Is it insubordinate when the administration ignores the board?

According to the AJC:

School system spends $34 million more than budgeted

The DeKalb County School District finished the fiscal year that ended in June by spending $34 million over what had been budgeted a year earlier, according to new financial figures.

DeKalb spent $808.6 million in fiscal year 2012, according to the June financial report released by the school system this week. That compares with the $774.6 million budget set by the school board last year.

Over the summer, officials predicted that an overage of tens of millions of dollars would occur for fiscal 2012. However, they didn’t have an actual figure until they closed the books on June.

Well, let’s see. Yep, that’s probably about right.  It seems about par for a government entity to tell the taxpayers they are going to make cuts and then just overspend anyway. We taxpayers get hit by this from all areas of government – thus the federal $16 TRILLION deficit.

However, are we so complacent that we allow this to continue without repercussions for employees? As far as we can tell, the superintendent is bound by the edicts put forth by the board – especially the budget. Ramona Tyson certainly obviously didn’t care. She spent willy-nilly anyway to the tune of $34 MILLION over what the board approved. Yet, Ramona is glorified, upheld and in fact, was given some kind of new cushy title with an accompanying big paycheck to boot!  CFO Marcus Turk was let go, but he just kept the books, he wasn’t a decision-maker in budget spending. The superintendent is responsible for the budget.  The superintendent is the board’s only employee. The superintendent should have been called on the carpet.

So where exactly is the incentive to do as the board rules? There is none. The leaders of this system do as they please and pays no attention to the nine wizards behind the curtain.

Carry on Dr. A. Let’s see if you stick to the budget while it’s completely under your watch. No worries, because if you don’t, you won’t even get a slap on the hand.

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42 Responses to Is it insubordinate when the administration ignores the board?

  1. Curious says:

    This is outrageous. I don’t understand how it happened. A dire, painful budget is enacted, and then it’s not followed? Which areas exceeded their budgeted amounts? Who authorized the excess spending? Where will the missing millions come from? Am I missing something here?

  2. Tucker Guy says:

    Marcus Turk probably did a really bad job. There are also areas that are out of the control of the system such as fuel expenses. Buses gotta run.
    In every other organization I have been in there were monthly budget reports. If I was over budget I had to justify it every month. That is one of the reasons I went into education. I was tired of having to justify normal operations because somebody else set my budget.
    Why isn’t this level of information available to the citizens of Dekalb County at least quarterly?

  3. Tucker Guy says:

    Curious at 9:27
    It seems to me the missing money is coming from this school year’s operations.

  4. dekalbite2 says:

    An online check register would go a long way towards transparency and provide a check on expenditures.

  5. justwatch says:

    So, one of the interesting things that has been “discovered” in the last few weeks, is that the board twice approved specific reductions in school choice transportation. Plans were published and the board approved them.
    Because of parent advocacy, extra shuttle stops were added, in some cases necessitating an additional bus and driver. So the cost of transportation went up. (So, Tucker Guy, it wasn’t just fuel expenses that drove the overage.) Either last year or the year before, a group of parents were told that the shuttle stop they wanted would be added, but to keep it hush-hush.
    At every budget meeting, practically since she was elected, Nancy Jester has asked about several specific areas, including electricity and transportation, because they were over budget almost immediately from the beginning of the year. She was never answered, or given some lame one. She is often told we will look into it, but they never seem to tell her anything, because she asks each month. Less consistently, other board members have asked as well and were not given answers.
    School system governance is a strange beast, because the Board’s only employee is the superintendent and there are contracts with him/her as well as consequences for early dismissal. (If you churn through supers it is hard to get a decent one. Heck, it is hard to get a decent one, even if you keep one for decades before replacing them..)

  6. Terry says:

    IS THIS WHY…. all of the Pre-K teachers have been ordered to a meeting at the “palace” this afternoon?? (Thursday at 4)…. can’t be good!

  7. If one of the Pre-K teachers at this afternoon’s meeting will take detailed notes and send them to DeKalb School Watch, we will write up and publish the content of the meeting. We can assure you complete confidentiality and we will never reveal our source.

  8. Dad of Two says:

    Tucker Guy: Yes, and the Crawford Lewis hearing was this week.

  9. Wouldn’t this constitute an investigation by a Grand Jury….. Who profited from these expenditures….Tyson should resign immediately. Her lack of leadership skills and her CFO drove our schools into the ground. What else needs to be said…….

  10. Terry says:

    @Atlanta Media Guy….. GOSH I’m glad someone else thinks like I do. I have had PLENTY of (close enough) contact with that parasite over the last 10+ years and I wish I knew what I could do to get the ball rolling down on her empire.

  11. Dear “Just” and friends,

    We found your comment about our blog in the spam filter, but did not approve it for publication. (Comments go to the filter when you use more than one ID or if you include two or more links among other reasons.) If you have questions for us, please feel free to ask via email, however, we choose not to engage in a conversation that is only about “us” on our blog. If you don’t approve of our blog or you feel we are irrelevant, please don’t waste your time reading it. But we will assure you that our readership continues to climb, after doubling already this year to nearly 10,000 unique visitors a day.

    We are a small group of formerly heavily involved parents who, collectively, have a vast historical knowledge of the school system, its corruption and its practices. None of us work for DCSS. No one from the Central Office helps out with our blog. As far as our mission goes, we simply aim to keep the leadership’s feet to the fire so as to try and prevent further descent into insolvency and ineffective education for nearly 100,000 children (of whom only 59% manage to graduate this system). We feel that we “served” plenty of years directly volunteering in schools, on committees and such. Now, we seek to simply keep others as informed as possible.

    Thank you for your participation. We really do keep confidential the identity of anyone who sends us information. DCSS will not heal and will not successfully perform its mission of educating DeKalb students until some insiders choose to come forward into the light with information. We can only do our small part to reassure them that many residents of DeKalb would stand behind them. We want these “insiders with information” to feel safe about DSW being the right outlet to confide in. It is amusing to us though, to learn that people think we have some kind of “agenda.” We just want things fixed. And we got tired of being nice about it.

    DeKalb School Watch Editors

  12. Hmmmm says:

    Any news on the Pre-k teacher meeting? My son has an excellent teacher so I’m curious to find out what the meeting was about.

  13. Oh my! We spent more money that we planned? Ha! We want fiscal responsibility until it comes to our kid’s school. Let’s be real – we have met the enemy.

  14. Truthful Transparent Blogs are the Best says:

    If you want things fixed using a blog won’t fix it. It hasn’t fixed anything yet. If you want to fix it then go become a teacher and put yourself in the trenches like we are.I commend you for your effort but what are you really changing? The school district continues to have issues and has had them for a long time. You had a blog but had no idea the district was in this mess until the new superintendent came along. You had no idea we spent over 34 million over the original budget until the she brought it to light. All you do is report on whats already been reported nothing new is on this site. Im a supporter of what your intent is but we don’t really need you to not be nice you we need you to make real lasting change and so far I have not seen it. The superintendent you consistently kill on here has brought about more change in this short time then this blog has. She is breaking up a network that has been taking this district down for years and instead of you helping her your turning people against her. This is becoming a waste of time and if it was that easy to fix the school district your successful blog would of fixed it by now. So please do us and the kids a favor and work for the parents in a real meaningful way. We don’t need another AJC we need action.

  15. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Truth-While I agree with your pleas to have more involvement in the trenches and less complaining, I believe this blog and others offers a place of communication. We are using this blog to educate, inform, argue and give voice to the countless folks who feel frustrated with no where to turn. No one at DCSS is listening. It is frustrating to want change but have no clear vision of how that change should come about. It is a truth that the changes we need are far more substantial than any blog can make. But, we need places like this to come together and voice our opinion or seek like minded folks to confirm our outrage is not just crazy talk.

    Yes, there is gossip, but to be honest, I have found out some real juicy news reading this blog and I wouldn’t have heard it other wise, I am not really “in the loop” or “in the know”. Sometimes blogs are just candy…candy is good in moderation, it sweetens the soul.

    I would like to know truth, as a parent myself who often calls for other to get involved in their local school, your suggestions for change. What is “real lasting change” to you? Should we just sit back and let the good times roll at DSCC CO or should we educate each other on the goings on?

  16. Truthful Transparent Blogs are the Best says:

    Your proving my point@betty. If you want juicy news go to the tabloids. If that is what this blog is about then we are missing the point. I don’t want real juicy news or should I say gossip. I want facts and this blog feeds to many rumors without doing much fact finding. We don’t need a repeat of what the abc has written on the blogs own words. The approach the blog has taken has not been effective and the approach needs to change. Its one sided on here and does more harm then good. I had a parent ask me if this blog every publishes the good things we as teachers are doing. How about you start there and promote the good work we do instead of talking about the negatives of the district. To be honest this is a slap in the face to us hard working teachers we are the district not Dr Atkinson. Its to much talk about her and not enough about the great things are students do and the great things out teachers do. We are having a teacher of the year banquet saturday I don’t see anything about that on here. It was in the AJC I guess you missed that. (Not Juicy Enough huh lol)

  17. Truthful Transparent Blogs are the Best says:

    Excuse my typos for some reason the editor is acting up and changing my words.

  18. IF it were easy to fix this district, and easy to get good test scores and easy to graduate more than 59% of students, then the hard working teachers would have fixed it by now. We sincerely believe that the road to good schools is the road of good stewardship. Unless and until the administration is forced to spend a vast majority of funds on balanced classrooms, then nothing will change. Teachers cannot make this happen. Bloggers becoming teachers will not make this happen. And trust me, plenty of blog participants are heavy duty parent volunteers so we are working from as many angles as possible.

  19. Dekalbite2 says:

    Do you really think a compensation audit would have been performed if it had not been revealed on this blog how Lewis and the BOE did not follow the last one and then hid the results from taxpayers? This is but one example of how information can be a powerful ally in the search for transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in our school system.

  20. As always, you are free to write a post and send it to us for publication about the good things going on in the schools (we recently reported on the national award the Cross Keys robotics team won for their solar car because someone sent it to us). We can’t make it up – and we certainly aren’t invited to attend a teacher of the year banquet — please write it and send it. We will post it. (BTW, if you are really a teacher, how come you’re blogging at 10AM?) No more trolling, please.

  21. Back to the issue at hand: Ramona Tyson was the superintendent when the budget cuts were made by the board — and then not fully implemented, leaving taxpayers with an unexpected $34 million burden. We maintain that there should be repercussions for such insubordination — otherwise, where is the incentive for future superintendents to follow the budget set down by the board? If they are allowed to spend willy nilly and then not only not get fired, but get a cushy job with a big paycheck – it sends a message that the board can be ignored and that they have no power.

  22. Truthful Transparent Blogs are the Best says:

    The issue at hand is a blog thats useless. You don’t like when people challenge you I know you don’t secondly I never Identified to you what type of teacher I am. Also I would be interested in your stats of 10,000 unique visitors. I doubt that many people are on here. The one reader got it right in saying that this blog is nothing more than a place for juicy news not a place of change.

  23. Dekalbite2 says:

    “I want facts and this blog feeds to many rumors without doing much fact finding”

    Facts are only as good as the sources. Many facts have been presented on this blog with links to credible sources. Look at the Menu bar at the top of this webpage. Look at the facts regarding expenditures and then go to the links provided. That’s why there are links to credible sources. So taxpayers can see the data for themselves.

    Do you realize that many DSW bloggers are teachers, teachers who have left the system or teachers who are retired? Retired teachers taught for 30 years in DeKalb in the classrooms so when they have a unique perspective and certainly understand that learning occurs in the classrooms, not in the Central Office.

    Dr. Atkinson has made an effort to end the family and friends connections and has brought our budget woes into the light, but there is so much more that needs to be addressed. Having new BOE members who care about the classroom is critical of course. You don’t see the DSW bloggers who are canvassing the neighborhoods and calling their neighbors and contributing to the BOE canodidates, but many of them were galvanized into getting involved because of the facts presented on this blog. Other bloggers are volunteering at the schools to help teachers and students.

    The circumstances for many teachers are so difficult that no one could overcome them. Truthfully, my primary concern is the students. When teachers are negatively impacted in the learning environment, students suffer.

    If you or the mom who asked about the “good news” want to write up a post about the positive side of any DeKalb classroom, then I would suggest you do so and email it to They are always looking for positive posts.

    BTW – a blog does not make lasting change. A blog is not a human being. It is only an idea existing in cyberspace. Real live people make lasting change. If the real live people reading this blog want change, they must physically get out of their chairs to attend BOE meetings, email and call BOE members, vist their child’s school and set up meetings with the administrators of DCSS pressing them to pour resources into the classrooms, get out the vote for new and concerned BOE reps, etc.

  24. Tucker Guy says:

    Truthful Transparent

    Please do not waste any more of your time or my time if you feel this blog is useless.
    No. It will not change the school district.
    Yes. It is one sided.
    I read it because it frequently has more comprehensive and accurate information than is available from the DCSS web site. For example; I would not have known about the un-announced and un-voted upon change in this year’s school calendar if I had not read it here.
    If you want to see news or blog posts about the good things that happen in DCSS please send them in. I have found the DCSS web site doesn’t promote those either.
    When I worked for DCSS I would get “First Class” (there is a misnamed software package) emails about concerts, and events the Friday morning of the weekend they were happening. If the central office and the 8 or 9 people responsible for “crafting the image” of the system can’t even send out emails in a timely fashion I have serious doubts as to their effectiveness.
    It is up to the parents to do the work we are paying someone in The Palace to do.

  25. There are people on staff at DCSS who are paid well to communicate the good news to the community. If they are not doing their jobs effectively, you should let them know.


    The communications team is responsible for maintaining effective communication for the School District and fostering community engagement among internal and external stakeholders. This involves coordinating news coverage with local and national media, arranging staff interviews and providing responses to requests for information to promote the School District’s issues, policies, and accomplishments.


    — Support individual schools, the Board of Education, Superintendent and other executive staff in actively communicating Board of Education actions and new education policies and procedures
    — Provide timely and accurate responses to requests for information pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Georgia Open Records Act
    — Build and foster support for DeKalb County Schools among teachers, employees, students, parents, business and faith leaders, community groups and citizens

  26. Terry says:

    @ Tucker guy….. YES, YES, YES. And as far as “firstclass” is concerned, often the communications for weekend events from “the big house” were AFTER 3PM Fridays when a lot of staff members were simply ready to go home and get ready for the next week!
    @Truthful Transparent….. I have to agree with Tucker…. get off this blog and create your own. Ramona has been nothing but terror since the day she signed on. How do I know? HUH!! When she became head of MIS she learned a lot about how to cover her tracks and don’t think she didn’t! SHE was HANDPICKED by Clewless to become the interim Super. SHE IS STILL THERE, in HER palace. Where did the money come from to purchase that building? Where did the money come from to refurbish that whole building including, but not limited to, marble flooring, teak paneling, $2,000 chairs, showers in the Admin offices, chandeliers, sound systems, theater seating? And now they have refurbished their technology building off Lawrenceville Hwy in Tucker??? Have any of you ever requested a look around at either of these buildings? It’s OUR TAX money!!! Parents need to get into the buildings and see what technology is being used and what is just sitting around. A lot of this equipment is crammed down the throats of the schools with not enough training and a scare package “If you don’t use it we will take it away from you”.
    There are rarely any field trips scheduled. Teachers are snowed under with busy-work… paper-work. Principals don’t know what staff members they will be left with because HR notifies the staff directly without EVER letting the principal know what is going on. PAYCHECKS still being cut. You name it, that board is finding ways to ruin this county.
    I sure feel sorry for the kids.
    @DSW…. STAND your ground …. defend this site. I personally KNOW of teachers that use this site to garner what information they can because IT DOES NOT COME FROM THE SCHOOL SYSTEM!!!

  27. Regarding the millions we’ve spent on technology: At the board meeting last week, Ms Ward-Smith could not produce a current HR report due to the fact that the ‘software’ was not kicking out the reports. They could only offer the HR report through June 21, because they had to double-check the whole thing by hand according to Dr. Atkinson – who pulled the report last month when she found out it was unreliable. Add to this, the obvious mistakes in the Excel documents we have analyzed from HR and Finance and we seem to have a group of people who either do not have the right software, or do not know how to use the software they are provided. As Sarah Copelin-Wood said, we should be able to get these reports with the click of a button! She’s right!

  28. Ned says:

    “You had a blog but had no idea the district was in this mess until the new superintendent came along.”

    You can’t be serious.
    To cite just one example, it was YEARS ago that Cere and the original DSW blog were pointing out how DCSS has more non-academic than academic employees. This blog and the original have energized parents and teachers to know they are not alone, that the need for TRUTH and TRANSPARENCY (online checkbook anyone?–BTW, that idea also predates Dr. A’s tenure) is recognized by others and that maybe some day sunlight–aka “transparency” will prevail and the “truth” will set us free from alleged teachers who blog their defense of the status quo during the school day.

  29. Terry says:

    I have to make this clear to those of you that have never used a computer set in the “domain” of DCSS. YOU CAN NOT post to blogs like this. It is a blocked feature. You can read them, but you cannot respond…… well, unless you are using an illegal work-around???

  30. DeKalb Observer says:

    There is NO WAY Truthful Transparent is a teacher. Bad grammar, bad punctuation and poor syntax, Or worse, is this what we are left with now that the quality teachers have been RIF’d? As to the contention that this blog is simply a gripe and gossip fest, I submit that DSW began when a certain alleged felon named Crawford Lewis was superintendent.BEFORE he was charged, we knew there was something rotten in Denmark (a Shakespeare reference, Truthful). This blog began as a result of inexplicable experiences parents were having all over the district. We compared notes. We requested data to attempt to understand why this district spends far more on Central Office personnel than any other metro county. We have known something was deeply, deeply wrong since at least 2006. Since the buried compensation audit. Since we noticed an odd pattern of promotions in the Central Office that were not dependent on education and credentials, but on connections. The very idea that we didn’t know there was a problem until recently is evidence to me that you, Truthful, are anything but.

  31. Kim says:

    ‎Saying something doesn’t make it true. Doing something is what we must do.

    I came to DSW blog three years ago when I couldn’t understand why Cross Keys High School and Woodward Elementary School were sites of vagrancy and general neglect by the system. What I learned here at DSW and by engaging in our DeKalb community is that our leadership was corrupt and that this corruption was driven by money and politics. I learned what should be our common interest in public education for all children had become a bloodsport where the swift and mighty gorged on the fat of our once bloated tax base and the devil took the hindmost. I was outraged. I was ashamed.

    This blog became an outlet for that outrage and shame. These CK students who were, along with Cedar Grove area students, considered the lowest priority in DeKalb got at least a tiny slice of the fat from the hog slaughter that is our budget management process. Yes, I learned at DSW that for kids in our community to have a safe and clean school I had to become a student of Prince Machiavelli to influence the priorities of DeKalb Schools and their capital spend.

    What were my lofty demands? Clear out the vagrants so that our Woodward kids could walk to school without stepping over drunks, broken glass, and human waste. Cut down the underbrush so gangs had no place to lay in wait for beat-ins of younger children. Execute the renovation that was 10-15 years overdue at Cross Keys so the kids could breath clean air and have lighted classrooms, functioning bathrooms, and a school atmosphere conducive to learning and hope.

    Nearly four years later, it still enrages me that those conditions EVER existed in a public school in DeKalb. It still enrages me that the same political dynamics that allowed those conditions dominate our system. It makes me want to give up and walk away when I see that tens of millions of dollars are lavished on community schools patronized by the influential and triumphant in the political wargame we call DeKalb County School District.

    It makes me want to stand in the middle of the streets of DeKalb and yell at all passers-by when I see our CK grounds folks and coaches trying to mow back the grass on the crumbling track to minimize the risk to the state-ranked athletes training there while sparkling new facilities are popping up all around them at Tucker, Lakeside, Chamblee and elsewhere. But I don’t …

    Instead, I keep a lid on this seething anger. I try to calm it with a faith in God and the knowledge that our kids are, in fact, doing fantastic in most areas that matter in spite of the neglect. I channel that anger and faith into what has become something like an addiction. I guess I have become addicted to the truth. And the truth is that no matter what we say, politics will govern our system because it is inexorably tied to the love of parents for their children above all else.

    We parents have a very selfish kind of love for our children and we can justify almost any compromise to feed that greedy love. As long as fathers and mothers believe their child deserves to be the best, have the best, and to get it before anyone else’s, the beat will go on.

    The best we can hope to do is to demand ethical and transparent governance in DCSD. I think that is what this blog should focus on and and it seems to do just that.

    There are a million ways parents and teachers are working to make the best experience available to the children in their care. There are thousands of volunteers out here in our schools every day doing those millions of things. I do not engage often in DSW banter these days but I am glad to see an energetic and critical debate about our system governance. The leadership has earned this vigilant posture and DSW should not be chided for offering it.

    Sorry for the rant but I believe that discouraging discourse, even if rumor-laced discourse, is un-American and unfair. The leaders of our system are big boys and girls and they can take it.

  32. Kim says:

    To exit on positive note, here’s a tip for teachers and parents in other isolated or gerrymandered and intensely low income public school districts of Atlanta:

    Teachers at schools that are eligible (> 70% FRF, I believe) can schedule a “Shopping” appointment to pick up student classroom supplies

    All seven of our CK schools are now uniform schools and are off to great starts! Good luck with back to school at your cool school!

  33. dekalbite2 says:


    What a terrific organization! Thanks for publishing the link.

  34. bettyandveronica1 says:

    @Truth, “I had a parent ask me if this blog every publishes the good things we as teachers are doing. How about you start there and promote the good work we do instead of talking about the negatives of the district.”.
    THIS blog does promote the good work teachers and students are doing. That does happen if it is written by someone who takes the time to do it, if they feel the story needs to get out. Have you published a positive story? Do you have something to tell all of us? This blog even gives voice to students who have concerns about the direction of their school or this system, some have written articles themselves.

    The real problem is that DCSS won’t even spread the good and positive stories about the students accomplishments without being prodded. Remember the k12 alerts, they could utilize this system but choose not to. In this day and age, there is absolutely NO excuse for this system’s lack of communication.

    Other than just being positive and ignoring the big, fat, pink, smelly elephant in the room, what are your suggestions and solutions for real lasting change? . You never did answer the question.

    Bottom line, if you don’t like it…delete it off your bookmark list. Positive is great, we all love it, we are all waiting for the day that the board and most likely a different supt. says all is well. That day is far, far away but not in never never land. I am glad there is a place for us to go to find out what is happening. DCSS sure isn’t gonna tell us. We’re just parents and taxpayers, why would we need to know how they spend the money or which policies or laws they will choose to follow?

  35. no name says:

    Kim @ August 18, 2012 at 9:49 AM: Have you considered regularly posting photos that document the shameful conditions at Cross Keys High School and Woodward Elementary School, as they happen?

    A flickr galley of pictures showing the crappy conditions (the crumbling track, etc) might be enough to get the attention of local media outlets. They say a picture is worth a 1000 words…

  36. Kim says:

    @Truthful: for a positive and refreshing set of stories about our public schools go to or youtube chanel at:

    @No Name: when the administration and the Board of Education went through with the $ 11m dollar renovation at CKHS they told us they would be back to finish the job (track, auditorium, etc). Not in SPLOST IV as it turns out – zippo, nada. Not only at the high school but pretty much all seven of our schools all five years.

    While a picture is worth a thousand words, pictures of CK’s track have been posted posted by me and others on this blog to no avail. Direct appeals to leadership have produced no action. I now tend to believe nothing short of a class action suit against dcsd will get it done.

  37. @no name – we posted a photo essay on the old blog about Cross Keys a couple of years ago and it was even picked up by the local news. They did get some SPLOST attention, but the track photos and much of the exterior are the same. Also, a lot of the budget was spent on the High School of Technology North, which was moved from its home near GPC and merged into Cross Keys. So not all of the SPLOST improvements were made for the Cross Keys students who had been in that wrecked building for years.

    View our slideshow here:
    Watch the news report here:

    In fact, there are about 1,000 posts at the old DSW blog full of still relevant information as well as history on current issues. If you really want to get into the nitty gritty of the details, go to the old blog and plug in any topic in the search bar. The search tool will churn up a plethora of posts for your reading pleasure!

  38. Teacher K says:

    Kim and dekalbite2 — Kids in Need appointments can only be scheduled after the principal of the school submits a roster of the classroom teachers for the school. The teachers at my school have been using this resource for years, but are unable to do so this year due to the roster not being submitted.

  39. Kim says:

    @Teacher K: I saw that requirement and considered it non-controversial. 🙂 … Can you post your school name here? If not comfortable doing that, why don’t you send me an anonymous (name anyway) text message to 678-361-4200 with your school name. I would be happy to make a phone call to encourage your principal to submit your school for this year once again. Principal turnover has been a chronic problem for many of our schools and especially at Woodward ES recently. When there is no continuity in this role, schools suffer. With Melanie Pearch taking over at Woodward Elementary School, I have hopes of stability for the kids where there has been none for nearly a decade. Just in my few years paying attention, I have met five principals there.

    As I have become an amateur observer of public education over the past few years, there are a few key conclusions I have taken to heart – I’ll share a few that I think relevant to this our dialog about budget, programs, and staffing:

    1) Your kid’s school is only as good as their last teacher.
    2) No one remembers who was Superintendent of Schools or who sat on the Board of Education when they were in school – they remember their teachers, principals, and sometimes a bus driver.
    3) Kids learn to pay attention to the demographics of their schools ONLY if their parents do.

    If we think about these items honestly, I think we could come to consensus on a few key principles that should guide system governance:

    Education “policy” principles
    Teacher Quality: Attracting and retaining the highest quality teachers to DeKalb should be a strategic goal that is incorporated into every agenda-setting decision and budget discussion not a bromide that is trotted out in slide presentations once per year.

    No “formulaic instruction:” Let our principals and faculties decide the priorities for educating the children and stop investing tens of millions rolling out the latest pedagogical programs popping up from the “education industry.” Certified teachers with subject matter expertise in their knowledge areas are what we need more of – not “systems.” Refer to first principle above!

    System Governance principles
    Shorten the funding “pipeline:” As a community must relentlessly insist that our leaders remove themselves and as many “middlemen” as possible between our capital and expense dollars and THE SCHOOLS. This is the only way ethical and equitable distribution of investment and expense can occur – remove palace politics and PTA politics from the budgetary process.

    “Grow some:” Tell parents and potential parents in our DeKalb community that they must move into the walk zone of a given school if they want a virtual guarantee of their child attending that school. Attendance area planning and strategic capital decisions must be driven by operational efficiency and budgetary discipline NOT perceived school quality and “neighborhood politics,” a.k.a. bigotry. Gerrymandered attendance areas and inequity in facilities do not make quality schools for the “winners” or the “losers.”

    Cross Keys HS would not be the great school that is and it would not be able to compete with its peers unless the above were true. And CK students and faculty accomplish high achievement in spite of my perception that DeKalb has failed on the Governance principles above. Yes, I’m biased but I challenge a comparison between CK and any other DeKalb school based on instruction and quality of student experience! I want this high school to have a safe track and an auditorium because they are as deserving as any school NOT to increase academic performance.

    But I ramble … have a great week two at your school! Us little “Indians” will …

  40. Curious says:

    Kim, thank you for posting. I’ve missed your no nonsense voice of reason.

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