Sunday, October 30, 2011

To SPLOST or not to SPLOST


The Get Schooled blog at the AJC has a conversation going about politician's views on SPLOST - the penny sales tax up for renewal for school construction. Former mayor Shirley Franklin stated,

"I have been surprised at the opposition toward the education SPLOST on the Nov. 8 ballot in Atlanta, Fulton, DeKalb, Decatur, Gwinnett, Buford, Cherokee and Henry."

Given the stark reduction in state funds for education and the depressed housing market, schools are in desperate straits, and there would seem to be no more critical time to renew the penny sales tax for construction and capital improvements than now.

Among those who have not signed on — Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the business community. In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this year, Reed said the penny — which has helped build or renovate 84 city schools or other buildings in the last 15 years— instead needs to go to a regional transportation plan expected to be put to voters next year.

Reed did not want the school system to seek to renew its SPLOST because Atlanta residents will be asked three times to raise their taxes between November and July. In March, Atlantans will vote on an extension of a 1-cent sales tax to upgrade the city’s water and sewer system, and later deal with another penny tax on the transportation bill. If both were to pass, Reed warned that the city would have the state’s highest sales tax at 9 percent and would be at a competitive disadvantage.


There is a standard mantra among SPLOST supporters that somehow this is "free" money - or at least money we collect a large portion of from our visitors, therefore, why not? I have some personal thoughts on why not:

1) We are in the middle of a $100 million lawsuit over SPLOST II construction that has cost us $15+ million and committed us to another $19+ million in legal fees - which comes from the General Operating budget - not the SPLOST budget — thus taking directly from the money earmarked for our children's education. We need to resolve these lawsuits, identify exactly how deep the corruption goes and put practices in place to prevent future mishaps.  Further, SPLOST money, projects and discussions take time, energy and attention away from the main task of the school board: Educating Students. Our test scores show the dismal job our board has done in this endeavor.

2) We have criminal charges looming and criminal trials yet to take place involving SPLOST and our former superintendent, our former COO and others. This is bad news and will require additional resources and attention as the trial moves forward. (BTW, these trials can now move forward, as the decision has been handed down that Lewis can keep his Alston & Bird attorney. Read about it and download the decision here.)  Compounding the taxpayers cost for defending our employees, is the fact that taxpayers are also funding the plaintiff in this story; the taxpayers themselves via the District Attorney's office. Finish the corruption cases and identify and release any and all other 'players' that emerge during the trial and then revisit restructuring the system. This includes restructuring the Auditing and Accounting offices. Any future SPLOST dollars should be monitored, reviewed and paid by an independent firm, with citizen oversight and transparency via the Online Check Register.

3) The current plan is not focused. There are projects promised in SPLOST IV that were listed as political favors for a chosen few who are very organized and very vocal. We will still have schools with great needs that will not get their needs addressed in full. Like our curriculum, the project list is vast, yet vague. A more focused, educationally-driven plan needs drawn. We need to give our new superintendent a year to develop that plan. As it stands now, she will be forced to redesign an educational system within the confines of the structures currently planned on the table. I would like to offer Dr. Atkinson the chance to first create a vision for educating our 100,000 children and then formulate a brick and mortar and technology plan to support it. SPLOST IV as it stands will tie her hands. What if she decides that a superb vocational/tech high school would feed a demand? She can't create it, as the SPLOST plan must be followed as written for the vote. What if she has other great ideas and would like to propose facilities to house those ideas? She won't have that option. She must work within the buildings as planned by SPLOST IV. By voting for SPLOST IV, we will be forcing our new superintendent to effectively work backwards with her hands tied and one eye closed.  Allow her the time and the freedom to formulate a vision and a plan to turn this ship around in every way, for every child.

GeorgiaSPLOST.org points out the drawback of SPLOST fundraising, which I believe is what has happened consistently in DeKalb. "In practice the SPLOSTs combine many projects into one referendum. Often many of the projects do not enjoy broad community support but are included in the list as a favor to certain special interests. The voters often have to vote for five or ten projects that they oppose in order to pass the two or three that they strongly support. Another problem with current practice is that SPLOST referendums are often held concurrent with elections with low expected voter turnout and the special interests promoting the SPLOST can have a greater effect on the referendum." This is why every SPLOST passes. There is always a very vocal group promised a project they have dreamed of for years. This group will promote the referendum with fervor, ensuring that it passes in order to have their own dreams realized, regardless of how inequitably the rest of the money is spent or (mis)managed.

As far as Shirley Franklin and others go, I find it interesting that some politicians get up in arms when voters question handing hundreds of millions of dollars over to a school board that has failed miserably in it's one and only true task: Educating our children. Why is it that people like the good mayor will advocate for new buildings, but not advocate for great reading and math scores? Why don't politicians feel compelled to make it Job #1 to provide a highly qualified, educated workforce to entice new business to incubate or locate in Georgia? Why are they not ripping their hair out in angst over being rated #49 in the US in education year after year? Glitzy buildings don't educate students – gifted teachers do. We need to make our universities train up the best teachers in the country and then we need to pay them well so that they will stay in Georgia and teach our own children.

The leadership in DeKalb has proven that when given bags of money, they will spend most of their energy finding ways to divert that money to their own and their friends' pockets and neighborhoods. Watch any board meeting in DeKalb; over half the time is spent discussing construction contracts. Improve test scores by hiring great teachers and principals and then supporting them in their task by paying them well, offering consistent, quality training, in-class support staff and smaller class sizes. When we have a functional educational system, then our construction needs will be easy to identify and voters will support those needs. 

Form follows function. We need to get our function – which is to educate – in order before we start planning the form (buildings). Maybe next time...

156 comments:

Kim Gokce said...

About the most well-reasoned narrative I've seen yet, Cere. I have been on the fence about SPLOST IV but have started becoming more and more negative on the subject the more I allow myself to think about it (I try not to, frankly).

On the positive side of the argument, though, I could add one very cynical case - what if the system NEVER gets it act together in terms of program/plans? Then continuing SPOST funding becomes most necessary to compensate for the horrific and inefficient management efforts of DCSS on an ongoing basis, does it not?

As abysmal as this picture is I am starting to believe that may" be most accurate. I may start a "Vote YES SPLOST IV" campaign with this slogan:

"Invest more, slow our decline"

Now THAT is inspiring ...

Cerebration said...

@Kim - Your point coincides with others who effectively say, "VOTE YES for SPLOST because despite the corruption, mismanagement and lack of vision, some of the money does end up being spent properly."

Yes, there really are people who can accept a certain level of mismanagement and corruption in order to get toilets that flush.

Anonymous said...

Cere,
I find this post a bit smug now that Lakeside is undergoing its renovation. What happened to the pictures of the decay at Lakeside and Cross Keys that used to be on this blog? Where is the outrage now?

How convenient to imply that the current SPLOST list is somehow problematic. Really, there is some extremely hypocritical reasoning going in here. How about some pictures of the decay at the schools on the current SPLOST list?

Oh, yes, that's right, not so much an issue now that Lakeside is being renovated.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:11--the Lakeside renovation is example #1 as to what is wrong with SPLOST. It's a bizarre project, adding all those classrooms and an auditorium to a building that should have really just been torn down; it is putting lipstick on a pig. Indeed, it really shouldn't be the high school; Henderson should, by dint of a bigger facility, more land, easier access and better parking. Had there been true planning and leadership, someone would have realized that and gotten it done, rather than kowtow to the semi-demi gods of the Lakeside corridor. As a Lakeside resident who voted against SPLOST III (I could see that making Lakeside larger would mean packing in more administrative transfers and CO kids), I see no benefit in IV, either. There is no rhyme or reason to the projects, just throw the money out there and see what sticks.

Great post, Cere. I'm sick of using SPLOST to build buildings where no education occurs.

Anonymous said...

I believe that this SPLOST vote, as with all others are simply ways for politicians to get projects funded that really aren't necessary or done to the best of one's ability. SPLOST is brought to people, as it's only a penny, but pennies add up. I haven't seen any of DCSS SPLOST used in the wisest of matters and feel that the SPLOST for transportation will be the same way. We keep funding programs/projects that we really can't afford, aren't thought out, and aren't always necessary.

Anonymous said...

Fernbank has the most powerful PTA in the county, if not one of the most powerful in the state. They endorsed Gene Walker because he promised them they would be re-districted, even though sending districts do change over the course of ten years, and that they would be one of the first buildings to be renovated in SPLOST IV, even though their facility is solid and needs minor not major renovation.

Fernbank is pulling out all the stops for SPLOST IV. With that group behind it in full force, it's going to pass. And when it does, it will unfortunately probably get Gene Walker one more term in office.

Anonymous said...

Sorry:
They endorsed Gene Walker because he promised them they would be not re-districted

Anonymous said...

Maureen Downey

October 29th, 2011
4:52 pm

To all: A note from an AJC reporter who is working on a SPLOST story:

Several school districts have Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) for education referendums on the ballot in November. Staff writer Nancy Badertscher is interested in talking with parents in communities where this is on the ballot to see whether they plan to support or vote against the local education SPLOST. If you have an opinion and wouldn’t mind being quoted, please contact Nancy at nbadertscher@ajc.com or 770-263-3641.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Lakeside's project is a great example of why SPLOST needs to come to a screeching halt. The project was ill-conceived and came after years of task force meetings that brought a former board member to the table - one who wants to make sure her grandchildren's high school will be what she wants. It is a prime example of political patronage. Lakeside now has virtually no parking or maneuvering room and it's right on top of Briarcliff Rd - one of the busiest corridors in the area. So don't for one minute think "Lakeside got theirs" so now they don't care if there's no more SPLOST. It is very, very clear that renovations are being made at the wrong places for the wrong reasons. I agree with the poster who said Henderson should have been made the high school in the cluster.

Anonymous said...

We trust them with our money?

http://championnewspaper.com/news/articles/1147teachers-at-chamblee-high-express-concerns-over-repeated-break-ins-1147.html

Several teachers at Chamblee High School are expressing concern after having their classrooms broken into and expensive equipment stolen for the second time in less than two months.

Currently, Chamblee High is being rebuilt and during the next several years classes will be held in trailers behind the school. Teacher Jennifer Tinnel, whose classroom was broken into over the Columbus Day weekend, said she was worried that not enough precautions have been taken to secure what school officials term “the instructional village.”

“Well, this is the second time this year that it has happened that we know of. The first time was over Labor Day weekend. One thing that they have in common is they’ve both been over long weekends,” Tinnel said.

Tinnel said that both weekends the doors to several trailers were pulled open and computers and projectors were stolen, in addition to tests being torn up and desks being rummaged through.

“We have been told so little and the people whose trailers were broken into this weekend have not been addressed as a group,” Tinnel said.

Another teacher at the high school, who did not want to be named, said she had spoken with Principal Rochelle Lowery, who told her that none of the items were being replaced because they would just get stolen again.

Lowery was contacted for comment but did not return repeated phone calls by deadline.

Anonymous said...

These things normally work by spreading the projects around. The list actually looks reasonable this time and well thought out.

But I wouldn't say Fernbank's community (other than the leadership) is fully behind it. There's a lot of people skeptical about the board. And the school district is trying its bullying tactics and several people I have talked to, including myself, REALLY resent it. In the Fernbank newsletter, they mention part of the homestead exemption would go away and claim that without the SPLOST state law will not allow the reduction in the number of school board members. In addition, there's the clear threat, "Finally, without funding for a new Fernbank facility, school officials have advised that Fernbank will be placed on the next redistricting agenda."

Cerebration said...

Yes, Lakeside is finally getting a renovation. However, I too think that this went over the top. Our complaints were about leaking toilets and roofs as well as dangerous stairs and a lack of science equipment. For some reason, the administration (at the direction of Paul Womack) decided to add not only the 8 classroom career tech and auditorium addition that has been promised to all high schools except Cross Keys, they added a whole wing with something like 28 additional classrooms. That will make Lakeside, which is landlocked and difficult to access, the school with the biggest capacity in the county. I have to wonder why. See, these are the kinds of things that you get when elected officials are allowed to 'lobby' for their personal desires.

Additionally, Womack lobbied hard for the Coralwood school. This SPLOST now contains $10 million for things like a therapy pool at this school for about 200 pre-k through 1st grade students, half of whom have special needs. Yet, when these children and others, move up to their local elementary school, many will not even be able to gain access through the front doors as so many of our buildings are not built for wheelchair access throughout. At Hawthorne, for example, students in wheelchairs have to enter through a back door. I have no issues with Coralwood and I think the school is wonderful - but in DeKalb, it comes at an expense to others.

Cross Keys, which was listed as #2 on the list of priorities for SPLOST III, finally did get part of the building nicely renovated at the very end of SPLOST III spending. Much of it, however, went to the areas of the school where they merged the High School of Technology (which had $10 million in the budget slated for the move). Parts of the building are still old - and the track and outdoor athletics are in bad shape. And, whatever happened to the planned addition to MLK?

On another note - are we really ready to spend millions upon millions on turf for our athletic fields when we haven't completed all of the roofing, science supplies and other needs for general education? There is no priority list attached here so it's impossible to know if or when items on the list will be addressed. Again, it leaves the door open to a strictly political process. Squeaky wheels will get greased first.

I have to wonder why Fernbank has become a tear-down. When I first met Pat Pope, it was at an ELPC meeting at Fernbank ES. She was bragging about the renovations that had been done there and revealed that her husband had been the architect. They had a beautiful new atrium among other things. Are we now supposed to believe it's a good idea to trash all that work and start from scratch?

I'm not saying SPLOST in general on it's face is a bad idea, I'm just saying that this plan is fuzzy. We need to stop and create a true vision with an accompanying very specific plan. There are buses requested on this SPLOST along with radio equipment and security equipment. These things were also in SPLOSTs 1, 2 and 3. Did we not spend that money? Why do we still have these needs? For that matter, why do we still seem to have $2 Billion in needs? That was the number tossed about before SPLOST 1. After $1.5 Billion collected, have we not made some kind of dent in the needs?

Read Kim's post on that subject.

There's a Hole in My Bucket, Dear Liza

DCSS Teacher said...

Given Dr. Atkinson's plan to "evaluate every job and salary in the school system" (http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-hiring-a-consultant-1210750.html), a welcome move to me despite the fiasco of the previous "Compensation Survey" under Dr. Lewis, it seems like a bad time to vote on SPLOST IV. Changes in who works here will--SHOULD--result in different priorities for what DCSD builds. Particularly because much of the corruption in the past has involved construction, this is the time to go slowly. As bad as crumbling buildings are, the impact on learning of having 44 kids in a science lab or ineffective, inconsistent disciplinary prodecures, is worse.

In the ideal world: If admin staff positions are reduced, class sizes brought to a teachable number, local schools improved to the point where hundreds of students won't need to be bused hours and hours each week, and a curriculum instituted that doesn't leave so many kids behind, the infrastructure of the district will have to change. But HOW, is not clear as yet, and handing money to the school system now, based on current conditions, just encourages stasis.

It's like designing a house without knowing who will live there. DeKalb needs to create a plan for its next 5, 10, and 20 years based on its educational objectives, and then stick to it.

Cerebration said...

Excellent points, Teacher.

Others have mentioned voting for SPLOST in order to change the size of the board and redraw district lines. The two are not tied.

The district lines will be redrawn regardless of the passage of SPLOST. These are redrawn every time the Census is conducted. The only issue is the reduction in the size of the board, which has some language in the new law saying that counties with an Education SPLOST as well as a homestead option sales can have no more than 7 board members—language that can be changed in the winter legislative session.

So whether we end up with 7 or 9 members, the voting districts will still be redrawn according to population, which has substantially decreased in south DeKalb and substantially increased in north DeKalb. Ironically, SPLOST construction money is scheduled to be spent evenly around the county even though the growth in the north end clearly shows that schools there will continue to be over-crowded.

dundevil said...

My thinking is coming around to that expressed by Kim. I probably won't be voting yes.

Yes.. SPLOST has been, and probably will continue to be, riddled with inefficiency in planning and execution, incompetency, waste, fraud, corruption and a few other things.

Yes, the BOE is dysfunctional and incompetent, will not know how to properly handle the SPLOST funds, and fosters favoritism, nepotism and cronyism.

But will denying a paltry one cent per dollar for SPLOST IV change anything? I think not.

Kim is right that the investment slows the decline. Perhaps maybe a few children will benefit somehow. Also, think of the positive effect that SPLOST will have on the economy in keeping the local incompetent contractors associated with the right people busy and making money to buy those fancy cars.

Think of the SPLOST IV money as like helping addict buy more heroin. Maybe there will be an overdose that will blow open the outhouse and the entire system will get the help from the outside that it really needs.

dundevil said...

Correction. I probably WILL be voting YES.

Cerebration said...

You're funny Dun...

BTW -- here's a chart of how much a penny actually costs consumers ---

If you spend this much a month > You will pay this much in penny sales tax in a year

$1000 > $120 (over 5 yrs = $600)
$1200 > $144 (over 5 yrs = $720)
$1400 > $168 (over 5 yrs = $840)
$1600 > $192 (over 5 yrs = $960)
$1800 > $216 (over 5 yrs = $1080)
$2000 > $240 (over 5 yrs = $1200)
$3000 > $360 (over 5 yrs = $1800)
$4000 > $480 (over 5 yrs = $2400)

Anonymous said...

Actually, Cere, it’s Henderson Middle School that lacks a wheelchair accessible front entrance, not Hawthorne. Hawthorne lacks ADA-compliant bathrooms (and a lot of other things). You don’t hear much about those schools from the Coralwood families, even though Hawthorne has a partnership with Coralwood and is a Henderson feeder school.

As much as I’d like to see improvements to our schools, I’m voting NO for SPLOST IV:
1. I think Dr. Atkinson deserves some input into the SPLOST IV referendum, so that it can align with her plans to turn DCSD around.
2. I’m frustrated that the Board of Ed. made last minute changes to the MGT America recommendations without allowing ample time for public input.
3. I’m fearful that the referendum, as it is currently written, will result in more lawsuits before we have even resolved the SPLOST II lawsuits.
4. I’m disgusted that more and more of my property taxes that are supposed to be used for educating children are being used to pay legal fees.
5. I’m confident that reducing the number of BOE members from 9 to 7 will do nothing to change the corruption in DCSD and the BOE.

I want Dr. Atkinson to clean house at DCSD, develop a true vision for DCSD, and create a new SPLOST IV referendum that will allow for public input and legal scrutiny before it is put on the ballot.

Put a revised SPLOST IV on the ballot in 2012, and I will probably vote YES.

Cerebration said...

Well, it must be both... I was told about Hawthorne by a very upset parent.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing the math for us, Cere.

Have you noticed the pro-SPLOST signs? Their slogan is "Better schools & Lower property taxes". They had to put the word "property" in there, because the failure of SPLOST will actually result in a significant consumer tax savings in spite of the $57 property tax increase.

Anonymous said...

@ Cere 10:23 am

You know where the $10 million for Coralwood Preschool's therapy pool addition came from? The Board conveniently took $10 million away from school athletic facilities and fields! The stadium improvements were kept, but most of the money for schools was taken away.

It's funny that none of the teams, coaches, or booster club parents raised a stink about that revision to SPLOST IV. Aren't they aware? Or do they know that they will get their improvements, one way or another, regardless of SPLOST?

I have nothing against therapy pools for handicapped preschoolers; It's a wonderful concept that I am sure all students will benefit from. I just think that safe and well-maintained athletic facilites and fields for required physical education classes are a good concept, too. Don't other parents, teachers, and taxpayers agree?

Cerebration said...

Yes, it was a tough choice. Just like family decisions, we have to prioritize... you may all notice that the superintendent's plan that was finally put to the board by Ms Tyson didn't have money in it for Coralwood. Do you think it was an oversight? OR do you think that perhaps she anguished over how to best spend the money she had to work with and decided to put it where it will help the greatest number of students? Then lo and behold! Womack does an end-game runaround and works it in just before the vote. (Don't think for one minute that this wheeling-dealing was sudden. These things are done behind the scenes on every board item by Womack and others. This kind of quid pro quo must stop.)

Anonymous said...

The woman in charge of the Coralwood proposals is a close relative of Elaine Boyer's. Republicans united for control of every penny.

Cerebration said...

Good News! Dr. A is on the warpath... I can dig this!

School security is near the top of the "to-do" list for DeKalb County School Superintendent Cheryl L.H. Atkinson, who is still in her first 90-day review of the entire school system. She told the DeKalb Board of Education Monday that is initiating a review across all of the district's 137 schools for problems involving discipline, including incidents that required involvement of the school police. "I want to look at where we are deploying resources," she said. "Down to the time of day. I want us to look at everything." No timetable was announced.

DeKalb School boss wants safety review of schools

Cerebration said...

And another --

DeKalb's new Superintendent Cheryl L.H. Atkinson is expected to hire an outside consultant firm on Friday to review every job and salary in the system to help eliminate wasteful spending of tax dollars and direct more money to the classrooms. Atkinson announced the deadline at a special meeting on Monday morning. School spokesman Walter Woods said that there currently isn't a list of consulting finalists and no potential contract fees have been made public. Woods said Atkinson wants to move fast because the students don't have time to wait.

DeKalb School boss to decide on school auditors

I'd REALLY like to give Dr. A. the opportunity to redesign our entire system and write up a plan for how to accomplish her goals -- including possibly building new schools or consolidating and renovating others. I think she can do this with no trouble - she's a very straightforward leader who seems to be thinking of the children first and foremost.

Cerebration said...

And now she's presented a new "Theory of Action for Change"... you can review it on the school system's website.

Theory of Action for Change

The essence of the DeKalb County School System's "Theory of Action for Change" is to transform the school district from a system consisting of singular pockets of high-performance areas into a district-wide School System of Excellence. In order to achieve systemwide excellence, the Board of Education shall be fully committed to a process of managed instruction and performance/empowerment for the operation of schools as determined by appropriate criteria. Complementary to this commitment is the implementation of an aligned management system for continuous improvement and differentiated compensation and recognition based on demonstrated effectiveness for student growth and achievement.

Role of the Board of Education
The Board of Education will support the "Theory of Action for Change" by:

establishing Board of Education policies
establishing district-wide vision, mission, and goals
fostering a positive culture for high performance
supporting the school district's accountability system
supporting a differentiated staffing model and allocation of resources
providing sufficient capacity in facilities, systems, and resources


Click the link above to read the whole thing.

Impressive. I am smiling.

Anonymous said...

Cere

RE: Teardown at Fernbank

I can say the same thing for Pleasantdale. Somewhere in your vast array of notes, there was a brand new 8 or 12 room addition at this school to address a high number of trailers. So are we just going to scrap the new part that is only 2 or 3 years old? Or build around it! Where's the plan?
The plan?

Anonymous said...

Cere:

While you are checking your notes, you might see when Peachcrest had an addition--again to relieve the area from a high number of trailers. Are they going to tear down and throw away that entire project also? It looks as if we are trying to throw the dog a bone....or build a new elementary in each of the board member's districts!

Cerebration said...

True that. Austin ES also comes to mind. The proposal states that there will be a new Austin ES. No word on if it's a tear down and reubild at the current site or somewhere else. Is Austin in bad shape? I don't know. But I do know that Nancy Jester tried to have the wording changed before the vote to say a new ES school somewhere in the Dunwoody cluster as they will certainly need more seats in the future, they just aren't sure where. I've heard many say that they may need to build a school in the Perimeter mall area.

Anonymous said...

Thank you to Dr. Atkinson for looking at the putrid DCSS School Police Dept!! 200 staff members, two chiefs, nine detectives, and no performance at all. Why did the Board of Ed, Lewis, Tyson, Moseley, etc. all allow this department to fester for so long. Gene Walker's son is a SRO of course.

I really hope Atkinson follows through on auditing and changing this dept. She'll hear all the excuses from Tyson, Moseley, Bowen, etc. about why the dept. is the way it is. She needs to stick to her guns and re-org from top to bottom, and if that means a number of dismissals, then so be it.

Why have so many computers and air conditioning units been stolen from our schools?

What do SRO's do on all of the non-school days during the holidays and summer?

Why does the leadership of School Police Dept. allow DCSS non-school properties like Heritage to be unpatrolled?

Why are so many members of the School Police Dept. allowed to have tak home vehicles, when they are almost never called in on a night or weekend? That's a C Lew-like excessive perk allowed without oversight.

Why are there NINE detectives and how is their performance judged?

Why is it that MARTA Police catch so many truants from the DeKalb Alternative School with no assistance from DCSS School Police?

For elem schools, hire retired police officers, pay them a good hourly salary with no benefits, for those 180 schools days per year. Middle school and high schools do need two (sometimes three) SRO's at each school, BUT they need to be qualified and motivated.

Please make them go through the police academy. And PLEASE make sure they have an annual fitness test. DCSS has SRO's who could not jog 100 yards, which is shameful. A law enforcement officer should be expected to be in adequate physical condition.

The DCSS School Police Dept. is one of the lowest performing departments in the system. Atkinson can really make a mark here by tearing it down and re-building it to where it should be and with measurable return on investment metrics.

Go Dr. A!

Anonymous said...

I love what Dr. A is saying - but I fear for her. She needs to remove certain people quickly before they retaliate. There are families in DCSS who have much to lose if she begins peeling back the layers of scum. I predict that if she moves toward a major reorg and salary alignment, efforts to undermine her in other areas will commence. Stories will be fed to parent insiders and members of the media, questioning her judgement in other areas. This is precisely what Pat Pope (Reid) did in her early days, when she alleged mismanagement by Heery-Mitchell. It took our eye of the ball, and while we watched the development of the case against H-M, we didn't see her and Clew robbing us blind.

Anonymous said...

I live around the corner from Lakeside and what's going on right now is an eyesore, creates a severe parking problem and reminds me of the terrible job Yale was done on SW DeKalb HS during SPLOST IV. Stan Pritchett lost his job largely because of the SWD HS "remodel" that cost more than a brand new school and took 2 years of students and teachers sitting in trailers. I know teachers who left SWD and the system of DeKalb the mess was so bad. Ask the parents who had kids in the middle of that "renovation" how disruptive, unorganized, etc. it was.

Come by Lakeside and see for yourself if you think this is a quality project.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the typo. Should read:

I live around the corner from Lakeside and what's going on right now is an eyesore, creates a severe parking problem and reminds me of the terrible job tahat was done at SW DeKalb HS during SPLOST II.

Anonymous said...

As a taxpayer, it makes me sick that the brand new wing at Fernabank will be torn down. That wing is huge, modern, expensive, and very well done in that it blends with the unique architecture of the school. Go by and take a look.

What are the Board members thinking, and more to the point - what are the community members thinking? Is this just a way to keep from having some redistricting? There has to be more to this idea than they are publishing in those newsletters.

Anonymous said...

Pleasantdale is still in bad shape. That new wing didn't begin to address the instructional needs in that building. Go back and look at the building condition assessment done last spring.

Daniel said...

Cere - I've got some really mixed thoughts about the Theory of Action for Change.... one thing that really scares me though is it looks like Dr. A. will be having someone write lesson plans for every grade/every course without taking the teacher's strengths or weaknesses or the uniqueness of each individual class into account.

"Building on academic content and performance standards, the school
system will construct a curriculum that covers every subject for every grade in elementary and
middle school and every course in high school. The curriculum will be coherent, aligned and
detailed down to individual lesson plans, required teaching materials and sample assessments.
Professional development will be focused on the curriculum and how to teach it. Teaching will
be continually monitored and formative assessments will be frequently used to inform
instructional progress and a need for change."

Who is designing these assessments? I can say from experience the current benchmarks concern me - if the district-wide average is in the mid 50s to low 60s for a test, is there a problem with every single teacher in the district or maybe, just maybe, there's a problem with the test itself.

As far as SPLOST, I know SWD has its own line on there - and even though they took out the module buildings, there are still 18 classes in double-wides behind the building. At least with the module buildings, there were restrooms in each building and they were a little more secure than the trailers. I know things were messed up with SPLOST II/III, but we need to look at the fact that people who were in charge of those are now awaiting trial on racketeering charges. I would argue also that the big changes need to come with the November 6, 2012 election.

Cerebration said...

My hometown school system (an excellent system with national recognition) has such a curriculum. In fact, you can view it online in detail. You can see exactly what your child should be learning in any given subject in any year. Not so with DeKalb. They rely on the state for curriculum. Has anyone ever been able to find details about curriculum in DeKalb or Georgia?

I would say that perhaps we are failing because curriculum expectations are not defined. Perhaps many of our teachers are not teaching the core. Perhaps the items tested were never covered in class. That said, perhaps we have some poor teachers who either need help and training or need to find another job. I knew something was askew as far back as 2004 when we sorted out test scores in detail at Shamrock MS. The 'average' score in the school in given subjects was about 70, however upon closer examination, we found that students in the high achievers, etc were scoring in the high 90s and others were scoring in the 40s and 50s - creating a false median (mean?) score of 65-70. Ironically, very few students were actually scoring in the middle. It was an inverted bell curve. Two different worlds. And the chasm only grew wider in high school.

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration
" You can see exactly what your child should be learning in any given subject in any year. Not so with DeKalb. They rely on the state for curriculum. Has anyone ever been able to find details about curriculum in DeKalb or Georgia? "

DeKalb attempted to write their own curriculum once upon a time around 9 years ago. This curriculum was supposed to be produced on a series of CD roms and each learning objective would have Iinks to the Internet and lessons and activities. It was named TEACHMASTER, and the talk was in the Central Office that this was going to be marketed to other school systems because this was such a novel idea.

A very high priced person specializing in curriculum development was brought into DCSS, and she was given 5 very high priced coordinators to help produce this local curriculum guide. Meanwhile, the state of Georgia introduced an ONLINE curriculum while the development of DCSS TEACHMASTER took 2 years, was less than 50% complete, and relied on CD Roms (a technology that became obsolete as information moved online - not the forte of DCSS).

This group was broken up, and the high priced person and one of her coordinators were moved to MIS because no one really knew what to do with them. Others in the group got spread around as coordinators in the Central Office hierarchy.

5 employees making around $90,000 a year each at that time multiplied by 2 years meant that DCSS spent over $1,000,000 on this initiative, and NOT ONE EDUCATIONAL BENEFIT came from it. The entire project was doomed from the start - outdated technology, and the personnel who worked on it had not taught in decades, nor were they experts in the subject matter they were designing the curriculum for. They were so top down driven that they were not able to harness the knowledge base the DCSS grade level and content area master teachers possessed.

The high priced person - hired SPECIFICALLY to head up this project of a DCSS Curriculum which was completely defunct by 2003 - was shuffled from one department to another and remains in DCSS to this day. She is in the Office of School Improvement with salary and benefits of well over $100,000 a year, not too far under Audria Berry in salary because she was brought into DCSS many years ago as the DCSS Curriculum Director.

Just a little DCSS HISTORY.

No Duh said...

The thing that concerns me about a standard curriculum and the push to bring up everyone's scores is the lack of concern for the high achiever/gifted students. I didn't see anything in the "Theory" that pointed to seeking "the best." Just standardization.

Cerebration said...

Interesting history Anon. I am always curious why on earth Georgia and DeKalb think it's a good idea to create their own curriculum. Our district is very near the bottom of a state that ranks very near the bottom of the US. Wouldn't it just be prudent to say, buy a curriculum from Massachusetts or New Jersey and bring a highly experienced administrator here to help implement it? Why do they always insist on inventing their own wheel? Especially when they seem to still believe that wheels are square.

Anonymous said...

As a former teacher in DCSS, the problem is that people are writing the curriculum for someone else to teach. As a teacher, I don't want someone else telling me how to teach something, I want to know what I am to cover, when it needs to be covered and let me use my creativity, knowledge, and special bond with my kids to do the rest.

I agree that there should be more continuity with what is taught when, but paying someone to write teacher lessons is a gross waste of financial resources. This is what I went to college for, and what I enjoy doing. Often the curriculum that we were to teach was poorly written, full of errors, or I didn't have the materials that I needed to teach in the way the lesson plans specified.

Also the benchmark tests were the poorest tests that I have ever seen. Half of the questions did not go with the material that I was to teach. They were poorly written and riddled with errors.

Until the County realizes these things, parents like myself will not send their child to even a "good" school in DCSS: 1. Allow teachers to teach the curriculum the way that they see fit. Supervise them and get rid of those that do not show creativity, distribute worksheets, and who simply are not educating our children., 2. Stop with the Administration led/written benchmark tests and lesson plans. As a teacher, I want to be treated like a professional, responsible for my students' learning. I don't want to be expected to perform miracles, but I expect all children to show growth., 3. Raise expectations for ALL students. Demand student achievement, stop the multiple chance garbage, and give kids the grades they earn and not what parents want them to receive.Hold kids back if necessary but our kids could do better if the expectations were higher., 4. Increase discipline in our schools, of everyone. From the janitor who is not doing their job to the child that disrupts a class, to the bus driver that cusses at the children, to the maintenance person who has no clue of what they are doing. Excellence breeds excellence, and mediocrity breeds mediocrity., 5. If you expect intelligent teachers to stay, allow them to use their brains. Spot light teachers who are doing exceptional jobs. It doesn't have to be with money or salary, but even money to spend on school supplies is very appreciated. Following someone else's curriculum and lesson plans is not teaching, and is not what I spent tens of thousands of dollars on for my education. It's an insult to me, and so I left. Others felt the same way, having to teach mediocre material is not what professionals do. It doesn't keep good teachers in DCSS and it doesn't encourage good teaching to happen in any classroom within the district. It's too easy for someone to say, this is what the district wants me to teach. We all know that parents in some schools won't stand for this subpar approach, so we will continue to have haves and have nots.

A curriculum outline is the best way to allow teachers to teach and use their skills, get their children engaged in the material, and have everyone have ownership of what is happening in the classroom.

Anonymous said...

@ Cere 9:38 I believe that they want to create their own curriculum because it keeps money and jobs within the friends and family plan. Looking elsewhere and seeing what is successful in places with higher test scores would not allow for the friends and family plan to continue. It would also show that those in charge of important parts of our district do not know of what they speak.

Keeping everything within the confides of DCSS, allows for the corruption to continue and go unchecked. No one loses their job, and in fact more often are making more money than they normally would be.

Anonymous said...

Surprised that Dr. Atkinson did not bring some of her own people in (from her previous staff)to replace some of the slackers in DCSS CO.

Anonymous said...

See websites below for the fanfare that accompanied TEACHMASTER, the DCSS curriculum just a click away. It was part of Plato, another multimillion dollarCD Rom software technology purchase that few schools used. The plans are always grandiose in DCSS, but rarely are executed in a timely or effective manner. Eventually, plans are changed without any benefits trickling down to the schoolhouse, and all those millions down the drain.

Teachmaster, High Schools That Work, Plato Course Replacement, Springboard, etc. millions and millions were/are spent with no educational accountability. Personnel are made Central Office employees to oversee and implement them, they are abandoned in a few years and all that expensive personnel stays in the Central Office at higher salaries than they could ever make as a teacher. They just get shuffled around.

This is why we must vote NO to SPLOST IV and tell your church members, neighbors and friends to vote NO.

It's hard. I've never voted no to SPLOST or any bond referendum for education, but until there's a real educational plan - not just more coaches and more coordinators wandering around the hallways and more expensive ineffective and often non-working programs and technology, and unless these programs have some academic accountability, then I just can't see throwing good money after bad.

Teachmaster:
http://math-forum.org/kb/thread.jspa?messageID=1481828&tstart=0

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=96398&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=538163&highlight=

Cerebration said...

"I don't want someone else telling me how to teach something, I want to know what I am to cover, when it needs to be covered and let me use my creativity, knowledge, and special bond with my kids to do the rest. "

I thought that was exactly how it was done... at least, that's how it's done in my hometown I spoke of. Teachers are granted professional respect in the assumption that they know HOW to teach. The curriculum just lays out WHAT is to be taught. There are no scripts - teachers make their own lesson plans. My mother-in-law was a teacher for 30 years and spent a lot of time on lesson plans - which were always checked by her principal... my husband could never understand why principals didn't check lesson plans and why teachers didn't ever seem to be writing them here in GA.

Cerebration said...

Something's not working with your first link, anon. Could you repost?

Daniel said...

Cere - look at what I posted earlier - it looks exactly like Dr. A. wants someone else writing my lesson plans and telling me exactly what to do and when to do it. Why have teachers?

Anonymous said...

I'll veer off-topic with the most recent posts. I have to admit that this is mostly from memory and is not my everyday function, so don't necessarily trust me -- please verify.

About the effort with a curriculum, and to provide a bit of history: The individual referred to a few posts above who "still today" is working in the district and who was brought in to develop a curriculum. First, the individual was brought in before the advent of the GA legislation approving HB1187 and the A+ Education Reform Act (which included standards-based assessments, and which was also BEFORE NCLB became law). At that time, and I believe still today, Cobb and Gwinnett had their curricula. The reason the person was brought in was in part due to the first-in-a-long-time, if ever, "Curriculum Audit" of DeKalb Schools, commissioned by Dr. Hallford and performed by Phi Delta Kappa. 10 or 12 areas were identified in this audit as needing attention of some sort, including board policies promoting the delivery of a curriculum, and the actual delivery of a curriculum -- which as I recall PDK found DeKalb didn't even have. Now, the individual mentioned above was brought in to develop a curriculum, laid out a blueprint, tagged the first few (five, I believe) subjects, and began the rollout -- all without having any responsibility for the delivery of the efforts. Yes, there was some confusion in the schoolhouses. Books and manuals were delivered for say, Business Ed. and computer skills, but without the necessary wiring in all of the schools to effectively teach it. But (right or wrong), it was not in that person's universe to be responsible for delivery -- just development.

Fast forward to NCLB and the Georgia politics of Roy Barnes, the flag, the teachers hating him, and the development of STANDARDS at the state level to prepare for NCLB. There was a long time when even on the state DOE website depicting the "standards", it was quick to point out that they were just that -- STANDARDS, and NOT a curriculum -- and that they were considered to be the bare minimum for what was to be taught in schools. A sort of caveat emptor.

How could anyone think that to adhere to state standards is in fact a curriculum? I'm not a teaching professional, but in a few seconds I could pull lots of information on the distinction between, and the debate ongoing, of standards vs. curriculum. Standards does not a curriculum make. And if Gwinnett and Cobb had their own curricula, why shouldn't the third largest district in the state? And why do teachers and administrators, when asked what DeKalb's curriculum is, answer that said curriculum is the GA standards? I don't get it IF everyone is supposed to know the distinction.

So! There's the Development of, the Delivery of, and against the Backdrop of, curricula. But geesh -- I point out again that Gwinnett and Cobb managed to do it without any drama, at least that the greater public is aware of. It just happened. Don't blame "the individual" if delivery wasn't up to par, or if the timing was terrible (state and federal legislation). And for heaven's sake, don't then take your blame and somehow create a nefarious scenario with the new superintendent's intentions. Apples, oranges.

Anonymous said...

And one more thing..... the "individual" who in the earlier post was construed to have wasted money with no educational benefit? That individual undertook each subject in the rollout of the curriculum with first a committee of subject teachers, or SME's. So to infer that the entire effort was wasteful and without input is patently false. On this my memory is crystal clear.

Also, another point of terrible timing for this rollout: the retirement of Dr. Hallford and the incoming reign of a new administration. They evidently had no use for something as trivial as a curriculum, and put no effort into as that administration had its own ideas. Needless to say, the individual was indeed banished to the hinterlands -- but stayed on in the determination to try and make a difference for students.

We can see here that one problem with promulgating history is that it is always done so through the prism of the history provider. Yikes!

resident2012 said...

SPLOST is a political game and one stacked against the taxpayers. The elected officials who play with the tax funds can say when the money is wasted 'you voted for it" . If the BOE raised property taxes and wasted the money they would be held responsible and booted out of office. This is the best of all possible world for them. The of schedule election is also a easy one to steer to victory as you have thousands of school employee voters who are hoping for some trickle down of this windfall. They are thinking 'if this passes maybe they will build us a decent bathroom for me to use'. One percent, who's gonna notice that? It's like the one dollar lottery tickets, you never know you're being robbed when it's penny by penny. The difference this year is that more people will be voting in an this obscure election. The wild card this round is the Sunday booze voters. Lets see what happens.
And please will someone end this rigged game and start a movement to only have the SPLOST votes on years of Presidential elections. It's time we made this a fair game.

Anonymous said...

Rather than lesson plans written by someone in the central office, many years removed from the classroom, a lesson plan wiki makes more sense. Wikiteach already exists and as states move to common standards, there is no reason a Georgia teacher shouldn't be able to use lesson plans created by teachers in other states. While veteran teachers may thrive on the creativity of their own planning, newer teachers often struggle with this and having an easily accessible bank of lesson plans that they can then modify is a real help.
http://www.wikiteach.org/

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Dr. Atkinson must get rid of some at the Palace or she will be doomed from the start. it looks as if she has started but the new people brought in were done quietly and the two or three re-assignments have been kept quiet as well. Why? I bet the majority of taxpayers would be very happy when the Clew Crew is shown the door. These folks have been given chance after chance to improve DCSS(D?) They have obviously failed in many ways.

If these people are not shown the door, Dr. Atkinson could very well end up like Johnny Brown. The long-time insiders are nervous but there hasn't been much change yet. I hope it's coming.

How about that WSB-TV report last night? Super-ceded Indictment!? Looks like Pat Pope is ready to sing and point all fingers at Clew. Could get interesting if Mark Winne's reporting is true.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

WIKITEACH!? REALLY? As long as it does NOT involve WIKIPEDIA, maybe. I thank God everyday when I hear my sons come home and say they are not allowed to use Wikipedia as a research source. Hard to know what's actually factual and not around the wikipedia pages.

I'd like to hear more about Wikiteach, but right now anything with a wiki as a prefix gives me the wiki-willies!

Anonymous said...

AMG: the term "wiki" refers to the collaborative features of a website or project - not that it hasn't been verified as is the case with Wikipedia.There are incredible online resources out there both to support creative lesson planning and to reinforce content mastery. Wikiteach has all sorts of learning tools - online flash cards, pop quizes, reading to go deeper into a topic. Independent (private) school teachers use wikipages to great success. Students can also post their papers electronically through this site.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 11:58/12:54 pm

The Teachmaster project promised to develop and deliver a DeKalb curriculum to the DCSS classrooms. That's why it was to be put on CD Roms and later installed on all teachers' computers. The development part was not completed even though the program "shell"was bought for $232,000 from Plato, and well over $1,000,000 was spent over 2 years on the salaries and benefits alone for the "team" of Central Office administrators who were dedicated solely to developing this project. The development end didn't get finished, let alone the delivery.

When this group was disbanded, if this individual wanted to really help students, why wasn't she placed back into a classroom to teach students?

It was money - pure and simple. This individual makes $138,000 in salary and benefits (slightly below her supervisor Dr. Berry). Could she have made this as a teacher?

The point of this post was to say that program after program, department after department, and position after position has been created in DCSS - yet NO measurement or accountability of the effectiveness of these programs, departments and positions has EVER been put in place. Please name just ONE program, department or position that has been definitively measured and made accountable. If you know of one, please tell us the specific measurements established when the program was initiated, and how they were held accountable.

When programs, departments and positions are abandoned (as they inevitably are), these personnel are just shuffled from one area to another. This practice has consumed literally hundreds and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars with nothing but dismal student achievement to show at the end of the day.

Isn't it time to stop funding any and all initiatives that do not have clearly established, specific benchmarks with transparent publication of meeting (or not meeting) the benchmarks?

That's what much of this push back on SPLOST IV is all about. SPLOST IV lacks an educational focus and appears to be more about spending the money rather than investing the money.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Anon: 7:51 - Thanks for the information. However, that prefix wiki is not a friendly one in a lot of academic circles. I look forward to finding out more and thanks for your quick response.

I'm highly skeptical of these fancied name programs that cost millions of dollars to implement, yet show no true return on investment, after a 3-5 year period. For the salaries we pay our local school leaders, can we make sure they are capable of creating and writing specific curricula for their specific local systems/districts, before we hire them?

Here in DeKalb, our ineffective leaders at the top have not been able to engage with the folks that matter the most. DCSS(D?) curricula has taken a back seat to leaky roofs, $1,500 chairs, a very contentious redistricting debate and our previous leaders under a RICO indictment. Good times, at least for the DCSS(D?) attorneys!

We need our best teachers, in the schools, to join forces in writing effective curricula for DeKalb students. Our leaders in the trenches are the only ones who know what our kids are capable of.

We also need to give back the teachers everything that was promised. Pay increases, Pension plans, 401K matching and get rid of furlough days. Need to find money to cover the costs? Let's start with the Palace and work our way down. Stop paying attorneys outrageous amounts of money, stop these ridiculous "educational" programs, that have shown no real value and end the friends and family programs. Line by line we can find enough money to re-fund the most vital part of DCSS(D?) mission, our teachers!

Sorry folks, a bit of a Halloween sugar high this morning....

Cerebration said...

“Bob Marzano, in his book What Works in Schools, states the most important factor in student achievement is a guaranteed and viable curriculum,”

And yes, I think a Wiki is a good thing. Wikis are used all the time by groups to collect information in one easy to use place. Wikis can be changed and updated easily by anyone who knows more on a subject and who has permission to edit. It's a wonderful way to share and gain knowledge. Wikipedia is the enormous public resource, however, there are millions of other wikis on the internet. BTW, Wikipedia has been found to be quite reliable actually. It should only be used as one of several resources on reports, however. Using and filtering the abundance of information available at our fingertips will be a necessary skill for our children in the future. It's not easy to dig through so much information.

Anonymous said...

AMG and others who might be interested, check out this link:
http://www.westminster.net/center-for-teaching/about-us/index.aspx
This is the website for the Center for Teaching based at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta. It is an incredible resource center, and partners with many public schools in the area to mentor and support good teaching practice. Perhaps these good folks could be persuaded to help DCSS develop a coherent curriculum. But guess what? Efforts to partner with DCSS have proven unsuccessful. School districts from around the country send faculty to this institute for professional development and mentoring. Dekalb is a few miles down the road and ignores this vast, and I do mean vast, resource. Perhaps it's because exposing DCSS' lack of curriculum to scrutiny would be embarrassing. Or maybe DCSS administrators would be intimidated by the level of scholarship and engagement. I have found these people to be refreshing, approachable, challenging and all about the students. OR MAYBE DCSS doesn't want to come to terms with the idea that successful implementation of a learning strategy requires assessing progress. And assessment of the professionals assigned to do the teaching and learning is something DCSS avoids at all costs(because then friends and family might find themselves at risk.) We don't need to buy a product like America's Choice or create a product like Teachmaster. We have ample resources we just won't avail ourselves of.

Anonymous said...

Here is part of an email sent by DeKalb Representative Scott Holcomb. Although he is personally in favor of APLOST IV, he addressed the concern about legislation regarding the 9 versus 7 reduction in the BOE.

"What is the impact of the SPLOST on the size of the school board? Under Section 20-2-52.1 of Senate Bill 79, the reduction of school board to seven members applies to those counties with a homestead option sales and use tax and a county sales and use tax for educational purposes. Some supporters of the SPLOST contend that passing it will further reform efforts because of this provision applying the law to counties with a SPLOST in effect. While this is true, it is also possible that if the SPLOST were defeated, the General Assembly could pass another measure limiting the size of the school board regardless of the existence of the SPLOST. In short, I recommend that you do not base your vote on whether the school board will be reduced but rather base your vote on whether you think that enacting the SPLOST is the right thing for DeKalb County and its students. "

Anonymous said...

"The General Assembly could pass another measure limiting the size of the school board regardless of the existence of the SPLOST."

While Representative Holcomb is correct, any changes would still have to go before the Department of Justice before approval. Given SB 79 was offered as statewide legislation, any changes that uniquely impact DeKalb only will be probably viewed with skepticism and more than likely challenged. Though you may agree with reducing the number of Board members, legislators not in DeKalb should not make decisions about DeKalb affairs.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 2:45 pm

Scott Holcomb is quite pro-SPLOST, but his email does stress that taxpayers need to vote based on the real issues and not an issue like reducing the Board in numbers.

Not sure why you would think he is not in DeKalb. He is my representative for District 82 in Central DeKalb so the reduction in the BOE decision affects every one of his constituents.

I respect his willingness to encourage voters to vote based on the real issues, and his attempt to clarify this for the voters of DeKalb County that have been told by supporters of SPLOST IV that the issue of BOE number reductions is linked with the passage of SPLOST IV.

SPLOST IV, a construction and technology capital expenditure tax, should be voted on based on "whether you think that enacting the SPLOST is the right thing for DeKalb County and its students. "

Representative Holcomb has earned a lot of respect from me for stating that in such a clear and concise fashion while making clear his personal views.

dundevil said...

Rep. Holcomb is mostly correct:

"I recommend that you do not base your vote on whether the school board will be reduced but rather base your vote on whether you think that enacting the SPLOST is the right thing for DeKalb County and its students."

First of all, reduction of the number of board members will not really make any difference. Maybe save a few dollars of salary and expenses.

SPLOST IV will be good for DeKalb County in the sense that there will be money available to keep the School System bloated administrative staff alive and to keep money flowing to the favored contractors of the administrators and the BOE members.

SPLOST IV also will be good to some degree for the students of DCSD in the sense that maybe some of the money will dribble down through the ripoff filter to help them. Of course it would be better for the children if the system was more efficient and less corrupt. But you have to live with things the way that they are. Do not expect changes overnight.

If you vote NO

1. You lose some of your bit**ing rights. Your complaint should not have as much force as one from a person who is paying both school taxes and SPLOST.

2. This will give Dr. Walker, who controls the majority vote of the BOE, an opening to raise the millage rate. The taxpayers will lose the present $57 exemption and also have to pay increased real estate taxes. Dr. Walker will end up being a hero to his constituents, many of whom are exempt from school tax because of low incomes, because they will not have to pay the one cent and he has stuck it to those people up north.

3. If the millage rate is not increased, then you will be giving the new superintendent and the BOE an excuse for failure. "We did not have all of the money that we needed".

Most of the suggestions that appear on this blog are well-intentioned, well thought out and most probably would help in the education of the children. But people, be realistic. We all live in DeKalb County and there are other hurdles that have to be overcome before DCSD can really address what should be its only function, that of educating children.

I know that by voting yes, that I will be getting ripped off to a certain extent. I will have forgone the opportunity of "sending them a message", not that that would really accomplish anything positive. But sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. Also, I will be doing my part "for the children".

DR Atkinson is at least talking about some positive steps. Today in the AJC there was an article that she was giving principals some participation right in the hiring of teachers. Dr Atkinson is talking the talk, but will she be able to walk the talk. If she takes the momentous step of terminating or not renewing the employment of one of the BOE family members or the inside power broker clan, I really would be impressed. Only time will tell.

Maybe my yes vote will slow the decline (the idea of Kim) and, more hopefully, put the system on an upslope. I doubt it, but once in a while we are pleasantly surprised.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 5:09 pm

You misunderstood my point but that is easy to understand because it is confusing. SB 79 was voted on by EVERY legislator in Georgia as it was written in a way to impact 2 counties, Rockdale and DeKalb. It was passed as STATEWIDE legislation not LOCAL legislation. If the legislation is rewritten in a way that only impacts DeKalb, it would not be fair for legislators outside of DeKalb to determine our school board organizational structure. I'm sure the Department of Justice would listen to concerns about this. This assumes the legislation is presented as STATEWIDE once again.

Anonymous said...

Maureen Downey has a letter from Paul Womack on her GetSchooled blog regarding SPLOST. I don't know how to add a hyperlink but you can look on the AJC website for it.

Anonymous said...

Here is Maureen Downey's newest post on SPLOST IV and DeKalb County. Paul Womack wrote an email to Maureen:

"DeKalb’s Womack: SPLOST “spent on projects…not on bureaucracy.”"

http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2011/11/01/dekalbs-womack-splost-spent-on-projects-not-on-bureaucracy/

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 5:32

Maybe it would be good to have someone outside of DeKalb County tell them how to run it. They sure enough are doing a very poor job on both the County and school fronts. Both of them have a way to go before they have even reached the level of incompetency. They are at least two levels below that.

Case in point on WSB tonight... County mis-used $40 million of borrowed park fund bond money for salaries and operating expenses last year. They have taken steps not to let it happen again. What a joke (on the taxpayers)

Anonymous said...

This blog convinced me today to vote FOR SPLOST IV. I want a good school system for MY children, now! Why punish the children? Too bad the Splost funds can't be allocated by voters district support or lack of!!! How little can you go and how low are you really comfortable going just to gripe. Try being a part of the solution and not the problem! We need everyone working together with whatever resources we have.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:39 New buildings don't make a great education. Shoot I dare you to go to some of the new buildings, ask about the cost of the construction, and then look at the quality of work. The old schools, although not pretty, are much better built.

If you want a quality education for your children, than you need to be demanding a more rigorous curriculum, administrators with experience and knowledge-not just degrees, discipline in our schools, security for the computers and other materials that are constantly being stolen from school buildings and trailers and not being replaced, smaller class sizes, stop spending millions on law suits, and use title one funds in a way that improves education of the children and meets their needs. SPLOST has nothing to do with a quality education and cannot be used to pay for any of the above things that are most badly needed for our schools to improve. Pretty buildings do not make a great education.

Anonymous said...

@6:05

There's no huge new addition at Fernbank. I don't know how old the last addition was or even where it was, but other than the cafeteria, everything pretty much looks like something built in 1957.

I guess this comment fits in pretty well with the quality of new construction comment.

Anonymous said...

RE: curriculum
I don't think you can blame the school board for re-inventing the wheel on the curriculum. That seems to be a Georgia specialty. It doesn't apply just to education (see CRCT). There is just a mindset here. It amazes me to see politicians suggesting solutions without knowledge or any thought of what others had done to address similar problems. Hopefully Atkinson will bring in different perspectives.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Anon 11:39. So what you're saying tax payers are not allowed to gripe, when corrupt BOE members force the hiring of their siblings at outrageous salaries. Tax Payers are not allowed to gripe when the Super and COO of the school district are indicted on RICO charges. Tax payers are not allowed to gripe when Offices of Improvement send our scores into the tank even worse, yet employees in this Office are rewarded with raises and special trips to "conferences" with the Super. Tax payers are not allowed to gripe when roofs continue to leak after they have been supposedly fixed. Tax payers are not allowed to gripe when you see 1.2 billion dollars spent annually on a general budget and the only people having to sacrifice the most are the teachers, the ones responsible for the DCSS(D?) mission.

I respect your vote FOR SPLOST however I will NOT vote FOR SPLOST next week. I want to see a transformation in how the mission is set for DCSS(D?). I'm giving Dr. Atkinson a chance to change out the Clew Crew, she should not be given this bag of money until we know she is actually going to fix what ails DCSS(D?) Cronyism has run it's course and it's time to end it all together. When Dr. Atkinson makes the changes most of us are begging for, then I'll vote to give DCSS(D?) a check book full of money. I also think we need a full audit of all budgets, line by line and those audits COMPLETELY released to the public. It's time to "fundamentally transform" the DeKalb County School System District.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:31, I don't know what rock you live under, but Fernbank got millions of dollars in renovations in 2005, including a gym and a 2-story classroom addition. Check out page 29 of this report for photos and construction info:

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/vision-2020/facility-report-fernbankEs-(2011-09-13).pdf

dundevil said...

The purpose of DCSD really is not TO GIVE the children a good education. It is to make it LOOK LIKE it is trying to this. The old magician's trick. The money goes to those who help carry out the play.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 12:31am

I guess you haven't been inside Fernbank ES to see the almost 13,000 square foot addition that was added in 2005. By my calculations, almost 30% more space for Fernbank was obtained in this addition. That seems pretty substantial to me. Do you need my numbers and the DCSS source link?

Summarizing what is below, the 2005 Fernbank addition is in excellent shape with no recommendations to repair it. It scored 0% on the Facilities score (FCI) meaning it was in perfect condition. It will cost over $2,200,000 to replace it however.

To tear down a $2,000,000+ structure that was only built in 2005 and has zero need for repairs or energy conservation seems counterproductive and a waste of taxpayer money. IMHO - this seems like poor planning.

Here is the information from the DCSS website.
"Facility: \Elementary Schools\Fernbank Elementary\2005 Addition......

General Information:
Function: Elementary School Year Built: 2005

Gross Area: 12,952 S.F.

Facility Description:
The 2005 Classroom and Gymnasium Addition at Fernbank Elementary School is a two-story building located at 157 Heaton Park Drive NE in Atlanta, Georgia. ...There are no energy conservation opportunities for this building at this time.

Current Repair Cost: $0.00
Replacement Cost: $2,274,743.45
FCI: 0.00%"

Please look for yourself:
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/vision-2020/facility-report-fernbankEs-(2011-09-13).pdf

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 12:31am

I guess you haven't been inside Fernbank ES to see the almost 13,000 square foot addition that was added in 2005. By my calculations, almost 30% more space for Fernbank was obtained in this addition. That seems pretty substantial to me. Do you need my numbers and the DCSS source link?

Anonymous said...

The 2005 Fernbank addition appears to be in excellent shape with no recommendations to repair it. It scored 0% on the Facilities score (FCI) meaning it was in perfect condition. It will cost over $2,200,000 to replace it however.

To tear down a $2,000,000+ structure that was only built in 2005 and has zero need for repairs or energy conservation seems counterproductive and a waste of taxpayer money. IMHO - this seems like poor planning.

Here is the information from the DCSS website.
"Facility: \Elementary Schools\Fernbank Elementary\2005 Addition......

General Information:
Function: Elementary School Year Built: 2005

Gross Area: 12,952 S.F.

Facility Description:
The 2005 Classroom and Gymnasium Addition at Fernbank Elementary School is a two-story building located at 157 Heaton Park Drive NE in Atlanta, Georgia. ...There are no energy conservation opportunities for this building at this time.

Current Repair Cost: $0.00
Replacement Cost: $2,274,743.45
FCI: 0.00%"

Please look for yourself:
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/vision-2020/facility-report-fernbankEs-(2011-09-13).pdf

Anonymous said...

@11:10
Its obvious you like to stand on top of a rock and attack anyone who doesn't agree with your perception of reality.

I've actually been in the school many times and have had a child there. The school is in dismal shape. The 2005 addition was obviously primarily the gym and the long hallway leading to it. There aren't many additional classrooms. And that section looked pretty old on the inside in 2008 when I first saw it. I'm astounded it was only 3 years old at the time. If you define "well done" as looking awkward on the site, hampering ingress and egress and blending in with an old decrepit look, then it was "well done."

Now it certainly was bad planning in 2005. And it would make sense to see if they could at least utilize the gym.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 12:43

"Now it certainly was bad planning in 2005. And it would make sense to see if they could at least utilize the gym."

So if taxpayers $2,200,000+ was poor planning in 2005, what has changed when we are asked to spend $13,500,000 for yet another plan?

BTW - I've been in Fernbank many times as well as many other schools in DeKalb. Maybe you would like to go to some other schools that are not on any new building or renovation list to compare them with Fernbank.

Anonymous said...

@12:49
It seems they haven't completed their long range facilities plan (and the HS and MS are the parts that haven't been seriously re-districted or re-thought). They haven't re-thought how the magnet programs will work or how to coordinate all the specialized high schools. They're remodeling Avondale MS for the arts just after remodeling Avondale HS for the arts. A long range plan, not just a facilities assessment, would seem to be a logical step before doing a construction plan. But they're doing the same thing with the transit tax-pick the projects, then figure out how it all fits into everything. The governments in Atlanta are just grossly incompetent.

I'm not certain how I will vote. The threats they are using make me believe they shouldn't be trusted with the money, but for the most part, I don't have any problems with the list. Of course, noone knows how it fits in with the long range plan since there doesn't appear to be one.

Anonymous said...

Promising stuff.

Seems like Atkinson is figuring out the incompetence of the Central Office, and is willing to give more authority to principals:


http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-board-backs-school-1213989.html

DeKalb’s new school superintendent on Monday outlined how she would revamp Georgia’s third-largest school district, and among her solutions was giving more power to principals in hiring teachers.

Receiving unanimous approval at a special meeting, Superintendent Cheryl L.H. Atkinson also said she wanted more flexibility in rewarding employees and a full employee review to make sure the central office wasn’t top heavy.

Her plan includes the hiring of an outside auditing company to do a review of all the school’s jobs and salaries to look for efficiencies and waste, and, where possible, direct more money and resources to the classrooms.

Anonymous said...

I certainly hope the public is watching this time. When Johnny Brown tried to reform and pare down the Central Office, he was gone in a very short timeframe. Crawford Lewis came in and proceeded to:
1. Expand the admin and support side by historical numbers
2. Decrease the number of teachers
3. Increase class sizes dramatically

A result was the lowest student achievement in the metro area.

Efforts to put personnel and resources back into the classrooms and require more direct instruction of students must be supported by everyone that wants to see our students progress.

Redeploying personnel back into the schoolhouse and right sizing salaries on the admin and support side will not be welcome in much of DCSS.

No Duh said...

Most of these central office employees scratched and clawed their ways OUT of the classroom for the cushy do-nothing CO jobs. If they were incompetent in the classroom in the first place, why would we want them BACK in the classroom (even if they agreed to go back)?

Anonymous said...

@ No Duh

I didn't say return the Central Office personnel to the classrooms. I said redeploy personnel to the classrooms. I'm assuming any Central Office person would need to apply for a job in a school and as I understand it, the principals would have the say in hiring. If a job in the Central Office is eliminated, then that employee should be given the chane to apply for a classroom position. The principals would make the decisions.

I think the support side is more problematic since so many former and past BOE members have family and friends in those positions. Security, Parent Resource Centers, MIS, Transportation, HVAC account for 7,000+ employees, an all time high (as contrasted to a 6,400 teachers with only around 3,500 of them teaching grades K - 5 and science, social studies, math and language arts - the content we send our children to learn).

Anonymous said...

@ No Duh

I didn't say return the Central Office personnel to the classrooms. I said redeploy personnel to the classrooms. I'm assuming any Central Office person would need to apply for a job in a school and as I understand it, the principals would have the say in hiring. If a job in the Central Office is eliminated, then that employee should be given the chane to apply for a classroom position. The principals would make the decisions.

I think the support side is more problematic since so many former and past BOE members have family and friends in those positions. Security, Parent Resource Centers, MIS, Transportation, HVAC account for 7,000+ employees, an all time high (as contrasted to a 6,400 teachers with only around 3,500 of them teaching grades K - 5 and science, social studies, math and language arts - the content we send our children to learn).

Anonymous said...

Personally, I believe that Dr. Atkinson wants to use Success for All, a scipted school reform program that she wrote her doctoral thesis on and started in Lorain City Schools.

Anonymous said...

"Personally, I believe that Dr. Atkinson wants to use Success for All, a scipted school reform program that she wrote her doctoral thesis on and started in Lorain City Schools."

Was it successful? Anyone have positive feedback?

Anonymous said...

Ask yourself: If you were a major stock holder of a company that regularly made poor management decisions, promoted incompetent people giving them inflated salaries, found themselves in litigious conflicts that competent management could have avoided, has a history of mismanaging facility maintenance, a history of wasting money on unnecessary/duplicated departments, and most importantly, turned out one of the poorest products in the company history what would you do?

1 – Organize stockholders for a wholesale removal of incompetent board of director members.

2 – Stop all future investments in this company until company restructuring shows elimination of incompetence replaced with productive people at a reasonable wage.

3 – Demand that the court system work diligently and timely to bring all legal issues to closure. (Assuming that the business has put its best efforts forward to win)

4 – Refuse future investments until the company produces a stellar product - One to be exceptionally proud of.

5 – All of the above (1-4)

6 – Roll over, open your pocketbook, and continue to throw money down a rat hole, and be taken advantage of by political opportunist.

This household is voting NO on Tuesday November 08, 2011.

We saw this coming and we have diligently protested our property taxes to lessen our tax burden should the less educated voters have their way at the polls on Tuesday.

Anonymous said...

Sure, let's turn the school house hiring decisions over to the principals. Like that is going to solve the pitiful situation we are in. Many of the principals have risen through the ranks of the F & F employment service.

Those that haven't, aren't necessarily any better judge of competent staff!

Ask JR at LHS, one of the the county's flagship schools, about last year's math hires! Would have been awesome if the students could have understood their math teachers. Not only did the students have a p*ss poor curriculum, they had less than adequate messengers of the material!

We need a professional HR department skilled in identifying, recruiting and retaining quality individuals to staff our classrooms at every level, at every school!

Anonymous said...

"Personally, I believe that Dr. Atkinson wants to use Success for All, a scipted school reform program that she wrote her doctoral thesis on and started in Lorain City Schools."

Was it successful? Anyone have positive feedback?

Was America's Choice successful? Did the districts scores go up? The answer to both questions is no. When one looks at feedback about programs, one has to look at who is giving the feedback. Often it is someone who is affiliated with the program in some way.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:56 Teachers don't stay because of HR. Teachers stay because they have a supportive principal who allows them to teach and addresses issues when necessary.

Teachers want to be treated with respect and be able to teach. They don't want to teach someone else's lesson plans (sure there are some teachers, but most teachers want to take responsibility for what they are teaching their children-it gives one pride in their work.)

If you want teachers to stay, get rid of the multiple layers of administration, give teachers smaller class sizes, get teachers involved in lesson planning and increasing the discipline and student achievement. Right now teachers have no say in what happens in the district. They are dictated to by people who couldn't make it in the classroom or are a friends and family member and they are sick and tired of it.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:40pm

In our haste to put our thoughts together, the final product was in fact faulty.

While we agree HR is not the be all, end all, our point is we need a system that retains great staff.

This system must be lead from the top down with competent individuals leading the way, leading by example. Yes, the principal is as the onsite manager but if you have a poor onsite manager, you are going to burn through good people.

It's too difficult to find good teachers and too difficult to dismiss poor performing teachers.

With a sharp administrative infrastructure in place to find the talent, support the talent and nurture the talent, we may have a better chance at turning this county around.

The current business model is an epic fail!

Anonymous said...

@ 9:54 We'll have to agree to disagree. Having worked in the field of education for 12 years all over the US, before coming to Georgia and working in DeKalb, I have never been hired by an HR department. The HR department did not keep me at a school or in a district. The principal, the support, being able to truly teach, have high expectations for my students, and discipline in a school is what kept in positions and things that I missed greatly when I taught in DeKalb.

DeKalb has very much that needs to change. In my opinion as a teacher, tax payer and parent, the entire administration offices should be overhauled. We aren't keeping good teachers, because of some principals, lack of discipline in the schools, not being able to have high expectations for children, having to teach a curriculum that has many gaps and is geared toward a test and not imparting children with knowledge and the excitement of learning, along with the waste of money everywhere one turns.

There is another problem, many of the young teachers that I have come in contact with in DCSS from local universities and also those from well known universities, are really not prepared to teach the children of DCSS. They don't know how to help struggling readers and learners. They don't know how to discipline students and act afraid of them. They are so overwhelmed with the number of students in a class, their behavior, and so many other things, that few are learning in many classes. Our universities aren't preparing teachers for the realities of a classroom.

DeKalb needs to clean up it's imagine if it wants to attract good people. This should be evident by the superintendent search. Quality people go research on their future employer, the information one can google about DCSS is more than a good HR department is capable of overcoming.

Anonymous said...

Dekalb doesn't want to clean up. And it only wants to reach to the lowest common denominator. The new curriculum that the new Super plans to roll out will likely eliminate any concern for our top performers. Indeed, sounds like a purely scripted program that only allows teachers to teach what the school system wants kids to learn, and that, invariably, will be bottom level content, because this system refuses to let anyone fail.

What happened to teaching being based on where kids are at and moving them forward rather than basing teaching on a scripted program that teachers must implement with not a scrap of consideration about what individual kids need at they levels they are at, both concerning higher end thinkers and those who are behind in some areas?????

So we teach teachers to deliver the material rather than to assess their student's knowledge and encourage their creativity to deliver content in a manner that will create ENGAGED learners.

I'm simply scared. Atkinson is NOT doing it for me with this one.

"Building on academic content and performance standards, the school system will construct a curriculum that covers every subject for every grade in elementary and middle school and every course in high school. The curriculum will be coherent, aligned, and DETAILED DOWN TO INDIVIDUAL LESSON PLANS, REQUIRED TEACHING MATERIALS, AND SAMPLE ASSESSMENTS. Professional development will be focused on the curriculum and how to teach it. Teaching will be continually monitored and formative assessments will be frequently used to inform instructional progress and a need for change. A comprehensive student information management system, which tracks student performance connected to the individual teacher and all student information data, will be accessible in a user-friendly data management system.

Anonymous said...

Below are the facts regarding putting a facilities plan that supports a positive academic outcome back on the ballot next year. A web address to the Georgia Department of Education is given for posters interested in reading the source material.

In summary – the DeKalb Board of Education has the option of calling for a SPLOST referendum so no – we do not have to wait 5 years to put this back on the ballot. It can go back on the ballot next November. See below – LBOE refers to Local Board of Education – in our case that would be the DeKalb County Schools Board of Education. In 2012, every BOE member will be up for election. In addition, there will be a Presidential General Election so the turnout will be much larger and more representative of what the citizens of DeKalb want in the way of an educational plan that includes capital outlay. This will give our new superintendent a year to establish a facilities plan that has an educational vision and best represents the interests of all students. Parts of this plan that have academic merit now will still have academic merit in a year.

See:

http://www.gadoe.org/fbo_facilities.aspx?PageReq=FBOFacilitiesSPLOST

“The constitutional amendment approved by the voters of Georgia in November 1996, allows LBOE’s the option of calling for a referendum to ask their voters to approve a SPLOST.

Authorized Expenditures

If the voters approve the referendum, the SPLOST revenues may be used for the following:

Specific capital improvement projects for educational purposes, and/or
Retire General Obligation Bond debt previously incurred with respect only to capital outlay projects and/or
Issue new General Obligation Bond for specific capital outlay projects to be paid with SPLOST.
Rate and Length

The rate shall be 1 (one) percent. The tax shall not be subject to any sales tax exemption such as food and beverage exemptions.

The length shall be imposed for a period of time not to exceed five years."

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 2:42

Dr. Atkinson will be accountable for scores in May. The buck stops with her and her top level personnel. If the student progress, especially in Title 1 schools, is lower, then she will be accountable for that if teachers are being micromanaged in their teaching.

If her ideas are successful, Dr. Atkinson needs to get most the credit just like if her ideas are not successful she will get most of the blame. Personally, I am rooting for her to get credit for raising student achievement because that is a good thing for our children.

Hopefully, Dr. Atkinson will realize that teacher buy-in is needed for programs that they will teach in the classroom. Teachers are the ones that she must depend on to implement these plans so she must have their co-operation and enthusiasm.

I don't see why anyone would not want a comprehensive curriculum. That is good planning. Detailed lesson plans does not necessarily mean that there are not several ways to approach a specific content objective. Getting user friendly data feedback should eliminate those incorrectly written, labor intensive benchmark tests and replace them with formative assessments that give teachers an easy way to identify what students are having problems with what content.

Now finding the time to work with students who struggle with content objectives is a whole other ball of wax. Teachers can have all the lesson plans and feedback in the world, but if they have 30+ students in a class and consistently 8 to 10 of them do not understand the concepts after the lesson is taught, then there need to be more "hands on deck" to deliver direct instruction to those students. Coaches, coordinators and other non-teaching employees will not move students forward like a plethora of teachers working with small groups of struggling students.

We need to give her the benefit of the doubt when it comes to plowing resources back into the classroom in the form of more teaching personnel actually teaching students.

David Montané said...

Everyone has been writing, both on this blog and all the local papers, about what will be done with the money if SPLOST is renewed. Will it be wasted, or will it benefit the children? Should we vote NO this time, then if they do what we want vote YES next time? This is the way those who have a special interest in the public schools look at the matter.

This is so because the schools and buses and computers constructed with SPLOST money, in the words of Frederic Bastiat, are "seen" - they are visible to all. "This blinds all eyes" to the real effect of the tax on the public welfare.

As an austro-libertarian, my interest is not in how the money will be spent, but in how it will NOT be spent - the "unseen". If we continue the SPLOST, $100 Million per year, from mid-2012 to mid-2017, will NOT be spent by individuals deciding on their own how that money should best be spent or saved or invested. Instead, that money will be forcibly removed from them at the cash register. In this sense, no matter how the money is used, it is stolen money and will obviously be misused.

Read "That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen": http://bastiat.org/en/twisatwins.html#taxes

Anonymous said...

@ David
I can't agree with that because we have do have schools to show for SPLOST. I will agree that the money was grossly mismanaged in the past, and there is no proof it will be better managed by the same individuals that mismanaged it before.

New personnel, an educational plan, and transparency in the form of an online check register for EVERY expenditure will go far in convincing me that SPLOST IV can be managed better. Since this won't be done by next week, I'll vote no and we'll see what comes about in 2012.

I also like the fact that in 2012 we have a Presidential election. Infinitely more DeKalb voters will participate in that election. That means that the vote will be much more representative of what the citizens of DeKalb want and will dilute the special interest groups who "get out the vote" on these off election years when SPLOST typically gets put on the ballot (this year being an example). The more people who participate in an election, the more better our democratic process reflects the will of the majority.

David Montané said...

"I can't agree with that because we do have schools to show for SPLOST."

Wow, I hope everyone else reading that could see that this Anonymous person did not get my point AT ALL!

Bastiat again: "The advantages which officials advocate are those which are seen. The benefit which accrues to the providers is still that which is seen. This blinds all eyes.

"But the disadvantages which the tax-payers have to get rid of are those which are not seen. And the injury which results from it to the providers, is still that which is not seen, although this ought to be self-evident."

David Montané said...

"The more people who participate in an election, the more better (sic) our democratic process reflects the will of the majority."

Agreed. However, if a majority of voters vote to steal money from the rest, that's still theft. (The tax on those voting YES will be a voluntary contribution.) Mob rule is not always as bad as dictatorship, but the minority is still punished.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Mundane,

Some of us may not get your point through all the obfuscation, but we do get your arrogance.

Oh, and "austro-libertarian"? Oh, please.

Chill, man.

I'd pay more income tax in a heartbeat if it paid for my and everyone else's college tuition and health care. I'm not selfish with my money..I'll give it to the "thief." It would be a deal for both. Less than I'm paying now for insurance and tuition.

And yes, I consider myself very "social" (which best exemplifies some forgotten Christian values), and I'm proud of it.

Anonymous said...

@ David

I got your point. I'm just not a Libertarian. I support public schools and most public services, and don't feel most taxes are an appropriation of my income.

However, I don't support spending that does not produce a return on investment, for me personally and that extends to public monies. Wiping out government won't necessarily bring a better return on investment for most people - that's just IMHO.

I do not think SPLOST IV as currently proposed will bring a return on investment for DeKalb students. Therefore, I will vote against it. If the educational plan and financial numbers make sense to me in 2012, I will vote for it. I'm just one vote. That's what makes us a democracy - noisy, messy and annoying as that may be at times.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Montane,

My apologies for the earlier post at 5:08. Didn't mean it to be personal. It was way spontaneous and I did not intend to misspell your name.

Shoulda edited.

I'm apparently at a polar opposite from you on the political spectrum.

And by the way, I will vote NO on SPLOST IV.

Anonymous said...

Schools are handing out pro-SPLOST pamphlets printed by the Board.

Is that illegal?

DCSS Teacher said...

Anon @ 6:02
I and other teachers wondered about that today, too, when we heard the announcement that students were to take home flyers about SPLOST IV in their backpacks. Do schools routinely inform kids and parents about political events? And aren't we all paying for the paper etc on which the flyer is printed? There are plenty of schools where teachers have to hoard paper just to print out educational material.

Anonymous said...

It depends on what the flyers say. Does anyone have a flyer that they would like to put on this blog? School systems have a right to say what SPLOST is. Look at the DCSS website link below. Was this flyer just a copy of the verbiage on the website?
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/splost-iv

Would have been nice if they were as diligent in sending home informational flyers with kids when the cell phone towers were being discussed.

David Montané said...

To the rude Anonymous who said, "I'd pay more income tax in a heartbeat... I'm not selfish with my money....

"I consider myself very "social" (which best exemplifies some forgotten Christian values), and I'm proud of it."

Your taxes are going for purposes aligning with your socialist goals, so they are voluntary and you feel generous. However, the taxes you vote for me to pay are taken from me at the point of a gun, and so by forcing me to pay for your causes, you are actually being selfish. I may be just as generous with my money as you, I just want my money to go for a different cause, and I don't want force being used on anyone else to spend their money for my causes.

I'm no Christian (many libertarians are), but your violent philosophy does not seem Christ-like to me.

You call me arrogant, and you are proud of your position. You may want to seek help with that beam in your eye before you help me with my mote.

David Montané said...

I saw your apology after I wrote my response. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:08/6:01 – I appreciate your clarification to David.

Regarding taxation, I am for maximum use of tax money with minimum waste. We do not have this in DeKalb County with our county government as well as our school system. DeKalb County could use a clean sweep in government. I have no interest in spending more for some politician’s special interests or what he thinks “the people” need. For those that feel the need to give more, feel free to “gift” a special monetary sum to the government entity of your choice.

For those that want another view of what is going on in DeKalb County, check out DeKalb Officers Speak. http://dekalbofficersspeak.blogspot.com/ As with any forum, you will need to read between the lines to develop your own opinion.

David Montané said...

More Bastiat: "...do you know what economists are accused of? It is, that when we disapprove of Government support, we are supposed to disapprove of the thing itself whose support is discussed.... If we think the State ought not to interfere by taxation in education, we are hostile to knowledge.... Against such conclusions as these I protest with all my strength."

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:02 and DCCS Teacher,

The brochure was not "pro-SPLOST" it simply listed the facts about SPLOSTS. This is perfectly legal.

Cerebration said...

David is right. This is $100 million, penny by penny, taken from the good people of Dekalb - who already pay quite enough to fund a perfectly functional school system if those in charge would simply make it functional - and those at the state would return the money they take from us year after year and hand over to "poor", "rural" counties who don't tax their property owners at nearly the same rate as we.

Anonymous said...

The “children” will be better served by a plan that is educationally
sound and academically driven.

Theme, magnet and charter schools are all options DCSS parents want. In addition, DCSS has the highest percent of AYP transfers in the metro area. Schools that DID NOT MAKE AYP – highest percentage of those as well – transfer students to the few schools that MADE AYP as well as accommodating a large amount of administrative transfers. Central Office personnel pick and choose where to send their children. This skews the data on overcrowding. Fernbank alone had around 100 students coming from out of their zone. They were not AYP transfers, therefore one can only conclude, they were mainly administrative transfers. When it came time to redistrict, Fernbank was over student enrollment by around 100 students. That’s when the Fernbank community started to question why their children were being redistricted to other elementary schools while “out of area” students were staying. Redistricting went away as they protested, and Fernbank was allowed to stay overcrowded. I can see the Fernbank community’s conundrum. That’s one reason they want a larger facility.

Are transfers out of low performing schools the answer for all students when DCSS has so many low performing schools and so few high performing ones? When so few of your schools qualify to accept transfers, what do you do? Build larger schools or improve the schools you have? Fernbank is not the only school caught up in transfers. Look at Lakeside and Druid Hills and Arabia Mountain.

Do we want to establish magnet programs all over the county in select schools? Do we need more theme schools and charter schools? If DCSS puts more resources into the teaching side instead of the non-teaching side as Dr. Atkinson is proposing, would increasing the student achievement of our struggling students entice parents to stay in their neighborhood schools and even have people move there?

Parents all over DeKalb are struggling to get the best educational opportunity for their children. They have voted with their feet as they enter lotteries to get their children into theme and magnet and charter schools and AYP transfers and administrative transfers. However, this is not an educational PLAN. School choice is not a choice when so many cannot choose because we have a finite amount of slots available. Dr. Atkinson is doing the right thing when she talks to parents and teachers to find out what they want and what works best for their children.

That is what school construction and tens of millions of student technology dollars needs to be about – an educational plan with established benchmarks. Plan your work and work your plan. We haven’t seen an educationally driven plan from the BOE or the DCSS Upper Administration so communities have taken matters into their own hands. When there is an absence of leadership and drastic differences in facilities, opportunities and achievement in the schools, you bet parents will step up to the plate and begin to lobby
for their community.

One of the main reasons Dr. Atkinson was hired was to create a sound educational vision and plan for DCSS. We need to give her that opportunity for the sake of all students. SPLOST money should be driven by her educational plan developed with feedback from all communities and teaching staff and have an academic focus for all children. I would be happy for my dollars to ride on that train.

Anonymous said...

For the last SPLOST (SPLOST III) this is what was promised:
“How can we be sure our tax money is being used efficiently?

As with the SPLOST II program, the DeKalb County Board of Education will appoint an independent Citizens Review Committee. Their purpose is to oversee and monitor DeKalb County School System SPLOST III projects in an advisory capacity. The goal of this committee will be to develop and foster public trust in the management of SPLOST funds.”

Source – DCSS webpage regarding SPLOST III (link below).
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/progress/splost/faq.html

When you go to this page, click on the right hand menu bar “Forensic Audit Report Follow Up”.. You will be taken to a page that says:
“Page Not Found
We apologize for the inconvenience, but we were unable to locate the requested resource (web page, file, service, etc.).”

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/forensic.audit.follow-up.html

Taxpayers were promised a Forensic Audit 5 years ago before SPLOST III was passed, and nothing has been published.

Before we believe there will be an audit published for SPLOST IV, let’s see the promised audit for SPLOST III. That would go for in furthering the “public trust” as they termed it.”

Cerebration said...

From Mike Jacobs:

Some constituents have asked me whether the legislation that I helped to pass reducing the size of the school board from nine to seven members is tied to the E-SPLOST vote. While this is technically true, I do not view it as a reason to vote for or against the E-SPLOST. I am certain the General Assembly will take whatever steps are necessary in the 2012 legislative session to ensure that this important reform takes effect next year as planned.

And remember, the increase to property taxes without SPLOST is a flat $57 per year for everyone, regardless of the value of their home.

Anonymous said...

The pro-SPLOST people must be terrified that their corruption and waste have been completely revealed to the public.
They sent a slick, full-color brochure home with students yesterday, "What You Need to Know About SPLOST IV". I wonder how much that cost the taxpayers.
Now, they have the sheriff, Thomas Brown, robo-calling the public telling us to vote yes for SPLOST. Who paid for that? It's not disclosed in the call.
And you should see the latest video on the splostforschools website. With SPLOST IV the adult tells the children "You are now going to receive what everyone else has already had... Ipods/Ipads and and an auditorium..." Revolting!
They should be scared. The taxpayers are sick and tired of the dismal return on our investment in schools.

DCSSFrustratedParent said...

A great diversion from the author (Mike Jacobs). The fact is they are tied - period.

The Legislature may take this up but if the intention was to NOT tie one to the other the legislation would have been written that way in the first place.

I believe folks should vote any way they would like but should be aware of the law as written and what that means and not rely on what "might" happen in the future. As the law stands - no SPLOST no 7 person board - folks may care about that or they may not but those are the facts.

No Duh said...

Coming out of your child's backpack today...

A full-color brochure, paid for by DCSD (i.e. your tax dollars) promoting SPLOST IV. Therefore, they've sent you a brochure you paid for to convince you to spend more tax dollars on SPLOST. (and if you have more than one child, you'll get multiple copies). Yes, 95,000 copies were printed.

The most troublesome line it for me is "Unfortunately, without this continued revenue stream, there is no other funding source to carry out the projects listed in this brochure."

Cerebration said...

Well, unless you count the revenue taken from us every year by the state by way of "Austerity Cuts" and "Equalization Grants"... these add up to over $150 million every year! I wish our board and administrators cared more about that. Of course, that would involve demands of our state legislators, which our board will not do.

Anonymous said...

The very idea that buildings that have been expanded/renovated/re-roofed/repurposed with SPLOST money are now being closed or threatened with closure is an outrage. What more evidence do SPLOST supporters need than this, that the spending is out of control, not driven by an educational vision, and a terrible waste of resources? And let me also add: SPLOST didn't pay for PE buildings in the elementary schools: a private group discovered we were missing out on state funding targeted to improve elementary student health. Additional grants supplied additional monies. But the entire project predated SPLOST discussions.

Anonymous said...

@ DCSS Frustrated parent

Quote from an email from Rep. Scott Holcomb (who states he is in in favor of SPLOST). He has nothing to gain by putting this into his email, except he wants the truth out to the public:

".... the reduction of school board to seven members applies to those counties with a homestead option sales and use tax and a county sales and use tax for educational purposes. Some supporters of the SPLOST contend that passing it will further reform efforts because of this provision applying the law to counties with a SPLOST in effect. While this is true, it is also possible that if the SPLOST were defeated, the General Assembly could pass another measure limiting the size of the school board regardless of the existence of the SPLOST. In short, I recommend that you do not base your vote on whether the school board will be reduced but rather base your vote on whether you think that enacting the SPLOST is the right thing for DeKalb County and its students."

Here is a quote from an email from Mary Margaret Oliver regarding SPLOST IV. She also addresses the issue of BOE 9 to 7, and does not link SPLOST IV to the BOE reduction:
"MMO is drafting local legislation to implement passage of SB 79 in the 2011 General Assembly which reduced the size of DeKalb School Board from nine to seven members. SB 79 eliminated the at-large Board districts, and new district lines must be drawn for the remaining seven Board districts, and election of these seven members will be staggered over the 2012 and 2014 elections. When this local election legislation is drafted it will be available to review on-line."

Anonymous said...

Interesting article:
http://www.reporternewspapers.net/2011/11/03/school-board-reform-may-depend-on-sales-tax-vote/

"“This SPLOST is tied to reform efforts in the DeKalb County school system… ,” Marshall D. Orson, a representative of Friends of DeKalb Education IV, told more than 50 north DeKalb residents who attended a town hall meeting Oct. 26. “The legislation requires the SPLOST to be in effect.....
...”"

BUT...
The state Representatives also quoted in this article said:
"Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), who has supported efforts to reform the school board, said that if the SPLOST vote fails, it would require lawmakers to pass new legislation to shrink the board. He said he thought such a bill would pass easily. “We’d just turn around and pass another bill in January,” he said....
...Millar said he supported passage of SPLOST IV. “We still need to support the schools,” he said. “I don’t think the way to show your displeasure is [by defeating] SPLOST.”"

"Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-DeKalb), who co-sponsored legislation reducing the size of the board, said he did not think voters should base their decision on the SPLOST by calculating its effect on the board downsizing. If the SPLOST fails, he said, lawmakers likely will just draft a new law next year to shrink the board.

Jacobs said he hadn’t decided whether to support the SPLOST. “I am still deciding,” he said. “There are some very good north DeKalb projects on the list, but there are also plenty of reasons to be unhappy with the school board’s administration of the SPLOST for the past five years.”

DeKalb Representatives Oliver, Jacobs, Millar, and Holcomb are being very clear that voters should not tie the reduction of the BOE with the SPLOST IV vote.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Orson must be making the media rounds. From 11 Alive:
""It requires that the SPLOST be in effect to reduce the board and make them all stand for election," said parent Marshall Orson, a member of the lobbying group Friends of DeKalb Education.

"So voting for SPLOST is also a vote for a clean slate on the board?" asked 11Alive's Jennifer Leslie.

"Absolutely," Orson said. "It's a historic opportunity for us to replace the entire board." "

Yet the DeKalb representatives (most of them SPLOST IV supporters) who make the laws say this is a non-issue.

http://www.11alive.com/news/article/211104/40/Voters-weigh-education-sales-tax-with-SPLOST-

Anonymous said...

I think the most important part of Mike Jacobs email was that the "DeKalb Delegation" is going to be at Chamblee Middle School for a public hearing on Thursday, November 10, @ 6pm. "This is an opportunity to make your voice heard on the state of local issues that matter to you."

It will be interesting to see which of our DeKalb Legislators show up and what they are open to discussing. Possible new school board districts?

No Duh said...

Sorry, y'all. I didn't read all the posts. You obviously are aware of the brochure.

Dekalbparent said...

I got the robo-call from Sheriff Brown today and immediately emailed the Board of Commissioners individually how offended and shocked I was to get a call from A DeKalb County official speaking in his official capacity (he identified himself as "DeKalb County Sheriff Thomas Brown") telling me how to vote.

I also asked exactly whose money was spent for this and on whose time.

If anyone else feels so inclined, please write to your Commissioners.

Anonymous said...

I got the robo call as well. He identified himself as the Sheriff at the first of the call and at the last of the call. I guess he is speaking in an official capacity for the county as he advocates for SPLOST.

Anon said...

Sounds like they are afraid it won't pass....

Anonymous said...

I got the Sheriff Brown robo-call too. I called the administrative offices of the Sheriff’s Department and asked for Sherriff Brown. He was out. I then asked for his voice mail. When told that he does not have one, I told his receptionist in a terse tone that I wanted the sheriff to attend to his sheriff ‘in duties and keep the Hell out of county business that he has not been elected to attend to, and that I did not appreciate his call. If you would like to do the same the number to the administrative offices is (404) 298-8145. Quite frankly, I am tired of politicians making exceptions in laws such as not eliminating themselves from the no call list.

Anonymous said...

In addition to the brochure, there is a huge, expensive looking banner hanging in front of Lakeside on the construction fence. It says something to the effect of "SPLOST funded school improvements" (I don't remember the exact language). There might be banners on other projects.

Two questions: who paid for the banner with what money? And will it still be up when voters go to Lakeside on Tuesday (kind of seems like a form of campaigning at the polls, so to speak)?

Cerebration said...

If they are allowed to post a sign about SPLOST funded projects, then I would insist on posting a sign on SPLOST-driven corruption and the associated costs (which come from the general operating budget -- the budget for teachers and students). Anyone want to do the Freedom of Information Request?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Cheryl Atkinson made a major blunder of unethical behavior by sending out the glossy pro-SPLOST brochure. is it legal? Maybe so, but it is a clear manipulation of the law that bans a school system to openly lobby for a SPLOST vote.

C'mon Dr. Atkinson, we expect you to act in an ethical, moral manner, unlike Crawford Lewis and Pat Pope. Forcing teachers to put the expensive glossly flyer into students' bookbags is clearly a breach of professional ethics.

We know the rest of the Central Office (Tyson, Moseley, Ramsey, Thompson, Bahamas Berry, Turk, etc.) don't know professional ethics, but you should.

Anonymous said...

From of the Friends of Dekalb Facebook page:

Amy Power
Sorry, if voters pass on this opportunity, with new leadership and new forthright, ethical enthusiasm to push our school district to new, better heights, it will be a sad day for our kids, the teachers who devote themselves everyday to educating all children, and the immediate-term economic outlook. Not a tough answer. Keep the penny that is under the best hands and oversight it's been under in its 15-year history. Or see our property taxes skyrocket to pay the debt for bonds. Again, easy answer.

--

Amy, please just admit you are part of the SPLOST for Schools, Friends of DeKalb Schools bunch? Why not list the members on the web page and FB page? Have you no shame? You too, Orson!

---

More from the FB page, no mention of corruption, waste, bloat:

"Remember, this vote is to support our students and teachers with improved and well-maintained facilities that can make DeKalb a world class school system."

"The DeKalb Chamber hits the nail on the head. Either we share funding of school maintenance and improvements with those who enjoy all DeKalb has to offer -- tourism, employment, and shopping -- or we risk higher property taxes and lower property values. Even without the newly-announced, heightened oversight mechanism, it's an easy answer: vote YES on November 8. Enjoy the weekend, Atlanta, Decatur, and all of DeKalb!"

"This is what we're talking about, DeKalb. Standing up, dusting off, and forging ahead in smart, excellent ways. This is a new day, with parents, professionals, and better yet, all who downright care -- who are standing shoulder-to-shoulder and making sure everything's done right this time. It's nice to know that from diligence, cooperation, and an open mind, we can get where we want to be. Atkinson is knocking it out of the park so far. Like Hank Aaron admonishes: In life, swing for the fences. Gather up folks, that's what we're doing, and the result will be great.

Don't forget to keep our facilities and technology on par with the counties that DeKalb competes with nationally for employer relocations and other economic development. If we stop caring for and improving our facilities, we're out of the game in terms of job growth. That's not what Atlanta's about. We should be the place people and employers want to call home. Vote YES for the School SPLOST, either early or..."

Anonymous said...

Ernest Brown, in the past you have written on blogs and the newspaper that you support Gene Walker, Crawford Lewis, Pat Pope and Ramona Tyson on various occassions. You've made some poor choices before, and it hurt your credibility.

http://www.ajc.com/opinion/should-voters-approve-splost-1216774.html

Should voters approve SPLOST for schools? Yes
By Ernest Brown

Dunwoody Mom said...

Good Grief - talk about becoming nauseous so early in the morning.
The "Friends of DeKalb" have absolutely no shame do they?

Anonymous said...

"Amy Power
Sorry, if voters pass on this opportunity, with new leadership and new forthright, ethical enthusiasm to push our school district to new, better heights, it will be a sad day for our kids, the teachers who devote themselves everyday to educating all children, and the immediate-term economic outlook. Not a tough answer. Keep the penny that is under the best hands and oversight it's been under in its 15-year history. Or see our property taxes skyrocket to pay the debt for bonds. Again, easy answer."


Amy power has lost her mind with her not so thinly veiled threats. SPLOST can wait a year until the Central Office gets its act together and finnaly proves it can be trusted with HALF A BILLION DOLLARS!

Hey Amy, maybe the Sam Moss staff can actually start maintaining its facilities so they reach their lifespan and don't need hundreds of billions in renovations and teardowns. Get a life, Amy.

Anonymous said...

Awesome job, Rick!

http://www.ajc.com/opinion/should-voters-approve-splost-1216732.html

Should voters approve SPLOST for schools? No
By Rick Callihan

Many metro residents will go to the polls Tuesday to impose or continue a penny sales tax to improve school facilities. The original sales pitch for SPLOST 15 years ago was that new revenues were needed for special projects and new schools for a fast-growing population.

Nowadays, the SPLOST revenue is still used for new schools, but also funds pork projects and offsets budget deficits incurred by poor use of property tax revenue.

SPLOST has become a safety net for poor facility management. All too often in DeKalb County, maintenance is overlooked and even relatively new buildings are in need of significant repairs. Continuing the flow of money won’t incentivize these bureaucracies to look after our investments any better.

Voters should look to past performance to predict future outcomes. How has your school district spent your tax dollars? Cherokee County is following the lead of Gwinnett and DeKalb counties by allocating $12.5 million for a new central office. DeKalb spent $30 million in current SPLOST funds for its central office, dubbed “the Palace.”

Although the planned Cherokee offices don’t include the splendors of neighboring DeKalb and Gwinnett, voters should question if these expenses fall under the category of “needs” or “wants.”

In DeKalb, taxpayers have seen years of improper spending, resulting in indictments of a former superintendent and chief operating officer. There have been no significant staffing changes, and it appears to be business as usual with the bloated central office. All of the financial malfeasance has occurred while DeKalb has fallen to the bottom in metro Atlanta in achievement. DeKalb also has spent $17 million for legal fees in a $100 million lawsuit over the management of SPLOST.

DeKalb voters should demand transparency through an online checkbook and overhaul of the central office before voting to approve the almost $500 million SPLOST. Unlike Cherokee, which has seen growth, DeKalb wants to build new schools in areas that continue to see sharp declines in enrollment.

Gwinnett voters have their own reasons for sending a message to the school system — land deals. Over the past decade Gwinnett school leaders have made questionable land deals, paying premiums for some parcels; and don’t forget the projected total of $73.5 million for its central office.

In Cherokee, many voters are concerned with the school board issuing bonds to pay for school projects, counting on future revenue. Many school systems estimate the five-year revenue of their SPLOST and spend that amount. But in Cherokee, where growth was rampant for many years, some future SPLOST funds already have been spent.

If SPLOST fails in Cherokee, an increase in property taxes is likely due to that district’s aggressive land purchases and school building during the past decade. SPLOST in 2001 for Cherokee gave the school system the green light to put itself in debt for years to come. Rather than frugally allocating their current resources, they felt free to spend as much as they could and they will go back to the taxpayer for more.

Our economy has not stabilized and voters should vote to say “no” to more government debt. Our school systems should return their focus to instruction. With lofty plans for new stadiums, sports fields and so-called technology, the focus of some of our mega-sized school systems has switched from instruction to construction.

Schools need to focus on a quality curriculum, maintaining and hiring excellent teachers and principals, and not building palaces for central office personnel. They need to recognize that SPLOST is not a tax in perpetuity or an excuse for poor maintenance.

Vote “no” on SPLOST and send that message to your school boards.

Anonymous said...

Truer words have never been written:

"DeKalb spent $30 million in current SPLOST funds for its central office, dubbed “the Palace".

In DeKalb, taxpayers have seen years of improper spending, resulting in indictments of a former superintendent and chief operating officer. There have been no significant staffing changes, and it appears to be business as usual with the bloated central office. All of the financial malfeasance has occurred while DeKalb has fallen to the bottom in metro Atlanta in achievement. DeKalb also has spent $17 million for legal fees in a $100 million lawsuit over the management of SPLOST.

DeKalb voters should demand transparency through an online checkbook and overhaul of the central office before voting to approve the almost $500 million SPLOST. Unlike Cherokee, which has seen growth, DeKalb wants to build new schools in areas that continue to see sharp declines in enrollment."

Anonymous said...

"Amy Power:
Sorry, if voters pass on this opportunity, with new leadership and new forthright, ethical enthusiasm to push our school district to new, better heights, it will be a sad day for our kids, the teachers who devote themselves everyday to educating all children, and the immediate-term economic outlook. Not a tough answer. Keep the penny that is under the best hands and oversight it's been under in its 15-year history. Or see our property taxes skyrocket to pay the debt for bonds. Again, easy answer."


Ummm, Amy: You say that SPLOST is "under the best hands and oversight it's been under in its 15-year history".

Other than Atkinson, who else has changed at the Central Office?????? And you trust the same old Sam Moss staff to maintain these buildings?The same staff that can keep AC and heat working, that can't fix leaking roofs? I'm guessing that Fernbank doesn't have to often deal with leaky roofs or no heat or air conditioning.

Anonymous said...

I hope she's serious!

http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2011/10/26/new-dekalb-school-chief-we-are-a-step-away-from-great/

New DeKalb school chief: “We are a step away from great.

Atkinson already senses that there’s overlap within the system as well as programs that have outlived their usefulness.

She wants the first phase of the study — an examination of central office staff, instructional coaches, assistant principals and principals through a lens of function, organization and salary — to her desk by Jan 15. (DeKalb School Watch has posted the RFP or work order.)

And if Atkinson finds employees whose pay exceeds their responsibilities?

“I believe we will be within our rights to say we are no longer going to have these jobs. We are going to have new jobs. This is the job, this is the work, this is the salary, based on market studies.”

On equity versus equal: In one elementary school, Atkinson was wowed by the science lab and asked whether all elementary schools in the county have one. When she was told that they did not, Atkinson said she intends to learn why. “That is something we should have in every school. These are non negotiables that every child should have exposure to in their schools.”

On spending: Now, when asked about grants and new programs, Atkinson said she asks, “Who is it going to benefit? If they can’t tell me, I say take it off the agenda. It puts them in a tailspin.”

But Atkinson said she wants to fully know the impacts and benefits of any proposed new spending, and she wants principals brought in on the discussions to get their input on whether they see any benefits.

On the system’s communications: She agreed communication was a problem, noting that the department was among the smallest in the district. She pointed out that DeKalb has a cable news challenge, but said, “The problem is that, frankly, it is not very good.”

Anonymous said...

I am sick and tired of you Marshall Orson. Admit the corruption and bloat that exists in the Central Office. You and you fellow Fernbank PTA supported Gene Walker for the BOE, which is unforgivable.


http://www.reporternewspapers.net/2011/11/03/school-board-reform-may-depend-on-sales-tax-vote/

“This SPLOST is tied to reform efforts in the DeKalb County school system… ,” Marshall D. Orson, a representative of Friends of DeKalb Education IV, told more than 50 north DeKalb residents who attended a town hall meeting Oct. 26. “The legislation requires the SPLOST to be in effect.”

Orson said a vote against the SPLOST could send a message to DeKalb school board members that they are not being held to account for past district problems, he said. The district’s former superintendent and chief operating officer face theft and racketeering charges over handling of school construction projects.

Defeating the SPLOST, he said, also would provide a cold greeting to new Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson.

“Quite frankly, the most unwelcoming thing in the world to a new superintendent is to defeat her primary means of financing new schools,” he said.

Anonymous said...

A school bus was hot wired and stolen from North Druid Hills Middle School (AKA Shamrock) last night. Wonder if we'll hear about this?

Anonymous said...

Marshall is all over the media. He is obviously one of the brains behind SPLOST for Schools/Friends of DeKalb Education. Hey, as long as Fernbank gets millions and doesn't have to be re-districted, they'll be happy and continue to support this BOE and Gene Walker.

http://www.11alive.com/news/article/211104/40/Voters-weigh-education-sales-tax-with-SPLOST-

It requires that the SPLOST be in effect to reduce the board and make them all stand for election," said parent Marshall Orson, a member of the lobbying group Friends of DeKalb Education.

"So voting for SPLOST is also a vote for a clean slate on the board?" asked 11Alive's Jennifer Leslie.

"Absolutely," Orson said. "It's a historic opportunity for us to replace the entire board."

Dekalbparent said...

Jeez - just got another robo-call from an 877 number: "Hello, this is Addie Cass, an eighth-grader in DeKalb County Schools urging you to vote "Yes" on SPLOST in Tuesday's election. SPLOST will (yadda, yadda, yadda)..."

Who is paying for this, and where did they get my number???? (Serious question - I don't really understand how these automated calls work)

Anonymous said...

OMG!!! Now there are HUGE vinyl signs going up on current SPLOST projects! Today a sign about 30 ft. long appeared and is attached to the fence at Lakeside - white background, blue and green lettering "SCHOOL SPLOST DOLLARS AT WORK". What an eyesore! They already have a large Valhalla Project sign on the fence.

Friends of Dekalb must be having a hard time finding people to put SPLOST signs in their yards. Someone has plastered them all along Oak Grove Rd. and Briarcliff Rd. in the public right of ways. Can the commissioners send out the sign police to remove them like they do for big elections? Can citizens remove them in public right of ways?

Sure hope Friends of DeKalb come back and collect all their signs post haste after Tuesday.

Anonymous said...

Hey anon 6:31, maybe we should put up a sign at the new polling place for Lakeside (Heritage Elementary) that says "Property Abandoned by Your Dekalb School System"

Anonymous said...

FOD and the school system are desperate to the vote out. For most of DeKalb County SPLOST is the only issue on the ballot. Would you take the time to vote on one issue?

Anonymous said...

I'm asking my neighbors to vote and to vote no. They are mainly retirees who don't pay school property taxes anyway (like many of our BOE members).

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there a BOE agenda item recently where they were asking for a waiver of the BOE policy to be able to put up the Valhalla sign on their fence? Did the policy get changed permanently to allow this new SPLOST sign to be posted?

Anonymous said...

I am shocked at the number of intelligent, active parents who fully understand the mess that is DCSS and don't really think things will change but have recently changed their minds to vote yes out of sheer fear of what may happen if they don't. I am shocked that teachers -who have been shunned, penalized and disrespected by this system feel guilty voting against an "education" tax even though they know that what makes a great school system is not buildings. It is almost as if the whole county has Stockholm Syndrome.

Dekalbparent said...

Anon 6:31

Yes, you may remove those signs on the public right of way. They are illegal. There was one on Clairmont Road that I was going to remove, but someone beat me to it.

The ones on the fences at Lakeside (anywhere else?)really bother me - that is political campaigning on public property - would they not be as illegal as the ones along the road? And yes, I remember the Valhalla Project having to get a special waiver.

Anonymous said...

Robo calls are relatively 'easy' -- you buy a list (e.g. both the Republican party and the Democratic party maintain huge lists and data bases so the BOE members would have access to the lists). You then pay a company some fairly minimal amount per phone call to place the call -- you record the message and for less than a nickle a call, the call goes out to however many people are on the list -- it is a pretty effective way to reach a lot of people in a campaign (particularly when compared to something like a mailer that requires printing and postage).

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how or who is actually paying for the robo calls, which are still costing money (but not as much as the glossy brochures, which were sent home with the kids).

Anonymous said...

Dekalbparent, you are incorrect, these signs are not illegal. They are a perfectly legitimate function of a PAC. However, advising people to remove them could be illegal.

Dekalbparent said...

Anon -

You are telling me that a PAC has rights an individual citizen does not?

It is not legal for me to post a sign for my yard sale on public property. This is often waived for signs posted within a day or two of the sale, but they must be removed afterwards. Nor is it legal for me to put signs supporting a candidate for political office anywhere but my yard.

Dekalbparent said...

However, I will concede that due to DeKalb County's latest version of the sign ordinance(occasioned by a lawsuit brought by a developer's attorney),taking it upon oneself to remove the signs could get dicey.

If you take the signs, it could be viewed as theft (however simply uprooting them and laying them down is not stealing them. Probably calling Code Enforcement is better.

(I really like the idea of putting up a "neglect brought to you by" sign at Heritage, but I am not endorsing it)

BTW, I was talking to a high-placed employee of DeKalb Parks & Greenspace Dept and was told that the county has repeatedly approached DeK Schools about buying some of their excess property and the DCSS has rebuffed them.

Anonymous said...

This teacher is voting no. The Palace and $2000 chairs is enough for me to vote no. A new administrative complex should have been the VERY LAST project to be completed in the county. And when the Board starts suggesting property tax increases, everyone should "Occupy" board meetings stating your displeasure. Increasing my pay wasn't a good enough reason to increase taxes, so they should make do with what they have now.