Monday, January 31, 2011

PTAs: Are they the new political power?

Kim Gokce made an interesting observation in a recent blog discussion. In response to a question about Mike Jacob's email supporting a certain redistricting plan, he said that didn't concern him as much as the power of PTAs.
I do believe in many ways we are our own worst enemy. Anyone who reads what I post or who will chat with me off-line knows that I support our teachers, parents and children in Chamblee and Cross Keys attendance areas and beyond with full dedication. It is when our PTAs turn into PACs that I get cynical and discouraged.

Could our most powerful PTAs and parent groups be steering our school board and possibly drowning out the voices of weaker, poorer parents? I was interested to see a report on Channel 2 News last night, that focused on DeKalb's redistricting, the parent groups debating the issue and the survey. The reporter actually showed the bar chart of the responses from the online survey which clearly shows that the majority (88.5%) of respondents are from north DeKalb and have children in elementary school. Less than 2% of the responses came from Sarah Copelin-Wood's district—the district slated to have the most schools consolidated and closed.

Now, TIME magazine has published an article on that very subject called "PTA Wars".
School budgets are so strapped these days that parent groups are not only battling to keep basics in the classroom, but some parents are even fighting one another. The superintendent in Albany, Calif., last fall suspended PTA-funded chess, music and art classes at two elementary schools after the parents at a third school complained they couldn't afford a similar curriculum. Why, the parents at Marin and Cornell elementary schools wondered, is the PTA at Ocean View trying to keep our kids down?

This is the same quandary we have in DeKalb. Some schools have those things listed in TIME: Chess Club, art and music classes, foreign language instruction, special curriculums, etc.—many don't.  Is this what we want for our public schools? Is it acceptable to have extras funded by parent groups in public schools while nearby schools have so little by comparison? I would make the case that this is exactly the reason we are where we are right now in the redistricting battle. Our school system leaders have for far too long abdicated their responsibility to create a system of schools that are by and large equal in offerings, balanced in enrollment, staffed with similar teachers and administrators and focused on a quality education in each and every classroom. For far too long, our school system leaders have catered to the most vocal communities as well as individuals in order to quiet "squeaky wheels". The management policy has been, "no squeaking = no problems". There has been no formal overall districtwide educational plan.

Sadly, now that redistricting has pulled back the curtain we found that it is not only the numbers of students that need balanced, it is the education those students are receiving inside those schools that need to come into balance. Our school board and superintendent have an enormous task in righting this ship. It will require a clear vision and teamwork to get there. We are a decade into the "New Millennium" and many of our schools are not keeping up with the rest of the world. Our resources must be reeled in and more wisely spent. Our administration needs streamlining and updating. We need to truly become a student-focused school system.

It's time.


Anonymous said...

The school system could do a better job of funding the "needy" schools. However, while all schools are equal, some are always going to be more equal than others.

Anonymous said...

"Its time"

I'm not sure exactly what that is supposed to mean?

I agree the DCSS has done a horrible / inept job of funding eduction and ensuring an "equal" distribution of educational quality but I'm opposed to making Elementary/Middle/High School parents who have stepped up to fill the gap the "bad guy".

A good question from the stats posted - why have so few folks from SCW's area gotten involved? With the on-line survey there is no opportunity for the more vocal PTA's to drown out the smaller groups. I seem to remember last year when the schools in the ZR / SCW area(s) were recommended to be closed they turned out in mass to protest / voice their opposition to the closings. Where are they now ?

Overall, as the parent of 2 elementary aged children, I believe changes have to be made, I'm truthfully appalled with the folks on this blog wringing their hands and making the PTA's and the parents who do get involved out to be "bad" or "evil" when they are making an effort and ensuring their school(s) continue to improve.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Kim, for saying what needs to be said as diplomatically as you can.

Anonymous said...

The whole notion of taking away programs from schools that have them because some schools don't have them is ridiculous. it doesn't improve the general student body. If I choose to save my money to contribute to these programs, who is the BOE to tell me that I can't spend my money this way? Don't tell me that I can't do this because someone, somewhere doesn't have this. We should copy what is done at the good/best schools and find a way to have the programs in all schools. Steal every school's great ideas and emulate them everywhere.

Anonymous said...

"We need to truly become a student-focused school system."


Dawn said...

I agree with Anon 1:26 and 1:31. Involved parents who are active in the PTA and find creative ways to fund additional sources of instruction for their child's school are not the bad guys. If the county were providing adequate education they wouldn't have to do those things and they shouldn't be blamed because no one is doing it at other schools.

Any parent can get involved, make phoen calls, and find art teachers, chess coaches, etc. who are willing to come into a school and offer classes for a fee or who are willing to volunteer their time, as often as not.

We shouldn't be blaming parents who want to make things better for their children. We should be blaming the county for creating an unbalanced system with "high achievers" pulled out of their home schools and resources given only to those fortunate enough to win a lottery.

The solution is to create achievement tracks at all schools with appropriate resources given to students at every level of achievement, from EIP reading (which was eliminated at Evansdale last year due to cuts) to programs for advanced students. The system wouldn't have to hire any more teachers or move students around. Test scores would rise at every school because their best and brightest aren't getting shunted across town and everyone would win.

Anonymous said...

Until the parents choose to get involved in all schools, I don't see anything changing. And I certainly don't see how redistricting/disrupting 16,000 kids in order to fill a third that many seats is helpful at all. The kids that get redistricted into poorer performing schools will transfer somewhere else. This will not solve anything. If the kids actually attended schools in their own neighborhoods and the parents cared enough to be involved, perhaps the schools could improve but that isn't likely. It is easier for those parents that do care about their kids' education to ship them to performing schools than to deal with the problems in their home schools. I have nothing against transfers and welcome them into our school but that is base problem I see trying to work with attendance numbers. The residents send their kids en masse to better schools out of their own district so resident numbers are highly unrealistic. Until transfers stop or decrease significantly, this will continue to be the case.

Anonymous said...

For your consideration...a number of students in schools with PTA supported or enriched programs would not have access to these on their own. The parents who value these programs and have the funds will supplement their own children's education, leaving those who can not afford the extras sitting on the sidelines. It seems to us, when a school has active and finamical parental support, this should be welcomed rather than condemned.

From each according to their ability to each according to their need is not a sound education system model.

Jim Bohica Ben Dover

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the North, were the PTA serviced every school in the district from elementary to high school. Granted there were only 5 schools, but this method enabled everyone in the elementary schools to get the same things. If one school had a book fair, all the schools had a book fair. If one school saw a Disney movie about bears, all of the schools saw the same movie. Our PTA bought schools computers and software. They supported a fabulous trip to the UN for sixth graders and so many other worth while programs.

Being from the "wrong" side of town or from the "wrong" side of the railroad tracks, which I was did not mean that I didn't have the same as everyone else in my community.

My mom volunteered for the PTA not just for me and my siblings, but so that ALL children had a better education.

The biggest problem that I have with DCSS is the parents only worrying about their children. People are not looking at the bigger picture. We have too many children who are being undereducated. These kids are barely reading and don't understand math. As a society we pay now or we pay later, but we will pay for these children as they become adults if they are not able to take care of themselves and their families.

I for one would rather an educated society who are able to think for themselves and make their own decisions. Many of the children graduating with high school diplomas do not know enough to question what they see on the news or are able to read and understand the newspaper. We have a huge problem and it's not going to be solved by everyone worrying about themselves.

Anonymous said...

I completely disagree with Kim. Finally, parents are getting involved and we are going to penalize them. The LACK of parent involvement from sticking kids in daycare up to 50 hours per week to ignoring what they are doing in schools is why we have what we have today. Education starts at home and trying to say that the school is going to fill the void is ridiculous. School boards need to harness PTA energy and give incentives throughout the school district to get parents involved. If they can't give resources, give time. If you can't raise the kids you shouldn't have them. Equity does not exist in life and you can't force it because we still have free choice. If a school in the north has a music program funded by the PTA so be it. Does it sound callous? Absolutely. But when I volunteer at the shelters and someone hands me their cable bill as proof of residency to collect food, I have to question priorities. Education needs to be of value to everyone and until it is, there will never be equity. Stop punishing the schools and the families that do care and figure out how to incent everyone to finally care about education.

Anonymous said...

Children should not be punished for their parents lack of time, effort or interest in school.

Having an upper middle income allows me to have more free time and give more time to my children and their activities than someone who is working two or three jobs trying to put food on table, pay rent, and praying that they don't loose a job or that their car doesn't break down in the mean time.

Parents working to make schools better is one thing, and I do believe that the schools in poorer areas were allowed the Title 1 funds to be spent in the best possible way for the school would be able to have more and be better schools.

Part of the problem is that we have people making decisions from the palace with little concern or care of the welfare, well being or education level of the children. We have people more worried about objectives being posted than if Johnny and Susie can actually read and add. Our administrators are concerned about the wrong things and focusing on out ward appearance than substance of education.

I am all for parents working in schools, volunteering their time and making the schools the best that they can be. Upper middle and middle class parents need to understand the plight of many who are not as financially well off and realize that these parents really don't have the time, if they are working as hard as they can to make ends meet.

To say that adults shouldn't have children unless they want to parent a certain way is ridiculous. These kids are here. They are our future and lets do what we can for them, so that we don't have to pay for them later on.

Cerebration said...

I certainly did not intend to make out PTAs as the "Bad Guys". In fact, I didn't make out any "bad guys" except for our past leadership which (IMO) has neglected to take the reins and ensure that our resources were equitably spent-not wasted-and with thought.

The point I tried to make was that our past leadership has not been proactive - they have been reactive - only reacting to those who are in front of them at a given time. It's time - it's time for leadership that leads... not one that leaves the quality of education in the hands of PTAs. That certainly leaves some schools at a significant disadvantage.

Unknown said...

This might be hard to realize, but there may be folk in less affluent parts of DeKalb who aren't online.
And it may well be that there is no real interest in making all of the schools equal. History has shown, not just here but all across the nation, that we are reluctant to pay for someone else's kid to do well. Parents shouldn't feel bad that they are doing all they can to help their kids, but they also need to acknowledge the disadvantage kids whose parents don't/can't provide the same suffer. The thought that the state should seek to balance thing out is just about dead, especially if it means a tax increase.

Anonymous said...

Someone needs to care about the education of kids and, obviously, that doesn't happen in every district which is why some have involved PTAs and others don't. How do you propose to reconcile these realities in order to improve schools? Just moving populations around isn't going to do it.

Anonymous said...

Wow, having served as a President for a PTA, it was great to be able to get the community around the school involved. Corporate, private and family donations were widely received and paid for Promethean Boards in every room as well as upkeep for them. We keep our bathrooms clean, supplementing what our DCSS employees do and we help fund, after school activities, field trips and instructional classes/tutoring during and after school. All this funded by our PTA.

Please don't tell me that you expect our PTA NOT to be successful in fund raising or able to provide extra activities because our neighbors in another part of our county can't get buy-in by their parents. Don't tell me this.

The PTA's are what keep the school communities together. We interact with the DCSS leaders from our schools to make sure the mission is being fulfilled. We also expect the best from our school administrators as well as our voice heard at the county level. tell me again what's wrong with this? At a time when we need to be expanding PTA's, a call for being equitable among the entire system, does not seem to me to be the correct message.

themommy said...

Does anyone know the history of school nurses in Georgia? While the story has been related here before, it bears repeating.

About a decade or so ago, some N. Fulton PTAs were using funds to pay for full time or part time school nurses. Because this was a violation of PTA policy, the N. Fulton Council put a stop to it. These very powerful and organized parents took their battle for school nurses to the state DOE and the Governor and got school nurses for every elementary school in the state.

Had this not happened, I assure you that we wouldn't have had school nurses for all these years.

themommy said...

Similarly, does anyone know what all City of Atlanta elementary schools have foreign language instruction?

Several elementary school PTAs were funding this program. The school system decided it was unequal and was motivated to provide it for all students.

themommy said...

What happens when a PTA raises money for Smart Boards or computers is that while their school benefits, no energies go to pushing the school system to provide these things for all.

Anonymous said...

The last paragraph was deleted by accident, This is a time that we need our leadership to set up a system for all of DeKalb. Provide an equal education for all students, expand the magnet program and let all who want it in it (with the proper grades and proves their willing to work). No more lottery to get lucky for an eduation.

I also think if PTA's want to fund extracurricular or instructional activities, those calls should be left with the PTA's. All because another school can't afford something shouldn't mean the one who can should not be allowed to do it. Maybe the richer PTA's can help the schools that do not have so much! Our PTA helped the poor families at our school by, providing transportation for school events and PTA meetings, we provided extra tutoring to those who needed it as well as extra English classes for those who needed to learn.

Cerebration said...

I'm saying the school system HAS the money and should be funding most of these things the PTAs are funding but they are wasteful and self-indulgent. Historically, the school system has allowed PTAs to fund what they desire - thus keeping the demands to central office staff low - and central office has certainly reaped the benefits. They only respond to squeaky wheels - they do not plan and research how best to educate and place those resources carefully across the system. The fact that the PTAs take care of their own needs, rather than demanding that the school system act responsibly systemwide with the resources they have, may actually be enabling administrators to continue rewarding themselves and friends and family at the expense of students with very little voice.

Anonymous said...

It is a good thing for parents and PTAs to support schools and help them purchase computers or art teachers that the County doesn't fund. As a parent in a more affluent area, I would be supportive of taking on a "sister school" in a less affluent area and helping them provide similar resources. I think you will find most people are very generous if you don't constantly threaten them with taking things away in the name of equality. I don't think when people say every child should receive an equal education they mean every child should receive an equally bad education. Less finger pointing and more innovative ideas are what we need.

Anonymous said...

I think students would be better off just getting the basics which is something many of them do not have now. The BASICS are clean and safe classrooms with reasonably sized classrooms and adequate access to science and technology equipment.

Maybe when all students have this, we can give the schools nurses, foreign language, art, music, PE, security guards.

Until students get the BASICS described in the first paragraph, I don't know why they would need the supplemental services described in the second paragraph.

Students need to be literate in math, science, social studies and language arts. None of the supplemental services described do this. Only grade level and content area teachers do this. This is the ONLY mission of the school system that if we fail at, we might as well close up shop.

That's why this conversation seems so "out of order" to me. Concentrate on what makes students literate in the core areas. Then concentrate on the supplemental services. If you have to choose, choose that students can read and compute math problems.

Anonymous said...

There are wonderful and hardworking parents throughout the county and the fact that many of these parents "figure out" how to get their kids to the best public schools is evidence of their involvement and care. The county is required to provide every child with an education per our state constitution. The sad fact is that so many children are entering school with no semblance of order, respect or discipline. How can we fix this? These children are our future but are our teachers meant to correct 5-6 years of errant parental ways? This is not unique to income by the way. Many affluent families have ignored their children and produced (can't say raised) children who cannot acclimate to a regular schedule. IMHO, DCSS is making a huge mistake by not using redistricting to focus on education. The filling a seat builds on the idea that our kids are just "objects" and not the future. Highlight parents being involved and getting other parents involved is what we need to do.

Anonymous said...

Here's a Mother Of The Year story. A parent of a Stephenson High School student. She took her son and his friends on a bank robbery.

Anonymous said...

Everyone who has been involved with a PTA knows how difficult it is to raise funds and get parents involved. The person who wrote this obviously has not spent a significant amount of time working with a local PTA and is not qualified to comment.

Why did my child's Title 1 school have a chess club? Because I volunteered at 7 AM to teach 85 children for free ... for four years. The connection between chess and math and life skills is a given, if you know the facts or do your research.

My child's grandmother taught music at their school for free as well. I can't believe we are turning against the parents who spend their free time to help all the children in a school. We are really lost.

Cerebration said...

I'm not turning against any PTA. In fact, I have held many PTA officer positions as well as a Parent Council officer position in the past. I'm trying to make the point that this redistricting has shown the PTAs to be the powerhouses - as Kim eludes - Political PACs (have you read all of the "position statements" and "talking points" they have published?).

PTAs could possibly be steamrolling the system with their own redistricting agendas as they have long had power over the school administration to do as they please for their own schools. My point is - this lack of insisting that our administrators do the right thing by ALL students has opened the door for leaders to spend resources unwisely. PTAs are powerful - I only wish they would use that power for the good of the entire system and I wish for a strong, student-focused system that doesn't simply manage by stamping out fires and greasing squeaky wheels.

Cerebration said...

@ Anon 2:34 PM - I think it's terribly sad that parents have to "figure out" how to get their child into a decent school.

Anonymous said...

Cerebration - you have some really good "wishes" but at this time I'm not sure what anyone including PTA's can "do" to "insist" the administrators do the right thing. I would love to see the DCSS administration do the right thing and overhaul the system to ensure equality for all and a solid eduction with all the $$ they have but.....
The reality is that parents who are involved, PTA's who are creating "talking points" realize one HUGE thing for their elementary aged children - they only have 1 shot. These kids (all of the elementary aged kids) don't have the luxury of time to wait for the Administration to change / get it/ overhaul.

Now, I am working in parallel to making our elementary school successful on pushing the DCSS administration but with the realistic realization that our 3rd grader will be in Middle school before a new Super is in place and effective - just reality here folks. I'm not going to back off from making the elementary school experience the best it can be for the 3rd grader to pursue some Utopian dream to force the DCSS administration to "do" anything. I'll continue to fight the good fight and continue to be an involved and dedicated parent as our children move out of elementary to middle and high school but I'm not going to apologize for our PTA having a strong voice and providing "gap filling" capabilities due to DCSS administration shortcomings.

Anonymous said...

Cere- completely agree with you that parents have to "figure it out" but the state and county is ill equipped to address the needs of society as a whole and the fact that folks spend more money on trash rags in the grocery store than newspapers or books is a fact. Reinforcement of proper educational values is not supported by the state nor the county. Those of us who value education are becoming the minority. We furloughed teachers yet gave administrators raises during the recession! "We" will pay $100s for sporting and music events, yet won't give to our classrooms. We are reaping what we have put into the system and we are now seeing the results. The messages our kids are getting from Facebook, Hollywood and the media is not to get an education. Very few of our top stars have high school educations, let alone college. Children are "emulating" their parents and the majority is winning. I think parents need the classes on caring and nurturing children and Finance 101. In this day and age, we are still not providing life classes like budgeting and planning for our teens, yet we expect them to ignore all the media and digital distractions to learn how to budget and be accountable for their own actions?

Cerebration said...

@ Anon 3:58 PM - I agree with every word you said. And I also understand the parents who are unwilling to lay their children at the sacrificial altar of DeKalb schools. It's certainly a quandary -- our system's been allowed to become such an apartheid. How to fix it?

Anonymous said...

Part of what is missed in this discussion is the fact that everyone of the schools with active PTAs likely have students who are benefiting as well, who would not were they not at these schools. The money these PTAs spend go to all students in the, be they of the wealthier parents or the poorer parents; so while I understand the discussion of the between school issues, it also should be recognized that there are within school benefits.

I do not understand the argument made by the other district cited in the post that if someone can't have something, no one should. It reduces everything to the lowest common denominator (kind of like NCLB), and reduces any goal of promoting excellence. I'm somewhat mystified by that one.

Anonymous said...

@ 2:29 I couldn't agree with you more.

Anonymous said...

These students parents cannot not even speak proper English, what do you expect?

Anonymous said...

The county CEO wants to raise county property taxes. Gene Walker wants to raise school system property taxes. It's Double Whammy time for DeKalb residents.

(And do you still want school system employees, especially Central Office pencil pushers, to be able to bring their children to DCSS schools for free??)


Dear Neighbors,

Since the beginning of the year, I have been busy meeting with our citizens to talk about our 2011 budget and the future of our county. These are tough times, but I continue to believe that our future will be bright if we act responsibly and forthrightly today. The recession continues to impact us with rising costs, and record levels of unemployment and home foreclosures. Each of us has been affected in some way. As a county resident, parent and taxpaying citizen, I am affected, too. We are in this together.

As I have said from the moment I took office, county government should tighten its belt before asking more from our citizens. And we have. When I took office in 2009, we inherited a county government with declining property tax revenue primarily due to the decline in the value of real estate. We took prompt action. We downsized government, eliminated waste and non-essential services, consolidated departments, and cut our spending by $86 million.

We must now make difficult, but necessary, decisions regarding how much more we can afford to cut without severely impacting our quality of life. This year, we anticipate our tax revenues will fall another $12.8 million, and we have also faced increased costs in excess of $39 million in order to meet legally-mandated expenses. You have told us that police protection and fire services are your top priorities. Furthermore, state law mandates that we fund our courts, jail and criminal justice system. That's 70% of the budget right there. The remaining 30% has been cut, consolidated, down-sized, and reorganized. Non-essential services have been eliminated altogether. Moreover, we must upgrade our water and sewer system to meet federal mandates and ensure that our citizens have safe drinking water and flushable toilets. Our remaining expenditures are for those services you have told us were your priorities: such as code enforcement, libraries, senior services, and sidewalks.

Good fiscal health also necessitates that we rebuild our reserve fund. It is our savings account; our primary line of protection in the event of an unexpected emergency, like the recent snowstorm. Good accounting principles require that the reserve equal one month's operating expenses, or $45 million. The budgets that I submitted to the Board of Commissioners, as mandated by law, contained amounts that, in time, would have restored a healthy reserve balance. But by final approval, the Commission decided to appropriate money from our reserve account in order to balance our previous budgets without raising taxes. As a result, we have now depleted our reserves.

For an organization of our size, that's like living "paycheck to paycheck." Consequently, our credit rating was recently downgraded twice. That means every DeKalb citizen will pay even more to cover normal operating expenses. My 2011 Budget Recommendation takes steps to correct this.

Anonymous said...

CEO Part 2 Tax Increase part 2

Realistically, there is no way to reduce a deficit without both cutting spending and raising revenue. We must strike the appropriate balance. My 2011 Budget Recommendation reflects that reality. It is a budget that is both lean and responsible; lean because it carries forward the deep spending cuts we have instituted during my first two years in office, and responsible because it includes a tax increase of 2.32 mils, the only viable revenue source, to address the essential service needs that you expect, deserve and have requested.

The 2011 budget is one of shared sacrifice. It addresses those rising costs that cannot be ignored, forces county government to be more innovative and efficient, positions us for a robust recovery, and adequately provides for those essential services that protect our quality of life.

We must act now to preserve our quality of life! Like you, I care deeply about our county. The times and forces that exist require that we do more than business as usual or seek the comfort of political expediency. We must act to preserve our quality of life for today and for the future of our children. The Board of Commissioners will vote on the 2011 budget before the end of February, so please let your elected officials know that you expect them to support a budget that is both lean and responsible. Let us know that you expect us to make your priorities DeKalb County's priority.

Click here ( to learn more about the 2011 Budget and my scheduled community meetings. I want to hear from you!


Burrell Ellis
Your DeKalb County CEO

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with 4:05's point about the in-school benefits of active PTAs.

Hypothetical question for anyone: Suppose your school was slightly under capacity and consisted mostly of fairly affluent single-family homes. Would you oppose adding 20 children from a nearby apartment complex?

It can't be a solution county-wide, but as we think about redistricting, let's also consider whether there are places where we could logically avoid segregating "those kids" into schools which will have a very hard time getting many parents involved. I'm not talking about taking things away in the name of equality, I'm talking about incrementally welcoming a few more students to the benefits where it's reasonably easy to do so.

Anonymous said...

We have to demand that the Central Office provides the "basics" at every school.

I have a ton of respect for the PTA's at Fernbank, Oak Grove, Lakeside, Druid Hills HS, etc.

But it is a major problem that so many parents from different parts of the county work the system, properly or imporperly, to send their children to such schools because their actual in- district schools are not only low performing on the CRCT's, but they don't have "the basics", like roof's that don't leak and clean restrooms, let alone afunctioning Promethean board or art & music.

And it's also a problem that we allow non-teaching staff to send their children to any school they want. It compunds the problem.

No one is saying PTA's should be allowed to pay for extra's in their schools, but as long as there are "have not's", we will be having major problems that re-districting has brought to fore. The active and healthy PTA's need to step up and demand the inequities be stopped, even if it means, for example, not supporting Gene Walker just because he promised your sending lines wouldn't change.

Anonymous said...

The more PTA's bicker, the more the focus is taken off the many failures of the Central Office, whether under Crawford Lewis or Ramona Tyson. Actually, except for Gloria Talley, the same administrators in place under Lewis are the same one's under Tyson. They and the BOE never sufficiently addressed re-districting before, and now every PTA is pretty much out for themselves.

Without PTA's demanding the BOE make serious changes to the Central Office, today's status quo will be tomorrow's status quo.

No Duh said...

I have never been involved with a PTA that has the power to fund actual positions within a school. I don't even think it's allowed. Most of the time even equipment is hard to buy "for the school" because DCSS refuses to help maintain any equipment. Now is not the time to say it's the PTAs fault that there are inequities in the system.

As far as I can tell, at least in the LHS area, the alternative redistricting plans are not at all being written or driven by the PTA. It isn't surprising that leaders within a community effort would ALSO be members and leaders within a school's PTA. Natural leaders seem to rise to any occasion.

Now, let's talk about these public school "foundations" that are popping up under the auspices of being able to fund actual teaching positions, etc. Not crazy about these at all...

No Duh said...

In case anyone is getting too sucked into "the PTAs are responsible for this mess" argument here's something to read to put PTAs into perspective.

"A VERY SPECIAL THANKS TO the HMS PTSA for their generosity and determination to help us make this Holiday Season a BIG SUCCESS.

Henderson Student Council would like to say THANK YOU for your spirit of GIVING during the Christmas Holidays. We were able to fulfill 46 wishes of 15 families. You are AWESOME!!! Not only did they receive gifts, we were able to supply them with a meal or a gift card to purchase a meal.
This year because of you each family also received a gift card. Many of the parents gleamed with joy and expressed how thankful they were. One parent stated, " I can not express how grateful I am for the sensitivity and generosity of the Henderson Middle School family. A special thanks for everything the food, clothing, and gift cards!" Without the Henderson Family none of this would have been possible.

Words can not express the joy that you brought to these families. Know that you touched the hearts and changed the lives of many.

HMS Student Council"

Paula Caldarella said...

I am with you, No Duh. Many, many of the PTA or PTO organizations of the more "active" schools don't just make sure their own children are taken care of, but manage to "give back" to others less fortunate within their own communities.

Anonymous said...

No Duh, even with the Beverly Hall mess, the Atlanta School System has benefitted greatly by the fantastic job of AppleCorp (I think the name changed) to bring in corporate and foundation money. Fernbank's Marshall Orson is actually an expert in this area and is worth listening to about it.

The key is keeping the foundation affiliated but seperate from the school system, so it doesn't just fund the superintendent's pet project, and also keeping it balanced with business and non-business board leaders.

Cere, maybe one day when things aren't so crazy we can ask Marshall to write a post about it, maybe even have a Q & A.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone else noticed that WSB (channel 2) news is consistently saying that the redistricting plans will "fill the 11,000 empty seats" in DCSS? This simply is not true - they will fill a bit over half, in either case, while changing something for 16,000 students.

It is misleading to anyone who is not acquainted with what is going on, and it makes those who question the plan look pretty stupid.

I have protested this to the station - no reply so far.

Anonymous said...

@ No Duh
"I have never been involved with a PTA that has the power to fund actual positions within a school. I don't even think it's allowed."

Fernbank's Foundation does pay for their Science Special teacher (he is a certified teacher) and another teacher - I believe the art teachers. So I guess it's allowed.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:44, that is a heartless comment. Word has it that Ms. Tawander Simmons, the concerned parent that she is, had become distraught with the education system in DeKalb. She was seeking a source for funds to send her child to private school.

Anonymous said...


The countdown has begun!!! Less than one month to the online auction and just six weeks to the live event! We realize there have been a lot of distractions between the snow storm and the redistricting proposals. Unfortunately that has stalled our donations from families and businesses. PLEASE PLEASE if you are planning on making a donation, this is the time! We need to get everything in by Friday. If you have a local business and would either like to make a donation of services or place an ad in the auction catalog, now is the time. Or if you have been meaning to get that family donation item, meal, service, GC, etc. in, now is the time. Please drop things off at the office or contact one of us, e-mails below and we will pick anything up!

Mark you calendars for our 4th annual Online Auction!! Prior to the live event, we will have an online auction beginning on Saturday February 26th
and ending on Sunday, March 6th.
It will give our Fernbank families, extended families and friends with computer capabilities the opportunity to bid on items such as...

Disney 4 one day hopper passes
Atlanta Gymnastics Center(1 month), YMCA Family Membership(3 months)
Lots of great restaurant gift certificates from our local community, including Cakes & Ale, Mediterranean Grill, Rise & Dine, American Roadhouse, Golden Buddha, Dancing Goats, Starbucks...the list goes on.....
And GREAT Tickets to various sporting events, theater, museums, etc....

Our annual live event will be held on March 12th from 6:30-10:30 at Emory's Cox Hall. The main event will feature teacher donations, classroom art projects, wonderful business & family donations and the live auction, including a trip to Italy for four!

Your child has been bringing home lots of auction information in his/her courier. There are family & business donation forms as well as many, many opportunities to volunteer and get involved prior to the event as well as the actual auction.

Reservation forms for the March 12th adult only event will be in your child's courier in February. Tickets are $45. per person. It is very important that you get your reservations in promptly so we can get an accurate number to the caterer.

For further information or for forms, go to the Fernbank Foundation Website, link below.

Anonymous said...

Dawn, I wanted to respond to your post. I am of the strong opinion that the magnets are NOT the primary source of inequity in DCSS. There are two elementary school magnets. That's it. There are 81 other elementary schools with disparaties greater than we can imagine. There are actually neighborhood elementary schools with more resources in the way we are discussing (specials, extra clubs, activities) than the high achiever magnets. For example, Kittredge has one gifted teacher. Livsey has two. Austin has two. Other schools have one, and others have none. Take the magnets out of the inequity discussion, and you will still find chasms of difference. There are some neighborhood elementary schools with no music, no foreign language, no gifted, and no extra activities like chess or other clubs. There are other neighborhood schools with 2 gifted teachers, special ed, an RN (as opposed to an assistant), full-time PE, chess club, art club, beta club, debate club, Olympics of the Mind, 4-H, and more. The point I'm trying to make is that it isn't just the 2 elementary magnets that have more than others. There are "regular" schools that have more than the magnets, and there are way too many that have less than those top schools and the magnets. But the magnets are NOT the only "haves", so the argument that getting rid of them and sending those kids back to their home schools (to the tune of 6-8 kids per school) will not resolve the Idlewood to Livsey or Hightower to Vanderlyn differences. And the "have nots" are not all concentrated in the south. In every cluster, you will find elementary schools that are drastically different from those that surround it. My kids are at a school somewhere in the middle, but, if someone said I could send my kids anywhere based on offerings, I would send my kids to Evansdale, Fernbank, or Austin over Kittredge because those schools actually offer more. The county administration now has this data - it was gathered on all of those tours. They MUST set a minimum criteria of offerings for each school and guarantee access to those minimums before any other schools get anything else. Curb the foundations that are paying for staff, and make principals publicize the decisions they make on their points. Are they spending gifted points to get a part-time art teacher? Are they opting not to have a foreign language so that they can fund a full-time music teacher? These are all decisions within the principal's control that can so drastically change a child's schooling experience.

Anonymous said...

After reading the post by Anonymous 6:15, I'm not sure how anyone could suggest that Fernbank is a bastion of entrenched privilege.

Poor old Fernbank. Everyone's always picking on them. So unwarranted.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much they'll raise. Paideia raised over $300,000 at their live and online auction.

Ella Smith said...

I agree that some schools with active PTAs and foundations can fund many things the county does not fund. Athletic Booster clubs also can fund better athletic programs at some schools than at others.

However, some of these schools also do not have access to all the Title I funds that flow through the county. Some needy schools receive tons of Title I money that other schools with strong PTAs might not receive. These Title I funds are taxes that all of us pay as taxpayers. However, the funds are given only to certain schools. Is this fair?

(IMO) It it fair for the PTAs, Athletic Boosters and foundations to raise money for extra things in their school? They take time to do this and by doing this they help many students other than their own children at the school. Things will never be equal regarding funds unless all schools receive the same amount of money and no other outside funds are allowed. This will never happen as needs are different. However, all PTAs have the same opportunity to raise money for their schools. Some do it and some do not which is their choice which has nothing to do with fairness. It has more to do with taken advantage of opportunities to help their children. PTAs can be extremely active and raise money at all schools if they make that choice as Parents and Teachers.

I also would agree that as a group PTAs can be political powers just like any other group with a large number of voters as members.

Cerebration said...

I think my point really is that we have had a lack of an educational vision in our school system for many years. Our schools and their PTAs have filled the gaps where leadership has been vacant, however, that tactic has obviously left enormous chasms in the educational opportunities among our schools. Now comes the need to consolidate schools and the mirror of truth is showing what we have built: a lopsided, parent led, schoolhouse poor, administratively bloated school system.

We really need to get a leader with a clear vision and a lean (5 member?!) board that will support that leader in implementing a whole new direction for our schools and ALL of our children in the next decade.

Anonymous said...

The sad part of the DCSS BoE is that we, the people, have elected these people and very few care about replacing these ignorant (most cases), uneducated (some cases - do we really have someone without an undergrad degree???), and potentially criminal individuals (some cases)? If we are not equipped with the process that will promote education leaders to these posts nor the qualified individuals to fill these posts through elections, what are we to do? Again, none of us get a "do over" with our children, yet so few are taking the time to get education right. We have resigned ourselves that government=waste, yet we expect them to educate our children well? I wish I could say that this is a county issue, but I think it is becoming the broader public school system issue, all the way through college. I hate to say it, but if you start assessing people tuition to education their children, even a small amount, maybe they will be more closely tied to their children's education and seek real results. Or, even give people a bill of what money is being spent on their child's education. I believe parents truly fail to realize the investments of time, talent and resources schools put into children to make them literate. Maybe that would start increasing the value of education.

Kim Gokce said...

Let me 100% clear in my criticisms of some PTAs for those that may not read my long-winded posts regularly ...

I am 110% behind any parent or PTA group that works their behinds off for their kids. Everything said above about how this benefits all the children in a school about how it challenges districts to adopt new benefits for all schools - that is all true and I applaud it.

I think I was clear in my rants on other posts that where I criticize PTAs is when they attempt to manage beyond the scope of their childrens' school. I do not think it is a proper thing for a PTA to do to spread mis-information about other schools to justify their positions on re-districting. I do not it a reasonable activity for a PTA to organize to hijack an open public meeting either by demonstration or by a dedicated effort to push aside other view points of INDIVIDUAL citizens who may be present.

I do not think it is a proper role for a PTA to fan the flames of fear and, yes, even bigotry among constituency groups within our community for political reasons (apartment residents vs home owner residents, black vs white, native born vs immigrant, etc, etc, etc.).

This is the type of thing that I have been referring to when I tagged some PTAs as Political Action Committees (PACs). There is nothing wrong with a group of folks trying to influence their duly elected officials - that is called lobbying and is a protected activity in the good old U.S.A. ... but that is not a PTA, that is a "PAC."

Organizing fundraisers for school needs, having a community-building event, hosting recognition events for teachers and students, sponsoring wish list fulfillment for the classroom, grounds clean-up and beautification days ... awesome!

PTAs marching on the Board of Education with pitchforks and torches every time re-districting comes up ... not cool.

Kim Gokce said...

Also, let's not mix-up the issues as it regards resources at "affluent" schools versus "Title I" schools ... what I have learned is that the schools of Cross Keys attendance do have the basic needs of the classroom met more or less like their peers "across the tracks" and they do manage to achieve academically due to this and dedicated teachers.

I would never want to tell an "affluent" school community that it could not provide every opportunity in their power to provide to their children. Where I part ways with some PTAs is the political engagement at a system level that actually does impair the long-term opportunities CHILDREN IN OTHER SCHOOLS.

Whether we like it or not, we are connected as a public school system and the "Butterfly affect" applies to DeKalb schools - victories in political battles in one corner of DeKalb do have an impact over time and across the County. Over decades, the cumulative affect can be pretty sad.

Anonymous said...

At what point in the process did PTA's begin speaking for entire communities or school districts? Why did we elect the officials that are in charge of this decision? This is a symptom of the larger issue in Dekalb county. For two years the DCSS has identified the poor utilization of schools as a problem and for two years they have lost control of the process in the name of "community input". The Dekalb School System is incapable of making a hard decision. And what did they expect when they turned this process over to "public input"? An open and honest sharing of ideas that would ultimately result in a collective singing of Kumbaya? You didn't have to be Nostradamus to see the inevitable parade of bickering parents that ensued.

And who came to bicker? Primarily parents fortunate enough to have a day job (or in a lot of cases no job thanks to a high earning spouse), a spouse to watch the children, enough money for a baby sitter, a Mac with high speed Internet, a Ford Expedition to cart a small army of PTA crusaders to 3 meetings a week, etc etc etc. And what is wrong with this? NOTHING! I include myself in this group and am grateful for my good fortune. But don't wonder why the "public input" was dominated by north Dekalb.

The elected officials on the Dekalb Board of Education have a duty to do what is right for all the citizens. That is why they were elected and what they get paid to do. This decision is easy. The numbers speak for themselves. These are county assets that have been paid for in large part by taxpayers that have long since seen their children graduate college. The county has a duty to maximize these assets and do what is best for all the children in the school system. Implementing it is hard. It won't be any easier next year, however, and the problem is not going away.

Anonymous said...

If you want to know where the black parents from the south side are this year leave the Fernbank boundaries as they are. You won't have PTA's at the meetings you'll have Al Sharpton and Jessee Jackson and rightfully so.

concerned said...

If it is OK for some schools to have fund raising machines. We then agree that the offerings at schools can be vastly different. Why then is it OK to redistrict and take students out of an enhanced environment, specifically chosen by their parents and move them to a more sparse environment. You really can't have it both ways in my opinion. I would be pissed if you moved my kids to a school with less fund raising ability than another school.
If we are all one district their should be limits on how much one school can raise vs. another school.

Cerebration said...

The Dekalb School System is incapable of making a hard decision. And what did they expect when they turned this process over to "public input"? An open and honest sharing of ideas that would ultimately result in a collective singing of Kumbaya? You didn't have to be Nostradamus to see the inevitable parade of bickering parents that ensued.

That's the funniest comment I've read in a long time. On point too.

Kim - as usual, you articulated what I've been inarticulately trying to say all day. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Concerned~ I am so floored at these types of comments. This is public school we are talking about. When you put your children in public school, do you not realize that you can be redistricted at any time? The county has to make decisions for the best of the entire school system. (I"m not saying they always do) But I'm shocked by the narcissism of so many parents in this county. My children could be potentially affected by redistricting...I have shared my thoughts in all of the forums offered. Now I'm waiting to see what happens. I repeat, this is public school. This is how it works all over the USA.

Cerebration said...

Speaking of political power - exercise yours through the state PTA - They track the school-related legislation every year and issue weekly reports like the one sent out today:

Please share this information with all of your PTA officers, unit members, teachers, and school administrators. We welcome feedback and will be responsive to your comments and concerns.

Weekly Advocacy Action Item(s):

P – Pre K E – Elementary M – Middle H - High school

(P,E,M,H) Call your House Legislators before Thursday week and express your support to maintain funding for nurses (for more information on nurse budget cuts, go to All information and phone numbers in Capitol Watch. Inform your Principals and School Board Members this week about funding for school nurses. Questions to your school leaders should include, but not limited to: What is our school’s plan to possibly operate without a nurse? What will be the liability of the school if prescription drugs can only be legally administered by a Registered Nurse to your child and our school does not have one? What is our plan to prevent cuts?
(P,E,M,H) Sign up for PTA Day at the Capitol Advance Registration $35 on and before 18 February 2011. On 19 February – 2 March 2011 costs will be $50

Information for Week

Budget - Continuing to monitor progress

Be aware that school nurses are recommended for a 10% cut, higher than average for any agency. It will be just under 25 million for FY12.

Governor Deal is proposing a $20 million dollar cut in Georgia’s pre-k program due to lottery funding shortfalls. See AJC 30 January 2011, page A1 and A11

Anonymous said...

@ anon 6:20 PM - Magnets are a county imposed inequality of resources. Schools with active fund raising PTAs are different in that they are not using county dollars. I agree that a minimum service designation should be made for county wide implementation. However, if this is done, you would find that the magnet system is at the top of the county designated reource allocation. They are, and always have been a contentious issue for good reason.
I too would love to see the system replicated, for all children who qualify such services to receive them. However, the bottom line remains - the county cannot afford this type of programming. The focus needs to be on leveling the playing field - starting with government dollars. The issue of private dollars will always be more difficult to administer.
If they cannot come up with the nerve to eliminate the magnet system ( which they will not ) - they should at least centralize and run them in budget lines with all schools.

Anonymous said...

On this evenings news on WSB I saw the good Bishop Long from NBBC asking that $1 million be returned to his parishioners who had made bad investments. Why can't the PTA's of the DCSS put on a fund raiser or ask
the BOE to contribute the money. they could do this by giving the New Birther's of the administration a raise to be contributed back

Anonymous said...

I really think that one way that DCSS is funding the magnets is by pooling the gifted funds from the state and then converting the money into "points" to "redistribute" back to the schools (Other systems give the money back to the schools in hard dollars on a per student basis) -- this results in the individual schools not being "fully funded" for their gifted populations and "voila" extra money for the magnets at the expense of these other schools.
Fulton and Gwinnett can redistrict with much less agony on a regular basis because the services, at a basic level, by and between school is much more similar. Beverly Hall made sure that when Jackson and Sarah Smith started teaching foreign language through PTA dollars, all schools within the system also had foreign language. Conversely, whne the budget called for cutting instrumental musice, out it went at all schools within the district -- it was an even decision throughout. Sarah Smith and Jackson remain the wealthier schools with PTAs that fund more than other schools but there is an evenness within the system that DCSS is sorely lacking. I think in addition that, there is a much better job going on of enforcing residency within various school districts. This, too, is sorely lacking in DCSS.

Kim Gokce said...

conerned: "If we are all one district their should be limits on how much one school can raise vs. another school."

I respectfully disagree. I am a freedom loving, native born son of the State of Georgia in these Confed ... uh, I mean these United States of America. Because our system has failed to manage the SYSTEM properly for so long we can't blame local parents for helping their school be the best it can be.

The remedy isn't to restrict neighbors from being boosters for their schools, it is to MANAGE THE SYSTEM so that the baseline of offerings is higher AT EVERY SCHOOL in the district.

My perspective has evolved over the past few years as I have come to realize that it is our insistence on keeping "things the way they are" that has been a huge drag on the system. Heck, in Lewis' day the mission was to "return to Premier DeKalb" .. sheesh!

Someone above pointed out how we've spent two years talking about THE SIMPLE need to close under-enrolled, smaller schools. What is going to happen when the 2020 Vision thing comes down and it includes 13 high schools where we have 22 now????

While it is fair to call the system's central operations bloated and inefficient, it is equally fair to point out that our schools need to be reduced by 1/3 or so over the next decade.

So, when do we start? Not last year, not the year before, and we're not quite ready yet - go slow, don't be hasty, sleepy, you're growing very sleepy ... and you're out.

Anonymous said...

One of the biggest issues fueling this confusion goes back to the question "What is the purpose or definition of education" Is it more than test scores? Are "great" test scores a culmination of great teaching and enriching experiences such as field trips, music, chess, etc.

Anonymous said...

I think that school nurses could also be shared by elementary schools just like school counselors in elementary schools. We are in a budget crisis and while having a nurse all day long is nice, it's not necessary. I've never had a nurse or counselor all day at any other school that I taught at in other states. Doesn't seem like a good use of funds.

We need to get our priorities in line and funding smaller class sizes is much more important to me than having a full time or two school nurse and counselor.

No Duh said...

Anon 529. PTAs don't fund positions. You are talking about a foundation. That's a whole different animal.

Anonymous said...

No Duh,
There are lots of PTAs that do fund positions even though the state and national PTA says it's a no-no.

Anonymous said...

No Duh

I think many of the foundations that sprang up in the last few years, exist exactly to raise money to employee staff.

Before that, and maybe still, PTAs were certainly paying for staff.

Anonymous said...

I am curious how getting to the more consolidated school model is best for a contracting county like DeKalb with so many congested traffic corridors. So, we close 30-40% of our schools over the next 9years. Where will these big 900 student ES, 1200 MS and 1600 HS be? What time will our children have to get up to get to school? What time will they come home? How about Saturday classes? I do not know where everyone else lives, but I live in DeKalb and I can wholehearted say we are NOT set up like Cobb or Gwinnett.

The megaschool push just shows that we really do not care about building better and environmentally sustainable schools for our children. I am not opposed to it in areas where the commute is easy, but that has to be just a small pocket of DeKalb that is nowhere near my Briarcliff/LaVista corridor. Again, I see so little talk about educating children. Go forth and redistrict to your hearts content because it looks like it is going to be an annual affair. I will keep my children out of this twisted system that is chock full of unqualified people making educational decisions.

Anonymous said...

While the mayor of Atlanta is boldly speaking out against the board and others, most of Dekalb's politicians are seemingly maintaining an interesting silence. This type silence leads many voters to wonder how intertwined these DCCS and politicians' relationships are.
Speaking of political power, it will also be interesting to see how the new DA handles this cheating issue. I am baffled because this group of people seemingly are being handled much differently than the first. If there was such a long "thorough" investigation with personnel being moved, why then must they wait to see if they are guilty? Speaking of transparency, here again, something does not add up.
Why hasn't the CEO and the commissioners contacted Arne Duncan while he is here to address this BOE's actions? While it might be "adult dysfunction" on one hand, on the other, many many high salaried, under performing adults are functioning and living quite well at the childrens' expense and adult taxpayers' expense.
These people in power are snubbing their noses and continuing business as usual as they laugh all the way to the bank and to San Francisco on their next upcoming Title 1 trip!

Anonymous said...

WOW, I just read Maureen Downey's Get School post re Step Up or Step Down that APS Parents have started. They are making their board accountable!

Anonymous said...

From a parent of a child with a chronic illness...
Please leave nurses out of this. They are an invaluable resource at the school. Not only do they take care of our children but fill in for many different roles as time allows.

debora said...

Enthusiastic high school and accelerated middle school math students - here's one opportunity regardless of what your school offers. Emory University's math department is offering the American Math Competition on Wednesday, February 23 at 5:30 PM. Contact the coordinator, Victor Larsen ( before February 9 to sign yourself up.

The AMC sets the standard for bright high school math students. It's a 25 question, 75 minute multiple choice exam consisting of problems which can be solved using high school math concepts (no calculus). There are 2 levels: AMC-10, limited to 10th grade and below, and AMC-12. The problems range from relatively easy to very hard. The AMC's purpose is challenge students and develop their talent and interest in math. It also identifies top students for participation in a further ladder of competitions.

Judging from the list of Governors Honors nominees, math talent can be found around the county. This year's county math nominees are from Chamblee, Clarkston, Cross Keys, DSA, Druid Hills, Dunwoody, Lakeside, and Tucker. Redan, MLK, and Columbia had county math nominees a couple of years ago. I wish all these eager students and their peers had access to a math club, but even those who don't can at least do the AMC on its B date, thanks to the people at Emory.

About the AMC:

AMC problems from past years:

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:57...I have 2 children in public elementary school. Both are 100% healthy and do not need services of a nurse on a regular basis.

But I would fund a full-time nurse at their school if I could in a heartbeat. Broken arms or legs on the playground, random bloody noses, vomiting from the flu (or not the flu), food allergy reactions at any point in the day...not to mention helping children with chronic illnesses like epilepsy or diabetes manage their diseases...yes, I would love a devoted RN at my child's school.

His/her time shared at another school may be the EXACT time we need him/her at ours. The cost savings, in my opinion, is not worth the risk.

Anonymous said...

I've always understood that Title 1 funding was originally intended to compensate for the real and perceived differences between schools in wealthy areas when compared to those schools with predominantly low income families. If wealthy School A received extra funding from it's PTA, corporate gifts, etc. for special projects and what not, then low income School B received Title 1 funds which COULD be used for the same type programs. Each SCHOOL would then choose just how these extra monies would be used to best serve it's resident students and achieve it's overall goals.

What I've not understood is how the Title 1 funding formula works, how much each school generates, how much each school receives and who is formally tasked with deciding how that money is spent. Is DCSS taking some, most or all of this money for it's own purposes (esis, Americas Choice)? If so, and if my understanding is correct, then that would be wrong. This would be an appropriate question for DCSS in the context of this PTA have and have-not discussion.

It would seem to me that if this process is work

Anonymous said...

Anon 1/31 4:38 says....I have a ton of respect for the PTA's...Lakeside, etc.
...parents work the system send their children to such schools because their actual in- district schools...don't have "the basics", like roof's that don't leak and clean restrooms, let alone afunctioning Promethean board or art & music.

Wow anon you sure haven't been in Lakeside. And you certainly haven't been there during rain. LHS has hands down the worst restrooms in the DCSS possibly the state. My children refuse to use them. When it rains out come the trash cans to catch all the leaks. Promethean boards-last I checked there was one per department that might come to 10 in all.
One might assume since everyone and their brother try to get their kids into the school that it's a shiny palace but it is so far removed from that it's not even funny. Quite sad really.

Anonymous said...

I will second the Lakeside state of disrepair. It has to be one of the worst schools in the County in that respect. It is truly awful. But, the school itself doesn't create performance, the teachers, students and parents do. That is why regardless of how bad the building gets, the achievement remains high.

Cerebration said...

Anon 2:29 PM - we have been harping on this for a while. As far as we can tell, DCSS piles over $30 million in Title 1 funds (some say it actually is much higher) - and spends it on an enormous Administrative staff, programs like America's Choice, Instructional "coaches" to monitor teachers and trips to Hollywood!

We think the money should go to the schools - for PEOPLE - to sit with very tiny groups (2-3 or so) and work on skills like reading and math. Early intervention and remedial help (We found out that DeKalb has the smallest amount of resources devoted to remedial help of any metro system).

So yes - Title 1 has been lining the pockets of ADMINISTRATORS not children and buying up programs and equipment - as far as we can tell.

Anonymous said...

On that same thought process, you should see how NICE the brand new schools on the Southside are. WOW!

Too bad the academic performance is lacking.

SPLOST II was purposed to renovate and retrofit all middle schools. EVERY middle school in the county has had a renovation EXCEPT HENDERSON MIDDLE SCHOOL!
Imagine that?
And DCSS is currently working on preparations for SPLOST IV?

I was at one of the public redistricting meeting last week and sat with an elementary school principal from Super Cluster 5, Columbia ES.

I asked about "Bouie Theme School" and he told me the students are required to wear uniforms and the parents are required to volunteer at 16 hours per semester.

I thought that was interesting that DCSS requires parent involvement.

I commend DCSS on that. I also think it should be a county wide requirement.

What are your thoughts about required parental involvement?

Anonymous said...

DCSS received over $66 million dollars THIS YEAR in federal funds.

I don't know how much of it is Title 1 but that is a lot of money from the gubment.

Who is going to the Budget meeting on Thursday?

Anonymous said...

"I will second the Lakeside state of disrepair. It has to be one of the worst schools in the County in that respect. It is truly awful. But, the school itself doesn't create performance, the teachers, students and parents do. That is why regardless of how bad the building gets, the achievement remains high."

Well, then, Lakesiders, why aren't y'all raising heck with the BOE about the condition of your building? By failing to do so, you're enabling the Central Office to get away with it.

Lakesiders, even those who kids graduated 10-20-30 years ago are all fired up about re-districting. But you should be equally fired up about the physical plant of the school.

It's not wrong or right, but some PTA's, like Fernbank and Lakeside, simply have more clout with the BOE. By failing to demand that the BOE hold the Central Office accountable for poor physical conditions at the school, you're enabling the Central Office to continue their malfeasance.

The same goes with admin transfers. Lakesiders should have been all over this early on, but now there's almost no way to stop the flood of all the non-district students who find a way to get into Lakeside, even with C Lew not around anymore to use admin. transfers as political favors.

Seriously Lakesiders, where were y'all when things started to go downhill for the entire system, not just for your re-districting???

Anonymous said...

"SPLOST II was purposed to renovate and retrofit all middle schools. EVERY middle school in the county has had a renovation EXCEPT HENDERSON MIDDLE SCHOOL!
Imagine that? And DCSS is currently working on preparations for SPLOST IV?"

Every middle school? I voted at Shamrock, and if that school has been renovated, it's pretty darn hard to tell.

Cerebration said...

I think Sequoyah got a roof and some other fix-up projects, but not a total renovation. Many of these middle schools are former high schools and have just as much need as our older high schools.

Anonymous said...

Why not allocate funds collected by PTAs in reverse order to how affluent the school body is?. That is, money collected by the PTA of a school from a rich neighborhood, like (I will not name names), will be sent to a school having an impoverished student body. And vice versa.

That will speed up the equalization process.

I know that some school systems collect extra money from the government for students having ADD (those who take Ritalin, or similar). It seems that most of the members of our BOE suffer from this malady. Is there a program by which we can get extra money?

No Duh said...

Anon 3:56. You either have not been around long or you are just now inserting yourself into school "politics."

Did you really say..."Well, then, Lakesiders, why aren't y'all raising heck with the BOE about the condition of your building? By failing to do so, you're enabling the Central Office to get away with it."??

Did you really say..."The same goes with admin transfers. Lakesiders should have been all over this early on,"???

You are clearly unaware of the thousands of LHS community members who, through the years, have spent thousands (dare I say tens of thousands) of hours serving on DCSS task forces, advisory groups, councils, committees, focus groups, ad hoc teams, etc. in direct service to DCSS and the BOE and Central Office staff -- advocating for the right things for LHS and the rest of our schools.

You are clearly unaware of the thousands of side conversations, lunches, meetings in people's homes, get-togethers at school picnics, one-on-one conferences, appearances at BOE meetings, appearances at BOE committee meetings, and "by the way" moments our community members have shared with Central Office staff and BOE members over the years.

How about you do just two of those things. Then come back here and let us know how much progress your powerful butt made with these people?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, guess the Lakesiders aren't as powerful as everyone thinks they are, even with Don McChesney in their pocket.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:11

For those who are misinformed, Don McChesney has nothing to do with Lakeside HS except that he is on the BOE.

His schools in his district consist of the following:

Ashford Park
Briar Vista
Laurel Ridge
Sagamore Hills

Druid Hills

Cross Keys
Druid Hills

Do some research before you start throwing stoned.

Dekalbparent said...

And you are WAY overestimating how much clout any school has with the BOE or DCSS Central Office. Remember, we only have one rep per district, and one rep who represents half the district...

When DHHS was scheduled to receive 50 transfers, and (surprise!) got 350 additional transfers on the first day of school a few years ago, the principal and PTSA went to the Central Office, and spoke to all the higher ups. The answer they were given? "Suck it up - you take who we send."

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Lakesiders aren't as powerful as their public perception, but I wouldn't bet against the Fernbank PTA!

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:39, Really, send money from a PTA that has active parents who care to a school who does not have active parents. So mistake by force from people who care and give to people who don't. Surely this was a joke comment. Have you even tried to listen to parents from under achieving schools, they do not speak properly they speak in a broken form of English, i think they call it Ebonics.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 6:20 pm

" There are actually neighborhood elementary schools with more resources in the way we are discussing (specials, extra clubs, activities) than the high achiever magnets. For example, Kittredge has one gifted teacher. Livsey has two. Austin has two. Other schools have one, and others have none. Take the magnets out of the inequity discussion, and you will still find chasms of difference."

Not really. The county paid for all the Kittredge teachers to be certified in Gifted. Therefore, they can collect gifted funds for the gifted students and say they are served in the regular classroom. They do have one designated gifted teacher, but the excess gifted funds go to pay for more regular education teachers and also for the special teachers like the German teachers, art, music, etc.

Since gifted funds follow gifted students, when those hundreds of gifted students were pulled from their local schools, the gifted funding followed. That's one reason why Kittredge can afford extra teachers and have lower class sizes as well.

Just want to set the record straight.

I'm not against magnets. I just think they need to be offered within a regular school setting and admin and support personnel (e.g. custodians and cafeteria) as well as special teachers like foreign language, special ed, music, art, band, PE, gifted, counselors, APs, the Principal, etc. should be shared. The sharing of admin and support as well as "special" teachers will save millions.

Millions of dollars saved could allow DCSS to put in place more magnet programs to serve the students who qualify - not just the "lucky" ones who have their name pulled out of a hat.

This would be my requirements for magnets:
1. Magnets need to be for other interests (technology, art, science, etc.) than just gifted.

2. Magnets need to be all students to qualify.

3. Magnets need to be embedded within existing facilities sharing personnel and physical plant resources and cost no more per pupil than regular education schools.

Anonymous said...

@ 5:44 pm
"Maybe the Lakesiders aren't as powerful as their public perception, but I wouldn't bet against the Fernbank PTA!"

LOL. You are so right. Ms. Tyson and the BOE have NO chance against the Fernbank parents. If they don't have the strings to pull, they will find the people that do. They are without a doubt the most powerful influence group in DeKalb. I really think they may be the only ones left untouched. My money is on them. They are very happy with things just the way they are. No wonder Gene Walker is so amenable to them.

Anonymous said...

McChesney does have his roots in the Lakeside area. He lives done the street. He was asked to run for School Board by a Sagamore group who wanted Sagamore Hills to be part of the Lakeside HS district as all of it was not part ot the Lakeside district. This was one of the first things McChesney tried to get accomplished and still wants accomplished. This is one of the main reasons he was encouraged to run for school board by a set group of individuals and someone wants to indicate he does not have connections to individuals who have an interest in the Lakeside district or anything else regarding Lakeside HS. Someone is dreaming if you think this to be true.

Anonymous said...

Kim--I don't understand your reference to PACs.
Most people her seem to think you are discussing parents paying for extra services and goods in the schools with their kids.
That's not a Political Action Committee.
What PAC did you have in mind?

Seems to me the commenter who said you were being diplomatic may have confused that with some sort of code oyu are using--or perhaps just being obtuse.

You have an example? Say it.
(I want to donate funds to it)

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:13 p.m. To further set the record straight, the strategy of getting as many elementary teachers certified in gifted as possible is not limited to Kittridge. The former principal at Fernbank did the same thing. Then she eliminated the pull out model and began having gifted instruction delivered in the classroom by the regular teachers. In this way, all the students benefited from the gifted curriculum, not just those pulled out of the classroom. Plus the school got more gifted funding.

Please don't try to portray this as some sort of "magnet" plan.

Anonymous said...

"Hmmm, guess the Lakesiders aren't as powerful as everyone thinks they are..."

If that's true, it isn't because they don't have pwerful people in the area or connected with them.

It's because they don't know how to use them.

You don't get what you want with parent groups. You get what you want by putting people in office--calling them on the favor--and finding leverage points with certain individuals.

For instance--do you know how many downtown lawyers, contractors and bond dealers live along the I-85 NE Dekalb corridor?
Lakeside stakeholders don't even know who's ion their own communioty.

Money talks.

Whoever said--maybe that's why Fernbank can push Eugene around is absolutely correct...and they don't get it with loud parents.

BTW--none of these schools can compare to Tucker in influence. Check out the number of judges and former judges live in Smokerise.

You people don't know power.

Anonymous said...

BTW--who do you think is responsible for the DA going after Lewis and Pope?
Who do you think is responsible the state takeover in Clayton?
Who do you think calls the shots with SACs (and has no doubt got the current school admin on a string?)
How do oyu think precious law enforcement and political resources are allocated? By targeting who pwerful people want targeted.
Neighborhoods aren't worth the trouble to high flyers like this--they go after big targets.
If SACs straightens out the school board (or embarrasses them first) and the press goes after Tyson (or whoever)...then we won't have to be concerened about individual neigborhoods.

Anonymous said...

"Why not allocate funds collected by PTAs in reverse order to how affluent the school body is?. That is, money collected by the PTA of a school from a rich neighborhood, like (I will not name names), will be sent to a school having an impoverished student body. And vice versa.

That will speed up the equalization process. "

This will only send "rich neighborhoods" to private school.
Unless equalization happens from the top this will be the end result from redistricting also.

Anonymous said...

To Anon@ 2:29...when you mention none of the other teachers ( special areas) teach the basics, you are dead wrong! As an art educator, I teach social studies, math, LA, and respect for other cultures in my classroom.The children who enter my room understand math by dividing a paper or using symmetry. We visit Egypt, Paris, Africa, India, Greece and many other important cultures to learn about them. You can't teach social studies without including art.
Teaching our children just the "basics" won't work anymore! They will fall behind in this global world that screams creativity and thinking "outside the box". Countless studies have shown adding fine arts to a child's education not only improves tests scores, but develops a well- rounded individual.
PTA's should not have to fund art, music or other specials. Our state and county should realize without this, children are not getting a quality education that prepares them for the future. Dekalb will never reach "premier" status unless they can keep up with the area counties (Fulton, Cobb, Gwinett,etc) that provide art, music and PE to every child.

I can take any art lesson I teach and include the "basics". I teach self worth, encouragement, motivation, respect for other cultures, and thinking outside the box. I love my job! I wish more parents would realize what an art teacher really does- not just filling or icing on the cake. My students beg to have art more often but the county splits me between two schools and they only receive art once a week. How much math can you master if you only had class once a week for 35 minutes? We are spread thin but we're glad to have a job even that gives back by way of children's smiles
every day! The three R's should be changed to FOUR... reading, writing, arithmetic and fine arts! Without this, we Are short changing our children.

Anonymous said...

If you go to the BOE districts on the DCSS web site, you will see that Paul Womack shares Briarlake and Lakeside with McChesney.

Anonymous said...

As the treasurer of the PTA of an "affluent" neighborhood school, I can tell you exactly how we spend our money. Here is a listing of items that we have had to purchase for our school this year, and which accounts for over 60% of our PTA budget for the year:

Toilet Paper - because our school does not receive adequate amounts from the county.

Hand Sanitizer - because someone decided to remove all soap dispensers from our bathrooms.

Extra underpants, socks, uniforms and coats for our counselor to distribute to those that need them.

Copy paper - We run out of copy paper in our school in September. PTA provides the paper for the remainder of the year so that the teachers don't have to buy it out of their own pockets.

School Supplies for those that need them and to replenish during the year.

Books for our media center so that all children have the opportunity to read books that interest them.

Please don't tell me that we need to give the funds we have worked so hard to raise should be given to less-affluent schools. The money that I donate to my school, instead of paying private school tuition, not only goes to my child, but to EVERY child that attends school there, regardless of ethnicity, economic status, etc.

As well, our school scored an overall Poor on the facilities and technology assessment. We are over-capacity and just keep growing, however, we'll make it work and continue to raise money to provide the basic materials so that our children will continue to receive a high-quality education.

Anonymous said...

Note that most of the items you are upset that PTAs sponsor are extra-cirricular activities. And they benefit anyone at the school, not just the wealthy.

I don't think any PTA that sponsors art or music wouldn't be delighted if the school board offered it everywhere. But if the school district as a whole and board choose not to, why object to those who do?

The redistricting needs to make sense. If you try to redraw lines to places people don't want to send their children, they simply won't go. On paper you may be moving 200 kids to a failing school, but you will find in 5 years you've only moved 10 and are still below capacity. All you've done is drive students out of the district.

There's a real disturbing tendency by many in this and the last redistricting to drag everything down to the lowest common denominator instead of working on what needs to be fixed. I was amazed looking at the candidates for the last school board election and seeing how many (including incumbents) had no college degree. Our school system is being run by people who couldn't qualify to be teachers. Maybe that explains some of the lack of interest in a quality education.

As for PTAs raising money, it is nothing compared to what some public schools do in other states. And nothing compared to the private schools.

Anonymous said...

Not after redistricting, he won't. I think most of the part of Lakeside/Briarlake in McChesney, is being redistricted to Druid Hills (Middle and High). DHHS is really the high school he is most responsible for. Pull out those being redistricted to Druid Hills and I don't think he has many (if any) voters in Lakeside anymore. It will be interesting to see how he votes based on the assertion that he is protecting Sagamore from redistricting.

Anonymous said...

@1:45PM-I totally concur! I work at a school south of Memorial Drive. We need assistance from parents and members of the community. We need the county office to allow our administrators to do their jobs. Student behaviors are completely out of control. There are teachers submit very few (if any) referrals due to the lack of support from assistant principals. There are those who are allowed "preferential
treatment" and are allowed to send their children to selected northend county schools. This is completely unfair....unfair to students who do not receive preferential treatment and unfair to teachers who slave in these schools daily.

Many of us wouldn't know how to respond if we had active parents and students who cared.

No Duh said...

Didn't say LHS parents aren't powerful. They have just spent their time working hard to ensure the county respects the ACADEMIC requirements of their school -- decent staff and administration. Perhaps that's why people are begging to get in -- even with our crumbling building and standing room only classrooms.

So, we haven't cried and screamed for concrete lions. And, as another poster pointed out, don't care who you are -- ayp kids are coming and special exceptions are coming whether you like it or not.

Stick around and you will soon learn what it's worth fighting for.

Anonymous said...

I agree, no Duh. I live in Leafmore, in danger of being redistricted, and am not happy about it at all. My kids have grown up with Lakeside as the central hub of the neighborhood. I graduated from Lakeside years ago and it was a great school then just as it is a great school now. It is certainly worth fighting for.

Kim Gokce said...

No Duh: "So, we haven't cried and screamed for concrete lions"

So funny I laughed until the horns fell off my helmet and mead came out my nose. Go Vikings!

Anonymous said...

What is a school nurse? My schools must not be equal in that area.

Kim Gokce said...


Yes I am.

My use of the acronym, "PAC," was simply a way off comparing our PTAs that have turned their attention to system-wide decision-making and how to steer results to their school's benefit to PACs.

To me, this is perfectly analogous to how private groups organize and fund raise via Political Action Committees to influence elections and government policy.

A far cry from a bake sale ...

Anonymous said...

Sad that PTAs are the ones keeping the dream alive in the public school system. This is how families in communist and socialist countries survived when there were few resources from the state. They are the equivalent of an underground railroad. Now, if we could harness the energy we all have now to get the strongest PTA leaders to run for the School Board. I hope they become real PACs, Kim because we need real leaders to fix this mess and dismantle the corrupt Palace. The equity drive that our current admin has pushed has created gorgeous, empty and underperforming buildings in the county. Our resources continue to be squandered and mismanaged. Few if any in the admin are qualified to even mention the word education. Kudos to the parents for keeping good schools going. Anyone notice how many kids get transfers to the insanely overcrowded schools without functioning toilets? It is because of the educational experience. Has anyone calculated how many teachers left the system after they went to the nice new underperforming school v. those who trudge to the good schools that are falling apart? DCSS' punishment of the northend schools is not working. People are doing everything in their power to get their kids into a learning environment. Focus on building out successful schools and you will see better results and less fighting. Don't move kids around I'm hopes of turning around underperforming schools because that is not their job. They should get up at 7, get to school by 8 and done by 3. Kids need to love learning and have a great educational experience.

Anonymous said...

"Didn't say LHS parents aren't powerful. They have just spent their time working hard to ensure the county respects the ACADEMIC requirements of their school -- decent staff and administration. Perhaps that's why people are begging to get in -- even with our crumbling building and standing room only classrooms."

Do you actually have children in the building? For one thing, the county has no "respect for the academic requirements of the school." I am not even sure what that means. If you're talking about the demand that APs be offered, well yes, they are, in a manner of speaking. For the history APs, just make sure your student provides lots of Kleenex and donuts so she'll have enough extra credit for a passing grade (just like how a college course!). (It is also preferable that your child excel at cross country and/or soccer and baseball and basketball to do well in these courses!)

My point is this: the students at Lakeside are very, very bright. Their parents are well-educated. But the students achieve not because of Lakeside's heritage of academic excellence - that is a thing of the way, way past. The school has the test scores it does because it's full of students who can essentially take a text book and teach themselves. They arrive there smart - and they stay smart. And this is misread as Lakeside having some stellar academic program that develops kids academically. It does not. I would even argue in some cases, it does harm. Just ask the kids who thought they took AP Calc and went on to flunk it in college. Bye-bye HOPE scholarship. Being coached to do passably on a AP math exam is not the same as developing the mathematical fluency required for college-level Calc. (Then there is the matter of just how kids do on AP exams overall at Lakeside. Is this data available anywhere?)

So when DCSS makes large-scale AYP transfers - as if exposure to Lakeside will magically catch up students whose academic needs have not been met for years - it's but another example of a misunderstanding of the problem. The kids who transfer in are shortchanged - it is hardly what their parents expected - and the 400 kids in the freshman class are reduced by half by senior year.

And this should surprise no one, in that we have a superintendent for instruction who has reduced academic rigor for word walls.

For the truly curious student who doesn't just want to bubble in the right answer to get A's and has a true academic passion - the courses offered at Fernbank Science Center and the GA Virtual School are great options.

Anonymous said...

I live in DeKalb and pay property taxes but send my child to a non-DCSS school. I would love to send him to a DCSS school if it was the better option.

One of the reasons why we don't: Our current school smartly uses student teachers. The student teachers pull out the child who are behind in reading and math and work with them one on one or in small groups (and it's a HUGE help with English as a Second Language children).

The children catch up to the rest of the class, and it's a major assistance to the teacher. And they are incredibly helpful during with art, projects, cleanup, decorating the room, etc.

Here in DeKalb, we have fine colleges to work with, like GA State, Emory, Spelman, Morehouse, Olgethorpe, etc. But we don't use them properly. heck, Emory sends student teachers to Decatur and Atlanta because their administrations are easier to work with. GA State in particular has a great education department, and its early education program is one of the best in the Southeast, if nnot the nation(

Every DCSS elementary and middle school should have student teachers, especially the lowest performing schools, working with students directly. Our high schools should be full of math and science student teachers.

What better way to prepare a student teacher than to have them work one on one or in small groups at a low performing school with students who need their attention the most??!!
I bet you Kom Gokce is already working on getting foreign language major college students
to help out in the Cross Keys feeders to help out with ESOL's!

We have so many resources being located in one of the most populated metro areas in the country. The overall budget is more than enough to properly educate county students.

But the Central Office, enabled by the Board of Education, wastes our tax dollars (eSIS, America' Choice, Audria Berry's $15 million army of no return on investment Office of School Improvement sit on their butt'ers, MIS, a hugley bloated and vastly overpaid Central Office bureaucracy, etc.). It is incapable of utilizing the resources right in front of it.

We need to elect better Board of Education members, and PTA's especially, need to demand the current BOE members make major changes to the Central Office and its spending priorities.

Anonymous said...

" Just ask the kids who thought they took AP Calc and went on to flunk it in college. Bye-bye HOPE scholarship. Being coached to do passably on a AP math exam is not the same as developing the mathematical fluency required for college-level Calc."

This is a great point. Just because a class is called "AP" does not mean it is well-taught or that students learn material at a college (or even advanced) level. The other problem is the rote teaching and testing style of many AP classes, which if have been following the news, you will know the entire AP curriculum and tests are being overhauled by the College Board to require more knowledge synthesis and higher level thinking. Interestingly, AP is being redesigned to look more like IB, which is focused on critically thinking, writing, and knowledge integration. The IB diploma program is the best thing out there and truly prepares kids for college.

Anonymous said...

Doing passably on an AP test: I'm curious which test and what score. There is a big difference between getting a 3 on Calc AB and a 5 on Calc BC. Also, (since I've heard some stories), which calculus class at which college was flunked?

I agree wholeheartedly that a lot of students get As in math but lack mathematical fluency. I had thought that AP Calculus would be a bit of a reality check for those students and perhaps a motivation to learn high school math better before going on.

One other point: student motivation is essential to real success in an AP class. It's supposed to be a college level class, and in college you are responsible for studying hard enough to master the material. There are plenty of students who get As in high school AP classes but do not master the material.

Anonymous said...

@ 10:02

Student teachers should not be working with small groups of children. This should be done by students in education courses, but not student teachers.

Student teachers should be learning how to manage a classroom, parents, administration, the paperwork, lesson plans, grading, and everything that goes into being a full time teacher.

Gerogia State does not have the best early childhood program in the nation. It may be decent, but it's not in the top 10.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:12....I teach AP and yes, the students essentially teach themselves (it's called studying). That is how they succeed. Yes, LHS's AP scores do need improvement, as do those of the rest of the county. One reason we have so many students that get 1s on th AP exams is because they have absolutely no intention of scoring higher.....they want an AP course on their transcripts. As seniors, it looks good. Amazingly enough, my juniors do tend to score well.They care about the AP test score. Now, if you want me to increase the rigor of the AP course I teach, one that maybe your child is in, I will gladly do so. If, however, their grade falls, please look to them for explanations first................and please, no donuts

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding Anon 12:14? What a ridiculous post!

Of course they should be learning to write lesson plans
and manage a class, but should DEFINITELY work with students in a one on one setting and small groups, but under the direction of the supervising teacher, who is hopefully a veteran teacher.

I'm a teacher and was lucky enough to go through student teaching at a college with great professors who worked our tails off during student teaching and made darn sure we were ready when we graduated. They were incredibly tough on when they came out of multiple evalutions,
knocked us down and then built us back up.

It's obvious you are not a teacher.

Anon 10:02 didn't say that GA State has a Top 10 early childhood program, but my own professors has major praise for their graduate degree in early childhood ed. It may not be Top 10, but it's the best in Georgia.

DCSS should be doing everything possible to work with the area colleges to get student teachers in every school in the system!

Cerebration said...

I have to agree with Kim. PTAs have overstepped their bounds and become more or less political PACs - even going so far as to threaten lawsuits over redistricting.

Sad fact is: these PTAs do not realize that their schools are simply part of a very large school system. Decisions have to be made that take the effects on nearly 100,000 students into account. Decisions need to be made regarding how best to use our limited resources. We can no longer function as pods of insular groups—unattached to each other. As I've said before, if you want that, move to Decatur (and pay Decatur city taxes).

All that said - in order for people to allow for countywide decisions to be implemented, we must get to a point where we have leadership the people trust to make these decisions. There are many old wounds that need healing in order to gain that trust. This current school board seems intent upon blaming everything on past leadership, and wanting to simply "move on". But that has not done a thing to gain the necessary trust—you can't just wipe it all away. We are looking at too many inequities to simply pretend they don't exist and reshuffle the deck.

Small example–why have the board meeting minutes not been posted online for months and months? Major-MAJOR, decisions have been made, misinformation is flying around as fact (ie: Coralwood was granted $12 million for an addition) yet, we have no way of checking to get the correct information. I've heard board members say of our technology, "every school system wants what we have", yet I can't access our own system's meeting minutes - but I can grab Gwinnett's in about 2 minutes online.

It's a chicken and the road quandary: If we had better, more trustworthy, informed, education-focused leadership, then PTAs would not have to be so vocal and strong to defend their territory. There would not be such enormous discrepancies in territories that now require defending had we not the decades-long practice of allowing vocal PTAs to "run" schools has created.

The heck with buildings and hardware. We are lacking EDUCATIONAL leadership. I don't think we can get to where we need to be until we have a strong, educationally-minded superintendent in place. And the timeline for placing that person is too long for the system to bear, IMO.

Anonymous said...

Very, very important article on possible Pre-K funding cuts by the state:

Anonymous said...

DeKalb County schools could receive $3.5 million in state construction aid if it closed more schools, the Georgia Department of Education said on Tuesday.

Anonymous said...

@ 12:41

Actually I was a teacher (and a very good one) and left DCSS because I wasn't able to teach and was tired of the way DCSS was run.

I worked with small groups of children through practicums and as part of certain class requirements when I was getting my teaching degree. When it was time for my student teaching, I was teaching the class and acting as a teacher. I was getting feedback from the classroom teacher and my university teacher and using their feedback to learn to be a better teacher and classroom manager. If I had to work with small groups of children, something I was already proficient in, instead of managing a group of 30+ students, than I would have been ticked, as that would not have prepared me for the rigors of the classroom and I would have been eaten alive my first year of teaching on the South Side of Chicago and in many instances there after. I already knew how to work with small groups of children and was ready to be in front of the children learning how to reach all of the children in the class and not just one or two at a time. There is a huge difference, which is why many new teachers have a very difficult time with classroom management during their first year of teaching.

It is obvious to me that you don't understand what a good teaching program consists of. When a student reaches student teacher level, teaching the entire class, managing it, and reaching the needs of all children the best you can should be the focus of student teaching. Working in small groups does not prepare a new teacher to run a classroom, manage discipline, and deal with parents and administrators-skills that many young teachers are lacking.

I am glad that I did not receive my teacher education down here, as what I did for my training is far superior than what you describe and what I have witnessed other university students do during the time I worked in DCSS.

DCSS does work with some universities, and yes they should work with more, but frankly DCSS has enough problems and needs to focus on getting rid of the waste and focusing on educating the children. When we are offering a superior education to all of our children, than we can focus on working with other universities.

Anonymous said...

"A school system analysis found DeKalb could save $15 million a year by closing 14 schools and redistricting thousands of students. The bulk of that -- $13.4 million -- would be from staff cuts, not state construction dollars."

o.k custodians, APs and principals from 14 closed schools would be surplus. But most teacher should not be. Won't they be needed for teaching the same children but at a different school unless class size is doubled?
And sure, I can see 14 principals and 20 + APs RIFFED. Fat chance of that happening. And wait until the targeted for RIF custodians, their wives and children show up at a BOE meeting and start crying.

Dekalbparent said...

I think the point about schools not sending their student teachers to DCSS is important. Let's not get derailed by arguing what the student teachers should be doing or whether a program is in the top 10.

When I was in school, there were student teachers around all the time from elementary through high school, but I honestly cannot recall seeing more than three or four in both my kids' entire time in DCSS... There was a WONDERFUL student teacher (from Agnes Scott)in my child's 9th grade Biology class, and she stayed for three months - fabulous! The parents begged her to consider teaching in DCSS, but she went to a neighboring system.

So, why is it we don't see the student teachers, huh? There must be lots of them, given the number of colleges and universities around, but they go somewhere else.... What about Teach for America? Anybody seen any of those teachers in their school?

Anonymous said...

Great post Anon 3:57.

Agnes Scott is women's college right here in the county that not many people seem to know about. They attract students from all over the world, and they have an awesome organizational management program where students get first hand experience working for non-profits. How about DCSS matching up PTA's most in need of help with ASC's Organizational Mgt. program?

It's a neat little campus and a number of movies have been filmed there including "Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married" and "The Blind Side".

-#2 among "Top Up-and-Coming" liberal arts colleges, U.S. News & World Report "America's Best Colleges" 2010
-One of 50 best-value private colleges on The Princeton Review's list of 100 Best Value Colleges 2010
-A top U.S. producer of Fulbright students” The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 2009

Also, Teach for America is a fantastic program. Many Emory students joing Teach for America and go out all over the country to teach, but we could use them right here in the county where Emory is actually located in.

It's kind of sad when Emory students are student teaching at Decatur schools when Emory is located in unincorporated DeKalb, not Decatur.

Anonymous said...

Teach for America does not have an agreement with DeKalb.

Generally, my children's elementary and middle school has had 1 or two student teachers a year.

Keep in mind that the metro area has 100s of schools so student teachers get pretty spread out.

No Duh said...

I met the head of the Atlanta office for Teach for America at the screening of "Waiting for Superman" several months ago. I asked him if TFA worked with DCSS. He said, "Well, I had an appointment with the Superintendent. Unfortunately, it was two days after his indictment."

Don't know if he's made it onto Ms. Tyson's calendar. I hope so.

Anonymous said...

February 1, 2011 9:38 PM

McChesney does share the Lakeside district with Womack. He is not directly the representative of Lakeside but one of the original reason he ran was politically to help influence the Lakeside/Druid Hills attendance line regarding Sagamore Hills.

McChesney was also involved in bringing back out of retirement the current principal at Lakeside.

The Sagamore and Leafmore area has not been redistricted out of Lakeside yet. The previous proposal was just a proposal. You will probable see more of Sagamore and Leafmore zoned to Lakeside when the final proposal comes out from the superintendent. You will also see major changes in the Fernbank school zoned lined. Several of the school board members will not vote for the proposal as it is now. The school superintendent will make her recommendation based on political factors and the concerns of the community.

Anonymous said...

McChesney does share the Lakeside district with Womack. He is not directly the representative of Lakeside but one of the original reason he ran was politically to help influence the Lakeside/Druid Hills attendance line regarding Sagamore Hills.
McChesney was also involved in bringing back out of retirement the current principal at Lakeside.


I was told this same info. by two different Sagamore neighborhood assoc.leaders.

Anonymous said...

Kim and Cere: As someone who has been involved in PTA at all levels, the National PTA is a PAC. In fact, the National and State PTAs hate the fact that local PTAs spend all their time raising money for schools, and see it as somewhat detrimental. The want the parents to get out an lobby for more from the governmental entities that are supposed to be fully funding the schools, rather than raising it on their own. So in fact all this parent power going to fund raising is misplaced, and should be spent at BOE meetings and at the state capitol.

Anonymous said...

You will also see major changes in the Fernbank school zoned lined. Several of the school board members will not vote for the proposal as it is now. The school superintendent will make her recommendation based on political factors and the concerns of the community.

This is a lawsuit waiting to happen. How will they justify each of the changes? How will they justify making some changes and not others.

Ella Smith said...

I also believe that the first plan will be changed based on the feedback from the public.

I know that several of the school board members will never agree to this plan as it is now. The school board members will tell you that this is just a prelimary proposal without feedback from the public. I also think changes will be made to the plan throughout the county based on feedback to the school superintendent and staff.

Ella Smith said...

I can assure you that the Sagamore lines were a major issue in the last district 2 race as a candidate. I agree that the Sagamore lines need to change. However, I also indicated during the district 2 race that there were many areas in the county that had similar problems with zoning that also needed to be addressed. There are many school zones which cut across major highways and just take a house or two on the other side of the major busy highway. I heard from many voters who were affected by poor zoning decisions like this. The students play with the students on their own side of the street and I had many parents talk to me about how this affects them in a negative way. This is why I do believe that major boundaries need to be made (like roads) and then the zone does not need to go across and pick up a house or two.

Ella Smith said...

It is also my understanding that DCSS are very hard for colleges to work with in order to get their student teachers into the school system to student teach so most schools decide to work with other school systems where they area able to have better communication between the colleges and the school system. I have always thought this was very sad and a poor reflection on the Dekalb County School System.

Cerebration said...

@ Anon 8:01 PM - exactly correct. I often publish the reports from the Georgia PTA (there's a link to their website on the side panel of the home page). They are very, very good lobbyists. If ALL of our PTAs would bond together and demand the basics for all schools, that would be a very good use of their resources. However, pitting schools within the same district against each other is a very bad way to spend your energy.

Anonymous said...

WOW I think everything has been covered in this posting's comments... even the CEO weighed in.

One of the guiding principles of activism and advocacy should always be Balance.

Folks, even the most sincere, want to build bigger; want to expand their reach.
It becomes a hindrance when:
-They become insular and fail to see or respond to the world around them
-They fail to understand resources are finite and they are amassing an unfair amount
-They fail to see the bigger picture and become myopic

My meaning -- PTA's should be encouraged and take pride in their parent activism and fund-raising.

BUT -- with fortune & power comes responsibility. A failure to participate in advocacy for all; a failure to extend help to those in the cluster community; a failure contemplate and discuss the larger issues; a failure in awareness and action in the larger world -- needs to be questioned, even criticized.

Clay Boggess said...

What helps make any school effective is not just the PTA but what's behind the PTA, caring and involved parents. This is always going to be the case regardless of whether a school has a PTA or not.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks these PTAs have too much power should read the comment about Lakeside High and the Treasurer of that other school not being able to get bathrooms fixed. I moved to Georgia a couple of years ago and just couldn't believe what poor condition the physical facilities of the schools in North Dekalb and North Atlanta were in. If they had so much power, that would not be the case.