Sunday, April 19, 2009

2 Big AJC stories on DCSS; Smart commentary by smart people wanted (but the DCSS Central Office bloat and waste will still remain)

DeKalb school officials plan construction changes
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Saturday, April 18, 2009
The system added plans for a 31-classroom addition at Southwest DeKalb High School in unincorporated Decatur, and a 28-classroom addition at Lakeside High. Southwest DeKalb, which has 36 portable classrooms, is over-capacity by 413 students. Cost of the addition: $10.2 million.
The 44-year-old Lakeside is over-capacity by 364 students. The new classrooms would come in addition to previously approved plans to spend more than $11 million for a new auditorium and “career technology” classrooms. Cost of the new classroom wing: $11.7 million.

HELP! Fellow bloggers, I'm not that smart. Please tell me why that Crawford Lewis and Marcus Turk want to spend $11.7 million on a new wing at Lakeside...when the whole freaking school is falling apart. "Lipstick on a pig" is the appropriate expression, and it never gets old.
Plus, Lakeside has some of the worst public high school rest rooms in America. The worst.

Also, please remember that Southwest DeKalb High School had a $9 million renovation that became a $21 million renovation. Of course, it was led by architect Robert Brown, a longtime county insider, who after he helped ruin Grady Hospital after years on their board, who now represents DeKalb on the State Transportation Board. It's still all about who you know in the DK. Wonder if Crawford and Gene Walker sip cocktails with Robert Brown down at the Commerce Club.


DeKalb schools budget down 5%
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, April 19, 2009
DeKalb County school officials have proposed an $851.1 million general operations budget for next school year — a reduction of almost 5 percent — as they grapple with a sour economy and continued state cuts in school funding. Everyone’s affected: no raises or step increases for teachers and other employees; students will pay more for school lunches.

Here's where I lose my temper. Crawford Lewis, Marcus Turk and Bob Moseley, all who make obscene amount of money, have no problem cutting step increases for veteran teachers, or making students and families pay more for student lunches.

BUT they have a big problem with cutting the OUTTA CONTROL BLOATED AND WASTEFUL DCSS CENTRAL OFFICE!!!

The salaries for upper level DCSS-er's is out of control. The amount of employees at the DCSS Central office is out of control. Ron Ramsey being at the Gold Dome for months while on the taxpayer dime (twice), is out of control.

Let's face facts: As long as longtime insider Crawford Lewis is the superintendent of DCSS, there will never be substantial cuts to the waste and bloat that is the DCSS Central Office. The Board of Education members allow and enable it.


pscexb said...

O&T, with regards to the overall condition of Lakeside, I have not heard anyone say it was in 'bad shape' from a construction standpoint. True, some modernization is needed, especially with the bathrooms, but from what I hear, I'm not sure it needs a full tear down.

I understand there are other schools in the district that were not constructed as well as others, Sequoyah being one of them. They lack the kind of advocates other schools have hence the community as a whole is not as aware of them.

Tucker HS on the other hand had 'soil' programs along with other challenges hence why it was voted on for a full tear down. Ms. Pope mentioned they discovered 'bad soil' once the gym was torn down. That delayed the project as they had to remove all of the bad soil. I 'believe' she also indicated they are still on target for their scheduled completion.

Regarding salaries, you do recall that they are eliminating quite a few positions by June 30 along with not filling others. This was a part of the restructuring plan that was announced this past fall. Staffers making over 100K got a 2% cut in salary. I understand those staffers will not receive raises either.

Someone mentioned Bob Moseley earlier. I would submit he works at least a 70-80 work week. We see him at almost every community meeting during the week and on weekends. I saw him verbally attacked at several meetings by 'uninformed' members of the community. He bites his tongue but continues on. We may respectfully disagree with some of the messages he brings from the central office but he stands in front and does so. I don't know about you but I'm not sure if I'd take 150K for those hours and abuse he takes.

He and the central office staffers answers to the BoE and the over 700K citizens in DeKalb County. I would submit that a majority of their time is spent with a small percentage of the citizens yet they must balance that with the needs for the entire school district. I credit them for the attempts in making ours a more 'open and transparent' system.

I chatted with a friend in Gwinnett regarding how they do business with regards to the school system. He was surprised at the amount of communication and opportunity for dialogue we have. He indicated Dr. Wilborn and the Gwinnett BoE are in alignment, they know it, and do what they feel is best. He indicated they take dinner breaks during board meetings. This is one person's opinion but interesting nonetheless.

Cerebration said...

I've never understood why we don't utilize our Area Superintendents more. They are very highly compensated, yet manage to fly under the radar. The all manage more schools than most superintendents in the whole country. Shouldn't Dr. Lewis be communicating and brainstorming with them - and they they communicate and brainstorm and listen to the community? I just think Dr. Lewis and his staff spend far too much time dealing with community issues and holding community meetings. For example, Dr. Lewis held at least 2 meetings over the firing of the former Lakeside principal. I consider this micro-managing. His Area Super - who the area should see as "their" super - should have held the meetings. All of this community meeting takes away from Dr. Lewis' ability to focus on the future and network with national leaders - finding the best programs and brightest individuals to bring home to DeKalb.

Cerebration said...

Oh, and I do think there is a plan to renovate the horrible, old part of Lakeside. You're right, PSC, the "bones" of the building are good. In fact, there are actually original skylights in the main hall that were covered up in the 70's or so. A solid renovation would be an excellent use of construction money at Lakeside and as far as I know - that is part of the plan.

Further, Lakeside's science lab equipment, band and orchestra equipment, work out equipment (except for the new pieces bought by parents) are all original - or at least incredibly old. In fact, I've heard that one science teacher even bought his own microscopes at Target in order to do some of the lessons.

Ella Smith said...

Celebration, what you said about the Lakeside science equipment and facilities are true. I left Lakeside as a special need science teacher and with the equipment and facility I see know I would never consider teaching in such a horrible science teaching situation.

I agree that most of Lakeside's construction is sound. The hall are too narrow for the number of students they have and the bathrooms are unthinkable and are not located appropriately and there are not enough of them to serve the student body.

I do see addtions a must. The football practice field and surrounding area are in horrible shape. My son is currently injuried because he stepped in a whole at soccer practice and this is not acceptable. But, the current football practice field will be moved back and rebuild and hopefully leveled correctly so students do not get injuried at practices by stepping in wholes on practice fields and surrounding areas of practice fields.

I see no problems with the salaries at the county office. There are in line with what other administrators get paid. Crawford Lewis deserves every penny he makes and so do the associate supers. I talked to one of the associate supers on Friday at the emergency room as she/he had a family emergencies and she/he was on their blackberry the whole time with a family emergencies. I see how hard they work and have nothing negative to say about them. However, we do have too many employees at the county office and this needs to change. We have way too many positions that other county administration do not have. We have way too many employees who have absolutely no contact with our children. Kim and I saw this very clearly when we looked at the data.

I agree totally about Bob Moseley. I also would submit he works at least a 70-80 work week. We do always see him at almost every community meeting during the week and on weekends. I also have seen him verbally attacked at several meetings by 'uninformed' members of the community. He must bites his tongue but continues on. We may respectfully disagree with some of the messages he brings from the central office but he stands in front and does so. I don't know about you but I'm also not sure if I'd take 150K for those hours and abuse he takes.

I do disagree that the school system is still not very transparent. Most school board decisions are made behind closed doors or on the phone. The decisions are already made before the school board meetings meet. I do think the school board is doing a great job by working together for all of us to see but I have been curious by some of the comments made recently by Gene Walker. What is happening behind the scence regarding discussions regarding our school supertendent's contract. The board pulled an agenda item regarding the school supers contact at the April meeting I believe at the last minute. The school board members do not want to bring items to the big school board meetings that are controversial. I believe that discuss most of these items in smaller school board meetings are on the phone or by email.

Open+Transparent said...

pscexb, I've heard Lakeside has big plumbing and electrical issues. It's hard to rip out and replace plumbing and electrical without a pretty major renovation. And the pool is so bad it could be condemned.

We disagree about the Central Office. Even with some of the small cutbacks, it's still a massive bureaucracy for a system with a shrinking enrollment. But it is very good at making sure charter schools don't make inroads in DeKalb.

As always, I respect your opinion and what you bring to DCSW. You know the system inside and out, and you're always all class.

P.S. Ella make two fantastic points that the average county taxpayer just doesn't realize:
"We have way too many positions that other county administration do not have. We have way too many employees who have absolutely no contact with our children."


pscexb said...

O&T, the feeling is mutual about you and the other 'frequent' bloggers on DCSW. Heck, I bet if we decided to host a get together for all who post and lurk on this site with everyone showing up, half the county would be there :). If there is one thing I would point to that the postings here are doing, it is generating more hits on the DCSS website by folks doing additional research. I see that as a good thing. Next we need to show all the 'Anons' how to get their own handle for postings :).

Regarding the area supers, they meet as a cabinet with Dr. Lewis every week (I believe on Monday morning). I say the following with no disrespect but I see a lot of their job as 'fire fighting', allowing the schools to concentrate on instruction. What I mean is when there are parents that have issues/concerns, the area supers sometimes get involved.

It is my observation that Dr. Lewis is somewhat 'strategic' with regards to the community meetings he attends. Again, I say this with no disrespect but it seems he is there when there are 'vocal' attendees at the meetings. It is possible that members of the community and/or BoE members ask that he attend certain meetings. As citizens we sometimes want assurances that the person at the top understands our concerns. Whether one agrees or disagrees with what they have to say, many feel better when we have those face to face opportunities.

Ella Smith said...

I do agree about the Central Office. Even with some of the small cutbacks, it's still a massive bureaucracy for a system with a shrinking enrollment. As far as charter schools in DeKalb I do see several Charter Schools but they appear to be within the school system for the most part which is a great thing. Many charter schools which take the school systems money and try to run a school outside the school system without the guidance of the school system fail. I have taught in a charter school outside the school district one time and probable never will again. I do have health issues and needed a major procedure and found out the Charter School was not paying my insurance. I immediately left that Charter School and went back to Fulton County School System. There is alot more problems with charter schools that are not within the school system. I work at a Charter High School within the school system which is a much better situation for all involved.

Again, I stand behind the comments strongly that we have too many school employees that do not have direct contact with our students. I do believe their are too many assistance at the county office and too many secretaries, and too many other employees throughout the system doing administrative work. It used to be a joke in my house between my husband and I. If a principal is not doing a good job, instead of the school system letting him/her go or allowing them to take a promotion the principals were made positions at the county office. I do suspect this did happen for years and this could possible be the problem. Many of the current school board members do not want to see anyone lose a job. I understand this. I do not want to see anyone lose a job but we elected these officials to make business decisions based on what is best fot the taxpayers, students, and parents in this county. Hard decisions have to be made based on those interests and sometimes individuals who work for big companies have to be let go for the benifit of all the stakeholders of the company.

Ella Smith said...

I also do believe that Lakeside probable has some big plumbing and electrical issues. It may be extremely hard to rip out and replace plumbing and electrical without a pretty major renovation. But maybe this is what the old building at Lakeside needs. The pool is in bad shape. I do not know if it could be condemned but it definitely needs some renovations so it can continue to be used by the high school swim teams. It is not really used as part of a curriculum at Lakeside which is sad. But, honestly none of our Physical Education facilities allow much curriculum in PE. I am very disappointed in the number of tennis courts available and that each high school does not have two gyms so that many lifetime sports can be taught to our students. Without good health each person's quality of life suffers and I really see the Dekalb County School Board doing a very poor job in this area of their curriculum.

Cerebration said...

On the issue of the locker rooms and PE - I will share with you that my very "non-sports" daughter when taking PE at Lakeside, refused to "dress out" in the creepy, moldy locker rooms. Since "PE" only consisted of walking around the track for her (or in the gym in bad weather), she figured she could do that in her jeans and tennis shoes. She got a "D" in PE for not dressing out. She said it was worth it.

Personal stories aside, for anyone not familiar with the very enlightening research done by Kim and Ella, click this link and read up --
For a different perspective on charter and choice schools and how they could be serving to further degrade public schools and creating inequity, read the blog below with open minds. These are California bloggers - but they could be a harbinger we should listen to.

Cerebration said...

Forgot one -- Ella, there's room behind the school in the grassy garden area for a playground if it's ever needed. Personally, I think the school could function best as a diagnostic center or something.

Ella Smith said...

Celebration but do you begin to think the facility has enough parking spaces. There must be room for parking somewhere.

I was not aware of so much room behind the school. This might be where they might be planning to put concrete and use this as a drilling area and later for parking. There is no way there is enough parking probable even for the Marine High School.

I know you would like to see the property go to the county for a park and this would be wonderful. I just do not see it happening with the overcrowded situation at Oak Grove. It would be fine with me if I am incorrect on this one. It would not be the first time and I am sure it will not be the last time I am wrong.

Cerebration said...

No, really, it's fine with me if they just turn the park portion of the property over to the county - keep the school, etc. They stated emphatically that they weren't planning to touch the park - ever. So to make good on that promise - turn it over to the county so that it will remain a park - and possibly expanded into the wetlands and a couple of pieces of additional land that is available for sale - but no good to the county, with out the park to add it to. And the school system certainly won't expand the park - so if they do keep it - the park will remain as is - but will not expand.

Cerebration said...

Below is one quote to ponder - regarding the CA bloggers paradigm that charters and choice schools will only serve to appease certain vocal, demanding, educated groups, leaving the poorest and most difficult to educate "behind" --

In essence this country is becoming more fragmented and polarized and segregated than ever. The only way the privatizers can lose is if middle class parents decide that the fate of poor children, children not their own, matters. That it matters as much as what happens to their children.

Alas, the facts show that parents who can get a good deal for their children -- whether by moving to the suburbs or placing their kids in the good charters, don't give a rat's ass for anyone else. So, the privatizers will get their way; and the prison-school- military complex will take another step forward."

Cerebration said...

Or how about this one, does it sound vaguely familiar?

From a recent article in the "East Bay Express" by Jay Youngdahl

"One of the reasons California let its schools go into disrepair is because more and more people could afford to send their kids to private schools. The children of managers, lawyers, accountants, doctors, and others did not have to worry about California's deteriorating schools. While many of these folks, especially in the East Bay, continued to support public schools, this was not their problem. There were no evil motives to their actions. (And, a disclaimer here, my kids spent their high school years in private schools.) But when your kids go to private schools, the public schools don't feel like your concern, right or wrong. Without this focus, our wealthier citizens have been able to direct their energies elsewhere.

Cerebration said...

Oh - and PSC, you are correct, we do have a lot of traffic on this blog. We have 2 counters at the bottom of the page and they each only count "unique" visitors every day. That means no matter how many times you come to the blog from your computer in a day - you only count as one visitor for that day. The cluster map was the first counter installed, so it has the most data.

According to the cluster map, since Feb 15th, (56 days ago) we've had 4,235 unique visitors - averaging just over 75 each day. If you click the world map, you can see where they are from - which is mostly the Atlanta area, but we've had nationwide visitors and several from around the world. Of course, certainly some have clicked through by accident, but that still doesn't diminish the numbers, IMO.

fedupindcss said...

Re: Lakeside renovation. It would be far more cost effective to build a new school, given what they will inevitably run into when they start to renovate (our elementary school was renovated and had an addition, and it was one long change order--cost a fortune). One reason the HVAC and other work done on Lakeside was not actually called "renovation" was out of concern that they would be forced to update things that they ran into during work. The electrical and plumbing systems are not capable of handling extra classrooms or the load of extra technology that didn't exist 40 years ago. The boys locker room smells terrible, because the floor drains drain to nowhere; the pipes long ago collapsed and it just backs up into the locker room (same for bathrooms). The kitchen is below state standards for size and safety, and the greasetrap is a fire hazard. O&T was dead on with the pool (your lungs start to go when you enter the room). And the layout, with the first story below grade, is really terrible (and dark, when the power goes out).

That said, it would be very difficult to build a new school. Tucker is barely going to pull it off with kids still attending. One idea floated by some parents was to build a new school for Lakeside in back, where the fields are, and move the kids in in stages (much like they did with Peachtree Middle). They could bus the teams to Henderson and use their old high school fields. But a former Board member shot that down, saying that once DCSS sank all that money into a new HVAC, they would never build a new school there.

That last statement says it all; they don't have any long term planning in place. Just deal with the crisis of the day, and hope for the best.

Ella Smith said...

For many parents they do chose to send their children to private schools but there are many parents who have the means to do so but continue to fight the battle to improve the public schools. If I wanted to my son could definitely go to private school. I want him to go to public school as many things that he needs to learn about working with others is learned in a public school and not a private school. I do believe my son also is getting a great education in a public setting. The facility he attends is very sad. The Science facilities and PE facilities are very sad. The lunch room facilities are sad but he takes his lunch daily. I have not always been please with the administration but I am pleased with the educational opportunities he is receiving.

I have been told by two school board members who do not live in the Lakeside area that the school needs torn down and rebuilt. The school board members who leave in the Lakeside District may feel differently though. It would be extremely odd to build a high school in back and then put the athletic and PE fields in the front of the school. I am sure it could be done but I cannot imagine what it would look like.

Apparently the school system and school board are truely not benifiting the taxpayers by not having any long term planning in place. Just deal with the crisis of the day, and hope for the best does not benifit the stakeholders and I feel it probable cost the taxpayers a great deal more money than necessary.

Cerebration said...

Just whatever you do - TIME magazine tells us to make sure your kids aren't using Facebook anymore -- ;-)

Forget the widely unloved redesign. Facebook has committed a greater offense. According to a new study by doctoral candidate Aryn Karpinski of Ohio State University and her co-author Adam Duberstein of Ohio Dominican University, college students who use the 200 million–member social network have significantly lower grade-point averages (GPAs) than those who do not..,8599,1891111,00.html?xid=newsletter-weekly