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Dr. Cheryl Atkinson Speaks to Tucker Parent Council

Superintendent of DeKalb County Schools gives her “State of the District” address

On Monday night, Dr. Cheryl Atkinson, Superintendent of DCSS, spoke at at the last Tucker Parent Council meeting of the year. 

After introducing the senior support staff (“A team”) members that were present, Dr. Atkinson remarked that she has been in her position for 22 weeks, and in that time, her main focus has been student success.  “Too often, in the past, we’ve been distracted and sidetracked, and we won’t lose focus again,” she said.

She then went through the list of programs and goals that she has initiated for the school system and highlighted some of her long-term plans.  Among them:

- The Central Office audit, which will help bring fairness and equity in salaries across the district, verify all employees, and will ultimately help to have more people in positions where they impact students most.

- Curriculum Development, in the sense that curriculum will drive assessments, not the other way around.  She indicated that “this will let us know who’s learning and will help us know if failures are a curriculum issue, an instructional issue, or a student issue.”

- Her goal is for every school to offer “non-negotiable” programs including art, instrumental music, hands-on science, health and wellness, etc.  She said that she doesn’t want principals to have to choose between these offerings.  Her idea is that resources will be allocated based on “what is needed to give each student across the county” access to the same opportunities in regard to these programs.

- The implementation of a new corporate-based aligned management system in order to manage, monitor, and measure district activity.

- Forensic audit of all school district finances (handled through KPMG).

- Reviewing facilities and maintenance programs to ensure the best service for all county schools.

- New policies to make SPLOST dollars do more for students, including adopting a “pay as you go” policy to cut interest costs and put those budgeted dollars into projects instead.

- The use of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, in order to publicize the good things happening within the school district.

- The replacement of text books with e-books.  “Without this,” she said, “our children won’t be able to compete.  Many countries are completely digital.  We’re behind, but we will work to catch up.”

In response to a question about the calendar proposals for next year, Dr. Atkinson confirmed that next year’s calendar will go unchanged from the board-approved 2012-2013 calendar that has been listed on the DCSS website all year.  The calendar committee is looking at making changes in future years, though, and moving toward a more balanced calendar (shorter summer break with more frequent short breaks throughout the year) in order to narrow the achievement gap that occurs when school breaks for the extended summer break each year.  She also spoke in favor of the early release days, which would allow teachers more development time, but acknowledged that more research and planning would need to be done, including looking at after-care programs for students within the schools, before that could be implemented. 

What are your thoughts on the direction that DCSS seems to be heading in? Tell us in the Comments below.

In response to a question about “equity” and whether that meant bringing lower schools up or bringing all schools to a middle ground, Dr. Atkinson stated emphatically that her plan for equity meant bringing “everybody up.”  “I’m totally against holding anyone down or back,” she said, and all students should be challenged, regardless of their level.  “There will be no holding down in order to let others catch up,” she said.

Dr. Atkinson concluded her talk by admitting that while her agenda is an aggressive one, it is manageable.  “Our students are counting on us – all of us,” she said.  “We are working hard and are excited and committed to student learning, achievement, and success.  We are working together and will have victory in every classroom.”

Following Dr. Atkinson’s talk, new Tucker Parent Council officers were elected for the upcoming year.  Michelle Penkava will serve as President, with Jeanie Christian serving as Vice President and Jennifer Winterscheidt as Secretary.

Faith April 29, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Thank you Dr. Atkinson for addressing the underlying problems in our school district. To the best of my information and belief, we have some serious discipline problems (or the lack thereof) in our schools when it comes to our leadership, that is, Principals and Assistance Principals. Students are running amuck in the hallways.

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