Should our schools be agents for social change?

Wow. We have had an interesting, extended conversation in the comments of a recent blog post titled, The FY 2013 salary schedule has been posted.

Several blog participants got into a detailed sidebar discussion that we thought deserved its own post and thread of comments.

Here’s the big question:

“Should our schools be used as agents for social change in the families’ morals or cultures or is their function strictly to educate children as they are?”

This topic came about due to the millions of dollars of Title 1 funds our local school system has been spending on what they call “Parent Centers“. These Parent Centers are staffed by people who earn a much higher average salary than our veteran teachers and its causing a morale problem. Teachers would be thrilled to trade their responsibility for the educational outcomes of the students they are each responsible for to instead facilitate a Parent Center from 8:30-5:00 Monday-Friday.

Here’s a quote from the DCSS Parent Centers web page:

DeKalb County Schools has established eleven parent resource centers throughout DeKalb County. The centers are designed to empower parents to assist their children in maximizing their full potential. The centers’ resources are focused on instruction, economics, health, and cultural awareness for students in grades prekindergarten through twelfth grade. There are computers available for use by parents as well as a lending library giving parents the opportunity to take resources home with them, on loan. Parents will benefit from workshops on topics from test prep information for their children to finance for themselves. Resources are developed with the input of all disciplines from the departments within the DeKalb County School District and with the support of the community.

Resources are available for all levels of student learning: high achievers, regular education, and special education. Each of the eleven centers is managed by two facilitators, and two of the centers have full-time interpreters.

It has been stated that that these centers will serve as a wonderful resource and allow parents to more effectively assist in their children’s academic and social growth. Parent centers are one avenue for promoting equal opportunities across the district. Parents are encouraged to take full advantage of the resources and allow the facilitators at the centers to empower them to be a more successful parent.

Bloggers in support of the centers and the salaries say that this is federal money, so we should take our complaint about the inflated salaries and lack of accountability to the federal Department of Education. Perhaps so. Title 1 federal money is always viewed somehow as ‘free’ money by our administrators and they accept and spend it freely.  All we would like to see is some level of accountability – are these centers making a difference in outcomes for children? We have no data on the numbers of parents using the centers or the numbers and kinds of programs offered, as well as the schedules. The most recent newsletter posted on the webpage is from November, 2011.

At any rate, are we, as schools, now socially responsible to retrain parents and fix the ills of poverty, illiteracy, under-education and ignorance? A question was asked, “could our local libraries handle some of these parent programs? They have more hours of operation, offering flexibility for working parents.” In fact, should this be a larger, more highly-managed, multi-agency program charged with addressing issues of poverty across the nation? What we’re doing now seems like a patchwork quilt approach with no pattern to follow and no one checking the strength of the stitches – or even checking to see if the stitches were made at all.

Click here to the view school system’s webpage on the Parent Centers, and let us know if you think the schools should be held responsible for fixing the family and parenting ills of today’s society. If you have had an experience with a Parent Center, please share your story in the comments.

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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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62 Responses to Should our schools be agents for social change?

  1. There is no way, EVER, that someone in charge of a parent center should earn more than a teacher. The parents that benefit from parent centers have a very low skill set and the top STUDENTS could be coaching them. This is just an avenue to provide jobs for friends and family.

  2. There are also 45 Parent Coordinators listed in the 2013 schedule. Salaries do seem to range from the 50s to the high 70s. Lower salaries indicate that the person was hired late in the year, or moved to somewhere else. Some familiar names show up in this list…

    RIVAS,STEPHON A PARENT COORDINATOR $78,646.48
    GUILLORY,PHILANDREA E PARENT COORDINATOR $75,116.01
    BARNES,CHARLES G PARENT COORDINATOR $71,175.00
    ROGERS,RAMON PARENT COORDINATOR $68,210.60
    GUILLORY,MARCUS A PARENT COORDINATOR $66,535.38
    THOMPSON,LISA PARENT COORDINATOR $64,943.20
    CARLOS,ROBYNE J PARENT COORDINATOR $62,365.00
    POUGH,TAMMY M PARENT COORDINATOR $60,816.28
    SMITH,SPARKLE T PARENT COORDINATOR $60,144.42
    MAYFIELD,RODNEY L PARENT COORDINATOR $59,459.60
    BROWN,ERNEST PARENT COORDINATOR $59,182.80
    WATTS,KATINA PARENT COORDINATOR $58,579.60
    PRICE,RONALD C PARENT COORDINATOR $57,624.60
    DAWSON,GALEN PARENT COORDINATOR $55,678.54
    WARNER,MARSHEA L PARENT COORDINATOR $55,274.20
    ALLEN,RUTH M PARENT COORDINATOR $55,176.26
    JENKINS,NICOLE S PARENT COORDINATOR $52,457.40
    HOLCOMB,ANGELA N PARENT COORDINATOR $51,895.70
    CORKER,WALLACE F PARENT COORDINATOR $50,948.20
    JACKSON-GILL,SHERRYL A PARENT COORDINATOR $50,829.78
    HARDEN,TRACIE PARENT COORDINATOR $50,286.50
    GOLDAMMER,LORI PARENT COORDINATOR $49,969.50
    WIMBERLY,ALVIN PARENT COORDINATOR $48,853.33
    CALLAWAY,TORIE L PARENT COORDINATOR $45,680.80
    BARNES,KEISHA N PARENT COORDINATOR $43,176.46
    WARD-CLAUDMAN,WYLENE PARENT COORDINATOR $41,577.42
    BAKER,LARRY B PARENT COORDINATOR $40,424.57
    GREEN,SIMONE L PARENT COORDINATOR $39,593.01
    MADISON,DELMONTE PARENT COORDINATOR $36,415.44
    SALEEM,MIKAL A PARENT COORDINATOR $35,440.47
    HIPP,ADINA PARENT COORDINATOR $31,750.20
    GRISSOM,ANTONIO T PARENT COORDINATOR $29,845.22
    WILLIAMS,TAMEICA P PARENT COORDINATOR $19,628.50
    GRIFFIN,MADELINE S PARENT COORDINATOR $17,937.50
    WALKER-FRANCIS,TASHA M PARENT COORDINATOR $14,018.66
    DOLLISON,CLEVELAND D PARENT COORDINATOR $11,193.14
    SMILEY,NATHANIEL PARENT COORDINATOR $9,776.40
    MASON,KEVIN D PARENT COORDINATOR $8,388.80
    EDWARDS,ALVIA N PARENT COORDINATOR $7,517.75
    WATSON,PAMELA C PARENT COORDINATOR $6,810.90
    MOTON,MELODY N PARENT COORDINATOR $4,342.62
    EDISON,BRENDA PARENT COORDINATOR $3,732.68
    HARRIS,ZETTIA D PARENT COORDINATOR $3,236.37
    CARTER,PATRICIA L PARENT COORDINATOR $2,697.02
    ROSSO,ANGELICA PARENT COORDINATOR $2,631.21
    WHITE,CHANDA L PARENT COORDINATOR $2,000.01

    From the 2010 Schedule:
    WHITE,CHANDA L PARENT COORDINATOR $61,196.61
    
  3. Some other costs for programs meant for social change in young people’s lives include:
    (per Budget in 2009-2010)

    DeKalb Truancy School: $1,161,891.98 for 25 students = $ 46,475.68 per student

    DeKalb Alternative: 228 students: $4,948,870.63 = $21,705.57 per student

    DeKalb Alternative Night HS: 56 students: $1,061,698.68 = $18,958.90 per student

    DeKalb Transition: 105 students: $2,127,915.32 = $20,265.86 per student

    International Student Center: 218 students (some students are over 30 years old): $3,766,441.67 = $17,277.26 per student

    Gateway to College Charter: 87 students: $1,419,771.33 = $16,319.21 per student

    Dekalb Early College Academy: 152 students: $2,311,761.72 = $15,208.96 per student

    Elizabeth Andrews High School: 675 students: $8,202,574.36 = $12,151.96 per student

    Is this money having an effect? Do we follow-up on students and report their progress? Do we evaluate our efforts to see if they are working? Is there a report?

    +++

    (Per pupil numbers were acquired via an Open Records Request two years ago. The board has ignored requests for an update on the data.)
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/per-pupil-expenditures-general-and-title-i.pdf

    This document also shows the discrepancy in spending across the county as was highlighted in the Druid Hills Charter Cluster petition.

  4. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @DSW,
    Thank you for creating a topic on this subject. I recognize that there are some that believe President Johnson’s War on Poverty, though well intentioned, has been a failure and perhaps created an entitlement mentality. One could type in War on Poverty in their search engine and come up with many opinion pieces, both pro and con. Since schools receive some of their funding from the Federal Government, schools benefit from programs such as Title 1 and Free and Reduced Lunch. There are many pieces of federal education legislation, some which can be found at,

    http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2003/2003060d.pdf

    The link has data up to 2003. It only excludes federal funded education programs added since that time. Many of the programs have mandates if the funds are accepted. Some mandates also require hiring additional personnel solely to handle government reporting requirements.

    Should schools be used as agents for social change and attempt to cure social ills? Should schools solely focus on the primary mission of educating children? I look forward to reading the comments that will come from this topic.

  5. Who are the GUILLORYs? Husband and wife? Who do they know? I have worked for DeKalb County for 14 years (not the school system), graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Business Administration, and I make $39K. I am a single parent and live on a shoestring budget, but have managed to move my children out from the umbrella of DCSS through the gift of school choice. I refuse to subject my children to a system so fundamentally flawed. I use my vacation time from work to either spend time at school or attend education workshops and lobby my legislators.

  6. Dekalbite2 says:

    @decaturparent
    “Who are the GUILLORYs? Husband and wife? Who do they know?”
    Phiilandrea Guillory is the daughter of Francis Edwards, former school board chairman under Crawford Lewis. At one point, Francis Edwards voted for her own daughter’s appointment to a $100,000+ year job recommended by Lewis as a Public Relations employee (BOE policy forbids voting for your own relatives for a job promotion). When all of the PR personnel were purged under Tyson, she was moved to IT to run the DeKalb Schools video station. Under Atkinson she was demoted to be a Parent Center coordinator (what qualifications?) at $75,000+ a year. Meanwhile her husband was made Transportation manager under Lewis for $100,0000+. They are the gift that keeps on giving.

  7. Dekalbite2 says:

    I’m going to cross post. If you read this and want yo skip it, no problem.

    I don’t think the schools are in the business of changing parents. That is a socioeconomic issue that has proven intractable for educators. Schools cannot address every social or economic issue in our society.

    I had a principal who came into a very low income DeKalb school I taught in. She was a first year principal and a more affluent school had rejected her because she was a first year principal and a woman. They wanted an experienced male. So they took our principal and gave us her. Our parents were by and large low income and uninvolved. The school was dirty and the students were used to misbehaving with no consequences. Achievement was low and teachers were the first ones out the door in the afternoon.

    This principal immediately made changes. She put checklists in every bathroom, lunchroom and every corner of the school for the custodians. She came around and inspected the bathrooms and the entire school every day to ensure the toilets were sparkling, the floors were clean and soap was in the dispensers. She insisted that the classrooms floors and hallways were immaculate. She hung ferns in the front entrance and in front of every cafeteria window. She established a salad bar in addition to the regular cafeteria line. She had a stop light in the front of the cafeteria. If the students got loud, she put it on yellow. If they got too loud, she put it on red and there was absolutely NO talking for 10 minutes. She and the Lead Teacher and Counselor took turns making sure the lunchroom was quiet and orderly. She never missed a day reinforcing this. Pretty soon the children spoke in conversational tones at the lunch tables because she never missed a beat. They loved the idea of having a choice at the salad bars (no one had ever done anything but sling food at them) and the floors and ferns made it look like a restaurant. The teachers started coming back from the teachers to eat in the cafeteria (me included) because it was so pleasant.

    She found out PTA gift wrap sales were not good in that area because when the parents collected the cash, they often spent it for groceries so the PTA was in the red. She held a Fall Festival so the community could give the money they spent for a good time at the Festival. She had a Talent Show at night for the kids and the teachers even performed (so did she – I learned the electric slide that way). These were among many of her ways to raise money for the PTA (somebody had to buy those ferns). She knew when they had a few bucks in their pocket they would spend it somewhere. Why not at the school having a good time with their kids?

    The students learned to change classes quietly and walk on the right hand side of the hall in a single line while they did that. The teachers were required to stand at their doors and walk into the hallways to ensure the students learned the proper behavior. All teachers were required to make sure the bulletin boards in the halls were changed frequently and were attractive as well as attending to the ones in their rooms. They had additional responsibilities, but they also had additional authority and backup.

    Yes. At first it was rough on teachers and custodians and the Lead Teacher and the counselor, etc. and they complained and complained. But as they started going back into the cafeteria to eat in the “Fern Bar” as we called it, went to clean teacher restrooms, looked at their sparkling classroom floors, and began to be able to teach instead of discipline (woe to the kid who was sent to her for misbehavior), they began to change their minds. They could have more engaged learning, they didn’t just rush out of a nasty building because they were exhausted from crowd control, they could eat in the cafeteria with their friends and develop a camaraderie, and they had abundant supplies and materials with which to teach. They learned she was fiercely protective of her teachers and had their backs. She was excellent at managing money so the funds she had control over were wisely spent. Very few highly qualified teachers left that school after she came, and the ones she hired were highly qualified. The Central Office personnel never intimidated her. She knew who was responsible for what and always had her facts and figures straight before she asked for anything.

    A few keys to her management style:
    1. She asked a lot from everyone who worked for her from the custodians to the teachers to her admin team and the cafeteria workers
    2. She expected a lot from the kids. Just because they were from low income homes and single parents did not mean they couldn’t behave properly and do their school work. The kids loved her by the way because she created a pleasant, fair and safe haven for them where many of their homes were chaotic. She treated them with respect, but never let them slide even for an instance.
    3. She expected more of herself and worked harder than anyone in the building. She was totally hands-on and nothing was beneath her.
    4. She was an amazing organizer, and she was very smart.
    5. She made sure anyone she hired was a highly qualified teacher and then she set the stage for them to teach.

    This is where I get my mantra that EVERY child in DeKalb deserves:
    1. A safe and clean learning environment
    2. A highly qualified and well compensated teacher in a reasonably sized classroom
    3. Abundant access to cutting edge technology and science equipment

    Competence does matter. It matters the most in low income schools. Resources need to be directed into the classrooms. Admin and support personnel need to be held accountable for their duties and their contribution to the classroom. Principals can make or break a school – especially in a low income area.

    Changing parents is not the business of the schools. Schools are places of learning for children. That is a big enough job as it is. Our capitalist society is brutal, and many groups are marginalized and shunted into isolated geographical areas. That’s the facts of living in the U.S.A. and DeKalb County doesn’t have a corner on that.

    Public schools should be an oasis in our society. They are there to provide the three components above for EVEY child no matter where they are located geographically or socioeconomically.

    Public schools are not a jobs program – not for teachers, or admin and support positions. We don’t have the money for that. Schools are not there to provide “career ladders” for their workers. They are not there to enrich the upper management team. They are not agents for social change in the families’ morals or cultures because that is not their function.

    Public schools are there so ALL students have the opportunity to master the content of math, science, social studies and language arts. They should be clean and safe facilities that provide ALL students highly qualified educators and access to science and technology regardless of income level. They are there to ensure ALL students have the opportunity to master the content that will give them gainful employment when they grow up.

    DeKalb Schools has lost its focus. It does not have to be this way. I’ve been fortunate enough to see what can be done in disadvantaged areas to level the playing field for all students. I’ve also had the unfortunate experience of seeing how devastating it is to communities composed of disadvantaged students when the priorities are not on the classroom.

  8. Dekalbite2 says:

    Sorry – but I am going to cross post one more time.

    This was my response to Fred in DeKalb when he said:
    “Recall the long time motto of the school district, The schools cannot live apart from the community. The strongest schools typically have the highest levels of community and parental involvement regardless of culture, socioeconomic status or race.”

    And DeKalb has done such an exemplary job in meeting their mottos?

    Communities that have high levels of parental involvement generally bring high achieving strong schools, and that cuts across cultural, racial or religious differences. These points are moot. There is not much difference in any middle to upper middle class areas anywhere in the U.S. in terms of the outcomes of their schools.

    When it comes to socioeconomic status, that is an entirely different matter. Socioeconomics correlates highly with educational opportunity and a host of other factors. Lower socioeconomics corresponds with single parents being the only breadwinner, health disabilities (physical, mental, substance abuse), a lack of educational skills, opposition to authority, a suspicion of and inability to navigate the predominant mainstream social, business and governmental networks, etc. Any of these factors and in many cases multiple factors can be reasons for being in the lower socioeconomic strata. Saying that children from lower socioeconomic areas have the same parental involvement as children from middle class areas just isn’t true. Many forces coalesce to ensure parental involvement is not the same in a low income area as a middle or high income area.

    Can schools change this or is that a function for the local, state and federal government, charitable organizations, religious organizations, community organizations, etc.?

    IMO:
    Schools do not have the financial or personnel resources to effect widespread changes in the parents or the family structure in a lower socioeconomic community. Most lower socioeconomic children are not sprinkled throughout middle class and upper class areas. They are abundant and overrepresented in a specific geographical area or areas. Many of these areas have a transient nature (i.e. numerous families constantly moving in and out) that precludes the follow through that is necessary for a local entity like a school. This also puts an enormous burden on the schools in those areas since they are not addressing a few homes that have little parental involvement; rather they are addressing many homes with little parental involvement. Schools’ resources are finite.

    As a country we have invested hundreds of billions of dollars into lower income areas in an attempt to change the social fabric of the people who live there. They are less employable, less healthy, have shorter life spans, have a higher crime rate, and many other indices that make middle class individuals avoid moving into those areas. That is the reason we have welfare, Medicaid, food stamps, and to a lesser but no less important extent part of the rationale for unemployment benefits, Social Security, and Medicare (although those last 3 also benefit middle and upper middle class groups as well). One can debate the pros and cons of these approaches all day long, but the one approach that almost everyone has a consensus on is that education – i.e. instilling literacy and numeracy – is one of the best ways to pull a person out of poverty. That is the function that schools do, and how well they do it is of utmost importance to the children in low income communities and to the nation as a whole.

    What should we expect FIRST and at a MINIMUM from our schools?
    As the educational basics, schools need to provide a safe and clean environment for ALL students with highly qualified and decently compensated teachers. Schools need to give ALL students abundant access to cutting edge science and technology equipment and supplies. ALL students deserve these basic components. If you have the resources to provide these components to ALL students, and you have money leftover, then you may seek to tackle some problems in the community. But if you can’t give the educational basics to kids, you should not divert resources into non teaching areas.

    I’ve worked in many lower socioeconomic schools and most of them in DeKalb do not give students the educational basics – namely safe, clean havens for students with low class sizes, abundant equipment and supplies, staffed with highly qualified and motivated teachers that feel appreciated and are an integral part of the decisions made for the students in their classrooms. We have many capable students in lower income areas, and we have many highly qualified teachers in lower income areas, but both the students and the teachers are being asked to do their work in much less than desirable circumstances because the money is being diverted into areas outside the classroom. The students in these low income areas have no options. They must stay where they are. However, the teachers have been moving out of the county in appalling numbers (800 to 1,000 teachers attrition this year alone).

    Title 1 is not “leveling the playing field” in DeKalb. This money should be spent providing the educational basics for students – something they are not getting now. Title 1 money is coveted by the DeKalb administration because it comes with less commitment and strings than state money. It can be and is used as “discretionary” income to be spent however the person who has the power decides. It’s $40,000,000 out of a billion dollar budget, but it can be used pretty much for whatever programs and departments strike the fancy of the person in charge of DeKalb at the time.

  9. Thanks Fred – and thanks for continuing to discuss issues with us. The War on Poverty has not been much of a war… and don’t even get me started on the War on Drugs. Whenever the government sticks its nose in to people’s lives – insinuating that they somehow need ‘help’ – things just seem to get worse.

  10. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Speaking of the GUILLORYs, Thad Mayfield ran Frances Edwards campaign for BOE in 1998. Small World.

  11. Dekalbite2 says:

    @DSW
    ” Whenever the government sticks its nose in to people’s lives – insinuating that they somehow need ‘help’ – things just seem to get worse”

    That’s unless you become laid off even though you were a great employee because your company got bought out and you need that unemployment check to pay your mortgage. Or you get an expensive and painful or life threatening illness when you are old and need Medicare. Or you are too old or ill to work and you need Social Security to live on since your investments took a nose dive during the Great Depression. Or your parents depend on Social Security or Medicare – otherwise you wouldn’t be able to send your child to college because you would be trying to support and take care of them because there was no Medicare or Social Security.

    I’m sorry. I see our social safety net as something that makes the middle class (the ones that pay the majority of the taxes and are the most productive members of our society) the beneficiary of most of the government’s largesse.

    Yes. The government is frequently intrusive and often promises help that never materializes or comes in a form that is totally dysfunctional, but then so are corporations that seize my information and manipulate the markets so they can rake the chips off the table when I’m not looking.

    There is a fine balance between government regulation and unbridled corporate (or any organization e.g. Large school systems’) greed and lust for power. Sometimes the pendulum swings one way and sometimes the other. We just try not to get caught in the pendulum.

  12. I agree with your points completely dekalbite2. I made the comment about things like the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs — they just seem to have made things worse. I didn’t phrase it properly —

  13. Let me share a video with you. This is why we can never ‘fix’ the ills of poverty with well-intentioned ‘solutions’ like parent centers and free breakfasts. We don’t even completely understand or grasp the depth of the poverty in this country – or the height of the wealth. It’s condescending for our government to hand out mere millions to schools and other social services to ‘fix’ poverty – when they know full well that the only way to fix poverty is to fix the ills of our entire economy. So let’s go ahead and debate the necessity or accolades of the parent centers. Let’s hash out if we think they are doing their job, or need to be held accountable. But remember, these centers are essentially nice jobs for some, and yes, help and benefits for some of the parents and students of DeKalb — like the starfish story – it can be good for a few. But no, initiatives like parent centers will never, ever fix anything about poverty in DeKalb or anywhere else.

  14. idabelle25 says:

    Salary issues aside, I guess my issue with the parent centers is simply this, as a tax payer that contributes to title I funds is it is truly positively effecting the performance of students bottom line. With class sizes being enormous even at the lower grade levels, Para support being cut and teachers being asked more than ever to individualize instruction. How are the parent centers helping these critical needs in improving education in our county?Where are their accountable numbers of usage. In my many years in Dekalb in dealing with parents, I haven’t heard any one of them say that they have used the center as a resource. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have great resources to share but if it is under utilized, it is a waste of taxpayer dollars that could be re- allocated for real results either by contributing to reducing class size, or helping to return respectable pay and benefits in order to retain and attract quality teachers.

  15. Reality Check says:

    You’ve all seen the story about the cursing toddler in Omaha right? The police shared it to try to show the community what they face every day. Most of us can’t fathom what goes on in American ghettos. How are teachers supposed to correct the things some parents do?
    http://www.ketv.com/news/local-news/new-details-surface-in-toddler-cursing-video/-/9674510/23853822/-/10t0lqhz/-/index.html

  16. howdy1942 says:

    @Dekalbite2 – Great post and excellent example of what can be done when we have the right leadership in place, namely, the right principals given the full responsibility for achieving results, held accountable for the results, and paid accordingly. They should be free from any interference that they do not request and that should be their decision alone!

    The blog on the salary release was a real eye-opener and to @DSW – my heartfelt thanks.

    @gchidi – you talk about the risk to South Dekalb if new cities are formed, especially new school systems or clusters, I ask “who voted to send the majority of the recent school boards of the past 10 years to serve in governing the DCSS?” It is clear that neither Dunwoody or Lakeside or Druid Hills or Brookhaven or Tucker or Briarcliff had any input to that at all – right? If that is true and they can’t make any of the changes they feel are necessary but are forced by a majority school board to continue to accept the same failed status quo, can you blame them for seeking something better for their own kids? Please explain how keeping the same system in place that has created the failed system that you decry can be expected to produce different results. It seems to me like the right weather to approach this is not to invoke the power of government to interfere what other communities seek to do, but rather to get out the vote to change the school board in order to make the changes that would lessen the likelihood of the result you so fear. I live in Tucker and I fully and strongly support a system that provides a good education for all students in Dekalb. But I also am strongly that the same governance with the same administration can’t do that – Thurmond won’t do that nor will the current board. I don’t think that most folks who live in Dunwoody fear any racial mix or economic mix – I don’t – that is the real world! I think, however, that we have all run out of patience with a system that has so failed all children in Dekalb and seeks no change and wants to force all of us to stay in that same failed system.
    @Fred – There are just too many “friends and family” listed in just this small sampling of salary listing to even begin to think that anything substantial has been done about the nepotism cited by SACS. Thurmond stated as early as last February that as many as 600 administration positions had been eliminated and promised those of us in attendance at that Dunwoody Community Association meeting that he would so. As of this date, I am not aware of his ever doing that. And can you explain how HR director, for example, has greater responsibility than the new Fire Chief responsible for protecting all of the properties in Dekalb County from fire? He certainly makes less than she does.

    After reading this salary post, I am requesting Governor Deal and State School Superintendent to initiate a full and complete audit of the DCSS to be paid for by the DCSS with the results to be presented in a public meeting of the full State School Board. If this audit finds nothing, so be it – nobody has anything to fear. After all, taxpayers at both the County and State levels deserve some answers given the sheer volume of questions that have been raised.

  17. Couple more videos — shorts from Yahoo – featuring interviews with Ben Hecht, president and CEO of Living Cities, a collaboration of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions working to eradicate poverty:

    It’s expensive to be poor in America:
    http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/no–you-can-t-just–bootstrap–yourself-out-of-poverty-172104522.html

    A discussion on Obama’s Promise Zones:
    http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/obama-announces-new-poverty-program-144435439.html

    And Robert Reich talks about a film he narrates, “Inequality for All”:
    http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/income-inequality-enemy-economic-growth-robert-reich-142150436.html

  18. And since we’re watching videos this morning, make sure you view this one that Maureen had on her blog a while back. How are we preparing our young people for a future like the one Andrew McAfee talks about?

    MIT’s Andrew McAfee gave a good TED talk on future jobs and the technology that will result in the obsolescence of many of today’s jobs. At MIT, McAfee studies how information technology affects businesses and how computerization affects competition, society, the economy and the workforce.

    +++

    Then take a look at this public SlideShare Powerpoint presentation “Reimagined – the Future of Education” — feel free to use it – present it to your small groups or share it with your board rep!

    http://www.slideshare.net/DavidHavens/reimagined-the-future-of-k12-education

  19. hopespringseternal says:

    Appreciate that this a distinguished topic. Thanks DSW. @Dekalbite, this is what you said yesterday:

    “@hopespringseternal
    ” I’ll take suggestions on creating safe learning havens for those who value education. But I will absolutely not take those suggestions from single-prism thinkers. ”

    I don’t think the schools are in the business of changing parents. That is a socioeconomic issue that has proven intractable for educators. Schools cannot address every social or economic issue in our society.”

    I’m not sure how it could be gleaned that I suggested schools should be in the business of changing parents. In fact, I agree with your statement that this has proven intractable. But the schools by nature have to deal with the complex community issues I spoke of which seep into the classroom.

    Teachers and administrators have to walk a fine line in schools such as these. They answer to two masters: the one which is supposed to uphold the rights of the engaged students, and the one who knows that we can’t govern with a Purge-The-Undesirables mentality. My heart goes out to those who walk this high wire every day. (Sidebar: we will watch this play out when there’s enough intestinal fortitude to face the Wadsworth Question. People have been side-stepping it thus far, but it will have to be dealt with.)

    In any case, a local school must at least partner with its community. It must get to know it and strike the proper balance so that as many kids as possible will be well-served. There will be casualties. We haven’t even touched on local school discipline, which looms huge in a discussion like this one. I’ve found that ‘partnership’ is a relative term and is therefore executed all over the map, with no guidance or even training. Honesty is a basic requirement for tackling something like this. I have great S. DeKalb stories which serve to uphold my community. But I also must be honest, and ignore the urge to bristle at whoever is bringing that honesty. It’s tough. But until we’re honest with ourselves and each other, we won’t get anywhere.

  20. I am deeply concerned about the way our administration chooses to use Title 1 funds. They seem to treat these millions of dollars ($30-50 million for the system) as if it’s a Christmas gift card. They have gone into the back room and devised a plan to create another enormous bureaucracy – just the same as Dr. Lewis! We will once again be saddled with a multi-million dollar department full of educational ‘coordinators’ of some kind of another – who are not certified teachers, yet collect larger paychecks than teachers, along with state pensions if they continue to retirement. Unlike teachers, these “coordinators” are unaccountable. Unlike teachers, they do not have to track their success or show proof of improvement tied to their efforts. They are just (most of them anyway), kicking back and collecting a nice check while essentially spying on teachers or waiting for parents to walk in the door. This is just flat wrong and will never make a difference.

    If you want to engage parents – go to where they are. Go to their homes, go to their apartment buildings and see what they need. Talk with them. Teach them. This is called social work – and we could use a lot more trained social workers. If you want to improve children’s success – offer them support teachers (yes – Title 1 can pay for this) to work one on one or in small groups on reading and math skills. Teach them how to better use technology. And then offer them a choice — college or career-bound – with high-quality vocational training. This is how Title 1 is handled all over the country.

    Here’s a novel idea: Ask teachers what they need! What kinds of technology, support staff, programs would help to improve learning? I have friends in Appalachia and they love the things Title 1 funds provide for their schools and their children — technology, training on technology, reading teachers, reading materials, etc. etc. — all STUDENT-focused.

    I am floored – absolutely floored that after all we have endured with the likes of Dr. Lewis, Ramona Tyson and Cheryl Atkinson (who at least wanted to put technology in students hands), and SACS and the Governor stepping in – with 6 members of the school board hand-picked by the Governor’s committee, we are back to square one. These programs being implemented by Michael Thurmond (who was hired by the ‘fired’ board in secret, and who knows nothing about education and who sent his own child to private school, and who whole-heartedly admits that he is a life-long politician) are simply more of the same: A big old jobs program that will do nothing to help teachers and students in their quest.

  21. howdy1942 says:

    A couple of corrections to my previous post:

    “weather” should be “way”
    On at least two occasions, Thurmond started that 600 positions had been eliminated and promised to provide a complete listing in response to questions In one instance he instructed Ramona Tyson to write that action item down and both she and Dr. Howe made the note. I was there sitting directly behind them. This should not be that difficult – go back to when Atkinson came on board, list the positions filled and vacant, do the same at present removing any titles that had gone away and adding any new titles and vacancies and you’re done. Provide that listing and your commitment is met.

    Finally, it is the responsibility of the public school system to educate – period! Nothing can detract from that. Funding for schools should emphasize the classroom and only those functions such as paying teachers and principals, maintaining facilities, etc., should exist within the administration. We should have PTA, but this idea of “parent centers” for select schools is discriminatory and wasteful of resources that should be directed at the classroom. It is beyond belief that those appointed to be “parent coordinators” with associate degrees have greater responsibilities than teachers who must at least have a bachelors degree and hence should be more highly paid – even entry level teachers.

    Also, Ramona promised a full audit of the DCSS – that has never been even initiated. That is why I am asking the State to do this. If the administration can find the money to pay lawyers to defend Lewis, to defend Walker, to fight our teachers in court, then it can find the money to pay for this audit. I think the administration fears what an audit would find and they are probably right!

  22. DCSD FOR DUMMIES says:

    Hmm…shouldn’t these parent centers employee DCSD certified teachers at current pay???

  23. DCSD FOR DUMMIES says:

    And what are their credentials to deal with parents about academics? How can they help improve academics? What do they know about TKES? How will they be evaluated? This seems to be a place to employ the F&F of the administrative bloat. The ones who are certified teachers seem to accelerate through the “Who’s Who’s of the F&F Promotion Program”. I am applied for the other job. I wonder if I will get a call??

  24. So, does anyone know what became of the “Parent Liaisons?” – People who used to get paid to run interference between principals and PTAs?

  25. Word Wall says:

    There’s a big difference between knowing there is s problem (some parents are total losers) and committing to a big expensive government program that’s supposed to solve the problem ( a75+ million dollar Bridge to Nowhere initiative & new friends and family ATM centers) … maybe this problem won’t get solved this way. Perhaps we need to accept the problem (some parents are total losers) and then address it with the tools we have — smaller classes and motivated teachers. But that’s not as much fun for the “innovators” …

  26. September says:

    Looking at the number of people employed and the salaries we are paying, this program should be able to say they are helping families. The story I am reading here says otherwise. Personal opinion, these centers should be staffed by certified teachers. I think that parent centers, if we are going to have them, should be based in the community, not at specific schools. It is expensive to duplicate services when these centers are not being used as hoped. Locations could be chosen so that parents can get there using the bus system and centers need to be open when parents can get there. The staff at these centers should be expected to go out to schools to work with parents and present programs.

  27. dekalbite2 says:

    @ Word Wall

    I would not have put it so succinctly, but I agree. We need to provide our students with small enough class sizes that the teacher can have engaged learning versus crowd control and can individualize instruction for those that are not in the middle of the pack – high or low end in student achievement. As a regular education classroom teacher for many years who taught 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th grades, the single most important ingredient for me was a reasonably sized classroom. That was especially true when I taught students from low income areas, many of whom were behind grade level in math and reading. To provide the individualized help for the number of struggling students I had in low income areas, small classes were a requirement, not a luxury. As Clinton would say – it’s arithmetic. I only had a finite number of minutes/hours in a day to directly instruct students in the content of math, science, language arts and social studies (although when I taught 6th and 7th I was the science teacher – even then I needed reasonably sized classes to safely conduct the labs and hands-on activities that science inquiry is based on). The more struggling students who needed remediation in a concept, the less minutes proportionally I had to provide that instruction – that’s division. At a point you get so you simply cannot provide the individualized instruction that the students below grade level or above grade level need if your classes become too large (DeKalb’s situation at present).

  28. Dekalbite2 says:

    @hopespringseternal
    “But the schools by nature have to deal with the complex community issues I spoke of which seep into the classroom”

    By schools you really mean the members of the classroom – the teachers and their students. By extension the parents are involved through their children, but the teacher’s first responsibility is to his/her students. The teacher must deliver the content of math, science, social studies and language arts to his/her students and ensure that as many students as possible master this content. Mastery of this content means students will graduate with the skills to read, write, compute, understand the natural world and be responsible citizens. They will have a greater opportunity to enroll in institutions of higher learning, and most importantly they will be employable and able to support their own families.

    Highly qualified, effective teachers ensure as many students as possible master the content that is the basis of literacy and numeracy. Sometimes a highly qualified teacher does not have to engage with parents. Sometimes he/she does have to engage the parents. Highly qualified, effective teachers make the effort to engage parents if necessary – all parents, not just the involved parents, and most of the time, if they know their community, they can make that connection. Many times you have taught their brothers and sisters or cousins. You have the reputation in the community of being someone who cares for all of the children in your class. Just because these parents don’t show up for PTA meetings doesn’t mean that they do not talk among themselves. That is why the attrition rate of 800 to 1,000 teachers leaving DeKalb in a year is so particularly devastating for communities that have low parent involvement.

    Highly qualified principals are the key to attracting and retaining highly qualified and effective teachers. They are also the key to parental involvement. It’s like my former principal who ran a Fall Festival and a Talent show. Kids will drag their parents to the school when they are in something like a Talent show or a Play. I put on a play or performance with every single class I ever had. I believe EVERY child should have the experience of performing in front of an audience. It does not detract from their schoolwork. They will learn their lines on their own time. There is nothing like the discipline and teamwork involved in a play. I have never had any child who did not want to be on a stage receiving recognition. It is activities like that that solidify your connection with the community and make the school a part of the community. Yes. It takes work on the part of the faculty and administration, but if a principal can create an environment in which teachers feel respected and valued, then you would surprised how many highly qualified, effective teachers will want to work there and how much they will go above and beyond for the students.

    Ensuring that DeKalb has highly qualified and effective principals is the responsibility of the administration. Retaining them is also the responsibility of the administration. The administration cannot allow personnel in the Central Office to call principals and ask them to change grades for their children or give them special consideration. The administration should not reprimand principals who call the technology center directly to say your schools’ computer lab has not been working for weeks because it might upset the head of technology. The administration cannot tell principals that they will be punished if parents call the Central Office with a problem. When this happens, you know the chain of command is upside down. Instead of serving the schoolhouse, the schoolhouse is serving the Administration.

    Highly qualified, effective principals know the name of every child and they know their community. They are not changed very few years and the administration must have their backs. Highly qualified, effective principals are rewarded by the administration not by moving them out of the school they are in, but by finding ways of retaining them in those schools. These principals make an effort to know the neighborhood and understanding the best way of involving parents.

    Parental involvement should be a local effort on the part of a highly qualified and effective principal and highly qualified and effective teachers who are given every incentive to stay in that community. Involving the principal and the teachers should be the administration’s priority. Do good teachers feel burdened by paperwork? Then find a way to unburden them. Do they need higher compensation? Then cut, consolidate, and outsource in the non teaching side until you can provide them with adequate compensation. Do they need materials and supplies or paraprofessionals to take on mundane tasks? Then use your Title 1 money for that. Do they need lower class sizes? Then make that a priority. Do teachers feel technology that is abundant and always working is good for their students? Then that needs to happen. Do whatever you can to attract and retain highly qualified and effective teachers, ensure they have small enough classes and abundant access to science and technology equipment, and ask them what do they need for their students. They will stay and become part of the community. The pleasant environment you create for them will be the pleasant environment you create for the students because they share the same environment.

    This is not brain surgery. It is however a different model than DeKalb is used to running under.

  29. Teachers matter says:

    I’ve wanted to be a teacher since second grade. I got delayed a bit because when I graduated from college up north, teaching jobs were hard to find. I’ve worked hard to get where I am (twenty plus years in the county) and am insulted by how easy it is to come into some fluff positions and make a hefty salary. It’s hard to express how difficult it is to put on my game face everyday, but for my kids, I do. The county doesn’t care about me and frankly, I don’t care about it. When I retire, the county will lose. I’ll be hard to replace- no brag, just fact. My heart hurts for the new teachers with such high hopes. The county doesn’t respect or nuture those hopes. So sad and so predictable.

  30. idabelle25 says:

    @dekalblite2 9:43
    Thankyou, you said it All!!!!!!

  31. howdy1942 says:

    @Dekalbite2 – We need you on the school board! That is especially true if you don’t live in District 1. If you live in what is now District 4, I will put your signs in our yard and go door-to-door to get out the vote for you!

    Thank you for taking your time to post so informative, educational, and detailed articles. I also thank you for your commitment to our students in spite of burdensome interference from an unpopular administration!

  32. Stan Jester says:

    The Bridge Initiative is a social laboratory and neither our children nor our tax dollars should be used for experimentation. What happened to decentralization? Where’s the follow through on this rhetoric by Michael Thurmond

    “You’re gonna have regional area Superintendents like Ms Brickston in the rear, making more decisions, or helping to make decisions with our principals who are closest to the point of delivery of the service, which is education.”

    The money should go to directly to the schools where the principal, school council and community can best decide how to use it. The centralization of money, power, and decision making has never historically proved successful. Ask the Soviets how centralization worked out for them.

    Bridge Funding
    If you take a look at the Bridge Initiative PowerPoint, you’ll see the funding comes from these sources:
    * Pre-K
    * Title I and Title II
    * RT3
    * Other Grants

    Is this where we want to spend our Pre-K money? Do we really want to put all of our eggs in one basket?

    $76 Million
    $73 million comes from the above sources. $3.3 million is “unbudgeted”. Where is the unbudgeted money going to come from? Aside from the Guillorys, is there anybody that wouldn’t prefer that money go to the teachers?

  33. Great info Stan. Here’s another interesting quote from Thurmond at that same meeting you linked above:

    I tell people, on the day that it was announced that I would be the Interim Superintendent, my neighbor from across the street. When I went to pick up my newspaper, he rushed outta the house and said “I hate the balanced calendar. You gotta change it.” At that point I wasn’t quite sure what the balanced calendar was, but I promised him I would investigate. He always waves and smiles now. What we decided to do was delay implementation, at least until the 2015 school year to give us the opportunity to reengage parents, teachers, other stake holders to make sure when we make decisions we’re doing the right thing. I think that was a proper ???. The ultimate decision is still out, but as you know, whatever we do, the ultimate outcome should be to enhance academic and career achievement. The research was really inconclusive as to whether or not the balanced calendar really did that.

    So… this begs the question – what ‘research’ has proven that this $76 million program will do what they hope it will do?

  34. And yet another interesting empty promise —

    Now the one thing, that Orson and Dr Johnson and the board members made clear is that they want a real focus, a laser like focus, on increasing resources to the classroom and instruction. That is the priority and nothing else will come close to reaching a level that they have suggested that we should follow in increasing revenues to the classroom and to instruction. Because ultimately that’s the business we are in, educating our children … right. So we will be scouring, we have been scouring the budget, for every nook and cranny to make sure every dollar that we do have will be invested in that direction.

  35. but Wait! There’s more…

    Kirk Lunde [19:45]
    The budget meetings are next week, Tuesday and Thursday at 6pm in the boardroom. That’s where the public budget meetings are going to be. A couple of things. You said these aren’t decisions you made, but these are things that I think as you address the budget going forward. Teachers have not gotten a raise, but if you look at the salary ranges for central office employees, they have moved up. Salary ranges for district Superintendents has moved up in the last 2-3 years. Is there any possible way of moving those back, because other people have gotten raises in the district but the teachers have not. Is there a plan to look at the people who are getting paid over the top of their salary range. There are people in the district that are getting paid in excess of the maximum for their salary range. We need to identify why that is and what they’re doing to deserve that value and figure out if we need to continue to do that.

    Thurmond [21:02]
    Great Question. One of the things we presented last night to the board, just as a resident of DeKalb, long before I was called to this particular position. Based on the narrative, Number 1, DeKalb has a bloated central office … right … you heard it. Over the past two weeks when we presented it at the board, we looked at all the 14,000 plus employees we have in the district … right. I wanted to know what percentage of those employees, state funded, general fund funded actually work in the central office. What was presented last night, based on the research, is that 6% of the total number of employee actually work in the central office. I was shocked. I didn’t believe it. I said you go back and check it again. I don’t believe the number is just 6%. I invite you all to come to the public hearing that the gentlemen referenced. It maybe should be 3%. It might should be 4%. But it’s not 20%. It’s 6% as presently constituted.

    Stan Jester [22:24]
    Do you have a list of who that is?

    Thurmond
    Yes. It was presented to the board last night.

    Stan JesterCan we get that list of all those employees?

    Thurmond
    It will be presented at the hearing next week. I invite you to come.

    Sigh. Of course, that ‘list’ has never been produced. See why we have come to view Michael Thurmond as nothing more than 100% politician? What office do you think he’s preparing to run for next?

  36. Excuse me for posting one more Thurmond response. His rambling answers simply floor me. This is only half of his answer to the question posed as to whether Lakeside’s PTA would have a voice in choosing their next principal. —

    So, you have schools with 800 parents active in the PTSA. And then you have schools with 20 or 30 or 0. So, where are the resources? With the entitlement schools with the entitlement money. You have to spend at least 1%. So we spend about $3,800 dollars in these schools regardless of whether or not the parents are active or not. That’s gonna change. We’re gonna have a much more aggressive, involved investment and focus on getting parents involved. Our teachers are maxed out. The big mistake all of our teachers organizations have made and all the stakeholders that support them, is we allow well meaning politicians to dump ??? all the responsibility of educating our children on them. …. I saw what happened. I was there. I came to the legislature a year after QBE. That’s how long I’ve been around. I watched the standardized, and I’m not a good standardized test ??? totally. I’ve watched it. When the studies tell me it doesn’t matter, the parents’ not engaged. Most study, lack of activity are in neighborhoods of low income and poor neighborhoods. It’s just hard. You look at the schools and you look at the parental engagement and there is a correlation. Not all, but when you don’t have engagement is low income and poor neighborhood. Now, let me tell you something I know, that people should understand. Poor parents love their children just as much as the rest of us love our children. The assumption that some make is, well if you’re not engaged then either you’re not concerned, you don’t love ‘em, I don’t buy that. I’m not buying that. So, what we’re going to do is very aggressively, support groups like this. These schools that you all represent are exceptional in large because what … cause you all. You can summon the Superintendent twice in six weeks. Right? Text me at 12:30 at night saying make sure you here. Right. That’s what Alyson did last night. And get a response. But we have to train teach help inspire other parents to be like you are. Cause the only way we make the district better when you live ??? you’ve gotta live from the bottom.

  37. teachermom says:

    I would invite Thurmond to go ahead and run for office. I think that’s the only way he will leave…

  38. Oh and here’s a funny one —

    Kirk Lunde [54:11]
    I like Mr Wilkins a lot. But I would appreciate it if you ask him to respond to his emails. He doesn’t need to call me, just respond to his emails. That would be helpful.

    Thurmond [54:21]
    Email me and tell me that Mr Wilkins is not responding. That generally works at the district level.

  39. And later, back to the promise of funding the classroom first —

    Barbara Arnie [1:00:46]
    But I think the question is that the staffing of the schoolhouse has to be done first. And then we need to find money for all the other things…

    Thurmond
    But that’s what I said to begin the meeting. The board directed last night for my knowledge, the first time that that is the priority. Prior to that what you’re seeing was not the stated priority of the DeKalb school board. It should have been, but it was not. So, consequently, people budgeting and appropriated based on what they thought the priorities were.

    Barbara Arnie [1:01:26]
    So, if that’s the priority as stated last night. Can you then go direct your people to give our principals the staffing that they need for this coming year to bring them up to get the staff in the building. If that’s going to be the priority, why can’t we start that now?

    Thurmond
    This is what I’m saying. There are numerous priorities associated with improving academic performance. That will be one of them. I can’t no more say to you that absolutely that will be resolved. Cause also remember now, $16 million in new costs, revenue flat. So we’re starting F.Y. ’14 with a $16 million dollar deficit.

    I want to recognize and may I suggest that I didn’t see this. She was sitting behind this gentleman. Y’all give her a hand, the old school board. Give ‘em a hand.

    What Michael Thurmond SAYS and what Michael Thurmond DOES are polar opposites. Please only tune in to what he DOES. His actions are all that count.

  40. DisenchantedinDK says:

    I battle with myself whether or not I should continue to visit this site. Often I leave feeling discouraged and simply angry. It is encouraging to know that many parents and stakeholders see that something is definitely amuck in DeKalb. However, I don’t see an end to the injustices that are allowed to continue on at the cost of human lives and tax payers dollars. Please don’t take it lightly that I said human lives, I really mean it. The daily build up of frustration and the feeling that you are screwed either way you turn does take a negative effect on the lives of thousands of employees everyday. Stress is a killer. Anxiety is an illness that leads to depression and other ailments.
    Whilst we all go back and forth over who should run a parent center, where the Title I funds are used, Thurmond is laughing all the way to his bank every 15th and 30th of the month. This is a joke for him. He isn’t in it for the students, he doesn’t have any stake in this whatsoever. He isn’t in it for the educators and their “support”. He is in it simply to launch him to his next destination. That’s it, plain and simple. I often wonder about all of the outrage and dismay that was displayed during Atkinson’s drive thru, which ultimately lead to her departure, why aren’t we outraged that a politician with no education background, that I am aware of is allowed to run this system further into a bottomless pit of disparity.
    To the warriors that go to battle everyday, I applaud you. But I do wonder why there isn’t more of an outcry of bull$&@! from the teachers and support personnel. I wonder why there is still an EOD, the teachers association ran by David, I think. David has not said anything in support of giving teachers their money back, both furlough days and TSA funds. Teachers should be showing the public their pay checks from 6 years ago and then show them one from last year. There is money in the budget, has to be, or how can we afford to pay Thurmond 300k with bennies?
    Needless to say, DSW2 I am thankful for this site, I just wish there was more we could collectively do to make a real difference.

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