Monday, March 28, 2011

Self-preservation? Another political power play by the Board!

Maureen Downey in a recent Get Schooled blog reported on an event she attended about Educational Leadership at The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Speaker Series.

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.


Anonymous said...

I hear Richard Belcher has a piece tonight at 6pm on Womack's expletive-laced "God" attack on Sen. Jones and the Board's refusal to investigate it.

I guess it's censure-worthy to threaten to slug a reporter, but no big deal to cuss, call yourself God, and wag your finger in the nose of a Senator sponsoring bills that promote effective governance in the Board of Education.

Keep emailing, calling, and visiting your reps to support all of these bills!

themommy said...

Great news about Belcher's piece!

Anonymous said...

And signed by our 2 newest board members!!! So much for that new blood.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't the first sentence of the letter to the representative read: Members of the DeKalb Board of Education received . . . instead of Member . . .? Pitiful.

themommy said...

I noticed the grammatical error as well.


Cerebration said...

So does Tyson support nine? Her name is on the letterhead, although she didn't sign it. Her employee, Nichole Knighton hand-delivered the letter for the board.

Anonymous said...

"Numerology is any of many systems, traditions or beliefs in a mystical or esoteric relationship between numbers and physical objects or living things."
The number of people on the board is not relevant-it's who we the voters elect to do the job. Unless, of course, it is a pretext for eliminated two board memebers you dislike. I predict that every how many we have we end up with the two we don't like and that it will be harder to outvote them.

Anonymous said...

I heard MMO needs only one more signature for her bill to go through as local legislation.

To think: a Board with fewer members would (1) give DeKalb a competitive advantage in finding a high-quality permanent superintendent; (2) promote more effective governance for the school system; and, as a result (3) improve the climate for economic development across the county.

And gee, I'm surprised that all those Republicans on the Board (Bowen, Womack, McChesney, Speakes, Jester) aren't in favor of the local determination that's achieved through a referendum and "smaller government." I don't think Newt would approve of his supporter Womack's stance on these issues.

Anonymous said...

Why pass up an opportunity to grandstand against republicans and Gingrich when an opportunity presents itself?
The entire board is an embarassment, and whoever might be their replacements are supposed to run without party affliation.
Believe it or not, Gingrich, Bush, Palin , or whatever evil 'ol national pub you can name isn't going to be on the hotline to Womack, et al about this issue.
Blame it on the current and former school board bunch. Their bad is all on them. Whether they have an R or D after their name has nothing to do with it.
And in the next elections look for a 'R' or 'D' after their name on the ballot. You won't find it.

Anonymous said...

Ms Jester was correct in signing the letter. Decrease of the BOE to 5 members would be disastrous for North DK. There would be no more political infighting since So DK would definitely have the majority. A decrease to 7 members would still pose the same risks to NO DK.

Nothing will change in DCSS whatever the number of members. It is a cultural thing.

Anonymous said...

Jester is same story different verse.

Anonymous said...

@Cerebration, this is standard school system letterhead so you can't draw any conclusions about Ms. Tyson's position from that. If I had to guess, I would say that most appointed school superintendents would prefer working with a smaller board.

Anonymous said...

N. DeKalb did just fine with 7 board members. Well, N. DeKalb did no worse with 7 than they have done with 9.

The health of the entire system impacts every school, no matter how strong.

Our strongest schools would even be stronger in a different school system.

Anonymous said...

So who does Mosby represent? The BOE members or the voters?

Rep. Mosby donated money to Jay Cunningham's BOE campaign last fall. I guess he has a personal interest in making sure Jay Cunningham keeps his job.

Election records show that Howard A. Mosby donated to Jay Cunningham's Board of Education campaign in September:

See page 4 of this pdf:

Rep. Mosby should put his personal feeling aside and let the votes of DeKalb County decide this matter.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. Look at the margin of victory for some of the board members. The most troubling members won by the largest margins. They'd have more power on a smaller board.

This can't be a good idea for a new superintendent either. If the board is all thrown into an election, how helpful will that be?

Anonymous said...

This is very, very sad. The ONLY thing our elected Board members can agree on is self-preservation and defeating a strong code of ethics for themselves.

I can't wait to move to another county and take my very high achieving students out of this cesspool.

Dan Magee said...

Tom Bowen, did you really send a letter to the DeKalb Delgation that starts with a grammatical error? My Lord, you are in over your head. And all the other BOE members signed it without seeing the error?

And of course board members like Gene Walker don't want an ethics code. They want a school system that will hire and overpay their relatives. And Gene Walker in particular wants school vendors and contractors to be able to take him out to lunch or dinner without reporting it.

Anonymous said...


Yes he did and yes they did.

Keep in mind that Paul Womack's issues with Senator Jones were related to the ethics legislation. Apparently, he doesn't want to be held accountable.

Leo said...

Whatever your stance on the proposed legislation at issue, isn't there an inherent conflict of interest in these guys advocating for or against it? As an individual citizen, maybe it's ok but as a collective body, surely there's a problem with that. I wish we could oust the whole lot of 'em.

Anonymous said...



But of course they feel immune.

Anonymous said...

Do you really think they sign things? I bet they all didn't see that before it was sent.

Cerebration said...

Of course they signed it - did you look at the second scanned document in the post?

I'm very concerned that someone or the whole group used their influence and perhaps friendship with the head of the DeKalb delegation to make their views known. Does anyone think that a group of private citizens could have written a letter supporting the legislation and had it hand carried to the head of the delegation with the request to have copies delivered to all the legislators?

We've been trumped people. Anyone want to try? Shall we write a letter of support for MMO's bill and have it hand-delivered by a high-ranking school official on letterhead with the superintendent's name on it? After all - as taxpayers, don't we essentially own the school system and pay everyone's salaries?

Anonymous said...

I hate that no one understands that these are supposed to be separate entities... the school system is an entity. The BOE is a separate entity. The BOE hires and fires the Superintendant. The Superintendant is then supposed to run the school system. The BOE is supposed to make policies for the good and welfare of the system as a whole. The BOE and the school system are not the same entity. There have distinct roles and the fact that the BOE uses the school system, on its letterhead, to hand deliver a stated position on legislation as a "whole" that is on their behalf is against this distinction in their roles and paints such an intense picture of what is so terribly wrong within DCSS. No one truly understands what their roles are supposed to be. How on earth are we ever supposed to get a new superintendant to take over and make anything of this mess when no one understands and does their role properly? No education of kids is taking place. Everyone protects turf and exerts influence in order to rake in dollars to their own coffers.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon 4:22. You mention the four "supposed" republicans and their current stance. In a 7 member board, most likely 2 possibly 3 of these folks would no longer be on the board. You think their constituents would like that?

What if you were a constituent of McChesney and with the new lines drawn your new rep is Gene Walker, SCW or Jay Cuningham? Scary if you ask me.

All one has to do is look at the DeKalb Commission. Which party has had the majority of that board and for how long? What does it say that the entire North part of the county is so sick and tired of the county, the majority wants to annex into a current city or create another one like Brookhaven.

Politics should not be a part of this, but it is thanks to the lack of DCSS leadership, the fraudulent times of CLew and Pope and the friends and family plan. Everyone is trying to protect their turf and the gravy train of cash that flows into their families bank accounts.

Anonymous said...

I would prefer NO school board. But since we seem to be stuck with the concept, let's at least reduce the number of members. I remember when there were seven,and we thought things were bad, but we were actually lauded as a successful system. Things have definitely gone down hill since we shifted to nine. We added two super districts in an effort to dilute 'fiefdoms'- but the end result was more firmly entrenched little kingdoms where no one seems to focus on the big picture.

So many posters seems worried about which seven would stay -- but since we would get to wipe the slate clean and re-vote for all 7 positions - I see this as the perfect opportunity to get new blood in there. And what better time to do it... the board will have just hired a new Superintendent (one of their only real responsibilities)and will have nothing looming on their plates.

Rep. Mike Jacobs said...

Senator Millar and I have worked with the House Education Committee and Mary Margaret Oliver to amend Senate Bill 79 to shrink the DeKalb BOE to seven members as a matter of general statewide law. The bill passed full committee this afternoon and is now in the House Rules Committee. The bill also addresses problems in Savannah-Chatham County and the Atlanta Public Schools.

themommy said...

Thank you Rep Jacobs

Is there anything we can do to help?

Cerebration said...

Good job, Mike! Seven is better than nine... five would have been even better - but I'm happy that you have all been making progress. I'm glad that this political power play by the board didn't influence the progress of the bills.

Anonymous said...

Notice that all of the body of the letter appears on one page and the signature page is entirely separate. This is the extreme skeptic in me, but the body of the letter seen by individual signers could have been changed after the board member signed.

I would hope there was some healthy debate regarding the contents and form of the letter, but I really doubt it. Ouch, that would be an Open Meetings violation. And to come out unanimously opposed to ethics legislation. What self-serving BS!

Cerebration said...

From the AJC --
DeKalb's bond rating drops again, raises alarm

On Tuesday, Standard & Poor’s announced it had downgraded DeKalb’s long-term general obligation debt from AA- to BBB. Appropriation-backed debt was dropped from A+ to BBB, while the county’s water and sewer debt went to a AA- rating. BBB is considered the lowest investment grade, said Robin Prunty, managing director of Standard &Poor’s public finance department. D is considered default.

“Once again the taxpayers will suffer because of poor and ineffective management of DeKalb County,” Commissioner Elaine Boyer said. “Having our bonds downgraded to near junk bond status is embarrassing and unnecessary. We are in a fiscal crisis in this county, and the CEO must embrace some fiscal discipline.”

While Boyer called the downgrading a wake-up call for better management, CEO Burrell Ellis said it was reason to raise property taxes.

“The county is not in junk bond status. Elaine is using inflammatory language to alarm people unnecessarily, but we do have some level of financial instability, which needs to be rectified with a millage increase,”

Cerebration said...

And for more on the topic of DeKalb politics --

Group Files Suit to Dissolve Dunwoody’s Charter Based on Voting Rights Act

The Georgia Black Legislative Caucus wants to dissolve five cities – including Dunwoody – that it says were formed in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.

The caucus is suing Gov. Nathan Deal in federal court over claims that forming new cities that include Dunwoody and Sandy Springs was a violation of minority voting rights.

The caucus seeks to dissolve the charters of Milton, Johns Creek, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs and Chattahoochee Hills, as it claims each was formed in violation of the Voting Rights Act and state legislative procedure. The caucus wants a preemptive strike against the formation of Milton County as well.

Cerebration said...

DeKalb news about our safety --

DeKalb cuts CSI response

Crime scene investigators will no longer respond to burglaries and car break-ins in DeKalb County.

Budget cut-backs have forced DeKalb Police to restrict CSIs' response to only violent crimes, including homicides, rapes and armed robberies, Major James Conroy said Thursday. Officers will still respond, but there will be no crime scene investigators to collect evidence, dust for prints or look for DNA.

The police have eliminated 13 CSI slots, saving the county about $770,000. The county now has only five CSIs, Conroy said.

Last month, the County Commission cut $33.6 million from the 2011 budget, including about $4.8 million from police.

Cerebration said...

Bill on Atlanta, DeKalb schools sent to House floor
By Nancy Badertscher

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The powerful Rules Committee of the Georgia House voted Thursday to send to the full House a bill granting Gov. Nathan Deal the power to remove all members of the troubled Atlanta School Board.

Another last-minute add to the bill would cut the size of the DeKalb County school board from nine to seven members, over objections from the school board.

Senate Bill 79, dubbed a "Christmas tree" bill because of these two last-minute additions, moved out of the Rules Committee despite some members claims that it ignores the fundamental principal [sic] of local control.

It's not clear whether it will reach the floor Friday or during a rare Saturday session, which could take place due to continued debate over a major tax reform bill.

Late Tuesday, a bipartisan amendment was tacked on to SB 79 that would expand a state law passed last year allowing the governor to oust members of local school boards. The current law only applies to school board members elected after July 1, 2010, the date the law went into effect.

The Atlanta school district has until September to clean up its act or face sanctions from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Rep. Kathy Ashe, D-Atlanta, says the amendment was meant to provide students and families a "safety net" if the school board can't change enough to preserve accreditation.