Is the board seeking to fire Atkinson ‘for cause’?

What exactly is going on here? Someone is lying. The story goes that Dr. Atkinson asked Ron Ramsey to present a ‘deal’ to former (RIFFED) employees who are suing the district. The deal basically said that if the plaintiffs dropped their request to see Dr. Atkinson’s text messages, they could have their jobs back (the offer covered something like 11 people). But Dr. Atkinson says she did and said no such thing and that she has no such text messages. Ron Ramsey says she did. Ramsey also apparently asked for and was granted a different (perhaps demoted) position in the school system.

Watch the video report here:

http://bcove.me/ubysigo3

As Richard Belcher points out, and as you may recall, Dr. Walker and the majority voting block on the board added a clause to Dr. Atkinson’s contract making it difficult to break. They basically increased the board approval to remove her from her post ‘for convenience’ at a super-majority vote of 7. If that occurs, Atkinson is released with a $275,000 buyout. However, apparently, the easy out is to fire her ‘for cause’, which only requires a simple majority of 5. In this scenario, Atkinson gets no payout.

Make no bones about it. This is a showdown. Someone is lying. Perhaps Atkinson is guilty of wrangling some kind of deal or perhaps she is being set up. Pay attention. This isn’t going away. In fact, it may all come to a head over the break – before our new board members even take their chairs. We’ll see.

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53 Responses to Is the board seeking to fire Atkinson ‘for cause’?

  1. Important pieces of the AJC article:

    Former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers was one of the attorneys Atkinson hired. Bowers said Monday that Atkinson sent no public text messages on her personal phone. He said the device was sent to outside technical experts to confirm that. He also said, however, that it’s a new phone. She returned her old phone to the district when it broke, he said. Bowers said that to his knowledge, her old phone was not analyzed for text messages, but said he knows Atkinson sent no public text messages on it.

    “She’s told me that she didn’t, and I believe her,” Bowers said. . . .

    State Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, has watched the developing dispute. He said Monday that he, too, filed an open records request for Atkinson’s text messages several months ago. The chairman of the DeKalb Senate delegation said he was following up on tips that the messages might contain information about questionable use of consultants. He said he filed his request in August and still hasn’t received any text messages.

    “I don’t know what they’re hiding, but it seems to be something important enough that if it got out to the public, there would be some repercussions,” Jones said.

    Have we added yet another layer of legal fees on top of the millions SACS is already concerned about?

    Has a local DeKalb delegate to the state actually requested documentation from our locally elected school superintendent – one he not so long ago pledged to fully support? If another state senator (Ramsey) is also involved, why didn’t state senator Jones also ask for Ramsey’s emails and texts? Could the directive be written in an email to Ramsey? Can we know?

    Yes, it really is starting to look like a showdown.

  2. I think Ramsey is being protected, but probably both are guilty of coverups. Atkinson will be collateral damage.

  3. I don’t see how they think they could fire her for cause using rumored text messages as the evidence.

    In fact, I don’t see how they can fire her at all given their own lack of trust and credibility.

  4. Concerned mom says:

    The one constant throughout our problems is the school board.

  5. This is similar to the Lewis – Pope bout. Atkinson probably thought SACS could take the Board down for her. So the Board, in retaliation, will throw Atkinson under the bus. If it gets rid of everyone, I’m all for it.

  6. DeKalb Observer says:

    This is what happens when there’s no integrity and everyone lies. Atkinson and Ramsey believe they can recreate what happened if there is no evidence to dispute it. But the broken phone business – and the fact that no texts have been supplied via Open Records- tell me that she is desperately scrambling to protect her version of the facts. Moreover, attorney Bowers continues to say “no public texts” were sent. Huh? What makes a text “private?” They are all public if they are on your work device. Ramsey, we all know, operates without any ethical strictures. Parents who have requested investigations after serious incidents in schools have later been “outed” to the very people they believed were acting unfairly or unethically. He may well have made an offer that Atkinson didn’t authorize or changed her mind about- resulting in his demotion. But Ramsey is supported by a longstanding power structure: without a full scale EXTERNAL investigation of the corruption he has been tied to, Ramsey will survive this and Atkinson will not. And while I am delighted Richard Belcher is putting this front and center, I have to laugh at his report. He says it’s been a “bad week” for Dekalb Schools. Seriously, bro? Where have you been? None of this is new. And on one of your slides in your report, “District” is misspelled. Good report, though. A-minus for spelling, however.

  7. midvaledad says:

    I agreed with Dekalb Observer, there needs to be a full scale external investigation. We can not rely on the DA to do one as he has ignored 2 grand juries and stated the school district can “police itself”.

    Time for the GBI to get involved. Failure to comply with an open records request must break some sort of statute. Also, the $11 or $12 million dollars that are missing needs a GBI investigation, not a county DA one.

  8. no name says:

    While I have not followed the text messaging issue closely, my understanding of it is that there are four possible outcomes:

    (1) Atkinson did not send any text messages at all: She hired another law firm just to review non-existent text messages, the SACS probation report said DCS is wasting too much money on attorneys, so the board will fire her for cause [wasting money].

    (2) Atkinson actually did send “public messages”: As she previously said (via her attorney) she did not do this, she is caught in a lie, and gets fired for cause [lying to her bosses, the board].

    (3) Atkinson sent private texts, but those messages are made public anyway: Whatever it is she is trying to keep hidden will cause her to be fired with cause.

    (4) Atkinson sent private texts, but those messages stay private: Whatever she did via those messages is going to eventually come out anyway, via other sources. When it does come out, she gets fired for cause.

    I also hope that the board lacks the 7 votes to pay Atkinson her contract’s “terminate for convenience” fee of $275,000 just to walk away.

  9. insider says:

    Trust me, this is no setup. Atkinson and most of her inner sanctum are dirty as hell. She is notorious for communicating only by text (she doesn’t read email). That way she can say,”I was not made aware of this” every time something bad or embarrassing goes down. Which is almost daily. The texts she wants to hide cover far more than the scope of the lawyer’s request and she’s terrified of what they will reveal. Ramsey is a snake but he should not be only one taking this hit. The board has cause a thousand times over. They just need to pull the trigger and let us rebuild from the ashes of our once great district.

  10. Concernedmom30329 says:

    My understanding from talking to a few folks who have worked with Ramsey the last few years is the following: He would not have made that offer without permission. That just isn’t his style, plus why would he care if she gets in trouble for what is in those text messages.

  11. Noticed this interesting comment in an AJC article about an employee defrauding the Woodruff Art Center:

    “Hepner conducted an internal investigation after the fraud was uncovered before sending the findings to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is often asked to prosecute complex financial crimes, particularly when the theft exceeds $500,000.”

  12. § 50-18-102a-c:

    (a) All records created or received in the performance of duty and paid for by public funds are deemed to be public property and shall constitute a record of public acts.

    (b) The destruction of records shall occur only through the operation of an approved retention schedule. The records shall not be placed in the custody of private individuals or institutions or semiprivate organizations unless authorized by retention schedules.

    (c) The alienation, alteration, theft, or destruction of records by any person or persons in a manner not authorized by an applicable retention schedule is a misdemeanor.

  13. The above is from the Official Code of Georgia.

  14. tipster says:

    Someone should check out the Ramsey’s business property in DeKalb that is over $100,000 in delinquent taxes. For some reason, the county tax commissioner refuses to put a lien on the property.
    http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/TaxCommissioner/TCDisplay.asp?pin=0165573

  15. Does Ramsey not have any written proof or a text message or email from Atkinson showing that he was directed to make this offer? Why doesn’t someone submit a request for his emails and texts on the subject?

  16. Teachingmom says:

    Does anyone know if text messages can be subpoenaed from cell company records by going to the provider? For some reason I thought texts had been retrieved in criminal cases. Also, if those texts came in to others, why can’t they get them off of their phone?? It is infuriating that this standoff is occurring. I think they all need to go after reading the SACs report and seeing it confirm what I’m seeing in my own school.

  17. During this season, we need to be aware that custodians and other lower paid personnel are on a two-week furlough. No work, no pay during Christmas vacation! Wonder how much Atkinson saved with that cruel move. Supt. Scrooge!’

    And just think about the condition of the buildings when schools starts January 8th.

  18. We had no idea that custodians are on furlough. That is so sad. Our hearts go out to them.

  19. A Google search produced this:

    Some cell phone text message software will enable you to recover texts you thought were deleted from your cell phone. This is possible because when you delete a text message, the text message doesn’t actually get erased. Though the phone tells you that the text is deleted, in reality the phone keeps the text for awhile in a ghost-like state and makes the space that the text inhabits vacant and available to new text.

    If new text comes along and it needs the space that your so-called “deleted” text inhabits, the new text will overwrite the old text (which is still squatting in the “available” space). If new text comes along and finds a space to park and doesn’t need the “deleted” message’s available space, the deleted message will continue to exist, out of sight, until something eventually comes along, overwrites the deleted text and takes over its space.

    Which means that some deleted text may still be recoverable. There is a big market for text recovery and text recovery software, especially for snooping. That is why, if you search online for cell phone text message recovery software, you will see many listings for commercial data-recovery products whose target audience is law enforcement, security, private investigation and other legal work.

  20. Verizon is the only carrier to admit they keep text contents and they only do so for 3 – 5 days. See article here: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2011/09/cellphone-carriers-retain-customer-data-for-up-to-7-years/

  21. DeKalb BOE for dummies says:

    @DSW, my guess is that the gang of 5 are upset because C.A. threw them under the bus with SACS. I don’t think anyone could be successful while working with this board. She could probably be successful if she was given a chance to do her job. The decisions that have been made are about adults and personal agendas. Sarah Copeland-Wood is almost illiterate (sorry), and Jay Cunningham ain’t too far behind. Also, someone mentioned that rve entire county should vote for all board members. I don’t have the numbers, but wouldn’t S.D. voters outnumber N.D., therefore creating more board members like the gang of five?

  22. another comment says:

    The easiest thing to do is to do a FOA of everyone that she may have sent Text messages to. The letter going out with the FOA request to all employees and contractors, should clearly state the law above. It should also add that any one who colludes with others in violations of laws of the State or Federal Gov’t can also be charged with RICO charges.

  23. concernedmom30329 says:

    FOI requests related to texts are far more complicated than say FOI requests for emails etc. Something about having to get a subpoena for the cell phone companies.
    Could Atkinson do better with a better board? Absolutely. However, she is no where near qualified for this job. And some of the people she has hired are questionable at best, damaging at worst.
    We needed someone from a much larger system, remember most of the systems in the US are smaller than DeKalb, who had a proven track record of at least improving a system.
    Lorriane schools were partially taken over by the state after she left.

  24. Thanks Cell. We can’t find any evidence that the cell phone providers keep the content of messages. They do know how many messages were sent, when and how much data they used. But they don’t have content. A forensic look at a phone (even if broken) can usually uncover the content. This is what was done in the Sniederman case someone referenced.

  25. DeKalb BOE for dummies says:

    I will bet anything that the broken phone will get “lost” somewhere.

  26. Bamay says:

    Custodians are not the only ones on furlough – all 12 months employees are on furlough.

  27. Another comment says:

    Well I hope all the 12 month employees apply for unemployment insurance.

  28. dekalbite2 says:

    So why can’t teachers apply for unemployment when they are furloughed?

  29. @ Bamay — Do you have confirmation of this? A memo, e-mail or some other kind of directive that you could share? Send it to DSW e-mail. Don’t worry if your name is on it. We don’t have to publish what you send if you don’t want us to. If it is okay to publish, we will make sure that your name and anything else that might identify you is removed. We find it hard to believe that the 12-month employees are on furlough (which suggests not being paid) because that affects all of the Palace employees.

  30. Anne Shirley says:

    At discentheory…..
    Not that it helps…..but everyone’s pay includes furlough days….the pay is already prorated to include the furlough days…..so everyone gets paid just a smaller amount……I think the public has no idea just how little non certified employees make….and if you are certified you have been in a holding pattern with pay for at least FIVE long years…….sad.

  31. It’s just time off without pay, not the same as being terminated from employment; wouldn’t qualify. Why can’t we demand that the administrative office take furlough days next year and keep our teachers and school house employees at work teaching our children? Maybe they are afraid to let us find out how much better things run without them there at all.

  32. North Dekalb Teacher says:

    2012-2013 calendar including furlough days………..

    http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/calendar/files/5CA252723C164FFE8538359BE854358D.pdf

  33. howdy1942 says:

    Looks like we are sinking deeper into chaos! On this Christmas Eve, I wish everyone a most blessed Christmas and a very Happy New Year. I hope and pray for a much better year for Dekalb County Schools.

  34. Undercover Reformer says:

    12 month (including central office) employees have had more furlough days than schoolhouse employees (10 mo. and 11 mo.) for the last 3 years. As North DeKalb Teacher indicates above, the calendar indicates the number of furlough days for 12 mo. employees (9). That means every employee in central office – secretaries, clerks, custodians, coordinators, directors, everybody. It is hardest, obviously, on clerical staff whose salaries are not huge to begin with – then you lose 9 days of pay.

  35. another comment says:

    When the Republican Congress led by Newt Gingrich wouldn’t approve a Federal Budget for President Clinton, the majority of all Federal Employees were Furloughed for 17 days. At the time it was infinity. We were advised by HR if we were not on the list of Critical employees who would keep the bare minimum running and would furloughed we were to go apply for unemployment the next Monday Morning in the County we lived in. We were told all the unemployment offices had been called, you didn’t even need a pink slip,just tell them you were not working due to furlough and you did not know how long it would last. If it ends up being more than a 40 hour work week then you get unemployment for the next week. ( which is why they want to spread it out).

    We even had the CDC credit union advance all long term members a two week pay period that was missed. Luckily, after 17 days, Newt and his band of fools caved and they went back and back paid us for the 17 days all of us on Salary were out of work. They also, had to make big penalty clause payments to those Federal Contractors who are the Republican party backers. Odd part is they can’t get those paid without out us workers over seeing those contracts. They couldn’t make the medicare and medicaid payments, that would affect alot of people over 65,alot of hospitals, and alot of Doctors,all their supporters. They would also start missing making Social Security Checks for January and February, having a really pissed off voter block. Then if they screwed around too much they wouldn’t have anyone to collect taxes or process refunds. Biggest problem they wouldn’t have anyone like me that wasted so much time responding to idiotic questions from Senator Byrd, Senator Natcher and Senator Hatcher, etc. I once told Hatcher and Natcher to refer to the responses I gave each other, after all they were on the same committee. I was only 28 and had just started and it was well over 20 years ago. I didn’t get why Prima Donna’s couldn’t share information. Computers couldn’t quite cut and paste information as it does now.

    So if the Furlough is for 40 hours or more, and you are a 12 month employee and this is your only job on the books then go and apply for unemployment. They only passed a law against seasonal workers which is wrong. Up north and in other States, people that work seasonal jobs can get unemployment as long as they have enough quarters or hours in unemplyment.

  36. North Dekalb Teacher says:

    But these aren’t 12 (or 9 or 7 or 17) consecutive days…….just one here and there.There won’t be any unemployment compensation for anyone. Aside from that, those lost days are actually time lost for essential work on educational infrastructure at the school level. For teachers,… we lost most of our pre-planning and workdays. For custodial….days without students that were traditionally used for maintenance “catch-up. On a personal note, I need to get into the school to finish semester grades ( I don’t do ESIS at home, a matter of principle). In the past that was not a problem. This year, a problem. It probably won’t get done until the beginning of the new semester. I certainly won’t do it at home.

  37. Another comment says:

    @north Dekalb teacher then don’t do it T home. If you are a salaried employee other. You can be an exempt employee and o. Call 24/7 at which you are expected to do things at home. Which is why living in a right to work state sucks.

    Teachers have only screwed other selves in this state by voting Republican Nd voting for the Black Maffia that the dems put up.

  38. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Another Comment are you working from your cell phone…your comment needs clarification.

  39. Dolo says:

    Don’t worry @north Dekalb teacher you can’t do grades from home. If you have an udated Java or any modern computer then you can’t access eSIS. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for anyone in the central office. At least, they haven’t given any work arounds other than uninstall Java and reinstall Java 6 duhhhh you can’t go back that far…

  40. North Dekalb Teacher says:

    Dolo….my point exactly. I refuse to cripple my macbook to run software on what is essentially my own time that the county apparently won’t support in any way other than “install Java 6”.I used to love going in to school during vacation just to have a few uninterrupted hours to clean my (all too small…..30 seats, 39 AP science students) room and reset for the coming semester. I do have an access key but have decided (again, a matter of principle) to not use it on furlough days.

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