DeKalb Schools Probation: 'A Lot Of Unhappiness About Board's Leadership'

DeKalb parents, leaders respond to the system's probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Monday's news that the DeKalb County school system was placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools did not come as a surprise to some DeKalb County parents.

"This isn't a surprise," said Mitch Leff, a parent in the Lakeside cluster. "There have been rumors about probation for the last several weeks. There's a lot of unhappiness about how the board is managing the district, especially when it comes to fiscal matters such as money spent on lawsuits and on executive salaries in the main office.

"I'm hoping that by being put on probation, the board will take it as a good sign that they need to make some serious changes and that this will be the impetus to move in the right direction."

"The news of probation from SACS is 10 years late but welcome nonetheless," said Kim Gokce, chairman of the Cross Keys Foundation. "Thank goodness the classrooms are NOT run by the Board of Education and the schools will continue to educate children."

"There is significant and irrefutable evidence that the DeKalb County School District is in a state of conflict and chaos,” said SACS Chairman Dr. Mark Elgart. "This failure to govern effectively has resulted in a decline in student performance, financial mismanagement, and lack of integrity and ethics in recruiting, appointing and evaluating personnel at all levels of the school system."

Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson's office responded by saying she has co-operated with SACS investigators and more than 300 central office jobs have been eliminated. "We not only had to deal with our budget and a deficit, we worked hard to address whatever concerns were brought," said Atkinson.

The district has until May 31, 2013 to make progress in complying with several issues that SACS identified.

"All of DeKalb has suffered under the poor governance of the Board of Education but in a highly political and corrupt system those at the bottom suffer the most," Gokce said. "With no influence from wealth or political clout, the communities served by Cross Keys schools are completely at the mercy of the system shenanigans and have not been served well by the Board of Education."

"In my opinion, state stewardship and a ground-up re-constitution of DeKalb Schools will be required to root out the corruption and mis-management that afflicts the system," Gokce said. "Meanwhile, the students and teachers continue their journey towards an education.

"Shame on the board. They tried to manage everything else except what they are sworn to manage."

SACS is requiring the system to:

1. Devise and implement a written, comprehensive plan for unifying the DeKalb County Board of Education so that the focus can become serving the needs of the children of the DeKalb County School District.

2. Ensure that all actions and decisions of the DeKalb County Board of Education are reflective of the collective Board and consistent with approved policies and procedures and all applicable laws, regulations and standards, rather than individual board members acting independently and undermining the authority of the Superintendent to lead and manage day-to-day operations.

3. Establish and implement policies and procedures that ensure segregation of duties of the governing board and that of the administration including the elimination of Board working committees that result in board members assuming administrative functions that should be the responsibility of appropriate staff.

4. Implement and adhere to fiscally responsible policies and practices that ensure the DeKalb County Board of Education will adopt and ensure proper implementation of budgets within the financial means of the school system and that support the delivery of an educational program that meets the needs of the students.

Baileyspet December 17, 2012 at 09:01 PM
What needs to be done is to elect some competent people to the Board of Education, then start with an all new administration for the schools. Ever watch the Board meetings on TV, what a joke. No wonder the schools are in such sad shape.
Tom Doolittle December 17, 2012 at 09:02 PM
"There is significant and irrefutable evidence that the DeKalb County School District is in a state of conflict and chaos,” Even Clayton didn't have that strong an indictment. Problem is that the four requirements to respond too were too subkective to end "chaos". Looks more like a bureaucratic exercise that would get "tried" in the media before any action would result. SACS does nothing. Any idea how long it would take to straighten or replace the board--then make meaningful changes where we want them--educating kids and readying them for careers?
Tammy December 17, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Jim Cherry would be mortified.
karol smith December 17, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Can the board be recalled and replaced?
Tom December 17, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Careers??? Are you joking? Most of Dekalb Co. "graduates" end up in Reidsville State Prison...
Crash December 18, 2012 at 09:13 PM
"Thank goodness the classrooms are NOT run by the Board of Education and the schools will continue to educate children." Are you kidding?!?!? The intent of the administration DOES effect the children's education. Do you think the administration wants the best education for your child?? They just want their FAT salaries and for you to be quiet.
Crash December 18, 2012 at 09:41 PM
"Thank goodness the classrooms are NOT run by the Board of Education and the schools will continue to educate children." Are you kidding?!?!? The intent of the school board and administration effects ALL of the students. The fact that some of the worst school board members are continuously elected indicts the intelligence of the citizens. The people who continue to elect ineffective school board members deserve what they get. The efforts of the people who elect effective district leaders are dragged down by the electorate who make poor choices, and elect poor district leaders, sad and true. The bar for those who run for school board should be raised or the method of voting should be changed. The fact that the Board members, and school administrators receive bloated salaries and encourage poor performance should be taken to heart by anyone who can read this. The administrators of the various schools get their marching orders from the board. Keep the high salaries of the administrators and keep the DeKalb County citizens quiet.
Eva Shaw December 19, 2012 at 05:22 AM
You nailed it. During Jim Cherry's leadership there were 1200 students for every administrative person. Ratio is probably 200-300 per fat cat. I'm glad my girls graduated during the 70's.
Betsy Parks December 20, 2012 at 04:10 AM
I've started the petition "Governor Nathan Deal and Georgia State Board of Education: Review SACS findings, if accurate REPLACE the Dekalb County School Board. " and need your help to get it off the ground. Will you take 30 seconds to sign it right now? Please share with your friends! http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-nathan-deal-and-georgia-state-board-of-education-review-sacs-findings-if-accurate-replace-the-dekalb-county-school-board
Interplanet Janet December 23, 2012 at 02:15 PM
A great reason to homeschool!
Betsy Parks December 23, 2012 at 02:34 PM
I agree Janet and after my oldest son graduated from Lakeside in 2011 we were delighted that Saint Pius X accepted our middle son. Two years later our daughter is a freshman. Tuition for two kids is over 22K a year. I really don't know how we manage each month but I feel like we are the lucky ones. Please sign the petition for all the kids who are not able to find another great school or have a parent who can homeschool. Please tell your friends, neighbors and parent organizations its not ok.
Kim Gokce December 23, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Crash: "Are you kidding?!?!?" I realize your question is rhetorical however I feel compelled to elaborate anyway ... no, I am not kidding. Poor system governance does have a corrosive effect on the schools over time the fact has always been, and remains, that our public school classrooms are run by teachers. They run the classrooms through the latest educational industry fad. They run them in spite of every bad idea floated down from administrators on how to run a classroom. The greatest truism I have ever heard about education is this: "Your child's school is only as good as their last teacher." There are many great educators in the classrooms of DeKalb County. There are many good schools in DeKalb County - in spite of the poor governance. I encourage everyone to maintain discipline in our expressed views on the system governance versus the classroom teachers - they are not one and the same. The Board is in trouble for poor governance of THE SYSTEM and OUR MONEY - not classrooms.
Tom Doolittle December 23, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Yes--and one needs to look into SACS effect on diploma credibility. Total nonsense that because our board can't manage money (or even might steal it) or hires friends and family that our classroom education can be called into question. When SACS went into the business of certifying governance (only a few years back--and no other organization does it)--colleges should have made a distinction between goverance decerts and diploma decerts if SACS wouldn't do so. However, if SACS had taken the diploma threat away from governance decerts obviously their power would be reduced. This is a crime and college associations should go back to "individual school only" decertifications.
Tom Doolittle December 23, 2012 at 04:52 PM
I believe there is already an "investigate SACS" movement...colleges themeselves are being impuned for irrelevant issues.
Crash December 23, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Dear Kim, My question is not rhetorical. I taught in DeKalb County schools for eleven years. The principals run the teachers. Everything is in lock step, from the superintendent to the cleaning staff. Last year about 15 black kids came to me as new 6th grade students. They could read and write maybe on a 3rd or 4th grade level. They told the principal, counselors, and whoever would listen that the reason they were failing my class was because I was a racist. They told the principal that I was only teaching the white students. They told the staff that I was only letting the white students go to the bathroom. I asked my co-teacher, a black woman, what was going on with these kids? She said, "They're playing the race card." The principal chose to believe them, and this year I did not get a contract. I am looking for work. It was easier for the principal to fire me than it was for the principal to deal with all of the parents who were unhappy that their child was receiving the grade they earned. If a teacher speaks out they get a bad evaluation and then their contract isn't renewed. If a superintendent has too many parents complaining about a principal, the principal is removed. The whole mindset of the school system is to appease anyone who complains, IT'S NOT ABOUT UPHOLDING A STANDARD OF EDUCATION! Why do you think parents are asking for and getting Charter Schools? There has to be an alternative to the existing public school system.
Lucy Mauterer December 27, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Can anyone find the actual document on the SACS findings? I have done several searches and come up blank. I'd like to read it in full before advancing any opinions.
Crash December 27, 2012 at 06:16 PM
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/news-and-info/press-releases/SACS-report.pd Here it is. It's worse than I thought.
Betsy Parks December 27, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Crash, I agree and started a petition. Please sign and Share! http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-nathan-deal-and-georgia-state-board-of-education-review-sacs-findings-if-accurate-replace-the-dekalb-county-school-board
Crash December 27, 2012 at 06:42 PM
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/news-and-info/press-releases/SACS-report.pdf I left off the last letter.
Lucy Mauterer December 28, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Thanks Crash. Just finished reading it. Does not sound as if many on the board have any idea what true leadership is. Sorry to hear that the new board members are following the same destructive pattern. Wonder what happened to all those new textbooks?
M Bryan December 29, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Kim, I totally agree with that truism. My daughter, now a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, was educated grades K-12 in DeKalb County. Several times I considered going with a private school - instead we went with private tutoring services to help with the subjects she had difficulty. She learned to take responsibility for her own learning and the great teachers - I can name each and every one of them - embraced her initiative.
Jonathan Cribbs January 04, 2013 at 02:06 AM
I imagine the data would show that a very small number of graduates and former students end up in that prison, Tom.
Cheryl Miller February 21, 2013 at 04:29 AM
Easier said than done. First you need competent people to run for office, which is near impossible when you have a state legislature that does not give your entire county an actual map that has approved voter district lines on it. Then, you must vote, but that's not enough. You have to get others to vote the way you want them to. That can be a challenge when a third of the people you meet work for the schools system. Another third either has received or is currently receiving some kind of special favor from the board or administration that they believe they might lose if they elected a different leader. Then you have the other third which does not have kids, does not care that they don't have kids and wishes you and your kids would disappear. Now, remind me, how am I supposed to convince them to vote the way I want them to?
Cheryl Miller February 21, 2013 at 04:40 AM
But the kids don't deserve it. That's sort of the point, don't you think? You are sort of blaming people in poverty stricken areas of the county who have been brought up in a system that does not value them, their opinions or their rights for not being educated well enough to know how voting will make any difference in their lives. The problem is not that these areas are voting for the "wrong person" (in your opinion) but that they are not voting at all. And low voter turnout makes it very easy for a small but organized group to control the outcome. This is why we believe that the legislature should look at possibly allowing the entire county to elect the entire board, since they all have one vote. That would hold them more accountable to every district and would make every voter and non-voter less likely to blame each other for "bad" decisions.
Cheryl Miller February 21, 2013 at 04:46 AM
... so homeschool is the answer? We've come full circle then. The next step will be "why even educate them at all?" It's human evolution in reverse. So, so Georgia-ish, isn't it?
Cheryl Miller February 21, 2013 at 04:53 AM
and you still have to pay your taxes, so the corruption wins. They get fewer kids to educate, but still collect the same amount of money from us. Meanwhile, kids are being sent all over the place when they should be able to grow up with the kids in their neighborhood, all going to the same school, all learning together and not having to contribute to the already horrific traffic problems we have here. Try throwing a thousand or so dollars down the garbage disposal every six months because that's what we are doing here and it does not feel good!
Cheryl Miller February 21, 2013 at 05:07 AM
Thank you Betsy. Crash, sorry about what happened in your classroom. That is terrible. If you do not mind my asking, what did you mean by saying that the 15 kids "were sent to you?" Did you mean that you were given specific students who were all new to the school at the same time, but sent only to your classroom? Was it after regular session had already started? If so, how did you even have room to add 15 more students? Did they all know each other or did they come from a variety of other places? Do you know where they came from? I have often wondered if there was a chance we might be making deals with other school systems to take their worst kids off their hands so that they can be used to chase off certain staff and parents and then turn the school into a Title I so they can get the additional funds. I have heard so many parents say that the kids at their school are not actually kids from their neighborhood, even while I was visiting schools in the south side. But the kids must be coming from somewhere. But where? Ever seen how many buses we have here? It is just something that makes me wonder. How can we be filled with Title I schools in non-Title I neighborhoods in the second wealthiest African-American counties in the entire U.S.?
Crash February 21, 2013 at 01:06 PM
Cheryl, none of the kids came from the school's neighborhood. They were all bussed in. Many of them knew each other from their failing elementary schools. They were given passing grades and not held accountable for learning what they need to know. When I say "were sent to me" I mean that every year you are given a list of new students, figuratively speaking they are "sent to me". They couldn't, probably still can't, read at grade level. Some times if they could pronounce the word, you could tell they had no idea what it meant. Learning Social Studies requires that you understand what you're reading. What's really galling is that most of these kids were receiving passing grades in their English/Language Arts class. The ability to transfer to a school that is making AYP, brings down the success rate of the receiving school. If parents demanded success from their local school we wouldn't have this problem. If we quit taking Federal money and ran our schools as well as we did in the 60's, we wouldn't have this problem. Federal money was introduced to make integration possible. Thank God that's no longer necessary. Other than the fact that DeKalb wasn't integrating it was doing a great job of educating. When integration began in the early 70's DeKalb lowered it's academic and behavior standards. That's when the trouble started.
Tom Doolittle February 21, 2013 at 02:28 PM
Cheryl-- (people think you "imaginative"--some times that means thinking beyond what you're told to see--in this case--we're being told that worst crime is a bad school board and Lewis misusing a P-card). That's the reason you have the AJC "conjuring" hysteria over DeKalb's school board--easy pickings by invoking the real estate card. If they keep you on that, they keep you away from their buddies gravy train. (Note the city-making movement actually is primarily "bad school system" and it takes a thousand words to explain how that makes no sense) What you mention is the worst type Title 1 fraud (it doesn't only steal money--it prints it). This one destroys neighborhoods and social fabric--and yes--creates cash that CAN be "misallocated". You have to be careful with this, because its one of the longest running scams in DeKalb--goes all the way back to laste 1980s, maybe sooner. Other places that have increased their low-income populations only started seeing it in the mid to late 1990's--and it is expanding across US. http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2002/06/01/title-recipe-fraud All you have to do is increase the low-income pop in a county--one way or another. AJC Megan Matteucci did an article trying to pinpoint how many Clayton students transferred to other counties--all counties were happy to provide figures--they didn't want the students. Dekalb refused to provide figures--our Title 1 people wanted to fill seats. Pursue at your peril-


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