Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Dekalb Schools’

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

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

Taxes

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.

Education

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 still looking for a superintendent

May 24, 2011 2 comments

DeKalb County School Watch: Still no superintendent –Have you emailed the board?.

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?

Can you reform poverty and ignorance?

May 2, 2011 Comments off

Snagged this from the AJC Get schooled blog. Its been around for a a week or so, but thoought it was well worth the read. No amount of resources will reform student achievement unless there is a change in mindset by parents. The most successful students have involved parents or guardians. The least successful students have parents who not only abdicate their responsibility towards education, they are lacking responsibility in most areas of their lives.

Are we asking too much of schools when we expect them to transcend indifferent parents? | Get Schooled.

Saquan lands at M.S. 223 because his family has been placed in a nearby homeless shelter. (His mother fled Brooklyn out of fear that another son was in danger of being killed.) At first, he is so disruptive that a teacher, Emily Dodd, thinks he might have a mental disability. But working with him one on one, Dodd discovers that Saquan is, to the contrary, unusually intelligent — “brilliant” even.

From that point on, Dodd does everything a school reformer could hope for. She sends him text messages in the mornings, urging him to come to school. She gives him special help. She encourages him at every turn. For awhile, it seems to take.

Meanwhile, other forces are pushing him in another direction. His mother, who works nights and barely has time to see her son, comes across as indifferent to his schooling. Though she manages to move the family back to Brooklyn, the move means that Saquan has an hour-and-a-half commute to M.S. 223. As his grades and attendance slip, Dodd offers to tutor him. To no avail: He finally decides it isn’t worth the effort, and transfers to a school in Brooklyn.

The point is obvious, or at least it should be: Good teaching alone can’t overcome the many obstacles Saquan faces when he is not in school. Nor is he unusual. Mahler recounts how M.S. 223 gives away goodie bags to lure parents to parent association meetings, yet barely a dozen show up. He reports that during the summer, some students fall back a full year in reading comprehension — because they don’t read at home.

Going back to the famous Coleman report in the 1960s, social scientists have contended — and unquestionably proved — that students’ socioeconomic backgrounds vastly outweigh what goes on in the school as factors in determining how much they learn. Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute lists dozens of reasons why this is so, from the more frequent illness and stress poor students suffer, to the fact that they don’t hear the large vocabularies that middle-class children hear at home.

Yet the reformers act as if a student’s home life is irrelevant. “There is no question that family engagement can matter,” said Klein when I spoke to him. “But they seem to be saying that poverty is destiny, so let’s go home. We don’t yet know how much education can overcome poverty,” he insisted — notwithstanding the voluminous studies that have been done on the subject. “To let us off the hook prematurely seems, to me, to play into the hands of the other side.”

That last sentence strikes me as the key to the reformers’ resistance: To admit the importance of a student’s background, they fear, is to give ammo to the enemy — which to them are their social-scientist critics and the teachers’ unions. But that shouldn’t be the case. Making schools better is always a goal worth striving for, whether it means improving pedagogy itself or being able to fire bad teachers more easily. Without question, school reform has already achieved some real, though moderate, progress.

What needs to be acknowledged, however, is that school reform won’t fix everything. Though some poor students will succeed, others will fail. Demonizing teachers for the failures of poor students, and pretending that reforming the schools is all that is needed, as the reformers tend to do, is both misguided and counterproductive.

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.

DeKalb school closure list revealed

January 4, 2011 11 comments
Updated this morning

DeKalb Schools has released possible attendance zones on its site as well as other documents pertaining to closures and redistricting. See them here. If you read the presentation, you should have a pretty good idea of what is proposed to change. The DeKalb site has been slow today, so you can  see the presentation here

The list is out and as expected South DeKalb could see many of it’s older schools shuttered. The AJC reported that 14 total schools are being considered for closing . The schools are Livsey, Medlock, Rock Chapel, Bob Mathis, Atherton, Glen Haven, Gresham Park, Sky Haven, Toney, Peachcrest, Wadsworth and Kittredge, Avondale High, and Avondale Middle, with the last two to be used as magnet schools. So let the arguing begin. Lets be fair here. Most of the schools that are on the list are in what I call “old” South DeKalb. No schools From the newer areas of South Dekalb, like River Raod, or Flat Shoals Parkway were affected.  These were schools built long before many of us were here. I hate to see so many South DeKalb schools on the list, but lets face it, those schools are not pulling their weight. They are under-used and are costing the county million to keep open. I say lets not dwell on the fact that we are losing some schools, but focus on making those that survive better. Don’t come to public hearings complaining that you want your school to remain open. Instead become more active in the school that your children will be assigned to. That will be more productive than screaming about how the process is unfair. The one thing that does bother me is that these buildings will be empty within the year and they will become eyesores to communities that have more than their fair share of dilapidated and broke down buildings. I hope the county will off set these losses to the community by either selling or auctioning off these surplus buildings. I would hate to see so many schools end up like the old Hooper-Alexander school with overgrown grass and a detriorating exterior. That to me would be a slap in the face to all of us in South Dekalb. Closing these schools will be a fleeting moment, but to allow them to become dilapidated and havens for criminal activity will have far reaching effects. let me know what you think. We know most of these schools will be closing, how should the county deal with this surplus inventory?

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.

Inside the numbers – BOE Elections

November 11, 2010 9 comments

OK, I looked at the precinct level numbers for the BOE election from earlier this month and they tell a better story about how some candidates fared. In district three,  Sarah Copelin-Woods did not cruise to a victory. Lets remember she got 51 percent of the vote. It looks bad because her opponents Holt and Wilson got 18 and 30 percent respectively. But if you look at from a precinct level, Woods only walked away with two precincts. In both she had a ten point differential between her and her combined opponents. She actually lost seven of the 25 precincts. I think it is fair to say she squeaked by. Also lets not forget that Robert Holt did no campaigning, and attended no forums. He pulled nearly 1/5th of the vote on name and dissatisfaction alone. Had he put an effort into this race we would be talking about a run-off in the 3rd.

In district 5, it was a wash. Jay Cunningham got 60 plus percent in every precinct save one, and in that one he got 57 percent.  The voters in district 5 are obviously happy with their representation.

In District 7,  Zepora Roberts won no precincts outright. In fact the closest she came to winning a precinct was a tie in Snapfinger Elementary precinct. In all the other precincts the combined opponents percent of the vote was double digits over Roberts. In half the precincts it was 25 percent or more. Roberts lost outright to Donna Edler in seven precincts. In Contrast, Edler lost four precincts to Roberts. In a nutshell, Edler, with thirty percent of the vote, is within range to unseat Roberts. Roberts has a heck of a hill to climb if she wants top keep that seat. When looking at the numbers, I have to wonder if Willie Mosley sucked votes from Edler or from Roberts. Mosley got 22 percent of the vote. If he sucked votes from Edler,  She will be a shoo-in to win. If he sucked votes from Roberts, we may have a WTF moment on December 1st. I spoke to Mr. Mosley and he has strong opinions about both candidates. He has a dislike for Roberts , who he sees as taking the schools in that district down among other issues, and he thinks Edler is unprepared for the seat. If he gets vocal, in the next couple of weeks I think he can get quite a few people to go back to the polls. We will have to wait and see if Enough people are upset enough to return to the polls on what will almost assuredly be a defining moment for DeKalb schools.

Finally a look at the numbers in district 9. Since this is a so called super district, it encompasses neighborhoods from the south and central parts of the county. Ella Smith essentially won the precincts above Memorial Drive, and Walker those south of Memorial. There were some notable exceptions. Walker one four precincts in the Emory area. Not only did he win them, he won them by double digits. He also ran a closer race in all the other precints than Smith did. Smith won ten precints by more than ten percent. Walker on the other hand won 44 by ten percent or more. Walker recieved at  least 40 percent of the vote in every precinct except one. Walkers strength was in South DeKalb precincts, but he ran strong enough in all precints unlike Smith. Walker was put back in office by residents throughout the district.

The numbers can be had if you go to DeKalbs website for elections here and download the statement of vote. Here are the excel documents I created from the election results database.

BOE-D7 Results

BOE-D3 Results

BOE-D9 Results

 

Mid-term elections: My final analysis

November 3, 2010 Comments off

Well the voters spoke and what they said spoke volumes here locally especially at the school board level. I have not seen turnout numbers yet, but it seems there were better than expected turnouts especially for South DeKalb.

The Republican sacrificial lamb went down in flames against Hank Johnson. I will admit, I was not surprised by the Johnson victory. After all this is an overwhelmingly democratic district. What was surprising was that Liz Carter did not get a higher percentage of votes. Historically, Republicans have gotten about a third of the vote. Carter got only 25 percent. She lost all three counties, but kept it close in Rockdale and Gwinnett. In GWX she won 43 percent and I Rockdale she won 47 percent. It was DeKalb that cost her big time. DeKalb was won by Johnson 79 percent to 20 percent. That is a pure rejection by DeKalb voters of the Republican candidate. I cannot wait to see actual precinct numbers. Carter showed her face at events in South DeKalb more than Johnson, so I would like to see how bad she actually did in southern precincts. These numbers confirm to me that no Republican no matter how moderate can win in the fourth short of redistricting which is coming soon.

Democrat David Scott cruised into another term taking out Republican challenger Mike Crane by more than 2 to 1. Crane lost in every county in the district. The only county where it was close was Douglas, he was  just over 1000 votes behind. The rest were a wash. The Secretary of State’s office is reporting that as of lunchtime Wednesday, only two-thirds of Cobbs vote had been recorded, but I doubt there are enough out there to change the outcome.

The two races above and the 5th district with John Lewis tells me that Democrats have a stranglehold on certain districts, and they can rest assured that those districts will deliver to the Democrats quite reliably. Now let’s see if the Democrats return the favor. To see just how the Democrats have DeKalb in their pocket, consider this; of the major statewide races (Gov., Lt. Gov., SOS, AG, Insurance and Agriculture Commissioner, Labor Commissioner and State School Super.), every Democrat running for those offices got 70 plus percent of the vote.

 

I did not cover the Governor’s race to tough because after the primary it was obvious which party was going to be in the state capitol. What I do want to touch on is redistricting. The Republicans hold all the key statewide positions that influence how districts will be drawn. With Georgia’s population growth in the last decade we are going to get at least one additional House representative and possibly a second. If that’s the case, districts will have to be redrawn. Democrats are going to have a tough time getting districts drawn anywhere near what they want to see. And although the Obama Justice Department has to approve any possible redraw, it is going to be very interesting to see where we all fall in the new order. DeKalb which covers parts of four districts, could see drastic changes in the next year or so. Watch the 13th. People do not like how it meanders around the perimeter from South DeKalb To southern Cobb County. Also watch the 4th. One representative is rumored to want to see the sixth drop further down from its present borders.

Now to the school board. When I first saw initial results on election night around 10 pm I was livid. All of the challengers were behind and behind big. Within a couple of hours the numbers had started to settle and things did not look too bad. As it stands now, no incumbent was defeated outright. District 1 and 7 are going to a runoff. District 3, 5, and 9 are wins for the incumbent. If all things hold as they are, only two seats stand a chance at changing. To me that is not enough. It says overall the citizens are satisfied with the direction of the school board. Donna Edler came close to unseating Zepora Roberts, but fell short. In district 1 Nancy Jester finished at the top but could not clear the 50 plus 1 hurdle. Two things about the run-off in both districts. In both, the incumbent actually received less votes. In District 1 if you combine jesters totals with that of Merope Gillis, the voters actually wanted Jim Redovian out. The voters who wanted Redovian out just split on who they wanted. The same was evident in the 7th. Sixty-one percent of votes cast were against Zepora Roberts. If these trends hold those two seats are gains for those who think it is time for a change. The second observation is will enough voters remain discontent and return to the polls to deliver the message they sent on Tuesday. After all people wanted to see something change in those two districts. If bad news continues to flow out about DeKalb schools then the challengers can win. If the fight is gone and people do not show, the incumbents can get more of their people to the polls and that means sure defeat in the run-off for Jester and Edler.

A couple of other things on the board. Jay Cunningham received 64 percent of the vote in district 5. A man with a felony theft conviction and possible conflicts of interest should have had a rougher time than he did. What is really depressing is that there was one a possibly two candidates that were clearly qualified to do the job. In the past SACS has said that accreditation was not on the line in DeKalb. The also stated they wanted to see how the lections turn out. If none of the challengers’ win in run-offs, will this affect SACS view of the system.

 

DeKalb Results here: http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/Voter/pdf/GEResult11102010.pdf