Get Out The Vote

DeKalb voters:

I would like to urge everyone to get out and vote on July 31. During the course of this campaign I have been able to share a large amount of quality time with many of our citizens. It has been a rewarding experience for me. Thank you!

I have spent great moments with many of our teachers and parents and heard their worries and concerns. Our teachers have sacrificed for years and all they want is our respect. They certainly have mine. Our parents want great schools that provide their children with the education they need to be successful in life. I share this vision and appreciate the commitment they make to our schools.

I would appreciate your vote on Tuesday.

Thanks,
Don

The Rumor Mill

Just before the election I see my opponent is working overtime in the rumor mill. Let me respond.

Fernbank science center:
My opponent wants everyone to believe he is Fernbank Science Center’s savior. Well, that would be an error. I usually try to work behind the scenes. I am not a publicity hound, but it is now time to tell everyone what I have done in regard to the Science Center. I personally asked the superintendent to increase the budget from the proposed $1.5 million to the current $2.9 million. I am aware that the Fernbank budget needed to come down like everyone else’s but I asked for more than the budget of $1.5 million which put the science center on life support. I also have been meeting with a group trying to arrange private financing which will cement Fernbank’s future as a viable entity. The group prefers to remain anonymous so I cannot discuss the details. If you think this is just another election ploy speak with Doug Hrabe (FSC Director) or Loraine Tomassi (a longtime friend of Fernbank) and confirm what I’m saying here. My opponent’s impact on getting funding for Fernbank is ZERO. He has not brought together the community, the school district and private funding sources. I have.

Next rumor:
My opponent says my “super secret probation” story is that I am moving to get Druid Hills High closed. Another board member suggested some time ago that the property should be sold to an interested group in the area. I have never agreed with or promoted the idea that DHHS should be relocated.

There you have it. You can invest in reason with Don or you can invest in inaccuracy with my opponent.

VOTE FOR A TEACHER, NOT A LAWYER.

Thanks,
Don

Some Thoughts On The Last Week Before Election Day

I first would like to thank the DeKalb School Watch Two blog for their endorsement. Ironically it was the start of this blog that helped spur me on toward running for the school board three and a half years ago. I saw and heard some of the common sense and probing questions they asked about DeKalb County Schools. Thanks to these folks and two of my colleagues Nancy Jester and Pam Speaks we now have begun to unravel the enigma of how our school district operates. I know I started asking questions about Title I spending three years ago. I met some resistance in getting answers. I started asking questions about construction issues and I was often given misinformation that did not become apparent until months later. One experienced Dekalb official said to me “no one ever asked questions before you arrived”. Well now I have help. Nancy, Pam, and I have begun to see some cracks in the super structure. These colleagues have been instrumental in moving us toward the accountability that everyone wants in our school district. “Electricity Nancy” has shown how our utility bills have been deliberately under estimated for years. Pam has helped me with Title I compatibility issues. We are making a good team. I remember saying to the superintendent about two years ago, “You know the budget is not really the budget if you plan to cover everything with emergency spending for shortfalls.” I believe the budget will be far more orderly as we move forward.

Now let’s look at the future of the BOE. Many of the candidates running for the school board have spent a great deal of time focused on how they would build consensus among board members. They have said that they see the lack of consensus as the problem in DeKalb. I agree that consensus is an important part of board service. Indeed, the current board generally agrees on the need to improve our academic achievement measurements. The problem is when the agreed, consensus-driven goal meets the allocation of resources. When the board makes choices about how to implement their vision for academic success at every school, all of the various social conflicts that are an organic part of our society become observable. When resources are more plentiful, the social conflicts are not as apparent. Unfortunately, we are in a time of decreasing funding and this strains the social fabric of our communities. This, along with a history of hiring practices that favored “friends and family” provide the circumstances that we have inherited today. No one board member will change these facts or circumstances.

My opponent and some others have spent some time making remarks about current board members, specifically Ms. Jester and Dr. Speaks. Do my opponent and his supporters realize that the most important consensus he can build is with those two board members? My experience has led me to see my opponent as myopic. During redistricting, his position was tantamount to putting a fence around his neighborhood and protecting it like it was a private school. He never saw the larger public good that could be created by turning two schools into top performers. I seek balance, fairness and achievement for all of our students. My opponent has used charged terms like “social justice” without considering or admitting the effects of his own advocacy. His work has certainly been in opposition to his rhetoric. But, that’s what you might expect from a skilled politician like Mr. Orson. I’ve had the privilege to serve you on the board for four years and I am asking for your vote again. Before being a board member I was a classroom teacher for 34 years. As a board member, I’ve worked diligently to improve the educational lives of all DeKalb’s children.

As we approach the July 31st vote I want to sincerely thank THE DEKALB SCHOOL WATCH TWO blog for their endorsement. It has impact with me and helps my resolve as I move forward. Keep those questions coming. We will turn this school district around.

Thanks,
Don

The Board Budget Vote

Let’s look at what the Board’s vote on layoffs was saying.

As you know the BOE passed a budget in June authorizing the superintendent to make massive cuts. ( I opposed that budget) However when the BOE speaks in a majority way the superintendent is authorized to implement that budget no matter what my personal feelings are. That is the way Boards work. After this budget approval the superintendent now says her budget won’t work. The Board was told that more teacher layoffs would not be necessary. When the idea that further layoffs might be necessary was floated some members of the Board including me, introduced several money saving areas that were still remaining in the budget. These would include $1.8 million for “choice” transportation, $1.0 million that could be saved by moving our SRO officers from twelve months to ten months, $329,000 by cutting funding for Middle School Athletics. These items by themselves translate into roughly fifty teacher jobs and even more paraprofessionals.

My point is that if you introduce these cuts you can reduce the personnel carnage by fifty teachers. If you look at cutting all central office personnel salaries by 10% for all those making over $80,000 you can recoup even more. I have asked the superintendent to give us the number of people in the central office that were eliminated and their total salary at the start of the reorganization and for those same numbers at the end of the reorganization. We cannot seem to get that information. I have no concrete information on any of those numbers. We only have a statement that many were eliminated. I need the numbers to adequately evaluate the money issue. If and when we cut out all the “fat” in the budget we can settle on what the REAL numbers are that have to be reached for budget cuts.

The Board is also not responsible for staffing. The Board is seemingly being asked to step outside of their responsibility for staffing and do what the administration is supposed to do. If we were provided with real numbers on these suggestions we could chart a specific and accurate course on the direction of what changes needed to be made. I have also tried not to make a specific motion, at this time, because it then limits the superintendent in her flexibility for attacking potential areas of saving. If I am expected to make the tough decisions then I must ask the superintendent to do the same.

I am also disappointed that the superintendent was not present at her called meeting on this budget item. It was one of the most important meetings we have held.

Don

Transportation

I believe it has become necessary to comment on magnet transportation since it seems there is great misunderstanding about what it includes. I have received many emails that assume that the magnet transportation is a service that only benefits the southern part of our county. That is not the case. Students from all over the county, including from Lakeside and Druid Hills to Dunwoody and Tucker receive bus transportation to a magnet program.  The parents of students all across the county like and appreciate this service. Right now DeKalb County School District is providing transportation to all magnet and theme schools in the northern and southern parts of the county. The cost of this transportation is $1.8 million. This amount of money is for parent choice. I know of no other school system currently offering this type of service. The amount of money in this transportation is approximately equal to thirty teachers’ salaries and benefits. I cannot in good conscience support transportation expenses over teacher employment. Teachers actually support our students. Busses and fuel do not teacher our children.

This elimination of transportation funds effects Chamblee Middle, Chamblee High School, Fernbank Science Center, and Kittredge to name just a few. It is clearly not aimed at the South part of the county. I have shown how three areas of our budget could be changed that would cover the ENTIRE cost of Pre-K, which is $2.7 million. If you eliminate $1.8 for magnet transportation, $1.0 million by reducing SRO’s from 12 months to 10 months, and eliminate the $329,000 cost for Middle School Athletics you can easily cover the Pre-K budget. I choose teachers and classroom service over fuel costs on any day.

My colleagues Paul Womack, Nancy Jester, and Dr. Pam Speaks, along with me all support providing this magnet transportation as a convenience for a fee. We have and will continue to provide free transportation to neighborhood schools. I have been asked to RIF teachers, parapros, media specialists etc. at the expense of providing transportation for choice. I would prefer to keep teachers and ask that parents with children in choice programs pay for this optional service.

I hope I have helped to clear up any misconceptions that might exist about magnet transportation.

Thanks,
Don

Game On

It is now time for the voter to consider their choices for school board in District 2.

Please look at my opponents record.

1. He has a complete lack of transparency. He was heavily involved with the PAC supporting SPLOST IV. Of course did he own up to his involvement? I think his multiple interviews in the media can give the answer to that question.

2. Here is what he said. “Vote for SPLOST IV because it is the only way we can elect all 7 new board members for the school board.” OOPS! Last time I checked you will still have NINE school board members and you are only getting to vote for districts 2, 4, 6, and 8. I believe his TV interview said this would be a “historic” moment. Did he lead you astray about SPLOST IV? It is clear that he did not understand the issues and made false
statements that could have misled you. Here are some links to articles about this issue:

http://www.reporternewspapers.net/2011/10/27/splost-vote-tied-to-efforts-to-reform-dekalb-school-board/


http://origin.11alive.com/news/article/211104/3/Voters-weigh-education-sales-tax-with-SPLOST-

3. He also linked a vote for SPLOST to lower property taxes. The school board just voted to raise your millage rate for school taxes by one mill. Mr. Orson has stated that he supports “revenue enhancements”, like the increased millage rate you will now see on your property tax bill. As you know, I voted against the millage rate increase. I will also be straightforward with you. I’ll call a millage rate increase exactly what it is – a tax increase. I won’t try to confuse the issue by calling a tax a “revenue enhancement”. I’m a teacher, not a lawyer, and you’ll get clarity not spin from me.

4. Over the last five years, Mr. Orson has clearly shown that he has only ONE focus in education. That focus is to make the  Fernbank area an enclave that he will protect to the detriment of the rest of the county. He has shown this on several occasions. Look at what he and his campaign manager said about Briar Vista Elementary during redistricting.

” If anyone suggests making Briar Vista a PK-K or PK-1 campus for Fernbank’s children, talk about 1100 students and families with multiple children driving back and forth and back and forth along Clifton Road during the morning rush hour. Enough said.”

Is there something wrong with Briar Vista’s children? Where did 1100 come from? That is almost double Fernbank’s entire population. This clearly shows an “attitude” toward anyone outside the enclave. Here’s an interesting article on what concerned citizens saw and heard during redistricting:

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/01/attention-losers-this-is-how-you-win.html

5. Four years ago he opposed the inclusion of neighborhoods in Sagamore Hills from attending Lakeside High School which was two miles away. He wanted these students to attend Druid Hills which was seven miles away. Ask Sagamore parents if they feel like he can represent anything other than the interests of his enclave.

6. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and The Georgia School Board Association (GSBA) clearly state that a school board member is to represent the entire county and NOT just one district with their votes on the board. My opponent has a documented record that shows that he cannot think past the boundaries of his own neighborhood.

I ask everyone to consider what is at stake here. I was a teacher in the classroom for thirty four years. I know how schools work from the inside. My knowledge is practical not theoretical like my opponent. Vote for a teacher not another lawyer.

Don