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,


Anonymous said...

Dr. Lewis has a problem then...
today's article in the paper.

Two of the memos were addressed to Dunaire principal Carolyn Thompson, who on Thursday denied any knowledge of the letters. She said the teachers were not instructed to write them but refused further comment.

“These letters are a slap in the face,” said Gerald Griggs, the attorney for Jaheem’s mother, Masika Bermudez. One, however, could prove damaging to the school, Griggs said.

A “prevention intervention statement” from Ernest Brown, Dunaire’s school culture chair, confirmed that Jaheem was targeted by antagonists in the school bathroom just before Christmas.

Bermudez said her son briefly lost consciousness after the attack, but Brown writes that “Jaheem went to sleep during the altercation with the other student as the student put him in a sleeper hole[sic].”

“That’s a nice way of saying he was choked,” Griggs said.

Anonymous said...

How do you know the other student was not defending himself?

Kim Gokce said...

Dr. Lewis did mention "the choking game" and cautioned parents that many children are doing this and to take it seriously. It wasn't clear to me whether he was hinting that this activity is somehow related to Jaheem's case. His comments were in the context of a question from audience member asking how to bring an awareness program to DCSS about the "game."

Also, as an fyi - I added a few more points this AM because I missed a page of notes last night.

Cerebration said...

Great report, Kim. Thanks for posting your notes.

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that the Ernest Brown in charge of "school culture" - actually a Prevention/Intervention specialist (paid over $60k per year) - is not the same Ernest Brown who ran for school board against Gene Walker and lost. Anyone know for certain?

That said - I've never heard anyone described as going to "sleep" during an altercation. But this part of the report was not in the print edition of the AJC - only the teacher denials were in print. Could they be catering to 2 different audiences?

Anonymous said...

This "choking" game is for real, we well as an uptick in children "cutting" themselves. Just 2 more things for parents to be aware of.

Anonymous said...

I know Ernest Brown and he works in the software business. This obviously is another person with the same name.

pscexb said...

Kim, great report! Hopefully others will do the same when they attend school/community meetings such as this. More insight is shed with these summaries than what one would find in the AJC or other neighborhood papers. This is the age of the 'citizen reporter'.

Interestingly, my wife mentioned Jeheem's mother was on the Frank
Ski radio show (V-103) yesterday. She mentioned hearing Jaheem's mother indicate she has not heard from anyone at the school system. If true, this is contrary to what Dr. Lewis said at the Saturday meeting. Given she has a lawyer, I can understand the district 'managing' direct communications with her however Dr. Lewis explicitly indicated he reached out to her and was hopeful of meeting with her soon.

Cerebration said...

Thanks for clearing up the Ernest Brown "double" issue, Anon. I was pretty sure the Ernest Brown I've heard speak at Board meetings - the one who ran for school board - wouldn't describe someone who was choked to unconsciousness, "asleep"...

So what's up with Dr. Lewis? Seems he's pulling the defense card in every situation. He called the Heritage community "misinformed" as well. Now, how can they be properly informed if no information is forthcoming from the administration until a public meeting - where he calls everyone "misinformed"?

Calling people "misinformed" when you haven't communicated to them is arrogant.

Cerebration said...

"He wants to focus less on "choice" programs and reverse the emphasis in these areas recent Boards have been driving."

That's interesting - since he's implemented two new - very expensive - "choice" programs (Arabia and the Military Academy) - and pumped millions into DSA.

They have graduation coaches in Middle School? Didn't know that.

Glad to hear he's planning to "crack" down on dress codes - no pun intended -- and glad to hear he's cutting Central Office Staff (we'll see) and increasing parent programs.

Lakeside only needs a total reno and an auditorium/career tech addition only - not 28 classroom additions (will there be any land left there?) - the only reason they need additions is because they have had to take on literally hundreds of transfers. Thin out the transfers - and you don't need the additional 28 classrooms. Obviously, the plan is to send even more transfers to Lakeside.

Redovian asked the same poignant question at the Board meeting - and Lewis said YES - we can implement the America's Choice in all schools (money to fund it is initially coming from ARRA - then will be picked up by Title 1) - it's crazy that the Title 1 schools get so many good programs and attention over non-Title 1 schools. Last year, DCSS took in over $30 million in Title 1 funds -- big bucks!

Cerebration said...

Plus - one more comment - it was completely inappropriate for Dr. Lewis to insinuate that Jaheem himself was the bully - that's actually outrageous. That's so unenlightened and close-minded - like a response from the 1940's. Say -- what about this - maybe Jaheem attempted to defend himself on occasion - and that's what teachers witnessed. Bullies are clever - teachers rarely witness their actions - ask any expert. A kid trying to defend himself is not trying to be sneaky and usually gets noticed.

Anonymous said...

Wait until the final report from Judge Moore before passing judgement in this case. Assuming that what you read in the papers or see on TV is "the truth" is a mistake.

Cerebration said...

Agreed there. I'm not rushing to judgement - just trying to point out that Lewis' public comment was out of line.

Let's hope this investigation doesn't move as slowly as the Pat Pope investigation...

Cerebration said...

Here's another news story about students from a DeKalb County high school that Dr. Lewis has not responded to -

Police: Ammo found on teen outside Decatur school
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, May 07, 2009

Police say a large group of teens believed to be armed led to the lockdown of two schools in downtown Decatur.

As many as 30 or more teens approached the entrance to Decatur High School around 3 p.m. Thursday, while students were in class, police said.

A bus driver who didn’t recognize any of the young people as students there, called the school resource officer who called Decatur police.

When officers approached, the teens scattered and ran, but police caught eight of them, Decatur deputy police chief Keith Lee said.

“One had ammunition in his pockets, which made us concerned that there were weapons” brought on the campus, Lee said.

Police ordered Decatur High and Renfroe Middle School, about a quarter of a mile away, locked down around 3:30 p.m., City Schools of Decatur spokeswoman Maria Lewis.

About 55 minutes later, students who ride the bus or go home by car were permitted to leave. Students who walk were detained at the school until about 4:50 p.m. when police cleared the scene, Lewis said.

It’s uncertain why the teens came to Decatur High, Lee said.

Decatur Police said no students were injured, but they were taking precautions and looking for several teenagers seen outside the high school.

Lewis said she could not release any details, but said no Decatur students were involved.

Lee said the teens who were detained were believed to be students from DeKalb Alternative School, nearly six miles away in Stone Mountain.

An automated phone system has called parents to report the lockdown. Students walking home were also ordered back to the building, parents said.

About 775 students attend the high school and about 500 students attend the middle school, according to the Georgia Department of Education.

Anonymous said...

Cere, those two schools technically are Decatur City Schools, not Dekalb County Schools.

Anonymous said...

In my mind, to accuse Jaheem of being the instigating bully is to suggest that a rape victim deserved to get raped.

Anonymous said...

Anon, although Renfroe and Decatur H.S. are not in DCSS, the AJC reports that the "large group of teens believed to be armed," leading to the lockdown of the two schools "were believed to be students from DeKalb Alternative School, nearly six miles away in Stone Mountain."

Cerebration said...

DeKalb Alternative HS (where the 30 students causing the lockdown came from) is part of DCSS -

"The DeKalb Alternative School serves 4th through 12th grade students who have been expelled from their home schools. DeKalb Alternative School employs a staff of 72 people, including a faculty of 43 certified teachers who average thirteen years instructional experience. "

It's a totally different school from Open Campus. We also have these alternatives in DCSS - DeKalb Alternative Night School, DeKalb Transition Academy (for those returning from incarceration), DeKalb Truancy School (for those with attendance problems), Destiny Academy (for at-risk youth) and several other specialty programs. Of course, we will soon have a military academy as well.

here's the link to their website

Anonymous said...

Actually, the article indicates that they "believe" (not confirmed) the individuals detained were from the Alternative School. The article does not state that all 30 individuals were from the Dekalb Alternative School as officials would not know that since only 6 individuals not detained.

Cerebration said...

ah! Check this out -- communication from the superintendent! (Of Decatur schools)

Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Edwards updates the community about yesterday’s school lockdown and gives details about proactive steps being taken to protect CSD students.

Dear CSD Parents,

Yesterday one of our bus drivers noticed a large group of students, not from our schools, coming toward the high school from the area around the MARTA station and coming up from behind where we park the buses. I have heard reports that there were anywhere from 30 to 50 students. Fortunately, a crisis was averted because of the quick thinking and action taken by our staff members and CSD?s School Resource Officer Cameron Coltharp. Around dismissal time, Officer Coltharp notified Mrs. McCain-Fernandez and Mr. Roaden that the middle school and the high School needed to be locked down.

Contrary to some rumors, there was nothing going on inside the schools. I have heard that some students inside of DHS called their parents and reported that there was an active shooter inside the school. This was not the case. Sometimes cell phones can be a lifeline however, it is important for you to talk with your children about two things in this respect; 1) cell phones in use can jam frequency for the police and first responders and 2) information given that is just conjecture causes more panic.

At no time were the students in the high school or the middle school in danger. The buildings were locked down to ensure that the group of students approaching the school did not make their way into the building as the police went after them. Therefore, students were not released until we were absolutely certain that it was safe for them to go outside.

One of the students taken into custody was determined to be in possession of some type of ammunition, but no gun was found. Taking precautionary measures, the police chief ordered in the dogs to determine if any weapons could be found on campus. Students were released after it was confirmed that there were no weapon on the grounds.

When we received the word that it was safe to dismiss, the students were released to ride the bus and this was done in order by floors at the high school. We then turned our attention to the car riders and the many parents who were waiting to pick up their children. We apologize if this seemed to take a long time, but we were trying to get students out by calling their names in groups over the intercom system – then releasing them to their parents. While everyone is sympathetic to the concerns of the parents in this type of crisis, it is important that everyone remain as calm as possible as our first priority is for the safety of the children.

From the beginning of the crisis, I was in constant communication with Chief Booker, Officer Coltharp and our two principals. The chief, the SRO and I were all at the high school and on site as this was unfolding. Our principals and school administrators did a fine job of keeping things calm and orderly. Thanks to Mrs. McCain-Fernandez, some middle school students who were released before Mr. Roaden received the order to lock down, were gathered up from outside and taken into the cafeteria of RMS for their own safety. She and the other administrators should be thanked for their quick thinking. We used our emergency calling system, eblast notification and website to first inform parents that the two schools were in lock down. While frightening information to receive, I would certainly want to know this as it was happening rather than wonder why my child was not home on time or if they were out roaming the city during a crisis.

In response to this incident, our school resource officer has already been to the Alternative School in DeKalb and has had a conversation with the Chief of Security. A message was read over the intercom for those students stating that if anyone comes on to the Decatur High School campus, they will be arrested for criminal trespass. The MARTA police have been placed on alert and the Decatur Police assured me that there will be an increased police presence around the school.

Please know that the safety of your children is our utmost priority. It is sad that we have to deal with situations like this but since we must, I am glad that our people worked so diligently to maintain the safety and security of the students. We will certainly debrief this incident with our staff and the police department so that we can learn from this incident.


Dr. Phyllis Edwards, Superintendent

No Duh said...

Just as a point of information, Maria Lewis, the spokesperson for Decatur Schools, is Dr. Lewis' daughter. And before anyone goes ballistic over "Daddy getting her a job," Maria has a very impressive resume -- even right out of college -- and is a bright and articulate woman. Very hirable.

That said...

It will be interesting to know if this was gang related. Sounds like it.

The principal gives only a slight nod to the bus driver. Seems to me the quick thinking was the bus driver's. I'd be more interested in knowing her/his name than the SRO. The SRO was doing his job, the bus driver was performing above and beyond, IMHO.

Ella Smith said...

I have heard that the media might have totally blown Jaheem's situation way out of proportion. I have heard that Dr. Lewis may have a right to be upset.

I am so sad that this happened. I am so sad that Jaheem was so depressed that he felt he had no other option but to take his life. I am sad that he had no one he felt like he could turn to but even I feel like I might have been too impulsive to have jumped to conclusions with the recent information I have heard.

Dr. Lewis is a human being and shows emotions just like the rest of us.

Cerebration said...

Here are some of the names from Leadership DeKalb

DeKalb County School System
Audria Berry
Yolanda Brown
Gale Thomas
Debbie Torbush
Marcus Turk

For the listing of graduates by class go here

No Duh said...

Come on now y'all.

You call Dr. Lewis a coward for not addressing the situation for a week (even though we knew he was out of town).

You call him a coward for hiding behind privacy laws.

You call him defensive when the media have allowed Jaheem's mother to dominate the story (the media KNOW the county will not share confidential info so they KNOW the story they are perpetrating is one-sided, but they shoot and show it anyway).

You call him ignorant because he indicates that Jaheem MAY not have been as innocent a victim as we all have been led to believe. The investigation is on-going.

You say bullies are very good at the game. Bullies also play great victims, too. The moron who interrupted the Press Conference about his poor maligned daugther is in complete denial about his daughter's (and son's by the way) role in their warped social abilities. Every teacher at the school would tell you (if they could) that his daughter is a HUGE bully, who taunts kids until they retaliate and then his kid cries "Foul" and the truth is ALWAYS denied by his kid. Classic he/said, she/said. A viscious cycle.

Did Jaheem do this same thing? I DON'T KNOW. And, neither do you.

Cerebration said...

Very interesting response, no duh. You're right about one thing - none of us knows for certain exactly what happened. Even Dr. Lewis doesn't know for certain and his ethics as superintendent should ensure that he not speak out against the boy in public. He should be held to a higher set of principles - at least that's what he claims in other cases.

Take for instance, the Pat Pope investigation - he won't speak about it except to say that it should be resolved in a week (that was last Dec 6.) So using his logic about speaking out - I will assume that it's ok for Pat Pope to start publicly defending herself against these very public accusations - however vague they are. IMO, she has suffered more in that situation than Dr. Lewis has in this one. To make public charges of some kind of legal impropriety, take her computers and then insist that she continue to do her job with a dark, ominous cloud over her head - while dragging the process on for months is horrible.

IMO - he can really dish it out - but he sure as heck can't take it. And - it's his job to take it. He should not be publicly discussing this case, period. Same as he won't discuss Pat Pope's case.

Kim Gokce said...

... and I thought the attendance lines, consolidations, and re-redistricting would have been the hot topic :).

Frankly, I felt a bit uncomfortable with Dr. Lewis addressing the subject of Jaheem Herrera. However, I interpreted his comments to be a request to wait for all the facts.

He clearly has more information than he is going to share at this point but felt compelled to caution everyone from taking the story as told in the media to be 100% accurate. Probably good advice, yes, but the hint that the victim was less than pure was in poor taste in my opinion.

I wouldn't read too much into the comments beyond that.

Ella Smith said...

I totally agree with Kim. First of all the school board has had a meeting just on the topic. The school board attorney has advised all of them not to discuss the situation at all with anyone. Secondly, I am ashamed of myself for jumping to assumptions and believing everything that was said without knowing both sides of the story. In a situation like this regardless of what really happen the mother will project the total blame at the school system. She is not going to take any blame for the situation. This is her baby. She is angry. She probable cannot even think clear right now. But, she has said horrible things about the school system. I am not saying they are true or false as I do not have all the facts but I do think it would be also totally unfair to take everything the mothers said in her current state of mind as facts in the case. This is how she preceives the situation in her current state of mind and she has just lost her son and is very angry and is putting the blame on the schools. Are they responsible. Maybe. Are they partial responsible. Maybe. Is she responsible. Maybe. Is she partial responsible Maybe. This was a great story to run with and the press ran with it, just like the bombing at the Olympic Park. This time it may be a school system
reputation that was damaged nationally instead of an individual. If this happens and it is our school system that would be very sad.

It will be interesting to see the new lines. I will bet that Sagamore Hills and Leafmore are in the Lakeside District. I sincerely hope they are. Does anyone want to make any bets with me? Don promised this when he ran and I am sure he had made deals to make sure this happened.-----

Ella Smith said...

I also have heard that the bully group that Jaheem was afraid of, was a drug related group at the school and they went around bullying everyone and not just Jaheem. Many students were supposingly afraid of these students. I have heard the choking game was involved regarding the bathroom incident and that Jaheem did do his share of bullying at school but he was afraid of this group of students like about 200 other students at the school.

I also know that the educational legislative committee at the state are very concerned about this incident and this is also how I know that the school board have met and are not allow to talk about it. This was the total discussion at the Republican Breakfast this morning. I still attend both parties events as I intend to run poltically again sometime in the future. I did not attend this morning. I oversleep but was filled in by a friend who did attend.

Cerebration said...

What "horrible" things has she said? This is what has been reported in the news --

Jaheem was bullied.
His best friend and sister concurred that this was the case.
His mother says she went to the school several times to get help.
Jaheem took his own life.
Dr. Lewis didn't contact the mother because he was out of town (apparently where there's no phone service.)
Other parents are stating that their children were also bullied at this school.
His best friend's mother took her child out of the school due to bullying.
No one has still reached out to Jaheem's mother.
When she retrieved his belongings, some one had cut pages out of his journal.
He apparently didn't get help and now no one knows anything about it and the teachers have written letters stating that they never witnessed bullying.
There is a principal, 2 assistant principals, 2 counselors and a "prevention/intervention" specialist at this school of 650 elementary students.
Haven't heard if any of them ever admitted that Jaheem's mother came for help or if they ever spoke with Jaheem or if any of them have reached out since his death.
The Prevention/Intervention Specialist admitted that Jaheem was choked to the point of "sleep" in the restroom.
Now, we're hearing about a problem with choking games being played - in general - thereby inferring that this is what went on with Jaheem.

We are all simply stating here that these programs, and these administrators are unable to keep the bullying and destructive behaviors at bay - and are unable to protect children while at school apparently. This is not the only school in DeKalb with issues with violence and bullying. The programs and administrators need to be revisited. Personally, I have a problem with someone who calls being choked to unconsciousness, "going to sleep".

Maybe we need some marines in every school.

Cerebration said...

I think the program Oprah had at least proved that this is not simply a DeKalb County school problem. There were several things pointed out on her show that were important - first, this kind of bullying (calling him gay, etc) is sexual bullying and is extremely hard on boys. Second, there are certain people who are targeted by bullies and they can and should be trained to stick up for themselves and taught how to project an air of confidence that will state (with their body language) that you can't mess with me... they need to be taught that they have personal space that is not to be invaded and they need to be taught how to respond to bullies (through role-play) - and most importantly - as we've discussed - we need to train ALL children to report incidents that they witness. Bystanders need to learn how to help.

Cerebration said...

As far as the other points made by Dr Lewis -- good notes Kim - I shoulda gone - I didn't know it would be so interesting!

1. Transportation Plan to be fully implemented in the coming year. (Do you mean the magnet buses continuing as a hub service?)
2. He wants to focus less on "choice" programs and reverse the emphasis in these areas recent Boards have been driving. (I don't understand - Dr. Lewis seems to be the one implementing the choice programs - ie: Arabia, DSA and the Military Academy)
3. He would like to see an end to busing programs from "the doorstep." (Isn't this the same as #1 - ending magnet busing and using the hub?)
4. He wants to focus performance efforts on high schools and characterized them as the "hard nut" to crack. (Yep - they've all been saying that a long time.)
5. CIP will benefit from $59m returned from other projects canceled/deferred and unexpected savings on bids coming in. (Hurrah! Smart move!)
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. (What do they plan to spend it on? It's only for Title 1 and special education.)
7. 28 room addition is coming to Lakeside. (Not so sure Lakeside needs so much space - unless he plans to continue to send hundreds of transfers.)
8. Redistricting, Attendance Lines changes, and consolidations are coming - get ready! (We really can't comment on this unless we know the plan can we - how about redistricting MLK, Lithonia and Miller Grove to include Arabia as originally planned?)
8. He touted 217 position cuts with 95% coming from Central Office. (Hmmm - I'll believe it when I see it - does he mean cuts or jobs not refilled due to attrition?)
9. Programs will be cut (Sounds good.)
10. He says DCSS will soon unveil an "unprecedented" parent engagement program. (Good idea!)
11. "Crackdown" on dress code coming. (Good idea!)
12. 10 buildings will be repurposed, leased or for sale very soon. By Jan 2010, buildings A and B will be unoccupied. (Good idea!)
13. No planned improvements to athletic fields but he did say in response to question, "Something must be done about North DeKalb Field." (Maintenance - now there's an issue that needs dealt with.)
14. America's Choice is coming to 20 schools (with Redovian saying why not 40? All?) Discussed this already... IF it's such a good program - why only for Title 1 schools?

Cerebration said...

Here's a very interesting thing I learned at a talk at Lakeside given by Chuck Wade, President of "Drugs Don't Work". He says that interestingly enough - most drugs are consumed not by students but by adults who work. The solution has been then, to drug test workers. Many companies - especially construction companies have taken advantage of the program because in 2002 (I think) Sonny Perdue signed into law that if you participate, you qualify for a 7% savings on your Worker's Comp insurance premiums.

But guess what?!! The Teachers Union sent 7 lawyers to speak to Perdue before he signed the law and threatened a lawsuit unless he exempted teachers. So - he exempted teachers. If he hadn't - imagine how many millions the school system could have saved by now on workers comp premiums.

He did say - if something like 85% of the employees agree, then the system can opt in to the program. Now - do you think our teachers would opt in? Do you think they would hold themselves to the same standard as the kids? No drugs - none. It could save the system millions over years.

Just a cost-saving idea from yours truly.
Check out his website for more info -

Ella Smith said...

Celeb, I do think our school system should be accountable. I am super opposed to bullying, and I know you know that, but I am concerned that all the facts can not come out due to the legal situation and I think this is not fair to the school system. I have heard such conflicting things from individuals who really should know and I do know the pain the family must be in right now. This is a horrible and there is nothing we can do to bring him back but we sure can try to make sure it does not happen to another child. I just feel the school system has the right to be innocent until proven guilty and we can discuss it but we need to keep open minds.

I would love to see teachers drug tested. There would probable be some problems. Some of our best and brighest could be in trouble and may have to stop smoking pot. Many adults do use drugs particularily pot.

Recently, North Springs got hit hard and it is hard to talk about it. One of our most talented teachers had pot in his car and the drug dog bursted a teacher. How ebarassing for the teachers and for our school.

Anonymous said...

And, this should surprise no one, the mother is filing a lawsuit against DCSS and the Dunaire principal. Wonder how much money she is after.

Cerebration said...

She'll have to get in line -- there are a lot of people suing DCSS. We spent over $12 million in legal defense last year alone --

I'm not saying it's the school system's fault that Jaheem committed suicide. In fact, if I were on a jury, I would be hard-pressed to assign fault. However, I think that there are big lessons to be learned here and one is - our programs and our people are ineffective. A new plan needs to be hatched. But even so - children, on occasion, commit suicide. As a teen, I babysat a darling girl from when she was 2 years old, who as a high schooler, committed suicide. It was terrible. She had wonderful parents. Their lives were destroyed. There's no one to blame. A person who takes their life is in deep despair and sees no other way out. It's simply horrible from every angle.

But bullying can be better addressed and I do think that the leadership at this school was (and is) in denial that they had a bullying problem.

Our society is one big train wreck sometimes.

Ella Smith said...

I do totally agree.

The DeKalb County School System never admit doing anything wrong. Instead they spend as much money of the taxpayers' money as possible so they do not have to admit guilt. I do know this. I have watched this happen for years. But, I would like to see evidence presented before I judge the school system after all the information through back doors I have heard.

Dekalb has many self-insurance policies like workers comp. and they will do whatever necessary not to spend money on their employees. They have their own doctors who answer to them. I have experienced their workers comp. first hand when I got hurt by a student and I get up every morning with my should hurting because the school system did not spend the money to repair my shoulder correctly. They sent me to therapy for one year as it was cheaper. Several of my doctors could not believe the care I got. They will do anything to safe the school system a few dollars. It is very disrespectful to their employees.

The truth is the taxpayers might be better off paying money to the family verses paying money to the attorneys put the attorneys will not tell the school system that. I agree with Shayna that the school system would benifit from an In-House Attorney or an attorney on retention to advise the school board and the school super. WE spend too much money on attorney fees per hour. My husband is an attorney and the best deal for companies is monthly retainers. He is on call 24/7 to answer their questions and to do their business but he does not charge them by the hour.

No Duh said...

The Jaheem tragedy is a lose/lose for every entity that could have touched his short life.

Even after the investigation is complete and the results are known, we will be arguing about which side is lying and/or covering up.

For example, did anyone else notice that Ms. Bermundez told the AJC that on the afternoon Jaheem hung himself, he got off the bus complaining about the bullies and begging not to go back to school -- she told him to go upstairs and watch T.V. She then told Oprah that Jaheem handed her his report card as soon as he got off the bus and she high-fived him. So, which is it?

That choking game is real and our school's PTA sent out info about it last year. Just to make parents aware of it.

Kim Gokce said...

@cere: "7. 28 room addition is coming to Lakeside. (Not so sure Lakeside needs so much space - unless he plans to continue to send hundreds of transfers.)"

See Ella's offer to bet on the future attendance lines of Sagamore, etc ... I thought that was interesting and it fits nicely with new classrooms :).

I wish I knew the answers to the rest of your questions - we'll have to piece the details together over time.

Sight Edman said...

Little yellow oaths of loyalty...

The fourth amendment prohibits the government from suspicionless drug tests except in jobs that directly and seriously affect public safety. However, that has not prevented the government from compensating private sector organizations (IE: companies) for suspicionless pre-employment screening--P-Tests. Not GCMS but cheaper--profitable--metabolite testing. Apparently this one degree of separation is all that is required to satisfy the letter of the fourth amendment, but it is hard to believe this satisfies the spirit.

What the gov may have concluded is that an "imminent risk to public safety" defense of P-Tests for teachers might not survive a court challenge, especially when teachers are government employees.

It's just plain wrong anyway. First, it only means the employee was "clean" on or about the time of the test. Remember, almost no company does random, suspicionless postemployment testing--that would cost too much and might eliminate half the staff. Second, if public school employees can adequately perform their jobs while stoned, then there is a bigger problem. And finally, if they need to be stoned to even face the day...

Cerebration said...

Kim, I cleaned up your posting for you. I didn't know that you couldn't edit your own posts -- I guess I hold all the power (you want it?!!) Anyway - thanks for letting me know that you thought your post was going down the wrong rabbit trail. I'll try to be a better moderator.

In a way, though, I hated to remove some of the anonymous comments, because they were so insightful as to how we are viewed by some. I'm always surprised - but not shocked.

So - clean it up people - use your nice words here - they always make your point more clearly - we can all act like adults having a thoughtful conversation, right?


Kim Gokce said...


Thanks, Cere. I can edit my original posts but not to moderate comments.

I would love to hear from anyone, Anonymous, or otherwise, who has an opinion about any topic published here. I encourage everyone to passionately and energetically express their opinions in any dialect they choose.

But name-calling and hate have many homes and we don't need to feel obligated to offer hospitality to those who trade in it.

Anon.1208: Hate someone? Fine. Tell us all the reasons why. But do not paint a hateful caricature of them online just so you can inspire uninformed hate in others.

Cerebration said...

It was reported on Fox 5 news tonight that Dr. Lewis would be announcing the results of the DCSS investigation into Jaheem's death one week from today.

Cerebration said...

In addition, to take action on his spoken initiative to move high performing principals and teachers into low performing schools, word from Lakeside is that the principal Ms. Moton is being moved to Lithonia HS. Also the principal of Druid Hills HS is being moved to MLK HS. Some APs and teachers will follow.

Cerebration said...

Here's the link to the AJC article about the investigation.
Also, the family lawyer said on Fox 5 that Jaheem's mother went to see the principal 8 times about the bullying. When asked what was done, he said, "nothing".

Cerebration said...

Here's another interesting tidbit -- we'd better get some of our failing schools up to snuff or Obama's coming after them.

Obama wants to turn around 5,000 failing schools
AP Education Writer
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama intends to use $5 billion to prod local officials to close failing schools and reopen them with new teachers and principals.

The goal is to turn around 5,000 failing schools in the next five years, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday, by beefing up funding for the federal school turnaround program created by the No Child Left Behind law.

Obama doesn't have authority to close and reopen schools himself. That power rests with local school districts and states. But he has an incentive in the economic stimulus law, which requires states to help failing schools improve.

Duncan said that might mean firing an entire staff and bringing in a new one, replacing a principal or turning a school over to a charter school operator. The point, he said, is to take bold action in persistently low-achieving schools.

"Our students have one chance — one chance — to get a quality education," Duncan said in a speech Monday to the Brookings Institution think tank.

"If we turn around just the bottom 1 percent, the bottom thousand schools per year for the next five years, we could really move the needle, lift the bottom and change the lives of tens of millions of underserved children," Duncan said.

In particular, the administration wants to fix middle schools and high schools, focusing on "dropout factories" where two in five kids don't make it to graduation.

Anonymous said...

Arnie Duncan, new head of federal Dept of Education, closed tons of schools in Chicago and opened a lot of charter schools. According to a good friend who lives there it has been very controversial and she says that there is much debate as to whether his actions have resulted in an increase in test scores or drop in graduation rates.

Also, I am very interested in any additional information on shuffling of principals. How about Dunwoody or Chamblee?

Cerebration said...

The article does point out that Obama doesn't have the authority to close schools, states and school districts have to do it. But he intends to withhold stimulus money to those that don't do as he would like.

Also - that's all I know regarding principals. They post these jobs pretty quickly after they announce the opening so check the job listings at DCSS website.

themommy said...

I heard yesterday that Steve Donahue is leaving PCMS for a job in the central office that can't be identified yet publicly.

This isn't surprising. I think Donahue has some stregnths but I hope that PCMS gets a real instructional leader this time around.

Cerebration said...

I just checked the jobs site and these are the schools with openings for principals

Elem -
Allgood, Browns Mill, Woodridge

Middle -
Miller Grove, Peachtree, Sequoyah

Columbia, Druid Hills, Lakeside, SW DeKalb

Also listed, math, English and Spanish teachers at Druid Hills

Cerebration said...

This is interesting - from the Schools Matter blog -

Laura Varlas wrote this about another presentation at the recent Education Writers' Association conference:

"In a later panel, University of Chicago professor Charles Payne presented data from his latest book, "So Much Reform, So Little Change", which emphasizes the importances of maximizing schools' social capital, and how many reform efforts neglect this keystone to supporting any lasting improvements.

"Payne said in schools with low academic achievement, building high levels of trust makes academic improvement three times as likely than in schools with low levels of trust among educators and students. He cited a ten percent improvement in graduation rate in schools where students say they know and trust their teachers.

"The way schools are being closed in Chicago has eroded an enormous amount of social capital by not including parents in the process. These parents care about their kids and schools, and have been marginalized by people doing things for their children, without including them in the process."
It can't help the level of trust, either, when the entire school staff is fired and replaced. Illogical.
What to do instead?

We agree with Dr. Mathis and will forward his recommendations on to Obama and Duncan:
stop expanding the number of charter schools and relying on takeovers, privatization and other restructuring efforts for school improvement, and
focus on making sure that all schools have adequate resources and support so that they can improve, and support such proven strategies such as early education, smaller class size, small school communities, intense personal intervention, and strong counseling and social support systems.
If you would like to voice your opinion to Obama and Arne regarding their plan to close 5,000 schools, here's their contact info -

You can e-mail the President at
Here's Arne's contact info:
Primary Phone:
(202) 401-3000
Principal Office: (OS) Office of the Secretary
Department of Education Organizational Structure and Offices
E-Mail Address:

Cerebration said...

Watch for reports on this upcoming meeting - try to catch news of what this team decides and then let your opinions (whatever they are) be known to the addresses given above.

Education Equality Day:

A Call to Action to help close the achievement gap

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
Former Governor Roy Romer
District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty
Education Equality Project founders Rev. Al Sharpton & Chancellor Joel Klein
Special Musical Guest and others

Join Strong American Schools as we support the Education Equality Project on the 55th Anniversary of
Brown v. Board of Education
White House Ellipse
May 16, 2009


dekalbparent said...

Having a problem getting onto NY Times website, but I wanted to post David Brooks' column that ran in the AJC this past Tuesday. It's about the Harlem Kids' Zone in NYC which has had great educational success. Brooks says it's all about attitudes and expectations(of students, of teachers, of families)

Will keep trying to get link or copy of column.

Steve Barton said...

dekalbparent: While you are trying to get that link to the David Brooks column, read these - Non Sequitur of the Week and On Being a Killjoy.
All the best,
Steve Barton

Dekalbparent said...

OK, here's the problem: it isn't the David Brooks column per se - it's an article I read about 6 weeks ago citing an experiment that was done in New York - it may or may not have been at HCZ.

The point of the article (not-PC alert here) was that the cultivation of "middle-class values" made the difference in the outcome for the kids. These were families of very young children (2-3 years old) who volunteered for parent coaching, and they were given techniques like consistent discipline, boundaries, care and attention from both parents, family traditions, reading to the kids, taking them to the park and playing with them, the importance of quiet time (and later on, homework time), attending parent conferences, belonging to PTA, attending school performances and games, etc. The parents were reinforced for doing things this way.

Maybe I'm sounding like Pollyanna or Bill Cosby or just some cranky old coot, but to me it was worth considering.

Cerebration said...

yep, you're right - it was the Harlem's Promise Academy- I remember reading Brooks' column too -

here's a clip -

Over the past decade, dozens of charter and independent schools, like Promise Academy, have become no excuses schools. The basic theory is that middle-class kids enter adolescence with certain working models in their heads: what I can achieve; how to control impulses; how to work hard. Many kids from poorer, disorganized homes don’t have these internalized models. The schools create a disciplined, orderly and demanding counterculture to inculcate middle-class values..

Cerebration said...

Apparently, the program (Harlem's Childrens Zone/Promise Academy) has suffered - due to investors being ripped off by Bernie Madoff.

However - once again, Obama comes into play with plans to replicate the program all over and creating "Promise Neighborhoods" based on the model -

Cerebration said...

If you would like to listen to the creators talk about the program, you can watch a discussion (a pretty long one) here
Harlem Children's Zone is America's most ambitious and closely watched effort to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. HCZ aims to create a "conveyor belt" for Harlem's poor children, a series of rich and effective supports-from a "Baby College" for parents, to an all-day pre-kindergarten and extended-day charter schools, to health clinics and community centers, all the way to help in succeeding in college. Together, these efforts aim to give poor children the stimulation and the opportunities that most kids growing up in middle-class neighborhoods receive from birth. This year, HCZ will serve 8,000 children living in the 97 block Zone. The initiative has been featured on 60 Minutes, the Oprah Winfrey Show, and in the New York Times Magazine.

Policymakers have long talked about the lessons of HCZ for anti-poverty policy nationwide, and now there are proposals to replicate the HCZ model nationally. This panel brings together Geoffrey Canada, HCZ's President and Chief Executive Officer; Roland Fryer, a Harvard economics professor and the founder of Harvard's new Education Innovation Laboratory, a major effort to identify and evaluate promising approaches to closing the achievement gap; and Paul Tough, a New York Times Magazine editor and the author of the new book, Whatever It Takes, a critically acclaimed look at HCZ in the broader context of American poverty and education policy. They will talk about HCZ's experience to date and its implications for national policy.

Cerebration said...

Back to the discussion on moving principals - I noticed two things. First, the description of Lakeside HS demographics on the job posting is wrong. (It says 50% white, 28% black and 19% Hispanic and Asian - and it's actually 41.2% White, 35.3% Black, 12.3% Hispanic, 8.2% Asian and 3.3% other)

Second - the job posted May 14 and closes May 20 - pretty cursory job posting for jobs this important, IMO.

Anonymous said...

Call Terry Segovis' office to complain about both things. Also, you may want to tell your board members your concerns about the timelines. (Ask them both, Womack and McChesney, if they plan to resign now that their main objective has been accomplished! Opps, I guess Don has to wait until he gets that little slither of Sagamore sent to Lakeside... but maybe, just maybe Paul has accomplished what he set out to do?)

Lakeside Parents and teachers nned to be diligent about making sure that the pool is deep enough to catch enough qualified candidates. If I googled the school and did some research, I am not sure I would want the job, though. I am betting that this time it will go to an in county person.

Most people who are looking to be a principal probably have all their documention ready. It is only a problem for someone who was only interested in becoming a principal if it was at a certain school, know what I mean?

Open+Transparent said...

"the job posted May 14 and closes May 20 - pretty cursory job posting for jobs this important"

With a posting period that short, it clearly means that the Central Office has already picked who they want to be the next principal at Lakeside. Blatantly unethical, but unfortunately, not illegal.

Cerebration said...

I agree, O&T. I also take issue with the description of Lakeside at the posting.

First, as I said before, I noticed that the description of Lakeside HS demographics on the job posting is wrong. (It says 50% white, 28% black and 19% Hispanic and Asian - and it's actually 41.2% White, 35.3% Black, 12.3% Hispanic, 8.2% Asian and 3.3% other.) It concerns me that this data was published incorrectly, as it seems deliberate, considering that both the Lakeside website and the school districts own planning department correctly state that the school is only 41% white and 35% black. So, why did DCSS admin wrongly post it as 50% white, 28% black? I'm sure they'll just say it was a simple error. But how could they make that kind of error when the data at their disposal clearly says something different?

Why would the school system mislead applicants (or worse, voters in South DeKalb) to think that Lakeside is still half white? What purpose does it serve to publish the data as 50% white and 28% black? None, other than to maintain the race-based north/south politics that continue to erode our system.

Further, I noticed that the data on the job posting states that the school is 19% Hispanic and Asian (combined!) Why would they present this data as combined? Why not publicize that the school is 12% Hispanic and 8% Asian? These groups are not similar and should never be combined, which I see as disrespectful and dismissive of any other minority groups other than blacks.

Open+Transparent said...

Cere nails it again, and I love her for it!!!

Anonymous said...

The school council actually selects the principal for their school in Dekalb, so DCSS can't exactly put whomever they want in the position. Granted, DCSS does put forth 4 candidates for the council to interview, but the council can select whichever candidate they like. The council can also go back to the system and request more names.

themommy said...

The system doesn't really work that way. In my experiences, generally speaking, there is usually one,maybe two, acceptable candidates. Often, the rest are poorly qualified and inarticulate. This is probably on purpose, the system wants you to pick who they want you to pick.

But be careful, I know of a principal (soon to be former) that wasn't the clear choice of the systems, but the school council really didn't like the one that DCSS thought was a shoe in for the job. They picked another one and this person turned out to be totally horrible.

The worst part of the story -- parents at the school where this person was an AP knew all along that this person wasn't cut out to be a principal.

In the system's defense, though their representatives on the interview committee did nothing to disuade the council from choosing this person, this person only lasted two years and is being demoted.

I also know of many cases where the school councils have asked for more candidates, only to be told no -- rank the ones you have.

I think we have been misled at times to believe that there is always an abundance of applicants for each principalship. In the last year or so, I know of two GOOD schools that each got less than 30 or so applicants (and they weren't all qualified). For assistant principalships, there are always a ton, but apparently not so much for principalships.

Anonymous said...

I was told the same story that the Mommy told prior to sitting on a panel. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to have four well-qualified candidates from which to select. I don't know which was the 'DCSS' pick, or if we selected the one we were supposed to pick. They all had strengths and it was a difficult decision.

themommy said...


I am glad your experience was a postive one. That is good to hear. However, most parents who have sat on the panels across the county do not feel this way.

In hindsight, after learning that there were so few applicants for som principalships, the problem may not be that the system is trying to rig the process but rather the panel candidates are representative of the applicant pool.

DeKalb County doesn't have a good reputation as a place to work. I think we especially see the impact of this at the administrative level.

Anonymous said...

"However, most parents who have sat on the panels across the county do not feel this way."

Broad statement...any data to back this up?

"DeKalb County doesn't have a good reputation as a place to work."

Again...any data?

Cerebration said...

I'm just concerned about the fact that the job was only posted for 6 days. Does the system not employ head-hunters? Do they post jobs on professional sites that post education jobs?

No Duh said...

Just started reading Whatever it Takes. Should be interesting, but like it was mentioned, the project has been heavily (in the millions) financially backed by one person -- a billionaire. From the book:

"Stanley Druckenmiller, a legendary Wall Street hedgefund manager who for the last six years had been the chairman of the Harlem Children's Zone's board of directors. Druckenmiller was extraordinarily wealthy; his personal fortune of $1.6 billion landed him that year at number 356 on Forbes magazine's list of the richest individuals on the planet."

Book was published in 2008, so project could be tanking financially (thank you Bernie). Seems like the kind of thing that may work in a place like Harlem (defined by city blocks, walking distance or short bus rides between school and other services). Can't see it working in a zone as haphazardly laid out like Cross Keys district, for instance.

Plus, Atlanta's billionaire Bernie is more interested in fish. (that is not a knock to our world-class aquarium).

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:35 a.m.

I have two friends who are very experienced public school teachers in other metro counties. Both have said that they will never work in DeKalb county despite the fact that DCSS pays more and might be a closer commute.

When I asked why, they said that the central administration is very weak and is full of unqualified and overpaid individuals who obtained their jobs through patronage.

Unfortunately, that is the perception outsiders have of the school system.

Anonymous said...

The in-house DCSS Jaheem investigation report comes out Wednesday.

Anyone want to bet that the Central Office comes out smelling like roses, and if anyone from DCSS is called out, it's the school's staff.

themommy said...

Anon 9:35

Almost without exception, the parents I have met from across the system have felt that the interview process was rigged or the candidate pool was disappointing. There are clearly exceptions, of course, and I hope that this next round of interviews will be better.

Ask a board member (one that will be honest) about the challenges that DCSS is having right now in attacting and retaining high quality staff.

Cerebration said...

Interesting to note: Commissioner Sharon Barnes-Sutton (who replaced Burrell Ellis on the BOC) is involving herself in the schools.

She introduced a motion at a recent meeting to move $40,000 from somewhere else in the county budget into a new "intervention" program she is creating through her office that will identify at risk students and reward them with $1,000 for taking college prep classes/exams. The other "block of 4" supported this. This was introduced from the floor ...not on the agenda.

Although we've posted info on this program in the past, at the time, I thought it was a private or grant-based initiative, and didn't realize it was coming from our BOC. I also didn't realize that it actually pays these students to basically, attend school.

Is this a supportive initiative for schools - or is it a vote-getting agenda for Ms. Sutton? Perhaps, it is even both. What do you think?


DeKalb Co. Commissioner Sutton Launches Youth Leadership Academy
Sutton: Enrichment and education will reduce crime, youth violence

For Immediate Release
April 27, 2009
Media Contact: Valerie Grigley – 404-371-4907 -

WHO: Developed and led by DeKalb Co. Commissioner Sutton. Partners include: the DeKalb County School System, the Metro Atlanta YMCA, DeKalb County Juvenile Court, the Georgia Department of Labor, DeKalb District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming and DeKalb Solicitor-General Robert James.

WHAT: Press Conference Announcing the Youth Leadership Academy: A two-year program for 10th graders. The program promotes conflict management, communication, academic achievement and leadership. The project demonstrates that youth, when given guidance and educational opportunities, are less likely to partake in criminal activities.

WHEN: Tuesday, April 28, 2009, 11a.m.

WHERE: Manuel J. Maloof Center, 1300 Commerce Drive, Decatur GA 30030


# # #

Anonymous said...

Cerebration, you do realize Commission Barnes-Sutton is a teacher in DCSS? She formerly taught at King and recently was a part of DeKalb Online Academy. One would hope with her education background, she would be sensitive to bridging to Commissioners and Board of Ed members to work together for the community.

Cerebration said...

Yes, Anon, and I'm glad you brought that up because I meant to include that in the post, but -- brain cramp.

Anyway - she is a business teacher I think.

Here's an article about the program from CrossRoads News --

Cerebration said...

I think this funding should come directly out of the juvenile justice account. After all, this is where the long-term savings will occur when we keep students on the path to a diploma.

Anonymous said...


For tomorrow's press conference, expect Crawford to not accept one iota of fault by Dunaire staff or Central Office staff. If the judge, whom Crawford is paying $350per hour for the investigation, does find any fault, the Central Office will put any and all blame on Dunaire staff.

No one making the sweet Central Office salaries of over $100,000 will ever take any blame for anything as long as Crawford is superintendent.