By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD
Boy, now this hairy debacle which is playing out in the DeKalb School System seems right down Mark Elgart‘s alley. It’s a sure-fire de-accreditation just dumped into his lap — if, of course, the Southern Association of School and Colleges (SACS), a part of AdvancEd, is still employing the Clayton Standard. Wow! On the DeKalb Board of Education, one or two of the school board members are apparently leaking the about-to-be-named superintendent to the media before contract negotiations are finalized. This is what ostensibly caused Dr. Lillie Cox of Hickory, North Carolina to withdraw her candidacy for the job, and this is what will perhaps doom the hope of Robert Duron of San Antonio, Texas from being hired by the DeKalb Board of Education.
From watching WSB-TV‘s report on the Duron matter, apparently Paul Womack has led the charge for the DeKalb board to hire Robert Duron, but Duron himself received a vote of “no-confidence” from his own school board in March. Also, Womack can apparently only garner four of nine votes for Duron. What makes all of this so strange is that the Chamber of Commerce chieftain in DeKalb, John Kelly, has also gotten in on the act. He’s apparently pushing for the DeKalb School Board to keep interim superintendent Ramona Tyson at the helm of this DeKalb ship — at least until the school board goes from nine members to seven members. Why this should make a difference, I don’t know.
Nancy Jester employs an unusual ploy for votes for Robert Duron. Will this backfire on her and the DeKalb Board of Education…or will SACS‘s Mark Elgart refuse to apply the Clayton Standard to DeKalb County? Consistency…thou are a jewel! Ha! Day by day, Mark Elgart looks like a foolish caricature.
Now school board member Nancy Jester writes a letter to her constituents, asking them to write emails to all of her colleagues and encourage them to hire Robert Duron. In fact, she starts off her letter like this:
I am writing on behalf of the DeKalb Board of Education members Don McChesney, Pam Speaks, Paul Womack and myself.
The DeKalb County Board of Education is openly divided. Nancy Jester is writing to the public on behalf of three board members and herself. Uhhhh…hey Mark Elgart and SACS, don’t you think that this open warfare makes a mockery of SACS‘s so-called standards which supposedly cherish collegiality and working in concert. Ha! What is going on right now on the DeKalb County Board of Education is the polar opposite of SACS‘s so-called standards which appear to be applied most capriciously and arbitrarily by Mark Elgart, the self-appointed Educational Zeus of the Southern States. SACS obliterated the Clayton County School System and destroyed the Clayton Community for much, much less than this! Hey Markie, what about John Kelly‘s “outside influence”?
Mark Elgart appears bent on determining who will govern the City of Atlanta School Board, as evidenced by email communication between him and Atlanta School Board Chairman Khaatim El. Elgart and SACS put Atlanta on “probation” for little things like enjoying democracy in action and engaging in a few five to four votes. But, Atlanta did not go to the lengths that Nancy Jester and cohorts have gone…or the length that other board members have apparently gone in Leakgate. Or what about the Cobb County Board of Education admitting that it violated the Open Meetings Law over and over again over the course of several years (55 to 57 times…and they are still violating this law in personnel actions).
DeKalb was once a very storied school system. When young teachers came out of college, the first place they often looked to was DeKalb County. DeKalb was the highest-paying school system in Georgia for first year teachers. The community support was strong. There was strong discipline within the schools. Now, though, it appears that DeKalb has gone the way of Detroit. Using the appellation of “Premier” juxtaposed DeKalb makes as much sense as “Premier Detroit Schools.”
My simple suggestion to the DeKalb Board of Education is to find someone who can get a handle on the lack of discipline within the school system. If a school superintendent candidate starts talking about academic achievement and never mentions student discipline, this person is a fake — and run as fast as you can from him or her. If you aim at academic achievement without first establishing a disciplined environment, the entire learning atmosphere will be a colossal and dismal failure, as it is today in large, urban school system. Aim at a disciplined environment, and academic achievement can take place, if a student brings the proper motivation to learn to this environment. But all of the hollow talk about academic achievement in absence of any concern about discipline is…well, may I say “bull shit”? I write so as not to be misunderstood. (c) GTSO, June 14, 2011.