Sunday, August 28, 2011

Failing Schools, Forgotten Children: Stories from DeKalb Schools

A video from Parents for DeKalb Schools

In this compelling video, a South DeKalb parent shares her frustrations, hopes, and dreams. Share it far and wide with anyone and everyone who you think could benefit from this story.

By sharing this video, you help to grow our reach to more parents and more schools across DeKalb County.

Brief update: The Board of Education is meeting on Monday, August 29 at 10:00 a.m. for the final vote to hire proposed superintendent candidate, Dr. Cheryl Atkinson. A complete update will be sent following this meeting.

Parents for DeKalb Schools remains committed to ensuring the best possible education for DeKalb children. With your help, we will make it happen together!

See our updated web site:


Anonymous said...

why do people on the south side think the funding is better up here? The problem is a culture that has fallen even further from mainstream. Single family homes, poverty, too much TV, and not enough reading and you will have lower test scores. You want higher scores? Demand it from your kids as well as the teachers. Don't blame the north side, blame yourselves. As the lady says, the district is majority black, the central office is nearly 100% black, the board is mostly black. You can't go through life blaming everything on the north (white). Accept the problem as your own, and deal with it.

Anonymous said...

A very compelling speech. This lady certainly will not be accepted with open arms by the NAACP and the like. She sounds almost like a conservative Republican.

Anonymous said...

This is crazy. Wasn't there some Yale guy who got driven out of south Dekalb by being called a racist? Unless they can change things themselves by calling out their own racebaiting idiots and electing new people, I say the secession can't come soon enough. Thank God for the Republicans.

Anonymous said...

Well said!! And I think a lot of other people in South Dekalb feel as you do. Why don't you consider running for the School Board next year? In your short film, I heard more sense than I have heard from the School Board this past year. You quoted School Board member Jay Cunningham and your answer was very well stated - you care about your children and want the best education for them. Jay needs to understand that it is not about "green grass" somewhere else.

In North Dekalb, we did not like what Redovian was doing, so we voted him out. Jester is far better. I encourage you to get your neighbors and friends together, encourage others (yourself, for example) to run for the School Board, and get Cunningham, Copelin-Wood, and Walker out of there. Then, and only then, will the schools in your community improve.

Again, your video is outstanding and I hope that the entire population of Dekalb County views it. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Parents who care about the education of their children are found everywhere in DeKalb County. And truthfully, education should not just be about the children who have caring parents. That's why it's called public education. There are successful schools in other metro systems that have very high numbers of low income children and low parental involvement yet still manage to move students forward.

A coalition of DeKalb parents from all over the county will help defeat the divide and conquer mentality that has allowed the BOE and "Upper Administration" of DCSS.

Anonymous said...

Please read this. Dr. Atkinson pales in comparison.

Kim Gokce said...

Yeah, hard to read about the gentleman from Fresno in our climate. Thanks for sharing, though.

Regarding the video statements and the DeKalb Parent group ... I love to see more folks paying attention and engaging in the dialog but what's next?

The problems are well documented - what actions does the new group have cued up? Anyone know? The goals are admirable but I don't see the action plan emerging yet beyond "raising awareness" ...

Anonymous said...

Unless Ms. Cotton is well known in her own community, she won't win. Cunningham was a recent parent in the schools he represents and the parents who have stayed in those schools trust him. Kirk Nooks would have made an excellent board member but no one knew him, he was new to the area.
to win.

Anonymous said...

It is essential that SPLOST fail in the Fall. I understand that there are individual communities that believe that they will suffer because of this, but for the overall health of the system it is essential that it does. Parents in those communities who are only concerned about their schools should be ashamed of themselves. They should step back and let SPLOST fail.

Rewarding this Board of Ed with another 500 million to mismanage is criminal. Waiting a year, and allowing a new board to be elected and them passing SPLOST is a much better strategy for our children.

Anonymous said...

Just in case you're reading this blog, many in Dunwoody miss you, Jim Redovian. You did not pander to select groups or politicians and were able to build bridges with your fellow board members. Thank you for your service to ALL of DeKalb!

Parents for DeKalb Schools said...

@Kim Gokce Thanks for asking "What's next?" We're dealing with problems that are years in the making. And lately, we can't find much time to sleep. For a quick recap, in less than 3 weeks:

- We've built an AMAZING foundation of support by engaging over 750 people with an approval rating poll.
- We've developed an equally impressive email list for instant connectivity.
- We've polled our list to understand opinions and concerns several times.
- We've released an original video with more on the way.
- We've developed media relationships and provided a much needed "parents perspective" that has been absent.
- We've built relationships with parents and residents across the county.
- We've engaged people through Facebook and Twitter.
- We've begun to get people to think about solving the problems of DCSS in a whole new way.
- We've taken action, working with what we have, rather than whining and complaining.

To clarify, we avoid labels when possible. We struggle to find times when labels have actually added value.

We're not Republican. We're not Democrat. We're not independent. We're not North. We're not South. We're not black. We're not white. We're not Asian. We're not Latino.

Or to put it another way: We are ALL of those things mixed together and then some. For everyone who cares about the kids, it's time to leave your labels at the door.

Simply, we are DEKALB PARENTS who want the best possible education for our children.

Frankly, it's quite exhausting to think of all we've done in less than a month. We need everyone's support and help to move forward. What's next, for now? Everyone continues to grow the reach of our group to every parent and every school in DeKalb County.

Are you on our email list? Connect with us at

Are you really a go-getter? Volunteer with us using your passions and skills.

If you're in the loop, you'll be the first to know what's next. And it's quite exciting.

Together, with your support, WE WILL make a difference.

Luria said...

I agree with this 100%. We as parents should not have to go into another county to get a quality education for our children. We should be confident enough that our children will receive the education that they need and deserve right in our own back yards. For all of the parents that are paying for private education for there children, You should demand that education is on the front when we vote in officials that can change the way our school system is run and would hold other acountable for not giving our youth what they must have to be successful in life. A GOOD EDUCATION.

parent said...

Great video and awesome to see a parent really care. That parent, and others, need to expect and demand of their board members they elect that failure and underperformance will not and should not be tolerated. The DCSS cannot be both a jobs entitlement program and a high performing education system at the same time. Voters will have to choose which they want.

Anonymous said...

I am the parent in the video. Every child in this county deserves a quality education. It should not matter where you live or how much money in property taxes you pay. We have to demand that DCSS provide a quality education to all children but we also must demand it of ourselves. We have to get more parents engaged all over the county but specifically in South Dekalb. I spend a great deal of time with children. My home is the house where the kids "hang-out". I listen to them. I hear them talk about their struggles in school and hear their frustrations. I see young men who were in elementary and middle school with my high-school senior who have already dropped out. One young man told me he wasn't getting anything from school and didn't see the point of going. Now, I'm intelligent enough to know that this young man has other issues not related to school but that's what he told me. It made me very sad because I know this young man will more than likely be incarcerated one day. I remember when he was a funny 5th grader constantly cracking jokes and loving school.

We have a new Superintendent and I will put forth every effort to support her and hold her accountable. I will also hold myself accountable and do my part to reach and teach every child and his/her parent(s) too so that we can build a better and stronger school system for our children. Please tell your friends and neighbors about Parents for Dekalb Schools. We will see a new day in Dekalb.

Anon said...

hey anon. 7:34 -- God speed & God bless -- please keep at it... the kids need you and your peeers. I've been at it for a dozen years and I've done what I can do -- I'm the wrong color belong to the wrong church and I'm preaching to the choir. The kids need more yous. Go get them!

Cerebration said...

I completely agree that we all need to work together to make this system the best it can be. However, I disagree that it must be done without criticism. Dr. Atkinson will have her feet held to the fire by this new group of highly concerned parents. Why? Because we've never done it before - and look at what's happened. For far too long we've relied on our school board to demand integrity and success for our school system. They have not, do not and will not. The DCSS school board rubber stamps superintendent initiatives with no questions - unless those initiatives begin to tread on a school board (or even former school board) member's protected Friends & Family turf. This new parent group will hopefully bypass the board and use Facebook, Twitter and the internet to communicate the daylights out of every single move the new super makes to ensure that she remains on her promised path of improvement for the children.

This is a new day. This kind of parental pressure is the only thing that can counter the pressure from current and former school board members to maintain the status quo and protect their political turfs and family jobs programs. The internet is an amazing tool for uniting people at the grassroots. And people are awake - and bonding together seeking truth and a better future for all of our children.

Anonymous said...

I have to say when I saw this video my eyes were opened wide for me. I have seen someone who is clearly passionate about her children, her children's education and the state of the community around her. I hope your passion, outspokenness and candor is caught by more of the parents in area. This is truly what is needed.
Tell people they have to stop hand holding their kids, make them accountable for their actions, feed their brains and place a high expectation on their education. These kids have the ability to create a different life, otherwise we would live in a caste system here and we plainly don't. They must know and live personal responsibility. That is the bottom line.

Anonymous said...

I am so looking forward to meeting you Cerebration. Bernadette W. Cotton

Cerebration said...

Me too you Bernadette! (Bernadette is my Catholic confirmation name, by the way! - It's Serendipity!)

DeKalb Mom said...

Any advocacy group that is going to succeed in DeKalb is going to have to have goals that are for the betterment of the entire system, not just one district or PTA council group or incorporated city. I think the DeKalb Parent group is off to a good start with this. I am grateful for Bernadette's honesty. I'm sure her BOE representative will not be happy to see it, but too bad!

Anonymous said...


One question, what does the young man's parents say to him dropping out of school?

Did the school system look for him while he was not in school?

Is he still school aged?

What was the school system's response to a child missing from school?

DCSS has a department that is supposed to deal with truancy within the county and hold the parents accountable for their missing kids.

Please don't laugh/cry, but there are employees making close to $100,000 annually to pretend to be doing this job. We need to hold them accountable for NOT doing their job!

This is a HUGE reason for failing schools and children of the county. This is another "White Elephant" in the DCSS classroom.

Kim Gokce said...

@Parents for DeKalb County Schools - thanks for taking the cue :)

So is it fair to say that the group will be taking advocacy positions on specific Board agenda items/decisions? I guess I'm struggling to understand how a County-wide group will avoid the fundamental dynamics of our system - it is 100% a political system - local boosterism, NIMBY, Red vs Blue, Black vs White, "North vs South" ...

The first comment on a Champion Article about Cross Keys Foundation support of technology programs at CK was a North vs South comment without any basis - and yet there it was. Anything positive in this County is jealous coveted by those who have it and enviously sought after by those who do not.

I want to see an actionable item, a decision, a position floated by the new group. Perhaps it will be regarding the upcoming Mgt America recommendations and decisions? Can this new group have a position on things like Centralized vs De-centralized proposals for consolidation strategies being reviewed?

It is great to see the energy but I still have no idea where it will be directed in terms of policies and decision criteria/goals. Sorry to be so questioning but I truly want to see how you can succeed and in doing what.

Anonymous said...

I just heard on NBC news tonight that over 26% of African Americans are unemployed or forced to take part-time work. That is a terrible statistic.

Yet I look at the failing schools in South Dekalb and the parents that are transferring their kids to other schools because their schools have not met AYP for two years. Then I turn around and look at the School Board members who represent portions of South Dekalb - Cunningham, Walker, Copelin-Wood. I'll leave Elder out of this because she is new enough not to have a track record. These are the people that you elected and they have produced the quality of schools that you have.

Although my children attended Dekalb schools for all 12 years, my grandchildren, who live in the county, do not. We will do whatever is necessary for them to receive a good education that will prepare them for college and the real world. Sadly, Paul Womack is not much, if any, better than the three mentioned above.

Our schools will be what we elect them to be - and not until then. Keep sending people like those mentioned above and our unemployment rate will remain high because our schools will not change. Dekalb County is now 82% African-American - but these board members seem to think that the failure of our schools is all about race and having a superintendent that "looks like us". Change them and you will change our schools and brighten the future for our children.

No Duh said...

Those BOE members who say they want to employ people who "look like them" have to say it like that. It's less incendiary than what they really want to say -- to employ people who "act like us" -- which is really what they're looking for.

Hopefully, Dr. Atkinson has sucked up just to get the job and will ultimately use that super-majority to our best advantage.

I'm still hoping there's a pony in here somewhere!

Cerebration said...

So here's a thought.... if she does start to really try to make changes and clean up - then it very well could be that the three who voted against her may become her strongest allies... and they are probably the ones to get reelected. According to the preliminary new district map I've heard about, Walker and Jay may actually have to run against each other. Same for Donna and Sarah. And these days, just about anyone in District 4 could beat Paul.

Anonymous said...

Ooh it's getting interesting. Walker and Cunningham against each other? I don't know much about Edler except that she just seems so "lost". I do know Sarah and she is the worst thing to happen to this district. I believe if parents really understood just how bad things are and how their children are really not receiving a quality education she could be defeated. It's going to take a lot of work though because she knows how to relate to the lowest and she uses that. Ugh! Berny

Anonymous said...

Berny, I wish you luck with trying to educate the voters in South DeKalb.

Several of us supported Edler because she appeared to be sharp, smart, well-educated and financially knowledgeable -- a breath of fresh air. We supported her with donations even though none of us lived in her district.

To say Edler is a disappointment would be a gross understatement. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. So, that's the hurdle you must get over to get support from anyone outside your district.

From the first minute Edler appeared on the elevated dais, I wanted to ask, "Who are you and what did you do with the real Donna Edler?" Unfortunately, meeting after meeting, it became clear that the "real" Edler was the person sitting on the dais.

I understand that Edler is having a "Retire the Debt" party. I hope she doesn't bother to call any of us outside her district who supported her.

Anonymous said...

Look, I've become bitterly disillusioned about DeKalb County Schools. Once the BEST in Georgia, now probably the WORST-- you go do the math. Most so-called leaders and teachers are more concerned with their own paychecks and retirement pensions, than the childen they allege to be educating. As Black people, we should be ashamed. Our oppression is this country should make us more "sensitive" in preparing our own children for the future. You think we're behind now--you haven't seen nothing yet. This problem stems from a sickness we have among ourselves. DCSS should be a NO PLACE FOR HATE. Pun intended...

Anonymous said...

@Anon 11:09 - The black community on the southside should be outraged. But there's so much apathy. In the past week while volunteering at both my daughters' schools I've spoken with great teachers who are ready to leave DCSS, parents whose heads are buried so far in the sand or other dark places they actually think "white" people are running DCSS (LOL) and an administrator of a charter school who thinks that certain board members should be hung high for what they've done (I agree with him). It's downright criminal. But, you don't hear the NAACP or any of these other groups talking about this. The sad fact is there are black people who couldn't care less about the plight of the majority as long as they don't have to live near them, eat with them or associate with them. You see, they think they're better because they've served in the state legislature and have a Dr. in front of their name or sit on boards or hobnob with other "do-nothings" in the county. This is the black-on-black racism. It serves them to keep the majority beneath them as the feeling is that there is only so much room and they want as much as they can get for themselves. This is a sad truth that many black people don't want to talk about. We are now are own worst enemy. We are not enslaved with the exception of the voluntary mental slavery that comforts some of us.

Having said all of that, I made a pledge to myself that I would do my part in correcting these wrongs. It does not only affect my children but it affects all of DCSS' children. I have a question for the posters that live and/or have children who attend schools in South Dekalb. I must first say that this question assumes that you have visited your child's school and are aware of the achievement gap between the schools in south Dekalb and those in central and north Dekalb.

Do you believe that the children of south Dekalb are just as intelligent and capable as children in central and north Dekalb?

If no, please exit stage left. If yes, do you believe that these children are being underserved by those board members elected to represent them?

Before you answer, if you haven't already, please look at test scores for these schools and compare them to central and north.

If no, then what do YOU think is the problem? If yes, then WE have a great opportunity in 2012 to do something very special for these children. Are you in?


Sagamore 7 said...

Keep on fighting the fight Berny!

APS is having an instructional meeting next Saturday to discuss ways to improve the education within. The meeting is open to the public and will have numerous speakers with various alternative teaching methods.
I will be there to report back to DeKalb. Then I hope we will have an enormous turnout on the 20th for the same meeting for DeKalb County Schools at AIC. Then on the 21st, Dr. Atkinson, will be the keynote speaker at the Emory, Lavista Parents Council meeting!


teacher said...

Berny, Thank you for saying what I, a white former DCSS teacher, have been baulked at for saying when I taught on the South Side of our county. It's the reason why I left teaching and probably will never go back unless severe changes are made in the profession of education not only in DCSS, but throughout our country.

Anonymous said...

Re: Berny, Sept 4, 2011 @ 1:32 PM

I am very observant of the behaviors displayed by the leadership in our schools. They talk about student behavior, yet they have NOT corrected their own behaviors. They go around defining their inner circles, (i.e. cliques), schemeing, involved in "futile" matters that are NOT helping our children. Yet, these so-called leaders have the power to suspend a child for behavior problems...what HYPOCRACY!!! You used the word CRIMINAL, I say it's WICKED. Some people will say this is negative and not constructive to solving the problems within DCSS. I beg to differ. The APS cheating scandal proves the leader$hip will undermine the integrity of our children's education for KICKBACKS putying bread and butter on their family's table--when in fact they've taken something from others. I'm going to say it again...NOT JUST ANY PERSON WILL DO...Atkinson better check things out. Yes, the "good" teachers will leave DCSS. I'm hearing many want to go to Gwinnett or Rockdale County, but have to practically know someone to get employment. If Michelle Rhee can TIMELY identify "bad" teachers and principals, IT CAN BE DONE here in DeKalb County.

Anonymous said...

Re: Anon (parent in the video) Aug. 29, 2011 @ 7:34pm. I went back and read this entire thread, but refocused my attention on your words in the video. I made a couple of posts, and in retrospect, I can summate yours, mine, and others' position into one question: ARE WE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER? I don't want to get all philosophical about this, but it all comes down to "LOVE" or the lack thereof. Maybe this is all part of the devine plan. That is, "ALL FOR ONE, ONE FOR ALL." Maybe we have to go thru this in order for us to really understand what affects ONE affects us ALL. I don't think we've grasped this basic truth in our collective consciousness yet. I guess one day our circumstances will force us to WORK TOGETHER. I read about all of the "ethical" standards on the DCSS Web site and in this blog, but let me make one thing perfectly clear: LEADERSHIP IS AN ETHICS ISSUE... First and foremost, this change MUST start at the top. All I can do is do the best I can to help. As the saying goes, "EACH ONE, REACH ONE."