SACS' visit begins today
According to the AJC
A team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools will visit DeKalb schools Monday through Wednesday to determine if the state’s third largest district meets national accreditation standards.
Last week, SACS placed Atlanta Public Schools on probation, a final step before losing accreditation. Atlanta has until Sept. 30 to make changes.
“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. “When SACS has these kinds of questions and require action steps, it is important to take them seriously.”
Dickerson also works as a spokesman for Atlanta Schools.
SACS is particularly concerned about the board securing a permanent superintendent, implementing newly enacted policies and procedures, addressing ongoing legal matters and the improving its governing effectiveness. Those issues must be addressed by early 2012, said Mark A. Elgart, SACS’ president and CEO.
“People in DeKalb shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that because Clayton lost accreditation, they will. The goal is to make them a better system,” Elgart said.
I sincerely hope for the best for the citizens and students in the DeKalb County School System.
My son will be a senior next year so I have my fingers crossed that everything will be just fine.
The last time SACS was here, Nancy Creek, before it became Kittredge, was one of the schools that SACS came to. Dr. Silvers, the principal then, did a great job as well as the teachers, staff and parents that were interviewed by SACS.
The interesting thing about the last visit, was Nancy Creek was already slated for closing and the SACS report praised Nancy Creek for the diversity of the students, parent involvement and the great teachers. CLew, SCW and Zepora said if three schools had to be closed in south DeKalb, one had to be closed in the north. "To be equitable" This was their quote! Even after SACS praised the successes of Nancy Creek and that DCSS should duplicate the Nancy Creek efforts in all elementary schools. CLew shuttered Nancy Creek to make room for Kittredge, now they want to run Kittredge out and make it a neighborhood school again! DCSS spent almost a million dollars retrofitting for Kittredge. Now they want to retrofit it back to a PK-5. At what cost Ms. Tyson?
I welcome SACS and look forward to their report! Hopefully, the "new" leadership ha ha ha ha ha, will actually DO what SACS suggest. I'm one that is not holding my breath. DCSS, where we celebrate mediocrity and punish success!
-“People in DeKalb shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that because Clayton lost accreditation, they will. The goal is to make them a better system,” Elgart said.-
Everyone should read this statement over and over again. Many people have jumped to the conclusion that DeKalb will lose accreditation. While concerns raised earlier all focused on Board governance, the Board has attempted to make some necessary changes i.e. reprimanding Board members.
Given the Atlanta Board was cited for their many 5-4 votes, it will be interesting if that impacts the vote for redistricting.
SACS has NO right citing 5-4 votes. If the people were elected legally and their representatives voted 5-4, then so be it. Geez, where does SACS get off citing 5-4 votes as being problematic? If the stakeholders do not like the 5-4 votes, then maybe they should elect the right people.
CLew, SCW and Zepora said if three schools had to be closed in south DeKalb, one had to be closed in the north. "To be equitable"
That's why we're at the redistricting junction we're at today, I believe. Check out these bits of the minutes from the Feb 9, 2010 "Citizens Task Force" meeting:
Ms. Roberts commented on students in the southern portions of the county being unduly burdened with long transportation rides / travel times and recommended re-drawing attendance lines countywide.
Ms. Copelin-Wood asked who made the “23-school” decision (in reference to the 23 schools that were
chosen as “under utilized”). She stated that alls schools should be considered and that the TF should be able to “look at what they want.”
There have been and continues to be some questionable behavior from the DCSS & the BOE. Something has to be done about the corruption and inappropriate behaviors of DCSS employees qusesionable spending of city/state/fedral funds on lousy software, business trips during state/federal cutbacks & employee furloughs (while other employees are given substantial raises).
These few items mentioned above is enough to cause SACS and the Federal Government to conduct a foresenic audit of all cabinent members during the CLewis Reign of Terror to determine how a BOE could vote to pass a pay raise to each cabinent member while laying off employees (2009 & 2010).
DCSS has more problems than APS and Clayton combined....don't kid yourselves...everyone in DCSS should be worried.
If SACS doesn't find anything wrong...then something is wrong with SACS...let's keep it real on this blog...lay it all out there anad see how it doesn't pale in comparision to neighboring counties school issues.
@ Cerebration 9:20
And that's exactly why Ms. Tyson and the BOE are not publishing the BOE minutes since Ms. Tyson took over.
If taxpayers/parents want to see the BOE minutes posted on the DCSS BOE website like they were for 7 years, then they need to write the BOE members and Ms. Tyson. These minutes are taken and typed by law. It would not take a minute to upload them.
I think it's been a virtual slap in the face of the public to have removed them and ignored our requests to publish them.
"I think it's been a virtual slap in the face of the public to have removed them and ignored our requests to publish them. "
Well, maybe someone needs to email SACS. They're talking with Ms. Tyson and the BOE over the next few days. Perhaps they can ask the BOE members why the minutes of their open meeting have been suspended from publication. If you email Mark Elgart and SACS, be sure to let us know on the blog what their reply is:
To contact SACS leaders regarding the publication of all BOE meeting minutes, send or call:
Dr. Mark Elgart
9115 Westside Parkway
Alpharetta, GA 30009
Or Call -
888.41ED NOW (888.413.3669)
Open the DCSS Check register for all to see!
Make public the 2004 audit, immediately!
Minutes of meetings BACK on the web.
Release all cost analysis, savings and expenditures for each plan on the table.
Order audits of the entire system, as well as the magnet program. Should we duplicate it? What is the cost difference between traditional and magnet/high achiever educations.
Open & honest discussion and transparency.
Bottom up budgeting, schools are funded first!
Start doing these things and you might find a public that is open for change. Don't and it's business as usual.
Call me cynical . . .
Years ago, I served on the DCSS SACS committee. For the most part, these visits are completely orchestrated in that DCSS "points" the visitors toward the appropriate school or site. Also, only certain people are allowed to be interviewed, talked to, etc. Do you really think that SACS people will be having an open discussion with Dr. Blackwood at SWD? I will be very surprised if anything major comes of this visit. As taxpayers and people concerned about the education of the children in DeKalb, we all know that the "Lewis Team" is still making the rules, playing the same players and providing the referees. The game is still about control and power.
Shouldn't CLew's "Reign of Terror" be called his "Reign of Criminal Incompetence" instead?
Has it learned from these experiences to make corrections and put in checks and balances?” Elgart said. “The nature of DeKalb’s problems show it didn’t just happen in one day.”
Learn from it? I think the BOE has already forgotten the entire Crawford LEwis and Pat Pope disaster. And the rest of the Lewis/Pope administration is still all in place. Even the one who flew out of the country on Lewis' p-card.
Off topic but just FYI, as the email just came to the schoolhouse from above.
Tyson has asked that we have school on both Feb 18 and 21 as makeup days.
There will be a called board meeting on Thursday for a vote; I don't see a time listed for that meeting.
NOTICE: The DeKalb Delegation is meeting tonight. To voice your opinion, or get your questions answered, attend the meeting and write up a report for the blog.
Members of the DeKalb County legislative delegation -- both in the House and Senate -- will hold their first public meeting of the year Monday.
The hearing will give county residents a chance to voice their opinions on issues being considered during the current legislative session, such as budget considerations.
The meeting begins at 7 p.m. Monday in the conference center at DeKalb Technical Institute’s Clarkston Campus, 495 N. Indian Creek Drive.
For more information, contact Rep. Howard Mosby, the chairman of the DeKalb House delegation, at 404-656-0287.
You do know that Kittridge used to be in the center of the county and was doing just fine before it was moved north. Where was your ire about moving what was working then? Just curious.
If you read the AJC article, you will see that good old and well paid Jeff is escorting the SACS visitors to meet the chosen people and to visit the chosen places. The visitors are going to spend time with Ramona and with other administration members, principals of certain schools (I assume all selected by Jeff and Ramona)and members of the BOE. I am sure that Ramona and Tom Bowen and Company, will give the SACS visitors an honest assessment of the wonderful progress that DCSS has been making. The visitors also are to meet with community representatives. I wonder who the latter are?
If SACS takes no action,the status quo will continue until the BOE is repopulated. All of Walker, SCW and Cunningham are good for at least another ten years.
This redistricting ploy was clever. It took the eyes of the parents off of the ball. If the energy of Fernbacher parents and the like only could have been focused on the seat of the real problem.
"Learn from it? I think the BOE has already forgotten the entire Crawford LEwis and Pat Pope disaster."
Of course the BOE has learned a lot... they were smart enough to give the new superintendent a $2000 a month, don't need any receipts spending account. That should eliminate any need to make up stories explaining multiple gas fill-ups in one day.
Seems like BOE is going to continue doing what they want to do, teachers, students and parents be damned. They are a lot smarter than we give them credit for...
Folks, load up the email box for Mark Elgart at SACS, make sure he hears your voice! Cere, do you have the email address?
Mark Elgart will not be DeKalb's savior. He has political connections that will prevent him from even slapping DCSS's wrist. I predict SACS will emerge from their visit and compliment the school system for ridding itself of Lewis and Pope (of course... only after they were indicted) and pronounce that all is well in the system. Because that's how off-track we are in public education right now.
No matter how we feel about the current state of affairs at DCSS, we do not, under any circumstances, want the system to lose accreditation, or even to be on probabation. Please let's not put our kids' education at any additional risk.
"Folks, load up the email box for Mark Elgart at SACS, make sure he hears your voice! Cere, do you have the email address?
Here you are:
President of SACS
Phone: (888) 413-3669
Thanks Anon. FWIW - we recently published a listing of pretty much everyone you might need to contact. These people actually hear from constituents less often than you think, so please write them. ASAP.
Call to Action
Anon at 8:43: Not so sure about that. I would love to see the governor get the power to replace certain members of the DCSS BOE.
One thing, I sincerely believe the legislature will reduce the size of our board. I'm not sure what we'll have to do about it - but I think it is pretty much a sure bet.
Again, if you have evidence of fraud, waste and criminal activity, take it also to the FBI publc crimes/corruption/fraud people..... maybe copy the US Attorney (Sally Yates).
Cere at 9:05: Do you think that will make any difference?
Ella Smith said...
I sincerely hope for the best for the citizens and students in the DeKalb County School System.
My son will be a senior next year so I have my fingers crossed that everything will be just fine.
January 24, 2011 6:51 AM
My response: Once upon a time and happily ever after.
I fear a smaller board. I fear that going from 9 to 5 or even 7, the board could be stacked with one constituency over another. The drawing of those lines need to happen in a very "equitable" way. THERE'S THAT BLASTED WORD AGAIN, "equitable".
Who will be in charge of drawing up the new districts?
To: Anon asking about Cere at 9:05: Do you think that will make any difference?
yes -- everyone has small pieces to a very large puzzle -- if everyone comes forward with their small piece of the puzzle -- hard evidence but a small piece of the puzzle nonetheless -- to the FBI public corruption/fraud division with a copy to the US Attorney -- it should really add up and make a difference -- it did for the DeKalb DA (I am afraid that now that Gwen was pulled off the job and moved to EPA -- it is critical that evidence of crimes/fraud involving federal funds are reported to the FBI to pull in the US Attorney's office.....).
SACS isn't capable of a forensic audit. Have you read the level of their review in the news? What will they spend--a week?
This is not a detailed review--and certainly should never be the cause of a decertification.
I don't know -- what would be the consequences of the nuclear option - losing accreditation? Students could still earn accredited diplomas through GA Virtual Academy - while DCSS is forced to remake its entire scheme of educating students - from the ground up. Unproductive administrators would probably be forced to flee under cover of darkness as audits revealed their essential theft of federal monies though Title 1. Reasonable, non-politically generated school boundaries could be created and maybe, just maybe, Mr. Blackwood would be in the clear for not creating his Word Wall! Continuing to allow arrogant administrators to spend lavishly while they ignore Open Records requests is unfair to our students and taxpayers. So maybe it's time DCSS was put in time-out, exploded and remade. I like it! There's a plan!
"DCSS, where we celebrate mediocrity and punish success!"
You know, that really i the most accurate motto for this school system that I have heard. Seriously. It works for schools, employees, all across the board. A truer statement has not been made.
To answer the above question - a smaller board is more nimble - can make decisions faster and make progress. Mostly, a smaller board means fewer people for the superintendent to be distracted by. I mean, really, if you knew all of the requests some of the board members make of the super - constantly drawing her (or him) off-task in order to respond to some micro-event.
We need to clear a path for our next super to be allowed to be a visionary. Visionaries are the best leaders. They can see where they want to go at all times, and stay focused on that place. This is very difficult to do with the kind of discombobulated culture we have in DeKalb - essentially creating fires and then racing to put each one out individually - never really doing much for the big picture to stop whatever is causing the fires in the first place.
we need a SACs watch--way underrated as a political and economic force (real estate and business effects are daunting).
Sanctioned area goes down, other nearby "passing" systems go up.
Who pulls the strings? Developers get land for pennies on the dollar--who pulls the strings?
I seriously question the indpendence of this outfit.
SACs was right on track when it reviewed individual schools, but school systems reviews are questionable and scary.
The description in the article of the things they will be reviewing in DeKalb and the little time they will put into it is alarming. If any kind of threat to the school system arises out of a broad policy review--these people should be sued.
Of course, sued by who? If DCSS or BOE sued them, they'd get no sympathy considering how they have screwed themselves. Maybe property owners should sue SACs if their values go down due to a BS report.
BTW--there is so much fist-pumping over exposing DeKalb Schools for corruption and mismanagement, people don't even question SACs "mandate"--they get an "attaboy" in general.
Wonder what SAC's thinks of Gene Walker?
Levitas said his proposal came as a response to a situation this year in which Walker, as chairman of the DeKalb Development Authority, was prepared to vote on tax incentives requested by an Atlanta developer. The plan would have exempted Sembler Co. from paying 20 years of property taxes on portions of its planned Town/Brookhaven mixed-use development.
Sembler interests donated more than $20,000 to Walker’s 2008 campaign for the school board post. Walker delayed disclosing virtually all of the money on campaign finance reports until he had won a Dec. 2 election runoff.
Walker resigned from the authority after growing criticism of the contributions and of his dual role sitting on both the school board and the authority’s board.
"State paid $190,000 to settle earlier sex harassment suit"
The sexual harassment lawsuit pending against state parole board member Gene Walker isn't the first time he's been named in such a case. The Associated Press has learned that the state quietly paid $190,000 a dozen years ago to settle the first lawsuit in which Walker was accused of sexually harassing a secretary.
The payment has never been identified as such in a state budget or audit, but following inquiries by The AP, the Legislative Fiscal Office and the state auditor confirmed the money was paid through a budget category labeled "other operating funds" of the state Senate in 1993.
The earlier lawsuit was filed when Walker was a powerful state senator. The state paid to settle allegations that he and two legislative colleagues sexually harassed a secretary in the state Senate.
"Sembler interests donated more than $20,000 to Walker’s 2008 campaign for the school board post. Walker delayed disclosing virtually all of the money on campaign finance reports until he had won a Dec. 2 election runoff."
Ernest Brown would have won the runoff if voters knew about the Sembler donations, the harassment allegations, that Walker was not going to resign from the DeKalb Development Authority, and that he has 5-6 relatives working for the school system.
Yet, Board of Education Chair Tom Bowen wanted Walker to be vice-chair.
That's like asking Jay Cunningham to be your financial advisor.
I for one welcome the coming SACS probation for DKSS. The bright light will force the troublemakers to retreat. Perhaps we can get oversight from a Federal judge? Remember, this is the county that elected good ol Cynthia McKinney, several times.
I wonder if Elgart sat in on the interview with Sarah Copelin-Wood, and if she had an interpreter. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for that one.
And I wonder who was more arrogant and condescending in their interview, Gene Walker or Paul Womack/Foghorn Leghorn.
Dr. Eugene Walker's son just received this year the Chairmanship of the Dekalb Housing Authority.....It is not an elected position but an appointment from the DHA.
I'm just saying....
I'm guessing Simpson wasn't part of the SACS greeting committee.
Wow, the AJC's Maureen Downey was pretty tough on Ralph. This is one of the harshest comments she's made on the very well done Get schooled blog:
Sorry, but I think DeKalb school official Ralph Simpson needs to be fired for selling his autobiography to public schools under his supervision. If others in the chain of command that approved the purchases of Simpson’s book for DeKalb C0unty schools is found to have faked signatures or lied about the fact that a colleague authored the book, they should also be fired.
Such self-serving acts undermine DeKalb’s argument that it does not have money for basics because of state cuts and falling property tax collections. I understand the amount spent on Simpson’s book was small, $12,560, but the purchase of the books creates legitimate doubts that anyone is minding the store in DeKalb. Since federal dollars were used to buy the books, I hope the U.S. Department of Education also demands an inquiry.
Over my many years of writing about government, I have seen countless examples of government entities crying about their budget needs, yet allowing thousands of dollars to go out the window in sweetheart deals to enrich the commissioner or a department head or somebody’s cousin. It is amazing to me how often government officials will risk their reputation and the reputation of their agency for a few thousand dollars in personal gain.
The agencies counter that these dubious expenses are hardly sizable, but that is not the point. The point is that at a time when schools are pleading for more funds, they are allowing these sorts of insider deals. If taxpayers doubt that DeKalb leaders are good stewards of their money, then they will not believe any of the pleas for more money for schools. When you tell parents that you are thinking about closing their schools, as DeKalb has done, or that you don’t have enough money for field trips, you better not be wasting a single penny anywhere.
I have to credit DeKalb school leaders for acting on this conflict of interest once they discovered it, but I also have to ask how lax their ethics standards are that this sale was allowed to go through in the first place.
True that, Maureen!
"If taxpayers doubt that DeKalb leaders are good stewards of their money, then they will not believe any of the pleas for more money for schools. When you tell parents that you are thinking about closing their schools, as DeKalb has done, or that you don’t have enough money for field trips, you better not be wasting a single penny anywhere."
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