He Said, She Said. Jester and Elgart face off.

It sure seems odd that the President of AdvancEd, Mark Elgart, is so bothered by a Dunwoody housewife and stay-at-home-mother, albeit one with a calculator and a blog. He’s focused some very unexpected and unwarranted venom towards Nancy Jester. What’s his beef? Apparently, he is bothered by her claim of being a whistleblower.

A reporter on WSB reported that during a telephone interview, Mark Elgart claimed that Nancy Jester is no whistleblower. Ms. Jester replied that she has been digging and reporting since 2011 on, what she calls, a “budget based on deception”. What proof did Elgart offer to demonstrate that Nancy Jester didn’t uncover and report the poor budgeting practices that led to our deficit? Nothing. Zip. Nada. We know that Nancy has been on top of the budget problems for a long time. She’s documented it. We’ve reposted much of it here.

Other than the report released in December 2012, has AdvancEd ever drawn our attention to budget problems in DeKalb? A quick check of the last report issued in October of 2011 finds no mention of any concern regarding the financial situation of DeKalb (http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/sacs-casi-accreditation/advanced-dekalb-report-(2011-10).pdf ) .

Dr. Elgart seems a tad defensive here. Why doesn’t he offer his sincere thanks to Ms. Jester? It takes a village, right? Sadly, as much as we are all happy to see something, anything shake-up DeKalb schools, we should heed the classic Latin phrase: Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes – Beware of Greeks bearing gifts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeo_Danaos_et_dona_ferentes ). There’s always a price and it is often destruction.

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42 Responses to He Said, She Said. Jester and Elgart face off.

  1. Jeff Parks says:

    Lets be honest with ourselves its not “He said, she said”. He is CEO of an world wide accrediting agency we contracted with for many years to accredit our schools. She is a member of the only school board to be placed on probation for governance issues. Sadly her sour grapes and claims of being a whistleblower which the agency denies are getting as old as her promise to resign.

  2. We theorize that Elgart is after Nancy, because Nancy has very vocally criticized SACS as unconcerned with academics and student success. She has offered suggestions for alternate forms of accreditation. She in fact, strongly supported a candidate for superintendent from Texas – a state that accredits its own schools. Elgart supported hiring Atkinson – a failure in hindsight – but a friend of SACS, having served on a SACS committee in the past.

  3. TracyW says:

    Careful about disparaging Greeks in the Lakeside area, Schoolwatch!

    OPA!

  4. John says:

    @Jeff Parks

    Jeff, let’s really be honest. Mr. Elgart is the CEO of a private organization with whom this corrupt board has partnered for years. Mr. Elgart has overseen the consistent decline of student achievement, the increase in central office staff, the decrease in teacher pay and benefits, the squandering of a BILLION DOLLAR budget and only…ONLY after Ms. Jester voiced these concerns, over his objections, did he finally pay attention. Check the record. Nancy’s voice is in the public record. Elgart’s is not. That should be of grave concern to every taxpayer in this county and the state.

    You, sir, are misinformed. You may not care if you send your kids off to private institutions, but you should. You stil pay your 70% of property tax to the establishment that has defrauded the taxpayers. You should thank Nancy Jester for shining the light on the fraud.

  5. John says:

    Oh, and I forgot…

    He has also overseen the indictment of a Superintendant and pushed for the hiring of an incompetent, bankrupt and lying Super that quit with a golden parachute that you and I will be paying for.

  6. dsw2contributor says:

    “What proof did Elgart offer to demonstrate that it was not Nancy Jester who blew the lid off of all the poor budgeting practices that led to our deficit? Nothing. Zip. Nada.”

    DSW2, you are making an Argument from Ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam). Here is the wikipedia page about that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance

    Furthermore, the word “whistleblower” has very specific legal meaning. One becomes a “whistleblower” when he/she notifies someone in authority about alleged dishonest or illegal activities. Posting stuff on a personal blog is not the same as directly notifying someone in authority.

    Finally, the actual whistleblowers are people who the F&F would go after if they knew who they were. Elgart cannot come out and tell us who those actual whistleblowers are.

  7. whyaminotsurprised says:

    There are dozens of people who wrote letters to SACS; they all have a right to their confidentiality. Jester alone could not possibly have provided all the data that SACS used. She often complained that she couldn’t get access to the data! I’m grateful for Nancy’s work, and hope she will continue to do what she can, but calling her THE (as opposed to A) and WHISTLEBLOWER (as opposed to reporter/complainant) is insulting to the others who also made complaints and took major risks.

  8. waitaminit 1 says:

    Elgart has a right to be defensive. As soon as SACS stopped certifying educational capability and making money with 5-day “investigations” on board policy and procedure–they started on the road of being irrelevent. Lets face it, if the school board is the target of SACS work, then it should be the schhol BOARD that is discredited, not the school SYSTEM or or schools.

    This process is a sham–and is being “discredited” at an accelerating rate. I give SACS two years before its lost its state clients.

    (BTW–I agree with the writer above, Jester doesn’t meet the legal standard of “whistleblower”–when that one was first publicized, I was amazed. I do appraciate her work tho.)

  9. Yes – there were a lot of whistleblowers in the case. Nancy could definitely be considered one – we didn’t mean to imply that she was the only one (we’ll edit the text to be more clear). She does have all of the data posted on her blog – starting in earnest back in September and she has also stated that she and Don handed the materials over to SACS. There’s really no denying it. Heck, the AJC reported Nancy’s findings. (FWIW: Paul Womack also made public statements about the deceitful budgeting practices.) We just have to wonder why Elgart is denying it – why he won’t just say, yes, Nancy gave us very important information – as did many others… what’s the big deal? (BTW, there were also quite a few whistleblowers in the Lewis case. We applaud people who call out fraud, waste and abuse when they see it. They should never be called liars – especially not in public – and especially not by rich and powerful people who have everything to gain by squelching others.) And, you are correct, notsurprised, Nancy asked for the same data over and over again – thus the emails Elgart was referring to.

    @waitaminute: Here’s Wikipedia’s definition of a whistleblower:

    A whistleblower (whistle-blower or whistle blower)[1] is a person who tells the public or someone in authority about alleged dishonest or illegal activities (misconduct) occurring in a government department or private company or organization. The alleged misconduct may be classified in many ways; for example, a violation of a law, rule, regulation and/or a direct threat to public interest, such as fraud, health/safety violations, and corruption. Whistleblowers may make their allegations internally (for example, to other people within the accused organization) or externally (to regulators, law enforcement agencies, to the media or to groups concerned with the issues).

    What is yours? I don’t understand why you wouldn’t define Nancy as a whistleblower.

  10. States are watching SACS closely! Elgart is a shakedown artist for AdvancED. Make a mistake with SACS, buy stuff from AdvancED, and all is forgotten! SACS has too much control without the extensive research and audits! AdvancED is a FOR- Profit entity and they are looking after their interests that Jester has questioned.

  11. Todd says:

    This seems to be a mountain out of a molehill. People can have different definitions of whistleblower as the legal one, contained in Georgia law, has a more specific definition than Wikipedia….but that really isn’t the point. neither elgart nor jester is a judge over the case so it matters less about what each labels the other. Rather, it matter more about what PROOF each has to back up a version of events….if Nancy has emails to SACS, bring them out. If Elgart has emails from Jester, bring those out. It sounds to me like they could entirely be the same emails. As I understand the province of the Board, they simply vote up or down on the budget and it is the superintendent’s budget to present…..so Elgart could be referring to the same substance that Jester is, but spinning it as Board overreach. Agree or disagree but the proof will come out. As for the substance, if jester or mcchesney or any of them REALLY thought the budget was deceitful and fraudulent, they should have contacted the district Attorneys office, the attorney general, the GBI…..anyone in entrusted with, you know, making sure public property isnt converted illegally, would have worked. It is not like they didn’t know how to make that call….after all, isnt that part of the Lewis, Reid, Pope indictment? Using funds inappropriately? I thought so.

  12. dsw2contributor says:

    DSW2, I think the problem we have with labeling her a “whistleblower” is right there in the definition you quoted: “A whistleblower (whistle-blower or whistle blower)[1] is a person who tells the public or someone in authority about alleged dishonest or illegal activities (misconduct) occurring in a government department or private company or organization.”

    Being an elected board member, she was the “in authority”.

  13. dunwoodyunited says:

    @dsw2contributer
    the board is “in authority” not any individual of the board. i think it is just silly to try and downplay her work. name one person who brought this out publicly before jester did? add to that sacs wants boards to seem unified. how can you have unity with a group of incompetent or suspicious characters? jester stepped out and spoke the truth. look where it got her. we are in trouble if we do not support people like her. why would anyone else speak out after seeing how she is treated.

  14. Chamblee Dad says:

    I do admire Jester’s body of work in general, and the more this drags on, I have come to question SACS role & approach to focus just on the board, as AMG says “SACS has too much control without the extensive research and audits!” John’s examples make this point very clear. True, our board/system is a mess, but they way SACS has set forth the issues, I don’t think gets anywhere close to the truth.

    And that leads me to say that I think her idea, shared by more & more – she didn’t invent it, that accreditation by someone else, perhaps not system-wide, & focused more on overall performance, would be a better way. And to me, I’d like the debate to steer that way rather than the new city system debate. You could still push for both i guess, but harder to split efforts. It’s perhaps an good idea, and it’s being lost in all the other news/debates. I’ve got to admit I don’t have a full handle on it.

  15. Undercover Reformer says:

    I only watched the video clip above and have not any accompany text (is there any?) that might expand on this story, but from that short clip what I heard Elgart say is that they (SACS) received 100s of emails that demonstrate Nancy’s overstepping of her board-related duties. Now…I am not trying to open a debate of whether those duties (as defined by SACS) are correct, appropriate, or restrictive (I have my personal opinion here, as I’m sure many of you do); they are, however, the basis upon which SACS has judged the BOE’s performance. What I feel he is trying to defend is her removal from the board along with the other 5 suspended members and with that, unfortunately, I must agree. I also believe Mrs. Jester has attempted, under impossible circumstances, to serve the DeKalb County Schools as ethically and responsibly as possible. The defensive postures being exhibited by Walker, Cunningham, and Jester are further examples of the inability of the individuals on this board to see the bigger picture and simply step away from it. Having recently resigned from the DCSD (yes, I am an ex member of the Central Office bloat) simply because I could no longer tolerate being a part of such an unethical, misguided, morally bankrupt organization) I know what it feels like to step away from hard work and honest effort to improve things knowing that many that you’re leaving behind are exactly the folks causing the problems. My “falling on my sword” has not served DeKalb as much as it has served me – in the peace of mind that I now have knowing that I don’t have to lie and smile and conform to a model of education that I felt was not positively impacting our students. Nancy – just walk away. You can appeal to be reinstated in the future (if you think that is where your heart is) and your efforts to do so will obviously be supported by your constituents and many others. The longer you stay, well….support for you, I believe, will erode. You may find that you are compelled to work for a different kind of change (statewide, nationwide) than what you can accomplish while sitting on a local school board. Just my 2 cents.

  16. Thinker says:

    Oh my gosh. THIS is what we’ve come to? Aren’t there more important things to worry about right now? I’m getting very tired of this site very quickly. It used to be informative. Now it just feels like a Nancy Jester fan page. I don’t know Nancy, I don’t like nor dislike her, but it is clear that any unfriendly comments about her are NOT welcome on this page. Let’s get back to focusing on the kids. Who gives a rip who the whistleblowers were?

  17. @Thinker: WE did not write the story — WSB News is reporting on this! Mark Elgart had a telephone interview on the subject with the reporter – he called out Nancy as more or less lying (the reporter said, Elgart stated that Nancy was flat out not telling the truth.) The reporter asked Nancy for a response and she brought documents. We posted the whole video – did you watch it? It is NOT the blog doing this! We just find it shocking that Elgart would take to the tv news to call attention to himself in this drama over who discovered what.

    Also, for those interested, you can now read the 20 page SACS report at the New York Times — click here:
    http://ftpcontent.worldnow.com/wgcl/dekalbsacsreport.pdf

  18. Thinker, my concern is that Mr. Elgart will be compelled by a court of law to show the emails. Then Walker will have what he needs, the names of those that threatened his friends and families livelihood. I guarantee you the folks that did talk are worried that Walker will find out.

    My wife and I voted for Nancy, of course there are others who do not like her. Her predecessor has a strong base and Nancy was still able to eke out a victory. She ran on changing the ways things were being done here. However, she tried to cast a glow on what is wrong with DCSS. There are some who wants to make sure she fails. I guess some want her to just sit quietly and vote yes for everything, really! Over 10 BILLION dollars has been spent, since Elgart started to look at DCSS closely. What do the taxpayers have to show for it except continuing from crisis to crisis, the BOEChair screaming for more lawyers of color and OUT-OF-THE-BOX curriculums that have shown NO clear Return on investment. This is about 10 years of anything and everything being done behind closed doors. So I ask why a woman, Ms. Tyson, that can not explain 49 million in over spending at the Palace for two years and is still celebrated as the chosen one by the friends and family network, is still working there. 10 Billion dollars, yet our teachers are still treated horribly, the budget has been balanced on their backs for 5 straight years. I am glad Nancy voted NO on Thurmond and to hiring more lawyers.

    I am glad DSW is here as a valuable resource with links to budgets and other research, so the facts can be talked about fairly. Dr. Walker would prefer us to be the low information voter so he can continue the gravy train for his cronies.

  19. Once again, DeKalb County School System makes national news. Not always for a good reason, though. From yesterday’s NY Times:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/education/gov-nathan-deal-of-georgia-ousts-6-on-dekalb-county-school-board.html?ref=education&_r=0

  20. Weary worker says:

    Accrediting agencies are needed, what form they take is another matter. AdvanceEd has advanced their business by negating what is really the best policy to advocate what is the most acceptable policies for the most clients. The standards they set regarding school media centers were changed when SACS was seeking to merge with the Midwestern Association a few years ago. Whatever creates the most business trumps what is best for the schools and education. The bigger problem is that that Elgart and Co. have been walking down the same greedy path that led Arthur Anderson to ruin and disgrace. Anderson did audits and pursued consulting work with the same clients. It’s a recipe of everything that went wrong with business in the last decade.

  21. Thinker says:

    @DSW and @atlantamediaguy –
    You both make good points. I am on Nancy’s side. In fact, I was standing and cheering her throughout her testimony at the grueling 14-hour hearing. A little perspective – I taught in the system for over twenty years. I saw the ship going down and jumped. You see, I lost $6,000 in salary over 4 years. I have to put food on the table. I thought I would spend my entire career with DCSD, but it wasn’t to be. I put in long hours and spent my own money on my students. I was the system-wide teacher of the year one year. I was dedicated. I know firsthand what the teachers are going through because, until this past July, I was one. Most of my friends at my previous school are texting me and calling me daily to ask me to help them find a job in my new system. These are GOOD teachers at one of the highest performing schools. They all want out. The problem is, our focus is now on this crooked board (not all, but you know of whom I speak) and not on the kids. The teachers know what they need. Has anyone bothered to ask them? We are getting side-tracked from those who are desperate for our attention. I am a parent of a DCSD high school junior. The stakes are high for all of us and we can’t take our eyes off the prize.

  22. Thoroughly agree Thinker – how do we go about driving attention and resources to the classroom? We’ve been trying to do it by exposing the waste, fraud and abuse… trying to publicly state that our school system leaders need to support the classrooms first – and then build from there with what’s left. We are flat out of ideas of how to truly effect a change in DeKalb County School System as it now stands! We believe real change is possible only through allowing city-based school systems to be formed.

  23. An on top of everything – our county leaders are just about every bit as dysfunctional as our school leaders:

    DeKalb CEO wants sanctions against the DA’s office

  24. sam123 says:

    Too much money is spent on adopting and then buying new textbooks. In order to be in compliance with SACS, new textbooks need to be adopted every five years. As a classroom teacher, it seemed a waste of money to change new textbooks every five years. The previous ones were in good shape and still current with what was being taught. As a teacher, and many other teachers agree, we all saw so much waste in that area. I think that SACS needs to change this regulation. I know that it won’t make the textbook companies very happy but there is a lot of waste.
    There should be money in the budget to replace worn books and also for math consummables in K-2. But other than that, I wish the county and SACS would revisit the textbook issue. I also am very uncomfortable with going with ebooks for many reasons.

  25. dekalbite2 says:

    “The teachers know what they need. Has anyone bothered to ask them? ”

    Thurmond has not only NOT asked teachers what they need, he doesn’t even MENTION them as “stakeholders”. From Maureen Downey’s interview with Thurmond:
    “As he told me the other day, Thurmond now has been meeting with “stakeholders.” And as he did for me, he is listing all the groups he has met with thus far; he again listed the chamber, the legislative delegation, a parents group. He again did not list teachers.”

    http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2013/02/21/lunch-and-now-back-to-business-should-dekalb-board-go-or-stay/

    Maureen gets it. Mr. Thurmond does not.

    Parents/taxpayers need to email and/or call Mr. Thurmond and ask him why he is not asking the teachers who are the only employees who instruct students what needs to be done. In addition, why does he omit teachers as “stakeholders” in his public statements?

  26. Ella says:

    SACS has been around for a very long time and they come in with a team of educators/administrators/leaders from different areas. I have went through many reviews as an educator. The process is good as schools/systems actually evaluate ourselves. The problem is that SACS goes out to the schools and interviews principals, teachers, assistant principals, county school officials and parents.

    The process is good. It takes a mess like this in order to lose acreditation.

    In reading the above report I feel that Mark Elgart knows exactly who blow the lid off the situation. I suspect our existing superintendent was definitely was blowing the whistle.

    I think Nancy was definitely blogging about issues and definitely questioning staff very strongly (at times she did appear a little agressive to members of the county staff). I think the way she did it may have been an issue with SACS. There have watched the taped school board meetings themselves. However, others on the board also did not trust the county staff and were at time extremely agressive in their tone. I think this may have been an issue they had with these board members also.

    I suspect as a member of a board you need to watch how you go outside and blog about these things or stir the pot regarding trust in the community. Now I like Nancy and I sincerely think she has worked very hard to bring the financial situation in check. However, I suspect that Elgart feels a great deal of projection is being thrown at SACS without good cause. I would agree that bad mouthing SACS should not be the first issue on any school board’s mind right now. It does not look very professional. Instead each board member needs to evaluate how each board member played a part (if they did) in getting us in this situation. I do feel without a doubt that Dr. Speaks was always very professional. I know of nothing she did that would possible not be ethical. I also think that Nancy has tried to do a super job. I do think her frustration may have come across as agressive behavior toward some county employees.

    I will say without a doubt that Nancy was a whistle blower to the public through her blog but I do not know if she was going to appropriate authorities who could do something about it. I could sense her frustration with the situation. I know we all could.

  27. Thinker says:

    @DSW – I don’t have the answers, either. In fact, that’s why I left. It’s, as Nancy said, like living on a hamster wheel. I do believe in the city system, however, That is where I went. 🙂

  28. Thinker says:

    Sorry for the typo above. It should read, “I do believe in the city system, however. That’s where I went.”

  29. John Oselette says:

    Ella,

    While I appreciate your perspective on SACS, it is exactly what Nancy has said, and I agree, is the problem with SACS. They are more concerned with how the Board behaves rather than how the district and the students are doing. As an elected representative of the citizens of Dekalb County, it is the obligation and sworn duty of each and every Board Member to look after how our tax dollars are spent and to insure that those tax dollars are spent in the pursuit of educating our children. Nancy campaigned and was elected on the promise to put a laser like focus on those 2 issues. She lived up to her promise. That alone, is pretty unheard of these days. Unlike Donna Edler and Jim McMahon, who promised to focus on many of these same issues, they lied. Their record proves it.

    Your comment is at the heart of this issue for me:
    “I suspect as a member of a board you need to watch how you go outside and blog about these things or stir the pot regarding trust in the community.
    …I would agree that bad mouthing SACS should not be the first issue on any school board’s mind right now. It does not look very professional.”

    I disagree emphatically.

    You, understandably, are a champion of SACS. But your argument in their defense underscores the core problem with them. They are about the adults, not the children.
    I expect my elected officials to do as they say and as they promise. I am often disappointed, but I still hold them to that.

    One more observation. I have been a board member on a number of non-profits, and currently serve as the vice president to a foundation for my son’s school. The singular purpose of these bodies is their fiduciary responsibility to the stakeholders. Why is that not a priority for our School Board? And why is it considered meddling when a School Board member questions why millions of tax dollars are unaccounted for, she is reprimanded by a private firm with absolutely no accountability to the taxpayers?

  30. murphey says:

    It’s interesting that writers characterize Nancy Jester as “aggressive” when asking questions of DCSD staff. I watched or attended nearly all BOE meetings this past year and I thought she went out of her way to be non-threatening and to always say that the staffer could get back to her on that. I actually wanted her to be more demanding–in a polite way–since the matters being discussed affected my child’s education and my tax dollars.

    In my professional career, when you went to a meeting you had to be prepared for all sorts of questions on the topic you were presenting. You couldn’t just say “I’ll get back to you.”

    I was frequently appalled at the poor response that DCSD staff gave to questions from BOE members. I don’t know if that was a deliberate strategy or if they were grossly unprepared. All I know is that I never had the impression that DCSD staff took BOE questions seriously.

  31. dekalbite2 says:

    All the news media needs to do is go back and watch the videos where Nancy questions the underestimation of legal fees, energy bills. etc. and then they can see where SACS cites the exact same concerns. Elgart is not telling the truth for political reasons. SACS dropped the ball in the case of DeKalb (and probably many other school systems) because they are paid by the people they accredit. Only after intense pressure from parents/taxpayers, RICO charges and a sexual scandal in the highest offices of DeKalb’s administration, and egregious acts by many Board members did SACS reluctantly move to put DeKalb on probation. Look at the pressure Nancy put SACS under for not acting as a competent accreditation agency:
    http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/2013/01/03/246/

    http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/2012/12/31/227/

    http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/2012/12/28/222/

    Nancy called SACS out publicly for not acting as the “watchdog” they portrayed themselves as while they collect millions in fees. SACS has no love for Nancy. It’s no wonder they are glad to get rid of this “thorn in their side”.

    IMO – Nancy will be re-elected in 2014, but for the wrong job. She is exactly what we need in a superintendent. Someone who looks at every cent spent as a penny that needs to be accounted for in terms of student achievement. Teachers and students come first with her. She realizes that the classroom is the most important part of the schools system. When you starve the classroom, the entire system falls apart. Would that we could say the same for SACS.

  32. bettyandveronica1 says:

    I have said for sometime that the first few minutes of their statement or the meeting itself should be only response time for the questions board members asked staff at the last public meeting. They should be expected to respond to questions first, then give their report. There was an incredible amount of “we’ll get back to you” at these meetings. All of them did it. Howe, Perrone and Ward-Smith were incredibly guilty of not knowing how or what to answer the questions. The public NEVER heard the answers to their questions. And that is a huge problem. Pose a question, get dismissed by underling, ask question again then be labeled as “aggressive”.

    When I was present at the meetings, it took everything I had to stay in my seat and not scream out “Answer the question”. Because I knew neither I nor the board member would ever hear about the issue again. Their meetings were anything but productive. It seemed to me they were not given any paperwork or data until just before the meetings with no real time to prepare questions in advance. There never seemed to be any real time spent fixing anything or discussing anything. Non productive. I am hopeful this lot will go too soon. Maybe Atkinson will take some of them with her to SFA.

  33. 5thgenDekalbite says:

    He said, she said is not going to really make a difference but I do know that when I wanted to see the new proposed districts (last year) and cut in DBOE members, Jester’s site was the only place I could find a complete set of proposed maps. I gave a copy to Carole Sbarge, Channel 2 because they had also had trouble finding them. If anyone started calling attention to the problems of DBOE, I would have to give the news media credit for making all of us more aware. My concern is now finding dedicated, honest people in the districts that will not be represented if the present board, the Litigant Six, is sent packing. I know many who would be great serving on the board but they all live in the Districts of the 3 who may remain. I also agree with Undercover Reformer that Jester may be eroding what support she may have by remaining with the Litigant Six.

    Thinker, where do you live? Maybe you should send your name in as a replacement.

    My opinion on SACS, knowing very little about it, is sort of like the SAT. They set the standard accepted by colleges and I doubt that will change. If accrediting is necessary, then we must do what they say we need to do to pass their ” tests.”

    I still have confidence in Thurmond and I am sure he will get around to the teachers but he has to put out the fire before he can rebuild the house. And this fire seems to have hotspots that keep re-igniting. I think we will all know what the next step is by the end of the day tomorrow.

  34. Jeff Parks says:

    “@Jeff Parks

    Jeff, let’s really be honest. Mr. Elgart is the CEO of a private organization with whom this corrupt board has partnered for years. Mr. Elgart has overseen the consistent decline of student achievement, the increase in central office staff, the decrease in teacher pay and benefits, the squandering of a BILLION DOLLAR budget and only…ONLY after Ms. Jester voiced these concerns, over his objections, did he finally pay attention. Check the record. Nancy’s voice is in the public record. Elgart’s is not. That should be of grave concern to every taxpayer in this county and the state.

    You, sir, are misinformed. You may not care if you send your kids off to private institutions, but you should. You stil pay your 70% of property tax to the establishment that has defrauded the taxpayers. You should thank Nancy Jester for shining the light on the fraud.”

    John,
    I wonder what your real name is? Your post above is best described as a rant. Just because you say something or post in this case does not make it true. The record is that SACS has been involved with DCSS for 10 years, including pulling their accreditation. Mr. Elgart and SACS did not make the decision to accredit the system vs. independent schools, nor does he approve the expenditures of the school board or the sizes of the DCSS staffts: our elected representatives did. During the State BOE hearing he made it perfectly clear that the DCSS consistently refuses SACS help on their observations and findings.

    I understand, appreciate and greatly respect your opinion that Ms. Jester regularly attempted to put the light on so many activities, however she had to see what little effect that alone would have and appears to have highlighted some areas while not addressing others. SACS is not the problem.

  35. Concerned Eagle says:

    I believe we’re arguing two different things here:
    1) Was Nancy a whistleblower? Based on evidence I have seen and heard, and I attended both hearings, I believe she was. Nancy did focus on the financials and attempt to draw attention to them. When the board ignored her or told her to stop asking questions about it, she went to SACS. I was also told by Jester that Atksinson herself called SACS, though I’m not exactly sure what her motives for doing so were. That part remains unclear. My personal theory is that maybe she was attempting to fire some of the protected “friends & family” and when BOE members began meddling, in an effort to prevent this, she went to Elgart.

    2) Is Nancy guilty of *some* of the alleged misbehavior in the SACS report? Based on the evidence presented and conversations I have had with other board/staff members, I believe she was, particularly the part about interrogating/intimidating staff and not getting along with other BOE members/treating each other with respect. After all, she was asking questions about finances and probably knew she wasn’t getting a straight answer. She probably did lose her temper with some of them.
    Whistleblowers are not generally well-received among those they are blowing on. If the other BOE members/staff were attempting to hide something and Nancy was attempting to bring it out in the open, it stands to reason that this create strife among BOE members and staff. Jester was called out at the Feb. state hearing by a DBOE member when she implied that it shouldn’t matter how board members treat each other as long as good governance is in place and student achievement is high. I agree that Elgart is probably some on the defensive b/c Jester has been extremely outspoken about her view regarding the accrediting agency and it’s alleged agenda.

  36. Jeff Parks says:

    Correction to my earlier response to John: I incorrectly stated SACS pulled accreditation. However SACS placed Dekalb on probation, which they were unable to meet except for a brief period following the counties switch from accrediting schools to a system wide accreditation.

  37. You bring up a good point, Jeff. Dr. Lewis was the one who insisted on systemwide accreditation. We COULD just accredit our high schools – and we could do it school by school at that. So – when the board misbehaves – which school would lose accreditation? How do you think SACS would have handled it if we had not been systemwide accredited? Maybe the “all or nothing” accreditation is just another one of Dr. Lewis’ very bad ideas….

  38. Thinker says:

    @5thgenDekalbite – I live in Jim’s district, but thanks for the suggestion. To be quite honest, I’ve mulled it over. The teachers desperately need a voice. They really do speak for the kids.

  39. Ella says:

    John Oselette your points are great and I do not disagree with anything you said.

    I want to indicate that I am not saying Nancy was agressive. She is very compassionate in fighting to save the taxpayer’s dollars for the students. But I do think the school system’s staff may have felt this way and that SACS interviews staff members when they come in. Having being a constant observer of the DeKalb County School Board for over 16 years I do not think any of these staff members were adjusted to being put under the microscope like they were by several of the board members. Nancy was definitely one of these board members to ask the hard questions.

    Nancy really was trying to look out for the taxpayer’s dollars. I respect her highly and what she has tried to do.

    I also think that student’s achievement should be a major factor in any evaluation. However, this is not the time to bash SACS. SAC does serve an important place in evaluating schools.

    It is important for school board members to realize that they act as one body and that individually they have no power. Individually they are no different than you or I. It is together that they are the boss of the school superintendent and other employees of the school system. I do think there has been too much micro-management by many of the school board members. I do believe that individually they have contacted employees of the school system and made many demands of these employees that by law are unethical.

  40. hopespringseternal says:

    Yes Ella — there you have it. It comes down to boardsmanship, at least in SACS’ view. The question is not which of the individuals is a moron, is illiterate, is a Black Panther party member or a Tea Party member. It is a question of boardsmanship. How do they act on behalf of students and employees and in good stewardship to the taxpayers AS A BOARD? This is why the law removing them is flawed. When you start picking them off or picking at them, you lose the larger issue of how the board functions. And if you’re a board member who just can’t exercise boardsmanship because you think you’re so superior to other board members, then find something else to do and get off that board. This business of whistleblowing — what is it really? Spreadsheets showing the past five years of — what? Stuff? There were other board members who noted in meetings (not necessarily scheduled work sessions) that there was underbudgeting. There were other board members who became concerned about the accounting practices, culminating with it changing under Atkinson’s tenure. So yes, appreciate the good work, the published reports, the statements of her opinion — you bet. But I don’t make more of it than what it is. And I absolutely look at the lack of boardsmanship.

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