Cheryl Atkinson takes new post after DeKalb: Success for at least one

Dr. Cheryl Atkinson

Dr. Cheryl Atkinson

Given her long affinity for the program, it is not surprising to read the former DeKalb Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson has gone to work for Success For All.

Several of you are alleging that taking a job with a program she brought to DeKalb Schools represents a conflict of interest. I am not sure if that is true, but there’s no doubt that her endorsement of Success for All and her use of it in her districts helped her get the job. After all, Success for All wouldn’t hire someone who didn’t believe in its program and its approach.

Please keep in mind that members of our Legislature often go to work for industries that they regulated while they held public office. Or they go to work for lobbying firms that lobby the General Assembly to get laws passed. And some prominent Georgia education leaders have gone to education think tanks in Washington, including our former state school chief.

According to the AJC:

The former DeKalb County school superintendent has landed a job promoting an educational program that she brought to the district at an expected cost of nearly $5 million. Cheryl Atkinson started last week with the Baltimore-based Success for All Foundation, whose program she researched for her doctoral thesis and then implemented in DeKalb. She also had brought it to Lorain, Ohio, where she was previously superintendent.

The DeKalb school board voted in May on Atkinson’s request to bring the reading program to 26 low-performing elementary schools, using federal grants.

Atkinson left the DeKalb superintendent’s job early this month, halfway through her three-year contract, after negotiating a severance package of more than $114,000.

Nancy Madden, president and CEO of the nonprofit, said Atkinson is director of district relations and will travel the country promoting the program. “She’s been aware of the research behind it since graduate school and has implemented it,” said Madden, a co-founder of the organization. She said Atkinson used Success for All early in her career as a principal in Virginia and Florida, and when Atkinson’s own children were struggling academically she moved them to a Success for All school.

DeKalb apparently did not compel Success for All to compete for the business. Documents produced for the May 14 school board vote indicate it was a “sole source” contract, meaning the service is unique and does not have to be bid. The contract was for $4.6 million in the first year, plus about $100,000 for books.

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

The former DeKalb County school superintendent has landed a job promoting an educational program that she brought to the district at an expected cost of nearly $5 million.

Cheryl Atkinson started last week with the Baltimore-based Success for All Foundation, whose program she researched for her doctoral thesis and then implemented in DeKalb. She also had brought it to Lorain, Ohio, where she was previously superintendent.

The DeKalb school board voted in May on Atkinson’s request to bring the reading program to 26 low-performing elementary schools, using federal grants.

Atkinson left the DeKalb superintendent’s job early this month, halfway through her three-year contract, after negotiating a severance package of more than $114,000.

Nancy Madden, president and CEO of the nonprofit, said Atkinson is director of district relations and will travel the country promoting the program.

“She’s been aware of the research behind it since graduate school and has implemented it,” said Madden, a co-founder of the organization. She said Atkinson used Success for All early in her career as a principal in Virginia and Florida, and when Atkinson’s own children were struggling academically she moved them to a Success for All school.

Atkinson could not be reached for comment. Madden said her departure from DeKalb “doesn’t have anything to do with us. It’s really unfortunate.”

DeKalb apparently did not compel Success for All to compete for the business. Documents produced for the May 14 school board vote indicate it was a “sole source” contract, meaning the service is unique and does not have to be bid.

The contract was for $4.6 million in the first year, plus about $100,000 for books.

The school board approved a three-year contract starting last July that must be renewed annually. The long-term future of the program in DeKalb is unclear now that all the board members who were around to approve it may be removed.

- See more at: http://www.ajc.com/news/news/ex-dekalb-chief-hired-by-program-she-promoted/nWcWz/#sthash.x5KxNvGS.dpuf

The former DeKalb County school superintendent has landed a job promoting an educational program that she brought to the district at an expected cost of nearly $5 million.

Cheryl Atkinson started last week with the Baltimore-based Success for All Foundation, whose program she researched for her doctoral thesis and then implemented in DeKalb. She also had brought it to Lorain, Ohio, where she was previously superintendent.

The DeKalb school board voted in May on Atkinson’s request to bring the reading program to 26 low-performing elementary schools, using federal grants.

Atkinson left the DeKalb superintendent’s job early this month, halfway through her three-year contract, after negotiating a severance package of more than $114,000.

Nancy Madden, president and CEO of the nonprofit, said Atkinson is director of district relations and will travel the country promoting the program.

“She’s been aware of the research behind it since graduate school and has implemented it,” said Madden, a co-founder of the organization. She said Atkinson used Success for All early in her career as a principal in Virginia and Florida, and when Atkinson’s own children were struggling academically she moved them to a Success for All school.

Atkinson could not be reached for comment. Madden said her departure from DeKalb “doesn’t have anything to do with us. It’s really unfortunate.”

DeKalb apparently did not compel Success for All to compete for the business. Documents produced for the May 14 school board vote indicate it was a “sole source” contract, meaning the service is unique and does not have to be bid.

The contract was for $4.6 million in the first year, plus about $100,000 for books.

The school board approved a three-year contract starting last July that must be renewed annually. The long-term future of the program in DeKalb is unclear now that all the board members who were around to approve it may be removed.

- See more at: http://www.ajc.com/news/news/ex-dekalb-chief-hired-by-program-she-promoted/nWcWz/#sthash.x5KxNvGS.dpuf

68 comments Add your comment

Private Citizen

February 28th, 2013
9:42 am

Perhaps training / affiliation with the Broad Academy for Superintendents acts as a sort of national fraternity or union for these managers.

http://billmoyers.com/2013/02/26/the-revolving-door-spins-from-sea-to-shining-sea/

Mountain Man

February 28th, 2013
9:45 am

I am surprised she did not go to another Superintendent’s job – seeing how her lasting success at Dekalb is doing.

Hoosier

February 28th, 2013
9:55 am

No conflict of interest here. Yep, none at all.

Mountain Man

February 28th, 2013
9:57 am

Wonder how much kickback she got from implementing SUCCESS FOR ALL. She at least got a job out of it.

Maureen Downey

February 28th, 2013
9:58 am

@To all, Please keep in mind that members of our Legislature often go to work for industries that they regulated while they held public office. Or they go to work for lobbying firms that lobby the General Assembly. And some prominent Georgia education leaders have gone to education think tanks in Washington, including our former state school chief.
Maureen

Anonymous in DeKalb

February 28th, 2013
10:00 am

Only in the world of traditional public schools does failure pay so handsomely.

Where by the way are all those blog Jeremiahs otherwise eager to continually (and shamelessly) drum up fear of the profit motive in education?

William Casey

February 28th, 2013
10:15 am

It takes about five years to move a school system about six inches. The average superintendent lasts about three years. The concept of “superintendent” is a scam. End of today’s lesson.

Private Citizen

February 28th, 2013
10:32 am

Anonymous in DeKalb, Only in the world of traditional public schools does failure pay so handsomely.

Nice idea, expect you are way off. There are plentiful examples from corporate and big power where people mess up and get a salary raise and more power. What’s really going on here, just like the with “executive compensation” salaries is the government education world basically copying the corporate world, where in reality they are two separate castes. Business is supposed to be about profit / loss / personal income. Government is supposed to be about service. When you mix it up, government gets exploited by business caste. Maybe the dividing line is supposed to be regulatory law over government. But this does not solve the problem of executive compensation applied to local government, which creates a magnet for corrupted character who want that personal money, whatever it takes.

Private Citizen

February 28th, 2013
10:35 am

in the old world, government workers were paid less than corporate. The trade off was lower pay for service, but in return the person got stability. Today, there is high pay and a lot of instability.

and boy it is a drag for teachers who do not even want to be in the same room with these high-salary folk who work on the local level.

Georgia

February 28th, 2013
10:39 am

Who would hire a ne’er do well? Another evil, incompetent arrogant jackass, that’s who. Evil people succeed with other evil people. There’s a code of dishonor among criminal types. Car sales is an industry where you have to actually show that you’ve been to prison on your resume to get into management, and they actually check it out. If you say, “Yeah, I did four years at Sing Sing”, they will ask you about the oatmeal there. (those weren’t raisins, okay?). That’s why I never made into management at Toyota. They asked me what I would make a shank out of. I guessed, “the oatmeal”. I’ll always be a grunt on a car lot. Oh, the word is out on me.

FlaTony

February 28th, 2013
10:42 am

The real travesty here is not about Atkinson, but the children who are forced to endure the scripted reading program Success for All brings to their classrooms.

Private Citizen

February 28th, 2013
10:46 am

Georgia, If it makes you feel any better, Toyotas have terrible minimally adequate brakes that are compounded by a computer system that takes over when the car goes over bumps, where you step on the brake pedal and computer spends time deciding what to do instead of the brakes responding. Add to this an unbalanced system with disc brakes front and drum brakes back, and it is a dangerous system, Fail x3 minimal build, computer control that should have never been released to the public, and God only knows why no balanced 4-wheel disc braking. I guess if they save $5. on each on selling 10 million cars, they’ll do it.

ShooShee

February 28th, 2013
10:48 am

Goes on all the time.

From another blog: “An ex DeKalb highly placed Central Office administrator sold DeKalb Schools America’s Choice which we paid $30,00,000 to $50,000,000 for. DDCSS has easily spent $50,000,000 to $100,000,000 on educational programs (America’s Choice, springboard, Read 180, High Schools that Work, Success for All, etc.) in less than ten years.”

Oh – and now we have a new super, hired behind closed doors, who came to us from high levels at the state – in the department of labor, with no background in education – and we are paying him a salary that even the Governor could only dream of! We are the fools here.

I wish her well. She certainly tried … just look at the wacky bosses she had to try to please. And she is now in Baltimore – where they probably chuckle at our Deep South antics. Nobody up north takes southern public schools seriously. Certainly, she has earned some national street cred for her attempt to jump into the soup. There is no fixing DeKalb. She was wise to slither away…

dekalbite

February 28th, 2013
10:53 am

This conflict of interest that goes on between the upper level administrators and the educational companies is very detrimental to students and taxpayers. If you bring those millions into a company from your school system, why wouldn’t they hire you?

An ex DeKalb highly placed Central Office administrator sold DeKalb Schools America’s Choice which we paid $30,00,000 to $50,000,000 for over time. DCSS has easily spent $50,000,000 to $100,000,000 on educational programs (America’s Choice, springboard, Read 180, High Schools that Work, Success for All, etc.) in less than ten years.

Mr. Thurmond says half the teachers like it and half don’t. David Schutten says 80% of the teachers hat it. Obviously, these figures are their opinions. Why can’t a survey be done of teachers and find out the real data on teacher “buy-in”?

The reason teacher “buy-in” is so important is one that program implementation “requires” teacher “buy-in”, something that did not happen in Dr. Atkinson’s rush to get DeKalb to buy this program.

And don’t forget that millions a year in salary and benefits are being spent for newly hired Data Coaches to support this program. Data Coaches are non teaching personnel who are certified to teach but do not teach. Instead they collect the data for this program. So now we are on the hook not only for millions a year for the program, but we also added millions a year in salary and benefits for yet another layer of non teaching employees.

IMO – DeKalb should be able to get out of any contract we have in Success for All. We are in for $5,000,000 courtesy of Atkinson who then gets a job with them plus the Board is paying her salary the rest of the year to the tune of $114,000 adding insult to injury.

Midway

February 28th, 2013
10:55 am

I guess GPB wasn’t hiring.

dekalbite

February 28th, 2013
10:56 am

Here is a link to Ty’s full article where he talks about Thurmond and Schutten’s differing opinions on Success For All and the requirement for teacher “buy in” that did not happen:
http://www.ajc.com/news/news/ex-dekalb-chief-hired-by-program-she-promoted/nWcWz/#

Private Citizen

February 28th, 2013
10:56 am

Toyota’s badly designed and non-responding ABS computer brake control system makes the driver captive. Aside from whether it works or not, or is well implemented, both BMW and Mercedes have a switch on the dashboard to turn off the ABS computer system and its affect on braking. Mercedes also has a system that when you stomp hard on the brakes, it activates a more powerful braking system, as they have observed that milliseconds are critical in emergency braking situations and result is real event with how many feet required to stop. The Toyota system is exactly the opposite and the computer control confusion actually adds more time to how the brakes respond. In my opinion, they are dangerous cars.

RCB

February 28th, 2013
10:59 am

Sounds like this company jumped at the chance to hire a thrice-failed former superintendent. Says a lot about the company, imo. Maureen, your blog title says it all….”Success for at least one.”

Private Citizen

February 28th, 2013
11:04 am

The big example of this on the federal level is when the regulatory person over pharmaceuticals massaged some law into place for the pharmaceutical companies to reap billions, and then the person exited congress and went to work for the pharmaceutical companies. This is what I think of when I think of the Bush era, when the companies write the laws, hand them to their lobbyists, who hand them to the congress people they are paying, who then turn it into law.

Returning to (?) a less corrupt method on capitol hill in Washington, DC, would set the tone for less corrupted, more production-direct methods on a local level.

Private Citizen

February 28th, 2013
11:07 am

You would think when a superintendent left office, and they are still of working age, if they needed a default, they would return to the classroom and teach. To do otherwise is a clear example of caste system.

Otherwise, hiring someone for superintendent who is not an educrat might be the best scenario possible.

Anonymous in DeKalb

February 28th, 2013
11:20 am

Private Citizen, please shut up. Find another interest in life beyond constantly boring us with your likes and dislikes.

Thanks.

Captain Kirk

February 28th, 2013
11:22 am

Ethics…Pass It On!

reality check

February 28th, 2013
11:48 am

Perhaps I missed it, but what happened to the Superior court hearing scheduled for yesterday on the dekalb board suspensions?

Is the Federal case scheduled for today still on?

I have seen no update on this in AJC.

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

February 28th, 2013
11:48 am

“Why can’t a survey be done of teachers and find out the real data on teacher “buy-in”?”

Because that last survey on changing school calendars was handled so honestly.

dekalbite

February 28th, 2013
11:57 am

From Dekalb Watch – interesting comment:
“Click on that report above. http://www.edchoice.org/StaffSurge2

Then check out Georgia’s numbers. The study shows that while student population increased 41% since 1992, administrators and non-teaching staff increased by 72%. If the admin and non-teaching numbers had stayed in step with student enrollment, the state could have saved $925,229,674.00. That’s almost a BILLION dollars. Further, teachers could have enjoyed an average pay increase of $7,786.00 if that money had been available to them instead of non-teaching staff. And, the Ratio of Students to Non-Teaching Staff is 13.80 while the Ratio of Students to Teachers is 13.90 – a virtual tie – students today enjoy as many non-teaching staff members as teachers per student.”

Atlanta Media Guy

February 28th, 2013
11:59 am

Hey reality… The BOE voted to ax the Superior Court case, and let the Federal Courts handle it all. Think SCW will be on time and Dr. Walker stays awake during the hearing… just asking….

PSDad

February 28th, 2013
12:03 pm

Here’s the Sniff Test.

Success For Alll (SFA) claims to be in over 1000 schools throughout the US and reported approximately $22million of revenue on its 2011 financial filing (approximately $22,000 per school). DCSS agreed to pay $4million in fees to SFA for the 2012-2013 school year, which suggests that the DCSS contract represents approximately 18% of SFA’s total revenue. One school out of over 1,000 represents over 18% of revenue .

What do you smell?

The Deal

February 28th, 2013
12:12 pm

Gee, and I thought she needed 30 days off to mourn her father since she was willing to take that time off from DCSD. Guess a 2nd fat paycheck helps with the sadness.

Pardon My Blog

February 28th, 2013
12:22 pm

All of this (the way she “resigned”, the way this Company was bid, the way Thurmond was hired,the hiring of the Baker law firm for $150K for governance training) is so sketchy. Perhaps the Judge should take all of this into consideration when hearing the pleas from Walker and Company.

Private Citizen

February 28th, 2013
12:38 pm

Anonymous in DeKalb, There’s a lot of people with the good life who care not a wit about any one who does not share their means. Goes like this: “Well, there’s nothing we can do about that.” “Shut up” “I don’t want to hear” “Did you take your medication today?” and the best dismissal of all, “What does that have to do with me?” I wonder when is the last time you paid for someone’s vision examination and eyeglasses. In other words, not ever. Isn’t there an empty seat waiting on you in a country club somewhere? I doubt they have wi-fi for you to read about the people doing the work, or maybe they do so you can check on your mutual fund, which does not appear to be too “mutual.”

Private Citizen

February 28th, 2013
12:45 pm

student population increased 41% since 1992, administrators and non-teaching staff increased by 72%

This is mind numbing / difficult to process. It’s like the national security / surveillance laws, once something becomes a part of government, it is very difficult to turn the wheel backwards and make it go away. Maybe this sequestration business will put some of the tigers back into the cage. What the founding fathers said about government bloat is oh so painfully true. -And all of this time I thought I was seeing things about the sheer quantity of extra “pro’s” marching around and telling the teachers what to do.

Married with (School) Children

February 28th, 2013
12:51 pm

The Dekalb School Watch II blog correctly predicted “Success for All” would hire Atkinson. See the November 4, 2012 at 2:33 PM comment from “DSW2Contributor” posted on DSW2’s “Signs of a Cash-Flow Problem?” article:
http://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/signs-of-a-cash-flow-problem/

P.S. to Maureen: Kudos on the “Success for At Least One” headline!

Pride and Joy

February 28th, 2013
12:59 pm

About that please keep in mind that our legislators get jobs blah blah blah…yes, legislators are crooks too.
This IS a direct conflict of interest and Cheryl Atkinson is a crook. She is a selfish beast and we are still paying the price for the friends and family program. We need to bust up Dekalb into smaller districts so that we who believe in real educatin and real government (north dekalb) can operate a clean, honest, public school system and let the crooked rats bite themselves instead of infecting us.

Private Citizen

February 28th, 2013
1:07 pm

Nice post, PJ. I agree wherever this is the will to run a clean energetic system, it should be done, even if it means breaking up the district. The area has one example right now, Decatur schools, if it had several more examples of clean direct run schools without the multitude of non-classroom $100k hang-arounds, and pockets of doubly paid support staff, if there was more pockets of excellent, maybe it would start to grow together, like when patches of sod are put here and there on a lawn, so the grow together over time and fill in, and after a while there is intelligence and deliberate good works where there used to be weeds. Hey, Thurmond, I can write a speech, too.

Principal Skinner

February 28th, 2013
1:22 pm

“Victory in Every Classroom” has become, “Victory in My Pocketbook”

That’s good work, if you can get it

Smoke Rise Mom

February 28th, 2013
1:45 pm

I’m no supporter of Dr. Atkinson and never was. That said, who doesn’t network and use their experience (whether they’re competent or not) to get their next job? Unless she had a job offer from this company before she brought their product into her school systems, how is it a conflict? What bugs me is the severance she’s getting from DeKalb. Nobody who walks away from their job or gets fired for nonperformance should get such a sweet deal.

Private Citizen

February 28th, 2013
1:49 pm

No, it is morally depraved work.

Private Citizen

February 28th, 2013
1:51 pm

Making people repeat motivational slogans.

reality check

February 28th, 2013
1:55 pm

thanks media guy, but I don’t understand. BOE can’t “ax” the hearing because they were not the party that filed.

Does anybody know, is the Federal Case still scheduled for tomorrow?

Where is AJC reporting what is going on?

bootney farnsworth

February 28th, 2013
1:57 pm

think she can offer Gene the machine a job?

Hillbilly D

February 28th, 2013
1:59 pm

@To all, Please keep in mind that members of our Legislature often go to work for industries that they regulated while they held public office. Or they go to work for lobbying firms that lobby the General Assembly. And some prominent Georgia education leaders have gone to education think tanks in Washington, including our former state school chief.
Maureen –

Just because all skunks put off an odor doesn’t make it any more agreeable when you get sprayed by one skunk.

reality check

February 28th, 2013
2:01 pm

Not to defend Cheryl Atkinson, but she had a contract that called for $275,000 in severance. She was paid less than half that.

I think the question is why she would settle for less than the contract she negotiated when the county recruited her.

reality check

February 28th, 2013
2:11 pm

Still not defending atkinson, but the superintendent just let go in Bibb county got over three quarters of a million dollars in severance after 2 failed years.

What the heck, it is just taxpayer money. And only worth, what, the salaries of 10 to 20 classroom teachers who need all that superlative supervision?

Private Citizen

February 28th, 2013
2:13 pm

why she would settle for less than the contract she negotiated when the county recruited her.

Because a bus ticket costs 70 bucks and maybe she is not broke and had calling of conscience to not exploit the resource base. I’ve never known anyone anywhere who got a $100k moving allowance. The thing about the executive pay schemes, its just got nothing in common with regular people who work for a living, pay for their own car, sacrifice to pay bills, have to hustle to make ends meet, never get an “expense money” anywhere, except for what they earn after taxes.

PSDad

February 28th, 2013
3:34 pm

To Update my earlier post with a little more data – Success For All (SFA) claims to be in over 1000 schools throughout the US and reported approximately $22million of revenue on its 2011 financial filing (approximately $22,000 per school). Per this article, DCSS agreed to pay $4.6 million in fees to SFA for the 2012-2013 school year, which suggests that the DCSS contract represents approximately 22% of SFA’s total revenue. If its true that Lorain City Schools paid $3 million for the program, then the fees paid by these two schools (under Atkinson) represent over 35% of SFA’s total revenue.

paulo977

February 28th, 2013
3:45 pm

ONE SIZE FITS ALL??????
” If you judge a fish by its ‘ability’ to climb a tree, it will spend its entire life believing it is stupid”!!
ALBERT EINSTEIN

dekalbite

February 28th, 2013
3:56 pm

The last time an ex-DCSS administrator was involved in selling “America’s Choice” to DeKalb we spent $30,000,000 to $40,000,000 over the course of 7 or 8 years (including last year – is it still on the budget this year?). Not one bit of evidence in student improvement was shown to the taxpayers and in fact DeKalb experienced a steep decline in achievement during the last 7 or 8 years.
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/02/americas-choice-sucking-up-stimulus.html

Now along comes Dr. Atkinson and puts us on the hook for around $5,000,000 for “Success for All” just this year alone (while she proposed increased class sizes for students and furloughs for teachers). She published absolutely NO benchmarks to assess the effectiveness of the program and no quantifiably measurable objectives for the school district.

It’s not just the cost of the programs, it’s the cost of the bureaucratic layer to run them. DeKalb spends over $10,000,000 a year in salaries and benefits for non teaching “Instructional Coaches” – many of them hired to “manage” America’s Choice. Now come the “Data Coaches” in addition to all of those “Instructional Coaches” hired for the original purpose of America’s Choice.

Can you see how adding up all of these educational programs and then adding on the layers of non teaching personnel to support them adds up. If you take a $5,000,000 a year program and then add $10,000,000 in non teaching personnel to support the program, then the total cost is $15,000,000 a year. 7 or 8 years in a row of expenditures of this magnitude and you can see how $100,000,000 can be spent on these learning programs that have no quantifiably measurable objectives or benchmarks attached to them.

To make matters worse, apparently she (along with the BOE) signed us up for “Success for All” for 3 years. If that is not a breech of ethics, what is?

dekalbite@RCB

February 28th, 2013
4:02 pm

“Sounds like this company jumped at the chance to hire a thrice-failed former superintendent”

Why would you say that? She brought them millions in sales at the school systems she was over. Sounds like she was very successful for their company,

Ann

February 28th, 2013
4:02 pm

@ Pardon, 12:22. “Perhaps the Judge should take all of this into consideration when hearing the pleas from Walker and Company.”

These are things the judge should NOT take into consideration. The judge is being petitioned to consider the constitutionality of the law removing them, not how goofy or awful they are. As long as they haven’t been charged with (or is it convicted of?) a crime, the goofy and awful part is for the voters to adjudicate.

Too bad a majority of the voters were eiher bamboozled or asleep all this time. Betcha they’re awake now.

dekalbite

February 28th, 2013
4:41 pm

There is a heavy reliance on technology with “Success for All”. DeKalb has scant technology in the classrooms regardless of what Ms. Tyson told the State Board of Education. Go into any school in DeKalb to see how little technology students have.