Thursday, August 26, 2010

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?


Cerebration said...

Emory LaVista Parent Council (ELPC) will meet on Wednesday, Sept. 15th at 9:15 a.m. at Oak Grove Elementary School. Refreshments begin at 8:45 a.m.

Interim Superintendent Ms. Ramona Tyson will be the guest speaker and she will present the State of the System address.

All parents are invited and encouraged to attend.

Bring your opinions!

Anonymous said...

Where is DeKalb's State Rep. Ralph Long who is taking a public stance against Beverly Hall? He even criticized Andrew Young for supporting Hall.

How is that there isn't one member of the DeKalb delegation willing to take such a public stand about DCSS?

Anonymous said...

Indeed there is a leadership vacuum in our community. The current Board of Education sucks. The Central Office Administration is a metastatic cancer killing our schools. And no one from DeKalb's elected officials says anything. Not one elected county official addresses this. Board members are silent. Not one elected state rep or state senator speaks out. There is literally (and figuratively) no leadership in our community where our public schools are concerned. None.

And there is no Superman who will fly in and save our schools. It's up to each of us -- individually -- to do it.

And if we don't do it, no one will.

Cerebration said...


The DeKalb Board of Education will hold a called meeting at 10:00am, Friday, August 27, 2010, in the Board Room at the DeKalb County School System's Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain.



1. Extension of Services of Jeff Dickerson
Presented by: Ms. Ramona H. Tyson, Interim Superintendent

It is requested that the DeKalb Board of Education adjourn the August 27, 2010
called meeting to a Committee of the Whole

1. 2020 Vision Facilities Master Plan
Presented by: Ms. Ramona H. Tyson, Interim Superintendent

(QUESTIONS -- Who is Jeff Dickerson? And what's up with this 2020 "Master Plan"?)

Anonymous said...

PR firm - closely aligned with Beverly Hall. Please don't tell me this is the PR firm DCSS is hiring?

Anonymous said...

Oh, and guess where is head of Public Relations?

New Birth Missionary Baptist Church

Anonymous said...

Another called board meeting? Good grief. Cerebration is right. All this BOE and Administration do is put out fires.

How is it possible that our buildings weren't ready, with all air conditioning working, by the beginning of the school year? Why don't we have enough text books to go around? Just two of thousands of questions/concerns.

Dekalbparent said...

Info on Jeff Dickerson:

As Anon said, he is head of PR for New Birth, as well as having worked for APS (don't know if he still does). Specialty is crisis communications.

As an aside, I was reading another Google finding on Dickerson and his association with New Birth, and I was reminded that Bishop Long is an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and Bernice King, an elder in the church, participated in demonstrations opposing it, calling it a "sin against God".

I do not associate Dickerson with this, but it's another reason I am extremely uncomfortable with the close relationship between New Birth and DCSS.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 8:25
"How is that there isn't one member of the DeKalb delegation willing to take such a public stand about DCSS?"

Do you think the fact that Ron Ramsey, state senator is part of the superintendent's "Cabinet"?

Anonymous said...

"How is it possible that our buildings weren't ready, with all air conditioning working, by the beginning of the school year? Why don't we have enough text books to go around? Just two of thousands of questions/concerns."

Instead of "observing" teachers at work, maybe some of Dr. Beasley's staff could scrape up some books for students or find out why classrooms don't have air conditioning.

LOL - I'll bet his "observers" won't stay long in rooms without air conditioning. They'll be sweating so much they'll be glad to get back to their air conditioned offices.

Anonymous said...

Never even crossed my mind. What was I thinking. Of course, this is why no DeKalb legislator takes a stand.

Anonymous said...

Found this article from 1988. Seems like this has been a problem in DCSS for a while.

School Board Studies More Staffing Cuts - Consultant Focuses His Attention On Second-Tier Administrators
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution - Thursday, September 1, 1988
Author: WATTS, ROBERT ANTHONY , Robert Anthony Watts Staff Writer : DeKalb

DeKalb county school system is considering personnel cuts among second-tier administrators.

The shakeup for DeKalb County school administrators isn't over yet. More personnel cuts may be on the way.

The compensation committee of the DeKalb County Board of Education, having previously examined and finding inequities in the pay scale for top-level school administrators, is back at it again. This time the committee is reviewing the duties of second-tier administrators, people below the level of assistant principal. They earn from $20,000 to $45,000 a year.

More than 200 school system instructional coordinators, assistant coordinators, assistant department directors, and supervisors fall into this category. And Richard Henderson, a personnel consultant hired by the school board to conduct the review, says that some radical changes may be needed in these positions.

"I've got some ideas that things are way wrong," said Dr. Henderson, speaking to members of the compensation committee at its August 25 meeting. Dr. Henderson added that his views were still preliminary but said his early impressions were that some jobs could be combined and that some administrators were being va stly overpaid.

He singled out special education as an area seemed particularly unclear. Many administrators, he said, held the same job titles but seemed to perform vastly varying amounts of work.

"As you heard . . . the consultant feels very strongly that there are some weak spots on there," said school board member David Williamson, who is chairman of the compensation committee. "And as the board looks at these, we may well say 5 more 10 more or 30 more positions," should be eliminated, Mr. Williamson said.

Following the previous evaluation of 270 high-level officials, the DeKalb County school board approved in June a new pay scale for 270 of its top administrators, for positions all the way down to the level of assistant principals.

The board, based on the work of the compensation committee, also ordered in June Superintendent Robert R. Freeman to eliminate 20 top-level jobs within two years

Anonymous said...

Even forgetting the New Birth connection, and I find that hard to do, Dickerson really messed something up for Beverly Hall in the last week or two.


Anonymous said...


Where can I go to find the meeting agenda that you posted on this thread?
Are there no items A,B,C?
I would like to be able to find this information out for myself.
Sagamore 7

Cerebration said...

Oh!! Our new PR firm! (Do we have any kind of spokesperson? Or are we still relying on Tyson for info - you know, Ramona Tyson who stated up front that she was not going to speak with the media?)

Personally, I think they are more interested in his experience with the AJC -- they could use the insight...

Dickerson served more than 25 years as a journalist, including 17 years on the editorial board of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He was also op-ed page editor at The Detroit News.

Cerebration said...

@ Anon 11:53 - Anyone interested can send an email to board secretary Margaret Francois


and ask to be added to the email list. You will get all of the board announcements and meeting agendas.

(Items ABC are just the list of board members and the call to order... blah blah...)

Cerebration said...

Very interesting historical article Anon - good find!

This part is interesting -

The compensation committee of the DeKalb County Board of Education, having previously examined and finding inequities in the pay scale for top-level school administrators, is back at it again

Do we even have a compensation committee today???

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration 12:10

This sounds suspiciously like the Ernst and Young 2004 audit summary which said we over pay 2500 non-teaching personnel by close to $15,000,000 a year.

What do they do with these audits and studies? It seems like they have an audit which says we over pay non-teaching personnel, the superintendent and the BOE ignore it, and then they go on to add friends and family to the non-teaching group and increase their pay, and the audit has conveniently disappeared from public view.

How many times does this have to be repeated? Maybe taxpayers are watching now. I would not let this BOE and administration be in control of any auditing however. Too many friends and family involved.

Cerebration said...

It sure does seem that way. And sadly, I think they are well aware that most taxpayers pay very little attention to what the school board and administration does. They don't even realize that fully 70% of their property tax bill goes to schools - as they hound the county over the other 30%...

Anonymous said...

Who is coming to our rescue?? Too little, way too late!

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 12:27 pm

Regarding the article you posted a link to:

"State legislators are stepping in to help DeKalb schools salvage the district’s accreditation.

On Thursday, the DeKalb delegation announced the formation of the DeKalb school board legislative review committee to assist the school system with responding to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The committee will also help the school board with its search for a new superintendent, said state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur)."

How many people want to bet that state Senator Ramsey, part of the superintendent's Cabinet, is trying to make the SACS investigation go away?

Is Ron Ramsey on the committee that will be "helping" DCSS with its search for a new superintendent? That seems like a clear conflict of interest for him. Does anyone know who is on that committee? I'll bet some posters know Mary Margaret Oliver well enough to ask her.

Anonymous said...

Cere has asked so many not to refer to New Birth as a mafia. I concur, however it's really tough to not think that the fine leadership at New Birth controls what Tyson and her gang at DCSS does!

It's amazing to me that these folks have not figured out that we're watching so closely. No wonder Jeff has not been the front man of the responses by DCSS. Jeff is obviously behind the scenes helping out Ms. Tyson with her responses. I'm glad she found someone with experience in crisis PR management, but did she have to go to New Birth to find that person?

Do these folks ever figure it out? Sometimes I think they do not read this blog as well as others. Hey Jeff, want to find out the pulse of the community? Just come here and read for yourself!


Hey BOE you are on notice and I suggest you start looking for people outside DCSS and DeKalb County. What is the DCSS leadership thinking?

I wonder if Ms. Tyson has talked to DeKalb PLanning about their 202o Vision PLan? As of 2 years ago, no one at DCSS has ever spoken to DeKalb planning about their zoning changes. it took my wife and I to actually go to Decatur and talk with those folks about the lack of communication between DCSS and the County Planning Dept. Cere, we have proof!

Anonymous said...

Take a look at Maureen Downey's ajc Get Schooled blog - new article:

State enters DeKalb mess, but is the help needed? Can’t county deal with its own school problems?

Anonymous said...

Lay off Jeff. He is a stakeholder since he lives in the community. he has worked for the AJC and is a regular on the Georgia Gang. We should want DCSS to have someone like Jeff handling the media now as those who were in that role earlier did not do a good job of crisis management. He may be able to leverage past relationships to help with the stories that appear in the AJC. At the end of the day, no citizen should want bad news about our district constantly in the media since we live here. If it does appear, there should be a balance with the story.

So what he has New Birth as a client. That has nothing to do with him helping the school district with their messaging to the community.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, really, Jeff has done a real bang-up job for Beverly Hall and APS....

Cerebration said...

Obviously -- OBVIOUSLY - Ron Ramsey is in a conflict of interest. He needs to go. Somehow it just doesn't add up -- he works his magic at the Capitol as a state senator - often involved in educational issues. Then, the remainder of the year, he supposedly investigates the school system he works for. I don't know - I just don't see any big deal investigating that can be traced back to Ramsey. All we hear about is him blocking investigations. He is a major impediment to clearing the corruption and bloat.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure the meeting tomorrow is for specifics, I think it it to provide a broad overview and an update on current SPLOST projects and where we stand today and where we are going from here.

More than demographic projections, which will be hard to do in this economy, I want to make sure that our facility inventory is well done. Prior to SPLOST III, the system asked principals to do their own facility needs forms. Some principals did a bang up job, some did ok, and some did nothing. There was no follow up from Pope and her people. None.

My understanding is that construction professionals will do the needs assessment this time. We must make sure this happens.

No Duh said...

If we get any cozier with New Birth, Eddie Long will be the next DCSS Superintendent.

At least we wouldn't have to worry about bad PR a la Beverly Hall and her personal driver -- he can take his lear jet from South to North DeKalb county. Imagine the per diem the taxpayers would pay on that baby!

Is Dickerson a freelance PR guy who has New Birth as a client or the staff PR guy for New Birth? Sad to think a church has a PR staff...

Anonymous said...

Jeff was an apologist for Bill Campbell, many times for Vernon Jones and Burrell Ellis. I never knew tthat he represented Dr Hall. He defended her on last wee's Georgia Gang but he did not say that he was being paid by her as a client

Anonymous said...

So was Julie Rhame let go in order to hire Jeff Dickerson. I'm confused. Who is he and how much are taxpayers paying him?

Anonymous said...

I don't know what Dickerson is getting paid now, here is the info on his extension:

"It is requested that the Board of Education approve an extension of the Memorandum of Understanding with Jeff Dickerson, for its public relations services, beginning September 1, 2010 through October 15, 2010, at a total cost of $18,750."

Cerebration said...

Well, gee - that's only $3,125 a week... a bargain.


Anonymous said...

To get taxpayers to ignore what's going on in DCSS will take more than PR at this point.

Maureen Downey says in Get Schooled today that she's lived in DeKalb County for 20 years. I guess our problems are her problems.

Anonymous said...

Was Julie Rhame one of the people laid off? She was actually the only really good person in the communications department. Why not just hire her back?

Oh, sorry. She's very talented. I imagine that--even in this economy--she's already found another job.

Anonymous said...

As an educator in Georgia the tern union always rubs me the wrong way. We have no unions in Georgia. We do have professional organizations with limited membership and even more limited power. In a way the GAE is little more than a lobbying group and a voting block. They also offer legal help in exchange for dues. BUt those systems with real unions are often better overall in regards to education than those without. Critics on the right would like people to believe there are school unions everywhere. I am a NEA/GAE/Ode member but I am often at odds with some of the policies they support. In all bad administrators and boards are more of the cause of lousy education than bad teachers.

Be True to Your School said...

Cere --

Regarding Rom Ramsey, take a look at his sponsored legislation record. It is there for every year he has been in the Georgia General Assembly. You can also see his votes. Go to:

Mostly Ramsey is all fluff. Nothing of substance. Lot of legislative "recognitions", etc.

Ramsey is simply there to double-dip and pick up another paycheck for the 40 days a year that he is warming a seat in the Georgia General Assembly -- and NOT on the job at DCSS. DCSS pays Robert Tucker to keep Ramsey's seat warm at DCSS -- his $2,000 seat!

Even more amazing, take a look at his "full" bio. He was first elected in 2006. His bio says, "Sen. Ramsey has a successful career as a federal government
investigator and attorney." No mention at all of his full-time employment with DCSS.

We have asked about this double-dipping and gotten no response. We have asked about his use of a DCSS car and gotten no response.

Cerebration said...

What's the saying "as valuable as something on a warthog?"

uh huh.

Anonymous said...

Of course Briarlake parents had to replace their 20 year old playground. Sam Moss staff is incapable of putting facilities and amenities on a rotation to renovate and replace. The Sam Moss staff is almost as bad at their jobs as is MIS. If you want anything done with your child's school, do it yourself, because the Central Office, Sam Moss, MIS, school police, Dept. of Internal Affairs, are incapable of doing so.

Anonymous said...

Definite conflict of interest with jeff. He represents the New Birth gang, which is making over $120,000 in rent from DCSS. Let's go name the sleeveless and gay/lesbian basher Eddie Long as superintendent.

Anonymous said...

Anyone have more info. about the 1900 hours in overtime over one pay period because Sam Moss staff, MIS, etc. were so far behind getting our schools ready. That's a cool $500,000 for a school system facing a budget crisis.

Cerebration said...

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

Upcoming Meetings:

October 20: Briarlake Elementary School
Topic: Governance

November 17: Medlock Elementary School
Topic: Redistricting

To receive our notices, send an email to
or visit our web page

Anonymous said...

This came from someone who works at the sam moss center , they have over 60 thousand work orders not completed. If this is true no wonder they had to pay out all that over time, but how does this help the budget. something is not right about this. That entire center at sam moss need someone to do a overhaul.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like we need people to better run the Sam Moss Center. What are all of those work orders for? Are they for things that our staff is even able to do (having seen these guys in action, this is a very serious question)? If not, why are we not getting rid of these people and hiring a company that can do the work and get it done in a timely matter? These guys had all summer to get work done, why isn't it done? How can PTA's help their schools? How can the foundations that are popping up all over the county help their schools with these maintenance issues? There is no reason why our schools are not in better shape?

Anonymous said...

Also were those people really working for that over time? I often see these guys shooting the breeze in our schools with our janitors, sleeping in their trucks, or coming out of developments where there are not schools. I would want the proof that these guys have been actually working for this money and not just trying to skim money after the pay cut that they have taken again this year.

David Montane said...

This "Superman" post mentions "Check Register Online". Fantastic idea -- we need that! A non-partisan committee I am forming, "Citizens Auditing DeKalb Schools" (CADS), plans to get the check register, hopefully through the cooperation of BOE, but if not, through the Open Records Act. Come to our orientation meeting at The Famous Pub on Tuesday Sept 7 at 7:00 PM to decide if you want to participate. E-mail me at for more info.

Cerebration said...

Here's what "The Hollywood Reporter" has to say about "Waiting for Superman" -

How did 'Superman' fly with the D.C. elite?