The district’s response to the AdvancED SACS letter

Mark A. Elgart, Ed.D.
President/CEO
AdvancED
2520 Northwinds Parkway, Suite 600
Alpharetta, GA 30009

Re: Response to AdvancED SACS letter dated August 28, 2012

Dear Dr. Elgart:

In accordance with AdvancED Accreditation Policies, the DeKalb County School District acknowledges receipt of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI) letter, dated August 28, 2012. We are committed to the AdvancED SACS Standards and welcome and embrace the assistance of AdvancED in ensuring we are meeting the Standards.

The District acknowledges challenges from the past and is committed to continuing to address and comply with all AdvancED SACS Standards, including the two specifically referenced in your letter. In that regard, the DeKalb Board of Education has worked cooperatively and collaboratively with AdvancED over the years and more specifically over the last several months. During its comprehensive site visit in March 2012, all information requested by SACS was presented by the school system to the team in a timely and accommodating spirit. Upon receiving SACS’ recommendations for improvement, the Board and the Superintendent began immediately to implement plans for progress. Specifically, six months ago (March 2-6, 2012), the SACS AdvancED Quality Review Team gave a report and rated all the Standards. Standards #2 and #5 received “emerging” and “operational” respectively.

The District has implemented plans to improve upon all standards. We are continuing to make necessary changes to address specific concerns that have been expressed by SACS, Board Members and community members. In that regard, the Board has worked cooperatively with AdvancED SACS through numerous work sessions, as well as the extensive training sessions recommended by AdvancED.

We are working daily to make huge strides to sustain continuous improvement and to provide the best education possible for the students in DeKalb County. Progress is ongoing and we have not stopped working on any concerns. Some issues take longer than others to resolve, but we are continuously striving to achieve excellence on all SACS Standards.

As the new Superintendent, I have worked with the Board to address the budget and financial concerns and have aligned the budget within our projected revenue. We will monitor the FY 2013 budget carefully for compliance.

Since I became Superintendent less than a year ago, I have listened to concerns from the Board, students, community, and staff and responded by implementing a number of systemic changes which have been approved and/or supported by the Board and designed to move the District forward, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Initiated a Board-approved forensic audit of the District’s financial records performed by KPMG, which is currently under way.
  • Implemented a modified zero-based budgeting process that led the Board to approve the FY2013 budget with $78.5 million in reductions and a millage rate increase of 1 mill generating $14.7 million in additional revenues.
  • Established an internal legal affairs division to manage and reduce costs of legal services provided to the District and to develop and maintain a District-wide audit plan to ensure integrity in finance and operational processes.
  • Restructured the central office for greater efficiency and effectiveness which resulted in the elimination of 303 personnel.
  • Developed the Excellence for Education Strategic Plan which provides the blueprint for improving DeKalb Schools and the vision, mission, guiding principles and the five core goals.
  • Implemented the Board approved Theory of Action for Change which drives our decisions and deliberations around the District for improvement.
  • Implemented the Aligned Management System for greater accountability of system processes and resources which provides a vehicle to monitor organizational performance.
  • Introduced the Balance Scorecard (BSC) most recently in draft form to align the District initiatives to the vision and strategy of the organization. The BSC is available on the District’s website.
  • Completed a salary compensation and classification study performed by Management Advisory Group (MAG) Inc. and approved by the Board which resulted in greater efficiency of salary alignments for all District personnel, including central office staff.
  • Commenced the development of an E-Book technology program that will deliver electronic technology devices to the students for instructional use.
  • Implemented a Comprehensive Leadership Development Program that provides a succession plan for the District. The focus areas include the Aspiring Leaders Academy, New Principal Induction, Principals Academy, and Executive Leadership Academy.
  • Ensured that all students have Art, Music, and Physical Education in every elementary school and that Instrumental Music is offered at all elementary schools.
  • Delivered a new curriculum aligned to common core standards with the collaboration of over 600 teachers and administrators. Our students will be assessed quarterly with new benchmarks aligned to the new curriculum.
  • Conducted District division audits in the following areas: Human Resources, Curriculum and Instruction, School Leadership and Operational Support, and Communications.
  • Commenced the development and implementation of a district-wide Communications Plan that facilitates bi-directional communication with all internal and external stakeholders and increases opportunities for engagement of school councils and parent involvement and participation.
  • Changed District staff payroll from monthly to bi-monthly as a result of feedback received at staff fireside chats.

We are proud of our accomplishments and recognize there is still much work to do. We plan to stay focused in moving our District forward with the goal of Victory in Every Classroom.

Sincerely,

Cheryl L.H. Atkinson, Ed.D.

cc: DeKalb County Board of Education
Dr. Annette Bohling, Chief Accreditation Officer
Mr. Warren Jacobsen, Vice President, Public School Systems
Dr. Mike Bryans, Director, AdvancED Georgia

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88 Responses to The district’s response to the AdvancED SACS letter

  1. Nancy Jester has posted a response at her blog:

    http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/2012/09/12/my-comments-to-the-superintendent-regarding-the-sacs-letter/

    From: Nancy Jester [mailto:nancyjester@gmail.com]
    Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
    To: ‘cheryl_atkinson@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us’
    Subject: My comments on the SACS response letter

    Dr. Atkinson,

    Thank you for sending your draft response to the SACS letter to me for comment. Here are my thoughts:

    You have listed some of the important steps that you and your team have initiated to set DCSD on a path for both academic and fiscal success. I certainly appreciate the efforts you have made to change the trajectory of our district and I am glad you enumerated them for SACS. I often think that some of my colleagues do not acknowledge the dire straits we are navigating. Why they chose to not accept the reality of our difficult fiscal situation and the abysmal academic performance of so many of our schools is not clear to me. All evidence that I see, tells me that you appreciate the gravity of the situation. I am invested with you in your efforts.

    One of the most important improvements that you have made is to bring new, talented leaders to our district. My observations are that DSCD was far too insular and in desperate need of an infusion of new ideas and modern expertise. New, outside talent helps break the hegemony of inefficient and questionable past practices in many areas.

    It is unfortunate that you have been charged with drafting a response to a letter that deals with allegations of board member misconduct. You chose to highlight your accomplishments and the perfunctory steps that the district has taken based on previous input from SACS. While I believe that your efforts are sincere and based upon facts, I do not see evidence that the board, as a whole, has joined with you to steer the district into calm financial waters and accomplish our mission to properly educate the students in DeKalb. The reasons for the resistance from some board members remain opaque to me. I only see the fragments of “a posteriori” evidence of their resistance. The letter from SACS is an additional clue to me that there is much going on beneath the surface that is not disclosed to all board members. This is not healthy and I am left to surmise that it has encumbered you in your ability to execute actions that move the district forward.

    Specifically, the letter asks that the district address the allegations of poor financial management, board interference with operations and continued/multiple violations of board policy. While your letter addresses the positive and sincere steps you have taken, it does not address these allegations directly. Indeed, these allegations pertain to behavior that existed prior to your arrival. I do not know of a way that you could address those experiences. I, however, can say what I see.

    Regarding the fiscal management of the district, since almost the very beginning of my time on the board (January 11), I began to unravel what appeared to me to be a budget that was, at best, a weak suggestion on how to spend money and, at worst, a document based on deception. Monthly, I queried, the CFO at the time and did not receive answers that could withstand the scrutiny of the facts. I have been specifically focused on the large variance in our electricity budget and our legal fees. As you know, our electricity budget has been significantly under-budgeted for at least 5 years. Earlier this year, I did a spreadsheet demonstrating this fact. Unfortunately, last year, when I would ask questions of our previous CFO, the response was either about the temperatures being above average or a rate increase. The facts are the our “actual” expenditures have been $15-16 million dollars for the last 5 years but we have consistently budgeted $10.5 million for this line item. Over the course of 5 years, that is a net of approximately $25 million in deficit on this one line item. A similar analysis can be made about legal fees. If you compare the volume of total disbursements to the budget over the last five years, we have spent over $50 million more than we budgeted. As you know since you have been in the district, I have continued to point this out to the public and asked for a culture of fiscal restraint to take root. I have publically discussed this at board meetings for over a year. Thankfully, your new CFO, Mr. Perrone has improved our budget and brought a high degree of professionalism and expertise to our financial department. Without a solid financial footing we cannot educate our children.

    I am disturbed, but not surprised, by the allegations of board misconduct. As I stated, I only see the aftereffect; while the action remains opaque to me. I am deeply concerned that misconduct could undermine the efforts you are making. We cannot afford to return to the days of old when fiscal irresponsibility, divisiveness, opacity and punitive resource allocations ruled the day. I fear that if this type of behavior continues to go unchecked, it will be impossible for you or any superintendent to be successful. Our children and our taxpayers will suffer. Indeed, because we are part of a larger metro area, a failure of DeKalb, has broad reaching implications for the economic development of our region and state. There is much as stake.

    I will make my comments available to Dr. Elgart in addition to the letter that you send. I have asked for a board meeting to discuss this matter but it appears that this will not occur. In the absence of a meeting, I intend to make my comments public. In the meantime, please keep moving the district towards stability and success.

    Sincerely,
    –Nancy Jester

  2. Don McChesney posted the following response on his blog:

    http://blog.donfordekalb.com/2012/09/12/my-comments-to-the-superintendent-regarding-the-sacs-letter/

    In our continuing effort to be transparent, we are making public the letter that is being sent to AdvancED in response to their inquiry. We are also making public our comments about the response.

    From: Don McChesney
    Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
    To: ‘cheryl_atkinson@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us’
    Subject: My comments on the SACS response letter

    Dr. Atkinson,

    I have been reading and rereading your response letter to SACS. My feeling is that we do not always directly address Dr. Elgart’s points. For example in bullet point 2 of Dr. Elgart’s letter it says…. The governing body operates responsibly and functions effectively. I believe that we get a grade of about 60 on that. I would prefer that we just say to SACS that we have issues within the entire system that need scrutiny. Please come in and help us fix the inefficiencies because we know they exist.

    I believe that no matter what any letter says that Dr. Elgart is going to do an investigation. Let’s make sure we assist him rather than placing any obstacles in his way. I also am perplexed that you have been placed in the role of responding. These issues are clearly BOE issues that existed prior to you becoming superintendent. You have clearly implemented and tried many new things to upgrade our system. I am particularly enthused with our curriculum revamping and aligned common core standards. This goes to the heart of our real business.

    I also believe that we do have issues in our finances. It appears that going back beyond when I came on the BOE that deficit spending was going on. In five years it appears that we have overspent about $50 million. If we had that money today our system would be solvent. I know that KPMG is doing an audit that I think will substantiate many of our suspicions and possible inefficiencies. I welcome this information. State auditors and past superintendents, it appears, have definitely not informed this board or some past boards on issues with our accounting procedures. I want to know why.

    My suggestion is that we openly invite SACS in and ask them what we need to do to assist them in getting our system so that it eventually will function at its highest level. This is far better than the “death by a thousand paper cuts.” I am ready for progress and I know you are too.

    I do appreciate the efforts you have made to make our school system a quality system. Let us all stay dedicated to this task.

    Thanks,

    Don

  3. And Pam Speaks posted this response on her blog:

    http://www.pamspeaksforkids.com/2012/09/12/my-comments-to-the-superintendent-regarding-the-sacs-letter-2/

    From: Pam Speaks
    Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
    To: ‘cheryl_atkinson@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us’
    Subject: My comments on the SACS response letter

    Dr. Atkinson,

    I suppose that the proper protocol is to send a letter such as the one sent to you by Dr. Elgart addressing allegations that our school district is in violation of AdvancED Accreditation Standards and/or Policies even though as I reread the letter it seems to me the letter should have been addressed to the DeKalb Board of Education instead of you because the alleged complaints are with the board not the superintendent. That aside, you are doing what you are required to do and that is to formulate a response. I believe the amended draft response effectively outlines the steps you have initiated with board approval and support to address the school district’s budget and financial concerns as well as other systemic changes designed to move the district forward.

    Unfortunately in my opinion, the response does little to address the crux of what Dr. Elgart’s letter is all about and that is the behavior of individual members of the board and the operation of the board as a whole.

    I need specific examples of allegations from AdvancED if I am being asked to respond to them. I respectively suggest that if this draft letter or some semblance there of is submitted to AdvancEd and results in and I quote, “if after review of your response, we believe the DeKalb County Public School System may be in violation of the AdvancED Accreditation Standards or policies, a Special Review Team may be appointed to visit the school system”, I suggest we add to this draft response that we welcome this Special Review Team. Maybe then, after such a visit we will be able once and for all to silence these complaints and allegations or maybe not.

    If it results in the maybe not then we will have to deal with the consequences.

    Thank you for allowing me to provide feedback.

    …Pam

  4. Donna J. says:

    I appreciate the responses from two of the school board members. I agree with both of their statements that the letter from Dr. Atkinson does not address the issues/concerns presented by Dr. Elgart. The letter from the superintendent is filled with more fluff than sustenance, which clearly reflects the responses DCCS is accustomed to providing. As a parent I am concerned not only with the failure to address the issues, but the manner in which the letter was written. It saddens me to think that the superintendent of the school did not take the time to check the letter for grammar. The letter is filled with run-on sentences and statements that are not clearly written. This is a sad example of the leadership charged with representing the best interest of our children.

  5. Mad Dad says:

    DSW, This is not the district’s response to the SACS letter. It is an acknowledgment of receipt. I believe she is still planning to respond after getting boardinput.

  6. I wonder if Jeff Dickerson wrote the letter. How’s it going to satisfy SACS if Atkinson lists all those spurious “systematic changes?” In the end what has been accomplished but disaster? I laugh at the last one about the new pay schedule. The added admin costs of bimonthly checks has just made the hole deeper, and I do not believe that this was a major concern at these “fireside chats.” She just threw a bone to teachers so they’d not complain about being screwed in other more insidious ways.

  7. @Mad Dad: The letter came via the new email communication server the district set up called K12 Alerts. The introduction to the letter, which we did not print, says this:

    Dear Friends of DeKalb County Schools,

    Below you’ll find the district’s response to the AdvancED SACS letter.

    Thank you for your support.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Cheryl L.H. Atkinson

    Superintendent

  8. @ Donna J. We completely agree with you. In addition to grammatical errors, Atkinson’s letter to SACS is sloppily done [see the PDF of the actual letter]. If Atkinson did not catch the errors, her overpaid, apparently under-qualified secretary should have. But, ultimately, it was Atkinson’s responsibility. BTW — we pointed out sloppiness and errors in Atkinson’s dissertation and her job application package BEFORE she was hired.

    Frankly, it was disappointing to see that the letter from Dr. Pam Speaks — an educator with a doctorate who formerly worked for DCSS — had many errors similar to those found in Atkinson’s letter.

  9. Here’s my take on her response.

    She is saying, yes, I received your letter. I support the SACS standards. I am also fully aware that there have been issues in the past that SACS has warned the system about. These issues occurred before I arrived. Since I arrived, SACS has completed their system visit and gave the system positive feedback. We have heard nothing but supportive, affirmative input from SACS in our efforts to make change — until now, suddenly.

    She goes on to say that she has been working continuously (using that word several times – I think she means ‘working her a** off) to try to right this ship, but it’s a big ship and not easy to turn around. Then, basically, she lists 16 bullet points showing major initiatives toward that goal. Really, what else can she do? They are asking her to tattle on her bosses – not only now, but for sins of the past. I think she smells a set up and is girding her loins for battle. She will not be called on the carpet for the bad decisions, actions and behaviors committed under Ramona Tyson and Dr. Lewis’ watch often under the leadership of different board members. She can’t possibly answer their letter without compromising herself, so she did the prudent thing and stated everything she has done in one year to try to fix decades of decay. She tooted her own horn. Can’t blame her there.

  10. no name says:

    Dekalbschoolwatch @ 8:35 AM: The URL you posted is missing the semicolon between the http and the slash. This is the correct link:

    http://www.nancyjester.com/media/3991/responsetoadvancedsacs.pdf

  11. no name says:

    I’ve read the letter and am curious about about the FY2013 Budget that the Superintendent mentioned twice in her letter.

    Does the system actually have a FY2013 Budget that is available for public examination… or are they only allowing us to see their list of “cuts”?

  12. @no name: The budget documents are available to download here:

    http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/budget/index/planning

    The one titled “2013 Approved Budget Detail” is 414 pages. It’s fairly comprehensive, but we agree, there are still some very vague areas.

    We also have a post at the top of the blog under the FILES tab where we have compiled as much budgetary history as we could:

    http://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/dcss-files/budgets-and-audits/

  13. Regarding the budget – some of you may wish to attend this meeting:

    NOTICE OF DeKALB BOARD OF EDUCATION BUDGET, AUDIT, FINANCE & FACILITIES COMMITTEE MEETING

    The DeKalb Board of Education’s Committee on Budget, Audit, Finance & Facilities will hold a meeting on Friday, September 14, 2012 at 10:00am in the J. David Williamson Board Room in the Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center, DeKalb County School System’s Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain. The purpose of the meeting is to review procedures and policies related to finance.

    The agenda for the committee meeting can be accessed online by going to: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us, click on Leadership, eBoard Home Page, then click on the date for the meeting agenda\information.

    +++

    Also, regarding whether this is an acknowledgement of receipt of the SACS letter, or the actual response, we are not certain, although Pam Speaks does refer to it as a ‘draft response’. To help clarify, we will paste the AJC’s posting as to the proposed process:

    AJC reporter Ty Tagami said: “The process is this: a team comprising the board chair, vice chair, Atkinson, senior staffers and at least one community representative will draft a response. They’ll run that draft by the board members, but not in a public meeting. Then, they’ll send it to SACS. None of that will happen in public.”

    This is why Jester, McChesney and Speaks have published the letter along with their input. They did not want the process to go on behind closed doors.

  14. The Deal says:

    I am baffled by any defense at this point of Dr. Atkinson. The way I see it, she has had a full year, an audit of positions and salaries, and buckets of political capital and has done nothing with it.

    Who thinks changing to biweekly pay is a positive change? Does that impact student achievement at all? Likewise, some of our schools are still reeling from Day 1 disasters, and she is already starting up with the calendar discussion for next year. Unless she has solid proof that shaking up the calendar positively impacts student achievement, she should drop it and focus on the known problems.

    She considers it an accomplishment to require PE, music, art, and instrumental music in every school, but she did not stop to consider that schools, with limited remaining resources, cut interpreters, foreign language teachers, media center staff, and other school-specific needed positions to accommodate that. She has still not publicly acknowledged any of her plans (now in the past) to implement the budget cuts to pre-K, her plan to cut 350 classroom teachers (that our board rejected), the millions on Success for All, or other mysteries in the budget cuts. Does she care that HR can’t seem to produce a legible accurate report on the reorg activities that have been going on for over 6 months?

    She did step into a garbage heap of a school system, but she knew that going in, and she has not been nearly outspoken or transparent enough on her primary mission, raising student achievment, and how she plans to get DCSD there. I would have the tiniest bit of sympathy for her if I saw her TRYING to make some headway and our board rejecting her plans. But I haven’t seen that. I have not seen one transformational, achievement-related idea be submitted to the board by Dr. Atkinson and the board reject it (thus, proving that our board is preventing her from making headway). In fact, I saw one horrible idea (firing 350 teachers based on obviously incompetent financial staff-produced reports) be rejected by the board, so, at this point, I see our board as having helped our students.

  15. Leo says:

    Thanks for posting the responses from the various Board members. They certainly make clear the fact that there are clearly problems within the District. The letter from Atkinson is wholly insufficient to respond to the specific inquiries in SACS’ letter, so hopefully it’s only a preliminary response. That being said, I don’t know how she responds in any other way and don’t envy her precarious position.

  16. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Deal – I think you should send the information in your response posted here to Elgart. I agree with everything you say, it speaks for me. It is what I would say exactly. I think it is what needs to be said from a parent’s perspective in response to this mess.

  17. another comment says:

    Obviously, she is being Hog tied by Eugene Walker etal. The king of the Family and Friends crew. How could she respond to the Family and Friends allegations. She can’t as long as the have the 5-4 voting block. You can’t count on Deal keeping her. He would put in a white male Republican Contributor. Just look at what he and Newt’s crew did to the two female lawyers on the Ethics investigation panel.

    I worked for a Federal Agency, and had an ignorant SES boss under W’s reign Rita Oberle, with a mail order PHD paid for byDOD to get her out of the office after she slept with the General’s to move up, the ladder. I brought to her that Fire Sprinkler’s in the main building were out of code compliance because some walls had been moved. They had been designed originally by the calculation method and not been recalculated for each wall change. She did not want to fund the project. When I told her I was going to call the fire Marshall if she did not fund the project, she got up from her seat and threatened that I was being insubordinate to her and threatening. I said I was not, I have a professional licescense from the State of Ga. that as an Architect or Engineer holds me responsible for the life safety of any occupant. I was not going to loose my professional license over her for $26K. Neither was any one with a Professional Licence on my staff. I told her that I had informed on Turner Stadium when they were pad locking the fire doors of the Stadium during the Olympics to prevent sneak in’s. It is against the law and could result in death. This Rita, even had the gaul to write me up for insubordination and down grade my rating. Well I took it up to DC. I appealled it out of house. A moron can not override a person’s professional license and professional liability and try to force them to but blinders on. It might be easier to but the blinders on. But I didn’t even make 1/2 of What Atkinson did, and I did it. Oberle, eventually got fired, when they lost too many times. When she went up and lied against the 3rd highest person. When they finally realized she never stayed anywhere more than 2 years because she was incompetant. She also wanted me to cancel already let contracts and give them to her friends. I refused. She wanted me to go around the procurement system and contract with her friends, I refused. She sent me and another employee to give a speech and presentation to a Professional Organization. She did not write it, or research it. I did and Julia did. I then caught her putting it on her Resume. I went up to her and said, don’t you remember you cancelled on that, Julia and I did that presentation. She also claimed to be an Asst. Professor at Ga. Tech. But she never taught any classes, she would get people from the professional community to go give guest lectures for her, while she didn’t show up. But she collected the pay check. My children will never go to GA. Tech. After a while no one whould go teach her classes for her. She even told me she only was the Asst. Professor at Tech so she could use it on her resume to then make $200-400K as a Consultant taging along with business to market themselves. You have to stand up to Frauds like this. I did.

    It is the children and innocent children who get hurt. People like Walker etc.. just throw other people under the bus. Attikons should ask for a Private meeting with Sac’s with just herself, maybe with Nancy Jester and just go in and tell the truth that they are forcing her to hold on to their Friends and Family.

  18. IF anyone attends the budget meeting, please ask about the following categories:

    Under NON-SALARY BUDGET ITEMS —
    PURCHASED PROFESSIONAL AND TECHNICAL SERVICES (when added up, this description code totals about $40 million)
    PERSONAL SERVICES – OTHER PAY (another code that appears often: a place to hire contract labor)

    Could it be that many of the RIFd employees have been replaced in these multi million dollar new contracted labor jobs? They would not show up on the state salary audit either, so there’s no way to find out the names, and costs of each. Nearly every department carries some cost in these line items.

    The superintendent’s office alone spends $370,000 on PURCHASED PROFESSIONAL AND TECHNICAL SERVICES.
    Communications: PURCHASED PROFESSIONAL AND TECHNICAL SERVICES $329,000
    Title 1 (FUND 203 – TITLE I and TITLE I – PRIVATE-NEGLECTED SCHOOLS) and ARRA (RTC3) also spend quite a fortune on PURCHASED PROFESSIONAL AND TECHNICAL SERVICES

    And, while special education spends a lot on purchased services as well as a lot of purchased services is allocated to charter schools, it would be nice to see a break down just of this category.

  19. The Deal says:

    Here’s an idea for a logical response:

    Dear Dr. Elgart,

    I appreciate the letter you sent, blah, blah. I think we can all agree that the DeKalb County School District is in drastic need of improvement, and, to the extent that SACS can provide some much-needed oversight and guidance, we appreciate your involvement.

    As you know, I have been the superintendent of this system for one year. Many of the problems we face have been building up over many years. I have made very little headway because there is so much wrong, systemically, with this school district. If you would like, I am happy to provide you a state-of-the-system report from my perspective.

    Many of the concerns you listed are with my employer, the DeKalb County Board of Education, and could and should be directed to them for a response. I cannot speak for why they may have written to you or why they may have made certain decisions, either as a team or individually.

    I look forward to helping in any way I can with getting you the information you need to help us with our primary mission, improving the academic achievement of our students.

    Sincerely,

    Cheryl Atkinson

    Was it that difficult?

  20. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    @BettyAndVeronica and Deal
    What actions from SACS are you looking for?

    SACS’ letter was focused on the DeKalb BOE. The letter boiled down to condemning the BOE for being a fiduciary rubber stamp for whatever CLEW and Ramona asked for along with interfering in Atkinson’s budget and personnel matters.

    Atkinson may be in over her head, but she doesn’t appear to be south dekalb’s puppet. She’s our best hope until the New Birth mafia is thwarted and the tyranny of south dekalb is over.

  21. The Deal says:

    The letter was vague and addressed to the wrong person, neither of which is surprising given the author.

  22. tenbroeck says:

    Can someone provide a point(s) of contact at AdvancEd for receiving comments on the DCSD issue? I called, asked for a point of contact, got forwarded to voice, and left a similar request. Not sure I’ll hear back.

  23. Elgart’s address is at the top of the letter. It’s different from what we have.

    US Mail:
    Mark A. Elgart, Ed.D.
    President/CEO
    AdvancED
    2520 Northwinds Parkway, Suite 600
    Alpharetta, GA 30009

    This is what we have listed on our Board Contacts page under the Facts & Sources tab at the top of the blog.

    Dr. Mark Elgart
    President/CEO
    AdvancED (SACS/Casi)
    9115 Westside Parkway
    Alpharetta, GA 30009

    email:
    melgart@advanc-ed.org
    [We strongly recommend that you sign up for readnotify.com and send any e-mails regarding DCSS via ReadNotify. There is a free trial period; after that it is only $24/year -- just $2/month.  It is well-worth it to know if your e-mail has been opened, how long it was read, how many times it was read and if it was forwarded. ReadNotify works in stealth mode, unlike Outlook.]

    call:
    888.41ED NOW (888.413.3669)

    Because time is of the essence, if you have trouble reaching Mark Elgart at his office, you might also try:

    email:
    mark.elgart@yahoo.com
    [We strongly recommend that you sign up for readnotify.com and send any e-mails regarding DCSS via ReadNotify. There is a free trial period; after that it is only $24/year -- just $2/month. It is well-worth it to know if your e-mail has been opened, how long it was read, how many times it was read and if it was forwarded. ReadNotify works in stealth mode, unlike Outlook.]

    call:
    770-751-6569

    U. S. Mail:
    Dr. Mark Elgart
    4160 Park Brooke Drive
    Alpharetta, GA 30022-6422

  24. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Huh, Dekalb Inside out? She is not our best hope. She is not insisting that her staff get their act together and release a proper HR document to show just how many CO folks were Rif’d, not quit thru attrition. She has not fought hard enough or at all to relieve this county of the burden of Ramona Tyson. She has embraced her. She is constantly focused left, when she should be focused right, ie. the calendar issue, early student dismissal. She is bringing in a controversial product to this county, SFA, not to mention the added staff expense for this program. (Yes, I know it’s title one funded) We still have no real idea of what shape we are going to be in next year. And Deal is correct, for every program she mandated they keep, there were programs that were effected negatively.
    It is true, they have put her in an awful position. Rat on your employers about things that may or may not have occurred before you started working here. Maybe it is procedure, maybe not. SACS should have directed this letter to the Board for their issues, for this is their real concern. As it says in the letter from SACS, they are looking at board interference in day to day concerns, fiscal irresponsibility and suspected violations of board own adopted policies.

    The board is the real problem. I think SACS is biding their time sending this letter now, just before the new folks come in and the board landscape changes. This will go nowhere.

  25. The Deal says:

    I don’t think the landscape is going to change. It will remain 5-4. Bowen’s replacement is old guard, and the two new guards replace members who already tended to vote reasonably.

  26. concernedmom30329 says:

    So, how will things get better when the board members can’t even follow the state requirements for elected officials and candidates? The state requires certain reports be filed by candidates and elected officials — both campaign reports and personal disclosure funds. The majority of the board has either not filed or filed late at least one report in the last two years. Jay Cunningham has multiple violations while Walker, Copelin Woods, Bowen, Womack and McChesney have 6 or less. They all owe fines from $0d to 100s of dollars. (Hats off to Edler, Jester and Speaks for having zero violations and thus zero fines and Womack’s fines look funny to me, as they were for a year he wasn’t running. I suspect a clerical error but he hasn’t done anything to clear it up.)
    Newly elected official Jim McMahan has not filed his required personal financial disclosure form. He has been fined $125, which hasn’t been paid.
    I called the Campaign Finance Commission and they do send courtesy email to all candidates and elected officials to remind them that their paper work is due. It doesn’t cost anything to file, the only cost is fines, if you don’t turn in reports on time.

    http://media.ethics.ga.gov/search/Late/Late_ByName.aspx

  27. teacherwantingachange says:

    According to a district spokesperson quoted on Atlanta Public Radio this afternoon, “The Superintendent doesn’t like to talk to the media.” So I guess that is why we are paying communications people. And the letter to SACS seems to suggest that the superintendent doesn’t like answering questions either.

    Unlike others, I think the superintendent’s task is an easy one-provide an honest response. Perhaps I misunderstand the letter. I thought it was asking for the person in charge of the district -the one who proposes the budget and programs, and recommmends staff to be hired-to answer to concerns about these practices, ones that fall under governance and spending.

    Doesn’t her ethical duty and her stated one of “Students First” require her to be forthcoming, even if its’ uncomfortable?

  28. whoshelpingthekids says:

    Does anyone know where to find the SACS report from their system-wide visit last spring to accredit DCSS? Would like to see what they said back then after visiting with schools, meeting with parents and staff. I don’t see it in the DSW2 files.

  29. Dolores says:

    and while we are investigating…is it possible for someone to find out if it is true that DeKalb has not paid the bill for eSIS? There are teachers that used to update grades from home however they can no longer do so because the program no longer works with the current JAVA application.
    The latest Java is required to do on most other programs.

  30. Joe says:

    @ Dolores are you really serious. Maybe you should check your computer lol. If the Esis bill was not paid you would have major issues, We don’t need these kind of rumors on the blog.

  31. Thank you, BettyandVeronica1.

    Title 1 funding is still our tax dollars. At this point, many of DeKalb’s students are in such terrible shape, academically, every penny that is not absolutely required to be elsewhere, per the U. S. Department of Education, needs to go to small-group instruction and individual one-on-one education in the classroom.

    In terms of learning to read/loving to read — how about letting teachers work with media specialists to select age-appropriate books on students’ various reading levels that will engage students and encourage a love of reading? Books that are suitable for small-group instruction and individual one-on-one education in the classroom. That’s just one of the many classroom and instructional support provided by media specialists. It’s so much better than a canned “reading program” that cannot possibly do what successful and popular children’s authors can do to engage children with reading so they become lifelong learners.

    Extra dollars laying around? Studies have shown that older elementary children, middle school students and high school students often resist “easy” reading books. They are embarrassed. So, buy enough Kindles and put the reading books there where no one is embarrassed to be seen reading an “easy” book. Don’t continue to fund the adults who are making big bucks off of “fake” reading programs like SFA. Let classroom teachers, reading specialists and media specialists do what they have been trained to do! Spend the money in the classroom and directly on the students.

  32. It sounds like the issue is an outdated version of Java. Updated Java should resolve the issue. Java is free for personal use and it may be set to automatically upgrade itself. We don’t know if Java is free to schools. Regardless, we certainly expect the DCSS Million Dollar IT Department to ensure that teachers can do what they need to do on the school computer as well as on their home computer. Can anyone shine some light on this?

  33. Just saying says:

    Is there a list of the 300 Jobs that were cut at the District Office. Some jobs were eliminated but it seems like were really renamed and staff by other individuals. The 5 Area Superintendents became 5 Region Superintendents. The Director of Psych Services became the Coordinator of Psych Services. The Coordinator of Social Work was eliminated, but then staffed by someone else. Woods may be gone, but now there is Dickerson. The Exe. Director of Plant Services is now the Director of Business for Plant Services( or something like that) and someone else is in the Exe Director role. The Social Workers and Lead Teachers were moved to the school budgets.

    I am related to no one in the district. I am not a member of a church in DeKalb. I feel it is unfair for people to make the assumption that because someone comes from outside of the district that person is more capable than someone working in the district.

    Unless someone does an actual list of names and jobs, I do not know how we will get accurate numbers. According to the budget 200 para educators were eliminated. There were not the names of 200 para educators on the HR list. Look carefully at many of the jobs on the list. They were individuals like helpers, CTSS and teachers.

    The cuts have impacted the schools. Schools are asked to do more with less. No one seems to have any answers. One reason that rumors start and are spread is that no one will tell the people in the district the truth. For example, we have an organizational chart with no names. What are the names of the people that are suppose to be leading the district?

    The students must be our first priority. They need us. All of us must be here for them. But people are human. Individuals are still leaving the school system. We continue to stay in the storm.
    People are worried are payroll, their jobs, insurance, staff being moved, school closing, support to implement all the new instructional changes.

    People talk in little groups because they are fearful of asking questions. People turn to the media and blogs like this due to a lack of honest communication coming from the District Leadership.

  34. dekalbmom says:

    ■Restructured the central office for greater efficiency and effectiveness which resulted in the elimination of 303 personnel.

    Wow, I hope Atkinson did not fudge when she made this statement in an official letter. The word “elimination” clearly implies that these people were removed, not just transferred to the schools’ budgets. Doesn’t this conflict with her earlier statements that 70 central office employees were let go? I presume that DSW2 has submitted a GORA request for the 303 positions eliminated (They might not have to provide names as that is considered confidential personnel matter.)

  35. TeacherK says:

    eSIS is run on a previous version of Java and is not compatible with the newest versions. If you keep your home computer up to date and secure, you are unable to access eSIS.

  36. @TeacherK
    Have the teachers NOT been given a work-around to enable using eSIS with updated Java on their home computers? Do you know which Java update is on the DCSS computers? Please take a look on Monday and send the number of the Java update. You will find that if you go to Control Panel on your computer and click on “Add/Remove Programs” or, for Windows 7 users, click on “Programs and Features.” I just checked my own computer (running Windows 7) and I have Java 6, Update 33.

    It is shocking — SHOCKING! — that DCSS’s Million Dollar IT Department did not get the DCSS computers updated over the summer and did not do what it took to have eSIS up and running for our teachers.

  37. just another teacher says:

    “Ensured that all students have Art, Music, and Physical Education in every elementary school and that Instrumental Music is offered at all elementary schools.”

    1. She didn’t ensure that Art, Music and PE were in every elementary school. That decision was made by the board prior to her being hired.

    2. I really wish someone would look into how we have the funds to have Instrumental Music in every elementary school when we have Kindergarten classes with 27+ children without paraprofessionals in multiple schools. Instrumental Music was dropped on principals AFTER school began, without any explanation or offer of how to make a schedule work with an instrumental teacher who is assigned to 4-5 schools.

  38. truthmissile says:

    “Restructured the central office for greater efficiency and effectiveness which resulted in the elimination of 303 personnel.”

    Yeah, we know what THAT means: keep the absurdly high paid 3900 secretaries and super duper senior vp dept. managers.

  39. Teacher K says:

    I’m copying and pasting from the eSIS Home Install Instructions found in First Class — eSIS requires Java 6 Update 4 in order for eSIS to function properly Any other versions of Java must be removed. Disclaimer: “DeKalb County School System” is not responsible if any other programs
    do not work properly after removing different versions of Java that are already installed
    on your computer.

    The instructions were originally posted in 2010 and have never been updated. I purchased a new laptop in Nov 2010. It has Windows 7, I currently have Java 6 Update 31 (need to check to see how I missed updates). I have NEVER been able to access eSIS on my laptop.

  40. teacher/taxpayer says:

    I just accessed ESIS on my home computer a minute ago. It worked the way it always has. I have not downloaded anything new to this computer so I do not know why there is this talk about JAVA affecting ESIS. ESIS in my room at school works fine too. I am not a very computer savvy teacher so I am the first to complain if I have a problem. If it works for me, it ought to work for anyone. As for the Tech Department, I have gotten pretty good service. Luckily, our school gets a lot of help from Benny who provides prompt and wonderful service with a smile and never makes me feel stupid.

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