Friday, August 27, 2010

What $40 mil Means

DeKalb schools report $40 million surplus in construction funds

The savings is the result of decreased construction costs and better planning on how to allocate the school district’s $513 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds, school officials announced Friday.

he board is now determining how to utilize that extra money. Suggestions include expanding the Coralwood Diagnostic Center, which serves special needs children, roof replacements, more parking and additions to replace trailers. The $40 million may only be used for capital improvements.

The SPLOST program, which runs from 2007-2012, is expected to raise $513.4 million. So far, the district has contracts for about $463 million in projects, said Barbara Colman, the district’s interim capital improvement program operations officer.

The school board also has the option to use $58 million in interest-free federal stimulus bonds. The board must decide by Oct. 4 to accept this money, said chief financial officer Marcus Turk.

However, some board members are reluctant to approve the bonds.

“The ultimate person who will pay for these funds is the taxpayer,” board member Don McChesney said. “I know we’re all in a situation that when everybody dangles money in front of us, we just grab it. But we need to make it clear to the taxpayer that this is money they will have to pay back.”

What does having an extra $40 mil from SPLOST mean? It means that the Board of Education, Tom Bowen Chairperson, never ever FREAKING paid attention before. It means that Central Office administrators, such as Bob Moseley, Marcus Turk and Ron Ramsey, never paid attention before. They allowed one person, Pat Pope-Red, to hold power over hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

It is a nice surprise to hear Don McChesney mention "the taxpayer". You won't hear our BOE members mention that term often.

If this BOE wants SPLOST IV to pass, there better be transparency, and I mean every penny, every contract, every change order, posted online with a chance for public comment. No more last minute switches or changes that allowed (alledgely) Pat Pope Reid to get away with mischief that led to an unheard of, unprecedented RICO indictment.

The BOE has $40 mil to play with Gene Walker is salivating). They better be pretty damn darn careful on his they spend it. We're watching.

Stakeholder Input On Board Of Education Policy Revisions

August 26, 2010

MEMO TO: All DeKalb County School System Employees

FROM: Mrs. Ramona Tyson, Interim Superintendent

The purpose of this memorandum is to inform you that the DeKalb County School System (DCSS) has undertaken a Comprehensive Policy Revision Initiative (CPRI). The CPRI will consist of an internal team of DCSS employees conducting an exhaustive and comprehensive review of all Board policies, regulations, and exhibits published in the on-line policy manual. Presently, the DeKalb County Board of Education has approximately 250 policies. This comprehensive review will be completed based on a strategically aligned 18 to 24 month timeline. As a result of CPRI, all policies and the associated regulations and exhibits will be reviewed and placed in one of the following categories:

1. No Action Required
2. Revise
3. Eliminate
4. Create a New Policy

As a valued stakeholder of the DeKalb County School System, and in compliance with Board of Education policies regarding soliciting input on policy revisions, we invite you to participate in this critical process by providing your input as we begin this process.

The initial phase consists of four critical policies that have been fast-tracked for Board approval and adoption on August 31, 2010. These policies include the Purchasing Policy, Code of Ethics Policy for Employees, Staff Conflict of Interest Policy, and Whistleblower Policy. These four policies will be available for you to provide comments from August 26 through midnight, August 28, 2010. Due to the criticality and need to fast track these policies, this initial phase consists of a short window of opportunity to provide input; however, as the process continues to move forward, ample time will be afforded for stakeholder comments.

In order to provide input, a link has been created on the DCSS home page. Once you reach the home page at, you will see a link entitled “Click Here for Pending Policies”. Once you click that link, you will be re-directed to the eBoard home page. There you will see a section on the right side of the web page titled “Pending Policies” and the policies for review will be listed underneath. Upon clicking the link for the policy, you will be able to read the pending policy and at the bottom of the policy submit your name, email address, and desired comments. The comments will be compiled and submitted to the Board of Education.

Thank you in advance for your time and valuable input into this important process.


Editor's note: I noticed there is also a new link for the Superintendent Search.

Georgia granted $400 million in RTTT funds

So, it looks like we finally "won"!  Whoopee... I am still insulted that the government thinks schools should have to compete for funding.  Does the government make any other department jump through these kinds of hoops?  I'd like to hear about it, if so.

Anyways -- guys - here's the facts according to the AJC.

  • Georgia has been awarded $400 million to invest in education reforms at the state level and in five metro districts and 21 others, having landed a spot in the winner’s circle in President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top competition.
  • The metro Atlanta school districts that have signed on to pilot Georgia’s reforms include the city of Atlanta and Cherokee, Clayton, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties.
  • Perdue said the $400 million will be split between the state Department of Education and 26 local school districts that signed on as participants in Georgia’s Race to the Top application. State officials will be traveling to Washington to learn details, including when to expect the money.
  • The state will use its money for professional training, a statewide system for tracking student achievement and development of teacher evaluation systems, the governor said.
  • Local school systems will develop their own programs to improve standards and test scores, with success being measured through data collected from statewide, uniform tests, he said.
  • “We are going to use this $400 million to literally show what we can do in transforming education,” he said.
  • The governor’s office has said that Race to the Top money cannot be used to offset the millions of dollars’ worth of budget cuts to education in recent years. But Brad Bryant, the new state superintendent of schools, told reporters Tuesday that a school system might be able to bring back some teachers if its plans require more teachers or more days of instruction.
  • Gwinnett school officials will be concentrating on three initiatives they believe can most improve student achievement: teacher effectiveness, leader effectiveness and personnel evaluation, said School Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks.
  • Atlanta Public Schools will be exploring ways to restructure teacher rewards and compensation for its most effective teachers, said spokeswoman Morieka V. Johnson.

No word on how DeKalb plans to spend their share. Any guesses?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Revisiting the past with Ramona Tyson

So, I was reviewing the minutes from the Emory-Lavista Parent Council meeting last April when Ms. Tyson first addressed the group in the midst of the budget cuts. I found the comments interesting, in that, of the promises made, I don't see many that have come to light. Read what I've copied and pasted and see if you think these comments have been adequately addressed over the last 4 months. I find these issues particularly troubling: There was only an $88 million budget shortfall, but as we all know, the board made $104 million in cuts in anticipation of further cuts by the state. (When those cuts come, lets remind them that they have already been accounted for.) Also, the plan was to consolidate schools (stating that we have 11,000 'empty' seats) in order to recover state funding (this has not been done, as we all know, due to public outcry and Sarah Copelin-Wood's meddling). Tyson states here that 152 central office positions were going to be cut. Were they? Or did these end up being cuts to the schoolhouse - as in, technology, parapros, media clerks, etc. Cuts were made to central, but 152? Lastly, she stated that the BOE would be communicating with the public, and as we are all painfully aware, virtually no one has communicated with the public (unless you count threatening to 'slug' a reporter).

Interim Superintendant Tyson, described herself as a dedicated DCSS professional of 22 years who had experience with IBM at the request of the DCSS administration. She noted her commitment to her family, especially as a mother of two elementary school aged children. She stated that her goal was to do the best job possible while staying focused on the core business of DCSS and the students of DCSS. Specifically, she shared her goal to rebuild the trust of all stakeholders and especially the morale of DCSS employees.

She noted the pressing matter of balancing the budget for FY 2011 by June 30. DCSS BOE must approve a balanced budget noting the dire circumstance of the current economic situation. After the budget is approved, school consolidation must be addressed, and then the transition issues of current students in addition to preparing for the new students. This all must be done with a “laser-like focus on day-to-day operations.”

Ms. Tyson noted that there is presently an $88,000,000 shortfall and a DCSS proposal to reduce spending by $115, 000,000. This greater cut is in anticipation of historical state education funding cuts that occur during the summer time and negatively impact county budgets. While, DCSS prepares budgets, Ms. Tyson highlighted that ultimate decision making rests with the DCSS BOE.

Ms. Tyson spent some time clarifying information about DCSS employees. She noted that there are 15,859 employees of whom 13,873 are FT and 1986 are PT. She noted that 14,620 are school based employees and 1239 are in the central office which translates to approximately 7.8 % of central office employees. Of the central office employees, 982 are paid out of the general budget with local dollars and 257 are paid with federal dollars. Proposed budget reductions include the lay-offs of approximately 152 central office positions by 6-30-10.

While noting that budget reductions are necessary, compliance issues must be met to ensure funding and adherence to laws and standards. Ms. Tyson reiterated that her administration and the board would address these matters. Even after initial cuts, Ms. Tyson noted the on-going need to examine the central office structure from a business perspective in order to determine the need for additional cuts.

Interim Superintendant Tyson directed the audience to examine the school consolidation plans that are posted on the DCSS website She noted that because of 11,000 empty seats in DCSS there is a corresponding loss of state entitlement dollars which places an undue burden on the district. She noted a recommendation to transition from middle and high schools having 2 planning periods per day to one planning period (i.e. from a 7 period day to a 6 period day) as a significant cost saving recommendation. Additionally, she noted that during this trying time that testing integrity has been a priority.

For the next 3-6 months, an uphill climb will continue with distractions. Ms. Tyson reiterated her commitment to improve integrity and keep distractions separated from the core business of education. She noted that the BOE will be communicating with the media and that she will be focusing on day-to-day operations.

Plan to attend the next ELPC meeting and ask Ms. Tyson to respond to questions regarding the progress of her promises.

Emory Lavista Parent Council
Join us at 9:15 am
(refreshments begin at 8:45 am)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Oak Grove Elementary School
1857 Oak Grove Road, NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30307

Our guest speaker Ms. Ramona Tyson,
Interim Superintendent for DeKalb County Schools,
presents the State of the System


UPDATE: Ms. Tyson has already visited with the Dunwoody-Chamblee Parent Council.  Dunwoody Mom has a report available at her blog, Dunwoody School Daze.

Help from Mary Margaret and Emmanuel

This was just released - I like MMO, but I'm still skeptical that anyone in government will actually help us.

State Senate and House members are forming a legislative review committee in response to the DeKalb County school board’s changing leadership and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ (SACS) questions regarding the board’s practices. Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) and Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) will co-chair the DeKalb School Board Legislative Review Committee and will hold their first meeting on Thursday, Sept. 9 at 10:00 a.m. in Room 341 of the State Capitol.

“I’m honored to serve as co-chair of this committee and look forward to working with DeKalb County’s legislative delegation to ensure this school system stays on the path to success,” said Jones. “There are serious issues facing DeKalb’s school system, and we must act immediately to see that the best candidates are elected to the board. The committee will also review the concerns raised by SACS in our capacity as the state delegation.”

Oliver emphasized the need for cooperation between the legislative committee and the school board, noting: “I’m a proud graduate of the DeKalb County school district, and I’m very concerned about the tough challenges our school board faces. We need to be proactive with our school board in looking forward to the 2011 Legislative Session to develop policies that address the current problems with the DeKalb County school board system.”

Members of the review committee will look at three specific areas, beginning with the need for more public information on candidates running for election to the school board, including the skills required to meet the current challenges. Members will also conduct a review of the school board’s implementation of reforms as required under a new law the legislature passed this year. Finally, the committee will provide assistance to the district in response to SACS’ inquiries and search for a new superintendent.

The committee will conduct meetings leading up to the legislative session that begins in January. Other issues that may be addressed include a review of the organization of the board, the organization act for board members and the school district as well as issues related to board oversight, new ethics mandates and public participation in the selection of a new superintendent.

Stop looking for Superman - it's up to us to save our own schools

One of our bloggers shared a recent column by Tom Friedman at the NY Times. It's called, Steal this Movie, Too and encourages us to watch a new documentary called "Waiting for Superman".

Tom writes, "go to a theater near you after Sept. 24 and watch the new documentary “Waiting for Superman.” You’ll see just what I’m talking about.
"Directed by Davis Guggenheim, who also directed Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” “Waiting for Superman” takes its name from an opening interview with the remarkable Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone. HCZ has used a comprehensive strategy, including a prenatal Baby College, social service programs and longer days at its charter schools to forge a new highway to the future for one of New York’s bleakest neighborhoods."
"Canada’s point is that the only way to fix our schools is not with a Superman or a super-theory. No, it’s with supermen and superwomen pushing super-hard to assemble what we know works: better-trained teachers working with the best methods under the best principals supported by more involved parents." . . .
"“Waiting for Superman” follows five kids and their parents who aspire to obtain a decent public education but have to enter a bingo-like lottery to get into a good charter school, because their home schools are miserable failures."
"It is intolerable that in America today a bouncing bingo ball should determine a kid’s educational future, especially when there are plenty of schools that work and even more that are getting better. This movie is about the people trying to change that. The film’s core thesis is that for too long our public school system was built to serve adults, not kids. For too long we underpaid and undervalued our teachers and compensated them instead by giving them union perks. Over decades, though, those perks accumulated to prevent reform in too many districts. The best ones are now reforming, and the worst are facing challenges from charters.
Although the movie makes the claim that the key to student achievement is putting a great teacher in every classroom, and it is critical of the teachers’ unions and supportive of charters, it challenges all the adults who run our schools — teachers, union leaders, principals, parents, school boards, charter-founders, politicians — with one question: Are you putting kids and their education first?"

Folks, our school system is in a crisis. It's time that the community stop pleading our current leaders to step up and fix things. This is not going to happen. Period. Won't happen. Not in this decade. We must simply roll up our sleeves and dive on in ourselves. Demand autonomy for our principals. Demand quality teachers in the classroom. Demand a housecleaning of the bloated bureaucracy. Demand that Title 1 dollars be spent directly on support teachers working with students one on one. Demand innovative high school alternatives and charter school options. Demand transparent accounting with the check register online. Attend EVERY board meeting. Speak with board reps. Write out your demands to Ms. Tyson and the board. If you have the resources, hire educational attorneys. Our children are being harmed educationally, which is something very hard to recover. There's no time to wait for better results. Our system is failing and it's time to take control.


Here's what "The Hollywood Reporter" has to say about "Waiting for Superman" - How did 'Superman' fly with the D.C. elite?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The indictment and the trial

Big news from the trial front. Read the entire article here:

"DeKalb Superior Court Judge Cynthia Becker denied requests to dismiss the charges against former superintendent Crawford Lewis, former chief operating officer Patricia Reed and two others, according to court records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday."

"On Wednesday, Becker issued an order denying their request to drop the charges. “The indictment is sufficient as a matter of law in that the defendants have adequate notice of the nature of the offenses charged,” the judge wrote.

The judge also denied their request to have the trial moved outside DeKalb.

The Budget, Schools and Reality

Be Curious suggested we share what changes we see at the schools related to the budget . I think this is a good idea. What is happening at the schools? What evidence do you see of the budget challenges at your child's school?

The School System has already posted this about next year's budget.

Some highlights from the above link:

State revenue for the months of May 2010 and June 2010 were below projections. State revenue has not met the projected monthly budgets for sixteen out of the last seventeen months. Because ARRA (stimulus) funding will not be available beyond the current fiscal year, it is anticipated the state budget will decrease even further in the 2011-2012 fiscal year. At this point, any estimate of state funds does not factor in budget reductions which may occur after the start of the fiscal year, as have been done in the last two fiscal years.

And this:

Although homes are starting to sell again, foreclosures have had a significantly negative impact on property values.
Uhm, well no. Homes have not started to sell again, based on the dismal statistics released yesterday. I think it will be a long time before property tax revenues recover in DeKalb.

And here is the tentative budget planning calendar.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Data Behind the Man

Information and actual data on the successes or lack thereof relative to the policies implemented by Morcease Beasley have escaped us to date.  All we've learned thus far is what we read on Beasley's own websites.  This makes it truly difficult to have a reasonably informed discussion about the man and his policies. Therefore, our resident researcher, DeKalb Parent went to town digging up some much needed background data on Beasley's programs.  Read on . . .

Dr. Beasley was the Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum for the Port Arthur Independent School District from 2006 to 2009. Below is data from the Texas Education Agency ‘s (Texas’s DOE) Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS). The Texas TAKS system is similar to Georgia’s DOE Made AYP system.

Dr. Beasley’s performance parallels that of many DCSS classroom teachers. That is to say, sometimes his results are/were up in some areas, years, and grade levels and sometimes they are/were down. Port Arthur was rated Academically Acceptable the three years Dr. Beasley was head of instruction.

Take a look at some of the data that IMHO are important when assessing Dr. Beasley’s past performance in Port Arthur as indicative of his future performance for Dekalb County students. To verify this data, click here.
Type in Jefferson in the county field. Select Port Arthur ISD when the next page loads. Corrections are appreciated – This was a lot of data to crunch!

A. School Demographics:
  • Port Arthur is a diverse system of 9,238 students with 48.7 % African American, 41.3% Hispanic, 3.7% White, .38% Native American, and 5% Asian students. Hispanic students represented the greatest rise in percentage of students between 2006 – 2009.
  • The teacher demographics are almost equally divided between African American and White with a small percentage of Hispanic and Asian teachers.
  • Port Arthur’s Economically Disadvantaged student percentage although considerably higher than the state average is decreasing. In 2006, 84.5% of the students were classified as Economically Disadvantaged. In 2007, 83.9% of students were classified as Economically Disadvantaged. In 2009, 80% were classified as Economically Disadvantaged.

B. Teacher Turnover rate:

1. From 2006 to 2009, the teacher turnover rate decreased in the state of Texas but increased in Port Arthur:

Turnover Rate for Teachers:
2006 -2007: 17.8% - Port Arthur 15.6% - Texas
2007 – 2008: 17.7% - Port Arthur 15.2% - Texas
2008-2009: 18.5% - Port Arthur 14.7% - Texas

2. From 2006 to 2009 the average years of experience of teachers decreased and percent of less experienced (beginning teachers in their first year of teaching) increased:

Average years of Experience of Teachers:
2006 – 2007: 13.0 yrs.
2007 – 2008: 13.0 yrs.
2008 – 2009: 12.3 yrs.

Percent of Beginning Teachers (teachers in their first year):
2006 – 2007: 6.3%
2007 – 2008: 9.9%
2008 – 2009: 10.5%

C. Criterion referenced test scores:

Reading and math scores declined in some grades and maintained and increased in others. The second test administration (i.e. retaking the test) pulled all scores up. This was pretty impressive. The Texas Education Agency requires that:

“All students who fail one or more sections of the TAKS are placed in a TAKS Acceleration class that meets daily.” This occurs for Grades 3 through 11.

The difference in the first attempt at the test and the Retake scores would indicate that small groups of struggling students served daily by certified teachers had a positive impact on student achievement in Port Arthur and indeed throughout the state of Texas. Would enlisting DCSS Instructional Supervisors, Instructional Coaches, and other non-teaching certified personnel to directly teach DCSS struggling students on a daily basis have a similar impact for our students?

Science fared well overall, although scores still lagged behind the state and region. Science and math tended to have the lowest scores of the content areas. We experience that in DCSS as well as do many school systems.

See a few examples:

1. 3rd Grade students
Reading scores (English)
2006: 84% (State: 90%) Retake: 89% (State Retake: 94%)
2007: 84% (State: 89%) Retake: 88% (State Retake: 94%)
2008: 80% (State: 89%) Retake: 89% (State Retake: 94%)
2009: 81% (State: 90%) Retake: 88% (State Retake: 94%

2. 5th Grade students:
Reading scores (English)
2006: Reading: 72% Retake: 82% Math: 71% Retake: 83%
2007: Reading: 71% Retake: 80% Math: 69% Retake: 81%
2008: Reading: 71% Retake: 82% Math: 67% Retake: 78%
2009: Reading: 72% Retake: 80% Math: 66% Retake: 79%

3. 8th Grade students First test administration:
2006: Reading: 74% Math: 51%
2007: Reading: 79% Math: 50%
2008: Reading: 86% Math: 57%
2009: Reading: 87% Math: 63%

4. 11th Grade students First test administration:
2006: English: 77% Math: 62%
2007: English: 81% Math: 59%
2008: English: 78% Math: 59%
2009: English: 82% Math: 65%

D. Science scores moved up overall, but still lagged behind the state and region. Science and math tended to have the lowest scores of the content areas.

See some examples of science scores from 2006 – 2009:

2006: 5th: 71% 8th: 42% 10th: 28% 11th: 59%
2007: 5th: 63% 8th: 47% 10th: 35% 11th: 53%
2008: 5th: 66% 8th: 45% 10th: 38% 11th: 67%
2009: 5th: 70% 8th: 49% 10th: 35% 11th: 71%

E. Other indexes were mixed in success. For example, the Graduation rate increased, SAT scores increased by 2%, and ACT scores decreased by 5%:

Graduation rate:
Class of 2006: 76%
Class of 2007: 80%
Class of 2008: 80.3%

SAT scores:
Class of 2006: Port Arthur: 794 State: 991
Class of 2007: Port Arthur: 820 State: 992
Class of 2008: Port Arthur: 813 State: 987

ACT scores:
Class of 2006: Port Arthur: 17.6 State: 20.1
Class of 2007: Port Arthur: 16.6 State: 20.2
Class of 2008: Port Arthur: 16.7 State: 20.5

Columbia High School did not make AYP in any area last year (2009 -2010) with Dr. Beasley at the helm although truthfully one year is not enough time for anyone to make a significance difference. Principals need to stay for at least 5 years to even begin to effect change, something that is not happening in DCSS.

Scores for Columbia’s Economically Disadvantaged students in 2009 - 2010 were lower than in 2007-2008. Port Arthur is very different in school system structure than DCSS. They have a smaller system (10% of the size of DCSS) with less highly paid administrators, one period of the school day with dedicated teachers working with small groups of struggling students per the TAKS policy, and smaller class sizes. Are these the factors that allow Port Arthur students to be more successful on the Retests and thus increase overall scores? Perhaps Dr. Beasley is hoping that the benchmark tests can be used in the same way and regular education classroom teachers can “fill in the gaps”, but an antiquated technology system that requires teachers to manually scan hundreds of answer sheets and increased class sizes make this impractical and probably impossible. A shift in thinking in DCSS is in order.

Monday, August 23, 2010

AYP transfer invasion breaking the back of CCHS

This week's Dunwoody Crier informs us that Chamblee has been pushed over capacity by NCLB transfers.

Already over capacity, Chamblee Charter High School may receive several hundred more students before August 30 under the No Child Left Behind initiative for schools who fail repeatedly to achieve federal benchmarks.

But parents are firing back and have asked DeKalb School officials to rethink their decision to make CCHS a receiving school for 2010-11.

According to school officials, parents and other sources, about 200 ninth graders are scheduled to start school at Chamblee sometime before August 30. The school already has 198 students from previous admissions through NCLB. The students, according to sources, would stay through their high school careers at Chamblee, if the transfers are approved.

Last week, the county delivered four trailers to the school’s property and is in the process of refurbishing them, supposedly in anticipation of the extra students.

Lakeside and Druid HIlls are also seriously over-capacity largely due to transfers of all kinds. With a current enrollment topping 1,800 students in a building with a capacity for 1,350, Lakeside has over 20 trailers on-site to accommodate the overflow.

However, Arabia, which is not yet even at capacity and also must serve as a "receiving school" for transfers, has been allowed to set up an "annex" facility - housing their transfer students at the Lithonia High School Campus.

In response, there will be a Community Meeting at Chamblee Charter High School TOMORROW night, Tuesday, August 24, at 6:00 pm to discuss the situation regarding student transfers.

We have been told that Bob Moseley, the Deputy Chief Superintendant, and other DCSS officials will be there.

Apparently CCHS was just notified of this meeting this morning and are relying on parents to get the word out.

Please come and show your support for Chamblee Charter High School!


UPDATE: In the words of Emily Latella, "Nevermind!" 
The meeting has been cancelled.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Completely Out of Control?

Morcease J. Beasley, Ed.D., Interim Deputy Superintendent of DCSS, Curriculum
According to his business website, :
Motivational Speaker
Effective School Leader
"Inspired" Author
According to his church's website, he and his wife "will prove to serve the unique needs of the Covington-Atlanta" area.
He sure has a lot on his plate.
With DCSS classrooms packed larger than ever before, with students sitting on the floor at some schools, Beasley and his army of managers and staff have tasked teachers and principals with an incredible amount of busy work. Is he is making our schools better, or is it one more pressing reason for teachers to leave the system for one where they are allowed to actually interact with students and then have a home life, instead of spending hours each night with unending paperwork, and an eSIS software system that still does not work properly?
DCSS Teachers: We want to hear from you. Is Dr. Beasley on the right track? Have teachers had any input with all his various initiatives? What do your principals say regarding this? Or is his barrage the last straw for you to leave for a position at another school system?

Friday, August 20, 2010

What about academics?

So - moving on from the topic of the Bishop (that is going to be an on-going sideshow for a while) --

We really need to focus on the utter failure of our school system to get our schools into AYP passing zone. We are continuing to slip in the standings and continue to produce three times as many high schools that do not make Adequate Yearly Progress (much less - substantial progress) and we continue to only offer transfers to the few "passing schools still available. To date, DeKalb County School System still has not met AYP as a system.

Check out this chart for 2009 available at DCSS's website entitled, DEKALB COUNTY SCHOOLS ADEQUATE YEARLY PROGRESS 2003 - 2009. There, we see that the only high schools that made AYP were Chamblee, Clarkston, DECA, DeKalb HS of Technology North, DSA, Druid Hills, Lakeside and Miller Grove. Since this report, the system consolidated the Tech North HS into Cross Keys and we added Arabia, which made AYP. But sadly, Clarkston and Miller Grove dropped off the list and did not make AYP last year according to the 2010 AYP report available by clicking here.

We are in a mess. Our math program is questionable, many of our schools have not made AYP, we have an interim superintendent, an interim head of SPLOST construction and an interim head of "teaching and learning". The board members continue to "make news", issue apologies and get scolded publicly. The Lewis and Pope trials are now scheduled for January, which will certainly bring about much more salacious gossip. Our legal fees are equal to the entire budgets of most school systems. Our board cannot agree on a  The distractions are numerous and on-going.

I know this seems obvious to all of you but - although we need to be aware of the "outside issues", we need to focus on educating children. Please pressure your board rep to pressure Ms. Tyson to do so, even though her area of expertise is technology. She needs to take the bull by the horns and visit schools, talk with teachers and principals and roll up her sleeves working to improve performance. She needs to take a look at the virtual "army" of instructional leaders who are not working directly with students and place them into classroom or direct student support settings. She needs to toss every available resource into the schoolhouses so that our children do not suffer another year of "Inadequate" progress. If she does not possess the moxie to do this, then we need to push the board to find another interim who will.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A "Book Gate" Update

Ahem. Some facts:

According to the AJC, although she claims these books were ordered by principals all over the system, in reality, Yvonne Sanders-Butler personally ordered $11,494 worth of her own books - using school system money. On top of that, her sister, Annette Roberts, principal at Rainbow ES, ordered $14,184 worth of Butler's books.

She is correct in saying that others were selling books, which is what may have lulled her into a false sense of security. Certainly, she was referring to Assistant Superintendent Ralph Simpson, who has sold more than $15,000 in books to the district. The AJC reported, "All told, the school system found three educators-turned-authors raked in a total of almost $100,000 in sales to district schools."

Now, how can you think this is ethical? These educators need to put themselves in an imaginary corporate job. Say you are an IT professional. You write a book about widgets. Then, you use a company purchase order to buy $10,000 worth of your books. Do you really think you wouldn't be fired for that? Really?

There's a bigger issue here and it's one of paradigm. How can anyone have thinking this wrong-headed? How can anyone think that they are entitled to taxpayer dollars? How can anyone actually have the nerve to sit down, write up a government purchase order and buy $11,000 worth of their own book?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Check this out: School Corruption - the movie

Don't Miss "The Cartel" This Thursday!

"The Cartel," an award-winning documentary about school corruption and the promise of school choice will be shown this Thursday, August 19th at 8:30 PM as part of the Atlanta Documentary Film Festival.

The screening will take place at:

The Carter Center
453 Freedom Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30307-1406

To view a trailer of "The Cartel," visit

Tickets are $8, available online by clicking here.

Click here for directions.

Can Title I Attain Its Goal?

Below are some quotes from a ten year old white paper highlighting some of the ways Title 1 money has been squandered and misused over the years. Things haven't improved.

In a statement released on April 1, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson used the following words to argue for passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965:

This bill has a simple purpose: To improve the education of young Americans.... How many young lives have been wasted; how many families now live in misery; how much talent has the Nation lost; because we have failed to give all our people a chance to learn.... This bill represents a national determination that this shall no longer be true. Poverty will no longer be a bar to learning, and learning shall offer an escape from poverty.... For this truly is the key which can unlock the door to a great society.

More than thirty years and $118 billion later, two national evaluation studies have concluded that these goals have not been met. 1 The skill gap in reading, writing, and mathematics has not been closed between, on the one hand, children from low-income households--often African American or Hispanic and attending central city or rural school systems--and, on the other hand, middle-class children--often Anglo and attending suburban school systems.

This comes as no surprise. The federal government's more than thirty-year attempt to solve the problems of poverty--in particular, the diminished life chances of children from low-income households--has been largely unsuccessful. Title I of the ESEA is, and has been, the most heavily funded program in this area. At $8.3 billion for 1999 alone, this program is funded at approximately twice the level of the better-known Head Start program. The failure to win the War on Poverty is largely attributable to the failure of these two programs to achieve their goals: the school success of low-income children.

In particular, we found these miscellaneous quotes regarding Control by School District Administrative Elites relevant:

....Terry M. Moe agreed that the schools are too little concerned with the control and coordination of instructional activities..... The structure of education ... has to do with who has power, with what their interests are, and with what kinds of structures they demand, design, and impose to see those interests pursued. As presented in a longer work by John E. Chubb and Terry M. Moe, this rational choice and interest group politics view sees individual school actors pursuing power, self-interest, and rents via all the available techniques of interest group politics......Practices and structures often endure through the active efforts of those who benefit from them.... It is clear that elite intervention may play a critical role in institutional formation. And once established and in place, practices and programs are supported and promulgated by those organizations that benefit from prevailing conventions. In this way, elites may be both the architects and products of the rules and expectations they have helped devise.......This emphasis upon school district and education school elites and their use of power in the pursuit of self-interest via all means available, including "preservation of patterns of values"... the selection of new recruits, the socialization of successors, and control over the conditions of incumbency," provides a necessary background for understanding the implementation of Title I in the nation's school districts. 21 The districts we have observed display intensely networked management structures, supporting almost constant strategic behavior by individuals and groups. Classroom teacher is the lowest status among professional staff. Advancement out of this status typically requires the support of the school's principal and assistant principal, but professional specialty groups (for example, the group of reading curriculum specialists, Title I teachers, special education teachers, bilingual education teachers, and so on) and ethnic or other affiliation groups (for example, the Hispanic Teachers Association, the African-American Teachers Association, and their community affiliates) are also a resource. 22 The higher one seeks to rise, the [End Page 68] more important are network connections. Every principal was once some other's assistant principal. And the real jump in power, prestige, and compensation is out of the schools and into the central administration, a step requiring patronage by individuals already there....""

This paper will enlighten you as to the damage done since 1994 and the ESEA reauthorization. We hope that you will read it in it's entirety and work to reverse the trends and end the corruption.

Click here to read the full article in Brookings Papers on Education Policy 2000 by George Farkas and L. Shane Hall.

Just how much Title 1 money are we spending?

That fabulous DeKalb Parent has once again crunched some interesting numbers. We have all been wondering if perhaps we have not been utilizing the over $31 million in annual Title 1 funds in the best way for student success. Our discussion revealed that we seem to have literally thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the problem of 'making AYP', yet we continue to miss the mark. Mull over the following report from DeKalb Parent --

I agree that DCSS is spending "tons of Title 1 dollars". Click here to read the parent letter sent home by Cross Keys, one of the many Title 1 schools that did not make AYP. Similar letters went home from all of these schools. The letter is very illuminating as to how Title 1 dollars ARE NOT being spent on direct and intensive math and Language Arts instruction for students.

According to the letter, below is where the Title 1 money for struggling Language Arts and Math students is going:
  • Implement school wide tutorials in the areas of Language Arts and math
  • Provide transportation for all students that attend tutorial sessions
  • Provide targeted remediation academic sessions that take place before or after school
  • Execute focused staff development training for teachers in order to address the needs of all students
  • Implement collaborative planning opportunities for teachers to strategically plan research based lesson plans
  • Implement the America’s Choice framework that is proven to increase academic achievement in the areas of Language Arts and Math
  • Provide the placement of a fulltime Language Arts Coach at Cross Keys
  • Provide the placement of a fulltime Math Coach at Cross Keys
  • Provide the placement of a fulltime Graduation Coach at Cross Keys who works intensely with students, parents and faculty members
  • Provide the placement of a Re-design Coach that places a special emphasis on the academic, social, and emotional needs of all freshmen
The emphasis is on expensive, non-teaching personnel - Language Arts, Math, Graduation, and Re-design Coaches, as well as transportation and staff development training. BTW the average salary and benefits cost for each Instructional Coach is around $100,000 (source: Georgia Salary and Travel audit) so four of these non-teaching coaches cost about $400,000 a year. America’s Choice for our Title 1 schools is around $90,000 per school. How much direct instruction tutoring would $500,000 buy for Cross Keys students?

What is a Re-design coach? I've never heard of this one. The Re-design coach "places a special emphasis on the academic, social, and emotional needs of all freshmen". Well, I thought that's what Cross Key’s four counselors (average salary and benefits for each DCSS counselor is $84,000), one Intervention and Prevention specialist, one social worker, one school psychologist, and one Parent Resource Center Facilitator do ($75,000 in salary and benefits for a Parent Resource "Facilitator" - Zepora Roberts' daughter is one).

DCSS spent $8,000,000 for America's Choice, and the renewal is going to be funded by the BOE for the 90 Title 1 schools bringing the average to $90,000 for each America’s Choice school. Please show me valid and reliable studies (not done by America's Choice) that show significant improvement in Language Arts and Math for schools using America's Choice. DCSS has absolutely no proof that America's Choice or these Instructional Coaches have increased student achievement for DeKalb County students.

Cross Keys ONLY HAD forty students who were in the “Did Not Meet” category. Considering the $500,000 cost of Cross Keys Instructional Coaches and America's Choice, we spend $12,500 a year for each student who “Did Not Meet Expectations" at Cross Keys on the GHSGT. Thirty seven of those were Economically Disadvantaged. Maybe the parents of these students are better off getting the $12,500 for intensive tutoring than spending it on non-teaching personnel.

Don't believe me? Go to the Georgia DOE site for Cross Keys and see that only 40 students out of “All Students” are in the “Basic/Does Not Meet” category (and 37 are in the Economically Disadvantaged category) – click on Academic Performance

Before you protest that these numbers are an underestimation of the problem, I recognize that it's really more accurate to view 40 students per grade level (9th, 10th and 11th grades) as needing academic help since only the 11th graders taking the GHSGT are considered by NCLB. I also understand that these at risk students need intervention from when they enter high school. But even dividing that $500,000 a year among 120 students will fund hundreds of hours a year per student to receive one on one instruction by SES (Supplemental Education Services - aka tutorial services) . Tell me that won't make more of a difference than four Instructional Coaches and America's Choice.

What is Audria Berry ($145,000 in salary and benefits) who runs the Office of School Improvement and makes the Title 1 decisions thinking? Where is the cost /benefits analysis that needs to occur for Cross Keys (or each school in DCSS)? Why are we not using Title 1 funds for intensive one on one tutoring for the students who have fallen behind?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Again, I ask, "Choice for whom?"

Mrs. Ramona Tyson
Interim Superintendent
DeKalb County [GA] School System

Mrs. Tyson:

It is unacceptable to further overcrowd Chamblee Charter High School with AYP transfers. Chamblee Charter High School (CCHS) already has more students than it was built to accommodate.

Overcrowding has a proven negative effect on our students’ education. For more than 25 years, we have known, “Probably the greatest single discouragement to better instruction is the overcrowded classroom.”[1] (Karp) Further, this overcrowding at CCHS is a long-term educational problem since the AYP transfers being sent to CCHS are 9th graders and they may stay at CCHS until they graduate.

Overcrowding puts more stress on CCHS’s already-stressed building that is way overdue to be re-built. Portable classrooms create capacity problems inside the bricks-and-mortar school building. CCHS is already approximately 200 students over its original as-built capacity of 1,347. These unnecessary AYP transfers will put more than 1700 students in CCHS, thus being significantly out of compliance with the Georgia Department of Education’s square footage requirements for school library media centers, school cafeterias and toilet facilities.[2] The Georgia Accrediting Commission requires, “a minimum of 20 square feet of floor space per student in each instructional area.”[3] Overcrowding is also unsafe and puts our students at a physical and health risk.

To paraphrase Walter Karp, quoted above, “What makes these conditions [at CCHS and elsewhere in DCSS] appalling is that they are quite unnecessary. The [DeKalb County School System is] top-heavy with administrators and rife with sinecures. Large numbers of teachers scarcely ever set foot in a classroom, being occupied instead as grade advisers, career counselors, coordinators, [coaches] and supervisors.”[4]

You have other choices allowed by No Child Left Behind besides overcrowding and dumbing-down successful schools like Chamblee Charter High School. For example:
1) “A virtual school may be among the schools to which an eligible student may transfer, so long as that school is a public elementary or secondary school (as defined by the SEA) and has not been identified for school improvement, corrective action, or restructuring. If the “virtual school” is not operated by the LEA, the LEA could enter into a cooperative agreement with the school so that its students can enroll.”[5]
It’s time to get our money’s worth out of the DeKalb Online Academy (DOLA). If that doesn’t suit you, then there is always the Georgia Virtual School – also paid for by our tax dollars.


2) “The NCLB statute does not address whether non-Title I schools that miss AYP for two or more years may be offered as transfer options. Accordingly, an SEA may adopt a policy governing the use of non-Title I schools that have missed AYP for two or more years as choice options. In doing so, the SEA should bear in mind that the public school choice provisions are designed to offer high-quality options for parents. If an SEA adopts a policy permitting the use of non-Title I schools that have not made AYP for two or more years as transfer options, LEAs offering such schools as transfer options should provide parents with detailed information on the academic achievement of those schools, including information on why they did not make AYP, so that parents can make informed choices.”[6]

What is the Georgia Department of Education’s policy on this? Because Georgia is a mostly rural state with limited school choices in rural school systems, I am betting that Georgia permits the use of non-Title I schools that have not made AYP for two or more years as transfer options,


3) Chamblee Charter High School is, in fact, a real charter school – the result of a grassroots community effort. CCHS is a charter school that always has more students wanting to enroll than there are seats. There is always a lottery for available seats at CCHS. This lottery is required by the U.S. Department of Education. “SEAs or LEAs may not require a charter school to alter its admissions process for [the purpose of admitting AYP transfer students]”.[7],[8]

Students who wish to transfer to CCHS should have participated in the lottery for charter school seats. Or they could have applied to the lottery for the CCHS Magnet Program. However, it is too late for either one of those options for the 2010-2011 school year.

In addition to the choices listed above, here are some other U. S. Department of Education-approved options:
4) "Creating new, distinct schools with separate faculty within the physical sites of schools identified for school improvement, corrective action, or restructuring;
5) "Encouraging the creation of new charter schools within the LEA;
6) "Reshaping long-range capital construction and renovation plans in order to ensure that schools that are likely to receive new students have additional space; and/or
7) "Easing capacity by initiating inter-district choice programs with neighboring LEAs or by establishing programs through which local private schools can absorb some of the LEA’s students."[9]

Have you seriously considered the above options? If so, please explain in detail why they are not being used in DCSS. I will publish your response to this e-mail, word-for-word.

What you are doing may meet the letter of the NCLB law, but it does not meet the intent of NCLB. You are overcrowding and taking down successful schools while, at the same time – because you will not address the challenges and correct the problems in schools not making AYP – you are consigning DeKalb County’s students (especially its substantial Title I student population) to a bleak future.

What you are doing with regard to AYP transfers and Chamblee Charter High School may not be legally criminal, but it is morally indefensible.


Sandy Spruill

Statement on behalf of the Libertarian Party of DeKalb County

Mark Your Calendar --

Announcing the formation of “Citizens Auditing DeKalb Schools” (CADS):

August 14, 2010: The Libertarian Party of DeKalb County announces the formation of the Citizens Auditing DeKalb Schools (CADS), which will examine the DeKalb County School System budget, both income and expenses, and recommend ways to lower the school portion of our property taxes and possibly eliminate our 1% “Educational” sales tax. The Committee is seeking other citizens interested in participating in this longneeded independent review.

About 60% of all state and local taxes go toward the school systems. State budget reductions create pressure on local government to increase property taxes to make up the difference. Recent embezzlement charges of top bureaucrats in the DeKalb school system indicate that the budget may benefit from closer scrutiny by the public. This is best done by an independent panel not subject to the protests of special interest groups. Interested parties are invited to attend an orientation meeting to learn more and decide if they want to participate. The orientation meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 7th, 2010, 7:00 PM in the big hall at the rear of the Famous Pub in the Toco Hills Shopping Center at 2947 North Druid Hills Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30329.

Libertarian Party of Dekalb

􀂾 Christopher Barber, Chair

􀂾 David Montané, Vice Chair

􀂾 Barbara Rickard, Secretary/Treasurer

Buy a Sunday paper today

Ah.. It IS all about me!
Sigh. "Book Gate" is worse than we had imagined. Kudos to Tim Eberly at the AJC for dogging these expenses. His report in today's AJC tells of over $100,000 uncovered so far in book purchases for personal profit by several of our principals. Two of them are sisters - literal sisters - not sorority sisters. Of course, they are all highly defensive of their actions.

If these people truly believed that what they were doing was above board, then why create 'corporations' with no name recognition in it?  Ralph Simpson sold $15,260 worth of his auto-biography, boldly titled, "From Remedial to Remarkable". Of that total, $9,680 was purchased in two separate orders on the same day by Selina Carol Thedford, principal of Miller Grove and subordinate of Simpson's. Yvonne Sanders-Butler (who was promoted by her fan, Dr. Lewis to "Executive" Director of Health and Wellness a newly-created job designed to step over the very successful "Director" of Health and Wellness, Dr. Shannon Williams, who has since found new employment) "sold" $63,184 worth of her books to the system.  I was floored by Ms. Sanders-Butler's ego. Floored that she completely thinks she was within her rights to personally order $11,494 worth of her own books - using school system money. On top of that, her sister, principal at Rainbow ES, ordered $14,184 worth of Butler's books. The sister, Annette Roberts feels she is being "unfairly targeted" due to the fact that she is Butler's sister! If that isn't circular thinking... (refer to the post, "The Parrot is Dead"). Wow!

Once more thing - once again here comes Marcus Turk, questioning the expense waaaay back in 2007, yet in the end, paying the bills and moving on. Does he EVER tell ANYONE 'no'? Did Dr. Lewis hold so much power over Turk that he simply bowed down to Lewis' demands? I can imagine Lewis endorsing these purchases - no problem - he is the king of entitlement to public money for his friends and family (and mistresses).

We can't hire an auditor soon enough.

Friday, August 13, 2010

“Do you have to ask to be bribed?”

See the tiny sweat ball 
running down his nose?
His lawyer, Mike Brown, argued that the superintendent wasn’t aware of many of Reid’s actions, only signing off on things he entrusted to her. 

Brown also said that the superintendent never asked for the high-priced tickets from vendors, including tickets to the Masters in 2008 and 2009.

Judge Cynthia J. Becker didn’t buy that argument. “Do you have to ask to be bribed?” she said.


I love you Cynthia Becker!! "Do you have to be asked to be bribed" is equally as brilliant of a catchphrase as "I'm gonna to slug you!"


This trial is going to be sordid and ugly, and no teacher worth her/his salt is going to choose DCSS first as their preferred place of work. It will continue to be a cabal of friends & family, sorority sister & fraternity brothers, Eddie Long's New Birth machine, dynasty clans like the Freeman's and Edward's/Guillory, etc. Our BOE will allow the Central Office to waste millions on junk such as eSIS and America's Choice, and made up admin jobs such as Director of Corporate Wellness and curriculum coaches and family/parent center staffers who make much more than our deserving teachers. Then again, what do you expect when our head of academics, Morcese Beasley, who loads teachers with mindless, time-consuming busy work, and then dismissively and condescendingly tells then "there is no I in team but there is a U in unemployment"??

P.S. If it weren't for Pat Jarvis, Vernon Jones and Sid Dorsey, Pat Pope-Reid would go down in history as DeKalb County's most devious, conniving and arrogant public official.

DeKalb school corruption suspects plead not guilty
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5:59 p.m. Friday, August 13, 2010

DeKalb County schools’ former chief operating officer may have violated school board policies, but she didn’t break any state laws, her attorney argued Friday.

Patricia Reid is one of four people charged with running a criminal enterprise at the state’s third largest school system.

On Friday, Reid; former schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis; Reid’s former husband, Tony Pope; and her secretary, Cointa Moody, pleaded not guilty in DeKalb County Superior Court.

A judge now will decide whether some of the charges should be dismissed, as defense attorneys have argued, and if there is a need to move the trial out of DeKalb, as requested by Reid’s attorney.

A grand jury indicted the four in May on charges of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, theft by a government employee, bribery and falsifying a public document.

Prosecutors say Reid steered multimillion-dollar school construction projects to her then-husband’s architecture firm and select vendors. In exchange, Reid, Lewis and Moody received cash, sports tickets or other perks, prosecutors said.

“This case is about people who took money they were not entitled to. They knew they weren’t entitled to it,” Special Assistant District Attorney John Floyd told the judge. “They altered documents to hide it. They created false documents to facilitate it.”

. . .

But prosecutors say there are “scores” of instances over three years that show Reid was the mastermind behind this criminal scheme.

“To some extent, Ms. [Reid] is reading the indictment with one hand over her eye,” Floyd said. “The indictment alleges 32 acts involving theft and acts of 13 false statements.”

Prosecutors allege the defendants funneled more than $80 million in contracts to associates through some type of fraud. Pope directly received more than $2 million of that, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said the criminal activity, which began in 2006, involved 171 different acts, including bribery, theft, tampering with evidence, mail fraud, hindering the investigation and skirting competitive bidding laws.

Lewis’ lawyer, Mike Brown, argued that the superintendent wasn’t aware of many of Reid’s actions, only signing off on things he entrusted to her. Brown also said that the superintendent never asked for the high-priced tickets from vendors, including tickets to the Masters in 2008 and 2009.

Judge Cynthia J. Becker didn’t buy that argument. “Do you have to ask to be bribed?” she said.


(Click on the title of the article to read it in it's entirety at the AJC - there's lots of good reporting in it.)

Fallout from the massive cuts

Ok, lets hear it.  The first week of school is complete and we're hearing that the massive cuts to support staff are having quite an effect in the schoolhouse and on our already over-stressed teachers. (For a good post on the subject, click here.) Here's a quote from one of our bloggers:

Please do a blog on the opening of school from the persective of parents, students and staff. Today was the 5th day of the year that rooms went without air. There were large trash cans in the halls to catch the leaks. The men from plant services are spread out all over the county. Every time I see them they are really working. But we have old buildings that are in need of repair.
Someone took their eyes off of the school house. We are on the front line. If you are a principal, an AP a teacher, etc and work in the school you have a special trust.
I know that there is more accountability for everyone, but we seem to get blamed for everything.
We should be held to a high moral and ethical standard, but the people above us should be required to also have high standards.

What has happened to us?

Additionally, this email was released today:

From Mr. Bob Moseley, DCSS Deputy Chief Superintendent for School Operations........ Mrs. Ramona Tyson, Interim Superintendent, has received numerous emails about the ESEA School Choice Option at Chamblee Charter High School. Approximately 200 ninth grade students have selected Chamblee Charter High School as an option. Mrs. Tyson appreciates the input from parents. She is reviewing options with staff to determine if better options are available. Once final decisions have been made we will communicate with all parents. Please look for communication from the school district on this matter next week.

I can't explain just how distressing it is to be a 'receiving school' for AYP transfers. Really, is it fair to expect an already over-capacity, old, crumbling school building with one field and no auditorium to squeeze 200 new students into the schedule three weeks into the school year? Worse, these students are all taking classes on the block schedule and the receiving schools have the 7 period day. Students will add three new classes to their schedule, three weeks into the school year. Oddly, Arabia - our brand new, shiny, gleaming, gorgeous high school facility in south DeKalb is slated to receive transfers, however, these transfers will not see the inside of that gorgeous multi-million dollar facility. No - Arabia's AYP transfer students will be sent to an Arabia "annex" located at Lithonia High School.

Ain't that some stuff???

Letter B... by Tom Bowen and the DeKalb Board of Education

More Friday funnies. We've decided to stop being so serious.

Click the play button to listen to the theme song we've chosen for Zepora. She is so full of shocking antics, outrageous comments and bad behavior, yet our board chair and members seem content to just ignore her and "letter B"... That's ridiculous and embarrassing. With a nod to another screen favorite, "How do we solve a problem like Zepora?"

In Zepora's own words --

“I will not vote in favor of this item, not only AT&T – but for any other businesses that’s doing business with AT&T and is part of this eduKalb to erase the board.”

“Now the only thing that he does is fly all over the country, spending your hard-earned dues trying to be a high roller, hobnobbing with important people.”

“Your president keeps getting bolder and bolder with his nasty antics and disrespect.”

"You once again missed the whole thing! As a matter of fact, you added points to your lopsided way of thinking that were not even said by me nor Ms. Copelin Wood. You once again used this opportunity to spread your poison."

"Although I am an elected official, I am not obligated to respond to you in any form or fashion."

"Even though you have access to a lot of data, you still have it all wrong."

"I feel sorry for you, so take your lopsided, twisted thoughts where they belong, to the trash bin. Thank you."

"I have no more comments to say to you and don't you come near me or I am going to slug you."


For a bit more Friday fun (at Zepora's expense), check out this hip hop remix of Wendy's interviews at 46 CBS Atlanta.


I know it looks otherwise, but we don't enjoy posting these daily Zepora antics. We'd really like to 'Let Her Be'... It's time, Zepora. Step down. Your work here is finished.

The Parrot is Dead... stop denying it

For a bit of Friday fun, we thought that some humor might better describe our frustration. This classic Monty Python sketch well represents the feeling we get when dealing with the DeKalb school board and the upper level managers and administration. Ramona Tyson is now telling WSB that DeKalb just has a "perception problem".... Tom Bowen loudly decried at the recent DeKalb business meeting that he didn't understand why anyone would think DeKalb is not a top-notch system. Our board reps supported our former superintendent, even going so far as to give him a raise as he went down in flames. Now, they are trying to convince us that Dr. Lewis and Pat Pope were anomalies and the entire source of our problems. Which begs the question, then how did they get away with so much? Who signed off on the work orders? Who wrote the check? Who approved the 2007 SPLOST III Capital Improvement Plan? After the approval and generation of a Needs Assessment "road map", who then never questioned the order of spending as millions went to administrative offices (and chairs) rather than schools first? Who is so caught up in grandstanding about racial politics that they are not paying attention to the millions of dollars of waste and fraud happening under their noses? Who never demanded that the internal auditor's position be filled in order to closely monitor the $1.1 billion DCSS budget? Who allowed principals to believe that Title 1 school funds exist for their pleasure and that raiding those funds to purchase hundreds of books written by their peers was acceptable?

Who? The board of education. Wake up. This is Notlob and the parrot is dead. This is not a simple perception problem. We need a full-blown culture shift and thorough housecleaning.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Faye Andresen writes . . .

With a SACS investigation, the Zepora Robert’s threat to a reporter dominating the news, reports of rampant DCSS nepotism, SPLOST II in an expensive legal battle and SPLOST III the center of a criminal investigation, the question becomes ---- HOW DID WE GET HERE??

I have included in this posting e-mail exchanges three years ago along with my subsequent letter to SACS. I received no response from SACS but the e-mails demonstrate that the Columbia high school project was challenged early on and no board oversight was provided and offers a glimpse of the level and length of negligence by board members.

I attended the meeting between the DeKalb Delegation, Chamber of Commerce representatives and members of the DeKalb School System and shared these documents with the DeKalb Delegation Education Committee Co-Chairs Mary Margaret Oliver & Steve Hanson and the Chamber leadership of Sadie Dennard & John Kelly.

At the February 3, 2007 DeKalb School System working board meeting, Board Member Zepora Roberts questioned Agenda Item #10, $600,000 to fund technology at the new Peachtree Middle School. It was her belief that technology funding for the school was not included in SPLOST II. Both the head of IT and Construction were fairly new in their jobs and neither could confirm when such funding was allocated. My letter is a response to that question, and another concern voiced by Ms Copelin –Woods with regard to Avondale High School. Please note their responses.


"Faye Andresen" writes:

To Board Members Roberts & Copelin-Wood,

At last night's board meeting, there was discussion concerning past SPLOST II decision making. Allow me to express my fear that airing such old history may hurt SPLOST III efforts. Both the administration and the board share in the responsibility for SPLOST II problems. The administration has changed management & procedures; the board, I hope, will change its approach to SPLOST management.

To Ms Coplin-Wood - We have previously communicated concerning Avondale. The Career-Tech faded as the HVAC costs soared and that has been thoroughly discussed.

To Ms Roberts -- If you look back to June 2004 board meeting, you'll find Agenda Items #9 & 20 - pertaining to construction at both Chamblee Middle & St. Mountain Middle. I have in my notes that Ms. Manning-Moon inquired about technology at that time. But more to the point -- December 2004,

Agenda Item # 9 SPLOST II Budget Revisions does include the additions of $600,000 at the new middle schools, including Peachtree Middle. (note: Towers & Columbia are the only high schools listed for a Technology allowance - $50,000) I am sure Ms Clary will be happy to furnish you with the meeting notes if you do not have them.

Since both of you are so full of energy & so focused on the proceedings of past SPLOST spending, may I ask a favor of both of you?

First, much like you, Ms. Roberts, my memory (and the documentation I have since October 2001) fail me. I simply cannot find, in board meeting notes, when Columbia was approved for a full renovation. Nor can I find when the work was deferred. I think it reasonable to believe Ms Pope does not/cannot know the history to which you were referring last evening but she is quite sure Columbia was promised a renovation. Please be as vigilant on this item as you were with Peachtree's funding. Out of the 25M for deferred work allocated in SPLOST III, 14M is for work at Columbia. (Including SPLOST II funding, Columbia is slated to cost app. 27M) All I am asking is the dates of board approval & deferral of such a major project.

Secondly, Ms Copelin-Wood -- you have a much better understanding of the funding than I do. Just when SPLOST I was wrapping up & SPLOST II was starting, the AJC wrote an article with the mention of the addition at McNair Middle School. I searched high & low for that item within both budgets and finally found that the 5M spent on McNair Middle was from 410 funds. Examining August,2006 Agenda Item #17 - Capital Outlay Fund 410 Reallocation, except for system wide purchases, most allocations are less than 1M. McNair's construction stands out as an anomaly. How does this 410 funding process work? Why was $5M spent on a McNair Middle School addition while SPLOST II was being formulated and the student census was decreasing?

I hope my information has been helpful. And I hope you can provide me additional information.

Thank you,

Most Sincerely,

Faye Andresen


Ms. Andresen,

Thank you for your letter. Just as you always miss the train of thought on issues being discussed, Monday night's meeting was no exception. You once again missed the whole thing! As a matter of fact, you added points to your lopsided way of thinking that were not even said by me nor Ms. Copelin Wood. You once again used this opportunity to spread your poison. 

I was elected to represent the people in District 7, and I will always do that with honesty, dignity and integrity. I do my home work before, during and after school board meetings, and I read everything. I don't think that I need you to summarize and clarify anything, because you are always off track. It is painful to hear the truth even in the year of 2007, and it is amazing that if there is something that we don't want to hear, especially the truth, we want everyone to play dumb and pretend that we don't know anything different. Well, I am not the one to go along just to get along. I have a rather good memory, and a very good knowledge of how much money was allocated for my schools, as well as other schools in DCSS. I also have records on most of them. For your correct information, I never said anything about Columbia HS being approved for a full renovation, or anything being deferred for Columbia. You need to stop trying to be the "Savior" in chastising and whipping Board members back in line, and before you even make an attempt to do so, ensure that you get the facts, and all of the facts before you take that chance.

By the way, your information in this letter has not been helpful because it is full of errors and omissions, and why do you think that I should provide you with additional information? Who are you anyway? It seems to me that you know it all, since you have designated yourself to try and tell the superintendent, staff and board members what to do. Please get a life Ms. Andresen.

Zepora Roberts
District 7 School Board Representative


From: Faye Andresen []
Sent: Wednesday, February 07, 2007 10:02 AM
Subject: SPLOST response 

Ms Roberts,

Let me be very clear and state that 

  • I am a taxpayer and have a right to be interested in how my tax money is spent  I have served on the SPLOST II Citizen's Review Committee since its inception 
  • You are an elected official who, as I understand it, is pledged to serve all of DeKalb 
  • You publicly requested proof of funding for Peachtree MS Technology - It was your understanding the funding had never been approved 
  • I sent you proof that the funding was allocated in 2004 - citing a board meeting Agenda item specifically 
  • Then I asked you a question- not pertaining to the discussion -- but pertaining to SPLOST funding in general 
  • You have responded with a letter that has attacked my right as a taxpayer, as a citizen, and you have attacked me on a personal level - you have attacked my character and my motives. 
Your letter truly concerns me.

Faye Andresen


To: "Faye Andresen"
Subject: Re: SPLOST response
Date: Wed, 07 Feb 2007 22:18:13 -0500

Ms. Andresen,

Although I am an elected official, I am not obligated to respond to you in any form or fashion, and as of this date, February 7, 2007, I will not waste my time in the future trying to respond to you. Serving on the SPLOST Committee does not make you an expert on anything. Even though you have access to a lot of data, you still have it all wrong. You have forgotten that I served on the first SPLOST Review Committee until I was elected to the board, and we accomplished quite a lot. Frankley, I don't recall you being on that committee. I feel sorry for you, so take your lopsided, twisted thoughts where they belong, to the trash bin. Thank you.

Zepora Roberts
District 7 School Board Representative


Sent : Wednesday, February 7, 2007 8:13 AM
To :
Subject : SPLOST II Confusion
Attachment : 272007_80659_0.png

January 7, 2007

Hello Faye,

It is evident from your e-mail that you are continuing to weave your web of deceitfulness.

It is also apparent that you are most definitely "Confused."

Therefore, let me help you - The Election Is Over - Get Over It.


Sarah Copelin-Wood 


Ms Copelin-Wood,

You accuse me of deceitfulness. This is a serious charge that concerns me greatly. I merely responded to questions raised in the public venue of a board meeting and asked for additional documentation and information concerning funding protocol.
What part of my letter is deceitful?

Faye Andresen


February 26,2007

To SACS Representatives

Approximately 18 months ago I called SACS to inquire as to the possibility of a group of parents/taxpayers lodging a complaint against the DeKalb County Board of Education regarding its lack of proper process and oversight of SPLOST II project spending. I was told that SACS does not involve itself in educational funding issues of this type. With the rumored threat of state intervention, the board did finally decide to conduct a forensic audit and, as things have played out, are in the beginning stages of a lawsuit against Heery-Mitchell.

I am coming to you once again not knowing if SACS touches on this part of the school system but will present my complaints nonetheless. My first complaint concerns responses I received from two board members. Included in this packet is an e-mail exchange between Ms Roberts, Ms Coplin-Wood and myself. Although an acknowledged thorn in their side, I am still a simple resident-taxpayer-parent in DeKalb County; they are elected officials. Not only does what they have written give me cause for concern but the way it was sent – copying administrators and the other board members – demonstrates their feelings of complete impunity from the most basic ethical and legal constructs of elected official behavior. I have no desire to institute a libel lawsuit but find this type of board behavior unacceptable and am looking for a means of putting a halt to such rhetoric… to me or other taxpayers.

My second complaint is that while conforming to the letter of the law, the board’s scheduling of meetings and scheduling of agenda items within meetings does not serve the public well. Having ceased sub-committee meetings months ago, the board frequently meets on any given day, at any given time to receive information from the administration and do just a bit of called-to-order business. Often these meetings are interrupted by closed executive session. Case in point, Called Meeting on January 19th, meeting started at 9:35AM, board listened to an instructional program up-date then adjourned to private session at 9:55AM. The board reconvened at 3:50PM and proceeded to conduct another item of business.

I would not complain if the above meeting was a singular instance of impromptu scheduling but it is not. Throughout the fall while negotiating the Capital Improvement Plan the board scheduled meetings and interrupted meetings with executive sessions on any given day, at any given time. As concerned constituents were marginalized, true information did not filter into communities. Very few parents/taxpayers heard the demographer’s presentation; few followed how the CIP was altered to meet the concerns of the board. Only now, as we move closer to the SPLOST III vote, are many parents becoming aware of the decisions made in December. Many parents have scheduled meetings with school administrators to demonstrate the true needs of their neighborhood school. Many parents discount the demographer’s report and seek to change the plan. Very few parents realize their time to truly affect the plan has passed. The plan was approved by the Board just days before Winter Break… one of the busiest weeks of the year for parents.

Notable also is the fact that the board and administration consistently fail to include details of agenda items on their web-site. A citizen can down-load the agenda but the detailed information is omitted. At the board’s February work session, DeKalb Early College Academy’s possible re-location was a popular 3-minute parent comment topic. On Friday, February 23rd, the board went into executive session at 10:15 AM and resumed the public meeting at 12:15; they adjourned at 1PM. Somewhere in that meeting, the re-location site of DECA was announced and discussed by the board but only the most stalwart of unemployed parent could have attended. And no detailed information – the actual decision – is posted on the board web-site.

The DeKalb County School System faces many challenges. The focus, the priority should be on instruction and I believe SACS plays an important part in keeping school systems focused on instruction. But the DeKalb School System is also a very large public business, 27th largest school system in the U.S. (USA Today.) The system has responsibilities to its public. Its elected officials have responsibilities to its public. I believe DeKalb is failing to meet the requirements of the covenant it has with its taxpayers/ parents in the ways I have discussed. I hope you will take my concerns seriously as you evaluate the system and suggest corrective actions or ways in which the system can improve.

Most sincerely,
Faye Andresen