What’s a board member worth?

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!

VOTE TOMORROW >> TUESDAY, MAY 20

Advertisements

About dekalbschoolwatch

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"
This entry was posted in Board of Education Meetings, Budget Cuts, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, DeKalb School Board Elections, Heery Mitchell Civil Case and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to What’s a board member worth?

  1. And please don’t even ask us about Jim McMahan. Please just replace him swiftly and quietly.

  2. Don McChesney also just posted a blog post about Orson’s record. Read it here >>

    Election Message

  3. It seems to us that apathy is running high – so many people are just giving up on DeKalb schools. They are either going private, moving out of DeKalb, or starting their own charters — see the news about this one in Brookhaven —

    Brookhaven Pursuing State Chartered Public School, The Brookhaven Innovation Academy

    Whatever happens with this election, the momentum for independence from this large, overpaid, inept bureaucracy is full steam ahead. The push to rescind the old amendment stating that no more school systems can be formed will continue in the next legislative session. Independent charters will flourish. People just want decent educations for their children. It isn’t rocket science. It’s been done for decades successfully in many places. Simplify. Support teachers. Focus on children. Those things do not require a building full of six figure administrators.

  4. howdy1942 says:

    I hope that every voter in Dekalb County will choose to vote on Tuesday. I can’t recall any election in Dekalb County being more important than this one. Based on the recently concluded Legislative session, the Georgia Constitutional Amendment to create more school districts has a long uncertain path ahead. While this issue is of great interest to many in Dekalb, it appears to be of little or no interest to other counties in the State. Since charter schools must receive the approval of the school board, that avenue is also uncertain.

    For the first time in a long time, Dekalb County voters have a very realistic chance at electing a school board that can bring positive change to Dekalb County and make classrooms the top priority. We have a great chance to elect three very classroom-focused new board members and need only one more to bring about change. I know that some have expressed concerns about Thad Mayfield, but I see him as being that potentially fourth board member to make a big difference. I have been impressed by his preparation and the depth of his questions. I don’t agree with him on his assessment of Mr. Thurmond, but he does seem to ask searching questions and make reasonable decisions.

    After what all of us have gone through during the past four years, we need to seize this opportunity and be heard at the polls. Nothing can be more important than what happens in the classroom with our students. And this election can bring such great opportunities for Dekalb County as a whole.

    Finally, I am very, very disappointed and frustrated, even angry, about the way our teachers have been treated by the past and current school boards and by the past and present superintendents. There were some very good teachers who shaped my life, motivated me to learn, and gave me such wise counsel and, no doubt, there are many teachers in Dekalb County who are also having a similar impact our today’s students. Few people impact our kids more than our teachers and we need to listen to them, encourage them, provide them with competitive compensation packages, and allow them to control their classrooms without outside interference. It is just shameful that they have been treated in such a shabby, disrespectful, and unprofessional manner. (Again, I say that I am not a school teacher nor is anyone is my family a school teacher nor is anyone in my family employed by any school district anwwhere).

    Let’s all go to the polls on Tuesday and vote. It’s now or never!

  5. midvaledad says:

    I am very disappointed in this post. It is a return to the mudslinging and innuendo of DSW1.

    You wrote, “Here are the facts concerning Marshall Orson:” and then included guesses and assumptions in what followed.
    “Heery’s back was against the wall.” – Pure guess

    “Orson may have had his hand out – or in — but he did nothing for taxpayers and our shortchanged students and teachers.” – Do you know to what extent Orson was involved in the settlement? It is your opinion students and teachers were shortchanged. What if Heery continued the suit and costs escalated? Would you then complained a settlement wasn’t reached?

    “He apparently made no attempt to develop a consensus among school board members.” – Another guess. Do you know what conversations or emails were exchanged before the meeting to vote on the DHCC?

    “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.” – A outright lie and quote from Don. The $1,694,863.98 was for the entire vehicle replacement program. That amount also covers 46 trucks and cars as well as six “security carts.” The amount spent on cars for administrators was $313,714. Those were included in the SPLOST IV referendum. The time to question the purchase of the cars for administrators was before the vote on SPLOST IV. He (and you) are being hypocritical as Don voted to approve the SPLOST IV sequence which included the purchase of the cars for administrators. https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/Attachment.aspx?S=4054&AID=440464&MID=23961 (top of page 2)

    “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!” – SACS required actions #2 & #3 were beyond the scope of the board and the district employees. An outside group had to be brought in. Was MLA the right choice? No. The Georgia School Board Association could have done the job cheaper. However, to properly address those two required actions consultants were needed.

    “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.” – You assume and imply the budget was set at one meeting. The budget hasn’t been set yet. Also, the BOE is continuously discussing budget items with the superintendent, not just at public meetings. Finally, aren’t there three (3) elected representatives on the current school board?

    “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.” – When something comes up at the work session, the board delays the vote and asks the presenters to come back. Another thing that happens is they modify the requests. Remember how Jim questioned the amount requested for white boards and the board voted to approve a lower amount?

    “That works out to approximately $1400 per day. Or $369,600 per year.” – This is so erroneous I hate to even comment. Why would you include such trash? What is the BOE’s annual pay?

    It is no secret the editors of this blog don’t like Marshall Orson and support Don McChesney. That is fine. This is a blog and not journalism.

    However, it would improve the credibility of the blog if the posts were not so misleading. This is a very disappointing post.

  6. @midvaledad: You are entitled to your support of Marshall. Although we are not sure why anyone outside of Fernbank/Druid Hills would support Marshall, as he is only there to watch out for his own community. Thus the increase in the construction costs for Fernbank – and the large scale model, although the attendance area does not support a 900 student school building. But Orson would have none of redistricting – ie: sending some of Fernbank’s students to nearby Briar Vista, which has space.

    Sorry that you don’t appreciate our math. We do have a problem with this ‘all meetings on one day’ schedule. Especially when the person who pushed for it often misses that one day! (And aren’t you actually making assumptions when you say that so much ‘work’ is on-going on other days?) Orson is a soccer dad. First and foremost. You will see him out at soccer games on the ‘other’ days – as well as the days when official meetings take place. He and McMahan have both skipped board meetings – for which they are paid – in order to do soccer dad duty – not due to conflicting work schedules. It bothers us quite a lot that they feel so comfortable in their ‘off air’ board negotiations that they can skip public (recorded) meetings.

    Also, the approved SPLOST IV spending was for desperately needed utility and maintenance vehicles. Yes, Don approved this. But it got twisted and these brand new cars somehow got purchased by the new board under this description. Now THAT was a very misleading action by the current board – using a budget approved by the last board. You can’t lay blame on anyone but the current board for that decision.

    It’s really too bad that more people didn’t run for this school board seat, considering the education of so many in the district it seems they could have had a very interesting slate of candidates. But then again, as we said, apathy is heavy – especially in districts where many can afford private school.

    And yes, you are correct. There are three current board members who were elected. We only specifically talk about two of them – however, we strongly encourage voting in entirely NEW people – in EVERY district.

  7. ps – Since you sliced out one phrase out of context, allow us to repeat the part of the post about Heery >>

    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.

  8. Curious says:

    I agree with midvaledad that the post attacking Marshall Orson is inappropriate.

  9. midvaledad says:

    I am sorry you confused my desire for objectiveness with support for Marshall.

    The list of replacement vehicles was put together before the June 2012 vote. The cars for administrators was on the list Don voted for. Please explain how “it got twisted and these brand new cars somehow got purchased by the new board under this description.” They voted for the same list which Don voted for.

    The district is pushing for the construction of 900 seat elementary schools because Wilkinson thinks that is the optimal size. At least 3 of the 7 elementary schools being replaced are projected to have significantly fewer students. Trying to say Marshall is responsible for the large scale of the school or the increased costs is misleading.

    The increased costs for Fernbank Elem. have to do with the architects originally planning a retention pond which would be almost an acre in the middle of the school property. The community rejected that idea when it was shown to them.

    Similarly, when the architects showed their plans to Henderson Middle School parents and staff, they got an earful of feedback because the plans did not address the needs of the school. That project will be delayed a year and the costs will be higher (I haven’t heard what yet) because of poor performance on the part of the district employees.

    In both cases the district didn’t ask the “stakeholders” what was important to them or what they needed & wanted in the new schools. Architects were contracted to design schools/additions which Palace employees wanted. When the communities rejected those, costs went up.

    All I have to say is I am glad the district is now responding to “stakeholder” input regarding construction. Lord knows the Palace still doesn’t care about what we say about other things.

  10. concernedmom30329 says:

    Midvale Dad

    Some of us don’t actually believe that the plans will really be changed for Henderson. Rather, Thurmond has decided to help the incumbents (esp Carter) get reelected by throwing out a bone that then may disappear after July (when the election is over).

  11. midvaledad says:

    concernedmom30329

    You are correct about Thurmond helping some board members, but how can revising the Henderson Middle project help Carter more than McMahan?

    I didn’t attend last Tuesday’s meeting so don’t know what the new plans are. Did you?

    Can anyone share what was discussed at the Henderson Middle meeting last Tuesday?

  12. Reality Check: The board (Don included) in November, 2012, approved the SPLOST IV project list. The project list included “service vehicles” which were interpreted by EVERYONE to mean trucks, etc for maintenance – as these service vehicles are all very, very old.
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.com/2012/11/08/a-splost-iv-update/
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/splost-iv-sequence-list-in-start-date-chronological-order.pdf

    This report to the board in May, 2012 says nothing at all about sedans. It says, “Purchase of Vehicles & Support (Buses, Service Vehicles, and Radio/GPS Upgrades)”
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/program-presentation-2012-05-17.pdf

    However, on March 20, 2013, the NEW board (3 elected and 6 appointed) approved the actual purchase of ‘service’ vehicles. They were told by Mr. Stephen M. Wilkins, Chief Operations Officer, Division of Operations that the public ‘voted’ on this. Not true. Well – at least a big stretch of the truth. The public voted on what we thought was to be true service/maintenance vehicles. The wording of the SPLOST IV referendum said nothing about sedans for administrators. WE don’t consider those to be ‘service’ vehicles and neither did the public when the vote was taken. We loudly voiced our concerns at the time only to be wrongly told this was what the public ‘approved’.
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.com/2013/03/20/serious-concerns-about-tonights-agenda/

    Here is the agenda item for the actual vote (a bait and switch):
    https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/ViewMeetingOrder.aspx?S=4054&MID=30513

    ROSTER AT THE TIME OF THE VOTE TO PURCHASE SEDANS USING SPLOST MONEY ALLOCATED FOR ‘SERVICE VEHICLES’ —

    BOARD MEMBERS:
    Dr. Melvin Johnson, Chair
    Mr. James L. ‘Jim’ McMahan, Vice Chair
    Mr. David Campbell
    Dr. Karen D. Carter
    Mr. John W. Coleman
    Dr. Michael A. Erwin
    Mr. Thaddeus Mayfield
    Dr. Joyce Morley
    Mr. Marshall D. Orson

    Mr. Michael L. Thurmond, Interim Superintendent

  13. The Ford Fusions total cost was over $300,000 – click here to view the rest of the list of vehicles purchased.
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/splost-purchase-vehicle-list.xls

    Very few were maintenance vehicles purchased for maintenance staff. In fact, our maintenance staff was seriously reduced – although the number of administrators in that department remains the same.

    2013 Ford Fusion ( A ) $20,914.27
    2013 Ford Fusion ( A ) $20,914.27
    2013 Ford Fusion ( A ) $20,914.27
    2013 Ford Fusion ( A ) $20,914.27
    2013 Ford Fusion ( A ) $20,914.27
    2013 Ford Fusion ( B ) $20,914.27
    2013 Ford Fusion ( C ) $20,914.27
    2013 Ford Fusion ( D ) $20,914.27
    2013 Ford Fusion ( D ) $20,914.27
    2013 Ford Fusion ( E ) $20,914.27
    2013 Ford Fusion ( F ) $20,914.27
    2013 Ford Fusion ( F ) $20,914.27
    2013 Ford Fusion ( F ) $20,914.27
    2013 Ford Fusion ( G ) $20,914.27
    2013 Ford Fusion ( H ) $20,914.27 $313,714.05

  14. You are correct, midvale dad. Our calculations were in error because we used the wrong amount for the annual salary for school board members. Board members’ annual salary, each, is $23,400 (www.open.georgia.gov). Here are our corrected calculations:

    $23,400 [annual salary*] / 12 [# of months in a year] = $1,950 [actual monthly salary]

    1 [# of documented workdays for Orson each month] x $1,950 [in effect, daily salary for Orson] x 19 [there are 19 – 22 business days per month] = $37,050 [in effect, monthly salary for Orson]

    $37,050 [in effect, monthly salary for Orson] x 12 [# of months in a year] = $444,600 [in effect, annual salary for Orson]

    This demonstrates what Orson’s annual salary would be if he received $1,950 per day (which is what he receives for the documented one day a month that he works for the DeKalb County School Board). That works out to be an hourly salary of $195 – not an unusual hourly rate for a lawyer (which Orson is) handling the business of an organization with a $1 billion budget. A bit high, perhaps, for someone overseeing the spending of taxpayer dollars.

    *This figure does not include travel expenses.

    So, we ask, again, has Orson’s one-day-a-month service to students, teachers and DeKalb County taxpayers been worth the cost? Orson has simply been taking care of his own pet projects — and not even very effectively when you consider the Druid Hills Charter Cluster outcome.

  15. midvaledad says:

    Thank you for reposting the list of vehicles and detailing the cost of the cars for administrators. You have shown Don and you are intentionally misleading people when you write “Orson voted to spend $1,694,863.98 to buy brand new cars for administrators whose salaries average $100K a year.”

    I agree with you the administrators don’t need cars and the Palace should not have put these on the “service vehicle” list.

  16. John Oselette says:

    @midvaledad
    “I didn’t attend last Tuesday’s meeting so don’t know what the new plans are. Did you?
    Can anyone share what was discussed at the Henderson Middle meeting last Tuesday?”

    I spoke at length with a parent that went to the Henderson Middle meeting on Tuesday of last week. The budget is getting cut by 6% and will have to be broken up into SPLOST IV and SPLOST V, largely because of the failure to obtain any meaningful stakeholder input on the initial plans. They did send them back to the drawing board to address some of the needs of the community, but it has severely delayed the start of any work.

    Karen was the only board member present and she is claiming to have proposed additional money for the ever elusive ADA compliant access ramp for the front entrance. Never mentioning the board as a whole, but saying SHE worked hard to have it added.

    Like I have said before, these folks like to use SPLOST funds as their own SLUSH fund when election time rolls around.

  17. midvaledad says:

    @John Oselette,

    I wonder how Dr. Carter is funding the ramp. My guess is Mrs. Allen submitted a Local School Priority Request and Dr. Carter is “making sure” it gets done. Wouldn’t that (or anything close to that) count as “interfering with the day-to-day operations of the school?”

    I read the list of things going to Redan High that was posted on the Tucker Patch. “Redan is getting; a new addition, $300,000 upgrade to the baseball field, new band uniforms, and new textbooks.” It seems Thurmond is trying to help Dr. Morley stay on the BOE as @concernedmom30329 suggested.

    Good luck tomorrow Mr. Oselette. DeKalb needs someone who will put the classrooms before the Palace and not bow to Superintendent Thurmond’s every request.

  18. We did not ‘intentionally’ mislead anyone. The current board voted to spend $1.6 million on a list of vehicles almost without question – and without checking the actual language of the SPLOST IV referendum. We pointed out how much of that money was spent on the Ford Focus’ for palace staff in particular – but there were also a whole ‘nother list of vehicles with no description as to which department they were allocated to. For instance, there are quite a few Chevy Impalas – listed as ‘public safety’. But it sounds more like police protection for staff. Who are these vehicles assigned to? We asked for that info in an Open Records request and were given a ridiculous estimate of time costing hundreds of dollars to ‘dig up’ the information!

    Remember, the SPLOST description read “Purchase of Vehicles & Support (Buses, Service Vehicles, and Radio/GPS Upgrades)”

    This is the list of departments that received vehicles:
    Regional Superintendent
    Warehouse Courier Services
    Business Services
    Facility Services
    Construction Services
    Transportation Services
    Curriculum Services
    Human Resource Services

  19. Additionally, Marshall Orson led the charge to secretly hire Michael Thurmond behind closed doors without any public knowledge. In fact, the public was never even informed that Cheryl Atkinson was MIA – having not reported to work for nearly 2 months!! Orson just seems to think he knows what’s best for all of us and so he and his garnered (in that ‘other’ work time) majority board support secretly hired someone ‘he’ considered a good superintendent for DeKalb. Talk about a lack of transparency!!!!!

  20. concernedmom30329 says:

    McMahan needs to be booted first and foremost because he misses too many meetings for a Board that only meets once a month. Coleman has been worse, I think, but he had the dignity to bow out of the race. Orson isn’t much better in terms of attendance and as has been pointed out here, it was his idea to change the number of meetings.

  21. Ella says:

    Howdy, I finally did post my answers to your questions on my blog (Georgia Schoolhouse News).
    I answered them right after you asked them. I am sorry I did not share them but posting a draft announcement that was on one of my websites hurt. I have two websites and one of them was in draft mode and I forgot to make sure it was not published to the public. It was totally my era. Imagine me making such an era. (Ha! Ha!)

    I have been such a supporter of DeKalb County School Watch so long and I was hurt that the draft was posted from the wrong website. However, this is not the first time hurtful things have happened in my life and it absolutely will not be the last. Believe me this mistake did not prevent me from doing my best in this election. I meet such wonderful candidates in my own race. I had fun meeting so many wonderful people in district 4.

    I would support 2/3 of the other candidates in my race, if I was not running myself. They are good people.

    I wish all the candidates tomorrow good luck. Some will be winners and some will be losers. However, I appreciate all the individuals who were willing to get involved to try to make a difference in our school system. Thank all of you for all of your hard work.

    In conclusion, I doubt that throwing mud at another candidate will do much good at this point. However, the turnout is expected to be low so who knows what might happen.

    Ella

  22. @Ella: ??? We are confused. You are upset with us for posting your campaign statement from your campaign website [electellasmith.com] because that website wasn’t for public consumption? We were supposed to have quoted from one called Georgia Schoolhouse News? Gee. Sorry. I wonder how we were supposed to have known that…

  23. thedeal2 says:

    I don’t fault DSW for the tone of this post. We are on the eve of the most important board of education election in memory. The blog editors have been in the trenches since 4 superintendents ago, so it is a time of heightened emotions. No one person has all of the facts about DeKalb Schools. That is part of the talent of the Palace, to distract and lie so that people cannot come to agreement on “facts”. Each one of us has to digest all of the information and filter it through our own experience. In my experience Marshall Orson is a snake. Fernbank Elementary personally benefitted from his placement on the board. There was no way Fernbank should have been on the replacement list before any of the other elementary schools. It was majorly renovated more recently than most buildings in DeKalb. I also agree with DSW that the fault for the Ford Fusions lies solely with this existing board. I did not vote for SPLOST because I knew the wording was so broad as to allow the unscrupulous central office leadership to exploit it and favor the friends and family with it, which they did with the cars. The approval for the cars specifically was done by the existing board, and I blame all of them for it. Let’s hope common sense prevails tomorrow and we have a board with a majority of good people. Legislators and cityhood leaders are watching very closely. If this election doesn’t work, I predict DeKalb Schools will be gone in its current form forever, which may be a good thing.

  24. Well said, thedeal2, well said.

  25. Pangborned says:

    It’s the eve of the election, and I have to choose between an incumbent with a spotty attendance record who is usually looking out for his personal interests over that of the greater good, and a challenger who had to be removed by the governor less than a year ago. This seems all too real – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UthMHjoNyjA

  26. Ella says:

    I am not blaming this blog for the mistake. It was my era. My actually website was https://sites.google.com/site/electellasmith/ that was functional and proofed at the time the announcement was posted. I had started setting up the website (electellasmith.com) that you took the posting from which was in a rough draft state. It had not been proofed and then my husband Merck set up another site for me and this site was proofed. However, the electellasmith.com site was able to be viewed and that is where the announcement was taken. It was a stupid mistake on my part to have not put it under construction but it hurt no less to have a draft posted as my formal announcement on this site.

    Then I was advised by my political advisor to stay off the blog and I have for the most part. Recently my political advisor has taken over (electellasmith.com) where the rough draft was on, and now both sites are visible. He has professionally set up electellasmith.com.

    This post today make me aware of the emotional pain I felt when attacked on this blog for an era after being such a supportive of this blog. Marshall and Fernbank Elementary have not always been very nice to me, particularly at the forum I had at Fernbank with Dr. Walker.

    I have always liked Howdy and I have felt guilty I had not shared my answers with Howdy as promised. I just decided not to post them on DeKalb County School Board Watch after the last mistake I made.

  27. @Pangborned: Don was not removed from the board by the Governor. Marshall won the last election – beating Don out of his seat. Marshall, Jim McMahan and Melvin Johnson were all fairly newly elected and were left in place by the Governor – he then removed the remaining 6. The only person who was removed by the Governor and is currently running for school board is Jay Cunningham.

  28. With regard to Don McChesney being “removed” from the school board, he was NOT removed. As we said, he lost his seat to Marshall (who used some highly questionable tactics) in the last election. Governor Deal did not have a clue about the wrongdoing, greed and culture of corruption in DeKalb County Schools. Actually, with Govenor Deal’s own background, he could not delve deeply into DeKalb County Schools. It would have been the pot calling the kettle black. So he unquestioningly did what he was told to do by SACS (a non-public entity with no accountability to the public) and that was to get rid of the school board. SACS was pretty upset about the financial wrongdoing that Nancy Jester — a mom with a calculator and a professional career as an actuary — was bringing to light. It made SACS look very bad because they had been saying that everything was fine with DeKalb County Schools, even though it clearly was not. SACS had to do something to save face, so they pitched a fit and forced the governor to remove the board. Marshall Orson, Jim McMahan and Melvin Johnson were part of that board by then and they should have been removed, too. Don McChesney was supportive of Nancy’s efforts to expose the wrongdoing in DeKalb County Schools.

    Concerning Marshall Orson, the three newly elected board members were all directly mentioned by SACS as having ‘meddled’ in school buildings, in their report detailing their suddenly discovered grievances. Don McChesney and Nancy Jester were never called out by SACS for any wrongdoing.

    DeKalb School Watch stands by our plea: do NOT vote for any of the current incumbents. But DO vote — for the best candidate, in your judgement, after eliminating the current school board members from consideration. All of the current incumbent school board members, enabled by Governor Deal, have failed students, teachers and taxpayers. This vote is the only chance you will have to make a difference.

    For more information you can search DeKalb School Watch 2 (www.dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com) and the original DeKalb School Watch (www.dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com)). There is a “Search” box on the main page for the original DSW and for DSW2.

  29. Another comment says:

    I am making the following comment as someone who has been accepted as a Construction engineering and Project management expert witness in Federal Court since 1994. The only reason that the Heery case was settled for the 7.5 million dollars, was because Heery’s insurance company and new Multi-national firm that owns Heery, decided that was less than the cost of settling the suit for that amount was less than what they would have spent litigating it, even to a win.

    The ” Special Master” decision was under appeal, the minute that Pat Pope Reid, was convicted that decision would be overturned. Construction Law is an integrate specialty practice, you have to have cases heard by higher level judges, who have experience with these cases. You also need specialized attorney’s to try the cases. Another engineer and myself literally spent 8-9 months prepping a team of generalist attorneys on Construction Law before a case. spending everyday downtown in there office.

    If Heery had lost the case with Dekalb it would have had zero effect on their Federal Contracts. The only way you get put on the Federal ban list is to commit Fraud against the Federal Government. Anyways, Heery has one of the best performance rates on Federal Contracts plus has one of the lowest audited overhead rates of any firm by the Federal Government.

    Heery also has an outstanding reputation in the private sector and Has for over 30 years. I don’t believe any school district — unless they were filled with Dekalb Friends and Family Members — could care less about Heery and Dekalb. Most see the issue was with the Pat Reid and Crawford Lewis efforts to enrich themselves.

    Then the biggest question is Heery was the Minority partner 49% or less on this contract. Mitchell was the Majority partner 51% . Shouldn’t Mitchell have been the culpable party, not Heery, the minority partner? Or was this removal of Heery just part of the continuous of Gene Walkers and others in Dekalb efforts to only see color.

  30. Well says:

    I think everyone with common sense knows that Don McChesney would have been removed by the Governor had he not just lost by a wide margin in the election. It seems silly to toss out the incumbents when this guy WAS the incumbent that was voted out, in part, because of the SACS problems.

  31. I also think that anyone with common sense is saddened and appalled at the apathy from residents in DeKalb. Very few qualified, respectable people even tried to put their name in the hat for this election. It’s hard work to run a campaign. The ‘appointed’ board members were essentially given their seat on the board and now have the easy task of running with an [I] next to their name. What happened to the rest of the FOUR HUNDRED who applied when the Governor was looking to give away the board seats? Not so easy to do it the good old-fashioned American way is it?!!

    So yes, now our choice in District 2 is between a current board member (Orson) who thinks he knows better than his constituents and actually boasts that he led the charge to secretly hire a superintendent behind closed doors — without ANY public knowledge of a search — and a former board member who was unable to get consensus with the (admitted) racially motivated former board chair and his associates in the hiring of (what turned out to be disastrous) Cheryl Atkinson – and suffered a loss in the election as a result. For my vote – I’ll take the guy who at least tried to do right for the people of DeKalb (Don McChesney).

    BUT – this is DeKalb – a county full of intelligent, fair-minded people! So, we should easily be able to elect a majority of truly caring, intelligent people who believe in real transparency and building a school system from the classroom up (ie: supporting and funding teachers) we could possibly start seeing real change FOR STUDENTS. Sadly, this never happens – exemplified by those ‘400+’ people who choose not to actually DO anything or even attempt to run for the office when it’s not handed over by the Gov on a silver platter.

    BTW, Nancy Jester and Pam Speaks were still on the board when Thurmond was secretly hired. Nancy and Pam voted NO in this secret vote, to the idea of secretly hiring a superintendent without even doing a search or asking for public input. But they were out-voted by Marshall and his board supporters in this action — Jim, Melvin and the other members of the FIRED board – Gene, Jay, Sarah and Donna. Do you really want to vote for someone who aligns himself with that crew? Someone whose ego is so incredible that he thinks he knows better than anyone else? Someone who obviously thinks rules are for ‘others’ to follow? Or do you want to vote for someone who feels a sincere sense of obligation to the public…

  32. Well says:

    Fair enough. To my mind, it wouldn’t be the worst thing (or even a bad thing) if Mr. McChesney wins. I just don’t think he needs to insinuate corruption and all that. My main concern is to remove the budget and curriculum decisions from the central office to the extent possible. I am a strong supporter of the DHCC.. Michael Erwin has an (I) by his name and I think he should go. Thad Mayfield,(I) I think should stay, lest we get Cunningham again.,

  33. We believe that corruption in DeKalb County Schools is an unfortunate reality. If DeKalb County Schools would hand over the documents we have requested in open records requests; conduct the audit they have been promising for years (the personnel audit Lewis had done was “lost” and DeKalb County Schools refused to request it from their vendor); and provide a current online checkbook that would go a long way toward transparency. We also have heard from other taxpayers that they are getting the runaround from DeKalb County Schools regarding open records requests. For example, one person told us that DeKalb County Schools repeatedly sends them the wrong information in response to open records requests. Michael Erwin definitely needs to go! While we appreciate the questions asked by Thad Mayfield, they are not probing questions. We expected better from Mr. Mayfield. And we are concerned about his friends-and-family connections to DeKalb County Schools — especially that he has not been forthright about those connections. Thanks for your thoughtful consideration and your willingness to vote.

  34. @Well: There are others in the race for District 5 besides Thad and Jay — We tend to like R. Alexander Fitzhugh. Don’t know much about Vicki Turner or Chaz Bhatti though.

    DISTRICT 5
    Pia “Chaz Afzal” Bhatti

    Jesse “Jay” Cunningham
    Website: jaycunningham2014.com

    R. Alexander Fitzhugh
    Website: fitzhughfordekalb.com

    Thad Mayfield [Incumbent]
    Website: thadmayfieldboe.com

    Vickie B. Turner
    Website: electvickiebturner.com

  35. concerned citizen says:

    Mayfield is so into F&F that he should never be considered for duty. But, still,,,I have heard praise. Power for him is the goal. Why? F&Fers, some of us know Thad Mayfield for the sham he is. He is a very tricky guy, but, yes, he will return your phone call and act very concerned while at the same time voting for administrator cars! He’s a smooth operator all right. I’m sad to say he’ll probably win.

Comments are closed.