Monday, August 1, 2011

The August 1, 2011 Board Meeting

I missed the first few speakers, just tuned in as Jay Scott was admonishing the board for the terrible job they are doing educating our children. The lady after him agreed with everything he said. Not happy that you have to travel across county to get a decent education. People are just not happy. Janice Thomas - another Cedar Grove parent concerned about the school not passing AYP. Also concerned about teacher turnover. Bathrooms are embarrassing at Cedar Grove. Daniel Subcheck - a broke teacher. Says teachers have forfeited $5,600 in recent years - furloughs and no step increases. Pat Camp from the Medlock community. Thanks the board for excluding the cell tower from Medlock ES. Supports Fernbank Science Center and International Community School have contacted the association with ideas for using the space. The community wants to keep a school on the property. But they voted for either organization but truly don't want an empty building. They hope to remain active participants as the school is very important to the community. Latina Johnson (another Cedar Grove parent) very disappointed in the school. Lives across the street, but support is waning. Nice subdivisions in the area, but the school is an eyesore. It looks like the Projects. Our track team students continue to get injured because the track is not maintained. The restrooms are locked at the end of the day and students who stay after can't use a restroom. Mr. Farrakhan - Admonished the board for putting cell towers on school properties. The rest I didn't understand. Something about America needing to repent from her sins. Frogs and locusts overtaking towns...? God will destroy the wealth of America in order to deliver us to the promised land. My children no longer attend your public schools. Homeschooling is better. That's a fact.

Ramona asked to remove E2 - the Student Academic Achievement Report (from Beasley). It's not ready. Approved. She will present it on Monday, August 8.

Superintendent's Report

March 2011, redistricting approved. June 2011 SPLOST IV project list approved. Now they have been given a bound copy of the full facility condition report. Ten year master facility plan presented.

Dr. Humble - MGT presents the plan. Not new info. Phase 1 was redistricting. SPLOST was Phase 2. Two things: Congratulations on this year long project. We came a long way and have a plan based on data that will ultimately provide facilities to support educational plan. Challenge you to not let it slide and don't end up back behind the eight ball. Continuing phases of facility construction based on a SPLOST IV and a SPLOST V. The data drives the decisions. They made a combined score for each facility composed of assessments in three areas: physical condition of the building, the educational suitability and technology readiness (does the infrastructure of the building support the necessary technology). Weighted 50% physical - 40% to Educational Suitability and 10% Tech Readiness. Then they made a Priority Cut Point. Based on projected funding. 2013-2017 less than a score of 54 - replacement. 54-60 limited renovations to hold off for replacement in SPLOST V. Then full reno for scores of 65-70. The numbers will change/improve as time goes on - but if you let it go - they will go down. Fluid document. Phase 2 - replacing 9 schools: Chamblee, McNair Middle, Austin, Gresham Park, Peachcrest, ?? Consolidate DSA and DESA. (He talks waaaaay too fast.) Hopefully his PPt will be available online. They will evaluate enrollment data annually for redistricting and consolidation. (Apparently they never did this.) Also need to develop plans for programs like Early Childhood, Magnets, High Achievers, career Tech, ELL, Special Ed. Must decide how do we want to serve these? Form follows function. We've done it backwards in the past. Need to reverse - identify the program, then create a suitable facility. Then reevaluate the numbers again and again. A continuous process of assessment. Phase 3 and beyond: 2018-2022 and 2023+ Continue evaluating and making decisions and plans based strictly on data. Humble's job is done - Tyson personally thanked him for the hard work and the road map.

Bob Moseley - School Pre-Opening Report. Enrollment K-12. 98,055 last year - projecting 98,000. Currently have 94,000 but will increase. Recapped closing/consolidation/redistricting. HR did a great job reassigning teachers and staff. All have been placed. Named 12 'new' principals. Many just moved around due to the redistricting etc. Some were promoted from AP. 6,700 teachers expected to report tomorrow. Currently have 20 vacancies. Need to maintain dress code. School grounds need work. There's an Air Conditioning hotline for principals to use. Transportation - all new routes developed. 885 bus drivers on staff. (Down from almost 1,000 due to efficiencies in routing.) Will transport 65,000 students this year. Pre-planning begins tomorrow (today was a furlough day.) All schools will have Open House this Wednesday. NCLB - AYP Open Enrollment for Public School Choice concludes Thursday. 22 sending schools -- 10 receiving schools. Requests: 18 ES, 268 MS and 403 HS students. Triage - streamlined workload for teachers. Developed an accountability plan for principals. 9 training modules. Trained Instructional Coaches - will be supporting teachers in the classroom 95-98% of time (as requested by Ms. Tyson).

Last session for Policy Changes at board meetings. In the future, these will take place in special sessions beginning in mid-August. Ten Policy Changes presented. Lots of discussion on these. Donna asked several questions. It appears to me that Ms. Tyson is the only person who understands policy and Roberts Rules. Moseley presented a policy for advertising at schools for approval that Tyson or the board had never seen before. Tyson yielded to the board, but stated that she needed to remind staff that she doesn't need surprises.

Missed a bunch - you guys will have to fill in in the comments.

Now - Ms Coleman is asking for $ for a track at Cedar Grove.

Change in use of Title 1 money in Title 1 Schools:

Tony Hunter: Approve a $3+ million contract for technology for 91 Title 1 schools. Every teacher will receive professional development and the board will get a report on their progress from Kennesaw State. Rep from KSU - Educational Technology Center. Formed in 1994 - work with all school systems in how to integrate technology, lead conferences, train teachers, etc. Digital Resources Grant, STEM Grant, Handheld Technology Grant. In the business to help teachers and students to take advantage of technology. iPads, laptops, Elec White Boards, Hands on Training (!) [Did he really say iPads? Everyone called me crazy the times I wrote about those!] Will work in Title 1 schools - they can choose from a menu of training items. 20-2 hour blocks per school. Working with Dr Berry on an evaluation process. (Online) Evaluator will visit each school and observe teachers. Will analyze data next summer. Exciting. Big Change. [I agree!]

Womack asked about security of iPads. They will be on carts. iPads will have GPS devices. Can be located and retrieved (call police). They will be stored in specific locations with security cameras. 24/7. McChesney is thrilled that we will be evaluating effectiveness (we usually don't). Walker: concerned about disparities in system - uneven levels of learning. "I don't buy this notion that all things are equal. I hope we will grab the kid where we find them and work with them there, rather than treat them all as if they're at the same level." (???) Of course, the answer is that the lessons can be customized. (Walker didn't know that.) I must say - I'm impressed! This is a very good move and a brilliant way to move Title 1 dollars closer to the students that money is meant to help.


Anon said...

I am thrilled that all these parents are there expressing their opinion about the quality of the education. This is an important step in fixing the problem -- admitting there is one.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon

Are these parents from south DeKalb just now noticing the problems with education quality? How many years has it been that DCSS has not made AYP as a system?

Actually, I have little regard for a parent who blames schools and parents in north DeKalb for the perceived inequality in instruction and facilities.

Anonymous said...

Did they say that? Did they blame N. DeKalb or did they lament that there is the only place that schools are good?

Anonymous said...

2 of the Cedar Grove parents were more concerned with the condition of the track. Everyone knows a great track leads to AYP.

I think they are under the impression that DCSS pays for the tracks "up north". Actually, there are booster clubs that have kept up most of the athletic fields "in the north".

Anonymous said...

DeKalb hides the condition of its north end schools well. You will notice that when a big school event is held, it often goes to Miller Grove or one of the other south end schools. South DeKalb parents would be very surprised to see what we put up with on the north side of the county.

Anonymous said...

"Trained Instructional Coaches - will be supporting teachers in the classroom 95-98% of time (as requested by Ms. Tyson)."

If these Instructional Coaches can't teach struggling students, what are they going to DO in the classrooms? Will they just sit in classrooms all day and observe teachers? Will they complete paperwork as they sit in the back of the classroom?

How much modeling of lessons do these Coaches do? Creating lessons and modeling (i.e. teaching) lessons as teachers observe should consume at least 50% of the day of an Instructional Coach. The MOST effective way to deliver staff development is to model the lesson for the teacher so he can see how it's done.

If the Coach cannot engage the students and handle all aspects of classroom management, she has no business telling teachers how to perform these functions. Most staff development is not done this way due to time constraints, but it sounds like these Coaches have plenty of time in the classroom to demonstrate how to engage students and handle all of the discipline needs and various learners in the classroom.

Ms. Tyson should be requiring AT LEAST 50% of the Coaches' time in the classroom is spent modeling lessons. This is very common for Instructional Coaches, perfectly acceptable for NCLB regulations, and the MOST effective way to deliver staff development to teachers.

bu2 said...

DHHS has about an irregular track (approximately 370 yards instead of the standard 440) that probably hasn't been repaved since the 60s.

Anonymous said...

I would rather have the Coach working directly with the students and assisting teachers real time. The Coach can work with the teacher on planning and implementing a lesson and that might be more valuable.

There's nothing wrong with modeling, but it only takes you so far. Every situation is different. Some teachers might benefit from observing someone else teach a class, some teachers may need help with planning, other teachers may need an extra pair of eyes to figure out what is going wrong with a lesson.

RUKiddingme said...

A track won't ensure AYP but it appears that the parents want something for their students despite the academic standing. Is that so unconscionable? If the county is abstaining from improving the facility due to academic status, then the county just needs to tell parents. Stop playing footsie! No change will occur without change! Make the students feel good about their academic environment! Better still, let the school fall down until the students achieve AYP!! Is anyone getting rid of the Title I staff for not making sure that the schools make AYP? Is that out of the question? Everyone is so antsy and hanging on every word and losing sight of the goal! Take a tour of Cedar Grove and some of the other schools and see the real picture without comparison to any other area!Why hasn't the school's area assistant superintendent taken care of the concerns? All of these big salaries are tied into taking care of the schools- all aspects! CHANGE!!! Parents should not be begging for restrooms and tracks. YES! parents need to be more involved-point made! But don't neglect the schools and the students waiting for the parents. Some parents are not capable. Get over it! Teach their kids! Give their kids what they need. Every parent, believe it or not, just don't have what it takes but they do get the fact that their kids are lacking and being looked upon as second class citizens because of them-their parents. Can anyone be held accountable for doing what they are paid to do despite the child's perceived home life? Take the blinders off!!!

Marney Mayo said...

You missed my 12 year old son re-reading the speech he originally made to the board on August 6 of 2007 asking them to let ICS lease Forrest hills and giving them point by point updates on what he has endured the last 4 years as that building sat empty... I was extremely proud of him.

Cerebration said...

Marney, feel free to add those points in the comments. I got called away on an important phone call and missed some of the meeting. Anyone who notices what I missed, please add to the comments.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:06 pm

I don't blame South DeKalb parents for asking these questions considering the lion's share of Title 1 and federal funding (around $500,000,000 in the past 6 years) goes to Title 1 schools that do not make adequate yearly progress. Consider the very few Title 1 schools that Made AYP this year.

There has been an unprecedented drop in Title 1 schools making adequate yearly progress in the last two years. It is unacceptable that Ms. Tyson and the BOE are not asking Dr. Berry who is in charge of Title 1 and her supervisor Dr. Beasley, the head of DCSS Instruction, why the bottom dropped out for Title 1 schools. Parents deserve to know the reasons for this steep decline, and they need accountability at the highest level for the decisions that have been made.

All of the hundreds of millions spent in Title 1 and federal funding have not only not done anything to level the playing field between Title 1 and non-Title 1 schools - the field is becoming more uneven than ever. Why should parents have to transport their children out of their neighborhoods?

The fact that these parents know about the high teacher turnover, the unmaintained track, and the locked bathrooms in Cedar Grove says they have been keeping tabs on their school. These are not items published by DCSS. When Cross Keys had such disgraceful toilets, cracked sidewalks and moldy carpets I don't recall anyone criticizing the parents.

teacher said...

I just hope that these coaches have teacher certification and that teachers aren't bitter that the coaches are making significantly more money than they are. I know that I wouldn't want a coach with less or no teaching experience coming in and telling me what to do. I also hope that if the coaches aren't any good in the classroom, that their contracts are not renewed. They have no business in front of the kids or "helping" teachers unless they really are good teachers.

Cerebration said...

Cross Keys also has a very dangerous track with weeds growing from the cracks. Cross Keys was listed for SPLOST IV track and turf renovations, however all of the high schools were crossed off on the list, leaving just the stadiums.

(2) Upgrades, including turf installation, at stadiums and renovations to Athletic Facilities and Stadiums including, but not limited to Adams Stadium, Arabia Mountain High School, Avondale Stadium, Cedar Grove High School, Chamblee High School, Clarkston High School, Cross Keys High School, Druid Hills High School, Dunwoody High School, Hallford Stadium, Lakeside High School, Lithonia High School, McNair High School, Miller Grove High School, Martin Luther King Jr. High School, North DeKalb Stadium, and Panthersville Stadium, Redan High School, SW Dekalb High School, Stephenson High School, Stone Mountain High School, Towers High School and Tucker High School.

Anon said...

Womack is micro-managing -- he is going to go into elementary schools and fussing at the teachers for not posting the lesson plans. And he is going to check proof of residence?

I, for one, want SACs to mess with our accreditation. Womack must be on my side!

Kim Gokce said...

Cedar Grove has been on the politically overlooked list right next to Cross Keys. My morning coffee counter at work is staffed by a Cedar Grove parent and we swap stories of the relative neglect at the two schools.

Cedar Grove is the only other high school besides Cross Keys in DeKalb that will not have an auditorium. The Cedar Grove parents care about their children and their kids deserve equitable facilities and programs as much as kids anywhere. As long as we have a political system of public education, the devil take the hindmost!

"When Cross Keys had such disgraceful toilets, cracked sidewalks and moldy carpets I don't recall anyone criticizing the parents."

Actually, "they" did and do still today when any shortcoming is mentioned by me. Track, auditorium, no benches in the girls locker rooms, attendance lines, etc ... blame the parents.

The kids get it. They travel to other schools in the district for academics, service, and athletics. They see the facilities that are reserved for the children of the politically successful (rich and poor!). No matter what rational we spout in public, they know the plain truth.

The fact is, very few middle class parents have any idea what the experience and reality of these lower income families is on a daily basis. As many of them care for their kids as any other socio-economic class. What they can do, they do.

What if you family had no car? What if you home had no a/c? What if your home had no internet service? What if you had to humble yourself and ask, or demand, that your child work full-time to help pay the utility bills? What if you had to move every year or two to be closer to the only job you could get?

I don't want, and the kids don't want, anything more than equitable treatment. I'm embarrassed as a taxpayer that we are unable, nay, unwilling to provide that equity.

Anyway, blah, blah, blah, these points are lost on those who have chosen to align the facts with their world view rather than the reverse. Sorry to waste the electrons ranting ...

Marney Mayo said...

Speaker 1. Dr. Laurent Ditmann, principal of ICS asked the board to favorably consider a lease of Medlock--a skeleton lease was delivered last week. Told them 1.)there will be a movie of ICS that will make them look very good that will be out soon. and 2)If ICS can just get that lease he promises they will never see him standing at that podium again.
Speaker 2. Tahisha Edwards-vice principal of ICS for the Decatur Campus spoke of the challenge of having two campuses 6 miles apart, of teachers not having enough space to do centers because of their small classrooms and described a note recently put on her desk by a child asking complaining that she didn't get to see her sister until the end of the day because she was at the other campus.

I don't remember the 3rd speaker.

Mary Johnson, volunteer at ICS, spoke of what happens when buildings are left empty--using the damage done to Hooper Alexander as an example.

Joy Dawkins, parent of 2 children at ICS and the vice-chair of the board, asked the board to please let ICS lease Medlock and spoke of her concern as a board member that ICS will no longer be financially able to sustain two campuses in the near future.

Captain Beth Burgess commended DCSS staff for working well her on Emergency management coordination, and gave thank you certificates to Moseley and someone else(whose name I didn't get).

Steven May--who is now 12 who just graduated from ICS, brought a copy of a speech he gave 4 years ago when he was going into the 3rd grade at ICS asking the board to lease Forrest Hills to ICS. He concluded his remarks by reading a sentence from the letter that Crawford Lewis sent him in response; "Leasing a school system property is a very complex task." and he concluded by saying "come on, does it really need to take 4 years?"

Lisa Morgan said something nice about Steven's speech and then pointed out how difficult is is on the teachers to give them a furloug day and then expect everything to be in order for an open house the 2nd day they are back on the 3rd. Likewise, the short transition between semesters--and expecting that day to be for parent conferences is unreasonable.

There was also a teacher from Southwest High that spoke to the point of how difficult the lack of pay increases are and the problem of only one day back between semester and that being for parent conferences.

I think this is about where celebration's narrative picks up.

Cerebration said...

Thanks Marney! Great job! Send me an email at and I'll give you posting privileges if you'd like!

Cerebration said...

Important note from the AJC -

Parents of students attending the 22 DeKalb County schools that ranked as not making "adequate yearly progress" have until 4 p.m. Thursday to apply to have their children transfered, if they wish to do so, under the No Child Left Behind Act. Robert Moseley, DeKalb's Chief Deputy Superintendent, told the Board of Education Monday night that 689 students so far have applied for transfer. A list of under performing schools and qualifying transfer schools are listed on the school's website at More information:678-676-0081.

Open+Transparent said...

"School grounds need work. There's an Air Conditioning hotline for principals to use."

Sam Moss staff has had all summer to work on grounds and HVAC. But every summer, students and teachers come back to malfunctioning AC and mediocre school grounds!

Where is the accountability? Where is the pride? Why are there never any repurcussions for poor performanace?? Where is the return on investment??

teacher said...

Having worked in a school with air issues, the maintenance staff doesn't know what they are doing. They couldn't tell an AC pipe from a plumbing pipe-no lie. Both maintenance and grounds need to be done by outside contractors, as it would be cheaper and done much better. These are not new issues for DCSS.

Anonymous said...

@Kim, I sense a little snobbery in reverse with your post. Are you criticizing those parents/community who are able to provide for their schools above and beyond what the school system provide? Please tell that that is not so. Unless you know the efforts that these parents and community partake of then who are you to criticize. As the parent who is President of a school booster club, let me give you a little lesson. There is not a day that goes by that I, and others, are not on the phones working to get sponsors; weekend after weekend there is some sort of fund-raising venture that our students are required to participate in; our
students are caretakers of their own athletic fields. I could go on. There is a tremendous amount of effort on both the part of the school, community, parent and students. Is there a reason that the parents at Cross Keys or Cedar Grove cannot do the same?

Cerebration said...

In a word, Anon, no, it is not the same for parents at Cross Keys and Cedar Grove. To tell them to go out and fundraise for basics given to other schools is dismissive. They're not even asking - Kim and I and others in the community are asking. It's simply out of balance. Check out the facilities at Arabia, Tucker, Miller Grove, etc and then go to Cross Keys and Cedar Grove. No, they cannot go out in the community and raise funds for a track and benches in the locker rooms. It's bad enough they are the only two schools without auditoriums.

I'm told that Marcus Turk is advocating for online credit card payments for registration due to too much stealing of the cash. I hope that's wrong - he can't not know that most poor people operate on a cash basis - they don't have access to computers -- much less credit cards. Many don't even have bank accounts. How about we just place some of our plentiful security staff in charge of watching over the cash at registration?

Cerebration said...

And - I guess the whistleblower hotline that DCSS got so much good press about for being so innovative and progressive is now history - never to come to fruition. And Gary Babst is no longer the internal auditor, he has a new job title.

Oh well.

Anon said...

Hotline is suppose to go active by Sept 22. Papers are hopefuly being signed this week or next, training etc, for the next few weeks, then it will be up and running. This is from Babst's report last night.

themommy said...

Anon 6:52 Am

On some level you are correct, the parents could probably do more, but not nearly as much as you are asking.

For many poor parents, simply surviving is more than a full time job. Many are working two jobs. I have encountered many parents who literally go to work every day.

Furthermore, national parent advocate groups, like PTA, really frown on parents taking over what they believe are school and school system responsibilities because it means that those parents aren't advocating for the school and/or system to do their job.

themommy said...

I have shared this story before, but will again.

For many years, the N. Fulton elementary schools PTAs paid for school nurses. The Fulton Council of PTAs takes following PTA rules very seriously and this was a violation of those rules.

Thus, the PTAs were told that they needed to stop. Those parents went to the state legislature and lobbied hard to have the state provide school nurses to ALL elementary schools in the state,an improvement that still exists today.

If we all said, no we won't work on our fields, pay for our own tennis courts, install our own prometheon boards, etc and instead lobbied DCSS to get their fiscal house in order, provide needed services, etc, I expect that things would change for all schools.

It wouldn't be easy and it would take time and communities holding their board members accountable by seeing that the lose at election time if expectations aren't met, but it might just help change some of the perceived and real differences between schools.

Cerebration said...

Good input, themommy.

Anon - or anyone who knows - exactly what was presented on the whistleblower hotline? I heard it's now called a fraud hotline. What is the number going to be (do they know?) and what will the process be? Will it be monitored by staff (bad idea) or an outside agency (good idea)...? I missed the presentation.

Anonymous said...

@Cerebration - how do you know what the basics are a other schools? How do you know much time and effort these other parents and students put forth earn the funds to upgrade their facilities? You do not. There is no reason that Cedar Grove parents and Cross Keys parents cannot put in that same effort.

@themommy, there are also many families in the "north" with parents holding down 2 jobs, students holding down jobs at the same time participating in extra-curriculars and keeping up with their studies.

I am so tired of the politically correct bad-mouthing those schools and parents that are self-motivated to make their children's school environment a good all-around experience.

Anonymous said...

No, they cannot go out in the community and raise funds for a track and benches in the locker rooms

Why not? There are many, many businesses along Buford Highway that might love to help out in this way. Does Cross Keys have a PTA?

themommy said...

Outside agency -- one that is used by Coca-Cola and about 4000 other clients. Can't remember the specific name of the company, but they seemed legit.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

DCSS "uppers" love the smoke and mirrors they place before the parents. Babst and his whistle blower hotline is another example of how difficult it is to get anything done at DCSS. It took Babst a full year to call the phone company and have a phone line put in at the Palace? PLEASE!

I agree with previous poster, not one DCSS employee should take the calls from the "hotline". Just think if an employee does not like what the whistle blower is revealing, that employee could just delete the call and move on. Will his hotline be subject to FOIA requests? Could Richard Belcher sweep in and reveal who the whistle blower is? This whole thing seems suspect to me. If I could trust DCSS I would expect the best, but since I do not trust anyone at the Palace, what are the citizens of DeKalb to do?

Everyone who is currently on the "upper" staff should resign immediately. It's time for change and right now I see NONE!

The fact that DCSS have the stakeholders arguing over a track at Cedar Grove and not educating our kids should be a clear warning that DCSS priorities are NOT in order and we must demand a change at the top as well as the "upper" staff. These folks are responsible for the failure of OUR system.

Tyson, Moseley, Berry, Beasley, Thompson, Hunter, Ramsey, Mitchell-Mayfield and any family member of former BOE members should resign. We MUST take our system back or failure will just continue as we blow millions of dollars down a rat hole never to be seen again.

Ella Smith said...

Respectfully, Cross Keys and Cedar Grove do not have many moms or dads who probable are stay at home moms or that just have one job.

Due to this there is not the leadership in the community that some schools may have. They care deeply about their children's education but their parents do not have the available time that may be needed to participate in fundraising.

Things are not always as they seem.

Anonymous said...

All those SPLOST funds for stadiums and fields is the district's attempt to get the south DeKalb vote. The kids have demonstrated they lack the knowledge and skills to be successful in school, yet they will be thrilled to play football on a new turf field.

Kim Gokce said...

Anon 6:52: "@Kim, I sense a little snobbery in reverse with your post."

Anon, I sense a little insecurity in your post. My perspective was and remains about the political status of these communities - not the quality of the individual parents.

I think my post was very clearly a defense and support of the parents at Cross Keys and Cedar Grove. If you interpret it as a criticism of you and your peers, you are mistaken.

As you have taken offense, I apologize. Continued success in your efforts.

Kim Gokce said...

Anon: "I am so tired of the politically correct bad-mouthing those schools and parents that are self-motivated to make their children's school environment a good all-around experience."

No one here is bad-mouthing parents who are involved with their schools. I have said elsewhere on this blog that the system should be held accountable for providing equitable facilities and programs to every child in DeKalb regardless of the social status of parents and the level of involvement of parent groups in school house operations.

I do not consider this controversial but I am only one man.

Kim Gokce said...

Anon, here's a simple question to keep us out of the ditch:

Should Cedar Grove had an auditorium? Should Cross Keys? Why or why not?

SHS said...

I was instrumental in getting breakfast served at Chamblee High School when my children went there. Why? Well, not because my children needed breakfast at school. They got a good breakfast each morning at home. I did it because I realized that students were coming as 8th graders to Chamblee High School from elementary schools that did serve breakfast. At a minimum, that meant that students who were receiving free-or-reduced-price meals in grades K-7 were getting two meals a day. Then, suddenly, as growing adolescents, they were getting only lunch. And these children coming to school without breakfast were sitting next to my children in the classroom. Not the best educational environment.

It took two years to make that happen.

Year One. I collected documentation about the need for breakfast in schools and I went to Hal Davis, then principal of Chamblee High School. I presented my case. He looked at me, said nothing (literally), picked up the phone and called the cafeteria manager to see if she wanted to serve breakfast every day. She said she did not. He looked at me again and said, "No."

Year Two. Martha Reichrath was principal at CHS. I went to her with the same request. She considered the documentation and she instituted breakfast at Chamblee High School.

There are 4 points to this story:
1. Having a quality principal is critical to having a quality school that meets students' needs.
2. Everyone has something to contribute that can make their child's school more effective. For example, I used my skills to obtain breakfast for all Chamblee students. However, I have no skills when it comes to things like grounds beautification -- but other parents do. Think outside the box about the skills you can contribute!
3. Most intact middle class American families are two-income families. Being a single-parent parent family is tougher. It does not absolve parental responsibility.
4. Children take time and effort. Some children require more than others. It takes a while for parenting to pay off. Not willing to put in the time and effort? Planned Parenthood can help.

Anonymous said...

Kim, I would answer your question to anonymous with one of my own: What does the school system have in store for Cross Keys? The student population of Cross Keys, approximately 900 last school year, is such that, quite frankly, how much longer can it be sustained as a traditional high school? It is an older facility and as the school system looks at its 10-year vision, can the school system continue with the upkeep on Cross Keys, especially with a much larger Chamblee Charter High School opening in 2 years? Will Cross Keys become a regional Career Tech school? I think the school system has some decisions to make about the school. Thought that is not say they will.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of that, what exactly IS their 10 year vision for the school system? What DO they want it to look like? Do they want to have 2 or 3 vocational-tech programs? Do they want more magnets? Do they want to raze certain buildings? Do they want to consolidate others? They have not said, yet they expect us all to vote to allow them to spend another half-billion dollars on construction projects that have in NO WAY been clearly defined as of yet. Except to say they plan to put new turf in the stadiums and do work to a list that consists of every school (voter) in the county.

Vague. Very vague.

Anonymous said...

It is not quite as black and white as it seems in terms of school equity. As of now Lakeside does not have an auditorium. They do not even have a cafetorium as the stage is being used as a classroom (the musical last year was performed on a platform). As everyone who has been in the building knows - Lakeside was a dump.

Thankfully the school is being renovated and an audotorium is part of the plan. I do see the logic for building one at a school with 1800 students over a school with 900 students. I would hope that the next stage of expansions would include auditoriums at the remaining schools.

Cerebration said...

@AMG - the proper term (according to Ms. Audria Berry) is "Sit Up Here Staff".

Anonymous said...

@anonymous 2:10:

Why shouldn't Cross Keys continue as a traditional high school? Will Chamblee High, overcrowded now, be able to absorb the 900+ students from Cross Keys?

The rumors about closing Cross Keys have been floating around longer than I've been teaching there (over 10 years). I seriously doubt they'll make it just a tech school.

Cross Keys may be small but it's something special. The faculty is amazing, in my not-so-humble opinion, the students are special (the valedictorian, Vy Tran is going to Stanford on full scholarship; the salutatorian, Javier Garcia is going to Pamona on an almost full scholarship; and another student, Mpaza Kapembwa is going to Williams on a full scholarship. Mpaza is also a Gates-Millenium scholar.), and our guardian angel/cheerleader, Kim Gokce rocks!

It's not reverse snobbery.

Is this the Twlight Zone? said...

When I considered a PTA fundraising position for a DeKalb County School, I asked "what does the school need that is not currently being provided by available funds?" to the PTA President. She said that fundraising is difficult and we shouldn't try to do more than what was done the year before.

I was not happy with that answer because I looked at what was provided and it was not much. Plus, I could look around the school and see all kinds of things that needed to be replaced, repaired or upgraded.

So, I tried asking, "If the sky was the limit, and the PTA could make any purchase it wanted next year, what do you think the parents would say they would want to provide for their children?" Still nothing. "Okay, what would the teachers say?" I was told the teachers are not really involved in the PTA. Some submit wish lists for small things they need beyond standard supplies. I noted in the budget that we didn't hit the low fundraising targets in the past so I wondered why we would continue to try the same old things.

So, I met with the principal and asked same thing, "What do we need?" She mentioned new cafeteria tables and chairs would be nice, but are not necessary. I asked if I could do any fundraising outside of the PTA. She said no. I said that the PTA didn't want me to do anything other than what we always did. She said they had rejected her ideas, too. I gave up.

Oh yes, one more thing, I mentioned that maybe we could ask for improvement suggestions at a PTA meeting and I was told the sound system isn't good enough to allow people to ask questions. We have only one mic and it does not work well.

I was waiting for "ding ding ding" of recognition that we just came up with an idea for something the PTA could strive to provide. But, of course, I got nothing. said...

Anyone interested in stopping the cell tower slated for their school or neighborhood, please look us up on Facebook, or email us at sayno2celltowers at

We have lots of information that we are trying to take forward in an effort to "save" the 9 schools still on the list. I will not publish it here because we do not want to tip off T-mobile prior to the county zoning meetings, but just be aware that there are major safety issues regarding these towers that involve more than "just" the 24/7 radiation they emit.

But, our group is small and we need people who can help us with keeping up on when these zoning hearings may appear on the county agenda. And, we need people willing to speak out at these meetings. Since they are similar to school board meetings, you only get 3 minutes per person. We have the materials that need to be presented in order to stop these towers, but we cannot do it alone especially if residents of those actual communities or parents of students at those schools are not present to speak out on their own behalf.

Anonymous said...

It is worth thinking about why Cross Keys does so well compared to its counterparts south of Memorial. And why its classes are so much better behaved than the general level classes at Lakeside, Dunwoody, Chamblee, and Tucker. These cultural differences go to the heart of the crisis that the current DCSS leadership does not want to address. They could start by putting some people in charge of Cross Keys who understand and are able to interact with the international population.

Cerebration said...

Get The Cell Out -- very clever!


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.

And here are my notes from the last meeting where the plan was debated and finally passed:

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(?). [Personally, there really is a big dead zone at Lakeside - they really need a tower.] I think Walker insisted on Roberts Rules. So Womack puts out original motion and takes off Brockett, Medlock and Meadowview. Vote. Passed 7-1. Whew!

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)

So - Donna tried to block them all. Nancy and Donna voted no to these cell towers. Everyone else said yes.

Another thing, I don't understand why both Lakeside AND Briarlake were on the list. They are within walking distance of each other and tucked in neighborhoods. Would T-Mobile (soon to be AT&T) put two towers that close together?

teacher said...

Saw a cell tower go up behind the Publix in Tucker, so not sure why one is needed at Smoke Rise, which is right up the road.

The entire cell tower on schools stinks. Anything that potentially could harm children should never be considered on school grounds.

Bhutrasgolly said...

When scientists announced that cell phones might be hazardous they put it on a list of threats that included eating dill pickles. In other words, cell phone radiation is about as dangerous as eating a pickle. I guess eating a big Big Mac and talking on a cell phone is a double whammy.

bu2 said...

@anon 10:12
The point is that the question needs to be asked. That doesn't mean the answer is to close the school. I think 285 (Dunwoody is crowded anyway) and 85 make good boundaries, which can create a neighborhood feeling which contributes to the success of the school. The boundaries of Cross Keys/Chamblee are a mess, but politically that's unlikely to change significantly.

But you shouldn't spend a bunch of money on a facility until you understand where it fits in the long range plan.

Cerebration said...

You have at least two board members who have personal connections to the old Briarcliff HS (the Druid Hills property currently closed). They may be hoping to build a comprehensive HS there and then make Cross Keys into some kind of tech high. If it's done well, it could be very exciting. I have great fear that the current leaders won't do a tech high well. But some kind of high school where real-world learning takes place that prepares students for real life in the working world or college or tech college if they prefer, is a direction we really need to offer. I think such a choice would show a decrease in the dropout rate. So many students need flexibility and different methods of engagement.

Tucker Parent said...

teacher - thanks for the info. about the Publix tower. Your observation is very good - these towers are, in fact, not "needed" for anything related to our current service. The cell providers are in a rush to get to the next "G" of service so they can stream hi-def video and full length movies to our phones and charge us more money, of course. T-mobile is on a mission to get as many towers as possible before the merge with AT&T because after the merge, they will not be allowed to build any more. AT&T is already at their max capacity legally. They only way they can get more is to acquire T-mobile. Once that happens, they will lay off thousands of people, and likely double our rates and provide us with worse customer service. They do not NEED the towers for simple cell phone conversations or texting. Most of these schools are in metro areas with coverage that is perfectly fine. Schools are just cheaper than commercial sites and once AT&T gets a tower right inside a residential area, they can start leasing out all the spaces on their towers to any other smaller company that actually does need that tower to survive. Also, the existing tower comanies that AT&T is leasing from can be put out of business because AT&T will have prime real estate and will own the tower leasing business, infrastructure and be in the best position to rollout whatever bells and whistles they think you will pay more for. They don't expect you to be mad at them for the way they snunk into these neighborhoods ... they blame it on T-mobile who no longer exists or has any employees remaining to explain what they did or why they did it. Doesn't that sound like a great match for our school system? As if we haven't been through enough. And, guess who started this whole idea - Crawford Lewis. You rememeber him right? The one extorting money away from our children and running a criminal organization inside the school system.

Kim Gokce said...

regarding the enrollment levels of lakeside vs chamblee vs cross keys ...these levels are artificially disparate by the systems' own actions ... Using enrolment numbers as a rationale is circular logic … this fact has not stopped the system and others from employing this faulty logic ... The child are bearing the consequnces of our mental and political gymnatics.

My question remains: Why shouldn't the kids at Cross Keys and Cedar Grove auditorium?

Kim Gokce said...

Regarding the future of Cross Keys, the leadership with recent redistricting and capital decisions has ensured there will be no material changes to the facilities or near- to mid-term uses and ammenities at CK. In ten years, will it still be ok that this school does not have an auditorium?

Kim Gokce said...

My impression is that the plan for CK is like that absentee landlord we all hate to have in our neighborhood who maintains or improves the property ONLY when forced to by neighors or law. They are speculating on the land value at CK and rennovated the building to the minimum extent only to be defensible and avoid legal problems. THAT is not how I expect my public school system to manage.

There is no plan for CK.

Cerebration said...

In fact, Kim, there is an oddity in the plans for an auditorium for Cross Keys. The SPLOST 3 Powerpoint focusing on how to spend the "leftover" funds lists and auditorium for Cross Keys - IF the revenue comes in at 105%. If not, no. Then when you look at the list for SPLOST 4 - there's no mention of an auditorium for Cross Keys. So apparently, if they don't get funding via this limited window of opportunity, they are bumped from the list. Isn't that odd? I mean, what happened to a list of priorities? If you need it, you need it. You don't just build it if there's extra money in one fund, but then no allocation anywhere else.

This is why I won't vote for SPLOST 4. I just don't see an "educationally driven" vision. The building plan is just willy-nilly. There is no statement of a future vision - what types of programs do we want to offer and where, for example. PLUS - the current board and leadership is not to be entrusted with a half-billion more tax dollars. A vote for SPLOST 4 would require faith in our leadership. I don't have that. We can revisit SPLOST the next year - if they prove themselves worthy - and we have a new superintendent who is showing leadership ability and integrity.

Cerebration said...

I'm not sure what happened between the Monday this board meeting was held, where Moseley reported

NCLB - AYP Open Enrollment for Public School Choice concludes Thursday. 22 sending schools -- 10 receiving schools. Requests: 18 ES, 268 MS and 403 HS students.

And Thursday of that week which ended the transfer requests - but today's AJC tells us that DeKalb leads the way by FAR in NCLB transfers -- 1,300 vs Bob Moseley's reported 689.

More than half the transferring students in metro Atlanta’s core counties are in DeKalb County, where about 1,300 have asked to change schools this year.

No Child Left Behind forces transfer decisions on school systems, parents