Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Case for Re-allocating SPLOST 3 Funding and Re-writing the Rules for Arabia's Enrollment












A review of recent data from the DCSS Planning
Department’s website tells the story - Arabia has pulled a bait and switch.


A brand new Arabia Mountain-area high school is currently scheduled to open for the 2009-2010 school year. The attendance lines have not been drawn as promised, because Arabia is no longer scheduled to be a neighborhood school. At its inception, the new school was promoted as necessary to provide relief to Martin Luther King Jr. HS, Miller Grove HS and Lithonia HS as promised by Dr. Lewis in his State of the System address in January 2007. Now that it has been built and become a crown jewel, the administration has quietly changed direction and decided to instead deem it a "Choice" school, meaning students must qualify, apply and then win a seat in a lottery. Now, it will only be accepting 350 students from MLK and 250 students from Lithonia, leaving 1,000 seats available for "Choice" transfers (although it looks like for the first year, they are only accepting 500 "Choice" students for a total enrollment of less than 1,100). The capacity of the building is 1,600 students with expansion room for 2,100.

It is my opinion that one reason for this bait and switch is to ensure that Arabia won't have to take on AYP transfers (from failing NCLB schools). If Arabia did take on AYP transfers, this could greatly relieve the overcrowding at Lakeside, Dunwoody, Chamblee and Druid Hills due to the hundreds of AYP transfers from Arabia's demographic area these schools have had to accept by law. Arabia, however, will conveniently slip by the NCLB law by labeling it a "Choice" school that will only serve qualified, pre-tested students, hand-chosen by the school system to attend this suddenly "special" school. I think this move goes against the grain and purpose of public education. Could you imagine the outrage if Lakeside tried to implement this type of acceptance policy?

Additionally, House Bill 251 was the first school choice legislation to pass one chamber and was passed by the Georgia House of Representatives Thursday by an overwhelming vote of 139 to 23. This Bill would allow parents of public school students to enroll their children in another school within their assigned school system. Was the requirement for Arabia to accept only pre-tested, qualified students an effort to circumvent legislation like this in the future? Will Lakeside, Dunwoody and the rest have to accept students who request transfers based on this bill now? The bill stipulates receiving schools cannot be over-crowded, however, "over-crowded is not defined by law and DCSS doesn't seem to think our buildings really have a maximum, as they can continue to add trailers such as the 21 at Lakeside to accommodate the unchecked influx. Aren't 21 trailers sitting on the tennis courts at Lakeside enough to call it over-crowded? Not to DCSS - they just refuse to say no to anyone who asks for a transfer - as long as it's not a transfer to Arabia.

Interestingly, there is a bill in the Legislature, SB 90, that allows for private school vouchers to be given using public school funding. Below are a few reasons, aside from fiscal responsibility, the State PTA does not support the voucher plan currently being debated in the Legislature:

• Private schools choose the student not the other way around
• Private schools may discriminate based on ... intelligence, academic success or behavior. Public schools take everyone; private schools exclude those who they don’t choose to serve.
• In a US DOE survey of private inner city schools, 68% stated they definitely or probably would not accept vouchered students with learning disabilities, limited English or low academic achievement.

Ironically, Arabia will now adhere to several of the same tenets as private schools, only they will be fully funded with taxpayer dollars. It seems we have built one heck of a really nice private school that has been kind enough to take in 600 students from the area – as long as they pass muster and win a lottery. Meanwhile, schools like Lakeside, Dunwoody, and Druid Hills remain seriously over-crowded due to AYP transfers, Administrative Transfers, Cheaters and Special Permission as well as growth.

MLK is currently 637 students over capacity, Lithonia is 276 over capacity*. The school system, as stated above, now says it will only accept 350 students from MLK and 250 from Lithonia. I think another reason for the bait and switch is to leave MLK overcrowded and still in need of the large addition planned for it with SPLOST 3 - an addition that would not be necessary if the school system would have re-drawn the attendance lines as originally planned and taken all of the over-capacity students from these schools. But they pulled a bait and switch, leaving MLK, Lakeside, Dunwoody, Druid Hills, Chamblee and SW DeKalb with the same old over-crowding issues, solved by adding more and more trailers to their campuses. Meanwhile, students at Arabia (which was built to relieve over-crowding) will enjoy a spacious, open campus with plenty of fresh air and space to expand programs if they choose.

Arabia High School will hold 1600-2100 students.
As publicized, "Arabia Mountain High School will be 240,000 square feet with a capacity of 1,600 students and an expansion capacity of 2,100 students." (For comparison, Lakeside is 164,666 SF with a capacity for 1,281 and a current enrollment around 1,700.) Arabia will include an environmental sciences lab, three business labs, Vocational Technical environmental sciences lab, a 600-seat auditorium, three music rooms, an indoor (and outdoor) running track, practice athletic fields, an outdoor classroom/amphitheater and walking trail. Why are we putting so many of our resources into a school that will no longer solve one of our biggest problems? Why do we need a "Choice" school within a stone's throw of SW DeKalb, a "Magnet" school for high achievers? Will we need to provide transportation via the new "hub" system or are students expected to get there on their own? AYP transfers coming from Title 1 schools get Federal mileage reimbursements and would have the resources to pay for their own transportation. Are they being shut out of Arabia?

Oddly, the school system has decided to make Arabia a "Choice" (a euphemism for "elite" in this case) school for qualified applicants only and they are pretending that this was their plan all along. (In reality, there is little actual "choice" for those who aren't accepted.) The decision has been made NOT to relieve over-crowding at MLK. Lithonia will be balanced and Miller Grove is no longer over-crowded and in fact has 13 available seats*, most likely due to the exodus via AYP transfers. The school system instead will only take 600 students from these schools. This leaves 1,000 (or more) seats available for "Choice" lottery winners from around the county. What if those students "Choose" to leave a school like Stephenson (with nearly 300 empty seats) or McNair (with 577 empty seats) or Towers (321 empty seats) instead of an over-crowded school like Lakeside? How will this solve our number one issue – balancing enrollment? Arabia is a crown jewel - a gorgeous facility - not unlike many very elite private schools. Should we really be funding such a thing with taxpayer money? How is this different from a private school voucher in reality?

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Please encourage your Board representative to vote to reassign some of the SPLOST 3 dollars to meet the ever-growing needs at these north DeKalb schools and to open Arabia to accepting AYP transfers in an effort to relieve overcrowding at the three schools that currently take on ALL the AYP transfers.

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*UPDATE - Enrollment numbers have dropped further since this writing. Currently, the 2008/09 enrollment reports tell us that Lithonia is only 45 students over capacity, Martin Luther King HS is 446 over capacity and Miller Grove now has 330 available seats.

99 comments:

Dunwoody Mom said...

You know, I'm an enternal optimist, so I keep hoping that DCSS will step up and do the right thing.

But, this is just unacceptable. The attendance lines for this school should be drawn so as to alleviate overcrowding at schools in that area, which will, hopefully, alleviate the over-crowding at Dunwoody, Lakeside, Druid Hills, etc.,

What parent would not love to have their children attend this school beautiful new facility, but yet DCSS is putting "restrictions" on who can attend?

Just absolutely pathetic.

themommy said...

I am curious, how many people reading this actually live in S. DeKalb? This is part of the problem.

Dunwoody Mom said...

I wonder if it would be worth the effort to send Cere's post to the PTA/PTO organizations of each school? If I were a parent in that area I would be beyond angry at how this school's student population will be determined.

Cerebration said...

I hope you don't mind, psc, but I am going to repost your comment from another thread here, because it's so relevant - and interesting.

I think Arabia Mountain could do more to relieve HS overcrowding in the South DeKalb area however it will do quite a bit. 600 seats will initially go to students from ML King (350) and Lithonia (250), via a lottery. The remaining seats will go to the Energy, Environmental, and Engineering Magnet (126) and System wide pool (350). The Health Medical Magnet will begin in 2010 for another 126 students and the other numbers will increase slightly. I overheard at one of the meetings parents that have 'abandoned' DCSS indicate they are willing to give this school a try, some currently in private schools and some AYP transfers. IMO, that is a GOOD thing. When (not if) success is realized at this school, I believe the district will look to replicate this model at other schools.

Let's be honest, if we heard of children going to some schools in DCSS, some of us might roll our eyes. Be it perception or reality, some schools do not have a good reputation and some that live in those areas seek alternatives, either within DCSS or outside. Arabia Mountain 'could' be the start are attracting some of those families back to DeKalb.

We blogged earlier about the needs of Lakeside with respect to facilities. Remember I commented that some see being able to go to Lakeside like going to Oz. You see the bathrooms in disrepair and other legitimate concerns but some on the outside see the academic outcomes improved for their children by being in the Lakeside environment and assimilating in that culture. How we see things is based on where we have come from.

Lastly, Ms. Pope makes the recommendations based on a variety of input but ultimately the BoE approves what should be done. Each BoE member has one vote and it takes 5 votes to approve any measure.

Cerebration said...

So - please clarify - these 600 students from MLK and Lithonia who win a seat via the initial lottery do not have to first pass any kind of requirement as do the rest of the students who apply? It's just a straight lottery - not based on any kind of criteria?

Cerebration said...

In reality - this plan is a coverup. If they had used Arabia simply as a neighborhood school with attendance lines, as originally planned, they would only have needed to draw less than 1,000 students in order to balance enrollments at MLK, Lithonia and Miller Grove (which currently has 13 empty seats.) If they drew more, all FOUR of these schools would be under-enrolled.

Additionally, why they haven't focused on the serious over-crowding at nearby SW DeKalb is a mystery.

Does anyone know how many Miller Grove students are attending other schools on an AYP transfer? We have quite a few at Lakeside, I'm told.

Cerebration said...

Jay Cunningham is the main Board rep for MLK, Lithonia, Miller Grove and SW DeKalb. He will be at the Emory Lavista meeting next Tuesday evening, March 3 - make sure to ask him about this if you go to the meeting and get the opportunity.

--------------

Wine, Cheese and Politics: The Talk of the Town

March 3, 2009 6:30 pm – 8 pm

BB&T
3824 Lavista Rd. (.5 mi inside I-285 at Lavista and Harobi)

6:30 Hors d'oeuvres and informal reception
7:30 Hot Topics for DeKalb

Bring a colleague. Bring a friend. Bring a neighbor.

Speakers
Under the Gold Dome
Howard Mosby, Head, DeKalb House Delegation

Collaboration: New Ways of Working Together
Bettye Austin Davis, Asst. Chief of Staff for CEO Burrell Ellis
Jay Cunningham, Dist. 5, DeKalb Board of Education

Community TV: What You Have, What You May Lose, How to Keep It
Charlotte Engel, Manager, People TV

Join us – but please RSVP - so we can plan for the crowd!
Call 404-321-0913 / League of Women Voters or email donata@mindspring.com

Cerebration said...

Wait a minute -- check out this math

600 seats will initially go to students from ML King (350) and Lithonia (250), via a lottery. The remaining seats will go to the Energy, Environmental, and Engineering Magnet (126) and System wide pool (350). The Health Medical Magnet will begin in 2010 for another 126 students and the other numbers will increase slightly.

So that means Arabia will start off in August of 2009 with only 1,076 students? In a building designed for 1,600?!!! With expansion capacity for 2,100?!! Even in 2010-11, the school only plans to add 126 more?!!!!!

That's ridiculous if it's true. When so many other schools are cramming kids into trailers and avoiding mold and drips from leaky roofs.

No Duh said...

I think psc is right. Arabia will attract students away from the schools in the south that are currently performing poorly academically. Will it be enough to give LHS, etc. some breathing room? Who knows?

I'm sure the BOE members from south DeKalb must be getting an earful from parents who don't want to be redistricted -- NOBODY wants to be redistricted unless you're moving into a desirable school. With redistricting, you're really just shifting some people to the east and/or south (unless gerrymandering came into play -- and we all know THAT could NEVER happen -- sarcasim here people). The line would have to drawn somewhere ("missed it by THAT much," according to Maxwell Smart).

At least this way kids from the northern part of DeKalb who are interested in Engery, Environment, Engineering and next year Medical concentrations have a shot at getting in. It would be amazing to have a reverse migration!

Without tying Arabia MT. to any specific feeder pattern you actually have a more
"fair" way to make this Taj Mahal available.

At least Arabia Mountain is an easy sell. Brand new, a clean slate, state-of-the-art...

I think we will be surprised because none of the southern schools have the cache of LHS or, for instance, Vanderlyn. Remember the Vanderlyn parents who WANTED to stay at Vanderlyn --none of them wanted to be redistricted even if it meant sending their kids to a spanking brand new school.

Anonymous said...

No Duh

Especially if they only started with a freshman and sophomore class and perhaps it optional for juniors to transfer in, they wouldn't have had any trouble redistricting to Arabia Mountain.

Arabia Mountain is really far from the Northern Schools...twenty plus miles from Lakeside. I am guessing that not many North side families are going to be willing to do the commute.

Anonymous said...

I never cease to be amazed at the things that I learn from this post and from Cerebration ( How do you do it? ) Given traffic in Atlanta, would you want your child to travel 20+ miles to go to a magnet school (north or south ) ? Would you have the ability to support and be involved with your child's school that was 20 + miles away ? IF we are to promote parental involvement and responsibility - this is a crucial factor...... I would love to be an eternal optimist but DCSS makes it difficult with moves like this. It is a bait and switch - Parents in the south end of the county do need to be aware of this discrimination........ Felt strange even saying that !

pscexb said...

Dang Cere, you are on a roll! Let me see if I can help.

At first glance, it could seem that making this a 'choice' program could circumvent relief for Lithonia and ML King, Jr. In reality, it will do MORE to provide relief throughout the district, especially for several South DeKalb schools. I'm glad you posted what I contributed earlier to put some things into context.

Typically when a new HS opens, it does so with a 9th and 10th grade class. This school will open with 9th, 10th, and 11th grades. Hopefully we can agree this means this school will open with more students that it would have as a neighborhood school.

Arabia Mountain will have 'unique' programs so the district wanted to find a way to provide relief and access at the same time. Hence making it a 'choice' school. The 600 seats for Lithonia and ML King, Jr will go through a lottery for 'access' to those seats. There is an academic criteria for the magnet programs, EEE (126) and Health Medical (126). Lithonia and ML King, Jr students can compete for those also and they won't count against the 600 seats.

If I had to make an educated guess, I would say Lithonia, ML King, Jr, and McNair send more students via AYP transfers than any other high schools. I don't have any facts to back this up but I think this is a reasonable assumption. I believe we will see the greatest number of applications from those 3 HS clusters.

What impact will this have on AYP transfers currently at Lakeside and other receiving schools? That is the unknown at this time. I've heard Jay Cunningham publicly plea for students to 'come home' and give Arabia Mountain a try. I would think many would listen given the hoops they probably have to go through to get to those schools. Add to the fact the Arabia Mountain will have a uniform policy, which appeals to many in the community, it should draw quite a few to consider the new school. Word from the Central Office is that they believe demand for seats will far outweigh supply. This is based on initial inquiries from many in the community.

Those are my thoughts. I welcome comments/questions/criticisms.

Cerebration said...

All interesting points, psc. Your perspective is several degrees away from mine, and I'm making a serious effort to see this your way, however, it still looks to me like --

A - The administration "sold" the idea of a new school using SPLOST 2 money in SW DeKalb to relieve over-crowding at MLK, Miller Grove and Lithonia. But then found that in actuality - this brand new additional school was not needed in this area - and there are not enough students in the area to fill 4 high schools - 3 of which were scheduled for major additions.

B -The school was always touted as being unique due to the fact that it was "green" - however, the concepts for "special" programs are new, as are the entrance requirements, the lottery and the uniforms, etc - they have completely changed the original intent and purpose of the school.

C- There was much published about re-districting the area, however, now it seems that the system thinks they will fill the school with students from all over the county, even though it is tucked away in one of the most inaccessible corners - actually closer to Rockdale or Clayton (can you imagine the outrage if this school had been built to relieve over-crowding at Dunwoody and Chamblee - near the Fulton border - and was instead made into a very special "choice" program rivaling expensive private schools and therefore opened up countywide - but is way up there out of reach for so many?)

D - No one knows or tracks where AYP transfers come from or go to in this county as far as I know. Further, Arabia is circumventing the NCLB Federal law and simply won't be accepting AYP transfers, they must first apply, be deemed acceptable and win a lottery - not so for an AYP transfer to Lakeside or Dunwoody- there are no hinderances to these.

E - Mostly, this will not do one thing to relieve over-crowding in some of our most crowded schools in other areas of the county or at SW DeKalb - the magnet school practically next door. Further, MLK will still be over-crowded and will drain money from SPLOST for an addition - even though it will no longer be as crowded as some other schools.

No one seems to be tracking enrollments and working toward balancing schools. We have many schools that are bursting at the seams and many that have hundreds of empty seats. This is the problem I would like to see addressed.

Ella Smith said...

I suspect that many of the AYP students that are coming to Lakeside, Druid Hills and Chamblee may consider going to Arabian High School.

I actually think the idea is a good idea but I would like to see overcrowding handled first before we open a new school for choice.

pscexb said...

What everyone must still remember is that Arabia Mountain is a SPLOST 2 project which was approved in 2002. In 2004-2006, there was not question that this school was needed if you look at the enrollment numbers for Lithonia and ML King, Jr. The same can be said for when construction began. A combination of NCLB/AYP transfers along with the economy had a significant impact on the current enrollment numbers. If those two events had not occurred at the same time, we could easily be looking at well over 2000 students at each of those schools today.

The entrance requirements are ONLY for the magnet programs, Health Medical (126) and EEE (168) by the 2010 school year. That means the remaining seats are available for ML King, Jr. (400), Lithonia (300), and System wide (450). Again, these are figures for the 2010-2011 school year. Everyone else can attend based on the lottery. The lottery and uniforms are new however I would contend that adds to the 'appeal' for the school and will attract others from around the district.

Would it have been better if this school was located at Avondale or Clarkston? Probably so, but given this is a new school, there is greater flexibility in defining the enrollment area. I don't expect the new Tucker to become a 'choice' school given its long history as a neighborhood school.

We should review the law regarding AYP transfers again. I seem to recall that once someone uses this as a remedy, they can remain at that school until they graduate. If that is true, those students don't have to move. Again, the 'appeal' of Arabia Mountain could encourage many parents to move their children.

Let me paraphrase your last point in the blog, I will encourage board members to approve SPLOST dollars for areas of the greatest need. If the 'greatest need' can be laid out in a transparent manner for citizens to see, I don't think anyone would have issues with the final decisions. I hope we hear more about this by the BoE meeting on 3/2 at Druid Hills.

Cerebration said...

I understand all that - and I'm glad you don't have to be tested to win a lottery ticket. You must agree with my point that even though there was need back in SPLOST 2 (or projected need anyway) - there isn't need now in that area for more seats. IF anyone has been keeping track of the AYP transfers (like they should IMO) - they would know definitively where those transfers are coming from and could plan using those students as the "neighborhood" number - for districting and planning. However, it seems they only keep track of enrollment - and since hundreds of students have left the area to take transfers to other schools - who really knows how many students actually live near Arabia? It could be hundreds more than they think.

Personally, I think they should have to accept AYP transfers though - it's completely unfair to cram 22 trailers on the tennis courts at Lakeside to accommodate transfer students when we will have so many available seats at this school. It's not right that Arabia will have the luxury of all this (luxurious) space when places like Lakeside are really suffering. I wonder what the Federal law says about a new school not accepting AYP transfers. Anyone know?

No Duh said...

I asked your question on the blog a few days ago. No one responded. Maybe someone from the county will drop us a line to let us know if a new school (that would not have a record of passing or failing AYP) can be a receiving school.

psc is correct. Once an AYP student transfers he/she can stay at that school until the last year available at that school.

Cerebration said...

I can't find the rule on that (yet) - but I did find this interesting tidbit --

May Title I funds be used to benefit non-Title I schools that receive students transferring from Title I schools?

Title I dollars and services do not follow a student who transfers from a Title I school identified for school improvement, corrective action, or restructuring to a non-Title I school. However, in subsequent school years, the receiving school may become eligible for Title I funds if a sufficient number of low-income students transfer into it (if the LEA bases its eligibility determinations on enrollment). If the number of students transferring into a receiving school causes that school to be designated as a Title I school, then it would be eligible to receive Title I funds.

pscexb said...

No duh, though I don't work for the county (or do I? :) ), I found a document that all DeKalbSchoolWatch bloggers should read. It is the 2009 Public School Choice guide. You can find it at:

http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/schoolchoiceguid.doc

See Section E of this document.

To the specifics of your question, my interpretation is that the Feds do not 'dictate' to the district which schools should be designated 'receiving' schools. They do provide parameters for consideration.

themommy said...

As I understand it, the school system has to offer 2 choices to families for AYP purposes. The Feds don't say that every school has to be a choice.

That said, if I was a parent at a failing school in S. DeKalb, and Arabia Mountain isn't on that list, I would e p*ssed off. Really angry.

Cerebration said...

Yes - I saw that - and the school system it seems is able to slip around the law and avoid having to take on just any old AYP transfer to Arabia. I hate to say it but I really have to disagree with you on this Arabia issue, PSC. In fact, you may want to step back and examine your bias - after all - you have benefited from having such a jewel built near your area of the county. It's hard for you to really see how it makes others feel - others who have to deal with all the things I constantly rag about here.

For a minute - think hard about how you would feel if this new school had been built as I described above - in the north end of the county - and those of us who enjoy geographic accessibility simply say to you - well, apply for a lottery and see if you can get a seat - and then drive yourself here.

Meanwhile, your "home" school crumbles and all of the transfers your new jewel refuses to accept keep crowding in.

I was all for this Arabia HS back in the day when I thought it would relieve over-crowding in the area and hopefully encourage so many to try it out rather than cram into other, old, poorly maintained schools. However, this new turn of mission - IMO - is elitism using public money - trying to create yet another place for "special" programs - the heck with everyone else.

pscexb said...

Point taken, Cere. I do see it differently. I see DCSS saying, "Due to the exodus of students from Lithonia and ML King, Jr to other schools in the district, additional seats have become available at Arabia Mountain. We want to make that additional space available to others throughout the district that are seeking a 'different' type of instructional environment. Typically we open schools for a specific geographic area but this flexibility we have enables greater access to others."

FWIW, someone asked about Arabia Mountain taking AYP transfers at the community meetings. I recall the answer being DCSS wanted to get the school 'established' during the first year but anticipated it would be designated a receiving school during 2010-2011 school year.

Give me latitude again with this comment but remember a while back I indicated 'some' in my community believe, "If it's white, it's got to be right". If a decision were made to convert Shamrock back to a HS due to overcrowding in that area, I believe you would have many asking that it be a choice school. The 'perception' of the location would result in enrollment requests from throughout the county. If Shamrock limited itself to a defined attendance area, I believe folks would find a way to secure a seat there, by hook or by crook.

As I said earlier, I don't think anyone could have predicted the impact AYP transfers would have on the district. Given our 'generous' transportation policies at the time, it provided an easier 'escape' than the M to M program. Themommy brought up how Gwinnett has not had the kind of transfers DCSS has due to the 'lack' of school system provided transportation. I believe the opening of Arabia Mountain will cause many in South DeKalb to look at it before arranging transportation to central and north DeKalb schools.

Arabia Mountain will take AYP transfers however it will be under the guise of the lottery. Most will come from Lithonia and ML King, Jr. however some from neighboring clusters will also look at Arabia as an option. I still contend Arabia Mountain will meet its mission of providing relief but also provide greater access to others in the community. I also believe it will open with a larger first year enrollment than if it opened as a neighborhood school.

Though I don't know the numbers, I predict many Lithonia and ML King, Jr students currently attending Lakeside via AYP transfers will apply for a seat at Arabia Mountain.

Cerebration said...

Well - thanks. Time will tell and we'll be watching here - for sure.

BTW - you've made that "if it's white, it must be right" comment before. Why not explain what you mean a bit more - either here or the race discussion. I really never experienced this kind of tension - which I think is more a result of a scarcity mentality than race when it comes down to it. Or maybe it's long-held belief systems that I don't get.

Anyway - if you'll explain - I promise I won't come back with a defensive response. I'll just let it digest...I'm trying to see more broadly.

pscexb said...

Let me follow up on your request for clarification this evening. I may need a 'cold one' nearby while responding :)

Anonymous said...

All, I asked the State DOE if a new (not replacement) school with no record of AYP could be designated a receiving school for NCLB School Choice purposes. They said "yes."

I also asked whether they collect or analyze any data to determine whether middle or high school students who elect the school choice option improve their test scores or high school graduation rates and they said "no." For all their talk of "data driven accountability," the feds have imposed a process with no empirical support.

Personally, I am not offended that this school was built in the far southeast corner of the county. I hope that they are hiring fabulous and effective teachers and that the school is wildly successful.

However, DCSS must do something about the overcrowding at Chamblee, Lakeside and to a lesser extent, Druid Hills. And poor Cross Keys must get some capital improvements. I do not anticipate that any of the current "Needs Improvement" high schools will make AYP this year so the school system should be planning now for the next wave of transfer requests.

And given the capacity of Arabia Mtn, I feel that at least a couple hundred seats should be set aside for NCLB transfers. The school is large enough that it can serve multiple needs.

Anonymous said...

THIS ISN'T THE FIRST BAIT & SWITCH BY THE DCSS CENTRAL OFFICE, AND WON'T BE UNTIL THE BOE STARTS HOLDING THE SUPERINTENDENT AND STAFF ACCOUNTABLE!!!

Cerebration said...

Anon - I am not offended by Arabia or the placement of it at all either. I'm offended that they are making it elite and "special" when that was not how it was "sold". Also, I'm offended that they hold it up as an option for everyone in the county - even though it would be a 25-30 mile commute each way for many people - people who do not get Title 1 mileage reimbursement. It's offensive that Arabia should in any way be considered an option for locals at Lakeside or Dunwoody or Cross Keys or Druid Hills - in lieu of actually improving those buildings - asap.

It's just that old scarcity mentality that causes so many hard feelings. I would be ecstatic for the people in that area of the county - if my own kids' school wasn't so bloody crappy and yet we are the ones who have to take on hundreds of AYP transfers.

Ella Smith said...

We do have to remember that the Lithonia area is the highest income in the US for African American per square miles. Because of this a school choice with the curriculum that Arabian High School has will meet the needs of many students and parents in the Arabian High School area.

Many times the students who chose to live a neighborhood school due to AYP are these parents who really care about their children's education. The problem is that due to location of their home these parents normally do not participate in PTA and other activities when they have to travel to do so. It is my understanding that 0 AYP Parents joined the PTA at Lakeside. I heard in a PTA meeting that no families/parents joined the PTA after Registration Day. These students were mostly AYP students.

I do agree that Arabian Mountain should be open for AYP students just like other schools in the county. I would think this would be discrimination if it was not opened for AYP students. This would be giving the students at Arabian Mountain HS preferential treatment compared to other students in the county without just cause. Preferential treatment is discrimination if you treat different schools different regarding AYP.

Ella Smith said...

live is leave

Cerebration said...

I'm not so sure about the income levels around Lithonia, Ella. Here are the Poverty stats for Title 1

Miller Grove 64%
MLK 57%
Lithonia 62%
SW DeKalb 48%

Open+Transparent said...

We need the state legislature to step up and write a law banning school systems from a bait & switch (and the same goes for a county/city when presenting a bond).

When a school system presents a list of how a SPLOST will be spent, that's the way it needs to stay. No projects lea[frogging or being shot down.

If it needs to be a law, then so be it. It's a slap in the face to voters/taxpayers. It's decietful. No more bait & switches.

pscexb said...

O&T, if that were to happen, then the BoE would proceed with the Lithonia classroom addition even though it does not make sense in the short term. Common sense must always prevail...

Anonymous said...

PSC, I agree. Because the planning process is so ridiculously long, by the time the SPLOST money is to be spent, the conditions which triggered it may have changed. So I think there must be some room for flexibility.

I wonder if there isn't some long range strategy behind the Arabia Mtn plan. It is a sad but true fact that many of the surrounding schools, except for SW, do not make AVP. Perhaps making the school a magnet and choice school is a way to attract motivated students and parents.

Perhaps DCSS may not want to "advertise" that the school will also take NCLB transfer students. But the DCSS may have a taxpayer and parent revolt on their hands if they don't use some of those 1600 seats for transfer students.

pscexb said...

Anon, it seems we all agree but perceive the 'remedy' in a different manner. I see Lithonia and ML King, Jr. as AYP sending schools. I see 600 students from those schools being offered a chance to go to Arabia Mountain. I see over 500 more seats being made available to other students around the district. I believe some of them will be eligible for AYP transfers but will elect to enroll in the lottery at Arabia Mountain. If they do not get a seat via the lottery, they 'may' consider one of the AYP receiving schools. I 'trust' the district when it says it wants to get the school grounded before making itself available as an AYP receiving school, due to some of the challenges involved in opening a new school. Let me know folks, am I being naiive (O&T, you can't answer that... :) )

Cerebration said...

I'll trust that you are right, psc. However, a little honesty and communication from the administration would go a long way to curing my skepticism.

John Heneghan said...

DeKalb Public School enrollment will it be up or down and how will it affect Dunwoody? What about Bus service?

Raising the issue on my blog.

pscexb said...

John, the projections provided by DCSS suggest enrollment will be down about 2% or 2,000 students. You can see this along with other details at:

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/~planning/projections.asp

A slight caveat to consider on the detail pages, the Arabia Mountain effect has not been factored in yet. Dunwoody is still scheduled for the classroom addition per the CIP. I have not heard anything to the contrary on that, especially since the demographers report projected increased enrollment for that community over the next 5 years. We may hear more about that at the next BoE meeting.

While it has not be 'formally' announced, I understand it, the satellite transportation system will remain for the next school year.

themommy said...

I suspect that Arabia Mountain will never be impacted very much by AYP students because I am guessing by 2010 the consequences phase of NCLB will change.

I think the new administration will focus wholly on only those students not make AYP as opposed to sanctioning (and in DCSS' case rewardng) the entire student body for the challenges with one subgroup.

It is my understanding that in many cases AYP (and before that M to M) parents are looking to remove their children from their communities. Does Arabia Mountain accomplish this?

Dunwoody Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dunwoody Mom said...

themommy is correct in her view that NCLB will not exist in its current form under Arne Duncan, though it does not sound as if any of these changes will be forthcoming immediately. I read this article a few weeks ago:

As the former leader of Chicago Public Schools, Duncan lived through what he called the unintended consequences of President Bush's No Child Left Behind law. Duncan supports the focus on accountability for student achievement, but he wants to make the law less punitive. "I know there are schools that are beating the odds where students are getting better every year, and they are labeled failures, and that can be discouraging and demoralizing," he says... "Having lived with this, I have a good sense of what makes sense and what doesn't," he says. "But I want to be clear that I want to get out there and learn from people. And I think ultimately we should rebrand [the law]."

http://www.usnews.com/articles/education/2009/02/05/what-arne-duncan-thinks-of-no-child-left-behind.html

Ella Smith said...

Cerebration, I remember President Bush talking about the Lithonia area at Ms. Kings funeral stated that this area was the top or one of the top areas per square mile for most-affluent county with an African-American majority in the United States. Actually it is the second according to Wikipedia. I remember President Bush saying that the area of the funeral itself was the most top areas per square mile for most-affluent county with an African-American majority in the United States.

Below is all that I could find for sure to back this up. It is not what I was looking for but it does indicate that what I was saying has some merit.

DeKalb County, Georgia
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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DeKalb County, Georgia

Map

Location in the state of Georgia

Georgia's location in the U.S.
Statistics
Founded 1822
Seat Decatur
Largest city Atlanta (part)
Area
- Total
- Land
- Water
271 sq mi (702 km²)
268 sq mi (694 km²)
3 sq mi (8 km²), 1.00%
Population
- (2006)
- Density
737,093
2,484/sq mi (959/km²)
Congressional districts 4th, 5th, 6th
Website: www.co.dekalb.ga.us
DeKalb County courthouse in Decatur, Georgia
DeKalb County is located in the U.S. state of Georgia. In 2000, the population of the county was 686,712. In 2007, its population was estimated to have risen to 737,093 [1]. Its county seat is the city of Decatur[1]. It is bordered to the west by Fulton County and contains roughly 10% of Atlanta (The other 90% lies in Fulton County).

DeKalb County is included in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Georgia, metropolitan statistical area. It is the third-most-populated county in the Atlanta area and the state, just behind Gwinnett County. DeKalb is primarily a suburban county, and is the second-most-affluent county with an African-American majority in the United States, behind Prince George's County, Maryland.

Cerebration said...

That may be true, Ella, but the numbers for Free & Reduced lunches don't lie.

Cerebration said...

golly - here's another place where it was publicized that Arabia was to be a neighborhood school designed to reduce crowding --

From the planning & forecasting website

A new Arabia Mountain-area high school is currently scheduled to open for the 2009-2010 school year. The attendance lines have not been drawn as yet. The new school is expected to provide relief to Martin Luther King Jr. HS and Lithonia HS.

Ella Smith said...

Celebration, I believe that Arbian HS will pull in many affluent students from the Stone Mountain-Lithonia area back into the school system from private schools. I talked to one of my urinologist at a Varsity Boy's Soccer game at Woodward and suggested that they go look at it for their younger children getting ready to go to HS. Many parents would love the opportunity to send their children to a new school like this and will come back from private schools.

The public schools are competing know for private school students. At North Springs Charter School we have interviewed more students for our magnet programs than we ever have. We accept students to our magnet charter school. Teacher's interview students and see what they can do before they are accepted into the program. Art Students have to bring in portfolio of their work. Singers have to sing. Dancers have to dance. Science students have to show us their good grades and test scores.

I feel that the Arabian High School will be similar to the process our students go through. If we have too many applicates I guess we can make decisions on abilities. Our students also have to keep a certain GPA to stay in our magnet charter school.

I agree that the county should not change their decision mid-stream and that the schools around may benifit from redistricting but I think the same thing will happen in this situation. I am extremely concerned that the schools the best students are coming from will have more problems with AYP. Hopefully AYP as it is now will be a thing of the past.

Open+Transparent said...

If DCSS Central office keeps allowing non-county students to sneak into county schools with little supporting documentation and no checking, then the enrollment numbers wil continue to be skewed.

Ella Smith said...

Open+Transparent, I agree with you. I do not understand why the school board does not require all the students currently to prove residency again. Fulton did this a year or two ago and cost thousands of students there illegally.

They also have two high school that they allow students from other systems to attend and pay tuition. Both Riverwood and North Springs are school that other students are going to and paying tuition. Many parents are starting to pay the tuition for out of county verses paying for their child to go to private school. The tuition is approximately $4,000-$5,000 a year which is reasonable verses sending your child to a private school.

Open+Transparent said...

Ella brings up a more important point: DCSS doesn't know what the term "best practices" means!

How do other metro area school systems double-check and enforce residency? How do other school systems attract tuition paying students (10% of the City Schools pf Decatur's students are tuition paying). What is working with systems in the metro area, around the state, and in the Southeast?

BOE members aren't exactly interested in closely examining best practices either. Like how Gwinnett has two designs each for every elementary, middle and high school. It standardizes the layout and planning, and saves an absolute TON of taxpayer money.

I'm calling you out Crawford Lewis and Marcus Turk: You two do not check residency, you do not check if a student really should be on FRL (but C lew sure loves his administrative transfers). The large amount of non-resident students affects taxpayers and it affects the quality of education for actual county resident students. The number of students on FRL who shouldn't be is just plain illegal and unethical.

Cerebration said...

Check out Dick Yarbrough's editorial about Perdue's bone-headed plan to discontinue the National Teacher Certification (with it's promised 10% pay boost) and replace it with a Master Teacher program.

The Governor needs to be very careful when backing out of promises. Who in their right mind would go to the trouble of achieving any extra certification when the boss can't be trusted to keep the word of the State?

http://mid.nn.marietta.new.adqic.com/detail/146242.html?content_source=&category_id=&search_filter=&event_mode=&event_ts_from=&list_type=&order_by=&order_sort=&content_class=&sub_type=stories&town_id=&page=2

Ella Smith said...

Dick Yarbrough states it best: "If, however, the governor and legislators are too busy to bother with a mere schoolteacher who is busting his butt to make a difference in the lives of young people, maybe somebody could explain to me why in the hell anybody would want to be a public schoolteacher in Georgia, given the constant meddling. I could use the education." Many teachers now who go into education get out because of all the meddling by individuals who know very little about teaching or education.

Cerebration said...

I'm not exactly sure why this is relevant, it just seems that it is --

I happened to be conversing on Heneghan's blog - and found out some interesting info about the number of apartment complexes sending kids to the various high school clusters

Druid Hills has over 60.

Dunwoody and Lakeside each have over 30.

Tucker has 24.

Towers has 19.

Miller Grove has 12.

MLKing has 5.

SW DeKalb has 4.

Redan has 2.

Stephenson has 1.

However, Cross Keys has nearly 80.

Cerebration said...

Perhaps it's important to emphasize that although there is obviously considerable growth in the SW area of DeKalb, it is obviously mostly single family dwellings. In other areas, mostly Central and North, it is apartment homes. If you've ever watched a bus complete a stop at one of these complexes, you will see that one apartment complex usually holds an entire busload of students. I think a new subdivision would be hard-pressed to send as many.

So - when some of our Board members go on and on about the wild growth of new homes in S DeKalb, make sure you mention the astounding growth in multi-family housing in other areas - more students per acre for sure.

Cerebration said...

Does anyone know if the school system keeps tabs on where the AYP transfers originate and where they choose to transfer to? I'd like to see this data - is there a way to acquire it? Hopefully it exists - this is extremely important data to track.

Dekalbparent said...

The question of transfers keeps coming up - if there is no tracking done for AYP and admin transfers, how can we get past the anecdotes into a way to control the situation?

My student told me on Friday that a "new friend" confessed that he is districted to Stone Mountain, but because his mother USED TO work for DCSS, she called on some friends in admin and got him transferred to DHHS and had his brother placed in the magnet program at Chamblee Middle.

My student also tells me there is a student who is known for disrupting his art class (as in "Shove it up your a$$" in reply to a teacher's request). This student was exited from DHHS, moved with his family into Atlanta, went to Grady, was expelled from APS, and is now back at DHHS, even though he still lives in Atlanta.

Dekalbparent said...

I have written to my Board reps asking them to revisit the current SPLOST allocations and consider revising them.

pscexb said...

Cerebration, in general the data you ask about does exist. There is a 'student' database that indicates the 'home' school along with the school the student attends. Theoretically one could 'run' a report showing this information for each school.

You may be able to find out something like this, "Lakeside has a total enrollment of x students. Y students are a part of the Lakeside attendance area and z students are enrolled by a variety of means." Please understand I am making an educated guess about this report output. I say this because there are privacy considerations (for the students) involved. I believe the above output would not violate them because it does not specifically tell you how the 'out of area' students came to the school. Again, this is my guess and they may provide more detail, i.e. which schools make up the Lakeside enrollment"

In reverse, one can 'probably' find out which schools have the highest 'sending' populations in the district.

Cerebration said...

hmmm - that's great. Who would create these reports for me? I find this data really critical. We have to know which schools are losing students and which are attracting them and why. The transfers and cheaters must get under control too. Other systems send out deputies to check on student's addresses.

We cannot possibly improve the "sending" schools if we don't know what issues people are avoiding. Many of the "sending" schools are good schools, IMO. I think we need to dig deeper to address why people choose to leave. If they don't improve, then the schools should close and all of the relevant funding should go to the receiving schools.

Wouldn't that be a better approach than just perpetually filling transfer requests non-stop? And folks - if the new bills pass into law - allowing for free for all transfers - hold your hats - this is gonna get crazy.

Cerebration said...

See - here's a mystery. Ms. Moton shared the basic data as far as where the Lakeside students are from, but there are big, gaping holes in the numbers. No one knows where a lot of students are coming from.

Here's the last data I have from Lakeside:

Enrollment Update

Total students by grade level:

9th grade: 585

10th grade: 460

11th grade: 308

12th grade: 337

Total: 1690

Students enrolled under the No Child Left Behind Choice Option:

9th grade: 78

10th grade: 32

11th grade: 12

12 grade: 2

Total: 124 (This number has decreased from the 139 students enrolled in August.)

Number of ninth graders enrolled from Henderson: 314

Number of ninth grade retainees: 86

Total number of trailers: 21 (all fully operable)

--------

Now - notice, that if you add up the students who came from Henderson as last year's 8th graders, and the retainees from last year (a surprising 86!) and the known AYP transfers - you get a total of 478. However, there are actually 585 freshmen - so where did the mysterious 107 students come from?

This is true for almost every class at Lakeside. There is another story here as well - notice the severe drop-off in numbers by the junior year. Lakeside loses at least 125 students in this transition every time. Is anyone trying to figure out why? Do enrollments spike at home schools in the junior year or are these kids dropping out completely? Does anyone track them when they go?

I don't think so - I personally pulled my two children out of Lakeside in different years, to go private. They handed my their records in a sealed envelope, but never once asked where we were going or why. No "exit" interview so to speak.

pscexb said...

Another 'educated guess' regarding the drop-off by junior year, some 'may' be dropping out of school. That is when most juniors turn 16 and make the decision whether school is for them.

You could try to make this request through your board member. Otherwise you could make an 'Open Record Request' to the school system. We the People own the data. As long as it does not compromise anyone's right to privacy, you should be able to get this information. Think about what you want and how you would like the data presented. If you could provide sample output with your request, it could expedite matters.

Cerebration said...

will do! thanks....

pscexb said...

Not to change the subject but another interesting point you brought up was the idea of an 'exit' interview for students. That is part of the frustration school officials have with graduation rates. How do you measure this while factoring in the 'transition' that may occur with students.

You mentioned pulling your two children out of Lakeside. Do we know whether they will count when the graduation rate for Lakeside is determined? Because the school system is not 'tracking' them, how does the school system take that into consideration?

I bring this up more as a philosophical discussion more than anything else. You see that same thing in determining athlete graduation rates for colleges. As I recall, an athlete could transfer from school A for school B however be counted against school A's graduation rate. This even though they may graduate from school B. I digress again....

Cerebration said...

I have to add something that is perplexing. I always thought the dropout rate was tracked across grades, however, when I saw the actual data once on the Lakeside "graduation" rates - they only tracked the students who began the school year as seniors - and reported how many of those graduated that year. I especially noticed this as the Hispanic success rate was very low - and I wondered what it really was, since most likely many others had dropped out in previous years.

What exactly DO they track?

Cerebration said...

Case in point - In January, 2008, Miller Grove was published as being 265 over capacity - but within a year, so many exited the school that the most recent data reports the school as having 13 available seats.

That means 278 students left Miller Grove in the last year. So - is the administration taking a good hard look at what's going on at Miller Grove? It ain't that they have a crummy building - that's for sure.

Dekalbparent said...

Figures for DHHS:

Freshman: 380. 137 from out of district (36%)

Sophomores: 351. 101 from out of district (29%)

Juniors: 288. 105 from out of district (36%)

Seniors: 285. 102 from out of district (35%)

Cerebration said...

wow - so DHHS is over 30% from out of district (that you are aware of...)

Here are the figures for Lakeside when you include Special Permission Transfers - I tried calculate percentages - I mean, should I include the mystery category - "New to Lakeside" - (I did) where are they from exactly - Clayton? They're not new to the district - in most cases. We don't have a lot coming from private - we have them mostly leaving TO private.

9th grade
From Henderson 246 - (in district most likely)
NCLB 78
Special Perm 12
New to Lakeside 245 --- FROM WHERE?
Total 581 (58% out of district most likely)

10th grade
NCLB 32
Special Perm 13
New to Lakeside 93 --- FROM WHERE?
Returning 322 - - (in district most likely)
Total 460 (30% out of district most likely)

11th grade
NCLB 12
Special Perm 14
New to Lakeside 38 --- FROM WHERE?
Returning 242 - (in district most likely)
Total 306 (21% out of district most likely)

12th grade
NCLB 26
Special Perm 26
New to Lakeside 24 --- FROM WHERE?
Returning 286 - (in district most likely)
Total 338 (22% out of district most likely)

Cerebration said...

Ok - we've found the data! Thank you Tom Doolittle, who has written an article on the growth and stability of the Northlake/Lakeside region. In it - we find out the real "housing boom" that has occurred.... prepare to be shocked -

Only 74 new single-family homes (13.8% of all sales) in the Lakeside portion of 30345 were sold from 2006 to 2008, prices ranging from $605,000 to $1,640,000. Only 10 homes built in 2008 were sold in 2008 in Lakeside/30345.

Whaaaaa? Only 74 new homes have been sold in the last two years? Where in the heck are all of these mysterious "new to Lakeside" students coming from?

Not only that --

Resale volume decreased from 331 to 218 (34%) between 2006 and 2008, for pre-1980 homes.

So in theory - our population is pretty dad-burned stable around here.... Now let's see if we can track where the 238 students who left Miller Grove have gone? To the trailers of Lakeside perhaps?

Go here for the whole story - it's actually some GOOD news in this bad economy - thanks, Tom.

http://www.godekalb.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=232:northlake-itp-and-otp-real-estate-stable-amidst-recession&catid=43:dekalb&Itemid=33#comment-114

Anonymous said...

Tom also proves that McMansions are hard to sell.

I wonder how many of the new students to Lakeside came from the apartments in the district. I think we know next year there will be some from the new complexes being built at Embry Hills and on Northlake Parkway.

Cerebration said...

True, but can 2 or 3 new apartment complexes bring in this many students to one high school?

There are 400 students described as "new to Lakeside" this year (These 400 are in addition to the 148 AYP transfer students due to the NCLB law and the 65 students attending Lakeside with "Special Permission" from the superintendent.)

Interestingly, 245 of these "New to Lakeside" students are freshmen. We must have had a giant influx of 14 year olds in our neighborhood. Isn't that odd?

Dekalbparent said...

Just a notation FWIW, the construction at DHHS is officially "on" again (they say), after a mysterious pause that started mid-January...

That's right, folks, there has been little if anything done on the new construction at DHHS for a month and a half. An accessibility ramp was installed (requiring the media center to close). The accessibility ramp was de-installed at the request of the DeKalb Fire Marshal (during which time the media center was still closed). A set of wooden stairs was installed on the side of the cafeteria - rumored to be for fire exit, but wooden stairs for a fire exit....??

As far as this blogger can see, that's it, folks.

Anonymous said...

Did you see this article by Kristina Torres in today's AJC.com?

DeKalb schools rethink where to build: Officials vow no favoritism among regions

It sounds as if Dr. Lewis has taken heed.

Cerebration said...

Yes -- good news in the AJC -- here are the quotes:

“The district has to send a very clear message that when there are additional dollars to be used, we’re not going to go back” to a parochial mind-set, Lewis said last week. “We need to look across the district and see what needs are systemwide.” (Dr. Lewis said.)

Jay Cunningham, the school board member whose district includes Lithonia High, echoed that sentiment, although he declined to specifically address that school’s situation.

“They’re going to bring forward the recommendation and we’re going to look at it,” Cunningham said. “We’re going to do what’s financially sound and do what’s best for our kids, period. And that means the whole county, not just one area — those days are over with.”

Board member Paul Womack, whose district includes Lakeside High, acknowledged that the school needs work. But he said the board was unified in considering the overall needs of the system over the demands of any particular region of the county.

Kim Gokce said...

What process will Dr. Lewis and the BOE use to make this prioritization in a different way? In 90-120 days, Patricia Pope will bring her recommendations to the Dr. Lewis and the Board. Just how are the leaders going to make any adjustments to the department head's recommendation without going right back to the "old" way of doing it? Seems to me the only answer is they have to accept the list as recommended. To do anything else just restarts the advocacy for individual cases that everyone says they want to avoid.

Cerebration said...

Hopefully, this will be discussed at the BOE meeting tomorrow at 6pm. I may be wrong, but I think that it's a two-step process. A project has to be determined to be no longer necessary and the money for that project gets returned to the general construction fund. Then the next project in order of importance bubbles to the surface. If a new project is determined to need an expansion in scope, then that must be presented to the Board for a majority approval. One contract at a time. It's actually a pretty fair process. As long as the board members don't view it as "my district vs yours" - as long as they truly judge each project by the level of need and the maximum number of impacted students.

Kim Gokce said...

[quote] As long as the board members don't view it as "my district vs yours" [end quote]

But doesn't this go back to the discussion of district elected seats versus at large or overlay members? These folks are elected officials, elected by neighbors and friends in their districts. How can they possible not be dragged back to represent their own district's interest over another's? It seems to be that is precisely why the BOE is setup the way it is setup.

I am not saying it is the right way. I am saying that it seems an inescapable way as long as the BOE is elected as it is by district.

What is the point of elections of this type unless it is to protect the interests of the district??? Doesn't every voter expect their representative to fight for their electing district?

It's sort of like asking the U.S. Congress to give up "ear marks" ... everyone says that's what they want from them but everyone wants to make sure they get their piece of the action while the game is setup the way it is. Heck, even Perdue said as much this past week.

Give me pork or give me death! :)

Cerebration said...

That's all true, Kim. But - in reality - the board reps should bring the information and needs of the schools in their districts to the board at large. Each member can't visit every school - they have to rely on each other for info. So yes, to that end, your board rep does in a sense, "fight" for your school.

Sadly, in recent years, however, there have been many "deals" and "agreements" made behind closed doors, so to speak. This is what needs to stop if we truly want to do what is best for the system as a whole.

Also - I still think that the system is far too large. We would serve DeKalb better if the system was broken down into smaller systems (akin to the regions they've been saying they are creating) - systems that act as independent school systems - each with it's own Superintendent. We already have the regions divided and we already have the area supers in place. We just need to give each region the authority and their share of budget to do what is best for the schools within their regions.

Dr. Lewis is stretched too thin. He gets phone calls from every corner of the county - principals, teachers, parents, board reps... all call him directly with every little issue that comes up. These people should be dealing with their area super - but I would bet they don't even know that person's name.

It's hard to be heard in the loud cacophony of voices in DCSS. Especially when week after week, people like the Jacksons take up three slots at the microphone.

pscexb said...

Hey folks, I've been away for a few days catching up on work and getting ready for youth soccer season. Thanks goodness gas prices have gone down over last year making those out of town soccer tournaments a little easier.

I thought Kristina's article was a 'fair and balanced' one. In fact, several things that I have mentioned have been captured in several of the recent comments. This is a two step process. The first is for Ms. Pope to recommend to the BoE that several projects should be delayed/deferred and those monies go back into the 'pot'. Two projects that 'may' be in this category are the Lithonia classroom addition and HSTN roof repair.

As I understand, an independent panel evaluated the existing needs of the district and will help to re-prioritize them. I'm sure they will look at the list used to create the current CIP then factor in needs since that time. This will be presented to the superintendent for review then to the board. I'm sure there will be discussion at this point. Shortly thereafter (the second step), the board will vote on the new plan.

This should be a blind, needs based process. We can't let the 'squeaky wheel' dictate how the priorities are set. If done in a transparent manner, we should feel comfortable about the final recommendation.

pscexb said...

Just noticed this is the blog topic for the AJC today. It will be interesting to see what others say.

Kim Gokce said...

@Cere: Perhaps this is why BOE members have often acted like area supers and get involved where we'd otherwise wish they wouldn't need to be involved. Seems as if the Superintendent has an enormous amount of power and there are no structural guarantees that they share that power with area supers.

I'm sure I'll be forever labeled as the guy who thinks everything revolves around Cross Keys but ... when I look at the recent history at Cross Keys and its feeders, all I see is orphaned schools that due to lack of organized, local advocates have been allowed to be at the bottom of every priority list.

Now, everyone is saying we are going to the right thing for "the system." I am concerned that once again Cross Keys and its feeders will be at the bottom of the list for any "extra" attention.

I think Cross Keys is the perfect litmus test for the "new way of doing things" at DCSS. If the Board and Dr. Lewis bring "extra" resources and focus to bear on Cross Keys and its area, I will be a convert.

If the era of "what's best for the system" is no better for Cross Keys than the "bad old days" of local deal making, then what is the message to Cross Keys, the Latino community, the Brookhaven area, and all tax payers?

The feedback I have had from the current administration is that Brookhaven's "anglo" kids are in private schools and that the Latino families don't demand service so they don't get it. Both are wrong-headed suggestions. Let's see what happens now ...

Cerebration said...

This is exactly the kind of comment that the Board needs to hear. I would suggest that you attend the Board meeting tonight at 6 pm at
Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center
BLDG A,
J. David Williamson Board Room,
3770 North Decatur Road, Decatur

Go early - Immediately get your name on the list of alternate speakers or try to sign up quickly today by contacting
MARGARET_C_FRANCOIS@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

Once again, the Jackson 3 have taken up 3 slots for DESA comments, however, the purpose of the public comments is to allow everyday people like you to voice your concerns about your schools and implore the Board to take some action.

pscexb said...

Kim, I would also suggest emailing all the board members along with the superintendent of your concerns. Work is being done on Cross Keys now however there are legitimate questions as to whether there is enough funding to address its many needs. It would 'make sense' to address some of the needs at this time while scheduled work is occurring. This would depend upon the needs of CK being 'as great' as the other needs in the district along monies being available.

FWIW, I'm aware of some folks in the community willing to 'squeak' for those that may not have the wheels that others do. The key to remember is that the staff makes the recommendations and the board approves the plan and expenditures.

Call me naiive but I think it is a good thing that a mid program assessment is being done and that we will not perform projects that don't make sense anymore. I don't envy the district going to the communities that will have projects delayed/deferred and explaining to them why it is being done.

Anonymous said...

"Once again, the Jackson 3 have taken up 3 slots for DESA comments"

Does anyone know Ms. Jackson well enough to tell her her act wearing thin/no longer effective/just too much? Trotting out her two children every single meeting is a farce. Let them stay home and do homework or have some time to just be kids, instead of being pawns for her various crusades. Plus the BOE meeting room is packed beyond fire code capacity. Good luck getting out with all that TV camera equipment if there's ever an emergency.

I'm all for free speech, but she's a broken record, and using the kids for sympathy doesn't work when they are there for every darn meeting. Give some others a chance to be heard. There are over 700,000 people in the county. Let's give some new speakers a chance to give input and maybe present a smart, fresh idea.

No Duh said...

She's using BOE meetings to hone her kids' public speaking skills -- remember they are DESA kids. Problem is she's writing their "material" and they can't even read it!! It annoys me, too.

However, are you willing to say the same thing to Sandra Purkett, Marney Mayo, Lynn Deutsch and the toilet guy? All or some of those people have been on the list at virtually all the meetings I've been to in the last seven years.

Anonymous said...

"However, are you willing to say the same thing to Sandra Purkett, Marney Mayo, Lynn Deutsch and the toilet guy?"

Sure am. Using the kids as pawns makes Jackson stand out from the rest though.

Again, free speech is great and hugely important, but do Jackson, Purkett, Mayo and Deutsch realize their comments are much more effective if they don't speak at every single meeting?

When you sign up to speak at every single meeting, a) it's kind of rude, selfish and self-serving, and b) it becomes more about you, your ego, and you wanting to hear your own voice then it does about ideas, constructive criticism and open dialogue.

Let's work to open up more speaking slots for the Ella's, the Ernest Brown's, the psc's, the Cere's, and the No Duh's of DeKalb. Just as the BOE needs some fresh ideas and viewpoints, it would be cool to hear some fresh ideas and viewpoints from the public at BOE meetings.

Kim Gokce said...

@cerebration: Thank you for the contact name - I checked and all slots are taken. I will not be able to attend early enough to sign-up for alternate position. I looked over the agenda and though you never know where things will really go in the business meeting, I wasn't inspired. I will make an upcoming meeting and definitely add some pizazz with a public comment!

@pscexb: I have sent my concerns to each Board member, Dr. Lewis and Patricia Pope. So far, no acknowledgment though I know they are busy.

pscexb: "FWIW, I'm aware of some folks in the community willing to 'squeak' for those that may not have the wheels that others do."

Name names, my friend, name names ... I have been digging around Cross Keys community and there is no one squeaking other than teachers as far as I have gathered so far. kim@communityradar.com

Cerebration said...

Drag Don McChesney over there. Ask him to lunch at Cross Keys once a week. Take him for a nice tour and a stroll around the grounds. It's his "district" - he signed on to the task and should not be allowed to only focus on the Sagamore boundaries and Lakeside HS.

Kim Gokce said...

@Cerebration: But then wouldn't I be guilty of trying to influence Don's system wide priorities? :)

I hope to have much news from Cross Keys by April. I am moving on many fronts to try and "get the ball rolling." As you know, there are virtually zero organized efforts on behalf of this cluster. DCSS districting of recent years has nearly assured this is a lost cause ... St. Jude?

Cerebration said...

No. It's up to the board members to report and advocate for their schools. The other members have no way of knowing what's going on in schools in other districts (we can't expect them to each visit all 150+ schools.) Take pictures. Take along the construction people so that they can write up recommendations.

The board can then make decisions based on the information brought to the group in open meetings - not based on who best lobbied whom behind the scenes.

It's teamwork vs collusion.

Kim Gokce said...

For those who are considering becoming champions for the Cross Keys Indians, here is the latest from the school. Vote for my blog posting to keep this circulating in the coming days/weeks. The faculty and students at Cross Keys are gaining more of my respect by the day:

Cross Keys Students Acheive in Spite of Obstacles

Cerebration said...

I just want to make sure that this quote from the Demographer's Report is included in this thread,

By the early to mid part of the next decade the high school enrollment for the
district is projected to be approximately 4,500 students above instructional capacity. To
remedy this situation the district should strongly consider building new high school
facilities and /or expanding several of the current high school buildings where land and
logistics permit. The area with the greatest need for this expanded capacity is the east/east
central section of the district and the north/ north east (Dunwoody- Tucker-Lakeside)
region.

Cerebration said...

I have new numbers -- We have a serious problem.
We are under-capacity by well over 3,000 seats in our high schools! And the BOE is still planning to add classroom additions to Miller Grove - which is currently UNDER capacity by 330 students!!

MLK will get an addition - and it at first glance, it would appear that they need one - as they are OVER capacity by 446 - HOWEVER - Arabia will pull most of those in - along with many more from Lithonia, which has 45 available seats, and the plans for an addition have been wisely dropped.

The money for the classroom additions to MLK and Miller Grove are unnecessary. They are not fiscally responsible. The money should be spent where there is currently serious over-crowding with no escape (Arabia is not a feasible choice for Dunwoody or Lakeside students) - or the building is so old and decrepit as to be deemed unhealthy and/or unsafe -- again Lakeside - and to a worse degree, Cross Keys.

I urge you all to demand an audit of the planned SPLOST spending to find out if the plans are in the absolute best interest of the taxpayers money and the students who must spend their days in these buildings. I am very close to engaging in a discrimination lawsuit - especially over the situation with Cross Keys - a majority Hispanic school - which is being virtually dismissed by our BOE.

Cerebration said...

To link to updated information on the severely declining enrollments in South DeKalb, check out this report on the blog - you will see that our high school total enrollment has dropped another 1,610 students. We now have at least 4,500 available (empty) seats in our high schools.

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2009/04/check-out-these-numbers.html

Cerebration said...

for a tour of arabia -- click here --

http://championnewspaper.com/arabia_pics.html.

This school is probably only a mile from the Rockdale county line - so many they will eventually pull from there -- it's much less of a commute. They're going to need to get students from somewhere -- since the school is now a choice or magnet or whatever - and you have to apply and be selected - it limits the applicant pool.

Nice school - too bad it's only for special applicants. If they would just accept transfers without so many strings - they could relieve over-crowding elsewhere. Those 1000 kids are going to have it really, really nice though. Lucky.

Cerebration said...

From Community Radar --


Some folks that follow the progress of the DeKalb County School System have begun to question the leadership's use of the soon-to-open Arabia Mountain High School. There are a handful of questions circulating but the item being most discussed is what seems to be an evolution in how the System intends to utilize the high school.

During planning, I understand a key justification for the high school was to relieve overcrowding at 3 surrounding schools. Now, it appears that the school will do very little "relieving."

I stumbled on this article in the Champion documenting the ground-breaking ceremony. At the end of the piece a quote by Jay Cunningham, BOE, makes it clear what his expectations were for Arabia Mountain HS: “Last time I counted, MLK had more than 30 trailers,” said School Board member Jay Cunningham, in whose district the school sits. “Growth is outpacing the school system. This school will go a long way in helping us with a major overcrowding problem.”

I wonder what the count of trailers at MLK will be this August?


Told ya!

http://www.championnewspaper.com/local34.html

Cerebration said...

A late update - (an article I somehow missed in the AJC back in April - I think it was in the Fayette edition)

DeKalb school officials plan construction changes

By KRISTINA TORRES
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Saturday, April 18, 2009

DeKalb County school officials will ask board members next month to approve changes to the system’s $466 million construction program. A draft report released Friday contained good news for Lakeside High School in Atlanta and an expected pull-back at Lithonia High in south DeKalb.

Some details:

No go

The system is not building a 31-classroom addition at Lithonia High School. The $11 million project is not needed, school officials say, since a new high school nearby will do enough to ease overcrowding at Lithonia High. The new campus, Arabia Mountain High School, opens in August.

Hot tickets

The system added plans for a 31-classroom addition at Southwest DeKalb High School in unincorporated Decatur, and a 28-classroom addition at Lakeside High. Southwest DeKalb, which has 36 portable classrooms, is over-capacity by 413 students. Cost of the addition: $10.2 million.

The 44-year-old Lakeside is over-capacity by 364 students. The new classrooms would come in addition to previously approved plans to spend more than $11 million for a new auditorium and “career technology” classrooms. Cost of the new classroom wing: $11.7 million.

Funding

Proceeds from a countywide penny-on-the-dollar sales tax have so far beat expectations by $24.1 million. The system will save $11 million by not building at Lithonia, with an additional savings of $750,000 by eliminating another small project. The state also helped pay for some construction. Net savings: about $59 million. The recommended changes, which also include roofing and technology improvements, would commit $37.5 million of that money, with the rest held back for anything unexpected.

What’s next

A formal presentation will be made May 4, with a vote by board members expected May 11.


It has all since been approved.

Cerebration said...

Let me add more to the soup. This is from the "Dunwoody Talk" blog -

The new school on Womack Road, Dunwoody Elementary, is about 25% vacant. Yep, the new school that no one wanted to attend a year ago has one in every four seats open. Vanderlyn numbers are a bit higher than DeKalb thought they'd be. Vanderlyn is 134% capacity with only grades K-3. Austin is 117% capacity without their 4th and 5th graders. Both these schools will continue to see growth the next few years.

It is really obvious - that our school leaders are much more likely to succumb to the pressures of vocal community members or board reps, rather than just making plain old data-driven decisions.

In a time where we have almost a 50-50 makeup of over-crowded and under-utilized schools, DCSS leaders have actually chosen once again to spend SPLOST dollars to build a school that will not be filled for quite some time - and leaving others still over-crowded.

This is not rocket science. What in the blue blazes is the problem? Why do we keep spending millions of dollars to build schools which are so low in enrollment that they echo. We then leave many other schools over-crowded or in horrible disrepair.

My big concern is - what's going to happen when we've spent all of our money on a few "Taj Mahals" and then when we are finally ready to turn our attention to the issues of crumbling old buildings and over-crowding we find that we have no more money left.

It's a very real possibility. Write your board rep and encourage them to spend the SPLOST dollars wisely - please!

Cerebration said...

Forgot to include the link to the Dunwoody Talk blog

http://dunwoodytalk.blogspot.com/2009/08/plans-to-resolve-elementary-school.html

Cerebration said...

Just wanted you all to see the numbers regarding the budget -- below is a comment I posted at the Dunwoody Talk blog -- you need to know this -

The blog posting states --

"I know DeKalb County Schools are broke."

That is sooooo not true. They are just the most bloated, bureaucratic, poorly managed school system I've ever witnessed.

The 2009-10 budget when you add up General
(K-12), Special Revenue, Debt Service, Capital Outlay, Sch. Nutrition & Athletics, Trust & Agency, the Total is an unbelievable $1,705,739,249. (General operations accounts for only $904,769,030 of that.)

Divide the first number by 98,500 students and you get an unbelievable $17,317 per student.

If you simply go by the General operations budget, the per pupil expenditure is a mere $9,185.00.

DeKalb, however, claims to only spend $8584.00 per student. hmmmm. I guess they carry a lot of the budget over to things like debt service and lawsuits.

I'm thinking - we might want to revisit this voucher idea.

Cerebration said...

So- any reports on the enrollment numbers at Arabia? Where did the students come from ? Is MLK still over-crowded?

I wondered, but can't find info at the website. I did find their alma mater song lyrics -

ARABIA MOUNTAIN HIGH
By: Lawrence D. Robinson

From the busy streets and houses to the fields of verdant green, we have come from every nation with a goal and with a dream.

We will not be silenced, nor will we walk in fear.

Our lives are filled with purpose, and that is why we’re here.

(CHORUS)

Arabia Mountain where the best and the brightest go, where success is taught and achievement brought as we learn, and we yearn, and we grow.

We treasure our environment. We respect both earth and sky. We will do our best; conquer every test at Arabia Mountain High!

Cerebration said...

Just wanted to add, yet another news quote from Pre-Arabia - where the school system "sold" the project on the premise of relieving over-crowding in area schools -
From CrossRoads News

The new school, which will seat 1,800 students is scheduled to open in fall 2009. Anderson-Littlejohn said it will help reduce overcrowding at Martin Luther King Jr. and Lithonia high schools.

Take special note of the original capacity number - 1800 - not the 1600 we're now being told.

Cerebration said...

I also found the information in the article about the land swap interesting... hadn't heard this before - Sonof - you might know more about this:

A long-anticipated environmental theme high school in Lithonia moved closer to fruition Feb. 21 when the DeKalb Board of Commissioners approved a land swap with the DeKalb School Board.

Five of the board's seven commissioners voted to approve the resolution swapping 80 acres of land near Murphey-Candler Elementary School with the School Board to build the 228,250-square-foot, state-of-the-art high school. Commissioners Larry Johnson and Elaine Boyer were absent and did not vote.

In return for the land swap, the county will get three parcels of land owned by the Board of Education — 15 acres on Rogers Lake Road, 2.9 acres adjacent to the Tucker Recreation Center, and 20 acres along the South River that includes access easement at M.L. King High School — and $1.5 million to cover the difference in the appraised property values.

The funds will be reimbursed to the county's 2001 Park Bond Funds account from which the 80 acres were purchased.