DeKalb’s Lewis steps down temporarily. How will it affect school closings and layoffs?

In a shocker tonight, DeKalb Superintendent Crawford Lewis temporarily stepped down from his post after a morning search of his house ordered by the DeKalb DA.

It appears the search was the catalyst for the sudden decision, but it is unclear why. Was Lewis upset by the search, which is related to an ongoing investigation of school construction projects, an investigation that Lewis himself instigated and that now seems to have widened to include him?

Did he feel the whole mess compromised his position to oversee the county schools in these next few months of controversial and painful budget decisions? (I just came back from Tucker where 260 parents from three small elementary schools turned out to find out if why their schools were on a possible closure list and what they could do to fight it.)

I can understand the pressures on Lewis right now, but is this the right decision given the delicate negotiations over the next months to decide which schools to close and which employees to let go?

According to the AJC:

The DeKalb school board voted Thursday to accept Lewis’ temporary hiatus from the district and appointed an interim superintendent to serve while the district attorney completes its investigation into possible wrongdoing involving multi-million dollar school construction projects.

“He has made the offer because as always he is putting the best interest of the district and students above his personal interest,” board chairman Tom Bowen said.

The board’s vote came after investigators with the DeKalb district attorney’s office spent five-and-a-half hours searching Lewis’ Stone Mountain home, seizing three computer hard drives and six boxes.

District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming would not say what investigators were looking for, but confirmed that prosecutors executed search warrants at Lewis’ home and three school buildings as part of the investigation into the district’s construction program.

“This is all part of an ongoing investigation which was started at the request of the school system’s administration. After reviewing the information we gathered today, we anticipate bringing this matter to an appropriate conclusion,” Fleming said in a statement.

The district attorney’s office has been investigating whether the school system’s then-chief operating officer, Patricia “Pat” Pope, broke the law by allegedly steering contracts to her architect husband and construction companies where she has connections.

According to search warrants obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, investigators were looking for Lewis’ personal finance records, along with documents concerning him, Pope, Pope’s husband and the couple’s associates. Investigators also searched for records of gifts Lewis, Pope and school employees received from contractors; car purchases; and information on seven school construction projects.

The investigators were looking for the documents and computer files in connection with 10 different potential criminal charges, ranging from theft of federal funds and mail fraud, to bid-rigging and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, according to the search warrants.

A lawyer for Pope has denied the allegations. She has since been reassigned to special projects.

Lewis and Bernard Taylor, an attorney who previously represented him, did not return phone calls on Thursday.

After four hours behind closed doors, the board voted to appoint Ramona Tyson, the district’s deputy chief superintendent of business operations, as interim superintendent. The board also voted to pay Lewis’ legal expense and allow him to maintain his salary during his leave.

Board vice chair Zepora Roberts abstained from the vote, saying she didn’t want Lewis — a DeKalb schools employee of 33 years — to go.

“Our superintendent has not done anything wrong,” she said. “I am in support of him and would like to see him come back to work tomorrow.”

Lewis himself is the one who sparked the criminal probe that has now turned on him. In November 2008, while being questioned by a district attorney’s investigator about his purchase of a county car and questionable gas purchases on his county credit card, Lewis revealed a slew of allegations about Pope. The superintendent reported discovering a trend that those close to Pope were profiting off school projects, and that Pope’s husband had worked on school construction projects against his direction.

Bowen said Lewis is cooperating with investigators.

“It’s really a situation where the board is anxious to get all the details and why,” Bowen said. “We’ve been cooperating with the Pope investigation. So it’s a bit alarming and surprising to have something of this nature going down.”

122 comments Add your comment

Allen

February 25th, 2010
8:49 pm

Zepora, let’s let the courts decide whether he has done anything wrong. And let’s let him pay for his own defense.

Nikole Allen- Dekalb citizen

February 25th, 2010
8:55 pm

ATTN DEKALB RESIDENTS: Please vote out all incumbents of the Dekalb County School Board in the next several elections. Anyone currently serving needs to be relieved of their duties as soon as possible. Anyone that accepts that gas siphoning story is not competent enough to lead a school system.

d

February 25th, 2010
8:58 pm

For what it’s worth — woohoo.

That being said, how much does Ms. Tyson know about what happens in a classroom. Wouldn’t it be nice if she got rid of some of the pointless tasks teachers do so that we can actually teach our students?

The General

February 25th, 2010
9:00 pm

Throw the lot of these scoundrels out on their asses, Lewis, both Popes and all the other thieves masquerading as educators. Just like the con-men (and women) on TV masquerading as people of God but their sole interest is separating the gullible from their money.

Allen

February 25th, 2010
9:01 pm

R. Tyson won’t “DO’ anything d. The worst part of this is that the housecleaning is beginning just when we least need distraction

d

February 25th, 2010
9:07 pm

Allen, one can dream, right?

DunMoody

February 25th, 2010
9:14 pm

I cannot believe the School Board is going to pay Dr. Lewis’ legal expenses. Do they offer the same thing to any teacher or principal who runs afoul of the law (allegedly)? Are they out of their collective minds?

ScienceTeacher671

February 25th, 2010
9:16 pm

This is better than any TV drama….

It Amazes Me

February 25th, 2010
9:19 pm

…that there is another school system that can take Clayton County Public Schools off the front pages, LOL.

Write Your Board Members

February 25th, 2010
9:29 pm

Given that Ms. Tyson was the one who was the leading the effort to streamline the central office, I expect that that won’t change.

As an aside, it is unlikely that any Tucker elementary schools will close. I suspect that when redistricting is announced, they will receive additional students.

Sandy

February 25th, 2010
9:41 pm

Mrs. Tyson is exactly the type of person the school system needs to fill that position. Finally, a REAL professional, someone with real business world experience to run the near-billion dollar corporation that is the DeKalb School System. How much she may or may not know about what goes on in a classroom is irrelevant. There is a person in charge of instruction and curriculum to handle that end of things. The school system needs someone on top that can run the business. Lewis knew all about what goes on in a classroom, but a career educator does not a good superintendent make.

HEE

February 25th, 2010
9:43 pm

When will the APS people step down?

HEE

February 25th, 2010
9:44 pm

I think they should “erase” themselves from the system!

irony

February 25th, 2010
9:45 pm

Does anyone get the irony that our taxes are going to pay one institution (the courts) to investigate another institution (the schools) and that our taxes are supporting both the “offense” and “defense,” so to speak? Meanwhile, they “care about the students.” hee hee hee.

HEE

February 25th, 2010
9:45 pm

I promise we won’t analyze the erasures.

Wounded Warrior

February 25th, 2010
9:50 pm

YEAH!!!!!!! IT IS ABOUT TIME…SO WHY HASN’T HE BEEN FIRED???????????

HEE

February 25th, 2010
9:50 pm

Finally, a school board with guts! Join in APS, use the “temporarily stepping down card” to erase her out!

Sandy makes lots of sense

February 25th, 2010
9:53 pm

You are so right!

Ford Motor Company hired the CEO of Pizza Hut to it. You really don’t need someone to know anything about cars to do that. There is a CEO for Lincoln and another one for Ford….

FLAWoodLayer

February 25th, 2010
10:01 pm

I know it is bad timing, but no one from DCSS should be named superintendent. This is a GANGSTA school district and its time to start fresh. Who though has any confidence in this board to do the right thing? Heck, they paid the man’s legal expenses! If the DA raided my house, I’d be on Memorial Drive forced to write an explanation at least. Dekalb residents have received what they deserve by voting in this board. The chickens have come home to roost.

Private School Guy

February 25th, 2010
10:01 pm

Lewis was never anything more than a puppet for the entrenched cronies in the admin offices. He was a weak figurehead that they could push around. When he ran out of money (88 million short) he was forced to tell some of them to take a hike so they started to sing. This is what’s happened today. The games up for him and a lot of other people. When the gas card story broke you could tell he was out of his league.

Allen

February 25th, 2010
10:06 pm

Isn’t Ramona Tyson the one whose main concern about staff cuts was that they be spread among all departments (to be “fair”), not how particular staff cuts might impact children’s education?

Richard M. Nixon

February 25th, 2010
10:16 pm

Crawford, repeat after me, “I am not a crook”. And Beverly, don’t erase the evidence, burn it.

FulCoTeach

February 25th, 2010
10:18 pm

SO hope WYBM is absolutely correct at 9:29 and that other systems (cough, cough – Fulton) will follow suit and hold off cutting any more at local school level until they STRINGENTLY assess central office positions and salaries. Check your system’s allotment sheet and see how many central office positions the state funds – if schools are staffed strictly at “earned” levels, why not central office?

lightbulb

February 25th, 2010
10:19 pm

“…he was forced to tell some of them to take a hike so they started to sing. ”

Ah ha! I think you’re right!

FulCoTeach

February 25th, 2010
10:20 pm

http://app3.doe.k12.ga.us/ows-bin/owa/qbe_reports.public_menu?p_fy=2000
Select QBE003 from the drop-down menu at Select a Report, then select your school system…

say what?

February 25th, 2010
10:30 pm

Ignorance is bliss and some of you are on vacation in bliss. “When he ran out of money”- that’s funny as the tax office is the one who failed to provide accurate projections of tax receipts. The number will increase until all of the appeals have been resolved. Furthermore, if as most of claim, he stole $88M, why would he still reside in a house where parents could come, sit in front of and get their jabs in with the media’s help. A. Jackson you did not leave you were let go, so let go of DCSS and keep Wilbanks’ feet to the fire in Gwinnett.

The board must know something that the rest of us don’t know for them to vote to pay for his lawyer fees. Stop hyperventilating over the gossip in the ajc.

Screaming for the board members to be voted out is assine, but most of you are showing your @$$.
\he is stepping aside so that the media will stop showing up taping everyday even when no story is to be discovered. Since we are clamoring for his removal, he has stepped aside so that the focus can be put back on the kids, and the budget. Ms. Tyson has the experience to make the necessary changes.

And AJC how about providing some coverage on the scholar’s program that occurred on Tuesday. These kids are amazing and that story deserves more space than the Popes. Put the focus on the kids and teachers who do great things. I guess my morale would sink when everytime the media comes around they want to find something negative. AJC how about for every negative story on DCSS, give us 2 positive stories on DCSS staff and students.

Ima Teacher

February 25th, 2010
10:35 pm

Ramona Tyson??? Former CTSS, never been a principal, Ramona Tyson? Great. She is his right hand and has probably been involved with the things Lewis has done, and the Board votes her in as interim superintendent. We need to clean house in DeKalb and take out ALL of the trash. Get rid of the BOE, except Mr. Walker. And Crawford Lewis…good riddance!

Welcome to our little world of Dekalb

February 25th, 2010
10:39 pm

Stay tune for the rise, fall and climax of “Drama in DCSS.” Maybe we can make a movie for our $84,000,000 shortfalls.

DeKalb resident

February 25th, 2010
10:43 pm

I’m not pleased by the choice of Ms. Tyson, but then DeKalb Schools has such a dearth of leadership I’m not sure who could do this job.

Ms. Tyson has 2 to 3 years experience as a Business Ed teacher in the 1980s. She went to IBM as part of a DeKalb teacher program for maybe 4 years and then when she came back she went to MIS.

She gave DeKalb Schools the eSIS online gradebook, a decision she possibly regrets since it has been an enormous headache for teachers. Ms. Tyson was head of MIS when the decison was made – most probably on her recommendation. The BOE has long deferred to her judgment for any technology services or equipment purchases. The Central Office personnel wanted a data crunching system and she was trying to get them what they wanted (eSis integrates with a comprehensive Student Data Management System). DeKalb Schools Central Office personnel (and the BOE) are notoriously untechnical for want of a better word. eSis was implemented immediately rather than rolling it out over time so the problems all hit at once and the teachers were going berserk over lost grades, a system that took minutes to move from one window to another, etc.

Ms. Tyson ran the MIS Department for the last 5 years until her recent promotion. DeKalb has little technology for students – 2 computers per classroom of 25 to 30 students, 1500 ACTIVboards for 7,000 teachers, no teacher laptops (some teachers still have the old clunker desktops from 6 or 7 years ago), one computer lab that all teachers vie for, etc. In addition, the little technology that is available is often broken or not installed correctly. On the other hand, DeKalb has an enormous number of personnel in Information Systems to support so little technology ($24,000,000 in salary and benefits to support this department).

Please ask any teacher you know in DeKalb if they have gotten good service from the technology department she headed, and I think you’ll get an idea of how this department was run.

The problem with classroom experience that is so scant and occurred so many years ago is the understanding of the pupil teacher ratio in the success of students.

In addition, it is easy to be swayed to the idea that there is a quick fix (America’s Choice, Springboard, data crunching from the Student database that integrates with eSIS, HSTW, benchmark testing every 6 weeks, Instructional Coaches, etc.) that can be purchased to “fix” our educational system in DeKalb.

A low pupil teacher ratio coupled with motivated teachers is the real proven formula for student success (look at the Ron Clark Academy).

We’ll see if Ms. Tyson has the where with all to make the necessary cuts in the support and admin side.

Since she’s interim superintendent, Dr. Lewis will probably be very influential. You seldom get that high up unless you make your supervisor’s ideas your ideas or you have the same ideas to begin with.

If the investigation doesn’t turn up anything substantial then Dr. Lewis will step back into his position and Ms. Tyson will once again report to him. I’m certain she’s aware of that.

Ima Teacher

February 25th, 2010
10:46 pm

Mr. say what? You sound like you are on Crawford Lewis’ payroll. You wouldn’t be an Area Director or one of his Deputies, would you?

Dr. John Trotter

February 25th, 2010
10:47 pm

DeKalb Is A Gangsta School System!

By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD

Look at the MACE website (www.theteachersadvocate.com) and see how many times that MACE has called DeKalb a “Gangsta school system.” When all other groups were quiet as church mice, we were calling this system a “Gangsta school system” on TV, print media, internet, and on our website. We called out the bullying, cheating, and lack of discipline on a regular basis. Admittedly, we were behind the curve on the construction contracts and “gasolinegate” because we were not privy to certain information. The nepotism, the shutting down of a State-mandated grievance because the teacher was about to testify about systematic cheating at Clarkston High School, the abysmal and abject lack of discipline in the schools, etc., have been discussed at length not only on MACE’s website, the AJC’s Get Schooled blog, and other media. Finally, Gwen Keyes’s office has acted swiftly and she deserves the credit. I think that only the tip of the iceberg has been seen of the extent of the corruption not only in the DeKalb County School System, but also in the Dekalb County Government. (c) MACE, February 25, 2010.

It's Me

February 25th, 2010
10:51 pm

@ Private School Guy – Crawford Lewis is the reason DCSS is broke. Check your facts to see what the surplus was when Dr. Brown left office and Dr. Lewis became Superintendnet. Even though the system has received cuts due to loss of revenue, Lewis re-filled (and then some) of every position Dr. Brown cut when he had to come up with $50 million.

Crawford Lewis is a bully leading by fear and intimidation. Don;t kid yourself.

cut off the car

February 25th, 2010
10:56 pm

I sure hope he is driving his OWN PERSONAL CAR and not costing us any more than the legal costs and his salary…

It's Me

February 25th, 2010
10:57 pm

Ramona Tyson is a power b*&$ch! She is already so far over her head it is not funny. I agree with ima teacher..tyson is nothing but an a$$ kiss to Lewis, but who elso you going to choose? NO leadership in DCSS. I say find Gary McGiboney to see if he can clean up this mess. He was always fair to ALL; students and staff.

Ima Teacher

February 25th, 2010
10:59 pm

Robert Mosely (sp?) could do the job and do it well! But he probably doesn’t want to get in the middle of this mess. But whoever it is, it needs to be someone who is not in Crawford Lewis’ back pocket. And eSIS is a colossal failure that cost the county MILLIONS of dollars and it still doesn’t work right. That’s where our step increase went. I think it was chosen because somebody got a nice kickback from it. Ditto for Springboard.

Dr. John Trotter

February 25th, 2010
11:00 pm

Where oh where is the gutless Mark Elgart of SACS? Throughout all of the seedy revelations about the DeKalb School System and the Atlanta Public Schools, Mark Elgart has been thunderously silent…until his muted comment this evening about not wanting to interfere with the on-going criminal investigation. Right. Yeah. Me thinks that ole Markie boy is “scared to shoot dat ball.”

Ima Teacher

February 25th, 2010
11:12 pm

If a teacher was being investigated for the things Dr. Lewis is being investigated for, he or she would have been fired immediately. Heck, we would have been fired after the gasoline thing. And forget the county paying for any legal fees! How could they agree to that when the county is in such debt that it will probably never recover?

Advocates on Behalf of Children in Dekalb

February 25th, 2010
11:27 pm

Say What…sooo you what’s that you say…you are surely one of the cronies going down… Ronald Ramsey and R.L. Brown….you are next. If Dekalb wasn’t so corrupt then the media would have nothing to report. Oh and please don’t speak about that which you do not know…. House Cleaning is coming and i advise you to get out while you can….. Dr. Trotter… Dekalb misses you…

HEE

February 25th, 2010
11:27 pm

Dr. Trotter,

Thanks for getting Dr.(?) Robert Robbins today at Douglass High. He is a part of the issues!

say what?

February 25th, 2010
11:33 pm

Ima Teacher

February 25th, 2010
10:46 pm
Mr. say what? You sound like you are on Crawford Lewis’ payroll. You wouldn’t be an Area Director or one of his Deputies, would you?

My answer is this, I am one of those “support staff” that is affected by what occurs in DCSS. I am indifferent to who is in charge, but at some point there needs to be fairness and rational thinking in what we say and do, the kids watch us and are as just as impressionable as if they were watching their parents. So when people go on a diatribe about what parent’s are not doing, the kids are in the hallway listening to you and catch on quick that u don’t give a darn, just the same as how you speak about their parents.

I am free from inner circles and the groups that keep the school system from excelling.

Dr. John Trotter

February 25th, 2010
11:37 pm

You’re welcome, HEE. The guys tell me that it was a good picket with lots of thumbs up.

say what?

February 25th, 2010
11:44 pm

@Advocates on Behalf of Children in Dekalb Please Gwen Keyes Fleming is in need of evidence, give her yours. As far as the media- some of the same crap is going on in Gwinnett, but oops for some reason ajc just cannot get anyone to talk against Wilbanks (how ironic).I like you am looking for housecleaning, but find that remaining negative is not helping the children at all. I concur on Ramsey as well as his interrogator Goolsby.

say what?

February 25th, 2010
11:50 pm

@ Dr. John Trotter- attention you are needed at a DCSS middle school where the principal takes pride in being #2 in the State of GA and #1 in DCSS for discipline referrals. More discipline referrals than students, something is wrong. I agree on discipline but when you get so heavy handed that kids are in ISS or OSS more than in class, who are you teaching? But her area 3 super. will defend her to the death, or unemployment line, which ever comes first.

David M Hirsch

February 26th, 2010
1:18 am

With all of the waste and obvious corruption within local and state educational systems, perhaps its time to nationalize our school system! There is far too much administrative and bureaucratic fat that needs to be trimmed. Let’s nationalize our system with federal standards across state lines, such as every other developed nation has in place. And maybe, just maybe, we should have some vocational training for students in manufacturing and bring some industry back to our nation! There is no reason to have students tracked academically who are not college bound.

David M Hirsch

February 26th, 2010
1:30 am

When, oh when, will teachers, students, and parents take it to the streets and shut down the Capitol?! Call it in…April 29th…No Business As Usual Day!

Dr. John Trotter

February 26th, 2010
3:27 am

Res ipsa loquitur. It speaks for itself. It’s all over but the crying. Crawford has spent his last day, I believe, as the real superintendent of the DeKalb School System. Oh yeah, he may still, for the time, be on payroll as the Superintendent, but his gig is over. Who will go down with him? People begin to cut deals and start rattin’ each other out. Now whose being “banned” from DeKalb? “Oh Carlos, you can’t fool a Corleone.”

Same Bunch that Screwed Clayton

February 26th, 2010
5:30 am

Everyone needs to know that the same group of power brokers have now gone after DBOE. This effort is spearheaded by Eugene Walker, Burrel Ellis, bond lawyers, contractors and Brock, Clay law firm. This is exactly the same method they used to take control of FCBOE several years back. Lewis and his people will be run out so this new group can take over the money in DBOE. The trash continues, AJC supports all these efforts and students in GA get screwed so Brock can steal money.

Citizen in the Know

February 26th, 2010
6:37 am

The problem with DeKalb schools has long been the “management”, or lack therof in central office. Most of the top level positions are filled with family members, friends, etc. of the “upper crust” staff. These people do not have experience with what it really takes to educate children and lack the background to make informed decisions about instructional issues. Fore example, people who have been PE teachers, counselors, etc., are in top positions in the county. Nothing wrong with this, yet they typically do not know what kinds of things are effective for the varying levels of learners, different instructional methods, etc., and they are making decisions that make it difficult for classroom teachers to do the jobs that they are trained for and who do have the knowledge to make competent decisions to teach so that the students are successful. The MIS Department in the county for some reason, spent a million or so dollars on the latest faux paux…the eSis system. These people lack basic 101 Project managment skills for developing/choosing and implementing an IT project. They “threw” out this system without piloting the program, frustrated teachers, and have made Assistant Principals spends countless hours in training about this system that has obvious design flaws. All of this takes time away from instruction. We have a board that supports a leader who has had obvious lack of concern for upholding standards of behavior. When he sent a letter after last year’s test “cheating”, erasure of answers issue, asking school system employees to support those people (the principal and assistant principal) who did the erasing, to call them and offer support since they are part of the “DeKalb family”, I lost all hope of his ability to run a school system with integrity.These people not only broke the law, but started the entire cloud of doubt and suspicion that lingers over the school system. It is not fair for the students and teachers who put forth their best effort to live under this dark cloud.
The school system also has spent millions of dollars on numerous “audits” that have produced little results. The list goes on. Now with all of the recent problems, the system will probably have a hard time filling any teaching positions..who would want to work in the county with all of this? For years there has been mismanagment of programs, spending money without fully considering all implications and long reaching effects. We need to clean sweep the school board and the central office staff.

Dunwoody Mom

February 26th, 2010
6:53 am

Tell me John Trotter, where does the “Dr.” come from. And calling DeKalb Schools “Gansta” is racist and is a insult to my children who have attended DeKalb schools since Pre-K. You really should not be on this blog “crowing”.

A RESIDENT

February 26th, 2010
7:03 am

This will make a lot of residents mad but Dekalb never had problems like this when we had WHITE leaders!