DeKalb County Schools

Courtesy of the DeKalb School of the Arts

This story is part of WABE and American Graduate's Advancing Atlanta: Education series. For more stories, click here.

If the quality of a song or painting is largely subjective, how does one know if a public arts high school is “working?”  WABE’s series on what works in Atlanta-area education turns to the DeKalb School of the Arts to try for an objective assessment.

Arts and Academics

Naomi Daniel and Tiffany Lavenby examine the root of a plant.
Alison Guillory / WABE

This story is part of WABE and American Graduate's Advancing Atlanta: Education series. For more stories, click here.

Researchers say the United States is short on students who are pursuing science, technology, engineering and math careers – the group of subjects known as STEM.

In early February, the DeKalb County public school system regained full accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS. It had been some three years since SACS put DeKalb on probation, citing board mismanagement and an atmosphere of "conflict and chaos" in the school system.

Courtesy of DeKalb County Schools

In a new opinion-editorial, DeKalb County Superintendent Stephen Green says the district is reconsidering its discipline policies.

The piece is a response to a recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which noted two DeKalb high schools had more out-of-school suspensions during the 2014-15 school year than enrolled students.

Myke Johns / WABE

This story is part of WABE and American Graduate's Advancing Atlanta: Education series. For more stories, click here.  

Can theater help young school children learn?

The men and women behind the Alliance Theatre certainly think so. In 2011, they began their Theatre for the Very Young program, which not only brings children into the theater, but brings theater -- and all of its benefits -- to them.

Stephen Dettling (cropped) / flickr.com/photos/sdettling/

Cobb County commissioners have approved building a 165-foot cell tower on a 34-acre church property in Acworth, but more than two dozen residents who live near Wildwood Baptist Church say they're concerned it will hurt their property values.

Dave Griffith is president of the real estate firm Relocal Home and relocation agency Relocal Move in Kennesaw. He has lived in Clearwater Estates, which is near the proposed cellphone tower, for the past 29 years. 

Property Values

The DeKalb County School System has regained full accreditation. The district was slapped with a probationary sanction in 2012 after a scathing report from its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS.

Mark Elgart, the CEO of AdvancEd, SACS' parent company, said the school board worked to achieve its new status by establishing policies, improving operations and stabilizing the district’s leadership.

Dan Raby / WABE

For the second time this week, a group of parents met Thursday night to discuss overcrowding at some DeKalb public schools. The meeting, aimed at Spanish-speaking parents, was held at the Latin American Association (LAA), a nonprofit outreach organization.  

A group of about 50 Latino parents gathered to hear information and give feedback about redistricting plans for Cross Keys High School and the schools that feed into it. Most of the schools have high Latino populations and are over-capacity. So, the schools are using more than 100 portable classrooms to accommodate everyone.

Dan Raby / WABE

About a hundred DeKalb County parents showed up at a meeting Tuesday night to try to figure out how to ease overcrowding at some schools.  The school district has proposed several short-term solutions, all of which involve redistricting.

The district has come up with three different plans for elementary schools and two for high schools. No changes are planned for Sequoyah Middle School.

All of the options involve shuffling kids from schools that are over-capacity to ones that have room.

Nick Nesmith/WABE

This year, a group of parents in DeKalb County are starting to see their persistence pay off. 

Fighting for Rights 

Parents, like Kirk Lunde, are fighting for their children's education. Lunde’s son, DeShawn Lunde, is in high school now. Every year, Lunde has had to make sure DeShawn gets the classes he needs. DeShawn has a hard time expressing himself, and his father said he needs help with social skills.

Nick Nesmith / WABE

DeKalb County teachers could get a pay boost if the school board approves a new salary proposal Monday night.

Under the plan, every teacher would see a pay increase of at least 2 percent. Those with seven to 17 years of experience would get the biggest bump. DeKalb Superintendent Stephen Green says the district did its research, and it found out it pays teachers in that experience range thousands less than other Atlanta school systems.

Martha Dalton / WABE

Some Atlanta-area communities could lose control of their struggling schools if voters approve a plan proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal next fall. The two districts with the most schools at risk are DeKalb County and Atlanta Public Schools. The pressure is on, and the districts are pulling out all the stops to avoid a potential state takeover.

Pressure To Perform 

At a recent DeKalb school board meeting, Morcease Beasley, DeKalb’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, explained the district’s plan to avoid a potential state takeover.

Martha Dalton / WABE

Students returned to class this month after a summer filled with tragic events, like the murder of nine African-American church members in Charleston, South Carolina. That and other high-profile cases have added fuel to movements like “Black Lives Matter.” Here in Atlanta, social studies teachers are having discussions about race and politics in their classrooms.  

WABE spoke with a group of teachers at the DeKalb School of the Arts to see how they approach those conversations.

Making Connections

A second grade student gets right to work as classes start at Greenwood Elementary School.
Phil Roeder / flickr.com/tabor-roeder

Some DeKalb County parents are upset with the county school district for scheduling mandatory testing on Jewish and Muslim holidays.

The DeKalb School District has slated the Cognitive Abilities Test and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills from Sept. 8-11 and Sept. 14-25, respectively. The two tests are mandatory for children in grades 1, 3, 5 and 7, and help with placement in gifted and special programs.

This year’s testing dates, however, fall over the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as well as the Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha.

Martha Dalton / WABE

It's the first day of school for many Atlanta-area students, but some school systems are still looking for teachers. 

DeKalb County schools have job postings up seeking close to 200 instructors in various positions. Clayton County needs about 115 teachers.  

"We do have about 800 or 900 substitute teachers – these are people with four-year degrees. And so we have those people on standby and on call," said Dr. Douglas Hendricks Sr., chief of Human Relations for Clayton County schools. 

Martha Dalton / WABE

Some parents of children with special needs in the DeKalb schools are not satisfied with the service they get. The group said the district’s Special Education Department was ineffective – citing poor communication and a failure to get services their kids are entitled to by law.

In an interview, DeKalb Superintendent Stephen Green responded to the parents’ complaints. He said they have a right to be upset.

Martha Dalton / WABE

Georgia's largest school systems are still searching for dozens of special education teachers. The districts only have a few weeks before students head back to the classroom on Aug. 10.

So far, the Gwinnett school district has hired more than 1,400 new teachers. But it still needs to fill nearly 40 special education positions. Gwinnett County Public Schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach says a nationwide shortage of special education teachers has made hiring them more challenging.

Nick Nesmith / WABE

The DeKalb school board voted Thursday to offer Stephen Green, of the Kansas City Schools, a three-year contract as its new superintendent. But one board member is not happy with the decision.

Board member Joyce Morley was the lone dissenting vote.

“There was a major conflict of interest that has taken place throughout this process,” she said.

The board hired firm PROACT to lead the search. It later fired the company because its CEO was embroiled in controversy. Morley implied several candidates, including Green, had ties to the CEO. Green denied that last week.

Martha Dalton / WABE

The DeKalb County school system is expected to officially name a new superintendent Thursday. The school board will vote on whether to offer a contract to Stephen Green, who currently leads the Kansas City schools.

It was clear two weeks ago Green would be offered the job. But legally, the board had to wait until Thursday to vote on a contract.

During a visit to DeKalb last week, Green said he’d be a hands-on leader.

Nick Nesmith / WABE

The new DeKalb County schools superintendent is getting ready to take the reins of one of the largest school districts in Georgia.

Stephen Green is the current superintendent of the Kansas City school system. He is scheduled to take over the DeKalb County school system on July 1.

Green will replace former state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond. Thurmond has been in charge of the county school system for the past two years.

Martha Dalton / WABE

DeKalb County's sole finalist for school superintendent wraps up a three-day visit to the district Thursday. Stephen Green currently leads the Kansas City Schools in Missouri.

Green met with school leaders, staff and parents during his trip. He said he’s coming in with an open mind, but he’s also taking inventory.

“I am taking stock, not just in terms of the facility and the resources — financial — but also, human capital,” he said. “I’m assessing: What do we have here? What do we preserve, protect, keep, enhance, and what do we need to change or modify?”

Martha Dalton / WABE

Stephen Green, from the Kansas City Schools, has been chosen for the job of DeKalb County superintendent. The DeKalb County school board made the announcement Wednesday night.

Green has led the Kansas City schools since 2012, after the district lost accreditation. DeKalb County school board chairman Melvin Johnson credited Green with turning things around.

“Dr. Green brought back the Kansas City school district to provisional certification,” Johnson said. “He has demonstrated innovative approaches to teaching and learning and moving student achievement forward.”

Elle Moxley / WCUR

    

The DeKalb County School District has picked a superintendent finalist. Sources tell WABE the district has tapped Stephen Green, the head of the Kansas City Schools in Missouri.

Green took over the Kansas City Schools in 2012 after the district lost accreditation. The DeKalb school board is expected to announce his candidacy at a press conference Wednesday night. The board will have to wait 14 days before offering him a contract.

Nick Nesmith / WABE

The DeKalb County School Board has fired PROACT, the firm that was leading its superintendent search. PROACT’s CEO was embroiled in a controversy over allegedly using racial slurs in emails while he was dean of a Chicago high school. The FBI is also investigating a PROACT subsidiary, also run by its CEO.

ELSA device
Tasnim Shamma / WABE

In DeKalb County schools, teachers who need to speak with parents who don’t understand English well are getting a little help from technology. 

The district bought 200 translation devices that can translate up to 180 languages.

Sara Lawson teaches sixth-graders at Freedom Middle School in Stone Mountain. She demonstrated how to use the ELSA ("Enabling Language Service Anywhere") device. 

She hits a button on what looks like a small remote, which connects her to an Amharic translator. Amharic is a language spoken in Ethiopia.
 

Stan Jester
Stan Jester / LinkedIn

The public safety chief in a metro Atlanta school system says one of the school board members still hasn't undergone a national background check that's required for employees.

Board member Stan Jester said he received a background check from Dunwoody and DeKalb County Police. Jester has said that he believes undergoing the school system's background check would be a conflict of interest, since he oversees the system as a board member.

WSB-TV reports that because of the dispute, Jester has not received a paycheck from the district and has not been issued an employee badge.

Martha Dalton / WABE

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it" is a phrase often quoted by historians. 

Republican lawmakers in some states, including Georgia, are worried students taking a new AP U.S. History exam won’t learn the “right” lessons.

Jose Gregory’s Advanced Placement U.S. history class at the DeKalb School of the Arts begins with the Pledge of Allegiance. Today’s topic is World War I, specifically America’s entry into the war.

Piedmont Park and Midtown Atlanta during the winter storm on Jan. 28, 2014.
nickmickolas / Flickr/nickmickolas

Next time it snows, Forsyth County children won’t be able to sleep in or have snowball fights with their neighbors.

They’ll have to go online and log on to a virtual classroom says Jennifer Caraccialo with Forsyth County Schools.

“It could have what they’re covering in class, it could have assignments, you could have discussions with your peers… you can also interact with your teachers.”

This is an effort by the school system to not lose school instruction to snow days.

Martha Dalton / WABE

Several metro Atlanta school systems have updated their health policies to include Ebola guidelines. The DeKalb County school district was one of the first to do so after delaying enrollment for two students who came from a country affected by the virus. Now, the students need to have their medical documents approved by the district superintendent before they can attend class.

Dan Raby / WABE

Some metro Atlanta school districts are updating their health policies to include guidelines for the Ebola virus. Some districts, like DeKalb and Cobb, announced this week students from Ebola-affected countries won’t be able to enroll until the superintendent approves their medical documents. Cobb schools spokesperson Kyler Post says it’s a proactive move.

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