Sorry to disappoint you Maureen, but I plan on continuing to blog. I will stop when you do. Is it not conceivable that Ms. Jester and I might have insight into Board operations that you do not have? When I was on the board, I never suggested that you shouldn’t write about certain topics. Nor did I criticize you when your facts weren’t quite right. Commentary, criticism and opinion are part of the fabric of a free society. Maybe it’s just me, but I think giving the voters in DeKalb more information from more sources is quite healthy. I am glad you are out there talking about important issues in education. There’s room for us all. Now, on to business…
How are things shaping up in DeKalb with the appointed BOE?
I really enjoyed the Board meeting on April 1. Two things really struck me. One board member asked what “QBE” was. REALLY! The citizens of DeKalb need better than this. Ponder this with me: Do you think anyone could get elected if they stated in public they did not know what QBE was? Would you vote for someone who didn’t understand how our state funds education? In addition to not understanding QBE, one of the board members didn’t realize that a number of teachers and paras were RiF’d last year. Where have you been? Right now you have six appointed board members and three elected ones. That is quite a mix. You have one third of the population properly represented and two thirds unconstitutionally represented. Tell me that our legislature and the governor really thought through this one.
The second thing that struck me was the vote on the calendar. As I recall Ms. Jester and I voted against the balanced calendar. Of course we lost that vote. Now how should a responsible board have handled this issue at this point? I agree with everything Dr. Howe said about how the decision was made. It is interesting that they did not give such a forthright answer to me when I first heard the explanation. At this late date what should a board have done? In my opinion, we should have kept this calendar for one year and then returned to the traditional calendar if that is what teachers and parents preferred. By changing now you have messed up the folks who have already planned vacations, etc. around the announced calendar. Instead of messing up some of the people, you have now thrown a curve to everyone. One needed to bite the bullet on this one for just one year. You can go ahead and approve the traditional calendar for the following year.
How about the Atlanta Public School System? They are in a world of hurt! In reading about how the APS hierarchy worked, I was reminded of DeKalb. When Dr. Atkinson started, communication to the BOE slowed to a crawl. Her top lieutenants were afraid to talk to board members. If they talked to us, they had to send an email to the Superintendent to explain. They were all under great stress. This would often show in Board meetings. I remember asking about Success For All (SFA). We asked if the teachers had proper input. Dr. Speaks specifically asked about the handling of the schoolhouse voting to approve the use of SFA. We were assured by a top member of the Atkinson team that teachers got to vote regarding the use of SFA in their schools. Based on what a staff member said Monday, the previous Board was clearly, purposefully given incorrect information. Why? If we know this, what other information provided by the administration is false? Could it be that information in the SACS report is suspect?
This is the same pressure that many in APS had to deal with. When your boss says “do this”, what are your options? What if you are a single parent with only your income and you are asked to fabricate answers by your superiors? That sure puts you in a bad position. Some did things to protect their high salaries. Others did it because they saw no way out. Atkinson’s staff was the same way. It was her way or the highway. It is also not good to be a whistle blower. Look at Nancy Jester. She and I tried to shine light on some of the issues in DeKalb. Where did that get us? Many APS teachers were fired for speaking up about the cheating. There is danger in being a whistle blower. In our state, there’s no real protection.
In the coming weeks I plan on reporting to you about our Grand Jury interview and the Heery Mitchell case. This is where the media really led many astray. Also what about the Charter Cluster idea? That is going to be interesting.
Thanks for the support and encouragement. I have heard from so many of you who want to know more about my time on the board. It’s nice to hear from others who also want to fix this system. I do too.