Saturday, May 2, 2009

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.


Cerebration said...

Great report, psc. Thanks for sharing. I was very, VERy happy to read that Dr. Lewis is using an outsider to investigate Jaheem's bullying and death.

I was also very pleased to hear that he was going to release bad principals and rearrange strong ones. I thought I had heard him say this at the Military Academy meeting. Glad to hear him sounding much tougher than in the past. I know he is sick of the baggy pants syndrome (aren't we all?)

Glad to hear him admitting that the growth trends are in Dunwoody (Lakeside too).

Glad to hear he's cutting some admin -- he needs to keep it up. Lots of work there. The budget has grown under his leadership far beyond the cuts he has made. Much more work to do here. I know he doesn't like to see people lose jobs - but this is a good opportunity to reduce the drag and get rid of the bad employees.

Sounds like it was a long, productive meeting!

Cerebration said...

Also - I noticed in an AJC article that Jaheem's family had recently moved from Stone Mt to an apartment in Avondale. The article said that his mother was looking forward to him being able to attend a new school in the fall. I think she thought that if he could just finish up this last month or two at Dunaire - things would get better next year. I assumed from the article that he was just finishing up the year at Dunaire - which, if true, makes this all the more tragic.

pscexb said...

The point about the family no longer living in the Dunaire attendance zone made many in this meeting uncomfortable. My interpretation of the 'facial expressions' were, if your child was being bullied and you no longer lived in that attendance area, why continue to send your child that school? Again, my point is not to point fingers as I will also be very interested to hear the results of the investigation.

The point about the family no longer living in the Dunaire attendance zone was brought up by someone else during the Q&A section of the meeting. Dr. Lewis had 'no comment' to that comment.

Cerebration said...

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

Which students - where? Lakeside, Cross Keys, Chamblee?

Anonymous said...

I hate to be picky here but is Dr.Lewis still saying Math 1-- because as has been pointed out before, that very few 8th graders in DeKalb are taking Math 1. The course they are taking is Math 8. Math 1 is high school course offered to a very select group of students who show the promise and the ability to take two years of AP math type classes in high school.

Did he or his staff say when applicaitions will be available for the Marine school? What about an an update on the actual enrollment at Arabia Mountain?

pscexb said...

Anon, you are right to be picky. I believe this is still one of those 'slip of the tongues' that happen with the renaming of the math curriculum. I believe Math 8 is what a student needs to pass before being considered for this program.

Cere, Ms. Tyson mentioned that 5 million dollars will be spent in all media centers in the district. That preceded the statement about 21st century classrooms.

Cerebration said...

oh - so are they planning to evenly divide the $5m - that would be almost $35,000 per school! Or will they do another "needs assessment"? At any rate - that's a nice injection of money for technology!

pscexb said...

I did not want to get too 'technical' but Ms. Tyson also mentioned the school system is moving to 'thin client technology'. As I understood her, this means using a 'cheaper' machine to access a central server. Software would only be loaded on the central server thus saving the district a LOT of money. That savings would go towards purchasing more thin clients thus providing keyboard access to more students.

I mentioned they discussed a LOT at that meeting. :)

Anonymous said...

It is a set amount of technology for each Media Center.

Here is the Board Item that was approved.

Go to the March agenda to see the item if the link doesn't work. Media Center Upgrades or something like that is the title.

Cerebration said...

Well what Anon is referring to is called the Career Tech HS Lab upgrades, at this link - Is this part of the $5 million package you are referring to or is it something different, PSC?

The Career Education department has actively worked to replace 60 labs across the middle and high schools over the last three years through local and state funding. MIS partners with Career Education to assist with the technology upgrades. MIS is responsible for the installation, configuration, technical support, and project management services for the technology upgrades and Career Education (Instruction) is responsible for the curriculum and instructional program.

Requested Action
It is recommended that the Board of Education approve the purchase of hardware, peripherals, and infrastructure components from various Bid/RFP and state contract vendors to provide technology upgrades for 16 labs in ten high schools at a cost not to exceed $800,000.00.

If you download the supporting document, you will see that this approved agenda item will add a total of $800,000 in technology (about $30k each) only to the following schools --

Avondale HS

Chamblee HS

Columbia HS

Lithonia HS

Miller Grove HS

Redan HS

Stephenson HS


Towers HS

Tucker HS


If it's part of an overall program, can you show us the list of similar purchases for the remaining HS's?

I'd like to see an audit of the total amount spent, on what and where - I truly hope you will follow up on this for us, it's very confusing.

pscexb said...

You got me there Cere, regarding the specifics how how that will be funded. This was a high level discussion.

Ms. Tyson did mention an additional 6 million dollar allocation for technology from the CIP (see item #22 in the 5/4 Board meeting agenda).

Cerebration said...

Let's see if we can't ask Ms. Tyson for a report - or an audit - nicely at first, without an Open Records request. I'd really like to see where this money is coming from, how much and where it will be spent and on what. I'm sure they know this internally - it would just be good to share with the principals, parents and taxpayers. I don't mean that we should have to fish through the board minutes and piece it together on our own - I mean, a comprehensive audit/report spanning several years. This is a lot of money and transparency and equity is required.

After all, as an example the city of Atlanta has somehow come up missing $11 million. I'm not saying anyone took it, but money does have a way of dissipating (quickly) if it's not very carefully monitored. What is it the accountants say - Mind your pennies and your dollars will take care of themselves.

Cerebration said...

I found this

Career Technology Labs
Start May 6, 2009
Finish June 30, 2009
Status 0% Complete
Project Manager Fitzroy Williams
Sponsor MIS and Career Technology Ed
Under the Capital Improvements Plan (SPLOST3), the MIS department with the Career Technology department, will replace workstations, printers, furniture, network and electrical infrastructure in 16 Business Education and Engineering Technology labs in 10 high schools. The project will also provide for additional technology equipment to upgrade 11 middle school technology labs. The deployment will begin May 6, 2009 and will conclude on June 30, 2009.
AND a Powerpoint -

Revised 6/2/2008
Technology Allocations
• Reference:

• Priority #15 and #27

• Total Technology Allotment: $29,418,581.00

Technology Initiatives
• Existing Facilities Technology Refresh
• Media Center Upgrades
• New System-wide Technology Initiatives
• New Schools & Additions*
• Career Technology*
*Funding inclusive to the construction budget.

And this 169 page plan -

along with this statement for the future

State Technology Plan 2009-2012
January - May 2009 (development)
June 2009 (Seek BOE approval)
June 2009 (Submit GADOE)

I didn't find budgets attached to these plans but I still think that maybe this plan is different (since the overall budget is $30M) from the $5M mentioned at the meeting. It's very confusing to me.

Cerebration said...

FYI - Cross Keys is on the Agenda for tomorrow's Board of Education meeting --

17. Cross Keys High School CM/GC @ Risk Contract Award
Presented by: Ms. Patricia A. Pope, Chief Operations Officer

And --

1. Parent Resource Centers Re-Grand Opening, 10:00am, Saturday, May 16, 2009,
(Atherton ES, Avondale MS, Cedar Grove MS, Chapel Hill MS, Columbia MS, Cross Keys HS,
EL Miller ES, Fairington ES, Jolly ES, McNair MS, Sequoyah MS)

Anonymous said...

As I read the postings and the DCCS information on the website, all this discussion about technology upgrades is for stand alone labs and for schools that already have the SPLOST III Career Tech rooms. This does not seem to be destined to provide modern technology in the academic classrooms, which is very much needed.

Is any of this techonology money going to the regular classrooms so our teachers can stop using overhead projectors?

If you tour Arabia Mtn then go to Chamblee, Lakeside or Cross Keys, it is pathetic.

Ella Smith said...

This is correct regarding ancient equipment. At North Springs we have smartboards in every classroom in the fall and we also have not only computer labs but carts of computers and Apple IPOD Touch as we have a new wireless network throughout the school. I see none of these things in my sons high school at Lakeside High School.

On another note I was so shocked to received a choice program brochere from the Dekalb County School Board to the Parents of my son regarding Arabian High School. I received the brochere on May 2 in the mail which was suppose to be the day of the lottery which made no sense to me. It also made no sense to me to spend all that money sending out brocheres to try to get students from our area to attend. I do not know if everyone in the area received one or if I received one because Austin is Gifted and Talented and an Excellent Math Student. It was soooooooooooo strange. Maybe the School System is not getting the numbers of students they thought they would get which want to attend the new Arabia High School. Again, I do not understand why they needed to spend such a large amount of money to promote this school.

pscexb said...

Cere, I got more information regarding your earlier question about the media center upgrades. Go to the March 9 Agenda and take a look at Action Item #7. This expenditure was approved by the board at that time. I understand the work will begin this month and continue throughout the summer. This is being funded by SPLOST 3.

Cerebration said...

Thanks - I think that's the one we've been discussing - so what she was referring to as 21st century media centers is the list included in SPLOST - the total funding for this looks to be about $30 million. The action item for technology at the March meeting was for $800,000.

If you download the supporting document, you will see that this approved agenda item will add a total of $800,000 in technology (about $30k each) only to the following schools -- Hopefully, the remaining high schools will get the same package - or maybe they already have (?)

Avondale HS

Chamblee HS

Columbia HS

Lithonia HS

Miller Grove HS

Redan HS

Stephenson HS


Towers HS

Tucker HS

pscexb said...

Cere, the Career Tech lab upgrades are addressed in Action Item #8 for 800K. The Media center updates are addressed in Action Item #7 for just under 5 million dollars. there is an attached spreadsheet called Media.xls detailing what each school is scheduled to receive.

Please forgive me if I misunderstood what you were asking.

Cerebration said...

oh! no - please forgive me for being so thick -- I guess this item is very confusing to me... I'll check it out -- thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information psc. I re-read what the Board approved. Item 7 is technology to be installed and allocated to the media centers/libraries.

Item 8 is new computer stations in "career labs." For example, these new computers go in the engineering/computing classroom at Chamblee HS.

None of this is destined for the regular classroom. While the older schools need these upgrades, this will not help many of the teaching staff. The teachers at Chamblee, Lakeside and Cross Keys will still be teaching Math I, Math II, Chemistry, etc. with overhead projectors. Might as well be using stone tablets.

There is also some technology money rolled into the stimulus package (ARRA) but who knows when or how that might be distributed. It really should go to the schools that have the least/oldest technology.

Anonymous said...

Arabia Mountain - What is happening? Psc, do you know the scoop? In today's mail we found a brochure inviting us to send our children to this school? (I remember Ella also got one). Obviously, the county has not been able to fill the school despite several extensions of the application date.

It appears to be a beautiful school, chock full of technology and with a capable new principal and some attractive programs. For anyone who lives in S. DeKalb- what is the issue?

And surely the DCSS would not start the school year with empty spaces when other schools in the community are overcrowded?

No Duh said...

"And surely the DCSS would not start the school year with empty spaces when other schools in the community are overcrowded?"

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,....

Cerebration said...

I can't wait to find out how many actually enroll by start date. This has been my beef all along. They pulled a bait and switch. This school was first promoted as a solution to the over-crowding at MLK, Lithonia and Miller Grove. I have posted the quotes on this blog to prove that, however, the Board will try to insist that "no" this has always been planned as a "magnet" school - although they don't say magnet - that wouldn't be fair - plus SW Dekalb is a stone's throw away and how could they build another magnet school so close to one already in existence? They are only offering 600 open seats to relieve area schools - the rest will be filled by application. I guess it must be such an amazing school that they had to make it available countywide. So now they say it's a "choice" school - but it's not - because you have to apply and enter a "lottery" - and you can't transfer there as a NCLB transfer. It's another magnet school - and the over-crowding at MLK will not be fixed. So - we'll have trailers at MLK and SW DeKalb - each less than 5 miles away - and Arabia's halls will have an echo.

Why? Because we don't NEED another "high-achiever" special magnet school. We NEED a school to relieve over-crowding in that area - as was promised and the reason the idea was approved. If I lived there I would be so upset.

ps -- The military academy will go the same low-enrollment - low interest route - betcha.

Cerebration said...

Bottom line -- we didn't need Arabia and they're trying to cover it up. We could have survived with additions to MLK, Lithonia, Miller Grove and SW DeKalb. They say that the growth projections have changed and growth has slowed and that's the reason - but that is also not true. They addressed the growth projections in the area twice -- one solution being the additions - and one solution being Arabia.

In the end - they approved them all.... now they have wisely decided not to to add on to Lithonia - but if they used Arabia to relieve over-crowding as originally planned (taking another 1000 student from the area by redistricting) - they wouldn't need additions to MLK or Miller Grove either.

pscexb said...

Scoop as I understand with respect to Arabia Mountain. Though there was a lot of 'interest', it did not result in a lot of applications. I understand they got the expected numbers for 9th grade however did not for 10th & 11th hence opening the application process up again.

Though many are raising legitimate questions about the number of HS seats available in the district, I want to remind everyone that Arabia Mountain was a SPLOST 2 project, that was approved in the earlier part of this decade. Even when they began construction on this school, Lithonia, MLKing, and SW DeKalb were overflowing with trailers. Partly due to NCLB transfers along with the housing crunch, we've seen both shifts and decline of students in that area. I drove through those areas recently and can still see cleared sites for housing. If the housing market rebounds (with construction lending becoming available first), it is fair to 'assume' we will have sufficient seats in place in those areas.

Cerebration said...

psc - do you "read" yourself? There was growth happening so we built a high school. There was growth happening so we planned additions to 3 other high schools (even though the new high school would take care of the growth) - the growth didn't happen - but it might someday in the future - so let's build anyway!

Oh - are there people in other parts of the county who could use that money to fix up and add on to their already over-crowded schools (with no new school in the area being built) -- ? Hmm - isn't there a list of "Priorities"?

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is accurate to characterize Arabia Mtn as a "magnet" school. It is a "choice" school that includes a very tiny magnet program for environmental and engineering.

Cere, PSC is correct that the brochure is soliciting students for the 10th and 11th grades in the "career technology" programs.

But my gripe is that the magnet program is so small I wonder whether it can be effective or worth the cost.

And given the overcrowding at other nearby schools, it is irresponsible for the DCSS to not redistrict the area to direct these students to this wonderful new facility. The students can be offered the option to proceed with the standard college prep curriculum or focus on one of the career development programs. Also, these students would receive bus transportation which can be important to parents struggling to keep jobs.

Cere- I agree with you on the Marine Academy. Surveys should be done to determine how many parents will definitely send their students before spending a penny of taxpayer money.

pscexb said...


At 10:50 you said,

There was growth happening so we planned additions to 3 other high schools (even though the new high school would take care of the growth)I believe that is where there is a LOT of misunderstanding. Based on projections used for Southeast DeKalb, Arabia Mountain was expected to 'help' with the student population in that area, not address all the needs. The additions planned for Lithonia, Miller Grove, and MLKing were planned on top of Arabia Mountain opening, because projections at the time clearly indicated a need.

Should this be revisited? Of course, that is why the Lithonia project was deferred. It is also probably fair to ask about the projections for Miller Grove and MLKing along with the justifications for continuing those projects.

Just something to consider, if students leveraging AYP transfers 'went home', would there be enough room/seats in their home schools? This is where that Title 1 report showing students in an attendance zone can be helpful.

Cerebration said...

psc, I disagree. I maintain that the growth (even as projected at full development) was doubly addressed. The demographer made recommendations with no knowledge of the plans to build Arabia. In fact, Arabia was a well-kept secret for a very long time during SPLOST 2. Now the story is that ALL of this construction was needed - Arabia AND the additions recommended by the demographer. I just don't think so. If you want to, please re-read the old thread highlighting the growth projections, along with the fact that either the additions OR Arabia would relieve the projected growth. We never needed both.

In fact, the demographer projected more growth in the Dunwoody, Lakeside, Tucker corridor - but no additions were planned except some classrooms to Dunwoody - and certainly, an additional high school was never planned.

And as far as what to call it - we can't call it a magnet - although it partially is. We can't call it choice either - because that's what we call schools on the NCLB/AYP transfer list. So - what DO we call it?

Please read the original report with an open mind.

Cerebration said...

You do make a good point about the AYP transfers. If anyone had bothered to maintain data as to where these kids are transferring from - to where - and why - we could quickly answer this question, "would the schools in south DeKalb be over-flowing if the AYP transfers went home?" (Well, all of the transfers - AYP and all other kinds.)

Why do they continue to transfer? What's wrong with the S DK schools? What's the appeal of Lakeside, etc? Why don't the board reps do more to encourage students to stay in their neighborhood schools? Why, instead, do they continue to fan the flame of the "divide" - that old imaginary north/south divide - feeding the political fire so that certain people can get elected by promising "equity" and "bringing the (imaginary) money from the north to the south"... it's really wearing thin.

No one is applying to Arabia - Dr. Lewis needs to honestly figure out why. My theory - your own board reps politics have soured people's confidence that they can get a good education in S DeKalb.

Think about it -- why else would he put the military academy in a little tiny elementary school near Lakeside? Location! If it's even 'near' Lakeside - it must be better than anything in South DeKalb!

Molly said...

Why do they continue to transfer? What's wrong with the S DK schools? What's the appeal of Lakeside, etc? It is simple. Parents want to send their children to a school that is succeeding academically. Lakeside, Chamblee, Dunwoody and DSA consistently beat the national average for SAT scores. Druid Hills comes close. All other DeKalb schools can't even meet the much lower state average. Chamblee, Lakeside, DSA and Dunwoody are the only high schools in the county where fewer than 20% of graduates require remedial classes in college.

As much as I sympathize with concerns about overcrowding at Lakeside, I would much rather send my kids to a crowded school with a poor physical facility that to a pretty new building without any academics to speak of.

No Duh said...

"As much as I sympathize with concerns about overcrowding at Lakeside, I would much rather send my kids to a crowded school with a poor physical facility that to a pretty new building without any academics to speak of."

Tucker High School is going to have a beautiful new building and what sounds like a strong push from the parents to become a charter school. Should be interesting to watch it play out.

Enjoyed Henderson Middle School's Honor's Day Celebration for 6th grade. It's the largest 6th grade class ever --550 kids(a quote from Ms. Allen, so she could have meant since she's been there.) More than 100 of these 6th graders are AYP transfers. Such fun to look out over the faces of the 300 or so students who were being honored for their academic achievement. A sea of shapes, sizes and colors. I looked over at the 250 kids who weren't being honored. I saw a sea of shapes and sizes.

Is it the school?

Cerebration said...

So - what is wrong with the schools in South DeKalb? I don't understand why they perform so poorly that so many people transfer out. What is going on? I think you could easily compare SW DeKalb to Chamblee and come up with pretty strong academics in both magnet programs - but what about the rest?

Do they have bad teachers? Bad principals? Bad students? Bad parents? What? Where are all the students who used to go to Miller Grove? They've literally lost HUNDREDS in the last 3 years. Why do the parents not scream and yell?

Doesn't anyone care?

pscexb said...

Well said Molly! And welcome if you haven't posted before. At the end of the day, it comes down to parents belief on where they believe their children can get a quality education. In fairness to board members, they have openly pleaded for parents to remain in their home schools. The construction is primarily to get students out of trailers.

Over the years, DCSS has made it 'easy' for students to leave their neighborhood schools for others in the district. It simultaneously created an 'entitlement' mentality and a belief that some schools were inferior to others. They have tried rotating teachers (early 90's) and now will consider rotating principals.

We know the 'magic formulas' for schools to succeed. You must have strong parental and community involvement. It must be a safe environment that has high expectations for all students. Teachers must feel they have the support of their administrators and parents with respect to discipline matters. Students come prepared to learn. Unfortunately some of our schools lack some or all of these qualities....

Cerebration said...

So these schools don't have strong parental or community involvement, they're not safe and they have low expectations for all students. Teachers don't feel they have the support of their administrators or parents with respect to discipline matters and students aren't prepared to learn.

That's the problem?

No Duh said...

And how is rearranging the principals going to solve all that? Even if the principal sets the tone, etc.

Cerebration said...

Thanks for the clarification, Psc.

As far as low-achieving schools where parents think the only solution is to transfer --

I am just wondering if the "issues" - whatever they are - are being honestly assessed and honestly addressed. The schools can never improve if the solution is to just let the parents who have the initiative transfer their students out - leaving the students who have parents who are not as vocal or assertive.

The schools should all provide a quality education - regardless of whether or not the parents are "involved" - I'm pretty tired of hearing that it's all up to the parents to advocate for their kids or to make their school good.

If some schools need intense attention - then let's give it to them. Let's not leave some kids to play Russian Roulette with their education - depending on whether or not their parents know about transfers - or "choice" programs - or whether the child is a "high achiever".

Molly said...

Tucker High School is going to have a beautiful new building and what sounds like a strong push from the parents to become a charter school. Should be interesting to watch it play out.Tucker will have a pretty building and great athletic teams, but parents who care about academics will still be looking at Lakeside. Parents will be wondering why 38% of Tucker graduates who go on to college need remedial courses, compared to 12% at Lakeside. Or why Lakeside has average SAT scores are 287 points higher than Tucker.

The schools should all provide a quality education - regardless of whether or not the parents are "involved" - I'm pretty tired of hearing that it's all up to the parents to advocate for their kids or to make their school good.Amen to this.

Cerebration said...

Good points, Molly. If you're going to go by Lakeside stats - like college remediation - then here's one that I think is critical for anyone considering a transfer -

Lakeside consistently begins a freshmen class with at least 500-550 students.

Only 300-350 make it to graduation.

pscexb said...

Cere, there are some schools in DCSS that could 'love' to have numbers like that. Could you imagine what those numbers look like at schools that do not have the academic reputation of Lakeside?

I am curious what happens to those students at any school? I wonder if a Lakeside freshman transferred to Druid Hills then graduated would be counted against Lakeside? We need to understand ho

pscexb said...

Before I 'fat fingered' my keyboard, I was going to say we need to understand how those statistics are determined.

Cerebration said...

That's the thing. No one really knows what happens to these kids - because no one tracks them. When kids leave no one asks where they were going or why. They simply hand over their documents in a sealed envelope. (I"ve heard that they have outlawed this practice and files must be sent directly to the new school so this may help with tracking - IF anyone writes it down.)

Anecdotally, I can say from what I've witnessed, that many leave and go to private school - but many also leave and go to Open Campus.

The point is - just transferring to Lakeside for high school isn't going to ensure success - and certainly not a diploma. They are operating at maybe 60% or so completion in four years. I don't find that remarkable.

No Duh said...

"The schools should all provide a quality education - regardless of whether or not the parents are "involved" - I'm pretty tired of hearing that it's all up to the parents to advocate for their kids or to make their school good."

However, no matter how great the school, teachers, curriculum, principal, etc. if the school is populated by students who don't value education (assuming it's because their parents/guardians don't) what is the system to do? You can't kick the non-performing students out like in private school. And you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

As long as America/DeKalb has pockets of citizens who dismiss education (even devaluing it sometimes, unfortunately) as a waste of time, public schools within those pockets will remain merely warehouses and babysitting facilities.

It's too bad DCSS doesn't set high standards (premier standards) and stick to them. You do know teachers are not allowed to give out 0's. Why not? Without consistently applied high standards, we'll never really know which students want to achieve and which ones don't. I mean, how low can the bar possibly go?!

No Duh said...

And, here's an idea...

Instead of offering determined students a way out of their districted school, how about kicking out the undetermined kids?

If you don't or won't (can't is a different matter) perform at a certain level, you will HAVE to attend "ABC" school. We will bus you there and everything. But, you will not be allowed back into your districted school until you reach a certain standard of performance. ABC School is not a CHOICE school or a MAGNET school or a THEME school. It is the ONLY school for kids who won't or don't perform. Is the school a hellish place? Yes. Is it a warehouse for students? Yes. Is it unfair to students who can't help who their parents are? Hmmmm...I guess that's something the student will have to figure out for him/herself.

This way, taxpayers who value education, can be assured their students are attending school in an atmosphere conducive to learning.

Unfortnately, until the County sets and rigorously applies the SAME ACADEMIC STANDARD in EVERY school NORTH AND SOUTH, our districted schools will never be able to best provide our proactive students with what they need and want to succeed.

Oh, and this way, public school can remain a right. And for some kids, even a privilege.

Cerebration said...

You know, I've had an "aha" moment. I'm discussing why Lakeside isn't the panacea it's made out to be, while you are all telling me that students from schools in South DeKalb are scrambling to get in to Lakeside to escape the bad parenting, bad communities, bad teaching, lack of safety and unmotivated classmates.

We're talking apples and oranges - but the "aha" is - wow - just how bad is it in South DeKalb? I think our administration needs to take a long, serious, honest look at that. They seem to be relying on Lakeside (and Dunwoody, Chamblee and Druid Hills) as their "fix". If that's the case - then it's time for a new leader. We need a leader who will tackle the problems head-on, not pass them off to another community and then pat himself on the back.

Leslie said...

Does anyone know when or if elementary schools will "vote" on the uniform rule. Who votes exactly? Current family members of students? How is this vote carried out? Any details would be appreciated.

pscexb said...

Leslie, welcome to the blog! Tell you friends about it too...

I would suggest checking with the principal at your school about uniforms. Tell them you heard about the '85% rule' from comments made by Dr. Lewis if they are unaware of this.

You could also send an call or send an email to Dr. Frankie Callaway as I believe she 'owns' this from a central office perspective.

Let us know how your research turns out....

pscexb said...

I meant tell your friends about the blog, Leslie....

themommy said...

There was, I believe, a preliminary survey done for each school. I wonder, if the survey showed lukewarm support for uniforms, if the school would go to the next step. I know of at least one school that sent home paper ballots -- to all the current families. This was about a week ago and I just checked with my friend and they hadn't heard the results.

Remember, that DCSS can't force your child to be in uniform accept at some charter and/or theme schools. Though I know from friends whose children attend schools where uniforms are optional, most kids want to participate. I know that Austin Elementary school, which has an optional uniform code, has about 80 to 90 percent participation.

Lefty said...

I know that all the elementary schools in the Oak Grove area sent home surveys regarding surveys. This was in response to the non-binding referendum on last November's ballot:

"Should DeKalb County Board of Education require that students in kindergarten through fifth grades wear school uniforms?"

For what it's worth, the referendum was put forth by a state legislator. I can't remember who -- anyone else know? The YES response was pretty strong on the referendum.

So schools send out the survey and an 85% positive response lets the school implement a uniform policy. But families can still opt out, so it's not a perfect situation.

There was also a recent electronic survey that some schools sent out by a DCSS Task Force to take a look at dress: Uniforms vs. Dress Codes (meaning dressing in set school colors but no specific brands or styles) vs. Appropriate Dress (meaning stringent and monitored enforcement of current Student Handbook rules with the addition of barring "cleavage" and "flip flops or croc-style shoes").

Cerebration said...

It's "deja vu all over again!" Were you all here when we did this before? The "evil" Johnny Brown attempted to implement uniforms but of course, found out that legally he couldn't. Parents and students found out as well and the whole thing fizzled out by spring break.

Let's see - was that 2002?

Lefty said...

I don't think the uniform thing will fly systemwide. They're leaving that up to individual schools. But with the discipline crackdown that the BOE envisions, I heard that enforcing appropriate dress could become a part of a principal's evaluation criteria.

Cerebration said...

Interesting -- maybe the BOE is growing a backbone! Here! Here! to tougher discipline - and to tougher dress codes!! Can't say enough good things about cracking down!! You go - BOE!!!

Anonymous said...

For us to have better discipline in all schools, we need communities to demand it.

From the surface, it sure sounds like Dunaire had a serious discipline problem, regardless of what may or may not had happened in the bullying case. However, I think it has a community of parents who don't feel empowered and probably live in a pretty tough neighborhood, where understand the norms has become difficult.

Many years ago, I attended a board meeting at a S. DeKalb High School, I honestly can't remember which one. I commented to a stranger about what a beautiful campus it was and his comment back to me was, "yes, but right now we have a problem with adults coming into our school and pulling students out of the building and beating them."

I missed the public comment so I have no idea if any parent addressed school security that night or not. But if this was happening at Dunwoody or Lakeside, do you think the community would stand for it.

We have some really incompetent principals in this school system, who have no ability to administer a school. However, because the parents at those schools don't complain, it is possible that even the board member representing the school doesn't know how bad it is.

Anonymous said...

Anon: Agree that there is a huge discipline problem at many middle and high schools. It is not all S. DeKalb. Chamblee has a discipline problem.

Lewis and Mosley need to send a clear message to our principals that it is OK to kick out any student (magnet, charter, resident, NCLB transfer) for disciplinary issues. I wonder if the principals are afraid to act because they fear getting flack from the administrative office for declining graduation rates.

I would publicly and loudly defend Lewis, Moseley and the Board if they would enforce both academic honor codes and disciplinary codes. This requires standing up to parents who insist that their children be put back in the regular classroom.

Students who are allowed to disrupt the classroom and school day need to be removed. Maybe there is a place for a public school boot camp. Excuse me, military academy.

Cerebration said...

Rumor has it that the opposite is happening. Rumor has it that the transfers arriving at Lakeside come without their discipline records. Rumor has it this is done so that they can have a clean slate - a second chance - even the principal isn't privy to their records. Can anyone verify this? I only have one source - but it's a pretty reliable one.

Anonymous said...

Ditto to No Duh on 5/7, get rid of the troublemakers in each school at every level and watch how fast test scores improve.