston, Cedar Grove, etc. -- not Chamblee, Lakeside, Dunwoody, Druid Hills -- and together with them compare and contrast the conditions in these schools with the kinds of schools attended by many of your peers at Williams and other such places. Where do you find half-literate administrators and teachers? Where do you find a system rigged to allow parents to use public schools as free day care? Where is there real discipline in the classroom? Where are teachers allowed to teach and not required to follow ridiculous instructions from people who themselves do not interact with students? The list goes on. This is where you could really have an impact. Yes, Mpaza, they are "really that bad," especially when seen in a comparative light.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Santa!

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:36-

Please explain what you mean by "such schools as Cross Keys, McNair, Columbia, SWD, MLK, Clarkston, Cedar Grove, etc."? And what makes Cross Keys different from "Chamblee, Lakeside, Dunwoody, Druid Hills"?

And Mpaza, thank you for your eloquent essay. Cross Keys is the best kept secret of DeKalb and like No Duh, I'm curious about your writing instruction there.

Anonymous said...

20 DCSS Students received Gates Scholarships this past year -

http://www.crossroadsnews.com/view/full_story/13343138/article-Gates-Scholarships-to-pay-for-college-for-20-DeKalb-students?

20 DeKalb students were awarded 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarships.
Leticha Heflin Arabia Mountain
Jada Henderson (V) Avondale
Chardé Acie (S) Cedar Grove
Yared Aklilu Cedar Grove
Ram Siwakoti Clarkston
Mpaza Kapembwa Cross Keys
Natalie Cook DSA
Aisha Davis DSA
Jaisa Gooden Druid Hills
Darrius Hamilton Dunwoody
Terence Gipson Lakeside
Jasmyne Jackson MLK Jr.
Raven Smith MLK Jr.
Jeffrey-Michael Holiday Redan
RéKieya Ward Redan
Fadhal Moore SW DeKalb
Mickhale Green SW DeKalb
Ryan Starks SW DeKalb
Brianna Crittenden Stephenson
Shannon Williams Towers

Anonymous said...

The Gates Millenium Scholarships are reserved for minority students, primarily African-American, who meet certain criteria. One would certainly hope that at least 20 such candidates could be found in DeKalb county, which was once considered a showcase of African-American prosperity and social mobility. The earlier anon has an excellent point. Lakeside and the others may have their problems; however, one sees much less interference by inept admininstrators, "coaches," and other superfluous people at these schools than one sees at all of the others. This is where the real waste and criminal consequences are. All of these schools with such poorly educated students and no effort whatsoever to push resources into the classrooms. Maybe it will all begin to unravel now with a grand jury.

Anonymous said...

Grand Jury:
http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/education/dekalb-county-school-board-could-face-grand-jury-i/nGB4L/

I bet there is a ton of finger pointing, but maybe the board will do a BARREL ROLLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

Passionate... said...

What an excellent well-written article. Thank you Mpaza for sharing your experiences with us! Best of luck at Williams and in your future!

Anonymous said...

Check out AJC article noting for special grand jury investigation of our school board......perhaps we have some hope.

Anonymous said...

http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/education/dekalb-county-school-board-could-face-grand-jury-i/nGB4L

Very interesting news.

"Friends and family" and misuse of school funds as well as "leaking" the name and information of the candidate initially garnering the majority vote is now being investigated by a DeKalb County grand jury.

This doesn't speak to well of SACS. This organization should not be so complacent that a grand jury has to be convened.

Kim Gokce said...

RE: Mpaza Kapembwa

When congratulated for encouraging Mpaza I tell folks that he encourages me. You will never meet a more truth-seeking, hard-working student (except in Calculus - ow!), or a more insightful thinker at any age. He has a natural eloquence that is hard to teach and if you believe this is a powerful post by him, you should see his Gates essay.

I first encountered Mpaza at a YMCA focus group for CK athletes - he was direct, almost sharp, in his comments and he spoke openly about the shortcomings of CK programs, his peers and even the coaches in the room. But he had such established credibility - no one was really surprised or slighted by what he had to say. That is the power of truth and integrity.

He once castigated me for working on a program so hard and "for not including the students in the efforts. We are not babies, Mr. Kim. Make us work for it." And they have ever since - none more so than Mpaza.

So, it is no surprise to me that he drafted such direct, truthful, and powerful observations about his alma mater and his experience in DeKalb. And he was right, the students of DeKalb schools are not babies and we should involve them deeply in any attempts we foment to improve their opportunities. He is also right that there is much good in our schools. I am glad he has reminded us that system <> schools and vice versa.

Re: Kaleidoscope

Julie Rhame was an incredible asset to DCSS and the demise of her team was also a set-back for Cross Keys Foundation. As we began to promote positive efforts and messaging about CK area schools some years ago, they were covering key events - and while commentators can lie, cameras do not. We lost a powerful media for DCSS in the loss of the recent Kaleidoscope team.

Here's a couple of examples of their work I archived for CKF:

2009 Alumnus Honored in Brookhaven Waffle House

Hands On Atlanta at CK (pre-renovation - the Newell exec there was weeping over what she found there)

Atlanta Opera at Woodward

Great examples of good PR material that keeps on giving!

Thank you Mpaza for another amazing and balanced testimony and also thank you DSW bloggers for "wrestling with the pig" week in and week out as we all try to find a way to improve the opportunities for our children and the integrity of our system.

There are reasons to be positive about 2012 and if it takes a Williams freshman to remind us of that, I say, let's all go back to school!

Kim Gokce said...

RE: WSB-TV

Don't forget, Mpaza, they were talking about the building being 'disgusting" - not the students. Also, remember this other WSB story:

Cross Keys' Mpaza Kapembwa

And speaking about Mpaza Kapembwa, does anyone else remember how he wrote this statement twenty minutes before delivering it? It was his first public statement in the Foundation causes. I do - amazing:

BOE July 2010

You're a credit to Williams, sir. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Bresking news- AJC article:
http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/panel-recommends-special-grand-1280639.html

"Panel recommends special grand jury investigation into DeKalb schools

Detailing a laundry list of concerns, particularly the process that led to the hiring of DeKalb County School’s superintendent Cheryl Atkinson, a grand jury is calling for a special investigation of the school board.

After their November-December presentments, the DeKalb County Superior Court grand jury has recommended a special grand jury look into the county school board, because, “It is clear that the school system remains top-heavy and suffers from a perception of conflicts of interest and waste.”

Among the more damaging allegations, the grand jury blamed the board for taking nearly two years to find a permanent replacement for former superintendent Crawford Lewis, who is now under indictment for fraud.".........
......The grand jury also noted that several aspects of the selection process were leaked to the media. Lillie Cox, the one-time front-runner to lead the schools, dropped out of contention for the job after contract negotiations stalled and details of her potential agreement were made public."

Read the entire article.

Anonymous said...

SACs, Grand Juries and DA are aplles ornages and lemons. SACs is not "qualified" to navigate the political risk or know how to doctor an investigation so the bigger power players aren't implicated. Essentially, they have to do a hand-off to extra-judicial players that have no constitutional authority, however popular, such as non-sitting former DAs in the Atlanta test-rigging case.
No--SACs just comes in and picks up the scraps once the politics has been managed.

BTW--I am no fan of any public official in DeKalb--none--zero--nada--not a one.
However, I find the machinations of the REAL POWER PLAYERS in shaping investigations and targeting out-of-favor officials even more problematic. Just wish I knew who the SOBs are.

Other perspectives to follow--but lets just say the timing on this is incredibly curious.

Cerebration said...

Curiouser and curiouser! I'll post the story on another thread. For here - let's stick to positive conversation about student success stories!

Dekalbparent said...

My child got a lot of "red-lining" on papers in both middle and high school (as well as gentle and diplomatic "red-lining" in class discussions), and became a pretty good thinker and writer because of it. Middle school was a private school with fairly small classes, and high school was a public school. Common thread - teachers who were trusted to conduct their classes as they thought best for the students.

Offering constructive criticism to students recognizes that the students are "not babies". It gives them the message that what they think and have to say has merit and is important, and that those thoughts deserve to be expressed well. I must conclude Mpaza's teachers did this for him, even if they had to buck authority to do so.

I wish Mpaza well in all his endeavors. I feel better about our future every time I hear about one of our bright young people having the opportunity to realize their greatness. Kudos, too, to the teachers and mentors who helped him - may they continue to be allowed to help others this way.

Mpaza S. Kapembwa said...

@No Duh... well, I mentioned earlier that I believe that we are more products of our expectations than we are products of our environments. My teachers had a big role in inspiring me. I wasn't raised by a Tiger Mom either but there's something about not wanting to be poor the rest of your life that pushes you to seek every opportunity out there. I am one who hates to complain, others have it worse around the world, its always been my nature, so when I feel like a teacher didn't do quite enough for a particular lesson, guess what?? I still have the book for the class to look over and get it myself after all.After allthe complaining and finger pointing is done at the school system or teachers, its still my future to look after and control so I know I have to take my education in my own hands. On my writing. Cross Keys offers quite a bit of AP classes and I made sure to bug my counselors to let me take as many as possible. I took as many as 3 junior year. The more writing I did, the better I became at it. When I write about something personal, like this essay, I write the way I speak. I am not a big word kind of person. We all have unique stories and when you write from the heart, it shows. So I would say I am where I am today because of 30% teachers and what they taught me, 70% my family's expectations. Those expectations don't go down regardless of the environment I am in. I hope I answered you question.

Anonymous said...

Well done No Duh.
Mpaza, thanks again for your input and care for others.
It shows.
I am encouraging / making my 4th grader and 6th grader read your articles.
They need to understand school work and the benefit of it from a student's perspective.
They understand our expectations for sure!

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

To Mpaza: Well done, Williams is a better place by having you there.

As a public school product who attended Middlebury College, I can relate to your college experience.

You are on a path to greatness, keep us informed of your journey!

Dekalbparent said...

I was also a public school graduate attending an Ivy League college. It was a big-time culture shock - a lot of the private school kids didn't know what to make of those from public schools, and I pretty much ended up hanging out with other public school grads.

My friend's child (public school graduate)is at Penn, and had similar experiences, until her classmates got to know her, and realized she was the one to go to for help!

I suspect Mpaza has always had what it takes, from what Kim has said and from reading his posts. I don't know where the internal motivation he has comes from, but it would be wonderful to find a way to cultivate it system-wide.

Anonymous said...

Mpaza! Thank you for letting everyone know who we are all about =) I am proud of you and the way you represent us.
Your friend,
~Vy Tran
Stanford Class of 2015

Anonymous said...

Vy Tran . . . Stanford Class of 2015 . . . Another Cross Keys success story!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mpaza for sharing your well written perspective. No doubt your positive attitude, determination and work ethic will continue to serve you well.

As a DCSS teacher, who has taught on both ends of this county, I can also vouch for the fact that there are many outstanding students and teachers in our schools.

The sharing of success stories do not mean that we are turning a blind eye to all of the work that needs to be done toward improving this system. Improving the schools will take positive change not just bashing. Our schools need constructive criticism, ideas and solutions. Perhaps bloggers can offer some.

Mpaza's story gives me hope.

Let us be more careful when making comments/post about specific schools or demographics that insinuate that nothing good could possibly come from certain areas.

I sincerely do hope that the goal of this forum is not only to highlight the problems but to also be part of the solution.

Anonymous said...

As a CK teacher, I was blessed to teach both Vy and Mpaza. They are amazing. They are also outspoken, hard-working, and self-motivated. They could survive and succeed no matter how many programs the county, state, or federal governments implement to impede....oops... improve the teaching process.

Anonymous said...

just fyi -- my youngest had a language arts teacher he really disliked for 6th grade impact langauge arts at Henderson. He grambled about her all year (he got As, he worked hard but he grumbled all year....). In 7th grade he had his only really bad middle school teacher of the 3 years for impact language arts at Henderson. He's now in 9th grade & we've pulled private. He was just the other day talking about how strong a writer he is and how good his grammar is and how great a teacher his 6th grade HMS teacher was -- even though he was miserable all year (and acknowledges this all at the age of 14). He doesen't think he's a good reader though and I think it has a lot to do with the "reader" series format used by the county rather than using really good novels and really getting into them..... but I can saw with confidence that my kids (all of them) learned good grammar and writing at their DCSS schools (the middle one just got a 730 on the writin section of the SAT... he can write too).

No Duh said...

What is Impact Language Arts?

Anonymous said...

There is no "in spite of" here. This is a self motivated student who took advantage of what Cross Keys had to offer. There are many other success stories. Perhaps we should look at what went right for a change and think how can we replicate that? I know his teachers enjoyed having him as a student-it's always nice when they want to learn. Now how as a community do we help inspire other students who come to us with no regard for education?

Anonymous said...

Impact is giffted.... I was pondering all of thie and not to take anything away from Mpaza and Vy and others at CK and elsewhere who are doing amazing things, to me it is part and parcel of the immigrant "mindset" -- the immigrant population is, to me, much more appreciative of what America is about and what it offers: if you work hard and put effort into education (or just brute hard work into blue collar efforts) -- you can get ahead -- you can move from one social class into the next. Our inner city, youth (and adult for that matter) seem, to me, to have bought into, the mantra that somehow, they are "owed" something by society --it's not something they work for -- it's something to be given to them... it's a very different maind set -- I think that could be traced to LBJ's 'Great Society' -- it's done a lot of harm. America affords those who have seen parts of the rest of the world, where there real, genuine, poverty (rib cages shwoing through, flies on bodies, dirt floors, hovels for residences and no indoor plumbing, where 12 year boys are sent to war, where 14 year old girls are raped and married off) -- America is an amazing place with lots of opportnity and many freedoms and rights -- and it's all there for the taking -- you just have to put your best efforts out there and go for it with gusto -- those who don't know just how bad it is elsewhere in the world don't "get it" and they're the problem ones....

Anonymous said...

I have a proud parent story to share regarding my son, a 2011 graduate of Southwest Dekalb High school's Magnet program. He is currently an Engineering student at Georgia Tech. We have been informed that he made the Dean's list the fall semester with a 4.0 GPA.

Anonymous said...

You have reasons to be a proud parent as Georgia Tech is a great school! Congratulations on your sons accomplishments! Hopefully this is the first of several times on the Deans List. I'm guessing this is either JB or MW. Either way, great job.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to the student, Mpaza for writing such a well written letter.
Dear Mpaza,
Yes, the schools on the south end of the county; elementary, middle, and high are in trouble.
How many times did you observe your administrators parading around with Greek attire on and students proudly wanting to become members of sorority organizations/frat?
How many times did your teachers compile your desk with worksheets while they stand in the hallway laughing and acting like students?
The list goes on and on for troubling aspects of students learning on the south end of the county.
Mpaza, during the 80's and before, it was not easy to teach in Dekalb County. They recruited the BEST administrators and teachers. The Family and Friends existed we are sure, but since CLEW and his gang took over, the dekalb county schools on the south end of the county are become dumping grounds for poor leaders to bring in poor bodies of teachers who seem to enjoy letting you know who they are related too, or in the same greek organizations with, and talking about conflict, this is done on a weekly and daily basis.

Now ask yourself, did I see this kind of leadership at CKeys? I bet not. The entire south end of the county needs to be up-rooted and new administrators who are mature and understand leadership can take over. Until then, the same question will linger on, yes, the dekalb schools on the south end of the county are really just that bad due to poor leaders who were just HIRED BECAUSE.

Anonymous said...

Once Ms.Pope and her friend, CLEW goes to jail I am sure most of us will be gone from the earth.
It is hard to imagine how Gwen Keys had so much information on CLEW and yet, not one judge or official can make this trial happen. Only in Dekalb.
It is now, four years I think or pretty close and yet, a new year again, still no answers. Only in Dekalb

How can internal affairs not have a clue as to the underhanded deeds of corruption through CLEW, Book Gate Crooks, and Bahama Mama Berry also known to have membership in ordering books like the Book Gate Crooks did unauthorized. Only in Dekalb.

Dekalb has two school systems housed under one umbrella. Sad, but true.

Anonymous said...

@ 6:46 pm

"How can internal affairs not have a clue as to the underhanded deeds of corruption through CLEW'

Yes. That is my question. How did the Office of Internal Affairs, not have a clue about Lewis?

The DCSS Office of Internal Affairs should have been watching out for the taxpayers, parents and student of DeKalb. How many tens of millions in tax dollars have been squandered and how many students have been denied a good education due to the "inattention" of the DCSS Office of Internal Affairs?

What does this say about the competence of the DCSS Office of Internal Affairs? We need all new employees in this office.

This is an area a grand jury needs to investigate.

Jeddi said...

Thanks for continuing to make us proud, Mpaza. :-)

CScott said...

Some of you people won't rest until white folks once again hold the reigns of power in the Dekalb County School System. The current DCSS admin like most other admins (Black or White) run an inefficient operation...but it is not because of race (like most of you racist morons espouse), it is because when taxpayer dollars are thrown into the laps of bureaucrats, they usually spend inefficiently...Soooo our role as taxpayers is to provide a check to the system, not sit on the sideline like the incessant racists you prove yourself to be with each post, and wait for something BAD to happen --- get thee hence u carrion crows!!!! lol! RACISM WILL NEVER END BECAUSE YOUR CHILDREN SIT AT YOUR DINNER TABLE EACH NIGHT AND LISTEN TO YOUR RACIST, MORONIC, RANTINGS -- they will emulate your behavior...and nothing changes...

Watches said...

I think the point is he succeeded WITHOUT the Central Office!