DeKalb on probation: Official statements from both sides

Here is the official statement from SACS on DeKalb’s probation:

Here is the report.

The AdvancED Accreditation Commission voted to place the DeKalb County School District on Accredited Probation, effective immediately, after an investigative evaluation conducted on October 17-19 by an AdvancED Special Review Team found the DeKalb County School District in violation of the AdvancED Standards for Accreditation.

“Based on a comprehensive investigation by the Special Review Team, there is significant and irrefutable evidence that the DeKalb County School District is in a state of conflict and chaos,” stated Dr. Mark Elgart, President and CEO, AdvancED. “The system over the past decade has struggled with consistent and effective governance. This failure to govern effectively has resulted in a decline in student performance, financial mismanagement, and lack of integrity and ethics in recruiting, appointing and evaluating personnel at all levels of the school system,” said Elgart.

As result of findings by the Special Review Team and in accordance with AdvancED policies, the DeKalb County School District, including all of its schools, has been placed in the accreditation status of “Accredited Probation” until December 31, 2013. DeKalb County School District will have until May 31, 2013 to make progress in complying with the Special Review Team’s Required Actions and subsequently must complete those Required Actions by December 31, 2013.

The Required Actions are as follows:

1. Devise and implement a written, comprehensive plan for unifying the DeKalb County Board of Education so that the focus can become serving the needs of the children of the DeKalb County School District.

2. Ensure that all actions and decisions of the DeKalb County Board of Education are reflective of the collective Board and consistent with approved policies and procedures and all applicable laws, regulations and standards, rather than individual board members acting independently and undermining the authority of the Superintendent to lead and manage day-to-day operations.

3. Establish and implement policies and procedures that ensure segregation of duties of the governing board and that of the administration including the elimination of Board working committees that result in board members assuming administrative functions that should be the responsibility of appropriate staff.

4. Implement and adhere to fiscally responsible policies and practices that ensure the DeKalb County Board of Education will adopt and ensure proper implementation of budgets within the financial means of the school system and that support the delivery of an educational program that meets the needs of the students.

In addition, the DeKalb County School District also must complete the Required Actions outlined in the March 2012 Quality Assurance Review report as well as the Required Actions outlined in the January 2011 Special Review Team report and subsequently marked In Progress on the Accreditation Progress Report submitted by the school system in October 2011.

The DeKalb County School District will be expected to host a Monitoring Team visit by May 31, 2013 to assess the school system’s progress toward meeting the Required Actions. Then by December 31, 2013, the school system must complete the outlined Required Actions and host a second Monitoring Team visit.

As indicated in the Special Review Team report, the failure of the Board to effectively govern the system is having severe consequences on the system’s current and future operation. If this pattern of poor governance is not corrected immediately, thousands of DeKalb County students will be negatively impacted for years to come.

And here is the brief response statement from DeKalb Schools:

Today members of the DeKalb County Board of Education, along with the Superintendent and Senior Team, met with AdvancED and Dr. Mark Elgart, President and CEO of AdvancED.  During this meeting, Dr. Elgart reviewed the Special Review Team Report from the October 17-19 visit.  As a result, the District is now being placed on Accredited-Probation until December 31, 2013.

The District has received this information and will work collaboratively to review the findings and begin to address the required actions.  The District still remains fully accredited and students’ academic status remains unchanged.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

92 comments Add your comment

Pride and Joy

December 17th, 2012
2:37 pm

I don’t want any more plans. Dekalb county BOE has proven that it cannot and won’t manage honestly. They don’t deserve a third chance and wouldn’t use it wisely if they had one.
Governor, TAKE OVER THIS DISTRICT, Please! Run the BOE out of office and please get rid of them for good!

d

December 17th, 2012
2:40 pm

I have a problem with number 1. There is no problem whatsoever with a 5-4 vote on any issue as long as the 4 support the majority after the vote is taken and the board speaks as one.. We do not need 9-0 votes on everything, nor should we expect them.

Centrist

December 17th, 2012
2:40 pm

DeKalb County Board of Education: “The District has received this information and will work collaboratively to review the findings and begin to address the required actions.”

Putting out an immediate press release saying due to our failure to properly oversee the school system, we resign would be a good start.

Not a chance.

Dunwoody Mom

December 17th, 2012
2:49 pm

This Board is incapable of turning this ship around. They have had chance after chance with SACS (now, why SACS gave them so many opportunities is a question I have) and have been unwilling and unable to make the changes required. Unless the Governor steps in a replaces the board loss of accreditation for DeKalb Schools will follow.

d

December 17th, 2012
2:58 pm

My major question is why do the people with problems go running to SACS rather than working to fix the board through the electoral process. SACS isn’t nearly as involved in systems that are further away from its headquarters in Alpharetta – and I have no doubt that the problems we face in DeKalb are unique to DeKalb. It is time that the citizens of this county take control of their elected officials – and if they aren’t doing their jobs, vote them out. Or, if it gets as bad as we are right now, the threshold for a recall is only 15% of the people who voted in the last election.

Maureen Downey

December 17th, 2012
3:01 pm

Burroughston Broch

December 17th, 2012
3:02 pm

Dunwoody has been considering whether to establish a municipal school system. I suspect this idea will take off now. Perhaps other adjacent North DeKalb cities (Brookhaven, Chamblee, and Doraville) will do the same.
Just when you think DeKalb has hit bottom, you discover that it’s a false bottom and there’s a chasm beneath.

The Deal

December 17th, 2012
3:12 pm

d- when your school district is divided into mini-districts, and you can’t control who other parts of the county decide to support, you are stuck. We can churn and churn in the active districts, but it does nothing for the complacent parts of the county who are apparently happy with the status quo.

I don’t understand why people cannot understand this. As a Georgia citizen, I do not go to Colorado and tell them who to support for President. Same for DeKalb. I cannot go into another district and tell them who to vote for. That doesn’t go over well. Why is this concept so difficult to grasp? Pinning this on the voters is not a solution.

Obviously when a school district is so big that districts within are required, it is too big. The solution is to break it up.

The temporary solution until that can be done is to clean house and replace the entire board. The new board’s first act should then be to find a new superintendent.

Jim McMahan

December 17th, 2012
3:19 pm

Maureen,

Google docs is telling me it is unable to download the document.
Please correct and let us kow when the document is available.

Maureen Downey

December 17th, 2012
3:21 pm

@Jim, Try this. I just did and it worked and there have been 40 views in the last 15 minutes so it must be working. Try in Foxfire.
Also, sent it to your email. If anyone can’t get it to work, email me and I will send.

https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B4ni2jH9ge1SQTlweXZRallpZjA

D

December 17th, 2012
3:23 pm

1. write a statement that the Board is unified and focused on children.
2. Make sure Board decisions are legal and are what is allowed.
3. Make sure the Board doesn’t do the county’s work and vice-versa.
4. Implement and follow a budget.
Where is the bit about kids without textbooks and schools with no internet?

StnMtnMOM

December 17th, 2012
3:28 pm

Governor, remove the entire Board immediately!!!

DekParent

December 17th, 2012
3:37 pm

Fire the ENTIRE board immediately! It is apparent that they cannot perform the job responsibilities! They are proven to be useless! I will move from Dekalb if changes will not be made immediately. The superintendent can go too. I am not impressed with what she has done during the time she has been here.

big picture

December 17th, 2012
3:39 pm

Seems to me the District should have provided you with a copy, Jim. You shouldn’t need to retrieve it through Maureen. That’s what I’m thinking. Don’t you start in January???

Maureen Downey

December 17th, 2012
3:40 pm

@big. The paper got its copy from SACS, not the district.
Maureen

Ernest

December 17th, 2012
3:45 pm

I’ve briefly reviewed the report and have to say ‘Wow’ at this point. I see an indictment of ALL Board members along with several citations about the Board chair’s actions.

I also see a bigger problem regarding the culture of the community. Citizens perceive they can go to Board members regarding their personal requests. When Board members are able to fulfill them, this gives them additional power. The report mentions how the Coralwood bus routes were handled during the 10/1 Board meeting as one example. Have citizens inadvertently created the problems we have with our Board?

HS Public Teacher

December 17th, 2012
3:47 pm

I do not understand why the people of DeKalb County continue to vote for these folks on the Board that do not put students first. Some of these clowns are clearly there for their own gain (political or otherwise) and yet the voters continue to put them in office?

SACS cannot help the stupid voters….

Dunwoody Mom

December 17th, 2012
3:53 pm

I just did a quick look-over of the document – it’s vicious towards the BOE, especially Eugene Walker. However, there is nothing in this report that we, as parents, did not know, or had not heard about. What took SACS so long?

Dunwoody Mom

December 17th, 2012
3:56 pm

So, where did the $12 million for textbooks go if the textbooks were not actually purchased? Doe the DeKalb D.A. still believe this board can “police itself”?

d

December 17th, 2012
3:58 pm

@The Deal – nothing stops anyone from campaigning for a candidate regardless of where you live. Nothing stops you from partnering with someone in, say district 5, to start the petition and move from there.

Hamilton

December 17th, 2012
4:03 pm

DeKalb Parent

December 17th, 2012
4:09 pm

Finally, the sticky fingers and horrible missmagament of funds annexed to the DeKalb County BOE has finally raised the eyebrows of SACS. Thanks God… in the future this will be a trememdous help in educating our children. I’m so tired of our lackluster board. I haven’t been able to understand for years how no funds from the GA lottery are able to trickle down to our children. The lottery keeps bringing in funds but the classes have out dated books, no supplies and never ever any money for anything extracirricular. Why is this worse in DeKalb than in Cobb or Gwinnett or Fulton? Shut them down, revamp and then rebuild them with individuals that truly care about all of our children and just not the ones at a few schools where their children and family members attend.

Ernest

December 17th, 2012
4:10 pm

Dunwoody Mom, I don’t think the report is vicious but extremely factual. I believe I know the identity of several Board members referenced in the report, based on the incidents. There is no question that Eugene Walker does not look good at all from this report. This statement in the closing comments is one everyone should pay close attention to:

In interviews, board members repeatedly indicated the need to meet the demands of their constituents in order to get re-elected. The priority should not be the re-election of board members. The sole focus should be establishing and sustaining an effective governing body that ensures the educational success of all current and future students. Until such time as the board members begin to place the educational needs of all students in DeKalb County Schools before those of individual students, constituents and other stakeholders in “their” education districts, the system will continue to fail to meet its mission and vision to provide a quality education for all students.

I expect there will be a K12 Alert once it is posted on the school system website. I hope citizens take the time to read the report. I also hope citizens ask themselves if they are also part of the problem.

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

December 17th, 2012
4:21 pm

IMO we should give the new Board members coming in January a chance to make positive changes before we lump them in with the current Board.

You knew this was coming, so let’s not get all hysterical and try to block those who campaigned on reforming the system.

bbb1467

December 17th, 2012
4:24 pm

Where are all the morons who have been on this and other blogs forever saying how they so much prefer the poublic schools to private ones and “traditional” public over charter? I hope you are happy when your precious Vanderlyn and Kittredge and Oak Grove and Austin kids can’t get Hope Scholarships after they graduate from whatever unaccredited Dekalb Co high school they graduate from.

Pardon My Blog

December 17th, 2012
4:28 pm

This confirms what many of us have been saying for 10 years. The slide started in DeKalb with the election of Vernon Jones to the CEO position, he really did a good shuck and jive there. Then the school board hired that Superintendent from Birmingham which was a disaster from the word go and it has gone downhill ever since. There has been so much corruption that all the parents and teachers could see but has largely been ignored.

The entire BoE should be removed and the State of Georgia should step in and put in place knowledgable and responsible people to review all audits and the qualifications of the superintendent and then work to right the ship. More importantly, statewide there should be stringent qualifications in order to run for a position on the Board in the first place and certainly no one with felony convictions should be able to qualify.

There is so much waste and misappropriations and this superintendent is a part of that. Why does she need a driver anyway?

D

December 17th, 2012
4:30 pm

Bill and Ted

“Although three new Board members will be joining the Board in January…”

“Additionally, the team verified through interviews that the new Board members are following in the current Board’s footsteps by acting individually and misinterpreting their roles and responsibilities already”

Really makes you wonder about the validity of this report.

the good doctor

December 17th, 2012
4:34 pm

ok… the citizens of Dekalb, now knowing this, will they vote the same people back into office?

Beverly Fraud

December 17th, 2012
4:36 pm

Ironically it was a 5-4 vote that finally signaled the beginning of the end for the regime at the helm of the largest cheating scandal in US educational history. It was a 5-4 vote to remove the board chair who, (according to the AJC, correct me if I’m wrong Maureen) actively conspired with Beverly Hall to cover up evidence of cheating.

When the cheating was rampant, widespread and known to the board (correct me if I’m wrong Maureen, the AJC documented gains that cried CHEATING as far back as 2001) this board had numerous 9-0 votes.

Does Markie Mark at SACS want school boards to resemble the North Korean govt.?

skipper

December 17th, 2012
4:38 pm

This is a cluster, and is largely unfixable. When you have incapable people from the get-go VOTED IN, yet you want improvement, what are you thinking? This is a free country, with free elections. However, to put the buffoons in that are presently there and expect decency is beyond belief! Look at eveything from demographics to democrats. Get back to me in ten years..it will not improve because the folks in charge are not CAPABLE! The sad part is, everybody knows it but the attitude now is “We got it; its ours!”
Good luck. No self-respecting individual (save a crusader) would move in and put a kid in this system (except for a few on the edge at the better schools)…..but they are “RACISTS” because they are tired of the cluster this nightmare has become! It ain’t racism just because lots of the board members are incompetant!

clem

December 17th, 2012
4:50 pm

surely there must be some decent, intelligent, honest folks in dekalb that can serve on board and select leadership that is competent and honest and willing to fight the corruption and/or incompetence that apparently abounds.

bbb1467

December 17th, 2012
4:52 pm

Those elcted to public office via direct election reflect the quality and competence of the electorate. Egypt elected an Islamic Radical dictator because that is what the majority of the ill-informed masses wanted. The majority of the ill-informed masses of Dekalb County elected the incompetents now on the school board. The worse the schools become, the more ignorant and ill-informed votoers there will be, so the result will be self-perpetuating. We will likely see the same thing on the national level as the level of ignorance and education of our voting population continues on the current path.

bbb1467

December 17th, 2012
4:58 pm

Put more simply, terrible school leadership results in terrible schools which put out a lot of ignorant students, who in their ignorance vote for the terrible school leaders. But hey, as long as we have pro athletes, actors, and pop stars to look up to, who needs smart people anyway?! Most of us seem content enough to have Hollywood, the networks, and ESPN basically dictate to us what we should think, so why do we even need education to learn to think for ourselves?

skipper

December 17th, 2012
4:59 pm

@Clem and bbb1467,
You both are so right…..and the sad truth is that it is so obvious! As the population gets “dumbed-down” the voters will do the same……see Dekalb School Board. If they were TRULY interested in improvement, they would require competancy before thay voted. But, as long as “we got it” thats what it is. Call it what you will, but as previously stated come back in ten years and see where this cluster is. It will be no better and much worse, unless somebody wises up and takes the thing away from the dummies that have it now!

Pardon My Blog

December 17th, 2012
5:26 pm

@bbb1467 – AMEN!

Call Me Missouri

December 17th, 2012
6:03 pm

@ Dunwoody Mom: The DeKalb DA has been advised to impanel a Grand Jury to investigate this board. If he does not do so after the release of this SACS report, then the citizens of DeKalb need to contact the State Attorney General and ask why is Mr. James not performing his duties and stating that this board can “police itself.”

Pride and Joy

December 17th, 2012
6:05 pm

Here is the problem with voters. The voters in Dekalb are split between the North and South Dekalb voters. Blacks are in South dekalb and whites are in North Dekalb.
The blacks and the whites want different things. Blacks want the schools to provide tablets and electronic gadgets to the students and whites don’t. Whites want classrooms divided into ability levels and blacks don’t. There are a few exceptions but generaly that’s the way it is.
And when you have opinions that differ so greatly, you will never get a consensus. It’s better to divide Dekalb into smaller districts, at least two or three, then all voters generally get what they want.
Putting North and South Dekalb together into one school district will never work. The cultures vary too much.

Pride and Joy

December 17th, 2012
6:08 pm

Clem you said that “surely there must be some decent, intelligent, honest folks in dekalb that can serve on board and select leadership that is competent and honest and willing to fight the corruption and/or incompetence that apparently abounds.”
You’re right but they aren’t in the majority race. When an honest, white person runs for the board the are often not voted for because they are white.
It’s the majority-tyranny rules in Dekalb.
This is why we consistently see the friends and family jobs program in Dekalb county. Blacks hire their friends and family.

RCB

December 17th, 2012
6:42 pm

The value of my home probably just dropped 20% today. There has been total incompetence for at least 30 years, not just 10.

Dunwoody Mom

December 17th, 2012
6:45 pm

@Ernest, ok then, viciously factual.

bu2

December 17th, 2012
6:46 pm

Lots of disturbing things. Where did the $12 million for textbooks go? There should be 9 board members and a superintendent finding out the answer to that-today.

But there are some I totally disagree with. I want board members to be in schools, not just during dog and pony shows. If you are never in schools, you wouldn’t know they don’t have textbooks. But such a visit should be a “listening” visit, not a “telling” visit. They complain about the board not having a procedure for not reviewing legal bills and then saying the board shouldn’t get into administrative actions. That is an administrative procedure if ever there was one. That is a failure of the superintendent. Given the failure of the district to follow budgets and the fraud from Lewis, the board should insist on reports being produced. I also want the board to have input on school closings and alignments, not just a nameless faceless bureaucracy that can be manipulated behind the scenes. Now that input should be in public meetings.

Burroughston Broch

December 17th, 2012
6:50 pm

Maureen, the link to the document isn’t working; I tried both IE and Firefox. Please advise.

bu2

December 17th, 2012
6:54 pm

It says the document is unavailable, but if you go ahead and hit file download, it works, even though it claims it will not.

clem

December 17th, 2012
6:56 pm

for dekalb to be uttered in same breath as clayton county should send shivers down the spine of whites and blacks who live in that county. south dekalb has already lost so much home value that it has not much further to go to reach clayton status.

redweather

December 17th, 2012
7:01 pm

Here are some the findings in the Report that jumped out at me during a quick read. This may take a couple of posts.

“The system has policies and procedures that determine school assignments for the students of DeKalb County. The ability of the staff to adhere to the assignment policies is important for the effective operation of the system. Despite well-established policies, board members routinely supersede these policies and demand that staff make special school assignments for students based upon a number of factors including, but not limited to, meeting the athletic demands of schools within their election districts” (4).

“Evidence supported a finding that board members intimidate staff and attempt to direct the activities of staff members. There is a general feeling that many of the board members feel that principals within their respective voting districts are “their” principals, and they treat them as such. In addition to the previously cited example, one instance includes an employee leaving work crying and distraught after an explosive interaction with a board member” (7).

redweather

December 17th, 2012
7:02 pm

“Evidence supported a finding that board members intimidate staff and attempt to direct the activities of staff members. There is a general feeling that many of the board members feel that principals within their respective voting districts are “their” principals, and they treat them as such. In addition to the previously cited example, one instance includes an employee leaving work crying and distraught after an explosive interaction with a board member” (7).

“Interviews revealed that there have been instances where promotions have been given to individuals who are highly favored by a board member and not on the basis of merit or qualification. Instances have been cited where Human Resource policies and procedures, including salaries, have been implemented in an inconsistent manner leading to distrust and suspicion across the school system” (7).

redweather

December 17th, 2012
7:05 pm

“Interviews revealed that there have been instances where promotions have been given to individuals who are highly favored by a board member and not on the basis of merit or qualification.
Instances have been cited where Human Resource policies and procedures, including salaries, have been implemented in an inconsistent manner leading to distrust and suspicion across the school system” (7).

“Based on evidence from numerous interviews, several board members continue to make harassing calls and visits to schools. There was frequent mention of board members who make special requests of district office staff, bus drivers and teachers, making threats to fire them if they do not comply with their individual requests. It was reported that individual board members have made requests to place people in certain positions, hire who they insist should be hired or provide allowances for certain parents. These interviewees used terms like fear, harassment, and intimidation to describe the behaviors of board members. In one interview, the individual stated that one board member threatened a teacher with getting him/her fired, quoting the board member as saying, ‘You don’t know who I am.’ Those interviewed consistently expressed that board members have created a level of animosity, and that both teachers and principals operate in fear” (7).

redweather

December 17th, 2012
7:06 pm

“The sheer volume of demands and requests coming from the board members outside of the Board structure adversely affects the District’s ability to operate effectively and causes an incredible waste of staff time and resources that should be dedicated to improving student performance and not meeting the whims and private agendas of the individual board members” (10).

“Current policies, processes and practices do not clearly demonstrate how the system hires qualified support staff. The system’s failure to adhere to current policies, processes and practices in the hiring of some employees by not performing a thorough background check does not support the system’s purpose and direction for providing services in all schools and educational programs. For example, a new hire had multiple indictments, including abuse of special needs adults, identity fraud, aggravated assault, and exploitation of the elderly (March 2012, Grand Jury Report) (13).

Fred in DeKalb

December 17th, 2012
7:06 pm

Pride and Joy, surely you don’t think friends and family began with blacks? Or is that just the new age term for good ole boy network that whites have made famous? When good ole boys hired friends and family members, was that bad or were they simply good at covering up the misfits?

If you were a friend or family member and qualified for a job where I worked, wouldn’t you want me to put in a good word for you? Friends and family is bad when incompetent and unqualified people get jobs over more qualified individuals. If you can provide clear and indisputable evidence of incompetent and unqualified people hired simply because of their connections, you’ve got a clear case.

The good ole boys have been doing this for a lifetime and still continue to do so. Check almost any small town in south GA and you will see what I mean.

bu2

December 17th, 2012
7:07 pm

The redistricting of the school board was a perfect example of them failing to work together. They never had a public meeting like is typical. Instead, some group (who never took credit for it) created the ridiculous plan that disenfranchised all but South Dekalb. Then Jester/Speaks/McChesney produced a plan (at least they acknowledged authorship) that disenfranchised other areas. The two groups didn’t work together. And Jester failed to comprehend why the legislators complained about that. She seemed to think because a subgroup produced a plan, that the board met its responsibilities. There wasn’t even an effort to work together before the deadline and no transparency during any part of the process.