The textbook mystery continues… and gets even weirder

One of our regular contributors has shared an interesting video from a curriculum night meeting at Tucker High School. She asked questions regarding the new “Pilot Textbook Program” being implemented by DeKalb County school administrators.

Watch the video here:

Below is a transcript of part of this incredibly frustrating exchange, highlighting why parents get so exasperated when dealing with administrators.


Sarah: I’d like to know more about this Pilot Textbook Program
Answer: Uh, the Pilot Test, Test, Textbook Program is basically designed to ensure that students don’t have a lot of movement in the building.. the question is, was, how does the new pilot for the textbook, what’s the purpose of it, why we are rolling this (?) out. Pretty much it’s to ensure that there’s less movement in the hallway, uh obviously in order to get this textbook, that textbook, the student would have to constantly go to their locker. So it’s to cut back on that also the stress of having all of the extra books, um that students would have to carry around and we’re living in a technology society so it’s getting students used to using technology to access their books with a textbook online.

Sarah: So are there access codes or online copies of these texts that we can use at home?
Answer: Yes.
Sarah: Well, I don’t know if anyone else is having trouble but..
Answer: Are you having trouble logging on? Dr. A…
Sarah: No, not logging on, we have not been given any code. None are available for us.
Answer: Ok. (Asks the other woman if she knows anything – Sarah asks the question again. Says she asked 6 teachers, and got 6 different responses. None mentioned the pilot textbook program.)
New Answer: Ok, um. What you’re looking at is, the textbook is considered a resource. But access is (??). And we realize too that the county has purchased, because of the new math, the CCCGS math, we rolled out the first one last year, and you all (??) the geometry this year. So there are books available for those courses. And that’s um, why, to answer your question, I really need to check on that because I know that they can access those books. They can get those books. We’ll make sure we will get an answer tomorrow. I have a meeting today with Dr. Pringle who is our area superintendent and we talked about textbooks. So I’m not sure if we’re not going to issue them cause I (trails off)…

Sarah: I called the secretary at the central office and she didn’t know anything either.
New Answer: First of all, did anyone tell you that if you requested a book, you could be issued a book? If a parent requests a book, they can have that.


DSW Note: Never does anyone define, introduce or explain what in the heck the “Pilot Textbook Program” actually is! What is it?

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227 Responses to The textbook mystery continues… and gets even weirder

  1. H.A. Hurley says:

    Sarah, Stan & all Concerned DCS residents:
    I watched the video of the Tucker HS meeting! U.n.b.e.l.i.e.v.a.b.l.e! They know how to KILL PARENT INVOLVEMENT! They don’t want involved parents. Sarah had a full-time job trying to get text book answers. No such luck! The reasons for not issuing texts is nothing but …….! Can’t print it here.
    My observation: Tucker HS is keeping kids from spending time in halls for any reason other than the absolute minimum. They are doing this to avoid social interactions, problems, fights, lates to class, bathroom teenage stuff, you name it! They don’t have control over kids, no structure and no security in case of fights. Bet ya!
    Books online: ask for a mass parent inservice in the computer lab by the administration to demonstrate use of the online texts. Collect many parents to attend. Let them show you the wonderful advantage of those online books using the syllabus of each class. I can predict what will happen! We Must Out them!
    They wasted so many hours/days of instructional time. Students have EOCT which weigh heavily on grades, promotions and graduations.
    They can’t explain this mess away! It’s a shell game.
    THERE AIN’T NO THERE, THERE! No books! Millions of $$$$ gone! No Books! No Education!
    Wake up DCS Parents! Yell it from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

  2. Interestingly, we have also learned that in elementary school, all books are disposable (workbooks, etc) and have not been purchased. Teachers, therefore, have to scrounge around to cobble together their own worksheets and develop their own curriculum aligned with the new Common Core standards. The copy machines are on fire!

    Elementary parents and teachers — please weigh in!

  3. dsw2contributor says:

    I believe the “Pilot Textbook Program” is another of Atkinson’s legacies. Here is an article from December, titled “DeKalb County Schools superintendent lays out plans to go digital”:

    That article said (first paragraph): “As part of a mission to advance the DeKalb County School District’s use of technology, Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson said more than 8,200 middle school students will transition from using textbooks to using Lenovo netbooks next school year.”

    And the third paragraph: “Students from Cedar Grove, Chamblee, Lithonia, Peachtree, Redan, Stone Mountain and TUCKER middle schools will receive the digital devices loaded with information from all their textbooks in the fall. By the fall of 2014, the superintendent plans to have all middle and high school students transitioned to using netbooks.”

    In short, this is another instance where Atkinson committed a lot of tax money to a vendor, then she parachuted out of her job before that vendor’s incompetence could become apparent to DCS teachers and parents. If the DSW2 community dug deeper into this, I suspect we would find a financial arrangement and/or other connections between Atkinson and the vendor.

  4. H.A. Hurley says:

    Textbook Myth!
    Another question to ask principals: where in any teachers’ training at the university level are they given the skills to gather ALL content materials for every lesson, for every subject…only beginning with the CCSS? Teachers are trained to use Teacher Edition texts, supplementary materials, technology, etc. never to invent every lesson from scratch. Have to use what is available and provided by the school system.

  5. dsw2contributor says:

    Two questions:

    Have Tucker students actually received “the digital devices loaded with information from all their textbooks”…. or did DCS migrate away from textbooks without having the replacement devices in place? (The same question applies to Cedar Grove, Chamblee, Lithonia, Peachtree, Redan, and Stone Mountain.)

    How does the “textbook lease” fit into this? (Why lease textbooks if you are replacing them with digital devices… or was the lease actually for the digital devices?)

  6. Our newest theory is — we can’t afford it. We simply don’t have the money. We are broke.

  7. Dekalbite2 says:

    But we can afford to pay $20,000,000 a year for non teaching coaches and coordinators, being back those multimillion dollar Parent Centers that did not produce results and increase the Fernbank Science Center budget ($4,000,000+ a year) for 20 admin and support personnel for 20 teachers. We still have people flying to conferences and we still have we don’t we still have Jeff Dickerson on retainer for $150,000 while we hire Mr. Thurmond’s former campaign manager? That doesn’t sound like we’re broke.

  8. TracyW says:

    Students should not need a text book in the classroom. Maybe a work book, but they should read the textbook at home and there should be lecture in the classroom or some kind of interaction with the teacher. Class is not the place to read your 10 pound textbook.

    Otherwise, the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. Call Mr. Thurmond’s office and ask for an answer.

  9. HA Hurley says:

    Bottom Line: there are no text books for students to take home. None! Zip!
    Text $$$ were spent on other things. Now, they have to invent all kinds of reasons why kids don’t need books. We need to unearth that poppycock and challenge them.
    Not about books! This is about textbook $$$ gone and spent. No $$ available for texts, now.
    Cheating & lying! Not educating students.
    Denying them a Free And Appropriate Education , FAPE!

    Let’s force the online book issue. Every parent should ask for training/inservice for school administrators to access and use the only texts available, online. Watch them scramble! Then we’ll know!!! Please take the time and do it.

  10. On the verge says:

    As a teacher, I first heard about the “pilot” program here, thank you. We were told to only offer online texts, because we don’t have enough textbooks for each student; a class set only. My students were given their access codes last Monday with the due date of today to register; maybe 1/3 did register online. I have checked out books to students who do not have online access or a parent request.

    This issue wouldn’t be an issue if we actually spent our tax dollars for the children and their direct educators.

    Your children’s teachers are working their butts off to make sure your children get the education they deserve; it is the greedy grown ups in the county that we are swimming against. Additionally, we were not paid to be at school last night, that may be why some of your child’s teachers were not present, I applaud them; I was only there for you and your child.

    Thank you parents for the amazing breakfast this morning! It was much needed after our 14 hour marathon day yesterday. DELICIOUS and MOST APPRECIATED.

  11. howdy1942 says:

    Sarah – thanks again for your splendid work and research. I’m just amazed that you did not get a straight answer! Seriously, these administrators don’t know whether the students have books, netbooks, or whatever – they ought to know those answers right off the cuff and be able to respond with a “yes” or “no” or “we have books in some classes that have not been transitioned to netbooks”, etc.

    You know, if the school system thinks they have a problem with students damaging textbooks, just wait until they hand out those netbooks. What happens if a student loses his/her netbook, or what happens if a student drops or damages his/her’s? Does the DCSS just replace a lost or damaged netbook or do they repair it or does the vendor take care of it? What training have the teachers had in using these netbooks or is it just straightforward? Is the cost of a netbook less expensive than simply to provide a book? Was a financial analysis done?

    A more important question and one of greater concern to me is “are the halls safe for students”? I remember when our youngest daughter attended Tucker High over 10 years ago, she came home one day and said that she was increasingly uncomfortable with the “pushing, shoving” that was beginning to exist in the halls. On another occasion after that when I visited Tucker High at the invitation of a neighbor’s child, I arrived only to find that a fight had just taken place just inside the main entrance. If this is an issue, then it needs to be addressed now and quickly and firmly. We simply must provide our students and teachers with safe classrooms free from all threatening behavior. I would hope that all students would want to learn but, at a minimum, students must not interfere with the learning experience of others.

    @DSW I’m with you – I think I have more questions now than I did before. Looks like these are issues that should be asked of the school board and they should provide answers directly to the parents and the residents of this County.

  12. Quagmire says:

    I was at the Tucker High meeting as well. It seemed very disorganized. The textbook discussion was embarrassing. When I asked about why there were no grades in the computer, I also got 6different answers from all of the teachers. One teacher was not gifted certified but was given a gifted class. I found out at curriculum night that the next morning, my child would have a new english teacher. I asked him if he had any grades for my child and he said no. I asked him what my child has been doing for 3 weeks and he responded that he was told not to input grades because they had no idea when schedules would be finalized. He said he was given no guidance on how to transition his kids to their new teacher. He said he might talk to their new teacher, but he had not collected any work. The next day, the entire class could not find their new teacher. Administrators were unable to direct the students. The kids sat in the lobby while they searched for the teacher. Another instructional day wasted. Shouldn’t they have known that this teacher wasn’t gifted certified at the beginning of school? The math teacher also said she does not have her grade book done. When I asked her how would a parent know how their child is progressing, she said-“Great question! If were you, I would call the administrators tomorrow, because I don’t have a clue”. I couldn’t find my child’s PE teacher for Open House or Curriculum Night. Then I hear that they are all football coaches, so that was their priority. Teachers seemed nice and caring and trying to do what is right by students in spite of the chaos by the failure of school leaders. Teachers should have been advised to keep a hard copy of grades and share them if kids had a schedule change. We are three weeks in, and a 4.5 week progress report comes out soon. How reliable will grades be? Another big question is what happened to the teachers’ grade books? I hear that they came in Monday and grades disappeared. Those lucky enough to have the foresight to keep a hard copy of their grade book were able to re-enter them. Very sad Dekalb.

  13. Remember, just last year the SRO at Tucker (who happens to also be Gene Walker’s son) was severely injured when he tried to break up a fight between students —

  14. H.A. Hurley says:

    Chaos like you described creates major discipline problems in high schools. This administration obviously has no clue! They are creating problems that should be avoided. Dangerous!
    Soon tests begin. Test WHAT KNOWLEDGE? Lost grades? Every student better receive an ‘A’ if they don’t have documentation for anything else. Do not accept an Incomplete! Can’t explain that away.

    I have often heard of regular fights and the ‘mall cop’ security man, Eugene Walker’s son, was shot in the foot, and never returned. School went on for months without security. One mall cop for one school? I don’t know if all of this is true, but that is the scuttlebutt in the hood!
    Oh, what about an education for our children? Oh yeah! Almost forgot!?

  15. Dekalbite2 says:

    Look at Atkinson’s proposed budget for 2012-13 budget because the prior two budgets were Ramona Tyson’s budgets (which even though Ms. Tyson said they were balanced and also said the 2011-12 budget was a surplus, it actually was a deficit). Atkinson must have been very concerned because she was told the budget she had to live by – Ms. Tyson’s “surplus” budget – was really a deficit when she looked closely. Atkinson had to let teaching positions go, etc. because Ms. Tyson had “stuck” her with a deficit budget while she was really interested in moving forward as a “Technology superintendent” (big bucks) and establishing a one to one student to laptop/tablet environment.

    Atkinson had made a name for herself as a technology maven when she introduced the one to one laptop initiative in Lorain. She wanted to bring it here to get notoriety and be known as someone who brought this one to one initiative to one of the largest systems in Georgia (that’s what it’s always about – getting accolades for introducing something new and different).

    The laptop one to one initiative (suggested as laptops or tablets) was written into Atkinson’s proposed budget even though there was no room for it. How did she accomplish this? She eliminated textbooks to pay for it. That was very obvious. Look at the proposed budget from Atkinson and you will see that she “paid” for the laptops (or iPads or tablets) by getting rid of textbooks. What happened to the laptops (tablets) for kids? Did they end up losing the proposed Internet devices after the textbooks had been sacrificed to pay for them?

    Parents need to call Gary Brantley, head of MIS, who Atkinson brought with her from Lorain (he ran her one to one initiative). Ask him where the laptops/tablets are for the students that are supposed to providing access to the textbooks THIS YEAR. He was part and parcel of this decision because it looks good for him on a national level:

    Look at the K12 Technology Summit 2013 Gary Brantley went to as a presenter in 2012 and 2013. He has carved a name for himself as an implementer of one to one initiatives. BTW – look at the venue he goes to when he goes to this conference. Can you see why he was/is interested in being known as a “cutting edge” technology innovator? This just didn’t work out for him and tangentially for DeKalb students:

    My bet is MIS could not and did not want to deliver on the installation and care of these laptops/tablets (they would not be capable of such an initiative) so the movement for the laptops/tablets got pushed out to the side and meanwhile the money in the budget for textbooks had been taken away because the students were going to have all of these devices (this was obvious in the budget). MIS was not interested in this project of Atkinson’s to give the kids one to one access so they probably eliminated or delayed it, leaving the students with no access to written content. The blame no doubt falls partially on Atkinson who was furthering her career, the BOE who was approving anything she said, and MIS who did not want to take on anything that might require this kind of effort or expertise – remember that MIS is a Microsoft shop and doesn’t want to have learn a lot of new technology.

    Let us know what Mr. Brantley says.

  16. Quagmire says:

    Eugene Walker’s son, Officer Brown is back this year. His wife, Ms. Brown, board secretary, was moved to a schoolhouse somewhere when Eugene Walker was removed from the board. It is my understanding that the missing grades happened all over the system with no warning. I remember the SRO from the middle school was called over to the high school a few times but it was only after an incident happened. Finally Ofc Davidson was assigned there. Why do these things take so long? I am sure the principal requested an officer from the start.

  17. Dekalbite2 says:

    Do all students indeed have net books? That is part of what Atkinson said was balancing the budget – getting net books for all students so the county could save money on textbooks. That’s how she was going to pay for the net books she wanted so badly – by eliminating textbooks.

  18. @Dekalbite2: We’re told that there was money set aside for the net books – the ‘hardware’ (from money saved by not purchasing textbooks) — however — there was never any money/thought/planning for the cost of the software subscriptions and eBooks (these software programs are not free!) They considered ‘sharing’ downloads, but apparently decided against it, since it’s illegal. So… here we are.

  19. @HA Hurley — he wasn’t shot in the foot, but his foot was badly broken in his efforts to break up a couple of teenaged boys physical altercation.

  20. Dekalbite2 says:

    Did the students actually get the netbooks?

  21. no idea… we haven’t heard of many who did… if any. Parents – Teachers – please let us know if any of your students received a net book or an iPad … or anything.

  22. WhatAShame!!! says:

    Last week I spoke with an administrator at my child’s school and was told that books would be issued by the end of the week. As of today, NO TEXTBOOKS. ) :

  23. midvaledad says:

    No. Neither laptops nor tablets have not been given out to students. The One To One Laptop Initiative was dropped when Atkinson left.
    Besides it being a horrible idea with no funding, Mr. Brantley has to build an IT infrastructure that works. Have any of you tried using the computers in the classrooms? They are slow and crash all the time. The Interactive Whiteboards (aka Smartboards) only have limited utility and apparently aren’t in every classroom yet even though it was C. Lewis who first promised them 5 years ago. The Smartboards can do a lot more and can be easier to use if they were connected to a more robust network and wifi.
    So what happened to the money for the Smartboards? I remember Ramona Tyson promising they would be in every classroom at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year. Here we are three years later and that promise still has not been kept.
    Speaking of technology…a couple years ago the special education department at Chamblee H.S. was using a program on a 7.5 inch floppy disc. A friend told me how her son laughed when he saw it in a textbook listed as obsolete and it was in his classroom.

  24. midvaledad says:

    Who were the administrators speaking in this video?

  25. SportsReporter says:

    Strange place. Grades and textbooks are standard after twelve days of 90 minute blocks.

  26. @midvale: These are just more examples of how our administration simply ‘talks the talk’ – but there is generally little or no action or follow through on anything, ever. For example, Thurmond has been boasting that something like 60% of schools have wi-fi, however, what does that really mean? Is the entire building wi-fi ready with boosters all around the building or is it perhaps available in the office, the computer labs and the media center? Big, big difference.

  27. Dekalbite2 says:

    @midvale dad

    “Besides it being a horrible idea with no funding, Mr. Brantley has to build an IT infrastructure that works. Have any of you tried using the computers in the classrooms? They are slow and crash all the time. The Interactive Whiteboards (aka Smartboards) only have limited utility”

    Yet Mr. Thurmond presented a teacher survey to the BOE that said the approval rating for DeKalb Technology was very high. How do you suppose that happened?

    Apparently. The BOE thinks all is well from a technology standpoint.

  28. Dekalbite2 says:

    I knew I wasn’t imagining this. The textbook funding was cut under Atkinson to pay for the one to one computer initiative – remember when she was “balancing” the budget, one of her “savings” were not buying textbooks because the students were gong to use net books. That’s how she was going to pay for the netbooks she wanted so much – she framed them as a savings on textbook costs. When she left that didn’t happen (in addition to the idea that they somehow had omitted the licensing fees to download the textbooks). The one to one initiative was quietly dropped and money for textbooks quietly went with it. It sounds like MIS was not capable of supporting the netbook initiative anyway and had anyone talked to the teachers about it?

    IMHO – not providing students with textbooks happened just like that and Thurmond and his administration were not willing to give up any admin and support personnel or pet programs to amend the budget to get the textbooks.

  29. Sir Quagmire says:

    One of the administrators talking in the video was Ms Branch, AP for Instruction.

  30. Dekalbite2 says:

    When the netbook initiative was quietly dropped, so was student access to textbooks and Mr. Thurmond and his administration were not willing to trim in the admin and support and non teaching areas (plus he really, really wanted those Parent Centers reopened – even after all those years they were ineffective from a student achievement standpoint). Did Mr. Thurmond and Ms. Tyson bother to ask the teachers if they feel their students need textbooks. Has anyone asked Mr. Thurmond or Ms. Tyson that question – the level of teacher involvement in this textbook decision.

  31. H.A. Hurley says:

    What do the Parent Centers provide parents? I am not familiar with them.
    Back to the textbooks….I agree that teachers need to be consulted, however, many of our younger teachers literally ‘grew up’ in this incompetent school system, and may not know ANYTHING different. That is often the problem when the so-called values, and practices of a p**s poor system train the next generation of educators. Garbage in – garbage out. I predict that we truly have teachers who support the company line of: no texts, books online, no teaching materials, old slow computers, not using Smart Boards, invent every lesson from scratch, LOW TEST SCORES, …….ENDLESS CRAP. Young educators learn from such incompetence and will repeat it. Many, many , many examples in DCS NOW!
    Textbooks, paper, calculators, grades, computer access, pencils, pens, lockers, lunch, PE, Art, libraries….should not be up for discussion. Students and parents need to have access to the material, syllabus and progress monitoring.
    I can’t believe that we have to spend so much energy just trying to get the absolute basics in education. I feel foolish begging and constantly saying the same thing as we all ‘preach to the choir’ and DCS remains SILENT! THURMOND IS SILENT! COUNTY IS SILENT! GA IS SILENT! Silence is so powerful, and they have perfected it.
    Maybe we need to hold our breath?

  32. acheolus says:

    At our high school, grades and unit on eSis disappeared suddenly last week. Some teachers were able to get it back after the faculty were encouraged to put in a mass complaint in order to get someone to address the problem. The sense from the meeting was that a solution would not occur unless we asked for it en masse. In my case, my grade book was not found in the records, and I’m having to put everything back in from scratch, for the third time this year.

  33. Dekalbite2 says:

    @HA Hurley
    “What do the Parent Centers provide parents? I am not familiar with them.”
    Atkinson trimmed them and Thurmond is brining them back. Look at this post to see why Atkinson trimmed them:

    He also increased the Fernbank Science Center budget. FSC has 20 admin and support personnel for 20 science teachers who are mainly in the schools all day teaching. $4,000,000+ for this outdated and overstaffed with non teaching personnel center.

  34. Ella says:

    All of this is not surprising.

    The school system is close to being broke. A new board and a poltician school superintendent who is trying to give a good impression is not going to make the lack of money go away.

    The school board and school superintendent must make big cuts in the administrative staff at the county office. They must make big cuts in graduation coaches, math coaches and other type of positions to bring the money situation into balance. They must make cuts in all areas that do not affect the schoolhouse classroom.


  35. H.A. Hurley says:

    Dekalbite2 ~ Thanks for the DCParent Center info. Looked on their newsletter…guess what? It is from Nov,2011. So current, I can hardly stand it. Soooooo DCS!
    Question: should parents make appointments to go there and access texts online? Since they are so current, what would they find? Online text myth needs to be explored and exposed if it is a total lie! We must rule it out! Any comments?

  36. H.A. Hurley says:

    Ella ~
    where is the nixed textbook $$? Where is the nixed Netbooks $$? Every $$ has to have a name on it! Oh, forgot, not in DCS. It’s easy spending other people’s $$!

  37. Teacher1 says:

    At my elementary school, we have textbooks for all subjects in grades 3-5. K-2 have everything except Math. It was December when the consumable textbooks (workbooks) for Math were delivered, so we’re expecting the same this year. We are short some textbooks in first grade due to an increase in enrollment over last year.

    We’re being told NOT to use worksheets and have more “hands-on” activities. My students have always used hands-on materials, particularly in Math, but at a certain point students have to demonstrate their learning on paper. Modeling addition and subtraction with cubes is a great way to introduce and practice the concept, but in the real world you have to be able to add and subtract on paper and mentally.

    There is access for elementary students to online editions of all the textbooks. I have been using the online editions in class, accessing them via the teacher codes. We have not been given access codes for our students, probably because they do not yet have schedules in eSIS. We were told the AP had to wait for the appointment to go in and enter schedules at WBB and the appointment was Thursday or Friday. The one upside to that is all our grades are still on paper and we didn’t experience the great eSIS purge.

  38. September says:

    Going back to the behavior issue. Students who are consistently not behaving in class or between classes need to be sent home. Yes, I know these students deserve an education, and, And, AND, it counts against the school if they are not in class. The more pressing concern for me is that these students are keeping other students from learning. Think of the time that teachers and administrators spend on discipline. We need a decent alternative school. These students could behave, if they wanted to. Our students should feel safe when they are in school. Their time is valuable.

    Another question. If your child is assigned to a classroom in a trailer, are there working computers and a working telephone in that trailer?

  39. midvaledad says:

    I realized why the answer was so vague. There is no “Pilot Textbook Program.” The administrator didn’t know what to say and failed to clarify the question. It looks as though she was talking about the Laptop Pilot Program. That also explains why none of the teachers mentioned it.

    The video shows an administrator rambling without understanding the question. The parent is bringing up relevant facts about the lack of access to textbooks and the administrator is just lost.

  40. concerned citizen says:

    I saw a Parent Center in action, manned by a very low-functioning F&F. She and her school buddies sat in the classroom all day, drinking coffee and EATING their big, fat behinds off. Once in awhile, I saw a parent in there, sitting in front of a computer. It’s hard to see all this is DeKalb. I really have seen lots of mess in my time. Let me comment about Tucker High and Middle – hot messes! Absolutely NO discipline. Students run around hitting and yelling! We will not be progressing in DeKalb with all the dumb administrators and F&F.

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