Northlake Community Alliance – 05/23/2013
Superintendent Michael Thurmond and board reps Jim McMahan and Ms. Karen Carter answered questions for Northlake Community Alliance (NCA) on Thursday 05/23/2013. Van Johnson, Vice Chairman of NCA, selected and read the questions from a stack of cards turned in beforehand by the audience. While it was a discussion among friends, our speakers gave us some good information even if they fumbled with some of the facts.
Career readiness will be a high priority for Mr. Thurmond’s interim tenure. With a $3 million dollar grant from the Department of Technical and Adult Education, DCSS will attempt to replicate the Rockdale Career Academy which offers a wide variety of “Career Pathways” from emergency medical technicians to law enforcement.
Ms. Karen Carter appears to be in agreement with Mr. Thurmond over dual accreditation, saying, “One of the things that’s important to us first and foremost is restoring full accreditation with SACS.” Dual accreditation is on the 06/03/2013 Work Session agenda for discussion, but it is not scheduled to be voted on during the Business Meeting. Orson and Coleman are listed as the presenters. If the discussion goes well, the board may decide to place action on GAC accreditation on the Business Meeting agenda. Terry Nall, Dunwoody City Councilman, has invited representatives from GAC to be available for any last minute questions.
DeKalb County Commissioner, Stan Watson, was there to provide a cell tower update. “It is being reviewed right now by our legal department. And we want to make sure that we address the item of the cell towers in such a way that we could be responsible to the legalities of the cell tower. We’re trying to treat it just like a special land use plan right now, SLUP, to make sure that we’re in complete compliance legally to make sure that it works. So, right now, it has been tabled, Tom. And we’re actually looking at it in our legal department. It should come out this summer and we’ll be happy to come back and report what we’re going to do with it. But, right now, we have it in our legal department to make sure that we can do it as a legal department and as a county.”
Highlights given by Superintendent Thurmond
- “The district is moving in the right direction.”
- Three (3) of the top fifteen (15) performing high schools in Georgia, according to a US News and World Report article are located in DeKalb.
- Implementation of the balanced calendar has been delayed.
- The “Success For All” program was reevaluated and eliminated.
- “DCSS will not lose accreditation.”
Question: Will the Kittredge magnet program be moved to Avondale?
Thurmond: “There are no plans that I’m aware of.“
McMahan: “We had considered centralizing the magnet program a year or two ago … We’ve not reconsidered the centralization of it.“
|Superintendent Thurmond may not be “aware of” any plans, but the SPLOST IV Proposed Organization Facilities Presentation clearly indicates the system’s SPLOST IV management department is making plans to use Kittredge ES as a swing space during the Austin ES rebuild. Their current proposal is to move Kittredge to Midway during this time.|
Question: Are you going to take after school program funds into the general fund to balance the budget?
Thurmond: “And I said at the budget hearing, I have no past, present or future intent or desire to use these monies in any way other than what was first provided.“
|When after school monies were first brought to the attention of the board, Mr. Thurmond said he was instructed by the board to push every penny he could find into the classroom. He further indicated without a policy specifically instructing the administration what to do with after school monies, he was left with no option but to appropriate after school money into the general fund and use it for the classroom.|
McMahan: “I was at Lakeside last night … We had 307 graduates. The diversity among the students. They don’t look like … me. It’s unbelievable. ”
|Mr. McMahan is correct. Not only white people graduate from Tucker High School.|
Thurmond: “We cut legal fees by what … $6 million. Half of that cut went to purchase 1 furlough day.”
|The budget for legal fees was cut by $6 million, but it remains to be seen whether or not legal fees were actually cut by $6 million. Thurmond’s plan for cutting legal fees is still vague, so I retain a healthy skepticism. The administration has a history of under budgeting expenses to make the public think they are cost cutting but they over spend.|
Question: The Georgia State study a couple of years ago found that there were too many middle managers at the district office compared to Gwinnett and Cobb Counties. Do you have plans to implement any of the study’s findings?
Thurmond: “They were implemented. And, they’ve been implemented in this budget. $5 million of the nearly $18 million that we are cutting is salaries and staff“
|If $5 million is going to be staff cuts, then they haven’t already been implemented. Mr. Thurmond has said, several times, that 600 positions have been cut, but DCSD has not provided any evidence, to date, to support this claim.|
Graduation Rates – http://www.myajc.com/news/ga-grad-rates-2012/
|School Name||2012 Graduation Rate||2011 Graduation Rate||Difference|
|Dekalb Early College Academy||94.74||92.86||1.88|
|DeKalb School of the Arts||91.53||96.83||-5.3|
|Arabia Mountain High School||90.22||85.71||4.51|
|Chamblee Charter High School||81.64||81.67||-0.03|
|Tucker High School||78.13||72.42||5.71|
|Redan High School||77.67||78.79||-1.12|
|Dunwoody High School||76.52||80.84||-4.32|
|Stephenson High School||70.47||79.21||-8.74|
|Druid Hills High School||69.14||62.13||7.01|
|Southwest DeKalb High School||67.93||66.73||1.2|
|Stone Mountain High School||65.37||72.88||-7.51|
The question McMahan was asked was “what are the top 10 traditional schools in terms of graduation rate?” He answered with a statement about the total number of students that graduated from Lakeside this year. Count is not the same as rate.
Thurmond further complicated the answer by responding with an answer about the top schools based on rate, with the caveat that he was using only a list of schools that graduated more than 300, which is an arbitrary cutoff number that serves no purpose other than to exclude some schools from the list that most people would assume to be in the same category of traditional high school in DeKalb.
Whether or not Tucker has a diverse population (it does, as all our schools do) was a distraction. Based on the state’s report from 2012 that was just released, Tucker was the number one school for graduation rate for a traditional school that must accept every student at 78.13% graduated. Lakeside was number 8 at 64.86%.
Yeah, that convo was all over the place. Do you have a link to the state’s report from 2012 that was just released?
My Source: http://www.myajc.com/news/ga-grad-rates-2012/
It reads: Georgia school and district graduation rates: Georgia has released 4-year graduation rate data for the 2012 school year. Search the database to compare the new rates with the previous year.
Source: Georgia Department of Education.