An email so bizarre that I thought Copelin-Wood could never have sent it. I was wrong. And she is out on a limb.

Earlier this week, a reader copied me on an email that Sarah Copelin-Wood sent to some folks.

The email contains a long cut and paste job on the powers and duties of school boards vs. the State Board of Education. The pasted material focuses on the local board’s power to “manage and control” the school system and plays down the state’s power to intervene. I assume that Copelin-Wood sent the email to voice her displeasure with today’s reckoning in front of the state Board of Education, which is considering ousting her and five other DeKalb school board members.

But what floored me more than the body of the email was what Copelin-Wood attached to the email. (By the way, she signed the email, “Ms. Sarah Copelin-Wood, Board Member DeKalb Board of Education – District 3.”)

The attachment features an attack on SACS and Mark Elgart by longtime and vocal critic John Trotter, head of MACE and a frequent commenter on this blog where he has been quite open in his disdain for Elgart and SACS.

(Dr. Trotter, you may become a factor in today’s hearing yet. And I hope they know that you copyright all your material.)

I wondered why Sarah Copelin-Wood would send out such explosive material when DeKalb is under probation by SACS and when the board is fighting for its life today in front of the state board. It seemed so damaging  that I half wondered if the email was a clever fake created to make Copelin-Wood look bad.

I couldn’t fathom that she would do something with such potential for harm to the board.

I was wrong.

Copelin-Wood just confirmed during the state Board of Education hearing that she did indeed send out the email, but said she didn’t send it to any school employees. I expect the state intends to challenge that comment after the lunch break.

In her own defense, Copelin-Wood maintained that, while an employee of DeKalb Schools may have received the email, it would have been sent to their personal email, not their work email.

Trotter has been a longtime critic of SACS and Elgart, as this essay — the one attached to Copelin-Wood’s email — shows.
Here is an excerpt of what Copelin-Wood sent from Trotter’s piece:

Forget SACS! Forget the Overblown and Puffed Up and Self-Perceived Education Zeus, Mark Elgart! Hire Your Own Local Talent for Superintendent. Look What DeKalb County is Experiencing Now with its Latest Appointee from Little Lorain, Ohio! Look What Clayton County Experienced with Another Graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, Edmond Heatley! Go Local, School Board, Go Local! The Field is Black Unto Harvest! Appoint a Local Educator to be the Superintendent! Reject SACS and Go With the Georgia Accrediting Commission (GAC)

The school boards’ cups runneth over with the great “advice” from SACS. The “cure” that SACS offers is much, much worse than any perceived aliments. (SACS’s proposal: We’ll solve the drainage problem in the sewer on 28th Street by blowing up the entire city, OK?) What are the real “ailments”? Potential loss of accreditation? Ha! This is a made-up, artificial ailment. This is only an ailment because Mark Elgart and Gang have decreed that it is an ailment.

Georgia schools boards ought to simply say, “Forget SACS!” Yes, “Forget SACS!” SACS is as full of bull as a Christmas Turkey! There’s no real “standards.” “Standards” that are not equally enforced are not “standards” at all. I have challenged Mark Elgart to a public debate (yes, public TV and everything) for many years now. What would be the topic? Topic: SACS arbitrarily and capriciously applies the standards that it espouses. I take the Affirmative, and Mark Elgart takes the Negative. What does ole Markie have to lose? Ha! He has always demurred. We call this being “a-scared” where I grew up.

DOE attorney Jennifer Hackemeyer questioned Copelin-Wood about the disparaging remarks about Elgart in the email attachement. However, DeKalb board attorney Bob Wilson jumped up and said it was not relevant. Copelin-Wood has the first amendment right to voice opinions, said Wilson.

“If she sent it to staff, it would have relevance. If she {Hackemeyer} can show it went to staff, fine. I will sit down,” said Wilson.

Hackemeyer noted that the email was signed by Sarah Copelin-Wood as a school board member. “I have a right to question her based on the policy that talks about board communications.”

More to come on this.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

54 comments Add your comment

Mountain Man

February 21st, 2013
1:14 pm

“Potential loss of accreditation? Ha! This is a made-up, artificial ailment. This is only an ailment because Mark Elgart and Gang have decreed that it is an ailment.”

So let them rescind your accreditation. It sounds like Dr. Trotter says it doesn’t matter. Do you need to graduate from an accredited school? Nah!

Richard

February 21st, 2013
1:19 pm

I teach, I would never put my career in front of the needs and future of my students. These ‘leaders’ are doing just the opposite. My colleagues often forget we teach not for ourselves but for our students. It does not matter how stressed you are, or how much you really want a raise, or anything else. As long as your students have what they need, that is all that matters. Clearly, they board has lost sight of their role. Their role is to ensure a quality education for the students, not a cozy job for staff and inflating lawyers pockets with these ill-intentenioned suits and filings.

Mountain Man

February 21st, 2013
1:21 pm

“The Field is Black Unto Harvest!”

I hope that does not mean what it sounds like.

dekalbite

February 21st, 2013
1:33 pm

Chamblee Dad

February 21st, 2013
1:34 pm

Now Sarah Copelin-Wood is channeling Homer Simpson – “doh”

Jimmy

February 21st, 2013
1:36 pm

Copelin-Wood has the first amendment right to voice opinions, said Wilson.
So do I. She sucks!

AP Teacher

February 21st, 2013
1:37 pm

all for the “cheeldren”

Go home SCW your sleepy.

Google "NEA" and "union"

February 21st, 2013
1:37 pm

DeKalb has, through incompetence, venality and a wondrous dearth of public-mindedness, positioned itself as the ideal candidate—for a forced conversion to charter school status.

Just as there are nations of the world unripe for democratic self-rule, the DeKalb School District will only find its true direction through individual choices made by parents entirely dependent upon the local public schools.

As for Dr. Trotter, what little I read of his daily postings brings to mind P.T. Barnum’s famous observation: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” He’s obviously found Get Schooled to be an excellent and cost-free vehicle with which to connect with suckers and thus augment his second-rate organization’s revenues.

For which he owes you much more than I’m sure even he can say.

DeKalb Inside Out

February 21st, 2013
1:39 pm

Are we saying that SCW gave up her first amendment right to criticize SACS when she took office?

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

February 21st, 2013
1:45 pm

No, I believe this is what Thurmond was referring to yesterday with his comments. You folks keep electing this idiot, not him.

Cobb Taxpayer

February 21st, 2013
1:45 pm

SACS is an overated private enterprise that has far too much assigned power – someone needs to take a serious look, and take back he power, at the true value-add of SACs it relates to our neighborhood schools.

Eugene Walker Must Go

February 21st, 2013
1:45 pm

Perhaps she just doesn’t care. If she doesn’t believe anything will happen to her, then she is free to do as she pleases. No one has challenged her for over a dozen years, why should anything change?

Google "NEA" and "union"

February 21st, 2013
1:46 pm

The DeKalb district has, through incompetence, venality and a wondrous dearth of public-mindedness, positioned itself as the ideal candidate—for a forced conversion to charter school status.

Just as there are nations of the world unripe for democratic self-rule, the DeKalb School District will only find its true direction through individual choices made by parents entirely dependent upon the local public schools.

As for Dr. Trotter, what little I read of his daily postings brings to mind P.T. Barnum’s famous observation: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” He’s obviously found Get Schooled to be an excellent and cost-free vehicle with which to connect with suckers and thus augment his second-rate organization’s revenues.

For which he owes you much more than I’m sure even he can say.

DeKalb Parent

February 21st, 2013
1:47 pm

As a parent of a DeKalb High Schooler, I am very concerned with this board and have been for years since the Crawford Lewis & Company robbing the school system blind while the board just argued. This is yet another example of their incompetence. They all need to be fired, we need a new start.

lahopital

February 21st, 2013
1:48 pm

@AP Teacher

February 21st, 2013
1:37 pm
all for the “cheeldren”

Go home SCW your sleepy.
———————–

Please, God, do not let this really be from an AP teacher who should know the difference between “your” and “you’re.”

Citizen Dave

February 21st, 2013
1:50 pm

Maureen, thanks for all the coverage and the blog. Like DeKalb County teachers, you are overworked and underpaid.

What’s most baffling to me is that Ms. Copelin-Wood thinks it’s ok to send an email like this. The lack of judgment is troubling. Even if she feels this way, what is the upside to send an email, especially now, like this?

This illustrates the depth of the problem: it’s not just that people in charge are doing things that many others and I think are bad, but it’s that those people think it’s ok to do these things.

In this case, Ms. Copelin-Wood is not only ignoring the message and instead critcizing the messenger, but she’s also publicizing her poor judgment.

When I do stupid things (and I do them a lot), I try to avoid telling others about them.

This is like the guy who gets drunk at a party, puts on a lampshade, and then there’s a photo of it. And then the guy sends the photo on to others, after the fact.

Have you no shame, Ms. Copelin-Wood?

bu2

February 21st, 2013
2:03 pm

Ms. Copelin-Wood is simply not competent to be a board member. Its hard to be surprised by anything she does. I saw her this summer spend 10 minutes of board time because she couldn’t understand the difference between a negative fund balance and a negative cash balance. If that was her first year on the board, that would be bad, but excusable. But she has been on the board for 10 years and been involved in many budgets. And she couldn’t grasp what the CFO was telling her. Now he didn’t seem to comprehend that she had no clue and didn’t do a good job of getting through to her, but I’m not sure it would have helped.

She is an embarrassment to her district.

Justine

February 21st, 2013
2:12 pm

I noticed you did not mention that Elgart stated he had circumvented Open Meeting rules by meeting with small groups private while they were searaching for a superintendent. And I believe I heard him state he had assisted in giving them guidance on the selection. Thus it appears his concerns over the Superintendent is because it was not who he wanted.

The majority of problems in DeKalb County are administrative from the School Board. As was pointed out there is a new majority board. It is ironic that everyone testifying, except Mrs. Copeland Woods were white. It is troubling the State School Board is predominately white. It appears when we talk about the 10 years of problems nothing was done as long as the superintendent was white.

The fact of the matter is there was testimony Dekalb School Board has a budget of $800 million a large percentage of which is spent on contracts.

I was in the room for part of this questioning and to be honest I found the SACS attorney to be totally out of line. Her whole attitude has been one of condescending and inappropriate. You fail to state she was off base in a lot of ways. What I find most troubling is it appears from the testimony of SACS that the probationary period was for one year beginning in December 2012. That DeKalb had until at least May 2013 before something could possibly happen. Instead less than 30 days later they are attempting to remove some school board members.

This is extremely troubling because these Board members were elected by the community in which they serve. Mike Thumond is the best person to take out children into the future. All of our children.

During the entire before noon testimony I heard not one words from SACS about the education the children receive, instead it was a bunch of petty political BS.

Fire The Board

February 21st, 2013
2:15 pm

Please, please rid us of these incompetent board members. SCW should be the first one to go. Shame on you voters that keep re-electing her.

Mountain Man

February 21st, 2013
2:32 pm

“I was in the room for part of this questioning and to be honest I found the SACS attorney to be totally out of line.”

I didn’t know tht SACS had an attorney there. I thought it was the State BOE attorney.

“testimony of SACS that the probationary period was for one year beginning in December 2012. That DeKalb had until at least May 2013 before something could possibly happen. Instead less than 30 days later they are attempting to remove some school board members.”

SACS is not looking to remove any BOE members – they do not have an authority to do so. It is the State BOE that can RECOMMEND to Governor Deal that he remove members.

Jennifer

February 21st, 2013
2:33 pm

@justine, if that’s how you fell them you can keep SCW. But give me back my tax money and my school and let me bring my schools to the standards they were (top 100 In the nation) in 2004. But don’t make this into another race issue.

Pardon My Blog

February 21st, 2013
2:34 pm

Sorry, but this email should get her immediately dismissed from the Board. Outrageous.

Concern Dekalb County Parent

February 21st, 2013
2:37 pm

Yes, I think the whole school board should be fired, they are not concern about our childrens future. They are so busy fighting among themselves that our chilrens future are at stake.

Pardon My Blog

February 21st, 2013
2:38 pm

@ Justine – interjecting race? What does the color of their skin have to do with it? I mean, really, you are way out of line here.

dekalbite@Justine

February 21st, 2013
2:43 pm

The Board has set all policies, procedures, and practices and allocated every dollar of funding. They have increased the millage rate to the highest in Georgia. Our student achievement rate is the lowest in metro Atlanta even when compared to demographically similar systems. Our teachers are the lowest paid in the metro area with not one dollar of those increased property taxes going to supplement their pay. The BOE has allowed a deficit to occur in our budget which is against the law.

Our students are not less intelligent, our teachers are not less hard working and our parents are not less involved than parents in demographically comparable metro Atlanta school systems. Management does count. Ask any of the teachers in any area of DeKalb if they feel the management is helping move students forward academically. The school system ONLY exists for students to master the content of science, social studies, language arts and math. This will allow them to get jobs when they are adults. That is the reason we pay taxes and should be the reason for EVERY BOE decision. Students do not get another chance at an education.

The SBOE is right to go hard on them.

GD

February 21st, 2013
2:44 pm

Nice to see a light shine on SCW and, hopefully, Cunningham next. The more those two speak, the more likely they get canned.

Jim

February 21st, 2013
2:45 pm

While the DeKalb BOE has been a joke, I do not believe that all the members of the board should be removed. We just had an election that displaced several incumbents. We need to leave the newly elected board members and get rid of any incumbents.

Jack ®

February 21st, 2013
2:46 pm

The plot do thicken.

GD

February 21st, 2013
2:47 pm

I think a lot of people agree with you, Jim.

Maureen Downey

February 21st, 2013
2:49 pm

@Jim, The DOE attorney said first thing this morning that they are not seeking the ouster of the three newly elected members; they are no longer part of the discussion. They will stay on the board.
Maureen

Pardon My Blog

February 21st, 2013
2:52 pm

@ Jim – The one that worries me the most is Melvin Johnson and his intimate ties to people in the administration and his ties to Lewis. I think I said on another blog that all should be dismissed and then the three new members could then be placed back on the Board as long as they met four criteria.

Trisha Doherty

February 21st, 2013
2:55 pm

Doc Trot runs a for profit union out of south america. Everything the man touched smacks of half azzed parochial ghetto-ism.

Pardon My Blog

February 21st, 2013
2:56 pm

This is what I stated:

the three newly elected Board members should have to prove to the State:
1. Ability and knowledge to make competent decisions.
2. No family ties to anyone currently working in the system. No other income coming from the system.
3. No criminal history, able to pass a background check.
4. No personal ties to past superintendents or others currently involved in litigation.

We don’t need anyone with any baggage on the Board if we are going to right the course for the district.

Maude

February 21st, 2013
3:04 pm

Trotter was a major player in the problem in Clayton County. It looks like he is also involved with DeKalb.

Do the Math

February 21st, 2013
3:35 pm

I was wondering how much BOE representatives get paid between stipend, attendance, travel, etc.?

Google "NEA" and "union"

February 21st, 2013
3:52 pm

@Maude

I stand corrected if Trotter (guess he’s busy elsewhere today?) actually adds something beneficial to the mix. But his posts and his organization’s website absolutely reek of cheesy self-promotion and ambulance-chaser type values (as much as anyone claiming to run a labor union can be said to have “values”).

Perhaps he will drop in to set me straight?

Atlanta Media Guy

February 21st, 2013
3:53 pm

Annual salary for DeKalb BOE is $18k\year with a small expense account. The real power lies with how much tax dollars can be steered to your family via salaries, benefits and pensions, and herein lies the friends and family issue!

OldGrunt

February 21st, 2013
3:55 pm

I’ll be that members of the DeKalb board would like to wine and dine one each Beverly Hall for their open position! Can hear their arguments now: ‘SHE HAS NOT BE CONVICTED OF NOTHING!’

As long as we have incompetents running the show, public education will not improve one iota!

(Just remember citizens of DeKalb — we pay their salaries, AND, PAY FOR THEIR INCOMPETENCE THROUGH LACK OF JOBS!)

jarvis

February 21st, 2013
4:32 pm

The “warning” on MACE’s website is hilarious.

“WE ARE THE KICK-ASS TEACHER’S UNION”

Hah! Easy there Hoffa.

catlady

February 21st, 2013
4:35 pm

I lol when the former board chair claimed his letter of recommendation was inappropriately quoted. Apparently he does not understand that it is wrong to write a letter of recommendation for ANY family member of ANY employee when he is on the board (much less board chair).

bootney farnsworth

February 21st, 2013
4:45 pm

@ justine

do you REALLY want to go the race route? its a battle you won’t win, and will regret engaging in

bootney farnsworth

February 21st, 2013
4:46 pm

did Copelin-Wood have a stoke or psychotic fit?

bootney farnsworth

February 21st, 2013
4:49 pm

freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences. what freedom of speech REALLY means if the govt can’t put you in jail for your commentary (fighting words not withstanding).

it doesn’t mean you can’t be fired for making an ass out of yourself. which she did

Beverly Fraud

February 21st, 2013
5:04 pm

Perhaps people are forgetting one key point: Having complete and total disdain for DCSS and SACS are not mutually exclusive ideas.

You might question the wisdom (or lack thereof) of sending said email, but it’s hard to question the truth of the sentiment, however “colorful” the language may be.

Again colorful though it may be, Dr. Trotter has offered to debate Mark Elgart in a formal debate setting, but seemingly lacks the truth of his convictions to engage in a legitimate debate as to how SACS conducts its business. Admittedly, there’s not much to gain, (the gravy train flows rather freely from the government teat for Markie Mark according to reports) and there’s plenty to lose.

For example, you think Markie Mark wants any part of being accountable for explaining why he (according to this very paper, correct me if I’m wrong Maureen) would try to use his “outside influence” to meet in private with an APS board member in order to micromanage the Atlanta Board of Education into naming a board chair who (according to this very paper, correct me if I’m wrong Maureen) actively conspired to coverup widespread, systemic cheating?

You think Markie Mark wants any part of that conversation? Or a host of other questionable at best actions?

But if SACS is in the “bidness” of criticizing the governance of others, is this not a fair and legitimate conversation that needs to take place, seeing as Markie Mark is doing this with taxpayers’ funds?

Chris_Eagle

February 21st, 2013
5:12 pm

Well, Sarah Copelin-Woods is gone.

“SACS is as full of bull as a Christmas Turkey!”

Wow… Such eloquence. My wife teaches in the same district that SCW serves. She is not looked upon favorably. Many that I’ve talked to have wanted her out. But, based on the election results, I guess it is a stark minority somehow. Hopefully, she will be ousted for good. The board needs an overhaul, and the people are too satisfied with status-quo it appears.

Beverly Fraud

February 21st, 2013
5:13 pm

Perhaps he will drop in to set me straight?

Well @Google you could probably call them the PETA of teacher organizations there is no doubt. But when nobody (certainly not GAE or PAGE) was willing to talk about the widespread, systemic cheating in APS, Dr. Trotter was willing to. And in retrospect, he was years ahead of the curve.

When nobody (certainly not GAE or PAGE) was willing to call DCSS “gangsta” when Dr. Trotter was called “over the top” for doing so, what happened?

Can you say Rico Indictment? Admittedly referring to a sitting school superintendent as “Candy @ss” might not be the most subtle description, but in retrospect said superintendent might fondly recall the moniker as being more preferable than “convicted felon” no?

dekalbite@catlady

February 21st, 2013
5:37 pm

“I lol when the former board chair claimed his letter of recommendation was inappropriately quoted. Apparently he does not understand that it is wrong to write a letter of recommendation for ANY family member of ANY employee when he is on the board (much less board chair).”

Walker refers to a Board secretary. His daughter-in-law Dee Brown and one other employee are the Board secretaries. Any chance that the brother of the board employee is his daughter-in-law’s brother? The only other possibility is that it is the brother of her colleague. Walke’s daughter-in-law, the Board secretary makes $58,000 a year not including benefits. Walker’s son as a security officer makes $69,000 a year not including benefits (the year before he made $62,000 a year not including benefits so he had a hefty raise – see state salary and travel website). Walker also has numerous other relatives employed at DCSS.

Old timer

February 21st, 2013
5:43 pm

I think SACS ought to investigate the poor poor poor education many, who need it the worst, are receiving in Dekalb and Clayton. There is no emphasis on excellent in many schools anymore. That is e en worse than the board antics. The City of Decatur and some pockets in other systems are doing so much more with much less.

Attentive Parent/Invisible Serfs Collar

February 21st, 2013
5:44 pm

I think just calling them SACS diminishes the actual authority wielded. They are a private holding company called AdvancED that owns SACS and most of the other accreditors in US apart from Western and New England. That they actively coordinate with. They also accredit globally under their own name and then work with UNESCO. Arne Duncan has given them veto powers over higher ed that mean disqualification from the federal student loan program for not following SACS edicts. And they are moving away from periodic accreditation to constant monitoring to get that continuous desired change.

So just calling them SACS greatly minimizes the hammerhold they have over education. And now they are accrediting preschools. At almost the precise time preschools are being pushed to add social and emotional learning components.

Beverly Fraud

February 21st, 2013
5:51 pm

I think we’d all do well to pay heed to the words of Invisible Serf. Impeccably researched (as best I can tell) I think Serf sheds light on issues the average person isn’t even remote aware about, but would be wise to become acutely aware of .