Time to bid you ‘Adieu’!

Rodin-Farewell-DeKalb-School-Watch-TwoAfter three and a half years of reporting and moderating for DeKalb School Watch Two, we have decided that it is time for us to move along. We realize that while many of you will miss us, many will also cheer our exodus. We don’t worry about it. We feel that we have done our very best to expose what we could regarding the corruption and graft in the school district.

The 700+ DeKalb School Watch Two blog posts will remain for anyone wishing to read about DeKalb schools from January 2012 through June 30 2015. The same is true for the original DSW which began in 2008-09. We are going to devote our time to our own work, our own families, travel and fun. We sincerely hope the new superintendent is ready, willing and able to make the changes that must occur in order to truly provide a quality education to each and every child in DeKalb.  Time will tell and hopefully you will each take part in the process.

These ten 2-letter words from William Johnsen tell you where your leadership storyˡ begins and ends:

If it is to be, it is up to me.
ˡConantLeadership

This statement is the key to assuming leadership, enabling collaboration, building critical mass, seeking consensus and, ultimately, to attaining transformational change. You can do this.

Best wishes to each and every one of you. And thank you for your years of participation in the blog. We have truly enjoyed ‘meeting’ and knowing you all.

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Posted in Education in the South | Tagged , , | 39 Comments

Something for educators to think about

We live in a fast-moving, hyper-connected, ultra-informed world. Technology is not something young people ‘learn’, it is part of their fiber and being. Educators need to be aware and come to the table with learning tools that speak to our young people today. We need to teach them in the way that they learn. Knowledge is power. Technology is the tool that can impart that knowledge.

Enjoy this updated video! It’s definitely something to think about!

Posted in Board of Education Meetings, Budget Cuts, Charter School, Common Core Curriculum, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, Education in the South, Fernbank Science Center, Georgia Independent Schools, Library Media Center, Student Information, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

A re-post of our own 2020 Vision: For Dr. Green’s consideration

The following was originally posted February 7, 2011. It was a collaborative effort written by a professional writer/DeKalb parent who culled the opinions of a few dozen highly involved parents and community members. It exemplifies the wishes and dreams of many in this county, for a school district that places educating children as Job 1. We hope that someone shares this with Dr. Green and he takes to heart these specific wishes and overall hope for a quality education our children.

Add your own thoughts in the comments!

“Without a vision, the people perish…”

And so will the future of public education in DeKalb County if we don’t see radical change. Bloggers –parents, teachers and students – demand those in charge either lead or get out of the way. We are tired of the blaming, the excuses, the diversion tactics. It is still possible to educate children within a public system – but it requires skilled leadership and a sense of mission – a sense of purpose; a clear vision we have not had in this district in easily 20 years. In the past, we have blamed the old boys’ network, the federal court case, M to M, Dr. Brown – when the real culprit behind all of this has been an abject failure of leadership. How is it Fulton and Gwinnett have not become the public school embarrassments DeKalb has? Because when challenges emerged, demographics shifted and the feds made new rules, these counties adapted. They are not perfect: but they installed capable leadership and communicated a clear mission: educate kids. Let us do likewise.

The consequences of failing in this mission are grave. We polled our regular bloggers, contributors and consultants asking their input on a vision for our schools. Herewith, our own 2020 vision:

  • A trained, experienced superintendent who possesses the utmost integrity and character, who can guide DeKalb Schools in a way that develops teachers, staff and students; a leader not heretofore connected to this school system, who will end cronyism and nepotism, who can restore trust and is dedicated to putting student learning first; a leader qualified to re-structure a Central Office to serve children first.
  • A chief financial officer of the utmost integrity and character who is trustworthy and transparent in overseeing wise expenditures of the people’s money.
  • Board of Education members who adhere to codified ethical and legal standards; who are themselves educated; who are engaged in the mission of student learning; whose family members are not employed by the DeKalb County School System.
  • The completion of a thorough, outside forensic audit of the budget, all SPLOST expenditures and financial practices of the school system.
  • A re-configuring of the pay scale to redirect monies to classroom teachers from the Central Office personnel.
  • A qualified, skilled principal in every school, gifted at harnessing the power of teachers and parents to work in harmony for the development of every child; empowered principals who can remove inadequate teachers and staff.
  • A system of schools that offer an equitable course of study in a safe, clean and welcoming environment – no matter where you live.
  • A qualified teacher in every classroom, each encouraged to seek national certification, and each supported by the network of resources – including student teachers – available at area colleges.
  • Aligned feeder patterns that afford vertical planning time for all teachers to eliminate educational gaps as children move from elementary to middle school to high school.
  • A philosophy that encourages children to “advance when ready:” a nimble school environment that can meet the needs of early readers and those demonstrating unusual early facility, allowing them to move on to new academic challenges instead of marking time.
  • A system of schools sized to maximize collection of state and federal funding.


Elementary Vision:

  • A safe, clean environment with appropriate resources in every classroom – from teaching tools to tissues.
  • Individualized learning support for struggling students that begins in Kindergarten.
  • Small learning groups to support solid reading and math skills.
  • An exploration of “looping” to allow a teacher to stay with a group two or even three years to focus on building on known strengths and addressing known deficits.
  • Refashioned art, music, PE and foreign language instruction for all students that builds on and is integrated into the core learning curriculum.
  • Technology: Wi-fi, SmartBoards, laptops, Kindles, iPads and/or other identified resources – plus the teacher training that ensures technology will be utilized to extend learning.
  • Fully-equipped science labs.
  • A quality program to meet the needs of gifted learners.
  • Recess every day.
  • A magnet program that begins in the upper elementary years – after children begin to demonstrate certain proficiencies – to address the needs of the top five-percent of students.
  • After-school programs that address learning struggles, while providing other life-enhancing and wellness activities.


Middle School Vision:

  • A place where children are known by the adults around them – where they are supported in academic pursuits and extra-curriculars.
  • A clean, safe environment, where adults are trained to develop students and coach them into better choices and behaviors; where intransigent students are removed in deference to the entire school community.
  • Refashioned art, music, PE and foreign language instruction for all students that builds on and is integrated into the core learning curriculum.
  • Technology: Wi-fi, SmartBoards, laptops, Kindles, iPads and other identified resources – plus the teacher training that ensure resources will be utilized to extend learning.
  • Fully-equipped science labs.
  • A quality program to meet the needs of gifted learners.
  • A full complement of sports, academic competitions (including science, debate, Hi-Q, chess, engineering) leadership and musical opportunities – with qualified adult leadership – to develop students’ gifts and talents.
  • Intra-mural programs to promote cooperation and play.


High School Vision:

  • A place where children are known by the adults around them – where they are supported in academic pursuits and extra-curriculars.
  • A clean, safe environment, where adults are trained to develop students and coach them into better choices and behaviors; where intransigent students are removed in deference to the entire school community.
  • Multi-track diplomas that recognize not every child will attend college – but every child needs a high school diploma. Vo-Tech and Career-Tech paths that will ensure students graduate prepared to support themselves and capable of functioning in society.
  • Courses of study for the brightest students, supported by the resources of area colleges and undergirded by IB, AP and nationally-recognized standards.
  • General-level classes that do not warehouse children – that are engaging and develop all students.
  • Mandatory Saturday school for failing students.
  • Meaningful and informed college counseling.
  • Technology: Wi-fi, SmartBoards, laptops, Kindles, iPads and other identified resources – plus the teacher training that ensure technology resources will be utilized to extend learning.
  • Parents Centers for all schools within a cluster that truly offer needed resources, especially to non-English speaking parents.
  • A full complement of sports, academic competitions (including science, debate, Hi-Q, chess, engineering) leadership and musical opportunities – with qualified adult leadership – to develop students’ gifts and talents.
  • Intra-mural programs to promote cooperation and play.
Posted in Board of Education Meetings, Budget Cuts, Charter School, Common Core Curriculum, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, Georgia Independent Schools, Superintendent R. Stephen Green | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Impressive, DeKalb County Commission District 5!

After not having a representative for two years, DeKalb County Commission District 5 could muster up only 6% (4,557) of some 95,000 registered voters in a costly special election held yesterday, June 16, 2015.

The votes, with all 36 precincts reporting, were cast as follows:

1. Mereda Davis Johnson received 1,239 votes (27 percent)
2. George Turner received 726 votes (16 percent)
3. Jerome Edmondson received 490 votes (11 percent)
4. Kathryn Rice received 427 votes (9 percent)
5. Gina Mangham received 424 votes (9 percent)
6. Gregory Adams received 351 votes (8 percent)
7. Harmel Codi received 311 votes (7 percent)
8. Vaughn Irons received 278 votes (6 percent)
9. Gwen Russell Green received 185 votes (4 percent)
10. Kenneth Saunders received 115 votes (3 percent)

As far as we can tell this special election and the vote is only available behind the paywall at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Typical. So get the story at On Common Ground News: http://oncommongroundnews.com/local-news/item/624-dekalb-s-district-5-johnson-is-top-contestant-in-runoff-with-turner.html#sthash.boNk6y9W.dpuf

Meanwhile, you may be interested in this story aired on March 5, 2015 by WXIA. Mereda Johnson was paid more than $73,000 since 2008 from campaign contributions to her husband, US Representative Hank Johnson.  This while she apparently continued to work full-time as a lawyer in her law firm and even when her husband, Hank Johnson, had no opposition for re-election.  Hank Johnson said she “earned every penny” and that she was “more accessible” than he was. Can you spell “Friends-and-Family”? Do we really need more of that in DeKalb County?

You may also want to read this article about George Turner in Atlanta Progressive News, June 2, 2015.  It is eye-opening!  Lots of interesting information there that would cause a reasonable person to re-think voting for Turner.  The article mentions that Turner has been a legislative aide to District 43 for seven years.  Ron Ramsey — yes, double-dipping Ron Ramsey) is the state senator for District 43.  Can you spell “Friends-and-Family”?  Do we really need yet another F & F connection who is beholden to Ron Ramsey?

Good going, District 5!  Not only did so many people selfishly run for this office that it was hard even for stalwart voters to identify one who would make a decent candidate. A costly run-off was almost assured.  It doesn’t matter who wins.  The winner will most assuredly be the lesser of two evils. You get what you deserve, District 5. But the rest of us are sick of it!

Impressive, District 5.  Really.

Posted in Uncategorized | 28 Comments

Better late than never?

michael-thurmond-mighty-mouseHere he comes to save the day!

It looks like Mr. Thurmond is recommending spending $10 million on a campaign contribution retirement “option” [tax-sheltered annuity?] contributions for teachers!

JUST RELEASED by Thurmond’s campaign manager turned communications officer for DeKalb County Schools >>

SUPERINTENDENT MICHAEL THURMOND RECOMMENDS $10 MILLION TO RESTORE EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT PLAN

DeKalb County School District Considers Restoring Retirement Options for All Employees

Superintendent Michael Thurmond recommends “assignment” of $10 million in the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2015 – 2016 to reestablish a DeKalb County School District supported retirement option for all employees. The funds have been identified in the District’s fund balance, which is expected to exceed $80 million at the beginning of the new fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2015.

The DeKalb Board of Education will consider this recommendation on Wednesday, June 17, when the final budget for FY2016 is adopted.

“We have been working diligently for the past two years to find ways to help our loyal employees, who have been the victims of a bad economy and poor management decisions in years past,” said Superintendent Thurmond. “With the new budget, the District will have the ability to assist employees with their pre-tax retirement savings in addition to allocating $20 million for significant salary increases for qualified, veteran teachers as well as improved salaries for all other employees. I am particularly proud of the much needed and deserved proposed salary increases for our lowest paid employees.”

In March, Superintendent Thurmond recommended a three-tier salary increase that emphasizes improved salaries for veteran teachers for FY2015-2016. The proposed increases include:

• 4 percent cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for all veteran teachers with 6 or more years of experience
• 3 percent COLA increase to teachers with 0-5 years of experience; and,
• 2 percent COLA increase for all other employees.

The District has 14,000 total employees including 6,000 teachers.

Contact:
Quinn Hudson
678.676.0720

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Kidding aside: If he is able to restore these contributions, regardless of his motivation  – we will be thrilled! This 11th hour action by Michael Thurmond before he leaves his post as superintendent would be a much needed very big first step towards restoring trust and integrity with our teachers. Here’s hoping!

Posted in Board of Education Meetings, Budget Cuts, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, Stan Jester, Superintendent R. Stephen Green, Uncategorized | 46 Comments