Sunday, April 18, 2010

Back to the "List of Distractions"

Hurrah! We checked a biggie off of our "list of distractions" preventing our board from focusing on educating our children!  Dr. Lewis is gone.

The AJC posted a good article in today's paper outlining some of the work yet to be done - all before we can focus on the classroom. One quote caught my eye:

Lewis, who appeared relieved to walk away after 33 years of working for DeKalb schools, said the district needs someone focused on the school system and not the ongoing criminal investigation.

“I believe the board needs a sitting superintendent that will be on site every day,” he said. “My attention is devoted to the other action going on with the district attorney’s office and of course, we are cooperating.”

Even without him at the helm, the results of the criminal investigation still could have a huge impact on the 101,000-student school system.

I have to ask, "Why - oh why - did it come down to Lewis basically excusing himself? Is our board so very weak that they could not come to this conclusion, dismiss him and make the above statement themselves? It is shocking to me that they allowed this situation to fester and stew until the very person causing the discordance basically was the one to say, "Gee guys, I'd better leave - you know, my being under a criminal investigation and on "paid leave" probably isn't the best thing for the system." My oh my - why didn't anyone on the board think of that?

Beyond that head-shaking disappointment, we now have to trust our board to turn their attention to the rest of the big items on their "to-do" list: budget cuts (at least $115 million in cuts!), the continuance of our major construction projects, the multi-million dollar lawsuit against Heery-Mitchell which continues to be delayed, the criminal investigation into Pat Pope, as well as the one into Dr. Lewis (which apparently taxpayers have already paid our limit of $100,000 for his defense!), and the statewide investigation into cheating.

Tom Bowen is quoted in the article as saying, "“We have some big issues out there with the DA’s investigation and the Heery litigation,” Bowen said. “As for day-to-day operations, we’ve done an excellent job and we want to continue that way.”"

I disagree with Tom. The board has done very little that would be deemed an "exellent job in day-to-day operations"—teachers, principals, bus drivers, librarians, custodians, cafeteria and other staff, working under incredible, unyielding stress and distraction are the ones struggling to maintain as normal environment as possible for our children—even as their own jobs hang in the balance. Tom should have given credit where credit was due.

We are really going to have to watch carefully in the next few months.

BTW - we do not have 101,000 students. 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. However, if we suddenly increased by 3042 students, and they are not aware of this at the state, we are losing some serious state funding.


Anonymous said...

Everybody - please email your board member and ask them to provide examples of how they have done such an "excellent" job. You may personally like your BOE member, but every one of them have failed DeKalb's children. They don't deserve our trust nor our votes.

Serious problems require serious people to solve them.

Cerebration said...

Many Thanks to the DeKalb Parent blog for the copious notes taken at the budget meeting available here.

The one thing that stands out is the inability of the board to focus on the task at hand - there are far too many issues and far too many "distractions". The firing of Dr. Lewis was happening simultaneously with the discussion of the budget cuts and the consolidation and closing of several schools. I don't think they can possibly give one of these very important issues their full attention when they are all vying for attention at the same time.

Now that we have resolved Lewis, we will soon have to turn our attention to possible criminal charges (also using DeKalb Taxpayer dollars) into Lewis and Pope (and others?) and the $100 million Heery Mitchell lawsuit—and the budget cuts and consolidations, etc... It's all just very overwhelming.

SongCue said...

From Tuesday's AJC....members of the Board of Ed are considering taking a pay cut in sympathy with other DCSS employees. Walker is for it, as are Bowen, McChesney, Redovian, and Cunningham. Dr. Walker is quoted thus,"We can't ask them [employees] to give up money and we not do it. That would not be right. We as the board ought to set the example of making a financial sacrifice."

What say you, Ms. Zepora Roberts? "I would not support the 5% pay cut. That is important to me as an elected official. We already do not get enough. If I do that, only the ones who are wealthy will be able to serve on the school board." Ms. Copelin-Wood is thinking about it and Dr. Speaks couldn't be reached for comment.
Ms. Roberts, serving on the school board is not meant to be your full time job. What a statement on your character!

Cerebration said...

Gee - it seems a teacher could say the same thing --

"We already do not get enough. If I do that, only the ones who are wealthy will be able to serve" a teacher.

Our board wouldn't have to work and meet nearly as much as they do if the school system weren't so out of control.

I am impressed with the integrity of the board members who support this.

Anonymous said...

Will the voters in her district please contact her and tell her how ridiculous she sounds? Zepora Roberts is one reason we're in this mess. Her lack of leadership ios very telling.

It's all about her! Between Dr. Walker complaining about $50 limits for dinners and her complete disregard for the current situation of our school district. I am not confident that this board will make the right decisions.

Cutting teachers, ParaPros and not the Central Office gravy train is negligent and does not help our kids learn.

This current BOE has got to go!

Cerebration said...

It only takes a majority vote to pass any initiative. I wish that 5 members of this board would just go ahead and vote the tough votes and quit stopping to give Zepora an audience for her irrelevant tantrums. Time's a wastin'... and she's a time waster, IMO.

(BTW - she's the one who brought up the gifting issue in the ethics policy debate.) She has a complete inability to see the big picture - nor does she care. (Exampled in her quote - I've been on vacation and haven't given a single thought to the budget.)

Just my opinion... Seems the people in her district just love her - so she will likely remain - unless someone steps up to run against her and parents (rather than retired people) go out and vote in droves.

Cerebration said...

Back to the AJC article on the board pay cuts -

Dr Walker lamented in the article that the task force just didn't have enough time to make this decision - to which I reply:

This issue has been on the agenda for a year! YOU - the board - chose to table it over and over again. YOU the board are the ones who pushed the timetable back. YOU the board could have and should have resolved this issue long ago. But it's a political hot potato (witness Sarah trying in vain to keep her nearly empty schools open so her voters will re-elect her in Nov.)

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Roberts, before you go kicking and screaming about a proposed 5% pay cut why don't you first be open and honest that you (the board) have given yourself a 40%+ pay increase of salary and expenses over the last 4 years. I'm sure the districts' teachers, bus drivers and support personnel would have enjoyed a similar 40% increase.

Insider said...

If you read the AJC article, it says the cut will be voluntary which (to me, at least) means members have the option to take the cut or not.

I can think of two who will not.

Anonymous said...

“I would not support the 5 percent pay cut. That is important to me as an elected official,” board vice chairwoman Zepora Roberts told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We already do not get enough as a board member. If I do that, only the ones that are wealthy will be able to serve on the school board.”

I had to read it a few times to believe it. Shameful. Furlough days for teachers, but Zepora wants her's, sort of like when Crawford threw a tantrum when people questioned his taking a raise during furloughs.

Have you no shame, Zepora Roberts? Aparrently not.

Anonymous said...

Some random thoughts on this blog.

The one significant difference in every foreign school system whose students test higher than ours is that they do not have an elected board of education. Those countries let experts run their schools.

Governing a school system is a full time job that pays less than a paraprofessional makes. It is not a job that anyone can afford unless they are retired or well off.

Perhaps school board memebers should have to pass the high school graduation test to serve.

Moreover, our educational values are wrong. The only way a good teacher can make more money is to become a principal or one of those admininstrators at Mountain Industrial. If we paid good teachers more than principals or administrators we wouldn't lose so many good teachers and have so many bad admininstrators.

Running this school system a billion dollar operation requires two key people. One who can run a big business and one who has an academic vision and can lead and support teachers and principals. When you consider what people who run really big businesses like Enron, Goldman Sachs, AIG, etc get away with we are probably lucky to not to be worse off.

Dekalbparent said...

When I read the article, I immediately flashed back to the first BoE meeting of the year (Aug or Sept 2009), which was the first one for the newly-elected members (Womack. McChesney, Speaks).

Womack proposed the Board take a voluntary salary decrease to show solidarity with the teachers, who had had a salary reduction and the "one-time-only" taking-away of retirement contributions.

Walker lit into him in a way that shocked me - ridiculed him for making such a ridiculous suggestion.

Now I read Walker's comment: "We can't ask them [employees] to give up money and we not do it. That would not be right. We as the board ought to set the example of making a financial sacrifice.", and I want to throw up.

(This was the meeting where Womack got into an hassle with Josie Alexander because he said he had run the addition of the item to the agenda and publicly rebuking her for giving him bad advice - altogether an unpromising start to the school year, and predictive of the whole course of events...)

Anonymous said...

Not meaning to hijack this thread, but it is a "distraction"... It's been almost a year since CRCT Scandal II. Anyone know what's the status of the investigation?

Anonymous said...

When you are on the board it is not a job with a salary to live off.
In the pass people had business, lawyers etc. or a husband that had a job or they had a job. The people on the board need to find other in-comes as this is part time. This what you tell the bus drivers so follow your advise. Roberts and woods only want to show up when they have free food and that is not what being a board member about. If our board had been during there jobs we wouldn't be in the mess.

Paula Caldarella said...

Not sure where to put this, but it seems that DCSS is auctioning off its surplus materials, which all in all I think is a good idea, but I would think there are schools in our system that could use some of these items?

The DeKalb County School System will auction surplus materials and equipment which will include, but is not limited to school buses, cars, computers, desks, chairs, file cabinets, lawn mowers, tools, and other surplus items.

Anonymous said...

I just went to the link that you provided DunMom and followed the links provided by DCSS. There is nothing there. DCSS is not even listed.

Did I do something wrong? Or is DCSS trying to hide something again? I am sorry but I just do not trust Central Office right now.

Paula Caldarella said...

Go to the homepage for DCSS. On the right-hand side of the page there is "DeKalb Information". Click on "Surplus Materials Auction".

Anonymous said...

It's me again... I did that. The DCSS website tells me I must go to this website When you do a search of zip code 30345 with a 30 mile radius. Nothing comes up for DCSS.

Did I just do it wrong. Or is there nothing there. Just more smoke and mirrors?

Paula Caldarella said...

Well, I did some digging and I did not find anything either. Maybe they just have not gotten their information put together yet - you know pressing financial matters, as such.

Anonymous said...

The DCSS website stated that the online auction would start
APRIL 8, 2010.

I just want to make sure that there are no "sweetheart" car deals coming down the pipe.

Also, my childs school is in desperate need of a copier. I would buy one for them if I could find one.