The DeKalb BOE had a retreat last Friday. I decided to attend so I could share any interesting developments or discussion. It turns out that the retreat was informative and revealing on several levels.
The retreat was scheduled to start at noon. Unfortunately, the retreat could not begin timely as a quorum wasn’t present until 12:24PM. Board members missing in action for the entire meeting were Mr. Coleman, Mr. McMahan and Mr. Campbell.
The first item for discussion was the 2015 Legislative Positions led by Marshall Orson. The discussion was about the status of special education “diplomas” going forward. Mr. Orson was pushing that what had previously been more of an “attendance” certificate be moved toward a diploma. There was some pushback by a few members so they decided to table the issue to a later date.
The next item was upcoming testing and security issues for state testing (the CRCT). Jonathan Clark took everyone through some of their basic procedures. There will be testing teams and documentation for anyone who handles the tests. Teachers will not test their own students.
The third discussion item was “Addressing Required Actions and Directives to the BOARD from AdvancED“. This discussion was led by McKenna, Long, and Aldridge (MLA). I found this part of the meeting to be the most enlightening.
SACS is scheduled to visit the district on May 12 and 13. This visit was described as less formal and as a “check” to make sure work was continuing on the required actions list. This is where things got interesting. One board member stated that SACS does not always seem to understand the issues. WOW! Some previous boards came up with that a long time ago. I wish that they would also point out that SACS does not even measure student achievement. They have 8 “standards” and not one of them relates to any objective measurement of student achievement. Technically, we could have a 0% gradation rate and still be in compliance with all of the “standards”. Does that bother anybody? But I digress…
MLA agrees that you can’t have a rule for every possible interaction, event or detail. MLA indicated SACS’ directions would be difficult to follow but they suggested once SACS is satisfied overall, these difficulties could be overlooked. MLA and Board members seemed to be saying that SACS has many things wrong but the BOE must overlook that because of the power of SACS. There was a short discussion on abolishing committees. MLA thought that was not a good idea. The committees have already been abolished. That was a wish of SACS.
Thad Mayfield then said bad board behavior in the past was partly out of frustration with accomplishing goals. I don’t think I agree that anyone trying to hold the Superintendent and staff accountable engaged in “bad behavior”. That is what is Constitutionally required of a board member. But what I think Mr. Mayfield was really getting at, is correct. When board members tried to get information and hold the administration accountable, they were frequently ignored and thwarted by the very same administration. Marshall said that he believes SACS might be a little over demanding while he continued to bash the previous board. A board that he was part of for two months. It was that previous board that hired Mr. Thurmond and MLA on Mr. Orson’s recommendation. At least it wasn’t unanimous.
I thought it was most interesting when MLA suggested that the culture of the school system is NOT the same as the BOE. This makes goals difficult to achieve throughout the system. This is news? More than a few people have said this for years. The staff is the major impediment to improving DeKalb. They protect their turf and are the ones in control. MLA seems to recognize this fact. I wonder if MLA will tell elected officials about SACS. I wonder if they’ll tell SACS that the real problem lies in the staff and not the board.
The retreat did confirm my observations about how various board members approach their service.
Thad Mayfield is an outstanding board member. He was totally prepared for the meeting. His questions were always on target. He had notes and took notes. Mr. Mayfield wanted a mechanism to intervene with SACS before they make their recommendations. Mr. Mayfield also wanted to bring Parent Councils back to a more prominent role.
Dr. Morley tends to bring every discussion back to supporting the superintendent.
MLA spent too much time acting as a cheerleader for Thurmond and the Board. I guess that comes along with getting $50,000 every month from the Board and the Superintendent.
Mr. Thurmond did not arrive until about 2:20 PM. Most of the SACS discussion was led by Ramona Tyson and MLA.
At 2:35 PM Dr. Morley left and they no longer had a quorum. The meeting adjourned at 2:38 PM. There was no discussion on a superintendent search. I guess that was good considering Coleman and McMahan were missing and they are part of the three person team assigned by the board chair to begin the study for a new Superintendent. If this Board makes the decision on a new superintendent do you think it might be to just say they can’t find anyone any better than Michael Thurmond? If he leaves early you have to pay him through June 2015. If you bring in someone before then you could be paying two superintendents. In other words, DeKalb as usual.