Congrats to Jimmy Mac!

Jim McMahan breaks the tape and wins a long, hard battle against incumbent Paul Womack for the school board seat serving District 4 of DeKalb County

The runoff results are in and Jim McMahan has beat Paul Womack to take the District 4 seat on the school board — with 65% of the votes no less!

Congrats Jim!  We look forward to your thoughtful decision-making and voice of reason.  Like Nancy Jester, Jim has ‘dogs’ in this fight – his children all attend DeKalb county public schools.  He knows what he’s dealing with and he has a sense of urgency for improvement!  He can hit the ground running!

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That said, our favorite in District 6, Denise McGill unfortunately lost to longtime school system administrator, now retired, Melvin Johnson.  Although we rooted hard for Denise, also a mother of current students and a very active PTA officer, we hope that Mr. Johnson will bring honest insight to the board and will work for improvement.  Denise fought a solid, smart campaign and we have come to really respect and admire her character.  And we are certain that Denise will continue her valuable, hard work in the schools that she serves.

All the best to everyone!  With three new members on the board (Marshall Orson beat incumbent Don McChesney in District 2 in the primary), some things will change come January.  But for now, we will have the same board hashing out the issues for the next several months.  We will be paying close attention to our current board’s actions as well as our future board member’s comments on the issues, but very much look forward to the changes on the horizon!

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49 Responses to Congrats to Jimmy Mac!

  1. justwatch says:

    In the last week, the GA Dept. of Education recommended that the State Board of Education deny the DeKalb County School System’s waiver request for an waiver to the requirement that school media centers be open all the time. (Schools over base size, 450 for elementary, 624 for middle, 970 for high must have a full time certified person, schools under base size can have a part time certified person, but must be staffed by someone the rest of the time.) The system choose to withdraw its request, rather than see it publicly denied at today’s State Board of Ed meeting. School board members haven’t been notified by the staff, of either the recommendation of denial or the withdrawal of the waiver request

    Secondly, the board members had to read about the dinging of the credit rating the same way we all did, in the paper. Again, no official notification from the staff.

    So, how can the Board hold Atkinson and other staff accountable? School Boards really have their hands tied, not just by SACs but by contracts, school system charters, etc.

    Nancy Jester has been asking for months about certain overages on the budget. While I believe Perrone has built a more honest budget, all those months Jester asked, nothing changed. The system was still spending millions more on transportation and energy costs than had been budgeted.

    School system governance is very, very strange.

  2. justwatch says:

    By school system charters, I mean the documents that guide school system operations, nothing to do with charter schools or charter systems.

  3. Name One says:

    Melvin Johnson will obviously have to resign as CFO of the DeKalb Leadership Academy now he’s on the BOE. Melvin Johnson means New Birth will still remain a force behind the scenes at DCSS. Let’s see if McMahan, Jester and Orson can end the insanity that is the expensive lease of New Birth property for a school that could and should be located in one of DCSS’ many shuttered facilities. DCSS should not be leasing any property considered all of its shuttered facilities. Actually, DCSS should be leasing out its shuttered facilities to businesses, non-profits, etc. to generate at least a little revenue. The condition of most of the shuttered facilities is pathetic, but the BOE does not hold the Sam Moss staff accountable.

    Remember right before Pat Pope was indicted for criminal conspiracy? Lewis and her promised the public a list of every piece of property owned by DCSS. We’re still waiting (thanks Ramona, Tom and Gene).

  4. Name One says:

    http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-school-system-debt-1503467.html
    DeKalb school system debt judged riskier after budget crunch

  5. Name One says:

    They sure are keeping Jeff busy:

    http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/first-day-of-school-1503524.html
    Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson ordered the bus driver, who is not being identified by the school system, suspended pending the conclusion of an investigation this week, with possible repercussions for the officials involved, system spokesman Jeff Dickerson said Tuesday. “I’m not so sure that [the superintendent’s] outrage over this event will end with the bus driver,” Dickerson said. “She is pretty upset.”

  6. Ned says:

    Armchair analysis:
    In the past two election cycles we have seen I think 5 new members to the board:
    Edler (an improvement over the incumbent, albeit less of an improvement than hoped), Jester, McMahon, Orson, Johnson, and Dr. Speaks nearly losing to a race-baiting nobody. Clearly there is a desire for change, and Sara, Jay, and Gene should pay heed.
    The election of Orson and Johnson (and continued presence of Cunningham and Woods) certainly raises the specter of “district-ism” to a higer level: will we see even more advocacy on the board for particular neighborhoods and less for the system as a whole?
    With McMahon perhaps joining Jester and maybe others, will we see the BOE pushing the entrenched bureaucracy even harder to be more (i.e., at all) transparent with finances and other decisions? Time will tell
    Things keep geting curiouser and curiouser

  7. I sent a private message- but Jim I am super proud of you! I look forward to watching you in action. Congratulations!

  8. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    We are all very proud of you too Denise! You ran a fantastic campaign and we support your future endeavors. We know we will be hearing from you again in the future. Feel free to write up blog posts and keep us all informed! We wish you the best and thank you for your courage in tossing your hat in the ring! You should be proud – and others should follow your lead. We need good people – people who want to make a difference – to run for every government office there is — now, more than ever!

  9. The Deal says:

    @Ned, I, too, am trying to get the lay of the new land. Seems like certain areas are willing to boot those that don’t do the right thing, and others keep putting the same people back in. I think Jim and Nancy will be the new Nancy and Don. They will work well together. I am not sure about Marshall; he has been very tight with Gene Walker in the past and worked very hard to get him re-elected the last time. I see Johnson as more old guard. So overall, I don’t see the 5-4 voting pattern changing.

    One thing is for certain, though. Dr. Atkinson is not living up to many, if any, of her original promises. We do not have any more Victory in the Classroom, a more transparent administration, more fiscal responsibility, or safer learning conditions than we did 3 years ago. I hope Nancy Jester keeps holding her feet to the fire, regardless of how many times SACS tells her to stop asking questions.

  10. Not only is Nancy Jester not getting the answers to her questions — and we applaud Nancy for continuing to ask, even though Elgart (SACS) is trying to shut her down — Atkinson and her minions in DCSS are violating Georgia’s Open Records Act. Repeatedly. According to the law, verbal Open Records Requests are just as valid as written Open Records Requests.

  11. Tim McGaughey says:

    We should say thank you to Don McChesney and Paul Womack for their service on the Board and others who have served in the past. Every school board member works long hours for little pay. They do so to help the community. We may not agree with their decisions, but you have to respect their efforts. Thank you.
    Tim McGaughey

  12. no name says:

    I hope that one of Jimmy Mac’s first acts will be to request an investigation of the “national” motivational speaker who was brought in for the Monday, August 20, 2012 meeting of DCS “leadership”. Every attendee at this meeting was required to sign for a copy of the speaker’s book.

    How much did the Atkinson and March team spend on this speaker and her books? How do they justify these expenditures when the district is broke and unable to fund basics.

  13. Just to clarify — the odd thing about moving the school board elections to the summer is that these folks will not actually take office until January. Don and Paul will finish their terms. Personally, I hope that they both become very assertive in digging for the truth during this time.

    On top of the summer election for terms beginning in January, the new people were only elected for two years. We have now put our ENTIRE board on the same election cycle. So prepare: In two years, (or in about one year really), ALL NINE members of the board will be in full campaign mode. This is not good.

  14. Northlake Mom says:

    I have a few questions about how the budget works, and the amount of control the Board has over spending: (1) I understand that Dr. A draws up the budget and the Board can only vote yes or no, without requiring specific line-item changes. But can the Board make any basic requirements for or limits on the budget, such as a requirement that the appropriate number (based on our class size policy) of teachers & parapros be fully funded first, and then the remaining amount available will be divided among administration, transportation, and other non-classroom items? (2) Another question: I understand that Dr. A has permission to hire consultants without Board approval as long as the contracts are below a certain value (I think it’s $99K?) — are those consultant fees coming from a pre-set total amount that is allocated to Dr. A for that purpose, and she is just deciding where to use the funds in that pot, or are those unsupervised consultant contracts just being added onto the total budget? That seems crazy to me that additional expeditures beyond the approved total budget could be added on without the Board’s express authorization and without ensuring that there are actually funds available to cover them — but “crazy” seems to be par for the course as far as DCSD’s fiscal responsibility goes. Thanks for clearing this up for me.

  15. Ned says:

    “In two years, (or in about one year really), ALL NINE members of the board will be in full campaign mode.”
    Is there still any chance that in two years we’ll be talking about 7 or 5 rather than 9 or is that a completely dead issue now? Just curious

  16. Lacey Lady says:

    Who was the motivational speaker?

  17. That issue seems to be in a continued state of limbo. We suggest that everyone contact your legislator and demand action. They have dropped the ball on the 7 member board issue. At one time, Mary Margaret Oliver even proposed a 5 member board. Fran Millar was also very much involved as was the entire DeKalb Delegation.

  18. Lacey Lady says:

    @Name One: Why would you put a kindergarten student on a bus the first day of school? And why wouldn’t you be standing at the exact drop off point to receive your child? Better yet, if you were at home, why didn’t you pick the child up? Obiviously the driver had not finished her/his route because more students were picked up. My feelings of sympathy are for those poor babies who had to ride the bus!
    Wonder how big the pay out will be?

  19. All good questions Northlake – from an obviously bright person! NO – the board did not see nor vote on a budget. All they voted on was a proposed list of Budget Cuts. They did this without seeing a full budget proposal – line by line. I could be wrong, but I still don’t think they have seen such a budget. (They also do not have a new organizational chart or an up to date human resources report – the last one presented at the August board meeting, is dated June 21.) They do finally have departmental budgets as well as others available at the superintendent’s website. As far as we know, there is no defined ‘pot’ of money from which the superintendent must pull for these consultants. We could easily be wrong on this. Anyone care to peruse the budget for answers?

    Download them here —
    http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/budget/index/planning
    (To compare this budget to previous budgets, click this link: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/budget/index/archive )

    Here is some of the text from that web page – very interesting – given what we know about the panic to cut the budget:

    The total budget for the General Operations of the District for FY2012 is $774.60 million. It represents a decrease of 0.01% over the current FY2011 budget for General Operations. The FY2011 budget planned for significant reductions in state revenue from the QBE funding formula and significant declines in the local property tax digest from which property taxes are derived. Fortunately, the funds the District expected to lose in additional austerity reductions during the year were not lost. Additionally, while the District planned for a 7% decline in the local property tax digest for FY2011, the actual decline was 3.5%. The result is that the District received substantially more revenue than originally planned in FY2011. The additional revenue will add approximately $40 million to the General Operations Fund Balance at the end of FY2011. It is the additional Fund Balance, not additional revenue that will allow the District to maintain the General Fund expenditures for the FY2012. With an anticipated decline in the local property tax digest of 14.2%, this additional Fund Balance has prevented the District from having to make further reductions to the FY2012 budget. The expenditures for other individual fund types included in the district-wide consolidated budget amount to $456.63 million.

    Click the first link above to read the rest.

  20. I had a similar situation a number of years ago. A substitute driver refused to make the turn into our neighborhood with a busload of Shamrock Middle Schoolers. The students implored her to turn, but she refused. At the end of her route, she made my child get off at an apartment complex known to not be the safest place in Atlanta – and about 4 miles from home. After frantically calling the principal and the principal getting on the walkie-talkie to ask the driver to return to the apartments and get my child and take my child home. Again, the driver refused. Short story: I was never allowed to know the name of the driver, could not file a complaint and the driver was most likely never punished. The next day I purchased a cell phone for my sixth-grade child.

    That said, my children also had wonderful bus drivers who were very kind and caring. Most of them are very good people.

  21. Jim McMahan will NOT take office until January 2013. Meanwhile, Paul Womack is a very lame duck and Jim McMahan sits on his hands. The plan for having summer elections for the school board was to choose a time when the fewest number of people were likely to vote. They certainly hit a homerun with School Board District 6 — 3% turnout. Geez!

  22. justwatch says:

    Actually, a state legislator introduced and passed legislation last year to require that all non-partisian races be held in the summer. He objects to the December run-offs because voter turnout just plummets. (Though I am not sure an August run-off is much better.)

  23. dekalbteach says:

    Lacey Lady says: “Why would you put a kindergarten student on a bus the first day of school?…Better yet, if you were at home, why didn’t you pick the child up?…Obviously the driver had not finished her/his route because more students were picked up.”

    I see nothing wrong with putting a kindergarden student on the bus the first day of school, that’s why transportation is provided. Perhaps the parents didn’t have their own form of transportation- either way, I can’t be mad at a parent whose child was never dropped off. Also, the driver claims to have checked her bus before leaving to pick up the high school students. So, you had two sleeping kindergarten students on the bus with high schoolers. Bus drivers are responsible for three routes- elementary, high and middle schools. At the end of each route, they are supposed to check the bus to ensure all students are off, obviously this didn’t happen.

  24. Lacey Lady says:

    I was not aware that they checked until they parked at the end of the day. My mistake. But I do have problem with Pre-K and K students riding buses. These a babies. And mom should have been at the exact stop. This would have alerted the driver.

  25. Gardenerontheside says:

    The speaker from Tuesday was
    Patricia Russell-Mcloud. http://www.prussellmccloud.com/

  26. Quagmire says:

    Patricia Russell-McCloud, J.D was the speaker. Her book was called A is for Attitude
    http://prussellmccloud.com
    Dr Boza in leadership development was there. All admin and department chairs had to go from my school.

  27. teacher/taxpayer says:

    For Lacey Lady: I understand your concern. But having these young one ride buses is not a new thing. There would be a very big traffic problem if everyone parent in pre-k and K picked up a child personally. At our school that would be over 150 pickups. Many parents have jobs, no cars, or other kids at home so buses are their only option.
    Everyone involved in school has to adjust to reality quickly, parents and even young children included. It is a fact of life in this century. The responsibility for child safety lies with every adult involved (and even with older children). We all need to be on alert. I know when we have a missing child at my school, finding that child is the priority for our principal and many others who may just be near the main office willing to help.
    I think the best thing to do is to know your neighbors and agree to help watch out for each others’ children. Involve the older children too. Safety must be a team effort.

  28. Certainly the mother should have been waiting at the bus stop long before the bus was due to arrive. Just thinking that she “locked eyes” with the bus driver is stupid. The child is a kindergartner, the bus driver was a substitute driver who could not really be expected to recognize a parent she has seen maybe only once. Which school was this?

  29. no name says:

    As Gardenerontheside and Quagmire have already pointed out, Tuesday’s speaker was
    Patricia Russell-Mcloud.

    The audience of DCS-employees were given copies of her crappy book “A Is For Attitude”, which sells for $18 a copy according to her website:
    http://www.prussellmccloud.com/online-store.aspx

  30. bettyandveronica1 says:

    According to her website, she has been the National Parliamentarian for her sorority, wait for it…Alpha Kappa Alpha. She was educated at Howard and Harvard and has many, many clients. From her client list and the years she has been speaking, I doubt we got a discount. But who knows? If a board member actually asked this specific question, would they get an answer? Can anyone just call up there and ask this type of question and get the answer?

  31. Lacey Lady says:

    AKA Rides Again! Please don’t let Pink/Green or Red or Purple/Gold be an the employment application!

  32. You should make an Open Records Request sent to Atkinson. Ask for the cost of this so-called motivational speaker, including the speaker’s fee, speaker’s expenses paid by DCSS, detailed related costs (i.e., any payment to the “leadership” in return for their attendance, etc), a total cost of the books, and specific list of attendees. We wonder, for example, if ALL “leadership” was there, or just that ridiculous “leadership group” Atkinson put together?

  33. PublicSchoolDad says:

    Patricia-Russell McCloud attended Kentucky State U (KSU). This is a school that could be the “poster child” for why our federal student loan program is completely broken. Almost 100% of all KSU students qualify for federal student aid, yet the school has a average graduation rate of around 35%-40%. McClouds speaking fees are between $10,000 and $20,000 (not including book sales) and yes, Ms. Russel McCloud is AKA and yes there is evidence that she and Atkinson knew each other prior to this motivational speech…. both are members of The Links, Incorporated (see Atkinson pictured on page 14 http://www.linksinc.org/docs/Linked%20Magazine_Spring-2012.pdf).

  34. PublicSchoolDad says:

    Aug 2011 comment from Blog on Lorain County Board @ Atkinson, Success For All, and her security guard…

    Comment 4 – “The editor of the Morning Journal, Tom Skoch, has been writing strong favorable editorials about Cheryl Atkinson for months. There are times I have wondered if he is writing about the same LCS I know. The fog clears as he is also one of her three references.” [A news editor was ONE of THREE KEY references for her application with DCSS?]

    Comment 6 -The Morgan [previous Lorain Super] regime was in bed with Target Teach and this one’s [Atkinson] in with Success For All. Many people will be happy to see Cheryl go Many people will be happy to see Cheryl go. All this hooey that the public is being fed about how happy everyone at LCS is and how great the morale is can finally stop. The only happy one is the one who is cashing in on the deal [Atkinson] … Do you think they will let her bring her own attorney and police escort? [I wonder when the attorney will show up]

    Good stuff.

    Link
    http://thatwoman.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/down-the-rabbit-hole-in-the-wonder-land-of-lorains-boe/

  35. Lacey Lady says:

    On Russell-McCloud’s website, her book is $15…On Amazon, it is $4. Wonder how much DCSD paid?

  36. fallenstar says:

    She was a great public speaker. However, her material was not all that relevant to Common Core, and many felt hoodwinked — we expected (and wanted) real, tangible, practical information on Common Core and its implementation. Instead, we got a pep talk from a motivational speaker.
    It would be interesting to see what an open records inquiry would show about her payment.

  37. insider says:

    The speaker was dreadful. She was paid $18,000 out of Title II. By law these funds can’t pay for motivational speakers. That’s why she had to be spoon fed Common Core information to add to her presentation. She quit her job in the telecommunications industry to be a motivational speaker but told the principals that she knew what it was like in their schools. How? It was obvious that she knew nothing about instruction, much less Common Core. She was not even a decent motivational speaker … her Powerpoint was not professional looking and she even made some politically incorrect generalizations as part of her speech. Everyone walked around afterward whispering about how awful it was and laughing at the tacky airbrushed purple book cover. Tax dollars at work!!

  38. Quagmire says:

    It was kind of hilarious how the speaker Russell-McCloud tried to tie in common core. She knew nothing. She had us talk in small groups about how our schools were feeling and ways we were trying to implement common core. The talk I had with colleagues was the only valuable 5 minutes of the entire session. I could have done it at the schoolhouse. To hear she is an AKA is so discouraging. Someone should have advised her of the book cover. It is awful. All of the admin and department chairs were told they had to go. There were some media specialists there also from some schools. Everyone had to sign in.

  39. Quagmire says:

    Another interesting thought, we are always asked to evaluate any professional learning session as our “ticket out of the door”. We were not asked to do any feedback or evaluation form. Nor were we asked to register for this training on our official PD planner online. Maybe we didn’t want the data/feedback or tracking

  40. howdy1942 says:

    I actually went to the Web site of Patricia Russell-McCloud and made several observations. Remember, these are my observations!

    My first observation is that she is very loud – she shouts! Someone once told me that making the music louder does not make it better. Second, if you are good, then you don’t need such a self-centered advertisement that goes on and on. Also, one doesn’t need to talk about how wonderful he/she is and the great and wonderful impact he/she has had on countless millions. Third, you can bet that someone that apparently thinks so highly of herself and goes to such extremes to heap so much praise on herself does not come cheap.

    I suppose I have just become cynical with all that has happened to our school system, I just wonder who this person “knew” in the system. If her fee is what I suspect, this is again another example of wasteful spending

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