Thursday’s State Board Hearing: HOW to Get From HERE to THERE

What About Webcasting?

Here are some very good reasons why the Georgia State Board of Education should webcast tomorrow’s (1:00 PM, Thursday, January 17, 2013) hearing regarding the DeKalb County Board of Education:

  • The State Board of Education does have the ability to webcast.
  • Possible snow is in the forecast for tomorrow which could make driving very “iffy.”.
  • The Georgia General Assembly is in session which can make parking extremely difficult and limited, depending on the issue du jour.
  • A 1:00 PM meeting is very bad timing for parents who must be home in time for their young children getting off the school bus.
  • Many interested parents and taxpayers — voters — will be working, but could take a late lunch and listen to a webcast coming through their computers.

We have asked if the State Board of Education will webcast the hearing. They declined. We don’t understand why. This hearing is, after all, the people’s business. Plus, see the reasons above.

UPDATE:  

Today’s hearing before the Georgia State Board of Education will be WEBCAST, thanks to Rep. Scott Holcomb! We also appreciate the State Board of Education for quickly recognizing and acting upon the need for transparency — and making this this webcast happen.

Go to: <strong>http://www.gadoe.org/External-Affairs-and-Policy/State-Board-of-Education/Pages/Live-Webcasts.aspx</strong>

Tune in to this webcast on your computer at 1:00 PM.

A Few Housekeeping Items …
So, if you are planning on going to the hearing tomorrow (1:00 PM, Thursday, January 17, 2013), here are a few things to know:

The hearing will be held in Room 2070 on the 20th Floor of the EAST Tower. It’s a relatively small room. Not at all as grand or self-important as the DeKalb County Schools’ Board Room. So, we recommend that you arrive early – close to noon – to get a seat.

There will be an overflow room where the hearing may be watched on closed-circuit television. But, there is a catch. The overflow room is on the 10th Floor of the WEST Tower. Allow plenty of time to get from the 20th Floor of the East Tower to the 10th Floor of the West Tower. Twin Towers’ elevators are not speedy.

If they can do closed circuit television, it is a mystery to us why webcasting is not possible.

Take MARTA
We strongly recommend that you take MARTA because of parking and weather challenges. Take the Red Line or the Gold Line to Five Points Station downtown. Exit the train at Five Points and get on the Blue Line or Green Line and go EAST one stop to the Georgia State Station (inside Twin Towers). Follow the signs to the State Office Building.

Let’s Do Lunch!
There is a nice cafeteria on the basement floor of Twin Towers – Chick-fil-A is one of the choices. Since you should arrive early for the hearing, you may just want to plan to have lunch at Twin Towers. Credit cards are welcomed!

Video or Audio, Anyone?
If anyone makes a video or audio recording of tomorrow’s hearing, please let us know. We would like to make it available on the DeKalb School Watch website.

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41 Responses to Thursday’s State Board Hearing: HOW to Get From HERE to THERE

  1. Nancy Jester is calling for big change in an interview with WABE, PBS 30 —
    Dekalb Board Member Calls for Drastic Change

  2. Ella says:

    I am extremely disappointed that the hearing is not going to be webcasted. This is very important for all citizens of DeKalb County.

    I am also disappointed that any delegates would try to get the decision delayed. However, I am not shocked by this.

  3. Embarrassed Employee says:

    Thanks DSW…great info….

  4. educator90 says:

    If the state delegates vote to not vote on this decision, than they need to be voted out as well. Our kids don’t have any more time and deserve better than what they are currently getting and have gotten in the past.

  5. Todd says:

    Anyone is free to record the entire thing on both video and audio….so, someone please do. I’m not going to be able to make the meeting but would love to see it on tape. Just in case someone needs the law, it is Official Code of Georgia Annotated 50-14-1, subsection (c) “The public at all times shall be afforded access to meetings declared open to the public pursuant to subsection (b) of this Code section. Visual and sound recording during open meetings shall be permitted.” Be prepared to quote the law to the powers that be if they give you a hard time.

  6. DeKalbMama says:

    Ms. Parks, why do they want to delay this decision? Did they offer any reasons why? I want to go, but am worried about being home in time to get my children off the bus. I’ve considered taking them with me as it’s also an opportunity for them to learn about the democratic process and civic responsibility.

  7. You are right Todd. Our contact tells us they are trying to set up a webcast but can’t promise … then they added that it’s also perfectly ok for anyone in attendance to record or even broadcast the meeting since it is open to the public. They won’t give you any problem if you want to record the meeting. Ipads are great for recording – you can get an app for that!

  8. I think it’s a fantastic idea to take your children! Maybe they will serve as a reminder as to what this is supposed to be about!!

  9. DeKalbMama says:

    A neighbor just sent this link from Rep. Scott Holcomb’s office which he says is a link to a web cast of today’s meeting.

    http://www.gadoe.org/External-Affairs-and-Policy/State-Board-of-Education/Pages/Live-Webcasts.aspx

  10. Thank you, Rep Scott Holcomb!

  11. Matt Lewis says:

    Main room only set for 100. Full at 12:20. Overflow room holds 250. Plenty of room there at 12:40

  12. Bill says:

    Is anyone using the webcast link above? Is it working? It’s not working for me.

  13. It’s working — sound on now. 1:05 PM

    You may need to click the link that says “Basic Webcast”

  14. Jennifer Hackmeir. Evidence will demonstrate that the triggering events for a hearing have been satisfied. Evidence will show that DCSS was placed on probation for 5 governance reasons. (lists) Recommends suspending the board with pay.

  15. Rocko Testoni – Sutherland responds. Introduces the members of the DCSS board. All are there. Note the three that were just elected and have only served since Jan 7. Says board understands the seriousness. Although they don’t agree, they are committed to taking the recommended steps from SACS and committed to full accreditation. Committed to improving the school system. Been working on a proposed consent order to show commitment – with strict time frames and deadlines. Each would have to agree with all terms — all have agreed. Present a joint motion for consent order and agreement previously filed

    1 – board committed to devl of hihg action plan – 11 goals?
    2.- eliminate working committees – steps already taken
    3- board will review and modify policies and practices
    4 – will release KPMG audit upon request
    5 – modify technology plan

    Suggest reconvening prior to April 30 – board required to achieve goals and report to state every 2 weeks. Allows elected members to demonstrate progress that reflects urgency and seriousness of issues at hand. Request a joint motion and enter the consent order.

  16. Hackmeir explains why she supports the consent order. Not routine or lightly entered into. Troubled by SACS report. She is a DeKalb graduate. People are deeply concerned. All members now recognize the seriousness and are committed to a turnaround. 5 times boards have requested time to address accreditation concerns. State board has always agreed. Usually gives 6 months. SACS will provide a follow up report. As noted, we have 3 new members who took office after the SACS letter. Terms are very tough – sets 5 substantive objectives outlined in consent order. Not asking state board to wait for SACS, instead, if board is not successful in achieving all 5, I will ask the board to make a recommendation to the Gov to suspend members of this board. If any time the state board loses confidence in the DeKalb board, they can reconvene in this forum. Recommends a short window (3 months) to turn the situation around.

  17. Each board member will now testify. Gene Walker is first.

  18. Gene is sworn in and reads a speech. I am a retired county and state employee – served as assoc super, on board of DeK Tech, state service, housing authority, etc.

    Urge their support of the consent agreement. We fully realize the seriousness and gravity of the situation. Will address the 11 actions. We want to impress upon you that this is a sincere, conscious and collective choice. We will become a more functional board, improve our image and restore public trust.

    Already making progress. Only 38% of schools are wireless, but we approved a plan to make 100% wireless by fall. One to one tech plan in middle and high school by 2015.

    We pledge our commitment to full accreditation. We will uphold our pledges when we were sworn in.

  19. Questions: What is the date you began serving?
    A: 2008
    Q: Who do you represent?
    A: 9th district
    Q: Are you sure?
    A: yes
    Were you on the board for the first report?
    Yes
    Are you aware that those demands have not been met?
    Some have, some have not been met.

    Have you completed your board training?
    Individually or as a group? both
    Any training that could enhance ability?
    Yes, leadership, negotiation, how to change group culture. We can improve.

    Q. Under SACS report, standard 2 section B – balanced budget. Wondering what processes you have in place that your budget stays on budget — it sounds like even though you have a budget, you didn’t stick to your budget.
    A we’re working on it. We had a fund balance – something has happened. Clearly these are some items we’re working on. We’ve run into snags as we’ve insisted on information that staff has had difficulty procuring.
    Q Do you agree with the findings?
    A I agree with every one

    Q you’ve been on the board since 2008 and you agree with every corrective action. you outlined positive things you are committed to doing. Why has that not been done and why has it taken a SACS report and this hearing to address these things that should have been addressed in 2008.
    A no board member violated SACS policy. If I did I was unaware. I thought I did the right thing. SACS saw it differently.

    Q my concern is that you indicated that there may be a difference in SACs interpretation. Still think that or do you think they’ve identified huge issues or do you still think they’ve misinterpreted.
    A I think their recommendations even though I disagree with their interpretation

    Q I work at a job with a lot of employees. When they don’t perform you put them on notice. And it gets old and you have to do something. The SACS report is like that – it keeps coming back. Why do you think it’s different this time?
    A This is the very first time we’ve been on probation. We feel compelled this time to address it and correct it.

    Q one of the ways you get on probation is by not answering previous reviews and taking action. What is different this time?
    A I beg to explain. We were in the process of answering those. They were being worked on. We have 4 additional ones. The 4 inherited the old ones. (?) They are attached to the ones we are working on (?)

    Q can you describe your role?
    A to make policy and provide oversight to the superintendent.

  20. PAM SPEAKS

    District 8. Retired from system. Teacher, administrator. 2008 ran for board. Oath in 2009. Read her speech. You may hear the pronoun “I” but I am a team player. I could never have imagined that I would be here. I am disappointed, angry and embarrassed. Disappointed that my goall to provide a good education..Angry that the good things don’t get noticed and embarrassed…

    Committed to serving students. Working with fellow members to carry our SACS recommendations. Respectfully request clarification. Do not know if I am personally guilty. Too much time wasted. Too many children harmed. Please give the board time.

    Q – what do you think got you here?
    A – the items in the SACS report – I accept the report. I may disagree with the interpretation.
    Q – clarify interpretation
    A – ex – interference of board members in day to day – Clearly the admin does the day to day. I need clarification if I’m responsible for that one, as I have NOT done that. If I am guilty, I want someone to point that out. If I have, I will correct it.
    Q – what entity would you expect to point it out?
    A – I would expect AdvancedEd – but on a day to day basis – my fellow members or super should point it out to me
    Q – difficult question – do you believe the super will have the support of the board to do what’s necessary? Unique relationship – do you believe super has the capacity to direct the day to day work to allow the board to allow the board to become the board it needs to become? (tough question!)
    A – [doesn’t understand Q]
    Q – there are things you can do, but there are things that surround that work that are important that only the super can do. The two need to come together.
    A – I don’t think it’s the resp of the super to fix the board. But she has the capacity to work to allow board to carry out roles as well as her…
    Q – have you participated in all board training
    A – yes, more than required
    Q – any training you should get that could help?
    A – I believe we’ve covered it but welcome other coverage/outside assistance. Notes help from attorneys and SACS.

    Q – Governing body acts responsibly and functions effectively. So there are specifics in the report to answer your question. Is that the way you conduct yourself in board mtgs?
    A – Absolutely not. [true – Pam does not]
    Q – trying to determine if you are a ‘body’ or a bunch of individuals – Quotes the ‘autonomy’ of individuals – do you do that?
    A – no – I rep a large district and represent all students
    Q – what is meant by ‘fix our own mistakes’ – like you said, it’s about the students and you mentioned adult causes – instead of working for students -it’s adult issues. If your looking for training – it’s there. Where’s the practice? If these things fall in place, good governance exists.
    A – [Seems confused] Brand new super with Victory in Classroom plan – was in process of putting new things in place – but not enough time to implement these things from the first SACS report. Second SACS review came at a time where they couldn’t see results. During all of this, we were working on the items and it was helping. We may have slipped backwards. Personally, I believe this is a wake up call.

    Q – I think if I had gotten one warning it would be a wake up call – I don’t think it would have taken another warning and probation to wake up. I think I would have been more on track to make things happen the first time.
    A – maybe that’s an area we could use some professional development

    Q – I see intimidation and interference. You didn’t see any of this?
    A – It said in a school – that means an individual and I can tell you that I never did that.
    Q – and that’s an issue – intimidation and lack of respect at a board meeting. And you say ‘something may have happened but I’m not aware of it’
    A – I interpreted that differently. I think there’s a way to ask a question without intimidating a person. I ask questions of staff all the time. I have never intimidated or asked a question disrespectfully. I’ve never witnessed a board member interrogating a staff member and I’ve never missed a board meeting. [then how did she miss those interrogations of Dan Drake by Sarah?]

    Q – this is the time to shed the light on things that you want us to know. Give us your interpretation.
    A – One example – in terms of interrogation of staff members – I disagree if it’s simply questioning. Can’t argue with something I don’t know – like the highlighting of board members interfering in schools. I worked in the county for 25 years and served on board for 4. I’ve heard everything. If I am guilty, someone has to tell me because I’m committed to change any behavior of mine. I am fully committed to working to correct anything pointed out that the board needs to correct. I’m willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure a quality education for these children.

  21. Marshall Orson is up. He’s one of the new members. In office 10 days ago. Attended 2 meetings so far.

    Ran for board because he recognized the serious issues at hand. We understood that the 3 of us had the opportunity to set a new tone. We wanted to create an environment for consensus. Build unity. Fully committed to 11 required actions – but view them as a starting point. School boards have a singular responsibility unlike most public servants – ensuring that children receive a quality education. It is critical to find a pathway to consensus. Discussion and disagreement will happen but at the end of the day we have to agree in mission. I can’t give detail before Jan 7 but I can tell you that I we are committed. Children must get the opportunities they deserve and to which they are entitled.

    Q – did you run against incumbent
    A – yes – issues of board and system were part of my campaign
    Q – report says board members elect are already visiting schools, interfering etc.
    A – It is correct that I visited schools – consulted with super and informed her. In conformity of policy written March 2o12 – I don’t consider these ‘my schools’…

    Q – SACS report states disagreements and north/south divide
    A – We are a challenged county – racial history. Not so apparent to regular people as it is to people who might benefit from that perception. People want a safe school etc and that transcends race etc. We can build bridges. Build unity. Focus on what we agree on.
    Q – comment – I hear you saying youre a new board member – but that’s not relevant. We look at you as a board. We have no ability to recommend one person over another, we can’t, so don’t belabor that point.
    A – I only said it to give perspective to my answers.
    Q – when sworn in, what info were you given?
    A – Brief overview. Not in-depth training – I asked for that. We need it as soon as possible.
    Q – so no new board member training? You didn’t attend one in Dec?
    A – Super convened a meeting for new members with senior staff to explain their dept – and I believe that satisfies part of the 15 hours of board training.
    Q – did you receive info about new board training?
    A – No

  22. An on to Jay Cunningham
    (He has a cold – seems very nervous)

    Two term board member. DEKalb grad. Four kids Dekalb grads. Looking forward to working through this consent.

    Q – Have you participated in prof dev on an annual basis?
    A – yes ma’am 15 hours
    Q – Do you disagree with the findings?
    A – I feel we have an opportunity to take it further as we move forward. As we identify the role of the board and role of super. We’ve seen it join together. SACS has defined different roles. (lots of cell phone interruptions) Seen a culture change of how we work together as a group that needs defined. We need to work on gray area of responsibilities. As we work through this process I hope we come up with a solution that is good for everyone in the state. [Refers often to a gray area]
    Q – regarding culture- did you feel that there were no areas that needed addressed before SACS pointed it out?
    A – no – I think all boards can improve. It’s a learning process. There’s only one board member left [Sarah] who was here when I was elected. It’s going to take time for us to learn.
    Q – You mention this is an opp an we can do better – I hear the sincerity in your voice, but you’ve had two terms – why has it taken so long and this point to feel the sense of urgency?
    A – We have a 9 member board. We’ve been meeting and going to classes and learning how to govern. We’ve had a perfect storm. Super- to lawsuits to everything. I’ve seen different priorities that guided us away from what we should have been looking at rather than fighting the day to day – constantly trying to put our fires [how very true Jay!] Says he’s thankful for the new board members with different perspectives and different knowledge.

    Q – Report says board members yell, lashed out, interrupt, etc.. is that how you conduct yourself at a board meeting?
    A – no ma’am . Some things were presented in a form and fashion where questions could be asked and some wasn’t. As you respond, everybody have a different opinion. We realized that we have to have everything in front of us to have a discussion…
    Q – heightened oversight only resulted in temp improvements
    A – we did go through training – met with mr. elgart at his office several times. A lot of conflict of hiring super, lawyers fees, different things. I was disappointed – I felt we were making progress, but when the meetings stopped and other issues came to the fore [indictment] we lost sight. Biggest factor was trust with each other.

    Q – What sort of culture change do you see with the three new?
    A – big culture change. I look forward to them coming in with a positive aspect. We all know the importance of being on probation. We will make sure that whatever needs to happen, happens. I’ve already seen a change in attitudes. We have confidence in the super to work with us. There was already a lot of things in place in the SACS report that we was already working on.

  23. Melvin Johnson

    Reads a statement. New member – district 6. Has a passion and commitment to serve boys and girls. Been in education for many years. Will work in a collaborative way with board, stakeholders and super to meet all of the actions AdvancedED submitted to us.

    Q – Previous question about new board members visiting schools = did you do that?
    A – since my retirement from the system in 2004 I’ve visited several schools – breakfasts, PTA, etc – when I was invited, not on my own. N
    Q – did you alert super ?
    A – that was not a chain of command for me – I only did this before I was elected as a citizen
    Q – from the time you were elected before sworn in?
    A – no – only if I was invited by PTA etc
    Q – Have you participated in new board member training other than 3 hours with super?
    A – no
    Q – have you received info on training?
    A – no

  24. BREAK CALLED

    RECONVENE AT 3:00

  25. Bill says:

    Watching this reminds me of being the principal’s office in 3rd grade. Except I wasn’t as creative with all the “fully committed to improvement” language. They may be humble now, even contrite, but I hope the state review panel can see through the excuses and decide they are incompetent.

  26. Sarah Copelin Wood

    Very casual. Leaning on podium.

    I want to say that I’ve agreed to follow the things outlined by SACS. We are resolved to do the best we can. As someone else has said, something else has always confronted us. I think all of us wants to make sure that we do a good job of educating the children. Some work very very hard.

    Q -how long have you been on the school board?
    A – 12 years
    Q – you said you didn’t have time to deal with issues – during your 12 years why haven’t you been more focused on these issues?
    Q – we haven’t been here before. There have been a lot of things that many of us could do better – but these things were just presented to us
    A The report was just submitted to you – these things didn’t just happen – is that accurate?
    A – I don’t know how to answer you
    Q – have you participated in annual board training
    A – yes
    Q – has that been helpful in seeing what a high functioning board would look like?
    A – If you’re asking me if I can compare that with whom? In training, you’re not compared with anyone.
    Q – would you tell me who you represent?
    A – Dekalb county board of education in the county of Dekal
    Q – were you aware of cultures within your board that you felt needed addressed?
    A – well we were meeting in Alpharetta almost every month with Dr Elgart – we wanted to the do the best we can and we strive to do that
    Q – what item do you agree with most?
    A – none
    Q – do you disagree with one most?
    A – no
    Q – but it’s about the children – not about me. I don’t want to inhibit them from having a chance. Whatever that is, I’m ready to do that. I think the consent order we signed says that.
    Q – what is the first step – what should your focus be?
    A – we are looking at hiring someone who is an expert in governance and getting all the help we can as far as that is concerned. We need to look at some of the policies we have. They were rewritten and we may need to revisit those. We need to ensure that we are following those policies. Now, I’m not saying that we don’t.
    Q – Can you give me a definition of the role of a board member and role of super?
    A – well according to the state – is to manage and control. That’s what the language says and that’s exact. That comes from the state (cough cough, sorry I don’t feel good) and from the federal
    Q – At board meetings individual members would lash out, interrogate, etc. Did you witness any of that?
    A – I don’t know whether any group have not had some experience with disagreement but you have to learn to disagree and not be disagreeable. If you disagree with something does not make it so.
    Q – a section deals with communication – do you use emails?
    A – sometimes. I find it better to send things to the super by email. If i send things out I give her a copy.
    Q – the report says the sheer volume of emails get in the way – get in the chain of command – are you aware of emails of this nature?
    A – I don’t see how that could happen. We get emails all the time. You can respond to emails at 1:00 or 2:00 but you can’t stay on the phone all day.
    Q – if you receive an email from a parent with a concern what do you do?
    A – I say Thank you for your email, I am sending this on to the superintendent because this falls under her purview.

  27. Bill says:

    Is Sarah Copelin-Wood on cold medication? Is she always like this? With respect, I have not heard her make a single complete coherent sentence. She “stands ready to do all she can to make this board successful”. Well if that has been the case, if she has done ‘all she can do’, which has not been enough, then it’s time for them to go.

  28. Yes, Copelin-Wood is always “like this.”

  29. Nancy Jester

    So I’m a mom of three kids in elementary school in public school in DeKalb. That’s why I ran for school board. We had twin deficits – student achievement and credibility (esp financial) – and we still have both. When you peel back the layers I became aware of the developing budget crisis which set my hair on fire. I brought it up and got little support. I saw deceptive, certainly unsound budgeting. I was often misled by staff. I have dates and times. I got answers that demonstrably were false. Blamed it on the weather, etc. New administration – I feel more confident. Our FY13 budget has realistic expectations. Give credit to super and new CFO.

    What the report didn’t say was that we have been operating on a cash basis – very risky. Overstated reserves. Then whittled them away over the year. New CFO is moving to accrual or modified accrual. We are booking liabilities.

    I am committed to moving the district forward. We’re in an iPod world so we have to toss out the 8 tracks. We must change the culture. This isn’t necessary unique to DeKalb – highlighted by the fiscal challenges we face.

    In particular I’m struck by graduation rates – also a state issue. Particularly profound in DeKalb. If we don’t urgently address it

    Training that would help – we only had one session – training cross-pollinated with staff. We need rapport building with staff. New people may not be aware of history and our credibility issues. Also need training in financial management. Specific to our budget and how we report. The super brought in the state auditors which was illuminating.

    Again, I’m committed to continuing to be watchful.

    Q – you said you had interactions with staff re; financial – ever ask about th $12 million for textbooks?
    A – that predated me by 2 years – I was not aware until the new super brought it to my attention. They are digging into it now – it’s incredibly troubling. A former board member told me he didn’t think to ask specifically if the textbook fund was going to be used for textbooks… (tongue in cheek?) I’m waiting on that report. CFO and his team are reviewing that.
    Q – you mention you came on board Jan 2011 – I know there’s a steep learning curve. That same month is when DeKalb received the first report from SACS.
    A – yes – I was interviewed by SACS my first week on the board
    Q – SACS did follow up in Oct and again in 2012 – how did leadership react to report and required actions?
    A – well, everyone is diligent at looking at it and thinking about it – but it’s the actions that fall short. I’m an end-gamer – how do we get there? The super has addressed the financial issues I brought up – the interim did not. The interim did look into policies. Not finances though. I never saw the achievement deficit addressed = or the public engagement issue.
    Q – you almost immediately got concerned about money – did you discuss with other members?
    A – I tried to explain the issues but I wasn’t successful at getting the point to be believed. Some members actually tried to disprove me by saying (the utilities) were higher due to weather and rate increases – both not true.

  30. Donna Edler
    District 7 but representing every taxpayer, homeowner and student in DeKalb County.
    Same service as Jester. Three children – one still in DeKallb. Libr in Stone Mt. Attend schools in Druid Hills and Chamblee due to magnet programs. Asked to run by community – but hesitated due to breast cancer diagnosis. In the end she ran.

    Have we gotten gains? No, we’ve gotten more. I understand the challenges. We inherited legal issues from 5-6 years ago. We have to endeavor to resolve. I hope you’ll appreciate those inherent challenges that we have. I will work with the consent decree as well as the SACS report.

    I am a CPA so I understand our financial issues such as our declining tax digest.

    Q: Have you participated in the annual required training
    A Yes
    Q is there additional training you would like?
    A – Yes
    Q – Did Ms Jester talk with you about her concerns?
    A – yes – the board as a whole had those concerns – but some are not as vocal – we did rely on the admin, and as we got reports, we saw that we were out of line. The question is what do we do about it? I was on the budget committee and I requested and we were on a cash basis on a two month lag. Not accurate and not up to date. Our committee asked to change that. Asked for up to date info and accrual accounting. We hired a new super who hired a new CFO. Now have accrual accting. I’ve recommended training in the area of financial report analysis.
    Q – how many committees exist?
    A – there are none now, I believe there were 4. Policy, Instruction, Budget, Community Relations
    Q – Did Jester bring her concerns to budget committee?
    A – it was brought to the board floor – it was addressed. brought to the attn of the administration. The board conducts its business on the floor. We’ve hired a new super, a CFO who has endeavored to maticulously modify our budget almost to a zero based level.
    Q = why was the decision made to eliminate your committees?
    A – That’s been an issue for the board and was brought up in the SACS report.
    Q – what is the structure of the county? I see the super is not here due to a family health issue. Are there other supers who could be here?
    A – The super is not here and neither are any of her deputies. If we have issues, questions or concerns, we communicate with the super. Not with a deputy or assistant.
    Q – no relationship between a regional super and a board member?
    A – no they report to the deputy super Ms. March who reports to the super
    Q – Wondering why there is no deputy or regional rep here today.

  31. Last, Jim McMahan

    Thank you for being here and advocating for education in the state of Georgia. We have a common job. You are in charge of more kids than we are. We have about 100,000 kids in DeKalb schools.
    Graduate of Atlanta Public Schools. Wants to improve schools. Thinks he can help. Advocate for better education. Very involved in children’s schools. Removed himself from PTA and school council. I look forward to being part of the solution that helps improve the education.

    Q – Address training since you’ve been elected.
    A – 3 hours with admin – dept heads – Met new staff from around the country
    Q – were you aware that there was anything else available?
    A – I was aware but didn’t go hunting for it. I would have made myself available for Dec training
    Q – Direct. Looking at SACS report. Findings – page 3-4. Although 3 new members will join in Jan, there has been consistent division. New members are following in footsteps by acting individually, etc. In opening para about findings to bring attention. Tell me about that
    A – I was presented with this report on Dec 18. When I got to page 4 and saw that para, I was perplexed and consulted with new members and created a dialogue. As a unit, the three of us were extremely concerned and drafted an email asking for understanding. Sat down with Elgart and he was vague. He did not give us specific examples. I’m ok. I’ve not gone into any schools or interfered with anything.
    Q – If the 3 of you conferred about accountability, I’d like to know what you mean. Another new member said he did go out into schools. Did you similarly visit the schools in your district?
    A – No, I’m already very familiar with those schools due to my prior volunteer work. I did say our plate is full enough – let’s not add anything to it. We have to watch perception – I’m big on perception. You not only have to say you’re going to do something you have to show it.

  32. GSB: Follow up to Dr Walker. You have a wealth of experience.

    W: I am a pretty old fella.

    GSB: School boards are trustees of public funds. Require specialized skills and training in approving multi million budgets. Cited for being $20 million short and missing textboook money – how could you not know?

    W: We are overwhelmed more with rumors than with record. like the $12 million for textbooks. The KPMG audit identifies every dollar of textbook money. We have to have the invoice and the canceled check. These are in evidence. We really need to clear up some of these things. I’d like to send the item approved by the board. The spending by Dr Beasley. And the receipts. These people who keep saying you don’t know where the money is is befuddling. And insulting.

    GSB: The deficit wasn’t true either?

    We do have one now. But the past few years – I have considerable confidence in the state auditors. Our audits are clean. When we brought in a new super, our budget was set, but she had new ideas for spending and now we start off with a significant amount of money we’re supposed to be spending over what we take in.

    [Note – behavior and noises in the audience are inappropriate – refrain from making faces, gestures or comments in the audience]

    GSB: Can you identify where those textbooks are?

    W: I can not. But we follow the invoices – they are physical and they exist. We;ve had a number of rumors that have confounded our ability to do our job. One time we had a rumor that we borrowed $600 million. These are the kinds of challenges we are compelled to try to overcome. The rumors overwhelm us. The rumors take over the truth. We don’t have anyone on the board taking money I feel compelled to tell you that a lot of teaching and learning is going on . Our 96.000 students are enjoying a good education. Our test scores are better than ever. We have rigorous intellectual discourse. We debate each other. I was going to give you the info nancy and I debated about the budget. She has a thing about under-budgeted electrcity and legal fees. I know electricity is a problem, but legal fees – you never know who will sue you.

    We are appealing to you – let us go with this consent agreement and watch us address these issues. Deliberate indifference has not occurred in my opinion. We have not known that we shouldn’t do something and then do it anyhow. You keep asking us about the parts we disagree about. We don’t want to go there. We don’t want to argue with SACS. We’ve been with SACS for 10 years. We want to go with you. We want to see if you can help us in a way SACS hasn’t been able to.

    GBA: Yes, a paper trail should be immediate. I caution you to be aggressive in taking charge of some things. When you get to this level it’s very serious and it does take away from all the good things you’ve done.

    W: We desire to be aggressive, but in our efforts to be aggressive get misconstrued as micro-managing. For example when I asked for policy info, it was written into the report as micro-managing.

    GSB: You said they had invoices and canceled checks but did they get books?

    W: I don’t know but there certainly is a person who can show us the books. I’m sure there aren’t $12 million worth of missing books. We don’t check to see if they arrived in the warehouse. I’m suggesting that they are in the system someplace.

    GSB: In order to get that one issue off the report, have someone find the books.

  33. GSB: Training is key here. I want to see each board’s record of training. You said you had training – but it didn’t work. As a board member you are supposed to know what to do. You have to train yourselves and then police yourselves. It’s incumbent upon you all to fix this – it’s not incumbent upon SACS or this board. There is no gray area – there are things you can and things you cannot do. Every other board in the state knows that. Or they should know that.

    What really concerns me is that the new board members haven’t had new board member training. GSBA offers new board member training. If you didn’t know about it that is one of your flaws. Once you get this done, everything else is going to fall into place. If you disagree, you have to respectfully disagree. If you can’t do that, it isn’t going to get fixed. You say the kids are doing well – but can you imagine how much better they would do if you did better?

    Implementation is key as well. Do your actions reflect what you heard in training? Are you letting it roll off you like teflon or are you allowing it to make a change in how you conduct the business of the board?

  34. Bill says:

    “Find the books” Good idea! Where are the textbooks?! Walker said the new textbooks were properly purchased, invoiced, and paid for, but it is not his job to keep track of whether or not the books were shipped and received at the warehouse, or whether the books were distributed to the schools. Does anyone know if the books were received? Were the books distributed to the schools?

  35. DISCUSSION:

    Agrees with Testone that the consent is a good proposition. It’s well-written. However, these issues have been building on the horizon for a long time. Students have taken a back seat to adult issues for a long time. I never got a good answer to the question as to why there never seemed to be viewed as urgent.

    We’ve been through this five times. We treat each one individually. The terms of this consent order are different because the situation is different. I am sympathetic to the timing – Christmas and council not being up to speed. We should rule on this today due to due process. We debate in public. I’m amenable to extend this hearing to the Feb board meeting. This is a critical situation. It’s not new. There are 98,000 kids in DeKalb county relying on us right now.

    Motion to move to Thursday Feb 21 board meeting. Second. Confer.

    Are you expecting a series of outcomes before then?

    Mainly due to due process.

    If you want to use the consent order given to us changing the date [from April 30] and the stipulations?

    Change the date, leave the stipulations. They need goals. They need to demonstrate progress.

    TESTONE: Any party can request a hearing with 14 days notice. If no progress is made, board can give a 14 day notice to resume the meeting.

    GSB: Not amenable to that. Not concerned about new atty. or new board members. Only concern, holidays interfered and due to that supports the motion. [Debate leaving stipulations.]

    Jennifer Hackmeir: Consent order was carefully prepared. You can vote it up or down. Two choices – third alternative requires agreement with parties.

    GSB: We can approve this consent order but still reconvene this for Feb 21.

    Strongly recommends that someone high level in the staff should attend these hearings.

  36. John says:

    Lawyer: You can convene us at any time with 14 day notice … unless it’s too soon for our liking.

  37. John says:

    “We promise progress within 90 days but not 30 days.”

  38. NOTE: We reposted this conversation over to the latest post on the subject –
    Thank You, Representative Scott Holcomb!
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/thank-you-representative-scott-holcomb/comment-page-2/#comment-14158

    Please join the discussion there. Sorry for the confusion!

  39. John says:

    “Too soon because we have some new Board members.” Well, geez, when is the right time? Before or after an election?

  40. Ken says:

    It would behoove Dr. Atkinson to attend the February 21st meeting or send a representative (not Dr. Taylor).

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