It’s official: DeKalb hires Ohio school chief in split vote.

School chief finalist Cheryl Atkinson met the Dekalb public for the first time today.

School chief finalist Cheryl Atkinson met the DeKalb public for the first time today, wrapping up the session just a few minutes ago.

UPDATE Monday morning: The DeKalb board approved Dr. Atkinson this morning in a 6-3 vote. She is now officially the new school chief of the third largest system in the state of Georgia.

In her first meet-and-greet Saturday morning with the community, DeKalb school chief finalist Cheryl Atkinson came across as open, tough, seasoned and ready for the challenges of the fractured district.

Twice, to applause both times, Atkinson said she had no problem letting people go who are not performing. She also won applause when she said that education takes place in the classroom, not in the central office.

(You gained the sense that the DeKalb parents in the audience believe there is too much dead weight in the central office as the applause was reflexive whenever Atkinson talked about changes at that level.)

“My focus will be on our students and student success first with adults and political issues taking a distant second. Children must come first. Our decisions, my decisions, must first and foremost focus on what is good for all children. My intention is to create an internal structure that will allow effective educators to focus on the core mission improving academic performance. We do not have the luxury of allowing non-academic related issues to consume the attention and focus of all our educators,” she said

She also earned applause when she said that she didn’t believe in teaching to tests, but she did believe in preparing for them, including raising the performance of  high school students on the college admission tests, the SAT and the ACT. In Kansas City, she pushed and obtained ACT testing for every student during the school day.

Atkinson called for lacrosse and fencing so more students can participate in sports.  She called for updated vo-tech offerings, such as alternative energies. She called for Smart Boards in every classroom.  She called for a laptop or iPad for every student.

Her strong performance probably allayed the concerns of some folks, although great rhetoric doesn’t always produce great results. Atkinson’s selection has met with resistance from many parents, who do not believe that she has the depth to manage the 100,000-student urban district and all its problems, including flagging student performance and a stubborn achievement gap.

But Atkinson emphasized that she has done this work for three decades and understands what’s required to boost student achievement and change cultures.

“It is hard work. It is heavy  lifting and it will take time. When student achievement is not improving, particularly as it relates to the very foundation for what we do, reading and reading, skills, you can pretty much guarantee your foundation has crumbled and is certainly broken.”

In response to a question on bloat in the central office, Atkinson said the greater question is competency of that staff. She predicted that she would likely downsize, but said her first task would be figuring out who’s doing what and how well they’re doing it. “I have no problem saying to someone you have to go,” she said.

Asked about her husband’s bankruptcy and her failure to list it on her DeKalb application, Atkinson addressed only her own financial abilities, saying that her husband’s small business finances have never affected her abilities to be an effective manager of her schools. She said she has handled complex financial challenges, including in Lorain, and done it well.

Atkinson promised one-on-one meetings with principals, admitting that it would take a lot of  her time. “I have some time,”  she said.  She pledged to meet with teachers and teacher groups, saying that they were critical to her plans to turn around DeKalb schools.

“I never met one kindergarten child who said ‘I am going to drop out in several years.’ Something else happens, and so we have to fix that and we have to stop it,” she said.

In her final comment, Atkinson told the crowd, “It is not all bad. There are some very good things happening in this district. We will built upon those things.”

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

199 comments Add your comment

Parent

August 27th, 2011
11:16 am

You have a winner. You will see.

Very Passionate About Our Schools

August 27th, 2011
11:28 am

I am impressed more than I was before but very hesitant to believe she will be allowed to make any changes of any kind without the micro managing of Bowen and his band of incompetents. If she becomes Superintendent I will support her and give her a chance.

Dunwoody Mom

August 27th, 2011
11:35 am

I attended the “Meet and Greet”. Dr. Atkinson was charming. The PR Fluff was what I expected. I did not go into the meeting with any sense that that was said would change my mind, so there I was not disappointed when I heard nothing that changed my view.

Oh, and David Schutten, the “Welcome to DeKalb” buttons were really silly….

Dunwoody Mom

August 27th, 2011
11:38 am

Her strong performance probably allayed the concerns of some folks, although great rhetoric doesn’t always produce great results.

For some of us, her words were same song, different verse. You see we have heard these same words from Dr. Hallford, Dr. Brown, Dr. Lewis…I believed each of these 3 men when they spoke…you see where it got DCSS. Dr. Atkinson is going to have to earn my belief in her.

Tony

August 27th, 2011
11:38 am

In the case of Dekalb, the community must also make a commitment to support students. The schools, no matter how good the teachers, principals, and superintendent, can only do so much. Parents, community leaders, and others within Dekalb are the ones who hold the keys to students’s success. Unless everyone, especially parents, set high expectations and hold students accountable it will not matter who the superintendent is.

I hope the citizens and board of education of Dekalb can truly step up to the plate to make the changes they need to make for the schools to be successful.

Tony

August 27th, 2011
11:42 am

One more thing – SMART boards, iPads, and laptops do not hold the keys to improving student achievement.

Parent

August 27th, 2011
11:44 am

I don’t think she said they did. But lets be realistic Tony, kids need access and those tools are very important.

Not surprised

August 27th, 2011
11:50 am

Your child, my child is required 180 days of schools and about 7 hours per day. Do the math, who has the greater impact, the schools or the parents??

Kanarstead

August 27th, 2011
11:58 am

From my perspective Atkinson is a better choice than Cox. Especially after today.

Dunwoody Mom, you said almost nothing after Cox was picked, mainly Its ‘time to move on’ types of posts. Same with the school watch bloggers. The only consistent person on this blog has been Dr Trotter, he voiced his opposition to both, swiftly and for the same reasons, lack of experience.

It really is time to move on.

reopen schools

August 27th, 2011
11:59 am

Did she mention anything about reopening all the schools that DeKalb has unwisely closed?

Dunwoody Mom

August 27th, 2011
12:00 pm

@Kanarstead, I said no such thing.

RustyHinges

August 27th, 2011
12:02 pm

DCSS, like APS, is a lost cause. Doesn’t matter who holds the office of Superintendent, how much money is thrown out, or even who sits on the BoE. More and more of the students will continue to come from chronically welfare-dependent, one-parent homes were education is not now, and never will be, a priority.

Newt Gingrich had it right 20 years ago – this cycle will never change unless the children of these lazy, deadbeat, do-nothings are removed from this toxic environment.

The main purpose of public school systems, especially urban ones, are hiring factories for those who otherwise can’t find employment and a pass through program for future prison cells. The deck is stacked against all teachers who truly wish to educate.

As far as ipads and laptops – while they might be needed in today’s techno environment – guess what? The vast majority will be lost, destroyed and/or stolen if students are allowed to take them home. Most likely scenario will be that deadbeat parents will sell them for drug, liquor and/or cigarette money. Far less expensive to replace text books.

Lorain Father

August 27th, 2011
12:03 pm

Developed a plan for Dekalb County while on Lorain’s dime?

Remember, you get what you pay for

Lorainite1

August 27th, 2011
12:04 pm

Looks like someone did an analysis of her scores. They aren’t anything to brag about.
http://voteforearly.com/

chillywilly

August 27th, 2011
12:16 pm

I don’t believe Dr. Atkinson was the right choice, but I will give her the benefit of the doubt and wish her and Dekalb Schools much success. The Ipads & laptops for every student sounds good, but this could be very expensive and very difficult to manage. Where will the funds come from to buy these items? How will the school sytem track them? What happens when they are lost or stolen? Who’s liable for payment if lost or stolen? What recourse does DCSS have if parents or students refuse to pay for lost or stolen equipment?

She needs to terminate some of those central office administrators & school principals immediately, but PLEASE, PLEASE don’t bring those hustling, con artist from the north like Beverly Hall did. There are some very capable, competent folks to hire right here in the south.

Best of luck to you Dr. Atkinson and we do expect positive results.

GUNGA DIN

August 27th, 2011
12:21 pm

let’s face the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. the problem with Dekalb is the the same as APS. the racial makeup of the student body skews to those who don’t care about education. they all think that the will be NBA, NFL stars or hip-ho moguls. some even aspire to be the local drug lord. with that attitude plus the “don’t care” from their parent , this is a guarantee for failure. many will end up in jail, working low pay jobs or living off the rest of us !!

Parent

August 27th, 2011
12:22 pm

Lorainite1 and Lorain Father are the same person and its obvious your promoting your website.

Ari

August 27th, 2011
12:35 pm

Capsized in DeKalb

August 27th, 2011
12:43 pm

Dr. Atkinson was asked WHY she answered the question on the application incorrectly?
The question on the application is very simple,

“Have you EVER been involved, or are you currently involved, or do you anticipate involvement in litigation either as a plaintiff / complainant or defendant / respondent?”

This is a VERY simple and basic job application question. It is on ALL job apps from working at McDonalds to working for the government.

It is meant to see if the applicant is OPEN and HONEST / TRANSPARENT about their past legal history.

Here is the link to her job application and the above mentioned question #5, page 7 of the PDF.

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/superintendent/atkinson-candidate-file.pdf

You will see her answer is and was NO! She was asked the question,
“Why did you answer NO to this question?”

She did not respond directly to the question, but rather chose to say how much she loves her husband and that it was her husband’s small business that caused the bankruptcy.

She must have a performing arts background because she sure knows how to tap-dance around specific questions!

Now, onto another part of her dialogue. She stated that she will have a “Road Map” to present to the BOE after 90 days. We will see what our $330,000 tax dollars gets us in 90 days. She said she has a 5 year game plan / road map for success within DCSS. We will see in 90 days.

By the way, DeKalb County School System will have their new “Ethics / Whistleblower Hotline” open and available for use before the end of September!

Jeff

August 27th, 2011
12:53 pm

My hope is that after whoever is chosen, the various stakeholders in Dekalb Schools will get behind the chosen one and make something extraordinary happen in Dekalb County. Dekalb County has a demograpic makeup that will challenge any leader…but the challenges can be overcome through top quality leadership along with individual and collective willingness to work together. I don’t know the specific numbers but I suspect that there is much too much overhead in the central office. For some reason, school districts seem to flow in that direction until a strong leader reverses it. I believe that the new leader will have a window of opportunity to dramatically reduce the overhead before being swallowed up by the problem instead of solving it.

DEE

August 27th, 2011
12:53 pm

O.K. Nathan Deal is the governor of Georgia and thousands of people voted for him last fall. Is he qualified to handled trillions of dollars????????????????????????????? GO FIGURE……………………………………….

Jeff

August 27th, 2011
12:56 pm

Who better than Governor Deal to do so in Georgia? Not sure where the “trillions” will come from.

Dekalb student parent

August 27th, 2011
12:57 pm

DCSS is a joke. When I go to a PTA meeting and the first thing i hear is “we need money” or we (parents) raised 60K to hire a teacher, where the hell does my tax dollars go? Not to pay outrages admins salary. Put the money to good use and hire teachers, hold them accountable for teaching abilities or fire them. I’m one step closer to taking my kids out of DCSS and putting them in private school.

Inner City Parent

August 27th, 2011
12:57 pm

I am frustrated with people like Rusty Hinges who at best guess that inner student parents do not want an education for their kids. I have two children aged 5 and 11. Ask them what there job is at any given moment and they will tell you “To go to school and get good grades.” My husband and I are both 1st generation college graduates. Our homes stressed the importance of a great education and we expect nothing less from our children. Yes we were raised in the inner city, up North and both went to school on academic scholarships, not sports. Yes our children attend Dekalb County
schools however, keep you ignorant generalizations to yourself regarding “inner city/urban youth and their parents”.

Sam in GA

August 27th, 2011
1:06 pm

All this talk about the central office is pure non-sense. In order to manage a large system like the one in DeKalb you must have stafff in a central office. With that said, it is the parents of DeKalb who must prepare thier children to have a strong desire to learn each day that they attend school. Let’s give the Dr. Atkinson a chance to lead.

Jeff

August 27th, 2011
1:06 pm

How can DCSS be a “joke” when there are parents in Dekalb County like “Inner City Parent” and her husband. We need more like her to be heard above the name callers, nay sayers and cynics. The earlier comment by “Gunga Din” was pathetic. There were others as well. You can’t paint Dekalb County’s demographic with a single brush as so well illustrated by “Inner Cuty Parent”.

Jackie

August 27th, 2011
1:06 pm

There are enough positive citizens in Dekalb to join forces with Dr. Atkinson and the Board to make every effort to improve our schools for all students. Folks like “Dunwoody Mon” just need to move on somewhere elsr because, her own admission, Dr. Atkinson will fail. She is a part of the peoblem not the solution. I am going to hang in ad do everything I can to make DeKalb what it use to be back in th late 90’s when we first moved here.

DannyX

August 27th, 2011
1:08 pm

Maybe Atkinson can get one of those famous signature loans. You think her failed small business was a roach motel? Do you see family vacations paid for by lobbyists in her future? If she gets her bankruptcy up to a million do you think she may then be qualified to run for governor? Can she defend her contract by screaming “BECAUSE ITS FREE!!!??? Does she have any land for sale? Will she be firing off letters demanding sporting event tickets? A Georgia Power surcharge to pay for school expansion?

I sure hope Atkinson can adapt to Georgia culture.

Enna

August 27th, 2011
1:18 pm

As a professional employee in this system and a parent, I KNOW Dr. Atkinson or whomever they would have selected has their work cut out for them! There is the North/South Battle in full swing, racism in both directions prominent, nepotism and jobs based on ‘who you know’ filled with online Ph.D’s is rampant, money wasted ridiculously (ask to see a schools bookroom…it will amaze you!), principals consumed with the CRCT and their jobs, screaming kindergarden teachers and those who can’t handle a child because “Shemika and Jessica” come from very different backgrounds….I could go on and on but the bottom line is there is little or NO FOCUS on the children! Forget WHAT their address is….as one reader stated, learning takes place in the classroom and not Central Office. Downsize PLEASE! Get rid of some of those ‘dead head’ supervising staffers sitting on Memorial Drive and Mountain Industrial Rd. How many of them does it take to empty a garbage can???? Good Luck….No, may God be with you Dr. Atkinson, I hope you just wanted to get away from the harsh winters of the north…..it is Hotter down here then you are able to even imagine Hell to be…put on your “blinders and put up your dukes”…..there will me many bloody/nasty fights…hopefully you will win a few….for the children ‘red and yellow….black and white’…

Lorain Father

August 27th, 2011
1:19 pm

@Parent.

I have no website, I have no blog.

I have not posted here under any other name.

Do not state something as “fact” in writing that is not only not true but is provable in a court of law as not true.

DeKalb Parent

August 27th, 2011
1:23 pm

I will give Atkinson my full support because she will need it and we all need her to succeed. However, I was less impressed after the Q&A. She did not answer several questions even though they were selected in advance and she had time to plan what to say. I fear that she gave responses that were coached by her “handlers.” This does not sit well with me.

Maureen, the question was whether she will reduce the administrative bloat at the immediate office. She responded that she thought the issue was more one of competence and she might remove people she found to be incompetent. But that is only part of the issue. What if there are 5 “competent” people doing a job that could be done by one or two competent individuals? Parents and teachers think the resources need to be reallocated to the classrooms. Period.

She did not answer the Q about filing bankruptcy. The underlying issue is understandable but why not just say that it was an error?

Her response to providing more resources to gifted children was interesting. She said that in Loraine the students were sprinkled throughout the system so she brought them together to provide common resources to a group with similar needs. Open more magnet schools? or increase the size of the existing ones? not sure what she meant.

Jeff

August 27th, 2011
1:27 pm

If I am reading the numbers right, about 8 cents out of every dollar spent by DCSS goes for the central office. Saving pennies out of every dollar spent can amount to a lot of money for classroom investment.

Parent

August 27th, 2011
1:27 pm

lorain father look at your comments they came one minute after the other. How ironic. Your grammar sucks. Yep, you are that lady trying to promote her site. LOL

Tony

August 27th, 2011
1:35 pm

Parent, Maureen said, “She called for Smart Boards in every classroom. She called for a laptop or iPad for every student.”

There is no doubt that we must leverage tools like these for our students. However, these are also huge investments in terms of dollars. Unless the district also commits to providing appropriate training for teachers, the initiative is dead in the water!

Yes, technological tools are important, but they are not the cure.

Dunwoody Dad

August 27th, 2011
1:44 pm

The facts are in Dunwoody over half the kids who graduate from public elementary(Austin, Vanderlyn, DES, and Kingley) go into private school. Austin and Vanderlyn are to 10 elementary schools in the state every year.

Peachtree Middle drops all the way back to the bottom of all schools in the state. I believe it is ranked in the 400’s. Most people here just give up and move after elementary or send to private.

This new Superintendant has already stated that their will be no prviledge schools and she will work to re-allocate resources to make all schools the same.

In these blogs everyone thinks Dunwoody is this priviledged area. Cut Dunwoody resources or LaCrosse is a WHITE KIDS sport and Dunwoody gets everything.

Everything we get in Dunwoody is due to parent involvement and years of effort just to try and achieve what Gwinnett, Forsyth, Cobb, and Fulton already have. If you want an example just research how long parents have been fighting for LaCrosse and how little it will actually cost.

We need to work together and not throw stones. What we are getting in Dunwoody is unexceptable and needs to be improvement. The same with the county as a whole. Lets work together and try and support this new person.

She seems to have good intentions but if she decides to ignore us like most have done in the past and cut our resources than all those tax dollars will end because I have never seen more homes for sale and prices drop as much as they have in the last year.

Jim Tavegia

August 27th, 2011
1:47 pm

More politically correct comments. Does no one see what is wrong with public ed and know how to begin to make repairs? Totally lacking creativity in her comments.

not telling

August 27th, 2011
2:11 pm

Met with an old classmate for a reunion. His finace’ is from Ohio. I told her what was happening in Dekalb. She said Deklalb is getting a good super. It surprised me.

no mas

August 27th, 2011
2:12 pm

I agree (reluctantly) thet we need to gived dr. Atkinson a chance. I think we won’t get anyone else at this point (BoE will block that), and we need to move forward. It would be a good idea for her to jump in with “we need to ALL look out for the children, ALL parents need to get the message across that education is job #1″. Then she needs to do a meaningful assessment of the CO to a) get rid of incompetents and b) get rid of redundancy – move them out to the schools and give them a clear set of job responsibilities. Reviews need to be done by peers and subordinates on whether they are doing the job. Then look at Title 1 money – how is it being used and cna it be used better (and don’t just assign a subordinate to look at it).

@Tony, I agree with your assessment of laptops and iPads. While they may in the end prove to be appropriate tools, they may not be the best choice. DCSS desperately needs improved technology for students, but there needs to be a well thought out plan with justifications for the approach. Just throwing the”technology du jour” into the system makes no sense. Likewise for e-textbooks. Often they are MORE expensive than printed texts and they take a computer to use them, so if a kid has no computer, they are stuck.

I would like the system to investigate Chrome machines. They use “cloud computing” so there is really nothing stored on the machine. The laptops are relatively inexpensive and they can be handed out at the beginning of the class period and picked up at the end. Because nothing is stored on the machine, any kid can be given any computer, and the teacher is not dependent on whether the DCSS network is up and updated..

Berny

August 27th, 2011
2:40 pm

I am a South Dekalb parent. While some on this blog thing that parents on the southside don’t care about our children’s education and are all on free lunch, etc., I know there are others who understand that we are struggling just as hard as the rest of the county to get a decent education for our children. My daughter goes to school with and has many white friends. Many of their white parents have no idea what is going on in the school system. I take the time to inform them. There are many parents – black, white, hispanic and asian – who have checked out or don’t have a clue how their child is being education (or the lack thereof). Let’s please try and stop with the race-baiting. The sad truth is that there is enough racial politics on the school board and its destroying education for ALL of Dekalb’s children. I want my children to have the best education. I want them to learn to think critically, to read and enjoy the classic novels and to be challenged to acquire as much knowledge as humanly possible. Laptops, Ipads, etc won’t do this – but good old-fashioned teaching can. All children are NOT going to college and we need to prepare those with a solid start to a vocational education. All children are NOT going to come to school prepared to learn due to having sloths for parents or just being troublemakers themselves. We have to get serious about discipline. I have seen the problems that one or two bad apples can cause in a classroom. Get them out so that the others can learn. Parents must be held accountable. The urban public school system has become a pipeline directly to the city/county jail. All will not be saved by education but Dekalb has an obligation to those who seek it to provide. Fighting each other, whether it be North vs. South or Black vs. White will NOT resolve anything. That’s the wrong battle. OUR battle is with the Dekalb school board and the educational leaders to ensure that our children receive the best education that our tax dollars can buy. Let’s stop fighting and pointing fingers and use this forum and others to improve education for all Dekalb.

johndoemo

August 27th, 2011
2:45 pm

I’m still waiting on Brown to go to prison. What’s taking so long?

bootney farnsworth

August 27th, 2011
2:50 pm

same crap, different person.

johndoemo

August 27th, 2011
2:50 pm

Sorry I misspoke. I am waiting on Crawford Lewis to go to prison for ripping us off.

Capsized in DeKalb

August 27th, 2011
2:51 pm

Berny,

Over a decade of status quo and failing schools. I agree our battle is with the board and the admin within the system. My question to you is, When do we throw them ALL out? I’ll give Dr. Atkinson 90 days to get her plan in order and then I’ll help her execute her plan. But in two years from now and we find ourselves in the SAME situation, do you think it will BE TIME to throw them all out?
I would like to hear your opinion from the southern part of the county. When are excuses not tolerated anymore?
Thanks.

Dunwoody Mom

August 27th, 2011
2:53 pm

Folks like “Dunwoody Mon” just need to move on somewhere elsr because, her own admission, Dr. Atkinson will fail. I never said Dr. Atkinsons would fail. Please provide a link to my supposed statement. Pointing out that Dr. Atkinson does not have the qualifications nor experience to turn DCSS around does not equate to a statement of failure.”

I am going to hang in ad do everything I can to make DeKalb what it use to be back in th late 90’s when we first moved here.

My goal is even more ambitious. I would like to see DCSS back to being THE Premier school system in Georgia, as it was when I was a student in DeKalb during the 70’s.

InDeKalb

August 27th, 2011
2:55 pm

@Berny Have you checked out the new Parents for DeKalb group? There’s an article on them in the latest Champion newspaper. They seem to be calling for just what you are talking about. Parents from all over the county need to use social media to come together.

Southern Dekalb Teacher

August 27th, 2011
2:55 pm

Please get rid of Dr. Beasley first and foremost. Two years of a different mess. I am still confused about what makes him qualified or why instead of having elementary, middle school, and high school leadership, we have gone to k-12 leadership. A middle school or high school background usually has no idea what goes on in elementary education but yet these people come up with policies that are not appropriate. Hopefully our new superintendent will See the foolish that is Dekalb’s Central Office.

Atlanta Media Guy

August 27th, 2011
2:58 pm

Sam in GA. The Central Office expenses are not nonsense, unless you work in the Central Office. There are too many 6 figure salaries, for people who have nothing to do with the actual education of students. These teacher “coaches” who travel from classroom to classroom, but do not educate students, should be the place where we start trimming. Let’s hire two folks for each of these “6 figure” coaches and get them into the classroom. Get the teachers some more help and rehire the para’s that were laid off. Start paying the teachers what they were promised, in regards to the pension plan. Teachers have gone two years without a cost of living raise and the DCSS match in their pension plan. However, during the same time, administrators and these “teacher coaches” salaries have increased immensely. All you have to do is use the state websites to find out what they’re paid. It’s public information and it’s a disgrace that Central Office people got raises while the DCSS budget was balanced on the back of teachers and para-professionals.

Real Talk

August 27th, 2011
3:09 pm

Dunwoody Mom can anything please you? Face it if the woman healed the sick and cured the blind..you would find something wrong with that…..Why don’t you apply for the job …You seem to have all of the answers………..We need someone like you.

Real Talk

August 27th, 2011
3:11 pm

Tony research indicates that technology improves academic achievement.

Sorry ATL media guy

August 27th, 2011
3:17 pm

I am an administrator at a school. I did not get a raise over the past couple of years!!! Sorry if you were not informed, but all employees including local administrators took a hit too. You should do your check a little more before making comments that are not true.