The drama continues… DeKalb Board files a request for an emergency injunction

what-a-tangled-webThe drama between the DeKalb School Board vs the State Board of Georgia is getting hard to follow – even for this blog!

So, let’s try to recap:  Since Dr. Atkinson quit left her employment with DCSS, the DeKalb Board quickly convened in secret and agreed to hire former Labor Commissioner, Michael Thurmond as Interim Superintendent, offering a one year contract with a base salary of $275,000 and a $2,600 receiptless monthly expense account (Board vote was 7-2 with Nancy Jester and Pam Speaks declining).

Nine days later, the DeKalb Board had their second hearing with the State Board, lasting 14 hours, after which the State Board made a recommendation to the Governor that he remove 6 of the 9 Board members (leaving the 3 recently elected: Melvin Johnson, Chair, Jim McMahan, Vice-Chair and Marshall Orson).  Basically, this means that our remaining entire top tier school leadership have all been on the job a maximum of 6 weeks, with the new super having a tenure of 10 days.

Well, this is making former Board Chair, Gene Walker and his fellow consenting Board members (Excluding Nancy and Pam, who have consistently voted down all this recent legal spending) pretty upset.  So, having been denied a hastily filed injunction the other day in an attempt to halt that fateful hearing, according to WSB, they have now filed an emergency request in FEDERAL COURT for an injunction to stop suspensions*. The latest from the AJC states, “The local board members filed pre-emptive court actions, seeking to restrain the governor. One hearing is scheduled in federal court Tuesday and another in Fulton County Superior Court on Thursday. There was some last-minute legal tussling late Friday afternoon as the DeKalb plaintiffs asked a federal judge to act before Deal does, and state lawyers argued against that request.”

*[It is worthwhile to note that if the suspension is approved by the Governor, the members of the Board will continue to be paid during their suspension until the summer of 2014 when the entire Board will be up for reelection and the number of total seats will be reduced to seven, quite possibly leaving the current seven in those districts paid until those new members actually take their seats in January, 2015.]

Ironically, as one of our regular contributors pointed out, legally, the State Board should have removed all nine DeKalb members.

What’s illegal is only removing 6 of the 9 board members. O.C.G.A. § 20-2-73 says This Code section shall apply to all local board of education members, regardless of when they were elected or appointed. House Bill 115 [adding protection for recently elected Board of Education members] has not passed yet and once passed won’t be effective for a while.

Another of our regular participants had this very good idea as to what actions the Governor should take:

I think Governor Deal should forget about appointing a new school board.

Instead, the State of Georgia needs to appoint a Financial Control Board, just as Congress did for the District of Columbia government in 1995 (Wikipedia link)

The Financial Control Board could be dissolved once DCS achieved its fourth consecutive balanced budget.

+++

We are BROKE! And our school board has hired a law firm to represent them in trying to hang on to control of the budget! Should taxpayers really be on the hook for the cost of this law firm too? Although the official vote at the Board ‘meeting’ where the contract with Wilson, Morton & Downs was approved, had a $50,000 per month budget, the actual contract only states hourly rates – there is NO CAP. [Download the fee agreement letter here.]  In our opinion, a full forensic audit of the school system would have been a much better investment. This was publicly promised by Ramona Tyson – but never delivered, or even begun.

At Thursday’s hearing, one of the most poignant questions asked by a State Board member was regarding the amount DeKalb pays in legal fees. The questioner was floored to realize that we paid more for attorneys last year than for textbooks! In fact, Katherine Howe, DCSS head of curriculum, under questioning regarding textbook spending, admitted that many textbooks were not ordered because the “needs outweighed the resources”.

Well, not really Katherine! We have the resources… A BILLION dollars a year should do it! We just need someone in charge of that big pile of money who spends it first and foremost on the students, their teachers and their classroom needs.

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88 Responses to The drama continues… DeKalb Board files a request for an emergency injunction

  1. HHurley says:

    Well stated. Agree, we need to stop the financial BLEEDING! Paying 4 the self-serving rescue of mostly marginal, intellectually questionable and no-skills BOE, is unreal! Out with the ones who created and try to maintain this mess. Help! Our kids and teachers deserve better. Thanks for keeping us informed.

  2. The Fee Agreement Letter says this:

    We will work closely with you and your fellow board members, and put forth our best efforts to address the matter for which we are being retained in order to secure the most desirable resolution possible. We will do everything in our power, within professional ethical standards, to represent the District’s interest.

    This statement highlights the disconnect these lawyers have as to the official role of the school board. These things cannot be reconciled. The law firm is either representing these individual members of the board or they are representing the interest of the school district – which SHOULD be the education of 100,000 children. As it stands today, these two interests are completely at odds.

  3. Lakeside cityhood focus of hearing Tuesday

    Organizers behind a possible new city of Lakeside in DeKalb County will host a public hearing Tuesday.

    Members of the Lakeside City Alliance will answer questions at the session, while attendees can also make comments about the proposal.

    The meeting begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Briarlake Baptist Church sanctuary, 3715 LaVista Road.

    More information: http://www.lakesidealliance.org

  4. FWIW, there are a couple of comments in the SPAM filter that include racially-motivated statements or accusations. We choose not to post them and will make a statement that we will monitor race-baiting comments as carefully as possible in the future. Please choose another tactic to prove your points.

  5. These are Ramona Tyson’s exact words in her promise to complete a full forensic audit:
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/05/ramona-tysons-report-on-2004-ernst_13.html

    Now today, as a part of the transitional plan, the next steps are to complete the following over the next 6-9 months with a direct focus on central office positions and administration salaries:

    By May 30, 2011, we will develop a request for proposal to conduct a compensation study partnering either with a college or university or a company that specializes in organizational structure/compensation study.
    By June, 2011, I will transition this plan to the new superintendent and I will include the documents that were found under the E&Y study for full disclosure and receipt to the new superintendent.
    By the end of June we will ask the legal team to review the RFP.
    By July of 2011, a public advertisement of the RFP will occur.
    By August of 2011, the RFP will be acknowledged with vendors that will reply to that RFP.
    By September of 2011, the RVP evaluation and vendor selection will occur.
    And by October, board approval and award to such vendor.

    All of this is subject to change dependent on the new superintendent, but I did want to give the board the complete commitment to follow through on the charge of seeing that the study is begun.”

    As usual – it was just words she floated out into the ether. Words that she knew would assuage the angry stakeholders at the time. Then she promptly went off and did exactly nothing.

    For more about nothing regarding Ramona Tyson’s tenure, read this post from DSW1

    Revisiting the past with Ramona Tyson

  6. From the AJC…the governor will announce his decision on Monday at 11 a.m. unless the court orders him to stop.

    He released a statement that said, “Removing elected officials from office is a serious duty, not undertaken lightly… I will do everything in my power to prevent the loss of accreditation of the DeKalb school system.”

    . . .

    State lawmakers [said] this case is critical because it reflects Georgia’s entire education system.

    “The worst thing that could happen is to have your school system lose its accreditation and be on the front page of the New York Times. That would kill economic development in this state,” state Sen. Fran Millar said.

    AND IN A LATER AJC ARTICLE —

    DeKalb’s accreditation is at risk, and loss of it in Georgia’s third largest school district would have a “devastating impact” on students and local economic development, Deal said in a statement Friday. “Removing elected officials from office is a serious duty, not undertaken lightly,” he said. “That responsibility, however, pales in comparison to the importance of assuring the credibility of students’ education.”

  7. One more thing. Have you all seen the DeKalb list of Advanced Placement Honor Schools? I won’t even editorialize…

    Advanced Placement Honor Schools Announced

    The Georgia Department of Education has announced the 2013 AP Honors Schools. Among the list of Honor Schools are the following Dekalb Schools :

    AP Merit : Schools with at least 20% of the student population taking AP exams and at least 50% of all AP exams earning scores of three (3) or higher

    Chamblee
    Dunwoody
    Lakeside

    AP Access and Support: Schools with at least 30% of their AP exams taken by students who identified themselves as African- American and/or Hispanic and 30% of all AP exams earning scores of 3 or higher

    Chamblee
    Cross Keys
    DeKalb School of the Arts
    Druid Hills
    Southwest DeKalb
    Stone Mountain

    AP Challenge: Schools of 900 or fewer students with students testing in four of the core areas (English, math, science, and social studies)

    DeKalb School of the Arts
    Elizabeth Andrews

    AP Stem: Schools with students testing in at least two (2) AP math courses and two (2) AP science courses (AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, AP Statistics, AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, AP Physics B, AP Physics C, AP Computer Science)

    Arabia Mountain
    Cedar Grove
    Chamblee
    Columbia
    Druid Hills
    Dunwoody
    Lakeside
    Stephenson
    Tucker High

    AP STEM Achievement: Schools with students testing in at least 2 AP math courses and 2 AP science courses and at least 40% of the exam scores on AP math and AP science exams earning scores of three (3) or higher

    Chamblee
    Druid Hills
    Lakeside

  8. dekalbite2 says:

    I still don’t understand how the DeKalb Board could approve budgets that result in a deficit when those actions are against state law. Nancy Jester, a BOE member, showed them in accounting terms how they were underestimating recurring costs and explained this to them. The BOE had the numbers in hand to show they were in danger of running a deficit when they depleted the entire reserve fund. Articles were in the newspapers regarding DeKalb being the only metro system to have NO reserve fund. Moody’s downgraded DeKalb’s credit rating because of this:
    http://www.crossroadsnews.com/view/full_story/19913910/article-Moody%E2%80%99s-downgrades-DeKalb-Schools-credit-rating-

    This BOE knew or should have known based on the math that was accessible to them that they were creating a situation that was against the law when they took the school district into a deficit. Why are they not being investigated and possibly prosecuted for this?

  9. dekalbite2 says:

    If a state law was broken by running this deficit which is my understanding of what the state auditor said in the hearing (that a school system running a deficit is against state law), then the state of Georgia should be investigating them with possible prosecution in mind. This is not a county law. It is a state law. The Board were in charge of the budget, and they chose to run the deficit by ignoring the math. This was just a simple case of numbers. They knew when they depleted the reserve fund that they were in danger of breaking state law if they ran a deficit and yet they did it anyway. There is a reason there is a state law against school systems running a deficit.

  10. murphey says:

    DSW,
    Thank you for printing the AP Honors earned by our high schools. I fear that the results won’t be as high next year, as I know that the rising class size meant that some AP classes were not offered.

    Our teachers and students are doing amazing things. Imagine what they could do if we used all of our educational resources for teachers and students rather than lawyers.

  11. There’s an old post in the old DSW blog on the subject of Ramona’s golden parachute. Essentially, she will be rewarded with a minimum million dollar boost in salary and pension for her 18 months of sitting in the big chair… Score!!!

    Too bad that during her tenure the kids test scores were the worst ever posted.

    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/01/it-appears-we-were-correct-about-tysons.html
    From the Reporter Newspaper Report:

    Interim DeKalb County schools Superintendent Ramona Tyson could receive a substantial pay increase when the DeKalb School Board meets Jan. 18, and the pay increase eventually could be a major boost to her pension through the state teachers’ retirement system.
    Earlier this month, the DeKalb school board tentatively approved a deal for Tyson to receive a $238,000 salary, up from a current salary of $165,000. That’s a 44 percent increase.
    A teacher or administrator in the district receives a pension upon retirement that’s largely determined by the two highest consecutive years of salary earned by that employee.
    The potential jump in salary for Tyson, who has served the district 23 years, could increase her pension by tens of thousands of dollars every year after she retires.
    District spokesman Jeff Dickerson said, “Ms. Tyson is unaware of the pension implications of the salary adjustment.”
    Tyson couldn’t receive the increase in pension if she retired right away, said Jeffrey Ezell, executive director of the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia.
    Caps have been in place for teachers and administrators who started their service after July 1, 1984, that prevent employees from cashing in on end-of-career pay spikes that would artificially inflate their pensions.
    Tyson originally enrolled in the retirement system in 1987, said Jamie Wilson, human resources director for the district.
    If Tyson continues employment within any school district that participates in the state’s retirement system, the pay raise she could receive with DeKalb schools could elevate her pension by tens of thousands of dollars because it could serve as a base for her two highest paid years.

    Biggest Taxpayer Ripoff Ever.

    Well, aside from paying for Crawford Lewis’ lawyers. And now, Atkinson’s lawyers over the mystery text messages. And the lawyers in the Heery Mitchell case. And the two sets of lawyers we have to pay so that our representation is racially ‘balanced’… oh and now, lawyers to save the current irresponsible board members their control of the Billion Dollar Budget. [After all – this IS what this is all about!]

  12. Hope it works out for Bob Wilson (not really!) Seems he’s really pissed off a lot of folks in Decatur, where he is legal counsel for the school system. He’s shown his true colors – he’s all about the adults!

    One example from the AJC:

    Decaturite

    February 22nd, 2013
    12:58 pm

    I hope we never see Bob Wilson working for City Schools of Decatur again. He clearly does not have the students and families in mind when he practices law. He uses the law to protect those who pay him, whether they are competent or not, ethical or not, doing their job or not.

  13. Now here’s something interesting — Buried in the news is Georgia SB167:

    A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Part 2 of Article 6 of Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the O.C.G.A., relating to competencies and core curriculum, so as to declare certain actions void ab initio relating to adoption of certain curricula; to prohibit state education agencies from entering into any commitments relating to the federal Race to the Top program; to require hearings and public input prior to adoption of state-wide competencies and content standards; to limit the compilation and sharing of personal student and teacher data; to prohibit the expenditure of funds for a state-wide longitudinal data system except for administrative needs and federal grant compliance; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

    Wow!

    Saying no to the Common Core?
    Saying no to RTTT?
    Enforcing discussion and public input regarding competency and standards?
    To limit sharing student and teacher data?
    Prohibit spending on a statewide data system?

    Awesome!

  14. This just in:

    February 23, 2013

    NOTICE OF DEKALB BOARD OF EDUCATION CALLED MEETING

    The DeKalb Board of Education will hold a called meeting at 9:30am,
    Monday, February 25, 2013, in the J. David Williamson Board Room in the
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center at the DeKalb County School
    System’s Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial
    Boulevard, Stone Mountain. Immediately following the called meeting, the
    Board of Education will adjourn to the Cabinet Room for an executive
    session, for the purpose of discussing legal matters.

    The meeting agenda is attached. Meeting information can be accessed
    online by going to: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us, click on Leadership, go to
    eBoard Home Page and click on the date for the meeting agenda\information.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Melvin Johnson, Chair
    DeKalb Board of Education

    c: Members, DeKalb Board of Education
    Mr. Michael L. Thurmond, Superintendent
    Administrative Cabinet
    Public, Press & Media Relations
    Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan, LLP
    Alexander & Associates, PC

    +++

    Meeting Agenda

    A. CALL TO ORDER
    B. ROSTER
    C. ADOPTION OF AGENDA
    D. ACTION ITEM
    1. Approval of Deficit Elimination Plan
    E. ADJOURN TO EXECUTIVE SESSION
    F. ANNOUNCEMENTS
    G. ADJOURN

  15. Curious says:

    I think that timing will be crucial. If Governor Deal removes the six before they get a hearing, it will be much easier for the courts to deny them temporery injunctive relief. Courts usually grant such relief to maintain the status quo. Returning them to office after they’ve been removed is not maintaining the status quo. And as the AJC wrote this morning, “They can try their luck in court, but it’s unclear whether a new school board hand-picked by Deal would continue paying the legal bills.”

    If the courts deny them temporary injunctive relief, their suits will continue but likely would not be finally resolved before the entire board is up for election anyway. I suspect they’re seeking damages in the federal suit, but I can’t imagine damages will be all that high, all things considered.

  16. dekalbite2 says:

    Why is Melvin Johnson calling a meeting and including these people? DeKalb County taxpayers/parents need to let him know how they feel about his continued support for this group that has put DeKalb on accreditation and misspent funds to the point of running a deficit which is against state law. Here is Dr. Johnson’s DeKalb email:

    melvin_johnson@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

    Let him know your opinion.

  17. The ONLY thing that Michael Thurmond can do right now to initiate public trust is contract for a FULL FORENSIC AUDIT (as promised by Ramona Tyson and promptly forgotten). Posting the check register online would be another good action. Opening a systemwide blog for instant communication that is categorized by interest would be another. And then, of course actually attending the principals meetings and listening to their input would be a big step. Then meet up with a panel of lead teachers.

    Unsnap those cufflinks, roll up your sleeves and get yourself to work – ignore the fools on the board and start working for the people of DeKalb!

  18. When is the Gov’s press release now? Monday at 3 was it? Sounds like a race against the clock…

  19. jande says:

    I thought the Governor’s announcement was scheduled for 11 AM on Monday.

  20. Yes – that’s right – we found it – it’s 11 AM MONDAY —

    Also – relevant to that from the AJC –

    Some local school members told the state board that they would step aside rather than fight suspension. Others, such as former board chairman Eugene Walker, reserved their right to fight.

    If Deal suspends Walker and the other five with pay, they’ll have to wait 30 days for an administrative appeal.

    They can try their luck in court, but it’s unclear whether a new school board hand-picked by Deal would continue paying the legal bills.

    Thurmond worried that suspension, and the appointment of replacement members, would create political uncertainty.

    “I’ll have 15 board members — six appointed, three still serving and six others elected by the people,” he said. “I can manage nine, 15 would be. …”

    He didn’t finish that thought, but it was clear enough what he meant.

  21. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Are we lawless or not? Everybody knows DCSD was running a deficit over the last 2 years … that includes the State BOE and SACS. If it’s against the law, why didn’t either of those agencies do anything about it? Do either of them care about the law? Surely, there must be a law conscious body somewhere! Perhaps not.

    Walker and Jay are in the same district. At least one of them one be elected next year.

    Bob Wilson – What’s up with all the Bob Wilson hate? DCSD asked for a lawyer to defend them and he said he would do it. Isn’t that what lawyers are supposed to do in this country? Or, are we back to the land of the lawless argument? Seems like he has done exactly what our judicial system asks him to do. I don’t see where he has been unethical. I’m not a lawyer (obviously), so please tell me where I am wrong.

  22. TYSON MUST RESIGN OR BE FIRED! It is time for the head of the F&F snake to be cut off. It will take time for the entire body to die, but we MUST stop funding the Palace and get the teachers what they need!

  23. dekalbite2 says:

    “Are we lawless or not? Everybody knows DCSD was running a deficit over the last 2 years … that includes the State BOE and SACS. If it’s against the law, why didn’t either of those agencies do anything about it?”

    So why have they not been investigated and prosecuted for running a deficit if it is against state law? SACS doesn’t enforce state law so it’s understandable why they didn’t do anything, but the state is a different matter. Ms. Tyson stated we were in good shape financially, but obviously we were not. The Board bears the ultimate responsibility for putting us in a situation that is against state law although the last two superintendents in charge and their Finance heads bear some responsibility as well.

  24. Mom of 3 says:

    DIO- My issue with Bob Wilson is not that he is defending the board. It is the way he is going about it. He had no substantive evidence. He seemed to just keep trying to get evidence thrown out over technical issues. If he had presented some real meat to prove why the board shouldn’t be suspended I would feel differently. But can you really be proud of yourself for trying to get a grand jury report thrown out because it wasn’t authenticated? Something that everyone in that
    room had read? If I’m on trial for murder, I want him catching all the technicalities. If your defending people who are hurting 90,000 kids- I would think you would at least try and have some real evidence that supports their position. He obviously didn’t know the difference between a court room and a BOE hearing and I think it made the Dekalb board look worse. I think he is enjoying this case for the notoriety and the fact that it will be discussed in laws schools in years to come. He is doing his job, but I don’t have to respect him.

  25. Gardeneronthe side says:

    FWIW, Tyson was tied by this board and was unable to accomplish many things during her time that she said she would do. Tied because she was interim. I’m not justifying her salary, the lack of lay-offs, or the sorry state of affairs of technology, just saying that she lived under the ropes of Walker and Copelin-Woods too and we really don’t know which were her decisions or the decisions of the board.

  26. Terry says:

    I really hope Tucker gets enough people together to form a city and create their own BOE. If not a board, then someone INTELLIGENT to run it!! Do you think the governor can just prohibit dekalb from having a BOE….I DO like the idea of having a finance company to run the system… NO need for that stupid palace. HOW THE HECK did ramona get away with that piece of real estate???

  27. howdy1942 says:

    @Terry – Thank you! I also live in Tucker and supported becoming a separate city several years ago. That was during the reign of Vernon Jones who simply drove this County into the ground. I feel sorry for Burrell Ellis – he has never really had the budget to do anything other than simply to stay afloat. I have been attending the Lakewood City Alliance and supporting their efforts. I hope that Tucker can be included in that effort.

    I’m appalled at the actions of our school board. Once again, on Monday they are entering into executive session to “discuss legal matters”. The only legal matter they should be discussing and approving is to drop the wasteful litigation they have entered and to drop the wasteful expenditure for governance training – a decision made without considering any other provider. As the State’s attorney showed last Thursday, the Dekalb County Board has failed to discuss a single agenda item regarding students this year. It hasn’t even discussed the SACS letter in public. After all, the SACS letter is public and our response should be public. It was not until last Thursday that I heard anything about what Dekalb County is doing in response to SACS. I asked Marshall Olson directly to provide any progress report – what action the county had taken. In reply, he stated that he “was not at liberty to say”. It seems to me like it would have been perfectly OK for him to say what Ramona Tyson did two days later – that “progress had been made on addressing 8 of the 11 action items” – if that is true.

    I wish that Governor Deal had acted on Friday. It appeared that he was ready to act at 3 pm on Thursday. Perhaps he is wondering whether the State law requires him to remove all nine or if he can accept the State School Board’s recommendation.

    I am coming to the conclusion that the State will assume control of the Dekalb County School System before this year is out. I don’t think that it will have any choice. The DCSS is $24 million in debt. That was before the governance training fiasco, before the separation and subsequent severance package with Dr. Atkinson, and before contracting with the Wilson firm to litigate any potential suspension. I expect that any day now we will see the credit rating of DCSS be lowered even further. The State cannot sit by idly and allow that to happen. I hope that none of this happens, but I think that it is becoming more likely each day. Besides that, I am expecting to learn that property values in Dekalb County have fallen even further and that will have a significant impact on tax assessments and on tax revenues.

    As to the County’s lawsuit, I urge, plead and beg the DCSS to simply drop it. This school board looked bad enough last Thursday. As the Chair of the State School Board said in response to Ms. Sarah Copelin-Wood regarding the email that she had sent, “your are clarifying for me the fact that you do not understand the separation of your duties”. Each of the school board members being suspended would be called in any court proceedings. I don’t think Jester or Speaks would participate and I’m not sure about Edler. The remaining three look, for lack of a better word, very foolish as they did last Thursday. Moreover, Dr. Atkinson would also surely be called to testify and her severance contract does not prevent her from speaking in court. As DSW has pointed out, she “left” her job. Under questioning from an expert attorney, I would think that this Board would look even more foolish. I don’t think that this board would want the sordid details of its dealing with Dr. Atkinson to come out. In short, I think this board would be well advised to cut its losses.

    Given the performance of the existing board, I would encourage the Governor to remove all nine board members and let’s truly begin anew. The three new board members appear to have supported the agenda with no school action items, to have supported all of the “executive sessions”, to have discussed in “executive session” the award of a contract for training which was required to have been in public, and to have supported the award of a contract to sue the State of Georgia. These decisions seem to be a continuation of the concerns that SACS expressed. In fact, one of these board members was cited for already violating SACS requirements by making contacts in schools. We need a very real “Fresh Start”. For one, I hope the Governor does it!

  28. educator90 says:

    I went to the meeting in South DeKalb this afternoon. Jay Cunningham played the Race Card. This is what is wrong with the board. The county of DeKalb does not just consist of Black and White students. There are Hispanic, Asian, African, South American, European and students from all over the globe.

    Until the focus is truly on students, and what each school needs (not what they want because another school has it) stops, board members trying to get the community upset that the interm superintendent has spoken at Oak Grove and in Dunwoody and not on the South Side, even though his tenure can only be counted in days and not weeks and months, and people from the South Side realize that cities are being talked about not because people are afraid of black people, but because the people that attend those schools are tired of education being totally off the radar for the school board and they are hoping that they will be able to form a school system where education is truly the top priority (also if people would look at the make up of many of the places they’d see that they are very diverse).

    The board members keep bringing up their rights, but what about the rights of the children in our public schools? Don’t they have a bigger right to a quality education and a school run where education is the true priority of the district?

    Also, if board members are getting superior training and that the previous governing training that Jay Cunningham received from the State School Board was too basic and didn’t meet the needs, why wasn’t this brought up sooner? Tax payers pay for board members to attend this training, something they don’t do for teachers. Teacher training on programs is far from stellar, and frankly is in the toilet. The board keeps spending money on themselves through lawyers, law suits, training, better governance, and fighting for a job that miraculously now that Thurmond is here they can focus on kids and work together-LOL. I can’t help but wonder how long it will be Thultrmond’s fault that the board continues to be incompetent.

    I pray, that our children are put first by the governor on Monday. I pray that the people of DeKalb wake up and start educating themselves about who they elect at all levels of government. I pray that we don’t lose too many teachers because of this incompetence, and that the palace goes to bare bones so that teachers can be compensated fairly. I also pray that people realize you can spend two billion on educating the children and still fail the majority of kids, and until we look at the needs and strengths of each school, school administrator, and teacher and meeting the needs of our schools and students, not a darn things is going to change.

  29. dekalbite2 says:

    “The DCSS is $24 million in debt.”
    Which is against state law so why has this Board not been prosecuted?

    “I went to the meeting in South DeKalb this afternoon. Jay Cunningham played the Race Card.”

    That is not going to work with teachers in the schools he represents. The teachers in the schools he represents have seen their pay cut and their class sizes increased. They are lacking supplies and forced to use scripted learning programs that have not proven effective for DeKalb students. They have not had input into most of the Title 1 money that should be decided on by them and poured into their classrooms. Those teachers need to tell parents just how bad the situation is for their children. Parents need to understand that having their students sit in huge classes with stressed out and under compensated teachers is detrimental to their children. They need to know Jay Cunningham made those decisions along with many other members of this board. They need to understand that when SACS pulls our system on accreditation, their children will be negatively impacted in many ways by colleges they hoped to attend and that their housing values will fall even further. Jay underestimates the people in his district if he thinks he can keep giving their children a substandard education and they won’t notice.

    EVERY one of the children in Jay Cunningham’s district deserve:
    1. A safe and clean learning environment
    2. A competent and well compensated teacher in a reasonably sized classroom
    3. Abundant access to cutting edge science and technology equipment

    Jay and his Board members are not providing the children in his district with those components. That’s why they will not back him. Teachers know he has been instrumental in cutting their pay and making their class sizes unmanageable while spending money that was meant for the classroom on lawsuits and a non teaching admin and support personnel – many of them overpaid.

  30. howdy1942 says:

    @eduator90 – very, very well stated! I watched a report on CBS Atlanta tonight about that meeting you attended – seems like Jay Cunningham is concerned about only HIS Constitutional rights. Sad. To his credit, however, is that he at least showed up!

    You hit the nail on the head about what other areas of the county are doing to form their own cities. You cannot become a separate school district until you are at least a city. Gene Walker and this board would have been well advised to reach out to the communities and listened. Not only did he not do that, he demonstrated the same “in your face” approach that Cunningham took tonight. I speak for myself,but I also believe that all communities – Dunwoody, Lakeside, Brookhaven, Tucker, Stone Mountain, Lithonia – all want all of the children of this County to have access to a good education. They want a board that places an emphasis on teachers and students. I had much preferred if this money we are spending on litigation and “governance training” could have gone to give our teacher a raise – long overdue – and/or to meet the classroom needs of our children. Never in my life now of over 70 years have I ever seen more selfish, narcissistic, narrowly-focused, individuals who not only cannot work toward the best interests of their community but actually work against the interests of their community!

    Thank you educator90 – well said!

  31. Curious says:

    Did you see that one of the things they’re voting on Monday is a “deficit reduction plan” that includes the promise ” to set M & O millage levies as is necessary to provide enough monies to (1) assure normal operations of the school system and (2) to eliminate deficit financing as outlined in the above plan”? I think they’re going to raise taxes to the absolute maximum allowed by law.

  32. SWD Parent says:

    I also attended the South Dekalb meeting as you educator90. Yes, Jay Cunningham did throw the race card out & we threw it BACK at him. If you were at the meeting then you saw ALL races in support of better education for ALL of our students. Not once did anyone support Cunningham in his desperate attempt to get people to support his position. In fact, the entire room was extremely hostile to both Cunningham and Edler. After the meeting both sides of Dekalb came together to plan our strategy to remove this board. South Dekalb parents understand why Tucker & Dunwoody want to leave. However, please be advised we also want a quality education for our children. We have the SAME goals & desires for our children. If you were at today’s meeting then you should have seen that. We are on the same side. Together we can accomplish what is best for ALL children…black,white,hispanic, rich, poor,special needs, etc. All children deserve a quality education. The first obstacle to getting on track is to remove this board, and get people in their place who will put the needs of our children first.

  33. educator90 says:

    SWD Parent, I did see that, but you need to realize that the board does not see that or feel that. The people of DeKalb all need to act together and get their act together about who they vote for at all levels of the county and state representation. All parents want the best for their kids, but all too often in DeKalb when you watch board meetings all you hear from board members is that so and so school got this and we don’t have it. I don’t hear parents saying to the board members that we don’t need what school y has, we need x. Our board doesn’t even know what their schools need, they just are trying to grab whatever they can get without fighting for what their schools need, and parents aren’t out in force fighting for their children either.

    I truly believe that ALL children deserve a quality education, and fought tooth and nail for the children when I taught in DeKalb, being told that I was a trouble maker and loud mouth as a teacher, and no that didn’t stop me. I didn’t care if I was fired. I quit when I realized that I couldn’t put my child in DeKalb and refused to be a hypocrite making money from tax payers to pay for a private education for my own child. I fought for the boy in fourth grade who was educated on the south side and moved to central DeKalb, who could not read and taught him to read on my own time, in my home after school, on the weekends, and during the summer. I want to know how many more boys and girls are like him in DeKalb, and by golly I’d have them all come to my house and teach them if I could. I spoke out as a first year teacher when Dr. Simpson told us that we could not fail children, even when they did no work during the 2007-2008 school year or the year of No Excuses, and was reprimanded for it. I’ve gone back to volunteer at my old school and tutored students in reading when my own child was in preschool.

    SWD parent, I do and did for the kids and understand that parents of ALL backgrounds want the best education for their children, but EVERY parent needs to start speaking out when the race card is pulled, and stop allowing it to be the silent killer in our district that it has become.

    SWD Parent, as a parent and tax payer now, I won’t put my child in a DCSS school, but I will fight for every DeKalb child’s education because the children are our future and too many are being left behind, and no one else is fighting for them. You have no idea how much it pains me not to be able to publicly educate my child, but I want them to think, write well, solve problems, and not just be able to perform on a test. I don’t look down at those that can’t do what I am able to do, I’ve helped and continue to help parents do it.

    Parents in other parts of the county are tired of the same incompetent people being elected, and no one stepping up to the plate to run against them. I don’t want to see the cities being formed, and really don’t agree with them given the structure of DeKalb and see how it will hurt the county as a whole, but I also see my home value dropping by at least a third if I am lucky, parents who have been sleeping and unaware or quiet about what has been going on in schools, administrators who aren’t putting our children first, and a school system that truly is a laughing stock and understand where these parents are coming from.

    As I wrote the board and Mr. Thurmond today, being fair doesn’t mean being equal. It means giving each school what they really need to provide their particular students with a quality education. Each school has different needs and we need to stop worrying about what other schools have and start focusing on what our schools need, and until that is done the quality of education won’t improve for ANY child in DeKalb.

    SWD Parent, what happened at today’s meeting needs to happen at every meeting in the county and that is my point. We need to focus on our individual school NEEDS, and focus on the educational outcomes instead of the “fair” spending and making sure that you get your piece of the pie.

  34. howdy1942 says:

    DSW – thanks for informing us about the Monday called meeting of the Board. I plan to be there. It seems to me like the best deficit reduction plan would include:

    1. Dropping the lawsuit against the State. I can’t imagine how much that has cost already – reviewing the potential for a lawsuit, filing a motion to prevent the February 21, 2013, meeting of the State Board, representing these board members for 14 hours at the February 21, 2013, meeting, and now filing an emergency motion in Federal court.

    2. Dropping the Heery lawsuit – that is a no-brainer.

    3. Cease paying for the legal expenses of Crawford Lewis.

    4. Dropping the contract with the law firm providing “governance training”. This blog has documented that it can obtain this training from a law firm already retained by the District at no additional expense. It can also obtain this training from the State.

    5. Reviewing all existing retainers with law firms, all contracts with consultants, and all other contracts with the goal of at least reducing that expense by 50%.

    6. Downsizing the central staff, requiring at least a proportionate reduction at each level The top three levels should be reduced by twice that.

    If this board passes a tax increase after what it has done, its dreadful leadership that has resulted in a probation status and downgrading of our bond rating, the manner in which it has totally embarrassed the residents of this county, its failure to provide for the classroom needs of our children – WOW! I cannot imagine the response of residents of this county. I certainly would not want to be a member of this board. Hint, hint!

  35. Certainly the Board will pass another tax increase. They have it in the bag right now so they will go for the votes. Gene has harped on the need for more tax dollars since he took a seat on the board. He’s very political that way.

    As far as Jay’s public comments – yes – they were very racially driven. One of our readers attended and gave this report via email: “I don’t think Mr. Cunningham made it five minutes into his introductory comments before arguing that attempts to remove him and the other board members from office are a racist plot by white Republicans to divide and weaken black leadership in the county. And you can imagine the reaction in the audience — crickets chirping. Few enough people present were buying it … but the people who might show up to a Saturday afternoon meeting about the school board wouldn’t buy it. The larger question is how that argument might play out among the voting electorate, where distracted voters might accept the superficial race argument when framed as a question of voting rights for minority-dominated districts.”

    Very true. So you see, it’s a political move to try to save his seat for himself. Period. Gene and Donna have the same perspective. The thing is, they are going to ruin their own school district because the good taxpayers of DeKalb are seeing the repercussions for their children very clearly. Board leaders sincerely believe that there is no way to curb spending (other than cuts to teachers and increasing class sizes) therefore, they must generate more money to pay for the waste and bloat that they refuse to see. Or that they actually endorse because so many beneficiaries of the waste and bloat are personally connected to them or their community. This is evidenced by the fact that despite years of promise, they still have not produced a full forensic audit. Gene Walker sees the school system as a Billion Dollar Jobs Program first and foremost, with a stated purpose of educating children in order to create emotion in taxpayers and garner more money for jobs that don’t have a thing to do with the children. And they are willing to pay more for lawyers than they do for books to ensure the success of their jobs program.

  36. Stunned Parent says:

    Why do they all feel the need to back their sorry asses into the crisis any longer? If you want to fight a lawsuit, do what everybody in the private sector has to do and hire your own lawyer. When you do crap like that, you leave absolutely no ambiguity that the children are not, and never were, your concern.
    Issues like this only get in the way of doing what needs to be done. Thurman, Johnson and others are already demonstrating an inability to show effective leadership by even giving these board members the time of day. Enough is enough!

  37. TO BE DISCUSSED AT MONDAY’S 9:30 AM MEETING

    Meeting Agenda

    A. CALL TO ORDER
    B. ROSTER
    C. ADOPTION OF AGENDA
    D. ACTION ITEM
    1. Approval of Deficit Elimination Plan
    E. ADJOURN TO EXECUTIVE SESSION
    F. ANNOUNCEMENTS
    G. ADJOURN

    ===
    Looks like they’ll be raising your taxes on their way out the door!

  38. Concerned Citizen says:

    Melvin Johnson cannot solve any problems, never could. But, back in the day, he was tall, light-skinned, and could crony around pretty good. Now, during work days, well, he was unavailable running around checking on his filling stations and real estate practice! He’s got to go!

  39. Blindsided says:

    Anybody have a link to the SWD meeting, that was aired on CBS Atlanta? Would love to see it.

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