Friday, February 8, 2013

Michael Thurmond DeKalb Superintendent Speech

Michael Thurmond ran for US Senate a few years ago.  He lost to Johnny Isakson.  Below is a speech Thurmond delivered down at the Capitol.  In an effort to save Superintendent Thurmond some time and money, we have edited the speech for him.  He should deliver this speech this Monday morning from the Capitol, with Governor Deal, the DeKalb Delegation, and John My Other Government Supplemented Vehicle is a Barge..

(The original text of his speech is HERE)
Comments in RED were added to replace strike-thru original text

At its core, Washington  the DeKalb School System is broken.
There is a desperate need for fundamental change in the way the people’s business is being conducted in our nation’s capital schools and central office.  Middle class All DeKalb students and families are suffering from the effects of the worst educational financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression  Dark Ages. As I speak, five one hundred thousand Georgians DeKalb students and fifteen million Americans are unemployed 699,893 DeKalb residents are suffering from a poorly managed school system.  The American people of DeKalb are literally crying out for principled, common sense leadership, but unfortunately many in Washington DeKalb have turned hyper-partisan, deaf ears to their needs and concerns. 

Even more troubling, a recent Wall Street Journal AJC poll revealed that approximately eighty percent of Americans DeKalb residents do not trust the federal government DeKalb School System. In the U.S. Senate As your new Superintendent I will work to create a smarter, more efficient government school system focused on solving, not creating problems for the American DeKalb people. In order to address this crisis in leadership we must have new vision, new leadership and a new direction.

While it is true that we should look forward and not dwell in the past, it is also important to remember how America DeKalb got into the mess in which it finds itself today: failed economic policies rooted in disregard for meaningful regulation of financial markets rules as put forth by the GA Department of Education, that allowed greedy, reckless Wall Street DeKalb fat cats to drive our economy school system into the ground.  The stark reality is that America’s working DeKalb's students and families are paying a very high price--- losing their homes values, their jobs chances to attend college, and their financial educational future because Wall Street some members of the school board, past superintendents, and Washington central office employees conspired against the interests of working men and women children, parents, and taxpayers.

As the nation school system begins to recover economically and ethically, we must take bold action to ensure such a crisis never happens again.  That means fighting to create new jobs eliminate non-classroom jobs and spur  economic educational growth. It means creating a fairer tax teacher and staff evaluation system that rewards achievement and entrepreneurship while eliminating wasteful positions and bad teachers. It means investing in infrastructure and in good, new private sector jobs teachers, administrators, and supporting staff.  It means focusing education and training on worker  student preparation for occupations that are in demand.  And it means putting an end to fiscal irresponsibility, reducing and eliminating the federal school system deficit and returning our country county schools to the fiscal discipline that generated record budget surpluses sufficient funds to operate a successful district a decade ago and a rising standard of education of living.

It will be difficult if not impossible to make the tough decisions that must be made unless we replace those who, today, stubbornly cling to the status quo, even when it is clear that change is necessary for survival of the American way of life DeKalb School System.

But we cannot build a brighter future unless we first begin to build bridges of cooperation that will span the red state blue state south DeKalb north DeKalb divide.  We cannot continue to rely on the old regime of Washington DeKalb insiders whose first inclination is to say “No” to smart economic educational policies that come down on the side of Main Street instead of Wall Street Woodrow Road.

My campaign role as superintendent for the U. S. Senate DeKalb Schools will focus on demonstrating to Georgia voters DeKalb families that I have the qualifications, courage and conviction to go to Washington The Palace in Stone Mountain and represent the interests of all Georgians students and parents. If the people of Georgia DeKalb will allow me to serve them as their senator superintendent I will stand up for families that have been hit hard by unemployment the current regime in DeKalb and are struggling to get by.  I will stand up for families whose homes are threatened by foreclosure unaccredited schools and small business owners teachers who are struggling because bank credit has dried up of furlough days.  I will stand up for families who simply want to provide a good education for their children and I will support teachers their families. It’s time to send someone to Washington DeKalb's central office who will put you and your family first. We need, no we must have, new vision, new leadership and a new direction.

I choose to hold this press conference here in the rotunda of Georgia’s historic Capitol, beneath the portrait of an elderly General James Oglethorpe, Georgia’s founding father, to emphasize the importance of servant leadership. The motto of the Georgia colony was “Not for ourselves, but for others.” At this critical juncture in the history of our nation county, we need servant leaders in Washington DeKalb who will forsake political expediency and partisan gridlock. We need leaders who will always place the best interests of our great state students and teachers and nation before the best interests of the Democratic or Republican parties school board members, their friends and family, and other political cronies. If the people of Georgia DeKalb will grant me the opportunity to serve them in the U. S. Senate as superintendent they will have a leader that will work tirelessly on their behalf.

We must create a sound foundation on which to grow.  We must restore responsibility and accountability to our financial school system.  To reach those goals, we must create eliminate wasteful jobs and restore employers, taxpayer, student, and parent consumer and investor confidence in our markets schools.  We must also get our fiscal house in order.  The days of reckless and unnecessary spending on the taxpayers’ credit card must end.  We no longer can be beholden to the special interests.

Under the failed economic policies of the past, we saw  record surpluses turn into record deficits and student success turn to student failure.  We now need sound economic and educational policies so that we stop passing down debt to our grand kids taxpayers and teachers.  The days of fiscal irresponsibility must come to an end but it’s going to take fresh faces and a will to work together to make that happen. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Atkinson Quits DeKalb School System

The old saying goes, "if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen".

DeKalb School Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson is no longer DeKalb Superintendent and is on the next Greyhound back to Ohio.  She will leave behind her tax-payer SUV, probably leaving the gas tank on Empty. No matter the financial payout for Atkinson, it is still cheaper than years of legal fees. No need to pile on here, but it is worth noting her former school district in Ohio is in a mess.  Like her or not, Atkinson was not ready for Prime-Time in DeKalb.  Very few people are really qualified to handle a job like DeKalb Superintendent.  I think the DeKalb Superintendent job is the toughest job in Georgia.  What job is harder?  The only jobs close to being as difficult as being the DeKalb Superintendent is being a parent of a child in DeKalb schools or a teacher/admin in DeKalb Schools.

Being successful here is a challenge.  No way does the work of a Board or Superintendent raise student learning to any significant degree, but the Super needs to have the right people and the right programs in place.  And the Super needs to set the standard, and set it high.  Unfortunately the past three Supers have failed the children of DeKalb.  One has to ponder aloud if by hiring a gym teacher, a typing teacher, then a Super from a very small district in financial crisis, that the Board actually wanted a strong superintendent. It seems that Pot of DeKalb Taxpayer Gold (over $1.2 billion in money intended for educating children) is too tempting for some.

And the interim superintendent?  Well, expect more of the same.  It gets tiring to keep up the fight against DeKalb Schools.  Many people join the battle then realize getting change in DeKalb is like trying to staple running water to a tree.  At some point people give up and move on.  But others stay and fight because they know they are right and they want to expose the fraud and waste.  Until the DA or GBI starts putting people in jail, nothing will change in DeKalb - ever.

DeKalb School System has so many moving parts that it is difficult to use a cookie-cutter approach.  What is needed in one part of DeKalb is not what is needed in other parts.  There has to be a way to break up this failed entity. A new school board and a new superintendent does not fix all the problems.  The big problem is the lack of qualified personnel at the Central Office in Stone Mountain.  The Central Office is filled with overpaid and incompetent personnel.  Nothing can change that except a Superintendent from outside the metro area - and one who does not believe in the Friends and Family program.  The DeKalb  School System is not in business to educate children - it is in business to employ people who could not gain employment in the open market

Back around Christmas I posted HERE that the best thing is for DeKalb to get a new superintendent. Removing the Board does nothing.  People voted for the Board, and in the USA we don't simply remove elected officials.  Trial lawyers are licking their chops to take on nine lawsuits if the Board is dismissed by Governor Deal.  What lawyer would not want to win a slam-dunk case against the State of Georgia in front of the GA Supreme Court?  So those of you dreaming of a Board removal and signing petitions, move on. Next time the Board members run for office get more involved in get a candidate you can trust in the race.  Elections have consequences, and those of you in DeKalb not pleased with your Board member please organize now.  The Board will not be removed and those of you spinning your wheels on this issue (including one local Senator and a couple of other DeKalb County political folks) need to understand you are once again not aware (or not willing) to address the real problems.

So what's next?  DeKalb has to have a superintendent, so an interim is in place.  Ramona Tyson will not be the next superintendent, don't worry.  I think Governor Deal needs to appoint the next superintendent, working a deal with the current Board.  What kind of deal from Deal?  How about no removal of the Board, but Deal names new superintendent? That could have happened prior to the botched State Board of Ed hearing earlier this month, but not much chance of it now.

Based on how DeKalb has hired Superintendents in the past, expect the next full-time Super to be yet another inexperienced person in way over their head. 

Hiring two superintendents would be ideal.  One for finance and one for curriculum would be nice.  But that makes too much sense.  The next superintendent needs to be someone willing to reorganize DeKalb Schools and clean out the central office.  It needs to be a person not currently employed by DeKalb Schools or by DeKalb County.  Perhaps one or two people from the last superintendent search would be interested.

It will be interesting to see how the legal issues work out with the now former-superintendent.  Will the Board be on the hook for any legal fees should more lawsuits be filed?  How many pending legal actions are there (if any) involving Atkinson?

I wish Atkinson well.  She did the honorable thing by resigning.  If her heart is not in it and she feels she cannot succeed in her current environment it makes no sense sticking around.

The only sure fix is to break up the district.  With three new districts Board members will be more accountable.  And when people can no longer point to other parts of the super-district and place blame, maybe then people will accept they do not have the right leadership in place.  If only the Governor had some sort of Executive Order.  The new districts plan is a long shot, and takes years.  And the DeKalb Delegation has no power.  All the power players are from Fulton County.  And they benefit from our demise, at least in the short run.  But long term the State will suffer as will the PCID if the issue is not corrected.  Instead of trying to build apartments and sell us on more MARTA maybe the PCID power brokers can talk to the Governor.

And so ends another chapter as another chapter begins in the Book of DeKalb County Schools.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

State School Superintendent John Barge a Bust in Dunwoody

The AJC has a piece today on Barge's illegal  mileage claims.  Barge has been receiving $7000 annually for a car allowance.  This perk disappeared from the State in 2006 according to the AJC.  Barge's response? 

“I think our staff got some mixed signals,” he said.

Now he sounds like a DeKalb Superintendent or Board member with those words.  Yes, John Barge, you and staff got mixed signals.  And all that fraud and waste in DeKalb?  Don't worry about it; it's simply mixed signals. ----------------

Original Post Starts Here:

State School Superintendent John Barge brought his "Georgia Education is Great" dog and pony show to Peachtree Conversion Charter Middle School today.  Barge was the guest speaker at the Dunwoody Chamblee Parents' Council (DCPC).  The DCPC is a group of responsible parents dedicated to the local public schools.  Their hearts are in the right place.  They have bark, but no bite.  My mixing with the DCPC goes back to the fun days of redistricting.  I saw lots of familiar faces today.  Love Ya! It's been months since I attended a DCPC meeting.  The last one was probably April 2012 when SuperOUTendent  Cheryl Atkinson was the speaker.

Back to the Barge.  Barge had a  PowerPoint display with him. It's nice that he apparently uses middle school student talent to produce his slide shows.  He made some good points on the progress of education in Georgia.  He also discussed how media do not dig deep enough to see the improvements made in Georgia education.

Being a former teacher like Barge, I know it is important to know your audience and  be prepared to 'teach' what the class needs.  Today's class  (the audience at Peachtree Conversion Charter Middle School) could care less what is happening in Mitchell County, Georgia, home of the Eagles! His class today did not care that we have switched to a new Georgia Performance Standards and not interested in hearing about Common Core Standards of 2003 or the QCC's of 1998.

People today wanted to know what is HE and HIS office is doing about the situation in DeKalb.  Apparently John Barge did not do his homework last night.  Barge did do his best to prolong the PowerPoint presentation so that questions to him would be limited.  My old buddy Crawford Lewis was the master of that trick.  But give Barge credit as he did field some questions.

First up Barge called on a DunwoodyTalk staffer seated up front.  We got to PCCMS at 5 AM to get that seat by the way.  The question was VERY simple.  So simple a student from a school not meeting AYP could answer it one way or the other.  It was a 'Yes' or 'No' question.  "Do you support the formation of independent school districts, perhaps a new school district for Dunwoody and/or Chamblee?"  Barge was unable to answer the question.  Perhaps if he had a Scantron it would have helped.  Barge opposed school choice with the Charter Amendment so it is no surprise he refused to give his answer to the question.  The answer is 'No', Barge does not want us to have our own school district.

Quite simply, Georgia School Superintendent Barge is the team captain for the state's school superintendents.

Another question from a concerned parent asked Barge why he approves waivers for counties like DeKalb to add eight (8) more students to a class.  Barge fumbled around a bit then blamed it on the economy. 

Dunwoody Councilman Terry Nall (the best-dressed man in Dunwoody, by the way) then asked an excellent question, and Barge totally showed his complete incompetence and total lack of care for parents in DeKalb.  Councilman Nall asked Barge if he would support the plan for a group/organization in DeKalb to have their local school accredited not by SACS, but by the other legal entity permitted to accredit schools in Georgia.  What a great idea - I wish it was mine.  Barge looked like a deer in headlights, sloooooooooooowly trying to process Nall's question. 

DeKalb County as a whole is in jeopardy of losing accreditation, putting college-bound students at high risk. Instead of waiting around for DeKalb to get its act together, Nall wants to have Dunwoody High School reviewed and then accredited by Georgia Accrediting Commission, the competition of SACS.  Barge's response?  He said he'd have to discuss it with SACS.  That's like a manager at Publix telling the Pepsi sales guy that he can't have more shelf space unless the Coca Cola sales manager says its okay.  Councilman Nall will hopefully continue this project.  He is more patient than me and may seek Barge as an ally on this issue.  But today I saw Barge, and it seemed to me he could care less about students and parents in Dunwoody, Chamblee, Brookhaven, and the rest of DeKalb.  His office has ignored DeKalb School's financial situation.  Barge's office has a manual for how finances in schools are handled.  Mr. Barge, take a look at Chapter 2 of said manual then open an investigation of DeKalb School System..

A note to those of you at Chamblee, Lakeside, Arabia Mountain, SW DeKalb - contact Dunwoody Councilman Terry Nall and the GA Accrediting Commission today and discuss getting your high school accredited.  Do it for the students at your high school. It is NOT the schools that have us on probation, it is the school board and central office staff.  Jay Cunningham, make the call today and save Southwest DeKalb and Arabia Mountain.  Dr. Walker, save Cedar Grove. Mr. Orson, save Druid Hills. 

There were a few more rumblings from the crowd but Barge had another meeting or maybe a lobbyist luncheon on his schedule and had to hit the road.  Plus, PCCMS needed the library media center back for a pep rally for the Dewey Decimal System.

The AJC has a piece today on Barge's illegal  mileage claims.  Barge has been receiving $7000 annually for a car allowance.  This perk disappeared from the State in 2006 according to the AJC.  Barge's response? 

“I think our staff got some mixed signals,” he said.

Now he sounds like a DeKalb Superintendent or Board member with those words.  Yes, John Barge, you and staff got mixed signals.  And all that fraud and waste in DeKalb?  Don't worry about it; it's simply mixed signals.

DeKalb's Senator Millar and DeKalb Schools

Photo: Delegation 2006.  Some gone, some still here.
undated DeKalb Delegation photo

For those of you not getting your fill of exciting news from the DeKalb School System, we bring you more.

The AJC and other local media just love DeKalb.  It's what they call a target-rich environment - meaning never a day without 'news'.  And we have no shortage of people wanting to be part of this 'news'.

First up to the DeKalb microphone is not other than Michael Thurmond.  See here for an AJC piece. Michael Thurmond was crushed by Johnny Isakson in the 2010 Georgia Senate race, garnishing less than 40% of the vote.  Currently it seems Mr. Thurmond is working at a local law firm.  According to his bio on the firm's site he is an accomplished author.  His latest book is Freedom: Georgia's Antislavery Heritage, 1733-1865. No reviews on Amazon, sorry.  Thurmond is a long-time friend of Dr. Gene Walker, current Chair of the DeKalb School Board. Michael Thurmond was busy a couple weeks ago at the Race Relations Symposium: see HERE and HERE.

When officially named interim Superintendent I am sure Mr. Thurmond will do as good a job as his predecessors Ramona Tyson and Crawford Lewis.  We at DunwoodyTalk wish you much success, Mr. Thurmond.

Next up to the DeKalb microphone is DeKalb Delegation member Fran Millar, our local senator.  Mr. Millar works closely with the DeKalb delegation, including Mary Margaret Oliver, Dar'shun Kendrick, Howard Mosby, Billy Mitchell, etc. If you need to know what's going on in north, south or central DeKalb, Fran has a pulse on it. Here is a piece on WSB with a quote from the DeKalb's Senator Millar.

From the article:

Millar, who represents DeKalb County, told Channel 2's Erica Byfield he personally knows someone the board tried to recruit.  He added he doesn't understand why the board is trying to hire anyone.

"To be hired by this board, which potentially may not be the board in another 45 days or something, is a little bit silly, they need to focus on the accreditation issue," Millar said.
We'll help Mr. Millar out here a bit with his not understanding why the Board seeks to hire a new superintendent.  The State of Georgia has this law that says every school system needs a superintendent.  That person needs bonded and such.  It is apparent to everyone Cheryl Atkinson has left the building, leaving behind only a used Sharpie, a broken cell phone, and a paper trail to the moon.  Knowing that Atkinson is gone, the Board needs to hire an interim.  And DeKalb's senator has no say in it.  He has no vote, and the Board is not interested in his suggestions for a replacement. Mr. Millar is right that the Board may not be in place in the future, but they do have a responsibility to fill the superintendent spot. 

In summary, Atkinson has given notice she is done and the board needs a replacement BEFORE she can officially leave.  There is no Camerlengo waiting in the wings of the chapel of the Stone Mountain Palace.  The The Board members all meet in Conclave of DeKalb, taking seats around the walls of the Sistine Chapel and take a paper ballot.  The voting takes place and the residents weep with tears of joy pain.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mary Margaret Oliver DeKalb GA House Bill 22

Mary Margaret Oliver, left-wing political powerhouse of DeKalb County, controls the DeKalb delegation here in Georgia.  No matter what the people want for legislation in DeKalb, it needs to be cleared by MMO personally.  She is also influential in DeKalb school issues and DeKalb County government.  Give her credit, she has the POWER.  She keeps the men of the DeKalb delegation on a very short leash.

MMO has a direct line of contact to the Governor, but hopefully that is not enough to get HB 22 out of committee.  Let's see if MMO has the POWER to get HB 22 passed.

How will the Republicans of the DeKalb delegation react?  Perhaps we can get comment from our local state senator on HB 22.  Can The Crier or Dunwoody Reporter ask Fran his thoughts on HB 22?

MMO's newest initiative has nothing to do with the incompetent DeKalb School System or with the dysfunction at DeKalb County government.  Her newest legislation helps no one in DeKalb except for the DeKalb County political posse. 

In summary, MMO appears to not want any new cities in DeKalb.  She wants to keep the POWER and wants the DeKalb CEO to keep the POWER.

Here is her web site:

Here is an editorial on the NorthDruidHills Patch

Senator Nan Orrock, Mary Margaret Oliver, Jane Fonda

Is Brook Run a Public Park or a Private Wooded Preserve?

Looks like the Brook Run walking trail will go forward.  Personally the walking trail is not a big deal to me.  I walk on my local streets/sidewalks and don't need for the City to build a trail for me to walk on.  If people want to walk, they should step outside their home and walk around their neighborhood.  If you made the choice to live in an apartment or condo, then go to Sports Authority as they sell treadmills. Then buy a CD that plays nature sounds, open your condo window, and hit 'Start' on the treadmill.

I understand the view of Friends of Brook Run wanting to stick with the original plan of the walking path in Brook Run.  It was cheaper, less invasive, and would probably fulfill the desires of the local homeowners - but that is not happening at this point. The new trail will be accessible to those in wheelchairs and to a wider variety of people.  Friends of Brook Run failed to do a flood analysis, and even that would not have won the case for them, except for maybe a water runoff barrier of some sort.

If tons of concrete get poured in Brook Run I prefer it to be in the form of a parking lot for lacrosse or soccer or girls' softball fields.  But the City has said they consulted a national organization regarding size and surface of a trail, and they went with that recommendation.  I don't like chasing grant money, but it seems as the city did its homework on the walking trail issue. 

The Friends of Brook Run seem to be using the alleged flood water issue as a disguise for their real reason to stop the walking trail and other improvements to Brook Run.  The Friends of Brook Run do not want to lose a single tree in their view from their homes.  They value the trees as the most important thing about Brook Run.  Many of you will agree that the trees should stay.  Many of the folks on Lake View Oaks love the trees and the privacy they provide.  They love the view of nothing but trees.  But do they want to keep everyone else (the active adults and children of Dunwoody) out of that section of Brook Run, as Brook Run is like a private piece of land for them?

I value the square footage at Brook Run, not only the trees.  When I walk around Brook Run I envision about 400 kids there on a Saturday playing lacrosse, softball and soccer.  I see families spending time together outdoors.  The back part of Brook Run can be sports fields, and we add pavilions and picnic areas to the front section, among the trees. Our city council is full of parents and grandparents and adults who care about children.  I hope they soon take action and put together a long term plan for Brook Run.

I have heard from many Dunwoody homeowners who would prefer to have some sports fields and activities here in Dunwoody.  They are tired of driving all around the metro area to other cities, cities that value quality of life infrastructure like softball and baseball fields, gymnastic centers and tennis courts, lacrosse and soccer fields. Many people in Dunwoody are eager to have improvements made to Brook Run.  Improvements to these people is the addition of sports fields.

The battle of Man versus Tree is an old one.  And ultimately people realize Dunwoody has lots of trees and cutting trees does not result in the death of humans.
Google Earth view of trees in east side of Dunwoody

Google Earth view of trees in west side of Dunwoody

Google Earth view of trees in suburban Seattle, WA