Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Right Way to Do It vs. The DCSS Way to Do It

Public’s business, plain for all to see

See the photo above: A regular, ordinary DeKalb County resident/DCSS parent who's made a difference.

After a few years of back and forth with DeKalb County stonewalling on improvements to the neglected Brook Run Park, Mr. John Heneghan, aka "Hene", started requesting documents, posting them online, attending and taping meetings, etc. It's not that hard, and not that expensive. He was self-taught, and put in many late night hours doing so.

When he became a City of Dunwoody councilperson, he made darn sure that every document, meeting minutes, agenda, etc. were not only posted online, he podcast and videocast meetings. Again, many late night hours.

He did it on his own dime until Dunwoody had their IT up and running.

“I am not a politician...I am a public servant.”

One ordinary, red headed Irish guy with a wife and kids doing something that the billion dollar Dekalb County School System can't seem to do, despite the fact that the current superintendent is the former head of the system's IT Dept.

Posting BOE minutes and detailed budget info., online, broadcasting all BOE meetings online, archiving them, time-stamping them, having all documents available online and easy to find? The DCSS tv station is run by a daughter of a former powerful BOE member who receives a generous six figure salary, yet had no previous experience in media, and it shows.

You would think with 100,000 students, there would be an occassional video piece highlighting the great accomplishments of our students and teachers? You would hope that some of these public meetings on re-districting would be broadcast. Hey, we're paying Cohn & Wolf a lot on money, and I'd expect local media consultant/local TV star, the condescending and defensive Mr. Jeff Dickerson, would give Ms. Guillory some advice on Media 101.

I digress. Parents, PTA officers, taxpayers, etc. should expect and demand that the Central Office & the out to lunch Board of Education follow's Mr. Henghan's lead, and operate in a manner where information is always shared easily and consistently, using multiple forms of media.

If one man army "Hene" can do so, I'm sure the DCSS Central Office, MIS Dept. and Board of Education (with Jeff Dickerson and Cohn & Wolf) can do the same.


Public’s business, plain for all to see

John Heneghan remembers the roadblocks he encountered when he’d request information from DeKalb County government. Too often, the longtime Dunwoody resident got stonewalled, ignored and met unnecessary resistance about public dealings that should have been completely in the sunshine.

When Dunwoody incorporated into a city, this tech-savvy Chicago native would capture the meetings in audio and convert them to his blog for all to hear.

Within a year, he used his own expense account to buy a webcam and laptop so he could stream meetings live and archive them, too.

When it comes to government, Heneghan believes the public should be able to access every fact he has regarding whatever issue. That includes city e-mails and documents. With him, an open records query isn’t necessary to learn what’s going on with proposal A or issue B. He’s the conduit.

Some locales have come to expect stonewalls, grandstands and arrows shot at the pesky media for attempts to simply divulge the facts.

Then in walks Heneghan.

“Dunwoody grew up under the auspices of DeKalb County, where I have had to file so many open records requests,” he told me. “We need to be the opposite of what we have broken away from. Now, everybody is used to me doing what I do in Dunwoody. It’s natural.”

Heneghan posts in his blog any e-mails and documents he receives on city-related matters. That practice propels the idea of transparency to a whole other sphere. He wants residents to help run the city.

“I am not a politician,” he told me. “I am a public servant.”

Maybe that’s the stark difference between him and other officials. This servant has an explanatory statement stripped across the top of his blog:

“First is that when I have the ability to make a difference, I have a responsibility to do so. Transparency in government breeds self-corrective behavior.”


Anonymous said...

Awesome, look at what is right next to each Dunwoody official: Financial Disclosures | Campaign Contribution Reports

Can you imagine the Central Office doing this and what Mr. "Sembler" Gene Walker's reaction would be?

Hey DeKalb Delegation, how about some local legislation help??

Anonymous said...

Why does Ron Ramsey get so many thousands of dollars of out of state campaign contributions when he had only token opposition?

I hope he never, ever speaks to any lobbyist during his DCSS work day, at least for the nine months a year he works for the system, while he's paid for 12.

Anonymous said...

What ever happened to the Open Records request that was sent to Tyson?

Anonymous said...

I wish DeKalb parents and citizens would take the lead from Atlanta. They are being very proactive in their approach to saving their schools system. They are putting the prssure on the Board to "get it right or immediate reall". Amazing no racial divide, no have-have nots divide. UNITY< THAT IS WHAT DEKALB NEEDS FROM ALL OF US. The fingue pointing and mean-sprited comments just do more harm than good.

To those teacher who say they are now going to "babysit and show monies" for the remainder of the year becauseTyson is now being paid for what she has been doing free for the past 12 + months. I sincerely hope you leave the profession because professionals never take out their dislikes on their STUDENTS, NEVER.

Anonymous said...

I thought the open records showed that Ramsey is NOT Paid when in Congress. Did I miss something? What about the othe DeKalb And Georgia educators that are in the State House and Senate? Are they treated the same way? I certainly hopw we can keep educators on in Congress!

Anonymous said...

"You would think with 100,000 students, there would be an occassional video piece highlighting the great accomplishments of our students and teachers?"

This was not a problem when Julie Rhame and her team ran the TV station and cranked out a steady stream of good news publicity focused on student achievement. Who's doing those stories now? I can't find any. What are these PR firms doing?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Heneghan truly embraces the word "public" in public servant. Unfortunately, DCSS seems to have forgotten the public part of "public school". The goal should be for the schools to serve the public, not the public school system serve the wallets of the administration.

Interesting too how Mr. Heneghan focuses on what he feels he owes the people he serves. While the school administration self-centeredly functions based on what they are "owed" or entitled to.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:11

You think Ron Ramsey is serving in CONGRESS? He is serving in the GEORGIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY also called the GEORGIA LEGISLATURE. Congress is a federal body that meets in Washington. Members of Congress (535 of them) leave their jobs in their home districts to serve in Congress. The Georgia General Assembly meets in downtown Atlanta.

Ramsey is a part-time legislator who is double-dipping: drawing a salary from DeKalb Schools for work he cannot do while he is at the Georgia General Assembly. Now do you see the problem?

Anonymous said...

i think that the DeKalb schools TV does lots of pieces on schools and students. If you click on it on the webpage, generally what it is on is about schools in DeKalb.

Anonymous said...

I know John and he is a fine person.

The school system better hopes he never decides to examine their financials! He's a pit bull!

Anonymous said...

Hope they don't fall for the Central Office's B.S.

Anonymous said...

From the ajc article:
“The DeKalb school system is cooperating fully. The board is cooperating fully. And that puts us in a different place,” DeKalb schools’ spokesman Jeff Dickerson said Friday.
Dickerson also works as a spokesman for Atlanta Schools."

LOL Jeff Dickerson is a piece of work. Remember he said the exact same thing about Atlanta Public.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Jeff Dickerson the same guy that did Public Relations work for New Birth Church of Eddie Long fame?

Anonymous said...

Yes. Here's Jeff Dickerson pushing Tyson's raise:

Cerebration said...

John does an awesome job of keeping the public informed and all meetings and documents in the public light.

It's not rocket science. It just requires careful, full attention and a deep concern for the people to know.

Since Ramona Tyson took the reins, all board meeting minutes have ceased to be published on the web. This is surprising, since her past experience is in the technical realm. Of all of her challenges, bringing information to the public via technology, should be the simplest for her to resolve.

Anonymous said...

Georgia Sunshine Laws, your guides to Open Records and Transparent Government

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting at table with a couple of bloggers, another politician and a bunch of fed up taxpayers whereby we discussed transparency in government for over an hour. We discussed our personal experiences, how it works, the benefits to the community as well as ways to improve the various governments that were at one time or another were actually put in place to best serve us the citizens. It was awesome.

I explained that as a sitting Dunwoody City Councilman, almost every piece of paper I touch that is City related and every Dunwoody related e-mail I send and receive, is a public record and therefore subject to Georgia's open records law. I explained open meetings law, quorum requirements and the laws surrounding the recording (and publishing) of such meetings to the group.

I told them that I would post a copy of a booklet entitled "Georgia's Sunshine Laws, a Citizen's Guide to Open Government" which covers most non-law enforcement governmental agencies as well as the booklet entitled "Georgia Public Schools and the Open Records Act", a citizens Guide to Accessing School Records. Finally for your reading pleasure, I have included the Blue document entitled "Georgia Law Enforcement And The Open Records Act; A Law Enforcement Officer’s Guide To Open Records in Georgia".

In having the privilege of setting up a government from scratch, I have pushed transparency first by example and then with the assistance of my fellow council members through policies and procedures in order to have long term impact on the City well after we are off the council. Audio recordings and then video recordings of every Dunwoody meeting have been personally archived by myself and published to the web. Recently a contract was let by the City to install a state of the art video recording and publishing system that will greatly improve what I started. Every document packet that has ever been produced by the City for me to review prior to City Council meetings has been pushed to the web electronically for review of the citizens and now through set policies, procedures and capital investments; the city will forever be doing the same.

I had a fun evening spending time with like minded, passionate individuals who are willing do what they can to affect positive change, some of us now working from inside the establishment while others operate through what are quickly becoming defacto mass media outlets (Atlanta Unfiltered, Peach Pundit, DeKalb School Watch Blog, DeKalb Officers and many, many others) to affect policy though the spread of information.

If you are not familiar with open records and open meetings law please do take a look because believe it or not the Government is actually in place to serve you.

Anonymous said...

One day BOE members will disclose their past issues, without us having to research everyone on the web ourselves:

Anonymous said...

A previous post:

Look on DeKalb OJS Civil cases and see how many times and for what amounts Jesse "Jay" Cunningham has been sued or garnished for indebtedness, mostly relating to auto debt. Great that we have him helping to control a huge budget. 17 cases over the years taken to court for money and one for a protective order for domestic violence.

When are the voters of DeKalb going to wake up?

Case Search Results
Last Name First Name / MI Party Type Case ID* Type Court Style Filing Date Status

CUNNINGHAM JESSE J DEFENDANT 09G24391 State Garnishment State Ford Motor Credit Co Vs Jesse J Cunnington 28-JUL-2009 OPEN

CUNNINGHAM JESSE J DEFENDANT 10G35599 State Garnishment State Ford Motor Vs Jesse J Cunningham 15-NOV-2010 OPEN

CUNNINGHAM JESSE J DEFENDANT 03A11016 State Civil Suits State Ford Motor Vs Cunningham 08-SEP-2003 CLOSED

CUNNINGHAM JESSE J DEFENDANT 04G91364 State Garnishment State Ford Motor Credit Co Vs Jesse J Cunningham 01-SEP-2004 OPEN

CUNNINGHAM JESSE J DEFENDANT 93A75228 State Civil Suits State Frank Jackson Lincoln Vs Cunningham 20-JUL-1993 CLOSED

CUNNINGHAM JESSE J DEFENDANT 07G08078 State Garnishment State Ford Motor Credit Vs Jesse J Cunningham 25-JUL-2007 OPEN

CUNNINGHAM JESSE J DEFENDANT 08G13210 State Garnishment State Ford Motor Vs Jesse J Cunningham 01-APR-2008 OPEN

CUNNINGHAM JESSE JAY DEFENDANT 01M81305 Magistrate Civil Suits Magistrate Cindy Mcqueary Vs Jesse Jay Cunningham 31-MAY-2001 CLOSED

CUNNINGHAM JESSE JAY DEFENDANT 01M85208 Magistrate Civil Suits Magistrate Bruce Webb Vs Jesse Jay Cunningham 13-NOV-2001 CLOSED

CUNNINGHAM JESSE DEFENDANT 08G18581 State Garnishment State Ford Motor Vs Jesse J Cunningham 18-NOV-2008 OPEN

CUNNINGHAM JESSE DEFENDANT 08G19157 State Garnishment State Georgia Receivables Inc Vs Jesse Cunningham 12-DEC-2008 OPEN

CUNNINGHAM JESSE DEFENDANT 10G28373 State Garnishment State Georgia Receivables Vs Jesse Cunningham 13-JAN-2010 OPEN

CUNNINGHAM JESSE DEFENDANT 09G28373 State Garnishment State Georgia Receivables Vs Jesse Cunningham 13-JAN-2010 OPEN

CUNNINGHAM JESSE DEFENDANT 10D58256 Magistrate Dispossessory Magistrate Salem Crossing Shopping Center Vs Evelyn Phillip 16-AUG-2010 CLOSED

CUNNINGHAM JESSE DEFENDANT 10G36434M Magistate Garnishment Magistrate Ga Recievables Inc Vs Jesse Cunningham 16-DEC-2010 OPEN

CUNNINGHAM JESSE DEFENDANT 02D60250 State Dispossessory State Lexington On The Green Vs Jesse Cunningham 18-MAR-2002 OPEN

CUNNINGHAM JESSE DEFENDANT 97CV11173 Superior Domestic Relations Superior Cunningham Vs Cunningham (Se) 15-SEP-1997 CLOSED

CUNNINGHAM JESSE DEFENDANT 07A74296 State Civil Suits State American Express Vs Evelyn Phillip 18-SEP-2007 CLOSED