Tuesday, September 29, 2009

DeKalb Schools Recognized for Achievement, Improvement

We're happy to give credit where credit has been earned and announce the Georgia Achievement Winners - including 24 DCSS schools - Congratulations!

Superintendent's Distinguished Achievement Award Winners Named

State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox today announced the winners of the second annual Superintendent's Distinguished Achievement Awards. Among the winners were 24 schools within DeKalb County School System.

These awards honor schools for high achievement and the greatest improvement on state curriculum tests. A certificate is being sent to the winning schools acknowledging their achievement.

"We are honoring schools that showed the greatest improvement and highest achievement on our state tests," said State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox. "These awards are just a small way of saying "thank you" for the hard work put in by our teachers, students and school communities. Congratulations to all the winners!"

The Superintendent's Distinguished Achievement Awards are based on the performance of students on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT), the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT), the End-of-Course Tests (EOCT) and the state Writing Tests. These awards acknowledge schools in two categories:
• IMPROVEMENT: The 10 schools in each honored subject area and grade that had the greatest improvement in the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards.
• ACHIEVEMENT: The 10 schools in each honored subject area and grade that had the highest percentage of students score in the ‘exceeds’ category.

Of the Improvement winners, Superintendent Cox said: "Moving the needle as quickly as these schools have takes collaboration, dedication and focus."

Of the Achievement winners, Superintendent Cox said: "These are the schools that have large numbers of students performing at the highest levels of achievement. This type of performance is the result of high expectations and hard work.”

The Superintendent's Distinguished Achievement Awards are being handed out in the following subjects and grades:
• READING and ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS: Grades 1-8 Reading CRCT; Grades 2 & 6 English Language Arts CRCT; 9th Grade Literature EOCT (high school only); American Literature EOCT; English Language Arts & Reading GHSGT
• MATHEMATICS: Grades 1-8 Mathematics CRCT; Mathematics GHSGT
• SOCIAL STUDIES: Grades 4 & 8 CRCT; U.S. History EOCT; Economics EOCT; Social Studies GHSGT
• SCIENCE: Grades 5-8 CRCT; Physical Science EOCT; Biology EOCT; Science GHSGT
• WRITING: Grade 5 Writing Test, Grade 8 Writing Test, Georgia High School Writing Test

- Due to the roll out of the state's new curriculum, the Georgia Performance Standards, the following categories are not being awarded: Algebra 1 EOCT, Geometry EOCT, Grade 4 Social Studies CRCT (improvement only; achievement is being awarded).
- Awards are given based on spring 2009 CRCT results. Summer retest results are not included.
- Only schools with 10 or more students taking the test in 2009 are considered for the award.

Award winning schools

Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT)

Austin ES
Evansdale ES
Livsey Elementary
Kittredge Magnet
Oak Grove ES
Vanderlyn ES
Wadsworth Magnet
Academy of Lithonia
DeKalb PATH Academy
Hambrick ES
International Community School
Peachcrest ES
Rock Chapel ES
Stoneview ES
Stone Mountain MS
Tucker MS
Woodward ES

End-of-Course Tests (EOCT)
Chamblee Charter HS DeKalb School of the Arts (DSA)
Clarkston HS DeKalb Alternative
Destiny Academy of Excellence Stone Mountain HS

Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT)

DeKalb School of the Arts (DSA)
DeKalb HS of Technology North DeKalb Alternative
Destiny Academy of Excellence

Georgia Writing Tests

Clarkston HS DeKalb HS of Technology North
Gateway to College

Related Links
Dekalb County Schools
GA Dept of Education

Abu Bangura Honors Brookhaven

This past Saturday at 2:00pm, an event I helped organize to honor Abu Bangura (right, chatting with CKHS band members) did not turn out as I planned.

It wasn't the rain at the event or the fact that the previous day's flooding meant Cross Keys' community had a sudden conflict. The football team had their game moved to Saturday at 2:00pm in Decatur HS' stadium due to flooding at their opponent's (Lovett) field. No, though both of these items lowered the turn out, it was not the attendees that surprised me - it was the honoree.

Cross Keys' teachers and coaches had described Abu to me all summer in very positive light. Each time someone spoke of him, they did so with affection. After meeting him, I can understand their universal admiration for this young man. His accomplishments on the soccer field, the classroom, and in the chorus room continue at Piedmont College as they did at Cross Keys HS. His former coaches, classroom teachers, and chorus teacher (pictured above/left with Abu) attended the event to support their former student.

What took me by surprise was his eloquence. After Commissioner Rader, Principal McMillan, Coach Wallace, and I all had our turn at addressing the crowd, Abu spoke. His sincerity and eloquence made us sound like mumblers - he told the young people how honored he was and how they could accomplish anything they wanted to with hard work. He was there for them, not for himself.

He told them how much he cherished his time at Cross Keys and how, after his current season was over at Piedmont, he'd be back to help the younger players at CKHS. In short, he exhibited a humility and good will that was a credit to him, his family, his faith, his high school and his community. Abu truly honored Brookhaven by his visit over the weekend and I can't wait to see him working with the young people at CKHS this winter.

Band Director, Bernard Short (picture below/right, with Dr. McMillan and Abu Bangura), brought out his young people to the event to make a joyful noise on Peachtree Road and did not disappoint. Small in numbers and sporting the better part of a uniform appearance, these kids really rocked the place! They played with precision and discipline. Folks across Peachtree at Hudson Grille turned from their NCAA games and listened and cheered the CKHS band. Little kids bobbed heads to the drum beat.

This is Mr. Bernard's second year and he is making great strides towards reviving what was a dying program. With nearly as many instruments in need of repair as those in working condition, this small band reminded me of our Continental Army - not fully equipped but performing at a high level. Very, very impressive group ...

Look for coverage in the Brookhaven Reporter and via PDS-24 or Kaleidoscope. PDS-24 interviewed Abu and I hope they share some of this video with our community. I'll posted back here via comments when I see any coverage so you can enjoy it! Drop by the Peachtree/Dresden Waffle House and sit in the "Abu" booth ... he said he's going to bring friends down for breakfast and sit in front of the framed jersey to see if they notice it. He is a rascal!

Great or Sad: Hands on Atlanta Day at Cross Keys Sat 10/3

This just in - media advisory from DCSS w/ Dr. McMillian as contact person
Hands-on Atlanta Day
sponsored by
Newell Rubbermaid
Saturday, October 3, 2009 ,
8:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
at Cross Keys High School

"Several outdoor beautification initiatives are being considered to enhance and beautify Cross Keys HS. To list a few, Newell Rubbermaid plans to assist with storage solutions (yeah for teachers ! my comment) and paint bathrooms and breezeways; all as a part of the make-over project.

When DCSS fails you, who ya gonna call!?
Rubbermaid and volunteers!!

It might be a great chance for interested neighbors to have a visit and help CKHS a bit.

Monday, September 28, 2009

International Walk to School Day

International Walk to School Day is Wednesday, October 7th.

DeKalb County recently was awarded a $500,000 grant from the Georgia Dept. of Transportation for Safe Routes to School infrastucture improvements. I'm sure the DeKalb County School System is hosting a large number of Walk to School Day events on Oct. 7th. Please share your school's plans in the comments section below.

The day before, on Tuesday, October 6th, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, Decatur is hosting our 2nd Annual Walk to School Day Pep Rally, with games, music, prizes and special guests on the Decatur Square.

This link leads to a nice audio article on "walking school buses".

"Florida Town Tries Walking School Bus Project"

The iconic big yellow school bus is getting some competition from sneakers and sandals as a new way to get to class at Belcher Elementary in Largo, Fla. Kids and parents are teaming up in surrounding neighborhoods and walking to school together. The initiative aims to promote the healthier option of walking for both parents and children, while cutting down on vehicular traffic at the school.

Here's some more in on Safe Routes to School:

Sent in by Dan Magee

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pay to Play?

What if sports budgets were completely "out of pocket"? West Essex school system in New Jersey has gone to a "Pay to Play" system for middle and high school sports. This school system has the second highest property taxes in the country and they found that this is the only way to keep the sports programs alive. Students on free or reduced lunch don't have to pay, however, for everyone else - it's Pay or Don't Play.

Arabia - Are they getting more than their fair share?

Kristina Torres wrote a column (press release) in yesterday's AJC titled, "DeKalb hopes Arabia becomes new model school". My stomach rolled. Model school for who? I am more than disgusted by the fact that so many millions ($53 I believe) went into this very special "magnet" school, when so many others are still either crumbling, aging, energy-wasting behemoths or over-crowded newer schools built for and full of "regular" kids. Arabia is the money-eating Pac-Man of pie charts - gobbling up more than it's fair share of resources per student - diminishing even the per student spending of DeKalb School of the Arts, DESA and Kittredge.

Arabia, in all it's glory, had to beg, borrow and steal in order to garner enough students to save face. I would challenge the powers that be to investigate each and every student's actual home address to ensure that the school is in fact, filled with DeKalb county residents. I wonder this, since the school is located in a little niche pocket way down in south DeKalb within 2 miles of the Henry and Rockdale county borders, yet over 25 miles from Lakeside, Druid Hills, Tucker, Dunwoody, Cross Keys, Avondale, Stone Mountain, etc - virtually inaccessible to a majority of county schools. Arabia is the Hail Mary pass made by Crawford Lewis to hide the fact as reported by Torres that, "Only 30 percent of DeKalb’s 22 high schools met federal testing goals this year. It was 39 percent in 2008." He is just certain that this crown jewel will cover the hideous failures elsewhere.

As we have reported here, Arabia was built and approved with the stated intention of alleviating over-crowding at near-by schools (all under 5 years old) - Martin Luther King, Jr HS, Lithonia HS and Miller Grove HS. However, in the end, Crawford Lewis and his leadership team deemed this school far too special to serve as just another neighborhood school, so they created several "magnet" programs within the building (in addition to the 500-600 allotted slots for locals). They did this in spite of the fact that Southwest DeKalb high school is a coveted (over-crowded) magnet school about 5 miles away. And still - all three of the aforementioned schools remain overcrowded and on the list for additions using SPLOST 3 funding!

Now we have reports from students at Lakeside that they don't have Environmental Science textbooks because all of theirs were sent to Arabia. Lakeside has overcrowded, large classes - some of which are being held in the cafetorium. Chamblee HS has a textbook shortage and well, we all know the story about the horrible condition of virtually everything at Cross Keys. I gasped when I read about Arabia's white boards connected to the internet -- and then shed a tear for Cross Keys "wipeboards" - the old white things all stained and cracked from years of use.

DCSS hates it when we shed light on the condition of Cross Keys, Lakeside, Chamblee and others along with the empty promises made to these communities - but I say - if you want to stand in the sunlight and take all the glory for the beautiful Arabia HS - then you also have to stand at the gates of the ghetto and take responsibility as you lay your eyes on the truth of what so many others have to endure under your leadership. Leadership whose motto seems to be "the best of everything -- for some."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Please Work Together For The Children Of Our County

DeKalb County’s District Health Director of the Board of Health, Dr. Sandra Ford has been invited to speak at several forums lately regarding the currently health issues our country and county faces. She is an excellent speaker. If any of you get the chance, please do hear her speak.

I was surprised to learn that the DeKalb County School System is not working with the Health Department to provide shots to all our children in the county for the H1 N1 virus through the schools as many school systems across the state and across the country are doing. The federal government is providing the vaccine free. The children are at the top of the list to receive the vaccine. However, DeKalb County Schools were not willing to allow the shots to be given during the school day with parent permission One reason given was because of lack of school nurses. Another reason given was the school system also did not want the school day disturbed. School officials were also unwilling to allow the vaccine to be given to children after school if parent brought the children after school because of lack of funds to pay the school nurses. Apparently the Health Department does not have the funds to pay the nurses at the Health Department overtime either.

Should our children be provided the vaccine as soon as possible? I do not understand why a school day can be disturbed for a pep rally or an assembly program and not to give children a shot which could possible save the children’s lives. Parents would have to give consent regardless before the vaccine could be given to children at school. This would give parents another choice for their children to have access to the vaccine. Is this not important for our children of DeKalb?

I am concerned about our priorities in the DeKalb County Schools. Should the health of our children not be a top priority?

After the November election, I saw all the candidates at the school board and at the county level indicating that they were going to work together. Now at the school board meetings I hear comments of anger. I think groups can disagree on certain issues but the groups must continue to work together for the benefit of its citizens and the children of DeKalb County Schools. I even support the school system disagreements on many of the counties decisions and actions. However, I hope our elected official do not lose sight that when they disagree on one topic that does not mean that they do not work together on other areas regarding our citizens of DeKalb County. The citizens of DeKalb County deserve to have elected official who will work together and who are not at battle with each.

I do not understand at all. Can someone help me understand? Is this too big of a project because we are too big of a system? Should the health of our children come first?

Friday, September 25, 2009

National Academic Standards - What Do You Think?

From the NY Times:

The first official draft of proposed national educational standards was released on Monday, a joint project of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The curriculum guidelines detail math and English skills that all students should have by the end of high school. Forty-eight states (Texas and Alaska are the holdouts) have signed on to the effort, called the Common Core Standards Initiative, to write the standards. This is one step on a long road: there is a 30-day comment period, and then the panel convened by the governors association will work on grade-by-grade standards from kindergarten onward.

What are some strengths and weaknesses of the new proposal? What are the obstacles to adopting common curriculum standards? Should this be a national goal, or should education reform efforts be directed elsewhere?

Check out the article at the NY Times for the pros and cons. Or for more, check out what the Washington Post has to report on national standards:

The proposal aims to lift expectations for students beyond current standards, which vary widely from state to state, and establish for the first time an effective national consensus on core academic goals to help the United States keep pace with global competitors. Such agreement has proven elusive in the past because of a long tradition of local control over standards, testing and curriculum.

The proposal, posted at www.corestandards.org, was drafted over the summer by a group including experts affiliated with the organizations that oversee the ACT and SAT college admissions exams, as well as Achieve Inc., a standards advocate based in the District. The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers launched the Common Core Standards Initiative this year, enlisting 48 states and the District of Columbia. The two holdouts are Texas, which recently updated its standards, and Alaska, where officials reportedly are reserving judgment.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Is Your Game Flooded Out This Friday?

So - the water has receded. The AJC is reporting more than 16,000 flood-related claims filed in Atlanta area. Is there grass left on your football field? Does anyone have to cancel a game this weekend? Is your school building leaking? Did anyone suffer damages from the rain? I know of a basement cave-in, a car destroyed by a falling tree and several cars destroyed in a private school parking lot due to the floods.

Congressman Hank Johnson, 4th District of Georgia writes: Dear Friends, A state of emergency was declared in 17 counties today due to the heavy rains and flooding, including all three in the Fourth - DeKalb, Rockdale and Gwinnett. More than 1,000 sandbags have been deployed in Rockdale and dozens of roads closed in all three counties with the rain expected to continue throughout the week. If you, your family or your business have been affected by the flooding, FEMA can help with housing, home repairs, small business loans, disaster unemployment assistance and special tax considerations.

Are any of DeKalb schools considering requesting aid from FEMA for damages?

Share your experiences -- and then let's all count our blessings!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Booster Clubs and Sports Funding

How are sports funded in DeKalb County schools? How do we compare in methods and budgets with other systems in metro Atlanta? How do we compare school by school - is the funding equitable? Why are some programs so much more successful than others? Is it due to Booster Clubs or just great coaching or a combination of reasons?

The information below was gleaned from the minutes of an Emory Lavista Parent Council meeting titled, "Our Schools – Funding the Extras". Some information may surprise you. For the complete minutes, visit this link at ELPC's website.

Booster Clubs – Faye Andresen
Several schools, such as Druid Hills HS, are forming an umbrella association for booster clubs. Some clubs are large with a lot of members, like Soccer and Band. Some are smaller like Baseball, which still has the expense of the field to deal with. Booster fees range from $200-500. Varsity cheerleading can be as high as $525-725. The clubs sponsor various fundraisers: citrus and cheesecake sales, banner sales, silent auction, and Birdies for Charity (DHHS Soccer).

Booster Policy - Randy Lee, Director Student Activities in Athletic Dept.
The DeKalb Co. Booster Policy is online. Requirements include: Constitution, Officers, Principal approval for fundraisers. The Superintendent may request an audit at any time. No staff member can hold office in a booster club. The Booster Policy addresses all student activities including athletics, band, chess, and academic teams. The Booster clubs provide the extras for student activities – trips, banquets, some championship tournament attendance. Increasingly, Athletic Associations are being formed to umbrella all the booster clubs in a school. The county rule is that an individual does not have to pay to play and often generous parents help out individuals/teams with financial needs.


Q. What happens when children don't pay?
A. The county recommends being as inclusive as possible. Parents and school officials need to work together to find compromises and get all parents involved.

Q. When is a Booster Club needed? Are they required?
A. There are no specific requirements or fundraising amounts related to needing a booster club.
A booster club may not even raise money. In the absence of a booster club, a parent may donate directly to the school designating what the contribution is to be used for.

Q. Do Boosters supplement Tournament participation?
A. Yes. Gate receipts fund football activities. Parent: But an activity like Cross Country, for example, has no gate receipts for funding.

Q. Is transportation provided by the county dependent on gate receipts?
A. Not sure. Gate receipts are the major source of revenue.

Enjoy the Day at SkaterAid!

SkaterAid is an annual skateboard and music festival in Decatur, Georgia. Bring your kids to the day long event and enjoy art, music and of course, skateboarding - all for a good cause!

East Decatur Station
109 New Street (just west of the Avondale MARTA station off of College Ave) .
$10 admission/$5 for students

SkaterAid hosts an annual art show, auctioning off original art made with old skateboard decks. See the "PHOTOS" link at their website to find your favorite. Check out the art "in person" at the Brick Store Pub in Decatur, Georgia, where it will hang from now until the event. Auction will be held at SkaterAid.


Bring your board and skate all day at SkaterAid. You'll need a special skater wristband, available at the door. There is no extra charge for the skater wristband, but you'll need to sign a waiver and check out the rules. Also, see contests, tricks, and shredding galore at the skateboard show hosted by Thomas Taylor of Stratosphere Skateshop.

Scavenger Hunt
Ages 10 and under. Search the SkaterAid event area for clues and win a prize.


Skateboard Deck Art - Silent Auction
SkaterAids annual deck art auction will return again this year. Bid on your favorite at the Brick Store Pub, or at the event.
Photobooth Phun
Capture your memories of SkaterAid in an old-time automatic photobooth. No one will know what you're doing behind the curtain - unless you show them your photos of course.

See a full schedule of SkaterAids bands at the Performances link as the event approaches. All bands are composed of students from area high schools.

Burgers, Dogs and More
Don't go hungry at SkaterAid! We'll have plenty to eat - burgers, dogs, chips, pizza and more. We'll also have plenty to drink, including cold beer if you're over 21.

SkaterAid T-shirts in all sizes. This year - art by R. Land!

Lots of great prizes will be available through SkaterAid's annual raffle. Buy a $1 ticket and you'll have a chance to win gift certificates from area retailers and other great items.

SkaterAid Website: Click Here

Back Story;
SkaterAid was started in 2005 to celebrate the life of Ian Wochatz. A Decatur teen and avid skateboarder, Ian was diagnosed with an especially virulent type of brain cancer, and died on July 4, 2005 at age 15. SkaterAid provided a place for all those who loved Ian to honor his memory in a way he would have approved of...with music, friends and skateboarding.

SkaterAid's mission is to support families who are dealing with the tragedy of pediatric cancer. The first year, the proceeds of SkaterAid went to Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta. In 2006, funds were channelled to the RET Foundation in honor of RET Thomas. In 2007 and 2008, all proceeds went to the Brain Tumor Foundation for Children.

Ultimately, SkaterAid is a place for teens to celebrate their youth. Whether flying through the air on a board, playing music, or hanging out with friends, you're only 15 once in your life, so....skate on. And shred for Ian.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Diversity spawns togetherness at Cross Keys

I debated whether or not I should cross-post this item from Champion Newspaper about my Cross Keys Indians football program. I wasn't sure it fit the interests of this blog's readership. But then I thought, "How could anyone interested in Cross Keys fail to enjoy a story about this most unlikely high school football team?"

For me, it is another story that highlights the poverty and unique challenges of Cross Keys HS' zone. But, as I have seen over and over again, the kids manage to work hard and stick to their dreams with dignity I hope my own son one day exhibits. This ultimate "Bad News Bears" team narrowly missed breaking it's 0-30 losing streak last week against Clarkston in OT. Oh! What I'd give to be there the day these scrappy players finally win a game!

If you are moved by these hardworking young people as I am, please join me in honoring one of their former peers this Saturday, September 26, at 2:00pm (see 2009 Cross Keys Graduate to be Honored).

Over the summer, I also acquired the jersey of Richard Feacher who is mentioned in the article. I'll find it a home in Brookhaven's Hudson Grille sports bar soon. The article failed to mention he is on a full scholarship at Furman. I met him early this year and found him a very impressive young person who obviously worked very, very hard under challenging circumstances.

Here is the recent piece on the Indians' football team:

Diversity spawns togetherness at Cross Keys

(taken from http://championnewspaper.com/cross_keys.html)

by Robert Naddra

Which of the following are things you’ll never see or hear at a high school football practice in DeKalb County:

Player bios that read like answers to a world geography test – Zambia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Honduras, Serbia, Mexico, China.

The snap count being rattled off in Spanish.

A former gang member starting on the offensive line.

Coaches helping players make sure their pads are in the right places.

Players going to tutorials instead of going to practice two days a week, if needed.

If you chose any of the above, you’ve probably never been to a football practice at Cross Keys High School.

It doesn’t take long to figure out why winning football games isn’t the most important thing to players and coaches at Cross Keys High School.

With little to no parental support, Cross Keys coach David Radford and his staff try to create a team environment on the most diverse team at the most diverse high school in the county.

“I’ve been here four years, and our parents never come to games,” Radford said. “A lot of kids, their parents are working to survive and coming to football games is not important. It’s very common on Senior Night for coaches or teachers to stand in for the parents.”

Many of the players are not U.S. citizens and have not been in the country more than a few years.

“You can’t do things the way more successful programs do it,” said Radford, who came from a successful high school program in Arizona. “Your heart has to be in everything you do instead of worrying about Xs and Os. You have to be concerned about the guys beyond football.”

For the past two seasons, Radford has managed to put together a team of about 30 to 35 players, mostly foreign. Most did not know how to play football until they moved to the United States, and most have played only since middle school.

As a result, the Indians have lost 30 straight games. But week after week, the Indians keep coming back to the practice field and to games.

“A lot are not U.S. citizens and where they’ve come from they been through hardships a lot worse than getting beat up on the football field,” Radford said.

“It’s a true testament to our coaching staff that these kids keep coming back,” Radford said. “They get their heads pounded and still come out every Friday night and fight.

Opposing coaches always tell us that they’re impressed by how hard our kids fight. We lost 70-7 last year to Blessed Trinity and the coaches told us they noticed our kids kept fighting.”

It is that spirit that has landed several Cross Keys players college scholarships in recent years. Richard Feacher, one of the top receivers in the county last year, now is a freshman at Furman. Also, Philip People is a senior at Gardner-Webb, and Nico Williams is a senior at Holy Cross.

“I think I can go to college to play football,” said Yonuel Hidalgo, a junior from Mexico. “I hear about others who go to college and think maybe I can, too.”

College scholarships are the reward, not the reason, many players stick with the program at Cross Keys’. If not for football, many of the players would not have a place to fit in at the school.

“It’s fun just being out here and learning something new,” said sophomore Ahmed Mahammed of Ethiopia. “It helps us bond. We’re trying to change Cross Keys history and work hard to win games.”

Defensive coordinator Barry Banks, the school’s campus supervisor, has seen plenty of changes in the 17 years he has been at the school.

“We have a chance to touch these kids who have never played football before,” Banks said. “Because we’re so small, we are able to have one-on-one instruction and see them change over the years. They grow to have confidence in themselves.”

With so many cultures and languages to consider, coaches take the players on group activities to help them bond. The team has been to an Atlanta Falcons game at the Georgia Dome – a first for many players.

Radford, who grew up in Indianapolis, has seen hardship first hand and wanted to try to change his players’ lives like one of his coaches did for him. After Radford got into a gang-related fight after school, one of his coaches was going to take him home. Instead the coach took Radford to his house.

“He told me ‘you can live like you live, or have this,’” Radford said.

Radford passed up full scholarships to smaller schools and walked on at Indiana University.
“Sports save my life and when I came here I wanted to give back. I find it rewarding to be able to help the kids.”

Friday, September 18, 2009

Silver Bells, And Cockle Shells

Mistress Mary,
Quite contrary,
How does your
garden grow?

Every school in the county should have a garden. It's a great educational tool, and there are tons of grants available. It can even get the cafeteria staff involved in something educational.

It's also a chance for the school system to work with DeKalb Co. The county is looking to start a big community garden program. In Decatur, a school and the parks & rec. dept. share a garden. A school garden program is something DeKalb schools should have done long agon considering the amount of administrators they have.

2009 Georgia Outdoor Classroom Symposium Registration is Open

Please save the date for Georgia's 13th annual Outdoor Classroom Symposium to be held Friday, October 30, 2009 at Chase Street Elementary School in Athens, GA! This year’s theme of "Growing Fertile Minds" will feature sessions on how to create specific types of school gardens, how to start farm-to-school programs, and how to use your school grounds to enhance cross-curricular learning. The always popular "make and take" classes and post-symposium workshops will also be offered. Other highlights will include informative exhibits prepared by program providers and outdoor classroom experts, a local farm-fresh lunch, presentation of the Outdoor Classroom Service Award, and endless opportunities for networking and inspiration!

Enter the outdoor classroom photography contest for a chance to win free registration. Educators may choose to earn one Professional Learning Unit (1 PLU) by also participating in a post-symposium workshop, Endangered Plant Species Network or Digging Deeper: Farm to School, at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens on Saturday, October 31.

Registration is now open! - Complete Details / Register
Register by September 30 to receive the earlybird discount!

The Outdoor Classroom Council (OCC) is an initiative of the Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia (EEA) and is comprised of a coalition of organizations and individuals who share an interest in the design, development, maintenance, use, and longevity of outdoor classrooms. OCC serves teachers, parents, principals, and community volunteers by coordinating Georgia's annual Outdoor Classroom Symposium and providing resource information at www.eealliance.org.

More info. on school gardens available at:


Feel free to share how your own schools work to beautify the grounds or special programs you have to teach children about tending and respecting the earth. Great ideas are always welcome!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tune in to "The Principal Story"

Our astute bloggers have clued us in to an upcoming PBS documentary that we all need to watch. Tune in on Tuesday, September 15th or Wednesday, the 16th to view the program, then come back and discuss it here. The clips look very inspiring.

"The Principal Story, a $1.5 million dollar national multiplatform broadcast film and outreach project, was selected for full funding by The Wallace Foundation in response to its RFP to help elevate the visibility of leadership as a lever for school improvement. The Foundation was seeking a film that would provide compelling and credible stories of principals and their leadership teams whose work could result in schoolwide improvement and academic achievement for youth. With a focus on the vital and changing role of school leadership, the project’s objectives are to raise awareness; educate and motivate key audiences, including opinion leaders in policy and education; provide resources; and spur collaboration and action. Since 2002, improving education leadership at all levels of the system – state, district, and school – has been the sole focus of The Wallace Foundation’s efforts in education.

The Principal Story is a 60-minute documentary about public school leadership and learning seen through the eyes of two very dynamic and passionate principals, one in the Chicago Public School System, and one in Springfield, IL. Following these two principals and schools in depth for one year, the film reveals the complex social and political dynamics that connect children, parents, teachers, principals, principal supervisors, school system executive officers, and elected officials. THE PRINCIPAL STORY takes the viewer along for a compelling, passion-filled ride that reveals what effective educational leadership looks like in the 21st century. Produced and directed by Tod Lending, Nomadic Pictures, and David Mrazek, the film is projected to air on PBS in fall 2009.

Studies have shown that student success in struggling schools relies heavily on the effective leadership of the principal. In THE PRINCIPAL STORY, all three leaders oversee a majority of low-income student populations facing the testing challenges of the No Child Left Behind Act. Their schools offer distinctly different educational environments, with the unique challenges of different age/grade levels and class sizes. Each principal is at different phases in her career; their leadership styles reflect this."

To preview clips, click here.

Download the field guide by clicking here.

Full Broadcasts to be aired --

Tuesday, September 15, 10:30pm
Thursday, September 17, 4:00am

GPB Channel 8:
Wednesday, September 16, 10:00pm
Saturday, September 19, 1:00am

GPB Knowledge
Wednesday, September 16, 9:00am
Wednesday, September 16, 3:00pm
Wednesday, September 16, 8:00pm
Sunday, September 20, 12:00pm

Economic Background

Here's a 30 minute GritTV discussion about Goldman Sachs with Mike Lux, Matt Taibbi and Senate Banking Committee former chief economist, Robert Johnson (starts around the 1:00 minute mark). I realize that this is about national politics - but understanding why our economy is in the condition it's in - will help understand why, in "trickle-down" economics, schools are suffering enormous budget crunches.

Be very wary of who you reelect in 2010 to Congress. I personally believe that both parties are infused with greedy, self-serving private investors who are in the position now to not only influence - but make our laws. For instance, the plan that Obama and Arne Duncan have to close 5,000 low-performing schools and reopen them as charters will serve to line the pockets of private corporations that create and manage charter programs. Their plan to begin national testing and curricula will line the pockets of test-makers and textbook publishers. The amount of money at stake for private corporations to reap off of the backs of our public schools -- Billions.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The school of discord

Disclaimer: This is a very bad translation of an article published yesterday in Mundo Hispanico. But you will get the general idea -- things aren't going too well at Woodward ES apparently.

Parents are offended by the treatment of teachers in the Woodward Elementary School in Dekalb

By Mario Guevara

Showered with complaints against the new director of the Woodward Elementary.

AMILY of several public school students in DeKalb County reported that the director Latinos look bad and therefore is taking action against him.

"When we started the year gathered us (parents) to tell us that we would let in (to school) because it was very messy, but the truth is that disorder is made worse out here," said the Mexican Mireya Hernandez, whose grandchildren are studying at Woodward Elementary School, the school in question.

According to Hernandez, former parents of students entering the institution, located on the side of Cross Keys High School in Atlanta, when they went to drop off and pick up the kids, something that now does not allow the new director Reginald Stephens.

Most of Woodward's students are entitled to use the buses DeKalb School System. Under the rules of the institution, who must be transported by parents are those children who live near the school.

MundoHispánico verified that no parent is allowed entry to the school in the morning when they leave their small, or in the evening, when to go pick them up when they finish their classes. Several women and unemployed men wait outside the school and low sun out of their children.

According to Omar Ruiz, the only thing he has served Stephens Director's decision to suspend the entry of parents to campus is to create more chaos and expose children to danger.

"One of these days my child was seven years alone with another classmate's apartment and when I came here to pick it were not," said Ruiz. "After a while we learned that they had left alone."

The Mexican said that when the school asked for explanations for what happened was promised that was not going to repeat itself and that would pay closer attention.

"One is afraid that children walk all alone on the street because there are gangs in this area," he said Ruiz.

"I want to Hispanics"

A school employee who requested anonymity Woodward to "stay out of trouble" told this means that since Stephens took over the institution began referring evil against Latinos.

"The first thing he said at a meeting of teachers was that he was puzzled by both Hispanic child in school and had a nice little gesture," said the source. "After that came with it was that they did not want parents to enter.

The informant also reported that there is an African American teacher who is mean to students.

"He yells too much to the kids and some even hit them, the worst is that the manager conceals" he said. "Unfortunately, parents are silent and as there is no interpreter in school, have no way to communicate."

According to the source, some people come sporadically to translate to parents but are not certified, does not guarantee effective communication.

"The county already knows all these things and even the doctor (Crawford) Lewis, (overseer of the DeKalb School System), came two weeks ago to check all these complaints," he said.

MundoHispánico could not verify this with the official version, or get the county's official position on these allegations because until press time had not been possible to contact his spokesperson.

This media Stephens approached and said he intended to make statements, but would do so have the authorization of the county. He also denied permission to do interviews on school property.


A former employee of the DeKalb School System, who for many years worked as an interpreter, stated that there were anomalies in some schools in the county and even the International Center, which is to provide services to immigrant communities.

"In schools there is no certified translators, I myself was one of them" admitted Xochitl Araica. "Whoever does that work. I think the 25 only two are certified interpreters, although the regulation requires that everyone be".

According to Araica, the International Center receives federal funds to help foreign students who speak English. The Nicaraguan noted that in that state are not very fond of Latinos.

"The director told me once that as the majority of Latinos are undocumented, not interested because he did not bring money, only those who are seeking asylum and refugees," said Araica.

"I started to educate parents about their rights and get involved with some community organizations and none of it liked, so I had to leave," he said.

Until press time, MundoHispánico also unable to obtain the International Center of DeKalb, because its director Sandra Nuñez, had not returned calls.

I once said that as the majority of Latinos are undocumented, not interested because he did not bring money, only those who are seeking asylum and refugees.

Xochitl Araica, a former employee of the DeKalb School System.


Good news - one of our bloggers had contributed a better translation - read it in the comments section.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Meanwhile, back at the Board of Education meeting...

Well, after the suspense leading up to Obama's speech today at noon, this meeting was a pretty dull ending to the day. The speakers all did a really nice job, but there weren't many of them. Kim Gokce spoke about an unusual topic - Cross Keys High School! (Good job, Kim!) He reminded us all to join him at the Waffle House for the dedication of Abu Bangura's jersey on SAT, SEPT 26 @ 2:00pm. Several very articulate moms advocated for recess. (One of them was a doctor.) They brought research to back their claims and suggested text for an amendment. Click here to sign their online petition. What Girl Scouts - very prepared!

As for the rest, I think I'll copy Kim's style and just bullet-point the whole thing.

• Three new positions were requested by Dr. Lewis and unanimously approved by the board: A new position has been created for Dr. Yvonne Butler as Executive Director, Corporate Wellness Program. Dr. Butler is a former Principal at Browns Mill Elementary School. Mr. Steve Donahue was promoted to Executive Director, Plant Services. Mr. Donahue is the former principal of Peachtree MS. And Mr. Tony Hunter was appointed Executive Director, Management Information Systems (MIS). Mr. Hunter is currently employed as Director, Management Information Systems (MIS).

Two things: If good principals are so hard to come by - why promote good principals into corporate jobs? And - why not actually hire someone with expertise in things like Corporate Wellness and Plant Services to fill those jobs instead of filling them with people trained in education?!! Sigh.

• Marcus Turk says our funds are low because property tax bills went out late. He says we will be on track when all is collected. Mr. Womack asked if we have money in a "rainy day fund", to which Mr. Turk replied, "Mr. Womack, it's been raining pretty hard for a while now."

• The topic of FTE's came up. Jay Cunningham questioned how we could allow some schools like Murphy Candler to have no art or music when others seem to have plenty. He said that some elementary schools are lacking a science teacher. Dr. Lewis pointed out that principals are free to spend their FTE's as they wish and that smaller schools cannot afford to employ art, music and PE teachers as each FTE equates to a $65,000 expense (including benefits). He went so far as to say that if we did that, we would be bankrupt in about 24 hours! However, Dr. Lewis suggested that 4 small schools can share a teacher if they use .25 FTE each. I think Jay has an excellent point and I think it could be time for the school board to step in and "redistribute the FTE's" so that every child has art, music and PE. This is just not right.

• Womack, McChesney and a couple of others requested that Pat Pope make all bids and offers available for them to review in her office before they vote on them at these meetings. She said she would but can't make them available to the public by law.

• Pam Speaks asked how we came up with the list of schools on the request for the state capital outlay. Pope said that the state makes that list themselves. Schools on the list are: Martin Luther King, Jr. High Facility Addition, Miller Grove High Facility Addition, Hambrick Elementary Facility Modification, Woodridge Elementary Facility Modification, Hawthorne Elementary Facility Modification, Glen Haven Elementary Facility Modification, Southwest DeKalb High Facility Addition and Modification

• The board deferred the vote on the requested waivers from the state because it was written for K-8 and the state has changed the form to K-12. They intend to request the following 5 of the 7 waivers sometimes allowed by the state when a system can show fiscal need:

Personnel Required
A waiver from this rule would allow DCSS some flexibility in employing personnel for positions according to the unweighted full-time equivalent (FTE) count that is shown on the midterm adjustment allotment sheet. Examples of positions listed in this rule are: school psychologists; social workers; school counselors; technology specialists; art, music, & PE specialists; and media specialists.

Minimum Direct Instruction
A waiver from this rule would allow DCSS flexibility in spending a minimum of 65 percent of the total operating expenditures on direct classroom expenditures or increasing the direct classroom expenditures as a percent of total operating expenditures by two or more percentage points over the previous fiscal year.

Guidance Counselors
A waiver from this rule would allow DCSS to waive the requirement that guidance counselors are engaged in counseling or guidance activities, including advising students, parents, or guardians, for a minimum of five of six full-time segments during the school day.

Class Size Waiver for K-8
A waiver from this rule would allow DCSS flexibility in complying with maximum class sizes and to capture FTE funds that would have been lost if a class was over the limit on the FTE Count Days.

Instructional Extension/20-Day Money
A waiver from this rule would allow DCSS some flexibility in providing an instructional program beyond the regular school day to address the academic needs of low-performing students.

Dr. Walker closed by saying that he was very proud of DeKalb County Schools for showing Obama's speech today and not bowing to public pressure as other school systems did. Jay Cunningham encouraged parents to join the school council and PTSA, to download the parent resource guide and enforce the dress code.


All in all, I felt that although it was boring, it was still frustrating. It really bothers me to hear Dr. Lewis fret over the fact that a full time classroom teacher is a $65,000 expense (including benefits) and then turn around and promote people into high paying administrative jobs. It bothers me that this board plans to request a waiver of the law that requires 65% of the budget to be spent in the classroom and one that would put more students in each of those classrooms. It bothers me that in the area of curriculum, we have our Asst Superintendent of curriculum, Gloria Talley, with her salary of $162,648.00 - 5 directors of curriculum instruction at a cost of $438,500.00, 72 "Instructional Supervisors" at a cost of almost $6.4 million - plus 473 "Instructional Specialists" totaling $23.9 million, yet we have children who do not have art, music and PE teachers - they're entitled to one of each - they shouldn't have to choose. I am bothered by the fact that our superintendent and board seem to cry "poor" when it comes to funding the classroom, but can always find the money to bloat the administration. Our children deserve better.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Obama Live!

Tune in here on Tuesday, September 8th at NOON EST to watch a live streamed video of Obama's speech to the American children.

A lively discussion afterward will certainly ensue! Feel free to comment!


If you would rather stream it live yourself, or stream it live into your computer for class presentation (if you have the technology) go here - (I have removed the live stream from this blog).


or watch live on CSPAN via cable or satellite.

In the meantime, check out the conversation at the Momania blog at the AJC. The "conversation" there has pretty much hit rock bottom. Let's not do that here, please.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A wonderful response to tragedy

I have not shared this on the blog, but I had a 20 year old nephew who tragically died in a car accident two years ago. He was a college student on his way to a bright future after many struggles as a teen.

I just found out about a wonderful organization called Dahlia's Reach, whose purpose it is to help families deal with tragedies like this. They will help with travel arrangements, food, lodging and collecting items for families.

Dahlia's Reach is only available in Florida right now, but hope to expand nationally. If you think you can help in any way, I hope you will. I pray that none of you ever need to use their services, but it would be mighty gracious of us all to make a contribution if able, to support them in their efforts to help the people who need them.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dr. Lewis at DCPC

I attended Dunwoody Chamblee Parents Council's meeting today at Dunwoody High School and here are my rough notes for those who did not attend. Others that may have attended should post items of note I missed in the comments.

Dr. Lewis changed the format of his presentation this time around and addressed specific questions that had been provide in advance. Here is a bullet point recap:

1. Workweek/Calendar: DCSS is keeping a 180 calendar but has prepared a list of non-school days that could be added to the schedule if some mandate comes externally. The example he gave was the Monday and Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving. DCSS wants to be prepared to act if mandated but has no intention of modifying the calendar at this point.

2. eSIS - The launch has been tough all around but the pain will be worth it in Dr. Lewis' eyes. He indicated that any major legacy system replacement is going to be painful and this one is no different. He did say that the training could have been better managed and timed.

3. Parent Portal - The plan has always been to hold back Portal launch until the teachers and system have mastered eSIS and have the data right. The plan is still to release the new Parent Portal in October.

4. Transportation Effiiciency - DCSS is projecting $4 million in savings for 2010.

5. Textbooks - looking at CD/DVD option but there are challenges to work out.

6. Arts/Music instruction - points available to principals will be more tightly managed and when a school leader has to choose between a math or science teacher and an art or music teacher, they're most often going to choose math or science.

7. Budget Cuts Status - hiring freeze is still in place and attrition has lead to 50 positions eliminated saving $3.3 million.

8. Comprehensive Restructuring Plan - DCSS is looking for up to $26 million in total savings by June 2010.

9. AYP - general success in improving ES and MS level, not so much in HS. McNair MS made AYP for the first time ever.

10. Principal apppointments - Dr. Lewis has been and intends to request the BoE support his efforts to select principals for schools. He feels he is best suited to identify the talent for the jobs.

11. eCommunity web site - He was very excited to announce a new web resource coming up by the end of September. He was very effusive about the amount of parent resources that would be available via this site.

12. Block Schedule - DCSS will make recommendations in November to BoE and plans to offer flexibility to schools.

13. School closings/Re-Districting - DCSS will make recommendations to the BoE in January for implementation by Aug 2010 that according to Pat Pope will, "... hit every areaa of the County ..."

14. Pat Pope hired a Planning Director to oversee the planning process for the system (wow! this could be really good news!)

That's all I have for now - please add your own commentary!