State enters DeKalb mess, but is the help needed? Can’t county deal with its own school problems?

There are a lot of bright people in DeKalb. Can't they come together to repair the schools and overhaul the management?

There are a lot of bright people in DeKalb. Can't they come together to repair the schools and overhaul the management?

I am not sure that hearings at the Capitol are the answer to any school system’s dysfunction, although they do help draw public attention to the issue.  Two DeKalb legislators, both of whom are smart and have good track records, are assembling a committee to review events in DeKalb schools and where the state’s third largest school district is headed.

I think that Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) and Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) will offer some wisdom, but the responsibility for improving DeKalb schools belongs to the duly elected school board, educators and parents of the county. And there is plenty of talent in DeKalb County, and there are some strong school board members.

They need to hire a good superintendent, clean house, as posters here and my own reporting have convinced me that there is too much nepotism in DeKalb, and then get back to the business of educating children. Many of the criticisms of DeKalb on this blog cite its loss of eminence and its inferior education as compared to a generation ago.

But the county has changed, and there are far more hard-to-educate children now than when DeKalb was a bedroom community of Atlanta. Those days aren’t going to come back because the easiest-to-educate kids now live in Alpharetta and Peachtree City. Poorer children, immigrant children and children whose own parents didn’t go to college have a longer way to go than the  students whose parents bought them the Tolkien trilogy when the kids were still in diapers and send them to math camp.

That is not a slur on the county, just a reminder that DeKalb has more challenges today than it did 30 years ago. I live in DeKalb and chose it for its vibrancy, diversity and the fact that it was one of the few places back 20 years ago where I could find gnocchi, bagels and falafel within a few miles. (Now, you can get them all over Atlanta.)

Every school system is dealing with the fallout of the collapse of housing markets, and DeKalb has been harder hit than most with its high number of foreclosures. If ever there was a time for scrupulous and ardent stewardship of public money, it is now.

I am not sure that the help of the General Assembly is needed at this point. But help is coming.

Here is the official release:

State Senate and House members are forming a legislative review committee in response to the DeKalb County school board’s changing leadership and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ (SACS) questions regarding the board’s practices. Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) and Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) will co-chair the DeKalb School Board Legislative Review Committee and will hold their first meeting on Thursday, Sept. 9 at 10:00 a.m. in Room 341 of the State Capitol.

“I’m honored to serve as co-chair of this committee and look forward to working with DeKalb County’s legislative delegation to ensure this school system stays on the path to success,” said Jones. “There are serious issues facing DeKalb’s school system, and we must act immediately to see that the best candidates are elected to the board. The committee will also review the concerns raised by SACS in our capacity as the state delegation.”

Oliver emphasized the need for cooperation between the legislative committee and the school board, noting: “I’m a proud graduate of the DeKalb County school district, and I’m very concerned about the tough challenges our school board faces. We need to be proactive with our school board in looking forward to the 2011 Legislative Session to develop policies that address the current problems with the DeKalb County school board system.”

Members of the review committee will look at three specific areas, beginning with the need for more public information on candidates running for election to the school board, including the skills required to meet the current challenges. Members will also conduct a review of the school board’s implementation of reforms as required under a new law the legislature passed this year. Finally, the committee will provide assistance to the district in response to SACS’ inquiries and search for a new superintendent.

The committee will conduct meetings leading up to the legislative session that begins in January. Other issues that may be addressed include a review of the organization of the board, the organization act for board members and the school district as well as issues related to board oversight, new ethics mandates and public participation in the selection of a new superintendent.

81 comments Add your comment

Kate

August 26th, 2010
11:30 am

Yes, the state must get involved because Dekalb has had several decades to clean up it’s act, and had stubbornly refused to do so. It’s just a sad, sad state of affairs, but I don’t know what, if anything, will ever done about it.

Anna

August 26th, 2010
11:44 am

How can this hurt? The more publicity, the less likely Bowen is going to say dumb things like, “There is nothing wrong with the state of DeKalb Co. schools.”

Understanding Atlanta

August 26th, 2010
11:52 am

The State doesn’t need to get involved in this. Clean up what act? Most of the recent problems with DeKalb come from lack of prudent school board members, non-existent policies, and public outcry.

The problem with DeKalb has been its voters don’t always vote for the candidate that can best serve them, rather the person that has the name recognition or money to put out more yard signs. The problems in DCSS can be recitified with a strong superintendent that has a contract that allows them to clean house, create polcies such as conflict of interest policies.

When the voters elect school board members that will set policy and ensure those policies are followed, hire a strong superintendent that has the power to fire teachers, administators, central office staff, and the like we’ll be on our way to addressing the needs of one of the most diverse schools sytems (in terms of race, culture, and socioeconmic status). This isn’t the same DCSS as 30 yrs ago, but we can be a guiding light for school systems in the country.

Yes DeKalb can!!!!!

Dunwoody Mom

August 26th, 2010
11:53 am

I’m with Anna – it could not hurt. Maybe it will even help keep a few of the rogue BOE members in check.

On PTA

August 26th, 2010
12:14 pm

At our last PTA Exective Board Meeting, the principal had just returned from a Principal’s meeting with Ramona Tyson. She informed us the Principals were told that Dekalb’s accreditation is not in question. SACS is shining a light on conflicts of interest, nepotism, ethics etc, which I agree, need to be brought into the light of day. That being said, I agree, that having the State assist, will probably be helpful, especially with the Superintendant search, as Dekalb’s track record lately has been pretty dismal. I am definitely showing my dissatisfaction with our Board during our upcoming election.

catlady

August 26th, 2010
12:17 pm

No, obviously the county needs housecleaning. Too many chiefs. Too much nepotism/favoritism. Too much inbreeding. Dekalb can do better for its kids with better/fewer people in the hierarchy.

EnoughAlready

August 26th, 2010
12:47 pm

Please add Gwinnett, Cobb, Forsyth, Cherokee, Hall, Henry, Rockdale, Fayette and others to the list of school systems the state should look into investigating. If you turn over a few more rocks, the truth will finally come out about them all.

Dekalbite

August 26th, 2010
1:06 pm

DeKalb representative Senator Ron Ramsey, head of DCSS Internal Investigations Department, is part of the superintendent Ms. Tyson’s “Cabinet”.

Is Senator Ramsey part of this committee? In addition, his department “missed” the Pope/Lewis construction and use of DCSS funds for personal trips, Lewis filling up his tank with gas three times during one day, Sanders-Butler/Simpson inappropriate book sells, etc.

It seems a clear conflict of interest for him to help guide the BOE in selecting a new superintendent. As a key member of the school system administration being investigated by SACS, Senator Ramsey should not be involved as part of a committee that wants to influence SACS except to answer questions that SACS asks him.

Am I the only one who thinks the people being investigated by an independent accrediting body should not be in a position to guide or assist in the investigation?

DeKalb Educated

August 26th, 2010
1:06 pm

Perhaps the state leaders coming to the aid of DeKalb County could propose an effective ethics policy since the one at the state level works so well? When the corruption charges aimed at the four defendents from our School Admin cite that they did nothing wrong and really didn’t break any ethic rules of the DeKalb BOE then something is wrong. I hope the state legislative members can shine a light on the corruption (book sales, equipment, land deals, nepotism) and outright stupidity and incompetence of our School Board and Administative staff.

LLL

August 26th, 2010
1:08 pm

Although “it couldn’t hurt,” do we want our state legislature to be engaged in an activity whose result may be “couldn’t hurt”???

Smoke Rise Mom

August 26th, 2010
1:32 pm

Until we can see ourselves as one DeKalb, there won’t be any help for us. Unfortunately too many parents, school board members, and other stakeholders are only interested in their little slice of turf. And they do not appreciate any outsiders poking around in their “backyard”. Last time I checked, my tax dollars don’t go directly to my neighborhood schools.

Kira Willis

August 26th, 2010
1:49 pm

Maureen, as a Libertarian, I am a firm believer in local control; however, the state really does need to intervene with Dekalb, Atlanta Public, and any other local school board that is accused of wrong doing. We have had too many years of the GADOE turning its back and looking the other way when corruption runs rampant: cheating, misappropriation of funds, or simply not following its own policies. As the next State School Superintendent, I will work to ensure that all of the counties in Georgia are honest and forthright. I will actively investigate any and all allogations of wrongdoing.

Harry Callahan

August 26th, 2010
2:03 pm

Look at who is running Dekalb these days…there’s your answer…

hkb

August 26th, 2010
2:06 pm

Yes, the state needs to help. Dekalb has lost it’s focus and there is way too much nepotism within the system. What was once a very good school system has become a system where it is who you know not what you know that determines hiring practices. We need outsiders to come and look over the situation or it will continue to sink.

Dunwoody Mom

August 26th, 2010
2:09 pm

Hopefully, this move can be used as another check to make sure an outsider, with no previous ties to DeKalb County Schools or anyone involved with DCSS, is brought in as Superintendent.

Heard It All

August 26th, 2010
2:10 pm

Dekalb’s issues stem from a terrible board, weak upper admin, and a fear of bothersom parents. I witnessed first hand how Dekalb folds to a complaining parent who knows someone on the board due to a church afiliation. Upper administration needs to hire more strong men to run the schools and reduce the number of women that lack the guts to even govern the children in their buildings.

Honesty

August 26th, 2010
2:12 pm

City of Atlanta, Clayton and DeKalb….A Third World City, and 2 Third World Counties.

Maureen Downey

August 26th, 2010
2:18 pm

@Heard it All. Have you heard of Michelle Rhee? She may be the gutsiest school super in the country today. Not sure gender is a factor as DeKalb has had all male superintendents until this point.
Maureen

Dekalbite@Kira Willis

August 26th, 2010
2:22 pm

You already had my vote. Now I know why.

Principle

August 26th, 2010
2:24 pm

It seems that many of he issues in Dekalb are governance isssues. Almost by definition that will require help from an outside group to help resolve. The board cannot fix the issues, they ARE the issue. No one disagrees that Dekalb has more “hard to educate” students. In my opinion DeKalb has done a better job than APS who has adopted blind collusion as a leadership strategy. But the board is broken, not living up to minimum acceptable standards and it needs help.
Much like ClayCO needed an outisde push, if the county is ever to fix it’s issues, someone will need to fix it’s board.

Proud Black Man

August 26th, 2010
2:27 pm

@ Maureen

I tend to agree somewhat with Heard It All. Women are more nurturing then men and in an educational setting, especially middle school, that often leads to enabling. Michelle Rhee is definitely making waves but is she raising student achievement? Having said that what has happened to men in education? Looking through my old year books, 70s-80, there was an almost even mix of men to women teachers. In my county females dominate all the K-12 schools. My own theory is that women will put up with more nonsense then men will. And in education there is a LOT of nonsense.

Not Buying It

August 26th, 2010
2:46 pm

As many assert, the additional scrutiny on the DeKalb BOE may end up doing more good than harm. But if you’re expecting any final action rising even close to the level of intervention, then you’ve never had the displeasure of sitting through a Georgia legislative committee hearing.

double zero eight

August 26th, 2010
2:48 pm

@ Proud Black Man

I concur with your analogy. We need some more “Lean On Me” type principals similar to the one portrayed by Morgan Freeman in the movie.
A lot of males in middle and high school will take kindness and nurturing for weakness. In elementary school, the majority of principals are female in APS. I spoke to several retired APS educators
that worked in the “inner city”, and discipline was an issue at their schools.

Dekalbite

August 26th, 2010
3:00 pm

You’ve obviously not worked with some of the women principals I have. It doesn’t have anything to do with gender.

LLL

August 26th, 2010
3:10 pm

Why would anyone think polliticians at the state level will be any better than those at the district level? I can’t believe any liberatian can believe in such an illusion.

double zero eight

August 26th, 2010
3:15 pm

@Dekalbite

I beg to differ. It does make a difference in the inner city. Are you in the “burbs or “hood”? It is unfortunate that some male youths do not have the same degree of respect for female administrators as they do for male administrators. I have a friend who is a retired APS principal and he concurs.

Dekalbite

August 26th, 2010
3:53 pm

I’ve taught in almost every school in DeKalb, and it’s the person – not the man.

The strongest principal I ever taught for was a woman, and nobody, but nobody crossed her. She was smart, organized, fair, focused and worked really, really hard. Our kids were so poor that the PTA was in the red when when she got there. The PTA had the were selling wrapping paper as their main fundraiser. The kids weren’t bringing back the money because many of the parents were using it to buy food and other necessities. This principal stopped that and had a fall carnival – she directed money back to the school. She used to make the parents of kids who misbehaved come to school and follow the kids around all day (no one could believe she could get away with that). She knew how to work the system to get what she wanted from the Central Office. We always had our textbooks on time. She inspected every inch of that school and made sure the custodians didn’t miss so much as a faucet. She worked every lunch duty with a red, yellow and green stop light and if the kids got above conversational level the red light went on and they had complete silence. After months of that, you could walk into the lunchroom and these kids had better manners than any school I’ve ever been in. All the teachers moved back from the teachers’ lounge to eat in the cafeteria (which somehow she got the money to make spotless and had ferns hanging all along the walls). She demanded a lot of teachers, but she backed them all the way. They resented her at first she was so tough (on everyone who walked through her doors), but when they transferred her to another problem school, I’ve never seen so many tears.
So I’d say it’s the person.

Been there done that....

August 26th, 2010
3:58 pm

I would say the person also!!

double zero eight

August 26th, 2010
3:58 pm

You convinced me. She sounds like a “Lean On Me” type of principal.

Gerald

August 26th, 2010
4:13 pm

Give it up guys. Despite 50 years of evidence otherwise, feminists will NEVER admit that their “gender” theories were wrong. Look at the movies … even the few that are rejecting the Murphy Brown “husbands/fathers are not needed” message actually portray the “husbands” and “fathers” as jerks, losers and overgrown children where the women are always wise, strong, reliable and self-sacrificing. (Example: “Grown-Ups”, which makes the Steve Martin father figure in those Parenthood” movies look like Charleston Heston or John Wayne.)

The root cause of the public education failure in this country is the collapse of nuclear and extended families (extended families are important because if something happens to the father or mother, another family member can step in, plus everyone pitches in and helps during times of financial difficulty). Private schools and homeschooling produces better results in large part because 2 parent households (and no, I don’t mean “Heather Has Two Mommies”) are more likely to seek those solutions out.

Feminists would rather see this nation collapse than admit that they can’t do it alone (or if not alone, with the support of neutered men). Only a matter of time before the whole country starts looking like our inner cities, where up to 95% of all children are being born out of wedlock. The various educational scandals are simply attempting to treat a social failure as an educational/government failure.

We really need a debate on what to be done with schools in communities where most of the children come from broken homes (terminology that isn’t even used anymore, largely because if the majority of the homes fit this description they are the norm and hence not “broken”). In areas like that, schools need to focus on discipline, social skills and vocational training … similar to reform schools or military schools. But so long as feminists and other leftists continue the nonsense belief that if we just spend enough on education then kids with terrible backgrounds can perform as well as kids with good ones, it won’t happen.

Reality Chic

August 26th, 2010
4:16 pm

It all starts with the parents. Unless you’ve attended some of the PTA/PTO, and or school board meetings you won’t understand what I am talking about. It is SCARY! Kids generally are a reflection of their parents. It’s SCARY!

Then there’s the “leadership” of the school board! It’s SCARY! Dismiss them all and start over.

Dekalbite@Gerald

August 26th, 2010
4:34 pm

Well, Crawford Lewis is a male, and I wouldn’t consider him a feminist (have you read the indictment yet?). I’m old and married to the same man who is my daughter’s father, but I understand it’s a different world now. You can’t turn back the clock. However, we can do something about taking back our school system by electing the very best “people” as Dekalb Schools BOE members. I do agree with you about focusing on vocational training. Plumbers and carpenters can’t be outsourced. Social skills? Does a high school chemistry teacher really need to be teaching social skills? If they do, the students will not learn a lot of chemistry.

DeKalb teacher

August 26th, 2010
5:15 pm

I don’t think that this government intervention will hurt. Dekalb needs as much attention as possible on the issues that have plague the system in order to effect real change. If for no other reason than to shine a bright light on those who have chosen to abuse the system for their own selfish gain. However, I do feel that it is going to take the focused grassroots efforts of all stakeholders to turn things around. Parents and community people, educators need get involved and voice their concerns over how tax dollars are being spent. We need to examine the data to truly evaluate the usefulness of expensive programs that have been used in the county. We need to look at who is working for the county in ways that are helping our students. Funds need to be spent on good direct instruction. This is the only way that kids will learn. The time has come for all those who care to organize and demand accountability for our schools. There really are some talented educators in the DCSS. Let’s give them the resources, the time and support to effectively do their jobs. Our students deserve this whether they are “hard to educate” or advanced. Yes, we have both kinds in our schools. Be part of the solution!

Grumpy

August 26th, 2010
5:24 pm

Keep your failed social experiments. I’ll keep homeschooling. Dekalb County is doomed because no one wants to tell the truth about those “hard to educate” kids.

Jen

August 26th, 2010
5:28 pm

Maureen Downey, who are the “strong school board members” in Dekalb? Let’s be honest and transparent and name some names.

Awful, Awful, Awful

August 26th, 2010
5:52 pm

Right on, Jen……Folks, blacks vote for blacks because they’re black and DeKalb County is majority black…..therefore, nothing will ever change and DCSS will never be any better than it is right now…..which is absolutely awful. The school system is doomed, and as the school system goes, so goes the county.

bootney farnsworth

August 26th, 2010
6:18 pm

you’ve GOT to be kidding.
at what point has anything given a sane individual any hope DeKalb wants to solve this?

Atlanta Media Guy

August 26th, 2010
6:21 pm

Th only thing the state needs to get involved with is helping DeKalb stakeholders form charter clusters or Independent School Districts. DCSS is too large for the current leadership to manage. The state legislators will have to write new legislation and/or even have the constitution changed, which will involve the electorate.

I just read the article and release, and here’s what really concerns me. These legislators have no idea what’s going on at DCSS. There is NO SACS investigation right now and NO BOE members were indicted.n nTechnically, Clew sat on the BOE, however he did not have a vote or was elected to the post. So those quotes truly concern me. Also the quote that Emmanuel Jones said, “he wants to ensure the system stays on the path to success.” Uh, we’re not on any path, we’re in the ditch mired in mud and corruption. We need a new BOE and a SUPER with no ties to DeKalb.

We must watch everyone involved and I agree Ramsey should be no where near this committee, however being a legislator himself he’ll have inside knowledge of what is being discussed etc… Definitely a conflict of interest, but that has not stopped anyone in the past.

The committee MUST be Bi-Partisan, Transparent and let’s hope they talk to all stakeholders, including parents from all DCSS districts, teachers, support staff as well as BOE members.

bootney farnsworth

August 26th, 2010
6:22 pm

how can anyone but an outside bust the good ol boy cabal running DeKalb education?

Atlanta Media Guy

August 26th, 2010
6:27 pm

Sunlight on DCSS will be like a disinfectant, something DCSS has not bought in years. You should smell the bathrooms at my kids DeKalb school.

bootney farnsworth

August 26th, 2010
6:27 pm

forget “Bi-Partisan, Transparent” and all the rest of the essentially meaningless words. the committe must actually be answerable to someone
who has the power to do things.

like say, RICO inditments

bootney farnsworth

August 26th, 2010
6:30 pm

funny how the AJC doesn’t mind seeing heads roll in DeKalb, but suggest Beverly Hall needs to go ….

Dekalbite@Atlanta Media Guy

August 26th, 2010
6:36 pm

Did your child go to Fairington? That school had 34 trailers and 33 classrooms inside the schools (get it – more trailers than classrooms). It was 100% over capacity. It stank when you just walked into the building – the smell just hit you – toilets built for half the number of students. Bouie Elementary was a beautiful school built to alleviate the increasing population in that area, but then the DCSS administration made it into a theme school so no help for the Fairington kids. These students were left wallowing in this situation for years. It was a depressing environment.

Atlanta Media Guy

August 26th, 2010
6:44 pm

Hey Bootneym the folks who have been indicted will never work for DCSS again! It’s appalling that we have to pay for CLew’s defense attorney though. Nothing like having our tax dollars paying for both sides of a case!

Sorry you didn’t like my meaningless words, if this committee is not bi-partisan and transparent then this whole thing is a waste of time. I’m hoping for Charter Clusters or Independent School Districts. DCSS has gotten to large for our current leaders to manage.
Personally, Tyson, Turk, Moseley, Thompson, Mitchell-Mayfield, Ramsey, Berry, Guilroys and and Edwards family member need to be resign or be fired. We need a total Palace cleaning!

robert

August 26th, 2010
6:49 pm

the problem is not fixable through administration, and the evidence of this can be seen in the vast differences found in dekalb

what schools are awesome in dekalb? decatur
why are they awesome? because the parents give a damn and are involved deeply in the schools, and with their children

what do you think would happen if you took all the teachers and principal out of the best decatur school, and dumped them into a school in a crappy neighborhood where parents think of public school as free babysitting? nothing would happen – the students would continue to fail, and the teachers would feel massive pressure to get scores up or risk losing their jobs or at the very least considered failures

who’s to blame for dumb kids? parents.
can politicians fix dumb kids? no

Atlanta Media Guy

August 26th, 2010
7:23 pm

Decatur does have a good system! They pay high taxes for it. It’s also a lot smaller than DCSS.. That’s why a lot of us want to start charter clusters or Independent School Districts. The waste, bloat, nepotism and cronyism that exists in the DCSS is awful and I believe the system is too large for these inept leaders to manage.

I would like to see my tax dollars get placed into the schools in my area. BOE member Redovian seems to forget that Chamblee is included in his district. CCHS continues to get promises of SPLOST funds only to be told, maybe the next one! SPLOST 4 will be hard to pass since there has been such fraud and corruption involving 2 and 3. Let’s hope CCHS gets some renovation and upgrades. The mold and mildew is a reason they have lost some great teachers as well as kids.

The parents in our area are involved and despite getting shafted by the Central Palace, our schools are AYP and graduating great students. A testament to the Teachers, Administrations and Parents of a High Achieving attendance zone and feeder schools.

Private School Guy

August 26th, 2010
7:32 pm

Many school board members in DeKalb and elsewhere have had no experience in handling and managing the level of budget a school system has. I think it’s time that school boards be appointed instead of elected. You can still have a mix of educators along with corporate heads and some community people but you need people who don’t need to do it, have nothing to gain and serve with no pay. Only then will we be able to avoid the type of situation we have in DeKalb.

DCSS

August 26th, 2010
8:32 pm

DCSS – Beasley must be investigated too! How many principals bought his book and how much of his other services has he provided on and from DCSS dime? If you did not view his web-site here are the links. Come to think of it his name has over powered Ramona Tyson’s name in the system. The only name that you hear about in every aspect of the schools is Dr. Beasley. One would think because he could not cut it apparently as super in Texas or where ever he was for a very very short period of time he is after the position in DCSS. Is that why he came back or was he sent back?
He has all of the other administrators hopping around with their tales caught between their … It is almost like he or they think that he is some kind of GOD! Oh, but he is a minister too, you know.
http://www.apassionforleadership.com/DrBeasley.htm
http://spiritoffaithministries.org/our_vision
Also, if this can be placed on face book it might just reveal even more corruption in DCSS.

Burroughston Broch

August 26th, 2010
8:34 pm

Based on my encounters with the School Board, they are completely oblivious about some issues and want to micro-manage others. They don’t seem to understand that their job is to represent the voters, not friends and family. I asked one School Board Member to explain whether he was part of the problem or part of the solution, and he just spluttered. I cannot decide whether he is Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dumber.

Angela

August 26th, 2010
8:43 pm

@Heard It All,

The men are weak too! Believe it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why do you think that Crawford allowed parents to act a fool. So, did Hartford as well. Johnny Brown is gone because he did not take that crap. You see you must be a yes man or woman to run the schools in DCSS.