Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Note to Board: Stop Pushing Tyson

Tom Bowen is dreaming. In public interviews, he keeps secretly pushing for Ramona Tyson to stay in place and become the permanent superintendent.  In my humble opinion, Tom wants this because Tom is busy. He holds several other jobs and sits on several other boards and this superintendent search is taking up way too much of his time. He is manipulating this process by dropping "hints" to the press of his desire to get Ramona back in the race just the same as he attempted to manipulate SB 79, the legislation that would reduce the board, by writing a strong letter of opposition and then affixing all of the board member's signatures electronically and having it hand-delivered to the entire DeKalb delegation by a system staff person - even though none of the other board members were aware of the letter!

I am certain that Tyson has been sincere all along as she has continued to state that she is not interested in the job permanently. She has done a very good job of steering this rudderless ship the last year and a half, but she really only expected to hold that rudder for a couple of months. Her arms are tired! I applaud her ability to take the high road in all conversations - she certainly has done the best job ever as the PR rep for DCSS. She has worked very hard and she has been paid very well for her service. But she has been "interim" in every sense of the word, and has in fact, gone above and beyond what is generally required of an interim. She has saved face for our board and our system over and over again. That has defined her tenure.

That said, although Tyson is the easy, comfortable, familiar choice, she is not the best choice moving forward. We need to go back to the drawing board and revisit some viable candidates – people who have a deep understanding of how to educate children well. We were told that over 50 qualified people applied and the board was able to narrow them to 6 at one point, then to 3. Our new superintendent is out there, our board just needs to focus on the task at hand and choose the best one. I have to wonder though if this group is capable of being serious, focused and trustworthy. Some on our board seem to have personal agendas that trump their ability to do what's best for our children every single time. We need to replace some of our board members ASAP - we need board members who do not have "relatives in the fight" or a desire to control personal fiefdoms. Several of our current board members have shown themselves to be too individually rapacious to work together for a greater good. However, this is the group that holds the future of our school system in their hands and I hope the few calm heads on the board will prevail.

Hear this Tom! The public wants a highly qualified outsider as our new leader. Keep looking. And keep your mouth shut. That goes for all of you!


Cerebration said...

I found this comment on the AJC Get Schooled Blog - it's interesting -

Harold@ Maureen
April 26th, 2011
8:55 am

“I had a conversation a few weeks ago with someone in DeKalb schools who mentioned out of the blue that Tyson would be the best choice for school chief, much better than any of the finalists.”…”Is she a possibility?”

I’m only surprised that you think this is “out of the blue”. Friends of mine who are in a Support area outside the schoolhouse said the exact same thing the other night when we were out socially. They really want Ramona Tyson to be the superintendent. I think all admin and support employees are nervous about their jobs, but they know Ms. Tyson will preserve those jobs. Believe me – the admin and support personnel do not want anyone who might “shake things up”. Can you blame them? This is their livelihood. This is the source of much of her support. This is basically what Tom Bowen has expressed as well so Ms. Tyson sees eye to eye with much of the BOE. Most of the BOE members have family working for DCSS (although I don’t believe a single one of them work in teaching positions). Literally millions in cumulative income are at stake for them.

My understanding from some highly placed DCSS admin people is that Ms. Tyson actively sought the job of interim superintendent and was offered this position after another Lewis insider turned it down.

Perhaps Ms. Tyson is seeking the job of superintendent and has some BOE members who are actively campaigning for her to get the job. When Dr. Brown was fired and Lewis was hired, the BOE cut some very convoluted deals with one another as one larger faction promised to support an internal candidate IF the other smaller faction would support firing Dr. Brown. Once the firing was done, then the larger faction reneged on their promise and hired Lewis. The internal candidate who was used as the “bait and switch” retired shortly thereafter as he realized that he had been used as a BOE tool to advance Lewis.

Ms. Tyson is honest. She wouldn’t take a nickel that didn’t belong to her. However, she does not have the educational background or business acumen to do the job which is to raise student achievement while investing taxpayer dollars in the most efficacious manner possible. DCSS needs someone who is willing to rid DCSS of the entrenched nepotism and cronyism that has been building for decades. Teachers, especially in the south side, that I’m friends with tell me that our teacher turnover rate is becoming unsustainable as teachers flee the system. Test scores will soon be out and I predict even more Title 1 schools will slipped further behind. In high school, DCSS will probably go from only 3 out of 20+ schools being Receiving schools to perhaps 1 or 2 out of 20+ schools being Receiving schools (i.e. they must accept all transfers from the low performing schools regardless of availability of physical seats).

The parents in the Central and North areas are starting to realize that declining student achievement in Title 1 schools affects their children as well when the NCLB transfers and overcrowding overwhelm their children.

I think the BOE would like to have a fait accompli and hire Ms. Tyson before the scores come out and the ramifications of declining student achievement become even worse. It’s always harder to undo something than to prevent the “doing” in the first place.

Cerebration said...

Found a couple more -- there's a good conversation going on at the Get Schooled blog on this topic -

Moving Fast
April 26th, 2011
9:13 am

Ramona Tyson may have done the best job she could as the interim super but she really is not qualified for the position. Everyone associated with the debacle of the latest hiring scenario should resign. The process was tainted. Motives? We can only speculate. Tom Bowen should ask those that leaked confidential information to resign. If no one does then Tom should take the lead and resign. Paul Womack should resign for his outrageous behavior. The problem is the BOE and not really Tyson. They ignored the gas card scam of CLewis. They looked the other way when the bids were going out to allow the Clewis/Pope scandal to flourish. Can anyone on the board read a budget or analyze financial data or understand contract negotiations? The past BOE used their positions to gain favors for family and friends. The Central Office is bloated. A desk audit should be done now. People overpaid and under-qualified should be reassigned. Complete Financial Audit should be done to see how poorly our money is spent on direct education to our children. If CO staff can’t teach in the classrooms or drive a school bus then they should be dismissed. We do not need parent educators or academic coaches. We need to focus on supporting our teachers and educating our students. We need a strong super who can come in and lead. Get rid of the Central Office staff who are not there to support education of the children. We need to improve our facilities and not supply jobs to half the New Birth congregation. The BOE members should be ashamed. New members, Elder and Jester should rake the other members over the coals and demand some change. We elected them to do this. Take the “Godly Womack” out along with the “Spineless Bowen” and get started on some real work to hire a qualified super and clean house so we can focus upon education and not nepotism

Cerebration said...

Teacher Reader
April 26th, 2011
9:35 am

Hiring Tyson for the job of DCSS superintendent shows the tax payers and parents that the board cares little about education and the children the district is in charge of educating. Any employee that is heard praising Tyson for the job that she has done, needs to have their job looked at closely and added to the list of needs to be let go. Tyson, has not gotten rid of any of the Palace bloat and in fact it gets bigger next year, with the hiring of more teacher coaches. The office of school improvement, improves nothing by the salaries of those that it employs. The employees do little to truly impact the education that the children receive. Making sure standards are posted does not help instruction. Also many Palace employees salaries seem to have gone up, while teacher salaries have gone down.

This entire process stinks. If end up with Tyson or Beasley the entire district is doomed for status quo or losing accreditation. If losing accreditation means that we get new board members, than l am all for it. Tyson or Beasley or anyone else from within the district needs to go. We have too many problems that need to be fixed and personal relationships need to be put aside, so that the right thing can be done.

teacher said...

This is scary on so many levels.

I hope that the board does a new search, but I am convinced that few members care about the children and the education that they receive.

I have lost hope that the district will improve and change.

fedupindcss said...

I remember the scenario Harold describes, and know exactly who the fake candidate was. The situation with the Board then is the same as now: they want a superintendent they can control. For several of them, DCSS is not a school system so much as an ATM, and for others it is a way to have some perceived level of personal power, for ego purposes. Only a couple are truly concerned about education and fiduciary stewardship.

I would imagine several of them have worked on Ramona to convince her that it's her duty to help "the children" by staying on.

Gayle said...

If you're concerned that the BOE is doing an "end run" around the taxpayers desire to have a superintendent with no ties to the Lewis administration, contact your BOE members and express your opinion. Click on Cerebration's "Email the Board of Education" link on the right hand side of the home page of this blog. It takes but a minute to fill the email boxes of the BOE with your opinions.

SW said...

Maureen Downey's current blog topic concerns a possible campaign to make Ramona Tyson the permanent superintendent.


Again, Ms. Tyson is doing a good job in the capacitiy she was asked to serve -- as INTERIM superintendent.

One of the reasons we wanted a superintendent who had no previous ties to DCSS was to help alleviate the perception of cronyism and nepotism. Ms. Tyson is perceived to be a part of that network.

Another reason we wanted someone with no previous ties to DCSS is that we needed someone to objectively access the personnel, especially in the central office. That person would need to determine who is actually qualified for the position they are holding, where the top-heaviness and inefficiencies are, and make the needed cuts or re-assignments. Ms. Tyson's ties to DCSS makes it impossible for her to be objective and probably to make the obvious needed cuts in personnel.

In addition, we need a superintendent who can make a possitive impact in academics. That includes accessing the performance of administrators and teachers, determining which principals are being effective in their current assignments, determining what professional development is needed, determining what academic programs are working and what programs aren't working, and to bring consistency and equality to all the schools throughout the county. I'm not sure that Ms. Tyson is qualified to take us to the next level in that regard. Many did not want to consider the three finalists because they were not QUALIFIED to run a system the size of DCSS. So why would we want to accept someone not qualified just because they are already a part of the system?

Now that all three finalists have withdrawn, we need to start a new search and not just go for what appears easiest. It does not resolve the problems. It just puts a patch on it while it continues to fester. Eventually, the problems will become bigger and will make it even more difficult to find a qualified person willing to take on this challenge.

Dekalbparent said...

Have to agree that Tyson is not qualified to continue in the position if DCSS is to survive. I am not sure where DCSS survival actually stands after the last week - doesn't HB 72 give the gov the right to take over ANY school system that is screwing up? Is DCSS next? (And the BoE was just worried about the cut from 9 to 7...)

Susan Curtis said...

@ATL - I contacted each board member yesterday, and only got an acknowledgement from one, Donna Edler. I have emailed several on several occasions, and I find them by-and-large unresponsive and (when they do respond) patronizing. It's almost too discouraging for words. DCSS has a teacher-response to email policy of 24 hours, and most of our board does not ever bpother to respond. Even a simple acknowledgment of receipt would be better than nothing. I know they are busy, but so am I.

Cerebration said...

@ DeKalb Parent: Only if they lose accreditation.

Read the bill in it's entirety here -

SB 79

This bill has been signed by the governor, but still has to clear some federal hurdles due to voting rights in Georgia.

Gayle said...

@ Susan Curtis
Then you might want to email the Governor, the State Superintendent, and your state representatives (both Senator and House Rep). I have done all of the above.

Governor Nathan Deal:

State Superintendent John Barge:

Your State Legislators (put your 9 digit zip code in the Search box at the top of the page and click Go):

Mary Margaret Oliver and Emanuel Jones have been particularly interested getting a higher quality BOE:


Cerebration said...

TOM - Why are you trying to manipulate the process? Why are you telling the whole world that Ramona is now being considered? Why are you so vocal to the press?

This is from the media in Illinois -

Culver last finalist in Georgia; interim may be considered

CHAMPAIGN — Champaign school Superintendent Arthur Culver is now the lone finalist for a superintendent job in metropolitan Atlanta, after a North Carolina superintendent who was negotiating a contract with the DeKalb County School System withdrew from consideration over the weekend.

But the district's interim superintendent may now be considered for the permanent job.

Lillie Cox, a superintendent from Hickory, N.C., notified the school district on Saturday that she was withdrawing from the negotiations, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Exposure of the details of the negotiations played a part in her withdrawal, according to the story.

The Atlanta paper also reported that DeKalb school board President Tom Bowen said interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson could now become a candidate.

The DeKalb school board is meeting Monday morning and again Tuesday morning in executive session to discuss a personnel matter. Neither agenda indicates the board will take action after the executive session.

Culver was unavailable for comment Monday morning.

Open+Transparent said...


SHS said...

@ Susan Curtis, @ ATL, etc

The DCSS BOE is an arrogant bunch of ne'er-do-wells. They would not know professionalism if they tripped over it. Community service? Public servants? Those concepts are a joke to them.

Here is my suggestion: go to www.readnotify.com and sign up for their free trial. Attach a read.notify tag to every BOE and DCSS address you e-mail -- every time you e-mail. It is not visible to the recipient.

You will get a report that gives quite a lot of information, including when your e-mail was opened, for how long, if it was forwarded to anyone else, and the location of the recipient when he/she opened the e-mail.

You will have absolute proof that, more than likely, your e-mails were never even opened.

After the trial period of, I think, 25 e-mails, ReadNotify costs $24/year for the basic version. It is invaluable -- and you may find yourself using it for more than just writing to the unresponsive DCSS BOE!

Perhaps when election time comes around, we could put our numbers of unanswered e-mails together and create/distribute a graphical picture of just how arrogant the DCSS BOE is.

Susan Curtis said...

@SHS - thank you for the info. When I worked in DCSS, I just used the "history" button for the emails I sent. I've missed that button many times since I resigned. I will definitely use the readnotify on everything I send the BOE.

@atl - Good idea! I will email the governor, etc. with my concerns. I don't need a BOE that agrees with my every philosophy (although I think I know more about education than many of them, having taught for 20 years); I just need a BOE that acts professionally, ethically, and collaboratively.

Cerebration said...

Richard Belcher reported last night on WSB that the 3 who voted against Cox were Bowen, Cunningham and Edler.

Walker may not have been present.

Anon said...

What about getting an interim from the outside to clean house, restructure, retain accreditation, audit etc and then start anew.

The end of the contract could correspond with the next school board election when we can only hope DeKalb voters may do better...

Then we hire a new superintendent

Anon said...

From a recent article in Crossroads:

District 9 School Board member Dr. Eugene “Gene” Walker said legislators don’t have a good reason for wanting to change the size of the board.

“Look at our budget and our operations,” he said. “We are the best-run school system, yet they want to reduce our numbers. What they are doing is trying to micro-manage us.”

Read more: CrossRoadsNews - Ellis urges Deal to veto bill to reduce size of School Board


Susan Curtis said...

Just got another reply about my email to the BOE. Here it is:

Hello Ms. Curtis,
Thank you for copying me on your email to Chairman Bowen. I always
appreciate hearing from citizens. I share your outrage about the breach
of confidence regarding executive session. These actions harm the
taxpayers and children of DeKalb. Unfortunately, it is difficult to
determine who leaked the information.

I remain dedicated to finding a strong, effective and ethical
Superintendent for DCSS. The task is most definitely made more difficult
by recent events but I am committed to it.

Please feel free to call or email me any time.

--Nancy Jester
DeKalb County Board of Education
District 1

I must say I am pleased to get a thoughtful response. I just wish that there were more people like Nancy on the BOE. When I say like Nancy, I mean: thoughtful in approaching problem-solving, responsive to customer requests, and willing to work hard.

dekalb2 said...

I have been thinking long and hard about who might be leaking the information to the media. The media really focuses on news that comes from a RELIABLE source. I don't think that a board member leaked any information directly to the press. It has to be someone that is in regular contact with both the school board and knows members of the press personally. The person I am thinking about also endorsed Arthur Culver as a candidate. Let's think about Watergate and Deep Throat.

Anon said...


It doesn't matter if Belcher got the story second hand, which ever board member leaked it to that person knew exactly what he was doing and what might happen.

Jester's email indicates that the board of ed is just going to move on and not work to find who the leak was.

Kind of like kiss and make up.

That is a shame.

If working together continues to be the primary goal, then the children will suffer. Working towards the right solution is what has to be the goal.

In addition, as long as each of them fears for their pet projects and own communities, our board members will continue to be to dependent on each other. They are mostly worried about securing each other's vote.

To What End said...

Nancy Jester a thoughtful problem solver? With all due respect she was responsible for "balancing enrollment" in Dunwoody by keeping Vanderlyn at 143% with modulars that taxpayers have to fund and left DES (less than a mile away) at 78%. Kingsley is still underpopulated. And Chesnut? Don't even get me started.

As far as being responsive to customer requests, Nancy ignored a petition signed by more than 1200 Dunwoody residents who did not support a decentralized redistricting plan that would have created TWO racially segrated schools in Dunwoody.

I'm sorry, but Nancy Jester has done nothing but create a mess in Dunwoody that will take years to clean up.

Momfirst said...

I assume you all saw that the final candidate, Culver, withdrew and quit his job in Illinois...What a waste of money....But, we need to be diligent and find the right candidate from outside of Dekalb and probably Georgia!!

unknown said...

@to what end,
You must have been districted out of Vanderlyn and seem a tad bit bitter. Jester is cleaning up a problem that was created with the 4/5 academy. Let me get this straight, you were OK with Dunwoody ES being significantly underutilized as long as your MLS Listing said "Vanderlyn" was your elementary school? Your petition and various plans wouldn't have solved Vanderlyn's overcrowding. You were fine with this. Now over capacity and undertilization (which, while not perfect, have improved) are suddenly a problem? The problem will be improved (not eliminated) and you complain? It appears that your logic fails you. You are correct that Dunwoody's capacity issues will take years to solve because we need more schools in Dunwoody. This problem wasn't created by Jester and as far as I can tell, she is going in the right direction.

To What End said...

Unknown at 3:40
The problem was created by Jester. Ramona's recommendation balanced enrollment. Jester's "tweaks" did not. End of story.

Cerebration said...

The thing is – salary negotiations are supposed to be “personnel issues” which the board is absolutely forbidden to discuss publicly. These are legal negotiations and are very delicate. To violate the sacred trust of executive session and the legal responsibility to uphold a person’s privacy is unconscionable.

It is obvious that ’someone’ was very afraid that the board was going to vote to hire Dr. Cox and this ’someone’ didn’t want Dr. Cox so this ’someone’ sabotaged the negotiations.

This is so bad on so many levels. If the board thought they didn’t have the public’s trust before, they have no idea just how untrustworthy they have now painted themselves.

Anonymous said...

@DeKalb 2 and the answer to your question of who has the contacts with both the BOE and the press is...

drum roll none other than good old Jeff Richardson the hi paid PR guy. Jeff is very sympathetic to the establishment and the core of BOE members who want to maintain it. After all, they pay him the big bucks to cover their sorry butts.
I also seem to remember that Jeff was on Georgia Gang when the New Birth Pastor scandal broke and he was very quick to try to provide cover.

unknown said...

@to what end at 340,
If the problem was created by Jester why are you stating that Ramona's plan was ok with you? If there wasn't an initial problem then why make the changes that were recommended by the consultants? Heck, why make changes at all? That's right, there was a terrible overcrowding/undercapacity problem. The plans were drafted to address this. You stated that Jester made tweaks. Tweaks are just that - small adjustments. Vanderlyn will be less overcrowded. The modulars were staying in any scenario. Dunwoody ES will utilize more of its capacity.

So the plan moved forward as given by the consultants/super and there were small adjustments made. How on earth did that "create" the problem? The assumption is that the problem existed to begin with and the redistricting plans sought to address the problems. Your issue is that you got moved to another school and you are unhappy about this. It's a classic case of things need fixing as long as they don't involve changing anything for me.

Gayle said...

@ 4:35 pm
"Jeff was on Georgia Gang when the New Birth Pastor scandal broke "

Wasn't Jeff Dickerson the PR person for New Birth at one time?

Gayle said...

@ 5:30 pm

"Jeff was on Georgia Gang when the New Birth Pastor scandal broke "

You are right. Those modulars are "permanent" structures. The Vanderlyn parents wanted modulars that would be classified as permanent structures as a measure against redistricting so that's what they got. Those modulars are not like trailers. They are truly more like small cottages and are place right next to the building. They have the wiring for abundant technology.

Susan Curtis said...

Ms. Curtis,

Thank you for your thoughts. I generally agree with you. I would be glad to act on the guilty party(s). Of course we will only be able to guess as to whom. The media will protect their sources.

It is unfortunate this happened. I believe Dr. Cox would be our superintendent now if not for this disclosure.

There are other good candidates out there. We will be looking to find the best possible.

Thank you for your interest.

Don McChesney
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Anon said...

It doesn't matter so much who did the leaking as it does which board member started it -- in other words, only the board members and perhaps an attorney should have been privy to what went on.

If it wasn't a board member who went to the media, I suspect it was someone who it did it at their behest.

However, to protect themselves, I suspect that the media would have required confirmation.

dekalb2 said...

I think that the leak may have come out of ODE. There is constant communication with ODE, media, and the board.

dekalb2 said...

....and superintendent.

September said...

I don't buy that dekalb2. ODE did have a preference for Mr. Culver, but I don't think they would get involved in leaking confidential information. That would destroy their credibility. They were unlikely to have had access to this kind of information anyway. David Schutten is smarter than that.

To What End said...

Unknown @ 5:30:
DES went from 86% to 78%, Vanderlyn went from 126% to 136%. The real issue is that those two tweaks were against the county criteria. The Austin 28 is 30% closer to Vanderlyn and moving people between Womack and Vermack further created overcrowding at Vanderlyn and underpopulation at DES… no reason to move these students other than to protect all Austin homeowners. The WOVERS are equidistant between Vanderlyn and DES. And by the way…why didn’t Nancy tweak the students for Chesnut so they could have more homeowners if it is all about limiting transitions?

Unknown said...

We had two candidates who could possibly have led the district. Cox and Culver both had experience in large districts and have superintendent experience. Culver had more experience and a strong record of achievement and financial managemet, but Cox has a prestigious doctorate and seemed to connect with the community. Bottom line is they both had too much integrity to work for the DCSS board. People complained about them and picked them to pieces and then the board showed their true nature (trecherous). Do we wonder why they dropped out? Shoud we wonder who will even consider coming now? Can we recall the board and let a new board do the search?