Monday, October 25, 2010

POSTED: THURSDAY, JULY 1ST 2004 AT 4:00AM
State paid $190,000 to settle earlier sex harassment suit
BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The sexual harassment lawsuit pending against state parole board member Gene Walker isn't the first time he's been named in such a case. The Associated Press has learned that the state quietly paid $190,000 a dozen years ago to settle the first lawsuit in which Walker was accused of sexually harassing a secretary.

The payment has never been identified as such in a state budget or audit, but following inquiries by The AP, the Legislative Fiscal Office and the state auditor confirmed the money was paid through a budget category labeled "other operating funds" of the state Senate in 1993.

The earlier lawsuit was filed when Walker was a powerful state senator. The state paid to settle allegations that he and two legislative colleagues sexually harassed a secretary in the state Senate.

An even bigger payout potentially is at stake in the current lawsuit against Walker, which was filed by a former parole board secretary. Plaintiff's lawyers have told the state's risk managers they believe their claim is worth $1 million to $3 million in damages.

Walker, who helps decide when murderers, sex offenders, and other felons are released from prison, declined a request for an interview. He referred questions through a parole board spokeswoman to his state-paid attorney, Bruce Edenfield.

Edenfield said Walker "vehemently" denies wrongdoing in either case and is "vigorously defending" himself.

Appointed by former Gov. Roy Barnes to the five-person Board of Pardons and Paroles, Walker's term expires in 2006. He previously headed the Department of Juvenile Justice and before that, from 1985 through 1992, he was a member of the state Senate.

As a senator, Walker was the Democratic whip and chaired the Senate Reapportionment Committee during the 1991-1992 redistricting effort.

In 1989, Jacqueline Livingston filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming that while a secretary for the state Senate she was sexually and verbally abused by then-Sens. Hildred Shumake, David Scott and Walker.

The complaint escalated to a federal civil lawsuit in 1992, and was settled a year later.

Shumake died in 2002. Scott is now serving in Congress. His press aide, Rob Griner, said Scott had no comment on the matter.

In the settlement, the state agreed to remove adverse performance evaluations from the woman's file and pay compensatory damages of $190,000 but did not admit fault.

Mike Bowers, the state's attorney general at the time, said this week he could not remember specifically why he recommended a settlement.

Generally, he said, he would recommend such a step when he was "worried about the risk if we went forward with the litigation, and the best economic decision the state could make was to avoid the cost, avoid the risk and get out of it. That's fairly standard."

Kelly Timmons, an assistant law professor at Georgia State University who handled sexual harassment cases in private practice, said settlements are common in such cases to avoid the cost of extended litigation, and don't constitute proof of the validity of the charges.

"Even if the defendant and the defense attorney don't think the plaintiff has a very strong case, it's very common for these to settle for nuisance value," she said.

But she added, "The fact that it settled for $190,000 suggests that the state was concerned enough to offer six figures, which is more than nuisance value."

The latest case was filed in 2002 in Fulton County State Court by Patricia Alexander, who claims that soon after she went to work for Walker at the parole board he "began making sexual innuendo and suggestive comments."

The lawsuit claims the comments included "using sexually oriented and obscene language, commenting on the sexual activities and sexual preferences of other men and women, discussing his own sexual preferences, making inappropriate displays of affection and making offensive remarks concerning plaintiff's anatomy and the anatomy of other women."

Lawyers are taking depositions from those involved.

Some believe the state's financial risk could be heightened if the case goes to trial and attorneys for the secretary can introduce evidence of the previous accusation.

"Certainly, the state would want any evidence of this previous charge and the settlement excluded from evidence, saying it wasn't relevant and was unduly prejudicial," Timmons said. "Certainly the plaintiff will try to get evidence of this in, asserting that it represents a pattern of behavior that the state was aware of."

The secretary's attorneys almost certainly "would argue that keeping someone with this kind of pattern of behavior indicates more fault on the part of the state, which should be relevant in the damage determination," she said.


Associated Categories: State News
POSTED: THURSDAY, JULY 1ST 2004 AT 4:00AM
State paid $190,000 to settle earlier sex harassment suit
BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The sexual harassment lawsuit pending against state parole board member Gene Walker isn't the first time he's been named in such a case. The Associated Press has learned that the state quietly paid $190,000 a dozen years ago to settle the first lawsuit in which Walker was accused of sexually harassing a secretary.

The payment has never been identified as such in a state budget or audit, but following inquiries by The AP, the Legislative Fiscal Office and the state auditor confirmed the money was paid through a budget category labeled "other operating funds" of the state Senate in 1993.

The earlier lawsuit was filed when Walker was a powerful state senator. The state paid to settle allegations that he and two legislative colleagues sexually harassed a secretary in the state Senate.

An even bigger payout potentially is at stake in the current lawsuit against Walker, which was filed by a former parole board secretary. Plaintiff's lawyers have told the state's risk managers they believe their claim is worth $1 million to $3 million in damages.

Walker, who helps decide when murderers, sex offenders, and other felons are released from prison, declined a request for an interview. He referred questions through a parole board spokeswoman to his state-paid attorney, Bruce Edenfield.

Edenfield said Walker "vehemently" denies wrongdoing in either case and is "vigorously defending" himself.

Appointed by former Gov. Roy Barnes to the five-person Board of Pardons and Paroles, Walker's term expires in 2006. He previously headed the Department of Juvenile Justice and before that, from 1985 through 1992, he was a member of the state Senate.

As a senator, Walker was the Democratic whip and chaired the Senate Reapportionment Committee during the 1991-1992 redistricting effort.

In 1989, Jacqueline Livingston filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming that while a secretary for the state Senate she was sexually and verbally abused by then-Sens. Hildred Shumake, David Scott and Walker.

The complaint escalated to a federal civil lawsuit in 1992, and was settled a year later.

Shumake died in 2002. Scott is now serving in Congress. His press aide, Rob Griner, said Scott had no comment on the matter.

In the settlement, the state agreed to remove adverse performance evaluations from the woman's file and pay compensatory damages of $190,000 but did not admit fault.

Mike Bowers, the state's attorney general at the time, said this week he could not remember specifically why he recommended a settlement.

Generally, he said, he would recommend such a step when he was "worried about the risk if we went forward with the litigation, and the best economic decision the state could make was to avoid the cost, avoid the risk and get out of it. That's fairly standard."

Kelly Timmons, an assistant law professor at Georgia State University who handled sexual harassment cases in private practice, said settlements are common in such cases to avoid the cost of extended litigation, and don't constitute proof of the validity of the charges.

"Even if the defendant and the defense attorney don't think the plaintiff has a very strong case, it's very common for these to settle for nuisance value," she said.

But she added, "The fact that it settled for $190,000 suggests that the state was concerned enough to offer six figures, which is more than nuisance value."

The latest case was filed in 2002 in Fulton County State Court by Patricia Alexander, who claims that soon after she went to work for Walker at the parole board he "began making sexual innuendo and suggestive comments."

The lawsuit claims the comments included "using sexually oriented and obscene language, commenting on the sexual activities and sexual preferences of other men and women, discussing his own sexual preferences, making inappropriate displays of affection and making offensive remarks concerning plaintiff's anatomy and the anatomy of other women."

Lawyers are taking depositions from those involved.

Some believe the state's financial risk could be heightened if the case goes to trial and attorneys for the secretary can introduce evidence of the previous accusation.

"Certainly, the state would want any evidence of this previous charge and the settlement excluded from evidence, saying it wasn't relevant and was unduly prejudicial," Timmons said. "Certainly the plaintiff will try to get evidence of this in, asserting that it represents a pattern of behavior that the state was aware of."

The secretary's attorneys almost certainly "would argue that keeping someone with this kind of pattern of behavior indicates more fault on the part of the state, which should be relevant in the damage determination," she said.


Associated Categories: State News

Saturday, October 23, 2010

How are School Systems' Funded According to the Georgia School Council Institute

The Basics of Georgia School Finance

Public school finance is a topic usually left to “experts” because its complexity is enough to make most people wave a white flag of surrender. Yet it is important that more people understand the process. Why? First, finance drives policy. Smaller class sizes, merit teacher compensation, tutoring programs, advanced placement classes, etc. are all policy ideas for school improvement that are dependent on funding. One cannot effectively advocate for policies without knowing the financial impact. Second, public schools are financed through taxes – property tax, income tax, and sales tax. Tax reform efforts immediately collide with public education reform efforts since tax relief decreases available revenue. Changes in the economy can also drastically affect the amount of funds available for education. Third, an educated, skilled workforce is key to economic development.

This section explains the basics of how schools are financed in Georgia, how that compares to other states, and issues raised by the funding process.
School Funding Made Simple “The provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia. Public education for the citizens prior to the college or postsecondary level shall be free and shall be provided for by taxation.” (Georgia Constitution 8-1-1)

In 2007, there are 1,589,839 students in our public schools. Each one is entitled to and deserves an adequate education. In Georgia, the adequacy of a student’s education often depends upon his or her zip code. Due to the failure of Congress to fully fund federal programs, funding cuts at the state level, and constitutional limits on local taxation, even the most affluent zip codes are struggling to keep up with the escalating obligations mandated by state law and No Child Left Behind. A basic knowledge of school funding is necessary to understand our current fiscal situation.
Public schools in Georgia receive a combination of federal, state and local funds to pay for the education of public school students. Sources of School Funding in Georgia FY 200651%8%41%StateFederalLocal

Federal Funding

Federal Funds are tied to specific programs for historically at-risk students:
IDEA Special Education
ESEA (Title I) Poverty
ELL English Language Learners
Federal funds for certain programs like special education and ELL are based on the number of students who meet the eligibility criteria of the specific program. Funding for Title I is based upon census data.

State Funding

The majority of State Funds are provided to operate public schools and are calculated using the following Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula:
(1) QBE “Earnings” + (2) Categorical Grants + (3) Equalization
(State funds provided to build public schools - capital outlay - are not addressed in this document.)
(1) QBE “Earnings” = (Direct & Indirect Instructional Costs) – (5 Mill Share)
Direct Instructional Costs reflect the cost of putting a teacher in every classroom based upon the grade of the student (K, 1-3, 4-5, 6-8, or 9-12), any special program in which the student is enrolled (EIP, special education, gifted, remedial, alternative, middle school, ESOL, or vocational lab), and the teacher:pupil funding ratio.

This weighted formula counts each individual student for each segment of the day. The benchmark weight of 1.00 is assigned to a student in grades 9-12 who attends regular classes and receives no special services – the “least expensive” student to educate. All other students receive a higher weight. The resulting weight for each student is known as the “Full Time Equivalent” (FTE) count. The FTE count used in the QBE formula is always higher than the number of actual students. The teacher cost used in the formula is based on the state salary scale, including benefits (but not Social Security).

Indirect Instructional Costs include funding for central administration and school administration, facilities maintenance and operations (M&O), media centers, staff development and 20 additional days of instruction. These costs are calculated based on system size, school size or student population.

Note: Referring to Direct and Indirect Instructional Costs as QBE “earnings” leads local systems to erroneously believe that this is the amount of money they have earned and are entitled to receive. It is more accurate to think of QBE formula earnings as “gross” earnings, because, just like income, one does not receive the gross amount, only the net amount. The “net” earnings a local school system receives deducts the local 5 mill share and, when required, additional state cuts (“austerity reductions”).

“Authority is granted to county and area boards of education to establish and maintain public schools within their limits.” (Georgia Constitution 8-5-1)
Local systems are permitted to levy property taxes for the purpose of funding local public schools. “Millage” refers to the rate of the property tax levied. The millage rate is defined as “local tax revenues divided by the assessed valuation divided by 1000.” School systems may not levy more than 20 “Mills” (with a few exceptions) without voter approval. In addition to levying property taxes for the operation of their schools, local systems may also use bonds and SPLOSTS (sales tax) to finance school construction if approved by the voters. This paper is only addressing operational budgets. The funding of school construction - capital outlay - is a topic for another day.

The “5 Mill Share” in the QBE formula refers to the portion of the Direct and Indirect Instructional Costs that the state expects local systems to pay with locally raised funds. Currently, the state requires local systems to pay an amount equal to 5 Mills of property tax generated within their taxing authority. By law, the amount of money represented by the 5 Mills statewide cannot exceed 20 percent of the total QBE formula earnings (Direct and Indirect Instructional Costs).

Funds that are raised through locally levied property taxes, including the 5 Mill Share, do not leave the school system and are not sent to the state or to other school systems. (Bonds and SPLOSTS raised locally also are kept locally.) The 5 Mill Share is simply the amount of the local funding “obligation” the state requires each system to pay.

Additional local funding raised from levying additional mills are used at the discretion of the local system for:
• Additional teachers/smaller classes
• Salary supplements
• Paraprofessionals
• Additional programs (e.g., SAT prep)
• Extracurricular activities
• Athletics
• Technology
Local systems also use local funds for underfunded categorical grants (such as transportation and M&O) and for unfunded portions of QBE (such as Social Security).

(2) Categorical Grants

Local systems receive additional funding in the form of “categorical grants.” These grants include funds for transportation, sparsity and low incidence special education students. In FY 2008, this amount was $171,578,524. Funding for school nurses is not a categorical grant but a separate line item in the budget. In FY 2008, funding for nurses was shifted from the tobacco settlement funds to the general revenue fund. Funding for this item has remained at $30 million since the program began.

(3) Equalization

QBE earnings are intended to provide for an adequate education. Equalization is an attempt to address equity. The concept of equalization is related to the concept of the 5 Mill Share, discussed above. Because all counties are not created equal in terms of property tax wealth, they cannot raise the same amounts of money from local property taxes. The state provides additional funding to these counties according to a formula that compares the relative property tax wealth of all counties in the state. Systems at or below the 75% level can receive equalization funding in proportion to the amount of mills they levy beyond 5 mills. (The Equalization formula was changed in 2001 to reduce the participation level from 90% to 75% and to include all mills above the first 5. In the past only the mills between 5 and 8.25 were considered, thus creating a disincentive for local systems to raise their own millage rates.) In FY 2008, this amount was $458,323,775. All figures are taken from the state allotment sheets which are available at www.gadoe.org.
In FY 2008, the amount of state funds that local systems will receive:

QBE Direct and Indirect Instructional Costs $8,160,615,559
Less 5 Mill Share -1,543,476,458
QBE “Formula Earnings” $6,617,139,101
Less FY 2008 “Austerity” Cuts - 142,959,810
QBE Net “Formula Earnings” $6,474,179,291
Plus Categorical Grants + 171,578,524
Plus Equalization + 458,323,775
Total State Funds $7,104,081,590

Cuts To The Formula

The QBE formula was created in 1985. Over the years, various “adjustments” have been made. Sometimes the adjustments are made within the formula, and sometimes a percentage or amount is cut across the board. Since the economic downturn of 2002, adjustments to the formula have resulted in a cut to state funding from the level of 2002. For example, in FY 2003, the funding for maintenance and operations was cut $2 per FTE. This resulted in $2.9 million less in QBE earnings that year. The formula has not yet been returned to the 2002 amount. Media materials were cut by 50% in the 2003 budget also. Portions of this were added back in 2007 and 2008, but the formula still funds $4.41 less per FTE than in 2002.

It is estimated that cuts taken within the formula in prior years resulted in about a $40 million shortfall in the FY 2008 QBE earnings. An additional “across the board” cut has been taken annually since 2003. It has been referred to in various ways, but whether it is an austerity reduction or formula adjustment it has resulted in a total cut of $1.4 billion to the QBE earnings in that six year period.
Georgia School Council Institute www.GeorgiaEducation.org

How does Georgia’s school funding compare to the rest of the nation?

Nationwide, states provided 47%, locals 44%, and federal 9%. There is quite a variation across the nation, however. See the table below for the latest figures available nationally. The figures in the table are from the U.S. Census Annual Survey of Local Government Finances. The Census Survey shows a lower amount being funded by the state of Georgia than the Georgia Department of Education records indicate.
How Schools Were Funded 2004-2005

StatesLocalStateFederalStatesLocalStateFederalU. S. 43.9479.1Missouri47.6448.4Alabama33.555.211.3Montana40.14514.9Alaska26.154.918.9Nebraska58.531.110.5Arizona43.644.412Nevada33.49.27.4Arkansas13.275.611.3New Hampshire55.239.25.6California30.15811.9New Jersey53.941.94.2Colorado50.143.16.9New Mexico13.470.516.1Connecticut57.637.25.2New York48.943.97.2Delaware27.464.87.7North Carolina31.95810.1Dist. Of Columbia84.9015.1North Dakota4736.916.1Florida47.142.810Ohio49.842.97.3Georgia46.843.89.3Oklahoma36.249.913.9Hawaii2.267.410.4Oregon414910Idaho32.3571.7Pennsylvania56.235.68.1Illinois57.234.18.7Rhode Island52.839.57.7Indiana47.945.96.2South Carolina45.144.810.1Iowa45.8468.2South Dakota49.833.416.8Kansas35.755.98.5Tennessee44.743.711.6Kentucky30.857.311.9Texas54.534.610.9Louisiana39.246.714.1Utah35.354.41.3Maine5140.18.9Vermont5.287.27.6Maryland55.537.76.8Virginia52.440.76.9Massachusetts51.842.25.9Washington3061.38.7Michigan31.66.18.3West Virginia28.159.712.2Minnesota24.269.66.2Wisconsin43.550.56Mississippi30.953.915.2Wyoming38.851.89.4Source: U. S. Census Bureau, 2004-05 Annual Survey of Local Government

Finances

Since the 2000-2001 Annual Survey of Local Government Finances, the state share of public school funding has increased in only eight states. The national average has dropped 3 percentage points. The local share has, however, increased in 28 states. Increased federal funding due to the No Child Left Behind Act has led to an increase in the federal share of public school funding in all 50 states in this time period.

Revised 2007 5
Georgia School Council Institute www.GeorgiaEducation.org
Where Does The Money Go? 2006 Expenditures by Function in Georgia69%8%10%5%8%InstructionMaintenance &OperationsAdministrationTransportationSupport Services
How have expenditures per FTE changed over time? $0$1,000$2,000$3,000$4,000$5,000$6,000InstructionM &
OAdmin.Trans.Support19962006
Note: In all charts, “administration” is the total of school and general administration; “support” is the total of pupil and staff services. All figures are from the 2006 expenditure reports unless noted otherwise.
Revised 2007 6
Georgia School Council Institute www.GeorgiaEducation.org
Revised 2007 7
Adequacy: How much is enough?
There are two major components to adequacy:
• What is an adequate education in terms of standards, teachers and curriculum?
• What is the appropriate funding level to provide that?
Through the A+ Education Reform Act of 2000 and No Child Left Behind we have begun to define education in terms of expectations, standards, aligned assessments, teacher qualifications, and curriculum. What funding level is needed to achieve what has been put into law? How much should the state pay? Georgia is not alone in struggling with the question of adequacy. Other states have faced court battles over this. A New York Appeals court ruled in 2002 that providing an education commonly attained by eighth or ninth grade met its constitutional requirement. A North Carolina court, however, seemed to require more of their school system. That court ruled that the state had not provided a “sound and fundamental education” to students not performing on grade level. That court also emphasized that the right is to a basic education, not a prep school education. Do we define adequacy through inputs or do we test for adequacy through output (student achievement)?
Several models have been developed to address adequate funding. A base level of funding has to be set that would fund a school with students of average characteristics. Then adjustments have to be made for different types of students through student weights or categorical programs.
Successful Schools Model
Ohio, Mississippi, and Illinois have tried this approach. The premise is to look at spending in schools or districts that are performing well. The average per-pupil cost is derived from those schools. In those states the model districts have been suburban or rural, white, and low poverty. This funding model has no mechanism for adding resources for students of other characteristics.
Professional Judgment Model
Oregon, Maine, and Wyoming have tried this model. A panel of experts – teachers, administrators, and school finance consultants—first identify resources needed to establish model schools for students to achieve state standards. The base funding level is the cost of providing that. It can be adjusted for student characteristics. A criticism of this model is that it is usually very expensive because the panel members tend to select high-level resources. Maryland has developed a hybrid approach that combines these two approaches.
Evidence-based Model
In this model the state bases the funding of the poorest districts on the average spending of the wealthiest districts. The purpose is to create a funding level that allows the district to implement research-based reform models with appropriate professional development for teachers and computer technology for students. New Jersey uses this model, and Kentucky and Arkansas are considering it.
Equity: Will all students receive a quality education?
Equity should not be confused with equality. Equity is a consideration of how resources are distributed. The discussion usually centers around the property wealth of a school district. There is a wide variation in the value of a mill across Georgia. A mill in one school district may be worth less than $50,000, but in another district be valued at over $18 million. School districts with a mill of high value can fund much more from local funds than a district where the mill has a low value. When state funds are cut, high-wealth districts have the means to replace the funds. When categories such as instructional materials are underfunded by the state, high wealth districts can buy what their students need. Low wealth districts can not. Those conditions create the argument that resources are inequitable. A number of states have been sued over this issue, including Georgia where the lawsuit is pending.

Georgia School Council Institute www.GeorgiaEducation.org

Revised 2007 9

New school board candidates press for change

New school board candidates press for change

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

DeKalb’s District 3 and District 9 races: School board incumbents face challengers

DeKalb’s District 3 and District 9 races: School board incumbents face challengers

Let's Not Forget!

News

Sembler abatement deferred, Walker recuses himself
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 11:28 AM EDT


DeKalb Development Authority Chair Dr. Eugene Walker recuses himself from the vote of the Authority last Thursday, and leaves the room in an effort to remove himself from any controversy. Crier photo: Rebecca Chase Williams
By Rebecca Chase Williams
For The Crier

State Rep. Mike Jacobs’ (R-north DeKalb) “status” on his Facebook page said, “Mike Jacobs likes it when the taxpayers win, and hopes it’s not too soon to say things have changed for the better in DeKalb.”

It was his way of summing up a week of surprises and startling announcements as the DeKalb Development Authority postponed voting on the controversial $52 million, 20-year, 100 percent tax break proposed by Sembler’s Town Brookhaven project.

The 52-acre mixed-use project is located on Peachtree Road next to Oglethorpe University.

The surprises started last Wednesday when the DeKalb Board of Education filed an injunction and lawsuit to stop the Development Authority from voting on the tax break that would potentially take away future revenues from the school system. The same day, five members of the DeKalb Board of Commissioners signed a resolution saying it “opposes the proposed economic development incentives for the project at this time” and would challenge the incentives if passed without the endorsement of the commissioners. Then the DeKalb Ethics Commission notified Development Authority Chairman Dr. Eugene Walker that he was under investigation for a potential conflict of interest after accepting $18,000 in campaign contributions from Sembler Company employees.

Thursday’s crowded Development Authority meeting opened with the surprise announcement from Dr. Walker saying that “Gene Walker doesn’t need to be the focus” and so “with a heavy heart and an abundance of caution, I’m going to recuse myself.”

With that, he left the room.

The Development Authority then heard the results of the independent analysis of the proposed Sembler tax abatement performed by Dick Layton of Wachovia Bank. The analysis agreed with Sembler’s numbers that the project could potentially provide a net benefit to the county of $119 million but Layton pointed out that “abating all taxes constitute a break from traditional policy.”

Layton cautioned that the proposal, “may not require county approval, but clearly there should be intergovernmental cooperation.”

As if on cue, Development Authority director, Maria Mullins read a letter from DeKalb Chief Executive Burrell Ellis recommending that the Authority “not approve a 100 percent tax abatement inconsistent with existing policy.” Ellis asked that the county’s Department of Economic Development immediately develop an incentive policy that “takes into consideration best practices and current market conditions.”

Ellis’s memo came as a surprise to both county commissioners and those at the authority meeting.

“”My jaw dropped when I read Burrell Ellis’ memo,” said Jacobs.

County Commissioner Jeff Rader presented the resolution from the board of commissioners adding that he too “looks forward to a more fully articulated development policy.”

Authority members, who are not required to have the consent of either the board of commissioners or board of education then voted unanimously to defer any action on the Sembler proposal until a new policy could be developed.

State Rep. Mike Jacobs called it a “win for the people” and said it ended up being the public outcry that carried the day.

The lawsuit filed by the DeKalb Board of Education is still to be resolved. The injunction was not granted, but according to school board member Paul Womack, the lawsuit is moving forward with the board challenging, “the constitutionality of this body to divert funds without consulting the board of education.”

Womack said the board estimated the Sembler proposal could cost the school district $1.2 million a year, and that a majority of the school board backed DeKalb School Superintendent Crawford Lewis’s decision to file a lawsuit.

“The superintendent did the right thing for the right reason,” said Womack.

In the meantime, Sembler’s president Jeff Fuqua said the Town Brookhaven project, “will be built at some level” but that his company “will come back with a different proposal.” He added that the 10-year, partial tax break already granted by the authority is “not sufficient.”

Womack said that if Sembler asks a more lucrative deal, the board “will oppose that.”

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Why Ella Finally Decided To Run Against Dr. Walker? It Was Concern Over Special Interests and Conflict of Interest


Ella respects Dr. Walker. Recently, Ella indicated that Dr. Walker was on the Housing Authority and in fact, he was on the Development Authority. She has apologized to Dr. Walker. It will never be her intention to provide false information. This was just an honest mistake. Ella will always be willing to admit when she was wrong. She also is always willing to listen to other views other than her views, as decisions are made best in a group after much discussion of the situation.

However, the one of the main driving forces that influenced Ella’s final decision to put her name on the ballot against Dr. Walker was based on the unique ethical dilemma that Dr. Walker placed himself in, by serving in a dual role as the Chairman of the Development Authority and a member of the DeKalb County Board of Education. Ella was concerned that Dr. Walker was first elected to the DeKalb County School Board in 2008 with the help of $18,000 in campaign contributions from Sembler executive employees and spouses and that due to Dr. Walker’s campaign disclosures being turned in late that year. The voters were not aware of these donations before the election in 2008. Ella wants to make sure voters are aware in 2010. Ernest Brown could have used this information in his campaign if Dr. Walker had posted his campaign disclosure report in a timely manner.

In a Dunwoody Crier article, Dr. Walker credits his “platform of economic development” for carrying him to victory in his board of Education campaign. Ella’s campaign committee agrees that the $18,000 in campaign contributions may in fact be due to his involvement with the DeKalb Authority Board and at the time the possibility of Dr. Walker possible serving Sembler’s special interests regarding breaks for tax breaks that also might occur as a member of the DeKalb County School Board. This is an extremely large amount of money to be donated to a school board candidate by one corporation regardless of how it was broken up and donated to try to make the donations legal by law.

Dr. Walker finally stepped down as a member of the Development Authority. However, this was after a lawsuit by members of the school board and apparently much political pressure. Dr. Walker did not see the conflict of interest that much of the public did see and that Ella definitely could see. In this instance, Dr. Walker would have allowed taxes to rise in 2009 when taxpayers where struggling due to the economy, in order to support the Sembler Company. In these economic times this is not what was best for all the citizens of DeKalb County? Development should be to help DeKalb County and its citizens. This was not the time to support a big developer over the citizens of DeKalb, particularly when you just took $18,000 from this developer to help you win your school board race.

Ella also is concerned that Dr. Walker admits he sees color and indicates this does have an impact in his decision-making from his district 9 seat on the school board. The school board meetings are taped. Please check this out for yourself or ask someone who attends school board meetings on a regular basis. Ella has been a civil rights advocate her whole life. However, she does not feel school board members decisions should be based on the color of a student’s skin, students’ religious believes, their sexual orientation, or any other factor that could be considered bias and could be favoritism or discrimination.

Ella believes decisions are made on what is best for every child in DeKalb County. Ella believes every student who steps into the DeKalb County School System should have the same access to the same quality equipment, the same quality of highly qualified teachers, the same quality of highly qualified staff, the same rigor of instruction, and the same quality of facilities.

Ella believes DeKalb County School Board should make decisions regarding hiring attorney firms like Aston and Byrd based on the quality of the firm and not make decisions and discuss opening the color of individual's skin in making decisions. However, Aston and Byrd are a very diversed group of attorneys which was openly discussed. The DeKalb County mission statement for purchases states that purchases for the Dekalb County School System will be made on the basis of equality, quality, price and service. Hiring an attorney firm is a big purchase of services and the quality and ability of the attorney firm to provide a variety of services to a big school system like Dekalb has to be a top priority for a school board. The group that can give the best cost for the best overall service at the best price has to be the key and not emotions or special interests. The superintendent has to make the recommendation based on the best for the students in DeKalb based on data and research. The DeKalb County School Board cannot let their special interests or friendships get in the way. This in itself is nepotism and favoritism and one of the problems we are having to answer questions to SACS.

In Ella's Administrative Law class in the spring the School Board Attorney who taught the class discussed how much money the DeKalb County School Board was paying Ms. Alexander's firm and all the outsourcing of services that had to be done due to Ms. Alexander's office being too small to handle the school system's needs. He said that all the attorney firms in the state could not believe how much money the DeKalb County School Board paid Ms. Alexander's firm. However, our School Board fought the change which was financially better for the DeKalb County School System, and the service is by far as good as you can get in the state. The problem still exists today due to the tension and favortism of some members of the DeKalb County School Board. It is who you know and not if this is what is financially best and even overall the best overall services that could be provided to the school board because the group can cover everything with a retainer verses the school system paying by the hour for services. We are talking here about special interests which do not benefit the students of DeKalb County nor are the school board being accountable to its taxpayers.

Ella believes this is just an example of the special interests and possible conflict of interests that Dr. Walker may have due to his extensive involvement in the past in the community and state due to his extensive interests. Below is a list of organizations that Dr. Walker belongs to or has been involved in the past or currently which is excellent and shows how involved Dr. has been in the community and state and where some of his special interests may be:

Board of Department of Juvenile Justice as the Commissioner
The Board of Pardon and Paroles
Board of the Department of Juvenile Justice
Criminal Justice Professional Organization
American Correctional Association
National Association of Blacks in the Criminal Justice System
The Parole Association of Georgia
The Parole and American Probation and Parole Association
The Private Hospital Authority of DeKalb County
Senior Residential Care of DeKalb County
Chamber of Georgia Chapter of Westcare

Ella sees these associates bringing with them conflict of interests in serving as a member of the DeKalb County School Board as many of these groups may have an interest in certain votes on the school board and cause a conflict as interest as Dr. Walker has the ability as a member of the board to persuade others to vote his way. Ella has been very concerned about the Alternative School and over one million dollars approved for a charter program regarding a charter that apparently is going to be working with a Juvenile Justice Commission, or State Parole Group (or another group like this that Dr. Lewis has connections with). This is the second year this school did not have its charter paperwork complete. However, the school system approved the one million dollars anyway while we already have other Alternative Schools available for our students who need these services. However, the vote was close.

The school administration admited at the school board meeting that we do have other programs that already are available to serve these students who need the services provided by the New Charter Alternative School. It was very apparent that Dr. Walker was trying to influence others to vote for the money for one more year. The school did get the money for one more year while a charter school in front of this petition was denied because their paperwork was not completed correctly. Should we be approving Charter Schools without their paperwork complete because of who they are or their connections? On top of that the School System are assisting the Alternative School by requiring their administration to set bench-marks and supervise the administration and make sure the paperwork does get done this year. Do we do this for other Charter Schools so they can be approved? Ella does not think this is fair to the other Charter Schools being denied and that does not get the same special treatment and relationship with the School System.

Did Dr. Walker’s involvement on all these boards and the passing of this Charter School again for the second year without their paperwork have anything in common? Some of our School Board members may know the answer to this question.

The bottom line is that Ella ran against Dr. Walker because of her concern for Dr. Walker’s special interests. Ella specifically was concerned about how these special interests may be affecting Dr. Walker’s votes as a member of the school board.

However, Ella has had an interest in being a member of the DeKalb County School Board for many years. Ella wants positive changes in the DeKalb County School System and this will be her top priority as a school board member. Dr. Walker has many interests. Which one will be his top priority? Will it be educating our students? Will it be economic development? Will it be the Parole and Justice System? Will it be the Private Healthcare Facilities? Should our students in DeKalb not be the School Board Member in District 9’s first priority? Look at the school board tapes, look at the votes, and make your own decision as to whether the decisions have been made in the best interests of our students. Then go out and vote on November 2, 2010 for the candidate that you feel will put the students of DeKalb County first. Ella's passion is education and that has always been her number one priority.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What Is Needed In A New School Superintendent In The DeKalb County Schools


A new superintendent for DeKalb County must have a viable vision, be able to work collaboratively with the community stakeholders and make a workable strategic plan. He or she must be the type of leader that can lead DeKalb County into the 21st century and turn its school system around. The superintendent must be a future-focused leader who has a thorough understanding of the trends that will profoundly affect education and the whole society in the 21st century. The new school superintendent must understand the affect of these trends for the operation of our educational system. The superintendent and his or her staff must be able to analyze the affects of these trends and work with the school board to make decisions to meet the needs of the students in the 21st century. The superintendent will provide the leadership to the BOE in implementation of the districts and school board’s vision, mission and goals. The superintendent must be able to complete the following indicators if DeKalb County is to move ahead:

1. Collaborate with the board in the preparation of long and short-term operational and instructional goals to improve student achievement.
2. Provide system data and leadership to the board in its adoption of board and district goals to improve student achievement.
3. Develop action plans with expected performances to achieve the agreed upon goals to improve student achievement.
4. Under the board’s delegated authority the superintendent either personally or by delegation through other staff members must evaluate the adopted action plan or make revisions as needed.
5. The school superintendent must oversee the planning and evaluation of curriculum and instruction.

However, I believe a committee of stakeholders should begin the process of what DeKalb needs in a new School Superintendent. Then the DeKalb County School Board should review the recommendations of the committee and make the final recommendations. I do believe it is the job of the school board to hire the school superintendent but I think this is an appropriate time to get feedback and involvement from the DeKalb teachers, parents and students, Chamber of Commerce, County Commissioners, and County Georgia Delegation to assure involvement from all branches of county government and all other stakeholders. The next DeKalb County School Superintendent is too important to leave in the hands of just a few. Getting feedback from all stakeholders will help get these stakeholders back involved and onboard with the new school superintendent’s agenda to move the school district into the 21st century.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

SACS REQUESTS ANSWERS FROM THE DEKALB COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD


What will be the answers given by the DeKalb County School System to SACS?

SACS requested DeKalb provide:

• Policies and procedures for effective management, including hiring, whistle-blowers, nepotism and conflicts of interest.
• Information on staff and school board training.
• Information on the board’s role in fiscal oversight and monitoring the district, along with how the board uses closed meetings and how members avoid micromanaging.
• Description of the checks and balances to make sure the board is following hiring and firing policies.
• Information on how the board follows procurement procedures and awards bids to avoid conflicts of interest.
• How the district enforces policies and prevents breakdowns in checks and balances.
• Information on the superintendent search. The board terminated its superintendent in May.

As a parent, a taxpayer, an educator and a candidate for district 9 school board position, SACS intervening in any manner with the DeKalb County School Board bother me deeply. This intervention brings me to face the reality, as it should to all taxpayers and voters in DeKalb that some things really do need to change in the way the DeKalb County School Board does business.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Already about half of the states have adopted the new set of common academic standards. This is barely a month after their final release and in most cases; the states have passed the standards with little opposition. As of today 23, states have decided to replace their math and English/Language Arts standards with the common set of standards. More adoptions are expected by August 2, 2010. This is because the $4 billion federal Race to the Top contest gives more points to states that meet that deadline.

The federal government expects 41 states by the end of the year to adopt the standards. This movement will enable parents in Georgia to compare how well their students do on standardize achievement tests based on the same standards. Many challenges remain. However with the challenges comes excitement of what is to come in the future. We all need to be excited about these changes.

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WE NEED TO FIGHT TO SAVE HISTORIC SCHOOLHOUSES ACROSS GA


Across the state of Georgia there are many Georgians fighting to save old one room historic schoolhouses. I for one would like to see these old schoolhouses saved. Many of them are beautiful structures that have many history memories throughout this great state of ours.

Please read the article at:

http://www.preservationnation.org/magazine/2009/todays-news/threatened-african-american.html

The Citizens In GA and DeKalb Do Not Need To Forget What Happened To Jaheem

Despite recent strides towards preventing bullying in schools and increased awareness programs, a Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network study showed that 65 percent of teens are bullied each year and most believe adults cannot help them. Let us not forget in DeKalb what happen to Jaheem. His mother and friends saw that Jaheem was being bulling constantly by being called gay, ugly and "the virgin" because he was from the Virgin Islands. Now being called gay and a virgin both had to do with his sexuality. However being told your ugly is being bullied under any circumstance in my opinion and there is no place for this type of language to another child in our public schools. Our children should be safe in our public school from such abuse.

Our educational programs need to include education programs about the harm that can be done by teasing someone about sexuality or perceived sexuality to be affective in helping to stop the teasing and bulling. “Anti-gay” language is sometimes the ultimate weapon for bullies to use when they want to degrade his or her peers normally. Any affective plan of response to stop bulling in DeKalb County must take on the task of trying to stop the “anti-gay” language.

Regardless of religious background, regardless of where you live or who you are we must teach our children to respect all human beings. Each human being deserves that respect.

NO GOOD SHORT SOLUTION FOR TRANSFER STUDENTS


There appears no good way for the DeKalb County School System to meet the mandate. Apparently, so many schools in DeKalb County have not made AYP this year DeKalb County has had to go to annex schools because there is no room for trailers in the schools or due to this being a safer and better for the students. I am sure much planning went into this process before there was a final decision made.

I do not like what I see. However, I also know there are many problems that exist by the students leaving the schools that do not make AYP. Behind vacant wings of schools are left when students leave. What do we do with these wings? These vacant wings are not being used, while more trailers are being rented or purchased.

I want to see long-term solutions made so we do not have school making AYP lists. We have to take DeKalb County into the 21st century. We have to get a school superintendent who is a leader, with a vision, that people want to follow and that can get the job done. We will have to pay this person a high salary to get them if we can find them.

I think Dr. Tyson has done an excellent job under the circumstances. I just wish the picture looked differently than it does. However, I do believe she went through the problem-solving process with her team and this was the best alternative that they found to meet the needs of the DeKalb County Schools at this time. There is not easy solution to this problem.

Friday, July 16, 2010

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS FOR ALL: EVEN CANDIDATES


A few make it difficult for others. People have always disagreed with me on DeKalb County School Board Watch Blog and we have debated the issues. Since I became a candidate, I am so sad I guess I cannot blog on this site. I believe in what this site is trying to do. I am having difficulty walking away. I disagree with some of the negative attitudes on this site that always just want to bad mouth individuals and make everything as negative as I see the problems but also want to see all the good in the DeKalb County School System. OUR CHILDREN IN DEKALB COUNTY ARE SO GOOD. We have so many other positive things in the DeKalb County School System also. Some of the bloggers spend so much time looking for the bad that they seldom look for the good but this is their problem. I have seen the bad and know bad is all around us, but I also want to see the good all around us and try to live a balanced life. Life is not all bad. There is good and bad in every person. I want to see the good even when I see the bad. I want to judge the whole person just like I judge the whole child every day.

However, yesterday I felt totally under attack and it was not about what I said. Where did anyone mention what I said about Charter Schools? This was just an attack and dirty politics of politicians setting on the DeKalb County School Board obviously and I let them get to me as my resistance is down because I have been sick. Yesterday was mean and cruel and way out of line regarding my intellectual ability and character. When you question if someone can make decisions on research, and critical thinking, and they just finished all their class work for their ED.S. In Administration and Leadership in Education and are working toward their doctorial degree that is mean and way off base. This last year as a student all I have done is researched topics on education regarding administration and leadership and used it critically to write papers and make decisions based on that research.

One of the number one rules of DeKalb County School Board Watch Blog is not to cut people down over their spelling and grammar on this blog and this is exactly what was done to me over and over again. I have a specific learning disability in written expression. I have felt comfortable on this blog to blog due to the rules. It has been wonderful and I thank Celeb and all of the bloggers who have been so supportive of me. These are not limitations any child or person wants would want to have. For instance, you do not see Tom Cruse, blogging or tweeting. Could it be because he has a learning disability and he is afraid of critics? However, I believe Einstein also had a learning disability.

When I turn something in professionally, I have to have it proofed, as I cannot always see my eras. I know I have this problem. It this hiding behind it? If you want to believe this is hiding behind it knowing I have this disability go right ahead and believe this.

Every student in the world has faults. Too many times teachers judge students in class the same way that I have been judged here. How many of our students who might be struggling with writing in school would be able to continue to learn despite their issues with writing? How many young writers shut down and stop writing? Let me tell you. Many. It is sad. They become learned helpless and this is extremely hard to correct. Do the research yourself in this area if you do not believe me.

This is what is wrong with our Educational System now. We have to find innovative ways to teach our children. We have to make learning fun and exciting. We have to make students want to learn even when they might have some limitations. We have to do more collaborative planning, and use the new technological tools in the 21st century to make a difference in the classroom. However, the key is not more Charter Schools. The key is highly qualified teachers in every classroom throughout DeKalb County working collaboratively to improve our broken system. We also need an honest, innovated, superintendent who has the leadership skills and vision to lead us where we need to go. He must be the right leader.

My spelling eras do speak volumes for who I am and what I stand for. Every child regardless of who they are, despite their limitation, despite where they live should have the same opportunities as every other child in DeKalb County, across Georgia and across our great nation at a quality education. This is who I am and what I stand for and none of those empty words can change that. My spelling eras have been a topic of discussion before and I never was bothered in the last election.

Yesterday they were not attacking my opinions but my intellectual ability and my character as a human being. I spent a great deal of money and time in court over the years with others and myself defending issues that had to do with civil rights. I do believe you treat all human beings with a certain amount of dignity and respect whether they are running for office or not. Most of you are not aware of my civil rights activist side. When I see things done wrong, I have fought to see them changed over the years.

Again, the rules are clear on this blog regarding cutting people down for making mistakes for their grammar and spelling. Apparently if you are a candidate the rules no longer apply to you according to these dirty politicians. I got the message loud and clear on this one.

However, is it not discrimination to treat anyone differently on this blog that other people. Is this not discriminating against me? Again, this is how I felt yesterday and when my civil rights are attacked regarding being treating like others on this blog, I was bothered. Why is it ok for candidates to be judged on this blog for making eras in spelling, while it is ok for everyone else? I was bothered by this yesterday and I still am bothered by this today. When I was attacked as an individual who is disabled I felt the same way also. I am not ashamed of whom I am anymore and I think that is a good thing. I am not hiding behind rose-colored glasses at all. I see my faults. I hope each of you can be as open with your faults as I am with mine.

Every human being deserves a certain amount of dignity and respect regardless if he/she is running for office or not. Nothing will ever change how I feel about this issue nor stop me for from defeating people who are so mean they do not respect the dignity of human rights. Human rights are extremely important to me. This is not a weakness of mine in my opinion but a strength to respect the dignity of human rights of all people regardless of who you are particularily running for election in a diverse county like Dekalb.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Science GHSGT Are Up in Georgia-But Can We Do More


As a high school science teacher, I am excited that Georgia high school students, particular our blacks students, are scoring 2 points better this year than last year on the Georgia High School Graduation Test. The rising senior class in Georgia’s passing rate was 90%. In 2009, the passing rate was 88%. It is the first time that science scores have ever hit this mark in Georgia.

The data shows that the percentage of black students passing the science tests has increased from 41% in Georgia in 2003 to 79% in 2010 in Georgia. That difference in passing students is 20,000 students. This definitely shows that Georgia is making progress, particularly with African American students, which is great, except what we are doing to make sure that we are excelling standards in Georgia for all students. All the emphasis is on passing all four sections of the Georgia High School Graduation Test. All students must pass English, Social Studies, Math and Science to get a high school diploma. Why are we not putting more emphasis also on excelling on these standards?

When students do not pass the Georgia High School Graduation Test, they cannot enroll in college or technical school. They may take classes in a technical school.
In Georgia, we must do more to get students in Georgia to pass the Georgia High School Graduation Tests so they have a better future but we also must push students to excel on state and national standard tests so Georgia can compete nationally and globally in the 21st century.

Threatened: African American Schoolhouse in Georgia

Threatened: African American Schoolhouse in Georgia

Monday, June 28, 2010

Beauty of the Gulf Coast

Beauty of the Gulf Coast

Who Is Accountable For The Education of Our Children?


In my opinion the biggest problem with accountability of our student’s learning is who we blame when students do not learn. Who is accountable for learning? The research is clear that highly qualified teachers are the most important ingredients in our schools to assure that students are achieving academically. However other accountability elements for our students’ achievement is the involvement of students, parents, educational systems and employees, and politicians fighting for funds and new ways to continue to improve education.

Many times the once partnership between the school, student, and parents has become a disenfranchised blame game. Parents are upset and many have become disregarded by the government and many school systems as irrelevant to their children’s education. However, I believe the parents are the second most important element needed for our children to be successful academically. Parents must support their children at home by making sure they finish homework, study for tests, and that students have readily access to updated technology access and equipment at home. Students are also important elements in student achievement. Students must want to learn.

The bridge must be mended between the parents and the school and government. However, parents also must be held accountable for sending their children to school ready to learn. Parents must be held accountably by helping their school help their children learn by providing the guidance needed at home to make sure there is follow through of the directions of the teacher of assignments at home, to make sure students are studying for tests, to make sure there is student friendly reading material around, and to make sure their children have access needed to do projects to computer hardware and software and internet access.

Parents should also have a choice in their children’s education.

Many others are also involved in the education of the children in local communities like the DeKalb County School System. These individuals are part of our local communities. It does take a village to raise and teach our children. In conclusions, all members of a community are equally involved to keep the educational system up and running through the taxes that the citizens of a community pay every year in property tax and every day in the penny sales tax across the county of Dekalb and other great counties across the state. Educating children in our community is a team effort and everyone in a community is responsible.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cheerleading Pledge for the Safety of Our Cheerleaders

Today cheerleading has become a year round sport. Girls and boys alike spend a great deal of time and money in gyms learning how to do very complicated stunts which will make the fans go wild. However, these stunts can also be very dangerous. As a national certified safety cheerleading coach I challenge each coach, parent and cheerleader to take the time to make the safety pledge. Nothing is more important than the safety of our students or our children. Please look at the hyperlink below and consider signing the pledge today.

iCheerSafe.com - take the pledge to cheer safely!

iCheerSafe.com - take the pledge to cheer safely!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Response to the Firing of the Care Ambulance Service for Dekalb County after my Formal Complaint

After reading the articles in the newspaper about the firing of the Care Ambulance Service which has the contract for DeKalb County I thought about the individuals who might lose their jobs and felt a great deal of empathy for these individuals.

However, I continue to stand firm on my original complaint regarding the response time to Adam’s Stadium when the Upton-Lee goalie had a head injury and “Doc” made the call to call for an ambulance. I do not regret making the complaint to the DeKalb County Officials. The safety of all the citizens in DeKalb has to be a top priority.

I continue to be very bothered by the time that continues to be given by the DeKalb County officials or the Care Ambulance Service for the response time. The response time was approximately 38-46 minutes according to individual who were keeping up with the time. Everyone in the stadium at this game knows this is incorrect information being provided to the press. How much incorrect information is provided to the press by government agencies like our school system and CEO's office to deceive the public? The stakeholders of DeKalb County deserve to be told the truth.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

More Transparancy Is Needed Regarding The Jobs that The School Board and School System Cut in 2010

Records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show that more than half of the employees laid off by DeKalb schools make less than $40,000 a year. They include nine custodians, 11 school resource officers, 12 secretaries and 19 maintenance workers.

An Open Records Act request of the 289 jobs included in the layoffs lists only 253 names. Only 12 percent of those employees make more than $100,000.
Most citizens of DeKalb County agree that the DeKalb County School System and the DeKalb County School Board need to be more transparent in the decisions that they make. Many times, they say one thing and then we find out through the media that what is said may not be in fact what is occurring.

DeKalb County School Employees cut:

Coordinators: 17
Directors: 7
Paraprofessionals: 100
Library clerks: 30
Technical specialists: 9
Communications: 6
Custodians: 9
School resource officers: 11
Maintenance workers: 19*

* Includes electricians, painters, carpet cleaners, maintenance workers, roofers.
Source: DeKalb County School System

DeKalb County school employee cuts by salary:
Under $20,000: 2 employees
$20,000-$30,000: 113
$30,000-$40,000: 28
$40,000-$50,000: 11
$50,000-$60,000: 22
$60,000-$70,000: 16
$70,000-$80,000: 16
$80,000-$90,000: 10
$90,000-$100,000: 4
$100,000-$110,000: 8
$110,000-$120,000: 5
More than $120,000*: 18

More needs to be done to cut positions at the top of the administrative chain of command when possible and professionals who work with the students need to be saved when possible. It is apparent that the majority of the jobs cut were at the schoolhouse level and not at the administrative level.

Classroom Observations of LoTi Techology Use in The Classroom

Observation 1: Team-Taught Biology Class at North Springs Charter High School

On May 11, 2010 as a student at Argosy completing an assignment I observed a Team-Taught Biology class for approximately thirty minutes during sixth period class. The students where involved in a lab activity. The students were going from table to table answering questions about specimens in containers that represented different species from different kingdoms. As I left the classroom, the teacher began to show a short video on Insects and to answer questions at the end about the Insect Video. This video presented technology information on the LoTi 2-Application level as it shows, records, concludes, determines, and illustrates learned knowledge in a minimum direction. LoTi-2 Comprehension is also used as there is understanding and describing information in the students own words after watching the video and during the lab. Loti-Knowledge is also involved as the learner must recall or recognize ideas in the appropriate form that were learned.

During the lab, the students were working in small groups answering questions about the species. Students were engaged in the learning process. There were no computers in the classroom except the teacher’s computer. During the video, the students appeared engaged.

Observation 2: Chemistry Class at North Springs Charter High School

On May 12, 2010 as a student at Argosy University, I completed an assignment by observing for approximately thirty minutes a Chemistry Class during fifth period. The teacher was reviewing for a final exam and was using the Jeopardy Game to do so. Students appeared engaged in the process. The class was divided into teams and the students appeared extremely competitive in the review game. The game was teacher directed.

The game appeared to present technology information on the LoTi-2 Comprehension level. The learners were recalling information that was previously learned.

Observation 3: Health Class at North Springs Charter High School

On May 13, 2010 as a student at Argosy University, I completed an assignment by observing a Health class thirty minutes during third period. The teacher was using a PowerPoint presentation to review for a test. At the conclusion of the PowerPoint presentation, she gave the students a test. The students appeared engaged for the most part. A few students had their heads down and were not engaged in the review process. The lesson was a teacher directed lesson that appeared to present information on the LoTi-2 Comprehension level. The learners were recalling information they had already learned. If the students did not know the information then the teacher would present the information again.

There were three computers in the classroom and during the class two students from Physical Education, classes came into the class and were working on assignments from other classes during their Physical Education class time.

Observation 4: Physical Science class at North Springs Charter High School

On May 14, 2010 as a student at Argosy University, I completed an assignment by observing a Physical Science class approximately thirty minutes during fourth period. The teacher was using a PowerPoint Presentation to give the students notes. The notes were information that would be covered on the last test. The last test was a review test of general science principles.

The lesson was teacher directed. The emphasis was on learning or recalling information that students should have already learned regarding general science principals. The lesson also appeared to be presented on the LoTi-2 Comprehension level. The learners were to recall information they had already learned in the past. The teacher was reviewing information that the teacher expected the students to be exposed to in the past that was important to review and make sure the students knew the information for the final test.

There were no computers in the classroom other than the teacher’s computer. Most of the students were engaged in reviewing or learning the information. A few students had their heads down and there were students who were off task.

Conclusion

All lessons observed were using LoTi-2 levels. All classes observed were Science classes at North Springs Charter High School. As an observer, I saw no indication of infusion, integration, expansion or refinement in use of technology in the classroom. Observations did not indicate use of higher levels of cognitive thinking skills, problem solving, and emphasis placed on higher levels of student cognitive processing and development, or technology access extends beyond the classroom. Students today use technology in every aspect of their lives. Teachers must also reach out at a refinement level to make sure that there is no longer a division between instruction and technology use. Today technology offers a seamless vehicle for information queries, problem solving and product development and teachers need to include technology more into their lesson plans as a way to use higher levels of cognitive thinking skills, problem solving, emphasis placed on higher levels of students cognitive processing and development and show students how to extend technological experiences beyond the classroom. Teachers must change the way teachers’ teach to meet the needs of changing students in a 21st century technological society.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Interview with Kathy Politis: The Instructional Director at the Fulton County School System

Upon interviewing Kathy Politis the Director of Instructional Technology at the Fulton County School System, it was easy to become aware of the complications involved in coordinating the implementation of the Fulton County School System’s Instructional Technology Plan.

Fulton County School System has all kinds of “technology stuff,” according to Kathy Politis. Technology stuff available for staff in Fulton County may be laptops, desktops, software, interactive whiteboards, LCD projectors, instant response system (clickers), etc. The best way to ensure technology integration according to Kathy is by making sure that when ‘stuff’ is purchased the system builds in the cost of training. Only when the system knows how best to use the technology for instruction and learning does any school system get the value out of it. Technology integration should be called technology for improved teaching and learning. The school system best ensures the integration when the school system thinks about the curriculum first and then applies the technology so that it improves higher order thinking skills, authenticity of task, and engaged learning.

Frequently we must also measure the effectiveness of current technology that is being used in our school system. Fulton County looks at time in use, but how often someone uses technology does not equate to how effective the technology is. Fulton County uses a system of Learning Walks that evaluates the classroom teaching and learning environment. There is one question within the learning walk that looks at whether technology is being used. The single score offers a better scale of effectiveness than simply measuring how often the computer in used by a teacher or in classrooms in a school.

School systems must approach the use of technology with the need to protect the network and equipment with the need for teacher flexibility in successfully integrating technology. Often Fulton County must weigh the instructional value against the systems’ nettwork bandwidth. For instance, a teacher may want to share a streaming video of a recent TV show. From a technical standpoint, the school system might indicate that it is not an appropriate use of the network as a streaming video can use up bandwidth that then prevents other teachers’ from accessing the web from research. In such a case, the school can help, as school leaders such as the Principal and Curric Support Specialists can make that decision as to the value of the streaming video and whether it should be used or not. It is important that every school have a technology committee to help make decisions that keep in mind that curriculum ALWAYS drives technology.

In Fulton County there is much technology being implemented. All Fulton County teachers have a laptop. Schools receive three computers per classroom (instructional unit). The school decides how those compute red are deployed in the school. Many schools opt to move some computers into a lab so a whole class can have access. Others distribute throughout classrooms. Some software is also purchased at the district level and made available to all schools’ computers. Decisions on software are made by Curriculum and Instruction to ensure the software aligns to state standards. Local schools often purchase hardware and software by local funds. However, the schools also must be careful to make sure that whatever the local school purchased is aligned to district protocols so there is a process in place for local purchases to go through a district evaluation.

There are major issues facing Fulton County School System like other school systems regarding reliability and security. Security is a big issue. The school system is bound by law to protect student information as well as protect students per Computer Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Students and teachers sign the Acceptable Use Policy at the beginning of every year as part of the Fulton County School System policies and procedures. Web 2.0 social networks must be used with responsibility so that when using blogs, wikis, etc., the students remains protected. Most IT can also can find a way to protect the systems equipment and allow the teachers the flexibility needed to use needed resources in their classroom.

Every Fulton County School has a School Technology Specialist (STS). The ideal level is for an STS is being an individual who exhibits a balance between being a hardware/fix/break expert and an instructional technologist. Through Fulton County School must be sure the equipment is working, it is equally important to be able to slate the best practices in how to use the equipment for maximum effectiveness in teaching and learning.

As part of every STS’s duties and responsibilities, she/he must assist with general maintenance to keep the Fulton County network running smoothly. This responsibility involves monitoring disk space, making sure that there is regular server back up, software manual availability and updating, addition/removal of staff users, setups of new workstations, print stations, assignments to default printers, and training of new personnel. The new personnel at a school must be trained in electronic mail, data exchange, information stored in the media centers, hardware and software. The job of STS also involves performing regular identification and determination of problems with the network. As the school technology specialist the individual also assists with coordinating and network-related repairs, handles requests with Technology Services personnel, handles the documentation of LAN wiring diagram including wiring closet identification, wiring closet equipment configuration, and wiring drop identification.

Every STS is also responsible for software administration. She/he assists in maintaining an inventory of all available software, previews and makes recommendations, regarding the selection of software for possible purchase and use in the instructional program, and is in charge of having software installed when needed. She/he also must provide training, information and other assistance to users for incorporation into instruction. Frequently as the Director of Instructional Technology, she/he provides assistance and troubleshooting when software is not working as expected, or with the extension of the software into the area of the curriculum. The STS must constantly assist with seeking the input on future needs on problems and identifying software selections. She/he also must keep current on new products available and developments in the field of educational technology along with assisting teachers with implementation of adopted district software as outlined in curriculum guides.

A school’s STS also have many responsibilities regarding hardware. She/he performs record keeping functions of hardware locations, quantities, types, and required repairs. A STS offers recommendations where future purchases and/or replacements of hardware is necessary and assists in maintenance of all equipment. Frequently a STS must troubleshoot file server and workstations system software using utility and virus protection software.

A STS is responsible to attend training sessions as necessary, to stay abreast of hardware and software utilized in the school. Then she/he is responsible to assist in the training of all the local faculty and staff in the Fulton County School System regarding school technology.

A STS also assists as a liaison between county technology personnel and school personnel to help school with planning future goals, needs expenditures and the implementation of district technology plan at the school level. Either other technology related technology duties are also assigned to the STS, the Principal of a school or designee regarding technology services of a school as needed.

A STS needs a four-year College Degree. The degree is preferably in Computer Science, Instructional Technology or a technology related field. Prior experience working with local-area networks, PC based applications; Apple Macintosh operating systems, Windows 2000, and Windows NT are also preferred.

This fall when teachers return to school all teachers in the Fulton County Schools will have a unique portal login. The portal will become the one-stop shop for whatever the teacher needs to do their jobs. A teacher will be able to easily access the tools they need such as Outlook, SAMS, Employee Express, eSchoolPlus, etc. but each teacher will also have access to netTrekker (a bank of curriculum resources). These may also be links on the teacher’s portal page to other curriculum tools like Galileo, Discovery Streaming, and Visual Thesaurus. Training will be offered through both online and f2f means. Just in-time training may be available within the tool itself such as what is now available in Employee Express. Other training will be available through Professional Learning with sign up available under the Learning Solution tab of Employee Express.

In conclusion, the Fulton County Schools Director of Technology (Kathy Polotis) is primarily concerned with the development, implementation, operation, monitoring, and evaluation of the technology programs for the school system. Kathy provides leadership in identifying hardware and software purchased, ensuring that they are consistent with the school system’s instructional technology plan and state technology guidelines. Kathy coordinates and may even deliver staff development on technology competencies needed for teaching in the Fulton County School System. Kathy also works collaboratively with other members of the school system to use technology and include technology applications as an integral part of the total instructional program.

Politis, Kathy, (2010). Fulton County School System Director of Instruction.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Merit Pay to Determine Highly Qualified Teachers

Educators are beginning to agree that the current system of identifying highly qualified teachers in the classroom is not very affective. Educational Reform began after World War II and continues today. The consistent theme throughout this reform has been to educate all students equally. Many different strategies are enabling educational reform and teacher certification reform to use used strategies like pay-per performance. A great deal of time spent in the past on many different strategies to improve student performance has not given educators always the results wanted. Darling-Hammond and Youngs’ review (2002), discussed the successes that recent improvements many states made through strengthening the states teachers’ certification requirements. The certification reform is evident due to stronger academic backgrounds requirements and higher standards licensing test scores for graduating teachers. The data indicates that states just need to keep on the course the states are currently on, with respect to gains already made by states, instead of reversing the course based on a fictionalized accounts of what research says about what highly qualified teachers “know and how they come to know” what teachers’ know (Darling-Hammond and Young, 2002). However, regardless of what licensing tests scores, strong academic background, or “what teachers know and how they come to know” what they know, are the students achieving in the classroom (Darling-Hammond and Young, 2002)?

Traditionally educational reform has been an issue left to the individual states. With the 1998 reauthorizing of the Higher Education Act (HEA) required states to publish data on teachers (Walsh, 2004). In addition, the enactment of No Child Left Behind (Bush, 2004) the federal government has now required the states to follow certain policies and procedures. Of these policies and procedures teacher, certification has recently surfaced at the forefront by requiring all teachers to be highly qualified in the content areas that they teach by the summer of 2007 (State of Georgia, 2006). States continue to struggle to have highly qualified teachers in every classroom in our classroom in our schools (Winston, 2003 & AFT Executive Council, 2007). Part of the problem is due is teacher shortages in rural areas, in some urban areas, and in the areas of Special Education, Science and Mathematics (Winston, 2003). School districts have become creative by using distance learning for students so that highly qualified teachers are teaching the students in certain areas of the country with teacher shortages (Brownell, Bishop, and Sindelar, 2005). Alternative certification programs have also become very popular across the country due to the teachers’ shortage and to attempt to get highly qualified teachers in every classroom. More researchers are continuing to pursue to determine if alternative certification programs are actually improving students’ achievement. (Hammond and Young, 2002, Darling-Hammond, L., Baratz-Snowden, J., 2005, & Darling-Hammond, L. 2002). Will pay-per performance make a difference in recruiting new teachers into the field of education or will it be another means of causing a shortage of teachers? Will pay-per performance pay give us data on alternative certification teachers’ verses traditional certified teachers?

There has been much research, studies and opinions published regarding the validity and substance of the NCLB’s requirement for highly qualified certification. These various forms of commentary and conclusions take a wide spectrum of views. There is a conflict of views on alternative routes to certification. Regardless of the route of certification continued communication and continued learning of the teachers is important for the continued learning of the learners (Linek, Sampson, Gomez, Linder, Tori, Levingston and Palmer, 2009). Therefore, will the continued emphasis on learning of teachers continue to be as important when the emphasis is moved off, of paid for degrees and learning to pay-per performance? How will this affect the highly qualified teacher and the pay that the teachers’ receive?

There is definitely different believes on teaching. Teaching is a complex job does require a great deal of knowledge that can only be gained through professionals who have received specialized, formal, preparatory training and the professions must have the ability to make an informal uncoerced decision. Others today think that teaching is more routine work that anyone can perform and would like the guidelines for teaching to be lifted so more people could become teachers (Lasley, Bainbridge, & Berry, 2002).
Regardless, of all the challenges today that teachers face due to certification requirements school leaders continue to be faced with chronic shortage of teachers who have highly qualified state licenses in special teachers, math and science teachers. In an era of pay-per performance and the No Child Left Behind increasing accountability placement on all administrators, teachers, parents and students. (Atwell, 2007). Students need to be taught by teachers who are not only knowledgeable in the core content area but also skilled to teach the content effectively so learning can occur (Quigney, 2009).

Due to the history of the problem of determining whom is highly qualified, whether alternative types of certification are effective, and what type of educational preparatory program is best for teachers, it is important to cut through all the red tape, and find a method to evaluate teachers. The state must determine a method to determine if a teacher is highly qualified currently based upon the achievement of the students the teachers teaches, and the teachers’ formal evaluations. However, should administrators or other teachers do the formal evaluations or observations? How do non-core teachers feel about this?

By pay-for performance teachers will be able to increase the salary made at an earlier age without continuing to school to earn more money. Teachers will be selected as quality teachers’ bases on the achievement of the students that the teachers teach. Teachers will be rewarded for students’ achievement.

What do you think about merit pay for teachers? The state legislator is looking at it again and it may go to the house for a vote this session. The Georgia Education Department is going to apply for Race to the Top grant money again and the state government wants to receive this grant money in August. To have merit pay in place is apparently very important for the Georgia Education Department in order to receive the grant money. Should administrators or other teachers do the formal evaluations or observations? How do non-core teachers feel about merit pay? How do core teachers feel about merit pay?