UPDATE: Thank You, Tom Taylor and Scott Holcomb!

Two of our DeKalb County representatives to the Georgia General Assembly have stepped up to provide DeKalb County residents with a much-needed hand concerning the DeKalb County Board of Education — and its upcoming hearing before the State Board of Education.

Scott Holcomb, District 81, intervened to make sure that the first hearing for the DeKalb County Schools BOE before the State Board of Education was streamed live so it could be watched online at home and at work by all interested.  This was especially good news for those who could not attend the hearing in person because of jobs and children.  Scott also took responsibility — without being asked — to make sure that the upcoming second hearing, scheduled for 8 AM, Thursday, February 21, 2013, would also be streamed live on the Department of Education website.  Thank you, Scott!

Now, The Aha! Connection reports that Tom Taylor, District 79, has volunteered to hand-deliver personal letters from DeKalb residents to Governor Deal and/or the State Board of Education.  Rep. Taylor’s Chief of Staff, Page Olson, will be collecting letters at her home now through Tuesday, February 19, 2013.  Olson lives at 1148 Redfield Ridge in Dunwoody.  She’ll have a box at the top of her driveway for your to deposit your letter(s). Make sure that it is marked to go to either Governor Deal or the State BOE — or, better yet — send a personal letter to each.  Rep. Taylor will hand deliver to both offices on Wednesday morning, February 20, 2013.  Thank you, Tom!

Also, be sure to read Rep. Taylor’s op-ed in The Dunwoody Crier

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41 Responses to UPDATE: Thank You, Tom Taylor and Scott Holcomb!

  1. It might also help if you have your child write a letter. President Obama said that some of the most inspirational letters he received following Sandy Hook’s school shooting were from children asking for gun control reform. He even invited a few of them to Washington to participate in his announcement of tougher reform. It may help to personalize this crisis as much as possible for them and to make it clear just how long we have all been trying to bring about change without success on our own.

  2. kidsballcoach says:

    Get the cell out,
    These are matters for adults. The President has pension for using children for his own political gains. INMHO. A petty, distateful liberal judgement which gives politicians cover to say this is what the kids want. In Dekalb, I am afraid many of our kids don’t have enough education to have an opinion on the BOE. Adults need to make decisions and hold people accountable. In this case we have elected officials who use fear and intimidation to usurp power and for their own benefiit. These are issues for adults and we have been to slow to act.

  3. kidsballcoach says:

    Cell, Please realize you are asking for kids to be used for political gain. I do not believe that Dekalb kids have an informed position on how they have been failed by the BOE and the Dekalb schools administrators. This is the work of adults to take action against a group of thugs who have manipulated the process throught threats and intimidation. We don’t need kids writing scripted letters- we need adults making themselves heard and giving the state the support to take action.

  4. hopespringseternal says:

    Cell never said anything about scripted letters. And since our students are DIRECTLY impacted by what goes on, what makes me, for example, think that my sons wouldn’t be aware or astute enough to grasp the issue? Particularly if they are high school students on the cusp of age 18 and the school makes sure to give them a voter registration form within the six months of their voting age? These will be the same students whom we might later denigrate because they’re not up to speed enough with LOCAL issues and people and ballot questions. I can take to the bank that while he may not know the gory details, my son is aware of what’s going on with the adults and how it affects him; aware enough to express his opinions, and astute enough to do it with a level of knowledge and class which would shame (and/or inspire) adults.

  5. dekalbite2 says:

    IMO – It’s perfectly appropriate for your child to write a letter if you as a parent make that decision. Involving children in our democratic process can begin very early. Children long to “make a difference” more than most adults as idealism is generally higher in the young than the old. The SACS decision is especially important to our students in the upper grades of high school as it can affect them personally.

  6. Tired Mom says:

    If I had a high school student in danger of their school losing accreditation, I would absolutely suggest they write a letter voicing their concerns–I’d encourage it.

    Having my kindergarten student write about woes in the classroom, or any elementary-aged child, IMO, seems a little out of place.

  7. dekalbite2 says:

    @Tired Mom
    Then of course, you as a parent should be making that decision for your child – IMO.

  8. cedar says:

    @cell Asking President Obama is like asking the wolf who is guarding the henhouse and using children to manipulate emotions and avoid the burden of reason. JMO

  9. Marney Mayo says:

    If my children wanted to write a letter I would certainly encourage them. They certainly are aware of the function/ disfuction of the upper administration and board. But I have also seen too many times kids being “put up to” do something to please the parent. My son has spoken before the DCSS school board twice–of his own choice. Once in 3rd grade to ask Crawford Lewis to lease Forrest Hills elementary to ICS. Again after he had graduated ICS when he was going into seventh grade…to ask Ramona Tyson to lease Medlock to ICS, even though he would not profit in any way from it. He explained all the pains that he and the other students had endured in the 4 years from when he first spoke…and then quoted from the letter he had received from Crawford Lewis 4 years earlier explaining that they were “working in the best interests of the children”. His own words that I was very proud of him for writing.

    Some kids do understand, but some…and the DESA kids that were paraded out monthly to attempt to read words they didn’t understand that their mother had written come to mind…should be left out of the adult’s battles.

    These days my kids roll their eyes and mostly try to get me to stop obsessing about what I can’t fix.

  10. dekalbite2 says:

    Breakng News according to the AJC –
    Eugene Walker just stepped down as Board Chair and Thurmond “praised Walker’s decision” and says this is a “significant statement”.

    Walker and the entire Board need to be removed.

    Is it Mr. Thurmond’s job to defend Dr. Walker or set our financial house in order and improve student achievement? He is getting off to a very poor start by using his time helping the nine Board members keep their jobs rather than ensure tens of thousands of students are equipped for the future to get jobs.

  11. howdy1942 says:

    Well, February 21, 2013, is about here. Hopefully, the Georgia Board will recommend to the Governor that the Dekalb Board be suspended. And hopefully the Governor will not delay.

    If you have not already done so, please consider signing the petition prepared by Betsy Parks or delivering your letters to the home of Page Olson. I just got back from doing so.

    From my perspective, the State Board has few choices. Having read the SACS report, I find it to be particularly damning. Over and over, we read about a “culture of fear” caused by board members intimidating and harassing employees at all levels. We read about textbooks that were purchased, but no one seems to know where they are. The report cites students having to use their own supplies to repair damaged textbooks. We read about previous SACS investigations and reports and we read about responses of Dekalb County that were never, never acted on. We read about fractious meetings where board members scream at each other and walk out on each other. We read about gross fiscal mismanagement of resources and monies that have been squandered on legal expenses and not classrooms. We read about a system that has 38% network connectivity in the year 2013. We read about the Board Chairman interfering with the proper hiring procedures and attempting to get the brother of another board member hired. There is nothing that this board has done to warrant any consideration for retention. Clearly, given the record of this board and the appointment of an interim superintendent who lacks any education credentials, there is very little chance that this board will be able to retain the accreditation of SACS.

    Mr. Thurmond, the Dekalb County School System has had plenty of money. No one is blaming the State or the economy. This Board has grossly mismanaged the taxpayer’s money. Look at legal expenses for Heery, look at legal expenses of Crawford Lewis, look at overgenerous severance packages for superintendents, look at money that has been spent for textbooks that no one can locate or track, look at high paying executive positions that were duplicated by the previous superintendent but all incumbents were given trivial jobs while being paid exorbitant salaries, look at the largest administrative staff per student in the State – and on and on.

    Somehow you want the residents of this County to stop complaining and unite, but you are working feverishly to defend this board. This school board IS the problem – what will it take for you to understand that???? It has failed over and over and nothing that you can say or promise will ever give anyone any hope that they can succeed. I have written letters to the Governor, to the State School Board individually and collectively, to my State Senator, and to my Representative asking that this Board be removed. Many others on this blog of done the same. As long as this board remains in place, I simply don’t think that you can expect much support. And justifiably so!

  12. Concerned DeKalb Mom says:

    I’ve written my letters. Curious to know…has anyone else?

  13. educator90 says:

    Marshall Orson to have Town Hall tomorrow (2/19) at Emory Presbyterian Church from 7-8:30.


  14. no name says:

    I don’t think that anyone has mentioned (here on DSW2) that the AJC’s Jim Galloway has written a “POLITICAL INSIDER” column titled “Why the DeKalb County school board may be toast, despite Michael Thurmond”:

  15. Fed Up Faculty says:

    Just read in AJC, Gene Walker has stepped down as Board Chairman!

  16. howdy1942 says:

    @dekalbite2 – I”m with you!

    The good news is that Gene Walker stepped down as Chair. The bad news is that he remains on the board. No doubt Michael Thurmond told him that with him (Walker) as chair, there was no chance of this board being retained. Mr. Thurmond – this is not enough!

    Walker still pulls the strings of Edler, Cunningham, Copelin-Wood and, it appears, Melvin Johnson. They do as Walker tells them. They walk out when Walker walks out. So there is really no change at the Dekalb Board.

    I thought that Thurmond was smarter than this. He came in like a blaze and promptly stated that his first priority would be to defend this board – would would speak for them. No input from anyone other than the board – that’s arrogance at its worst He has completely misread, misunderstood, and miscalculated the extent of the anger in Dekalb towards this Board. This anger did not just happen last week – it’s happened over the years and culminated with the SACS report. It grew even hotter after the January 21, 2013, review by the State Board and then even more at attempting to make Dr. Atkinson the scapegoat while also offering her a generous severance package.

    The people of Dekalb County are not so naive as to believe that anything has changed with Walker’s decision to step down but remain on the Board. SACS will not be fooled – Dr. Elgart is not at all pleased with Thurmond’s (a lawyer with no educational experience) selection as interim superintendent rather than a professional. Nor is SACS impressed with the 4-3-2 “landslide” vote for Walker that did not include a majority.

    @Concerned Dekalb Mom – I’ve also written my letters! Let’s hope they work. Changing out this Board is the only way to eliminate the “culture of fear” among Dekalb County School System employees. Does anyone really think that if the members of this board remain that they will change? The State Board needs to bring a new day to Dekalb County by terminating this Board and, I hope, that the first action of this Board will be to find a new, more qualified interim who is more sensitive to the people and has his/her priorities in order.

  17. dekalbite2 says:

    Dysfunctional to the end:
    DeKalb School Board Tries to Address Accreditation Problems

  18. Interesting post by Galloway. Love this part:

    “The key to being a great leader is to know what you don’t know, and then find someone who does. I enjoy being around people that are smarter than me,” Thurmond said. “Everyone who works around me – you have to know something I don’t know. Otherwise, I don’t need you.”

    So – anyone know anyone who has been ‘filling him in’ on what he doesn’t already know?


  19. DeKalb Observer says:

    “Also Monday, Walker and four others voted to pay former Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker and his law firm at least $150,000 for “governance training.””
    Gene, dude, seriously? You think SACS will be happy that you’re getting more board training??? and paying $150K???
    I think the State BOE will toss them all out Thursday – while state members express that bafflement that Walker and his ilk ever, ever got elected when they are so obtuse.
    And do read the WABE story. The direct quote of Sarah C-W’s bad grammar is a sad but hilarious touch.

  20. DCSD FOR DUMMIES says:

    Money Money Money, but none for teachers. We can’t even get a step increase, but they can spend outside of the classroom. It is time for DCSS workers to take a stand. Let the minions go to work and sit in the gym as they help the administration cover the entire student body. Enough is enough people. I am ready to leave this job and this prison behind. Mike hasn’t mentioned anything about our salaries yet, and who says he’s qualified to make more than me??? All other metro districts look interesting to many of us. Those who can leave will leave, or have already left. Others are trying to get out because if a district three blocks away pays $10-20 thousand more for me to do the same thing…..it’s simple…transfer districts.

  21. cedar: I wasn’t saying that I thought we should have kids write to President Obama to ask him for help. ha ha! It took me a few times to figure out what you were saying. That’s funny.

    I was suggesting that a child’s letter to the state BOE might help to personalize the issue, similar to how Obama talked about the children who had written to him after Sandy Hook.

    With the Obama gun control issue, which is definitely an adult topic you would never think of involving a child in under normal circumstances, he talked about letters he received from children and how they urged him to take action. He had some of the kids behind him and when I saw that, it also made me feel that gun control was important because these kids should not have to be standing there, asking for this or even listening to this kind of discussion. We should be protecting them. But, that’s just the point. We can’t protect them on our own. We need help.

    That was the comparison I was making – our kids are being affected. We have tried to protect them. We can’t. We need help. If the state BOE does not have that same feeling of urgency, they might be charmed by Thurmond. You have to think like a highly paid attorney right now and pull out all the stops, or resign yourself to losing another battle and eventually losing the war, too.

    I was not suggesting that parents force children whom they have previously kept shielded from the topic (even though it is all over the news) to write scripted letters. That’s lame. But, my daughter who is far too young to have to be even aware of what a cell tower is and why it is bad for kids most certainally could write something or draw a picture that would melt your heart. In fact, she has. She drew her own version of a cell tower, but it blows out perfume and flowers and confetti and makes people happy and doesn’t hurt anyone. Should she have even been involved in this topic? No. Did I want to teach her about these things? Absolutely not. But, I was forced to explain my actions to her because the school board made a terrible decision that affected children and families like mind at 12 different schools all over the county. They brought her into the middle of their adult issues and it changed the course of her educational future.

    Not amount of board training is going to change these people. They have a history of bad decision making that does not take children into account. We’ve complained and have not gotten through to anyone. Maybe if they see my daughter’s drawings and feel as disgusted as I do about what has happened to our children and what could happen if more responsible people are not put into these positions, just maybe it will make a difference. They can love Thurmond all the want. Maybe the new board will keep him on and he can still do all the great things he says he will do. But, think of how much more effective he will be if he has a responsible board that cares about our children first, accreditation second.

  22. Marney Mayo: OMG! I totally remember that! And, it did have a big impact! I remember he read his prior letter and I thought, “Wow, look how much this child has grown and how the problems still continue!” That is the kind of impact I was talking about! That is what makes this real and urges people to take action instead of agreeing to inaction. The act that the board is operating in a seemingly improved manner right now only shows me that they were capable of it all along and were choosing not to behave that way. If they change that easily, then they will surely change back just as fast. Our kids are growing up before our very eyes. If we don’t fix this problem now, it will just start all over again with a whole new generation. And the more money these people get, the more untouchable they will become. We may never have another chance like this again. We have to do what we can to make sure the right decision is made.

  23. bettyandveronica1 says:

    I am on my way to dropping off my letter at Ms. Olson’s home. How about you?
    From above, just a reminder:
    Rep. Taylor’s Chief of Staff, Page Olson, will be collecting letters at her home now through Tuesday, February 19, 2013. Olson lives at 1148 Redfield Ridge in Dunwoody. She’ll have a box at the top of her driveway for your to deposit your letter(s). Make sure that it is marked to go to either Governor Deal or the State BOE — or, better yet — send a personal letter to each.

  24. The number was something in the hundreds, from what I recall, of teachers who left the system last month, according the the HR Report presented at the board meeting. I’m not sure it covered a one month time frame, but I think it did. Orson asked for a comparison in future HR reports that would show year to year comparisons as well as compared to other districts. At least someone is starting to notice there might be some concerning trends here. I’ve been wondering if perhaps the number of enrolled students has been fact-checked lately? Seems to me that a lot of upset parents have been leaving, but every time you hear the district announce something they always say the same number range: 99,000 students. But, we keep closing schools and letting teachers leave by the hundreds? Something’s not sounding right there. Overcrowded classrooms but empty schools? Great strategy.

  25. bjy1946 says:

    A large number of teachers/staff retired before 12/31 to avoid losing a 3% benefit.

  26. dekalbite2 says:

    From Get Schooled AJC:
    “Maureen just tweeted this:

    “Hearing that DeKalb Schools in front of Judge Lee in Fulton seeking injunction to stop Thursday state board meeting. Chasing down”.”

    So they are using our tax dollars to keep from going in front of the State Board of Education.

    Please write the Governor, your state Senator and House representative, and every State BOE member supporting replacing the DeKalb County BOE. Here are the links to their emails:
    State Board of Education members:

    Governor Deal:

    Here is a link to find your legislator (Senator and House Representative) if you do not know who they are:
    (type in your 9 digit zip code – for example: 34321-3405. Click Search>scroll down and click on State Legislative)

  27. Concerned DeKalb Mom says:

    This BOE is acting like my children…receiving a warning about bad behavior, then when it’s time to face the consequences, protesting with, “Wait, really, really, we’ll do what you’re asking this time, I promise!”

    Nope. No more warnings. Time to face the consequences..

  28. curious says:

    Fulton Superior is standing ready to hear their emergency motion to stop Thursday’s hearing. If the action hasn’t been filed yet, it will be before the end of the day. Likely, no hearing will take place Thursday. Our tax dollars at work.

  29. Wow, Concerned DeKalb Mom, I was just using the same analogy! I was saying that the board behaves like unruly children who think school is just something you have to “sit through” until they let you out. They don’t retain what they have been taught and probably fall asleep in class if they can get away with it, too.

  30. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    DCSD voted 7-2 at this meeting to bring in Wilson, Morton & Downs, LLC in connection with the State Board of Education hearing. These people were specifically brought in by the board to fight for their jobs … using taxpayer money.

  31. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Question – Is this law is unconstitutional?
    “OCGA § 20-2-73. Suspension and removal of local school board members under certain circumstances”

    There’s no recall election, etc …. just yank ’em cause a few people think they’re doing a bad job.

  32. Northlake Mom says:

    Any lawyers out there willing to appear at the injunction hearing on behalf of DeKalb parents & taxpayers? Somebody needs to be there to speak up and say DeKalb parents & taxpayers oppose the injunction and oppose our school money being spent on attorney’s fees incurred for the sole purpose of helping these individuals keep their Board seats. If they want to sue to keep their jobs, that should be at their individual expense, not the schools’. The prospect of the current Board losing their jobs is NOT an emergency as far as the school system is concerned, but only in the minds of those Board members. To me this is further proof that they need to be removed — this lawsuit shows the members’ selfish and callous disregard for the schools’ financial plight. We need an attorney in shining armor! Do we have any volunteers?

  33. This came from one of DSW’s regular readers and commenters:
    “Today’s (2013.2.19) Board agenda listed for approval two new outsiders to help with SACS issues: Thurbert Baker, attorney with McKenna Long (heard of him?) and Dr. Valya S. Lee, from “Educating with Ease”. I have not found a website yet for that organization, but it is described by other business sites as an “Educational support service”.

    “I did find Dr. Lee’s resume from several years ago, when she applied to the Birmingham school system. That resume is attached to this email. Note that her “doctorate” is from Argosy University, the online/mail order diploma mill that is the favorite “higher education” location for DeKalb admins. If you want to talk with her, her home phone number in Mableton may be 770-460-6628. Good luck and enjoy.”

    NOTE: This came to the DSW e-mail. Unless we are given specific permission in the e-mail, we do not publish names of commenters who send their comments to DSW e-mail [dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com]

  34. REMINDER: Rep. Tom Taylor’s Chief of Staff, Page Olsen, (see address below) will continue collecting letters to Governor Deal and the GA State Board of Education until 7:30 AM, Wednesday, February 20, 2013.

    Please be sure to meet this deadline and get your letter(s) to Page Olsen ASAP.

    Rep. Taylor will deliver before the House session the same day.

    1148 Redfield Ridge
    Top of the driveway

    Rep. Taylor thanks you for your participation and passionate interest in this process.

  35. DCSD FOR DUMMIES says:

    I am sure that they have done enough illegal things to get ousted and possibly face criminal charges that could land some of them and central office staff some prison time. Someone told me that Atkinson’s phone records revealed information about board members…don’t know how true it is, but we never know. Atkinson’s hands were tied. They wanted to control her just like they controlled Tyson and Lewis. Eugene’s email to Atkinson should be enough to get him ejected. There is enough information on DSW 1 and DSW 2 to send these people packing permanently. It is apathetic that three people were courageous enough to sue the board on behalf of employees. Enough is enough. Lets rise up. We can do wonders with numbers. How many signatures do we need for a recall??

  36. @ DCSD for Dummies. Please. Do not ask these questions on this blog. Take the initiative. Go online. Find out definitively, instead of by hearsay. And lead the charge. Why ask someone else to do the work?

  37. Marney Mayo says:

    @get the cell out. I told my kids today about the lawsuit to avoid the state hearing. They were disgusted. I reminded steven of the two other times he spoke before the board and asked if he wanted to do so again. He said no…that he could no longer be appropriately polite.

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