Superintendent Atkinson Shares Update on the “State of the System”

Received via email newsletter, entitled, “Victory in Every Classroom”

Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson presented the State of the System address on Monday, Dec. 3, and with it, shared the DeKalb County School District’s (DCSD’s) plan to go digital. This fall, more than 8,200 students at seven middle schools – Cedar Grove, Chamblee, Lithonia, Peachtree, Redan, Stone Mountain and Tucker – will receive Lenovo netbooks loaded with all of their textbooks.

While only 38 percent of DCSD’s schools are fully wireless, by the fall, the district will have completed an aggressive technology plan to get make all 138 campuses wireless. The remainder of the district’s middle schools and high schools will transition to one-to-one technology in phases through August 2014. In addition, all 5,908 DCSD classrooms are scheduled to be equipped with interactive whiteboards by January 2014. Currently, interactive boards are in 4,050 classrooms.

“The fact is that we must create environments that will engage and inspire our digital natives,” said Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson. “Our schools, like many across the nation, have technology that is woefully behind that of the private sector. Thanks to funds allocated from the Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax, or SPLOST, we have an incredibly aggressive plan that supports the intellectual complexity of our 99,000 children.”

Atkinson also highlighted DCSD students’ academic accomplishments, including:

  • Greatest growth on Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs) in five year
  • Performance growth on ACT college readiness tests was stronger than that of the state and nation
  • Percentage of students earning a three or higher on Advanced Placement (AP) exams increased at a greater rate than the state and nation
  • DCSD’s inclusion on the AP Honor Roll
  • DCSD SAT scores improved at a rate greater than that of the state or nation
  • Kittredge Magnet School being named on of the U.S. Department of Education’s High Achieving Blue Ribbon Schools

Atkinson also addressed the district’s obstacles, including the SACS investigation and budget concerns. “The fact is we are a fully accredited school district and plan to stay that way,” Atkinson said. “The fact is that any information and feedback we receive, we intend to use to improve and create brighter days in DeKalb. In addition, we have successfully dealt with the budget deficit and are currently running within budget. The fact is we are moving from a cash reporting basis to an accrual reporting basis – from an old chart of accounts to the state chart of accounts.”

The event opened with the presentation of colors by the Cross Keys High Navy JROTC, and the singing of the national anthem by Alexis Breed, a senior at Martin Luther King, Jr. High. This year, DCSD implemented instrumental music classes in all of its 77 elementary schools, and the Dunaire Dynamic Dolphins Xylophone Ensemble performed two musical selections during the event to showcase the program. The Stephenson High chorus concluded the evening by performing “A Brighter Day.”

Next week, DCSD will release its annual report for 2012. The paperless report will be available on the DCSD website .

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6 Responses to Superintendent Atkinson Shares Update on the “State of the System”

  1. teacherwantingachange says:

    The press release describes the SACS investigation (is there really one?) and budget concerns as “obstacles.” This characterization speaks to the writing abilities and mindset of Dekalb’s readers.

    I don’t want to diminish anyone’s accomplishments, but these “victories” are often misprepresentations. Did Kittredge succeeded in spite of Dekalb? Didn’t this school lose one of its German teachers? Yesterday we also learned about the success of Chamblee’s German programs. Didn’t the Superintendent delay German and Latin teachers’ contracts? And would they have been included in the 200+ teachers she recommended RIFing?

    What role does DECA play in the increaed SAT scores? Imagine how much more successful our students could be if all schools were able to limit class sizes and implement behavioral contract.

    Dekalb’s AP performance is equally misleading. Unlike Gwinnett, we don’t publish the number of students who earned a 3 or higher. So if our county is anything like Gwinnett, then the number of students taking the exams is at least half of the number of exams taken. If you were able to see the scores earned by students, we might have a different picture. And I’m curious about this access claim. Does College Board look at student demographics or district demographics?

  2. To watch Atkinson’t 2012 State of the System given to the DeKalb Commission after 90 days on the job, back in March click this link:
    http://view.liveindexer.com/ViewIndexSessionSLMQ.aspx?indexSessionSKU=FFe%2byn9zLMYwbq5NF2pzkg%3d%3d

    At that meeting, Burrell Ellis, Howard Mosby, Larry Johnson and the rest of the delegation professed their full support to Dr. Atkinson, calling her an “Asset” to DeKalb. Mosby stated that if they don’t fully support her and the ‘process’, then “shame on us”. Then Dr. Walker introduced Dr. Atkinson, saying, “the superintendent work for nine geniuses — who indepedent think on their own, and I’m here to tell you, the lady’s up to the task. She doesn’t go along to get along. She thinks for herself. Look at me, 6’5″. 350 pounds. She disagrees with me!” She has a vision, and the skill and the energy and the determination to see it to frution. She is small in stature, but huge in determination and commitment. Dr. Atkinson believes in what she’s doing. I’m proud to work with this lady. … We are destined under her leadership for Victory in Every Classroom.”

    When the new SOS is posted, it will be interesting to compare the talking points.

    Some of Dr. Atkinson’s points in this speech in March were:

      This is my board. We may not always agree, but they love me.
      Thanked the Stephenson choir. (Her son is at Stephenson.) Highlighted Vita Colman,
      Reorganized into 9 divisions. Introduced the leaders. (The “A” Team)
      Curriculum/Instruction; Dr. Kathy Howe, Communications: Walter Woods, Finance: Susan Hurst, HR; Dr. Tekshia Ward-Smith, IT; Gary Brantley, Legal Services; Ron Ramsey (who was already introduced at the top of the meeting as a State Senator in attendance), Facilities & Operations; Steven Wilkins, School Leadership & Operational Support; Kendra March, Strategic Management & Accountability; Ramona Tyson.
      Thanked Burrell Ellis who said that a county can only be as good as it’s school system.
      Put in her first 90 days as a time to learn, listen and lead. Listened to and interviewed all kinds of people.
      One common thread: Failing our children and our community is not the DeKalb way. It is simply not acceptable. We want our school system to be great again, focused on being great again.
      Used her 90 day interviews to write the strategic plan.
      Five goals: Student achievement and success. Excellence in leadership and personnel. Operational effectiveness. Safe and orderly schools. Engaging stakeholders.
      Thanked GSBA for help in developing the plan.
      How we’re going to move forward: Need diagnostic information to track progress. Plan. Do. Check. Act. We’re developing a curriculum. Through an inclusive process including teachers and staff. You can’t ask people to own it unless they own it.
      Will share draft in May and ask for feedback.
      End social promotion. Set high expectations. Can’t end it overnight. Will partner with other organizations to capture children from 6 mo to pre-k.
      Implement a balanced calendar. So students don’t spend so much time away from the learning environment in summer.
      Will invest in teachers and leaders. Professional development. Weekly early release will give teachers time.
      Start a leadership academy to build a pipeline for principals.
      Bring a culture of respect. Parents must know that they are sending students to a safe place conducive to learning. Children must feel safe – no bullying.
      Safe firm, consistent discipline. Have to have rewards and consequences.
      Offer options for students who don’t fit in a traditional setting. One size does not fit all.
      Some areas must have zero tolerance.
      District-wide salary, compensation study with the goal of driving as many resources as we can back to the schoolhouse, back to classrooms.
      Documenting and driving about $100 million back to the school level.
      We need a Central Office. We need personnel that understand that we are going to be about ‘servant leadership’. I will accept nothing less.
      New “E” technology for schools. Our teachers must have instructional technology training. They don’t have to be afraid – we will fix it. Students must have ipads, etc. Tools of TODAY.
      We will use a zero-based philosophy to build the 2013 budget. We are about educating, not building buildings.
      Aligned management system – data driven and effective. We will hold people accountable. Rid programs that do not induce achievement.
      This is what we will be doing in this school district. Our board. Our Central Office:
      Implement a balanced scorecard. Measure against goals. You will be able to follow.
      I will present a report next year about how we’ve done.
      State of the district is not as bad as it’s been – but not as good as it’s
      Distractors would like us to be divided. But we must stay together to make this happen.
      When I go to heaven, I want the Lord to say, “Come on up good and faithful servant, you did a lot for children.”

  3. concernedmom30329 says:

    But don’t worry — It is a brighter day in DeKalb. (Watch the speech)

  4. Murphey says:

    @Teacherwantingachange: I checked the GaDOE website for district tAP test scores. It has all the details by district and also lists details for individual schools. The latest posted is 2010-2011 (which is a problem in itself, since 2012 is almost over).

    Anyway, since you asked, here’s the percent of AP test takers scoring a 3, 4, or 5:
    DeKalb – 31.7%
    APS – 25.3%
    Gwinnett – 56.9%
    Cobb – 66.4%
    Fulton – 69,8%

    Before everyone comes unglued about the low percentages, be aware that there are two schools of thought about AP classes. One is that AP classes should be restricted to only students whose previous performance is strong. The other is that AP classes should be open to all students, and that even if a student scores poorly on the AP exam the experience of having a college level class in high school is valuable and eye-opening.

    Also, regarding German, it is my understanding that German is no longer taught at Kittredge and is only available to magnet students in middle and high school. And yes, the district did delay contracts for German teachers last spring. The district’s commitment to German is not strong.

    I think Kittredge succeeds in spite of DCSD.

  5. The report here failed to mention that the “state of the system” address given by Atkinson was in front of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce. So, yeah, of course the business community is going to be receptive to the idea of switching the entire district to e-books and wireless because that means big spending in the areas of “things” that require purchases in the private sector.

    The SACS report says that our school system has “connectivity” issues, not that we should be 100% wireless. There’s a big difference. It also says that our IT department is woefully behind in providing even the most basic in technology to our schools. That’s because of the mismanagement of funds by the head of IT, Tyson, who is now in charge of Strategy. If our IT department cannot roll out a simply software upgrade or understand that they are buying a program that will not work on the schoolhouse operating system, then why should we applaud a ridiculous initiative to suddenly plop a ton of technology on every schoolhouse and not forsee the mountain of problems that will surely result, one of the largest being that virtual schools have larger percentages of children who drop out, do not read on grade level, do not perform on grade level for math, and do not respond well to a digital environment for learning.

    We’ve quoted many sources in the articles on our website, but will gladly repost here if there is interest. Most notably, we posted an article about the fact that the children of some of the biggest, most well-known innovators in technology in Silicon Valley attend a very expensive private school that is almost completely “hands-on” and “electronics-off” in philosophy. One parents said something like this:

    There is no need to teach our children how to use an iPad. Most children probably know how to do more things with it already than we do. It’s made that way, literally so simple that “even a child can use it.” But, it wasn’t built for education. Quite the opposite. It was built for social networking, surfing the web in our off time, playing games, making the adult world more manageable with lists, emails or online dinner reservations or directions. I would expect my child to be able to do all these things with a standard education and that’s with or without an iPad to teach him.

    He said, “computers are idiot-proof these days. That’s why everyone is now able to have one and use it without any kind of training. I’m not raising my child to be able to USE a computer. I want my child to become a critical thinker – someone who will be able to INVENT the next big thing in technology. I don’t want him to know how to USE an IPAD, but INVENT what might come next AFTER an iPad. That’s using logic, critical thinking and reasoning, not something to be limited to what someone else has done and everyone at Walmart can buy, bring home and start using out of a box. The real world is still life’s best teacher, not the simulated one from someone else’s imagination.

    ****************

    And separately, to compare AP scores among counties in one of the lowest performing states for education in the entire U.S. is a bit sad, isn’t it? Especially when you see that DeKalb is behind the other counties. So, we’re one of the lowest performing school districts with one of the worst graduation rates in one of the lowest achieving states in one of the lowest income states in the nation. And, we waited nearly two years for a Superintendent who can stand up with a straight face and talk about plans to move to an e-book, instead of a regular book as if the information will magically be transferred to the brains of the children in a way that was not possible without her brilliant ideas. She can talk about a brighter day? (like the one of the children running in the SPLOST postcard that turned out was actually a photo taken of children in Florida with a beach behind them??)? She make claims of greatness in front of the business community but can she do the same in front of parents after increasing class sizes, lying about a pay as you go plan, RIFing school house employees in a possibly illegal manner, lying on her resume, having several personal bankruptcies on her own track record, leave her former two employers with their systems in shambles and likely being taken over by the state, spending millions on canned education, reducing the impact of pre-K, canceling any orders for actual textbooks and plotting to put 6th graders in with high school students, naming high performing schools for closure, and all with typos and errors on everything she does so much that teachers first thought they were getting raises before learning that they might be fired and we would be losing many para-pro’s and media specialists while keeping Tyson as the head of our strategy and accountability division? Are you kidding me???

    T-Mobile cell towers did not go up, but be careful if you support these plans for wireless because you may be sentencing yourself or your neighbors or friends to a battle, either with the school system or with cancer. More evidence comes out every day about the relationship between cancer and the proximity one lives to a cell tower. Her aggressive steps in going wireless may likely be related to the fact that 2014 will be the release of the first-ever full scale research study on the effects of RF radiation from cell phones and cell towers and other devices on children and many real “geniuses” are already saying that it will show that kids are the most vulnerable to the harmful effects caused by this from of radiation that can interfere with normal gene functioning necessary for critical development in children.

  6. A more in-depth report on the fighting at Lakeside:
    Teacher: Student fights misrepresenting school

    …”We’re full of kids that are 4.0 going to Harvard, going to Georgia Tech,” said Lakeside teacher and coach Tricia Newmyer.

    …[T]he fight that was caught on tape was alarming because students formed a ring and attempted to keep faculty members away.

    That’s when the assistant principal tried to stop the fight and students said he got kicked while he was down.

    Those statements simply don’t line up.

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