Update from DeKalb County:
At tonight’s meeting, the DeKalb County Board of Education is expected to delay its first vote on a working draft of the 2016-17 Proposed School Organization until Jan. 7. A second vote on the final draft will take place on Jan. 23 as previously reported.
The delay allows the DeKalb County School District staff time to incorporate already received public suggestions and refine the working draft. The Board vote on Jan. 7 is to share the revised draft for public comment. The public information sessions will run from Jan. 8 through Jan. 17 across the five academic regions of the district. Additionally, the public may email ideas, comments and suggestions.
After the public information sessions, the working draft will be put into final form for the Board’s approval on Jan. 23. That document will be sent to the Georgia Department of Education for its initial review.
The “proposed school organization” records the schools a school district expects to operate in the coming years. The document forms the basis for development of a very detailed plan called the “Local Five-Year Facility Plan” or LFP. The LFP provides the district’s justification to participate in the state capital outlay program. Currently, DCSD is eligible to receive up to $40 million in additional funds dependent upon the state approval of plan.
Back to the original post:
The DeKalb Board of Education votes tonight on a controversial draft five-year facilities plan from Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson.
You can read the AJC story about today’s 6 p.m. meeting here. The story quotes a parent from Midway Elementary School who was upset that her south DeKalb school is slated to close in the plan. And the story talks about unhappy parents at Evansdale Elementary in north DeKalb whose children shift from Lakeside High to Tucker under the plan.
The public has until mid January to comment on the plan, which goes to a final vote later that month.
The plan has alarmed many parents, although one of the more controversial aspects — closing three south DeKalb middle schools to save money and sending the students to high school campuses — has already been scratched.
But some parents remain unhappy with the proposed school closings and redistricting in the draft that will be voted on tonight.
Here is an op-ed by two DeKalb parent leaders from the Evansdale Elementary community:
By Jennifer Hatfield and Robin Malinovsky
As a parent, there is little that ranks above a solid education for your child. When choosing a home, we also choose the schools in which it resides because the school impacts home value, taxes, and most of all, the education of your child. The neighborhood then becomes a family of friendships with whom we and our children share a 12-year educational experience.
Superintendent of DeKalb schools, Dr. Cheryl Atkinson, is about to take these very same communities of nearly 100,000-plus kids and parents in DeKalb County and shatter them through a school redistricting and reorganization plan.
She presented this proposal at a November Board of Education meeting, outlining new “facilities” plans for the DeKalb County School District in the coming years. This plan includes redistricting and school closures, beyond the redistricting already endured two years ago. Dr. Atkinson wants to fast-track approval by calling for a vote today — without any public input.
Two years ago, when the system embarked on the tenuous and expensive process of redistricting, promises and assurances were made stating DCSD would get it right so we wouldn’t have to revisit the subject. We were also assured a community component, meant to respect the nuances of each neighborhood and community.
Dr. Atkinson is now reneging on all of those pledges. The district paid tens of thousands of dollars to a firm of expertise for that redistricting. Why is that result being pushed aside? How can they justify that “waste” of money while under the ongoing and watchful eye of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), which is tasked with reviewing the DCSD’s accreditation?
We were informed that, in order to maximize state funding for our schools, each needed to have no less than 450 pupils — in fact, this was the strongest justifications for redistricting. Yet, this proposed plan drops enrollment in many schools to approximately 350 pupils. The administration has also promised to maintain county buildings and facilities, regardless of whether they are in use, to protect their investment. However, dozens of SPLOST IV maintenance projects have been stricken from schools now slated for closure.
Finally, the school board approved a policy prohibiting the issuance of bonds to expedite construction. Now the board members are being asked to reverse their vote, just months later, and increase debt in order to move forward. This is fiscal irresponsibility.
Residents and parents have been told, time and time again, the district is focused on student achievement and creating high-performance learning cultures in all schools. This plan is being used to tear down what is working well simply to level the playing field. DeKalb should learn from successful schools and model those processes at other schools. Instead, the BOE wants to shift the high-performing students out of nationally ranked schools and send them to lower-performing schools. This doesn’t achieve goals, it only hurts the students.
Given this district’s track record of missteps, incompetence and recent legal woes, the fast-tracking of this ill-conceived plan (without any regard for community stakeholders or even the administration’s own cited priorities), would not be in the best interest of the taxpayers, parents and, most importantly, the children of DeKalb County. We ask that the DCSD to form a plan demonstrating the road to financial stability. We need a fiscally responsible proposal that doesn’t include increasing the debt, and belittling our schools and neighborhoods, in order to move forward.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog