DeKalb schools fallout continues

The next couple of weeks will prove to be a critical juncture for DeKalb County Schools. If you need to read up on the current situation, read through our posts in our December archives, available on the right side panel of the blog.

Also, the Dunwoody Reporter has posted an article that pretty much sums up the situation with SACS to date.

Writer Dan Whisenhunt tells us,

The chairman of the DeKalb school board is promising the board would work together to pull the system’s accreditation out of jeopardy, but the board member representing Dunwoody and Chamblee thinks the accreditation process is flawed.

Some in the community aren’t waiting for the board to work things out and have started a petition asking Gov. Nathan Deal remove the entire school board. As of Jan. 8, it had 749 signatures.

District 1 BOE member Nancy Jester wants to turn the tables on the DeKalb County Schools’ accusers, AdvancED, a national accrediting body that includes the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. On Dec. 17, AdvancED announced that the system is on accreditation probation and gave school board members until December 2013 to resolve numerous issues related to board governance.

Click here to read the rest of the Dunwoody Reporter recap on the subject…

So, where are we in this very serious situation?

The DeKalb school board must report to a hearing to be held by the state school board next Thursday, January 17. To read the official summons, click here.

The board is supposed to submit responsive documents by today. We have no information as to whether or not they have done that already or if they have responsive documents in the works.

It is further hereby ORDERED that the parties shall file a witness list, which includes the telephone number of the witness and a brief description of the anticipated testimony of each witness; a document list; and any stipulated facts with the State Board. The parties shall serve a copy of these pleadings by email to the Hearing Officer and opposing counsel by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, January 11, 2013. The parties are further directed to exchange copies of documents by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, January 11, 2013. The parties are required to provide copies of all exhibits (tabbed, indexed, and bound) at the hearing for the Hearing Officer, the Chair, and each Member of the State Board.

We are very curious as to what kind of plan this board would be able to submit. Are they all to simply apologize and say, “We promise to do better”? How on earth would that help? We are supportive of removing the board, however, we don’t think that simply removing the board will make the change we all hope for. There is far too much waste to trim, administrative ineptitude to correct or remove and far too many children who deserve a better education than the one our ‘system’ is currently providing.

Stay tuned. We’ll try to bring the news as it is revealed. Next week should be a doozy.

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26 Responses to DeKalb schools fallout continues

  1. Tim McGaughey says:

    One problem with the SACS Report is that it does not identify by name which School Board member did what. The Report uses non-specific words such as “a Board Member” behaved improperly, instead of identifying the offending individual. The Report leaves the highly misleading and counterproductive impression that all DeKalb School Board Members used undue influence or were corrupt.
    In fact, Nancy Jester and others heroically tried to shed light on the problems. She was the whistleblower. The quality Board Members are tremendous assets to the System and should have a contuing role with the System.

    Tim McGaughey

  2. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Oh I think we can figure who said what to whom and who did whatever. The fact that the Board members get into the minutia of running the county is the essential issue at hand. They are simply stewards of the funds. They must rely on the Superintendent to police her employees and respond to their questions. This is how they he/she is accountable. Sup is their lone employee. If the Sup isn’t performing, Sup needs to go.

    The board members have done such a POOR job of hiring a real Superintendent of Schools in the last 12 years. They have brought in people who are not qualified and have been able to push them which ever way their own personal agendas went. Board members should hold the Sup accountable for the misdealing of her staff. The Sups have NOT held their staff accountable because they have hired the Boards friends and family. Round and round it goes.
    Second verse, same as the first.

    Sorry but until the black mafia, ( I didn’t say it first, but i do agree) gets out of this school system, management styles will not change.

  3. concerned citizen says:

    And the way to get rid of the Board members’ friends and family with less backlash is to get rid of the Board members first. Let the Board members who are not indicted for crimes apply to be reinstated. Ethics violations can be a part of the decision to reinstate.

  4. DeKalb BOE for dummies says:

    DSW1 and DSW2 have done a great job exposing information. I am really unsure of how much longer I am going to be able to take this district. DCSD employees could’ve written that SACS report, with much more detail and evidence. Many of us have chosen to stay, but others have jumped ship to other districts. We want to stand up, but we are afraid-afraid that they will come after us; this has been the culture of this district for at least a decade. In this district favoritism, bullying, nepotism rings deep; this sort of activity begins with the BOE and trickles down to those in the central office, and to schoolhouse administrators. The BOARD has been given time to float this sinking ship, but it can’t because the hands are tied in mischief. It is time to downsize the ship. There is a culture of board and administrative bullying here. I received an email about victory on every classroom….we won’t have real victory until teachers are compensated for their worth and the mafia have been given their pink slips.

  5. Next week will begin with a bang! The board STILL has to have the big discussion as to who gets to be chair and vice-chair.

    NOTICE OF DEKALB BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETINGS

    The DeKalb Board of Education will hold the following meetings on Monday, January 14, 2013:

    3:00pm Called Meeting to adjourn to Executive Session for the purpose of discussing legal matters
    Cabinet Room
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
    1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
    Stone Mountain, GA 30083

    6:00pm Business Meeting
    J. David Williamson Board Room
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
    1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
    Stone Mountain, GA 30083

    Meeting information can be accessed online by going to: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us, click on Leadership, go to eBoard Home Page and click on the date for the meeting agenda\information.

  6. booksrkool2 says:

    bettyandveronica1 said:
    “Sorry but until the black mafia, ( I didn’t say it first, but i do agree) gets out of this school system, management styles will not change.”

    I had to laugh at your comment. In this state the “white mafia” controls the purse strings. Most of the ignorant people that run the state could care less about the children of this state (white, black, Hispanic, etc).

    The real problem is that power corrupts and as taxpayers we must keep “them” in check. Unfortunately, many voters (white and black) don’t participate in this fantastic process.

  7. bettyandveronica1 says:

    I totally agree. Apathy reigns the day. Please encourage friends to vote fools out whenever they serve and don’t serve well.. I vote. Many do not or they only vote based on one or two factors. We have become a nation of voters that only look on the outside of the package. But let’s stay local, DCSD boe and admin have a vast network and have changed this county’s educational system for the foreseeable future. I wish I could vote Walker, Copelin-woods,Cunningham, Orson, Edler, Speaks and Jester but my only choice was Womack or McMahan and I made it. Not sure why five folks didn’t like my comment so far but I didn’t say anything that hasn’t been said before. Sorry, i don’t eat granola, I can’t sing kumbayah and I am tired of being “PC”. We need a hero. Anyone know if Michelle Rhee is doing anything? But that might be a case of be careful of what you wish for…..

  8. thedeal2 says:

    Does our board realize that other school boards don’t have to have weekly executive sessions to address personnel and legal matters? We have them so often that they hardly stand out, but other school systems don’t. #sotiredofthisgroup

  9. Embarrassed Employee says:

    @the deal 2 it would be interesting to know what legal issues they are always discussing….

    @B&V you didn’t offend me but I can see how your posts could offend some….

    The bottom line is the Board an d Atkinson are only going to look out for themselves. They need AA. They are addicted to power. They love feeling relevant and important. They also breed these false sense of power into their minions. It’s funny to see a connected secretary behave and make decisions as if she is an assistant principal. All of them must go because they can not correct themselves nor give up their inflated salaries and egos.

  10. Refugee from DCSS says:

    Why are the only news reports on DCSS from Dunwoody? I looked at On Common Ground and other newspapers from around the county and haven’t found any articles addressing SACS or system probation. Anyone know why? Or where I can find an article from South DeKalb?

  11. Maureen Downey has an excellent blog post today. She was blogging live today from the ‘Georgia Partnership on Excellence in Education daylong media symposium featuring education movers and shakers’.

    Live blogging: Top 10 education issues facing Georgia

    Good stuff. Copious notes and insight. Thanks for the enlightening report Maureen! Everyone needs to read it and find out what is important to education leaders in Georgia.

  12. Concernedmom30329 says:

    The Champion has had at least a couple but they have a new online system and it is kind of buggy. Crossroads News has had some as well… here is a quote from their latest one.

    Henson asked about alleged misappropriation of $12 million in textbook funds. Walker said an audit by KPMG accounted for all funds and blamed allegations on rumors by disgruntled parents or employees.

    Read more: CrossRoadsNews – DeKalb state senators question School Board members
    http://www.crossroadsnews.com/pages/full_story/push?article-DeKalb+state+senators+question+School+Board+members%20&id=21387255#comments_21387255

    Disgruntled parents. Are you kidding me? And I thought it was the audit that pointed out the funds were unaccounted for. In fact, Atkinson said as much Monday night.

  13. concerned citizen says:

    Dr. Walker has said several strange things recently. He started teaching in 1958. Maybe he really isn’t “aware” of what’s going on.

  14. Tired Mom says:

    Accounting for the funds that you spend, Dr. Walker, does not mean that they were spent appropriately. I mean, sure, you can find the receipts for all of everything, but if you spent over what you budgeted, then YOU MESSED UP.

  15. Good comment from CrossRoads and a link to our file:

    Can someone MAKE Gene Walker sit down and read the KPMG report? Can someone who understands it (Nancy?) explain to him that it was not written by or in response to disgruntled parents and no, not all the money was accounted for and didn’t match the way it was recorded and moved around in the books. In fact, it was not even a complete forensic audit, it was an audit of a sampling of transactions specifically requested by Dr. Atkinson.

    “Dear Dr. Atkinson:

    This report contains the results of our forensic accounting and investigative services for DeKalb County School District (DCSD or District) as outlined in the May 15, 2012 Engagement Agreement.

    At your direction, KPMG LLP (KPMG) performed an analysis of:

    • the movement of cash between specific funds,

    • the purchase order approval process,

    • certain Title I and II activity,

    • certain SPLOST III activity,

    • certain activity within the “Term Fee” account at Fidelity,

    • certain aspects of the DeKalb County Board of Education (Board) approved FY11 budget reductions, specifically those within the Central Office, and

    • disbursements from the $23,460,000 line of credit to purchase textbooks.

    In order to develop our understanding, KPMG obtained and read the District’s audit reports issued by the State. For each of the areas we developed our understanding through interviews, read the applicable policies and procedures, analyzed financial data, and reviewed a sample of transactions.”

    Download the report at DeKalb School Watch blog.

    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/dekalb-county-school-district_report_12072012.pdf

    +++

    KPMG had this to say about the textbook funds:

    KPMG received and analyzed invoices for only three of the four disbursements for textbook purchases. The District was not able to provide invoices for the remaining disbursement. KPMG obtained the Purchase Order numbers associated with this disbursement and obtained the invoice information from the Purchase Order file we had previously created.

    Type of Purchase/Vendor/Date/Amount

    Non-Textbook/Merchant Capital/12/28/2009/$164,220.00

    Non-Textbook/King & Spalding/2/19/2010/$71,700.00

    Textbook/Multiple/8/10/2010/$1,276,513.81

    Textbook/Multiple/12/20/2010/$7,221,328.52

    Textbook/Multiple/10/5/2011/$1,218,102.47

    Textbook/Multiple/3/7/2012/$615,878.23

    Total $10,567,743.03

  16. More relevant info from the final KPMG audit:

    1. KPMG noted that funds from the $24,460,000 line of credit were used to reimburse the General Fund for textbooks purchased in prior periods.
    • Invoices could not be located for the $1,276,513.81 disbursement on August 10, 2010. KPMG determined the disbursement was comprised of 10 purchase orders.
    • Nine of the ten purchase orders were dated prior to the date of the line of credit. The earliest purchase order was dated June 11, 2009 (almost six months before the line of credit) and the latest was dated December 8, 2009.
    • The ten purchase orders were for thirty-three invoices, with the earliest invoice dated November 6, 2008 (almost a year before the date of the line of the credit) and the latest dated January 6, 2010.

    3. KPMG was not able to locate Board minutes which document the Board’s approval of engaging Merchant Capital (related to the textbook line of credit) or the fee paid to Merchant Capital.

    +++

    August 2010 was during Ramona’s tenure. She apparently spent money without board approval then asked them to approve a line of credit to pay for items already spent (purchase orders were already written), which they apparently did without question.

  17. Interesting who attended the meeting with DeKalb’s Senate delegation:

    School Board Chairman Eugene Walker attended the session along with new members Marshall Orson, Dr. Melvin Johnson and veteran member Jay Cunningham.

    Four of the five-member Senate delegation – [Emanuel] Jones, Gail Davenport, Steve Henson and Jason Carter – were in attendance. Sen. Ronald Ramsey, the DeKalb School District’s chief legal officer, recused himself.

  18. booksrkool2 says:

    So my understanding from all of this is…the school administration operated in an illegal fashion and are seemingly throwing the board under the bus while the clueless board hired incompetent people to lead the corrupt administration.

    In the words of Forrest Gump, “Stupid IS as stupid DOES.”

  19. no name says:

    concerned citizen @January 12, 2013 at 6:35 AM: “Maybe he really isn’t “aware” of what’s going on”

    Scientific research explains why the older people (Womack, Walker) are unable to recognize that Dr. Atkinson is a scammer.

    Back on December 3, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) published this article by Elizabeth Norton titled “Why Old People Get Scammed”:
    http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/12/why-old-people-get-scammed.html

    The article begins with: “Despite long experience with the ways of the world, older people are especially vulnerable to fraud. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), up to 80% of scam victims are over 65. One explanation may lie in a brain region that serves as a built-in crook detector. Called the anterior insula, this structure—which fires up in response to the face of an unsavory character—is less active in older people, possibly making them less cagey than younger folks, a new study finds. ”

    The article then describes a scientific experiment by the social neuroscientist Shelley Taylor (University of California) that tested whether or not older people really are less able to spot a shyster. That study is titled “Neural and behavioral bases of age differences in perceptions of trust” and was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: http://www.pnas.org/content/109/51/20848

    The abstract of the study begins with “Older adults are disproportionately vulnerable to fraud, and federal agencies have speculated that excessive trust explains their greater vulnerability. “

  20. dekalbmom says:

    The final audit report summary of the Textbook lease issue tells me the following:
    The textbook lease established a funding mechanism for up to $23,460,000 for the purpose of purchasing textbooks and the school system drew down a little less than half of this amount, or $10,567,743. However, only about $9M of this was used to pay for textbooks. The school system wrongfully used $88,122 for attorneys fees and non-textbook purchases. The school system cannot find invoices to document $1.3M of alleged textbook purchases. And the real kicker – of the approximate $9M used for textbook purchases, these were to pay off previous purchases in 2008 and 2009.

    In summary, despite high fees to the company that set up the financing program, the school system did not use any of the funds for contemporaneous purchases of textbooks or for future purchases (the whole purpose of the financing plan). This explains why the schools have few new textbooks and inadequate copies of existing textbooks in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

    In hindsight, it would have been far cheaper to simply work out a payment plan with the textbook vendors for the overdue invoices for previous purchases.

  21. Thank you dekalbmom, for that explanation. Please share it with Gene Walker. And sign your email, “disgruntled parent – rightfully so”.

  22. The staff is either really stupid or they are doing something illegal, maybe both! I think Walker comes out with these silly statements to try and cover up the stupidity, since these are friends, family and staff he has supported. Like I have said many times, we need Tyson and every other staffer involved with the Clew Crew, as well as all family members, to be shown the door. WE NEED BIG CHANGES! Ramsey needs to recuse himself from all legislative activities involving DCSD or resign from DCSD. Too many conflict of interests and inside info. The BOE and Atkinson must go too!

    We needed a Palace Cleansing 3 years ago and we can not wait any longer. These feckless leaders and staff have driven OUR schools into a ditch and they still get a paycheck and pension. We are treating these folks like they have done something good….really! That is what is truly criminal, all that money NOT going to the direct instruction of our kids!

    Nancy Jester has a new entry at her blog, with a possible solution and ideas for the future!
    http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/2013/01/12/change-the-game/

  23. From the “Victory in Every Classroom” Email newsletter:

    DeKalb County to Hold School Organization Community Meetings

    Every five years, school districts across the state submit a list of schools to participate in the state capital outlay program. The DeKalb district is completing an application for funding that requires a list of its schools, and the DeKalb County “Proposed School Organization” meets the state requirements. It is not a redistricting plan.

    In January, DCSD planning staff will revise its briefing to focus the community’s understanding on DeKalb’s list of schools and minimize any discussion of boundary changes. This list of schools will incorporate the new schools added under the SPLOST IV capital program.

    The staff briefing in January will clarify that a list of schools is all that is needed to begin the state application process. The list of schools does not require any information about boundary lines. Consequently, the proposed school organization is not a redistricting plan but a list of school facilities the district expects to operate in the out years. This list is used to determine the state’s award for capital project funding.

    DCSD staff will update the current list of 2007-12 schools to show SPLOST IV new school buildings and any decommissioned buildings out to the years 2016-17. The briefing will underscore that the Board of Education need only approve a list of schools so that the district meets state processing deadlines in order to qualify for funding. Any discussion about boundaries, if needed, would take place sometime in the future and under a separate, detailed public process per district policy.

    The public information meetings about the 2016-17 list of schools will be held from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. on the following dates:

    Region 2: January 15, 2013 Tucker High

    Region 1: January 16, 2013 Dunwoody High

    District-wide: January 17, 2013 DCSD Administrative and Instructional Complex

  24. Only 200 more sigs needed! Then the petition goes to the Gov!

    Have you signed yet?

    Governor Nathan Deal and Georgia State Board of Education: Review SACS findings, if accurate REPLACE the Dekalb County School Board.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-nathan-deal-and-georgia-state-board-of-education-review-sacs-findings-if-accurate-replace-the-dekalb-county-school-board

    To anyone wishing to sign up for our tweets – we are @dcsw2

  25. State Rep Scott Holcomb has a good recap of the DCSS situation at his blog:

    http://www.votescottholcomb.com/news/view_news.php?id=115

    DeKalb County Schools Update
    1.9.2013
    Scott

    The crisis in our county school system is the single most important issue facing our community. I want to update you on what’s happened so far, and be sure we all understand the decisions that will be taking place in the next few weeks. This is an issue that affects us all, whether you have children in the school system or not.

    Background:
    On December 17, 2012, the DeKalb County School District was put on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). This was a consequence of the findings in a report prepared by a Special Review Team. A copy of the report, which is worth reading, can be found by clicking here.

    The review was conducted because of formal complaints made against the school district. The school district was placed on “Advisement” status in January, 2011, following a special review that followed complaints. There were two subsequent reviews, in October, 2011, and March, 2012. The final review, which resulted in probationary status, was conducted from October 17-19, 2012.

    What did SACS find?
    The findings are damning. The report describes numerous areas in which the DeKalb County Board of Education, both collectively and by the actions of individual members, has been failing in its responsibilities. SACS found numerous occasions where Board members have behaved unprofessionally, unethically and beyond the scope of their authority. Despite extensive training in how a competent and professional Board must operate, SACS reports that Board members have persistently acted as advocates for “their own” schools rather than as stewards for the system as a whole, interfered in day-to-day school operations, and engaged in harassment and intimidation of district employees. The report found not only that these violations are taking place, but that they are having serious consequences for the effectiveness of our schools. The report found evidence of declining academic achievement.

    The length of the probationary period is one year, during which the governance of the district must improve across the areas cited. Otherwise the district will lose accreditation.

    What does this mean?
    To be blunt, it is not good. …

    Click here to read the rest…

  26. The GA Code:

    GEORGIA CODE (available at http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/gacode/)
    Copyright 2012 by The State of Georgia
    All rights reserved.

    *** Current Through the 2012 Regular Session ***

    TITLE 20. EDUCATION
    CHAPTER 2. ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
    ARTICLE 3. LOCAL BOARDS OF EDUCATION

    O.C.G.A. § 20-2-73 (2012)

    § 20-2-73. Suspension and removal of local school board members under certain circumstances

    (a) (1) Notwithstanding Code Section 20-2-54.1 or any other provisions of law to the contrary, if a local school system or school is placed on the level of accreditation immediately preceding loss of accreditation for school board governance related reasons by one or more accrediting agencies included in subparagraph (A) of paragraph (6) of Code Section 20-3-519, the State Board of Education shall conduct a hearing in not less than ten days nor more than 30 days and recommend to the Governor whether to suspend all eligible members of the local board of education with pay. If the State Board of Education makes such recommendation, the Governor may, in his or her discretion, suspend all eligible members of the local board of education with pay and, in consultation with the State Board of Education, appoint temporary replacement members who shall be otherwise qualified to serve as members of such board.

    (2) Notwithstanding Code Section 20-2-54.1 or any other provisions of law to the contrary, if a local school system or school has been placed on, as of April 20, 2011, the level of accreditation immediately preceding loss of accreditation for school board governance related reasons by one or more accrediting agencies included in subparagraph (A) of paragraph (6) of Code Section 20-3-519 and does not reattain full accreditation status by July 1, 2011, the State Board of Education shall conduct a hearing in not less than ten days nor more than 30 days and recommend to the Governor whether to suspend all members of the local board of education with pay. If the State Board of Education makes such recommendation, the Governor may, in his or her discretion, suspend all members of the local board of education with pay and, in consultation with the State Board of Education, appoint temporary replacement members who shall be otherwise qualified to serve as members of such board.

    (b) Any local board of education member suspended under this Code section may petition the Governor for reinstatement no earlier than 30 days following suspension and no later than 60 days following suspension. In the event that a suspended member does not petition for reinstatement within the allotted time period, his or her suspension shall be converted into permanent removal, and the temporary replacement member shall become a permanent member and serve out the remainder of the term of the removed member.

    (c) Upon petition for reinstatement by a suspended local board of education member, the Governor or his or her designated agent shall conduct a hearing for the purpose of receiving evidence relative to whether the local board of education member’s continued service on the local board of education is more likely than not to improve the ability of the local school system or school to retain or reattain its accreditation. The appealing member shall be given at least 30 days’ notice prior to such hearing. Such hearing shall be held not later than 90 days after the petition is filed and in accordance with Chapter 13 of Title 50, the “Georgia Administrative Procedure Act,” except that the individual conducting the hearing shall have the power to call witnesses and request documents on his or her own initiative. For purposes of said chapter and any hearing conducted pursuant to this Code section, the Governor shall be considered the agency, and the Attorney General or his or her designee shall represent the interests of the Governor in the hearing. If it is determined that it is more likely than not that the local board of education member’s continued service on the local board of education improves the ability of the local school system or school to retain or reattain its accreditation, the member shall be immediately reinstated; otherwise, the member shall be permanently removed, and the temporary replacement member shall become a permanent member and serve out the remainder of the term of the removed member or until the next general election which is at least six months after the member was permanently removed, whichever is sooner. Judicial review of any such decision shall be in accordance with Chapter 13 of Title 50.

    (d) Paragraph (1) of subsection (a) of this Code section shall apply to a local school system or school which is placed on the level of accreditation immediately preceding loss of accreditation on or after April 20, 2011.

    (e) This Code section shall apply to all local board of education members, regardless of when they were elected or appointed.

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