Who are the outside groups influencing DeKalb school construction?

Who are these dubious outside influences?

In voting against a list of proposed construction projects to be funded by a special five-year penny sales tax program,  freshman school board member Nancy Jester said she didn’t have enough time to review the projects and she had questions about the influence of unspecified “outside” groups. She represents the Dunwoody area.

“There are very focused interest groups who have advocated for their projects, and we are benefiting groups that easily organize during the summer,” she said. “I can’t in good conscious vote for this plan.”

I think there are parent advocates in DeKalb, as in any school system. But I am curious about Jester’s mention  of “outside” forces shaping the project list.

I also think that DeKalb may face a struggle this November prodding voters to extend the sales tax. Voters in Atlanta, Decatur and Fulton counties also vote on the sales tax, which by law sunsets in March, as there are overlapping school boundaries.

The AJC reports that the DeKalb construction wish list reflects a move toward what Gwinnett has long embraced: larger schools.

The story states: DeKalb’s long-term goal is to phase out smaller neighborhood schools in favor of 900-student elementary, 1,200-student middle and 1,600-student high schools. The plan approved Monday would bring the district closer to doing that, said Daniel Drake, director of planning and forecasting for the district.. “It’s more of an efficiency on the administrative costs for these schools, throughout the county,” he said.

According to the AJC:

Highlights of the plan include the construction of seven elementary schools for$144 million, an arts school at Avondale Middle and a $22.4 million renovation and addition at Redan High. The plans come after the board voted in March to close eight schools in a massive redistricting that takes effect this fall. School officials said some schools are closing so that larger schools can be built in their place.

Two private firms were hired by DeKalb to survey schools and consider the building conditions and technology needs. The scores of those surveys were meshed together and used to determine which schools would be first in line for improvements.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

58 comments Add your comment

Dunwoody Mom

June 7th, 2011
9:45 am

Have you ever looked at the Board of Directors for the “Coralwood School Foundation”?

Dunwoody Mom

June 7th, 2011
9:46 am

That being said, I have no idea who Nancy Jester is referring to….Just a disclaimer. This is my own personal opinion.

catlady

June 7th, 2011
9:53 am

In good conscience

catlady

June 7th, 2011
9:58 am

And Dekalb will find that their scores will deteriorate further when they move to the mega schools. At-risk kids benefit most from smaller classrooms IN SMALLER SCHOOLS. See NELS data from NCES.

Write Your Board Members

June 7th, 2011
9:59 am

Much more important than that comment, were the public comments by Zepora Roberts, former board member.

Her comments amounted first to pure race baiting, by saying that everyone in the county is talking about the fact that the board wants a white superintendent. Second, at the end of her comments she talked about the fact that the person the board is talking with/about for superintendent didn’t have his contract renewed by his current system.

This system is clearly sinking in part because of its leaky board. Are you kidding me? Clearly someone fed her that information and asked her to speak.

I don’t think it was Tyson, rather I suspect Cunningham or Walker. I am guessing that the current person of iinterest for the job of DCSS superintendent isn’t African American.

Dunwoody Mom

June 7th, 2011
10:02 am

@catlady, the plan is not “mega-schools” as they have in Gwinnett. It simply that the way the state funds schools, the smaller, neighborhood type schools get left behind funding wise. Perhaps our politicans should stop worrying about the 16 charter schools and start worrying about how our schools are funded and why year after year they vote to cut education spending?

almh

June 7th, 2011
10:16 am

I was floored by Ms Roberts too and I did email the board.
I will NOT vote for the next SPLOST.

justjanny

June 7th, 2011
10:22 am

Close schools only to build new ones…h-m-m

Write Your Board Members

June 7th, 2011
10:32 am

With the exception of Austin, I suspect that for each school that is built, at least two will close.

Dunwoody Mom

June 7th, 2011
10:35 am

Actually, in some cases, more than 2 schools will close. If I read the map correctly that the consultants provided, at the end of all of this, something like 17 elementary schools will ultimately be closed.

jsmtih

June 7th, 2011
10:48 am

Didnt the board just close some schools and now they are building new ones?

Rational

June 7th, 2011
10:56 am

Seems like the new Superintendant would want to be a part of the process as these are major decisions. What’s that? We don’t have a new Superintendant? Seems also like the Board waited until school was out to announce the plan. I think this had the effect of minimizing community input, intended or not.

Lynn43

June 7th, 2011
10:59 am

I’m constantly amazed at all the “outside consultants” that the metro area school systems hire.

A Conservative Voice

June 7th, 2011
11:00 am

Well folks, you know, It’s hard for this old guy to understand why we’re closing old schools and then building new ones. We have a school transportation system, which I’m not a big fan of; however, I’m a realist and realize that it’s not gonna go away. Why not utilize this system to transport kids to the “old schools” instead of spending money we don’t have to build new ones. Utilizing the transportation system has to be a cheaper alternative than building and maintaining “new schools”. Me thinks the people advising the DeKalb BOE are interested only in the fees they are receiving, not what will benefit the county most.

@Maureen – I also think that DeKalb may face a struggle this November prodding voters to extend the sales tax. Voters in Atlanta, Decatur and Fulton counties also vote on the sales tax, which by law sunsets in March, as there are overlapping school boundaries.

I’m certainly not voting for any tax increase, be it for schools or the transportation initiative until our leaders (and I use that term loosely) show a little common sense and stop wasting the taxes we’re now paying.

Another Government Employee

June 7th, 2011
11:12 am

DCSS and its board are one of the most disorganized, dysfunctional groups I have had the displeasure to deal with. The county has defacto split into three or four factions that refuse to work together to complete its mission. Quite frankly, the only solution for those of us in the Northern part of the county is to petition to have an independent school district set up and leave the rest of them behind.

Paulo977

June 7th, 2011
11:13 am

cat lady
You are a breath of fresh air!
“At-risk kids benefit most from smaller classrooms IN SMALLER SCHOOLS.” But I would also suggest that smaller schools , especially for young children , are vital for all ALL children !! Unfortunately , these decisions are not driven by educational aims BUT by monetary agendas!!

Paulo977

June 7th, 2011
11:16 am

Conservative Voice ..
I am with you on this ….why indeed !!
“It’s hard for this old guy to understand why we’re closing old schools and then building new ones”" Crazy, crazy , crazy!!!

Lewis

June 7th, 2011
11:18 am

“It’s more of an efficiency on the administrative costs for these schools, throughout the county,” he said.
Reducing these costs is certainly a desirable goal, but speaking to whether students will benefit should be the more important consideration in all of this. Will families be as involved in these larger schools as they tend to be in smaller, local schools? Will the students become anonymous faces in the crowds in the halls?

Dunwoody Mom

June 7th, 2011
11:19 am

To be clear, it is the smaller, older, that are closing. In their place will be bigger schools that can handle the population of 3 or 4 smaller elementary schools.

Dunwoody Mom

June 7th, 2011
11:21 am

Here is a link to the board of directors for the “Coralwood School Foundation”:

http://coralwoodschool.com/foundation/board.php

How many small public schools have foundations in which individuals from large corporations sit on their board?

Dunwoody Mom

June 7th, 2011
11:43 am

btw, Maureen, Nancy Jester is not from Dunwoody. Her non-Dunwoody constituents might go into a frenzied tailspin at this reference.

Maureen Downey

June 7th, 2011
11:50 am

@Dunwoody, See change to be clearer.
Maureen

Hurricane

June 7th, 2011
12:07 pm

With the current board School Board leadership we have here in DeKalb, I can’t see myself supporting any additional taxes.

S. Bevill

June 7th, 2011
12:08 pm

Another attempt by the inept politicians that a group of Dekalb citizens elected ( not due to qualifications, but race), and they will NOT quit until they have bankrupted Dekalb County in the same manner that they brought down the mighty City of Atlanta. Go right ahead, they are wanting to put a certain group of fiscally responsible citizens & taxpayers in their place. NEWS FLASH…….. These are the very same people who ultimately end up with a big fat “0″. Responsible people just move on to greener pastures and a level playing field. Blame the foreigners for all of your shortcomings & ignorance.

Ernest

June 7th, 2011
12:11 pm

Are citizens willing to pay more in labor and maintenance costs for older, small buildings? Most comments suggest the answer to this is no given schools are funded with tax dollars and most people complain about the monies they are paying. There seems to be a disconnect here.

I’d love to send my children to a small neighborhood school that everyone can walk to. Do we have the land to provide that along with the money to build these for all children? Can you offer that same services at smaller schools as you find in larger schools? I think many citizens need to take a step back and evaluate what is important to them. Money is part of the solution and what we get from our schools will be based on our investments in them.

Everyone should also remember that a lot of the added costs to school systems is due to compliance and regulations, much of what evolved from citizen requests.

jarvis

June 7th, 2011
12:13 pm

Will the addition at Redan include bullet proof glass and an on-site SWAT Team? That school has sucked since the 2nd Reagan Administration.

Confused

June 7th, 2011
12:22 pm

@Maureen, can someone explain the very important point that they are reinstating furlough days AND still no step increases AGAIN…but have the money to renovate AND rebuild?!?!?!?

d

June 7th, 2011
12:23 pm

I half agree with Catlady…. small classes certainly can help student achievement. However, if we limit the number of small classes so that the school itself is small, then vital programs cannot be funded. Just look at DeKalb. Many schools had no art or music programs. Thanks to the consolidation, all elementary schools will have at least a part time position for those programs for all elementary schools.

Ernest

June 7th, 2011
12:31 pm

Confused, I can help with your question. Compensation (wages and benefits) are paid from the general operations budget, which is funded primarily through property taxes. This budget can also include a set aside for maintenance and operational costs needed for facility updates.

Most of the rebuild/renovation money is funded through the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). This is generated through the penny tax voters must approve to on sales conducted in their municipality. Each vote is for a 5 year term. Per the GA Constitution, these funds can only be used for facility improvements, technology procurements, or paying off bonds. These funds cannot be used for employee salaries.

A Conservative Voice

June 7th, 2011
12:42 pm

@Ernest

June 7th, 2011
12:11 pm
Are citizens willing to pay more in labor and maintenance costs for older, small buildings? Most comments suggest the answer to this is no given schools are funded with tax dollars and most people complain about the monies they are paying. There seems to be a disconnect here.

Ernest, I know what’s important to me and it’s not what’s going on right now in our county. I respect your right to defend the school system all you want, but don’t ask or try to persuade me to buy into that BS

@Dunwoody Mom
June 7th, 2011
11:19 am
To be clear, it is the smaller, older, that are closing. In their place will be bigger schools that can handle the population of 3 or 4 smaller elementary schools.

To Dunwoody Mom – Bigger schools are “not” what we need. They are just cold, lonely hallways that have no character and do not lend themselves to the feeling of friendliness that should be prevalent in our school system.

dteacher

June 7th, 2011
12:59 pm

Maureen,

Since you include the quoted bit about “efficiency on the administrative costs for these schools…,” I hope that you will post the dekalb school watch’s report of funding or get someone at the ajc to investigate properly the county’s out of school spending, especially when the board persists in furloughing teachers while retaining so many costly, unnecessary “educators.”. This interest in “outside groups” pales in comparison to the board’s malfeasance and absolute indifference to the needs of students.

How can anyone respect the district’s supposed attempt (ruse?) at saving school’s administrative costs when it employs so many suprefluous directors (e.g. 20 transportation directors, 63 instructional supervisors, etc…),the majority making salaries that exceed the maximum salary of a phd-holding teacher working until retirement.

Dekalb taxpayer

June 7th, 2011
1:02 pm

Well-said, catlady. I can easily imagine years from now a scenario in which test scores have fallen even further (is that possible?) and they decide that they need smaller schools; they’ll be asking us for money so they can tear down the larger schools and build smaller ones. I won’t be voting for another SPLOST until DCSS gets rid of half of the central office staff.

Dr NO

June 7th, 2011
1:03 pm

Death to SPLOST!!

Ernest

June 7th, 2011
1:05 pm

@A Conservative Voice, I also respect your right not to support a SPLOST. We stand together in wanting greater accountability with our school tax dollars.

Perhaps we differ on our perspectives. I see a physical plant infrastructure that has many schools built before 1970 that were not designed for the current demands we have for them. I’d rather support a SPLOST so the funding can be spread across all citizens rather than see an increase in my property taxes or bonds issued. If the roof in any school compromises instruction and needs repair, I want it done. Same applies to the heating and air system along with any other necessities to ensure a healthy learning environment. I can get made at those by making the decisions how the funds are used by exercising my right to vote during every election. I’m not willing to take my frustrations with my elected officials out on the schools.

Maureen Downey

June 7th, 2011
1:10 pm

@Confused, Two different pots of money. SPLOST was created and approved by voters to underwrite construction. Voters agreed to pay more sales tax to pay for construction.
The teacher salaries come from state and local funds, not from the penny sales tax under discussion.
If voters turn down a new SPLOST, those schools won’t be built as there will be no funds.
Maureen

Dunwoody Mom

June 7th, 2011
1:11 pm

To Dunwoody Mom – Bigger schools are “not” what we need. They are just cold, lonely hallways that have no character and do not lend themselves to the feeling of friendliness that should be prevalent in our school system

I understand, and agree – I attended a small, neighborhood school here in DCSS – so did my children. The funding of our schools is a state issue and one that our politicians refuse to address.

Dunwoody Mom

June 7th, 2011
1:15 pm

To Ernest’s point – there are some really, really old, crumbling elementary schools in DCSS. At some point, we are just throwing bad money after good trying to upkeep these schools.

MrLiberty

June 7th, 2011
1:16 pm

Bid pile of taxpayer money laying in the middle of the table. Why is anyone surprised at the associated corruption. That is what you get from everything government. With a private business, money must be earned. It can’t just be stolen like government can do, so there is a sense of responsibility for how it is spent (yes, I know about corporate welfare, etc. and that problem still comes back to government as the source of the problem). End government involvement in education and THIS problem goes away TOO.

Write Your Board Members

June 7th, 2011
1:20 pm

A conservative voice

The very successful students in Fulton, Cobb and Gwinnett would disagree with your statements about larger schools.

Larger elementary schools are not always bad, not always cold and impersonal and in GA, are often the most successful schools in the state.

almh

June 7th, 2011
1:23 pm

Amen dteacher!
I won’t vote for SPLOST because the board does not have a good track record when it comes to spending money on infrastructure, Title 1, employment, etc.
They spent a ton of money on The Palace when they could have used it for roof leaks and heating and air systems. Why did they need to spend $300,000 on lighting so they could all look pretty on PDS24?

oldtimer

June 7th, 2011
1:25 pm

After more than 30 years in Atlanta, Dekalb, and Clayton Counties, I now live in rural TN. I no longer teach, only volunteer, but many of the schools are K-8. They are very successful. They are not large. They do have some music and art, band, and chorus with traveling teachers. The tests scores are better than urban areas. They have the old timey neighborhood feel and parents are in and out all the time. PTAs are well attended. I might add this area is poor and always has been. So I have not read Catlady’s attachment, but I will agree with her just based on my own personnal business. And TN keeps small schools with no state income tax another bonus for me.

Typical Democrat

June 7th, 2011
1:43 pm

Attacking the DeKalb County BOE is obviously just an attempt to hold down the Black man by the white power structure. The BOE was doing a great job until the AJC started their hatch job.

I speak truth to power.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

June 7th, 2011
1:46 pm

Educ-rats appreciate that constructing large, glitzy, innovative physical plants will mollify the demands of a majority of citizens who want improved schools. And the cheese generated by the financing and constructing of such physical plants feeds the appetites and bank accounts of these same educ-rats.

Atlanta Media Guy

June 7th, 2011
1:48 pm

Not getting community input is DCSS’ and the BOE’s intention. They do it all the time. Last year, Tyson gave the public 48-55 hours to respond to the new ethics rules. She released the changes on a Friday after 5 and the public had until Sunday at 10 or 11pm to comment. This year they did again but this time it was for SPLOST. This just shows time and time again that DCSS and the BOE is not interested in public input, but only interested in getting more of OUR money for their friends and family hiring program which continues at DCSS.

DCSS=EPIC Criminal Enterprise failing OUR kids.

Also, AJC and Richard Belcher where are you? Where is that interview with Zepora? How come you guys don’t know who the Super candidate is? You were quick to derail the first negotiation and now Zepora has done it again. How come the AJC is not interested in finding out who the NEW leaker is?

Atlanta Media Guy

June 7th, 2011
2:00 pm

Ernest, I would love to support a fourth SPLOST, however the BOE and DCSS staff does not show the public respect when they spend this money recklessly. Some of the projects are badly needed, agreed. But the former inner-circle of CLew remains in power today and the BOE are mostly spineless racists that have no brain power to make this work right. Bowen is awful as chairman, he lets the BOE members break the rules and then says nothing when people like us speak up.

SPLOST would be great for DCSS, but I am voting no until CLew’s reign of terror ends. Every single major staff person Clew hired remains in power today. Sorry folks this bunch was working with Clew and Pope, while they were running a criminal enterprise in the construction areas of DCSS.. I can’t imagine a CFO going to his boss, Ramona Tyson, she was his direct report under CLew, explaining to her what CLew was doing with his Pcard, from several gas charges per day in different vehicles, to his alleged trysts with an employee from the “Office of Improvement” in the Bahamas and at a Georgia Lake Resort, yet nothing happens until the DA pressed charges that Clew had started on his former COO. This story would be laughed at, if the NY Times or WSJ caught wind. A Super wants to press charges on a COO and then when he realizes he just exposed himself to the same charges he asks the DA to stop investigating? This is like a bad comedy script and the ending is NOT good for the kids or the stakeholders of DCSS.

catlady

June 7th, 2011
2:00 pm

Pay on the front end, or PAY THROUGH THE REAR END. I believe it is truly that simple.

Dunwoody mom: the state pays based on a faulty premise; to wit, that we save money by counting the number of bodies, not the needs of the children.

An earlier poster was lamenting lack of PE, art, etc teachers. In the small (~300 K-7) student school I was lucky enough to teach in, WE THE ELEMENTARY teachers provided those things. And it didn’t hurt anyone at all. I cannot speak for teachers nowadays, but I had undergrad classes in the teaching of reading, math, language arts, pe, health, music, social studies, science, kiddie lit, art–what am I leaving out? When the parents had the chance to move their kids, transportation provided–to a larger school with those “specialty” teachers, the parents said, “No, thanks.” Eventually we got a traveling teacher for art and music, and, later, a PE teacher.

oldtimer–From what I know of them, TN’s small schools are a haven for those rural, poor children. And the benefits to the community are tremendous!

Dunwoody Mom

June 7th, 2011
2:15 pm

Dunwoody Mom: the state pays based on a faulty premise; to wit, that we save money by counting the number of bodies, not the needs of the children.

Agree. Every school, no matter its size, should have music, art, PE, reading specialists, math specialists….whatever they need to educate. These were a given when I was in elementary school. When did funding education in GA become so lame?

Ernest

June 7th, 2011
2:18 pm

Atlanta Media Guy, you have a philisophical problem in supporting a new SPLOST. I can respect that and wouldn’t try to talk you out of it. I can only share my perspective. There were a LOT of schools built in DeKalb in the 50’s and 60’s. I can’t imagine that those that made decisions to build those schools had any idea these same schools would last this long. They also probably couldn’t imagine the electrical demands schools have. This doesn’t count the number of children we have in schools along with regulations that did not exist during those times.

We as citizens ultimately own all the schools. Some need to be torn down and others consolidated. As one of the owners, I want to make sure each school is the best learning envrionment possible for our children.

Propertytaxpayer

June 7th, 2011
2:56 pm

There is no logic in closing schools only to turn around and ask the tax payers of the County to spend money to build new schools. I would like to throw all my old clothes away and then spend a fortune for a brand-new “upgraded” wardrobe because “my demographics have changed”. But, I have to make do with what I’ve got. So, does DeKalb.

Atlanta Media Guy

June 7th, 2011
3:45 pm

Ernest, I do not disagree with you! We are responsible for upgrading our facilities. I do not trust the current leadership to make the right decisions while implementing SPLOST IV. I want a full audit of the past 3, there are two still working currently right? I still want a full accounting to the past SPLOSTS! This current bunch always creates a, we must hurry and do this now, yet we only find out later there were huge errors made along the way.

It was this current bunch of staffers at DCSS, who lost millions of state dollars due to incomplete paperwork and other maladies. It was Fran Millar who got most of those funds back for the district. I want to support a SPLOST IV, but once again this thing seems to have been thrown together and the stakeholders only had a few days to comment. Why? Not very transparent, especially in the current atmosphere.

If a new Super is about to be hired, like Zepora said, shouldn’t we wait for that person to arrive and make sure we are headed in the direction he/she wants to steer? If we do this in a hurry I fear more maladies will arise and we’ll end up paying for the replacement $2K chairs at the Palace. I want what’s best for the kids and that’s new leadership at the helm of DCSS.. I mean a completely new hierarchy. The current folks will be able to find jobs elsewhere, it’s time for complete change! The Crawford Lewis experiment, that forced the “here’s Johnny star” out, didn’t quite work out. What can go wrong if we totally started from scratch. It can’t be worse, can it?