What Whine Will You Have With That?

One of the distinctive literary forms that social media — including DeKalb School Watch — has birthed is the letter of complaint addressed to everyone and no onea list of grievances that will never reach its intended target.

This kind of letter of complaint is often quite eloquent and well thought-outit’s written not just as a crabby grunt, but as a fantasy of effective complaint. All of us fantasize rhetoricallyrhetoric, T.S. Eliot said in an essay on Othello, is the way we talk when we are listening to ourselves talk, being impressed by our own language. And this kind of social media rhetoric allows us to deliver the cutting insult, the outraged rebuke, the detailed catalogue of wrongs, that we are all mulling over in our heads much of the time. A letter to the people who have wronged us, posted in public for all to seewhat a wonderful invention!

Except that the people who are seeing it are never the people to whom it is ostensibly addressed. This is a form of complaint that accomplishes nothing, that is designed to avoid genuine conflict, which might come about if we actually got up and spoke the words we confide to the keyboard. These letters are, in a new and pure sense of the words, passive-aggressive: passive in the face of reality and aggressive in the fantasy-space of the Internet.

The overall effect is powerlessness.

And, may we say, with a deep sigh, your acceptance of the status quo in DCSS.

Do you really want change?  Do you really want to make a difference for yourself and for your students?  Repeat this over and over and over as your mantra:

If not here, then where?  If not now, then when?  If not me, then who?  If it is to be, it is up to me.

Read the entire article, Dear Facebook, I’m Fed Up,which appeared in the May 4, 2014 issue of The New Republic.

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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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25 Responses to What Whine Will You Have With That?

  1. I read the post referenced, and in many cases this is true. However, in any business (or school system) that is customer service oriented, there is someone monitoring social media with the power to react and respond. I have dealt with customer service issues with Comcast and Wells Fargo in the past by politely stating the problem on Twitter using their Twitter handle. Both times I was directed to Corporate level employees that were empowered to help me. Just today I walked into Sears, made a complaint about a product and asked the manager to make a concession. He declined. After Tweeting about the problem, I received an immediate response from customer service asking for my contact information. I was promised that I would be contacted within 24 hours.

    My experience is that companies or entities that want to maintain a positive image respond well to public comments on social media. Which only leads one to assume that the powers that be in DCSS, frankly could care less about what we think. I predict that as more school choice legislation is passed, and more cities are able to form their own districts, suddenly DCSS will magically become customer friendly when they see the jobs pull a disappearing act. POOF, jobs be gone!

  2. Word Wall says:

    I write for the permanent record, regardless of whether or not incompetent nincompoops will read it or not. The grievances are real. Time will tell!

  3. howdy1942 says:

    As one who recalls the embarrassments, anxiety, and despair of the last four years in the Dekalb County School System, I will not be voting for any incumbent. We need new governance and we need to leadership. We need to move in a different direction, one that is free from decisions being based on race and, instead, based on qualifications. I’m not intimidated by SACS, but I am focused on making choices that will put a renewed emphasis on the classroom, on students, and on teachers. I want to settle the teacher TSA vs. Dekalb issue fairly and get it out of the courtroom. I want to treat our teachers and other members of the DCSS with dignity and respect always and not just at election time. I want school board members who will be present, who will be prepared for meetings, and who will ask searching questions of administrators and not be just a rubber stamp staff presentations. It’s time that we made good, sound business decisions for a change. I want to employ one law firm based on qualifications and cost and not employ several just to balance races. I want a board that will hire a superintendent who will genuinely listen to those who serve in the classroom and start the budgeting process there. I want a board that will bring civility, respect, and diligence and be willing to take risks that offer new approaches to getting us out of the hole that we are in. I want a board that will make decisions in the best interests of our students, teachers, and residents rather than based on political expediency or on past prejudices. I want a board that will be hones with the people, one that will not already have made it decisions before asking the people for input.

    Let’s all go to the polls, either in early voting or on May 20, 2014, to bring about true, honest change and give us the governance and leadership that we can respect. I look forward to beginning a new course on January 1, 2015, and reading on this blog expressions of support for our new board and school leadership.

  4. Word Wall says:

    Since the teachers voted (1977?) to drop Social Security (based on the promised TSA funding — in addition to the Georgia TRS pension) and the Dekalb Board then saw fit to abandon TSA suddenly, it sounds like a new vote on Social Security is now in order!

  5. Oh this should be interesting… Superintendent to discuss history of race and public education (The Commerce Club of Atlanta is the posh social club downtown that Gene Walker sponsored Dr. Lewis into as a member.)

    Not sure how you can hold an election that is not based on race while the superintendent holds public forums to discuss race in education. I’ll be curious what he has to say. Will he bait a racially motivated blame game or will he ‘build a bridge’?

  6. concerned citizen says:

    DSW, Thurmond is not qualified to speak on any topic in education, racial or edujargon. If anyone believes he is qualified, and the Commerce Club is stupid enough to invite Thurmond to speak, I hope they are prepared for a lot of tap-dancing and sharecropper stories. What a despicable person Thurmond is and why is the Commerce Club inviting him to speak? They invited him to make fun of him, but he just doesn’t get it! He’s probably flattered! It will be hilarious, however genuine the format “possibly” is. But they’re probably just a bunch of super-rich Buckhead residents; some may be black, a few. Put the clown on display to show how ignorant DeKalb people are and how inferior. Mush-mouthed illiterates is how he’ll portray us!

  7. Kim says:

    I think the author’s observations are interesting. But I think that they are relevant more to interpersonal communication rather than institutional. Many of us vent here on DSW for no other reason than we are not “heard” at DCSD.

    When I was about twenty years old I was coincidentally living in the same neighborhood I do now thirty years later. Then, dead broke and renting a wet, unfinished basement while studying at GSU; now, dead broke paying a mortgage on a home with a wet, formerly finished basement … but I digress a bit.

    I drove a Subaru Justy that waaaay back then got nearly 30 MPG. I only need to fill up every two weeks or so even though I commuted heavily all over metro Atlanta then. Invariably, I filled up at the same Shell Oil station on Buford Hwy every time – about $8-10. I always paid cash as I had no credit cards or history. Someone told me it would be wise to start a credit history with a simple “gas card.” So I applied to Shell and was summarily rejected.

    I was so irritated by this I wrote them a letter that I will paraphrase:

    “To Whom It Apparently Does Not Concern:

    I write to you to request you reconsider my recent credit application that you rejected. I go the the Shell station by my house at blah, blah address two to three time per month and fill my Subaru Justy with 5-7 gallons of your fuel. I have done so for the past three years.

    I write to tell you this not to threaten you with my business, In fact, I will continue to go to my local Shell each week or so because it is my preference and it is convenient. I will do so, though, feeling each time like that beaten dog that returns to its master for a treat in spite of the beatings.

    Thank you for reconsidering your decision.”

    Two weeks later I received a Shell Oil card in my mailbox.

  8. Kim says:

    Why did I make you read that story? Because I want you to consider how this related to our public education management and our complaints.

    I have written many similar letters to DCSS/DCSD leaders. I have button-wholed individual elected officials and staff. I have made the phones calls, attended the meetings, and made public comment. Never once in all these years did I receive one sincere acknowledgement or honest follow-up. Not once.

    I humbly suggest that our social media blathering and complaining about DCSD is PRECISELY because we have become persona non grata at Mountain Industrial.

  9. Kim says:

    So what does work with DCSD? Political pressure! How do you do that? Well, you need either money or highly organized constituents who are relentless and will assault DCSD like a locust swarm. Can’t manage that? There is one last option: extortion.

    While this may include the illegal kind, I am only personally familiar with the public relations kind. The threat of embarrassment or legal action is about all I have seen work for the dispossessed. The CKHS track is another case study of this …

    For decades, the crumbling track has been one more symbol of mis-management of DCSS/DCSD. When the looooooong over due SPLOST II/III reno came to CK, it came with very little and that very little did not include a replacement track.

    Fast forward four-to-five years and the promised follow-up work at CKHS never materialized. I became so frustrated with the shenanighans this past year I filmed and posted this: http://youtu.be/_2JcRifEf6A

    Lo and behold this week we have this:


    Now, you can call me cynical but you will not convince me that the public social media “complaining” on this site and on youtube about the CKHS track does not have a correlation with this “emergency” track replacement bid. It absolutely does.

    So I say, complain on bloggers! And thank you DSW for always being willing to let the dispossessed at CKHS have a voice here.

  10. Awesome news Kim!!!

  11. teacher says:

    Did I see this correctly?? They are just putting new asphalt down??? This is horrible. No stadium should have an asphalt track!!!! Why don’t they do it right??

  12. Kim says:

    Though I respect your cynicism, no. It will be a proper track. You are probably reacting to the description of the base layers and related items.

  13. Thank you, Kim! You underlined the point of What Whine Will You Have With That? DeKalb School Watch blog has been the repository of whining and complaining about Cross Keys High School, including its dangerous and neglected track, for as long as we can remember. Did it make a difference? Did it spur DeKalb County Schools to action? Not really. It simply underlined the powerlessness of Cross Keys High School’s supporters.

    Then you took action with a You Tube video. And the results, after all these years, are amazing!

    We are simply encouraging people — especially people who are low on the totem pole in the Palace and whose actions go unnoticed until it is time for overpaid administrators to place blame — people who know something they can document about the misdeeds and corruption in DeKalb County Schools — to do more than wring their hands, whine and post complaints.

    It can be as simple as turning off the ringer on their cell phone, then turning on the recording feature to document a critical meeting … or taking a cell phone photo of a critical document. We hears rumors all the time, often from very good sources, of misdeeds, thievery, corruption in DeKalb County Schools. But, even though we know that students are being damaged and real estate values dragged down we cannot print anything that we cannot back up with documentation. And that has to be more than just someone’s word — no matter how reliable they are.

    What Whine Will you Have With That? is a call to action.

  14. Word Wall says:

    The best teachers are leaving. They are going to nearby districts where teachers are paid normally and respected as professionals. Look for test scores to decline again….

  15. Of course they are! They would be fools not to leave. Especially if they can work for another 5 years for an employer or a school system that pays into Social Security. [As always, we strongly encourage all teachers and staff to make an appointment to speak with a Social Security representative face-to-face. If you are moving to an employer who pays into Social Security, you don’t want to make any missteps!] Sticking with DCSS because you “have only another few years until retirement” is misguided loyalty. When you are retired and on a fixed income that is lower than it should be because of the Windfall Elimination Provision and DCSS’s lies and greed,”loyalty don’t feed the bulldog.”

  16. Here’s something that’s got me all riled up. Supposedly, teachers have a restored furlough day Wednesday, May 28. The County is supposed to provide professonal “learning” opportunities that day. Attendance is mandatory. In fact, it’s mandatory because the restored furlough day is paid for out of Race To the Top money, NOT from the Districts budget! Teachers have been warned that if they take that day as a personal or sick day, they will not be paid for the restored furlough day.

    How dare they! This is not furlough day, but a stipend for a mandatory, probably utterly useless, opportunity for learning. Here’s the threatening email sent out to staff:



    To: DCSD Employees
    From: Mr. Oliver Lewis, Director, Professional Learning
    Through: Dr. Kathleen S. Howe, Deputy Superintendent, Curriculum and Instruction
    Subject: Elimination of One (1) Additional Work Calendar Reduction Day for Professional Learning
    Date: 08 May 2014

    May 28, 2014-Professional Learning Day for 10 and 11 month Employees

    The DeKalb County School District was granted permission by the Georgia Department of Education to utilize a portion of our Race to the Top (RT3) grant to provide professional learning to designated groups of employees. As a result, on Monday, October 7, 2013, the Board of Education approved the Superintendent’s recommendation to amend the FY 2013-14 school calendar. This amendment to the calendar was to “Restore one additional work calendar day for all employees for the 2013-2014 school year to be utilized for high quality professional development.”

    The date selected for professional development for 10 and 11 month employees is Wednesday, May 28, 2014.

    Pursuant to the grant regulations, if RT3 federal dollars are used to fund professional learning on the above-mentioned date, employees will be required to participate in the professional learning activities on that date in order to receive the pay. If employees cannot participate in the professional learning activities scheduled to take place on the above-mentioned dates, the employee will not receive the compensation for one (1) day of pay. Once again, employees who can not attend the May 28, 2014, Professional Learning Day will not be paid for that day as the RT3 guidelines that allow the district to be reimbursed for this work reduction restoration day are strict.

    Please note that personal leave may not be used for the May 28, 2014 date. Additionally, employees who are not able to participate due to illness/sick time will not be able to receive compensation for this professional learning day.

    Specific information regarding the various training delivery models, professional learning activities and documentation requirements are forth-coming from the Department of Professional Learning.

    Thank you in advance for your cooperation. Questions or additional information about attendance should be directed to your direct supervisor or the Division of Human Resources.

    “This investment represents a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to encourage and foster professional growth and development among all employees. These additional professional learning opportunities will help “BRIDGE” the gap between under-performance and excellence as well as contribute to improved outcomes for all DCSD stakeholders.”- M. Thurmond

  17. @dissonancetheory: That’s really disappointing. Really. Disappointing. Plus, that memo couldn’t sound more bureaucratic. Ugh.

  18. Your feelings about this are correct, of course. We wonder how many certified central office employees (teachers who are not in the classroom) will still be paid for that day? It’s strange, though — weren’t the restored furlough days supposed to be in the 2014-2015 budget?

    Once the November elections are past, watch for Thurmond and his minions to quickly back-track on all promises of restored furlough days. Don’t spend your 1% raise yet, either. All will probably go away because there will be some “emergency.”

  19. Who are his minions? Has he hired new staff or are we talking about the same minions who supported Lewis, Tyson, Howell, etc.? Perhaps the minions are still doing damage regardless of what figurehead is in place.

    Every letter we have posted online regarding cell towers has also been emailed to the appropriate governmental representatives at the county, school system, state or federal level and normally the media is also copied. We also copy every other group that we know about who might be interested in finding out the same answers to the same questions. We post the responses, if we get any, online as well so everyone can see who is blowing us off and who sounds legitimately concerned. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Every time we have spoken at public meetings, we get a nice thank you for your time type of letter and no action or answers, but we gain awareness from the many people who watch live, on cable or the Internet, so it still has an intent and purpose.

    DeKalb School Watch followers offer great advice, support and feedback so even venting to each other is helpful because you often need others to help put the pieces together or validate your feelings. It seems so many parents and teachers here have experienced similar situations and have similar stories. It is a shame that simply pointing out the injustices is not enough to spur action from those in the position to make real changes.

    WIth that said, I agree with Howdy on the incumbents for the most part, but have heard many people who say they will give Orson another vote simply because he did have a hand in the lawsuit settlement and fought for the charter cluster petition. The only other option is a return to a member who was partly in trouble with SACS even though he was not formally removed. And, Thad Mayfield has been an excellent board member who I hope his district will vote to keep. Other than those two seats, are there any other incumbents worth keeping?

  20. None of these people you mention — specifically Marshall Orson and Thad Mayfield — have come even close to doing enough as school board members.

    DeKalb School Watch sticks by its recommendation that there must be a clean slate on the school board for COSU (Central Office Shake-Up) to happen. Anything less will NOT make a difference.

    Incumbents are identified on the ballot. We strongly recommend NOT voting for ANY school board incumbent.

  21. Lest we forget, it was Marshall Orson who brought us Michael Thurmond.

  22. concerned citizen says:

    This memo from Oliver Lewis is [@#$&^%] in content and structure; Lewis is definitely a big-time [@#$&^%]. He is [@#$&^%], [@#$&^%], and [@#$&^%]. Of course, Howe has her [@#$&^%] name on the memo, too. Isn’t she a [@#$&^%]? She really is [@#$&^%]!!

    DSW Note:
    We edited the above content and replaced with [@#$&^%]… We know it’s frustrating, but please refrain from outright name-calling everyone.

  23. I find it interesting that the memo went out 20 days before the event. That’s not much notice! Plus, they were not able to clue anyone in as to what programs will be offered. Sounds like a hastily thrown together deal. Why? What happened to the planning of this event? Did someone ‘forget’? This is very unprofessional.

  24. I’d like to see DCSD’s request for this RT3 grant from the state. I wonder if the County disclosed to the state that payment to teachers would be masked as a restored furlough day. Shouldn’t a restored furlough day be just like any other work day? Should’t teachers be able to take leave, especially sick leave on a restored day, if the need arises? What about teachers on extended leave, like, say, maternity leave? They’ll not get paid. I still believe a restored furlough day should come from the County budget. If they have to use grant money to replace this furlough day, where’s the money gonna come from for the 1% and the restored days in next year’s budget?

    I wonder if the restrictions that the DCSD claims were imposed on the use of these funds are as they’re described in the memo. Really, they should just call this a stipend for mandatory staff development.

    I also wonder if each teacher in attendance will receive the daily rate given in their contract or receive what’s left over from the grant after central admins and guest instructors get their greedy hands on it?

    Sound cynical? I’m nothing but cynical, disillusioned, and angry about anything DCSD these days. And I’m in a position where I can do nothing about it. Because, honestly, I’m afraid of retaliation.

    This is all so bogus.

    Just one more insult to teachers and school-house staff.

  25. TO: DeKalb County Taxpayers and Voters

    RE: Hearsay about Marshall Orson’s performance as a board member

    In an editorial meeting today, we discussed that we simply cannot allow hearsay about Marshall Orson to go unchallenged. The hearsay repeated on DSW blog is: [I] “have heard many people who say they will give Orson another vote simply because he did have a hand in the lawsuit settlement and fought for the charter cluster petition.” Here are the facts concerning Marshall Orson:

    We know Orson’s record doesn’t match his self-aggrandizing rhetoric.

    Heery Lawsuit Settlement

    Claim: Orson had a hand in the Heery lawsuit settlement.

    Reality: Michael Thurmond and DeKalb County Schools board settled the lawsuit with Heery for $7.5 million dollars. This after the appointed Special Master gutted Heery’s claims and found that DeKalb County Schools had credible claims of approximately $33 million dollars. Heery’s back was against the wall. Losing this case would have made it extremely difficult for them to get any more public contracts. Receiving $33 million in settlement from Heery, instead of a paltry $7.5 million, would have made DeKalb taxpayers whole.

    In 2008, Orson received campaign contributions from a partner at the law firm who represents Heery International. Although that partner has since moved to New Orleans, Orson also sits on a community advisory board with a vice president of Heery International. We believe there is definitely a conflict of interest that Orson has never disclosed to taxpayers.

    Orson may have had his hand out – or in — but he did nothing for taxpayers and our shortchanged students and teachers.

    Druid Hills Charter Cluster Petition

    Claim: Orson “fought” for the [Druid Hills] charter cluster petition.

    Reality: The well-written Druid Hills Charter Cluster Petition should have been approved. (This comment from one of our editors who has been involved with several charter schools, including helping to write the charters and petitions.) But, Orson let the naysayers at the Palace get too far down the road with their ridiculous “me-first” opposition. He apparently made no attempt to develop a consensus among school board members. In the end, all Orson had was a very red face. Really. Once again, Orson did nothing for taxpayers and our shortchanged students and teachers.

    Reality, Reality, Reality, Reality

    • On March 23, 2013, Orson voted to spend $1,694,863.98 to buy brand new cars for administrators whose salaries average $100K a year. More than double what most teachers make – and teachers still manage to provide their own transportation to school.

    • On February 18, 2013, Orson voted to hire law firm #3 (McKenna, Long and Aldridge) to provide ‘consulting’ services to DeKalb County Schools for $50,000 a month. Do the math – that’s $600,000 per year that won’t be going to the classrooms! Apparently two law firms and a bevy of consultants just weren’t doing the trick. It appears that our school board and Orson, the current District 2 BOE representative, believe in prioritizing lawyers and Palace staff over students and teachers. Is DCSS a jobs program or what? You betcha!

    • District 2 did NOT have a voice in the current budget because Orson, one of only two (2) elected representatives on the current school board, chose not to attend that meeting. We would like to point out that Don McChesney (Orson’s opponent in the May 20 election) did not miss one meeting, as far as we know, during the years he served honorably on the DeKalb School Board.

    • Speaking of meetings, Orson was the one who pushed through a change in the school board meeting schedule. Now the board’s business is “taken care of” in one overwhelming day per month of meeting after meeting after meeting after meeting. There is no time to study anything that comes up at the work session, thoughtfully consider pros and cons, speak with taxpayers, look at what other school districts are doing or obtain additional information before voting on it. Board transparency is also conveniently reduced because most parents work and cannot attend, or even watch on TV, a full day of meetings. Voting happens before any taxpayers can object. We guess that Orson considers his board salary compensation enough for only one day a month. That works out to approximately $1400 per day. Or $369,600 per year.

    Does anyone think that Marshall Orson is worth $369,600?

    Once again, please do NOT vote for any school board incumbents. Vote, instead, for change … vote for COSU – Central Office Shake-Up!

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