Back to school!

back_to_schoolWe are thinking of everyone today and hoping for great starts for all of our children and teachers as they begin the 2013-14 school year. Please stay focused simply on the daily tasks at hand and continue to do your best! Parents — spend as much time and energy as you can close to the classroom – directly helping out your child’s teacher or school. Regardless of what goes on in administration or with the board — it really is as simple as that! You have the power!

Have a great day! Report back in the comments!

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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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46 Responses to Back to school!

  1. dsw2contributor says:

    I would like to recognize all the teachers that worked unpaid days over the summer.

    When you heard that your Principals needed help getting the trailers emptied out, or else the contractors were going to trash everything in those trailers, into your schools you went, where you spent part of your “summer vacation” working as movers.

    You were in your schools *prior* to pre-planning work, because you needed to get your classrooms organized, and the four days of “preplanning week” is simply inadequate. You were also in your schools this weekend, working on Saturday and yesterday, to make sure you were fully prepared for today.

    Thank you.

  2. Hotandfedup says:

    Air conditioning not working in several school buildings. Back to school apparently snuck up on the two AC employees in the county. Hot, hot, hot with excuses about the non-working machines and a demand to keep calm and carry on. I’m not sure how this happens every year and never makes the news.

  3. concerned citizen says:

    Troll, who gave this comment a thumbs down? identify thyself! Good Lord, talk about evil… You are a jerk who cares nothing for teachers, students, and other good people in each and every school! Shame, shame on you, you little coward…….

    What results do we have from the promised 4:00 “briefing”? I know five people who got a call from HR asking them to “substitute.” Interestingly, none accepted the invitation. I wonder why.

  4. Just Saying says:

    Today was the first day of school. It was great to see the students. It was also good to meet the new staff members. I love my students and my school. I am trying to be positive around my new peers and support them.
    We had lots of transportation problems. We also had computer problems, Our new teachers are having problems getting their E Numbers and permission to log into their computers.
    Teachers were really upset about the schedule last week. In the middle of the week staff members came out from HR to verify us. If you were related to anyone in the school system, you had to tell the HR person. At our school the HR person was having computer problems. We are a large school so it took a long time for this to be done. I am not sure why it happened on the week of pre planning. Since I am a sponsor, I had to attend two meetings last week concerning expectations and procedures. Then we had one day of Professional Learning. I am sure that I was one of many teachers staying very late on Friday trying to complete everything. My principal was there very late. I found out the principals were did not have an opportunity to provide any input in the schedule for pre planning week.
    This morning I was greeted with the news that all Fulton County School System employees would get a 3 percent raise this school year. Fulton has been faced with the same kinds of economic problems faced by DeKalb. There schools are doing better than our schools. Their staff members are getting raises. I personally know of two principals who left DeKalb and are now administrators in Fulton. I wish them well. Our TOTY from 2011 left last year and is teaching in Fulton. She really hated to leave, but she made more money in Fulton. Whatever the New Vision is suppose to be, I do not see it translating into changes for anyone working in the schools. I am not sure how it will translate to better changes for our students.
    How can one of our BOE members suggest that teachers be punished for breaking contracts that did not even include the number of days that we are suppose to work. ?
    People from AIC are suppose to visit the schools this week. People from the Region came last week. This plan may sound great on paper and great for PR, but it causes more work for the principals. They have to stop and answer the same questions over and over again. It also makes us really feel great. We cannot get answers to our questions about our pay. We cannot get people at AIC to respond to our emails or schools.
    If the Troll is here tonight, please take back some of our feedback and ask for changes.

  5. Dekalbite2 says:

    Mr. Thurmond, Ms. Tyson and the new Board members absolutely do not get the needs of the teachers or te students. The teacher and the students are pretty well “on their own” as Mr. Thurmond and Ms. Tyson and the other members of the upper management team meet with each other in their offices and make plans that are totally unrelated to what is happening in the classrooms. They are pontificating and using the buzz words they think make them sound knowledgeable figuring out ways to spend taxpayer money any way but in the classrooms.

    Mr.. Thurmond and Ms. Tyson not only have NO plan for improving student achievement, they also gave NO idea of how to move students forward. They are busy playing politics thinking business as usual will be okay if they can just wait the parents/taxpayers out. They may be right. They have a lot of money and a huge power base due to years of patronage.

  6. Refugee from DCSS says:

    How did Vanderlyn ES fare with having their trailers taken away? How did they manage grades 4 and 5?

  7. On the verge says:

    I would like to applaud the teachers, staff, and administration of Tucker High School. They have determined to keep our initial student populated classes to ‘manageable’, unlike last year when we had 50+ students in some classes. Ready to quit in May, I and my department had a fabulous first day of school. Your children had an active school day which sets the standards of a great school year. Leaving the adults behind, we love what we do and we love teaching your children. Here’s to a great year at THS!

    Cheers!

  8. Glad to hear some good first day stories!! Hopefully, the issues that cropped up will be addressed quickly.

    For those who suspect a ‘thumbs down troll’ – no worries. Often, people just accidentally hit the wrong thumb – especially on phones… don’t take it seriously.

  9. dsw2contributor says:

    Just Saying @ August 12, 2013 at 8:30 PM – “In the middle of the week staff members came out from HR to verify us. If you were related to anyone in the school system, you had to tell the HR person.”

    I was told that the real purpose of this verification effort is to ensure that everyone on the DCS payroll is actually showing up to work. (If you have been around DCS long enough, you have heard stories of DCS employees who have stopped reporting to work, seemingly abandoning their jobs, but their Supervisors have not been able to confirm that these people were actually taken off the DCS payroll.)

  10. teachermom says:

    This is an article about the trailers at Vanderlyn and also about Brookhaven. Apparently, while they were busy ordering their cars, they forgot to order the AC/heatiing units to be installed before school started at Brookhaven. It amazes me that those cars showed up just weeks after they were approved yet work that was approved under SPLOST months age didn’t get started until after school began. Come on people FOCUS on the schoolhouse.
    http://www.thecrier.net/news/article_1940a3fc-03b4-11e3-a377-0019bb2963f4.html

  11. Concernedmom30329 says:

    If you live in the Druid HIlls cluster with school age children, or teach in it, this afternoon is the vote on the charter cluster. The AJC has a nice article on it, but of course it is behind the pay wall.

    I found this part fairly disturbing.

    The petition would establish a local handpicked governance board. The seven-member board would establish a nonprofit that would hire all staff, including a new cluster administrator and finance chief.

    What I gather is that a Board has been picked (it is included in the petition) and they will pick their successors. This means that parents and teachers will not have elected representatives on this Board. While they may have little to no say in the operations of the schools today, at least they can vote on their School Board rep. They will still get to vote on the rep but the Cluster Charter gives all the traditional power of the School Board to the governing body of the cluster. Does this sound worrisome to anyone else?

  12. Concernedmom30329 says:

    The verification came because the system was found to have people being paid who weren’t actually coming to work. I think the questions about relatives have to do with a board policy, which actually doesn’t apply to teachers. But if a teacher is promoted to central office then it does apply.

  13. Matt Lewis says:

    The Druid Hills Charter Cluster founding will be elected by today’s vote (or not). Subsequent lard members will come from nomnees selected by school leadership councils at each school and then vetted by the board. This process ensures qualified members that represent the community.

  14. former dekalb parent says:

    does anyone else see a problem with two A/C people for the entire system? That is over 150 buildings many that are over 40 years old and have had little or no maintenance over the last 10 years…the “administration” cuts that were actually to the workers at Sam Moss are feeling this pain everyday…and now the students are too….we need to get rid of the bloat and hire more qualified maintenance personnel.

  15. murphey says:

    @Matt Lewis, I thought the vote was scheduled for last Thursday and maybe even last Sunday. Can you catch me up on the plan?

    I’m pulling for you guys. You have pulled off something amazing just to get the petition complete, and you were daring enough to actually take control.

  16. HA Hurley says:

    Start of school year:
    I have worked in several very efficient metro school systems in the past where school web sites were up-to-date with ALL information needed for parents: staff roster, administrators & staff email addresses, start of school info, stats related to testing, school demographics, lunch schedules, curriculum information, etc. Maybe they didn’t see Aug 12th coming!

    Tons of loose papers are sent home with children to inform us of the news of the day. Much of that can and should be posted on the school web sites. I am being told that many parents do not have access. That may have been true a couple of years ago, but most parents have smart phones with access. Schools can address both needs. Dekalb is so far behind times, along with many other things.
    My granddaughters’ school ALL OF LAST YEAR had an outdated school web page with missing links to teachers’ email addresses. This year, with a new principal, same old again!
    So frustrating and unacceptable.
    Question: is it the school’s responsibility to update their website, do they have a tech specialist, or is this handled at the county level?

  17. Matt Lewis says:

    The vote is today. Polls are open from 4-8 at Druid Hills High School Gym. All details can be found at http://www.druidhillschartercluster.org. Anyone with a school age child who resides in the attendance zone, or anyone with a currently enrolled child in any of the seven schools can vote. One vote per child.

  18. concerned citizen says:

    We should send Ramsey,Ramona, Thurmond, and Smith to AC classes at DeKalb Tech or even a quicker program. Then, and only then, will they discover what it means to “scramble” and “make do.”

  19. concerned citizen says:

    As of this moment, this is how prepared DeKalb is – 36 elementary teachers missing, 42 high and mid school teachers missing, 18 custodians, 24 food service, 31 sp ed paraprofessionals, 31 paras instructional. Yet Ward-Smith promised 98% filled jobs. Well, you can’t have school going well without filling these positions. Why can’t DeKalb hire people? I realize that the Palace doesn’t even question why. Of course, I’m not going to address the academic coaches and the Palace positions. I expect HR might show a slight bit of discretion before filling these positions, of course, the people are already in place, some teachers, which will lead to further vacant classrooms. Watch! It will happen.

  20. Lindy Hop says:

    @ HA Hurley
    Question: is it the school’s responsibility to update their website, do they have a tech specialist, or is this handled at the county level?

    It is each school’s responsibility to keep its website current. In most schools this task is assigned to the school librarian. The librarians in DeKalb are referred to as media specialists. Last year 25 media SPECIALIST positions were cut. Many readers of this blog know that all of the media CLERK positions were cut last year but are unaware that we also lost 25 media SPECIALISTS. Approximately 10 of our media SPECIALISTS are now assigned to TWO schools each – and the media specialists in our large schools no longer have a media CLERK to assist with clerical tasks and shelving books. (Yes, some schools now have a librarian on site for only half the time school is in session.)

    It may be that the school to which you refer has a new media specialist who is unfamiliar with DeKalb’s system for managing a school website. (Web design/maintenance is not something one learns while obtaining a masters degree in library science or library media.) It may be that your media specialist has two schools to manage. Or, if the school is quite large the media specialist may simply have not had a spare moment to tackle the web page or may not have received the information you desire from the principal. (Yes, I agree that keeping school web sites up-to-date is essential. I am merely explaining how school web sites are managed in DeKalb.)

    I think many do not realize that the media specialist is not merely “the keeper of the books”. Media specialists perform a variety of roles. They are the library TEACHER, the information specialist, the library administrator, and a collaborative partner with teachers–in other words they assist with designing instruction. The media specialists who do their job as it should be done are swamped with work right now. Again, I’m not making excuses. I am simply providing information.

  21. Lindy Hop says:

    Correction: DeKalb has approximately 5 media specialists assigned to two schools. In my previous post I indicated there were 10 media specialists assigned to 2 schools. That is incorrect. There are approximately 5 media specialists assigned to two schools. In other words, 10 schools have a half-time librarian.

  22. H.A. Hurley says:

    Lindy Hop~
    Thank for the informative comment. I did not realize that media specialist maintain the website at their school. The school I was writing about still has the same media specialist and even last year the site was hardly updated, especially, teachers’ pictures and their email addresses.
    I worked in a system where this was a priority and we had tech specialists in every school. Amazing, what a couple of miles in the same city can make the difference between paying attention to what matters, such as children/teachers/learning/parents, or spending time/$$ on CO matters.
    It is sooooo important for parents and people new to DCS to access school information. Critical to communication and PR to newcomers. We need new taxpayers because our CO and superintendents have been bleeding us blind. Just think about it. It is not just something nice to have. Important!
    Thanks again, Lindy Hop!

  23. concerned citizen says:

    Every school needs a media specialist. How can we expect students to learn without a complete component of personnel available to students? Every day I hear another intolerable story about DeKalb. And yet here we are with Thurmond, Ramona, Ramsey, Lewis,and all the rest hanging over our heads, Smith, Beastley, etc.I’m very concerned about the board itself, how they were chosen, their backgrounds, their current behavior. Not impressed!

  24. hopespringseternal says:

    Note to parents who put their kid in school only yesterday: when you get a clue that school is about to start, including 80,000 associated news stories and back to school jamborees, where you may have even picked up school supplies and backpacks courtesy of a charitable organization, DON’T WAIT until the first flipping day of school to roll out of bed and register your child. You see, there’s a little something called a Master Schedule, and it can’t be built right if the school system doesn’t know your child exists. Which means that those who did it right by making sure they were timely registered are now victimized by YOUR lazy butt. They are victimized because the school doesn’t know how many of what classes to offer, and this prolongs the musical chairs with both students and teachers well into the semester. This means that classes can’t get settled, and seems to justify the WEEK-long deep analysis of the Rights and Responsibilities Handbook, because nobody can get underway with teaching and learning. Oh wait — we’re not finished with all that stuff rolling downhill. When you’re in a school with a pure 4×4 block schedule, you’ve just lost a huge chunk of instructional time. Add to that a teaspoon of inexperienced counseling staff, a shocking display of dress code violations on Day 1, several go-to-hell looks when you’re asked to join the PTA, and voila! It’s back to school!!

    And when you arrive at school to late-register your child, don’t start asking how long it will take because you have to get to work. After all, when you were asked to join PTA and you gave the go-to-hell look, you just said you can’t join because you work nights.

    The only thing now needed to complete this magnificent first day is when I log into the portal and find an actual grade given for the Rights and Responsibilities ‘quiz’. Last year, hold it together, can’t wait to get out. Last year, hold it together, can’t wait to get out. Repeat after me…

  25. Dekalbite2 says:

    @H.A. Hurley and Lindy
    I don’t believe the Media Specialsits have the responsibility for the school website. The main Central Office one is contracted out, but I think the schools are “on their own”.

    Email the head of Technology Gary Brantley to find out why the websites are not current:
    gary_l_brantley@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

    …or Joe Swing, Assistant Director:
    joseph_swing@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

  26. Berta says:

    It was the Media Specialist who maintained the website at the first school where I taught.
    It was also the Media Specialist who did it at my second school, but she was RIF’D summer of 2012. A teacher with IT skills was asked to maintain the website last year. She’s no longer teaching. Now the Media Center is manned by a para-professional (who is needed in the classrooms) & an itinerant Media Specialist.

  27. concerned citizen says:

    Dear Dekalbite2 – I couldn’t get through with either of these e-mail addresses, and I really want to question them – to whom do they report? Thanks (Totally dysfunctional, the whole mess! – do they ever get anything right in DeKalb?)

  28. Don't give up hope says:

    @Dekalblite2
    The media specialist is the one responsible for web upkeep at my school in Dekalb as well and thank God for great volunteer parents who have filled in to help her check out and shelve books after all of the library clerks were cut . I understand that we as employees have a wellness center and of course there is a parent center but who needs a wellness center when you can’t afford your family’s insurance and who needs a parent center when you can’t get basic information off of a website or check out a book. They are laughably delusional. Pay me a fair wage so that I can join my own gym DCSS. I don’t need you to finance me one. This makes me think that it wasn’t really meant or me to use in the first place.

  29. dsw2contributor says:

    concerned citizen@ August 13, 2013 at 1:48 PM: DCS has “36 elementary teachers missing, 42 high and mid school teachers missing….31 sp ed paraprofessionals, 31 paras instructional. Yet Ward-Smith promised 98% filled jobs.”

    A theory: These “missing” teachers and paras would be needed to staff the schools at the inflated enrollment numbers needed to balance the budget (see Stan Jester’s explanation), while Ward-Smith’s “98% filled jobs” is based upon actual enrollment. If this is what is actually happening, then there are teaching jobs posted on PATS that DCS has no intention of ever filling.

  30. concerned citizen says:

    That’s very possible, unfortunately.

  31. Dekalbite2 says:

    @concerned citizen
    Here is the websites that have their numbers and email. Click in their name and you will get their email:
    http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/management-information-systems

    http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/management-information-systems/technical-and-support-services

    Maybe you’ll have better luck that way.

  32. H.A. Hurley says:

    Interesting, pages 4 & 5 of the DCS Technology Plan indicate how parents and school staff can communicate. I did not see: Smoke Signals listed!?
    The year started and the web sites in many schools, I looked, are still on 2012-13 time! People!! Did anyone notify them months ago that school starts in August?
    Such SCHLUMPY WORK, DCS is a total embarracement. There are many good hardworking people in the system, but the incompetent undertow of SCHLUMPERS is choking the oxygen out of all of us.
    Please get rid of those folks at the top who haven’t a CLUE and are dragging us all down.
    Oh, wait….has anyone heard from Mr.Thurmond? Other than at one school at 8:45 AM?

  33. concerned citizen says:

    Dear HA Hurley – I thought we were supposed to get a daily briefing at 4PM! What happened?????

  34. hopespringseternal says:

    I’m sure this will become a separate post, but in the meantime placing it here. First week of school and the Druid Hills cluster spoke loud and clear last night with its vote to become a charter cluster. Whatever the driver for the resounding vote, two things are clear to me: the desire for breaking away from the school district by any means necessary is there, plus the lack of strong opposition. The newspaper noted the silence of black voters, even though minorities make up a strong contingent of the student population in the cluster.

    As opposed as I was to last year’s charter school statewide ballot measure, I never misunderstood the desire for parents to have more of a say in their childrens’ education and dollars thereto. And if you see my post above about a typical first day of school in a S. DeKalb school, it magnifies what many are feeling.

    We will see what the DeKalb BOE does with the Druid Hills measure. My takeaway is that the combination of bad decisioning by the school system and parent apathy or ignorance means that this train has left the station: we’re now set on a path of separatism with great outcomes for some and dire outcomes for others. And no amount of flowery speeches, pep talks or central office miracles can halt this movement.

    If you are a stakeholder in a depressed area of the county, take heed and do what you can to be heard over the train whistle. You’re about to be run over. And here’s the kicker: those parents who pay attention and want better for their children will help leave you in the dust. Community never meant more than our own children.

  35. H.A. Hurley says:

    Parent Involvement: even at my persistent daily pursuit to find information about the general school related stuff, it is almost impossible to unearth it. DCS is so good of hiding info, or by default not sharing it, or it dribbles in loose paper with children……
    Who has time for that? Many parents can’t sustain the effort, have to work or get lost in the MISSING INFORMATION. Yes, the NorthDruidHills parents have spoken to secede from the Union (DCS) and it will not be easy. Neither is our present status. Something’s got to give!

    Remember, things DCS is good at is holding their breath until purple, doing without forever and drive with all wheels falling off or sitting on blocks in our front yards.

    Concerned Citizen: maybe we should suggest Thurmond sending us ‘selfies’. Anthony Weiner communicates more frequently with his constituents than Thurmond and DCs do. Anyone checked, still alive and working?

  36. concerned citizen says:

    Haven’t seen hide nor hair of his royal majesty or any of his incompetent staff. Lying low, is he????

  37. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    HopeSpringsEternal
    You seem to have a low opinion of what people in depressed areas can do. With the help of Title I and QBE Fair Share money, many depressed areas like Valdosta are doing quite well. South Dekalb would be fortunate to have Valdosta’s quality of education.

  38. concerned citizen says:

    But, Valdosta is not DeKalb with its terrible administration.

  39. Another comment says:

    Fulton County Charges a Mandatory $10 PTA Fee, as well as a Mandatory $10 hall Locker fee and $10 Gym Locker Fee. Then in High School They charge Mandatory Fee’s for Athletics. $60 to start, then x amount per sport. So you can’t get any nasty faces from the Free loaders. The $10 Mandatory PTA fee is double what $5 optional in Cobb.

  40. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Concerned Citizen
    Valdosta’s administration could be better or worse, we don’t know. What we do know : Valdosta has high number of Free/Reduced lunches, a high minority population and score much better than dekalb on their CRCTs. They are responsible for themselves and get it done.

    My point: People in south dekalb are capable of taking care of themselves.

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