Friday, July 30, 2010

Struggles Continue with New Math

According to this article in the AJC, Final exams show teens struggle with new math curriculum:

"Teens fared so poorly with Georgia’s newly accelerated sophomore math curriculum last school year that state officials want to put the lowest performers in an easier course in August that more can pass."

Now that's brilliant. If they can't pass, let's make it easier!

"Only 52 percent of the students who took the End of Course Test for Math II in May passed, the state recently reported. Many students in metro Atlanta schools who took the tests squeaked by with barely passing grades, earning modest average scores of C's and D's for their districts.

The freshman class, meanwhile, fared somewhat better on the Math I End of Course Test, with 64 percent passing."

"Tamela Cosby, an Atlanta Public Schools high school teacher, said only 20 percent of her ninth- and 10th-graders passed the final. They also struggled with the material in class.

“Since the course is a little difficult for the students, it's not enough time to teach to mastery,” Cosby said. “They are not really understanding the material. For a lot of them, it’s the reading comprehension. They are not understanding what is being asked of them. It’s not just two plus two, there are word problems. They are not used to thinking in that aspect.”

So, it looks like the real failure here is in reading comprehension and understanding word problems.

About 80,000 teens statewide failed final exams in Math I and Math II in May."

It seems Ms. Cox got out of Dodge just in time.


For a little history on the subject, read the article by Shayna Steinfeld posted here last year called, "All About Math".

For a good discussion on the subject, check out Maureen Downey's blog.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A DeKalb Tragedy

Folks, there's a story in the AJC about a young soldier who sacrificed his life in the Iraq war. His name was Jamaal Addison and he was a graduate of Lakeside HIgh School. He left behind a young son, "Little Jamaal" who lives with his grandmother and is a rising fourth grader at Flat Rock Elementary School.

Now, it seems that due to health issues and a series of events, this family is losing their home. Bloggers, what can we do to help out this hero's family?

Read the article in today's AJC and bring your ideas to the comments section.

Slain soldier's kin to lose their home

UPDATE: Evicted soldier's mom gets help from friends

Friends and supporters have rushed to the aid of military mom Patricia Roberts just days before she was to be evicted from her Lithonia home.

Roberts, whose son, Spc. Jamaal Addison, was the first Georgian killed in the Iraq conflict, was packing her belongings early this week to abandon the condominium she shares with her ailing mother and her grandson.

After The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on her troubles Wednesday, a group called Grandmothers for Peace set up a fund in Addison’s name to help his family find a home.

The Jamaal Addison Fund was established at the Delta Community Credit Union, 1025 Virginia Ave., Atlanta, Ga. 30054. (For information call 404-715-4725 or 1-800-544-3328.)

“I’m very grateful,” said Roberts. “I’m going to try and obtain a residence, and I’m very grateful.”


UPDATE: Kim is checking on the validity of the fund and other direct avenues for bloggers to provide support. More on Monday.

Good news - for now, the family has been given an indefinite reprieve from SunTrust bank. Read about it at the AJC.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cut from the same cloth

Sigh. This is beginning to get tiring. We have a school system and county leaders who not only won't work together for the greater good of the people (as in, those who pay their salaries), but seem to have a culture of greed, corruption and entitlement that knows no bounds.

From today's AJC:

Five employees in the DeKalb County CEO’s office and three county commissioners’ assistants got raises, despite other workers receiving a pay cut.

A joint investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News found 956 DeKalb employees got increases in pay last year, but the majority of them were from promotions.

Many of those increases also included new employees who got bumps in pay after completing a six-month probation period, records show.

“There is no across-the-board merit raise or cost of living adjustment because we haven’t had the budget for it,” said Burke Brennan, interim spokesman for the CEO. “All of the people who got raises were at the requests of their supervisors. And there were very few who got straight merit increases.”

Those “very few” include employees who work directly for CEO Burrell Ellis, Commissioner Connie Stokes and Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton. The raises in the CEO’s office totaled about $32,000; Stokes’ office totaled about $20,000 and Sutton’s office totaled about $4,000.

Records obtained by the AJC also show that Ellis changes the scope of work for several of his employees, including promoting one woman from a housing project manager to deputy chief of staff – a job that carried a $31,000 raise.

But other employees – including police officers, firefighters, sanitation workers and road crews – were denied increases. They ended up losing money from unpaid holidays.

Kudos to one person - Elaine Boyer - who did not give her staff increases, said she was shocked to learn about raises, had these words:

“The thing that frosts me is that I felt the leadership was supportive of giving furloughs and unpaid holidays,” she told the AJC. “If we start having a special class of people, it’s going to hurt morale and turn people against each other.”

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Best book deal in town

It's a great gig - write a book and as a "leader" in DeKalb schools, you have almost guaranteed yourself thousands of dollars in bonus income as your adoring 'fans' (employees) scarf up copies (no one seems to want to be caught without one!)

Read more at today's report in the AJC. Here's a snippet -

When DeKalb school official Ralph Simpson wrote a book about himself in 2007, he didn’t look far for a ready-made market to sell it.

He sold more than $12,560 worth of copies of the book — titled “From Remedial To Remarkable” — to five schools in the school district where he works, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned. Two of the schools were under his direct supervision.

In the 70-page paperback, printed in large font generally reserved for children’s books, Simpson writes about his evolution from a high school student in remedial classes to an assistant superintendent with a doctorate degree.

Now Simpson and at least three other school officials are under investigation by the school district, which also is asking the Georgia Professional Standards Commission to review the matter. The commission has the power to investigate and discipline educators.

Simpson sold 605 copies of the book to the high school where he had recently served as principal.


What do you think? Conflict of interest or simply capturing memoirs and sharing insight?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sometimes, A DeKalb Story Has a Happy Ending

One year ago this month, those of us following the progress of SPLOST III were skeptical about the ongoing delays in the Cross Keys HS renovation and Career Tech North move. There was persistent talk that the project might be delayed indefinitely or the traditional school even closed. I believe that the support of this blog and the community at large prevented that from happening and the work finally began in earnest in January of this year.

Seven months later, the Principal has the certificates of occupancy for the expanded 4th hall (Career Tech and Art studios) and for the Main Hall (including office suite, Media Center, and Cafetorium). The remaining 3 classroom halls and the Gymnasium are all hives of construction activity today and by January 2011 the project should be finished.

On July 30th, Board of Education Members, Lifetime Members of the Cross Keys Foundation, County and City elected officials, local civic and business leaders will all get an official, first look at the renovations to-date at Cross Keys HS. Because I am so grateful for the support of this blogging community, I am offering you guys a first, unofficial peek today. Thank you and stand by for even more great things at Cross Keys attendance area!

I'll update with more photos after the July 30th tour.

A group of young ladies volunteering to help with a parent mailing for community service got to look around the Cafetorium. It is so bright and cheerful, an incoming senior beamed: "It makes me smile. Now I'm going to be excited to come to school every morning!"

Classroom with new ceilings, lighting, desks, windows, doors, fixtures, and paint.

Ahhhh! The air in the Media Center was cool, dry, and fresh on a 95+ degree afternoon. New HVAC, ceiling, windows, lighting, floor covering, paint, and fixtures make this space almost unrecognizable!

New high efficiency windows on Main Hall looking out on old ones soon to be replaced.
Because we all measure everywhere we visit by their bathrooms, a "public" facilty on the Main Hall.

New high efficiency windows line the Cafetorium once known as "The Radiator." The room is now bright and sunny with more natural light and more lighting fixtures.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

At least the lawyers are getting rich...

This is the latest sickening, disheartening news uncovered by the AJC.

DeKalb schools overspent on lawyers

DeKalb County schools spent six times what they had budgeted for legal expenses last year and have stalled on looking for a new attorney.

Records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show the troubled school system paid lawyers $5,792,239 from July 1, 2009 t0 June 30, 2010. That includes money for 16 firms, although the district’s budget only calls for two firms.

The legal bills -- which were more than the those of Cobb, Fulton and Clayton schools combined -- come at a time when DeKalb is cutting tens of millions out of its budget and laying off hundreds of school employees.

Click this link to read the entire article. But get a tissue first.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Georgia DOE Releases AYP Scores Today

According to the Georgia DOE: (From Maureen Downey's "Get Schooled" blog)

Just over 14% of schools are in Needs Improvement status this year, compared to 15.4% last year. Thirty-five schools across the state shook the Needs Improvement label by having made AYP for two consecutive years.

“The initial AYP results demonstrate that our schools are more focused than ever and that is translating into fewer schools in Needs Improvement status,” said State School Superintendent Brad Bryant. “However, the academic bar and the graduation rate requirement increased this year, leading to a smaller percentage of schools making AYP, which is something we will focus closely on over the next several months.”

More than 71% of Georgia’s public schools made AYP, a drop from 79% of schools that made AYP last year. This drop is due in large part to the increase in the academic bar in mathematics that students in elementary and middle school had to meet in order for a school to make AYP. The graduation rate that high schools must meet also increased this year to 80%.

The final AYP report will be released in the fall and will include summer retest scores, summer graduates and appeals.

Compared to initial AYP results last year, the 2010 report shows that:
- The percentage of schools in Needs Improvement status decreased from 15.4% to 14.1%.
- The number of schools in Needs Improvement status decreased from 334 to 305.
- The percentage of schools making AYP decreased eight points from 79.1% to 71.1%.

The percentage of high schools making AYP continues to lag behind. In 2010, just over 33% of the state’s high schools made AYP, a decrease of almost 14 percentage points from 2009’s initial results.

“We know there is a lot of hard work going on in our high schools, but we must provide more focused support for our students and teachers,” Superintendent Bryant said. “I am committed to focusing on the needs of our high schools to ensure they are preparing students for the 21st century.”

AYP is the formula used to determine if schools are meeting expectations under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. It consists of three parts — test participation, academic achievement and another statistic, called a “second indicator.” The academic goals continue to rise every few years toward a goal of 100% proficiency for all students by 2014. This year, the academic goal for grades 3-8 increased in mathematics and the graduation rate bar went up.

All students at a school, as well as any qualifying subgroup of students, must meet goals in all three categories in order to make AYP. Schools that do not make AYP for two consecutive years in the same subject are placed in Needs Improvement status and face escalating consequences.

There are 305 schools in Needs Improvement status for the coming school year. These schools must offer parents options, such as public school choice or federally-funded tutoring. Depending on how long these schools have been in NI, some may have to make structural or organizational changes to improve student achievement.

In 2009, there were 334 NI schools after the initial results. That number dropped to 278 after retests, summer graduates and appeals were worked into the formula.

“As we normally do, I believe we will see the number of NI schools drop again when we do our final AYP determinations in the fall,” Bryant said.

The state’s initial 2010 graduation rate is 79.9%. That is up from the initial 2009 graduation rate of 77.8% and the final 2009 graduation rate of 78.9%, which included summer graduates.

“Improving the graduation rate is crucial to Georgia being competitive with other states in recruiting and retaining jobs,” Superintendent Bryant said. “The more students graduating from high school with a meaningful diploma, the more students we have ready to go to college or enter the workforce. There is still more work to be done, but this year’s graduation rate is an encouraging sign.”

Graduation rate must be used as a “second indicator” for all high schools and the bar was raised this year.

In order to make AYP, a high school had to have a graduation rate of 80% or higher, up from 75% last year. If a school did not make that goal, they could use a “second look” which means:

- Having a graduation rate that averaged 80% or higher over the past three years OR

- Having a graduation rate of at least 60% the previous year (2009) and showing a 10% improvement in the rate this year.

Today’s AYP release sheds more light on the need for Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – No Child Left Behind. Even though both the Spellings administration and the Duncan administration at the U.S. Department of Education have worked to grant administrative flexibility, it has been insufficient to overcome the original accountability benchmarks established by Congress in 2001.

“As a state, we have no problem moving toward a proficiency rate of 100% – to do anything else would underserve a portion of Georgia’s students,” said Superintendent Bryant. “We are frustrated over the fact that the original authorization of No Child Left Behind came with the promise that it would be reauthorized in five years with increased flexibility in return for increased accountability. Once again we call upon Congress to act in a manner which supports the hundreds of thousands of teachers and school leaders across the nation who are more focused on student learning than ever before.”


Click here for the DOE AYP Reports

Click here for a handy form created at the AJC to check out your school's report

Friday, July 16, 2010

ESEA Public School Choice Meeting Recap

Provided to us by DunwoodyMom

I attended this evening's ESEA Public School Choice Meeting at Chamblee High School. Here are some highlights:
  • The term "NCLB" is no longer being used - ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) is the preferred term.
  • AYP reports were to be released by the GADOE this week, but the release has been delayed until early next week.
  • Dr. Audria Berry reviewed the high-level requirements for Public School Choice as required by ESEA.
  • The following are the "Receiving" Schools for the 2010-2011 school year:

And I agree with the folks from Chamblee HS. They are going to further overcrowd an already over-crowded facility, so why was an annex not provided for Chamblee? Someone brought up having a Chamblee Annex at Cross Keys. Robert Moseley squashed that idea pretty quickly, but I think it certainly is worth taking a look at. So, basically, a school is better off not making AYP?


Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) formerly known as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB)
Public School Choice Enrollment

July 21 – August 3, 2010
9am – 4pm
Monday – Friday

William Bradley Bryant Center
2652 Lawrenceville Highway
Decatur, Georgia 30033


Visit DunwoodyMom's blog by clicking here.

For a presentation on AYP and explanation of the school choice transfers, download this pdf at the DCSS website.

So, who will be our next state school superintendent now that Brad Bryant won't be a contender?

DeKalb's own Brad Bryant, recently appointed interim state school superintendent after Kathy Cox's exit did not get the needed 44,000 signatures required to add his name to the ballot as an Independent. So, where does that leave us?

The AJC recently posed these four questions to the candidates. You can read their responses on Maureen Downey's "Get Schooled" blog by clicking on their names below.

1. How would you manage a mandated 10 percent cut in education spending?
2. How will you restore public confidence in test results?
3. Do you support vouchers for public education?
4. Do you support pay for performance for teachers?


Republican John Barge

Born and raised in Cobb County, John has earned three advanced degrees, a master’s degree and a specialist’s degree from The State University of West Georgia and his doctorate degree from the University of Georgia.

Currently, John serves as the Director of Secondary Curriculum & Instruction with the Bartow County School System. John is the only candidate in this election who brings leadership experience in rural, urban and suburban school systems in addition to experience at the state level with the Georgia Department of Education as the State Director for Career-Technical and Agriculture Education to the table.

Visit John Barge's website by clicking here.


Republican Richard Woods

Born in Pensacola, Florida, Richard graduated from Fitzgerald High School in 1980. He holds a Bachelor's degree in secondary education social studies from Kennesaw State University and a Master's degree in educational leadership and supervision from Valdosta State University. Since 1988, Richard has been a part of the Irwin County School System. He taught in the classroom for fourteen years, coached various sports, and was awarded the honor of being the 1992 Irwin County High School Teacher of the Year by his peers. During that time as well, Richard had the opportunity to make presentations around Georgia on social studies content, technology in the classroom and peer mediation. He served as an assistant principal, principal and the K-5 curriculum director of Irwin County Elementary School for seven years. Richard is currently the principal over the Pre-K, alternative school, home school, and hospital homebound programs fro the Irwin County School System.

Visit Richard Wood's website by clicking here.


Democrat Joe Martin

A Georgia native, Joe served in Vietnam, where he worked for the central intelligence command. He was promoted to the rank of Captain and received the Bronze Star Medal for his service. Joe then returned to Georgia and launched a successful business career that has centered on the development of major public-private real estate projects. He worked to promote economic development as President of the Atlanta Economic Development Corporation and later as President of Central Atlanta Progress. He then coordinated community improvements related to the 1996 Olympic Games. Joe has been inducted into the Georgia State University Business Hall of Fame. As a young parent and a leader in a neighborhood effort to improve the local schools, Joe ran for the Atlanta Board of Education in 1977. He was elected and went on to serve for twenty years, including a stint as President.

Visit Joe Martin's website by clicking here.


Democrat Beth Farokhi

Dr. Beth Farokhi is a native of Augusta, Georgia where she attended public schools. She double majored in Elementary Education and Health and Physical Education at LaGrange College, received a M.A.T. from Emory University, and a doctorate in Higher Education from the University of Georgia. Beth taught elementary school in Cobb County for six years while completing her graduate degrees in education. Following the completion of her master's degree from Emory University and her doctorate degree from the University of Georgia, Beth began a career as an administrator in the College of Education at Georgia State University where she was honored for exemplary long-time service and dedication to the college. In 2004, Beth created the Georgia State University Leadership Academy for Women, a year long program focused on professional and personal skill development. She was a Co-Principal Investigator for the Integrating Gender Equity and Reform grant, a National Science Foundation three year collaborative with five Georgia higher education campuses.

Visit Beth Farokhi's website by clicking here.


Democrat Brian Westlake

Brian is an award winning high school social studies teacher with over a decade of experience in Georgia public schools.Brian enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps upon graduation from high school. He worked in military intelligence where, among other accomplishments, he led a team of American and Norwegian military personnel on a NATO exercise above the Arctic Circle. Brian holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a Master of Science degree in sociology from Florida State University. He also received a Juris Doctor degree from Georgia State University’s College of Law and a Master of Public Administration from the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.

Visit Brian Westlake's website by clicking here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Orleans Charter System vs Traditional Public Education

Two sides of the charter coin below. This is a very hot topic in DeKalb.  We will open three new charter schools this fall, drawing several hundred students away from already thinly populated neighborhood schools. How should we plan for this trend?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Motherless student gets help

Below is a very touching article from the DeKalb Neighbor newspaper. I think it highlights once again, the struggles so many immigrant students face as well as many of our naturalized students. If any of you have the inclination to serve as a "mother mentor" I think you would find it very fulfilling. You could save a child's life.
By Gloria Love

Chamblee resident Thuy Le has enrolled in classes at Georgia Tech, in part because of aid from the Tucker-based non-profit Students Without Mothers.

The organization provides $4,000 scholarships for four years to students whose mothers have died or are absent through other circumstances. The group also pairs students with mentors who offer advice on any number of issues.

“We’re paired up with a life coach we can talk to about anything, like boys or school,” said Thuy.

“It’s actually pretty helpful. I feel like I’m not alone as much anymore,” she added.

Thuy, 17, graduated from Cross Keys High School in May.

Her family moved from Vietnam to Chamblee when she was 1 or 2, she said. Shortly after, her mother moved to California and took Thuy’s younger sister but left her and brother Thanh behind.

When Thuy’s father, who had a history of unstable behavior, left at the end of her junior year, Thuy and her brother used proceeds from after-school jobs to rent a room with friends. Thuy and her brother are now living separately, and she is living with a family friend, Tuyet Le.

“She’s someone my dad knew and she was nice enough to take me,” Thuy said.

Thuy worked through school at a nail salon, as a tutor and, more recently, as a paid intern at Emory University. For the last four years, she said her dream has been to attend Georgia Tech.

“I chose Georgia Tech back in the ninth grade. It just really appealed to me because of its math program,” she said.

Thuy said she plans to use her biomedical engineering degree to design and sell prosthetics.

“I really wanted to do prosthetics. It’s math and science put together, and prosthetics help people who feel like maybe they’re not normal or how they used to be. Prosthetics help them get that back,” she said.

Students Without Mothers is run by a nine-member volunteer board. Founded in 2004, it has offered aid to more than 40 students, said founding board member and volunteer Adrienne Hollis.

The group receives its funding through private donations, corporate sponsorships and an annual fund-raiser.

Ms. Hollis, a Monroe resident, said at the time friend Mary Torrence founded the organization, “I was a single parent… it had never occurred to me what would happen to my child if something happened to me.

“There is not an organization I’ve volunteered with that has been as fulfilling. The most difficult thing every year is turning away students just because we don’t have the money,” she added.

For more info:
Students Without Mothers
(770) 724-0648
4500 Hugh Howell Rd Ste 790
Tucker, GA 30084

Why not mail them a check?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Another Reason "Y" to Love Cross Keys High School (and this blog ...)

Some like to belittle this blog and its followers as a few hacks with little or no impact. I can testify to the opposite.

Twelve months ago almost to the day, the readers and host of this blog took up the cause of Cross Keys HS renovation after seeing images like the photo at right of CK field and track. I firmly believe that the renovation may have not gone forward as it has without the public pressure documented on this blog. I may not have started out on my own personal mission to form the Cross Keys Foundation and advocate for this most deserving group of students without the inspiration and guidance of this blog’s hosts and contributors.

Twelve months later I am happy to report another positive, progressive development in the cause of Cross Keys. Working with peers on the Foundation board, with community members, and, yes, with the school system chain of command, the YMCA of Metro Atlanta has put a partnership proposal for Cross Keys in the hands of DCSS for consideration at this Monday’s Board of Education Work Session.

The current SPLOST III investments of public capital into Cross Keys High School is delivering a much needed renovation to the buildings of this 52 year old school. However, the DeKalb County Schools administration, the DeKalb County Board of Education, and community members all recognize that these significant improvements leave a few gaps in the school's facilities. Specifically, no current funding has been designated for an auditorium addition as planned at other area schools nor to improve the athletic grounds in dire need of restoration.

The YMCA proposal seeks to address the athletic field and related security concerns.

The goals of the proposal are: 1) Provide a quality athletic field for the school, 2) Provide enhanced security of the site, 3) Displace unauthorized activities, 4) Provide a platform for youth services to an under-served population.

The scope of the proposal is for the YMCA to restore the athletic field at Cross Keys HS to YMCA standards for youth programs. The proposed project will include the grading, leveling and installing sod on the field areas, the installation of portable fixtures such as bleachers and tables, and the installation of security fencing and gates. This will be accomplished using YMCA funds and no public funds.

The YMCA will offer youth soccer and other programs as approved by the Principal of Cross Keys HS at the improved site. The YMCA will carry liability insurance to cover all programs managed by their staff and volunteers. YMCA managed weekday practices will be staffed by at least one, full-time employee of YMCA, and by at least one off duty police officer to provide security and traffic control. Competitive game days (Saturday youth soccer) will be staffed with two off duty police officers.

The offered programs will never be allowed to conflict with the ongoing uses of the fields by current athletic, band, and other authorized student uses.

This proposal is scheduled for a vote at the Board of Education Work Session of July 12, 2010 and I expect a positive outcome. I will be speaking in the #1 public slot to advocate for this proposal. Here's what you can do:

1)    Attend the meeting to show your support 6:00pm this Monday at:
Work Session/Business Meeting:
William Bradley Bryant Center of Technology
2652 Lawrenceville Highway
Decatur, Georgia 30033
2)    Sign an electronic petition in support by Monday at 12:00pm at:
3)    Send a note of encouragement to your Board of Education representative(s) asking them to vote 'yes.'

Let's Turn Brown to Green

This proposal will bring opportunity to the families of Buford Hwy for organized after-school programs for their children. The initiative will also enhance the “curb appeal” of Cross Keys and will generate a lot of interest in the school from Brookhaven area families with young children.

The character of this proposal is one that I think can serve as a model for future efforts throughout DeKalb County. I hope you agree and show your support by signing our petition. I will be presenting the results of the online petition along with personal statements of elected officials from Doraville, Chamblee, DeKalb and the State of Georgia during my public comments Monday.

Keep the faith and keep blogging - it is making a difference! -Kim Gokce

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What Educators Are Learning From Money Managers

One of our regular bloggers sent us the link below to a recent article in Forbes magazine. The article highlights the achievements of the charter schools in New York and elsewhere. The system that seems to work best is the one that that is very business-like. It tracks the minutia of individual student's progress, reports those details to the teachers immediately so that the teachers can make individual adjustments. Competition and accountability rule this kind of high tech teaching system. Below are a few points I have bulleted from the article:

  • Innovative schools collect data, look for small changes, intervene quickly and move resources to the formulas that work.
  • In the past four decades spending per pupil (adjusted for inflation) has gone up 2.6 times, but sat scores have not budged.
  • Despite the $661 billion a year this country puts into public K--12 education, we are churning out a nation of mediocre graduates ill equipped to meet global competitors.
  • Roughly 10% to 15% of its teachers quit each year; another 5% or so are fired for poor performance, compared with 9% attrition and 4.4% dismissal rates for public schools.
DeKalb's list of charter schools is growing each year.  This year, three new charters will open their doors: The Museum School, New Hope Academy and The Leadership Academy. 

In a recent post, titled "North vs Central vs South - what's the deal?", we highlighted DeKalb's variety of "choice" schools, including our charters, and tried to show where students are attending when they leave their neighborhood schools.  Those neighborhood schools in some areas have lost literally hundreds of students to the "choice" schools—charters, magnets and themes. At some point, we will need to decide how to consolidate these schools with dwindling populations or perhaps close them entirely and move toward a system of free-choice for every student.

Monday, July 5, 2010

NEA's Delegates Vote 'No Confidence' in Race to the Top

From Education Week --

After a protracted debate, delegates to the National Education Association approved a new business item today that takes a position of "no confidence" in the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top guidelines and in the use of competitive grants as a basis for the reauthorization of ESEA.

It was a symbolic slam on the Obama administration. But as with NEA President Dennis Van Roekel's keynote speech, it stopped short of actually calling out the U.S. president, a supporter of the program. And the debate over the item provided the clearest picture yet of both the internal and external difficulties the NEA faces pushing against an education agenda promoted by a Democratic administration, rather than a Republican one. . . .

The author of the NBI 2, Phil Rumore, president of the Buffalo, N.Y., affiliate, got applause when he was introducing the resolution: "Some people are going to be mad at us if we pass this. Well let the word get out," he said. The program, he added, would exacerbate policies that "brutalize our students with standardized tests, which in my opinion is like giving someone blood tests until they die."

From another supporter: "The Race to the Top is a gun with bullets in it to take out teachers, public education, and the union itself."

Camille Zombro, the head of the San Diego affiliate, seemed to have the last word. "Teachers would never have put together a program like Race to the Top," she said. "Even in states that are trying to make lemonade, ... you were still given a lemon."

url link to entire article:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

So, how is the civil case between DCSS and Heery Mitchell coming along?

We’ve been having a discussion on an unrelated thread about the civil case between DCSS and Heery Mitchell so I thought I’d try to do a little research and bring us up to date on what is known. This is very complicated now that Crawford Lewis, Patricia Reid (Pope), Vincent (Tony) Pope and Cointa Moody have been indicted on RICO charges.

A recent article in the Daily Report, a very expensive law rag, has cleared the air on some of the facts of these cases. I will simply bullet-point what I learned. I can’t reprint or offer a link, as this is a corporate magazine and available only by subscription. Lawyers who subscribe can read it in the June 17, 2010 issue. The article is entitled “School case has a civil side”.

Key points are below:
  • Heery Mitchell International and E.R. Mitchell Co. originally sued the DeKalb school district for $1.5 million for breach of contract.
  • The DeKalb county school system countersued for more than $100 million.
  • The countersuit accuses Heery/Mitchell, etc of civil racketeering violations, including submitting fraudulent invoices, running projects repeatedly over budget and mismanaging the school construction program.
  • In March, after superintendent of schools Crawford Lewis and COO, head of construction for DCSS, Pat Reid (FKA: Pope) were publicly accused of criminal activity regarding construction contracts, Heery/Mitchell added to their claim, accusing Lewis and Reid of dumping them as construction managers in order to steer business to favored vendors.
  • The criminal indictments have already delayed the lawsuit, which was supposed to go to trial in June.
  • The criminal charges also put our county government in conflicting positions – with school officials defending their contracts and bidding process in the HM civil suit, while county prosecutors build a case against former school system leaders claiming bribery and other charges.
  • King & Spalding is representing the school system in the civil case and claim that the criminal charges have nothing to do with their civil suit. They also say that Heery Mitchell is using the criminal lawsuit to deflect attention from their own poor job of managing $1 billion of construction.
  • Heery Mitchell’s attorney, Mark Grantham of DLA Piper stated that the criminal charges show that Heery Mitchell’s termination may have actually been due to the school administrator’s scheme to engage in criminal conduct.
  • The Heery International v DeKalb County School District case has 1,053 docket entries that include depositions sought or taken of Lewis, Reid, Pope and Moody. The sealed deposition of Reid, is 7 inches thick.
  • Included in the indictment is an attempt by Lewis to stall the criminal probe because he feared the criminal probe investigation might damage the school system's defense in the Heery/Mitchell suit.
  • The HM contract was terminated in February 2007.
  • "Heery was able to—and did—take advantage of its superior knowledge and experience in construction-related matters to mislead employees of the School District ... concerning the effectiveness of Heery/Mitchell's management of the program," wrote John W. Hinchey, another King & Spalding attorney on the school system's defense team.
  • Some of the projects Heery/Mitchell were accused of mismanaging are now part of the criminal case against Lewis, Reid, Pope and Moody. They include the McNair Cluster Elementary School, the Mountain Industrial Center and the Miller Grove projects.
  • The indictment and pleadings by Heery/Mitchell show that Reid's hiring coincided with an overhaul of vendors involved in the school system's construction program.
  • In 2006, Lewis asked the school board to vote to replace an auditor that had given Heery/Mitchell a glowing report the previous year, telling the board the move was "an emergency," according to the plaintiffs.
  • MGT of America in a May 2005 audit reported that "an overall on-time and within budget completion in the face of a nearly 20 percent funding shortfall is evidence of the professionalism and experience of the Heery/Mitchell Joint Venture."..."The [school system] is to be commended for hiring a competent agency representative," MGT concluded.
  • Lewis wanted Rubino & McGeehin of Bethesda, Md., to become the new auditor, and its 2006 report was highly critical of Heery/Mitchell, although it did not accuse the companies of fraud. (The state also issued a report on an audit available at this link.)
  • On April 19, 2006, according to Heery/Mitchell, Pat Reid informed the construction partners their contract had been suspended until further notice. She also ordered the contractors off school property by the end of the work day.
  • The following day, according to the indictment, C.D. Moody Construction Co. was awarded the $11.9 million contract for McNair Cluster Elementary. The company's owner, Charles David Moody, was a close family friend of Reid and Pope, according to the indictment.
  • C.D. Moody listed Vernell Barnes as the project's "architect of record.” But prosecutors say it was Vincent Pope (Reid’s then husband), not Barnes, who did most of the substitute architectural work. Pope tried to cover his involvement in the project in an email that is part of the evidence.
  • In all, Pope was paid $2.4 million for which he was not entitled, prosecutors allege. That includes $445,000 for work Pope never did for the Columbia project.
  • Reid, Lewis and Moody are also accused of theft and soliciting bribes in the form of tens of thousands of dollars in tickets to major sporting events.
  • Lewis' indictment also includes a count of obstruction of justice when he asked the assistant DA to “table” the criminal investigation out of fear that it would harm the civil case
The civil case Heery International v. DeKalb County School District, is No. 07CV2532 and is before DeKalb Superior Court Judge Clarence F. Seeliger.


Additional stories on the subject are available at these links:

DA: 'Bad faith' in schools case

K&S will remain on schools case: More on the story

Are we gearing up for a trial yet?

Good News Regarding SACS

Below is an email sent out today by Sarah Copelin-Wood.

July 4, 2010

Hello Everyone,


Tuesday, June 22, 2010 a Delegation of DeKalb County School Board Members and DeKalb Public School System Staff, met with Mark Elgart, President/CEO of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, SACS. I was one of the DeKalb School Board Members who attended the Meeting.

Mr. Elgart informed the Delegation that SACS "was not" investigating DeKalb School Board Members nor DeKalb Public School System. Mr. Elgart advised the Delegation to not compare DeKalb School Board Members nor DeKalb Public School System with Clayton County, as our circumstances are totally different.

Mr. Elgart stated that SACS' primary Goal is to assist School Boards and School Systems with improvement in education.

Mr. Elgart also stated that SACS is available to assist DeKalb School Board, upon our request.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic to hear these statements directly from Mr. Elgart. I hope that you are also. Please “share” this information with other interested persons.

If I can provide additional information, please let me know.

Thank you for very much for your support of our Students and Schools.

"Working Together, We Will Make A Difference In Our Students' Education."

Sarah Copelin-Wood, Board Member
DeKalb Board of Education - District 3
(404) 371-1490 - personal

Friday, July 2, 2010

Curriki is offering a chance for teachers to win cash for lesson plans!

This just in from Curriki (The Curriculum Wikipedia)

Have you given a lesson this year that your students will never forget? A lesson that had them buzzing about math during study hall, or gabbing about science in the lunch line?

A unit that has students chatting about class outside of class deserves to be shared with the global learning community. This summer, Curriki is giving you the opportunity to receive a cash award for publishing your most memorable lessons and sharing them with teachers and students around the world!

Summer of Content 2010

Curriki's "Summer of Content" initiative is soliciting premium content for Grades 6-12 in science, technology, and math, and for content in ELL / ESL for all grades.

This year, the Summer of Content Awards will be granted to student-focused units which include activities, WebQuests, worksheets, quizzes, projects and games that will engage students and help make Curriki a destination for teachers, as well as students.

Share your best STEM or ESL/ELL units, and earn some cash (for work you have already pretty much done!).

Applications are due July 9th, 2010 and will be accepted on a rolling basis. Click here to apply.

This might be a chance to regain some lost "furlough" income... Good luck teachers!

Important new nepotism legislation could cause problems for Zepora Roberts

The article below is reprinted from a report in the AJC. Apparently, there is a new law stating that people with immediate family members cannot serve on a board of education and if currently serving, cannot run for reelection as the law states that it applies to those elected after July 1, 2009. The law is being challenged, but as it stands, this law would prevent Zepora Roberts from running for reelection, as she herself admits in a recent email that two of her daughters work for DeKalb County Schools, one of whom was promoted to Assistant Principal in 2009. That said, we are wondering how it is that Zepora has now qualified for reelection. If there is a loophole we're not aware of, hopefully someone will share it in the comments.

Two local Georgia school board members have filed suit in federal court to overturn the state's new "nepotism" provision that restricts them from running for re-election.

Lawmakers passed the provision under unusual circumstances late on the last night of the 2009 legislative session. It bars someone from serving on a local school board if he or she has an immediate family member at work in the same school system as the local superintendent, principal, assistant principal or as a "system administrative staff" member. It went into effect on July 1 of last year -- soon enough to bar Kelvin Simmons, who had served on the Gainesville city school board since 1991, from running for re-election last November.

Simmons is one of the suit's plaintiffs. The other is Lamar Grizzle, an eight-year Bartow County board member who expects to be ineligible to qualify this year for re-election. Both men have immediate family members working in their respective systems. Simmons' wife is an assistant principal of a Gainesville school. Grizzle's daughter is a Bartow assistant principal.

"It's badly targeted [and] vaguely written," said their attorney, Peter R. Olson. Lawmakers last year originally included the provision in a controversial school governance bill inspired by the then-recent loss of accreditation by Clayton County schools. (Clayton County later regained its accreditation.) The governance bill, however, did not pass. But the nepotism provision on the session's last day made its way into another bill that did pass: the school choice bill HB 251, which originally related only to student transfers.

Simmons and Grizzle are asking that the court strike the provision from the law, saying in part that it supersedes voters' rights to elect their own local representation. They also argue that the Georgia Constitution prohibits a bill from having more than one subject matter. They filed their suit in U.S. District Court in Rome, Ga., last week.

Separately, state Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) this year has sponsored legislation to essentially do the same thing: amend the law and remove the provision. Benton's bill, HB 924, is in committee.

The actual anti-nepotism text from HB 251 is below:

(2) No person who has an immediate family member sitting on a local board of education or serving as the local school superintendent or as a principal, assistant principal, or system administrative staff in the local school system shall be eligible to serve as a member of such local board of education. As used in this paragraph, the term 'immediate family member' means a spouse, child, sibling, or parent or the spouse of a child, sibling, or parent. This paragraph shall apply only to local board of education members elected or appointed on or after July 1, 2009. Nothing in this Code section shall affect the employment of any person who is employed by a local school system on or before July 1, 2009, or who is employed by a local school system when an immediate family member becomes a local board of education member for that school system."

To date, it appears that the anti-nepotism clause in HB 251 passed into law, and the attempt to remove it in HB 924 did not pass into law.

(An aside: The new law created by HB 251 allows students to transfer to any school in the district in which the child resides as long as there is classroom space available. Parents must provide transportation. Charter schools are exempt from this law.)

If anyone can provide more insight, please do so in the comments.


UPDATE: One of our contributors enlightened us as to the lawsuit filed challenging this law.

May 2, 2010

Federal court preliminarily enjoins Georgia from enforcing anti-nepotism law regarding eligibility to serve on local school boards

Grizzle v. Kemp, No. 10-0007 (N.D. Ga. Apr. 21 2010), is not the type of case you see very often. A federal district court in Georgia has issued a preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing a provision in the state law making a person ineligible to serve on a local school board if that person "has an immediate family member sitting on [that] local board of education or serving as the local school superintendent or as a principal, assistant principal, or system administrative staff in the local school system."

Plaintiff contends the provision violates: (1) their Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights; (2) their First Amendment right of free association, both as candidates for office and voters; (3) their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights because the term "system administrative staff" in the provision is facially vague; and (4) the "one subject matter rule" provision in the Georgia Constitution.

The court pointed out that it was well-established law that candidates have the constitutional right to associate for political ends and participate in the electoral process under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. At the same time, the law recognizes a state's compelling interest in regulating the election process and having ballot access requirements. It found that the anti-nepotism provision has a severe impact on the plaintiffs as candidates and the voters of Georgia because of its exclusionary nature. As a result, the court found that the provision should be subjected to strict scrutiny, i.e. determination of whether it is narrowly tailored and advances a compelling state interest, to determine its constitutionality. Applying the strict scrutiny test, the court concluded that the law, O.C.G.A. § 20-2-51(c)(2), failed to pass constitutional muster.

The court noted that the only stated purpose for the provision "was to prevent nepotism, or favoritism to family and friends." Assuming that the purpose is a compelling state interest, it found the provision was not narrowly tailored to serve that purpose. Specifically, the court found that the provision was over-inclusive because it excludes all potential candidates from office who have relatives employed in the capacities enumerated in the provision instead of addressing the actual problem related to nepotism of possible biased decisions by school board members. This is an important decision to watch.