Calling the super’s own words into question

My focus will be on our students and student success first with adults and political issues taking a distant second.

Children must come first.

Our decisions, my decisions, must first and foremost focus on what is good for all children.

My intention is to create an internal structure that will allow effective educators to focus on the core mission [of] improving academic performance.

We do not have the luxury of allowing non-academic related issues to consume the attention and focus of all our educators.

What happened Cheryl?  These were your promises to the community as published in the AJC when you were first hired 9 long months ago.  My how time changes things.

… Atkinson’s selection has met with resistance from many parents, who do not believe that she has the depth to manage the 100,000-student urban district and all its problems, including flagging student performance and a stubborn achievement gap.

But Atkinson emphasized that she has done this work for three decades and understands what’s required to boost student achievement and change cultures.

So, what exactly is required? That would be teachers, first and foremost (which you admitted to cutting 593 of them).  How about paraprofessionals – in the classroom to help and support those teachers? You cut out 200 of them.  And people to interpret for the students and parents with limited or no English skills? You cut 20 of those.

25 more media specialists will lose their jobs
29 (all remaining) media clerks will lose their jobs
Regular Ed Class sizes will increase by 2 more
Special Ed Class sizes will increase by 2 more
52 more magnet teachers will lose their magnet job
28 more Montessori teachers will lose their job

How exactly does cutting all of these schoolhouse employees and more keep the focus on students and not adults/politics?

Not seein’ it.

UPDATE: Below is Dr. Atkinson’s letter to the board highlighting her work history and why she would be a good choice for superintendent.  Hollow words in hindsight.

Click to view larger

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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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186 Responses to Calling the super’s own words into question

  1. Miss Management says:

    Somebody should’ve photoshopped a very long wooden nose on that photo!

  2. truthmissile says:

    Hook, line, and sinker.

  3. We’ll see if we can find an online interactive “Pin the Nose on the Superintendent” game to add to the post.

  4. DJ says:

    Not just the interpreters are essential for the schools with high population of non English speaker parents/students but they are required by law.
    How are they getting away with this?
    How do they figure that Special Education will fulfill the requirements of having annual IEP meetings with non English speaker parents?

  5. Fred in DeKalb says:

    Wow, Dr. Atkinson inherited a fiscal calamity that was not of her making, presents a budget through a CFO hired a few months prior to the initial presentation that makes tough decisions, and this blog criticizes her? If you look around the country, school budgets are shrinking due to the current economic climate and hundreds of thousands of teachers (among other employees) are being laid off in droves. All one has to do is type in teacher layoffs in a search engine to see this. It is one of the toughest decisions school boards around the country are making.

    Laying off all the employees in the central office is not the solution as that means laying of bus drivers also, How will students get to school if they live further than 1.5 miles away? It means laying off the finance department. Who will ensure employees and bills get paid? It means many other back office employees that help ensure teachers can teach would no longer be there and those responsibilities would fall back on the teachers.

    It would be interesting to see what recommendations the knowledgeable people here would make, without frustrating various special interests. It is not easy passing a constitutionally required balanced budget with cuts of almost 10% to the previous years budget. It should be noted that over 3,000 Central Office employees are being reassign to the schools. Following the rules set by dekalbschoolwatch, you can see this at,

  6. Whoshelpingthekids says:

    She also reduced the number of computer technology support staff from 90 to roughly 60 and moved them out of the schools. Schools with large student populations and antiquated computers keep a CTSS busy. Now they will have to wait for someone to travel to them.

  7. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    Bye Bye DOLA for starters! The state’s online program is MUCH better. We don’t need to duplicate it. Cut back the people who do not have direct instructional contact with students – Security, “Coordinators”, “Instructional Coaches”, etc. Then CONSOLIDATE SMALL SCHOOLS. Wasn’t that the ‘plan’ for redistricting? BALANCE enrollment. Why are we increasing ALL classes by 2? As Denise McGill pointed out, that could increase SOME classes to 35 or more while only increasing others (like at DSA) to 18 or 20. Scale back big time. And yes, all the special transportation can be cut. IF you elect to use a magnet school, then either carpool or pay a bus fee. Lots of places to cut – how about the abundance of secretaries? In the real world nobody has a secretary anymore except the CEO. How about streamlining the transportation dept? That dept is so wasteful with their routes – they have lot of room to improve. Tell every department to CUT their budget by 10% – this is done all the time in corp America. Cut salaries over $80,000 (top of the teacher pay scale) by 10%. How about using a Payroll service like PayChex? They are fantastic – and more economical – no healthcare to cover – no pensions to pay out. On and on. We’re talking scapels – not chainsaws as it looks like was done.

  8. School Teacher says:

    Not having our CTSS at my elementary school is going to be absolutely awful. Although he was assigned to 2 schools, he did an excellent job managing both of them. On the days he came to our school and a ticket for help was submitted, he made sure every ticket was closed before leaving for the day. When my Activboard, telephone, student workstation or my workstation has a problem this year, who knows how long it will take having to wait for someone from the Bryant Center to come out and fix the problem. This is a terrible decision removing them from the school house.

  9. Fred in DeKalb says:

    Not bad. Some tough choices you made. An early thumbs down which means someone did not like something but that comes with making the tough decisions. Everybody won’t be happy.

    Regarding eliminating DOLA, someone pointed out earlier that that would reduce the amount of money coming to the school district. it was pointed out that school districts are paid based on the number of segments student spend at school during a day. If a segment is spent on the state online program, that portion of the money follows the student and does not come to the school district. Would you be willing to forego that income? Tough decision if you are as you can eliminate the in house infrastructure.

  10. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    ??? So what? If you don’t collect the money – but you don’t have to provide the expensive service? It’s a win-win. I’d bet that we spend far more on DOLA than we collect from the state. Far more. We have plenty of alternative programs – very expensive ones. Online classes are better at the state’s virtual school. They just are. Much much better.

    Compared to Georgia Virtual School, DOLA is garbage.

    But then again, this is Ramona’s baby. And Ramona is Cheryl’s BFF. I mean, really, what superintendent across the US keeps their predecessor around at top dollar and joined at the hip? Kinda freaky.

  11. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    FWIW, we really tried to give her the benefit of the doubt for a very long time. However, now, we just can’t stand by and watch the train wreck without saying, “Hey! There’s a train wreck!”

  12. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    Let me repeat: Atkinson emphasized that she has done this work for three decades and understands what’s required to boost student achievement and change cultures.

  13. What we have said, repeatedly, Fred, is that most of the Palace employees need to go. What about that is difficult for a reasonably intelligent person to understand? Are you saying, Fred, that the HR folks at DCSS are unable to differentiate between a secretary and a bus driver? If that’s true, then we have bigger problems than just too many unnecessary employees who contribute nothing to the DCSS mission.

    In fact, one of DSW’s participants has suggested several times that the Palace start with 0 and add back only those employees who are undeniably necessary to the mission of DCSS which is to successfully educate our students. Every single employee who is not required by the state or federal government needs to go. Multiple coordinators, etc. need to go. Don’t call us; we’ll call you.

    With the possible exception of the superintendent’s secretary, all other secretaries at the palace are simply status symbols. Technology has made it possible for people to handle their own voice mails, emails, appointments, meetings, copying, faxing, etc. Not only does the board not need a full-time secretary — that secretary doesn’t need a secretary. The teachers have been asked to do more with less over the past several years. It’s time, now, for some built-tightening at the Palace.

    You say 3,000 Palace employees have been reassigned to the schools. Who are they, what was their job at the Palace and what will they do in the schools? We have asked that multiple times with no answer. If they are being reassigned to the schools, they better be going into a classroom of students to teach and not to just sit in some office somewhere.

    That brings up another question — why are more than a hundred “job openings” at the Palace suddenly being advertised? More of the old shell game played so well by Lewis, by Tyson, and by Atkinson.

    As far as Finance is concerned — well, Fred, you are pretty simple-minded, aren’t you? Finance business can be outsourced, as can payroll. Marcus Turk was pretty bad, but Michael Perrone is no whiz, something we have seen clearly at the last several board meetings. He is afraid to speak without a nod from the superintendent-on-high.

    We are no fans of Paul Womack, but what he said is undeniably true — if the cuts ordered by the board over the past two years had been made, this year’s cuts might not be necessary. Instead, cuts were ostensibly made, but people were re-hired into different job titles, perhaps. Nothing changed. Take a look at the budgets for the past several years. Those numbers don’t lie. Now, Atkinson is trying the run that same old shell game once again.

    We are not buying it.

  14. Regarding DOLA if you read the new senate bill- the school does not lose all of the money from a student who is taking a course online through the state. DeKalb would stil save money by using the provided resource. There are plenty of other counties that take advantage of this service. Furthermore, some of the courses that are offered through DOLA are really not up to par. The state online school has one mission to ensure that ALL students have a successful online experience- we can’t touch that. So many other problems…

  15. DOLA would be one of the EASIEST things to outsource of all the choices we have. Payroll is another.

  16. Fred in DeKalb says:

    I’ll bite and ask the question most wonder, what would Dr. Lillie Cox do? Surely she would make different decisions when they is a significant revenue shortfall and no reserves.

  17. Fred in DeKalb says:

    Let’s see the results of the forensic audit. Perhaps many of your questions will be answered. I believe we will find out that special interest groups throughout the county were appeased with some re-hires but I don’t have proof.

    Also are you aware of any billion dollar organization with over 12,000 employees that outsources Finance and Payroll? That sounds like a good idea but implementing something like that could be difficult to do. You expect Board members to handle their own emails, phone calls and correspondence. Many here complain when Board members don’t follow up the same day, despite email campaigns requesting 100’s of emails sent to Board members. For a part time position, citizens have a full time expectation of Board members.

    I mentioned this earlier and will mention it again, I bet Jim Cherry never had public budget battles like this with his Board members. He can be thankful he was superintendent before the internet age. Everyone is a budget specialist and knows what needs to be cut.

  18. No, actually, everyone wants them to cut everything BUT their special interest budget. And the squeaky wheels seem to get the grease, while the regular teachers and students get hosed.

  19. I don’t think ‘most’ wonder about Lillie Cox. A lot of us DO wonder about Dr. Duron. He had clarity and moxy I’m told. And I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have had to have Ramona show him the ropes.

  20. Why, Yes! Plenty of large companies outsource payroll. These people are payroll experts – and do large companies –

    You’ve heard of ADP right?

    How about First Data – WalMart uses them.

    Or Ceridian – huge company in Minnesota. They have 8,000 employees and do payroll for over 25 million employees of other companies – in fact, 80% of Fortune 500 companies are customers. They handle over $100 Billion in transactions.

  21. Bye bye says:

    Dola exists for credit recovery, the state virtual school was initially designed to fill holes in schools offerings, like AP classes. I can’t speak for the basics, but the AP classes are tough at GVS. I am not sure the classes there are compatible with DeKalb’s goals.

  22. Nikole says:

    Actually, I doubt that these teachers will lose jobs. They have all signed contracts, guaranteeing them a job SOMEWHERE in Dekalb. They may not get to teach at the magnet or Montessori schools, but they will work in some school if they choose to. They’ll replace teachers who have quit or retired. The loss of paraprofessionals and media clerks and specialists is what hurts most. Anyone that has direct contact with students should NEVER be on the chopping block.

  23. Concerned Parent says:

    No they won’t. Most of the CTSS’s did lunch duty and bus duty while the computers stayed broken and the children suffered. This is getting old we all know the truth you were useless and worthless and we didn’t need that many of you. With the way technology is progressing and the level of student competence regarding technology why would we need 90 of you guys. That was a great decision and as time goes on I would expect more of you to go.

  24. Concerned Parent says:

    Its my understanding that they won’t be coming from the bryant center. An elementary CTSS should have more than two buildings. You are proving the point of what it was done. He was never just in your school to begin with so the comment makes no sense.

  25. dj says:

    Can someone please tell me how I can review the last board meeting? I went to the website and it doesn’t seem to be posted.

  26. Papaof3 says:

    Fred in DeKalb what exactly is your stake in Dekalb? Are you a parent, a palace employee, or just a blog hopper. It’s so funny (sad, funny) to see the “thumbs down” for any post that tries to hold the Super accountable to her word and to the students and employees of DeKalb. I am the father of a special needs child. He has an IEP and I am deeply concerned and troubled about the increase in class size for him. He needs smaller classes and he needs a paraprofessional. The paraprofessional must not be part of the Super’s new plan because chopping 200 of them speaks loud and clear. But let this be known, if I see any slacking that pertains to my child’s IEP, I will be the first one contacting an attorney, because IEP’s are legal documents that have to followed to the letter. THIS is where the Super is going to get the school system in trouble. I can almost guarantee it.
    Bottom line, yes the budget cuts were hard choices but the Palace has lots of fat that needs to be trimmed before ANY para, teacher, interpreter, should have been thought about!

  27. It will be interesting to see if “Fred” is honest with you about who he really is. Don’t hold your breath.

  28. In reference to bye bye’s comments- state virtual school has credit recovery as well. OK so the AP classes might be challenging but aren’t they supposed to be? Also, how could they not be compatible with DeKalb’s goals? What exactly are DeKalb’s goals?

  29. Oh, we can answer those questions for you:
    1. Aren’t AP classes supposed to be challenging? No, because then they would reveal the billion dollar wasteland that is DCSS.

    2. How could AP classes not be compatible with DeKalb’s goals? DCSS’s single goal is to employ the greatest number of friends-and-family to do the least amount of work at the highest possible salaries.

    3. What exactly are DeKalb’s goals? See the answer to #2, above.

  30. Lane says:

    Have they said anything about how they will select the people to eliminate?

  31. Or, settle the lawsuits.

  32. Lindy Hop says:

    Has anyone out there given serious thought as to how our school libraries will operate without a media specialist or with only a part-time media specialist? Am I the only person who is wondering how we will manage without media specialists and media clerks?? Will students be told you may come to the media center on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning to do research, check out books, learn how to write citations, etc. and you are just plain out of luck on Wednesday afternoon, Thursday, and Friday? How will this be done? I suspect at least 8 or so of our smaller elementary schools are going to be faced with this problem.

  33. booksrkool says:

    @ Lindy Hop I know librarians who have populations that are close to 1000 and I am wondering the same thing. They all say services will be cut. They say that all that they can do is check out books. But when will these books be put up. They haven’t mentioned how lessons will be taught. In the coming school year, Common Core will be implemented and library books are a huge part of the Common Core instruction. It’s going to be painful.

  34. dekalbteacher says:

    I know that some schools–particularly high schools–have two media specialists. I am guessing that they would go down to one. I can’t imagine that some schools would have none.

  35. dekalbteacher says:

    Never mind previous post. So much of what has happened is unimaginable–why would this be different?.

  36. booksrkool says:

    @ dekalbteacher I guess you didn’t know that not all high school schools or middle schools (in DeKalb) had a second librarian or even third librarian. They probably had a clerk but not anymore. It’s tragic.

    My hope is that when school starts back that most of them will go home at the end of their workday. Don’t do anymore that what can be done in the works hours specified by the county. When teachers try to get everything done then the “powers that be” assume that they could have done without all along. Thus, teachers and staff will continue to be cut because the work will get done anyway. At least that’s my thinking.

  37. Lindy Hop says:

    There are 14 schools with two media specialists. Where will the remaining 11 cuts occur? Think about it…the unimaginable DOES happen.

    Just sayin’…

  38. fedupindcss says:

    I’m sorry, but are you kidding? Without an on-site computer tech things ball up in a hurry. Especially considering DCSS keeps adding crap to the computers without adding memory, resulting in crashes and slowdowns. If CTSS’s had to do lunch/bus duty, that was the decision of the prinicpal, who clearly was using all warm bodies available. Now, if DCSS hired or promoted people who weren’t qualified, that is another story entirely. But if anything we need more of these, not fewer, because of the increased technology. Do you really think they are going to let the students load software, move computer monitors, etc.? That’s crazy talk.

  39. fedupindcss says:

    Lindy–I heard one of the Board members (not sure which) was asked about this, and said that parent volunteers could help! Seriously. Having worked with parent volunteers in a school library, that is nuts. They do not replace a competent professional by a long shot.

  40. tired of them all says:

    schools just lost more teachers which will cost the children of DeKalb. class sizes will be very large and achievement will drop.

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