Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Things to remember at the polls
Re: Jim Redovian -
According to the AJC, "Board members Eugene Walker, Zepora Roberts, Sarah Copelin-Wood and Jim Redovian said they are looking at raising the millage rate by amounts varying between half a mill and 2 mills." At two recent forums, Redovian would not publicly agree to holding the millage rate.
Redovian voted to take away teachers’ Board of Education TSAs (the retirement legs that replaced their Social Security), increase their class sizes and furlough them.
He was the swing vote (Cunningham, Walker, Copelin-Wood, Roberts, Redovian) to give a contract for legal service to Alexander & Associates - in addition to the contract given to the very diverse Sutherland firm. This was a blatant waste of taxpayers’ money - nearly a gift to Alexander. With the special projects, outside the scope of their contractual fees, Alexander bills DeKalb along with our lawyers from Sutherland; so we are essentially charged twice for the same work.
In response to questions at Tuesday night’s DHA Candidate Forum, he stated that “Things aren’t that bad in DeKalb. We’re doing pretty well.” At the Thursday DCPC Forum, upon being presented with the AYP data again, he stated, “He didn’t believe it.” The data was pulled from the Georgia DOE website!
When asked if he favored moving the magnet programs to a “central” location (meaning Avondale in all likelihood) he said “YES!” He said this with no knowledge of a mapping of the location of those students within the county.
Redovian gave a TV interview and decried nepotism in the same week he voted (the board voted unanimously) to approve the new promotion of a cabinet member’s daughter to principal at a struggling high school in need of strong, experienced leadership.
Redovian stated at a DHA Board meeting that you could visit his website at, “I suck dot com.”
Re: Gene Walker -
(Regarding State Rep. Kevin Lavitas' ethics bill) "There’s much more important things [Levitas] should be working on."
“I am a very, very race-conscious person,” Walker said in October 2009. “I will never ever try to lead you to believe that I am race-neutral. I see color. I appreciate color. I celebrate color and I love color. But judge me by my actions.”
One of his actions, while on the Development Authority, was to accept $20,000 from a developer, Sembler Corp, for his school board campaign. We later find out that he is pushing for a tax break for the Sembler Corp's development near Brookhaven Marta. This involves sacrificing the collection over $50 million - in school tax! And then of course, there are those ethical conflicts regarding the Sembler Company's campaign contributions and sexual harassment complaints (one resulting in a $190,000 settlement by the state.)
Re: Jay Cunningham -
As reported in the AJC - Documents show that Cunningham’s restaurants collected $3,077 from schools in the five years before he joined the school board, compared to at least $22,655 in the three and a half years after. That doesn't seem as important to me as the fact that Jay has a previously undisclosed criminal history for theft from McDonald's, where he worked as manager and more recently for three alleged accusations of violence.
Additionally, he led the insistence to retain the Alexander law firm - costing the school system an additional million and he led the charge to continue to spend millions on the magnet transportation hubs while voting to cut school staff such as parapros, media clerks and CTSS technicians at regular schools. Jay continues to carve and support a racial divide on the school board.
Re: Sarah Copelin-Wood -
The second board member to be reprimanded in less than a month (for insulting comments she made about the interim superintendent and another school employee), earlier, Sarah oddly interfered in the Citizen's Task Force, committed to studying attendance and recommending school consolidations.
According to the AJC, Wood made phone calls and pitted one school against the other in her own district. I think that’s very wrong,” Coward said Saturday. “She’s supposed to represent all of the schools in her district.”
Reached at her home on Saturday, Copelin-Wood denied the allegations and refused to answer some questions.
“This is a lie,” said Copelin-Wood, who represents District 3. “The person who would do that was mad they didn’t get their way. I don’t have to answer to them.”
“As a board member, she [Copelin-Wood] has the responsibility to stay neutral and not make this a racial issue because it was not a racial issue,” Coward said. “But she kept making comments about black and white task force members.”
Re: Zepora Roberts - (in her 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.”
“I don’t trust the people that’s going to be drawing the school board members,” Roberts said (referring to the state). “If we approve this, we’re doomed.”
“Now the only thing that he [David Schutten - president of ODE] does is fly all over the country, spending your hard-earned dues trying to be a high roller, hobnobbing with important people.”
“Your president [David Schutten] keeps getting bolder and bolder with his nasty antics and disrespect.”
In response to a parent's question regarding SPLOST spending:
"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."
And finally, to a news reporter asking Zepora about her family members employed by the school system: "I have no more comments to say to you and don't you come near me or I am going to slug you."
Below is my never-ending, over-arching comment for us all to keep in mind during our discussions and decisions:
DCSS maintains a "scarcity" mentality, meaning there isn't enough basic supply of ANYTHING to go around, so everyone ends up pitting against each other to demand morsels and crumbs - while noticing that many of the favorites seem never to want for anything. I will make a personal pledge not to fall into the trap. I will look beyond the petty squabbles, and only focus on the big budgets, the big bloat and the big waste - which by and large is found in the Central Office and not really in schools.
We have to stick together and not let them divide us or we'll look like third world people lined up at the back of the truck fighting over the free rice delivery, while the leaders feast on fine food and wine. It's a trap to throw attention away from the real problem -- waste and bloat - and I'm not biting anymore.
Please consider this when voting for the person you will entrust with our annual billion dollar budget.
This is a very important decision. Character counts!
Saturday, October 30, 2010
The “Problem” With Transparency
In a nutshell – the “problem” with transparency is that it is frightening to anyone in DCSS – BOE member and/or administrator – who has something to hide. Transparency makes it crystal clear – no pun intended – that the emperor has no clothes.
Per Anonymous, 3:26 PM, 10/29/2010: “I asked my Board rep (one of the four not up for re-election) what his opinion of the open check register was, and he said that he was sick and tired of all this ‘transparency’ stuff. It is just one more thing that the ‘bloggers’ are bringing up to mess things up.”
Hmmm … this sounds a whole lot like Don McChesney. Although, it also has Paul Womack’s tone, minus the edge of profanity. Both should resign. Unfortunately, neither one is up for re-election until 2012.
On October 6, 2010, I wrote to the entire BOE and asked why the October 6 called meeting to discuss major financial matters was not televised on PDS-24.
- Jim Redovian, my BOE representative, did not respond. Typical. Jim’s attitude toward constitutents is just one reason – of many! – why I have voted for Nancy Jester. She is knowledgeable, interested, capable, has valuable professional skills and she responds promptly.
- Zepora Roberts did respond: “I don't know. I will forward your email on to our interim superintendent, Mrs. Ramona Tyson, and staff, to give you a response. Thanks.” To date – for 23 days – no response from Ramona Tyson or anyone else on her staff.
- But, Don McChesney’s clueless response takes the cake: “This was an open and public meeting which you could attend. Please check our website for posting of meetings so you can arrange your schedule to attend.”
Here was my response to Don:
“Thank you for the suggestion, Don.
“Currently, I am medical leave from my job with a debilitating back problem that makes walking extremely difficult, painful and somewhat dangerous. I am certain I am not the only handicapped person who is interested in the DCSS BOE meetings, but unable to be there in person.
“When I go back to work, which I am expecting to do, I will not be able to go to daytime meetings because I will be on the job.
“Let me assure you, it is not laziness on my part or an inability to “arrange my schedule” that made it impossible for me to go to Wednesday's meeting and will make it impossible for me to attend non-work-related daytime meetings when I go back to work.
“However, I do have television access -- at home and at work. It seems like broadcasting all BOE meetings over PDS-24 and podcasting would be the open and transparent thing for the DCSS BOE to do.
“How may I get a copy of minutes of the Wednesday, October 6, 2010 meeting, please?
“Thank you, again, for your response. I know you did not mean to be insensitive to a handicapped person -- but you were.”
To date: no response from McChesney. That includes no answer to my question about how I may get a copy of the minutes of the meeting. They certainly aren't available at e-Board.
Don McChesney seems oblivious to the fact that most taxpayers must work these days. Maybe I should have begun my e-mail to him with that very obvious fact?
Since McChesney suggests that I “just arrange” my schedule to attend board meetings, then may we assume that he would have no issue with teachers and others employed by DCSS “just arranging” their schedules to be at BOE meetings (including daytime meetings) and other meetings in which they have a vested interest? How about it, teachers?
Or, does it make more sense – good financial sense – to fully utilize PDS-24? Use PDS-24 to open up DCSS (day meetings, night meetings, called meetings, committee meetings, retreats), encourage transparency, and engage all stakeholders: taxpayers, parents, teachers, community members and – yes – students! Use PDS-24 to “pay for its keep” and let it partner in fully demonstrating the democratic process, community service and ethical, honorable behavior.
(Of course, it wouldn't hurt to make the minutes of all BOE meetings publicly available. When I requested minutes, I was told they were available only through an open records request.)
Part of the democratic process is to “Throw the bums out!” when transparency shows a complete breakdown in ethics, honesty, service, good judgment, commitment and honorable behavior on the part of elected officials.
Apparently the only ones who have a “problem” with transparency are those who have something to hide – or who support those with something to hide.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Friends of DeKalb Schools survey school board candidates about posting check register online
In an unusual display of camaraderie, free-market activists calling for the separation of school and state have joined forces with parents seeking to raise the quality of their children’s public school education and teachers struggling with administrative overgrowth and misuse of funds, in the common goal of creating transparency in school spending.
Friends of DeKalb Schools is a non-partisan committee organized by the Libertarian Party of DeKalb to encourage the Board of Education to bring transparency to the local public school system. The DeKalb County School System has over 14,000 employees and an annual budget of over $1.2 Billion (down from a high of $1.7 Billion).
The Friends of DeKalb Schools committee has discovered that one good way to obtain the desired transparency is to gently persuade the elected members of the Board of Education (BOE) to follow the lead of 800+ schools in 36 states across the country – including all public school systems in our neighboring states of Alabama and South Carolina – and take action to post the school system’s check register online.
The committee feels this issue is the perfect “litmus test” for the BOE candidates in the upcoming general election. We asked all the candidates to respond to the simple question, "What are your feelings regarding posting the school system's check register online?" The candidates responses ranged from Nancy Jester’s answer of “YES!” and blogging about her commitment to make this happen, to incumbent Sarah Copelin-Woods’ total non-response after two phone messages and an e-mail from one of her constituents on the committee. Below are the results of our survey.
Friends of DeKalb Schools
David Montané, Committee Chair
Mobile phone: 404-276-8701
Thursday, October 28, 2010
SACS will either visit or investigate DeKalb schools
By Megan Matteucci
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A school regulatory agency will visit DeKalb County schools to ensure the district is meeting national accreditation standards, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution learned late Thursday.
The school system’s accreditation is safe for now, but the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools told the district they have concerns. On Thursday, SACS told DeKalb officials to expect a visit before Feb. 1.
Or read the other post on the same subject --
By Megan Matteucci
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
DeKalb County schools’ accreditation is safe for now, but the school system will undergo a national probe.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools decided Thursday night to investigate the school system, citing several areas of concern. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned that SACS will visit in February.
To download the letter from SACS in response to DCSS's formal answers to SACS questions, click here.
UPDATE - The new headline at the AJC reads, "SACS will evaluate DeKalb schools". So that's it - they're not investigating or visiting - they're "evaluating".
The school system’s accreditation is safe for now, but the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools told the district they have concerns that must be addressed by early 2012. On Thursday, SACS told DeKalb officials to expect the first visit before Feb. 1.
“This visit is focused on helping them move forward in the challenges they face,” SACS’ president and CEO Mark A. Elgart told the AJC. “They are in a state of uncertainty. They have lingering legal matters. They have an interim superintendent and potential changes in board makeup because of the election.”
Elgart said the review has not reached the level of a full-scale investigation similar to several other systems now under scrutiny, but said SACS has some serious concerns.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Opine on policies please
Even though the election is next week, the business of the DeKalb Board of Education continues.
We are in the thirty day public comment period for proposed changes to existing board policies.
The policies currently up for discussion are:
The following policy(s) are currentlypending and available for public comment
AA - School District Legal Status
AB - School Board Legal Status
ABA - Board Authority
ABB - Board Powers and Duties
ABC - Board Member Legal Status
ABD - School Superintendent Legal Status
BH - Board Code of Ethics
BHA - Board Member Conflict of Interest
GAD - Professional Development Opportunities
JDF - Teacher Authority to Remove Students from Classrooms
I expect that the policies of most interest to readers of this blog are Board Code of Ethics and Board Member Conflict of Interest but glance at them all, if you have time. Please feel free to share your comments and concerns with us!
"Courage in Women is Often Mistaken for Insanity"
My mother was born only a year after women won the right to vote. Women had been voting across our country for only 26 years when I was born.
Women's suffrage is the right of women to vote and to run for office without any restrictions or qualifications such as property ownership, payment of tax, or marital status. Women’s suffrage is explicitly stated as a right under the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women adopted by the United Nations in 1979. During the beginning of the 20th century, as women's suffrage gained in popularity, suffragists were subject to arrests and many were jailed. Finally, despite President Woodrow Wilson's opposition, Congress passed what became, when it was ratified in 1920, the 19th Amendment which prohibited state and federal agencies from gender-based restrictions on voting.
Below is an article that was sent to me by a friend. I do not know where it originated. It can be disturbing to read, but if you are a woman or are related to women, you should read this. And remember it the next time you think it is too rainy, too cold or too inconvenient to go vote – or you think that your vote won’t make a difference. It does! (At the bottom of this article – thanks to Representative Mike Jacobs! – is a list of places in the north DeKalb area where you may vote early all of this week.)
“Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.”
This is the story of our Mothers, Grandmothers, and Great-Grandmothers who lived only 90 years ago. Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.
The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed, nonetheless, for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of “obstructing sidewalk traffic.”
They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.
They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack.
Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.
Thus unfolded the 'Night of Terror' on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food--all of it colorless slop--was infested with worms.
When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.
So, refresh my memory. Some women won't vote this year because--why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining?
Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's new movie 'Iron Jawed Angels.' It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.
All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.
My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women's history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was--with herself. “One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,” she said. “What would those women think of the way I use, or don't use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.”
The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her “all over again.”
HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum. I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn't our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.
It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy.
The doctor admonished the men: “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.”
Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know.
An interesting side note: Even though President Wilson opposed giving women the right to vote, his second wife, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, has been labeled “the Secret President” and “the first woman to run the government” for the role she played when her husband suffered prolonged and disabling illness after a stroke in October 1919. Some even refer to her as “the first female president of the United States.” Mrs. Wilson, instead of the Vice President, took over many routine duties and details of government. She carefully screened all matters of state and decided which were important enough to bring to the bedridden president. Many believe that this led directly to the 25th Amendment to the
Convenient Early Voting Starts TODAY, October 25th
*** PLEASE NOTE THE CORRECTED (from an earlier e-mail) LOCATION OF
Early voting for the General Election is today, Monday, through Friday -- October 25 through October 29. The General Election is November 2, a week from tomorrow, but you can vote this week, Monday through Friday, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., at any of the following locations that are relatively near our community:
Chamblee Civic Center
DeKalb County Fire Headquarters
Training Conference Room
1950 West Exchange Place
Tucker, GA 30084
*** CORRECTED LOCATION FROM PREVIOUS E-MAIL ***
The Chamblee Civic Center, which is between Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and the train tracks in the heart of the City of Chamblee, is a particularly convenient place to vote during the upcoming week, whenever it suits your schedule, without encountering a wait at your regular polling location on Election Day.
Please remember to bring photo identification with you when you vote.
Sample Ballot for the General Election
Need some help?
- Here is DeKalb's countywide sample ballot for the upcoming General Election.
- Or, go to the Georgia Secretary of State’s “My Voter Page” website to retrieve a sample ballot specific to your polling location.
- Finally, look at the League of Women Voters' unbiased Voter Guide based on a questionnaire sent to every candidate. Be sure to note who did not care enough about voters to even respond. If a candidate doesn’t care enough to respond when seeking your vote, you can bet that there will be even less inclination to respond once in office.
- If you have questions about the constitutional amendments that always seem to make their way onto a ballot, go to Representative Mike Jacobs’ website for clear and understandable explanations.
Me? I’ve done all that. Now I am just going to print out my marked ballot for easy reference and go vote!
Inform yourself and Vote! It is your privilege … your hard-won right … and your obligation as a citizen.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
A Major Shocker on a current BOE member and Other News
State paid $190,00 to settle earlier sex harassment
Would Gene Walker have beaten Earnest Brown in their run-off if this was public knowledge? Would eduKALB have just endorsed Gene Walker over Ella Smith if they knew about these past incidents? Does eduKALB do any kind of background checks at all?
More DeKalb school board candidates have arrest records
Records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday show District 3 candidate Corey Wilson was accused of kicking his wife and putting her in a headlock in 2006. However, she later decided to not prosecute.
Wilson and his wife both referred comments to campaign spokesman Will Sellers.
“It was an argument over a financial matter. There was no physical contact,” Sellers told the AJC. “His mother had just passed away and emotions were running high. But the important thing is he was not convicted and there was no violence.”
However, courts records show Okevia Wilson's teenage daughter witnessed Corey Wilson's attack. Corey Wilson was charged with two counts of simple battery and two counts of violating the state’s family violence act, all misdemeanors.
Okevia Wilson’s daughter called police after she awoke to the sounds of a fight, she told police.She came downstairs and saw Corey Wilson holding her mother in a headlock and kicking her, according to a police report.
The couple told police the dispute started over a ticket to a football game. It ended with Corey Wilson going to jail.
Corey Wilson was scheduled for trial a year later, but his wife signed an affidavit saying she did not want to prosecute. The solicitor's office dropped the charges, but a judge still ordered Corey Wilson to attend a domestic violence intervention program.
DeKalb school board candidate Corey E. Wilson: Response coming tomorrow. It ought to be today.
Today's AJC metro has a Metro front page exclusive on the BOE's Jay Cunningham (this is BIG, and more great press for our embattled Board of Education):
"School Official's Record Surfaces"
Three-decade old felony taints Cunningham even more
The AJC article has four major points:
-Cunningham has never disclosed in any of his campaigns that in 1982, he pleaded guilty to stealing $12,500 in bank deposits from the McDonald's where he WAS STORE MANAGER! Instead of jail time, lucky for him he received six years probation instead of the 10 years in prison he could have received.
-In the past 2 years, on three different occasions police had to respond to complaints that "Cunningham engaged in threatening or violent behavior", including one with a DCSS parent. Wow. He was accused in 2008 of punching a man in the head OUTSIDE A CHURCH and pulling a gun on the same man on a separate occasion. Also, a school parent told police Cunningham threatened her at a 2009 cheerleading booster club meeting (?).
-Cunningham's attorney is Dwight Thomas. Thomas is Vernon Jones' attorney who famously called a female the same night the woman accused Vernon Jones of rape after then Chief of Police Lou Graham gave Thomas the accuser's phone number (an incredible breach of ethical behavior, and it's unfathomable that Graham and Thomas weren't criminally charged let alone Thomas losing his license to practice law).
-Cunningham's website claims he worked for McDonald's Corp for 26 years. That's kind of impossible, and if he did work for McDonald's for 26 years before the 1982 arrest, he'd have to be at least 72 years old!!
Here is an AJC Get Schooled blog post on Cunningham and his opponents:
DeKalb District 5: Incumbent Jesse “Jay” Cunningham faces two opponents in Kirk Nooks and Jacques Hall
Articles on Cunningham's pizza businesses doing business with DCSS schools:
In other DCSS news:
Ex-DeKalb School Board Member Accused Of Bribery
Porn found on DeKalb Teacher's computer
DeKalb’s District 3 and District 9 races: School board incumbents face challengers
Only two School Board incumbents land endorsements
"Early Voting at a high" -Today's Metro section page 6 has an article about the DCSS BOE with this eye opening quote from State Senator Emanual Jones: "I think our incumbents will be voted out". Another wow.
Finally, the Brookhaven Reporter is doing a nice job covering the Chamblee High story:
Revamped facility, or brand-new high school?
-Chamblee High could receive funds to rebuild
No more furloughs
Full-time DeKalb County schools employees will get an equal share of $14.6 million as part of education funding offered through a federal program, school officials said Friday.
In addition to allowing employees the choice between a retirement fund contribution or a lump-sum check, the district will end any furloughs scheduled for the remainder of the 2010-2011 school year, officials said.
“It sounds like [the board] came up with a solution that everybody gets something out of this, especially the people that are living at the poverty level,” said David Schutten, president of the Organization of DeKalb Educators.
The district received $18.3 million from the Education Jobs Act Funding, $10 billion in education assistance being given to states that must be used for staff.
Friday, October 22, 2010
DCSS Budget, Finance and Facilities Meeting 10-21-10
Ms. Tyson opened the meeting thanking Mrs. Jackson for meeting with Ms Tyson and her staff last spring and strengthening the relationship between DCSS and GADOE.
Facilities Service Unit of GAOE :
Lynn Jackson began with explaining her department’s role:
- Long range planning with the school systems
- Help school systems to acquire funding.
- Review to make sure new construction to is safe and adequate for instructional needs
DCSS is losing 184 students per year.
By law, each school system has to develop a Long-range facilities plan to be updated every 5 years. This plan is required for school system to be eligible for state funds. This plan should be adhered to with no “knee-jerk changes”. Any changes to the plan need to be approved by the BOE and forwarded to Ms. Jackson’s department.
June thru August is when school systems submit their applications for state funding. The funding requests must cover projects that are in the school systems current facilities plan as submitted to the GADOE. (my comment: you can see why DCSS cannot wait for a new Super to get the redistricting, consolidation/closing plan in place. If the system wants to be able to request state funds this all has to be in place by June.)
The current School Organization and Justification plan for DCSS, submitted 3 years ago, is “all over the place” according to Ms. Jackson.
The plan DCSS submitted 3 years ago contained the following FTE plans:
1. Why would a school system ever plan for schools below the minimum enrollment needed to earn FTE?
2. Wadsworth Magnet ES and DSA are both facilities that jumped out at me that are under the minimum FTE count. How to increase enrollment in these facilities?
Also, Ms. Jackson made the point that schools must have a minimum of 450 to qualify for specials such as Art, Music. Are you listening DCSS BOE????
Ms. Jackson made the comment more than once that is may be better to close older facilities than to keep contributing money and resources to renovate these buildings.
• Pre-K is not part of the FTE count
• Pre-K rooms are counted as surplus rooms by the GADOE
• Pre-K space is not funded via Capital Outlay
Will this become an issue? Will DCSS look to discontinue the Pre-K program in DCSS, which has the longest waiting list for Pre-K students in the state of GA?
When school system deems a facility is too old and it will cost more to upkeep than it is worth.
Once a facility has been phased-out it can longer be used for FTE purposes; Pre-K; Lease to Charter
If area repopulates, DOE may allow building to be used temporary with promise of new facility. Hooper ES was an example of a building that has been “phased-out”.
A question was asked if population changes in a certain area can the facility that was phased-out be reopened by DCSS. The answer was “No”. The reason the facility was phased-out was due to its age and condition, so why would you want to reopen this facility for students? Ms. Jackson did say they would work on a case-by-case basis, and perhaps they would give permission for the school to be used while a new facility was being built, but it a phased out site would never be allowed to be reopened for ongoing use.
QSCB which DCSS just recently approved must be used within 3 years of the bonds being sold. Ms. Jackson said that the school system should already have project plans for the use of this money. The use of these funds WILL be audited.
QZAB (Qualified Zone Academy Bonds). This was a new term for the board. These are tax-free bonds that available at $10 million per project. These funds can be used for renovations, modifications, equipment, staff development. This is something the school system look into as far as additional funding.
DCSS currently has accumulated $16,135.415 dollars that it has available to request for projects.
Ms. Jackson also pointed out that there are funds approved in 2004 that have not been used and must be used before February of next year or they are lost to the school system. I don’t think she indicated the amount.
One of the BOE members asked about COPS (Certificate of Participation) projects. No state funds are available. These projects are funded at the local level.
What I learned was how involved the State DOE is in the whole facilities/construction process.
If a school system is buying property for a new site, the GADOE must approve before the site is purchased or the school system might not receive any funds for the project. Prior to purchase the DOE requires an environmental study and a risk hazard analysis of the site.
The GADOE must also approve the purchase of additional acreage, additions to existing school sites, and privately owned sites (such as buildings that house school system charter schools). .
Charter schools, school system and other, are not exempt from these rules. Ms. Jackson’s staff recently met with the GA Charter Commission to have them tighten up the requirement that a Charter application must be submitted with a site approval from the GADOE. Without site approval by the GADOE, no school code will be issued. No school code, no state funding.
You can view Lynn Jackson's presentation here:
The video of the meeting is found here:
The latest on the Heery Mitchell lawsuit
There is no embed code yet for this latest report by Richard Belcher, so just click the photo and it will take you to WSB's website.
It's very disheartening. And shocking - I'm choking -- did Richard Belcher say that we have already spent $15.5 MILLION on the Heery Mitchell case??? And we haven't yet seen a courtroom??? Where is this in the budget? To whom was this much money paid (this could only have been paid within the last year or two!!) And how much will the trial add to this cost???
I'd love to see Belcher's data - where did he get this info from??
How many books could that have bought? Roofs fixed? Computers? A/C units? This is so sad.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Ensuring we don't put the charrette before the horse
In their 2020 Vision, DCSS will be hosting a series of public discussions on plans for redistricting in the fashion of old Paris and in fact calling them "Public Charrettes". Attendees at the meetings will participate via an audience response system, answering questions regarding their opinions. The school system is looking for a broad base of public input, yet you can attend all of the meetings and ensure that your opinion is counted every time. (A very good idea, in my opinion.)
According to the discussion at today's Emory Lavista Parent Council, the redistricting plan will have a more or less, three-pronged approach. First, representatives will assess every single school building by conducting a physical walk-through (led by Parsons), then a group of DCSS staff will conduct a second set of walk-throughs focusing on the instructional use of the building (are rooms being used as intended -- are programs equitable -- are similar classes offered at every school) and third is the community input, the charrettes, which are being conducted by a third party consultant. Although overall, I think this is a wonderful plan, the one concern I have about the entire plan is the schedule - it is very compact - in fact, Ms. Tyson informed us that in order to complete these visits within the timeline, the teams will need to visit five schools per day.
The meetings (charrettes) are scheduled below. For a copy of the flyer, click here.
- Chamblee High School, Tuesday November 9, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
- Towers High School, Wednesday November 10, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
- McNair High School, Monday November 15, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
- MLK High School, Tuesday November 16, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
- Stephenson High School, Wed. November 17, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
The feedback from these charrettes will be summarized and presented to the board at its December 6, 2010 6:00 PM work session.
According to the DCSS website, "The 2020 Vision process is an 11-month process (October 2010 - August 2011) that will culminate in a 2020 Master Plan that will describe the facilities, programs, and other needs of the system over the next ten years and the recommended facility improvements required to meet these needs.
The master planning process will culminate in August 2011, which will lead up to a vote on SPLOST IV in mid-2012."
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Dare We Hope?
This award comes with a very nice monetary prize -- A million bucks!
I think DeKalb should keep in mind all of the things Gwinnett is doing to have earned such an honor and to focus very hard on finding a superintendent who could lead our system to this kind of recognition!
Good for you Gwinnett! I pray that our leaders in DeKalb see this as a blueprint for them to follow.
Monday, October 18, 2010
2011-2012 and 2012-2013 School Calendar Options
Special Education: Can we do better?
According to the most recent state Salary and Travel report, DCSS employs 1,369 Special Education teachers out of 6,500 total teachers. 21% of our teachers are Special Education teachers. At an average salary and benefits figure of $65,000 (source: Ms. Tyson's budget figure), DCSS spends a mind boggling $90,000,000 annually on personnel cost for Special Education teachers.
DCSS has around 9,000 special education students so this is $10,000 per Special Education student we spend annually in addition to their regular classroom experience and per pupil expenditure.
Looking at the Made AYP status of DCSS, it would appear that the student achievement of Special Education students (see category entitled SWD - Students With Disabilities) is the most critical area that DCSS needs to improve. Not once has DCSS managed to enable this group to make adequate yearly progress. This seems to be an area in which DCSS could really use some progress. Yet here is the report DCSS sent to the U.S. Governmental Accountability office (GAO) regarding an additional $19,669,324 of Stimulus money spent primarily on Students with Disabilities. According to this report submitted September 6, 2010, you would think we are making great progress in this area. However, looking at the percent of Students With Disabilities who "meet or exceed" when tested on the standards (see years below 2003 - 2010), there is no appreciable percentage increase in student achievement.
Monday, September 6, 2010
DeKalb County School System
Decatur, GA 30032
Award amount: $19,669,324
DeKalb County School System reported that it used its Recovery Act IDEA award to increase the achievement of students with disabilities. These funds affected roughly 20 high schools and 20 middle schools. Specifically, the funds were used to retain staff, hire additional board certified behavior analysts to support schools as needed, fund special education paraprofessionals, and hire lead teachers for special education to provide support to elementary schools. The funds were also used to provide professional development, provide personnel to supply ongoing coaching and support to school staff, and purchase equipment. As a result of these funds, officials reported that the district was able to improve the achievement of students with disabilities and provide elementary schools with more time with their existing lead teachers for special education. In addition, they said that the district was able to fund special education paraprofessionals who were previously paid through local dollars. Officials indicated that their Recovery Act IDEA award activities were less than 50 percent completed.
Go to these websites and click on Academic Performance:
(source for approximate number of students in special education in DCSS - click here.)
Many thanks to DeKalb Parent for providing this research.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Board Meeting 10/15/10
Other than BOE members and staff, there were six people in the audience—poor attendance, but not surprising since you couldn’t even find a notice of this meeting on the DCSS website.
Two firms were presenting their proposals for the Superintendent search. They did it in alpha order so Georgia School Board Association (GSBA) went before Ray & Associates. Each firm is allotted 90 minutes. Timed portion included opening statement; presentation; question and answer period with pre-submitted questions from moderator Lydia Taylor; Q&A from board members; and finally a closing statement.
They started late, so I could only stay through the first presentation. Perhaps someone can link to the audio for the second presentation.
Here is a summary of the GSBA presentation
Lydia Taylor went over the competitive sourcing method for the RFP
- Posted two ads in the Champion News (legal organ of DeKalb Co.) on 8/19 and 8/26
- Posted RFP on DCSS website from 8/19 to 9/15
- Posted it to the Georgia Procurement Registry which sends it to the 142 district vendors registered in the state of Georgia
- Sent it to 14 vendors from the DCSS vendor registry
- Sent it to 3 Superintendent trade associations (AASA, GSBA, and one more I couldn’t get)
- Notifications were sent to national firms who have had successful placements at the most populated school districts, including McPherson & Jabosen (Nebraska); Heidrick & Struggles (Atlanta) and 2 others I didn’t get
- Notification sent to Georgia Department of Education
Notes from Georgia School Board Association presentation:
- Cost of search $15,000
- Bill Sampson spoke on behalf of GSBA, but Don Rooks would actually be managing the search. He couldn’t be there, but he lives in Metro Atlanta and has led more than 100 successful searches.
- The GSBA is not a headhunter. They have no stable of candidates. They have a database of people who have requested to be on their mailing list, and they include these individuals in the search notification. They are currently involved in 3 searches.
- They have a vetted, transparent search process. They cast a wide net and accept ALL applications as well as nominations.
- w Average number of candidates for a GSBA led search: 30-40. We would be their biggest system.
- Average number of interviews in first round: 5-8, but will extend first round if those individuals are not a good fit.
- The process:
- GSBA does an online survey for the community to give input on what they would like to see in a superintendent.
- GSBA holds public forums to explain the process and solicit feedback from the community on what they feel should be in the vacancy announcement
- The BOE establishes the hiring criteria and works with the search leader to develop the vacancy announcement
- Once the announcement is approved by the board it is posted/sent to the following places:
- GSBA website
- National School Boards Association website
- Mailed to 550 educators and 180 superintendents of GA Schools
- 850 individuals on GSBA mailing list
- Ads placed in the following:
- NY Times/Monster.com
- Education Week online postings
- AASA Leaders Edge Enews
- National Alliance of Black School Educators
- They also invite nominations; however it is merely an invitation to apply. This means that if a current board member nominates someone, the search leader will send them an invitation to apply with a copy of the requirements. The individual would still have to submit the full application and go through the entire process like everyone else.
- GSBA accepts ALL applications. An external committee reviews all applications (committee typically consists of retired educators). Committee divides applicants into three groups—1) contains all qualifications 2) contains some or most of the qualifications 3) contains the fewest qualifications outlined in the vacancy announcement.
- Each board member receives copies of all group 1 applications, and the board as a whole receives a single copy of group 2 and 3 applications. BOE chooses who to interview from group 1. They can also choose to interview candidates in groups 2 and 3. Search Leader goes over interview dos and don’ts but the BOE conducts the interview. Search Leader is on site but does not interview. GSBA reviews references of all group 1 candidates.
- Board publically announces up to 3 finalists. There is a state-mandated 14-day waiting period before they can vote.
- GSBA checks references and does a credit check of shortlist. Federal law states credit check can only go back 7 years. When questioned about D&B check, Bill stated that they don’t typically do it, but they can.
Womack—stated he wasn’t interested in hiring a current Georgia Superintendent. Asked what the process is if a board member wants to nominate someone such as the former Washington DC Superintendent or other such “person of interest.” GSBA reiterated that they don’t actively recruit people. If there are people of interest identified by the board, they can invite them to apply, but they will still have to go through the whole process. Womack also asked how many in their mailing list are from outside the state. GSBA said it was about 50/50, but most are from the southeast. When questioned about soliciting other neighboring superintendents, he said he has to be careful about “poaching” so they work around it by finding a way to “invite” current sitting superintendents to apply.
Roberts—She stated for the record that she is a board member of GSBA. Asked what their largest school district searches were. GSBA said Richmond and Clayton Counties are the biggest they’ve done (30-40,000 students)
Redovian—asked how they go about attracting non-traditional candidates (business leader, or other non-educator who has proven success leading a large company). GSBA said the board would have to certify that this individual was qualified.
Cunningham—Asked if the issues facing DCSS would discourage qualified people from applying. GSBA said that DCSS is a good system and that these are the same problems facing the rest of the country. He also said that there are quite a few systems in Georgia that are on probation—we just don’t hear about them because they aren’t in the AJC coverage area. Even so, it hasn’t kept them from getting qualified candidates.
McChesney—if a 30,000 student system is their biggest search, will that be a problem? GSBA says no. They have 32 employees who all take part in the search. He also asked about background checks on the final candidates. GSBA said they could do a more thorough search (D&B, etc.) but the BOE would have to work that out with them. They typically do not do more than references and credit and possibly Google/Yahoo search