Saturday, February 27, 2010

So, what about the DCSS budget and school closings?

Sadly, DeKalb schools have been front page news at least three times this week - and not for reasons we can be proud of. As we all stopped to gawk at the train wreck our central office has now become, we took our eyes off of the very important tasks at hand.

There are a few people who have the strength to avert their eyes from the Lewis/Pope crisis and stay focused on the issues that effect our children and our communities. Let's try to be in this group - let's stay focused.

Maureen Downey brought us a very good report on the discussions surrounding school closings at her AJC blog, "Get Schooled". This is the most information I have seen about that issue - ever. Thanks, Maureen.

In addition, our friends at the DeKalb Parent Resource blog have been desperately trying to remain focused on the work needing done for our schools. They offer links to all kinds of resources and detailed notes from the meetings they attend. Good job guys!

But as far as I can tell, this latest debacle has stalled discussions about budget cuts. Teacher contracts remain in limbo. The meeting Friday where Lewis was going to propose cuts was canceled and it doesn't look like the board has time to turn their attention back to the issue. And now, the Lewis 'situation' looks like all it will do is add more financial liability to our already broken budget.

We need to communicate to our board reps that we want them to focus first on getting the school system and it's budget back on track. We want them to communicate the plans for teachers and staff clearly. And we want communities elevated to a level of partnership and included in discussions. We can solve our problems - we have so many caring, dedicated parents, teachers and community leaders willing to roll up their sleeves in DeKalb.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Lewis Takes Leave

WSB 750 AM is reporting that the BOE is in emergency session again today to name an interim Superintendent as Dr. Lewis has taken a leave of absence or sabbatical of some type. Report is that he will continue to be paid and the BOE will cover any legal fees that result from the current investigation. Seems they are standing by their man.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

News of the Day

Ok - by request, we will start a posting place to add the news of the day as it pours in! List whatever you hear in the comments below.

Today's news from the AJC is about the search of Crawford Lewis' home, the Sam Moss Center and the school administrative offices.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


In a article in the newest DeKalb Neighbor, "County to close four schools after this year", Crawford Lewis asks for support for SPLOST IV:

Lewis said he would be asking DeKalb County voters to support an extension of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax program to help fund capital improvement projects at school facilities. DeKalb County shoppers pay a voter-approved 1 percent sales tax that goes to the school system. The current tax, SPLOST III, expires in 2012. Lewis said he will ask voters to approve SPLOST IV in November 2011. “Our needs are great and we need your support.”

Here is the big question, can taxpayers and parents trust the current Board of Education and Crawford Lewis-led school system administration with another SPLOST that will raise tens of millions of dollars, if not more?

There is no question the needs are great, especially if you have walked the facilities (and rest rooms) at Cross Keys, Lakeside and Sequoyah Middle.

However, this current administration and BOE has had scandal after scandal after mistake with handling our taxes. Whether the Pat Pope debacle, the addition of countless administrators, the incredible increase in pay for administrators over the past five years, nepotism, the Heery Mitchell lawsuit, the bait and switch with Arabia Mountain High, $300,000 for BOE lights, hundreds of thousands to redo the in fine condition parking lot at the Mountain Industrial mega-complex, half a million of dollars for an investigation by a retired judge that wasn't written down (?) but given verbally, millions for America's Choice, millions for the failed eSIS software, tens of millions for MIS with little to show for it in the classrooms, the $400k California trip, millions on instructional coaches/supervisors, Tony Hunter's promotion from director to executive director despite a very bad year from MIS, Executive Director of Corporate Wellness, Crawford's vehicle purchase and gas fillup disgrace, the school system fighting in court stream buffer violations in Dunwoody which cost more than making the fixes, the failure of the school system to share facilities with the county, the insistance by Paul Womack that the tiny Heritage school could fit 600 students and staff, the complete and utter failure by the Lewis administration to thoroughly check residency, etc., etc., etc.

There are so many facility needs in our schools, but this current administration focuses first on the needs of administrators, and the BOE has been their enabler. Ignoring school needs like mold and mildew in HVAC systems, leaking roofs, holes in floors, etc., all a common refrain from our school teachers. The beautiful Arabia Mountain High School was supposed to relieve overcrowding in South DeKalb but was then switched to a magnet school and did not relieve overcrowding.

As parents and taxpayers, do we allow the Lewis administration and current Board of Education to spend millions while we cross our hands, or do we send a message that waste, inefficiency, and administrative bloat will no longer be tolerated? Tough call. Let's hear your take, DCSW-er's!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Plan to attend these board meetings

The following BOE meetings that will happen this week - people really need to be there if they want to know what is going on with the budget.


The DeKalb Board of Education Committee on Budget, Finance & Facilities will hold a meeting on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 10:30am in the Superintendent's Conference Room at the DeKalb County School System's Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center, Building A, 3770 North Decatur Road in Decatur, Georgia. The purpose of the meeting is to review Board policies and system-wide operations as it relates to finance & facilities.

Meeting information can be accessed online by going to the Board of Education and Meeting Information website by clicking here.

There will also be a called work session of the full board on Fri. 2/26 at 10:30 am - more information to follow.

Both have been confirmed by email from the board secretary.

UPDATE: The new parent blog "DeKalb Parents United" has published their detailed notes from this morning's meeting.

And the AJC has posted this article on the meeting.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

So, it looks like Pat Pope is (allegedly) a rat after all

You'll have to buy a copy of today's AJC to get the full, below the fold front page story, the headline of which reads, "Huge schools project altered, aiding spouse". It seems that "Pat Pope made changes to a multimillion-dollar construction project that prevented her architect husband from losing out on more than $1 million in earnings, The [AJC] has learned."

The project is one of six the DA is investigating. Of course, Pope's attorney still claims she's done nothing illegal. Her husband, Tony Pope said that she "didn't make the changes to give him work, but acknowledged that her actions helped him financially."

In fact, his actual quote is, "You're doggone right it benefited me."

The saddest part to me is that the contract under investigation is the contract for the Mountain Industrial project. It was awarded at $1 million over the budgeted amount, and then incurred $4 million in changes - due to the fact that the school system decided to move the administrative offices to the that facility. And all the while, Cross Keys, Lakeside, Chamblee, Dunwoody and others wait for their promised improvements to little or no avail.

There's more - lots more - so go get a paper today and a box of Kleenex, because there's no way that you can take this all in without shedding tears for our children.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Clarity on the "Instructional Specialists" vs "Instructional Supervisors"

Bloggers - we try very hard to ensure that we are dealing in facts, however, apparently, our confusion as to the roles of Instructional Specialists have left our readers with the wrong impression and wrong facts. We truly apologize. We have now been given the gift of facts via some very intense research by one of our own. We have unfortunately, left readers with the impression that all of the jobs labeled "Instructional Specialists" are what some people refer to as "Gloria Talley's Army".

Yes, Gloria has built up quite a large group of "Instructional Supervisors" - those people who supposedly supervise teachers, send out email recovery plans, schedule meetings and critique bulletin boards. However, the actual title "Instructional Specialist", while sounding similar, is totally different. We had discussed this in the comments area of a couple of posts, however, it is important enough to warrant a front page article. These people are teachers and we want that known and clarified. They have a whole different job description from "Instructional Supervisors" - they are special teachers such as art, music, and P.E.

Here is a brief overview of the facts from our dear researcher/reader:

I often read on the blog about the "army of instructional specialists", some 400+ in number. I know the general consensus is that there are 400+ additional people sitting around Building B, taking over $20 million from schools, adding to the "district administrative bloat", and doing nothing to support children. I know for a fact that this is not true in the case of the "Instructional Specialists P-8". I also know (and completely understand why) the website's visitors would be very distrustful of anyone who defends the district office.

I went to the page for the 2008-2009 school year and downloaded the entire list of 445 names. I looked up every single name and determined the person's role in the district. The "Instructional Specialists P-8" are, in fact, teachers. When the district has to classify employees for the state CPI (Certified/Classified Personnel Index) report that is displayed on the site, the district is restricted by the state's titles. There is no way to identify those teachers who are certified as K-12 specialists and work in elementary or middle schools. The only title under which those teachers may be classified is "Instructional Specialists P-8". The breakdown of the 445 "Instructional Specialists P-8" who work in our elementary and middle schools is as follows:

Art -- 65 teachers
Band/General Music/Chorus/Orchestra/Strings -- 153 teachers
Physical Education -- 182 teachers
Left the system after 2008-2009 -- 45 teachers

(I put the music teachers together as they often serve multiple roles in the elementary & middle schools. For example, someone may be classified as "Chorus" but be teaching the music, orchestra, and band courses as well.)

So, please, do not come to the microphone at the board meetings using the "Instructional Specialists" as ammunition when they are really teachers. If we cut those employees, we will be cutting the very people that you fight for every year. I know there are MANY reasons to be upset with the district, but this is not one of them. Be mad for a litany of reasons, but don't throw the Instructional Specialists into the mix. They serve children every day. They also represent $23,865,446.18 of the budget that has been incorrectly attributed to the district office.

Now, the Instructional Supervisors - well, if anyone can clarify their roles and value, please share your input in the comments!

Friday, February 19, 2010

DeKalb to close four schools, cut administrators

Today's AJC has an update from Dr. Lewis on school closings. I couldn't read it without blowing a gasket so I have reprinted the article here, embellished with my personal commentary - apologizing in advance for my high level of cynicism.

DeKalb County’s superintendent said he will cut about 15 top administrators and close four schools to help with the district’s $88 million deficit. (Wonder what he considers "top".)

“We can no longer afford to operate schools which are at half capacity,” Superintendent Crawford Lewis told about 100 business leaders Friday at his State of the System address. Could we ever?

With 152 schools, DeKalb has the most school buildings in the state -- despite being the third-largest district and closing five schools in 2008, Lewis said. The DCSS website states, " 143 schools and centers". The State DOE says 140.

Next week, school officials will identify the four elementary schools that will close at the end of the school year in May. They plan to close another eight to 10 schools in May 2011. Why wait?

The schools will be selected out of the 29 schools with enrollments of less than 300 students. District officials are eyeing schools in south DeKalb now that Dunwoody has become the fastest-growing area of the county, Lewis said. There are only 14 schools with enrollments under 300 according to the data submitted by DCSS to the State of Georgia for the official October 2009 FTE count.

They are - DeKalb Alternative Night School (90), Wadsworth Magnet School for High Achievers (165), DeKalb Transition School (116), Dekalb Early College Academy (206), DeKalb School of the Arts (291), DeKalb Alternative School (25), Margaret Harris Comprehensive School (78), Gateway to College Academy (104), UHS of Laurel Heights (26), International Student Center (163), Gresham Park Elementary School (294), Knollwood Elementary School (289), Coralwood Education Center (218), DeKalb/Rockdale PsychoEducation Center (135). As you can see, many of these are special schools so of course, they have fewer students.

The Citizens Planning Task Force, a group of 20 residents appointed by school board members, will work with school officials to make a recommendation on which schools to close. The board will then vote on the final closings, school system spokesman Dale Davis said.

Last year, DeKalb’s enrollment grew by about 1,500 students to 101,000 children. What? Again, the official October, 2009 FTE count shows that DeKalb officially reported 99,406 students to the state.

The school closings will allow the district to save about $2.5 million. Teachers from those schools will move with their students and be allowed to keep their jobs, but some other staff may be affected, Davis said. Well thank goodness for that - the students will continue to have teachers!

The closings will mean the district will have to redraw the attendance boundaries and reroute buses before school starts in August.

The school closures are part of a systemwide trimming to meet a loss in state funding and property tax revenue. Or to finally have to deal with the bloat that has occurred in the last 5 years.

“We are working really, really hard not to raise anyone’s taxes,” Lewis said.

Last month, Lewis proposed a series of program cuts, staff furloughs and other reductions to meet what officials thought was a $56 million deficit. He now is scrambling to identify $32 million more to cut from next year’s budget after learning the county’s property values dove 6.7 percent.

“This year’s budget will go back to the figure we had in 2005. That kind of tells you exactly how bad things are,” Lewis said. Guess what? We're all living off 2005 income - or less. Well, unless you work in the school administration. Top administrators in DeKalb have seen their salaries increase an average of 7% year over year since 2004.

Lewis said he will unveil those additional proposed cuts next Friday.

“There will be layoffs in these cuts. I don’t anticipate cutting any teachers at the local level,” he said. “But there is no way for me to come back to the board with an $88 million deficit and no layoffs.” I don't follow this statement at all. Teachers at the local level? Are there teachers at other levels?

Most of those job losses will be at the central office, including narrowing his cabinet of 27 administrators down to about 12, Lewis said. TWENTY-SEVEN administrators? Most Fortune 500 CEOs don't have half that number. BTW- he doesn't have a "cabinet" - he is not the president.

Some of those administrators will be able to apply for principal and teaching positions, but others will be out of a job. At what pay scale will these new principals/teachers be paid?

“It’s important now that every salary counts,” he said. * So why are you still paying Pat Pope almost $200,000 to do nothing?

The district has about 14,000 full-time employees, including 8,000 teachers. No - check the website - DCSS has 13,285 full-time employees, only about 7,300 of whom are teachers. Perhaps they were including the entire sub list?

The proposed administrative cuts come less than a week after the AJC reported that the district posted a job to replace a deputy superintendent of teaching and learning for $163,900 while calling for teacher pay cuts. Yes, they do live in different worlds from the teachers and their students, don't they? After all, it IS all about the administration! We just love paying taxes to support these high salaried people!

The other staff in his cabinet will see pay cuts, Lewis said. I'll believe it when I see in on the GA salary schedule for 2010.

However, the superintendent does not plan to give back the $15,000 raise and contract extension that the board approved in January. Lewis told business leaders that the raise comes after he lost $30,000 in salary and bonuses last year. Yes, yes, we're all always aware of the severe sacrifices you have made Dr. Lewis - you remind us every single chance you get.

“I don’t think $15,000 is going to have a profound impact on an $88 million deficit,” he added. Then give it back if you think it's such a pittance - didn't you just state above* that "every salary counts? Well, $15,000 represents someone's salary for sure.

On Friday, Lewis said some programs will be cut, but he is reconsidering his proposal to get rid of magnet schools and the Montessori program. He always "reconsiders" (aka; backs down) when anyone gives him a hard time. He has no moxie.

“We’re trying to do what’s right for the children, but we have to do it with the resources we have,” he said. Sure, we ALL believe that the children are your priority - right after your gas tank, of course.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fall 2009 EOCT results have been released on the DeKalb County website

Ok, ok, enough about fish. The End Of Course Test results have finally been posted for you to review. To access all of the testing data for DeKalb visit this link. End Of Course Tests are very important since they automatically account for 15% of a student's final grade. Have a look and let us know what you think!

No fish for Lent?

The DeKalb Co school lunch calendars indicate a selection that includes fish during Lent for middle and high schools, however, not for elementary schools. Did someone decide to forgo the fish option on Fridays during Lent for our youngest students after all these years? Hopefully, this is just a miscommunication - we are checking. However, families who practice the religious traditions of Lent - you need to investigate what is being served on Fridays at your school before you assume that fish is still "on the table"... You may need to send in some fish tacos from home!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cox Northlake Visit:

State Ranked for Big Bucks; DeKalb Policy Vacuum; Impassioned Montessori Plea

By Tom Doolittle

This is a belated report, but it may add some perspective to the statewide CRCT testing allegations that arose since the Cox January visit.

On January 29, State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox visited the Northlake area—Mercer University’s Conference Center; Evansdale Elementary School and Lakeside High School. On the one hand, Cox’s presentation to the Dunwoody-Chamblee Parent Council (DCPC) at Mercer looked like one she would have made anywhere in the state. She came to talk about Georgia’s competitive position for a share of $4 billion “Race to the Top” funds from the Obama Administration. As a bonus, she delivered some spontaneous strong medicine for DeKalb’s stakeholders’ relations with each other and its school system.

The DeKalb remarks were spontaneous, as Cox took questions (comments, mostly) during a refreshing give-and-take while moving through her prepared presentation. Cox, after enduring comments about local budgetary plans and priorities in the midst of her higher-level strategic presentation, summed up the education leadership challenge in this bifurcated (“multi-furcated”?) urban/suburban county. Stopping the audience cold, the statewide official told an audience that included about thirty DCLP parents, “the problem in DeKalb is that you don’t trust each other”—meaning that stakeholders and communities throughout the county need to relate to each other so that that time and energy can be focused on “policy”, rather than pet issues.

Former DeKalb School’s Chairman William (Brad) Bryant, introduced Cox, complimenting the audience in advance as one that would demand a presentation with “some meat on it”—high level policy information and room for give-and-take. He explained afterward, “when I learned that Superintendent Kathy Cox was planning a visit to two of our DeKalb schools, it seemed like an excellent opportunity to have her visit with a group of engaged… parents (and) discuss education policy issues on the national and state level….”. Bryant, now an appointee to the state Board of Education, is recognized by some as representing the Governor’s office consulting with Clayton County’s school board in its remedial efforts in 2008.

Cox’s “Race to the Top” readiness report had some encouraging news, but the 90-minute session might have gone a bit differently if it had been ten days later. The DCPC January meeting predated the now-infamous potential fundraising and economic development disaster over public school testing irregularities.

It’s anybody’s guess whether the test flap will jeopardize the federal money, but from what Cox had to say, we are (or were) well prepared to receive the money. You see, “preparation” is one of the Feds primary criteria for awarding “racing” (as in ready, set, go) dollars. This program is not your grandfather’s government hand-out—the awards are focused on a review of a state’s long-term strategy for improvement and end results—“end” being post-secondary education and get this, professional placement.

According to Cox, here’s where we stand:

(1) Georgia is cooperating with a national consortium with several states signed on to set standards at a progressively higher standard. Note: there is no “federal” body, nor “federal” standard that can subsume a state’s independence.

(2) Georgia’s Performance Standards are a hybrid, formed from those in Massachusetts, Singapore and Japan, each being highly ranked worldwide in specific areas.

(3) Georgia is ranked very highly to receive Federal funds via President Obama’s “Race to the Top”. It is ranked third “Most Competitive” among what is classified as Tier 2 states (by population)—up to $400 million of the $4 billion total.

(4) Georgia’s graduation tests are subject to federal peer review and the science portion has received a federal “green light”.

(5) “Project Express”, exam preparation for re-taking social studies graduation tests has tripled “success rates”.

(6) All goals are “P-20”, from Pre-K to Post-Grad, meaning that all grades are taught to expect to do post-graduate work, whether at a 4-year university of a technology college.

(7) Georgia DOE, University System and Technical School System are working together seamlessly. Linked data now track secondary school graduates’ performance in post graduate institutions.

(8) Georgia has the second most technology schools of all states for post-graduate education.

(9) Technology education is free of charge with a Hope Scholarship available for anyone enrolling in a school (i.e., no B-average requirement). Technology schools may actually meet the requirement for future jobs better than four-year universities do in terms of total “trained” workforce.

(10) The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranks Georgia the top Reform state, based on technology standards and performance.

DeKalb Superintendent Crawford Lewis attended the meeting. While leaving, Lewis mentioned his scheduled “weekend chats” about the 2010 budget constraints and priorities. At least one group, from the Huntley Hills Montessori program, took Lewis’ cue to express its concern for the possible elimination of the “choice” program.

Huntley Hills, Briar Vista and Midway elementary schools have Montessori options for students in their home districts. Huntley Hills parent, Amy Holmes-Chavez said that the elimination of the program would save the school system very little money relative to total cuts required, while dramatically affecting the neighborhoods that are served. In fact, the Chamblee area parent says it’s possible to run the program at a lower cost than traditional classrooms.

Holmes-Chavez wrote later in an e-mail, “Montessori has…worked among students across all income levels, across ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and across learning abilities.” Although the program is in neighborhood schools, the choice advocate said that there has always been room for kids that have their own transportation from other districts.

Huntley Hills Elementary School is a Title 1 school in the Chamblee area. Apparently, according to Chavez, more neighborhood families are choosing the public school now. She said the school has made AYP for the past seven (7) years, adding, “we've built a strong school with a rich diversity across ethnic groups.”

Weigh in on the new teacher recruiting video!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Personality traits to admire

by Brett Blumenthal - Sheer Balance, on Thu Jan 28, 2010 6:49am PST (REPRINTED)

I’ve written numerous articles and posts on difficult people, personalities and relationships: Everything from Manipulative Marys to Bullies in the workplace to people who break boundaries to toxic relationships. Let’s face it: In life, we come across all kinds! As humans, we often focus on those who are negative or toxic leaving it difficult to appreciate those who are positive and healthy. Seeking out individuals with healthy, positive traits, however, may do a lot of good. The more we can surround ourselves with those who are positive and healthy, the more we may model those positive behaviors.

If you really think about it, once in awhile you come across a person who knocks you off your socks…legitimately. Maybe they have a fantastic outlook on life, even during difficult times. Maybe they are really humble, although they are extremely gifted. Maybe they make you feel special. All of these are good.

Below, I've listed some of the traits I admire most in people. Although I could probably list a dozen characteristics, I thought I’d list those that seem to be the rarest or most difficult to find.

  1. Selflessness: In a world where many people don’t have the time or the interest in others, selflessness is a quality that seems to be less and less common. People can be selfless in the time they give, the ability to listen, their level of patience and the love that they give. Those who are giving and generous in nature have the power to make others feel loved, appreciated and special. While those who are self-absorbed tend to do the exact opposite.
  2. Tolerance: Those people who are tolerant make us feel comfortable with who we are and special as individuals. All of us are different, and many of us have quirks and idiosyncrasies. After all, these differences make the world go round. Having the ability to accept people for who they are and not expect them to be who we want them to be is important in life, happiness and in the health of our relationships.
  3. Genuineness: Having the ability to be real, authentic and honest is unique in a world where we put so much emphasis on the superficial. Feeling comfortable in one’s skin and being true to one’s self is one of the most beautiful traits one can possess. To have a REAL relationship with someone requires honesty…it requires hearing and giving input or feedback that may not always be popular…it means having the strength to tell it like it is and to not be afraid to face the consequences for doing so…it means loving people for who they really are…deep down…and not for what they appear to be.
  4. Sensitivity: So often we are focused on what is important to ourselves that we can forget about those around us. Those who are sensitive are often thoughtful, appreciative and loving, in a way that makes you feel understood, valued and respected. Often, sensitive people are also self-aware, making them mindful of how they impact others with what they do and say.
  5. Integrity: Call me cynical, but I think this characteristic is especially difficult to find. In a time when people will do things that are underhanded to make an extra buck (Bernie Madoff…can you hear me?), expose their personal lives to the public so they can be famous (balloon boy’s dad and any other reality TV mongers) and do what feels good in the moment without necessarily thinking of the consequences (Tiger Woods), integrity is a characteristic that is especially unique today.
  6. Humility: Whether someone is super-smart, extremely talented or drop-dead gorgeous, there is something extra special about them if they don’t come across as though they know it all the time. Humility in those that possess extraordinary traits make others feel special too.
I reprinted this article because I know we have so many teachers and servants in our public schools who exhibit some or all of these traits. I'd like to use the comments area of this post to celebrate Valentine's Day and show some love! Let's hear about the DCSS people who have had a profound effect on you or your child - as their teacher, counselor, bus driver, librarian, food service worker, janitor, .... you get the point. Share your stories highlighting some of the amazing, wonderful people in DeKalb County Schools!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

CRCT cheating details revealed - “I want you to call the answers to me”

Trust. That's the thing we ask for the most for our teachers, school staff, Board of Education members and superintendent. We trust them with our children. We trust them with 70% of our property taxes. We trust them to provide safe and well functioning school buildings.

Our trust was breached with the Atherton CRCT test cheating scandal. The decision of then Atherton Principal James Berry and Asst. Principal Dorothea Alexander to change test scores was an act of such reckless, unethical gall, not only did they deserve to be fired, they should be permanently banned as educators in the State of Georgia. But how did our Superintendent Crawford Lewis initially react? He quickly sent out a memo to all DCSS employees asking "the entire system to reach out to Dr. Berry and Mrs. Alexander and show your support".

Lewis failed to mention that both Principal James Berry and Assistant Principal Doretha Alexander at first DENIED changing test scores. Only after the investigation went public did they admit to their heinous actions. Lewis' memo shows he was more concerned about the scandal reaching the public and the District Attorney investigation: "As Superintendent, I was both concerned and surprised that this investigation was elevated to the front page of Sunday's AJC newspaper and warranted a probe by the District Attorney's office."

Read Lewis' memo carefully. He does not write that all DCSS employees should be held accountable to high ethical and moral standards, that cheating is never, ever acceptable, and that any form of cheating breaks the trust that students, parents and taxpayers should have for the school system. WIth all of the major errors in judgement by Superintendent Lewis over the past few years ($14 mil for Heery Mitchell lawsuit, the Pat Pope situation, the California trip, the $500k for Judge Thelma Moore, the addition of scores of unneeded administrator positions, his questionable gasoline purchases, the bait and switch of Arabia Mountain High School first for overcrowding but then changed to a magnet, etc., etc.), his support of a principal and asst. principal who knowingly changed test scores may be his biggest error in judgement.

CRCT cheating details revealed

By Kristina Torres
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

On a late June day two years ago, two DeKalb County school administrators panicked. A few dozen of their elementary school students had just finished high-stakes summer retests — exams first taken in spring but not passed. With just a glance at the answer sheets, Atherton Elementary School Principal James Berry and Assistant Principal Doretha Alexander saw they were in trouble. “We cannot not make AYP,” Alexander said. Not making AYP, or adequate yearly progress, meant not meeting a required federal benchmark. These students, all fifth-graders, also faced being held back if they did not pass. “OK,” Berry answered. He pulled a pencil from a cup on Alexander’s desk. “I want you to call the answers to me.” With that, he began to erase the students’ answers.

State officials announced Wednesday that 191 schools — 10 percent of Georgia’s public elementary and middle schools — will be investigated for possible cheating on state tests. It was the second time in as many years that the state’s testing program has come under fire. The first was last year, when Berry and Alexander got swept up in a groundbreaking audit by the state that included an “erasure analysis” of student answer sheets. In the subsequent scandal, officials found tampering at three other elementary schools besides Atherton, including those in Atlanta and Fulton and Glynn counties.

The state sanctioned 13 educators, banning them from its public schools for at least 90 days. None of those cases, however, was resolved as fast as Berry’s and Alexander’s. Both were the first to be investigated and both received among the harshest penalties. The state banned Alexander for a year; Berry’s ban lasts for two years, the harshest sanction the state imposed. Neither appealed. Now, their case files are public. Obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under Georgia’s Open Records Act, the files reveal details for the first time how Berry and Alexander cheated — and how cheating may have occurred in other schools. Both Berry and Alexander signed affidavits. Berry admits to erasing and replacing answers; Alexander says she called out the correct answers to Berry but did not personally alter tests. Both also initially denied that they had knowledge of improper activity during the administration of the tests at their school, according to the files.

Berry’s attorney, Jackie Patterson, said Berry acted out of a misguided belief that he was helping his students. “He acknowledges he made a major mistake,” Patterson said. Neither Alexander nor her attorney, Don Samuel, returned calls for comment.

Denials, then confessions.

According to the files, both “adamantly denied” to state investigators that they cheated or knew of any irregularities. Only after the state made its findings public the following June did both confess to DeKalb school officials. DeKalb authorities charged both with falsifying a state document, a felony that carries a potential two- to 10-year prison term. Berry pleaded guilty to that charge in December. He was sentenced to two years’ probation and a $1,000 fine. Alexander completed 40 hours of community service at a local food bank and faces no further action.


To: All DeKalb Employees
From: Dr. Crawford Lewis, Superintendent
Subject: Message From the Superintendent
Date: 24 June 2009

As you know by now, Atherton Elementary School was recently implicated in the CRCT cheating scandal that has been a source of much publicity by the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC).

As Superintendent, I was both concerned and surprised that this investigation was elevated to the front page of Sunday's AJC newspaper and warranted a probe by the District Attorney's office. Dr. James Berry and Mrs. Doretha Alexander are good people who made a grave mistake. They both acknowledged their involvement and accepted their consequences. They have served the DeKalb School System with distinction for many years. It is important that you know that the school district was not consulted nor played any role in their recent arrests. While we do not condone their actions in any way, they should be allowed to move on with their lives.

DeKalb County School System is a family, and during difficult times family should come together. As a family, I am asking the entire system to reach out to Dr. Berry and Mrs. Alexander and show your support. An e-mail, card or phone call will go a long way towards showing Dr. Berry and Mrs. Alexander that we still care about them. The DeKalb County School System is a great school district working together to ensure that all of our students are successful and prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Why Good Governance Matters

Written by a regular contributor to DeKalb School Watch

DeKalb County Schools face inherent challenges in developing and maintaining a good governance system. And, this challenge continues as we see a board, or at least certain members, seeking to reduce good governance in the guise of standardization and more control. Last December, the Board considered changes to the By-laws of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee (“CAC”), the group of citizens charged with providing public oversight of the SPLOST III program. The CAC is not given any administrative or decision-making functions but serves to try to insure there is a level of accountability. Without going into the merits or effectiveness of the CAC (we can save that for another day and there is much to discuss), the current structure provides for a degree of independence and continuity so that the CAC will, hopefully, make recommendations and comments without fear of recriminations by board members or the administration.

Paul Womack spearheaded the effort to alter the rules governing the CAC make-up, including changing the terms of members from terms equal to that of the person appointing them (i.e. 4 years) to terms of one year (or even less). Womack’s argument for making the change was that the President has the right to change his cabinet at any time. But, this is a faulty argument as the Board is not the executive of DCSS but essentially the legislature. As a legislature, it has the power to approve cabinet secretaries but not to remove them (except in extreme cases leading to impeachment). And, even this analogy is incomplete as the CAC is more akin to an independent agency for which such appointees serve fixed and substantial terms.

Board members frequently state that they “set policy” but actually understanding what that means is essential to good governance for the system. Setting policy is exactly that—establishing the broad parameters and expectations for outcomes and leaving it to the executive for execution. Creating an environment where “setting policy” is measured simply by whether there are five votes is not good governance or healthy governance. While the debate about the CAC may sound academic, it reveals a fundamental problem with DeKalb—the proper way the school system should be governed. The CAC debate is simply a microcosm of the broader challenges facing DCSS. While the Board may ultimately change the structure and make-up of the CAC or other citizen committees, it does not mean that is a good or even proper outcome.

Of course, good governance requires a capable and effective executive, an executive that leads by example and that is willing to make tough choices and suffer the consequences. Without such leadership, DCSS is likely to spiral down even further. Without an effective executive, the net effect is that the Board is far more likely to stray from its role and to interfere in the management of the system, causing a further decline in the effectiveness of the system. Think this is the opinion solely of this writer—a member of our own state school board has made the same exact point.

So, what does any of the foregoing have to do with the most recent discussions regarding citizen committees? The effort (now broadened beyond the CAC for the ostensible purpose of standardization) is really about aggregating more control to the Board in a way which runs counter to good governance. And, so the cycle will continue--the Board will seek to aggregate more power, the executive leadership will continue to weaken and the system will descend into further dysfunction. We have seen this scenario play out in Clayton County with the direst of consequences. Without good governance, and without each player understanding its role and being capable of executing it, our system, our community, and our children will suffer.

Why was nothing done about this teacher?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

'Algebra-for-All' Push Found to Yield Poor Results

This just in (from Education Week) --

A new study has confirmed, “Simply sticking students in courses without preparing them ahead of time for the class does not seem to work as an intervention,” said Chrys Dougherty, the author of the Arkansas and Texas analysis, published last month by the National Center for Educational Achievement, in Austin, which is owned by the test publisher ACT Inc. “It seems to work with adequately prepared students, but not for the most challenged students.”

That said, when students were given a "double-dose" of daily algebra, their test scores improved.

As the trends became evident, the school system in 2003 began requiring 9th graders who scored below the national median on standardized math tests in 8th grade to take an algebra “support” class in addition to a regular algebra class. Students who scored higher continued to take a single period of algebra.

For the Chicago consortium’s study, the researchers compared outcomes for students just above and below the cutoff for the “double dose” classes.

Worried about the potential for reintroducing tracking, the district also provided professional-development workshops and other resources to the teachers of the support classes, according to Ms. Allensworth.

“Because teachers had more time and resources, the instructional quality in those classes improved quite a bit,” she said. “But the classes ended up concentrating more students with attendance and behavioral problems.”

In the end, the study found, failure rates increased for both the targeted students and for their peers in single-period algebra classes. On the other hand, algebra test scores rose substantially for the students in the double-dose classes.

“The district thought [the double-dose initiative] was a failure because it did not improve pass rates, but our analysis showed that test scores improved a lot,” Ms. Allensworth said. ...

Tom Loveless, the author of the report from the Washington-based Brookings Institution on “misplaced” math students in algebra, said the issue is even more complex.

“No one has figured out how to teach algebra to kids who are seven or eight years behind before they get to algebra, and teach it all in one year,” said Mr. Loveless, who favors interventions for struggling students at even earlier ages.

Nationwide, research findings may diverge because testing content varies—the TIMSS test has more algebra content than many state exams taken by 8th graders—and because course content varies from classroom to classroom.

“If you take what’s called algebra class, and you look at the actual distribution of allocated time, you find that many of those teachers spend a very large portion of that year on basic arithmetic,” said Mr. Schmidt, who is a distinguished university professor of education at Michigan State’s East Lansing campus. His research on U.S. classrooms has found, in fact, that nearly a third of students studying algebra are using arithmetic books in their classes.

Likewise, Mr. Loveless’ study found that “misplaced” students tended to attend large urban schools where their teachers were more likely to have less than five years of experience, less likely to hold a regular teaching certificate, and less likely to have majored in math than teachers of typical 8th grade algebra students.

“It may well have more to do with whether students have been given adequate opportunities to learn this stuff,” Mr. Schmidt said of the disappointing findings that have emerged from some studies.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Parents want schools chief to give back raise

Well, I had to miss the board meeting tonight, but a blogger on another thread informed us that the board approved nearly $300,000 to improve the lighting package for the stage in the board offices. Jim Redovian was the only board member to vote against this SPLOST change order stating that there are other more pressing projects that the SPLOST money should be spent on and in light of today's financial climate he could not spend that much money for the Board to look better on TV. Thank you Jim!

Now, the AJC is reporting that Dr. Lewis "stared straight ahead Monday night as parents and teachers asked him to return his $15,000 raise." The AJC goes on to say, "The board is considering teacher furloughs and cutting programs, such as pre-kindergarten classes, art courses, magnet schools and Montessori programs, to offset the deficit." And, "30 school employees protested outside. The teachers, bus drivers and cafeteria workers held signs criticizing Lewis’ raise and questioned their proposed pay cuts. Last month, the board voted to raise Lewis’ salary from $240,000 to $255,000."

We also learn that "Lewis previously has said if the program cuts are not made the school system will have to raise property taxes. But at 22.98 mills, DeKalb already has the third-highest school tax rate in the metro area, according to the superintendent."

"The DeKalb county commission also is facing an $82 million deficit and considering drastic cuts to prevent raising taxes.

Seleste Harris of the Organization of DeKalb Educators said the board needs to look at the [millions] the district spends on instructional specialists, staff development positions and human resource workers.

Seven parents from Huntley Hills Elementary School brought a list of possible budget cuts to the board, reductions they hope will help save the Montessori program at their Chamblee school."

"Shelli Wells, whose child attends the Montessori program at Briar Vista Elementary School, told the board she feels the district is not prioritizing expenses.

“Never when we were looking at [our personal household] budget did we cut food or electricity or things that were necessity,” said Wells, who was laid off from her corporate job. “I think we have to cut things that are extra. … I don’t feel the education is extra. That is our food.”

I think that is a great comment.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Safe Routes to School Online Webinar

Connecting Safe Routes to School with Health
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EST

Presenter: Arthur Wendel, M.D., M.P.H., Healthy Community Design Initiative, The National Center for Environmental Health, CDC

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) has the potential for catalyzing a substantial improvement in transportation's effect on health. Over 50 million students and nearly 5 million teachers travel to school each day. Trips to school via walking or bicycling are on the decline. In 1969, 50% of children walked or bicycled to school, but by 2001, only 15% walked or bicycled. In some cities, it has been estimated that up to 25% of peak morning travel is due to parents driving their children to school. Concurrently, as this loss of utilitarian physical activity has occurred, rates of chronic diseases associated with low levels of physical activity, like diabetes, are rising, and injury and environmentally-mediated diseases remain important causes of childhood illness.

In this 60 minute webinar, Arthur Wendel will discuss how SRTS could provide a host of health benefits. Such as, how walking or bicycling to school can increase physical activity, provided children do not reduce other forms of activity. And how, by reducing automobile trips to school, less air pollution will be created, and by designing the infrastructure surrounding schools to support safe travel, trips made by walking or bicycling could be safer. He will also discuss the other positive benefits, such as increased social capital or improved academic performance that might be realized, as well as, the effect of Safe Routes to School infrastructure on others beyond the student population.

This webinar is part of the Safe Routes to School Coaching Action Network Webinar Series, developed by America Walks and the National Center for Safe Routes to School.

For more information please contact Michelle Gulley, at

To register for this online event click here.


Remember! March 3 is Walk to School Day!

The Laundry List

No heat in my child's DCSS school today. We've heard the countless stories of DCSS schools with leaking roofs, mold in the HVAC system, deplorable rest rooms, etc. Please list your school facilities issues below.

This is not a post to whine and throw stones. A well run school system first has strong academics that trump every other priority, then, a plethora of strong, experienced teachers, and thirdly, safe, well maintained, health school facilities. An end result of all of the poor spending, waste, bloat, nepostism, and huge non-classroom related personnel hiring by the Lewis administration is that our schools are not maintained at a high level, and that is simply unacceptable. It's great to have a beautiful, LEED certified new Arabia Mountain High School. But it's not great to have schools that are at the opposite end of the spectrum from Arabia Mt., schools, schools that are literally falling apart, like Cross Keys, that have the worst rest rooms in the state, Lakeside. It severely affects morale when schools have roof leaks and other major facility issues, and your rest rooms are too disgusting to use. It affects absenteeism, staff and student productivity and even standardized test scores. This major, critical issue does not seem to resonate with our current Board of Ed. List your school's issues below, and let the Board of Ed know they have a duty to reverse the course of our school facilities.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Parents of High Achievers Need to Pay Close Attention During Budget-Cutting Season

One of our astute bloggers shared this recent article from Education Week.
tudy Finds Wide Achievement Gaps for Top Students

By Debra Viadero
Premium article access courtesy of

Achievement gaps between students of different genders and racial, economic, and linguistic groups are large and persistent for the nation’s top-performing students, even as they seem to be narrowing for K-12 students as a whole, according to a new report.

For the analysis, released Feb. 4 by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University in Bloomington, researchers analyzed data stretching back as far as 1996 from 4th and 8th grade reading and math tests administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress and from state assessments in those subjects.

They found that achievement gaps between girls and boys, white and disadvantaged minority students, poor students and their better-off peers, and English-language learners and their English-speaking counterparts have either widened, stayed the same, or declined by a hair since the late 1990s.

In 4th grade math, for example, the percentage of white students scoring at the advanced level on NAEP tests increased by about 5 percentage points from 1996 to 2007, rising from 2.9 percent to 7.6 percent. But the percentages of black and Hispanic students scoring at that level grew at the same time from near zero to around 1 percent.

Among 4th graders poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, the percentage of advanced-level math scorers rose from near zero to 1.5 percent over the same time span. Their better-off peers, in comparison, managed to boost their representation at the highest levels of the test by more than 5 percentage points, growing from 3.1 percent to 8.7 percent.

“People aren’t talking about the gaps at the top,” said lead author Jonathan A. Plucker, a professor of education and cognitive science at the university. “What they basically say is, let’s just focus on minimum-competency gaps.”

NCLB ‘Irrelevant’

The report is the latest in a spate of research to suggest that the nationwide emphasis on bringing the bottom up may be shortchanging the nation’s best and brightest students. Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, states and school districts get credit for raising test scores overall and for raising the test scores for particular subgroups, such as black and Hispanic students. But there’s no particular incentive to boost the achievement of top performers, many of whom may be hitting the ceiling on their state assessments.

“We know the proficiency bar is set quite low in most states,” said Michael J. Petrilli, the vice president for national programs and policy at the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which produced a 2008 report pointing to lagging academic-improvement rates for top performers. “You certainly do not need to be high-achieving to be proficient.”
Mr. Plucker and co-author Nathan Burroughs said their analysis shows that the now 8-year-old law only continued a trend already under way.

“If we were to blame NCLB, that implies that schools were doing a good job at this before NCLB,” said Mr. Plucker. “I think NCLB is actually irrelevant to this.”

Besides looking at the percentages of students reaching advanced achievement levels on tests, the researchers examined the proportions of students from various groups scoring at the 90th percentile or higher —an analysis that yielded slightly more progress in closing gaps. But the narrowing, in many cases, was due to either declining or stagnating scores for white students or incremental improvements for the more disadvantaged groups. Among the 13 instances of gap-closing that the authors found using the percentile measure, the rate of improvement ranged from 0.25 to 0.75 percentile points a year from 2003 to 2007.

At that rate, the report notes, “it would take 38 years for free-lunch-eligible children to match more affluent children in math at grade 4 and 92 years for [English-language learners] to equal non-ELL students.” High-scoring black students at that grade level would catch up to their white peers in 2107, the report estimates.

The researchers also developed profiles of the “excellence gaps” for each state, which are available on the center’s Web site. Their analysis, however, found little overlap between states making progress in raising student performance and closing performance gaps in one area, such as 8th grade reading or 4th grade math, and those achieving similar success in another.
Mr. Plucker said the findings challenge policymakers’ hope that a rising tide would lift all boats. When a state narrowed gaps at the proficient level on state tests, the analysis showed, it didn’t necessarily follow that the gaps at the top were reduced as well.

To address the gaps among top performers, the report calls on federal, state, and local policymakers to make a more concerted effort to consider the needs of their most able students and to ease policies that keep them from accelerating their learning by starting college early or skipping grades.

“They need to ask how will this specific policy affect our brightest students?” Mr. Plucker said. “And how will it help other students achieve at high levels?”

Friday, February 5, 2010

Online GA Grad Test Prep for Science and Social Studies

With many teachers reading this blog, I thought it might be helpful to vet this here - an online prep resource from the Georgia DoE for Science and Social Studies that popped up on my Radar screen this week:

Online Help for High School Students

I think this is for the Graduation Test coming up in March. This site says it is open for use as of February 1.

With all the overworked teachers and shortage of tutors, I hope this service is worthwhile. I tried to check it out but a registrant must be a student and the material is not previewed anywhere that I could find.

Science and Social Studies teachers please comment on this thread if you know something about the quality and usefulness of this - if it is well done, we need to make sure everyone knows about it.

It Takes a Village

by Shayna Steinfeld
(previously published in the The Atlanta Lawyer)

In this issue we celebrate lawyers whose practice concentrates on representing defendants in the criminal justice system. I’ve known many of these lawyers throughout my career and some of them have been my personal everyday heroes. Some of them have been recently honored by the Atlanta Bar and other organizations.

My primary interest this month, however, is in focusing on the correlation between the high school dropout rate and the crime rate. High school dropouts become tomorrow’s criminals, who then need our representation. Today’s at risk students need your current skills so that they won’t need your representation in Court down the road – either as a juvenile or as an adult. Atlanta Magazine, on page 44 of the September 2008 issue, reported that:

Dropouts from Georgia’s class of 2007 will cost the state more than $15.4 billion in lost wages, taxes, and productivity over their lifetimes, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education, a national policy and advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. The Alliance estimates that increasing the graduation rate and college registration rate of male students in Georgia by just 5 percent could lead to a savings and revenue of nearly $276 million each year by reducing crime-related costs (dropouts are eight times as likely to be incarcerated). And raising the graduation rates of Hispanic, African American, and Native American students to the level of whites by 2020 could increase their personal income and add more than $7.9 billion to the state economy. Keeping students in school lowers crime rates, provides skilled employees, improves the economy, raises the value of your property, and most importantly gives kids a chance at a better life.
The dropout rate in Georgia is appalling. According to information I received in a training session from the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education in an Education Policy Primer (2008-09 Edition), created by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education in cooperation with the Georgia School Boards Association, In 2004, The United States graduated 74.3% of its public school children and Georgia graduated 61.2% of its children (only South Carolina was lower). Different statistics show DeKalb County’s 2008 high school graduation rate at either 75% or 70%. There is a lot of room for improvement.

Emmet Bondurant has researched and written a thorough paper on the correlation between quality, early pre-k for at-risk children and success throughout the school years and has argued for our legislature to reconsider its priorities in the use of lottery funds vis á vis a greater emphasis on expanding and improving Georgia’s pre-k program. For instance, there are many large counties whose school systems do not have pre-k (e.g. Cobb and Gwinnett) and counties like DeKalb are not fully serving their 4 year olds who could use pre-k. There are other studies that support the correlation between pre-k and higher high school graduation rates – one in Pennsylvania directly related high quality pre-k to reduced later crime rates and one from Dalton, Georgia linked the two. Emmet has been in contact with the Governor’s office, seeking a higher budget priority on pre-k funding, for it to serve all 4 year olds (it now serves only 57% of them) as well as expanding pre-k to 3 year olds.

Emmet has shared statistics with me. The State’s lottery reserves have steadily increased over the past four years. The State now has $946,516,199 estimated in the lottery reserves for fiscal year 2008 (compared to $559,365,024 for fiscal year 2004). Of these funds, $650 million are unrestricted reserves that must be spent, pursuant to the State’s constitution, on HOPE, pre-K, teacher training and educational capital improvements. In the meantime, the Governor has cut over $1.6 billion from the budget for other education programs (for instance after DeKalb County was required by law to pass its budget, it was then required by the Governor to eliminate another $10 million from it, it appears that teachers will not be given a cost of living increase and the state-wide teacher training budget is fixed, in hard dollars, at what it was approximately 20 years ago). An argument can be made that it is immoral and fiscally irresponsible for our government to sit on nearly a billion dollars in Lottery proceeds earmarked for education by our Constitution, when they could be invested in our at risk children. We need to reconsider how we are doing things as a State, ranked in the bottom few nationally in education, and revamp our priorities. Emmet is one of the most well respected lawyers in town and perhaps we should work together to accomplish something this legislative session, as independent lawyers, to reveal the link between high quality pre-k and the reduction of high school dropout rates. Ultimately, then, we also reduce crime rates, reduce the number of individuals on welfare and increase tax revenue. Not to mention plenty of other benefits to society along the way.

A few of the more interesting programs involving Atlanta’s lawyers that have sought to tackle the abysmal high school dropout rates and education have been Terry Walsh’s renowned Truancy Intervention Project (his big project as Atlanta Bar president); Kilpratick Stockton’s adoption of Washington High School following the “Freedom Writers” program, honored by the ADL last spring, the Georgia Appleseed project and “Everybody Wins”. In these efforts, lawyers work with at risk children to keep them in school and work to actively involve parents in their children’s education. We’d love to compile a list of what you, as a Firm, or what your lawyers within your Firm, are specifically doing to assist at risk children in our Atlanta community – please let us know.

I have a vision that follows the line of what Kilpatrick has done. I believe that the ADL will help me (a birdie told me so). Will you? There are 21 high schools in DeKalb County, 1 in the City of Decatur, 9 in Atlanta City Schools and 15 in Fulton County (46 total). There are a number of law firms, accounting firms, real estate firms, consulting firms, corporations, Universities, Associations, and other entities. If 45 entities were to follow Kilpatrick’s example and adopt one high school each, then students who are most at risk could have a mentor and a role model they would know is watching over their shoulder and who would check in on them on a regular basis. They would know that there was someone who cared about their academic progress and who would care if they dropped out. There would be someone to guide them towards college or a vocational program and a successful life after high school. Perhaps we could then also work alongside the other programs that are already in place to bring all of these resources together in a coordinated, city-wide effort to help all of these students succeed.

I say it takes a village because I see it in my own family. My children know that if they make a mistake, I have eyes behind my head. There are a number of adults who care and will let me know what happened. I will not be mad at the messenger for the message. Some parents blame the messenger and this is not productive. In times past, everyone knew everyone and helped each other raise their children. Justin had a much more in depth conversation with a friend of mine over his SAT than the grunts he shared with his dad and me once it was over – he was more comfortable this way. That’s part of the village too. When Judge Hatchett reported her story at the fabulous October 2nd Celebrating Service lunch, she shared her village at her church surrounding the Black Baptist Mothers watching over her and the other children in the projects behind Clark Atlanta and the one in particular who wished her success as she left for Mount Holyoke. She knew with absolute certainty that they cared about her success.

The village seems to be missing in many communities today. If we don’t address the dropout rate in some concrete way as a community, I shudder to think what we’re going to look like down the road. If each of 45 firms and Atlanta’s business and educational community adopts one high school we can do our part to be everyday heroes to our most vulnerable members of society. In doing so, we will make Atlanta and America better for our own children and grandchildren.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dr. Crawford Lewis discusses funding of Hollywood trip for DCSS Employees

Talley Defends the Hollywood Trip

Visionary Leadership - What Does It Look Like?

From the DeKalb Neighbor newspaper

As part of The Galloway School’s speaker series to celebrate the Buckhead school’s 40th anniversary, Michelle Rhee, chancellor of Washington, D.C. Public Schools, spoke to the Galloway community about her experiences last week.

“Coming out and having people clap is a nice change of pace,” said Ms. Rhee of the applauding welcome as she took the stage.

Learning it is OK not to be liked was one of the lessons she shared with the crowd.

“If your goal is to make everyone happy, you will never get anywhere,” she said. “You have to make the decisions somewhere in the middle.”

After she was appointed chancellor in June 2007, she began shaking up what was the poorest performing school district in the country with some drastic changes that made her not liked among public officials in Washington.

She recounted the challenges she faced in the form of public and political opposition to changing central office employees to at-will employees and closing schools to better distribute funds.

“We were right. For the first time we ensured that every single school had an art teacher, a music teacher, a physical education coach and a school nurse,” she said, speaking of how the school closures helped the district. “Sometimes you’ve got to make the hard decisions because you know where you’re going to end up before everyone else does.”

She summed up her observations of how politics had corrupted the school system to the extreme disadvantage to the students.

“We as adults for far too long have turned a blind eye to what the reality of what’s happening to kids in classrooms in the name of harmony amongst adults,” she said.

Courage to stand up to the politics, she said, is what her city and school district as well as the rest of the country need to pull the education system back up.

“We are in the financial crisis in this city and in this country today because of the irresponsibility of adults. We are not going to make up for this on the backs of children,” she said, retelling what Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty said in defense of not cutting the school system budget.

Galloway Head of School Tom Brereton said he was personally inspired by Ms. Rhee’s talk to be more courageous and out-front.

“I’m encouraged to continue to raise this school up to find excellence,” he said. “I think we should leave here tonight having hope that the educational opportunities for kids in Washington will be improved for tomorrow.”

Click here to watch the video of her speech.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

America's Choice - Sucking up the Stimulus

So, it's true. As Channel 2 is reporting, nearly 200 DeKalb County school employees will be boarding flights to Los Angeles this week to attend an education conference that will cost taxpayers nearly $400,000. The money isn’t coming from local tax dollars but from federal dollars that came to the county as part of the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus package.

Stimulus money from Washington is often discussed in terms of “shovel ready” construction projects that are supposed to create jobs for unemployed Americans. But the DeKalb County School System has decided to use stimulus money to attend a four-day conference sponsored by America’s Choice, which a schools spokesman calls “a great thing.”

The organization’s Web site describes it as a “solution provider" ... that offers “comprehensive, proven solutions to the complex problems educators face in an era of accountability.” The Web site also says America’s Choice has “an unparalleled history as a national thought leader.”

School spokesman Dale Davis told Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Richard Belcher that 184 principals, instructional coaches, district staff and teachers are scheduled to attend the conference in Hollywood. We found that the primary conference hotel is the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel and Spa.

Davis said the school system will spend $91,500 for conference registrations and another $291,400 for hotels, flights, meals and incidentals. That’s a total of $382,900 in federal tax money. In an email, Davis wrote, “I am happy that you are expressing interesting in this training opportunity for our employees. We are focused on student improvement. America’s Choice is in partnership with the district to help improve the academic success in 40 of our lowest performing schools.”

Click here for the entire story from WSB.

To view the conference agenda, click here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

This is It...The BOE has no choice but to let Lewis go

The DeKalb County School System Board of Education has no choice but to let Crawford Lewis go as superintendent. His answers to the District Attorney's Office investigation of his gas purchases are simply so impossible to believe, that there is no way to keep him employed as the administrator of a billion dollar enterprise. It is amazing that he would even attempt to answer questions from authorities with responses that would strain belief by even his most strident supporters. Here it is BOE. It is time to let him retire, or go to another system, as he has publicly stated his is being recruited by other districts. The BOE can not let him continue on with losing its own waning trust.

DeKalb schools chief used school card to buy gas multiple times a day
AJC investigation: Lewis bought gas at same Chevron 3 times in one day
By Tim Eberly
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
5:07 p.m. Tuesday, February 2, 2010

DeKalb County schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis visited the same Chevron gas station three times on June 22, 2008.
Each time, he used his school district credit card to buy gas, spending $32.83, $32 and $50, records show.
Lewis provided a two-part explanation for the purchases. First, he said he accidentally put premium gasoline in the tank, then, when he realized the error, pumped the gas from the tank and replaced it with regular gas. He attributed his third fill-up to a drive to Monticello to visit his elderly mother.
Lewis explained those purchases — and other clusters of gas purchases — during a November 2008 interview with a District Attorney’s Office investigator, obtained by The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Authorities had called Lewis in to answer questions about purchases on his district credit card and about his purchase of a school district vehicle. Prosecutors say they have closed both cases without filing charges, but the interview provides the first details about credit card purchases that authorities considered questionable.
An AJC review of Lewis’ credit card purchases from January 2007 through May 2009 showed 14 instances in which Lewis made purchases at services stations on the same day, including three times in which he had three such transactions in the same day.
The number could be higher. The data, obtained by the AJC from the state Department of Administrative Services, was missing two months.
The newspaper also found 16 instances in which Lewis had transactions at service stations on back to back days, according to the data. On two other occasions, Lewis made a service station purchase the day before or after making multiple purchases on the same day, data shows.
In 2007, the last year for which the AJC has complete data, Lewis spent more than $3,200 at service stations. Lewis also gets gas for his vehicle from the school district’s service station.
His pattern of making multiple purchases at service stations on the same day — or on back to back days — appeared to come to an end after Lewis interviewed with the DA’s Office on Nov. 26, 2008. The AJC could only find one such instance that came after that date.
Lewis declined a request for comment for this story through the school district’s spokesman, Dale Davis.
During Lewis’ interview with the DA’s Office, investigator Clay Nix focused on several instances in which Lewis purchased gas multiple times on the same day or within a short period of time.
“All I can tell you is when you look at the records, my first thinking is that’s a lot of gas in a row,” Nix told Lewis during a conversation about one of those instances. “And multiple purchases in one day, that’s a lot of driving.”
At one point, Nix asked Lewis whether he was using his card to fill up anyone else’s vehicle.
“Just so we’re clear on this, you’re not putting gas in your wife’s car?” he asked.
“No I’m not,” Lewis said.
“Your son’s car?” Nix asked.
“No...Every single use of the card is for gas that went into the vehicle that I am using for the county,” Lewis said.
Lewis’ contract at the time of the gas purchases allowed him “full-time use of an automobile furnished and maintained by the board.”
Davis said the school system does not have guidelines that specify that the superintendent may use his district credit card to buy gas, but he said that privilege has been given to Lewis and previous superintendents.
“It is the practice and it has always been the practice of former superintendents,” Davis said.
In Lewis’ interview, Nix asked about a string of purchases in early November 2007. On a Thursday, Lewis got fuel from the school district’s service station. He fueled up again on Saturday and Sunday, using his county credit card, according to Nix. Then, on Monday, he fueled up at the county gas station. During that time, county mileage records showed that he traveled 384 miles.
“That just seems like a lot of fuel for 384 miles,” he said. “Can you tell me why you would be fueling up three times in three days?”
Lewis does not address the recorded mileage issue, but explained his frequent gas purchases by saying that he often stopped for gas when his tank got half-empty.
“I generally always had a habit of re-filling my car up when it got halfway,” he said. “Because I do a lot of meetings at night, I don’t like stopping at night.”
Lewis also said he also often made the drive to visit his then-79-year-old mother in his hometown of Monticello, which he said was 140 miles round trip.
“Sometimes I would go after hours, like at six in the evening just to check on her,” he said. “But most of the time, it would be on weekends.”
During the interview, Lewis offered Nix another general explanation for his frequent need for gas: driving to schools all over DeKalb County.
“I travel all over the county. I’m in and out of schools,” he said. “I’m just everywhere.”
When Nix asked Lewis about the three gas purchases on June 22, 2008, he said they looked “very odd.” Lewis first told Nix that he accidentally put premium gas in his tank.
“I grabbed the pump, the pump got halfway through it and I thought, ‘Oh my God, I put the wrong gas in there,’ ” Lewis said.
Once he noticed the error, Lewis said that a man helped him pump the premium gas from the tank, so he could replace it with regular gas.
“He took some hose and helped me to get the gas out of the tank,” Lewis said.
Nix asked Lewis whether he was afraid that premium gas would damage the car.
“I was mortified, quite frankly, that I had done that,” Lewis said.
Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing for automotive information site, said Lewis’ mistake would not damage his vehicle.
“That’s absolutely unnecessary,” Edmunds said of removing the gas. “You’re not going to hurt anything except your wallet.”
When Nix asked about the third fuel purchase on that day, Lewis attributed it to a visit with his mother.
Nix also noted the other incidents of Lewis buying gas in bunches, but he did not ask Lewis about each one after confirming that the superintendent would offer some of the same explanations for all of them.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Budget Suggestions

This was sent out by DCSS -

Dekalb Community,

We want to hear from you. Your input is solicited, valued, and respected. Please forward any suggestions or ideas you may have regarding the budget that may serve as workable solutions.

Email your suggestions or ideas to:

Budget Suggestions

In addition, you can learn more about the budget planning process and view 4 proposed budgets for the 2010-2011 school year if you click here. We encourage each of you to let Dr. Lewis and the Board of Education members know what your priorities are as a parent and taxpayer regarding the budget for your child's education.

Suggestions may be made in the comments section of this blog. But do not just leave your comments here, please send them directly to the email link above also.

To check out the budget review calendar and public hearing schedule, click here.

School Closings and Transparency
Take Home Vehicles??