Sunday morning food for thought

Nelson-Mandela-Quotes_www.ActivatingThoughts.blogspot-3_t580We have long skirted the issue of true equity in DeKalb County, GA.  School system (and county) leadership ignore the fact that their decisions, which often enrich themselves personally, can cause irreparable harm to young black students and their parents. Decades after integration, DeKalb County Schools is still a system with unequal access to a quality education and all that accompanies a quality education including multiple career and college opportunities. But due to the fact that school leaders have all been African-American for at least a decade, one can conclude that the lack of equity is economic as well as racial.  Today, our poor black students as well as immigrant and Hispanic students are suffering a great lack of equity at the hands of black leaders. All too often, we simply allow the ‘justice system’ to take over where school systems are failing. This does nothing to improve outcomes and in reality, is killing the futures of thousands of young people in DeKalb and Georgia—mostly African-American young men.

It is the job of our schools and school leaders to prepare our young people for success  as adults and consequently a better life than enjoyed by their parents and grandparents.  Following nearly 30 years of federally enforced integration and a decade of black leadership at the helm, we are failing at properly preparing thousands of young people.  DeKalb County Schools is crushing their hopes and dreams for a middle class life.

It’s the creeping implosion of the black “middle class” that’s driving the politics of DeKalb County and DeKalb County Schools. And driving down the opportunity for a competitive world-class education which opens the door to social mobility for all — black, white, Asian, Hispanic, other.

All the data shows widening disparities between black and white incomes, college-completion, overall wealth, home ownership and access to good jobs. In fact, the Washington Post tells us that the income gap hasn’t budged in 50 years for most blacks.

Unfortunately, this “creeping implosion” seems to breed a type of politics that only makes matters worse. Our school leaders, Thurmond, Walker, Johnson, et al are unable — or unwilling — to grasp what is happening, because they have basically set themselves up as slumlords, with no apparent ability — or willingness — to see what is really happening to their increasingly impoverished base. They themselves, however, collect top salaries — at a minimum — and enjoy an upper-middle class life. They themselves, serve as appeasement to the black community by the white power structure of Georgia politics. And sadly, with plenty of money in their own pockets, they are content to serve as such.

True, this is not unique to DeKalb County Schools.  But what is unique is that a vast majority of our system leaders and administrators are African-American and they are unable to get the job done. They blame parents, home lives, economics, transiency, special needs and English language learners, along with the white minority in DeKalb County. They won’t even talk about Asian or Hispanic students or ELL immigrant students from war-torn Africa and the Mid-East.  DCS leaders and senior administrators all too easily place blame everyone else, and therefore, without taking responsibility, never move forward to try to solve the problems. Worse, in their self-aggrandizing way, they exhibit group hugs, cheering and back-slaps for the perceived ‘good job’ they are doing. Yes, small crumbs of success have occurred; like a nudge up the SACS ladder of accreditation and collecting more in tax revenues with an ability to squirrel away a portion of it in reserves, but student achievement is still dismal and many schools are still highly neglected and over-crowded.

The fact is, it is their JOB to educate ALL of these students. This requires moving funding from the central office to the classroom, spending more in some of the more needy classrooms than in others, focusing laser-like on removing the hurdles that make learning so very difficult for so many. This their JOB!

DeKalb County Schools senior administrators are paid very well to do their jobs and they have plenty of resources in spite of their public whining.  In today’s very diverse society, there is no single method that will work for all.

Ask any successful classroom teacher.  Teaching is hard work.  It is not “wash, rinse, repeat” day after day.  Successful teaching today requires openness to innovation and access to new ideas as well as the materials and technology to bring ideas to life. It requires a support staff. It requires love, patience, kindness, tolerance and energy – loads of it. In today’s world it requires access to technology for all as well as a plentiful bounty of books, supplies, and relevant, current student-achievement data-mining tools.

A new article in the New York Times, “Racial Terror, Fast and Slow” by Michael Eric Dyson shares insight into the terror of the black experience and clues us into the fact that “things” (stereotypes) have not changed much >>

Fast terror is explosive and explicit; it is the spectacle of unwarranted black death at the hands of the state, or displays of violence directed against defenseless bodies.

Slow terror is masked yet malignant; it stalks black people in denied opportunities that others take for granted. Slow terror seeps into every nook and cranny of black existence: black boys and girls being expelled from school at higher rates than their white peers; being harassed by unjust fines by local municipalities; having billions of dollars of black wealth drained off because of shady financial instruments sold to blacks during the mortgage crisis; and being imprisoned out of proportion to our percentage in the population.

Education can be an excruciatingly slow “terror” as described by Dyson for many young people. However, in truth, education is the only pathway to self-reliance and self-pride.

Our educational leadership has had the opportunity to affect change in the public perceptions of young black American citizens and yet they have not moved the needle. Our young citizens deserve a career they can be proud of. They deserve a job that allows them to provide for their families and encourages keeping those families intact. They deserve to walk the streets unafraid. The only way to this reality is to fully bring thousands more young black lives solidly into the middle class.  Education is the key to unlocking that door.

DeKalb County Schools, in collaboration with county leaders, have the opportunity to show the rest of the country how its done: regardless of race, income, religion, home country or language. All of our young people can bring something valuable to the American table.  We must all sit down together and identify the many pathways to get us there—and the heart, not the skin color of our leaders is what matters in this endeavor.

Posted in Budget Cuts, Crawford Lewis, Criminal / RICO Trials, DeKalb County, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, Education in the South, Michael Thurmond | Tagged | 5 Comments

Are Conversion Charter Schools Doomed in DeKalb County?

Reposted from ‘Dunwoody School Daze‘ blog >>

Chamblee Charter High School has now joined other Conversion Charter schools (Peachtree MS, Kingsley ES, Chesnut ES) in requesting a Charter Term Extension due to the new rules the State BOE has put into place regarding Charter Schools.

charter school autonomy

Based on the Superintendent Michael Thurmond’s treatment of the Druid Hills Charter Cluster request, it is my best guess that DCSS will not grant conversion charters the autonomy the State BOE now requires. And unless, the State BOE changes course, they will not approve a Charter School petition without the new rules now in place. The State BOE continues to offer delays for School System Autonomy contracts, so who knows.

gaboe charter deadline

Below is an update from Chamblee HS on their charter petition:
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CCHS submitted a renewal petition in October 2014. However, the State Board of Education approved new charter school rules and guidelines shortly after the petition was submitted. These new rules and guidelines became effective immediately and impacted key charter issues such as substantive autonomy, governance board training and revealed differences between DCSD and the State.

CCHS has requested a charter term extension of one year, to allow the District and CCHS to further collaborate and plan for the substantive autonomy sought by CCHS, in accordance with the new State Board of Education Rules and Guidelines. DCSD has formally approved the charter extension. and we are awaiting State approval of this extension at their May meeting.

What does this mean to CCHS?

CCHS will operate under its current charter for the 2015-16 school year an updated renewal petition must be submitted by CCHS by August 14, 2015, if we want to continue as a conversion charter school beyond 2015-2016, CCHS parents and faculty must approve the updated renewal petition if we want to continue as a conversion charter school

Posted in Charter School, Charter School Amendment, Michael Thurmond | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

And, again, the more things change, the more they stay the same…

Several representatives of the Cross Keys cluster of schools came to the last DeKalb School Board meeting, once again pleading for attention for their facilities. They have been warning the district about over-crowding for years and now, the scale has tipped. One speaker let us know that the cluster now has more students spending their entire school career in trailers than there are total students enrolled in nearby schools. In addition, one of the elementary schools trailers have been placed on the playground – virtually eliminating the ability to have recess time for these children!

The original DSW blog reported on the horrible conditions at Cross Keys High School several years ago and some money was eventually spent on the building. Truthfully, a majority of that money was spent to move the High School of Technology North into the Cross Keys facility. The original HSTN building had been traded to Perimeter College for property to build the brand new Dunwoody Elementary School. But some money was also spent to clean up the rest of the facility. Three years later, the very dangerous outdoor track was finally replaced as well.

Watch this video for some real truth about the lack of equity in DeKalb schools. This has long been and continues to be our frustration with the leadership in DeKalb – the vast crevasse between the haves and the have-nots; the focus only on the high achievers (mostly magnet schools) along with the refusal to admit that there are many students who are not afforded respectable facilities, proper books, tools and technology and the per pupil spending required in the classroom in order to achieve the best possible results.

Posted in Board of Education Meetings, Budget Cuts, School Construction, SPLOST III, SPLOST IV | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Superintendent Search Search Update April 11, 2015

DeKalb County School District – Superintendent Search Update April 11, 2015 The process of searching for a new Superintendent of DCSD began with the hiring of the search firm, PROACT Search, LLC. The DCSD Board also approved a timeline for the search. Recruitment of Applicants Ads were placed in the following publications and online:

  • Education Week – March 18th Edition
  • AASA, online for 30 days from March 9th
  • School Spring – Online March 4th until closed
  • LinkedIn – Online March 4th for 30 days
  • NABSE – Online March 4th for 30 days
  • Atlanta Business Chronicle – Online March 5thfor 30 days
  • Atlanta Journal Constitution – Online March 13th until closed
  • PROACT Search Website
  • PROACT Search Blog

Beyond advertisement, PROACT used the following methods of recruiting: face to face recruiting visits, video conference meetings, and phone calls. A great number of e-mails were sent by PROACT Search presenting the position profile and requesting nominations or applications. Recipients included: (1) administrators in Georgia, the Southeast and nationwide, (2) Superintendents nation-wide in districts of similar size, (3) members of New Leaders for New Schools, (4) professional education and business organizations and leaders in the nationwide, (5) individuals known to or lists maintained by PROACT Search, (6) and executives in higher education. As of April 10th, the application deadline, PROACT Search received applications from 120 candidates. DCSD-Search-Update-4.11.2015-1 Next Steps

  • Screening of candidates, including interviews, rubrics, reference checks, and other information.
  • Presentation of top 20-25 candidates to the Community Liaison Group on April 23, 2015
  • Presentation of top 8-12 candidates to the Board of Education on April 23, 2015
  • Coordination of first round interviews
  • First Round CONFIDENTIAL Interviews — Early May
  • Selection of Finalist Candidate(s)
  • Coordination of finalist interviews and processing of full background checks
  • Finalist Interview(s) — TBD
  • Deliberation and selection of new Superintendent of Schools for DCSD — TBD
Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments

The more things change, the more they stay the same …

Today’s headline:

State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta, resigned his seat in the Legislature on Thursday before pleading guilty to one count of tax fraud and no contest to five counts of wire and mail fraud.

(Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

No surprise really. Charges have been swirling around Brooks for quite some time. But we would like to remind everyone of the very tightly knit circle that includes Tyrone Brooks. There is direct linkage back to DeKalb politics and specifically, control of DeKalb County schools and its $1.3 Billion annual consolidated budget, and specifically the jobs and contracts within that budget that are controlled by the leaders of the district.

History: Michael Thurmond, Tyrone Brooks, Gene Walker, Cynthia McKinney

Thurmond, Brooks, Walker, Johnson, and McKinney have been working together for decades.

Michael Thurmond (Athens) – Georgia General Assembly, 1986 to 1998

Tyrone Brooks (Dekalb) – Georgia General Assembly, 1980 to present

Cynthia McKinney (DeKalb) – Georgia General Assembly, 1989 – 1993

Gene Walker (DeKalb) – General Assembly (majority whip), 1984 – 1992

The book, “Redistricting: The Most Political Activity in America”, depicts these 4 working together regarding redistricting and majority black districts.

Below is a description of the book followed by an excerpt  >>

Redistricting: The Most Political Activity in America” By Charles S. Bullock.

The author gives a long history of gerrymandering during the redistricting and reapportionment that happens every decade. The text about Gene and Michael begins on page 147. There, we learn that during the 1990 redistricting, Georgia legislators were committed to creating a second majority-black congressional district. They felt this plan would be approved by the Department of Justice, as had not happened the last two decades. However, the Legislative Black Caucus (LBC) with Gene Walker leading the senate redistricting committee, wanted to ensure that lines were drawn that would secure the election of a second black to Congress (in addition to John Lewis’ Atlanta district). So he set about drawing a very convoluted map that linked black areas of three major urban districts (south DeKalb, Macon and Augusta) in order to bump up the black population in the new 11th district.


…Then, suddenly, near the deadline, a plan was hatched by Bart Ladd (R) that would draw three majority black districts for congress. He gave the plan to Cynthia McKinney and then flew to D.C. to present it to the DOJ. This plan also had 8 majority white districts. The plan was called MAXBLACK, partly due to the fact that they used floppy discs and were limited to 8 character file names. The thought was that promoting black interests would advance the GOP.


…During this time, Michael Thurmond was the chair of the LBC, Gene was chair of the senate redistricting committee and both favored the two majority black districts plan. Cynthia McKinney and Tyrone Brooks led a group that lobbied for the plan with three majority black districts. Gene Walker and Bob Hanner (a white man) met with a DOJ rep and were ‘attacked’ in a four hour meeting. The DOJ thought they were wrong to go with only two majority black districts – and that they were sidelining black voters in SW Georgia in order to draw more blacks into the 11th Atlanta district. The DOJ rejected the two district plan and ended up creating and approving a plan with three majority black districts, moving blacks in Macon from the 11th to the 2nd district while appending Savannah’s blacks with the 11th district. These three districts corralled 61.6% of all blacks in Georgia. The GOP made out better though – increasing their seats in the senate from 11 to 15 – the largest gain by Republicans in the country. The new 11th district was extremely gerrymandered and later challenged in court by George DeLoach, a politician who lost to Cynthia McKinney in a 1992 runoff in that district.

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Fast forward to today’s DeKalb County School District: Remembering it was a majority [excluding Pam Speaks and Nancy Jester, who each voted ‘No’] of the former board  – led by Gene Walker – and including three current board members [Orson, McMahan-Vice Chair and Johnson-Chair] – that hired Michael Thurmond in secret – behind closed doors – without public participation or knowledge that our superintendent at that time had not reported for work in weeks and was in fact, negotiating an exit package via her attorney. This was done within just a few days of the Governor removing six of the nine from office. Thurmond said at the time that he was only temporarily ‘here to help’, yet he remains, collecting $300,000 a year and cutting costs in the classrooms in order to ‘balance’ a budget that has always in reality, been plenty of money to run a school district.

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Posted in Budget Cuts, Co-conspirators, Fraud & Corruption | Tagged | 4 Comments