Monday, April 23, 2012

Big Raises for some DeKalb Central Office Employees

Quite a bit of proposals at the last DeKalb County School Board Meeting. One of interest to some parents is the new Handbook for Gifted Program

Students must now maintain an '80' average instead of '83' average in regular classes.

One important change I noted was how kids get into the gifted program.  For years kids were evaluated in four categories: The student needs to excel in 3 of the 4 categories.

1. Mental Ability
2. Achievement
3. Creativity
4. Motivation

Yes, a kid can fail to hit a high mark academically on book-smarts (Cogat or ITBS) and still qualify for Gifted based on his/her Creativity and Motivation.  And YES, a kid can be banned from Gifted even if he qualifies by excelling academically (Cogat and ITBS) because a teacher feels the student is not creative or motivated. The end result was many smart kids not in the gifted program while many 'creative and motivated' kids did get in.  To be fair to teachers, it's not all their doings in regards to determining creativity and motivation.  That credit blame can go to the Renzulli test.  Renzulli test?  Why not an IQ test?  Well, ever since Walter Lippman blew Lewis Terman out of the water in an IQ debate back in 1922, the use of the IQ test as a standard has been limited.  Using the IQ test is no longer politically correct so we instead use something that allows more kids to qualify.  After all, I'm sure YOUR creative and motivated kid is gifted. And our schools in DeKalb get mo $$$ for a gifted kid than it does for a non-gifted student (and even mo $$$$$ for a kid who does not speak English).  If your kid is 'average' then the school system is not receiving bonus money from the State formula.  This means two things. One, an attempt will be made to qualify your kid for something that earns bonus points, or two, they will be ignored while teachers focus on the extremes in the classroom.  The 'average' kid has no advocacy group.  No IEP, no special rules, nothing and no one but you looking out for him.

So the big change for gifted is a great idea, probably came from a really smart and creative staff person.  If a kid scores 96% (99% in kindergarten) on the Cogat and qualifies with his ITBS score, they can tell Renzulli to hit the road.

I don't mean to short change all those creative and motivated people out there - you are special, too.  The guy at the craft fair who makes those flowers out of recycled two-liter soda bottles - VERY creative.  The guy who invented the Topsy Turvy tomato growing system, you are creative as well.

One final note on Gifted, the school system makes an emphasis in the new Gifted Handbooks for duties of teachers and admin:

Ø  Maximize FTE revenue by monitoring compliance in accordance to the State of Georgia’s service models for grades K-12.

DeKalb administrators to a poor job of securing all funds possible under the State's FTE program.  One local elementary school principal (Vandy Runs on Dunkin') has mastered the system (he must have learned from a friend with Gwinnett schools).  Others should take note.



MISSION:   To provide insurance plans for DeKalb County students.

The DeKalb County Board of Education may provide an insurance plan for students as an optional service to make it possible for students to participate in group insurance

The program offered by DeKalb Schools involving insurance is being discontinued.  Perhaps the Superintendent is relying on Obamacare to kick in.  Either way, it's not the school system's role to provide this perk.  Kudos to the Superintendent.


No more two-year notice on the school calendar.  The school calendar will be presented one year in advance only going forward.  This is one issue our Superintendent looks to control.


Mission: To develop an annual school calendar that clearly informs all students, parents, community members, and school system personnel about the scheduled operations of the school system

The DeKalb County Board of Education shall adopt a calendar for each school year.  The calendar shall be adopted two years in advance. The Superintendent is authorized to develop a calendar, which that will satisfy theall legal requirements and the policiesrules of the State Board of Education and the accrediting agencies.  The school calendar shall include the following:

1.  The date for teachers to report for duty and the date their services for the year will be completed; and
2.    Holidays and special days when the schedule of these days involves pupils and personnel
2.  Days of attendance for students, holiday and vacation periods, and other days affecting students and personnel.  

When a school day is canceled because of inclement weather or other emergency conditions, the Superintendent shall have authority to reschedule the day within the annual period of time scheduled for the teachers.

The school calendar for the next school year shall be presented annually by the Superintendent to the Board for approval.

Congratulations to Ron Ramsey.  Mr. Ramsey is going from $111.000 to $164,000. Others were not as fortunate.  Some employees will take cuts of up to $40,000.

Why?  The school system is going from 90+ job categories down to 17 categories.  Salaries varied greatly.  I applaud the move to streamline job descriptions and pay structures, even if it does give a pay bump to Ramsey.

Teacher Pay
If you look at the new proposed pay schedule for school employees you will see teacher pay scale from $52,000 up to $100,000 +.  If you are a teacher please don't go out and rent a new washing machine/dryer combo based on the $52,000 figure.  A starting teacher makes about 25% less than that figure.  The $52,000 figure comes from an hourly rate x 12 month contract.  Most teachers are on a 9 month (avg) contract x that hourly rate.  Teachers are NOT getting a raise and the starting teacher salary is NOT $52,000 in DeKalb.

 However, if we had a better system of hiring teachers I would be in favor of the $52,000 starting salary.  In DeKalb teachers are not hired by searching the country for the best graduates. We don't seek the top-of-the-class from renowned teacher mills. Instead we hire cousins, nieces, fraternity brothers, sorority sisters, church members, and friends of friends.    Same for assistant principals and principals.  Promotions are big business in DeKalb.  In a for-profit corporate setting the school system would go out (yes, outside of Georgia if necessary) and recruit the best we could find.  

If the Superintendent does one thing, I hope she encourages principals to hire their own staff, allowing encouraging these principals to open the search nationwide.

Dunwoody Lemonade Days Earns A+

It may be a record-setting year for attendance and fund-raising for Lemonade Days this year.  Blessed with nice weather, fun rides, and a supportive community, the Dunwoody Preservation Trust puts on yet another excellent show.
scene early Friday.  By 9 PM the midway was packed

The goods news is that the proceeds will go toward improvements to one of Dunwoody's previously-neglected historic sites, the Donaldson-Bannister farm site located at Chamblee Dunwoody Rd and Vermack.

Friday night was, as predicted, middle school night (and some high schools kids). The area down by the Starship 2000 was tween central.  Aside form the occasional line cutting and break-dance danceoff challenges, the kids were behaving for the most part. Ozone and Turbo were not present, but some kids from the 30338 did their best.

With a dicey forecast for Saturday and Sunday, everyone showed up Friday night.  Even the annoying kids with skateboards were there.  Side Note: We have a skate park at Brook Run. No need for kids to skateboard up and down the main park road and no need to endanger others with your 'talents' inside the carnival area.

It will be hard to top this next year, but the fine volunteers who put on this event will give it their best.  Only one change I'd make is moving the music tent closer to the center.
a few of the local celebrities at Lemonade Days

I saw Arts Festival Lady at Brook Run enjoying Lemonade Days.  She is anxious to showcase the Dunwoody Arts Festival next month.  This annual event is held on Main Street, from Mellow Mushroom down to Burger King.