Thursday, October 31, 2013


From the legal section of the online Free Dictionary we get the definition of consideration:
Something of value given by both parties to a contract that induces them to enter into the agreement to exchange mutual performances.
So what would be "consideration" in the context of our most popular social contract--public education? On the one hand taxpayers pony up cash that is converted into a public education. That part is simple.

But what of value do students or their parents offer? Is it a commitment to acquire the education paid for by others*? Is it mere words or are students and parents held accountable for meeting this commitment? To date it has been the former.

Maybe it's time to balance out this contractual equation. Since it is impractical to ensure that students and parents do not or cannot renege it is clear equity will only be delivered by addressing the other side of the equation. That we can fix.

* We'll not go into it here but if you start with a simple average of $10K per student per year you can do the math and figure out how long it will take for the average family with three children to pay back the cost of their children's education. We should all live so long.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Juxtapose For A Moment...

When the Clean Sweepers made the public pronouncement of their collective candidacy at a Council meeting they immediately entered a quiet period. This caused much amusement in the blogosphere and they were roundly ridiculed for kicking off a campaign that started with refusal to disclose or discuss why they are running and what they intend to do if elected. As pointed out earlier Council cannot really do much of anything but folks in the Wold wanna hear the talk even if our elected officials are structurally crippled and can never actually walk the walk. We just love talk.

In fact we love it so much we'll gladly accept talk in lieu of facts. Recently we heard talk about a report resulting from a feasibility study that is claimed to show that Dunwoody can afford its very own school system. Isn't that special. And the report of the report comes from no less of an authority than our very own state rep who has reportedly read the report. Or so he says.

But that is only talk because mere schmucks like you can't have this alleged report--if it really exists. See, our public servant (to date unknown exactly which public he serves but it ain't anyone wantin' to read that report) has access to this alleged report that the public is denied. Why? Because public dollars, our tax dollars right here in the Wold were used to pay for this effort and the City allegedly hasn't seen the alleged report. If that doesn't make sense you haven't lived here long enough. In any event, at the time of this writing said alleged report remains unavailable. Some say unwritten.

Now this isn't just about a public servant lording it over the wee people of the Wold with his high and mighty "I know things you don't know--nanny nanny boo boo." No this is about juxtaposition and the missing outcry from the Wold's blogosphere. Where are the boo-birds who gleefully rained their intellectual droppings on the Quiet Candidates? Why are they not equally critical of the rep who claims to have read something you're not allowed to see? Are they fond of kowtowing to politicians who act like some medieval priest maintaining exclusive access to the scriptures? Apparently so.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


A recent PolitiFact Georgia in the AJC contains this nugget:
"Gov. Nathan Deal removed most of the school board for financial mismanagement and micromanaging that put the district at risk."
As they like to say at PolitiFact this intrigues us. Why? Because it simply is not true.

Gov. Deal gained legal authority to remove the board (it isn't clear if partial removal is supported by the law but that's not germane at this point) was granted by SACS when the school district was placed on probation by that accrediting corporation. It came down to direct testimony provided by Elgart to the State BOE. His stated opinion was that the district stood a better chance of regaining his approval without the board than with it and thereby granted Governor Deal not only legal authority but political cover. Since Elgart runs the accrediting corporation his opinion in this case is an adequate substitute for a threat.

Now a real politifacter might argue one degree of separation by contending that the district is on probation because of mismanagement and micromanaging. Does this pass the smell test?

Not really.

If actions speak louder than words then Elgart has clearly stated that this is not about financial mismanagement or micromanaging. After all we have Crawford Lewis who has admitted guilt in criminal actions as Superintendent while at the same time Elgart was awarding Crawford and his system (now under scrutiny for racketeering) accolades. But if all you can hear are words then Elgart's own statements attest to his understanding of decades long problems of mis and micro-managing that nonetheless garnered a gold star from Elgart's corporation.

No matter how you slice it, dice it or spin it Deal's removal of two thirds of the DeKalb County School Board wasn't because of financial mismanagement or micromanaging so we rate this Politifact as in-your-face-propaganda.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Man In The Mirror

I'm Gonna Make A Change,
For Once In My Life
It's Gonna Feel Real Good,
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .
The upcoming City elections are expected to see low voter turnout. This has some folks in the Wold worried as they fear that the upstart Clean Sweepers may have enough enthusiastic backers to gain a majority when only a small minority of registered voters bother to go to the polls.

These worried Agents of  No-Change have good reason to fret and even better reason to know it. Many of those now sweating the upcoming exercise in democracy are the same ones who helped manipulate the system that brought us the landslide approval of the citihood referendum by scheduling the vote so as to intentionally depress voter turnout. Remember that we voted for citihood in July of the year that saw Obama win the November election and lord knows the Dunwoody Yes! crowd did not want Obama backers weighing in on their city. Still don't.

So these worry warts are painfully aware that folks aligned with or simply immune to the status quo tend to not be very energetic whilst those advancing change tend to be enthusiastic. This is especially true when the agents of change have enough backing to actually believe a run at an office has a chance. Now things have come full circle and CfD and DY! are facing opposition that tactically looks exactly like they do.

But perhaps all this worry is for naught. Perhaps the Smart People of the Wold will see the Clean Sweepers as the vocal minority of whiners that the Agents of  No-Change have branded them. But perhaps not.

In any event when one considers that the City is really run by the City Manager and his staff who for the most part don't even live here one realizes that Council and Mayor are mostly kept around for rubber stamping, photo ops and other entertainment. So ask yourself: which gaggle of bozos portends to yield the best entertainment value? Vote accordingly.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Size Matters

Putting aside all protests to the contrary in most cases size matters. Unless it is a tax bill or a cellphone most folks and in particular men are going to argue the bigger the better. You know: big hands--big gloves. And who doesn't want big gloves? But this is not about gloves.

This particular diatribe is about schools.

Most folks including teachers and such will argue that the smaller the class the better. Now teachers have a vested interest in this reasoning as smaller classes with a stable student population means more positions with less work and probably more pay. But they avoid the near occasion of the perfect class size of one as that is more commonly associated with home schools from which the teachers and admins see little revenue. As in none. No teachee no payee. But this is not about class size either.

This is about something a bit more subtle that rears its ugly head as a logical inconsistency in the Charter School movement. Perhaps it even rises to the level of a contradiction. It all starts with one of the foundational elements of establishing a Charter which seems intended to resonate with the hippocratic oath: first do no harm. The no-harm clause is basically this: the charter is established on the basis of meeting certain academic outcomes for the students and in return Charter Schools are given wide latitude regarding how those goals are achieved and if those goals are not met the charter is revoked. Hence no harm.

Sounds good. Even a bad charter does only a few years damage to a smaller set of students while district wide trial and error fad adoption hurts everyone. This appeals to the secondary justification of risk containment. Not mitigation per se but containment nonetheless.

And it is a very appealing concept. The charter succeeds and prospers if the students succeed and prosper. And isn't that what we taxpayers are paying for? What the charter aficionados describe is a pay for results scheme. This runs contrary to traditional public schools which have historically received more money for poor performance based on the totally unsubstantiated belief that more money will solve the problem. In the case of charters this is reversed and is not so smoothly gradated and becomes binary: succeed and survive; fail and disappear.

Here is where size comes in because this very appealing story begs a question: if it works for the charter school or system why doesn't it work for the classroom and specifically the classroom teacher?

Strangely teachers claim they have no autonomy though in the same conversation many will complain that they don't get the instructional support and classroom materials they need--instead they have to do it all themselves. Is that indistinguishable from autonomy? If you were to split another pitcher you would probably hear about how teachers today are reduced to presenting dramatic interpretations of canned scripts. Is that too much support?

The question remains: why do teachers retain their jobs while their students wallow in abject failure and when will teacher contracts be tied to outcomes just as the charter is?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Chamblee Dunwoody Linear Park

The City of Dunwoody is taking an uber-green approach to converting the section of Chamblee Dunwoody between Dunwoody Road and Spalding into a linear park. They are doing this in slow motion by simply letting nature take it's course. God, whoever she may be, has stepped up by creating one of the first trees for what will become a thriving forest.

As nature takes her course we can see this two lane waste of asphalt self-reduce to one lane followed by a slow restoration to a country lane and finally regaining its former glory as an Indian trail. No concrete required.

It has become clear that there was no grant money available to support a more timely creation of a park nor is there any available to remove road saplings and the City arbor-toire is more concerned about trees that might belong to individual citizens. Some were concerned that had grant money been available this stretch of asphalt would have become another concrete interstate to nowhere. Another observer was overheard commenting that were this tree growing in the gutter at his house the City code enforcers would be all over them like white on rice. But when it is in the City's gutter...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Are City Schools On The Pogrom?

Since before the City of Dunwoody was formed there have been various rumblings about racial motivations behind actions in the Wold. This has resulted in one court case that was dismissed pretty much out of hand and a more recent federal case that appears to be moving forward. While the latter is not specifically charging racism events including the Parks Bond Referendum have made it clear that race plays a significant role in how the City deals with PIB apartments that are home to a significant minority population.

It was during the Bond discussions that individuals highly placed in the Dunwoody power structure let it be known that a significant problem in some schools were the children from the PIB apartments and that replacing those apartments with baseball diamonds would address that problem. Since then the City has been relentless in nurturing the perception that there are many problems with the minority population in that area.

Now that we're looking forward to either a Dunwoody Charter Cluster or Dunwoody City Schools will this City be able to cast off the mantle of racism they've so willingly shouldered? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Given that the impending breakaway is from a DeKalb system with its almost exclusively black power structure in order to create a system controlled by whites charges of racism are sure to surface. Given this City's track record on diversity and inclusion it seems increasingly likely that failure of these initiatives is the price Dunwoody will pay for a debt already incurred.

Monday, October 7, 2013

City "Inspectors" Target Fairfield

A key tool in Dunwoody's anti-apartment apartheid efforts is strict code enforcement with special rules that apply to multi-family residences which the city defines as apartments and condominiums though in practice it seems to apply only to attached dwellings. Or perhaps there are no detached condominium communities in Dunwoody as there are in other locations.

This all started on April 12, 2010 when Council implemented the "Multi-Family Code Compliance Program" which requires both interior and exterior inspections of multi-family residential complexes. Consider for example a ramshackle condo like the Fairfield unit shown below.

Local news outlets have independently interviewed the Mayor and the City Manager both of whom confirm that all apartments and condominiums in the city are subject to the inspection program regardless of age of the complex or form of ownership.

So if it hasn't happened already city agents will soon be knocking on doors in Fairfield demanding entry to search the premises for "Code Compliance." No warrant necessary. All the while there could be any number of Code Compliance infractions right across the street at Magnolia Walk and this city cares not a whit as these detached clutter homes are separated by several feet. Two places within a short dog walk of one another but one is subjected to forced "inspections" and the other could have raw sewerage leaking into the basement without a care in the Wold.

Normally you would think that the City would "overlook" their responsibility to force inspections on homes as nice (and clearly well cared for) as those in Fairfield. And normally they would but the looming federal lawsuit that accuses the City of using code enforcement to harass undesirable apartments will have lawyers paying close attention to even the appearance that these codes are enforced in a less than even handed manner. It would not be surprising to find that lawyers advancing that case have made open records requests regarding the time and results of inspections of the Fairfield Condos as well as other communities throughout Dunwoody. Or maybe the City could help by putting a color-coded star on the front of each unit they inspect so the public will know what we have in our community. Isn't that what governments like these do?

Clearly City Hall believes this is a small price to ask of such a small number of our second class citizens if it means that Dunwoody can address the problem of apartments in our otherwise fair City.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Abraham Nemeth 1918-2013

A gifted mathematician, computer scientist and teacher, Abraham Nemeth is most widely known for the Braille code he developed for the transcription of mathematics texts. Nemeth leaves this world a better place than that which he entered through the many lives he has touched through his work. His students' contributions to science and society are in no small measure due to Nemeth and act as a living testament to his legacy and a life well lived.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Red Capers and Bulls' Spit

First they ignore you,
Then they laugh at you,
Then they fight you,
Then you win.
--Mahatma Gandhi*
Given what's been posted lately on some of the well respected Dunwoody blogs it would appear that Dunwoody's very own Red Shirts are well into the third phase and we're still a few weeks from the polls. They could go all the way.

The original source of the Red Shirts' discomfiture was the feeling that they were ignored which in their minds fell far short of the promise of small government and local control. Or perhaps they didn't realize that even with local control that real power rests with the self-chosen few. They didn't spend much time in the High School cafeteria did they?

Then they started making appearances at Council during the public comment sessions. You know--engage the system. They were snickered at by Council and generally derided on blogs and in the local print media. They did get in some of their own digs but when decorum is shattered by snide comments and giggles from Council it is not a fair fight. But then again incumbency never fights fair.

Now the Red Shirts are being excoriated in the blogosphere for using what appear to be exactly the same tactics used by Dunwoody Yes! and Citizens for Dunwoody back in the pre-referendum days. Anyone who attended those so-called forums and information sessions know they were as fair and balanced as a homecoming pep rally. Citihood proponents hardly displayed any mental agility as they were preaching to the choir and since when did witty repartee replace thoughtful statesmanship as a qualification for governance? And we'll not here rehash the withholding of key information by the pro-city groups prior to the referendum. But in today's blog-bashings what is of particular note is the suggestion that the Red Shirts are copying off each other's crib notes when in fact it is the Red Letter bloggers who write in lockjaw lock step as was often the case in the march to citihood. Perhaps great minds do think alike or perhaps it is a form of high-brow humour. Or maybe some folks just never outgrew the High School cafeteria.

That is indeed the common thread running thru our revolutionary days of change and into our new found love of the status quo--it has always been about the status quo. There has always been a power structure in Dunwoody and now that the City is incorporated this power has been extended beyond mere watchdog to conduit for elected City officials and singular platform for successful candidacy. The Red Shirts neglected to genuflect before them and receive the broad sword's tap on their shoulder.

The blogosphere's reaction indicates the Red Shirts are perceived as a legitimate threat to this long established status quo but it is yet to be seen if they will make it to the end of the path described by Gandhi. This time.

* Mahatma Gandhi, born 2 Oct 1869.