Sunday, May 9, 2010

DeKalb businesses want better school board leaders

This is an interesting article from last week's AJC. It announces the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce's establishment of eduKalb, the nonprofit committee that will identify and endorse school board candidates to replace the five up for reelection in November.  (Odd numbered districts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 represented by Jim Redovian, Sarah Copelin-Wood, Jay Cunningham, Zepora Roberts and Gene Walker respectively.)

Another key issue the Chamber is focusing on is some kind of ethics policy for the board of education. Kevin Levitas attempted to address this in the legislature and the board itself responded with some kind of ethics policy of their own, but got hung up arguing about whether to limit "gifts" to $50 or $100. (Click here for our post on that board meeting.)

The AJC article states,

Discussion about school ethics legislation comes as District 3 board member Sarah Copelin-Wood, (pictured) who is up for re-election, faces an ethics complaint. She is accused of meddling in the school closure process by directing members of the Citizens Planning Task Force how to vote.

The complaint against Wood is pending and will be addressed after the board finalizes its budget, Bowen said.

With all our board has to contend with at the moment, I foresee this ethics policy and follow-up on Ms. Copeland-Wood's ethics complaint possibly getting buried or falling by the wayside. I hope that doesn't happen, as a strong ethics policy is vital to restoring some level of trust in the board. But I am concerned that all of the discussion this past year about ethics will be swept under the rug and in the end become "much ado about nothing". We need to continue to follow up on this situation and see that a strong ethics policy is put in place, and that Ms. Woods provides answers to the complaint against her. This is an important issue.


You may also be interested in reading our post on eduKALB. If so, click here.


Ella Smith said...

I am not defending Sara as I do not know any facts in the situation. However, I do believe that this is an issue that needs to be addressed. I do not feel in the past that this has been addressed and I feel there are probable many ethical violations that may have happened regarding school board members. However, now there is a policy and the policy must be upheld and investigated. However, I do believe that much micro-managing has gone on in the past and this is nothing new. Sara is just the one who has had the first complaint filed against her.

I do not always agree with Sara. However, she does fight for her district and I suspect the members in her district will be willing to fight for her. She appears popular in her district.

I am curious who filed the complaint. The complaint might have been warranted. However, I am wondering if that person's has a clean closet to be filing ethical complaints. I surely hope this person does and the individuals behind the complaint being filed have clean closets also.

Anon said...

As a member of the CPTF, I have to say that I know that SCW didn't influence the process/outcome in any real way. She appointed her two members and they thought they way she wanted them to, but as a politician that is her right.

After she behaved so badly at the first meeting, anyone who thought it mattered what she thought, no longer took her seriously. In fact, at one of the last meetings, one of the members she appointed got publicly angry with her behavior.

Did she fire up her communities? Absolutely. Is that wrong? Nah. If they were closing schools in Dunwoody, the board member wouldn't have to work to get the community to react, but the area she represents is very different. Do we expect ANY community to give up something they love without a fight? I certainly hope not. I also want to say on the record that unlike some of the parents from some of the other clusters where schools spent a brief time on "the list", the parents and community representatives were almost all polite and empathetic to the task of the CPFT members. I can't say the same for some of the parents from the Druid Hills and Tucker clusters. Sorry -- it is true.

All that said, SCW has been a highly ineffective representative for her communities. While schools with similar populations have been making small gains across the country, her schools have not. (Thought McNair middle finally barely made AYP this year.) She is upset about America's Choice, but doesn't seem to understand that a far more radical approach is needed to turn those schools around. (Longer and more school days, better remediation, etc)

Anyway, again, I don't think her behavior is at all relevant to what the CPTF did or didn't do and in the end the Board made the work of the committee matter very little.

Anon said...

By the way, I said all that but I still believe that SCW must be replaced at the next election. Her district needs a better representative who can help make the significant changes needed in the community to improve academic achievement.

Ella Smith said...

I agree many of our schools need longer days, major after-school remedial programs, remedial summer schools and Saturday schools if necessary to improve achievement.

We also need to continue to try to get parent and community involvement. On one hand the school board indicates they want parent and community involvement but on the other hand they do not. A perfect example is to set a policy that does not follow the law regarding the interview policy of the Schoolhouse committee set up. The whole hiring of the principals last fall was not handled correctly at all as many outsiders watched. There are procedures that need to be gone through in hiring practices to make sure discriminatory practices do not occur and all individuals applying for the jobs have an opportunity if equally qualified to be looked at. I for one do not believe this happened at all.

Decisions were made many times by the school board members themselves through micro-management of the school superintendent and this is not appropriate or fair to all the great candidates who were applying for those jobs. I hope this has been investigated by the DA. The School Superintendent made appointments based in some cases on recommendations from school board members. This is in the past, but is this ethical.

Anonymous said...

If Copelin-Wood and Zepora Roberts win their next election, the school system is doomed for the rest of the new decade.

Anonymous said...

The issue is a totally incompetent BOE - every singe one of them. The 5 BOE members up for re-election need to be voted out. The 4 that are not seeking re-election need to resign and let someone else take over.

How can Sarah Copelin-Wood pack 35 kids to a classroom, cut teachers' pay, and close schools before she insists that Ms. Tyson cuts the thousands and thousands of overpaid DCSS admin and support non-teaching personnel? Even HVAC and Kitchen Maintenance employees with a high school diploma make more than teachers, and she's perfectly okay with this.

Look at Ms. Tyson's Fact page to see how many DCSS employees are teachers and how many are not teachers:

Out of 15,859 employees, less than 7,000 are teachers, and Ms. Copelin-Wood and the rest of the BOE have no problem with this.

Sarah Copelin-Wood consistently voted for ineffective programs and personnel who do not teach our children. She can't deny her voting record.

$8,000,000 spent on America's Choice, $1,400,000 spent on Springboard, and $8,000,000 spent on Instructional Coaches - she voted to fund these programs that teachers do not support and feel are detrimental to students.

I have no doubt she meddled and played politics while the schools she represents are losing teachers and the students are falling further and further behind. Our students in her schools need someone who puts the schoolhouse first.

The entire BOE including Sarah Copelin-Wood is totally out of touch with what's happening to the classroom. Every one of the DCSS BOE members have voted to grow programs outside the schoolhouse and cut positions inside the schoolhouse. She has left students to be packed like rats into classrooms.

Anonymous said...

...SCW appointed two members herself to the CPTF?...and then told them how to vote?...because it was her "right"?...time for SCW to be replaced

Anonymous said...

Is SCW definitely running again? I ask because when you watch her on TV her health seems poor.

Cerebration said...

Each board member appointed two task force members.

Citizen’s Planning Task Force Members

Task Force Member - Appointed By
Lynn Deutsch, Dunwoody - Redovian, District 1
Shawn Jett, Atlanta - Redovian, District 1
Faye Andresen, Atlanta - McChesney, District 2
Don Broussard, Atlanta - McChesney, District 2
George Maddox, Decatur - Copelin-Wood, District 3
Darrell Jennings, Decatur - Copelin-Wood, District 3
Bob Chambers, Atlanta - Womack, District 4
Brian Dewey, Stone Mountain - Womack, District 4
Charles Hill, Decatur - Cunningham, District 5
Thad Mayfield, Lithonia - Cunningham, District 5
Ann Maywether, Stone Mountain - Bowen, District 6
Marcia Coward, Lithonia - Bowen, District 6
Sam Tillman, Decatur - Roberts, District 7
Sandy Purkett, Decatur - Roberts, District 7
Frank Jackson, Lithonia - Walker, District 8
Bruce McMillian, Decatur - Walker, District 8
Tracie Scott, Stone Mt - Speaks, District 9
Stephanie Smith, Stone Mt - Speaks, District 9
Ernest Brown, Lithonia - Dr Lewis, Superintendent
Mellie O'Keefe, Dunwoody - Dr Lewis, Superintendent

To see and download all of the data compiled by this committee (and it's a lot!) - go to this link -

To read the AJC's report on the charges filed against Copeland-Wood by a task force member, click this link

Task force's vote likely won't impact DeKalb school closings

Anonymous said...

Ethics violations, SACS violations, rules broken, money wasted; lift the carpet and sweep it under has been the way of operating in DCSS. The students are held to standards and are punished if they are violated but yet pick up the paper and see it on the news (daily these days) the adults students are supposed to respect and look up to; those that write the rules do not follow the rules themselves. This happens all the way from the BoE to the local school house.

Ella is spot on regarding the principal appointments. I know for a fact that the latest principal to get the job at Lakeside was a deal done behind closed doors. A group went to Lewis and pretty much demanded the current principal be put in place without interviews being held. SACS was contacted by parents....the crickets can still be heard chirping. Its the good ole boy system. The then super gives LHS their principal in exchange for that BoE members unquestioning support. Even after the police raid on Lewis' home the Lakeside rep. was still swearing Lewis was set-up. You multiply this one situation of unwavering, loyality to the super many, many times over and you have the current crisis (over spending, nepotism, bloat, buying unneeded books, etc. etc. )faced by the school system.

The board does not truly want community involvement. On the surface they will make you think they do but when it comes down to it, no. They have appointed upteen committees during my kid's tenure and I truly can't recall anything happening from any of the recommendations set forth.

Cerebration said...

And add to that story, the principal who was replaced at Lakeside (who came to us from a middle school in Gwinnett) only served at Lakeside for two years, was deemed a "High Performance Principal" and moved to another high school with a promised $10,000 performance bonus (paid for with Stimulus money).

Anonymous said...

If Jim Redovian and Tom Bowen win their next election, the school system is doomed for the rest of the new decade.

Anonymous said...

Ella is so right in stating that board members interfere in the hiring of principals. Even the board chair Tom Bowen. He was very influential in making sure the principal of Brownsmill Elementary received that position. He made the recommendation to Crawford Lewis.

Cerebration said...

Tom Bowen is not up for reelection. The only board members up for reelection represent the odd numbered districts -

Jim Redovian-1
Sarah Copelin-Wood-3
Jay Cunningham-5
Zepora Roberts-7
Gene Walker-9

Anonymous said...

The really, really terribe thing about having Sarah Copelin-Wood and Zepora Roberts as board members is that the BOE position is what they view as their employment and income.

They depend on the salary, mileage and reimbursements as their main source of income. They believe the voters know, and have no problem with it.

They view any challenge to their authority as a threat to their livelihood. They are master politicians, and will do anything possible during their campaigns to ensure they win. Zepora has John Evans, the former county commissioner convicted for bribery and now with the DeKalb NAACP, ready and willing to do whatever is necessary to make sure Zepora and SCW stay in office. And John Evans knows how to campaign dirty like no one else in DeKalb.

Anonymous said...


I disagree with your generalizations regarding the behavior of parents/supporters of Tucker and Druid Hills vs. SCW's schools. On the contrary, I thought schools within SCW's district showed an inability to stay within the allowed speaking time, putting bottles of water with their school name for each task force member, putting children up at the mike knowing they wouldn't be sent away, interrupting the meeting, and making political statements at the mike all showed disrespect for the members of the task force and all in attendance who actually followed the speaker rules.

As for SCW, Tom Bowen, and ethics, take a look at the emails posted on the Yahoo group for DeKalb schools:

Cerebration said...

Whoa! Pretty outrageous email - Thanks for sharing Anon.

Read it from the bottom up if you go to the link --

Yahoo Group Message

Anonymous said...

The email is outrageous.

The point about salaries etc is well taken. That is what there has been some movement to remove salaries altogether from local school board members. When the Clayton mess was happening, two of the Board members told the state folks that they could only step down if the state was to find them a part time job that paid the same as their board position. (These folks also had full time paying jobs as well.)

ZR also depends on DCSS for employment for her children and uses her influence to protect them.

Anonymous said...

Webwashed. Ha.
And you must join to read it. Can anyone please copy it up here?

Anonymous said...

-----Original Message-----


Date: Tue, 04 May 2010 16:34:11



Cc: < schoolsandcommunity@... >

Subject: Your Reference To Me In Article In AJC

May 4, 2010

Hello Tom,

Please address your comments, according to the AJC, in the AJC, I have attached it below for your information:

Discussion about school ethics legislation comes as District 3 board member Sarah Copelin-Wood, who is up for re-election, faces an ethics complaint. She is accused of meddling in the school closure process by directing members of the Citizens Planning Task Force how to vote.

"The complaint against Wood is pending and will be addressed after the board finalizes its budget, Bowen said."

Anonymous said...


----- Original Message -----

From: bowent7522@... Tuesday, May 04, 2010 4:58:28 PM

Subject: Re: Your Reference To Me In Article In AJC


I was asked the status and I said the board had not had any time to discuss it given all we had going on with the budget and other things.

My preference is to not take it on at all and let it go away. It will be a bunch of he said, she said. Only thing we could do is add to the policy on citizen committees but that would just attract more attention.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


Anonymous said...


- Original Message ----

From: bowent7522@... Tuesday, May 04, 2010 5:32:27 PM

Subject: Re: Fwd: Re: Your Reference To Me In Article In AJC


No investigation and nor do I want one. Especially now that we changed the plan with the four schools and we aren't going to use the findings anyway.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


Anonymous said...

--- On Sat, 5/8/10, sarah copelin wrote:

From: sarah copelin
Subject: DeKalb Chamber Article in the AJC - A Shoot In The Dark
Date: Saturday, May 8, 2010, 3:10 PM

May 8, 2010

Hello Everyone,

I felt it necessary that I share these e-mails, below, that I sent to the DeKalb Board of Education Chairperson, Thomas "Tom" Bowen.

I can not imagine why DeKalb Chamber of Commerce would write such a misleading article in AJC; nor hold such a "mean spirited" Press Conference - the only rationale I can surmise is Politically Grandstanding. Please keep in mind that DeKalb Board of Education has a Billion Dollar Budget - there are those who want to "Control" the Billion Dollar Budget and/or "Control" the DeKalb Board Members who will "vote" on who get the Lucrative Million Dollars Contracts.

Can you remember when the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce brought "any" Economic Development to South DeKalb County? I have been a resident of South DeKalb County for over "39" years; I do not remember any!!


Some of your current Board of Education Members, including me) who honestly cares about the Education of our Students.

Also keep in mind the names of your DeKalb School Board Members who worked timelessly to keep our Schools Opened until a systematically approach as been activated.

If I can provide additional information, please do not hesitate to give me a call at (404) 371-1490 or send an e-mail to schoolsandcommunity@....

teachercreature said...

I've taught many middle schoolers who are far better writers than S.he't!! In board meetings getting her to generate a coherent, grammatically correct sentence is next to impossible. She represents MY children and OUR school system, and it's an embarrassment. It's not about race, money, or politics. DeKalb deserves better representation than we currently have 'serving' us on our school board.

Cerebration said...

Sarah's grammar aside, I am deeply concerned by Tom Bowen's comment. Is he saying the AJC misquoted him - or did he purposely mislead them?

fedupindcss said...

I can't decide which is worse: Tom's comments themselves, or the fact that he made them in an e-mail (really dumb). I guess both are equally bad. Do you think he knew that SCW would blast them out to her listserve?

Dan M. said...

1) Tom Bowen's comments are incredibly disappointing and
raise the question: Is he the best member of the current to be chair?
Ethics are important part of being a board member, yet Bowen wants to brush aside a very legitmate complaint about Copelin-Wood's meddling into the Citizen's Planning Taks Force.

2) I guess Copelin-Wood is too freaking STUPID to remember how the DeKalb Chamber has supported everything the county did regarding Stonecrest Mall and the surrounding development, the Porter Sanford Arts Center, the $17 million dollar county owned aquatic park at Browns Mill, etc., etc.

Sarah Copelin-Wood is truly vile, petty and ignorant; an utter embarassment to the school system.

Cerebration said...

Sarah's emails end with this -

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. In the end, we will remember not words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 - 1968)

I like to think that's what we all about here at the blog. I hope all of you will always have the courage to speak up when you see misspending, mistreatment and miseducation in our schools.

teachercreature said...

@Cere - I was thinking the same thing about the quote on S.he't's email. And you're right - the English teacher in me hadn't been able to get past the massacre of the language in the emails. Bowen's response is troubling and puzzling. I close with another quote by Dr. King: "All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."
Martin Luther King, Jr. There is no more important, uplifting labor than advocating for our children.

Anonymous said...

We should be careful in reading the e-mail from SCW and in assuming that what Tom wrote to her is what he really wrote to her and wasn't editted by her before she forwarded it out and about. He is an attorney and he's sharp. He's also been under a lot of pressure lately. I think there is probably more here than meets the eye.

Tom Bowen Must Go said...

Tom Bowen must go.

And it's not just the emails. Those are indefensible.

But his tenure on the BoE has been nothing short of a train wreck.

Tom Bowen must go.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Copelin-Woods,

I recently received your email correspondence in my inbox. I will start with saying if you are truly innocent of the ethics complaint filed against you then you are definitely protesting too much. Your email is full of venom and hate as well as the worst grammar I have seen in some time. This coming from a DCSS Board of Ed. member is not a good thing. If the Board of Ed. wasn't full of members such as you who rarely question expenses, don't insist on checks and balances, come to BoE meetings unprepared, have no morals and ethical standards then the school system wouldn't be in as big a mess as it currently finds itself. BoE members are known to micromanage schools, not follow board policies, not question the superintendent's proposals. The latter, most likely because he had done them a "favor" in the past in order to gain their support and buy their silence. Perhaps these are several of the reasons the AJC wrote such an article.

The unbiased question for you to ask in your email would be: What economic development has the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce brought to the county? The DeKalb Chamber has supported everything the county did in south DeKalb regarding Stonecrest Mall and the surrounding development, the Porter Sanford Arts Center, the $17 million dollar county owned aquatic park at Browns Mill.

The biggest issue I have with you as a school board member is you are race baiter (definition as it applies to you is - Race baiting can also be accomplished by implying that there is an underlying race-based motive in the actions of others towards the group baited, where none in fact exists.) Somewhere along your too long tenure on the board you seem to have forgotten that you represent all the children of DeKalb County, not only those that live in the South end. Had you taken the time to look at the available data you would know that the vast majority of the school system is literally made up of black students (71.3%). Many of those students attend schools in the north end of the county. Why do you insist on making school closings into a north and south issue (translation - black vs. white [10.7%])? It is about enrollment and balancing those numbers among under-populated schools. It is people like you that keep the flames of the 60's and segregation burning. Get over it, enough already, it is time to move into the 21 century. You need to speak to the students in all of DeKalb County and ask them how they feel about attending school in overcrowded classrooms, moldy trailers, having garbage cans collecting water every time it rains, having brand new HVAC systems that are so loud when they come on that they can't hear their teachers, having a costly computer program that incorrectly records their attendance and grades, having no equipment for science labs. I so much as dare you to visit Cross Keys or Lakeside and actually use the restroom while you are there. It will never happen, of that I am certain.


Anonymous said...


Many students these days have numerous friends of mixed race and of various nationalities and I am positive they don't ever give a thought to whether or not their friends come from the north or south end of DeKalb County. It is time for a new attitude from the adults running the school system, that includes yourself and rest of the Board of Ed. We need a school board with all members questioning every expense of the budget. A unified board that will hold those spending billions of dollars accountable for every penny spent. A board with members who will read over the budget even though they are on vacation. A board with members who take their position seriously and don't just view it as a source of income. DeKalb taxpayers deserve representation from all members of the Board of Ed. for all students of DeKalb County not just from the board member they voted into office. If you can't find it within yourself to represent and "honestly care" about 100% of the students of DeKalb County then you no longer deserve to hold a seat on the DCSS Board of Education.

Concerned parent and DeKalb County taxpayer

Anonymous said...

If there wasn't before, there will be now tension between Bowen and Wood. Regardless of what was said, for Mrs. Wood to publish a personal e-mail she received from a fellow board member with the only objective to save her face at the expense of his is shameful -- and unfortunately not surprising.

The gloves are off now. Another crappy day for DeKalb on the horizon.

Cerebration said...

Interesting twist on what David Schutten's been up to for ODE -
Sen. Ramsey Named Legislator of the Year by Organization of DeKalb Educators

State Sen. Ronald Ramsey (D-Lithonia) was recently named Legislator of the Year by the Organization of DeKalb Educators (ODE) because of his commitment to public education in Georgia.

“I am honored and humbled by this award from the Organization of DeKalb Educators,” said Ramsey. “It is of utmost importance to protect our educators. They work diligently to ensure our children receive a quality education. In turn, we must work to ensure they receive fair treatment in the General Assembly.”

“We appreciate Sen. Ramsey and all his work for educators,” said David Schutten, President of ODE. “We look forward to continuing to work with the senator to further promote public education in Georgia.”

David Schutten is serving on eduKALB.

Anonymous said...

@Cere -

Good find. I really don't know what to make of it. Wher does this guy or this organization stand? Has not ODE brought up the shutting down by Ramsey's office of investigations into cheating? Or is that just MACE?

Cerebration said...

I notice that the press release does not mention that he works for DeKalb schools at over $100k. (When he's not at the Capitol.) Why don't we all send the PR person an email asking why this is always left out?

For Information Contact:
Natalie Strong, Deputy Director
Katie Wright, Communications Associate