DeKalb school board draws scrutiny

By Ty Tagami
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

An accrediting agency wants the DeKalb County school board to answer allegations that it has mismanaged its oversight of the system and ignored key financial responsibilities.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools said it’s received dozens of complaints from a broad spectrum of people in DeKalb. Parents, public officials and school staffers have alleged everything from financial mismanagement to undue influence in hiring — all while the school system faces a financial crisis.

“The allegation is they’re getting involved in areas that aren’t their responsibility, and then in the areas that are their responsibility, they’re not being effective,” said Mark Elgart, president and chief executive officer of AdvancED, the parent company of SACS.

In a letter received by school officials Wednesday, SACS said there is “significant concern” about whether DeKalb is meeting “at least” two of five accreditation standards. SACS gave DeKalb 30 days to respond, and will then investigate and issue a report.

“I don’t see where we violated any policy,” school board chairman Eugene Walker said. He said he wants to consult the 9-member school board before issuing any detailed response. He also said he needed more details than provided in the 3-page letter.

“They need to show some evidence of these things,” Walker said.

The allegations are from about 50 people over the past year, Elgart said.

Click here to read the rest…..

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38 Responses to DeKalb school board draws scrutiny

  1. Sigh! Here we go again. Some of the things in the SACS letter have been issues for years. So glad SACS finally noticed. Wonder if they’ll actually ‘do’ anything?

    To download and read the SACS warning letter, click this link:

    Click to access advanced-letter-of-aug-28-2012.pdf

    We tried to cobble together a bit of history on the subject of budget cuts, RIFs and the inability to reduce the bloat in the school system —

    Read it here:

    Be obscure clearly. — E.B. White

  2. Educator 90 says:

    Just hope that this is not all to do about nothing.

  3. The Deal says:

    I am skeptical. Surely SACS isn’t actually paying attention to what goes on here. Where is their concern with the administration, as well?

  4. Oh ye of little doubt…methinks the games afoot….with the trials about to commence, state poised to take over the system and all school systems under the guise of HR1162- this has ALL become very interesting- very interesting indeed…..

  5. howdy1942 says:

    I am encouraged that we have just replaced three incumbents at the ballot box. I have heard Jester over the past two years since she joined the Board and I’m encouraged. I voted for Jim McMahon based on his credentials and his promises. As for the other new Board members, we’ll just have to wait and see. It was my hope that in 2014 that we could elect seven members of the Jester vintage.

    Given this most recent article and the actions of the SACS, I simply think that it is time for the incumbents who have served longer than four years to simply resign. We the People have no confidence in you and your continued presence on the Board detracts from what we need to be doing in Dekalb County to get our School System on the right track. Please look inward and seriously think about the interests of ALL of Dekalb County and set aside any personal interests. This is not a political issue, it is not a racial issue, it is not a personal issue. The issue is the education of our children and the integrity and reputation of our County. When parents and residents of this County are taking the time to write SACS, when the local newspaper is printing article after article citing questionable decisions and actions on your part, and when the Accrediting agencies have made repeated inquiries and threatened the accreditation of our schools, we need new leadership and new faces. We need to get away from the distractions cause by alleged corruption, pending trials of School leaders, infighting among Board members, legal issues and legal expenses, and get our focus on the schools and our children. It is not in your best interests nor is it in the best interests of our County for your to continue to fight.

  6. justwatch says:

    Elgart is probably not a fan of HR1162 (state charter schools). He is very much an educrat (thanks to whomever coined that term). The fact that he took action, in light of the upcoming vote, speaks to how serious he must believe the problem is.
    Because he is really accountable to no one, he can simply delete emails, recycle mails and ignore personal conversations. More than anything, we should wonder what isn’t in this letter and what pushed them to intervene this week.

  7. Terry says:

    AMEN AMEN, Howdy!! It is WAY passed time for SACS to crawl into the dcss nest! These “nepo-crats” MUST GO!!

  8. Exactly, justwatch. We at DSW always encourage people to look west when our school leaders cause a train wreck in the east that absorbs our attention. Pull yourself away from that train wreck and look to see what’s going on behind the scene.

  9. Train wreck is right. I’ve heard from a number of people that Dekalb will have a financial trainwreck come payday in September. Can anyone say “bailout?” I really don’t like Nathan Deal at all, but I think we’ll see the Governor’s office running Dekalb School soon.

  10. Ijustworkhere says:

    I would like to comment on several issues.
    SACS-It seems to me SACS is simply trying to keep its reputation within the education arena by “calling DeKalb out”. I am quite skeptical on where this exactly will go and If SACS is really the route to get it handled.
    @diss……I don’t think that the train will wreck THIS September because of the TAN DeKalb received that has a scheduled repayment date of December 30th If I remember reading correctly.
    So maybe January or February there may be some additional money woes….but definitely by next September there may be more RIF’s.

    Needless to say as a resident of DeKalb I am highly disappointed. As an employee I think it’s one of the saddest predicaments I have ever witnessed. No one is concerned about the morale and state of the buildings. We still witness the tradition of hiring family and friends. Now its not even camouflaged. It just is. Classified staff are bring pitted against certified staff. Qualified classified staff are being denied extra income opportunities, unjustly and without remorse or consideration of who the best person is for the job. DeKalb is just unstable and corrupt.

    My final comment is regarding ODE’s fearless leader who commented in an article in the AJC this week. An assortment of employees from DeKalb had a meeting this week. David was asked to comment I am assuming and his comment was something to the effect that …what they(employees) want is a union and Georgia is a red state ….and the basically the employees have no bargaining power…. of course I paraphrased. So can someone please tell me what power does ODE have? What’s the point of ODE collecting dues from employees if there is no power in vocal groups who wish to bargain?

  11. Retired employee and glad of it says:

    What concerns me too is what this will do to our already pitiful property values. Who would want to buy in DeKalb County with cr@p like this continuing. Maybe what we need IS for the State to takeover, but not sure I have confidence there either.

  12. @ Ijustworkhere

    And why does ODE collect what are the equivalent or more than real union dues in union states?

  13. And also, I heard the TAN was only for July payroll. I may be wrong though. I’ve heard that there isn’t enough money to make September payroll.

  14. justwatch says:

    The TAN was 90 million dollars which should have been enough for 3 months. However, I am confused as to when it was to start being used, plus there is the not so small matter that DCSS is in the hole somewhere over 10 million dollars for the fiscal year that just ended. That money will have to come from somewhere.

    Has anyone heard about enrollment? Up, down, the same?

  15. Not to mention, exactly how many were riffd.? I dont want to know how many retired, how many were fired? And remember, we are NOT concerned about the staff that actually speak to a child in some form or fashion during the day. We want to know the number of folks gone that push paper, etc. in the central office. Did we ever get that answer?

  16. No. We do not yet have an HR report showing the names and titles of those who were RIFd. That is very disconcerting and opaque. Dr. Atkinson did post a new org chart (without names) but it still shows over 735 jobs (down from just around 800), but many people have been rehired on a contract so it’s still hard to tell if (what we would consider) the CO actually had cuts. She moved quite a lot of jobs to other line item budgets, so that they no longer appear under the CO, but they still exist and cost money. We are very much afraid that once again, these ‘cuts’ have all been a shell game and at the end of the day, the spending for the year will remain just about the same. This happened under Ramona Tyson, and she is still enjoying a very large paycheck so there is obviously no fear of repercussion for being insubordinate to the school board.

  17. Ijustworkhere says:

    Tyson is simply sucking the payroll dry. She should have been thanked but dismissed. This is simply an injustice all the way around. The employees are being screwed, the children are being led to drink from a dry old empy twell filled with so many ancronyms, the only people that are prospering are Dr. A and her crew. Did Johnny Brown have a crew too? Again, I ask, from someone who attends the board meetings, wrote a letter to SACS, and the state, WHAT CAN WE DO?

  18. National media attention. Does anyone have connections?

  19. Steve Smith says:

    @justwatch: Crossroads News had an article that contained this nugget about enrollment:

    “For example, in 2006, DeKalb had 101,396 students enrolled. By 2009, enrollment had declined to 98,888 students. At the beginning of the new school year on Aug. 13, it anticipated enrollment of 96,432 students, but 1,443 fewer students, or 94,989, showed up.

  20. Concerned Parent says:

    We not only need a list of the people who were rif’d, but we also need a list of the people who were employed to fill the positions that the people who were rif”d had. All they did was changed the job titles.

  21. DeKalb School Watch has requested this information under Georgia’s Open Records Act. DeKalb School Watch also has requested the missing names on the very belated organization chart — also under Georgia’s Open Records Act.

  22. Weary worker says:

    Now a not making payroll rumor. That’s scary as well as something that could cause a panic. Will the lack of funds be divided equally or will some go hungry and others remain fat? Panic and anger will ensue. Expect the worst.

  23. Teachingmom says:

    Not to feed the rumor mill but what happens when a school system cannot make payroll? I hear mention of the state taking over but do they actually pay us?????

  24. The KEY to making this request is to know both the old job titles and the new job titles — especially the NEW job titles. If you can get those new titles to us (, we will submit an Open Records request.

    SACS may be trying to shut down the board by acting on Atkinson’s complaint that the board asks too many questions, but SACS and Atkinson cannot shut down the supportive stakeholders who follow this blog. Of course Atkinson is complaining — getting a lot of questions that carry the force of law is annoying when you are trying to hide what you are doing.

    Frankly, the board has a legal fiduciary responsibility — not to mention their moral and legal responsibility to DeKalb’s students — and they are entitled to ask as many questions as they need to in order to make a decision that will hold up if they are sued — especially when they are dealing with the questionable decisionmaking of a highly secretive, corrupt and obviously incompetent administration.

  25. LisaK says:

    Another rumor is that employees will start being paid every two weeks (now it is twice a month) beginning in September or October. The checks would be smaller– spread out over 26 weeks instead of 24. I guess by doing it this way, they figure payroll could stay away from having a negative balance while they sort out this mess.

  26. Dekalbite2 says:

    “Another rumor is that employees will start being paid every two weeks (now it is twice a month) beginning in September or October”
    Aren’t classified employees paid bi-weekly? Perhaps there is some inherent savings in having all of your employees on the same pay periods. Just a guess.

  27. Charm says:

    Everyone is on the same pay period – both classified and certified.

  28. Quagmire says:

    Family and friends happens with our board members too. Dr. Eugene Walker’s son is Officer Brown, SRO, at Tucker High School. This officer was not cut when many were. Also Officer Brown’s wife,or Dr. Walker’s daughter in law, is the board secretary. Anyone have any idea on her salary?

  29. @Steve Smith – very interesting article. Everyone should read it. I’ll repeat the link:

    This is especially frustrating –

    In June, the district finished the fiscal year by spending $34 million over what had been budgeted a year earlier. It spent $808.6 million in fiscal year 2012 when the School Board had set a $774.6 million budget.

    This is $34 million overspent during Tyson’s watch. Why is it again that she is still on the payroll?

  30. AnonMom says:

    I think SACS may be looking to “save face” — if DCSS is really about to run out of money (which I understand may really be the case based on zero reserves and the system’s failures to implement the passed budget from the past 2 years and not necessarily directly from lack of oversight) – SACS, which has had DCSS on “watch” status for a few years — probably doesn’t want to be discovered as having failed to have revoked accreditation as it hits absolute bankrupt status on its watch and is taken over by the governor — that would not look very good, particularly given how much money they receive each year to accredit and to consult to maintain accreditation and to train….. Just saying.

  31. Just another day in Paradise says:

    @ DSW
    “SACS may be trying to shut down the board by acting on Atkinson’s complaint that the board asks too many questions….Of course Atkinson is complaining — getting a lot of questions that carry the force of law is annoying when you are trying to hide what you are doing.”

    You hit the nail on the head. This is all smoke and mirrors. SACS is embarrassed because Moody’s is downgrading the district (and SACS was just here in the spring and apparently found NOTHING wrong with the financial state of things, now or for the past FIVE years…isn’t that an arbitrary number?), so they have to step up and look like they’re taking action. SACS hasn’t questioned anything financial before now. Under her watch. They are also acting upon Atkinson’s complaints about the Board questioning her, their only employee. If she can get the Board to be under the microscope all the time, she won’t be.

    Any time anyone dares to ask questions, she closes ranks, she starts working on more lies (they do tend to multiply), and people tend to disappear. Wonder who it will be this time? She can’t use the RIF as an excuse anymore. Maybe this is all the new plan from her newest North Carolina transplant, the damage control specialist. Wonder where that salary is coming from…or is it another fabulous consultant??

    Let’s all wait to see how long it takes her to purchase her newly surplussed vehicle (and for how much). She really didn’t learn anything from Lewis and Reid/Pope, did she? Oh wait, that’s because she fired/forced out anyone who could have given her that information. Poor dear.

  32. truthmissile says:

    WHAAAAAAAAT?! you mean nothing has changed?!?! I’m SHOCKED!!!!!!


    Wednesday, September 5, 2012

    1. Acknowledgment of Receipt of AdvancED Letter
    Presented by: Dr. Eugene P. ‘Gene’ Walker, Board Chair

  34. Justwanttodomyjob says:

    So, the question remains, what happens to those of us who chose to remain and do our jobs? Folks are leaving faster than rats off a sinking ship and the state retirement change is pushing those who were on the fence about retiring into taking the plunge into retirement. We who are left, those making sure the light of learning still burns for our children, are paddling as fast as we can. The SACS letter is a pretty gesture, but what will come of it?

  35. SRO says:

    Dekalb schools are going straight to hell……..They have given us so many responsibilities and no time to do all of this crap. Example. Last Monday was the first time the teachers were able to access grade books to input grades in….Don’t these clowns in the central office know that the grade books all have to be set up by the teachers too? Grade postings windows close next week. No time consideration given whatsoever, teachers have to be in Teacher Keys meetings, Department meetings, staff meetings, meetings about meetings, and on and on. You are not allowed to sit at your desk and check a few papers or anything without BIG BROTHER breathing down your back. We have so many databases it doesn’t make any sense trying to tie this mess together to try and help the kids. ESIS, IDMS, ALL of these First Class portals. JUST A BIG HOT MESS!!!!!

  36. Teachingmom says:

    I agree it is a total hot mess. People are walking around the building just looking for teachers who might actually be trying to get their paperwork together, no one is supposed to be sitting at their desks EVER apparently. It is crazy… I was told that the “county” was checking on teachers in the school houses– don’t know if it’s about SFA or what. I haven’t even had a chance to follow up on the action items we were supposed to do for teacher keys.

    On a separate note I heard there were a bunch of news vans at the palace today anyone know why?

  37. Insider says:

    @Justwatch: enrollment is roughly the same as last year.

  38. Insider says:

    It’s DeKalb Schools. The way things are, why wouldn’t there be news vans there?

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