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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.

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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