Sunday morning food for thought

Nelson-Mandela-Quotes_www.ActivatingThoughts.blogspot-3_t580We have long skirted the issue of true equity in DeKalb County, GA.  School system (and county) leadership ignore the fact that their decisions, which often enrich themselves personally, can cause irreparable harm to young black students and their parents. Decades after integration, DeKalb County Schools is still a system with unequal access to a quality education and all that accompanies a quality education including multiple career and college opportunities. But due to the fact that school leaders have all been African-American for at least a decade, one can conclude that the lack of equity is economic as well as racial.  Today, our poor black students as well as immigrant and Hispanic students are suffering a great lack of equity at the hands of black leaders. All too often, we simply allow the ‘justice system’ to take over where school systems are failing. This does nothing to improve outcomes and in reality, is killing the futures of thousands of young people in DeKalb and Georgia—mostly African-American young men.

It is the job of our schools and school leaders to prepare our young people for success  as adults and consequently a better life than enjoyed by their parents and grandparents.  Following nearly 30 years of federally enforced integration and a decade of black leadership at the helm, we are failing at properly preparing thousands of young people.  DeKalb County Schools is crushing their hopes and dreams for a middle class life.

It’s that creeping implosion of the black “middle class” that’s driving the politics of DeKalb County and DeKalb County Schools. And driving down the opportunity for a competitive world-class education which opens the door to social mobility for all — black, white, Asian, Hispanic, other.

All the data shows widening disparities between black and white incomes, college-completion, overall wealth, home ownership and access to good jobs. In fact, the Washington Post tells us that the income gap hasn’t budged in 50 years for most blacks.

Unfortunately, this “creeping implosion” seems to breed a type of politics that only makes matters worse. Our school leaders, Thurmond, Walker, Johnson, et al are unable — or unwilling — to grasp what is happening, because they have basically set themselves up as slumlords, with no apparent ability — or willingness — to see what is really happening to their increasingly impoverished base. They themselves, however, collect top salaries — at a minimum — and enjoy an upper-middle class life. They themselves, serve as appeasement to the black community by the white power structure of Georgia politics. And sadly, with plenty of money in their own pockets, they are content to serve as such.

True, this is not unique to DeKalb County Schools.  But what is unique is that today, a vast majority of our system leaders and administrators are African-American and they are still unable to get the job done. They blame parents, home lives, economics, transiency, special needs and English language learners, along with the white minority in DeKalb County. They won’t even address issues facing Asian or Hispanic students or ELL immigrant students from war-torn Africa and the Mid-East.  DCS leaders and senior administrators all too easily place blame everyone else, and therefore, without taking responsibility, never move forward to try to solve the problems. Worse, in their self-aggrandizing way, they exhibit group hugs, cheering and back-slaps for the perceived ‘good job’ they are doing. Yes, small crumbs of success have occurred; like a nudge up the SACS ladder of accreditation and collecting more in tax revenues with an ability to squirrel away a portion of it in reserves–but student achievement is still dismal and many schools are still highly neglected and over-crowded.

The cold, hard fact is, it is their JOB to educate ALL of these students. This requires moving funding from the central office to the classroom, spending more in some of the more needy classrooms than in others, focusing laser-like on removing the hurdles that make learning so very difficult for so many. This their JOB!

DeKalb County Schools senior administrators are paid very well to do their jobs and they have plenty of resources in spite of their public whining.  In today’s very diverse society, there is no single method that will work for all.

Ask any successful classroom teacher.  Teaching is hard work.  It is not “wash, rinse, repeat” day after day.  Successful teaching today requires openness to innovation and access to new ideas as well as the materials and technology to bring ideas to life. It requires a support staff. It requires love, patience, kindness, tolerance and energy – loads of it. In today’s world it requires access to technology for all as well as a plentiful bounty of books, supplies, and relevant, current student-achievement data-mining tools.

A new article in the New York Times, “Racial Terror, Fast and Slow” by Michael Eric Dyson shares insight into the terror of the black experience and clues us into the fact that “things” (stereotypes) have not changed much >>

Fast terror is explosive and explicit; it is the spectacle of unwarranted black death at the hands of the state, or displays of violence directed against defenseless bodies.

Slow terror is masked yet malignant; it stalks black people in denied opportunities that others take for granted. Slow terror seeps into every nook and cranny of black existence: black boys and girls being expelled from school at higher rates than their white peers; being harassed by unjust fines by local municipalities; having billions of dollars of black wealth drained off because of shady financial instruments sold to blacks during the mortgage crisis; and being imprisoned out of proportion to our percentage in the population.

Education can be an excruciatingly slow “terror” as described by Dyson for many young people. However, in truth, education is the only pathway to self-reliance and self-pride.

Our educational leadership has had the opportunity to affect change in the public perceptions of young black American citizens and yet they have not moved the needle. Our young citizens deserve a career they can be proud of. They deserve a job that allows them to provide for their families and encourages keeping those families intact. They deserve to walk the streets unafraid. The only way to this reality is to fully bring thousands more young black lives solidly into the middle class.  Education is the key to unlocking that door.

DeKalb County Schools, in collaboration with county leaders, have the opportunity to show the rest of the country how its done: regardless of race, income, religion, home country or language. All of our young people can bring something valuable to the American table.  We must all sit down together and identify the many pathways to get us there—and the heart, not the skin color of our leaders is what matters in this endeavor.

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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 Budget Cuts, Crawford Lewis, Criminal / RICO Trials, DeKalb County, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, Education in the South, Michael Thurmond and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Sunday morning food for thought

  1. Others in the country are working hard to start a discussion and light a fire for young people. Check out this latest podcast from the Huffington Post Magazine >> Passion Project: The Quest to Light a Fire in the MInds of America’s Youth

    IMPACT | The Future Project: How Two Young Social Entrepreneurs Are Trying To Close The Inspiration Gap In American Schools
    “I said to him, ‘What’s your passion? What makes you excited?” Mangino, now 28, recently recalled. “He said he had never been asked that question before.”
    By Jaweed Kaleem

  2. Along the lines of lighting fires — take a young person to an Atlanta Museum this week! Have you wanted to take your child to a museum but find it too expensive? Are you a Big Brother or Sister? Do you have a young person you mentor? Click below for a listing of all Atlanta area museums offering a two for one deal April 25 – May 1.

    Atlanta Museum Week

  3. As a really good example of finding a different way to teach, watch this Ted Talk by a very clever teacher and learn some basic Chinese characters in 5 minutes!

    In fact, instead of showing random movies in classes when there’s a bit of down time – if you have the ability to project from the internet, why not show a TED talk? These are all amazing bits of information on the arts, technology, humanity and entertainment.

    Or just have the class stare at the Northern Lights [found at Upworthy.com] for a 3 minute meditation >>
    http://www.upworthy.com/stare-at-a-time-lapse-video-of-the-northern-lights-for-3-magical-minutes

  4. And take a look at this wonderful after school program in Baltimore run by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra called OrchKids! They are truly saving young lives!

    http://www.bsomusic.org/education-community/young-musicians/orchkids.aspx

    OrchKids is a year-round, during and after school, music program designed to create social change and nurture promising futures for youth in Baltimore City neighborhoods. Under Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director, Marin Alsop’s artistic leadership and direction, OrchKids is the cornerstone of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s efforts to expand their relevance within the broad and diverse Baltimore community. In collaboration with several community partners, including Baltimore City Public Schools, OrchKids provides music education, instruments, academic instruction, meals, as well as performance and mentorship opportunities at no cost. OrchKids is inspired by Venezuela’s El Sistema, the music program that has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in the country’s most impoverished areas. Currently OrchKids works with five public schools in Baltimore City, serving close to 825 children from Pre-K through 9th grade.

  5. The Citizen’s committee is scheduled to present finalist in the superintendent search to the Board on April 23. The next scheduled meeting is not until May 4. Sign up to speak at the community input session at the May 4 Board Meeting >>

        The Board's work session is at 2pm in the Cabinet Room, and the opportunity for public participation is scheduled to begin at 5:45pm, in the J. David Williamson Board Room.  Citizens Comments will last for one hour (5:45pm - 6:45pm).  The business meeting will follow in the J. David Williamson Board Room, beginning at 7pm.
    

    To be added to the list of speakers contact the Board secretary :

    Margaret C. François, Administrative Specialist
    DeKalb Board of Education
    DeKalb County School District
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
    1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
    Stone Mountain, GA 30083
    678.676.0027 – Office | 678.676.0407 – Fax
    margaret_c_francois@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

  6. concerned citizen says:

    This is one of the most brilliant, insightful work done to date about the reality of the school system and county government itself. It is a staggering picture, and many of us still remember the good years DeKalb had and the high standards that were adhered to. All of that stopped in approximately 1975 as more and more Blacks came into leadership positions. There was actually major theft by the Title I leader, along with various principals, some of whom are now dead.They stole the students’ computers! Yes, they did. But, this thief was actually told by Freeman , “It’s OK; I know you didn’t do it.!” This is the same Freeman who came in to support Thurmond by insisting that indeed he had started the hiring of F& Fers! Well, it is true. He and a few other “protected” whites survived and even got to promote their families and friends, on a limited basis, of course. The vast majority of the jobs went to Blacks who became more and more arrogant and openly blocked the promotions of almost every White. All of this is true. People who have been around know it’s true. But, the Melvin Johnsons and Bob Freemans of DeKalb cared nothing for anyone but themselves and their F & Fers. It’s just too bad. Most people who care about schools and children have long ago left DeKalb County with its insidious greed and rank corruption. So disgusting…

  7. Here’s an example of our current random leadership – and a question. Over $75 million has been spent to date on something vaguely referred to as the ‘Bridge’ Initiative. There has been zero monitoring of its value, its progress or its ROI. The Bridge Initiative was just another expensive jobs program that died on the vine. Lots of smoke and no substance.

    Below is part of a letter to the Board and copied to our email box, that accompanied an Open Records Request for ROI on the Bridge. The district responded that NO DATA was ever collected on this very expensive program!

    … Superintendent Thurmond specifically promised there would be an accounting of where the money went and the effectiveness of the Bridge Initiative. These are explained within the PowerPoint which is still linked on the district’s website.

    The response to my Open Records Request is that there was no Return On Investment calculation done. In fact, there has never been an accounting of the monies spent related to the Bridge Initiative. The proposed budget was in excess of $75 million. What money was spent and how was it spent? How did that money benefit the students?

    Superintendent Thurmond has continued the DeKalb County tradition of promising accountability and never providing any.

    The district needs new leadership. The district needs leadership which is not afraid to be held accountable for the promises it makes. No one who is currently employed within the district should be considered as a serious candidate for superintendent. The entire administration continues to fail the students, teachers, and taxpayers and that has to stop.

    What we currently have, dear readers, is called “Stab in the Dark Leadership”… We simply can’t afford it. We need a leader with a tried and true record of improving outcomes for students.

  8. This “Bridge” Initiative was just old, recycled ‘problem’ statements from past superintendent’s initiatives and repackaged into yet another, stab in the dark at solving these chronic issues.

    Strategic Problem

    DeKalb County School District’s failure to implement a comprehensive strategy designed to bridge growth and achievement gaps has negatively impacted college and career readiness of students from low income families

    Hmmm. Where oh where have we heard those words before?

    How about “Premier DeKalb District-Wide Parental Involvement Framework by Dr. Crawford Lewis, former superintendent fired for being charged with racketeering and other charges ” http://slideplayer.com/slide/759116/ (Almost every player is no longer with the school district)

    Or how about Triage! That’s what they called the plan to improve test scores in July, 2011. http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/07/triage-thats-what-theyre-calling-plan.html

    Or maybe these words harken you back to the day when in a speech to the DeKalb Chamber, “Ramona Tyson said she’s focused on providing students and teachers with the opportunity for a “safe and positive” learning experience. … Introducing Tyson, school board Chairman Tom Bowen said the board is focused on accountability, change and educating every student.”

    And we are all still waiting with baited breath for the full forensic audit long-ago promised by Ramona Tyson – complete with a very specific schedule for production >>> http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/05/ramona-tysons-report-on-2004-ernst.html
    (BTW – it never happened, it was just all blow.)

    How about the fully ignored recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Task Force? The Citizens Task Force?

    Lest we forget to mention the Charettes! Another exercise in wasting your time!

    And we so enjoyed Cheryl Atkinson’s fake “100 Day Plan” after her “Fireside Chats” with community members. There went another superintendent – who quit or was fired and left with a $100,000+ parting gift. [before Lewis, Johnny Brown got a whopping $400,000+ to leave!]

    Overall, current $300,000 a year superintendent Michael Thurmond made many empty ‘promises’ to be included in his n’er to be submitted “90 Day Plan”… one of which was likely to be a forensic audit >> (Not!) https://dekalbschoolwatch.com/2013/04/10/so-wheres-the-plan/

    You see, the leaders of DCSD are very adept at making promises. It’s their specialty! But in reality, they have no earthly idea where to go from there.

  9. kirklunde says:

    Superintendent Thurmond doesn’t believe in accountability. If he did, substitute teacher vacancies wouldn’t be an issue and the ROI for the Bridge Initiative would have been done. Those are just two of a long list of items which this administration avoids any accountability or responsibility.

    If you don’t want one of the friends and family to be the next superintendent, please sign up to speak and say so. There needs to be a LOUD and CLEAR message from stakeholders demanding the next superintendent be from outside the district because the friends and family appear to be working hard to make sure one of their own stays in power.

  10. Looking over the FY ’15 budget yesterday in preparation for the proposed FY ’16 budget. Is the Board aware that graduation coaches (account 1000.178) were not included (funded) in the current budget? Weren’t they reinstated?

    Along that line of budgeting, check out the allocation of secondary counselors (account 1000.173).

    Southwest DeKalb H.S. – four counselors for 1,285 students (321 students/counselor)
    Elizabeth Andrews H.S. – five counselors and an enrollment of 674 students. (135 students/counselor)
    McNair H.S. – three counselors for an enrollment of 801 students. (267 students/counselor)
    Druid Hills H.S. – four counselors for 1,386 students (347 students/counselor)
    Tucker H.S. – four counselors for 1,851 students (463 students/counselor)
    Lakeside H.S. – five counselors for 2,053 (410 students/counselor)
    Dunwoody H.S. – four counselors for 1,679 students (420 students/counselor)

    There is no consistency in the allocation of high school counselors. And in fact, high schoolers in the north end of the county obviously have to wait quite some time for an appointment with their counselors as they are seriously over-loaded.

  11. Concerned parent says:

    This is a great piece. Thank you. The way I see it the issues in Dekalb come to down to our leaders having a lack of vision; which comes from not having business acumen. They simply have not learned, nor have they invested in learning anything about true success. No one seems interested in driving innovation, which drives measurable success. The status quo appears ‘good enough’ which makes no logical sense, given that those that do not adapt, in the business world, do not survive.

  12. Stand-by for the State of the District >>

    Join Parent Councils United this Tuesday, April 21 at 7pm as they present the State of the District Address featuring Superintendent Michael Thurmond. The event will be held at Clarkston High School, 618 N Indian Creek Drive in Clarkston.

  13. Frustrated Dekalb Parent says:

    I do not see this State of the District Address on the DCSD website and did not know about it. Even though the district may not be the sponsor, why not put it on their website?

    I went to the last one and it was just a love-fest for Thurmond and district supporters. Only good things happening were discussed, which in itself is not a bad thing for another time, but when discussing the state of the district, to not talk about all issues affecting the district, including the many, many “challenges”, I thought it was disingenuous.

  14. kirklunde says:

    I wonder if Superintendent Thurmond will discuss the thousands of times teachers are absent and there is no substitute, or the fact the district spent over $5.5 million in legal fees last year.

    When will legal fees stop being excessive?

  15. thedeal2 says:

    That information request is frightening. They couldn’t even put together something to suffice as an ROI for a hugely expensive program?

  16. @thedeal2 With these people it is important to read and know the law. The Georgia Open Records Act specifically states that agencies subject to the Open Records Act (public agencies such as DeKalb County Schools) are NOT required to create any new documents or reports. They are required to produce only those documents or reports they have prepared, maintained or received. But, wait! There is a fly in that ointment and the fly’s name is … Sam Olens, Georgia’s ELECTED Attorney General who, according to his senior staff, refuses to enforce the Georgia Open Records Act. Remember THAT the next time he is on the ballot! So, no, they did not have to even put together an ROI for The Bridge program or any other.

  17. kirklunde says:

    I think thedeal2 was frightened by the fact the district spent $75 million without tracking where it went.

    At least, that is what frightened me.

  18. Teachermom says:

    Just finishing our fourth day of testing hell. The school is on lockdown (not literally). teachers who teach lower grades are expected to keep young students quiet and in their room for hours at a time. The are little or no specials. You are lucky to be sble to find someone to watch your class in order to go to the bathroom because you are not to buzz the office for help. Students are expected to eat in their rooms and make no noise as they bring their trays through the hall. No accommodation or thought was given as to
    How to relieve teachers even though this probably violates workplace law. Recess outside or inside is not allowed. It would have been quite easy to relieve non-testing teachers for short 10 minute breaks. The tests themselves are another matter altogether.

  19. September says:

    This testing situation has been difficult. Everyone is stressed. The testing sessions are, in my opinion, too long. I don’t understand why the State didn’t take into account that people are human. Need breaks, lunch, and a chance to move around. We are working with children, not robots.

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