Emory LaVista Parent Council April 18, 2012

“State of the System, Revisited” by Dr. Atkinson and others from Central Office (Notes from the meeting)

DCSS is funding schools differently next school year – not based on points but based on “needs” – they have asked the schools to anticipate the number of students in the building in the fall and to report in to central office for planning purposes.

Title I is being revamped – it has been on 15 month contracts and they are moving to 12 month contracts. Some services have been dropped because funds have run out because of “gaps” due to the 15 month contracts and because the funding hasn’t been based at the school house. They are working on this (issue was raised with regard to Accelerated Reader)

The thorough audit of the system is continuing, the goal is for transparency.

There is a Leadership Academy being developed and implemented for teacher development (and, upon questioning) also for principals. This is based, at least loosely, on one currently being used in Gwinnett. It will be “taught” by various people, from folks at the State, to people in “positions” at the county office, to “seasoned” principals and teachers depending on the topic.

The single most important factor is a successful teacher – thus must have successful leadership development and this, therefore, becomes a common core function. We want assessments alignment with State curriculum.

The goal is “equity” not “equality”. Schools need to be aligned with “non-negotiables” such as art, music, science with labs, instrumental music; Schools should not be choosing between these things. High Schools should all be offering a college curriculum including AP with career and tech pathways and then this should be filtered down to the lower school levels. It needs to be at all schools – equity – administrators must align curriculum to provide opportunities to students at all schools.

Dr. Atkinson was at a Senior Day program at Stephenson HS and they did a “signing ceremony” for academic scholarships. They might have to implement this at all schools. Judge Haynes spoke at this program – she spoke about how school was a pathway for work in a global economy. This message needs to filter out to all the schools.

She wants the system-wide initiative to be managed, monitored, measured on a scorecard that everyone can see and read. The teams will have goals so progress can be measured on-line. Based on a business model implemented by Duke Energy – a business model because the District is a $1 billion corporation. She is looking at the finances. KPMG has implemented zero based budgeting. They are aligning resources where they are needed most. There are checks and balances on spending – everyone signs off on everything – almost including every post-it note! Things matter such as cleanliness and building and grounds. They are paying attention to the timeliness of work orders, etc.

They understand that they need lawyers but they are looking at the budget and the accounting on the fees.

The are (and have been) reviewing policies and SPLOST. There is more to do. They can no longer afford to have boutique schools – they need a prototype. Things need to be equitable and more efficient. All schools need to be what the kids need. They are moving forward with “pay as you go” – there is some dispute over whether it will work… Working on this so that it can work.

She understands that there are challenges. She’s been on the job 21 weeks. Sometimes it feels like 21 years. She wants the system to be transparent.

They will be maximizing the use of social media and e-text books. They will develop a comprehensive social network/media plan and a program to replace textbooks with e-books to get the kids ready for tomorrow (funding issues arose and answer was that perhaps it would come from the textbook budget).

Issue arose over theft of computers… School PTA raised funds, bought computers, computers stolen, only to then learn of the $100k deductible and no real insurance… Thinking about replacing with newly raised money but want the PTA/school to own the computers so they can insure them … how do we change the policy to allow this to happen? Answer: You should be able to buy insurance (per Fran Millar… not so per county official) but they are now (drum roll….) Programming computers to report their locations if they are stolen.

Judge Haynes spoke about technology making things more efficient and eliminating many positions in the work force – many jobs of tomorrow haven’t yet been created. Technology is necessary.

They need a 3 year technology plan – the students are “technology natives.”

There’s a “media liaison program” where each school is to provide the media division with positive news so we can be architects of our own message.

We are making sure schools are focused on student’s needs – the agenda is aggressive but manageable. We can’t wait. The children have been waiting too long. We need to be focused.

She concluded with a powerful story about the State Spelling Bee Champ, a DCSS Student – I’ve supplemented with this article from the internet on the spelling bee:

A 13-year-old from DeKalb County will represent Georgia in the Scripps National Spelling Bee Championship in Washington, D.C.

Simola Nayak from Henderson Middle School spelled “tautologous” correctly to win the state bee Friday. She bested 20 competitors from across the state.

The runner-up was 13-year-old Andalib Malit Samandari from DeKalb County’s Renfroe Middle School. He will represent Georgia if Nayak is unable to attend the national contest.

In addition to a free trip to the national bee, Nayak received $1,000, an Amazon Kindle, a $100 savings bond and a dictionary, among other prizes. The national bee is May 27 through June 1.

The state bee is sponsored by the Georgia Association of Educators.”


By Dr. Atkinson:

Simola is a humble, smart, student. She is kind with a presence of peace. The last time a DCSS student won the State Spelling Bee was 1973. Please turn on the TV on May 26 and watch the national telecast from Washington D.C. Simola won $1,000 by winning the Bee. She gave all of her winnings to a boy in her school who recently lost his sight. Nobody suggested this to her. Her humanity made us equally proud. It is important that our children are academically well-rounded, good quality citizens. We must model this as adults. We must model good words, good citizenship, respect, good leadership….. [more, but reporter couldn’t write fast enough]

We are going to institute an award for this type of behavior. It will take everybody to help 98,000 kids to be successful. We’re focused so that we don’t take our eye off the prize.

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6 Responses to Emory LaVista Parent Council April 18, 2012

  1. Add this recent email announcement to Dr. Atkinson’s recent efforts toward transparency:

    DeKalb Schools Completes Employee Verification Process

    Apr. 20, 2012 – The DeKalb County School District has completed an extensive Employee Verification process to ensure the accuracy and integrity of all School District personnel and payroll records.

    Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson ordered the Employee Verification process in February in conjunction with an independent audit of Central Office and school-based personnel.

    Through the process, approximately 15,000 employees at the Central Office, in all auxiliary departments and at the school level were directed to verify their employment with the School District. The School District halted payments to non-verified employees beginning with the April 13 pay period.

    The Employee Verification process to date has identified 148 non-verified employees, most of them substitute teachers or part-time coaches.

    The process also discovered seven discrepancies in payroll, including two employees who were no longer with the School District and five on leave that were not properly recorded.

    These employees were overpaid by approximately $47,500 dollars. School District Legal Affairs has begun an investigation into each of these cases and will seek to recover any unearned funds.

    Dr. Atkinson commissioned an audit of all Central Office and school-based personnel in November as part of a District-wide reorganization to right-size the Central Office, bring alignment to positions across departments and drive more resources to schools and classrooms. The audit was the first outside review of School District personnel and salaries in more than eight years.

    “Audits and oversight like the Employee Verification process should be standard operating procedure for our School District,” Dr. Atkinson said. “Moving forward, Employee Verification will be an annual process to let the public know that our payroll and personnel records are accurate and up to date.”

    For more information about the DeKalb County School District, visit http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us .


  2. justwatch says:

    Really, really have to give Atkinson and her staff credit for being so public about this. They didn’t create this mess, but they have inherited it. I am certain that the problems are much deeper than they even could have imagined.

    It is important to keep Dr. Walker and the other board members from interfering.

  3. Anom says:

    Transparency?? Really??? LOL

  4. “The Employee Verification process to date has identified 148 non-verified employees, most of them substitute teachers or part-time coaches.

    The process also discovered seven discrepancies in payroll, including two employees who were no longer with the School District and five on leave that were not properly recorded.”

    We will continue to follow this revelation. We find it quite eye-brow-raising to think that there are literally possibly over a hundred people (or as few as 50+) collecting a paycheck, yet not officially ‘working’ in DCSS!!! This should be a news headliner – but of course, the media seems unaffected by this tidbit. Count on DSW blog – we WILL be watching this story!

  5. GTCO-ATL says:

    We would like to know if those people are still in DeKalb or have moved on? Could there be a possibility that someone else is not only cashing their checks, but also voting under their name?

    We should encourage parents to also run credit check on their children’s Social Security numbers … there is a big increase in identity theft involved people using SS number of minors, and you know who has an access to a large number of these, right? And they are so cocky when it comes to how they will fair come election time… they know something we don’t.

  6. dekalbdoyenne says:

    1. The fact that Legal Affairs is involved in this is enough to make the whole thing suspect. Legal Affairs is going to “investigate”? Oh, puh-leeze. Ron Ramsey absolutely depends on his control over Human Resources — and the fact that employees know that Ramsey “butters their bread” — to maintain employee allegiance to him. In turn, that enables him to keep a stranglehold on DeKalb County Schools. Ask any employee who has ever crossed Ramsey — even unknowingly.

    2. There is only a 0.986% — less than 1% — rate of 15,000 employees who could not be verified, most of whom were substitutes or part-time coaches? In a school system so screwed up that all numbers they produce internally are suspect. Who were the others — and what were their jobs?

    3. There were seven discrepancies in payroll? Two who were no longer employed and five who were on leave? Only 7? In a school system so screwed up that all numbers they produce internally are suspect. Are these 7 part of the 148 who “could not be verified”? DCSS teachers averaged 13 days absent, per teacher, in the 2010-2011 School Year — at a cost of millions of $$$ for substitutes. [See Teacher Absences Cost you Millions in the March 29, 2012 AJC.] Those absence numbers reported by the AJC don’t even include the largest block of employees — Administrative and Palace People.

    4. Names. We need names of the 148 people who were “un-verified” and the 7 “discrepancies.” If any of these people cashed checks from DCSS for periods of time when they were not actually on the job for DCSS, it seems like they should be charged with a criminal action and intent to defraud. If anyone else received or obtained and cashed those checks, they definitely were acting with criminal intent to defraud.

    Anything less than providing names and bringing in an independent authority with arrest powers to review what has been done to-date and to Investigate the 148 is unsatisfactory.

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