So, what’s the latest?

April, 2012: DeKalb DA calls for investigation of school board, saying he had no choice… Any news? Did the judges ever make a decision to convene a special grand jury? Or are we all waiting for the state board and the Governor now? Are we taking a back seat to CEO Burrell Ellis and Andrea Sneiderman? What’s up? Are we forgotten?

In addition, here is another breaking story with no new information about the now infamous text messages:

State senator aides in DeKalb superintendent investigation

Story posted 2013.01.23 at 04:19 PM EST Mobile News

Channel 2 Action News has learned that a state legislator from Fulton County played a small role in a dispute that has turned into a simmering controversy among DeKalb County school officials.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher has learned the question the DeKalb County School Board wants answered is whether Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson authorized her chief legal officer to offer some former employees jobs if they would drop their demand for her texts and emails.

The board had been expected to consider a confidential report on the matter Wednesday.

School board chairman Eugene Walker told Channel 2 Action News the board’s outside legal counsel was ready to deliver a report on the text and email controversy.

The board said they would discuss it behind closed doors Wednesday.

Belcher was asked to leave, but walker told him, “We did not receive the report today. And, we will not receive it today. It will be presented next week, next Wednesday.”

“Is this going to be a public document, once it’s presented,” Belcher asked Walker.

“I do not know. I’m going on the basis of what legal tells me,” Walker told Belcher.

It will be at least a week, maybe longer, before we find out what the text and email investigation turned up.

But Wednesday, Belcher also learned that a state legislator played role in the dispute as an intermediary.

The pivotal figure in this dispute is Ronald Ramsey, the chief staff lawyer for the DeKalb school system, who also happens to be a state senator from DeKalb County.

According to our sources, Ramsey told investigators that Atkinson asked him to make the jobs-for-emails offer.

Belcher confirmed that Ramsey turned to his state senate colleague Vincent Fort of Atlanta and Fort reached out to attorney Julie Oinonen.

She’s the one who filed several open records requests for the disputed texts and emails and who subsequently sued the school system on behalf of one former school system employee.

Fort confirmed his role Wednesday, telling Belcher by phone, “I was asked to reach out to someone to resolve an issue. I did it in good faith to try to help out.”

Soon, the DeKalb school board will learn whether its lawyers believe Atkinson is the one who set all of this in motion in an effort to keep her texts and emails private.


Which brings up the subject, What Ever Became of the Teacher’s Lawsuit?  You know, the group that is suing to reinstate the teacher’s retirement matching contributions? If they win, we will have to cough up over $50 million… cough cough…

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61 Responses to So, what’s the latest?

  1. Teachermom, It is a disgrace that Ms. Berry is still working for DCSD. This is the biggest issue. Until ALL of the Clew crew retires, resigns, or are fired, the culture of corruption, deceit, and mismanagement will continue. Everyone MUST go, or the festering sore that Clew created will continue to be infected. How much money does a Super must lose or go over budget before being shown the door Tyson, Berry, Beasley, Moseley, Ramsey and the rest MUST go or nothing changes! Can we not use the salaries of these overpaid, former leaders to help the true heroes of our school system, the TEACHERS get what they deserve!

  2. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    My righteousness is in question. As much as I love Team Fernbank, the Portfolio District is about local control for all communities and reducing the power of any board/administration to nothing.

    Why is keeping the board better? – If it doesn’t matter what board or administration is in there then why bother keeping them? Answer: Leverage. While this administration and board are in there, the people and powers that be have leverage to make them implement the portfolio district via the consent or just strong arming. If we kick out the board and administration, everybody will wash their hands and say mission accomplished. The new board and administration will need time and leeway to do their thing. Or we’ll just get stuck in a legal battle trying to kick them out and nothing will get done.

    Kicking the board and administration sounds like a good idea, but it just won’t work for reasons mentioned here. We should implement something permanent while we have leverage.

  3. Concernedmom30329 says:

    So, in your opinion, the State Board can dictate that the DeKalb System convert to a Portfolio District and then, poof, it will happen?

    How long have you been paying attention in DeKalb? Just a few years, since perhaps the system suggested redistricting Fernbank?

    The reality is that these board members, at least most of them, have real issues with what some schools have and what others don’t. There is no way, for example, that every high school cluster could pull this off. Right now, that reason alone is enough for the majority of the board to make this idea not work.

    Also, you presume that there is a majority of the board would think this is a good idea. I think only two, Speaks and Jester, are sure things. Maybe McMahan, but not if Orson isn’t for it.

    The rest of the board would struggle and struggle and what you might be lucky to end up with is a watered down version, meaningless and hardly worth the effort.

    If Deal appoints the right kind of board members, we have a much better shot of getting where we need to be. That starts with new leadership at the top.

  4. UPCOMING MEETINGS: (Check our Meetings & Events tab at the top of the blog for the full list)

    DCPC meeting — Wednesday, February 6, 2013

    Time: Meeting @ 9:15-10:30 AM (Refreshments @ 8:45 AM)

    Meeting Location: Peachtree Charter Middle School

    Speaker: Dr. John Barge, Georgia State School Superintendent

    DCPC meets monthly on the first Wednesday of the month (unless noted otherwise)


    The DeKalb Board of Education will hold a called meeting at 10:00am,
    Monday, January 28, 2013, in the Cabinet Room at the Robert R. Freeman
    Administrative Center at the DeKalb County School System’s Administrative
    & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone
    Mountain. The called meeting will adjourn to executive session for the
    purpose of discussing legal matters.

    Meeting information can be accessed online by going to:, click on Leadership, go to eBoard Home Page and click on the date for the meeting agenda\information.

  5. Insider says:

    Just FYI… a bunch of “Notice To Appear” letters were recently sent out by the DA’s office in the case of “The State vs. Crawford Lewis & Patricia Pope & Anthony Vincent Pope” with trial dates listed as Monday April 15, 2013 – May 10, 2013. It’s supposed to take place in Courtroom 7C.

  6. INTERESTING, INSIDER! Thanks for the update on the trial!

  7. Insider says:

    You’re welcome.

  8. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    I hear ya. Even if the board agreed half of them would fight the Portfolio District tooth and nail. Fortunately it would be the administration doing all the work.

    What would be watered down? Like parent trigger or charters, the community comes up with the charter.

    If the board gets kicked off … which they won’t because that law is unconstitutional
    And if Deal gets good people … DeKalb Delegation is bucking to “help” with the appointments

    The appointed board won’t be required to do anything. If it’s part of the Ga BOE consent, the state can hold it over them …. even after the 2014 elections.

  9. Bye bye says:

    The school system will have to agree to what a portfolio district does and doesn’t do for canning can’t do. You presume that the majority of the state board believes in local control as you describe it and in print parents having a larger role. The reality is this at the state board is comprised of a diverse group of people some of them former education bureaucrats.
    There is zero evidence that the current administration believes in local control is you describe it. In fact Dr. Atkinson,during the interview process, was fairly lukewarm to charterers as well as some of her other staff members during their tour in the early days of this administration.
    If Atkinson is removed but the board stays the same, there is no reason to believe that a better superintendent will be selected.
    Dr. Walker and the others with turned on Atkinson have done so not because she is weak and ineffective but because of some of the difficult decisions she has made.
    While I don’t think Atkinson has brought in all good people, she did get rid of some bad ones that were already here. This is what has made Dr. Walker and others turn one her. If they go to replace her they will not be looking for someone strong, but rather someone they can control.
    While I am not a huge Nathan deal fan, I have to believe that where we end up will be with an overall higher-quality boardmember on average than we have today. Wow I hear some of the same rumors you were hearing, I am also hearing the deal is not necessarily listening. There is a concern about the future of our county as a whole. We need board members to understand the big picture.

  10. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Bye Bye,
    Typically educrats fight local control like they fought charter schools. Fortunately a majority of people in Georgia want local control. I anticipate the board and administration will fight this. I anticipate they will fight removal as well.

    We, the people, will have to fight back.

  11. From The Center for an Educated Georgia:

    Governor Deal Outlines Education Priorities

    On January 17th, Governor Deal gave his annual State of the State address to the Georgia General Assembly. Emphasizing that we must make K-12 education a top priority, Governor Deal recapped his efforts last year to establish a reading mentors program for elementary students and highlighted the success of the Charter School Amendment.

    Providing an overview of his education budget, the Governor emphasized that K-12 education will not experience the budget reductions that other departments will see in the next year. Instead, education will see additional funding for enrollment grown and salary increases for teachers based on training and experience.

    Governor Deal called for the stigma against educators to be removed, saying it is necessary for attracting bright college students to the teaching profession. Governor Deal also called for the modernization of the 1985 QBE formula for funding public schools. The legislature is expected to address the school funding formula this year.

  12. And another piece from the Center:

    Special Needs Scholarship Bill Reintroduced

    Representative Rich Golick (R-40) has introduced a bill to improve the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship. If passed, the legislation (House Bill 70) would establish set payment dates for scholarships and allow the State Board of Education to waive the one-year public school enrollment requirement for some students.

    A similar bill passed the General Assembly last year but was vetoed by Governor Deal after the Department of Education announced that one line added to the bill by the Senate would lead to cuts in scholarship amounts. The new legislation does not include this language.

  13. csense says:

    How come Ramsey gets to keep a job that is a conflict of interest? He cant be a state senator and oversee board members. Will the state board fix this?

  14. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Forget the emails, we need to pick up the phone and call Deal’s office. Everyday next week. Let him know dekalb needs his help. If he is planning on focusing on education he can kick off his new found concern right here. We are too big to fail. 90+k children and their families are looking at him to help,

  15. teachermom says:

    “Governor Deal called for the stigma against educators to be removed, saying it is necessary for attracting bright college students to the teaching profession. ”

    Let’s start with Dekalb County then. Put your money where your mouth is Governor Deal. Fire this board that has overseen an Administration (well, SEVERAL) that has approved cut upon cut to teachers in order to support and protect employees in a corrupt Friends and Family program.. (and YES there is evidence),

    Who can forget last summer of hell when teachers and other educators were not given contracts back, lied to about teacher RIFS and saw their class sizes increased so much that they had to get a waiver from the state? What else? Furloughs, wrongful RIFs, freezing step increases for years, stopping our retirement contributions that were supposed to replace Social Security, forced canned curriculum, oversight and micromanaging by “coaches,” refusing teachers children to enroll in feeder schools where they teach because they were “too full,” (while continuing to allow CO children in), lack of planning periods, little to no meaningful training…Oh let me count the ways!

    I know college students who are majoring in Education that have no intention of teaching when they get out thanks to what they are seeing…Good and excellent teachers are leaving the profession every day. It may not happen all at once because changing one’s career or retiring early takes time, but many are making arrangements. The best and the brightest, who have the most options, will be the first to go…

  16. H.A. Hurley says:

    The ‘Best and the Brightest’ , code for Teach For America types, usually do not chose to be teachers for life. Typically, they remain long enough until their school loans are forgive when teaching in urban schools. Their training is very limited and they are often so far over their heads when managing large groups of students, special ed requirements, differentiation, classroom management, testing, implementing strategies, children in poverty, violence, and daily school requirements, etc…….
    When well-trained teachers leave the profession, we lose more than just another employee. All the Big$$ Foundations, ie. Gates, Rhee, TFA…, could care less what happens to career teachers. Actually, they would love for TFA to fill every position. They are young and cheap, will not question, like lemmings will jump over every reform cliff, and will ‘raise test scores’, however that is achieved (cheating????). Along with the fools in DCS, things look very bleak for DC. Charter schools, if of quality, can help, but many of them are having major problems. What then?

  17. murphey says:

    @DSW, Thanks for catching my error about how much Title 1 $$ DCSD owes – I was wrong by an order of magnitude! Still, DCSD owes $900,000 of Title 1 grant money that we spent on programs that don’t qualify for Title 1 funds. I don’t think we should forget about this, because this $900,000 was for only one year. There may be more money to repay for other years.

    $900,000 would fund a lot of teachers…..

  18. H.A. Hurley says:

    Are there no legal consequences from the Feds for misuse of Title I funds? In the old days, one would be ever so careful with all Feds $$s. These DCS admins bulldoze over everything and nothing seems to stop them or change their behaviors. The laws cannot even keep up with them. They are so brazen and criminal! Get these sleazoids out of our county and away from kids.
    Where is the Chamber of Commerce in all of this? They have a lot riding on good schools when trying to attract business to the area. Oh, so painful and so infuriating!

  19. Yes. There are legal consequences for misusing Title I funds. But, first the feds have to know about it. You could do that. We put the necessary contact information on the opening page of the DSW blog. And, L@@K! here it is, again:

    Report Suspected Fraud and Criminal Activity
    Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
    Mark Guiliano
    FBI Special Agent in Charge
    2635 Century Parkway N.E., Suite 400
    Atlanta, GA 30345
    Phone: (404)679-9000

    Use the FBI’s online tip form to report suspected terrorism, fraud or criminal activity.

    U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ)
    Sally Quillian Yates
    U. S. Attorney — Northern District of Georgia
    Richard B. Russell Federal Building
    75 Spring Street, S.W., Suite 600
    Atlanta, GA 30303
    Phone: (404)581-6000
    Fax: (404)581-6181

    Remember, Susan Hurst, former DCSS Budget Manager and now CFO for city of Decatur (GA) Schools, took it upon herself to re-work the DCSS budget from cash to modified accrual before it was sent to the state auditors so it would appear to be in compliance and not raise any serious red flags. And the state auditors were none-the-wiser. You don’t really think that the feds are getting the truth and nothing but the truth from DCSS regarding Title I and other federal funds, do you? Those pesky auditors can be so prickly.

    You were joking about the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, weren’t you?

  20. teacherwantingandworkingforachange says:

    After reading about Dekalb’s highly paid 2nd grade teacher, Audria Berry, who has been making $114,00 to $117,000 since 2008, I wanted to see how many other people could shout “Victory!”.

    It would seem that the 135 Instructional Specialists, the 139 Instructional Supervisors, and the three Directors of Curriculum and Instruction are doing alright. One Instructional Specialist was paid $104,000 and another received $91,000; 84 others earned more than a teacher with a master’s degree and more than 15 years teaching experience. 15 Instructional Supervisors received more than $100,000, and one took home $161,985. The three Directors earned anywhere between $104,240 and $112,482. But what do we have to show for all this instructional expertise?

    Despite the more than 250 instructional experts Dekalb paid last year, the district needed to use Race to the Top funds to pay teachers (although I have seen one Instructional Specialist’s name on these, so I’m not sure if Specialists were also paid extra with RTT money) to create the Common Core Curricula Units the superintendent has touted. If you examine these units, at least the ones I’ve seen for my courses and three other high school courses, there is little that is user-friendly. The district also needed to pay Pearson to create the benchmarks. Teachers are supposed to analyze the benchmark data to plan instruction. And the superintendent’s recently posted textbook presentation ackknowledges that this 2012-2013 school year would offer no new textbooks, but makes no mention of any supplemental materials the curriculum and instruction educators would be creating or providing. So what type of instruction are all these people making more than classroom teachers actually providing?

    The superintendent’s first guiding principle claims that “student achievement must be.. the central theme in all initiatives.” I know that “research” is a popular word to use when describing instructional strategies or calendars. I would like to see the reserach proving, or even intimating, that creating larger classes, giving teachers more preps., and cutting teacher work days while employing so many people outside of the classroom with little to no interaction with students actually results in student achievement.

    The superintendent recognizes that “leadership and accountability at all levels are key to success” since this is her third guiding principle. The KPMG audit revealed that $49 million that should have been saved under Ramona Tyson’s leadership wasn’t. The state audit revealed that almost a million dollars of Title 1 money was misspent. The curriculum and instruction audit posted on the website indicates that coordinators ( I believe they are paid as instrucional supervisors) had litle contact with the schools and offered little to nothing that wasn’t already published on the states’ website. And the AJC discovered that an audit conducted by a current leader was copied.

    I hope the State Board starts asking these types of questions.

  21. From the Dunwoody Crier via the Dunwoody Patch:

    The School Council of Dunwoody High School is asking Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to remove the DeKalb County Board of Education.

    According to The Crier, the organization voted last week to send a letter to the governor, petitioning him to dissolve the school board.

    Last month, the board was placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools (SACS). The district has until May 31, 2013 to make progress in complying with several issues that SACS identified.

    Shortly afterward, an online petition was started to build momentum for replacing the entire school board, which Gov. Nathan Deal has the authority to do.

    Among other recommendations, the council’s also has asked Deal to appoint a transitional school board; require the system to restructure its operations and organizational structure; and require more local school control.

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