Coldhearted cuts are the last straw

We are shocked, saddened and angry over the latest revelation of cuts to Special Olympics made by Superintendent Atkinson and the DeKalb school board.  What school board in their right mind cuts the Special Olympics? This is outrageous!

Click here to read the article about it in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and then weep.  Weep for the hardened insensitivity with which our school leaders made these cuts to the budget — while maintaining a bloated administration. Weep because our leaders continue to cut the very people who directly educate our children – all of our children – in every modality in our neighborhood schools.

This is discrimination in the worst possible way.  Can you imagine if our leaders had proposed cutting the sports program for girls – or blacks – or Hispanics? The Special Olympics is the special education student’s sports program! Not only that, these students rarely, if ever, qualify to compete in any of the other sports offered at our schools to all other students. DCSS’ spokesperson Walter Woods’ hard-hearted observation: “The Special Olympics program is a wonderful program, but it is elective.” Well, gee, so is high school football!

The Special Olympics is a life-saving positive force in the lives of students who often deal with social anxiety and challenges beyond most people’s understanding. They have no options for other outlets. How can anyone beat them down?

It’s really imponderable to imagine what lack of heart and conscience it takes for grown adults to virtually gut a program that is literally a lifeline for so many young people.  Not only that, the Special Olympics serves as a wonderful teaching tool for tolerance, love and compassion for the students who volunteer as a Special Olympics buddy.  To take that away and then make any kind of commitment to teaching character traits is of the utmost irony.

Cheryl Atkinson has made the coldest of cuts we have ever seen and a majority of our school board went along (5-4). They should hang their heads in shame. But, they won’t because they know no shame. Add this to year-after-year increases in class sizes (now even including special education!), cutting parapro support in classrooms, cutting media clerks and librarians in the schools, cutting language interpreters completely and cutting nearly all of the science teachers from Fernbank and you have a recipe for a very challenging future.

We must join together and work toward a school system that places a small, lean team of competent, caring leaders who act as good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars and who spend those dollars to best directly impact the children of DeKalb – as taxpayers intended.

DeKalb School Watch will be in high gear working to help place such leadership in the future. Our current leaders should be flogged for what they’ve done to the children of DeKalb – especially to the special education students whose lives are so positively impacted by the Special Olympics.  The shocking thing about this particular cut is the tone of discrimination it represents – discrimination imposed by people who historically should have the utmost sensitivity to the civil rights of others. This is disgraceful.

We are on a very slippery slope. We really need to find a place of peace and equity in DeKalb. That kind of peace can only come when we truly focus on the children. Each and every one of them.

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45 Responses to Coldhearted cuts are the last straw

  1. truthmissile says:

    This is only the beginning. More programs will be cut. Special ed. Sports. Soon it will be 10 teachers per school and administration only.

  2. What in the world???

    I sat through the entire BOE meeting last Monday and listened as Dr. Atkinson addressed Coralwood parents-and a concerned group of parents with special needs regarding many things including Special Olympics. I did understand that there was going to be one coach who would “teach” non specialized coaches how to interact and incorporate children with special needs into a standard gym class. I heard also her deny emphatically that there would be cuts to the Special Olympics. Was I at a different meeting???

  3. DSWparticipant says:

    How could they? Ignorance on the part of leadership is powerful. Too much of the time, knowledge about areas of school life are assumed but not based in fact.

  4. This is exactly why I am voting for Dr.Melvin Johnson who retired in 2005. He was always supportive of all students but especially Special Needs Children. WE still have a picture of he and my son at the Special Olympics in 2004. My son won’t be able to particapate this year. We need to go back to the day when Leaders really cared. This is so painful!!!

  5. Get over yourselves and do something! says:

    Good Morning Everyone,
    The budget cuts as there related to special ed. isn’t a Black, White, or Hispanic issue. It’s a Civil Rights issue. Children with disabilities have a right to equal opportunity and access to the same “electives” afforded non-disabled children. Instead of shaking your head try picking up the phone or writing to the United States Dept. of Education in Washington. There is a complaint line and everyone should be blowing it up instead of doing nothing.
    The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. So you bloggers sit back and share updates on what has been harvested from our children lately. Keep it up and your jokes will be reality 10 teachers for the entire school system.
    Really! who’s calling whom cold hearted? Those who take or those who sit back and watch? it’s called being an accessory.
    PS: I don’t follow responses.

  6. justwatch says:

    I have said to many of friend, that this year will be “Death by a thousand little cuts.” But it is important to note that DeKalb has always spent more in many areas, starting with the central office, but also on things like adaptive PE than other liked size systems. Last night, I heard that the system is no longer funding School Pop or Accelerated Reader programs. I can’t vouch for either program, but do know that many schools used them. My point is, that I believe that much will be missing this year — big things like adequate support for Special Olympics and small things like school pop. And yet, as of Friday there were at least a half dozen secretarial positions for the central office posted on PATs. Who The H#ll has secretaries any more?

  7. Truthful Transparent Blogs are the Best says:

    This Blog continues to feed rumors and lies. Im sure this will get deleted because no one likes the truth. We all sat and heard Dr Atkinson say in a meeting that was not true. This blog is losing credibility with me and as soon as we hold blogs like this accountable for lies the better off we will be. You use to find facts on here now all you find is a blog that pushes its own agenda of negativity and false rumors. Do us all a favor and do your homework before you report. Its funny you can quote everything Dr Atkinson has to say at a board meeting but you missed her say this. Go back and get the tape and study it.

  8. Will the person who wrote and said that parents should be calling the Department of Education about the Special Olympics cuts please provide the phone number to call?

    Also, your full comment suddenly disappeared and we are not sure why. Please re-post that, as well. Thank you.

  9. justwatch says:

    The original blog post is based on an AJC article that was written days after the board meeting. Certainly mistakes are made on this blog, but I am not sure about this one. I think the article indicates significant cuts to what DeKalb has done in the past are coming for this year.

    Special Olympics’ preparation is not mandated by any federal or state law, so I am not sure that phone calls to any agency is a worthwhile use of someone’s time. Better to volunteer to help in the schools.

  10. “We all sat and heard Dr Atkinson say in a meeting that [Special Olympics cuts] was not true.”

    A meeting”? Which meeting was that? When? Who is “we all”?

    Unfortunately, whether it is incompetence or dishonesty — perhaps some of both — Atkinson seems to lie when it suits her purposes.

  11. Coaltion member says:

    Don’t shoot the messenger even when it is a blog. The fact that Superintendent Atkinson said in the BOE meeting that there would be no cuts to Special Olympics is the POINT of this posting because despite what she said those cuts were already underway at the time and her staff have since verified them. She was either misinformed or being misleading. Neither is acceptable.

  12. curious says:

    Geez, “Truthful Transparent Blogs are the Best.” The blog posting is simply recapping what is printed in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. And yes, as Denise McGill points out above, the superintendent said at last Monday evening’s board meeting that the Special Olympics would not be cut. So either Dr. Atkinson or the AJC is wrong.

  13. Fred in DeKalb says:

    Though this post probably won’t appear, it should be noted that Special Olympics will be scaled back but NOT cut in its entirety. DeKalb has always provided more than what was required with respect to Special Olympics and due to the reduced income, it is begin scaled back like programs for other students. It is possible that the AJC did not include the rest of the story as a means to get parents riled up and sell more papers.

    Unless someone can show that what DeKalb will do going forward with Special Olympics is less than what is required by Federal law, this is just more proof of how special interests attempt to sway public opinion. Perhaps someone should ask Ty if he knew this. It is ironic that some parents complained that the special needs students were getting more and were not as susceptible to cuts as those in the general population. Everyone is looking to cut the budget (without increasing revenues) as long as it doesn’t affect their children.

  14. dekalbite2 says:

    @ Professor222
    “This is exactly why I am voting for Dr.Melvin Johnson who retired in 2005”
    Melvin Johnson was part of the Friends and Family that hired all these high paying non teaching employees who are now causing all of these cuts. Not one place on his website does he say where he will cut in the non teaching side in order to provide lower pupil teacher ratios or for personnel like these coaches who interact with students. Here is a link to his website. Please point to one page that describes which non teaching areas he will cut in order to come up with the money to pay for the classroom.
    http://friendsofmelvinjohnson.org/

  15. wondering says:

    Anyone who thinks that the massive cuts required in DCSS will not require cuts to services to special ed is not being realistic. While I agree that Special Olympics is worthwhile, it may be that it is something we can no longer afford. Drastic cuts are being made across the board — including packing 34 kids in regular ed classes. Special ed is going to feel it as well. The article in the paper quotes a lady as saying that the Special Olympics program taught her DCSS daughter to swim. While that is great, and I am glad that our county to afford to fund this for as long as we could, teaching kids (special ed kids or not) to swim is not core to the mission of DCSS.

  16. noduh1961 says:

    I missed that article in the AJC. I am weeping for these kids. Sorry “wondering”… “teaching kids (special ed or not) to swim is not core to the mission of DCSS.” The system should be helping kids achieve whatever they are capable of achieving! And some Special Ed kids will never achieve academically, but their time preparing for and participating in the Special Olympics makes them feel the kind of “special” that we all want to feel — SUCCESSFUL.

    Shame on DCSD and shame on the BOE member who supported this cut!!

  17. Truthful Transparent Blogs are the Best says:

    And this blog seems to lie when it seems fit. The crazy part is I would have more respect for it if you would own up when your wrong. Its very easy to hide behind a website and throw false things out. All I ask is that you state the truth and correct yourself when your wrong. That will never happen because the intent of the blog isn’t to make real change. Ive been on this blog for years and I have not seen one major change come from it. Maybe its time to re-think your approach. You don’t work as a partner you work against the district. As I parent if I’m searching for a place to go and I find this blog I would think the entire district was horrible but thank God you don’t represent the majority. All i ask is for you to report the facts and stop using this blog to push personal agendas. To me your no better than the Super your killing on here.

  18. You may find that starting your own blog is a better use of your time.

  19. dekalbite2 says:

    @Truthful Transparent
    “All i ask is for you to report the facts and stop using this blog to push personal agendas.”

    Why don’t you report some facts and provide a link to your credible sources?

  20. truthmissile says:

    1961> I’m sorry, but this isn’t about FEELINGS.
    TTBB> how much does the palace pay you to troll blogs?

  21. teacher/taxpayer says:

    Just wondering if anyone keeps track of how each Board Member votes on the various motions, particularly those involving the budget. Is that information part of a data base available to the public? It would be interesting to see who is consistently voting for cuts that directly affect the schools and the children. We need this info so we can vote out Board Members who do not have the right priorities.
    Today was the first day of school. I have 26 children in my first grade so far. The day went well, and the children were very cooperative. I am tired but thankful to be at a school with a great principal and fabulous faculty.

  22. dekalbite2 says:

    Parents of children in Special Education programs need to look at the administrative costs associated with Special Education in DeKalb. That’s where the money is flowing – into personnel who do not interact with students.

    $8,000,000 for Special Education Lead Teachers

    There are 90+ DeKalb Special Ed Lead Teachers, Coaches (not to be confused with the above named coaches) and Coordinators (not to be confused with the above named coordinators. They are termed Special Education Specialists on the Salary and Travel audit. They serve 130+ schools and cost $8,000,000+ a year in salary and benefits. They are in charge of paperwork for the special education program and never teach a single child.

    By contrast, Gwinnett Schools has 20+ Special Education Specialists serving 130+ schools costing them around $1,700,000. DeKalb has 8,000+ Special Education students while Gwinnett has 17,600+ Special Education students.

    What a disparity yet this area has not been touched even as special education teachers and paras positions are being cut.

    Look at the stellar results that Gwinnett has with their special education students:

    http://archives.gadoe.org/ReportingFW.aspx?PageReq=105&PTID=44&CTID=83&Source=APR%20Math&PID=38&CountyId=667&T=1&FY=2011
    (click on APR Math and then on APR ELAR)

  23. dekalbite2 says:

    Now look at DeKalb’s results:
    http://archives.gadoe.org/ReportingFW.aspx?PageReq=105&PTID=44&CTID=45&Source=Elementary&PID=38&CountyId=644&T=1&FY=2011
    (click on APR Math and then on APR ELAR)

    Parents of Special Education children need to be asking Dr. Atkinson and the Board of Education members why DeKalb can spend $8,000,000 for Special Education non teaching admin and support while they pack Special Education students into ever increasing class sizes.

    DeKalb spends over 4 times as much money on NON TEACHING Special Education personnel (Look at the state Salary and Travel audit for Special Education Specialists) as Gwinnett who serves twice as many Special Education students with much better results.

    Direct instruction is an absolute necessity for Special Education students. DeKalb has way too many non teaching admin and support in this area.

  24. Just a Mom says:

    Cuts have to be made! I’m sorry it affects a worthwhile program like Special Olympics but it is also affecting programs such as regular ed music, art, foreign languages. Regular ed kids have been discriminated against too – larger classrooms (34 kids), pay-to-play for sports, band, drama, fewer AP offerings, etc. Sorry but it seems like it’s time for Special Ed to share some of the cuts. Maybe they could find funding in their Special Lead teacher category as Dekalbite2 suggests. Just don’t take any more from the regular kids – they have already taken a huge hit.

  25. Dekalbite2 says:

    @ Just a mom
    “Sorry but it seems like it’s time for Special Ed to share some of the cuts. Maybe they could find funding in their Special Lead teacher category as Dekalbite2 suggests”

    The term Special Ed Lead Teacher category is a misnomer since none of them teach a child. This $8,000,000 group is strictly admin and support. Parents of Special Education students who want to retain personnel who direct instruct and interact with their children should be asking Dr. Atkinson to justify why DeKalb is so incredibly top heavy in this area.

  26. @Just a Mom. You obviously don’t have a child with special needs. Be grateful. That said, no one suggested ‘taking’ anything from ‘regular’ kids. (Perhaps you missed our posts loudly decrying yet another 2 student increase in class size.) We have always said that there is still room for cuts in central office, bloated staffing, transportation (via streamlining), SROs (why are they 12 month employees?), secretaries and ’boutique’ schools.

  27. @teacher/taxpayer: That’s just it – the board often votes on these incredibly important, game-changing issues and budgets with VERY LITTLE detailed information. In fact, the board never voted on a budget – they merely voted on a list of recommended budget cuts presented by Dr. Atkinson. Obviously, no one on the board asked questions regarding exactly how these millions would be ‘saved’.

  28. @Truthful Transparent Blogs are the Best: As others pointed out, the cuts to Special Olympics was printed in an article in the AJC. School spokesperson Walter Woods even commented. The only event left is track and field. We are simply saying that this cut is extraordinarily cruel. This is the ONLY extra-curricular positive influence available to students with these kinds of disabilities. This is one of the few places on earth that they feel truly successful. Unlike other students, they don’t have many, if any options.

  29. Well, this is certainly one action that will drive special education students out of the system. I would even go so far as to submit that that was the intent of this action. I have heard MANY administrators blame special ed students for not making AYP.

  30. @ Fred: Spoken like another parent who does not have a child with special needs. Again, be grateful. The cuts to Special Olympics were merely part of the overall millions in cuts to special education. Certainly, with all of your obvious insider knowledge, you are also keenly aware that special education students bring in 1.5-3.5 or 4 times as much funding as ‘regular’ ed students. There is no comparing apples to apples here in any way, shape or form.

  31. DS_K1975 says:

    Most SpEd Teachers will tell you that the paperwork required in Dekalb is massive as compared to that in other metro counties. It is ridiculous and so are the tons of paperpushers necessary to keep it moving (Lead Teachers, co-ordinators, etc). I have observed LTSE’s cutting and pasting large parts of IEP’s from one child to another…And sometimes neglecting to get proofing corrected. And just try to get services for your child in a reasonable amount of time.
    Why can’t we get the focus back on the classroom???

  32. GTCO-ATL says:

    Just like they have been driving the neighborhood families away from the Title I schools – they know we would recognize that the funding wasn’t making it to the school and get them in trouble.

  33. what a sham says:

    I have a “special” kid so I can say special olympics is great and we love it but you know what we are really missing this year. Our Adapted PE teacher. Federally mandated by IDEA but some how Dekalb managed to rif them all this summer. Can’t put these kids in a regular PE class – I know my kid operates at the level of a 3 year old. He won’t cut it with a bunch of average middle schoolers learning the fundamentals of basketball. So now he just gets his special ed teacher doing everything. Least restrictive environment my patootie. If no PE teacher is good enough for special ed then no PE teacher should be fine for all the kids. Can’t the home room teachers add PE to their day? Heck we kept football for middle schools but fired the specially trained special ed PE teachers. Glad those sports are open to everyone.

    For the person who suggested we do more, speak out more, complain less. I have written multiple times to the State Board of Ed. The person who oversees policy for special ed is Allan Meyer
    Assistant Director, Policy
    2053 Twin Towers East
    205 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive SE
    Atlanta, GA 30334
    (404) 657-2965
    policy@doe.k12.ga.us

    From a website that certifies teachers in Adapted PE
    “Federal law mandates that physical education be provided to students with disabilities and defines Physical Education as the development of:

    physical and motor skills
    fundamental motor skills and patterns (throwing, catching, walking, running, etc)
    skills in aquatics, dance, and individual and group games and sports (including intramural and lifetime sports)”

  34. dekalbite2 says:

    @DS_K1975
    “Most SpEd Teachers will tell you that the paperwork required in Dekalb is massive as compared to that in other metro counties. It is ridiculous and so are the tons of paperpushers necessary to keep it moving (Lead Teachers, co-ordinators, etc).”

    And that is exactly why DeKalb pays FOUR times the amount for Special Education non teaching admin and support personnel for half the number of students as Gwinnett does with much poorer student achievement.

    The money for personnel who work directly with Special Education students will continue to be siphoned off for the non teaching admin and support side until parents of Special Education students step up and demand an accounting of Special Education expenditures and outcomes for their children as contrasted to other school systems.

  35. Blindsided says:

    Why has Dr. A, just this week, mandated Band/Orchestra for every elementary school student, while virtually eliminating Special Olympics……the ONLY program designed for showcasing the success of special needs kids??? If you are fortunate enough to raise a special needs child, you KNOW the impact Special Olympics and Adapted P.E. have on that child. PLEASE be a mouthpiece for these children, who cannot do it for themselves!

  36. dekalbite2 says:

    @Blindsided
    Way too many Special Ed dollars are being spent on admin and support. You need to advocate for those dollars to go to personnel who work directly with the students. And I agree. Special Olympics is a terrific program. My child volunteered as a Special Olympics coach for 4 years in high school. That was the high point of my child’s week. He gained more from the Special Olympics kids he worked with than they ever gained from him.

  37. dekalbite2 says:

    Nice to know there is still plenty of money for travel for DeKalb County School District personnel. Note that this conference is in Palm Springs, California this November at the Hyatt:
    http://www.k12techsummit.com/speakers/

  38. dekalbite2 says:

    http://www.k12techsummit.com/
    “With its incredible setting, impeccable amenities and award-winning style and service, Hyatt Grand Champions Resort, a 2009 Elite Meeting certified resort, is the setting for a business event second to none. Featuring state-of-the-art venues, spacious ballrooms, outdoor gardens and stunning vistas, attendees will find themselves energized and ready for any challenge. All aspects of this Palm Springs meeting facility have been designed for successful events.”

  39. wondering says:

    @blindsided: Where/when did Dr. A mandate band/orchestra for elementary students? My child’s elementary school does not have anything like that.

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