It seems the state board of education has four choices as to what they can do in reaction to the SACS report.

First: Replace the entire board of education. I do not think they will go here. The reason being that the law drawn up to replace “unruly” boards is most certainly unconstitutional. Right now the Governor can hold this potential “Sword of Damocles” over any misbehaving board of education. As soon as he plays that card his power is gone. The law will be challenged and boards of education will probably win in court. The strength is in the threat to use the law; not actually using it. Our legislature really fumbled the ball on this one. Ask your DeKalb delegation about their thinking process on this one. I would love to hear that answer. It was “shoot from the hip” legislation. I believe one county is going to court. Their meeting with the state board of education was postponed. I wonder why? When you play the trump card you will see the emperor has no clothes.

Remember, if you replace the entire board and the state picks the replacements, you will have political appointees. They will be there for maybe 18 months and then you have an election. What will be the result? You will return the same kinds of people with the same thought processes as we have now. They might also put in a new superintendent. That will certainly be a political appointment. To what end will this take us?

Second: Force the BOE to sign a consent agreement showing remorse and agreeing to some ” facts” shown in the SACS report. Many things in the report are nebulous and did not clearly show who did what. Some board members have no real knowledge of some of the events described in the twenty-page SACS report. That would include me. I would not sign something like this because I would be agreeing to things of which I had no knowledge.

Third: Sign a consent agreement endorsing the possibility of using a portfolio type of strategy. Some of the DeKalb board would never sign on to this willingly. The reason…. It gives power to the communities and the schools and will probably, over time, result in less need for a board of education. The egos of most, but not all, of this current board will get in the way of choosing this avenue. Personally, I think it is the best possibility to do something for our students.

Why a portfolio? It addresses some basic needs and would make fundamental changes in the way the public schools approaches their educational product. It meets SACS accreditation expectations. It eliminates governance policy and advocacy issues on Boards. It provides real community involvement to meet specific needs in specific schools and communities. Finally, and most important, it creates a new governing system that keeps a better handle on the financial aspect of a school system.

I would choose the portfolio approach because it would address the needs of our students. It puts the onus on the community to pick its staff, Principal, board of directors, etc. At the end of two years you evaluate what you have. It allows you to replace the leadership, teachers, board of directors, and hire new folks to follow the strategy that has been carefully crafted for that particular school. If it never measures up then you close the school and constitute a new one.

Lastly, the state board could choose to do nothing. I think this is where they will land. There will be an agreement signed, but it will probably be full of air. It will have no one agreeing to anything they have done wrong, but will promise to come together and work to solve the issues that have fragmented the system. The problem here is that no real fundamental change will occur in the near future. Loser? The students and taxpayers of DeKalb County.

There you have it. Let’s see what the hearing today will bring.

Oh, you should also read “The Rise of the Accreditor as Big Man on Campus” in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL on January 14, 2013. It presents an opinion on SACS which is almost in lock step with mine. It is written by former Colorado Senator and President of the University of Colorado.



  1. Don, thanks for your honest feedback and candidness about the situation. I wish I didn’t agree with you – but on all parts I do. Good luck to all of us.

  2. Don, one question we have about the portfolio option is how would you reconcile the fact that most of our schools, either by happenstance or by design, are not representations of their surrounding communities.

    I’m all for having control with the principal, if that person lives near me, knows the kids and cares about the outcome. Right now we have principals who were brought in to serve other masters and often their marching orders are to seek and destroy any shred of community support so the neighborhood will either not know what’s going on, not care what’s going on, or not fight back when they learn the school will soon be closing.

    A portfolio approach seems like a good idea, but only if we simultaneously agree to phase out every program that pulls kids out of their community and places them on unfamiliar turf. The local control will only work if the local parents are involved and invested.

    Sadly, most people I know have already removed their children from school and have found other options. It will take more than a promise of better methods to bring them back when you are talking about the future of their children being on the line.

    One of the most harmful things to a child is to uproot them from the familiar to put them elsewhere for a reason they will likely not understand or care about. The new kids are always the first victims of bullies and I don’t know anyone who would put their child in that situation willingly, esp. if he/she is doing well where he/she is now.

    It’s actually quite alarming to realize that the schools are NOT products of their community now. It seems odd that we would continue to fund them via property taxes when our property is clearly not being helped by the presence of schools that serve children from other parts of the county who would likely be better served spending less time on a bus and more time doing their homework or helping out at home. Or, even playing outside with their friends which you don’t really see too often because their friends all go to different schools.

    It’s a fractured mess that truly needs some corrective action and some non-politically influenced decision making.

  3. I would like to learn more about the portfolio approach — it sounds an awful lot like a charter school type solution. Would appreciate more details about this option and why you don’t think that it is a realistic option for the state to select. Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. Dear cell,

    The portfolio concept will require a paradigm shift in how we are viewing public education. We are essentially dispensing public education like we did in the 1950’s. This delivery system must fundamentally change. I am a DeKalb product. I got all my education in DeKalb County. It was a good education and gave me a solid foundation for life. I am a traditionalist, but I too, must change. The definition of insanity comes to mind here. Repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

    In DeKalb we created the magnets because of the reaction to the desegregation court order. We tried to give people the feeling that we had a place for high achievers. We lost sight of a simple fact. In the distant past no one in DeKalb really worried about attending any other DeKalb school. They were all magnets that dispensed a quality education. Now we have pockets of excellence in a sea of mediocrity. We no longer have neighborhood schools. We have school buildings located in neighborhoods.

    The portfolio idea places the onus on school staff, principal, and governing group. The governing group would be local residents who decide what kind of school they want. This would stop a lot of the blame game. Remember, the last place we always look for blame is in the mirror. When the local community invests in their school and chooses its staff and board of directors, etc. and it fails to produce they do not have far to look when attaching blame. The beauty of the portfolio is that it places the local community in charge of their child’s education. This could significantly lessen the role of a board of education. In a model portfolio system you would have two years to produce a product that meets your needs. If you fail you can point the finger at whoever the offenders might be and replace them. This could be principal, board of directors, teachers, or even your school philosophy.

    The tax issue you mention is a relevant one. Many in DeKalb are tired of footing the bill for mediocrity. A little over a year ago I checked to see where the bulk of the property tax came from. Two thirds of the taxes are paid by districts 1,2, and 4. These people are paying significantly more than the rest of the county. In our county some of our citizens seem to struggle with the difference in equity and equality. The thought process that exists is like this. If Tucker high gets a widget then McNair should get it too. That begs the question about equity and equality.


  5. Beth,

    Thank you for your comment. In a portfolio system you could call your school a charter, theme, neighborhood school or anything you thought was appropriate for the product you were trying to produce. The great part about it is that the community that creates the school would make the rules by which everyone is judged. Your school, your rules, your responsibility. This lessens the blame game. If you fail you have to look at the rules and assumptions you made in constituting the school and reassess your goals.

    I do not pretend to be an expert on the portfolio idea. I would suggest some internet study. The beauty of the concept is that the school belongs to the community because the community forged its focus. The portfolio seems to provide great flexibility. That is what makes it so appealing to me.

    The state knows very little about the portfolio option. They also do not think the DeKalb BOE has the ability to institute such a system. Remember for most, not all, on the DeKalb board the only thing they want is to maintain their status as board members. The children are secondary to their status. Some are not willing to sacrifice themselves for the students they profess to support.

    Texas has done some work with the portfolio system. I would check them out and see if you can find some of the specifics you are looking for. Please send me anything you find that intrigues you. I am in this learning curve with you.


  6. I agree the portfolio model looks good. However, at least 5 of the local school board members would never agree to this.

    I do believe that lowering the number of board members may help.

    I also believe there does need to be a check and balance system. This local board will not acknowledge what certain members do wrong. This board will not monitor the behavior of a few.

    I understand that you absolutely did the best you could in this situation and so did several others. I do thank you for that.

  7. Ella,

    I believe that number who would oppose the portfolio ideas would be 7 board members. One or two might change their mind if they knew they would lose their jobs.

    The state by not making a decision and holding a new meeting in February is setting the BOE up for dismissal, in my opinion. As much as I would like to see some changes it will turn out to be a major mistake. The law is terribly flawed. Some or several on the BOE will sue and I think will ultimately win. Guess whose money they will use in court? That would be the taxpayer.

    The portfolio system is the fastest way to get aid to the students. All the other scenarios will have delay involved. The suit which will ultimately occur will delay aid to our students and drag business on as usual for some extended time.

    It also appears that the state board of education has publicly said that they also do not agree with the SACS report. I believe they said something about the DeKalb BOE needed to be more aggressive. Well, SACS seems to think that some who questioned on the board were too aggressive. I see lawyers salivating here. They cannot wait to get to court. Surely the Governor will get the correct advice. He has his foot over a land mine right now.

    Thank you for your kind words. There are still a few there fighting, but like I always found out….. I did not have enough votes.


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