Saturday, March 30, 2013

Beverly Hall, 34 others indicted in APS cheating scandal

Pay attention DeKalb, we could be next!  

Important stories being checked out right now by GTCO-ATL:
*  We have heard rumors that all schools on the DeKalb cell tower list EXCEPT Lakeside High School have received money that is said to be part of the cell tower contracts.  We have not heard if the Valhalla Booster Club received funds, but they were originally on the list in lieu of the PTAs to receive funds.
* Crawford Lewis Trial is set to begin very soon.  Will the APS arrests have any bearing on DeKalb's scandal?  Are we BOTH  part of the SAME criminal enterprise?

    From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Beverly Hall, 34 others indicted in Atlanta schools cheating scandal photo
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announces the indictments during a press conference about the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal inside his office on Friday, March 29, 2013 .
Beverly Hall, 34 others indicted in Atlanta schools cheating scandal photo
Justina Collins cries as she talks about her experience at Cascade Elementary School during a press conference about the indictments.

The supposed transformation of Atlanta Public Schools overseen by former Superintendent Beverly Hall resulted from a criminal enterprise that victimized thousands of struggling students for years, authorities alleged Friday.
Capping a series of investigations that spanned four years, a Fulton County grand jury indicted Hall and 34 others on charges that they conspired to cheat on federally mandated standardized tests from at least 2005 to 2010. Further, the grand jury charged, Hall, several top aides, principals and teachers engaged in the scheme for their own financial gain. And with investigators closing in, the jury said, Hall and others lied to cover up their crimes.
Hall inculcated an atmosphere that encouraged using any means necessary to achieve test-score targets, the indictment said, and then “publicly misrepresented the academic performance of schools throughout APS.” Pressuring subordinates to produce targeted scores, the indictment said, “created an environment where achieving the desired end result was more important than the students’ education.”
“This is nothing but pervasive and rank thuggery,” said Richard Hyde, one of the special investigators appointed in 2010 by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue to delve into what has become the largest academic cheating scandal in U.S. history.
The indictment served as a resounding refutation of Hall’s assertions that Atlanta had found the secret formula that had long eluded educators elsewhere: how to get strong performances from poor, mostly minority students in decaying urban schools. For her efforts, Hall was named the national superintendent of the year in 2009.
Now Hall, 66, faces as much as 45 years in prison. Grand jurors recommended that a judge set her bond at $7.5 million. Authorities gave all the defendants until Tuesday to surrender.
Along with Hall, the grand jury indicted four other former top administrators: Millicent Few, who ran the district’s human resources division, and area supervisors Sharon Davis-Williams, Tamara Cotman and Michael Pitts.
Lawyers for most of the defendants denied the charges and promised to fight in court. Hall’s lawyers, Richard Deane and David Bailey, said in a statement that the former superintendent had no involvement in cheating on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test or “any other wrongdoing.”
“Not a single person,” they said, “reported that Dr. Hall participated in or directed them to cheat on the CRCT.”
The indictment charged Hall and the others with racketeering, theft, making false statements and false swearing. Others named included seven principals, two assistant principals, 14 teachers, five testing coordinators, one instructional coach and even a school secretary. Authorities accused some educators of influencing witnesses by pressuring them to lie to investigators about cheating.
The grand jurors filed the indictment just before 5 p.m. Friday after hearing from witnesses since Wednesday. District Attorney Paul Howard, whose office spent 21 months on the case, capped off the day with a somber news conference, broadcast live on Atlanta television stations, in which he lamented “the crimes that have been committed against the children of the city of Atlanta.”
Beyond the criminal acts it alleged, the indictment revealed the human toll exacted by years of test-score manipulation, first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2008.
When a teacher at C.W. Hill Elementary complained about cheating by a colleague in 2005, Hall suspended the accused educator for 20 days. As for the whistle-blower, Hall fired her.
Hall repeatedly ignored or disregarded reports of cheating or other questions about test scores. In 2006, Howard said, Atlanta resident Justina Collins was concerned when her daughter received the lowest score on a benchmark examination in her third-grade reading class — but then, somehow, exceeded reading standards on the CRCT.
Collins managed to get an appointment with Hall, who told her there was no evidence her daughter needed help. She had, after all, done well on the CRCT. “Your daughter is the kind of person who tests well,” Collins said she was told.
Now in the ninth grade, her daughter reads at a fifth-grade level.
Not long after she became Atlanta’s superintendent in 1999, Hall established increasingly tough performance targets for every school that would become progressively more difficult to hit. Her mantra: “No exceptions and no excuses.”
Hall told principals and teachers that falling short was not acceptable. “Their performance was criticized,” the indictment said, “their jobs were threatened, and some were terminated.”
When she told one principal in 2005 that his contract was not being renewed, Hall reportedly said it was because she was “not interested in incremental gains.”
For those who met Hall’s mandates, however, rewards followed — public praise and financial bonuses alike.
Those bonuses are at the heart of the theft charges against Hall and others.
If a school met 70 percent of its annual targets, every employee received a bonus, as low as a few hundred dollars and as high as $1,000 or more.
Moreover, Hall’s annual bonuses depended largely on test scores, the indictment said. Grand jurors specifically accused Hall of qualifying for bonuses in 2007, 2008 and 2009 by certifying test scores “which she knew were false.”
Hall collected bonuses totaling more than $225,000 for those years, on top of a base salary that, by 2009, exceeded $300,000. Altogether, she received bonuses of about $580,000 over 10 years.
Staff writers Wayne Washington, Jeffry Scott, Jaime Sarrio, Nancy Badertscher, Ty Tagami, Lois Norder, James Pelfrey and Leroy Chapman contributed to this story.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nationwide Violations of FCC Radiation Limits

Americans Beware: 

Nationwide Violations of FCC Radiation Limits 

at Wireless Antenna Sites

 MARSHFIELD, VT--(Marketwire - Mar 20, 2013) - The EMRadiation Policy Institute (EMRPI) releases Videos revealing the FCC's failure to protect Americans from wireless radiofrequency (RF) radiation. 
Don't forget that DeKalb County Commissioners are partially
to thank for their strict zoning laws that protected our
children from cell phone towers in their neighborhoods.
US workers and families are at risk of overexposure to RF at hazardous levels. Hundreds of wireless industry-operated antenna sites from Maine to California have been tested by EMRPI and found to be in gross violation -- up to and in excess of 600% -- of the FCC's public exposure limits. These sites include rooftops as well as locations where the general public, including children, can gain access, and where workers are on the job. See: Wireless Industry Safety Failure I
Wireless Radiation Can Harm Health.
The only school that said
they wanted a cell tower ended up as
the only school without a signed contract.
That's a terrible representation of what they can do with "local control.
Public health is threatened by wireless radiation exposure at current FCC lawful limits as they are among the least protective in the world. FCC safety limits do not acknowledge current science, nor the 2011 WHO IARC's classification of wireless radiation as a Group 2B carcinogen. The FCC does not even enforce its own inadequate radiation limits.
EMRPI informed FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in December 2011 of widespread FCC rules violations. Despite detailed complaint letters sent to FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief P. Michele Ellison, of RF safety violations in 23 states across all regions of the US, EMRPI has received no response that the FCC has taken any enforcement action against any noncompliant site. EMRPI's investigation re-tested sites and found violations still occurring months after EMRPI's initial filings with the FCC. The FCC responded to a US Senator's inquiry on sites in her state with misleading information about the safety of the Senator's constituents. See: Wireless Industry Safety Failure II
Are the FCC and the Wireless Industry Turning a Blind Eye to RF Violations?
Want one?
Just call your
school board
member or
anyone affiliated
with the Lakeside
City Alliance!
FCC policy allows wireless companies to self-report their compliance with the lawful RF limits. The FCC website provides no information or procedures for either the public or workers to report potential or actual violations. Despite hundreds of thousands of wireless antenna sites across the US, since 1996 the FCC has issued only one wireless Notice of Violation, and not until 2010. Is FCC policing site violations and are violations hidden from the public?
The American Public Is Not Protected.
Congress must act to hold the FCC accountable. If not, Americans will remain at risk from unlawful RF radiation exposures at antenna sites across the country. The American people have a right to know and a right to be protected. EMRPI urges the American people to demand that the FCC enforce its own RF safety limits to protect all Americans.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Petition: Require Lawmakers to Wear Logos of Financial Backers on their Clothing

Suggested attire for members of the House and Senate
Petition’s suggested attire for members of the House and Senate

From:  Anne Landman's Blog

March 21, 2013  

A new petition appeared on the Obama administration’s “We the People” web site March 18 asking that members of the Congress and Senate be required to wear the logos of their financial backers on their clothing, NASCAR style.

The petition says, “Since most politicians’ campaigns are largely funded by wealthy companies and individuals, it would give voters a better sense of who the candidate they are voting for is actually representing if the company’s logo, or individual’s name, was prominently displayed upon the candidate’s clothing at all public appearances and campaign events. Once elected, the candidate would be required to continue to wear those ‘sponsor’s’ names during all official duties and visits to constituents. The size of a logo or name would vary with the size of a donation. For example, a $1 million dollar contribution would warrant a patch of about 4″ by 8″ on the chest, while a free meal from a lobbyist would be represented by a quarter-sized button. Individual donations under $1000 are exempt.”

Some people have commented that the NASCAR-style clothing requirement would break Congress’s dress code, but the code only requires a coat and tie for men and “appropriate” dress for women. Others say members of Congress and the Senate would have to wear floor-length robes, perhaps with trains, to accommodate all of their corporate backers. So far, the Congressmen-in-NASCAR-clothing petition has gathered 9,378 signatures in just four days.

The Obama Administration has raised the number of signatures needed to get a response on a petition to 100,000 within 30 days, up from 25,000. The petition can be seen (and signed) here.
Main source: Huffington Post, March 20, 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013

New School Board Gets Active; Lakeside Hits a Snag

DeKalb's board, with its new members, convened Wednesday.

The DeKalb County Board of Education held its first meeting Wednesday with a new line-up.
This included, of course, the six chosen by Governor Nathan Deal in a controversial move that drew a lawsuit from suspended members. The most significant action taken Wednesday was a motion for the district to remove itself as a plaintiff from that lawsuit, thus saving taxpayers a considerable sum in legal fees. It passed 9-0 and was introduced by Marshall Orson (District 2 - Brookhaven).
Orson, who was elected last year and began his term in January, said in his opening remarks, "my only criticism is that the three of us can longer call ourselves the new guys." He was referring to Jim McMahan (District 4 - Tucker, North Druid Hills, Lakeside) and new chairman Melvin Johnson (District 6 - Stone Mountain). The previous chair, Eugene Walker, remains a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
"We need to charge a new course," Orson said, "and have the optimism to be successful, ensuring that every child gets a good education."
Vice chair McMahan welcomed the new board members and thanked them for “being part of the solution for improving our school system.” Johnson added, "we'll be making every effort to be as efficient as we can."
All members asked plenty of hard questions during the course of the meeting on topics of finance, fleet maintenance, portable classrooms, obsolete equipment and buildings, and moving services. John Coleman (District 1 - Dunwoody) was particulary interested in the budget, and asked the school system's Chief Financial Officer Michael Perrone to "highlight areas that are problematic."
Realizing that could take quite a while, Coleman conceded that Perrone could provide "a brief answer."
Karen Carter, who lives in Lakeside and represents Super District 8, pressed Chief Operations Officer Stephen Wilkins on getting accurate feedback from school staff when deciding on replacing technology. "How do you know satisfaction?" she asked. "When do you know how to bid?" Joyce Morley (District 7 - Stone Mountain) agreed, saying, "it is imperative to ask their opinions so that (we) can make informed decisions."
"We just have to go back to square one on many, many decisions that were made,” said Interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond. “It is hard for any program to succeed if the people charged with teaching and implementing are not supportive of it.”
Also present at the meeting were members of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and the county's CEO Burrell Ellis.

AND, in Other News...

Lakeside Alliance's Cityhood Bill Delayed

The alliance said Tuesday it planned to have the bill filed by Friday.
A bill that would officially start the two-year process of creating a new city around theLakeside High School area has been delayed, the Lakeside City Alliance said Friday.
Mary Kay Woodworth, the alliance's chairman,said Tuesday the placeholder bill was to be filedwith the state legislature by Dunwoody state Sen. Fran Millar by the end of the week. But the filing has been delayed, Woodworth said Friday in an email to Patch. She said she wasn't sure about the reasons for the delay because the bill has been handled by former state Rep. Kevin Levitas, another member of the alliance's organizing committee.
Levitas and Millar could not immediately be reached for comment Friday evening.
The placeholder bill, if filed by the end of this year's legislative session, could not be considered by the General Assembly until next year as mandated by state law. Until then, the bill could be changed and edited over the next year as the alliance, local officials other groups continue to debate the merits of cityhood. That process would include a study by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia that would determine the city's feasibility – a study that could cost up to $30,000.
Woodworth said Tuesday the alliance has raised $7,000.