Monday, March 9, 2009

Positive Signs of Change On the School Board

I am excited about the new school board. I was excited to watch the school board tonight work together as a team. It is such a nice change.

I am excited with the attitudes of many of the current school board members, regarding working together for what is best for the entire county school system, instead of needs of each school board member's district.

I do believe that this school board will work together much better than the school board that DeKalb County School System had in 2006-2008.

What do you think? Will they work together for the benifit for all the students in Dekalb County?
What did you think about the school board meeting tonight?


themommy said...

First, does anyone know what is up with the Chorus teacher at SWD. I loved those parents mostly for pointing out all the other stuff that DCSS hasn't addressed (like the 2 high school APS that got into a fight earlier this school year.)

I think they all seemed to get along, but I am very concerned with how little questioning seem to go on.

For example, though not a done deal, they vote to move forward with the military school thingy without a clear understanding of the costs or how they would pay for it in year 2.

I did think what Jay had to say at the end was positive, basically putting his district (and others) on notice about how things need to be discussed moving forward.

Cerebration said...

google - grigsby southwest dekalb high school

This is the story from "In Decatur" blogspot

More than 200 Southwest DeKalb High School students and parents have been picketing and singing songs of praise in front of Decatur school in support of suspended music teacher Nathan Grigsby.

During the Jan. 23 and 26 protests, the students who are members of Grigsby's chorus class and the school's Inspiration Voices choir, which he led, armed themselves with handwritten signs calling for Grigsby's reinstatement.

The 22-year teacher, who has taught at Southwest DeKalb High for eight years, was suspended without pay on because of a video that was made in his classroom on Dec. 11 that surfaced on Facebook.

The 45-second video, which has been taken off the website, showed students engaged in a risque dance while Grigsby's back was turned. It was recorded by a student on a cell phone during "Pass the Mic," a weekly Friday event that parents say Grigsby held in his classroom during fourth period for students to show off their musical talents.

Dexter Echols, a school volunteer, said the teacher was playing the piano and couldn't see over it to see what the students were doing.

Cerebration said...

What I understood about the Marine Corps Academy is this --

Paul Womack first brought it to the board after running into Brad Bryant while Christmas shopping and Brad told him about it.

It is the only one in the country. It will be set up to serve "under-served" youth.

It will start off with only 9th grade and will add a year for each of the next 4 years. The total number of students will not be allowed to total more than 650 once fully running.

You must have passed 8th grade Algebra I, have good conduct, be a resident of DeKalb county and submit an application.

Applications will be taken from APril 13-May 1.

Gloria Talley has already set up the curriculum.

There will be a principal and a commandant (commanding officer). They will each be paid a principal's salary. The principal will only deal with academics. The commandant will deal with marine issues - discipline, character, etc.

The marines will pay for the teachers salaries. We will pay the teachers benefits.

Grant writers are searching for more money so that it won't be a burden on the general budget.

It is going to be set up at the Heritage Center. Dr. Lewis described that as 2 miles from Druid Hills. I think it might be the Heritage school off of Briarcliff near Lakeside HS. (Just past the White House, ironically.) Unless there's another place called Heritage Center... we can get Womack to clarify.

The marines are funding $1 million toward uniforms. There are 2 uniforms -one for Mon-Thurs and one for Fridays.

It is the one idea I have ever seen that has the full support of the entire board.

Cerebration said...

oh - forgot to mention - there is no commitment to the Marines required at all.

Anonymous said...

In the new math world... there is no longer Algebra 1 in 8th grade. When there was, and all of DeKalb was taking it, the pass rate was dismal. Currently Math 1 is only taught to eligible 8th graders, all others take Math 8. It is a very select group that is even invited to take Math 1 in 8th grade.

I am working on getting clarification on this one. Because it isn't making much sense to me.

Kim Gokce said...

What I would have said if I could've gotten a public spot at the mic tonight:

"Assumption" is a Very Dangerous Word

Since I couldn't make the BOE mtg, I dug around the web looking for more data. Found interesting resources at:

Georgia Public Policy Foundation's Report Card for Parents

Very interesting browsing and I recommend it to your readers, Cerebration.

Ella Smith said...

I totally agree many things still need to change but I did see positive signs that the school board (except for one individual) appears to be focused on what is best for the entire county. It is my understanding that Jay C. is in favor of not doing the construction on Lithonia which is in his district and would like to see class space be added to Lakeside HS instead. This is totally a different attitude than I saw before. I did notice Sara appearing to ask questions that appeared to me to be concerned about if the marine high school could help students in her area but I could have been wrong on what I felt I was observing. Jay has toured Lakeside and he felt it needed to be torn down and re-built. Again, I do see more individuals concerned about students in all districts verses their own district which I feel was what Jay was trying to say.

Cerebration said...

That would have been an excellent speech, Kim. I'm sure Dr. Lewis would agree - he is always rooting for the poor - I would think he would be a BIG cheerleader for CK, however, I've never heard him mention the school. I especially like this statement,

If you look in the middle of the High School performance list for 2007 or 2008, you will find Cross Keys High School. With the exception of the Transition School, Cross Keys has by far the highest poverty rate in the entire DeKalb County School System. Yet, Cross Keys ranks 15 out of 29 on performance. That is above 14 other "richer" schools based on the Achievement Score.

There were several parents at the Board meeting standing up for DSA - they are consistently VERY vocal. I couldn't quite follow their point except to say that the construction on the school they are moving into has been delayed and they want a "Plan B". (Cross Keys could say exactly the same thing about the planned merge of the HSTN.) One parent touted the fact that DSA has "been on the bus" (a reference to the book McChesney quoted from, "Good to Great") by delivering quality students and grades, etc. Also by the fact that they have tolerated such a bad building for so long. (Although WE all know that they are not the only ones.) They have $10 million for their move and reno.

However, the very last speaker, a very soft spoken woman, pointed out that her children, students at Avondale HS, were being ignored and inconvenienced in the equation. It's interesting, she said that the construction is only happening from the "3rd hall back" to accommodate the "kids coming from the north." So - I guess the DSA moving into Avondale has somehow once again, ignited a north/south debate.

I don't agree with her north/south assessment, however, I do agree that too much money is devoted to magnet schools while home schools go ignored. This happens to be a microcosm of that very paradigm in one building. $10 million to serve the needs of 283 "special" students of the arts. $0 to serve the needs of the 706 students already in the building.

themommy said...

I heard that comment to, Cere, about the North from the Avondale parent.

Yes, the school is technically in the north, but only about a third of the students come from N. DeKalb, at least based on data from two years ago. Specifically, of the 274 students enrolled then (and remember this is a 8-12 school), 87 were from the Tucker, Dunwoody, Cross Keys, Chamblee, Druid Hills and Lakeside clusters.

Her other points though were dead on. Communication from Ms. Pope's office is consistently a problem and I like Ms. Pope. No one has clarified what will be new for the Avondale students.

Finally, keep in mind that the DSA folks and many school board members want this to be a temporary move. They want DSA to have a multi-million dollar facility, so we are spending $10 million on a school with a rapidly shrinking enrollment.

Anonymous said...

-"there are no silver bullets..."
-successful organizations have a "culture that rigorously found and promoted disciplined people to think and act in a disciplined manner"

"Good to Great" by Jim Collins needs to be required reading for every BOE member, every county commissioner, and every DCSS administrator (Lord knows there are enough of them!). Review
Five years ago, Jim Collins asked the question, "Can a good company become a great company and if so, how?" In "Good to Great", Collins, the author of "Built to Last", concludes that it is possible, but finds Review
Five years ago, Jim Collins asked the question, "Can a good company become a great company and if so, how?" In Good to Great Collins, the author of Built to Last, concludes that it is possible, but finds there are no silver bullets. Collins and his team of researchers began their quest by sorting through a list of 1,435 companies, looking for those that made substantial improvements in their performance over time. They finally settled on 11--including Fannie Mae, Gillette, Walgreens, and Wells Fargo--and discovered common traits that challenged many of the conventional notions of corporate success. Making the transition from good to great doesn't require a high-profile CEO, the latest technology, innovative change management, or even a fine-tuned business strategy. At the heart of those rare and truly great companies was a corporate culture that rigorously found and promoted disciplined people to think and act in a disciplined manner. Peppered with dozens of stories and examples from the great and not so great, the book offers a well-reasoned road map to excellence that any organization would do well to consider. Like Built to Last, Good to Great is one of those books that managers and CEOs will be reading and rereading for years to come.

pscexb said...

How about some 'CK love' in today's (3/10) AJC Sports section. Corey Butler, a CK grad and UGA microbiology student who walked on to the basketball team. Great story!

Cerebration said...

DSA parent Sue Briss pointed out that DSA was an AP Honors school. That is good news, however, we all must remember that DSA is a magnet program, and as such can pick and choose their students.

I wonder if the DSA parents are even aware that Cross Keys is also an AP Honors school. I think this is an even bigger achievement because Cross Keys does not filter students - they take everyone. No one went to the microphone to announce it, so I wonder if the school board even knows. I think that if you don't toot your own horn directly to the powers that be, you don't get recognized.

For example, Dr. Lewis made a presentation to one young man for achieving Eagle Scout, however, I know of a few Eagle Scouts who were never publicly recognized by the Board. One from Lakeside in fact, became an Eagle Scout on the same day as the young man honored by Dr. Lewis. Go figure.

That said, I will post a quote by the principal of Cross Keys here --

I am happy to report that Cross Keys High School was named as an AP Honor School. More specifically, Cross Keys High School has been recognized by the State Department of Education for our success with the AP program. We have been recognized as a school that provides "AP Access and Support". In order to receive this honor, schools must have at least 30% participation in the AP program by African American or Latino students AND at least 30% of the students must score a 3 or higher on the AP exam. Cross Keys is 1of 80 schools across the state of Georgia that received this honor. The complete list of schools is listed on the Georgia Department of Education website.


Kim Gokce said...

@pscexb: Corey Butler is an impressive young man. Any idea why they reference his home as "Decatur?" Just curious if he was in or out of district at the time. Thanks for pointing out this powerful, personal story. What a credit to his family!

@Cerebration: The more I learn about the students and faculty at Cross Keys, the more impressed I am.

Cerebration said...



In keeping with the Open Meetings Act, this notification is to advise that
the DeKalb County Board of Education members have been invited to meet
with the Representatives from United States Marine Corps and Commandant
Candidates for the DeKalb Marine Corps' Military Institute, at 6:30pm,
Thursday, March 12, 2009, at Stone Mountain's Evergreen Conference Center
& Resort, 4021 Lakeview Drive, Stone Mountain.

The purpose of the get-together is to provide an opportunity for a 'Meet and Greet' for Board members and the representatives and candidates.
While a quorum of Board members may be present, no business will be transacted.