My comments to the Superintendent regarding the SACS letter

In our continuing effort to be transparent, we are making public the letter that is being sent to AdvancED in response to their inquiry. We are also making public our comments about the response.

Dr. Atkinson’s Response to SACS
Nancy Jester’s Comments
Pam Speaks’s Comments

From: Don McChesney
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
To: ‘cheryl_atkinson@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us’
Subject: My comments on the SACS response letter

Dr. Atkinson,

I have been reading and rereading your response letter to SACS. My feeling is that we do not always directly address Dr. Elgart’s points. For example in bullet point 2 of Dr. Elgart’s letter it says…. The governing body operates responsibly and functions effectively. I believe that we get a grade of about 60 on that. I would prefer that we just say to SACS that we have issues within the entire system that need scrutiny. Please come in and help us fix the inefficiencies because we know they exist.

I believe that no matter what any letter says that Dr. Elgart is going to do an investigation. Let’s make sure we assist him rather than placing any obstacles in his way. I also am perplexed that you have been placed in the role of responding. These issues are clearly BOE issues that existed prior to you becoming superintendent. You have clearly implemented and tried many new things to upgrade our system. I am particularly enthused with our curriculum revamping and aligned common core standards. This goes to the heart of our real business.

I also believe that we do have issues in our finances. It appears that going back beyond when I came on the BOE that deficit spending was going on. In five years it appears that we have overspent about $50 million. If we had that money today our system would be solvent. I know that KPMG is doing an audit that I think will substantiate many of our suspicions and possible inefficiencies. I welcome this information. State auditors and past superintendents, it appears, have definitely not informed this board or some past boards on issues with our accounting procedures. I want to know why.

My suggestion is that we openly invite SACS in and ask them what we need to do to assist them in getting our system so that it eventually will function at its highest level. This is far better than the “death by a thousand paper cuts.” I am ready for progress and I know you are too.

I do appreciate the efforts you have made to make our school system a quality system. Let us all stay dedicated to this task.

Thanks,

Don

AdvancED / SACS Letter – Our Thoughts

We would like to take this opportunity to clarify recent board actions regarding the latest letter from AdvancED/SACS to the DeKalb County School District. The AJC’s initial report was not accurate and we want to communicate to you what actions were taken by the board at our meeting on Wednesday, September 5, 2012. The Board voted to formally acknowledge receipt of the letter. The Superintendent provided a memo to board members outlining a process to develop the District’s response. The Board voted to accept her process as well.

State law only allows for meetings in executive session for a few, very specific reasons. The discussion of the letter from AdvancED/SACS is not a matter that can be discussed in executive session. Wednesday’s Board meeting was held in public and there will be no meeting of the Board regarding this matter in executive session.

After we receive the draft of the District’s response, we will request a Board meeting to hear from our fellow Board members and vote to accept/reject the draft response. This meeting will be public and all Board members will have the opportunity to discuss the District’s response letter.

Most importantly, we want to share with you that we welcome the scrutiny from AdvancED/SACS. The issues that were raised in their letter have been concerns that we have publicly discussed at Board meetings and shared with various officials. Indeed, we have been the whistle blowers regarding some of these issues. We also want to remind the public that SB84 provides for the Governor to intervene with a Board of Education without the District losing accreditation. This protects the children in our schools while providing a mechanism to correct problems within a school district.

We hope that our statement helps clarify recent events and reports. As always, let us know your thoughts and comments.

Sincerely,
Nancy Jester
Don McChesney
Pam Speaks