Thursday, June 11, 2009

Suggestion Box

We've had so many great ideas on this blog relating to cost-savings or creative directions for DeKalb Schools. One recent contributor posted this comment,

Clearly, each participant on this blog has an item that prompted them to participate. However, most make the transition from it being a personal matter to a matter of principle. And, in that process, I would think that this group should be able to make more of a difference with a collective voice. It seems that many issues are reviewed with an incredible amount of insight and detailed, accurate information. Yet, rarely do you see a collective effort to apply public pressure to the Board or Administration for change.

That statement is so true. So I got to thinking, why not have one thread that simply serves as a "suggestion box"? Add your ideas for consolidation, money-saving efforts, effective learning tools and the types of programs you would like to see offered in the future. Once we have a sizable list, we can forward our ideas to members of the Board.

Sound fun?


Cerebration said...

Ok, I'll start.

The "magnet" and now "choice" programs were initially started due to the federal oversight of integration. I think we need to seriously revisit ALL magnet programs to evaluate their cost vs their necessity.

Below is a quote from the school system's website - on the history of DCSS - it outlines the reasoning for the magnet schools. That reasoning in no longer valid - therefore, the schools may no longer be necessary. However, they have been around for so long that people have learned to feel entitled to them and that will be a difficult PR issue to overcome. Also, I'm not sure the Superintendent would be on board, as I have often heard him brag that DCSS offers the most "choice" of any system in the state. What we need to know is - what does it cost us to offer so much choice?

1989 was a watershed year for court orders. In a further effort to attract students of all races across housing lines, magnet programs were established at centrally located schools. The Magnet program was designed with a 50%-50% racial balance as a result of a 1989 court order. The court also ordered the school system to balance the ratio of faculty and staff at every school, center and facility to reflect the county population at the time, which was 65% black and 35% white. A lottery was held in the summer of 1989 to ensure that staff was properly balanced..

Cerebration said...

Here's another. This is good. We need more of this.

From the May 11 minutes -


2008-2009 Engineering Industry Certified Programs and Teachers

Dr. Delmus Watkins, Director, Career Technology, recognized eight (8) high school Engineering & Technology programs that earned program certification during the 2008-2009 school year, bringing the total of DeKalb County schools to thirty-six (36). Dr. Watkins stated that certificates and banners were presented by the Department of Education and the International Technology Education Association to each school\program, representing the successful completion of an arduous year-long process of program certification. He further stated that DeKalb County School System teachers who were being recognized are among a selected few Engineering & Technology educators that completed the program certification process in Georgia schools during the 2008-2009 school year. The successful teachers demonstrated teacher and school accountability in four (4) areas: Faculty and Student Performance, Administration, Facilities; and Equipment. Dr. Watkins further stated that only those programs that have successfully undergone rigorous reviews by leaders from business and industry are recognized with this distinction. Industry certification of a given program conveys to students and parents that the programs are carefully interfaced with current industry standards, helping to ensure the students’ qualifications for successful employment, as well as qualification to continue their education to postsecondary capacity. He also stated that industry certification represents to the business community the assurance of qualified individuals who are ready to take their place as productive employees. Dr. Watkins noted that this process is a part of the Career Technology Department’s effort to strengthen academic standards for all Career Technology programs and pathways.

The following teachers were recognized and the principals:

Chamblee High School - Ms. Gwen Block
Clarkston High School – Mr. Bobby Gilner and Mr. Jimmy Tarver
Lithonia High School – Mr. Elijah Cannon and Ms. Lisa Peck
Martin Luther King, Jr., High School – Mr. Mitch Ferguson
Ronald E. McNair, Sr., High School – Mr. Vincent Autrey
Stephenson High School – Mr. Garry Brown
Stone Mountain High School – Dr. John Jordan and Ms. Ezra Thompson
Tucker High School – Mr. Ty Carter and Mr. George Buoy

Anonymous said...

Thanks Cere,

Add me to the list of folks who are very grateful that you didn't give this up. This is a great concept to outline a large issue. I know time is limited for all but I cannot help but think that, with organization, people would support specific and/or general items for change.

First, Couldn't agree more that the Magnet/Choice Programming should be evaluated from the standpoint of cost/benefit analysis. I have heard that CWL is not in favor of the "brain drain" programs? Initially, the transportation was to be eliminated but they passed due to the feedback from the school parents. However, I suspect if a group of concerned parents supported this cutback, DCSS would be more likely to step up and make the right decision.

Next, would it be possible to look at items that are DCSS specific vs those federally mandated ? Perhaps an outline that indicates system-wide and/or population specific? An overview of "to dos" to make a difference. I think we all know what happens when parents approach DCSS as individual entities.....

Cerebration said...

psc - what do you say? You're the person who has the most knowledge here. Could you create some kind of outline of programs? I'll add them to the main article if you all would send in items you're aware of.

Things like -

NCLB/AYP transfers - these are federal programs, but school systems have some latitude regarding how to handle them. There are options for improving schools deemed "Needs Improvement" besides transfers.

The MIlitary Academy - is it necessary? Have we researched if there is a demand? Even though the marines will pay a portion, the per student cost will still be rather high I would guess. Has the system projected these costs - vs encouraging students to take part in Jr ROTC within home schools?

Partnerships with local colleges - we have several different programs operating under this theme. Could these be streamlined somehow? For instance - couldn't DeKalb Early College Academy and Gateway to College Academy Charter school combine administrative and teaching resources somehow?

And on a personal note. Much damage is done when leadership at a school is inconsistent. For example, Lakeside HS is about to get their 4th principal in the last 6 or 7 years. Can't we create some sort of policy that focuses first on consistent leadership for 4-5 years and secondarily, transferring effective leaders to struggling schools? The way the transfers are done now can leave the school losing a principal in limbo. Luckily, Lakeside is getting a good principal - but will the system leave him in place long enough to right the ship?

fedupindcss said...

I know this runs counter to the concept of "rigor," but I think that DCSS needs to revisit the graduation requirements. Some of these actually drive kids out of school (when you see Calculus as your terminal math class in high school, you might run, too). And the 7-period day/4x4 block? Too tiring for kids and teachers. The 6-period day was perfect, but I was told by a person in DCSS that they need to build in time for kids to re-take classes they fail during the school year, they can't make them go in the summer (why not?). So all kids must take all these classes whether because of the kids who fail. Strange.

There is a type of "rolling" block, where students take 7 classes but only take 6 of them on any given day (I think Westminster uses this). I have spoken to people where this works wonderfully, but it cannot be used in DCSS as long as we have drivers ed, STT, etc. Would love to see the high school folks do comprehensive reform, rather than just adding more every year.

Would love to see trailers disappear. It should be illegal to have one on site for more than one semester. I know, you need more classrooms, blah, blah, but Cere has pointed out that there are underpopulated schools out there--show some backbone and redistrict, already.

pscexb said...

I am out here and plan to add some thoughts later this evening. Let me also say thanks to Cere for hanging in there with us and keeping this valuable blog going!

fedupindcss said...

Hear, hear! Maybe DCSS has some "grant money" that we can obtain for Cere, since this is all done for free, at an overwhelming cost of time and energy (actually, the AJC ought to pay Cere for doing their job!).

Then again, maybe Cere will just have to be satisfied with the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from doing this.

Cerebration said...

Very warm - very fuzzy. Thanks my friends...

Lefty said...

In the interest of improving test scores, elementary kids need daily recess.

A study in the journal Pediatrics showed "that among 8- to 9-year-old children, having 1 daily recess period of >15 minutes in length was associated with better teacher's rating of class behavior scores. This study suggests that schoolchildren in this age group should be provided with daily recess." The study was a secondary analysis of a 1998-99 study and included over 11,000 kids.

Renowned psychiatrist, John Ratey, is a strong proponent of daily physical activity to improve learning and mental activity. Check out his blog:

Dekalbparent said...

To be effective at making a case, I think concentrating on one or two issues at a time (determined by consensus) would make us most effective.

My picks: the programs that are serving the smallest percentage / costing the most. Research required.

This specifically EXCLUDES any special-needs programs - these need to remain in place (it's federally mandated anyway).

My experience with KMS is that is has gone from a very selective program to a feel-good "my kid is better than yours grades" deal that is subject to a lot of political insider favors. The program is really good and it would be of benefit to most of the kids in the DCSS system. There is NOTHING in the High Achievers program that "regular" kids cannot be successful at! Why do only a lucky few get to experience it?

KMS, at the beginning was grades 4-8 (two highest-achieving students from each elem. school, nominated by principal, subject to personal interviews) and it was targeted at big-time achievers. This has changed completely.

As far as the magnet program in middle and high schools, I think it has outlived its usefulness. There is nothing offered there that is not offered in several other middle and high schools in the Impact and AP/IB programs. Get more AP into more high schools, and quit spending the money to transport a few kids long distances so they can go to school with their buds and give their parents something to brag about.

Lefty said...

Agreed. At the elementary level, if some of the pricey programs serving few students (KMS &DESA) were eliminated, then maybe most or all elementary schools could have daily PE/recess and music.

No Duh said...

Didn't we once have a thread that tried to put down what we thought were the top three priorities in DCSS? Maybe some of that could be used here.

An idea:

A complete revamping and ramping up of Hispanic Outreach.

A little work is being done by the Parent Resources Centers. I must admit when I went to the info session about the PRCs at Jolly Elem a few years ago, I didn't think they would work. But, they appear to be helping DCSS parents.

However, I noted only three workshops geared to new English Speakers -- two at Cross Keys and one at Sequoyah.

Need a lot of creative thought around this issue and a lot of outside help from Latin American Civic Assoc., etc.

Dekalbparent said...

Seconding No Duh on Hispanic outreach.

What about outreach to Asian families? African / Middle Eastern? Is the Refugee Center enough - probably not.

We are educating kids from many cultures, and the school system needs to be aware of cultural differences. I suspect the International Center (former KMS) would have knowledgeable people in this regard - tap their expertise.

If I were a kid trying to go to school in a place that doesn't speak my language and has customs and expectations of behavior that are not like mine, I'd be discouraged and tempted to just bag it.

Open+Transparent said...

Suggestion: Cere organizes the first DCSW Happy Hour, even though pscexb will be vehemently defending the DCSS Central Office ;)

Cerebration said...

How about seriously paying some %$*%&*# attention to Cross Keys!??? This is downright embarrassing - and I hope the entire Board is ashamed.

From the Brookhaven Reporter, May 29

Brookhaven residents joined DeKalb County police officers, sanitation workers and community service workers from the DeKalb County Detention Center to conduct a cleanup of three homeless encampments May 20. ...

Operation Urban Camper, launched from Northeast Plaza on Buford Highway, covered the 1800 block of Briarwood Road near I-85, the 1800 block of Corporate Boulevard near Buford Highway and the 1400 block of North Cliff Valley Way behind Cross Keys High School. The operation came after years of complaints from residents and businesses about vagrancy in the areas. ...

For Kim Gokce, the president of the Hills Dale Neighborhood Association and board member of the Brookhaven Community Connection, the cleanup was crucial to protecting the integrity of public property, particularly the area around Cross Keys.

“Vagrancy on school property is just not acceptable anywhere,” he said. “The community cares about Cross Keys, and for me, participating on a personal level is because of that interest, and it’s also to encourage others to take an interest in their communities.” ...

Joshua Fritz, a DeKalb Interactive Community Policing (ICP) officer and the liaison officer for the operation, said police can act only if the community makes the department aware of issues.

“We can only do so much in the community by ourselves,” Fritz said. “We need the assistance from the community. We need people that actually care about the community and want to see it flourish.”

The operation concluded with the cleanup of an encampment in the 1400 block of North Cliff Valley Way in a wooded area behind Cross Keys, where one homeless man was found sleeping under a pile of garbage and debris. He was taken to the Union Mission. ...

Darryl McKoon, who lives across the street from the encampment, said he and most of his neighbors started having thefts a few months ago, and he believes that many can be attributed to the homeless in the area. He said someone smashed a window of his pickup truck and stole the radio inside, causing $1,000 worth of damage.

McKoon also is concerned about the presence of the homeless on the Cross Keys property. “I’ve complained several times to the school department about this piece of property, and they’re not very cooperative at all.”

Cerebration said...

Kim - bless you for all of your hard work for the Cross Keys community. It must be incredibly frustrating - like yelling in the wind.

Do you have a handle on how the community feels about the school? Is the consensus to renovate ($20 million) or are they open to selling that property and adding that profit to the $20 m to tear down Open Campus and build something really remarkable? That campus could handle a technology school with a military academy on the same grounds - but in a separate building. They could all share the track at the stadium and any other amenities that might get built (tennis courts, etc.) If CK students wished, they could choose to attend a traditional school instead (Chamblee or Lakeside?)

That's an idea that I like - but I don't have a clue how the community would feel about it.

fedupindcss said...

Cross Keys doesn't have its quota of bullies to get Lewis to pay attention. That is the way the game is played in DCSS. Maybe some of us need to be the bully for them?

On a cost/benefit analysis, pitch magnets until we get the neighborhood schools in order. That said, that bloody Newsweek list is thick with them, so someone will complain...

Anonymous said...

McKoon also is concerned about the presence of the homeless on the Cross Keys property. “I’ve complained several times to the school department about this piece of property, and they’re not very cooperative at all.”


Pat Pope is in charge of all DCSS facilities. I know some people love her, but when you have homeless camps on school property, she and her staff are clearly at fault, and ultimately, Crawford Lewis.

Can you imagine the outcry of a Sarah Copelin-Wood or Zepora Roberts if there was a homeless camp on the grounds of one of there schools?

Anonymous said...

Ditto Dekalb Parent and Lefty - As for the Cross Keys issue, who would not be appalled at this... How do we organize and prioritize issues to be a squeky wheel for change with them? Ideas ?

Cerebration said...

There is an upcoming meeting with opportunities for public comments -- you could all sign up to make a statement about how contemptible it is that the Board has allowed the Cross Keys project to flounder for so long. They were #2 on the list of priorities for SPLOST 3 - and yet, there are no plans, no drawings, no bulldozers and homeless people shacking up on the poorly maintained property!

DeKalb Board of Education Work Session & Meeting, 6:00pm, Monday, July 13, 2009, Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center, Building A., J. David Williamson Board Room, 3770 North Decatur Road, Decatur

Send an email to MARGARET C. FRANCOIS at
and ask to be added to the speaker list. oh - now that they're keeping track of the topics of the speakers, be sure to keep it generic when you request a slot - SPLOST, construction, redistricting, tech schools -- whatever...then relate your topic back to the issue of the blatant neglect of Cross Keys.

themommy said...

One more thing... I was just thinking about it and the adults involved in these incidents need to be fired not allowed to resign.

Cerebration said...

Great point, themommy! DId Lewis give Berry an "escape hatch" by allowing him to resign - hoping to fend off losing his license - or worse?

How is it that Lewis can fire Wayne Chelf twice - but not this guy once?

pscexb said...

I'm watching the BoE business meeting on TV24. I have to agree with the premise of Ms. Pope's report, we may need to consider balancing enrollment throughout the district with stategic school closings and/or consolidations. This could involve recomendations to redistrict several clusters. We also have to determine IF transportation will be a part of that rememdy. We also need to make a decision about the collective futures of the Cross Keys and Briarcliff sites. Perhaps that will come from the forthcoming recommendations.

Regarding NCLB, we can all appeal to our federal legislators for changes prior to any reauthorization. There probably needs to be clarity on the point at which overcrowded schools can stop receiving students. I believe the latest remedies were posted/referenced this past winter.

Given the planned opening of the Military Academy has slipped, it does provide ample opportunity for DCSS to survey and determine the demand for such an offering. At the business meeting, it was suggested that the single gender school planned for Forrest Hills may not happen to to budgetary cuts (this recomendation came from the Design Teams). If DCSS plans to offer the Military Academy, we can probably safely say it will not open at Heritiage.

I'm a strong believer that our students need more foreign language offerings outside of Spanish. Unfortunately, state funding for this has been drastically cut. Would citizens of DeKalb want to fund this? Admittedly, having some combination of art and PE would probably be greater priorities.

We do have to find a way to get our legal expenses under control. The policy discussion regarding enaging general counsel was interesting. While I agree in principle with it, it was somewhat unclear until discussion took place.

Ella Smith said...

1. Evaluate the choice programs throughout the county. I personally feel there is a great deal of wasteful spending. If parents make a choice other than their community school then transportation should be at the expense of the parents and not the taxpayers. I do believe parents again should have a choice but this choice should not impact the educational choices that the community schools are providing. Currently I do believe that the community schools are being cut short compared to choice schools due to transportation costs and the cost of additional buildings which many are not at capacity.

2. I believe we still could save a great deal of money if we continued to evaluate the need of all the positions at the county level. I would like to see more supervision of academics at the school where their could be true impact on student achievement and less money spent on individuals setting in offices not on the front lines of educational reform.

3. Continue to try to get as many schools as possible LEED certified to cut on energy bills. Research indicates this would cut down on number of sick days of teachers and students and in doing this the research indicates that student achievement also will improved.

4. Continue to work on getting the best qualified teachers and principals as this will prevent more money having to be spent on remediation.

5. As a special education teacher I feel strongly a great deal of money (in many situations) could be saved by evaluating the effectiveness of team teaching (co-teaching). If the situation is not effective and the special education teacher is more of a parapro or is not involved in teaching and is just in class taking notes and providing accommodations for students then a parapro could actually do this job instead of a certified teacher.

6. I believe redistricting schools in this county and closing down some schools is a must to get the reconstruction money from the state that this county deserves to build new state of the art schools (which are environmentally sound).

7. Take time and evaluate new ideas (choice schools) before having knee-jerk reactions and just openings them. Consolated choice schools so that schools are at or near capacity.

8. I did make a suggestion to a member of the school board while a candidate that I felt it would be helpful to allow a group of retired senior judges look at the current system of how we pay our attorneys. I still feel this is a great idea. Many senior judges would be glad to volunteer their time to help as a community service to evaluate the situation and to make recommendations. I feel we need in house counsel or at least attorneys on retainers. A retainer is a certain ammount you pay a group a month to handle all your legal situations that come up. Lawyers do not get paid by the hour. This would definely be more economic for the taxpayers and you could still receive quality service if you selected a well qualified firm. Many firms can handle special education law, business law, and school law issues. I feel a great deal of money is wasted in this area because of political favors.

Anonymous said...

"I feel a great deal of money is wasted in this area because of political favors."

Amen to that one! Just look at DCSS vendor contractors, especially for school trailers.

Ella Smith said...

I agree totally with Lefty regarding recess. As a study skills teacher I always taught my students to take a minute or two break after studying for 20 minutes. The reason is that research shows that when a student studies for one hour they tend to remember what they studied the first twenty minutes and the last 20 minutes better. IF they take a small break after each 20 minutes the research shows that the student remembers more information that they study. Taking small breaks even during the class period is important. Students also need time to improve their social skills and need to get exercise which will also help.

pscexb said...

Ella, your number 8 has been a discussion item for several years. I recall Dr. Brown openly questioning the amount DCSS pays with respect to legal services. I'm not qualified to say whether we should have in house counsel or simply keep firms on retainer but something should be done. It's hard for any one firm to be 'experts' in all areas thus the need to multiple providers.

I think citizens would be surprised to hear of the number of lawsuits any school system is involved with, expecially at it relates to special education.

Anonymous said...

A suggestion for a money maker rather than a savings

Cell Towers lease space for $1200 to $1500 per month. DCSS has 145 locations. Put a cell tower at each for 145 times $1200 per month. We’d have better cell reception too.

Dekalbparent said...


Coming purely from a personal perspective:

If DCSS would do special ed the right way (what's best for the student, not what's most economical for DCSS) I can promise there would be a whole lot less legal action as regards special ed.

Off my soapbox, now.

pscexb said...

Dekalbparent, this is a tough area for many school systems. By virtue of federal laws such as ADA and IDEA, compliance can be a 'subjective' matter. School boards want to provide for special education based on their understanding of the law. Parents of special education children are tremendous advocates and are able to secure a great deal for their children. It could include being sent to 'specialty' schools, paid for by the school system if that system does not offer the necessary services.

I understood Stan Hawkins was one of the better lawyers in the area regarding special educatino compliance and services.

Ella Smith said...

Special education is my area of expertise and I have went to due process with the county regarding 504/special education issue twice and Stan Hawkins and his partner meet with me twice.

I ask as an advocate in some situations and go in and represent the parents and child in due process situations on occassion. This is what I want to do full time when I retire. I am going to be a special education advocate.
I study special education law/504 law in my spare time.

Dekalbmom is correct. IF the situation was handled correctly to start with there would not be as many problems. IF teachers and administrators were more willing to provide 504 accommodations in the regular education classroom there would not be such an issue. Many administrators and teachers just do not understand the law and do what they want to do.

My due processes were very clear by law but I was told by special education administrators at the county that this is not the way we do it. Legal counsel told the special education administrators that my husband and I were correct and this is the way that the situation would be handled with my two children and it was. But my last son never received the accommodations in his IEP/504 Plan. The teachers just disregarded the plan.

I do believe there are big law firms who do them all. Our previous law firm did them all. The current one does not. That has been the problem. But, I have been told that the current law firm was friends of school board members.

Again, in my previous comments I want to make sure it is clear that I am supportive of Team Teaching but if it was investigated I am positive that it could be done with parapros in most situations and save the county a great deal of money. I would suspect from my observations in many counties as a team teachers that the special education teachers do not really team teach. They do provide needed support to the special needs students and other students but this does not have to be provided by a teacher making $40,000-$70,000 a year. We could have twice the support in regular education classes for the amount of money being spent if we used parapros instead.

Ella Smith said...

I am disabled myself so you have to forgive me. I do not ask but I do act as a special education advocate on occassion.

Dekalbparent said...

@psc -

"School boards want to provide for special education based on their understanding of the law."

I respectfully beg to differ. I really don't think the school board thinks much about what the schools provide for special education students. They are at too high an altitude - they can't (and shouldn't) be concerned with the minutia of what goes on in the school building. The provisions for special education are made at the school level, by the LTSE, who is over a relatively small number of schools. This is where you get the decisions made on the basis of what is most economical. This is why many children are 'team-taught' in regular ed classrooms even when they would be better off being taught in a smaller class by a dedicated special ed teacher. It's cheaper. I believe Ella has addressed this a few times.

"Parents of special education children are tremendous advocates and are able to secure a great deal for their children. It could include being sent to 'specialty' schools, paid for by the school system if that system does not offer the necessary services."

Yes, parents are tremendous advocates, but often they are no match for determined LTSEs and School Psychologists with edu-speak on their side. Few parents actually get their children into 'specialty' schools at school system expense here in DeKalb. To do so, the parent has to take the case to court (hence the legal cases the system is involved in) and spend a year or more trying to prove their case. Their kids CAN'T AFFORD to wait that long.

When you see a kid disappear from the school, usually they didn't get sent to a 'specialty' school at system expense. Instead, the frustrated parent decided their only choice was to go into debt to PAY for their kid to go to that school.

Sorry, but I've been there. Twice.

Cerebration said...

Been there too. To the tune of $12,000 a year. But it was worth it - the private school handled my childs education completely differently than the public school. We could only afford it for a few years and had to return to public school, and I deeply regret that. We should have mortgaged our home to keep her in a private program.

Here's just one little example - my child was placed in a team taught biology class. The teacher kept giving her zeros on her homework, but she had always turned it in. We found out that the "interrelated teacher" kept losing them! Of course, the teachers called my daughter a liar and made her re-do several "missing" assignments. We finally had to start making copies of everything she turned in as a back-up.

(As an aside, when I once shared with a different interrelated teacher that getting the study guide the night before a test was much too stressful on my daughter - the teacher actually once told me that was "bullsh*t" and my child was just trying to get attention.) All we asked was to be given the study guides at the beginning of the chapters so that she could fill them out as they were covered and then use them to study from before the test. Instead, she was forced to spend 2-3 hours filling out the study guide (which was graded) the night before the test.

I have many more stories like these, but I won't torture you all.

pscexb said...

Thanks for the insight DekalbParent and Cere. What I meant by 'school board providing' was more about funding allocation than anything else. The little I know about special education comes from listening to a few special education teachers I know. I've heard about situations similar to what you both posted. I consider both of you strong and knowledgeable advocates. Can you imagine what happens to the special education children whose parents may not be as knowledgeable?

Cerebration said...

Oh I know, and I've worried about them. Don't get me wrong - She had some really wonderful interrelated teachers too -- in fact, a couple are still at Lakeside and 3 of the best were at Shamrock Middle. I don't think any of them are there anymore, sadly. It's a difficult job, with little support. Every principal I've had contact with almost doesn't even consider special education to be their responsibility - they will tell you to talk to the LTSE every time.

No Duh said...

Saving money by mainstreaming Special ed students. Why and who has asked for it?

As noted here, there are levels of need from the Special Ed population in DCSS. Many of the students with IEPs and what-have-you do very well in the regular classrooms and integrate fully -- though perhaps being pulled into smaller classrooms for specialized needs during the day. These are the children with specific learning disabilities that can be socially integrated into a regular classroom.

But, that leaves the children whose disability is far more complex and involves socialability issues, anger management issues, severe autism, etc. Do these children's parents really want to force their child into such a spotlight?

Our system is trying to mainsteam these fragile children and are doing them and the students whose classrooms they are forced into a great disservice. It can not be fun for a child with these kinds of issues to be forced into mainstream classrooms where everything is over their heads, where the teachers end up disciplining them constantly, where the other students are constantly waiting for the child to catch up, get on the right page, come back from the restroom, stop talking, etc.

Are we mainstreaming these kids because their parents are demanding it? Doubt it. It has to be money.

So short-sighted. So disruptive. So unfair to the special ed student. So unfair to the regular students who are short-changed during class time due to the behaviors of students who should be in a very specialized environment with teachers who are specially trained to teach the way these students need to be taught.

With Audria Berry's salary alone we could hire two or three young and enthusiastic special ed teachers -- fresh out of college, packed with new and innovative techniques -- to help these kinds of children.

But hey, why do that when we can do another study of the effectiveness of mainstreaming special ed students? Or, how about a survey (the results of which are never shared) designed by an outside consultant? Or, how about sending three or four administators to a conference in Las Vegas about educating special ed students. Or, how about we decide to send individual limos to Kittredge students' houses to pick them up in the morning and bring them home in the afternoon -- so their precious valuable minds will never have to come in contact with a special ed student!

Cerebration said...

The following suggestion comes to us from Shayna Steinfeld,

I keep pushing for in-house counsel -- I don't know of a corporation with a $1-2 billion dollar budge that does not have in-house counsel. In house-counsel represents the client (here, DCSS) -- it handles matters "in house" that it can handle in house -- this includes loss mitigation and heading off legal matters that could turn into litigation before they head into litigation (which may include mediation or arbitration before litigation); it includes "farming out" legal work to outside counsel to handle when it can't be handled in-house so that it is handled well and it includes a review of the billings being submitted by outside counsel to the client (DCSS) to ensure that the billings are fair, reasonable and appropriate. When the billings appear to be high or excessive, counsel can be charged with the responsibility (and ability ) to question and complain, and to change to new counsel for further matters. I understand that Gwinnett has very effective in-house counsel and they handle things much more efficiently and economically than DeKalb. I think DCSS could really save money pulling legal in-house with a good hire.

Ella Smith said...

I agree totally with Shayna on In-house counsel. It would save a great deal of money. The salary would not similar to one of the assistant supertendents probable which is a whole lot less than we are paying for primary attorney fees each year.

Cerebration said...

I'd like to endorse the suggestion to return to the 6 period day - and to follow only the State guidelines for graduation - 23 credits vs 24. (The state only requires 3 credits of social studies, not 4 as DCSS does.) If students would like to add the credit, they may. However, we could save millions of dollars by cutting back what we are offering students. DCSS has become a massive jobs program as it offers 32 credits in 4 years in high schools utilizing the block schedule. That's 8 more per student than if we returned to 24 - or 9 more if we cut to 23.

8 credits PER STUDENT per school at a school with 1,000 students is a whopping 8,000 ADDITIONAL (unnecessary) classes offered, paid for and staffed over 4 years at EACH high school on the block! (18 schools could be offering about 180,000 or more unnecessary classes!!) Offering FREE high school summer or Sat or online credit recovery would be much cheaper. Also - schools would not require so many actual classrooms to host all of these classes - (less $$ needed for buildings) as well as we would not need nearly as many teachers to staff these classes.

The block schedule is a budget buster. We need to find a more economical solution.

Anonymous said...

I find the discussion on inclusion teaching very interesting. Sorry No Duh, can't really buy the precious minds and limo thing..... It is a disservice to all children in the classroom and should be looked at it that way, For example, do you really think even a very good teaching professional can differentiate instruction for 25-30 children?

Anonymous said...

Son of Awcomeonnow, checking in.
The school board and the housing authority have already sat down around the same table. This occurred last year when Sembler wanted to grab all the land around Adams stadium.
Since they've already had discussions about other matters, why can't the school board start discussing this:
Finding possible school sites throughout the county where soon to be foreclosed complexes currently sit? Left to their own devices, the housing authority invariably will refinance and renovate these complexes, putting area schools back behind the eight ball.
One of these renovations is occurring over on Norman Avenue
(outside Clarkston) as we speak-
a condemned, close complex is being renovated. It stands ready to flood Indian Creek Elementary with new students come this fall.
Instead, the school board should bid on some of these foreclosed complexes, reducing the transient enrollment. In many cases, the locations are central to other surrounding housing, so the need to acquire and feed buses is diminished.
Anybody else interested in starting the push?
Dump the dumps, and up the test scores.

Cerebration said...

Great idea son of... hmmm. I do think that since Atlanta has been so vigilant in closing their housing projects - we in DeKalb have ended up taking on many of the displaced families - in lower income housing (apartments.) Notice that Atlanta's test scores have gone up - did the low testers suddenly start to do better or have they simply moved away?

Cerebration said...

Cuts need to be made - and they need to be made at the bloat. The system is much too top heavy - too many AP's - too many administrators - too many jobs in administration period.

Beyond that - cutting the class offerings (by eliminating the block) will cut millions.

Transportation needs slashed big time. The cross-county transportation entitlement must end.

Here's a quote highlighting the serious budget issues many states are experiencing. Consider this a harbinger - don't just shrug it off or this will be our future too --

“We are in the process … of decimating our schools. We’re talking about massive, unprecedented slashing of base funding for our students,” said Brian Lewis, the executive officer of the California Association of School Business Officials. “Schools have been quite successful at doing more and more with less and less over the years. Then we get hit with this tremendous cut that’s going to push districts over the edge of financial insolvency.”

It's ironic that since the implementation of NCLB - the financial well-being of school districts has been destroyed. Some have been saying for a long time that this was the ultimate intent of NCLB.

Read more here -

No Duh said...

Anon 4:59, so you think that lottery winners should have smaller classrooms than non-lottery winners?

If DCSS wanted to go back to hand-picking Kittredge students based on recommendations, scores, entrance essays, IQs, etc. I'd be great with that. Then you really would have a special group of students who are the truly brilliant who need to be protected -- if you will -- from the waste of time "regular" school can be for the SUPER-gifted.

That is NOT what Kittredge is. You know it. I know it. DCSS knows it. So let's all stop acting like it is more than it is -- a very expensive way for lottery winners to spend our tax dollars on students who are no more special than THOUSANDS of other students in DCSS.

Cerebration said...

Kittredge's original intent and purpose was for integration only. The rules were quite different - 50/50 white and black - 2 students from each school. It was a result of the federal mandate to DCSS to integrate. Somehow, it has morphed into an entitlement and an elitist program.

If you're ever interested in doing a little research, no duh, and posting an article here about what you dig up on the history/costs/effectiveness of the various magnet programs, we would welcome that. If you are interested (and that goes for anyone) - send me an email at

What happens then - I send you an email invitation from the blog to be a front page writer. (This is what Kim, psc, Ella and O&T do - among others.) You can post anonymously if you create an email with no obvious identity attached, or you can send it as a Word doc attachment and I will post it for you.

This would be a lot of work - but I think it would be a really important post - if done strictly factually....

Anonymous said...

No Duh,
No, I don't think that KMS (or any other high achiever school)scholarship " winners" deserve a smaller class size, actually quite the opposite. I actually think if you take a group of advanced students they should be able to fall within the class guidelines that the rest of us normal folks have. If I understood correctly, the class size for 4th grade at KMS is 17 - IMHO this is unacceptable.... And I don't believe that they should have transportation compliments of all of the taxpayers. And, how many millions could have been saved byt eliminating this program last year? I believe that if parents make a choice to go to a school outside of their district they should take on the responsibility of getting there. And I can't believe that KMS students have foreign language
(that ever useful German) every day and we cannot even get Spanish once a week. Let's not even go into music........... Lastly, since when is an 80% cumulative on standardized testing considered a high achiever? Yes, if, and I do mean if, DCSS continues to provide magnet schools they need to raise the bar and truly serve the high achieving, not just a lucky number. Why doesn't the community push for this to happen?
I cannot believe that parents really know the numbers for magnet expenditures, that all of us in Dekalb County support but most of us could not obtain, even if your child qualified. The issue is outdated and DCSS should look at the allocation of limited resources.
This is only one worthy example of DCSS staff holding on for dear life to a system and, perhaps job, that is no longer needed. I have to second the earlier thoughts that a fact based outline would be much appreciated and I am certain rather informative for all. Anon 4:59

Anonymous said...

Son of awcomeonnow back at ya.
The chances that we will get plenty of public housing tenants is sky high, particularly now that they've tore down Bowen homes.
Who'll get the gift that keeps on giving (crime, litter, gunfire, compromised schools)?
Why Dekalb and Clayton, of course. I've already seen signs of this over near the the corner of Memorial and Northern ( near the tax comissioner's offices).
A steady stream of foot traffic heading into the Avondale Crossing complex. Newly renovated with a fresh coat of paint, and a swimming pool that's been freshly filled- with dirt, topped by grass.
If we could only tear down some units before Atlanta Housing Authority claim them for some of their prize thug tenants. (Sigh)

Anonymous said...

Son of awcomeonnow is right. I know City of Atlanta staff. The AHA absolutely knows that thousands of their housing authority families who have been given vouchers as the AHA tears down all its old developments are moving to Clayton and DeKalb.

It seems like both the BOE and DeKalb county gov't elected officials and upper staff are all in denial about it. Clayton is attractive because of lower rents, but DeKalb does have better schools than Clayton, so many of the former AHA'ers are now here in DeKalb. DeKalb has always been very welcoming to slumlords, cough, apartment complex and extended stay owners.

It's bad enough that DCSS does not enforce residency requirement, and thousands of non-county residents are in our county schools. Everything Son of awcomeonnow says on this topic is 100% right on the mark.

Anonymous said...

The key reasons DeKalb is more attractive are continued access to MARTA and Grady. Those who flocked to Clayton for the rent specials are realizing they may have made a mistake.

Anonymous said...

son of awcomeonnow, ready and accounted for!
Cere- with your posting skills is there any way you can get on the Dekalb County Housing Authority website?
There's an ad for the Dekalb Housing Authority Landlord appreciation banquet, complete with talks on tax credits, and other HUD scams.
THis was discussed at length last year on GDK between myself,
under radar ( wherever he may be), and others.
It would be useful for persons to see just what county homeowners and parents are up against.
What we're up against is this:
pervasive greed masquerading as social conciousness. Nobody connected with, financing through,
employed by, renting from, or doing legal or financial work for the housing authority gives a rats ass about all the carnage they create. Likewise, all of our elected representatives at the state and local level. Add to the list anybody on the school board,
otherwise they'd opened their mouths publicaly LONNNNNGGGGGG ago.
Back to my request. Cere- see if you can post the invite for the slumlord appreciation cotillion from the housing authority website.
You did a good job with a heads up for the to do at the white house. Maybe somebody'd like to show up and post some signs on the way to the slumlord's ball and let those nice people know how the residents really think about them.
In the long run, it's up to residents to do something about the worst and most crime plagued rentals in the county. The county politicians have been playing footsie under the table with slumlords for decades.

andi said...

I was looking at some of the numbers for choice elementary schools. The Theme schools have the highest enrollment average and the High Achievers (Kittredge and Wadsworth) have the lowest. Wadsworth's enrollment was only 187 on 08-09. It's highest enrollment as in 00-01 at 431. I could not find the capacity for each school.

themommy said...


Wadsworth just became a stand alone magnet school in 08-09. Before that the program was housed at Browns Mill. Wadsworth was closed as an elementary school because of shrinking enrollment.

They were unable to fully enroll Wadsworth Magnet in 2008-2009 because of lack of funding.

I am unsure what the plan is for 09-10.

Cerebration said...

Wadsworth's capacity is 493 (which, with 187 students puts them at 38% capacity) = hopefully the program will grow ---

note to son of -- I'm working on your request - have had to go out of town so my tether to the blog gets loose... but I think your idea is good!

Cerebration said...

One big suggestion -- protect the crossing guards!

This is from Heneghan's Dunwoody blog - seems there's a rumor that DCSS may be eliminating the guards...