Board Chair Elections. This Should Be Interesting.

Each year I would dread the board chair and vice chair elections. Board members would start calling you right after Christmas trying to line up votes to be the leader of the pack. It usually would involve a large amount of pressure as to why you should cast your vote for a certain person. Thankfully I will not have to deal with that this year. This year the chair-vice chair elections will go a long way to establishing credibility. The Board has one chance to get it right this year and earn some of that credibility.

Let’s look at what has transpired up to now. The street network tells me that Ms. Edler has been holding meetings with the new board members at her house trying to assure that Ms. Edler is chair and Marshall Orson vice chair. Dr. Walker has sent out an email saying that he would like support for returning as chair. I have heard rumblings that Mr. Cunningham is also going to throw his hat in the ring. If any of these folks become chair or vice chair it will be a disaster for the Board.

Let’s examine why. None of those previously mentioned have any credibility. Some because they have not been to the first meeting yet and some because they have little or no leadership ability and one because he has been significantly tainted by the SACS report. There are only two people that have any street credibility in the county. They would be Nancy Jester and Dr. Pam Speaks. Either would make a great chair or vice chair. Election of these two folks would send the first signal to the state and SACS that the Board is attempting to right the ship.

Now what do you think? Do you believe the Board can put down personal feelings and contribute to the greater good? My gut feeling is NO. The jockeying for power has started amongst the new board members and a coalition of the old some time ago. You see it is still about power and ego. Power and ego must be sacrificed for the good of the system. It will take a great deal of maturity to reach that decision.

SACS has already cited the new members as being in the schools using their elected positions to set their expectations. Beware of this kind of behavior. Of course they were doing all of this before they even take office. It is also very clear that one person is taking the lead on how the coalition thinks. I have already been copied on some emails that say I agree with what he/she said. One member has almost shown that they have no original thoughts only the thoughts of a compatriot.

If this Board has the guts to pick Ms. Jester and Dr. Speaks it will say a great deal about their dedication to fixing the problems of our school system. It would be a great present to the people of DeKalb County. It is not about race. It is about competence and leadership.

Coming soon. My thoughts on the SACS report.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.

Don

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE LAST FOUR YEARS

Ladies and gentlemen. Tonight I would like to take a few minutes to comment on my four years on the DeKalb Board of Education. I would first like to sincerely thank the voters of District 2 for allowing me the honor of representing you for the last four years. It has been a challenging four years with very few dull moments.

I would also like to thank my colleagues for their contributions to my education about board service. I have truly learned something from each one of you, both past and present.

I have worked for three superintendents in 4 years. I have definitely been broken in properly. My experiences are probably more like having served multiple terms. I definitely know what change is about.

Please allow me to give a few thoughts on areas that we all need to work on. Let’s look at how this school system appears to define diversity. The dictionary defines diversity as having to do with variety. People and processes that are different from one another. I do not believe we understand that in our school system. Our student body is about 75% African American. Our work force is probably in excess of 80% African American. Our direction has been to increase those percentages and call it diversity. That definitely skirts the true meaning of the word. There definitely needs to be an increase in Asians, HIspanics, and Caucasians. Failing this, we will not have diversity of thought or action.

Let’s look at our future 7 districts and their interaction. Did you know that school board members are the only elected officials that are specifically held to voting on issues that affect the entire district? That means ignoring the very constituents that elected you on many issues. That is one reason why there is so great a misunderstanding amongst the public and the board. It puts terrible pressure on your board to accommodate the very people who put them in office.

Let’s expose the issue where this is most apparent to the Board of Education and those that elect them. How about redistricting? The main question I am always asked is “How can you send children from a school that passes state testing guidelines and send them to a school that does not pass? Last year this would be referring to AYP.

Ladies and gentlemen the BOE cannot build fences around the performing schools and exclude those from the poorer performing schools. There are those coming that want to cherry pick students for their neighborhood schools at the expense of other schools. Look at any redistricting plan DeKalb has done and you will see gerrymandering or social engineering. Remember every parent wants the best teachers, buildings , and leadership for their child no matter where they live. Just ask Cross Keys and their feeder schools.

Did we redistrict two years ago with catering to those who wanted SPLOST funds to build them a new school? How do you get on top of the list? Is it by political influence or need? Why do we continue to pour money into districts that continue to decline in enrollment and leave their schools open even when it is bad for ALL county taxpayers? Why did Ashford Park not get a new school? These are questions that deserve real answers that should factor out politics. The hardest decision for a school board member to make is… Will I vote against my district’s narrowed wishes if it has ultimate negative impact on the entire school system? It is hard to do that. Beware of those who only represent their own interests and pummel you with excess verbiage.

Let’s look at ethics for a moment. The school board has a very good ethics policy based on state guidelines. Ask your board to abide by those guidelines as they govern themselves. One of those areas is attendance and punctuality at meetings. I am proud to say I did not miss one board meeting in 4 years.

This board has had extreme pressure put on it from outside of their control. Remember some of the BOE’s major critics about the way we ethically approached things was the DeKalb delegation. It is interesting that those that charged the BOE with ethical questions refuse to have an ethical policy for themselves. They can look at my emails, but I cannot look at theirs.

In closing let me address one more issue. You have been told by someone that I have a bias for women. I would like to comment on that. On this Board I have two very close friends. They are both women. Dr. Pam Speaks and Nancy Jester. They have been wonderful to work with and have always shared their thoughts with me. They also have always had my back. They are great board members. They inquire, study, and know that it is about the students and not the adults. You should always seek people like them to represent you. I will let you ask them if I am gender biased.

The most important person in my life is also a woman. My wonderful wife Melinda. We have been married for forty one years. She is the greatest supporter anyone could have. She always stands with me, encourages me and accepts me for what I am. All that I may have accomplished over those 41 years is in great part owed to her. I wonder often how she could have lived with me all these years if I did not put women on an equal plane. Thank you dear for being the best. I chose well.

Finally, beware of those who only represent their own interests and the interests of a narrowed view. They will not help the school system return to greatness.

Remember two things. One is bumper sticker philosophy. It says Don’t believe everything you think. The second is that it is about the “kids” not the adults.

Thank you for letting me serve you.
Don McChesney