What’s happening these days at the DeKalb County School District?

DSW2-laying-down-on-the-jobWe admit – we have been lying down on the job! As stated before, we all also work at ‘regular’ jobs and have all been very busy this fall. Forgive us. But our wonderful readers continue to send us news items via email and we have been collecting them. That said, it now appears that we have a plethora of news bits, issue updates and documents to share.

First, in a couple of public news items, it appears that the state is taking a look at the possible inequities in school discipline. State Sen. Emmanel Jones initiated a study committee to review the type of punishments imposed by local boards of education, the time spent in alternative schools by students in various school systems, and the high rate of expulsion of students. He will also use the study committee to identify any operational disparities between students of different racial backgrounds.

Oral arguments were heard on the teacher lawsuit regarding the budget-cutting decision to end contributions to Teachers Retirement Annuities in lieu of Social Security that was promised to teachers and paid for decades until 2010 when Dr. Lewis cut it completely. Ramona Tyson, Dr. Atkinson and Michael Thurmond have continued the cut to teachers’ retirements. The lawsuit continues and could end in a very large settlement if the teachers win their case.

And we have a new lawsuit filed by a couple of teachers. Read more on it here >>
Georgia Teachers Claim They Were Strong-Armed

Oddly, (to us anyway), it seems that Dr. Ralph Simpson was voted as “Principal of the Year” at the gala celebration hosted by the district at the conference center at Stone Mountain last week. We see this as odd, because this is the guy who wrote a small book about his life and then ‘sold’ thousands of dollars worth to his own school! We never could find an actual person who received an actual copy, but he was forced to take a (obviously temporary) demotion and repay the money (which again, we have no proof occurred). Now — he is suddenly such an upstanding bloke that he is Principal of the Year!

Personally, we would have selected Principal Norman H. Thomas, Jr. at Meadowview Elementary, who increased literacy rates by 55% at his school! That is measurable – and for us – deserving of recognition.

Read more here >> Meadowview Elementary School Reports 55% Increase in Literacy Scores Following Implementation of AWE’s Digital Learning Solutions in Kindergarten Classrooms

And, have you all heard? We can now vote on Sunday in DeKalb…

Sunday Voting Plan Causes Uproar

DeKalb County’s plan to roll out Sunday voting—a new quest to boost voter turnout—has sparked an uproar among Republicans who say the move will give Democrats an unfair edge.

DeKalb, particularly South DeKalb, is largely Democrat and many say the Sunday voting day will prompt a surge, especially if pastors urge congregations to go to the polls.

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Second, many of you may have attended one of the meetings focused on DeKalb’s plan to submit to become a charter district with the state. The state has set a deadline of June 15, 2015 for all school districts to choose whether to continue as a “status quo”, or convert to a charter system or what is called an IE2 (Investing in Educational Excellence). CLICK HERE to download a very good “Nuts & Bolts Comparison” created by the State DOE.

CLICK HERE to download the presentation and documents presented by Trenton Arnold at the community meetings on the topic.

CLICK HERE to view the September 8, 2014 discussion on the subject at the meeting of the Committee of the Whole.  Forward to about 17:00 to watch Marshall Orson question the decision.

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Also, just last night Michael Thurmond made a “State of the System” address to the Parent Councils United and community members at Georgia Perimeter College in Clarkston.

He covered a plethora of topics including the Heery lawsuit, accreditation, new legal representation, the Bridge Initiative, budget ‘enhancements’, SPLOST, planning and communications via PDS Comcast 24.

CLICK HERE to download his 18 pages of information delivered. There was also a Q&A session which covered teacher pay and other issues. If you attended the meeting, please add what you recall from the Q&A to the comments in this post.

We were pleased to see that the dual accreditation initiative through Georgia Accrediting Commission (GAC), shepherded by Terry Nall, Dunwoody City Council member, for all of our high schools is underway and proceeding according to plan laid out to the school board in May. Page 6 of Thurmond’s address lists these dual accreditation activity items (both completed and planned):

* September 11, 2014: District meets with GAC consultant to discuss plans

* September 24, 2014: District leaders meet regarding how to provide documentation to each high school for the accreditation process

* October-January: District leaders assist individual high schools with compiling evidence of compliance

* January 26-28, 2015: Site visits to the high schools by GAC consultants

* March 2015: Accreditation is agenda item for GAC Board meeting in Macon

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And for updated data mining, CLICK HERE to view and download an all new, interesting chart showing enrollment by school.

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That’s it for now! We will check in with you again at the next Board Meeting – which has been changed from Monday, October 6 to Wednesday, Oct. 8.

Keep on sending us your emails!

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18 Responses to What’s happening these days at the DeKalb County School District?

  1. How many people were sickened to see that Gene ” I only see color ” Walker was a Character witness for Burell ” we are going to find some good brothers to replace the whites” Ellis the CEO on trial. Along with Congressman Hank ” the island is tipping over” and former Mayor Andrew Young. I just wanted to vomit at the blatant race card and attempts for jury nullification played today. Let’s pray this Jury has some sense and doesn’t fall for this overt racism. Judge Courtney appears likely to sentence Burrell to some jail time if convicted, she is not playing into his crap.

    What is wrong with the 46 % white population of Dekalb that remains. Why aren’t you making sure your voices are heard.

    Why aren’t folks filing race and sex discrimination suits against Dekalb county. Read the transcripts, Ellis hated whites Asians, and women, a particular Asian woman has a great case against him. He was calling women the B word in the transcripts of the tapes. Why aren’t white folks suing the school district for discrimination too. It is so blatant.

  2. howdy1942 says:

    I want to share something really positive that is going on in Dekalb County! Last night, I attended a meeting of the Blueprint Dekalb organization at the Manual Maloof Auditorium. I can’t recall attending such a refreshing, optimistic meeting regarding Dekalb County in a long time.

    This is a citizens group with representatives from all over Dekalb County who are very concerned about what is happening in Dekalb County. They didn’t dwell on what is wrong in Dekalb (we all know that), but they presented the results of a lot, and I do mean a lot, of work that they have done to design a plan to fix Dekalb. The people in this group hail from all locations in Dekalb, are of all races, and are very smart.

    The first item on their agenda is conducting an independent internal audit. That would only be the first step. They propose to establish a permanent auditing organization that would be independent of the Commissioners as well as the Dekalb County government. Members of this auditing organization would be hired by and supervised by a citizens oversight committee that would meet with and report to the public on a regular basis. It would have access to any and all Dekalb County Government expense reports and financial records. They would be funded as part of the Dekalb County budget, but that portion of the budget be fixed and not controlled or approved by the County.

    The second item involved procurement and transparency. Regular audits would be performed of contracts and how they are awarded. Records would be clear and all procedures would be transparent to the public. Some mention was made of a checkbook open to the public. They gave a number of examples of procurement issues, but one struck me and involved trash bags with contracts to three different vendors for the same thing, one of which is no longer in business. Heaven only knows who’s cashing the checks!

    The third item involved ethics reform. Needless to say, it’s about time.

    Finally, they talked about elections and the power of the incumbency. One of the very interesting proposals would impose term limits. That makes so much sense because it just seems that the longer a person is in office, the greater the probability becomes that they are “tempted” and get involved in something wrong. It also seems to me that the longer they are in office, the more aloof they become and the less responsive they are. They become too important for the people they serve. The Committee cited statistics demonstrating clearly the “power of the incumbency” and the more likely an incumbent is to be re-elected. While in office, they have so many opportunities to “fund” their re-election campaigns and this places them at an enormous advantage over any challengers. Look no further than the Burrell Ellis case. Think about it – how many time can you recall an incumbent running for re-election being defeated by a challenger? This also gives more people with fresh ideas to serve in government. Besides, we would likely have more people to run for office if there were no incumbent.

    I asked about extending the scope of these proposals to encompass the school system and that is a strong possibility. I would strongly favor a County-wide auditing group that could reach any agency funded by taxpayer funds. In the past, both the District Attorney and members of Dekalb County Government cited that the school system was a separate organization and was independent. That needs to change. We need an auditing group that is not controlled by the Dekalb County School Board or administration. No member of the school board or the administration should be beyond the reach of financial accountability and transparency to the people. I don’t know what is going on in the Dekalb County School System and finding any information is analogous to getting a root canal. Perhaps all is on the up-and-up, but the school system sure has avoided that “a-word” as in auditing. I don’t know about others on this blog, but my biggest issue with the Dekalb County School System is the lack of trust and transparency.

    I encourage everyone on this blog to support this group and its proposals. They will need to come before the Dekalb County delegation and Legislature where, no doubt, they will face strong opposition from the County Commission and the school board because, at long last, they would be accountable and what they now do in private would become transparent for all to see. The Blueprint Dekalb web site is http://www.blueprintdekalb.org/.

  3. Refugee from DCSS says:

    “What is wrong with the 46 % white population of Dekalb that remains. Why aren’t you making sure your voices are heard.”

    Because it’s a waste of time. Because if you’re white it’s assumed you’re a racist. Because if you’re accused of being a racist, you’re automatically convicted in the court of social media and your life and career are over. It’s just not worth it. “Thank you, sir, may I have another.”

  4. We have heard of this group, Howdy, and applaud their efforts. How exactly do they intend to implement their suggestions if none of them actually has any power to do so? Sadly, it reminds us of the many ‘citizen input’ groups that have come and gone over the years, having wasted their time concocting reams of ideas to better the school system and put in checks and balances. Why would the current (mostly underqualified) leadership really implement such things? What would be their motivation?

    We have watched as the “Blue Ribbon Task Force”, the “SPLOST Citizen Oversight Committees”, the “Charettes”, the “Citizen’s Task Force”, the “Triage”, the “Fireside Chats”, the “Grand Jury Recommendations”, etc have all worked very hard to produce fantastic (free) ideas and input – only to have it all tossed in the trash by the powers that be. In fact, we have concluded that the powers that be create these committees in order to give the squeakiest wheels some kind of (false) idea that they are going to make a difference. (Akin to tossing a bone to a frisky dog in order to distract him and get him away from you.) It’s all been a farce. Over and over and over again. People come and go as citizen ‘helpers’ but the top dogs with the top salaries remain. And they know this. It’s how it’s worked for years. Take for example, all of the work many of us did to push to see the results of the 2004 salary study of the school system conducted by Ernst & Young. Finally, after over a year, Ramona Tyson publicly promised a new salary study. She included a (fake) timeline and everything! NOTHING was ever done. Nothing. Nada. Zip. But Ramona still sits in her $165,000+ a year office and probably giggles at our collective naivete.

    We wish the Blueprint DeKalb folks the best. However, we aren’t going to hold our breath that they can effect change – without electing all new officials and replacing many top tier employees, which they have no power to do. Voters have to step up. People have to file discrimination lawsuits. The state and courts need to make the school system pay for promises made to teachers. We need fewer administrative ‘leaders’ and more classroom teachers and support staff. Major changes have to happen to the infrastructure – both in the county and the school system. They have both become nothing but wealth transferring jobs programs for friends and family (or as Burrell Ellis puts it “brothers and sisters”.) Sorry. The only thing that will fix what ails this county and district is to break it up into smaller pieces so that people have more local control and the troughs from which to feed are not so enormous and leaky…

    The vortex of DeKalb: A long, slow flush

  5. dsw2contributor says:

    Just a small clarification about your Dr. Ralph Simpson receiving the “Principal of the Year” award: it was not a vote, Dr. Simpson was selected by a palace committee.

    Each of the 5 DCS Regions first selected a “Regional Principal of the Year”. I’ve heard different stories about how this 1st round selection is made — some claim that the Principals voted on their peers, while others say the Regional Superintendents selected their favorites.

    Anyway, the five Regional Principals of the Year are:

    1. Ms. Melanie Pearch, Woodward ES
    2. Ms. Brown from Pleasantdale ES
    3. Dr. Hairston from Stone Mountain ES
    4. Dr. Tartt from Harris ES
    5. Dr. Ralph Simpson, Towers HS

    For the 2nd round, these five “Regional Principals of the Year” were interviewed by Tekisha Ward-Smith’s committee and that committee selected the winner – Dr. Simpson.

    I’m hearing that all five Principals are doing great things for Dekalb Schools. Dr. Simpson’s work has been highlighted by the Champion and the four elementary schools apparently all have shown dramatic improvements in student achievement.

  6. dsw2contributor says:

    Dekalb also gave out “Teacher of the Year” and “Educational Professionals of the Year” Awards. For the 1st round, the staff at each school voted for one of each…. then, for the 2nd round, the Regional Superintendent picked one of each from their schools.

    The Regional Educational Support Professionals of the Year are:

    1. Ms. Minnie Fedrick, Fernbank Science Center
    2. Ms. Angel Benson, Tucker MS
    3. Ms. Pamela Cool, Redan HS
    4. Ms. Cara Rutledge, Harris ES
    5. Ms. Sabrina Sawyer, Kelley Lake ES
      P. Ms. Robin Goolsy, Office of Legal Affairs

    The Regional Teachers of the Year area:

    1. Ms. Dacia Dixon Gillies, International Student Center
    2. Ms. Monica Taggart, Henderson Mill ES
    3. Ms. Celese Hawthorne, Hambrick ES
    4. Ms. Tanya Mason, Arabia Mountain HS
    5. Ms. Lisa Orlowsi, Columbia HS

    The 3rd round, picking a district-wide Support Professional and Teacher of the Year, was done by Tekisha Ward-Smith’s committee.

  7. Frustrated Dekalb Parent says:

    The county’s charter application is now online and there is one more chance for stakeholders to express their views on this option at the board meeting next Wednesday, October 8.

    I believe the search firm to find the next superintendent will be selected at the next meeting. Through the end of the year, the district will also be seeking input from stakeholders on the position. Finding the right superintendent will be crucial in the future success of the district so stakeholders, get involved in this process.

  8. dsw2contributor says:

    And while I am on the subject of excellent teachers, Kittredge sixth-grade earth science teacher Susan Oltman is a Georgia finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST)

    Ms. Oltman is one of only three (3) teachers from Georgia to be state finalists, selected by the state DOE.

    Ms. Oltman described the process as: “There is a lengthy application: a video recording of a lesson up to 45 minutes, you make notes of your instructional and assessment strategies, what makes you stand out and how you meet all those different objectives. You also need formal letters of recommendation, one from your principal and two more from professionals in the science field, former students’ parents, and things like that.”

    Source:
    http://thechampionnewspaper.com/news/local/science-teacher-finalist-for-national-award/

  9. Nikole says:

    I work in a Region 5 elementary school and I have to tell you that it is an extremely difficult situation to work in. I am disgusted by Dr. Simpson’s previous actions and thought that his book was of VERY poor quality. (It was really bad. Like, not good at all.) And at the same time, proud of the work he’s done at Towers. I’ve been in this Region for 9 years and there are some positive climate shifts happening there. He’s a dynamic speaker and I’m sure that came across in the interview part of this process as well. That being said, I’m not familiar with the rest of the candidates, so I don’t know how much better of a job one has done over the other. I’m simply stating that we shouldn’t discredit his current good because of his past.

  10. Charm says:

    When Ernst & Young did that forensic audit in 2004, one of the recommendations that was made, was that the person over HR must be a professional HR personnel. Why waste money for an audit and when recommendations are made, it is not carried?

  11. Ernst & Young did NOT do a forensic audit in 2004 or at any other time. (They conducted a salary study in 2004, which showed millions in over-payments to upper staff and was promptly tossed in the trash by Dr. Lewis who was appointed superintendent after superintendent Johnny Brown, who ordered the audit, was fired.) Forensic auditing is a blend of traditional accounting, auditing, and financial detective work. A forensic audit specifically looks for financial misconduct, abusive or wasteful activity. A forensic audit is the application of auditing skills to situations that have legal consequences. This is exactly what DCS does not want us to know. So, they say they will do it, knowing people’s memories are short and the requests for such an audit will die down.

    DeKalb County Schools does not dare let us know what they are doing with our tax monies — state and federal. If DCS was honest and had nothing to hide, they would have an open, online checkbook. If DCS was honest and had nothing to hide, they would prepare and publish detailed and understandable budgets. If DCS was honest and had nothing to hide, they would provide real, detailed and timely information from Human Resources. If DCS was honest and had nothing to hide, they would show exactly, detail-by-detail in a timeline when, where, and how so-called budget deficiencies (followed by “excess” funds) come from. If DCS was honest and had nothing to hide … but they aren’t and they do. DCS is NOT about teachers, classrooms, or educating children. DCS is a jobs program funneling tax dollars into the pockets of friends and family.

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    Read up on the story of the audit in old posts from DSW1 >>
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/11/its-time-for-that-salary-audit.html
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/05/ramona-tysons-report-on-2004-ernst.html
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/05/back-to-topic-of-ernst-young-2004-audit.html

    By May 30, 2011, we will develop a request for proposal to conduct a compensation study partnering either with a college or university or a company that specializes in organizational structure/compensation study. – Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson, May 9, 2011.

  12. howdy1942 says:

    I’m sure that there have been other organizations that have tried to reform Dekalb County, but I don’t think there has ever been a time when so many residents of Dekalb County have been so embarrassed, ashamed, and frustrated by what is happening now and what has happened since we entered a new century. Our County has drawn national attention for all the wrong reasons and we have become the butt of so many jokes that make few of us laught.

    It has been very, very clear to me for some time that we must clean up our County and our school system. The absolute mess at both has divided our communities, created new cities, driven away new business, lowered property values, driven out existing business, driven out residents, and is played out daily on television and in the newspapers. Just think about how many of our taxpayer dollars have been spent on lawyers against charges brought against our leaders, defending against lawsuit brought against the school board by its own teachers, defending against the results of poorly managed contracts, paying severance packages (hush money) to fired superintendents. and on and on. I don’t know of any other serious effort than that of Blueprint Dekalb that is working to address these problems.

    I suspect that the problems that we are seeing at the County Commission are likewise pervasive at the school board. SACS cited that in its December 18, 2012 report. The school board won’t allow an audit to allow even the least amount of transparency. The school board won’t listen to our residents – it is tone deaf! The school board and the Commission have long been arrogant and conducted themselves as being “above the people”. We need to change that. Force an audit. Impose term limits. Create ongoing independent oversight. Establish a transparent government that doesn’t given anyone any “walking around money”. I’ll assure you I consider not a single dollar of the taxes I pay to be frivolous or “waling around”.

    I am but one person, but I am going to get behind this Blueprint Dekalb effort as I have the efforts to create new cities. It was very encouraging to see at least two members of the Dekalb County Delegation present at Tuesday night’s meeting and to see that this organization represents all areas of Dekalb County. I can’t help but think what Dekalb could be today if we had been able to achieve 10 years ago what Blueprint Dekalb is trying to achieve today. I have little doubt that the State Legislature is growing weary of spending so much of its time addressing issues that are unique to Dekalb and, unless we find a way to fix our County and soon, then I think that the State may well find a solution for us. Dekalb is just too strategically important to the State to allow things to just go on as they are.

  13. So, anyone taking bets if John Coleman (Governor Deal-appointed DCS board member who has been MIA for a while now; connection: Coleman’s wife worked for Governor Let’s-Make-A-Deal) will show up for Wednesday’s school board meeting? Can Stan Jester just go ahead and step in early so that District 1 can have a voice?

  14. Just Wondering says:

    Do we have hope?

    When I first started as a teacher in DeKalb, I had the honor of working with some veteran educators. They shared knowledge with me and some tremendous teaching tips. They kept up with current trends but also knew a lot about the history and culture of our school and DeKalb. Most of the educators had taught for 20 plus years. Some of them had taught more than 30.
    Two of the very best teachers at my school left to go to other school systems. We are friends and we keep in touch, Because they could make more money, they left to go to other counties. In talking to them, it is not that the other counties are so far ahead of DeKalb. In fact, they both admit things that they feel we do better. Other than our principal, no one in a leadership capacity talked to them about why they were leaving DeKalb. They are now both in school systems that either have TSA accounts or pay into Social Security. One of the teachers had been teaching for ten years and the other for five years. One of them said to me:” I was losing my hope that we would ever make more money.’ Do we still have hope in other ways? That is my question.

    As a veteran teacher, I am glad to see new people come into education. At the same time, I regret that we seem to be losing our veterans. Are we doing the right things to keep our veteran or our mid career educators?
    On the Clark Howard show the other night, he shared some information about ways that hotels were trying to improve. They were looking at comments posted on Yelp, Google, and other sites to see the comments that people were leaving about their hotels. They were using that information to determine areas that they may need to improve. He said they realize their time and resources were better used in not trying to file a lawsuit against the sites, but taking time to read the information.

    As I have said before other than doing numerous evaluations on my principal, I have never been asked to give my feelings about any other part of the school system. Neither of the excellent teachers that left my school left because of the principal. I wonder if anyone wants to hear the truth. It is important to hear the good things. DeKalb does many good things. It is also important to have a way to express concerns and needs.

    I have a good friend whose school got a new principal this year. About once a month at the end of the day, they have a meeting. Each staff member MUST stand up and say something good about the school. He says that they do not get to ask questions or share concerns. After they all say something good, the meeting is over. The day ends and people go home. He says that he doesn’t know if people are sincere, or they just say things so they can go home.

    I hope as we move into 2015, there will be a way for our voices to be heard.

  15. momfromhe11 says:

    @JustWondering,

    Your post makes me sad. I know you speak the truth, and I hope DCSS is able to treat you all the way they should, Mr. Thurman said the other night that he reads the blogs, but he just ignores the stuff he perceives to be “negative”. This makes me REALLY sad.

  16. Also from the State of the System address, about 10 question cards on the subject of cities and annexations and how they might affect the schools. Thurmond said that it is all politics and until someone hands him a new map, he will continue to provide an education for the students of DeKalb County Schools as they exist today. He went on to say that he does not’ believe the city of Atlanta is interested in annexing anything. It’s jut politics.

  17. For @Just Wondering: I retired in June 2013. A few months earlier, I was one of about 10 teachers interviewed as a group at the County Offices by some gent who was doing a study on what the county could do to improve student achievement. We mentioned all the things that are being discussed on this blog, except perhaps charter schools. Virtually everything we said was agreed to by all of us making comments. To my knowledge, the results of that study have not come out, and, certainly, our concerns have not been addressed.
    As for Mr. Thurman ignoring the negative stuff, I believe it. Otherwise, he would have spent some time actually addressing real concerns instead of wasting time trying to spin the little he has one into something significant. When he first came in as Superintendent, I listened to him and had some hope. But the reality is that like most politicians, he just talks a good talk but gets no real results.
    All I can say to him is this: The stuff may be negative but that does not make it false! You are a fool to ignore it, and anyone who believes anything you say is a fool too!

  18. former dekalb parent says:

    saw a post on Facebook – Tucker, the Good, the bad and the ugly, that the Smokerise Princial was led out of the school Friday in handcuffs.

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