UPDATED: Nancy Jester Speaks Out, Again — A MUST Read!

Isn’t it refreshing to have a DeKalb County Board of Education member — an educated, articulate, well-read Board member — whose only agenda is our children?!

Nancy Jester has a new MUST READ post on her blog, What’s Up with That? http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/ — also reprinted in full below.

Meanwhile, there is dead silence from the other 8 members of the Board.

A Hearing or Not a Hearing?
(reprinted with permission from Nancy Jester’s blog, What’s Up With That?)

I’ve received many questions about the January 17, 2013 proceeding with the State Board of Education (SBOE).  As you know, the outcome was to postpone and then reconvene the hearing on February 21, 2013.  Most of the questions I’ve received assumed the proceeding on the 17th was a hearing.  I am of the opinion the proceeding did not meet the definition of a hearing in both construction and adherence to procedural requirements.  Why do I hold this opinion?

  1. The SBOE must conduct a hearing pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 20-2-73 http://statutes.laws.com/georgia/title-20/chapter-2/article-3/20-2-73.
  2. The hearing must be conducted subject to SBOE Rule 160-5-1-.36.
  3. The “Notice and Order” sent by the SBOE required both parties (SBOE and DBOE) to file witness and document lists by 1/11/13.  It is my understanding that it was acknowledged that neither party had adequate time to prepare complete lists as necessary to conduct a formal hearing.  Furthermore, former board members who had received the Notice were instructed that their presence would not be required on the 17th.
  4. If a formal hearing was anticipated, given that the 3 former board members would have pertinent testimony, they would not have been released from attending the proceeding.
  5. Furthermore, there are many documents to admit into evidence and witnesses to testify to various matters discussed in the AdvancED_SACS Special Review Report on behalf of both parties.  Neither party had produced a comprehensive list of witnesses or documents.  Certainly, staff members from DCSD and AdvancED would need to be present, along with documents, to discuss the issues in the report.  Staff members and documents were conspicuously absent.
  6. The statute provides that the hearing must be held no later than 30 days after receipt of the report from AdvancED.  Given the prerequisites for a hearing were not met, why wasn’t the proceeding officially begun and immediately set to reconvene at the next available date?  Knowing in advance that the requirements to hold the hearing were not met, why was the public not informed that the hearing would be adjourned to reconvene in February?

I know many of you took time away from family responsibilities and work to attend the proceeding.  Many of you obtained childcare so you could be present.  As no action could be taken on the 17th given the procedural constraints, I wish the SBOE had notified you in advance that the proceeding could only culminate in a hearing at a later date.

It was interesting to note several SBOE members testified that the DeKalb BOE should be more “aggressive” in getting information from the DCSD administration about various issues, including financial data.  This seems at odds with statements in the AdvancED/SACS report.  I’m in agreement with the SBOE.  Board members must have a full and unobstructed view of the facts.  Well paid administrators shouldn’t be prickly or sensitive about questions from the board.  If board members had been more aggressive over the past decade, we wouldn’t have found ourselves in this mess.  Sometimes the “governance team” paradigm that is held up as a model of unity makes me wonder what “team” everyone is playing for.  What if the “governance team” sells mediocrity as success and avoidable financial disasters as simple errors?  Today’s citizens are savvy enough to see through that type of spin and rightly demand much more.  Food for thought.

School Choice Week – Empowering Parents in DeKalb

This week is National School Choice Week.  School Choice is about parent empowerment.  If we return the power to parents to govern schools alongside principals and teachers, the cause of education will be well-served.  It also turns schools into innovation laboratories.  It dislodges the bureaucratic hold on budgets and policy.  It allows teachers to teach unencumbered by one-size-fits-all programs, paperwork and creativity-killing dictates.  It allows principals to develop policies that are right for their school.  It minimizes the footprint and potential entanglements of district-wide financial problems.  I’m an advocate for implementing this type of real local control in DeKalb.  It would be a reforming and sustainable model for successful outcomes for kids.   This model is called the Portfolio Strategy.  It empowers parents and gives them choices.

If you support empowering parents, communities and teachers, please join me at the School Choice Rally at the Capitol on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 10:00 AM.  For more details, go to this website: http://www.schoolchoicerally.com/ .  You can also show your support for reforming our district by reading my Declaration of Demands and Statement of Students Rights.2013 and sharing it with other parents and leaders.

Nancy Jester’s post (above) is critically important.We want to make sure that it is disseminated as widely as possible.   Please, please make sure you send it to other parents you know throughout DeKalb County.  

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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"
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81 Responses to UPDATED: Nancy Jester Speaks Out, Again — A MUST Read!

  1. Todd says:

    I read Ms. Jester’s post and responded therein. While I respect her right to say those things, I asked her a lot of questions about why she would only now bring these issues of a) purported lack of sufficient notice; b) lack of either the DOE or DBOE submitting witness lists; c) alleged lack of following the rules regarding timeliness of holding the hearing at all; and d) “conspicuously absent” witnesses and documents. As I explained there, it seemed as though all of those issues should have been brought up then. Moreover, it seemed especially odd to bring them up later since 1) she signed the consent order waiving any arguments about lack of sufficient notice; and 2) had her own attorney there who likewise signed the consent order. If she sheds any light on why her hindsight is now better than 20/20, I will be interested to hear it.

  2. Margaret (Peggy) Anderson says:

    Viola – did you read this?

  3. I thought it was a hearing in as much as both sides had already met and agreed to the consent order and therefore did not need to call witnesses, etc. They just needed to present the agreement and determine if the state BOE was going to go along with it, which they didn’t. They only postponed till the next meeting to ensure there were no rights to appeal based on not sufficient time to prepare due to the holidays / due process. The hearing is not the same as a court proceeding so the rules are far more relaxed. However, that being said, we were wondering … if one attorney was for the state BOE and the other was for the DeKalb BOE, where was the representation for the people of DeKalb County??

    It feels like some kind of a setup because the state is not actively seeking input from any parents or taxpayers and SACS mainly interviewed the administration and the board members for the input into their report. Again, who is looking out for the children here? And why are we not hearing about potential candidates for the replacements? If we do not get this ball rolling, we are going to run out of time. May 2013 is the first time SACS comes back to see our progress and so far we have a board that cannot even stand to be in the same room as the Superintendent and a total flip flop on those leaning toward and away from supporting her.

    And the legal fees keep going up, up, up!

  4. The Other Friends of DeKalb says:

    @getthecell – you are exactly right. You said “they only postponed till the next meeting to ensure there were no rights to appeal based on not sufficient time to prepare due to the holidays / due process.” I think that’s what Ms. Jester is getting at. They knew they were either going to take the consent agreement to give them until April or they were going to take the consent agreement to give them to February. Either way they were not going to remove the board at the January meeting. They plan on having the hearing in February to give time for preparation. Ms. Jester is right and they could have told us that. The problem is they showed their hand so what are the odds that the board will pull a Sumter County and sue? Was that good for the kids?

  5. Ella says:

    I understand how frustrated this must be for school board members who feel they have tried so hard to do a good job and have found themself as possible being removed from a board. I also can understand how frustrating this must be to a new board member and possible being in the same situation.

    I believe the SBOE is the group who represents a group of impartial members who are from all parts of the state who are suppose to be representing the students and the taxpayers.

    I see the problem as the board has already been warned and did not take the warning serious regardless of the reason. They did not make all the necessary changes. They had sufficient time to make these changes.

  6. hopespringseternal says:

    I too am befuddled by this. The district was placed on Advisement by SACS…. in 2011? Now, most people realize that SACS has little to no credibility. Thing is, this isn’t new news. So… where was the outcry between Fall 2011 and Fall 2012? By any BOE member? This was the comment of another board member during the (non) hearing, but it pretty much summed it up: “Kinda got sidetracked”. Anything academic in nature and having to do with positive educational outcomes for students “kinda got sidetracked”. And seems no BOE member is immune from kinda getting sidetracked. It’s either very artful or something else to see the train way down the tracks, hear the whistles, stand there and let it run over you and then proclaim that it was an unfair train and a mis-directed trip. And then sign a consent decree which basically states you knew you shouldn’t have stood there and that you’ll be sure to get off the tracks next time. Did the SACS Advisement letter just lose it’s place on someone’s desk? DSW notes that there is dead silence from the other eight board members. As it relates to the Advisement status, wasn’t that the case with all nine of them before December? I’m definitely open to hearing what may have gone on between Advisement and Probation with the goal of getting off of Advisement, or at a minimum avoiding Probation.

  7. The Other Friends of DeKalb says:

    @hope
    i believe that jester and edler came onto the board when it was already on advisement status. i guess you could say they both have tried to fix the situation in their own ways. problem is these ways reflect the big differences in dekalb. edler supports spending money on buses to move some kids to what she perceives as better schools up north. jester sees the waste and knows that the children suffer for it. look at the splost vote. it’s about getting more stuff. when has that worked? the stuff hasn’t helped the children in the poorest communities. resentment of the “north” is sold as the reason for the failure. this does illustrate the dueling visions for dekalb. it isn’t that anyone gets sidetracked. ok, most of them aren’t sidetracked. they may be trying very hard but these two different visions can’t be reconciled. sacs won’t solve this, the state board won’t solve this and the voters won’t solve this. at least jester has new ideas.

  8. hopespringseternal says:

    It’s all right there in the DSW original blog. Jester and Edler joined the board Jan 2011 and the district was placed on advisement in early 2011.

  9. This SACS baloney has been going on … and on and on and on… it’s been Groundhog Day for quite some time in DeKalb.

    Read these articles posted on the old DSW blog:

    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/03/dekalb-schools-placed-on-advisement.html
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/11/sacs-update.html

    And these from the AJC:

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/sacs-will-evaluate-dekalb-schools/nQmWK/
    Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010
    A school regulatory agency will formally evaluate DeKalb County schools to ensure the district is meeting national accreditation standards, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution learned late Thursday.

    The school system’s accreditation is safe for now, but the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools told the district they have concerns that must be addressed by early 2012. On Thursday, SACS told DeKalb officials to expect the first visit before Feb. 1.

    “This visit is focused on helping them move forward in the challenges they face,” SACS’ president and CEO Mark A. Elgart told the AJC. “They are in a state of uncertainty. They have lingering legal matters. They have an interim superintendent and potential changes in board makeup because of the election.”

    Elgart said the review has not reached the level of a full-scale investigation similar to several other systems now under scrutiny, but said SACS has some serious concerns.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/sacs-orders-dekalb-to-make-changes/nQrCs/
    Thursday, March 3, 2011
    DeKalb County schools have until Oct. 31 to make changes or risk national accreditation sanctions, a situation not unfamiliar to metro Atlanta school districts.

    On Thursday, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed the state’s third-largest district on advisement, which is the step preceding probation.

    “For accreditation purposes, they are not in crisis,” SACS president and CEO Mark A. Elgart said. “It’s not to say these challenges are minimized or not real.” . . .

    DeKalb board members formally accepted the report in a short afternoon meeting and announced that interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson had formed a task force to address each of the recommendations. Chair Tom Bowen said the report didn’t contain any surprises, and he stressed to parents that the district was not in the midst of an accreditation crisis.

    “Our goal is to make sure that the five-year, district-wide accreditation in 2012 goes smoothly,” Bowen said. “This just gives us a road map to make sure it goes well.”

  10. And from the March 2011 AJC article:

    In the past six months, SACS has received reports of a DeKalb board member engaged in a heated dispute with a legislator, another threaten to slug a reporter and a third belittle administrators during a public meeting. Elgart attributes these behaviors to the board members’ failure to work together.

    “We have board members who, once they are elected, forget they are supposed to move to serving; some of them are still running an election,” he said.

  11. NOTICE OF DEKALB BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETINGS

    The DeKalb Board of Education will hold the following meetings on Friday, February 1, 2013:

    1:00pm Called Meeting
    J. David Williamson Board Room
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
    1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
    Stone Mountain, GA 30083

    2:00pm Called Meeting to adjourn to Executive Session for the purpose of
    discussing legal and personnel and matters
    Cabinet Room
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
    1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
    Stone Mountain, GA 30083

  12. Mildred says:

    The prevailing opinion from the street committee is that Atkinson has resigned and will receive no severance AND/OR that only Jay Cunningham and Donna Edler voted to retain her as superintendent.

  13. dsw2contributor says:

    Latest Atkinson Resignation RUMOR: The scuttlebutt around the Palace today (Thursday, January 31, 2013) is that Atkinson’s resignation will be announced at 1 PM tomorrow (Friday, February 1, 2013). According to this Palace scuttlebutt, Atkinson’s resignation is because of her text messages and the Jamie Wilson slander lawsuit.

    While I do not know if this rumor is true or not, I can say that an amazing number of Palace administrators are repeating the rumor…. so keep your fingers crossed!

  14. momfromhe11 says:

    Jamie Wilson slander lawsuit?? I get so confused!

  15. Who in their right mind would come to work for DCSD as Super? Can we please clean the Palace of ALL the filth now? Wow….. DCSD a spectacular waste of taxpayer money running on 9 years. Atkinson, Tyson, Ramsey and the remaining Clew Crew must be so proud that they could actually get away with the friends and family money train for almost a decade! With Atkinson resigning, does Tyson get a shot at the Super again? Does the fact that Tyson went over budget 49 million dollars over two years a lesser infraction than Atkinsons text messages and deals being made in private? When does anyone want to actually talk about educating the kids?

  16. concernedmom30329 says:

    If she is resigning, then the Board votes on nothing. The reason given certainly will be personal.
    The big question is who is next for both an interim and permanent.

    I am guessing that we won’t be happy with the interim. If it isn’t Tyson, it will be another longtime employee, unless they foolishly promote March. She is not a good choice. The options aren’t good.

    And I am betting that Gene Walker will be elected chair today.

    AMG, you are right. If this is the Board that will do the hiring, who will want the job?.

  17. Terry says:

    Tyson should be booted with no hope for retirement. She really messed up the IT department and then the county. Well, I guess that would depend on what side of the fence you were on. IF you were her “friend”, you did well. If not (you crossed her)…. you got canned. She needs to go. She needs to go totally cut off, the same way she treated the children of DeKalb County. It is so easy to see that the people involved with DBOE politics care(d) nothing for the kids. I SAW IT personally. We are in NEED of politically smart, financially savvy DeKalb residents to step up to the plate and lead this county back to where our children belong. LEADING the way. Standing at the FRONT of the line ready to TAKE the achievement awards… NOT standing on the sidelines watching!

  18. Concerned DeKalb Mom says:

    How long would the board be able to wait before naming an interim?

    And…perhaps the impeding removal of the BOE might entice superintendents who otherwise wouldn’t have touched DeKalb?

  19. dsw2contributor says:

    Concerned DeKalb Mom @ 8:57 am: “perhaps the impeding removal of the BOE might entice superintendents who otherwise wouldn’t have touched DeKalb?”

    I don’t think so.

    Any competent candidate will first do their own research on DCS, to get an idea of what they would be getting themselves into if they accepted the job.

    After spending an evening reading about DCS, a competent candidate will realize that DCS is bankrupt and has millions in unfunded liabilities. He or she will then ask themselves the question “Where can I do the most good: DCS, or a district that is not bankrupt and does not have millions in unfunded liabilities?”

    Any Superintendent candidate competent enough to have a chance of turning DCS around is smart enough to realize that they don’t want the job!

  20. curious says:

    Maureen Downey just tweeted that speculation is mounting that Atkinson will be stepping down.

  21. Behold! Another Board meeting that will adjourn to Executive Session to discuss legal and personnel matters!!

    February 1, 2013

    NOTICE OF DEKALB BOARD OF EDUCATION CALLED MEETING

    The DeKalb Board of Education will hold a called meeting at 1:00pm, Monday, February 4, 2013, in M-201 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 and personnel matters.

  22. ATTENTION! Plan to attend this meeting with pitchforks and torches! (Figuratively speaking…)

    State Superintendent Barge to speak at Dunwoody school
    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/state-superintendent-barge-to-speak-at-dunwoody-sc/nWCPx/

    Dunwoody Chamblee Parent Council’s monthly morning meeting Wednesday.

    The event is 9:15 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at Peachtree Charter Middle School, 4664 N. Peachtree Rd., Dunwoody.

    A spokesman for Barge said there was no specific agenda.

  23. dsw2contributor says:

    Hi Maureen!

    (Here is the twitter account that curious referred to: https://twitter.com/AJCGetSchooled )

  24. thedeal2 says:

    The board chair and vice-chair vote was postponed because Marshall Orson was absent.

  25. Thank you. Does anyone know WHY Marshall Orson was absent from such an important vote? That should be public information.

  26. Disgusted in Dekalb says:

    Thanks for that link, thedeal2.

    “When asked why the district could not handle the AdvancED concern in-house, Walker said, ‘If we had felt we could do it in-house we would be looking in that direction. We feel that we’re trying to galvanize the resources necessary to help us be successful in responding to those [AdvancED] requirements.’”

    I’m guessing that “galvanizing resources” means hiring lawyers.

  27. dekalbite2 says:

    I agree that all Board members need to be removed. I support and am grateful for Nancy Jester’s efforts to put DCSS back on sound financial footing and redirect money back into the classroom. I think Pam Speaks has also been a voice of reason. I campaigned hard for Jim McMahan as a new Board member. But the law says all Board members must be removed as I understand it. I’m more interested in a completely new start than in getting tangled up in a dispute over picking and choosing.

  28. dcssfrustratedparent says:

    The interesting situation will be if the Governor decides to remove the DCSS BoE – what happens to the 3 new members who were not part of the Board for the past years hence they can’t be held accountable for the actions of the 3 departed members.

  29. SallySally says:

    Reliable source reported that Atkinson resigned yesterday.

  30. HOUSEKEEPING NOTE: Please do not post personal attacks on other bloggers or people. We are not interested in playing host to petty arguments. We have removed a sidebar argument that had been taking place in the comments on this post. That said, it is very difficult to monitor every comment without putting the whole blog on total moderation, which we have done in the past, but try to avoid as it is a lot of work for us to read each and every comment. (Have we ever mentioned that we work full time at ‘jobs’? We are not professional paid bloggers.)

    If you see a comment that you find offensive, please shoot us an email and request that it be removed. We have accommodated people many, many times with these kinds of requests.

  31. To clarify: We are not pushing for a plan B Choice … or whatever. We have often said that we advocate and strongly believe that if a community, like an incorporated city wishes to take over their own schools and run their own district, they should be allowed to do so. The 8 words in the Georgia Constitution that prevent the formation of new school districts need to be removed. No one should have to live under the thumb of a dysfunctional system if they have the ability to do a much better job with the tax dollars to educate the children in their community. We have long stated this is our belief. Even before Nancy Jester ran for school board. Or Dr. Atkinson even showed up on the scene.

    READ OUR POST ON THE CHANGES WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE TO THE GA CONSTITUTION:
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/less-is-more/

  32. educator90 says:

    DCSSfrustratedparent, the three board members who were just elected, knew what they were getting into and that this could be a possibility. If they didn’t understand that, I don’t want them on the school board, as that means that they aren’t big thinkers. All board members must go, so that there is little way for the old board members to go after the state. The tax payers of DeKalb have paid enough to lawyers. I realize that we will lose good people, but our kids deserve better, and our county needs a cleansing,

  33. Be thankful that you have found a way out for your children. We could never afford private school. But then again, I spend a lot of my time monitoring a blog for no pay trying fruitlessly to ‘make it better’. Guess I’m not too brilliant… But you may want to stop quoting the price of tuition. It’s liable to make a whole lot of our stomachs roll. Again, it’s a reason we support allowing capable communities who wish to break away do so. There are far more of us who can’t afford private school than those who can. We just want a way clear to send our children to a school that is properly maintained, supported and focuses on the things that matter — the children and their teachers and classroom environments. It just ain’t rocket science: just clear out the bloat, focus on education and let teachers do what they do best.

  34. School board hires lawyers to address accreditation
    Posted by Andrew Cauthen on February 1, 2013 in DeKalb News, Education
    http://thechampionnewspaper.com/school-board-hires-lawyers-to-address-accreditation/

    Sigh! More lawyers. Great. Just Great.

  35. Walker’s comments in the Champion article make me ill. Old school folksy bullshit is still bullshit.
    The guy needs to retire from public service and go on a long fishing trip with Crawford Lewis.

  36. Embarrassed Employee says:

    Please be careful in expecting Atkinson’s resignation to be the cure all. There is still an under layer of family and friends, waiting to continue this path of looking out for each other, and the inner promotion of each other. This is a very big part of the problem. We need a super who will be the champion for everyone, students first, inside the little schoolhouse. We need to flush SFA and furlough days down the drain.

  37. @Embarrassed: Our current board is incapable of hiring such a superintendent. They have already proven this. They argued, leaked information and pulled the race card in order to hire Atkinson… where do they go from there?

  38. I do not believe that the State DOE Board or the Governor would let this current Board hire the new Super. No sane person would allow that (not that I’m assuming there’s any sanity in the Governor’s office).

Comments are closed.