DeKalb school official resigns in wake of plagiarism report by AJC. Symptom of district in deep disarray?

I ran into AJC education reporter Ty Tagami at the elevator this morning and told him how surprised I was that DeKalb school administrator Ralph Taylor had yet to resign after it was revealed that Taylor plagiarized parts of a report for which DeKalb Schools paid him $10,000. (Following up on a tip, Tagami broke the story in the AJC earlier this month.)

To me, Taylor represented a serious liability for DeKalb school chief Cheryl Atkinson, who is already on shaky ground with her school board. (And, of course, the board itself is on shaky ground, which is why DeKalb is teetering on the brink of collapse.)

Now, a few hours later, Tagami is reporting that Taylor has resigned his $117,461-a-year associate superintendent job.

Tagami writes, “… district spokeswoman Lillian Govus said Taylor had resigned. She said Taylor received no severance package. She also said she understood that Taylor was to repay the $10,000 immediately, though she couldn’t confirm that he had, indeed, done it.

Read the breaking news story here.

It was unclear to me why Atkinson would have risked her reputation for Taylor even with their long professional association. At some point, you have to let people suffer the consequences of their dumb mistakes.

After Tagami discovered that Taylor copied more than a third of his report from publications accessible via the Internet, Atkinson offered a bewildering rationale for not firing him. “The infraction pertains to his work as a consultant, not as an employee,” she told the AJC through her spokesman.

While Atkinson was surprisingly understated about Taylor’s ethical breach, her bosses were not. DeKalb board Chair Eugene Walker said, “You can’t prohibit a student from plagiarizing and then permit some staff person to do it.”

Taylor was hired by DeKalb to produce an analysis of its alternative education program in 2011, then offered a job as an associate superintendent in DeKalb shortly after finishing it, according to the AJC.

Tagami discovered that Taylor copied more than a third of his report from publications accessible via the Internet.

Taylor did the right thing in resigning. Of course, whether he had a choice is another matter. I’m not sure that Atkinson has the social capital with the board or the DeKalb community to save Taylor’s job.

The question may be whether she has enough to save her own.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

46 comments Add your comment

Principal Skinner

January 29th, 2013
1:21 pm

So 1 oz of dung has been removed from a 50 ton heap. A start, but nothing to be to excited about if you care about DCSS

Principal Skinner

January 29th, 2013
1:22 pm

s/b, “too”

indigo

January 29th, 2013
1:33 pm

It appears The DeKalb School Board is destined to be permanantly incompetent.

Huntley Hills Tiger

January 29th, 2013
1:38 pm

Thank you Ty: Took a week, but end result is good enough. Thanks to you & AJC for pushing this. Otherwise, who knows if he ever gets canned.

Now back to:

1 – What happens with Atkinson? she’s building a resume of trouble for herself, but more importantly for all the DeKalb school children. Her “Victory in the Classroom” e-mail newsletters are certainly ironic in title, and kind of sad, really. I know it irks many that almost ALL the academic achievement she touts occurs in the northside (recently – Chamblee MS & HS in particular), but it has for years. Some might resent it, but those children will always perform, always have. Demographics dictate, at least I know in Chamblee, to some extent I live it. But what about the southside children? Those are the ones being shortchanged, and she’s done nothing to address it. “Success for All?” As almost all teaching it will tell you, and many warned ahead of time, it will turn out to be a failure. But like the APS cheating deal, what is going to be done for those children in 3 – 5 years as they advance & are still unprepared?

2 – School Board, SACS, possible ouster, new members, lawsuits, textbooks, budget craziness (the budget fairy never came) – story after story? Speaks for itself. Fellow parents, teachers & administrators I know, we throw up our collective hands. What can we do? We’ve attended enough board meetings, sent enough e-mails, letters, addressed the press, served as volunteers, voted (with little real hope). But to what avail?

For now – we focus on our school, our own children’s education, and we continue to do well. We do more with less in our little Title 1 school, try to support our teachers & paras (their lives are in torment) & all the children in our school. Facilities? nothing special. Budget? slashed to breaking point. Demographics? as I say, Title 1, but always AYP. How? Parents, teachers & staff who care about education enough to spread the learning to all – not just those with parental education & income. It can be done.

Dunwoody Mom

January 29th, 2013
1:39 pm

The fact that Mr. Taylor received no severance AND has to repay his salary for the “audit” leads me to believe that his actions were deemed by legal counsel to be very serious.

Just my own opinon, but the fact that Dr. Atkinson unbelievably stood by this man even after his actions were brought to light, would lead one to believe that her days are numbered as well.

Tallonda Smith

January 29th, 2013
1:41 pm

I am still waiting to hear back from DCSS about why Math books are not available at Redan High.

Insider

January 29th, 2013
1:41 pm

The leadership of DCSS (Board and Administration) are to education what the Keystone Kops are to law enforcement.

Anonymous

January 29th, 2013
1:43 pm

It’s interesting that Dr. Ralph Taylor is listed now (1/29/13 @ 1:41 pm) as Director of Charter Schools on the DCSD website. (http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/charter-schools).

Of course, we’ll never know which job he resigned from since the DCSD organizational chart has NO names on it.

Curiouser and curiouser. And major thanks to Ty Tagami of the AJC for bringing this to light.

Mountain Man

January 29th, 2013
1:50 pm

One down…one to go. Let me know when Atkinson resigns.

BT

January 29th, 2013
1:53 pm

Wow, what a mess and to think this mess was not created over night which means it will not be solved over night if ever!!

Beverly Fraud

January 29th, 2013
1:54 pm

DeKalb school official resigns in wake of plagiarism report by AJC. Symptom of district in deep disarray?

Whatever the symptom seems to indicate that in DeKalb, sunlight is the only disinfectant.
Well done by the AJC.

Beverly Fraud

January 29th, 2013
2:04 pm

If Cheryl Atkinson was Col. Kilgore in Apocalypse Now.

“I love the smell of graft, corruption, and incompetence in the morning; it smells like…Victory! Victory in every classroom…”

Disgusted in Dekalb

January 29th, 2013
2:04 pm

Thanks to Ty for shining light on the dung heap. Thanks to parents like Tallonda who keep pushing DCSS for answers. Thanks to the teachers who often teach in spite of those who are supposed to be supporting them.

Ed Advocate

January 29th, 2013
2:05 pm

Completely agree with your assessment Maureen. I don’t think the bell can be un-rung in terms of the blowback onto Atkinson for her initial reaction protecting Taylor. Showed a serious lack of judgment on her part at a time when all her actions, and those of the Dekalb school board, are under intense scrutiny.

Maude

January 29th, 2013
2:24 pm

Of course, he should have been fired! The fact that he was not speaks LOUDLY about the leadership in DeKalb schools.

[...] Another idea: fire Ralph Taylor, who once worked with Dr. Atkinson for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. (Revealed today, Tayor has resigned.) [...]

Bob

January 29th, 2013
2:36 pm

Atkinson defended the hire by saying that the plagiarism took place prior to the hire date. Sounds good to me, my kid is not in that district.

concernedmom30329

January 29th, 2013
2:43 pm

Yes, the system is in disarray. It is ironic that the very board members that insisted the Atkinson be hired are the ones that are after her the most. Unfortunately, they haven’t targeted her for the chaos she has caused in our schools, the incompetent hires (like Taylor) and the questionable spending. Rather, they are upset with some of the personnel that she cut. And this is worrisome. If Atkinson goes, and Dr. Walker and others stay, it will be a clear sign to the next superintendent that they aren’t free to fire and hire at will.
It is a scary time for DeKalb parents and taxpayers.

red herring

January 29th, 2013
2:49 pm

Another example of an overpaid Ga. high school administrator. Want to figure out how to manage the Budget for education in Georgia just go to every school district and Georgia and figure out how many administrators (supt, asst supt, principal, asst principal, and similar positions) are actually needed and send the rest either to teach in class rooms or send them packing. Stop paying for regular mini-vacations (meetings) for the elite in Atlanta, Jekyll, etc. —- there is much waste in those gatherings.

bootney farnsworth

January 29th, 2013
2:52 pm

if that idiot would have cited….

bootney farnsworth

January 29th, 2013
2:53 pm

“Symptom of district in deep disarray?”

is this a trick question?

Kneecompoop

January 29th, 2013
2:59 pm

At least HE had te decency to resign. The county tried to justify not firing with some BS excuse!!

RickinATL

January 29th, 2013
3:02 pm

Is it any wonder that GA homeowners/taxpayers continue to try to unshackle themselves from the public school systems via “soft vouchers,” charter school amendments, et al? Those of you who still want to try to “save” traditional public schools (and you should ask yourselves whether you are doing anyone other than overpaid, underskilled school administrators a real service by trying to save this failed model rather than tearing it all down and starting over) must understand, don’t you, that no amount of “reform” can arrest this movement now. We are on the downslope, and gathering speed.

Every time I see one of these incomprehensibly stupid acts (whether by Atkinson or the board), I am simultaneously appalled and encouraged, because, well, a massive entitlement program is hard to kill, whatever it is, and this kind of unwitting sabotage from within makes it justa little bit easier.

Cindy Lutenbacher

January 29th, 2013
3:09 pm

Maureen and Ty and all involved–good work.
Now then–Anonymous reports that Taylor is now Director of Charter Schools in DeKalb. Is it possible that the Super has simply “re-purposed” Taylor, hoping that this scandal will fade away?
If so, let’s not let that happen. Ty and Maureen, can you find out for sure?

Dunwoody Mom

January 29th, 2013
3:15 pm

Taylor had been listed as Director of Charter Schools for several weeks – even prior to his plagarism allegation.

Dunwoody Mom

January 29th, 2013
3:16 pm

Nicole Knighten, previous head of Charter Schools in DCSS, left the system a while back.

Another Voice

January 29th, 2013
3:54 pm

One $117K salary avoided. Almost enough to pay for 2 fulltime teachers, mid-career, with benefits. Bring ‘em back, we need them far more than any more director-level positions in central office.

Beverly Fraud

January 29th, 2013
3:55 pm

As long as Ty is shining sunlight, why is State Senator Ronald Ramsey allowed to double dip by collecting his full salary while spending at least 40 days a year under the Gold Dome?

Jeff A. Taylor

January 29th, 2013
4:14 pm

I really couldn’t believe that Taylor was the same Ralph Taylor who had been in charge of “discipline” at CMS, a job which essentially consisted of him saying there was no discipline problem in CMS regardless of the number of felons walking the halls or the number of teachers assaulted. One more time folks, CharMeck is a fraud. I’m a grad and know many teachers still in that system. They are counting the days to retirement.

Dekalbite@Beverly

January 29th, 2013
4:57 pm

I believe Mr. Ramsey says he keeps his own records of when he works so he can work at home at night after he has been at the Capitol and get credit for DCSS work when he is not physically present during the day.That seemed to the special arrangement the BOE made with him.

Beverly Fraud

January 29th, 2013
5:09 pm

“That seemed to the special arrangement the BOE made with him.”

Thanks Dekalbite; given the BOE perhaps Ty needs to delve deeper into this “special arrangement” Perhaps if his work schedule wasn’t so hectic, he might not be as prone to make missteps in judgement such as illegally (according to MACE) shutting down grievance hearings for teachers. Was he trying to get home for some much needed rest?

Umma

January 29th, 2013
6:09 pm

On the surface, this person is dishonest. They should be fired immediately. But as many have stated, this most likely, runs much deeper. Personal background checks are important, but how deep do they run? Who do they associate with? Where do they hang out? The biggest problems with corruption in Atlanta in the last 40 years usually stem from blacks not being able to disassociate themselves from inner city black culture; brotha to brotha; get whitey; screw ‘em ; “we deserve this” kind of mentality. In the end, hate my comment or not, it is the TRUTH. It really is not a lot different from 60 years ago when old white guys would not help black folks out at all and treated all blacks terribly and corruption was rampant. We need to pull back from our longstanding kneejerk reactions as regards race, if anyone understands what I just said. Generational passing it seems will be the arbiter of long term meaningful change. To me that stinks because I want to see it in my lifetime; not my great grandkid’s.

Call Me Missouri

January 29th, 2013
6:23 pm

@Kneecompoop: I truly doubt he had the decency to resign. Most likely Cheryl and the BOE are feeling the heat and applied some to Ralph. Can you imagine the looks of astonishment they would receive on February 21st as they (BOE members) try to explain why the plagaiarist still has his job??? Remember, he was “safe.” I just wish the un-super Super and the board would do the decent thing and resign along with him. So he used HER as a reference. That recommendation makes it highly likely that the people she hired that previously worked with her in other school systems are not qualified for their jobs, either.

Tucker Guy

January 29th, 2013
10:05 pm

I think Dr. Atkinson’s defense of Dr. Taylor should be considered “cause” for her being fired. It shows a serious lack of judgement and morale character. She can not lead the school district modeling such behavior.

No. Dr. Taylor did not resign voluntarily. I don’t know who put the pressure on, but now is the time to put some pressure on this board to get rid of Atkinson.

Dekalb County Schools has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Please go to those and demand the board fire Dr. Atkinson before they are replaced by the governor.

Mandella1099

January 29th, 2013
11:13 pm

I think that it is important to point out to all of those posters, bloggers, etc… that are demanding that all of DCSS be cleaned out – isn’t that exactly what Atkinson did when she came in? DeKalb School Watch II demanded that an outsider be named Superintendent – they got it. They demanded that multiple members of the upper powers that were in place prior to her arrival, even going so far as to name names, be removed from their positions – they got it. They pushed for new Board members – they got it….

I have to believe that there are employees at all levels of DCSS that are just trying to do what’s best for the students and avoiding, at all costs, the nuts that are running the asylum. If you have three bad teachers at a school, do you fire the whole staff? No – you get rid of the bad teachers, or get rid of the Principal if she doesn’t do it. Get rid of the Taylors in DCSS and keep the good – We have to believe that some are there, don’t we?

Ros Dalton

January 30th, 2013
8:51 am

Funniest post in recent memory:

‘Beverly Fraud

January 29th, 2013
2:04 pm

If Cheryl Atkinson was Col. Kilgore in Apocalypse Now.

“I love the smell of graft, corruption, and incompetence in the morning; it smells like…Victory! Victory in every classroom…” ‘

Flabberghastedforsure

January 30th, 2013
10:06 am

Taylor is currently listed as of 1/30/13 @ 10:06 am on the DCSD site as Associate Superintendent.

Maureen Downey

January 30th, 2013
11:03 am

To all:
From the DeKalb spokesman:

Dr. Taylor resigned Jan. 28. He was not “re-purposed.”

Dunwoody Mom

January 30th, 2013
11:32 am

The DCSS Staff Directory is woefully outdated.

Beverly Fraud

January 30th, 2013
2:14 pm

Funniest post in recent memory:

‘Beverly Fraud

Thanks Ros, glad to see the effort wasn’t wasted!

Product of Dekalb

January 30th, 2013
9:21 pm

At the beginning of this school year, Ralph Taylor was in charge of the Office of Student Assignment. I have a letter from him, as many other teachers do, telling me my child could not go to the middle school in our feeder pattern. She was allowed to attend elementary school with me (since I teach there) but was not allowed to attend the middle school since we don’t live in the attendance zone. I live about a mile from the boundary line and have over 20 years teaching in this County. I still don’t understand why teachers no longer have the priviledge of sending their child to school close to where they work. About three or four summers ago, the board was sneaky and changed the policy before any of us could complain or unite together against the policy. I hope the new Board reverses the policy and gives us the one “perk” we had as teachers. The frustrating thing is county officials are still giving some friends and family that opportunity while teachers and their families suffer. Explain to me why bus drivers are allowed to send their children where they want and teachers can’t. Maureen, maybe you can find out the main reason this policy was changed since I haven’t been able to. I know many teachers would appreciate your help!! All of us in the schoolhouse are glad to see him go.

Flabberghastedforsure

January 30th, 2013
11:06 pm

Dr. Taylor’s office, under the supervision of Kendra March, granted many administrative transfers to overcrowded schools (against the Board policy) for the chosen ones while denying teachers the small perk of having their children in the feeder pattern where they work. Bus drivers, secretaries, central office, campus security staff seem to get their pick of schools and teachers living in other counties don’t have to pay tuition- they get a perk teachers living in DeKalb don’t. It’s crazy. Another example of the administration violating Board policy but the Board can’t meddle in day to day affairs – how then do they hold their employee, the superintendent, accountable for her staff violating policy?

Dekalbite

January 30th, 2013
11:34 pm

Ms. Tyson wrote up new Board Policy due to criticism from parents regarding administrative transfers. During redistricting, it became problematic because so many administrative transfers were occurring into “chosen” schools that students who actually lived in the disctrict were going to be transferred out to nearby schools because the school looked overcrowded. For example, Fernbank had around 100 students over their physical capacity so they were facing redistricting neighborhood kids to BriarVista. The parents were understandably upset because it appeared that around 100 administrative transfers were causing kids in the neighborhood to be redistricted. Now Fernbank is getting a new school so it appears all the administrative transfers can stay.

As I recall, Ms. Tyson’s new policy developed for the BOE actually ended up negatively for teachers and the question of administrative transfers was left murky. Here is a discussion on the old DeKalb Watch:
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/01/its-baaaack-descriptor-code-jbcc.html?m=1

Inman Parker

January 31st, 2013
7:36 am

Just what will it take to convince some people that the DeKalb School Board is totally dysfunctional? Cronyism, operational inteference, weak techer evaluation process, overly political (and why do politics intrude on education?), and a lack of serious leaderaship in the superintendent position. All are hallmarks of the DeKalb system, and no one really seems to care. Amazing!

[...] Atkinson called me yesterday to set the record straight on her reaction to the Ralph Taylor plagiarism case, saying that she never attempted to protect him. Her only concern, she said, was ascertaining that [...]

Pride and Joy

February 1st, 2013
6:09 pm

He RESIGNS and then has to only repay the money?
WHY ISN’t he in jail?
HE STOLE taxpayer money!
He is just ONE member of the black community’s friends and family plan in Dekalb county and why parents are fleeing to charter schools.
Dekalb will NOT improve until it breaks up into at least TWO districts, one North and one South.