Did you miss the DCPC meeting? No worries – the Fact Checker has a report!

Thurmond-at-DCPCMichael Thurmond was the featured speaker at yesterday’s Dunwoody Chamblee Parent’s Council meeting and the DeKalb County Fact Checker was there to record the event!

Go to FactChecker.StanJester.com to watch the video and read the transcript. There were many issues discussed and the public in attendance asked some tough questions.  We learned several key points:

  • We have a $16 million deficit to address in the FY14 budget
  • Teacher furlough days will most likely not be reduced
  • A decision on whether to ask for a class size waiver again has not yet been made
  • Thurmond is intent on increasing parent involvement
  • He is setting up another 1-800 whistleblower-type hotline to report instances of nepotism (after informing us that former superintendent Robert Freeman said that he is to blame for the decades of nepotism – as he purposely hired family members when he was superintendent)
  • The budget will focus on reducing legal costs and pushing resources to the classroom
  • Thurmond and the Board are focused on creating several college- and work-ready pathways to graduation – a very good idea!

Many in attendance took issue with Thurmond’s statement that he cannot support an effort to seek dual accreditation from another agency besides SACS (in most cases Georgia Accrediting Agency) because it places too much emphasis on certain schools over others, causing division.

My focus is on gaining full accreditation for the entire district. It just is. That’s what I was hired to do. And that is my focus. And what I’ve said to Terry and I’ve said to others here, is that I will not support anything that undermines the value of that effort. Because, at the end of the day, we have 21 … we have schools all across the district that must be accredited. I understand, I get your concern. But, my concern is for 99,000 children.

And later –

I think the other issue, dual accreditation. It seems that you’ve associated dual means equal. But in this case it doesn’t. You’re not seeking equal accreditation. Because these two accrediting agencies are not equal. Dual suggests equal, but these two agencies are not equal. No one argued that. One accreditation primarily the state level and one at a national. And I think that the discussion needs to be clarified so that people will understand what one means opposed to the other. Now, I’m not opposed to having two. But one you’re required by law in the state of Georgia. You must be accredited. The other is an option. And we make those decisions all the time… Some things are necessities and some things are optional. In my world, you address the necessities first. And then you reach for the things that might be optional. You just prioritize in your life. You do it every day, with your children, in your home, in your lives. You have to have some things that are not optional. And, having a fully accredited school district is not an option. One of the the things I said to Terry, and I’ll share with you all. In fact, what I need is your help to win full accreditation that everyone must have including you. This high school. So, as we seek dual, while we’re working for the accreditation for this high school too, we need your help. That’s why we have the parent council meeting from district wide.

On the subject of parental involvement, when asked exactly how he planned to improve involvement around the county, Thurmond gave the following response:

First, it was incumbent upon me to reach out, as I reach out to you and reach out to parents across the district. To reach out to parents in Clarkston who may not speak English on a primary level, to encourage them to participate in the education of their children. And to let them know, that they will have a partner … the lady that spoke first said something that I’ve heard on more than one occasion. That in some schools, some areas, parents feel as if they are not welcome. And whether it’s real or perception, that when they reach at this level, it does not matter. If it’s real, then we can change it. If it’s a perception, we need to correct it. And, next we have to … we assume that all parents know why it’s important to come to a parent teacher conference, why it’s important to participate with the council. That’s an assumption that doesn’t necessarily bear reality. We must build capacity. See, there are parents not like you and I who don’t have the resources that you and I have been blessed with. Who really can’t take off Wednesday morning, and sit there [at a PTA meeting]. Just can’t. Or could and don’t know that they should. We can build that capacity, cause the one thing that compelled me, and I was talking to a parent, I said something think about. We know that because you live in a low income community doesn’t mean you don’t love your child. Does it matter what your income is when it comes to loving your child or your children. Somebody said, we love our children. Parents in other parts of the county love their children too. We can build capacity to help them be more supportive in those efforts. And we can have district personnel who appreciates the efforts, and you know it may not be, I could make the type of investments that you make, there are people that buy houses. There are folks have loans and resources to get contractors to come in and remodel and put it on the market and resell it, at least before the great recession. And there are others who use sweat equity and engage in the same process. You may not have the same bank account, but you can at least balance that through sweat equity in your child’s education. I know it works. I’ve seen it work. We have high performing schools all over. Some of them Title I, they perform well and one thing has become, very active, engaged parents. You’ll see more of it in the budget.

That’s a very nice sermon. No one would disagree. He is obviously good at using his undergraduate degree in religion and philosophy. But as with most of his answers, they are wordy, disconnected, streams of consciousness that have few details, few hard facts and little evidence that he has a full, strong grasp on the enormity of the project at hand. He’s a very nice person with a kind heart and good intentions, but we desperately need a qualified professional who can set a clear path and lead us to a place where education is Job 1 and the $1.2 Billion dollar budget follows, just as form follows function.

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About dekalbschoolwatch

Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
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26 Responses to Did you miss the DCPC meeting? No worries – the Fact Checker has a report!

  1. Tired Mom says:

    I may irritate some with this post…but I believe there are some teachers and administration in the Dunwoody area (picked on b/c it was DCPC) that would appreciate a little LESS parental involvement in the schools…

  2. Concerned Citizen says:

    I still see no action. Thurmod is simply not smart enough to understand and make changes. As for Dr. Freeman’s taking the blame,he should take a whole lot because he did whatever he wanted to; then, the Halfords were just as scheming and self-protective of their friends and family. But, after Halfrod left, the gates were opened wider than they could stretch and in came “the crowd.” With a venegance! Now, anybody even remotely connected with the supt were promoted. Affairs were no longer even attempted to be hidden.Blatant corruption was the order of the day,soriorities and fraternities grapped their nearest and dearest and promoted them.Thurmond’s remarks this time around are just as fluffy as DreamWhip. Nice, amiable, sweet people can very often be the least effective as a leader. A high order of intelligence is the #1 characteristic the supt must have. This supt simply is not and will never become smart, just more political. I want him to do what he said he would, besides keeping us accredited, and institute a search for a top of the line educator with major brains and academic distinction. Please, go, Thurmond; you are in for a lot of heartache that is unnecessary for you and your famiy. It’s no disgrace that you do not and never will have what it takes to be the supt of this very disjointed county. The teachers do not believe in you, at all. You have no dog in this fight, and you are certainy not going to win anything. Go, and take Ramona and the rest of the Palace with you. And please dont forget to take March, Howe, Smith,Beasley, and Ramsey.

  3. Once again, we wonder whatever became of the original promise to find a highly qualified permanent super ASAP:

    Thurmond will be paid the same $275,000 salary Atkinson got, and will receive three months’ pay if the DeKalb board replaces him before his year-long contract expires.

    He said he had no interest in holding the position long-term. Thurmond said the search for a permanent superintendent would begin immediately and he would leave as soon as one is found.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/breaking-news/dekalb-school-system-gets-a-new-interim-superinten/nWKP6/

  4. disgusted teacher says:

    Well stated, Concerned Citizen. The teachers cannot support any superintendent and other palace personnel who cannot speak articulately. Thurmond needs to prioritize, and finding a qualified superintendent should be high on the list.
    The years of corruption are to blame, not the economy. Fulton is giving teachers a 3% raise this year. Teachers in DeKalb are wondering if the only way they can afford to remain teachers is to leave the county.

  5. teachermom says:

    Show me the money.

  6. dekalbite2 says:

    DCSS already had the highest paid and largest group of “Parent Coordinators” – many of them friends and family and most of them with no Social Work, Counseling, Teaching, or Paraprofessional certification (unlike ALL of the other school systems in the metro area that have set professional certification for this group). The schools they were “involving parents in” almost all experienced decreases in student achievement.
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/11/73000-dcss-secretarial-positions-are.html

    Dr. Atkinson made cuts in this area with good reason. For example, Zepora Roberts’ daughter was let go.

    Now it seems as if Mr. Thurmond wants to yet again make this a high paying, non certified haven for friends and family with NO accountability for student achievement. Who has convinced him this is a good idea?

  7. dekalbite2 says:

    Fern bank Science Center still cost $3,000,000 and employs 20 admin and support for the 20 teachers who are almost always in the schools. Mr. Thurmond needs to let this $3,000,000 outdated and inefficient cost center go. Place these 20 excellent science teachers back in the classroom and let the 20 admin and support go. How can he justify this $3,000,000 expense?

  8. Stan Jester says:

    Nepotism Policy
    Mr. Thurmond has been blaming Friends & Family on Superintendent Freeman and the lack of a nepotism policy saying at the Emory Lavista Parent Council “Let’s research the policy to see where we stand related to nepotism. What we found out was DeKalb School District did not have a policy prohibiting nepotism.”

    Holding people accountable to this day, Don McChesney called Mr. Thurmond out at the DCPC. The sea was angry that day my friends.

    I’m disappointed that Mr. Thurmond would say we don’t have that policy when clearly we have Policy GAG: Employment Of Relatives Policy

  9. PI says:

    Stan, all this circus got was a new carnie. Thurmond doesn’t surprise me at all. Now if he would finally see the light on the ridiculous salaries/expenditures at the Palace – or if it were brought to his attention in a similarly blunt fashion, then maybe, just maybe, he would roll into some kind of action a bit faster.

    Excellent job on the blog, BTW. Keep up the good work.

  10. Fernbank Science Center does need to change, but not by firing or transferring its science teachers. It needs to be supported (notice I didn’t say “funded”) to perform its mission. In the last four years, almost half of the FSC teachers left DCSD, changed careers, or retired: only a few “went out into the classroom.” ALL who left FSC experienced frustration at the neglect of science education in DCSD. Science isn’t yet part of the Common Core, so there’s reason to think that this trend of ignoring science will continue until panic mode sets in a few years hence.
    The idea that these qualified FSC instructors will move out into DCSD’s overcrowded, underequipped science classrooms is pure fantasy. Science isn’t like other subjects: there is the matter of physical safety and there are federal guidelines for laboratory class sizes–usually, no more than 24 students–that DCSD consistently ignores. In many classrooms, including at DHHS and Lakeside, there are so many students that supply cabinets literally can’t be opened. Far from being so hard up that they would leap at the opportunity to endanger themselves and theirs students–the recent memory of a student using a Bunsen burner to ignite the hair of a classmate–FSC instructors are much more likely to just walk away from the county.
    A better approach to the “What to do about Fernbank Science Center” question is for parents to demand that administrators use its facilities to help ensure quality science education for DCSD students. Employment opportunities will continue to be better for young people who are comfortable with STEM concepts, yet we still don’t even have functioning computer labs in many schools, and DCSD technology overall is a joke. Science labs sit idle and are used as storage or time-out areas in too many schools, while science teachers are made to feel like low person on the totem pole because Math and “Language Arts” are so elevated for testing purposes. Also unlike some other subjects, STEM education can’t just improve overnight: if you don’t “get” middle school math facts, you probably won’t do well in high school algebra. Since the time of Crawford Lewis and the implementation of useless “Science Coordinators”, science education in DCSD has been in free fall. FSC, a great potential resource, is largely ignored. Since the administration isn’t doing anything about science education countywide, what is keeping a group of concerned parents from articulating concern? Don’t you parents remember how exciting science used to be, back before the overcrowding, the testing, the overall lack of joy in education? Students who don’t learn to love science are unlikely to choose a STEM-related profession, and like it or not, that’s where the jobs and salaries are likely to be in the coming decades. If there’s one area in which FSC instructors excel, it’s that they are highly skilled at engaging kids in the love of science. Support them so that they can do their jobs!

  11. John Dewey III says:

    There is a direct link, correlation and causation, between paying teachers their promised step increases (without furloughs and while funding the legally mandated Social Security opt-out annuities), smaller class sizes and subsequent classroom performance, graduation rates and accreditation. There is also – conversely – a direct relationship, correlation and causation, between furloughs, abandoned pension annuities, classroom cap enlargement and un-honored step raise promises — and lower classroom performance, graduation rates and accreditation.

  12. dekalbite2 says:

    @wiserthanmyself

    “Fernbank Science Center does need to change, but not by firing or transferring its science teachers. It needs to be supported (notice I didn’t say “funded”) to perform its mission”

    Science labs sit idle because it is not safe to perform labs in overcrowded classrooms. The $3,000,000 Fernbank Science Center sucks up in science education dollars – half of it for 20 admin and support personnel (exactly who do they support since the majority of the science teachers are in the schools doing outreach?).

    No matter what the excellent FSC instructors show the science teachers in the regular education classrooms, these best practices cannot happen in overcrowded science labs unless the science teacher is willing to compromise her students’ safety. In addition, exactly how are regular education science teachers supposed to implement the FSC teacher’s training when only $50,000 a year is allocated for science supplies and equipment for 100,000 students (50¢ a student per year for science equipment and supplies ). That’s the real deal here. Science scores have declined precipitously in DeKalb as tens of millions have been poured into Fernbank Science Center. It is even more top heavy with admin and support than ever. It is a dilapidated and outdated building in need of millions in renovations. The forest has gone back to the Fernbank Museum. The exhibits are shabby and old. We can’t afford to transport children there anymore.

    $3,000,000 would buy DCSS a lot of science teachers with experience and advanced degrees (around 60 with salary and benefits) which would greatly help lower that pupil teacher ratio in the science classes – arguably the most difficult of all subjects for most students. If the FSC instructors do not want to teach students in the regular education classrooms that says a lot about their commitment to students – IMHO.

    Fernbank Science Center has had years and years to become self sustaining with grants and partnerships. No other school system in Georgia supports a science center, and every other metro school system has better science achievement outcomes.

  13. curious says:

    Did you all see this in today’s AJC? “DeKalb school system sued for spending too much on lawyers” by Ty Tagami. Apparently an executive at Heery-Mitchell and a parent have sued the school system over its arrangement with King & Spalding. Michael Bowers appears to represent the plaintiffs.

  14. DCSD FOR DUMMIES says:

    This is sickening! We need a real superintendent. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. How much longer will we allow him to live off of taxpayer dollars???

  15. D_Velji says:

    @dekalbite2

    “Fernbank Science Center has had years and years to become self sustaining with grants and partnerships.”

    Except that the Fernbank Event Facility & Sometimes History Museum down the street has prevented just such funding from happening for years. The Fernbank History Museum bulled Dekalb Schools into staying away from attempts at funding because it might hurt THEIR OWN funding attempts. Many years ago one of the people in charge of FSC tried to do just that, fund the science center, and they got railroaded out the door. Nobody really wants to talk about how the FHM sued the FSC for the use of the name “Fernbank” or how the FHM has actively been trying to get FSC shut down for years. Kicking the kids out of Fernbank Forest was just one salvo of many. It used to be a partnership between FHM and FSC, but once the people running FHM started seeing the money roll in from being an event facility, FSC was no longer needed and got tossed to the curb. Don’t blame all of FSC’s problems on the budget alone, people need to know the bigger picture.

  16. NOTICE OF DEKALB BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETINGS

    The DeKalb Board of Education will hold the following meetings on Monday, May 6, 2013:

    2:00pm Work Session
    Cabinet Room
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
    1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
    Stone Mountain, GA 30083

    3:00pm Committee of the Whole
    Cabinet Room
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
    1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
    Stone Mountain, GA 30083

    4:00om Executive Session for a student appeal and a legal matter
    Cabinet Room
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
    1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
    Stone Mountain, GA 30083

    5:45pm Community Meeting for Public Comments
    J. David Williamson Board Room
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
    1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
    Stone Mountain, GA 30083

    7:00pm Business Meeting
    J. David Williamson Board Room
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
    1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
    Stone Mountain, GA 30083

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

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Melvin Johnson, Chair
    DeKalb Board of Education

  17. Why wasn’t there a report on the Tucker Parent Council meeting? Here are some of the questions we hoped he would answer: http://tucker.patch.com//blog_posts/questions-for-michael-thurmond-interim-superintendent#photo-14134349

  18. Why wasn’t there a report on the Tucker Parent Council meeting? Cell, don’t you live in the Tucker area? Didn’t you go to the Tucker Parent Council meeting?

    There are more meetings to attend and more to research about the corruption and wrongdoing in DeKalb County Schools than we can possibly get to. We are volunteers with family commitments and full-time jobs, in addition to what we do with the DSW blog. Cell, if you have meeting notes or a transcript, send it to us and we will definitely post it! That goes for anyone at any meeting. We have a page of meeting notes we’ve been collecting as well. It’s under the Meetings & Events Tab at the top of the blog.

    If change is going to come to DeKalb County Schools — if corruption and wrongdoing are going to be stopped — DSW readers cannot depend on “Someone Else” to do all of the work. Don’t just ask questions on DSW blog. Go to meetings in your area and ask your question(s) there. If documentation must be provided by DeKalb County Schools to answer the questions you put forth in a meeting, remind Thurmond or whoever you are asking the question of that your question, then, is a VERBAL open records request. (Allowed by law.) Ask to have your question recorded in the minutes as a VERBAL open records request. Follow up with a written reminder, using the date of the next business day following the meeting as the beginning of the 3-day period allowed for a response.

    Go find the answers. We will publish what you find and we will protect your identity.

    Thank you!
    DeKalb School Watch Editors

  19. dekalbite2 says:

    @D_Velji

    Science and math are the most difficult subjects for students to master. Only DAILY science instruction with highly qualified teachers can ensure most students in a school system with many disadvantaged children will master most science concepts. Fernbank Science Center teachers are excellent, but one or two “special ” science lessons a year for students cannot come close to ensuring science content mastery for students, yet this is the premise FSC operates on. This center was fine when gas was cheap, most students were middle class, and our tax base was flush with money.

    Times have changed and so must our allocation of precious science education dollars. The data shows that DCSS student achievement has decreased in science when compared with demographically comparable school systems. Leaving Fernbank Science Center to suck up $3,000,000+ dollars (half of FSC personnel not even teachers) is unconscionable for students. This is about employing 60 more highly qualified science teachers to teach science concepts every day to students. That is what will improve science achievement. Teachers teaching students science, math, social studies and language arts concepts every day improve student achievement. Mr. Thurmond and the BOE need to keep this in mind when looking to preserve pet projects and programs.

  20. PLEASE NOTE: Keeping our readers fully informed, we are posting the information below. However, we want to point out that Mary Margaret Oliver and other DeKalb legislators, who profess to be very interested in DeKalb County Schools are calling this meeting for the same day and time as a regularly scheduled DeKalb County Schools Board of Education meeting. To quote Nancy Jester, “What’s up with that?”

    MMO and other DeKalb Legislators are hosting a Town Hall meeting Monday (May 6) evening to discuss local governance issues. Please come and be a part of this important discussion.

    Mary Margaret

    Members of the DeKalb House and Senate delegations, including those who have introduced legislation to create new cities or annex new areas to existing cities, will hold a Town Hall meeting on May 6, from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at Clairmont Hills Baptist Church, 1995 Clairmont Drive, Decatur 30033, the corner of Clairmont and North Druid Hills Road. We want all DeKalb citizens to learn about the options available to them for local governance, and how you may participate in the efforts that will be on-going this summer. PLEASE JOIN US!

    House Rules of the Georgia General Assembly require that a new city may only be created over a two year term, not in one year. Legislation, listed below by primary sponsor, was filed in the 2013 Session that ended March 28, 2013, to give an opportunity procedurally to create possible new DeKalb cities of Druid Hills, LaVista Hills, Lakeside, Stonecrest, City of DeKalb, and Tucker. Also, annexation bills are pending for Chamblee and being discussed for Decatur, and legislative limitations on annexations options have also been filed. We ask neighborhood associations or groups who are reviewing current legislation, or working for or against possible new cities to describe briefly their efforts.

    WE NEED YOUR INPUT! HOW DO YOU WISH TO BE GOVERNED?

    The meeting will provide information on the costs of planning for new cities and the resulting possible tax implications. We will discuss procedures for legislative enactment, give a summary of ongoing cityhood activities, and learn about other governance options.

    PLEASE JOIN US MAY 6 AND LEARN HOW YOU MAY PARTICIPATE IN PLANNING FOR A NEW DEKALB! Thank you.

    The following are bills that have been introduced and may be reviewed on the General Assembly web site by Bill number:

    HB 22—Primary Sponsor Mary Margaret Oliver. HB 22 sets out additional procedures and enhanced financial requirements for creation of new cities.

    HB 619—Primary Sponsor Mary Margaret Oliver. HB 619 passed in 2013 and allows an area in unincorporated DeKalb that adjoins Chamblee to vote to be annexed into Chamblee

    HB 665—Primary Sponsor Mary Margaret Oliver. HB 665 is a placemholder bill to create new city of Briarcliff/Druid Hills.

    HB 677—Primary Sponsor Billy Mitchell. HB 677 would create a new city of Tucker.

    HB 687—Primary Sponsor Pam Stephenson. HB 687 limits the ability to annex new areas to existing cities by geography.

    SB 270—Primary Sponsor Fran Millar. SB 270 would create city of Lakeside

    SB 275—Primary Sponsor Jason Carter. SB 275 would create new city of LaVista Hills.

  21. dekalbite2 says:

    @wisherthanmyself
    “The idea that these qualified FSC instructors will move out into DCSD’s overcrowded, underequipped science classrooms is pure fantasy. Science isn’t like other subjects: there is the matter of physical safety and there are federal guidelines for laboratory class sizes–usually, no more than 24 students–that DCSD consistently ignores. In many classrooms, including at DHHS and Lakeside, there are so many students that supply cabinets literally can’t be opened.”

    Yet you advocate that the $3,000,000+ science education dollars continues to flow out of these overcrowded and under equipped science classrooms so that Fernbank can keep its building open – a building that BTW has very few students coming into it since the field trips to the building have been eliminated. All that money spent on those 20 non teaching admin and support as well as the building and grounds maintenance could be poured back into the regular education science classrooms. Until FSC eliminated a number of positions last year, it cost around $6,000,000 (conservative estimate) to run the center and bus students to FSC. Over the last decade we spent $60,000,000 science education dollars on Fernbank Science Center. How many science school labs could have been well equipped for $60,000,000? How many regular science education teachers could have been hired for these tens of millions of dollars? Meanwhile, our science scores have seen a dramatic plunge in the last decade – much steeper decline than in demographically comparable systems. You can’t have it both ways – expect the county to spend tens of millions on the science center and still provide decent science instruction in the regular education science classrooms in this economy.

    Check out the PATS advertisement for a Fernbank Science Center landscaper:
    “Maintains 2 greenhouses and a plant nursery and provides ornamental plants for DeKalb School System special events; makes minor repairs to concrete and asphalt walks and driveways; designs, prepares, plants and maintains roses at the rose garden; coordinates and evaluates the test roses for the American Rose Society’s AOE test rose program…..”
    $29,912.57 to $42,058.08 plus benefits

    And look at the salaries of the non teaching Exhibit Designers last year:
    Designer: $64,215
    Designer: $67,538
    Designer: $61,767
    All total these Exhibit Designers who maintain these tired old exhibits cost $193,520. Considering benefits, these 3 non teaching personnel cost $232,224 a year.

    The FSC Cabinetmaker makes $45,808. With benefits, he makes $57,260.

    So just keeping the 3 Designers and the Cabinetmaker costs $289,487 a year.

    Parents/taxpayers need to remember this when Mr. Thurmond says DCSS has no money for teachers. We certainly have plenty for non teaching personnel at Fernbank Science Center. I guess he’s satisfied with the overcrowded and under equipped condition of science education in DeKalb classrooms and happy to see all of those “ornamental plants for DeKalb School System special events”.

    Sources:
    https://pats.dekalb.k12.ga.us/
    http://www.fernbank.edu/faculty/instructionalmedia.htm
    opengeorgia.gov
    (2012 Salary and Travel audit)

  22. dekalbite2 says:

    I forgot to mention that the Fernbank Science Center Librarian made $88,722 in 2012. A DeKalb teacher with a PhD in Physics and 30 years or teaching experience makes $79,929 so what pay scale is the FSC Librarian on? With benefits the FSC Librarian costs $106,466 a year.

    It is critical that there is some cost/benefit analysis when DeKalb has such poor science achievement rates. Yet again, Mr. Thurmond’s priorities are not students and the classrooms where content is delivered. The big bucks are reserved for non teaching admin and support personnel. Unfortunately, Fernbank Science Center is a perfect example of his mindset.

    Mr. Thurmond needs to be asked some very tough and pointed questions on why he is committing so many of our scarce science education dollars to this outdated and bloated cost center.

  23. All excellent points dekalbite2. We always appreciate that you bring actual data to the blog.

    Our former boards and the last series of temporary superintendents are disingenuous when they continue to make deep cuts to the everyday classroom and teachers while maintaining grossly expensive programs like the science center, its transportation costs and all other magnet transportation as well as having no control over legal expenses and purposely under-budgeting utilities and other line items. There are still several tiny schools that need to be closed/consolidated and there are school buildings that need to be sold. Unless and until someone in leadership starts picking away at these extraneous, expensive, extra costs, we will never endorse holding the cuts to the classroom – including furlough days and class size waivers. If this new board endorses those tired old spending cuts done with a hacksaw without skillfully using a scalpel to peel away millions upon millions of unnecessary costs like these, we will not endorse any kind of budget they propose. We are fairly certain this kind of harmful budgeting will continue, as Ramona is still in charge, and she always likes to use the hacksaw. Add to that, our new board members are unfamiliar with the cost details in the system, with only Marshall Orson having historical knowledge (and Jim does whatever Marshall says). Will he recommend closing Fernbank? No way. It’s in his own backyard.

    It’s no different than someone filing for bankruptcy allowing their car to get repossessed, making it impossible to get to work, putting their family in the poorhouse, while still continuing to buy a latte grande at Starbucks every morning.

  24. Dedicated Dekalb Teacher says:

    I think the argument I am most unhappy with is that a high performing high school should not be allowed to pursue dual accreditation while we work out the rest of this mess. There are too many schools that are “doing it right”. Even if it was only ONE school, why should those students bear the brunt of nepotism, adult mismanagement, and poor performance by others? I can count dozens of students that I know personally that are graduating, after taking four and five AP classes, and scoring 5’s on all of the exams. Why should those students’ futures EVER be put in jeopardy because of politics?

    If anyone wonders why any of the clusters are looking at independent cities and school systems, look no further.

  25. dekalbite2 says:

    @DSW
    “We are fairly certain this kind of harmful budgeting will continue, as Ramona is still in charge, and she always likes to use the hacksaw”

    Ms. Tyson prepared two budgets – the 2010-11 and the 2011-12 budget.

    Both budgets primarily reduced expenses by stripping teachers of their TSA (a disastrous decision which will probably be reversed in court), included furlough days, increased class sizes so that the number of teacher positions could be reduced, and eliminated para professionals (200 were eliminated in the 2010-11 budget).
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/11/where-have-all-our-teachers-gone.html

    Indeed, this was done with a hacksaw and not a scalpel. Critical thinking and careful analysis of what would most impact students was cast aside. These budgets did not protect students, and in fact predictably produced the lowest achievement rates in the history of the school system. SACS made note of the practice of cutting in the classroom areas that impacted students. They cited as a specific example the elimination of the 200 paraprofessionals and the impact this had on learning in the early grades.

    The 2011-2012 budget was predicted to be a surplus, but as tens of millions of dollars of errors came to Dr. Atkinson’s attention, the budget was in reality a deficit. Filling that hole put the school system, taxpayers and students in even more dire straits for the current 2012-13 year.

    This is financial and educational data. Financial means revenue and expense and educational means teaching, learning and student achievement. Data needs to drive Mr. Thurmond’s administrative decisions, not relationships and politics. Let’s hope the BOE can be dispassionate and non partisan enough to do what is right for students. The BOE needs to refuse any budget that negatively impacts students in the classroom including overcrowded classrooms, teacher furlough days and not paying teachers compensation at marketplace levels. This is their choice since they approve or disapprove the budget. It certainly sounds like Thurmnond is going to give them a budget that once again lays waste to the classroom and does not have student achievement at its forefront.

    Concerned parents/taxpayers need to email Mr. Thurmond and the BOE members and urge them to refuse to approve any budget that does not ensure students have decent class sizes, adequate supplies and highly qualified teachers that are compensated at competitive, marketplace rates. After Mr. Thurmond has set the stage for a decent learning environment for students, then he can use what is left over to fund his admin and support groups.

    What should Mr. Thurmond use as a guide to a decent learning environment for students?
    EVERY CHILD in DCSS should have:
    1. A safe and clean learning environment
    2. A highly qualified and fairly compensated teacher in a reasonably sized classroom
    3. Abundant access to cutting edge science and technology equipment and supplies

    If Mr. Thurmond says the budget won’t allow for this decent learning environment for our children, he needs to be replaced with someone who can provide this for kids – taxpayers pay over a billion dollars a year for the school system.

    Contrary to Mr. Thurmond’s repeated statements, SACS accreditation is NOT his primary responsibility. His primary responsibility is to increase the rate of student achievement. Mr. Thurmond must be reminded that student achievement is the only reason ANY school employee has a job including him. If he and the BOE set the optimal learning environment for students, SACS concerns will be a moot point.

  26. hr88 says:

    How about we take a serious look, once and for all, at the budget for athletics? How much money is spend busing teams to events, across town and across the state. For some high schools with small teams, these buses might be carrying 5-10 kids. And then the buses sit and wait, while the games and matches are being played, before transporting the kids home. The drivers are paid by the hour. Anyone got a $$ amount for what this costs us every year.?I like sports like everyone else, but has anyone ever evaluated whether these sports programs lead to better achievement or educational outcomes?

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