UPDATE: Live Blog for Tonight’s 6PM Board Meeting & SACS Update from Elgart

Join us tonight at 6PM as we watch the Board meeting streamed live. The Board will adjourn to a Committee of the Whole where Dr. Mark Elgart of AdvancedED (SACS) will present an update. We will add to this post as Elgart makes his report.

Tune in live by clicking here or watch Comcast 24 and then join us in the comments!

Also, be sure to check Nancy Jester’s live blogging at the top of the DeKalb School Watch blog side panel.


Well, it looks like the streaming isn’t quite working yet — so tune in to Comcast 24 if you have it.

Elgart said you can’t have a dysfunctional board and high student achievement.
Elgart is saying it’s better to have an appointed board than an elected board.
This community is diverse – not just African-American and Caucasion. You are urban. Some Boards do better because they acknowledge the changing community. Problems are more complex. Not a north – south issue.
Coleman: asked what Elgart considered best type of classroom – a good system.
A: Good question – will answer later.

History: Challenges weren’t created in last 2 years. Been saying that… evolved over at least a decade. In 2004 system on probation for governance issues. Underpinnings as to why: operating environment has emerged that practices aren’t written down, but carried forward. Unintended orientation, for example, when you got on the board your ability to visit a school changed. I have two daughters in HS but can’t walk in there as a parent. I have to engage staff differently than other parents. You’ve added a position of authority. None of you has authority as an individual but when you walk in a school you are a board member and if you engage with staff it’s as if you are their boss.

In the last ten years the volume of info between board and staff has increased. His mother was a board chair and [he was a student?] and they didn’t talk about it at home. Emails and phone calls cause tremendous disruption in school operations. It is not your job. Your job is to govern. You should only go into schools when invited as a guest to an event.

Columns – day to day operations or long term issue? Focus on future topics. Thurmond is the day to day. No blame on a certain group – it’s just that it’s been done wrong for over a decade.  Carrying on of tradition.

How to deal with barrage of phone calls. Can’t solve individual problems. There’s a process through staff for that. Don’t do it. Once you solve one you’ll have 100 more – it doesn’t stop. Say, I understand your concern but this is not the right process. Don’t even say you’ll pass the concern on. That’s hard – I understand for the three of you who were voted in. You feel responsible to the voters.

Then, board member against member to debate whose individual problem is more important. Don’t advocate for a student. Not your role.

You have the financial resources that are in the upper tier for a system your size – yet you operate with debt. Ten years of bad decisions – individual basis. Far greater dollars on central office resources and far less in classrooms and achievement stagnant for a decade. More attorneys and fees than three systems each your size combined. You don’t need the number of legal advisors. Glaring issue to address. Budgeted amount has been $1 million. Retainer fees exceeded $2.5 million. Spent much more in reality. No other system has two law firms on retainer. And how could you budget only $1m when you have contracts for a minimum $2.5 mil?

Last: No community collaboratively developed plan that galvanizes and focuses on student achievement. Plans have been produced but not collaboratively and not galvanized. (That shortfall points to Ramona IMO)…  The strategic plan should set a direction. Superintendent – organization and budgets should be strategically planned.

We realize you won’t fix this in one year. Will take 3-5 years to turn an urban system around – significant challenge. Our commitment: we will be with you to guide support advise monitor and reinforce. Blind spots will arise. We will help you see the full picture and bring in professionals to help.


(I’ll continue with the detailed report in the comments)

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65 Responses to UPDATE: Live Blog for Tonight’s 6PM Board Meeting & SACS Update from Elgart

  1. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    If the board is just going to pass everything on then why bother giving them phones or computers. All calls can go to voice mail and all email can be auto replied to. For that matter, why even have a board? What does this board have to offer at this point? They don’t know anything about education, so how can they have effective input into the mission and goals?

  2. John Hope says:

    “Super must establish organizational infrastructure. Must have concurrence. Has to be done first. Create a chart without names. Identify necessary jobs. Visit neighbor systems for examples. Don’t put names to the boxes. It compromises objectivity. Then move into that structure. Allow superintendent to deploy it. Don’t get involved with opinions about who should go in which position. No more difficult task than making personnel decisions. Don’t influence – you’ll make it political.”

    From this I now understand where Dr. Atkinson got the idea from. Though I’d prefer to see names, I understand why this recommendation was made, given the current climate. This does put the onus of the superintendent to identify the right people for the right position at the right compensation.

    Everyone has to admit, this school district has never had a true organizational structure. Brown attempted to create one by first requesting the Personnel and Compensation audit so he could get an objective view of the roles and responsibilities that existed in the district as he found salaries not aligned with the positions. Unfortunately he was not able to see this through.

  3. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    How is the Superintendent and the board going to do this when none of them know anything about education, education administrations, etc …

    Why can’t they go ahead and hire a qualified Superintendent?

  4. HR is a mess – by way of example, below is an email sent out by HR — ONE DAY before the deadline to sign contracts! Add to this – there is no definitive word on furlough days, the calendar was just changed (again) last week, employee contributions to healthcare have risen and the TSA contributions are still being withheld… tough decision to get out that pen and sign the ‘contract’. With HR and Board leadership like this – we can rest assured that when the economy improves, we will lose a significant number of great employees. These people obviously didn’t hear Elgart’s requirement to ‘attract and retain’ the best teachers and staff possible.

    NOTE: Beginning with this comment, DeKalb School Watch will be printing administrative salaries (and those of former administrators who have gone back to the school house, but keep their same puffed-up salaries) whenever they are mentioned in the blog. Anyone who thinks we have printed an incorrect salary is welcome to send us documentation. Send to: dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com.


    To: DeKalb County School District Contractual Employees
    From: Dr. Tova J. Davis, Director for Employment Services (salary: $94,609.20; travel: $454.86)
    Through: Dr. Tekshia Ward-Smith, Chief Human Resources Officer (salary: $133,805.96; travel: $608.25)
    Subject: Contract Stipulations
    Date: 3 April 2013

    Contract Stipulations
    for the 2013-2014 School Year

    · Employees are encouraged to give great thought and consideration to
    contractual obligations when signing an employment contract. Per the
    letter from Interim Superintendent, Michael Thurmond, included with
    the contract offer; a release from contract will only be considered if
    verifiable documents are presented for one of the stipulations
    identified below.

    Employees who decline a contract offer by not electronically signing a
    contract by the April 4, 2013 deadline will not be eligible to apply
    for re-employment with the DeKalb County School District for the
    2013-2014 school year until July 1, 2013.

    Stipulations for Release from Contract
    Written Verifiable Documentation Required

    Documented personal health problems that require the contracted
    employee’s full-time care and attention;

    Family situation change that requires a one-way commuting distance in
    excess of 50 miles of the contracted position. Supporting
    documentation must be provided in writing and must include a change of
    address that occurred after the current employment contract was signed;

    A documented spousal transfer and relocation that requires a one-way
    commuting distance in excess of 50 miles of the contracted position;

    A documented promotion within the field of education or the acceptance of
    a position with a college or university, an educational consulting
    company, or an educational opportunity overseas.

    Employees may email the Division of Human Resources at
    HR-Compensation@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us for questions related to contract
    release stipulations.

  5. John Dewey III says:

    Mr. Elgart made it clear that SACS demands that DeKalb address classroom issues and student performance — or lose accreditation. It is logical to conclude that the Board and Superintendent now have to pay the teachers and lower class sizes. Furloughs and class increases will no longer be tolerated. The board needs to understand that the budget has been balanced on the backs of the teachers for years — and this hurt student performance. The top-heavy spending on administators in the main office must now be cut and teachers compensated appropriately OR DEKALB WILL LOSE ACCREDITATION……….GET IT?

  6. Very true Mr. Dewey. We sorted the 2012 salary report and found that the Central Office staff costs over $40 million in salaries (add 30% for benefits) — even without including the following:

    (Did not include maintenance staff or custodial staff)
    (Did not include transportation staff)
    (Did not include family services or parent coordinators)
    (Did not include family services or parent coordinators)
    (Did not include extra-curricular activities)
    (Did not count “Miscellaneous Activities”)
    (Did not count ‘Other Instructional Provider”)
    (Did not count “Other Transportation”)
    (Did not count “Secretary” which is different from “School Secretary”)
    (Did not include “Support Svs Sec/Clerk)
    (did not include “Transportation Sec/Clerk)

    Download the Central Office Excel spreadsheet here:

    Download the full 2012 salary report here:

    Download the same document sorted by job titles here:

  7. We find it amusing that Thurmond insists he only has a staff of FIVE when the salary report clearly shows the following job titles:


    We all know that many of these names have changed – as have the job titles – making it VERY difficult to check to see if RIFs and budget-cuts occurred. To read our post showing our efforts to reconcile the supposed budget cuts, click here:

  8. Concerned Citizen says:

    We need to let everyone on this go, even poor little Tim Freeman. Can anyone believe the enormity of these salaries, Yes, the board doesn”t know what to do, nor does Thurmond. It was comical in a strange way watching them Wed. night. Did anyone find Melvin Johnson full of knowledge? Yet he has been the deputy supt. for years, while running real estate and car repair joints on the side! Oh, poor DeKalb County. We are done.

  9. John Hope says:

    dekalbschoolwatch , there is an updated org chart with names. It can be found at,

    Click to access organizational-chart.pdf

  10. John Hope says:

    I should have been more clear. The org chart has names for the senior leadership only.

  11. dekalbite2 says:

    “MAYFIELD,FELICIA M DEPUTY/ASSOC/ASSISTANT SUPT $89,640.26” She is the sister in law of the new BOE member and is now retired. His brother is a Parent Coordinator for $63,634 plus benefits and apparently still works for DeKalb.

  12. John Hope says:

    From the list above, Mayfield, Taylor, White and Woods are no longer with the school district. Freeman, Moseley and Segovis are all back in the schools. One would assume their salaries were adjusted accordingly beginning in July 2012.

    Below is a link to the org chart for Gwinnett. Another example without names and only for the leadership positions.


  13. Curious says:

    I totalled the positions in the new organizational chart linked by John Hope and came up with approximately 807 central office employees. I can’t find DSW’s prior calculation of this number, but I think it was way higher. Whether the decrease is a function of moving positions to the schools or RIFs is unknown.

  14. Thanks for the chart John Hope! Good for Thurmond for at least filling out page 1!

    Interesting that the Director of Strategy does not report to the Chief Strategy Director and instead has a direct line around to the Superintendent. (BTW, there is also a “Director of Strategic Initiatives” above everyone else who is a direct report to the Super — who holds that title?)

    Also, we have a Deputy Superintendent of School Leadership, then an Executive Director of School Leadership and then a Director of School Leadership.

    And apparently all of the auditor positions are vacant. Makes sense. This is most likely why we can’t get to the bottom of budget decisions.

  15. Wow, Gwinnett’s website is so beautiful.

    Click here for their 2020 Vision … and note that it’s about EDUCATION and STUDENTS – not buildings…

    Click here for DeKalb’s 2020 Vision plan…

    Apples and Oranges.

    A small group of parent bloggers wrote a 2020 Vision for DeKalb in response to the one Ramona Tyson officially published —

  16. Click here to view yet another document on the Vision of Gwinnett Public Schools.

    This is probably why Elgart encouraged the Board and Thurmond to seek mentoring from Gwinnett.

  17. hopespringseternal says:

    Yes DSW — and just as importantly, Gwinnett continues to publish an actual curriculum, said to be aligned with GA Standards. All DCSS has ever done in recent times is at best post a notice that says it’s curriculum is basically the state standards. For a time, DCSS posted this statement that the curriculum is the standards, and caveat emptor — the standards is the minimum required by the state. And we all know that standards does not equate to an actual curriculum. Is it any wonder that our teachers have no direction? There’s nothing to guide them therefore our children are taught to the minimum. Not to a curriculum. Since there’s a renewed focus on why the school system actually exists, and since Mr. Thurmond has declared Mr. Wilbanks as his mentor, he may want to start there. I won’t hold my breath. Administrative heads may explode at the thought of a formalized curriculum, complete with published course offerings in every high school, developed with teacher buy-in and implemented project-management style with the necessary accessories.

  18. Exactly correct, hopespringseternal. I have been asking system leaders for exactly this information for years. I am always simply directed to the state standards. Trying to pinpoint an actual curriculum with annual expectations has always made my head hurt! Gloria Talley was most dismissive in her responses – but then again, at least she responded. Many school systems post theirs online and you can find it with a click of a button.

    In reality though, how can Thurmond do this? He certainly has No Clue what a curriculum looks like… and neither did Tyson or Lewis. So here we are.

  19. Gwinnett also posts all of their salary schedules. For example, high school assistant principals top out at $78,860. We hav 138 APs paid over this – some well over – many have salaries in the 90s. This not only effects our current budget (even setting aside whether we actually need all of our APs) – but it effects long into the future in falsely inflated pensions — effecting the state budget. Along that same line, simply making the decision to post Ramona Tyson as interim super instead of hiring an outside interim under a short contract, our Board inflated Tyson’s salary – along with her pension, as pensions are determined by your highest two years in service. Tyson stands to profit a million or more for her 18 months as Super through her increased salary as well as the huge bump in her pension long-term. See why we’re broke? Our Board makes decisions like this all the time.

  20. hopespringseternal says:

    He may not know, but by now he knows where to get the people who do know. And this will be the art of budgeting this season. If he can both fulfill short-terms goals and at least lay the groundwork for longer-term goals, he’ll call on people who can point him in the direction of a curriculm designer with strategic experience. That may force him to slough off some dead wood to recruit such an individual (Athletics and salary caps?). And he can justify it in the name of both today and tomorrow goals. And, his board can hop on it in the name of long-range planning and leaving a “corrective” legacy. If we’re ground up, then let’s be ground up and do it right. The same outfit which performed a “Curriculum Audit” several years ago may be just the place to start. Or not. That’s what education professionals and associations are for. I’m just a mom with a — rising senior in a Title I school who, were it not for his upbringing in my home, would be seriously deficient academically. And a calculator. And common sense. And….. whatever.

  21. DCSD FOR DUMMIES says:

    I hand sat and read your posts and I have listened to Ekleberg(spelling) and Thurmond. I must say that I like what Thurmond has been saying. I certainly would not like for him to fire everyone because it’s stated on a blog. As a leader, he needs to evaluate the situation for himself, and then make adjustments.

    The suggestion of the blank organizational chart is also a wonderful idea. Once Mr. Thurmond completes the chart, he can place competent people there; maybe the others will retire or go back into the classroom. We all know that CLEW created redundant positions with different job titles.

    I do believe Nancy Jester was ONE of the whistleblowers, but I do not believe that she was the sole one. People have been contacting SACS for years. Numerous employees had to do it it anonymously. I do not think that all stakeholders should be discredited because one posted it on a website. Further, I never saw Nancy supporting any events in the South, or did I see Eugene Walker and the crew support any events in the North.

    I really do feel that Ramona Tyson was placed in a terrible situation. She was interim superintendent, but she could not make moves without the board’s approval. To add to that, she was never qualified for the job
    The previous board wanted a BLACK PERSON who they could control. CLEW would still be the SUPER if they had their way. This group of people My spirit wouldn’t allow me to do some of the things that leaders in this district have done for the sake of a job or a position. If a leader does not conform to suggestions, the they will be PROFESSIONALLY RUINED in this district. Jesus could’ve descended from heaven to be the SUPER, and even he would have been able to do anything with the previous board.

    I do like the nepotism policy although many of you don’t think that it will work. Thurmond could have just done what the previous SUPERS did about nepotism….nothing, so give the man some credit. This man has even taken the approach to involve all stakeholders in the educational process. Isn’t that what we have been wanting for years.

    There are some in this county who believe that the SUPER would be better if he/she were white or black. I am sick of hearing it from both ends. Thurmond is who we have now, so lets give this man a chance because he’s surely a step in the right direction from the last 3 SUPERS that we have had.

    As far ad SACS is concerned, Eckleberg could have just continued to do nothing. Many stakeholders contributed to helping bring down Lewis and Gene and the crew. Further, I applaud the blogs who have tried to keep us informed about the state of the district.

    Lastly, there are many uninformed voters in the county. We need to work together to inform them of the ills of the district so that we will have fewer Eugene Walkers and more Pam Speaks and Nancy Jesters, but we can’t do it with the approach that some on North and South Dekalb have been doing. Gonna hit post…sorry for any typos.

  22. dekalbite2 says:


    The 150+ highly paid non teaching Coaches are missing. Also missing are the Parental Involvement personnel. These personnel were assigned to various schools’ budgets so the DeKalb administration doesn’t have to count them in the Central Office numbers. That’s the way Atkinson reduced the number of personnel that were classified as Central Office – by moving them into the school’s books. That seems like a shell game to me. Thurmond and the BOE just need to bite the bullet, fund the classrooms and see what he has left over for admin and support. Literally, hundreds of certified personnel are not teaching. Move them back into the classroom at classroom level salaries and lower those class sizes for students. Elgart has told them what they need to do, but they really don’t want to do this and will fight hard to ensure it doesn’t happen. Yet student improvement will not increase unless Thurmond and the BOE make these hard decisions. Student achievement is squarely on Thurmond’s and the new BOE’s shoulders. It is totally up to them and they need to understand this. And DSW is right – DCSS Assistant Principals have a higher pay scale than Gwinnett while teachers have a lower pay scale.

  23. @ DCSD for Dummies

    People may have been contacting SACS for years, but apparently they were writing anonymously and not sending any documentation to support their concerns and claims. None of the people who wrote to AdvancED/SACS have shared with DSW what they sent to SACS. And we are a whole lot more reliable and trustworthy than SACS in terms of keeping identities confidential. We are volunteers while SACS makes quite a lot of money (hundreds of thousands of $$$) off DCSS every year. What do you think AdvancED/SACs is going to say — where do you think AdvancED/SACS’ loyalties lay — if DCSS asks them to provide names of the “tattlers”?

    All DSW asks of people who want to let us know about wrongdoing is tell us what to ask for and where to look. We will take it from there with Open Records Requests and other investigative means. That enables us to “find” the information ourselves. Anyone who has told us what to ask for and where to look is completely out of the loop. We never have to reference that person because we have “found” the information ourselves. We do not and will not “name names” of those who direct us where to look.

    As far as Nancy Jester not supporting any events in South DeKalb, we were pretty sure she did. So we contacted her and asked. Nancy’s response: “I remember doing several debates/candidate forums in South DeKalb during the campaign. They were sponsored by EduKalb and various groups. I was the only candidate from District 1 to attend those. I did the MLK Parade in South DeKalb in 2011. I was the only ‘North’ DeKalb rep to do that. I follow the South DeKalb Parent Council but I don’t think I was ever able to make a meeting.”

    We agree that there are many uninformed voters in DeKalb County. Shocking, isn’t it? Especially when it is a matter of reading DeKalb School Watch blog or looking at the AJC. We try very hard to insist on documentation from those who post comments on or write for DSW.

    We have a question for you: Who is Eckleberg or Ekleberg? Do you mean Elgart?

  24. There is a big luncheon meeting happening Tuesday at the Ravinia re: SPLOST construction trends.

    Educators, Building Experts Discuss Trends in School Facilities at Tuesday Luncheon

    Facilities and planning experts within the Georgia Department of Education will take part in a luncheon discussion, Tuesday, on K-12 facility trends and the outlook since a 2011 SPLOST vote.

    The luncheon will be held from 11:30 a.m-1:30 p.m., at the Crowne Plaza Ravinia. The event is presented by the Society for Marketing Professional Services. Admission is $45-$75.

    The program will highlight three of the state’s largest school systems and discuss how they plan to utilize the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds for their facility needs.

    Panelists include: Mike Wilbourne, director of capital improvements for Fulton County Schools; Mike Rowland, facilities services director for Georgia DOE; Tim Fisher, manager of facility planning with Gwinnett County Schools; and Glen Brown, acting executive director for SPLOST at Cobb County Schools.

    Conspicuously missing from the list of attendees: ANYONE from DeKalb

  25. howdy1942 says:

    The Dekalb County School System Board and administration have lost a lot of credibility over the past 10 years and especially in the last four. There have just been too many bad decisions, too many superintendents, too little confidence by the parents and taxpayers, too many legal issues, a lot of Heery, too many criminal indictments, too much negative publicity, too much bad performance at the top such as poor responses to and poor communications with SACS, a State Board hearing, and a District on probation. I don’t blame this group for not including Dekalb. A lot needs to change before any credibility can be re-established.

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