Should Dunwoody have its own schools? Should cities be allowed to break from county systems?

Should communities be permitted to revolt against their county school systems and create their own school districts?

Legally, it would likely require a change to the state Constitution, which now forbids any new independent school systems.  (I added the text of the state Constitution to a comment that I made below. Some of you are questioning the existence of city school systems such as Decatur and Dalton, but those systems predate the constitutional prohibition.)

But we may see a push for such a change in the wake of DeKalb’s problems with SACS.

Acccording to the AJC:

Mike Davis, the mayor of Dunwoody, just wants out.

Davis said he believes nearly all Dunwoody residents want to separate from the DeKalb school system, and it’s something his city council is openly discussing. They are likely to ask state lawmakers in January for a measure — probably involving an amendment to the state constitution — that would let cities without school systems create their own.

“I think the system is too big, too corrupt,” Davis said of DeKalb. “Are we disappointed? Yes. Are we disgusted? Yes.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

170 comments Add your comment

bu2

December 18th, 2012
9:01 pm

Texas has had a series of lawsuits and monumental problems due to a bunch of small school districts with dramatically different tax bases. Splitting creates a lot more problems than it solves.

Momof2.5

December 18th, 2012
9:09 pm

For like the first time ever, I actually agree with the Dunwoody mayor. As a Dunwoody resident, few things would make me happier than a separate school system. I am so tired of dealing with DCSS corruption/ineptitude. It seems that some portions of the county will vote in incompetent board members even in the face of undeniable evidence that their presence on the board is ruining the school system for the entire county. We want out. If they let us out, I will glady get out of the way of the rest of the county and their desire to run the school system into the ground.

Concernedmom30329

December 18th, 2012
9:12 pm

bu2

TX lawsuits are at the state level, not the federal level, so not real applicable here. In fact, smaller and poorer districts tried to sue here a few years ago and were rebuffed.

The South generally has the lowest performing school systems in the country and most often has county based systems. There is at least an argument to be made that the status quo isn’t working well not just in DeKalb but across the region.

I know that many will argue that Gwinnett works well, but time will tell as it becomes more diverse, eventually sees changes in its school board and gets a new superintendent.

Concerned Taxpayer

December 18th, 2012
9:28 pm

This is a great idea for better control but it will increase the cost of education. NJ has 300+ different school district because each town is separate. Sound easy until you realize you have to pay for 300+ superintendents, admin, curriculum staff. People already complain about the overhead with the county schools systems….

Susan

December 18th, 2012
9:29 pm

Should Dunwoody have its own schools? Should cities be allowed to break from county systems?

Yes.

mountain man

December 18th, 2012
9:30 pm

I don’t understand. I went to Dalton City schools not whitfield county schools. Did they take that right away from cities?

Maureen Downey

December 18th, 2012
9:35 pm

@Mountain:
State Constitution now forbids new independent school systems:

Authority is granted to county and area boards of education to establish and maintain public schools within their limits. Existing county and independent school systems shall be continued, except that the General Assembly may provide by law for the consolidation of two or more county school systems, independent school systems, portions thereof, or any combination thereof into a single county or area school system under the control and management of a county or area board of education, under such terms and conditions as the General Assembly may prescribe; but no such consolidation shall become effective until approved by a majority of the qualified voters voting thereon in each separate school system proposed to be consolidated. No independent school system shall hereafter be established.

bu2

December 18th, 2012
9:35 pm

@concerned
The state constitution required Texas to implement an efficient school system. They lost in the suit Edgewood ISD v. Texas. The wording will be different in Georgia, but its likely there is something similar. That’s probably why this crazy formula forces Dekalb to send $100 million of our tax money to the state to help “poor” districts like Gwinnet (who gets $140 million from the state). Dekalb would still have problems, but would be in a lot better shape if we had that $100 million of our own money and $140 million coming from Gwinnet.

And if the places like Dunwoody split out, the rest will be left with even bigger problems. You’d have wealthy groups leaving a bunch of very poor districts. Wilmer-Hutchins near Dallas and North Forest near Houston have (or are being) shut down because of horrible student achievement in school districts with very low tax bases. Imagine a school district covering just zone 5 of DCSS. That’s what North Forest looked like. It would be hopeless. You might have a school board with 5 Sarah Copelin-Woods (She is probably a good well intentioned person, but its painful to watch her. She has no business as a school board member).

Nikole

December 18th, 2012
9:53 pm

Absolutely! In Dekalb, perhaps this new smaller system would actually focus on solving problems in low achieving schools instead of hiding behind higher achieving schools. ( I say this as a teacher in low achieving school). Instead of enacting wholesale reforms ( that don’t work) they can work with schools to develop individualized action plans and fully fund and support these plans.

Brit

December 18th, 2012
9:53 pm

If you bought a house in Dunwoody (before or after it chose to declare itself a city) you knew what schools you were districted to and that you were buying into a county school system. You should spend your time trying to make effective changes in the school system you bought into, instead of trying to gerrymander a new one….

Mom of 3

December 18th, 2012
10:09 pm

Yes. This is America. We were founded on freedom. If citizens want freedom, be it to become a city or run their own school district, they should be able to. I know this is all about money. But the issue was exactly the same when America wanted its independence from Britain. I can not not respect any argument against changing the state constitution if it is the will of the people. I know politicians in other parts of the state do not care one way or another about Dunwoody. So I can not understand why they would not vote in favor of this if the people of Dunwoody want it.

NCR

December 18th, 2012
10:19 pm

So how come Decatur and Marietta have their own school systems, but not other cities?

Edugator

December 18th, 2012
10:30 pm

Poor Dunwoody. A new elementary school, a new middle school, and a recently rebuilt high school, all completed by the evil DCSD. For the most part, Dunwoody’s school challenges are self inflicted, such as the decision of the HS to retain block scheduling. Earlier posts about costs are well stated. Who needs another set of self important, non-teaching educrats? Or worse, a pack of micro managing parents? DCSD is grossly flawed, but it wasn’t that long ago that it was the role model for the state. It won’t reach that level again, but I believe it can be salvaged. A Dunwoody divorce would be short sighted.

Paul

December 18th, 2012
10:31 pm

Yes , Dunwoody should have it’s own schools. The long term track record of the Fulton County Schools in educating our schools is horrible. Actually , Fulton County needs to split in two. The good thing going on in Fulton County over the last 10 years is that all of the new cities sprouting up from Dunwoody to Sandy Springs and now Brookhaven helps lower the corruption among Fulton County officials.

Rick L in ATL

December 18th, 2012
10:34 pm

Gene Walker, you are moving us toward more school choice (and, eventually, vouchers) faster than I could do if I quit my job and lobbied 24/7. From “Gas Card” Crawford to Pat “I have a lifestyle to maintain” Pope — and now this–man, you are like a double agent for us pro-school-choice parents; the CIA couldn’t have a better mole than you.

Kris

December 18th, 2012
10:53 pm

I think it would be a great idea! I went to school in both Dunwoody and Texas, and they were very different. More attention for the students that need it would be better than a generic plan for all.

Burroughston Broch

December 18th, 2012
10:58 pm

@ mountain man
The Dalton City Schools were established before the Whitfield County Schools, and were grandfathered under the State Constitution.

Tired

December 18th, 2012
11:00 pm

Since when did secession become the answer to everything? I’m going to suggest my street secede from the “city” we’re in. Low taxes because there’s no school on the street.

Burroughston Broch

December 18th, 2012
11:04 pm

I see no hope for the DeKalb Schools, given the scoundrels repeatedly elected to the Board from Middle and South DeKalb. DeKalb is now following the lead of Atlanta and Clayton County. Any changes made by DeKalb to pacify SACS will be like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

I live in Dunwoody and have no children in school, but I would gladly pay more taxes for a Dunwoody School System separate from DeKalb.

RCB

December 18th, 2012
11:22 pm

Decatur is a good example of how having its own school system has enhanced the entire area. You pay dearly in property taxes, but if I still had children in school, it would be worth it. Someone had foresight a long time ago for Decatur to escape Dekalb.

Payback

December 18th, 2012
11:27 pm

DeKalb has directed a middle finger at the Northern end of the county for a long time, and this is why the cityhood movements in Dunwoody and Brookhaven gained traction in the first place. Schools are next. If the Dekalb elected officials would have expressed just minimal interest in voter concerns, this breakaway mentality would not have gotten off the ground. After all, nobody wants an extra layer of government, right?

Another comment

December 18th, 2012
11:28 pm

The answer is yes, yes, yes! Most of the top performing States in this country are made up of small local town or village school districts.

These districts consist of one or two high schools and their feeder schools. Several of my friends and I who either grew up in the Midwest or the Northwest frequently discuss, how sad we feel that our children are loosing out by not having this educational model that we had or our siblings children’s enjoy the advantage of. Our siblings do not even have to think about going to a private or charter school. Everyone in these small town districts goes to the local public districts. The corporate CEO’s children, doctors, lawyers, bankers, maids and labor’s all send their children to the local public school.

It is completely false that these small school districts cost more. First, everyone knows each other, so there is more accountability. The Supt. at these districts make on average of $150k per year. There are no area Supt and Asst Supt. positions. The principals are direct reports to the Superintendent. No fraudulent friends and family purchases for $12 million dollars can slip by. There is no constant redistricting with millions of dollars eaten up by this. Busing costs go way down, as the school district is much smaller. No cross county bussing. Small school districts can and do share the costs of Vo tech schools for Juniors and seniors. Curriculim can be tailored to the community. For example, I went to a high school that had an FFA chapter, the next school district to the one I went to did not. It was in a more suburban part of the county.

Dave

December 19th, 2012
12:17 am

Yes.

And then Vinings / Cobb inside I-285 needs to incorporate and begin its own school system as well. The only negatives about the area – and it’s a deal breaker for those who can’t afford private schools – are the Cobb public schools.

could be a good idea

December 19th, 2012
12:23 am

Is it possible for the Dunwoody area to stay in the Dekalb system and basically change its schools to charter programs? Off topic, but can someone explain why the Clayton County schools are so weak?

Starik

December 19th, 2012
12:58 am

This is a wonderful idea. DeKalb does not respect attendance zones, Too many football transfers, and kids bussed (or transported) across the County for the sake of destroying diversity.

The Deal

December 19th, 2012
1:36 am

Thank you, Dunwoody, for speaking out and forging ahead. Your hard work and dedication will help the parts of the county that are not well enough organized to do this themselves.

I don’t live anywhere near Dunwoody, and I do not begrudge them their successful schools. I have never cared about the makeup of the students my children go to school with. I have always had the biggest problem with the adminstration, lack of accountability, and the effect their bad decisions have on all schools.

This county could be sliced and diced in any shape, and the smaller districts would be in better shape simply by that action. It is all about accountability and responsibility. If a “good school” is lumped in with a “bad school” but there aren’t 500 layers of bureaucracy above those schools, you can bet the “bad” will have a much better chance of being transformed than when it is basically invisible to the administration 30 miles away and 10 levels higher on the (missing) org chart.

Forge ahead, Dunwoody!

WillinRoswell

December 19th, 2012
2:31 am

Mercy, where is Jim Cherry when we need him?

Beverly Fraud

December 19th, 2012
6:00 am

There is only so far the Eugene Walkers of the world can get with the race card. And did someone actually make the argument that there would be more bureaucracy, as if though there could possibly be more bureaucracy than exists in DCSS?

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA !!!!!!!!!!!

Pardon My Blog

December 19th, 2012
6:03 am

Perhaps splitting the current system into a North district and a South district would make more sense although more power to Dunwoody if they can get this done. The system is too large and what works in one area will not work in another. @Payback stated the problem succinctly and it seems to boil down to retribution, pure and simple.

The State needs to remove the entire Board, probably the Superintendent, cease all payments to the so-called “consultants”, cease paying legal fees for people who committed criminal acts against the system, remove all the leaders in central office, review pay rates and adjust accordingly, remove those who do not even qualify for their positions in the first place (even so-called secretaries at the local HS level who can’t even do their job). There will continue to be discord in DeKalb, no businesses will want to be here and our tax dollars will continue to flow to the private schools for kids who know how to work the system.

Beverly Fraud

December 19th, 2012
6:09 am

“If you bought a house in Dunwoody (before or after it chose to declare itself a city) you knew what schools you were districted to and that you were buying into a county school system. You should spend your time trying to make effective changes in the school system you bought into, instead of trying to gerrymander a new one….”

Why? What moral imperative is there that DeKalb County Schools remain as currently constituted?

Because the “friends and families” of Eugene Walker and company need jobs?

Beverly Fraud

December 19th, 2012
6:15 am

From Agent Deal:

Do you hear that sound Mr. Walker? It’s the sound of…inevitability. It’s the sound of the end of your tenure on the DCSS school board.

And no Mr. Walker, your name is not Neo.

redweather

December 19th, 2012
6:23 am

Why not elect all board of education members at large? That way we might get countrywide representation and not all this “my schools” business. If the legislature is going to change anything, I would rather they start with that.

redweather

December 19th, 2012
6:24 am

I meant countywide.

Big Mama

December 19th, 2012
7:49 am

Yes, Dunwoody (or any other city/community) should have the right to establish their own, independent school system. The best system my child has attended was a small system in N. CA. The system was served by 1 high school, 1 middle school, and 3 elementary schools. The community was diverse in both income levels and ethnicity. The district office was within walking distance of 2 of the schools. The district employees (all 4 of them) would cover the vacation time for the school admins. And we did not have a dozen or more admins per elementary school. Only the principal, 1 full-time secretary, 1 part-time clerk, and a nurse. The system had social workers that moved between the schools as needed. They also welcomed volunteers from the community. It was a great community to live in and a wonderful educational experience. Why can’t we borrow good ideas from other systems or states?

bootney farnsworth

December 19th, 2012
7:50 am

sure. DCSS is on the way to making Clayton county look organized and professional by comparison.. if the city of Dunwoody can put one together, they should.

they should also make sure to fund it by a user or consumer tax so the pain is spread to the entire community and not just homeowners.

bootney farnsworth

December 19th, 2012
7:54 am

also. it would be good to see red meat Fran involved. let him put his theories in action and see if they work.

George P. Burdell

December 19th, 2012
8:01 am

A separate Dunwoody would be hard pressed to actually incur more overhead per student than the current DCSS does. I am very accustomed to working with detailed budgets to pull information and I can tell you the DCSS budget is a total mess. They try to give the impression that they provide lots of information but what they really do is drill down on minutae for the unimportant things and either hide or make it very difficult to find useful information on things like teacher salaries, central office expenditures etc. You can find out exactly how much revenue is generated by the afterschool program at any school in the county but it is next to impossible to find out how much is spent on the big ticket items by school. And if Walker’s attitude isn’t enough to convince you that we have a serious problem then nothing will. He basically shrugged off the accredidation report even though he was specifically mentioned in interfering with hiring decisions that have absolutely nothing to do with his role on the Board.

I for one hope Dunwoody is successful. For those of us with kids in the school right now, we don’t have time to waste on hoping pressure will lead to results. By the time this is all settled for better or worse, our kids will have missed out on several years of education. I’m all for the greater good and making things better, but I simply do not have time to wait when it comes to my child. I am pretty happy with the education my child is getting now, but you can see that morale at the school drops every time the Board does pay cuts, denies the central office is bloated, etc. while the people actually doing something pay the price. Dunwoody as a separate system will have its own issues and may not do any better, but it certainly cannot do worse.

bootney farnsworth

December 19th, 2012
8:02 am

if this isn’t egregous to Eugene Walker, I’m scared to wonder what is.

when is there gonna be a RICO investigation of these fools?

Dunwoody Mom

December 19th, 2012
8:03 am

Unless something has changed with the talked about legislation, the legislation would not be specifically about Dunwoody, but much broader. It will certainly be a uphill battle, but a battle that has to be fought.

Dunwoody Mom

December 19th, 2012
8:05 am

@bootney, apparently the DeKalb D.A. has requested a copy of the SACS report. Of course, that is probably as far as it will go. Heck, who cares that $12 million for textbooks cannot be accounted for.

Ga Tech Rules

December 19th, 2012
8:12 am

Dunwoody is an enclave of upper middle class, highly educated people. Why should their children be held hostage to the very expensive but poorly performing APS? I say change the state law, allow Dunwoody and any other city to break away from large failing school systems. One more thing, for all you proponents of expanded mental health (at someone else’s expense) please note that fox news and drudge are reporting Adam Lanza was being threatened with commitment to a mental hospital by his mother, and this is thought to be the reason for his rampage. Note the cause was not a lack of mental health care, mom was very well off, but the threat of involuntary commitment!

Ga Tech Rules

December 19th, 2012
8:14 am

That should read “Dekalb Public Schools,” not APS, though APS certainly qualifies as a large failing school system, imho!

james

December 19th, 2012
8:18 am

Back in the 70’s Dekalb had great schools including Dunwoody,
Lakeside, Tucker, Peachtree HS, Henderson, Braircliff, Druid Hills,
etc…

Its a shame things have changed so much around Atlanta and in
Dekalb,Clayton,Fulton(APS)schools are for the most part terrible
and not safe….I know there are a few decent ones left….

Corruption, no responsibilty kids, etc are the main reasons and its not
going to get any better….

Why would anyone live in these areas that has school age kids?

Pardon My Blog

December 19th, 2012
8:33 am

Well, when you have totally incompetent morons running the systems whose only goal is further enrichment of self, friends and family and are constantly trying to beat the system while knowing they are doing wrong, this is what you get!

AnonMom

December 19th, 2012
8:37 am

DCSS (and probably other systems in GA) need to be broken into smaller pieces — the administration in these systems takes up way too much of the money — problems are hidden and buried under rugs and the kids are losing — big time. In states like NJ and Texas, things are handled at much smaller levels – think school level — instead of superintendents with staffs with salaries costing millions — there are 1-3 in charge (I think) and salaries are at a fraction (per system) — so more systems but fewer at the top within each system so more focus actually on the children rather than on the adults. I’ve argued with friends and relative in NJ that they may need to consolidate some of theirs — too many up there and they need to have some economies of scale… but we really need to get resources back into the classroom both in terms of dollars and adults in charge focused on what is actually happening at the schoolhouse level.

GTFAN

December 19th, 2012
8:39 am

We have become Clayton County. How scary is that? It doesn’t take the incompetents long to screw up anything…..ignorant voters and ignorant board members are a bad combination!

Beverly Fraud

December 19th, 2012
8:41 am

“Its a shame things have changed so much around Atlanta and in
Dekalb,Clayton,Fulton(APS)schools are for the most part terrible
and not safe….I know there are a few decent ones left….”

And thus we have The Four Horsemen of the Incompetence

If not for that, would we have so readily embraced the Deal with the Devil™ that is the charter school amendment?

skipper

December 19th, 2012
8:43 am

Lets throw it out there: successful folks do not want to send kids into a frickin’ nightmare. The race-card and diversity have been overplayed. How about STUPID board members and a corrupt system that would make prohibition times Chicago blush. How do you solve problems by forcing Dunwoody kids into this largely (not toatally) but largely ‘hood culture, then say they are racists, etc. because they may think they can do better for their kids???

S

December 19th, 2012
8:54 am

As fed up as I am with DCSS I would NOT want my city to attempt its own school system. Of course, I live in Doraville LOL!

markoo

December 19th, 2012
8:57 am

Yes, in other states the suburban schools are often the best public systems there are. Too bad Georgia gives way to much control to generally incompetnet county school boards.