Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bowen & Brown Discuss School Closures



DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (MyFOX ATLANTA) - DeKalb County plans to close four elementary schools by the end of the year and even more schools could be closed soon, because of a $115 million budget shortfall. Hundreds of parents have protested of the plans, but educators say they simply have no choice.

Thomas Bowen, the chair of the DeKalb County School Board and Ernest Brown, a DeKalb County parent and member of the Citizens Planning Task force sat down Friday to discuss the issue.

Four schools remain on the chopping block and those are Kelley Lake Elementary School, Knollwood Elementary School, Sky Haven Elementary School and Glen Haven Elementary Schools.

Two other schools have been suggested as alternate schools for closure. Those are Gresham Park Elementary in lieu of Sky Haven and Peachtree Elementary [we assume they mean Peachcrest] in lieu of Glen Haven.


Highlights from the interview -

Schools currently slated to consolidate:
Kelley Lake ES, Knollwood ES, Sky Haven ES and Glen Haven ES
Bowen says we have 11,000 empty seats.
Spending more on low-enrollment schools takes away from students in other schools.
Brown, a member of the task force, supports closures.
Parents need to look at big picture - task force made data-driven decisions.
This is a natural progression of population shifts.
Bowen - only $2 million of $115 million reduction, but most polarizing.
Education comes from the people - not the building.
Parents need to help the board formalize plans.

Public hearings will be held at 6 PM at the following locations:

Tuesday, May 11 - Miller Grove High School, Lithonia

Thursday, May 13 - Lithonia HIgh School

The final vote by the board will be May 14.

27 comments:

Cerebration said...

Does anyone know what happened at the Town Hall meeting on this subject hosted by the NAACP?


Town Hall Meeting on School Closings
Hosted by the DeKalb County NAACP

Thursday, April 29, 2010
6:30 pm-8:30 pm

Anonymous said...

Without stirring the pot do much, it is important to realize that two years ago when three schools were closed in this same community, there were almost no protests.

Could this be because those students were sent to a new building? Many of the complaints now have been about bigger schools, but the McNair Learning Academy has 900+ students.

I really think that SCW is busy making this a very contentious issue for her own reasons.

I also know that these same folks want to see a school closed in the north just for fairness reasons, though it is totally illogical.

Anonymous said...

Why aren't the meetings located in the communities where the schools that are being closed are in?

Anonymous said...

I don't know all the logistics and the history behind the feelings involved in closing these schools...north vs south. What I do know as an outsider looking in, there is a definite race issue in DeKalb County Schools period. I've never been a part of anything so apparent but denied before. All I can figure is that this is an issue that must be addressed before any positive strides can be made in this school system be it through a new Superintendent or school board. Pretending will not make the problem go away. I've worked in both schools in the north and south ends of the county and I can tell you there is a marked difference in the quality of the education from the content expertise of the teachers to the way the students are treated and spoken to. If you want to know the truth ask the teachers who teach in the south end of the county and are DeKalb residents where they send their personal children to school and why. Save for the theme schools and magnet programs, the majority will tell you that they've arranged for their children to attend schools in the northern end of the county...why? Address the true issue or you people will never have the "premier" school system you so desperately want to believe you have.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting the video. I have met Mr. Brown before and feel that he is sincere in his efforts to work on a difficult situation. His past involvement in the system was always about the children. His comments and history of school closures are accurate.
We appreciate his efforts and thoughts on this subject.
He ran for the Board previously and I would like to see him run again.

Anonymous said...

A summary of the Town Hall meeting hosted by the NAACP was written in the CrossRoadsNews this past week. You can find the article along with comments by readers at the following link.....

http://www.crossroadsnews.com/view/full_story/7259149/article-NAACP-opposes-closing-schools?instance=lead_story

Ella Smith said...

Mr. Brown is a jewel. I respect him very much.

He is grounded and he makes decisions based on what is best for the children in Dekalb County. He was a grounded member of the task force.

Cerebration said...

Thanks for posting the link to the CrossRoads report. I am not clear as to the exact reason for the threat of a lawsuit, but I do agree that leaving school buildings closed and boarded up damages a neighborhood and can cause blight. We have one in our neighborhood - Heritage - that is attracting some unwanted visitors at night. The school system can and should sell this to the county for a much-needed park in our zone. (We have the least by far of any district.) We also have the entire Druid Hills (former Briarcliff HS) campus closed and looking pretty sad. (Of course, Cross Keys is open - and doesn't look much better. In fact, the police raided the overgrown property last year and uncovered at least a dozen homeless people living on the grounds!) In Dunwoody, there's the old Shallowford ES (also formerly Chamblee MS) - sitting empty and serving as a parking lot for buses. Oddly, we do see groups using the gym at times... But the building itself looks blighted. Anyone else have some shuttered properties they would like to see torn down or sold? Letting empty buildings sit is a bad solution. You can never just go and reopen them anyway - the law requires that you bring them up to code if unused for more than a year or two.

Dunwoody Mom said...

The old Shallowford ES/Chamblee MS building is in horrendous shape and is an eyesore and am totally not surprised people have been advised to stay out of the building. At least the buses that were parked there have been moved to Peachtree, which has ample parking for those buses. I am surprised that the City of Dunwoody has not put pressure on DCSS to at least tear down the building. It would cost more to fix up that building than it would be to build a new on on the same property, if it was needed at some point.

Anonymous said...

Shuttered DCSS buildings should be leased out. Bring in some revenue while having people use the building is the best way to prevent vandalism, plus, it would actually bring in some revenue for the system.

Of course, this administration and BOE would never allow a start-up charter to use a shuttered DCSS building. The only charters DCSS likes is the ones they originate and oversee. Avondale Elem should have been closed as it has many opne seats, but the BOE would never allow the Museum School to use that property.

Anonymous said...

Shuttered DCSS buildings should be leased out. Bring in some revenue while having people use the building is the best way to prevent vandalism, plus, it would actually bring in some revenue for the system.

Of course, this administration and BOE would never allow a start-up charter to use a shuttered DCSS building. The only charters DCSS likes is the ones they originate and oversee. Avondale Elem should have been closed as it has many opne seats, but the BOE would never allow the Museum School to use that property.

Anonymous said...

Towm Bowen is a solid person, but one thing that really stands out about him: He knowingly or unknowingly enables the DCSS bureaucratic wasteland. He has to know the DCSS is incredibly top heavy, whether Central Office, MIS, etc., but he won't come out and admit it.

The potential school closings are minor budget savings. Have you noticed that the DeKalb County Commissioners are trying very hard to take off positions from the books of those who are taking early retirement from the county gov't? They get it. They don't want these positions to be filled down the road. The only way to guard against bureaucratic buildup is to not let open positions even exist.

This BOE doesn't get it. Tyson was a longtime administrator who refuses to admit that the problem is administration, not the schools. If and when you speak to anyone running for BOE this fall, hammer this point home with them.

Cerebration said...

I have an issue with simply closing buildings and leaving them to decay and cause blight. Abandoned buildings are never any good for any community—and DCSS has (IMO) become a slum lord of sorts.

Case in point - I'm told that a family member was trying to locate the belongings of a former, now deceased, DCSS employee whose belongings had been at the Sam Moss Center (awards, furniture, special recognitions) prior to the renovation and was told that they put the items into the old Chamblee Middle School building. She stated that she would go over there and retrieve the items. The response that she got was that it was not safe for her to do that. The old building is full of rats, mold and asbestos. She would have to suit up to go in there.

----

I've been interested in the closed/abandoned properties in DCSS. It truly seems to me that the school system is creating blight around the county - and possibly decreasing property values. I'm told that there are parties behind the closed Heritage School every weekend - occasionally with bonfires. The county has money to buy the property and convert it to greenspace -- our district has the least greenspace of any district according to this article by Jeff Rader, but the school system won't consider selling that tiny little school.

We also now have this kind of blight at the North Druid Hills property. Pat Pope closed that building due to asbestos and other hazards... and the Cross Keys property still looks like a third world country. Just how many abandoned buildings are scattered around the county by the school system? Now, they are proposing to add from 4-12 more? I understand the need to consolidate schools, I'm just very concerned about the way the system is handling the abandoned property.

I have to side with the NAACP and the residents of S DeKalb on this. As far as I'm told, if you close a school building for more than 2 (I believe) years, you can't just "reopen" it if and when you want to return it to service - you have to spend a lot of money to bring it up to code. So the excuse that they are keeping the buildings for future growth is wrong thinking. At a minimum, these abandoned buildings need to be razed and used for soccer fields or something respectable.

JT Carlton said...

They say that peachtree elementary is on the closing list- shouldn't it be peachcrest elementary? peachtree elementary is in gwinnett...

Cerebration said...

Yep, that appears to be a typo. It's Peachcrest.

Ella Smith said...

Now we are not closing these schools at all. What a change of events.

Anonymous said...

"Now we are not closing these schools at all. What a change of events."

This year . . .

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Tyson,

Do you feel it is OK to ask teachers to stay at school in order to talk to you via "Elluminate" on Wednesday or Thursday starting at 4:30PM? Can't you talk to them during the "usual & customary" contracted hours of instruction. These times are 7:20AM--3:30PM for elementary schools and 7:45AM-3:45PM for high schools. I'd like to have my mom home so she can help me with homework.

DCSS is really enjoying its new toy---How much does this "Elluminate" thingie cost?

By the way, respecting your employees personal times would show real respect better than the silly teacher appreciation emails DCSS sends.

Signed "Home Alone"

Ella Smith said...

This year.

Ella Smith said...

Home Alone, we found out legally this year our job is not legally a 8-4 job at Northsprings as teachers. We are hired by contract to do a job and it does not specificially indicate hours we are required to work.

We definitely have to be there between 8-4 but we also can be required to be there after hours which was a shocker to many of the Northsprings staff who checked on it legally and found out that their jobs are not 8-4 legally.

It does have something to do with respect for your time. I totally agree. However, I equally have been shocked to learn that administrators can require you to be at meetings other than 8-4. In these tough economic times it appears we are doing more and more with less and less.

Cerebration said...

Teachers - attend this Elluminate virtual meeting with Tyson. I think it's going to be important. At least she's putting her words into action and working to include teachers and staff in the latest news and actions of the board. It's an olive branch - please accept it and take in what she has to say. I really do think she's trying her best.

Anonymous said...

RE Elluminate meeting: At least Ms. Tyson is not asking all staff to be bussed to a common location for a mass meeting. Remember the Johnny Brown back-to-school revival meeting? Can only imagine what that cost, not only in transportation but also in hours lost for teachers and staff.

Anonymous said...

@ Ella @7:15 am
There are certified personnel(hold teaching certificates) outside the school building that get contracts who must sign in and sign out. They must choose to work for 8 hours - e.g. they can sign in at 8 and work until 5 with an hour for lunch, or they can sign in at 8:30 and work until 5:30 with an hour for lunch. If they work over 8 hours, they must get approval for and receive overtime (time and ahlf) pay. All meetings by supervisors for certified contracted personnel outside the schoolhouse had to be conducted within the 8 hour day.

Supposedly this stemmed from a lawsuit by DCSS bookkeepers who said they were required to work overtime without pay. Before I left DCSS, that was my situation, and I was a contracted certified person working in a job that required a contracted certified employee. I asked my supervisor why some contracted certified personnel are told they must come in and leave by a certain time, but others (for example teachers in the schoolhouse) aren't? I was told that certified contracted personnel inside the schoolhouse were not under this policy per Dr. Lewis, but certified contracted personnel outside the schoolhouse were. It seemed like a can of worms then and it seems like a can of worms now.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:13 am
"RE Elluminate meeting: At least Ms. Tyson is not asking all staff to be bussed to a common location for a mass meeting. Remember the Johnny Brown back-to-school revival meeting?"

You're right. Johnny Brown held his pep rally during work hours (including transportation to and from the stadium) while Ms. Tyson is holding her meeting after teachers have worked all day, are exhausted, and need to get home to their families.

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration 7:53 am
I'm sure Ms. Tyson is a nice person, but you have to realize that her cuts to the budget have almost all been to schoolhouse personnel. That is not good for students or teachers. Nor have we seen her involve teachers in any of the decisions she is making that will so drastically impact our ability to teach our students.

Are you or anyone aware of any meaningful teacher input - i.e. that Ms. Tyson actually has a teacher panel (even if it is ad hoc due to the timeframe) where she talks to teachers to glean ideas for the people who actually teach the children every day? I'm not talking about a survey written by Ms. Tyson and her direct reports and given out to a hundred teachers. I'm talking about a face to face dialog with teachers representing their schools and their students.

Is this such a radical idea - that Ms. Tyson would actually sit down with some real teachers and talk about the budgetary process? I think she might find DCSS teachers are a fairly intelligent group of employees who have firsthand knowledge of the educational process as well as what's working in the classroom and what's not working.

Cerebration said...

You're right, if Ms. Tyson sat down with a group of teachers, she would "find DCSS teachers are a fairly intelligent group of employees who have firsthand knowledge of the educational process as well as what's working in the classroom and what's not working."

That said, as an idea -- if I were a teacher, I would work to improve the representatives from ODE. They do not seem to be working very hard to get a seat at the table to represent teachers - and teachers are paying for this. It would seem a perfect match - to have ODE set up a panel of teachers to work with system leaders. I can never quite define their mission, goals or direction. Additionally, they do not provide teachers with very much information - their website lacks anything relevant. They don't even have a copy of the budget posted - nor any kind of opinion or rebuttal. This group could be a powerful tool for teachers but they just can't seem to maintain a professional focus. Check out their website - they don't even have anything entered in their May calendar.

http://www.odegaenea.org/

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration
ODE is an organization for educators that includes administrators as well as teachers. Of course we need administrators in our schools and in the school system, but we have seen in DCSS that our administration numbers are "top heavy" and the pay scale is quite high compared to other metro systems. These facts can create goals within ODE that are conflicting. I have heard a lot of complaints about ODE this year. I think the make-up of ODE has precluded it becoming the preferred voice for teachers.

A voice for teachers is really about a voice for students. Teachers are the second best advocates for students - right after parents. They hold a unique position within the educational system since:
1. They are the "other half" of the classroom
2. They have no other "internal" focus but their students
3. Student learning cannot occur without their efforts

Ms. Tyson is the superintendent - the buck stops with her.
1. She can form ad hoc committees with representatives that are teachers
2. She can hold "town hall" meetings with teachers
3. She can develop meaningful surveys that have teacher input into the survey and a vast number of responders at the teacher level
4. She can develop evaluations of programs and DCSS support services for the classroom to be completed by teachers

Ms. Tyson has enough staff to help her organize and facilitate real time and open communication that should be taking place between her and the teachers. After all, we have 1,239 Central Office employees and less than 7,000 teachers.

If Ms. Tyson truly wants to get the backing of teachers and implements a genuine system of communication, they will be responsive and only to happy to help. It's their classrooms and students being affected. That would truly be a new day in DeKalb.