Thursday, June 16, 2011

Someone save this leaky ship!

What can be done about these leaks? Why does no one in power seem to have an issue with the fact that people like Zepora Roberts (former board member) are given inside information and then have the nerve to publicly share it?  This kind of knowledge can only come from private personnel discussions in the school board's executive meetings.  The Zepora leak came AFTER the first leak of contract details with superintendent finalist Lilly Cox to Richard Belcher at WSB - which triggered Cox to withdraw from consideration and sent the board off for training on executive session confidentiality. Worse, after this "training", someone not only leaked information about the next finalist to Zepora, the entire Chamber of Commerce was given confidential information! The Chamber Chair then boldly made a public opinion statement (aired by WSB) that the Chamber thinks the school system should stick with interim Ramona Tyson!

What is going on? Are there ethics left anywhere in DeKalb? Why didn't Bowen shut Zepora down? Her comments were about a personnel issue, which is strictly and officially off-limits! Is the media complicit in this sabotage of the school board's effort to hire a new superintendent?  Why? Is it ethical of Richard Belcher to publicly air private contract negotiations, thereby destroying the process and ruining someone's career?  Are reporters compelled to report everything they are told? How would Belcher like it if he was in private negotiations with CNN and someone leaked the details of his contract requests?

This is all so discouraging. SACS won't intervene.  The governor won't intervene. We are virtually unprotected.  Board members who successfully leaked information have now been given a license to behave badly in order to get their way.  No one will interview in DeKalb now.  Really, who would, when you go into negotiations knowing that people like Zepora, Richard Belcher and the Chamber of Commerce are going to blab it all over the airwaves?

Compare our dysfunctional county with Chattanooga/Hamilton County.  Click here for their Public Education Foundation's annual report.  They have a private educational foundation that focuses on improving their schools.  It is a public/private partnership involving citizens, the school board, school system leaders, the Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and local universities to ensure their schools have the proper tools, highly trained principals and the very best teachers as well as opportunities for students to improve their success.

How far we have to go to get to a point of community collaboration like Chattanooga!  We are infants in the world of educational enlightenment - take a look at our leaders' behaviors and compare them to quality systems around the country.  We need professional leadership and help.  We need good people to run for school board, forge community partnerships and partnerships with local colleges and government agencies.  This is a plea for a lifeline. Please, consider doing whatever you can as a citizen to step up to the plate and be the change we so desperately need!


Zepora: The Rant
Read our post with Zepora's speech transcribed. Her words are proof that she was given inside information that she should never have known – much less been bold enough to publicly state her opinion of the person under consideration for superintendent before that person had a chance to announce his intention to his current employer.

Also, many thanks to John Heneghan for compressing, editing and posting this video clip for us!  Read his article posted on Heneghan's Dunwoody Blog.


DCSS Teacher said...

You're seeing an example with these recent leaks of the atmosphere with respect to "confidentiality" that we employees routintely are subjected to. Personnel and hiring issues, who gets to take trips for professional development, job availability, why someone got laid off (yes, teachers ARE laid off), even people's personal life stories, are grist for the mill of DCSS gossip. Principals, who ought to be empowered to set staff members straight about what's going on, rarely are told anything until the very last minute: example: our principal learned of the pay cut ("furlough days restoration") that the Board assured us would not take place, but that did take place, after school was out and after reading about it in the AJC.

Because there's no overriding "mission" or "vision" that stakeholders have actively formulated, there's no chain of command to provide appropriate guidance and the assurance of confidentiality when we're called upon to handle complex issues with students and parents. Rumors run rampant and, lacking a Superintendent with a voice, no one can quell them. It's sort of like "Lord of the Flies"--fear and ignorance rule! No one's in charge of the henhouse, not even the fox! A company would never try to function this way--it'd self-destruct within a few months.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

DCSS is self-destructing. What leadership there is now, was there 7 years ago when the corrupt criminal enterprise went into high gear. Folks this all started with the SPLOST's. The money. Money makes people do weird things.

A former BOE member, who had helped a group of us expose some of the malfeasance going on, told us to follow the money. We have and are disgusted at what we have found. The DA is investigating, indictments rained down for the two leaders, yet every single person who directly reported to the indicted are still around.

It's time we clean house folks. These folks have gotten away with so much and yet they are still in place and still failing. The numbers speak for themselves.

Ms. Tyson please go, spend time with your family. Your resignation might actually send a signal to others that the DCSS gravy train has come to the end of the rail. You and the leadership circle of Clew's made our system the laughing stock in the metro area and the BOE has failed their constituents, employees, but most importantly our kids!


Ms. Tyson your resignation could actually go a long way to show the other Clew leadership team it's time to move on. The teams failures far outweigh the successes, let someone else come in and fix and clean up what this team has royally messed up!

Cerebration said...

Actually, apparently Belcher at WSB interviewed Tom Bowen who announced that Tyson has agreed to stay on for 90-120 more days.

Cerebration said...

Here's the link -

Cerebration said...

Funny how Belcher and Bowen point out that Jester's group's letter broke board policy but Bowen and Belcher downplay the complete ethical breach of the leaks that prompted the Jester response. (I know, read it again, it rattles your brain.)

Gayle said...

I know the admin and support personnel are very happy. They can relax for a while.

Gayle said...

Interesting comments by Mr. Evans.

Does anyone see now why Title I money should be used for direct instruction by Title I Reading teachers in small groups for struggling students rather than for non-teaching highly paid Instructional Coaches and Parent Center Coordinators who have no educational experience? Ms. Tyson and the BOE chose to increase class sizes and leave Ms. Berry in place in the Office of School Improvement. There are so many other children in the exact same place as this child. They just don't have a grandfather to advocate for them.

DCSS has easily put a half a billion down the School Improvement drain. Title 1 schools continue to circle that drain and little is getting done for the students who need one on one or small group help. Regular classroom teachers have been given more and more students and the Instructional Coaches along with the Central Office requirements for meetings and paperwork have ensured they have less time to plan and provide that individualized instruction.

Now does anyone see how the CRCT results are important for Title I schools? Many posters say less and less of Title I schools making adequate yearly progress is no big deal since the CRCT is not a good measure of student achievement.

Well, this young man cannot pass the CRCT because he cannot read it. It's not an easy test for him. The CRCT tested him on the basics - e.g. can he read a passage and be able to recognize the main idea, characters, and setting? Can he put the story's events in sequential order? Can he read for factual information? If the passage is about how to care for a pet, can he comprehend the facts? Can he tell the difference between a passage that is strictly opinion and one that is factual?

Take Mr. Evan's son and multiply him many times. Mr. Evans said it himself. There are so many students who have difficulty in reading. I don't know if his grandson is in a Title I school, but I do know the Title I schools have more than their share of students who need individual or small group instruction.

The hundreds of millions of federal dollars including Title I funds DCSS has lavished on the non-teaching personnel ($9,000,000 for 90 Instructional coaches alone and Ms. Berry is adding more) and ineffective learning programs (America's Choice for more millions) are not helping students "pass the CRCT". When you can't read, you can't pass the CRCT.

That's why the steep decline in Title I schools making adequate yearly progress needs to be taken seriously and the DCSS administration must be held accountable.

Anonymous said...

Please note that Z. Roberts is a citizen just like you. She has the right to speak whether it is truth or not. Please remember that she is NOT our Board Member, ELDER is the person who represents us and we very well, I must say. Roberts was wrong but why keep talking about it. Jester was wrong to write a letter on Facebook disclosing who wanted the Texan. Wrong is Wrong is Wrong is Wrong. We will get a good Supt. and I hope we citizens support him or her 100 % until it is proven that the support is not worthy. Can we ever be positive???? I have children in this school district who are getting a good education, now. They have excellent teachers and we like the school. I want to make it even better.

Cerebration said...

She certainly does have the right to speak. She is not, however, entitled to privileged information. And due to the fact that she is no longer a board member, she is also not entitled to verbalize her opinion in public about the supposedly confidential information she was given.

Turn the tables. What if someone had told Jim Redovian about a candidate the board was interviewing and Jim went to the microphone spewing out all kinds of personal opinions about a person who no one even knows about! You'd be all over that one, Melanie. Be truthful.

Cerebration said...

Also, whoever leaked confidential information about the negotiations with Lilly Cox was wrong also.

Anonymous said...

Celebration, I couldn't agree with you more about JIm Redovian. if he acted in such a manner. A man of character, I know he wouldn't, which reminds me of how much his knowledhe and ability to calm the ship is missed. He is a graet loss this school board.
By no means was I defending Roberts..She doe not deserve the "attention" she is getting.I voted for Elder and supported her financially and she is our representative.
My main point is why keep accentuating the negative. Let's try going positive and building our system up instead of constantly finding negative stuff to publicize. There are lots of good things going on in spite of all the unfortunate obstactles we are faced with. We must weather this storm together.

Gayle said...

@ melaniestef
It's great you like your children's school and they are getting a good education. My child went to Kittredge and had a great experience.

I'm an Edler supporter (even though she's not from my district), and I contributed to her campaign. I admire the intelligence, commitment, and thoughtfulness she brings to the BOE. Many people think she and Jester should see everything the same way since they are the "reform" candidates. But Jester and Edler were not elected by their constituents to vote lockstep.

Also impressive is the fact that Ms. Edler garnered 80%+ of the votes in her runoff against Ms. Roberts.

Ms. Roberts is exercising her First Amendment right of free speech. IMHO, I don't think as a private citizen she should have information that ordinary citizens do not have, but the leaks need to be traced to a sitting BOE member, not focused on Ms. Roberts.

Let's hope this BOE can come together and find a superintendent who will make meeting the educational needs of all students a priority. DCSS is a dual system that educates some students very well and many very poorly.

Had_Enough said...

@ atl

I too was an Edler supporter and fundraiser. I did the same for Nancy Jester.

I expected them both to show the leadership they both claimed they would while campaigning; To stand up to the status quo and demand better for our children. I recall them both decrying their inept and unethical incumbents and vowing to stand up tall against wrong for the good of the entire system.

Thus far, only Nancy has followed through with her pledge. Edler, on the other hand, not so much. She, in my opinion, has been a complete disappointment. What she has shown is that she CAN NOT and WILL NOT stand up for what is right. Her lack of support for Duron was the last straw in my book. Furthermore, her complete lack of preparedness and knowledge of the issues makes her just "one of the boys" that Bowen and his clan can manipulate.

Nancy has fought and challenged Bowen, Cunningham, Dr. "I See Race", Woods as well as Edler. They are incompetent and corrupt. Nancy has stood toe to toe with them and they do not like it at all. So much so, that their only line of defense is to illegally leak information in order to derail a process that they can not engage in intellectually. She has facts and numbers on her side. They do not. She has the children on her side. She fights for them. They do not.

I must commend Dr Speaks, Mr. Womack and Mr. McChesney for standing with her in this matter. It was the right thing to do.

To those that deride Nancy Jester for the post, I believe they are lacking the simple logic that has evaded the BoE for these many years. What she did was in the public interest and we should be thankful. (Take note WSB)

The problem, as I see it, is the lack of organizational outrage needed among the citizens of Dekalb County to support Nancy in her efforts. We certainly see all of the great posts on this blog, but can we speak with one voice? Can we speak as a group to the state legislators, demanding that SACS be stripped of the authority to accredit our school? Can we call for an ethics investigation by the Attorney General into these leaks?

There needs to be a loud and sustained call among the citizenry, and among the members of the BoE that truly want change. We know the voices of Bowen, Cunningham, Edler, Woods and Walker will most definitely be against change. That leaves 4 potential saviors inside the Board to act.

Please take action now. Citizens of Dekalb, Dr Speaks, Mr. Womack, Mr. McChesney and Ms. Jester: call for an investigation by the Attorney General into the leaks.

Citizens of Deklb County, No SPLOST IV until they hire a competent, well respected Super from outside of this district.

FieldsGrove said...

I applaud the individuals who speak their minds publicly for all to know exactly where they stand. What I find disgusting is that members of the BoE and/or DCSS administration have leaked information to outsiders in a continued effort to disrupt the superintendent search process.

It turns my stomach to hear that race continues to play such an important role for some individuals in the superintendent search process. Who told Ms. Roberts that BoE members want to find a white superintendent? Is she unaware that two-thirds of the original candidates were NOT white and neither is Dr. Duron?

We need a qualified instructional leader, and I don't care what color he or she is. Ms. Tyson has performed her duties as interim superintendent, and I appreciate her hard work. However, NOW is the time to hire a new outside leader for DCSS, so that we can begin the 2011-2012 school year with hope for real change and improvement. I encourage everyone to hire Dr. Duron for DCSS superintendent.

Cerebration said...

Very good points, Had Enough. However, you may be surprised, but I don't think the entire county agrees. There is very strong support in some parts of DeKalb for keeping Ms Tyson and moving on with the status quo (thus so little outrage at the leaks). There are people who defend the system and its current leadership - and they are quick to shut down any discussion about change (even when presented with data, which they will claim is slanted or unreliable). So, no, we do not have a consensus in DeKalb that things need to change. That's a big problem.

Also, Melanie, I agree with you about accentuating the positive - but funnily enough, it's the school system themselves that shut down positive news. Julie Rhame used to publish an excellent in-house newsletter called "Kaleidoscope" that highlighted so many good things going on in our schools. Julie lost her job in the budget cuts and she and her whole department were replaced with a contracted outside PR source (at first, Jeff Dickerson, then Cohn & Wolfe). They do not do regular, positive PR - they are strictly hired to do damage control and monitor whatever comes out about the corruption trials. This is where SO much of our money is going these days -- lawyers and damage control.

So - is it our job to promote the positive? No. (Unless someone wants to pay me to produce the newsletter again.) However, if anyone wants to send in information about the good things in their particular school, you are always free to post good news here too! It's free and open.

Cerebration said...

In fact, if you read the AJC blog, "Get Schooled" you can see the vile comments posted there about Nancy and the others, as well as our blog here. It's really becoming a divisive war, and I'm not certain it's worth it to fight this fight anymore.

sharon said...

Let me add something positive. Knollwood is a Title I school with 96% of its student qualifying for free and reduced lunch. Knollwood has consistently made AYP. Recently, Knollwood got a $5000 library makeover grant from Target. There was one line in the paper about it. Maybe a mention in the blog. There is more. Knolllwood was one of 40 schools chosen nationally. Knollwood willl get out of the grant a full library make over, new furniture, shelves, volunteers will provide new paint. The Target will add $5000 in new books. In addition to that each child will get 9 0r 10 books of their own to take home and keep. There's more. Some students who attend Knollwood only eat at school (96% free and reduced). Target willl provide 30 pounds of food per child per month for a year. Sometimes I don't think you all know what a hill schools have to climb. This grant says it for me. By the way I volunteer at Knollwood. I have no children who attend there. Thanks and Kudos to Target, the Knollwood staff, the DeKalb people who helped get the grant, and the community volunteers who have quietly worked to make a school work.

September said...

Cere, one way to deal with a bully is to give them what they are asking for and then walk away. When you quit fighting, the fun stops, the bully moves on. I certainly understand your position on this.

The problem with trying to get an outside organization to investigate is that you have to have real evidence of wrongdoing. SACS and the State of Georgia will not intervene unless they have a solid case. They can't afford to. When they arrested Dr. Lewis and Pat Reid, the District Attorney had just that. If I remember correctly, it took a whistleblower to make it happen. Unfortunately, the evidence only goes just so far. What disappoints me is that these cases have yet to come to trial.

An ethics violation is not necessarily illegal. I'm not a lawyer so correct me if I'm wrong on this. Mr. Bowen has apparently decided that he doesn't want the leaks to stop. He has made a decision not to out the person or persons who are involved. The fact that four board members decided to go around Mr. Bowen and verify information that was no longer confidential speaks volumes about the way this board is doing its job.

At this point the only option we may have is our vote.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

I hope Jester, McChesney, Speaks and Womack stand their ground on this. Bowen looked like an idiot when he stated Jester did wrong. Hey Tom! You're wrong and should resign since you have lost control of the BOE.

This is about race as well as friends and family. DeKalb County Schools and County operations have been sliding away for years, Vernon Jones helped it slide away faster with his out and out racism against the white County Commissioners. The same can be said for the BOE. They want the status quo because a lot of people will lose their jobs when the new leadership hits town, they know it! Churches will take hits monetarily. One church, New Birth, has member's 10% tithe directly from the DCSS paychecks into the church accounts. Of course those folks get those nice parking spots and seating arrangements at the church. Just think if they lost 35% of those tithes due to austerity cuts? That would be a huge hit for a church struggling with a pastor with unethical behaviors.

The BOE has created the race meme. Dr. "I see color" Walker, Cunningham and Bowen work it to their advantage. Now that Nancy is starting to call them on it, it's getting tougher for them to hide it. Of course, Dr. Walker has said he thinks of race first, the others not so much, but their actions are revealing.

It's time for change. The same leadership that Clew chose still sits in the Palace. These folks actually think they are doing a good job! We know the true answer to that one. The numbers do not lie.

Cere, I feel your frustration this has gone on long enough. You'd think one person from the CLew inner-circle would come out and say, it's time for us to go! The fact that an accessory to the P-Card abuser still works for the system and oversees millions of Federal Dollars is a crime. The Office of Improvement has done just the opposite. The numbers speak for themselves. How many more kids have to fail before someone in the neighborhoods of South DeKalb says ENOUGH! I met several, during the Charettes, it was refreshing to meet them. Many had the same complaints as I did, they also are frustrated that nothing has changed since the indictments came down.

Folks the current leadership MUST be shown the door. They can find jobs elsewhere. They have failed here, they need to admit it to themselves and move on. Do us all a favor and do it before DeKalb implodes.

This leadership has been poor stewards of OUR money. They want more and more. I can't trust this current bunch with any more dollars. It was this bunch that mismanaged the first 3 SPLOSTs so badly two former leaders have been indicted and the Heery Case sits unsolved, while Dr. Walker's "Black" lawfirms are paid with money meant for the teachers and the classrooms. 1.2 Billion dollars is enough to run this system with NO furlough days as well as step increases. This leadership had chosen the friends and family plan over what's right for the classroom.

It's time we clean the Palace of the "coaches" and the other waste and run this system properly and show the real heroes, our teachers of the district, what they mean to the success of the system.. Hey Ms. Tyson, I know you don't have much experience, but Academics come first in the successful school systems. DCSS has become a gravy train for the inexperienced and friends and family of politicians and staffers.

It really concerns me about the direction of OUR system, when Tyson's own staff lies to her about reading every document in the 2004 Ernst & Young boxes, that have been sitting in the conference room at the Palace, when clearly they had not. Looks to me that Tyson's staff has given up. Well maybe they should be shown the door and replaced by people with more ethics.

Ethics there is something our county leaders could learn something about, transparency would be another.

Anon76 said...

Since we were discussing Title I over on this thread too, I moved my comment over here...

Apparently schools will have to have 60% of their kids on free/reduced lunch next year to qualify for Title I funds. I heard that it was announced this week in meetings. How sad is that, when the Federal guidelines say we can go down as far as 35%? 40% was the level spoken about for several months. Wonder what changed Tyson, Beasley, and Berry's minds? Too much money being diverted from Audria's Army? How sad is that when a school can have over HALF of its students on FRL and still receive NO Federal funds??

On a brighter note, only a few schools will be added to the Title I roster, so we won't be adding that many more coaches. Pah.

themommy said...

It was something like 56 percent last year, I thought. Most systems use a number close to their system average and this year DCSS had nearly 70 percent students FRL.

For years, many (ok, a few) people have advocated for a lower threshold but we have gotten nowhere.

Had_Enough said...


I certainly do not expect to get the whole of Dekalb County to oppose SPLOST IV or even to organize to make the necessary changes in DCSS. My attempt was to make the point that there are certainly enough intelligent people who share the viewpoint of many on this blog, (and their friends, neighbors, and their friends and neighbors) should they decide to actually put their energy toward making a change.

It appears as though we are past the point of getting a truly qualified outside Superintendent, thanks to Tom Bowen. Now it seems all that is left to do is:

1) to organize against giving them the power of another half billion of our tax dollars to perpetrate this insanity.
2) insist that Womack, McChesney, Jester and Speaks hold out and revolt against the current chair and force mediation and/or further action against Bowen
3) pressure our state legislature and governor to intervene
4) lobby the state legislature to break up DCSS and/or strip SACS of its oversight

I just know that we are at a critical turning point and we must organize a grass roots effort of massive proportion to right this leaking,,,sinking ship.

Anon76 said...

It was 65% last year. There was a discussion to lower the number to put more $$$ into the schools, but it only dropped to 60%...and only 4 schools were pulled in under the Title I umbrella. I still think that's really sad...and how much money is really going into the schools versus how much is staying at the central office? That's my problem with it.

Cerebration said...

@Had_Enough -- I personally agree with you 100%! I'm just saying that it is surprising just how many people will defend the status quo as the system circles the drain. There are many people living on that river in Egypt.

Grassroots -- I think we have a consensus - so where do we begin?

dekalb2 said...

I agree. I don't think that it is worth fighting the fight anymore. We have complained so much about the instuctional coaches. I was told early this year that more are going to be hired for the next school year. Then in May, many instructional coach postions showed up on the school website as openings. All that was said and the board still continues to spend money on these coaches. They are ignoring us. These coaches make between 80,000 and 95,000 per person. This is how our federal taxes are being spent! How sad.

Cerebration said...

I hope you all have caught the double-speak in the media coming from Tom Bowen. He DID NOT ONCE call out the "leakers" in any of the 3 cases of leaks during PRIVATE, EXECUTIVE SESSION board meetings. NOT ONCE!

Now, in frustration, Jester, McChesney, Womack and Speaks publish their side of the story in defense of their perspective (which had already been publicly trashed by the leakers) and to point out their own outrage at the lack of integrity of the "leakers".

So now, what does Tom say? That Nancy's email was a policy violation! It's head-spinning I know. It's the strangest logic on the planet. Why would Tom behave this way --

Belcher and Bowen seem to be quite comfortable and friendly in this interview - which, incidentally was conducted at a private meeting room at system headquarters -- AFTER the rest of the board had left town to attend Board Training in Savannah.

And then - what does Tom do in this interview? Basically -- LEAKED private, Executive Session board discussions. Apparently, there had been board discussion about extending Ramona's contract - but no vote was taken (or we would have known about it). But Bowen felt completely comfortable in telling the world that Ramona has agreed to stay on three more months. (Or, as it's looking now, if Tom has his way -- forever!)

WSB interview with Tom Bowen

DeKalb superintendent search continues, but not without concern

LaLaMeeka Chadwalli said...

Disappointed in Belcher and Sears as well. They live in DeKalb; Sally should be scolding Belcher for damaging the lives of so many children. Ethics and reporting, I guess it does not exist.