Board Meeting Tonight – FEB 13 at 6 PM

Tune in to PDS Comcast 24 on your television at home, stream the meeting live on your computer by clicking here, or attend the meeting live and in person at the Board Auditorium in the DeKalb County School System Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain, GA 30083. Then leave comments in the comment section of this blog post.


6:20 There is a very loud buzz in the audio tonight.  We can hardly hear a word anyone says.  I think they just gave an award to the counselor at Cedar Grove MS. I also think Tom Bowen just declared some day “Reading Day” of some kind.  REALLY can’t hear through the buzz.  Are they aware of the issue?

  • A mom is asking the county to fully fund athletics (I think).
  • A parent from Briarlake is very much against the cell towers and says there is new evidence from World Health that they are dangerous. – She says they will not give up and go away.  (Wonder if she voted for Paul Womack, he’s her rep and he’s the one who brought the cell towers to the schools.)
  • A high school kid is talking about why he loves his school (didn’t hear the name of the school due to the buzzing.)
  • Parent tells us about the great things going on at Druid Hills HS.
  • Another NoBriarlakeCellTower parent. There isn’t even space for the tower.
  • A third NoBriarlakeCellTower parent. Says national news orgs are now interested. Says he got a letter from the board stating that they voted for the towers after much discussion.  Called that a lie.
  • Parent tries to educate the board as to the fact that good school systems hire the best teachers and pay them well, however DeKalb’s teachers have not had a raise in years, and have lost income due to furloughs and lost benefits as well as retirement contributions. MIT has determined that US schools do not pay enough to attract high quality teachers. Teachers support Dr A in her efforts. (This guy should run against David Schutten for head of ODE.
  • Parent tells us about the great things at Tucker HS and their principal, Jackson. She then bullet-points the programs at Tucker and asks the board to support.
  • Grandparent gives a glowing report on Destiny Academy and its leader, Clarence Callaway. (Can’t hear her, as the buzzing makes me feel like I’m watching the landing of Apollo 13)
  • Another parent bragging about Destiny.
  • A third parent bragging about Destiny – saved their kid.  Grateful.  (Not sure why the parade of support all of a sudden – is this school in some kind of jeopardy? It’s a charter school.)
  • McNair HS student. Found her class on DOLA to be helpful.  She said you have to be focused to pass the online classes but teachers will help if you call them.
  • Parent who loves her child’s ES, Rock Chapel and principal, Muhammed.  Gave details about the reading and other programs, and says they have great parent participation.
  • Parent who loves Lithonia MS since her 7th grade son loves it and the teachers offer morning tutorials. Lots of clubs and activities.  A surprise to her, as she didn’t want to use the ‘neighborhood’ school.  Teachers love the kids. Great parent participation.
  • Lisa Morgan announced the winners of the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl: ES – Montgomery,  MS – Henderson, HS – Chamblee Charter — Huge hit coming for classified employees health care benefit.  ($$$) Some educators are now only paid at state salary step (since DCSS has not given step increases in several years)
  • Willie Pringle – Having an issue with his daughter due to the principal at Chapel Hill. Then recently a gun went off at Chapel Hill MS. Nothing was done. Children are suffering (he’s pretty irate.) Admonished Jay Cunningham for not contacting anyone after a child was killed. “Pray to God that you all come together in unity.” Asked for a meeting with Dr. Atkinson.

++++ BREAK ++++
Think they’ll fix the audio?

We are currently seeking a volunteer or two to cover these meetings. You can do so from the privacy of your living room! In the meantime, everyone, please cover the events of this meeting in your conversation in the comments.

The rest of the agenda follows:


1. Budget, Audit, Finance & Facilities Committee

2. Business, Community & Government Relations Committee

3. Instruction Committee

4. Policy Committee




1. Approval of Minutes

2. Financial Monthly Report

3. Human Resources Monthly Board Report for February 2012

4. Science Equipment and Supplies – Bid 12-136 Catalog Discount

5. Language Translation and Interpretation Services

6. District Accreditation and AdvancED SACS CASI Quality Assurance Review Team Visit

7. Purchase of Advance Placement (AP) Exams for the May 2012 Administration

8. Atlanta Hawks’ Donation to DeKalb Alternative School’s Media Center

9. GADOE Charter Contract for DeKalb Preparatory Academy

10. SPLOST II Budget Reallocation (419)

11. Capital Improvement Plan Budget Reallocation (421)

12. Hawthorne Elementary School ADA Modification Contract Award Approval

13. Chapel Hill Middle School Ceiling Tile Replacement and Driveway Repair Contract Award Approval

14. Stone Mountain High School HVAC, Ceiling, Lighting Renovation & Roof Replacement A/E Amendment No. 3 Approval

15. Lakeside High School Tree Clearing Additional Donation Approval

16. Approval of Pre-Qualified Professional Service Firms for the DeKalb County School District’s Capital Improvement Plan

17. Plant Services Materials and Supplies Purchases for Schools – Paper Products

18. Tobacco Grant Extension

19. Approval of Search Firms ~ Chief Financial Officer

J. OTHER\BOARD COMMENTS (2 minutes each)



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57 Responses to Board Meeting Tonight – FEB 13 at 6 PM

  1. Wow says:

    Why can’t DCSS do a better job advertising stuff like this??? This is a big deal, but DCSS still can’t spread the word efficiently. But Walter Woods sure knows how to be condescending to taxpayers and parents.

    “Input sought on school tech”

    DeKalb students, teachers, parents and residents can give input on Feb. 15 on the school system’s updated plan to implement technology in the schools.

    Every three years, the district must update the school district’s overall Technology Plan that identifies technology needs countywide, and determine what can be done to fulfill them.

    The 7p.m. to 8 p.m. community meeting takes place at the school district’s Administrative and Instructional Complex (AIC) auditorium in Stone Mountain.

    The meeting will explore classroom/administrative technology, instructional technology, inInfrastructure, and business applications/systems.

    The AIC Auditorium is at 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard. For more information, visit

  2. Cynical In Chamblee says:

    It is my understanding that the guy that used to run the sound board for the Board of Education Meetings for PDS-TV 24 quit recently, due to poor pay and poor working conditions. Also remember, it former Board of Education member Mrs. Frances Edwards’ daughter that is in charge of the television station? With the high salary she receives, this loud buzzing sound should have been solved and eliminated quickly, with capable people.

  3. Truly! This should have been fixed within the first few minutes. I can’t believe they haven’t fixed it yet! Pitiful!!!!!!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Is streaming working for anybody ?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Can somebody call the Chamblee High School AV club? The best technology in the country needs some help.

  6. WTH is going on with BOE procedure? They can amend the agenda to VOTE on something that may be binding — but they cannot respond to citizen comments because those citizen comments are not announced in advance, as required by the Open Meetings Act? And WHY was the Superintendent’s business — especially something she wants voted on — not on the published agenda to begin with?

  7. Download the budget here. Nancy Jester had some questions that I didn’t quite understand. I “think” it had to do with the fact that we ‘pre-spent’ property tax dollars that later had to be repaid as the county taxes didn’t produce as projected.

    Click to access December%202011%20Monthly%20Financial%20Report_353078ezpa5q244wlq3lndb1ritcnv.pdf

    McChesney also brought up an expense he thought was expensive, but could turn into an ‘entitlement’ – the cost of AP tests . Jester recommended using only state level funding. It costs about $600,000 per year. Edler thinks we should pay. Jester asked about the pass rate. A: 31.8% scored a 3 or higher for college credit. Jester doesnt’ see the ROI. Maybe there are kids who shouldn’t be in AP taking AP since it’s free. Bowen said Lewis started this to encourage more AP participation. Lewis expected interest to decline. Decision is left to Atkinson. Passed – Jester and McChesney voted no.

  8. says:

    How can we approve more spending when we’re already in the hole?

    This buzzing is nuts. I wonder if it’s on purpose, so that we give up listening.

    Go Don about the public not paying for the AP exams. We should not be paying for any exams. This is a parent responsibility, not a district responsibility. Parents can work this into their budget. The district cannot afford to pay for these exams when we are already in the hole in terms of budget. A 31% pass rate is not a good investment, go Nancy!!!

  9. There was a reallocation of SPLOST 2 funds (??) What’s up with that? Sequoyah is still in close-out… how weird!! (Is this to fund their sports fields? Apparently there’s a million dollar project going on there.) There are apparently 2 more. Margaret Harris and Arabia Mtn. (a storage shed there?!!) SPLOST 2 is the SPLOST that Lewis and Pope are under indictment for RICO charges. We just voted in SPLOST 4. (And they continue to reiterate that there is $2 Billion in Need – every time!) PS — someone needs to tell the board that it’s not *SPLOSH* – it’s *SPLOST*. Bowen asked why this item came to the board since it’s only $1600. A: It’s a close out and a reallocation.

  10. Watching this BOE meeting — and the stunning degree of ignorance displayed — is a lot like watching a train wreck: horrible and compellingly fascinating at the same time. The buzzing and humming “background noise” is a nice touch.

  11. Ned says:

    Other than the buzzing, what makes this meeting unique?

  12. Teacher Reader says:

    I am tired of race and hearing that the South end of the County does not have equity. They have more new schools than the middle and North end. They have more schools with more space than the middle and North. The fight for haves and have nots has got to stop. We need a map showing where money has been spent, by how much and when. School closing are not a race issue, they are a population issue. If there isn’t the population to keep a school open, it needs to go. Tax payers cannot afford to run schools that are half full.

    Parents, if you want your child to take multiple AP exams, you need to pay for them, not the tax payer. Your child will reap the benefits of the exam with college credit and as a tax payer, I get nothing out of it if your child fails. Children and parents need to have more skin in the game. When my parents paid for my brother’s AP courses, you bet they were expecting him to pass and take the exam seriously. If his school had paid for them, he would have been more likely to blow them off. Parents can surely budget the exams into their family budgets, if they desire for their children to take them.

  13. Tonight (February 13, 2012) the following tracked e-mail was sent to each DeKalb County School System Board of Education member from

    “Please let us know if you personally met with District Attorney Robert James before he made his decision to NOT empanel a special grand jury (as requested by the November-December 2011 DeKalb County Grand Jury) to investigate the DeKalb County School System Board of Education (BOE). This request is made under Georgia’s Open Meetings Act.

    “If your answer is “yes” please tell us:

    “1. when (date, time);

    “2. where (place);

    “3. how (individually, in a group [who else was in the group?], on the phone, via e-mail).

    “Thank you.”

  14. Cynical In Chamblee says:

    I agree with Mr. McChesney and Ms. Jester regarding the expense for the AP exams. How can it be justified? Some BOE members will complain that many students will not be able to afford to take the tests. And, there may be a few. But, if it is a matter of money, it should be a matter of priorities and I would venture to bet that more than 31.8% of the students taking the tests are somehow able to afford cell phones.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Students take AP classes to make their transcripts look good for colleges. If you are a senior, you show you are enrolled in 2 or 3 AP classes. You are accepted by a college and/or get your scholarship before you take the exams. Also, the state of Georgia gives credit for the percentage of students who take AP courses. This is one thing DCSS can control (not student achievement – they don’t know how to do that). Counselors recommend as many students as possible take AP classes, regardless of their capability of scoring a 3 or above on the test. This is like increasing the graduation rate by making teachers change grades or inflate grades or give no zeros. It’s a published statistic they can easily control. Now you see why the 3 or above scores are so rare. It’s more political, not so educational.

  16. Many colleges and universities will not accept an AP score of less than 4 for college credit. So, if only 31.8% of DCSS’s AP test-takers made a 3 or better, than means even fewer made a 4 or 5.

    Also if 68% of AP test-takers cannot earn a 3 or better on the AP tests, then they are not prepared to take AP courses. Worse, they are hindering the learning of those students who are prepared and ready for the rigor of AP courses.

    BTW — one reason for high schools NOT to be on a block schedule is the disastrous effect it has on AP students who take AP courses in the Fall semester. ALL AP tests, across the country, are given on the same day each year — usually in early May. So, students who have taken AP courses in the Fall are a whole semester removed from the course by the time they take the test.

    Nancy Jester was correct: there is no ROI in paying for AP tests when the pass rate is so low. Only Nancy Jester and Don McChesney used common sense in voting “No” to paying for AP tests.

    Teacher Reader is correct: children and parents reap the financial benefits of receiving college credit in return for students doing well on the AP exam. They should be paying for their AP exams. Maybe then they will give the AP courses their very best effort.

  17. If anyone caught or could understand (or hear) the discussion at the end about the maps, please clue us in here. I think Don was pretty upset about the fact that the legislators raked the board over the coals for not producing new maps for their board districts – when in fact, they did.

  18. The Deal says:

    Nancy Jester tweeted: Jay Cunningham: “we drew maps. Funny when tide turns that 5 is now a problem. I don’t think it’s racial. It’s following the law.”

  19. The blogger formerly known as Cerebration says:

    My two cents from the sidelines: I actually don’t have an issue with the five member map. It would be a very lean way to run the school system. Decisions would be made faster, with less random discussion. Members would be more culpable for their decisions. They won’t be able to hide and vote a certain way to gain political clout somehow, all the while knowing that the majority of the board will swing the other way. There won’t be as many opportunities to employ family and friends as well as influence contracts. And hopefully, the five would work as a team for the good of the entire system, not just their own small circle of influence.

    Although the five currently holding the seats that would stay are not the ‘choice’ five, I really feel that we can easily find five highly qualified people to secure seats in two years and create a school board we can be proud of – and one that can get along. A board whose focus is entirely on students and the classroom. A school board that simply manages the quality of the curriculum and the money spent. A board that ensures they hire a qualified superintendent and allow her and her staff to do the job. If she strays, it’s the board’s job to reel her in. If she does well, they should stand with her in solidarity for students.

    Hiring and managing the superintendent, ensuring that a quality education is being conducted for each and every student and keeping their eyes on our tax dollars are the main responsibilities of a board of education. A highly qualified board of five could manage these tasks quite well I believe. Seven could too, but is it worth the bickering?

  20. d says:

    I can’t vouch for all block-schedule schools, but at least at SWD, AP classes are either year-long or offered in the Spring. I can think of only one exception to that rule in the past 5 years.

  21. The Deal says:

    You don’t think those 5 (really, 4) would do irreparable damage to the school system in 2 years? And before you ask something like, how much worse could they make it, remember back when we thought RICO charges were the low. I completely agree with you that the map of 5 would be ideal 2 years from now. By having those 4 represent such diverse areas, we could knock them out easily. However, I am seriously concerned about what kind of harm they would do over the next 2 years. Tax increase to the maximum, reallocation of SPLOST funds, inordinate pressure on the superintendent (squashing the audit, keeping the central office plump), punishing anyone or anything Nancy Jester supports, personal vendettas against anyone who speaks out against them. Gene Walker as board chair is worse than Crawford Lewis as super.

  22. The blogger formerly known as Cerebration says:

    All of that can happen with the 6-3 majority voting block we now have on the board. It’s the same group in control either way. There are plenty of good people all over DeKalb. We can find five of them who will do this job the right way. If there are only five, then they would be much more inclined to make decisions for the good of the entire system. And if there were only five, their individual decisions would be more relevant, and therefore more monitored. Hopefully, the future will bring a caring, thoughtful, smart board able to work together for the good of all of our students. Be it a 5 or 7 member board.

  23. Just Watch says:

    They tried to stop funding AP exams within the lats two years. (I think it was the budget cycle two years ago.) And parents from across the county screamed their bloody brains out and the AP line item stayed.

    Even in lean times, many school systems pay for the exams. In part, it is because of all those silly ranking sites that recognize schools/systems for the number of students in AP courses that can only be measured by number of exams given. So, you need/want your students to take the exams. Second, most school systems don’t give the bonus (not sure of the technical point) point to the GPA (where an A is a 5, B is a 4) unless the exam is taken. That is the case in DeKalb as well. There was much discussion and angst over this within the last two years.

    All that said, I think the state and system should get out of the exam business. (College board has waivers for kids who are free and reduced lunches). Kids will do better on the exams when their or their parents skin is in the game.

  24. Dunwoody Mom says:

    I don’t often disagree with Nancy, but I will on the AP exam issue. The “ROI” is not for the school system, it is for the students of DCSS. This school system really does so little for our students, especially those non-Title 1 students, that paying for the AP exams is the right move, in my opinon. Having just gone through my first college investigation and admission “adventure”, I will tell you that the competitive colleges require those AP courses – in fact, you will not get in UGA or Tech without them. I do not want to see students not take AP classes because they cannot afford to take the exam. These tests are around $80 each and there are many families in DCSS for which this would be a tremendous expense – even those that do not qualify for free/reduced lunch. Just my two cents.

  25. more of the same says:

    A big motivation for the county to pay for AP tests is that the national high school rankings (US News and Washington Post Challenge Index) rely heavily on AP participation. (The WP ranking is all about how many students take the exam, not how many pass.) One way to inflate your ranking is to require all students in AP courses to take the AP exam, regardless of their level of preparation. In order to do that, someone has to pay for it.

  26. more of the same says:

    It would be a simple thing for the county to pay for exams for those who qualify for free lunch, and provide a partial payment for those who qualify for reduced lunch. It wouldn’t eliminate the expense, but it would reduce it and still provide access for those who really couldn’t afford it otherwise.

  27. Miss Management says:

    More of the same is correct. US News only uses the percentage of students TAKING AP classes to rate their ‘Best Schools’. That’s it! They use no other criteria. It’s very easy to manipulate your ranking on this list. If they would use other criteria additionally, their list would be more respectable and reliable, IMHO.

  28. Jeb says:

    “And hopefully, the five would work as a team for the good of the entire system, not just their own small circle of influence.”

    You’re joking right?

  29. Tenbroeck-Dekalb Parent says:

    Almost seems we need to write letters to US News & WP. What they should use is the number of students getting above a certain score on the AP test. Though maybe that stat is not so easy to come by.

    I agree that most parent should be able to work the AP test into their budget, but some might not. A compromise might be to only pay for the AP test for high performing, high need students. Maybe any student with 3.0 or better who qualifies for subsidized lunch. That would be a lot less expensive than the current approach.

  30. @ Miss Management and @ more of the same: There is a difference between ENROLLING in an AP course and TAKING an AP exam. Students who enroll in an AP course do NOT have to take the AP exam. So, which statistic does U.S. News & World Report use? Can you verify that for us, please?

  31. Anonymous says:

    As long as Gene Walker is in control of the agenda, Nancy Jester has no shot getting anything done for her constituents. As long as Ron Ramsey, Rep. Mosby, King Eddie and the rest of that crew has their foot on the throat of the county, nothing is going to change. DeKalb is headed in the wrong direction and there is no sight in changing that path in the near future. I really wonder how the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce can spin this. Bought and paid for DA, corrupt and failing school system, citizens fed up with their government, no transparency when it comes to spending and an electorate that is very uninformed. Perfect setting for what we have here in Chicago, uh er, I mean DeKalb County.

  32. DeKalb County, Georgia is a mirror of East St. Louis, Illinois.

  33. The Deal says:

    The blogger formerly known as Cerebration does have a point. There is a majority right now that is overruling any common sense. If we accept the 5-person map that was presented last week, we have one sane person located up north and 4 others who have vertical districts that cut through many different areas. Those 4 are the ones who have the majority now anyway, so what would be the difference. In two years, with the makeup of those 4 vertical districts, I bet we could unseat all 4 of those reps because the usual southern power base would be split up. This would give those voices from the south who have been crying out for help (yes, there are plenty of them) a bloc of like-minded people to vote with them.

    It would be a very long 2 years of 4-1 votes.

  34. I Agree says:

    It’s going to be a very long 2 years of 6-3 votes or 5-2 votes. No way out of the next couple of years.

  35. September says:

    My daughter took some AP classes when she was in high school. She did not score high enough on any to earn college credit, but she had the chance to sit in a class that demanded more from her than she would have received in a regular high school class. For that reason it was worth it. My son opted for joint enrollment. He got college credit for every class he took and I don’t think it was any more or less challenging than the AP classes offered at the high school. Should we be using this statistic to rate high schools? I think not. Rating a school is not only about preparing top students for college, it’s about preparing all students for life.

  36. @The Deal … You mention “voices from the south who have been crying out for help (yes, there are plenty of them).” I find it hard to believe there are any South DeKalb taxpayers who are concerned, much less “many” as you state.

    Where are they?

    Twice — most recently on Monday, February 13 — this blog has asked readers to contact their BOE representative and ask if that BOE member spoke with District Attorney Robert James (see below):

    “We now know that neither Nancy Jester nor Don McChesney were contacted by District Attorney Robert James before he made his “independent” decision to NOT empanel a special grand jury (as requested by the November-December 2011 DeKalb County Grand Jury) to investigate the DeKalb County School System Board of Education (BOE).

    “Please contact your BOE member TODAY and ask if s/he was contacted and interviewed by District Attorney Robert James about wrongdoing on the BOE. If the answer is “yes,” please get as many details as possible:
    1. when (date, time);
    2. where (place);
    3. how (individually, in a group, on the phone, via e-mail).
    In last Friday’s press conference Robert James said he spoke with BOE members (plural), intimating he spoke with all BOE members.

    “If you reside in a district ‘represented’ by Walker, Bowen, Copelin-Woods, Cunningham, Edler, Speaks or Womack, but maintain that you are not happy with the state of DeKalb County School System, this is your opportunity to step up and make a difference.

    “Please send your BOE member’s response to While we will keep your name confidential, please provide contact information (phone number) so that we may confirm the content of your e-mail.”

    There has been NO response from anyone other than people who are represented by Nancy Jester and Don McChesney. The silence from South DeKalb has been deafening.

    As long as South DeKalb taxpayers won’t step up and take ownership — as long as South DeKalb taxpayers think that it is someone else’s responsibility to hold the BOE accountable for the damage they have wrought to children, schools, and neighborhoods, particularly in South DeKalb — then the vast majority of the BOE will continue their corrupt and evil practices.

    Quite frankly, with the BOE majority (and the majority of the DeKalb Legislative Delegation) representing South DeKalb who refuses to hold them accountable, it’s time to look at splitting up the school system and the county.

  37. The Deal says:

    I emailed Pam Speaks and Nancy Jester about the DA issue, and neither responded.

    Here’s one south DeKalb parent who cares:

    Also, contact someone at Margaret Harris – they’re not happy about the cell tower or their board member.

    I feel like at least one person from south DeKalb speaks up at every board meeting.

    I don’t think it’s the citizens and parents who make up the county north/south divide; I think it’s perpetuated by our board members, particularly Cunningham, Woods, and Walker. What I’m against are board members who trade favors for favors and play dirty politics and constituents who will play politics to curry favor for just their school. This obviously covers Walker, who pulled a big political favor with Fernbank, who is not south DeKalb.

    With that said, I wholeheartedly agree that the county system is too big to manage. It would take years to amend the constitution and feel the positive effects of that change; in short, it’s never going to happen.

    Besides, if the end goal is for the southside board members to be replaced, then all the better if no one from the south side is involved (as you say), since, with the vertical regions, there will be plenty of votes coming from central DeKalb.

  38. May says:

    Personally, I would like to see our state government create some rules/regulations/laws regarding mandated qualifications for ALL Boards of Education members. At the very least, they must pass/have the same qualifications as a teacher–criminal background check and fingerprinting. Also desirable would be an understanding of basic accounting principles and “fiduciary responsibility”

  39. momfromhe11 says:

    Let’s do a thought experiment:
    What if the DeKalb BOE were composed of 9/7/5 representatives who were primarily interested in raising up the school system, and felt that to do so, they needed to pull the residents of the county TOGETHER in a united effort?

    What if the Board members, when speaking about the shortcomings at the schools in their districts, asked (out loud, to each other and the public) “Is this a problem at all of our schools? How can we remedy it? If it is not a problem at all our schools, what have other areas done to avoid/fix it? What can we all do to contribute?”

    What if, when confronted with questions regarding a racial divide, the Board members said, “We are all here to make sure there IS NO racial divide as pertains to schools. We are here to work as hard as we can to be sure all children are offered the best opportunities, and we need everyone’s help. Let’s arrange for people (parents, teachers, business people, residents) in our communities to be able to work together and offer suggestions and observations, and then we will talk with them and see what ideas they come up with that we may not have considered ourselves.”

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