Do we have a principal problem in DeKalb?

We are hearing a lot of reports from parents stating that they have either a newly assigned interim principal, or a recently hired or transferred principal or back to back new principals every year or two at their child’s school. Without getting into a discussion about the qualities of your school’s principal or otherwise offering personal critiques of them (be respectful!) we would appreciate it if you could leave short statements highlighting the tenure of the principals at your schools and how it affects teaching and learning and other programs. We are doing this not only because one of our bloggers asked, but because we have believed for a very long time that in order to improve student learning, we need better, more experienced principal leaders who are left in place long enough (5 years?) to assimilate into the community and make a difference at their school.

Report away! Again – be very respectful. We will delete critical personal commentary. We just want the facts.

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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"
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95 Responses to Do we have a principal problem in DeKalb?

  1. whoshelpingthekids says:

    @worldunitenow: my bad. yes Moseley is at Jolly – brain was on the fritz. The others are correct.
    Re: leadership academy and the new team not throwing principals under the bus – March is the Deputy Super over these new leadership programs. Don’t expect things to change – she is an intimidator.

  2. momfromhe11 says:

    I would not be surprised to see the above-mentioned bullying principal in the Leadership Academy. This person has always held their personal advancement uppermost (damn those who get in the way), and would be eager to learn from more experienced intimidators.

  3. Decaturmom1 says:

    I am a Coralwood PTA parent. Dr. Rebecca Blanton was Coralwood’s principal for 33 years, and she retired for a state position. Yes, she was WONDERFUL! 3 of the 4 general Ed pre-K teachers were reassigned with one day notice. They were paid 13k above the 30 k state reimbursement because all coralwood lead general teachers have special ed and master’s degrees (one of the reasons the school is so coveted due to their low student teacher student ratio and highly skilled teachers). The 4th pre-K teacher refused the reassignment. My daughter’s pre-K teacher was notified on Thurs. evening 9/27 in an email and was told to inform her class on Fri. 9/28 and report to her new assignment on Mon. Oct 1. Sadly, this wonderful inclusion program at Coralwood that works miracles for special needs children and typical children through early age intervention is slowly being dismantled by Dekalb county.

  4. I think there should be some clarification on Dr. Blanton. I think she worked for the system for 33 years, but certainly not as principal at Coralwood the entire time. I’m not certain how long she served as principal, but yes, she is a gem. I can recall when she performed some testing there when Coralwood was a center, not a school. There was no principal then. Before that, Coralwood was an ordinary school – not focused on special education.

  5. Yay Jim! Good to see some good old-fashioned community interaction!

  6. @worldunitenow: I think your chart shows what we suspect is true: Everything else aside, the main reason for the decline in student performance over the last decade is a principal crisis. We have lost our longevity, leadership ability and experience in our principal pools. Add to that the increases in clas size, decreases in support staff (paras and media clerks, etc) as well as outrageous demands in paperwork and testing – and we have a recipe for an implosion for student learning.

  7. Decaturmom1 says:

    Dekalb school watch,
    I am going to check with coralwood on Tuesday for clarification regarding Rebecca Blanton’s tenure as principal because (1) at her going away party last Friday 9/28 Ms. Blanton herself said she started with coralwood in 1980, 2) the school put up a collage of her 30 plus years in the lobby of the school and (3) her resume on LinkedIn states she was ” principal and board member for Coralwood Foundation, Inc. from April 1980 to present” or Sept 28, 2012 as Dr Castelle started on Monday Oct 1st.

  8. Mad Dad says:

    teacher/taxpayer : I believe you misunderstood my comments regarding the “shipment of refugee students” to mean that was my opinion of these children. I assure you, it is not. I was using that terminology to indicate how the school system is treating these children.

    If you study the trend, as I have, you will notice that they move subgroups of refugee students around from school to school, ususally keepin them segregated from the main building by educating them exclusively in trailers. They do this, imo, to lower the scores on standardized tests for any schools they either wish to harm their chances of making AYP, or bring them down so that they will not be able to make the claims of sucess that would allow them to rally the community to support them, as the Livsey parents did so well during the last round of closings under Tyson. I am appalled that they can use children like this, who obviously deserve better.

    I have also spoken with teachers from that school who have been upset by the fact that they were not permitted to use the trailers as classrooms that would be rotated with various classes throughout the day, so that no single group of students were forced to remain in a single trailer for the entire day. They wanted to integrate the students into the main school building and that way the trailers would not be used by a single group of kids for more than an hour at a stretch. That was not allowed. Livsey wanted to embrace the diversity. They were essentially not allowed to do that.

    As for the comment about the demographics of the neigbhorhood leading the the high test scores, yes that may be true to some extent, but demographics alone do not ensure success. It takes hard work and dedcation of the adults involved in teaching, the family at home and the child. Unless you are suggesting that demographics mean that certain kids are just smarter than others by virtue of the color of their skin and that is not a theory I buy into.

    You have great neighborhoods all over DeKalb County with similar demographics and income levels as Livsey, but they do not have the same demographicss and income level students at the neighborhood school. Why is that? Certain schools are being targeted for closure, rather than closing schools only when the natural progression of a student population declines over time and may be growing in other areas. Instead of the schools reflecting the communities, there is a scam going on to change communities by first changing the schools. This is accomplished by chasing families from the neighborhood out, lowering the communication level between the school and surrounding area, and busing children in from other areas, encouraging Title I and / or refugee transfers to particular schools that are being targeted, cutting back on basic funding for supplies to those schools, not reporting bully behavior, overlooking things like inappropriate conduct, forcing families to seek alternatives, changing the perception of the neighborhood in the eyes of Realtors and prospective homebuyers first … leading to actual changes in the landscape of the real estate market as a result.

    Glad to hear McMahon is alive. Hope he remembers that there is life at the other end of the district with just as many people who voted for him, if not more, than there are in Womack’s neighborhood.

  9. Mad Dad says:

    Disregard my comment about McMahon and his school visit. I see that it was at Livsey, which would be the second that I’m aware of. One before and one after the principal change. Has he made any efforts to reach out to other schools, such as Brockett? Tucker Middle? Tucker High?

  10. Decaturmom1 says:

    Dekalb watch two
    You are correct. Ms Blanton was an educator almost 33 years but served as principal of coralwood since January 2004. She started the Coralwood foundation in 2005. Sorry about my mishap. I think I was so sad last Friday when we lost our principal and 3 of our 4 general pre-K teachers, I was not coherent. Have a nice weekend.

  11. hopespringseternal says:

    There may be a base assumption that all principals are created equal and that they all lead their schools. Not so. Not enough examination is given to the direction from, and influence of, area superintendents. Principals were often placed in schools only to find that they had no authority to run them. It is a murky area, because no principal who wants to survive, even after losing his/her post at a school, will speak out against an area super. Some area supers have managed their principals quite effectively, and some have been absolute tyrants or weak individuals who do nothing but appease parents, whether their demands are sound or not. Some area superintendents have as their only mantra to have no parental complaints. Somehow complaints are all regarded as nuisances to be avoided at all costs. Then, there’s the power of the area super to place a principal. There is one particular school in S. DeKalb which has suffered a revolving door for many years — seven principals in eight years I believe. So what was bestowed upon it this year? A replacement principal. From a middle school. Never mind that it was finally becoming stable, this school. Rapport had been established with students and community, test scores increased and students were showing signs of responding to the leadership. Now, thanks to a group of rogue saboteurs in the building and an area superintendent who is no longer even over that school, there’s yet another new leader. Revolving. Door. Whatever anyone thought of the prior principal, the overarching goal was, in many minds, stability. Sometimes stability is a better buy than the next miracle coming along. Typical. Almost makes you wonder if there’s a strategy to stay unstable and all the puppets just play into it. With unwitting parents as bit players. Sounds like a superintendent search, doesn’t it?

  12. Decaturmom1 says:

    @mad dad
    Out of curiosity, what is your home school?

  13. whoshelpingthekids says:

    No principal that wants to keep a job will speak out now, even for the children – that is how bad the fear of retribution is. And most are praying their parents won’t speak out either because the principal will be blamed for whatever it is. The CO does not accept responsibility for anything, gives the principal no tools/resources, and whatever comes up, everyone is told it is the principal’s issue to find a solution: think interpreter issues, no computers for all these tests, no textbooks, short staffing…you name it. Throw the principal under the bus, don’t take responsibility.. isn’t that a character trait, DCSS? Role model it please.

  14. @hope: “Sometimes stability is a better buy than the next miracle coming along. ”

    True That. Very True.

  15. Another "Different" Dekalb Teacher says:

    Re: “Another DeKalb Teacher'” Comment Dated 10/4 6:25am–
    I think hearsay/gossip such as that on a public forum is extremely inappropriate. I do not know the people involved or the person that is claimed gossiping . However, I sure hope that “Another DeKalb Teacher” has proof of what she/he is repeating before posting such rumors. Sounds like a slander case waiting to happen. I think that DeKalb School Watch Two should remove the comment as well. — That comment could be slanderous to the individuals that were supposidly involved or to those that are being reported as starting the gossip. It sounds to me like the “Another DeKalb Teacher” really wants to get her the old and new Principal fired whether they said/did anything or not. Elvis told me yesterday, “You shouldn’t always believe everything you hear or read”. Unfortunately, some people do. Jobs and lives are at stake. In my opinion, heresay should not be allowed.

  16. no name says:

    I don’t see any “hearsay/gossip” in the comment that “Another Dekalb Teacher” posted on October 4, 2012 at 6:25 AM. While the post does have a bitter tone, I don’t see any big whoppers in it.

    While DCSS does not call it “niceness/kindness classes”, DCSS does have an internal district training program that new principals are being sent to; those classes happen on Mondays, as the poster said.

    The rest of the post seems to be opinions based upon first-hand experience from being at the school.

  17. getyourfactsstraight says:

    To be clear Livsey does NOT house ESL students in trailers all day. There are three regular ed second grade classes, art, music and the PULL OUT ESL teacher. The ESL students are not segregated in any way. They leave their classrooms for about 45 minutes a day and if you ask any of them they would tell you it is one of their favorite times of the day. Livsey has embraced the diversity and teachers are working hard to make sure ALL students are receiving a high quality education!

  18. September says:

    When Livsey was on the closure list, the community looked for a way to save their school. That meant taking students from a very overcrowded Pleasantdale. The Livsey school community welcomed these new students and should be commended for their efforts.

    Unfortunately, Livsey and many of the other schools in this part of North DeKalb don’t have a choice about trailers. The trailers provide desperately needed classroom space. The mistake that DCSD is making is to leave them in place on some school campuses for more than a decade.

    I think that the trailers remain at many of our North DeKalb schools, because we tolerate them. We participate in school choice programs to avoid them. We tell our children that the school year will be over soon and next year will be better. We complain among ourselves, but this seems to be a low priority problem.

  19. another comment says:

    Teacher/Taxpayer my question is how can you only know only English when even the weak University of Georgia State College System requires 2 years of a foreign language for admittance. Most of the more elite Universities require 3 years of a foreign language, which at that time you should be fluent.

    Then again if you are so proud of your Polish heritage why can’t you speak some Polish. My grandparents came in the 1920’s from Europe, I am fluent in their language, even though they lost it by not speaking it after my mother started school in 1930. 3 years of high school language and a 3 year foreign exchange program has left me still fluent 30 years later. What’s wrong with you teacher learning a second language.

  20. seekeroftruth says:

    I’ve been told RTT monies have been placed on hold due to the PhD fallout in DCSD/Atkinson. Can anyone provide additional facts on this matter?

  21. September says:

    @annother comment. When you watch children learn English, you realize that they learn at different rates. Some children are still able to speak their native language fluently many years later. Others will tell you that they are losing, or have lost, their native language skills even though their parents still speak the language at home. Just as some individuals have an aptitude for music or art, there are individuals who have an aptitude for learning and speaking languages.

    I would suggest that one of the reasons you are fluent in your family’s native language is that you spent 3 years living in Europe. This is a common strategy used by foreign language students to build fluency. Wouldn’t it be a dull world, if we were all the same?

  22. wondering says:

    Dr, McMillan was only at Arabian Hills one year and prior to that Cross Keys. Those are high schools, and I know that high school principals get significantly less money. It makes me wonder what the experience level is on her part of working in an elementary and why one would have all this experience in high school and take on an elementary school. Seems strange…..

  23. wondering says:

    also wondering why such a strong AP with elementary experience at Ashford Park was not promoted….

  24. @ Wondering

    McMillan wasn’t all that successful during her gigs at either high school, much less so at Arabia Mtn where the stakes were higher. Maybe she’ll fit in better at an elementary school. But then, maybe she won’t. I think her lateral moves were all just a sorority thing.

  25. DH Parent says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and mention several schools that have dedicated principals who deserve commendation. These administrators all work with parents and teachers alike to improve the academic quality of the schoolhouse while dealing with a number of challenges: Laurel Ridge ES, Druid Hills MS, and Druid Hills HS.

    Being principal involves dealing with parents, teachers and faculty in situations that can be both rewarding and anxiety provoking. I know from personal experience that the individuals who lead these schools put in MANY extra hours to ensure the best possible results for all students.

    All three schools have benefited from the principals’ extended tenure at the school – the DHHS principal, for example, was originally a teacher, then an administrator, AP for Instruction, and finally principal. She has benefited from her extended experience with the faculty, her support from the previous principal, and the active assistance from the region’s previous Assistant Superintendent, Terry Segovis. We need to focus our energy on improving the way DeKalb identifies people to move up into leadership positions. It sounds like our current approach amounts to trial and error at several schools.

  26. Very good points DH. Principal professionalism, experience and longevity (or at least several years in a row…) makes a big difference at a school. Lakeside has had problems because of principal turnover. Current principal Joe Reed has been there the longest so far in the recent decade but there were 3 others before him. It’s not good for schools to deal with the upheaval in leadership.

  27. momfromhe11 says:

    Seconding DH It is essential that the principals be accessible to parents, staff and students, and longevity in the school is key to this. They are out in the halls, in the lunchroon and in the front lobby rather than holed up in their offices with the door closed.

  28. OneMoreThing says:

    Decaturmom1, you are correct about Rebecca Blanton. She did a wonderful job as Principal at Coralwood. However, I came to DeKalb in 1995 to work at Coarlwood Center. The principal then was Mr. Ken Childers – and had been the principal since the 1970s. In 1997 he was DeKalb County Principal of the Year! After he retired in early 2000s, Mrs. Rice (I forgot her first name) became the principal. It was Mrs. Rice’s idea to change Coralwood from a “center” to an “inclusion school”. Mrs. RIce then retired and Rebecca then became principal. Rebecca was previously the head of the Diagnostic Deparment at Coralwood.

    And now Rebecca Blanton has retired. What ever happens, Coralwood School, Center, Inclusion evolution played a huge part in the development of the preschool special educaiton program from the 1970s-2000s. I am proud to say I at least had a small part in this evolution!

  29. Teacher mama says:

    Our new principal at Ashford Park is very nice. However, having no experience in an Elementary School is a detriment. Our new bookkeeper doesn’t have a clue which makes the principal’s job even harder. We feel like we are barely getting through each day. Hopefully it will get better.

  30. Quagmire says:

    I would say that Tucker Middle and Tucker High’s principals can be described in a positive light similar to the Druid Hills community. Same with Chamblee Middle and Chamblee High! In these cases, longevity was positive! Then again the staff retention rate is high and most of the staff were there long before these administrators and will probably be there long after.

  31. just wondering says:

    @Teacher Mama “barely getting through each day” is a frightening way to run a school. I have seen bookkeepers totally mess up a school if the principal relies on them for too much. My principal is lucky to have his job because he let our bookkeeper have too much power. He’s still there but she is gone. As parent, I think nice is nice but it doesn’t cut it when you are running a school. I thought we lived in a time where competent people were waiting to be promoted or hired. Instead we get the upper hierarchy’s BFF’s moved around!?

  32. We can do better says:

    Things are really bad when we think 5 years is a long time for a principal to head a school. Individual school communities need to have greater say in choosing their principal. Dekalb seems to be somewhat unique in producing principals who are more concerned about pleasing the next higher level of bureaucracy (whether because they are ambitious to move up themselves, or because they fear consequences) than they are about forming good working relationships with their families, students and teachers.

  33. Clarice Whiting says:

    The new principal at Livsey, Dr. Jamie Wilson, used to be head of DCSD HR.

  34. Dekalb Stakeholder says:

    FREEDOM MIDDLE SCHOOL 2007-present: Jill Dosett, Michael A. Jones, Corey Davidson
    Before Davidson there was a candidate from out of state to declined the position.

  35. Donna J. says:

    Well Lakside is about to see another principal. Joe Reed is being forced to retire at the end of the school year. Let’s see how this plays out…

  36. Concernedmom30329 says:

    To be fair, Donna, it is the State Legislature that has disallowed double dipping. For those who don’t know, double dipping is when a state employee, and public school educators are state employees, retire and then come back to work full time, collecting both a paycheck and a pension. During the height of the teacher and principal shortage, the state legislature changed state law to allow double dipping though limited to certain positions, mostly teachers and school house administrators. Otherwise, retired employees can work up to 19.5 hours a week.
    Anyway, because the shortage is no longer an issue, during the most recent legislative session the law was changed back and starting with the 13-14 school year, no double dipping is allowed.
    I just don’t want readers to think the system is forcing Reid out.
    By the way, given the current economic situation, I support the legislature’s action.

  37. Just another day in Paradise says:

    Full disclosure — Joe Reed has to “retire” (again) because the Professional Standards Commission has modified its guidelines regarding retirees and part-time/full-time employment. Years ago, retired educators were only allowed to work 19.5 hours per week. GAPSC changed in the early 2000’s to allow retirees who worked in the schoolhouse to work full-time. They gave notice last year that retirees would have to go back to 19.5 hours again. Reed and several other principals/school-based employees who have already retired from the district are caught up in this. The affected employees and the district have known for quite a while. No one is being forced to retire (because they’ve ALREADY retired and have been drawing a SECOND income during the time they have been serving the district). There should be a succession plan in place. No one should be in denial about this. GAPSC is not in denial. DCSD needs to have a plan and needs to make it public in the spring.

  38. OakGroveParent says:

    The principal at our school is completely corrupt and out of control. She was at another (gifted) Dekalb school prior to her current assignment and managed to get her husband a job at that school that was designated for someone who was in post-collegiate schooling at the time (a well paid internship) while her husband had no training in this area whatsoever, was just unemployed. There is rife corruption in our upper echelons of leadership (she was assistant principal at the time). She runs our school like it is some sort of sorority instead of an elementary school. The teachers all complain about the way she leads… with bullying and intimidation…. and you are either “in the clique” or your are out (and should expect a hard time). She even bullies the students!!!! Several parents are very unhappy with her and with the current situation and there have been numerous off-site meetings about how to best deal with this situation. The problem is that the corruption is at the top and this presents a problem when there IS a problem. The people leading our schools do not know what they are doing or else they just do not care. How are they able to get away with this? It interferes with the mission statement of DeKalb County Schools, which is:

    The mission of the DeKalb County School District is to form a collaborative effort between home and school that maximizes students’ social and academic potential preparing them to compete in a global society.

    What goes on at our school is in direct conflict with this mission statement and it is mainly coming from one person, at the top. I am considering something for next year, that I never thought I would consider ever — home schooling. As a taxpayer and as a very involved parent, I find it absolutely maddening that this is a situation that we are even having to deal with. Unbelievable.

    What exactly are they teaching in these PhD programs? Obviously nothing about leadership.

  39. OakGroveParent says:

    I *so* wish they would replace our principal with another…. but I hate to make her the problem of other parents in another district, especially one that lacks the parent involvement that our school has.

  40. Another Dekalb Teacher says:

    Woodward has had 3 principals in the last year and a half. In the 2011-2012 school year they had two principals.

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