We Hear Ya — Loud and Clear!

There’s a chasm in DeKalb so wide that voters are unable to even get a glimpse of the end goal: educating our children. Instead, politics rule and the school system is all about money, power and jobs. Not education.

We currently have a majority board in place who value promoting (and giving raises) to people to levels called “Executive Directors” from their old titles of “Directors” – positions now left vacant, guaranteeing virtually no change in outcome, except on the newly re-named Executive Director’s pay stub. This same group approved major budget cuts to the classroom without insisting on being provided an actual budget to review first. This group put a stamp of approval on increasing class sizes while cutting parapros, media clerks, interpreters and special ed personnel yet choosing to keep bus transportation to special programs — along with keeping funding for those special programs — which disproportionately grab funding to maintain full staffs and smaller classroom environments for those special programs than for regular schools.

This attitude reminds us of a quote from the New York Times in a review of Our Kind of People by Lawrence Otis Graham, referring to the “peculiar position of middle-class blacks who dislike whites but dislike poor blacks still more.” The funny thing is that it is the poor blacks in South DeKalb who keep returning these people to office.

Fernbank voters put their stamp of approval on Marshall Orson as their rep on the school board, sending in a proven strong supporter of their community — and only their community — to the exclusion of all else.

Voters in South DeKalb have forced a costly runoff (paid for by DCSS) between Denise McGill and Melvin Johnson, powerful member of New Birth Church, former high-ranking DCSS administrator and founder of the Leadership Academy Charter School (for which DCSS pays New Birth Church big bucks in rent, even though DCSS has many empty school buildings. In fact, the lease to pay five years of rent to New Birth was signed before Leadership Academy was even approved. And the ironclad lease was not even contingent upon approval of the school.)

Pam Speaks won by a slim margin and it looks like Jim McMahan will be in a costly runoff (paid for by DCSS) with Paul Womack.

South DeKalb and Central DeKalb voters have sent a clear message: “Stay out of our business. We will elect any sorry person we want.”

Below are the FINAL returns:
Updated Aug-01-2012 07:59 AM 100% reporting (25 of 25 precincts)

DeKalb County – Board of Education – District 2
Marshall Orson 7,214 62%
Don McChesney Incumbent 4,396 38%

DeKalb County – Board of Education – District 4
Paul Womack Incumbent 6,705 47%
Jim McMahan 4,019 28%
Tom Gilbert 2,001 14%
Jim Kinney 1,617 11%

DeKalb County – Board of Education – District 6
Melvin Johnson 4,973 39%
Denise McGill 3,807 30%
Latasha Walker 2,551 20%
Terrilyn Rivers-Canon 1,262 10%

DeKalb County – Board of Education – District 8
Pam Speaks Incumbent 23,102 52%
Michelle (Mimi) Jenkins-Clark 21,618 48%

Dekalb County – City of Brookhaven Incorporation
YES 5,590 55%
NO 4,646 45%

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51 Responses to We Hear Ya — Loud and Clear!

  1. dekalbite2 says:

    “South DeKalb voters have sent a clear message: ”Stay out of our business. We will elect any sorry person we want.”

    So what about Central DeKalb? Womack still got 47% and Marshall “revenue enhancement” Orson won by a landslide. At least Womack will be in a runoff during the fall as I understand it.

  2. Logic says:

    Before victory is declared for districts 4 & 6 you may want to understand the rules for run-off elections. Both “victors” garnered less than 50%. I believe both of them have to go into a run-off.

  3. For those who subscribe to our posts: My apologies! I pushed publish before I was done – so the post went out incorrect — but it’s fixed now.

  4. We included the news that the City of Brookhaven passed. We predict this as a trend for DeKalb and other divisive counties – people need a way to have their voices heard and their communities run the way they expect and desire. The county and school system will have to pay the piper for ignoring these strong communities, as they continue to break away.

  5. Hi DeKalb School Watch- Melvin got 39% and I got 30%- So I am still here!!!!!
    Congrats on getting to the runoff, Denise E. McGill! http://stonemountain.patch.com/articles/a-runoff-for-school-board-district-6
    Team McGill is still on task- Don’t count me out yet!!! And THANK YOU AGAIN for your support!

  6. So sorry Denise!! I started that post late last night – but the results this morning were a surprise!

    YES Folks – Denise will be in a runoff against Melvin Johnson – and Jim McMahan will be in a runoff against Paul Womack. We have more work to do!

  7. The Deal says:

    Agree with all. Orson’s political games worked. Of course, he will be in the limelight more than ever now. He has always tried to hide behind the organizations he runs and not take personal credit for various actions. Now his games will be out for everyone to see. Maybe it will force a change of heart or, rather, a change of action. If Orson advocates for everyone as powerfully as he advocates for his own personal interests, good things could come out of it. We can hope.

  8. Carolyn, A Real Fernbank Mom says:

    I think you will find that Marshall Orson will be a strong advocate for all of Dekalb’s children. That is why we worked so hard to have him elected. He will demand details and accountability from the superindendant and her staff. Give him a chance to show you and if you’re not happy, we know it will show up here! Maybe you will have a change of heart once his “games” are working for all of the children. BTW, plan to spend a lot of time volunteering at your neighborhood schools this year. They will need you. You can find me at Fernbank and Druid Hills Middle, one of Dekalb’s Title I schools.

  9. Weary worker says:

    Those who are not in McGill’s district but are DSC readers should rally support any way we can. Any suggestions? Also where is a detailed map of that district? This could be a very low turnout election so every vote really counts.

  10. Yes, you are correct. So, the quote should be changed to: “South DeKalb and Central DeKalb voters have sent a clear message: ‘Stay out of our business. We will elect any sorry person we want.’”

  11. You are correct. Now DCSS will pay for costly runoffs. DeKalb School Watch continues to endorse and support Jim McMahan, District 4 and Denise McGill, District 6.

  12. fedupindcss says:

    Jim will have his work cut out for him. Last election, Paul was forced into a runoff and got the Dekalb Republicans to organize an absentee ballot application mail bomb. They sent it out to all the registered Republicans in the district, and he won by the slimmest of margins (he probably bankrolled it, too). Jim needs an equally forceful response to get voters to the polls in August.

    Denise has a chance if all the anti-Melvin voters show up; if New Birth gets behind it, then all bets are off.

  13. SRO says:

    Does anybody know when the runoff will take place? If Melvin Johnson and Paul Womack win there will be another runoff…this time it will be the teachers trying to run out of the school system…..

  14. Ned says:

    ?? “South DeKalb and Central DeKalb voters have sent a clear message: ‘Stay out of our business. We will elect any sorry person we want.’”??
    It looks to me like Central and South Dekalb haven’t elected anyone yet, sorry or not, but Fernbank has made a choice.
    So when’s the runoff?

  15. @ Ned and SRO

    As far as we can tell the DeKalb County Voter Registration and Elections website has not posted the official runoff date.

  16. dekalbite2 says:

    Does anyone have a link to a very detailed map of District 4 they can post?

  17. RUN OFF -MONDAY AUGUST 20, 2012- which gives us 19 days…..

  18. dekalbite2 says:

    @ Ned
    “It looks to me like Central and South Dekalb haven’t elected anyone yet, sorry or not, but Fernbank has made a choice.”

    So where is District 2 in your opinion – South DeKalb or Central DeKalb? It seems what you are saying is that the Fernbank community made the decision for District 2. Aren’t there other communities in District 2?

  19. dekalbite2 says:

    @ Ned
    “It looks to me like Central and South Dekalb haven’t elected anyone yet, sorry or not, but Fernbank has made a choice.”

    So in your opinion is District 2 in South Dekalb or Central DeKalb because it has to lie somewhere in the county?

    Did the Fernbank community make the choice for District 2? It would be interesting to see the precinct voting numbers.

  20. John A says:

    In light of election results, this quote seems fitting.

    “Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.”
    ― Gore Vidal

  21. Ned says:

    My opinion is that it doesn’t help us advocate for the county schools as a whole if we characterize anyplace outside north DeKalb in such a manner, particuarly when the election is at yet far from over.
    As for district lines, they seem to follow latitude and longitude as well as a one-armed drunk driving a manual shift, so–for the most part–I’d say it’s hard to characterize districts as north, south, or central.

  22. NOT a Fernbank Mom says:

    Please stop assuming that everyone who voted for Marshall Orson has something to do with Fernbank! District 2 is NOT that small. I don’t live anywhere near Fernbank and my kids attended other DCSS schools. However, I was happy to vote for an intelligent, well-educated, high-energy individual, who seems informed about education issues.
    McChesney is an ‘okay’ BOE member (definitely better than some of the others) but we desperately need to do things differently. I agree with a Patch comment I just read from Jim McMahan: “Adequate is not good enough!” – I think that’s what the voters in District 2 made clear yesterday.

  23. howdy1942 says:

    I hope that we can elect McMahan and McGill because this school board needs to be changed completely. I would plead with South Dekalb to step up at your next opportunity and vote Walker and Copellin-Wood and Cunningham out. As a long-term taxpayer, I would be willing to pay more to support schools IF we can change the current makeup of the leadership.

    We also need to emphasize the classroom and, if necessary, turn the lights off at the administration. This will be accomplished only by excellent teachers in the classroom and not by higher-paid senior staff at the administration. It just seems to me like we have had constant reorganizations of the staff with each of them getting raises. That must stop. If we can consolidate the staff to a total of one, that person should not get a raise as long as teachers are being required to take furlough days.

    Don’t forget – we need a school board!! I will be out and voting in the District 4 runoff and encourage everyone else to do so.

  24. Terry says:

    I still think we should get rid of the school board and ditch the superintendent…. But that’s just me.

  25. Dr. DeKalb says:

    No runoff needed for the cell tower vote… what’s the final tally?

  26. d says:

    I live in District 6 – Ms. McGill has the votes of everyone in my household and I pray that district 4 does the right thing and votes for Mr. McMahon. Remember you may vote in the August 21 runoff even if you did not vote yesterday!

  27. justwatch says:

    Not a Fernbank Mom

    More than anything we need consensus builders. While McChesney certainly wasn’t very strong at that, nothing about Orson indicates he can be as either. On top of that, his clear bias for Fernbank has real issues. For example, it is clear that other communities (Ashford Park, comes to mind right away) needed a new school more than Fernbank, but look who is getting a new school. I am concerned that he will not be able to set aside his clear concern about his own community to make decisions that serve the entire system well. I hope that I am wrong. Through the years, we have had board members that value their specific schools needs more than even the rest of the area they serve let alone the entire school district. The consequences have been dreadful. I hope Orson will surprise me. I fear he won’t.

  28. Ned says:

    I thought I replied earlier, but I guess it didn’t “take”: my opinion is that we do ourselves no favor in working for the entire school system when we are willing to characterize entire districts so pejoratively, particularly when the final vote is not yet taken.
    I refer to districts 4 and 6–my only point regarding district 2 is that it, and not those 2 districts–none of which a mapmaker would call exclusively north, south, or central–was the only non-super district that DID have a definitive vote yesterday.

  29. sara says:

    Someone needs to help us. If a school makes a request for a sub, that request has to be approved by the superintendent. HR has many new people that can offer very little help. But, don’t worry. We had several people promoted and a new Region Superintendent for the Lakeside/ Dunwoody Clusters. I pray that our BOE can focus on ALL of the schools and stop approving additions to administration. Teachers are leaving this district as fast as they can. There is a freeze on hiring. How will our schools be staffed?. Hopefully, Ms Jester will get her detailed HR report on Monday night. The people that were eliminated have been replaced by other people. There have been changes in the administrative assistants for the Deputy and the Superintendent. So apparently, some hiring is being done.

  30. teacher/taxpayer says:

    I wrote this once already but it did not post. The meeting Monday was very enlightening. Womack made the motion to put off deciding to pay the new Exec. Directors until Sept 30. He said otherwise he would have to vote No on the new titles due to the election coming up. The AJC made him seem like a hero with that motion, but he was just covering his own butt. By the time the discussion was over, the motion was unclear, but it was not formally read back. In fact, in the middle of the first vote, one member asked for more clarification. Later after the motion had passed, Walker announced he had not realized the motion covered all 4 positions. He and Cunningham ended up in a verbal altercation after that. I was amazed that the Board votes without a formal reading of a motion.
    On the positive side, Ms. Jester and Dr. Speaks came across as very competent.
    Atrkinson said the position titles reflected the significantly increased responsibility of the job and were part of a $5m savings resulting from job consolidations.

  31. Blindsided says:

    DeKalb County has just dissolved the Adapted Physical Education program for Special Needs students at high school and middle school level.  The classroom teachers will now be required to teach P.E., in addition to accommodating two more students per class, and fewer para professionals.  The Special Olympics program was dependent on Ad. P.E. teachers training athletes for competitions.  Parents need to be informed, as this program has been, to so many intellectually/physically disabled children, the bright spot of their school day.  In so many cases, these children’s’ very best days are worse than the worst days most of us will ever experience.

  32. @ Weary Worker.

    My area was recently changed- so I lost some areas and picked up three locations. DISTRICT 6 is listed as follows:

    348318 Fm – Freedom Middle Freedom Middle School 505 South Hairston Road Stone Mountain 30083
    348324 Ha – Hambrick Elem Hambrick Elementary School 1101 Hambrick Road Stone Mountain 30083
    348331 Ia – Idlewood Elem Idlewood Elementary School 1484 Idlewood Road Tucker 30084
    348347 Ma – Eldridge L Miller El Eldridge L Miller Elementary School 919 Martin Road Stone Mountain 30088
    348374 Nc – North Hairston Victory Church 1170 North Hairston Road Stone Mountain 30083
    810145 Pc – Princeton Elem Princeton Elementary School 1321 South Deshon Road Lithonia 30058
    348384 Pe – Pine Lake (Pin) The Club House 300 Club House Drive Pine Lake 30072
    348393 Rc – Redan Elem Redan Elementary School 1914 South Stn Mtn- Lit Road Lithonia 30058
    348395 Re – Rockbridge Elem Rockbridge Elementary School 445 Halwick Way Stone Mountain 30083
    348396 Rf – Rock Chapel Elem Rock Chapel Elementary School 1130 Rock Chapel Road Lithonia 30058
    348398 Rh – Redan-Trotti Library Redan Trotti Library 1569 Wellborn Road Lithonia 30058
    348399 Ri – Rockbridge Road New Bethel A M E Church 8350 Rockbridge Road Lithonia 30058
    348402 Rl – Rock Chapel Road Antioch Lithonia M B C 2152 Rock Chapel Road Lithonia 30058
    810150 Sd – Stn Mtn Elementary Stone Mountain Elementary School 6720 Memorial Drive Stone Mountain 30083
    810151 Si – Stn Mtn Middle Stone Mountain Middle School 4301 Sarr Parkway Stone Mountain 30083
    348412 Sj – Stone Mill Elem Stone Mill Elementary School 4900 Sheila Lane Stone Mountain 30083
    348413 Sk – Shadow Rock Elem Shadow Rock Elementary School 1040 Kingway Drive Lithonia 30058
    348417 So – South Deshon Stronghold Christian Church 724 Rock Chapel Road Lithonia 30058
    348418 Sp – Stn Mtn Champion (St) Champion Theme Middle School 5265 Mimosa Drive Stone Mountain 30083
    348419 Sq – Stone Mtn Library (S) Sue Kellogg Library 952 Leon Street Stone Mountain 30083
    348422 St – Stephenson Middle Stephenson Middle School 922 Stephenson Road Stone Mountain 30087
    348423 Su – South Hairston Antioch A M E Church 765 South Hairston Road Stone Mountain 30088
    348424 Sv – Stephenson High Stephenson High School 701 Stephenson Road Stone Mountain 30087
    348442 Wn – Wynbrooke Elem Wynbrooke Elementary School 440 Wicksbury Way Stone Mountain 30087

  33. Re: The Promotions: That’s funny math. They are using these promotions as a ‘cost-savings’ due to the fact that these Executive Directors are supposedly doing the job of the Executive Director and the Director (there is no Director). But they were just Directors before, and there was no Executive Director, so the cost was actually less – but hey, this is how government agencies calculate ‘savings’. They think it’s a saving to add something into the budget that’s not there and therefore not pay for something that we didn’t pay for anyway.

    Like me — why, I ‘save’ $500 a month because I have an older Toyota with a $250 payment rather than leasing that $750 a month Mercedes I have my eye on.

  34. Dawn says:

    Is there any point in writing to the board or Dr. Atkinson and pointing out that there are many of us who have taken on expanded roles in our companies the last few years as our coworkers have been laid off, but who did not receive pay increases despite the extra workload? This is the new reality of our current economy and it isn’t right to give these new Exec. Dir.s pay increases when teacher workloads are increasing and they’re getting pay cuts.

    At the very least, I would like to see an op-Ed in the AJC or on one of the local channels. Anyone who thinks this is an injustice needs to get vocal and talk to the media, use Twitter, and any other source available to protest.

  35. SRO says:

    DeKalb has now posted PreK positions

    Posting # 0357-2012 Status Open Until Filled
    Expected Start Date: 08/07/2012
    Posted 08/02/2012 Last Change Date 08/02/2012
    Expires Until Filled

    DRESDEN ELEMENTARY Comments Dresden Elementary Teacher, Pre-K

    Under limited supervision, provides instruction for students which will enable them to learn and demonstrate mastery of the Pre-K Content Standards.

    Duties include but not limited to: Demonstrates enthusiasm for working with Pre-K students; Provides content-related and appropriate instruction based on DeKalb County’s curriculum; Provides classroom environment which promotes active learning in subject area and exhibits knowledge of developmentally appropriate practices for four and five year olds; Communicates responsibly with students, parents, colleagues, and school leadership; Follows the Operating Guidelines required by Bright from the Start, all county, state, and federal policies and procedures,; and professional ethics in all work-related activities; Attends all required trainings for Pre-K teachers; Works with parents/guardians in all aspects of the student’s educational program; Facilitates home-school communication by such means as holding conferences, telephoning, and sending written communications; Integrates appropriate technology into classroom instruction; Performs other duties as assigned.

    Bachelor’s degree from a Professional Standards Commission approved accredited college or university required.

    CERTIFICATION/LICENSURE: Valid Professional Standards Commission approved certificate at level T-4 or above required with one of the following:
    Early Childhood Education ( P-5)
    Birth through Five
    Elementary Education (P-8)
    Birth to Five Endorsement
    Special Education General Curriculum Consultative in Early Childhood Education (P-5)
    Special Education Preschool (Ages 3-5) Endorsement

    INTERESTED APPLICANTS MUST COMPLETE THE FOLLOWING STEPS: (1) Submit an on-line application via the PATS website @ http://www.pats.dekalb.k12.g.us (2) select a posting; and (3) Provide all required documents; references, official transcripts and certificate.

    Position Title Teacher, Lottery Fund PreK/Cer Qualifying Certification Areas(s):
    Early Childhood Education (P-5) (808/)
    Location / Responsibility Centers Number DRESDEN ELEMENTARY / 176
    Salary $22904.9 to $31566.5

    Shift Time Regular
    Mo/Yr 10
    Days/Yr 183
    Hrs/Day 8
    Position Number 1763E0050

  36. sara says:

    Good New Just Keep Coming

    A friend forwarded a copy of an e-mail sent today after 6:00. ALL staff in schools will work 8.5 hours a day. It stated that employers had the right to set the hours for exempt (certified staff). Oh in addition, principals are responsible for making sure the morale in their schools is high.

  37. dcsdteacher says:

    Thanks for those postings, SRO and sara. But even the TV news is behind the misery curve that DCSD’s incompetence has caused. At Fernbank Science Center, three highly-qualified certified teachers (one with a PhD, all with many years of experience) were moved into the displaced-teacher pool and have not yet found jobs in other schools, while some noncertified teachers were retained at FSC; two other FSC teachers left the county for better-paying jobs; yet another two left K-12 teaching; and an additional noncert was simply laid off. The refrain on this blog of “just let FSC teachers go out into the schools” ignored the fact that there aren’t jobs available and that, when they are, they pay less and have worse working conditions than jobs in some nearby counties. Dr. Atkinson, it’s hard to see how developments like this will improve science education in DCSD.

  38. educator90 says:

    If teachers have to work 8.5 hours, than they need to have a half hour lunch without interruption. Teachers are lucky to get 10 minutes. That half hour should not include dropping kids off or picking kids up, but actually having 30 minutes to eat and use the bathroom. No team meetings, parent phone calls, or parent meetings, nothing but time for lunch. Teachers, know that this is not likely to happen, but need to demand that time if they are asked to work the longer day.

  39. dekalbite2 says:

    @Educator 90

    “If teachers have to work 8.5 hours, than they need to have a half hour lunch without interruption”

    The school must give teachers 30 minutes of duty free lunch. Furthermore, the law was amended so that they cannot use your plan period as your lunch period. The Georgia state law is very clear on that:
    “Every teacher who is employed in grades kindergarten through five 12 for a period of time of more than one-half of the class periods of the regular school day shall be provided a daily lunch period of not less than 30 consecutive minutes, and such employee shall not be assigned any responsibilities during this lunch period. Such lunch period shall be included in the number of hours worked, and no local board of education shall increase the number of hours to be worked by an employee as a result of such employee´s being granted a lunch period under the provisions of this Code section. This duty-free lunch period shall not be calculated under any circumstances as a part of any daily planning period or other noninstructional time.”

    This is in the 2010-11 Fulton County handbook:
    “Duty-Free Lunch
    Georgia law requires a duty-free lunch period of at least 30 consecutive minutes for K-5 teachers employed 51% or more of the school day. This duty-free lunch period is in addition to any daily planning period or other noninstructional time assigned to the teacher. No responsibilities are to be assigned to a teacher during this dutyfree time. Reference: O.C.G.A. 20-2-218”

    David Schutten and the ODE should be ensuring teachers get this duty free lunch which is just ensuring DCSS follows the law in Georgia. ODE lawyers should be asking why schools are not in compliance with the law if indeed teachers are not getting their duty free lunch. This law came out of the federal OSHA guidelines. You can’t work someone 8 hours a day and not relieve them of their duties so they can eat or go to the bathroom.

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