Monday, November 7, 2011

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.


Anonymous said...

Nothing the Central Office does or does not so suprises me anymore. Wondering why Atkinson hasn't cleaned house yet.

Anonymous said...

If Ms. Atkinson does not clean house she pivots from a hopeful solution to the woes at DCSS to a part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

The neglect of the Buford Highway corridor in the SPLOST IV list - while giving Fernbank a new building (after receiving a nice addition recently) and Coralwood an additional $10 million (also after recently recieving millions for a renovation for less than 200 3 - 5 yr olds, only 1/2 of which are special needs)- is one of the many reasons I will not vote for SPLOST IV. The list is riddled with political favors and doesn't not represent what is best for all of DeKalb County.

Cerebration said...

We wrote a post about the Fugees over two years ago and sent it to many in charge. Obviously, they had no problem completely ignoring them.

Support the Fugees Family!

In addition, most of our immigrant students are concentrated in two schools - Cross Keys and Clarkston and their feeders. During the recent redistricting, many of the immigrants lucky enough to be districted to Druid Hills or Tucker were moved to Clarkston.

Then a daughter of a high-ranking DCSS administrator was promoted from Assistant Principal elsewhere to Principal at Clarkston - a high school in year (eight I believe) of Needs Improvement. A school that the board should have chosen to close, reopen and reinterview the entire staff, replacing most of them. This school is in serious trouble, yet it appears to me that DCSS admin simply views it as a good place to hand out jobs to Friends & Family.

We're tracking their progress. Anyone want to place bets as to whether this DCSS fantastic 'solution' to Clarkston's AYP problems will work?

Cerebration said...

Sagamore Elementary, a NON-Title 1 school, also has a large number of immigrant students. These students were really struggling to pass the state CRCT, putting the whole school at risk. So, the Sagamore PARENTS and PTA jumped in and worked with the staff to implement a volunteer-led, one on one tutoring program and guess what? They made AYP! Although not all immigrant students passed the test - there was an enormous increase in the number passing. And those that didn't hit the mark, still made incredible increases.

From 'The Patch'

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is one of the cornerstones of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. It is a measure of year-to-year student achievement on statewide assessments.

Sagamore Hills Elementary School met the 2011 AYP criteria for every required indicator; test participation, academic performance in Mathematics and Reading/Language Arts, and attendance.

The Sagamore Hills Elementary School faculty and staff, students, families, and the Sagamore Hills school community must be recognized and applauded for this outstanding level of achievement.

Congratulations Sagamore!

Maybe our director of School Improvement should interview these parents and try to replicate what they did in our Title 1 schools???

Just sayin...

Anonymous said...

The CBS stroy states that Clarkston is one of the cities in the U.S. where the federal government re-locates immigrant families that have faced political persecution.

The Central Office and BOE has a wonderful opportunity to work with the federal government, most likely the US Dept of Ed., to open a school dedicated to this population.

It would be a great story, and bring much acclaim to the school system. But it would take leadership, vision and competency from the Central Office and the Board of Education. The Fed's would take one look at the Lewis/Pope scandal and think long and hard about working with that group.

Anonymous said...

For the record, there IS a DeKalb school trying to serve the needs of many of these kids, but it does need donors (hint, hint):

Cerebration said...

True that! The International Community School (which was just given clearance to use the recently closed Medlock School as their new home after many years of pleading) is a fantastic facility that not only serves immigrant students, but combines them with locally born students whose parents choose this school for their child. Some impressive friendships have blossomed at ICS. Some impressive students attend ICS. This is definitely another jewel to be proud of.

DeKalb is a very unique school system as it is a microcosm of the United States. We have all the same groups of people as well as the issues, problems, triumphs and rewards. DeKalb is an American story. It's not a black story or a white story or a brown story a yellow story or an immigrant story. It's an American story and it's time we rise to the challenge and serve as an example of what works in this country. It's time we get national attention for how things can be done right.

Cerebration said...

FWIW - On another good note: State Farm is doing something about high school drop out rates. Check out their efforts to help kids stay in school and curb the current rate of one drop out every 26 seconds -

26 Seconds

Anonymous said...

DCSS order of priority as carried out by its administration and BOE

1. The administration so that bloated number of jobs and salaries can be taken care of.

2. Af-Am students to get the votes to elect the right BOE members so that 1. can be kept going

3. Caucasian students... have to give them something to keep their parents quiet because they pay the large share of the taxes

4. Who really cares about the rest anyway.

Diversity can be a good learning experience for many. I am willing to do my fair share. But I object to the U.S. State Department using DeKalb County as a dumping ground for much more than our fair share of refugees that local taxpayers have to support (schools,etc) to some extent. Why not settle them in the Virginia counties adjacent to Washington where many of the State Department workers live and pay
taxes? State Department elitist attitude. NIMBY.

Paula Caldarella said...

I saw this piece on CBS when it first aired.

The problem here is that DCSS would have to "think outside the box" with regards to educating this community. These children come to this country with virtually NO education, so you can't put an 11 year ols in 6th grade who had no formal education. DCSS (and the Federal Government) would do well to look at what Luma has done and replicate that. To this point, DCSS has had no interest in looking at alternative styles of education for the "non-traditional" student in DCSS. As someone stated, the Federal Government should step up as well here.

Anonymous said...

Luma has about 30 boys that have shown "stick to it-ness" in soccer. The Global Village School has about 30 older girls.

ICS has almost 400, roughly half being immigrants or refugees.

DCSS had about 5000 ELL students last year that were in the tested grade levels (3rd-8th CRCT plus those that took the GHSGT)

Luma's a great story--I think they are making a movie about her.

These, plus the sagmore hills volunteers and many other unnamed individuals are a voluntary "drop in the bucket". not a strategic district-with plan.

I believe that ICS represents the best starting point for such a plan, because it is already dealing with any child rather than the "chosen" children that Luma and GVS takes. Admirable as they are, they are like Ron Howard's school and if Luma can get $5 million to build a school and a million annually to run it entirely by private sources, I wish her the best.

But ICS is doing so now, within the constraints of a "public education" system that needs to be able to be flexible enough to help, not throw away these children. ICS needs to be seen by the district as a leader and partner in system-wide redesign in this area.

Hopefully, the move to Medlock will be a first step in a psychological change in this direction by Atkinson and her new team. 10 years is an awful long time to wait.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that the refugee organizations "own" some of this issue. They continue to resettle large numbers of refugees in Clarkston which creates all kinds of challenges. It is easier on the organizations to "cluster" the families but much harder on the communities and the schools.

I find that some of Clarkston is terribly unsafe and that these organizations should be ashamed of themselves for placing families there.

Anonymous said...

DeKalb citizen pays Federal Income tax

Federal income tax used to pay refugee organizations to settle refugees in DeKalb County

Causing DeKalb taxpayer to pay more local taxes to educate the refugee children.

Sounds like a lose -lose to me.

I remember an article in the AJC some time ago that DeKalb was getting two or three times more of the refugees than other Metro Counties. Let's share the diversity.

Anonymous said...

"Congratulations Sagamore!

Maybe our director of School Improvement should interview these parents and try to replicate what they did in our Title 1 schools??? "

Teachers directly struggling small groups of struggling students is what DeKalb needs more of. Highly paid NON-TEACHING Instructional Coaches and Instructional Coordinators and Instructional Trainers is what the Office of School Improvement has given our students. Tens of millions a year in salaries and benefits are being spent on the NON-TEACHING Instructional Coaches, Coordinators and Trainers. $10,000,000+ alone is spent on the Instructional coaches. There are 100+ Coaches with an average salary and benefit of close to $100,000 - per Coach - source: 2010 Georgia Salary and Travel audit:
(sort for Staff Development Specialists, Literacy Coach, and Graduation Coaches)

Additionally, millions a year (around $4,300,00+) are spent on Parent Center personnel, most of which are NOT certified in social work OR teaching.

This model of increasing NON-TEACHING personnel while drastically cutting teacher positions has resulted in a steep decline in student progress, particularly in Title 1 schools.
Here is the DeKalb Schools Title 1 Made AYP Rate Over Time:
Year 2005 - 72%
Year 2006 - 65%
Year 2007 - 76%
Year 2008 - 62%
Year 2009 - 74% (before strict test monitoring)
Year 2010 - 52% (after strict test monitoring)
Year 2011 - 19% (current percent of Title 1 schools making AYP)

No matter how well trained or gifted or how hard a teacher works, she cannot give the same level of attention to 7 or 8 struggling learners in a class of 30+ students as she can with a small class. This is just mathematics. A teacher only has so many minutes in a day.

Until Dr. Atkinson puts personnel back into the classroom directly instructing struggling students, our school achievement continue on a downward trajectory.

Sagamore parents and volunteers rolled up their sleeves and directly instructed these struggling students. Thank them for this on behalf of the Sagamore students and thank them for showing the county that there are no shortcuts.

Anonymous said...

Oops! Sorry for the typo. Should read:

Teachers directly instructing small groups of struggling students is what DeKalb needs more of.

Cerebration said...

DCSS does have an International Community Center. It's located in the former Kittredge building on North Druid Hills Road. They do an admirable job of working with students when they first arrive to the U.S., however, they only attend the school for partial days. This program could use a major expansion --

Dekalb International Student Center

The mission of the DeKalb International Student Center is to assist English Language Learners and their families from different cultures to acquire the academic, social, and life skills needed to succeed in the United States and in a global society.

The two programs at the International Student Center are:

-The Intensive English program, for students in grades 3-12, who spend part of their day with us and part of their day at their home school.

-The LAB program for our full-time 7th and 8th grade students.

Cerebration said...

BTW - there is a link at the above website that points to a brochure for the Parent Centers. The cover of the brochure gives credit to "'Dr. Audria Berry, Executive Director, Office of School Improvement".

To see the list of centers and their hours, copy and paste this link:

Anonymous said...

Read the brochure.

Why in the blankety blank do Parent Resource Center staff and administrators make more than veteran teachers????

Also, why in the heck is Audria Bahamas Berry an "Executive Director"?? Why isn't she just a "Director"? The Central Office will do anything to give higher salaries to administrators.

Anonymous said...

Just for clarification--the International Student Center (ISC) and the International Community School (ICS) are two ENTIRELY DIFFERENT ENTITIES

Cerebration said...

Correct, Anon. And that's important. The International Community SCHOOL is a Charter School. They serve over 400 children from over 40 countries. These children attend ICS all day. This is their school. The DCSS International Student CENTER is a program designed to bring student's English skills and other skills up to a point where they can transfer to their home school.

Anonymous said...

I feel compelled to remind folks that the way we recognize and define "diversity" varies depending on our community. I find that south Dekalb and the black community tends to define "diversity" as blacks into one "pool" as "diverse" and whites into the other "pool" and don't seem to recognize that there are others... others (Latinos and African refugees and refugees from other war-torn countries and Asians etc.) seem to get "lumped" into the "white" bin. Whites on the north side of the county seem to put whites into one "bin" and all other "non-whites" into the "diverse" "other" bin and, alas, "diversity is defined very differently depending on your background and vantage point (and Muslims, Catholics and Jews, don't really count at all as minorities even though they may very well be actively discriminated against).

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 5:05 pm

"Also, why in the heck is Audria Bahamas Berry an "Executive Director"?? Why isn't she just a "Director"?"

Audria Berry was a Director until Crawford Lewis promoted her to an Executive Director. See DeKalb Schools BOE meeting notes from July 10, 2006:
"Dr. Lewis recommended that the Board approve the following personnel recommendations:...
" Audria Berry to the position of Executive Director, Office of School Improvement (currently Director, Office of School Improvement)"...
"Ms. Grant noted that there was a substantial change in salary for several of the promotions. Dr. Lewis confirmed that all but two of the reassignments were promotions and included salary increases (Dr. Berry was one of the salary increases) ...

....Ms. Joyner questioned how the salary increases were determined, noting that although there is a single salary structure, she could not determine any consistency in the increases....Mr. Cost said it is based on years of experience and an individual is given credit for experience related to the new position."...

...Ms. Anderson-Littlejohn ....questioned whether the school system was becoming top heavy and whether the system would be better served by putting this money back into the classroom....

.....Mr. Franzoni stated that .....the Board’s policy allows for 43 supervisory or above positions. Dr. Lewis’ recommendation increases it to 58 positions, a 35% increase.....

...Mrs. Edwards encouraged the Board to support Dr. Lewis’ reorganization as presented by the Superintendent to support his moving forward. The Board spent many dollars on the compensation classification study and adopted a single salary structure and this should be the model. "

Can you see how Mrs. Edwards used the missing Ernst and Young 2004 audit (it was called the compensation classification study by Lewis) to justify the raises?

Of course the justification for Dr. Berry's and the other promotions (there were nine of them) was to improve student achievement.

During that same meeting:

"Dr. Lewis recommended that David Guillory, currently Director of Transportation, be appointed to the position of Interim Executive Director of Transportation...Ms. Andrews made a motion to approve the recommendation, and Ms. Roberts seconded the motion......Ms. Andrews moved to approve Dr. Lewis’ recommendation that David Guillory be appointed Interim Executive Director of Transportation to include the recommended salary increase. "

Mr. Guillory is Mrs. Edwards son-in-law.

'Ms. Anderson-Littlejohn called for a vote, and the motion passed by a vote of 6-1-1, with Ms. Anderson-Littlejohn, Ms. Andrews, Ms. Copelin-Wood, Ms. Grant, Ms. Joyner, and Ms. Roberts voting affirmatively, Mr. Franzoni opposed, and Mrs. Edwards abstaining."

Anonymous said...

From the April 20, 2005 BOE meeting minutes:

"Mr. Tim Freeman, Associate Superintendent of Administrative Services, recommended that the Board approve the appointment of Philandrea Guillory, a relative of a board member, as Director of the Public, Press and Partner Relations Department. A motion was made by Ms. Andrews, seconded by Ms. Roberts and carried with a unanimous vote.

There being no further business, Mrs. Edwards called for a motion to adjourn"

At this meeting Pilandrea Guillory, daughter of the BOE Chair Mrs. Edwards was promoted to a Director position.

Notice that Tim Freeman, son of the former DCSS superintendent, recommended Ms. Guillory and Mrs. Edwards voted for her own daughter to receive this promotion.

Current salaries for:
David Guillory - $138,000+ with salary and benefits (calculated at 20%)
Philandrea Guillory - $138,000+ with salary and benefits (calculated at 20%)

$276,000 a year is a tidy sum. Now multiply this for 6 years and the sum is even tidier - $1,656,000.

Promotions for family and friends are the gift that keeps on giving.

Gifty Chung said...

Many student trying to pass the state CRCT , hese children come to this country with virtually NO education, so you can't put an 11 year ols in 6th grade who had no formal education.

Anonymous said...

Looks like even the good schools have a few bad apples.

A University of Georgia student from Atlanta is accused of selling marijuana and LSD to other students from her dorm room, according to police.

Athens-Clarke County Sheriff's Department Tatiana Andrea Galiano is accused of selling marijuana and LSD to other students from her University of Georgia dorm room.

.Athens-Clarke police arrested Tatiana Andrea Galiano, 18, on Wednesday morning after an investigation by a drug task force, which was initiated by UGA police.

Galiano was selling pot and LSD to other students from her dorm room at 53o Cresswell Hall, Athens-Clarke police Lt. Mike Hunsinger told the Athens Banner-Herald.

Officers also found smoking devices and pill containers, police told the newspaper.

Galiano, who reportedly attended Lakeside High School in DeKalb County, was released from the Athens-Clarke County Jail on Thursday after posting a $2,000 bond, the newspaper reported."