So, what about the next school board election?

vote-ballot-box There is a lot of misinformation and a lot of people are mis-speaking about the next school board election. It’s complicated – even though it shouldn’t be.  Mark Elgart even misspoke when he said to be very careful who you next elect to school board in November. But this is the thing — the school board election in DeKalb is non-partisan and will therefore be held in MAY!

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We were not clear on the dates, the district boundaries or even the number of districts for the upcoming DeKalb School Board elections, so we went to Maxine Daniels, Director, DeKalb County Registration & Elections. Maxine helped with the following history and clarifications, and confirmed our suspicions that some work has to be done (quickly) to get these districts defined and maps approved in order to properly qualify candidates.

A brief history and clarification >>

++ In 2011, SB79 was passed that required DeKalb school board to reduce the number of seats to no more than 7. The bill made no provisions to accomplish this in light of the fact that the members terms went beyond 2012. It would have been illegal to put any of the incumbents out of office.

++ In 2012, HB 1290, which delayed implementation of SB79 until the end of 2014, was passed. We recall that this bill also reapportioned Districts 1 – 7 (remember all the maps that were drawn and debated?) It also set the end of the terms of the seats up for election in 2012 to 2014. Thus all seats become vacant on 12-31-2014. (Districts 8 and 9 were already properly apportioned so they were not addressed.) New district maps were submitted and approved for preclearance by DOJ. In fact, if they had not redistricted the seats, the school board would have been in violation of federal mandate for one person – one vote because the seats prior to 2012 were not evenly distributed.

++ Just last week, HB310 was passed to align state and local elections with the court-mandated calendar for federal elections. As a result, the qualifying for all partisan and nonpartisan candidates, including the school board, will be held March 3 -7. The election for nonpartisan candidates will be held May 20 with runoffs, as necessary, on July 22.  Click here to read the entire bill >> HB 310

These loose ends regarding the maps and districts need to be tied up as soon as possible. As it stands today, there is no legal means to qualify candidates for the school board seats because no provisions exist that define the districts.

The 7 districts need to be confirmed and the super districts 8 and 9 formally eliminated. If that is done, no rearrangements of voters is required since districts 1 – 7 have already been reapportioned. Any other redesign, if not done very soon, could jeopardize qualifying.

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So — think you want to run?

The deadline for filing is actually the last day of qualifying which is March 7. The Declaration of Intent (DOI) is required before you accept or expend any monies for your campaign. If you do not spend or accept anything prior to qualifying, you would not have to file the DOI until that time. The DOI, which is filed with the Ethics Commission, can be accessed at http://ethics.ga.gov/filer-information/forms/.

View a map of the current district lines here >> http://dekalbboe.nancyjester.com/media/914/dekalb%20delegation%20final%20map.pdf

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65 Responses to So, what about the next school board election?

  1. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @DS, thanks for sharing this information! Hopefully there will be efforts throughout the community to identify and recruit good candidates then get out the vote. The continued progress of DeKalb Schools will be dependent upon the representatives we choose.

  2. Frustrated Dekalb Parent says:

    This is good info. Many at my school, in district 4, believe that McMahan’s and Orson’s seats are not up for election. I imagine others think the same thing so no one may run against them….

  3. midvaledad says:

    One good candidate has already declared his intention of running.
    Come on Dunwoody. Stay Calm and Vote Jester!

    That said, I will say I hope Jim McMahan and Thad Mayfield run for their seats. Both have asked good questions and pushed the administrative staff to bring facts to the table. At the meeting about Smart Boards it was Jim who refused to fund 9 million dollars for a $6.8 expense. I like that. I hope they will really start standing up to the staff and Superintendent Thurmond now that the district is off probation.

    My vote isn’t committed to Jim. If next year’s draft budget isn’t what someone at the Lakeside flexibility meeting called “student-centered,” I will vote for someone else.

  4. midvaledad says:

    That is supposed to say, “it was Jim who refused to fund 9 million dollars for a $6.8 million expense.”

  5. FWIW – people — ALL SCHOOL BOARD SEATS ARE UP FOR ELECTION IN MAY!! Jim, Marshall and Melvin’s terms were only 2 years when they were elected.

  6. momfromhe11 says:

    Unfortunately, Mayfield was named to Dr Walker’s at-large seat. It is to be hoped that he will decide to run in the district where he resides.

  7. JohnS says:

    @midvaledad I saw nothing special about him bringing that to anyones attention. All you had to do was was add up on the numbers on the paper times the cost of the boards I believe the numbers were provided on the paper so its not like anyone was trying to hide anything. If they wanted the 9 million they could of made the numbers reflect that. Im looking for board members to do more than the obvious. That was a political move. SPLOST has a capital management firm doing the watching I would trust them over Jim. Mayfields questions never make any sense. Ive listened to him over and over and Im sorry we need better. You want board members who beat up central office people. Thats just dumb. We need board members who do their job and that means working with the palace to provide better outcomes fro kids. This is what this is about. Anything else on here is pointless. Stay focused people.

  8. momfromhe11 says:

    We need Board members who are not swayed by politics or their own power trips.

  9. concerned citizen says:

    Sorry, JohnS- Until all the deadbeats are eliminated, the school board (whoever it is) can’t function. What about the corruption in DeKalb schools do you not understand? Any board cannot work with the Palace as it is designed with F&Fs. Surely, you know that. Do you think Thurmond, Ramoona, Ramsey, Smith, Cercease, Howe, Title I Manager, Melvin Johnson, Mayfield, etc, will step aside willingly from their gold mine? You need to stay focused on rooting out the garbage DeKalb has nourished and protected. And by the way, I think Mayfield is a big fake, not to say a phoney. He and all the board need to be beaten and then the citizens can throw out the trash which really is all that remains.

  10. howdy1942 says:

    @midvaledad – School is still out for Jim McMahon. He did vote for the Druid Hills Cluster, but I’ve not observed his familiarity with any of the facts, certainly no-where close to a Nancy Jester or Stan Jester. Don McChesney asked more questions and seemed to be better prepared. I say that school is still out because of all those early votes, especially in January, that Jim cast. He voted to hire Thurmond as interim and then voted later on to make him permanent without conduction any search whatsoever, he voted to defend Walker,he voted for that severance package for Dr. Atkinson, he voted for those cars for administrators, he voted to fund the teacher TSA lawsuit, and he seems to be too easily swayed by other members of the board. I don’t know what position he took on funding those so-called “parent centers” – I would be interested to find out.

    Time will tell, but I hope that are other candidates that come forward to challenge Jim McMahon that are more like Stan Jester and will ask the questions that ought to be answered. Also, we need one who will more strongly support our teachers. Dekalb taxpayers pay enough to remove those teacher furlough days completely and even to provide small raises for them. Teachers are at the very core of our school system and we need to have school board members who recognize that. We have too much turnover, class sizes that are too large, and we have a crying need to restore the trust and support of our community. Jim lives in Lakeside and it is one of three that want to become a city and, listening to its residents in various meetings of the Lakeside City Alliance ask so many questions pertaining to the schools, it seems that they may well be interested in forming their own schools like Dunwoody and Brookhaven. Sometimes I think that the current board has placed such an emphasis on “being nice to each other” that it has not asked pertinent questions. That can be done while also being courteous to and respectful of each other. There were people on that former board that should have never been allowed to go near a school let alone being on the school board.

    In short, Jim comes with baggage and needs to demonstrate in the few months that remain before the May election that he is passionate about some of the above issues.

  11. I’ll tell you what floors me… When the Governor was looking to replace 6 of the board members, over 400 people came out of the woodwork to ‘apply’. The idea of being ‘appointed’ by the Gov is intoxicating and a great resume boost. HOWEVER, when it comes to actually doing the old-fashioned, American thing – running for office by submitting your name, paying your fee, putting out signs, answering questions, debating the other candidates and knocking on doors — well — let’s just say that’s not looking to be quite as appealing to those 400. That’s really, really disappointing.

  12. concernedmome30329 says:

    McMahan has missed too many meetings — given that he supports the concept of once a month meetings — he needs to be there for the meetings. Or he needs to not run again.

  13. Ella says:

    I am not that impressed with McMahan. I agree he has missed too many meetings. I am extremely bothered that he was interfering with school business before he was sworn in. This was not appropriate.

    When it comes to actually doing the old-fashioned, American thing – running for office by submitting your name, paying your fee, putting out signs, answering questions, debating the other candidates and knocking on doors — well — some of us who did apply might still be considering putting our name on the ballot and have been approached by community members.

    I am seriously considering it again. However, it would be a new district for me thanks to some close friends of the district 2 school board member they made sure I was no longer in district 2.
    If I decide to run it will be in district 4. I was approached last fall by some Stone Mountain politicians.

  14. psdad says:

    +1 for Howdy’s comment. McMahon has been a real disappointment. Maybe someone with more leadership qualities and/or personal initiative (both qualities he seems to be lacking) will come forward to challenge him.

  15. Fred in DeKalb says:

    I’ve seen several comments about McMahon’s meeting attendance and wondered, what are your expectations? I ask because I also wonder if your expectations is for close to 100% attendance, what does that say about the Board member profile? I will assume that the meetings he has missed is due to conflicts with work.

  16. @Fred: I think the issue is that McMahan and Orson were the ones to push to consolidate the work sessions, board meetings, etc for the month all into one marathon day. So – now, if you miss that day, you miss an awful lot. I guess the expectation is that those who fought for the change, should be able to at least attend the monthly marathon meeting day. I don’t think either of them actually have a job they have to report to. I do know that they are both ‘soccer dads’ though.

  17. dsw2contributor says:

    Mr. McMahon is being paid $18,000 a year to be a Board Member and he is on record as wanting to only have one board meeting a month…. so he expects the taxpayers to pay him $1,500 for each time there is a monthly board meeting. At that pay rate, I expect him to have 100% Perfect Attendance.

  18. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Straw Poll – (take 15 seconds to to do the straw poll)
    http://gapundit.com/2014/02/01/united-states-senate-republican-straw-poll/

    Question
    Do you want a leader or a representative in your elected officials? This came up in the US Senate Debate this evening. What are your thoughts?

  19. midvaledad says:

    I agree with howdy, Jim has baggage. However, if you look at those early votes in the context of SACS having just put the district on probation… really, what choice did they have?

    I exclude the vote to hire Thurmond from that statement. That was done illegally behind closed doors and I don’t think we know how anyone voted.

    If you look at Stan’s work session videos from the last three or four months, you will see Jim asking questions and doing what I expect him to do. Remember when Thurmond wanted to extend MLA’s contract? Jim tried to mediate the hot heads and calm people down. He earned my respect at that meeting. Also, he was active at Henderson Middle School back in 2011 when the facility assessment was completely messed up. He has been an involved parent for a long time and knows the problems of the district. The anointed, I mean appointed, board members were clueless except for Thad. He was on Atkinson’s citizen’s redistricting committee.

    Has any of the current board challenged the Palace enough? No. I don’t want them to beat anyone up, but there should be more justification for the programs purchased. When Jim asked Dr. Howe how many students would be served by a new program, she said she didn’t know. He asked. She didn’t answer. That happens every month. The really sad part is he voted to fund it anyway. As my daughter would say, “That was lame.” So I understand people’s concerns about Jim.

    I said it before, “My vote isn’t committed to Jim.”

  20. howdy1942 says:

    Mr. McMahon’s attendance record is important, but I am much more concerned about his votes than anything else. He has certainly not represented my views very well. His vote to hire Thurmond as interim and then to make him full time without any search whatsoever is very troubling. Also, his vote to fund Walker’s defense, his vote to fund lawyers to oppose our teachers in their TRA case without any move on the part of the board to settle the case and do what is right with our teachers is equally troubling. He voted for that severance package for Dr. Atkinson even though she “resigned” and it looked a lot like “hush money” to me since she was forbidden to ever say anything publicly. He left Nancy Jester out there on a limb all by herself. I watched that whole 4-minute meeting that resulted in Melvin Johnson being elected Chair and Jim McMahon being elected Vice-Chair. Nancy was the only one to speak before the board adjourned to “executive session. I really felt badly for her – she was very alone and neither Orson or McMahon said anything! I wish that Governor Deal had removed the entire Board last year given the SACS record as finding that newly elected officials had interfered with the daily operations of the school system. The Governor had as much basis to remove the newly elected members as he did to remove the rest of the board. And rather than appointing new members of the Board, I would have much preferred that the State assume interim duties of governing the school board until a special election had been held, perhaps even until May of this year.

    It is just time to turn this entire board out as well as the administration. We need a fresh start and not the status quo in Dekalb County. We need to clear the air and get to the bottom of what is really going on in Dekalb County, especially its school system. When that is done, we can finally put the past behind us and move on until a new day. As it is, we are simply stirring the old pot.

  21. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @DSW, thanks for your follow-up! Based on some of the other responses, I still wonder what is the profile of a prospective Board member. It seems to be someone that is either retired, stay at home parent, self employed or independently wealthy. These are the only people that could attend nearly all of the Board meetings. This would cut down the pool of potential candidates immensely.

  22. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @howdy1942, several of your allegations are troubling or misleading. Board members are supposed to vote for the best interest of the entire school district based on the information presented not the wishes or views of the members in their district. They should ask questions at a high level however should not get into detail information. Some of you seem to want the detail information which is a real concern for Board members.

    You also said, * I wish that Governor Deal had removed the entire Board last year given the SACS record as finding that newly elected officials had interfered with the daily operations of the school system.* We all like to point to the SACS report but remember it had flaws and no records to validate the allegations presented. Taking an allegation from a person being interviewed the presenting it as fact without validation does not make it true. Recall the allegation about the missing books in the report. We found out SACS never interviewed the people responsible for the books to find out what happened. I’m not saying the entire report had flaws but some did exist.

    You also continue to bring up the circumstances of Dr. Atkinson’s separation (which Nancy publicly could not comment on due to it being a personnel action). You indicated you worked in business thus should understand the nature of contracts and non disclosure agreements. Haven’t you seen someone resign when in reality it was a mutual agreement for a separation? I think you should let this sleeping dog lie.

    I believe turning out the entire Board and administration would put us back on probation and perhaps lose accreditation. Why? You would end up with many people who are idealistic in what it takes to operate a school district and they would forget to follow policies and the law.

  23. Using your reasoning of a flawed SACS report, Fred — then no one should have been dismissed. The report and the resulting probation status is the only thing that allowed the Governor to take action.

  24. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @DSW, please read what I said again. Everyone who has read the report can acknowledge it contained unfounded allegations. At the same time, it did contain some factual information. I believe the point howdy1942 referenced falls in the former category.

  25. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @howdy1942, you have also mentioned several times of your belief that the Board should settle the case of the two teachers filing against the elimination of the Board TSA. You never indicate where the money would come from if the Board was to settle. Ironically the 2/2 AJC has a front page article about another teacher supplement that was eliminated. It was for the 2,000 Board certified teachers across the state whose pay was cut up to 10%.

    This article provides some background,

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/georgia-slashes-teacher-bonuses/nQW6k/

    This is the article in the 2/2 AJC (registration required to read the entire article),

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/top-flight-teachers-feel-betrayed-by-cuts/nc7cd/

    Given you believe DeKalb should rescind their tough decision on the Board TSA and make other tougher cuts, do you believe the state should do the same? Do you believe tough decisions should be made that impact employee compensation, even if it means saving jobs?

  26. Sorry Fred – I don’t see anywhere in your comment that the SACS report had factual parts. You simply said it had ‘flaws’ and unverifiable accusations. I can agree with those statements.

  27. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @DSW, I think you are being nit picky with me again, especially given I said, I’m not saying the entire report had flaws but some did exist. The entire SACS report was not the focus of my comments, merely the statement made by howdy1942 I referenced.

  28. Dekalbite2 says:

    @Fred
    “You never indicate where the money would come from if the Board was to settle”

    Many, many, many times commenters and DSW have specifically said where the money would come from. You continue to ask that question.

  29. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @Dekalbite, specifically should the state use the same source to restore the Board certified teacher pay supplement? If so, perhaps their lawsuit would be dropped also since this happened before DeKalb’s elimination of the Board TSA benefit.

  30. According to the law § 20-2-73 – Removal of board members under certain circumstances – See more at: http://statutes.laws.com/georgia/title-20/chapter-2/article-3/20-2-73#sthash.wU2QCFcT.dpuf, it says that if the board member shall be “Permanently” removed from office.

    Why then are there rumors of Jay Cunningham wanting to run for school board again?

    And, I can verify the McMahan and Orson being inside the schools prior to taking their seats on the board and talking with “their” people. I was at a Tucker Parent Council meeting where they were both speaking the very same night the SACS report was released. Here is a summary that was posted at the time about that meeting: http://tucker.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/tucker-parent-council-debates-probation-redistricting. McMahan denied having any contact with his schools while speaking to the state board. Makes you wonder what he was talking to them about that he didn’t want anyone to know. The meeting was at Livsey and a few days later the Livsey principal and several of the best teachers were gone and had been moved to Corralwood. And the Tucker Parent Council folks who set up the meeting are now involved in the city of Tucker movement AND the Friends of Lakeside anti-Tucker group. Playing both sides on this one, it appears.

    So, does anyone know what Livsey had to promise to Womack to keep their school open? Could it be a promise to run the Tucker city movement into the ground?

  31. howdy1942 says:

    @Fred – come on, man – are you kidding me?? Board members don’t make decisions based on their own districts? Really?? I can’t believe you said that!. What about the Druid Hills decision (5-4)? What about that decision to hire Dr. Atkinson? (6-3)? What about those votes to make Walker Chairman (5-4)? And I couldn’t disagree with you more about the questions that school board members ought to be asking. They are accountable to the people for what happens in the school system. And they can’t be accountable if they don’t understand what is going on. Given your line of reasoning, why not just have the board appoint a superintendent and then adjourn. How could one even begin to vote on a budget without asking the searching questions necessary to understand it? I will agree that those questions ought to be asked of the Superintendent or his/her chosen representatives to speak for him/her. But the board should ask questions and insure that the decisions they make are wise and in the best interests of the DCSS, our kids, and our residents.

    And yes, I do feel strongly that the school board was absolutely wrong to abruptly terminate its contributions to the TSA. And yes, I would have found the money from other sources to keep the commitment made over 30 years ago to our teachers and, yes, I would find the money now to settle with the teachers. How much money is the DCSS paying to fund lawyers to fight our teachers? Wouldn’t that amount make a good start at settling with the teachers? Over the years, I’ve learned the importance of honoring not just what we put in writing but even what we say. And, yes, the DCSS should do that. I simply cannot believe that the teachers would ever have contemplated giving up their Social Security had they had any reason to doubt the commitment of those who made that promise.

    I do give SACS some credit for its abilities, its role, and its authority. I don’t agree with all they say and, in the case of Dekalb, I question the wisdom to ban members of the school board from even walking around to observe. Board members of the college at which I taught walked around and even sat in on classes to observe what was happening. No. they didn’t attempt to influence me, but they did ask if I had what I needed to do my job and did ask the students if they were happy with what went on in the classroom. It’s not like Dekalb had not been warned – it had been warned and warned on multiple occasions. The DCSS had been given the opportunity to respond and to present its plan of action. I understand the issue that SACS faces – can you begin to imagine what would have happened to those in the DCSS who did share their honest thoughts? And who would have paid for those interviewed to be present in court and/or hire lawyers to defend themselves against members of the board that had been removed? And what do you think that having SACS name the people it talked to would have on any future reviews that it might conduct? Do you really think that it would get the honest thoughts of employees of the DCSS if they knew that what they said would be shared? Wouldn’t that defeat the entire purpose of the review in the first place? And Fred, SACS is an accrediting organization. It didn’t write the Georgia law that said the Governor had the authority to remove a school board if its district were placed on probation. I think that your issue may be with the law and not with SACS! I’ve been through SACS reviews and there is always a “readout” where we listened, had the opportunity to ask questions, and even to seek its help on addressing its findings. We did have findings and I know that I called them on numerous occasions to discus what we were doing. No, I didn’t always agree with them, but I appreciated their candor and advice. And, with few exceptions, all turned out well in the end. Fred, you can’t pick and choose among the various parts of the SACS report. I read that report time and again, highlighted and underlined, and didn’t find too much encouragement. It didn’t list too much that it found for the first time – what it sighted had occurred repeatedly over a period of years. And I doubt that members of the board, were they honest, were surprised by anything in that report. You know, after that 2011 warning from SACS, I would think that at least the board chairman would have spent a lot of time with SACS understanding in great detail just what its concerns were. It’s very hard to believe that they did that given that December 2012 report putting the District on probation.

    Regarding the cuts you referenced in the article today which I also read, I was equally alarmed by it. The most important thing that we do in Georgia is to educate our young people and we can’t do that by taking away from the very heart of the system that does that. How much money are we spending on that so-called “ethics commission”? How much money did we spend to hire that attorney for that commission only to turn around and fire her just weeks later? How many people, especially senior officials in the State, have we read about getting huge raises? How much money did the State spend fighting Walker in Federal Court and the Georgia Supreme Court? How much money did we spend to put in that toll lane on I85 at the height of the recession? In another article in today’s paper, did you notice how much we spent on GEMA just this past year and you saw what we got for it last week. How did you like that report on how many teachers we have that are certified and the huge drop we have seen over the past 10 years? How do you like where we stack up against our neighbors, especially against South Carolina that shortly will vote on a bipartisan bill to raise its teachers by $9,000 per year to bring them up to the national average? Or how about the comparison to North Carolina? What do you think that we should do in Georgia? In Dekalb? Just be happy that one is as bad as the other? The price that the State and Dekalb have chosen to pay today will translate in the not to distant future into the price we pay for jobs and economic development. South Carolina in recent years added Boeing in Charleston and that company alone is projected to add over 2,000 jobs in 2014. South Carolina recently added an “inland port” that consists of a major series of rail lines from the port in Charleston to the upstate that will take over 25,000 trucks off the highway this year! And then there is Michelin, BMW, Amazon, and all those supporting companies that lines I26. Ride down to Charleston and look at that Medical University of S.C. and see where it ranks nationally. The State added a second medical school in Columbia in the 1970s and now has expanded it to a Greenville location. I moved to Georgia from South Carolina 40 years ago and marveled at Atlanta, at the Dekalb School System, and the great ideas that were being propelled by the likes of Governor Busbee, Governor Zell Miller, and Governor Roy Barnes and admired the vision of leaders such as Mayor Sam Massell and Ivan Allen. Atlanta and Georgia were on the move upward.

    Maybe I’m just too passionate or too pessimistic, but I refuse to take comfort in or to excuse the actions that have diverted us off the Road of Progress. The consequence to our people at all ages is just to great!

  32. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @howdy1942,
    How do you like where we stack up against our neighbors, especially against South Carolina that shortly will vote on a bipartisan bill to raise its teachers by $9,000 per year to bring them up to the national average? Or how about the comparison to North Carolina? What do you think that we should do in Georgia? In Dekalb?

    I gather you also like data so that you can have a better understanding of the landscape. I do also however have charged that some here misinterpret the data in presenting their finding. There are MANY variables that one needs to look at in evaluations. I find myself asking Why many times when I encounter strange data.

    You and DeKalbite2 mentioned that high teacher attrition rate for the 2012-2013 school year. I reminded both of you that you must also factor in the high retirement rate. Did you realize there was a change in policy that resulted in many teachers taking an early retirement in November 2012? This was statewide not just for DeKalb. Following is a link from Forbes that references a study by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF). I found this statement interesting, The national teacher turnover rate has risen to 16.8 percent. In urban schools it is over 20 percent, and, in some schools and districts, the teacher dropout rate is actually higher than the student dropout rate. Here is the link,

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/03/08/high-teacher-turnover-rates-are-a-big-problem-for-americas-public-schools/

    I’d like to see more information to determine the context however this is data.

    I have repeatedly pointed out that you must look at data within context. The next link is save worthy as it contains national analysis from the NEA, which makes cross referencing easier. While it does not answer all questions, it brings greater context to teacher salaries. Take a look at Series C, which begins on page 32 of the PDF. C-9 addresses AVERAGE SALARIES OF PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS, 2010–11 however I would encourage you to look at all of this, especially how Georgia ranks with border and southern states. C-14 is interesting also. Consider cost of living and quality of life when you look at the salaries. This may take several days to digest but I am sure you will agree that this is comprehensive data.

    http://www.nea.org/assets/img/content/NEA_Rankings_And_Estimates-2013_(2).pdf

    If South Carolina increases their teacher salaries by $9,000, how far behind will Georgia be to the national average? How about North Carolina? Where will South Carolina get the money? Are there new sources of revenue that Georgia should also consider? Would qualified teachers from border states consider Georgia and DeKalb solely based on salary? How about those that have been laid off in other states due to declining revenues in their state education budgets?

    Being a business person, do you ever wonder why our border states have done a better job in attracting auto plants than Georgia (aside from Kia)? Do you think the reduction of almost 25% of the DOT staff over the past few years factored into how we handled the weather situation last week? There are many good questions however let’s focus on education now.

    Data without context can tell a misleading story

  33. It’s useless to squabble over ‘interpretation’ of data. Data can be twisted and used to prove just about any point you’d like to make. I am always troubled that your responses Fred, seem to be the same basic mantra: DeKalb is no different from anywhere else.

    Well, personally, I disagree. It’s called integrity. And in DeKalb we have a severe lack of it. People with integrity keep their promises. People with integrity do not do irreparable harm to those under their power. People with integrity have a focus on purpose and work to fulfill that purpose no matter the hurdles.

  34. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @DSW,
    Data can be twisted and used to prove just about any point you’d like to make

    Haven’t I also made this statement before? Again, it seems I am held to a different standard with providing data. The rules have been to source any findings. howdy1942 made statements about teacher salaries in South Carolina without providing any context. I did using NEA data. It is eye opening when you look at it. I choose to allow everyone to draw their own conclusion while pointing out there are still many variables to consider. You may also want to ask howdy1942 about the comments provided by Don on topics discussed here recently. Some responses were similar to what I have shared in the past however with greater context.

    People with integrity have a focus on purpose and work to fulfill that purpose no matter the hurdles

    Great statement! While DeKalb Schools have had their issues, I know that we are experiencing the same fiscal challenges that school districts around the country are also facing. At the same time, teachers are continuing to teach and students are continuing to learn. I said before that I believe we probably have more students going to higher education that anytime in the history of the district. No, I don’t have data to back it up but more of a gut based on casual conversations with people throughout the community. We have many GREAT employees throughout this school district that continue to give their all despite the real challenges that exist. Reading comments here sometimes makes one question whether anything good is happening in our schools.

    The heading in this blog indicates that this is a dialogue between members in the community who are focused on improving the schools and providing a quality, equitable education for all of its students. When comments are made on this blog that denigrate this district (especially those that are incorrect or misleading), it affects everyone. I attempt to bring a fair and balanced approach by providing other perspectives and can typically back them up. One can agree or disagree but I will not submit to the narrative that all is bad in DeKalb that some seem to thrive on.

    DSW, what is the purpose of this blog? Is it really that statement in the header or is it a haven for those with an axe to grind? Every school district has challenges and skeletons in the closet. I think this blog is at its best with information is shared followed by insightful and thoughtful dialogue. It is at its worse when apparent agendas are discussed with others piling on and no one saying anything about it. I know some in the community that stopped participating on DSW because it became more of the latter. If someone from another state read this blog, what would you want them to know about DeKalb? I think back to the Fork in the Road metaphor as I ask that question.

  35. howdy1942 says:

    @Fred – I know Mayor Joe Riley of Charleston and know the impact that Boeing plant is having on the low country. There are numerous companies that supply parts and services to Boeing. I have a good friend that is an Anesthesiologist at North Trident Hospital who tells me about the growth just at his facility. Bottom line: Thousands of new jobs that pay taxes in South Carolina. I could repeat that story by describing a huge new Michelin plant that will manufacture tires for huge tractors. These tires start at $250,000. I don’t know what the impact will be for that new “inland port” facility, but I suspect that it will be significant. I do know that the BMW plant midway between Greenville and Spartanburg has added a third shift and expanded its job count by 7500 just this year. Governor Haley has made economic development in South Carolina a priority. She has linked education at both the high school level and community college level to supplying the needs of new industries. She meets with prospective new companies, asked what it would take to get them to come to South Carolina and, when they say trained people, she asks how many do you want, when, and what do you want them to do. She is young, sharp, interpersonal, and skillful. But that State has placed a high priority on education. And, by the way, they weren’t caught offguard last week during the weather event that so paralyzed Atlanta and Georgia.

    North Carolina has launched into a bold charter school movement in the State. With some, it is controversial. Local school boards can’t be impediments to that effort as was Dekalb in the case of Druid Hills. Schools are tracked and students attending schools that are failing are free to transfer to better performing schools. Governor McCroy has indicated that he is closely following the performance of charter schools as well as public schools. Teacher salaries are an issue in South Carolina because Governor McCroy wants to remove any increases awarded for things such as graduate degrees. Rather, he wants to reward teachers with substantial bonuses for demonstrated measurable performance in the classroom and that isn’t limited to just the top 10%. He has since softened his position on removing compensation associated with graduate degrees. But I do know that former Governor Jim Hunt, dubbed the “education governor”, built a State-wide “Information Highway” with a fiber optic network linking all schools in the 99 counties throughout the State. Using it, they were able to offer all schools courses such as Japanese Language that often are so rarely offered in many schools. They did the same for advanced math courses, technology courses, and science courses. I had the privilege to meet with him face-to-face to discuss the technology that was available to do what he wanted. That man was passionate about education in the State. And I do know that it was a major draw for new industry in North Carolina. I don’t think you could pack any more business into its Research Triangle Park. The whole I 40 corridor linking Raleigh to Asheville is just booming as is the I 85 corridor from Durham to Charlotte. Fort Bragg has recently been expanded at the expense of places like Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem and there is phenomenal growth in the counties surrounding Fort Bragg. Bottom line: These new jobs pay taxes to North Carolina which are being used in education.

    I visit my mother in North Carolina often and I have a lot of time on my hands. Often, I use some of that time to read about what is going on in the community, especially in the schools. My mother funds a scholarship for a graduate of the local high school to attend the college of his/her choice. She once taught there. It is such a breath of fresh air to see a school systems that enjoys the broad support of its community, that has no issues with SACS, that focuses on the classroom, and seeks ways to improve the morale and well-being of its teachers. Wouldn’t that be so refreshing in Dekalb?

    Fred, I’m far from being the only one that thinks Dekalb is on the wrong path. You are very familiar with the City of Dunwoody, City of Brookhaven, and the three new proposed cities in Central Dekalb. You are also very familiar with the Legislation that would permit a vote in November on removing the cap on new school districts. These new cities may be stopped and that new legislation may not come to be, but that will not stop the frustration with a County Government and a School System that are utterly failing to meet the expectations of so many people who live here. Perhaps fixing those problems rather than making excuses for them would be a better approach for you to consider.

  36. Fred, you may be right. We may need to change that tag line. We’ve tried the ‘collaborative’ method for years – it didn’t work. We all got placed on ‘committees’, ‘task forces’ and ‘charettes’ – all designed to just keep us busy and ‘thinking’ we’re contributing. But no one listened. DCSS has become a bloated jobs program for administrators, coordinators, coaches and other made up jobs that pay more than teachers – while taking away steadily from those teachers to cover the costs. Same goes for favored programs and excess transportation. So yes, I guess we have become more of a ‘reporting’ station for fraud, waste and corruption. It’s not that we set out that way – it’s just that the frustration level of our readers and community members is very high. They trust us to at least keep our eyes on what’s going on inside the district and expose the inequity. It’s a task we will continue until the day we have respectable, trustworthy, competent leadership with a focus on the classrooms of DeKalb. So, if someone comes to this blog from ‘somewhere else’, they will certainly get an earful. Oh well!

  37. howdy1942 says:

    @DSW – you are right! I think that this blog has served very effectively for so many of us to voice our frustrations with the Dekalb County School System. As I have posted before, I had not idea that so many in our community felt as I do and it provided a forum for us to talk about ways in which we thought improvements could be made. I was especially appreciative of having the opportunity to view those hearings of the State School Board concerned removal of the former school board and to actually see and listen to the questions and, more importantly, the responses by members of that board. I have a very distinct feeling about those who serve in our school system and in our government who are found to be corrupt. And, given the record, there exists strong suspicion that more corruption exists beyond Lewis and Pope, especially given the testimony by Lewis that two members of the board blocked his efforts to fire Pope for she did which was obviously wrong and worth 15 years in prison. I don’t like government “servants” who waste our hard earned tax dollars and I have little or no respect for those who break commitments, especially those that so financially impact others who believed them. Fred asked earlier where I would get the funds to restore those TRA contributions to the teachers. For one, I said to fire the lawyers who are suing our teachers and that would make a good start. I failed to mention that Dr. Atkinson brought in her own management team that remains to this day while also keeping those of Crawford Lewis at their same pay. Now Thurmond has begun to bring on his team. We are now “paying” two superintendents when we only need one. Well, let’s assume that we just have two teams in place – we only need one! That would recover at least $1 million.

    Just as the majority of the school board want to stick with the status quo without any consideration of giving new ideas such as the Druid Hills Cluster even a chance to succeed or fail, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Dekalb Delegation doesn’t want to see new cities formed because that would diminish their power base and some of the funding that it takes to keep them where they are. Were these three new cities to be formed, that would mean approximately half of the County would be cities and, with the efforts toward independent school systems emerging, that poses an even greater threat to its power structure. I had held out promise when, back in December, I heard Lee May say at Rehoboth Baptist Church that he had no objection to the formation of new cities only to turn around in less than one month and tell the Dekalb Legislative Delegation at its January 22, 2014, meeting that he wants a one year moratorium on the formation of new cities which he know full well would likely require the feasibility studies to be redone. In Tucker, that $30,000 came from many in our community who want to preserve our city, bring zoning decisions closer to the people, and increase the prospects of code enforcement. Asking us to waste our money is a nonstarter and only serves to increase the lack of respect we have for governance in Dekalb County. And, as information, we are already having discussions with our representatives about forming our own charter school system. As long as the existing governance and administration is in place, then we will have a need for this blog and a need to new, fresh ideas to change things to what they can become and should become.

    As I think about it, there probably weren’t to many of our people back before the Revolutionary War who had many positive things to say about the British government.

  38. Teachermom says:

    The exodus of teachers cannot be explained by retirement. Many hundreds left over the summer and walked away from their contracts. At the board meeting today Ward-Smith referenced this when asked about retention. Mayfield said he wants stronger language in the contracts…like that is going to stop teachers from leaving.

  39. Not so casual observer says:

    Hey – how about making them indentured servants?

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