Whoa! Thurmond settled the Heery case for $7.5 million. The board approved. Case closed.

Earlier today we posted an article stating that we heard rumors of settlement talks in the school system’s civil case with Heery Construction. To read it, and catch up on the history of the case, click this link >> Are we on the road to a settlement with Heery Mitchell?

Fast forward a few short hours to this evenings monthly Board meeting, where the motion to accept a settlement was put forth by Michael Thurmond and approved by the Board with very, very little discussion. In fact, the monetary amount was not disclosed except for a slip of the tongue by Michael Thurmond when he said “We can put the $7 million back into the schools.”

It’s very surprising – actually shocking – that they settled for so little, considering the initial amount of the school system’s counterclaim was $100 million! And in our earlier post, we linked to a recent news article that stated that on April 2nd, Judge Stanley Birch, a special master assigned to the case eliminated the majority of Heery’s claim against the district and dismissed the idea that the Heery case was related to the pending matters of Dr. Lewis and Ms. Reid. Judge Birch later reduced DeKalb’s claims to $33.5 million. We were expecting them to settle somewhere closer to $30 million – certainly not less than $10 million!

Oh boy. As always, the only real winner here in the end was King & Spalding. And maybe Heery’s attorney, DLA Piper.

Read more >>

School superintendent negotiates settlement in expensive legal battle

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93 Responses to Whoa! Thurmond settled the Heery case for $7.5 million. The board approved. Case closed.

  1. Truth Seeker says:

    I have read with interest and amusement several comments on DSW.

    @ Howdy. Your heart is definitely in the right place, but your approach is outdated. This school system is not like the 1960’s and 70’s in which you seem to reminisce. What did Mr. Womack say that was wrong?

    @Wordwall You don’t seem to care about facts that the court special master ruled on.

    @Another comment. You get the real story.

    @Fred You really get it. Heery was going to lose in court and the court master knew what they could pony up and continue to function as a business. Our current uninformed BOE clearly did not know the background of the case.

    Has anyone been bothered by Orson taking contributions from Heery’s lawyers and sitting on a board with a Heery VP? McChesney’s blog is right on the mark? Mr. Orson’s involvement was not purely coincidental.

  2. Dekalbite2 says:

    @Truth Seeker

    IMO – Mr. Womack lost his credibility a long time ago as so many statements were wrong.

    Crawford Lewis demanded a pay increase of 6% during the worst year of the Great Recession while eliminating 275 teaching positions, taking away the teachers’ TSAs, no cost of living increases and even freezing their STEP increases.

    “His six percent raise in his new contract increases his annual salary $15,000 — it is now $255,000 instead of $240,000. The contract also pays him additional benefits.”
    http://www.11alive.com/news/article/140243/0/DeKalb-County-School-Superintendent-Crawford-Lewis-Cut-His-Pay-Before-Accepting-Raise

    “District 4 board member H.Paul Womack Jr. would not say whether an increase was on the table for Lewis, but he noted that even Clayton County pays its superintendent more than DeKalb pays Lewis. He said Lewis has performed “admirably and has done an outstanding job.” “He has brought the school system forward on a lot of high goals,” Womack said. “If we were to lose Dr. Lewis, it would cost us $300,000 easily to replace him.” Womack, who led a $5.2 billion a year company before he retired, said Lewis would measure up in any company in which he worked. “Dr. Lewis is worth more than we are paying him,” Womack said. “He sets high goals and he passed every one of them. This community is damn lucky we have Dr. Lewis.”

    http://www.communityradar.com/story.php?title=crawford-lewis-demands-a-higher-salary-or-to-paraphrase-hey-boe-i-want-mine–now

  3. dsw2contributor says:

    “If we were to lose Dr. Lewis, it would cost us $300,000 easily to replace him.” – H. Paul Womack Jr.

    Well, Mr. Womack was certainly right about that point!

  4. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Don’t confuse the messenger with the message. Did Womack say anything inaccurate? Everything Womack said was right.

    Womack, by the way, wasn’t the only one praising Lewis. A lot of respected people were singing Lewis’ praises. Crawford Lewis was Superintendent from 2004 – 2010. In 2007 SACS fully accredited the Dekalb School District saying “Effective leadership at all levels”.

  5. Dekalbite2 says:

    “Did Womack say anything I accurate. Everything Womack said is right.”

    Well – no – everything Mr. Womack said was not right. Would anyone agree with Mr. Womack’s statements regarding Dr. Lewis bringing “the school system forward?” or “setting high goals and meeting them.”

    Contrary to what Mr. Womack said, the data shows that Dr. Lewis did not bring the school system forward or meet high goals. Our student achievement rate had a sharp decline under Dr. Lewis when compared to all of the other metro school systems with comparable demographics.

  6. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    dekalbite2,
    I was referring to the board meeting on Monday and specifically Paul Womack’s public comments. I’ll email Womack and ask him what benchmarks he was using to evaluate Lewis’ performance. Lewis did get the entire district fully accredited which pulled a lot of weight until recently.

    The court appointed special master dismissed Heery’s claim and reduced the Dekalb School District’s claim to $33.5 million. Yet, we settled for $7.5 million.

    Orson’s campaign was partially funded by lawyers who represent Heery. Orson sits on a board with a VP of Heery.

    What’s really weird is that Ty Tagami’s AJC article neglected to mention the special master’s approval of moving forward with the $33.5 million.

    Can anybody tell me where Womack was incorrect in any of his public comment statements?

  7. concernedmom30329 says:

    I think we probably settled for too little. I am hearing that DCSS will end up with somewhere around 6-7 million and attorneys get the rest.

    I think Thurmond is working down a check list (as mentioned on the blog earlier) without thought to what the best way to check off an item might be. By the way, I don’t know if anyone noticed by Alice Thompson got a big promotion — yet another disappointment.

  8. Parent says:

    Orson’s email to Maureen Downey posted by her in her AJC blog:
    “Since there are a couple of posters to your blog questioning one campaign contribution made to me, I wanted to point out that it was a contribution to my 2008 campaign and not my 2012 campaign (something they conveniently neglect to mention). The contribution was made by a friend and parent of a soccer teammate of my daughter (I coached them both at AYSA for a number of years). And, by the way, the partner left DLA Piper in 2009 and moved to New Orleans.”
    Quite different than Orson’s campaign was partially funded by Heery lawyers.

  9. Truth Seeker says:

    @ Dekalbite 2. I get it. You don’t like Womack,but your comments have nothing to do with the item under discussion. Shoot, I don’t like him much myself, but at least try to be objective. He probably looked at a lot more evidence than you or me. Did you read what the court master ruled? Those are some facts, not opinions.

  10. another comment says:

    It is unfortunate that the General Public does not understand that low bid construction, that the Public sector seems to find its self pushed into using by tax payers is almost never the “best value” or in the end the least expensive method of construction for the owner. I have both an Architecture degree and a Master’s degree in Construction Engineering and Management. Low Bid, sealed bid senerios set everyone up for an adveseral relationship. Then when you go and put artificial demands in the contracting requirements that certain set asides should be for various community members, nothing good can come of it. I have worked on every side of the equation in my 30 years in Atlanta. It sets up an adveserial relationship from the begining. It is a one up relationship. Lawyers on the ready.

    In a low bid situation, ideally by the mathmatical formula if their are 6 bidders, a contractor should win 1 in 6 bids. But that doesn’t happen. The curtain wall mfg. determines which sub, is going to get the good number. So pray your relationship with him is decent ( their are huge differences). In a negotiated bid you can pay the differance and use the best company even if the MFG. didn’t give him the number.

  11. another comment says:

    Part II . Contractors end up going into low bids with little to no profit these days. If they missed something in the estimate. For example, used the # of a non-specified Elevator Mfg. that can be a $40-100K error ( most Architects won’t take the subsitute, I wouldn’t not for a long term owner). Missing colored architectural concrete, and using regular concrete. Could be $100 a cu yard diff. say another $40K in the whole. So I would say that most of the time the winner of a low bid job starts with $0 profit or a negative profit. If they have negative profit look at the next two bidders this will tell you what is missing. These two probally have $0 profit. Then the highest 2 probably have 3% profit. Most GC’s only make about 3% profit on a 30 million dollar project if they are lucky. That is why from day one the Project Manager, Project Engineer, and Supt is too make 3% profit. This is hard to do when you are handed a project in the hole from estimating. Or when you go to buy the job and subs that gave you low prices tell you oops I made a mistake and can’t honor my bid. Their are some great contractors in town that do great qualtiy work, they will not short change and owner on quality. But they will make their money on change orders which everyone is legally entiled to do. Then unfortunately, their are some lesser quality contractors that take shotcuts on qualtiy.

  12. another comment says:

    Part III that is where the tax payer pays over and over. Then there is also when underqualified contractors get the job we all pay. We also all pay for the charade of Minority/Majority contractor. Their are basically 2-3 Minority-Majority partners that are used by every big company in town for this game of charades. They are the 51% partner, but they have a single wide trailer on projects. the 49% partner has double wide or triple wides on site. The 49% staff does all the work. The 51% gets 51% of the profits, all to meet the diversity requirements.

    Ironically, nothing was said in this case about what Mitchell paid in its 2011 Settlement of this case. It was the 51% Partner. This whole charade that goes on really needs to stop. But Pat Pope/Reid, C Lewis and the I see only color band of the Board really didn’t want to get rid of Heery. When is someone going to do a FOIA as to the Mitchell Settlement ?

  13. another comment says:

    I meant Mitchells 2012 Settlement not 2011 of the case

  14. Truth Seeker says:

    @parent
    So what is the difference in 2008? The case started in 2007. What about sitting on the board CURRENTLY with the VP of Heery International. Did he write a letter about that too? It’s a fools errand that does not see the conflict of interest…. to quote a well known philosopher. This is slimy. Is probing striking a nerve?

  15. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    DLA Piper represents Heery. Orson’s note says that he is friends with DLA Piper people?? Holy Cow! At least Orson owned up to his relationship with DLA Piper and admitted they partially funded his campaign. Granted, there’s no comment about sitting on the board with a VP of Heery.

    I guess it doesn’t matter. Nobody is going to hold M.O. accountable for all these connections to Heery and DLA Piper. Apparently nobody cares that the Dekalb School District received much less than the special master said they could move forward with. Who really cares about losing $20 million dollars and the furlough days and class sizes that could have affected?

    I guess I know what to expect come May.

  16. Dekalbite2 says:

    @Truth Seeker
    “@ Dekalbite 2. I get it. You don’t like Womack,but your comments have nothing to do with the item under discussion. ”

    I don’t dislike Mr. Womack. I did not agree with his actions on the school board. His votes for larger class sizes, cellphone placement on school property and giving a 3 year contract to Lewis with a significant raise while voting to cut teacher pay and eliminate teaching positions was detrimental to student achievement. His votes did not move students forward academically, and did not demonstrate fiscally sound management of our tax dollars (we ran a budget deficit – the only metro school system to do so). During his term on the Board, the school system was placed on SACS accreditation probation.

    There is a difference in personal animosity toward a public servant and not liking the results of their voting record. I have met several Congressmen in Georgia who are personally amiable, but I disagree with the results of their voting record and the results of their votes

    IMO – Mr. Womack’s comments lack credibility because during his tenure, DeKalb Schools experienced a significant decline in student achievement and financial prudence. These are only the two areas the Board is responsible for. Mr. Womack verbally and with his votes supported the past three superintendents as student achievement declined and finances were in disarray. Again, this this goes to credibility – IMO.

  17. Insider says:

    DSW: while I realize that I, like other non-teachers, are their “support” – I think a comment like that is totally uncalled for. To go scriptural for a moment, just because a hand isn’t an eye, or a foot isn’t the brain, it’s still part of the same (albeit bloated) body.

    Without bus drivers, how many kids wouldn’t be in classrooms? Without mechanics, how would the buses even run? Without buildings that are built & maintained, there would be nowhere for the teachers to teach. Without HR folks to do the hiring, there would be no teachers to teach. Without payroll, teachers would quit because they wouldn’t get paid. I’ve worked for the system for over 20 years… the last 5 or more with no raise while the cost of everything has gone up.

    Yes… there are too many “chiefs” who earn huge salaries that they couldn’t earn in the private sector. But don’t lump the rest of the folks who don’t teach – or work in the school house – in with the rest of the “Central Office” bureaucracy.

  18. Word Wall says:

    Seven million dollars divided between seven thousand teachers is one thousand dollars each.

  19. Dekalbite2 says:

    @Insider
    The attrition rate for teachers is totally unacceptable for students. This is the reason we should concentrate on raising the compensation for them. Students will not be moving forward academically unless we attract and retain high quality teachers. In addition, teachers, not support personnel are the ones responsible for student achievement. When a classroom does not perform, the Coaches and bus drivers and clerks and Coordinators do not bear the responsibility. If teachers are responsible for the success of the “core business” of the school system, then they must be adequately compensated. That is the way businesses operate. The people with the most responsibility are the ones that receive the highest levels of compensation. That is why salespeople in a company make the higher salaries. They produce the revenue which is the “core business” of any company. This is not to say support personnel are not important. But they are not responsible for the success the “core business” which is raising student achievement. That is why they are called “support.”

  20. Another comment says:

    The main reason school districts must be just broken down into the 20-22 sub districts of high schools with their feeder schools going into the school districts. The biggest cost that goes down is the bussing cost, the maintenance on the busses. the bus routes should be no more than a 5 or 8 mile raddious . Some times smaller in small walkable villages the ideal of citly planning. If no one lived more than two miles away from the cental school mm. We could do with all but a few short busses. With everyone else walking to and from schools located on the same campus. Elementary, Middle, and High school. So what Busses that did have ti run just had one run a day instead of three. Busdrivers could be taught to do their own light maintenance during breaks in run. Or they could take the bus to local contract shops to have the service done in between runs for larger fixes. cuttting out Maintenange garage jobs, but increasing Bus drivers dead hour jobs. other bus. Drivers could be taught how to drive the lawn mowers in between their hauls at their school, to maximize thier pay potential. just like lunch ladies can be cross trained to handle snack time at ASP after school and check kids in and out. This would allow actual teachers to tutor students during this time.

  21. September says:

    @DeKalbite2. While I agree paying teachers is very, very important, we also need to be fixing working conditions. That goes back to class size, having needed instructional materials, the number of during/after school meetings and the length of time teachers must spend in them. How many late nights and weekends should a teacher have to put in to get the job done? You are right, teachers are ultimately responsible for the quality of instruction and the success of their students. They should be adequately compensated for their work and they should be treated well.

    This school system needs to fully staff its schools. When there are not enough custodians, teachers and administrators have to pitch in. Rooms that are either too hot or too cold make for an uncomfortable learning environment. Needed equipment sits idle because there is a waiting list for the person who repairs it or, worse yet, there’s nobody to repair it. I could go on.

    Morale is low. Money will help, but it won’t solve the whole problem.

  22. Stan Jester says:

    My understanding is that 5,000 students is the optimal size. Any smaller than that and the spending per student on non-direct instruction goes up. Any larger than that and the leviathan administration and non-direct instruction grows faster than the student population as well. For example, a 2013 study by Georgia College’s Ben Scafidi, Ph.D. showed how the growth in administrators has far outpaced the growth of students. In Georgia, from 1992-2009, we saw a 41% increase in students but a 74% increase in administrators.

    DeKalb has 70% Free or Reduced Lunch. Gainsville (78% F/R Lunch) and Valdosta (76% F/R Lunch) are more economically challenged, have much smaller districts and get better CRCT Scores.

    It’s not about the money
    All the states around Georgia are getting better results and are spending less per student than Georgia. According to the GaDOE the 4 Year Cohort Graduation Rate for DeKalb is 57%. The high school graduation rate for Georgia is 67%. Middle and lower socioeconomic families would be more likely to have their children graduate from high school if they moved to Florida, South Carolina, Alabama or Tennessee where their graduation rates are 71%, 74%, 72% and 86% respectively.

  23. Dekalbite2 says:

    @September

    While I agree paying teachers is very, very important, we also need to be fixing working conditions. That goes back to class size, having needed instructional materials, the number of during/after school meetings and the length of time teachers must spend in them. ”

    Absolutely. All of those things need to happen. There is NO talk coming from Mr. Thurmond saying we need to reduce class sizes, ensure that the teacher and students have the instructional materials they need, and the number of school meetings is diverting instructional/plan/grading time from teachers to the detriment of students. Mr. Thurmond needs a new set of advisors with more than 3 years of classroom experience decades ago yet he has made no move in that direction.

  24. @Insider: Without teachers and students – who would have a job at all? I’m not saying support staff aren’t important – they are! But it’s just high time that we elevate teachers to the level at which they will garner respect and high pay. Then we will find that the best and brightest choose to become the teachers who will change the world by properly educating the students who will dream up the change.

  25. Embarrassed Employee says:

    It was difficult to say this respectfully DSW:
    DSW you are really jaded if you THINK, teachers are the only professionals in the building that TEACH. You want to reward only teachers, that truly shows everyone in the “schoolhouse” what you think of them. There are para educators that TeACH, circles around certified teachers everyday. There are custodians that TEACH students everyday. If this is truly your belief, it tells me that you don’t know as much as you pretend to know about DeKalb.
    Everyone in the schoolhouse has been financially and emotionally stressed for YEARS. No raises, no COLAS, no steps, NOTHING. Yep, DSW, you are really starting to show your true colors.

  26. thedeal2 says:

    DSW, agree. Students are top priority, and the people in this district who have the most influence and time with them are teachers. The first slices of the pie need to go to the teachers. They have been treated so badly for so many years. Unlike the support staff, teachers have gone to school to do this profession that should be highly, highly prized (when done well). Support staff is extremely important, but it is just that – support staff.

  27. concerned citizen says:

    Teachers in DeKalb are not well treated: we are subjected to all kinds of tyranny; most from principals and other administrators who truly don’t know what they are doing. The number of school meetings (department and faculty and school improvement and on-and-on) is staggering. No teacher has time to talk with other teachers, talk with students, talk with parents, do lesson planning, do grades, etc.) because of the endless talk of principals. We literally have more than two days out of five with meetings, most often not even scheduled. It’s sad what teachers are asked to put up with, without compensation and not in the students’ best interests. The area supts are the worst possible enemies of teachers: they tell principals what to tell teachers: most of all, put up with every insult we are given, such as telling us what to tell SACS, area supts, state department (UGH); why oh why do we have entire days putting up with state doe “officials” coming into our schools and spending hours and hours questioning teachers? Why don’t they question the principals? Could it be that the principals are the least knowledgeable and less competent than the teachers? YES! With the information now about how well Gwinnett (and other systems) compensate their teachers with pension plans and salaries, will there be anyone left of any quality in DeKalb next year? I think not. I like most of the teachers I work with, but the quality of their instruction and level of commitment is doubtful. I believe the level of competency is low, sadly. Maybe some schools have a full competent staff, but most schools don’t, and the future is getting bleak. Do any of us have a position that could make things better? No. The principals really are to blame since they could refuse to put up with the BS the staff is taking. Will they? Oh, hell, no. Their jobs are are stake, or so they believe. What if the school principals got together for once and said, “No, we will not take this position.”

  28. teachermom says:

    I agree @concerned. The teacher exodus will take a few years because of logistics but it is coming. Many of the seasoned teachers left from the golden days when Dekalb shone are now retiring. New teachers may come but they wont stay. I also like my fellow teachers but see many who are in their prime leave each year.
    Principals are out of touch with our day to day responsibilities and totally uninterested unless it relates to their objectives. We are expected to force feed our made up curriculum (remember we are given the standards but no curriculum) and make it snappy. The quality and experience varies from school to school but most have very few years of classroom experience. They don’t allow for autonomy and they are surrounded by “coaches” who help them keep us in line. It is an oppressive culture and we have no voice.

  29. howdy1942 says:

    Just read the editorials (three of them) in today’s AJC – right on! We have, indeed, had 12 years of arrogant, incompetent, self-centered, and poor leadership in the Dekalb County School System. The AJC is also very correct in saying that the Dekalb School Board continues to strongly enforce the status quo and remains convinced that this will result in improvement. How naive.

    Our children have paid and continue to pay a high price for the failures of our school board and our leadership. As pointed out in one editorial, there are “islands” where quality and success exist, but that same editorial also points out that this has been achieved in spite of opposition from the central administration let alone their support.

    Change is coming to Dekalb County and the School Board and leadership need to either lead that change or simply get out of the way. I”m convinced that Lakeside, Tucker, and Briarcliff will work through their differences and will eventually become cities. They have too much in common to do otherwise. I’m also convinced that those three will join with Dunwoody and Brookhaven to obtain the legal authority to form their own school clusters or districts that will not be subject to the reach of the Dekalb County School Board or administration. Before that happens, I would much prefer to see the Dekalb School Board and the leadership proactively take the leadership to clean up the governance and administration and get the focus back on the classroom. Otherwise, a lot of good students will be hurt and most of them will be in South Dekalb. As the editorials pointed out, Mr. Thurmond has taken a positive step in freeing the district from the Heery albatross. He would do well to get us free from the teachers’ TRS lawsuit and clean out the administration that clearly has failed our students, our people, and thwarted the good efforts of so many. The administration needs to be sharply downsized and it needs to stop interfering with our teachers. And the school board needs to start looking for a new, permanent superintendent that can set standards, focus on the classroom, gain the support of the public and, most importantly, lead!

    My thanks to the AJC for its editorials of today. The status quo is just not acceptable any longer and the school board and leadership need to wake up and smell the coffee that is brewing in Dekalb County.

  30. dekalbite2 says:

    Just look at page 1 of the DeKalb Schools Organizational Chart to see that most of the top level personnel are personnel that Crawford Lewis promoted into positions of power:

    Click to access organizational-chart.pdf

    Mrs. Downey is correct when she says Mr. Thurmond has maintained the status quo which has failed our students abysmally.

  31. Dekalbite2 says:

    Maureen Downey and the AJC Editorial Board are on point when they say DeKalb Schools needs change (not more of the same).

    From the AJC:

    Results require change
    DeKalb County schools continue to face considerable challenges. The district’s leaders must smartly build on recent improvements and keep working to regain citizen trust.

    In the just-completed criminal trial of the former DeKalb County Schools’ chief operating officer, the school district sounded like a Peyton Place where threats of blackmail shielded wrongdoers and where the ex-superintendent dallied in an illicit affair with a subordinate.
    At the recent school board hearing on a charter cluster proposal, DeKalb schools came across as a protectorate of the status quo, peddling promises that more of the same will somehow produce improved results.
    What DeKalb doesn’t seem is a place where parents are thrilled to send their kids, children get a high-quality education and grownups make smart decisions on behalf of the nearly 100,000 students in their care.
    The DeKalb Schools leadership has to recognize this loss of public confidence and trust. It also has to face that the trend in Georgia, evidenced in both legislative and local activism, is to bring decision-making to a lower level and that demands letting go of some control.
    For example, while legitimate reasons exist for the school board to question the proposed Druid Hills Charter Cluster petition, one is not that DeKalb’s central office offers a better blueprint for reform. Several of the schools in the proposed cluster are underperforming, and teachers complain that their efforts to help their students are undermined by micromanagement and lack of classroom support.
    In their denial of the cluster, DeKalb focused on the tax dollars the district would lose, but the formula is spelled out in the law and schools are entitled to the same funds they now draw. The more compelling point of debate should be whether the proposal will lead to more effective teaching and learning.
    The state’s third-largest system, DeKalb spends a lot of money on its 137 schools. While there are some high performers in the mix, DeKalb can’t boast the results of neighboring Gwinnett, which spends less per pupil. (State Department of Education 2013 data shows DeKalb spends $8,821 per pupil, while Gwinnett spends $7,727.)
    In the last 12 years, the focus in DeKalb shifted from students to adults. The system has confronted more than its share of crises, including five different school superintendents, accreditation woes and a feuding school board.
    Current Superintendent Michael Thurmond inherited a damaged district 10 months ago, battered by the abrupt departure of one superintendent and the indictment of another.
    In February, the governor wielded a new state law to remove six school board members after an accrediting agency placed DeKalb on probation.
    Two weeks ago, a unanimous state Supreme Court upheld the law. A key statement in the ruling was: “When the conduct of a board threatens the school system with an imminent loss of its accreditation, it matters not to the public or the children of the school system whether it is the fault of a single board member, the fault of every board member, or the fault of no one in particular, just an unfortunate result of well-meaning individuals who cannot or do not work well together.”
    To extend the court’s reasoning, it also doesn’t matter to the children whether their schools are operated by a central office of well-meaning managers or by a governing board of impassioned parents.
    What matters to parents and kids — and what ought to matter most to the school board and the DeKalb leadership — is whether those schools succeed.”

  32. howdy1942 says:

    I have read the AJC editorials once again and truly appreciate its wakeup call to the Dekalb County School System, its governance, and its administration. Unlike the school system, the County’s governance seems to be reaching out to the public, to be willing to shake things up by questioning the CEO-type of County government, and sensing that the People are frustrated with the corruption and poor leadership that we have had in government. Interim CEO Lee May is to be commended for his hard work, for his willingness to extend his working hours into the evenings and to listen to the public. Sadly, the same cannot be said for our school system. It clings to the status quo, it is unwilling to even consider change, and it remains out-of-touch. And the performance in our school system shows it.

    Our children are simply too precious to remain under the leadership of the status quo. They have their lives ahead of them. As was noted also in today’s AJC, research has shown that poor children (I understand that 70% of our children are eligible for the free-lunch program) in the Atlanta area stand the absolute least chance of any of the 50 largest metro areas in the United States of escaping their poverty level to reach higher echelons of our working population. That simply must change. I would be among the first to agree that racial discrimination of white against black did exist and, for years, has worked to the detriment of all of us. But that has now been matched by a predominately black school board that, for at least 12 years, had pursued revenge likewise at the expense of all our children. That has prevented the Dekalb County School System from doing the right thing for all our kids. I am reminded of the guy who wanted to demonstrate intelligence by putting his hand over his face and saying hit my hand before I remove it.

    My view is that the Number 1 issue that we have in Dekalb County is our school system. The failure of the DCSS has not only come at a terrible cost to our kids, but it has likewise cost our County. Compare the price of a 2500 square foot home in Dekalb County to the same home in Cobb or Gwinnett – not even close. Think about assessing that home in Cobb or Gwinnett at Dekalb’s tax rates and dream about the revenues that would flow into Dekalb County. Think about all we could do, what we could build, and the services that we could provide to our people. That can happen, but first we need to fix our school system. First, we need a school board that will govern and lead all of us to a greatly improved school system. Second, we need a permanent school superintendent that has a vision of what can be and not on maintaining the status quo. Third, we need to sharply reduce the size of and interference in the classroom by a bloated administrative bureaucracy. Fourth, we need to start supporting our teachers and stop fighting them (in the courts and otherwise). Fifth, our leadership and governance need to stop injecting race into every single decision that each must make. Sixth, we need to focus our attention on the classroom – provide current textbooks, provide modern technology, provide clean, well-kept buildings. Seventh, we need to stop busing our kids miles during the morning and evening rush hours and concentrate on improving the educational quality of all of schools. Eighth, we need to provide our best teachers with bonuses to accept the challenges in under-performing schools. There are probably many others that each reader could add, but we at least need to begin.

    I sincerely hope that each member of the Dekalb County School Board will carefully examine his/her performance and measure it against what the People expect of you. I also hope that our leadership will honestly assess whether you have gotten the job done, whether you are getting the job done, and whether you can get the job done.

  33. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Right about now Craw-daddy is thinking…ruhroh! I was shocked and amazed at the sentence. Do we expect him to see the inside of the jail?

  34. Think Dekalb County School District would ever investigate something like this. Just sayin’.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-education/grady-highs-football-team-investigated-for-recruit/ncFyt/

  35. Embarrassed Employee says:

    I see you all are “rah-rah” teachers, trying to cheer them into a bonus, that all schoolhouse employes deserve. It’s funny to me because I am there in the trenches everyday, and the teachers you THINK deserve a bonus could really care less about you all or your children. Most are trying desperately EVERYDAY to leAve. I hope this post gets to stay, DSW, because I think everyone needs to know the repercussions of pushing for a bonus of any kind strictly for teachers. There would be negative consequences. All employees who are not at the district level have suffered financially, we all deserve bonuses, a turkey, a ham, a gift card, something more than cookies and milk.

  36. teachermom says:

    @Embarrassed Please don’t misunderstand our position. I don’t want a “bonus” of any kind. I want the county to honor the terms under which I was hired originally, and for any freezes or cuts to be distributed to ALL employees including the CO. For teachers, that included step increases and a TSA contribution (for which I signed a waiver of my Social Security contributions). I would like my furlough days back in the form of some planning time so I can do my job, which is to TEACH, not complete endless paperwork that is secondary (at the very least) to educating students.

    As far as I know most cuts of this type were aimed primarily at teachers (I know a lot of staff lost their jobs). On the other hand, yes, a bonus given only to teachers would have negative consequences, just as the cuts given only to teachers have.

    I don’t find it shocking at all that teachers are so demoralized that it has impacted how they are teaching students, but don’t misinterpret that as a lack of caring. At the end of the day, this is about the quality of of our job life and working conditions. I was sending emails out at 11:00 last night, not because I wanted to but because I was given 5 pieces of “urgent” paperwork yesterday in addition to putting in grades, planning, attending two meetings, and preparing for our big observation of the year. How refreshed am I to go back into my classroom and teach with enthusiasm and excitement?

    Due to after school meetings and “duties” I am left with a 15 minute lunch period and about 30 minutes of planning each day to complete ALL of my paperwork and planning. HAHA.. I have no choice but to come in early and work late because in my school no one cuts you any slack. We are not martyrs and have families of our own to look out for. Teachers may very well be desperate to leave and probably staff as well.

  37. Dekalbite2 says:

    @ embarrassed employee
    “Most (teachers) are trying desperately EVERYDAY to leAve. ”

    That says it all. Teaching positions were the ones drastically cut to ensure other employees had their jobs. That had a detrimental effect on students as class sizes were enlarged so “everyone could keep their jobs”. Close to a thousand teachers left and were not replaced. Lewis let 275 teaching positions go unfilled, Tyson left over 300+ teaching positions go unfilled and then Atkinson left hundreds more unfilled. That is how class sizes swelled in the classrooms. This means the children bore the brunt of the cuts in order to protect the adults that worked for the system. It was wrong then, and it is wrong now.

    Now Mr. Thurmond has let 800 teachers leave who still have not all been replaced (who is instructing students in the content of math, science, social studies, and language arts – understand that content mastery is the ONLY reason the school system exists and we pay school taxes)

    The bottom line is we must lower class sizes and we must compensate teachers on par with other metro school systems in order to attract and retain the most competent instructors. We must cut unnecessary paperwork and meetings in order to allow teachers to focus on students who need more individual help.

    This is not a question of who deserves what. This is a question of student achievement. Competent teachers are the basis of student achievement, especially for low income students. Having good teachers is the most important factor in a students’ career and academic progress. Studies have shown that having 3 high quality teachers in elementary school can ensure a child is grade levels above their peers who do have this experience, particularly in low income schools.

    We must compensate our personnel who are the “core business” and do whatever we need to obtain the best and brightest. We must provide the teacher with a learning environment that is conducive to learning because the students share that learning environment with the teacher. We can’t make it miserable for the teacher (e.g. too many students in a class or too much paperwork) and not make it detrimental for students. If that requires cutting, consolidating job functions or outsourcing in the support areas, then that’s what we need to do. DCSS is not a jobs program. It is an educational system, and that means moving ALL students forward, something that has not happened in a long time and is not happening now.

  38. Dekalbite2 says:

    Sorry – should have read:
    tudies have shown that having 3 high quality teachers in elementary school can ensure a child is grade levels above their peers who do NOT have this experience, particularly in low income schools.

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