Fulton’s new high school: Should we be building palaces in this climate?

I have to agree with this reader about the detailed plans for the new Bethany Road High School in Milton. It does look grand.  (The plans can be viewed in this Google.doc).

Does this new Fulton County school – or any school — need to be this elaborate when we are cutting teachers and raising class sizes? I have often argued that I would accept a broom closet for my kids’ classroom if a great teacher was leading the class.  I think the critical issue is top personnel more than top facilities.  That is where I would put my money.

Here is what the reader said:

With all the furloughs, layoffs, budget cuts, shortage of books to take home, elimination of after school programs, art, music, and PE classes, somehow the school boards find the money to build monuments such as the new Bethany Road High School to be built in Milton.  The plans give you a perspective of the scope of the structure.

While it is important to provide enough classrooms and other facilities, and to integrate LEED and life cycle costing into the materials used in the public schools, what the h-e-double-l do they need a tower standing 63 above the ground for?

And all the precast material used on the tower and on the building facade will cost 5 to 10 times more than brick.  This tower alone will easily cost the taxpayers over $50,000 to construct, and I can see no useful purpose except as a monument to the architect.  I guess that is a small amount of money for a monument, considering the budget is an estimated $60 million dollars.

It looks good, along with the expensive precast materials, but are these expensive accents and building materials really necessary to provide the students with a good learning environment?  Is there anyone minding the store to see that our property tax dollars are being spent wisely in the economic downturn?

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lynn

April 23rd, 2010
5:27 am

Is this a SPLOST funded facility? If so, then the money can’t be used in the classroom. I suspect it is.

However, what other capital needs does Fulton have that are going unmet because they are spending so much on this one project?

@ Teach 7th & @Let's tell the truth...

April 23rd, 2010
5:48 am

Will the teachers who are victims of the RIF be placed in this school?

God Bless the Teacher!

April 23rd, 2010
6:12 am

It’s Milton. Enough said.

ScienceTeacher671

April 23rd, 2010
6:21 am

Our board is spending money on a lot of things we think are unnecessary, given furloughs and layoffs, but they say it’s all SPLOST money which must be spent on capital projects anyway.

Still looks bad.

Ellie

April 23rd, 2010
6:26 am

Huh…..didn’t Cindy Loe just say Fulton has another 28 million or so in debt???? Fulton is a 2 class county and class Milton wants out. This is being done pronto before they’ll try the split again. You can’t make this stuff up it’s so unreal!

Cindy Lutenbacher

April 23rd, 2010
6:56 am

I’m with you, Maureen. Great teachers are what matter, not classrooms. The most amazing teacher I’ve ever known, Yang Li, once said this: Give me a tree and some students, and we will have a school.

1

April 23rd, 2010
7:03 am

Enter your comments here

Mid-South Philosopher

April 23rd, 2010
7:05 am

Good morning, Ms. Downey,

Have you ever noticed how that, with all these hard decisions politicians have to make (like the school boards around Atlanta, the Georgia General Assembly, and other assorted governmental idioties…excuse me…”entities”), the “decision-makers” rarely sacrifice or suffer to the extent that the people, who the decisions are make about, do?

1

April 23rd, 2010
7:09 am

Actually, Cindy, that quote is from the first president of Yale, or Harvard, back in the 1600s.

The Cynical White Boy

April 23rd, 2010
7:52 am

A generation ago, the biggest and nicest buildings in many Georgia towns were the churches. Now, it’s the “DEFACS” or the Dept of Labor office.

There’s an irony in the fact that many of the folks with school age kids who are paying for this new palace will never send their kids to public schools in this area, while a lot of folks who will send their kids into the facility never pay a penny in taxes.

A Different Opinion

April 23rd, 2010
7:57 am

Folks, look at who’s paying a great part of the Property Taxes to fund all of Fulton County (yeah, part of that is you, South Fulton County). They pay for the priviledge of living where they live and should reap the benefits. Don’t think anyone has a right to complain about this one.

Teacher&mom

April 23rd, 2010
7:58 am

@ Mid-South Philosopher – Yeah, I notice it everyday when I go to work and have to deal with the decisions (or lack of decisions) of my administrators, central office, BOE, state superintendent, and state BOE. However, I along with all teachers in this state, are the ones that suffer the blows & insults from the public for the decisions. Somehow, those in power always come out “smelling like a rose.” My only hope is that next November the stink will overwhelm the voters in this state and they will begin to place the blame where it belongs…

barneyb

April 23rd, 2010
8:02 am

Have you seen Milton HS and some of the other North Fulton schools? Ridiculous…..you folks up there should be ashamed of yourselves.

V for Vendetta

April 23rd, 2010
8:03 am

This is nothing new, but I’m glad it’s receiving some negative attention. Gwinnett, North Fulton, and Cobb have been building ridiculous school facilities for years.

I’m with you, Maureen. Simplify the buildings and work on retaining effective teachers. Arm them with modern technology. I’d much rather teach in a bare-bones room but have access to modern tech than I would in a glorified office building with nothing–or no job in the first place.

Morrus

April 23rd, 2010
8:15 am

Vote out the incumbents and start over

cc

April 23rd, 2010
8:21 am

Hey barneyb, Have you ever seen my tax bill? I am not ashamed, we pay enough taxes to support our end of county and the south end.

M George

April 23rd, 2010
8:23 am

I still say someone needs to look at the perks some peopel are getting in fulton. Do other systems pay their top people for cars, gasoline? Are these perks be reduced in the central office cuts? it might not be much money but it sure makes a statement if they are eliminated.

HS Teacher, Too

April 23rd, 2010
8:23 am

V, as much as I can’t stand Gwinnett, having taught in their high schools, the buildings (old and new) really are not anything spectacular, and certainly they are not ostentatious. They are large, granted, but they don’t have the bells and whistles you’d think. I’d even argue that they’re closer to bare bones than they are to what’s going on in Fulton. I also understand that plans are re-used and only modified, to save costs (but I don’t have any proof, other than having been in buildings to say, “hmm, this looks identical to…”.) Now, if you’re talking about Gwinnett’s football stadiums, well, yes, I agree! :)

William Casey

April 23rd, 2010
8:24 am

I bet they said the same thing tp Pharaoh Cheops when he ordered the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

EDDIE

April 23rd, 2010
8:31 am

Whether the SPLOST was used or not–it still will cost money to maintain it, keep it up, staff it, lawn care, light fixture replacements, janitors, ELECTRICITY and other expenses. That is the problem-SPLOST builds these nice buildings, but when they are finished-then the upkeep such as trying to maintain the professional landscape grounds start to kick in. The long term finances will be left for the county to absorb while the voters will support another SPLOST project, which again will cost taxpayers in the long run.

ItDoesntMatter

April 23rd, 2010
8:39 am

I consulted with a GC who builds and renovates schools in Fulton County. All these negative comments are received as compliments by the folks in the communities where these schools are built. There is a sincerely felt belief that their kids deserve better schools because of their income and the efforts they, the parents, put into creating their communities. I agree wholeheartedly. I wish Milton County could be created for the sole purpose of affording those people the opportunity to cocoon themselves with themselves and never have to interact with anyone other than themselves. Then the rest of the county, and the metro area for that matter, could move on with the business of realizing that there are people outside of that secluded area who are capable of creating and living in safe, diverse, and healthy communities where folks own businesses, work hard, create jobs, pay their taxes, and choose to use public transportation (even though they have multiple automobiles); communities where the least among of us feel welcome and the greatest among us don’t feel threatened every time we see someone who doesn’t look like us. Come on Atlanta, let’s rid ourselves of this cancer called North Fulton and renovate, build, and support the communities we all really want to live in.

Honorable Teacher

April 23rd, 2010
8:45 am

Check out the charter schools that are privatized. Public dollars are being used to build and lease their facilities. This is not being done with the SPLOST funds. It is with the same public dollars that are being used to cut our teachers, paras, programs and materials. The game that is used is that the EMO’s will “lend” the money. The public dollars from the state and local pays it back with interest. Go figure….. In addition, these are small schools and small schools in Dekalb are being cut. Something smells like a fish….

Nature Dude

April 23rd, 2010
8:50 am

Upkeep? Districts don’t keep up their buildings. The school I work at has rusted out shower rooms, locker rooms that are falling apart, and paint peeling on the walls…head to more affluent areas and the state of the schools is much different…even though we are in the same county. All schools are not managed the same way, within the same district.

WhatREALLYMatters

April 23rd, 2010
8:58 am

I consulted with a GC who builds and renovates schools in Fulton County. I concluded that all these negative comments are received as compliments by the folks in the communities where these schools are built. It adds to their since of elitism. There is a sincerely felt belief that their kids deserve better everything because of their income and the efforts they, the parents, put into creating their wealth and communities. I agree wholeheartedly. I wish Milton County could be created for the sole purpose of affording those people the opportunity to cocoon themselves with themselves and never have to interact with anyone other than themselves ever again. Then the rest of the county, and the metro area for that matter, would discover the beauty, wealth of knowledge, and value in the rest of the people. We would be able to move on with the business of realizing that there are people outside of that secluded area who are capable of creating and living in safe, diverse, and healthy communities where folks own businesses, work hard, create jobs, pay their taxes, and choose to use public transportation (even though they have multiple automobiles); communities where the least among of us feel welcomed and the greatest among us don’t feel threatened every time we see someone who doesn’t look like us. Come on Atlanta, let’s rid ourselves of this distracting, debilitating cancer called North Fulton and renovate, build, and support communities we all really want to live in. There was an article published a few months ago detailing the number of corporate headquarters currently in what would be Milton County that officially uses the name “Atlanta” as the location for its headquarters, not North Fulton, not Sandy Springs, not Alpharetta, but Atlanta. Why do you suppose that is? Currently, the wealth may be to the north, but the perceived value for the rest of the world, and the real value for those of us who live here is in Atlanta. It’s time to cut away Milton Count and refocus attention towards our own strengths.

Recall The Board and Fire The Super

April 23rd, 2010
9:53 am

Education in GA is a farce. “Where students come first” is an even bigger farce. Last night at the North Fulton County School Board Meeting, the superintendent appointed Maureen Wheeler to replace George Weathers as the Principal of Renaissance Middle School in South Fulton. How do you up and appoint someone when the job is still posted on the website, parents and staff are compelting NEW PRINCIPAL surveys and there has been absolutely NO COMMUNITY INPUT? Linda Bryant, Cindy Loe and all the members of this biased, segregated, pompous, scandalous school system needs to be investigated by SACS. Forget that the system just hired one of the SACS people, laid off 1000 employees, and most of the schools that made AYP in South Fulton had 21% or higher erasure marks on the CRCT!!!! YOU PEOPLE SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES!!!!

V for Vendetta

April 23rd, 2010
10:02 am

HS Teacher, Too,

I don’t know about that. Have you seen Duluth’s new addition? I was over there a few months ago for a banquet. It’s ridiculous: huge columns, four stories (I think), a second-story pedestrian bridge, a VERY nice theatre, etc. I think a few of those things could have been deleted and dollars saved. :-)

George

April 23rd, 2010
10:21 am

While SPLOST can only go to capital outlays (buildings), correct me if I am wrong, can also go to improving technology. Some schools really need so more advanced technology. Computer labs are becoming a place of torn up stations. I know of one county that the middle school building floor has holes in it, was not built on a slab, the bathroom is slowly sinking, while the SPLOST went to build a beautiful Board Office. Which by the way, most board office has the top of the line pencil sharperners, fax machines, nicest desks, boxes of paper-while teachers are spending thier own money for pencil sharpeners, paper, and other materials.

George

April 23rd, 2010
10:25 am

I think a good capital outlay for SPLOST would be solar panels and other electrical saving devices-Can you imagine what the millions of dollars of SPLOST could do to make all schools self reliant instead of using Georgia Power–any overage GA Power would have to buy. That would save money in the long run instead of adding expenses. BUT we do not think outside the box.

teacher/parent

April 23rd, 2010
11:36 am

George-I like the way you think. If we HAVE to spend the money on particular items, let’s spend it on something that is necessary and will save money in other areas. Having the nicest buidling on the block, columns, atrium-not necessary. Waste is waste.

Reality

April 23rd, 2010
12:17 pm

These things need to happen (and in this order)…

1. State Law changed to allow teachers to have a real union.
2. Vote out the State republican politicans that are destroying education in GA.
3. Vote out and/or remove the school systems Board member. They did not properly manage funds and are forced to do these ridulous cut backs this year.

RJ

April 23rd, 2010
12:23 pm

This is ridiculous! Westlake (a south Fulton school) opened last year and isn’t nearly this nice. We have a top swim team that has to practice at the local recreation center because…we’ll who knows why? I wonder if cell bars are a part of the plans as they were with Westlake. Imagine bars coming down to trap students when the bell rings. How nice is Langston Hughes High? I just find this ridiculous as many of my former co-workers have lost their jobs or are waiting to learn today via email if they will have a job next year. This board is a joke and needs to be replaced. And for the record, Westlake is surrounded by beautiful upscale homes, they just happen to be owned by blacks instead of whites.

Reality

April 23rd, 2010
12:28 pm

RJ –

Not that you are totally wrong, but…

There really is no correlation between having money and being civilized. There are many criminals with tons of money. There are many uncivilized and ill-social people with money.

Money alone does not make someone ‘high class.’ Just watch one of the Housewives TV shows.

HS Teacher, Too

April 23rd, 2010
12:28 pm

V,
No, haven’t seen Duluth … so perhaps I stand corrected! Have a great weekend!

Delia

April 23rd, 2010
12:52 pm

Reality -
Are you implying the people of middle and upper class status in south fulton are criminals? Are you sick? The people are mostly professionals…ones who went to school and worked their behinds off to get what they have… In every community, you have questionable characters.
Please clarify your point!

M George

April 23rd, 2010
1:03 pm

Response to Recall the Board and the Super….other appointments were handled teh same. Try Elkins Point Middle school. So many people are choosing to retire from Fulton- can you blame them? Isn’t anyone out there curious about the salary perks?

Jamesr1991

April 23rd, 2010
1:19 pm

Is this the same design as any other north Fulton high school? Does anyone kno? Because all the new high schools in South Fulton are the EXACT same DESIGN (all three). It is clearly unfair to have north Fulton building schools with different design while making the south Fulton schools the same.

REPORT the FACTS Maureen! Ask the questions.

Fedup

April 23rd, 2010
1:21 pm

Let’s hope the citizens of Fulton don’t sit “pat” and let these blogs be the end of the rage against this Board that has set the table for the slide this district has experienced during the last 10 years. I personally have no dog in any principal selection fight, but how do you fill principalships with absolutely no input or dialogue from parents and staff? I agree with a few other readers that if SACS really drilled down through the last several years regarding the actions of this Board, Clayton’s Board members that got the “heave-ho” proably wouldn’t look so bad….

? M George

April 23rd, 2010
1:30 pm

was someone appointed to the Elkins Point job?

Fedup

April 23rd, 2010
1:35 pm

Yes, M George…..the current principal at Roswell North ES.

Jamesr1991

April 23rd, 2010
1:37 pm

@Fedup We tried to get SACS involved a number of years ago and were clearly ignored. It’s my contention (I live in South Fulton) that we are running to separate school systems – one north one south. We complained for years and got no where. I believe because a majority (5) of the members are Republicans and with a Republican Governor that has relationship with SACS nothing will happen.

This board has been on this path for years. The SPLOST program has been mismanaged and no one has taken responsibility. We as tax payers have been cheated and overbilled time and again through the SPLOST. No REAL investigation has taken place but a few people quietly RETIRED.
Forensic audits were put on the shelf to hide wrongdoings. Board members pressured staff to hide information. In the meantime, Board members openly worked against their sworn oath to work for the betterment of all Fulton children while building out north Fulton schools in hopes of getting away with it in a new Milton County.

Down south we’ve been complaining for years and you guys up north have stood quietly by while they were clearly screwing us.

Finally, you are starting to see what we’ve been screaming about. Welcome to the battle.

usually lurking

April 23rd, 2010
1:41 pm

@V and @HS Teacher – the building at Duluth to which you refer is at least 5 years old and houses the main offices and 60 or so classrooms as well as the auditorium. More relevant might be the new “signature” building for the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology, enrollment 404 for grades 9-11, that will open this fall.

L.A. in SWATs

April 23rd, 2010
1:47 pm

Thanks Delia and RJ. I get sick of hearing that North Fulton is “paying for” South Fulton. I live in an upscale home in South Fulton and our tax bill is certainly no drop in the bucket!

RJ

April 23rd, 2010
1:47 pm

@Reality, did you READ my post or just skim through it and then post a comment. Or, did you just have the need to state your opinion that all blacks are criminals?! I never stated anything about whites or blacks being high classed. I simply stated that south Fulton has beautiful homes and upper middle class homeowners just as north Fulton does, however South Fulton is often ignored. I believe this is BECAUSE it is black. I worked in Fulton County for several years and I can assure you that it is a very divided system.

@Jamesr1991, you should see the NEW Milton high built for no apparent reason other than to appease the parents. It doesn’t resemble any south Fulton high school. It was built a few years ago and I couldn’t believe they built such a lavish building but the new Westlake doesn’t even come close. All of the south Fulton middle schools look the same as well. We get a one size fits all approach while north Fulton gets facilities that truly meet the needs of the students in the community. It’s just disgusting.

Fedup

April 23rd, 2010
1:48 pm

jamesr1991, I live in South Fulton as well, and it is obvious that this arrogant leadership is doing its best to further separate itself from the needs of anywhere below the northern 285 crescent. I do hope that if/when Milton branches out, that all the school properties that belong to Fulton County are paid for at full property value!!!!

Reality

April 23rd, 2010
1:55 pm

@RJ: Did YOU even READ my post? I have even mentioned “black” or “white”.

You dicussed how there are bars in some school in fulton and then went on to discuss how there are beautiful homes (assumming money) around it.

I pointed out that people (not just black or white) can have tons of money and still have no clue how to properly behave. Possibly that school is in an area WITH money and also HIGH crime?

You are too defensive.

Reality

April 23rd, 2010
1:57 pm

@FedUp

It is my understanding that North Fulton will be very happy, indeed, to pay full property value and then some just to separate.

My question is then, what would the rest do? Will the City of Atlanta become its own, separate from South Fulton?

ElemTeacher

April 23rd, 2010
2:03 pm

The recent schools of Johns Creek, Milton, and Alpharetta are all being built with the same basic plan. The difference is that they all have different facades. Milton has the columns, Alpharetta is very modern, and Johns Creek has the time clock. I am assuming the new high school will follow the same plan. They all have a distinctive quality on the outside, but all are the same floorplan. Of course, it is completely ridiculous. Teachers still don’t have contracts and still don’t know whether they are being RIF’d or not. The county is bad enough. Don’t even get me started at what the state is trying to do at the last minute with just a few legislative days left. Speak up and let your voice be heard!!!

Fedup

April 23rd, 2010
2:04 pm

The city of Atlanta already has its own system – Atlanta Public Schools – my guess is that the South Fulton schools and the schools in APS could/would merge into one urban school district – more than likely retaining the Fulton County designation – just a guess, however.

Reality

April 23rd, 2010
2:05 pm

Johns Creek High School has many unused classrooms. Yet, the County is RIF-ing teachers and increasing class sizes.

Fulton County School System is just plain ol’ broken.