Elgart to DeKalb: “Be Prepared”

According to WSB, Mark Elgart is giving ominous warnings to DeKalb county, telling us to “be prepared”. It appears that we have two weeks to get ready, although he doesn’t give details as to what exactly we should prepare for and how. He probably should have said, “Brace yourselves.”

Read on:
Accreditation agency says ‘be prepared’ for DeKalb Schools report

An accreditation agency is warning of potential upcoming bad news for DeKalb County Schools.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ official report on the district won’t be released for another two weeks, but the group’s CEO talked to Channel 2 Action News about what he’s seen so far, and it doesn’t sound good for the district’s 100,000 students.

“People should be prepared,” SACS CEO Dr. Mark Elgart said Tuesday.

He said the events that triggered SACS’ investigation are significant concerns, financial management and oversight, and issues with human resources, employment and concerns with governance.

“Those concerns are going to shape a report that will provide direction and expectation for this system to make significant improvements in order to move the system forward,” Elgart said.

In anticipation of a negative report, some communities like Brookhaven and Dunwoody have discussed starting their own school district. Elgart said it may not be that easy.

“The cost is significant to establish your own school system. I don’t know if it’s a viable alternative with the scarcity of resources we all have today economically,” Elgart said.

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Elgart was interviewed on WSB Channel 2 Action News. Click this link to view the video report online.

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29 Responses to Elgart to DeKalb: “Be Prepared”

  1. howdy1942 says:

    As bad as it may be, I look forward to this report. For years, the residents of this county have faced the reality of top school administrators being indicted by a grand jury and our school board paying for their defense, by repeated SACS complaints and investigations, by mismanagement such as “losing” $44 million and then the failure of the administration to reduce administrative staff as ordered by the school board costing taxpayers another $50 million, by conducting a significantly flawed process in hiring the most recent superintentant, by a school board whose leadership has been tone deaf to the public and continues to see no problems of mismanagement on the Board, and on and on.

    We need to hear this report, hit bottom, and then move on to the future – it can only be better! This will begin with a new school board, a new superintendent, and a new administration.

    While I don’t live in Dunwoody or Brookhaven, I understand their concerns and their actions. Those communities pay in substantial sums of money to support Dekalb County Schools and my hope is that we can change the school system management and administration in such a manner that they, as well as all Dekalb County residents, will support. Nancy Jester, who represents Dunwoody, is perhaps the only bright spot on this board.

  2. Rae says:

    I agree. A bad SACS report is needed to bring change to DCSS. Nancy is the only board member I trust at this point.

  3. Anne Shirley says:

    We are always thrown for a loop in this roller coaster ride that is The DeKalb County…so I am thinking that SACS is going to throw us one of those “i didn’t see that coming” fast balls. The report is going to find no misdoings, no mismanagement of funds, and HR is going to going to receive an A+. That could also fit the “be prepared” message from SACS. Be prepared to move on,be prepared to back off of Atkinson….. This is purely a sarcastic speculation based upon my lack of faith in SACS to assist in saving this sinking vessel that is DeKalb.

    It is bad ladies and gentleman. Until we receive National news coverage it’s not going to get better. The high paid personnel are bullying employees into silence. The bullying is becoming so bad that employees can’t advocate for the students or even their own children. Employees had to struggle with having healthcare or going without, because of years and years of compounded salary cuts named furlough days. Year after year employees heard the speech, we do not anticipate furlough days for the next academic year, but they have continued to become the New Normal for DeKalb. The new normal combined with no step increases, no COLAs, more stress, bullying, no morale, nor anyone even remotely concerned with the lack of positive morale, equals what?
    Students without a chance. A chance to grow, a chance to compete, a chance to get the best public education available.
    It’s bad, yes, that bad.

  4. Curious says:

    State court of appeals ruled yesterday that the employees’ breach of contract lawsuit for the system’s discontinuation of the retirement plan may go forward.

  5. Another comment says:

    School districts should be no larger than 1 to 2 high schools large with their feeder schools. The supt. salary for this size district is $150k. The boards are unpaid elected volunteers, just like condo board members don’t get paid. They can get a small per diem for monthly or bi-weekly meetings. But these are not jobs to make a living off. School board members should be professionals in the community with at least a Bachlors degree In their field. We want our lawyers, accountants, Engineers, Architects, Medical Doctors, Business executives that know how to run a Business with an equal number of employees as the district has. That is who we want on a school board, people who bring a wealth of different experiences. Just like corporate boards, the Coke Board does not have all retired coke employees on it, but people from a variety of different businesses. The board members only get per diems.

    Every 2 small districts could share a votech school. Just as every two small districts can share a special Ed or look to charter school for special Ed services. Small districts can share special schools.

    This model works and works well in the top performing states. It is local control. We don’t need the middle level of jobs programs. They can’t exist in small districts.

  6. @Another comment: We couldn’t agree with you more! Amen!

    It’s terrible that this state is SO focused on rural areas – and their insistence that they consolidate school resources, that they make our large urban systems follow the same dumb rule. Some rural systems only have a thousand or fewer students!! IF the law could be written so as to limit the smallest number of students to comprise a ‘system’ then let the chips fall where they may! We should not be forced to remain part of a large, inefficient, corrupt system if we could create smaller systems (that are still FAR larger than most rural systems) and run them more efficiently, with better outcomes on the same funding. Where’s the harm? I don’t understand the state.

  7. So right, Anne. We are not holding our breath waiting for SACS to take any kind of meaningful action whatsoever. In fact, our bet is that Elgart will put ALL of the blame on the school board, leaving the top administrators to continue doing as they please. Bets?

  8. thedeal2 says:

    Totally agree, DSW2. I think they will heap the blame on the board when, in reality, the problems are shared across the entire spectrum. I saw this question somewhere online, can anyone point to a situation where the administration has had a great idea that was shot down by the board? Of course not!

  9. Anne Shirley says:

    It’s funny, not really, to see the one thumbs down…..I wonder is that someone from Team Atkinson….

  10. concernedmom30329 says:

    I actually think that this time SACs will do something, though I think DSW is right, the primary focus will be on the BoE.
    This lawsuit is a big deal. I suspect that DCSS is very vulnerable. and may lose. It won’t be this board’s problem as I am sure DCSS will appeal again that the case shouldn’t be heard, lose again and then the trial will begin sometime after that. We may all be old and gray.
    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-education/state-court-of-appeals-rules-employees-lawsuit-aga/nTBrd/

  11. DeKalb BOE for dummies says:

    Lets just hope that this is it….my fingers are crossed…I’m not holding my breath though…

  12. d says:

    Just one small thought regarding the possible creation of a Dunwoody school district – specifically related to the costs of doing so – the schools themselves are property of the DeKalb County School District and a new school district would have to pay to purchase the property from the district. This issue was brought up with the idea of the recreation of Milton County and I am curious to see how that will work when it likely happens in 2014. The new Milton County would have to purchase every fire station, police precinct, park, school, road, etc from Fulton County. Is the city of Dunwoody prepared to pay $15-30+ Million per school to transfer ownership?

    Another thought regarding an unpaid, volunteer school board. As much as I like that idea and as much as I despise Zepora Roberts, she did say one thing that made sense when the Board was originally considering taking the symbolic 10% pay cut…. if there is no financial incentive, only those who are independently wealthy will likely run for the board. I know some very qualified people but the time involved in being a member of the board of education is too much for them to afford to feed their families, even with the about $24,000 that we are paying these individuals. Believe me, I have asked people who would be very qualified to run for my area (or others in DeKalb) but they simply cannot afford to get away from their full time jobs to do it.

  13. September says:

    You could make the case that the citizens of Dekalb already own the school buildings. My taxes helped pay for them. If this school system were divided by three each new district would take possession of the buildings located in the newly created district. Likewise the deficit would need to be divided among the new districts. One nice thing about working in a small system is that everyone knows everybody else. When the superintendent walked into the building, not only did he know me by name, he knew my work.

  14. North Dekalb Teacher says:

    As a teacher who is very angry about the robbing of our TSA, I also have to wonder how, if we win the lawsuit, the system will come up with the money. I believe Gene Walker said something along the lines of “Let them sue, we don’t have the money to pay”. I already have 39 students in some of my AP classes. Are they going to increase class size or put in more furlough days? I’m pretty sure that they won’t cut central office staff or salaries to do what is right……..

  15. dekalbite2 says:

    @September
    Not very practical. Who would be doing the dividing and on what baisis?

    Hopefully, the school system can be left intact with completely new management. Starting a new school system is an expensive and time consuming proposition.

    However, if there are to be divisions, then it should be along the lines of small entities based on neighborhoods (similar to Decatur City Schools). Simply carving DeKalb into 3 sections is not going to be feasible for most students and citizens. There have been some suggestions of dividing DCSS into North, Southwest and Southeast. That’s a geographical nightmare worse than what we have now. This is a long, narrow county. Why would you divide it to be even narrower? North, Central and South would be more practical. But you are still left with very large systems. Decatur and Marietta are great school systems. Although Marietta City is by and large low income (even lower than than DeKalb) and Decatur is largely high income, both do an excellent job of educating students. The small number of schools, academic flexibility only a small system can have, and responsive, responsible management personnel contribute to their respective high rates of student achievement.

  16. @d: Decatur City Schools has a very highly qualified, functional all-volunteer board. They don’t seem to have trouble finding people to serve.

  17. d says:

    @DSW, I’m not saying it cannot work, but Decatur is a whole different ball game than many parts of DeKalb and I don’t think we can rely on the most qualified people running if it is a non-compensated position. Heck, look at Gwinnett…. They have most of the same board members that were in office when I was in high school there…. One has been on the board since the Nixon administration and they face little serious competition. It may work to have a volunteer board in DeKalb, but I don’t see it.

  18. Another comment says:

    when you have small town districts as they are called elsewhere, they would be cities here. They really have to be smaller than the division of 3 this blog is advocating. Say The city of Sandy Springs would have two high schools RIverwood and North Springs with there feeder schools. But the city of Dunwoody would only have one high school in it’s district, with its feeder schools. Tucker would have Tucker and it feeder schools. You could see the Cities of Brookhaven and Chambell sharing a district with Chamblee High and it’s feeders. You can easily see the creation of another city with the Clifton corridor and Emory Biotech area fanning out to the perimeter with Lakewood and North Druid Hills High plus the campus on Briarcliff and North Druid Hills being converted as a careers center to train students for high tech jobs in Pharma and bio research that the Clifton corridor volunteer committee has been working on for years. The support has, not been their from Dekalb county CEO’ since Lianne’s time. She drove her self with her Sunday hats to every groundbreaking and recognition. But Mr. CEO 1 and his follow on 2 are two busy for this educated part of town, they pander for votes on the Southside. This area is where the majority of high paying jobs are that aren’t created by the Dekalb County Jobs program. The congressional delegation from Dekalb never tried to get a single federal building in this area, they were all brought to Dekalb by people outside Ga. At least the Cobb delegation supports the bases in their areas.

  19. Another comment says:

    The buildings stay with the areas they are in since the tax payers paid for them. It is just that the gravy train ends for the lower tax base areas when the higher tax base areas break away. That is why Fulton is fighting Milton, the tax disparity is so great. The Jobs program is so great. Do you really think some of the same people working for Fulton County that can’t speak proper English would get hired in Milton?

  20. Catching up with what we missed during the run-up to Thanksgiving, we came across this excellent article from The Other Dunwoody blog:

    Inciteful Movie
    “If you care at all about the sorry state of American Public Education then you’ve seen Two Million Minutes and perhaps some of the other films available on that site. You may have seen Waiting for Superman which is available on Netflix’s streaming service. Or perhaps you’ve seen The Lottery.

    “Perhaps not.

    “This is not an attempt to encourage viewing these films nor is there any intent to discourage viewing them either. This is about another film, a documentary on how schools really operate. The Cartel. You may be pretty burned out with the cheating scandals, the financial incompetence of DeKalb Schools, charter amendment propaganda or the corrupt operations that have become so ingrained in the system and you just may be over it. To help you gauge whether this is worth ninety minutes of your time that you will never get back, The Other Dunwoody offers a very simple test …”

    Continue reading here:

  21. dekalbite2 says:

    @another comment

    “It is just that the gravy train ends for the lower tax base areas when the higher tax base areas break away”

    This appears to be a very simplistic and divisive view. For example, the Tucker area would encompass a large number of low income areas. So would Druid Hills and so would the Chamblee area and the Brookhaven area. There are a number of affluent communities in south DeKalb that would have attendance lines that draw in less affluent areas as well. Gerrymandering the school system to divide it into the “haves” and “have nots” has very little chance of becoming a reality and will lose broad support, something necessary to pass a constitutional amendment. School systems should not be created out of whole cloth at the whim of gerrymandering. We have quite enough political gerrymandering of voting districts going on in Georgia, and it has certainly not brought any positives to our economy (we remain at the bottom of the national barrel) or our political reputation.

    Designing small systems around logical communities must come from the communities that have a natural cohesion, and that cohesion is not defined by socioeconomic status. A single mom with 3 kids in an apartment up the street from my house is just as much a part of my community as my neighbor in a 4 bedroom, 2 bath with two parents working and one child. IMHO “Grand designers” should not be picking and choosing community boundaries for cityhood and school systems.

    Screening out the low income areas will not improve educational opportunities for ALL students. That’s the only thing that matters to me as a former educator. Small community control however has seemed to work for other metro Atlanta systems regardless of income level.

    Hopefully, DeKalb can get some decent management that has the classroom as their first priority. Gwinnett County is a huge school system yet it provides fairly even and cost effective educational opportunities for every student. There is little discussion in Gwinnett of breaking this very large school system into smaller parts. If DeKalb were as well managed, this discussion would be moot.

  22. @d – you’re right. An all volunteer board wouldn’t work for DeKalb. It is far too large and has far too many moving parts. But if it were to be divided into 3-12 separate districts (the idea of small city school systems is a very good one) then all volunteer boards can certainly serve these systems – just like they do in Decatur and just like they do in small city systems in other states that have far more successful schools.

  23. I fear SACS will instead hammer Nancy Jester for asking the tough questions. Folks, SACS love school administrators since they buy materials from SACS parent company, AdvancED. Why would SACS throw the folks that buy stuff, under the bus….. I really hope I am wrong, but Elgart ignored a large group of parents 5 years ago, when Clew started his reign of terror of lies and deception. I hope Elgart has seen the light and holds this bunch of inept, corrupt and incompetent folks at our Palace on Stone Mtn. Industrial responsible for DCSS failures!

  24. howdy1942 says:

    I sincerely hope that SACS gets it right! There is plenty of blame to go around at both the school board and the administration. “Losing” $40 million is administration, failing to reduce administration by a total of 150 that resulted in a combined $50 million in costs is administration, The alleged criminal activity was at the top levels of administration.

    However, the school board failed to follow up to insure that its directive to reduce administration headcount. The school board failed to detect the criminal activity at the highest levels of administration – it took a state legislator to inform the board. The board has not listened to the public – it has ignored the public. The board is not functioning as a team.

    I am not sure what latitude the Governor has in replacing the board if he has the opportunity. My feeling is that the school board members who have been on the board for less than four years should have the opportunity to continue to serve. All other board members should be removed. My fear is that those who elected Walker, Cunningham, and Copelin-Wood would do so again.

    Finally, I would urge this board to look at reality – there is mismanagement at the board, the people have no confidence in you and that will not change, the board is jeopardizing the well being of our children. Accordingly, they some simply resign and let us all begin anew. Also, Superintendent Atkinson needs to seriously look at her performance and standing with the people.

  25. If you’re interested in the state of the system, Dr. Atkinson will be making presentations on the subject very soon.

    Superintendent to give state of the school system addresses

    DeKalb County schools Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson will give two state of the school system addresses Dec. 3.

    The first is 11:30 a.m. at a business luncheon at Holiday Inn Atlanta Perimeter, 4386 Chamblee Dunwoody Rd. Tickets to the DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce luncheon will cost $45 for non-members. The second will be a free, televised 6:30 p.m. event at the school system headquarters, 1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd., Stone Mountain.

    Atkinson is expected to describe progress toward goals and initiatives in the system’s five-year strategic plan while unveiling initiatives for 2013. The second event will air on channel 24 and stream live at http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us.

  26. Anne Shirley says:

    Color me stupid, but I just do not understand WHY the state of the system isn’t first given to the employees and parents FIRST, for free, since we are the innermost circle of the system. I get the “we need to make sure the community businesses need to feel confident to build in DeKalb…” But at this point you won’t have a system if the parents leave and the teachers have a mass exodus, and both I believe are going to happen as soon as the economy begins to turn around. That I can promise you. Atkinson has little if Any respect for employees or parents.

  27. dekalbite2 says:

    Well, that will an interesting speech if Dr. Atkinson says everything is fine and DeKalb gets put on probation by SACS.

  28. no name says:

    December 3 Superintendent’s Spiel at the Palace: As I reported back in my November 16, 2012 at 7:10 AM post (in the “BREAKING NEWS!” gallery), DCS administrators were ordered to attend this *public* meeting back on November 15. Administrators were given 19 calendar days notice, while I believe Atkinson & March decided that the public would only get 10 days notice of this *public* meeting.

    I cannot recall any prior Superintendent ordering administrators to attend one of these evening events…. but no prior Superintendent actually treated the public with such contempt either!

  29. Actually, Dr Lewis used to do something similar. In fact, so did Johnny Brown. They always filled the first few rows of every public meeting with high-ranking school system administrators. It was like a thick wall between the public and the superintendent. Very obvious.

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