08/05/2013 – DeKalb Schools Board Meeting

Friends and Family 2.0
DeKalb Schools’ theme, “New leadership, new vision, new direction: Improving student performance through parental engagement”, seems to translate into the board and administration creating new non teaching positions. This is Friends and Family 2.0. While Thad Mayfield is too close to the SPLOST IV campaign to truly be objective, he is the only one asking germane questions and voting ‘no’ on the absurd agenda items. Dr. Morley, on the other hand, appears not to have met a bureaucratic idea she doesn’t like. She also seems comfortable in the roll of Patron Saint of Friends and Family 2.0. She’s advocated for “handsomely paid” administrators, steadfastly objected to GAC accreditation and supports the administration heist of “after school program” funds that were to accrue to the individual schools and families that raised those funds. Somehow, that record, which is also the record of the Board in total, doesn’t seem to match the rhetoric of “improving student performance” nor does it provide much “new” of anything; especially leadership, vision or direction. The administration with this board’s approval is instituting Friends and Family 2.0.
I have summarized and provided links to the recap and video clips of the meeting’s highlights.

  • School Readiness Report
  • Financial Report
  • Human Resources Report
  • After School Program (ASP) Money
  • School Attendance Lines
  • English Language Learner District Plan

School Readiness ReportPowerPoint Presentation and Video Clip
Dr. Alice Thompson gave a school readiness PowerPoint presentation. Over 700 new teachers were hired to back fill the exodus. The implementation plan for the Interim’s Superintendent’s pet project, Parental Engagement, was unveiled. A hotbed for friends and family, the failed, expensive and recently closed Family Centers will be reopened in South DeKalb. As a show of support and PR, central office staff will be deployed to schools the first week and will hold daily briefings.
Financial ReportRecap and Video Clip
Peronne is gone, money is being found left and right and the financial albatrose hanging around DeKalb School’s neck has magically disappeared. There’s a report for invoices paid, but no mention of invoices outstanding. I remain skeptical of this financial windfall.
Human Resources ReportRecap and Video Clip
Retaining the best and brightest teachers plagues DeKalb Schools. Orson is disappointed teachers are breaking their contracts and leaving for more money saying, “If people can constantly leave for more money, then this will bring instability to our system.” Dr. Ward-Smith discusses the circumstances under which contracts can be broken and plans to add more verbiage to contracts next year. Mayfield would like to know more about teacher ratings. Traditionally, teachers have all been rated high, but we now have teacher/leader “keys” (new evaluation system) for the first time.
Dr. Morley would like to see more punitive measures and fine teachers for breaking contracts. She is disheartened that teachers with masters degree don’t make 6 figure salaries like many in the corporate world with less education. Note: Many states are moving to a model of paying for performance and eliminating pay increases for additional degrees. Studies, like The Sheepskin Effect and Student Achievement from the Center For American Progress, have shown no (and sometimes negative) correlation between teachers with advanced degrees and student outcomes. Personally, I’m all in favor of teachers making more money and administrators making less. But compensation decisions should be based on competence and effort, not simply checking a block.
After School Program (ASP) MoneyRecap and Video Clip
Orson continued to advocate for the ASP money to accrue to the schools raising these funds pursuant to past agreements. Dr. Morley staunchly opposes this. Despite the public outrage over the Interim Superintendent’s attempt to claim ASP money for the general fund, the passage and implementation of the “Student Activities Funds Management” policy, codifying the past agreements between schools and the administration, was once again delayed and keeps these funds at risk. Curiously, the original budget hearings at which the Interim Superintendent attempted to claim ASP money for the general fund, are not posted online and DCSS is still refusing to do so.
School Attendance LinesRecap and Video Clip
The administration would like the ability to make minor changes to the school attendance lines without board approval. I’m not sure what attendance line emergencies come up that can’t wait a few weeks for a board to approve.
This policy allows the Superintendent (or their designee) to adjust lines up to 1/8 mile and affect 5 or fewer children. This seems odd because one can’t argue that this is about balancing enrollment. If only 5 children can be moved, that adjustment won’t significantly change the enrollment numbers at a school. So, why the need for this policy? It isn’t a leap to see that this policy could be used to benefit friends and punish adversaries. Furthermore, the frequency at which the policy can be used is not specified. Can the Superintendent invoke the policy daily, monthly, quarterly, yearly, minute-by-minute? Eventually, 1/8th of a mile and 5 children can become whole neighborhoods. This isn’t a good policy.
English Language Learner(ELL) District PlanRecap and Video Clip
The district is putting in place a plan to improve instruction to our ELL population. As with most command and control governance, the administration will tell the communities what they need. This would be an ideal opportunity to relinquish control, decentralize decision making, and enable the consumers of English Language Lerner services to make their own decisions.

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