DeKalb to pull teachers out of classrooms for giant back-to-school rally. Good start or bad idea?

In 2002, DeKalb County superintendent Johnny Brown jogged to the stage after getting off a school bus at a rally attended by about 13,000 teachers and staff. The convocation event spurred debate over whether its cost and time were justified. Now, DeKalb plans to hold another systemwide convocation. (LOUIE FAVORITE/ STAFF)

A DeKalb teacher called me this week to share her dismay over the district’s plan for a mandatory convocation the Friday before school starts.

DeKalb intends to gather 12,000 employees at the Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth on Friday, Aug. 4. School starts that following Monday. Teachers received a save-the-date email from the district last week.

The teacher’s comment: “The day before students in DeKalb County are to show up they are holding a mandatory convocation for teachers. It is a waste of time; it is waste of money. It is a three-hour obligatory meeting when teachers should be getting prepped for the students who are coming Monday.”

I spoke to DeKalb superintendent Steve Green today. Read his defense of the plan here.

I was here in 2002 when newly hired DeKalb superintendent Johnny Brown staged a similar rally. The extravaganza was not well received by some teachers who considered it a poor use of their valuable time. They called media to complain about the event, which was held at a Clarkston stadium rather than a Gwinnett arena, as this upcoming convocation will be.

At the time, the AJC reported:

High school bands played. Smiling politicians waved from a school bus that circled the football field. Firefighters unfurled a giant American flag. Motorcycle riders revved their Harleys.

Brown staged the event — the first systemwide convocation of DeKalb teachers and staff in 30 years — to marshal “the power of 13,000 people” to raise expectations for DeKalb’s students. He also wanted to have a little fun and led the clapping staff members in a sing-along of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”

The happiness didn’t last. Two years later, Brown was out as DeKalb school chief, and the lingering dismay over the pep rally contributed to the ill will between him and the community. (Another factor that landed him in hot water with parents countywide – his “Dress for Success” uniform-like student dress code for all schools, including high schools.)

A veteran DeKalb teacher told me, “The Johnny Brown event was a fiasco. I can’t imagine any teacher supporting this one. How did the administration determine that it’s worth the time and money this time? It’s during pre-planning when teachers only find out what they’re teaching this school year, it’s on the last work day before school starts, and it will eat up four to five hours with traveling time. But this is obviously not about school, students, or teachers…This Friday rally/convocation/PR stunt is even more galling when you consider how little time we have to plan in a good year, but this year we have a new curriculum that few teachers have seen. ”

Is history repeating itself in DeKalb? And is it bad history?

Are spirit events at this scale ever worth the cost and time? Last year, DeKalb held family-centric pep rallies at three locations that included back-to-school supply giveaways and informational booths.

My AJC colleague Marlon Walker has talked to DeKalb Schools, which defends both the idea and the Gwinnett County location. (Too many people, they say, to assemble anywhere in DeKalb.) I will link to his story when it appears.

Your thoughts?

 

 

Reader Comments 0

41 comments
Vic
Vic

When Ida Love came on board as head of Decatur City Schools, she held a "convocation" at which all workers were expected to raise their voices in song:  "You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings" -- staff never forgot and she didn't last long.  Mr. Green might be headed in the same direction.  

YoJoey
YoJoey

Amazing that these same teachers that are complaining will also be complaining that their students show no enthusiasm in their classrooms.  I'm certain that the administration did not sit around the conference room table with an agenda of coming up with a way to spend a good amount of money on something they thought would be a total waste of time.  The intentions are good, and if met with a similar mindset by those invited to attend, it might just work out as planned and carry over into the 1st day of class and beyond.  I can speak from my professional experience that nothing makes leadership more challenging than having a team of naysayers.  I hope all teachers and administrators can unite behind their leaders and vow to make this a great year for the students of Dekalb County!  Abolish pettiness and bad attitudes.  If all of your students would follow your lead, where would they end up?

dekalb teacher
dekalb teacher

This will be a complete waste of time and money.  I was there in 2002 and everyone hated it.  The teachers need time to prepare for the first day of school not waste time riding on a bus to Duluth to hear how great DCCS  is.  This just shows how the people in charge have no clue about what is  really important and what teachers really want.  They can waste money on transporting us to Duluth not to mention renting out the arena but they can't afford to have the parapros work the whole week of pre-planning when we need their help the most.  This just adds to one more thing that frustrates the teachers of Dekalb and why so many good teachers that I have worked with over the years have left Dekalb for other counties.  

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Systems do WWAYY too much time-sucking before school starts.  They seem to think that everyone has as (relatively) little to do as high school teachers do. (Get out the books to assign to students.  Do a little paperwork.  Ready for the bell to ring!)  So they design time-suck like this, OR they schedule open house for the second day that teachers are back.  They have moved the "mandated reporter" and "biological spills" training for teachers to do at night on the computer.


In addition to this, teachers are moved to different rooms, and sometimes the building is redone during the summer, so everything had to be packed up/carried home at the end of the previous year.  Which somehow has to happen before open house.  Plus making your room attractive, and gathering materials for parents and students that is to be distributed at open house.


For primary and elementary teachers, at least, what they need is to be left alone to get their classrooms ready, or be prepared for parents to walk into an unholy mess at open house!

Señora
Señora

@Wascatlady Do you really think that high school teachers have nothing else to do than "get out the books?" Are you kidding me? I work for hundreds of hours to prepare content before the first day of school -- and throughout the school year. You have obviously never taught a world language to a classroom full of 35+ students. Or any other high school academic subject. Do not disparage what you do not know.

Christie_S
Christie_S

This is one of those ideas that sounded good in theory.

dg417s
dg417s

I'm sure my principal will fill up Monday through Thursday with unnecessary meetings and what he calls professional development (but is really nothing worth sitting through) then make sure we know the building will be open over the weekend.

GA_and_Education_futile
GA_and_Education_futile

@dg417s I'm sure it can all be an email. This meeting could be a video of the superintendent through.....an email. Its a waste of time and money.

Rickster_
Rickster_

Horrible idea. It needs to be cancelled immediately.

mar1049
mar1049

No wonder they have to hold job fairs. How can a person have so much education and then start the school year off with the dumbest idea of dumb ideas. Let these teachers spend their time preparing their classrooms for students some of whom need all the school experience they can get. Then hold it in another county.

OldEngineer
OldEngineer

@Emily. How? By running an illegal scam and spreading a computer virus. 

OldEngineer
OldEngineer

@Barbara J. Rhodes This is an amazing way to be scammed out of time and money - wow - is anyone actually stupid enough to try this?

LaShunda Andrews
LaShunda Andrews

Bad idea and then is in Duluth, in a whole other county up 85 in all that traffic. Not a good use of staff time.

cookie72
cookie72

OMG !!! Don't tell me these people never learn from mistakes made in the past !!!  When Johnny Brown was new super for Dekalb schools, someone convinced him  that transporting all Dekalb teachers in HOTHOTHOT school buses to the stadium in Clarkston for a "rally"  would be a great idea.  It was a major fiasco. Lord only knows how much they spent on running all of those school buses, paying the drivers, buying bottled water for over a thousand people~~~Everyone hated it !!   Now 15 years later they are going to try it again.  Never been so happy that I retired a few years ago. I do feel sorry for the poor teachers losing all that planning time but more sorry that they will have to endure another thoughtless  county administration yet again.

sharidogs
sharidogs

Newton County has been holding this type of rally for the last few years as well. Staff members are required to ride on school buses to a church in a near by county. Here they must participate in a big "pep rally" where they literally dance in the aisles! I have no idea how much it costs. What I do know is that it is a complete waste of time. Staff members need to be in their schools, and teachers need to be in their classrooms getting ready for students to return to school.

JamesonW
JamesonW

..and yet the most important detail was missed...they're spending $100,000 on this "meeting".  

dsw2contributor
dsw2contributor

@MaureenDowney @JamesonW Maureen, consider just the transportation costs of having 12,000 Dekalb employees report to Duluth.

Oakcliff Elementary is just over the Gwinett County line, so it is probably the closest Dekalb school to Duluth.  Google maps says it is 13 miles from Oakcliff to the rally in Duluth.  The standard IRS mileage reimbursement rate is 53.5 cents per mile, so reimbursing a single Oakcliff teacher will cost $13.91 (26 miles round trip at 53.5 cents per mile).

If Dekalb were to reimburse all 12,000 employees for driving from Oakcliff to Duluth, that would cost $166,920.00..... but most teachers will be coming from farther away, so they would be entitled to more than the $13.91 the teachers from Oakcliff would get.

Maybe Dekalb will use its school buses to transport teachers, but buses don't drive themselves!

(Of course, now that I've brought up the issue of transportation costs, I'm sure the Palace will be telling school bookeepers that transportation costs have to come out of individual school budgets.)

dsw2contributor
dsw2contributor

 A standard school bus can carry 48 adults, so Dekalb would need at least 250 buses to transport 12,000 adults to Duluth. (12,000 / 48 = 250)

Then figure that each bus will cost around $300 to run.  (Dekalb's bus drivers make $18/hour, double that to account for the cost of their benefits, and figure that each driver would need 6 hours to drive from a bus lot to a school, then to Duluth, sit there during the rally, then drive back to a school, then back to the lot. $36/hour x 6 hours = $216 just to pay the driver.  $300 seems like a reasonable figure when I consider the cost of fuel -- buses only get 7 mpg -- and wear & tear on the buses.)

250 buses x $300 per bus = $75,000 cost just to run buses to Duluth. 

Divamjb
Divamjb

I teach at Oakcliff because I live in Gwinnett. I live one mile from the arena. But I'd still rather be in my classroom preparing. Please give us some of that money for resources needed in the classroom!!!!

catmom-scout
catmom-scout

Guess what? I have plenty of meetings I'm forced to attend. Some are--GASP--far enough away I have to fly and stay overnight.


Suck it up, DeKalb.

Jennifer
Jennifer

I think you misunderstand the job of teachers if you think this "rally" is in any way comparable to travel required by your job. My focus should be on preparing for a strong school year, not wasting taxpayer dollars cheering.

YoJoey
YoJoey

@Jennifer It won't be a waste if you and all the other teachers approach the event with a better attitude.  When has a negative attitude produced good results?  If you need more time to get your classroom ready, stay later the night before.  STOP COMPLAINING!!!

E. P.
E. P.

Genuinely confused. Year after year teachers are told by principals that they must sit through meetings instead of working in their classrooms because it is mandated by the county office. If this is the case, why would the county office remove more time for a pep rally. I think I understand the magnanimous gesture of opening the schools early so that teachers can come early and unpaid to set up their classrooms. 🤔

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@E. P. If the county administrators lack for things to do, I am SURE there are teachers who would be glad to put them to work putting up bulletin boards, preparing packets of information for parents, or cutting out things!!

insideview
insideview

Bad idea, done before, waste of time.

cyberteach
cyberteach

I thought Dr. Green was smarter than this.

I am retired now, but  the August 2002 "pep rally" was the worst experience of my teaching career.  I have never been so insulted and angry.  We were told to report to our schools at 6:30 to board buses that would take us to the stadium, so here we are adding unnecessary pollution to the roads on a hot August morning in un-airconditioned school buses.  Such insane logistics just to organize and park that many buses pouring in from all over the county.  And now they're  going to drive thousands of coerced  teachers up I-85 to GWINNETT in order to inspire and motivate them?  That is so absurd on so many levels I can hardly wrap my head around it. 

  I wish I had had the courage to defy the order in 2002 and stay in my classroom preparing for the first day of school and dare them to fire me.  I hope there are more teachers now who are willing to rebel and call out this nonsense for what it is--a waste of time and money.

   One thing too many administrators never seem to learn is this: motivational speakers aren't going to do the bad teachers any good, and the good ones don't need those pearls of so-called wisdom from an overpaid speaker.   They are already motivated and inspired or they wouldn't keep doing this very hard job year after year! The smartest, kindest thing 

DeKalb could do for its teaching force is to say, "We were going to have a meeting today, but we realize you have a great deal to do to be ready for the first day of school, and we want you to have that time in your rooms to make the rooms welcoming and to make sure your lessons are ready."

  Maybe then principals wouldn't have to announce like most falls I remember, "The building will be open Sunday afternoon for those of you who would like to work."

GArunner
GArunner

@cyberteach Thank you cyberteach! I was also at the 2002 pep Talley! You are so right!  Remember the fans and bottled water they passed out to everyone!?  I enough go in a week before to set my room up.  We have mandatory meetings all week during pre-planning.

Astropig
Astropig

The don't show.Just stay home or whatever you consider a better use of your "precious" time.Tell them to shove it.Take a sick day.Take a vacay day.Be forthright and tell them who you are and that in your personal opinion,it's all a waste of time.You have contracts-they're not going to fire you or anything.I don't understand why you folks can't just say it directly instead of having a mouthpiece do the deed.

teacherandmom
teacherandmom

@Astropig Well... not exactly...


Most districts require pre approval for any teachers taking leave during planning days.  The district reserves the right to not approve the leave so if you don't show up, you aren't paid.


Contracts are written to protect the district not the teacher.  Since the recession, most districts have left the number of days employed off the contract.  So the contract offers no protection to the teacher.


Not sure if Dekalb is a charter district, but teachers are finding out that charter districts don't necessarily have to play by the fair dismissal procedures.  They can fire a teacher at any point in the school year.


I've been in education for 24 years.  I've always participated in some type of pre-planning, district-wide event.  Everyone grumbles about their time away from the classroom, but everyone participates.  

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig Actually, you know very little about the farce called "contract" for teachers.  The contract binds teachers--it does NOT bind the system!  In addition, when you buck your principal (who is under a great deal of pressure) you will find your life made MISERABLE.

ViolaDaGamba
ViolaDaGamba

Such obvious political grandstanding is a waste of time and money.

I am certain the administrators have more crucial items on the agenda than this self-promoting crap. I know the teachers need the time for more important business. This event does not bode well for better education within Dekalb County. Our taxes are paying for it, and our children will pay for it long after the last self-aggrandizing word has been spoken. Cancel it now. 

James0130
James0130

And this just reaffirms our decision to leave the Dekalb County School System. It is completely disfunctional up and down the system.  

kaelyn
kaelyn

I agree that it's a waste of time and money, but teachers are afraid to join together and complain because they're afraid of retaliation. DeKalb parents with valid complaints lament the state of their schools among themselves, but they rarely join forces to demand changes. It's at the point now that we're so used to all of the constant foolishness, we don't even know what normal looks like.

I'd love to see the teachers all decide not to go to this silly pep rally and instead go to their classrooms to prepare for the next week.

teachermom4
teachermom4

I was at the Johnny Brown rally. Horrific waste of time, as I'm sure this one will be. Thank God I left Dekalb long ago.

Babycat
Babycat

This is stupidity at its best!

Babycat
Babycat

Maybe this is another reality show plot!  I mean, come on, looks who is at the helm, what do you expect!

Tonya729
Tonya729

Babycat, what do you mean when you wrote, 'look who is at the helm...?"

GArunner
GArunner

@Tonya729 Dr.Joyce, the Luv Doctor. It is on her website! She does have a lot of education.

Rickster_
Rickster_

@GArunner @Tonya729 It would be interesting if Dr. Joyce were scheduled to be one of the "motivational speakers" scheduled.