Clearing the smoke in the Smoke Rise Elementary dispute over parent-raised funds for new playground

A parent sent me this photo of a 1999 fund raiser by the Smoke Rise Elementary foundation for new playground equipment. (Special)

A parent sent me this photo of a 2009 casino night and silent auction held by the Smoke Rise Elementary Foundation to raise money for new playground equipment. (Special)

On Tuesday, I received a note from Smoke Rise Charter Elementary School parents in DeKalb about what they deemed an unsavory and unfair effort to convert funds raised for a playground by a parent foundation to another use. I asked DeKalb spokesman Walter Woods about it that morning and just received his reply.

So, here are both the notes.

First, the note from members of the Smoke Rise Elementary Foundation:

Last night the Smoke Rise Charter Elementary School Principal and Governance Council called a special meeting and demanded that the Smoke Rise Elementary Foundation, a separate fundraising entity, provide them unlimited access to nearly $45,000 in funds previously raised by parents and the community over the last 3 years for the specific purpose of replacing the current dangerous playground equipment. The Principal and Governance Council want to cancel the previously approved playground upgrade project. The administrators are wanting carte blanc use of the money that had been designated for the playground; including to pay an additional salary to a current full-time DeKalb County School System employee whose children attend the school.

In addition, last spring, SREF volunteers applied for and received a renowned KaBOOM!®  $15,000 grant to match funds already raised for the playground. After previously approving the playground purchase, the Principal and Council at SRE suggest to just “walk away” from this generous grant.

Nearly every fundraising event that has occurred over the last three years was advertised specifically as going to fund a new playground for the school children and local community. The $45,000 includes funds that were collected via a website established explicitly to collect funds for a new playground and to show issues with the current playground equipment built in 1969 and 1980s.

The mission of the SREF is to continually improve the educational experience at Smoke Rise Charter School by creating sustainable business and community partnerships that provide financial and other resources. SREF was established years before the existence of the SRE Governance Council and without regards to the Council. The Counsel believes SREF is forced to do as it says.

Parents who donated for the expressed cause of building a new playground for their children are outraged that their money appears to have been donated under false pretenses.

Upon reading that note, I asked Walter Woods about the allegations, prefacing my comment with the understanding that the school could not commandeer foundation funds.

Here is what Woods sent me today:

You are correct. Smoke Rise Charter Elementary School understands it has no authority over the Smoke Rise Elementary Foundation’s money. They are completely separate. The charter school’s leadership can only make requests to the foundation.

At a meeting on Monday, the school’s Governing Council presented a system for deciding priorities for requests to the foundation. Some of the requests include new technology for computer labs and professional training and materials to help teachers meet new state curriculum standards coming later this year. The school leadership believed on Monday that everyone was in agreement about the recommendation system.

Other priorities have also been discussed, including a playground and funding a school parent liaison.  In terms of the playground, Smoke Rise Elementary’s building is scheduled to replaced in the next few years under SPLOST IV, and that would include $150,000 in new playgrounds, fields and equipment. A new playground was not agreed on by everyone to be the priority nor has the playground been the focus of all of the school’s fund raising in recent years.

The parent liaison position is described in the school’s charter, and has been funded over the past two years by a grant that has now expired. An employee at the school has been performing this role and committing the hours in addition to their position at the school. The school leadership asked the foundation to fund $15,000 for the extra-curricular position.

The foundation has paid $5,000 towards this position. Funding such a position is allowed under the school charter. But the school leadership can only make recommendations to the foundation, and we hope that everyone can work together to decide on priorities that are in the best interest of the students at Smoke Rise and the community.

Thanks,

Walter Woods,

Executive Director of Communications, DeKalb County School System

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

198 comments Add your comment

Roberta

January 25th, 2012
2:48 pm

There is no comment for this. On one hand …… was the school aware of the fundraising efforts and at the same time knew the school was already getting a new playground under SPLOST? If yes, then why didn’t the school stop the fundraising effort? or is there a possibility that the money could be used for a community playground improvement? and what the heck is a parent liaison ?????? more tax dollars going to administration rather than education?

Beverly Fraud

January 25th, 2012
2:55 pm

Sounds like the Smoke Rise Elementary Foundation just gave DeKalb mouth organ Walter Woods a cup of fresh brewed STFU coffee.

WITHOUT sugar.

With the understanding that he WILL drink it, and he WILL like it! LOL

STFU standing for Salutation To Facilitate Understanding of course

Beverly Fraud

January 25th, 2012
3:00 pm

“A new playground was not agreed on by everyone to be the priority…”

So says Mouth Organ Walter Woods.

Well apparently Mouth Organ Walter, ENOUGH parents decided it was the priority to the point that they received a $15,000 grant in MATCHING FUNDS from an organization that ALSO obviously feels the money was to go to a playground.

How’s the mouth feel on that nice fresh cup of STFU Walter? Not too BITTER I hope.

carlosgvv

January 25th, 2012
3:06 pm

Just more deception and lying in a Georgia school.

The Deal

January 25th, 2012
3:08 pm

Under which SPLOST is Smoke Rise supposed to get a new building? I’m guessing that whatever SPLOST it is, the list was not compiled 3 years ago when this fundraising effort began. Plus, we all know that just because a school is on a SPLOST list does not mean that they will get it or will get everything they were promised per typical DeKalb. If I were on that foundation, I would hold onto the money until the new building and grounds plans are drawn up, agreed to, and finalized before reallocating that money, particularly to a council and a principal that sound like they have their hands out. If parents raised money for a playground, it should stay committed to a playground until there is an ironclad understanding that the county is paying for a new playground. At that point, the foundation can choose to reallocate those funds in whatever way their bylaws allow. If the council and principal want money to spend, they should raise it themselves.

mystery poster

January 25th, 2012
3:08 pm

Kind of sounds like what happened with Garth Brooks and the hospital that had to pay him a million dollars.

The Deal

January 25th, 2012
3:09 pm

Okay, I see it’s SPLOST IV, which means that the foundation will be holding onto that money for quite a while before final plans are available.

mystery poster

January 25th, 2012
3:11 pm

Garth gave 500K to the hospital for a new wing in his mother’s name. They tried to use it for another purpose. Garth sued, judgment for 1M

Dekalb taxpayer

January 25th, 2012
3:27 pm

Kudos to all of those contributors who saw a need at their school and sought to provide a playground for their kids. They could end up waiting years for a new school and playground from SPLOST funds. I sure hope they don’t approve ANY of their funds for any kind of hire.

Not as innocent as they appear

January 25th, 2012
3:35 pm

This same foundation has tried to get rid of the principal because he would not do as they want him to do. They even went as far as interviewing potential principals for the job. Not all is as is it seems here, and knowing the principal, I believe him, before I believe a group of parents who have already underhandedly tried to go after his job once and felt that they could pick whom they wanted for the position if he was gone.

Kaitsmom

January 25th, 2012
4:24 pm

The foundation should hold onto that money. I really would not count on the new school being built in a timely manner. I am curious about the previous comment about the foundation wanting a new prinicipal. I plan to enter my child into a lottery to attend that school next year. A nice safe playground would be a priority for me.

Not as innocent as they appear

January 25th, 2012
4:37 pm

@ Kaitsmom, this group of parents thought that when the school became a charter school, that they would be able to run the school, kind of like the Friends and Family program found throughout DeKalb. They thought that they would be able to pick teachers, a new principal, and be able to dictate how the school was run. They forgot that the school is a conversion charter school, and that they are still tied to the DeKalb School and not a separate entity, and that they can’t pick and chose who works at the school, any more so than any other parent group at any of the other schools within the county.

AlreadySheared

January 25th, 2012
4:55 pm

* Financial Weasels — Wherever there is money, there are weasels, usually in direct proportion. ”
Scott Adams – ‘Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel’

Vista Belle

January 25th, 2012
5:20 pm

Considering the SR playground is also considered a Dekalb County public park, shouldn’t the Parks Department have some verbal and financial input on this? @Kaitsmom, get involved now. Attend PTA meetings to get acquainted with the atmosphere of the school and the level of involvement the parents show. Sounds to me like a deep divide considering the negative comments from @Not as innocent as they appear. I’m not getting a good vibe from his/her posts.

Dr. Monica Henson

January 25th, 2012
5:32 pm

Unfortunately, this is an example of parent involvement run amok. When I was a new principal, I had a parent group that raised enough money to purchase a reading program for the school–that a small group of non-educator parents decided the school “needed” before I was hired for the position. They demanded that I use school funds to purchase staff development to “make” all the teachers implement the program. I thanked them for their gift and expressed my sincere appreciation of their desire to help the school, but I made the reading program voluntary for any teacher who wanted to participate (gaining for myself the undying enmity of some of the parents, no doubt).

The foundation needs to work hand-in-hand with the school to ensure that the fundraising efforts dovetail with the school’s mission, vision, and values. If that doesn’t happen, then the school really should honor the foundation’s directed gift just as they would any other donor’s designated gift.

WHAT A CROCK!

January 25th, 2012
5:45 pm

If you don’t know what you’re talking about – you shouldn’t talk. This foundation was created by just a few parents in the community who ONLY WANTED TO SUPPORT OUR COMMUNITY PUBLIC SCHOOL. We even made and sold yard signs saying that very thing – to get the community behind the school. Without a good school in our community – our community suffers. So, we started this effort to raise funds to donate. The administration was UNRESPONSIVE. Tomorow you’ll see photos of the current playground at our school and you’ll see for yourselves that it is unsafe for our children. Also, please note that the school AND council (which i was a member of at the time) both knew of AND APPROVED of this project and the community-build and the grant. They simply now think they can take the money that WE raised for OUR COMMUNITY’S SCHOOL and use it for whatever they want to use it for. WE WILL NOT LET THEM HAVE IT!

Paddy O

January 25th, 2012
5:47 pm

If it is screw upable, leave it to Dekalb BOE to do so. However, I find it highly dubious that an elementary school really needs a “foundation”.

Paddy O

January 25th, 2012
5:49 pm

Who is currently on the board of this foundation? Have they incorporated with the state? Filed IRS paperwork? Very odd.

Paddy O

January 25th, 2012
5:52 pm

Just looked – remarkable effort just to fund a playground. Why would the principle not want a safe playground, paid for by a donation?

Paddy O

January 25th, 2012
5:56 pm

Dr. Henson – a smart principal would seek to curry favor with a group of parents so passionate that they would go through the entire process of having a GA incorporated foundation, just to help out the school. Unless the principal is on the board of directors, he/she is being an idiot. Just build the bleeping playground – $45,000 is a nice sum to erect a kids playground.

Paddy O

January 25th, 2012
5:58 pm

the school parent liaison has a name, principal of the school. this schools governing council has been hijacked and appear to in desperate need of cash. good luck smoke rise foundation. stick to your guns, and don’t let a principal on your board of directors, they apparently can’t be trusted and in GA, are pretty transient.

Paddy O

January 25th, 2012
6:00 pm

Did Walter Woods ever speak to the Chair of the foundation? Or is he just blathering?

Beentheredonerhat

January 25th, 2012
6:02 pm

Unfortunately there is a lot more going on here than just the playground. The past negative interaction between these groups has created animosity and tainted priorities and judgement. As a founding member of the Foundation – I am here to tell you this entity was not created to compete with the schools administration or any other related group. It was formed because a few of us parents were certain that public and community support were lacking severly because of the bad reputation Smoke Rise Elementary had become known for. We felt that putting a new face on would help to eleviate some of the miscommunications about the school and help to improve community support. Never was there a negative purpose or mission. I take personal offense to people trying to show the Foundation as anything but in full support of the bettering of our community school. It’s just ridiculous.

Get Your Facts Straight

January 25th, 2012
6:05 pm

@Not… This foundation did NOT try to overthrow the principal and certainly never interviewed anyone. You clearly do not have all of the facts. That was a story that the principal fed to the staff members after a FEW parents tried to save their community school from a principal who has turned off the community to the point that fewer than 20% of the students enrolled there actually live in the same zip code as the school. A zip code that used to have an overcrowded and highly sought-after school!

Those FEW parents do not represent the foundation, the PTA, or any other organization. They happen to be the parents who were most involved at the school, and saw first hand how the principal allowed 4th grade girls to be sexually harrassed continuously for MONTHS without putting a stop to the behaviour or even contacting the girls’ parents. You would have heard about THAT incident in the press if it weren’t so painful for all of the girls involved. Fortunately for DeKalb, they were able to buy off those parents by offering to send the girls to schools like Livsey to get away from the bullies at Smoke Rise.

Get Your Facts Straight

January 25th, 2012
6:07 pm

I love how Walter used his DeKalb bureaucracy training in his letter to Maureen. When he says, “Other priorities have also been discussed, including a playground and funding a school parent liaison.”, what he really means is that the community has been saving for three years for a new playground and have discussed it frequently. The principal approved it, signed off on the KaBOOM grant, and encouraged the parents to move forward. THEN, the principal ran out of charter grant money and “discussed” that the Charter Council pay a current school admin to work a second job on her lunch break and after school and receive an additional $15,000.00 that would be paid for by the foundation on top of her county salary. NO ONE else was interviewed for the job, the job was never posted on PATS or in any newspaper, and the foundation was INSTRUCTED that they were to pay the salary. The foundation refused, due to lack of funds, and then they were called into a mandatory meeting Monday night to be told that they were expected to modify their bylaws to allow the Charter Counsel to have sole discretion on how the funds would be spent and that the playground was being called off because DeKalb would be building a new one with SPLOST funds when they start rebuilding our school.

Get Your Facts Straight

January 25th, 2012
6:14 pm

@Paddy O… thanks for showing common sense. Yes, they are incorporated. They were founded in 1997, long before Smoke Rise was considering becoming a Charter School. They also held community meetings, asked neighbors to purchase yard signs to show school support, met with the principal to discuss school needs, worked VERY CLOSELY with the principal to write and rally for the charter so that they could work with him to bring the school and community back to the amazing place it was. Yes, they discussed hiring a parent liaison and paying for it, but didn’t agree to give the DeKalb “friends and family” deal to a current employee for doing what is already part of her job.

Jwal

January 25th, 2012
6:27 pm

I guess I’ll take my money back then because i donated for the replacement of the dangerous equipment that FOUR of my children played on during their attenance at the school.

Dekalbite

January 25th, 2012
6:31 pm

“However, I find it highly dubious that an elementary school really needs a “foundation”.”

There are a number of schools in DeKalb that have foundations. For example:

Fernbank
http://www.fernbankelementaryfoundation.org/

Oak Grove
http://www.oakgrovefoundation.org/

Go FOUNDATION!

January 25th, 2012
6:34 pm

The current playground at Smoke Rise Elementary is a sad, sad sight. There is a hole in the middle of a plastic slide that could hurt a child. Paint is peeling off the metal posts. The wooden bridge has collapsed and rests on the ground. Everything is old and worn out. There isn’t enough mulch to keep the kids safe from a fall.

The new playground was bright, attractive, and safe. Many people dedicated time and money to bring a new playground to the school. I’m sad for the kids at Smoke Rise. They are the victims here.

Get Your Facts Straight

January 25th, 2012
6:38 pm

@Dr. Monica Henson – I’m sorry you had a bad experience with over-enthusiastic parents who were too generous. But you, too, do not have your facts straight. The situation in Smoke Rise is not anything like yours. You can’t assume that because you are a (presumedly) good principal who had parents run amok that other principals are as altruistic and that other giving parents are also “amok”. These people not only support the school’s vision, mission, and values, they helped WRITE them. They have nothing but positive energy to contribute. They do not want to support this administrator because they feel he has not been good for their community school. Was this a quick judgement? No, they gave him a SEVEN YEAR chance. During that time, he has bullied parents, lied, played cover up, leaked VERY private information about students who were directly named in confidential emails, and more. By defending him when you have no idea what is going on, you are doing a great disservice to a community who has already suffered so much under his regime. Please get your facts straight before you post with such certainty.

Did the Parent Liaison meet the goals set?

January 25th, 2012
6:52 pm

The Smoke Rise Elementary Parent Liaison was supposed to establish very specific quantitative goals:
Track Volunteer hours
Manage Parental agreements
Implement programs to increase family attendance at meetings, functions and school activities
Increase PTA membership
http://www.smokerise.org/uploads/ss110110.pdf

What are the statistics? By what percent did the Parent Liaison meet or not meet these goals? Did the principal present the data showing these goals were met to the parent foundation?

Sherman from Dunwoody

January 25th, 2012
6:58 pm

You have to be kidding me. I donated $500 to the Foundation so they could rebuild the park, not pay some “volunteer” a bonus. As Neal Boortz would say…”Government schools.”

dunkey

January 25th, 2012
7:10 pm

I gave money for the explicit reason to rebuild the playground so my child could have a safe place to play. If that is not going to happen, I want my donation back.

?confused?

January 25th, 2012
7:25 pm

Isn’t the foundation legally obligated to give the money back to people who donated funds earmarked for a playground if they aren’t going to build one? Seems like that SHOULD be a law. Otherwise, charities could just bait and switch like this any time, right?

Dekalbite

January 25th, 2012
7:59 pm

How many thousands a year did Smoke Rise ES pay for a Parent Liaison to:

Track Volunteer hours
Manage Parental agreements
Implement programs to increase family attendance at meetings, functions and school activities
Increase PTA membership

yes i am worried

January 25th, 2012
8:36 pm

I believe that more than a few Smoke Rise involved parents have removed their children from the school in the last few years.

I wonder if this has something to do with the dispute.

Smoke Rise is scheduled for a new school in this SPLOST that begins this summer. I wonder how the new playground fits into the plan.

Get Your Facts Straight

January 25th, 2012
9:21 pm

“How many thousands a year did Smoke Rise ES pay for a Parent Liaison to:

Track Volunteer hours
Manage Parental agreements
Implement programs to increase family attendance at meetings, functions and school activities
Increase PTA membership”
______________________________________________________________________________

The original charter grant budget included 10K for a parent liaison for the first two years, so 20K total was allocated from that grant. The first year, the principal did not hire one, so that money was forced to be spent on something else. The second year, a parent liaison was hired (the woman shown in the Smoke Signal article referenced in the link above from “Did The Parent Liaison…”). This parent liaison was given no job description, and basically did whatever the principal asked of her. A major complaint from parents is that she was told by the principal to “man the phones” at the front desk at the school in the afternoons so that the secretary could leave. That liaison resigned after one year. This is the first year that grant money has not been allocated for the parent liaison position, and the foundation was asked to pay the school secretary $15K to do the job. The foundation said, “No” outright because it 1: didn’t see much improvement from having had a parent liaison the prior year; 2: didn’t want to hire someone who was already employed at the school and receiving a county paycheck without having interviewed any other candidates for the job (especially given the reputation in DeKalb for nepotism); and 3: had already allocated the money to new playground equipment, and had gone through all the hoops of applying for and winning a matching grant from KaBOOM. The Charter Council hired the secretary anyway and said they’d wait until the foundation raised more money and then pay her with foundation money (which was not their call to make) at the end of the school year. The foundation received much pressure from the Council, and agreed to pay the next 5K it raised to the secretary.

So… a total of $15K has been spent to date on parent liaisons at SR and none of it was county funds (the charter grant came from the state).

I do not want to give the impression that effective parent liaisions are not vital members of a school community. They ARE funded by the county in most Title 1 schools, and are very effective in improving student performance in schools where parent involvement is low. Since Smoke Rise has most of the qualifications of a title 1 school (meaning that a majority of the students at SR Charter are eligible for free lunch), a good parent liaison could go a long way toward improving the school… If they were properly trained and were supported by a good principal.

Stomach Sank from Good Mom

January 25th, 2012
9:52 pm

My stomach is in knots. I could not believe my eyes when I read this. The administration wants to steal money the parents raised for a playground.

Requested the money? Request my azz. They wanted to bully them out of it.

This is one of my worst nightmares.

Right now there is an option to redistrict some intown neighborhoods to go to Hope elementary instead of Lin, ME and SPARK. Hope has no playground. On an earlier blog I sincerely volunteered to help Hope with a playground. I would have literally donated my time and money for that project. Now, there is no way. This corruption runs too deep. It’s an infection in the blood.

I need to get the he99 out of GA.

Get Your Facts Straight

January 25th, 2012
10:08 pm

“RE: How many thousands a year did Smoke Rise ES pay for a Parent Liaison to:

Track Volunteer hours
Manage Parental agreements
Implement programs to increase family attendance at meetings, functions and school activities
Increase PTA membership”

10K so far, which came out of state funds.

About Dr. Monica Henson from Good Mom

January 25th, 2012
10:08 pm

She says “The foundation needs to work hand-in-hand with the school to ensure that the fundraising efforts dovetail with the school’s mission, vision, and values. If that doesn’t happen, then the school really should honor the foundation’s directed gift just as they would any other donor’s designated gift.”

Yes, it is a gift and it direclty dovetails with the school’s mission. A playground has, of course, an obvious school mission.

It actually scares me now. I am wondering about all the money I give to the PTA — is that money getting drained off by someone in administration. Has all that money I spent on wrapping paper and every other item I bought for years going to some administrator?

I hate to turn down a kid who is selling something at my door for his school but now I think I might just say no thank you. I am not going to be a sucker.

The Principal from Good Mom

January 25th, 2012
10:10 pm

Someone else said it best the princial IS the parent liaison. If the principal is not the liaison, he needs to be fired.

Get Your Facts Straight

January 25th, 2012
10:27 pm

An elaboration on my comment from 10:08pm:
The original charter grant (from the state) provided 20K for a parent liaison for two years. The principal missed the boat the first year and didn’t use the money. The second year, 10K was spent on a parent liaison who was never given a real job description and was asked to do things like answer phones at the school front desk every afternoon. She quit after 6 months, but was talked into finishing out the school year.

This year, the Charter Council asked the foundation to spend 15K to pay the current school secretary to be the new parent liaison. The foundation said “No”. IMHO, This was probably because 1: they didn’t see much benefit from having had a parent liaison the prior year, 2: they didn’t want to pay money to a current school employee without posting the job opening or interviewing anyone else for the position (think DeKalb County and nepotism accusations), and 3: they had already allocated the money to a new playground, and applied for and been granted an additional 15K from KaBOOM. The Charter Council hired the secretary as the parent liaison anyway and said they’d pay her at the end of the school year after the foundation had raised more money. The foundation did not give approval for this hire, but after much pressure from the Council agreed to give 5K to the school to pay the secretary. The principal signed the playground paperwork, a contractor was selected, and the KaBOOM grant was a “go”. Then on Monday night, the “school leaders” were called in and told that the principal and Council were going to refuse to allow the new playground, and that the foundation needed to amend their bylaws so that the Council made all decisions regarding how money raised by the foundation is going to be spent in the future. They indicated that the only role for the foundation was to raise the money and when presented with a request, they could confirm or deny that the amount requested was available in the account. Additionally they told the PTA board that they were no longer allowed to have a say in the PTA expenditures either. That’s a whole other blog topic!

Crooked Facts Abound...

January 25th, 2012
10:42 pm

Walter Wood states that “The parent liaison position is described in the school’s charter, and has been funded over the past two years by a grant that has now expired.”

This is an inaccurate statement. In truth, the parent liaison position was only funded by the charter for one year because the principal didn’t get around to hiring one the first year and the funds had to be used by year two.

He also states that, ” Smoke Rise Charter Elementary School understands it has no authority over the Smoke Rise Elementary Foundation’s money.” The truth here is that they NOW understand that they have no authority over the foundation’s money… After a question was asked by Maureen Downey and someone TOLD them it was illegal. On Monday night, when they directly stated otherwise, they did NOT understand it. Thank you, Walter, for clearing that up for them.

WOW from Good Mother

January 25th, 2012
10:43 pm

WOW! I just read “get Your facts straight” — the last blog entry of 10:27 on the 25th. So the adminiscrooks are trying to steal the PTA money tool. Unfreaking believable.

Dear Lord, Smoke Rise parents, I’m saying a prayer for you tonight.
good mom

Thank you, Maureen from Good Mother

January 25th, 2012
10:46 pm

Looks like Maureen, as a journalist, has earned a commendation, at least in my book. Someone wrote “After a question was asked by Maureen Downey and someone TOLD them it was illegal. On Monday night, when they directly stated otherwise, they did NOT understand it. Thank you, Walter, for clearing that up for them.”

So Maureen got the 411 on a shady deal and told the crooks what they were doing is illegal. This is journalism at its finest, as a government watch dog.

Kudos, Maureen. Great going! More ! More!

Good Mom

Vista Belle

January 25th, 2012
11:44 pm

I find it Fascinating (!!!) that after so many outrages in the school —-ranging from sexual harassment cover-ups to blatant abuse of the charter— that it is the playground issue that is finally bringing all of these issues to a larger audience. Thank you to everyone who is willing to share this information! And if you haven’t been part of srcs, please gather all of the facts before you cast stones. Hopefully you’ve heard from enough posters by now to realize that this isn’t just parents gone “amok” or being “underhanded.”

Get Your Facts Straight

January 26th, 2012
12:28 am

Vista Belle, funny you mention that. I had dinner tonight with a friend from the community and commented on how sad it is that we’ve had some REAL tragedies in our school over the last few years, and the only thing that’s gotten any attention has been related to this playground incident. My theory is that it is because this issue has a clearly labeled hefty monetary figure associated with it… $45K is much easier to quantify and qualify than a few little girls’ psyche after harrassment, or the way a community “feels” forced out of our own school by this principal and has been treated as pests by DCSS because we want a positive learning environment for our children.

All eyes are on Dr. Atkinson to take care of the less quantifiable issues – hope she comes through for this county in the end… we need it!

Karma will always prevail though one way or another…

Beverly Fraud

January 26th, 2012
12:32 am

“The truth here is that they NOW understand that they have no authority over the foundation’s money”

Yes, it appears that a good ole fashion cup of STFU enhanced the cognitive abilities of Mouth Organ Walter Woods.

Another Ex-Smoke Rise Parent

January 26th, 2012
1:26 am

Wow, I can only say ‘hear hear’… I too have left that school due to the administration. I spoke to the area superintendent and got no relief. I was very involved and was apalled at the attitude of the administration. Both ‘What a Crock’ and ‘Get Your Facts Straight’ have the story correct. I was there. I have witnessed events and seen documentation first hand that corroborates what they have said. As for the ‘Now they understand about the Foundation’ issue, I can say I have personally heard (on numerous occasions) discussions (and arguments) around the function of the Foundation and what could be done with the money and how it could be accessed. It was described clearly on these numerous occasions. So, they already ‘understood’. If they were trying this, then they were just trying to bully their way into more cash.

I really hope this gets more visibility now. (Please Maureen?) There was much concern about the best way to address all these issues and the negative light it might put on the school if it was made public, but, as ‘Get Your Facts Straight’ pointed out, almost all the local families have moved their kids to other schools, so, that is pretty much a moot point now. I know one family that attended for one year during the first or second year of the principal’s tenure (i.e., 6/7 years ago) and left (direclty because of the principal) and in desparation figured out home schooling (because it was so bad and they had no other choice). There were quite a few families that left just last year because of all of this. And the principal didn’t care. His attitude was more one of confrontation rather than, if all these parents are so upset, then there must be a problem and let’s meet and try to address it. Same for many of the teachers. The litany goes on and on. This school had a lot of involved parents at one point and now it has lost most of them. These were very passionate and committed parents that gave a lot of their personal time… but the school administration preferred that they just give money and go away. And before someone says it, no, they definitely did not try to run the school…. They asked, repeatedly, what they could do for the school, and how they could contribute constructively. They organized summer cleaning/painting projects to refresh what is really an old and well used school in an effort to brighten it up and make it more pleasant for the students. There is a long list of things that these parents did or tried to do for this school to make it a better place. But it was all for naught. The administration was the real problem here, not the facilities. And the county would not support the parents on this one… even with documentation in their *own* records (yes, there are documented complaints along all these same lines going back 3 or 4 years in the area superintendant’s files)…. Perhaps Maureen can get some of these brought out into the open? Or perhaps she can get the information on the abuse of the 4th graders brought out into the light of day? I know one of the parents whose daughter was involved that couldn’t even get the information from the county. She thought there was a police investigation only to find out later that it was really an internal Dekalb School investigation and she was unable to get any information about it. And since she was bought off by getting moved to another (better) school…. It kind of petered out…. She was definitely a little concerned about having her ‘privildge’ revoked if she made too much fuss. As I said, the litany goes on, and on, and on…..

Get Your Facts Straight

January 26th, 2012
1:48 am

And finally… to “Not as innocent as they appear” , I still can’t get over the nonsense that you typed onto this blog. I guarantee that you are a school employee who was read aloud an inflammatory email from ONE parent that was taken TOTALLY OUT OF CONTEXT and has been used by the principal to rally the teachers against the parents. You’ve been spoonfed this stuff by the principal to deflect from his inadequacies. It is Mind Blowing that you actually can interpret the events that went down last year as the foundation trying to interview and hire a new principal and new teachers. Absolutely mind blowing! How sad for you that you never got all the facts and are living under this fallacy. You say they “tried to get rid of the principal because he would not do as they want him to do.” What did he tell you that they “wanted him to do”? Let me tell you a few things that were requested: Actually purchase the science lab and robotics equipment that was promised as part of the charter funds (it took two years to get the science equipment and the robotics equipment was never purchased from what I understand)? they asked him to stop little boys from grabbing their female classmates by the back of the head and forcing their heads into their laps while telling them to “teabag” them? to stop letting kids smash up all the new mirrors on the freshly painted walls in the girls bathrooms? to provide soap and paper towels in the bathrooms on a regular basis so kids could wash their hands after using the restroom and maintain basic hygiene? to ask the teachers to stop showing FIVE DISNEY MOVIES IN ONE WEEK without tying it into their curriculum? to stop allowing kids to write damaging, harrassing words on the walls about other students? to stop taking away recess as a punishment (which is against the law),to stop popping in a non-educational movie and calling it recess because the teacher didn’t like going outside too often. to stop rampant bullying on the playground by asking teachers to actually keep an eye on the students instead of gossiping or READING A BOOK under the pavilion? They also asked that first graders not be allowed to wander outside ALONE in front of the school during the school day on multiple occasions while all the doors were locked, that he not allow the teachers to scream at students, use humiliation and sarcasm as discipline tactics, use name-calling (like saying students are stupid or gay) or teach our kids that 9/11 was a US government conspiracy…and can you believe that they actually had the audacity to ask him to show up at the PTA meetings or to at least send at least ONE teacher representative to them so that they could try to figure out how to spend all that money they were making for him? Yes, you are right, he didn’t do the things they asked, and they wanted to have him replaced. So their kids could be SAFE when they went to school every morning. So that they would have a principal who showed up at school events and PTA meetings and foundation meetings and actually provided some input as to how to spend the fruits of their successful fundraising efforts. So that teachers could feel motivated and have high morale and be happy to come to work every day. Not because they wanted some crazy “school parent power’ or to hire new teachers. They LOVED the teachers… they just wanted the teachers to have a better leader. ONE PARENT said something bad about the teachers… that parent was not on the foundation nor was that parent speaking for all of the parents. Yet he took that one parent’s words and turned ALL teachers against ALL parents with it in an effort to deflect the negative attention that was coming his way. He played you guys and he played you well, while “those parents” did nothing but nice things for you. They provided a teacher appreciation luncheon EVERY SINGLE MONTH, remodeled the teachers’ lounge, spent 1,000.00 to stock your supply room at the beginning of school year, painted your classrooms for you, made copies for you, scheduled assemblies, pressure washed your bathrooms, scrubbed dirty grout in the hallways, and granted every financial request you made to them from new microscopes down to red ink pens. “This group of parents” would have done ANYTHING for you because they believed that happy teachers made happy kids who are motivated to learn. And they thought one of the best ways to make you happy would have been to give you a better leader. So, when you sent your teacher representative (who admitted that the teachers like him because he “leaves them alone” and has low expectations of them after school hours) to ask the involved families to leave the school, they did. Gobs of them did. I hope they’ve finally made you happy because I hear the families are flourishing!