A Word to the Wise

This is directed to Nancy Jester, Pam Speaks, Jim McMahan, Marshall Orson and Melvin Johnson:

Get_Out_Of_DodgeIt’s time to get out of Dodge while you can.

Yesterday, Michael Thurmond [more Friends-and-Family] talked with reporters when leaving the Palace where he had apparently been interviewed to be DCSS superintendent. Behind closed doors. With no advance notice. Boldly flouting the law.

We have a growing suspicion that the Board, led by Gene Walker, has done NOTHING at all to prepare for the next meeting with the State Board of Education … NOTHING at all to begin to resolve AdvancED/SACS complaints (vague and un-substantive though they may be) … in short, the Board has done NOTHING to save our children.

We also have a growing concern that the Board, led by Gene Walker, has stupidly decided to challenge state law, the SBOE and the Governor in court. If that is the case – and we pray that it is not – you are going to face stiff opposition. You will be putting our children’s needs on hold while feeding your egos. It’s not like you, as a board, have accomplished anything worthwhile.

Let Sumter County spend the time and the money to challenge the state. DeKalb County Schools has neither.

You, as a Board, have overseen the greatest decline in DCSS test scores ever. In fact, you, as a Board, have implemented and overseen the greatest decline in DCSS ever. You, as a Board, have done NOTHING to create transparency. You, as a Board colluded with AdvancED/SACS – an organization with a financial interest in having things go their way in DeKalb County Schools – to select an incompetent superintendent, who cares nothing for quality work, whose first response to everything is to lie her way out of it and then hire an attorney to protect her at taxpayers expense. Now that same incompetent superintendent – your ONLY employee – apparently has abandoned her job. You, as a Board, have done NOTHING to recommend that you should keep your board seats.

We cannot support you in your quest, Gene and others, to keep your Board seats so you can keep your “walking around money.”

Don’t even think about using public money to challenge state law, the SBOE and the Governor. You have already bankrupted this school system through inept budgeting and bloating the Palace by approving incompetent and unnecessary employees. Our children have damaged lives and uncertain futures because of you, as a Board.

Nancy and Pam – we recognize, value and appreciate your service to DeKalb’s children. We know you gave it your greatest effort. But, you are only two people.  As Mark Twain said, “Never argue with stupid people; they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” We believe the greatest service you can do for DeKalb’s children is to step outside the charmed circle and, like Don McChesney, tell us the truth. You can petition the Governor to be returned to the board if and when he chooses to act – and we would support that. Get out now before you are tarnished by association.

Jim, Marshall and Melvin – you are brand new to the Board. Do the smart thing. Leave, before you, too, are tarnished by association. As Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” You also can petition the Governor to be returned to the board.

Perhaps if you 5 do the right thing — and you know resigning from the Board is the right thing — the other 4 will follow.  At the least, we believe that your resignations and accompanying statements, disavowing legal action against the state by corrupt and ignorant people who have failed badly and have no right to expect any more chances, will pressure the Governor to act.   Surely you don’t want to assume personal financial responsibility for suing the state.  And, there is no way that DeKalb County Schools can afford the time or money to sue on principle by a group of people who have brought DCSS crashing to its knees.

To boil it all down to a few words: “Stupid is as stupid does.” [Forest Gump]

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This entry was posted in Board of Education Meetings, Crawford Lewis, Criminal / RICO Trials, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, DeKalb County, Georgia, Don McChesney, Fraud & Corruption, Friends-and-Family, Gene Walker, Jim McMahan, Nancy Jester, Pam Speaks, Superintendent Cheryl Howell Atkinson, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to A Word to the Wise

  1. Betsy Parks says:

    Hooah! Thank you for stepping up! Well said, you have our full support! Let us know if we can do anything to help.

  2. Name One says:

    Amy Power gets what she wants: Gene Walker elected, Mashall Orson elected, Sharmrock Middle renamed to Druid Hills Middle, and a multi-million dollar renovation of Fernbank Elem. even though it received a multi-million dollar renovation just a few years back. Now she has a FB page “Druid Hills Charter Cluster”, and here’s what she’s cooking up:

    The Druid Hills High School cluster of schools currently is exploring the potential benefits of petitioning to become a “charter cluster” of schools. Charter schools are public schools and receive all the funding that non-charter schools receive, but two words distinguish them from public schools as they exist today: autonomy and flexibility. A charter cluster of schools would be governed, not by the local board of education (in this instance, DeKalb), but by an independent Board of Directors with ties to each one of the constituent schools. A charter cluster would have waivers, or flexibility, from certain state and local rules and regulations, in exchange for a higher level of accountability for increasing student achievement. Charter schools use this flexibility to implement innovative or unique programs or models in order to provide educational opportunities typically not available in public schools as they exist today.

  3. concernedmom30329 says:

    The authorizing legislation for this charter cluster was pushed by former Senator Dan Weber, I believe. It is fairly meaningless as the school system owns the buildings and can reject any idea they don’t support. It is not at all like a start up charter and that is unfortunate. Because what our schools need is autonomy from the bad decisions being made in the Central Office and by the School board.

    Perhaps Marshall can softened the “powers that be” attitudes enough that local schools can get some autonomy.

  4. Terry says:

    “….corrupt and ignorant people….” You hit the nail right on the head there. It’s been corrupt and ignorant for quite some time now. The SAD thing is…. so many residents don’t see it… or at least REFUSE to see it. DSW, this is a very good piece and I love you for it…. WELL SAID!!

  5. Freedom Does Not Ring In Georgia says:

    “Nancy and Pam – we recognize, value and appreciate your service to DeKalb’s children. We know you gave it your greatest effort. But, you are only two people. As Mark Twain said, “Never argue with stupid people; they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” We believe the greatest service you can do for DeKalb’s children is to step outside the charmed circle and, like Don McChesney, tell us the truth. You can petition the Governor to be returned to the board if and when he chooses to act – and we would support that. Get out now before you are tarnished by association.

    Jim, Marshall and Melvin – you are brand new to the Board. Do the smart thing. Leave, before you, too, are tarnished by association. As Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” You also can petition the Governor to be returned to the board.

    To boil it all down to a few words: “Stupid is as stupid does.” [Forest Gump]”
    I have taken the liberty of reposting the part of this statement that I strongly disagree with. I have much knowledge about all of these individuals and their voting records. You would support these individuals like a (Forest Gump) because they did not close down 10 or more schools in your communities. They supported Crawford, Tyson, and Atkinson. The north end of the county could careless as long as they ignored the criterion for school closing in your area. All those would be saints could have gone to the state and governor two years ago. Pam Speaks case several years ago she could have spoken-up about the crimes perpetrated by the board and staff. She is nothing but a silent Black Republican along with Tom Bowen. I will certainly agree that there is incompetence and unethical practices by this board. However, it did not start two years ago.
    All of the things mentioned that I did not copy are true and I have been shouting them for the past 10 years easily. So get off your high horse about the individuals of your choosing. The facts are in the locations of the new schools in the county North DeKalb and South East DeKalb. The schools closed are all on the southwest corridor. The Romney and Ryan economics take from the poor and give to the rich. Shame on DeKalb County and the State of Georgia you purposely avoided the Civil Rights Movement. The results are modern day slavery do not educate incarcerate for the free labor.
    The bottom-line, none not one of you care about the least of those in this system. So go fight over what your new district name will be and stop the hype about your blue and black true comrades’.

  6. And a charter cluster loses 5% off the top of per-pupil funding. That 5% goes to DCSS to continue paying for the corruption, thuggery, central office bloat, bullying, friends-and-family hiring at inflated salaries, racism run amok, legal costs skyrocketing, overall budget out of control, and administrative incompetence.

  7. @ Freedom Does Not Ring In Georgia, don’t believe the crap, and You are superman
    We have a few specific rules for posting comments on DeKalb School Watch blog. One of them is that an individual may not post under different pseudonyms or as “Anonymous.” Please review “Rules of Engagement”, published on DSW May 5, 2012 [https://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/rules-of-engagement/]. Pick one pseudonym and stick with it, please.

  8. Terry says:

    Bullies! THAT is the word. YOU are exactly right. DeKalb school system IS indeed run by a pack of bullies. We will never get anywhere unless the governor appoints a replacement board comprised of DeKalb county citizens who would LOVE to see our students achieve. That is their reason for BEING…. their reason for the job. We currently have a dual system. The teachers with no leadership from the “central office” who attempt to TEACH their students with contradicting ORDERS from the “palace”, bogged down with mindless, meaningless paperwork and a calendar filled with pointless meetings. The second is the board … people in their jobs for the money and benefits… that is all. The fact that they have power grants them their right to bully teachers, parents and anyone else that gets in their way. IT MUST GO!

  9. educator90 says:

    Living in the area that wants to start a charter school system, having worked at a DCSS school turned charter, I am dead against this. Being a conversion charter does not make a school better, does not get rid of the DCSS BS, and puts parents agendas in where the current board of education has their agenda. I’ve watched areas split because of a conversion charter school, and nothing too much has changed with the school chartered. I feel like it’s Fernbank parents trying to run the show once again, just the way I feel about their second multi-million dollar addition.

    I agree with DeKalb School Watch that those that care about the school system should step down, and make it easy for the state to take over. Having a friend of Walker’s interviewed yesterday does not make it look good for any board member, regardless if they like the person or not. Google a person before you meet with him. A quick google search will show you that the two know each other from way back. Board members need to wake up and show that someone has a few braincells rubbing together.

  10. Betsy Parks says:

    @Freedom Does Not Ring In Georgia- I think you have heard that nonsense for so long you actually believe it. Geeze, I really feel for your children and your struggling community but I want no part of your twisted world view and I certainly don’t want to pay for it. I will reluctantly try to keep my tax dollars “up North” with me after reading your comments…please note, I do care about your children’s education but i’m not stuck on stupid. If you check your history, you will find it was the Republicans who stood by the blacks during the Civil Rights Movement. There is not a racist bone in my body. I have only been here a few years but it is clear to me now, folks like you Eugene Walker, Jay Cunninghan and Sarah Copeland-Woods are to blame for the lack of a quality education that enslaves another generation to encarceration. Own it!
    Betsy Parks

  11. FWIW, to the blogger concerned about school closures in south DeKalb: in January, 2012, we posted our first post here at DSW 2. It focused on the shuttered and vacant buildings owned by the school system causing blight around the county. We spent TWO DAYS taking photos and posted them here for all to see. We had very little interest or support from anyone in insisting that these properties be either razed, sold or converted to charters (a few of them have since been leased to charters) Read that story here:

    Further, we tied that report in with an earlier report at DSW 1 showing that the areas in central and south DeKalb that had to close schools, had to do so due to the flight of the communities to those charter, theme, choice and magnet schools, leaving their neighborhood schools seriously under utilized and requiring consolidation. If you would like to read the facts on the subject of diminishing enrollments in central and south DeKalb, click here:

  12. howdy1942 says:

    DSW – well said!! You advice to Jester, Speaks, and McMahon, in particular, is very wise. They should resign from this mess of a school board. What a disaster if we end up paying three people to be superintendents – Atkinson, Tyson, and now Thurmond. McChesney should be an active participant in the February 21, 2013, State Board meeting. The Board should hear from him. Tom Bowen should also come before the State Board. And Gene Walker should be asked some very specific questions and his answers would be for the record,

    DSW – thank you for this article and your excellent advice. I encourage all bloggers on this site to write the State Board and support removing the Dekalb Board. If Gene Walker chooses to fight – then let him. I would strongly oppose him and would actively support any effort to stop him.

  13. Terry says:

    @Betsy Parks… THANK YOU for saying what many of us want to say but are afraid to ruffle feathers! @DSW…. THANK YOU for providing evidence/proof!!!
    This school board MUST GO. I did see Fran Millar on Ch2 last night and am really glad he is fired up!! YES, I did take the time to email him and thank him….

  14. Well, you all can write letters if you choose, but the word on the street is that the state board is going to back down due to a threat of a lawsuit by the DeKalb board, claiming the law allowing an elected official to remove another elected official unconstitutional. So – once again, we are just swirling in a vortex. Thing after thing after thing holds some kind of promise of change and reform, yet time after time after time our hopes are dashed and our attention turned to the “next big change” that will save the school system. Today – we will most likely see that promise in the form of yet another new superintendent.

  15. concernedmom30329 says:

    Actually, what Orson, Jester, et all need to fear is the status quo. The reality is that most of them represent areas with educated and engaged voters who are fed up. No matter what great ideas any of them may have, if things are just as bad in November 2014 as they are today, they can expect to face qualified opponents and they can expect to lose. For the most part, they are in communities that have wised up and have had it. With the exception of Speaks and Johnson, these communities will not hesitate to defeat them. Speaks would have been defeated this past election if she had a viable opponent.

    I think the word on the street is probably wishful thinking by a few board members — but we will see.

  16. Procopius from Constantinople says:

    How many people have been indicted in the Atlanta School cheating scandal? The largest cheating scandal in the history of the United States, where those in charge received financial gain for performance. Case in point, Superintendent of the Year for 2009 received in excess of $580,000 in performance bonuses during her tenure. To date, no one has been indicted. Yet if those in charge had somehow misappropriated the bake sale funds their mugshot would be splashed across the various media outlets. Trying to reconcile this, to quote the Oracle, will “bake your noodle”.

    The school system is drowning, surrounded by the raft of administration bourgeoisie; those of us treading water keep trying to throw a life preserver, only to be denied by an oar of ineptitude.

  17. http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/boe-accused-secretly-trying-hire-interim-super/nWGh8/

    The DeKalb County School Board is trying to secretly hire an interim superintendent.

    “She may be on vacation or whatever they want to call it, but they have been interviewing people since last week for her position. So I would say that she’s basically gone,” state Sen. Fran Millar said at the state Capitol on Tuesday.

    Millar, who represents DeKalb County, told Channel 2’s Erica Byfield he personally knows someone the board tried to recruit. He added he doesn’t understand why the board is trying to hire anyone.

    “To be hired by this board, which potentially may not be the board in another 45 days or something, is a little bit silly, they need to focus on the accreditation issue,” Millar said.

    Wake up and smell the coffee Fran! We have been trumped by this board! There will be no hearing on Feb 21. There is no work being done to address the SACS report. They have proven that they are untouchable – and now they are secretly hiring a third superintendent in as many years without even advertising the post. And the new hire is a life long friend of the board chair who worked very hard with him to attempt to gerrymander political districts in order to create a third “max black” voting district for Georgia. … Brace yourselves – here we go… round and round in the vortex… take your Dramamine!

  18. BTW – she is not on vacation or otherwise – word is that the woman done up and quit!

  19. Disgusted in Dekalb says:

    I’m still hoping the state board will do the right thing and remove the baord despite the threat of a lawsuit. But if they don’t and this board remains, what makes them think that SACS won’t revoke the system’s accreditation at the end of the probationary period? SACS’ complaints weren’t about the superintendent; they were about the board. So changing superintendents shouldn’t improve the system’s standing with SACS at all—especially if, as Don McChesney alleges, SACS was behind the installation of Atkinson as super.

  20. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Everyone please continue to contact the GA BoE, the Gov and anyone else who might have a reason to help the citizens of DeKalb county out of this jam.

  21. The Palace has been Mired in the Muck of Mediocrity for 10 years! Secretive meetings, minutes edited and then never released, lost documents, broken cell phones, lost audits and tax dollars NOT accounted for. Stakeholders have lost all trust in the awful DCSD leadership. Corrupt failures like Tyson are rewarded with jobs for life! DCSD is stuck in a Vortex! Maybe if the stakeholders click their heels together this nightmare will finally end!

  22. Bye bye says:

    Just so everyone is aware that their saviors Jim and Marshall appear to be supporting Michael Thurmond for super..,,

  23. Someone asked a question of John Barge at this morning’s DCPC (Dunwoody-Chamblee Parent Council) meeting. Why can’t individual high schools in DeKalb seek accreditation by GACS in addition to SACS? Barge seemed to think he needed to consult with SACS first. Hmmm. Why would double accreditation be a bad thing when one would be based on the individual school’s merits and the other on the district as a whole?

  24. What an excellent idea!!

    Actually this is already happening in Georgia — and elsewhere. Barge should know that. Geez! The Georgia Accrediting commission, located at UGA, is a state commission! Looks like Barge is in thrall to SACS, if not actually on their payroll. So Barge needs to consult with AdcancED/SACS? Another example of the fox watching the henhouse.

    Go to the Georgia Accrediting Commission website for a list of schools and school systems that are accredited by GAC.

    Also, there are school systems in Georgia who have only their high schools accredited by SACS; that used to be considered important and a measure of quality. No longer. More than 20 states now do their own accreditation (per Stateline, the daily news service of the highly respected Pew Charitable Trusts). We believe that number will continue to grow as AdvancED continues to be outed for the charlatan it is.

  25. ready to move on says:

    I’m this close to getting my family out of dodge, and not just DeKalb, but the south. In the midwest, most districts and counties actually care about their children. This is just downright embarrassing!

  26. A comment from Don McChesney’s blog:
    “Thanks, Don, for stepping up! What the h**l can we teachers do to get the word out, and show our support?”

    Response from DeKalb School Watch blog:
    Here’s what you (teachers, staff and parents) can do: Tell DeKalb School Watch what you know. Provide names, dates, events, meetings, etc. We are reporters and we know how to take that specific information, without attributing it to anyone or using anything that is personally identifiable, and investigate further.

    We understand the risk to faculty and staff. But, Walker, Atkinson and the others are bullies and the only way to bring them down and obtain the “justice” (fines, prison time) they so richly deserve is to tell what you know. (They are counting on keeping you too scared to do that. We are counting on courageous people telling what you know as well as how and why you know it.)

    If you know something because you are a confidant of Walker, Atkinson, et al or you are a highly placed employee, you may think that they will offer you protection. We can tell you, without equivocation, they will not. Walker, Atkinson, et al care only about themselves. Recent and past history proves that. Lewis tried to turn the heat off himself by implicating Pope. Atkinson quickly caved about Ralph Taylor. There is no honor among thieves.

    DeKalb School Watch has no personal agenda. We have worked hard to be a source of documented information (not gossip) about the wrongdoings in DCSS. But, it all comes down to you being courageous enough to tell us what you know and trusting that we will keep all identifying information confidential. We will.

    BTW — only two people have access to the password-protected DSW e-mail (dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com) and we do not share the e-mail content or the password with anyone else.

    Have you read “All The President’s Men”? We know that, in addition to Don McChesney, somewhere in DeKalb County is a “Deep Throat” willing to do the right thing. Are you that courageous person?

  27. kidsballcoach says:


  28. Betsy Parks says:

    I asked him that on twitter yesterday too. It seems the DKBOE decided 7 years ago decided to accredit the entire school system not the individual school as apparently it had done in the past. The person I spoke with this morning at SACS confirmed Barge’s tweet and said we could switch back this year if we had a willing BOE. Hmm…sounds like a no brainer to get rid of the DKBOE to me. Yes, but he did warn it would be hard political sell because failing schools will no longer be “socially promoted”. My word not SACS. No parent really wants their kids to be socially promoted, they want them to read, write and be successful in life. In my opinion, the current DKBOE would sell their and their children’s soul to the devil and socially promote if he offered the right price.
    Please support this petition. SIGN and SHARE!

  29. Jeff Bragg says:

    If there are any current board members who truly respect the law and the legitimacy of adopted policies, they should openly refuse to participate in illegally closed meetings and improper decisions. They don’t have to resign– just don’t attend. An honest few can deprive the corrupt majority of the quorum they need to give their unethical decisions the force of law. Deprive them of the chance to make any significant decisions before the GA Board decides on their replacement.

  30. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Illegal meetings – There’s been a lot of talk about illegal meetings. I wish more of these HR discussions were not in executive session as well, but I don’t think they are illegal.

    Please help me understand.

  31. Good point Jeff. However, we do not have an honest majority that would be willing to force public meetings.

  32. SACs spokesperson said that they would not support individual schools getting accreditation while district has umbrella accreditation. But multiple schools in Georgia have BOTH accreditations. Seems a no brainer – individual school accreditation as well as district accreditation, getting the benefits of both without students suffering the consequences of district level misbehavior. Dunwoody City councilman Nall brought it up during DCPC.

  33. Dawn says:

    Is individual accreditation something that school PTA or school trusts can fund for schools? To me this is something that parents could support at their local schools if they want their child to attend an accredited school if the county loses its accreditation.

  34. I don’t know, but if I was the PTA president at a decent school, I’d jump on finding out ASAP! And I would begin with the Georgia Accrediting Commission, a state commission located at UGA.

  35. Kim says:

    Excerpts from the General Attorney’s (GA) update on Open Meetings law are below. Does this make it sound like the BoE is following the spirit or even the letter of the law to you?
    “…executive sessions shall be permitted for:

    “Meetings when discussing or deliberating upon the appointment, employment, compensation, hiring, disciplinary action or dismissal, or periodic periodic evaluation evaluation or rating of a public officer or or employee or interviewing applicants for the position of the executive head of an agency. This exception shall not apply to the receipt of evidence or when hearing argument on personnel matters, including whether to impose impose disciplinary action or dismiss a public officer or or employee or when considering or discussing matters of policy regarding the employment or hiring practices of the agency. The vote on any matter covered by this paragraph shall be taken in public and minutes of the meeting as provided in this chapter shall be made available. Meetings by an agency to discuss or take action on the filling of a vacancy in the membership of the agency itself shall at all times be open to the public as provided in this chapter”
    O.C.G.A. § 50‐14‐3(b)(3)

    Requirements for Executive Meetings
    Going into executive session requires a vote. The regular minutes must show the specific reason for closing the meeting, those present, and those voting for closing the meeting. Going into executive session also requires the chair execute execute a sworn sworn affidavit showing showing the the basis basis for for the the executive session and that the closed part of the
    meeting was limited to these provisions. The chair has the duty to keep the meeting limited to
    the proper purposes of the closed meeting, and if it is not, to adjjourn the closed meeting.  
    O.C.G.A. § 50‐14‐4.

    The Open Records Records Act (as well well as theOpen Meetings Act) is always interpreted in favor of openness. When in doubt the law requires openness.   Exceptions are always narrowly construed. See O.C.G.A. § 50‐18‐70(a)(1)

    P.S. The Jeff Bragg of CK fame? Good to see your name again, good sir!

  36. Kim says:

    Sorry for the cut’n’paste errors but I think the point is clear – it is HIGHLY questionable that the law is being followed. But, then again, how would we know?

    The little public trust that existed has long ago been shattered. No benefit of the doubt is due.

  37. womackvermack says:

    New here and appreciative of the information you provide and to share some information I heard at today’s DCPC meeting. Someone from Councilman Nall’s office called both SACS and GACs. SACs said they would not accredit an individual school within a school district that is under a cloud with them. But GACs said that they would accredit an individual school, even if the district is under a SACs cloud, if the school met GACs’ accrediting requirements. Councilman Nall asked State Superintendent Barge to mandate a state policy to prohibit a local school board and central office administration from impeding a community that wants to accredit an individual high school. He also said he would take the lead in raising the funds needed to pay the fees for Dunwoody High School’s accreditation. He said, “we owe the students the right to graduate from an accredited school despite what happens at the district level.”

  38. Marney Mayo says:

    I believe that the International Community School is GAC accredited in addition to being an IB world school. It is not material to the Hope Scholarship/ college application issues, it being an elementary school. But I did want you to know that there is at least one school in the district that has that coverage. I’m not sure raising the issue with Barge was the way to go…just get the school council to recommend it and find the funding source to pay…I don’t think it is all that expensive.

  39. Thank you for sharing this information. A BIG thank you to Councilman Nall for taking the initiative. It is exactly what we would expect from him. The Georgia Accrediting Commission (GAC) has been in existence since 1904. For complete information about GAC, please go to their website.

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