The short answer is no. The more in-depth answer is we do not know. I have poured over the available data of her district in Ohio, and what I saw was not surprising. An urban, poor school district struggling to teach its kids. This is not an anomaly. There are issues like poverty and race that cannot be solved by superintendents. Those are societal issues that filter down and affect many levels of our society. As outsiders we are looking at data and trying to determine what our outcome may be based strictly on test scores from a district that we have no intimate knowledge of. No administrator is a miracle worker. All they can do is put in policies and procedures that foster a healthy environment that will eventually produce success. Lets face it, minority districts with large numbers of students living in poverty take time and resources. No one should expect her to turn around her district in four years, and they should not expect it here either. In all professions, be it school systems, private companies, or even sports organizations, decisions based on who to hire is much more complex than raw data. We need to judge this candidate as a whole and not via pieces and parts based solely on numbers. What concerns me more than the test scores of the students in her district, is the fact that she has moved around a lot. That makes me wonder if she will stay committed to DeKalb for the long-term, say a decade or so. If she could stay committed and turn around the system without cheating like what happened at APS, then she will be able to write her own ticket. I am not going to let test scores be the primary reason for not accepting her as superintendent. We do not have to settle, but we do need to move forward. I am sure there are better candidates out there, but who can say that those candidates want to be here. Time is running out a decision needs to made real soon. Unless something shockingly gross comes out, I would be willing to give her a chance. That’s just one mans opinion though.
On another related note, I am not hearing much from my brethren down here in South DeKalb. Whether you agree with the boards choice on this or not, you should let your voice be heard. It’s pointless to cry after the fact. And please attend the meet and greet.
School started this week, and I have resisted writing about my experience taking my son to his first day of Pre-K at R. McNair DLA. I will say that I was pleasantly surprised but that’s all I will say. I want to wait and see how things go for the first few weeks before I formulate an opinion of the school. So with that said, the folks at the DeKalb School Watch blog have posted a poll wanting to know how parents feel about the school system. I have added my input and I hope you would do the same. Those guys over there really have their act together, and I bet the info they get from that poll will show up at a board meeting one day. here is the link to the post.
And here is a direct link to the poll
It has been a while since I posted, but there are two things that everyone is talking about and I want to chime in on both
I think any of us with a functioning brain knew that DeKalb taxes were going to go up. I don’t see how it could have been any other way. I am no anti-government squawker who believes all government is evil, but I will say that unlike private sector companies, and unlike individual’s, governments just have to vote in order to increase revenues. They don’t need to take on an extra job, they do not need to change their product line or shift their marketing strategy. They just have to say yea and it’s a done deal. That is how I knew it was a done deal. And even when they lower taxes as a gesture of “we care”, it rarely equals the increase they forced on us in the first place. I believe that taxation is part of the societal contract that we have with one another. There are certain things, like public safety, I do not want turned over to private enterprise, and the only way to pay is through taxes. I do want to see better management of the funds they do collect. Though the CEO touts he has cut some 100 million from the previous two budgets I think he can do a little more. I wrote a post last year about the Georgia State study that said DeKalb could shed nearly 800 positions and still provided a decent level of service to all citizens. I would like to see the CEO put those recommendation in place. He asked us to swallow an increase, the least he could do is trim the fat in county operations. Also, I don’t think it is coincidence that the three dissenters in the group are all up for re-election in 2012. Here is where I have to wonder about motives. Of course Boyer would vote against a tax increase, that’s her thing. But Barnes-Sutton and May make me wonder if they did the math and knew that they could dissent knowing that the increase would make it through, thereby giving them cover next year to say they voted against a tax increase. Barnes_Sutton may be trying to mitigate damage for the bad check scandal, and Lee May might have his eyes on an even bigger prize. It would not surprise me. The only one to vote for increase and is up for re-election was Kathie Gannon.
Everybody is up in arms about the APS scandal and the cheating on CRCT tests by teachers and administrators. It is a sad thing when people we trust our kids education with would betray them and us in such a way. They have sent a decade’s worth of children into possible poverty, crime, and hopelessness. Not all of the children touched by the scandal will end up that way, but I cannot wait until the report or documentary comes out examining what happened to the children who attended some of the schools with the most egregious offenses. That brings me to DeKalb and South DeKalb in particular. At the same time revelations about APS started to bubble up, DeKalb also was in the mix along with a few other systems. In fact, the principal at Atherton resigned and was arrested for falsifying documents in 2009. Now there is no proof as of yet that the state or the media found any systemic problems in DeKalb, but that does not mean it isn’t a problem. I do know that local media are looking harder at all the systems who were in the original report, so do not be shocked if DeKalb gets hit by this wave too. In fact this open letter sent to the AJC by the DeKalb County School Watch blog could stir up the hornets’ nest and reveal some unpleasant information. In the end, we do not know what these children would have done later on in their academic careers, but what these teachers and administrators did was to take from them the possibility of academic success. They passed them along knowing they were not properly prepared. These are men and women who turned their backs on the very children they were suppose to prepare for the harsh reality of real life. Instead of preparing them, they turned into a bunch of Judas’ and handed over these childrens future to the streets and ultimately the justice system.
Got this from the folks over at the DeKalb School Watch log.
I have spoken to several board members and they are hearing virtually nothing from citizens about the stalled superintendent search. Our silence is empowering those board members who refuse to move forward to remain entrenched. They received 1000s of emails about redistricting, they need to receive even more about getting a high qualify, proven leader for our school system.
The slow pace and lack of candidates or any news of candidates is telling. I wonder if people are shying away from this job. Can it really be that bad?
New Home Construction
If you have driven down River Rd lately you may have noticed signs advertising new homes for sale. Apparently the economy has come back with such a roar that the last bit of land cleared before the recession is back in business to sell you a new home. Now, unlike in the housing boom where they put houses up without a buyer in sight, it seems the builder is only going to build if there is a buyer in hand. The prices came down from 180-200’s to the 140’s. I find it hard to believe that a builder out there can get financing to build again especially in an area that was hit pretty hard with foreclosures and where costs of existing homes are half of what they are asking for these new homes. I hope they do well, because it would be a great sign that maybe things are once again on the upswing.
A new school Superintendent?
It seems the board and its consulting firm has given us three candidates to take over for the indicted and disgraced Crawford Lewis. The three candidates are scheduled to do a dog and pony for the public on Thursday. By now you know their names and their credentials and probably more. I went to the local media sites where all three live just to get a feel for how the media and the public views them. At this point it is a two-woman race from my vantage point. Mr. Culver has some issues that are not deal breakers, but at this point DeKalb schools do not need a polarizing or slightly dinged figure to come in and takeover. It will just add to the mistrust and lack of faith that the general public has in the school system. That leaves the other two candidates. The superintendent from North Carolina, Lillie Cox, would be the boldest move. I am not buying the argument that she comes from a small district. If you can lead a few successfully, then you should be able to lead many. Apparently she is beloved in her present job, and some are mad that she is considering leaving. But I doubt she is going to make the cut with the public or enough board members. Then there is Dr. Gloria Davis from Decatur Illinois. She will probably land this job because she is the safe pick that will cause the least amount of criticism. It is still early in the process. I hope the board and the consulting firm did their homework. I would hate to have someone hired and then find out they plagiarized their Doctoral Thesis.
School Board Takeover?
I found this poll on former mayor Shirley Franklins blog. When asked if they supported a takeover of the school board by a mayor or county commision, a mjority of voters agreed.
The survey of 595 metropolitan Atlanta voters commission by Blogging While Blue about various issues reveals that 54% of voters support school takeovers while only 30% oppose them.
While I would agree that if a board has become so dysfunctional someone needs to step in, I would rather see the requirements for becoming a board member increased. I cannot fathom someone who does not have a college degree serving on a school board. Having a conviction involving children or a felony should be an automatic disqualification. I would like to see more highly qualified professional men and women seek school board positions, not people who want to use it as a stepping stone to some other public office.
I am sort of neutral on where libraries fit into our digital culture, but I must say that I was totally impressed with twelve year old Sekondi Landry. Young Mr. Landry was not to happy that the Scott-Candler Library on McAfee was slated to close. So He decided to start a petition to save his library. Now I don’t know for sure that it was his petition alone that saved the library, but it made me feel all good inside to see a twelve year old get out and fight for something he believes in. Too many times our kids fight for the wrong cause. This kid was on the right side of a good cause. Things like that makes even a pessimist like me think there is hope down the road.
The AJC reported today that a lawsuit was filed in DeKalb Superior Court to stop the planned redistricting of DeKalb schools. Well that lawsuit itself is questionable(see images here and here). It seems John Evans of the DeKalb NAACP says that he did not sign on to the suit, nor did he give permission for others to use his name on the lawsuit. According to the AJC, five parents filed the complaint along with Evans. Looking at the suit, it seems that Latasha Walker is the lead plaintiff as well as several others including Evans. When I spoke with Evans, he said that he was not a willing or active participant in the suit, and has asked those who filed the suit to remove hos name by the end of the day or he will take legal action. He said he would not discuss any of the details of the redistricting or whether he supports the lawsuit until his name is removed. I did talk with a staffer at the DeKalb NAACP offices, and he too was surprised that Mr. Evans was a party in the suit. The question I have is how can someone just add you to a lawsuit without your consent or knowledge? I think someone has a lot of explaining to do.
Here is a copy of the complaint filed yesterday. A quick read of the document, and the first thing out of my head was that this was not filed by an attorney. Usually at the bottom, you will see the filing attorneys information. Also The AJC reported that one petitioner, Annette Davis Jackson, moved out of DeKalb to Gwinnett because her kids were kicked out of school. The complaint states that Ms. Jackson is a resident of DeKalb. I do not know if that is sworn testimony, but if it is then she has some explaining to do also.
The recommendations are out and South DeKalb neighborhoods fared better than expected. Two schools, Bob Mathis and Toney elemetary were spared the axe in a proposal by interim superintendent Ramona Tyson. Bob Mathis will have its attendance lines redrawn to take in students from Chapel Hill Elemetary, and Oak View will gain students from Chapel Hill as well. I did not see any information on changes, if any, at Toney ES. It seems Toney came out of this unscathed for now. Several schools in South DeKalb will be closed as a result of last nights proposal. Glen Haven, Sky Haven, Atherton, Peachcrest and Gresham Park will all be consolidated into other schools in the area. Columbia and Towers High schools will be getting students from Avondale High, which will continue to house the DeKalb School of the Arts. Columbia High will also pull students from McNair and Southwest DeKalb. Magnet schools will remain as they are, which was a core issue for many parents in the system. Livsey ES, the only North DeKalb school slated for complete closure, was spared. Some schools that got a last minute stay are not completely out of the woods. Tyson indicated that some of those schools could be closed after the next school year. Given the scope of how deep the school closures could have been, this seems to have been a compromise that benefits as many people as possible. Instead of 14 schools being closed only 8 were recommended for closure. Roughly 9000 students will be affected as opposed to the 16000 that were projected. South DeKalb will feel the brunt of the affected students, but that was to be expected considering the number of schools that were underutilized. One thing I did notice in this process was the level of parental involvement. Parents county wide were against the merging of the magnet programs. This seemed to have an affect on the decision not to consolidate those programs. Two schools, Livsey and Bob Mathis, had a vocal contingent that made clear it did not want its schools closed. Those desires did not fall on deaf ears. Save Toney ES, I cannot recall any of the schools slated for closure being vocal about saving their schools. If they were, they were drowned out by more vocal parents from other schools. Now the recommendations will go to public hearings and a vote by the board. I am sure there will be plenty of parents from schools scheduled to be closed who will beat down on the board and toss around accusations of fairness and the dreaded racism charge, but like I said earlier, schools with parental support seemed to have won the day. This should be a lesson for those of us in South DeKalb; get involved early and stay involved. There are going to be more issues that affect parents system wide, and those who stay involved throughout stand a far better chance of having their voices heard. Now it is time to see if the system can somehow improve the performance of its under-achieving schools. Here again is where parental involvement will be paramount. See the redistricting proposals here