Recap of the March 27 “Eggs & Issues” with Thurmond and Leadership DeKalb

EGGS-ISSUES-dekalb-school-watch-twoMichael Thurmond has been meeting groups all around the county – talking about his perspective of DeKalb schools and his ideology for moving forward. One in particular was with the group, “Leadership DeKalb” in a Q&A forum hosted by Denis O’Hayer on March 27, 2013.

Click here to view the video.
Click here to read our transcription of the event.

The statement below in particular reveals a lot about Thurmond’s perspective on life. He grew up poor – the son of Georgia sharecroppers and attended a segregated high school. He talked about hundreds of years of segregation. He talked about his own segregated class reunions. He talked about the race issues in DeKalb today and the north/south divide.

Michael Thurmond [29:14]
And it’s not just Dunwoody [considering breaking off as a charter or city district]. See, I was talking to Dr Howe who is over instruction. We look at Dunwoody and we might criticize them, but if you really think about it. Majority to minority, is a system to move what exceptional bright kids from a large population of kids that may not be as equally as bright to a more segregated location. Right? That’s what that is. If you really look at it. Theme schools as well as charter schools as well as private schools and all of those are ways in which we are trying to deal with a problem. What I’m saying, what we have to do know is, of course, continue to support our gifted kids. But, at some point, we got to deal with the problem of people, young people, students, who come from high poverty background. Right? Who may not live in our neighborhood, who may not attend my school, or may not even live inside my district and recognize what we have … and it’s OK to be self interested. This is what I say to parents a lot on that issue. You must be self-interested about your children. You don’t have to apologize because you’re self interested in ensuring your child gets a good education. Should you … no. Not to me, not anyone. But leaders, this is what we talk about in Leadership DeKalb. You must develop what I call enlightened self-interest. Because enlightened self-interest will help you understand why it’s important for you to be involved in helping other people’s children get a quality education. Let me tell you why, and I love to do this. How many of you all were born, raised and graduated from a high school in DeKalb county? Raise your hand. Always less than 5%. That meant that the rest of us were educated somewhere else, right? And it was paid for by taxes from other people. You can’t raise my daughter and your daughter and your children in an enclosed, insulated bubble. I want my daughter to come of age in a world where there are opportunities, not just for her, but also for her friends and colleagues. Don’t you? The challenge in DeKalb, and we can do this, all we got to do. Let me tell you what we need to do to ensure that, not only do we respond to SACS, but that we create an elite school system. All we have to do is develop the talent to understand the power of enlightened self-interest. Be self-interested about your child. But then, and particularly as leaders develop the ability to be legitimately concerned about the education of other people’s children. Let me tell you why. God forbid I get sick one day and have to spend the night at DeKalb Regional or any hospital. But if I do, I want my nurse that comes around to know how to read and write who be scribblin’ the medicine. Right? That’s why it’s important. If you’re a business owner, we got business people here. Think about your work force. You want to be profitable 5, 10, 15, 20 years from now. Your future work force is sitting in a classroom somewhere in DeKalb county. You want to sell your widgets and your products and you need people who have the resources and can purchase them. Your future consumers are sitting in a classroom somewhere in DeKalb county right now.

We hope that Mr. Thurmond will take the time to read our post about theme, charter and magnet ’boutique’ schools in DeKalb. He seems to insinuate that Dunwoody is somehow acting ‘segregated’ by hosting  a few such schools, however, a bulk of these specialty schools are actually located in the south end of the county and are attended by the children of elite blacks in that area. You see, segregation may have been black and white at one point in Georgia, but at its core, segregation is about access and power, and it isn’t always white people doing the segregating. The school system is barely 10% white anymore – whites left this county system long ago. Now, we have an economic divide — and it’s elite blacks with power segregating from poorer blacks and Hispanics and immigrants. It’s all about power and money—not race anymore. Ironically, Thurmond neglects to mention that he is more elite than even those in south DeKalb who select charters, theme, magnet and other ’boutique’ public programs to ‘segregate’ their children from those of another class – he sent his own child to private school – and has admitted that the public schools in DeKalb were not good enough for her.

Mr. Thurmond, since you encourage enlightenment, we hope you will enlighten yourself by reading some of our ‘enlightening’ posts here and at the original DSW blog, beginning with, “North vs Central vs South – what’s the deal?”

Next, we hope Mr. Thurmond reads our group project, “Vision 2020”, which clearly shows that we all want the same thing for our children. We are tired of the race issue focusing the spotlight. It’s not about race anymore. It’s class, power and access. The children of DeKalb are not getting equal access to the available resources. The ‘leadership’ of DeKalb is ensuring that they themselves are first in line – be it with inflated salaries or jobs with responsibilities that do not directly include student achievement – or with special ’boutique’ schools that manage to segregate based on class, income and family and church networks.

We have moved beyond the race issue in DeKalb. Our schools are over 70% African-American, 11+% Hispanic, 10% White and a whole bunch of people from all around the globe. We have to find a way to properly educate them all – without excuses – in meaningful, results-oriented ways. It’s a big job – but Thurmond’s getting a big paycheck to do it. So far, several others before him have utterly, completely failed.  We pray he finds a way to make those tough decisions and right this ship – for every child in DeKalb.

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44 Responses to Recap of the March 27 “Eggs & Issues” with Thurmond and Leadership DeKalb

  1. Barbara says:

    It’s the same old same old….RACE is all he sees! ALL the children’s education is our goal. Why can’t he see that? Stay on task, budget problems solved, more teachers, and quality education for all students. Until the “me” is out of the conversation things won’t get better!

  2. “Whites left this county system long ago.” DSW, I am respectfully taking issue with what your statement implies… that there were white families who “long ago” took their children and moved away from DeKalb opening up these seats that you are saying are now filled with a variety of other colors. Maybe that is true, but it is not an event of the distant past. And many have not actually left the county, they are doing the best they can given the circumstances they and their children are presented with. These exiting families and children come in all colors, too, just like the makeup of the ones who have stayed and are fighting for control of what they have or struggling to supplement their child’s education with whatever it takes to make up for what they are missing. But, to say that “they” all left implies that Dunwoody believes that “they” are the only ones left (white, smart, unhappy with the schools). Not true. Many, many, many families are nervously, anxiously waiting on the sidelines of this disaster, counting pennies and dimes, working two or three jobs, borrowing money from grandparents, cashing in 401Ks… doing what they have to do to just get through this year in a decent private school and then the next year and then the next.

    We know you know this. It was just the semantics we want to clarify as we are in that situation right now and it sucks. No school to go back to because it is changing to something that does not represent the neighborhood. No school to move “up” to because those are all filled. The middle class is suffering here, maybe even more than the Title I kids because they do have money coming in from the government. But those of us who are in the middle have been completely disregarded by both sides of most debates. If our community is not white or black, not north or south, not east or west, not charter or STEM, no rich or poor… where will we end up? We can’t afford to “buy” our way into this game with legislators and friends in high places. We don’t qualify for free/reduced lunch, nor would we want to. We’re self-reliant to an extent, but if we have more than one child, it’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet. Dunwoody has money and they are definitely doing the right thing. But, perhaps I’m asking for some dialogue from the group on this subject because I really do not know the answer… there are a lot of us out here feeling left out because we do not know what is going on. We aren’t part of the councils or the PTAs. Most of us left pretty pissed off. But, we helped get the process at least to the point it is now. We are active, involved, loving parents but we don’t have a big company backing us in a charter cluster writing project.

    You know that AJC article about the upside down mortgages? It said that the 50% of upside downs in DeKalb are making it rough on the county to fully start to recover economically because no one can really predict what these underwater folks will do. Will they stay? Downsize or simply choose to take the hit to their credit and walk away, leaving more abandoned houses and making the choice to rent for a while, but it won’t be here in DeKalb. I am guessing that if there is no room at the table where we can fit our children in and have it make sense… a lot of those underwater middle class folks will leave DeKalb, as you sort of suggested they already had.

    We’re still here. We’re still upset. We just don’t know what the hell is going on and nothing, I mean nothing, that anyone is saying at the board meeetings, in all these interviews… nothing sounds like the leadership has a clue about the unrest that still exists. Even SACS appears calm like we’re on the verge of recovery from all this. If you end up with a lot of empty homes and a lot of kids who don’t live here (the really rough kids that have been causing concerns about crime and saftey and guns at schools) … it’s very likely that the abandoned homes would turn to Sec. 8 and those families really WILL move into the neighborhoods where they are going to school now.

    We can’t possibly still have 99,000 …. I just don’t buy it. And I haven’t met any families in South DeKalb who are raising their children to run with gangs… I’m not saying it doesn’t happen… but this is truly not a north / south. This is something that we will only figure out if we all stick together to find the answers. By breaking away, we lose the great collaboration we have all had together. And then for a lot of children, it will be another decade of the same ol’ same ol’. I don’t want to stick around for that. This decade was hard enough!

    Thanks for letting me vent. Some may say it’s a rant. But, I’m too tired and accustomed to all this to really be that mad any more.

  3. Not only is he snapping the race card down on the table, he is certainly not very eloquent in expressing himself. Disjointed commentary from our much ballyhooed Interim Superintendent is not very heartening for we left in the trenches. It’s not about race or the haves and have nots, it’s about educating our children so they can grow to be productive citizens.

  4. psdad says:

    @ Thurmond
    Lets ignore the fact that he dances all around the issue of race and money, but never articulates what he is going to do to fix this broken school system. It’s this observation…”How many of you all were born, raised and graduated from a high school in DeKalb county? Raise your hand. Always less than 5%. That meant that the rest of us were educated somewhere else, right? And it was paid for by taxes from other people.” That silly statement get’s my attention.

    NO MR. THURMOND! MY EDUCATION WASN’T PAID FOR BY TAXES FROM “OTHER” PEOPLE! My family paid taxes to support my public education in New Jersey… and I pay taxes to support my children’s education here in DeKalb County. I will continue to pay taxes to support my local school system regardless of where I live, but how can Mr. Thurmond honestly believe that people & communities are trying to escape DCSS simply for financial reasons? How can this man give speeches that completely ignore that our school system has failed all of our children regardless of their race, income, neighborhood, or social standing.

    Unfortunately, Mr. Thurmond is shaping-up to be exactly what I feared. He gives a speech on how someone else paid for our education so we should just be content to offer up our children as prisoners of this failed institution. I guess In Thurmond’s eyes the failure isn’t so much about the poorly run school system as it is about race. What a disappointment.

  5. No Cell. White people left this school system in droves many years ago – mostly in the 80s and 90s. Yes, there are still white people in DeKalb (about 30%), but they are retired, childless or just aren’t sending children to public school as the school system is only 11% white. According to the Census:

    3 Largest DeKalb County Race / Ethnic Groups

    The DeKalb County Black population is 370,963 persons or 53.6%.
    The DeKalb County White population is 203,395 persons or 29.4%.
    The DeKalb County Hispanic population is 67,824 persons or 9.8%.

    Please download the chart from our files that shows the student population by race over the years since 1969.
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/ajc-race-enrollment-historical.pdf

    These are the demographics from 1970:
    10/26/70
    85,588 total
    79,695 (93.11%) white
    5,682 (6.64%) black

    Vs the last year of the report, 2008:

    9/16/2008
    99,778 total
    73,281 (73.44%) black
    10,465 (10.49%) white
    9422 (9.44%) Hispanic
    3,817 (3.83%) Asian
    2,793 (2.80%) Other

    So, we went from almost 80,000 white students 40 years ago to just over 10,000 in 2008.
    Black students increased from under 6,000 to over 70,000.
    Other ethnic groups also started to move here.
    And the total number of students systemwide went up by about 15,000.

    After a high of 77% black in 2003, below are the stats for 2010-2011 according to the GA DOE:

    Enrollment: 95,481

    Black: 71%
    Hispanic: 12%
    White: 11%
    Asian: 5%
    Other: 2%

    (Just on a personal note, since you like anecdotes, when we moved to DeKalb to send our children to school here, the white students made up about 30% of the total, by the time my children graduated, that number was down to 10%. Thurmond needs to ‘get’ that. He continues to feed the north/south, black/white divide and that’s completely unwarranted.)

  6. TracyW says:

    “who be scribblin’ the medicine” SERIOUSLY, Thurmond??? Seriously??? Why do you feel it necessary to speak like a sharecropper who never made it past seventh grade? Shame on you to speak like that, shame on you! You are head of a majority black school system and you come in here talking like some ignorant field hand? SHAME on you!!!!

    I went to DeKalb schools, and my children went to DeKalb schools. They attended the magnet program at Brown’s Mill and Miller Grove with the “elite black” children, and the poor black children, and the poor white children, and the middle class kids, and the oriental kids, and the hispanic kids, and you know what? They never cared who these kids were, what their religion was, what their parents did for a living, what the sexual orientation of the parents was – none of that. None of the kids cared, either. They just wanted to go to school and be challenged and to interact with kids of similar intelligence. And all of the parents of the kids in these programs are the involved parents, those who care about their kids and every other child in the school as well.

    You talk all you want about supporting the poor side of town, but it’s about supporting the kids. They have been cheated by holding all of them back so that the slowest can catch up. That’s when DCSS started to fall apart – when the courses were all moved to the lower middle portion of the achievment scale so that “no child is left behind”. Instead, we are going to hold back the best and the brightest, and make them stay with the pack.

    Let the eagles soar. Find a way to separate those children who need the extra attention and extra tutoring and help them, but quit dragging the rest of them down to the bottom.

  7. TracyW says:

    Cell, if you have kids in a DeKalb school, there is no excuse for you not being active in the school or the PTA. (Unless it’s middle school – they say they don’t need parents) You don’t have to be on the board of the PTA to go to the meetings or to volunteer at the school. There is something you can do. Help chaperone homecoming or prom or other activities.

    As for the “underwater mortgages” – the county screwed this up starting in the 90’s when they did not keep an eye on some of the neighborhoods where newly built 100,000 homes were “flipped” up to 300,000 in four or five years. The banks kept lending, and the county appraisers kept raising the valuations. I know – I was one of the homeowners whose house was raised from 120K to 300K in the mid-90’s and I fought that tooth & nail to get it reduced. I sold that house for 159K in 2003, and it is now valued at 36K. You cannot build a house for 36K. This is a ridiculous overreaction in the opposite direction. It’s a 3200 sq ft house in good condition on a half acre+ in a quiet neighborhood. Good grief! The homeowners can’t sell because even if they find someone willing to pay them what they still owe, the banks won’t loan more than the assessed value. It’s a wonder there is not a rash of arson!

    The housing situation is not going to even out until the tax valuations come back to the cost to replace the houses. Can’t call racism here – it’s black majority running the place.

  8. September says:

    Perhaps it is time to have a discussion about the kind of education that will benefit all of the students in DeKalb. Yesterday, I stumbled on a research report that speaks to this issue. I found it to be very informative and many of the recommendations in this report could be replicated here in our district. This is not a quick fix, but from where I stand, purchasing the latest and greatest, new and expensive program to save our schools in ten days or less is a waste of money. We need to get to work on this problem. The report is called Profiles of Success: Eight Colorado Schools that are Closing the Achievement Gap.

    http://www.apaconsulting.net/uploads/reports/11.pdf

    When I read this report, I was struck by several things. There are many ways to help poor and minority students to achieve in school. School leadership, teacher and parent involvement are key to student success. Instructional decision making is all about data. And there’s one more thing. We talk a lot about the lingering effects of segregation in this area and these problems are very real. However, this report points out that economic segregation can be very damaging, too.

  9. hopespringseternal says:

    @TracyW: Cell doesn’t need my defense so I’m not offering it — only my own (multifaceted) experience. It is quite possible that a community member can be shut out of a school’s goings-on. And it is quite possible that a host of factors contribute to that shut-out. I am ashamed to report that I was invited to another school’s career day, but knew nothing of my own. When some of these so-called principals decide that they will run their schools with an iron fist, and when that leadership method is supported by the CO, that’s a city hall which is hard to fight. Conversely, I’ve been disappointed with our own lack of fortitude in standing up to call this behavior out. And, please remember that not every community is the same. A recent traumatic incident in our school community should have prompted a great deal of outpouring, but that didn’t happen because when law enforcement, gang violence and the like emerge, that’s an entirely different conversation. The things we would normally think of doing for outreach suddenly become a bad idea because it becomes a safety issue. Just this morning I pulled a CrimeMapper page on the web for my own area — and it only reaffirms my opinion that while I see change on the horizon, it won’t be tomorrow and it won’t come until a couple of specific corridors lose the OK Corral label. This may not be (nor should it be!) the case in other areas. So to say that “there’s no excuse for…[insert circumstance here]” is disingenuous.

    My 82 year old father told me last year about an experience when he visited my high school (which he visited promptly three times a year to tell the poor counselor what I would take, since they were told to place me in “regular” classes — and he would have none of it). He walked in to an assistant principal’s office. That administrator wasn’t expecting him and was on the phone with his foot propped on the desk. He looked at my father and with an air of disdain wanted to know how he could help him. My dad said that it was a pivotal moment for him when he realized that this administrator actually thought that it was his school, and that my father was interrupting him. Dad promptly replied “You can start by taking your foot off MY desk”. We need to understand that these are our desks, our books, our toilet paper they won’t put in the bathrooms, our culinary programs, our copy machines, our cars, our course offerings, our …. EVERYTHING. And these are our children. Let’s not get into a situation where in the course of sorting this out we start eating our young. The school communities are varied, but we all want the same thing.

    I think.

  10. TracyW says:

    I was not trying to put Cell down, just saying get in there and make yourself known. Sorry if it came across that way! I was never part of the “clique” that ran the PTA but I made damn sure I was one of the worker bees for everything that went on at all of the schools my kids attended, from one end of the county to the other. There was a hard core bunch of workers who would snicker at the “leaders” behind their back but we all pitched in.

    The middle schools are the pits. They told me at Miller Grove and they told me at Chamblee and they told my buddy over at Henderson “We don’t need you anymore. The kids are almost grown”, but gee golly, they hit high school and we were welcomed!

    Find out when the PTA meetings are. Usually on Tuesday nights, I think. Go, see what is happening. They can’t shut you out. Help out with fundraisers. Go visit your kids’ teachers and ask if they need anything like supplies, and see about getting other parents to donate some. Send the teachers some lunch. (I’d say send them a stiff drink but save that for summer LOL).

    I have no respect for principals who don’t want parent participation. I’m pretty damn opinionated and I find it easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

  11. Thank you for the feedback. I love learning more about what others have experienced because it helps give perspective on how we all got to this point. And, yes, we do all want the same thing and it shouldn’t be this complicated… a quality, basic education in a safe environment that nurtures children and helps them grow into responsible adults prepared to become productive members of society.

    I do apologize about the white flight ignorance and appreciate the statistics. Wow! I thought you were referring to the recent demographic shifts as that has been the topic around Tucker and Lakeside these days… “Where are these kids coming from?” “Why are they taking the Marta so early in the morning?” “Does anyone know them?” “Where are they walking to in the middle of the day?” “Does anyone care that they are skipping school?” Or “If Tucker didn’t have so many of their kids here then we wouldn’t be so overcrowded” etc.

    Tracy and hopesprings: Thank you both for your insights. I guess I didn’t explain myself correctly. I was a very active parent, on the PTA, school council, contributed supplies, gift cards, worked on field day, volunteered at Fall Festival, helped clean up the grounds, collected box tops, sold wrapping paper, all of that. I even volunteered in the classroom twice a week and loved it. I washed mat sheets at least every other week and folded them AND returned them already sorted in numerical order! (I’m a little OCD, but who’s complaining, right? ha ha!)

    But, that isn’t what they wanted. That type of “rah rah” attitude was naive (first child, pre-K, didn’t know anything about the school issues at all going into it) and actually made people suspicious of us. What did I want? What was I expecting? Who did I think I was? I probably wanted special treatment or attention. I probably would complain if my child was picked on. I probably thought my child was too good to ask for free lunch. I’m probably judging them. When, we all know what theat really means, it wasn’t about me, it was how they felt about themselves. There are some schools that are treated poorly, or giving special opportunities to ditch the school and find a better one and don’t look back. That’s hard to do when you child has friends and they all live in the same neighborhood. But, if you are a Title I school, you have to keep your stats in line to keep that funding, I guess. We didn’t fit the mold of a Title I family, so our neighborhood school had been “re-purposed” without anyone knowing it. And we didn’t fit the mold.

    And of course I wanted her to be treated well and didn’t want anyone picking on her, but I also love children and wouldn’t want any of them to be treated poorly or to be picked on. That’s not me. I have always loved kids and I really just enjoyed being able to help out. I thought I was doing a good thing, but it never felt right. Teachers can’t look you in the eye at our (former) school. It was sad and depressing. So, when I said we were ‘shut out,’ I meant that now that we are in a private school, but still very interested in going back to public when we feel it is “safe” to do so, we don’t know who is doing what because it is all still rumor and conjecture.

    I would love to be talking with other Tucker parents about how we could be starting an excellent charter cluster for our kids, but unfortunately the other parents have already been in talks with Lakeside. So, we’ll just have to sit on the sidelines and hope that the people who are running the schools don’t forget that they are SUPPOSED to be offering a public school education to all the children in the county who would like one. Just because a lot of us left the schools does not mean Thurmond can just write us off as if we no longer exist. If the boutiques still serve their populations and all these new cities are approved to service their children through city schools or charter schools, what happens to the rest of us?

    I may not have the money and power of Marshall Orson and Fernbank. I may not even be accepted by the very community I initially set out to help here in Tucker. But, I still pay property taxes. And I love my child. And I want her to have all the advantages in life she deserves through education and friendship. I wish it didn’t feel like we have to give up something when our kids all deserve to have what we had. God knows we are paying for it. It should not be this hard and I truly do not know if the 99K can still be correct…. are we paying to eduate Fulton’s worst and Gwinett’s worst and DeKalb’s best and ignore our middle class?

  12. plusone says:

    @hopespring….you are so right….these are not. Only our children. AIC is ours,those new ford focuses are ours, new technology, its all ours but. We have to let them know that we know its all ours. DCCS is run by bulliies, no secret there. I am so tired of seeing Thurmond sitting in that chair on that stage….DOOOOOOOO Something besides sharing stories.

  13. hopespringseternal says:

    @TracyW: I don’t need to find out when the PTA meetings are, since I participated in setting the schedule, as I am a PTA board member. And yes, the shut-out is just that deep. Get it now? I’ve learned to make NO assumptions about what parents should do. None. We support our teachers with the resources we have, we show up just to say thank you, and we appreciate everyone who works in that building. Now, I’m sure you’ll be full of suggestions about what we should do — and you’ll be spot-on with most of them. But before you get started, know you’ll be singing to the choir — but by definition, a choir is made up of more than one person. Otherwise I’d be a soloist. Another thing I’ve learned — soloists never succeed. They need the choir. I’m working on the choir, don’t you worry. I’ve had YEARS of the finer nuances of dealing with this system. I’m well aware of the navigation.

  14. circa1980 says:

    I can’t bring myself to watch the video. Did this man say “we be scribblin?!” A school superintendent with a law degree? Please tell me something got lost in the transcription.

    I moved to DeKalb County in the early 90s as a 7th grader. At that time, I am guessing white students were around 30-40% of the population. I, a skinny black girl from Long Island, tried to make friends. The black kids teased me and called me an Oreo because I had white friends. My new white friends never mentioned race-they treated me just like the kids in NY and teased me for being skinny. I guess my point is race will always be a factor if kids don’t learn otherwise from their parents. By the time I graduated high school, my junior high white friends had moved away and I only knew one white person in high school. Guess what they called him? White Mike.

  15. @circa – interesting. An aside: the black members of the former board called Nancy Jester “Snow White”. Which, to be honest, there is a resemblance.

  16. Chamblee Middle School! I have volunteered over 75 hours at CMS this year. My wife is on the school council. It is such a rewarding experience. Not one teacher or administrator has ever told us they do not need any assistance. EVER! The principle at CMS would gladly accept any volunteers and is grateful for community involvement, because that is the foundation for a strong school.

  17. We never had PTA meetings, that I know of, on a regular basis like that. Our school would just invite all the parents, whether you had a membership or not, which is fine with me, but then we would just sit in the cafeteria and watch the kids do some kind of performance or maybe go tour their classroom but there was zero discussion that I am aware of that took place about the actual issues and what we might do to help.

    Okay, no more of this poor me stuff, It’s the dawn of a brand new day, right??

  18. disgusted teacher says:

    “Who be scribblin'”…. Really? I was shaking my head in disgust today while forced to give a second grade math test (SLO) that had both grammatical and content errors. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since our interim superintendent does not have command of the English language. I was already aware that so many making inflated salaries at the palace have this same problem. How can hold the students to high standards when those making the decisions cannot write and speak as educated individuals? The current board needs to hire a qualified superintendent as soon as possible. The students and teachers are counting on you. This madness needs to stop!

  19. John Dewey III says:

    The new leadership can start with a 190 days (paid) calendar with Step Raises and Annuity Funding. Everything else is secondary to DeKalb students’ success and DeKalb teacher morale. As Deep Throat said “Follow the Money”…………..

  20. Marney Mayo says:

    I want to have a good cry. I believe I understand Michael Thurmond’s point about it needing to be about all the kids. I have tried to live that for all the kids of Dekalb for the last 10 years. You see we might have been one of those white middle class families that left as soon as our kids hit school age, but my husband and I decided that rather than me return to work in order to move or afford private school, I would put my time and energies toward helping in the public school. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do anything meaningful at the local school when my daughter was in pre-k there. Still believing, I put energies toward getting the International Community School up and running. It comes as near as anything in this district to being a place where all are wanted and all are welcome. http://littlebillclinton.csmonitor.com/littlebillclinton/ Spent nearly 10 years at that, dealing over and over again with the problems that come with being the nail that sticks up. Of trying to optimize decisions that were beyond my control. Decisions I could see didn’t meet the test of being best for all the kids (or even any of them.)

    Having sat and watched for so long, I have watched many bodies buried. As Mark Elgart said—every time there was a change on the board or superintendent there was hope of change and therefore delay of intervention on their part.

    I want to cry because I’ve just found out that two recent decisions on the program that my kids are presently in have been made—both of them less that optimum for the entirety of the population of kids in DeKalb, in my opinion. At this point my elder child will be out of the system and my younger one will be a senior before they hit. Should I just quietly coast to the end for my family and thank God that both ICS and the program that they are presently in if filled with good people working hard on their behalf?

  21. concerned citizen says:

    I don’t see any of us liking the way Thurmond shows his disrespect for all of us! He has got to go. But, I fear he plans to stay a long time! He is not listening and is not smart enough to understand what is needed. Really, unfortunately, he’s merely an “uncle Tom.” I don’t want to hear his home-spun stories. Who cares? We all have stories. We must insist on beginning hiring a strong and literate supt. Isn’t it embarrassing to hear him speak – the bad grammar, the disconnected thinking, the white/black race card – after all this time!

  22. I’m worried that Thurmond is just a figurehead, and the same old thugs are running the show. Probably Tyson and March.

    And it’s ridiculous that Robert James brags on how quickly and efficiently he and DCSD investigated the alleged cheaters and filed charges, while he still hasn’t grown the cojones to actually try Crawford Lewis. I see deflection of public scrutiny and the selective prosecution of three scapegoats.

    And one other thing, why isn’t potential cheating on the Georgia High School Graduation Test ever investigated? Just askin’.

  23. Refugee from DCSS says:

    It’s important that Thurmond spoke to two different audiences in two different ways. In Dunwoody, he was very careful to avoid the race card or the mention of race at any cost. But in this meeting, it’s all about segregation and “who be scriblin'”. Thurmond is a master at tailoring his message to what he thinks the audience wants to hear. So he believes, in his heart of hearts that DeKalb is already completely separated into different groups and can’t be spoken to the same way. They will never work together. All of this “one DeKalb” school system and “all the children” is pure baloney.

    @concerned: In Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom believed so much in freedom and dignity for all that he was willing to sacrifice his own dignity and even his life so others could have even a small chance of living the dream of freedom.

    Michael Thurmond is definitely NOT an Uncle Tom. Neither is any other so-called “leader” in DeKalb County.

  24. From the GPB blog:

    The Dekalb County School System, which employs 3,600 teachers, is looking to hire new educators for the 2013-14 school year.

    The teacher career forum [was] held [March 27] from 4 to 5 p.m. at school headquarters at 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard in Stone Mountain.

    Anyone interested in a career with the Dekalb County School System should click HERE:
    http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/human-resources/employment-opportunities

    +++

    REALLY? Only 3,600 teachers these days? Have never heard a number that low!! Wonder if it’s true?!! Anyone know exactly how many teachers we have left?

  25. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Marney Mayo, Care to enlighten us on these decisions you spoke of that will change programs?

  26. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Read the transcript. He didn’t really answer the students question on what students will see differently. Is the budget out?

  27. Concernedmom30329 says:

    Budget isn’t out and probably won’t be for another few weeks. At Emory LaVista, he said deficit of 16 million, but when I watched the Board budget meeting earlier this week, I sure thought the deficit was more like 20 million.

    I hope he can find 20 million to cut that isn’t school based.

  28. Marney Mayo says:

    @bettyandveronical1
    Nothing really new or hidden. The decisions were already made and publicly presented for vision2020 and splost4 at the power point level without any discussion with the affected folks…they are just moving toward implementation. And we are going to once again do the best we can with what was decided “for us”.

  29. Good info out today on the district’s email newsletter — view it online here:
    http://system10.k12alerts.com/newsbulletins/campaign.asp?5cn4z=KJLI

    In particular – there are a couple of places for you to share your opinions —

    The DeKalb County Department of Transportation Wants to Hear from You

    We need your help in updating the DeKalb County Transportation Plan. Please join us at any one of four face-to-face meetings or participate in an interactive online meeting to learn more about the process and to share your ideas. Visit the project website for more information at http://www.dekalbtransportationplan2014.com

    It’s Budget Time

    DCSD wants to hear from you. Send your budget suggestions to budget-feedback@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

    Did You Know?

    DCSD is on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to follow us and stay up-to-date on the latest DCSD information!

    Keep Up With Status of SACS Accreditation

    DCSD has a website that provides updates on all aspects of the SACS Accreditation. Click below to stay up-to-date.

    http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/advanced-sacs-accreditation-review


    Have Good News?

    Email it to goodnews@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

  30. Lisa Lee says:

    I spent 6 wonderful years teaching at Chamblee Middle School, and the experience was made so much richer because of the parents who were there for ANYthing I needed. They were my rocks. Volunteering often looks different at a middle school, but is that a surprise? When kids reach that age don’t most things change? I know that principal Cindy Jackson would agree with me when I say that the success of CMS has a direct correlation with parental involvement. I now run a Gifted/Talented middle school program in CO, but am still in touch with a number of those parents who became such an integral part of my years at Chamblee. I wish all schools had the type of support that exists at Chamblee. Those families were integral to my years at the school, and they took it upon themselves to find ways to volunteer. Never underestimate the power of a group of committed, involved parents! I have such respect and appreciation for all of you who are fighting the good fight in DCSS.Lily Tomlin once said, “I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized that I was somebody.” Thanks, to all of you Somebody’s out there! Your kids need you, their teachers need you, and the school community needs you.

  31. Below is a link to the first hint at the coming budget. It’s a Powerpoint that was presented at the Called Meeting (Committee of the Whole) 4/16/2013 – 4:00 PM

    Download it here:
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/fy-2014-budget-development-presentation.ppt

    Interesting in congruent numbers:

    First, we’re told there are 12,417 employees (FT & PT) plus 1,311 substitutes for a total of 13,728 employees.

    Then, they break down the 12,417 as:
    General Fund 10,429
    Special Revenue 982
    SPLOST 11
    Food Service 995

    Total 12,417

    But then, they break the number down again by just General Fund:

    Location / Count

    School-Based / 8,587
    System Support / 1,220
    Central Office / 622

    Total 10,429

    Anyone know what’s covered under “Special Revenue”? That’s 982 employees. Is that Title 1? RTTT? If it is – then it seems we could distribute these people – at about 5 per school to dive in and help teachers with small group intense instruction!

    Additionally, there is this line item:

    Textbook Lease Payment: $1.4 Million

    ??? Weren’t we told that the lease had been completely paid back? Wasn’t that the whole bruhaha Katherine Howe testified about to the state board? The issue had come up in the KPMG transaction audit. Why is there another $1.4 million that now has to be paid in FY14?

    And – they’ve included $2.2 million for a new charter school (Globe) – but won’t there also be a savings because those children won’t be educated at their home schools? Did we figure out if this is a flat cost – or an increase in the cost that it would have been to educate these same students in their home schools. It seems to me that this is just a per pupil cost – that is being moved from a crowded class to a much less crowded class. Say, if we sprung for enough teachers to keep class sizes low enough to ensure a proper education at the home school…perhaps we could use that money to make sure EVERYONE gets a smaller class size! This is one of those vortexes! Increase class size >> people leave and start charters with extra small classes >> home school loses funding and reduces class size again >> people leave and start charters, etc…

    If anyone has clarity on these items, please share.

  32. Tentative Budget Development Process Calendar FY 2013-2014

    1.Budget Work Session w/BOE to present budget draft March 13, 2013
    2.Tentative Budget to BOE for adoption April 17, 2013
    3.Public Budget Meeting April 22, 2013
    4.Public Budget Meeting April 29, 2013

    5.BOE adopts final budget May 15, 2013
    6.BOE adopts tentative property tax millage rate May 15, 2013
    7.First Public Millage Hearing May 22, 2013
    8.Second Public Millage Hearing May 29, 2013
    9.Third Public Millage Hearing May 29, 2013
    10.BOE adopts final property tax millage June 12, 2013

    Download complete Thurmond’s Action Plan Summary here:
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/high-level-action-plan-summary-2013-1.pdf

  33. Download Mr Perrone’s Feb report (from the April 1 meeting) to find the legal fees to date:
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/vendor-spends-fy2013-feb.pdf
    (BTW, this is exactly the kind of report Dr. Walker asked Dr. Atkinson to produce and Mark Elgart admonished Walker for asking for too much information. She claimed it would take hundreds of staff hours to compile, when in reality, you can get this info with a click from the state’s website as DeKalb has to submit these outside vendor paid invoices to the state.)

    ALEXANDER & ASSOCIATES $1,228,075.66 paid [299,706.80 remaining on acct]
    BUCKLEY & KLEIN LLP $300,000.00
    DREW ECKL & FARNHAM LLP $136,560.14 paid [13,707.08 remaining on acct]
    ELARBEE THOMPSON & TRAPNELL $714,672.72
    FOLTZ MARTIN LLC $247,204.41
    GOODMAN MCGUFFEY LINDSEY & $139,657.70 paid [155.90 remaining on acct]
    JAMS INC $153,664.46
    KING & SPALDING $1,425,119.70
    METRO RESA $39,282.00
    SUTHERLAND ASBILL BRENNAN LLP $1,612,081.33 paid [714,256.07 remaining on acct]
    WILSON MORTON & DOWNS LLC $164,437.28
    ZIMRING LAW FIRM IN TRUST FOR $193,967.19 billed – $101,717.19 paid

    We have some interesting other contracted expenses:
    KPMG LLP $191,692.50 [43,307.50 remaining on acct]
    CHERYL L H ATKINSON $96,169.25 [of that, $91,666.64 was for legal services] We haven’t seen her ‘severance’ payment yet!
    SUCCESS FOR ALL FOUNDATION $525,168.94
    DICKERSON COMMUNICATIONS $120,000.00 [for PR beyond our paid staff]
    WALTER E WOODS $80,000.00 billed $39,999.99 paid [$40,000.01 on acct] [for PR beyond our paid staff]

  34. A million, six to Sutherland, Asbill and a million, four to King and Spalding!!!

    I’m stunned. Never seen it laid out like that.

    And why is there a “1” right next to Alexander and Associates? Does that mean it’s account number 1 or is it just a typo? And, jeez, all the 100 K plus accounts!

    The non-legal stuff makes me wanna lose my dinner. The “Success for All Foundation”? Does that Foundation help pay Atkinson’s new salary? All of these expenses require explanation, and if none comes, investigation.

  35. @dissonance: You won’t be happy. The ‘1’ was a typo. The chart doesn’t have $ so I inserted them – and I inserted it in the wrong place for Alexander… It should read that she’s been paid $1,228,075.66 and still has $299,706.80 left in her contract to be paid.

    So to add to your comment – ‘and a million two to Josie!’…

    And I’d like to point out that people are under the impression that we’re no longer paying K&S — that it’s all contingency. That’s not true. The billings below are something they call ‘complex’ or some such – and they consider it outside the scope of the contract, so they bill for it. Add to that – their ‘contingency’ contract (negotiated for us by Josie) gives them the ability to go back and bill for their time if they’re not happy with the outcome. Don’t think for a minute they aren’t keeping track of every hour! We will pay them now AND pay them later!

  36. DCSD FOR DUMMIES says:

    Thanks for the budget info. Does this budget look similar to the ones from previous years?

  37. Funny, DCSD, it actually does look quite similar to previous – even though we’ve been told over and over that they cut $90 million last year. They did cut around that amount a couple of years ago – to curb the out of control spending of Dr. Lewis – his budgets were many tens of millions higher than those previous. After he left, the budgets returned to the level they had been prior to his ‘leadership’. That said, we are always quite behind (a year or more) in the data we can retrieve, but we have cobbled together the following and more at this page in our archives (found in the Budgets & Audits page under the FILES tab at the top of the blog). https://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/dcss-files/budgets-and-audits/

    FY2010 (2009-2010 school year) [Lewis]
    15,615 employees (16,668 total, minus 1053 substitutes)
    proposed operating budget:
    actual operating budget: $836,598,734.20
    total budget for salaries: $672,341,959.87
    October FTE count: 98,115

    FY2011 (2010-2011 school year) [Tyson]
    14,962 employees (16,207 total, minus 1245 substitutes)
    proposed operating budget: $746.64 million
    actual operating budget: $807,823,774
    total budget for salaries: $645,373,862.33
    October FTE count: 97,313

    FY2012 (2011-2012 school year) [Tyson] Fortunately, the funds the District expected to lose in additional austerity reductions during the year were not lost. Additionally, while the District planned for a 7% decline in the local property tax digest for FY2011, the actual decline was 3½%. The result is that the District received substantially more revenue than originally planned in FY2011. The additional revenue will add approximately $40 million to the General Operations Fund Balance at the end of FY2011. It is the additional Fund Balance, not additional revenue that will allow the District to maintain the General Fund expenditures for the FY2012. With an anticipated decline in the local property tax digest of 14.2%, this additional Fund Balance has prevented the District from having to make further reductions to the FY2012 budget.
    000 employees (000 total, minus 00 substitutes)
    proposed operating budget: $774.60 million [represents a decrease of 0.01% over the current FY2011 budget for General Operations]
    actual operating budget: $000
    total budget for salaries: $000
    October FTE count: 98,910

    FY2013 (2012-2013 school year) [Atkinson] includes a millage rate increase of 1 mill
    from 22.98 to 23.98. [$93,366,460 in cuts approved by the Board ‘on paper’] (Originally the proposed budget had a shortfall of $85.0 million. Currently the proposed budget does not have an anticipated shortfall due to budget reductions totaling $44.2 million and an estimated increase in revenues from the additional 1 mill tax levy.
    • The approved budget adds two work reduction days to the current work calendar. The new work calendar of 6 days for 10 and 11 month employees, and 9 days for 12 month employees.
    • The FY2013 budget includes the reduction of 73 central office
    personnel for a savings of $5.1 M.)

    12,417 employees (13728 total, minus 1,311 substitutes)
    proposed operating budget: $728,217,430 million {Only $3,055,042 budgeted for legal}
    actual operating budget: $000

    ** If anyone can fill in the missing numbers, we’d appreciate it!

  38. info says:

    DSW,

    Where did you find the information about the public budget meetings?
    The April 16 meeting announcement was the most recent one I found on the board’s website.

    In looking at Perrone’s budget powerpoint, I noticed that our super gets almost a $1 million, our board needs $12 million, and legal gets more than $8 million-added up these expenses are a quarter of what we spend on curriculum and instruction (not necessarily teaching students, either).

    What in the world does the super, board, and legal do with more than $20 million?

    It’s sadly funny that Dekalb employs double the number of support staff at half the cost of the central office. Many of these support staffers can’t even afford health insurance.

    I hope that people go to the next two budget meetings to remind the super and the board that every budget decision must have a direct impact on students and improvement.

  39. @info: I got the budget meeting schedule from Thurmond’s “HIGH LEVEL ACTION PLAN SUMMARY – ADVANCED SACS REQUIRED ACTIONS”
    http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/advanced-sacs-accreditation-review/high-level-action-plan-summary-%282013%29.pdf

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