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The District: DeKalb Superintendent Dr. Vasanne S. Tinsley answers your questions

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The District: DeKalb Superintendent Dr. Vasanne S. Tinsley answers your questions

DeKalb County Interim Superintendent Dr. Vasanne Tinsley. Photo by Dean Hesse.

This Q&A first appeared in The District, an exclusive newsletter for paying subscribers. To become a subscriber for $6 a month, visit supportmylocalnews.com 

DeKalb County, GA —  DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Dr. Vasanne Tinsley spoke with Decaturish about a range of topics ahead of the start of school. Students return on Aug. 8.

Most of the questions were provided by readers and curated by the editor. The answers have been edited for length and additional context has been added where needed. Dr. Tinsley had 15 minutes to speak with us.

Q: School is starting on Aug. 8. Are there enough teachers to fully staff schools? How many teacher vacancies does the district have?

A: “So, we do have a shortage of teachers. The number is changing daily. We are constantly hiring. We are doing aggressive recruitment. We’re still recruiting. We’ll be recruiting up until the first day and after, to make sure we have qualified people in our school buildings.”

Dr. Tinsley adds that the district is also hiring more substitute teachers.

Q: What would you consider a realistic timeline for completion of the more pressing concerns in school buildings like leaking roofs, sewage backups, and malfunctioning HVAC systems?

A: “Well, I think that we have started to identify the issues in the buildings …  I can say that with the identification, we are coming up with a strategic approach…. We are seeing great improvement in the buildings across the district, but I’m not going to pretend to say it’ll all be fixed in a month. I’m not going to pretend it’ll be fixed in two months. I think we’ll be able to see the intentional focus on addressing our issues when you look at buildings across the district.”

Q: What is the current system for tracking work orders and what changes are planned?

A: “Right now we’re tracking the work orders through our Munis system, and with that system, we’re able to go in by school and identify when reports are made and track them from time of reporting to time of completion.”

Dr. Tinsley said no changes are currently planned to the system for tracking maintenance orders. She said the district wants to ensure its employees are trained and using the reporting tools appropriately.

“No major changes, outside of that.”

Q: What is the plan to help students with learning loss due to COVID-19? When will that be announced

A“So we are – as we talked about at the retreat – we are looking at some individualized strategy development for students. The Milestones scores have given us a nice picture as to where our students are … we also know where the deficiencies are due to COVID-19. We’re using that information to look at where students are and work aggressively through local schools to support the students.”

Q: Can the county school district provide a comprehensive organizational chart for the central office showing every employee who works there and who their direct supervisor is?

A“Yeah, the district can provide that. Actually, I’m in the process of reviewing that right now. We will definitely be sharing that information.”

Q: Over the last few months, there have been very public instances of employees in leadership roles violating the trust we have put in them. Why were those people moved into different roles and not terminated?

Editor’s note: District Spokesperson Donald Porter interjected and said Dr. Tinsley would not be discussing this issue and that the purpose of the interview invitation was to discuss the district‘s plans for the upcoming school year.

Q: Do you consider the assessment data in the comprehensive master plan valid? How is the CMP actively being used to guide your decisions?

A“What I will tell you is the CMP was provided as a framework of information for the district to take under advisement as they look at our facilities and programs over the next many years, …It’s some very good information for us. It does share some information for us to take into consideration what our schools look like over the next 10 or so years. I think it’s a valuable document. We do refer to it quite frequently.”

Q: The district is not doing concurrent learning this year, meaning teachers won’t be teaching in-person classes and virtual students at the same time. Can you talk about why the district isn’t doing concurrent learning this year? 

A: “Our focus this year is on bringing our students back into the buildings and providing the resources for the teachers to support the students while they’re in the classroom. That’s our intent.”

Dr. Tinsley said the district is continuing to monitor public health data and said the district could pivot to concurrent or remote learning based on guidance from the district‘s “health partners,” which include the DeKalb Board of Health.

“Right now, we are emphasizing we want our children back in the buildings.”

Q: Does the school district offer a voluntary COVID-19 testing program?

A“We are working with our health partners, the DeKalb Board of Health, to make sure we are providing surveillance testing and also making sure we’re advocating for testing. Some logistical parts regarding volunteer testing on-site with our schools, we’re working through those details. We do understand testing is important.”

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