Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More residents fighting cell towers

It seems the community surrounding Margaret Harris school (a countywide school for 79 Pre-K-12 students with moderate to profound disabilities) has been informed that our school board plans to allow T-Mobile to build a cell tower on the school property. And the neighborhood is not happy. Once again, we have a neighborhood saying that they were not properly informed.  Once again, to most, it was a complete surprise to learn of the plans for a cell tower in their back yards. Once again there is talk of a lawsuit.

For more, read these articles:

DeKalb residents meet to fight cell tower

Margaret Harris School-Area Residents Fight Cell Tower Proposal

For those who claim there are no health risks, read this article:

by Karen J. Rogers

This is what it looks like at the bottom

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SACS Update

DeKalb's accrediation stays on ‘advisement'
  From the AJC

"DeKalb County Schools has made progress in the last eight months, but not enough to put its accreditation back in good standing, the state's top accrediting agency ruled Tuesday.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) decided to keep the district on ‘advisement' status following a review of the school district's procedures. In March, the district was placed on the downgraded status and ordered to make improvements in eight areas after former superintendent Crawford Lewis, former chief operating officer Patricia Reid and two others were indicted in on charges they ran a criminal enterprise in the school system.

“With continued work and a focus on sustaining the efforts made to date, the school system will continue to repair its reputation and restore trust with its stakeholders.” said Mark Elgart, President and CEO, AdvancED, the parent company of SACS.

The district will have to submit a follow-up report by February documenting steps it has taken to address the two remaining requirements."

The school system's press release can be found here.

The actual SACS report can be found here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

much ado about nothing

How many games and how much trickery will the public tolerate? How long will we remain so gullible? What will it take for us to reclaim our tax dollars and our school system?

The SPLOST pushers made a big issue out of the 'fact' that due to the passage and (unclear) wording of SB 79, voting "Yes" on SPLOST was the only way to flip the entire board! Well, that was oh so two weeks ago my friends. The smoke has cleared and things have changed.

Mary Margaret Oliver (one of my favorite legislators)... is introducing a bill that attempts to clarify the election process for the DeKalb school board. Certainly, this is something the DeKalb Delegation supports, right? Or maybe they're just chuckling over in the corner as they watch legislators wriggle out of the mess they've created. (The Delegation did not approve or participate in the original bills.) Here's the reading right out of the gate:

First Reader Summary A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend an Act establishing in DeKalb County districts from which members of the county board of education shall be elected, approved April 12, 1963 (Ga. L. 1963, p. 3424), as amended, particularly by an Act approved April 2, 2002 (Ga. L. 2002, p. 4536), so as to provide for a reduction in the members of the board of education from nine to seven; to provide for education districts for such members; to provide for the manner of election and terms of office; to provide for the continuation in office of certain members; to provide for related matters; to provide for submission of this Act under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended; to provide for effective dates; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

Read the entire bill here.

To us, it says odd seat numbers stay, even ones are at risk or gone. This has us keeping Cunningham, Walker, Edler, Woods and Jester--and puts McChesney, Speaks, Bowen, and Womack out unless they run for one of the new districts after they're redrawn (which is done every 10 years according to the U.S. Census). Jay and Gene would both keep their seat--but since they're practically neighbors, it would be pretty easy for the district to be drawn in such a way that they both can't represent it. Oddly, Gene holds a 'super district' seat, one of two that we were told would disappear in Mike Jacobs original bill, but here it looks like he's secure. Pam holds the other super district, but doesn't live near anyone else, so she might wind up competing for one of the new districts. Bottom line--all seven board seats will not be replaced in 2012 as promoted to pass SPLOST. We are going to have to get out of this either in baby election steps, or bold administrative gambits on Atkinson's part--which depends on Atkinson's character and priorities.

Add to this the fact that barely 24 hours after the passage of SPLOST, the head of construction, Barbara Colman, submitted her retirement papers. She's done. We now have to find a new construction manager for SPLOST through 2017. Wonder who that will be? I would suggest hiring an owner's rep as the staff liason and then contracting the construction management. Except, that is what we did in SPLOST II and it got us involved in a $100 million lawsuit (always say that with at upturned pinkie at the corner of your mouth) - costing us over $15 million in legal fees and committing us to another $20 million (and mounting) in legal fees to be paid after the 'trial'... all paid from the general operations budget, the budget slated for school operations. The budget from which we pay our teachers. The budget that ironically - needed major cuts in school staff in order to remain in balance (gee, I wonder why!)

So, here we are. Threat #1 for not supporting SPLOST is about to be taken off the table. How long until Threat #2 (the one where the board will have to raise property taxes if you vote "No") will also be a broken unspoken promise of the past? Gene Walker has been chomping at the bit to raise property taxes since he set foot on the board. How long until they announce "We can't use SPLOST for general operations, so we'll need to raise your property taxes or we'll have to start cutting teachers." Mark my words. Gare - own - tee. The county just raised their portion of the property taxes due to steep declines in values in some parts of DeKalb. And county taxes are only 40% of your tax bill - just how much more will you have to pay when the next promise is broken?

Time to clean house.

I noticed the #1 word of the Merriam Webster's People's Choice Favorites is "Defenestration". It's appropriate here.

Defenestration: a throwing of a person or a thing out of a window; or a usually swift expulsion or dismissal

Get going Atkinson. You are really going to have to hang tough in order to truly run this school system and not become a puppet of this very controlling board as our last two supers. Time's a Wastin'!


UPDATE:  Below is a map we received a while ago showing the 'proposed' (not final) new board districts, evenly divided according to population numbers from the 2010 U.S. Census.  The proposed legislation above recommends keeping the people in the 5 seats in green and the remaining two 2 seats (totaling 7) will be up for election in November, 2012. However, as you can see from the map, the 'saved' board members overlap in their new districts and we have a gaping hole in the middle with 3 open districts and 1 in the SE but only 2 seats available on the board. (The pink area is Decatur City Schools I believe.)  Additionally, Tom Bowen lives in the new district 5 so if reelected, he could take up one of the two available seats, and Pam lives in new district 2 possibly taking the second available seat, while Don and Paul could each win the seat in their home district. Now you have 4 board members competing for only 2 available seats. How do you do that? They each legally live in one of the new districts and are up for reelection - is it fair to place someone from outside their district in that seat?

One option is to assign the board reps from the south end to these new districts (negating the rule that you must live in your district), or create strangely shaped, wobbly semi-vertical districts.  However, this still creates for unfair competition, these 5 will never have the political challenges the others will have to fight for a seat. Additionally, going this route leaves us with electing 5 board reps every other election and only 2 the others, rather than a more balanced 4 and then 3.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Half a Million in New Salaries for Adding, Not Replacing

Former colleagues are key for DeKalb superintendent

No family, but a few friends in high places in DeKalb

Big story in today's AJC with a follow-up Mo Downey Get Schooled blog post. The major problems with Atkinson bringing in three new administrators paid over half a million in salary & benefits (a whooping $160k each STARTING salary plus bene's):

-Teachers have not received a pay raise in years, and now pay more for their benefits.

-The Tom Bowen-led Board of Ed. decided last year to save money by significantly increasing class sizes, instead of looking at the spending and staff's of wasteful non-school departments. Not a peep from Atkinson about teachers having 30, 35 or more students in their classrooms, while she adds more highly paid administrators.


"Atkinson’s point person for instruction is Kathleen Howe, a former colleague of hers as a deputy superintendent in Kansas City, a district of 17,400 students and 2,300 teachers and other employees."
-So will Morcease Beaseley and Audria Berry be demoted and receive a lesser salary? What does this say about the massive, under performing Office of School Improvement? How about finally getting all that staff back in the classroom?

"Kendra March is DeKalb’s new deputy superintendent for school leadership and operational support. March worked with Atkinson in Charlotte at a district of 125,000 students."
--So will Bob Moseley be demoted and receive a lesser salary?
-As pointed out in the Get Schooled post, Kendra March thinks very highly of herself:
"“I was able to improve student achievement in all of those schools,” March said. “That’s what our mission is here in DeKalb.”
-I'm guessing that the teachers and staff who worked with her would have greatly appreciated her using "We" instead of "I".

"Gary Brantley, the chief information officer, will be in charge of all computers and technical equipment, such as digital “smart boards” for the entire district. He held a similar post for the Lorain City Schools in Ohio, where Atkinson was most recently the district superintendent."
-Current MIS head Tony Hunter was in the business world, from a computer that DCSS made a multi-million dollar purchase from, and was welcomed with great fanfare by the BOE and Central Office. So will Hunter be demoted and receive a lesser salary?
"Atkinson’s third hire is Brantley, who in Lorain helped the district move from relying on printed textbooks to electronic tablets that have all the textbooks loaded on them. “Society is moving fast and kids today need to be plugged in,” he said. “Technology can help us do that.”
-Why hasn't that happened under Tony Hunter and current MIS leadership? They have a great budget, getting everything they ask for from the Board of Ed. MIS may be the most underperforming of all DCSS departments. If Brantley just adds on staff instead of REPLACING staff, another major red flag.
Then again, if Brantley can stop from having so many computers walk away, and actually seem to care about DCSS computers seemingly disappearing like a 50% off flat screen on Black Friday, he's worth every penny (from March 2nd: Tony Hunter - asked for money to install software to track stolen computers (like a Lojack). Jester - any update on the status of the extensive theft of computers at Henderson? Tony Hunter -- we don't have the budget to replace all stolen equipment).

Dr. Atkinson had been well received across the county, including this blog, and everyone is on board to be positive and give her time to right the bloated, rotting, fetid Central Office.
But she knew coming in that downsizing the Central Office machine was a top priority, and hiring these three in addition to current staff instead of REPLACING current staff is a major red flag.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

DeKalb Schools settle science center discrimination suit

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Channel 2 Action News has learned the DeKalb County School system has settled a racial discrimination suit filed by a day care owner over an encounter at the Fernbank Science Center.

Changes are also under way at the Fernbank Science Center after the south Fulton day care owner claimed she and a group of kids were kicked out of a picnic area of the center because of the color of the their skin.

"It was racial discrimination. It was definitely racial discrimination," Happy Times Childcare owner KiKi Finch told Channel 2’s Tom Jones last year. That's how Finch described what happened during a September 2010 lunchtime trip to the Fernbank Science Center, which is owned by DeKalb County Schools. "We were told, 'You're not feeding those kids here,'" Finch said. At the time, she told Jones a security guard told her and 11 kids from the center, an all-black group, that they couldn't eat at one of the picnic tables and threatened to call police. 

They ended up eating on a termite-infested retaining wall, Finch said. Minutes later, Finch said she saw another group eating at the same tables, but those kids were white. Finch filed a discrimination suit, which the school district settled last month. (Reportedly for $35,000)

Click here to read the story.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

School Budget "Hold 'Em"

One of our regular contributors came across this very interesting school budgeting game.

From the producer:

Are we gambling with our children's education?

Education funding decisions should never be left to chance.School Budget Hold 'em is more than a's an interactive exploration of the thoughtful trade-offs school administrators have to make in these challenging budget times.
Playing the right cards can create lasting improvement — transforming your district to make the most of every budget dollar, while increasing student success.
Click here for more.

I wonder if our board would consider playing a few rounds on their new iPads? We could offer prizes...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Counselors See Conflicts in Carrying Out Mission

From Education Week online
Middle and high school counselors believe they have a unique and powerful role to play in preparing all students for good jobs or college, but they feel hamstrung by insufficient training, competing duties, and their own schools’ priorities, according to a study released today.
The online survey of 5,300 counselors was conducted this past spring for the College Board’s Advocacy & Policy Center. One of the largest-ever surveys of counselors, it paints a picture of a committed but frustrated corps that sees a deep schism between the ideal mission of schools and the work that takes shape day to day.
Nine in 10 counselors, for instance, said that two objectives should top their schools’ priority lists: ensuring that all students have access to high-quality education and that they graduate well-equipped for college and careers. But fewer than four in 10 said their schools actually operated as if those goals were central to their mission.
That disconnection was even sharper among counselors in public and low-income schools than in private and wealthier ones. Only 19 percent of counselors in high-poverty schools said college and career readiness was part of their schools’ day-to-day mission, compared with 30 percent of counselors overall. Two-thirds of those in private schools said so, compared with one-quarter of those in public schools.
“We have more than 100,000 counselors in our [school] system, and yet they’re not being strategically deployed,” said John Bridgeland, the lead author of the report and the president and chief executive officer of Civic Enterprises, a Washington-based public-policy group that includes high school improvement among its focus issues.
“Counselors are uniquely positioned to see the whole life of the child; to see their family circumstances ... their social and emotional needs, the nonacademic supports they may require, and their academic progress and challenge, not just in a given year, like a teacher can, but over time,” he said. “That’s an advantage that’s extremely powerful. Not deploying counselors in a way that takes advantage of that unique role is a huge national loss.”

Click here to read the rest.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Lions, Tigers, and ... AYP?

I have been holding on to this photo for a few weeks waiting for the right, quiet Friday to share. I was in Blairsville (Union Co) a few weeks back, picked up the local paper and was very entertained with the front page news. After years of wrangling with all the challenges we have in DeKalb, reading these two items made me long for a more simple time and dream of one in our future. I present for your Friday amusement, two headlines you are not likely to see in the DeKalb Champion soon ...

What Gifted Students Need From You

By Anthony S. Colucci
Reprinted from "Teacher" magazine online.

Can you imagine having a young Mark Zuckerberg in your classroom? What about Lady Gaga in her preteen years? Both participated in gifted and talented programs when they were students.

Today, the National Association of Gifted Children estimates that nearly three million American students are gifted and talented. Teaching these students can be rewarding: They often learn new skills quickly, absorb oodles of information, take on leadership roles, and eagerly employ higher-order thinking skills. But to truly meet the needs of gifted students—especially those who, like Mark Zuckerberg and Lady Gaga, may have an independent streak—can be challenging. Here are some practical tips to help you get started:

Find out what "gifted" means in your district or state. 
States and districts are not required to use the federal government's definition of "gifted and talented," so there is considerable diversity in how these students are evaluated for gifted programs. Some states focus on students who score well on report cards or standardized tests, some rely on IQ scores, and others have more nuanced assessments.

Help identify students who qualify for "gifted and talented programs"—and those who do not but might need individualized supports. 
Knowing your district's definition of "gifted and talented" will help you match students with the supports they need. Don't shy away from recommending students for an evaluation—it's generally an easy process and can be life-changing for some students. If your state is one that takes measures other than grades or standardized test scores into account, reviewing a list of characteristics of gifted students may help you with identification. Keep in mind that a gifted student can come from any culture, ethnic background, or socioeconomic group!

As you learn more about the criteria for your district's gifted programs, you will likely identify students who don't officially qualify but may benefit from individualized challenges or strategies in your classroom.

Use data to differentiate instruction and create appropriate challenges.
Teachers today have an abundance of data about our students—and if we don't have it, we can acquire it. Analyze performance data to determine what your gifted students already know and what they still need to learn. If students know the material, they should be learning something else. At the beginning of this year, I administered baseline reading and math assessments to my students. Not surprisingly, some of my students scored 90 percent and higher…one student even scored a 100 percent! The data showed me areas in which individual students needed grade-level instruction and areas in which students were ready to tackle more advanced concepts and skills. I can do a better job of teaching my students when I know their stats.

Maintain realistic expectations about what your students know and can do.
This is one of the most hurtful comments an educator can make to a gifted student: "You figure it out…you're gifted." Gifted students still need to be taught. While many are capable of absorbing a great deal of information independently, they still rely on your expertise and guidance. I have yet to see a student who can figure out long division without instruction.

Don't be intimidated by your students' intelligence.
I am pretty sure that all my students have higher IQs than I do. If I spell a word incorrectly, I hear about it. If my New York accent slips out, I hear about it. My 3rd graders tell me the definitions of words that I don't know. At the same time, I have something on them: many years of education, life experience, and teaching expertise. Your students can teach you new things every day—if you have a receptive attitude. But you will teach them a lot more as you help them build their knowledge, cultivate their talents, and make connections between school and "the real world."

Support your students' social and emotional learning.
Ever noticed that some of your gifted students don't like to work in groups or have an uncanny ability for getting under their classmates' skin? About twice as many gifted students as non-gifted students have social and emotional difficulties (approximately 20 to 25 percent), according to the National Association for Gifted Children. Work with colleagues to identify appropriate supports for these students, such as mentor programs, direct instruction in social skills, or counseling. I have found mentoring to be particularly effective in working with students with high IQs, since such students often prefer the company of adults over children their own age. Once they bond with a mentor, powerful transformations can occur.

Having a good sense of humor and being light-hearted are important traits for any teacher—and they are especially critical when teaching gifted and talented students, who often have keen senses of humor themselves. When this humor shows up at the wrong times (as it sometimes does), I recommend correcting the behavior gently.

Focus on learning—not on grades. 
Some teachers tell students that grades don't matter as long as they try their best, but expect gifted students to earn all A's in every academic subject. Keep in mind that gifted students are not necessarily gifted in all areas… and tend to perform best in the subjects that interest them most.

It is also very important to remember that gifted and talented students are often plagued by perfectionism and a fear of failure. Lecturing them about grades may only exacerbate these problems—or lead to a power struggle. Keep the focus on effort and learning, not grades.

Support any gifted and talented programs your school offers. 
Most of my students love the gifted enrichment classes I teach. I like to flatter myself—but I know that it isn't about me. These students appreciate the challenges I provide and the camaraderie of being with other gifted and talented students. When gifted students return from enrichment class and say it was "fun," please understand that "fun" does not mean "fluff." It means that they have experienced a concentrated dose of instruction—at a pace that comes naturally to them. Gifted and talented education is not about a group of students "getting something extra." It is about a group of students getting what they need.

These suggestions are not "silver-bullet strategies" for supporting your gifted and talented students, but they offer a starting point. Consider pursuing professional development to deepen your expertise in this area, or at least reaching out to your school's enrichment staff to learn more. And, if like me, you specialize in teaching gifted students, look for opportunities to share your expertise with your colleagues beyond an individual student's paperwork!

Anthony S. Colucci, a National Board-certified teacher and member of the Teacher Leaders Network, coordinates and teaches in the gifted-student program at four elementary schools in Central Florida. He is the author of Copilots, Duties & Pina Coladas: How to Be a Great Teacher and has earned numerous awards for his innovative and creative lessons.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Where Have All Our Teachers Gone?

Dr. Atkinson says that if we “put Students First, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.”

A good start for putting students first would be to increase our number of teachers in order to decrease the class sizes that are proving so detrimental to student progress.

DeKalb dismal standardized test results show that the loss of 600 teaching positions in the past two years has had an extremely negative impact on student achievement. When you eliminate a teaching position, the impact on students in the form of increased class sizes is EXACTLY the same as letting a teacher go. The impact to students is what DeKalb Schools should be concerned about.

Read on to see how so many teaching positions were eliminated. Looking closely at the budgets in 2009-10 and 2010-11, it appears that Dr. Lewis and Ms. Tyson eliminated around 600 teacher positions. Look at the proposed and subsequently approved 2010-11 DeKalb Schools budget:

Reviewing the calculations, Ms. Tyson pegged the cost of a teacher at $65,000 in salary and benefits.

Example #1: Ms. Tyson recommended reducing Magnet Points (a Point means a teacher) by 20 points for a savings of $1,300,000. $1,300,000 divided by 20 = $65,000.

Example # 2: Ms. Tyson recommended eliminating 8 DECA (DeKalb Early College Academy) Points (Teachers) for a savings of $520,000. $520,000 divided by 8 = $65,000.

Example #3: Ms. Tyson recommended eliminating 8 Single Gender Points (Teachers) nets a savings of $520,000. $520,000 divided by 8 = $65,000.

Example #4: Ms. Tyson recommended eliminating Target Assistance Points (extra Teachers for schools that need additional help for students for various reasons) for a savings of $3,965,000. Divide $3,965,000 by $65,000 (cost of a teacher) = 61 teachers.

You can see how Ms. Tyson assigned a value of $65,000 as the cost of a teacher throughout the budgetary process.

Adding the number of teacher positions eliminated in Example #1 (20), Example #2 (8), Example #3 (8), and Example #4 (61) = 97 teaching positions eliminated.

Now look at the increase in class sizes (highlighted in blue). Ms. Tyson recommended increasing class sizes by 2. She assigned a value of $14,000,000 in savings. If you divide $14,000,000 by $65,000 (value of a teacher), the additional number of teaching positions eliminated = 215.

Now add the 215 additional teaching positions eliminated to the 97 already eliminated in Examples #1, 2, 3, and 4, and this equals 312 positions eliminated for the school year 2010-11.

This comes on top of Dr. Lewis eliminating 275 teacher positions in 2009-10. Eliminating teaching positions was the largest portion of saving for fiscal year 2009-10. See quote from the DeKalb Schools 2009 - 2010 approved budget (executive summary on page 8): “Further approved reductions include an increase to class sizes…..This action will save $18.1 million and will reduce the staffing needs by 275 teachers through attrition.”

Of equal concern should be that 600 teachers left the system in the last 2 years through attrition. Obviously Ms. Tyson and Dr. Lewis felt confident that the attrition rate is in the hundreds every year. This points to an unacceptable teacher turnover rate. Educational studies show that a high teacher turnover rate has the effect of decreasing student achievement for Economically Disadvantaged students, a group that has a difficult time showing the same progress rate as their more affluent peers. DCSS Economically Disadvantaged students mainly reside in our Title 1 schools.

Coaches, Coordinators, Managers, and Directors don’t teach students – teachers do. Let’s ask Dr. Atkinson to bring back our teachers. When we are spending $73,000,000 for Central Office staff and packing our classes with 35+ students while our student achievement declines, it is clear DeKalb County Schools has lost its focus. Dr. Atkinson needs to bring that focus back on the students. We’re counting on that.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Can DeKalb Become a Classroom Centered School System?

“Concentrating On Our Core Business of Educating Students”

Until DeKalb looks at special programs and schools as cost centers and compares them with other systems that are managing those cost centers more efficiently and cost effectively in terms of student safety and student progress, students will be sitting in larger classes while our taxes rise and our student achievement decreases. The core business of DCSS is what happens in the classroom. Dr. Atkinson must concentrate on the core business to ensure its success. Getting a handle on DCSS cost centers is critical. 

Ms. Tyson is Special Assistant to the Superintendent under Dr. Atkinson. Is she up to the task of implementing the changes necessary to direct our resources back into the classroom? Business as usual cannot be the order of the day.

Drastic cuts in the non-teaching personnel pay and numbers is our only option since staff salaries and benefits account for 90+% of our budget. Taxes cannot be raised the way they were in the past to fund the admin and support side increases in number of personnel and compensation. Teacher ranks have been thinned to the point that students cannot get the individual help they need resulting in the lowest student achievement in the metro area. The core business of educating students has been severely and negatively impacted as the DCSS administration and the BOE has not been able to bring about the personnel and cost center changes needed.

Taxpayers/parents expect Dr. Atkinson to make real cuts in the Central Office and support side and leave nothing off the table including outsourcing some functions and eliminating and consolidating others. Salaries of the non-teaching employees MUST be "right sized". Teacher compensation in DeKalb is on the verge of being completely non-competitive in the marketplace.

Every non-teaching position in DeKalb needs to be evaluated as to how necessary it is to student progress. Every employee from accounting to technology to grounds maintenance needs to understand how his/her job supports teachers and students. ALL job performance objectives need to be tied to what is happening in the classroom. ALL departments and personnel need to be evaluated for their customer service level to the members of the classroom.

Surveys completed by teachers, students, and parents need to be evaluating any and every department that impacts the classroom. Is the technology working the way teachers need it to work? Is the Office of School Improvement making an impact on your students/children? Are benchmark tests giving you as a teacher the information you need for formative assessment? Are you satisfied with the training offered and given by the Staff Development group? Are the Instructional Coaches helping the students who are not achieving? Is the gifted program meeting the needs of your gifted students? Are parents more involved because of the Parent Center? How many parents are using the Parent Centers, how often, and what for? Are security officers available at the school? Are the security officers at your school visible throughout the day and do they improve the level of safety for the school? Do students and teachers feel safe? Do parents feel their child is safe at the school? Is discipline what it should be? Is there pressure on teachers to change grades? How is the no zero policy affecting student achievement? Is your content level coordinator visible and is he/she responsive to the classroom needs? Are the Prevention/Intervention personnel lowering the rate of bullying, altercations and need for student discipline referrals in your classroom and in your school? Are school lunches adequate, nutritious and served in a reasonable time frame with a cheerful attitude? Is transportation convenient and safe and timely?

Fireside chats are very nice, and we certainly applaud Dr. Atkinson for her early aggressive efforts to understand the communities, but ultimately, quantifiable data from the teachers, students and parents should be driving the admin and support train. Teachers and students are the members of the classroom, and the classroom is the ONLY reason the school system exists and the ONLY reason we pay school taxes. Parents are the ones who pay the taxes and are the people most responsible for their children. The school system must revolve around these three groups – students, teachers and parents - to be effective. Support the classroom and parents will be supportive of the school system and the job it is endeavoring to do. The question is “Can DeKalb Become a Classroom Centered School System”?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

$73,000 DCSS Secretarial positions are just the “Tip of the Iceberg”

Posters may have read the recent AJC article “DeKalb school ad for secretary draws fire over $72,000 salary” Maureen Downey has had a brisk discussion on her Get Schooled blog after reading a DeKalb School Watch comment about a PATS posting for an administrative secretary with a GED and a minimum of 1 year of experience commanding a salary of $53,186 to $72,285.

Unfortunately, this is just the “tip of the iceberg”, and the DCSS ship is crashing on a sea of highly paid non-teaching employees. Taking a look at one group of DCSS employees (Parent Center) shows how our number of and pay for non-teaching positions is way out of line with other counties. Rockdale County Schools (16,000 students) has similar demographics as DeKalb (98,000 students—6x as large) with 89% of Rockdale schools as Title 1 while DCSS has 69% of their schools as Title 1.

100% of Rockdale Title 1 Schools MADE AYP 2011

20% of DCSS Title 1 Schools MADE AYP 2011 

Compare the Parent Center Personnel (Parental Involvement program required by NCLB for low income schools to boost student achievement) in numbers and salaries of Rockdale to DeKalb.

13 Rockdale Parent Center Personnel –
Cost to Rockdale – $263,000 a year (benefits included):


79 DeKalb Parent Center personnel – 
Cost to DeKalb – $ 4,500,000 a year (benefits included):


Parent Centers are a favorite place for family and friends and former BOE member’s relatives. Clayton County Schools (50,000 students) also has similar demographics as DeKalb (98,000 students) with 100% of their schools as Title 1 while DCSS has 69% of their schools as Title 1.

55% of Clayton County Title 1 Schools MADE AYP 2011 

20% of DCSS Title 1 Schools MADE AYP 2011 

45 Clayton Schools Parent Center Personnel – Cost to Clayton – $1,700,000 a year (benefits included). 

79 DeKalb Schools Parent Center Personnel – Cost to DeKalb – $4,500,000 a year (benefits included). 

Here are the salaries for the Clayton Parent Family Services Coordinators (ALL are certified paraprofessionals). There are no Parent Coordinators:


Other groups like MIS, Security, Instructional Coaches, Instructional Coordinator, and Staff Development – all non-teaching positions – need to be analyzed in terms of NUMBER of personnel as well as SALARY.

That audit can’t come soon enough.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Old math, new math, discrete math, math 1,2,3,4: imprudent math curriculum decisions?

News from AIC as of this morning: DeKalb County is switching to discrete math classes effective January 2012. Pending board approval, plans are in motion to move everyone in the county to 100% discrete courses in January. That means no Math 1/2/3/4.

What does this mean to your child? We see 3 big areas of impact:
EOCT: Your kid will take the discrete EOCT in May. This test has never been administered. Certainly, it does not need mentioning that the first administration of a new EOCT requires adjustment. The first classes to take them are guinea pigs. In 2009, the first Mathematics I EOCT was given and the state threw out all the scores. Students never even got score reports. With the graduation test going away and the EOCT coming in as the graduation test replacement, we are in no position to reduce a child's chances of graduating (because of something out of the kid's control).
Textbooks: The McDougal Littell textbooks that were already a poor match for the curriculum will be even worse matches, The spring curriculum is designed as a transition time, so your kid will be taking a blended integrated/discrete class (never to be taught again, presumably). The folks from the county are suggesting that teachers in a building swap books out as the discrete course moves from material in the Mathematics I book to material in the Mathematics II book. Until new resources are purchased or created (the state has produced a very excellent EOCT study guide for free -- no such guide exists for discrete courses yet), we are up the proverbial creek.
Teacher readiness: Teachers have zero planning days (and in fact, a furlough on Jan 3) to prepare for a new curriculum. A major complaint of the integrated curriculum was that teachers didn't have enough training in the teaching of GPS integrated material. Your child's teacher will have 0 training, 0 time to prepare, and 0 resources provided by the county. The official word is that teachers have to "help each other out".

The meeting this morning over at AIC stressed that this announcement is pending board approval. Is it a good idea to foist this change on teachers in November? A mid-year switch is HUGE. There is no planning time on the calendar. When are teachers supposed to get ready to teach a mostly-different set of topics in the spring? This would be hard enough for teachers on the block, but what about those that teach a 7-period day and therefore teach the same math course to the same students all year?

Should the board approve this idea to switch the math curriculum mid-year? Let's discuss and then we'll share our thoughts with the board.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

SPLOST IV Passes Handily

The votes have been counted and SPLOST IV has been approved by 62% of the voters of DeKalb. We had many conversations on this blog about the future of SPLOST and the terrible loss in public trust that has resulted from the mismanagement and corruption of past SPLOSTs. Dr. Atkinson has promised better oversight of new SPLOST dollars and we look forward to reporting as the spending numbers are released. We will all tread very carefully into the future, keeping an attitude of cautious optimism. We will still push for more transparency and continue to hope to get the Check Register published online. Best wishes to all of the school communities who have promised SPLOST IV projects!

For the record, click here to read the actual text of the referendum along with a list of promised projectsClick here to read the formal announcement from the board to the public.

From the DCSS Powerpoint regarding SPLOST IV promises:

SPLOST IV List: Elementary School Upgrades New Elementary School Facilities Include: • Austin Elementary School • Fernbank Elementary School • Gresham Park Elementary School • Peachcrest Elementary School • Pleasantdale Elementary School • Rockbridge Elementary School • Smoke Rise Elementary School Additions for: • Coralwood Diagnostic Center

SPLOST IV List: Secondary School Upgrades
Replacement of: • Ronald A. McNair MS • Chamblee HS Additions & Major Renovations At: • Comprehensive Arts School at the former Avondale MS location • Henderson MS • Redan HS
Major Renovations At: • Southwest DeKalb HS • Stone Mountain HS

SPLOST IV List: Other Improvements
• Stadiums - $ 10,200,000
• Technology Equipment Refresh & Infrastructure – $38,700,000
• Americans with Disabilities Act Improvements - $ 2,500,000
• Buses & Service Vehicles - $ 11,800,000
• Security Systems Upgrade - $ 2,500,000
• Local School Priority Requests – $ 5,500,000

SPLOST IV List: Capital Renewal Program
A $93.1 million Capital Renewal Program over five years will complete over 300 projects system-wide: • Roofing • Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) • Electrical • Plumbing • Kitchen Upgrades • Environmental • Code Requirements

SPLOST IV Budget Overview

=== To read a CrossRoads News post on the results, featuring Jay Cunningham holding a sign promoting SPLOST, click here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

November 7 Board Meeting - PART 2

Whoa.  Too many comments in my original post - had to start a new post.  To read the citizen comments, click here.

(Ms. Copelin-Wood is attending via telephone.)

Financial Report - Turk. Available here.

HR - Wilson. McChesney asked a good question - are the reported 23 job openings the same ones from last month? (No way to tell by the report.) Only 6 are.

Babst - audit report. 32 schools audited this year. Ethics line generated 30 reports. Jester disappointed that he hasn't gotten to the systemwide issues.

Sheltering Arms. Special Ed. Staffed by DCSS.

Museum School approved to use Forrest Hills. Edler: Charter is 5 years, but lease is 10 years. Why aren't they the same? (Good question.) School wanted to be ensured they would have long term use - they are investing a lot in renovations. Speaks: Are we responsible for insurance? Lawyer: DCSS is deemed harmless. Cunningham: Lease should coincide with length of program. I puzzled by the 10 year lease when the charter is for 5. McChesney: Already asked a lot of these questions. What happens is that 2nd, 5 year lease is null and void if charter is not renewed. Womack: I understand due to their investment in the property. Edler: But we should go with what makes sense to be 'congruent'... I think it should be in our ballpark. Bowen: They just want to protect their investment. Edler: (still pushes...) What is the difference if they're looking to lease after 10 years? Bowen: You're right. But we're not held hostage, so it doesn't make a difference. (More lights from board reps.) McChesney: If we need the school for growth, there's a provision to take it back. Atty: Yes. Cunningham: Help me find the part where it says if we approve after the 5, then they can have another 5 on the lease... (they all look over the contract as if they've never seen it). Cunningham approves. Atty to Speaks: Tenant is required to hold insurance. Cunningham: Are there any other folks that are looking at buildings? Atty: Yes, ICS wants to lease Medlock and another charter will want to lease after charter is approved by the state. (My comment: how ridiculous! this much discussion over a charter lease?)

Freeman: $100,000 to approve ambulance service for football, cross country and track. McChesney: How about soccer? Freeman: No, we'll look into it. Lots more discussion including lacrosse, which has a lot of injuries.

Ms. Woods wants to revisit the Museum School contract. She understood them to be apprehensive that they might do all these repairs and get booted from the school. Are they consulting about their plans? Knighton: Yes. (Woods can't hear, so Knight responds more loudly.)

Freeman: Not to exceed $200,000 for officiating services from the Atlanta Quarterback and Capitol City Officials Associations. Red Cross: Memorandum of Agreement to use certain schools for emergency shelters.

Guillory: School bus purchases - 7 buses at $76,000+ each. Uses state school bus funds. No cost to system. McChesney: Can we convert to natural gas? Guillory: Yes. Cunningham: What about SPLOST III buses? Guillory: We have not used SPLOST III to purchase buses. We've used state funds only. Have received 9 buses. (Special Ed.) Womack: What about natural gas? There are grants available - I thought we were going to look at that. Walker: Special thanks to David for pointing out the 'value-add' for the buses.

Barbara Colman: Change orders only come when they're over $50,000. DSA - roof replacement at Avondale HS (to reroof the third wing - where DSA is). McChesney: It's not the same roofer that did Hawthorne I hope. (No.) Edler: Is there a schedule? Or is it who yells the loudest? Colman: No, we go by the assessment, not by who screams the loudest. Edler: I'm sorry, I didn't hear you. Are you going to provide a list? Colman: We will provide one. Miller Grove renovation and addition design. WBBC - new lighting $65,000+ and new HVAC controls $87,500. Edler: I'd like a similar report on HVAC systems in order of rotation. (Good idea Donna!)

Dan Drake: An obesity initiative.

Atkinson: Professional services. May 9 authorized a salary compensation and class study after the last one did not produce the results they sought. I sent out an RFP for a new audit. Deadline Jan 1. Phase II - March 15 deadline. Management Advisory Group was considered the most responsive responsible bid. $175,420. Jester: Excited to begin this process. Didn't hear back from initial companies we sought bids from. Adkinson: We had a short window and strict consequences for late work so it "may" have deterred some. Time to vote. Sarah on the phone, "What are we voting on?" Item passed.

Other Comments: Edler: Reminding people to vote tomorrow. An important referendum on the ballot: SPLOST.

Walker: Jack and Jill Organization held a Youth Forum. (Like a Civics 101 to teach roles and responsibilities of elected officials.)

Cunningham: Thanks for the thoughts and prayers. I laid on my back for two weeks thinking about life. "If you're not doing what you should do like taking meds and exercising, or being stubborn like men, then you need to take a look at how you're living.... I"m now eating fruit."

Jester: I"d like to see a safety report in our regular monthly packet. We've had several break-ins and I think the board should be informed, especially since we're self-insured. I'd also like to point out that in a brochure that went home about SPLOST - I'd like to point out that the line stating that there is no funding for projects, that the Chamblee program is funded with federal QSCB funds and will go forward with or without SPLOST. Cunningham: I appreciate your comment, but SPLOST pays back the QSCB. It's not free money, it's a loan. Jester: Yes. That reiterated what I said. And the $57 per home tax increase without the SPLOST will repay the QSCB. Bowen: If you want to know more about SPLOST, check the website.

November 7 Board Meeting - PART 1

The citizen comments are about to begin.

The leader of the bus drivers is complaining that bus drivers are in distress - lowered pay, increase in insurance premiums, dropped retirement contributions.  She demanded a meeting with board reps.  She was pretty angry.
Hightower parent: the school is overcrowded. Need more buses. Need water offered at lunch in addition to milk and juice.
Teacher/parent: complimenting DCSS. Daughter is in the IB program at Tucker. Very happy with it. Earned 15 college credits. Is now at Kennesaw State.
Viola Davis: Investigated a school but was told that she should only be concerned with her own child's school.  Produced an Open Records Request. Wants the board to reconsider the cell tower agreement with T-Mobile.
Parent from MLK HS - IB Program. Cell tower is due to be installed at MLK -- a flawed decision in a flawed process. Haphazard notification.
Teacher at SW DeKalb - skeptical of new program with lesson plans.  He feels he is a professional and can write his own lesson plans. US test prep works.  Please continue to fund it. Let me do what I do best.
Lisa Morgan: (ODE rep and Kindergarten teacher) Good things: National Assn of black storytellers holding national conference this week. Tony E and MLK will host storytellers Thurs, Allgood hosting on Friday. Concern: Furlough days. Third Friday of Dec, teachers walk out of classroom and in high school, won't see same students on Jan 4 - when all reenter the building.  Teachers need that prep day that was taken away.  Does the system truly expect teachers to give a final on the last day and be prepared the next school day for the new group?
Parent: We need another Theme Middle School in the south end of the county. Champion has a wait list of over 500 students. Options are too limited. People are moving or sending children across the county.  They would rather their child ride the bus for hours a day than send their child to their home school. 36 of 86 DCSS ESs met AYP. 100% of theme schools met AYP. Board must be proactive and work with parents.
Parent - Wynbrook, Stephenson MS, and Champion, our hope for 6th grade. I was at the round table at Stephenson.  Board has funded schools elsewhere, Stephenson needs funding.  We need another theme school near Avondale. Avondale HS is only partly used for DSA, could use the rest for theme, or Peachcrest or Glen Haven (both closed). Consider bringing uniforms to all ESs. Parents want quality choice schools in the area - we don't have that at this time.
Marquis Frazier - product of DCSS (Sequoyah, MLK 2005). College at GA State. Works at United Way. TWAM (Together We Accomplish More) - a group he created. College students to speak to high schools about how to prepare for college. Left a video for the board's consideration.
Marsha Tolbert: Proud parent at DSA. Listed DSA's accomplishments so far this year. Nov 10, open Neil Simon's "Rumors". Is thrilled that the county wants to support and expand the program. But questions SPLOST IV plans. There is no theatre for the program.  No plans for where to house programs. New site only has parking for staff of a middle school.  Need parking for students/staff of a high school along with audience. Building a theatre would cost more than the SPLOST IV allocation for DSA.  Where will the money come from? What's the timeline?  Very glad you share the vision but want to see the plan.
Sandy Purkett: The Great Redan High School, The Pilot Program and the Blue Thunder Band. 25 students: Alabama A&M, all fees waived. Heavy vote Yes for SPLOST. Better facilities discourage dropouts.  The superintendent has "put out everything possible to make sure things are being watched." (?)
Paul Miller; I know you don't want to hear from me - it makes me sick to have to talk to you again about cell towers.  I am a physical therapist, I see cancer victims every day having endured bone marrow transplants. Polled his neighbors and not a single one was aware that the board planned to build cell towers on school property. Principal lied.  Put flyers in pre-K backpacks. PTA said they didn't know, but couldn't take a stand. NO positives except money.
Cheryl Miller: Learned a lot about cell towers and RF radiation.  I don't understand what cell towers have to do with education or why this burden has been put on us - had to deal with it over the summer break when we should have been enjoying family time.  We got Brockett taken off the list, but lot of people still don't know cell towers are going to be built at their school. The board needs to do a much better job of communicating with communities. -- The same issues they have heard about regarding radiation and cell towers are the concerns they will hear about with wireless in the classrooms. That why we will Vote NO on SPLOST.
Jeff Right: Homeowner in Briarlake community. My plan was to live in DeKalb county 10-20 years until I heard that a cell tower was being built.  Critical inconsistency in logic to remove three schools but leave others.  Cumulative accumulation of radiation is dangerous - esp to children. No safe threshold. This is a deal breaker. Will you measure the radiation? Let the county worry about cell coverage and let the board worry about education.
Tammy Macafie: On a committee seeking to establish another theme school to accommodate the over 400 on the waiting list.
David Schutten: SPLOST IV advocate. We have $2 billion worth of needs (Still?!)
Kalid Mahamod Ali Farakhan: Wants surplus supplies given to homeschoolers. Called each board member by name (shades of Romper Room) What do Caucasions know about educating African-Americans?  As long as my brothers and sisters get BMWs and Mercedes, they will look the other way... yada yada...
Willie Pringle: I have a problem with SPLOST. Schools are failing our children. We have some good schools, but the money we have spent in legal fees, unaccounted for - where is the money? I see you asking for another SPLOST when I see teachers, custodians, bus drivers not getting money, but those at the top continue to get pay raises. Cell towers: I told you not to support, but you did.  I told you to vote no but you didn't listen. We have a right to know where our tax dollars go. SPLOST IV should not go.  Millions still unaccounted for in III.  Six years - no audit.  What's wrong?

Because DCSS Doesn't, The Fugees Will

The Fugees on National TV

An earlier post mentions hidden treasure Warren Tech. Now we have a nice story from the CBS Sunday Morning program about a refugee soccer program right here in DeKalb. We should be proud, however, DCSS didn't actually help this story at all.  This beautiful story is all due to one remarkable woman, Luma Mufleh.

However, there is a troubling part of the story. The subject of the story, Luma Mufleh, is critical of DCSS. At the the 3:30 minute mark, she criticizes DCSS, saying "they were slipping through the cracks, no one was paying attention to them". In fact, probably due to DeKalb's lack of concern for the very special needs of these students, Mufleh decided to take matters upon herself.

She is so troubled by how DCSS treats immigrant students, she has given up on public support and is building a new school for them, and already has an academic day camp (at the 6:10 mark).

Sadly, this is indicative of the failure of the Central Office and Board of Education. You've heard the numerous complaints about how DCSS fails the large Hispanic population along the Buford Highway corridor. That population isn't full of "squeaky wheels", and does not receive the attention and resources they need (even though the great Kim Gokce is trying his best to change that!).

The Fugees story is sad and unnecessary. The DCSS Central Office and Board of Education are majority African-American. One would hope that a majority African-American administration and board would be responsive to the needs of minority and immigrant students. But they're not. They fail in this area. The Central Office continues to be bloated, playing their petty politics, getting salary increases while teachers stand in the corner. The Bowen-led BOE gets involved in their pet projects, has too many relatives working for the system, shows no leadership, caves in to powerful PTAs and loud squeaky wheels, enabled a superintendent and COO who were indicted for running a criminal enterprise right under the board's noses, etc.

Good for Luma Mufleh to say "Enough!, I'll build a school for refugee students".

One day the Central Office and BOE might wise up, and learn from her example.

For more on the Fugees Family, click here.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Penny by Penny

David Montané, a leader in the local Libertarian party regularly leaves comments on this blog that give me pause. I find his perspective often reminds me of early founders of American principles. In a recent post, David left this comment, "Everyone has been writing, both on this blog and all the local papers, about what will be done with the money if SPLOST is renewed. Will it be wasted, or will it benefit the children? Should we vote NO this time, then if they do what we want vote YES next time? This is the way those who have a special interest in the public schools look at the matter. This is so because the schools and buses and computers constructed with SPLOST money, in the words of Frederic Bastiat, are "seen" - they are visible to all. "This blinds all eyes" to the real effect of the tax on the public welfare. As an austro-libertarian, my interest is not in how the money will be spent, but in how it will NOT be spent - the "unseen". If we continue the SPLOST, $100 Million per year, from mid-2012 to mid-2017, will NOT be spent by individuals deciding on their own how that money should best be spent or saved or invested. Instead, that money will be forcibly removed from them at the cash register. In this sense, no matter how the money is used, it is stolen money and will obviously be misused. (Read "That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen")

He has a point. I am tired of being taxed in every nook and cranny of my life and would most likely spend my money more wisely if allowed to keep it. Although I don't mind paying taxes for basic societal needs, we are over-taxed in DeKalb and much of it is simply squandered. On top of that, the great state of Georgia has abused DeKalb for over a decade now. First, we all pay taxes to the state of Georgia and then the State, using a complicated funding formula called QBE (explained as well as possible by Joe Martin at the January, 2011 ELPC meeting) calculates what our school system is entitled to from state funds by adding up the numbers of our students, having multiplied each by a different weight proportionate to their individual needs called "FTE"*. Then, in something they call "Austerity Cuts", the state just hacks away at our entitlement total until it becomes a number the state feels comfortable sending to DeKalb. This has cost us hundreds of millions in lost funds over the last decade. It's frustrating and harmful. Have your ever noticed how hard CFO Marcus Turk has tried to alert us to this over the years? He mentions it every time he presents a budget. I've included a couple of his charts below.

FTE State Funding Summary
(click to view larger)

Worse, add to these "Austerity Cuts" the "Equalization" of school funds by the state, where they take what they call our "Local 5 mill share" and simply give it away to counties around the state that they decide are "poor" and "rural" and need our money more that we. Guess how much they take from us for "Equalization" every year? You are right! 100 Million Dollars! (Insert pinkie upside down at the corner of your mouth when you read that.) $100 Million (or more). Ironically, this is just about exactly the same amount we are now poised to tax ourselves and our guests (for the fourth time) to cover what we need to build and maintain our schools. How long until they start redistributing our SPLOST pennies? I wonder if our poor, rural neighbors appreciate that we are willing to double-tax ourselves so that they can build new schools too.

Actual funds received
vs entitlement
(click to view larger)
This is $100 million, penny by penny, taken from the good people of Dekalb - who already pay quite enough to fund a perfectly functional school system if those in charge would simply make it functional. We wouldn't need a SPLOST if those at the state would return the what they take from us year after year to give to "poor", "rural" counties who don't tax their property owners at nearly the same rate as we. We are fools to play into this game of income redistribution by the state. Vote "No" on SPLOST and instead, demand that your state legislators return our hard-earned money!

The Cobb County Budget available online includes this chart:

Property Taxes - Taxes levied on real and personal property, based on values assessed as of January 1 each year. FY2012 Property Tax revenue is based on a millage levy currently of 20.0 mills. The following are FY2011 Metro Atlanta comparisons of proposed millage rates, homestead exemptions and taxes on a $165,000 home:

*(For more in-depth but easy to understand information on FTE, click here to download a great Powerpoint called FTE for Dummies written by Paige Cooley of the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System.)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Are we gearing up for a trial yet?

From WSB Channel 2 News:

A new indictment could put former DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis at the center of a school construction scandal.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne found out Lewis just got a ruling back from the Georgia Court of Appeals that reversed a lower-court decision disqualifying lawyer Mike Brown from representing Lewis in his corruption case.

But now the issue is will Brown be helping Lewis fight new allegations too?

Winne spoke by phone with Tony Axam, attorney for Pat Reid, former Chief Operating Officer of DeKalb Schools who oversaw construction projects for them.

Axam said the DeKalb district attorney's office has told him it intends to seek a superseding, or second, indictment in the DeKalb Schools case in which Lewis would become the central figure.

He said in the current indictment, Pat Reid is the central figure.

Axam maintains Lewis made Reid the central figure in the months leading up to the indictment through statements Lewis made to the DA's office.

Axam said Reid is innocent of any crime in the current indictment or in any that may come.

Winne talked to the district attorney Robert James and said it sounds like such a plan has not gotten the green light from him so far.

"I've not made a decision to seek a superseding indictment or any other indictment at this point. What I'm dealing with is what's in front of us which is the existing indictment," James said. 

Warren Tech: A hidden treasure in DeKalb

The Warren Tech Eagle
Happy Friday!  True to my goal of creating a Fun Friday theme, I wanted to share an uplifting experience I had this week that highlights a very good thing happening in our school system.

Warren Tech's Foundation hosted their annual fall fundraising business luncheon at the school. Now, that doesn't sound all that impressive, until you learn that the entire luncheon was prepared and served by the students!  And it was delicious!

Warren Tech is one DeKalb county school we can all be proud of. This school serves the mission of preparing young people with learning challenges for a successful work life. The principal, Ms. Carla Jones exemplifies kind, supportive, knowledgeable leadership, the results of which you can witness in her staff and students. The teachers and leaders at Warren Tech put their hearts and souls into preparing these young people in every way for the world of work and balanced, happy lives. This is the only program of it's kind in the state!

These students hosted a 'career fair' of sorts before lunch, with table top presentations highlighting each of the programs offered at the school.  They were so poised, friendly, engaging and interesting.  They shared their excitement for their school and their individual program as well as any professional presenter I have met.

According to the principal's page on the website, programs include Auto Service, Construction, Health Care Services, Professional Food Service, Landscaping/Grounds Maintenance, Hospitality Services, Horticulture, Business Procedures, Marketing/Retail Services, Production & Distribution, Reading Enrichment and Early Childhood.

"In addition to each program, students acquire skills in: Completing On-line Job Applications, Interviewing Techniques, Job and Career Search Techniques, Developing Appropriate Work Habits and Grooming Standards to meet industry standards. They work closely with our business community to ensure that students have the best possible preparation for the world of work. Most students learn from hands on experience in the work industry. Each vocational program consists of team members (teacher/job coach) who accompany the participating students during the school day to the work site. Students engage in performance learning skill development at the employer's site. Curriculum and instruction are determined by the Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Warren Tech works closely with parents, the home school teachers and the administration team, as well as the business community. Each student is required to have an IEP and a transitional plan. This plan outlines any activities that the student will undertake in preparation for entering the work force and becoming an independent, contributing citizen. Most students will receive assistance from Georgia's Vocational Rehabilitation after graduation."

If you have time, visit the Warren Tech campus in Chamblee near Mercer University. If you know of a student who may benefit from this program, please pass this information on. Once you get a glimpse of the work being done at this wonderful school you will not be able to walk away without deciding to become a supporter.

Click here to check out the Warren Tech Foundation.  Ask your company to consider supporting this school as they have many needs.  Consider making a donation yourself as we move into the holiday season.  It's a gift you can be sure will make a difference in the life of a young person.