This video, which we think was filmed when she was interviewing for Superintendent of the Cleveland System, certainly gives us insight into the sincere nature of Dr. Atkinson. Her heart is obviously in the right place and she says the things we love to hear - that she values teachers and that we need change. But does she (or even, could she) really grasp the nature and size of the change required in DeKalb? Is she strong enough to dilute the power of the Friends & Family in the system? The very same people who have wasted our tax dollars and allowed our children's test scores to fall into the abyss are now the ones claiming to execute "triage" on their own results. Does she find that logical? Does she really believe that it's a good idea to place the responsibility of reform in the same hands as those who created the need for reform? Does she have the experience, wisdom and the inner compass to see clearly through the fog to the truth? Can she hear through the cacophony of strong voices advocating for their own power bases? Can she recognize the path that will show the way to a successful future for children?
Below is a chart from the Ohio Department of Education revealing the results of student testing in her 8,000 student district in Lorain, Ohio over the past few years. It's a mixed bag of progress, some areas advanced, some didn't.
Click to view larger
Then, there is a list of accomplishments posted all around the internet promoting her successes. You may have already seen this list:
- Raised graduation rate from 75.9% in the 2006-07 school year to 84.7% in the 2009-10 school year in spite of poverty level rate increasing.
- State accountability for value added model (year’s worth of growth) increased from only one school making a year’s growth to all schools meeting a year’s worth of growth or more.
- Implemented full immersion Mandarin Chinese (only one in the state of Ohio in public school setting) and full immersion Spanish pre-school program.
- Increased the number of foreign language course offerings at the high school.
- Lorain staff and students have taken educational tours of China, visiting primary, secondary and higher institutions of learning through a partnership with the Office of Chinese Language Council International.
- Implemented Success for All, comprehensive reading reform model for grades K-8: after two years of implementation, data illustrate an increase of student reading levels. Baseline data for the 2008-2009 school year indicated that 43.63% of K-8 students were reading at or above grade level. June 2010 data show 59.45% are currently reading at or above grade level, an increase of 15.93%!
- Implemented one-on-one laptop initiative (all students grade 6-12 receive a laptop with textbooks loaded for their use during the school year).
- Garnered a partnership through effective use of grant dollars, with NASA to implement a NASA Aerospace Lab for $189,000; and implemented the SEMMA program, a K-8 STEM curriculum partnership with NASA.
- Successfully consolidated two high schools into one comprehensive high school.
- Implemented Magnet Schools Program within the district to include the following themes at the elementary level: Science, Art, Literature, Math through Music, Gifted & Accelerated Academy; for middle schools: Accelerated Academy; Interactive Simulation (Animation), and Art; at the high school level: high school academies in STEM, the Arts, and Business and Entrepreneurships.
- Continued to expand the preschool program which increased enrollment and collaboration with Head Start by 26%; instituted a pre-school center in partnership with Head Start; promoted preschool participation which resulted in a 28% increase in the number of students demonstrating readiness for kindergarten.
- Secured funding to provide ACT for all juniors at the high school level to take during the school day (one of only two districts in the state of Ohio); imbedded ACT Prep Courses as a part of extra curricular offerings; and created a process to imbed ACT academic skills as a part of our required curriculum.
- Established and implemented inclusion as the district intervention model.
- Established a district-wide student uniform policy.
- Established two alternative schools addressing student behavioral and academic needs.
- Secured more than $18.6 through grants from state, federal and foundation programs to enhance the academic program.
- Garnered full tuition scholarships for high school graduates totaling more than $7 million.
- Instituted energy savings program which resulted in a savings of $2.9 million.
She is listed as a Broad Superintendents Academy 2006 graduate here. However, she is not listed on the official website of 2006 Broad Superintendents Academy. An aside: We found out that Ray & Associates have done training sessions for Broad. They are connected.
We're also glad to see that she has kept up her teacher certification (See Florida certification webpage). This is more than Johnny Brown, Crawford Lewis, Morcease Beasley or Gloria Talley did.
Atkinson, Cheryl Lynn 534187 Bradford Elementary Education, (grades 1 - 6) Professional 7/1/2010 - 6/30/2015
We have done some quick system comparisons:
FY 2011 Budget of Lorain City Schools: $94,664,548 (DeKalb's is over $700 million)
Total Student Enrollment: 7,626 (DeKalb has over 98,000)
Student Demographics - Lorain
30.87% Hispanic, 28.01% African American, 27.96% White, 12.75% Multi Racial, 0.43% Other
85.6% Economically Disadvantaged, 17.8% Students with Disabilities, 3.2% Limited English Proficiency
Student Demographics - DeKalb
Black 71.3%, Hispanic 11.75%, White 10.7%, Asian 4.4%, Multiracial 1.6%, Native American, 0.25%
Items Of Concern:
Lorain City Schools -- on Academic Watch
AYP Status: NOT MET
Performance Index: (0-120 point) 78.1 points
Number of State Indicators Met out of 26: 1
The only passing category out of 26 is 11th grade writing.
Big Red Flag:
Atkinson answered “No” to Question #5 on her DCSS application: “Have you ever been involved, or are you currently involved, or do you anticipate involvement in litigation either as the plaintiff/complainant or defendant/respondent?” Yet, there was the case of Aliceson Humphries who filed suit against both the Lorain Board of Education and Cheryl Atkinson. She should have answered "Yes" and provided an explanation on a separate page, as required, about this federal lawsuit. It was recently settled, but lawyers were involved. Aliceson Humphries’ lawyer was Avery Friedman. The lawyer for Atkinson and the Lorain School System was most likely Atkinson’s landlord. Beyond answering "no" on the DeKalb application, it also appears that Dr. Atkinson didn't share the fact that the Lorain school system was named in the discrimination lawsuit with their board.
Additionally, below is one of three pleadings found online at PACER.gov where Cheryl Atkinson is the defendant. Obviously, Cheryl Atkinson has been a party to a bankruptcy with an adversary, which is a lawsuit, technically.
|Click to enlarge|
Further, there seems to be a possibility of another lawsuit looming on the horizon regarding an alleged change Atkinson made which enabled a lesser qualified student to claim the honor of being valedictorian for Lorain’s high school. The honor of being valedictorian also usually includes some significant financial awards such as full-ride scholarship offers. The full story has not yet come out in the media and it is unclear if legal action is being pursued. Click here for an article about the valedictorians in question. More research must be done to get to the bottom of this issue.
Ray and Associates, Inc. clearly states in their application package that several current letters of recommendation are required. Only one letter is provided by Atkinson and that letter is not on official letterhead. In fact, her recommendation is from the editor of the local newspaper.
She has several errors, or typos on her application to Atlanta Public Schools (click here to review). For example, she gets the title wrong for Broad Superintendents Academy. It is not Broad Urban Superintendency Academy. She actually made the error twice on the Honors and Awards page of her vita because she listed Broad twice in the very short list of honors and awards she has received. She even misspelled superintendent.
Reviewing the list of honors and awards, the first thing noted is that approximately half of what she listed is undated. She lists, undated, the "Vivian Burk Leadership Award", (sic*) but carefully neglects to note that it is from her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. *She spelled Burke’s name incorrectly. It is “Burke” with an “e.” There are other errors in her applications that seem small, but make a statement about carelessness and inattention to detail.
So, pros and cons side by side, is Cheryl Atkinson the best choice to lead our school system into the future? We are impressed with her image and her sincere demeanor. We like the one-to-one laptops, digital books and small, steady increases she made in some areas of achievement in Lorain. However, Lorain has only one high school and fewer than 8,000 students. We are concerned that she has no experience leading an enormous, unwieldy, troubled system like DeKalb. We're concerned that she has some legal issues that we feel need further investigating. And we're concerned that she will not be able to penetrate the very powerful adult-led friends and family system and make systemic changes necessary to become an educational leader.
According to the AJC, In a journeyman-like career, she has worked in 12 school districts in six states since 1982, including Georgia's Rockdale County. Records show she and her husband filed for personal bankruptcy in Norfolk, Va., in 1997. The filing was terminated in 2000.
Atkinson holds a bachelors of arts and a masters of arts in elementary education from the University of North Carolina, and a doctor of education in education administration from Virginia Tech.
In a prepared statement, Atkinson said, "My passion is to give all children, regardless of background and circumstances, a quality public school education."
The DeKalb board will publicly vote to install Atkinson as its new superintendent following the 14-day waiting period in late August, though the exact date hasn't been set.
Read the contract here.
Read her Atlanta Application here.
Read her contract here.
Read her dissertation here.
Read an annotated DCSS application here.
The 11 Alive News Team broke the story about the court cases. View one of their reports here.
News reports from Ohio (history on Atkinson)