Thursday, April 22, 2010

What are we looking for in a superintendent?

One of our regular participants at this blog, who goes by the moniker pscexb, brought up a good question.

"Should we consider hiring a 'corrective' superintendent, similar to what Clayton did with John Thompson? The idea would be a true outsider that has served as a superintendent of a large system before that would come in on a 18-24 month contract with the objective of getting through the financial challenges and streamlining the staff. Perhaps during their tenure, they could hire, train and groom their replacement. The idea behind this is that many unpopular decisions will need to be made in the short term. Would we want that all on a new superintendent or get a 'hatchet' person to help get our house in order first?"

I did a little Googling and found that John Thompson apparently didn't quite make it through his entire contract - and in fact the Clayton School Board mistakenly wrote up a contract that was legally too long-term for SACS to consider "corrective". So, if we do go that way, we need to ensure that we avoid these pitfalls.

Also, in my Googling, I found that a search firm by the name of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates placed Thompson in the job.

And then, I found a very interesting job description from a school system in Ohio that was advertising for a superintendent at "Education Week" online. Here are some of their requirements:

  • Shows evidence of demonstrated ability to collaborate with other school districts and/or agencies in planning and implementing programs for students
  • Is an accessible, good listener who functions as a team player and shares decision-making with staff when appropriate
  • Supports staff development and encourages professional growth
  • Effectively mediates and accommodates different perspectives
  • Creates an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect
  • Successfully manages media coverage
  • Closely supervises budget development and expenditures
  • Demonstrates expertise in curriculum and instruction
  • Willingly assumes a lead role in decision-making while keeping the Board informed
  • Relates well to a variety of community groups

Makes sense to me! What would you all like to have as qualifications for our next superintendent—and do you think we need a "corrective" super or should we just get someone to dive right in?


Ella Smith said...

Great list.

I would like to see a school superintendent who would guide the school system through best educational practices that are proven to work to turn this school system academically around.

The new and effective educational practice now is collaborative planning where all teachers are teaching the same unit at the same time collaborating at a school their teaching strategies to make sure that all students have the same learning experiences. All students in a subject have the same expectations and take the same test so comparisons can be made and teachers can collaborate again on what worked and what did not work. This is not happening to my knowledge in Dekalb County. It is happening around the state however and around the nation.

We need someone with the vision to turn this school system around and who has the ability to turn this school system around.

The person who is hired to lead the Instruction of Dekalb County is equally important. This person must guide the school system with best practices in the right directions with the school superintendent.

Anonymous said...

Excellent job Cere. I agree w/ Ella we desperately need best educational practices, however, that's not only in DCSS but the state of GA. The "new" math curriculum changes are a complete disaster in the upper grades. When I think best practices though I think nationally not so much locally. Use the successful curriculum from only the top 5 (top10?)states.

I don't see common planning time as an option in a seven period high school (especially if teaching 6 out of 7 periods).

I think a hatchet-man type super is a must. I'd say three years to get the system cleaned up. First year you sit back & observe. Year two you document, year three you fire.

Anonymous said...

@Ella, the collaborative teaching was supposedly used at MLK, where all core classes were taught the same units at the same time, with all of the scheduling changes that occurred with the Esis fiasco, I can't say how well that worked out overall. I doknow that in my son's case it didn't work out well as all Brit Lit classes weren't working on the same things

Ella Smith said...

Actually we have to collaborative plan and we teach 6 out of 7 class and are on a partial block which means one day a week we do not have a planning period while one day it is a longer planning period. Another planning period is taken weekly for Professional Development we are required to attend weekly in Fulton County. We still have to collabortively plan during lunch and before and after school. We have to turn in our planning time spent together and our decisions, our tests which are graded by our School Instructional Coach who reviews our scores. There is an effort to evaluate achievement of students and actually teachers performance now. I am not saying this is not difficult to do because it is but it is possible. However, teachers have to put in longer hours. However, we have been told we are salary employees which means our job is not a 8-4 job. We are paid to do a job regardless of how long this takes.

Collobarative planning means you have to make the time before and after school and at lunch. Teachers do not have common planning time in high school. The expectations are very demanding. However, it is a trend of the future and it also is a best practice.

I think we need a superintendent who can turn the system around. It would be nice if this person could turn the system around and stay a little while also.

Ella Smith said...

Collaborative Planning takes a great deal of dedication. However, the benifits are great. You can actually compare test scores and check mastery of standards from class to class.

In Biology this year we even did a Title 1 Pilot Program and were paid 10 dollars an hour to collaborative plan before and after school on major projects. As the Self-Contained Biology Teacher I had to collaborate with the Advanced Biology and Regular Biology Teachers. I think we learned a great deal from each other. I am supportive of this as a best practice. It gives many teachers the extra support needed to become better teachers also.

Anonymous said...

Ella Smith said...
I think a hatchet-man type super is a must. I'd say three years to get the system cleaned up. First year you sit back & observe. Year two you document, year three you fire.

As a veteran employee in DeKalb who sees the nepotism and what one could even call corruption at taxpayers' expense, I would say that this time table is too long. If you wait that long, all of the good teachers will have vacated the premises. And the budget crisis demands it.

Plans must be made to trim departments beginning in the first year. If you showed the shoolhouse employees the full organizational chart complete with names, we could point out the waste immediately. Just look back at some of the statistics in this blog on staff positions to see the waste. I am discouraged beyond words to see what has happened to our county at the central office level.
What used to be joy and pride in being part of the DCSS has turned into a feeling of disgust and sadness. Please find someone to clean house!! Our children's education depends on it.

Anonymous said...

DeKalb Schools needs stability, especially if the "train" Cerebration alluded to is coming. I am worried that an Interim Super, a "Corrective Superintendent" and then a "real" Superintendent may prove too disruptive.

That said, here are my ideas:
The new DCSS superintendent should make teachers one of his most important advisory groups. Unless teachers who actually teach the students have a place at the table and teacher buy-in is a part of the formula, programs will not be implemented effectively. I'm a retired teacher who remembers her Educational Curriculum course taught by the head of the Education Dept. at the Univ. of Tenn. I'll never forget the first words he said to us:
"Curriculum is what happens when the teacher shuts the door and class begins."

Teachers are the sole deliverers of curriculum. The superintendent must ask our best teachers to be part of his "team" - not people who want to be promoted - teachers who want to teach students and do so very well everyday in this task.

DCSS should have a superintendent who surveys teachers frequently to see what works and doesn't work in their schools for their students.

Flexibility is a must for any superintendent - Different schools have different needs. For example, I have seen ESOL classes taught by ESOL teachers trying to teach Springboard to students who do not have the English skills for this program. One size does not fit all.

DCSS needs a superintendent who builds on the strengths of teachers. While best practices is a good idea, a superintendent should recognize that different teachers have different teaching styles just like learners have different learning styles. What might be effective for one teacher may not work for another.

When I was a very young teacher, I was a real hotshot and thought I had the best teaching style with my hands-on, individualized instruction. But the students of Virginia Burke an older teacher in the next room had remarkable results with her students. She relied heavily on the lecture method, but she was incredibly interesting and compelling. Her students loved her, felt safe in her class, hung on her every word, and she truly was the best teacher I have ever taught with. We taught in a very low income area with many "at risk" kids. Watching her success with "old style" teaching taught me that "best practices" should be defined as "what gets results with kids". I continued to use hands-on learning and individualized instruction because that was my style, but I came to respect the many different styles successful teachers bring to the classroom. Watching Ms. Burke certainly humbled me.

DCSS needs a superintendent who is accountable. He/she should be looking at the efficacy and cost effectiveness of every program and cost center. If a program or cost center is not producing tangible results, he/she needs to modify or eliminate that program.

DCSS needs a superintendent who puts good service to students and teachers in the classroom at the top of his/her list and conveys that to every employee in DCSS from custodians to Network personnel to Deputy Superintendents. Students and teachers do their jobs every day in the classroom. Every admin and support employee should be evaluated based the service they provide the members of the classroom.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:37

Very well said.

DeKalb teachers need a leader who cares about providing the children with a quality education. We need someone with a proven track record and we need someone who will make the right tough decisions.

If DeKalb doesn't turn the ship around quickly, more employees will be jumping ship.

fed up said...

What I want out of the next superintendent is someone who has been in the classroom (not PE teacher or special ed teacher [not to disparage these often wonderful teachers] whose classrooms are atypical) but an honest to goodness classroom teacher who understands how learning happens and how obstacles to learning (ex. eSIS, "reform programs", eluminate live, etc) take time and energy away from actual teaching. Someone who has had his or her own classroom (elem., middle or high) would have been able to see that esis and 4 1/2 week grading periods do not increase student achievement. They would have understood that America's Choice, Schools that Work and Reading First would only make teachers' lives harder and not improve academic achievement. A former teacher would most importantly understand that regardless of what you hear on the news and from Washington, America is NOT facing an education crisis! They would know from experience that the crisis is a poverty crisis that can only be overcome by offering better nutrition, medical care and stress free (i.e. high stakes testing free) educational and home environments. The next superintendent would use their knowledge of the classroom to cut programs that eat up teachers' time and tax payers' (local or federal) money and replace them with better nutrition programs, longer recess and PE times and more books inside classrooms and libraries. An experienced teacher in the superintendent's office would stop schools from wasting money on programs like AR and push those dollars into quality books and media clerks to ensure the books reach the hands and minds who need them most. A former teacher would never look at increasing class size to save money. Instead they would fire the central office staff who design and mandate poorly written benchmark tests and developmentally inappropriate pacing charts. A former classroom teacher running the school system would not allow for profit companies (Renaissance Learning,etc) to sucker schools or the county into spending money on programs which only their own privately funded research promotes.
A former teacher in charge would know that new text books are not the answer and instead invest that money into quality teachers who you can trust enough never to open a text book.

A teacher who is looking to help students before helping themselves (or their extended family) at the helm would inspire teachers to come work for a system in which one is respected as a professional and given the opportunity to actually teacher students not simply to pass a silly test but become life long readers and learners. A classroom teacher in charge might even have the guts to call a spade a spade and tell teacher AND students that the tests we stress over don't mean a thing! Tell the students that it doesn't matter if you fail, we'll promote you if you have shown throughout the year that you have learned what we asked you to learn. Tell the parents and staff that the tests only matter to selfish people who care more about how the stigma of a "failing school" might affect their property value or to the administrator who might lose their job if they continue to fail. Teachers and students should not care about property values or the jobs of their administrators, they should care about LEARNING and should be able to recognize that prepping and stressing over tests only reduces the time you have for actual teaching and learning.

Anonymous said...

How about someone who is hip to the idiocy of AUDRIA BERRY's army of zombie INSTRUCTIONAL COACHES who might look great on paper but who are the lamest of the lame in practice in the schools.

How about the INSTRUCTIONAL COACH at the Title I South DeKalb high school who has only taught middle school and who thinks 9th graders playing Pronoun Tag in the schoolyard is an appropriate method for prepping for the EOCT. That INSTRUCTIONAL COACH sure is the go-to person if you want to find out how to use educational jargon and "have" a meeting!

Gotta love those INSTRUCTIONAL COACHES who certainly deserve their salaries. How could I have ever taught without the zombified interference of my INSTRUCTIONAL COACH? Never would I have known how worthwhile Pronoun Tag and Verb Relay are in the grand educational scheme of high school!

Thank you, AUDRIA BERRY, for delivering unto me my INSTRUCTIONAL COACH.

[Sarcasm included at no extra charge]

Anonymous said...

Save our children! Keep staff that does what is best for children, both in and out of the school house. All staff located outside of the local school, should have an evaluation piece connected to the schools they serve. Tighten up the evaluation piece inside the school house. All those that are not doing what is best for students are let go regardless of their connections. Hard decisions must be made to balance budget. BOE must stick to agendas and not get side-tracked. Schools must consolidate. Ask teachers [all] about central office staff that really do help! Some instructional coaches are extremely helpful! Some staff in departments of instruction are having a direct impact on student achievement! Some staff members within a school house are dead weight. Superintendent should be able to lead. Johnny Brown was hired to "clean house" and BOE stopped him. We should "clean house" balance budtet, etc. before the next superintendent. BOE too!

pscexb said...

Cere, thanks for considering this as a topic! Points raised thus far clearly demonstrates that the Board should engage employees and citizens in the selection of the next superintendent.

I offered that suggestion partially based on statistics for superintendent tenure for large school systems. I've seen averages running from 3 - 4 years. Getting a superintendent and hoping they stay as long as Jim Cherry or Robert Freeman is probably something we will not see anymore.

I believe every agrees we have quite a few challenges with our school system although I would also point out this is true for many school systems around the country. I believe many of our challenges are rooted in distrust. That's why the idea of a 'corrective' superintendent is worthy of consideration. I think we need someone in the short term that has a clear record/history of success with a school system similar to ours. They would have a clear plan regarding how to get our house into order, financially, employment wise, and for instructional.

Assuming this is the desire of the Board, this person would need to make decisions that could significantly change our school system and will undoubtedly ruffle many feathers. I can't see this being done by someone that has not been a superintendent before because they will be constantly challenged by those who feel they know better. If they have a history of success, it would be hard to challenge that.

I'll admit, this is a different way of looking at how to address our leadership however I would say we need to consider different solutions. Short term we need a proven leader. After that, we could be more flexible with our choice of a future leader, assuming our house is in order.

Anonymous said...

Although I don't think their salaries are included in the general budget, I think we should really consider getting rid of the instructional coaches. They perform a job that in some ways is "part-time" (think long lunches, long conversations, and lots of time wasted looking for ways to "try to help you"). Can some of that Title I money go back to the schools?.....
How about giving department chairs an extra planning period ? .......scrapping America's Choice ? .......buying more supplies for custodial staff - no money to buy wax for flooring and sometimes we resort to BYOTP (Bring your own Toilet paper)?


Could someone make a concerted effort to get the word out on which Board officials are up for reelection this year, when the election will take place, and for God's sake, FIND A COMPETENT OPPONENT TO RUN AGAINST AND REPLACE THESE BOARD MEMBERS !!!

Kim Gokce said...

I think we're developing a good list here. The one thing I haven't seen addressed directly yet is race relations. Whether we like it or not, this fact dominates the politics of our time and place and the school system is not immune.

A new superintendent must be someone with the courage, integrity, and fortitude necessary to stand up to this issue. For in every significant decision they make, too many folks will be looking at it within a context of black vs white.

The next super must have an unambiguous commitment to "color blind" decision-making and an intolerance of the politics of race. Our citizens and children need our next superintendent to have a demonstrable history of leading by example in this regard.

Cerebration said...

Great input, everyone. I am on the fence about using a "corrective" super. I wonder if maybe we can't just go ahead and make the corrections necessary right now, while they're necessary. We really need to take a look at the spending in "other" departments. Tyson was a bit defensive about the push to reduce central office, stating that it's only comprised of about 1,200 people, but I think we may be mixing terms. When we (on the blog anyway) refer to "administrative" cuts - we mean administrators anywhere - even and especially those who are "technically" assigned to the schoolhouse. (I would count security, APs, Instructional Coaches, Graduation Coaches, etc...)

We need a professional audit. To his credit, Dr. Lewis had proposed doing one quite a while ago - but the board tabled it (at $350,000 they deemed it too expensive). But we do need an outside, professional firm to evaluate each and every department - doing time/motion studies, etc and evaluate their effectiveness. And we need to do this now. ASAP. Should have done it long ago. Dr. Lewis even stated at that board meeting that the recommendation was either every 3 or 5 years (can't remember) and we haven't had one done since Johnny Brown. This should not be a hunt and peck guessing game by anyone - Tyson, the board. teachers OR the community - it should be done by pros. They do this for a living and they're impartial.

Cerebration said...

We need someone like Mayor Hazel McCallion!

Anonymous said...

I love Fed Up's comments. My gifted 7th grader is finishing his 2nd year of misery in language arts. I was helping him with homework for the first time in ions and it was very clear to me as to why he hates it-- the nice, brand new text book, contains hundreds of pages of test-taking like provisions -- read a few paragraphs here and then answer 4 or 5 questions about the pragraphs. No opportunity to delve into characters, no character development, no plot development, no great books, no ability to really become interested in anything having to do with language arts and this appears to be our language arts curriculum -- totally taught to the test.

Anonymous said...

"Tyson was a bit defensive about the push to reduce central office, stating that it's only comprised of about 1,200 people,"

Since we only have 7,000 teachers, that's 1 Central Office employee per 5.8 teachers. The teachers already directly report to the principal, and have on site staff members such as the assistant principal(s, counselors, "coaches", etc.

Most Central Office personnel do not handle a single direct report.

Teachers instruct all day long so they should not be available for meetings except after their work day. After hours meetings reduce their plan time and the time they have available to contact parents.

This high ratio of Central Office staff to teachers is contributing to the immense amount of paperwork and excessive inservice and staff meetings which drains instructional time. Teachers are often pulled from their classroom duties to go to meetings.

The ratio of Central Office staff to teachers is way too high.

I agree with Cerebration in that another Compensation and Classification audit needs to be done by a reputable, impartial vendor. Ernst and Young probably did a very good job, but Dr. Lewis didn't follow the recommendations and didn't make the audit public.

Audits are not cheap ($341,000 for the last one that was buried). Taxpayers need a guarantee this time that the findings will be made public. Audits paid with by public funds need to be part of the public record.

Our new superintendent needs to value transparency.

As far as Kim said about racial issues, all parents want a safe and clean environment for their children in reasonably sized classrooms with abundant technology and science equipment. If the new superintendent is a good steward of the billion dollars of taxpayer money and ensures this, race will not be an issue.

Paula Caldarella said...

Just wait until 8th Grade Language Arts class. Since 8th graders must take a writing assessment, guess what they spend most of their time doing? Now, I have no problem with teaching children how to write a proper paragraph, paper, etc - that is totally appropriate and important - BUT it should not be all they do for weeks at a time - all to prepare for a writing assessment.

Cerebration said...

I agree, Anon. Let me move the rest of my comment from the ELPC thread on the subject:

Tyson herself stated that we have 14,620 "school-based employees and we know that of those, only about 7,300 are teachers (about to be less)... so this number is still far out of balance. I'm all for cafeteria staff (although, they may actually be under a separate budget), bus drivers, a security officer, principal, media, an AP or two, counselors, etc - but not at a 1:1 ratio to teachers. This is bloated, IMO. We can thin out the extra staff who have expanded their departments such as MIS and Instructional Coaches, etc. More and better teachers is absolutely key. In fact a study of twins over many years in the state of Florida has recently been released proving this.

Anonymous said...

Educational research shows that one factor in student performance is the length of tenure of the superintendent. Systems that change frequently have lower student performance and systems that keeep their superintendent over 5 years have higher student achievement. Each change at the top means a change in how things are done in every part of the system. Never does change in leadership mean keeping what works and fixing what is wrong-it always means fixing everthing. If you want a housecleaning let Ramona do it while you look and find someone who has the vision and ability to make changes in the long haul. Preferably someone who won't through the baby out with the bath water. There are very few cases of dramatic improvements being made by the superintendent alone. The most sucessful efforts have required a unified community of parents and tax payers working with the school system. Based on what I have seen we not only need some school system change we need some dramatic community changes.

teachercreature said...

So much is said on here about the Instructional Coaches. We really shouldn't begrudge them their paychecks. They need their high salaries in order to pay for their sorority dues.

Ella Smith said...

Annonymous 9:32
Ella Smith said did not say...
I think a hatchet-man type super is a must. I'd say three years to get the system cleaned up. First year you sit back & observe. Year two you document, year three you fire.

Please do not quote me on things I do not say. I would deeply appreciate that. If you quote me please quote me correctly.

If you read what Ella Smith did say you will see that Ella Smith did say...."I think we need a superintendent who can turn the system around. It would be nice if this person could turn the system around and stay a little while also."

I do not care if you quote me and even make fun of me. However, please quote me correctly. I would never want just a hacket person. I want to see the school system turned around in a positive way. I would not like to see anyone hurt. However, I do believe that there may be changes that need to be made. This may involved reducing the workforce in some areas. This is not personnel at all. This has nothing to do with someone being a hacket man or woman.

Ella Smith said...

I strongly disagree with some of what has been said and agree with what others have said.

What I learn in administration classes was that time takes change but it also takes involvement of all stakeholders. Without stakeholders involvement to start with the chances of success are not likely to be as great. For change to occur in a school you must have coorperation of the employees which means involvement of the employees in the changes.

To have change you have to involve the parents as stakeholders in the process.

The process of an authoritarian as a leader is not real affective anymore as an administrator in today's society. It can be used however it does not get results as your team is not on board.

The moral and climate of the Dekalb County School System must also be improved of its employees. These are the stakeholders who have direct contact with the students.

I think there must be more involvement from the employees and parents for change to happen. I think directions have been coming from the top down only and suggestions do not go up the tree much. I think there should be more involvement of the teachers and other employees in the change process if you want the changes to work. A hatchet man may not necessarily be the answer. The moral in the school system is already pretty bad. We need a motivator and someone who can lead our school through collabortions of all stakeholders through best practices.

Cerebration said...

That was just a misquote by someone -- it was Anon 8:00 PM who made the hatchet comment above... no worries Ella.

Cerebration said...

Good news from Lakeside - check out this "feel good" story about the Boden Triplets -

Thanks for reminding us of all the good in our community, girls! Best Wishes!

Anonymous said...

Someone should really investigate the MIS Department and the mess they created when they put new computers in all the media centers last year. We have had constant problems with the computers and the configuration. I once met a media specialist from a school which was a Beta Site for the changes. She said they told MIS repeatedly that the system did not work, but MIS proceeded to put it in all the schools anyway. In addition, they bought new printers that require very expensive toner cartridges and we have no money for the cartridges.

Also, each school has a person with the title Computer Technology Specialist, and these people report to no one. Many if not most of them are useless. The one at my school can never be located, even though he carries a cell phone and a walkie-talkie. The teachers joke and call him the man who wasn't there, but we have complained about his indifference to our needs for four years, and nothing has ever improved. In an economy where lots of people are looking for work, this kind of position is not hard to fill. I say fire those who are not performing and fill the slots with someone who wants to work.

Anonymous said...

What Ella did say . . .

I'm not sure what to think Ella. You say you are taking courses in administration. You've said these are graduate level courses. Yet you have grammatical errors throughout your postings. This speaks volumes.

Ella, you said we need to follow "best educational practices." I would suggest that this would include hiring individuals who are able to demonstrate mastery of language skills.

You've also stated that "[t]he new and effective educational practice now is collaborative planning where all teachers are teaching the same unit at the same time . . . . That is nothing more than a different name for scripted teaching. Programs that require that are designed to be used in systems where no true teachers remain. I would suggest that a not so new, but highly effective educational practice, is to only hire individuals who have proven that they have an above average command of their field. This of course would mean that DeKalb would demand higher scores on the GACE than would the state of Georgia. I've been around long enough to remember the PRAXIS exam and the year that GA lowered the required scores because not enough potential teachers passed. When we no longer require teachers to be experts in their field, you can implement all the new age, current, "everybody else is doing this", measures you want to and you will still end up with the poor results we see today.

I agree with the poster from April 22, 9:37pm who commented that best practices are what get results.

Anonymous said...

From Annonymous 9:32-
Sorry about the misquote on Ella Smith on April 22. I picked up the wrong name.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:07PM said:

"Someone should really investigate the MIS Department and the mess they created when they put new computers in all the media centers last year."

I am sorry that your experience has been such a negative one.
All of the librarians I know are thrilled with the new setup right now because we were operating with 3 to 4 old Gateways bought for Y2K in the media center.
Time will tell if they made wise choices for the setup we have.
I agree that the printers were possibly a poor choice.
MIS needs more input from the local school for sure when they make these decisions.

As for the Tech Support person, our person is the most fantastic person ever. Some should be evaluated and if the county cuts 18 of them, it needs to be the poorly performing personnel for sure and not the ones doing the best job.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:40, I appreciate your comments, but I'd appreciate it even more if we're all exceptionally thoughtful with our criticisms of those on this blog. I can't be counted as a frequent poster here, but I know the cavernous walls of the central office and am familiar with some of Ella's experiences. From Ella's postings, I see her courage (how many of us don't use our real names?), her thoughtfulness, her critical thinking, and eventually her willingness to make tough decisions. In my view, Ella is passionate, multi-dimensional and has the capacity and experience to soundly judge many issues addressed on this blog. I actually don't agree with her positions on some issues raised here, but heartily respect where she's coming from.

This is why it has taken so long for someone to impolitely point out Ella's grammatical shortcomings without returning a vote of appreciation -- because her postives far outweigh any negatives.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:00pm

I don't agree with Ella's postings the majority of the time. Why? Because they reflect a belief in the same type of systems being pushed onto DeKalb teachers now. Whatever teaching theory is "new and effective" is what we need to adopt, pay for, and force teachers to use. This is a professional disagreement, it is not personal. I do not know Ella Smith. She is probably a very caring and dedicated individual - that much IS reflected in her writing and I commend her for that! You are correct in that using her real name shows courage, especially in this day and age.

However impolite as it may seem, I will stick with my belief that in education, part of the problem is unqualified teachers and leaders. I believe that teachers and principals model the behavior and expectations and students will emulate them - good or bad.

To Ella - I could have posted my disagreement with your beliefs without coming across the way I did. I apologize.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:02

"However impolite as it may seem, I will stick with my belief that in education, part of the problem is unqualified teachers and leaders. I believe that teachers and principals model the behavior and expectations and students will emulate them - good or bad."

I totally agree with this comment.

As a teacher, there aren't many teachers or administrators that I would like to emulate in DCSS. This has been my experience. I am not saying that it's the norm.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments. I am a school library media specialist. While I am sometimes frustrated by those new computers we received last fall, they are infinitely better than the four broken computers they replaced. In a large school, like mine, it is really nice to be able to sit 12 students at computers at one time.

My CTSS (Computer Tech) is working between two schools. I'm surprised that she gets anything done! Principals assign special tasks to these people all the time. Some do lunch duty and supervise children in computer labs. You can't fix a computer while you are supervising 30 kids. I agree MIS needs a shake-up, but I don't think it's the people at the bottom who are the problem.

Keep in mind that student achievement is better at schools that have fully staffed libraries (with professionally trained librarians) that are open throughout the school day. For many of our children the school library is their only source for books to read and information for class assignments and projects. You can teach a child all of the reading skills you want, but if they aren't reading, they aren't practicing those skills. When children read they improve comprehension skills, fluency, vocabulary, spelling and writing skills. Reading a "real" story is a lot more motivating than working from a controlled vocabulary textbook.
Locating, evaluating, and using information is becoming extremely important in our highly technical world. Losing those 59 library clerks in our elementary schools will be devastating for our children. My clerk completes routine tasks so I can work with teachers and students.

Anonymous said...

CTSS skill levels are very different from school to school. Some CTSSs do an excellent job and equipment is always working for students and teachers. Other CTSSs can never be found, are terribly lacking in both technical know-how and trouble shooting skills, and let equipment and software that doesn't work languish for months. Another piece of the problem is that the CTSSs lacking in technical know how are often scared to escalate a problem to their area's Network Liaison Specialist (NLS) or Systems Engineer (SE) for fear that they will be perceived as deficient.

Compounding the problem is the fact that the CTSSs, Network Liaison Specialists (NLS) and Systems Engineers (SE) are also not trained in instructional software. If the software does not work correctly, they can only reinstall it and hope it works. The focus is on the network. That is considered the heart of DCSS technology center. If a program is installed and it opens, it is considered working until a teacher puts in a trouble call saying it is not working. The NLS or SE will then reinstall the software remotely and hope for the best.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:00 and Anonymous 9:02

I completely agree with your evaluation of both Ella Smith's professional position on DCSS and her grammar, spelling and usage deficiencies. I had thought that maybe it was just me because I am a professional writer. But, each time I read one of her postings, the errors overshadowed everything else and it was hard to give her comments any credibility at all. Frankly, I cannot understand how someone with those academic deficiencies can be a doctoral candidate in an accredited program. Perhaps this is more of an indictment of higher education in Georgia than anything else.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:08

What you need to understand is that what is expected out of a doctoral candidate in education is much less than in other disciplines. It is very ashame but very true. Universities and colleges know that advanced degrees in education are a teachers only way to more money, so they are a cash cow.

All one has to do is look at who holds advanced degrees in DCSS. Holding an advanced degree in education is not the same as other disciplines, and the level of skills are far less as well.

One example that should be obvious to people is how the field of education compares scores across years. What I mean by this is that my CRCT scores this year, will be compared to last year's scores. These are different children who have different strengths and weaknesses. This is acceptable in the field of education, but would not be acceptable in any other field that does research without many variables being put into place to over come this difference.

The longer I am in the field of education, the longer, I see advanced degrees as unnecessary and a waste of money.

By reading and connecting with some of the top field in reading I have developed a strong understanding of how children learn to read. I do not need to take classes in reading, as I have done the work on my own and frankly, know more than many of the teachers teaching these classes. Yet, I cannot apply for a reading specialist job, because I do not have the degree.

Don't be fooled by a teacher or administrators degrees. They usually don't mean much.

Anonymous said...

It terrifies me they are considering terminating 18 CTSSs from schools. We all know CTSSs are the lowest paid employees in MIS and many of them do an excellent job of keeping all the technical equipment including phones working in the building for parents, teachers and students.

Why am I terrified? I'll tell you why. I work at a very old elementary school building in Dunwoody. Our CTSS does an excellent job in keeping our school running technologically for teachers and students. Although our CTSS is assigned hall monitoring duties, lunch duty and bus duty, he still provides excellent customer service to teachers and students. He is very quick to respond to all help desk tickets he receives and 99% of the time the problem is fixed when he leaves your room. The other 1% the problem is escalated to MIS for repair and he stays on them to make sure the problem is resolved in an expeditious manner. We are so blessed to have him at our school and we don't know what we're going to do if he's 1 of the 18 terminated or if he is kept but is assigned multiple schools. What are we going to do if a problem arises and he won't get back to our school until 2 days later? The Board and MIS needs to think about this.

Anonymous said...

Many of these personal comments are disrespectful as well as unkind. I fail to see how these comments advance the discussion of the serious topics raised by this blog. I hope the comments are removed by the moderator soon.

Cerebration said...

Oh boy, I go away for an evening of fun and look what goes on. I won't remove the comments, as I think they shine the light on what people truly think but won't say to your face in this world. My daughter has learning disabilities and has suffered this kind of criticism (mostly behind her back) all of her life as well, so I have a heart for Ella's position.

Ella has become my friend through this blog since day one. She has openly admitted here what her struggles are and how she pushes through every day. She has also shared her physical and health challenges as well as her life-long injury she received from a violent episode by a student when she taught at Lakeside.

Ella works with special education students, loving, teaching and guiding them—making them feel good about themselves in a world called high school that only serves to tear them down at every corner.

She may not always blog using correct spelling and grammar - due to her own learning disabilities - but her thoughts come from her heart and her spirit. She speaks the truth that she knows and I truly appreciate her contributions here. I'm also certain that when Ella writes a paper for one of her classes, she works very hard to correct the grammar and spelling issues before turning it in so that her professors will read it for it's content—which is always good, kind and thoughtful.

That said - I may have to repost the "Rules" at the top of the side panel. Rule #1 was that this is a "conversation" and we don't correct spelling and grammar. We want to have a discussion.

So please, everyone—bring your thoughts and opinions and don't worry about spelling. You are all entitled to have your voices heard.

(BTW - my spelling and grammar aren't always the best either. We aren't all English majors, however, I have my own skill set and wouldn't dream of pointing out how "graphically" and "computer" challenged many people are.)

Please, be kind. The world is mean enough and I don't want this blog added to it.

Love you, Ella!

Cerebration said...

ps - Kudos to Anon 9:42 PM. It takes a very big person to issue an apology. Thank you.

Dekalbparent said...

Comments on two subjects:

1) I agree that personal attacks have no place here. We all need to look at what the writer is saying and limit our comments to that. Ella has addressed the matter before, and clearly explained what we see in terms of grammar, punctuation and phraseology. Her explanation is completely clear and acceptable to me. Additionally, as has been observed before, it is an unfortunate feature of our school system that in order to advance up the salary scale, at some point an advanced degree seems to be required. We can debate the worth of these degrees, and choose to take them as seriously as we want, but we really don't need to judge people on whether they decide to pursue a degree.

2) The CTSSs do vary widely in skill level, and a good one is worth way more to the school than she/he is paid. I suspect, though, that there are some who are in the job because of connections, and they are only a source of profound frustration to those who depend on them. I pray that there is some attention paid to quality of work when the (in my opinion, poorly thought out) decision about whom to lay off is made.

The schools need some educational tech specialists. This would not be a Central Office position (although there need to be a few really knowledgeable people there to direct - they have had them, so I know they are there). This position would function more like a CTSS, where they help teachers plan lessons using the software DCSS owns, trouble-shoot software and communicate with the CTSS or Tech Support to fix it. They could teach specific classes in the labs, or help in the lab when the teacher is using software she/he is unfamiliar with.

Cerebration said...

Moving on...

I'd like to repost something from another thread by "No Duh" - these can serve as a beginning list of what we'd like a new super to focus on -

No Duh said...

I think I agree with Kim. Adding another slug to work with a slug doesn't make the first slug any more productive.

DCSS MUST learn the difference between quantity and quality.

It MUST learn to value excellence.

It MUST learn to embrace and hold up excellence as standard behavior.

It MUST learn to say "no" to mediocrity and less.

It MUST learn to differentiate the performance from the personnel.

It MUST learn to evaluate and analyze programs and people in a way that embraces and rewards excellence.

It MUST allow full and honest discussions with the stake holders.

It MUST learn that morale does not respond to slogans and hyperbole. Morale responds to actions, period.

Ella Smith said...

I am not unset about the comment at all. I do make eras when writng likes this on a daily basis unless I double check and use spell check which we do not have here. I have always felt free to be myself on this blog and not felt like I would be picked on because I do have a learning disability in written expression. It is there and I am not ashamed of it. I have one more class until I finish my Specialist Degree in Administration. I do not know if I am going to continue. I do not want to be a principal or assistant principal. I want to know more about administration and leadership should work and I have learned through my experiences and observations that we probable do have many unqualified principals in principal positions.

Again, I am not offended you see my spelling eras. I know that they are there. However, I do find it interesting as to how some look for the bad in everything instead of the good. This is one of my weaknesses. However, I have so many strengths.

By the way I probable have over 70 to 80 graduate hours. I truely have been a graduate student a great deal of my life. I have two B. My GPA is very high. Having a learning disability in writing is a handicap in many things that I do. You can see this as you are very critical of this. However, despite this disability I have learned to work hard and continue to achieve as a student and educator to learn all that I can learn. Whether I can spell well or not has nothing to do with my intellectual ability. I know what my intellectual ability is and I am well aware it has nothing to do with my spelling. I have no control over this. If I did I would have fixed it along time ago. I have tried. I continue to try. This is why it is a Specific Learning Disability.

Again, I am not offended at all by the comments. I know who I am. I know my weaknesses. I know my strengths.

I do think it is sad that individuals forget the number one rule of this blog which is that we do not cut others down for spelling or grammar. I am sure that this is political in nature. However, I am very upfront with who I am and do not have skeletons in my closet. This is not a problem for me.

I am Ella Smith. I mispell words from time to time. However, I love the students of the Dekalb County School System. I care deeply about the moral and climate of the schools in the school system and what has happened lately. I want to make a difference as to what happens in this school system. Because of this I have decided to run for district 9 school board position.

Cerebration said...

You go girl!

Anyone else? The deadline to file to run is fast approaching!

Ella will be running against Gene Walker, District 9

We also have these four up for re-election:

Zepora Roberts
Board Vice Chair
(District 7)

Jim Redovian
(District 1)

Sarah Copelin-Wood
(District 3)

Jay Cunningham
(District 5)

We need to provide our next superintendent with a fresh board, full of thoughtful, hard-working people who will work to restore our wonderful school system for the sake of the children.

You know who you are! (Ernest!)


Ella Smith said...

Ernest, you know what you need to do. We are behind you all the way.

You can do this.

Shayna said...

During the campaign, I had the opportunity to get to know people in the community. Ella was one who I didn't know at all to begin with. We bonded during the campaign. It is so hard to be in front of everyone doing what you think is best for everyone and doing what you think needs to be done and then to face the crowd and opponent who disagrees and stabs you in the back or makes unfulfillable promises. Lots of brownie points for sticking with it and trudging forward for what Ella believes is right and best for all.

Kim Gokce said...

The word of the day for our blog is: Ad hominem

Kudos for recovering decorum all!

Best wishes for your run, Ella, and thanks for your service and dedication!


Cerebration said...

If you would like to know more about the districts, here is a link to the school board member's schools -

Also, we have a link on the right panel, under PAGES called, Facts & Sources that will link you to actual district maps.

And - if you're really interested in participating in grassroots efforts to replace board members - consider joining this brand new YAHOO users group dedicated to that goal -

(This link can also be found under "Our Favorite Links" on the side panel.)

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:56 pm

I already posted on this blog that Ms. Tyson's budget proposals consisted of cutting 18 of some of the lowest paid positions in MIS - the CTSS - who by the way are truly schoolhouse personnel.

CTSS - average salary $42,056 (with 25% benefits - $52,570)

All other MIS employees - average salary - $59273 (with 25% benefits - $74,092)

It doesn't make sense to cut the lowest paid employees who are in the schoolhouse, while making not one cut to the higher paid employees (180 of them) who are not in the schoolhouse.

BTW - Ms. Tyson's proposal sets the average teacher salary and benefit cost at $65,000. Does everyone in DCSS make more than teachers? We have our priorities upside down.

A forensic audit on compensation of non-teaching personnel needs to be done. If not under Ms. Tyson, then this needs to be a top priority under the new superintendent. marketplace competition needs to drive DCSS non-teaching salaries just like it drives teaching salaries currently.

Sources for these figures:
state Salary and Travel Audit
Ms. Tyson's budget proposal (Total teacher points cost/number of points cut)

Anonymous said...

@ Dekalbparent 9:44 am and Anonymous 8:56 am

CTSS technical skill levels vary tremendously. Some are very proficient and some are not. I worked with a Dunwoody school where the long time CTSS could never get anything fixed. She was fulltime in that school, and when she retired, she was not replaced. The position became one whereby this school shared a CTSS with another school.

The new "shared" CTSS was dynamite. He came in and within a month he had everything running like clockwork. Problems that had dragged on for literally years got fixed. If a teacher had a problem, it was fixed within the week. Teachers had never known that all the computers could work. They were amazed. The new CTSS was very smart and knowledgeable. But really it's not just smarts. This guy would research, ask questions, read technical material, involve his NLS back at the Bryant Center, etc. He was an excellent critical thinker.

This is a huge problem in DCSS. Some of the CTSSs are great, some are mediocre and some do little to nothing.

I've seen schools that had great CTSSs, and consequently the students used technology a great deal and very effectively. Then the CTSS gets transferred, a new one comes in who is not knowledgeable, and within months the repair problems are so bad that teachers have abandoned using technology with the students (much to the students' dismay).

There is no rhyme or reason in MIS as to the competence level of CTSSs. MAGIC is their trouble logging procedure. Ms. Tyson and now Mr. Hunter will say most of the troubles are cleared. What Magic can't do is find out if the troubles were really fixed or just marked "cleared" in the system by the CTSS. That's the fatal flaw in DCSS MIS. They do not have a conduit for information to flow from teachers to Mr. Hunter. Mr. Hunter should be using evaluation instruments filled out by schoolhouse personnel to see which schools are getting good service and which schools are not getting good service. Then he should be taking appropriate steps to see that schools have good service. Until he does that, DCSS students and teachers will be subject to the "luck of the draw". If they are lucky enough to get a good CTSS, they can use technology. If they are unlucky, they will not be able to use technology.

Anonymous said...

You go, Anon 11:39! This should be sent directly to the board. It gets to the heart of the matter perfectly.

District 7 Teacher said...

Could someone please, please, please locate, encourage, promote, and support a viable candidate to run against Zepora Roberts.
I deeply respect the woman and all she has tried to do on behalf of some of our schools, however, I think its time for the "old guard" to be replaced. The time is ripe.

DISTRICT 7: Let your voice be heard!!

(I am a resident of district 7 and a teacher at one of the high schools in the same District - we need someone who can move us forward and not keep looking back)

Kim Gokce said...

@Anon 11:27: "That's the fatal flaw in DCSS MIS. They do not have a conduit for information to flow from teachers to Mr. Hunter."

Very insightful and all too common in IT organizations. Because of the specialized knowledge required in these jobs, even incompetent technical support can masquerade as productive. I've spent my entire career combating the arrogance of technical resources and can see this being a serious problem in DCSS.

In a highly professional help desk situation, only the customer can "close" a ticket.

Anonymous said...

Teachers are not allowed to report any technology problems to anyone but the CTSS. Emailing Mr. Hunter directly would be a serious breech of protocol that would most likely result in the teacher being written up by the principal.

Teachers can only escalate technology problems to the principals who can then contact Mr. Hunter.

In practice, very few principals escalate problems to Mr. Hunter for number of reasons, some of which are:
1. Principals do not want to escalate problems to a highly placed person who holds the title of "Director"
2. Principals have to pick their battles. They may be having HVAC, construction, maintenance, staffing, and cleanliness of the building problems and technology is a low priority to them
3. Principals are encouraged to be "team" players. The "team" are the managers of departments outside the schoolhouse. "Team" players do not call attention to the departmental problems of other "team" members
4. Principals become discouraged when they have escalated technology problems in the past, and they are not resolved.

Mr. Hunter in turn is protected from problems by the layers of director and supervisors under him. Until something blows up (complaint from a BOE member or a parent or a newspaper article), he may not even suspect there is a problem. He probably thought eSis was going great when he listened to his direct reports. Ms. Tyson was no doubt surprised to find out from a parent that one of her employees did not report to work for 6 months (another post told of their experiences with this).

DCSS is full of this "insulation" effect (not just in MIS), and you are only more insulated from the bottom as you climb the ladder. That's probably true of all large organizations, institutions and many large corporations, but DCSS seems to have make the "insulation" effect into an art form.

Anonymous said...

I am a 34k/yr CTSS. This is my first year, and most likely my last. Since we are not tracked on performance, HR will, most likely, choose a "last in, first out" scenario. I am working in a place that previously had two CTSSEs.

CTSSes cannot close calls unless it is within the first hour they are created. I've had calls magically closed on me when they were not resolved. MIS is who closes it, all to keep their fast closure rate high and look good.

Support is about to flatline at DCSS.

Anonymous said...

Is Marshall Orson running for BOE? And is Redovian seeking re-election?

Anonymous said...

A "corrective" Superintendent may not be a bad idea, as long as contractual and financial obligations to the persons ultimately hired are not prohibitive to the school system. I agree wholeheartedly that DeKalb's next leader should come from outside the sysem, and preferably, the state. We need someone young, energetic, talented, and innovative to reinvigorate the school system. Just look at what Michelle Rhee (Supt. of DC Public Schools) has been able to do within her short tenure in the nation's capital. Cronyism and nepotism are more likely to rear their ugly heads when we go with insiders who owe favors to those who they met in the way up. We need someone who is prepared to cut the many-headed hydra that our Central Office administration has become.

A Sup't from outside the system would also do much to level the playing field and restore a sense of fairness and confidence in DeKalb's hiring, promotion, and retention practices. Far too many have gotten their positions based on who they know and not because they were the best qualified for the position.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 11:58 am

"I've had calls magically closed on me when they were not resolved. MIS is who closes it, all to keep their fast closure rate high and look good."

Maybe that's why the trouble reporting system MIS uses is called MAGIC.

Anonymous said...

I heard that Redovian has had enough, but nothing definite. Anyone aware of the latest?
I think we need a change all the way around...

Anonymous said...

I thoughy board members cannot be teachers in that same school system...if that's the case, I would definitely run against Jay Cunningham!

Anonymous said...

Everyone does realize that MIS contracts out to Dell the installation and maintenance of all those new computers and Activboards bought with SPLOST III money?

Millions of dollars are spent for the vendors (currently Dell) to install and maintain the hardware that is in the schools.

The $19,000,000 in annual salaries and benefits we pay for MIS personnel needs to have millions more added to the technology cost of installation and maintenance by these vendors. Every computer added to the DCSS network has an override of 30% to 50% to get it installed and maintained for the life of the contract by someone not in the DeKalb Schools MIS department.

Having the vendor that sells the computers install and maintain them helps ensure their proper installation and maintenance so this practice is a positive. However, the millions spent with vendors for their labor to install and maintain DCSS computers needs to be added with the annual MIS expenditure when looking at the total cost of providing technology for DeKalb teachers and students.

Hopefully, the new superintendent will be looking at the true cost of every cost center and program in DCSS, contrasting this with other school systems our size, and evaluating the benefits and service from all support departments.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 1:24 pm

I don't believe Jay Cunningham works for DCSS anymore. He keep saying - "when I was a teacher".

Anonymous said...

Nice transparency.

Gwinnett County Schools has obviously done a Compensation and Classification study that they followed through with. Every employee in the system fits into these general classifications. Within the general classifications, they have placed workers according to market value. This is what Dr. Lewis should have done with the Compensation and Classification study. Great information for taxpayers and also for prospective employees.

These are the General Gwinnett Schools classifications below:

Salary Schedules 2009-2010
Assistant Principals
Bus Drivers / Monitors
Classified / Administrative
Information Management
School Food Nutrition - Hourly
School Food Nutrition - Managerial

Additional Supplements 2009-2010
Administrative / Educational Degrees
CoachingDepartment Chairs
Other Certified / Classified

Here is the website. Click on any of the general classifications and you can see where each title is placed:
This is the kind of transparency we need:

Ella Smith said...

I agree. Nice transparancy: 5:59.

Dekalb County Schools needs some transparancy.

Things have changed so much in education.

We need a superintendent who can involve the community, and the employees in helping change the school system. This is not something an administrative team can do alone. This is what I was trying to say earlier. It takes involvement and agreement of all staff involved for change to occur. This does not occur unless you involve the employees and community in the process of the change.

shark bait said...

Back to "what are we looking for..."
1) someone who remembers the "mission" of DCSS is (should be) to educate children. The schools (those who are educating the kids) shouldn't suffer the cuts, the long list of depts. listed on the left side of the DCSS website should go first.
3) someone who will embrace a strong ethics rule and will insist on one for the board, schools, etc.

Dan M. said...

Focus, focus, focus. Every single aspect of DCSS needs to be focused back on the classroom and school house. Every other department/division is a support function, whether the Central Office, MIS, school police, Sam Moss, instructional coaches, etc.

Ever since the Halford debacle of dividing the system into regions, and allowing all those administrators to keep their jobs when his plans failed miserably, the focus at DCSS has been on administration. The no holds barred political infighting to secure and hold onto upper level administrator jobs hurts the system in so many ways. Nepotism and cronyism by administrators and BOE members ain't helping either.

The past and current BOE allowed the administration to swell and took every administration demand and wish hook, line and sinker (eSIS, America's Choice, Gloria Talley's army, Deborah Rives' army, Pat Pope contract changes, etc., etc.).

The new superintendent needs to be an experienced professional who does not need to be reminded that administration and everything else is ancilliary to the classroom. The new superintendent needs to value input and suggestions from the thousands of DCSS tachers (and us parents too!). The new superintendent needs to know that it is unethical and unprofessional to allow school buildings such as Cross Keys to fall into disrepair while millions are spent on the lavish Mountain Industrial mega-complex and Sam Moss renovations.

And it goes without saying, the new super will have to right-size the salaries of all administrators and managers, so they are on par with the salaries of veteran teachers, not double the salaries as they are now.

I hope the current BOE as its constituted now is up to the challenge.

Ella Smith said...

Dan M, I could not agree more.

Anonymous said...

Here's one for SACS. Jay Cunningham owns Zo's Pizza. Zo's Pizza is a Business Parter of Arabia HS. Jay is Arabia's board rep.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about other school's "business partners," but our business partners donate items and money to our school they do not try and sell us anything. So, as long as Zo's Pizza is just donating or selling food at cost (essentially a donation) there is no conflict of interest. Donation or at-cost is not the same as doing business for profit.

Anonymous said...

Jay has financially supported many area schools through his business for years. After he was elected, he fulfilled a few contracts to provide meals for football teams however to my knowledge he did not renew them once completed. This was the subject of an investigation by WSB TV and at the end, they realized nothing improper was occurring.

We should make sure elected officials don't profit based on their positions however the Arabia Mountain situation is one where 'making money' is not part of the relationship.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the great Conundrum of The Blogosphere. We throw accusations on the table like cards and see how they're played. Anon 12:33, the subsequent posters are correct. Jay has supported the area schools for years and at no profit. But it sure was tasty to throw it on the table with little facts, wasn't it?

Unfortunately, this is also reflective of the Conundrum of a Bad Board. Each board member and his/her individual activities are made all the more glaring by the behavior of the collective board.

For the second time this weekend, I would ask that we're careful and respectful with our criticisms. And refrain from tossing bombs. These people who run for the board of education by and large don't wake up one morning and decide to earn money off of the school system. Oh sure, if any board member has engaged in that behavior, they have been examined here on this blog -- and they should be. But as I always tell my sons when they're ready to accuse someone but don't have all their facts, frame your concern as a question -- not a statement.

Funny -- searches are underway now for viable board candidates. If those same potential candidates read blogs, they won't want to run for what everyone regards as a part-time community service (NOT!!) that can literally suck the life out of you -- and to get disparaged while they lose their breath. Then what are you left with?

Anonymous said...

DCSS is the only system that I have worked in where sorority or fraternity affliation was celebrated at the school house. I was amazed to see our principal gather her "sisters" for a photo opp on the Sorority Birthday.

Anonymous said...

@ Dekalbparent 9:44 am

There is an Instructional Technology Department. It consists of a manager and 7 Instructional Technology Specialists. Go to the DCSS website to see how many IT Specialists we have to work with 7,000 teachers:

These Instructional Technology Specialists are charged with delivering all technology training to 7,000 teachers (a ratio of 1,000 teachers to 1 Instructional Tehnology Specialist).

CTSSs have been told for many years that they are not to deliver training since they are needed to maintain the network in the schools.

Most metro school systems are heavy on the educational tech specialists (also called Instructional Technology Specialists) with one for every school or only serving 3 or 4 schools (versus 20+ schools in DCSS).

DCSS has chosen a different route. Technical and in particular network personnel are abundant (284 employees) and educational technology personnel (7 employees) are scarce.

We have invested tens of millions in capital outlays for technology and invest tens of millions in salaries and benefits each year in technical salaries and benefits, yet we only have 7 people to provide all of the instructional technology training for 100,000 students and 7,000 teachers.

Is it any wonder that we're not seeing the ROI on technology expenditures for our children that we DCSS taxpayers should expect?

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:12 said: "Funny -- searches are underway now for viable board candidates. If those same potential candidates read blogs, they won't want to run for what everyone regards as a part-time community service (NOT!!) that can literally suck the life out of you -- and to get disparaged while they lose their breath. Then what are you left with?"

I'll bite Anon 3:12. "What are you left with?" A realist who knows just how sucky the job is, but steps into it regardless without hopes of generating self-wealth, ego stroking, or next-steps in a political career.

You're left with someone who knows they'll take a severe bashing, lose friends, and piss off every-other person they come in contact with. You're left with someone who enters the school board race because they know someone is going to win the seat and to keep the focus on the children it might as well be them.

You're left with someone that'll get my vote.


Cerebration said...

Exactly. This should not be considered "employment" it should be considered "service". We need qualified people with a passion to fix our schools to take over the reins of the board of education.

BTW - some system data from Public School Review:

Number of Schools Managed 155
Number of Students Managed 99,695
District Total Revenue $1,193,406,000
District Expenditure $1,128,807,000
District Revenue / Student $11,971
District Expenditure / Student $11,323

Anonymous said...

To read from my post yesterday that I somehow consider board membership employment and that members should be free from scrutiny is really an insult to my intelligence, and sadly may provide the trigger for exiting what I thought was a community of critical thinkers. I'll go this one step further and emphasize my opinion that board members are no different from many of us who don't like it when flat statements are made about them which are simply untrue, rather than framing a concern as a question which that member would be happy to answer. It is counter-productive, in my view, to toss bombshell statements out there and spend time hearing one defend himself or for us to spend time hearing about said defense, when in fact the thing may not be true at all. Besmirching of a reputation takes a few seconds; getting it back takes a lifetime. If any elected official engages in misbehavior s/he should be reprimanded. But what if there was no such misbehavior? And all it took was a statement starting with "here's one for SACS:..."

Oh well. I won't bother anymore. I well understand the heightened fever pitch to build a better board. What I don't understand is why building a better board means we engage in false rumors and innuendos with respect to board members. And no, this is not a defense of this board or any particular board member. I don't have a dog in that hunt.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 1:12 pm

Blogs are opinion forums. Many moderators run blogs and filter out any post that does not conform to the moderator's opinion. Cerebration has tried to let everyone have a voice whether she agrees with them or not. She only removes really offensive posts. Deciding on which ones cross the line is a difficult task. I think she does an very good job of this.

Her policy of open communication is why this blog is so visited, read, and has generated so much political involvement.

Blogs that merely reinforce the moderator's opinion generally have a small, narrow group of posters.

I often see posters who are aggravated and indignant that their opinions are challenged. This is similar to only discussing your viewpoints and associating with people who see the world as you do, something that we as a society are becoming more and more prone to do.

Positives about DeKalb Watch (IMO - LOL) are:
1. It provides a variety of viewpoints
2. Many posts have explained the inner workings of the DCSS "blackbox" system
3. It takes the temperature of the feelings and frustrations that the parents/taxpayers and teachers are experiencing
4. It has a wealth of official factual information sites cited by posters
5. Posters have called into question the opinions and statements of many other posters by "fact checking" and citing reputable sources or giving thoughtful conclusions that would encourage a more careful analysis (similar to what you just did)

DeKalb Watch is not peer reviewed, and it is not a professional publication. It is a cacophony of voices communicating, providing unfiltered information, and attempting to find common ground between disparate groups with goals that often conflict.

Cerebration said...

??? I don't think anyone argued your point - and I'm not sure I am following what you mean, however, I do agree that we should refrain from tossing out rumors. In the past, a former board member was deeply embroiled in an ethical debate due to her company selling cheerleading outfits to schools. Many complained about a conflict and I think the DA even investigated. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this may have been the beginning of the DA investigating just about everyone. If there really is something to uncover - I'm certain the DA will uncover it.

That said - this is a blog - not a news service - so you do end up with an element of anonymous surprise comments that you have to learn to filter. If they're bad enough - I usually delete them. But since this one was discussed right away, I left it. I think we can all take it for what it is - a random odd comment with no proof. That's the danger of blogging, but then again, is it really any different than meeting up at a pub and discussing politics? You can assume that much of what you hear is rumor.

Cerebration said...

Thanks Anon 1:43 PM - I didn't see your comment a minute ago - we must have posted at the same time. Appreciate the support -- this blogging thing is a new, unexplored frontier and really has no established "rules"... we try to make it up as we go along to the best of our abilities. But again - we are not a news source - we are not to be taken as gospel.

Anonymous said...

Word on the street is that State Superintendent Kathy Cox will be applying for this position along with APS Superintendent position... Do we really want Kathy Cox as our superintendent?

Anonymous said...

I am sure you are trying to be funny, but just in case...

That is baloney. She is running for reelection and fully intends on winning. (Not so sure that is a good thing either.)

Cerebration said...

Well, I guess we all know now what Kathy's plans are...

At any rate - I thought I'd share an ad for superintendent of San Diego schools - just an example for the board to consider as wording and goals... what caught my eye was the 20/20 Vision - gee - that was Shayna's platform. She wanted schools to write their 20/20 plans and the district to write one overall... sigh! Does anyone have a plan? A vision? Some goals?

San Diego Unified School District
Salary Range: Negotiable/Annually
Filing Deadline: Open Until Filled

The Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District is pleased to invite applications for the position of Superintendent. The San Diego Unified School District is the 8th largest urban school district in the nation and the 2nd largest district in California with more than 134,000 students served in 225 educational facilities. The Board is seeking highly qualified candidates for the Superintendent position to be filled through an open and collaborative process with the community.

The District's next Superintendent will be a proven leader and strong manager who can foster and maintain positive and productive relationships with the Board, the community, faculty and students. The successful candidate will be committed to work with the Board to implement their 2020 Vision for Educational Excellence.

A key part of skills needed to successfully implement the 2020 Vision will be the ability to develop a deep understanding of the San Diego school community and communication and listening skills that will build broad community participation and support for public education. Candidates must also have career experience in the management of complex organizations such as a large urban school district. The Board seeks a Superintendent who can effectively lead within a collaborative model with authority shared among an established senior leadership team.

All applicant names will remain confidential until the final community forum presentations.

Anonymous said...

I'm Anonymous 9:37 April 22

This was part of my post in the DeKalb Watch entitled "What we are looking for in the Next Superintendent":

..."DCSS needs a superintendent who builds on the strengths of teachers. While best practices is a good idea, a superintendent should recognize that different teachers have different teaching styles just like learners have different learning styles. What might be effective for one teacher may not work for another.

When I was a very young teacher, I was a real hotshot and thought I had the best teaching style with my hands-on, individualized instruction. But the students of Virginia Burke an older teacher in the next room had remarkable results with her students. She relied heavily on the lecture method, but she was incredibly interesting and compelling. Her students loved her, felt safe in her class, hung on her every word, and she truly was the best teacher I have ever taught with. We taught in a very low income area with many "at risk" kids. Watching her success with "old style" teaching taught me that "best practices" should be defined as "what gets results with kids". I continued to use hands-on learning and individualized instruction because that was my style, but I came to respect the many different styles successful teachers bring to the classroom. Watching Ms. Burke certainly humbled me. "

I just found out that Mrs. Burke passed away in June a few weeks after I wrote that post at the ripe old age of 91. She was in her mid 50s when I was a second year teacher. I'm not sure she would survive in today's educational climate, but what lucky children who had Mrs. Burke. She could take the most intractable student and turn them around. I never saw a student who didn't absolutely adore her.
See what the AJC said about her:

Anonymous said...

I'm Anonymous 9:37 pm who posted on April 22 on the article "What are we looking for in a superintendent?"

This was part of my post:
"DCSS needs a superintendent who builds on the strengths of teachers. While best practices is a good idea, a superintendent should recognize that different teachers have different teaching styles just like learners have different learning styles. What might be effective for one teacher may not work for another.

When I was a very young teacher, I was a real hotshot and thought I had the best teaching style with my hands-on, individualized instruction. But the students of Virginia Burke an older teacher in the next room had remarkable results with her students. She relied heavily on the lecture method, but she was incredibly interesting and compelling. Her students loved her, felt safe in her class, hung on her every word, and she truly was the best teacher I have ever taught with. We taught in a very low income area with many "at risk" kids. Watching her success with "old style" teaching taught me that "best practices" should be defined as "what gets results with kids". I continued to use hands-on learning and individualized instruction because that was my style, but I came to respect the many different styles successful teachers bring to the classroom. Watching Ms. Burke certainly humbled me. "

I just learned Mrs. Burke passed away at the ripe old age of 91 a few weeks after this post.

I suspect Mrs. Burke may have not been appreciated in this educational climate, but what lucky children who had her as a teacher! She could turn around the most intractable student, and all of her students adored her. Virginia was in her mid-50s when I was all of 24 years old. She exemplified the feeling of safety and excitement that students should feel in a classroom. I hope the new superintendent respects that unique teachers are our treasures.

Here is what the AJC said about her: