Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dr Atkinson -- hard at work!

Dr. Atkinson, true to her word, is making the rounds. She is working very hard to make a connection with the communities she serves and is looking to them to inform her vision moving forward. She has already held a State of the System Address at the Emory Lavista Parent Council meeting at Henderson Middle School, a strategic planning meeting at the main office that involved community input and has visited several schools. We were also informed by David Schutten's iPhone text message to his ODE listserve that she has extended offers to several new key administrators:

1. Kathleen S. Howell as Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.

2. Kendra D. March as Deputy Superintendent for School Leadership and Operational Support.

3. Gary Brantley as Chief Information Officer.

4. Walter Woods as Executive Director of Communications.

Below are some video snippets of her comments to the ELPC crowd. (Brought to us by Jonathan Cribbs of the Patch.)

As mentioned, Atkinson also held a strategic planning meeting, which had a "community engagement" portion on Tuesday evening. Read the report on this meeting in the AJC:

New DeKalb superintendent draws big crowd

Below are some additional email reports from attendees. I'll add more as readers send them in ( ), or those who attended, please leave a comment in this post.

It was a pretty typical exercise with 30 minutes of "orientation" speeches and then break out into a room with a facilitator to answer 5 questions and then everyone vote on the answers that matter most to them.

It's important to note that none of the facilitators were DCSS staff so people were told to be free to be honest. [One of our reporters] was part of a group of 20, including some well spoken students from Arabia Mountain. There were a pretty high percentage of teachers who were also parents, and also in the main auditorium [we would have liked to have had more non-teacher parents in attendance]. The concerns raised were pretty much the same as what was described in the article, and also pretty much the same as the discussion from the Charrettees of last fall's redistricting exercise.


No Duh said...

Morning Cere. Just to be clear, the video on this post is from yesterday's ELPC meeting. Dr. Atkinson did not meet with any parents at HMS last week.

Cerebration said...

oh! I'll fix that. I guess it was an ELPC meeting AT HMS. I wasn't clear on that... (been out of town).

VIDEO: New Superintendent on District's Future
DeKalb County's new superintendent of schools, Cheryl Atkinson, spoke to a group of parents at Henderson Middle School this morning, one of her first public addresses since starting the job last week.

Anonymous said...

Back the gravy train up! Four new hires at salaries we are sure are in the neighborhood of $100K. Had the incumbents been dismissed? Where did these new people come from? Will we be facing additional law suits from people terminated to make room for her cabinet?

Change is good. Planned, thoughtful change is better!

Paula Caldarella said...

I believe Dr. Atkinson is the scheduled speaker for the November Dunwoody Chamblee Parent Council meeting. I'm looking forward to it!

Anonymous said...

TO ANON 9:06:
that is my question as well. The titles seem redundant. Are these additions or will some of our favorite losers be replaced?

Cerebration said...

Unfortunately, this entire department was axed by the board and Tyson in the big round of budget cuts. Julie Rhame was the former head of communications and did an excellent job! She and her department used to publish the only positive PR coming out of DeKalb Schools - the "Kaleidoscope" newsletter. It was chock full of good news about students and their teachers. Haven't seen one of those since Rhame's departure (along with something like 5 or 6 others.)

Atlanta Media Guy said...

I hope the new hires are replacements for the folks that perpetrated the mess we're in now. I hope we hear of some pink slips being given out at the Palace soon!

Dr. Atkinson let's see some Open and transparent actions! Ms. Tyson promised us that, but the BOE did not allow her any leeway to deviate from the friends and family plan that Clew instituted.

Is anyone else tired of these "Charettes". It's barely been a year since the last batch of discussions that involved many more stakeholders than the other night. Not much has changed since then. I hope Dr. Atkinson takes some time to read the reports from last year's Charettes.

DCSS has had many of these Engagement Seminars and the staff churns out a report that sounds like every other report from any Blue Ribbon Panel, Charette or Engagement Seminar. Can we get on with making DCSS better! Turning DCSS around will be like turning an Aircraft Carrier around in the Panama Canal. There is no time to waste.

Thanks for the links to the video, Dr Atkinson is very well spoken and has hit the ground running. She will be tested in her early meetings behind closed doors with BOE members. I can't wait for the DCPC.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of PR, where was the ajc yesterday? And where was our DCSS PR? Would have thought that Dr. Atkinson's 1st BOE meeting with personnel appointments would have been newsworthy.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that Dr. Atkinson is moving forward with changes. Three of her four new hires were easy to google and get information. No big red flags.

I have a question about the fourth though - Kathleen S. Howell. Does anyone know anything about her or her relationship with Dr. Atkinson? It may just be a coincidence, but in trying to google Kathleen Howell I found nothing about her. However, I did find that Dr. Atkinson's maiden name is Howell, one of her son's middle name is Howell, and she wrote a back cover review for a book by a Jack Howell.

I would love it if someone with better skills than me could find out if they are related. I hope not. The head of curriculum and instruction is probably the most important position in DeKalb besides the superintendent. I would have more confidence knowing that the new person is qualified for the position.

I am not being mean - just diligent. DeKalb deserves a good transition.

Anonymous said...

How long will we be paying double salaries for the new folks - two supers, two of each for four deputies?

How is this helping the kids?

I hope that our super (cost X 2) make reasonable decisions here. She speaks of interest in getting education to the classroom, but I still see costs and spinning wheels at the top. I know she hasn't had long, but neither do our kids who are already in these schools.

Anonymous said...

See the news: Dekalb lockdowns.

Anonymous said...

Lockdowns are standard safety procedure when there are crimes in the vcinity of the school. In this case there was a shooting on Ponce.

BhutrasGolly said...

For those of you who expected the magic wand or the home run. Real change takes time. The new superintendent has to get a team of people she can count on board. Try hiring a new CEO without other personnel changes. If you aren't in this for the long run you are wasting your time. What will really change this system is some positive community support. Thank God her name isn't Smith think of all the people named Smith that you all would suspect.

Paula Caldarella said...

What will really change this system is some positive community support

What will really change this system is for Eugene Walker, Jay Cunningham, Sarah Copelin-Woods and Donna Edler to become "former" Board of Educations members on November 6, 2012.

The Community Support will be there as long as we see Dr. Atkinson's is following through on her 90-day plan and putting our students first.

Anonymous said...

Not to change the subject, but just observed in Publix parking lot at Briarcliff Village:

Current DCSS board member exited Publix, crossed parking lot and entered vehicle, parked in handicap spot. Yes, there was a handicap tag in the vehicle, but if I were a DCSS board member who was ambulatory, I'd be a little more sensitive to where I parked and was seen.

Cynical? Yes.

Anonymous said...

Dunwoody Mom - I would also add Womack to that list. My reps are Womack and Walker and they both can't go soon enough.

Anonymous said...

Interesting take from an old friend in Charlotte who worked for March (paraphrasing). . .
Kendra March was an unpopular principal in Charlotte several years ago. In a faculty meeting, she yelled at the faculty about being two-faced and disloyal, then stormed out, bumping or elbowing at least one teacher to move them out of her way, after receiving bad reviews from the teachers on a leadership assessment survey. The teachers' main complaint was that she was consistently rude and disrespectful toward teachers.
My friend also says students would demand to be taken to March when they were removed from class for behavior issues because they knew there would be no consequences if March handled it (this was especially true when the student was African-American and the teacher who put them out was white).
She also put in place a policy of releasing all seniors ten minutes early on Friday, causing a logistical nightmare for teachers and security personnel.
There was huge teacher turnover after March's first year at the school, including people who left education altogether.

What exactly is her job description as Deputy Superintendent for School Leadership?

Anonymous said...

Not sure that we need to add positions given the top heaviness of the district right now. Thanks for the information about March, sounds like she'll fit right in. I just don't feel any true changes going to take place.

Anonymous said...

LOL. Here's a blog that discusses Kendra Marsh. It's called -and I'm not making this up - Guilford School Watch:

Anonymous said...

Kendra Marsh seems to have been well respected by the superintendent. He considered her a star principal and moved her to a troubled school for 2009-10l:

I wonder how the school she went to in 2009 did?

It looks like she left that school and went back to Guilford as the Instructional Improvement Officer - must be 2010-2011?

That's a lot of movement. Can you really have a track record if you are only a year in each job?

Anonymous said...

"Can you really have a track record if you are only a year in each job?"

Kiss up, kick down, wear out your welcome, move on, rinse, repeat.

Anonymous said...

We've had principals well respected by the superintendent too...can you say Crawford Lewis and Ralph Simpson? That isn't a very reassuring thought.

Anonymous said...

Remember all those high performing principals that Lewis respected and gave bonuses to move to low performing schools? Given our ayp declines, don't think his well respected high performing principals turned out so great.

Anonymous said...

My apologies to Dr. Atkinson for questioning her relationship to one of her new appointments. I'm just a little gun shy given the history of nepotism in DeKalb. I was wrong. The reason I couldn't find any info. on Kathleen S. Howell is because that isn't her name. According to the board meeting notes her name is Kathleen S. Howe. I wish them all well during the transition and look forward to better days ahead for our students.

Anonymous said...

Dr. March was fantastic in Charlotte/Mecklenburg. How many years ago was she in N.C.? Dr. Howell is a nationally known curriculum and curriculum instructional guru. I think Dr. Ackinson is on a roll and I hope she stands her ground with the Board, the blogs and the citizens who wants everything to be fixed overnight. This proves she needs a support base she can count on to bring unbias information.

As for Dunwoody Mom and picking the school board member , all I can say is "one vote per citizen'. You pick your, I 'll pick mine, it's just that simple.

Anonymous said...

Anon. @ 10:01 pm
Ralph Simpson made a horrible decision in selling his books to the schools and was reprimanded, BUT he was an excellent principal while serving in the schools in South Dekalb. He not only required that young men and women respect each other, he stressed to them the importance of getting their education. He challenged and encouraged the students. He changed the lives of many young men in the area and created a disciplined environment for learning. Test scores improved and many parents were heart broken when he was promoted. We have ALL made some bad decisions and should not hold ourselves out as being perfect. Maybe we would not make the same choice that Dr. Simpson made, but we have all fallen short at some point in our lives (at least I have). He learned from the experience and the school system learned. Don't knock someone if you don't know the whole story and consider the glass around your house before you toss that rock.

I wish Dr. Atkinson the very best and hope that she has the fortitude to withstand all that is posted on this blog. Our school system, children and parents need a fresh start and positive perspective.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone found the personnel recommendations published anywhere by DCSS? The names posted on the blog say Kathleen Howell, Kathleen S Howell, Kathleen Howe...and there's been Kendra March and Kendra Marsh. Hard to know who we've hired with DCSS remaining silent on these new staff members - transparency please!

Found this in case it is Kathleen Howell: It says she is looking for a job in case management, educational planning and operational support at an organization working directly with youth and community - she's from Charlotte. Coincidence?

Paula Caldarella said...

As for Dunwoody Mom and picking the school board member , all I can say is "one vote per citizen'. You pick your, I 'll pick mine, it's just that simple.

Guess what...while Walker, Edler, Cunningham, Copeline-Woods are not MY board members, their behavior on the board reflects on all the stakeholders in this county. Their poor record of doing what is best for the students of this county is well known. I certainly do have the right to voice my opinons about individuals whose actions affect MY children.

Paula Caldarella said...

Howell is a nationally known curriculum and curriculum instructional guru

It's Howe, not Howell, and if you knew so much about her, then you would know what her name is.

btw, I have no opinons one way or the other on these hires, as one's performance cannot be evaluated until they are in the job and producing, or not. However, I do wish that their resumes would be posted on the website. Transparency by Dr. Atkinson will go a LONG way toward restoring trust in this school system.

Open+Transparent said...

Enough of bloated administrative titles for a bloated administration.

Walter Woods is now an "Executive Director". "Director" is plenty good enough.

Remember, Crawford Lewis used the "Executive Director" bump up to justify fat salary increases while teachers had flat pay and added benefit costs.

This is one of your first red flags, Dr. Atkinson. We expect you to dramatically reduce not only the Central Office festering bureaucracy, but to lower Central office admin salaries!!!

Anonymous said...

We need a board elected by the people. We do not elect our board. We elect a district member who sits on the board. These people make all the decisions for all the county yet we have little to no say in who is elected in other districts. This needs to change.

Cerebration said...

Stan Watson's
DeKalb Legislative Community Cabinet & Breakfast Meeting
Chapel Hill Middle School

Dr. Cheryl Atkinson
DeKalb County School System

Ms. Barbara Colman
Interim CIP Operations Officer
DeKalb County School System

Mr. James E. Donald
State Board of Pardons and Parole

Saturday, October 1, 2011

9:00 am to 11:00 am

Chapel Hill Middle School

3535 Dogwood Farm Road
Decatur, Georgia 30034-6405

For additional information and/or directions, please call: 404.371.3681 or 404.371.2988

Anonymous said...

Found this on Kendra March. Interesting reference to a "Cox" in the evaluation - wonder if they meant Lily Cox?

Anonymous said...

It looks like March is the principal at an elementary school in Charlotte.

Interesting scroll through the Charlotte Mecklenburg website shows they use Parent Assistant (eSIS) too and has a whole series of articles on the "Broad" program.

Anonymous said...

First, I wish the best for Dr. Atkinson as she begins the journey of putting together teams that will benefit the students. When she visits schools,she needs to do so unannounced so that she can see it as it is and make real improvements. Her visits to schools were all pre-announced! Every school was made spotless and teachers were on their best behavior according to directions given by the principals from the AAS! How real was that? To see what improvements need to be made, she must see it as it exists on a "normal day."

I hope that when she is interviewing Area Assistant Superintendents that she asks them specifically what they have done to work with principals in their assigned schools that made a difference in student achievement. Most of the answers will be insignificant! They do little or nothing other than call the principal and say, "This parent called the office today to report that you..... Call the parent and make it happen!"

If Dr. Atkinson and her team are smart, they will make visits to the schools and talk to students, custodians, cafeteria staff, teachers, etc. That's where the "rubber meets the road!" Area Assistant Superintendents don't have a clue about school improvement! What was their track record before Crawford Lewis anointed them?

Anonymous said...

Some research on Kendra March makes me worry. It seems she bounces around a great deal. She was principal of Elizabeth Traditional Elementary 2002 - 2004. Then lead Crestdale Middle from 2004 - 2005. Then Hopewell from 2005 – 2007. In a similar fashion to how she ended up here, a former colleague ('friend') from CMS who was then Superintendent of Guilford County Schools appointed her Instructional Improvement Officer. She only lasted there a year 2007 - 2008. Then she went back to CMS and Westerly Hills 2008 until now. That's so much moving around, that I;m not sure what to make of it.