Dear DeKalb Citizens:
I think it is important for me to comment on the choice of Dr. Cheryl Atkinson as the prospective school superintendent for DeKalb County. The opinions I express are mine and I do not profess to speak for anyone else.
My first priority in finding a superintendent was to find the best candidate to raise student achievement in the school system and give the taxpayer equity for money spent. The theme for me was the students. Beyond that all else was secondary.
It is not possible for me to support this choice based on the record. This is the most important decision that has been made since I came on the board. We need to get it right based on an informed study of the facts available. It is too serious to go with only your "gut feeling".
We had several candidates with better records of student achievement but, unfortunately, as you know, their candidacy was plagued with leaks of confidential information to the press. I hope that you will note that there were no press leaks regarding this candidate.
We have read recently published reports in the media that the Lorain City Schools may move up one step on the Ohio ratings scale. These scores have not yet been released by the Ohio Department of Education so we have no confirmation. The most current data available show only 1 of 24 academic indicators being met. Let me remind you that there were candidates not chosen that bested this record. Some showed a substantially better record.
Ohio has Lorain schools on "Academic Watch". This is step 4 out of 5 on their sanctions scale. The next step is "Academic Emergency". That is the most serious sanction. Compare this with the rejected candidates.
Let me be clear. No urban school system superintendent in America will have an unblemished record. It is the nature of the business. I do not expect perfection because that record is unobtainable, but there were other candidates with better records.
Do not take my word for it. Do your own research. You will be led to the same set of facts as me. The only difference will be the spin folks attempt to apply to these facts. Also check the contract. See if you see any danger points there.
Dr. Atkinson is a fine person and delightful to converse with. However, a business decision for academic betterment of our students and not a personal referendum on personality was my goal.
I'm in agreement with Mr. McChesney's statement. He and I spent hours researching the student achievement records of the candidates that were brought before us. I believe we saw several candidates with significantly better records of student achievement. We also considered professionals who were credible change agents that could help our district attract top-flight talent to key positions and reorganize our district.
If you are interested in examining Dr. Atkinson's record of student achievement, click here to go to her district's "report card" given by the Ohio Department of Education. Over the last three years there have been increases in 9 out of 24 state academic indicators. Those increases range from a high of 9.1% to .8%. The remaining 15 indicators have losses that range from -2.9% to -16.3%. All of the academic indicators for the high school grades showed a decrease in scores over the last three years. For the most recent report card available, Dr. Atkinson's district met only one state academic measurement. Additionally, when compared to other similar districts in Ohio (based on demographic, socioeconomic and geographic factors), they score below the average for similar districts in all categories except one.
The district did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and is on "Academic Watch". (Ohio rates districts on a 5 level basis and Academic Watch is the next to lowest status. The lowest status is Academic Emergency.) When looking at the AYP determination, I noted that the African American population did not meet AYP for either of the proficiency standards (reading and math). This was also the case for students with limited English proficiency (LEP) and students with disabilities (SWD). The largest demographic for our district is African-American so this record, in a small district, concerns me.
I thought that Dr. Atkinson was very professional and charming. I enjoyed meeting her and believe her to be devoted to educating children. I cannot support Dr. Atkinson's candidacy for the Superintendency of DeKalb based on her record of student achievement in a small district. We have serious student achievement issues in DeKalb. We are last or next to last in 23 of 25 data points for the CRCT when compared to 8 metro districts (DeKalb, Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett, Clayton, City of Atlanta, City of Decatur and City of Marietta.) If our school system does not drastically improve, the implications for our county are dire. I do not see anything in Dr. Atkinson's record with her current district that convinces me she will be able to move our district in the right direction.
By state law, districts must announce a candidate 14 days in advance of voting to approve their employment. Additionally, we must make every document we have regarding the candidate available to the public at this time. In closing, I will say that if it is the will of the Board to bring Dr. Atkinson to DeKalb, no one will offer her more service than me. As a mom with three young children, I am invested in the success of our schools with my most precious resources. Thank you for allowing me the honor of serving you.
Ground rules: If you have an opinion, please state it with details and reasons. I will delete all comments that simply make irate statements.
Back from a well deserved European vacation/lecture. I see we are making progress.
Why are we hell-bent on paying folks that run one hundred thousand students and twenty thousand adults more than a governor or United States Senator.
These are the reasons that I have apprehensions with this candidate. My fear is that we will have more of the same, when we desperately need someone who is capable of doing what we're not already doing, as it's simply not working. Our children and teachers deserve more and better. From what I have read about Atkinson and reviewed the district's numbers, I don't see how she made any significant improvements. We need improvements. Our children need them and the county as a whole needs them. Glad to hear my own concerns voiced by at least two board members.
My fear, is that this hire will become racial, as most things are in DCSS-sad but true statement. The bottom line to me is that we had better candidates and that they should have been pursued or we should wait, keep things the way that they are, and look again in the fall. Right now I feel that the board is acting like a girl who is afraid of becoming an old maid and marries the first guy that asks even though they really don't have anything in common and aren't the best fit.
I thank these two board members for speaking out and wish that others would say why they like her. Being a nice person and saying the right things aren't what DCSS needs right now. We need someone who can also walk the walk and produce awesome results. Our children's futures are at stake and I fear for them.
I'm glad McChesney ans jester got out in front of this with their opinions. I hope they get published before the vote.
I feel that the BOE could have done better. Plus, it's amazing how there were no leaks with this candidate. I look forward to going over the documents and the contract placed before Atkinson.
Will this be more of the same or will the new Super come in and start cleaning house and getting our system away from the edge of the cliff. I fear we may have already been pushed over the cliff, but time will tell.
Will the new candidate face the questions of the parents, teachers and our oldest students in the system? I'd like to see that instead of the spin we're sure to hear from Tom Bowen and the other BOE member who "considers race in every decision he makes!"
Dr. Atkinson, good luck! We hope you can change the perceptions and change the way business is done at DCSS. We need a complete overhaul. Is Dr. Atkinson the change agent we so urgently need?
Why are people saying this decision wasn't leaked???
From the get schooled column Maureen wrote:
DeKalb names a new leader. Is she the right one?
10:19 am August 13, 2011, by Maureen Downey
Earlier this week, a DeKalb parent called to tell me that Cheryl L. H. Atkinson would likely be named DeKalb school chief. The parent was disappointed because Atkinson, a finalist for the APS job that went to former Georgia Chancellor Erroll Davis, led such a small system in Ohio.
someone posted a nice review of her atlanta school system application:
which sorority is the palace members in? is it this one:
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Having been around DCSS for a while (cumulative total of kids in the system of about 30 years... beginning under Dr. Holliford in 1996), I watched as Dr. Brown was sabotaged from the inside. He was not perfect (actually far from it) but my former principal said that Abby Boring was actually very good... they were never really given a chance. Dr. Lewis, from my vantage point, has completely destroyed what was a good system by running off the remaining good hires (Dr. Brown started this) and hiring and promoting based on the "friends and family" plan rather than what happens in most successful enterprises, which is the most qualified are hired and the most qualified for a position succeed - this truly does not happen in DCSS. We have a complete lack of experence (with a few exceptions) throughout the system and this is showing in poor performance. Dr. Atkinson may not have been the best candidate to be interviewed for the job. She does not appear to have any staff to bring with her. Many on the BOE appear to want it that way... if they select a Superintendent from a small system, they can maintain the current state of the friends and family plan. The only way she has a prayer of suceeding, is if Ms. Tyson is given a mandate to turn over the top positions in administration before she arrives and is sabotaged from within and we languish for another year or two while she gets her sealegs trying to figure out who needs to go.
If after doing your own research, you agree with McChesney and Jester, email all the BOE members and let them know you do not support this candidate. If McChesney and Jester have done the research, know the candidates out there, want more for our children, and are willing to take a stand for them, that speaks volumes! We have been begging for BOE members to ask questions, vote their own conscience, and not rubber stamp everything that comes in front of them. We are finally making progress!! This search and vote is their most important task with long term consequences!! DCSS needs to get this one right. I applaud Jester and McChesney for taking a bold stand. Let's get behind them for the sake of all DCSS children!
Do we know if the vote was 7-2? What about Speaks and Womack...hope they didn't "go along" for the sake of getting a warm body in the position.
Are there responses out there from all the other BOE members with their reasons for supporting or not supporting this candidate? What data did the other BOE members rely on to support this candidate?
Before Dr. Atkinson takes the position I would invite her to sit in on a couple of classes at a South Dekalb High School. Choose a class where there will be class discussion.She should come away with a clear understanding of the tasks that would lay ahead if she chose to become the new super. Just getting kids to come to school is a monumental task, educating them, well let's just say it's a very steep hill to climb.
The board had to have a candidate that most of the board approved of. Many of the candidates would have produced a 5-4 split. I suspect that the disagreement is minor compared to a 5-4 split. When they do vote I expect no more than 2 or 3 to vote against her.
The decision is already made and all the board members have to do is to make a formal vote. I do think it is interesting that there was not a big leak in this case. The ones who were opposed did not play dirty.
I sincerely hope and pray that this is not another attempt to railroad a candidate. This is a democracy and the majority should rule. Yes, the Georgia Gang records on Friday mornings and her name was mentioned in the program this morning as a candidate. A leak has occured.
I have concerns about this candidate. After reading Nancy Jester's message, I am even more concerned. The Board has rejected two better candidates. We are trying to hire someone without the experience and track record that we need. Our children deserve the best education we can provide. That starts with a highly qualified leader. This is a bad decision.
Please, parents: read Dr. Atkinson's statement on http://www.lorainschools.org/:
"Listen to the clarion call for educators. We have the salient opportunity to report the excellence in education to all stakeholders. It is incumbent upon us to educate every child at the highest level. Our actions, through leadership, must insure equity, which represents both the powerful and the powerless.[sic]
Note that her name doesn't appear on the website, and that the quote doesn't end with quote marks. The incoherence of the first sentence was previously noted on this blog. The woman can't write; but more important, she doesn't appear to be surrounding herself with quality support staff who would prevent this kind of statement from escaping.
And do ask, where did she get her PhD degree?
We have a "nice lady" leading us now, but that hasn't improved anything in DCSS. We need a Superintendent with some muscle and some academic skills who can command respect from the members of our battered county.
She received her Ed.D from Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
Here is her dissertation:
Yes, DCSS Teacher, she has very poor writing skills!
Well, the meeting happened on Thursday. They had a vote to extend a contract. The contract was being negotiated. (This is the point at which someone on the board leaked details about the contract with Lilly Cox - with a lot of criticism about her requests.) No one leaked details about the contract here. Maybe someone leaked a name? But it was after the meeting where it was agreed to offer her the job. The "leak" about Robert Duron's name happened before they even had a chance to ask him if he wanted the job (with a lot of criticism about his district's test scores). So, to me, this was not the same. Should have waited for the new PR guy to get the release out -- but it took until 11 pm Friday night.
And no, there has been no more formal information offered about Atkinson. The first three finalists each answered a list of questions for the public before they were finalized (all three dropped out eventually). So we knew quite a lot about each of them.
This time, all we have is Tom Bowen's press release. Read it here:
Another superintendent finalist is announced
And now the email in this post from McChesney and Jester.
Other than that, we did some of our own research on Google. Read about it here:
Background on Dr. Atkinson, the latest superintendent finalist
So far, all of the above is all we know.
If you would like to see her application to Atlanta Public Schools, another blogger has posted it online here:
Atkinson Application to Atlanta PS
I liked this line on her application:
Implemented one-to-one laptop initiative (all students in grades 6-12 ~ a laptop with textbooks loaded - eBooks)
A bit concerned that she was a teacher only 2 years. She doesn't say what kind of teacher.
Plus - couple of typos. I'm not usually a stickler about that on the blog - this was on an application/resume.
Cere- Take another look. I counted 8 years as teacher on the APS application. (It was at 4 different locations)
I wonder what she'll do with Beasley? I'd love to see a new person in his position.
oh - my bad. Sorry. She did teach for more like 8-10 years. Not sure what subject.
Oh, and as Grace shared above, here is the link to her dissertation,
An Analysis of the Impact of “Success for All” on Reading , Attendance, and Academic Self-Efficacy with At-Risk Elementary School Students
I see that she also worked in Rockdale County GA for a couple of years... anyone remember her?
Personally, I don't see what the problem is with a few board members disagreeing with the choice. In any election, there will be some people who voted otherwise, and a wise winner will find out those people's sticking points and try their best to win them over. Nancy and Don are pointing out that her achievement results do not give them the assurance that she is capable of moving our system's academic progress forward. That's it. So, say she is hired. What's so wrong with knowing that she will have to prove that she can reach the bar? What's wrong with knowing that a couple of board members are going to be looking very carefully at your progress? I, for one, am happy to have a couple of watchdogs on the board. Maybe she won't need them - but we have been robbed and abused in the past and our children have paid the price. I am personally relieved that there are at least two members of the board who will not simply rubber-stamp and cheer on every action of the superintendent. That is how Lewis got away with so much - with Tom Bowen at the helm, I might add. I am much more concerned about complacency on the board than watchful eyes.
I assume McChesney and Jester thinks that they are the only folk capable of doing research. I am confident that each board member did research and participated in the in-depth interview. Truth be told, Dr. Atkinson indeed showed increased student achievement each of the 4 years she was in Lorain. The district was so far in the ditch she had to start where the students were and then improve. Just as DeKalb's student achievement did not get in the ditch over night..it can't be pulled out overnight. However, it is a great feeling of confidence that improvement is coming.
It is sad that Gloria Tally took us down further in the ditch than Ginny Springer left us. Yet, not one word was said about that. It is now time to come together for the betterment of the entire school district. The Board has to act as a whole anytime the majority rules. Each board member can vote his/her conviction and state the reason. However, it should not be done in a method to sabotage the candidate. Two board members do not make a majority. I also assume they think the Cleveland Board and the Atlanta Board are also non-research based.
Comments on AJC's Get Schooled blog are getting really nasty...as though DCSS and its reeking politics are a microcosm for what's going on in Congress.
Thanks Cere and others for a bringing a voice of reason to the Get Schooled comments.
Blogs are an outlet for expression of many varying points of view. Those who have strong disagreement with views in the comments should not resort to attacking the blog or those who comment. When you do make those attacks, it's clear that you are clueless of even the concept of a blog.
But I guess the internet blogs are now the wild, wild west: Gun fights and mayhem.
Some comments on the AJC's sports and politics blogs make me wonder if we've gone back to the day when ignorant bigotry was the mainstream mindset.
All this is so widespread, it's discouraging and disheartening.
Whatever happened to civilized discourse?
Cere, I think Jester and McChesney will attempt to block every improvement she offers. It is one thing not to rubber stamp, it's another to attempt to sway public opinion and sabotage. This is what happened to Dr. Cox and it is wrong!!
I remain shocked that there are people who don't think board members have the right to express an opinion. The letters were well-written and respectful. They were even complimentary. As elected members of the board, it is their responsibility to be open and honest with their voters. That's what this is. Nothing nasty or underhanded. I would have felt the same way if the same letter had come from anyone, although I doubt that a few of the other board members could string 10 coherent sentences together. I, for one, want - no CRAVE - openness, honesty, dialogue, and civility. Leaking private information to scare a candidate off was NOT any of those. People have been seeing the DeKalb way of doing things for so long that they don't know how to react when two board members do something the right way. The right way looks wrong to some because they have been mired in wrong for so long.
I assume McChesney and Jester thinks that they are the only folk capable of doing research. I am confident that each board member did research and participated in the in-depth interview.
melaniestef, are you kidding me? I would like you to ask the other board members, no, INSIST, that they reveal what research they did and what they are basing their decisions on. It should be quite simple. Post the what data they are basing their decisions on. PERIOD. Just like one would do if buying a dishwasher. Compare costs, quality, results.
Nancy Jester is data based. Period. Anyone with half a brain can google the results of this candidate and see that in every measure, she has failed.
Please, have them post their research findings. I will have Nancy post hers. (actually, they are available here):
Even a Dekalb County School graduate, or a few Dekalb County School Board members, should be able to read it and come to the same conclusion...
(ok, I'm giving them too much credit.)
As I recall, it was the 1st candidate to drop out, who said that the school district should be for the children and not an employment agency for adults. The board didn't seem particularly interested in her. She obviously did not say the right things.
My fear about Dr. Atkinson is that she says the right things and is likable and interviews well, but "Where's the beef?" Jester and McChesney are indicating not much is there.
i see from her APS application that Dr. Atkinson is an Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority member. That's the sorority that Audria Berry and so many Instructional Coaches are members of.
It is concerning to me that Cheryl Atkinson has multiple spelling errors on the job application she completed for Atlanta Public Schools -- and that she has multiple spelling, grammar and usage errors in her dissertation.
Unacceptable in an educational leader.
Interesting article and comments from Lorain, Ohio regarding Dr. Cheryl Atkinson.
Is there a link to the contract? Is it even available for public viewing? McChesney went out of his way to mention it. I would like to see it.
The contract requirements have not been leaked. We know nothing other than this is the person who was chosen and the information that we are able to obtain about the school by looking at the report cards, the candidates dissertation, and her application for the APS superintendent search.
I wonder if she is being more demanding than Cox. I also wonder if the board will let us know what is in the contract, something that tax payers should know. My guess, is that we won't know anything.
It does look as though Atkinson's sorority (AKA) is the same as the one the one so prominent in DCSS leadership positions.
I found this in an April blog post.
The sorority and frat mafia is awful and it all started with Mrs. Calloway. She has hired every member of AKA in top notch positions at the county level to principals and assistant principals. Out of all the instructional coaches are members of this organization. 98% of principals and assistant principals are members of this organization in every elementary school on the south end of the district.98% of the male principals are members of the organization that Simpson promotes highly on the south end of the county. Yet, most of these schools are in bad shape of management due to these organizations. If you donot believe me, do an audit check in each school or go by their offices and you will see pictures hanging proudly of their fraternity or sorority in their offices. Most of the retired principals are coming back from these sororities to help out their sorority sisters just drawing big checks plus their retirements. This mafia is big on the south end of the county. For every school on this end, it is managed by someone who is a member of AKA.
I did not belong to a sorority, but I have friends that did in college and they do not post this on their vita/resume. Why is it found on resumes of African American's? I am not trying to be racist, but this is something I really want to know, as it bothered me when I taught on the South side of the county and is something that I have never seen in other areas of the country that I have worked in.
Many people do. Its just networking. Its only a problem if it gets carried to an extreme as everything seems to here in Dekalb.
This is the 14th school system Dr. Atkinson has worked for since 1982.
Keep up the good work! Don't get discouraged. The constant attacks on you and this blog on ajc just shows that you are making a difference.
I agree. Cere, I went over to the AJC blog to see what the fuss was. I was impressed with your patience, calm, and determination to not be intimidated.
“There is just no pleasing them.”
First we were upset when we did to move to hire a new superintendent with sufficient dispatch. Then we were upset with the candidates announced. Then we were upset that they withdrew. Then we were upset when leaks prevented other candidates from being appointed. Then we were upset that the school board moved to try to eliminate leaks. Now we are upset that someone has finally been hired.
It appears that the leaks came from the south that derailed the previous candidates. Now, is it only coincidence that the two objections come from the north? The whole debacle and this blog remind me of Alice in Wonderland when Alice is confronted by the serpent.
Serpent, I say again!' repeated the Pigeon, but in a more subdued tone, and added with a kind of sob, `I've tried every way, and nothing seems to suit them!'
`I haven't the least idea what you're talking about,' said Alice.
`I've tried the roots of trees, and I've tried banks, and I've tried hedges,' the Pigeon went on, without attending to her; `but those serpents! There's no pleasing them!'
Alice was more and more puzzled, but she thought there was no use in saying anything more till the Pigeon had finished.
`As if it wasn't trouble enough hatching the eggs,' said the Pigeon; `but I must be on the look-out for serpents night and day! Why, I haven't had a wink of sleep these three weeks!'
`I'm very sorry you've been annoyed,' said Alice, who was beginning to see its meaning.
`And just as I'd taken the highest tree in the wood,' continued the Pigeon, raising its voice to a shriek, `and just as I was thinking I should be free of them at last, they must needs come wriggling down from the sky! Ugh, Serpent!'
`But I'm NOT a serpent, I tell you!' said Alice. `I'm a--I'm a--'
`Well! WHAT are you?' said the Pigeon. `I can see you're trying to invent something!'
`I--I'm a little girl,' said Alice, rather doubtfully, as she remembered the number of changes she had gone through that day.
`A likely story indeed!' said the Pigeon in a tone of the deepest contempt. `I've seen a good many little girls in my time, but never ONE with such a neck as that! No, no! You're a serpent; and there's no use denying it. I suppose you'll be telling me next that you never tasted an egg!'
`I HAVE tasted eggs, certainly,' said Alice, who was a very truthful child; `but little girls eat eggs quite as much as serpents do, you know.'
`I don't believe it,' said the Pigeon; `but if they do, why then they're a kind of serpent, that's all I can say.'
Cere, keep up the good work. Someone who doesn't like this blog has decided to brand this blog and its posters as racists to negate everything we post. Cheap, cheap tactics.
They are taking to the streets...or is it the mattresses. IDK.
What bothers me most is job jumping. I know in the job climate over the last 10 years it has become accepted to job jump. I understand this when you are working for a company but not when you are dealing with a real serious thing like a child's education.
Why is she so anxious to get out of Lorain? She was considered for a job in Cleveland recently too. Her experiences, sorority status, her schools poor record of achievement and I hate to say it but her lack of stick to it ness is really showing here.
And why can three other school districts in this area find and employ Superintendents and we can't. Maybe the search firm is the problem. I know they are given their marching orders by the bored Board, but maybe the Board should be pressured to use the one Cobb, Fulton and APS used.
@betty - have you ever spent a winter in Ohio?
Also, @ Bhutrasgolly - FWIW - we had nothing but compliments for the first three candidates. Many on this blog were upset to see Dr. Culver drop out. We thought he was pretty strong. Yes, we were very upset about the leaks. We were pleased that there weren't more leaks, but displeased with the board's inaction in investigating the source of the original leaks. (We were not happy to see them just sweep that under the rug.)
Some people are going to like the new super - some aren't. Nancy and Don pointed out her flaws that are causing them to want to continue the search. They didn't say anything that was not factual. Actually, they both seemed to quite like Dr. Atkinson. We are all concerned about the low performance of her current system - aren't you? We want our children in DeKalb to move forward and improve their learning. I hope Dr. Atkinson is able to do that for nearly 100,000 students.
Don't just listen to "hearsay" about our blog posts. To read any of our past posts on the subject of the superintendent search, put those words in the search box above the favorite links - or copy and paste one of these -
I agree you were very positive about the first candidates and I was really refering to the people who posted to your blog when I used we. But there still seems to be no pleasing them. Sorry to tar you with the same brush.
I am still waiting for a reply to my earlier post. Why have the members of the BOE that support these candidates not posted or made public their rationale for their choice?
Ms. Jester and Mr. McChesney both have done so.
Don't rely on here-say. Rely on the simple facts. I think the community as a whole should demand that each board member justify their decision. It would certainly make this blog a lot less colorful, but the discussion would be more civil.
And for a change of blog pace...
One of my most well-balanced friends sent me this link:
Awesome! Thanks Cere.
2 key points from her APS Supt. application:
-13 positions over 29 years, for an average stay of only 2 1/4 years per job. Red flag! Yes, professionals change jobs today more than ever before, but a new job for an educator is troubling to say the least. Only 8 years in the classroom at 4 different schools.
-She is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.
If you know the inner workings of DCSS, you know that all too many at the Central Office, or as principals and ast. principals, have been promoted over others because of their sorority/fraternity affiliation, with AKA alumni leading the way.
Please no more administrators hired because of their fraternity/sorority/New Birth connections!
DeKalb superintendent pick quickly draws fire
What's becoming more and more troubling to me is the quite from the board. When are the meetings to meet this person? What are the details of her contract? What do the other board members like about her other than they think she is nice? This entire process with the 11pm announcement on a Friday night just doesn't pass the smell test.
I'm with you. Where are the other BOE members? What facts can they give us to persuade us she's the right person for the job?
This is in today's Morning Journal from OH. We learn more from them than our own BOE! "With her departure officially coming on Sept. 15, Atkinson released a statement."
Guess she'll be here soon...unless we can convince the BOE she's unacceptable. The reason: they had better choices so they are selling our kids short with this pick.
Atkinson is a Broad Fellow. Check out this link: http://obsyourschools.blogspot.com/2011/05/broad-barrage.html
Dunwoody Mom posted a reminder of the SACS requirement on the AJC blog. It is obvious to me (but apparently not our board) that Atkinson, in no way, meets the requirements SACS sets forth:
“7. Select a new superintendent that exemplifies and has demonstrated the characteristics necessary to lead a unique school system such as DeKalb County.” …The selection of a highly qualified, innovative superintendent with demonstrated success in a large ethnically and culturally diverse system will be the catalyst for DeKalb County School System towards meeting and exceeding their mission of school and home collaboration and maximizing students’ social and academic potential.
I am grateful to the dissenting Board Members for sharing their concerns publicly. The selection of Atkinson is fraught with danger signals. We have this business of a Friday near-midnight announcement, sorority connections, less than stellar use of the English language, and did I forget to mention, APPALLING school rankings in her current district, even if the latest rankings (yet to be announced) show a modest improvement. These are all BIG, BIG warning flags that we're in for more of the same shucking and jiving by the DCSS.
As noted in another post, I'm curious about what effective steps can be taken in the next week and a half to keep Atkinson from getting hired.
Writing to our BOE representatives?
Threaten to vote out the BOE members that approved her selection? Won't that work only if South Dekalb citizens send e-mails of protest? How likely is that?
Continuing to fuel the media machine? Worthwhile, but so far not very effective in producing any change. There's no evidence that the DCSS Central Office staff have any shame or interest in the opinion of those who pay their salaries.
Beyond that, we can refuse to vote for SPLOST IV. I can't imagine anyone would vote FOR it, but I have been wrong before, and 'fools and their money are soon parted'.
I hate to say it - voting with your feet is probably the only truly viable option.
I'm not saying we should do nothing. I'm just wondering what to do that has a real chance of making a difference.
The Deal 11:19
Atkinson was on the SACS review board for Cobb County over 5 years ago. It was on her resume as an award and honor. She knows SACS and they know her.
Do you think SACS sent her to DCSS?
Who knows and who will tell?
I think we are done with this sorority sister! She has been approved by her fellow sisters for a huge pay raise!
I also heard she once worked in Rockdale County. And.... was a member of THE church when she was here.
Dr. Atkinson's Candidate file is posted on the DCSS website: www.dekalb.k12.ga.us. Check out her letter to the Board. It is dated March 1, 2011!! That means her name was in the pot from the beginning!! Apparently she wasn't good enough for the majority then because they presented 3 different candidates for our consideration. Why is she good enough for the majority of the BOE now?
McChesney and Jester are on record with their concerns. No other Board member has given us facts to support their nomination of her. Makes you wonder if they really have the students' best interests in mind.
Tom Bowen was quoted in the paper: "This was a long process, but in the end we are confident that we have the best candidate to move our district forward." Guess they overlooked her in the first round??
Walker told me how I'd love her, and I replied back what was so great about her. I haven't heard from him.
Not knowing when/if any meet the candidate meetings are planned or the terms/length of her contract are all very puzzling to me.
These are reasons why I don't trust the board or their decisions.
In Lorain, we acquired Ms. Atkinson because her sorority sister was a board member. We had many qualified applicants that didn't even make the interview phase. From speaking with board members, that board member was going to get her sorority sister in come Hell or high water.
Hindsight, that board member is dirt in our community. She was so hated she chose not to run again. This mentality of propping up college friends has to stop. Most of us have college friends and then we have the one who's names we would be proud to endorse. Did she purposely pick the biggest screw up she could find? One glance at her resume would have any educated group ask who would hire her? She hops jobs like it's a good thing. To see her stand proudly in front of your board with her resume and record in our district it's almost insane that she could have any confidence. Delusions of grandeur maybe. I think she's trying to get out before the shite hits the proverbial fan.
In the AJC blog Maureen has a quote, apparently from a board member, indicating the Lorain district has a deficit of $11.35 million next year and it is projected to double.
So much for her financial stewardship.
1) Many of the comments on the AJC blog are completely false and placed there by one or more people from Ohio with an agenda. Maureen has started removing them. So ignore that crud.
2) I am pretty annoyed with folks like McChesney and Jester and Gil Hearn who make public statements that there are "other candidates" who are better than Atkinson. Please name a current AVAILABLE candidate who is better qualified AND willing to leave their position and start a new job in DeKalb after the school year has started.
@ Anonymous 8:35 pm
Sam King of Rockdale
@ Anon 8:35
Naming other candidates would be on the same level as the leaks for the first round of candidates. I believe that what Jester and McChesney did was above board and ethical. The announcement was made and now we've had silence, and with clock ticking away time for us to know what is really going on.
Those on the board that like her can only say that she is nice and that we'll like her. This position isn't about being nice or us liking her as a person. This position is about turning our district around, cleaning house, and holding everyone accountable for student achievement.
@ Downey Dr Atkinson cleaned out the central office to make it more efficiently. Dekalb needs this.
1. She established District energy program saving millions of dollars and using that money to put back in the classroom for students.
2. Demanded all operating contracts renegotiated to save the district millions.
3. Provided the states first free breakfast program for urban students in the state of Ohio. Was in USA today google it.
4. Established a sports program at all middle school and elementary levels. This did not exist before she arrived.
5. Implemented Success for all Reading comprehension and reform model grades k-8
6. Implemented After School Programs everyday of the week for all parents at no cost. She is a genius in going after and securing grant funds.
7. Made High schools ACT testing sites. Lorain use to have 2 before she consolidated them.
8. Restored fine arts to all elementary schools. This was eliminated when she arrived due to the mass layoffs in the district. She was left with a mess.
9. Established Alternative schools for credit recovery.
10. Increased foreign language courses for all highschool students. (Mandrin)
11. Provided funds for all 9th graders to take the ACT in 9th grade at no cost to them.
12. To save millions of dollars in text book replacement money she eliminated paper text books for digital text books. This program continues to gain national recognition.
13. Successfully negotiated 7 union contracts. This is very important and shows her working relationship with teachers and staff.
14. Brought RTT to the district.
15. Eliminated Central office structure and got rid of jobs that were not needed,
These are just a few things she had to do to help this district. Yes, some may say well we have this in our district. Well we didn't. She really addressed our needs. Once she was able to get Lorain schools to buy-in to her program we saw instant results. This year test scores leaped. Over the first few years she had to put all this back in place in order to get us where we are today. These are the things that cant be measured by looking at test schools.
That is what we mean when we say she is really no nonsense and will fix Dekalb.
Parents support her because she puts students and parents first. August 24th the scores will come out. We already have them and the community knows about this and thats why you see the paper (Morning Journal endorsing her)
I decided to do this because Im sick of all the lies about her. Lorain is a very political town even though its small. As you have seen they be really crazy. Even with them being crazy the board extended her another contract ( she couldn't of been that bad) they don't want her to leave. Please give her a chance to speak to you than make judgment on her.
i would love to engage in intelligent conversation about this i will not respond to craziness and hateful responses.
So we should ignore the "crud" that one of her supporters on the board of education said in Maureen's article?
Yes, it was one of her supporters on the board of education in Lorain who was lauding her financial skills. Later he mentioned how hard it was for her with the district in financial straits and they would be running the $11 million deficit which would double.
This is from Maureen's writeup-not from posters.
So she was in the financial disaster in KC and now in Lorain. Its not very encouraging.
Congratulations. You are absolutely the first person that I've seen on either board to say anything concrete positive about her other than "she's nice."
What a tangled web we weave.
Just maybe if Georgia is getting waivers from NCLB, Dekalb won't need 3000 non-teaching educrats making life miserable for everyone else.
The men and women who are now leading or seek to lead the largest school districts--men and women of great character and pith-- were in rapt agreement with Rod Paige, G. W. Bush, and Edward Kennedy in passing NCLB and laying the AYP foundations in 2011.
They were silent. Why? Because playing with AYP was the biggest boondoggle for these administrators and cronies who built career and made small fortunes on the misery and misfortune of inner city families.Salaries went sky high and administrators multiplied. Large public schools system school boards became as byzantine as a conclave of cardinals in the 1700's.
These charlatans continues to tell us that their "skill sets" and personas are worth $27500 per year!
If they were not superintendents, they would be preachers in a mega church.
she was lied to. She went in thinking a financial system was one way and it wasn't. To her credit she stayed. lorain has a 90 percent poverty rate its a really depleted town and to do what she did for that place was amazing. I think thats what the board has seen her.
Fact checker is the PR person for the board of Ed. We all call him Fact Chucker. You can pretty much guarantee everything he says is pure fantasy. He does this on every blog in Lorain. Most people flag him. He spends his day just like this. Posting this garbage on newspapers and blogs. I think he's hoping she'll take him with her.
11Alive has a clip today on Atkinson and the lack of response to parent questions from BOE members about why they picked Atkinson:
If anyone has gotten an answer to that question, post it here.
The parent interviewed talks about the contract. Has anyone been able to find it? If we "give her a chance" like you suggest, how hard or expensive is it going to be to remove her when she doesn't raise achievement and cut the bloat? What is our Board promising her? Is that a risk we want to take with a person with no proven track record of turning a large system around? We need to see the contract! We need someone with a proven track record...pick your color if that is important to you but give the students someone that's been successful. The time for taking chances is over for the students.
Factchecker: we are on to you. I guess you will like the weather here in GA better than Ohio, too! Are you AKA also?
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I appreciate the watch dog mission that this blog and the participants on this blog have taken on. I especially appreciate the research and data made available for many of us who are unwilling or unable to do so. The blog has kept us informed and made us more aware of what is happening in our school system – good and bad.
I’m sure what I about to say has been said or thought about at various points. But given the current discussion regarding hiring a new DCSS Superintendent, these are things that I have been pondering. My thoughts are not necessarily specific to the current finalist, but apply to any person that would be considered for this position.
We have been without a permanent superintendent for TOO long. In the recent past, there was a call for the BOE to step up their efforts to find a superintendent. We gave our opinions/demands for what should be considered in hiring a superintendent. We even had requirements (or were they guidelines?) from SACS as to what should be considered in hiring a superintendent. I believe that those guidelines included the board going beyond a simple majority in supporting a potential finalist. I’m sure that there was no single candidate that everyone on the board supported (or at least one who wanted to be considered for the position).
We believe that a superintendent should be hired from a large district and who has shown success. Since there are few school systems comparable to the size of DCSS, the pool of candidates is already small. From that pool, you are also looking for the second criteria of success which further reduces the pool. From that you have to find persons who are willing to leave their current positions and from that, you have to find someone willing to accept the salary that is being offered (which granted is not peanuts, but may not be sufficient to entice a person of the caliber we are seeking). And keep in mind, just because a person interviews for a position doesn’t mean they will accept the position if offered.
So we have already concluded that we have to look outside our ideal pool of candidates. From that, who can we REASONABLY expect to accept the position as superintendent of DCSS? Do we need to resign ourselves to the fact that at this point in time, it is a matter of who is included in the best of what we can get?
Given the issues that currently plague DCSS (academic, legal, financial, etc.), is the salary being offered enough for someone to leave a familiar, more ideal situation that probably already has a comparable salary? Unless it is a person who thrives on challenges and prides themselves on going into systems and turning them around, not many.
We want someone free from controversy. Many have pointed out that persons in key positions tend to have controversy attached to them by nature of their position; not necessarily the individual. But given what we want a new superintendent to do, we should also expect controversy to come with it. But think about the fact that every candidate that has been announced – officially and unofficially – has had controversy attached to them; not necessarily from their current school systems, but because of OUR (BOE, parents, media, etc.) actions. Names that were never even officially announced as a candidate, much less a finalist, have been pulled into the mire. But we want ideal candidates to come here?
We want someone who is free from affiliations that have fed into what we call our “friends and family” plan. The current finalist is an AKA. So she is automatically being labeled as part of the friends and family. But is that fair? It is like saying that a person is coercive and elitist because they live in Dunwoody. Or a person is an uninvolved, uncaring parent because they live in South Dekalb. It’s an affiliation listed on a resume just like membership in the DAR or the NEA or the Chamber of Commerce. Stereotyping will make us cynical of every program that ANY new superintendent tries to implement.
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We want someone who will implement programs that will turn DCSS around academically and improve schools across the county. Considering where we are now, once a new superintendent (ANY NEW SUPERINTENDENT) implements their programs, what do we consider to be a REALISTIC timeframe to start seeing the expected turn-around? Do we expect immediate results? Do we think it should take one year? Two years? Do we believe that everyone will be on board and cooperative from day one, if ever? What are the things that we will consider in determining whether a new superintendent is succeeding? Will it just be based on whether schools make AYP (or whatever the new measurement will be)? Will it be based on improvements in test scores, no matter how slight? Will we consider it a success if significant resources are shifted from the central office and into the classroom? If we see more “qualified” people put in positions, would consider that success? If we see opportunities offered throughout the county and get away from the perception that one side of the county has more than the other side, will that be considered in the success equation? What about implementing and enforcing some discipline policies so that teachers can focus more on educating rather than classroom management; will that be considered success? How many of the things that we would want our new superintendent to do can be readily translated into data?
I don’t know what the final vote will be at the end of the 14 days. But WHENEVER a new superintendent is hired, if it is someone who is not our choice, will we be supportive and cooperative or will we “take our ball and go home?” Will we ensure that the new superintendent is not successful by sabotaging any and every thing that they try to do? Will we try to provide our input and be persuasive without coercing and intimidating? We want our new superintendent to work with the parents, teachers/administrators, community, as well as the board. But will that person come into an environment that invites them to do so?
Is anyone else worried about the silence from the board since the announcement? I would have thought that there would have been a meet the candidate night or something like that, so that board members could answer the public's questions. Time is ticking away and it feels like this is a done deal with no say or expression of feelings from the parents/taxpayers.
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 from 75.9% to 83% in the same years, respectively.
State accountability for value added model (year’s worth of growth) was recovered in the district from only one school making a year’s growth after one-third of the district had been reduced in the 2006-07 school year to the following year of having all schools meet a year’s worth of growth and all but three schools were above a year’s worth of growth. The district has consecutively for the last two years met a year’s worth of growth.
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. In 2008 only one foreign language course was offered (Spanish). Since that time, reinstated French and added Mandarin Chinese, Latin and German via grant funding.
Through a partnership with the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Han Ban, Lorain staff and students have taken educational tours of China, visiting primary, secondary and higher institutions of learning.
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.
I just tell the truth. I don't get caught in lies. See people should understand that when you see so much hate from a person that should throw up red flags not me. By the way I'm not the PR person from Lorain. But it really doesn't matter what anyone things. The TRUTH is the TRUTH. Look up lorain's poverty. The people who live in Lorain are crazy Maureen Downey even said they are crazy. That just goes to show you what she dealt with. People with hate in their heart always will give more effort to things like these.
You are not seeing hate, you are seeing indignant. Our board, our previous Supt's have used this county as an employment office and cash machine for too long. All along our administration gets more bloated. We pay BAZILLIONs to lawyers and all in the name of educating the children. HAH!
Her lack of experience with this level of issues it apparent. There is no confidence in the decisions of the board, she is more of the same. And we are just not going to take it anymore.
The next step is a Board recall.
If she tries to bring on a young man named PJ Carter demand this doesn't happen or you'll be ready to beat this little twit to a pulp like we are.
I will accept the new superintendent because I believe that the school board is a duly elected body that is representative of all the county. I often disagree with my elected representatives and, in this case, I disagree with McChesney who is my district's board memeber. However, the way democracy and representative government works is that we voters elect and the office holder (in this case the board)follows their conscience. If we really don't like it we can express our opinions and/or try to elect better representatives next time.
The great thing about blogs is that they represent another wonderful aspect of our country, freedom of speech. The internet has chnaged the way we get information but blogs have some draw backs. There is no code of ethics for blogging, there is no editor who can question sources, there is no real fact checking, and in this case there is too little civility. The best available candidate for DeKalb is not going to be a successful superintendet from a big and successful system. Those people are few and far between and of them only a saint would want to come here. Despite the lamentable truth that our best chance was probably three candidates ago, we can't keep trying to run off the next choice. The choices after that will only be worse. Our opportunity is to take what we have to work with including a new superintendent and make whatever progress we can as a community. Change comes for those who are willing to work for the long haul. The best superintendent in the world will not solve our problems-only we can solve our problems. Students who can't read on grade level will take several years of work. If you don't like the board change it. Or have we met the enemy and it is us?
Is your home school Fernbank by any chance? I only ask because it is very easy to accept this appointment if you are confident in your child's school and so forth.
Most of this system's schools are in dire shape and we need someone who will drastically change things. Her limited experience and her seeming inability to complete one job before leaving for another does not bode well for the children at the weakest schools.
There were at least two better candidates by my count -- Culver had a stronger resume and more experience and Duron would have been a change agent.
McChesney will lose in the next round, in spite of his protesting this candidate, a move that the vast majority of his constituents support. He will lose because his constituents are educated and involved and will hold him accountable. Unfortunately, Cunningham, Copelin Woods, etc will probably all be reelected.
Well said, Bhutrasgolly! I kiddingly told a friend that DeKalb could dig up Jim Cherry or beg Dr. Freeman to come out of retirement yet both would have challenges given the current state of the system. I don't believe the 'perfect' superintendent exists or at least one that would want to come to DeKalb. One thing is certain, she will fail if she does not have the support of the Board and community.
"There is no code of ethics for blogging, there is no editor who can question sources, there is no real fact checking, and in this case there is too little civility. "
Sounds like the US Congress!
Yes, our new super (whomever that is) will need full support, however, we are still in the pre-hiring stage. (A lot like the primaries in elections). This is the time to dig up everything we can - do our due diligence and make our opinions known - either way.
"Despite the lamentable truth that our best chance was probably three candidates ago, we can't keep trying to run off the next choice. The choices after that will only be worse. "
Yessir. That's really sad, isn't it? Basically, the board has not been able to agree on anyone to date, so we just better go with who we have now, cause she's good enough and it's the 11th hour. That's bad management on the board's part - no reflection on the candidates.
"If she tries to bring on a young man named PJ Carter demand this doesn't happen"
He is identified as the Public Information Officer for the Lorain school system. I guess that's the PR person for the school system. He graduated from college in 2009.
Apparently he's friends with a BOE member - LOL - shades of DCSS.
Change cannot come if the board does not support change. Seems like lots of red flags to me, particularly her association with SACS. I'd like to know their role in recommending her and supporting her in private discussions with the BOE, particularly in light of her prior associations with SACS.
I suspect SACS is in collusion with the BOE. Honestly, they didn't put the system on notice after the indictments, they took no notice of search leaks, and it is doubtful that they have keyed in that the system is in acute failure in terms of educational outcomes.
It is my opinion that this rush to hire her is BECAUSE of the SACS requirement to hire a Super. The BOE has incompetently failed to do so. It is a mandate by SACS. They only way SACS can avoid publicly putting DeKalb on notice (hence allowing state officials to step in) is through this hire. Don't people see through this?
This is a desperate ploy by ALL parties involved to continue things as usual. I am sickened that this train is going off the track and that NO ONE with the appropriate resources has any interest in preventing it.
The comments both pro and con are interesting, You can jabber away and discuss all that you want. But in the absence of a discovery of a crime at least as serious as attempted murder, this is a done deal. Dr Walker has accepted her and he controls the South DeKalb majority and probably also Bowen
I don't think anyone is satisfied with all 3-elementary, middle and high schools in their area.
Anon 4:59 - I agree with you about the process coming off the track during the discussions with the original three. Not sure what you mean by appropriate resources.
They're following the law. The BOE announced their candidate, we wait for 14 days, apparently for public input. It's similar to the 3 minutes the public get at the meetings, our representatives don't have to answer to us. They only have to sit there and listen.
I'm proud of Jester and McChesney expressing their doubts in a very cordial and professional letter to their constituents. I think every BOE member owes it to their constituents, to explain their rationale for their decision. This is the most important decision the BOE will make until they all have to run for re-election in 7 districts instead of 9. I don't think it's too much to ask for, from a school system that is much less transparent and open than most school systems in the country.
"That's bad management on the board's part ..."
I disagree - I'd call it a strategy that will work for them. The sabotage and delay tactics are well executed and about to bring home victory.
Our public education politics are like modern, asymetric warfare - the advantage goes to those with lots of time and no scruples.
Kim, I find it amazing that this bunch on the BOE could pull off a strategy so perfectly. Amazing!
... Then you underestimate them. Skill in politics and manipulation does not require reason or education - it is an innate capacity in humans regardless of race, culture, intellect, religion, or national origin.
The requirements are only:
1) A rhino hide tough skin,
2) An ability to contradict oneself routinely,
3) An ability to target your message for a specific audience (not necessarily the people you are talking to),
4) Long memory for those that have slighted you,
5) Short term memory for those that cater to you,
6) An ability to juxtapose constituencies and create distraction through drama (folks love to fight)
7) The recognition that facts are but small obstacles and should never deter progress towards goals,
8) The ability to believe your own lies,
9) The ability to say little in the maximum number of words.
Nine good reasons I have never run for public office ...
From looking at the record from Ohio, at least it's pretty obvious
they weren't cheating the test scores.
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