Samo Samo…


As we established in our post, Are we about to be fooled again?, the new board is not all that different from the old board. We can’t find where they have trimmed the fat, consolidated programs, removed waste, reduced class size or improved learning in any way.Worst of all, they have done nothing to balance resources and spending.

In fact, they turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the inequities that abound around DeKalb. They continue to over-appropriate SPLOST funding to favorite schools like SW DeKalb, DSA and Coralwood, yet the highly gerrymandered district known as Cross Keys still has not enjoyed near the level of construction rehab as other DeKalb high schools – especially when compared to Chamblee.  Chamblee of course, needed a renovation desperately – as did Cross Keys. However, Chamblee got the golden treatment – complete with football practice fields, an arts building, an auditorium and career tech.  Cross Keys, a few miles down the road and light years away with their mostly immigrant student body, was given a sponge bath.  They were awarded a merge with the High School of Technology North, for which most of the reno dollars were spent.  Worst of all, even after our report a few years ago about homeless men actually living in the woods on the grounds of Cross Keys, those grounds, including the track and field areas – remain in deplorable and dangerous condition.

How would you like to take a practice run on this track?

DeKalb spent hundreds of thousands upgrading all of the tracks – except Cross Keys. They allocated SPLOST funding for an auditorium for every high school – except Cross Keys. They allocated funding for a career tech program in every high school – except Cross Keys, which instead was merged with the HSTN – a countywide program.

Check out the contrast of the facilities other schools around the county enjoy >>

AMHS-outdoorArabia-auditoriumIndoor Track

The new board continues to live under the Cone of Silence where inequity is concerned around the county. There are several other schools in need of renovating, that have had little attention — we think, because their ‘communities’ are not as vocal as others. Now isn’t that pitiful?  Regardless of who sits on the board, the superintendent’s chair, or the SPLOST oversight committee, they still run the list of priorities according to the decibel rate of the squeaky wheels.

Nothing much has changed in reality. The only way to fix it is to take it all apart and build it back from Ground Zero.  Focus on classroom funding on up. Mandate a low class size. Fund teachers for those classrooms. Build and consolidate programs into equitable facilities with full usage. Fund necessary and affordable programs only. Offer simple transportation – not the multi-million dollar countywide transportation currently funded.

It’s not rocket science, but it does take cookies away from those who are used to having the cookies they want – even if it means taking cookies from another child’s plate. Is there a board that can handle the task?

We have created an Excel doc that shows the capacity vs enrollment numbers for all schools — download and have a look here >>

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Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
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19 Responses to Samo Samo…

  1. Concerned Dekalb teacher says:

    What irks me is that the county only seems to think high schools need renovating or new buildings built. My elementary school is in deplorable condition but no one seems to care. Our little ones are just as important as the big ones.

  2. This and That says:

    I agree about the elementary schools! After every hard rain we have leaks in the ceilings throughout the building (“quick, get a garbage can”). I am afraid to see the result of all of this snow!

  3. midvaledad says:

    The facility evaluations done in 2011 were very flawed and slanted to show what Tyson & friends wanted it to show. Yes. The loudest communities got the most SPLOST IV money based on that report. Jay Cunningham brags in public that he got money for “his” schools. Forget about the needs of the rest of the county, Jay worked to take care of “his” schools.

    People need to remember that each SPLOST focuses on a different set of schools rotating between elementary, middle, and high schools. The focus of SPLOST IV is building new, and repairing elementary schools. A lot of other projects are included because they need to be done too. Check the Jan. 2014 monthly status report to see what is planned for your school.

  4. They should have a maintenance program in place for our older buildings no matter the grade level. Get parents or other concerned community people to go into a building photograph and list what needs to be fixed, present it and then monitor. If nothing gets fixed, let’s publicize.
    Is something the Parent Councils outside of the school need to help with?

  5. We have created an Excel doc that shows the capacity vs enrollment numbers for all schools — download and have a look here >>

  6. Refugee from DCSS says:

    In your previous post, you celebrated a new special ed program. In this post you are criticizing the Coralwood community for advocating for their special ed needs. Which is it?

  7. @Refugee: Never ever do we think that Coralwood shouldn’t advocate for their special ed needs. But keep in mind, most of their students are Pre-K and younger and do not qualify for FTE credit. Therefore, the school uses local and special funding. (Coralwood is funded by DeKalb, the state and federal government, it is not a charter.) In addition, we are not sure that spending $10 million on therapy rooms, equipment and a pool is the best use of SPLOST money when so many other schools have so many basic needs still unmet. It’s public school – there are only so many resources and only so much SPLOST money.

    FWIW – The ‘special ed program’ we celebrated is a charter school for students with autism and their neuro-typical peers. They will have to operate within the budget allocated to them by the state. They do not get SPLOST money or even transportation.

  8. howdy1942 says:

    @DSW – Thank you for providing that Excel Spreadsheet showing school capacities vs. school enrollments. Maybe I didn’t catch it during my first review, but elementary schools seem to be, in the aggregate, below capacity while high schools seem to be above capacity. Not sure the reason for that, but are the populations of the various feeder schools equal to, below, or greater than the capacities of the high schools that are “fed”? Does this mean that we might face a new round of elementary and/or middle school “consolidations”? Or does this indicate a greater propensity of parents to send their kids to private or non-public elementary and/or secondary schools?

    I’m just fascinated (if that is the correct word) by the mere fact that the Dekalb County School System cannot maintain its various school buildings and grounds. Yet we have the largest millage rate in the State of Georgia and we have also approved SPLOST IV. I’ll bet there are few other systems that have such a SPLOST in place. Other school systems only dream about the funding that Dekalb has. We seem to make it a priority to buy administrators new cars yet we can’t seem to repair leaking roofs. We can afford to send scores of administrators to conferences across the country yet we can’t seem to employ and/or pay people to maintain our schools.

    I’ve noticed the same thing about our neighborhood school. A recent storm caused a rather large tree to fall just about 10 feed from the school’s major play area. That tree remained in place for several weeks with elementary school children playing on its trunk, which was at a substantial height above the ground. Then one crew came out and cut it into pieces, but didn’t remove the pieces. Several weeks later, another crew came out and simply pushed the pieces (about 5 feet in diameter) back behind the school’s playground. Contrast that to a tree that I recently had removed in my back yard. The tree crew cut the tree down, cut it into small pieces, cleaned the area up, and hauled all the pieces and shavings off. I didn’t want any liability and I think that the school would have some liability for any injuries.

  9. Cedar says:

    More money than ever is being poured into education and yet the roofs leak, and HVAC systems don’t work, etc. Four DeKalb workers to paint one room, one works and the other three watch, four months to re-do a section of roof on one wing of a school, vacant and unsold properties all over the County, top heavy administration, etc. and then top it off with the endless, multi-flavored, nonsensical, ever-more-complex pedagogical boondoggles they come up with every year while many students become less knowledgeable and less able to think for themselves.

  10. Kudos again goes to Cross Keys and the High School of Technology North that was merged in to the Cross Keys campus. Read this article about how the health care program helped prepare one young person for the world of work >> Georgia Students Get On-the-Job Experience, in High School

    The first time Amber Mitchell walked through the Alzheimer’s ward at Signature HealthCARE nursing facility in Atlanta, she knew the medical field was for her.

    “You are dealing with the nitty-gritty — things like lifting patients — and it was hard work, but I still felt comfortable. Even in that instance, I still enjoyed what I was doing,” said the 17-year-old high school senior. “And I think that’s when the whole experience … made me realize that I could do it and that I enjoyed it. It wasn’t just a fantasy in my head.”

    Mitchell soon began taking free health care classes in her school district to get a head start. And she is not alone. Lingering financial insecurity has prompted students across the state to shift their focus toward preparing for the workforce.

    Earlier this month, Georgia’s Career Technical Education (CTE) administrators met to discuss how to continue to fund career technical courses like the ones Mitchell enrolled in, and how to ensure that more parents know about the courses.

    For Mitchell, pursuing her nursing dream involved a little shuffling. She took her regular first and second period classes at Druid Hills High School in DeKalb County, and then took a bus to nearby Cross Keys High School where she studied to become a certified nurse assistant during third and fourth periods.

    At Cross Keys, she and roughly 34 others took a health care sciences class — a career technical course focused on getting students ready to pass the CNA exam. Students call it a prep course for nursing school.

  11. Personally, I think Cross Keys should be turned into a state of the art Tech High. (It’s accessible to all, as it’s just a block or two from the Brookhaven MARTA station.) I think this program should be a full commitment – all day and should cater to juniors and seniors. The HSTN at Cross Keys should be where these students spend their entire day – they should not have to juggle two schools with transportation in between. They can still play sports, etc at their assigned ‘home’ schools if they choose. Students currently zoned for Cross Keys not interested in Tech High at Cross Keys should attend Chamblee HS just up the road.

  12. Reading back to last year at this time, we wrote the following post >>

    Thurmond treads into Ramona Tyson’s “Land of Empty Promises”

    We really don’t see much that has changed in reality. In fact, Michael Thurmond made the same empty promise of a forensic audit as Ramona Tyson. We will never see a full forensic audit in DeKalb – and since we won’t, there is really no way to make good decisions as to where to cut and where to build.

    Most importantly, he says this,

    “Q: Have you or do you plan to request a forensic audit?

    A: “On March 15, I have to present my 90 day-plan to the board. I would be surprised if that would not be one of my recommendations.”

    Is he kidding? He darn well better do a forensic audit! We have been screaming for forensic audit since Lewis threw out the results of the one done by Ernst & Young in 2004!

    In fact, this blog hounded Ramona Tyson who insisted that no audit existed, until she finally admitted that documents actually did exist after all and then produced four file boxes of paper from the audit. We posted the results of our dig through that paperwork here:

  13. howdy1942 says:

    @DSW – I cannot understand how the DCSS Administration can even approximate where it truly stands. I’m not sure that it really knows who it has employed by position, what their jobs are, what their responsibilities are, what their evaluations should be, what their pay should be, how many supervisors it employs, how many each supervises, how it evaluates how each employee should be doing, how it measures whether or not a particular task has been completed, how long it took to complete a task. And I’m not sure that it has any idea as to where it is going, what is best for the Dekalb County School System, what is best for all its students, what is best for its teachers nor do I think it has any clear idea of where it stands financially. Yes, we supposedly have a “strategic plan” (multiple variations), but who is keeping track of closely it is being followed. We have one of the best funded school districts in the State of Georgia yet the only thing we hear from the administration is what we don’t have. Despite a significant improvement in our economy, our school teachers have yet to be relieved of any furlough days. And there has been no talk whatsoever of restoring those TSA contributions that were abruptly terminated over two years ago.

    Thurmond has not lived up to expectations nor has he kept any of the promises that he made to any number of audiences. He has not let us know which, if any, of those “600” jobs that were eliminated. He has not even proposed a full forensic audit. Maybe I just haven’t heard, but he rarely schedules any meetings with the public. And there is probably a reason for that – he would likely be asked some of the same questions that he was asked a year ago and probably asked to explain where he is on commitments that were made a year ago.

    I long for integrity and honesty in our school system, one that is focused on all of our students, one that acts to improve the lot of our teachers, and one that reaches out and listens to the public. Maybe we can start down that road with the election of a new school board that is not filled with holdovers from the past or failed performers from the past, but is one that is ready to govern and lead us upward.

  14. @Howdy: Dr. Atkinson did conduct a very simplified salary audit (and she even found that there were a few people on the payroll who didn’t report to a job!) She also did a couple of transactional audits. The state also conducts an annual audit, which in a very basic way, just balances the checkbooks – showing that yes, you deposited and spent the money you said you did.

    Here is a link to the ‘now you see it now you don’t KPMG draft audit contracted by Atkinson >>

    Click to access kpmg-draft-audit.pdf

    You can find these audits at our Budgets & Audits page under the DCSS files tab, or by clicking here >>

    Here’s the direct link to the full phase 1 salary report (for which taxpayers paid $79,000) — Were the rest of the ‘phases’ ever conducted?

    Click to access full-report-phase-i-dcss-audit-jan-2012.pdf

    Here is direct link to the HR Audit>>

    Click to access human-resources-audit.pdf

    Overall Recommendations:
    1. Reorganize the entire HR department in order to increase effectiveness, efficiency and accountability.
    2. Design a program to ensure entry and support for new employees into the district
    and school.
    3. Recommend, within staff limitations, more involvement of HR staff in the screening of applicants, including doing the initial screening.
    4. Establish a task force of Area Superintendents, Principals and senior HR staff to review all staffing procedures (STARS) and timelines, and recommend improvements.

    Has any of this been done or was this $45,000 study simply tossed in the trash?

    Perhaps Michael Thurmond is not ordering an audit due to the fact that the two superintendents who conducted salary audits were driven out on the rails?

  15. An Aside >> Here’s the latest in Atlanta >>

    Former HR Director Pleads Guilty in APS Cheating Case

    Millicent Few, who was former Superintendent Beverly Hall’s Director of Human Resources and a member of Hall’s Executive Cabinet, now becomes the state’s most valuable witness.

  16. Kim says:

    Thank you, DSW, for sharing the Cross Keys’ position and the larger context of general facilities neglect around DeKalb. The point about elementary schools being in bad shape above is well made – there are slim few state-of-the-art elementary, or middle schools for that matter, in DeKalb. Cross Keys is no different in this regard and we sport five aging and ill-maintained elementary school properties.

    Many folks misunderstand my advocacy for Cross Keys area families as a jab at other school constituencies. While I’m the first advocating pot to all a kettle black, my focus has narrowed down to one simple, inescapable fact: DeKalb County School District has proven itself an unworthy steward of our billions of dollars in property and sales tax revenue and they have demonstrated this no where more dramatically than in the Cross Keys attendance area.

    It is so uncontroversial these days I rarely have an argument about it (where’s Leo?!) anymore. The fact that it is accepted in the community, and acceptable to our leadership, is appalling.

    Meanwhile, the students and teachers do their best to continue to achieve and they do. Students from the seven schools our technology programs serve (Dunwoody, Chamblee, Tucker, Druid Hills, Lakeside, Stone Mountain, and Cross Keys) are getting extraordinary educational opportunities in Health Sciences, Dental Science, Manufacturing, and more. Even this is in spite of the DCSD leadership who stripped CKHS of the counseling resources needed to promote recruitment for these programs and business support for internships and other critical success factors.

    I am not a divisive person by nature and I have never done anything but try to be collaborative with DCSD leadership. After witnessing the Druid Hills Cluster Charter, well, cluster, I am convinced that another generation can’t wait and I’m loudly support HR 486 so that Cross Keys might find a more loving home in a new school district.

  17. Ella says:

    Kim you are amazing. Thank you for advocating for the kids at Cross Keys High School.

  18. midvaledad says:


    Many of the HR audit recommendations were implemented to varying degrees. The org. chart recommendations were made with modifications.

    For example, even though one of SACS required items in 2011 was to have the internal auditor report directly to the superintendent, Atkinson’s HR audit recommended putting the internal auditor under Ron Ramsey and have them focus on “business processes” instead of financial transactions.

    “General Counsel: New with five (5) total positions. Goal is to blend internal/external capacity,
    minimize costs, and contract for specialized services. Internal Audit reports to General Counsel.”
    “Organizational Focus: Recommend change in focus of internal audit plan from one that
    focuses predominantly on school funds and purchasing cards to one that focuses
    predominantly on central office functions. This would better reflect the role of internal audit as
    primarily one of business process auditing rather than financial auditing.”

    To me that is proof that Tyson had a hand in writing the recommendations.

    Of course, SACS didn’t mention any of the 2011 required actions when they put the district on probation. They were on a witch hunt and not competent enough to even use their own unmet required actions to after the BOE. That would have reflected poorly on the superintendent.

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