Sunday, March 28, 2010

Open Letter to the Board

Greetings Board members,

As you continue in your difficult endeavor to make the necessary, deep cuts to the school system budget, the online bloggers who converse and debate on the subject have gathered information and input we hope you will consider during deliberations.

We have over 2,400 "unique" visitors and several thousand page loads every day at the blog. Many of these readers and contributors do their own research and post what they learn. Here are some of our suggestions:

CUT CENTRAL OFFICE MORE! They have much more bloat to be eliminated.
If you look at the Georgia Open Records you will find many other areas that can be examined for cuts before cutting the people who work with the students directly at the local school.
Figures include:
562 employees at a cost of $28,800,437 in salaries and $228,868 in travel expenses.
Job titles for the above include:
(over $5.5 million)
(over $6.5 million)

Eliminate DOLA completely. Use the State's online virtual school, it's better and the credits transfer seamlessly.

Magnets should be funded at the same level as other schools, following state guidelines.

Eliminate take home cars except for the superintendent and a couple of on-call security officers (who must live within a 15 minute response time).

Sell off closed property where possible. Do a complete audit of exactly what the system owns and then sell off the properties we simply do not foresee needing in the future. Heritage School is a great example. With only 18 classrooms and 40 parking spaces, it is far too small to serve as a viable school in the future and would make a great park for the neighborhood. The county has money for greenspace. District 2 has been severely under-served in parkland and need this property to be conserved as a park.

Put ALL high schools on the 7 period day. If you insist on making teachers teach 6 of 7 periods to full classes - do so for ALL high schools. And set a limit on the total number of students a teacher may have on his or her roster. (You could take it a step further and eliminate the extra credit required in Social Studies that is not required by the state for graduation.  If you do this, you could consider going to a 6 period day or a modified schedule.)

Create a public/private partnership to run Fernbank Science Center. Put the Fernbank science teachers in the classroom where they are desperately needed. Let the private entity keep the scientists they choose and they can offer in-service training for all of our science teachers on an on-going basis.

Audit the security department and reduce it. DeKalb has far and away more security officers per student than any other metro system.
Gwinnett County Schools with 150,000 students to our 100,000 has 49 Security personnel for a cost of $2,500,000 in salary and benefits. This is an average of $51,000 per Security employee.
DCSS has 218 Security employees at a cost of $12,500,000 in salary and benefits. This is an average of $57,300 per Security employee.
Does anyone feel that their child would be less safe in Gwinnett schools?

Consider the long-term commitment required by retaining so many people in administrative positions, regardless of whether or not their salaries are paid with Title 1 funds;
I don't think any taxpayer begrudges retirement costs for the 7,000 (soon to be 6,600) teachers who instruct our children every day because we want to ensure stability for the students. However, DCSS is now in the situation where turnover among the non-teaching ranks is minimal while the turnover among teachers is phenomenal in DCSS.
Paying retirement costs at 9.25% for 8,800 non-teaching personnel (not to speak of the astronomical Health Care benefits) will eventually break the DeKalb School System. Many observers would argue it's already broken.
We must:
1. Cut admin and support personnel dramatically
2. Increase teaching personnel
3. Decrease the teacher turnover rate

Double-check the data you are using to make your decisions.
I do not trust the data the school board is using to make decisions. We need to demand an audit. First, we cannot trust that they have the number of students correct. Unbelievably, our board reps won't even believe their own enrollment numbers submitted to the state. They keep repeating the mantra - "we have 101,000 students" -- We do not.
The number reported to the state on the October 2009 Official FTE count for DeKalb was 97,958, however, the State website currently shows DeKalb with 96,907 students.
Check out these numbers yourselves - at the DOE Reporting Site and the DOE system description site.


By and large, the public you serve is very concerned that the vast majority of the cuts will be made to the classroom. Teachers and others who have direct contact with students have given up enough. It is time to dig deeper, get out the scalpel and make thoughtful, deliberate reductions that will serve to improve the delivery of education for the future.


and the DeKalb School Watch Team


Cerebration said...

Please add anything you see that I've missed - or correct something that I miscommunicated in the comments below. It is urgent and vital that we make our voices heard.

Anonymous said...

America's Choice is 8 Million Dollars of wasted tax payer money!
Get rid of these programs.

Anonymous said...

They have way too many admin. assistant at the sam moss center. Every person out there does not need a admin assistant they can share. They have way too many people in the office and a large number of them are not that busy. The accounting dept. could be cut, pope did a lot of that waste. They have way too many people in house and not enough working on the problems in the schools. Out source the hvac dept and maybe the schools will have correct heat and a/c. Grounds needs to be out source also.

Years ago that center did not have all those people and it ran much better. When dr. britt was there they did not have all those directors, assistant directors, managers, cordi,etc. Pritchett and pope turn that center into a mess and waste.

The students are the last on the list these days and as a parent i am sick of this.

They have too many fail principals
out there, put them back in the schools and let those people out there do what they are paid to do.
That entire building needs to be down size.

Dan M said...

Fantsastic letter Cere. I pray the BOE and not only read it, but comprehend why the pints you list are so necessary and so way past due.

Dan M said...

Wow, sorry for the multiple typo's.
I'm losing it as I quickly age!

Fantastic letter, Cere. I pray the BOE not only reads it, but comprehends why the points you list are so necessary, and so way past due.

Anonymous said...

At my school I have been told how the service center workers hide out in their trucks. Some have seen them sit in there and sleep instead of going to the next job.
This really happens.
When jobs are called in, they are not responded to in a timely fashion. This has been going on for years. Some rooms have moldy air-conditioning units year after year. What really works is when there are involved parents who call in when there is a chronic problem with heating and air-conditioning.

Ella Smith said...

Celeb, this is a great post. I do not know anything I could add to such a masterpiece.

I think I am most upset about promising the teacher that the school board will give back their money that they took away these year this summer and then they are just plan not doing so now. Is this a lie? I thought this was a lie to the teachers or playing games with the teachers.

Anonymous said...

This is a great letter. I agree with Ella, that it appears that the board has lied about taking money away from the teachers and isn't going to give it back anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

I urge every teacher to email their ODE representative to encourage them to find out what it takes for DCSS to return to Social Security. It took a majority vote of the employees to opt out of Social Security in 1978. I know - I voted in 1978.

The DCSS BOE will not want to return to Social Security because they will not want to pay the necessary contributions, so legal redress may be necessary. The ODE is the best place to find legal representation for DCSS employees to rejoin Social Security.

Here is the Internet address of the ODE Executive Committee members:

Decatur City and a number of other systems in Georgia pay into Social Security as well as TRS.

Teachers who are in systems that belong to the Social Security system are eligible to collect retirement as well as Social Security. I'm retired and understand you need as many financial legs as you can get in retirement.

If DCSS returns to Social Security the DeKalb Schools BOE will:
1. Pay at the CURRENT Social Security rate (not at 1978 rates - they were funding your Board TSA at 32 year old Social Security rates)
2. Pay from Day 1 of employment (not 3 years into service)
3. Not be allowed to suspend payments to the federal government

The benefits to DCSS employees are:
1. You will be guaranteed Social Security benefits when you are in your retirement years
2. Your Social Security benefits will be portable if you change systems or jobs
3. DCSS contribution obligations cannot be negated under any circumstances
4. If you are an employee who came from a system or job where you paid into Social Security, you WILL NOT be penalized by the Windfall Elimination Provision which cuts Social Security payments to DeKalb County School System retirees who have earned them (I will see a 60% penalty on my Social Security annuity because of this tax provision. It's too late for me, but not for you.)

Anonymous said...

Every Dekalb teacher should join ODE, GAE, PAGE, or MACE.

They should join 1) to make a statement 2) to show unity 3) to gain respect.

Are there are still teachers out there who are not the family's main breadwinner or necessary co-breadwinner.

Teachers---don't drink the kool-aid that maintains unions destroy education.... The top 20 states in K-12 have strong unions!

Board of Education: Be not afraid: ODE, GAE, PAGE, or MACE are not UNIONS since they can not COLLECTIVELY BARGAIN.

Board of Education: Fear not, NYC schools have a strong union yet BAD TEACHERS are laid-off!!Joel Klein has no trouble getting rid of them.

Anonymous said...

I too have seen the workers sleep in there trucks and the heat and a/c never work correct. we have mildrew in several areas and no one can get this stopped. The only way i was able to get the them to correct the heat i told a parent to call. The parent told me that she made five calls before she was able to talk to a real person. We have so much waste in the system and this why good people will be losing there jobs. My point is if we have all these employees out there then what is the problem? This so sad that the teachers will suffer behind all this waste. Cut back some of these areas before they cut teachers pay.
We need good teachers and i feel like this will cause the system to lose them.

Please take a look at these areas before you cut teachers.

Anonymous said...

I was told a story by some Dunwoody students about a maintenance guy who spent the entire day in his truck in the parking lot pretending to "read". He never even got out of his truck.

Cerebration said...

Everyone, take a look at the chart on the right hand column of the home page - DCSS Employment Ratio -

The math tells us that in 2008, we had a 13.5 to 1 student/teacher ratio, and a 1 to .88 ratio of teachers to admin/support

Now in 2010 - we have almost a 14 to 1 student/teacher ratio and a 1 to 1.25 teacher to support staff ratio.

That's ONE teacher for every 14 students (overall - this includes special education and specials) - and ONE and ONE-Quarter Admin/Support staff per teacher.

The ratio of students to teachers went up - while the ratio of admin/support to teachers also went up. So, teachers have more students - and more people watching over their shoulders.

Anonymous said...

Excellent letter...long overdue...thanks for expressing what so many of us are thinking...

Cerebration said...

This letter is a compilation of our conversations here at the blog over the last month or two -- definitely a massive "group project"! I'll go ahead and give us an "A".

Anonymous said...

Cere, Thank you for everything that you do for the participants in this blog. I only have one addition, Given the high number of comments on this blog about specialty programs ( i.e.magnets ), I would add this area to your summary for attention to the blatantly unequal distribution of county resources to these programs. I am appalled at the comments of some of the board members that suggest that magnet parents are more involved and thus we should not change the programs. I am aware that they lost some points. But, balance that with cuts to the teachers, increases in regular classroom sizes and it hardly seems to balance out.
I think that everyone, magnet parent or not, would have to agree that a skeptical eye is indicated for these self created high achieving programs. Don't all children deserve the benefits that this setting offers. But then again, do all children need German every day? Just saying.........

Anonymous said...

All parents reading the wonderful letter please send it to the board members. They may not all know about this web site.

Since staff members are not able to directly address the board without fear of reprimand to them and their local administrators, they are not able to email them.

Anonymous said...


Please email your state representatives, Governor Perdue, and all active candidates for governor of the state of Georgia.

Let them know that you are a parent/taxpayer in the DeKalb School System and are concerned that DeKalb Schools has 8,800 admin and support personnel and only 7,000 teachers and media specialists.

Let them know that the DeKalb Schools administration and the BOE are cutting hundreds of teacher positions and personnel INSIDE the schoolhouse while retaining almost all of the admin and support personnel who are OUTSIDE the schoolhouse.

Tell them that DeKalb Schools has the LEAST percentage of schools making AYP in metro Atlanta while having the LOWEST percentage of employees as teachers.

Georgia school systems percentage of schools making AYP:
Forsyth Schools: 100%
Fayette Schools: 100%
Gwinnett Schools: 99.1%
Cobb Schools: 94.7%
Cherokee County: 94.3%
Clayton County: 81.7%
Fulton Schools: 94.6%
Atlanta Public Schools: 80%
*DeKalb Schools: 77.8

(source: state of Georgia Department of Education website:

Ask your state elected officials what their position is on cutting teachers and other staff inside the schoolhouse while retaining personnel outside the schoolhouse.

Tell your elected representatives and Georgia gubernatorial candidates that allowing maximum class sizes to increase allows the DeKalb Schools superintendent and DeKalb Schools BOE members the opportunity to:
1. DECREASE the percentage of personnel who WORK WITH students
2. INCREASE the percentage of personnel who DO NOT WORK with students

I already emailed my state representative Kevin Levitas, and he emailed back his concern that DeKalb Schools has the money for teachers and students; they are just not using it wisely.

Let the governor, your state representatives, and the candidates for Georgia governor know that DeKalb students placed into overloaded classrooms will not master the skills they need to succeed in the 21st Century.

Remember, your state representatives and gubernatorial contenders are sensitive to emails and phone calls from constituents. If enough emails and calls come their way, they will respond.

Ask them to take action to ensure the educational future of DeKalb students. They need to decrease the maximum class size so DeKalb Schools will be forced to invest INSIDE the classroom rather than OUTSIDE the classroom.

Here is how you can find the email address and/or phone number of your state representative. Go to this web address and enter your zip code - 5 digits + 4 more on the left hand side of the webpage:

Here is the web address that will take you to the Georgia Governor candidates. Clicking on their names will take you to their websites. Their websites will have a link you can use to contact them:

Here is the website to contact Governor Perdue:,2657,78006749_94820188,00.html

Lastly, please copy this post and FORWARD it to every DeKalb parents/taxpayers you know, and ask them to forward it to any of their friends and acquaintances.

Give them this DeKalb Schools website with the details of 8,800 admin and support personnel to 7,000 teachers:

Cerebration said...

Great resource input, Anon. People - bookmark those links.

And, I did forget the magnet discussion - I'm just not sure that we have a consensus on that issue - or the data to prove a point one way or another... but we're working on that. More to come...

Anonymous said...

I've been reading this blog for a few weeks now. I've read the open letter and I recognized everything in it from blog discussions - except one thing: dropping a Social Studies course requirement at the High School level. Where did this come from?

Observing our nation and the problems we face today, In my opinion, doing away with a Social Studies course is not the direction to take. We may actually be needing to add Social Studies courses. We could really benefit from a course in local government. :-)

Cerebration said...

We've discussed this - it's been a while. Most counties in Georgia do not require 4 credits in SS (a total of 24 credits) - most only go with the state's requirement of 3 (a total of 23). Most colleges are fine with 3. Our credit requirement is higher than most every other state. That's not to say that you can't add another for an elective - it's just a consideration to reduce the graduation requirement - and possibly allow for a 6 period schedule or some kind of modified version of it. It's a cost-saving idea and a way to allow kids to "Move On" when they choose.

That said - check out this good news from the legislature -

Move On When Ready
Move on When Ready (a Georgia Dept. of Education program) provides opportunities for high school juniors and seniors to enroll full-time in postsecondary institutions to earn both high school and college credits simultaneously. Students are eligible to participate in Move on When Ready if they are entering 11th or 12th grade, as determined by the system, and spent the prior school year in attendance at a public high school in Georgia. For more information on this program, visit the GA DOE web site.

Institutions eligible to participate in Move on When Ready include: a unit of the University System of Georgia, a branch of the Technical College System of Georgia, a private independent nonprofit postsecondary institution eligible for tuition equalization grants, or a private proprietary postsecondary institution eligible for tuition equalization grants.

Cerebration said...

In fact, Gwinnett only requires the state graduation requirements (although they "recommend" 4 units of SS).

High School Graduation Requirements
In order to earn a regular Gwinnett County high school diploma, students must:
Learn the AKS to pass each class and earn the necessary Carnegie units (class credits);
Pass Gwinnett's high school Gateway, which is first administered in the 10th grade; and
Pass Georgia's High School Graduation Tests (content-area subtests and writing test), which are administered in the 11th grade.
Fulfill Georgia's Graduation Requirements.$file/GCPSgraduationruleflyer.pdf

rumors and preverifcations said...

Cere, has anyone recieved the book
Black Board Corrupt?
I paid for two on pay pal, and have never received them.Can you ask Justice for me, to please send them, i have sent Justice 4 emails with no response. I did receive one email from justice saying that the book would ship in 5 days , but that was over a month ago.

Cerebration said...

BTW - if you're wondering what the AKS they talk about is - it's their curriculum - "Academic Knowledge and Skills" - and it can be found online at Gwinnett's website -

Cerebration said...

I''m not sure what has happened to Justice either. I've tried emailing as well - to no avail. I didn't realize the book was completed - I thought it was still being written and the orders were pre-orders". Did you pay with a credit card (hopefully?) Perhaps you could put the charge in dispute.

Hmmm. This is concerning. I hope Justice is ok.

Anonymous said...

Great letter.
I'd add one point: with a deficit of at least $88 million (this year, next year, who knows?)we are not saying tax hikes are off the table, we are not saying school closures (any type of school) are off the table, we are not even saying that classroom staff cuts are off the table. What we are saying is that all these other things that the Board is clearly trying to protect should be the FIRST things looked at to cut, and not the other way around.

Sadly, I think that is too much of a paradigm shift for the current board and administration, which simply--Crawford even said so--sees protecting jobs, implicitly administrative ones, as a higher priority for the school system than, well, schools.

Cerebration said...

Exactly correct, Al. The gravy train is out of gravy. Time to go on a diet. And we think the sacrifices should be made from the top down - in an inverted triangle. The public will be furious if the school system continues to pay for the waste and bloat and has the nerve to raise taxes to pay for it all.

Anonymous said...

How low does your percentage of teachers and student achievement have to go before SACS steps in?

Can parents petition SACS to step in and look at DCSS?

It was brutal, but that's the way Clayton County got a new BOE and a new super.

Cerebration said...

ok, so I went ahead and added a note about funding magnets at the same cost per student as regular schools - following state guidelines. This is such a big can of worms and we are trying to collect data but not getting much cooperation.

I would like to say though, that there are ways to curb the costs right out of the starting gate. Any program under a certain number of students (450?) should have to merge with a regular school and share admin. There's a huge waste in paying for a full admin staff (principal, counselors, AP, etc) for two schools, when one school literally is under state funding levels.

Also, the very expensive transportation costs for magnets must be addressed. Fernbank Science STT students are costing the system a whole lot of money with their nearly door to door bus service to 180 students each semester.

And the points allotted for specials at magnets are out of line. I think the board has already addressed this issue, but it is very hard for those in a regular school with little or no art/music/language instruction to witness magnets with several teachers in each discipline. It's just really kind of outrageous.

Also, take the medical magnet for example. The Choice brochure states that this program is available at both Miller Grove AND Arabia. These schools are within 5 miles of each other! Can these not be combined? Can Arabia not suck up a little and serve some "regular" kids in their programs? They have PLENTY of GORGEOUS space out there in the far corner of DeKalb County - 2 miles from the Rockdale line! (Inaccessible to most of us).

The costs for our magnet programs simply must be addressed in detail and I don't see anyone really spending time on this. In fact, Mr. Moseley actually stated that these programs should stay intact because of the high parent involvement! (I guess he thinks it's ok to cut regular schools because the parents won't rise up.) Take that as a clue people! He's the guy who referred to parents as "Background Noise" back in 2001 or so.

Dekalbparent said...

Dammit (sorry - no not really), every time I see that comment about high parent involvement, I get pi$$ed off!

I am sure it was a code phrase for the magnet parents will be vocal if the programs are touched, and this will be unpleasant for the DCSS admin, but taking the heat is what the get big bucks for!

And I can categorically state that there are plenty of "regular" schools that have highly involved parents - everybody whose kids go to a "regular" school needs to get real "involved" and vocal and let them know.

Tired said...

Yes, there have been instances where "A" worker was caught sleeping in a truck, however, they CAN NOT BE FIRED! When the supervisors have tried to fire this person, they call call it RACISM! So, its stuck in Internal Affairs while this stupid person is still on the job doing nothing. Thank Ronald Ramsey.

There are good, hard working people that actually work so don't label all Sam Moss workers or Central Office personnel as not doing their job. They just have to pick up the slack of those who do not do their jobs.

If you want to start cutting the waste, start looking in the schools too. There's LOTS of waste.

How many Assistant Principals does a school need? Why are there so many empty classrooms or teachers teaching 4-5 students?

A certain school that will not be named brings in a huge jumping machine a couple times a week, you know the kind that kids jump in, and call that P.E.! How much does this cost???

Look at the "parapros" that aren't in the classroom and instead hang out in the copy room all day. Or the campus security that sits on their butt and does nothing all day while kids jump in cars driving by and skip school.

Or the teachers, and yes I said teachers, that DON'T teach and let the kids do whatever they want during class.

So instead of calling on other people about the waste, start looking in the mirror.

Anonymous said...

Cere- Adding magnets to your letter opens a new issue and detracts from your main points, that DeKalb has invested too much money in non-teaching positions and the need to help out those HS that chose the academically superior 7 period day. The magnets bring in too many misconceptions, emotions, and incorrect information to be a useful part of this debate. At least those programs actually teach kids. Let it be.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:44 - Why do you want to stifle discussion about the inequities of the magnet programs? Their costs vs the number of students they actually teach is a legitimate discussion.

themommy said...

We know that the magnets cost money. That is easily determined by the fact that cutting twenty magnet points saves 1.2 million dollars. However, that leaves over 50 magnet points.

Want to help the teachers on the 7 period day? Offer to swap 2.5 million dollars of magnet points to keep the two planning periods.

Tomorrow morning at 11 AM, there is a called meeting where the board will hear Ms. Tyson's Reduction in Force plans. It will be interesting to hear just what positions have been cut and which are staying.

I think it needs to be made clear that if paras are expendable then so are administrative assistants and secretaries who work in the central office.

themommy said...

And I want to add something else, per the comment at least the magnets are teaching students.

As of this year, the vast majority of students at KMS come from DCSS' highest achieving schools. There is plenty of evidence that learning is going on at those schools as well.

Cerebration said...

Sorry, Anon 12:44 PM - I have to agree with others - the magnets are proportionately too costly - they are sucking funding from others. This is unfair and needs to be reined in. There's a lot of money at stake here.

That said, I think a deeper assessment of the real costs associated with all of the magnet/choice programs needs to be done before any recommendations for cuts can be made. I'd have to say table it as is for now - but this topic needs revisited very soon. We all pay into the school system. It's completely out of line for "special schools" with "active parents" get far and away more funding and instruction than other - "regular" schools.

If you're not magnet - and you're not Title 1 - you are in the poorhouse. When my children attended Oak Grove, there was ONE half time art teacher, ONE half time Spanish teacher (1 lesson per week) and NO music teacher for a building with 500 kids.


Dear Magnet Haters said...

I'm all for reigning in programs with inequitable "costs" vs the number of students they actually benefit.

That's why I believe DCSS should "reign in" ALL varsity sports. Why aren't you Magnet Haters addressing that?

DCSS wastes millions on football, basketball and baseball programs that benefit very few of the students.

Wouldn't you agree the money currently spent on a few sports participants should be allocated to programs that benefit ALL students?

If your daughter (or, god forbid, your son) isn't on the football team, wouldn't you agree that DCSS should spend money on programs that benefit all students (and not just the inequitably few who are 'lucky enough' to make the varsity)???

Anonymous said...

"That said, I think a deeper assessment of the real costs associated with all of the magnet/choice programs needs to be done before any recommendations for cuts can be made. I'd have to say table it as is for now"


And I'd add the word "benefits" after the phrase "real costs".

Anonymous said...

I do not support a wholesale elimination of all magnets. We would be so far behind Fulton and Atlanta, it is ridiculous! If DeKalb had a true high achiever program in all of its schools, it would be less of an issue. But it would be terrible to send some of these very talented kids back to their home schools where the staff are spending most of their time simply trying to make AYP.

Many of your objections have been with transportation. IT IS HISTORY- GONE- ELIMINATED. (but I wonder why this does not apply to Fernbank Science Center????)

I agree that the magnet class sizes should be the same size as non-magent classes. But everyone should please understand that this is only Kittredge and Wadsworth, not the middle and high schools.

And please remember that if you eliminate all the magnet points at the high school level, you have eliminated many of the teachers who teach the AP courses. These are not magnet courses- all the students in the school take them.

I question the addition of new medical magnet programs at MLK and Druid Hills HS, but again this is a very small amount of money and the big picture should be on much more expansive cut backs in the non-teaching positions.

momofthree said...

We are one of those fortunate families that have had children attend Kittredge. I have observed many times to other parents that there is very little that is done in the magnet setting that could not be created in all DeKalb schools. They work with the same curriculum, have the same text books. Based on observational and empirical data, the Kittredge model is very successful. I propose that the emphasis be to incorporate aspects of that program in all schools (as I believe was the original intent) rather than undo a notably successful design. What are the components that make a difference within the Kittredge plan? Here are some of the key elements (in my opinion):
• Favorable student:teacher ratio. This ratio permits the teacher to be in a better position to evaluate a student’s strengths and needs and teach to each child.
• The students get up and move around as part of the learning process. This movement keeps them engaged and awake. They can do this because there is actually room to move because the room is not chock-o-block of students and they understand that if they misbehave and take advantage to the situation, there will be consequences.
• A message of excellence. The message is that the school standards are high and that there is a belief that each student has it in them to meet the standard
• The arts are an integral part of the program. Every student is required to study a musical instrument. Every student participates in applied art. Also, the art teacher collaborates with the subject matter teachers to help support the academic topics through art.
• Reading is required. There is a structured reading program which is in addition to daily work that promotes reading a variety of genres. Progress on this program is expected and monitored.
• Students are expected to get their work done. Personal accountability and responsibility is a community value. Along with that, the teachers and staff really support the students by teaching them organizational strategies and skills.
• Regular tutorial days are designated so those students who need additional help may get it.
• The students and parents sign an agreement that certain behavioral standards and academic standards must be met. Also, parents commit (in writing) to be involved and volunteer. Do all parents volunteer – I suspect not. Yet, there is a community value that parental involvement is important and makes a difference. That being said, I will hastily say that all the home schools we have been involved in have had very active parent communities.
• The school deals with a narrower age range and there are more students in each grade without the school being huge. What I have observed is that there is a larger and more diverse peer group for the students to interact with than they normally have in a neighborhood school (8 classes in each grade rather than 3 or 4 classes). Also, because school activities can focus on the 9 -12 age range rather than the 4 – 11 age span, the school atmosphere just seems a bit older. They can be a bit more adventuresome with some of their activities because they are dealing with a more able group.
• Studying a second language expands the students horizons, encourages them to study other cultures and be more aware of the world outside their domain. It is well researched that younger brains have an easier time learning new languages. With the global nature of our economy, it makes sense to encourage learning a new language. Is German the best choice? That point is debatable, yet committing the time and resources to support our students to be more prepared to deal with a global community is a very reasonable educational goal.
• The teachers at Kittredge are outstanding and the administrative/teaching team is exceptional. They are committed to student learning, they work closely with their peers to create integrated plans, they provide their students structure and hold the students accountable.

momofthree said...

Part 2 of my comment -
Is the magnet program perfect - no it is not. However, I believe that rather than lobbying to do away with the program, we need to look at what works and encourage and support all schools to follow the model. This emphasizes even more clearly that positions that are non-essential to the day in day out delivery of learning to our students must be eliminated. Those dollars must be freed to allocate for additional classroom teachers and fine arts teachers. Every school does deserve to have favorable student teacher ratios, art and music education and world language studies. Just doing away with Kittredge and folding those children back into their home schools is not going to make a substantial impact to any one school or the school system as a whole. We do not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Anonymous said...

Boy, you Magnet supporters really have your spiel down pat. I would little problem with the Magnet schools if they received the same financial consideration as the "regular" schools. Currently, they receive above and beyond, and in my view, this borders on discrimination and criminality.

Why does KMS need 3 German Teachers?

Anonymous said...

First of all, only DeKalb has magnet schools in grades k-5 in all of Metro Atlanta (Actually, I think Clayton now has a small Spanish immersion program, but that is it.)

Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett have very few choice programs and the ones they have are all located within existing high schools (I don't think there are any middle school magnet programs in those systems.)

It might surprise you to know that in all those systems there is ONE PRINCIPAL FOR THE ENTIRE SCHOOL. Unlike DSA and Avondale, where we apparently need to pay for two principals, these systems manage to make it work. Go figure, not just in Metro Atlanta, but around the country, school systems manage to run magnet programs within schools with only one principal. DeKalb can't manage this?

Finally, I am curious if anyone wants to guess at what we are spending extra for the students in the stand alone magnets? Anyone?

Anonymous said...


That is all fabulous and good for the students at KMS and Wadsworth-- but I am curious do you have any idea what that costs and do you really think that it could be widely replicated?

Cerebration said...

Wow. This is sad. So, those of us who declare it unfair that so many "regular" schools have to do without extras like art and music while magnets enjoy multiple teachers in each are now referred to as "Magnet Haters". Wow.

How do you pack away the truth that your child is receiving extras at the expense of the children of others? If all home schools were well staffed and the education was equitable across the county, then I don't think there would be such a feeling of inequity and loss.

You may all be surprised to learn that my son went to Kittredge and I realize the value of the program. I am also acutely aware of and honest about the inequity.

This is why said...

Bob Moseley and the rest of the DCSS central office administrators refer to the parents as "back ground noise".

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being wasted in Central Office year after year. And the parents are squabling amongst themselves because one of their children didn't get into the magnet program and it's just not fair...

No wonder DCSS has gotten so out of whack. The people responsible for enforcing accountability -- you and me ("the parents") -- would rather bicker over the magnet program than focus our attention on the REAL PROBLEM.

Crawford Lewis is laughing all the way to the bank!!!

Anonymous said...

We're not arguing about magnet programs, per se - we are arguing about the inequity in funding and resources versus "regular" schools.
Also, housing these schools in separate facilities is expensive as well.

Anonymous said...

@ "this is why said"
Excellent points.
Because of the years of complaints from parents about lack of fairness of magnets and special programs, the BOE has stopped listening. Why not focus on the real problems, such as top heavy and overpaid adminstration?

themommy said...

I always post that central office positions need to be cut.

I even said above that if paras can be cut then so can secretaries and admin. assistants at the central office.

That said, for years, the magnet schools have seen an unfair share of DeKalb's discretionary spending.

At first, it was court mandated. Build those programs and make them attractive so that we can end up with integrated schools. As a goal, that ended years ago and yet the spending still continues.

Several years ago, a board member suggested that the KMS and Browns Mill (now Wadsworth) be used as training grounds for DCSS teachers. Teachers would work there for several years (I think she said three) and obtain their gifted certification, learn the strategies being used there and other things and then move back into a traditional school.

It never happened because magnet parents got wind of it and fought hard for the status quo.

Absolutely cut the central office but then make sure neighborhood schools are properly funded before funding extras.

themommy said...

Because of the years of complaints from parents about lack of fairness of magnets and special programs, the BOE has stopped listening. Why not focus on the real problems, such as top heavy and overpaid adminstration?

You are kidding me right? At the last half dozen or so budget subcommittee meetings, multiple board members have complained about statements like yours. They don't want to hear about top heavy admins and bloated central office. The BOE is wrong about this of course. They are being mislead about lots of things.

Two years ago, when Dr. Lewis backed down on the elimination of the transportation program for magnets, he told me that the problem was they heard from almost no one in support of his proposal.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:16 - "if you eliminate all the magnet points at the high school level, you have eliminated many of the teachers who teach the AP courses." Do you have any sympathy for the many students at regular schools who take AP courses without benefit of magnet points? My Lakeside child is as ambitious as my Chamblee child, and plans to take the same number of AP courses. Lakeside and MLK are in much more danger of losing AP access than Chamblee, though. They are going to experience a "Reduction of Schoolhouse Positions thru Attrition" from the move to the 6/7 schedule, but, unlike Chamblee and Arabia, they have ZERO magnet points to help cushion the cut.

Momofthree, I would be thrilled to see the Kittredge model incorporated in other schools instead of being eliminated. Instead, the budget offers "Reduce Small Schools Points; Reduce Specials; Consolidate/Itinerant"

Anon 2:16, I completely agree that "If DeKalb had a true high achiever program in all of its schools, it would be less of an issue." But if it "would be terrible to send some of these very talented kids back to their home schools," then it is even more terrible to leave other very talented kids at their home schools and, on top of that, make them suffer the brunt of the cuts.

Like Cere, I am very aware of the value of the magnet program; I have a child in it. I am also painfully aware of the inequity.

Cerebration said...

I'm sorry, but there are a lot of issues covered in the blog and in this letter - and really, the magnet debate is only one of them. Personally, I do agree with you though - I don't think we will be able to resolve the issues in this county's school system ever - due to the fact that (as I've discovered) most people are really only here to fight and scrap for the biggest piece of the pie they can get for their own child (or themselves if you're a Lewis insider) - and who cares about anyone else, really?

Sadly, this issue brings out that 3rd world mentality.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:16 - "if you eliminate all the magnet points at the high school level, you have eliminated many of the teachers who teach the AP courses

Huh? I'm confused with this statement. There are many "regular" high schools that offer just as many AP courses as CCHS.

Dekalbparent said...

OK, how about we attack a few things at a time.

I agree that the stand-alone magnets are wrong. In addition to magnet points (dividing 2.1 M by 20 points = 60K per point)and teacher salaries (most of the teachers are at the higher half of the DCSS pay schedule, and there are more teachers in the magnets than is the norm), there is also the waste involved in housing both of them in too-big schools (KMS - 417 students in a school with room for 614, and Wadsworth - 165 students in a school with room for 525). The number of students in these two schools is not predicted to increase. (DCSS School Enrollment and Capacity Chart).

BUT it is divisive.

Let's attack bloat, nepotism and cronyism in DCSS first. Let's look for waste in the buildings (whether it's leaving doors open, SROs who aren't watching, poor maintenance) and cut it. Let's insist the BOE prove it's not smart to sell any DCSS properties (really, folks - we need to keep a tiny school? several individual house lots? undeveloped wooded lots on dirt roads? what for??)

THEN let's not let go of the magnet issue.

(I remember the idea of teachers rotating through KMS getting shot down. Then they had a teacher or two from some schools come and observe for a few days - they were supposed to go back and teach the Kittredge Model to the other teachers at their schools. That didn't work, either.)

Anonymous said...

I think your letter is GREAT but magnets is a can of worms and I think including it detracts from your other points and does not necessarily represent the majority voice of this group or other parents in DeKalb.

Magnet points are teachers and cutting teachers goes against all of your other arguments. And this to me sounds like a "not fair" argument that is really no better or less self-motivated than the "don't cut MY program" argument.

For the record, I have no kids in magnet programs and do not plan on putting my kids into one in the future, but I think they should stay. The transportation funding is already being cut and that is a huge, necessary savings.

The magnet programs do have a very high level of parental involvement and advocates and that is a good thing for any school system. If you are cutting everything else AND you cut some of the best programs in the system which attract smart kids and great families to DeKalb - then we really are left with NOTHING. The magnet programs should make some cuts and look for savings, just like everyone else, but I do think they have tremendous value to our school system and should remain.

And on another note, I am bothered when I hear people from rich schools/neighborhoods talk about how all the schools should all be fair and equal. When you have schools with PTA budgets of over $100K and other schools that do not even have a PTA - you can never, ever have schools that are equal. I am not saying this is something government can or should even try to fix - I would just like to see a little compassion and sympathy for parents and children not born into an educated/financially stable household. If everyone on this blog sent their their kids to one of the poor schools that get "special" funding - after just a few weeks I bet they'd see things very differently and the comments would start to change. I can only hope...

Cerebration said...

Who said anything about cutting the magnets? Here's exactly the statement in the letter --

"Magnets should be funded at the same level as other schools, following state guidelines."


Keep Your Eye On The Ball said...

What's going on around here?!?!?

Why are we discussing magnet programs that may or may not 'misallocate' hundreds of thousands of dollar each year when we could be discussing central office waste, mismanagement, abuse and outright fraud that 'misallocates' millions of dollars each year?

Cere's point about magnets is not objectionable. But the rest you are hijacking the discussion (and I am too) with this RED HERRING of a non issue !!!!

Anonymous said...

Ella is absolutely right:
"Let's attack bloat, nepotism and cronyism in DCSS first. Let's look for waste in the buildings (whether it's leaving doors open, SROs who aren't watching, poor maintenance) and cut it. Let's insist the BOE prove it's not smart to sell any DCSS properties (really, folks - we need to keep a tiny school? several individual house lots? undeveloped wooded lots on dirt roads? what for??)

THEN let's not let go of the magnet issue."

Magnets are not off the table, but let's not let our divisions dilute the strength of the main point on which we all agree--CUT THE WASTE


Anonymous said...

How exactly can magnets be funded at the same level as other schools without cutting the programs (firing/transferring the extra teachers) or stripping them down so much that they are not worth having? Maybe I just don't understand how the system/funding works. To me that statement just implies that if they can't operate under the same funding as everyone else, they shouldn't operate - and that goes back to the "not fair - they have more than me" argument.

Also, I agree that these comments have become too much about magnets and we should get back to the basics of the letter, which for the most part, we can all agree about. However, the letter was sort of supposed to represent the majority of the readers and when magnets was added, you had to kind of expect this debate to be fueled. People feel strongly about it on both sides and both sides have valid arguments. Perhaps we should just agree to disagree and move on to the things that unite us b/c this magnet debate will divide us and at the end of the day, get us nowhere.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again, each time there is united voice on the need to push for a revision of the magnet system, we are identified as being led down the garden path to divided for purposes of advocating for change in DCSS, Frankly, even magnets parents cannot argue that this has been a fair situation. Good for them, not so good for the ones who wanted in but did not get in.
But, come on , the dollars are the dollars...... Isn't it possible to ask for attention to the heavy administration and acknowledge that magnets are not an equitable distribution? The fact that it is not easy to address should just highlight the fact that it should be addressed....

Anonymous said...

I think things are starting to happen. More than one person has told me CL is leaving for good and that Dr. Bouie is departing as well. Expect to see a lot of others resign before the end of the year.

Anonymous said...

How can magnets be funded at the same level as other schools and still be worth having? Anon 2:16 nailed it when s/he spoke of "home schools where the staff are spending most of their time simply trying to make AYP." When you concentrate high achievers in one place, the staff is free to focus on their needs. Also, even if magnet points were reduced or even eliminated, high achiever magnet schools would still enjoy smaller class sizes because of gifted points.

Still, it's a red herring that takes our eyes off waste. What if Cere agrees to take magnet cuts out of the manifesto, and magnet parents agree to use their energy to advocate forcefully for art and music in ALL schools and for keeping down class sizes for ALL children since they are very aware of the value of such things, opposing such cuts to the classroom ANYWHERE until after the board digs up the old audit and takes a very serious look at all possible nonclassroom cuts?

Anonymous said...

By using America's Choice DCSS admin is saying that they can't fix the problem themselves and are outsourcing it. If that is the case then who ever was supposed to fix the problem should resign. But everyone is still in place at the Admin building.

Cerebration said...

The statement reads, "following state guidelines". One line! One line about the magnets and listen to you all going at it. I'm totally disappointed.

State guidelines would certainly give magnets more points for gifted - just as they do every other school. In theory, they have more gifted students, so they would get more points.

Frankly, I'm appalled at the reaction.

Let's move on. If we can muster the energy.

Cerebration said...

To me, spending millions of dollars on Instructional Coaches and programs like America's Choice sends a loud message that the school system does not think their teachers are up to the task.

Cerebration said...

And, I'm certain that you all missed it, but I posted this info from the online audit we were discussing on the budget recommendations thread -

Here's another interesting factoid from the audit -

"General Administration" just about doubled - from $10.6 million in 2007 to $20 million in 2008.

"Improvement of Instructional Services" went from $53.4 million in 2007 to $56.9 million in 2008.

But "Instruction" itself barely moved - from $631.4 million to $639.2 million.

The audits can be found on the State DOE website:

Anonymous said...

Nobody from the pro-magnet side never answered my question:

Why is it fair that KMS has 3, count them 3, German teachers and other schools have zero for .5 unit of foreign language?

Dekalbparent said...

Anon 7:08

It's not fair. That's what we are always stuck on.

It's not fair they have three language teachers (one for each grade)and three full-time enrichment teachers. It's not fair that schools with active and well-funded PTAs can get a full-time art teacher, or some extra technology. It's not fair that schools where parents can kick in the money and volunteer during the day can have a Junior Great Books program.

There are so many unfair things going on in DCSS that we can'tpresently do anything about, that it's even more important that we keep hammering at the things we can do something about, like making sure DCSS admin and BOE don't get away with continuing the status quo.

If we can make DCSS administration efficient and functional, and get people in there who care, and get a no-nonsense Board elected, THEN we can address the not-fair stuff. It will take a good administration and BOE to start directing the money where it needs to go - THAT will be fair.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if it's legal for Dekalb County Schools to identify individuals with one title, and then use another for payment? If you go to Dekalb's website, you'll notice that there are many coordinators. In looking at open records, though, these people are called "instructional supervisors." In fact, many of the 63 instructional supervisors indicated in open records, make more than $85,000.

Is anyone else wondering what research the 20+ people employed in the research and development department have found to support the board's decision to increase classroom size and teachers' workloads by adding a six-period day but retain out of school administrative and clerical positions?

Is anyone else curious to know why Dekalb County employs two people to come up with job descriptions? Their combined salaries are $142,884.42.

Anonymous said...

Take the 8,800 admin and support and cut 1,500 of them back to 2005 levels (Dr. Lewis added over 1,500 employees between 2005 and 2009 - teacher numbers were cut during this time so they have to be admin and support).

I sent Cerebration the 2005 Salary and Travel audit so she could compare it with the 2009 Salary and Travel audit and 1,534 more employees are listed in the 2009 audit versus the 2005 audit.

At an extremely modest estimation of $50,000 per employee (salary and benefits):
$50,000 X 1,500 employees = $75,000,000 in savings.

We have less students and 1,500+ more admin and support personnel.

Forget magnets for the moment and concentrate on cutting these 1,500 admin and support personnel. $75,000,000 in extra admin and support personnel while we have lost students.

Does anyone realize that the metro area that has experienced the greatest decline in property values is DeKalb? If you don't care about students, at least you should care about the value of your home. Don't you think the decline in DCSS schools has something to do with that?

themommy said...

There is a called board meeting tomorrow at 10:30 or 11 am. On the agenda is Ms. Tyson presenting "Reduction in Force." I do not know if an actual list is going to be revealed or how exactly the topic will be handled.

I actually think the board is required to simply vote on doing this -- so I am not at all confident that new information will be gleaned. I hope someone can go though and report back, especially if I am wrong and they reveal the specific positions that will be eliminated.

No Duh said...

Great synopsis Cere. Don't see how the BOE can play symantics with any of that. BOE, please do the right thing. Investigate these ideas. Get the facts. Get a private audit if you can't get matching numbers from the DCSS administrators.

just a thought about need for "high achiever" magnets. We all know that students are categorized by their test scores (high achiever, average, and skills builder). If middle schools would stop trying to blend these students in the classroom and would truly build classes with students who perform at the same levels, then real teaching can begin. This farce that high achievers will help bring skills building students up is ridiculous. Teachers hate it! They are supposed to teach to the highest level,but never get to because they are too busy bringing the other students up to speed.

It's not fair to the skills builders because they can't get the more individualized instruction that they need.

And the parents of average students are almost unanimous in feeling that their children get lost in the shuffle.

When we treat and fund our students as if they are all smart and capable maybe they will get an education.

Performing arts school is completely unneccessary. 85 to 90 percent of the students are already attending paid/private instructional classes for their chosen talent. These parents are already willing to pay for arts instruction for their children. Why should our tax dollars augment that?

But, for now, BOE please don't start cutting in the school house. PLEASE shake out the redundancies and inefficient employees in the Central Office. PLEASE!

Anonymous said...

Clearly it is time for the people who pay the bills to take back control of the DeKalb County School System.

So, let me propose a hypothetical: Do we, as a community, have the guts and determination to insist on cutting enough central office staff, excess SROs, America's Choice, instructional coaches and Gloria Talley's Army that we could (1)balance the budget AND (2)begin to fund every school at the level of a magnet school, investing more each year?

Do we, as a community, have the guts and determination to refuse to accept anything else?

And, if the BOE and Ramona Tyson (Lewis' puppet) continue to ignore us, do we, as a community, have the guts and determination to start a charter system and take back control?

Anonymous said...

DCSS SAT Scores – Who is accountable and what does this mean for your children?

2004 – Verbal 464 Math 459 No data
2005 – Verbal 465 Math 457 No data
2006 – Verbal 462 Math 451 Writing 452
2007 - Verbal 457 Math 443 Writing 446
2008 - Verbal 452 Math 443 Writing 444
2009 - Verbal 451 Math 441 Writing 442

DCSS lost 13 points in Verbal, 18 points in Math, and 10 points in Writing on the SAT between 2004 and 2009.

Dr. Lewis increased the admin and support levels to 8,800 while cutting teachers positions to 7,000 (soon to be 6700 per Ms. Tyson). Is it any wonder our SAT scores are going down? There is a direct correlation between decreasing the number of teachers and falling SAT scores. What is Dr. Lewis’s responsibility and accountability for these declining scores? The expensive programs he instituted such as Springboard ($1,4000,000), High School That Work (data not available), and Instructional Coaches ($8,000,000) not only do not help students, they have contributed to the decline in scores because:
1. Teacher buy-in was never there
2. These stilted scripted programs do not develop the skills necessary for success on the SAT

Ms. Tyson and the BOE are insistent on keeping these programs while cutting teacher positions. How far must our SAT scores drop before the Ms. Tyson and the BOE makes the connection? SATs are the determining factor in getting in college acceptance so the effect of declining scores on our students’ futures are devastating. This is unacceptable. Why is BOE approving the expenditure of tax dollars for programs that are proving so ineffective? Don’t BOE members ever ask for any proof that these programs are working? Don’t BOE members ever look at these scores.

Ms. Tyson will say we are increasing our graduation rates. My question is how valid are our graduation rates if our SAT scores are steadily decreasing in every area? Grade inflation, “watered down” Georgia High School Graduation Tests, pressure on teachers to pass every student whether they do the work or not, and pressure on teachers to change grades can improve your graduation rate, but not a national test like the SAT. How can you possibly graduate more students while your college boards are declining in every area every year? Either the DCSS graduation rate is bogus or the DCSS SAT testing data is bogus. Which one do you think it is?

The Testing Services Department staff is comprised of 7 employees that cost $721,196 in salary and benefits annually ($100,000+ per employee). What do they share with the BOE?

(source: DCSS website -

Anonymous said...

You all will probably overlook this little comment since its not about Magnet. Its about Fernbank.

You can't just take Fernbank people and put them in a classroom, many of them are not certified. Some will be good, others will simply bore the students to death, and others will fail without the fancy equipment that Fernbank provides.

Fernbank needs to figure out how its resources can be used to provide the most bang for its buck for as many students as possible. Maybe they should provide AP courses, but no transportation. Or become a semester or year long school with math/english/social studies, that a parent must provide transport to (or a hub) rather than busing kids back and forth to a home school.

But as a center, Fernbank probably needs to stay intact.

Anonymous said...

"Ms. Tyson will say we are increasing our graduation rates."

Yes, because principals and AP's force teachers to pass students who don't show up and/or don't do their work. And if you are a teacher who rocks the boat, you'll be pushed out the door.

Anonymous said...

Consider the MADE AYP rate for DeKalb over time (source Georgia DOE):
2003 - 2004 86%
2004 - 2005 77%
2005 - 2006 71%
2006 - 2007 79%
2008 – 2009 70%
2008 - 2009 78%

So we are no better off than 2005 and 2006 and much worse off than 2004. The huge expenditures for learning programs such as America’s Choice, Springboard, HSTW, etc. that have been chosen by Central Office staff and tried in the 5 last years have not worked if measured by AYP figures. Dr. Lewis took the helm in January, 2005, and AYP numbers have decreased since then. Accountability should work at the highest levels.

Ms. Tyson and the BOE want to keep these programs while cutting teacher positions. I guess they don't look at these numbers. They should - these are not just numbers - they represent students losing their educational opportunity.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 12:49 pm

All 29 teachers are certified. I looked each teacher's certificate up online. Only the geologist and the Media Specialist do not have certificates, therefore I listed them in the 37 support personnel.

Fernbank needs to become a non-profit existing on grants and partnerships. It should not drain $7,000,000 in resources from DCSS children. $7,000,000 a year can go a long way for daily science instruction in the schoolhouse.

Fernank community parents are very wealthy, smart, and politically connected. They will fight for Fernbank regardless of its financial drain on science education all over the county.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 12:54

Exactly my point. You can't have such a huge growth in the graduation rate while your SAT scores are falling. Since the SATs are a nationally normed test that is given all over the United States by proctors that have nothing to do with your school, I'll put my money on the SAT as being valid and reliabile.

That makes the growth in the high school graduation rate in DCSS suspect. Dr. Lewis and Ms. Tyson can control the graduation rate by instituting rules for teachers that no high school student can fail, homework and late work must always be taken, and teachers are pressured to change test and even final grades. Georgia gave them a leg up as it has "watered" down the Georgia High School Graduation test to increase the overall Georgia graduation rate. Students can also take the GHSGT as many times as they want.

Losers - teachers who can't give students the assessments they earned

Biggest Losers - students who don't learn get grades they don't earn, and go to college primed to fail.

Anonymous said...

I started out as a reader of this blog. I would see an article that caught my eye, then I would read the comment section.

I went from being a reader to one of those folks who try to answer questions asked. I always made sure to cite the website where the data could be found.

Then I realized that no matter how many times a question is answered, no matter how many times a statement was addressed, some folks just have an axe to grind and will keep re-posting the same tired misinformation. Say it often enough and people will join in thinking it's factual.

This blog could improve by adding a "topical discussion" section with a list of F.A.Q.s that have answers which have been verified.

Square Peg said...

Anon 12:56, while DCSS can be criticized for many things, it isn't fair to blame them for the drops in the Meets AYP rates. That's because NCLB requires states to raise the targets ("Annual Measurable Objectives") until 100% of students are proficient in 2013-2014. Georgia's targets went up in 2004-2005 (CRCT), 2005-2006 (GHGST) and 2007-2008 (both), so you'd expect to see drops in the Meets AYP rates in those years. The targets go up again in 2010-2011, then every year thereafter.

Go to, click on the link for the Consolidated State Application Accountability Workbook, and see page 23 for Georgia's Annual Measurable Objectives.

Anon 12:49, Fernbank already provides AP courses with no transportation. Fernbank Advanced Studies Program,

Anonymous said...

Please realize the AYP as we know it now goes away RTTT becomes law. The measurement for "success" will not be pass/fail scores as it is with NCLB, but did your school progress from the previous year.

Anonymous said...

@1:05 am
Some of the strongest advocates for Fernbank Science Center, myself included, are not wealthy or even members of the immediate community. The Science Center works very hard to serve the entire system and many of its strongest advocates are in the southern part of the county (including Zepora Roberts). You make the Science Center out to be a elitist organization when that couldn't be farther from the truth. Unlike Fernbank Museum, whose cost of admission alone excludes a large segment of the community, the science center serves all.
I think we all agree that new sources and models for funding Fernbank need to be explored and pursued, but the fact is that Fernbank cannot move immediately to a new funding model, for the coming budget year. This is a long term, not a short term solution. So is the best solution to shutter the center for the coming year? The saddest part will be that the money saved from closing the center will not go to improving science education in the schools and the science center will never reopen.

Square Peg said...

Anon 8:14, could you post a link to documentation about RTTT repealing NCLB? I thought RTTT was a different animal, a competitive grant program. Since Georgia didn't get a RTTT grant, I didn't expect any effect on NCLB's AYP targets here.

Dekalbparent said...

@Anon 5:43

You put you finger on what's been bothering me here.

We ARE answering the same questions over and over, because new people come to the blog and have not seen prior months' (or last year's) posts.

If we are going to be optimally effective, we need to avoid doing the same research over and over. People have worked diligently to find facts - we need to post them somewhere.

I know this is a huge endeavor - I will help. All kinds of information is buried in the archives - I'll bet if it is all gathered together, it will make some strong statements - for instance, if you juxtapose the SAT scores with the size of Central office staff and expenditures on outside programs year by year (all sets of facts), a clear conclusion can be drawn.

DeKalb Parent blog has done this kind of thing in their documents section, and it is very valuable.

Anonymous said...

"Race to the Top" is the educational initiative by the Obama Administration as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), just as "No Child Left Behind" was the name given to the Bush ESEA initiative. The grants recently in the news are just part of the initiative. I believe this is the correct link for the legislation.

Cerebration said...

Good suggestion, Anon 5:43 AM (I will nickname you "EarlyBird"!

This blog has evolved from a small place to share a discussion and share what we know as parents and members of the DeKalb Schools community. Somehow, it's blossomed into a source for information that people have come to rely on heavily. That said, this is really just a blog - and the comments posted here are for the most part opinions. (Think of this as a modern day version of Manuel's Tavern!) In particular, anything posted about Pat Pope and the Heery Mitchell lawsuit should be read with a great deal of skepticism. NOBODY knows the real story on that.

No one here is on "staff" nor is paid a single dime - we are all either parents, professionals, school employees or other community people who have found a place to keep the best eye we can on what is happening to our children and our schools.

Blogger has added a function to create pages. (I have a few listed on the right side panel.) I'll go ahead and create one for facts and info. If you have something to add to that page, please send an email to

and I'll do my best to post it to our "source page"... Thanks for the suggestion Anon!

Cerebration said...

And yes - please do check in with our friends at DeKalb Parent blog - they have a Wordpress blog and can maintain many more files and "sticky" pages. They have a great deal of reliable info to share.

(Their link is in the listing on the right hand page.)

SongCue said...

No Duh 11:13
Actually, a fine arts magnet is precisely the kind of school a large successful school system should have. And 85-90% of students DO NOT participate in paid-for out of school activities. There are students who participate in a variety of activities, from church choirs, to dance groups, from teaching art to coaching younger children in music.

Cerebration said...

From the Feb 8 Board minutes -

Dr. Sonja Alexander, Director, Department of Professional Learning, recommended that the Board of Education enter into a subcontract agreement with Georgia State University for expenditures incurred from the Mathematics\Science Transition to Teaching Program (MSTT) Project for the performance period of October 1, 2009 through September 30, 2014, the total amount reimbursed to Georgia State University shall not exceed $150,000 per year.

Dr. Walker asked if this program is replacing another program or a new program. Dr. Alexander answered that it is a federal funded grant recently awarded to the District to assist with the retention of highly qualified math and science teachers.

Mr. McChesney asked for clarification regarding the financial impact. Dr. Alexander responded that funds will be reimbursed to the District with no impact to the general budget.

Dr. Lewis added that the grant is for a five-year period, in the total amount of $1,947,200 and anticipates that it will strongly support teachers in the math and science areas.

On a motion by Ms. Roberts, seconded by Dr. Speaks, and with a unanimous vote, the motion passed.

Combine that with the programs at Fernbank Science Center and we can expect to see our science test scores improve in the very near future!

Cerebration said...

I do agree with No Duh in that the arts magnet (and other small magnets) should not have their own principal and full staff. This is very expensive. Students at regular high schools do not have the attention and dedication of a full staff (DSA is less than 300 students - Wadworth is less than 200 - Destiny is less than 100 I believe). These schools can be combined with larger schools and used shared faculty wherever possible. This would be a huge cost savings. In fact, I notice this is a recommendation from the budget committee - however, it only impacts alternative programs - not magnets or other small programs.

If 1700 students at Lakeside can make due with one principal, then the combined enrollment of about 1000 of DSA and Avondale can make due with a single source staff as well.

This is not a sacrifice.

Anonymous said...

Do you think the DSA program is better than the N. Springs program or the Cobb program? Having visited all three... I would say no and I would argue that the Fulton and Cobb programs offer access to a fuller range of academic classes. And guess what -- they both sit in a shared facility.

DSA shouldn't have its own principal with 300 students.

Anonymous said...

Square Peg 8:00 am

The reason I listed the falling AYP rates is that Dr. Lewis instituted America's Choice ($8,000,000), Instructional and Literacy Coaches ($8,000,00), Springboard ($1,5000,000), and basically grew the 1,239 Central Office personnel at the expense of the classroom on the premise that he could improve DCSS's Met AYP rates.

I have sat in Board meetings and listened to him "pitch" multimillion dollar programs on the strength of raising test scores to meet AYP.

I have a business background so I figure if you set an objective to meet and then invest millions of dollars of taxpayer money, then your executive abilities and expenditures need to match with your set goals.

If your expenditures do not result in meeting your goals, then you need to be held accountable. Your leadership should be questioned and the expenditures you instituted need to be cut.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:25 - you do realize that test scores can rise and a school still not make AYP? Or a small subgroup at a school can fail while the remainder of the students can have phenominal scores and the school still not make AYP. We need to move beyond a discussion of AYP - it was and always will be a bogus way of determining a student/schools progress.

Anonymous said...

Oh, everyone has to go look at the AJC blog today about CRCT scores and what they really mean. Apparently, a professor at GSU has done a study and found the following:

The reading NAEP and CRCT results do not even correlate. The CRCT shows kids getting better in reading. The NAEP shows kids getting worse across the two years.

Cerebration said...

FWIW - there's a great post about the Fernbank Science Center at the DeKalb Parent site - lots of good facts here -

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 12:34 pm

The importance of AYP scores is that Dr. Lewis and now Ramona Tyson use improving AYP scores as a reason to allocate tens of millions of dollars to programs and administrators rather than to the classroom. That is the relevance of AYP for DCSS.

No Duh said...

SongCue: DSA PTA President is the source of the 85 - 90% figure. She was asked specifically what percentage of students also attend paid-for external classes.

Those DSA students aren't Fame students in impoverished NYC.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:05, the following statement is simply wrong.

All 29 teachers are certified. I looked each teacher's certificate up online. Only the geologist and the Media Specialist do not have certificates, therefore I listed them in the 37 support personnel.

I don't know the names of the "29 teachers", and if you know where I could find a list, that would be great. I do know the names of three people at the center; not the geologist or the media specialist; I confirmed their status through the online First Class directory, each of these three individuals still works at Fernbank. Here's what I found (deliberately not using names or fields, I don't think these people need to be subject to that):

#1: No record found; typing in this individual's last name yielded several results for other people, but not the individual in question.

#2: Record found, but no info. Not a single field listed. Usually there is a list of fields you are certified in, but this is the first time ever I've seen a certificate with no field. Not even an expired field. The individual has not taken the "Exceptional Children" course - a 50 hour required course - Ordinance 505-2-.20. You cannot be certified without taking this course. So this is an anomaly to me, I'd love an explanation how a person can have a record, but nothing in it.

#3. This individual, as I suspected, not only has a doctorate in-field, but also an advanced teaching degree and certificate.

Now, that's just three people I know about. Some of Fernbank's staff do have teaching certificates, many do not. I would love the opportunity to see a list, check the records, and find out the percentage.

Cerebration said...

Well, we appear to be getting closer to finding that old audit. We found the approved agenda item in the minutes of the September 8, 2003 board meeting.


Authorized the firm of Ernst and Young to conduct a single salary compensation study for the DeKalb County School System at a cost of $341,000.

So - anyone have the results of this study? If so, please email a copy to

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:01am
Why are we so concerned about whether the Fernbank teachers are certified or not? What are we trying to prove? Why are we putting these teachers at the science center under the microscope? I have already seen their names and salaries posted on this blog - why? Are we questioning their worth, or have they done something wrong?

BTW- Many new science teachers are hired every year in high schools throughout the county, without teaching certificates.

Anonymous said...

A great teacher:,0,7083760.story

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:51
We are trying to keep them where they are, at the science center. Some have suggested closing FSC, and moving these "teachers" into the classroom, but that won't work, they aren't certified.

I know many teachers are hired without certificates, and I know a few of them personally, and engineers too. Some are great, some are way over the kids heads. They don't know how or what to teach, they learned through lecture, and that's what they do. Fine for AP, but it becomes an issue in a general class, and the kids suffer.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 1:01 am

If you want to find the list of the FSC teachers, either call FSC up and ask them for a list of their teachers, or go online to the state Salary and Travel audit. You can look up any teacher - most of the FSC teachers are listed as Other Instructional Provider - just data sort for that. Then go to the state certification site and input the first and last name.

FSC personnel are good teachers and 29 of them are certified so they could hit the ground running in the schools.

DCSS is so desperate for science teachers though, if you know anyone who is a science major and wants to teach science in DCSS, they can go through TAPP (Teacher Alternative Preparation Program) while they teach their first year and get certified. DCSS puts them through the program at no cost to them while they teach.

Anonymous said...

Many of the 29 FSC teachers are not certified, but I would argue they are excellent teachers as most have been successfully teaching the 9th grade curriculum through STT for years (and EOC test results demonstrate the success). These are not engineers coming from the private sectors - they are teachers who know how to work with and inspire kids about science.

As for the TAPP alternative certification program, DCSS has never allowed FSC teachers to participate in this program. So if DCSS wants to keep these excellent teachers, they need to make it possible.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 11:06 pm

I know you're trying to keep them there at FSC, but these are desperate times for students and every certified person should be in classrooms teaching before we put 40 kids in a class. And FSC personnel would not lose their jobs.

Their names are on this blog and they are certified, but that's really a moot point. DCSS would just put them through the TAPP (Teacher Alternative Preparation Program).

The best teacher my son ever had was a former chemist (Masters in Chemistry) who left the business world and came into the classroom to teach 8th grade physical science. He was certified through the TAPP at the same time he taught. He was amazing, very, very smart, did lots of hands-on science and knew his subject matter in depth.

You're suggesting that some of the FSC teachers are too smart to teach regular ed kids, and only need to teach AP, I don't agree with that. Many very smart science teachers do a great job with all kids. DCSS students need science teachers who have mastered their content - all DCSS kids do - not just AP.

Personally, before we consider 40 to a classroom, half the Central Office personnel should be sent out to the schools to teach DCSS kids.

Cerebration said...

To clarify - the Fernbank Science Center was proposed as a budget cut by the budget committee. We have been expressing thoughts on every single item on that list - but the Fernbank issue is probably the most contested - on both sides.

Anonymous said...

I personally am afraid of the idea of folks in the Central Office, who have not seen a student in years, coming back into the classroom to teach. What a disaster for our children! FSC teachers, on the other hand, would be a tremendous asset as they work with kids, K-12, all levels, every day. Many of the Central Office folks have certification in PE and business ed (nothing too academic) so I can't imagine there would be many slots for them.

It is a shame that FSC teachers are lumped in with the rest of Central Office as they should not be considered together when determining layoffs.

Anonymous said...

$105,000 budget for Fernbank Science Center cut on a budget of $7,000,000 is not really that much of a cut in my opinion. That was in all five of Ms. Tyson's proposals. What's that - 1.5%? I'm sure the schools would like to see only a 1.5% budget cut. Of course, it's contentious - FSC is an institution and it serves a select group very well.

Is anyone contesting DCSS sends more of those 1,239 Central Office personnel into the schools to teach?

Anonymous said...

Do we really think many of the central office former teachers would be good teachers in our school today? They did not get promoted to central office for excellence in teaching. Many went their to escape the classroom (meaning they never liked working with kids).

Anonymous said...

The Fernbank cuts were left out of the final proposed budget -- so no cuts at all to the operating expenses of FSC.

Anonymous said...

There are Fernbank Science Center personnel (maybe even teachers) embedded in the Central Office layoffs.

Anonymous said...

Since no one has seen the list, that is speculation.

It is my understanding that all Lead Special ed teachers, school socials workers and school psychologists who have previously been treated as the same as teachers in terms of contracts were not given contracts and are now considered Central Office employees.

I wonder how many of the 150 layoffs include these personnel. Yet another stab at the schoolhouse.

Anonymous said...

FSC teachers have not received contracts.

Anonymous said...

Let's look at Livsey. According to their website, one full time art and PE teacher with only 354 students. Evidently, these teachers are having a lot of planning time during the day! Are they having more than one special a day to use their teachers while other Dekalb elementary schools are lucky to have one planning time a day. I think the board needs to go ahead and have some of these special area teachers travel between schools.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:38
There is one DCSS employee that is assigned to the Central Office and has administrative responsibilities split between the Central Office and FSC.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 11:13

I can't imagine PE having to travel between schools. Art and Music - maybe. Gifted and ESOL should have enough students to "pay" for themselves from the extra state funds DCSS receives from the state. If they are in a school fulltime but the revenue they bring in doesn't cover their salary and benefit cost, then they need to have 2 or 3 schools. When I first started in elementary gifted in DCSS, I had 3 schools, and some teachers of gifted had 4. We were busy, but remember our class sizes could not go over 17 so I wouldn't feel too bad for teachers of gifted and ESOL if they get additional schools. There are not that many teachers of gifted in DCSS, but there are a lot of ESOL.

Anonymous said...

@ 12:39
It is my understanding, from talking to Fernbank Science Center teachers, that all employees at the Science Center - teachers and support - fall under the Central Office budget line. None have received contracts.

M G said...

Anon 11:13

Elementary teachers usually get one planning period per day. My planning period is 30 minutes - from 11:00 to 11:30. The students go to PE during this time 4 days each week and to Music one day. All the teachers on the grade level share the planning time - the PE teacher (with a para) has 3 classes of students and the music teacher has 1.

I have never met an elementary teacher who had more than one planning period and most are 30 minutes. The reality of that 30 minutes is more like 20 since it's the one time each day we can use the restroom and we must walk the students to the gym or music room and be there to pick them up at the end of that time.

Cerebration said...

Our own US Congressman makes the case for improving Georgia schools --

Hank Johnson: Guam Might 'Tip Over' or Capsize if Troop Levels Increase
April 01, 2010 11:56 AM EDT (Updated: April 01, 2010 03:10 PM EDT)
views: 2679
Hank Johnson's Guam Comment a great unintentional April Fools Joke


Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson (D) unwittingly made the case for greater focus on earth science in our public education system when he conveyed his fear that Guam would capsize if the US went ahead with a plan to station more troops there. His remark came during a House Armed Services Committee hearing last week. After making a belabored point that Guam is in fact really small, Rep. Johnson explained:

"My fear that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize"

Adm. Robert Willard heroically kept his poise and respectfully answered "We don't anticipate that."

When you watch the video, it does NOT appear that Hank Johnson is joking about Guam possibly tipping over due to overpopulation. From the dead-serious expression on his face to the "tippy" motion he does with his hands, Johnson does (or did) appear to believe that islands, at least the small ones, actually float atop the waves like big boats. Can you imagine believing that? Or that the Earth is flat, or that the sun revolves around us?

Dekalbparent said...

Please, please, please! He had to be kidding! They said he was fond of deadpan humor -- guess he should have cracked a smile on this one.

Anonymous said...

I have talked to Dekalb elementary teachers who have more than one planning period a day. They were at a small school and they had more than one planning period. When a small school has extra slots on their special schedules, sometimes teachers have more than one planning period. I think that this probably holds true at schools that offer languages also. I am sure that they will not becoming forward on this site. One teacher told me one time at one of these schools that she does not see her students very much because they go a lot of different places. Yes, this is a reality!

Anonymous said...

"When you watch the video, it does NOT appear that Hank Johnson is joking about Guam possibly tipping over due to overpopulation. From the dead-serious expression on his face to the "tippy" motion he does with his hands, Johnson does (or did) appear to believe that islands, at least the small ones, actually float atop the waves like big boats."

Please give Hank a break. If you've been around him, you know he has an incredibly dry sense of humor. At times, ya don't know if he even has a pulse, then he'll crank out a joke that's so dry it's takes you a minute to laugh.

Anonymous said...

My husband, a research scientist in microbiology, just met with Hank Johnson this morning for an hour in the role of a volunteer for an organization we belong to. He found Hank Johnson intellectually curious and very literate.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 6:26 pm

"One teacher told me one time at one of these schools that she does not see her students very much because they go a lot of different places."

I tend to think you misunderstood this teacher. I said the same thing all the time when I was in regular ed and heard that so many times when I taught gifted. When you teach regular ed, you have to contend with resource teachers pulling your students out of class all the time. In one day, one set of students may leave for gifted, another set for special ed, and another set for ESOL. Some reading teachers pull students out for special help. Can you imagine trying to teach with all these kids going everywhere and you having to keep up with their work while they are out of the classroom?

Anonymous said...

Hank talks slower than a glacier moves. It's not always easy to tell when he's joking.

Anonymous said...

Y'all have been hit by a Hank Johnson joke grenade. You need to count to 10, then it'll go off. The casualties will be you and your friends who are left smiling.

I've had discussions with him several times and am proud he represents us.


Cerebration said...

Guys - I didn't write that comment about Hank Johnson - it's a real news report - check out the link please... I was just trying to keep you all up to date on the news...

Hopefully, it was an April Fool's joke???

Cerebration said...

Here's a link to the AJC's version of the story -

Johnson issued a written statement Thursday as the mockery mounted.

"I wasn't suggesting that the island of Guam would literally tip over," he said. . Johnson said he was "using a metaphor" to describe how adding more military personnel to the tiny island "could be a tipping point which could adversely affect the island’s fragile ecosystem and could overburden its stressed infrastructure."

"Metaphors work because there's a thin line between what is literal and what is not," said University of Maryland professor James Klumpp, who specializes in political speech and communication. "When politicians get on the wrong side of that line, that's when they get into trouble."