05/04/2015 – Speaker 1

Good evening Superintendent Thurmond and board members. Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you.
Mr. Thurmond recently said, “You should never move forward prior to full and honest reflection.” (1)
A full and honest reflection on the DeKalb County School District (DCSD) would include not only the achievements of the last two years, of which there are some to be proud, but also the other things. Things Mr. Thurmond doesn’t talk about.
A full and honest reflection would reveal the district, as a whole, has maintained CCRPI scores near what is considered failing for the last three years.
The 2014 CCRPI district average score was 63, up from 62 in 2013, but still only three points above the threshold for the proposed state takeover of schools. (2)
The district’s graduation rate has increased 5% over the last four years, but still lags behind the statewide rate by 11% with only 62.3% of DeKalb students graduating in four years. (3)
The district’s graduation rate for students with disabilities is 23.6%. (4) Less than one out of four. Where is the Bridge Initiative to help students with disabilities?
Speaking of the Bridge Initiative… remember Mr. Thurmond’s promises of a Return On Investment and sharing the results. (5) In a response to an Open Records Request for the ROI, the district stated, “responsive records do not exist.”  (6)
The answer was the same for an Open Records Request regarding the Bridge Initiative’s goal to “improve the disciplinary process for students to eliminate the school to prison pipeline.” Another promise unkept.  (7)
An “honest reflection” on the district’s budget process would highlight the misleading practices which are, as Dr. Bell said, “the way things have been done.” (8) This includes having meetings to receive public input regarding the budget before showing the budget to the public. (9)
(This was also the method of receiving input on the charter district petition. There have been no public input meetings about the charter district petition since the petition was posted online.)
The budget process is so broken that the administration won’t even allow the BOE to discuss complying with the state law to spend 65% of the budget on direct instruction.  (10)
It is a process so broken that when a BOE member asked Dr. Bell if the Druid Hills Charter Cluster’s petition had requested any money to which they were not entitled, he refused to answer the question. (11) (It hadn’t)
The budget process is so broken, the current fiscal year has $9,500 was budgeted (12) for a department that has no employees (Strategic Management & Accountability) and over $200,000 budgeted (13) for an elementary school principal. (Henderson Mill Elementary)
The way things have been done includes not reporting revenues where they are earned so money can be allotted at the whim of the central office. As I mentioned earlier, those whims do not include classrooms. (14)
The central office needs a new integrated computer system. (15) Using some of the projected $80 million dollar surplus (16) to implement one makes sense and is something I strongly recommend. I do NOT recommend waiting until SPLOST V because it is needed now.
I also recommend rewriting Board policy DC to require the revenues earned by each school be shown along with the expenditures assigned to each school.
A full and honest reflection would acknowledge the fact that more than 31,700 times this school year there was a teacher absence and no substitute. (17)
31,700+ means, on average, more than one teacher is absent from every school, every instructional day, and there is no substitute. Another way of looking at it is 31,700 multiplied by an average of 30 students per class each day is approximately 951,000 days of instruction lost.
31,700+ means the “Fill Rate” according to Subfinder is around 64% which is down from the 87% reported in the January 2012 audit by Jim Huge and Associates. (18) It has been three years since unfilled teacher absences was identified as a problem requiring action and in that time the problem has gotten worse by, nearly, a factor of three.
The lack of substitutes is a symptom of a dysfunctional Human Resources Department.
Another symptom of this dysfunction is that last June the BOE approved “up to 45” international teachers for the current school year. Yet, on August 15, the placement fee for 53 international teachers was paid. This fact has not been brought to the BOE, but has been in the Vendor Spends Report since October.  (19)
The DeKalb County School District needs new leadership. No amount of spin can deflect the negative effects the current leadership has on the students of the district, nor the ongoing fiscal irresponsibility.
can not state strongly enough that any district employee who was here during Ramona Tyson’s tenure as superintendent should not be considered as a legitimate candidate for DeKalb’s next superintendent. The students, teachers, and taxpayers of DeKalb County need a change.

  1. State of the District Address April 21, 2015
  2. http://ccrpi.gadoe.org/2014/
  3.  http://www.stanjester.com/dekalbschools/ratesandrankings/graduationrates/2014alldistricts/
  4.  http://www.gadoe.org/CCRPI/Documents/2014/2014%20Cohort%20Grad%20Rate%20by%20Subgroups%20Ammended%20(2)%20for%20Web%20Page.xlsx
  5. September 9, 2013 BOE Business Meeting http://view.earthchannel.com/PlayerController.aspx?&PGD=dekalbschga&eID=178
  6. Email response April 17, 2015
  7. Email response May 1, 2015
  8. Board of Education Retreat March 26, 2015 – video available via open records request
  9. April 1, 2015 and May 4, 2015
  10. Comments by Allyson Gevertz, Citizen’s Input Meeting April 1, 2015, http://view.earthchannel.com/PlayerController.aspx?&PGD=dekalbschga&eID=236
  11. Board of Education Called Meeting November 11, 2013, http://view.earthchannel.com/PlayerController.aspx?&PGD=dekalbschga&eID=181
  12.  FY ’15 Detailed Budget pg. 351   http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/budget/fy-approved-detail-budget-(2015).pdf
  13. FY ’15 Detailed Budget pg. 581   http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/budget/fy-approved-detail-budget-(2015).pdf
  14. FY ’15 Detailed Budget all pages
  15. Comments by Dr. Bell Board of Education Retreat March 26, 2015 – video available via open records request
  16.  http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/news-and-events/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2015/04/News-Release.Budget-Surplus-Projected.4.30.pdf
  17. Email response to an open records request April 30, 2015
  18.  https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/human-resources-audit.pdf
  19. August 2014 Vendor Spends Report – search “Global Teacher Research” and “Intalage” and count $11,500 and multiples of $11,500 payments- https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/Attachment.aspx?S=4054&AID=563122&MID=36256