Happy Holidays 2013 … and a Look Ahead to 2014!

Happy Holidays 2013

We, at DeKalb School Watch, wish everyone Peaceful and Happy Holidays — and the very Best New Year ever!

While we use this much-needed break to catch up with our families and friends, as well as with our jobs and other responsibilities, we also will be discussing where DeKalb School Watch goes from here. If you have a great idea, or general input, leave it in the comments or send it to us via email.

We appreciate everyone who posts on this blog! We know you care about DeKalb County’s 100,000 public school children and their local school teachers and staff. We truly believe that 2014 must bring about positive change that focuses on those children, their teachers and local school staff.   And we — along with 100,000 public school students and their local teachers and staff — are counting on you to bring about that change.

We know that this blog is read regularly by the superintendent’s staff, by local school administrators who are indebted to superintendent’s staff for their jobs, by the superintendent and by board members.  So far, the “endless loop” comments they are seeing on this blog give them confidence to continue the mismanagement and obfuscation that has enabled them to maintain their grip on DeKalb County Schools.  They are neither concerned nor embarrassed by what they have done — and continue to do — to DeKalb County Schools, DeKalb County public school students and teachers, and DeKalb County taxpayers.

We also know that some of our readers and/or their friends have specific information about wrongdoing by staff and their hand-chosen (and beholden) local schools administrators. All we need is a tip from you or your friends with specific documentation to request.  We don’t need your name or other identifying information.  Just tell us WHAT to look for and WHERE to look. We will take it from there.

Your comfort zone is why we obtained a P. O. Box.  You may send information to the DeKalb School Watch P.O. Box without fear of being tracked by anyone — regardless of what you may see on TV cop shows!  As with DSW e-mail, only two (2) people have access to the P. O. Box.  The DSW mailing address is:  DeKalb School Watch, P. O. Box  660221, Atlanta, GA  30341.   Tell us WHAT you know and WHERE to find corroborating documents.  We know how to request information without revealing or suggesting our sources.  Just remember, we cannot request information protected by FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act). Nor can we request some confidential employment information and/or Board discussions and votes that took place away from public oversight in a closed-session Board meeting. If you give us specific WHAT and WHERE and WHEN (for closed-session Board meetings) we can and will, however, go to the authorities and ask them to follow up.

Be The Change You Want To See!

If You Don't ..

PS …

  • We just uploaded some brand new PDF publications from EDWEEK — they are very interesting and FREE!  Check them out on our Resources for Teachers & Parents page under our RESOURCES tab: https://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/resources/resources-for-teachers/
  • Also, for those of you who have access to HBO, be sure to watch, Won’t Back Down (2012).  (If you are an Amazon Prime member, Won’t Back Down is available there to watch for free on TV or online.) This movie is based on the true story of two determined mothers who wage a valiant struggle to save their children’s troubled school, but find their forward-thinking efforts hampered at every turn by apathy and systematic bureaucracy. You will see familiar faces, actions and attitudes.  According to Common Sense Media, this movie, which is available from Comcast on demand and online, is appropriate for children age 9 and older. You might want to watch it with your kids, talk with them about what they see in the movie and capture their comments.

Now go on and have a wonderful holiday! We’ll catch you back here in 2014!

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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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13 Responses to Happy Holidays 2013 … and a Look Ahead to 2014!

  1. howdy1942 says:

    I also wish you a peaceful Holiday Season. I’m just old fashioned enough to say Merry Christmas and old enough to say that any reprisals against me need to be acted on in short order! Let’s all hope for a Happy New Year. This past year has been very eventful. One year ago, I was in the pits regarding our school system and wondering just how low the DCSS could go before it touched bottom. Our property values were tanking and the school board just didn’t seem to understand the link between property values and funding the school system. January of 2013 was just terrible – the school board led by Eugene Walker was meeting week after week in “executive session”, Dr. Atkinson had “disappeared” and her tenure proved to be short-lived, the DCSS moved secretly and, with no input, appointed Michael Thurmond to be “interim” superintendent, the State School Board scheduled hearings to consider its recommendation to the Governor regarding the DCSS School Board. Thurmond’s first priority was to give a ringing defense for the old school board. That didn’t work. In February, many of us watched the entire, grueling 14-hour hearing (the second). Its recommendation to the Governor was unanimous and the Governor did remove the DCSS School Board. Eugene Walker appealed his case to Federal Court which denied his case but referred it to the Georgia Supreme Court. And we waited until the end of November to hear a unanimous Georgia Supreme Court rule for the children of Dekalb County and against Eugene Walker. The Governor appointed a new school board which appeared to have outstanding credentials but it proved to be one of my greatest disappointments of the year. I had such high expectations of them. I really thought that we would be much further along the road to progress with a new superintendent and a restructured school system. No such luck. Rather than being an agent of change, this board has proved to be a voice for the status quo. Its low point was denying the Druid Hills Cluster Petition, especially for the reasons it cited. We’ve seen cityhood efforts spring up in Lakeside, Tucker, and Briarcliff and each successfully raise the $30,000 to fund the respective feasibility studies and we now conclude 2013 with an affirmative report in all three petitions. I went to the Tucker celebration this morning and there were about 100 people gathered at Masons Square in downtown Tucker on this rainy day to celebrate. I applaud the Lakeside City Alliance and the Tucker2014 groups for their hard, hard work. They’ve organized, scheduled and conducted countless community meetings, researched cityhood requirements, raised money and initiated successful feasibility studies, and rallied our communities. While there may be some boundary issues, I am confident these will be resolved. We’ve come a long, long way this year.

    In closing, I want to thank all who maintain this blog. This blog has been critical and essential to the remarkable progress we have seen this year. It has been comforting for me to learn that so many others in Dekalb County felt as I did and it has provided an excellent forum for a broad range of comments as to what our next steps should be. This blog has been a source of knowledge and provided a very effective forum to consolidate our thoughts and formulate a way forward. For one, I am much more optimistic for the coming year. The days of the Dekalb County School System as it now exists are numbered. It is almost as if it were the “Titanic” sailing full speed ahead with the icebergs coming into view. But there are much better days ahead for our kids and for our People and this blog has been a major source of that hope for the future. Again, my thanks to all of you. Peace!

  2. Howdy, thank you for that perfect recap! We had almost forgotten some of the details… it’s great to have it all written down. And thank you for your support. We appreciate your participation and share your outlook for 2014. Let’s all hold on to hope for a better school system — for the sake of 100,000 students and their devoted teachers!

  3. Another comment says:

    Look forward to next year, when the legislature will approve the citywide school districts, so we can all have the local great one district high school like, Decatur, Marietta and Buford.

    This time next year Nancy Jester will most likely be the State School Superintendent. Either Jason Carter or John Barge will be Gov., since the Cobb Board has stated they are not supporting Deal unless he restores Education Funding.

    Thad Mayfield has been the pleasant surprise of the board and the only one who deserves to stay.

    Dr. Joyce is an arrogant know it all, who is a disgrace.

  4. howdy1942 says:

    @Another Comment – I agree! Thad Mayfield is an exception to my previous comment about the school board. Orson and McMahon have also come around and are doing better this year. They really had me wondering back in January of this year. I simply don’t know anything about the guy from Dunwoody – he is too quiet! The other five, well! Hope you’re right about the Governor – we need someone who will place an emphasis on education and not so much on reducing taxes for business and adding taxes on the consumer. I still have a ray of hope that the school board will have an epiphany during this Christmas season and consider a fundamental restructuring of the DCSS into clusters consisting of high schools and their feeder networks and leave the governing and management of those clusters to those within the clusters. Otherwise, let’s get on with the independent school districts.

    I wish you the happiest of holidays and the happiest of New Years!

  5. Refugee from DCSS says:

    @howdy
    The first thing you need to know about Coleman is: he’s not from Dunwoody. He’s from Brookhaven. He’s at least smart enough to keep his mouth shut if he has nothing worthwhile to say. Big step backward for District One.

  6. Dekalbite2 says:

    “Dr. Atkinson had “disappeared” and her tenure proved to be short-lived, the DCSS moved secretly and, with no input, appointed Michael Thurmond to be “interim” superintendent, the State School Board scheduled hearings to consider its recommendation to the Governor regarding the DCSS School Board”

    The fact that Dr. Atkinson resigned with a nice buyout just a few days before the BOE members were removed, thus clearing the way for them to appoint someone who supported them is just too coincidental.

  7. For those supportive of parent support and training, hopefully in a more beneficial way than many of our current parent centers, including teaching our children good old fashioned values and love of family, read this terrific blog post about being married. It’s had over 1.5 million views! With good reason — Feel free to print and share at your school —

    Marriage Isn’t For You

  8. howdy1942 says:

    @Dekalbite2 – I also agree with you about Dr. Atkinson. There were other aspects of her departure that troubled me. First, there was the matter of a “no-talk” clause in her contract. Apparently her buyout was made more lucrative if she did not talk. This tells me that there was something very significant to hide. Could what she knew reach the level of criminal behavior on the part of certain members of the former school board or administration? Could she have provided information regarding questionable or even unacceptable (to SACS) interference by members of the board with day to day affairs of running the school system? Second, and as you point out, her departure was a priority item of the former school board. She simply knew too much and it appears that the former board did not want to run the risk of having her called before the State Board of Education nor did it want to risk her appearance in any court case. I’m also sure that they did not want her talking to SACS or interfering with the DCSS’ “reply”. As you point out, the timing was very suspicious. I have wondered if the school board even attempted to blackmail her and to threaten “to ruin her career in education” if she did not agree to depart in such a very secretive manner. Third, it is very coincidental and even suspicious that Michael Thurmond was available so quickly, that he was a lawyer, that he was a former Secretary of Labor, and that his first duty as superintendent was to argue (like a lawyer) in defense of the former board keeping their positions. Since he was so new to the position of superintendent, it is rather strange that he didn’t sit back and take a neutral position before the State Board. He also sought to intervene on behalf of the former School Board with the Governor.

    I wish that the school board had been open about Dr. Atkinson as contrasted to their secretive “executive sessions” and evasiveness – I would have liked to have heard her side. The residents of our County deserve to know what happened – their elected school board should have been open. Also, I’m still waiting for the school board to fully disclose what happened when confidential information was leaked about candidates other than Dr. Atkinson when she was hired. I’m sure that you remember Tom Bowen promising us that he would get to the bottom of those leaks, that he would take swift action, and that he would make his findings public. It is little wonder that the People have such a low opinion of the school board and the administration.

    As we enter a New Year, I sincerely hope that we elect a school board that will put the classroom above the courts, students above administration, honesty and openness above secretiveness, listening above just “hearing”, searching for the best rather than settling for the most easily available, and the well-being of all of Dekalb County above the interests of individual districts.

    I have hope for the New Year.

  9. In reality, Dr. Atkinson was a terrible superintendent. You may recall that Nancy, Don and Pam were against hiring her. She was hand-chosen by Dr. Walker simply because she is black. He would have nothing to do with a white or hispanic super – both of which were choices in the final selection. The hispanic they would not hire has now been promoted to an important post at the state of Texas. Conversely, back in DeKalb, Atkinson cut interpreters – she even cut the Special Olympics! She did fire Marcus Turk, but instead of replacing anyone else at the Central Office, she simply layered her own hand-picked cronies on top of the already bloated administration. She spent over $1.5 million on the “Success For All” program and cut the purchase of textbooks, saying she was going to spend the money on tablets with electronic textbooks — but she never did.

    The original DSW blog posted information about her use of expensive programs, especially Success For All (who has since hired her) and her personal bankruptcies as well as the near bankruptcy and state warnings for her tiny school district in Ohio. (Ohio monitors school districts and steps in when certain failures occur, they had or were about to step in on her system – Loraine, Ohio.) She spent three months “listening” and having “fireside chats”, then she apparently texted a conversation that was illegal or at least very devious and the texts were requested as evidence in a lawsuit. She had Ron Ramsey make an offer to a lawyer representing someone who had filed a lawsuit against the system for wrongful dismissal. She offered the person her job back in exchange for dropping the request for the text messages. Then her phone mysteriously ‘broke’. The head of IT collected all of the top admin’s phones and replaced the sim cards. No texts were ever ‘found’. Her lawyer, former state atty, Mike Bower ($$$) said he asked her and he ‘believed her’ when she said there were no texts on her phone. (Technically true, since the phone had been virtually erased.) Her father then became ill, and she took a family leave to tend to him. She never returned to her post. It was said that her father later died and soon after that she sent an attorney to negotiate an exit package for her. Apparently that attorney did a good job — or the board at the time was wimpy and afraid for folks to discover that we had been functioning with no super. They paid her off, then met in secret where they offered the job to several people who turned it down – until Michael Thurmond. This was the last action of Gene Walker in tandem with his buddy Marshall Orson with the support of everyone except Nancy and Pam. The Governor then dismissed 6 of the 9 board members and opened the jobs to applicants — however, he never said whites (especially white women) need not apply except in District 1, where he appointed the husband of one of his insiders. Master secret-manipulators Orson, McMahan and Johnson are still on the board and were part of this secret hiring process. In fact, Johnson is currently board chair – McMahan is vice-chair.

    Nothing good in any of that. The next election will be held this year — we still aren’t clear if it will be in May or July. All seats will be up for a public election – but the super districts will no longer exist – so there will only be 7 board members when they take their seats in January, 2015. We have the full year of 2014 to simply watch… hopefully Thurmond will ‘get it’ and start making some decisions that will be very good for students and teachers in their classrooms — and stop worrying so much about his own ‘staff’.

  10. For a look at another unfulfilled promise from spinmeister Ramona Tyson, read this post from September, 2011, where she promises we are on our way to accreditation! lol…
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/09/dekalb-schools-prepared-to-pass.html

  11. Georgia’s graduation rates released: How did your school do?

    Here are the numbers from 2013 and numbers for 2012:

    2013 4-year cohort graduation rate

    School name – Percentage

    Cross Keys High School – 42.4

    Chamblee Charter High School – 83

    Dunwoody High School – 73.6

    Riverwood International Charter School – 67.8

    North Springs High School – 71.9

    North Atlanta High School – 80.2

    2012 4-year cohort graduation rate

    Cross Keys High School – 51

    Chamblee Charter High School – 82

    Dunwoody High School – 77

    Riverwood International Charter School – 71

    North Springs High School – 67

    North Atlanta High School – 61

    +++

    We would share a link to the graduation reports at the state DOE, but ALL of those links are broken. Even the link to the press release about it!

  12. Ramona also promised to refund the tax-sheltered annuity.

  13. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @DSW, thanks for sharing the information about the graduation rates. Hopefully this link will work,

    http://www.gadoe.org/External-Affairs-and-Policy/communications/Pages/PressReleaseDetails.aspx?PressView=default&pid=147

    If possible, I’d like to request a separate topic on this. I would encourage others to look at the spreadsheet, Four-year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate Calculation at the bottom of the link page mentioned above. This helps to understand the cohort calculation.

    DeKalb has several second chance schools that some could argue, provide community value though many students may not graduate. By the same token, we understand why DSA and Arabia Mountain have high rates. What if any impact do those schools have on the other traditional neighborhood schools by not having those families?

    I do have a question about the almost 3100 students that did not graduate by looking at the 2013 4-Year Cohort Graduation Rate. I personally find that number hard to believe and wonder if the tracking is accurate.

Comments are closed.