Sunday, April 17, 2011

DeKalb's Public Schools this Summer: Up or Over the Hill?

As the end of the 2011 academic year comes to a close, DeKalb is poised to spring up the hill to revitalization or to roll over the last hump on the way down to final devolution. The  next few months will see the arrival of a new superintendent, the presentation of the "2020 Vision," and the possible reapportionment of the Board of Education districts and number of seats.

I think most of us are looking for the new superintendent to be the system's "savior" during this period of deep change. Who ever ends up on the throne at what has pejoratively become known as "The Palace," they will need to make the most of the momentum they'll have this year. Even if we end up with an extraordinary leader, I wonder if our communities are going to be part of the positive change or part of the regressive problem.

As we enter into this most critical four months for our public system, and on the eve of the announcement of a new superintendent, I would like to share with the community the following blog entry that was shared with me by the principal of Seqouyah MS, Ms. Brittany Cunningham.

I think it captures some very cogent points for us all to keep in mind as we engage in our efforts to help the new superintendent and Board of Education position our system for a brighter future. I encourage everyone to question every assumption about the past and every convention that we have clung to and consider them anew. If we do not do this, we are risking being part of the problem rather than the solutions we'll need.

Reprinted article from:

Four things to stop in order to fuel momentum

By Dan Rockwell

Photo by: Greg Newington

Stalling and stagnation are normal; persistent progress and forward momentum exceptional. Stop pretending, complaining, avoiding, and limiting in order to fuel progress.

Stop Pretending
Stop pretending you want change when in reality you want comfort. Usually comfort and change run contrary to each other. Backward facing leadership takes less effort, less courage, and less creativity.
General Shinseki wisely observed, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”
Your best option is growing comfortable with constant change.

Stop Complaining
Complaining is comfortable self-confirmation. In the short-term it’s fun and provides the façade of power. Complaining is joyfully easy. Change is deceptively difficult; easy to talk but hard to do.
Creating is courageous disruption and dangerous self-expression. Occasionally, complaining may instigate change but it won’t sustain it.

Stop Avoiding
Forward facing leaders always encounter conflict, resistance, arm chair quarterbacks, disagreement, fear of failure, and more. These are powerful reasons that some use to avoid pressing into the future.
In addition, forward movement and uncomfortable conversations go hand in hand. You cannot and should not avoid them.
Conflict, resistance, and the rest can’t validate or justify your direction. However, they are evidence of movement. Face, embrace, and learn from them.

Stop Limiting
Complex problems have more than one solution.
Perfecting solutions is a fault-finding process. You bombard an option with imagined scenarios and anticipated problems looking for faults. There’s value in the process but it won’t create a perfect response to high-potential opportunities. There’s more than one.
Analyze, investigate, evaluate; then pick one solution and perfect it as you go. Searching for one perfect solution before pulling the trigger slows progress and drains momentum.
Momentum requires courage, focus and fuel or it cools. Which of these things can you stop today in order to keep moving forward?


Anon said...


great piece.

In DeKalb, we must face up to the fact that we have many lackluster schools and some that are downright dreadful.

We need to own this and then we can move forward.

We also need to find a way to shift the discussion. It is a shame that the only board member who consistently tries to hold the system accountable is Sarah Copelin-Woods. No one else seems to care.

Ella Smith said...

Great piece.

rumors and preverifcations said...

DCSS needs to go back to the basics of teaching kids to read. Learn how to write and some simple math.

If you ever go to a SW DCSS school, over 75% of the students do not even speak proper English. They speak ebonics and a rapper's type language.

It is embarrassing to listen to not all, but at least 50% or more of the students at McNair High School. They do not even know how to speak.

DCSS should forget everything and work on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article!

something2thinkabout said...

I agree that this is a great piece, and that the school system needs to build a good foundation in Math & English. However, I disagree that 50% or more of McNair students "...don't know how to speak."

Anyone who can make that statistical determination with such certainty has done considerable research. If you had any knowledge of other cultures, you would know that in urban communities, there is often a secondary 'street' language in use, but many people will employ more 'standard' English in different circumstances. There is no 'rapper language.' It is a style of entertainment and social communication. I personally dislike it, but don't measure a student's abilities by it. My experience has been that some students are fully aware of what is considered acceptable, standard English, but choose not to use it.

I have students who speak in one style in the halls and on the grounds, but use very different words and intonations when in the classroom or in conversations with adults. I have students who only use the language they have learned in their homes, but will easily assimilate other styles when they are not belittled.

I have had 'white' students who used an urban-style dialect and others my colleagues have referred to as 'hillbilly' because of their accents and word usage. No matter who the student is, their work can be remarkable. Others may need and welcome development, if they know they are valued.

I do not teach in SW Dekalb, but I hear all different styles of speaking. I really don't expect students to modify their language simply because I am in the area. I also don't think I am in a position to judge students when I don't know their circumstances or abilities. Don't marginalize an entire school or group because of your personal standards. I would hate for anyone to judge "rumors and preverifications" based on that written paragraph. The correct spelling of the word is "prevarications," not to mention the other errors in sentence construction.

Unknown said...

This is excellent and should be required reading for whomever is selected as DCSS superintendent. From all that I can read, Culver followed this blueprint, and it wasn't popular.

Kim Gokce said...

Who ever the new superintendent is they are going to need a whole lot of help. And I don't mean from all DCSS employees - I mean from all of us.

After a few years dabbling in our lovely public educational process, I am convinced of very few things. One thing I have become convinced of is that our public system needs to broaden its base of support.

Parents with currently enrolled students seem to be the only stakeholders DCSS is beholden to in their mission. Often it seems that parent groups are the only ones "minding the store" and in too many cases only with their own child's future in mind.

While I blame no one for advocating for their children's interest and the system's current "customers" are an indispensible source of feedback, I do blame DCSS for failing to be a good trustee for the future children of DeKalb. The short-sighted planning and back room bargaining has to stop.

The incoming superintendent will have a very aggressive and progressive consolidation plan and re-districting plan on the table in the first months of tenure. We'll know very quickly whether the BoE and their one, new employee can manage to move our County system forward or if we're doomed to more of the same.

rumors and preverifcations said...

lets see rules of the blog are "misspelling words by a person should not call out that person because they do not agree with that person...

So you think that it is ok to use Ebonics says something2thinkabout.
Then you bring out your race card and say something about white hill billys.

I know there circumstances, momma is smoking crack and daddy is not around. It happens in a lot of inner city schools. But my whole point is that if schools would get back to basics,and graduate students who have a grasp of the basics , employers would be very grateful. I am only talking about the students who are not going to college. Who need simple skills to get A job doing construction or repair work on cars etc.etc.