About Don McChesney

I am a retired educator having taught in the public school system for 34 years. I served the Atlanta Public Schools, DeKalb County Schools, and the Gwinnett County Schools. I am product of the DeKalb County School system graduating from Briarcliff High School. I attended elementary school in DeKalb at W.D. Thompson, Briar Vista, and Kittredge. I have both a bachelors and Masters degree from Ga. State University in History and Education. I was personally hired by Dr. James R. Hallford former DeKalb Superintendent. I have spent my entire career in serving education. During my teaching career I was honored with the dedication of the Shamrock High Yearbook and chosen Parkview High School ‘s (Gwinnett) most inspirational teacher in a student essay contest. I also served as President of the Gwinnett Dugout Club. I have also previously served on the DeKalb County Board of Education. My wife of 42 years (Melinda) and I reside in Sagamore Hills.

It’s good for me but not for you

Charters are such a funny thing in DeKalb. DeKalb has proven once again that it can take a great concept and royally mess it up. At the same time, a well drafted plan is rejected by the Palace staff. It’s such a shame.

Let’s take a look at the Druid Hills Charter Cluster (DHCC). Once again, the DCSS staff, rising to previously unseen levels of malice and ineptitude, has recommended that the DHCC be denied again. The Board of Education’s eventual vote will likely sustain the staff’s recommendation. If the vote is held before or after January, when a new board is seated, the outcome will be the same. I found when I was on the BOE that reason, facts, and common sense seldom made any real impact. The politics of race will be on display as they usually are. But the real reason that the staff must kill this charter petition is because it isn’t consistent with keeping their paychecks fat. They aren’t even subtle. They state in their denial letter than DHCC would be a “severe financial hardship” for the district. I’m sure it would be for the paychecks of people who have fleeced taxpayers and failed children for years and years.

Thad Mayfield lost his election because he voted for the DHCC. The south side viewed his vote as treasonous. It’s too bad really. The children, taxpayers and parents of the southern part of the county are the ones who suffer the most at the hands of the greedy and incompetent central office. The central office knows how to divide and conquer. They use racial and social differences to justify why they have failed so many poor and minority students in DeKalb. It isn’t accurate but it gets votes and that’s all that matters.

See you later DHCC. Hello, McNair Career Academy charter! This is a staff drafted charter and is a partnership with Georgia Piedmont Technical College. Want to know who runs Georgia Piedmont Technical College? That would be the former Chief of Staff to the now indicted, Burrell Ellis, one Jabari Simama. Do you know how Dr. Simama came to be the head of Georgia Piedmont Technical College? He was placed there by a search committee that included former DeKalb BOE Chair, Gene Walker. But wait, there’s more. Michael Thurmond sat on the Board of Directors for the Foundation of the Georgia Piedmont Technical College. But, just because they are connected in these ways doesn’t mean that having a career academy at McNair isn’t a good idea. So, let’s look at the charter document.

The McNair charter petition is poorly written. The petition proposes to have the DeKalb Superintendent sit on the board of the charter school. It is an extreme conflict of interest for a superintendent to sit on a charter school board in his own district. He and his staff are going to be responsible for reevaluating the charter on a regular basis. If your boss is on the board, do you think staff will be critical? I cannot see how the state, which must also sign off on this, could possibly approve this petition.

So what did the DeKalb Board do? They voted unanimously to approve the petition. Of course, two board members didn’t even bother to show up. McMahan and Orson voted in favor of this. Do you think they believed they could exchange a vote for a bad idea for favorable consideration for the DHCC? I think they were played. I’ve seen it before. It’s like Lucy, Charlie Brown and the football. She’s never going to let you kick it.


July 22 brings us to another important election in DeKalb regarding education. Unfortunately your vote will probably have little effect on the direction of the school system. Let’s just look at a few of the dynamics of the race. Only three districts will choose a member to serve on the board.

District 3

Michael Irwin a Deal appointee and Atticus LeBlanc, a real newcomer. I got to spend time around both of them during the campaign. Both are nice, articulate individuals. That’s where the similarities end. Mr Irwin sends his children to a charter school in north DeKalb, but does not support the Druid Hills Charter Cluster. Mr. LeBlanc supports the Druid Hills Charter Cluster and believes the future of DeKalb education probably will be in going the charter route.

I always look for inconsistencies in people’s behavior (votes). Mr. Irwin has a goose and gander problem with his thinking on Charters, at least in DeKalb. His child attends a charter school, but he may vote to keep your children from attending one. HMMMM! Is that an inconsistency?

He voted to support the $300,000 update to the Redan Baseball fields while maintaining that charter schools aren’t fair to the district as a whole. What? Has he looked at athletic fields across the county? I challenge him to run a mile on the Cross Keys High School track. So, what exactly is motivating his decisions and that of the majority of the board? The racial politics of DeKalb. There, I said it. I know it isn’t the politically correct thing to do but it is accurate and everyone knows it. I suggest we all quit pretending to ignore it.

One of the facts that too often is ignored is that only 10% of DeKalb’s students are white. The majority of white children in DeKalb no longer attend public school. They are in private school, home school or have moved entirely. The Druid Hills Charter Cluster is a majority minority cluster of schools. In the entire school district there are only a few schools that are majority white schools and they are all elementary schools. DeKalb has no majority white high schools.

Mr. LeBlanc is an unknown quantity. I enjoyed meeting him and hearing his perspectives. He is for charters and uses the Kipp school as a very valid confirmation of what can be potentially produced using the same demographics as DeKalb. Is he what we need? I don’t know, but I think he is worth taking a chance on. The Governors appointees have never excited me very much.

What will likely happen here? I believe Mr. Irwin will win simply because of demographics. Mr. LeBlanc has an issue here. The constituency has believed for years that someone white could not possibly have their best interest at heart.

District 4

I am really ambivalent here.

I believe we have two people that will not do a good job. One supports the Druid Hills Charter Cluster and the other does not. I usually do not like being a one issue voter. Jim McMahan has had real attendance problems and he is a stay at home dad. He is not engaged in a 40 hour a week job. He should not have attendance problems.

Karen Carter uses the same logic as Mr. Irwin. Her inconsistency on the Charter Cluster and the Redan baseball field are the same. Their explanations were identical. Whoever wins this race is a loss for the constituency. Mr. McMahan will almost universally vote however Mr. Orson does. It is clear who is leading here. The real difference here is that the constituency is advanced enough to not just vote race, I think.

District 5

Many Charter Cluster folks consider Thad Mayfield a yes vote for the charter. I am not so sure. In the 5-4 vote, Mr. Mayfield voted for the charter. But, watch the video. He was the last to cast his vote. He waited for everyone else to vote. He knew what the outcome was before he pressed his button. Voting for the charter cluster, while knowing that his vote would not be decisive, hardly gives us confidence about his motivations. Perhaps he was only trying to make the board look less racially divisive, while comfortable that the cluster would not prevail. I am not so sure that if he is the deciding vote next time you will get the same vote. I do like how he prepares himself for meetings. He is ready and up on his stuff. That is a great positive trait. The question is: Can he vote against the way his constituency views the Charter cluster? I think not.

Vicki Turner sounds like she is already in the community’s pocket on the charter cluster vote. Can Mr. Mayfield overcome this?

Districts 6 and 7

Districts 6 and 7 are not worth discussing. They will support the superintendent at all costs. He does not want the cluster. He wants the county to become a charter system. I predicted this long ago. This will not change DeKalb and its achievement issues at all , in my view.

District 1 and 2

Stan Jester will be the Lone Ranger on many issues. Marshall Orson will do what a good board member should do in some cases. In others he’ll vote in order to exchange a quid pro quo somewhere down the line on an issue important to him: like the charter cluster movement. The sad thing is that his expectations have gone unfulfilled as witnessed by the denial of the charter cluster. When will he realize that he is being played?

What about accreditation? It was never really in doubt. The whole issue was used to get rid of Walker and friends. SACS has to make it look like things are in doubt, but they are not. Accreditation will be restored soon. Unfortunately the appointed board will really have nothing to do with the outcome no matter what the spin. Never forget that accreditation has nothing to do with academic performance. Nothing the administration or this board have done have improved the poor academic results we get in DeKalb.

Good luck on your vote.


Does the School Board and County Commissioners have any common traits? Yes, they are both experts in bureaucracy. Both groups also fail to ask questions in their meetings that are germane to issues being discussed. The failure to question is and should be an affront to the voter.

Last week the school system received a $3 million grant to increase the size of the central office. Anyone that has been around DeKalb more than five minutes knows that hiring more adults is not the answer to our troubles. Last week the school board voted on the new budget after asking ZERO questions. When I was on the BOE I found the budget to be the biggest issue on the table. No questions? You must be kidding. This is how our county governments roll. This shows a lack of intellectual effectiveness. Once you get elected do you work to represent a constituency honestly or do you bask in the sunshine and the perks? P-cards are great. Didn’t you hear – you can go on a personal vacation with one!

The school system grant is designed “to improve the quality of teaching and learning in schools providing more effective instructional support to school level leaders.” TRANSLATION: Let’s hire more adults for The Palace to think about thinking. What direct benefit do our students get? White collar corruption includes creating jobs that have no significant impact on learning nor any real need. How many of these people will be friends of school system employees?

The growing bureaucracy brings more people to the trough to feed. The school system has this down to an art. BOE members who actually questioned the use of money and personnel were either removed or not elected. This should bother the voter. What about the questions? No one is asking any. When some on the School Board did, SACS and the Governor stepped in and removed some of those who exposed the bloat and growth of bureaucracy.

Let’s look at our county commission. Beside paying for personal phone calls, buying portraits, and alleged influence peddling by making donations with tax money they too increase the bureaucracy. Our interim CEO, Lee May, wants to hire a full time “chief integrity officer” responsible for ethics issues. Some of May’s previous suggestions have not passed the quality test. Where are the ethics of the interim CEO and our board of commissioners? They have all gone out of their way to say they are not responsible. Isn’t a vote on censure long overdue? Boards have that power. It is called policing your own. Will the chief integrity officer have a staff? A budget? The bureaucracy grows.

My main disappointment is with the voters of DeKalb County. We do not turn out to vote anymore. We are responsible for those we elect to represent us. In the May election, the DeKalb County turn out ranked either 157 or 158 of Georgia’s 159 counties in turnout percentage. So voter turn out, academic ratings and integrity are all consistently poor in DeKalb. Score one for consistency.

So what is the point here. The biggest crime in this county is the increasing growth of various forms of redundant bureaucrats. The school system ranks number one here but the county commission is trying to catch up. We as taxpayers are being fleeced out of our tax money. Where is your outrage DeKalb?

Post Election

I wanted to take a moment to thank all those fine people who supported me and my efforts in the school board race for District 2. Although it did not turn out like I had wished I must extend my thanks to those people who encouraged me to take on what we knew might be an uphill fight. The meet and greets, forums, emails, and just talking to people all over the district was a good thing. So many wonderful people who helped me try to climb this hill. Your encouragement and work are so truly appreciated.

I wish Mr. Orson luck and energy in taking on the myriad of issues confronting our school system. It will take a monumental effort to move the system upward.

Thank you again everybody. You made it all worthwhile.

Election Message

Election Day is here. I ask that you carefully consider your two choices for the DeKalb Board of Education, District 2.
My vision for DeKalb Schools includes all of District 2. I realize there are many places with needs throughout our county. Here are some of the expenditures your current District 2 representative, my opponent, has supported:
  • Fernbank Elementary was recently given an additional $500,000 out of SPLOST IV funds.  This increase came at the expense of everyone else.  There are schools who have important projects that are going unfunded or are delayed because this project has been put at the head of the line.
  • $1.5 million dollars for cars that serve central office administrators.
  • $50,000 a month for a Legal firm, MLA, for Governance training when it was already available from the legal firm the board employed and/or GSBA. This is a complete waste of your tax money.
My opponent, your current representative, has missed the most important meeting of the year – THE BUDGET MEETING.  Your voice and vote were not heard when approving the budget for the current school year.  You deserve a board member who actually shows up and is on record for these important decisions.  My opponent has supported the Superintendent’s bridge initiative.  This program is diverting $76 million from our classrooms to another jobs program for adults.
You deserve a District 2 representative that will advocate for you.  As your DeKalb Board of Education representative, I will:
  • Drive funds to the classroom not to wasteful programs that do not reach our children;
  • Implement Dual Accreditation for our students;
  • Hire one legal firm to do the day to day legal work of the system; thus eliminating 2 firms that provide duplicate services;
  • Find a professional superintendent with a proven record in helping urban school systems succeed;
  • Recruit and hire high quality teachers, and give them competitive benefits.
I can see beyond one neighborhood. I want you and your children to have access to a bright future through responsible use of your tax money for education. I will make every attempt possible to whittle away at our entrenched central office bureaucracy. We must then hire a superintendent that is not afraid to take on this formidable task and send the savings to our students and teachers.
Please give me a chance to serve you. In 34 years of teaching in public school systems, including DeKalb, I have learned what it takes to help students achieve.
Thank you for your confidence and vote.

Who Does District 2 Represent?

Last week I spoke with some District 2 voters that were concerned about the school district, and district 2 in particular.  I listened to one voter who had already met the incumbent and wasn’t happy with what he had heard.  I heard from a member of the Druid Hills Civic Association who wasn’t pleased with the incumbents exclusive and exclusionary strategy.
I am familiar with my opponent’s attitude towards other areas.  We saw it during the last redistricting effort.  The Fernbank area has many wonderful people, but the incumbent portrays them as exclusionary.  He has done everything in his power to make sure that Fernbank gets more than other schools, regardless of their need.
I supported the Druid Hills Charter Cluster.  I think decentralization is a great idea.  We need more of it in DeKalb.  But my opponent made sure that the charter cluster application included provisions that would assign students with discipline problems to the Cross Keys feeder pattern.  That is wrong.
Just to get a taste of how my opponent operates, looks at the last redistricting effort in DeKalb.  He and his friends issued a memo to the Emory -LaVista parent council.  This council is controlled by the Fernbank and Druid Hills schools.  The memo instructed people to hijack the county informational meetings and get control of every table so they could steer the discussion the way they wanted it to go..
Here are just a few of quotes from their memo:
1. “Sit at a table (8-12 round tops) with 1/3 – 1/2 Fernbank people.”
2. “Control the pen, control the mike, or better yet, both. Each table will have a “scribe”-be it. Each table will have a “reporter”, who will speak for 2 min.-be it.”
3. ….”use Fernbank as an example of the larger theme…”
The instructions go on and on.
Currently, their community is going through a “crisis” about a small development in the area. The developer has had his property vandalized.
How does this connect?  The discussion is always about how to kowtow to a specific group and their demands. This is how Fernbank goes to the front of the line in the SPLOST IV building program. The district employees and consultants that were drafting the projects for SPLOST IV said, “we are going to need those people later.”   They received their payoff because the Fernbank community drove the SPLOST IV lobbying group.
There are many fine people in the Fernbank area. I want to represent them well.  I also remain firmly committed to ALL of the schools in District 2.  I am the candidate that will represent ALL of District 2.  Please join me.  Please support me by voting early or voting for me on May 20th.

Let Them Eat Cake Part II

“Be fiscally responsible. Manage the budget like it’s a precious resource. Make sound budgetary decisions. Do not waste millions of dollars on frivolous lawsuits-money which could instead go back into the classroom.” That’s what your incumbent says he’s done and will do as your board member. Unfortunately for him, we know the record doesn’t match the rhetoric.

On 3/23/13 he voted to spend $1,694,863.98 to buy cars for administrators averaging $ 100K a year. On 2/18/13 he voted to hire a third legal firm full of friends and neighbors to provide services to the DeKalb school district for $50,000 a month. Apparently two law firms and a bevy of consultants just wasn’t doing the trick. It appears that our school board, the current District 2 BOE representative included, is just fine with prioritizing lawyers and central office staff over kids. Let’s not forget that District 2 did NOT have a voice in the current budget because our representative chose not to attend that meeting.

For the four years I served on the board, I never missed a meeting. I voted against bad budgets. I voted against RIFs. I voted against furlough days. I voted no because the central office didn’t tighten its belt enough. I showed up and voted.

You deserve a responsible Board member who will attend meetings and vote for what is right for the students and taxpayers of DeKalb.