SACS – FRIEND OR FOE

Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for.  I’m going to tell you the politically incorrect story behind the AdvancED/SACS Special Review Report.  Please note that I am going to use the pronoun “I” even though, AdvancED/SACS has some sort of prohibition on its use.

Today’s post is going to cover two issues raised in the report – (1) The Coralwood Shuttle and (2) the textbook line of credit.

The Coralwood shuttle issue is a classic DeKalb tale of politics, poor planning by staff and terrible communications.   Make no mistake, the report is talking about me and Nancy Jester but they really mess up the circumstances and facts. How could SACS get their facts so wrong?  Here’s the scoop:  Despite Ms. Jester and me voting to eliminate ALL magnet transportation, the perk was maintained in this year’s budget.  I liken it to going to the poor-house in your fur coat.  One of the magnet shuttles to Chamblee Middle School (CMS) originated at Coralwood.  The weekend before school started, CMS parents were told their route number and pick-up times for the Coralwood Shuttle.  Inexplicably, on the evening before the first day of school, parents were abruptly told that there would be no shuttle from this location and they’d have to pick up the shuttle at Henderson Middle School (HMS).  This was all done under the guise of being consistent with “the transportation efficiency plan”.  If you are familiar with the traffic around HMS, you have to wonder why anyone would think this was an efficient location for a hub.   When this route was changed at the last minute, parents contacted the administration.  They went through the “chain of command” but never got responses from the Superintendent, so they subsequently contacted board members.  I asked the Superintendent about the issue.  I didn’t get a response. Eventually the administration took up the matter.  Eventually the parents contacted me again.   They included the entire chain of emails from the school system that showed the administration had fumbled the ball.  I kept trying to get a response from the Superintendent but to no avail. Eventually I was in a meeting with the Superintendent and I brought up the subject. In the presence of two other board members, I said (paraphrasing), “You do not need to give them, or me, the answer that I want, but you need to give these people an answer.” The Superintendent told us the Coralwood people were being treated differently than others had been so she felt that one bus should be moved to Coralwood from HMS.  Again, this was just changing the location of a bus, not adding a service.  That’s important because staff members in the chain of command seemed confused about this fact.  Perhaps it was because some staff members were playing politics with this one route.  (I have another blog about misleading information from staff.)  The superintendent then said she’d put this on the October agenda. I was adamant this was an administrative decision and did not need board approval. The Superintendent put this item on the agenda anyway rather than making decisions like we pay her to do.

Note to SACS: Ask the Superintendent why she isn’t living up to her administrative responsibilities.  I believe she didn’t want to look as if she were benefiting the north side of the county thus losing face with some from the south side of the county.   Why do we pay Superintendents such large salaries if they are uncomfortable making the tough calls?

SACS also said the board members that questioned the staff, “displayed a suspicion and lack of trust for any information provided by the staff.”  SACS, do you know how many times the BOE has received misinformation, incomplete information, or down right falsehoods? I have cast votes based on information from staff that proved to be wrong and would later cost the taxpayer money.  I pointed out to the superintendent later that that she might want to look at the political motivations of some of her staff but she didn’t take my advice.

SACS, you got this one wrong because you did not know the whole story. Alas, you weren’t really interested in the facts.  You were interested in protecting the educrats.

Onto the textbook line of credit. When this line of credit was brought to us (2009) we were told this would help smooth out cash flow. Every five years or so, the district would have a major expenditure on textbooks.  The textbook lease was supposedly going to help spread out the costs over several years. It seemed reasonable at the time.  I had yet to have evidence that I was routinely being misled, so I voted to approve this. Looking back, I should have asked if they were going to use this money for something other than textbooks but that would look like I was suspicious of staff.   The BOE, to my knowledge, never approved this fund to be used for anything else. Based on the KPMG audit, it appears that staff regularly would make spending decisions outside of Board approval.  SACS, this one is on the administration not the Board.

It is clear to me that SACS holds the BOE responsible for following policy, but gives a wink and a nod if the staff chooses not to follow policy. Protect those educrats at all cost!

SACS clearly does not police accreditation until someone forces them to. DCSD has been a failing system for more than a decade. This is referenced in their report. We have gone through reviews and kept our accreditation when we should have been sanctioned for substantial and relavant matters, like the quality of the educational product.  DCSD isn’t alone in this either.  Many systems around our state and nation are failing our students.  It is clear that academics do not matter until someone complains.  That is not my idea of what an accrediting group is supposed to represent. SACS also is not able to distinguish the difference between micromanaging and advocacy.

The two issues I have discussed are clearly administrative errors and worse.  These matters are not board failures.   I have a friend I often have breakfast with. He has become my breakfast psychoanalyst.. He said to me today…”You know it seems as if your school system staff suffers from ADR.”  “What’s that mean?” I say.  “Ain’t doin’ right”.  I couldn’t agree more.

More to come in the future.

Don

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