Rules Of Engagement

Utilizing “citizen reporters”, DeKalb School Watch intends to maintain a higher standard in community journalism.

Toward that end:

  • Please choose a pseudonym that is more individual and original than “Anonymous.”   Do NOT use “Anonymous.”
  • Please stick with the same pseudonym and use it each time you comment.  Or, feel free to use your real name.  Believe it or not, your real name is powerful and carries more punch.
  • Please document all claims and include a link, if possible.  For example, if you say, “I heard” in a comment, please tell “where you heard” and/or “from whom you heard.”  Or, if you reference an article or a study, please be specific:  title of article or study and publication place/date (a Google search should provide you with the necessary information to include).
  • Please make sure you know what you are talking about.  Several times lately we have had to correct gross inaccuracies.

“ ‘Eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty,’ Andrew Jackson declared in his 1837 Farewell Address. But what if the people don’t know what’s going on? ‘All citizens have a right to petition the government for redress of grievances,’ former Newsday Editor Anthony J. Marro, a onetime investigative reporter and a champion of accountability journalism, told a gathering of the Vermont ACLU last year, ‘but, as simplistic as it sounds, without a strong press they often don’t know what the grievances are.’ ”

Read more at Investigative Shortfall.

Are bloggers journalists?  According to Electronic Frontier Foundation, “what makes a journalist a journalist is whether news is being gathered for dissemination to the public, not the method or medium.”  DeKalb School Watch blog, like paid journalists, protects the public’s right to know. Many bloggers, like DeKalb School Watch, are picking up the slack left by the disappearance of investigative journalists who are vanishing from news media payrolls.

The bloggers who maintain this blog have “real” jobs – and this blog is not one of them.  This is unpaid and we do not have time to double-check all claims and “statements of fact.”  If we catch a mistake before it is published, we do not publish it.  Too often, however, the untrue “statement of fact” is already out there.  All we can do is apologize for the error, remove it from the blog – and try not to publish from that contributor again.

That said, if you know the information in a post or comment is incorrect, please politely state your correction (with corroborating documentation) in the comments or e-mail it to us at dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com.  We have found that bloggers are their own best editors and misinformation is quickly corrected by our alert readers.

Please help us maintain an investigative, factual blog that will hold DeKalb County school officials accountable while getting rid of and bringing to justice those who are corrupt.

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”                                                                Albert Einstein

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About dekalbschoolwatch

Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
Gallery | This entry was posted in Co-conspirators, Criminal / RICO Trials, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, GA Legislature / Laws / O.C.G.A., Gene Walker, Heery Mitchell Civil Case, Nancy Jester, SACS/Accreditation, School Construction, School Funding, SPLOST III, SPLOST IV, Student Information, Superintendent Cheryl Howell Atkinson, Teacher Contracts, Technology, Testing & AYP, Workplace Abusers, Workplace Bullies and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to Rules Of Engagement

  1. Rae says:

    Being factual is definitely important. However, I would like share this – Rashad Richey, director of the state Democratic party, filed civil suit against Conservative blogger Andre Walker and two others on May 3. As reported by Jim Galloway of the AJC:

    “We know all of this because, since mid-April, Andre Walker has been dripping out the public records of 30-year-old Richey’s private life, posting them on his blog, Georgia Politics Unfiltered. They include a series of arrests over several years, the results of a paternity test, a child-support garnishment, the works. In Walker’s eyes, the invasion has been justified because Richey is now political director of the state Democratic party……..

    ….But by referring to him as “Richey the Recidivist” and “a jail bird,” the suit says that bloggers have suggested he has a felony conviction — when he does not. His most serious offense was a 1998 case of aggravated assault, when he was 17. He was given first-offender status — which allowed the conviction to be erased after successful completion of probation.”

    I am not concerned about the political contents of this story, but I don’t have the money to defend myself against an ungrounded civil lawsuit. Thoughts?

    http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2012/05/05/on-bloggers-and-whether-every-political-life-is-an-open-book/

    http://www.fcclkjudicialsearch.org/judicialsearch/Scripts/UVlink.dll/tsgdb1/WEBSERV/PUBCivilSearch?action%253Dview%26track%253D754180

  2. Anonymous says:

    This may be old news but I understand from the Parent Center Coordinator at a South DeKalb school that the entire Title 1 department (except for 4 people, 2 which are administrative assistants) will be laid laid off, effective June 29. The decision was made to decentralize the department, meaning more money going to the schools. There will be a smaller staff at the central office to help with ensuring Federal compliance. Whereas Parent Centers were created from pooled Parental Involvement dollars, each Title 1 principal will determine how those dollars are used.

    Though tough decisions had to be made, I feel sorry for the parents that utilized these centers.

  3. But, how many parents actually utilized the Parent Centers? We requested that information and got no response. With the exception of one night a week when the Parent Centers were open until 8 PM, they were open only during normal working hours — when most parents would be at work. They were not open on Saturday or Sunday. The Parent Centers appeared to be open for the convenience of the Parent Center staffers — NOT for parents at all.

  4. Rae says:

    I have never used one. That is what the library is for.

  5. Dekalbite says:

    The Parent Centers cost $4,500,000 in Salary and Benefits for 79 employees. They are located in DeKalb low income schools, and they serve the very schools that have shown the lowest rate of student achievement in the metro area. The Parent Centers have had absolutely no accountability for student achievement. They are overstaffed and overpaid compared to Parent Centers in other metro systems that experience a much better rate of achievement:
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/11/73000-dcss-secretarial-positions-are.html

    The personnel in Parent Centers do not have 4 year degree requirements or any social work, counseling, or teaching certification requirements (not even paraprofessional) while they are paid on par with teachers.

    Parent Centers have long been a favorite place for “family and friends”. It will be interesting to see if the “family and friends” of former BOE members and present and past high level administrators in these Parent Centers will remain employed when they are put under principals. Will the “family and friends” personnel in these centers still remain in these positions consuming schoolhouse budget dollars or will they be moved to other positions to keep them employed?

    Parental involvement is a very important component in student achievement. It is sad for kids that these centers that have for so many years consumed so many millions of dollars have utterly failed to impact student achievement.

    Parental Involvement does not have to be Parent Centers. The federal government gives schools wide latitude in how to use these funds. What might work for one school may not be appropriate for another. “One size fits all” is not a good model in education.

  6. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    I can’t fathom what could have been bought for students directly with that yearly $4.5 million, like real tutors, paras or technology teachers so we can prepare the poorest students with the tools to learn a trade and be successful. ESOL has helped our Hispanic parents directly and maybe we can direct some more funds to that program, to make up where the costly parents centers are dropped.

    We need to have out of the box thinkers and administrators to sit around the table to think of ideas that would be successful. Use the data and turn it around. Why would any of these parent center employees want to fail? With the current job market, these friends and family members should have done more to save their jobs. Instead they thought they couldn’t lose, because they had a direct line to the top or their Mom and Dad has some clout in the county.

  7. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    I know Audria Berry, who ran Title 1 the past 7 years, is now a 2nd Grade teacher at Flat Rock Elementary. Did she get a contract this week?

  8. The pertinent question is: How much is Audria Berry being paid per her contract, if she has received one?

    Does anyone know why there was a vacancy in 2nd Grade at Flat Rock Elementary school

  9. Dekalbite says:

    Well, I see you read the Rules of Engagement and still decided to use Anonymous.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know about the other parent centers but for the one I visited, it was open on Saturday. It has resources you can’t find at a public library such as test preparation materials for CRCT, ITBS, SAT, ACT, and AP classes. There is a sign up list for every person that visits the center each day. The person over this center has their PhD along with their teaching certificate in Elementary Education. The also ran a GED program for parents, helping over 40 parents get this over the past 4 years. Parents who complete this later in life are more likely to have higher expectations of their children and serve as a stronger role model.

    I don’t disagree that tough decisions have to be made. Perhaps other centers were staffed with less qualified people making salaries greater than their educational background dictates. Maybe not enough citizens were using the centers. With the tough decisions being made, some citizens will unfortunately have access to fewer resources to help their children and themselves.

  11. GTCO-ATL says:

    When done right, Parent Resource Centers can be very effective in helping those in the poor communties to bring up their own standard of living, get out of poverty and learn how to be supportive of a student to ensure he/she gets the educational foundation necessary to make it further in life. Overpaying employees to staff the centers does not seem to be a common element if you read about these centers elsewhere. That’s likely one of those things that makes us “special” here in DeKalb. Check out this one in Buffalo, NY: http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/FamInvolve/buffalo.html

    On another note: Does ANYONE plan to run for Paul Womack’s position? I was looking at http://www.dekalbvotes.com yesterday and I believe I saw something about Marshall Orson having submitted credentials. He’s the Emory/LaVista Council guy who told everyone via the media that we had a historic opportunity to replace the entire board if we just approved the E-SPLOST, which of course was false. I can’t think of anyone worse than Womack until I think of that guy. Please tell me someone else is interested in helping right this sinking ship… anyone? anyone? hello? Will SACS get involved? Will the state take over? That is what happened in Dr. Atkinson’s last district… is that what we will be facing soon?

  12. justwatch says:

    .I think some parent centers were doing a great job. The real issue isn’t the centers themselves, but the salaries of some of their employees and education level of some of the employees. They do have fabulous resources, but I guarantee you that we could run them for far less. These are not jobs that need to be high paying.

  13. @ just watch

    You think, but you cannot document anything accomplished by the Parent Centers. Libraries track their users daily — public libraries and school libraries. We asked for the same information from the Parent Centers and our requests were ignored. So, as far as we are concerned, without verifiable documentation, the Parent Centers were doing nothing worthwhile. Please do not post comments you cannot document.

  14. Anonymous says:

    This statement represents your opinion. Is this the opinion of the blog? You could have gone to any Parent Center to see the sign up lists and even spoken with Parent Center coordinators or parents that utilized the facility. What effort did you make to determine if your opinion is true? As justwatch said, some parent centers were doing a good job. An example was given above. Documentation isn’t required to know that.

    It seems that opinions contrary to those hosting the blog are not welcome.

  15. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    Then why wasn’t the district answering our questions? We asked and they ignored the blog’s questions. How many open record requests must the stakeholders make? Why was the Clew regime refusing to answer questions? My wife, her group and I spent several days copying documents that the district allowed us to view. But we weren’t given minutes from BOE meetings and they ignored our requests for EVERY document from the 2005 E & Y audit. Why hide the truths from the people? They must have been trying to hide something. It’s the only common sense thing I can think of.

  16. Fred in DeKalb says:

    Atlanta Media Guy, I think the point of the post above is how can one make a definitive assessment of a program that impacts people by only looking at documentation or data. I would think the best way to evaluate is to visit a Parent Center and speak to the service providers along with those being served. This requires more effort but at the end, allows one to make a better assessment.

    Think about it this way, if there weren’t federal laws protecting special needs children, some would eliminate those programs simply because documentation could not be provided that demonstrates a return on investment. We know that some special needs children are in schools to hopefully get life skills and would never pass the CRCT. Laws protect them from being thrown out or put in a corner.

  17. momfromhe11 says:

    Anonymous said: It has resources you can’t find at a public library such as test preparation materials for CRCT, ITBS, SAT, ACT, and AP classes…The also ran a GED program for parents, helping over 40 parents get this over the past 4 years.

    The DeKalb Public Library has SAT, ACT, and AP test prep materials at all branches. They also have GED, ESOL, ASVP and citizenship preparation materials. The Clarkston, Chamblee and Decatur branches also have computers with test prep and learning software. Literacy Action volunteers come and teach ESOL and adult/child reading and writing. They also offer basic computer classes as well as classes in all the Microsoft Office programs, classes on using the internet and using email. All of this is free. Most of the high school have SAT, ACT and AP materials. What the library does not have is project materials and staff that can work with patrons on an unscheduled basis. You can set up appointments.

    I say this not to pick a fight, but in the spirit of keeping things straight.

  18. Fred in DeKalb says:

    momfromhe11, wouldn’t it be great if the resources in the parent centers could also go to public libraries in the vicinity? Add to that, if the school system could fund a part time position to work with patrons at the public library on a part time basis on behalf of the school system, this could be win win for everyone.

  19. momfromhe11 says:

    Actually, I just got finished writing a proposal to do just that. Title I says that a school system can use the funds to work with community service providers, so the libraries could share. There is a more than 60% overlap in the classes offered by the Parent Centers and the libraries. With the exception of one school, there is a library branch within 2 miles of every Title I school, and that school has a branch within 3.5 miles. All the libraries are accessible on MARTA.

    Unfortunately, my proposal was a project for a library & info tech course, so it didn’t actually go anywhere. I still think it is a useful and economical approach to a real need.

  20. Dekalbite says:

    Parent Centers are established to improve student achievement through improving parental involvement. This has not happened in the schools with Parent Centers. Schools are in the business of improving student achievement.

  21. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Good luck! But when the county chooses to close their libraries at 5pm. There is little good moving this type of program to a library. Maybe the school system should kick in a bit to keep some of these particular brances open longer. Surely this would be less expensive to the entire county than these parent centers and their over priced staff where/are.

  22. bettyandveronica1 says:

    I don’t believe the parent centers were a good use of taxpayer dollars at all. Unless they were being utilized by the community and begging for more because of it. Is that the case? Doesn’t the county keep facts/figures about the number of parents, children that utilize this service daily/weekly, etc. Let’s see this data and then maybe we can continue to support it.

  23. DCSS keeps NO data on the Parent Centers that we can find. We have asked for it and our requests have been ignored.

  24. Rae says:

    I have contacted BOE members to ask them to close centers. If they are not willing to document their activities, then they should not get support.

  25. Rae says:

    Exactly….most libraries are open till 8 pm Mon and Tues. I use them on a regular basis. Shift funds to them, and keep them open late M to F.

  26. justwatch says:

    The data is out there for parent centers, which use Title 1 dollars by the way, that they can work and make a difference in student achievement. I have seen them in other communities and believe in them as one tool in the toolbox.. The problem in DeKalb, is that they turned into a job program. The staff at these centers did not need to be highly paid, nor highly skilled. One coordinator and the rest basically clerk level positions.

    Like so many other things, DeKalb ruined a good thing.

  27. Dekalbite says:

    @GTCO-Atl
    James T. (Tom) Gilbert, Jr.

    How to we contact him to help him?

    District 2 – Marshall Orson
    District 4 – Paul Womack, James T. (Tom) Gilbert, Jr.
    District 6 – Tom Bowen, Melvin Johnson, Terrilynn Rivers-Cannon
    District 8 – Pam Speakes
    http://media.ethics.ga.gov/search/Campaign/Campaign_OfficeSearchResults.aspx?ElectionYear=2012&County=DeKalb&City=&OfficeTypeID=280&District=&Division=&FilerID=&OfficeName=School%20Board%20Member&Circuit=

  28. Dekalbite says:

    My bad. I didn’t click far enough.
    Here is his contact information if anyone wants to help Mr. Gilbert who is running against Paul Womack.
    Gilbert Jr., James (Tom) T.
    1815 Mt. Sinai Ct.
    Tucker GA 30084
    (770) 938 – 5979
    School Board Member, District 4

  29. atlanta wombat says:

    It seems to me that we need to look at DCSS and DeKalb County as a partnership. I have often wondered why communities don’t periodically assess the efficacy of certain practices, evaluate trends, and then adapt accordingly.

    For example, I would like to know how many people utilize the community libraries from say, the time they open until around 1 pm. Then compare that information with the number of users from let’s say 3 pm until closing. Would we see that it would benefit not only DCSS but also the County to change the hours of operation in order to maximize the benefit? (Please forgive me if this info has already been made available).

    A dedicated parent center might be necessary in some communities, but not in others. Why can’t the District and the County work together to better manage the resources that benefit us all?

  30. concernedteacher says:

    anonymous @ 10:32pm,

    Many of the test materials (SAT, AP, ACT) you cite are ones already available at school libraries, at least at my high school. And I’m pleased to know that 40 people were helped from the GED program, but 10 people per year doesn’t justify such use of resources when students are denied the intensive instruciton or remediation they need since we teachers have as many as 35 students in each class and work with as many as 160 students in total. I’m also suspicious of the absence of any “data” since Dekalb requires so much data collection from its teachers. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that someone (or more than one highly paid person) working without a structured teaching schedule and working with so few people (from your post, I can infer that no one else was at the facility) would be able to produce some record?

  31. What part of “Do NOT use “Anonymous” as your pseudonym is unclear?

  32. Fred in DeKalb says:

    DeKalbite, you probably have not heard but many parents in South DeKalb, who just found out Parent Centers are being eliminated, are protesting to the Board about this decision. Many are the parents that actually use the resources but don’t participate in blogs like this. They could probably agree that the Parent Center Coordinators should have some type of certification as the MAG report suggests however would wonder why the decision to eliminate the centers instead of simply correcting the pay problems.

    As dekalbschoolwatch says, since they could not get and “verifiable documentation” for this federal service, it should be eliminated. Who needs to visit a center and make an observation for themselves to determine if the Parent Centers are providing value? What is teachers were evaluated simply by looking at their lesson plans and student grades without doing a classroom evaluation? Would that be right?

  33. Why not just keep daily Parent Center usage records, “Fred”?

  34. Fred in DeKalb says:

    DeKalbite, this is a definition I’ve found on several sites that address the purpose and objective of Parent Centers,

    **The purpose of the PIRC program, as established by the US Department of Education, is to help implement successful and effective parental involvement policies, programs, and activities that lead to improvements in student academic achievement and strengthen partnerships among parents, teachers, principals, administrators, and other school personnel in meeting the educational needs of children.**

    PIRC is Parent and Information Resource Center. The point is that it is not as absolute as you said with respect to improving student achievement. For what it is worth, Gwinnett Schools has an interesting and informative page under the Office of Federal and Special Programs.

    You continuously say that student achievement is not improving simply based on the CRCT yet you could offer nothing that shows growth improvement for students over a year. In fairness, this is not currently being measured but hopefully the new system will provide this information.

    As I’ve mentioned to you many times in the past, each student enters the school system with a different level of preparation, based on the foundation given to them by their parents. Using a football field as a measuring point, many students enter kindergarten at the 20 or 30 yard line. Some may be at the 0 yard line, some may even be in the end zone when they begin. Each student has the ability to learn and grow however those starting in the end zone have a longer way to go to reach the other end zone than those that start at the 30 yard line. It can be done and it happens every year, not just in DeKalb but other school districts around the country. Parent Centers are a part of the solution for helping families help their children achieve academically.

    Maybe you could go into a Title 1 school and tell the principal, teachers and students they are failures because students did not collectively pass the CRCT. I would want to speak to the teachers to find out the student growth over the year. I would hopefully celebrate achievements and use that to encourage additional growth in subsequent years. I think that is the difference between the two of us. You see the students as data points on a chart and I see them as living, breathing beings. The teachers I know make a difference every day. Yes , there are exceptions but to flat out say students achievement is not improving without considering growth is wrong, in my opinion.

  35. dekalbite2 says:

    @ Fred in DeKalb
    “DeKalbite, you probably have not heard but many parents in South DeKalb, who just found out Parent Centers are being eliminated, are protesting to the Board about this decision.”

    Programs and personnel who are not teaching science, math, social studies or language arts must be cut and consolidated or we will have 40 students to a class in the subjects that students are sent to school to learn. At that point, mastery of subject material including reading and math will be even worse. Is that fair for kids?

    Are YOU teaching math, social studies, language arts or science every day to students Fred? Are YOU accountable for and do YOU have your compensation tied to student achievement in language arts, social studies, science and/or math?

    Dr. Atkinson is looking at every program and service as a cost center. She is looking to see if programs and services can be better tailored to each specific school since one school may have different needs than another school. She is trying to drive the dollars to the school and give principals and faculty more local control over what is needed in their schools.

    Parents need to understand that parental involvement will still take place, but it will be more closely tied to performance and not out of line with other counties who are demographically comparable.

    I don’t think Dr. Atkinson has a choice. She knows she will NEVER improve student achievement in math, science, social studies and language arts if she keeps the status quo.

  36. dekalbite2 says:

    @Fred in DeKalb

    You don’t want to cut Parent Centers or Graduation Coaches or reschedule Counselors and other special teaching personnel so that their student load is brought in line with the content area (math, science, social studies, and language arts) teachers. You defended Audria Berry and the Office of School Improvement over and over again. If Berry’s name popped up, you were on this blog within the hour defending her as a wonderful educator. Do you need some links to your words of praise for her and the Office of School Improvement?

    Do you have any solutions to the huge class sizes that students in math, science, language arts and social studies are sitting in? I know you have many friends in non teaching positions, but we are running out of options here. And please don’t say raise taxes. We are near the limit the state allows and the equalization grants will ensure many of our dollars of any tax increase will go to other counties considered “poor” because they have a lower mileage rate than we do.

    It is obvious that you do not realize that for students to learn to read and write and compute they must be directly taught by a teacher. If they are struggling they cannot get the attention they need when they are sitting in huge class sizes no matter how motivated or competent the teacher is. Dr. Atkinson can see if she does not redirect resources into the classrooms where students are actually taught to read and write and compute, our achievement will be even lower – particularly in the Ttitle 1 low income schools. The BOE needs to come to this conclusion, even the ones with all those friends and family.

    Maureen Downey of AJC’s Get Schooled blog said if Dr. Atkinson doesn’t make the cuts now, they will probably never be made and DeKalb will be lost.

  37. momfromhe11 says:

    I agree – I emailed Dr. Atkinson when she first came to DCSS and asked that she initiate a collaboration with the libraries. I received an email (not from her) assuring me that DCSS has always worked with the libraries and would continue to do so. My head felt duly patted.

    IMO, the DeKalb Library System should look at adjusting the hours for some branches to allow for more evenings and more branches with Sunday hours. Some branches (the main branch in Decatur and the branches that are in areas with a lot of young families and/or home schoolers) see a lot of traffic in the mornings, but some do not.

    As I said above, the Title I funds can be used for cooperative ventures with community institutions, so there is no reason they could not be used to supplement library funding (which is almost non-existent) to allow collaboration for Parent Center services.

  38. deecab2bad says:

    @ Dekalbite and GTCO-Atl
    I wouldn’t vote for Marshall Orson as dogcatcher; I like dogs too much. As you recall, he was part of the Fernbank cabal that successfully shanghaied the redistricting process — “own the mike, own the message.” A vote for Marshall Orson is thrown away unless you happen to live in the Fernbank E.S. attendance area. In that case, party on, dude.

    A quote from Marshall Orson, in a face-to-face conversation: “if I wanted my kids to go to school with those kids, I would move into that neighborhood.” Nice.

    I usually am a throw-the-bums-out kind of person, but Don McChesney has tried to be fair and has been scrupulously honest as far as I can tell, except for a slight Lakeside bias.

  39. pothechick says:

    And yet his oldest is attending Druid Hills Middle, a Title 1 school. With “those kids”. Go figure.

    “I usually am a throw-the-bums-out kind of person, but Don McChesney has tried to be fair and has been scrupulously honest as far as I can tell, except for a slight Lakeside bias.”

    Are you kidding??? Slight Lakeside bias? He hates Druid Hills and they know it.

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