The January, 2014 DeKalb School Board Meeting

The DeKalb Board of Education will hold the following meetings on Monday, January 6, 2014:

2:00pm Work Session & Business Meeting*, and will adjourn to an executive session for the purpose of discussing a personnel matter

5:45pm Community Input Session (to make a 3 minute statement to the Board, send an email to MARGARET C. FRANCOIS ; and ask to have your name added to the list of speakers.) J. David Williamson Board Room, Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain, GA 30083

7:00pm Business Meeting
J. David Williamson Board Room

*The first meeting of the year has been designated as a work session & business meeting for the purpose of electing the Chair & Vice Chair, as mandated by Board Policy BBA. The business meeting will recess until 7pm, and the work session will convene for the purpose of reviewing agenda items. At the conclusion of the work session, the Board will adjourn to an executive session for the purpose of discussing a personnel matter.

Meeting agendas and associated documents can be accessed online by going to: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us, click on Leadership, go to eBoard Home Page and click on the date for the meeting agenda\information. Or click here for a direct link.

>>> Attend the meeting live at the address above, watch it live on Comcast 24 or stream it live online by clicking here.

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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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191 Responses to The January, 2014 DeKalb School Board Meeting

  1. Reminder: School Choice takes place from January 8-28 (Pre-school-12th) Get those applications in if you want to nab a seat at a magnet, theme or other specialty school: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/school-choice

  2. murphey says:

    It is interesting that none of the info about magnet, theme, or other specialty schools on that link are updated. Perhaps they will be posted by January 8?

  3. concerned citizen says:

    As a teacher with considerable experience, I request that the supt and all other officials of the school system immediately begin to supply the teachers with the basics: copy paper, pencils, a BOARD ON WHICH TO WRITE OUR PRESENTATIONS TO OUR STUDENTS, construction paper, scissors, pens, pencil sharpeners. I just spent another $79 dollars at WalMart and the cashier said, “Oh, you are a teacher in DeKalb – I graduated from Druid Hills five years ago, and the teachers had to buy everything.” Oh, oh, that’s $840 I’ve spent just this school year to provide the basics, while I don’t even have a BLACKBOARD (ok, WHITEBOARD) TO WRITE ON. please tell me, good people, why this is happening? Where is the conscience of this school system leadership? EVERYBODY is sick of this miserable waste of public funds on the glorious friends and family crew! It is now about thirty years since this pack of hyeanas have invaded what was once a fine school system to be proud of. How can it be a happy new year with these miserable, despicable, immoral people in charge? What are they in charge of? Can we get rid of this lousy board, particularly MJ and Dr Love and the supt and Ramoona, and Cercease ? (BTW, how are his rentals in St Mt doing? Gag, ugh. That’s just the beginning of the list! Let’s kick them out and put some books and common educational items in the classrooms. You area supts., get off your backsides and out of your rides and into the classrooms, halls, and cafeterias of the schools you “snupervise,” and then ask yourself, “Why do we have this MESS?” Quit intimidating your principals!!! Back off and step aside. Let the principals run the schools and we’ll be much better off than we are now. We do not need area supt; we need whiteboards, books, and paper products of all description!!! What else since we don’t have books can we have but paper and pencils? All of you are disgusting. Dirty, filthy schools, mildewing and not even up to the standards of any citizen of this country pervade the system. WHAT IS HAPPENING THAT PEOPLE ACCEPT THIS DEGRADATION? Actually, I’d be glad for a chalkboard (green or black) and some common chalk. If I don’t get something soon to write on, I’m truly going to buy a board somewhere and have it installed – I kid you not. We as teachers are beggars but not too stupid to do what we have to do to teach the students. Shame, shame, shame, on all of you “in charge.” Thurmond, you are corrupt and an outright liar.Take MJ and Dr Love to the hell you have made with you. BEGONE!!!! if YOU DON’T WANT TO HEAR THE TRUTH, DON’T ASK ME ABOUT CONDITIONS IN DEKALB. THERE ARE NO CONDITIONS THAT ARE DESCRIPTIVE ENOUGH TO COVER THE INJUSTICE OF THE SCHOOL OFFICIALS. What are are as taxpayers going to do???? Something. And sooner than later. Action, as long coming, will be taken to replace all of you deadheads and that’s the nicest word I can think of for you. DSW, please understand my frustration. It’s time for action. We need to start with SOMEBODY, supt, area supt, anybody.

  4. Teacher says:

    My hope is that Judge Becker will force Crawford Lewis to tell more about what he knows about corruption in the school system and county! She obviously does not think that he is telling all that he knows, that why his deal was rejected.

  5. He knows more. If he didn’t tell the truth in the middle of a trial on the stand, under oath, I don’t think he’ll ever tell the truth.

  6. They ‘should’ be sending home a ‘packet’ with the kids…

  7. Teacher says:

    Crawford thought that he had a “get out of jail free card” when he was testifying! Judge Becker told him that he did not have one by not honoring the plea agreement.

  8. The information we have is from Pat Pope’s pre-trial testimony for the Heery civil case. In that testimony, the lawyer asks about her resume. She was very misleading on it and used her maiden name, and didn’t reveal her marriage to one of the school system’s biggest sub-contractors (Tony Pope, architect). She also was currently serving as VP of Pope’s firm, but didn’t reveal on her application that her last name was Pope and Tony was her husband. She DID reveal however, that she was ‘currently’ employed (at the time of her application) as a SPLOST consultant to DCSS – making it obvious that Dr. Lewis not only already knew her, but had already been paying her on a contract! Dr. Lewis shared NONE of this with the board. The judge needs to ask for her job application to DCSS (not her resume). The judge simply needs to ask Lewis under oath if he in fact already knew Pope before hiring her as COO and if she had already been a consultant — not simply “found” by a “search firm” as he portrayed to the board.

    If all this is true as we think – then certainly Lewis hired Pope with the full knowledge of who she was — and ‘perhaps’ with the dream of having absolute control over construction contracts, money and perks.

    We really think there is far more to the story than Dr. Lewis puts on…

    Read the testimony at the original DSW blog here >> http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/03/some-testimony-for-your-reading.html

  9. From the post regarding the testimony of Pat Pope >>

    In addition to the numerous discrepancies regarding her employement history, it is also important to not that the resume submitted to the DCSD dos not identify “Patricia Pope” as the candidate for employment. Instead, ther resume pertains to “Patricia A. Reid”. …

    She repeated the use of Patricia A. Reid when she prepared and submitted her application for employment with DCSD.

    The name “Mrs. Patricia A. Reid” also appears.

    She identifies her employer as DeKalb County Schools with Dr. Lewis as her supervisor. Her duties are stated to be “Consultant for SPLOST Program.”

    Ms Pope furnishes information about her previous employment and as to “Employer/Activity1” she states that she was employed by Vincent Pope & Aossociates, Inc. as Chief Operating Officer and that her immediate supervisor was Anthony V. Pope. In the space marked “your name when employed (if different) is left blank, creating the impression that her name was Patricia Reid when she worked for Vincent Pope.

  10. Teacher says:

    There must be some people higher up that Crawford is protecting –usually plea arrangements are given to lower level people to obtain information about people higher up. In Crawford’s case, he gave information about people under him, which is the opposite of what should have happened.

    Criminal behavior aside, on a schoolhouse level, we do without day after day. Children do without as well: Few office supplies for their teachers, outdated technology and hardware, dirty and mold-ridden buildings to be in, anxiety and anger among teachers and other staff members. Learning happens here?

    I hope for justice to be done. Plain and simple.

  11. howdy1942 says:

    Once again, this is some very good discussion – good points! I’ve hired many people during my professional career and only found one who had misrepresented his credentials. That person was confronted, the truth learned, and was promptly fired. Even if Crawford Lewis did not know the truth about Pat Pope when he hired her, he had the duty and responsibility to take corrective action when he did find out. Did he share this information with members of the board? Knowing these facts, did the board members deliberately keep these facts from becoming known and did the lawyer who advised the board know about these facts also participate in this possible cover-up? Why was Pat Pope never confronted? Why was no action taken? At a minimum, we should insist on forming a grand jury to investigate the former school board, its members, what they knew and when, and get to the bottom of this. If that cannot or will not be done in Dekalb County, then I encourage others on this blog to join me in petitioning Governor Deal to launch an inquiry into the Dekalb County School Board and its administration. It is in the State’s interests because the State provide substantial funding to the DCSS.

    Dekalb County needs to get to the bottom of this matter and the current board as well as Michael Thurmond should support any and all efforts to do this. There is absolutely no possibility of restoring any trust to the Dekalb County School Board, to the superintendent, or to the administration until all of the issues and questions about the DCSS are laid bare and, as appropriate, justice prevails. I applaud the insight and courage of Judge Cynthia Becker and support her efforts to bring justice on behalf of all the residents of Dekalb County.

  12. midvaledad says:

    I wish we could find out the facts of what happened, but we never will. The DA showed himself to be part of the cover up with the plea deal he gave Mr. Lewis.

    I believe they are protecting former BOE members. The friends and family network is NOT limited to the Palace.

  13. Fred in DeKalb says:

    I said it before and I’ll say it again, I think it is time to move on from the case and let sleeping dogs lie. I grew up in the Deep South and understood that business was done a certain way. Those who were in power (AKA the good ole boys) generally made sure everything worked however they were not without faults. As long as things were working OK and the trickle down effect was in play, no one complained. This masked obvious problems that existed that unfortunately did not come to a head years after the good old boys put their system in place.

    Make no mistake, what happened in DeKalb happens in most counties and school districts around the country. This friends and family that everyone likes to talk about originated during Cherry’s days and reached a head while Freeman was in charge. Freeman publicly admitted this last year. Lewis only continued a policy he witnessed during his years of employment. He also saw what happened to the one person that did not go along with that. Hiring recommendations came from Board members, employees and citizens. Just because someone either grew up in DeKalb, attended a DeKalb school or is friends or related to someone with an affiliation to the school system, should that eliminate them from employment, especially if they are qualified? Every school probably has employees that have a tie to someone. It is definitely that way in smaller school districts. Let’s not go on witch hunts to out people that have done a good job on behalf of children. Are there some people that should not have been hired? Yes but hiring anyone for any job is a crap shoot anyway. Ask some UGA fans about football recruiting and how that is not an exact science.

    I agree with midvaledad in that we will never know all the facts. I say the only way to know all the facts is to know the full history of DeKalb Schools and all the players that were involved. Do we really want to go there? I think not. Let’s be satisfied that the trial is behind us so we can fully focus on educating children.

  14. Dekalbite2 says:

    ” I say the only way to know all the facts is to know the full history of DeKalb Schools and all the players that were involved. Do we really want to go there?”

    Well, yes. That is the only way to correct the system that has failed our students. It’s taken the Feds years to get some of these Wall Street risk takers to court and get back billions for homeowners. I’ll bet those homeowners say better late than never. Better something than nothing.

    Going after past BOE members or members of Lewis’s administration that condoned or facilitated wrong doing is the right thing to do. If it is as systemic as you say, then the system must be reformed. Only when these practices are brought to light can there be reform. That’s why it’s called reform.

  15. Fred in DeKalb says:

    On a lighter note, 5 student-athletes from DeKalb (2 from SW DeKalb, 1 each from Marist, Tucker and Stone Mountain) will participate in the last BCS Championship game. 2 play for Auburn and 3 FSU. I merely want to see a competitive game however wish the best for these young men.

  16. Thanks, Fred! For those planning to watch Monday night’s BCS Championship Game, can you tell us the names (and numbers, if you have them) of these five players and which team (Auburn or FSU) they play for?

  17. Fred in DeKalb says:

    Dekalbite2, I can understand and respect your position. Ironically you mention those on Wall Street that were partially responsible for the recent financial crisis. My recollection is that many got off scott free with money in their pocket. Those with money consistently find ways to avoid prison time. Recall the recent case in Texas where the teen was found guilty of DWI and killing 4 people yet got no prison time because of affluence. That decision did not surprise me because I have seen similar decisions all my life. Those with access to money can find a way to have their actions
    justified.

    In my opinion, the only way to truly reform schools is to have accountability not just with the schools but with the communities, parents and most of all students. Parents are the first teachers for 4-5 years before their children enter school, each coming with a variety of readiness for learning. To pressure schools to ensure each child is at a certain level without consideration of each child’s starting point is ludicrous. I said earlier, if we had the same kind of visibility of our schools years ago as we do now, I believe we would be shocked.

    I believe time spent trying to find out who knew what and when at this point would only redirect our attention from what we should be focusing on, education children. We know the proper checks and balances to implement based on what we have learned over time. We have always done this. I think it is time to move on.

  18. Personally, I fault Tom Bowen for a lot of this too. He was board chair during this time. He had private meetings with Lewis. He had the power to sway the board or inform the board. He had the power to encourage them to hire a very highly qualified superintendent when they had the opportunity. However, he played the game. Why?

  19. If your idea of ‘moving on to educate children’ was possible, we would agree. Problem is Fred, many of those ‘problem’ people are still very much in charge.

  20. Dekalbite2 says:

    @Fred
    “I believe time spent trying to find out who knew what and when at this point would only redirect our attention from what we should be focusing on, education children”

    You cannot focus on children with a corrupt system. Any of Lewis’s advisors who knew about the misdeeds and said nothing was complicit. Going along to get along is harmful to students. We could start with Internal Affairs. Where were they?

  21. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @DSW, this information appears in the Sunday AJC. To answer your question, what follows provide number, name, position, classification and high school attended,

    FSU
    52 – Ukeme Elligwe – LB – FR -Stone Mountain
    24 – Terrance Smith – LB – SO – SW DeKalb

    Auburn
    6 – Jonathon Mincy – DB – JR – SW DeKalb
    26 – Justin Garrett – LB – JR -Tucker
    87 – Gray King – WR – FR – Marist

    Maybe someone who does not like college football gave me the thumbs down? Maybe it is that Fred posted something? I am surprised to get that for such an innocuous posting.

  22. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @Dekalbite2, I will say that I am somewhat surprised by your position given you have commented several times that you did not believe Thurmond was not focusing on educating children. There was a lot on deck that he inherited that unfortunately occupied much of his time. Perhaps I am taking a naïve position as I thought that is where you and others wanted his focus to be on, educating children. Once we get insight about the accreditation status, the key distractions should be out of the way.

    It is also interesting that many wanted to settle the lawsuit before they knew that the judge determined Heery did not have a case. I understood the rationale was that so the district could focus on educating children. Is there a different feeling now that the case is behind us?

  23. A – I don’t think the judge determined that Heery did not have a case. Quite the opposite – it appeared that DeKalb didn’t have much of a case.
    B – Yes, we always wanted this behind us. Paul Womack wrote an Op-Ed letter and we posted it. That didn’t mean we agreed 100%. But, it’s true that the court’s representative estimated a value of around $30 million in a settlement, the school system settled for far, far less. We’re not sure why.
    C – Yes, we want to focus on educating children. What exactly has Thurmond done that you see fits that goal? He has rearranged the org chart a bit – but its still full of the same key players who brought us the failures of the past. Finding out who did what, when, where and why is still important. We still need to weed out some very poor leaders. Apparently, they now have all schools wired for internet – but according to teachers, there is little hardware in many schools to use to access the web. Class sizes are still large. Teachers are still quitting. We still fund so many very small schools as well as abundant transportation to and fro. Test scores don’t seem to have improved and neither has the graduation rate. We don’t see a plan for improvement there – other than the ‘Bridge’ which they admit mostly focuses on one district.
    D – Pay no attention to the thumbs. Sometimes people just accidentally hit the wrong ones when they use their phones and tablets. Or maybe someone didn’t think football was important on a school blog. If we hear a lot of whining about the thumbs, we’ll turn them off again.

  24. Stan Jester says:

    Fiscal Report – Monday Board Meeting
    The monthly financial reports are, at best, a weak suggestion of how our money is being spent and, at worst, a document based on deception.

    November 2013 Vendor Spend Report (excel)

    $21.6M Expensed To Prior Year
    The Nov 2013 report shows that $21.6 million dollars were paid this year and expensed to last year’s budget. We should be concerned/alarmed/hair on fire that $21.6 million dollars never showed up on any Monthly Financial Reports.

    McKenna Long & Aldridge (MLA) (Legal Expenses)
    The Board approved $50,000/month for 16 months starting June 2013. McKenna Long & Aldridge doesn’t show up on any vendor reports and is not reflected in any Monthly Financial Report fiscal year to date.

    Where is the QBE reconciliation reflecting the October FTE count day?
    Where is the DE46 FY’13 report turned into the state? It will give us a financial report that includes that $21.6 million.

  25. Dekalbite2 says:

    @Fred
    “Perhaps I am taking a naïve position as I thought that is where you and others wanted his focus to be on, educating children. Once we get insight about the accreditation status, the key distractions should be out of the way.”

    Thurmond thinks this is about SACS and if we get accreditation back it doesn’t really alter what our student achievement rate is. That is backwards thinking and parents/taxpayers know it.

    Lewis and his upper management were not focused on student achievement and most had scant background in instruction students. Thurmond has not demonstrated he is either. He has not concentrated on lowering class sizes or raising compensation for the personnel who directly instruct students and will make or break their achievement. Instead he kept the same personnel that Lewis picked and served our students so poorly.

    Any of Lewis’s upper management team that knew or suspected that he was having an affair with a subordinate had an obligation to come forward, not turn their heads. And where was the department of Internal Affairs in this? Were they inept or did they know and ignore it? Trust and ethical behavior cannot be separated from the education of children. We model the behavior we want them to have. Having sex with subordinates and other highly placed employees ignoring this is not modeling good behavior for children.

    Ensuring children grow up with moral and ethical behavior as well as mastering the content of math, science, social studies and language arts is part of schooling citizens in a democracy. If anyone thinks that is too much to ask for then they are selling our students short.

  26. Exactly Stan!! We are still witnessing a whole bunch of smoke and mirrors — Here’s another item we are wondering about:

    F. 12. Professional Services: Career Pathways Program Review
    https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/ViewMeetingOrder.aspx?S=4054&MID=31845

    Summary
    The objective of the Career Pathways Review is to provide useful data for prioritizing curricular needs, identify strengths and weaknesses of existing plans and programs and provide district staff experience in planning and conducting other evaluations, and make recommendations for future plans for college and career readiness options district-wide and within career academies.

    Financial Impact
    $97,407.00 ~ Charge Code: 101.48.95.00.000101.766.0000

    Contacts
    Mr. Michael L. Thurmond, Superintendent, 678.676.0791

    +++ Isn’t it remarkable how these contracts continue to come in at just a few thousand dollars or less than the $100,000 cap for the superintendent to purchase? +++

  27. @DeKalbite: It was worse than just a sexual relationship — Lewis built a virtual Title 1 Empire for his lover. She controlled every dollar – and hired an army of Title 1 staff to ‘monitor’ teachers. No one worked directly to improve student learning. But EVERYONE was beholden to Lewis and his lover for their Title 1 job – a job that paid more than a classroom teacher who carries the brunt of responsibility of the mission of a school district.

  28. dekalbite2 says:

    @DSW
    Still working for the school system, listed as a teacher, and made just under $89,000 (not including benefits) this past year.

  29. Sickening. See, not much has changed when you peel back the window dressing.

  30. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @Dekalbite2,
    “He has not concentrated on lowering class sizes or raising compensation for the personnel who directly instruct students and will make or break their achievement.”

    I thought this point has been discussed multiple times. No one disagrees that lowing class sizes and raising compensation should be a goal for all school systems. Unfortunately when your operating budget has been declining along with close to 90% of that budget being earmarked for compensation, school boards hands are tied. I know they would like to give increases. I bet if you asked Nancy Jester, she would agree with this point.

    Did you read today’s paper and see the article about Cobb County parents that are asking for more state funding to deal with their $80 million dollar budget shortfall? The story is on the pay site but in the print edition. Their point is that during the recession, with state cuts and declining property revenues, metro area school systems have had to struggle in making tough decisions. Hopefully you are as frustrated with the state cuts to the education budget. School districts have done some combination of increasing class sizes, cut back teaching positions or reduced the number of instructional days. Thank goodness we haven’t done reduced instructional days. This is what I have been saying over and over again. Where would you get the money to pay for increasing salaries in this era of declining budgets? When you answer that, most school districts in the country that have similar challenges will want to talk with you.

    I have pointed out that DeKalb has more buildings than any other school system in the state yet the third highest number of students. Could we realize savings through smart school consolidations? Anyone want to openly advocate for that and see what happens? Of the 10% of the operating budget that does not go for compensation, how much is used for maintenance and operations? Tough decisions need to be made but citizens have demonstrated they will not allow them. That has been the DeKalb Way for years where the squeaky wheels have gotten the grease.

  31. Dekalbite2 says:

    “Unfortunately when your operating budget has been declining along with close to 90% of that budget being earmarked for compensation, school boards hands are tied”

    Yet Mr. Thurmond has money to hire non teaching personnel for Parent Centers and non teaching Coaches. And let’s not forget DeKalb has the second highest millage in the state and $40,000,000+ in Title 1 funding little of which goes to direct instruction (e.g. Title 1 Reading and Math teachers instructing struggling learner). He has money for lawyers (especially ones that are suing our teacher who are trying get their Social Security alternative reinstated), consultants to write yet more strategic plans, trainers, transportation to schools parents choose to send their children to as they bypass neighborhood schools, tens of millions for Coaches and Coordinators, small theme schools that require their own admin and support personnel, millions for Fernbank Science Center that employs as many admin and support personnel as science teachers (even as the science teachers are rarely in the science center building), travel ($1,100,000+ was just spent in 2013)…..and the list goes on.

    Meanwhile 800 teachers left DeKalb and we still need 80 teachers even as the school year is half over. He finds money for everything by the very personnel who are responsible for the mission of the school system. His advisors are the same personnel Crawford Lewis picked as his top advisors. Mr. Thurmond’s performance as the instructional leader of the school system (his most important role) is nothing short of abysmal. Exactly what has he done to staunch the outflow of teachers from the school system? What programs has he set in place to improve student achievement except the “Bridge Initiative”, a recycled plan that didn’t work for the 8 years it was in place? No quantifiably measurable student achievement objectives, no benchmarks so programs and departments can be evaluated in terms of improving student achievement, no plan to attract and retain the most competent teachers to our school system, and no plans to reduce class sizes so that students who are over or under achieves can get the individualized instruction they need. No wonder the school system is on the verge of breaking apart.

  32. Stan Jester says:

    Does the DeKalb School District have enough money?

    If you look at the History of Spending Per Student in Georgia, you’ll see that we have spent more and more money per student every year for the last 17 years. In 2008 and 2009 there was a dip in local and state funding, but the federal government stepped in and made up most of that deficit. The operating budgets have NOT been declining.

    DeKalb Schools has the 2nd highest millage rate in Georgia out of 182 school districts. Georgia earned an “F” by Cato Institute which released a study about the transparency in spending by departments of education. 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 non teaching employees/administrators.

    On a side note, every state around Georgia has a higher graduation rate and they spend less money per student.

    We should not have teacher furlough days nor class size waivers.

  33. @Fred and everyone else: Please check the link found on our Testing & AYP page under the Facts & Sources tab at the top of the blog. We like facts.

    Fact is — In DeKalb, 82% of the budget for certified personnel is allocated to teachers, 6.1% to administrators and 11.8% to support personnel.

    https://usg.gosa.ga.gov/analytics/K12ReportCard_PersonnelFiscal

    Also, take a look at the budget overview online: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/budget/budget-summary-%282014%29.pdf
    And here: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/budget/budget-detail-%282014%29.pdf
    The facilities and maintenance budget is over $84 million.

    And the consolidated budget is $1.2 billion — which equals $12,500 per pupil. Seems like enough. We just need to be better stewards.
    http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/budget/consolidated-budget-%282014%29.pdf

    Also, yes! We certainly COULD save MILLIONS by consolidating schools! It’s not up for debate – it’s been reported by DCSS staff. We have ‘some’ schools with under 100 students — and a handful of schools under 200 – with several more around 300. Each one has their own building, their own staff and their own transportation costs!

    If Thurmond is too much of a weenie (like Lewis before and then Tyson proved to be) to do the right thing and consolidate schools as well as take a deeeeeep look at transportation costs (and leadership), then he is being paid waaaaaaay too much!!

  34. Thurmond has done exactly what he was hired — out of sight of taxpayers — and carefully coached to do: take care of Palace People, friends and family. Students? Thurmond clearly believes if their parents were really serious about education they would do what Thurmond and his wife did: send the kid(s) to private schools.

  35. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @ Dekalbite2,

    For relaxation, I play several card games with friends. A saying we have during games is that you can only play the cards you are dealt. Regardless of what the cards look like, you have an obligation to make the best of them. I say that to point out a parallel with Mr. Thurmond. He has been on the job for 11 months and has dealt with serious issues since he has been in the lead chair. He has not been perfect (no one is) but considering the hand he was dealt, I believe he has done an admirable job. Those who refuse to acknowledge the job he has done in addressing several critical issues and diversions will never be satisfied. I think you may be one of those people because I don’t recall seeing you acknowledge the positive things Thurmond put behind us. I hope I am wrong.

    If Jim Cherry inherited the same school district Thurmond did, he would probably have challenges addressing the issues, mostly because it is a different day and time from the school district he successfully ran for many years. There was no question that everyone knew Cherry was in charge of the district when led it. He would probably fail if he used his same management style today.

    Let’s again address some of the things you have said,

    “Yet Mr. Thurmond has money to hire non teaching personnel for Parent Centers and non teaching Coaches. And let’s not forget DeKalb has the second highest millage in the state and $40,000,000+ in Title 1 funding little of which goes to direct instruction (e.g. Title 1 Reading and Math teachers instructing struggling learner).”

    As I have mentioned numerous times, Title 1 dollars have mandated earmarks associated with them. There is some flexibility given to how they can be used, especially in the area of parental engagement. As another reminder, Title 1 schools have a say in how the dollars can be used at their respective schools via the Consolidated School Improvement Plan (CSIP). The team is made up of the school leadership, teachers, parents and community members. You can see the plans for Title 1 schools on the DeKalb website.

    “He has money for lawyers (especially ones that are suing our teacher who are trying get their Social Security alternative reinstated),”

    This is another example of what I call a tough decision. This is something Thurmond inherited. With him being a lawyer by trade, I will assume he looked at the facts and made the tough decision to continue with supporting the already made decision. I do not like this either but I also don’t have the information he and previous BOE members had in making this tough decision.

    “consultants to write yet more strategic plans, trainers,”

    I gathered that he and other members of the staff were not comfortable with the plans developed under Atkinson. I personally see this as standard operating procedure. I would also think he had guidance from SACs and the state BOE as there could have also been some compliance issues. Admittedly I do not know the full story behind this.

    “transportation to schools parents choose to send their children to as they bypass neighborhood schools”

    Again, this is something Thurmond inherited. You know the long history DeKalb had with providing transportation away from the home school with M to M then NCLB. There are not as many students using this as in years past however this is still an expenditure that will undoubtedly be heavily scrutinized. Remember for the choice transportation, this is not door to door but use of the shuttle system. There is some federal transportation that must be provided by law. Don McChesney may be a good person to check with on this. He was willing to make tough decisions on choice transportation but was out voted.

    “small theme schools that require their own admin and support personnel”

    I’m guessing you misspoke on this. I’ve done so several times in the past. Theme schools are relatively large, especially for the elementary ones. Kittredge (423) and Wadsworth (187) are small magnet schools. An argument could be made to either consolidate and centralize these schools or absorb them in a nearby elementary schools. I personally think they do provide some value but recognize others may differ. Robert Shaw (483) is the smallest Theme elementary school. The numbers provided are the October 2013 population numbers and can be found at,

    http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/planning/students-(2013)-movement-web.pdf

    “millions for Fernbank Science Center that employs as many admin and support personnel as science teachers (even as the science teachers are rarely in the science center building”

    You took a hard line position on this earlier and several called you out on this. I seem to recall there were concerns about the land if this was deeded back to the Museum. Again this was inherited by the current leadership. I’m sure it will be scrutinized again.

    “travel ($1,100,000+ was just spent in 2013)”

    The 2013 proposed budget is $755,761,000, which is about $2,000 greater than the 2012 actual budget. $1M is a drop in the bucket for travel given the size of the budget. For comparison purposes, the general operations budget for FY2007 was $820M. When you consider the increases in the costs of goods and services since that time along with the fact that the budget is about 8% less than 6 years ago, one can empathize with the challenges in developing a budget for 14K employees and 100K students during a recession.

    Let me know if I’ve shared something that was incorrect. Note some comments reflect my opinion based on observing many school districts over the years.

  36. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @DSW, most people make budgetary comparisons using the general operating budget not the consolidated budget. Is there a reason you reference that in your analysis as it inflates that cost per student numbers?

    You also mention making the tough decision with respect to school consolidation. Thurmond would be the one to do it, especially if he will on serve for another year or so. The more he could do to clear the deck by addressing historically unpopular issues, the easier it will be for someone following him. The only concern is whether the community will allow he and the board to make the tough decision. We have many vocal squeaky wheels throughout the community, especially those that have benefitted from status quo.

  37. DCSD FOR DUMMIES says:

    Superintendent Michael Thurmond met with the District’s Inclement Weather Advisory Team January 4 and 5, 2014 to review inclement weather preparation and protocol. Current weather forecasts indicate that a winter weather pattern is approaching the metro Atlanta area with severely cold temperatures and the possibility of freezing moisture.
    District personnel will continue to monitor local weather forecasts and communicate with the National Weather Service as we approach the scheduled opening of classes on Tuesday, January 7. Principals and other school staff inspected all school buildings on Sunday, January 5, to ensure that water and heating systems are operational. In addition, the District will follow established Inclement Weather Protocol:

    The Transportation Department will provide the following support:

    • Schedule all transportation staff to report on Monday, January 6, to ensure that school buses are operational. Mechanics will be on standby to support this process.

    • Check the condition of the roads for safe travel beginning at 3:00 a.m on January 6.

    • Contact neighboring school districts and provide status updates to school administrators.

    The Facilities Management Department will provide the following support:
    • Monitor all building heating systems and associated equipment via our direct digital control (DDC) software program. This program allows our department to remotely monitor and control time schedules, setpoints, controllers, trend logs and alarms related to our systems.

    • Deploy all available skill tradesmen (i.e. HVAC technicians, plumbers, electricians, grounds staff, etc.) to conduct on site assessments of key building systems and grounds in an effort to mitigate any identified concerns prior to the return of students and staff.

    • Deploy pre-qualified contractors to assist with emergency heating and plumbing repairs as needed.

    By 5:15 a.m. on Tuesday, January, 7, senior staff representing school leadership, transportation, food service and public safety, in consultation with the National Weather Service will report findings and recommendations to the Superintendent. No later than 5:30 a.m., the Superintendent will make a final decision to open schools as scheduled, delay the opening or cancel classes for the day. The decision will be communicated to members of the Board of Education, parents, the public and the local media by email, phone tree calls, the District website, PDS-TV24, District website, social media channels and the DCSD 1200 line.

  38. @Fred: We like to make sure people are aware of the TRUE costs of our school district. That would be the consolidated budget. Why do you not consider the entire collection of tax dollars (the consolidated budget) when you do your calculations? The operating portion of the $1.2 billion consolidated budget is $ 755,761,000. We aren’t inflating numbers — we are sharing REAL costs.

    ps – we are all aware of the phrase ‘play the cards you’re dealt’.

  39. ps. Thurmond may have ‘inherited’ problems – but who doesn’t? Isn’t that generally why school districts look for new superintendents? (Unless theirs left or retired.) Also, the man is being paid $300,000 to tackle these problems! AND he gets a $2,000 a month spending allowance! Wah! Wah! Really? You’re whining for him?

    Yes – Fernbank does cost us MILLIONS to operate — no debate. No other school district hosts such a ‘center’ and their science scores are all higher. (Well, except for the lucky few who get to attend Fernbank!)

    Further, please don’t state misleading comments about Kittredge and Wadsworth as being somehow ‘similar’ in size. Kittredge has 423 students – Wadsworth has 187 according to the chart you shared. That’s 187 students with their own principal and full staff as well as special transportation!

    In addition, we have spent MILLIONS moving DSA all around the county. They are only 358 students in 8-12 grade. That means probably about 300 9-12 graders. They could easily merge this program into a larger high school that is already equipped with an auditorium, etc. Of course, ‘some’ will squeal. But really, is Thurmond not able to make the tough decisions? Is anyone?

  40. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @DSW, thanks for your reply. My concern is that it is not an ‘apples to apples’ comparison when looking at other districts. The general operations budget is also what they manage to.

    What additional funds are you including?

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