Posts Tagged ‘dekalb school board’

Will new superintendent be savior for DeKalb Schools?

August 18, 2011 10 comments

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.

Here is your official invite from DCSS

Some background info on Dr. Atkinson from DeKalb School Watch

DeKalb Schools approval poll

August 10, 2011 3 comments

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

Screwed on taxes, Screwed on Education

July 14, 2011 4 comments

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.

DeKalb schools listens to parents; two South DeKalb schools stay open

February 7, 2011 8 comments

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

DeKalb to remove 29 educators

January 27, 2011 1 comment

The CRCT test that has brought down Atlanta Schools has touched DeKalb. 24 teachers are being removed from the classroom according to the AJC. See the initial story here. The teachers removed will be assigned to non-teaching duties while the educators are investigated. Of course timing could not be worse with SACS breathing down our necks. Hopefully the district being out front on this will help the situation. The AJC reports that The 29 employees include five principals and five assistant principals. I have no doubt that a vast majority if not all will come from South DeKalb schools. And so the bad news continues. Here is a link to a story by the AJC that listed the worst schools for suspicious erasure marks. All of those schools were in South DeKalb.

DeKalbs redistricting will not fix an already broken system

January 25, 2011 3 comments

I attended the DeKalb redistricting meeting at McNair High last night and came away convinced that a consensus on what is best for students will never be reached. In the end many parents will be upset with the outcome because there can be no option that will please all. If nothing is done we will all complain about the complacency of the board. If they act they will be accused of acting without thinking. What we have here is a crisis in education where there is no magic bullet. Some of us will end up with the short straw. With that here are a few things I took away from the meeting.

  1. The centralized plan seems to be dead on arrival. Far too many in attendance was down on that option. If the board has any sense at all, that option will be off the table immediatley. I canot think of one group at the meeting who wanted any of the magnet prgrams moved to the ceneter part of the county.
  2. Keeping communities together was a recurrent theme for many last night. For South DeKalb, that is a battle lost. There are just too many neighborhood schools that cannot be kept open without some pain or consquence. I sympathize with citizens in these neighborhoods, but the alternatives are not much better. We cannot continue to support schools that have low enrollment with no foreseeable increase in the future. I talked with several Bob Mathis parents, and they were adamant about keeping their school open. One couple, who have no children in the system, wondered how this empty building would affect their property values. They wanted to know why the board had not considered moving students who are in trailers at Chapel Hill to Bob Mathis. Several people wanted to repurpose the school as a special needs diagnostic school like Coralwood or even add more Pre-K classess to make up for the short enrollment. I think we have to live in the reality of today. This is not 1963 where communities were close and people were raised, grew old and died in the same neighborhood. That is not a reality anymore. Demographic shifts are a determining factor here. If couples with younger kids are not moving into the attendance zone, it is going to be hard to argue to keep Bob Mathis or any of the schools slated for closure open.
  3. I do not get the magnet school concept. Growing up in Indiana, I do not recall special schools for certain educational concentrations. One school that focuses on the sciences, another on the arts. These were programs that were available to all students at every school. Some schools had more students in these programs than others, but it was located in the school where studenst of all abilities attended. I cannot fathom why each school cannot have a “magnet” program, or at the very least each cluster have several schools that offer these specialized offerings. It seems to me that the very idea of magnet schools goes against the belief of fairness that so many seem to espouse. having magnets promotes the us versus them mentality that is one of the core problems in the whole redistricting process.
  4. Many in attendance last night wanted to promote a slow down approach to redistricting. Demographic shifts mean that every once in a while lines ahve to be redrawn to accomodate those changes. Unlike fast growing counties, where an infulx of studenst mean new schools and a redistricting process, in Dekalb we face the opposite. Having fewer students means more buildings than we have students to occupy. Someone is going to have to bear that burden. The slow down or stop approach only means that parents, like me with a three year old,  will have to face that process later on down the road. Far too many people countywide have the mentality of don’t upset my comfortable situation, but someone is going to have to make concessions somewhere down the road, be it 2011 or 2017.

In the end, we have to ask ourselves; what is going to make for a better overall school system? Redistricting is not going to bring about wholesale failure or success to DeKalb schools. What is going to be needed, and will be much more painfull, is a change in the way we do business. We need to challenge students and parents, especially those of us in South DeKalb, to become more involved in the school where our children attend. We neeed to show that mediocre standards are not acceptable and hold everybody accountable including teachers and administrators. Schools should be about education not a pipeline to failure. Good teachers should be appreciated, and great teachers should be rewarded. Students and parents who don’t take ownership of their education should be left to deal with their failure. The whole idea of teaching to the least needs to be scrapped and replaced with the idea of punishing those who cannot meet minimum standards and by punishment I mean failing those who do not meet minimum standards. Trying to ensure that all children succeed no matter the consequences only brings failure to all. It is a cruel sentiment but it is one we have to accept. We cannot save each and every student. We can only provide an atmosphere that is conducive to success. If you don’t take advanatge of that then you are responsible, not the schools and not society. When this whole redistrciting mess is over and is only remembered by a few of us, we are still going to have to own up to the fact that far too many of our schools are failing. That is a fact that will have more and far reaching consequences than this redistricting process.

Fight over DeKalb redistricting will be ugly

January 21, 2011 5 comments

Check out this post and the comments at the Dekalb School watch blog. Apparently, Fernbank area parents are very well organized and determined to have their voices heard during what will be a contentious debate over redistricting of DeKalb schools. It seems that an e-mail circulated with talking points about how and what to say during the public input meetings happening this month. Here are the talking points:

Process Points to Follow:
1. Be on time, or better yet, be early.
2. Sit at a table (8-12 roundtops) with 1/3-1/2 Fernbank people.
3. Control the pen, control the mike, or better yet, both. Each table will have a “scribe” — be it. Each table will have a “reporter,” who will speak for 2 min. — be it.
4. When you get to “Option 3,” be clear and concise. Use Fernbank as an example of the larger theme — e.g., not breaking up long-established neighborhoods, moving kids to different programs, supporting larger schools.
5. When you hear a point that is consistent with our position, go ahead and applaud.

Substance Points to Follow:
1. We need a clear strategic vision first, before we implement redistricting for fewer, bigger schools.
2. With that vision in place, follow the Board’s own goals:
— don’t split in half historic neighborhoods, like Fernbank, where the building has supported the same neighborhood for 50+ years and the school’s many buildings have served Druid Hills for 90+ years.
— don’t move children from one kind of educational program to another, like IB. The IB program should be available to more students, not fewer. We support a larger school of 900 and providing more access to IB.
— the plan must account for future growth. Construction on hundreds of residences for Emory and CDC families is breaking ground this year. According to the Board’s own goals, those residences should be zoned to Briar Vista.
— the plan must provide safe, walkable environments and pay attention to traffic patterns, and not further clog the Clifton Corridor.
— decisions should be based on actual cost benefits, not on speculation.

Response on smaller issues:
1. We have no official position on location of magnets. If conversation at your table focuses on that, incorporate that concern into your points and MOVE ON.
2. If anyone suggests making Briar Vista a PK-K or PK-1 campus for Fernbank’s children, talk about 1100 students and families with multiple children driving back and forth and back and forth along Clifton Road during the morning rush hour. Enough said.
Finally, schools from our cluster will be there tonight in DROVES. Be there — for your friends, your neighbors, your children, and OUR school.

There were many comments to this post that were generally critical of the Fernbank parents and in particular of the talking points. I for one have no problem with it. I would much rather see people well prepared to deliver their argument, for or against, than showing up and ranting and raving based on emotions and no facts. South DeKalb parents who have a beef with the redistricting process would do well to draft a similar memo. It seems to me Fernbank parents will definitely be in the back of the minds of the school board when final decisions are made.

Here is a list of the remaining public meetings. Please try to attend one even if you don’t have a list of talking points.

McNair High School, Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 6:30 PM

Bethune Middle School, Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 6:30 PM

Stone Mountain Middle School, Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 6:30 PM

Smaller school board in Dekalb is not the cure

November 16, 2010 Comments off

Is the DeKalb school board too big to govern well? | Get Schooled.

I ain’t buying this one for multiple reasons. First and foremost, the number of representatives is not the problem, it is the quality of the board members. They can reduce to 5 members, and if those five will continue to do what they do today then nothing will change. Secondly, a school board is only as successful as the students and teachers in that the system turns out. BOE members from good school systems do not have the microscope of public scrutiny day in and day out. The three “bad ” systems of Clayton, DeKalb, and Atlanta are producing students who are  ill prepared to function in today’s highly technical and highly competitive world. It is not the board members  in Cobb or Gwinnett that makes them great, it is the parental system. On the whole, those systems have many more parents who know the value of an education, are educated themselves and demand the schools provide a quality education to their children. The parents are holding the board members to a very high standard. I would bet my last dollar that if you compared parental involvement in the five counties you will see Gwinnett and Cobb at the top. Finally, I worry when people want to pull representation from folks. You are going to take two board members and enlarge the pool that each board member represents seems to go against the idea of our representative democracy. If you really want to get a better board in DeKalb, increase the standards for those who want to run for school board. No community activists,  no parent who gets upset because their child was kicked off the football team. Make an advanced degree mandatory. Make working in an educational setting for some part of your career mandatory. If you up the requirements you get a better talent. Keep the bar low, and no number of members will up the talent level.

School board blast from the recent past.

September 27, 2010 6 comments

Doing some research about the DeKalb school board and came across this recap of and endorsements in the 2006 elections from the AJC.  It seems that nepotism, questions surrounding spending, and an out of touch board has been standard for years now.  The trend here is  actually worrisome, because it makes you wonder if dumping the present members will make much of a difference. Reading these excerpts showed me how little has changed in four years.I remember asking a friend years ago why would anyone want to run for public office. His response was “ego, thats what drives them”. I hope he is wrong. I thought this would make for good reading. Enjoy.

This from 11/16/2006

District 1 incumbent Chip Franzoni did not seek re-election. so in stepped Jim Redovian, a Dunwoody resident who ran unopposed for this north DeKalb seat.

Another fresh face arrives in January in the form of Tom Bowen, who beat fellow challenger David Anderson for the District 6 seat in Stone Mountain.

While Anderson, ex-husband of board Chairwoman Cassandra Anderson-Littlejohn, did not present much of a platform, voters apparently bought Bowen’s pitch that his experience as an attorney and certified public accountant would help the board.

By that same token, however, voters stuck by members who have been around for years….

District 7’s Zepora Roberts, who also sits on the executive board of the DeKalb NAACP, comfortably earned a second four-year term in this central DeKalb seat over challenger Sandra Gistarb.

But the biggest surprise came in District 3, with the most academically challenged schools in the county.

Eight-year incumber Sarah Copelin-Wood, facing three challengers in a race expected to head to a runoff, garnered enough votes to win the race outright.

“I hope the interest [in improving schools] continues, ” she had said before the vote. Now she gets four more years to encourage just that.

Finally, in a race that will decide whether the board gets a third fresh face, 16-year incumbent Frances Edwards faces challenger Jay Cunningham in a runoff for the District 5 seat. The outcome of the Dec. 5 race will largely depend on who mobilizes the most supporters to actually get to the polls, since this will be the only local race on the ballot.

Here are the endoresments made by the AJC from 10/31/2006

In their combined half-century on the DeKalb County school board, Frances Edwards, Elizabeth Andrews and Sarah Copelin-Wood have watched the system decline.

Most recently, board members botched the hiring and firing of Superintendent Johnny Brown, whom they had to pay $410,000 to go away. Charges of meddling and patronage by board members have also contributed to public mistrust. An audit of the $500 million SPLOST-funded school construction program found that neither the school system nor its management firm did its job thoroughly, leading to delays and likely overpayments.

It’s time for a change, especially as the financially strapped system looks ahead to a controversial redistricting, school consolidations and a campaign to persuade voters to embrace a third sales-tax initiative.

Six seats on the nine-seat, nonpartisan board are up for election, but only five are being contested.

In District 3, three candidates are challenging Copelin-Wood, who has been on the board for eight years. The most promising is Hayward Lamar Jr., who offers some management experience. As an involved Cedar Grove High School parent, Lamar has questioned the school system on standards and grade inflation and was on the task force to evaluate block scheduling.

In District 5, two motivated parents — Jesse “Jay” Cunningham and Wendell D. Muhammad — are challenging Edwards. Cunningham offers a peerless record of school involvement, including service as a PTSA president and on several school councils.

A restaurant owner, Cunningham is plain-speaking and direct and spends a lot of time in the schools. He reflects the impatience of many of his neighbors in south DeKalb over the failure to keep pace with growth and calls for better communication between the school board and County Commission.

In District 6, attorney and certified public accountant Thomas Eugene Bowen brings invaluable expertise in law and taxes. Bowen also chairs the Georgia Student Finance Commission, which oversees the HOPE scholarship.

His opponent, David Anderson, is the ex-husband of school board chairwoman Cassandra Anderson-Littlejohn. Two years ago, Anderson ran against his ex-wife in a messy campaign that degenerated into a soap opera, and District 6 voters ought to worry about whether their stormy personal history would undermine his effectiveness.

In District 7, voters ought to back one-term incumbent Zepora W. Roberts, who has demonstrated independence in her thinking and her votes. Her opponent, Sandra Gistarb, simply doesn’t make a strong argument to dump Roberts.

In District 9, Andrews has seen county schools change dramatically in her 28 years as a board member, but it’s not clear that she has changed with those times. She has a viable opponent in Colet Odenigbo, who quit his job as a juvenile court probation officer to run for the board.

A 14-year Navy veteran, Odenigbo wants to focus on keeping children out of juvenile court and in school, and he has the background to shape effective programs to do so.

Finally a piece with candidate bios and experience dated 10/26/2006

DeKalb County school board races this year feature 14 candidates vying for six seats on a nine-member board. Come January, newcomers could outnumber veterans on a board facing some of the biggest changes proposed for the 102,000-student system in decades.

As Superintendent Crawford Lewis readies those proposals, which include systemwide redistricting and a third sales-tax-funded construction program, all four incumbents running for re-election — including one in office for nearly three decades — face opposition.

The incumbents all tout their experience as a bonus. The challengers’ theme? Out with the old, in with the new. Most come from a reinvigorated south DeKalb, where crowded schools and construction needs spur parents to speak out at board meetings nearly every month. A local community group promoting the ouster of board members and the superintendent has endorsed challengers in four of the board races.

DeKalb as an urban school system has some of the best and worst schools in the state, a dichotomy it has struggled with for years. However, most onlookers point to the ouster of Superintendent Johnny Brown in 2004 as a catalyst for this year’s election interest.

In the two years since, an independent audit criticized both the school system and the management firm it contracted with for problems in the system’s school construction program, including delays and probable overpayments for work.

The system is still stinging from the hiring of a human resources director who was then found to have a criminal history. It also recently agreed to repay the state teacher retirement system more than $280,000 because six retired educators over the last two years worked more hours than legally allowed.

A breakdown of each race follows. The election is Nov. 7.

District 1

Two words: Jim Redovian. With incumbent Chip Franzoni deciding to move on, Dunwoody resident Redovian is the only person in this north DeKalb district to throw a hat into the ring.

District 3

Eight-year incumbent Sarah Copelin-Wood faces three challengers — Ann Brown, Hayward Lamar Jr. and Jonnathon Mason — in a race expected to lead to a runoff. District 3 in south-central DeKalb is the county’s most challenged. None of its middle or high schools met federally required academic goals last school year, although the problems have as much to do with poverty and social inequity as with learning.

Copelin-Wood probably will be helped by her longtime community activism, although she has angered parents over her handling of construction issues such as the new Leslie J. Steele campus as well as for what some consider her micromanagement of school staff. But her challengers say she’s no longer accessible to the community.

“It doesn’t seem like [area schools] are getting the attention they need, ” said Lamar, a father of three DeKalb graduates who was an unsuccessful board candidate in 2002. Mason, a DeKalb graduate and a student at a local Bible college, said people are “tired of seeing slow progress.” Brown, a grandmother active in community issues, substitute teaches in local schools and said all three challengers have a similar theme: “the failing schools.”

None of the four candidates boasts a bachelor’s degree. Lamar has been endorsed by Our Kids, Our Schools, Good Government — Georgia, the local anti-board group spearheaded by organizer and activist Harry Ross.

District 5

The southern corner of DeKalb represented by 16-year incumbent Frances Edwards is home to some of DeKalb’s most explosive growth. Here, crowding and construction nearly surpass academics as concerns. Delays and rising renovation costs at Southwest DeKalb High School have riled parents and students, while crowding at Martin Luther King Jr. High has resulted in the system’s commitment to building a high school at the nearby Arabia Mountain nature preserve.

Most parents understand the system is addressing needs as fast as it can as the area grows, said Edwards, who often takes a public role as a voice of moderation on the board. “I’ve been working in this community long before I’ve been on the board, ” said Edwards, whose two grown children work for the system. “My concern is not one that started 12 months ago. My concern has been over the last 24 or 25 years.”

But challengers Jay Cunningham and Wendell Muhammad both say Edwards has communicated poorly with parents. “She’s a good person, but she’s out of touch with what’s going on, ” said Muhammad, a father of five school-age children and a former campaign official for U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney. He has been endorsed by the Our Kids, Our Schools, Good Government — Georgia group.

Cunningham, a DeKalb graduate and high school basketball star, points to his experience as a “native son, ” former PTA president and local businessman. “You’ve got to be out in the community to hear what the parents are saying, ” said Cunningham, who has two of his four children enrolled in local high schools (the other two are in college). He said the system has fallen short in long-term planning.

District 6

Board member Simone Manning-Moon gave up this Stone Mountain area seat in May to spend more time on family issues, leaving the door wide open for challengers David Anderson and Tom Bowen.

Both have a past when it comes to school board races.

Local businessman Anderson failed in a bid for the board two years ago when he lost to ex-wife Cassandra Anderson-Littlejohn in a race marked by finger-pointing dramatics. Active with their two school-age children, Anderson now downplays any conflict and said he would have no problem working on the same board with Anderson-Littlejohn, who is board chairwoman. “People want results, ” said Anderson, who’s been endorsed by the Our Kids, Our Schools, Good Government — Georgia group.

Bowen, an attorney and certified public accountant, lost to Manning-Moon four years ago in an election runoff. He’s also been unsuccessful in bids for the state Legislature and the DeKalb County Commission. “I think I’ve gotten better gauging what needs to get done, ” Bowen said of his current race. “There’s a lot of good I can do. We have a board that is completely unsophisticated when it comes to financial matters.” He and his wife have a 3-year-old son.

District 7

Currently the board’s vice chairwoman, four-year incumbent Zepora Roberts has shown both an independent streak and strong loyalties in a system educating three of her grandchildren. In 2004, she was the only board member to vote in support of Brown before his ouster. Brown, who was the first black DeKalb superintendent, has supported her in turn, including a $500 campaign contribution in August. Roberts, in this central DeKalb seat, has also backed the current superintendent. A county resident for more than 35 years, she sits on the executive board of the DeKalb NAACP.

Sandra Gistarb has lived in DeKalb for 16 years and would be a newcomer to public office. Her four children have all graduated from college; two went through Redan High School. She previously served on the board of a private school in Seattle. “I really felt the board wasn’t being effective, ” Gistarb said. “I think they’ve lost sight of their real goals, ” she said.

Gistarb has been endorsed by the Our Kids, Our Schools, Good Government — Georgia group. Its leader, Ross, charged her a $130 consulting fee in August, but she said he advised her on how to get her campaign going and she did not know his group would endorse her.

District 9

One of the longest-serving school board incumbents in Georgia, Elizabeth Andrews touts her 27 years as invaluable. She was the first woman to be chairman of the board and has been active in system and county leadership roles. Serving in an at-large seat, Andrews, who is white, for years represented an overwhelmingly black area in south DeKalb. She’s been attacked in past elections, and a challenger’s 1998 flier calling her “witch-like . . . callous and cold-hearted.” But supporters say she calls it like it is. “Tenure equates to experience, ” Andrews said. “We want experienced teachers in the classroom, ” and the same goes for a school board, she said. “You never take anything for granted.”

Her opponent, Colet Odenigbo (pronounced O-de-nee-bow), is a native of Nigeria who quit his job with the county juvenile court system to run for office. “I just got tired of locking kids up, ” said Odenigbo, who said he came to the United States in 1986 before serving 14 years in the U.S. Navy. That Odenigbo is serious can be seen in his fund-raising efforts, which have surpassed the $33,000 mark. He has drawn support in the Nigerian community from Texas to California, although he is also pledging to limit any time in office to three terms. “There’s a cultural, generational change that takes place in schools, ” he said, adding that current “board members don’t have any relationship with their community except at election time.”

DeKalb School Board Candidates 2010

September 16, 2010 7 comments

Here is a short list of candidates running to unseat some incumbents at the DeKalb school board. I have had conversations with several of them, and I think each is qualified for the board. I think it would be a good move to toss out all of the members up for election. The turnover might do some good, and there will be enough members left so that we do not have a completely inexperienced board. I implore you to at least take a look at these people. Remember, the people on the board now are not entitled to those positions. Just as they were elected to serve, the can just as easily be yanked in favor of fresh leadership.

District 1

Bobbe Gillis



Nancy Jester



District 3

Corey E. Wilson



District 5

Dr. Kirk Nooks



Jacques Hall Jr.


District 7

Richard Gathany


Donna Edler


District 9

Ella Smith