Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Tonight's Candidate Q&A
These are my impressions from the interviews:
First at the podium was Gloria Davis, Superintendent of Decatur (Illinois) Public Schools. An outgoing and engaging woman, Ms. Davis conveyed a strong knowledge of curriculum and instruction, viewing herself as the instructional leader for the district. She had many years of classroom experience as well as more as an administrator. She focused on being data-driven and fair. She had a very strong persona, projecting that she was a happy, cheerful and pragmatic person. She was a very good speaker and would be a strong leader.
Next, Arthur Culver, Superintendent of Champaign (Illinois) Community Unit School District #4 responded to exactly the same 20 questions with similar answers but a bit more detailed. Mr. Culver had a steady, calm demeanor with a gift for articulating his thoughts. He seemed very knowledgeable and very caring. A former special education teacher, he had a kind and compassionate way of speaking, but he was also firm in sticking with data-driven results and hard work. He sees our system as having a great deal of potential, saying we are "primed to become a beacon for the state". He would be an inspiring, fair and down-to-earth leader.
Last, Dr. Lillie Cox, Superintendent of Hickory (North Carolina) Public Schools took to the podium, and unhooked the mic, being the only candidate to walk around the stage a bit while answering the 20 questions. She spoke about being a moral and ethical leader, dedicated to teachers and principals. She said she has a "laser-like focus on children" and is committed to evaluating teachers and principals regularly, identifying those who excel, those who show potential and those who need support, or could be asked to try another field. She came across as very well-informed in methodology and seemed to have a firm grasp on teaching and learning. In fact, she was rather brilliant in that arena.
All three seemed sincerely devoted to children, knowledgeable of their craft as all have long teaching credentials, interesting, poised and ready to get to work. All three seemed to have a better grasp of fiscal budgets than anyone else we've had. The board will have a tough time making the final selection. I very much look forward to the day we start anew!
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Teachers file lawsuit over DeKalb retirement plan
Two DeKalb County educators have filed a lawsuit against the school district and board for failing to make contributions over the last two years to a district employee retirement fund.
. . .
The plan was established in 1979 as an additional benefit to educators and an alternative to social security. It is separate from the state retirement fund and is paid into individual employee accounts, tax sheltered until withdrawn. The contributions make up about 6 percent of each employee’s annual salary – about $20 million per year, according to attorneys who filed the suit and board members.
The lawsuit, filed last week, accuses the board of reneging on its commitment by freezing contributions and failing to give the two-year notice beforehand, as required by board policy.
“This is about keeping promises the board made to employees,” said attorney John Salter of the Barnes Law Group, who is representing the educators.
School board chairman Tom Bowen said the board did not act improperly and has the right to amend its own policies. According to the suit, the board voted to waive the two-year notice in 2010, a year after the contributions were halted.
. . .
“A board can waive or go against its own policy because the board is the policy-setting body," Bowen said.
Really Tom? Really? That's your response for your actions?
Good for these two for being so brave! What the school system did was wrong IMO. Interesting that Womack was involved in both - the first time convincing them to ditch social security and go with the county plan - and the second time, when the benefits were cut.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
A Tale of Two School Systems “Why Bigger is Not Always Better”
To see the strengths a superintendent of a smaller school system can bring to the table, look no further than the success story of DCSS’s neighbor Rockdale County Schools. The superintendent of Rockdale County Schools Dr. Sam King runs a relatively small Atlanta metro school system of 15,000+ students with enviable student achievement. Rockdale is a well-managed system by many measures, and most of these measures are applicable to a larger school system like DeKalb.
Rockdale County is one of the very few metro systems that Made AYP this year. The superintendent deserves much of the credit. Look at some academic numbers below to see the similarities and differences in Rockdale Schools and DeKalb Schools.
I. Title 1 schools:
89% of Rockdale Schools are Title 1 (low income)
67% of DeKalb Schools are Title 1 (low income)
II. Made AYP status:
A. 100% of the Rockdale Title 1 schools made adequate yearly progress in 2009-2010 – the same as the year before 2008-2009. BEFORE and AFTER strict test monitoring 100% of Rockdale Title 1 schools made adequate yearly progress.
B. DeKalb Schools saw their Title 1 schools made adequate yearly progress rate plummet from 80+% making AYP (2008-09) to 50+% making AYP (2009-10) AFTER strict test monitoring of testing.
III. Salaries and Certified Personnel
Look at the salaries (benefits not included) of the CERTIFIED (i.e. personnel who hold valid teaching certificates) admin, support and teaching personnel in Rockdale, a system with 15,526 students:
79 Administrators (Fulltime 79)
Average annual salary: $63,873
221 days worked
Average daily salary: $285
124 Support Personnel (Fulltime 122)
Average annual salary: $60,376
192 days worked
Average daily salary: $315
1,107 Teachers (Fulltime 1,094)
Average annual salary: $53,855
190 days worked
Average daily salary: $283
Look at the salaries (benefits not included) of the CERTIFIED (i.e. they have teaching certificates) of admin, support and teaching personnel in DeKalb, a system with 96,678 students:
523 Administrators (Fulltime 518)
Average annual salary: $90,900
225 days worked
Average daily salary: $404
974 Support Personnel (Fulltime 911)
Average annual salary: $64,890
198 days worked
Average daily salary: $328
6,738 Teachers (Fulltime 6,374)
Average annual salary: $54,413
191 days worked
Average daily salary: $285
These statistics show a direct relationship in the fiscal and ethical responsibility that this small school system superintendent has put in place and increased student achievement. He has invested in the members of the classroom, and it shows. Is anyone surprised to hear that Dr. King worked his way up from the classroom holding the positions of Teacher, Assistant Principal and Principal before becoming Superintendent?
DeKalb Schools needs a superintendent with a record of integrity, fiscal responsibility, and increased student achievement. Taxpayers need to be looking at the records of the candidates with these components in mind. Skills are transferable. The size of the school system the candidates have led is less important than hiring a superintendent who has achieved the vision of student success we want for our students.
Click on Personnel and Fiscal
Click on Personnel and Fiscal
Reposted in part from an AJC Get Schooled Blog Post
Monday, March 28, 2011
Public Forum on Superintendent Search this Thursday!
The DeKalb County School System will host a public forum with three candidates for permanent superintendant of DeKalb Schools on Thursday, March 31, at 6 p.m. at the Administration and Instructional Complex Auditorium at 1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd., Stone Mountain, GA, 30083.
During the forum, each superintendent candidate will have 50 minutes to introduce themselves and answer 10 written questions from the public.
Parents and members of the community are invited to submit written questions of the candidates. Questions from the public must be submitted at the forum in person prior to 5:30 p.m.
After each candidate makes a presentation and answers questions, members of the public will be asked to fill out a form regarding each candidate. These forms will be collected and presented to the DeKalb County Board of Education for its consideration during the selection process.
The Board of Education is seeking a permanent superintendent for the DeKalb County School System. This is one of the Board’s most important responsibilities, and the Board is conducting a national search for a leader for DeKalb Schools.
The Board of Education is committed to making the Superintendent Search Process open and transparent, and its search will include multiple opportunities for public input and discussion. Members of the public are encouraged to participate in this important decision for our schools
Here are the three finalists for the DeKalb superintendent:
* Dr. Gloria Davis, Superintendent of Decatur (Illinois) Public Schools
* Arthur R. Culver, Superintendent of Champaign (Illinois) Community Unit School District #4
* Dr. Lillie Cox, Superintendent of Hickory (North Carolina) Public Schools
Self-preservation? Another political power play by the Board!
You can actually hear the entire event at the link above.
In Downey’s blog, she quoted Panelist Gerard Robinson, a former Georgia Charter Schools Commission member and now Virginia secretary of education, saying that it’s politics that typically undermines school improvement.
“The school reform problem isn’t a knowledge problem.” he said. “This isn’t an academic gap problem. This is a political crap problem. And until you deal with the political crap problem, which is identifying the right person for the right time, you won’t solve the achievement gap problem.”
It is difficult to be an elected school board member. Once elected, your charge is to represent the entire system, not just your district. Unlike a state or Congressional representative, “bringing home the bacon” for the schools in your district is NOT an appropriate goal for a school board member to have. The best interest of all students is to be tantamount in every decision that is made by a school board.
We all know that this doesn’t happen. In DeKalb, many of our school board members seem to finish one election cycle, take a quick breathe and then begin campaigning again. It is a shame that the goal of reelection seems to be the most tantamount. Because of this behavior, our school board has left themselves no choice but to oppose the various pieces of legislation introduced this session to change the size of the board.
Just a few short weeks ago, Dr. Mark Elgart advised the members of the DeKalb County School Board to stop playing politics stop running for office continually and oversee the business of the school system. Within days of that advice, our school board members apparently met, though without the public notice or openness required by the GA Open Meetings Act, and decided to advocate to protect their own positions regardless of whether it is in the best interest of the students of DeKalb County or not.
News on the mad dash for new superintendents in metro Atlanta
4 area school districts looking for superintendents
Over the next few months, school boards from four of the state’s largest districts will interview and select new superintendents, but the degree to which the public will influence those decisions remains unclear.
Cobb, DeKalb, Atlanta and Fulton are expected to have new leaders by July. Cobb board members are in the process of conducting interviews and DeKalb plans to announce finalists next week.
Each district has or intends to collect input from parents about characteristics a new superintendent should have. But when it comes to allowing parents to weigh in on the final decisions, districts have differing strategies.
DeKalb school board Chairman Tom Bowen said the board will hold public interviews where community members can submit questions to the finalists. The district is looking to hire a replacement for Crawford Lewis by early April. Lewis was fired and later indicted on charges he ran a criminal enterprise in the school system.
“Rather than going behind closed doors, we want to be as inclusive as we can,” Bowen said. “It goes to the bigger picture of changing the culture and changing perceptions. We want to make sure with anything major we do, we give transparency to it. The more people understand the process, the more comfortable they’ll be we’re doing things in the best interest of students.”
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Are jobs justified? DeKalb orders desk audit
Below is the report from the AJC
Are jobs justified? DeKalb orders desk audit
Every DeKalb County employee’s duties will be scrutinized to determine if they are worth having a job.
The County Commission decided Thursday to hire an outside agency to conduct a desk audit. The first audit will be in the courts and public safety departments, which have the most staff, commissioners said.
Last month, the Commission voted to cut $33.6 million from the 2011 budget, but they have been reluctant to cut staff.
“We want outside independent people looking at this. I want to make it clear that we are not on a witch hunt,” Commissioner Elaine Boyer said.
Good for the commissioners. Now, let's demand the same of our school system. Our spending on employee costs hasn't been properly audited in most likely over 20 years. It's time.
Are we properly educating Latinos in DeKalb?
Maureen informs us of these national points:
- U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the improved academic performance of Latino children a “national priority.”
- Today, 22 percent of students under the age of 18 are Latino.
- 12 million children in pre-k to high school are Latino
- less than half of Latino children attend early learning programs and less than half earn their high school degrees
- Only one in eight has a bachelor’s degree.
- Only 4 percent of Latinos have an academic degree beyond an undergraduate level.
- In Georgia, the Hispanic population grew 96 percent, according to the new Census data released this week.
- In Gwinnett County, the number of Hispanics grew more than 152 percent
- Cobb County rose 80 percent increase
- Fulton 51 percent
- DeKalb 29 percent.
- Hispanics showed a 100 percent increase in Clayton.
“Both President Obama and I believe reducing the Latino dropout rate and boosting student achievement are absolutely essentially to the future of our economy and the future of our country,” Duncan said.
“Whether parents are educated or not, whether they speak the language or not, it is important that the school partner with those parents,” said Duncan. “We have to hold parents accountable. But at the same time, we have to open our doors and give parents a chance to participate in the culture of the school, regardless of what education level they are at. Every parent wants their child to be successful. We want to double funding for parental engagement programs, not that are feel-good, but programs that lead to higher student achievement.”
“We have to educate our way to a better economy,” Duncan said. “We cannot begin to use tough economic times as an excuse not to invest in education and not to drive improvement.”
In DeKalb, our school board argues black and white debates all of the time. However, truth be told, our school system is about 75% African-American, 11% Hispanic and barely 10% white. We need to refocus our paradigm and commit to conversations about educating all students. Cross Keys is our one high school with an obviously gerry-mandered attendance zone which scoops in almost all of our Hispanic high school students. Cross Keys, ironically, is also the only high school in DeKalb with an on-site vocational program, but no auditorium nor any plans for building one. We can do better.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
HB 22 -- ONE MORE TIME.
There has been a major change in the last few days. The bill is having trouble gaining traction and has powerful insider opposition and it will require a heavy grassroots effort to push back. This is the time for the people to exercise their power!
Please contact head of the DeKalb Delegation, Representative Howard Mosby by himself and ask him to allow a vote on this bill, presuming Representative Oliver can get the necessary signatures to bring it forward.
Representative Howard Mosby (D) District 90
404 656-0287 (office)
Click to Email Howard Mosby
Several representatives have dropped off the list of sponsors for HB 22. We need you to email the entire delegation and implore them not to abandon the one positive change that they can effect for the children of DeKalb County.
You can read the latest blog piece on HB 22 here:
CLICK HERE to Email the entire list of DeKalb legislators
Or choose your own rep(s) from the list below:
Please use your email lists, petition lists from redistricting, etc to get people aware of this issue.
Could it be? A judge has ordered mediation in the Heery Mitchell case. Please, let this work out.
Judge orders mediation in DeKalb schools suit
Citing millions of dollars of legal fees, a judge ordered DeKalb County schools to mediate its case with construction giant Heery International.
The school system has spent more than $15.5 million in legal expenses in an ongoing civil suit with Heery/E.R. Mitchell over management of the school’s construction program. On Tuesday, DeKalb Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger ordered the parties to attend mediation.
“I’m worried that we will continue to accrue more attorney fees,” the judge told the parties. “This has grown far, far too expensive for the parties, and one party is the school board. Taxpayers are paying for this. Mediation is the best way to get this resolved."
Thank you! I agree Judge Seeliger! Please, save the taxpayers of DeKalb from this abyss!
Sadly, though, the school system attorney's response just sounds like fightin' words:
“The parties got a stern instruction from the judge to go to mediation," school lawyer Ray Persons said Tuesday. "We welcome any opportunity to discuss the resolution of the case to get the taxpayers’ compensation for the wrongdoing that has been done by Heery/Mitchell.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
How does this Happen? DeKalb educator indicted for changing records
Derrick Wooten was indicted Tuesday on four counts of public record fraud, four counts of criminal attempt to commit a felony and one count of computer forgery.
A DeKalb judge signed a warrant for his arrest.
Wooten was working as an assistant principal at Stoneview Elementary in Lithonia when he instructed eight teachers to change students’ attendance records on a school computer, District Attorney Robert James told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“He is accused of changing attendance records to reflect children were in school when they weren't. This was all to make it look better for AYP,” James said Tuesday. “The motive was to cover this up so the school doesn't get put on the Needs Improvement list.”
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Funding Inequity: how it works in DeKalb
|Click for a larger view|
Some of our most outrageously expensive programs are of course high needs special education (Margaret Harris spends $35,942.47 on average per pupil and Coralwood: $24,881.44 per pupil). But you may be surprised to learn that some of our alternative programs cost much more (Some examples: DeKalb Truancy: $45,292.61 per pupil, DeKalb Early College Academy: $14,410.78 per pupil, Elizabeth Andrews HS: $12,151.96 per pupil, DeKalb Alternative: $20,792.11 and DeKalb Alternative Night School: $18,958.90, DeKalb Transition: $20,265.86, Gateway to College Charter: $16,319.21).
Interestingly, as we expected, DeKalb School of the Arts and other magnets cost more per student than regular schools—however, some regular schools spend far more per student than others. Factor in the additional bump from Title 1 and some of our schools are bringing in quite a lot of money for student education.
So it seems that we have plenty of money to educate our students. Why are we having to cram over 30 in a classroom? Why are we having to cut parapros, media clerks, tech support and hands-on staff? With a $1.2 Billion (with a "B") annual budget, we simply have enough money.
The total in Title 1 funds allocated to DeKalb Schools according to this chart (the data is also inconsistent everywhere you turn), is $52,446,907.75. Fifty-two and a half million dollars. I have to think that somehow this money could impact our children's ability to learn to read and write and do math. Why are test scores still so abysmally low in so many of our Title 1 schools? Take Columbia High School, for example. Columbia received an additional $1,077,434.20 in Title 1 allocated funds in 2009-10. Yet, Columbia has not made AYP, is in Needs Improvement Year 3, is in Corrective Action and must offer a transfer choice and supplemental tutoring services.
The average per pupil funding—including Title 1—for Columbia students is $9,380.02. Compare that with Lakeside's per pupil average funding of $7,834.76 (with no Title 1 compensation whatsoever). Lakeside has consistently made AYP and maintained decent test scores overall. Same goes for Dunwoody High School, with a per pupil funding (no Title 1 bump) of $7,773.66, Dunwoody makes the grade. In fact, these schools make the grade just as well as say, Chamblee, the magnet school for high achievers with a per student cost of $8,021.73 (no Title 1 bump) or even the wildly expensive DSA—at a whopping $11,612.95 per pupil. Then, compare all of those to Arabia (a non-Title 1 school) which only gets $5,214.29 per pupil—the lowest in the entire system.
The "regular" elementary schools is where the funding is all over the board. We spend anywhere from a low of $6,920.66 per pupil at Dunwoody Elementary to a high of $12,857.36 at Knollwood ES. Again, on the low end, we have Narvie Harris at $7,600.40 per pupil, Fernbank at $7,894.97 per pupil, Oak Grove at $7,930.98 per pupil and Vanderlyn at $7,954.17 per pupil. Over at the high end, we top off spending at Wadsworth where we spend $13,010.20 per pupil. Nipping at Wadsworth's spending heels is Gresham Park at $12,804.60 per pupil, Huntley Hills at $12,275.73 per pupil, Bob Mathis at $12,207.36, Peachcrest at $11,872.83 and Sky Haven at $11,828.01 per pupil. (In case you're wondering, Kittredge isn't far behind at $11,001.34 per pupil.)
Now, certainly, some of these schools have more special education students (and dollars per student) than others, some have more gifted, some have other needs that require special funding, so there is really no best way to compare apples to apples exactly. But this is the best we have, and by and large, the comparisons simply show that we have a whole lot of work to do to get our schools back in balance. Work that goes far beyond simply rearranging deck chairs.
Note: The picture of the spreadsheet is hard to read, so if you would like the actual Excel spreadsheet we received from DCSS, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send it to you.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Commissioner's Question Dekalb Exec's Days Out of Office
Here is a link to an AJC.com article from today regarding the recently eliminated Director of Public Safety position from DeKalb County Government.
The story relates to William "Wiz" Miller who happens to be a close friend of our Dekalb CEO, Burrell Ellis. Our CEO CREATED a position within the county, Director of Public Safety, which enabled him to pay the "Wiz" $150,000 annual salary. It turns out that the "Wiz" didn't show up for work for 82 days in 2010. If there are 20 working days in a month then that would account for over 4 months MIA, "Missing in Action., WITH PAY!
The County Commissioner's are upset, outraged and won't stand for this type of behavior!
One Commissioner, Elaine Boyer, stated, "It's arrogant, the CEO needs to explain to the board why a major staff person is not accounted for and what he's doing! It concerns us that he has so many days he can't explain himself."
I predict this will upset the CEO's administration and a complete audit will be authorized by the board to see who else hasn't been working while getting their pay check.
Now, what does this have to do with DCSS?
Do you remember a member of DCSS, highly paid MIS department, Jamal Edwards? He was promoted last year to a new position and didn't show up for months. He is salaried and he was paid for ALL of his missing time!
What about our ineffective "Internal Affairs" officer, Ron Ramsey, who is also Senator Ron Ramsey from District 43, he too is out of the office for months at a time. But if you listen to Jeff Dickerson, "Mr. Ramsey amends all of his time cards to reflect him time out of the office."
We also have DCSS personnel who have numerous different jobs outside of DCSS that require time and energy.
The reason I bring up the topic is this, I feel like Dekalb County taxpayers deserve better stewards of our tax dollars.
The County Commissioners are looking into the waste at the County level. They are going to require the CEO to ANSWER for his employees not showing up for work and getting paid!
We should/need to require the same from the school system. Working for DCSS is not a RIGHT but a privilege and we need to hold every employee accountable for their actions.
Especially when they are absent from work.
The school board are the ones that should be asking for accountability, but they aren't.
Therefore, I recommend, we the people, ask for accountability!
We want answers!
We deserve answers!
If you have any knowledge regarding DCSS personnel that fit this criteria please leave it in the comments section or email me @ email@example.com.
I'll keep everyone posted of the results.
Have a great weekend!
Another Survey for you to take!
A recent comment was posted on the blog mentioning the fact that Dr. Beasley and DCSS administrators have asked for stakeholder's input on a survey regarding the SACS. Dr. Beasley sent out the request via the following email:
The AdvancEd/SACS District Reaccreditation Committee is seeking input from you, school staff, in order to align your perceptions of the district's implementation of the seven AdvancEd standards with the perceptions of district staff. Please respond to the 65 item survey by midnight on Sunday, April 3. We value your input as we engage in the continuous improvement process and as we move towards excellence in teaching and learning.
This survey is really important. It asks detailed questions regarding the 7 Standards outlined by AdvancED/SACS.
Standard 1 - VISION & PURPOSE
The system establishes and communicates a shared purpose and direction for improving the performance of students and the effectiveness of the system.
Standard 2 - GOVERNANCE & LEADERSHIP
The system provides governance and leadership that promote student performance and system effectiveness.
Standard 3 - TEACHING & LEARNING
The system provides research-based curriculum and instructional methods that facilitate achievement for all students.
Standard 4 - DOCUMENTING & USING RESULTS
The system enacts a comprehensive assessment system that monitors and documents performance and uses these results to improve student performance and system effectiveness.
Standard 5: RESOURCES & SUPPORT SYSTEMS
The system has the resources and services necessary to support its vision and purpose and to ensure achievement for all students.
Standard 6 - STAKEHOLDER COMMUNICATIONS & RELATIONSHIPS
The system fosters effective communications and relationships with and among its stakeholders.
Standard 7 - COMMITMENT TO CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
The system establishes, implements, and monitors a continuous process of improvement that focuses on student performance.
Teachers, you may have only stumbled upon it by accident, as it was buried in the "Newsflash" emails, which we're told often go unread, as they are usually only relevant to a few people.
However, this is a very important survey and there are a lot of teachers who read the blog who may have missed the email from Beasley about the survey. It is a fairly lengthy survey but does ask many of the essential questions and references stakeholder communication often. Many of us are not teachers, but we are stakeholders. Many of these questions are highly relevant to our needs as parents and community members. So feel free to send in your opinions. We need to get as many folks as possible to complete this survey!
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Using Video to Reinvent Education
Have you all heard about Khan Academy? It's a wonderful online resource for math instruction and tutoring. The above video from TED.com came to us through an interesting blog post from Reading Rockets.
Sal Khan hosts video lectures on math concepts in an entertaining, easy to understand way. He even says that teachers have starting assigning his video lectures as "homework" and then using class time to work out problems (used to be "homework"). Kids seem to be learning well this way!
To read more on their suggestions for online learning, click here.
Click here to link to Khan Academy.
Oh - and one more thing. You know I always harp on my pipe dream of giving all students an iPad or Kindle loaded with their textbooks instead of making them lug around heavy, expensive textbooks (at least in middle and high school)... Well, the pushback has been due to the "cost" of the technology. But -- get this - once you buy the hardware (at a discounted bulk rate of course), then you can download all the FREE Open Source textbooks you want at ck12.org. So, costs not looking as bad, eh? Check it out by clicking here.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
To Recap the Redistricting
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Reduce the Size of DCSS School Board
Fast forward, two months, and little to nothing has been heard about this bill. I thought perhaps we had missed it because of all the chaos surrounding redistricting. However, while the bill has the support of many legislators, several seem to be working to hold it up and prevent it from being passed.
- Had its superintendent and chief operating officer indicted;
- Been placed on advisement status by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools;
- Had to censure several board members;
- Seen SAT scores plummet, in 2004, the SAT mean Math score in DeKalb was 459 and in 2010 it was 442. In 2004, the SAT mean verbal score was 464 and in 2010 it was 449.
- Had one of the lowest “make AYP” rates of any school system in the state
- Spent over 15 million dollars in legal fees in a lawsuit that may not result in that much if won;
- (and any thing else you can think of…)
- In metro Atlanta, the most successful school districts have school boards with 7 or fewer members.
- A smaller school board will incur fewer travel expenses, salary expenses and possibly legal expenses.
- A smaller school board will be easier for a new superintendent to work with.
(Breaking news -- Senators Millar, E. Jones and Carter filed a bill in the senate that would effectively do the same thing as HB 22. You can find this bill here,
http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/displaybill.aspx?BillType=SB&billNum=226 and you may want to mention it in your emails.)
Saturday, March 12, 2011
HB 428 Paves a Path to Possible Cityhood
As your State Representative, I am committed to increasing your voice in local government and to helping provide the highest quality governance at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer. That is why I have introduced a piece of legislation, House Bill 428, that will create a path for the unincorporated neighborhoods around Murphey Candler Park, West Nancy Creek Drive, and Silver Lake to join one of our adjacent municipalities, either Chamblee or Dunwoody.
Presently, these neighborhoods exist as an “unincorporated peninsula” of land sandwiched between the City of Dunwoody to the north, the City of Chamblee to the east, and the City of Sandy Springs to the west. There is only one major arterial road into this area from the rest of unincorporated DeKalb: Ashford Dunwoody Road.
The purpose of HB 428 is to kick off a community conversation about possible avenues to the incorporation of our neighborhoods. Click here to read the version of HB 428 that will be presented on Tuesday to a subcommittee of the House Governmental Affairs Committee.
The version of the bill that was originally introduced only applied to Dunwoody, but that was based upon my own incorrect perception that Chamblee – having recently completed an annexation of Huntley Hills and other neighborhoods east of Chamblee Dunwoody Road – would not be interested in undertaking any further annexations any time soon. I had a productive conversation with Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson in which he made clear that it’s possible Chamblee could consider further annexation. So, the bill has been changed accordingly.
HB 428 will allow for adjacent municipalities to annex neighborhoods in an “unincorporated peninsula” (an unincorporated area that is 75% or more surrounded by cities) after the adoption of a city council resolution and the passage of a referendum by the citizens in the unincorporated area. In other words, there is absolutely no scenario in which your neighborhood would be annexed into a neighboring city before you receive all of the facts about the annexation and are given the opportunity to cast your vote at the ballot box.
The key annexation procedure that HB 428 does change is DeKalb County’s unilateral veto power over the ability of our neighborhoods to be annexed into Chamblee or Dunwoody via this simple “resolution and referendum” method.
As the Dunwoody Crier has noted, my interest in annexation is driven by “increasing discontent with DeKalb County Government: rising tax bills, fewer services, inefficient government, and a lack of confidence that things are going to get better at the county.”
Police response times in Chamblee and Dunwoody are far below those in unincorporated DeKalb. Dunwoody is planning major improvements to their local parks. Chamblee and Dunwoody are both conservatively managed and are experiencing budget surpluses. And in stark contrast to CEO Burrell Ellis’ constant drumbeat for higher property taxes, Chamblee is considering cutting its millage rate this year.
It simply is not true that incorporation into a city necessarily means that your property taxes will go up. Many cities are actually able to deliver better services and a lower tax burden than can be found in nearby unincorporated areas.
Another option that might be worth exploring is the incorporation of a new municipality altogether, perhaps a City of Brookhaven that could reach as far south as Buford Highway or even I-85. Of course, such an option would require interest from neighborhoods south of Windsor Parkway such as Historic Brookhaven, Ashford Park, Brookhaven Heights, Brookhaven Fields, and Drew Valley.
If citizens are interested, I’m willing to explore a broader City of Brookhaven. It would require a separate piece of legislation that cannot be passed until 2014 at the earliest, which would give us plenty of time to thoroughly explore this option.
HB 428 is not an actual annexation plan of any sort. No annexation of any neighborhoods by either Chamblee or Dunwoody is imminent.
The latest version of HB 428 will make it clear that any annexation cannot involve the “cherry picking” of large-scale commercial property such as the Perimeter Summit development on the south side of I-285, adjacent to Dunwoody. This is because another provision of law that is applicable to HB 428 requires any such annexation to include territory that “is subdivided into lots and tracts such that at least 60 percent of the total acreage consists of lots and tracts five acres or less in size and such that at least 60 percent of the total number of lots and tracts are one acre or less in size.”
Carving out small cities is fast becoming a popular idea as metro Atlanta matures and county governments become too large, bureaucratic and unwieldy. I wonder how long it will be before these new cities in DeKalb lay claim to their schools? It's not impossible to amend the state constitution.
Friday, March 11, 2011
A Message From "Georgia Parents for Math"
Since we have a new GA State School Superintendent, I thought I would provide some information relative to potential changes to the integrated "fuzzy" math program in Georgia. Last November, the citizens in Georgia elected Dr. John Barge as the new GA State School Superintendent. During the election, Dr. Barge repeatedly promised to:
- Return control of local school districts to superintendents, their key staff, and local boards of education.
- SEEK input from and LISTEN to the local school districts of Georgia....citing that he witnessed first-hand the insistence by the GA DOE leadership to implement a math curriculum that local school teachers, districts, and even State Department of Education curriculum specialists pleaded with them not to implement.
- Support the elimination of Math I, Math II, Math III, and Math IV and the restoration of Algebra, Geometry, Statistics, Calculus, etc. to distinct courses.
I am pleased to report that at this time it appears that Dr. Barge is planning to follow through with his commitments to the citizens in GA. Some highlights of Dr. Barge's actions to date are as follows:
- December 2010 - Dr. Barge, then Superintendent Elect, formed a Transition Advisory Committee comprised of a diverse group of education professionals, business leaders, citizens, politicians, etc.
- Dr Barge was seeking a group of people who would actively engage in discussion and provide feedback to Dr. Barge and his leadership team.
- Dr. Barge asked this group to bring a list of their top goals for his first year in office. It was no surprise to see that addressing the failed math program was high on almost everyone's list!
- January 2011 - Dr. Barge conducted his first meeting of the Transition Advisory Committee after taking office.
- During this meeting, Dr. Barge demonstrated his ability to listen to committee members by announcing that addressing issues associated with GA's math program was one of his top priorities.
- Dr. Barge was aware of the trouble facing many of the "guinea pig year" students in 11th grade as they near graduation without the math skills necessary to successfully graduate.
- Dr. Barge energized his staff, many appear to be new and motivated, to "act with urgency" to generate a plan that helps the current 11th graders who are struggling to graduate. This is a nice change from the previous administration, where nobody seemed to understand that the math program was failing!
- Dr. Barge announced the formation of a Math Subcommittee. This Subcommittee is focused on the effort required to ensure retention of rigor while implementing a math program that can be successfully utilized by all school boards in GA.
- February 2011 - Dr. Barge held the first meeting of the Math Subcommittee
- Discussed details regarding the challenges facing many of our students in the "guinea pig year", namely our 11th graders.
- Requested feedback relative to his team's ideas to address the immediate problems facing the current 11th graders, as well as beginning to think about long term implementation for high school.
- Request feedback relative to plans to enable local school boards to utilize traditional Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II and Trigonometry to meet the "rigorous" standards in existence in GA.
I am pleased to note that I was invited to participate as a member of both the Transition Committee, as well as the Math Subcommittee. While Dr. Barge has only been in office for a couple of months, it appears that he is remaining true to his campaign promises to:
- Provide local school boards with the necessary control to enable them to choose what is right for the students within their district.
- Seek information from, and listen to, constituents and local school districts.
- Support the return of Algebra, Geometry, Statistics, and Calculus as distinct courses while retaining increased rigor.
- I acknowledge that we are early in Dr. Barge's term, and there is much work ahead of his team. But he appears to be moving in the right direction, including looking at data, asking for feedback prior to implementing changes, and most importantly...Acting with Urgency!!
I hope you find this information helpful. As we move forward in Dr. Barge's term, I will keep you informed of the changes. In terms of local action, now is a good time to rally the citizens in your community, and initiate discussions within your own school district and politicians, to ensure that your local school board, government leaders and Superintendent are aware of your expectations to move back toward traditional math programs while retaining the rigor that is in the best interest of the students in GA!!
Thank You for Your Continued Support!!
Thursday, March 10, 2011
A Positive Movie About a Special Teacher
During a three-decade career in an inner-city school, mathematics teacher Kay Toliver searched for methods that could engage the interest of students in her diverse classroom.
Among the highlights of the award-winning documentary "Good Morning Miss Toliver" are interviews with students that reveal what made them decide that mathematics was worth learning – and why they came to look forward to math class.
This heart-warming PBS special celebrates the importance of the teaching profession – one of the reasons that the Christian Science Monitor has referred to it as “one of the most popular staff-development tools in the United States.”
This remarkable resource is now available from FASE Productions for only $24.95 (s/h $4.95)!
Click here to order Good Morning Miss Toliver.
236 W. Mountain St., Suite 105
Pasadena, CA 91103
800-404-3273 Fax 626-577-2677
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
The growing gender gap in higher education
Read more by clicking here.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Redistricting in the dark?
Never fear! Jonathan Cribbs of the Patch is there with a minute by minute blogpost of the meeting.
Follow his report here - (you'll need to refresh your screen every few minutes)
Live Blogging: DeKalb School Board Meets to Vote on School Closings, Redistricting
Click here for a school system press release detailing the final decision.
Scientific Tools and Techniques Program (STT) Open House
"The Scientific Tools and Techniques Program (STT) is a semester-long course for 9th grade students designed to familiarize students with the tools and techniques of scientific inquiry. STT students practice problem-solving skills utilizing a fully integrated science curriculum. Through laboratory and field work, students explore all aspects of science, gaining a better understanding and a greater appreciation for the scientific process.
Rising 8th Grade Students apply for entrance during the Fall semester through their science teachers, who have applications and printed brochures.
A STT Open House will take place at Fernbank Science Center on Thursday, March 10. Refreshments will be served at 6:30 p.m. and the program starts promptly at 7:00 p.m.
Please contact the [your MS] main office or your 8th grade Science teacher for more details."
Say "Goodbye" to Two More Teachers or Three Paras
DeKalb schools to hire another law firm
Gary Freed, of Atlanta firm RobbinsFreed, said Monday that he filed an appearance with the court to represent former chief operating officer Patricia Reid. Freed said the school board was expected to approve his contract Monday night, but are now citing a possible conflict of interest.
District spokesman Jeff Dickerson said the board will hire a firm on Monday, but legal fees will be capped at $100,000.
This will be the fourth law firm the DeKalb school board has hired to help with the suit. Heery sued the district in 2007, alleging breach of contract. The district filed a counter-suit for $100 million, alleging fraud and mismanagement of school construction projects. The school system has already paid $15.5 million in legal fees in the case.
Reid was indicted last year on charges she ran a criminal enterprise at the school system.