Monday, July 11, 2011

Big Board Meeting Tonight!

Attend the board meeting or watch it live on Comcast 24 tonight at 6:00 pm. You can review the agenda by clicking on our link to "Meetings & Announcements".


6:00 pm
Ramona Tyson gives the inspiration... "it will take all of us to move this district forward".  I just want to speak from the heart.  I understand good and bad feelings about the low academic achievement, but you can't give up on us yet.  Change is necessary and change will happen. Children need to know that we are inspired by the challenge and if we all come together we can be the change that we want to be.  I have between 75-80 days left. I will not be idling. Change will be ready on day 1 of the new superintendent's term. We will talk with the community and the board about the change we want to make in the 90 days for the time after the 90 days.

1. Special Recognition ~ 2011 Jack Cooke Kent Scholarship Recipient Angelica Hairston who plays harp and violin
Presented by: Ms. Nancy T. Jester, Board Representative, District #1

1. Jacqueline Sneed - Meadowview ES. Loves the place. Community is involved.
2. Loreen Booker-Brown - absent
3. Bernard Hicks - DeKalb Co Board of Health. Relationship with DCSS is very strong. DeKalb schools are a critical player in emergency preparedness. Esp in case of biological etc attack. Moseley, Freeman worked with him. Planning with DCSS has resulted in good ideas that will work. We can distribute in 48 hours.
4. Rev. David Richards - 3 pts, family, formal and social education. Served as a sub while in seminary. Saw a lot. Son graduated from Redan. 3.96 GPA. Area super pushed parents to push the children. Responsibility falls first to the family. Children must be obedient and prepared. Asking DCSS to tighten the reins on those who are not doing what they're supposed to do. $16 million in athletic scholarships but we have not heard about it. You must do a better job of advertising the successes.
5. Dr. Tom Keating - absent
6. Quenton Young - absent
7. Sylvester Hopewell - DeKalb County PTAs Men's Initiative. Mentoring resource. Educators, X military, X athletes, business people. Conduit for 100 Black Men. [Apparently they only help black boys.]
8. Connie Boone - Great schools start with a great principal. They must create great working environment. School buildings in devastating condition harm students more than anything. Meadowview is unacceptable. We appreciate the modifications being made this summer.
9. Elizabeth Laing - Ivy Prep parent girls school. Support of Ivy Prep Charter in DeKalb.
10. Melinda Lehrer - Anti-cell tower - part 2 - health problems. Issue of tower is separate from the issue of the towers. Phones are now known to cause harm. We don't know yet about the cell towers. Experts are battling. There is a condition - electric pulse hyper-sensitivity. Results are not in but there is persuasive evidence that the cell tower radiation is not helpful and in addition to all other toxic elements.
11. Felicia LaPoole - Ivy Prep proponent for DeKalb locations.
12. Scott Bonder - Co Pres Fernbank PTA. We've come through our hard times stronger. DCSS doing a great job at Fernbank and in the Druid Hills cluster. IB program is strong. Based on questioning. Type of teaching is Socratic. Thank you - you all deserve a giant thank you - especially our principal.
13. Linda Podger Williams - ESEA transfers. (aka: AYP) Meetings start tomorrow eve to develop plans. Every year administrators discuss a better option than traveling across the county.  I'd like to hear a new plan tomorrow.  I fear I won't. Last year was a disaster. 90 students from last year plus 40 more - will require more trailers.  Establishing a better plan should be discussed all year to help students who need it.
14. Katherine Ferago - No Cell Tower at the former Medlock ES. 1 - no  longer a school so it doesn't qualify for zoning 2. Plan is not thought out - long term  ATT may not need it 3. Combined damage to the neighborhood is damaging. 4. Huge eyesore.  5. Real estate values damaged.
15. Pat Kemp - No Cell Tower in Medlock. Of the 12 proposed locations, we are the only one with a double whammy - cell tower and a closed school.  School is closed and board has not committed to continuing to keep it a school.  Board can't propose a cell tower using zoning exclusions if there is no school.
16. Judy McDowell - No Cell Tower in Medlock. House is 5 houses away. In no uncertain terms - no cell tower in our community. We have written you about this several times. Cigarettes were once considered harmless too. Do the right thing for the people of Medlock.
17. Joanne Massey - No Cell Towers on the Medlock property. Would hurt neighborhood and drive away private schools that might rent the school. Can you imagine a 150x60x60 cell tower in your yard? No studies have been done as to what this will do to the wetlands. Cell towers have nothing to do with education.
18. Barbara Dalton - No cell tower in Medlock. Why would the school board put this large structure on a property that is closed.  That is reckless.
19. Nina Gilbert - Ivy Prep wants to partner with DCSS.
20. Kirstie Young - Ivy Prep parent. Wants a DeKalb campus.
Subs -
1. Willie Pringle - God is holding you accountable and holding us parents accountable. Take a look at what's really going on.  A house divided cannot stand.  The board and the administration are divided and that's why we don't have a superintendent.  Our house is divided.  Remember what it's all about - it's about the children.
2. Lillian Ryan - DeKalb Prep Academy (she has 4 people with her) Only she can speak. 3 years of effort for our petition. k-8 model serving all of DeKalb. Extended school day and school year. Thank you - we're looking forward to our partnership.

[* Idea - how about putting an Ivy Prep Academy at Medlock?!!  These folks should talk.]


No reports from the committees. Tyson asks to include AdvancED on super's report. Remove Policy IBB. Remove Peachtree Hope Charter. Need time to review info. Adopted agenda with changes. Recess 10 min. Time for wine!

Whoa! No wine - looks like they're moving on straightaway.

Mr. Babst, internal auditor now talking about the audit dept. Conducted 33 school audits. Audit pCards monthly. Conducted 15 investigations. Consulting with bookkeepers. Implementing new cash mgmt system. Auditing Central Office business functions. Order based on risk. Planning an information technology auditor. 33% time in schools, 21% central office 13% investigations.... Intend to audit all high schools and middle schools. Will do construction and transportation audits. Also after school care audits.

Jester - have an update on the whistleblower hotline? email? A: We've been taking calls in our dept. Bid out service. Nearly have a contract with outside vendor to put in place in 30-60 days. Jester - will it include phone and email? A; yes. Also hand-written letters.

Cunningham: have we went back and looked at programs we already have in place as opposed to going out? A: yes, we're evaluating that to see if we can operate an ethics hotline internally.

Jester: Can you talk about high risk issues? Are you looking at our financial statements doing spot audits? Lines to audit committee and dotted line to super on your slide - can you explain your relationships? A: Talking about inherent risk - a lot of money - complex activities are high risk. We look at variances and business processes. A2: Have a direct line to BOE - specifically budget cmtee and dotted line to super. Review plans with super before bringing to the board. Jester: What about board members not on that committee? A: I can meet with board members. Obviously I report to the committee. If others want to talk about issues I can talk individually as my report is to the entire board. Jester: Due to SACS requirement? A: yes. They wanted a direct line to the board.

Woods: Yes, the rest of the board wants to know everything the budget committee knows coming from the auditor. Tyson steps in. Every month a standard template has given financial and human resources report. Now, you will get a monthly audit template (report).

Tyson: Status report on SACS/AdvancED. Will be posted on the website. Action #1 - GA School Bd assn will be here for a training on strategic devl. #2 - policy review - we are looking at every single policy. They are 10 years old and need reviewed. At 8/month, it will take 4-5 years. We will start a dedicated policy review meeting every month to move this faster (by June 2012). #3 - to ensure staff knows policy. Starting August we have 11 policies detrimental to employees - ethics, harassment, etc... All 15,000 employees will have to complete Illuminate training on policy.

OK - real break now!

Policy - policy - policy - check them out on the agenda. Womack is ripping through these -- good job Paul!

Budget - Turk - did he really say property tax collections were over projected budget by $14 million?

Yeah NANCY! She asked Turk to delineate the legal fees on separate line items - not just buried in admin costs!! She also asked if he could make notations for large variances (electricity was over by 57%) Turk seemed a bit defensive - "We monitor and check it in order to give you a clean report." [Are we to simply believe him??? Write it down Turk - you report to the board and to the people!]

Jamie Wilson - HR report. Vacancies - 6 more this year than last year at this time. Wish to be staffed at 99% when school starts. [To see who was hired and who retired, etc, download the HR report.]
Speaks: How is it looking for candidates - esp in critical areas of special ed and languages? A: it's all good Q: Teachers from consolidated schools? A: Placed all but 7 of the 450 affected.
SCW: We have had more teachers leave than last year. You've listed the reasons after interviewing them right? A: Yes. Q: Have other school systems had this kind of exit with their teacher pool? A: Gwinnett schools had 200+ vacancies so we're in line. Tyson: You lose teachers seeking higher pay, but our number of furlough days places us in 1st place in salaries in metro area.

Naming of Fernbank Observatory - McChesney. Named after Ralph L. Buice.

Stacey Stepney - Grant for Towers HS $1, 381, 000 - $310,000 to be used for Pearson achievement services.
RTTT - GA Dept of Ed identified Freedom MS as improvement model. NCS Pearson achievement $310,000.

Dr Berry -- Camp Invention - Oak View, Stone View, Chapel Hill & Stone Mt - $69,000

Sarah wants to ensure that kids learn Spanish. [Funny - she had the opportunity to hire a Spanish speaking superintendent and she said, "no"... Which is it?]

Ivy Prep - denied as recommended by Nicole Knighton. (Nancy voted for Ivy Prep - against Knighton)
Ivy Prep Young Men's Leadership Academy - recommended to deny by Knighton again . (all agree)
Media Arts Tech HS - recommended to deny by Nichole Knighton. (all agree)

[Seems interesting that a big reason to deny charters is a lack of a location - which is odd, when the school system is sitting on so many shuttered schools.]

Colman comes with her list of requests -- all approved. Check the agenda.

Everything after that passes. . . .

Until McChesney proposes to remove Meadowview, Brockett and Medlock from the cell tower proposal for 12 schools. Question by Elder to McChesney. Why?  McC - we've heard from these communities and they've been clear, so I'm supporting their opinion.  Speaks: is there a grace period so that other communities can speak up but haven't had the opportunity [audience claps and Womack admonishes them]. Is there a mechanism for other communities to let the district know that they have an issue? Tyson - no option other than to pull the item. Womack: isn't there a 6 month window? Donahue: T-Mobile has 6 months for [due diligence].  Jester: concerned about many things. I don't like the timing - we didn't get this till Friday. Didn't get financials. Term is too long. I favor an opt in rather than opt out for communities. There may be others we haven't heard from so I am reticent to support. Edler: Happy to speak on this matter - I've had concerns. Communities have cited health reasons. I rep district 7, but also entire county so I'm not one to pick and choose for health of a particular community. So if we take out 3, I suggest we take out all 12. [Applause and Womack again admonishes.] Lots more discussion. Roberts rules out the window. [Sorry - got distracted - missed some.] I think Edler took out all the others but Lakeside, Briarlake and Meadowview(?).  I think Walker insisted on Roberts Rules.  So Womack puts out original motion and takes off Brockett, Medlock and Meadowview. Vote. Passed 7-1.

Edler: Amendment to the motion. Remove the remaining schools we identified before: Jolly, Margaret Harris, MLK, Narvie, Princeton and Smokerise ES.  Cunningham: we don't have towers at all in South DeKalb - we're losing signals left and right. We want towers. SCW: I agree. Meadowview is smack dab in the middle of a community. Cunningham can have towers since they have a lot of land, but Meadowview is in a community so yes, it needs removed from the list. Edler: It's not the school system's business to provide cell and internet service to the county.

Vote: on Edler's amendment - eliminates all towers. Motion fails.
Main motion with original amendment: Passes 6:2 (Edler & Jester dissenting)

eSIS - $660,000 final payment  - [thank goodness] to of all people, Pearson

The rest pass - the IBM contract, the tax levy resolution [22.98 mills], etc.

9:40 pm


Cerebration said...

Whoa! Tom's not there. Paul will be the chair. This will be different...

Anonymous said...

"Change is necessary and change will happen." Care to elaborate, Ramona??

themommy said...

I am thrilled that Ms. Tyson choose to admit that the test scores are dismal. I have to tell you that in all my years of observing DCSS board meetings this is the first time a superintendent(interim or otherwise) has admitted to the fact that the test scores stink.

Anonymous said...

True--at least she didn't try to find some way to place a positive spin on it.

Cerebration said...

I don't know how familiar you readers are with the Medlock neighborhood, but it is a sweet, older neighborhood full of small ranch or box style houses. This cell tower would make those houses look like tinker toys. Plus, the school has been shuttered. Bulldozers were apparently there the other day ripping out trees and gardens planted by the children and the community. The school board is not treating this sweet neighborhood respectfully at all.

SHS said...


I thought Gary Bapst was initially supposed to set up a whistleblower hotline? There are plenty of people in Finance to do the auditing.

What happened to the whistleblower hotline?

Carla Smith is in charge of the auditors. Where does she fit in with this? Who is in charge?

Everything Bapst is talking about was ALREADY happening!

This is what happens when Tyson controls his day-to-day activities. They are so desperate to hide things!

SHS said...

Bapst is so full of it!

Anonymous said...

I heard that Chamblee High is scheduled for over 37 trailers this year and that was before they get hit again as a receiving school for AYP students. Just don't see how this can be done since they only have one tiny practice field plus the construction/demolition companies need room to work. The failure to ever plan ahead for the AYP problem is pitiful. And since Chamblee is not a Title I school the transfer students lose all their benefits like free tutoring.

Why not open a stand alone school in the Avondale High building? Since these are all Title I students, why couldn't the school system use this as a pilot project? Try some new curriculum and scheduling; mandatory tutoring in the middle of the day; try using the Title I money to hire extra teachers; have the Fernbank SST teachers go to Avondale HS to actually teach the students in the school setting, etc. Anything other than scripted teaching programs.

Cerebration said...

I thought I heard Linda say they were going to have 40 trailers! I just thought I heard wrong - I guess not.

Cerebration said...

I am sooooo disappointed in the lack of a whistleblower hotline yet. This was promised last August. It was one thing we actually got good press for at the time. It will be over a year to actually see it come to fruition.

Anon said...

I think it was over because they low balled the estimate for the fiscal year that is ending. We are using surplus monies from this year to balance next years budget.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think the speaker said 40 trailers. It could be 37 new plus the 4 or 5 that have been there. Still don't see how it is possible unless they stack them like lego blocks.

Gayle said...

Will Ms. Tyson ever address student achievement and how she plans student progress in mastering content?

For those who discount AYP, it has drastic consequences for ALL students - those in the sending schools as well as those in the sending schools. Like it or not, all students in DCSS are negatively impacted when so many of our schools fail to make AYP.

Other metro area systems with similar demographics (many with even a greater percentage of lower income students than DeKalb) are meeting AYP targets even AFTER strict test monitoring.

What are these administrators doing or not doing to cause DCSS to have so few schools meeting AYP resulting in so many trailers and so many students in substandard educational settings?

SHS said...

Camp Invention?

This is a one-week camp. $69,000.

It will be weeks before school starts again. How will one week make a difference?

How many students per camp?

It appears that some of the principals of the schools that were selected for this program have put very little thought and effort into it.

Once again, only partial information provided by Audria Berry.

Wait. Checking the Camp Invention website, it does not show any Camp Invention locations in DeKalb County.

Further, paid tuition for Camp Invention is $205 per student. According to the website it covers everything: "Camp Invention is available at no cost to host sites, through parent-paid tuition, and is all-inclusive; all step-by-step curricula, program materials, staff training and compensation, and promotional assistance is provided."

So, for $69,000 how many students are being served? And how, exactly is the $69,000 being spent? It's not free money. Title I monies are tax dollars.

SHS said...

DENY Ivy Prep? WHY?

Cerebration said...

So, where's Fred here to defend the system? Busy perhaps? You don't suppose...

SHS said...

Ivy Prep denied because of being incomplete? Seriously?

The DCSS BOE has approved other incomplete charters -- although they were put forward by well-connected Friends-and-Family. Plus, this is a school that is already successful.

TRMyers said...

Thanks for the remarks on Medlock, Cerebration. It's where I live, although not within sight distance of the school. This neighborhood feels doubly rolled by the school board, and I think that the folks directly in sightline of the school/potential tower have every right to be feeling frightened for their property values. And I'm a little steamed at the Fernbank PTA co-presidents remarks that all is well in the Druid Hills cluster. Maybe in his little corner of the world, but not ours.

teacher said...

Denying Ivy Prep when it's been successful shows how little the board cares about educating the children. When are we going to get good schools for our children, or charters not linked to friends and family members?

teacher said...

I agree Cere, we have plenty of schools to give these charters to run programs so that our children can be well educated. Disgusting.

Gayle said...

@ Medlock Mama
"And I'm a little steamed at the Fernbank PTA co-presidents remarks that all is well in the Druid Hills cluster."

Here are the CRCT results for Fernbank.
97.4 % Pass Rate in Reading
96.5% Pass Rate in Math

Yoga classes, Gardening Club, Special Science teacher and Spanish teacher hired by the PTA, beautiful greenspace with the $7,000,000 a year Fernbank Science Center in their midst (funded by DeKalb taxpayers), low class sizes since they have the money to hire extra certified teachers and so many gifted dollars they get many extra teachers funded by the state, no changes in their attendance zone even though they were overcrowded, and now a new school.

Life is good in the Fernbank Community when it comes to DCSS. They should be up there thanking the administration.

Wasn't the Fernbank ES co-president the one who headed up the "don't touch us with school consolidation meetings"?

See Cerebration's post from the school consolidation meetings. Here is a sample:

"Process Points to Follow:
1. Be on time, or better yet, be early.
2. Sit at a table (8-12 roundtops) with 1/3-1/2 Fernbank people.
3. Control the pen, control the mike, or better yet, both. Each table will have a "scribe" -- be it. Each table will have a "reporter," who will speak for 2 min. -- be it.
4. When you get to "Option 3," be clear and concise. Use Fernbank as an example of the larger theme -- e.g., not breaking up long-established neighborhoods, moving kids to different programs, supporting larger schools.
5. When you hear a point that is consistent with our position, go ahead and applaud."

This is the most powerful group in DeKalb County, and as long as they get their way, they will support the administration every time.

TRMyers said...

@atl I agree with you that Fernbank is a school that has much for which to be thankful. But speaking for the entire cluster?

teacher said...

More important than Fernbank's pass rate is their exceed, which my opinion is a much more important number-as this is where more of our children should be.

Third Grade
Reading 97.4 pass/72.2 exceed
ELA 96.5 pass/59.1 exceed
Math 89 pass/ 69.5 exceed
Science 94.1 pass/76.3 exceed
Social Studies 98.3 pass/67.8 exceed

Fourth Grade
Reading 97.8 pass/79.1 exceed
ELA 97.8 pass/64.8 exceed
Math 96.7 pass/ 67 exceed
Science 96.7 pass/80.2 exceed
Social Studies 97.8 pass/65.9 exceed

Fifth Grade
Reading 99 pass/ 65.3 exceed
ELA 100 pass/53.5 exceed
Math 92.1 pass/56.4 exceed
Science 93.1 pass/75.2 exceed
Social Studies 91.1 pass/57.4 exceed

Gayle said...

@ Medlock Mama
It is an equivalent relationship between DCSS and the Fernbank Community. This is a very smart group of people. They know how to get the maximum in tax dollars for their children including $7,000,000 a year for the ineffective Fernbank Science Center which is such a nice addition to their community.

Gayle said...

Disliked by teachers - cost $4,000,000 - chosen by Ms. Tyson when she headed MIS - at least it's paid off now.

teacher said...

I don't begrudge Fernbank. Shoot let's be real, we'd all love for our kids to attend a school like Fernbank. Fernbank's scores aren't because of the Science Center across the street. The scores are high because parents are involved in their children's education. These parents talk to their children, engage them, take them places that enhances their education, and engage teachers about their child's learning. These parents have high expectations for their children, the teachers, administrators, and schools that their children attend.

Jealousy on the part of those who aren't able to afford a house in Fernbank or don't have any friend/family that can get their children into the school is not becoming. Instead of making excuse, the science center, etc. Let's look at the real reasons and brainstorm ways that more of our schools' scores can begin to look like those of Fernbank.

Cerebration said...

Question: Did the auditor actually say that he has converted the audits to computers? Did he say that they had been doing them on paper until now?

Eric said...

Is it true that Fernbank will be the site for the new 900 student school? Well that is just brilliant... Medlock has the largest footprint of property of all DeKalb elementary schools and has a straight shot from the main road to the school. Where the hell are they going to fit a 900 student school on the Fernbank property?

Gayle said...

@ teacher

"Jealousy on the part of those who aren't able to afford a house in Fernbank or don't have any friend/family that can get their children into the school is not becoming. Instead of making excuse, the science center, etc. Let's look at the real reasons and brainstorm ways that more of our schools' scores can begin to look like those of Fernbank."

Fernbank Science Center cost $7,000,000 a year to operate and is an antiquated and environmentally unsound way to deliver science instruction.

I don't begrudge the Fernbank Community the money they put into their school. They work very hard to raise this money, and they account for every penny. If DCSS could be half as fiscally responsible, transparent, and responsive to the needs of the classroom with Title I money, our students would be well served.

I don't agree that DCSS taxpayers should be funding Fernbank Science Center. $7,000,000 would fund over 100 science teachers for DeKalb County. Out of 65 Fernbank Science Center personnel, only 28 are teachers. 37 are admin and support.

The Fernbank community has made sure Fernbank Science Center remains untouched even as Science scores decline in DCSS.

Look at the open letter to the BOE Marshall Orson, Chair of the Fernbank Elementary School Council, wrote when the BOE was considering FSC cuts. As you can see, he was all for closing and consolidating neighborhood schools that serve students. But he was determined that FSC remain untouched. FSC remained virtually untouched. Meanwhile, DCSS science teachers continue to have 30+ students to a class and buy science equipment and supplies out of their own pockets.

Mr. Orson's letter to the DCSS BOE:

BTW - Since I taught at Fernbank for a decade and lived in a community nearby, my child could have gone to Fernbank. However, our elementary school was very low key and had good teachers and involved parents so it wasn't even a consideration.

Kim Gokce said...

I'm working on a deal with Haliburton to bring oil rigs to area schools' athletic fields so I'm excited to hear the precedent has been set by this Board. I was concerned my proposal would fall on deaf ears because it has no positive impact on our schools or communities - whew!

Kim Gokce said...

Not many know that DCSS was able to win the TMobile deal competing against a consortium of St Pius, Immaculate Heart, Our Lady of Assumption, and Marist.

Any educational leaders who can out manouver these guys is to be lauded - I say, "Bravo!"

Anonymous said...

@ Eric

Elementary Site Acres
Marbut 47.0
E.L. Bouie 35.0
Woodward 21.1
Browns Mill 20.8
DESA 18.1
Stone Mill 17.6
Dunaire 17.4
Oak View 17.0
Clifton 16.4
Dunwoody 16.4
Sky Haven 15.6
Panola Way 15.5
Narvie Harris 15.0
Shadow Rock 15.0
Wynbrooke 15.0
Coralwood 14.9
Brockett 14.1
Indian Creek 14.0
Pine Ridge 14.0
Robert Shaw 13.9
Murphey Candler 13.8
Flat Rock 13.5
Redan 13.3
Hightower 13.1
Woodridge 13.1
Fernbank 12.9
Hawthorne 12.9
Canby Lane 12.4
Chesnut 12.4
Huntley Hills 12.3
Montgomery 12.3
Montclair 12.2
Fairington 11.9
Meadowview 11.9
Briarlake 11.5
Rainbow 11.5
Medlock 11.3
Briar Vista 11.1
Evansdale 11.1
Smoke Rise 11.1
Eldridge Miller 11.0
Hambrick 11.0
Pleasantdale 11.0
Snapfinger 11.0
Columbia 10.9
Rockbridge 10.8
Oakcliff 10.7
Stoneview 10.7
Bob Mathis 10.6
Princeton 10.6
Austin 10.4
Cedar Grove 10.4
Chapel Hill 10.4
Kittredge 10.2
Idlewood 10.1
Kelley Lake 10.1
Allgood 10.0
Atherton 10.0
Cary Reynolds 10.0
Kingsley 10.0
Knollwood 10.0
Laurel Ridge 10.0
Midvale 10.0
Midway 10.0
Rowland 10.0
Toney 10.0
Rock Chapel 9.9
Livsey 9.8
Henderson Mill 9.8
Gresham Park 9.6
Sagamore Hills 9.6
Flat Shoals 9.4
Glen Haven 9.4
Jolly 9.4
McLendon 9.4
Peachcrest 9.4
Dresden 9.2
Vanderlyn 9.2
Stone Mountain 9.0
Wadsworth 8.7
Oak Grove 8.4
McNair DLA 7.5
Ashford Park 7.2
Avondale 6.7

Cerebration said...

Kim, I agree. This is a typical example of how our school board spends a inordinate amount of time chasing rabbits and not actually discussing education. As Ms. Tyson admitted, our students test scores are very poor. In addition, this board has not been able to secure her replacement and keep trying to insist that she stay, when she has stated emphatically that she does not want the job (unless she's just being coy).

The board not only wasted their time, they took their eyes off of their main tasks and wasted the time of so many community members who simply did not want a cell tower and had to stop their lives for a few weeks to fight the school board.

Focus people, focus.

Eric said...

Thanks for the correction XX. Apparently I've been misinformed. Now it makes perfect sense to build a 900 student school on the Fernbank property.

themommy said...

Can anyone tell me if the Ivy Prep people intended to open another campus or where looking to charter the existing school with Gwinnett at its current location?

Cerebration said...

As I understood it, they were looking to add an Ivy Prep charter in DeKalb but were turned down.

Cerebration said...

Also, to clarify the cell tower issue --

There were 12 schools proposed to allow cell towers - Briarlake Elementary School, Flat Rock Elementary School, Brockett Elementary School, Jolly Elementary School, Lakeside High School, Margaret Harris Center, Martin Luther King Jr. High School, Meadowview Elementary School, Medlock Elementary School, Narvie J. Harris Elementary School, Princeton Elementary School, and Smoke Rise Elementary School.

After much discussion, the board removed 3 - Brockett, Medlock and Meadowview.

Cerebration said...

Question: Does Mr. Babst really think it's possible to operate an ethics (whistleblower) hotline internally? I don't think so. Our board sets the tone and they have already proven just how leaky they are with confidential information.

Next, Babst will be suggesting the hotline be monitored by Richard Belcher!

bu2 said...

The Fernbank Science Center and Fernbank elementary are two totally separate issues. I have a child in a private school who's been to the Science Center more than my child across the street at Fernbank. He's been there twice in 3 years. Fernbank students get no more benefit than any other DCSS students.

Fernbank parents get scolded on these boards for "only" looking out for their own. It seems to me that Mr. Olson was looking out for everyone (although you can disagree as to whether it is an efficient use of resources).

SHS said...

Gary Babst was hired to oversee concerns about DCSS operations and he was supposed to report directly to the BOE. His first project was to set up the desperately needed confidential whistleblower hotline.

Babst promptly disappeared into the muck that is DCSS. Then it turned out that his daily activities are directed by Ramona Tyson. Talk about the fox guarding the hen house! Last night, Babst re-surfaced with a big presentation about doing the kind of auditing that is already done -- though, admittedly not very well -- by DCSS Finance.

A year later and Babst has not managed to set up the confidential whistleblower hotline -- his first assignment. Is there a Friends-and-Family connection, Mr. Babst?

A year of employment and Babst has totally failed to achieve any of the objectives for which he was hired. Babst should be promptly dismissed from his job.

Gayle said...

@ Bus

"The Fernbank Science Center and Fernbank elementary are two totally separate child...been there twice in 3 years. Fernbank students get no more benefit than any other DCSS students."

2 visits to Fernbank Science Center in 3 years is not very beneficial for science content mastery, and that is true for the rest of the students in the county.

The $7,000,000 DCSS pours into Fernbank Science Center would be better spent adding 107 science teachers to the regular education schools. Fernbank Elementary parents understand the need for daily engaged science instruction. After all, the Fernbank PTA hired an extra science teacher so that their children could have lab based and hands-on science experiences on a routine basis.

I don't think you can say Fernbank Elementary and Fernbank Science Center are separate issues since the Fernbank Elementary School Council has weighed into the debate to protect the science center from budgetary cuts. When talk of budgetary cuts centered on Fernbank Science Center last year, a online petition was started by the Fernbank Community to preserve the Science Center. Mel Konner wrote an op-ed piece that was published in the Editorial section of the AJC. The Fernbank Elementary School Council wrote an open letter to the DCSS Board of Education in support of keeping Fernbank Science Center intact and off the table for budget cuts. These were a few proactive examples of the ties between the Fernbank Community and the Fernbank Science Center.

Fernbank Science Center with its green space is a nice addition to the Fernbank neighborhood, especially with the preponderance of CDC scientists and Emory physicians seeking housing in the area. The fact that the resource intensive STT program is available for children in the neighborhood (of course they must qualify for the program) is also advantageous. Mel Konner's op-ed piece concentrated on his daughter's experience in the STT program.

The delivery of thousands of DCSS students to FSC for a one shot lesson a year is ecologically unsustainable. What message does this send when an environmental center has buses come in and out all day long, belching pollutants into already polluted metro air?

Why aren't the FSC teachers going to the schools and teaching the lessons instead of busing thousands of students to the science center? And if they are primarily going to the schools, then why do we need so many admin and support personnel (only 28 out of 65 employees at FSC are teachers) or even a science center at all?

Perhaps you are correct that Marshall Orson thinks he is speaking for all students when he urges the BOE to shutter existing schools but keep the science center open. But has Mr. Orson ever taught science in a classroom as a regular education science teacher? Has he taught 35 science students in an unsafe lab situation, perhaps a trailer, while purchasing science supplies and equipment out of his own pocket? That is a reality for many of our science teachers every day in the regular education schools in DCSS.

Science content mastery comes not with a one day lesson at a science center, but with daily instruction by a competent and qualified science teacher in a class that is reasonably sized and equipped for lab and hands-on engagement - similar to the environment Fernbank's PTA has provided for Fernbank Elementary children.

As a result of budget cuts, science class sizes have increased all over the county, science instruction budgets for science equipment and supplies have shrunk, and lab safety has been compromised for students. All of this while Fernbank Science Center soaks up millions a year in science funding. This is simply not an equitable situation.

Here are DCSS science scores:
DCSS Science CRCT - % Failed by Grade Level
1st grade 30.9%
2nd grade 33.6%
3rd grade 35.2%
4th grade 42.2%
5th grade 31.9%
6th grade 49.9%

teacher said...

Science and Social Studies are rarely taught in the lower grades in elementary school because so much time is spent in reading and math.

Cerebration said...

I recall not long ago, the board was asked to approve the budget for science equipment and supplies for the year. It was around $50,000. McChesney asked the question, "Is this the full science supplies budget countywide?" To which he was answered, "Yes".

Catydid said...

atl you conveniently continue to ignore the most salient point made in that letter -

"At the same time, we believe that Fernbank Science Center is one of the DCSS entities best positioned to seek longer term third party external support, particularly in the absence of any other science museum or center in the close-in Metro Atlanta area."

The science center is very well positioned to received funding through grants freeing up system funds for classroom teachers.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Mr. Babst disappoints me. This hotline was a major part of the SACS deal a year ago. Now we find out Babst was under Tyson all along and not the BOE. Another, "nothing to see here, move along" scenario.

The ENTIRE DCSS leadership staff MUST be shown the door. They have FAILED! Tyson's speech at the beginning was very hollow. Words spoken but no trust Ms. Tyson. You wanted me to trust you, but you continue to fail.. Nothing has changed! I look forward to the end of your tenure as interim. Please just move along, well away from DCSS when you're done.

The friends and family are well entrenched and it looks like it will be another year of failure, since the contracts are out and signed. By the way, Mr. Turk things are changing, the way you might have been taught to do things are changing. I'm glad Jester wants to see the legal fees separate from the administration costs. I think when the BOE and stakeholders see the dollars spent on the lawsuits and to the "chosen" "Black" law firms, heads might start spinning. Dr. Walker sees the color black when he chooses law firms that represent DCSS. The only thing I see is the color green, going into the pockets of these law firms.

One more thing, are the Black Men of DeKalb County still using McNair classrooms as offices for their non-profit? According to their website, the address is the same address for the McNair High. I sure hope NO DCSS staff is helping this non-profit. I have serious questions about an organization singling out black students and not including all races of students that DCSS serves, then using school property to run their non-profit from. I'm tired of race presenting itself in practically every item on the DCSS agenda.

Ms. Berry you and you're Army in the Office of Improvement have improved nothing. You and your staff are worthless on the path of success for DCSS students. So much money being spent, so many more kids failing. Ms. Berry you deserve a swift kick out the door.

One more thing.. Where the heck is Tom Bowen? First meeting after the July 4th holidays have always set the tone for the new year and the BOE Chairman is no where to be found.


Gayle said...

@ Catydid

"you conveniently continue to ignore the most salient point made in that letter -
...At the same time, we believe that Fernbank Science Center is one of the DCSS entities best positioned to seek longer term third party external support, particularly in the absence of any other science museum or center in the close-in Metro Atlanta area."
The point is salient only if it put into practice. And why would Mr. Orson say there is no science museum or center when Fernbank Museum is less than a mile from Fernbank Science Center? His statement is totally contradictory!

"The science center is very well positioned to received funding through grants freeing up system funds for classroom teachers."

You no doubt have data to back that statement up.

Please share with us the specific funding that will be coming to Fernbank Science Center for 2012 or even 2013 - funding that will allow DCSS to adequately fund the regular education classrooms for science instruction. Mr. Orson's letter used alternate funding sources as a reason for keeping the science center "as is".

I totally agree that Fernbank Science Center should be a private partnership and/or grant sponsored entity. Fernbank Science Center as a private entity would be streamlined so that there would not be such an imbalance between teachers and admin and support. Currently, admin and support far outnumbers teachers at this teaching center, a situation that is all too common within DCSS.

Fernbank Science Center could be revamped to add more engaging programs and cutting edge equipment if it was a private entity. Many of the same lessons for the general student population have been in place for the last 20 years, while science has moved on. Science is the subject that changes constantly since its body of knowledge is ever evolving. FSC science equipment is old, the museum is shabby, and the lessons for the general student population reflect these conditions. There are many benefits for FSC to break with the school system.

Currently, DCSS is still obligated to support the science center, and our students in the regular education schools are falling farther behind every year. How long can they wait for daily adequate science instruction?

Are posters comfortable with the state of science instruction and science content master in DCSS? If you aren't, then push for science funds to flow from FSC into the regular education classroom. Push for FSC to obtain those grants and establish those partnerships or let this cost center go.

SHS said...

Actually, the late Ralph Buice, a 39-year veteran of Fernbank Science Center, who was honored as last night's DCSS BOE meeting (7/11/2011) wrote many successful grants for FSC.

As an experienced grantwriter, I know that Catydid is correct -- FSC is well-positioned to receive funding from grants and to partner with one or more non-profits to serve the Atlanta metro area and, indeed, the entire state and the Southeast through interactive new media technology. School systems across the state and the Southeast -- especially rural systems -- could gain virtual access and the attendant benefits for their students through very reasonably priced annual subscriptions.

However, thanks to Sally Sears and Crawford Lewis, DCSS will lose the irreplaceable Fernbank Forest in 2012. (I am not sure about the land the FSC facility is sitting on. I would need to check that out.) Once Lewis realized he was not going to be able to move FSC to Arabia Mountain, as he planned, he completely lost interest in FSC.

DCSS has several grantwriters. What do they do all day? Why are they not writing grants for FSC and working on non-profit partnerships?

BTW -- good luck in getting any kind of documented information about grant funding that has flowed to FSC. DCSS won't provide it, Doug Hrabe won't provide it, and, quite frankly, they would rather you did not know.

If I may interpret Marshall Orson's comment -- there are no reasonably priced science museums in the metro area. Certainly, Fernbank Museum (not part of FSC) is not affordable for families -- especially not for low-income families. Fernbank Museum, soon to be the proud new owner of Fernbank Forest is sitting on "Ready!" to padlock the gate between FSC and Fernbank Forest and begin charging admission to the Forest. Previously, Fernbank Forest has been free and open to the public during set hours.

Fernbank Forest is a 65-acre mature, old-growth, mixed forest with one of the few remnants of original Piedmont vegetation. In 1964 the Fernbank Trustees (now Fernbank Museum) developed a 48-year lease which was accepted by the DeKalb County Board of Education. This lease provides for the forest to be used by all citizens of the state and southeast and stipulates that it be protected and maintained by the Board of Education in as near its natural state as possible. This lease required that the forest be fenced and all entry and use controlled and stipulated that no plants or animals be removed. While the lease is for a 48-year period, it is reviewed each year and renewed at 8-year intervals. 2012 is the last year of the most recent 8-year interval.

Fernbank Museum has NO intention of renewing the lease in 2012. They see Fernbank Forest as their cash cow.

bu2 said...

I think almost everyone agrees it makes no sense to keep open half empty schools. That is an undeniable waste of resources. And it makes it very difficult to provide libraries, science, art or anything else to those students.

I believe it was researched by someone on this board and the forest is actually owned by the Museum and leased to the science center. So the green space stays regardless of who is maintaining it.

My son went to a summer camp there and children from all over were there. He only saw 3 or 4 people he knew. The camp was probably about 50% African American. Fernbank students simply don't get any significant additional benefit. And a number have memberships to the museum. It could very well be argued that the science center is of much more benefit to the poorer neighborhoods of the county.

The efficiency of keeping the science center is debatable, but attacking the school because the PTA disagrees with your opinion is just way off base.

bu2 said...

I personally have mixed feelings about the Science Center. Having it separately funded makes sense theoretically. However, philanthropy just doesn't support museums and the arts in Atlanta as well as in other similar size cities. My first impression of the Fernbank Museum was that it was a beautiful building with nothing in it. And I understand it has a lot more than it used to. Same thing for the Art Museum. "Is this all there is?"
So I don't know if the science center would survive separately and it would be a shame if it were lost.

Gayle said...


When the Fernbank Elementary School Council writes an open letter to the Board of Education opposing any funding cuts to Fernbank Science Center, the elementary school interjects itself into the politics of the decision making process.

It is inequitable to spend $50,000 for science supplies to instruct 96,000 students in 140+ schools in the subject of science while funding a science center for close to $7,000,000. That amounts to 52 cents per pupil in science supplies for science classes that meet every day for an hour. These science classes that meet daily in the regular education schools are charged with ensuring mastery of science content for every student in DCSS.

Children should not be asked to participate in labs with 30+ students because it is unsafe. Teachers should not be asked to pay for science equipment and supplies out of their own pockets. This is the norm in DCSS when science teachers are allotted 52 cents a year per pupil for science supplies.

Understanding science is for every student, not just the lucky few. Close to 95% of Fernbank Elementary students Met or Exceeded standards in the science CRCT.

One poster (teacher) suggested we follow the Fernbank model for success. Fernbank has an extra science teacher just for hands-on science. This is paid for by the PTA. The millions DCSS spends for the Fernbank Science Center would allow all DCSS schools to have extra science teachers and safe hands-on science.

What the school system does with the grant money awarded to FSC is not made public. I am assuming that any grant money awarded to FSC complies with the terms of the grant(s). I do not think FSC has a grant that funds an admin and support group that comprises 57% of the total employees. Grants are generally very specific and earmarked for an unusual program, not to fund general overhead.

DCSS Teacher said...

As an FSC teacher, I am tired of the constant slamming of the Science Center on this blog. At least, get your facts correct.

I spend only a small amount of time at Fernbank teaching kids on those ecologically despised “single visits.” Much more of my time is spent either out in the schools or teaching science teachers at Fernbank or elsewhere, often in the schools. Do those of you who don’t think students coming to the science center is worthwhile—and that means the Planetarium, observatory, recycling garden, bee exhibit, pollinator garden, live animals including the chickens, small indoor museum including the Space Shuttle, all of the academic classes, and the puberty programs, almost all FOR FREE—disapprove of ALL field trips? If so, then tell DCSS about it, and don’t let your kids go on them. But be sure you’re supporting all the rideshare programs you can, and please, avoid standing in those carpool lines with the engine running.

When I’m out in the schools, I teach as many as 180 students per day (6 times 30, in the high schools). Some of you seem to see the “standing in front of a class” as the only real teaching, but let me illuminate you: if you think that somehow we FSC teachers can all just “move into the classroom” and still do what we do, you’re just plain wrong. Read some recent research on what it will take to turn around science education in this country: it’s better professional development (which FSC provides, bigtime), better content knowledge (which all FSC teachers have), and better facilities and equipment (which are abysmal at every single school in the county). Get rid of us-but before you do, do some deep thinking about how much science your children will get then. Take a look at how often the science lab is actually used in the schools your kids attend—you will be dismayed. DCSS does not need “more of the same”, when it comes to science teaching. You cannot replace the FSC staff with “107 science teachers” (a figure that comes from nowhere: we’re on the same salary scale as every other DCSS teacher).

DCSS needs a refurbished Science Center that can meet the needs of science education in this century. FSC has expert teachers who love, love, love science, but without some pretty dramatic measures to support science teaching on the part of the County, students’ achievement levels will not increase much regardless of what anyone does. Be constructive: engage with FSC staff and administration to steer it where you want it to go. But please, stop spreading misinformation.

Gayle said...

Many apologies. See below correction for Science CRCT scores.

Percent of DCSS students who failed to Meet or Exceed standards on the 2011 Science CRCT:

3rd grade 30.9%
4th grade 33.6%
5th grade 35.2%
6th grade 42.2%
7th grade 31.9%
8th grade 49.9%

Cerebration said...

Yowsa! HALF our 8th graders failed the Science section of the Georgia CRCT? That's scary, as I'm told that passing the test only requires getting about half the answers correct.

We're working on a post about the test scores... more to come on the subject, but I will say this, our leadership has failed, failed, failed the children of DeKalb.

Gayle said...

@ DCSS teacher

" You cannot replace the FSC staff with “107 science teachers” (a figure that comes from nowhere: we’re on the same salary scale as every other DCSS teacher)."

$7,000,000 divided by $65,000 per teacher (Ms. Tyson's calculation of the average for DCSS teacher with benefits) = funding for 107 science teachers

Where does the $7,000,000 figure come from?

You are saying that all of those buses do not come to FSC anymore?

So why is DCSS spending millions in admin and support and overhead for a facility that has fewer and fewer students come to it for services?

Why not base the 28 science center teachers in schools, let them visit the schools to instruct students, and save the millions in admin and support and overhead?

See below what FSC spends on non-teaching admin and support personnel (benefits NOT included):
Support Maintenance $56,402
Support - Technical Support $66,088
Support - Support Services $6,790
Support - Security $48,093
Support - Security $47,150
Support - Security $46,929
Support - Secretary $39,427
Support - Secretary $39,427
Support - Scheduler $43,516
Support - Photographer $67,380
Support - Media Specialist $91,320
Support - Maintenance $47,150
Support - Maintenance $34,276
Support - Maintenance $44,836
Support - Maintenance $33,616
Support - Maintenance $32,426
Support - Maintenance $39,276
Support - Head Custodian $52,091
Support - Geologist $75,430
Support - General Administration $50,520
Support - Gardener $44,836
Support - Exhibit Designer $77,892
Support - Exhibit Designer $69,516
Support - Exhibit Designer $84,720
Support - Exhibit Designer $63,576
Support - Designer/Photographer $66,096
Support - Custodial $31,048
Support - Custodial $29,310
Support - Custodial $31,048
Support - CTSS $49,194
Support - Clerical $7,679
Support - Clerical $37,485
Support - Bookkeeper $27,707
Administrator - Director, Fernbank $98,568
Administrator - Administrative Coordinator $91,884
(source - state Salary and Travel audit)

Questions to consider:
1. Are you comfortable with having more admin and support personnel at Fernbank Science Center than teachers - especially since most of your teaching has moved to the schools?

2. Do you consider 52 cents per pupil in science supplies and equipment adequate for daily science instruction? Might that have something to do with the lack of lab instruction in the schools? Do you think science teachers in the regular education classrooms should pay out of their own pockets for lab supplies and equipment?

2. Do you know that National Science Teachers of America studies show that 30+ students in a science lab is unsafe? Do you think the unsafe conditions might discourage teachers from teaching students in labs? When you, as a visiting teacher, teach students in a lab, there are 2 teachers; but when a regular education science teacher teaches students in a lab, he is by himself. Do you think he should teach labs in unsafe conditions?

Reference the NSTA position on lab safety:
"Overcrowding has two research-based safety concerns: sufficient supervision and adequate individual workspace. Classes containing more than 24 students engaged in science activities cannot safely be supervised by one teacher. Additionally, research data show that accidents rise dramatically as class enrollments exceed 24 students or when inadequate individual workspace is provided (West et al. 2005)."

I agree that FSC needs to be revamped, but this is best done as a private entity.

Not funding science instruction in the regular education classrooms in a sure fire way to decrease student achievement levels.

Anon76 said...

@SHS - "I thought Gary Bapst was initially supposed to set up a whistleblower hotline? There are plenty of people in Finance to do the auditing."

All of the auditors were moved under Bapst upon his arrival. He directs their actions. They were much more efficient in past years and covered much more ground. None of the auditors report to Finance or anyone who reports to anyone in Finance. You are absolutely right about what happened in past years -- Much more than about 30 audits and 15-ish investigations. For a district of this size, that's unacceptable.

Bapst has been here for over 10 months. All he did last night was show a PowerPoint that explained what he was supposed to be doing. What happened to his 100-Day Plan? An entire department was moved under him, and he stands before the Board after almost a year and not one of them questions what the heck he's been doing for a year??

Oh, and his master plan for next year's audits? Auditing Title I? The State & Feds come in and do that. For DAYS. SPLOST? The State Department of Audits comes in and does that one too. Makes me think he was just trying to fill up the space on his PPT slide. Why should he make his division duplicate work that a team of auditors from the outside comes in and does yearly? Couldn't he take that time to do something else? Maybe, I don't know, 40 school audits?

Oh, and the Whistleblower Hotline? No way it should have taken 10 months to set up. No way. I'd like to see the bids that were received for the service. He said it would be ready to go in 30-60 days. Let's see what he says at the September meeting, shall we?

Gayle said...

Sorry - Correction:
NSTA stands for National Science Teachers Association

Great organization dedicated to improving mastery of science concepts for students.

SHS said...

Thanks, Anon76!

Who does Gary Babst know? Where does he fit in the DCSS "Friends-and-Family" jobs program? DCSS does not normally recruit employees in Detroit. So who does Babst know to get hired to move to Georgia and do nothing -- literally -- for nearly a full year?

Passionate... said...

Can't find link to download HR report.

Cerebration said...

Here you go -

July HR Report

You have to go to the eBoard home page, find Monday's meeting on the meeting list, find the HR Report in the agenda, click that agenda item and the report is attached there.

Passionate... said...

Thanks Cere, found HR reports, read several and compared during the past year. I didn't see any lists of transfers within DCSS or promotions.