Board Meeting Summary: Rubberstamping Corruption and Incompetence

If you did not have a full day to devote to the most recent DeKalb County Schools Board of Education All-Day Meeting and Rubberstamp Festival (brought to us by Marshall Orson, et al), here is a summary provided by Stan Jester:

Friends and Family 2.0
DeKalb Schools’ theme, “New leadership, new vision, new direction: Improving student performance through parental engagement,” seems to translate into the board and administration creating new non-teaching positions. This is Friends and Family 2.0. While Thad Mayfield is too close to the SPLOST IV campaign to be truly objective, he is the only one asking germane questions and voting “no” on absurd agenda items. Dr. Morley (“The Love Doctor”), on the other hand, appears not to have met a bureaucratic idea she doesn’t like. She also seems comfortable in the role of Patron Saint of Friends and Family 2.0. She has advocated for “handsomely paid” administrators, steadfastly objected to GAC accreditation and supports the administration heist of “after-school program” funds that were to accrue to the individual schools and families that raised those funds. Somehow, Morley’s record, which is also the record of the Board in total, does not seem to match the rhetoric of “improving student performance” nor does it provide much “new” of anything — especially leadership, vision or direction. The administration, with this Board’s rubberstamp approval, is instituting Friends and Family 2.0.

Below are links to the recap and video clips of the meeting’s highlights.

  • School Readiness Report
  • Financial Report
  • Human Resources Report
  • After-school Program (ASP) Money
  • School Attendance Lines
  • English Language Learner District Plan

School Readiness ReportPowerPoint Presentation and Video Clip
Dr. Alice Thompson gave a school readiness PowerPoint presentation. More than 700 new teachers were hired to backfill the exodus of skilled, experienced and competent teachers. The implementation plan for the Interim Superintendent’s pet project, Parental Engagement, was unveiled. A hotbed of jobs for friends and family, the failed, expensive and recently closed Family Centers will be reopened in South DeKalb. As a show of support and PR, central office staff will be deployed to schools the first week and will hold daily briefings.

Financial ReportRecap and Video Clip
Peronne is gone, money is being found left and right and the financial albatross hanging around DeKalb School’s neck has magically disappeared. There’s a report for invoices paid, but no mention of invoices outstanding. We remain skeptical of this financial windfall.

Human Resources ReportRecap and Video Clip
Retaining the best and brightest teachers plagues DeKalb Schools. Orson is disappointed teachers are breaking their contracts and leaving for more money saying, “If people can constantly leave for more money, then this will bring instability to our system.” Dr. Ward-Smith discusses the circumstances under which contracts can be broken and plans to add more verbiage to contracts next year. Mayfield would like to know more about teacher ratings. Traditionally, teachers have all been rated high, but we now have teacher/leader “keys” (new evaluation system) for the first time.

Dr. Morley would like to see fines and more punitive measures against teachers for breaking contracts. She is disheartened that teachers with masters degree don’t make 6-figure salaries like many in the corporate world with less education. Note: Many states are moving to a model of paying for performance and eliminating pay increases for additional degrees. Studies, like The Sheepskin Effect and Student Achievement from the Center For American Progress, have shown no (and sometimes negative) correlation between teachers with advanced degrees and student outcomes. Personally, we are all in favor of teachers making more money and administrators making less. But compensation decisions should be based on competence and effort, not simply checking a block.

After School Program (ASP) MoneyRecap and Video Clip
Orson continued to advocate for the ASP money to accrue to the schools raising these funds pursuant to past agreements. Dr. Morley staunchly opposes this. Despite the public outrage over the Interim Superintendent’s attempt to claim ASP money for the general fund, the passage and implementation of the “Student Activities Funds Management” policy, codifying the past agreements between schools and the administration, was once again delayed and keeps these funds at risk. Curiously, the original budget hearings at which the Interim Superintendent attempted to claim ASP money for the general fund, are not posted online and DCSS is still refusing to do so.

School Attendance LinesRecap and Video Clip
The administration would like the ability to make minor changes to the school attendance lines without board approval. We are not sure what attendance line “emergencies” come up that can’t wait a few weeks for board approval.

This policy allows the Superintendent (or designee) to adjust lines up to 1/8 mile and affect 5 or fewer children. This new policy seems odd because it is NOT about balancing enrollment. If only 5 children can be moved, that adjustment won’t significantly change the enrollment numbers at a school. So, why the need for this policy? It isn’t a leap to see that this policy could be used to benefit friends and punish adversariee (i.e., teachers and parents who speak out against against the mismanagement and corruption rampant in DeKalb County Schools). Furthermore, the frequency at which the policy may be used is not specified. Can the Superintendent invoke the policy daily, monthly, quarterly, yearly, minute-by-minute? Eventually, 1/8th of a mile and 5 children can become whole neighborhoods. This is not a good policy.

English Language Learner(ELL) District PlanRecap and Video Clip
The district is putting in place a plan to improve instruction to our ELL population. As with most command and control governance, the administration will tell the communities what they need. This would be an ideal opportunity to relinquish control, decentralize decision making, and enable the consumers of English Language Learner services to make their own decisions.

As Miss Daisy said in Driving Miss Daisy, “I think I am going to spit up.”

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48 Responses to Board Meeting Summary: Rubberstamping Corruption and Incompetence

  1. concerned citizen says:

    I can’t find a single thing that’s positive coming out of that meeting. Thanks for the summary, Stan. Here we stand at 1:00 PM the day before the school opens Monday: Here’s what we’ve got: 36 elementary positions, 50 high and mid positions, 50 spec ed teachers. I did not count any part-time positions or paras or cafeteria workers, or custodians. OR ACADEMIC COACHES! or any new high-paying central office. So, what do you think? I don’t think we’re ready! Every, single admin in the central offices better be assigned to these classrooms and they need to stay there until a certified teacher is found. If this is done, things will change in DeKalb because these Palace dwellers DO NOT want to mess with children and teachers and do everything they can to distance themselves from the school house.

  2. concerned citizen says:

    Would “whoever” disagreed with what I’ve said please speak up and state your reason for disagreeing. That way, some of us can perhaps see what is going on with you.

  3. firstgradeteacher says:

    Okay, what does the county not understand? The problem is not teachers breaking contracts. The problem stems from why teachers want to break their contracts in the first place. If they began to be tougher on teachers breaking contracts… ummm the answer seems to be… teachers will begin not signing contracts and reapply if need be. If the pattern continues next summer, there will be plenty of jobs to reapply for. This is situation is so sad for our students.

  4. concerned citizen says:

    Mr. Stan Jester – truly outstanding work, and I would love to sponsor you for supt! You understand the whole situation!

  5. momfromhe11 says:

    @firstgradeteacher – Excellently said!!!!

  6. EAV Mom says:

    Are they ever going to discuss finding a permanent superintendent? This is one of the most critical functions of the Board, and will take likely take some time. Although, I can’t imagine who would be competent enough for the job AND crazy enough to take it. Why is this no longer on the radar for the Board members? Is Thurmund their long term plan, and if so, why won’t they say so?

  7. Dekalbite2 says:

    “New leadership, new vision, new direction: Improving student performance through parental engagement”

    How about improving student performance through providing ALL students with competent, well compensated teachers in reasonably sized classrooms?

    Students in low income Title 1 schools deserve competent, well compensated teachers in reasonably sized classrooms.

    Mr. Thurmond will not improve student achievement when he ensures low income students are sitting in classes with too many students taught by teachers who are the lowest compensated in the metro area or in many cases are not permanent teachers, rather they are subs with nothing invested in the students.

    By his actions, Mr. Thurmond is showing he does not believe competent teachers directly instructing students are the cornerstone of a successful school system. He is refusing to give DeKalb children competent, well compensated teachers in reasonably sized classrooms, thus having a devastating impact on so many children in DeKalb. This won’t affect him – he is making more money than he ever made – but it will have a ruinous effect on the lives of our low income children.

    Mr. Thurmond will not improve student achievement with Parent Resource Centers. This did not happen in the many years we had Parent Resouce Centers so there is no expectation it will happen now. More of the same failed policy and procedures will not bring success. Mr. Thurmnd will only bring back more non teaching jobs for the politically connected.

    As a matter of fact the student achievement rate in most of the schools that had Parent Resource Centers declined to the point it was the lowest in the metro area even when compared to demographically similar school systems. Someone needs to ask him what is different this time around and maybe they will ask him why he is refusing to invest in direct instruction for students. Direct instruction for students is what the school system is all about because it is the best way for students to master the content they will need to be gainfully employed and successful in life. High quality teachers year after year are the sure fire way for students to move forward academically, most particularly if they are economically disadvantaged.

  8. Dekalbite2 says:

    “Dr. Morley would like to see fines and more punitive measures against teachers for breaking contracts.”

    Punishing teachers for wanting to leave a system that does not value them is not a way to improve student achievement. It is shocking that Dr. Morley as a Board member does not understand that a teacher who does not want to be in a DeKalb classroom should not be forced to be there. Does she really think parents want their children taught by someone who is forced to be there? I have never met a parent who says I want my child taught by a teacher who does not want to be there. Has Dr. Morley met any parents that want disgruntled and unhappy teachers teaching their child?

  9. Concernedmom30329 says:

    I really don’t like Morley, but when she made reference to this issue, it sounded to me like she had reached out to other school systems to see how they handled this. While I certainly disagree with her, I do appreciate the fact that she is looking into what other systems do. (Her conclusion though is misguided.)

  10. info says:

    Mayfield wants to know about teacher ratings, but no one seems to care about the evaluations or performance of administrators in or out of school buildings. Strange stuff, especially since these administrators are the ones making the decisions about resources, scheduling, and teacher assignments.

    Staffing schools has certainly been quite telling. Ask someone in HR or at a school how this has taken place. In some cases, I’d bet that Chick-fil-A has spent more time vetting and interviewing candidates. Scary.

  11. teachermom says:

    Morley might also want to reach out to see what other systems do to retain teachers. We do not work for free and we do not honor fake contracts.

  12. Dekalbite2 says:

    If there is problem with teacher retention (and with the loss of 700 teachers this is indisputable), then the fault lies with the superintendent, his/her management team and the Board of Education members. They set all policies, procedures, and programs and hire all of the teachers. This should be laid squarely on their shoulders. They should no longer be allowed to blame parents, students and teachers. Our children are not less intelligent, our parents are not less involved, and our teachers are not less hard working than demographically similar school systems, yet our student achievement rate is much lower. The logical conclusion is that the fault lies with the school system administration.

    A new superintendent and a new management team is desperately needed by the students of DeKalb. Year after year after year we hear the same old tired excuses by the same power structure that has instituted the policies, procedures and programs rhat destroyed a lifetime of opportunities for so many children. By all indices including achievement, teacher retention, financial stewardship, community involvement, the current administration which is really the old administration has utterly failed. They will do anything to avoid being held accountable.

  13. jbgotcha says:

    This all part of the plan, in my estimation. Deal wants to destroy on of the few democratic strongholds left in this state. If they can continue to undermine the public education system and more communities create their own cities, then the poor and underprivileged will have no voice. The existing system is a failure and any solution that they come up with is just maintaining a failed system. We need radical community involvement NOW! I’m only one person and I don’t know what to do, but I am heartbroken watching the county I grew up in fall to the wolves.

  14. Dekalbite2 says:

    @jbgotcha

    I respectfully disagree. I’m a lifelong Democrat, but Deal did not make this mess. Although relaxing class size limits was a Republican initiative, Lewis, Tyson, Atkinson and the BOE led by Edwards, Bowen and Walker was delighted that they could cram more kids into a class thereby leaving more money for the non teaching Friends and Famiy plan. Read the BOE minutes to see how many times Lewis increased class sizes to pay for his pet programs (including the Parent Centers that Thurmond wants to being back) that continually failed to improve student achievement.

    When Barnes was the governor, he instituted small class sizes and the superintendents had to live by them. That’s the ONLY time in 42 years that I have seen the Central Office shrink. You want to shrink the Central Office? Dramatically lower class sizes and tell the superintendents they must figure out who they want to keep outside the classroom. When Perdue came in, the first thing he did was allow class sizes to grow. Lewis immediately began to increase class sizes as he established more and more non teaching departments, havens for an unparalleled system of patronage and power that exist to this day.

    IMHO – You might say this was an unholy alliance between the Republicans and the DeKalb administration that benefited both. The only ones it did not benefit were the students.

  15. hopespringseternal says:

    It was a game of chicken to see who would blink first on the pavement, the state or the school district, and they didn’t collide head-on. The kids standing by on the side of the road got run over. Perdue and his years of balanced state budgets on the back of education, plus granting class-size waivers, plus the district’s stubborn insistence on continued funding of things OVER AND ABOVE the state allotments is what crashed into the students. If education funding is cut and the state pays for, say, one principal and one assistant principal, but the school district needs a principal and three assistants, where do we think that money will come from? Further, it seems there was no collective courage on the part of the state board of education or any recent state school superintendent to get districts to think outside the box. All they did was play politics and grant class size waivers — and charter school applications. Between this and the federal myopia (e.g. NCLB)’ public school students are doomed. Broken school systems seem to be working out well for someone– just not for kids.

    It’s a little like the large churches in the black community. I’m amused every time I hear people say let’s get the churches involved in helping to fix our educational outcomes in our local schools. If if you’re a large church with your own private school, why in the world would you help the community when that’s the very place you’ll get your next batch of little (paying) customers from? Everybody’s got an agenda. And if you’re not on the right socio-economic rung of the ladder, you’re not on the agenda.

  16. jbgotcha says:

    @DeKalbite I am by no means saying Deal is doing something that didn’t start a long time ago, but I do believe he is taking full advantage of an opportunity. He is looking at the long game. The systematic destruction of our education system has been the works nationally for a long time and is succeeding.

  17. jbgotcha says:

    This article speaks to this problem on a macro level: http://jacobinmag.com/2013/07/the-liberal-education-reform-revolt/

  18. jbgotcha says:

    Hope fully I don’t get banned for all these posts, but I’m on one right now. The following quote is from an article by Henry A. Giroux:

    “One of the most notable features of contemporary conservative reform efforts is the way in which it increasingly positions teachers as a liability and in doing so aligns them with modes of education that are as demeaning as they are deskilling. These reforms are not innocent and actually promote failure in the classroom. And when successful, they open the door for more public schools to be closed, provide another chance at busting the union and allow such schools to be taken over by private and corporate interests. Under the influence of market-based pedagogies, teachers are the new welfare queens, and are repeatedly subjected to what can only be described as repressive disciplinary measures in the school and an increasing chorus of verbal humiliation from politicians outside of the classroom. Teachers are not only on the defensive in the neoliberal war on schools, they are also increasingly pressured to assume a more instrumental and mercenary role. Such approaches leave them with no time to be creative, use their imagination, work with other teachers or develop classroom practices that are not wedded to teaching for the test and other demeaning empirical measures. Of course, the practice of disinvesting in public schools has a long history, but it has strengthened since the election of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and has intensified in the new millennium. How else to explain that many states invest more in building prisons than educating students, especially those who are poor, disabled and immersed in poverty. The right-wing makeover of public education has resulted in some states, such as Texas, banning critical thinking in their classrooms while in Arizona legislation has been passed that eliminates all curricula material from the classroom that includes the histories of Mexican-Americans.”

  19. Dekalbite2 says:

    @jbgotcha

    Yet some superintendents and administrative personnel do a good job of education students who are low income. Look at Marietta City and Rockdale. Marietta City has more economically disadvantaged students than DeKalb and every school in Rockdale is a Title 1 school yet their students are achieving at very good rates. This is because they have had smart, capable superintendents that invested in the classrooms and have protected students from much of the upheaval of the Great Recession. Both of these systems have high millage rates (Rockdale is as high as DeKalb which is among the highest in the state), but they have invested in teachers directly instructing teachers while DeKalb invested inthe Family and Friends Plan. Ask parents in Rockdale or Marietta City if they are getting a good value for their tax investment. Their answers are worlds apart from DeKalb.

    DeKalb has just had inept administrators for too many years. The fact that the state has aided and abetted them may make the state an accomplice, but the main offenders are located in the Central Office.

  20. Stan Jester says:

    Educating Low Income and Minorities
    There are numerous examples of school districts educating minorities and low income students across Georgia. DeKalb is obviously not one of them. Many city school districts, like Marietta, are getting it done for less.

    Demographic Information
    District —- Black – White – Hispanic – F/R Lunch
    DeKalb —- 71% — 11% — 12% —- 70% —–
    Valdosta — 74% — 17% — 04% —- 76% —–
    Marietta — 46% — 19% — 30% —- 66% —–
    Gainesville 20% — 20% — 55% —- 78% —–

    CRCT Scores
    CRCT Scores for DeKalb and all City Schools in Georgia

  21. howdy1942 says:

    I occasionally go out to the website for The Charlotte Observer. The Charlotte/Mecklenburg District graduates 81% of its students beginning the 9th grade in four years. In West Charlotte, which is predominately minority, that figure is 71%. What is the four-year graduation rate in Dekalb for all students entering into the 9th grade?

  22. Dekalbite2 says:

    “APS was one of three metro Atlanta districts — Clayton (53.61 percent) and DeKalb (57.28 percent) with graduation rates lower than 60 percent”

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/breaking-news/state-graduation-rate-improves-but-some-metro-atla/nXx6N/

  23. Many times while driving past the Sam Moss Center on Montreal on a Saturday or Sunday afternoons, I’ve seen a large white, brand new Mercedes backed up to the front door of the center. It’s the only car in the parking lot. I like to think it’s backed up to the door because the owner is probably carrying boxes of cash to his or her trunk or because the owner doesn’t want someone, like McChesney, snapping a picture of the license plate, to identify one of those high-priced admins living large on the backs of teachers and schools in disrepair that lack proper maintenance. Either way, the scene, in its own arrogant way, epitomizes the corruption in Dekalb.

  24. concerned citizen says:

    That’s gross, and I image someone could be going by on Sat or Sun to check this out. Should not be too hard to spot! Great post, disson!

  25. concerned citizen says:

    Tomorrow is it for some people to see what they didn’t want to admit – that Thurmond and his minions have brought the system to its knees. I can hear all the disclaimers already, trying to explain away why everything is OK, the system has leadership, vision, etc, everything is good! But the postings board says it all; reality is seeing its results tomorrow. The children are just totally paying the price for the adult ego-tripping by family and friends. Be ashamed, Thurmond, minions, and board – don’t try to threaten us for not supporting you. How can anybody who cares about teachers and students support you? Look hard at your true blue yes men. See them for what they are – crooked, uncaring, ego-centered liars. The MONEY is your and their only interest. Oh, and how about that list of those who received the cars? I know you don’t want to give it up! But, eventually, it will come out. Terrible situation! The worst! Ah, but you don’t care…the hell with the teachers and students. Up the administration and keep on creating jobs for family and friends.

  26. former dekalb parent says:

    I am still wondering where the money came from to outfit the ENTIRE MECHANICAL MAINTENANCE DEPARTMENT WITH 11 UNIFORMS PER EMPLOYEE…..and special lockers and cleaning for these uniforms…….any wild guesses? Maybe enough to hire a couple of teachers is what I am thinking……why was this money wasted?

  27. On the verge says:

    I go to school tomorrow with tears in my eyes, but can’t wait to see my students! Your children! I have decided to go into school with positive student learning and outcomes outlook. All the rest of the hoops will not supersede our children’s education. Be assured, your child will receive a rigorous and full education in my classroom. But let me tell you, parents, we are here to teach your child(ren).

    Please support us, your teachers. We have chosen to teach without any pay increase in six years, and no retirement contribution for four years. We do our job for our students and your children. We believe in their ability of success. Please consider volunteering at your school: run copies for us; scan tests; help us with bulletin boards; tutoring, mentoring….every AP has a secretary, but the teachers with oversized classes need some help.

    The real needs are for your children’s teachers. Please ablige us with your support.

    I don’t post here, but this is crucial. Thank you DSW for keeping us informed.

    We teachers are all in the same boat, please help us.

  28. Another comment says:

    The reason to have the Maitenance mechanics uniforms and have an off site laundry service laundry them is that you do not want employees taking home contaminants that they are exposed to in their jobs. you don’t want it in their private vehicles or in their laundries. Their are chemicals in the water treatment systems, the cooling towers, the boilers, pesticides, industrial cleaners, oils, lubricants, etc.. Ussually the contractor provides 6-7 e informs for the rotation. They must only be doing one week in between pick ups. The district will not own the uniforms. It is a service contract for the provision rental and laundry of uniforms. you Ussually have to pay extra for the jackets. I found the uniform people want too much money for the jackets. So I went to Walmart and bought Dickie brand ones for 1/3 of the cost and then took them to the school uniform store and had the lady their do name and our company logos for much less. But not everyone has a mom as a boss, who tries to save money and shops like a mom. I and my employee whose credit card we put the jackets on got questioned on for the jackets. We had to show finance we saved $80 a jacket with our trip to Walmart and to the School Uniform shop for logos vs the Uniform vendors $150 per jacket. plus they didn’t have 3xxx on jackets and I had 3 guy that were big boned and needed that size. When the 50 year employee they had reveying credit card purchases she said. I see, you actually saved money. I said yes I did.

  29. former dekalb parent says:

    Another comment, you make a wonderful point on the toxins, etc…but they have done that for years..why NOW? When we have no money?

  30. dekalbite2 says:

    @Another comment

    What about the toxins students and the teachers are exposed to via the construction not being done by the time school starts so students and teachers must live with this – e.g. faulty air conditioners blowing in construction dust day after day and construction debris and dust left in the classrooms for teachers to clean up before the first day of school?

  31. Concernedmom30329 says:

    I am guessing that the maintenance department uniforms are probably the result of a complaint of some kind to OSHA or legal action by an employee. This does not sound like a choice the system would make on its own.

    Does anyone remember what school lunches cost last year?

  32. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @dissonancetheory, how does someone working on the weekend on behalf of the school system epitomizes corruption in DeKalb?

  33. concerned citizen says:

    Fred, only you…and that should be “epitomize” to agree with its subject, “someone” . I have some more suggestions for your spare time…

  34. Fred, Fred, Fred!

    Step away from your career of (or PR contract for) being a cog in the DCCS spin machine. Get some fresh air. Free up your imagination. Don’t take things so seriously. Develop a sense of humor. Read some Voltaire.

    And, by the way, a couple of questions:

    1) What makes you assume that the owner of the car is “working on the weekend on behalf of the school system.” That’s quite an assumption, based on several questionable sub-assumptions.

    2) Is that your car?

    It all boils down to this, my post was an “ethical-educational-what’s-best-for-students” thang. You just wouldn’t understand.

  35. concerned citizen says:

    Great job, Disson – wonderful and witty (unlike Fred — but, wait, “Fred is dead, that’s what I said.”

  36. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @dissonancetheory, I did not realize that asking you to explain something you said would get under your skin. I took to heart the Rules of Engagement post (5/5/2012,, asking that people make sure you know what you are talking about. Maybe that did not apply to you.

    Also, given that McChesney is a retired educator and former coach, he probably spent a few weekends, working at the school. He is also a principled and fair person. He knows MANY school system employees work many hours on behalf of the school system. To take a picture of someone’s car who is working on the weekend would only provide red meat to those who look for anything to complain about.

  37. @Fred: McChesney took the photo of the 15 new cars — not the one that was supposedly backed up to the building after hours.

  38. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @dsw, I agree. McChesney may have legitimate concerns about the purchase of vehicles. I doubt he would take a picture of a single vehicle at a school building over the weekend. That was the point I attempted to make. dissonancetheory suggested the car was backed up so McChesney wouldn’t be able to take a picture and get the tag also.

  39. concerned citizen says:

    Fred, Good Grief! Get Over Yourself. You’re not making sense. Stay inside your house and off the internet. Read a good book like Crime and Punishment or maybe White Fang would suit.

  40. ShooShee says:

    @Fred– Do you, per chance, drive a Mercedes?

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