Suspended DeKalb school board member: SACS distorted our record and DeKalb’s performance

Deposed DeKalb school board member Eugene Walker continues to challenge his suspension and the reasons for it. The matter has now moved to the state Supreme Court.  Walker says the new appointees named this past week deserve support.

However, Walker maintains the decision to suspend him and five other board members was not only illegal but based on distortions by the accrediting agency. Walker says the record needs to be corrected, on both the performance of the school board and the district.

By Eugene Walker

‘The governor made the unilateral decision to replace six duly elected officers of the DeKalb County Board of Education. As our constitutional challenge makes its way through the courts, these appointees, along with the three elected officers allowed to stay, are in charge and everyone should be supportive of these stewards until the matter is resolved. I agree with the governor that there is a lot at stake and I urge the public and the media to stay involved as we move forward.

Going forward, we should all be aware that the SACS/AdvancED analysis and subsequent probation created the perception of many of the problems the system is facing today

SACS and its agents distorted the actions of the school board and intentionally diminished the level of trust and confidence held by the constituents of the board members. This was done through accusations, allegations and innuendos without providing proof or supporting documents. The SACS report was rife with unsubstantiated allegations and general statements with the intent of creating a false negative perception of the school board and facilitating a reason for probation.

For example, SACS accuses the board of fiscal mismanagement, even though board members do not manage finances. Neither the state audit nor the recent forensic audit by KPMG reported any such findings. SACS also alleges rampant nepotism and cronyism without any evidence. School board policy requires monthly personnel reporting of any employee who is related to member of the board.

For the record, no member of my family has been hired during my tenure on the board, and to the best of my knowledge, this is also true for the rest of the board members. On the claim of accusation of infighting among board members, all can rest assured that the DeKalb board always took care of school business and with no more discourse than is considered prudent in the Georgia General Assembly.

Most disturbing and misleading are the false allegations regarding the important work of the system – teaching and learning. SACS reported there has been a decline in student performance. This is factually incorrect. Data shows that student performance has been improving. There is an overall increase in student test scores on the CRCT from 2008-2012.

In fact, in four categories; reading, English, math, and science; CRCT scores are the same or better than they were five years earlier in every grade tested. ACT Composite scores have also improved every year over the past five years. SAT scores also rose to the highest levels they have in three years.

Speaking of SAT scores, the district posted broad gains across the school district, north and south, with a strong performance among African American and Hispanic students in mathematics and writing. DeKalb’s improvements almost doubled the statewide average, which came with nearly the same number of students – 4,099 versus 4,144 – taking the test.

Five DCSD schools exceeded the national and state combined average for critical reading, math and writing: Chamblee High, DeKalb Early College Academy, DeKalb School of the Arts, Dunwoody High and Lakeside High. And six schools doubled the state’s gains: McNair, Redan, Cedar Grove, Tucker, Miller Grove and Stone Mountain.

All of this performance information is in the DeKalb School District annual report which no one apparently read, including SACS, the governor, the State Board of Education, the Georgia General Assembly and the media.

An additional piece of good news about is that of the 60 athletes drafted by the NBA draft last year, four came from DeKalb County Schools. No other location in the world had 4 athletes selected by the NBA last year, or to the best of my knowledge, ever.

The SACS report stated that “the current status of the school system is the result of at least a decade of decline.” If this is true, one must ask what was the level of responsibility and accountability of SACS during this decade of decline, especially since SACS was collecting over $200,000 annually for monitoring? Why now, when all indications show that the quality of education is on the upswing?

In the immediate future, this quagmire will be the bailiwick of the governor’s appointees. Until there is resolution in the court system, it’s the way it is and the community, myself included, should do everything to support our students, our schools, and this school board. A little scrutiny will reveal, however, that the problem is in the process not the product.

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

144 comments Add your comment

mountain man

March 16th, 2013
9:22 am

“An additional piece of good news about is that of the 60 athletes drafted by the NBA draft last year, four came from DeKalb County Schools. No other location in the world had 4 athletes selected by the NBA last year, or to the best of my knowledge, ever”

Glowing proof that education is the top prioity at DCSS.

AJC isn't me

March 16th, 2013
9:24 am

Why shouldn’t readers conclude that you value your own pride — before the welfare of your district’s children, Mr. Walker?

mountain man

March 16th, 2013
9:25 am

Maureen – this should be as easy as shooting fish in a barrel – can you please take each one of his arguments apart.

Start with this one: For the record, no member of my family has been hired during my tenure on the board, and to the best of my knowledge, this is also true for the rest of the board members.

mountain man

March 16th, 2013
9:28 am

“SACS accuses the board of fiscal mismanagement, even though board members do not manage finances.”

Does the Board not approve the budget? I would call that “managing finances”. Did the Board approve a budget even though they were specifically told it underestimated utility costs? That sounds like “fiscal mismanagement” to me. Walker – you make yourself look like a fool. Does the Board not hire the Superintendent who directs the CFO?

Dunwoody Mom

March 16th, 2013
9:29 am

Well, my morning coffee just went bitter reading this.

Dr. Walker conveniently left out DeKalb’s graduation rate – 58%.

Inquiring Mind

March 16th, 2013
9:31 am

“For the record, no member of my family has been hired during my tenure on the board, and to the best of my knowledge, this is also true for the rest of the board members.”

…but how many relatives of teachers & administrators have you approved for hire? What have you done about the other incompetent family members employed by DCSS?

Private Citizen

March 16th, 2013
9:37 am

This is like a window into the “inner logic” of Dr. Walker while active on the school board.

catlady

March 16th, 2013
9:38 am

Dunwoody Mom–but four students got into the NBA!

CompetenceNotDiversity

March 16th, 2013
9:44 am

I thought he was doing a reasonable job of trying to construct a cogent argument (as opposed to his first series of statements which were pure race-baiting) until I got to the NBA stat.

I haven’t laughed that hard in quite awhile.

Private Citizen

March 16th, 2013
9:47 am

That’s quite a photo. Wishing every success.

Private Citizen

March 16th, 2013
9:48 am

whoop. please retract 9:47 comment. Wrong thread!

ABC

March 16th, 2013
9:49 am

catlady, I was scrolling down to post the EXACT SAME THING!!! LOL, great minds….

But as previous poster say, if that is your “claim to fame”, then I am awfully glad I moved out of Dekalb Co before my kids started school. It’s obvious where this district’s priorities are.

Shrek

March 16th, 2013
9:56 am

GO AWAY DR WALKER! why does ms. D continue to give this man a platform?

puff

March 16th, 2013
10:03 am

The quality of the DeKalb BOE is much improved as a result of this action – however, the opaqueness of SACS is problematic. If states are going to yield such power to SACS, then its analytical processes and evidence should be open to scrutiny like the boards and systems it judges.

NW GA Math/Science Teacher

March 16th, 2013
10:10 am

Is there any access to the “DeKalb School District annual report” which he references? These statements about test scores are not consistent with the data publicly available from GA-DOE (http://archives.gadoe.org/ReportingFW.aspx?PageReq=102&CountyId=644&T=1&FY=2011) – also see ACT on that same report card.

concernedmom30329

March 16th, 2013
10:13 am

You should resign because you hired Dr. Atkinson. I will always believe that you didn’t want that white woman from NC (and I don’t disagree with you) to be super, so you and others arranged to leak the information and scuttle the process. For this reason alone, you should no longer be on the Board. But wait, you and Womack blocked Emanuel Jones’ efforts to put together an ethics board for the BOE a few years ago. So there was no body to take action against whomever made the leak. Then you hired a super from a failing school system on the verge of bankruptcy. When she removed people you supported, you then turned around and sabotaged her. She wasn’t the right person for the job, but you just made it so much worse. Again, this is why you should be gone. Bad behavior all around.

In terms of nepotism, Dr. Walker, it isn’t just about hiring, but about salaries and even job elimination. You have family members whose salaries are out of proportion to their jobs and you have family members employed in areas that need to be reduced. You didn’t support administration recommendations to reduce those departments. That is a problem. (school security and central office secretarial positions)

As to the SAT scores, I didn’t point this out when the news broke about DeKalb’s improvements, but at some of the schools with big gains, there was a significant reduction in the number of students taking the test.

Finally, whatever is happening good in DeKalb schools is happening in spite of the Board not because of it. It is because of our teachers and students. The Board, under your leadership, has never once apologized to teachers for cutting their salaries or parents/students for raising class sizes.

Having watched dozens of board meetings, I am certainly not convinced that you were ever in this for the students. I believe you ran because of Womack, who certainly was a problem, and who was an old foe of yours. He is gone. No need to protect the system from him anymore. Retire. Now.

Mom of 3

March 16th, 2013
10:17 am

I think it is time to move on. Let the courts do what they will. As far as I am concerned Dr. Walker is old news. I think most people living in Dekalb are ready to move forward. I think it is a waste of time to try and dissect his arguments. He has his perspective and will keep spewing it as long as someone listens. I hope we don’t keep seeing his letters on this blog…and instead focus on the here and now.

concernedmom30329

March 16th, 2013
10:21 am

I have to correct my comments about SAT scores. It wasn’t about differences in number of students from year to year, but rather that some of those schools had realtively low participation rates. For example, one school Walker listed had 60 students take the test which was a participation rate of about 40-50 percent. The state has a participation rate of 81 percent. When students self select who takes the test, scores will be higher.

ABC

March 16th, 2013
10:27 am

concernedmom: it is my understanding that is why there is that myth that GA is 49th in the nation in terms of education. I think they look at things like SAT scores, which are very skewed down here because everyone and their 3rd cousin take the SAT. While in states like Mass., they only “allow” the best of the best to take them.

Not that I am, even for one minute, singing the praises of education down here. Just that we are probably not comparing oranges to oranges.

Maude

March 16th, 2013
10:48 am

Why does the AJC keep giving this man a format?? He is crazy and there are real issues that should be printed.

Dekalb74

March 16th, 2013
10:57 am

All I can say is WOW! Just WOW this article written by Walker reveals incredible delusion and possible mental derangement.

The governor DID NOT make any unilateral decision to suspend the board members. His decision was based on 2 public hearings of the States BOE and their unanimous 14-0 vote to suspend those people. Then a Federal Judge chose not to grant a permanent injunction against the governor from pursuing his next option. That is the definition of a multilateral deliberation.

Then Walker accuses and blames SACS for creating the problems of the former school board. What planet is this man living on? Do you think his attorneys advised him NOT to write this article in the middle of their civil suit proceedings? I believe they did and he went ahead and did it anyway. Walker is not paying those attorneys and I guess that makes him feel he does not have to listen to them.

His comments regarding nepotism are truly unbelievable when his own daughter in law he personally hired as his secretary and she has proven incapable of keeping even the most minimum basic record requirement of board meetings.

Can anyone say KWAME KILPATRICK of Georgia? Eugene Walker needs felony criminal indictments as worse as anyone I have ever seen.

GREAT JOB AJC and Maureen Downey! Your work exposing this monster is stellar reporting.

Move On

March 16th, 2013
11:02 am

Some people get it, some don’t, and some never will. Walker is in the never will category. Anyone that watched the State Board hearings saw that they considered many different pieces of including the KPMG audit, grand jury reports, state audits, meeting agendas, minutes, the culture and oh yeah; SACS report. They looked specifically at SACS report items such as academic achievement, financial stewardship and governance. After reviewing ALL of the evidence, and not just one report, thankfully the State Board (unanimously), the Governor and a Federal Judge all have basically said the same thing – It is in the best interests of the children of DeKalb County for this Board to be removed; Now! Walker will not get it that this is not about SACS or his personal interests. Move On…

Private Citizen

March 16th, 2013
11:12 am

He seems to have turned the wheel from “God is great” and “I am a child of civil rights era.”

OriginalProf

March 16th, 2013
11:18 am

I notice that in several places in this letter Dr. Walker seems to be answering specific charges leveled at him by bloggers here on Get Schooled, not SACS (for example, that members of his immediate family were hired by the DCSS). Perhaps Maureen is giving him a fair chance to answer them….perhaps she is letting him hang himself by doing so. Perhaps she is subtly reminding all of us that this show ain’t over yet.

In any case, I must express my admiration for Dr. Walker’s…backbone, shall we say, in addressing here an audience he must have known would be hostile.

Gene, There You Go Again

March 16th, 2013
11:34 am

1) Remember that Marshall Orson and the “Fernbank Mafia” supported Gene Walker for BOE as he promised a multi-million dollar renovation, even though the school is under capacity and just had a renovation a few years ago

2) Go to Access North Georgia, search for Gene Walker, and these lovely headlines come up about his time on the state parole board:

Parole board member on trial for sexual harassment

State paid $190,000 to settle earlier sex harassment suit

Streat’s lawyers file another motion on AG
Lawyers for Sen. Van Streat are seeking “detailed affidavits” from Attorney General Thurbert Baker and two others they accuse of conspiring to destroy official records.

Suit accuses parole board member of sexual harassment

Peter Smagorinsky

March 16th, 2013
11:35 am

Why are thoughts of Rod Blagojevich, who compared himself to Gandhi in his devotion to the people, running through my head as I read Dr. Walker’s self defense?

As a high school teacher in Illinois, I was on faculties that went through accreditation reviews conducted by North Central (www.ncacasi.org). I always found the reviews to be thoughtful, serious, and professional. The idea that they have agendas to undermine particular systems and individuals is pretty far-fetched.

Some have questioned Maureen’s decision to run Walker’s opinion, but I appreciate the opportunity to hear all sides of a contentious dispute, even those that appear self-serving. Looks as thought most readers are capable of reading his remarks critically.

Will somebody, besides me...

March 16th, 2013
11:46 am

…tell Eugene to STHU…

PLEASE…if you are, and have been, part of the problem, it is now “too little, too late” to whine – so, again, I say, STHU, Dr. Walker – you fought the good fight and lost, and the kids of Dekalb County are worse for your service…

curious

March 16th, 2013
11:47 am

When will people learn, who’s on or who’s off the board has not one iota difference how your precious child performs in school. The vast majority of that responsibility is on YOU, the parent.

Two days ago, a friend told me how a 4th grader cuss out a teacher, MF this, MF that. How can a behaved child or teacher learn in that environment? Said the mother doesn’t believe her precious baby is guilty. Is SACS or our great governor going to fix this? That’s a rhetorical question.

Atlanta Media Guy

March 16th, 2013
11:48 am

Lets hope the BOE stops funding for this mans fight against the students of DCSS.

And, from what...

March 16th, 2013
11:50 am

..Dekalb County High Schools did those four NBA draft picks graduate?

carol p

March 16th, 2013
11:51 am

Eugene Walker: “I am a very, very race-conscious person. I will never ever try to lead you to believe that I am race-neutral. I see color. I appreciate color. I celebrate color and I love color.”

Not part of the SACS report, but Eugene Walker is an unabashed racist. If you’ve been to the Central Office or if you’re familiar with the principals employed by DeKalb county, you know that color means one thing. It does not apply to Hispanics. It does not apply to Asians.

Digger

March 16th, 2013
11:51 am

I demand equal representation for Caucasians in the NBA. I am tired of being held back.

Uh, Eugene......

March 16th, 2013
11:57 am

…you fought the good fight and lost, and the Dekalb students are worse for your service – time to move on and cut your losses….

Uh

March 16th, 2013
11:59 am

Why are all of my comments deleted – I have not used profane language, I am not hostile, and I am not making racist remarks – what’s the deal Maureen…

Dekalb74

March 16th, 2013
12:02 pm

YES the NBA comment is especially revealing.

Anyone care to research all athletes in Dekalb County that moved onto professional sports vs. their Dekalb County High Schools attended compared to where they actually legally lived during that period?

What you’ll find is that the large majority of those student athletes were allowed to attend Dekalb County Schools way outside of their eligibility allowed geographical assigned school districts.

This inappropriate activity its been said many times to have been approved and sanctioned by recent and previous school boards.

Jeff

March 16th, 2013
12:12 pm

It’s really frightening someone as out of touch as this was in a leadership position. Leaders lead. They don’t make excuses when confronted with their shortcomings! Let’s not worry about graduation rates because 4 athletes made it to the NBA. Ludicrous!

dekalbite

March 16th, 2013
12:13 pm

Dr. Walker either cannot or will not read the data.
“For example, SACS accuses the board of fiscal mismanagement, even though board members do not manage finances”
Dr. Lewis and Ms.Tyson proposed those budgets that drove DeKalb into the ditch (Tyson developed the 2010-2011 budget as well as the 2011-2012 budget that Atkinson had to live with. Atkinson found the “balanced” budget Tyson handed her was actually a $45,000,000 deficit including a $26,000,000 omission of the interest DCSS owed on a capital debt that Ms. Tyson forgot to put in the budget – DCSS was really in a deficit from July, 2011 until Atkinson had to balance it).

Although Lewis, Tyson and Atkinson proposed those budgets, the BOE including Dr. Walker approved those budgets. He along with many other BOE members did not do his due diligence. Nor did he do his due diligence as he underestimated utility and legal fees. When Ms. Jester showed him the data, he ignored the facts.
http://www.reporternewspapers.net/2012/03/01/dekalb-schools-facing-41-million-shortfall/

“Neither the state audit nor the recent forensic audit by KPMG reported any such findings.”
Here is a link to the original KPMG audit which was quickly pulled from the Internet by DCSS. This is where the missing textbook money questions originated:
http://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/kpmg-draft-audit.pdf
Here is the Final Audit:
http://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/dekalb-county-school-district_report_12072012.pdf
http://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/textbook-executive-summary-as-of-january-21-2013/

The academic achievement problems have always been in the Title 1 low income schools in DeKalb, not the schools in the north that Dr. Walker cites (Chamblee, Dunwoody, Lakeside, etc.)

Title 1 money has not and is not being used to provide direct instruction to students. Instead it has been used to establish large departments full of highly paid non teaching employees, many of the positions filled by Family and Friends.

According to the AJC Dr. Walker has his fair share of relatives in the systems – none of them teachers:

“Relatives working for system: Son is a resource officer; daughter-in-law is a secretary; granddaughter is a secretary; several relatives are also longtime employees of the school district.”
http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/school-board-report-card-dekalb-county/nQkw4/

His son who is a school resource officer makes $83,000 in salary and benefits (per the state Salary and Travel audit) and his daughter in law is one of two secretaries for the Board of Education. She makes $69,000 in salary and benefits (per the state Salary and Travel audit). That’s $152,000 for his son and his wife – pretty sweet household income for Dr. Walker’s son. Don’t know the titles of his other relatives so no data on what they make.

Regarding student achievement, a student in a Title 1 school in Gwinnett has a much better chance of making adequate yearly progress than a student in DeKalb.

Comparing DeKalb students to students in demographically similar school systems shows that our rate of achievement is less than all of the other metro systems.

2012 CRCT results compared with other metro school systems (including demographically similar ones):
http://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/shocking/

2011 CRCT results:
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/06/in-comparing-standardized-test-scores.html

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/07/dcss-title-1-schools-and-ayp-shell-game.html

2009 CRCT scores:
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2009/07/crct-scores-released.html

Fiscal mismanagement simply matters more to low income students than it does to middle class students. Title 1 money that should go to “level the playing field” has not been used efficaciously for students. The financial mismanagement Dr. Walker presided over has had a devastating effect on our most vulnerable students. He can write all the opinion pieces he wants, but that’s what the data says.

dekalbite

March 16th, 2013
12:18 pm

Caught in the filter. Maybe when my comment is out commenters and readers can look at our CRCT scores as compared to other systems and contrast the data to Dr. Walkers opinion.

Bernie

March 16th, 2013
12:37 pm

Thank-You Maureen for allowing the presentation of Both sides. We now have Dr.Walker’s position and The other side has presented theirs. Somewhere in the MIDDLE the Truth remains. In time even that too, will be presented for a clearer examination for ALL to see. In My opinion, so far there are errors of blame and responsibility to be levied against both sides.

Dekalb74

March 16th, 2013
12:42 pm

Dekalbite great job and lets create a Tsunami of data and facts until a criminal grand jury investigation is ordered.

There is some low hanging fruit that I call Nepotism-Sub Category-

Elected officials and their crony’s affecting public schools sports contest outcomes. Board members are elected by districts but they are charged with representing the entire county as board members. I don’t think most of them have ever understood this concept.

This allegation is a pure violation of the GHSA guidelines and rules. If a student athlete lives in a geographical assigned school district then they are supposed to attend those specific schools. Pure students only may be granted exemptions from what I understand but as soon as they step onto the court or field as an athlete, the rules become hard and fast.

I think this is the next big story for the AJC and they can laser focus their investigation on just a few Dekalb County state champions in a couple of sports in the past 3 years. My guess is the AJC will accumulate credible and indictable data in a few short days of research.

Maureen Downey

March 16th, 2013
12:53 pm

@dekalbite, Nothing in the filter.
Maureen

skipper

March 16th, 2013
1:32 pm

The ideas that these folks are even haveng commentary is a joke. When you are too stupid to pout p*ss out of a boot, tou need to bow out.

skipper

March 16th, 2013
1:34 pm

Thats “pour”…..and “you” and “having”..got two broken fingers….can’t type but can pour the p*ss out of the boot……

Call Me Missouri

March 16th, 2013
1:50 pm

Concernedmom30329 is correct in writing that any gains in student achievement are the result of efforts by the teachers and students. That won’t continue because the teachers can only take so much and they are giving a lot (to their detriment in many cases) and getting so little in return. I think many teachers are not in education for the money, but they should be able to earn a decent salary and not have to worry about “just getting by.” That is becoming impossible in DCSD.

@ curious 11:47 am: Parents should be held accountable for the behavior of their children. However, until a BOE is in place that will hire a superintendent that will set disciplinary policies that effectively deal with repeat offenders and their enabling parents, and require school administrators to follow those policies then nothing will change. There are too many administrators that allow students to go unpunished for major disclipinary actions. These principals don’t want their school to be labeled for having an excess of these problem students, so they dump them back into the clsssroom. Sadly, the incident in your child’s classroom did happen, but how was the offending child disciplined? Most likely that student was right back at school the next day. Is this the first time this happened? I doubt it. It is ridiculous what some principals are getting away with because they decide to allow these students go unpunished, and no one is checking because of the constant crisis and chaos of the district leadership. Not every school is doing Leader Keys, and some school administrators are unchallenged, especially if no one besides the classroom teacher is complaining. I always tell my children they should let me know if any disruptions occur in their classes. Ask your school principal what is being done to prevent the disruptive behavior in YOUR CHILD’S class. A

Fred ™

March 16th, 2013
2:14 pm

Wow Dekalbite, YOU should be on the school board. Did you apply?

Why to shoot those arguments down.

What's Best for Kids?

March 16th, 2013
2:17 pm

Dr. Walker,
With all due respect, please let this go.

Fred ™

March 16th, 2013
2:21 pm

Whoops. WAY to shoot those arguments down, not WHY. I know why and thank you for it lol.

Georgia

March 16th, 2013
2:28 pm

I kinda feel bad now that I know that SACS was unfair to Walker and made up a bunch of hooey just to torpedo the board. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I fell for the data hook line and sinker.

living in an outdated ed system

March 16th, 2013
2:30 pm

The man is in denial, and the more he speaks, the more ridiculous he sounds. He just doesn’t get it. He already lost any credibility he might have had when he pulled out the race card. His lawyer really should have told him to stop talking to anyone. He needs to remember that SACS only put one of 1,000 systems on probation, and that was Dekalb. He’s fighting a losing battle. The only thing that should come out of this is that there should be an appeal mechanism of some sort if an accreditation agency moves to suspend a system. But Walker sounds like he’s desperately trying to move the court of public opinion. Too late for that.

living in an outdated ed system

March 16th, 2013
2:32 pm

But hey…at least Walker is keeping our journalists busy…..