Whistleblower Safety: Information for your Protection

To report fraud and abuse in DeKalb County School System, we CANNOT recommend using DCSS’s own “Whistleblower Hotline”, which feeds your input — and your identity — directly to Ron Ramsey of Internal Affairs.

Nor do we endorse sending information concerning fraud and abuse directly to SACS or Mark Elgart, as you will have NO protection there, much less any assurance of confidentiality.  Further, past practice shows that SACS will not go after DCSS for even the most egregious wrongdoing.  And even DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James has publicly admitted that he thinks the school system can “police themselves” so it’s doubtful documents submitted to him would be reviewed.

Instead — for your protection and your safety — report fraud and abuse to the Federal Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). Their home page is:
http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oig/index.html

The OIG investigates fraud and misuse of federal funds. It is independent of the Department of Education.

DeKalb County School System employees who know how federal funds were/are being misused and/or misdirected MUST protect themselves by reporting what you know to the OIG, using the red “Click Here to Report Fraud” link on their webpage:
http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oig/hotline.html

When an employee reports misuse of federal funds to the OIG, they may become entitled to Whistleblower protection – read the links about it on the OIG website.

If you do not report what you know to the proper authorities (i.e., OIG), the one thing you can be sure of is that you will be first to be thrown under the bus.

Again, DeKalb County School System employees do NOT get federal Whistleblower protection when they report fraud and abuse to SACS or to the DCSS Whistleblower Hotline. Consequently, we suggest that everyone who has sent information regarding DCSS and known or suspected fraud, abuse or other wrongdoing to SACS and/or the DCSS Whistleblower Hotline — or even to DeKalb School Watch — should immediately send the same information to the OIG using the “Click Here to Report Fraud” link.

You may think you don’t really know anything that could be incriminating.  But, the reality is you may have a missing piece of the puzzle that OIG is assembling.

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37 Responses to Whistleblower Safety: Information for your Protection

  1. tenbroeck says:

    This is solid advice. Wish there was a way to ‘like’ DSW blog posts.

  2. PolitiMom says:

    Isn’t this one of the original SACS concerns from when Ramona Tyson had to respond to their first inquiry? I even think the board updated the policy on whistleblowers. I guess the spirit of the policy was lost in implementation.

  3. @tenbroeck: Thanks! Actually there is a way to “Like” DSW2. Go to the actual post page and you will see the “Like” button at the end of the post – before the comments. You can also ‘Share’ our posts with several Social Media outlets.
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/whistleblower-safety/

  4. The Deal says:

    Dr. Atkinson introduced her “cabinet” yesterday at the ELPC. She introduced Ron Ramsey as the head of the new internal legal affairs. She claims that department will save us money that we normally spend on outside legal firms. I don’t know enough about Ron Ramsey to know if this is a good idea, but it doesn’t sound like it.

  5. RealWorldEducation says:

    What about the piece on Rttt paying for 8 Administrators to get advanced degrees which they in turn will be paid extra for having? gee, I wish the system had paid for my advanced teaching degree. Instead, as a teacher, I’ll be paying for it for a decade from my furloughed frozen salary. How lovely for them!

  6. Ijustworkhere says:

    Can someone provide more information about this REALWORLDEDUCATION?
    Where is the funding coming from? If these funds are available why aren’t they being used to give employees $100 increase in one paycheck? It would definitely help. Why isn’t it being used to repay the $20 million deficit we owe?
    This county is so arrogant and full of itself it’s unbelievable. There was also a rumor that Tech dept was trying to decode and identify posters to this blog.

  7. We don’t know about that. Atkinson has had the Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan law firm answer two Open Records Requests of the 13 such requests that DSW has filed. No answer to the other 11. And what happens during the 40 days a year that Ramsey is playing at being a state senator?

  8. wearyeducator says:

    @Ijustworkhere,
    the funds are coming from the Race to the Top Grant….

  9. Atkinson choosing Ron Ramsey, Ramona Tyson, Dr. Beasley and many of the Clew Crew to stay on tells me she has drank the Kool-aid. Ron Ramsey is in charge of DCSS and do not let anyone tell you any difference. Ron Ramsey wields a huge stick and will use it against anyone who steps in his way, unless of course it is an election year. Hey Ron, I still can not find who your employer is on your state website. Why! Embarrassed to tell your constituents that you work for the worst school system in Metro Atlanta!

    Ron Ramsey is just another of the old crew biding his time while SACS does their dog and pony show. Ron Ramsey is a huge reason why nothing has been done and why we continue to send millions to Dr. Walkers +I see color+ attorneys.

    DCSS-D a failure of epic proportions since 2003!!!!! Millions of dollars gone, no surplus, unable to pay our bills and yet the same folks get raises, new titles and Mercer doctorates for 8 so-called leaders.

    Thanks Dr. Atkinson, your lack of leadership and ability to get rid of the family and friends shows me you are continuing down the road of failure!

  10. So frustrated says:

    Could everyone please understand… As a teacher….there is NO WAY to report things that aren’t “correct” without someone knowing you only wanted “it” checked out!

  11. We would be really interested to know what DeKalb County Schools IT thinks they can look at to identify posters to the DSW blog. As far as we know, there is NOTHING identifiable that appears on the blog. And we have the DSW email and DSW comments to blog posters pretty tightly locked down.

    However, this is exactly why we have said repeatedly: Do NOT use your DeKalb County Schools computer — even an assigned laptop that you take home every evening — to post comments on DSW or any other blog, regardless of whether you are posting from home or not.

    Do NOT use your DCSS computer for any personal business.

    Do NOT post on DSW or any other blog when you are on the DCSS network, even if you are using your personal laptop. The moment you connect to the DCSS network, whether you are using your personal laptop or a DCSS computer, IT can see what you have been doing, everywhere you have been and what’s on the computer.

    If you do not have a computer at home, go to the library and use one of their public computers. If you do not have an Internet connection at home, go to Starbucks or McDonald’s or one of hundreds of other places with free Wi-Fi. And, as always, NEVER conduct financial transactions or any personal business you would not want to see published on page one above the fold of the newspaper when you are on a public computer and/or a free Wi-Fi Internet connection.

  12. no name says:

    Three comments:

    (1) I think Atkinson and March themselves contacted SACS and asked SACS to send the warning letter, probably in the hopes of getting certain board members off their backs.

    Atkinson & March’s letter to SACS makes more sense if you read it as being written to someone they expect will do their bidding for them. It also explains why they only wrote about what they have done to the system instead of actually addressing the questions SACS asked!

    (2) Any employee who contacted SACS must expect (and be prepared for) when SACS shares their complaint and identity with March and Atkinson.

    (3) Federal OIGs can and do turn their findings over to federal prosecutors; they sometimes work together behind the scenes on prosecutions. If you are an employee who is aware of federal grant money being stolen, misused and/or squandered, do not remain silent or look the other way– report it to the OIG!

  13. If you tell DSW what to look for, we know how to word the Open Records Request so that the source of information leading to the request and exactly what we are looking for are hidden. We are investigative journalists. This is what we do.

    Keep in mind, though, that public agencies are not required to assemble information that is not already available. For example, if you suspect nepotism in your school, we have ways to search, but it is unlikely that there are any specific records we can request. Even if there were records available, we still would not make a request for just your school or even within a single cluster or section of DeKalb County. If you scan and send us a damning document or something that looks very much like it could be evidence — and it could be traced back to you or even back to your school — we are happy to pursue it, but we will also suggest, privately, to you that you take what you have to the Federal Office of the Inspector General.

    We also have a portable scanner and are willing to meet you and scan a document so that you do not have to use a DCSS scanner.

    NEVER EVER send us anything using a DCSS computer, DCSS telephone/smartphone or while connected to the DCSS network. Use a public computer in the library or your own personal computer (NOT a DCSS-assigned computer) at home or from a public wi-fi location.

  14. dekalbteacher says:

    If you work for DCSS–be careful what you post, no matter where you are! Personal computers can be tracked via the IP address. I have my own blog, and I can tell who visits it, even if they do not leave a comment. Better to send the info via email to DSW. And yeah, I am breaking my own rule right now, but my teaching situation is already about as bad as it can get–I have nothing to lose!

  15. dekalbteacher says:

    I really need to change my name to “soon to be former Dekalb Teacher.”

  16. Just another day in Paradise says:

    Gary Brantley, head of IT and Chief Information Officer, spends his time (and his $150,000+ salary) playing detective to determine who has been blogging about Cheryl Atkinson or sending e-mails outside of FirstClass. While most of his time is spent helping Atkinson develop plans to cover up her latest inane misstep, he spends the rest of it violating state and federal laws doing recon on what’s on district cellphones.

  17. We all know Brantley is a tool for Atkinson and Ramsey. He has to be. Jobs in his salary range don’t grow on trees. However, Brantley is not, unfortunately, breaking state or federal laws by monitoring employees’ usage of telecommunications equipment (cellphones, smartphones, computers). this is exactly why we have said repeatedly: Do NOT use your DeKalb County Schools computer — even an assigned laptop that you take home every evening — to post comments on DSW or any other blog, regardless of whether you are posting from home or not.

    Do NOT use your DCSS computer for any personal business.

    Do NOT post on DSW or any other blog when you are on the DCSS network, even if you are using your personal laptop. The moment you connect to the DCSS network, whether you are using your personal laptop or a DCSS computer, IT can see what you have been doing, everywhere you have been and what’s on the computer.

    If you do not have a computer at home, go to the library and use one of their public computers. If you do not have an Internet connection at home, go to Starbucks or McDonald’s or one of hundreds of other places with free Wi-Fi. And, as always, NEVER conduct financial transactions or any personal business you would not want to see published on page one above the fold of the newspaper when you are on a public computer and/or a free Wi-Fi Internet connection.

    NEVER EVER send DSW anything using a DCSS computer, DCSS telephone/smartphone or while connected to the DCSS network. Use a public computer in the library or your own personal computer (NOT a DCSS-assigned computer) at home or from a public wi-fi location.

    Know this:
    what is happening in DeKalb County Schools is NOT a matter of mere incompetence. We believe the corruption to be deeply ingrained. So when we tell you to exercise caution and NOT use DCSS equipment or connect to the Internet using the DCSS network, we are not just being paranoid. The corrupt incompetents within DCSS stand to lose a lot of money — a lot! They could NEVER EVER make their present bloated salaries while looting their employer anywhere else. However, do not worry needlessly about IP addresses. A court order might — note, we said “might” — manage to tie a specific computer to a specific IP address. But, in general, IP addresses are sold in huge blocks to Internet providers. So, yes, it might be possible to identify which provider owns an IP address. And, certainly, within DCSS, it is possible to assign specific, static IP addresses to specific computers. But, IP addresses are not like house addresses.

  18. Terry says:

    OH MY GOD!! I wish I had this information 10 years ago!! ESPECIALLY during ramona tyson’s reign!! Thank you … thank you… thank you. I WILL most certainly be directing my friends that are still incarcerated with the system to THIS particular blog!!!!

  19. Terry says:

    DSW is EXACTLY right about not using dcss computers OR THE NETWORK on your personal computer. Once they have your IP address, they have you!!! Don’t you remember back when (don’t remember which super hired the idiot) but he was in charge of personnel and had access to all SS#s…. already had a criminal history and then got caught accessing private information???? While he was being interogated, the IT department was instructed to remotely lock out his dcss computer, they picked it up from his office and then used everything through a digital forensics search against him…. YES, I hope he is rotting in prison, but the same thing can happen to YOU!! Read that message in the upper right corner of your school computer… it specifically states you are using a dcss computer and you are being monitored. IF YOU COULD TOUR the building at Rehoboth (Lawrenceville Hwy) … aka WBBC…. you would see the “private rooms” where “suspected violators” are being watched. You might even see Ken Marshall playing on three different computers throughout the day instead of working!!! Yet another building that needs to be swept out!

  20. @Terry: Once they have your IP address, they have you!!!

    Sort of … but not really. There’s no need to be overly paranoid here, though. Yes, it’s true that DCSS can track IP addresses, but that doesn’t mean they can track it to a specific computer and a specific user – unless they are monitoring your screen in real time, which is possible. (Think of when an IT person takes over your desktop and can make changes for you … or even how others can see what you’re doing on screen in a Go To Meeting.) Also, corporate/government employers can install programs that track your keystrokes so that they can later review what was typed. (Some parents actually do this on their teenagers’ computers.) Wireless systems dole out random temporary IP addresses to each user every time they log on. It’s why they bog down sometimes – they don’t have enough temporary IP addresses available. These are very hard to track but they can be tracked to a main IP wireless server. The point is, we aren’t to the level of “Big Brother” that people think — yet.

    BUT — they cannot track your home computer (owned by YOU) or your home Internet IP (owned by YOU) or your personal phone/laptop/tablet (owned by you) – which is why we recommend ONLY blogging from home. You can even use a personal laptop at a Starbucks and be perfectly untraceable. Just don’t use a DCSS laptop or device – and do not blog at work – ever. (You ARE supposed to be working after all…)

    We have concluded that the ‘powers that be’ WANT you to think that they can ‘get the goods’ on you – when in reality – they will have to do an awful lot of very tedious work to do so. And with 13,000+ employees, that’s difficult. Instead, we think that they are trying to make you paranoid, so that in a McCarthy-like way, they can haul you in due to rumors, etc, and interrogate you to make you confess. (We know of one DCSS employee who was held against her will for more than 3 hours until she said what Ron Ramsey wanted her to say to implicate another innocent employee. The whole time she was held, she kept telling them that she needed to pick up her baby from childcare but they would not let her leave until she said what they wanted.) IF that ever happens to you (on ANY subject) — do NOT confess a thing. They most likely do NOT have the evidence they will try to make you believe that they have. Call their bluff. Make them prove it. They can’t. And if they won’t let you leave, we recommend calling 911.

  21. Crawford Lewis was the superintendent who hired that felon — after a “nationwide” search. And chances are it was an “emergency” to get that guy hired. It was always an “emergency” with CLew-less — and the board bought his story every time. You may also recall that he “found” Pat Pope after a “nationwide search” for which he paid a local “search firm”. We later found out that Pat had been working on SPLOST projects for quite some time as a consultant under contract – while simultaneously serving as VP of her husband’s architectural firm – as he did SPLOST work for DCSS!

  22. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    * Once you logon to your computer with your DCSD username and password, all network traffic is then tagged with those credentials. IT can pull up in a couple of minutes the name of every employee that has visited any given site.

    * If you logon with credentials valid for just that computer (local username) all network traffic is tagged with your “computer name”.

    * IT can read all your incoming and outgoing dcsd emails, even deleted emails.

    The following only applies to DCSD Computers.

    * Have you ever “shared” your desktop? Using that technology, at any time an administrator can remotely look at your desktop.

    * At any time administrators can look through the webcam on your laptops.

    There are thousands of DCSD employees. If you don’t give them a reason to watch you, they probably won’t. On the other hand, I would close the lid on your DCSD issued laptops when you’re not using it … School Administrator Boasts About Spying On Students Using Laptop Webcams

  23. whoshelpingthekids says:

    Have you ever had a problem with parent portal and called the help desk. They can sign in and see what is on your home screen and manipulate it in real time. When you sign up, you select a username and password. When you are approved, unlike all other secure sites, they do not send you a temporary password that you then change. As a matter of fact, they have been known to change usernames by adding a hyphen or other feature without telling you.

  24. AGAIN … this is why we say NEVER EVER send DSW (the blog or the e-mail) anything using DCSS telecommunications equipment — i.e., a DCSS computer (including a laptop you can take home), DCSS telephone/cellphone/smartphone or while connected to the DCSS network (even if it is the weekend or you are using your personal laptop and/or webmail like Gmail, Yahoo, Comcast, etc). Use a public computer in the library or your own personal computer (NOT a DCSS-assigned computer) at home or from a public wi-fi location.

  25. teacherwantingachange says:

    Some of this seems excessively paranoid.

    Deaklb does’t seem to be able to talk itself out of a paper bag, so I don’t see how they could prove any teacher-even if it is his or her sign-in-did anything since so many teachers float and so many people from custodians to maintenance are in the building.

    Neverthless, I wouldn’t be blogging at school.

  26. Another Dekalb Teacher says:

    Our ex AP was transferred to another school when they found out that she was blogging on the original DSW. They even found out she was using the screen name Passionate. Passionate was bitter about not getting the principal job, when our principal retired. Apparently, blogged away and got busted. At the end of the school year we were told she was going to another school.

  27. dekalbite2 says:

    It seems odd that DeKalb Schools could go after an employee who posts a negative comment from a DCSS computer, when they have obviously dedicated employees to reviewing the DSW and Get Schooled blog and directed them to post positive comments. If the DeKalb Schools administration is using tax dollars to monitor the blogs from DeKalb Schools computers (paid for by tax dollars), then they are in essence saying that you can use a DCSS computer to make a positive comment, but not to make a negative comment. That doesn’t seem like they are following the First Amendment. If employees cannot go onto blogs during school hours with DCSS computers, then that should be enforced for ALL DCSS employees including employees paid to monitor the blogs and try to get the administration’s point across. A public entity should not be able to stifle speech they disapprove of while sanctioning and encouraging speech they approve of. Look at Fred in DeKalb or John Hope (both pro-DCSS administration bloggers). Are they employees who use the DCSS computers to provide a “positive point of view” of DeKalb Schools? If they are using DCSS computers with the administration’s blessing, while employees who may express negative viewpoint are being punished, that seems a First Amendment violation.

  28. dekalbteacher says:

    Not really–we have a user agreement , which we confirm every time we log on. It states that we will use the network only for DCSS business. If the admins are using the network to spy on teachers, that is DCSS business, no? Just like the contracts that we sign each spring, the user agreement protects the county—not us!

  29. dekalbite2 says:

    @dekalbteacher
    “If the admins are using the network to spy on teachers, that is DCSS business, no? ”

    So taxpayers are paying administrative personnel to sit on the Internet and post to blogs? Is that educational business they are conducting?

  30. Mad Dad says:

    So they are validating the “rumor mill” as a legitimate communication vehicle while paying for several expensive communications folks to … what? To not announce what they are doing or to not be transparent? They are fueling the fires that keep everyone at odds with each other and confused about what is truly going on.

  31. Terry says:

    All I can say is “Wow”. As long as NO ONE is looking over their shoulders, the IT staff, the admin staff, the finance staff….. anyone drawing a paycheck… is happily smiling at you while plundering your wallet. They don’t give a flip about your children’s education. They are looking at their own personal retirement and how much they can rape the county for. ramona HAS HERS. She is set for life and she told us so at every meeting we had. “I SIT AT THE BIG TABLE NOW” was her crowning comment years ago. YEP, she not only got to sit at the big table, she wormed her way into BEING the big table. Now she has shut her mouth, holding her breath till she retires with her whopping retirement and she will be laughing her way out the door. SHE NEVER CARED ABOUT THE STUDENTS!!!!!!
    By the way…. EVERY firstclass email sent or received is ARCHIVED!! They don’t have to worry about monitoring anyone.. they can pull it up at any time. AND, every computer is NAMED, both for inventory and for tracking.
    HAVE any of you been on the receiving end of a BOARD member blasting their way into your classroom to cuss you out because their precious child failed your class??? And then you were FORCED to change their grade???
    Have any of you ever been forced to sit in ramona’s HOT CHAIR? YES, she’s a bully!
    Have any of you ever been forced to go through training classes and told that if you did not, you would not have a job…. EVEN THOUGH those training classes were NOT a part of your job??
    The acid that flows through this BOE is poisoning our educational system…. or what’s left of it. Keep sending emails, letters, do the phone calls…. let the Feds know what is going on, but BE truthful!

  32. dekalbteacher says:

    @dekalbite2:
    I completely agree that having DCSS personnel contributing to this blog is wrong. I was just pointing out that it would be hard to make a case that it is illegal.

  33. It’s called ‘trolling’ and it’s a very common practice on blogs. People do it for their job, or for the ‘fun’ of it but generally ‘trolls’ like to stir up the conversation, change the topic, deflect, deflate or generally disrupt. The best thing to do is ignore what they say. Just flat ignore it. Don’t respond. Don’t get drawn in. That is what they want. They want to change the direction of the conversation. Our bloggers are pretty smart though and very, very rarely do trolls succeed here. In fact, I would say, never.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_%28Internet%29

    Concern troll

    A concern troll is a false flag pseudonym created by a user whose actual point of view is opposed to the one that the user claims to hold. The concern troll posts in Web forums devoted to its declared point of view and attempts to sway the group’s actions or opinions while claiming to share their goals, but with professed “concerns”. The goal is to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt within the group.[24]

    . . .

    Trolling is a game about identity deception, albeit one that is played without the consent of most of the players. The troll attempts to pass as a legitimate participant, sharing the group’s common interests and concerns; the newsgroups members, if they are cognizant of trolls and other identity deceptions, attempt to both distinguish real from trolling postings, and upon judging a poster a troll, make the offending poster leave the group. Their success at the former depends on how well they – and the troll – understand identity cues; their success at the latter depends on whether the troll’s enjoyment is sufficiently diminished or outweighed by the costs imposed by the group. Trolls can be costly in several ways. A troll can disrupt the discussion on a newsgroup, disseminate bad advice, and damage the feeling of trust in the newsgroup community. Furthermore, in a group that has become sensitized to trolling – where the rate of deception is high – many honestly naïve questions may be quickly rejected as trollings. This can be quite off-putting to the new user who upon venturing a first posting is immediately bombarded with angry accusations. Even if the accusation is unfounded, being branded a troll is quite damaging to one’s online reputation.

  34. Dekalbite2 says:

    Just pointing out that if the administration says it’s okay for some employees to go to and comment on a blog on a DCSS computer, it’s hard to justify saying other employees cannot access or comment on that same blog using a DCSS computer. What would the rationale – we don’t want free speech?

  35. Terry says:

    Well…. I trust DSW. YOU are at least getting this information out which is more than we can ever expect from dcss. I will be reading …. digesting…. dismissing those that support dcss UNLESS it’s a valid statement. I would have no problem using my name here, but I still have close friends on the inside… I will not jeopordize their jobs. The way I was dismissed is a load of crap, but I WILL move forward. I WILL direct my friends to this website. I WILL keep writing letters!

  36. Gary Jordan says:

    Parents can use parent-portal to view their student’s grades and they are encouraged to use the service. However, how many teachers are there that can not use the schools internet to record grades and work from the comfort of their homes. This has not always been the case. The technology department trimmed their staff, increased everyone’s work load, but they can’t solve the problem(s) that keeps some teachers from logging into the system since school started this past August.
    It is apparent that the teachers are being dumped on and expected to do more and more for less and less. They have not had a salary increase for six years, lost insurance offset premiums for health insurance (pay cut in July) and they have increased class sizes to as much as 36-39 students stating they will adjust by the end of September. Don’t blame anyone from wanting to change to another system or job. It is apparent teachers are being required to do more and more with little reward.

  37. Sir Quagmire says:

    I hear the new principal at Livsey is Jamie Wilson. Former head of HR. Dr. Castille is going to Coralwood

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