UPDATE: An Open Letter to the Georgia State Board of Education

DSW editorial staff met to discuss the concerns of our readers regarding our call for 4th district representation on the State Board of Education before a decision is made about recommending removal of the DeKalb Board of Education.  Having listened to and evaluated your comments, pro and con, we now believe that 4th District representation won’t make any difference and, in fact, may create an unacceptable delay.  Accordingly, we have taken that out of our Open Letter to the State Board.  We have made a few other editorial changes, as well.  (In case you are wondering, that Open Letter had not yet been sent to the individual members of the State Board until we could reach a consensus with our editorial staff.)  Thanks for your input!  

January 21, 2013

DeKalb School Watch Two (DSW) has been monitoring DeKalb County School System (DCSS) for the past 3 years, maintaining and publishing an open-access archive of documentable information. DSW provides a safe platform for critical information dissemination and discussion without the threat of retribution from DCSS. It has taken a while, but teachers and others on the front lines and/or being abused by the DCSS superintendent, senior administrators, school principals and school board finally trust us. We are an all-volunteer staff with extensive experience in DeKalb County Schools (15 years or more per person) who also have full-time jobs, families and community commitments – in addition to our work on DeKalb School Watch blog. A year of publishing as a WordPress blog and DSW has passed the benchmark of 1 million unique views.

After live-blogging during the January 17, 2013 hearing for DeKalb County Schools Board of Education before the Georgia Board of Education, the DSW editorial staff met to compare notes. Quite a lot of misinformation and half-truths were tendered on January 17. Our concern was and is:

  • A reluctance on the part of most DeKalb School Board members to speak plainly, bluntly and directly, thereby giving you what we know to be misinformation.

Truthiness vs Truthfulness. Below are some of the more egregious examples of DeKalb School Board members’ displays of truthiness [“the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary] at the January 17, 2013 hearing:

●Disappearance of Textbook Funds
DCSS Board chair Gene Walker defended the apparent disappearance of millions of dollars from a line of credit – and the mis-spending of hundreds of thousands more – intended for textbooks, labeling concerns as “rumors” and saying that there were invoices and receipts for the spent funds. He said “certainly someone” has the job of tracking the books. Who? He did not know. He is just sure that all the books must be “somewhere in the system.”

Walker did not mention what the KPMG audit (NOT a forensic audit as touted by Superintendent Atkinson) of the supposed textbook transactions actually said about them:

Textbook Line of Credit
“KPMG was asked to gain an understanding of disbursements made from the $23,460,000 Bank of America line of credit. There were six disbursements, totaling $10,567,743.03, from the line of credit between December 28, 2009 and March 7, 2012.

“KPMG requested support for the 6 disbursements. Upon our review we noted that four of the six were for textbooks, and the other two disbursements were related to professional fees.  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 Support Provided
Non-Textbook Merchant Capital



Non-Textbook King & Spalding



Textbook Multiple



Textbook Multiple



Textbook Multiple



Textbook Multiple





The line of credit for textbooks went to pay the underwriter (Merchant Capital) $164,220.00 and the law firm (King & Spalding) $71,700. Further, they located only 3 of the 4 supposed textbooks invoices. There was NO documentation for an August 10, 2010 disbursement of $1,276,513.81 (made under Tyson’s watch). And no one has located any of the textbooks.

●Tracking Expenses
We were also surprised that Gene Walker did not explain that the DCSS Board changed its policy regarding money the superintendent could spend without prior Board approval to satisfy an earlier request from AdvancED/SACS. Per DCSS Board policy, the change was read, publicly discussed in a DCSS Board work session, and left for 30 days for comments before voting on it. At no time did Atkinson or anyone on staff at DCSS indicate that the reporting requirements of the updated policy were not do-able with present personnel, software and equipment.

However, when Walker requested information, as specified in the policy, from Atkinson, she refused saying that she would need 5 or 6 additional employees and about $500,000 to accommodate his policy-based request. Using human discretion, Walker then asked Atkinson if she could provide the information for all expenditures between $75,000 and $100,000 (a smaller universe of expenditures) as a way to show AdvancED that DCSS was making an attempt to comply. Again Atkinson refused and complained to AdvancED/SACS that Walker was micromanaging and overstepping the bounds of his authority.

●More on Money Management
To be or not to be aggressive in tracking and managing DCSS funds … that is the question. In their most recent Special Team Report, AdvancED/SACS accuses the DCSS Board of being too aggressive and “interrogating” staff members when asking questions at Board meetings. We observe every Board meeting and we never saw anything that came even close to “interrogation.” In fact, something is going so badly wrong that we wanted Board members to ask even tougher questions. Invariably, staff members would come to the meetings unprepared to answer the most basic questions. They would promise to have the answer(s) by the next Board meeting, but they never did.

Subsequently, we discovered that Susan Hurst, the former Budget Manager for DCSS and now CFO for Decatur City Public Schools was, possibly acting with the knowledge of Larry Kimmel, Director of Finance, independently re-doing DCSS’s cash budget as a modified accrual budget to present for audit by the State. In doing this, Hurst also had to “cross walk” the DCSS chart of accounts to the State chart of accounts because DCSS’s records are not kept congruent with the State’s chart of accounts. (Nancy Jester’s blog and her statement to the State Board on Wednesday, January 17, 2013 noted that AdvancED failed to cite DCSS for non-compliance with financial reporting pursuant to their manual.)

Inexplicably, however, Hurst did NOT inform the DCSS Board about her independently created modified accrual budget.  Knowing the DCSS Board was using incorrect information, but that the State auditors would be none the wiser, Hurst allowed the Board to review DCSS financials and make budgeting decisions without providing the more accurate accrual reports, nor did she correct Board members’ public statements suggesting DCSS was flush with cash. We ask that you summon or subpoena Susan Hurst to publicly address this issue before the State Board.

On January 17, 2013, you (as a Board) criticized the DCSS Board for not being aggressive enough in tracking the money, in direct opposition to AdvancED/SACS’ position. So, which is it to be – more aggressive or not so much?

●E-mail Communication
Below is an example of the e-mails from DCSS Board member Sarah Copelin-Wood (Leadership DeKalb drop-out) to a constituent, Faye Andresen (Leadership DeKalb, Class of 2001; SPLOST III Oversight Committee; active and respected community volunteer).

“January 7, 2007
Hello Faye,
It is evident from your e-mail that you are continuing to weave your web of deceitfulness.
It is also apparent that you are most definitely ‘Confused.’
Therefore, let me help you – The Election Is Over – Get Over It.
Sarah Copelin-Wood”

This was not an isolated incident.

Read the full e-mail exchange at: http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/08/faye-andresen-writes.html Andresen said nothing at all about an election. She was firmly, but politely, seeking clarity on spending, specifically SPLOST vs. other spending.

For the most part, DCSS Board members, with the exception of Nancy Jester, do not open, read or respond to their e-mails. We send our DSW e-mails via readnotify.com which tells us if, when and where e-mail was opened, how long it was read and if it was forwarded. We have a communications record.

Superintendent Cheryl Howell Atkinson’s Competence and “Capacity”
We were shocked that DCSS Board member Pam Speaks, after dancing around whether or not Superintendent Atkinson has the “capacity” to work with the DCSS Board, in response to your questions, finally said that, yes, Atkinson does have the capacity.

We do not think Atkinson has the capacity to be a school system superintendent. She has two bankruptcies on her record, about which she “neglected” to inform the DCSS board, for items that a reasonable person would label as frivolous. Atkinson made repeated errors in the application documents she submitted to DCSS. (DSW covered the bankruptcies and sloppy application work on the blog and sent information to DCSS Board members prior to their vote on Atkinson making her the new school system superintendent.)

Atkinson’s staff submits, with her approval, incomplete and poorly done reports. Her staff, with her approval, comes to board meetings unable to answer the most basic questions and regularly misleads board members. Perhaps the most damning issue concerning Atkinson’s character and “capacity” to be a school system superintendent is her cool acceptance of plagiarism by a former consultant, Ralph Taylor, now a highly paid (6 figures) central office employee who blatantly plagiarized work that he submitted to DCSS for payment.

Superintendent Atkinson did not show up to the January 17, 2013 hearing, allegedly due to her father’s illness, nor did she send a representative. However, Atkinson kept Ramona Howell Tyson on the payroll – committing DCSS to pay for 2 superintendents during a time of financial crisis – and Tyson bears significant responsibility for the current financial straits of DCSS. Why did Atkinson not send Tyson? Prior to Tyson becoming the Interim Superintendent, a choice made by the indicted Crawford Lewis and approved by the DCSS Board, Tyson had been the COO – and in that capacity, likely approved payment to Lewis for the very things that figured heavily into his indictment on RICO charges. Tyson was one of 4 direct reports to Lewis.

●Legal Expenses
Legal fees are out of control and this DCSS Board has allowed that to continue, unabated, instead of decisively nipping it in the bud. In fact, this Board has approved spending additional money for legal counsel for former Board members, additional legal representation for Lewis and additional legal representation for Superintendent Atkinson (this is to DEFEND her refusal to release her text messages in yet another DeKalb County School System lawsuit!) This Board also is being sued by the teachers and staff in a class-action suit for the Board’s approval of halting their matching retirement contributions. If the teachers win this lawsuit – and we think they will — it will cost DeKalb over $50 million!

Here’s what we could find regarding spending on lawyers from the 2012 public access documents at the state:

Legal Counsel Firms

2012 Expenditures

Alexander & Associates [General Counsel]


Alston & Bird, LLP  [Everson v. DCSS]


Drew Eckl & Farnham, LLP  [Workers Comp]


Elarbee, Thompson, Sapp & Wilson [Heery case*, former board members]


Foltz Martin, LLC [Heery case*, Simone Moon]


Goodman McGuffey Lindsey & Johnson, LLP  [Heery case*; Lewis]


King & Spalding   [Heery case*]


Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, LLP  [General Counsel]




 *The ill-advised Heery case, was entered into by Crawford Lewis, with board approval, at the insistence of Pat Pope (Reid), after Lewis, also with board approval, spent $3 million on a “study” that claimed to show DCSS would win this case concerning $100,000 and receive multiple millions of $$$ in “damages.”

The fees in the table above are only for 2012 and do not include excessive monies spent in the immediately preceding years, projected legal fees for 2013, nor legal fees owed to the prosecution when DCSS loses case after case after case.

●New DCSS Board Members?
What about the newest members of the DeKalb School Board? Elected in July 2012, but not sworn in until January 2013 – five months! – none of them – not one! – took the initiative to ask about new board member training. Contrast that with Nancy Jester. When elected to the board, Nancy Jester asked about and obtained new member training during the less-than-2-months between her election and when she was sworn in. We don’t need Board members who don’t know enough to ask about training, but apparently are willing to spend their time throwing their weight around.

That said, tossing out the DCSS Board will in no way solve DeKalb School System’s problems. For insight, read part of an article written by former school board member, Jim Redovian, for the Dunwoody Crier: Go here to read more.

“Call me a dreamer, but if we want to move our children to the next level to compete in the future, we must look at ways outside of the box.

“Another area we must look to improve is how the systems are governed. The school board has, by law, only the authority to hire and fire the superintendent, approve and oversee the budget, which, by the way, is developed and proposed by the superintendent and to set policy, which also is written by the superintendent.

“The board has no authority over the day-to-day operation of the system, which includes the hiring and firing of employees. The superintendent is responsible for all administration, curriculum and day-to-day business.”

●Thank You
If you have read this far, we thank you for doing so. Perhaps what we have said here has brought up some other questions. We will be glad to provide you with any information we have. You may contact DeKalb School Watch at dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com.

DeKalb County taxpayers and voters have been kicked around enough.  Our children are suffering and their prospects for the future are permanently damaged. Our teachers are being treated like 2nd class citizens instead of the educated, caring professionals they are.  Our property values — for many of us our major investment — are in a freefall.  One of the most diverse — and formerly, fastest growing — counties in the Southeast, an economic engine for Metro Atlanta, DeKalb County’s prospects for prosperity and continuing growth are dimming.  That’s bad news  — very bad! — for State tax collection. 

This quote from above-the-fold on the front page of the January 20, 2013 AJC says it all:
“The Wisconsin man relocating to Georgia hasn’t yet stepped foot in the state, but he already knows one thing: Stay away from DeKalb County.”

Thank you,

DeKalb School Watch Editors

About dekalbschoolwatch

Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
This entry was posted in DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, DeKalb County, Georgia, Donna Edler, Fraud & Corruption, Friends-and-Family, Gene Walker, Georgia Education, Georgia State Board of Education, Jay Cunningham, Jim McMahan, Nancy Jester, Pam Speaks, Ramona Howell Tyson, SACS/Accreditation, Superintendent Cheryl Howell Atkinson, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

91 Responses to UPDATE: An Open Letter to the Georgia State Board of Education

  1. John says:

    DeKalb Inside Out :

    I completely agree with your assessment. The only way forward is to get the Portfolio District written into the consent decree. That is realistically the only way to affect real change. Gov. Deal is not going to boot 5 black elected officials, no matter how bad they are. Unfortunately, our elected leaders are not in power to affect change. They are looking toward the next election.

    IMOP, there needs to be a sustained, organized grass roots movement with marches at the Gold Dome, hundreds of parents at Board meetings, coupled with media coverage hammering out the consistent message. Then we may see some positive change.

    What about the organization/people behind the Charter School Amendment? Any of you folks out there? Are you willing to help?

  2. Concernedmom30329 says:


    Your vision for DeKalb is unrealistic. The changes that happened at APS happened because of outside pressure from Mayor Reed as well as the hiring of a superintendent who is independently wealthy and can do what he wants because he doesn’t really need the job. Can you tell me who can apply the pressure to DeKalb? I want to know who, because I would like to ask that person to act.

    Also, what local control do you see in Atlanta? Did you follow the situation at North Atlanta High School recently? Absolutely zero local control there. Why do you think Ed Lindsey is introducing his Parent Trigger bill? It isn’t for DeKalb. It is because of how unhappy Buckhead parents are.

    Read this:

    If you really research the districts across the country that have adopted the portfolio district, I think you will be disappointed. Most aren’t really doing much differently.

  3. Embarrassed Employee says:

    A lot of back and forth. There are two parts to this puzzle. One can not work without the other. We must replace the board and (not or, but AND) Atkinson, Tyson, and the entire admin team.

  4. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Your vision for DeKalb is unrealistic. – That’s what they said about the city of Dunwoody and Brookhaven. That’s what many people say now about independent school districts.

    Who can apply that kind of pressure? – The supporters of the Charter School Amendment. Those that supported cities for Dunwoody and Brookhaven. Ed Lindsey, Governor Deal and the State BOE.

    APS has zero local control – EXACTLY !! APS didn’t do jack squat. APS got themselves a new Super and hoped everything would just fall into place. They didn’t implement any local control in the form of a Portfolio District or Independent Charter Schools. DeKalb will go down the same path if they just remove the administration and/or board.

    People will make many of the same arguments against Portfolio Districts as they do against Independent Charter Schools. I am an advocate of both.

  5. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    In addition to hitting up charter school advocates we can also contact our local reps in the Gold Dome. -DIO

  6. WL says:

    DSW: While I agree that the Governor should have made a 4th Congressional appointment by now, I respectfully disagree with your conclusion. it’s not a “small number’ of DeKalb residents who are in the 5th or 6th Congressional districts. It’s nearly half. And of course the 4th district now has good-size portions in both Rockdale and Gwinnett. I just don’t share your sense that this would give the Board a legitimate reason to challenge the results of a State Board action to recommend dismissal. I think the priority must be to move ahead promptly, ideally with dismissal. If this is prolonged, the DeKalb Board will be forced to remain focused on meeting SACS’ terms, rather than moving the district ahead. As you well know, the two are not one and the same.

  7. howdy1942 says:

    As I understand this law, it becomes applicable only after a school system is placed on probation with certain loss of accreditation if specific actions are not taken. That has nothing to do with representation of a specific county on the State Board of Education. Fact is fact – the Dekalb County School System is on probation and that question is not up for debate. A representative from Dekalb County cannot change that.

    If the School System is on probation, the State Board has the authority to recommend to the Governor that he remove the School Board. If the vote of the State Board were to be decided by one vote, then there might be some merits to your argument. However, I suspect that any vote by the State Board will be decisive, maybe even unanimous. Besides, Governor Deal is going to appoint whoever he wants to appoint to the Board and he is going to decide whether the existing Board should be removed. The key issue here is whether the State Board and the Governor believe that the issues cited by SACS can be resolved satisfactorily by the existing Board. Like DSW, I’ve been following this Board for years. Both our daughters attended Dekalb County Schools and graduated from Tucker High School. I’ve attended numerous meetings of the Board of Education. The situation has grown progressively worse in Dekalb schools, most noticeably in the last three years. Time and again, SACS has warned the Board. Time and again, the Board has promised to do better. And time and again, it has failed.

    The question that was repeatedly asked by the State Board is “what are you going to do different this time?”. There was never any answer – only that the (Dekalb) Board understands the seriousness of this matter and that it will do better. There was not a single thought, suggestion, or comment that would point to even some idea as to how even a single issue could be resolved. I’m tired of hearing the excuse that all of this happened during the holiday season. Following the SACS decision, that Board, if it had cared, would have been meeting daily to study the order and to at least develop some framework for response. It did not. The response of each and every member of the Board was disjointed, reflected little thought, and demonstrated no sense of any concern. What I find so exasperating is that there appeared to be so little preparation by members of the Dekalb Board to present to the State Board!

    This Board needs to go now! In its entirety! The superintendent needs to go and now! We need to begin anew. We don’t need any further delay.

  8. waitaminit 1 says:

    Does that mean we treat the guv as a single issue candidate? You mean you’ll work to get him elected if does something in DeKalb? Wow–this is like a single issue referendum on a state leader on non-statewide issues.

  9. thedeal2 says:

    DIO, we have a fundamental difference of opinion. We are guaranteed to fail with what we have now. We have a CHANCE to fail with an appointed board. I would rather go with the chance for success than the guaranteed failure. We will never succeed with this board. Too much time, too many chances.

    Hopefully with an appointed board who is not beholden to voters (our current board members will do anything to get re-elected), we’ll get some tough decisions made and a new superintendent. Hopefully by the time elections come around, people will get a sniff of how a school system will be run and won’t vote in the same people. Hopefully with an upward trajectory, we’ll get better candidates for the board. Am I saying “hopefully” a lot? You bet I am. Right now, the status quo is a guaranteed failure. Hope is what we have.

  10. Weary worker says:

    This needs national coverage to shake things up. A NY Times article could happen. Especially when you have a county with an exemplary system, Decatur paired with the dysfunctional system of DCSD. A tale of two systems? Sounds like a good story to me.

  11. teachermom says:

    This board has got to go NOW. It is too late to turn around or worry about lawsuits. If this board and/orsuper stay seated you can believe that lawsuits will occur anyway. We’re dealing with a few at this very moment. Lets stay united and see this through towards the end we all want…

  12. howdy1942 says:

    thedeal2 – You stated it very, very well! We do not need any further delay. I had hoped that the State Board would have acted on January 17, 2013. That consent decree came out of left field and was meant to buy the Dekalb Board enough time that the State Board would have to leave them in place. I appreciate the State Board not falling for this “trick”. I also disagree with DSW that we should table this matter until Governor Deal appoints a “Dekalb” representative to the State Board.

    Get the Dekalb Board out! If members of the current Board choose to sue, let them. But also let them pay for their own legal expenses. I am just fed up with Walker, Copelin-Wood, Cunningham, Atkinson, Tyson, the lawyers who keep padding their pockets doing things I don’t like such as the consent decree. We need to bring the Lewis/Pope allegations to trial or we need to drop the charges. We need to get the Heery thing behind us. In short, let’s get on with it – no more delay!!

  13. John says:

    The problem is, WE will pay for their legal expenses. If we can get local control and decentralize the bureaucracy, we all will be better off. Without it, I am afraid we will have the same old same old.

  14. We completely agree Howdy and your point was well-stated. But mark our words, there will be lawsuits filed. We’ve already had Gene Walker and John Evans calling this a racially motivated issue. And Gene long ago complained that DeKalb had virtually no representation on the state board. PLUS, truth be told, one of their very best skills is hiring attorneys…

  15. FWIW- We once posted an editorial blog post stating our opinion on what has become an adult-focused jobs program rather than an educational system designed to provide bright futures for hundreds of thousands of children.

    When adults focus on adults, the children suffer: A DSW editorial

  16. howdy1942 says:

    Walker has had plenty of opportunity to prevent the involvement of the State Board in the first place. He could have chosen to work with SACS, to reach out to them, to understand the issues with which they were concerned, to understand what he and the Board needed to do to resolve them, and then go about addressing them. There is no record to indicate that he did anything. On the contrary, he specifically violated one of the SACS concerns when he pressured Atkinson to hire the brother of another board member. I think that he would be hard pressed to sue SACS – which is the cause of his problems and those of the Board. SACS accredits college and secondary institutions throughout the South – many of them are predominately black.

    The State Board is merely following its dictates and exercising the options available to it under Georgia law. It has precedence to follow – it did remove the Clayton County School Board. The fact is that Walker and the Board could have done plenty to avoid their plight – they could have tried. As a taxpayer and resident of Dekalb County, I would strongly oppose any effort on the part of the County or school board to sue the State. Except for Copelin-Wood, Cunningham, Walker, and perhaps Edler, I don’t think the Board wants to go there. I don’t even think Cunningham wants to proceed in this direction. I don’t think the Dekalb County CEO or Commission would support him nor would the business community, which is most of our businesses in Dekalb County. And I hope that the majority of the Board would not support paying any of Walker’s legal expenses. In short, that leaves Walker and Copelin-Wood.

    Walker and the School Board had complete control of their destiny. By doing nothing, they have lost control of that destiny. His would have been a much better fate had he spent as much energy doing as he has spent in making excuses.

  17. Educator says:

    As an educator I am fed up with the system however I have decided to discontinue reading about the negatives and focus on what I need to do in my classroom. While I understand this blog and all the news coverage is supposed to help, it just depresses me and doesn’t get to the heart of the issue, the kids. Theae kids didn’t ask to be in a dysfunctional school system. They only ask that quality teaching takes place. The focus needs to be on what do the kids need. Smaller class sizes, air conditioning that works, materials for the new common core are just a few. Maybe if the fight is shifted to being about the kids, our voices might be heard.

  18. That’s EXCELLENT, Educator! Please DO continue to focus only on your classroom! We are fully in support of you doing your job to the best of your ability! That’s why the rest of us try to take on the ‘outside’ issues — hopefully to someday make it easier for you to do what you do best for the children of DeKalb…

    We all do what we do and put on own necks on the line simply to support teachers in their efforts. We are not trying to depress you in any way – and if hearing about all these outside efforts depresses you, then by all means, don’t read about it. We want to significantly reduce the money spent on administration and ‘programs’ and bring that money to the schoolhouse in the form of teacher support and smaller class sizes. Teachers – you just keep doing what you do best! If you have anything to report that would help us, feel free to send us an email – we keep all information confidential. Much has been accomplished due to so many brave insiders willing to tell what they know to those who are trying to make change. You can also write the state school board, the Governor, Mark Elgart at SACS, the DeKalb DA, Ty Tagami at the AJC, or other local reporters.

  19. On that note, it seems the Dunwoody High School Council has taken a stand:
    Dunwoody School Council Asks for DeKalb BOE’s Removal

    The Dunwoody school council letter read, in part, that lack of action would have a devastating impact on students’ scholarship and collegiate opportunities.

    The letter also asked Deal to do the following:

    • Appoint a new, transitional school board that represents the needs of all children in DeKalb County

    • Require that the DeKalb School District administration completely restructure its operations, eliminate redundancy, improve its financial systems and restore budgetary focus on students

    • Disengage the Hope Scholarship from school accreditation as a requirement.

    • Provide for local school control

    • Change the current school and district accreditation process and provider to focus on student achievement and financial responsibility rather than administrative and political process.

    • Restore funding to public education

  20. thedeal2 says:

    Educator, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there will be no improvement in your classroom situation until these large, ugly situations are dealt with. You will never have smaller class sizes without a new board and superintendent. The DeKalb school system has reached the point where the administrative decisions are reaching down into the classroom and affecting the everyday classroom experience.

    Corruption would be one thing if it only affected the adults. Unlike in previous times, we do not have enough money to fully fund the classrooms and the bank accounts of our administrators, and they have chosen the administrators.

    We are at a critical juncture in the life of DeKalb county and its schools. If we continue on the same path, we are headed the way of Detroit. What people like DIO don’t seem to comprehend is that, even if the slow road worked, there will be noone left to appreciate it. Families and businesses are going to abandon ship long before the “wait and see” approach could ever work (which it won’t). Without business support, good families, and good teachers, the administration could be amazing, and it wouldn’t matter. The involved and vocal families who also provide most of the support for the schools need to see immediate action.

  21. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    We are guaranteed to fail with what we have now – I get the feeling that you’re so focused on removing the administration and board, that you’re not thinking about the other options. One of the possibilities is going to a model where all the schools are independent charters. If all schools are moved to independent charters, then how is that a guaranteed failure?

    Local Control
    The key is to get the administration, Superintendent and BOE out of the loop and the local community in the loop. With the Portfolio District or independent charters, the Super and BOE have NO AUTHORITY.

    Where am I going wrong?

  22. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Make the palace persona non grata
    Portfolio Districts and Independent Charters take the board and administration out of the picture. It’s like implementing the Parent Trigger for every school.

    Removing the power and authority of the board and administration is a permanent change. Administrations and board members have come and gone in the palace over the last 10 years but nothing has changed.

  23. Mom of 3 says:

    Portfolio districts and Charter schools sound great. BUT we are putting the cart before the horse. I also don’t think we should be so worried about board members suing. There is going to fall out from this one way or another. Someone is going to sue for something. But the GA BOE member’s comments on the 17th were my 1st glimmer of hope that I have seen in several years that shows any intellect and common sense regarding this mess. We must move forward. We need to see what happens on in February. No matter what the decision- this is going to be messy. If they get rid of the board and install a new one- then we need to start talking about Portfolio districts and Charter schools. Let’s keep our eye on the ball. One step at a time…

  24. Bye bye says:


    Did you go to any of the public meetings about the charter amendment when the author of the law was there? Rep. Jan Jones was very clear that the two meetings that I attend it fit the charter amendment would not help existing schools. Communities don’t own the building’s school systems do.
    Because of this the only way to get to any of the ideas you have is to have a school board that is willing to make the tough decisions.
    There is too much jealousy about what some communities have and are able to do versus others to take your ideas and put them into practice with this board.
    Right now I believe the most critical thing that needs to happen for Dekalb County is a new superintendent. We won’t get a good one if we even have the opportunity is Jean Walker and others are still around.

  25. waitaminit 1 says:

    If you can get a lot of people with this opinion, you can give the state the cover it needs to negotiate with current board members.
    They get rid of the Super and accept an interim Super of Guvs choice and they get to keep their jobs, albeit with oversight. That’s the deal–take it or leave it. Reject it and you go bye-bye.

    Get a team of people here with some business or someother sector of the public to take that message downtown. The state already wants to do this, but it needs cover (groundswell, public opinion, AJC–cover is how they operate–they hate making public decisions–see SACS the cover machine).
    Politics 101.

  26. thedeal2 says:

    DIO, what you are proposing are steps 9 and 10 in a long process. The steps before that are to get rid of the decisionmakers we have now because they will NEVER agree to what you are proposing. If they were in favor of it, why haven’t they done something before then? Sure, Marshall’s Fernbank community is in support of the idea. They have been an island in this system for years now anyway, and local control will just make that official in policy, too. But your hero Marshall is not a magician. He cannot make back-door deals as a board member like he did as a private citizen. There are many people in the county who do not trust him, and he is only one person on that board. Most of the current board is in it for the power, and voting for local control/Portfolio model is in complete contradiction to their goal of power and power grab. A clean slate is going to be the only way to adopt such a drastic new approach. If our existing people were so innovative, they would have done it already.

  27. @thedeal2; in reference to the power — who exactly would be taking control over the majority of south DeKalb schools? We have to wonder if the Bishop Eddie Long and his New Birth leaders might not jump in and take charge… they already control two charter schools under DCSD. Is that better or worse than we currently have in charge? It’s certainly unknown.

    Firing the school board, then hiring a board of professional trustees, who will in turn fire the superintendent, replace her with one truly qualified and courageous who will in turn do everything this blog and others in DeKalb have been demanding for three years now is the only way we see clear to future success —

    Reduce the Central Office staff considerably. Outsource what is possible – payroll, SPLOST accounting, much of maintenance… Get rid of million dollar ‘programs’ and put that money into reducing class size to Gov Barnes era levels. Support teachers who can work with small groups to bring students up to speed. Offer meaningful after school programs with healthy snacks, fitness, caring leadership and tutors. Work closely with county parks and recreation to create affordable, meaningful summer camp experiences available to all children. Close poorly maintained, under-enrolled schools and consolidate them – doing our best to save the schools located in the middle of neighborhoods. Cut out ALL special transportation. Sell off extra property – so many shuttered schools are causing a blight on DeKalb and deterring business and neighborhood growth. Find and hire the best principals available to lead these school and teachers, then give them autonomy to do their jobs – with direct access to the superintendent. Reinstate teacher retirement contributions. Make teacher pay the highest in the region in order to attract the best and brightest. Get with CEO Ellis to promote his “One DeKalb Lives” program and make the teacher housing support program a daily reality. Create a checklist of demands required for each and every spending item – linked to student achievement and success. Post the check register online for anyone to see. Create several alternate pathways to a high school diploma – allowing those not on a college track to enter the work force well-prepared, and if they later choose to attend college or tech school, they will hold the necessary credentials.

    Most of all, communicate, communicate, communicate! And then listen. And respond.

  28. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Mom of 3
    If the GA BOE recommends the removal, the DeKalb board will sue. Like Sumter county, they will get an injunction. Even if the state wins, which they won’t, we’ll have a bunch of white people removing black elected officials. Given that the biggest hurdle with independent school districts is the voting rights act, that could harm the independent school district movement.

  29. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Bye Bye
    charter amendment would not help existing schools. – Correct. The charter amendment was just about new independent schools. Parent Trigger Law is about converting existing schools into independent charters. The Ga BOE could put in the consent agreement stipulations that would force the district into the Portfolio District or Independent Charters. Ga BOE can’t do that if they just replace the board.

  30. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    DSW et al
    Our last 3 Superintendents have been disasters. Why do you think the next one will be any better?

    For your plan to work, all these things MUST happen. If just one fails, your plan is ruined …

    1. The DeKalb board can’t seek an injuction
    2. The state law can not be overturned
    3. Deal has to appoint competent people
    4. The competent BOE must hire a competent Super
    5. The competent Super must expeditiously clean house and install a new system that can’t be brought down in 2015.

    ALL 5 items are long shots
    1. The DeKalb board will seek and get their injunction like Sumter. At best this will delay the process. An appointed board will take office 6-12 months before the next elected board does.
    2. This law will be overturned. We can’t be removing elected officials for doing a bad job.
    3. I can’t imagine Deal will find competent people in every board district. He’ll have to hit up the DeKalb Delegation for recommendations … enough said
    4. What rock star Superintendent out there will take accept a job in this radio active county?
    5. There are too many people to remove in too short of time. What big changes are they going to make that the next elected board can’t undo?

    Just my humble opinion.

  31. @DIO: Well, 6 black and 3 white elected officials…

    BTW, black people really must admit at some point, that they are only 13.6% of the entire population of the U.S. according to the 2010 census [Black or African American alone or in combination = 13.6% of total; Black or African-American alone = 12.6% of total … For comparison, Hispanic or Latinos accounted for 16.3% of the total U.S. population]. 74.8% of the U.S. is white alone or in combination (72.4% white alone). And, white alone, or in combination is reported as 5,787,440 residents of Georgia’s total 9,687,653 with 2,950,435 identified as African American. In fact, here are the official Georgia breakdowns:

    White 5,787,440
    African American 2,950,435
    Asian 314,467
    American Indian and Alaska Native 32,151
    Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander 6,799
    Other 388,872
    Identified by two or more 207,489

    Of course, DeKalb’s racial balance is majority African American. Here are the Census numbers for DeKalb vs Georgia:
    White persons, percent, 2011 37.8% 63.2%
    Black persons, percent, 2011 54.4% 31.0%
    American Indian and Alaska Native persons, percent, 2011 0.6% 0.5%
    Asian persons, percent, 2011 5.2% 3.4%
    Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander persons, percent, 2011 0.1% 0.1%
    Persons reporting two or more races, percent, 2011 2.0% 1.8%
    Persons of Hispanic or Latino Origin, percent, 2011 9.8% 9.1%
    White persons not Hispanic, percent, 2011 30.1% 55.5%

    So, when you insist on only hiring black candidates for any job, or simply adhering to DeKalb’s racial balance, you are seriously reducing your pool of qualified applicants and quite possibly not finding the best in a category. The best of the black candidates – but not the best of all possible candidates. Therefore, the racially-motivated hiring practices in DeKalb are quite possibly not giving the students access to the best teachers available for hire. This really needs to be fixed. We need the best and the brightest – whatever race they may be.

  32. Mom of 3 says:

    Dekalb inside/out- I actually am not bothered by the risk of the board suing or an injunction. The more opportunity to pull the skeletons out of the closet the better. As I said, there is no simple solution. It may take years to sort out. But we can not be afraid to go forward. As I tell my kids- the truth will set you free. Let’s not be scared- and start ripping this band aid off.

  33. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    WOW … that’s a lot of numbers on my behalf. Yes … 6 black and 3 white people would be kicked out. That’s not the way it’ll be covered in the AJC or the news. Headlines will read “Governor Deal, John Barge and all the other white people are removing all the elected black leaders and educators from DeKalb”. South DeKalb already believes they are getting the short end of every stick.

    Racially motivated hiring practices in DeKalb need to be fixed.
    Allow me to put out there that given DeKalb’s racial balance is majority African American, that a majority of DeKalb doesn’t believe hiring practices are broken.

  34. DSW editorial staff met to discuss the concerns of our readers regarding our call for 4th district representation on the State Board of Education before a decision is made about recommending removal of the DeKalb Board of Education. Having listened to and evaluated your comments, pro and con, we now believe that 4th District representation won’t make any difference and, in fact, may create an unacceptable delay. Accordingly, we have taken that out of our Open Letter to the State Board. We have made a few other editorial changes, as well. (In case you are wondering, that Open Letter had not yet been sent to the individual members of the State Board until we could reach a consensus with our editorial staff.) Thanks for your input!

  35. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Mom of 3
    The lawsuit will only entail the constitutional right Deal has to remove the board. It will not bring any skeletons out of the closet.

    It may take years to sort out – That’s one of many problems
    1. All board members are up for reelection in 2014. All appointees will be replaced.
    2. The current generation of students can’t wait years.

    This is the only chance the Ga BOE has to put something with teeth into the consent form.

  36. Yes, DIO. I think I pointed out DeKalb’s demographics. White flight such as it’s been.

    The school system is now about 70% African American – quite a change from the 5% African American when the original federal desegregation case was filed.

    But still, notice the numbers from the Census:

    54.4% of DeKalb is African American
    31.0% of the state of Georgia is African American

    So, do you think that approximately half the hirings are African American? That would be a resounding “no”. It’s more like 80-90%. How about the layoffs/RIFs? More whites than blacks. It’s blatant really. And it’s about jobs for adults – not about what’s best for kids, no matter what they say.

  37. waitaminit 1 says:

    The rock star superintendent will not be a person with previous Superintendent experience. Likely, because “interim”, will be a former board member from somewhere where the credentials are quite wel known to DOE. Advantage of a political ppointee will be Republican as former Jeff Brinkman was at District Attorney–thereby garnering complete trust from Republican leaders and get whatever he damn well please for this place–particularly get AJC and legislature and interfering downtown law-firms to give some breathing room.

    Just because our people aren’t competent doesn’t mean the outside interference hasn’t fanned flames–and is at least 50% of our PR problem right now. In fact, if you trace our legal issues, you’ll find out that interference was 50% of that problem. The only thing that our people didn’t do right was refuse “deals they couldn’t refuse”much as Vermin Jones did. They decided to fight the good ol’ boys and we are the losers. They figured they could so soemthing blacks coud never do last century BECAUSE they had all of the tax dollars in the world to work with. These guys used the power play refusal as a referendum on “this is a new day for the hood”. Can’t blame them if I didn’t care about kids.

    You think the timing on SACS was an accident. You think the three years of tailoring an unwinnable overreaching case against CLew is an accident (the longer “whitey” keeps it going and doesn’t lose the case the better to create PR nightmares for blacks. You think the editorials masquerading as news articles about DeKalb are an accident? Even the news on B Ellis end up coming back to a complaint about the school system. Unbelievable?

    Guess what–the “downtown” and state power structure owns the county now–“You break it, you fix it”–and fix it and fix you they will.

    Politics 101.
    We are the pawns in a huge power strruggle.

    BTW–the same darn thing is playing out on cityhood–same darn people.

  38. dekalbite2 says:

    “”outside interference……is at least 50% of our PR problem right now.”…”…”In fact, if you trace our legal issues, you’ll find out that interference was 50% of that problem.”

    When our students score lower than any metro system, this is not just a PR problem. Our students are not less intelligent, our teachers are not less hardworking and our parents are not less involved than demographically comparable systems in the metro area that consistently have much higher student achievement.

    For students, this is an academic achievement issue, not a PR problem. The school system administration can try to spin the academic achievement issue any way they want, but the numbers are there for the public to review. When the DeKalb Schools administration including the superintendent and BOE members set all of the policies, procedures and practices for the entire school system, allocate all expenditures, and tell the teachers what and when and how to teach the content, then they must be held responsible if the student achievement rate is lower than demographically similar school systems.

    You can’t have all of the authority and power, but take no responsibility when your outcome shows a rate of decline (well – except on Wall Street). That’s what this administration has concentrated on – trying to put a good face on failure to move students forward at an acceptable rate of achievement. PR has been more important to them than real results.

  39. howdy1942 says:

    DSW – thank you for listening and your support to get this matter resolved. I wish that the School Board would listen as well. I also attended the School Board meeting today and, like a previous blogger, stand aghast at just how far removed this Board is from the public. I also agree that we may well not be where we are today had the Board had a more interactive format and welcomed input from the public as demonstrated on this blog.

    My bottom line is that the school situation in Dekalb County has grown progressively worse and that has accelerated in the last three years. Eugene Walker had an opportunity to make the situation better. Walker and this Board could have reached out to SACS, listened, understood, and acted to resolve the differences. They didn’t. Walker has remained defiant, repeatedly saying that he knows of nothing that he did wrong even after SACS rubbed his nose in it. He said the same thing last Thursday to the State Board that he said to the public two years ago – trust us, we understand the seriousness and gravity of the situation – give us more time. My answer to that is – you had your chance and you failed. NO – Now leave.

    This superintendent was hired under a cloud and has done nothing to improve the situation. On the contrary, things have gotten worse. There is more than ample evidence to fire her for “just cause”.

    This thing regarding the Ramsey emails should be simple to resolve – either there were emails and they can be produced – or there were not!! To find that out, we need to get at the records and the devices used. Stop stonewalling and get on with it!

    The State Board needs to act – the people who will pick up the pieces deserve and warrant as much time as possible to address the superintendent deficiencies, to understand the issues SACS cited, and to take substantive action to address them. Hopefully, they can move quickly enough to at least maintain our probationary status.

    But the time to act is now – no delay – now!

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