AdvancED/SACS Letter – Thoughts from Jester, Speaks and McChesney

[Reprinted from Nancy Jester’s email newsletter]

We would like to take this opportunity to clarify recent board actions regarding the latest letter from AdvancED/SACS to the DeKalb County School District. The AJC’s initial report was not accurate and we want to communicate to you what actions were taken by the board at our meeting on Wednesday, September 5, 2012. The Board voted to formally acknowledge receipt of the letter. The Superintendent provided a memo to board members outlining a process to develop the District’s response. The Board voted to accept her process as well.

State law only allows for meetings in executive session for a few, very specific reasons. The discussion of the letter from AdvancED/SACS is not a matter that can be discussed in executive session. Wednesday’s Board meeting was held in public and there will be no meeting of the Board regarding this matter in executive session.

After we receive the draft of the District’s response, we will request a Board meeting to hear from our fellow Board members and vote to accept/reject the draft response. This meeting will be public and all Board members will have the opportunity to discuss the District’s response letter.

Most importantly, we want to share with you that we welcome the scrutiny from AdvancED/SACS. The issues that were raised in their letter have been concerns that we have publicly discussed at Board meetings and shared with various officials. Indeed, we have been the whistle blowers regarding some of these issues. We also want to remind the public that SB84 ( click here to view SB84), provides for the Governor to intervene with a Board of Education without the District losing accreditation. This protects the children in our schools while providing a mechanism to correct problems within a school district.

We hope that our statement helps clarify recent events and reports. As always, please feel free to contact us.

Sincerely,

Nancy Jester

Don McChesney

Pam Speaks

I’ve placed this letter on my blog:
http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/
and you can leave me a comment there. Also, Don and Pam have the letter on their blogs.

Advertisements

About dekalbschoolwatch

Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
This entry was posted in DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, Don McChesney, Nancy Jester, Pam Speaks, SACS/Accreditation and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to AdvancED/SACS Letter – Thoughts from Jester, Speaks and McChesney

  1. Tucker Guy says:

    I just posted this comment on Nancy’s blog.

    Will the response itself be made public ?
    If so, when and how will the public be able to see it?
    The DCSS web site does not have any BOE minutes from 2012.

  2. Silly me says:

    Why not just vote to not acknowledge receipt of letter? Problem solved. Really.. A vote To acknowledge receipt. How pointless us that? Is the problem not staring us all in the face?

  3. Molly says:

    The Superintendent’s response plan involved gather input on a draft response letter from the board via email but no public meetings. During the board meeting, Donna Edler made a motion to alter the response plan so that the board would reconvene to discuss the draft letter as a group before it was finalized and sent to AdvancED. There was a discussion about the desire not to hold public meetings, and the board then voted to accept the Superintendent’s plan without modification. While it is true that no executive sessions will be held to discuss the response, it is also true that no public meetings will be held as well. If Nancy, Don and Pam all plan to request a meeting later, I’m wondering why none of them supported Donna’s motion last week, when she did exactly that.

  4. murphey says:

    I attended last Wednesday’s BOE meeting. The AJC article was correct, and I agree with Molly that it is curious that Ms. Jester, Mr. McChesney, and Dr. Speaks did not support Ms. Edler’s motion.

    Ms. Jester did not speak at this meeting and the comments of Mr. McChesney and Dr. Speaks were not about this issue.

    Ms. Jester’s blog says “After we receive the draft of the District’s response, we will request a Board meeting to hear from our fellow Board members and vote to accept/reject the draft response. This meeting will be public and all Board members will have the opportunity to discuss the District’s response letter.”

    Since Dr. Atkinson controls the timetable for the response I doubt that there will be time for such a meeting before the response is due.

    I almost always support Ms. Jester, Dr. Speaks, and Mr. McChesney so I find this a bit curious. Time will tell……

  5. john locke says:

    @murphey, the AJC article wasn’t right and they issued a clarification. The board didn’t vote to meet in private. They can’t meet in private. I asked Nancy about the meeting. She didn’t know why the meeting was called in the first place to accept the letter. She thought that several board members were confused about the point of the meeting. I think that she needed to get some research done before just blurting something out. I’m glad they are transparent.

  6. John Hope says:

    I agree with john locke, the AJC article was not fully accurate and two clarifications were issued. It caused much confusion in the community because it suggested the Board voted to do something illegal based on this opening statement,

    The DeKalb County school board approved a closed-door process Wednesday for responding to allegations of mismanagement.

    If you read the GetSchooled blog you can see that many assumed that something illegal was done. I also saw Jeff Dickerson on the Georgia Gang on Sunday and he called the headline salacious. He called this an administrative process, like any other work meeting that happens with any organization. I’m glad that Nancy, Don and Pam validated and cleared up what actually happened because the attention should be focused on the actual response.

    Given Board members will want to review it before it goes to SACS, it’s possible it will be sanitized to protect the guilty. Perhaps citizens should also provide supporting information of bad behavior by the Board.

  7. whoshelpingthekids says:

    Why is Jeff Dickerson still on the Georgia Gang talking about DCSS? As a consultant, he should be spinning positive PR stories about the great things our teachers and students are doing – not spending time attacking the media – that will not end well in the long run for DCSS. Anyone seen Walter recently- was he at the called BOE meeting last Wednesday?

  8. Disgusted in Dekalb says:

    First, I thought the letter was from SACS to Atkinson and the reply would be from Atkinson to SACS. Why is the board doing all of this accepting and approving?

    Also, I was curious about the remarks re SB84. Are these three board members implying that they want parents/taxpayers to contact the state and request intervention? Are they trying to reassure us that we can lobby for state intervention without the systems necessarily having to go through the loss of accreditation? I’d be all for that.

  9. justwatch says:

    SB 84 allows intervention once a system is on probation or if accreditation is lost. As hard as it may be to believe, DeKalb is just on advisement, not probation. So yes, there can be intervention without the loss of accreditation.

  10. Dekalbite2 says:

    @ just watch

    So probation could also allow the governor to intervene.

  11. Checksbalance says:

    The final report should be made public. If it is factual then what is there to hide? Can we get on with the education of our kids?

  12. Dr. DeKalb says:

    whoishelpingthekids: Dickerson was hired for “crisis communication” not to “spin positive stories,” as you called it. “Spin” typically means to make something sound or appear to be bigger or different than what it truly is, so I don’t think we really want him “spinning” anything. Just the truth would be nice, but we know that’s asking a lot.

    molly, murphy, et. al: You might be missing the subtle point we think Ms. Jester, McChesney and Speaks were making with their statement and by not supporting Edler’s motion: they are the three who feel they have nothing to hide, therefore they are just as curious as the rest of us about exactly how Dr. Atkinson will respond to the letter. If they helped raise some of the concerns then they certainally do not want to be a part of any “team” that is drafting a response that might lend itself to getting the guilty off the hook.

    Imho, the board was called to acknowledge receipt of the letter so the public knows that all members are aware of the serious nature of the SACS letter and all are aware of how Dr. Atkinson plans to respond. No one can say that they were unaware of the letter. She (Atkinson) is likely doing a CYA in case the letter is not enough to get them out of hot water. They will bring the draft response up in public meeting and vote on whether or not it is acceptable, therefore the letter should be made public at that time as well unless it contains personnel or other private details, but we should still see a version of it with those areas marked out.

    Atkinson will now be able to get input from the guilty and less guilty ones separately, compile what she thinks is necessary and relevent and then put the draft up for a vote. That way the other board members as well as the public will never know for certain which board member suggested which sections be changed, or what should be added, deleted, etc.

    So, they are attempting to get their stories straight without creating a paper trail. If they did all of that in a meeting, as Edler suggested, then they would all be co-conspirators. This way they can all claim, legitimately, to not know who came up with the answers or the wording of which section.

  13. Mad Dad says:

    curious about why DSW2 said the board was creating an “action plan” instead of just a response or explanation. Am I just making too much out of the wording, or are we expecting to see specific areas to improve and then a plan of how they will do so? If so, this has all been done before and is a waste of our time. I thought they were asking for explanations not excuses. I’m so tired of these second chances, just like the D.A. saying he talked to them and they have assured him that these things will not continue. There is a big problem here and no one is acknowledging it. We have one of the (or had one of the) wealthiest counties in the state. Why are we unable to stop our own elected officials from wasting our money? Why can’t we get someone to see how poor these schools are in terms of quality instruction, quality construction, caliber of people running things. Where is the PTA in all of this? Why aren’t the parents coming out of the woodwork to complain? The PTA actually sent an email about an upcoming meeting on the nutritional value of school lunches. Great, glad my money is going for upgraded food so we can feed the masses, but I’m a little more concerned about the fact that I won’t have any money left if they keep raising my taxes and dumbing down my neighborhood. My home went from $50K in the black to $100K upside down in a period of three years. Thanks for nothing, SACS.

    Is SACS going to meet with those 50 who filed complaints to get their “action plan” or to get their detailed explanations? Will they give 30 days for them to elicit more information or witnesses? This is ridiculous!

  14. whoshelpingthekids says:

    @ Dr. DeKalb, my apologies – I didn’t intend “spin” as a negative – the truth would be totally appropriate. by spin, it is often hard to get the media to pick up stories unless they think they can sell papers with it so a PR person needs to possess the skills to get it picked up as a story.

    Per the Board meeting tonight, communications is now contract only – none in house – so I believe Dickerson is no longer being used for crisis management only. If anyone watched the meeting, please correct me if I misunderstood.

  15. John Hope says:

    After reading the letter more critically, I found the following statements interesting,

    After we receive the draft of the District’s response, we will request a Board meeting to hear from our fellow Board members and vote to accept/reject the draft response. This meeting will be public and all Board members will have the opportunity to discuss the District’s response letter.

    I agree with murphey that this statement is curious. murphey also commented in the hold your horses blog that Womack brought up that meeting on the letter will then make it a public document before SACS sees it. According to murphey, this was validated by the lawyer. Should Board members publicly discuss an inquiry developed by their employee about their alleged mismanagement? What purpose would this serve other than to possibly embarrass Board members.

    The issues that were raised in their letter have been concerns that we have publicly discussed at Board meetings and shared with various officials. Indeed, we have been the whistle blowers regarding some of these issues.

    This may answer the question about the first comment. They are publicly acknowledging being whistle blowers on their fellow Board members. These same 3 members also voted against hiring Dr. Atkinson. It this a ruse to set her up to cause further division with Board members?

    This is all very strange especially given what we saw in the Board meeting on Monday night.

  16. The wording ‘Action Plan’ is actually “Action Steps” and we did not make that up, it came from the memo Dr. Atkinson sent to the board and the attorneys regarding the SACS requests. She listed 5 proposed steps for the board to approve. The memo is uploaded in the SACS area of the DCSS files tab above (a must read if you need some history on the subject).

    or click this direct link:

  17. PublicSchoolDad says:

    @” hat way the other board members as well as the public will never know for certain which board member suggested which sections be changed, or what should be added, deleted, etc”

    I would imagine that any email correspondence between the board and or administration, related to the response to SACS, should be accessible via a well worded FOIA request.

  18. John A says:

    Amazing how so-called professionals, both administrators and Board members, can be so flummoxed by a letter. Letters amount to series of words which take a back seat to actions. All involved need to keep their focus on the top priority — improving education in the classrooms, rather than appeasing ineffectual agencies.

  19. tenbroeck says:

    I voted against Governor Deal back in 2010, but of all the above the idea of SACS placing DCSS on probation and the Governor’s office cleaning house in the bloated central office give me the most hope. Is this a feasible course of action? How can we support this?

    A concrete plan to make this happen could activate more parents. I think many parents feel paralyzed because there is no clear path to a solution–I know I often feel that way. Making DCSS more efficient won’t solve everything, the hole we’re in is too deep, but it certainly would get us headed in the right direction.

  20. John Hope says:

    I spoke with someone who wondered if Elgart is playing a game of chess. The thought is he knows Dr. Atkinson can’t ‘tell the whole truth’ about her bosses in a response, especially if they will review the response before it is sent to SACS. He will look at her response, look at the information provided by members of the community, including Board members, then decide for a full investigation. The full investigation will result in the school district going on probation, allowing the governor to intervene.

    If you believe in conspiracy theories, this is an interesting one.

Comments are closed.