Friday, July 2, 2010

Important new nepotism legislation could cause problems for Zepora Roberts

The article below is reprinted from a report in the AJC. Apparently, there is a new law stating that people with immediate family members cannot serve on a board of education and if currently serving, cannot run for reelection as the law states that it applies to those elected after July 1, 2009. The law is being challenged, but as it stands, this law would prevent Zepora Roberts from running for reelection, as she herself admits in a recent email that two of her daughters work for DeKalb County Schools, one of whom was promoted to Assistant Principal in 2009. That said, we are wondering how it is that Zepora has now qualified for reelection. If there is a loophole we're not aware of, hopefully someone will share it in the comments.

Two local Georgia school board members have filed suit in federal court to overturn the state's new "nepotism" provision that restricts them from running for re-election.

Lawmakers passed the provision under unusual circumstances late on the last night of the 2009 legislative session. It bars someone from serving on a local school board if he or she has an immediate family member at work in the same school system as the local superintendent, principal, assistant principal or as a "system administrative staff" member. It went into effect on July 1 of last year -- soon enough to bar Kelvin Simmons, who had served on the Gainesville city school board since 1991, from running for re-election last November.

Simmons is one of the suit's plaintiffs. The other is Lamar Grizzle, an eight-year Bartow County board member who expects to be ineligible to qualify this year for re-election. Both men have immediate family members working in their respective systems. Simmons' wife is an assistant principal of a Gainesville school. Grizzle's daughter is a Bartow assistant principal.

"It's badly targeted [and] vaguely written," said their attorney, Peter R. Olson. Lawmakers last year originally included the provision in a controversial school governance bill inspired by the then-recent loss of accreditation by Clayton County schools. (Clayton County later regained its accreditation.) The governance bill, however, did not pass. But the nepotism provision on the session's last day made its way into another bill that did pass: the school choice bill HB 251, which originally related only to student transfers.

Simmons and Grizzle are asking that the court strike the provision from the law, saying in part that it supersedes voters' rights to elect their own local representation. They also argue that the Georgia Constitution prohibits a bill from having more than one subject matter. They filed their suit in U.S. District Court in Rome, Ga., last week.

Separately, state Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) this year has sponsored legislation to essentially do the same thing: amend the law and remove the provision. Benton's bill, HB 924, is in committee.


The actual anti-nepotism text from HB 251 is below:

(2) No person who has an immediate family member sitting on a local board of education or serving as the local school superintendent or as a principal, assistant principal, or system administrative staff in the local school system shall be eligible to serve as a member of such local board of education. As used in this paragraph, the term 'immediate family member' means a spouse, child, sibling, or parent or the spouse of a child, sibling, or parent. This paragraph shall apply only to local board of education members elected or appointed on or after July 1, 2009. Nothing in this Code section shall affect the employment of any person who is employed by a local school system on or before July 1, 2009, or who is employed by a local school system when an immediate family member becomes a local board of education member for that school system."

To date, it appears that the anti-nepotism clause in HB 251 passed into law, and the attempt to remove it in HB 924 did not pass into law.

(An aside: The new law created by HB 251 allows students to transfer to any school in the district in which the child resides as long as there is classroom space available. Parents must provide transportation. Charter schools are exempt from this law.)

If anyone can provide more insight, please do so in the comments.

===

UPDATE: One of our contributors enlightened us as to the lawsuit filed challenging this law.

May 2, 2010

Federal court preliminarily enjoins Georgia from enforcing anti-nepotism law regarding eligibility to serve on local school boards

Grizzle v. Kemp, No. 10-0007 (N.D. Ga. Apr. 21 2010), is not the type of case you see very often. A federal district court in Georgia has issued a preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing a provision in the state law making a person ineligible to serve on a local school board if that person "has an immediate family member sitting on [that] local board of education or serving as the local school superintendent or as a principal, assistant principal, or system administrative staff in the local school system."

Plaintiff contends the provision violates: (1) their Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights; (2) their First Amendment right of free association, both as candidates for office and voters; (3) their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights because the term "system administrative staff" in the provision is facially vague; and (4) the "one subject matter rule" provision in the Georgia Constitution.

The court pointed out that it was well-established law that candidates have the constitutional right to associate for political ends and participate in the electoral process under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. At the same time, the law recognizes a state's compelling interest in regulating the election process and having ballot access requirements. It found that the anti-nepotism provision has a severe impact on the plaintiffs as candidates and the voters of Georgia because of its exclusionary nature. As a result, the court found that the provision should be subjected to strict scrutiny, i.e. determination of whether it is narrowly tailored and advances a compelling state interest, to determine its constitutionality. Applying the strict scrutiny test, the court concluded that the law, O.C.G.A. § 20-2-51(c)(2), failed to pass constitutional muster.

The court noted that the only stated purpose for the provision "was to prevent nepotism, or favoritism to family and friends." Assuming that the purpose is a compelling state interest, it found the provision was not narrowly tailored to serve that purpose. Specifically, the court found that the provision was over-inclusive because it excludes all potential candidates from office who have relatives employed in the capacities enumerated in the provision instead of addressing the actual problem related to nepotism of possible biased decisions by school board members. This is an important decision to watch.

87 comments:

Anon said...

I am afraid that this law is so vaguely written that it won't stand up to a court challenge, however it may prevent ZR from being able to run.

It is unclear to me who the enforcer is. Who gets to tell ZR that she can't run? I guess the Secretary of State's office?

This is the problem that I am having...
This paragraph shall apply only to local board of education members elected or appointed on or after July 1, 2009. Nothing in this Code section shall affect the employment of any person who is employed by a local school system on or before July 1, 2009, or who is employed by a local school system when an immediate family member becomes a local board of education member for that school system.

I would have read that to mean NEW board members, as people running for reelection would have been elected before July 1st, 2009.

kbg said...

Interesting -- been in effect since LAST July 1. Lawsuit was filed this past January -- I wonder what the current status of that is.

Cerebration said...

I thought the same at first, Anon, but then remembered that reelection is an election just the same as it would be for a new candidate. There are no protections for incumbents. And the other part I took to protect the person with the job. It would be horrible to lose your job because your mother won a school board election...

Dunwoody Mom said...

Maybe send Dan Weber an email asking for clarification - he was one of the sponsors of the bill.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Here is his email address:

dan.weber@senate.ga.gov

If someone wants to let me know exaatly what to ask, I'll be glad to send the email.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so who among us will send a copy of this to ZR's campaign manager and then CC a copy to the Dekalb Election Officials ?

Dunwoody Mom said...

Wow, Zephora now has 4 people running against her.

Anonymous said...

This is too rich! I'm racing out of town before noon for the holiday or I would be happy to contact DeKalb Board of Elections.

We need to watch this closely. Do not let the holiday lose our focus. The DCSS BOE always works at hiding their "tough" decisions during meetings over the summer. They know parents are not focused on them. Folks, let's keep our eye on the ball.

This string needs to go viral! Contact AJC, TV, etc... This discussion must take place, whether the law is weakly written or not, Zepora should not be qualified to run. If she disagrees with the law she should sue like the others. However, if DeKalb Board of Elections do not uphold the law, can the citizens counter sue?

Keep our eye on the ball, it's for the kids and teachers of our system. Enough of the waste and friends and family plan. Let's go BOE, where are the resignations or firings of CLew's cabinet? We're waiting. We do not trust anything the BOE does, until the reign of Clew is over! We know the cabinet knew what was going on and we also you know the BOE knew too. We need action on these tough decisions, the status quo is NOT acceptable.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Zepora has seen the law but remember this is DCSS the rules don't apply to those in charge.

Anonymous said...

Is Zepora the only BOE member with family working for DCSS? Can you imagine we would actually have a summer intern program that is open to all county residents of that age, not just those personally handpicked by Zepora!


The best part of this law is that Frances Edwards won't be able to run again!!

Anonymous said...

Don't forget: ZR's niece is Ms Amey, principal at Columbia Middle...also son-in-law, Kevin Jones worked for DCSS at one time.

Cerebration said...

To me, this law is fairly specific in scope - you can't serve on a board if you have an immediate family member in the school system doing one of these jobs:

local school superintendent or as a principal, assistant principal, or system administrative staff in the local school system

Anonymous said...

To Anon @ 10:20

We're NOT doing the friends and family thread again. We're just talking about the election and nepotism as a single topic.

Please re-read the original posting

.

Cerebration said...

Another good update from Megan at the AJC - concerned as we all are about the fact that very few people have actually qualified for these 5 seats up for election.

DeKalb school board candidates lean to the light side

Turnout for the DeKalb County school board election is not as overwhelming as expected, even with continuous complaints about poor leadership.

By Thursday, just 12 people had qualified for the five seats that will appear on the DeKalb ballot in November.

They are incumbent Jim Redovian and Nancy Jester in District 1, Corey Wilson in District 3, incumbent Jay Cunningham and Jacques Hall Jr. in District 5, incumbent Zepora Roberts, Donna Elder, Richard Gathany, Willie Mosley Jr. and Donny “Muhammad” Grogan in District 7, and incumbent Eugene Walker and Ella Smith in District 9.

Qualifying for the non-partisan elections in DeKalb and Fulton ends Friday at noon.

DeKalb board chairman Tom Bowen, who is not up for re-election, said he was surprised that eduKALB did not produce any candidates. The non-profit group was assembled by the Chamber of Commerce to help attract better qualified school board members.

Anonymous said...

TeeHeeHee......

Anonymous said...

With four opponents running against her, do we think Zepora is now MORE likely to win or LESS likely to win ? I suppose that so many unknown candidates might allow her to win on name recognition alone.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I'm just saying, friends and family has everything to do with this nepotism legislation.

Remember a few years ago when CLew-less went on WSB-TV and said there was NO nepotism in the DCSS? This was related due to the fact that Jamal "Where's Waldo" Edwards was given a promotion and a huge raise without the approval of the board. When there are rules that state, any family members of DCSS BOE members, if hired, promoted or given a raise MUST have the approval of the board. They got the approval, after the fact, it's a shame we couldn't read the tea leaves 4 years ago.

Anonymous said...

To Anon @ 10:34

We get it , there was already a thread dedicated to that matter with over 240 postings.
Stay focused on the NOW.

You have been heard.

Anonymous said...

A federal judge has prevented the state from enforcing this new nepotism law on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. The state has appealed the ruling.

Dunwoody Mom said...

I am going to take issue with your comments about Stephanie Amey. She is a product of DCSS (Chamblee High School). My sister has known her since their days at CHS. Ms. Amey has worked her way up in DCSS - beginning as a teacher. Please don't bash Ms. Amey simply because she is Ms. Roberts' niece - she does not deserve that.

Anonymous said...

Dunwoody Mom, I concur with your thoughts on Ms. Amey. However in this environment, everything must be on the table and scrutinized. DCSS is a disater right now due to nepotism of former BOE members. It's time for those family members to resign.

No more friends, family, frat bros. sorority sis', church members etc. PERIOD! It shouldn't have to be this way, but the current and past BOE made this bed and now they have to sleep in it.

Folks, with the news of the federal lawsuit and the current DOJ, we must live with Zepora on the ballot. Now let's find someone who can beat her in the election.

Happy July 4th, let's celebrate this great countries independence.

Anonymous said...

It depends. It makes it hard to get 50 percent to win on a first ballot. But not impossible...

Cerebration said...

Now that's interesting Anon -

A federal judge has prevented the state from enforcing this new nepotism law on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. The state has appealed the ruling.

July 2, 2010 10:41 AM


Do you have more info? This must be how Zepora was allowed to press on...

Anonymous said...

With four people running against Zepora and not much time for debates and to establish their credentials and ideas on how to right the ship,
I'm sorry that Donna Elder, Richard Gathany, Willie Mosley Jr. and Donny “Muhammad” Grogan face too tough a road to defeat incumbent Zepora Roberts, even though Roberts is a big part of the reason why this board has failed time and time again.

Anonymous said...

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/adjunctprofs/2010/05/federal-court-preliminarily-enjoins-georgia-from-enforcing-anti-nepotism-law-regarding-eligibility-to-serve-on-local-school-b.html

Cerebration said...

Thank you Anon! I'll add it to the post.

Anonymous said...

Just read the ruling regarding the injunction (see anon @ 12:03)...

It seems that ZR qualifies to be on the ballot. Case closed.

Now the problem is campaigning on behalf of the unknown cadidates running against her (and other board members). Too many candidates could cause a vote split, allowing incumbents to be re-elected due to name recognition.

Any suggestions, anybody ?

.

Cerebration said...

Qualifying has ended and our final candidates are listed in the post called "Candidate Profiles" which can be found by clicking the ballot box marked "VOTE" on the right side panel of the home page. We will try to store candidate info on this page as the election moves along. If any candidates have a bio they would like published on our blog, please send it to

reparteeforfun@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

I am afraid that it won't be easy to identify one candidate in each race to easily support. I expect, from googling and my own involvement in my community where some of the candidates come from, that many of them are equally inexperienced and unknown. This does matter. It makes it harder for us to have a sense of how they will perform and whether or not it will be an improvement.

No Duh said...

Too many running against Zepora. Can that community come to a consensus and ask three of them to step down? We want quality, not quantity...

Anonymous said...

Does a school board candidate have to get 50% of the vote to win?

Anonymous said...

Zepora Roberts and Sarah Copelin-Wood: Embarassments.

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/7-dekalb-school-board-563293.html

Seven DeKalb County school board members signed up to take a 10 percent pay cut, according to records obtained Friday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Board members Zepora Roberts and Sarah Copelin-Wood did not volunteer for the pay cut, which takes effect this week for the start of the fiscal year.

Anonymous said...

If no candidate gets 50 percent, there will be a run off. This is a recent change. It use to be a plurality.

Anonymous said...

Dear School Board Members,

To those of you that took a voluntary 10% pay cut, thank you. For those that did not take the voluntary 10% pay cut, shame on you. You have asked every school board employee to take a cut and many have lost their job due to the current budget crisis. As leaders of the school, you should be willing to do what you have others to do. If you are not willing to take a pay cut, then step down and allow someone who has the best interest of our children and our school district to do your job.

Thank you!

Teaching at a DCSS High School said...

Seven DeKalb County school board members signed up to take a 10 percent pay cut, according to records obtained Friday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution....

Help me to understand. If a portion of the budget is not used during a fiscal year, isn't the surplus merely rolled over into the next year's budget ? I can't fathom how NOT using part of my travel allowance qualifies as a providing a "supplement" to the budget.(according to SCW).

Does anyone have access to background or bio information for each of the BoE candidates ?
Let's all help to make an informed decision.


.

Anonymous said...

So, Sarah Copelin-Wood is not running, correct? If yes, let's all participate in a minute of thankful silence.

Anonymous said...

She is running...

BOARD OF EDUCATION – DISTRICT 3
Sarah Copelin-Wood- INCUMBENT
1970 Mark Trail
Decatur, GA. 30032
Phone: (B-H) 404-371-1490
Robert Lee Holt
2389 Dawn Drive
Decatur, GA 30032
Phone: (B) 404-243-6887 (H) 404-243-6887
Corey E. Wilson
P.O. Box 370142
Decatur, GA 30034
Phone: (B) 404-969-7823 (H) 404-969-7823

Anonymous said...

Sarah Copelin Wood also has a daughter that works in DCSS. Her name is Thomekia Copelin and she works at Oakview Elem.

whistleblower2 said...

i actually went down to the Dekalb Elections office today and noticfied them 'verbally' of ZR's status! they seemed surprised....but will also send a formal letter....it would help if others could do the same!

Anonymous said...

To whistleblower2:

To many of us, it is surprising that we did not already know about this legislation.......BUT there is an INJUNCTION...

A federal district court in Georgia has issued a preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing a provision in the state law....

...which allows ZR to legally be placed on the ballot. The only recourse we have against her candidacy and all other board members is to stand behind a single opponent all the way to the polls in November. See ya then !

.

whistleblower2 said...

thanks anon (sad face) see you in November!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know Merope “Bobbe” Gillis? She's running in District 1.

Cerebration said...

If anyone knows any of these candidates, please ask them if they would mind forwarding a bio and/or campaign statement to the blog -

reparteeforfun@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

I know Donna Edler and she is fantastic. I am so happy to hear that she has thrown her hat in the ring!

Anonymous said...

Ditto re: Donna Edler. Two kids in DCSS, very involved in the schools, and very intelligent.

Anonymous said...

Then Donna Elder it is. Buh bye, Zepora. Take the ones in your family who are not qualified, but have taken jobs away from qualified candidates, with you. You all have lived high on the hog, deceitfully, for quite a while ... so you shouldn't feel too bad about passing on the baton to someone, anyone, who will make good decisions, be prepared, and not turn a blind eye to wrongdoing.

Anonymous said...

At least one of the other candidates running against Zepora has very good credentials. I think it is important that we wait until forums occur to make blanket statements....

Anonymous said...

What is the latest in the Heery-Mitchell lawsuit? I thought the trial was due to start?!?

Anyone know?

Cerebration said...

Oh yes, the famous Heery-Mitchell "trial"... the one that keeps getting put to the back burner while King & Spalding sends bills after bills after bills... nice trough Lewis set up for them to feed from! (My opinion of course...they may actually be doing a bang-up job saving our system millions and then recovering millions more in the future - when they do, I'll will write a very long retraction.)

The last I heard, the "trial" was set to begin in March, 2010. Since then, we've only heard crickets. (I wonder if those bills are still flowing though.)

Here's why -- their key witness has been indicted!

Read more from "The Daily Post" to see first hand the amount of money going toward multiple legal defenses -

June 17 legal news focuses on DeKalb School's Heery Mitchell lawsuit - the front page article is about the effect of the Lewis and Pope prosecutions on the Heery/Mitchell civil suit.

Cerebration said...

The article reports that the civil suit had been scheduled to go to trial this month, but the criminal prosecution delayed it.

Interestingly, some of the projects Heery/Mitchell were accused of mismanaging are now part of the criminal case: McNair Cluster Elementary School, the Mountain Industrial Complex, and the Miller Grove project.

Also, check out the latest from Law.com discussing the high stakes nature of the criminal cases and the high-powered legal representation the players have. (Remember, the school system was on the hook for $100,000 in legal fees for Dr Lewis.)

Cerebration said...

So here's our taxpayer tally:

DeKalb County taxpayers - District Attorney's investigation of school officials, Pat Pope, Dr. Lewis, etc. PLUS - costs for school system to respond to inquiries. (Taxpayers paying for both sides.)

DeKalb County taxpayers (DCSS) - Defense costs for charges against for Lewis, (at least $100,000) etc. As well as Lewis' exit package (severance) when fired. Plus the cost of keeping Pat Pope under contract ($200,000 salary) during the investigation to keep her from talking to the Heery Mitchell attorneys ...

Which brings us to the most $$$ of the attorney costs - the Heery Mitchell trial. Pat Pope fired them as construction managers - we now have to wonder why. HM filed suit for $500,000 in unpaid invoices. Lewis spent $3.6 million to Neilsen-Wurster/Marsh for a "study" to determine how much to countersue for (the decision: countersue for between $85-100 million). King & Spalding's bill so far -- it's anyone's guess (guesses range from $12-21 million and counting with no trial date as of yet).

===

All of this shows why we may no longer have much of a case -- and provides an obvious place for K&S to lay blame for not recovering money for the system after billing us millions upon millions.

Cerebration said...

Here's a snippet of text from the Daily Report article -

According to Mark E. Grantham, a partner at DLA Piper which is representing Heery and Mitchell, "The criminal investigation's critical importance to this lawsuit cannot be denied when Heery/Mitchell's termination for alleged breach of contract may have been part of a larger [school administration] scheme to engage in criminal conduct." W. Ray Persons, the King and Spalding partner leading the school system's civil case, counters, "It's a whole different kettle of fish. Heery/Mitchell may want the focus to be on Pat [Reid] Pope and Crawford Lewis to divert attention from what they did. . . . It was an abysmal job of managing a $1 billion program."

Cerebration said...

My question to that comment is - why is it now Pat Pope's fault, when way back when - you say it was Heery Mitchell's fault - not Stan Pritchett's... No mention ever of Stan in these trials. Stan was the DCSS construction manager during the Heery Mitchell contracts.

Cerebration said...

Lesson learned - it is far better to be deemed "inept" and allow the school system to suffer multi-millions in losses than to be deemed "capable" and cause the school system to lose money by directing contracts to certain suppliers. One is sheer incompetence - the other is sheer greed. The latter is apparently criminal, the former is not. They both cost the school system multiple-millions.

Cerebration said...

Apologies to King & Spalding - I'm just incredibly frustrated at the whole Heery Mitchell mess. I truly believe that Dr Lewis led everyone down the garden path - spending millions upon millions and now it is beginning to look like Dr Lewis and Pat Pope may be the reason we will not succeed in winning back any of this waste.

How incredibly sad for 100,000 children.

Anonymous said...

...Just as sad for about 15,000+ employees whose paychecks are inevitably affected by the curse of greed and ineptitude that has plagued DCSS.

....Oh who, oh who will deliver us from this madness?????

Who would want to take on the position of superintendent of this system and the mess that we have brought upon ourselves ?

.

Anonymous said...

So, can anyone explain why DCSS would spend millions to defend against a $500,000 lawsuit, that could have been settled out of court for significantly less? Auto insurance companies generally go for a settlement on legal actions even when their client isn't at fault. The reason? It is significantly less expensive to pay a settlement than it is to go to court. Our BOE should be explaining why they have allowed this to continue. Certainly, Dr. Lewis wasn't acting alone on such an important and expensive decision.

Cerebration said...

The history on the decision goes to the "study" conducted by Neilsen-Wurster/Marsh (at a cost of $3.6 million - which we have never been able to figure out if this came from SPLOST or the general budget). The study determined that DCSS should countersue HM for somewhere between $85-120 million. King and Spalding has taken on the case and seemed very certain to be able to win. That is, until their star witness was indicted, virtually ruining her credibility.

So - who exactly made the decision to move forward with the case? In fact, who exactly determined that it was reasonable to spend $3.6 million on a study on how to respond to a $500,000 claim? Who has been monitoring the legal costs since? Was there ever an "exit" plan? A point at which we draw the line and settle? Or has this lawsuit just continued to bubble and stew into a frothy madness with no oversight from the school system? Who in the school system is in charge of watching over this lawsuit now? Which budget is paying for all of these legal fees?

Tens of millions of tax dollars. And questions. Nothing but questions.

Anonymous said...

I thought Heery-Mitchell sued DCSS after DCSS sued them? Are you certain Heery sued first?

Anonymous said...

Didn't King and Spalding find anything amiss during their questioning and pouring over documents?

DCSS spent $10,000,000+ on this high powered firm - isn't that right?

Didn't they look at the same documents the DeKalb DA looked at? If not, why not? Did Pat Pope outsmart the King and Spalding lawyers as well? This doesn't make much sense.

Anonymous said...

Pat came in after Heery-Mitchell. She supposedly discovered all the questionable issues. Heery Mitchell was already fired.

King and Spaulding would have had no reason to look at current SPLOST III stuff.

Anonymous said...

But Pat was doing so many change orders. Weren't these change orders to work Heery Mitchell was supposed to do? And this was not pertinent to the lawsuit I suppose. I guess I just don't understand it.

Anonymous said...

At several Board meetings, Pat proudly stated that change orders were significantly reduced, almost to the point of none during her tenure. This is a matter of record and anyone should be able to check to see if change orders were submitted and if so, what they were for.

Change orders usually comes when something unexpected comes up in a project and the contractor submits a change order, usually for more money also. If the contracts were 'fixed price', how could you submit a change order unless an out of scope request was made. This is supposedly what the case against Heery-Mitchell centers on, change orders submitted on fixed price bids. Obviously Pat, Dr. Lewis, the Board along with King & Spaulding felt there was enough evidence to attempt to recover upwards of $100 million dollars for the school district.

If you believe taxpayers overpaid this kind of money, should you attempt to recover it?

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous, 5:18 AM

Your audacity is astounding!

If you have specific documentation to back up the accusations you make, then state it clearly and be quick about it. Otherwise, you are merely a very small, distasteful person spreading rumor.

Your rant is rife with rumor and innuendo and has absolutely no credibility whatsoever.

I personally am fed up with the likes of you and your ilk. I am normally colorblind to race, but all of you who play the race card at every opportunity make it harder and harder to be that way.

"As a community we need to come together ... " Community? What community are you talking about? The community where the south part of DeKalb constantly bashes the north part of DeKalb because our parents are, for the most part, well-educated, deeply involved with their children's education and committed to making lemonade out of lemons.

DCSS was under 20 years of federal court supervision for not having "sufficiently" integrated schools. During those 20 years, the federal courts did not allow re-districting or building new schools anywhere in DeKalb, regardless of need. That's the reason for overcrowding in South DeKalb schools and why most SPLOST money has gone to South DeKalb.

M-to-M transfers and magnet schools (with busing provided for both as directed by the federal court) were also the result of federal court supervision. At one point, DCSS had a larger bus system than MARTA.

Busing and no re-districting has been the order of things for so long that people now see this as an entitlement. Especially in South DeKalb, there seems to be no will to improve local schools when DCSS will pay for transportation to send your students to North DeKalb schools.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) was signed into law on January 8, 2002; it is the current name for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) passed in 1965. ESEA comprises nine titles and over 50 different programs, the largest of which is known as Title I. Title I supports school districts educating low-income students through federal funds and programs, and includes many opportunities for parent and community involvement. More than 4 generations of Title I and other entitlements. Why are South DeKalb schools, for the most part, still unable to reach AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress)?

Regarding the AJC -- I am not sure you are fully cognizant of the concept of a free press, guaranteed by the Bill of Rights (an early "entitlement" program). It's about time the AJC began reporting on what is really going on in DCSS.

You are right about one thing, Anonymous 5:18 AM: "Let be for real its not about our children is always about who have the power." [sic] Take a look at who has the power in DCSS, Anonymous 5:18 AM. Do they look and sound a lot like you?

Ella Smith said...

Dekalb County has a long standing history of fighting and not settling law suits. First of all they are a big cooperation and by doing this they normally can break the other person as they can not keep up with the big guys with the money it takes. Apparently Dekalb County met its match and Henry Mitchel kept up money wise and has not backed down. This is one time the school system may lose because they did not settle. I hope they do not learn a variable lesson by doing the same thing they have done for years. Our school system cannot afford to lose this lawsuit. Our taxpayers cannot afford to pay this kind of bill. The only ones who are going to win in this case are the attorneys.

Anonymous said...

"At several Board meetings, Pat proudly stated that change orders were significantly reduced, almost to the point of none during her tenure. This is a matter of record and anyone should be able to check to see if change orders were submitted and if so, what they were for."

But if you go to the BOE meetings and read the minutes, you will see that change order after change order was requested by Pat Pope.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if any of the current BOE members have children in the DCSS? I'm not aware that a single one of them have children still in the system.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:01 said,

But if you go to the BOE meetings and read the minutes, you will see that change order after change order was requested by Pat Pope.

Can you point to one of those meetings on the eBoard site? That would help clear this up once and for all.

Anonymous said...

Pat was obviously making changes, just not filing change orders!!!
But the prior poster is right, she often bragged about how few change orders she was filing.

Heery Mitchell definitely took advantage of the inherent weakness of having a former educator in charge of construction. However, I also suspect that HM is partially responsible for all the evidence coming out about Pat Pope's maleficence. They are know to play really dirty when pushed against a wall. I am glad that we know the truth and I know that there was a whistle blower within the system, but the well organized media campaign against Pope seems to have originated with a professional.

It is a shame really, because HM probably does owe DeKalb a nice chunk of change. We won't see a penny of it, I am guessing. The children will suffer, as always.

Anonymous said...

...and the teachers, too, as always.

Anonymous said...

None of the current Board member have children in the system. Don M has never had children in the system and he last taught in the system in approximately the mid-1980s. Paul and Pam have both had children graduate from the system and Paul has a grandchild in the system (elementary school). Tom has young children -- the oldest may be almost ready for pre-k. I believe that the Sarah, Zipporah, Jim and Jay have all had children graduate from DCSS schools -- none of them with children who have graduated have had children in the system within the past 5-10 years. Jim and Paul both have sad stories.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:19 pm
"But if you go to the BOE meetings and read the minutes, you will see that change order after change order was requested by Pat Pope.

Can you point to one of those meetings on the eBoard site? That would help clear this up once and for all."

How about this one:

BOE meeting 2/12/09

Change Order on Mountain Industrial Center Tenant Buildout Project and Associated Budget Reallocation


Rationale
In April 2008, the Board of Education approved the award of a Design/Build Contract for Nix-Fowler Constructors, Inc. for the completion of the Mountain Industrial Center project. The Superintendent requested a study to determine if the space utilization of the building and the budget would allow for the relocation of DCSS’s Administrative Office to the Mountain Industrial Center. On July 15, 2008, a report was issued that determined that this relocation was feasible. A change order will be issued to Nix-Fowler Constructors, Inc. for $2,443,839 for the additional scope of work to relocate the Administrative Offices.

A budget reallocation will be completed to move funds from the Freeman Building A/B – HVAC and ADA project (#421-122) to the Mountain Industrial Center project (#421-124) to allow adequate funds to be available in the appropriate budgets.

Quick Summary / Abstract
Presented by: Ms. Patricia A. Pope, Chief Operations Officer

Summary
The amendment of the Design/Builder’s agreement will allow for the relocation of DCSS’s Administrative Offices to Mountain Industrial Center and the relocation of the Bus Training range.

Cerebration said...

Anonymous said...
I thought Heery-Mitchell sued DCSS after DCSS sued them? Are you certain Heery sued first?
July 3, 2010 7:01 PM


Yes. HM filed a claim for just under $500,000. DCSS's claim is a countersuit.

And yes, Pat Pope did take pride in her small number of change orders, however, the indictment claims that she made changes to separate construction contracts so that they could be rebid as design/build contracts and her husband's firm could function as a sub-contractor/partner.

Anonymous said...

@ Anoymous 10:21

"Heery Mitchell definitely took advantage of the inherent weakness of having a former educator in charge of construction. However, I also suspect that HM is partially responsible for all the evidence coming out about Pat Pope's maleficence. They are know to play really dirty when pushed against a wall."

So you think Heery Mitchell suspected something was amiss but the DCSS lawyers didn't? I'm puzzled as to why HM was "paying dirty" if they reported what they thought there may have been an infraction of the law.

Cerebration said...

In my earlier comment about ineptness vs competence with greed, I want to clarify that I was referring to Stan Pritchett as opposed to Pat Pope. The SPLOST 2 audit concluded that many of the cost overruns were due to the incompetence of Pritchett - a former principal who was put at the helm of millions of dollars of construction. He was the administrations lead during the massive losses of SPLOST 2. Pope took over - and though she was deemed a competent construction manager, she apparently (according to the criminal indictment) wasted millions due to greed, by funneling projects to her husbands firm and others. She and Lewis also wasted millions due to incomplete paperwork due to the state.

Somehow, the incompetence is shrugged off, and the greed is punished - but both have cost us literally millions of dollars.

Anonymous said...

From BOE minutes:

"A budget reallocation will be completed to move funds from the Freeman Building A/B – HVAC and ADA project (#421-122) to the Mountain Industrial Center project (#421-124) to allow adequate funds to be available in the appropriate budgets."

What was the ADA project and the Freeman Building A/B - HVAC? They must have been low priority to move "$2,443,839 for the additional scope of work to relocate the Administrative Offices. "

So the BOE knew the money for the admin and their (BOE) offices were coming from this ADA project and Freeman Building A/B - HVAC. Does anyone know what these projects were that the BOE approved taking the money from?

Anonymous said...

I don't know what the ADA projects were, but according to the Superintendents Report there were 51 ADA projects to the tune of $5,400,000 so the proposal by Pat Pope and the approval by the BOE to move $2,400,000 for from the ADA projects to finish their offices on Mtn. Industrial Blvd. took a substantial percentage of the ADA money for administrative and BOE personnel offices.

Did the ADA projects money that ended up in the new Mountain Ind. complex providing admin and BOe offices have anything to do with helping our students?

Anonymous said...

Was this a legal way to spend the ADA money?

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:20, that was a good find however the result of that change order did not result in any 'net new dollars' to the district. As the change order indicates, this was a budget reallocation from a building that would soon be closed to a building that would soon be opened. It was also for ADA changes so one would 'assume' it would also apply to ADA changes at the new building.

The change orders alleged by Heery-Mitchell resulted in the need for 'net new dollars' i.e. over the budgeted amount for a project. If a project was bid for 'guaranteed maximum price' and new dollars were requested above that, this should raise questions.

Your find also included this interesting statement,

The Superintendent requested a study to determine if the space utilization of the building and the budget would allow for the relocation of DCSS’s Administrative Office to the Mountain Industrial Center. On July 15, 2008, a report was issued that determined that this relocation was feasible. A change order will be issued to Nix-Fowler Constructors, Inc. for $2,443,839 for the additional scope of work to relocate the Administrative Offices.

There are many ways to interpret this but one is that the study determined the long term cost of ownership of Freeman A/B (along with any consolidations) would be greater than that of relocating to the new facility. As a result, monies allocated to those projects could be redirected to the new facility. It would be interesting to know WHO performed this study. If it was internal, that could suggest the results were rigged and citizens may never know.

Anon said...

There is no ADA money. There were SPLOST III projects that were labeled ADA which were to bring schools and DCSS owned buildings up to current ADA requirements. For most schools, this has meant some bathroom improvements and for a few, the installation of elevators. It can also include things like ramps and doorway widening.

The Freeman Building is the Central Administrative Office that DCSS just moved out of. There was a huge need for ADA improvements there. If you were disabled, and in a wheelchair, it was nearly impossible to get into the Board Meeting room.

Pat Pope's natural tendency was to want to build new. In fact, her first proposal for the spending of SPLOST III monies, included very few projects as she was proposing building several new schools that would spend almost all the revenue.

That was quickly deemed politically impossible and the list that we currently have now is what was eventually settled on. It is not surprising however, that seemingly every study that looks into whether you should renovate or build new, seems to find to build new. I kind of wonder if is the nature of the evaluation.

Anonymous said...

So ADA construction funds are funds allocated to ensure disabled students and parents have good access to our schools and buildings?

Is it correct to say that according to BOE minutes, Pope recommended and the BOE approved moving construction money earmarked for our disabled students to the Mountain Industrial complex construction?

Why wasn't adequate handicap access already provided for in the original Mountain Industrial Complex plans the BOE approved? Who the heck in public building doesn't approve handicap access in this day and age? Isn't that part of building code? That seems so basic to me.

Were any elevators, ramps, etc. for disabled students to attend their schools delayed because of this reallocation of ADA building funds? If any access modification for our ADA students was delayed or eliminated, it doesn't seem a good thing to do regarding those students.

Anon said...

You have it all wrong. In that change order, the ADA projects were for Buildings A and B which were being relocated to Mountain Industrial. There was no need to improve Building A and B since DCSS was closing them down.

Anonymous said...

Why weren't the ADA requirements already addressed?

Anonymous said...

Lots of public buildings don't meet ADA requirements as they were built before the requirements went into effect. As I understand it, if you have done NO work that requires a permit on that building, you have not been required to bring it up to compliance. Retrofitting buildings is very costly and a big barrier to getting every public building in the US up to ADA standards.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 9:51pm
My question was referring to the new Mtn. Ind. Complex. Had they not originally budgeted to meet ADA requirements for that building? Why were they coming back to get funds for something so basic? Let's hope all those $2,000 chairs for the admin and BOE members didn't make them run short.

Anonymous said...

I think they were simply transferring the funds to Mountain Industrial, not specifically for ADA. (Probably for those d*mn chairs!) Any building designed now would have the ADA specs in it.

I hear there is tremendous waste in the design of Mountain Industrial though. Something about really high ceilings and energy waste? Not my area of expertise...