Saturday, May 30, 2009

Economy Killing Abusive Teen Programs

— By Maia Szalavitz | Fri January 30, 2009 2:03 PM PST

There is a silver lining to this bleak economy: Abusive and ineffective "tough love" programs for teens are failing right and left.

In just the last few weeks, the notorious Tranquility Bay program in Jamaica, Spring Creek Lodge in Montana, and Pathway Family Center in Detroit and Ohio have all been shuttered.

Tranquility Bay was known for making kids kneel on concrete for days and using "restraint" so harsh that it broke bones. Both Tranquility Bay and Spring Creek Lodge were part of a network called the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASP or WWASPS)--and the group's philosophy involves constant use of emotional attacks and humiliation in a rigid, structured day in order to break teens' spirits.

Spring Creek was notorious for a frigid, small isolation room called "the Hobbit"--sometimes teens were left there for months.

From Pathway--which was descended from the infamously abusive Straight Inc.--I received two separate accounts of suicide attempts by girls which were not reported to their parents, and many stories of the usual attack therapy and humiliation. Unfortunately, neither WWASP nor Pathway is completely dead yet: WWASP still has centers operating in the US and abroad, and Pathway has sites in Indiana: Porter and Indianapolis.

The media tends to present these closures as sad examples of needed services being cut--but in fact, teens are better off with no treatment than with treatment that often divides families and has characteristics known to produce post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Family support tends to be crucial to long term recovery--and PTSD doubles the odds that a drug problem will become a lasting addiction.

Troubled teen programs were yet another sign of the bubble economy. Many were financed by mortgage and home equity loans because they cost thousands of dollars a month and because insurers, quite correctly, don't usually pay for programs that aren't proven to help.

Since there are proven alternatives for teens with drug and other problems that do not carry the risks of "tough love," we should greet the closings of these centers with glee.

And those who care about this issue should keep the pressure on so that the wounded programs finally die. After all, there are still teens suffering inside, being "treated" without dignity or respect--some of whom were just transferred from closed programs to other similar, sites.

Legislation to ban the most egregious practices is coming--and may well be strengthened now that the Democrats control Congress and the White House. But an even better outcome would be for the "troubled teen" industry to wither and be replaced by what the evidence shows works: community-based, family-centered, minimally restrictive, and youth-driven care.

The above post was originally published at Mother Jones, and reposted at Huffington Post

One of the main reasons I re-posted this article here is to spread the word about these types of abusive programs and to let you know the connection to the Semblers. Mel Sembler is a co-founder of a program created in the 70's called "Straight". Now, his wife and Straight co-founder, Betty Sembler has been named by Governor Charlie Crist to Florida's "Women's Hall of Fame" for her work fighting drugs. Last year the DEA gave her a lifetime achievement award. This same writer, Maia Szalavitz uses this analogy for Betty's recognition, "Imagine if Wall Street were to honor Bernie Madoff for his skills as an investor ten years from now."

In another post in Huffington, Maia states that, "Straight--which at its peak had centers in seven states and claims to have treated 50,000 teens--has long been discredited for not only being ineffective, but harmful. Its policy of using confrontation, humiliation and physical punishment led to dozens of lawsuits, with plaintiffs winning hundreds of thousands of dollars for kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment and emotional abuse."

Sadly, although Straight has fizzled, there are many programs today utilizing the same, abusive and counterproductive "treatments" designed by Straight. Programs that also offer "seminars" which serve to brainwash parents to "Stay with the Program" until it's completion, while of course, incurring tens of thousands of dollars of debt.

Decent programs for at-risk teens do exist, however Straights, Pathways and WWASP are not among them. These programs are run by untrained people for one reason only -- money.

Don't be fooled.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

DeKalb County obtains Safe Routes to School Grant

Dunwoody submitted our SRTS application just days after incorporation and was a long shot in being awarded the Safe Routes to Schools Grant. That being said, we came together as a community, submitted a decent proposal and will be implementing numerous safety programs to encourage our school age children to walk to school. A second round of funding will be coming in the future and we will be working towards that goal in order to submit another application.

This round the grants were decided by State DOT District with Dunwoody in District 6, competing against all of North Fulton County, our competition was formidable and the grant was given out to the City of Milton for Crabapple Crossing Elem / Northwestern Middle & Summit Hill Elem.

Other grantees were DeKalb County in District 4 for Livsey Elementary, City of Atlanta in District 5 for Morningside Elementary, Douglas County for District 13 for Chapel Hill Elementary and the City of Lawrenceville in District 7 for Lawrenceville Elementary & Margaret Winn Holt Elementary School.

Congratulations to those entities who put forward the best application and were awarded the grant money.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Remember This? School's Out, Man!

Have a wonderful summer everyone! I hope you'll continue to check in with us over the summer and share news and updates along the way. We'll be here -- reporting on the summer decisions of our Board and preparing for the August return.

Send an email with news and info to

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

As expected

As expected, retired judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore, who was paid $350 per hour by the DCSS Central Office to investigate the Jaheem suicide, found that the school staff and Central Office are not one smidgen to blame, every thing is hunky-dory. Yep, no "bullying" at all, just lots of "name-calling and teasing". Parent Monique McMiller, who was interviewed by the judge, took great offense to the judge's findings.

“My conclusion is there is no evidence of bullying at Dunaire,” said Moore, whom the school district brought in to oversee an internal review. “There is name-calling and teasing, but it is almost always done outside of any adult [being present]. There is a code of silence among the students.”

A friend of Jaheem’s family, Monique McMiller, said four of her children attend Dunaire, including her son, whom she said was bullied in March 2008. McMiller said the principal was unresponsive and that the same kids then are causing problems now. McMiller said she was interviewed by Moore for the judge’s report, as was her son, who McMiller said broke down in tears during the session.

The judge’s conclusion “makes her [Moore] a liar,” McMiller said. “To come to a conclusion there’s no bullying, to drag that family underneath like that, is embarrassing.”

These oral statements by the judge are all the citizens will receive on the matter. According to Atlanta Unfiltered, Judge Moore did not create a written report for review.

It is clear that a truly independent investigation is needed, preferably by the GBI or Georgia Attorney General's Office. The only issue with that is the Attorney General, Thurbert Baker, is a Leadership DeKalb alum and is likely friendly with Superintendent Lewis. Thurbert Baker is running for governor, and needs as many votes from DeKalb as he can get, and is unlikely to call out the school system where he resides.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Developer asks for huge tax break

According to today's AJC, without a $52 million subsidy, Sembler says his site in Brookhaven will not be finished. Sembler is asking DeKalb County School System, DeKalb County Commissioners, and Eugene Walker, the authority chairman for help. (Walker received at least $18,000 in donations to his school board campaign from Sembler company associates last year). Sembler has a reputation for buying politicians. I do not know if this is a fact but I do know that the internet is full of interesting information to read on the topic.

The AJC states “Eugene Walker, the authority chairman, said his colleagues would vote on the matter at a yet-to-be-scheduled meeting in June, though there is some uncertainty whether they have all the discretion. Walker, who was elected to the school board last year, said the authority would, as a courtesy, seek the support of his colleagues in the school system and of the County Commission.”

(IMO) First, I do not understand why Eugene Walker is allowed to be on the development authority board and a school board member. On top of that, why is he the chairman? It is bad enough he is on the committee. This is such a conflict of interest to the taxpayers of DeKalb County. If DeKalb does this for Sembler, it cannot discriminate against other companies. It would have to consider all companies who are in financial situation and currently we would be in a mess. I believe if the deal was not made up front, it should not be made on the back end.

Do you feel a major developer that has come up with a tin cup to DeKalb County begging for $52 million in tax breaks should get the tax breaks? Do you feel this is fair to the minority companies in Dekalb County who do not have the money to pay out money to Eugene Walker's campaign and to other political campaigns for possible political favors? Should Eugene Walker have been put in this situation by the county commissioners? Did the county commissioners make a bad decision by allowing Eugene Walker to be on the school board and chairman of the housing authority board?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Time to Hand Out Grades

Rate the Progress of the School System in Reaching Its Stated Goals

As we head into the last week of school, I thought it would be a productive exercise to discuss how things went. You know, let's debrief and pass along "best practices" as well as things we might want to suggest dropping.

These are the four stated goals for the nearly 100,000 students served by DeKalb County School System:

GOALS 2007-2010
1.To narrow the achievement gap and improve the graduation rate by creating a high performance learning culture in all schools and sites.
2.To increase rigor and academic achievement in Reading/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies in pre-kindergarten-12.
3.To ensure quality personnel in all positions.
4.To ensure fiscal responsibility in order to maintain safe and healthy learning environments that support academic programs, resources and services.

As you can tell from the heading for the goals - these goals are for 2007-2010. Now, I ask you, faithful bloggers, has DeKalb reached any of these goals? If so, which ones? If not, why not? Which goals do you think are most important? Are these goals impacting your childrens' schools in a measurable way? Which initiatives toward the goals seemed to work - and which ones didn't?

Can you define these terms?

A high performance learning culture.
The achievement gap.
Quality personnel.
Fiscal responsibility.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Student Film for Education Equality Day in Washington, D.C.

"Say It Loud is a youth film that explores the importance of education for African-American boys. When Jordan Coleman was 10-years-old he became a voice over actor on Nickelodeon's Nick Jr. show The Backyardigans; he's the voice of Tyrone the moose. Jordan's parents challenged him to use some of his earnings to make a positive contribution to his community ... he hired a film crew and began interviewing African-American boys and men for his Say It Loud film."

Check out this 13-year old's blog. He has important things to say to our youth. He will be traveling the country this summer sharing his film and his insight with teens and their parents.

To contact him, send an email to

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Farm to School Hearing with U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss and Tom Harkin, Friday, May 15, at CDC

Join us Friday, May 15, at the CDC for a public hearing on Farm to School projects, Healthy Eating, and Physical Activity for School Children.

We need you there to show Sen. Chambliss and Sen. Harkin that we want thriving Farm to School programs in Georgia. This hearing will be submitted to the official record for all Senate Agriculture Committee members to review. Sen. Chambliss (R-GA) and Sen. Harkin (D-IA) will both be in attendance.

This a rare opportunity for the sustainable food and farms movement to show its support for getting local, fresh, and sustainably produced foods into school cafeterias across the state.

Witnesses will include representatives from:
- the CDC
- the USDA
- Action for Healthy Kids, and
- the National Farm to School Network

For a primer on how Farm to School programs are connected to nutrition and agricultural policy, read this report.

The Georgia Field Hearing is sponsored by the Senate Committee on Ag, Nutrition, and Forestry.

"Benefits of Farm-to-School Projects, Healthy Eating and Physical Activity for School Children. "

Date: Friday, May 15, 2009
Time: 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Roybal Campus of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Harkin Global Communication Center, Auditorium A

1600 Clifton Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30329

Please Note: Bring identification and arrive early to allow plenty of time for parking.

Many thanks to Dan Magee for sending us this post. Please pass this along to all those concerned about school nutrition.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Ways Schools Sneak through the Cracks and Can Still Discriminate In Employment Practices

As a teacher, the last 29 years, I have seen school systems continue to discriminate in supplementary employment opportunities in schools. Most supplementary opportunity positions except Head Football and Head Basketball Coach Positions are hired through the local schools. The local schools are required to post supplemental openings but many times the local principal or athletic director posts the job after he or she has already hired the person for the position without even being aware of the qualifications of the individuals in the building or the school system who might be interested in the supplementary position. Many times this is a way to give their friends at the school supplemental income. I also have seen them wait until school was out to post the positions so fewer individuals would even be aware of the post as school is out. I have seen so many qualified individuals who did not even have a chance to apply for these positions because they did not even know the positions were open until the posts, but in reality, they did not have an opportunity at that point because the post was just to follow the procedure as the decision as to who to hire, was already made, before the principal or athletic director posted the position.

IMO, this is really wrong. The correct county policy for supplemental positions like department heads, coaches, gate managers/gym managers or athletic directors, etc should be to require the administrators to post the positions for a few days and require at the minimum that the principal or athletic director review a resume of qualifications before making decisions. We need the most qualified individuals in these positions. Coaches in particular impact our children’s lives. The least we should expect is for local administrators to take the time to post the positions and review qualifications before making selections. This also would prevent the still occurring discriminatory employment practices within our schools in these extremely important areas. I do feel many qualifications should be considered but there is no excuse for already hiring individuals before posting jobs. This is not fair to the children, the individuals who do not have fair opportunities at job opportunities or to the taxpayers.

What do you think? Do you feel this policy needs to be corrected by the school board?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dr. Lewis Shared Strident Words at DCPC

I took this past Wednesday off from work so I could make a handful of civic and community meetings. To start my day off I attended the Dunwoody-Chamblee Parents Council's last meeting for the school year at the magnificent facility at Peachtree MS.

It was a stormy morning and the cathedral-like floor to ceiling windows at both ends of the Media Center created a dramatic atmosphere for what turned out to be some pretty strident comments from Dr. Lewis.

After the DCPC took care of its official business of electing new officers, Dr. Lewis took to the podium and proceeded to cover a broad range of topics. I did not plan to take formal notes but once I realized he was making what I considered surprising statements, I scribbled notes as quickly as I could and will offer them to this blog's readers even though they are sketchy at best.

Before starting to address a long list of planning, operations, and other school system business, Dr. Lewis shared his thoughts about the media coverage of the Jaheem Herrera case. After acknowledging the tragic nature of the boy's death, Dr. Lewis expressed great frustration with how the media has treated the subject and made it clear that much of the reporting has been inaccurate based on his knowledge of the circumstances of the case.

Specifically, he indicated that there is evidence that Jaheem, himself, was the offender in bullying cases DCSS is learning about. Though I wouldn't be surprised by anything that comes out of this sad story, I was very surprised by the strident statements made by Dr. Lewis. Apparently, the heat and distraction of this horrible story has really negatively affected the Superintendent. Whether he intended to or not, he came across as very angry at the media and very unsympathetic to the claims made by Ms. Bermudez.

Putting that sensational topic aside, he quickly ran through many other matters/comments of consequence. I was only able to jot down a word or phrase about each so forgive the skinny reporting:

1. Transportation Plan to be fully implemented in the coming year.
2. He wants to focus less on "choice" programs and reverse the emphasis in these areas recent Boards have been driving.
3. He would like to see an end to busing programs from "the doorstep."
4. He wants to focus performance efforts on high schools and characterized them as the "hard nut" to crack.
5. CIP will benefit from $59m returned from other projects canceled/deferred and unexpected savings on bids coming in.
6. $52m from stimulus will be directed to Title 1/IDA student over 2 years. He cautioned about what may happen when the money runs out.
7. 28 room addition is coming to Lakeside.
8. Redistricting, Attendance Lines changes, and consolidations are coming - get ready!
  • He expects to get a draft plan from Pope & Moseley during May.
  • He expects this plan to be read to the BoE in June.
  • He expects community meetings/plan reviews in July/August.
  • Changes implemented in 2010.
  • He said "Dunwoody was safe"
  • When asked if that included Montgomery/Chamblee, he directly said yes.
  • When asked by yours truly if that included Cross Keys cluster as "safe," he did not directly answer which indicates to me that Cross Keys system will be the subject of changes.
8. He touted 217 position cuts with 95% coming from Central Office.
9. Programs will be cut
  • He mentioned Flat Shoals and another school by name saying they willl become traditional schools rather than year-round, for example.
  • Spring Board to be eliminated everywhere (there was applause from many at this comment).
  • 5 graduation coaches will be eliminted (Peachtree MS, Chamblee MS, Redan MS, Henderson MS, and I think he said Stephenson MS???)
10. He says DCSS will soon unveil an "unprecedented" parent engagement program.
11. "Crackdown" on dress code coming.
12. 10 buildings will be repurposed, leased or for sale very soon. By Jan 2010, buildings A and B will be unoccupied.
13. No planned improvements to athletic fields but he did say in response to question, "Something must be done about North DeKalb Field."
14. America's Choice is coming to 20 schools (with Redovian saying why not 40? All?)

There was some additional discussion on state funding and related matters but that pretty much wraps up my take-aways. Hope this helps those who couldn't attend or are not in these districts.

Kim Gokce, HillsDale Neighborhood,

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Another Board Meeting Report - As I Saw It

I have been staying home and watching the board meetings on my big screen tv with a glass of wine these days. You see, this way I don’t have to muffle my screams.

Once again, I was disappointed in last night's board meeting. Frankly, I think the “citizen comments” have become – oh what was the phrase that Bob Mosley used to describe parents – oh yeah, “Background Noise.”

The citizen comments are a joke. No one is listening. Talk to the hand. No one cares. La la la. Ms. Jackson and her children and several parents from DESA have pleaded for over a year not to move their school. No one even pretends to pay attention to them anymore. One mom said that she was returning to ask for the same thing she had requested over a year ago – recess in elementary schools and a better quality of student life. Representatives from the Organization of DeKalb Educators continue to speak up for teachers -- against the taking back of STEP increases, high insurance costs and now misuse of stimulus money – but our school board continues to stick to their decisions regardless of how those affected feel about them.

Case in point – the Military Academy. Several community members once again spoke out against the academy, however, word has it that this is pretty much a “done deal”. A deal that was completed in record time and behind a cloak of secrecy. Why would any leader insist on forging ahead with a plan that is so controversial? A plan that not only uses an imbalance of funding per student (people were batting around a $32 million figure for some reason) but actually offends some people. One woman, who has researched the Academy and has come to possess email conversations about the deal through the Open Records Act, told the crowd that despite Dr. Lewis’ statement that he never heard about the idea until February 6, 2009, there were emails recounting a meeting between the military and the school system as far back as September, 2008. And on February 6, 2009, the Pentagon approved the “partnership” – looking forward to recruiting African-American and Hispanic youth. That’s what she said – for real. Now, who’s telling the truth and who’s lying? I’d like to know.

My apathy came to a peak at the very last comment of the evening, made by Jay Cunningham. I’ve always suspected that no one in south DeKalb much cares about the schools up north here as far as auditoriums or the bad conditions and that just maybe our projects will remain in "design limbo" while their favorite projects get built - elsewhere. In fact, at the Board meeting last night, Jay Cunningham apologized for his recent quote in the "Crossroads" news. In it, he said it was "righting a wrong" to finally start building an auditorium for SW DeKalb, the only school without one! Then he said he stands corrected after getting many phone calls - and that he was wrong - Cedar Grove doesn't have one either! And we need to get that fixed - "sooner rather than later"... No mention of Lakeside, Cross Keys, Dunwoody, or Chamblee!!! He had an opportunity to point out that ALL high schools will eventually get an auditorium as planned with SPLOST 3. He had an opportunity to promote a countywide perspective by pointing out that Lakeside, Cross Keys, Dunwoody and Chamblee don't have auditoriums and that these schools have been on the SPLOST list for auditoriums for over two years. He could have shared that Cross Keys' renovation was second on the SPLOST 3 list of priorities – even ahead of the new Tucker HS, which is nearly completed - yet no dirt has been turned at Cross Keys and the High School of Technology is scheduled to merge with them in August.

I used to think that Jay was the one board rep who looked at things from a countywide perspective – silly me.

Monday, May 4, 2009

This Wednesday, May 6 - National School Nurse Day

Wednesday, May 6th is National School Nurses Day. School nurses are as important as a good principal. They help create a healthy, nuturing environment at a school, and they really are educators, not just support staff. Prevention and education are just important as the actual care they provide. Take some time on Wednesday with your children to say thanks to your school nurse!

From the National Association of School Nurses:
From the National Education Association:

If you think school nursing is all about flu shots, Band-Aids, and record-keeping, you haven't been inside a school lately. School health professionals juggle a complex array of medical and social issues, seeing thousands of students, and often moving from school to school throughout the district.
A typical schedule can encompass immunizations, health care screenings, hearing and vision testing; dealing with home accidents, diseases such as diabetes and asthma, student obesity, special needs like tube-feeding, preventing the spread of disease through blood exposure; and the fallout from mental, emotional, and social problems, including arranging for disadvantaged students to receive breakfast and clothing, and even helping students cope who are homeless or whose parents are incarcerated. For some students, the school nurse is the only health care professional they ever see.

Nor is their work confined to the nurse's office—they must also interact with other professionals such as teachers, doctors, child study teams, administrators, school counselors, coaches, parents, police officers, drug and substance abuse professionals, social workers, and other education support professionals.

Many Students, Few Nurses

About 50,000 school nurses are employed in America, but we need more. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, schools should have one nurse for every 750 students. The reality is a far cry from the recommendation; about 59% of schools have a higher ratio of students to available nurses. According to statistics from the National Association of School Nurses, in 2005, Michigan, for example, had about 3,611 students for every school nurse, and Utah had only one nurse for every 4,952 students. At the same time, the number of students with medical needs continues to increase.

Yet, school nurses rise to the challenge. Healers, comforters, educators, mentors, trainers, role models, critically-needed members of every school community—heroes all—NEA salutes school nurses this day and every day.

P.S. National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day - May 7, 2009
NASN is a supporter of this awareness day that promotes positive youth development, resilience, recovery, and the transformation of mental health services delivery for children and youth with serious mental health needs and their families.
Click here for more information.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Premier Grade Inflation?

In Sunday’s AJC, there is an extensive article about grade inflation at the high school level. The AJC reporters use the need for remediation at the college level as the proof that grade inflation is pretty much rampant at some GA high schools. In addition, the AJC found that schools with huge differences in the percentage of students, who pass a class, yet fail the EOCT had the highest remediation rate at the college level.

Of the 20 high schools with the highest remediation rates in Metro Atlanta, 10 are from DeKalb! Three of the bottom five are DeKalb schools. (I even excluded Open Campus, since it is so different.)

DeKalb County Schools’ spokesperson is quick to subtlety blame teachers, by saying “the district encourages all schools to teach and grade rigorously. Teachers are supposed to teach the state standards and use benchmark tests to check whether students are learning what they should.” No mention by Davis of how difficult DCSS makes it for teachers to fail students.” I consistently hear from teachers and administrators how difficult it is for teachers to fail students. I know that parents are a big part of the problem – complaining about a “B” let alone a “D” or “F.” But social promotion is still a huge part of the academic culture in DeKalb schools and that is reflected in our dismal college remediation rates.

Curry, the graduate of Redan High in DeKalb, said that when he struggled in high school math, one teacher offered him an easy opportunity for extra credit. “My teacher was like, ‘I know you want to graduate, so if you just do this one project, you can pass,’” he said. He did. He ended up in remedial math, too.

And Kathy Cox makes no sense with this doozy, “But she also said teachers at times misunderstand what administrators are trying to accomplish when they question harsh grading. Teachers are misinterpreting a lot of what these principals are trying to do,” she said. “These principals are trying to get teachers to grade based on the standards. If a child goofs off for part of the semester, then shapes up later, for instance, what’s most important is that he or she can do work up to state standards, Cox said.”

I question why she doesn’t think it is a negative for a principal to question a grade at all, especially if the grade reflects the fact that the student goofed off and didn’t do all the work. I find this statement terribly indicative of why we struggle to find young employees with decent work ethics.

The article, which is very lengthy, can be found here.

The specifics by school can be found here. If you want to see the entire list, simply leave the words select in both categories and the entire chart comes up.

Thanks go out to the anonymous blogger who sent us this via email.

Notes from DeKalb Community Cabinet Meeting on 5/2

Dr. Lewis and six members of his leadership team spoke at the monthly DeKalb Community Cabinet meeting on 5/2. Following reflects my best recollection of topics discussed:

-Dr. Lewis opened by discussing the tragic death of Jaheem Herrera. He began with a timeline. He initially found out about Jaheem’s death on Friday, 4/17. At the time, he understood it to be a suicide. He learned of the bullying allegations possibly being tied to Jaheem’s death while he was attending an out of town conference. He remained in touch with his staff throughout the week but wanted to speak on behalf of the district in person.

Dr. Lewis shared that retired Judge Thelma Moore has been asked to perform an investigation of the events surrounding Jaheem’s death. He indicated he expected the investigation to take about 30 days. Dr. Lewis wanted someone outside the district to perform this to reassure the community of the independence regarding the process. He reminded the community that there is a lot of information that we do not know about this situation. Dr. Lewis requested that the community let the process work. He also mentioned reaching out to Ms. Bermudez and hopes to meeting with her shortly.

Two interesting points came up later in the meeting. It seems some children are participating in the ‘choking’ game. This is where children may choke one another and attempt to choke themselves in order to get a ‘high’. A question was also raised about Jaheem not living in the Dunaire attendance zone yet attending that school. I want to be clear that these are points that were simply raised as discussion topics. Dr. Lewis was adamant that the investigation must be performed with any action taken based on the findings.

-Dr. Lewis also addressed the proposed Marine Academy. He shared many points that have already been discussed about the academy. Though a choice option for any student, it hopes to offer opportunities for underserved, at risk students. He emphasized that this is not a recruiting school. DCSS will be the first system in the nation to have this type of school. Las Vegas, NV is expected to have the second. The school will have at most 150 students during the first year, all 9th graders. He expects to add a grade per year. The school will have at most 650 students once all grades are added. It will be a college preparatory program, requiring all prospective students to pass Math 1 prior to admission. Dr. Lewis expects there will be some ‘hiccups’ but expects the staff to get them all resolved.

Other topics discussed during the meeting were:

-On May 11, the National School Safety Center will visit DCSS.

-Dress Code – Efforts will be made to be more aggressive in this area. The community was informed that if 85% of a school votes to have uniforms, that can do so. They were also reminded that they could also send their children to school wearing a uniform, regardless of the school policy.

-Principals – There is a plan to redeploy, demote, or terminate principals, where needed. Dr. Lewis mentioned moving principals that have consistently demonstrated leadership skills and moving them to schools that have historically had leadership voids. Wants to ‘Redistribute the Leadership’. Also commented that discipline will be part of the measurement criteria for principals.

-Cell phone – there is a desire to ensure cell phones are turned off or eliminated from schools.

-Old Chamblee MS – commented that the explosive growth formerly seen in south DeKalb is projected for the Dunwoody area. There is an expectation that this site will be used to provide some type of relief in that area.

-Tilson ES - this school was consolidated into the new McNair Academy. It was mentioned that DCSS is considering converting this to a Pre-K academy, and perhaps serving children as young as 1. Commissioner Larry Johnson was mentioned as a government official DCSS is speaking with regarding this initiative (I believe this is in his district).

-Arabia Mountain – mentioned this school is 2 points from being gold certified LEED school (How about that O&T???). There is a move to have this school become gold certified over the summer. Hybrid buses were mentioned as the possible mode of transportation for this school.

-Comprehensive Restructuring Plan – Final tally is this resulted in a 25.7 million dollar cut to the budget. Included in that are 217 positions eliminated from the central office.

-Budget – This is the seventh consecutive year that the school system has not raised taxes. There is a 1.32 Billion dollar budget that is proposed and awaiting board approval. 851.1 million of that represents the general operating budget. No layoffs are expected for the 09-10 school year however there will not be a step increase for employees. School nurses were mentioned however I don't recall the context of the comment.

-Stimulus Money – DCSS expects to receive about 52 million dollars over two years for Title 1 and IDEA. These funds cannot be used in general operations.

DCSS expects to receive about 23 million dollars from the state stabilization fund for the 09-10 school year. When you factor in the 37 million dollar cut in state revenue, this represents an overall cut of 14 million dollars.

-MIS Initiatives – There are three primary initiatives:

1) New Grade book application. Starting next year, elementary schools will have real time information.
2) Login ids to Instructional Data Management System. This will provide a longitudinal view to student data. It will provide historical data, curriculum resources, etc.
3) Ecommunications – real time information that can be sent to a smart device of what is going on in the school system. This is subject to board approval.

It is also mentioned that students will walk into a 21st century media center during the next school year.

As you can see, a LOT was discussed during this meeting. Again, this represents my best recollection of what was shared.

Another tidbit from another meeting, several board members discussed they would like to see two positions restored to the central office, a Senior Internal Auditor and Director of Planning. Both positions were approved by previous boards however were eliminated due to them not being filled as a part of the restructuring.