Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

Children in over thirty (30) DeKalb County School System schools will return to scenes like this one Thursday. A hard rain fell on Metro Atlanta Wednesday evening. And the school roofs that should have been replace long ago yielded little -- if any -- resistance.

Buckets catching rain water will be deployed. Janitors will mop furiously. Ceiling tiles will bulge and collapse. Halls will be impassable; bathrooms unusable. Indoor tarps (above) will groan with the weight of the newly collected rain.

Our children and their teachers will be exposed to a wide range of environmental risks. Indoor mold will continue growing unabated. Legionella will find a fertile host environment. And the petrochemical ingredients in the deteriorating roof above will be carried into our children's classrooms in the cascading rain.

The conditions in our schools are deplorable. And the serious risks we are exposing our children and their teachers to are unacceptable. A cursory visit to any of these campuses quickly reveals these truths. Common sense tells us no school should be like this. But they are. Over thirty of them are exactly like this. And on Thursday morning hundreds (if not thousands) of children will be going in to schools with these outrageous conditions.

It's easy to blame the administration that allowed this occur. The evidence of mismanagement, malfeasance and short sightedness is overwhelming. But that's not the issue I suggest we focus on at this moment. I believe we should examine something else.

What are we telling our children when we send them to schools in this condition? What are we as a community saying about the value we place on their education? What do our actions (or inaction) tell our children about the importance of their school?

Would any of us buy groceries in a store where water poured through the roof and aisles were impassable? Of course not. Would any of us shop anywhere the bathroom was off limits and the threat of a falling ceiling tile was ever present? No way. Would any of us eat in a restaurant where buckets caught rain, the floor was soaked and the aroma of mold filled the air? Not a chance.

Why not?

Why wouldn't we chose to frequent establishments like that?

And why do we accept such conditions for our children and their teachers?

When we send our children to schools in this condition, what are we telling them? What are we saying about the value we place on their education? Their safety? Their welfare?

When we send our children into schools like this, what are we saying about ourselves?

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

If the DCSS Central Office roof was leaking, it would be fixed immediately, with no expense spared.

The Sam Moss staff FAILS time and time again when it comes to scheduled maintenance. They don't even know the term preventative maintenance. HVAC needs regular maintenance. Roofing needs regular maintenance. Grounds need more than "mow and blow".


Put all the overpaid Central Office administrators in trailers!

Dunwoody Mom said...

What school is this?

Ella said...

I understand that the administrative office at some time in the future may need to be moved but moving the central office to new renovated office space while so many schools are in this situation is a disgrace to the children that go to school in schools in this shape. I do believe school board members should be responsible for their decision to move the central office at this time with schools in this shape.

I did notice that the school board took this decision off the tables and then called a special board meeting a few days later and passed it. I have notice a trend of passing things like moving the central office and spending the additional money, the looking at the structure of our legal expenses and other items like this to special called board meetings. I think this may be an attempt to keep these items approval at special board meetings where it is more difficult for the general public to attend these meetings so these items are approved under the radar. I hope I am wrong if what I suspect.

Ella said...

What school is this? It looks like Lakeside but so many schools look like Lakeside on the inside. But, it could not be Lakeside as they did get a new roof a few years ago.

Anonymous said...

That is my son's school. He's in the fourth grade. He has to walk under that **** all day long every day. That's exactly what it looked like yesterday. DCSS has been promising to fix it for years and never has. Lies, lies, lies. They don't care about our children.

Concerned Mom said...

Q: What school is this?

A: Are you kidding me? Does it matter? If ANY ONE school is in DCSS looks this condition it's inexcusable. But you got 28+ of them just like this or worse.

Dunwoody Mom said...

The author of the article did not make clear if this was a DCSS school. I think it transparency in this blog is important - if your objective is to make a difference.

No Duh said...

Just tell us the school -- looks to me like those kids should be evacuated. What if that "thing" fell on them while it's full of water?

Anonymous said...

Great post, George. My guess is this is Kittredge.

pscexb said...

When we send our children into schools like this, what are we saying about ourselves?

Thought provoking post by George. It definitely says a lot about us as citizens regarding priorities and the investments we are willing to make. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I don't believe many of our schools were designed to last 40+ years, at least without significant infrastructure investments over time. A majority of the schools built in DCSS were constructed between 1955 and 1975. Regular maintenance could 'slow down' some of the problems (remember the janitorial staffs report to the principals NOT the Sam Moss staff) however major renovations are needed in many cases.

We the People elect the BoE and provide the funding for the budget. The BoE hires the superintendent, collaborates together on priorities , and the superintendent executes the plan. If We the People request considerations that exceeds what the budget can do, tough decisions must be made. It is more than just a 'money' issue, it is also a 'process' issue.

Perhaps investing in LEED certified buildings along with technology (both which would cost more initially) would result in long term savings for everyone. Unfortunately, it is challenging to have everyone see the long term benefits of this. When we are 'reactive', sometimes decisions are made that are not in the long term best interest of the district and citizens.

Cerebration said...

George -- right on!!! I will add some of my photos from Lakeside to this blog... if anyone has the chance to take photos of crumbling schools - please do! And print them out and hold them up at the next board meeting - asking HOW ON EARTH CAN YOU SPEND MONEY ON ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE RENOVATIONS WHEN CHILDREN ARE EXPECTED TO SPEND THEIR DAYS IN HORRIBLE CONDITIONS LIKE THESE SCHOOLS?????

Cerebration said...

Better yet - if you have photos of crumbling DeKalb schools to add to my slideshow entitled "Beauty Shots" at the right - email them to me at reparteeforfun@gmail.com

I will now work on a contrasting slideshow to show the REAL beauty shots of some of the new schools in DK.

pscexb said...

Not to change the subject totally but is there an easy way to have the most recent comments appear on the right hand pane, similar to what John H. does in his blog?

Cerebration said...

I can't figure it out -- I've been wondering that too. This template doesn't make it easy - and the help group input hasn't worked. If anyone knows the code for posting the recent comments, please send me an email - reparteeforfun@gmail.com

Otherwise, you can subscribe to the comments using the link on the right hand panel.

pscexb said...

Maybe John is lurking and can share how he does it!

Cerebration said...

BTW - Arabia is DEFINITELY GREEN - as in CASH... what a lot of dough to spend on another "magnet" school for special people -- sickening actually.

Arabia Mountain High School Turner Construction Track & Tennis Courts - $425,000.00

More inequities - from an old post --

By and large -- the schools in the north end of the county are not only old and in horrible shape, they are severely overcrowded - mostly due to transfers - either Administrative or AYP - (NCLB). Avondale is down to 706 students and will be taking on the students from the School of the Arts - and some renovation comes with that (there's at least $10 million in the budget.) They will both operate as separate schools within the same building, which I find wasteful. But you are correct, Avondale is not too pretty. However, they are not crowded - they are 165 UNDER capacity - even adding in the DSA crowd (all 284 of them.)

Also - SW DeKalb is severely overcrowded. However, they did enjoy an Auditorium/Tech addition. Additional funding (approx $2 million) for construction beyond the original scope. This is a magnet school, some would say enrollment should be limited to the number of available seats. There are NUMEROUS available seats in the area - and soon will be hundreds more with the opening of Arabia in August - But that's it as far as NEEDS in S DeKalb high schools.

We have three very large, fairly new schools - MLK, Lithonia and Miller Grove which are all slated to receive multi-million dollar classroom additions to relieve overcrowding (they already have auditoriums, indoor tracks, tech classrooms, etc). MLK is 637 over capacity, Lithonia is 276 over capacity and Miller Grove actually has 13 available seats. BUT -- they are building the brand new, glorious, Arabia Mountain HS within about 6 miles of each of these schools - to relieve the same overcrowding issue as the additions! But will the Board reps from that area admit that the additions are no longer needed? Heck no! Their take - a promise is a promise. So - 3 relatively new schools with a total over capacity of 900 will not only get a combined $27 million in additions, they will ALSO get a brand new, state of the art high school capable of holding up to 2100 students! Geeezz --- Read about Arabia HS here: http://www.ajc.com/green/content/metro/dekalb/stories/2008/08/21/green_high_school.html

Meanwhile - Lakeside is 400 over capacity with a crumbling infrastructure and NO money in the budget for renovations or classroom additions. (They are, however, supposed to get the Auditorium/Career Tech center that all high schools are scheduled to get.) Same plan with Dunwoody - except they WILL get s few additional regular classrooms - I think. However, they are currently 216 over capacity - with growth projections putting them at 720 over capacity by the year 2016. And then there's shabby Chamblee - the school with the highest SAT scores in the system. They are scheduled to receive the Auditorium/Career Tech package, but no movement has been made in this effort. They are currently 200 students over capacity with no plans for general classroom additions.

In contrast - most of the following schools which have all had substantial renovations along with Auditorium and Career Tech additions - and they are all UNDER capacity. If they haven't been renovated or added to yet - they are scheduled to .... Cedar Grove - 191 UNDER capacity, Columbia - 152 UNDER capacity, McNair - 577 UNDER capacity, Stephenson - 205 UNDER capacity, and Towers - 320 UNDER capacity.

Now tell me with a straight face that you don't see a North/South divide in those actions and plans of action. C'mon....

Dekalbparent said...

I will endeavor to get some "beauty shots" of the inside of DHHS, but I'd like you to reconsider your inclusion of the artists rendering of DHHS in your lower "beauty shots" slide show.

You need to realize that the addition is not going to add any more classrooms, nor is it going to even TOUCH the elderly bathrooms, the falling ceiling tiles or the absence of hot water in one wing of the school. Those will remain. In addition, like LHS, DHHS has lost its tennis courts. I don't know if they will ever reappear (maybe SPLOST 10).

Transparency Now said...

I recognize that hallway. It's from my child's school. It certainly IS a DCSS school. When it rains the children can't go through that hall. They have to go OUTSIDE in the rain and around the building to get to the other end of the hall.

An above poster said it all: "They don't care about our children."

Anonymous said...

I just got an email from another parent. She said that her son told her an announcement was made at school yesterday that the students could not use their cameras or cell phones to take pictures of the ceilings or water leaks without permission!

You've got to admire an administration that would CENSOR and COVER UP rather than address and solve the problem.

Dunwoody Mom said...

At what school was that announcement made? And again, what school was the picture taken at?

Dunwoody Mom said...

You know that "Code of Conduct" booklet you and your child had to sign at the beginning of the year?

"Students may not use electronic communication devices during instructional time or on school buses"

themommy said...

I think George is PTA president of Kittredge and the picture reflects what has been described to me.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Thanks, themommy. I'm not sure why the need "secrecy". And yes, that's inexcusable.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter which school this picture was taken in. It is a DCSS school, and that's all that matters. There is no secrecy or coverup other than on the part of DCSS to suppress this information. Whether the author of this post is president of a PTA or not is also irrelevant and in no way, assures that the picture is taken at that school. The point of this post and of the picture is that the infrastructure of numerous DCSS schools is failing and the BOE and DCSS and Pat Pope are not addressing these failings in an expeditious fashion.

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

How is DCSS surpressing this information?

I see a lot of photos with regards to unacceptable conditions on the right-hand side of the blog.

Cerebration said...

PSC, what do you mean by this, " It definitely says a lot about us as citizens regarding priorities and the investments we are willing to make. "

When I voted 3 times for SPLOST, I did so thinking that money would be spent on building new schools in over-crowded areas, adding gyms and auditoriums and renovating the old dilapidated schools to make them safe for our children.

To me - there is no choice here. However, decisions have been made to spend the money otherwise - one, on Arabia - which was first proposed and always marketed as needed in order to relieve over-crowding in that area. Now - the focus has changed and Arabia is now only going to be a "choice" (magnet) school that students have to apply to. AND - more money is being spent on administrative offices instead of directly on the schools with the highest needs. You know - schools - those buildings where the students are. The students - those people who without - we have no school system and thus no need for ANY administrators...

Who is the customer here?!! Sadly, our administration thinks it's "all about them."

Cerebration said...

Dunwoody Mom - I think that rule is to keep kids from texting during class... I don't think it's the same thing as taking a photo of what you consider deplorable conditions. That's the American process... they should be allowed to report. What are we - socialists? communists? No - in this land of freedom it is one's civic duty to report what you see - it's what keeps the leadership in check.

Click away kids!!

pscexb said...

Cerebration, you ALWAYS ask great questions. FWIW, I will probably start another blog topic on 'another' DCSS meeting I attended today. It was the 4th Lunch and Learn for those that do business with our Design and Construction department. Great info was shared regarding the CIP.

To the point of your question, SPLOST dollars DID go towards what you wanted them to. Unfortunately, the needs of the system were greater than the dollars available. More info regarding the move of the Central Office to the Stone Mountain site. The CO will be one of several programs at that site, which includes Open Campus, DECA, Drivers Ed, Jim Cherry Center, Clarkston Center, and a few others. As mentioned earlier, several locations will be consolidated into one and the estimated saving on utilities alone is around 1.7 million dollars per year. This does not factor in possible revenues from sales and/or leases of the existing property. If you want our school system to be 'fiscally responsible', then this is a wise move.

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.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Cere, it should be the parents/adults job to "fight the battles" - not the kids. I would never ask my child to take these type of pictures - I would take care of that - that's my job. They don't need to know or get involved in the politics surrounding their education.

Just my take on it, though.

Dunwoody Mom said...

You have to take your hat off to Patricia Pope on doing her job while this nonsense was going on:

"Results of an internal review into allegations of irregularities with DeKalb County school construction contracts have been sent to the DeKalb district attorney’s office.

The school system forwarded the review asking that “a few things” be looked into and whether a criminal investigation was warranted, Jada Hudspeth, spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said Friday.

Hudspeth declined to cite specifics, saying the matter was open and ongoing. A school system spokesman said Thursday that he had nothing to report.

The review involves the office of Patricia Pope, the chief operating officer of the DeKalb system. In December, school system police officers and information systems employees examined records from Pope’s office.

Officials also interviewed several employees who work under Pope.

DeKalb schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis has confirmed in general that a review was being done and said it involved a personnel matter. However, he would not say specifically who is the focus of the review or why."

pscexb said...

Dunwoody Mom, what is the source of your last post?

Dunwoody Mom said...

Sorry, ajc article:

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/dekalb/stories/2009/02/20/dekalb_schools_review.html

Cerebration said...

Dunwoody Mom - I don't know how old your children are - but high schoolers are quite capable of solid investigative reporting and thrilled to have some power over their situation via the "press". High school newspapers have on occasion become substantial learning grounds for students aspiring to a journalism profession. I even recall not all that many years ago when students at Grady HS broke a big story. Their writing was so skillful that the judges in a national competition wouldn't give them an award - they didn't believe high school students actually wrote it. But - it was proven that they did!

I agree that with young students (elementary and even middle schoolers), parents should fight these "battles", however in high school - a healthy real-life civics lesson through the power of the "press" can be powerful beyond any classroom lecture.

Have we become that kind of place where young people are afraid to speak out on injustices? Please, say it ain't so!

Cerebration said...

Allow me to add - if we don't teach young people how to really dig - really investigate and really write a great story - how to function as the fourth branch of the government as the press should - we will end up with a bunch of articles like the one above, written by the Kristina Torres' of the world - who do nothing but forward press releases sent to her by the school system - with her byline inserted. Pitiful. That kind of "reporting" will be the demise of our great country.

"I fear three newspapers more than a hundred thousand bayonets."
— Napoleon Bonaparte

Dunwoody Mom said...

Well, cere, I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this one.

Cerebration said...

Deal -- that's why I love this blog! We have been able to disagree and work out issues without resorting to name-calling. You are all so great!

Cerebration said...

BTW - you did catch my post on another thread stating that none of the photos on this blog were taken by kids. They were all taken by parents and sent to me. The good school photos all came from the AJC website, or DCSS press releases, the CIP or school websites.

Girl Scout Mom said...

Not to beat a dead horse, but...

I met the author of the original post at the Girl Scout World Thinking Day at Shamrock Middle School last night (Friday). I overheard him in conversation with some of my friends and introduced my self.

I asked him specifically about the photo with his post. He told me a parent took it and emailed it to him. He said the parents had taken dozens (if not hundreds) of similar photographs this year.

Apparently, the parents email photos like this to him and complain that DCSS is not responding to their concerns. The parents pleaded with him to do something. He tried to get the PTA engaged but the principal and other officers were opposed. He tried to write something in the school paper and the principal deleted it as inappropriate.

That said, after re-reading his post and reflecting on our conversation, I think it's important for all of us to remember the point of his post was not "look at my school". (And it wasn't "DCSS is bad" either.)

The point of his post was "look at OUR schools" and "what does the fact that 30 of OUR schools are in this condition say about all of US".

These are the points we should consider.

In the OG said...

The roof situation at Sagamore Hills was that bad. Water was also pouring into the library and dripping the the food prep area of the kitchen. In September, the PTA rallied parents to email the BOE and DCSS folks. They threatened to call the media and the health department. And a few parents spoke at a BOE meeting. The next day, there was a team of people at the school to move Sagamore to the top the roof replacement list. Work finally started in November and is just about complete.

It's shameful but true. The squeaky wheels get results.

themommy said...

I just returned from out school's clean and beautiful day. I wonder how much the system's water bill is and how much LESS it would be if all the leaky sinks across the systems (pipes, too) were fixed.

For a system that touts being green so much, this would be a good place to start.

It is about the greasy wheel to some extent. There are a lot of ineffective principals who just want to remain unnoticed and so they don't file the proper paperwork with the county to notify them of the problems. If a school has uninvolved/disconnected parents, there is no one to "tell". There is no one to stand up at board meetings etc to complain.

Dekalbparent said...

I wonder if a principal's reporting problems at the school (e.g. leaky pipes or broken stairs) is viewed as "making trouble" if it happens too often.

Perhaps themommy has hit the nail on the head.

Cerebration said...

woo hoo!! I did it!! I have no idea WHY it's such a big secret how to add recent comments to a blog - but it took me a while to find this wonderful link to a code generator - and it actually worked!! (I swear I tried a dozen that didn't.) Anyway - I'm sure this will please everyone - whew - I'm going to go wipe my brow now.

http://www.bloggerbuster.com/2007/08/create-your-oen-recent-comments-widgets.html

Anonymous said...

"Water was also pouring into the library and dripping the the food prep area of the kitchen."

Call the Health Dept. That will finally get DCSS Central Office moving.

Dunwoody Mom said...

The state health Dept. gave the Kittredge kitchen facility a 100 on its inspection back in December, so it sounds like they did not do their job either.

http://atlanta.digitalhealthdepartment.com/_templates/22/Food/_report_full.cfm?fsimID=164157

Anonymous said...

It's going to take OSHA or EPA to come in and actually do something (mold testing comes to mind) for an actual change to be made, but be careful what you wish for because if the building is labeled toxic you got a whole new set of problems.

And the principals definitely get orders from the central office to get their parents under control or face the consequences when complaints are made about these issues.

Dunwoody Mom said...

It appears the EPA has a "IAQ for Schools" program. Since DCSS has so many older buildings, something like this could be beneficial. And better yet - it's free!!!

http://www.epa.gov/iaq/schools/

John Heneghan said...

You need to use html code in your comments in order for the blog to know that they are active. Here is a good site to give you the code.

http://www.w3schools.com/HTML/html_links.asp

Just follow the examples given on the link above and then your comment links will come alive. I would type out the code to show you but you would only see the link. ;-)