Wednesday, January 26, 2011

DeKalb School Board May Undergo Major Changes

Legislation being introduced this week in the state Senate
By Timothy Darnell
For the Dunwoody Patch

DeKalb County’s Board of Education would undergo major changes if legislation being introduced this week in the General Assembly eventually becomes law.

“With the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Council on Accreditation and School Improvement now beginning DeKalb’s accreditation renewal, we have serious issues to examine,” said state Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-10, Decatur). Jones, who also chairs DeKalb’s Senate delegation, plans to introduce three bills this week that would create an ethics committee to oversee the board; create a set of minimum qualifications that anyone running for the board would have to meet; and downsize the board’s membership from nine members to five.

The lengthiest piece of legislation that Jones has authored would be the creation of an independent ethics commission, “for openness and transparency,” he said. “This would prevent school board members from having to pass judgment on their colleagues, but instead put the matter in the hands of a commission.”

Jones’ second bill would create a set of minimum criteria, including some level of secondary education, which individuals elected to the board would have to meet. “School board members should be role models, and we should ensure we’re getting the best representation possible,” he said.

Click here to read the rest.


Anonymous said...

I am not in favor of downsizing from
9 to 5. Maybe from 9 to 7. With nine or seven members, there is a better chance that a decision will be reached on a rational basis instead of just to satisfy an agenda.
I wonder if any of the bills expressly codifies approval of nepotism.

Anonymous said...

I'm for downsizing to 5. the most successful school systems have 5 BOE members. Consider Gwinnett Co. with 150,000 students has 5 members, and so does Decatur city Schools, Forsyth County.

The LEAST successful school systems have 9 members - Atlanta Public Schools, Clayton County and DeKalb County Schools.

It seems our board argues so much that the less members the less personalities and the less arguments.

Anonymous said...

Be sure to click on the article and read to the end. The last part is very important. First I have ever heard of SACS investigating nepotism:

"SACS has required DeKalb County to submit documentation concerning hiring, discipline, nepotism, training procedures, fiscal oversight, checks and balances, enforcement of policies, and the current superintendent search. SACS has already begun its review of DeKalb’s system."

Anonymous said...

Perhaps one criterion should be not being in arrears on taxes or convicted of civil (or criminal) violations exceeding $x.

Not that I'm referring to you specifically, Jay but that's quite a piece in the latest Champion.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"SACS offers advice to school system"

Some of the issues that were discussed, according to Oliver, were the search for a superintendent, budget concerns, school consolidation issues and the fallout created by the arrest of former superintendent Crawford Lewis. Oliver said the school system is scheduled for a district-wide visit during the 2011-12 school year and this week’s visit “allows them time to find out what areas they need to make improvements on.”

The school system faces a $55 million shortfall in the budget. It also is grappling with a proposal to close 14 schools in an effort to eliminate empty seats in more than 20 schools in the system that have less than 75 percent occupancy, which is needed to receive certain state funding.

A series of public workshops concerning consolidation and redistricting over the past two weeks have drawn large crowds. Woods said the system was redistricted eight years ago, but on a much smaller scale.

Also last week, the school board made official by a 6-3 vote Tyson’s $76,000 raise and 18-month contract. Under the agreement, Tyson will earn an annual salary of $240,000 through June 30, 2012. She will continue to serve as interim superintendent until a new leader is in place. After that, Tyson will serve the remainder of the contract as an advisor to the new superintendent. She will return to her previous salary and her position as deputy superintendent after the expiration of the contract.
"Financial problems plague school board member"

According to court records, board member Jesse “Jay” Cunningham has at least 15 open court cases against him—most of which involve payroll garnishments to pay creditors. Of the cases, four were filed between 2002 and 2007, five in 2008, one in 2009 and five last year. In addition, there are seven cases involving Cunningham that are listed as “closed.”

The garnishments in the open cases exceed $173,000. Records show that his board member check has been garnished by Ford Motor Credit in seven of the open cases. As a board member, Cunningham is paid $23,400 annually.

Other organizations bringing garnishments against Cunningham last year include Delek US Holdings and Mapco Express. Delek is the parent company of Mapco Express, a convenience store. Money from these checks has gone to pay garnishments by Georgia Receivables, a collection agency attempting to settle a debt from Nice Cars Inc.

In March 2008, Stonecrest Promenade Shopping Center in Lithonia went to state court to ask Cunningham’s business at the time, Zo’s Pizza, to leave. Records show that Zo’s Pizza vacated the property in April 2008.

Zo’s Pizza operated at 3608 Panola Road in Lithonia but now is closed. The business license for Zo’s Pizza has been inactive since May 2010, according to county tax records.

In addition to the garnishment problems, county tax commissioner records from 2008-10 show that Cunningham owes approximately $3,400 in property taxes on his 2,900-square-foot home in Lithonia.

Cunningham would not comment on any of the cases saying that he would only discuss school business.

Anonymous said...

Cunningham’s attorney, Dwight Lowell Thomas, said he was not aware of any garnishments against his client or any financial problems. Thomas added that he would not be surprised if there are lawsuits against Cunningham because of the litigious nature of the business world.

Jay's lawyer is Vernon Jones' lawyer. Enough said.

Anonymous said...

So Jay is actually taking funding away from the school system!! 70% of county property taxes go to the school system.

Hey BOE Chair Tom Bowen, way to make sure your fellow board members are representing the school system in a postive, responsible manner.

Anonymous said...

Dwight Thomas is also Eddie Long's lawyer!

Anonymous said...

"Table appears set for conflict
AJC investigation: Board member's business caters to county school"

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.

Anonymous said...

"Cunningham’s attorney, Dwight Lowell Thomas, said he was not aware of any garnishments against his client or any financial problems."

He's either a bad liar or a terrible lawyer.

Not that those are necessarily mutually exclusive. :)

Anonymous said...

Dwight Thomas, Jones' attorney, has said the woman was with Jones and another woman at his home and that there was what he calls "a consensual, legitimate adult encounter."

The lawyer for DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones claimed the county's district attorney is using a criminal investigation of Jones as "political extortion" to pressure him to better fund her office.

Jones' lawyer, Dwight Thomas, said District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming is milking her investigation of a woman's claim that Jones raped her at his home on Dec. 28 for political gain.

His comments came after Keyes Fleming complained that DeKalb commissioners have yet to set a vote on her request to expand a team of lawyers assigned to handle domestic violence cases.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone think that the massive raise given to the acting superintendent was made as a form of pre-emptive compensation to ensure that on February 7th she presents the widely-despised redistricting plan (as opposed to a much more limited plan that people across the county would prefer)? Think of the public abuse she is likely to receive by presenting the consultants' plan. It's only right she get an extra $70+K per year for that pain and suffering.

Anonymous said...

Jay is the older brother to Malcolm Cunningham of Malcolm Cunningham Ford. He sold cars to DCSS. The Ford 500(Lewis) under priced and Bronco(Pope). This is what got the whole investigation started. With that being said, was DCSS pressured in purchasing cars from Jay's brother.

June 28, 2010 10:00 AM

Anonymous said...

As long as we're talking about the BOE, I'd like to thank the members who were in attendance at last night's Board Scholar Recognition Program. BUT, Mr. Bowen, did you really have to TEXT during the entire ceremony? You were sitting front and center, and you thought you digital device was out of sight. It wasn't. Your behavior was an enormous insult to achieving elementary students in Dekalb. It showed them that you don't really care about their achievements. I believe you owe the students and parents an apology (unless your wife was in labor).

Anonymous said...

Remember the flap over the last re-districitng, when a complaint was filed against SCW, and Bowen e-mailed her that he hoped it would all go away?

Anonymous said...

And Bowen totally dissed Womack when after the board voted Womack over Walker as Vice Chair, Bowen made the public statement that Walker should be the Chair. I'm convinced Bowen is only using this assignment as a political stepping stone. He most likely told SACS that everything is rosy in DeKalb! Betcha.

Ella Smith said...

I would like also to see possible 5 school board members.

Anonymous said...

I am fairly new to the history of Atlanta metro area schools. Why does no one ever mention Fulton County Schools? We are always comparing ourselves to APS, Gwinnett, Cobb, Decatur City, and Forsyth but never Fulton?

Ella Smith said...

Fulton County Schools has 7 school board members which just happen to be all women at this time.

Anonymous said...

with all the redistricting plans will they cut the overstaffed central office? I mean do you really need all of those coordinators, assignment personnel, MIS staff, title one personnell, hr personnel, etc...parents should really be asking the tough questions of this BOE so willing to relocate your children to some under performing schools.

SACS should really be looking at school systems that work and ensuring that DCSS is onboard with that plan...definitely reduce the number of BOE members and this can and should be done when the redistricting happens..nothing is getting accomplished with the same old BOE and they should set term limits like the President/Govenor..DCSS is almost like a lifetime appointment for its BOE members...The current number of BOE is very ineffective and they spend far too many manhours squabbling and bsing than actually solving student related issues.

Anonymous said...

All three of the referenced legislative changes would be welcome. It is time for big changes if we are to make any headway in educating our children.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 10:21, while we are on the topic of bloated administration, what do the high schools need so many VPs? Does anyone have any idea about this?

Reagarding the possible changes to the board structure, I say it's about time.

Anonymous said...

Please, please take a minute to read this very sad story about the county gov't. When wil DeKalber's get a break?

Anonymous said...

Ahoy! A rescue ship on the way? I am so sorry that it took this kind of thing to come together, and try to get to the leak in the BOAT we are all in. The consultant proposals are like "re-arranging the deck chairs on the titanic." Our engine room (BOE) has not been working for a while, and now we are going to try to fix it.
Yes - Go down to 5. Make sure we have quality parts.

Anonymous said...

So who will be tasked with the job of redrawing the nine districts into five? This person will become very powerful with many factions inside DCSS and the stakeholders.

Anonymous said...

I am not in favor of this invasion by the Ga. House or Senate. e have too many serious problems that the Legislators should be addressing to get us out of this depression. If they want to run DEKalb schools then they should run for school board and let the taxpayers decide. This is going to get ugly because it is highly possible that we end up with 5 new board members with no experience and no historical knowledge. Our children deerve more.

Anonymous said...

Emanuel, do you really hate Jay that much? I know you have some REAL shadows in your closet just wait for the DOORS open and they will soon.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous in the middle of the night.

Do you know how poorly DeKalb schools are performing? Do you realize how little resources our students have in their schools compared to other systems, even after those systems cut the budget?

You think Jay Cunnningham is a good guy? Why? Is it because he supports Arabia Mountain so blindly?

DCSS is headed down a dark and scary path. There has been no real behavior change -- in fact word on the street is that the board of education, including your beloved Jay Cunningham, is behaving just as badly as before SACs came to town a few months ago.

Anonymous said...

I say "go for 5" -- use the 5 superclusters set up by MGT-- require residency within the district for a long period of time (2 years? or more) -- and elect county wide -- or -- drastic here -- appoint by the governor.....with educational requirements (at least an associates' degree if not bachelors)... and no criminal record... I could go on.

Anonymous said...

Also, eliminate salary -- this is public service -- no nepotism -- no salary... you serve -- for two or three terms -- max! Alternatively, it is a "job" and it pays "well" enough to entice accountants, lawyers and business people to give it their full energy at a decent salary without "games" and incentives to "game the system" -- $20k a term provides the wrong incentives (this applies to the legislature too).

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:13:
I wasn't in favor of the "invasion" some ten years ago by state legislators - who did not even represent DeKalb - and created this enlarged board. Did you not realize this "history?" Look it up. The larger board was implemented by outsiders eager to change the racial makeup of the board by adding the two super-districts. It was at that point that a fairly amiable, if not exactly pro-active board, became completely dysfunctional. The bill that's been introduced is an attempt to rollback the mistake made when the two super-districts were added. Where was your concern then over legislative interference then?

Anonymous said...

really interesting comment from Dwight Thomas, Jay Cunningham's lawyer, and also the lawyer for Vernon Jones and the esteemed Bishop Eddie Long:

Attorney Dwight Thomas
Said this on 1/27/11 At 12:35 pmFirst, the writer conveniently omitted the fact that I voted for Governor Deal because his past financial miscues were and are irrelevant to his leadership potential today. Per the law and the final court records, Jay was not convicted of theft from McDonald’s.
Lastly, the Champion Newspaper lacks credibility south of the DeKalb County Mason-Dixie line.

Also, I didn't know about Jay's seemingly violent tendencies:

In 2008, DeKalb Police reports show, Cunningham was accused of two separate assaults on a male friend of his wife. The alleged victim told police he was injured and requested medical assistance in the alleged punching incident, but he never took out a warrant. Police spokesman Officer Jason Gagnon said officers reviewed the incident, but the victim did not press charges and Cunningham’s wife, Evelyn, gave conflicting statements.

The victim, Curtis Bauchman, reported the alleged incident involving the gun a month after it allegedly occurred and no charges were filed, police said. The AJC was unable to locate Bauchman for comment.

Cunningham told the AJC on Thursday that he was unaware of these incidents. He said he knows Bauchman but added, “I don’t know anything about an assault.”

In the third alleged incident, Kimberly Pierson claimed that Cunningham threatened her at a cheerleading meeting at Martin Luther King Jr. High School last year. Pierson told police she felt threatened after Cunningham approached her at the school meeting and said “if you say anything else to my child, it’s going to be me and you.”

Anonymous said...

I welcome this promise of hope! The DCSS Board has failed and lost the confidence of most of its people. Setting standards to insure that School Board candidates are qualified and that they don't have ethical problems is an excellent start to restoring Dekalb to its glory.

Anonymous said...

five members might be better. there would be fewer family members and relatives that would be hired.

Anonymous said...

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver wants to hear from you regarding HOPE!

Second newsletter question: How would you vote to save HOPE, which is running out of money? What benefits of the HOPE Scholarship would you eliminate to allow the scholarships to continue for the maximum number of qualified students?

The HOPE reserves from the lottery profits will be spent in the near future, and the lottery profits will not be enough to fund all Georgia’s pre-K Students and HOPE scholars who want to participate. Please consider which of the following spending reductions the General Assembly should adopt to reduce current spending of HOPE. Choose more than one option or rank your reductions if you like:

1. Require a means test so the HOPE scholarship would only be available to students from families with incomes less than $100,000.00. Less than $75,000.00?

2. Reduce tuition scholarship to 80% of total cost of tuition, books and fees. Benefits for books and fees have already been reduced. This option reduces the scholarship equally for all students now qualifying.

3. Cap the tuition scholarships so that students attending the more expensive state schools will only receive partial scholarship and students attending the less expensive schools will receive the full HOPE scholarship. Georgia Tech and UGA are the most expensive of the 35 colleges in the Georgia Regents system.

4. Deny HOPE scholarships to students requiring remedial classes upon admission to college. Argument: HOPE scholars who have received the benefit of grade inflation to achieve the B average, are not ready for college work, have not really “qualified” as a HOPE scholar.

5. Raise the grade average to qualify to B+ instead of B.

What do you think?

To reply to the weekly question about saving HOPE, email me at

Anonymous said...

I encourage you to add Fran Millar's proposed SAT/ACT score as the qualifier.... say a 1000 or 1100 on the SAT or a 21 or 22 ACT... encourage kids to take the ACT/SAT seriously and stop the incentives for grade inflation!