MLK and Towers: Challenging schools getting the short shrift

Our in-box is full of concerns from parents at Martin Luther King, Jr. High School, as well as people concerned about Towers High School. Recently, we were all shocked and appalled when our interim superintendent, Mr. Thurmond, appointed Ralph Simpson, as the new principal of Towers High School. Simpson had previously been demoted from Asst. Superintendent to Asst. Principal by Ramona Tyson, after selling the school system over $15,000 of his own books.

Towers boasts one of the highest per pupil spending, at $9,506.00 Total Per Pupil AVG, yet scores near the bottom in achievement. Where is all of this money going? One on one and small group, intense, professional teaching and tutoring should be the order of the day.

Now, parents are up in arms at MLK over the latest principal appointment – done without parent input whatsoever.

This is from a flyer passed out at an MLK parent meeting last week:


6 Principals in 12 years,

14 Asst. Principals in 12 years

13 new school counselor in five years,

85 or more teachers have left in 5 years

6 Science and 6 math teachers to leave 2012-2012 (COMMON CORE AREA)

5 Years of not making AYP 2007 -2008-2009-2010-2011


Scored 59.5% College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) (we rank 3th or 4th from the bottom)


PRIORITY schools are the lowest performing 5 percent of the public schools in the state of Georgia;

FOCUS schools represent the 10 percent of the schools just above them

Martin Luther King Jr. High School Is the ONLY high school in the FOCUS SCHOOLS which is in the lowest 15 percentile of the state Georgia


Human Resources seems unable to seek and secure quality staff for either of these schools. Several held job fairs, yet the comment below was posted on the school system’s Facebook page, from a prospective teacher who attended the fair, with the hope of applying for a job with DeKalb:

I drove 5 1/2 hours to attend the job fair at McNair that I was not informed about even though I have applied for several jobs on PATS. The so called job fair was at best was false representation. The jobs were not for DeKalb county but were specific only McNair high school. There was little direction about the entire process. Candidates were herded a gym and interviews were conducted by a single person behind a desk in the same room. No numeration process for interviews. The candidates were left to consider the order of the interviews. Disgusted by the process I left without participating and drove 5 ½ hours home. The entire DeKalb County Schools job seeking experience has been at best mediocre. I spent nearly $1,000 on a last minute flight a few weeks ago for an interview at Towers High school only to be told by the principal that the secretary made a schedule mistake and that he was not allowed to conduct interviews for AP jobs as this is a district function. The principal was nice enough to placate me for a few minutes. He took my resume’ and placated me some more (probably tossed my resume’ in the trash). Of course follow-up emails were never answered by anyone including Area Superintendents in DeKalb County. The whole experience has left me with an EXTREMELY negative view of DeKalb County Schools. My wife had an interview scheduled with the district that she is cancelling because of these experiences. My prayer is for the children and stakeholders in DeKalb County that the Interim Superintendent will continue to work hard to produce leadership in the district that does not to continue the mistakes of the past. Have a super school year.


Why is DeKalb leadership showing such careless treatment to these very high need schools? Their focus should be finding and quickly securing the very best teacher-leaders they can find to boost student achievement at these schools (at all schools!) Like the writer mentioned above, MLK is a Race To The Top Focus school – securing extra federal funding in order to implement creative approaches to improving achievement. These students need the help and support – and they were awarded federal dollars toward that support. We are completely disappointed in Mr. Thurmond’s inattention to those who need him most.

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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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60 Responses to MLK and Towers: Challenging schools getting the short shrift

  1. Confused Former Teacher says:

    Point taken, Fred but what about teachers who have been plastered on the news the last few months receive the same second chance others received. People do deserve second chances but are all given the same benefit.

  2. Dedicated says:

    Towers community and PTSA representatives wanted Simpson. That is a fact. Many were upset and expressed that very fact loudly last year when someone else was placed there as prinicpal. However they were not as loud in fighting for more parents to attend PTSA meetings, averaging 10-20 parents per meeting, often if not always more staff than parents. So now they have what they want but a school cannot change when the fabric of a community is as such. So much finger pointing and not enough raising children to develop a love of learning.

  3. Mildred says:

    And had he not been caught? How many more “books” would DeKalb have purchased from his garage?

  4. Stan Jester says:

    A principal should not be hired until the school council interviews and approves the candidate.

    Hiring Principals
    The board recently updated Policy BBFA saying “The role of the school council in the principal selection process shall be advisory and will be specified in regulations developed by the Superintendent.”

    A principal should not be hired until the school council interviews and approves the candidate. The Interim Superintendent has fought this question at every Parent Council meeting saying there are private things like background and credit checks that can’t be given to the Parent Council. However, a resume and interview are more than adequate to make an informed decision.

  5. concerned citizen says:

    Right, every school in DeKalb wants Simpson, Fred – he’s a real winner. Can you imagine his being placed at Peachtree, Dunwoody, Druid Hills,, Fernbank, etc., etc., It would never have happened at any respectable school. That’s what happens when students live in isolation and feel that they are entitled to everything they see on TV or in designer stores! Some of these extreme underachievers shop at Phipps and Lennox. They can’t read, they can’t write or do math, but they’re entitled. Who are these parents who are too lazy or undereducated to work? They are not at PTA meetings, and I promise you Simpson won’t change that. Towers has truly earned its miserable and stubborn place in the makeup of the county schools. There are too many years of ground-in poverty and lack of respect for education. This has come from the community. When someone says he “heard it in the street,” that literally means he heard it on Covington Highway. Nothing will change because nothing can change. It’s simple. Please, spare me the sympathy for Simpson. Simpson kicked himself in the head; no one threw stones at him! How he got away from prison after stealing from government funds is just because he’s family and friends! He’s despicable.

  6. hopespringseternal says:

    @Dedicated: precisely. I never understood how schools get labeled “bad” and it’s left right there, as though we don’t have to look at the customers who make up the fabric of that school. I sat in the front office on a Friday afternoon at a nearby school and watched in horror for 30 minutes as student after student filed in to protest the taking of their electronic devices, use the school phone to call their mommies, who then got patched into the school secretary so she could patiently tell these mommies that despite their protests she could not release the devices to the precious students. But when I come for curriculum night, I can breeze right through all my son’s classes because the visitation is so sparse. And 10-20 parents at a PTSA meeting? That beats us out by double. And school drama productions? Of the two dozen people who attended that night, half of whom in some way were connected to the production, two were talking so loudly they interrupted the players on stage. Raising these kids with a love of learning? How about love of basic manners, respect for adults, and why it’s not ok to carry weapons? Oh wait — the ‘parents’ themselves can’t teach what they lack.

  7. One would assume that the school system would have vetted credit and criminal histories before presenting final candidates to school councils…

  8. What happened to the RACE TO THE TOP? We were awarded $34 million to be used to recruit, train and retain the best teachers and principals… This is what is promised on the DCSS website:

    The Race to the Top (RT3) fund is a $4 billion grant opportunity provided to states and local school systems as a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Its goal is to support new approaches for improving education. The funds are made available in the form of competitive grants to encourage and reward states that are creating conditions for education innovation and reform in four primary areas:

    Recruiting, preparing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most
    Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy
    Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction
    Turning around the lowest-achieving schools

    RT3 updates [ ] (January 28, 2013)
    RT3 executive summary [ ] (October 2011)
    RT3 presentation [ ]
    DeKalb County Schools’ scope of work [ ]
    Georgia’s scope of work [ ]
    science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) initiatives [ ] (as of August 1, 2011)

    The state of Georgia partnered with twenty-six individual school systems and submitted an application. Based upon the application, Georgia was awarded $400 million, of which half will be used for state level implementation and half disbursed directly to partner school districts. DeKalb County Schools will be awarded $34 million.

  9. decaturmax says:

    Any news on if schools were forced to hire displaced teachers again this year? I know this was the hiring practice last year and have heard rumor it happened again this year. A few more years of “lemon ” teacher hires will drag my neighborhood school down.

  10. concernedmom30329 says:

    I have not heard that Decatur Max. Most schools lost enough teachers that they probably didn’t have to displace any. The system has projected itself to grow and did not increase class size so most schools did not lose teachers.
    However, I expect enrollment to be down this year, so that is when teacher movement may happen..

  11. Wow. Check out the conversation going on in Utah:

    Accountability for Parents + Respect for Teachers

    A Practical Argument for Ending Compulsory Education in Utah
    Renewing Accountability for Parents and Respect for Educators
    By Senator Aaron Osmond

    Some parents completely disengage themselves from their obligation to oversee and ensure the successful education of their children. Some parents act as if the responsibility to educate, and even care for their child, is primarily the responsibility of the public school system. As a result, our teachers and schools have been forced to become surrogate parents, expected to do everything from behavioral counseling, to providing adequate nutrition, to teaching sex education, as well as ensuring full college and career readiness.

  12. Here’s another viewpoint — from Teacher Magazine:

    Is Public Education on Its Death Bed? Should It Be? Seven Points of Argument, Leverage and Change.

    One could easily make the case that public education doesn’t work well, is stuck in a previous century, is cumbersome and inequitable and failing lots of kids. It deserves to die, because it’s not doing its job consistently. The question is: What will replace it?

    One could also make a passionate case that a free, high-quality fully public education for every child is one of America’s best ideas–and that some things should not be subject to market pressures. If we’ve ever laid claim to being a great nation, it’s certainly public education that built the framework for that greatness. The question is: How do we build on the values and pieces of the current system that work well?

    We talk about our public schools all the time (usually in a negative sense), but we seldom discuss schooling in the abstract, from 30,000 feet up. Unlike other nations (hint: Finland), we have never had a structured, purposeful national conversation about gutting and reorganizing the system around the kind of education we want for all children. What are our primary goals? What does educational success look like?

    Instead, we’ve built policy on unresearched assumptions, wishful thinking–and nostalgia. . . .

  13. James says:

    I disagree with dekalbschoolwatch. Whites do apply to DeKalb schools but only to those schools on the north side. If you just take inventory of the teachers and administration of the schools in region 1 and 2 you can clearly see where whites prefer to work and where they are more desired as administrators. The makeup of those schools are highly suspect but since those are whites exercising the friends and family plan their behavior gets a pass…typical

  14. @James: That is not true. There were many white teachers who filled Arabia from the day it opened. We are aware of several white teachers who taught at schools like SW DeKalb and others and were literally driven out or dismissed. Also, the entire PR department was ‘riffed’, and they were mostly white. They were replaced by contracted PR reps like Jeff Dickerson at a very costly rate. Now, suddenly, we are having to rehire in that department.

  15. James says:

    @ dekalbschoolwatch, I am curious to know who drove these teachers out? and why? Given the current perception of DeKalb schools over the last few years I would venture to say we obviously needed a new PR approach and probably a fresh, new department.

  16. Mainly, the principals.

  17. The Knowledge says:

    The leadership hiring process is not transparent at all. In some cases bad administrators are moved around from school to school. In other cases people with real potential are passed up because of the nepotism that still exists. I want “this friend” to be at my school is the typical mode of operation. If a teacher fusses enough they can be moved with or without the appropriate transfer process approved by an administrator. I guess the fussing works for principals too. Most of the people I know in administration were buddies with people in the county and this is how they excelled. I have heard of even deeper relationships but I don’t want go there. People say there are too many hands in the pot of leadership. There is no pot only a recycling bin.

  18. Ella says:

    Well I agree that it is questionable to give Simpson another chance.

    However, I am more concerned about the current school superintendent position being filled by a qualified school superintendent. I like Thurmond. However, is this who we (DeKalb County citizens) really want in the position of our permanent school superintendent? How many days has he spent in a classroom as a teacher? As an educator this does concern me.

    I have not made up my mind. However, I hear he is currently being considered as our permanent superintendent. Is this what the citizens of DeKalb County really want?

  19. Ella says:

    I hear there is now a new nepotism guideline set by the new school board.

    It reads sort of like there cannot be nepotism but then there can be nepotism.

    Will someone please investigate this that has more time than I do?

  20. Ella — below is a link to the current POLICY GAG, which covers nepotism – however, it appears that it’s only relevant for those at the director level or above:

    Then, there’s newer one for staff nepotism (May, 2013):

    It’s pretty clear.

    There’s also a form for employees to fill out if they are related to another employee:

    Click to access 4054_GAGD-E%281%29_9686_Exhibits.pdf

    Other policies related to Personnel can be found at this link on the eBoard:

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