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Parents Say Big Changes Needed for DeKalb School District

Parents say the district officials and board of education members ignore them and need to get their "house in order."

Parents will get their say during a series of roundtables hosted by the DeKalb School District throughout the remainder of October. The first in the series kicks off tonight at 7 at McNair High School. A second will be held Tuesday at Tucker High.

Parents said they are frustrated that district officials and elected board of education members ignore them and their concerns.

“The most troubling aspect is that when parents try to have a voice, it seems like we’re being ignored again,” said Shawn Keefe, co-president of the Ashford Park School Education Foundation and father of two students who attend there.

On Oct. 8, the DeKalb BOE voted 6-2 to change to a balanced calendar school year, which shorten summer breaks by two weeks and add those days into fall and winter breaks. This decision came after the board received survey results showing that the nearly 60 percent of parents favored keeping a traditional calendar, while most teachers wanted the balanced calendar.

Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson has said students forget too much of the instruction during a traditional summer break. School will start Aug. 5 instead of Aug. 12 and will end May 29 instead of May 23, according to the report.

A three-day fall break will be added Oct. 7 and Oct. 9 and a four-day winter break from Feb. 18 to Feb. 21, which will be added to Presidents' Day.

But it’s not just the changed calendar that concerns parents.

Keefe said the school district, which still faces a $24 million shortfall even after recently laying off 100 employees, needs to “get its house in order” all around.

He cited the approximately $10 million in legal fees that the district will have to pay this year, the superintendent’s new 2013 Ford Explorer and votes for raises taken during meetings with just barely enough legal public notice given as examples of serious problems the district must solve.

He said the $10 million now earmarked for legal fees could have gone to students or teachers instead. Now, the district may pay another $300,000 to settle a suit with a former employee, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

From Wednesday through Friday, a team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools–the accreditation agency for DeKalb County schools and most school districts in Georgia–will investigate allegations of mismanagement of funds and of board members interfering in school administration and hiring matters.

“As parents, we feel like we’re not being heard by DeKalb County. There’s going to be a push for some changes soon. We can’t afford to go bankrupt or lose accreditation,” Keefe said.

Editor Jason Massad contributed to this report.

What do you think about the balanced calendar? Is the DeKalb County School District in serious trouble? Can it be saved? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Kiri Walton October 15, 2012 at 10:25 PM
A school district can be smaller than a county. Marietta Schools is a district that is within Cobb County.
Eric H October 15, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Though if Henry O is correct the Marietta School District (and the Decatur School District) would predate those constitutional changes he mentions.
Kim Gokce October 16, 2012 at 05:08 AM
My understanding is the constitutional constraint is on the maximum number of school districts. So while in practice this may equate to the number of counties minus the number of exceptions such as Decatur and Marietta it is not the counties that limit the number. For example, if a county split into two counties, I do not believe that each would have the right to its own school district due to the constraint. I may not have this correct but this is the way I have heard the situation describe before. For example, the long whispered creation of a county to house Sandy Springs and Dunwoody would not automatically create a new school district - that would require corresponding change to the Constitutional limit.
Scott October 16, 2012 at 12:12 PM
I agree with Henry. Dekalb School District is just way to big to manage effectively and to hear what all of the parents have to say. I admit I'm not familiar with the local government and what dictates the number of school districts. My family and I moved hear almost 2 years ago from WA. I did a little research comparing the school district where we used to live to Dekalb. We lived in the largest county in WA, 1,969,722 people. In that county there were 20 individual school districts. Dekalb county has 699,893 people and one public school district. The district we lived in had 24,600 students compared to 102,000 students in Dekalb. The school district where we used to live has 4 HS, 9 middle schools and 29 elementary. Dekalb has 22 HS, 20 Middle and 83 elementary. This may be like comparing apples to oranges as I'm sure the laws regarding school districts differ but based on the numbers it seems like there should be multiple school districts within Dekalb county.
Gil Hearn October 20, 2012 at 09:26 PM
"Parents will get their say during a series of roundtables hosted by the DeKalb School District " -- Ha! Think again: http://dunwoodyschooldaze.blogspot.com/2012/10/has-dr.html http://www.facebook.com/ParentsForDeKalbCountySchools/posts/293764810724447

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