Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Smokey Bait and Switch Arising at Smoke Rise?

The photos of the playground equipment above were sent to Kaboom in order to get a $15,000 grant.

Monday night the Smoke Rise Charter Elementary (SRCE) School Principal and Governance Council called a special meeting and demanded that the Smoke Rise Elementary Foundation (SREF), a separate fundraising entity, provide them unlimited access to nearly $45,000 in funds previously raised by parents and the community over the last 3 years for the specific purpose of replacing the current dangerous playground equipment. The Principal and Governance Council want to cancel the previously approved playground upgrade project. The administrators are wanting carte blanc use of the money that had been designated for the playground; including to pay an additional salary to a current full-time Dekalb County School System employee whose children attend the school.

In addition, last spring, SREF volunteers applied for and received a renowned KaBOOM!® $15,000 grant ( to match funds already raised for the playground. After previously approving the playground purchase, the Principal and Council at SRE suggest to just “walk away” from this generous grant. Nearly every fundraising event that has occurred over the last 3 years was advertised specifically as going to fund a new playground for the school children and local community. The $45,000 includes funds that were collected via a website established explicitly to collect funds for a new playground ( and to show issues with the current playground equipment built in 1969 and 1980’s.

The mission of the SREF ( is to continually improve the educational experience at Smoke Rise Charter School by creating sustainable business and community partnerships that provide financial and other resources. SREF was established years before the existence of the SRE Governance Council and without regards to the Council. The Council believes SREF is forced to do as it says.

Parents who donated for the expressed cause of building a new playground for their children are outraged that their money appears to have been donated under false pretenses.

Please contact current Foundation members for more information: Monti Staton 678-467-6996 or Karen Weitzel 770-906-2477.

Click here to link to the photo album directly.


betty said...

11 alive wsbtv, fox5 cbs pronto!

Anonymous said...

Walter Woods was embarrassing at the last board meeting I watched on Ch 24. He spoke so fast and backed on himself so quickly, he was just confusing.

Sarah asked him to explain what he was saying more clearly. He then preceded to talk ninety miles an hour and then restate differently many of the things he had just said. I actually could empathize with Sarah this time. I couldn't understand what was going on either.

Woods is perfect for a slippery PR guy. No one can understand what he says, and he's obviously tone-deaf.

And why the hell was Woods bringing an agenda item before the Board anyway?

As usual, I soon became too disgusted to watch and went to better, more professional comic entertainment.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

It's good to know the story now! Thanks for posting.

The suggestion alone should see the principal fired or moved. To think that donated funds, for a specific purpose, would be taken by a school administrator for HIS needs is wrong. I wonder which side, of this dispute, Dr. Atkinson is going to fall on? Has she responded yet?

Cerebration said...

I see that Maureen also posted this on the Get Schooled blog - and she got the following response from Walter Woods:

Upon reading that note, I asked Walter Woods about the allegations, prefacing my comment with the understanding that the school could not commandeer foundation funds.

Here is what Woods sent me today:

You are correct. Smoke Rise Charter Elementary School understands it has no authority over the Smoke Rise Elementary Foundation’s money. They are completely separate. The charter school’s leadership can only make requests to the foundation.

At a meeting on Monday, the school’s Governing Council presented a system for deciding priorities for requests to the foundation. Some of the requests include new technology for computer labs and professional training and materials to help teachers meet new state curriculum standards coming later this year. The school leadership believed on Monday that everyone was in agreement about the recommendation system.

Other priorities have also been discussed, including a playground and funding a school parent liaison. In terms of the playground, Smoke Rise Elementary’s building is scheduled to replaced in the next few years under SPLOST IV, and that would include $150,000 in new playgrounds, fields and equipment. A new playground was not agreed on by everyone to be the priority nor has the playground been the focus of all of the school’s fund raising in recent years.

The parent liaison position is described in the school’s charter, and has been funded over the past two years by a grant that has now expired. An employee at the school has been performing this role and committing the hours in addition to their position at the school. The school leadership asked the foundation to fund $15,000 for the extra-curricular position.

The foundation has paid $5,000 towards this position. Funding such a position is allowed under the school charter. But the school leadership can only make recommendations to the foundation, and we hope that everyone can work together to decide on priorities that are in the best interest of the students at Smoke Rise and the community.


Walter Woods,

Executive Director of Communications, DeKalb County School System

Anonymous said...

From the AJC:

“In November, DeKalb taxpayers voted on a penny sales tax to inject $475 million into the system -- mostly for new schools and construction. Smoke Rise is on the list of new schools. Woods said a new $6 million facility would include $150,000 in park and play space.
But there is no timetable on when construction would start, and it could be years.”

Ever been screwed but not enjoy it? Folks may want to think twice before voting more taxation for themselves.

Anonymous said...

Geez. ...replaced in the next few years with SPLOST IV money? LOL

From past experience we all know that you cannot count on anything being built with SPLOST money that has been promised.

Remember the Cross Keys fiasco?

I don't think we can expect Dekalb to use those millions properly in the future either.

Cerebration said...

To this day, Cross Key's track has not been replaced, even though it was brought to the attention of leaders over 2 years ago. It is cracked, with weeds poking through and a hazard to all who try to run on it. Cedar Grove, Peachtree MS and others were somehow able to get "emergency" funding for tracks - however - Cross Key's track continues to languish.

Anonymous said...

Bill would expand tracking of SPLOST money

Cerebration said...

Thanks for the link, I've added it to the Legislative thread. You can follow it by clicking the photo of the Capitol.

Also, you may wish to re-read our post on the Kaiser-Permanente DCSS grab for central office personnel. Kaiser offered DCSS a $200,000 grant to install work out facilities in two high schools. Instead of installing them at highly needy schools like Cross Keys (which had a work out area in a hallway at the time, stocked with weights donated by a private school rival), they chose to "install" it at --- drumroll --- the Central Office!! (This was so much more convenient for Dr. Lewis than his regular workout all the way over at LA Fitness at Northlake.)

Of course, the 'stated' schools they installed it for were Open Campus (Andrews) and DeKalb Early College Academy - both housed in the MT Industrial facility along with CO staff. However, one of our bloggers took a trip over there and was told by security that the workout facility was for staff only - no students allowed!

Now, with a lack of integrity at the top like that, why would we not expect this kind of self-serving attitude to roll down to the school houses?

The Audacity is Astounding!

Anonymous said...

Here's the AJC coverage:

Anonymous said...

It is interesting how every school that is on the list for replacement with SPLOST IV funds is going to be first on the list. Many of the schools that are on the list are going to be disappointed. DCSS needs to do a better job of managing expectations.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Cheryl Atkinson has some problems here.

-Principal Aaron Moore bullying the school foundation to spend money that was clearly intended for a playground for students instead to fund a non-teaching staff member.

-Principal Aaron Moore attempting to hold school council meetings in private, violating open meeting law.

-Principal Moore and possibly covering up harassment of 4th grade females last year at the school.

-DCSS Spokesperson Walter woods consistently presenting himself to the public as a dismissive, arrogant, cocky know-it-all, disdainful of parents.

-A Sam Moss Dept. that can't maintain playgrounds or school grounds.

This Smoke Rise situation is one of the first embarrassing situations Atkinson has faced. Let's she how she reponds.

Anonymous said...

if there are business contributions, they have the "bones" to point to legal action. Business gets attention.

Also--they would say that they can't give anymore--sorry.

Cerebration said...

That's the part that bothers me. This will send a message not to contribute to a school fundraiser, as they can't be trusted to spend the money on what was promised. Walter Woods should have seen that as bad press for our schools and made a statement that school leadership would act swiftly to straighten this out rather than coming quickly to the defense of the change in spending.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Hey Cere! I'm still lo0oking for that Splost II or III list that has the Palace on it. If I recall the Palace was NEVER on a SPOST list, but it got built with SPLOST funds. What other idiotic decisions and mis-truths are we going to to find?

Right now the only thing DCSS needs is a heaping helping of pink slips. I fear Dr. Atkinson will NOT be successful, since there are too many things hidden under too many rocks.

Anonymous said...

What is interesting is that the most active parents and community members in Smoke Rise are now saying they don't even want a new school. They would prefer the building is bulldozed and replaced with a park. That park would at least serve the kids who live around it, unlike the school.

It is an interesting point. There are probably some schools that have strayed so far from being a neighborhood school that they could be eliminated to start things over. Busing kids into a deterioriating Smoke Rise (or any other school that is not serving its neighborhood) is not doing anyone any favors. The community doesn't support it because it isn't a school that serves the children who live near it, so even the kids who are bused in are not getting the benefit of a good school.

For the record, I don't fault the parents at all. Contrary to popular belief, a group of involved and committed parents cannot save a school if there is an administration that doesn't want it. My kids are older now, but I was THE community advocate putting flyers in boxes, putting up signs, working every fundraiser, along with a large group of other area parents, and it got our school nowhere.

Anonymous said...

While it is extremely unfortunate that the school administration and Walter Woods have chosen to bully the Smoke Rise Foundation concerning the playground issue, it is a far leap to then suggest that the community neither wants or supports the school.

Wasn't it the most involved parents who fought for the school to gain charter status in the first place? As soon as that happened the school went from being solely a neighborhood school, to one that accepted kids from outside of Smoke Rise. You can't have it both ways.

The building may be old and in need of replacement, and people may have some issues with the administration, but Smoke Rise is a good school. There are still plenty of involved parents who support and love this school. It's not perfect, but good luck finding that (especially in DeKalb County).

I do hope that the foundation is able to get the playground equipment put in place for the kids. The money was raised specifically for that purpose.

Anonymous said...

To me what happened here, is that parents wanted or saw a need for a play ground and did not get the school administration or faculty on board. Because the school is also a county park, placing a playground on the school grounds is probably not as easy as it appears as there are channels that need to be gone through.

As another poster said, when the school became a charter school, it no longer was a neighborhood school. If the parents didn't realize that parents would be clamoring to come to a better school than found in their neighborhood, than they were kidding themselves.

I do believe that there is more to this story than a simple playground and I do not believe that either party is perfectly innocent or guilty.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of bait and switch: Moving Susan Hurst to fill Marcus Turk's position as Interim CFO is problematic to say the least. I don't see anything on the blog about this 'shuffle'. She is his protege and if you think he is bad, just wait. She is in with him on everything and putting her there, might as well not even take him out. She will do what he wants and continue his policies. Not to mention her erratic behavior towards everyone, including the public, which borders on abusive. Is she even remotely qualified to handle such an important position? NO! This is just another one of those 'take one out to put a worse one there.' Disappointing to say the least. Someone check her qualifications and how this happenned...

Cerebration said...

I am pretty sure that this is not a permanent placement for Ms. Hurst. I think she is just filling in while a search is conducted for Turk's replacement. I also think an outside firm has been hired to manage the books in the interim. This job handles over a billion dollars a year - plus SPLOST's half-billion (which I continue to advocate for hiring an outside firm to strictly manage SPLOST monies for the duration of SPLOST.) I am fairly certain that a search for a highly competent CFO is underway.

Anonymous said...

A job has been posted for the CFO position.

Cerebration said...

Right. Here it is -- if you know someone good, send them to PATS to apply:

Chief Financial Officer:
The DeKalb County School System is currently seeking to hire a Chief Financial Officer. The selected candidate will report directly to the Superintendent and serves in the second highest tier of administration in the organization. In addition, the qualified candidate must ensure the daily implementation of financial functions which are fundamental to the effective and efficient operation of a large urban school system; have oversight responsibility for the planning, organization, and coordination of operations of all program services and matters related to the school system’s Division of Finance. The incumbent will assist the Superintendent in ensuring compliance with established Board goals, the school system’s strategic plan, and all legal and procedural requirements related to the effective operation of the school system.

Master’s degree from a Professional Standards Commission approved accredited college or university required. Master’s degree in Business Administration, Finance, Accounting or related discipline is preferred. Doctorate degree from a Professional Standards Commission approved accredited college or university highly desirable.

Minimum of ten (10) years experience as an administrator in a school system setting or as an executive in a corporate environment with demonstrated successful advancement through the administrative or executive managerial hierarchy required. Ten (10) years of progressive experience in the management of fiscal operations and experience sufficient to successfully performing the essential duties of the job preferred.

None for persons without prior school administration experience. Valid Georgia Professional Standards Commission approved certificate in educational leadership at level L-5, NL-5, PL-6 or above required. If a level L-5, NL-5, PL-6 or above certificate is not held, the individual must be eligible for the NPL certificate in educational leadership. CPA preferred.

INTERESTED APPLICANTS MUST COMPLETE THE FOLLOWING STEPS BY: (1) Submit an on-line application via the PATS website --

(2) Submit cover letter, resume, and a copy of your leadership certificate to Ms. Marsha Cunningham in the Superintendent Office. Documents may be mailed or hand delivered to the DeKalb County School System, Administrative Industrial Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd. Stone Mountain Georgia 30083.

PAY: $159,885.60

Cerebration said...

According to the state Open Records, Marcus Turk made $166,008.00 plus $641.13 for expenses in 2010.

Dekalb taxpayer said...

Sounds like a lot of work for $150,000. I think I'd take the $70,000 secretarial job instead.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting comment from the Get Schooled post on Smoke Rise::


Smoke Rise Mom
January 27th, 2012 10:03 am

Do I understand correctly from these minutes that the Parent Liaison who was appointed by this Charter Council is herself a voting member of the Charter Council that appointed her and approved the $15,000 salary. Usually bylaws prevent members of these kind of bodies from using the position to benefit themselves. No wonder the meetings are closed.

Anonymous said...

"Do I understand correctly from these minutes that the Parent Liaison who was appointed by this Charter Council is herself a voting member of the Charter Council that appointed her and approved the $15,000 salary."

Not only does it look like the Parent Liaison voted for herself. It also looks like if they don't get the money from the Foundation, they will use pat of a Teacher position to give her this job. A "point" is a teacher. A half point is a part time teacher or a paraprofessional.

Where were the quantitative measurements that showed the effectiveness of the Parent Liaison?

The Smoke Rise Elementary Parent Liaison was supposed to establish very specific quantitative goals:
Track Volunteer hours
Manage Parental agreements
Implement programs to increase family attendance at meetings, functions and school activities
Increase PTA membership

What are the statistics? By what percent did the Parent Liaison meet or not meet these goals? Did the principal present the data showing these goals were met before deciding to consider using a 1/2 "Point" (teacher or paraprofessional)?

Taking classroom teaching positions to fund non-teaching positions is very common in DeKalb. And the parents wonder why the class sizes are so large.

Anonymous said...

Oh no! NOT ANOTHER Interim drawn out forever while a search is 'conducted'. How long is this going to last and cost us taxpayers? Sounds likes she's a puppet for Turk. Just what we need for CFO.

Anonymous said...

I see Mouth Organ Walter Woods was doing his typical obfuscation shtick, until the Smoke Rise parents gave him a nice steaming cup of STFU coffee.

How's the mouth feel on that coffee, Walt? Not too BITTER, I hope.

Sandy Spruill said...

@ Smoke Rise Elementary School Foundation and other Involved Parents:

Please take photos -- close-up shots -- of the dangerous areas of the current SRES playground and the parts that are in disrepair. Label each photo with a descriptive file name and/or attach a separate page of descriptions for the photos you send.

Please send those photos with descriptive file names and/or descriptions to this blog (DeKalb School Watch) at this e-mail address:

You may request to remain anonymous and we will honor that request. However, please provide confidential contact information (personal e-mail or phone number) in case we have any questions before we publish what you send.

I hope you know by now that you can trust this blog to bring your concerns to public attention while enabling you to maintain your public anonymity.

Anonymous said...

"Not only does it look like the Parent Liaison voted for herself. It also looks like if they don't get the money from the Foundation, they will use pat of a Teacher position to give her this job. A "point" is a teacher. A half point is a part time teacher or a paraprofessional. "

Here are the 3 options:

Parent Liaison (PL)
Mr. Moore provided 3 options to fill this position:
1) Take current ½ point out of SREC budget to provide funding for PL
2) Foundation pay salary of PL
3) Use additional ½ point to fund PL and other ½ point to fund a para-professional

Anonymous said...

Well, if the employee named in the minutes gets the extra $15,000, they would put their salary at $47,413 ($32,413 +$15,000).

A DCSS teacher with 12 years of experience teaching makes $47,419.

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Anonymous said...

If your daughter had a boy "teabag" her (really teabag hear) you need to get thee to the district attorneys office and swear out a warrant for the boy and the school officials who let it happen.

Anonymous said...

Am assuming everyone has looked at and read this:

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Anonymous said...

I have done a great deal of thinking about the situation at Smoke Rise. I've read the comments on the AJC blog, and those here, and I have come to the conclusion that there were better ways for the parents and district to handle the matter of the playground.

Parents bashing teachers and the principal for not contributing financially to the effort of the playground is very hurtful and inappropriate. School workers should not have to give financially to the school. Many give back by the long hours they put in after school and on the weekend grading papers, planning lessons, and staying up to date on subjects. The attitude parents expressed, while possibly out of frustration, is one that leaves me pondering if ulterior motives were also at play, and not as genuine as they want people to believe.

I would hope that parents would stop and think before they speak ill about a teacher and ask themselves if they would be happy to hear a teacher talk about their child in the way that they are about to speak. There are appropriate ways and channels to follow. Did you contact your school board member? What did he/she do to help you?

As a former teacher, it is obvious that the parents have created deep wounds. Saying that they would rather have the school knocked down and a park built is cruel and just ugly for the teachers that are dedicated to educating the children in their classroom. I am sure that you are frustrated, but chose your words wisely, as words hurt and cut deep. If you thought teachers weren't involved before this mess, do you think that the words shared about them are going to make them want to suddenly get involved and help out?

While a new playground would be nice, and the grounds do have bare patches, have you seen the play areas at other schools? Your school isn't being singled out. There are many play areas and school grounds that are ill cared for. The principal can complain all he wants, but if the person ahead of the grounds crew isn't willing to do something about it, than the principal's hands are tied.

The problems of DCSS are so deep. Many in the upper levels of management don't put kids first and see DCSS as a jobs program. Parents have no idea what is really going on in the schools and the pressure principals and teachers are under to perform with very little to no support.

While I love this blog and respect the people who run it. I do not like the bashing of individual principals and people by name. Terms like bullying and racism are so easy to throw around and provoke big response with little proof. We need to be careful not to spread gossip and not to throw words like bully and racism around willy nilly and not have significant proof. Often times, people in the heat of passion take things out of context and manipulate them to bring others on their side.

I feel sorry for the kids at Smoke Rise, as they most likely have teachers who are already down about making less now than three years ago, not getting all of the retirement help that they were promised, and the ever increasing mountain of paper work that needs to be done in a timely fashion complete, and then to hear parents whine about them not contributing financially to the fundraising efforts is yet another slap in the face.

As a tax payer, I am shaking my head in disgust and disbelief that both parties couldn't sit down, show respect to each other, and discuss events like adults on all accounts.

Anonymous said...

I do so love the self-serving censorship on here.

Cerebration said...

Sorry if you don't like it. It's only self-serving in a self-protective way. Would you prefer I be sued on your behalf? I hope to only engage people on this blog who are at a minimum, respectful of my personal liability.

As I've stated before, you can name names of persons in the news or top administrators or board members in your criticisms. Principals, teachers, etc are off-limits. Unless you have filed formal complaints and gotten no action. (Like the Smokerise parents did regarding their principal.)

It's very difficult to moderate a blog like this, and I try to give as much latitude as possible. But the comments about Ms Hurst - who is temporarily filling in - got out of hand, IMO.

Cerebration said...

BTW - anyone who has ANYTHING of substance to report, *please* use the new Whistleblower Hotline. There is a link to it on the front page of the blog. It's the red phone. IF you want to be backed up, send us an email copy of your filed complaint and we will help you track the response you get.

The Hotline is there -- please use it! Otherwise, they will think you are all just blowing smoke.

Anonymous said...

I know about not using names, but there were some posts that did not use any name whatsoever that still got "moderated". In no way, shape, or form were you under any liability there, yet you still chose to shut it down due to its unpopular criticism of a DCSS link.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:38 and 11:20

It's extremely difficult to run a blog this big. Are you aware that not one person who contributes to this blog including the moderator receives a penny for this very time consuming endeavor? Cerebration does an excellent job for no renumeration.

You don't have a choice. You have to respect the rules in place for this blog.
Here they are from the home page in case you didn't read them:
"Comments are welcomed and appreciated on every post. We request that you show mutual respect and serve to advance the conversation by adding only thoughtful comments on the topic at hand."

That's the nature of the Internet. Whoever creates the website controls the content. You posted under Anonymous so that tells me you understand this and post as Anonymous to protect yourself. Perhaps you may extend this courtesy to others.

You are free to start ur own blog. Then you can make the rules.

Cerebration said...

When I remove comments, I save them just for this reason: so I can double check on accusations like those above.

I will say, I did delete one I shouldn't have:

If your daughter had a boy "teabag" her (really teabag hear) you need to get thee to the district attorneys office and swear out a warrant for the boy and the school officials who let it happen.

And as far as the one with the link to the DCSS Education Plan, I made that its own blogpost.

Join that conversation here:

Superintendent Atkinson releases her Excellence in Education Plan

Anonymous said...

Maybe Ms. Hurst is the one out of hand and people need to know but you will suffer from her wrath if you 'tell' (backed by Turk) and most people need their jobs. So yes, I personally understand you not wanting to be sued so feel free to delete this. And she is very careful to not cross the bounds of legality so it's hard to whistle-blow, but things can be done in very sly ways....example: "close the door" conversations with veiled threats, etc. But we appreciate the opportunity to have this forum to air such things. Thank you....for your time and hard work.

Anonymous said...

Of course people are going to post anon. They have to protect their livelihood! That's how the corrupt stay in power so long. The whistleblowing policy isn't worth the paper it's printed on and OIA is there to protect the District. We all know that. Tolerance of certain behaviors is allowed by the superiors and the superiors are the only ones to stop it! Who is going to rick their next meal by posting their name?

Anonymous said...

The behavior of Smoke Rise administrators is inexcusable. But I have to say, their playground looks almost identical to the one at my neighborhood school. Except Smoke Rise has an additional play structure, albeit one with its bridge laying on the ground. My school isn't on a SPLOST list and we don't have a fundraising foundation, so I guess we're just going to have to live with our decay indefinitely. What a shame that priorities are so skewed in DCSS.

Anonymous said...

Post from one of the leaders of the Smoke Rise Foundation on get Schooled:

Karen Weitzel

January 28th, 2012
5:28 pm

Thank you to everyone who has posted and made suggestions about the controversy at Smoke Rise. I wanted to provide a bit of an update and answer some questions

The Principal and the Charter Governance Council has made no attempt to change their minds, contact the SREF board, or work towards some sort of compromise. They continue to insist that is within their power to decide how the money raised by the foundation is spent and to remind people of the importance of the organizational chart they presented this week. They have revoked our permission to use the building during after school hours to hold our regular quarterly meeting in violation of the school policy on use of a building by a group that supports the school.

They continue to hold closed secret meetings and take binding votes during these meetings. Their next meeting is Jan 31 but the time and place is unavailable.

The SREF exists to support the school. Our mission is to bring the community and school together. We are exactly what Dr. Atkinson addresses in the 5 Guiding Principles of her Excellence in Education. We want to support the school and we don’t want to interfere in the job of educating the students. Providing a free replacement playground for one that is currently condemned seemed a no brain-er. Over the years we have made other donations of both items and money including a cash donation of $5000 on Jan 5, 2012. Last year we donated $7500 to the Smoke Rise PTA. In 2010 we donated $12,500 to the PTA. The SREF has never made any demands or attached any strings to our gifts. This year the Charter Council and the principal decided that since we had been so easy to work with in the past that they could start being loose and liberal with laws, policies and rules. I was informed as SREF President that if I couldn’t convince the SREF board of the merits of their actions I needed new board members. When even my new board members would not go along fully with their demands they informed us that our bylaws were immaterial and destructive to the school. I have been shouted at by Council members, accused of creating an atmosphere of “us vs them” and of acting like a little child. All because I expected the Principal and Charter Council to follow the rules. It was never enough for the Charter Council. Any attempt by the SREF to explain our position has been ignored.

As many readers have noticed this is not the first controversy that has happened at Smoke Rise. Last year was one of the worst. Many other posters have explained why they have left, but I have not left. My child is a 3rd grader and I feel she deserves a decent education in my local tax payer funded school. She stayed when many of her friends left. I stayed on volunteering my time to the school, PTA, and SREF when almost all the other volunteers left. All I asked for in return was that the Principal and Charter Council operate honestly and ethically. They have repeatedly demonstrated they are not capable of that. That is why I went to the press. I will not be bullied any more then I would allow my daughter to be bullied if she had a playground to play on. I am not afraid of the haters and I am not afraid to sign my name to this update.
Karen Weitzel

Sandy Spruill said...

@Karen Weitzel

Hi, Karen!

BRAVO! You are doing the right thing by speaking out and not hiding your identity.

I would love to be in touch with you if you would send me your e-mail address (send to, please. I will send you my contact information by return e-mail.

I fully support SREF's position.

Sandy Spruill

Anonymous said...

If the school system is truly for children why would someone reject replacing playground equipment? The school system recommends "fresh air time" for the elementary students. So this behooves me about the educational system! Why not give the children a new, safe, and fun place to enjoy? I hope that someone would really look at the students needs and not personal adult benefits! I believe the children will benefit from the new playgroud equipment. I also believe that it will increase student performance.

Anonymous said...

I have seen the names of principals and assistant principals named here. How do we get it removed?

Anonymous said...

Great job of looking out for all of the children at Smoke Rise. I think our children deserve the very best! When the public (taxpayers) are informed about unjust things there will be haters coming out. They are upset because the wrong actions is being exposed.

Anonymous said...

Cerebration I want to thank you for having this forum for people to discuss issues in the school system. I also appreciate your link to the ethics hotline. Thanks to the link I was able to file 2 complaints about the Smoke Rise Charter Council. The first was in October and regarding the SR Charter Councils decision to hold closed meetings. I had made attempts to discuss it with the Council before they voted to close their meetings but the response to me, a guest, was that I had been "duly noted."

The fundamental problem with Smoke Rise is that the administration and Charter Council seem to think they operate outside the community, the rules and intent of DCSS, and their own charter. Their current actions demonstrate they don’t even understand Dr. Atkinson’s 5 Guiding Principles for excellence in Education.

By holding closed meetings without informing even all their own board members much less any of the other organizations they interact with, and then taking a vote on topics that concern other organizations, they demonstrate a lack of the most basic understanding of a public board and a system wide problem throughout DCSS.

As of today they still refuse to acknowledge that the Charter Council does not have a right to mandate how a private non-profit operates. They continue to promote their Organizational Chart and how it places control of the Foundation under the Charter Governance Council. They continue to ignore the public words of Walter Woods. And most importantly they will be continuing to hold closed working meetings. The next one is set for Tuesday Jan 31 location and time unknown.

The Smoke Rise Charter Council, its Chairman, and the principal of Smoke Rise have made numerous attempts to bully the Foundation. To disregard our status as a private non-profit. To punish us for disagreeing in public and privately. 2 adult men are convinced that the opinions of a woman is of lesser value then theirs. The choose to lie and cover up their actions and when someone questions them or complains that they bully. Numerous times I have been called to task for expecting the Charter Council to follow the rules and told that my disagreement with the Governance Council is ruining the school. Just yesterday they informed the SR Foundation that it was no longer allowed to use the school in the evening hours to hold a board meeting. All other organizations and clubs are allowed access but not SREF. This is indirect conflict to the written DCSS policy on the use of the school building after school hours

The Principal withdrew his written permission for the playground project and then denied ever providing the permission. The thing about written items is they last and the SREF has the information posted to its website.

The Principal nor the Charter Council have made no attempts to have any discussion about the playground project except to ask repeatedly how much will it cost. They have offered no compromise to the SREF on how we could possibly provide both a playground and some of the other items they desire. They have ignored our donation of $5000 to the school's general fund on Jan 5, 2012 except to provide us with a written receipt.

The big question is: why would any elementary principal turn down a free playground that is available immediately - for free and with no strings attached- on the hope that in the next few years he would get one eventually?

Thank you
Karen Weitzel

Anonymous said...

I just wish this much effort was placed in the real problems of DeKalb- inflated grades, lack of discipline in our schools, teachers and administrators who lack basic English grammar when writing and speaking,smaller class sizes, an elementary math curriculum that is constantly in flux, and we could go on.

I am not saying that playgrounds aren't important, but it's even more important that our children's minds are being exercised, and more times than not, the district could be providing a more rigorous and comprehensive curriculum.

The biggest problem in any DCSS school is not a playground, but raising the bar on the quality of educating that the children are receiving.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:36 pm, Principal Aaron Moore is listed here as he should be. He refuses to answer questions from the AJC regarding the playground issue. He refuses to answer whether he attempted to bully the foundation. I don't know how he did it, but he stopped the harassment of 4th grade girls last year by a number of boys from going public. Trust me, it would have been a major news story, but the parents involved weren't ready for the media coverage it would have garnered.

Aaron Moore is well compensated to be a DCSS principal, and has a duty to answer questions from the newspaper.

Anonymous said...

@12:46 AM:
"As a former teacher, it is obvious that the parents have created deep wounds"

Of all of the disturbing things that have happened at Smoke Rise, I can't believe it is "Obvious" to you that this is the fault of the parents. Unbelievable. My guess is that "as a former teacher" you may be a little biased. There is nothing obvious about this situation at all. The administration, staff, and parents all acted unprofessionally at some point.

A little background: We sat down with our local area superintendent and brought a BINDER full of parent complaints and affadavits from people who either had left or planned to leave (and now have left) Smoke Rise because of poor leadership. During our assimilation of this information, a TEACHER made a decision that kicked off an awful chain of events. After 7 years of complaining to our principal about specific issues, we felt we were not seeing any improvements in a lot of very relevant areas. We had more and more families dropping out of the school each year, and were upset that there were very few folks left in the community who felt comfortable enrolling their students at SMoke Rise. We did not want the principal fired or tainted... we thought then that he was a very nice guy, but not effective as a leader in our particular school. We never meant to publicly speak against him, we only wanted someone more effective for our situation. We tried VERY hard not to go public with any of this, but a teacher got a copy of an email where we were attempting to organize the massive number of parent complaints. This teacher, instead of taking it to the principal, and allegedly without his knowledge, called every teacher in the school into her room and read it aloud. It happened contain a response with a copy of ONE PERSON'S reasons for leaving SMoke Rise, which included being tired of hearing teachers yell at students and treat them disrespectfully. The reading aloud of this email (that was clearly marked CONFIDENTIAL) set off a chain of events that shook our community to the core. The email was interpreted as an attempt to generate complaints against the principal instead of what it really was... a way of organizing existing complaints. Many teachers thought that because the ONE email response they saw contained unkind words against several teachers, that the parents were all out to clean house and get rid of principal and teachers. This was absolutely, positively NOT the case. Everyone knows that leadership sets the tone for the whole building. If leadership set high expectations, staff would follow. All we wanted was higher expectations from the top. However, after the email was read aloud, all he^^ broke loose and the principal started plotting to get rid of the parents instead of visa versa. The area super joined his efort and with the full power of DCSS behind them - including making it impossible to get copies of the police investigation, they succeeded. About 30 kids left for other schools. These kids were the children of PTA presidents, Charter Council members, Foundation Members, and other highly involved parents. The ones who didn't leave last year are planning to leave this year if we don't get the playground that was approved by administration. This is his last attempt to shut the Smoke Rise Community out of our school. This foundation raised those funds and deserves to see the fruits of their labor.

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration
thank you for all of your hard work as moderator of this blog. I can't even imagine the toll it has taken on your private life - it is a full time job!! It is sad that those of us advocating for better schools for our kids have to spend so much time trying to tear through beaurocracy and red tape that we end up losing a lot of time with our own kids. That was the reason we finally had to leave SMoke Rise. Spending my life documenting inadequacies took too much of a toll. Best of luck to you and please know what this blog has meant to the involved parents of DeKalb! I hope people who criticized your censorship above keep that in mind!

Anonymous said...

Yes CERE many thanks. Great job! Hate to see you go...