Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Why Parents Turn to Foundations for School Funding

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

eagletrekidentfinalThis is the shameless plug for money for my kid’s school. It is also a fundraiser for two organizations dear to my heart:

The Evansdale Education Foundation – I am a founding board member and OMG, I have put in so many hours on that board.
The Evansdale PTA – I am a committee chair on the PTA and they are just a great, hardworking group, with only the kids’ best interests at heart.

I won’t bore you with the details, because if you read my blog or follow me on FB, you probably know about the dysfunction in our county school board, about budget cuts, etc.

Actually, I will bore you with a few details, because I wonder if people not involved at the schools really understand why these foundations (501c3 organizations) are created by parents to make up for the lack of funding by their counties! The money that each and every person in the county pays (in the form of property taxes) to fund schools should be more than enough to make things work. When we are in an economic situation like the one that we are in now, our county school boards should have been saving for a rainy day. They didn’t. So, now, parents (and teachers) have to step up and fund much of it themselves. (Sit down with a teacher and ask how much of their school supplies are paid for by the county, and how much is paid for out of their own pockets.)

  • Teachers are making less and expected to do more, with less time. Rather than cut exorbitant administration costs, the county makes budget cuts on the teacher’s backs. We hear a lot about ineffective teachers, teachers who don’t care, etc., but in my experience, that is the exception, not the rule. My kids’ teachers have really, really cared. They have handled the crap they are given with grace and aplomb. I want to help them. And raising money to hire teachers and take more pressure off them so that they concentrate on teaching is one way to do that. Let’s just say that having 25 kindergarteners in one class can be too much. Or, if you look at the high school level, they have classes with upwards of 40 students. The county is very slow about alleviating crowding, too, when classes go over the max size. The kindergarten at our school is STILL waiting, a month into school, for an added teacher so that they can relieve overcrowding in the existing four classes.
  • Class sizes are OUT OF CONTROL. Our county raised maximum class sizes again this year. So, every class can have two more students than they did last year. Doesn’t sound that bad, but they raised class sizes last year, too. They just seem to keep going up.
  • Why cut costly administrators making $80,000 or more, and who never come into contact with a single student when you could just CUT PARAPROS? Parapros, or paraprofessionals, are the extra hands on in the classrooms. They help to reduce student/teacher ratios. They allow for differentiated instruction, and focused learning groups. They cost a drop in the bucket compared to administrators. The county cut a TON of them.
  • Did i mention the overcrowding? To alleviate overcrowding at a nearby school, some of their students were redistricted to our school. We were pretty much at capacity. Now we are at, last i checked, about 120% capacity.
  • Lots of those kids redistricted to our school don’t speak English as a first language. Some of their parents speak little to no English. What does the county do? Cuts translator positions. Brilliant.

You get the picture. There is more, but these are the issues that schools, parents, teachers, principals are dealing with all over the county. This is why my fellow parents and I created a foundation – to give us a padding when we have to pay for things ourselves. Should it be this way? No. The county should be a good steward for our money. But it’s not, and we are left to scramble to give our kids and the rest of the kids at the school, a great education.

Want to help? Please donate to our fundraiser. It’s easy and you can do it all online. It’s 100% tax deductible. Every dollar helps. And believe me, I realize that in these times, a dollar is a lot for some people. And when you’re done with that, think about following local education politics. We would not have to do this if more voters and taxpayers held our politicians’ feet to the fire on education funding issues and management of tax dollars.

Thanks for listening if you got this far. You’re a pal.

Parents For DeKalb County Schools

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Well, add this to the litany of reasons that I haven’t been keeping up on the blog. Sad, because i wrote daily for years on here, but real life is getting in the way. One of the projects I’ve been working on is Parents for Dekalb County Schools. A very concerned parent created the group to try and improve the schools in my county. He is doing some awesome work, and trying very hard to reach out to parents in all parts of the county. This video is part of that outreach. We are really trying to find more parents like Bernadette out there to join us in making DeKalb schools great!

If you are reading this, and know a parent in DeKalb, please consider sharing this with them. Kids in DeKalb need all the help they can get. And if you do share it, maybe I’ll think about writing one of my ultra-embarrassing, self-deprecating blog posts. It’s been a while since I’ve done that to myself. I might even include middle school pictures.

The Bear Went Over the Mountain

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Rollie was in his first grade musical last week. Okay, I don’t like to brag, but he was the lead in the first grade musical.

I know what you’re thinking. . . where did that come from? He didn’t get that from his mama, that’s for sure. And you’re right. His teacher told me she wanted to challenge him. He had to memorize a lot of lines for the thing. I think it had little to do with stage presence, dreams of being a star, or singing ability. I think it just probably had to do with height and ability to read well.

In truth, when i found out he was the lead, my first reaction was, “oh, GAWD.” I hate musicals, drama, etc. I mean, I’ll go see Shakespeare, but I have never been a theatrical person, had any desire or aspirations to act or dance or sing. I have a terrible voice. I am not creative. I think musicals, for the most part, are stupid. Sorry, Glee fans.

I had people come up to me and say, “Hey, Rollie is THE BEAR! Congratulations! and then look at me, as if ready to gauge my reaction. (At first, my reaction was, “So?” Because I hadn’t read that sheet that comes home with instructions on how to dress your child for the play, and with the lines and parts. So I didn’t really know that the bear was, like, a big deal.)

I have to admit, when my kid is chosen for a role like this, sometimes I sense a bit of jealousy. It sounds crazy, and maybe it is my imagination, but in a way, a role like this is LOST on someone like me. It is ironic, then, that my son is chosen for the lead on something like this. I could care less. But there are moms out there who would LOVE to do this thing, who would make a beautiful costume for their kid, and go through trial runs of makeup, and sew, for fuck’s sake. I am not that mom.

All that being said, when his teacher framed it as “challenging him” i was glad that she did it. he had to work hard to memorize his lines, and I had to get out of my comfort zone just to watch him in the performance, so i guess it was challenging all around. And working up to the day of the play, i became increasingly nervous for him. He is so smart and charming, when he wants to be. And when he doesn’t. . . well, he is going to be the person he wants to be. To the point where I could have seen him saying, five minutes before the play, “I don’t feel like being the bear.” Or, “I’m not wearing the ears.” Or just having a meltdown and kicking things and crying. I was a nervous wreck, and mostly just trying to be upbeat and excited, to mirror excitement for him.

And it seemed to work. Todd and I were in the crowd, with his parents, my parents, my sister, Dash, and Tiller. The lights went down and the whole thing went off without a hitch. (Well, there was some kind of whispered squabble for a second, between him and the owl, but it passed quickly and nearly imperceptibly.) All of the animals made it up and back down the mountain in one piece. Dash clapped with glee throughout the whole thing. The cast sang in sweet unison, and hugged and held hands, and I marveled at the sight of these kids I know in real life becoming their animal and embracing their parts, even if they just had one line, and making them their own.

And after, when the bear and the other animals were taking their bow, i was proud. And I thought, huh, maybe I DO like musicals.

Rollie, just hours before showtime.

Rollie, just hours before showtime.

Behind the Music: The Making of Da Bear

Behind the Music: The Making of Da Bear

John, Greta and . . One of the twins. (Dang it.)

John, Greta and . . One of the twins. (Dang it.)

Principal with Beautiful Scenery

Principal with Beautiful Scenery

Rollie as Da Bear. I was so nervous and proud to watch him up on that stage.

Rollie as Da Bear. I was so nervous and proud to watch him up on that stage.

The Bunny Twin (Leah? Syd?)

The Bunny Twin (Leah? Syd?)

The Quail Twin?

The Quail Twin?

The cast of the first grade play: The Bear Went Over the Mountain.

The cast of the first grade play: The Bear Went Over the Mountain.

Rollie with castmates Skye and Katie

Rollie with castmates Skye and Katie

A closeup of Mama's little bear.

A closeup of Mama's little bear.

Rollie and Grace had two of the biggest parts in the play (she was the owl). they had to sing together and hold hands, and they did a great job. Only one little sec where I thought Rollie might get mad and push her or something. Have you seen Black Swan? I guess these performances can be real pressure cookers. Other than that, they did GREAT!

Rollie and Grace had two of the biggest parts in the play (she was the owl). they had to sing together and hold hands, and they did a great job. Only one little sec where I thought Rollie might get mad and push her or something. Have you seen Black Swan? I guess these performances can be real pressure cookers. Other than that, they did GREAT!

Syd and Leah: I believe they are a Quail and a Bunny.

Syd and Leah: I believe they are a Quail and a Bunny.

Rollie, with fans Dash and Tiller, Post-Performance

Rollie, with fans Dash and Tiller, Post-Performance

One other thing I forgot to mention, which falls under the “family lore” category. Growing up, when my sister and i were young teens, and allowed to watch things like PG 13 movies, we often watched movies as a family. For some reason, my father, completely uncomfortable with the blossoming womanhood of his two daughters, would sing, “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” at the top of his voice during sex scenes in movies. To this day, i cannot separate the song “The bear went over the mountain” from thoughts of my father making last ditch attempts at shielding his innocent daughters from the likes of Tom Cruise getting it on with Kelley McGillis in Top Gun. It cracks me up to this day.

What I Learned About Public Education

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

I already knew these things, but my experience dealing with Dekalb County yesterday cemented it: You really, really have to take responsibility for your own child’s education. The squeaky wheel DOES get the grease. If you complain enough, and put people’s jobs on the line, they will cave, and they will waste taxpayer money (tens of thousands of dollars, in this instance) to save their own asses. This caving might possibly benefit you, in the end, but it is a waste of taxpayer money, just the same. And if you are not watching these folks with an eagle eye, and guiding your child’s every move within the system with the utmost care, you are getting screwed by the county. I guarantee it.

If you are leaving it up to the system alone to educate your child, you are doing your child a disservice. There are great teachers and administrators, but there are plenty of rotten apples in this barrel. You actually have to be there like a watchdog, holding your hand’s child every step of the way, if you want to make sure they are getting what they need.

And it is just heartbreaking how many kids don’t have savvy, outspoken parents, (or parents who have the time to miss 2+ hours of work on a Monday to attend a meeting,) and who are getting lost in the system, or screwed over and they never even know it is happening to them.

A very cynical Dogwood Girl.

Rollie Looks Into a Wardrobe (with Lucy, of Course)

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Last night, Rollie chose a kids’ version of one of the Narnia Chronicles (the kids’ books are called “World of Narnia”) for Todd to read to him and Tiller. It is called Aslan, and Todd just said that it was “very abridged.”

After school, I let Rollie play some xBox, since it is friday, and he kept his four scoops, and he had no homework. I wanted him to go outside and play, since it is so nice outside, and we agreed that he would play 30 minutes of video games and then go outside.

Well, he got up and turned the tv off by himself. I did not know that kids were capable of this, but i did not show my alarm, but just rolled with it. He then turned to me and said, “Mama, do you care if I don’t play video games, but don’t go outside, and maybe read one of those wardrobe books?”

Um, does the pope wear a funny hat?!

“Of course,” i said, “where did you put your other ones?” I thought that he meant that he had another of the World of Narnia books and wanted to read it.

“No, I mean the ones with the numbers.”

Oh. He means he wants to read THE Narnia Chronicles.

(Side note: Yes, Todd and I are nerds. The series is on our bookshelves. Along with TLOTR, Harry Potter, and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. You know, kids books for nerdy kids and their nerdy parents. Commence fun-making.)

Todd and I thought it was so cool he wanted to read the Aslan book last night, and we discussed whether he could read the real books and thought maybe they were too hard for him. But when he asked me i said, “Well, you can try one. Sure. It is a pretty big boy book, but I think you can try it and you let me know if you have questions about it, or don’t know a word, okay?”

Because i didn’t want to tell him that he couldn’t read it, if he wanted to try, but i also didn’t want him to read it and find it hard and then never go back and try to read it again, because let’s be honest, if you never read The Narnia Chronicles, there is a fundamental gaping hole in your childhood reading and, very likely, your soul.

So, here i am, working on some editing, watching him on the couch with a down comforter pulled over his legs, and his head on a pillow, and he is reading the first chapter of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and I am about to die I am so nervous, but he appears to really be reading it, and . . . I think Todd and I could very likely explode at the dinner table tonight if we get to discuss Narnia with Rollie over dinner.
Rollie Reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Update: He just asked me what “inquisitive” and “jollification” meant. Love that he is reading stuff that isn’t dumbed down. Makes me feel like we might be doing something right.

At least for today.

Dekalb Board of Ed Budget Meeting Summary

Friday, January 29th, 2010

I attended the Dekalb County schools budget meeting with Tonna, the parent of one of Rollie’s classmates. We got there and were amazed at the number of police and news crews. Parents, dressed in red to show their support for their kids’ educational programs, were everywhere. Most of the teachers were wearing black to protest the budget cuts. We went in and sat down, started talking to other parents. It was sad to hear how far-reaching these cuts would be, how it would affect Montessori programs, magnet programs, pre-k programs, special Ed, the Arts, music, and P.E., and it was heartening to see how many parents actually care.

We sat with some other parents from our own school. Before the meeting, people were allowed to sign up for a chance to speak for two minutes, with 30 people getting slots for a total of one hour. The hour went by quickly, though, with parents, teachers, and citizens concerned over their property values carefully and respectfully laying out their arguments against cutting schoolhouse programs. There were some tears, and there were some sharp points made concerning the size and cost of the central office, but i was amazed at everyone’s civility. (Needless to say, I did not speak.)

Some Arguments for not cutting educational programs:

  • Detrimental to children currently using these programs.
  • Makes little sense to scrap programs, such as Montessori, that Dekalb has so recently spent funds on improving. Would be throwing away those investments in the programs.
  • Treatment of teachers will drive away good educators, and fail to bring new ones into the county schools.
  • Right now, these programs are a draw for people to move into Dekalb County. (a point that hits home for Todd and I since we specifically moved to our current location less than two years ago to take advantage of the wonderful elementary my son attends). Scrapping these programs would mean that families would no longer be drawn by the programs, and in fact, many families will consider leaving the area for better educational opportunities. This exodus would likewise impact property values and the viability of our county schools for years to come.

This last point seemed to me the most salient: We should not throw away the future of our county to make stopgap budget cuts; there are other ways to make budgetary cuts that will not negatively impact education and property values in Dekalb County for so many years in the future.

Across the board, parents and teachers alike seemed to agree that the Board needs to look to the central office for their budget cuts. I have been looking for specific numbers on what the central office administration costs are and have had trouble finding those numbers. I have been told by word of mouth, though, that there are hundreds of administrators at this level making over $100,000. It seems ludicrous to be paying salaries like this when we have a budget shortfall.

I know one area they can certainly make cuts with little effect to our childrens’ education: The Magnet Office. I have had the opportunity to interact with them on an issue with getting my son into the Magnet program, along with following up with the director of that program on improving the processes and procedures for Magnet lottery in the future. Please believe me when I say that one Magnet official cannot screw up the lottery process any more significantly than two have managed to do already. These folks are inept and are not earning whatever salary it is they make already. I am sure that this ineptitude is spread throughout the central office in many different scenarios.

One final note: After the meeting last night, a group of four Evansdale parents (myself included) went up to Paul Womack, our Board of Education representative. We wanted to introduce ourselves, and let him know that Evansdale parents are concerned about our programs being cut. Mr. Womack was polite and took the time to speak with us. Other parents voiced their concerns. He listened. I asked him to please, “just do the right thing for our kids.”

His reply? “No, I will not do ‘the right thing.’ I will do what is right. There’s a difference, you know. You think about it.”

Are you kidding me? That is the most bullsh*t politician-speak i have ever heard!

He then proceeded to tell me and the three other women i was with that we were coming at this from “an emotional standpoint.” Sir, why don’t you just come out and call us hysterical women? Really? Really, Mr. Womack? I am sorry if I am getting a little emotional about threats to my child’s educational opportunities, and my property values. I am sorry if I get a little emotional when I think of folks making over a $100,000/year, while I see the programs in my child’s school possibly being cut.

I told him that we wanted to see the top-heavy central office experience cuts before they cut out our kids’ programs. I told him that we understood that in hard times, hard decisions had to be made, but that cuts they make to our school programs would be much more palatable if we also saw that central office was giving up plenty too. He assured me that we would see large central office cuts. I will be watching for those. And if I don’t see them, Mr. Womack? Don’t worry. I will do my darnedest to stay unemotional when I go to the polls in 2012.

Videos from last night’s meeting:

When was the last time you got a $15,000 Raise?

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

When was the last time you got a $15,000 raise?

Dekalb County School Superintendent Crawford Lewis is getting a pay increase, while Dekalb County is proposing cuts across the system: teachers are taking furloughs, pay cuts are happening all over for those who work in the schools, programs are going to be cut, and millage rates possibly increased. Just last night, President Obama was speaking out against education cuts, but I don’t think he meant pay raises for fat cat administrators and their cronies in the big county nepotism office.

Sure, Dekalb is a huge school system, and the job can’t be very easy, but this man makes almost A QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS EVERY YEAR. Most of the administration in Dekalb Co. (a top-heavy organization, at that) make over $100,000. And yet, custodians and bus drivers and the like have not even gotten a step up in two years. Music and art programs might be cut. Lottery-funded pre-kindergarten programs might be cut. Magnet programs might be cut. We waste money on new textbooks that aren’t even needed, while we don’t get the ones that are needed. But thank god, Crawford Lewis is getting that extra $15,000. Premiere Dekalb, my ass. Lewis hasn’t earned the first $240,000, much less the $15,000 raise!

Want to learn more?

What Lies Behind Dekalb’s Ire Over Schools

Dekalb Parent

Dekalb School Watch

Do you have a child in the Dekalb County school system? Do you live in Dekalb County? This affects you. Make your voice heard. The Board of Education is holding a Public Budget Input meeting this evening at 6:00pm at the William Bradley Bryant Center of Technology:

William Bradley Bryant Center of Technology
2652 Lawrenceville Highway, Decatur, Georgia 30033

Can’t make the meeting? You can send letters to the following Board Members:

H. Paul Womack, Jr.
Dr. Pamela Speaks
Thomas E. Bowen
Zepora Roberts
Jim Redovian
Don McChesney
Sarah Copelin-Wood
Jesse “Jay” Cunningham, Jr.
Eugene P. Walker

And/Or DCSS Officials:
Terry M. Segovis
Robert G. Moseley

Either Todd or I will be attending the meeting, and if I go, I might Twitter updates. Those show up in the sidebar of my blog, or you can follow me on Twitter.

Spooky Photos to Come

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

I am currently totally digging Digital Photography School. What a great idea – Really useful, down-to-earth, and useful photography tips. As a beginner, I think I have seen my photos improve, just from reading this guy’s newsletter every once in a while. I also like the very timely tips he sends out. For example: Halloween Photography Tips. I always try to read them before going to an event such as Fourth of July fireworks, or Trick or Treating, or a trip to the beach.

Am I a pro? Nope. But i sure am having fun learning about what my camera can do.

Obama Speech Review, by Rollie

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

After all that school speech hubbub, Rollie came home from school and didn’t say a thing about it. I didn’t ask, because I knew Todd would want to hear what he had to say about it, too, and you don’t ask a six-year-old what happened at school that day more than once and expect to live. You would die a slow, eye-rolling, sighing death, petulant death.
So, I held off until we sat down to dinner. (Yes, despite my being less-than-traditional in many ways, we do try to sit down to dinner together. Sometimes it happens.)

Me: “Rollie, did you do anything interesting at school today?”
Rollie: “No.”
Me: “You didn’t get to hear a big speech or anything like that?”
Rollie: “Yeah.”
Me: “Can you elaborate?”
[Rollie rolls his eyes.]
Me: “Who did the speech?”
Rollie: “Barack Obama. He was on TV, but he was really at a school in Arlington, Va.”
Me: [thinking to myself, “well, he must have been paying attention enough to get the President’s locale. . . “] “So, what did you think of the speech?”
Rollie shrugged and gave it a thumbs down.
Me: “Why didn’t you like it?”
Rollie: “It was boring, boring, boring.”

All further attempts at discussing the speech with Rollie were met with adamant resistance.

I am thinking that maybe jason B. was right. The kids didn’t get it at this age. They were bored.

That being said, I think that there must have been some discussion of educational goals at school, because later that night, I overheard this discussion between Rollie and Tiller:

Rollie: “Tiller are you going to college?”
Tiller: “No! I don’t want to go to college! I want to stay here with mama and Daddy!”

While this is disappointing in some respects, I would probably be okay with this. As long as I can make her wear footie PJs and silky nighties with strawberries all over them, and cuddle on the couch, forever and ever.


Monday, September 7th, 2009

The following is a note from my son’s school’s principal, via the PTA. . .

“Dear [name of Elementary School] Families,

As you may be aware, President Obama is scheduled to address the nation’s
schoolchildren on Tuesday. However, [our school] will be postponing the
viewing to later in the week. I will be sending a letter home on Tuesday
explaining the details and giving parents the option of allowing or not
allowing their child to view the address.

Thanks and enjoy the rest of the holiday.

Principal McPrincipalson, Ed.D.
School Name Elementary

As a PTA membership benefit and an important communication tool, you have received this email directly from the [school name] PTA.”

Seriously? Glad to know that the powers that be at my child’s school are caving to a bunch of hysterical nut jobs.

Here’s the thing: If you don’t want your child to watch it, keep your child out of school that day. And in the future, please refrain from throwing around the old “that’s not patriotic” charge; In my opinion, if you are refusing to let your child hear a message from the President of our country, you are showing disrespect to the office of the President. Who’s unpatriotic now?

Yeah, my kid will be there. I refuse to teach my child that it is okay to refuse to listen to someone else’s viewpoint. I will teach my kid that it is required that he show respect to the highest office in the United States.