Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Legislative breakout meeting a success

GA PTA/Legislative Forum for the DeKalb Council of PTAs hosted a very informative meeting last week. What follows are some notes collected from those in attendance.

Ruth Primm was in charge. If you subtracted the legislators present (about 20 -- no Ron Ramsey -- it seemed like most of the Reps/Senators from DeKalb were there, including new ones) -- and the Ga Council of PTA folks -- there were relatively few people there (30-50 -- Nancy Jester went and Ernest Brown and no one else with "school board ties").

Marcia Coward did an intro -- Ruth did an overview of the legislature -- we have 3 branches of government -- a governor/state house and state senator and judiciary -- the senators and house members serve for 2 years each -- there are 180 house members and 56 senators -- they meet for 40 legislative days in the session -- these are not calendar days -- this is not a full time job -- they get paid about $18k per year -- they get some per diem - they spend a lot of time.

She discussed the GA PTA "platform" -- no money to private school -- all to public school. Total educational budget has been reduced over the past few years even though it is about 41% of the overall budget (and 56% if you include everything) - she mentioned that since 2003-04 the budget has been reduced by $75 billion -- GA PTA wants to restore these funds -- at the same time, population has increased (e.g. due to Katrina kids), there have been problems with the adequacy of the funding cuts; priority on health and safety. She encouraged everyone to let legislators know how you feel.

Then Fran Millar (currently Rep, soon to be Sen) spoke about the BRIDGE bill (the subject of the AJC article)-- it's to get guidance counselors to address the students we're losing because they get no guidance - primarily in middle school -- mandatory -- trying to minimize the drop out rate -- especially for black males. He gave Martha Reichrath's phone 404/656-2804 as a point person for questions. The BRIDGE bill acknowledges that not everyone is college-bound and that we need an educated work force. He stated that, "math is currently not working" (it is changing). The question was asked if they plan to conform the diploma choices and "rigor" to this bill and he said "yes".

Otha Thorton, GA PTA Legis. Chair spoke -- big GA state wide priorities are to support adequate funding and race to the top money.

We then divided up into groups based on our senate district. We had about 25 people in our room and we addressed all sorts of issues important to us -- ranging from educating illegal immigrants to math to vouchers to the need for the state to step in to investigate and take over -- to do we need the county at all -- to why do we not have a consistent building plan (why do we always start from scratch with buildings) -- to splitting the district -- to the toothless ethics policy -- to needing help to get the board changed over. We took a straw poll on how big the school board should be on Mary Margaret Oliver's now pending bill: 7? No votes -- 5? All hands up ... then 0? Everyone in favor... it was funny actually.... someone plead to remove the "I" from the ballot -- issue raised about investigating internal affairs -- thanks for removing the CRCT from 1st and 2nd grade --- debate over how "representative the board" is -- who can remove them and any way to do something about criminal behavior.

Regarding Fran Millar's BRIDGE bill.

The AJC article on this new legislation is called, New bridge to a brighter future, is written by Brad Bryant and Fran Millar and explains that this "Legislation is now being put in place in Georgia high schools that focuses on students receiving quality career advisement and links the high school course work with their future college and career goals."

It further informs us that "The implementation of the BRIDGE (Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy) Act — House Bill 400 — will become an integral part of a student’s educational plan this year. The BRIDGE Act will help students and parents work together to enhance their child’s education to reach their goals and dream career.

The most critical part of this recently signed law is the requirement for all students in middle and high school to receive annual career guidance and advisement to choose a career area, create an Individual Graduation Plan and graduate high school prepared to go to college or enter the work force.

The new rigorous performance standards and graduation requirements found in our Georgia secondary schools better prepare our students to enter life after high school graduation.

A qualified work force will attract strong, stable companies and industries to Georgia."

This was from the January, 2010 Georgia PTA Legislative report
HB 400: BRIDGE, Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy Act. Department of Education is to develop programs so a student can get courses at the home school, a technical college, a two or four year college, a work site as an apprentice, and other approved settings. Middle grades advisement shall provide counseling, advisement, career awareness, career interest inventories to evaluate each student’s academic skills and career interests. In grade 8, students shall select a preferred focused program and study and develop an individual graduation plan (IGP) with parents. High school students shall have annual reviews of the IGP which are to include academic core subjects and course work in math and science OR humanities, fine arts, and foreign language, OR sequenced career pathway courses; include IEP components if applicable. Senate amends: Individual Graduation Program is for all students. The Individual Graduation Plan will be a lot of work but may be very beneficial in tracking every student’s achievement in attaining graduation credits. This bill was VETOED in 2009 when it was attached to SB 178 and is back as a stand alone bill. PASSED House PASSED S. Education & Youth


Dan Magee said...

1) Tough to get good attendance for a public meeting the week of Thanksgiving.

2) I've been to most of the various DeKalb Delegation meetings over the past years. Hve never seen Ron Ramsey at any of them. ANY.

Considering DeKalb County residents pay his two salaries, as state senator and as the head of DCSS Internal Affairs, you would think he would attend the occassional public forum. But no.
And you'd think the DeKalb Delegation would say, "Hey Ron, get yourself to one of these meetings. The school system is one of the biggest problems/issues we face in DeKalb."

Guess he's too busy running all of the various side businesses he owns.

Anonymous said...

Actually the meeting was last week, and pathetically, I think that was good attendance.

This meeting is generally designed for the PTA advocacy reps from each school, but DCSS has a whole heap of schools that don't have PTAs, either because of lack of interest or because the parents have formed a different kind of organization.

Anonymous said...

Ron Ramsey is the greatest mystery raised EVER on this blog. Has anyone ever confirmed that it is even legal, though I know there are teachers who serve as state reps and senators.

I suspect that Ramsey will be gone at contract renewal time, so probably not worth sweating about.

Anonymous said...

This sentance is the perfect summary of the insanity of the DCSS BOE and Central office:

"After spending an astounding $15.5 million in trial preparation, DeKalb County school officials will attempt to cut down on additional legal expenses by moving a lawsuit against construction manager Heery/Mitchell to federal court."

$15.5 that should/could be spent on schools. But nope, not in DeKalb. And no one on the BOE and Central Office blinks an eye at that figure.

Anonymous said...

The decision to see Heery Mitchell was made 5+ years ago. I don't think anyone thought that 5 years later the trial wouldn't have even gone to court yet. HM is masterful in the delay tataics. I hope the Federal court move will make sure this trial starts soon.

Anonymous said...


Double Dipper at the public trough! It's time the DeKalb taxpayers cut this guy off!

How do these characters get re-elected?

The best disinfectant for DCSS is SUNSHINE! It's time to release all minutes of all meetings, all audits ever done and the report from the guy who DCSS hired, who is actually doing Ron Ramsey's job, since Ron wasn't doing his. Uh?! What a great fraud of a county we live in!

Anonymous said...

To be fair, as long as Ron Ramsey is not being paid by both the school district and the state at the same time, there is no problem. There is not a law that excludes school system employees from serving in an elected position.

I feel confident that if his records were audited, you would not find any problems. I am confident because I am certain someone has probably asked that question already and found out nothing improper is occurring.

This is a non issue....

Anonymous said...

That's BS, Anon 1:31.

The numerous scandals over the past few years are front line proof that Ramsey isn't getting the job done. The DCSS Office of Internal Affairs only focuses on teachers who they consider "troublemakers", i.e. the teachers who ask questions.

Internal Affairs ignores issues with the Central Office, rogue principals and AP's, family members of the BOE, the New Birth mafia, the fraternity/sorority insiders, etc.

Being a state senator is an extremely time consuming job. Add on the number of side businesses Ramsey owns, it's clear the Internal Affairs Office does not operate in a manner deserving the 26th largest school system in America.

As a teacher, it is incredibly frustrating to see Internal Affairs ignore major ethical violations of administrators and staff, yet seem to pick on teachers who don't "drink the kool aid". Ramsey enabled and allowed the Lewis administration to do whatever the freak they wanted, and part of that was coming down hard on any teacher who had the temerity to ask questions and make suggestions.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 1:31

I agree. It is perfectly acceptable that Mr. Ramsey holds down his legislator job and his DCSS position as long as he can accomplish both. My concern is that criminal charges were brought against his supervisor and a co-worker and SACS is investigating the DCSS Board of Education members and administration for nepotism and cronyism ethics infractions while he failed to investigate any of these folks.

Mr. Ramsey's failure to investigate the upper management of DCSS has cost taxpayers tens of millions (maybe even hundreds of millions), but more importantly it cost students educational opportunities. Wasted money, wasted resources = missed opportunities for students.

For that alone he should be replaced.

Cerebration said...

I agree, 2:04. Add to that, the fact that he stood on the floor of the Capitol, inferring that the citizens of Dunwoody are racist after they applied for citihood and asked for a boycott of all businesses in the city of Dunwoody. Fine - except that action was in direct conflict with his responsibility to the DeKalb county schools. A boycott of Dunwoody would include all of the businesses in the Perimeter (including the mall) - costing the school system untold SPLOST income.

Anonymous said...

".....asked for a boycott of all businesses in the city of Dunwoody. "

I don't live in Dunwoody so I had some negative feelings about Dunwoody's move to break away, but the businesses Mr. Ramsey wanted to boycott add millions in tax revenues for DCSS students. I didn't even realize he did that. It seems like that was a conflict of interest.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 2:04

Could it be that most that are saying that Ramsey isn't doing his job don't know what his job is? I thought the Internal Affairs office investigates written complaints not whispers in the community? The statement he made regarding Dunwoody in his capacity as state senator was ridiculous however if you tried to dismiss him in his capacity as the Internal Affairs Director because of that, you would face a lawsuit faster than anything you ever saw.

Responsibilities of the Internal Affairs office

My understanding is that the Internal Auditor would uncover the misdeeds you mentioned. This person also has a dotted line to the Board.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 3:21

I think you are replying to the wrong poster. My post had nothing to do with Dunwoody or even Mr. Ramsey's legislative job.

What I pointed out is that our school system has been wracked with scandals and criminal charges and questionable ethics to the point that SACS is investigating DCSS (not the teachers - but the highest level of management). Yet Mr. Ramsey didn't investigate any of these personnel. This has cost taxpayers millions of dollars and students missed educational opportunity. It's his job to put in place a system that keeps internal corruption and ethics violations to minimum.

Here are the goals and objective for his office. Does anyone really think he has fulfilled them?


* Meet the needs of stakeholders by reviewing allegations and resolving complaints in a timely manner, while applying legal and policy requirement without bias.
* Foster the maintenance of a healthy work ethic and positive work environment through fair and equitable investigative processes, to ensure equal treatment for all.
* Maintain positive and reliable communications and relationships with all stakeholders.
* Responds to all internal and external complaints.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

* Code of Ethics (Professional Standards for Educators)
* Investigate Employee and Stakeholder Complaints
* Conduct hearings pursuant to Board of Education (GAE) Descriptor Codes
* Parental Complaints
* Sexual Harassment Complaints
* Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Compliance
* Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Compliance
* Employee 504/ADA Compliance
* Open Records Requests
* Production of Documents Requests
* Employee Misconduct Investigations
* Title IX Compliance
* Fair Dismissal Act Procedures
* Draft Agreements and Resolutions
* Develop Training Protocols and Modules
* Investigate Compliance with Computer & Internet Use Policy
* Collect, analyze data, and produce reports in response to federal and state request.

Now we all know what Mr. Ramsey should have been doing.

Anonymous said...

I see Mr. Ramsey is in charge of ensuring the compliance pf Open Records requests. Did parents who have been requesting the 2004 Compensation audit that Dr. Lewis buried and the DCSS BOE neglected to publish on their website make a complaint to Mr. Ramsey's office?

Cerebration said...

" you would face a lawsuit faster than anything you ever saw."

??? Gee, what ever happened to being a right to work state? If I called for a boycott of something that harmed my employers income, I would certainly lose my job. However, suing is the first "go-to" for DCSS employees.

Anonymous said...

To 11/23, 1:31 ... you said re Ron Ramsey "nothing improper is occurring." Would you consider NOT doing his job improper? Would you consider protecting "friends and family" while hanging innocent people out to dry improper?

Anonymous said...

"Ramsey enabled and allowed the Lewis administration to do whatever the freak they wanted, and part of that was coming down hard on any teacher who had the temerity to ask questions and make suggestions."
WELL SAID, 11/23 2:00. Trust me. It doesn't take long to figure this out. It happened to principals and support staff, too. I sit back and wonder WHEN (not if) all this injustice will finally come to light.

Anonymous said...

Back to Topic. I read the prior version of the BRIDGE bill and liked it because it clearly gave high school students a career option other than college prep.

I have not read the new version, but the write up seems to imply that there will be no change in the diploma requirements. Instead it looks like it is focused on middle and high school counseling.

Can anyone elaborate?

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that the Internal Auditor would uncover the misdeeds you mentioned. This person also has a dotted line to the Board.

Yes, unless he's paid to overlook certain people/things like everyone else.

Cerebration said...

The notes in the post say

The BRIDGE bill acknowledges that not everyone is college-bound and that we need an educated work force. He stated that, "math is currently not working" (it is changing). The question was asked if they plan to conform the diploma choices and "rigor" to this bill and he said "yes".

I understood that to mean that yes, they would be reevaluating diplomas and diploma choices... we should probably get clarity on that.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone elaborate on the "math is not working", it is changing comment?

Ella Smith said...

The new school superintendent is against the new math program. He realizes it does not work for all students as all students are not going to college and do not have the math skills to do math on this level.

He has a technical background. I hope we do see two diplomas come back as this will be good for many struggling students who need to be working on a technical diploma.

Anonymous said...

When I grew up in the North, a Technical high school diploma was given to the kids that attended Tech school and learned a trade and also attended high school.

Just giving a technical diploma with no technical background, could lead to even more kids not being prepared for the job force. My friends in Tech school learned the trades of welding, auto mechanics, baking, hair dressing, horticulture, and had other trades to pick from. They graduated with skills that they could use to begin their own businesses or get right to work in the job force. Many of them make more money than I did as a teacher, because they had true technical skills.

Not sure if a Technical diploma with no technical education behind it is going to be good for the children. I think it will hurt them.

No everyone isn't college material, but everyone should be able to reach the state minimum requirements if they are taught well and put forth some effort. GA can't afford to dumb down things much more, we're already near or at the bottom of the barrel.

Anonymous said...

Re: two or more diploma choices. Kathy Cox and many other state Ed leaders believe that are right to have gone to one diploma. Last year when some of the legislators wanted to mandate a return to more grad options, she and the Governor sucessfully fought back the effort.
Deal talked very little about education in his campaign. It will be interesting to see what happens this year.

Anonymous said...

"My friends in Tech school learned the trades of welding, auto mechanics, baking, hair dressing, horticulture, and had other trades to pick from. They graduated with skills that they could use to begin their own businesses or get right to work in the job force. "

Now this makes sense. If you want to build a magnet program, this might be an ideal one to offer.

This writer is absolutely correct, not everyone needs to go to college. Not everyone can afford to go to college. Some of these student drop out. Now, if we offer these students the opportunity to learn a trade, they might be more interested in attending school. Behavior problems might decrease and graduation rates would improve. I would certainly prefer working as an electrician to serving up fast food.

I graduated from a Connecticut high school. There were three tracks at my school. They were college bound, technical (included office skills training), and general. We all got the same diploma. What got you into college was the coursework you had on your school transcript. When I worked in a college admissions office, we always looked at the student's transcript.

Kim Gokce said...

Whether the offerings are in the form of a separate diploma or not, I think we are limiting our thinking when we think of it as either "college" or "non-college" kids. The two are NOT mutually exclusive.

One of our 2010 CKF Scholars, Linda Khor, finished at Cross Keys with a Certified Nursing Assistant certification AND a fully qualified college prep diploma. She is at Georgia So. as a full-time student AND working part-time at a local hospital.

Nothing wrong with Auto Tech or Cosmetology, but I want to see more students taking advantage of Health Science Tech, Dental Tech, and Information Tech IN ADDITION to their core prep. There is no reason to force these young people to make decisions about a single track through high school and a "once and for all decision" about college.

In this day and age, we need to stop thinking about high school->college or high school->work as the only options. Most kids will benefit from preparing from both!

Anonymous said...

@cerebration why no post about the Writing scores! Finally a little something to celebrate within our district and it didn't make the cut??

Cerebration said...

You are right. We discussed this on another thread, but it should have been it's own post. I know the AJC had a pretty good article on the increases statewide.

Check out Maureen's blog at the AJC -


All Georgia 11th grade students participate in the Georgia High School Writing Test and must pass the two-hour test to earn a high school diploma.

In this fall’s test, every DeKalb County School System school showed improvement (with the exception of three schools that earned a 100 percent passing rate in both 2009 and 2010 and one school that earned a 93 percent passing rate in 2009 and 2010).

Towers High School demonstrated the highest passing rate improvement, with a 16 percent increase. DeKalb School of the Arts, DeKalb Early College Academy and Gateway Charter had passing rates of 100 percent.

“These results show that the high expectations for teaching and learning that we have set are paying off for our students,” said Dr. Morcease J. Beasley, Interim Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning. “We are proud of the fact that our principals are leading at higher levels, our teachers are teaching at higher levels, and, most importantly, our students are learning at higher levels. These results reflect that.”

BTW - anyone is free to post anything they feel is important. If you're think it should have it's own post, send it to me via email and I'll post what you write - I don't do this alone - it takes a village...



Anonymous said...

I would like to see true, high-quality technical offerings in our public schools. Frankly, I would like to eliminate minimum wage courses like cosmetology and childcare.

There are plenty of high paid technical jobs that do not require a 4 year liberal arts degree. Agree with Kim that we need to focus on these fields like information technology and medical techs. These courses should incorporate the type of math required for the job. I really don't think all students need to be "proficient" in pre-calculus.

Anonymous said...

Training for high tech jobs that pay well would interest many of our students. Students who train for these jobs would need appropriate math and science courses. This type of program would be challenging and I think that would make it more attractive.

Anonymous said...

Massachusetts has a tremendous investment in technical schools. Their high wage jobs and relatively low unemployment rate (8% versus Georiga's 10%) is based in large part on their educational system. BTW they are a teachers union state.

Cerebration said...

As I have shared before, this is the link to the vocational/technical high school in my home county. It is shared by 5 school systems - each with less than 6,000 students - hence the name, Penta County. This is an all-day school. Although students technically remain on the roster of their home high school (and can play sports and attend dances there), they spend their entire day at Penta.

There is a waiting list to get into this school.

Penta Career Center

I shared this with Johnny Brown and again with Dr. Lewis. I advocated with 3 different school boards for a school like this. To date: Dr. Brown inferred that this was a racist idea (as in, he thought we would end up tracking black students this direction and away from standard college prep) and Dr. Lewis - Crickets.

Using the same ratio of available students in a system - DCSS should have THREE schools like this.

(BTW, none of these "home" schools has a magnet school for high achievers, they simply offer advanced and AP courses in the schools as well as regular and a selection of tech/career classes.)

FWIW - My sister attended Penta for horticulture -- and then went on to get a degree from Ohio State in landscape architecture.

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that educated people look down at Technical Schools. Kids that go to school like this are good with their hands and they have another option that college doesn't provide. Yet they still have the option of going on to college if they so desire.

The kids that went to the Tech School affiliated with my high school had good jobs waiting for them and a few went off to college afterwords to further pursue their interests, usually in horticulture. (http://www.bcths.com/index.cfm)

To be funding a technical school is more important that funding the magnet programs. As Cere said not one of the feeding schools has a magnet program, us AP and advanced course work. All children have a right to a quality education that will eventually lead to a job and future. Not everyone is college material and offering those who want to pursue a career in automobile repair, welding, automobile body work, construction, culinary arts, baking, hairdressing, dental assistant, horticulture, and so many other
careers is a great option and a great use of tax payer dollars.

Anyone who claims this as a racist move is simply uninformed and not thinking about the entire population of the school district. Quite frankly, I believe that many of the decisions made by our administrators and school board members keep our black students un- and under educated-something that this tax payer and teacher are tired of seeing.