Saturday, June 4, 2011

Another community rallies for SPLOST project funding

As we move into the time period for promoting SPLOST IV, look for more neighborhood initiatives like the one below. This is as big an issue as redistricting, and many feel that promises have been made in the past that may be slipping away in SPLOST IV. In my experience, this is exactly how all SPLOST spending has gone.

Click here to read the actual proposed referendum. Every category reads "Includes, but not limited to"... Now that is vague and opens up the flood gates for additions and special projects (akin to the gorgeous Palace reno snuck in SPLOST III, which incidentally has another year to go).

Furthermore, as we have stated on the blog in the past, most of us do not plan to support another SPLOST tax unless and until we get highly qualified, trustworthy, ethical leadership in place. We think it is best to wait a year and make a much more structured plan – one that is educationally driven (form follows function, right?)  Make a sound education plan and then let that drive the numbers and types of buildings necessary to complete the task – educating children.


----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Coralwood School
Sent: Wed, June 1, 2011 8:45:37 PM
Subject: Urgent: Coralwood School Needs Your Help!

Dear Friends,

Coralwood School needs your help! For the last 5 years, members of the Board of Education and the Superintendent and the Superintendent's staff (both Lewis and Tyson) have pledged funding to Coralwood for a renovation and additional classrooms that will allow us to better serve the needs of our children. In fact, the County has already funded architectural drawings for this expansion at a cost of nearly $400,000. This project would provide dedicated music and art rooms, a sensory room, therapy space, 8 additional classrooms, renovated bathrooms, a dedicated computer lab and expanded library. Thousands of volunteer-hours have been dedicated to this plan and it is ready to go! Over the last year, members of the Board of Education, Ramona Tyson and Barbara Coleman have all given us their personal promise to see our project through. Now they are reneging on that promise.

This is what we need you to do. Please email the following TODAY and every day through Monday, June 6 (the day of the vote) to Board of Education members, the Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson; Barbara Colman, Chief Operating Officer; and Dan Drake, Demographer responsible for data collection and reporting.

********************************

Subject: CORALWOOD SCHOOL


1. Coralwood School is an inclusion program that serves children from all over the county and EVERY Board of Education member has children of voting constituents at this school.

2. Our community has worked tirelessly these last 5 years to create an award-winning, model program and have self-funded initiatives to improve the program and facilities, but now we need DCSS to step up to improve our facilities, as promised, so that we can adequately meet the needs of our students.

3. DCSS has already spent, as part of its commitment to the Coralwood expansion, almost $400,000.00 in architectural drawings. Without following through with the complete project, this money spent is evidence of further waste and lack of accountability to tax payers. We demand wise decision-making and fiscal responsibility from DCSS and the BoE.

4. We dispute our utilization number. We are, in fact, at capacity based on the disabilities of children we serve. Our classroom sizes are mandated by law based on our inclusion model and the severity of the disabilities of children placed in the classroom.

5. We dispute the argument that Coralwood has a higher expense per pupil. Federal Special Education funds, not local dollars, cover those additional expenses as required under IDEA to meet the educational needs of disabled students.

6. DCSS is legally required to meet the IEP goals of our students. This is not and has not been the case in providing adequate therapies. Our children have received inadequate services in inadequate space for years in violation of IDEA.

7. You are rushing through this process and not giving the public adequate time to digest and respond to the information, much less considering prior commitments you have made to the children of Coralwood School.

8. Our community will not support SPLOST IV, and will actively campaign against it, unless the funds are made available for the Coralwood project as pledged.

Thank you for fulfilling your commitment to Coralwood School.

Sincerely,

(Your name)

*****************************************
Please make this a priority TODAY and every day through Monday, June 6 before it’s too late! The Board will be voting on SPLOST IV projects Monday, June 6. Ask your neighbors and family members to also email this message on behalf of Coralwood School.

58 comments:

dadfirst said...

The title is a little misleading. I think it should read "Another community rallies for SPLOST project funding for themselves and forget all of the other student within the school system".

This sentence says is all: "8. Our community will not support SPLOST IV, and will actively campaign against it, unless the funds are made available for the Coralwood project as pledged."

I do need some education on this. What is provided at Coralwood that is not provided at other schools? I know that that special needs/education programs exist several "regular" elementary schools. Are we pouring money into yet another "pet program" as we do the magnet programs?

SHS said...

Coralwood

My understanding is that Coralwood serves approximately 200 children age 3 - 5 who have needs that cannot be served in regular school classrooms. Of those children, only those in Kindergarten count as FTE.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) authorizes formula grants to states, and discretionary grants to institutions of higher education and other non-profit organizations to support research, demonstrations, technical assistance and dissemination, technology and personnel development and parent-training and information centers.

Coralwood serves 0.2% (two 10ths of 1 percent) or fewer of DeKalb County's total enrollment. "For FY 2008, the most recent year with data available, IDEA federal funding covered 17.1 percent of the estimated excess cost of educating children with disabilities, the same as in FY 2007 and less than in FY 2006."(http://febp.newamerica.net/background-analysis/individuals-disabilities-education-act-funding-distribution)

If DCSS was appropriately educating its 96,000 students and making AYP across the board, then perhaps we could look at budgeting local funds for Coralwood.

But, even if DCSS was making AYP, until we have total transparency with an open checkbook so we know exactly where every penny is going, then it really makes no sense to fund non-FTE Coralwood students with local funds in addition to federal funds.

Before going into this debate any further, it is important to know:

(1)How many children in DeKalb County actually qualify for Coralwood?
(2)Of those children, who gets in to Coralwood; who doesn't and why?
(3)Do we know -- for sure -- that all the children being served at Coralwood are DeKalb County residents?

I wonder if Coralwood, like Arabia Mountain HS, is just another patronage center primarily serving friends-and-family and/or the well-connected -- regardless of whether or not they are actually DeKalb County residents.

With regard to the statements in the letter published by Cerebration in DeKalb School Watch:

Item #2: Please provide detailed budgets, including specific faculty and staff expenses as identified in Open,Georgia.gov, and audited financials for the past 5 school years.

Item #5: When IDEA was enacted, it was estimated that children with disabilities cost approximately twice as much to educate as other children. Congress took that estimate figure into account when setting the maximum federal contribution at 40 percent of state average per pupil expenditure. A recent study, using data from the 1999-2000 school year, found that schools spent 1.9 times more in total expenditures and 2.08 times more in current operating expenditures on students with disabilities. (http://febp.newamerica.net/background-analysis/individuals-disabilities-education-act-funding-distribution)

How much state funding goes to Coralwood -- in addition to federal dollars -- and specifically why is it not enough?

A lot more dollar-specific information is needed, please.

Kim Gokce said...

The Coralwood Foundation was the inspiration for the Cross Keys Foundation. Because I knew parents with children at this school during the formation of the Foundation, and some of its Board Members, I am familiar with some of the history of this "plan."

The group was successful in fundraising for plan development. they put together a professional proposal and vision for the school to get permission to execute the plan. Lewis was so
impressed, he offered to fund the plan to the surprise of the presenters - all they wanted was permission to act on the vision with private fundraising efforts.

I would be ticked off, too, if the support is now being pulled. The Coralwood story is sad because it encapsulates everything that is wrong about DCSS governance and planning. The system fails to have a vision for students with special needs; a community with their own resources have parents and private groups organize to build a vision; DCSS picks and chooses its favorites to support; nice things happen for a few deserving kids and if you are lucky it ends there. If your not, Dekalb arbitrarily kills it. Meanwhile, the legions of children whose advocates do not have the ear of leadership do without.

This is why I am so severely disappointed in the so called "2020 Vision." So please, no one hate the players, hate the game.

Anon said...

What bothers me about this -- is that children spend a very short amount of time here.

We have children who are stuck in horrible buildings for 6 years (elementary school) and are getting virtually no relief in this upcoming SPLOST.

10 million dollars is a lot of money to spend on something that is essentially optional. While the federal law requires that these students are served, it doesn't a require a multi million dollar facility to do so.

This is yet another example of the the loudest voices who scream the most getting what the want. It makes me sad for all the students who will be stuck in outdated, awful buildings so that DCSS can spend this money.

Anon said...

Lewis is gone. Lots of schools had promises from him that went unfulfilled -- nothing personal, but the same situation could happen to Coralwood.

It is wrong that this is being funded.

It just is.

Passionate... said...

Promises were made and broken under C. Lewis. This promise was under the current BOE and Ramona Tyson. What would help? DCSS stop making promises altogether. Put everything in writing with a date for proposal of project received, date of approval, date for estimated time of project to begin and finish...with an additional section to include alternate date and time. Projects should be done in order. Something like this:
Coralwood Renovations received Jan 2006, approved February 2007, estimated date to begin July 2008 and finished August 2009, alternate date August 2009 and finish July 2010. Next line should have dates that follow Coralwood. If Coralwood's doesn't start, next project shouldn't start either. Each should fall into the order in which it is on the docket to start. One by one we would see all the projects done. Wouldn't that be marvelous! Maybe taxpayers, community members, parents, students, teachers, and other stakeholders could start trusting DCSS again.

Cerebration said...

DCSS has already spent, as part of its commitment to the Coralwood expansion, almost $400,000.00 in architectural drawings.

I was quite surprised to learn this. I wonder who the architect was. This is something Dr. Lewis took on as a pet project - he did the same thing with his dream "Crawford Lewis School of the Arts"... Architectural renderings were drawn up for a $100 million facility!

Cerebration said...

To answer DadFirst -- Coralwood serves 3 year olds through Kindergarten. DeKalb county is required to provide an education from Kindergarten on through 12. (k-12) This is more or less a "head start" program for children with special needs. They do receive some federal funding and some people say they could probably get more - it is an exemplary program. However, the dilemma is that is only serves 200 students in total - this includes the "traditional" students who attend. FTE funding credit from the state does not begin until Kindergarten, so we get very little funding for these students from the state. It's very hard to decide how to spend money when the money is so limited and the needs countywide are so great.

dadfirst said...

Thank you for the information Cerbration. I did a little bit of limited research. As someone indicated earlier in the thread, this school has an FTE count of 43.

My question then becomes how is it funded? Is the funding comprised of Federal dollars? If so, my belief would have to be that any expansion of this school and its program should be paid for by Federal dollars and now local sales tax monies. Am I off-base here?

Dekalbparent said...

I drove by Adams Stadium on Friday and the turf was all dug up - clearly they are doing some renovation.

Then I look at the SPLOST list linked in the post, and the first thing on the list is "Upgrades, including turf installation, at stadiums and renovations to Athletic Facilities and Stadiums".

Once again, I don't get it....

Dekalbparent said...

Regarding Coralwood - in the best world, children with disabilities would be getting everything their IEP specified in every school; unfortunately, the point made in the Coralwood letter is correct for all DCSS schoolchildren with disabilities - IDEA is being violated in every school.

What's fair? Should the promise made to Coralwood be honored? Yes, the kids deserve it. Should every kid in DCSS go to a school that has the facilities to support each kid's learning needs? Yes, the kids deserve it. I don't think there is any way to make things fair for all in this broken system.

IMHO, the only way we are ever going to make progress as a system is if we are able to see 1)plans that tell us exactly what is going to be spent and when (no "including but not limited to") and 2)where each and every penny goes.

travelingjoe said...

I have a friend who teaches severely disabled children in another county (public school). She said her county funds an excellent program using a combination of state, federal and local dollars but it begins at age 5. She and I do not understand at all why DCSS is using local tax dollars for 3 year olds.

I support the Coralwood school but I don't think in this time of goverment austerity that we can ask DeKalb taxpayers to fund or build public schools (of any type) for 3 year olds. If they can get full federal (i.e. Head Start or IDEA) or state funding for 3 and 4 year olds, more power to Coralwood, but not local funding.

SHS said...

@ Cerebration

"'DCSS has already spent, as part of its commitment to the Coralwood expansion, almost $400,000.00 in architectural drawings.'

"I was quite surprised to learn this. I wonder who the architect was. This is something Dr. Lewis took on as a pet project - he did the same thing with his dream 'Crawford Lewis School of the Arts'... Architectural renderings were drawn up for a $100 million facility!"


Even though Clew-less is gone, this is why we need to tell the BOE, Tyson and others in the Palace with delusions of grandeur:
Not another penny spent ... until the Palace is cut by 50% AND we get a transparent open checkbook that fully aligns with a detailed budget!

fedupindcss said...

When I see one of the DCSS schools being renovated, it just reminds me of where our (misplaced) priorities lie. We get all ginned up over SPLOST, which by law is (supposed to be) only used for capital improvements and additions (wasn't it originally only for additional classrooms?), but no one is out there demanding that we increase the millage rate, etc. to pay our teachers more, or recruit better teachers, or spend anything extra on ACTUAL INSTRUCTION! As we are all painfully aware, there are lovely new school buildings littering this county that regularly fail to make AYP. I, for one, would love to see the whole concept of SPLOST disappear completely and start redirecting our energy towards spending money on the human capital, teachers and students, and not the physical capital.

I will add here that the high school I attended looks pretty much like it did 30 years ago (and it wasn't new then), and is bigger than many of the high schools here, but the teachers are well paid, unionized, and the kids go to college at a rate of 98%.

Anon said...

Other school systems in Metro Atlanta, that don't have Coralwood type centers, are far exceeding DCSS in the performance of students with disabilities.

I think the work that Coralwood does is wonderful.

I don't think this is an appropriate use of SPLOST funds. At all.

September said...

I'm just curious. I know that special needs children often benefit dramatically from early intervention programs. These programs make a difference in the lives of these children and their families. If you have a special needs child, are some of the early intervention services provided by Coralwood covered by health insurance? If so, does DeKalb collect the financial reimbursements that may be available?

I would be interested to see how this program is funded. When Dr. Lewis left, we learned that DeKalb doesn't have a good track record when it comes to collecting state money for new school buildings. Are they following through on the paperwork for state and federal grants to fund this program?

Cerebration said...

There are fewer than 200 students in the Coralwood program (not all have a disability) and according to the letter in this post, they are considered at capacity. Somehow, I don't think they are reaching all who have a need. We would need several more "Coralwoods" to capture all of the students with disabilities at age 3.

I wonder if we couldn't spend our money and energy more wisely by sending therapists into every school to work with students beginning in pre-K. Just an idea. Seems like the money we are considering investing in this building might be better used to invest in 'people' as suggested by fedup earlier in this thread. I'm also skeptical of spending so much on buildings rather than people.

Or, maybe we could contract with an outside resource to provide sensory integration sessions for our young students?

Just thinking outside the box...

unknown said...

The $10 million to Coralwood is politics. I know they do good work at Coralwood but it is not the work we are required to do. It is not the work we are rated on. This seems like a gift to someone and it comes at the expense of other children that we are suppose to serve.

SHS said...

@ fedupindcss 10:00 PM

DCSS has the money to do exactly what you suggested -- spend it on the classroom teachers and students. DCSS has the money to eliminate teacher furloughs.

But, first Tyson and the DCSS BOE must cut the non-teaching Palace payroll by at least 50%, if not more. NOW. This is why Tyson gets the big bucks.

It can be done and those employees who contribute nothing to educating students will never be missed.

Read this article published earlier in the DeKalb School Watch blog:
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/05/found-dcss-has-money-for-education.html

Passionate... said...

I agree SHS that the administrative bloat and "classified" bloat at the palace, AIC, needs to be cut by at least 50%. DeKalb should use the monies received for school-based employees based on FTEs earned. We still need SPLOST to maintain our facilities. Properly maintained facilities can last for years. I agree fedupindcss that we must focus on our teachers and our children. Coralwood is a wonderful program. Other counties do have special needs small schools. Some counties have moved 3 and 4 year old programs to local public schools. All 3 and 4 year olds programs need to be funded outside of DCSS local funding. DCSS needs a leader to "cut the fat" at an all day budget meeting. Remember the movie "Dave". He does exactly that so monies would be available for kids. DCSS argues over individual issues instead of systematically looking at the district as a whole. Students first, Teachers second. Playing politics does not help all children, only a select few.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

I'll vote for SPLOST when the current leadership is gone! I cannot, with a good conscience, vote for this. We need to invest in the teachers first, not $2K chairs for a project that was never proposed for SPLOST III.

The current leadership was in place when CLew and Pope were allegedly running a criminal enterprise out of DCSS. Why are all these people still in their jobs?

If we do get a new Super, why are we waiting for the new Super to do the dirty work? If we continue to wait, the new Super will be sunk like Johnny Brown was and will be forced out by the Friends and Family Flotilla.

No more money until I can be assured things will change. These people running DCSS actually think they are doing a good job! More failures is all I am seeing from this bunch!

Passionate... said...

I agree Atlanta Media Guy...the cuts are past due...now is the time...this month...lots of openings on PATS...move AIC folks to openings.

Anon said...

One of the things I find most troubling about this, is that once again a community screams and gets what they wants.

This process is/was suppose to be data driven. Coralwood has very high scores, in part because millions were spent in the last few years to renovate its interior as well as a few other things.

Cerebration said...

If we go down this rabbit trail, then we will certainly have to do the same for other small programs like Wadsworth. FWIW, gifted students are "special" needs also - technically. So, Wadsworth, also with around 200 students, would also be entitled to the same level of support.

plus - We already know that after spending $10 million to move DSA to Avondale HS (or at least that what was budgeted) - we now have to spend millions more to move these 300 students (8th-12th) to Avondale MS to be merged with DESA in a k-12 program for the arts. (Add $$ for moving DESA also, which was just moved a couple of years ago to their current location).

If we fund all of these tiny programs at such an expense rate per student, aren't we defeating the stated purpose of redistricting? How can we justify closing 8 schools in south DeKalb with more students in each of them than these specialty schools? How can we say that these schools much close and consolidate due to low enrollments, yet spend millions upon millions on these magnet and special programs?

It's like the stated goals only get pulled out when talking about certain schools - otherwise, these goals go out the window when special interest groups seek support.

This is why the plans are not believed and the administration is not to be trusted. This board has a fiduciary responsibility to ALL students in DCSS. Overspending on one group will only result in a lack of resources for another (larger) group.

Cerebration said...

Here's another part of the SPLOST IV proposal I don't understand -

The SPLOST IV project marketing and board statements say that Cross Keys and Cedar Grove will get auditoriums (the focus of SPLOST III) as long as there is money available in SPLOST III.
Master Plan Presentation (See page 6)

However, they are not listed as SPLOST IV projects in the official SPLOST IV referendum. Does that mean that they will never get an auditorium if there isn't enough SPLOST III money? What happened to the Priority List? Shouldn't this list be followed? Shouldn't the first item on SPLOST IV be Uncompleted Projects in SPLOST III? That's what happened to SPLOST III, the first items on the list were the remaining projects on the priority list from SPLOST II... The way it reads to me now, these two schools could get squeezed between old money of SPLOST III and new money of SPLOST IV and end up with nothing!

Read the actual proposed referendum here
SPLOST IV Proposed Referendum

Cerebration said...

One more point: Interesting that these two schools can each get an auditorium for use for performances, events, meetings and even lectures for about 1,000 students to use in each school - for only $7.4 million per project. ($2.6 million less than Coralwood's request.)

These prices seem a bit out of whack to me...what on earth is Coralwood building that will cost $10 million? In fact, the cost in the proposal to tear down and build an entirely new school for 900 students at Hawthorne is only $21 million...

dundevil said...

The current SPLOST IV wish list is designed to garner the most votes. That is why a new school is included for Dunwoody. Each of the 7 clusters is promised some goodies. If SPLOST IV does pass, the list will be disregarded to satisfy the normal political and demographic pressures of the moment.

SPLOST should be like HOST. A portion of the collected funds,say
60 -70%, should be rebated to homeowners to pay the exorbitant school taxes.

teacher said...

dundevil, I agree with you about the way SPLOST IV projects were announced, and getting the most votes from the community. However, voter be ware. The Palace was not part of any SPLOST project list, yet was paid for with SPLOST funds.

I don't trust this board and administration with spending money in a good way, and am not sure how others could.

Pandora said...

As someone who has taught special programs at Coralwood, I believe that a facility like this is the only hope for these severely disabled children. How it's funded is, of course, a matter of politics, but children who self-mutilate, have major anger control issues, severe learning disabilities, and other impairments need educating and training not just for themselves, but because otherwise, they will be out in mainstream classrooms interfering with ALL children's learning. The protected learning environment that these kids experience early in life is too short, not too early, for them.

Instead of "wondering" whether this type of protected environment is necessary--take time to read some literature on this kind of student, or just spend an hour out there and you'll see that most of the services those kids receive are beyond the scope of classroom teachers and special ed teachers in regular schools. And remember that many special ed kids are turfed off to an "aide" for most of the day, and not to a trained educational specialist. Such people are not equipped to deal productively--in contrast to "forcefully"--with severely disabled students. Don't let DCSS fool you into arguing with each other over the cookies--rather, continue to push for transparency and honest accounting of how the $$ is allocated. It's Educational Excellence vs Friends and Family, not Educational Excellence vs Coralwood.

Cerebration said...

Actually, the administrative offices were mentioned in the list as being renovated (certainly with a "not limited to" clause). Of course, the assumption was made that that meant renovating buildings A&B - no one dreamed they meant brand new offices!

There was also money in SPLOST III ($30 million ) to move the Jim Cherry Center, Open Campus and DSA ($10 million each). I suspect this money was juggled around to use to complete the gorgeous central offices. That's why I don't trust the wording - it's very vague and like dundevil says - it touches just about every community in order to garner votes.

I am waiting to see and educational plan that is used to drive the decisions as to how many building to build, where, why and when.

This kind of planning is just shooting from the hip. It looks like a Pandora's box of promises just to get the money flowing - then they'll figure it out later (or reward it to the most vocal and influential communities).

Cerebration said...

@Pandora - I don't think anyone on this blog questions the work done at Coralwood. We all have given them kudos for doing a terrific job.

The thing is - this is political - on their side. TEN MILLION DOLLARS for a facility addition for 200 students? When we have literally hundreds and hundreds of students with greater facility needs? It's just out of line to us ordinary folks. We DO understand the work being done at Coralwood - we just DON'T think they deserve 4 hands in the cookie jar while everyone else shares the crumbs. Yes it is fighting over the money - they are simply demanding much more than their fair share of the SPLOST money.

As I pointed out earlier, we can apparently build an entire brand new elementary school for $21 million - that will house 900 students. $10 million for 200 is highly disproportionate. Surely they can deliver their services in a bit humbler surroundings.

Sandy Spruill said...

@ Pandora

An earlier post (see below) asked some very reasonable questions that have been completely ignored by the Coralwood community. Answer those questions with documentation -- let us know what Coralwood intends to do about obtaining financial transparency in DCSS -- and then we can have a conversation. Until then, there is really nothing to talk about.

"My understanding is that Coralwood serves approximately 200 children age 3 - 5 who have needs that cannot be served in regular school classrooms. Of those children, only those in Kindergarten count as FTE.

"The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) authorizes formula grants to states, and discretionary grants to institutions of higher education and other non-profit organizations to support research, demonstrations, technical assistance and dissemination, technology and personnel development and parent-training and information centers.

"Coralwood serves 0.2% (two 10ths of 1 percent) or fewer of DeKalb County's total enrollment. 'For FY 2008, the most recent year with data available, IDEA federal funding covered 17.1 percent of the estimated excess cost of educating children with disabilities, the same as in FY 2007 and less than in FY 2006.' (http://febp.newamerica.net/background-analysis/individuals-disabilities-education-act-funding-distribution)

"If DCSS was appropriately educating its 96,000 students and making AYP across the board, then perhaps we could look at budgeting local funds for Coralwood.

"But, even if DCSS was making AYP, until we have total transparency with an open checkbook so we know exactly where every penny is going, then it really makes no sense to fund non-FTE Coralwood students with local funds in addition to federal funds.

"Before going into this debate any further, it is important to know:

"(1)How many children in DeKalb County actually qualify for Coralwood?
"(2)Of those children, who gets in to Coralwood; who doesn't and why?
"(3)Do we know -- for sure -- that all the children being served at Coralwood are DeKalb County residents?


"I wonder if Coralwood, like Arabia Mountain HS, is just another patronage center primarily serving friends-and-family and/or the well-connected -- regardless of whether or not they are actually DeKalb County residents?

"With regard to the statements in the letter published by Cerebration in DeKalb School Watch:

"Item #2: Please provide detailed budgets, including specific faculty and staff expenses as identified in Open,Georgia.gov, and audited financials for the past 5 school years.

"Item #5: When IDEA was enacted, it was estimated that children with disabilities cost approximately twice as much to educate as other children. Congress took that estimate figure into account when setting the maximum federal contribution at 40 percent of state average per pupil expenditure. A recent study, using data from the 1999-2000 school year, found that schools spent 1.9 times more in total expenditures and 2.08 times more in current operating expenditures on students with disabilities. (http://febp.newamerica.net/background-analysis/individuals-disabilities-education-act-funding-distribution)

"How much state funding goes to Coralwood -- in addition to federal dollars -- and specifically why is it not enough?


"A lot more dollar-specific information is needed, please."

concerned said...

With Coralwood and another new school in Dunwoody, I will ACTIVELY campaign against splost.

Anon said...

Pandora

Most of the students at Coralwood are developmentally delayed and/or physically disabled, not emotionally-behavioral disordered.

You have a very strange perspective on the students at Coralwood. I am afraid you have the wrong facility.

Dekalbparent said...

@Cere,

I believe you are correct in your speculation about where the MIA funding came from. I remember looking at the budget and questioning at the time why there was $10 million allotted to renovating DSA (at the N. Druid Hills Rd location) AND $10 million allocated to moving DSA and renovating Avondale HS for them. When I asked the Board, I was told some very fuzzy reasoning about how the first $10 million would be used instead of th second $10 million and that $10 million would be returned to SPLOST pool for "Other projects".

I have some questions for DCSS regarding Coralwood, too. What happens to the students who are lucky enough to go to Coralwood when they leave Coralwood? What kind of services do they get then? I agree that kids with physical and cognitive disabilities benefit from specialized and intensive PT, OT and Sensory Integration therapy, but they don't lose the need for such therapies when they leave Coralwood. These therapies are not available in the other schools. I know this because when my child left Coralwood for Hawthorne at age 4, I had to pay for all these therapies myself. She did not stop needing them until well into elementary school.

Should DCSS not be looking for alternative funds to use for the children at Coralwood who are under 5? Then funding would be freed up for students with disabilities in the elementary schools.

What about Children's Medical Services (a DeKalb Board of Health program http://www.dekalbhealth.net/hs/childrens-medical-services/)?

Can DCSS co-ordinate with them for therapies?

What about CHOA - they have all these therapies - is there any co-ordination possible there?

Cerebration said...

The letter says, Over the last year, members of the Board of Education, Ramona Tyson and Barbara Coleman have all given us their personal promise to see our project through. Now they are reneging on that promise.

The thing is, this is SPLOST money. It's a penny sales tax voters agree to tax themselves for school construction. The projects MUST be outlined for the vote. These people sadly, did not have the legal authority to make promises with this tax money (thus my concern over the vagueness of the language). I'm very sorry to hear that they made these promises. It shows that they think it is play money to use at their personal discretion.

Cerebration said...

For a bit of entertainment and a reason to be skeptical of SPLOST promises - read the SPLOST II audit and letter. It's actually quite funny, knowing what we all know now.

SPLOST.Letter.and.Audit

It begins:

The DeKalb County School System is committed to providing the best possible education for our children. With that goal in mind, we are investing in new and improved schools, centers and technologies. The results have been extremely positive, with several new elementary, middle and high schools. All of this was made possible by Special Local Option Sales Taxes I and II, a 1 cent sales tax levied from 1998 to 2007.
At the same time, we have not been satisfied with some aspects of construction management. The board of education and staff commissioned a forensic audit of the program in January, and it was completed in late May. A copy of the audit, which was conducted by Rubino & McGeehin in conjunction with PMA Consultants LLC, can be found on this web for your review. It confirms that the construction program has not been managed as well as it should have been. It does not however, cite evidence of fraudulent action or theft.
The SPLOST program is critical to a vibrant DeKalb County School System. The additions and improvements financed with SPLOST funds are many, as are their contributions to a quality education for students throughout our county. We must and will assure that this program has the skilled and diligent oversight that it deserves.
Last October, we hired Patricia Pope as Chief Operating Officer, which includes responsibility for construction program oversight. She has been involved in more than $5 billion in construction projects over 26 years with The Lathrop Company, Skanska USA and Manhattan Construction Company. Projects in which she participated include Philips Arena, The Omni Hotel and The Federal Reserve Bank, just to name a few. We are very pleased with the leadership that she is providing; in fact, many of the recommendations in the forensic audit have already been implemented, even before the audit began.
Our commitment is to evaluate all of the audit’s findings and act on them appropriately and as quickly as possible. We will do whatever is necessary, and more, to assure confidence in the capital improvements program that is so important to our schools, our students and our county.
Thank you for all you are doing to support this school system. Please continue to monitor this site as we will continue to provide updates on our progress. And there will indeed be noticeable progress; of that you have our personal assurance.

Cerebration said...

Bear in mind, this audit by Rubino & McGeehin was conducted AFTER a review of Heery Mitchell's performance by MGT (you know, the same guys who just did the whole redistricting study) - and THEY gave Heery a glowing review.

From the Daily Report -

In 2006, Lewis asked the school board to vote to replace an auditor that had given Heery/Mitchell a glowing report the previous year, telling the board the move was "an emergency," according to the plaintiffs.

MGT of America in May 2005 reported that "an overall on-time and within budget completion in the face of a nearly 20 percent funding shortfall is evidence of the professionalism and experience of the Heery/Mitchell Joint Venture."

"The [school system] is to be commended for hiring a competent agency representative," MGT concluded.

Kim Gokce said...

Boards come and go. Superintendents come and go. That is why what "they say" has little value to me when it comes to long-term capital planning and maintenance.

@Cere: Thank you for pointing out the long-standing "promise" of auditoriums to Cedar Grove and Cross Keys. I don't harp on this blog like I used to about good, old Cross Keys because I think folks developed a tin ear to my ranting.

Where are the auditoriums? Where is our attendance areas' new school? In Super Cluster I, there are new elementary schools, new middle schools, and now a new high school in the works - nary a one in Cross Keys attendance area.

With little to no "vision" on the horizon for the next twenty years or so, no wonder groups resort to threatening DCSS with anti-SPLOST organizing. With the path we've been on, and seemingly prepared to stay on, brace your taxpaying wallet for the next escalation: civil law suits. Seem inevitable to me.

teacher said...

DeKalbParent got me thinking:

How and why was Coralwood started? I understand what it does, but there is a void for these kids after Coralwood, because there isn't federal funding for it?? Are we paying for services that should be covered under health insurance or a parent's responsibility? This school doesn't make sense when there doesn't appear to be any follow through after the kids leave. I am in no means saying what these kids should be ignored, I am just wondering if it really is DCSS's place to be giving them, when there seems to be little follow through after kids leave.

Kim Gokce said...

The system published its own history of Coralwood starting on page 7:

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/schools/centers/coralwood/files/BA5585B35D1441528D9EFFAD8109D09D.pdf

Kim Gokce said...

That document dates from about the period I first met a Coralwood parent and I believe it fairly represents approximately where things stand today unless there has been dramatic change. I met with the principal a few times years ago to discuss their school and the Coralwood Foundation. It's a great school and I understand why it garners positive attention from DCSS.

Another case where something positive is accomplished in isolation in DCSS, perhaps in spite of DCSS.

Cerebration said...

The line item for the Coralwood addition is $10.6 million. With the $400,000 already spent on architectural drawings (any chance Tony Pope did those?) it adds up to $11 million.

In contrast, a "major renovation" of Henderson Middle School (with over 1200 students) has a budget of $16 million.

The six elementary schools to be torn down and built from scratch (900 students each) have budgets of just over $20 million each.

What on earth are they going to build at Coralwood?

Dekalbparent said...

Read the Coralwood history (thanks, Kim), and I wonder whether the diagnostic assessment and services for children 3 and up are duplications of what DeKalb Board of Health provides through Children's Medical Services. Again, perhaps a point where DCSS and DeK County can co-operate and save some money.

The typical children for pre-k are drawn from the waiting lists of other schools, they say, which sounds fair, but the 3-year-olds are drawn from the siblings of pre-K students and from the neighborhood. Are we footing the bill for pre-school for the neighborhood kids and pre-K siblings?

As to whether we are paying for stuff that should be paid by parents - remember not everybody has good health insurance (some policies won't pay for therapies outside of a hospital), or even any health insurance at all. These therapies are really expensive. I spent the equivalent of a 4-year state college tuition on my child's therapies over 6 years.

I don't know what the solution is - certainly not having the citizens pay for the therapies for just some lucky kids - but the cost is brutal for the individual families.

Kim Gokce said...

"In contrast, a "major renovation" of Henderson Middle School (with over 1200 students) has a budget of $16 million."

While we're contrasting, how about the $10m for a major reno of Cross Keys High School that waited in line for an entire generation?

That is done so I guess it is a moot point.

Anon said...

Multiple issues here -- the federal government funds a large part of the costs of early special ed services.

However, they fund nothing for the typical three year olds. GA Lottery dollars fund part of the cost of the 4 years old in pre-k. That funding was cut for all pre-ks and the county has decided to absorb the cuts rather than cut the program.

The real issue is other systems absolutely don't have Coralwood Centers on the level DCSS does and yet their special ed outcomes seem to be better.

Why is that anyone thinks this is appropriate? We have THOUSANDS of children sitting in subpar buildings and they will still be in 5-10 years.

Cerebration said...

Remember though - we aren't evaluating or discussing the program at Coralwood - we are discussing construction money. SPLOST dollars can only go for construction - not for programs or any other kind of therapy or instruction.

All schools have construction needs. At least in past SPLOSTs there was a priority list of needs. We don't seem to have that here. This SPLOST is literally a kitchen sink approach. Promises are being made simply in an effort to garner votes. But watch, once the money begins to flow, project lists will change and grow.

teacher said...

I think it's both about SPLOST and whether the community should be absorbing the extra costs of Coralwood and Pre-K. Other school districts do not have Pre-k or programs like Coralwood to the extent that we do. I believe that before any more money is spent DCSS really needs to have a plan, set priorities, and decide if it is going to offer most children a sub par education, while a few get get something better.

To be this is more than SPLOST, it's about lack of vision, it's about paying people off, and it's about funneling money to friends.

The cost of Coralwood's plans seems really steep. This should be looked into further. The entire thing doesn't pass the smell test.

Cerebration said...

Exactly Teacher! Well stated -- and worth repeating:

I believe that before any more money is spent DCSS really needs to have a plan, set priorities, and decide if it is going to [continue to] offer most children a sub par education, while a few get something better.

To be this is more than SPLOST, it's about lack of vision, it's about paying people off, and it's about funneling money to friends.

Cerebration said...

FWIW- Coralwood is listed as a School Center, not a School. Here is the list of DCSS School Centers -

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
Eagle Woods Academy
Coralwood Diagnostic Center
Fernbank Science Center
DeKalb Alternative School
Gateway to College Academy
DeKalb Alternative Night School
International Student Center
DeKalb HS of Technology South
Margaret Harris Comprehensive School
DeKalb Transition Academy
Shadow Rock Center
Destiny Academy of Excellence
Warren Technical School

atl said...

Considering taxpayers spend around $7,000,000 A YEAR to operate Fernbank Science Center while our students experience steadily declining science scores, this cost center should be evaluated.

Do we really want to transport by DCSS school buses thousands of students to Fernbank Science Center for once or twice a year for a 2 hour science lesson? This is a 1950's way to deliver science. How can this possibly be cost justified in this era of sky high gas prices and environmental degredation?

Conversely, if DCSS discontinues busing students to Fernbank Science Center and requires the FSC teachers to go out into the schools, then why would DCSS even need the science center? The FSC teachers could be based in schools throughout the county and operate out of existing buildings. Either way you look at it, millions a year could be recovered for the educational needs of DCSS students.

Remember that only 29 employees at Fernbank Science Center are teachers, while 36 of the employees are admin and support.

$7,000,000 a year over the next decade (and this figure will increase with the gas prices) means a $70,000,000 investment (yes - that is 70 million) for this outdated way of delivering science instruction. Is this is a part of the DCSS 2020 vision plan?

Fernbank Science Center has been virtually left untouched as hundreds of teacher positions have been cut and local schools are being closed.

Marshall Orson sent a letter to the DCSS Board of Education from the Fernbank Elementary School Council last eyar asking that they leave Fernbank Science Center intact but supported the closure of regular education schools that students attend day after day. I guess the Fernbank community carries plenty of clout.

Here is part of his letter and the link below allows you to read it in more detail:
"In these difficult times, we also believe it is critical to save programs that provide a point of distinction for DCSS and which are instrumental in recruiting and retaining students. The High Achievers Magnet programs fit this role as does the Fernbank Science Center and its programs....Reluctantly, we must also urge the consolidation of more than four schools. DeKalb has a long history of small neighborhood schools, an arrangement we can no longer afford."

http://ns2.portalhood.com/story.php?title=a-letter-from-the-fernbank-elementary-school-council

Cerebration said...

Boy, when you read that letter, it really does sound odd. Certainly he didn't proof it for the implied message before he sent it. First he advocates paying more for special programs for successful students and then in order to balance the budget, he advocates for closing schools where students are already struggling. What about education? What about going into those struggling schools and putting PEOPLE in place to work with small groups and bring them up to grade level? I'd rather pay for more teachers than more buses to drive them to Fernbank once a year. Very weird priorities.

Cerebration said...

BTW - it could very well be that the future of education will be online learning with small group activities. Check out Khan Academy - your child can learn virtually ANYTHING here -- for free! It would be very possible for teachers to use technology in the classroom to play these videos and then work with the class to clarify and facilitate group projects. Also, if students missed class or felt that they didn't quite grasp the lesson, they could always replay it at anytime - and anywhere there's internet service. (Thus my push for iPads or something like that.)

Check it out - it's in our links listing on the side panel of the home page or copy and paste it here;

http://www.khanacademy.org/

Concerned said...

Conveniently selective editing. Here is the rest of the paragraph: "At the same time, we believe that Fernbank Science Center is one of the DCSS entities best positioned to seek longer term third party external support, particularly in the absence of any other science museum or center in the close-in Metro Atlanta area." The Science Center should be looking at private grants.

And Cere, really, are you now saying that consolidation was a bad thing?

What I find to be a "very weird priority" is the Henderson/Lakeside community advocating for Henderson to be filled to 144% capacity BEFORE there is SPLOST funding for an expansion. You can be sure that the Fernbank rebuild is linked to the Henderson expansion - a trade off for support of SPLOST IV.

Cerebration said...

That is even weirder! I guess I shouldn't comment since one comment only brings out more strange comments.(I don't even understand the HMS/Fernbank comment.)

I simply WISH that SOMEONE would put in place an EDUCATIONAL plan for our children that is aggressive and highly effective and hopefully uses technology to its fullest. From there - our board and administration should formulate a list of building, teaching, technology and support needs to accomplish this educational goal. THAT is what should be driving these plans for buildings and consolidation - not anyone's opinions or personal desires or sacred cows.

teacher said...

I see Fernbank as a necessity. The lessons that the children get (twice a year in elementary school) can be the only real science experiments that a child receives that year. Science and social studies lessons are pushed to the side for more reading and math, as that is what earns a school AYP.

There are so many problems with the way that our children are currently taught, that the hands on classes that children receive at Fernbank should not be touched. I am sure that they could do with less in the way of exhibit coordinator and things, as in the four years that I have been here, no new exhibits and the planetarium show for 4th grade is pitiful, as it's too cartoony and not educational enough.

If we get rid of Fernbank, than the theme and magnet programs also need to go. The problem is that some of our children get educated while others are not. There is no vision in our district for what we want it to look like. There are only back room deals, and greasing the palms of friends and family members. Those making decisions aren't putting the children first, and until this is done, DeKalb will always have an inferior product.

atl said...

@ teacher
No child can master science concepts in a once or twice a year science lesson. The $7,000,000 we spend on Fernbank Science Center would be better spent on 100+ science teachers ($65,000 average per teacher) spread throughout the county.

Are you aware that many of our science teachers buy science supplies and equipment out of their own pockets because the county doesn't provide it? Just a small fraction of that money that goes to FSC could ensure every student has access to top notch science equipment.

Lastly, are you comfortable with having 35 admin and support to 29 teachers at Fernbank?

Mastery of science content ONLY comes with DAILY instruction by competent science instructors. There are no shortcuts.

sharon said...

Misinformation! We do not spend $7,000,000 on Fernbank. Look at this or last year's budget.