What’s up at “The Champion”?

We’ve been culling recent articles published at “The Champion” and find that they seem to have an organized, focused agenda of attack on the new superintendent.

A quick overview includes the May 11 edition, which hosts a half page letter to the editor titled, “Dekalb County Schools: ‘A culture of fear and intimidation’, written by a former system administrator, Gwendolyn Bouie, completely bashing Atkinson — calling her leadership “a culture of fear and intimidation”. (Apparently, Bouie never experienced the fear and intimidation of Crawford Lewis, now under indictment on RICO charges.) Bouie even states that she finds it “interesting” that many of the recently fired administrators are minorities. (Guess she hadn’t noticed that the system employees ARE mostly minorities! Well, African-American minorities – we have very few Hispanics or other minority employees. It’s nearly impossible to reduce staff without effecting an African-American employee.)

“The Champion” pulls a double whammy by posting three more letters slamming Atkinson in their paper the next day along with a front page above the fold article titled, “Atkinson’s former district still struggling”.

Add to these, the scathing article against Atkinson written by Steen Miles back in January ( What is Steen Miles talking about? ) and you can begin to see a full court press kicking Atkinson to the curb.

Two words come to mind as we ponder the agenda of “The Champion” and their back to back reader opinions attacking Atkinson: Bully Pulpit.

And people say this blog is tough?

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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"
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115 Responses to What’s up at “The Champion”?

  1. justwatch2 says:

    Bouie actually used citizens comment at the May Work session to attack Atkinson, I think saying she was over her head.

    Friends and family folks flock together. (say that 5 times fast!)

  2. justwatch2 says:

    Early report from budget committee meeting this morning. Atkinson is proposing both a 3 student increase in class size and 2 mil property tax increase.


    At the end Atkinson asks where else to cut. Start here: no more secretaries for anyone at the central office, Fernbank science center, magnet transportation, extra magnet points, etc.

  3. jackiehar says:

    This is the least transparent budget I have ever seen! Where is all the money from cutting central office? Cut the new legal dept. that was created to give Ramseya $50,000 raise and an expanded staff. Increasing students by 3 in a class is disastrious. Board members should SERVE FREE. Property taxes are already too high in DeKalb for the quality of education we are getting. Bring on the Charter Schools where class sizes are small and lack of turmoil. Somebody better get a grip soon and look at bottom lines.

  4. DeKalb County Schools: ‘A culture of fear and intimidation’

    As a recent retiree of the DeKalb County School System with over 31 years of classroom and administrative experience, I have watched in dismay as a culture of fear and intimidation has engulfed the system during the last several months. Almost weekly, I am informed about another veteran employee who has been demoted, forced to resign or terminated. Interestingly, most of these employees are minority. Further, Dr. Atkinson, the recently appointed superintendent, has sent a message to employees that communication with Board of Education members will be viewed negatively and may result in demotion and/or termination. Surely, employees, many of whom are also parents, have a right to communicate with the board. The board is an elected body which has an obligation to communicate with all employees if they are to provide effective oversight for what is arguably the most important enterprise in the county.

    The DeKalb School System has been racked by scandal, improprieties and negative commentary by the community and the media over the last several years. Clearly, change is needed. Unfortunately, citizens and the media often celebrate a heavy-handed approach to effecting change and history demonstrates that a heavy-handed approach to necessary change is ineffective. One only has to look at DeKalb’s neighbor, the Atlanta Public School System, to see the result of an organizational culture dominated by fear and intimidation.

    Dr. Atkinson, as part of her vision for DeKalb, has outlined what she calls a “Theory of Action for Change.” According to the description posted on the system’s website, this plan is reflective of W. Edwards Deming’s “Total Quality Management theory, a Plan-Do-Check-Act process for ongoing operational effectiveness and improvement.” Even though this document effectively uses the organizational management jargon that is presently in vogue to paint a picture of a plan that will lead to school district improvement, it is clear that Dr. Atkinson does not understand Dr. Deming’s theories or his work.

    Dr. Deming stated in one of his seminal works on Total Quality Management that leaders should “encourage effective two-way communication and other means to drive out fear throughout the organization so that everybody may work effectively and more productively for the company.” Further, Deming elaborated that in most cases, fear results in people “keeping their heads down and their mouths’ shut.” That is not a good thing because management isn’t told about problems out of fear of sanctions, which causes a decrease in productivity and leads to continuous failure and not organizational change.

    As an experienced administrator and educational leader who received national recognition from both President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of Education Richard Riley for improving a low-performing elementary school (accomplished without fear and intimidation) I recognize the fact that employee behavior is, at times, inappropriate and may need to be addressed. However, good human resources practices recommend progressive administrative sanctions including formal reprimand, suspension, and probation, not immediate termination. This is certainly not the case in DeKalb, where all infractions, no matter how miniscule, result in demotion, termination or a demand for resignation, even when no law or school district policy is violated.

    If employees are making mistakes so egregious [that] the only solution is demotion or termination, it seems the district has a major training responsibility. Employees should be trained to handle situations to be consistent with state and federal law as well as DeKalb Board of Education policy. Further, employees must clearly understand the superintendent’s vision so that their decisions and actions are consistent with her vision. If there is no understanding of the superintendent’s vision as well as a lack of understanding about policy and procedure, it is the responsibility of the school district’s leadership to correct these deficiencies. To place the blame fully on the backs of employees without implementing training protocols is an abdication of responsibility by the superintendent and her staff.

    State law in Georgia requires school boards to approve all personnel actions, including hiring, termination and demotion. The DeKalb County School Board would serve the system well by thoroughly reviewing all the superintendent’s demotion and termination recommendations to insure that employees are treated fairly and equitably. Further, the board should conduct a survey to determine employee perceptions of the culture and climate of the school system as well as support structures in place to help all employees succeed.

    The children being served by the district should clearly be the board’s first concern. Yet, employees who serve the children must also be of primary concern. It is not possible for employees to effectively do their work when operating in a climate of fear and intimidation.

    – Wendolyn Bouie

  5. John Hewitt says:

    Interesting dialog here, no doubt.

    However, I question the integrity of referencing a select few pieces published in The Champion, (four or which were not written by a member of The Champion staff) as basis for referring to the newspaper as a “BULLY PULPIT”.

    The Champion newspaper routinely publishes, and welcomes, any letter to the editor, be it pro or con any given subject. The opinion pages of any community newspaper should be an open forum allowing any interested party to openly express their opinions on subjects of interest to the community at large. We would also welcome the above post were it submitted in the form of a letter to the editor just as we would any other opinion.

    Perhaps the writer has failed to see and/or read the many positive references to our school system, and to Atkinson specifically, that have been published in The Champion. Surely if the positive coverage had been taken into consideration, as should be done in all instances of addressing an issue, the writer may be less inclined to make such a baseless and uninformed accusation and be less likely to pass judgement when all sides have not been considered.

    John Hewitt
    Chief Operating Officer
    The Champion Newspaper

  6. Touche John! It’s difficult to navigate your website, since you don’t file letters to the editor as urls, but as pdfs, so we are unable to find many positive editorials about DCSS. Feel free to forward links if you would like to. It just hit us that your paper has been allowing people to relentlessly virtually beat up on the superintendent lately. I’m certain she has done positive things for the school system that have gone unmentioned by your letter writers (aren’t they passing judgement without considering all sides?) She surely has reasons for firing or demoting staff and certainly race is not one of those reasons as inferred by Ms. Bouie. It struck us as interesting that a ‘newspaper’ would venture into what has traditionally been reserved for blogs – allowing comments to flow unchecked and without rebuttal. Most newspaper letters reference articles written by the newspaper, not just opinion letters letting off steam. If you choose to publish unsolicited, critical opinions like those we recently have read in the Champion bashing the super, then you are in essence functioning like a blog, rather than a news source. We get the same criticism all the time — welcome to the world of blogging!

  7. John Hewitt says:

    News gathering and news reporting of all types is constantly evolving. Items published on the opinion pages of The Champion are only opinions, thus the name of the page. Traditional journalism does, or should, make every effort to show all sides of any topic being discussed. We encourage all to share their opinions. We make every effort to verify facts included in a news item

    Apparently, when searcing our website, the user was only looking at the PDF version of the current Free Press. All that is required to navigate The Champion website is to utilize the search option at the top of the home page.
    As requeted, below are links to stories that appear on two of five pages when using the keyword ‘Atkinson’ to searc.

  8. Letter to the Editor 1 (from “The Champion” newspaper)

    Dear Editor:

    The deadline is looming. I have two years before I enroll my son into the DeKalb County School System—or not. I read your article with a critical eye and became rather upset with myself and with the DeKalb County Board of Education.

    Perhaps it’s my fault. Maybe I should have been more vocal when expressing concerns about the vetting of DeKalb County School Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson. But then again, perhaps the School Board should have been more thorough. After I read your article in The Champion, I obtained research from the Lorain newspapers and the Ohio state report cards and was shocked that the board determined Cheryl Atkinson was the best candidate for what might be my son’s school system. It was clear from the research that she had not proven the academic success and fiscal management in Lorain, a school system with only 10 elementary schools, three middle schools, one high school and three alternative option programs. If it was clear to the Cleveland School System and Atlanta Public School System that she was incapable of leading a large school system such as the one I might enroll my son in, why was it OK for DeKalb County?

    There are five designations of school system success ratings in Ohio: Excellent, Effective, Continuous Improvement, Academic Watch, and Academic Emergency. Research shows that during her tenure in Lorain, Cheryl Atkinson’s system never reached Effective or Excellent. The inconsistency of the student scores in the Lorain schools indicate that perhaps none of the areas that achieved success in any one year were sustainable year after year.

    I noticed that school system spokesman Walter Woods says Atkinson is not looking back. Well I looked back and what I saw frighted me. A system that never reached the three top state destinations and a system that’s on “fiscal caution”? Also, an article dated May 28, 2011 on Clevland.com stated about Atkinson’s performance, “The district slipped into ‘academic watch’ the year after she arrived. An attempt to pass a new school tax failed by a large margin.

    And last year, the district met only one of the 26 indicators that the state measured on its last report card— placing it (Lorain) in the bottom five districts statewide.”

    If I write books and TV scripts that fail, there’s a good chance publishers and networks won’t ask me to write anymore material. I am hired based on past history of success. I’m wondering what past history of success the DeKalb County Board of Education saw in Atkinson.

    The deadline is looming, I have two years before I enroll my son in the DeKalb County School System—or move to another district.

    – Brian Egeston
    DeKalb County parent

  9. Letter to the Editor 2 (from “The Champion” newspaper)

    Who is Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson? She is a lady who talks a good game about transparency, openness and progress as she hides behind double talk, closed doors, Walter Woods, and secretive meetings with the board of education members as a whole and her favorite board members privately. Her double talk will eventually be her demise.

    See examples: She is eliminating the socalled ‘family and friends” hiring practices. Reality is that all of her cabinet members except a few are friends from her past, all are earning $160,000 annually. Not one of them has a history of success in their job currently held. Her new chief information officer helped her implement books in three middle schools, one high school and three alternative schools in Lorain. Hurray! Big deal. Dekalb probably has more students in three of its high schools than Lorain had in its total middle and high schools enrollment.

    The chief of curriculum and instruction is not clear. It seems that she held a seniorlevel position in curriculum and instruction. What does that general information tell us about her credentials. Walter Woods was a business reporter for the AJC and Atlanta Business Chronicle. Chief of leadership and operational support was a principal in Charlotte at Westley Hills Academy, a K-8 school, 2011 test scores not available for grades 6-8 on website, but here are the results for 2011 for grades 3-5:
    Grade 3: Reading 41% State Average 68% Math 68% 82%
    Grade 4: Reading 62% State Average 72% Math 87% 84%
    Grade 5: Reading 45% State Average 72%
    Math 65% State Average 82%
    Science 55% State Average 73%

    Atkinson said through Walter Woods that she could not make progress in Lorain because: “the system had never made AYP” “the community never raised local taxes” “the demographics were challenging and there were financial and academic challenges”. Didn’t she know that before she went to the system? I am sure that during her interview with them, she promised to turn all that around. instead, the system made no progress and she made excuses, so she interviews in Atlanta and DeKalb with many of the same challenges, only bigger and promises to improve. She can’t move a shovel of dirt, but she can move a mountain?

    Walter Woods says that she is pleasing the board and the parents (which parents)? So her goal is not “victory in every classroom”? I would have thought that somewhere in the statement, that Atkinson and Woods would have made academic achievement a priority statement. Sounds to me like she was given a political agenda when she got here.

    She said that she is downsizing the county employees. Everybody gets pay cuts but her friends who are in the same positions and making the same salaries that everyone complained were too high for years. Only of “six” of them making $160,000 as in the past, now there are “nine” of them making $160,000, including her legal affairs chief who has failed to pay federal, state and local taxes on his privately run school which has a daycare through eighth grade.

    This is what I mean when I accuse Cheryl Atkinson a master of double talk!

    – B.M. Wilson

  10. Letter to the Editor 3 (from “The Champion” newspaper)

    After reading the article in last week’s Champion, I just couldn’t sit back any longer and stay silent. What was the Board of Education thinking when they hired Ms. Atkinson? Based on the article, her performance at her last job was appalling. I speak of performance because student success is the main reason schools are in business. Every job that I have ever had was based upon my performance. When applying for my first job, my employer wanted to know about my grades in college. Teachers and everybody in every profession are usually hired on past performance. When Mr. Woods couldn’t speak to the issue of Atkinson’s past performance, he brushed these facts off and talked about looking forward not backward. Duuugh! And he can cite all of her peripheral accomplishments that he desires, but the “proof is in the pudding.” Out of 26 to 30 indicators set by the state, her highest number reached was 4?

    And in her last year there, which one would think would have been a stellar year—a positive culmination of her efforts—she only met one (1) indicator out of 26?

    I had no idea about the information stated in last week’s article, but I am deeply concerned about the poor judgment that she has demonstrated since she has been the leader of DeKalb County Schools. Her hasty decisions which she has publicly flaunted have served to further damage the image of a school system which was slowly recuperating from a nationally scandalized reputation.

    In a system that was trying to heal and move forward from the hurtful images of the past administration, Atkinson made rash and hurried decisions that implied that criminal activity was occurring in our school band programs. Everyone from the local news station to CNN televised that all band programs in DeKalb Schools had been suspended and that students, staff and volunteers were suspected of hazing.

    No investigation had been done, no people had been interviewed, and no suspects or victims had been identified, but she suspended the entire program for months, promising to “clean up” the band program, conduct a thorough investigation and report the findings. Her findings are yet to be publicly shared.

    Next, she cried “wolf” that the school system had a shortfall of finances, later reducing the amount of the shortfall, and finally quietly “whispering” (not sounding the trumpet) that the shortfall was projected (as was the projection for every metro school system as you see on the news.)

    As if she had not gotten enough negative press for the school system from these incidents, she devised three school calendars that showed no regard for decisions and votes that had already taken place creating loud public outcry of “foul.”

    Next, she paid a firm to conduct an audit to show that the school system had too many employees. After wasting thousands of dollars and creating a public spectacle, she said that she was not taking the recommendation of Part I from the audit committee; later when she arbitrarily moved people, she said she was using the audit! Now that she has Part 2 of the audit, she is using the audit, but she is not using the audit! No, that’s not a misprint, that’s the public message she is delivering. The news reporters who have been relatively quiet for the 18 months prior to her arrival were like bees buzzing around her watching for the next “big negative” that she will throw their way.

    While other school systems have had the same issues as DeKalb (I could cite specifics, but I don’t want to be guilty of “Cheryl Atkinson’s negative media behavior”), they have managed to focus their attention on attempting to resolve the issues rather than trying to publicize the issues and come back as “heroes.”

    For the sake of our children, I do hope our Board of Education and Mrs. Atkinson are/were right—I’ll gladly send another letter saying I was wrong. I always hate to see our children lose, get behind, not reach their potential because of our failed programs and failed leaders, i.e. teaching reading without phonics, “new math,” open classrooms, recently failed superintendents (not including our recent interim superintendent who did a stellar job). However, we’ll all see the proof when the pudding is done.

    – B. Nichols

  11. Sure does look like an all out attack to us – however, in the interest of being open to correction, feel free to forward any positive letters published about Atkinson in the Champion and we’ll add them to this post.

    Now, don’t get us wrong – we had our fair share of critical articles about Atkinson – before she was hired. We were called ALL kinds of names for that. Many of the same issues were brought to the fore by the blog before the board hired her. Nancy Jester, Don McChesney and Pam Speaks wrote a public letter explaining their ‘no’ vote for Atkinson’s hiring – which they were HIGHLY criticized for. They also called out other ‘unknown’ board members who leaked information in order to manipulate the process – which we reported and were again criticized. However, once she was hired, we made a commitment to support her and although we continue to critique, and we do allow contributors to comment as they please, we are not a mainstream news source and we do not purport to have press credentials. We are a blog – which are generally built around public conversations. We consider it our job to dig around in the nooks and crannies and report the waste, abuse and fraud that we see.

    As far as Atkinson is concerned, we see her as shocked and overwhelmed at the mess she has found and is now being held to the fire to save. The actions she is taking are necessary and urgent. This system is circling the drain – as it was revealed in the recent budget meeting that not only are we $70 million short for next year, we are currently operating in arrears. We are broke and we are broken. Atkinson is desperately tossing a Hail Mary pass.

  12. John Hewitt says:

    Unfortunately we have not received positive letters regarding Atkinson. The Champion has no control over what readers submit as opinions. I have, as originally requested, forwarded several links to news features that were of a positive nature and supported by factual information. Apparently my reply is being delayed. Following is the message I received “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

  13. FWIW, WordPress places comments that include more than one or two links in the Pending folder. This is a security move to avoid spam. That goes for every comment – even our own. Bear with us as we are not always available to monitor the folders.

  14. dekalbite2 says:

    That means Atkinson is eliminating 323 teaching positions this upcoming year.
    $21,000,000 (article says that’s what they will save by increasing class sizes by 3 students) divided by $65,000 (cost of a teacher plus benefits).

    In this same article Cunningham said increased class sizes by 2 last year (Ms. Tyson’s recommendation) see link below which translates into 215 less teachers. In addition, Ms. Tyson eliminated with BOE approval 97 more teaching positions in extra teaching points (points is another word for teachers):

    Lewis reduced teaching positions by 275 in 2009-10 by increasing class sizes.


    If Dr. Atkinson’s plans are approved, we will have lost 900+ teaching positions in the last few years.
    275 – Lewis
    312 – Tyson
    323 – Atkinson

    Considering the fact that we started this recession with MORE non teaching positions than teaching positions, the question is – have the Non teaching ranks been thinned by close to 1,000 employees like the teaching ranks?

    Fernbank Science Center costs close to $7,000,000 a year to operate while most of their personnel are NOT teachers. Look at what the 5 Designers alone cost taxpayers in salary and benefits (they maintain the exhibits at the Science Center). DCSS can afford to spend over $400,000 a year to maintain science exhibits, but we can’t afford teachers:
    Designer $77,381
    Designer $63,360
    Designer $84,073
    Designer $65,827
    Designer $69,178
    Total: $359,819
    With benefits – $431,782 for 5 Fernbank Designers.

    Look at the 2011 science scores for DeKalb:
    Science % FAILED by Grade Level
    3rd grade – 30.9%
    4th grade – 33.6%
    5th grade – 35.2%
    6th grade – 42.2%
    7th grade – 31.9%
    8th grade – 49.9%
    Almost half of our 8th graders do not know the most basic concepts in science.

    Marietta City (a high achieving demographically comparable school system) chose to outsource most of their custodial staff to preserve the class sizes and APS just made that same decision last week.

    DCSS employs 190 “Coaches” for $15,000,000 and has 204 Security staff which is completely out of line with demographically similar systems and costs close to $11,000,000 a year.

    It appears the employees really NOT needed are …….Teachers.

    Write your BOE members and Dr. Atkinson and ask that they do not balance the budget on the backs of students. This is exactly what they do when they eliminate 900 teaching positions as if this is the way to prosperity. Ask them – prosperity for whom?

  15. dekalbite2 says:

    Many on the BOE wanted Ms. Tyson. Does anyone think she would have ever eliminated any of the “friends and family” personnel in DeKalb?

  16. dekalbite2 says:

    Would Ms. Bouie rather see teaching positions eliminated and class sizes increased to balance the budget? That’s what Dr. Lewis and Ms. Tyson did as they packed the students into classrooms like rats in order to preserve all those non teaching jobs. Where was her opinion piece when students were being forced into class sizes that made it impossible for any individual attention? Was Ms. Bouie concerned as student achievement steadily declined under the Dr. Lewis and Ms. Tyson? Is she pleased with the BOE that approved more non teaching positions than teaching positions and made our teachers the lowest paid members of the school system? Is she proud of a school system that only allocated 50 cents a child for the entire year for science equipment and supplies?

    How can Ms. Bouie say Ms. Tyson did a “stellar job” when she eliminated over 300 teaching positions and presided over a system that saw only 20% of our low income Title 1 schools make adequate yearly progress. DCSS had the LOWEST student achievement in the entire metro area under Ms. Tyson. What measure is Ms. Bouie using for “stellar” performance? Certainly not student achievement which quite frankly if she does not understand is the ONLY reason the school system exists and taxpayers pay taxes.

  17. dekalbite2 says:

    @ Mr. Hewitt

    So how many positive letters did you get for Dr. Lewis and Ms. Tyson, both of which showed the steepest decline for low income schools in the history of the school system?

    Lest you say low income students cannot achieve, I would refer to demographically similar systems like Rockdale and Marietta City Schools which have a larger percentage of low income schools and in Marietta City’s case a larger percentage of low income students than DeKalb Schools. Both of these systems have excellent student achievement in spite of the poverty level of their students, and their low income students perform at or above grade level expectations most of the time.

    Marietta City’s superintendent was Georgia’s Superintendent of the Year this past year and Rockdale’s Sam King was the prior Georgia Superintendent of the Year. Leadership matters for low income students.

    Where was the outcry in The Champion as Dr. Lewis and Ms. Tyson balanced the budget on the backs of the students by taking away so many of their teachers? Did you receive any letters concerning increased class sizes and decreased student achievement in the low income Title 1 schools?

  18. @ John Hewitt—-I look forward to my own letter being published in The Champion. Even if the only reason is as a matter of providing balance. Thanks for addressing this issue here.

  19. @ John Hewitt

    Your first post “Perhaps the writer has failed to see and/or read the many positive references to our school system, and to Atkinson specifically, that have been published in The Champion.” isn’t well supported by the links that you provided or by your conflicting 2nd post… “”Unfortunately we have not received positive letters regarding Atkinson.”

    Sometimes silence is the best course of action.

  20. dekalbite2 says:

    Dr. Atkinson’s headed in the right direction – putting the members of the classroom (teachers and students) first. But the bureaucracy’s pushback must be overwhelming.

    IMHO – nothing is going to change until a new BOE is elected.

    The gulf between South DeKalb and North DeKalb will grow wider because there are more low income schools in south DeKalb. Low income students are MOST impacted by class size, highly qualified teachers, and adequate equipment and supplies. These are the very areas that Dr. Walker and most of the BOE are cutting.

    Who will stand up for these students in low income schools? Not Dr. Walker and most of the BOE.

    DeKalb Schools is truly a “Tale of Two Systems”.

  21. John Hewitt says:

    @gurulikedrucker I regret that my post does not meet your approval. One references letters, the other post references news articles supported by factual information.

    Nicole, please do send your letter to Kathy@dekalbchamp.com and please provide contact information so that we may confirm the information.

    @dekalbite2, I don’t recall letters from the public regarding Lewis or Tyson, but there were many news features as well as opinion and editorial pieces, both pro and con on both individual.

    More than any back and forth discussing, the most important aspect of this ongoing conversation is that the community is being engaged and people are taking an interest in the well-bing of our schools.

    Any letters to the editor from any readers or administrators will be welcomed if submitted to The Champion newspaper, we do however, ask for an actual name and contact information so that the letter can be verified.

  22. John Hewitt says:

    Please pardon the typos.

  23. dekalbite2 says:

    @John Hewitt
    Student achievement has declined at an extraordinary rate in the low income schools in DeKalb County. The rate of decline in our low income schools is greater than any school system in the metro area including demographically similar systems.



    Where is “The Champion” in reporting the statistics on student achievement? Isn’t student achievement (or lack thereof) the most newsworthy item when discussing the school system? If over half of your 8th graders do not know the most basic science concepts, then this would appear to be newsworthy. If 36% of your 6th graders do not know the most basic math concepts, this would appear to be newsworthy.

    I agree that an exchange of ideas is productive. I enjoy reading The Champion. It is often bolder and more accurate than the Atlanta Journal and Constitution.

  24. Dr. Bouie hit the nail on the head regarding Dr. Atkinson’s personnel decisions in the past 2 weeks. I’m a second year Assistant Principal who just found out last Thursday that I was being offered a teaching contract for the 2012-2013 school year. The reason given? I had a “break in service”. I have given DeKalb 11 years of my 14-year career, but because I left for 3 years, I am not being given my full 11 years of service (they are counting me for 4 years instead) and I am getting a demotion based on “district seniority”. So you’re telling me that the career that I have worked HARD to EARN is being sent 10 steps back because of a policy that I can’t find written anywhere? This is a SLAP in the face and I am in utter disgust and disbelief that such a decision has been made. Almost every teacher, student, or parent in my school is in shock and standing up for me because they know my work ethic, my dependability, and my dedication to the overall success of my school.

    As quiet as it may be kept, the section in Dr. Bouie’s article regarding the intimidation factor is so true. Although I have tried very hard to get my point across to the district in a respectable manner, I have been told by colleagues that “fighting for my job” can be seen as a negative by the Superintendent and her cabinet. So instead of fighting for my job, it is expected for me “hush and take it”. REALLY?? So all of the student loans that I have accumulated, all of the countless hours of training that I have completed, all of the extra hours that I have worked are ALL FOR NOTHING because I decided to leave the county for 3 years? Let the truth be told, when I left the district, I gained a wealth of knowledge of how things are done elsewhere, and that is actually what I brought to the table in DeKalb to make me such an effective administrator. And I get penalized?

    Another point I would like to bring to the public’s attention is the fact that supposedly there was an overage of Assistant Principals (oh, but only a few were given the shaft) but there are positions in the schools called Prevention/Intervention Specialists. These positions are paid almost the exact same as an administrator (at least that’s the salary of the one in my school) and these positions have been “saved” by HR and will only receive a salary decrease over a 3-year period. Technically, this person is supposed to be “student support”, Well how is this position more important than a sole Assistant Principal who handles instruction, scheduling, discipline, testing, and professional learning? Let me drive this home for all to understand…if I decide to sign the teaching contract that I was offered, this “Prevention/Intervention” person will return to my school building next year while I am placed on a displaced teacher’s list and this person’s salary will be more than mine. Oh and to add insult to injury…this position doesn’t require a degree or certification. Have I made myself a little more clear?

    Dr. Atkinson will ride off in the sunset in a year or two while the GOOD people that she leaves behind will be disrespected, disenchanted, and discouraged. How is this supposed to benefit children? How can you tell me that a person in my shoes will be a benefit in the classroom when all I can think about is how I got cheated out of my career? Has she thought about some of the central office staff that she gave teaching contracts and they haven’t been in a classroom in over 10 years? Luckily for me, I was in the local school, so I know what’s going on …but I can’t say the same for some of the directors and coordinators that were offered teaching contracts. Everybody isn’t able to resign in this economy! So in essence, we’re being forced to TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT…yes, Dr. Bouie got it right and I am a testimony to that fact.

    Stand up for what’s right. Tax payers need to see the writing on the wall…DeKalb is in trouble…and it’s not just financial trouble. Unfortunately, the children will be the ones to lose..

  25. educator90 says:

    When I moved here and began working for DeKalb, I did not get total credit for the years of service that I had in the other districts that I had worked. It’s the DeKalb way.

    As I’ve said to others whining about their pay, you have choices. If you don’t like your salary, look for work elsewhere, or take what you are offered and stop the whining. Cowboy up, as they say. Life isn’t fair and if you’ve worked in DCSS for as many years as you stated, you should know the games played here and in most jobs.

  26. educator90 says:

    All programs should be looked at. Can we really afford the magnet, theme, and any other program that costs more per pupil to have than the regular home school education most of our students are receiving? I don’t think that we can afford these disparities in learning any longer. It’s not about North vs. South DeKalb. It’s about providing every student with a quality education, not just those fortunate enough to win a lottery. These programs are not needs, but wants and must go.

    Fernbank Science, a program that I loved as a teacher, is also not viable in this financial state. It’s another program nice to have, but not a necessity. It’s also not a good value for the money allocated to the programs offered.

    Pre-K is another program that the district spends millions on that we do not need to provide. Let’s pull the program from our schools now, open up these classrooms for other uses and allow the private sector to take on pre-K. DeKalb doesn’t handle K-12 all that well and needs to focus on what it must provide for its students. Again, Pre-K is nice to have, but is not a necessity and we’re not getting a good value for the money that we spend.

    Can the central office, Bryant Center, and any other nonessential employee be cut back further? Could we cut more Assistant Principals, secretaries, administrators, administrative assistants, and assistants to the assistants? How about the graduation coaches, social workers, guidance counselors, specialists, and other areas that have not been touched? These areas need to be pared down. Let the principals decide how they want to use their funds and what positions are truly valuable to them and the students that they serve. Make the principals more accountable for the learning that takes place in their buildings. If the quality of education isn’t there, get them out of that position, and hire someone who can the job of facilitating learning.

    If teachers are asked to take pay cuts, than EVERY employee, including the superintendent and school board also need to take the same or greater percentage of pay cut. Good leaders don’t ask employees to do something that they wouldn’t do themselves.

    How much are sports costing us? Can we have intramural sports in middle school which would not require busing and transportation costs? Can the kids that participate in these sports pay for them or not play?

    Stop funding the cost of tests like the PSAT and AP tests. This is part of parenting. These tests have not proven to be a valuable use of taxpayer dollars. Most schools in other parts of the country do not pay for their students to take these tests, the parents do or the kids don’t take them. Tax payers paying for these tests are not a good use of tax payer money when we are so far in debt.

    Can elementary schools do with 1 or 1 1/2 secretaries instead of the 2 that each elementary school has? I realize that each has a different role, but are these truly full time jobs that we can afford to fund? Are there ways to stream line their work to make it so that we can have 1 person do the job or 1 1/2, where the 1/2 is split between schools? Does every person who has a secretary truly need them and do they have enough work to cover their full salary and benefits?

    I could go on with ways that board and Dr. Atkinson could and should be stream lining the system. Adding more students to already full classes should be a last resort. Asking for more tax money, when not every penny will go to the county and some will go to “rural” counties like Gwinnett does not make sense either. What happens when the millage limit is reached and housing prices have not gone back up to the record levels they were? I wouldn’t even mind having a tax increase, if the district were truly stream lined and budgets, employees, and excessive spending were cut to the max.

    Making DeKalb better is not about North vs. South. It’s about providing EVERY child who attends a DeKalb Public School with a quality education. We are not doing that right now and until we do, we cannot afford to have the extras that are nice, but don’t really provide a value to the majority of students in our county. That money would be better used back at the home schools, ensuring a quality education for all.

  27. dekalbite2 says:

    But the students are so much worse off than you are as they are losing teachers year after year. Who will teach them math, sciencE, social studies and language arts? You have an education. Students don’t. We simply cannot afford to lose more teachers and pack kids into larger class sizes even if we have to place most of our certified staff back in the classrooms as teachers.

    The Intervention/prevention personnel do not have any certification or licensing requirements yet they make substantially more than teachers. A few have current teaching degrees, a few have expired degrees (one of the Intervention/prevention specialist with an expired certification has an ethics violation on his certificate), but most have no set certification or licensing requirements.

    I’m sorry this is happening to you, but DeKalb has more Assistsnt Principals than other systems per pupil including demographically comparable systems. With 190 certified non teaching coaches and 60 coordinators who are certified to teach, it is unconscionable that students will be packed like rats into the classroom.

    Place these individuals back intot the classroom at teachers’ salaries to teach our children.

  28. dekalbite2 says:

    I see my comment is awaiting moderation? Is it because I included some FSC facts?

  29. I agree says:

    Bully pulpit
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    An older term within the U.S. Government, a bully pulpit is a public office or other position of authority of sufficiently high rank that provides the holder with an opportunity to speak out and be listened to on any matter. The bully pulpit can bring issues to the forefront that were not initially in debate, due to the office’s stature and publicity.

    This term was coined by President Theodore Roosevelt, who referred to the White House as a “bully pulpit,” by which he meant a terrific platform from which to advocate an agenda. Roosevelt famously used the word bully as an adjective meaning “superb” or “wonderful” (a more common expression in his time than it is today).

    Its meaning in this sense is only distantly related to the modern form of “bully”, which means “harasser of the weak”. The word is related to the Dutch boel, meaning lover, and is also found in the German word Nebenbuhler, meaning a rival for a lady’s affection. In English usage around 1700, “bully” came to be similar to “pimp,” which gives us the connotation of a ruffian or harasser.[1]

    Due to the archaic nature of the adjective “bully” and the religious symbolism of the word pulpit (the elevated platform used by a preacher), this phrase is now often used as a pejorative. This misinterpretation implies intimidation and, possibly, an abuse of authority. An example of this contemporary usage would be the sentence: “He uses his job as a bully pulpit, regaling his subordinates with his political opinions as part of their morning meetings.”

    Seems to fit.

  30. educator90 says:

    Extra assistant principals and Intervention/prevention personnel all need to go. We cannot afford to pay for these positions. Smaller class sizes would benefit our children more than having assistant principals and intervention/prevention personnel. The district needs to be focusing on providing a quality education for all of our children and that is what those working for the district must also be focused on. Assistant principals and intervention/prevention personnel are nice to have, but at a time with this budget deficit, they are not something that we can afford at the risk of increasing class sizes any further.

    This goes for any other extra personnel that we have as well. We need to be running at a much leaner place than we currently are. When there is a budget shortfall, then everything should be on the table and discussed. Our kids deserve better than larger class sizes and our tax payers deserve to see the cuts that have been made and how lean the district is being run, before any tax increase is put on the table. The tax payers have a right to know that the district is being run as lean as possible and that ALL fat has been cut before taxes are increased.

  31. @ dekalbite2

    No. Try being a touch less paranoid. It is because — as we have said MANY times — the people who run this blog have actual, full-time paying jobs and families and we aren’t always available. Also, as we have said MANY times, WordPress automatically puts a hold on any comment that has two or more URLs in it. Many times spam has multiple URLs. Perhaps your comment has two or more URLs in it. That requires us to manually approve your comment. In the amount of time it took me to provide this explanation — yet again — I could have found and approved your comment. I’ll get to it. Meanwhile, you are always welcome to start your own blog.

  32. Dunwoody Mom says:

    Dr. Bouie was a participant and beneficiary of the Crawford Lewis era – one that will forever be known as criminal and morally bankrupt, and as such her words carry no legitimacy. Dr. Bouie’s participation in the Crawford Lewis inner-circle demands that she remove herself entirely from any involvement in this school system and that includes offering any opinions on how the district is run now and in the future. Mr. Hewitt, you say that you have not received any letters of support for Dr. Atkinson. It is my experience that employees that are content and feel valued do not feel the need to write “letters to the editor” of a newspaper. My guess is that “friends” of Dr. Bouie are feeling threatened by the moves Dr. Atkinson is making. To that, I say, too bad. There are serious issues in this school district and the opinion of a former “insider” is neither needed nor warranted. The cleaning house of the Lewis era employees needs to proceed and at an emergency speed.

  33. dekalbite2 says:

    So sorry. I do appreciate how time consuming it must be to run this blog. What you are doing is extremely beneficial for students and parents/taxpayers.

    As Maureen Downey commented so recently in her Get Schooled column, if these cuts in the non teaching side are not done now, they may never get done in DeKalb.

  34. You are absolutely right. Children should be the beneficiaries of the district’s decisions. However, I work in a school where the Assistant Principal has been cut and I know that our students will suffer. Our AP was the epitome of what every school needs. She was smart, she had an instructional focus, she worked hard to make improvements that were needed, and she kept our school running like a well-oiled machine. So yes, “extra” staff is not needed for DeKalb, but when you have COMPETENT staff that make a difference, they are the ones that should be kept. If DeKalb is doing away with the “family and friends”, they they need to look for the best and the brightest, and that’s what we had.

    I am a teacher and I definitely don’t agree with larger class sizes, but I realize that it takes more than teachers and a principal to run a school. The AP intercepts the bulk of the work and it alleviates a lot of chaos in the school. I don’t think many people realize their roles. I guess we just have to wait to see how this plays out.

  35. Wakeup People says:

    I would like to say that I find it very interesting that Dr Atkinson is receiving so much blame. You wanted a reformer and you have one. you really thought certain board members and the current board president would just let her come in and dismantle the friends and family network without sabotaging her and making life difficult for her then you were living in a fantasy world. What happened to placing blame on the former CFO who she had the galls to replace even while being protected by the board president. He under-budgeted for years by 30 milion dollars on average causing the district to dip in its reserves for money. HE reported to the board on a cash basis year after year which misled the board and we want to jump on Dr Atkinson because she finally has the will to break it up? They want her to look bad. Dr Walker thought he had a puppet but thats not the case. We as a community need to support her this has been years and years of lies and corruption by this board. You have this Dr Bouie who doesnt even live in dekalb or paxes in dekalb attacking Dr Atkinson. Common people wake up she is protecting the family and friends network she helped to create. I really want this blog and the owners of this blog to open up their eyes and go to bat for change and reform for our current Super. Ive sat back long enough and watched them try nd set her up to fail. The former CFO killed this district financially and now we are shooting the messenger. Ms Jester always asked why we never budget for certain things and now you see why. HE purposely did it and tried to make it seem like we were staying within our budget but after listening to the board meeting he was actually cleaning out the reserves and over spending by 30 million plus each year.

  36. dekalbite2 says:

    Dr. Walker and the BOE need to say what percentage of this proposed mileage rate will go to other counties counties like Gwinnett (considered “poor” because of their low mileage rate while DeKalb is considered rich because of our “high” mileage rate) due to the Georgia Equalization laws.

    I have emailed ALL BOE members protesting a mileage rate increase that will put more dollars into the classrooms OUTSIDE of DeKalb and in the end do nothing for students since more taxpayers than ever will appeal their tax assessments.

    I asked for and received on appeal a 13% decrease on my property value assessment this year so my property taxes went down 13% – almost $700 less a year. gotta liked to many others who were appealing that day. One very expensive subdivision ($500,000+) received 30% to 40% in tax assessment reduction. These people had spent hours and hours researching and compiling their evidence. Not a single home had sold in their subdivision in over a year. Their property values are devastated and they are left with underwater mortgages. My property is actually much lower than the valuation the county settled on with me so will be asking for another decrease this year. One of the main reasons I filed an appeal in front of the Board of Equalization is that the mileage rate is so high I felt it was imperative to ensure my property is properly assessed when it comes to paying taxes. There were tens of thousands of people who appealed this year.

    If this mileage rate increase goes through, we will not see more money for the classroom. Taxpayers will be more encouraged to go through the laborious process of assessment appeals and a large percentage of any increase will go to counties with lower mileage rates.

    What is Eugene Walker and the BOE thinking? They think they can save their “friends nd family” by tying Dr. Atkinson’s hands on drastic cuts to the non teaching side. However, the end result will be the destruction of much of the county as a viable place to live and conduct business. Even retirees are getting concerned with the inability to sell their homes. People do not want to buy in a county with such high property taxes and such an ineffective school system.

    SACS needs to step in since the BOE is meddling with the superintendent’s decisions – whether in public or in private – like encouraging their “friends and family” to write negative Op Ed pieces. Maureen Downey has already been asking why SACS is not stepping in? Taxpayers need to be asking this as well. If SACS steps in, the governor can appoint a completely new BOE who can endorse the wholesale changes Atkinson needs to make.

  37. bu2 says:

    I wonder if this budget is as adequately vetted as her change in the calendar. Can we physically fit 3 more kids in many of these classrooms? I know my child’s class can barely hold the number they have now.

    As before she was hired, I think she hasn’t proven she can get the job done and I am skeptical she will get there. But she is taking some of the right steps and we need to support her on that and give her a chance. She IS an improvement on Lewis and Tyson.

  38. There are assistant principals who work hard with students and teachers and then there are assistant principals in high schools who are only responsible for attendance. A secretary could do that for half the price. There is no need for 4-5 assistant principals in a high school. Problem is – you are correct – the one with connections will stay and the good ones will get the shaft. In fact, in many areas this is why we have double staff – we need good people under the bad people to actually get the work done.

    BTW, I find it very very funny that these people are squawking so much about Atkinson. Walker, etc did back flips behind the scenes to bump out two perfectly good candidates so that she could have the job. Now that she’s doing the job, they are crying! Writing letters to the editor of the Champion paper. (Who ‘owns’ that paper anyway?) You notice the AJC never printed junk letters like these. Never would either.

    And to the person up there who bashed this blog. You may not have noticed, these letters to the editor aren’t from bloggers, they are from a local newspaper and were sent by the power structure in south DeKalb – the very people who booted out Dr. Cox and Dr. Duron so that Atkinson could be perfectly placed. Looks like that plan has backfired! Lo and behold! She is actually doing the job!

  39. Concerned Parent says:

    It pains me to listen to this over and over again. This is what you call a case of I can’t move on. Its almost a year later and we still have to hear these type of comments. They honeslty should not be allowed to comment about this anymore. We have her and place now lets help her. DeKalb has a ton of issues. What you should be worried about is the 37 million dollars that the board of education has spent on legal fees thats taking away from tool and resources your soon to be kinder will have to deal with. I ask myself do we really want this system fixed or do we want to get on here and make comments like this that don’t resolve anything. The way this districts runs it would take God himself to improve test scores here because the students will never have a chance with the current board in place, the board we voted to run our system. We need to look in the mirror at ourselves and begin to help the current leader we have in place make changes. Our school system needs stability and if you think for one minute any top superintendent wants to come here and deal with this mess you are fooling yourself. Its not like we are this beautiful porsche with a wonderful body and engine underneath that top superintendents want to come and ride in.

  40. You are absolutely right about the intervention specialist. I would think that this job would have been targeted in the audit.

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