When did we stop focusing on children in DeKalb Schools?

A reader sent us the following essay. It got us thinking — this school system is so hyper-focused on construction, budget cuts, jobs for adults and putting out “fires” that it has completely forgotten to focus on the students. There have been hideously few press releases showcasing the truly wonderful things many of our students do in each school every day. There have been ridiculously few reports on the ordinary, everyday, American events happening in our schools. Our PR department should know that the best defense is a terrific offense and should be pushing out the good news rather than constantly reacting to the bad. Our schools are cornerstones in our communities. There should be a district-wide calendar of school events on the website. The community should be encouraged to attend. There should be a place to read about the wonderful students in DeKalb. The “Kaleidoscope” should once again be resurrected and the good, old-fashioned focus on students and learning should be the order of the day. Students need to know that they matter. They need to know that what’s important to them is important to their community and their leaders. They need to know that they are loved, treasured and supported. We need to stop worrying about the adults in the “system” and start focusing on the children. They are the future.*

Read on:

Tonight I experienced both the best and the worst of the DeKalb County School System. A friend told me that Towers High School was performing a play, A Touch of Grease at 6pm (for free). She had gone the night before, and thought my kids and I would enjoy it. So, at 6pm, I Googled the name of the play and “Towers High School”… nothing. I went to the official Towers HS website and still, nothing.

Okay, I was starting to wonder if I had my information wrong, but still, I packed up my kids, ages 6 and 12 and headed towards the high school that is less than one mile away from me. Upon arrival we went inside, where an enthusiastic young man offered us drinks and snacks for the reasonable price of 50 cents apiece. After spending a grand total of $2.50, we settled in our seats for the show.

After a few minutes, the show began. It was a delightful musical with a cast of about 15 students. The props were well-made, the script was well-written and the performance featured extremely talented young men and ladies that kept me laughing the whole time.

The best scene was Born to Hand Jive and included a high energy dance scene with great choreography and a cameo appearance from the Towers High marching band. The performance wrapped up with cheers for all the cast members.

Then the guest of honor was introduced, Tommy Ford, best known for his character “Tommy” in the syndicated FOX sitcom Martin. He came to the stage and gave a motivational speech directed to the cast of students. Here’s the sad part….when I turned around from my seat in the fourth row (the first two rows were kept clear for the performance), I saw a sea of empty seats. If there were 100 people in the whole auditorium, it would surprise me.

At this point, I couldn’t stop the tears from coming to my eyes. There was such an incredible energy and talent present in this room, yet no one in the community cared enough to come see it. I’m guessing that 90% of the audience was the family members of the student actors and actresses.

My kids and I stood and walked out of the auditorium. As we left, I heard shouting. In the lobby were ten to twenty teens running and charging at each other. I watched them for a moment, trying to decide if they were playing or fighting. I pushed my children out the front door. The scuffle followed us as a group of students formed, punching and running at each other. All bets were off…males charged at females, and vice versa. I looked at the children in the scuffle, one by one. None of them were in the auditorium during the performance.

My tears are for the cast of this show, the few students that are flourishing despite the bleak conditions that surround them. They are the best of DCSS. They don’t deserve what they are getting. They are getting the worst of DCSS. This is the very reason that I get up an hour earlier than my neighbors and drive my children to a public charter school. Wake up, citizens of DeKalb! You may think that because this is not your neighborhood, this is not your problem. The same children that were fighting in and in front of the school will grow up and leave, and they may end up in your neighborhood next.

*Update: As a poster pointed out in the comments below, this was interpreted to mean that we don’t need teachers. That is the farthest thing from the truth. The blog has always and will always put our #1 value on the teacher in the classroom. That is what is meant by focusing on the student. We apologize for the lack of clarity. We want everyone to rest assured that when we say “adults” we mean those who do not have direct contact with students. Most are expendable in our opinion. Quality teachers are the only employees who make a critical difference in the life of a child.

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51 Responses to When did we stop focusing on children in DeKalb Schools?

  1. Screwed says:

    And to think teachers have to deal with those types of students everyday with little or no support from parents, administrators, and an SRO (when you can find one). And as a thank you for all the hard work, we get our salary chopped 6.25%. If DeKalb had any huevos, those kids would be gone from the system. No questions asked. If children are incorrigible at that age theres a good chance they never will be.

    Whats sad is theres more negative publicity about schools in DeKalb than positive ones. Honestly, I have heard things about schools like Towers and you probably would not have caught me at a school like that after hours. However, when you remove the facade, there are kids there who are succeeding at their highest level to try and erase the stigma the public has about the school. Keep on fighting the good fight kids and those who support them.

    Just my two cents from a teacher who is told to bend over and take it today. You could read the disappointment in teacher’s faces today regarding contracts.

  2. justwatch says:

    I am not sure when DeKalb last focused on students. Since Dr. Halford, it has been a system about adults (with a brief interlude during Dr. Brown’s tenure) and what the system could do for them. We have a ton of school board members who were in it for themselves, or only for their districts, or for their family and friends.

    We are ill-equipped as a system because of the poor decisions made by previous and current boards of ed and superintendents.

    The students, and society, are the big losers.

  3. Thank you for sharing this story offering a glimpse nto what is truly important in DeKalb. At my own school, some teachers, including myself, have made concerted efforts to recognize students who are demonstrating success in our school. We are considered a “failing” school by the flawed judgment criteria set forth by our country (NCLB/AYP), but we have many things to be proud of with our students. With an extremely high refugee population (ESOL) we have a tremendous task to accomplish but ALL of our students are growing by leaps and bounds. They just may not equal their American-born peers…yet. Other teachers and I have had to plan an deliver celebrations for students who have shown stellar growth in STAR reading and math, done well on our computer programs we offer for additional educational support,etc. The kids absolutely love these celebrations and they do not interfere with instructional time. As accepting as the administration was for these to take place, it should be more required and desired by the entire school, including the leadership to build a sense of hope.

    The writer of this piece is absolutely right stating that DeKalb needs to start taking pride in their schools again. Since I began teaching in DeKalb 12 years ago, I hear all sorts of school spirit for Parkview, Brookwood, etc. Sadly, these are Gwinnett schools. Very rarely do I hear that kind of pride in any DeKalb school, outside of sports (football, basketball). We just had a student from DeKalb to win the Georgia state spelling bee! That is an amazing feat and things like that need to be broadcast to all stakeholders. I am hoping for a better DeKalb.

  4. Anonymous says:

    keep hoping…..

  5. Teacher Reader says:

    This is why I left teaching and why my child won’t attend a DeKalb County school. It’s sad, because the focus is of the district is on the adults and keeping everyone but teachers employed, while the kids are running the schools. There is little discipline, if any, in most of our schools, and until parents and citizens begin voting for school board members who truly want to better our schools and not employ friends and family this will not change.

    I am angered that teachers were again screwed. They are the backbone of the district. If teachers are taking a pay cut, than EVERY OTHER PERSON who works in the district should be getting that same cut, including the school board and superintendent. EVERYONE!!!!!

    I do not recommend anyone to go to school to be a teacher. I don’t know what I’ll do when I have finished homeschooling my children, but I do know that I will not go back into teaching. Walmart greeters get more respect.

  6. Enough says:

    Hhmmm…I’m not sure I can agree with the author of this entry. Is it sad that more members of the community at large didn’t attend the performance at Tower High? Sure.But it’s not rare and certainly not unprecedented. Community apathy is the norm in DeKalb except for pockets here and there. It has always been and will always be that way…sorry to break the news to you.

    As both a parent and a teacher in DeKalb since the 80’s. I’ve seen IT ALL! The whole sorry story. I’ve taught in 4 DeKalb schools at every end of the county from Dunwoody to Stone Mountain and in between as well, My children have been educated in the DCSS as well so there’s not much I haven’t seen, heard and experienced as a parent as well as a teacher.

    That said, I have to say I’m a bit taken back by the writer of this entry. Yes, the DCSS is all about the kids, but guess what, ALL schools are so what’s your point? “The students need to feel loved, treasured and supported…forget about the adults…” Wow. Please, if you will, enlighten me about exactly HOW the children who attend DCSS would be educated without the adults who have chosen and made personal sacrifices to be in the class room every day? It took me 12 years to pay off the students loans for my 2 Master’s degrees so that I could educate YOUR precious children. I knew going into this career that I would never be wealthy but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would have to struggle financially in my 50’s as I did in my early 20’s. I can’t even afford to help MY OWN KIDS with college tuition anymore now that our new very well paid superintendent has chosen to cut my salary a whopping 6.25%! This, ON TOP of 4 years of salary cuts via furloughs, which followed several years of frozen salaries which PREDATED the recession we find ourselves in now. At 53 years old I now find myself working 2 jobs just to make ends meet…and with 2 post graduate degrees! An HVAC guy with 6 months training makes what a teacher makes for God’s sake and you say, “forget about the adults.” What a fantasy world you must live in!

    Rather than lament the poor turn out at Towers High, I suggest you be grateful that there was any show to attend at all. The teachers that produced that program are paid a pittance for their work and do it anyway…and have for years! Many sponsor all sorts of after school clubs and activities and receive NOTHING in way of compensation at all! This, too, has always been the case. So…are THESE the adults you’d like to forget? You want to rethink that, maybe? I’d LOVE to know how many hours a week/month you and/or your spouse DONATE, meaning work for FREE, at your place of employment. I’m guessing ZERO would be the answer. So, I ask you again, which adults exactly would you suggest we “forget?”

    My mother had a saying, and I never realized how acutely accurate it was until just recently. She said, “With peanuts, you get monkeys!” The teachers of DeKalb County have been paid peanuts long enough. We are unappreciated and taken completely for granted. It’s as if we’re DMV workers, for God’s sake. We’re routinely disrespected by not only parents but the school system that pretends to value the students. Yes, I said PRETENDS.

    Soon, I expect you’ll begin to see fewer and fewer teachers volunteering for ANY clubs, activities and team events that require ANY time outside the regular school day. If we’re going to be paid as if we’re uneducated, unprofessional, clerical aids than why in the world should we extend ourselves anymore than we are contractually required to? Say goodbye to the plays, the art clubs, the chess clubs, the school newspapers and the “adults” who stay after school as well as come in early to tutor and mentor YOUR CHILDREN at the expense of their own! They’ll be clocking in and out right on time and the school houses will be awfully quiet. Be prepared for your kids to be coming HOME directly from school. No reason to linger at school, everything will be cancelled…no clubs, nothing. Think I’m kidding? Watch.

    This afternoon I walked through my school and saw the stunned faces of the teachers who work themselves to death 60+ hours a week, every week. Some were in tears. Others, those with spouses and thus additional income, were simply fuming. Two of my colleagues walked out this afternoon discussing how they were going to explain to THEIR kids that their summer camps would have to be cancelled. One was trying to figure out how to pay the rent after short-selling her home last year. Keep in mind that as teachers, we NEVER had the good ‘ole days of the 90’s and early 00’s where we had the opportunity to sock away savings and pile up our 401Ks. We’ve ALWAYS just gotten by, and now we simply cannot get by any longer.

    So sure, go ahead and “forget the adults” that MAKE IT HAPPEN for YOUR KIDS EVERYDAY! We’re so used to it we won’t even notice.

  7. Rae says:

    Enough…..What is your point? There was no teacher that produced the show at Towers. A volunteer (graduate of DESA) produced the show. And, I might point out, I am a DeKalb employee that makes LESS than most teachers…and I do volunteer work for the DeKalb County Police Department, Code Enforcement, my community association AND my school. Don’t make judgments based on misinformation.

  8. @Enough,
    Very well-written retort to what I initially viewed as a positive post. Of course, I was not thinking of the “adults” as being the teachers in this instance, but if it is, I would certainly side with you. What bothers me most is the quote:

    “They are getting the worst of DCSS. This is the very reason that I get up an hour earlier than my neighbors and drive my children to a public charter school. Wake up, citizens of DeKalb! You may think that because this is not your neighborhood, this is not your problem.”

    This to me is the greatest problem. So many parents will move or do everything in their power to leave a struggling school when it is them that should stay and work to make ti the school they want. So many of our most promising students end up leaving each year because the parents believe the better education is out there (charter school/Gwinnett). I would hope that those who come to my school would see it as an opportunity to build something amazing. We do have many nations represented after all. If all of the brightest had stayed, we might actually be considered a successful school, but those kinds of stats aren’t kept (transients, etc.).

    What ends up happening is what transpired about a week ago at our PTA meeting to elect new PTA officials for 2012-2013…No parents stepped up to fill any of the positions. Teachers had to nominate themselves for all positions (treasurer, VP, President)??? I feel that we as a school and community are required to build ourselves up and not rely on the powers-that-be to encourage our families. Our diversity is our greatest strength and our weakness. We ought not to forget the adults, as you said. Thank you.

    I commend you, Enough, for your years of faithful service and for seeing your children through the DeKalb system.

  9. Anonymous says:

    @enough…I agree with you….but there were two authors here, one lady who attended the play at Towers, and the author who wrote the prelude to the letter. The letter was a very accurate picture of Towers and many schools like it, unfortunately. Ummm, the prelude was more of the preacher preaching to the choir, or however that saying goes. The comment about “peanuts and monkeys” was dead on. This is going to be an interesting last days of this school year!

  10. Enough says:

    My point? Are you kidding? So THIS production was produced by a volunteer. NO TEACHERS participated at all??? Doubt it.
    My judgments are based on 23 years of experience in this county, both as a parent AND a teacher. If they don’t resonate with you, you haven’t been around long enough.

  11. Rae says:

    I was a graduate of DCSS, so YES, I’ve been around…I’m NOT knocking teachers. I admire you for everything you do. But don’t assume that I don’t offer my time or volunteer, because you don’t know me.

  12. Enough says:

    Not about you…

  13. Rae says:

    It is frustrating that I have to look for school choice options. Believe me, I don’t want to drive miles out of my way to take my kids to a school that is not in my neighborhood. I don’t blame the teachers in my neighborhood school, either. I blame the lousy parents that could care less about their children’s education. But at this point, I will do everything I can to keep my kids out of Towers.
    WorldUnite, what you are doing is commendable. You SHOULD be proud! But in my area we are dealing with children that are criminals. I wouldn’t pull my kids from a school that didn’t meet AYP because they did not know our language. I’m pulling them because their classmates are burglarizing houses in our neighborhood.

  14. Thank you, Rae. Lucky for me I am working with the young elementary kids who are still so innocent and we have very few discipline problems. Unfortunately, once many of the students move to middle and high school, there is a lot of the violence, racial tensions, and hate that I am sure you are frustrated with. At that point, students come from many communities outside of my own, so it is difficult to watch as many of our kids change and become defeated. This is clearly one of the biggest educational problems we are facing as a nation right now….finding the tools to produce contributing citizens for our world. Bullying, youth crime, drugs, etc. are major issues facing our children and hopefully we can escape from that trend rather than running from it.

    One such example and then I’ll finish occurred two weeks ago…students from 4 elementary schools in the area have formed soccer clubs which compete against each other on Friday evenings. One Friday, the games were at the local community Center as it is a central location with adequate field space. Anyhow, some local young males were playing basketball on the courts nearby and the following Monday I learned that some of those young men were carrying guns (according to the kids who told the organizers). Anyhow, the following week the games were moved to a different location and I was a bit upset because I wanted to know why it was US (the kids, coaches, etc.) who had to move. It seems action should have been taken instead to address this issue. By doing this, it seems we are losing the battle and conceding the fight. I am not so sure this is the best way. It is difficult to understand for some, but I believe that good will triumph over evil and I want my school community to be 100% safe for all of our kids….as I am sure you want for your family.

    With that said, I wish you the best and I know there are many like you who volunteer to help make communities safer for all. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Question: When did we stop focusing on children…?
    Answer: When the money was taken out of the schools (i.e. teachers, basic supplies) and put into any conceivable position that can claim to support the kids without actually being in the schools.
    So, the latest has emerged regarding what teachers are worth in DeKalb and the country in general (though this has been in the making for some time). This is utterly ridiculous! DeKalb County had just gone through the approval of a salary schedule not more than 2 weeks ago (remember the whole 239 days vs. 186 days?) and now they release contracts with a supposed pay cut of 6.25% on top of that (which equals 11+ more days without pay…but wait, we have to work those days). I’ve even done the math and do not see how my stated salary even works out according to any pay schedule they’ve shown us. Not only are our days on the job permanently cut to 186 instead of the old 190 days, indicating a “built-in” furlough, but they find conveniently that they must cut the salaries even further (essentially acting as another 11.625 days furlough without the actual furlough…hmmm…well played district office). Can this be for real? We are being paid for 15 less days than we were just a few short years ago? That’s three weeks of school. Where was this knowledge two weeks ago when they had the board meeting to approve the “new” salary scales? Now DeKalb employees have 9 whole days to either agree to work or move on without employment. My guess is that most will suck it up and stay.
    So, for my wife and I who are both district teachers, we will be earning approximately $7000 dollars less as a family than we were last year, equaling about $500-600 a month cut! Really? I am seriously hoping that teachers are not the only ones getting put through the ringer on this one. When is our national and local government going to wake up and see that the people who educate every last person in our country are getting horribly mistreated? The whole “teachers deserve more” sympathy argument heard around the clock from every politician and person who is not a teacher needs to be met with ACTION. Year by year, my wife and I keep saying to ourselves, it’ll get better next year…they’ll finally wake up and treat teachers with respect so we can live a decent life financially, afford to pay student loans, bills, and even the cost of rising everything (gas, food, etc.). Seems the only thing that has gone down is the cost to rent a movie (thank you RedBox) but even that has gone up a quarter.
    Minimum wage has risen, pro athletes and CEOs are all still getting absurd amounts of money, but we can barely scrape by and now have to find out how to make up for this cut in wages next year. We already work several other supplemental jobs (tutoring, ESOL classes, etc.) just to ensure that we have some “us” money (occasional vacations, items we’d like outside of groceries and gas, …), but should it be that way? I’ve heard those who say on this site, “you ONLY work 10 months a year…find another job.” Guess what? We have had other jobs for years. Teaching should be a profession that can offer enough to get by and more to those who pursue it as a profession. Yes, it is an honorable commission, but should also be rewarded as such. Why do so many teachers have to find extra jobs just to pay their mortgage, bills, and car notes? Are we just that naïve with our finances? Many teachers I speak with choose to stay cold in the winter and hot in the summer so they can even afford their power/gas bills.
    Would someone please tell me there is an end in sight and that our wages will not permanently reflect those that I had 8+ years ago (with a lesser college degree mind you)?…
    Also, I’d love to know why DeKalb’s pay scale is so far below the rest of the districts (see links below) in the Atlanta area. My wife has always said something is odd with DeKalb falling to the bottom in wages over the past 4-5 years, while boasting one of the highest pay statuses a few short years ago. Something is seriously wrong and I hope Dr. Atkinson figures it out soon (perhaps seeking the advice of the largest group of employees—teachers). As I’ve stated before, I feel she has taken on a monumental task, much like taking over Enron in 2001 or BP in 2006. We, the teacher, need to at least trust there is an effort being made on our behalf. I’ve heard nothing from my “educator associations” (ODE, GAE) in recent months and do not even feel supported by them. They at least used to say “we’re were looking into it” before we got the shaft. Now we don’t even have that….wondering why.
    If it isn’t conveyed by our leaders in this district, I’d like to see that I appreciate every last teacher who enters the school every day and touches the lives of the children who will soon be the next contributing members of our society. I value everything you do hours upon hours outside of your normal duties and pray that this will continue. I know we are frustrated and I know we will have the power back soon. For those who are the innovators, the role models, and the dreamers, let’s make it happen, with or without pay. We will be measured for our perseverance in the end and I intend to see my career through and make a difference in the lives of thousands when others aren’t even looking out for me.
    **Please compare the wage scales for teachers in other districts below (not sure about furloughs/cuts they may have had, but clearly they are ahead of us in this respect…especially in higher degree compensation):
    DeKalb (the one and only)
    Gwinnett County

    Click to access Teacher_Salary_Schedule_FY2012.pdf

    Cherokee County

    Click to access 2011-12_Certified_Professional_Salary_Scale.pdf

    Atlanta Public Schools
    Rockdale County (State salary + supplemental)

    Click to access Certified%20State%20Salary%20Scale%20Annual%20FY12.pdf

    Click to access Certified%20Local%20Supplement%20Scale%20Annual%20FY12.pdf

    Cobb County

    Click to access Cobb_County_Teacher_Salary_Schedule.pdf

    Fulton County

    Click to access Fulton_FY12_Teacher_Schedule.pdf

  16. Rae says:

    Right back at you…thanks. It is really rough trying to deal with social issues that confront us. But I must say that anyone that is posting on this forum is some kind of stakeholder in DCSS. We are the ones that care enough to read and respond to comments late at night and to try and change things for the better. What we really need to do is keep in touch!

  17. bettyandveronica1 says:

    What happened today? Did teachers get contracts for next year with a pay decrease??

  18. Anonymous says:

    There are pockets of pride throughout the school system. We can’t wait for others to share our good news, we must take ownership of that ourselves. Those with the greatest awareness of what is happening in our schools are in the schools. The PR department or media can’t share news they are not aware of.

  19. Not true. It is VERY easy to set up a blog and give a designated rep at EVERY school posting privileges. So it wouldn’t even be a matter of “re-communicating”. School reps could post and categorize their own news – all on one big blog – or individual school blogs within one big blog on WordPress.org. We do it here on the DSW blog on a smaller scale. Easy Peasy.

  20. In response to the teacher who rightly pointed out that our statement about ‘adults’ should not have included teachers, please read the note we added at the end of the post and know that we do value teachers immensely. All one needs for a quality education is a great teacher. Period.

    Our apologies for the lack of clarity.

  21. concernforthekids says:

    6.5% decrease for next year!

  22. Anonymous says:

    Regretfully you are naive of the realities of using social media with government agencies. There was an article recently of a volunteer for the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter that created a Facebook page to help with pet adoptions. They were told they could no longer volunteer because of regulations with social media and county business. The volunteer is now doing this independent of the Animal Shelter however that agency also lost a good worker. This article appeared in the Sunday paper.

    Most if not all schools have websites. The challenge still remains that one has to go to the site to get the information. Is there anyone here that goes to the school website of schools other than the ones your children attend? There has to be someone that pushes information out to the media for the community at large to have some sense of the activities that may be happening. This requires some level of commitment and usually a parent of the school.

  23. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    Dr. Atkinson, It concerns me that you feel it is necessary to balance the budget on the back of teachers, AGAIN. I know you’ve been listening to the very people who helped place our district into the ditch. Ms. Tyson is still collecting a check and has your ear regarding many aspects of the operation. As interim she extended the life of the Crawford Lewis era for another two years, an era that will take years to fix. It was her former boss that taught her how to balance the budget using deceptive balancing tricks with the teachers salaries. 1.2 Billion dollar budget and yet the teachers have to take the hit, AGAIN! I hope the teachers organize, I’m NOT talking about Schutten either. He is one of the “adults” who is partly to blame for this DCSS mediocrity. Teachers need to send a message that the Palace would HAVE to listen to.

    We are stakeholders and my wife and I moved into our area because of the schools. We are active on PTA’s and School Councils. We know how awful morale is amongst teachers, when family members of former BOE Chairpersons get raises and then do not report to their new job for months. Why are these friends and family members still employed? In the private sector, employees who take advantage of their employer are usually shown the door. At DCSS it’s celebrated!

    Title One is a mess and could use a major audit! Tyson and Tucker made a mess of MIS. Huge networks but no hardware to place on it. New hardware that is broken and stays broken. PR is abysmal and is more reactionary than publicizing! Everyone laughs at our BOE! Cell Towers are more important than the robberies that take place in our schools weekly. DCSS has become the laughing stock of the Metro area. There are more “support” employees than teachers. America’s Choice has shown NO return on investment. Parent Centers, do they really work? Yet we read today you want to CUT the teachers salaries again, WHY?

    Teachers, I do not blame you if you want to work somewhere else. No step increases, benefits costing more for less, furlough days, fewer days for preparation and no matching 401k funds. I’m surprised there are not many more teachers crying this morning. No one should have to work for an employer that shows no mercy for the very people who can truly make the difference. .

  24. Teacher says:

    @AtlantaMediaGuy I hope you really have contacted the superintendent. We need more noise from you guys.

  25. water not kool-aid says:

    I guess this needs to be addressed from the school district media guy, and the media would need to share the story: as of the end of the FY 2012 school year ( June 29, 2012) title I is gone, kaput, the money will be directly in the hands of the principals!!!! No director, no coordinators, no instructional coaches, no parent resource centers. All of the money will be driven down to the school level so that if there is ONE CENT misappropriated principals and the schools leadership team will be gone. No input, no approval by the parent council, unless you have school council members who have not been put on the council by the principal.
    The salaries for instructional coaches will be given to the schools but the principal will decide if they want a coach, if they wantt to put a friend in the position, if they want to take the money and hire an additional paraprofessional, a media clerk, additional security. The money will only strengthen the principal’s fiefdom.
    As far as parent resource centers. the thousands of parents of who depend on the center because they public library has a limit, or closes early, or not in walking distance, will no longer have a place to help their children with school projects and academic resources. No matter your personal opinion of people you may have never met, or supported by attending workshops, the parents who have less were utilizing the centers. Now these are gone. The money will be there, once again driven to the principals discretion. But I ask, if DCSS has sent back millions of dollars annually to the state DOE from the pot of Title I money principal’s never utilized, what do you think will happen to this new found freedom and additional funding? It surely will not go to teacher salaries, especially the funds earmarked from the federal DOE for parent involvement. Once schools were no longer able to use parent involvement money for steak and seafood dinners and buffetts at meeting, no one knew what to do with PI money. As soon as central office came up with a way to better use the money for all parents/families benefit, the complaints have been steady.

  26. water not kool-aid says:

    Oh and we stopped the emphasis on students and learning with the reauthorization of ESEA of 1965, know as NCLB. Ten years and a generation has been lost following the testing mandates and thinking we could what a child is learning simply by looking at Yes or No under AYP status on a data chart.

  27. Dekalb voter says:

    Title 1 as it was centralized in the Central Office funded more and more non teaching positions, leaving fewer and fewer teachers to work in small groups with struggling students. The percentage of Title 1 schools making adequate yearly progress declined to less than 20% while demographically similar metro school systems’ Title 1 schools did not experience this decline. The results for students did not show that centralizing the money is efficacious for students. We need to give the schools a chance to see how they will use this Title 1 money that is supposed to “level the playing field” for our low income students. When the decision for the Title 1 funds was taken from them, student achievement rates declined. A change was clearly needed.

  28. @ water not kool-aid

    Please document the “thousands of parents who depend on parent resource center.” Public libraries and school libraries maintain daily usage statistics. We requested the same from the parent resource centers and got nothing. We seriously doubt that the parent resource centers are used by hundreds, much less thousands. So, send us the documentation and we will publish it.

    Unlike the parent resource centers, the main DeKalb County Public Library and the DeKalb County Public Library branches are open several evenings a week and on Saturdays — on a regular schedule that is easy to find. The parent resource centers are open 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM and until 8:00 PM one night a week. The DeKalb County Public Library and its branches have more academic resources than the parent resources centers could ever hope to have. Plus, the DeKalb County Public Library and its branches employ well-educated, real librarians — not friends-and-family. The DeKalb County Public Library and its branches also are on MARTA bus routes and convenient to access, unlike the parent resource centers. Finally, there are 21 DeKalb County Public Library locations plus the Homework Center. There are only 11 parent resource centers.

    Our recommendation for using the money earmarked for parent involvement is to collaborate with the DeKalb County Public Library. Space could be rented from the DeKalb County Public Library and additional technology provided for the use of parents and students. Parent involvement funds could open library facilities on Sundays exclusively for parent and student use and could pay for professional resource assistance, as well as for additional evening hours. Schools could partner with their neighborhood library, enabling librarians to be prepared with research and resource materials that would complement teacher assignments.

    DeKalb County Public Library supports adult and family learning and English as a second language with special Learning Collections at sixteen branches, spaces for tutoring, classes and meetings, and help for matching students and volunteers with local literacy organizations. The Chamblee, Clarkston and Decatur libraries also offer computers with instructional software, and the DeKalb County Public Library subscribes to online databases that can be used in any library or at home.

  29. GTCO-ATL says:

    I disagree… “we” are the owners of this school system and we contribute a substantial amount of our hard-earned money to pay the people in these schools and in the administration to run the schools effectively.

    It is absolutely the PR department’s job when it comes to promoting good news from a distrcit level, but they are a little busy right now giving excuses and trying to keep all the stories straight because of all the lies that are thrown around on a regular basis.

    I don’t think we actually have a PR Department, do we? I know they hired Walter Woods and also retain a PR firm that changes from time to time. And, we have a politcal lobbyst, which is a little ordd.

    What do you think the principal’s role in all of this? What about the BOE member? Shouldn’t they be aware of good news and promoting it to the community?

    Where was security when the brawl was taking place? Where were the parents?

    It’s not that someone is dropping the ball and not doing their job here. It is a calculated plot to stomp out the good news and prevent us from hearing it. The school board isn’t ready for you to think they’ve turned it around, yel.

    All in good time, my precious.

  30. GTCO-ATL says:

    If you haven’t taken time to read up about the group called ALEC, I urge you to take time to do so today. There is a lot of the ALEC agenda seeping into our schools right now. Here’s our brief update on this subject and a video clip (5 mins.) of Rep. Hank Johnson speaking on the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives about the legislation ALEC members are passing that doesn’t protect or help the citzens – it pushes forth the agenda of their members who are big business lobbyists. http://www.getthecelloutatl.com/2012/05/rep-hank-johnson-calls-out-alec-on.html

    Two of the largest corporate members in ALEC are ATT and a union of private prisons. So, the state’s last legistative session was full of bills that were not by the people or for the people. They are enacting tougher laws that will put more people in prison. They are putting up cameras everywhere – look at the traffic lights and along the Interstates – these will be used to gain more of our money.

    SPLOST IV was full of technology including things like security cameras, cameras on busses and, likely, camera phones and “hand held devices” (cell phones with cameras) for all kids. It’s important to know that Georgia is one of the states that allows police to search the contents of a cell phone without a warrant. ALEC’s ATT wants the cell towers to go up so they can unleash the cameras / phones to all our kids (and likely some of these will be used by the audlts at home, too.). ATT has a virtual education program they are investing in right now. Wouln’t you think Atlanta would be a great test market for a virtual classroom environment? You will literally have no where to go but up once all the currrent scandals play out.

    The private prisons union needs more inmates and DeKalb Schools has its own police force and was told by the DA that they can “police themeselves.” ALEC members stomped out our attempts at a cell tower ban for our schools. We had nearly unanimous support and not a single person spoke up at any of the three hearings who was in favor of the towers. We had countywide opposition, community members all working together to tell their stories and urge our officials to protect our children and our neighborhoods.

    Do you know what was missing? The parents and the teachers currently in the schools right now. The PTAs were informed and kept things quiet. Teachers, please – it is not too late for you to get on the PTA board at your school and keep your eyes on some of these folks. They may be too naieve about the corruption or too easily paid off… or they may even work for ATT. But teachers need to get active in finding ways to alert the parents about what is going on. Parents trust the teachers, but there is a PR campaign to make all teachers look bad … you have to fight back! Why isn’t everyone upset about these cell towers??

    The cell towers may be partially about the money, but they are also about the future of our school system. The cell towers will allow the administration to hand out tablet computers to students and expect them to watch their instruction over a screen more often than they actually learn from a real person. They will be another reason to further reduce the number of teachers and the amount of their pay.

    What will we be left with? The concerned parents (like myself) have been exiting the system for the past several years. New families will likely not be moving here with the system like this and all the bad press. Now, the concerned teachers will be reduced to a smaller and smaller group each year. Who will be inside the schools to make sure the children are not being mistreated or abused? The cameras, of course.

    And the cameras will provide the evidence for the DCSS police to put children into private prisions. And when we need more prisions, guess who gets to bid on the construction?? Friends and family!! That’s right! Prisons and schools sort of look alike to begin with. The only difference is that one is for children – a place to learn, grow, dream and be inspired. The other is for criminals – a place to be punished, work for less than minimum wage, and to be locked up for as long as it’s needed so you dont harm the community, or in the case of the children, so you don’t continue to cause problems for a school system with its eye on the big money that will likely come with turning it around.

  31. Rae says:

    It is true that the county blocks employees from most social media on the job. However, there is no reason they can’t use it after hours (as can parents) I organized the construction of a school garden after winning a $5K grant and set up a Facebook fan page in like, 5 minutes.
    Of course, that does also lead to the same question, “was the oversight intentional?”

  32. Rae says:

    There was no security personnel visible anywhere. I think they leave at 7pm. Then it’s open season.

  33. Dekalb voter says:

    The school Board should NOT get away with saying the cell towers are for education – thus trying to elude the county ordinances governing cell phone tower placement. These cell phone towers will not be and never should be for educational technology integration in our schools. DeKalb Schools spent virtually ALL of our SPLOST II Technology money installing a private network of T1 lines all over the county – they pulled cable into EVERY school. We paid dearly for the infrastructure to supply bandwidth to every school over a network that we can control and is safe for students and teachers. We cannot run wireless on a network created by the cell towers because of Internet and Intranet Security concerns for students. We can run wireless on the private cable network the school system owns that we paid tens of millions for, but not over the cell tower network. If the school board tries to say the cell tower network is for educational purposes, they are flat out wrong.

  34. GTCO-ATL says:

    Send an email to CEO Burrell Ellis and ask that he uphold our county’s ordinances that prohibit cell towers in residentially zoned communities. You may also sign our petition at: http://www.GETtheCELLoutATL.org.

    There were tougher laws against organized protests in neighborhoods recently, but we believe that they excluded teachers from that law. Parents cannot organize or even talk about organizing a protest without possibly getting fined $1,000 / day.

    The charter school bill had something suspicious (imo) attached to it that was not likely part of the initial bill. There was an addition to it that stated that the state not only can set up charter schools, but they can combine school districts if needed. I didn’t like the sound of that and may have to vote no on the state charter schools as a result. It is nearly impossible to trust anyone in our local or state government these days.

    This is a sad time in our history. My heart goes out to all involved. The children, especially, do not deserve the mess that we are in. And, the taxpayers do not deserve to have their money squandered this way.

  35. GTCO-ATL says:

    Thanks for letting us know about the SPLOST II investment. We were unaware of that and it might help us make that case. Womack states the towers were for the “coverage” esp. at Lakeside, not the money. Walter Woods says, “Of course it was for the money.” The press talks about it like it is the money. Dr. Walker says it is not about the money, it is for the improved education through enhancement of communications services in the community. But, the true test will be wheter or not the permits are approved by Administrative (back room w/out public input) Permit by the CEO or if they go in front of the county commissioners (either from the Dir. of Planning or Public Works). If they get the back room deal then they are claiming educational purposes – that’s the only way T-mobile would qualify for the exemption from zoning laws and be allowed into the residentially zoned areas. Check out Walker’s comments here: http://www.getthecelloutatl.com/2012/04/dekalb-neighbor-boe-commissioners-at.html

  36. Dekalb voter says:

    Walker is wrong. Students should be on a public cellular network. That’s one of the major reasons why DCSS invested tens of millions into their own private network. Intranet and Internet security is written into the law. For example, you must have an Internet filter so students do not access inappropriate websites. DCSS has an online gradebook that must be secure. In addition, federal FERPA laws ensure student information remains private. Much of this student information is accessible through the DCSS secure private network. A private data network is obviously the way to go when complying with the security features schools MUST legally have in place. The technology folk know this. DCSS pays big bucks for their Internet filter (Webwasher) and for the DCSS personnel who ensure Internet security. DCSS would never surrender their control over a secure network to one that is accessible to the public. Wireless networks are ALWAYS less secure. Perhaps your lawyer needs to get information from the technology group at DCSS regarding internet security for students as well as what it takes technologically to comply with FERPA laws.

  37. Dekalb voter says:

    Sorry for the typo.
    I said “Students should be on a public cellular network.”

    I should have said “Students should NEVER be on a public cellular network.”

  38. GTCO-ATL says:

    That’s what I thought you meant. Yes, we have checked into information about the security of wireless in case that point came up. We also noticed cell towers going up at the police stations near every location there was a school tower proposal, too. Enter the school address here to check it out: http://www.antennasearch.com.

    Here is the technology list from SPLOST IV. Tell me if you are reading the same thing “between the lines” that we are…
    Hardware Refresh
    •update computer labs (e.g. career technology, business education, engineering)
    •update classroom computers as needed
    •update administrative computers as needed
    •update classroom printers/scanners to support instructional needs
    21st Century Classroom Technology
    •complete the roll out of interactive white boards to every classroom (this includes a projector for every classroom and ability for hand-held student “voting clickers” to interface with the smartboard)
    •provide students with access to tablet computers and/or laptops to support e-books and other digital content
    •provide video conferencing to support distant learning opportunities with universities and other K–12 schools
    Wireless Acccess for All Classrooms
    •provide wireless Internet access to every classroom to support future technologies and allow students the ability to roam with their hand-held devices
    Digital Content Distribution
    •provide schools with the technology to share digital content, broadcast morning announcements, videos, and the like
    Infrastructure Upgrades
    •replace aging power back-up devices, networking equipment, and file and print servers (this upgraded equipment is a critical component in that it supports critical resources such as Internet access and district-wide instructional and administrative software)
    Upgrade to Telecommunications Infrastructure
    •upgrade existing telephone equipment as needed
    •provide a district-wide emergency notification system that will send messages via text, email, and telephone

  39. GTCO-ATL says:

    Contact CEO Burrell Ellis:
    · CEO Burrell Ellis
    Chief Executive Officer
    DeKalb County Government
    330 W. Ponce de Leon Avenue, 6th Floor
    Decatur, GA 30030
    · Email: schedulingceoellis@dekalbcountyga.gov
    · Or ceo@dekalbcountyga.gov

    We have alread asked him in writing and in person at the Town Hall meetings. He seems to think the school board can do whatever they want because the towers are going to be for educational purposes and therefore the construction would be exempt by state law from local zoning ordinances. The county commissioners disagree with him and penned a letter stating that the towers are primarily for proprietary purposes (financial) and therefore T-mobile should have to follow the same rules as everyone else.

    We’re in a holding pattern until we know what the CEO is going to do when the applications are submitted.

  40. Dekalb voter says:


    Since the Internet and data communications system is out, are you suggesting they are referring to the telecommunications system?

    “Upgrade to Telecommunications Infrastructure
    •upgrade existing telephone equipment as needed
    •provide a district-wide emergency notification system that will send messages via text, email, and telephone”

    The school system has a telecommunications system like any other large entity (think Trust Company, Coke, etc.). The lines to that system are land lines – as they should be. What major billion dollar corporation has only cell phone lines for their telecommunications system? I don’t know if they are going VOIP or on BellSouth’s network, etc. Someone else may know that (i.e. I don’t know what carrier they are using to connect the hardware for their telecommunications system). What carrier they are using (e.g. BellSouth, etc.) is public information so you should be able to contact the telecommunications group if you want to get that info. Even if they are going VOIP it is over land lines (as opposed to cellular).
    Here is a link to the group that manages that:

    I don’t know of any corporation that would use cellular for a telecommunications system the size of DeKalb. For one thing, cellular is less reliable and again you run into the security issue. Cellular is simply less secure.

    BTW – the yearly telecommunications bill for DCSS is paid for by the federal government under eRate. DCSS incurs the cost and then claims this cost on eRate. The feds reimburse them.
    Link to how eRate works:

    Wireless access means wireless access to the wireless access points. But those wireless access points are connected to the DCSS very secure private network. It’s like your laptop at home being connected to your UVERSE or Comcast network. You are wireless in your house but you have a physical pair of wires that come to your house. You must remember that taxpayers paid untold millions to install this private network. They pulled cable all over DeKalb for years to connect every school. These are physical wires that are very secure and also of importance – this network is already paid for by taxpayers SPLOST II dollars.

    I hope this helps.

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