Candidate Announcement: Jim Kinney, District 4

As we receive these candidate announcements, we will reprint them on the blog.  This first one comes from Jim Kinney, who is running against Paul Womack in District 4.

It is with no small degree of impending community and personal responsibility that these words are written. As I have been involved with the lives of many people over the more than 2 decades living in DeKalb County, involved with the upbringing of my own children, involved with education both of myself, my wife and my children and the children of others, I know solidly that there is little else we do as adults that has more importance than to prepare the next generation for the world they will inherit from us. To this end I have worked with the graduates of DeKalb County School System at Georgia State University, Emory University and Georgia Perimeter College as an instructor of physics and astronomy. I have seen first hand many of the strengths and weaknesses of our county school system both in the students I have taught, my own children, their friends and the children of friends as well as in my interactions with school officials and teachers over the past 20 years. I have weathered the divisiveness of power during a fight for school control that resulted in forced faculty changes and parents pulling their children from the school to avoid recriminations from the teachers that won. I have been compelled to act on behalf of faculty, students and staff when central office processes had totally failed and health and safety issues were putting all school members at risk.

As I discussed my views and convictions surrounding the DeKalb County School System with my family and friends, I discovered a community of supporters encouraging my greater involvement. As my resolve steeled with the rising awareness of the work ahead, the circle of supporters widened. Speaking briefly of intentions with parents, community people and teachers within the school system has provided the final conviction that the level of effort is recognized by more than just a few and I am not alone in willingness to work towards the betterment of DeKalb County School System for the benefit of all.

To this end, I announce my candidacy for the DeKalb County Board of Education District 4 for the General Election on November 6, 2012

James P. Kinney III

As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.   – 2011 Noam Chomsky


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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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86 Responses to Candidate Announcement: Jim Kinney, District 4

  1. wiserthanmyself says:

    A candidate with experience instructing young people and working within educational environments is sorely needed. In addition, a well-written statement with proper grammar and no polemics directed against a quasi-“bad guy”, is a pleasure to read. Board members should be required to have worked in education to hold their jobs and, in some states, they are. Go for it!

  2. Thanks Jim. We know you have kept tabs on the cell tower issue for some time now. Do you have an “official” position on whether you would vote for or against placing cell towers on school grounds if elected to the school board? If you are willing to pulically make a statement against this practice, we would like to award you the Get the Cell Out – Atlanta Chapter Seal of Approval. Denise McGill in District #6 was the first recipient.

    An overview of the award is here:

    This is not quite the same as an endorsement of one canidate over another as it would be our hope that all canidates would take an anti-cell tower position as we know more now about the dangers of exposing young children to RF radiation. But, you would be the first in District #4 and we don’t expect that Mr. Womack will be in line to receive the award this year, so it would definitely be a positive for your campaign. Many, many parents and residents have united on this issue to let our leaders know this is not what we want for our county. Thanks for stepping up to run in this district and good luck to you on July 31!

  3. Ned says:

    So there are 3 candidates in District 4? Womack, Kinney, and McMahon? Hopefully this will not split the anti-incumbent vote such that the incumbent gets 50% + 1

    Honestly, I’d elect my dog before some of these long-term incumbents. And my dog’s dead.

  4. justwatch says:

    There are actually 4 candidates — Jim Gilbert is also running in District 4. A runoff seems certain.

  5. bettyandveronica1 says:

    MY thanks to you gentlemen for stepping forward to challenge the “old guard”. It is time to unseat the folks who have taken our school system to state it is in now. Hopefully, more folks have stepped forward in other districts as well. If a board member has been around for longer than 4 years…it’s time to go.

  6. jackiehar says:

    I, too, look Board Memers who have real experience in education, budget and finance. We need total transparancy before we can support classroom cuts, furlough days, shortening the school year and adding a mountain of consultants and oursiders. This is our decision in selecting Board members. Most impressed with Dr. Kinney, hope Paul doesn’t win a runoff again.

  7. howdy1942 says:

    Thank you for stepping forward. My perspective is that we need look no further than the School Board to understand the dilemma that we are facing in Dekalb County. Nancy Jester was a vast improvement and I am sure that additional changes in the Board will be good. We need to clean out the School Board and expect them to clean out the administration. If we insist on competent, honest work, then we can avoid courts in the first place. I sincerely hope that voters from throughout Dekalb County will study the candidates and elect members that are honest and competent. Face it, the incumbents have led us to where we are and our children – yours and mine – are paying a heavy price.

  8. melaniestef says:

    Nancy Jester will also become a part of the problem if she does not demand transparency in all expenditures, especaiily the excessive dollars that are being spent on consultant friend while paid cabinet level administrators do nothing. This budget should not pass with shortening the school year, furlough days and a tax increase. The Supt. and Board budgets increased without explanation. How can you increase anything when you are broke?? The truth must come out if we are to save our schools, save our children. I hope candidates are up to par on budget and finance.

  9. anon says:

    Nancy needs help… a person on the BOE in a 4-person minority doesn’t get very far.. only someone with the support of a 5 person majority can start accomplishing change.

  10. Dunwoody Mom says:

    We need BOE members who can understand budgets and budget processing – we’ve got some tough years ahead of us and decisions need to be made by people who understand “numbers”; we need BOE members who want to serve ALL children in this school district, not just their little pet schools. This is one school district, not 7 individual districts.

  11. dekalbite2 says:

    Kudos to Mr. Kinney for tossing his hat in the ring, but his ideas sound too much like the status quo to me.

    Please take a moment to read Mr. Kinney’s remarks in the Tucker Patch:

    On special programs like Fernbank Science Center:
    “For 30 years, Ferbank has been nearly the ONLY science resource in DCSS. The loss of SEMA was as heartbreaking (my son was a participant) as it was shortsighted.
    I agree that the science funding priorities are sorely lacking but I don’t see the ability to replace what Fernbank does by moving it’s science educators into the individual schools as a viable alternative.”

    Look at Mr. Kinney’s stance on raising property taxes. He is for it BTW:
    “As the home values have plummeted, the school funding has also plummeted. Raising the tax rate will put the amount paid into the process closer to where it was before the housing bubble burst. So those that pay property taxes will be asked to fund the schools closer to the same dollar amount as before. ”

    Protecting special programs and raising taxes sounds an awful lot like Paul Womack and Eugene Walker to me. With the mess that is our property taxes right now, who in this district is anxious to raise property tax rates?

  12. Dr. DeKalb says:

    Four total. My concerns as well… the norm for those who don’t know who to vote for is to vote for the incumbant. We need to find a sure fire victor before the election and convince the other two to step down at the last minute to ensure anyone but Womack will win. Not sure how exactly to accomplish that, but….

    Or, on second thought… can we still oust the incumbant by petition?

  13. Dr. DeKalb says:

    Hope someone will take the online checkbook idea and run with it. That would gain a lot of voters for sure!

  14. Dr. DeKalb says:

    Big problem is the people who do not have children typically do not pay attention to school-related politics. This was one reason we were hoping SPLOST IV would not pass and they would have to repeal the homestead exemption… that would wake a lot of “regular” folks up and make them start paying attention to exactly what is going on. The low turnout at the SPLOST IV vote was depressing.

  15. Dr. DeKalb says:

    a four person concensus helps more on a 7-member panel, which should have been the case if you listened to what Marshall Orson was telling everyone. Now, it will take 2 more years for that to happen and Marshall might be a bigger part of the problem if he defeats McChestney… looks like the North is plauged with the same issues they used to blame the South for… can’t rid the board of the incompetence no matter how hard they try.

  16. Dr. DeKalb says:

    They understand … they just don’t care. You can’t scam the system this long for this much money and get away with it if you don’t understand it.

  17. Dr. DeKalb says:

    especially when you know they will not be lowering them once property values start to come back around. There was widespread complaints last year about faulty numbers making the property values too low… perhaps they were just setting us up for the hike in tax rate without making it too far out of most people’s budgets. But, once the tax increase goes into effect, watch the values start to be shockingly high again and we’ll be back to foreclosure city, USA. They want to price the retirees out of their homes since they are the only segment that are exempted from the school portion of the property taxes. If they can’t afford the mortgage with the new tax rate added and they are on a fixed income, they will have no choice but to vacate and open up spots for new families to move in. OR should I say “friends and family.”

  18. dekalbite2 says:

    Not really sure of the difference between Jim Kinney and Paul Womack since Jim Kinney appears to be for keeping the special programs intact, even ones that are bloated with admin and support and is also for raising taxes. He likes Fernbank because his son went there. I like Kittredge because my child went there, but I have problems with its cost per student and ability to serve students who qualify for its services but must be “picked out of the hat”. Education should not be based on the “luck of the draw” IMO.

    Where does Jim Kinney plan to go after we have raised taxes one mil? Will he vote to raise taxes to the max next year? I’m very much opposed to Womack, and will not vote for him, but I just can’t see Kinney as being very a viable alternative. There are two other candidates who are running for Womack’s seat. I will be talking with both of them, and will be working hard to elect a candidate that understands that “business as usual” cannot continue.

    See Jim Kinney’s remarks on special programs like Fernbank Science Center (he wants it to stay as is) and taxes (he is for raising them) in the Tucker Patch:

  19. Dunwoody Mom says:

    I’m sorry, I just believe there are BOE members who have no clue when it comes to budgeting – heck some of them don’t even come prepared for board meetings. It’s obvious they have not even read the information in their “notebooks” prior to the emeeting.

  20. Dunwoody Mom says:

    I heard an individual make this statement recently, though I don’t know how accurate it is – that if the millarge rate is raised, then the legislators will be angry enough to go back and lower DeKalb’s millage rate back to say around 20. Again, not sure how accurate this is.

  21. justwatch says:

    I heard that as well. They can do it without the DeKalb delegation, apparently.

    I also heard that at least 4 of our esteemed DeKalb delegation has been busy lobbying for Fernbank Science Center.

  22. Dekalbite2 says:

    @ Dr. Dekalb
    Most seniors in DeKalb do not pay the school tax so their taxes are so low that this is not on the radar. Most BOE members do not pay the school tax including Womack and Copelin-Wood so increasing property taxes or the millage rate doesn’t really impact them very much. The negative impact to them comes from when they want to sell their homes. Young people moving in – that’s mainly who buys those retirees homes – do not want to pay high taxes for modest homes and then contended with a school system that is being mismanaged.

  23. wiserthanmyself says:

    Don’t forget to attend the Board work session tonight, June 4 To those of you who want to kill off Fernbank Science Center: don’t forget to present your proposals for an evidence-based, BETTER way of teaching science to students than having this group of highly experienced and talented instructors with solid content backgrounds going out into schools to teach, and providing professional development for other teachers. Be sure to explain to the Board how YOUR proposal will turn around science education in DCSD despite class sizes that vastly exceed USDOE and Georgia State safety recommendations, student preparedness that is often at least two grade levels below where it should be, and in many cases, inadequately prepared (oh yes, but certified!) science teachers. Finally, be sure to show how the vast fortune saved by firing FSC staff will be used to directly impact K-12 science education, particularly given the loss of an AP chemistry teacher, an AP physics instructor, several instructors who teach sex ed (no longer part of the GPS in either biology or health), the summer science camps, a few academically-renowned physics and biology instructors, the planetarium, the observatory…you know the drill. Just take it one step farther and actually demonstrate, using data and evidence from other educational settings, how your plan will work better for DCSD. Because otherwise, you’re confusing a political/financial agenda with an educational agenda and what we need in the county now is the latter. We need to address one question: what’s the best way to teach science to our students?

  24. justwatch says:

    Can you please answer this question for me? Why are students in Fulton, Cobb, and Gwinnett consistently outperforming DCSS students in science without a FSC? Just share with me, what you think is making the difference there (and yes those systems have the same class size issues as DeKalb.)

  25. Jim Kinny is a cell tower advocate from the early stages of our protests. We researched his comments on the Tucker Patch and found several that concern us, including:

    Jim Kinney 10:36 am on Wednesday, July 13, 2011
    “At a previous job, much research was done using radar and other types of EM radiation similar to power and wavelengths output from cell phone towers. These researchers literally sat in the same room, day in, day out with this equipment running for decades. Yet their health mirrors the statistics of the general population at large. Electrocution hazards exist within the control room building of the towers. But no one except authorized personel are allowed inside so even that is no risk to teachers or students. Trees also fall down in high winds and ice causes branches to break off.

    “I appreciate Cheryl’s (and the other mom’s, too) concern for the health and safety of the kids but the constant blathering about the “dangers” of cell towers is only evidence of the need for better schools for both the kids AND their parents.

    “The funds offered to the schools on the ground lease is about typical. While it’s not much, it does provide a bit more resources to the school system at large. Maybe an additional item, such as the cell company must also sponsor a roving science lab process for the schools as long as they have the towers would make this a better educational deal.

    Read the entire article and blog comments here:

    You will see that Kinney not the education advocate he is now claiming to be and, rather, was siding with the “trolls” of the industry who were seeking to bully or discredit a concerned parent.

    Kinny’s comment regarding “constant blathering” was uncalled for and unprovoked. Anyone who would criticize a concerned fellow citizen publically for simply trying to alert the community about an important issue that could affect them is highly suspect in terms of their compassion for the issues facing our school system and the type of abuse our parents and teachers have had to endure already.

    Please, DeKalb School Watch, do not endorse this canidate!! We still need to hear from James (Tom) Gilbert, Jr. of Tucker and his position on the cell towers. Let’s keep our fingers crossed he might be a viable alternative for District #4 instead of the lesser of two evils facing District #2.

  26. And, by the way, how does Kinney know what is “typical” for a cell tower lease??

  27. Why are you using the “Dr.” for Kinney? Have you seen or heard something that we haven’t?

    Anyway… do you really think Womack has the support that would even put him in a runoff? He has completely infuriated his immediate neighborhood at Briarlake, failed to make good on his promises to Lakeside (if you believe that they truly wanted a cell tower) and ignored every other segment of the voting population in his district from Jolly in Clarkston to Brockett and Smoke Rise in Tucker.

    So, we are looking at a battle of the territories … Lakeside vs. Tucker. We’ve seen the favoritism that Lakeside is capable of reining down upon all of us… 8 cell towers as a result of their wanting “better coverage” which really means “money for our extra construction projects.” Let’s hope everyone can think critically about what is best for the entire county and stop voting based on someone’s address. We need fair representation for this entire district, esp. since we have the lion’s share of financial contributions both from propety taxes and SPLOST (according to Nancy’s Jester’s Power Point posting on a previous DSW page and her own website).

    McMann needs to make a statement on this topic if he expects any votes outside of his own neighborhood. Meanwhile, Kinney appears to be a latecomer to the race, with a status of n/a still showing on the DeKalb’s website,

    Think he was “encouraged” by his Fernbank freinds to divide the Tucker voting block in half and force a runoff? Or … if Womack sticks to his previous statements about being ready to retire, it’s possible he could be planning a late exit from the race entirely in an attempt to throw the votes to McMahon.

    Politics as usual.

  28. as are our property values… or, at least for some of us, anyway… Marshall Orson and the Fernbank group has it pretty good from what we hear.

  29. Dr. DeKalb says:

    You are probably right, Dunwoody Mom. What an embarassment.

  30. Frustrated says:

    Why is it an either/or with Fernbank? Why does DCSS have to fund it? State BOE should fund it–get it out of our budget and allow the state to manage it. Would it lose quality? Perhaps, but it likely would if it continues being run by DCSS as well. A program like this that can benefit students across the state shouldn’t have to be in our budget just because its located here. Its the same inane logic that funds MARTA and Grady. If everyone uses this and it adds to the public good, then everyone should pay for it. Why can’t some outside the box thinkers start looking at budget reduction ideas that don’t involve raising taxes or impacting classrooms? I’m so tired of politicans saying they put kids first yet any ideas they have for reducing costs have a negative impact to the classroom (teacher salaries, increased class sizes, cutting programs, etc.) Frustrating.

  31. dekalbite2 says:

    “Why are students in Fulton, Cobb, and Gwinnett consistently outperforming DCSS students in science without a FSC? Just share with me, what you think is making the difference there ”

    Fulton, Cobb and Gwinnett’s budgets for science equipment and supplies is probably not 50 cents a student a year like DeKalb. Science is best learned in a laboratory environment so having no equipment and supplies is similar to playing baseball without a bat and ball. Fernbank Science Center makes extensive use of lab equipment and supplies in their STT program – there is a reason for that.

    Another reason is that DeKalb has a very difficult time finding and retaining qualified science teachers. Many of the middle school science teachers are not science teachers, rather they are social studies or language arts teachers who teach >50% of their day in their core content area and then teach science for <50% of the day – meeting state requirements for teaching out of field. Having a science education background is crucial and not having to "double" as a social studies/science teacher is also crucial. Many of the basic experiments and concepts that science teachers take for granted, these personnel do not know because their content area was not science.

    DCSS has not made science a priority partly because they continue to point to the science center as their success story and because science achievement is not integral to NCLB. Because science mastery does not figure into making adequate yearly progress, then it has taken a bak seat to math and reading. Gwinnett does a much better job of schools making adequate progress particularly in the Title 1 low income schools so they have the time and will to concentrate on science achievement.

    Lastly, DCSS has not had the upper management level guidance and support from the Central Office or the Board of Education with respect to science education. The buck really does stop at the top. When was the last time you heard the superintendent or the Board of Education talk about the importance of science education except to say how great Fernbank Science Center is? Leadership starts at the top. What superintendent has asked science teachers what they need in their classrooms in order for the students to be successful in science content mastery?.

    A positive that can come from this discussion about Fernbank Science Center is the recognition that there is a huge problem with science achievement (mainly in the Title 1 schools) in DeKalb Schools. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are where the jobs of the future are, but DCSS is not looking at improving the achievement in these areas for all students. Science education in DeKalb needs a major overhaul. "Business as usual" in the fast paced STEM world is disastrous for kids. We are stuck in a 1950s mind set where we were the top of the state in science achievement, and we needed enrichment in the form of a science center. We need to get into the 21st century.

  32. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Some of the increase in expense for the board, supt. is for legal fees.

  33. bettyandveronica1 says:

    take a look at gwinnetts proposed budget, professional, informative and all encompassing. This is what we should be given as well.$file/FY2013BudgetBookforweb.pdf

  34. dekalbite2 says:

    @ Frustrated
    “State BOE should fund it–get it out of our budget and allow the state to manage it. ”

    I don’t think the state would even consider funding Fernbank Science Center because of the reasons non-profits would have a problem with it.
    1. It is too top heavy with admin and support – 28 of the personnel are admin and support to 28 teachers
    2. The model it operates under currently does not improve science achievement for most students of DeKalb. Science achievement is declining at a precipitous rate for most students, particularly our low income Title 1 students.
    3. The center has no land associated with it – only a building and that building is in need of $2,000,000 worth of renovations. The planetarium and electron microscope are old and much of the equipment is very outdated.

  35. hey, wiser: don’t try to blame the taxpayers in this county for the loss of funding for anything – we are not interested in pitting neighbor against neighbor here.

    If you want to issue ultimatiums and challenges about coming up with educational plans – direct those comments to the people who have been hired to find the answers. The ones pulling in the big bucks.

    The rest of us are simply looking for some answers for where our tax dollars are going and trying to use this blog to come together as a county to vote the right people onto our board this time around.

    Comments that divide will not solve anything. We need canidates who will be able to bring a better outcome to our entire county. We have tried the bickering of neighborhood against neighborhood, school against school and that has not helped anyone.

    It’s time we look at the big picture – we all want the same thing. We all have the same concerns. We all deserve better. We all need to grow up and start behaving like adults because it is the children of this county whom are counting on us to do the right thing for them – for their future is what lies in the balance.

  36. The Deal says:

    Or they just walk out when things don’t go the way they want them.

  37. Let’s worry about saving our children before we worry about saving Fernbank. The folks who live near Fernbank have plenty of money to go around. They are well connected and will likely be able to solve their own problems. Remember – they’ve already diverted a great deal of our tax dollars to a million dollar wing on their school before declaring that they just need to ditch the whole building a get a new one… which they are. They have many great assets drawing big bucks for their homes so a little science center surely will not send them all to the poor house. They have so many advocates that they can likely take up a donation and keep it running on their own. We have an entire county of children who are looking at being crammed into classrooms like sardines next year if we don’t start insisting on the common sense cuts… duplicate jobs in the administration, office of school improvement, funding for transportation …. the ridiculous energy waste, the fraudulant free lunches handed out every day… heck, let’s cut all the field trips until we can afford them. Let’s sell the buildings that have already been given up via school closures… or rent them out. Closed schools that are empty are prime to be vandalized and can harm property values which, in turn, lowers the tax base for our general fund. What about corporate contributions? Or, close some of the speciality schools in order to keep the funds invested in the neighbhorhoods, since we are the ones footing the bills. SHouldn’t we take care of our community schoos first as they also impact our property values the most? We need to work together to come up with a countywide plan to improve… we have to start to care, really care, about what happens to each other, not just ourselves. We have to unite DeKalb… not just a slogan… we have to really do it. We saw it happen over the cell tower issue. Now, let’s put it to work in the way that we vote!

  38. Have any of the staff over there volunteered to take a pay cut in order to help out and to keep their jobs and to keep the center open?

  39. dekalbite2 says:

    “don’t forget to present your proposals for an evidence-based, BETTER way of teaching science to students than having this group of highly experienced and talented instructors with solid content backgrounds going out into schools to teach, and providing professional development for other teachers.”

    Where does student achievement in your comments? We are the only metro system with a science center and yet we have the lowest science achievement (except for Clayton) in the metro area.
    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. We have experienced a steep decline in science achievement.

    And why are you not mentioning the 28 admin and support – there are as many of them as there are teachers?

    Why don’t the speakers tonight talk about the compensation for Fernbank personnel who never teach a single child? Look at the $500,000 in compensation for five Exhibit Designers and one Cabinetmaker while the regular education science classes are being starved as they strive to share $50,000 in equipment and supply funding among 95,000 students (50 cents a year per student):
    Designer $77,381
    Designer $63,360
    Designer $84,073
    Designer $65,827
    Designer $69,178
    Total: $359,819
    With benefits – $431,782 for five Fernbank Designers.
    Cabinetmaker $56,600 salary and benefits

    I don’t hate Fernbank Science Center. I would just like to see student achievement somewhere other than the bottom of the barrel in DeKalb. Fernbank Science Center is a huge drain on science education resources in DeKalb.

    Look what Maureen Downey of the AJC says about Fernbank Science Center. Is she a Fernbank Science Center “hater” as well?
    “The bickering school board continues to blink when pressured by well-organized special interests, as evidenced by the immediate retreat last week from the proposal to close Fernbank Science Center.

    (There may be compelling reasons to maintain the center, but, after a year-long review, a community task force in 2006 concluded that it couldn’t establish “what Fernbank Science Center actually does, and who its target populations are.” There is no real student performance data substantiating that DeKalb gets improved science learning for its annual $4.7 million investment in Fernbank.)”

    It seems to me that when a program shows no evidence of improving student achievement and the budget is such that class sizes are going to be raised to historical levels, that might be some indication that the program should not be continued. That’s really true of any special program or service. One component we know impacts student achievement – reasonable class sizes, and yet that’s the one area the BOE continues to negatively impact.

  40. Dr. DeKalb says:

    This may be a stupid idea, but … why can’t we make an exception to the SPLOST IV rule that the taxes collected can only be used for captial improvements? Can’t we “vote” to use our sales tax collections and put it toward the deficient this year? We have some very solid structures that the school boad is planning to replace that could easily last another 5 years… Smoke Rise Elem, Fernbank Elem, Henderson Middle for starters. Do we really need astro-turf for our football fields or would the money be better spent in the classroom? It seems ridiculous that we just approved $475 million and yet we are crying about being broke.

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