Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cross Keys Article

Cross Keys as a facility is a complete and utter embarassment. But big, big kudo's to its principal, faculty and students for high student achievement despite being one of the worst school facilities in the metro area. If you haven't seen it yourself, please try. As a taxpayer and/or DCSS parent, you won't be happy.

To read the full article, click:

"Cross Keys decays while waiting for renovations"


Anonymous said...

"Pope did not return repeated requests for comment."

Pat Pope, if you're going to be in the press all the time about the shining new projects like Arabia Mt., then you need to take the tough questions, like ones about Cross Keys and Lakeside.

Kim Gokce said...

Everyone take a seat, you're going to be shocked by my comment. As much as I agree that attention on Cross Keys is well deserved, when I read this article a week or so ago I found it bordering on a hit job.

Just a couple of weeks earlier, Pat Pope, Bob Mosley, and a host of DCSS' team held a public meeting on the subject of the Tech School move and the SPLOST III project at Cross Keys.

I left that meeting with no misunderstanding at all about where things stand with the planned projects.

This report says, "The project originally was budgeted for $16.7 million, but only $11 million seems to be earmarked for construction."

Seems? Where does this number come from? If that isn't speculative reporting, I don't know what is.

My understanding is that the SPLOST III project's fund is still intact, not reduced, and not in any way affected by the Tech move.

I believe that there were other readers of this blog at that meeting so I'm looking for validation here. But my recollection of the facts shared at the APE briefing by DCSS and the Q&A afterward was very different from what this article reports.

The SPLOST III project is going to be implemented as committed. The fact that it is slower in kicking off than we'd all like is not news in my opinion.

I think we have to be fair to the System leadership. Because Pat Pope didn't return a phone call to a the reporter is no reason to mis-represent or invent facts.

Cerebration said...

I think this kind of discussion only comes about because information coming down from the powers that be is weak, without detail and rare. Pat Pope is doing an excellent job at her JOB - which is to get the buildings built and the renovations completed, on time and within budget. She should not have to spend inordinate amounts of time answering the questions from the mob. She should have a close relationship with a spokesperson - say don't we staff a few PR people with six-figure salaries to handle communication? They are paid almost HALF of what Pat Pope is paid - and yet they expect her to do her job and theirs as well. I don't consider their job to only send well-worded press releases to the AJC - I would consider it their job (the PR/communication) department - to communicate with all stakeholders. Consider this -- the more we demand of Pope's time to handle community meetings and questions - the less time she can devote to managing the projects.

The administration needs to bolster some courage and form their very own blog - where all of these questions could be answered. Further, they could post information as it becomes available. Wouldn't it be nice?

pscexb said...

I've got to agree with Kim on this. I attended the meeting held at Ashford Park (rescheduled to this site due to a power outage in the area of CK) and came away with a pretty good understanding of where we are and where we are going with respect to the project.

The project was delayed to the the previous architect 'quitting'. I don't claim to know the reason but this definitely can impact the timeline. There are state guidelines that must be adhered to thus consideration must be given to that.

It is good to see CK getting more attention! Hopefully this will result in greater advocacy for other schools in similar positions.

Cerebration said...

From what I can tell about funding for CK - is this

$16,927,348 is allocated to CK in the Nov. 2006 CIP

($823,567 is allocated to HSTN - showing that it was not on the radar to merge the schools at the time)

In the Dec. 2008, CIP, this is what is said about Cross Keys
Cross Keys High School: Renovation and Relocation of the Dekalb High School Technology North
Program: Notice of Award has been issued to MEJA Construction for the new addition and associated
site work. Architectural design is ongoing with expected Department of Education drawings to be
submitted by the end of January 2008. Request for Proposal for Material Testing, NPDES
monitoring, and Special Inspections have been reviewed and approved by Dekalb County School

421-106 Cross Keys HS – Renovation & DHSTN CM/GC at Risk CM/GC Kick Off Nov. ’08

Of course, we all know now that the architect mysteriously "quit" the project - so the November kick off didn't happen.

Now - look at the number. Jody could be right, in that it would seem that there was originally $17 million slated to renovate Cross Keys - this includes fixing the HVAC - which is a separate line item for other schools. Somehow, that project expanded scope CONSIDERABLY to include merging the HSTN along with all of it's equipment and special programs, requiring different and usually larger space. However - I never see additional revenue added to the original budget. (Conversely, DSA, Open Campus and Jim Cherry were each allocated $10 million just for their "Move") Further, the budget actually was reduced by about $500 to $ 16,477,631 in the Dec 08 CIP.

MUCH bigger scope - reduction in cost...

What's up with that?

Cerebration said...

I'm left wondering if the Administration didn't make a really dumb deal and now they're trying to sweep it all under Cross Keys' rug hoping no one will notice or complain there.

The school system "traded" the HSTN site next to Perimeter College for a site nearby to build the new Dunwoody Elementary school. (They did this in spite of the fact that they already have a vacant building a mile or two away - the old Shallowford or Chamblee MS - that could have been renovated and used for a new ES. Heck the place already has a SPLOST 1 funded gymnasium -- sitting EMPTY!!)

Then - they realized they had to do "something" with the several hundred students who attend here - most half days, but many full time. Uh oh! Say - here's an idea -- send them and all their equipment over to Cross Keys - they won't complain!

Cerebration said...

If you ask me - we need to TEAR DOWN CROSS KEYS and spend more like $30 million (at least in the range of Arabia) and build an EXEMPLARY HIgh School of Technology.

A little planning could have made this happen. But this willy, nilly, reactionary way of planning always creates losers. Is it too late? HECK NO.

Kim Gokce said...

@Cere: "The administration needs to bolster some courage and form their very own blog - where all of these questions could be answered."

About 18 months ago I contacted the public relations folks and offered my platform as a free and available mechanism to do just that. They had no resources available to do the work of posting but offered to CC me on press releases.

This is a huge problem and goes back to my beef about the "latent constituency" of DCSS. Parents with children in the system complain about the lack of proactive and thorough communications - especially, electronic communications. The rest of us are completely out of the loop.

The obstacles are not technical ones but organizational and political.

You may haven noted that there's a highly anticipated demo of the new Parent "Portal" coming up ... a hopeful prospect but I'm imagining it is mostly designed to allow parents vision into the student records and activity, not the system operations/administration.

I fear that there are many years ahead for those of us who are trying to gather information nuggets about our own system and disseminate them to the community.

Kim Gokce said...

@cere: "A little planning could have made this happen. But this willy, nilly, reactionary way of planning always creates losers. Is it too late? HECK NO."

Now you're talking my language! :)

I don't believe it is too late, either, depending on SPLOST III revenue levels continuing to be strong, the "re-allocation" process that's about to begin and whether we have a visionary BOE or not.

I believe the key is the CK stakeholders helping the leadership see the opportunity here.

A couple of years ago I discussed with System Administrators the fact that there were a significant number of families in the Brookhaven area that could be "brought back into the fold" if a concerted effort were under taking in this district.

The impression I was left with was that there is no interest in taking on new students even if this would help revitalize the district. I was surprised by the attitude. It seemed almost as if I was told, "We're not able to handle the kids we have now so why should we be troubled about those kids?"

"Those kids" are from families like mine that are not well-to-do and are teetering between the public vs. private decisions. I loose an average of 1-2 families per year from my neighborhood specifically because of DCSS. These are the kind of families that can make a school truly great. Just this week, a Rotarian put a For Sale sign in their yard. They like many before them are heading to Cobb or Gwinnett or elsewhere.

It is a huge problem and a poor reflection on DCSS more than Cross Keys. For me, Cross Keys represents an enormous opportunity for DCSS. Making Cross Keys "work" for the Brookhaven neighborhoods again would be the best possible symbol of how DCSS wants to operate and achieve in the future. "I have a dream ..."

Kim Gokce said...

I can't stop myself ... 12 short years ago, Cross Keys was a Georgia School of Excellence. How about them apples? Talk about stealing defeat from the jaws of victory ...

I think about the 1st graders at Woodward, Montclair, Ashford Park (formerly Cross Keys feeder), Dresden and whoever else was in the pattern then and how their families must have felt as their kids looked ahead to a premier High School experience ... where have all the flowers gone?

pscexb said...

From the vouchers thread we 'inadvertently' hijacked, Cere pointed out the following comment I made:

"One could also make an argument for attempting to keep 'like' communities together though."

You also pointed out the noticeable 'dip' in the Cross Keys cluster along Peachtree. Could that have occurred because of the sentiment in the statement above by those that lived in that area?

I'm going to go on a limb with this but 'what if' the Chamblee and Cross Keys clusters consolidated, with I-85 and I-285 as the boundaries along with the county line? With that same thought, what if CK was sold (perhaps the most valuable property in DCSS) with the proceeds going first to a new and larger Chamblee then the remainder going to the central CIP pot?

Just asking.... :)

Anonymous said...

If DCSS Central Office gets their heads out of their blanks and finally builds a new Lakeside or Cross Keys, they must use the exact same blueprint as the incredible Arabia Mt. High School. Gwinnett uses the same few templates for its schools, with a little variation. They save bigtime when it comes to architect fees. Arabia Mt. is a beautiful school, and should be copied exactly at any new high school site in the county.

Cerebration said...

good idea, psc - good idea! I like the brainstorming that is happening here.

I would imagine that we would all agree - Cross Keys is a dumpy building and should probably be torn down and replaced. Spending money trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear is usually a waste.

ps - I imagine that the people pleaded to leave the CK district once they realized how decrepit the building was. It's pretty bad when Chamblee looks like a jewel in comparison!

pscexb said...

Anon @ 4:18, give Pat Pope and the DCSS staff some credit. I understand they ARE using the blueprint from Arabia Mountain for the new Tucker HS. That community has something to REALLY look forward to.

pscexb said...

Alright Cere, you are stroking my ego so I have another thought for the folks out there :). What if a 'Career Technology Institute' was placed @ Avondale? This would generate more discussion given the historical significance with Avondale. If their students were split between Clarkston, Towers, and Columbia, it probably could be done. Looking at the map Kim linked to earlier, Avondale seems to be located in the 'center' of the county.

If not Avondale, perhaps Clarkston could be used instead and use the current central office site for 'heavy tech' programs (unless a suitable bid for that property comes).

Ella Smith said...

I think it is a good idea to make Chamblee a bigger high school and possible even leave Cross Keys as the Vocational School.

By the way, what are the plans for the property by Adams on Druid Hills Road? I do not want to see this property sold.

Kim Gokce said...

I did some more digging on the $$$ ... The $11m figure tossed out in the article reflects the construction cost set aside for Cross Keys as part of the $16.9m. The difference is in fixtures, furniture, & equipment as well as architectural/professional fees. So the $11 and the $16 are really the same number and no one has made off with the public money.

Let's stay focused on gathering facts rather than fueling rumors and speculation when it comes to $$$.

Tear down Cross Keys and sell the land? Not going to happen soon ... so what do we do for the community for the next 10-20 years???

The tear-down and rebuild number is $36m I think Cere quoted somewhere. Where do we get another $20m? I suppose 2-3 years from now a determined group of business and civic leaders could probably raise that privately. Would the community support such a delay?

I don't know. It is frustrating that Cross Keys wasn't the priority a few years ago. Supposedly, everyone saw declining enrollments and thought it was not a wise investment. Very short-sighted ... who do "they" think is going to be living in northwest DeKalb? As density increases all the children disappear?

Consolidate Lakeside and Cross Keys? Located where? I've got it - the GM plant at a DCSS urban, collegiate styled campus.

Cerebration said...

wow -- you go guys! I also wonder about the Druid Hills property - it's very centrally located (only about 2 miles from where CK is now) - A bigger Chamblee could handle kids who choose a traditional path and a school of technology could handle the ones who want a hands-on, jobs focused program. Druid Hills could be a good place for a vo-tech HS. Avondale could remain there for DSA (we're always trying to serve the most students with our money, right? DSA only has 283 students - and that's from 8th-12th grades.)

Although - there's a lot of room at Druid Hills - perhaps we could tear down all the junky buildings (except the stadium) and replace them with a tech school and a new DSA with performance theatres that could be rented out to the community....

The money? Could come from the sale of CK property and the unused $16 million. It could work... with the DSA school slated as a "future" project on the property.

The International school could move to the old Chamblee Middle...

Lots of space there on ND Hills...

Dekalbparent said...

psc @ 5:18 -

Re Clarkston for career technology: The high school is ACROSS THE STREET from Ga Perimeter and DeKalb Tech!! Talk about appropriate .

And using the current central office space - AROUND THE CORNER from Clarkston/GPC/ DeKalb Tech. Seems like a wealth of possibilities.

Cere @ 5:52. The idea of creating a community / DCSS shared arts center at N. Druid Hills has been floated for quite a while. At There is a park there, too. Think about it - arts center / recreational area / showcase for DCSS productions.


pscexb said...

We need to make sure BoE members and commissioners are reading this site. Collectively I feel we have offered solutions worthy of consideration. If there are other ideas, please offer them....

Dekalbparent said...

Am I just being naive here? Help me, bloggers.

What if DCSS and its constituents sat down and brainstormed on what would be a REALLY GOOD school system for the county - what it would have, where different programs would be located (e.g. putting career tech near DeKalb Tech and GPC), what facilities would be needed, logical attendance zones and how high school students would get to the choice schools...

Then, figure out how to achieve it - not how come it can't be done, but what would it take to get there. Talk to DeKalb BOC and DeKalb government. Talk about what facilities everybody could use (it seems so silly to be going bonkers about creating, maintaining and funding recreation in one branch of county government while we let school playgrounds and athletic facilities lie virtually unused). Talk to each other like real people rather than cardboard symbols of something.

Know what I mean?

Dekalbparent said...

Not trying to hijack the post, but I am wondering if anybody else's student has talked about lack of A/C in the school this week.

My student at DHHS told me that there were eight classes outside at the same time yesterday - no mean feat when the front of the school is fenced off for construction. (there are pictures that confirm this) There were classes sitting on the stairs, on the walkways, in the dugout, on fallen trees on a hill, on the tennis court, on the field.

Is this an isolated problem?

Cerebration said...

Shayna Steinfeld had a great idea when she was running for school board. She called it Lakeside 2020. Get it? Like clear vision - 20/20 for the year 2020.

How about forming a DeKalb 2020 - utilizing school reps, county park reps, etc... to create a vision - then seek out developers to implement the plan - instead of the opposite.

I was crushed when I found out the DCSS had given the School of Technology North to Perimeter College -- it's right there next door - almost on campus! A wasted opportunity to create a partnership -- so that they could (inappropriately) build a new elementary school there. Even though there was a building that could have been renovated as a new ES - the old Chamblee Middle - already complete with a SPLOST 1 gym - and still to this day - sitting empty - creating blight.

I think we do have great ideas - I just wish the powers that be would tap in to the community and really LISTEN. Sadly, every time they form citizen led committees, the ideas generated get squandered. Examples - the Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Regional Design Teams, Needs Assessment teams, etc. The Board has always gone back to political power plays - bringing home the bacon to each district.

Hopefully we really are entering a new era as Jay Cunningham keeps saying. If they put their money where their mouths are - they will ask and listen to what the people want.

We have enough magnet schools for "high achievers" and other special people. The county has millions sitting in the bank for the parks. PLEASE focus on ordinary students who just want a shot at a decent job and a good quality of life. We're losing these students by the hundreds.

Anonymous said...

DeKalb Parent

One of my children attends Chamblee High school. They have no air conditioning, the heat is STILL running and the entire building is so hot it is making the students and staff ill. The students were told that AC could not be turned on until after they return from Spring Break.

Anonymous said...

None of the air conditioners in any of the schools were turned on. They will be turned on after spring break as has been done for many, many years.

Anonymous said...

"None of the air conditioners in any of the schools were turned on. They will be turned on after spring break as has been done for many, many years."

There are three or four full-time DCSS Sam Moss staff members just for AC, and they absolutely suck at their jobs. The entire can't turn on the AC until spring break is a fallacy. Another excuse for poor operational management.

Contract out all heating & air conditioning operations & maintenance, PLEASE!

themommy said...

The AC/heat thing drives me nuts. I wonder if other systems operate like this.

They set dates in stone (ie after spring break).

They will tell you (if you call to complain) that it might get cold one or two more times... thus the heat stays on.

I wonder if other systems operate like this. The inability to flip easily between heat and AC. It is easy in houses, it is this hard in all commercial buildings?

Anonymous said...

Newer HVAC systems can be monitored and adjusted from off site. A HVAC operator can monitor and change the temp from one single location for a number of buildings.

DCSS would literally save millions in HVAC costs over a period of a few years with tech upgrades, better regularly scheduled maintenance, contracting out the entire HVAC O & M, etc.

DCSS needs to bring in a consultant and learn best HVAC practices from Emory, GA Tech, the Gwinnett School System, etc. Save taxpayer money. No more mold & mildew. Better air quality for students, teachers and staff. Less absenteeism.

And if a few Sam Moss staffers are no longer needed, so be it.

Ella Smith said...

I do believe the problem with the money amount set aside was a problem according to some teachers I know from Cross Keys because the expenses for moving the school are being taken out of the original amount and they felt this was wrong.

Regarding heat/air regulations are school. We have total control of our rooms at North Springs. You can go from Air to Heat anytime you need to. I do believe that Dekalb schools for the most part air/heat is set from a central location and they decide totally when the heat/air can be on. Normally the air goes off at 3:30 or 4:00 every day in the school buildings. This is controlled at the county level. If you have a meeting after school in Dekalb you have to call to have the air/heat turned on.

Kim Gokce said...

@Ella "... because the expenses for moving the school are being taken out of the original amount and they felt this was wrong."

The Tech move expenses are NOT being taken out of Cross Keys SPLOST III. That was cleared up at the APE meeting a few weeks ago. I think you had to leave before that came up. Who won the hockey game? :)

Ella Smith said...

I did leave. This was what I had heard over and over again. Thanks for clearing that up.

I also left that meeting feeling so much different then I did when I walked in the meeting.

Lakeside won the soccer game. Thanks for asking. They are undefeated again this year. I hope this will last.

Dekalbparent said...

Yes, DCSS 2020 is exactly what is needed. Can Shayna's action plan be adapted to a system-wide application?

Cerebration said...

I'm sure it can. I'm sure if you called Shayna, she'd explain what her vision was. I only heard her mention it in a couple of forums so I don't know the details. But I think she said each board rep could have a 2020 committee for their area schools.

Cerebration said...

Actually, one in an effort to create a better vision, I believe it's time to take a serious inventory of all of the buildings and properties the school system (taxpayers) owns. By assessing realistically, the conditions of buildings vs the market value of the land we could make better plans for the future as far as re-purposing and redistricting goes. It would certainly help the brainstorming process.

For example, I''m all for the new Marine Academy High School, however, I think the chosen location is poor. The Heritage Center is currently a special needs school and was originally built as an elementary school. I'm unsure if it even has lockers or a gymnasium. Beyond that - the school is only a half mile from Lakeside, down a quiet neighborhood side street.

Since the Marine school is a high school, slated to serve 650 students at full capacity - all of whom will have to drive with no bus service - this will cause a huge traffic stress on Briarcliff Rd as well as Heritage Street. There's already lots of school congestion due to student drivers who attend Lakeside - the roads cannot handle another 300-400 cars in the morning.

A better idea is -- use the soon to be empty Open Campus for the Marines and sell the Heritage property to the county - it's next door to a small county park that is currently very highly used with little parking space. The county has the money in the bank to buy up land for parks - and so far - there's been virtually none purchased in our district. Then use the proceeds to renovate the Open Campus for the Marines.

Good idea, huh?

Cerebration said...

Or - the Marine school could open in the now closed old Chamblee Middle school in Dunwoody. I know they have a gym and a large field for PE as well as plenty of parking.

If we had a list of inventory, perhaps we could even find more alternatives.

Anonymous said...

Cerebration, if you want a list of all real estate owned by the DCSS just send a simple Georgia Open Records Act request to Pat Pope. I suggest copying Bob Moseley. Just be specific so that it can be easily answered. The more complex or open ended a GORA request is, the longer it will take to get a response.

Anonymous said...

The old Chamblee MS campus was originally an elementary school and "renovated" to temporarily house a middle school. That facility could in no way accomodate a high school. There is not even enough parking spots to handle the number of school buses that are parked there each day.

Cerebration said...

Believe me, it's definitely more suitable than what they have currently planned.

This school is a little former elementary, turned special needs school down at the very end of a street off of Briarcliff Road. You can literally walk there from Lakeside in under 5 minutes.

Cerebration said...

I can't find stats about Heritage Center. If anyone knows the story - the size of the building, number of students, etc, please post it here. I did find that there was $490,000 allocated to the school in the Nov 06 CIP, but I don't see what it's for or if it's been completed.

Say - how about the Willam Bradley Bryant Center (WBBC) for the military academy? Aren't they moving the offices from there to the Mt. Industrial Center? WBBC is easily accessible - right off I-285 at Lawrenceville HWY. Plus - they have lots of parking and a large field.

Any other ideas or options for a location for the military school?

Cerebration said...

This must be where Jody got her info for her article regarding the $11 million for construction.... The October, 2008 lists the Cross Keys project as #2 in the list of priorities with a budget of $ 16,477,631 (lower than the original $16,927,348 in the Nov 2006 CIP)

But when you scroll down to the change order list, the base contract amount for the CK construction project is listed as this --

421-106 Cross Keys HS $ 11,000,000

Ella Smith said...

This was what upset so many of the teachers at Cross Keys. But apparently the amount is back where it originally was and they did saw at that meeting that if the construction of Cross Keys needed more money then they could return to the school board and ask for more money.

themommy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Not to hijack this thread, but it is important for the citizens of DeKalb to understand the following about this Institute:

It is being placed in an area with difficult access. North Druid Hill traffic is horrific and transportation will be horrible. The Board needs a public discussion of why this school is being placed into another school as an academy.
The question all taxpayers (remember the Pentagon is picking up the tab for a big part of this program) should be asking is will the most interested students be able to get there.

The principal's position has now been posted. This school will have no more than 200 students yet the principal's salary will be in the same range of every other DCSS principal. Keep in mind, that at this school, there will be a Commandant who handles everything but instruction. We should all watch to see how many assistant principals this school will have.

Ella Smith said...

I see the property on North Druid Hills by Adams as a better place for the Military Academic. There will be plenty of room to grow and also the old gym which is now the Jim Cheery Center could be turned back into a gymnasium.