Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Dunwoody Resident & Wesleyan School Alumnus Scott Schroer Wins
2015 InVenture Prize

 
Wesleyan School alumnus, Scott Schroer, and his team have won the 2015 InVenture Prize for their safety device, the FlameTech Grill Defender.
 
Schroer, a Dunwoody Resident, is studying mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech. He, along with Will Sweet and Alex Roe, invented the safety device for gas grills that alerts users when gas levels have reached an unsafe threshold – stressing safety is the biggest priority.
 
The trio took the first place prize, which includes $20,000 and a free U.S. patent filing by Georgia Tech’s Office of Technology Licensing.
 
InVenture Prize at Georgia Tech is an interdisciplinary innovation competition open to all undergraduate students and recent graduates of the Georgia Institute of Technology.
 
The faculty at Wesleyan School, a K-12 college preparatory school located in Gwinnett County, is so proud of this class of 2010 graduate.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Dunwoody High Students Chosen for National Honor Ensemble


Two Dunwoody High School students have been selected for the prestigious NAfME (National Association for Music Education) All-National Honor Ensemble.
 
Conrad Paetz, a senior, and Alex Miller, a junior, will take part in a two-day clinic that ends with a concert at the Grand Ole Opry House on Oct 28. Two of only 15 students from across the state, the students were selected based on their auditions and standing as All State Chorus members. Both students are members of Dunwoody High School’s Chorus program under the direction of Mr. Mark Lamback.

More on the NAfME All-National Honor Ensemble:

RESTON, VA (September 17, 2015)—During the 2014-15 school year, talented music students across the United States and overseas in military base schools practiced with dedication to gain a chair or part in their local, district, and state music honor ensembles. And of those most elite high school musicians who were accepted to their district or All-State music ensembles, 673 of them—the “best of the best”—were selected for the National Association for Music Education’s (NAFME) 2015 All-National Honor Ensembles.

On October 28, during the 2015 NAfME National In-Service Conference, these exceptional young musicians will gather in Nashville, Tennessee, to showcase their expert musicianship and perform a gala concert starting at 9:00am. The performance will take place on the world-famous Grand Ole Opry House stage, known for creating one-of-a-kind entertainment that’s been referred to as the “home of American music.”

Building S.P.A.C.E.S Community Meeting - A Few Notes

 
I attended the Region 1 E-SPLOST V Community Meeting held Tuesday at Chamblee Charter High School. That was my first time in the new CCHS building and wow, it’s a large facility.
 
There were about 60 individuals in attendance, far less than what I thought would attend.  The meeting began with some general information.  
 
  • Current E-SPLOST expires in June 2017.  If approved by voters, new E-SPLOST begins July,  2017.
  • October meetings are 1st of 2 Community Meetings.  The feedback from these meetings will be used, along with the Facility Condition and Facility Educational Assessment data will be used to identify the priority items that will be part of the E-SPLOST V project.
  • Next community meetings will be held in January, 2016, where the E-SPLOST V projects will be presented to the communities for review and discussion.
At this point, each person in attendance was given a “clicker” device and asked to answer a series of questions concerning redistricting, facilities, bathrooms cleanliness, athletic field conditions, “curb appeal” of the schools, etc.,   My one concern with the questions is that there will be different answers depending on the audience you are asking – will these type of questions provide appropriate “feedback”?  For example, (and I’m paraphrasing): Are you happy with DeKalb’s school facilities?  If you are in the Chamblee Charter HS community, your answer probably will be "yes" because you have this big, fancy, new school.  A stakeholder from Cross Keys is going to have a completely different answer, so I am a little concerned about how this survey data is going to be utilized.  

Once we completed the survey, we were put into small groups.  Led by a facilitator, we offered feedback on each of the questions in the survey, and I thought a good discussion (and some venting, which is fine!). 

On a personal note, my husband asked me why I was attending this meeting as my children are both in college now.  I told him that 1. I want to know what I will be voting for in November, 2016 when E-SPLOST appears on the ballot and 2.  I care about the DeKalb School System. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

DeKalb County School System Annual Budget - "Who's Minding the Store?"
Board of Education Needs to Step Up and Do Their Job


The following is posted with permission of its author.  A look back at the 2014 DCSS School Budget. 

In the interest of showing all the relevant information regarding how DeKalb County Schools spent money in fiscal year 2014, a basic analysis was done using the GaDOE “School System Financial Reports.”  These reports are compiled from the form DE46 which each school system submits after they “close the books” on a fiscal year. The School System Financial Report includes seven categories of expenditure; Instruction, Pupil Services, Staff Services, General Administration, School Administration, Transportation, and Maintenance & Operations. These, as well as Total Expenditures, are reported both as a total amount and on a per FTE (student) amount.
 
In the table below the Budgeted amounts were found by adding any mid-year adjustments to the approved budget. The Actual amounts were taken from the GaDOE School System Financial Reports.


2014
Budgeted
Actual
Difference
Difference as % of Budgeted
Instruction
566,783,106
552,876,809.91
(13,906,296)
-2.5%
Pupil Services
36,042,393
27,555,261.2
(8,487,132)
-23.5%
Staff Services
33,542,357
49,007,767.15
15,465,410
46.1%
General Administration
17,134,866
36,451,363.58
19,316,498
112.7%
School Administration
52,422,675
53,356,264.61
933,590
1.8%
Transportation
46,248,008
48,029,119.69
1,781,112
3.9%
Maintenance & Operations
74,923,875
74,989,663.98
65,789
0.1%
Total Expenditure
827,097,280
842,266,250.13
15,168,970
1.8%


When you add the deficits seen in Instruction and Pupil Services, you find a total of $22,393,428 was budgeted, but not spent, on student instruction and activities designed to support student instruction. 

This table also shows DeKalb County Schools spent more than double the budgeted amount for General Administration. This is defined by the GaBOE, in part,  as “activities performed by the superintendent, administrative support personnel, and deputy, associate, or assistant superintendent having overall administrative responsibility.” In other words, the central office. 

This was Superintendent Thurmond’s budget. His staff spent the money. The BOE provided NO oversight because when they asked relevant questions, the staff wouldn’t answer them. One such question was regarding the more than $2million requested for “Additional School Based Salary and Benefits” requested. Both Dr. Bell and Dr. Smith refused to say what that money was for. The question now is, why was that money requested when more than $13 million was not spent on instruction?

This is being shared to help the BOE understand why they need to step up their oversight of the budget. One Board member has stated, repeatedly, her belief that questioning the staff is not their role and the BOE needs to “let them do their jobs.”

Fiscal year 2014 showed what happens when there continues to be NO oversight of how DeKalb County Schools spends money. Observers of DeKalb Schools know fiscal year 2015 is being managed in exactly the same way.

Superintendent Thurmond did not put as much money into the classrooms as he promised. The per FTE amount spent on instruction in fiscal year 2014 was just $53 more than the per FTE amount spent during fiscal year 20003. The BOE needs to hold him accountable.

Please contact your BOE representative and politely ask them to provide an increased level budget oversight.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Wesleyan School 8th Grader Honored for Perfect Math S.A.T. Score

A Wesleyan School 8th grader was honored by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (CTY)  yesterday at an international awards ceremony.
 
Andy Yang, an Alpharetta resident, received a perfect SAT math score, an 800, when he took the college entrance test as only a seventh grader.
 
The Center honored Andy for his exceptional performance as a middle school student on the college SAT test as part of the annual CTY Talent Search. CTY uses above-grade-level tests, like the college SAT and ACT, because they provide a clear picture of advanced students true academic abilities.
 
Andy was also invited to join CTY's Study of Exceptional Talent (SET), a select group of profoundly gifted students worldwide.
 
Wesleyan School, located in Gwinnett County, is a K-12 Christian college preparatory school. Wesleyan is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Southern Association of Independent Schools.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

"To Fix Teacher Shortages, First Understand What They are"


I have posted an excerpt below from an excellent article published in Education Week and one which would be beneficial for DeKalb School Central Office Administrators.  

Dr. Green's turn-around plan relies on the recruitment and retention of highly qualified teachers.  At this point in time, in my opinion, due to the lack of a quality DCSD human resources department and the continued unrestrained influence of the Family & Friends Network, this may be the most difficult part of Dr. Green's plan - recruiting and retaining highly-qualified teachers.

For those of you who view the DCSD BOE meetings, you will recognize the name Kirk Lunde, a parent advocate for all DCSD students.  Kirk often speaks at BOE meetings and his advocacy is always present.  Kirk wrote an article in 2013 regarding "teacher accountability" which is as relevant today as it was then. He makes similar points to the article written in Education Week.  In 2015, as in 2013, our state and our school district get a big fat "F" (in my view) in "teacher accountability".

Here is an excerpt from Kirk's article, which was published in the Patch news service:

"Make no mistake about it, education reform is a political issue.

This is exactly how I see the term "teacher accountability" when used to make teachers the scapegoats for the problems with public schools. It sounds good by itself, but when preached by organizations such as Students First, it is an abuse of the English language.
Do public schools need to change & adopt new ways of providing a high quality education to ALL students? Yes, and teachers have been asking to lead those changes.

With the new Teacher Keys, which Georgia is implementing, teachers' effectiveness will be assessed by the progress their students make during the school year. This will be directly tied to their salary. The system is setup to incentivize standardized test performance.

Where have we see that before?

Who do you think will be assessed as a more effective teacher; the 4th grade teacher with 34 students every class period of the day or the 4th grade teacher with 25 students every class period of the day?

Teachers do not control how many students are in their classes, administrators do. Teachers are not allowed to be the leaders of public schools in Georgia. I think this is wrong."
Click the following link to read Kirk's entire article: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1DBCvUDQRTrEyL0RYIetBKh3TKA8XZ19AOCshVEo2SAU/edit
________________________________________________________

From Education Week:

By Teaching Ahead Contributor on October 13, 2015 3:34 PM
 
To understand how to fix teacher shortages, we must understand what they are and what causes them.
 
Teacher shortages come in part from a lack of candidates interested in teaching in highly demanding settings and, even moreso, from an inability to retain teachers in those settings. We also must acknowledge the double shortage in segregated settings, where students of color are denied consistent educators and denied educators who share their race or ethnic background.
 
I would argue that retention must be the greater focus as, in many high-need schools, with teacher attrition greater than 50 percent over five years, getting more candidates would hardly affect the problem.
 
Many top-down education reforms to address teacher quality only exacerbate this situation by focusing teachers on areas that are unhelpful to their students. For every teacher who is pushed out by tougher, nonsensical evaluation systems, there are a dozen who leave due to toxic stress caused by these systems and the environment we teach in.
 
Once we acknowledge this, we can begin to heal toward solutions in this area. Here are a few:
 
1) Allow communities, students, parents, and educators the agency to self-determine our own definitions of success.

2) Build strong induction programs targeting and effectively preparing candidates who are most likely to stay in our communities.

3) Shift accountability for school climate from classroom teachers to administrators and district leadership.
 
Click the following link to read the entire article:  http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_ahead/2015/10/fix-teacher-shortages-by-first-understanding-them.html

Friday, October 9, 2015

Former Harlem Globetrotter Michael Douglas Motivates Students at Chesnut Charter Elementary School “Chesnut Challenge” Pep Rally



 
 
DUNWOODY, October 9, 2015 -- Chesnut Charter Elementary School’s 450 Pre-K through fifth grade students welcomed former Harlem Globetrotter Michael Douglas to the gymnasium of the Dunwoody school on Thursday October 8 for the second annual Chesnut Challenge fundraiser pep rally. In support of “Be Your Own Hero,” this year’s Chesnut Challenge theme, the basketball legend delivered a message of “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me,” about setting goals and taking it upon yourself to become a success. He also wowed the crowd with some showmanship. Emory University cheerleaders also volunteered their time to cheer on the students. 

            The Chesnut Challenge is Chesnut ‘s largest fundraiser of the year. Produced entirely by parent volunteers, all of the proceeds go back into the school through Friends of Chesnut, the public school's 501(c)3 foundation. This year, the Chesnut Challenge is raising funds for continued educational, enrichment and facility enhancements. The school’s Parent Teacher Council plans to allocate funds raised toward a part-time Spanish teacher for weekly instruction, upgrade the surface of its track, and facilitate school-wide usage of its outdoor classrooms with new grade-level math and science curriculum and signage. Over the next two weeks, the students will continue to raise donations for their participation in the Chesnut Challenge, a "fun run"-style event on school grounds.

            Michael Douglas, the 1986 top pick for the Harlem Globetrotters, toured with the team from 1986 through 1993. Following his retirement, Mr. Douglas established Harlem Legends as part of the Michael Douglas Youth Foundation. As the 7th Showman in the almost 90-year history of the Harlem Globetrotters (following in the footsteps of Meadowlark Lemon), he has traveled to more than 100 countries entertaining crowds, sharing a positive attitude and embracing diversity. Mr. Douglas has entertained audiences from 100,000 in North America to an audience of one with the Pope at the Vatican. He has also performed for the Queen of England, Kings of Africa, and Mother Teresa, among others.
            For more information about the Chesnut Challenge contact challenge@chesnutcharter.com.

Dunwoody High's Samantha Moss Pitches A No-Hitter As Dunwoody Wins Region Title

And a freshman at that! Congratulations to the DHS softball team!

Article and picture courtesy of the DeKalb County School District.


Dunwoody’s Samantha Moss pitched a no-hitter
against Stephenson in the Region 6-5A
championship game. (Photo by Mark Brock)


Freshman Samantha Moss came within one batter of a five-inning perfect game as she tossed a no-hitter to lead Dunwoody to an 8-0 victory over Stephenson in the Region 6-5A championship game on Thursday at Dunwoody.

The only batter to reach base against Moss in the game was Ayanna Destinvil with a leadoff walk in the top of the fifth and final inning. Moss would go on to strike out two batters in the inning and get an infield fly to seal the game for the No. 7 ranked Lady Wildcats (22-4).

Moss retired the first 12 batters of the game, but was in a pitching duel with Stephenson’s Jordyn Powell who allowed just two earned runs in the game.

Click the following link to read the remainder of the article: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/athletics/2015/10/09/moss-pitches-no-hitter-as-dunwoody-tops-stephenson-for-region-title/

Wesleyan School Named "Best Private High School" by Inside Gwinnett

Wesleyan School has just been named “Best High School” within the “Best Private Schools” category by Inside Gwinnett magazine.
 
Each year, the magazine collects thousands of votes to determine the best in the community.  According to the magazine, "Gwinnett and neighboring counties have a number of great private high schools, but this year's top vote-getter for the best place for a private high school education is Wesleyan School."
 
The magazine writes, "The whole thing is like calling up a few thousand of your best friends for an opinion, only we've tallied the results for you and uncovered the most popular favorites."
 
Wesleyan School is a non-denominational Christian school located in Gwinnett County with students from Gwinnett, Forsyth, Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Clayton, Cherokee, Walton, Hall and Henry County.  
 
Believing that all children are uniquely gifted, the school offers a college preparatory program which challenges, nurtures and strengthens all its students. The Wesleyan community welcomes students of diverse racial, cultural and religious backgrounds. The school is also one of eight in the state participating in AP Capstone.
 
This award, along with the other "Best Of" winners, is featured in the October 2015 issue of Inside Gwinnett magazine.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

DeKalb County School's "Comprehensive Plan to Improve All Schools"
Will Schools That Are Effective Be Denied Highly Qualified Teachers?

At Monday's Board of Education meeting, Dr. Morcease J. Beasley presented DCSD's Comprehensive Plan to Improve All Schools.  I viewed the presentation on PDS-24, but missed the significance of this slide as I usually zone out when Dr. Beasley speaks. 

Thankfully, a cluster parent brought this to my attention - Page 11 of the presentation. 

Challenged Schools Obtain Preferential Hiring of Highly Qualified and Highly Effective Teachers


Is DCSD planning to ignore the average student?  Can these students be denied the experience of a phenomenal teacher because their school does not qualify for preferential hiring of qualified and effective teachers? 

As the chart below indicates, District 1 has only one school that meets the criteria for possible takeover by the State and 2 other schools that will be incorporated into this Comprehensive Plan due to their Priority and Focus Schools status.

 
Is it fair, or appropriate that schools that are "doing it right" and educating their students, will not have access to the "best" teachers? 
 
Let's make sure we keep our Dunwoody cluster teachers as we know they are highly qualified and highly effective!!!
 

Nancy Jester Asks Dr. Green: "Why Are DeKalb School Nurses Being Ripped From Their Communities?"

Dr. Green,

I have been contacted by a number of concerned parents and citizens about recent changes that are being made to nurses at several area schools.  As you can imagine, these changes are causing a great deal of disruption and discomfort for the community and the students.

I know you are quite busy but I do think this matter might need your personal assistance.  I want to make sure that your staff is informing you about their decisions in this matter and providing you the fullest picture on the ramifications.

Click the following link to read the remainder of Nancy Jester's letter to DeKalb School Superintendent Dr. Green: http://blog.nancyjester.com/2015/10/08/why-are-dekalb-school-nurses-being-ripped-from-their-communities/.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Austin Elementary School Renovation/Build Update

For additional insight to this topic, click on the following link from Dunwoody Talk: http://dunwoodytalk.blogspot.com/2015/10/dunwoodys-austin-rebuild-politics-at.html
 
 

Dunwoody Sweeps 2015 DeKalb JV Championships

Article and pictures courtesy of DeKalb County School System.

Dunwoody completed the first sweep of the boys’ and girls’ DeKalb County Junior Varsity Cross Country Championships for the first time since 2010 with victories on Thursday at the Druid Hills Middle School course.

Lakeside last completed the sweep in the 2010 season over Chamblee (girls) and Dunwoody (boys).
The Lady Wildcats (19) bested the Lakeside Lady Vikings (37) for the fifth consecutive year with five finishers in the Top 10. Druid Hills followed in third (89) with Chamblee (99) fourth, Stephenson (145) in fifth and Tucker (166) in sixth.

Dunwoody sophomore Chloe Thomas took the individual title with a time of 14:23.91 while sophomore teammate Julie Hensley (14:39.37) was runner-up and freshman Kathryn Marion (14:41.07) followed her teammates in third. Sophomore Kate Hudson (14:57.58) was fifth and freshman Megan Johnson (15:19.63) was eighth as Dunwoody dominated the Top 10.


The Wildcats (21) also claimed five spots in the Top 10, including the first three to cross the line, to knock off the five-time defending champions Lakeside Vikings (53).

Eighth grader Max Mowrer (11:20:30) averaged just over five minutes and 40 seconds per mile to win by 23 seconds over freshman teammate Samuel Mahle (11:43.24) and sophomore Max Marion (11:48.51) as Dunwoody went one-two-three in the boys’ race.

Freshmen Phineas Haq (12:17.03) and Alexander Herod (12:19.40) finished seventh and eighth, respectively, for the Wildcats.

Click here to view the complete write up from DCSD.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Wesleyan School Grad & former Dunwoody resident, Taylor Wesley
Wins Auburn University's Miss Homecoming;
Creates "Spreading Wellness With Wesley" To Help Students
Struggling With Mental Health

 
Wesleyan School alumna, Taylor Wesley, has just won Auburn University’s Miss Homecoming 2015.
 
The campaign for Miss Homecoming is an opportunity for candidates to raise awareness for a cause. Wesley, a former Dunwoody resident and 2012 graduate of Wesleyan School, has long been an advocate for mental wellness. When it came time to pick a platform, she created Spreading Wellness with Wesley.
 
During the beginning of college, Wesley struggled with mental health. It wasn’t until she finally reached out for help that she realized she was not alone.

Statistically, 1 in 4 students at Auburn struggle with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders.

Wesley says 300 students were on the Student Counseling waiting list this past year. Additionally, Health Promotion and Wellness Services provides funding to various clubs and support groups. Wesley is now raising money through a Go Fund Me campaign to help support these resources so more students can get the help they need.
 
Wesleyan School seeks to develop in each young person a desire to learn and to become a good citizen in serving the local community and world – a philosophy Taylor Wesley exemplifies. Wesleyan is extremely proud to see an alum making such a positive impact on her community.
 
And a personal note...a big WAR EAGLE to Taylor!!!