Friday, February 20, 2009

Notes from 4th Annual Lunch and Learn @ Arabia Mountain HS

As I understand, this is a luncheon sponsored by the Operations Division to both thank those that do business (construction related) with DCSS and make them aware of current and upcoming projects. The meeting was held at Arabia Mountain HS. While there is a ‘naming committee’, I personally believe the name of the school should remain the same, given the designation associated with the area. It could make it easier in the future in requesting private and grant dollars to support the instruction programs.

My recollections include:

-Dr. Angela Pringle, principal for Arabia Mountain, spoke of the success of the community meetings and the bar being set high for success. She is ready to exceed any expectations the district and community has for her and the school.

-Dr. Crawford Lewis shared information about the state of the budget. He indicated 25 million has been cut from the budget thus far and he expects he will need to recommend cuts of at least another 16 million dollars. He indicated due to bad formulas at the state level, DCSS is not getting its equitable share of facility dollars. He is advocating for a change to the formula. I believe I’ve heard rumblings that DCSS will get more however that is not confirmed. Dr. Lewis also recognized Ms. Pat Pope for the job that she has done. He indicated that since she has come on board, change orders have stopped. He indicated it was due to having a construction professional at the helm. Ms. Pope later mentioned there was one change order request however it was due to a scope change. Dr. Lewis is waiting to find out if any stimulus dollars will be available for school renovations.

-IMO, the highlight of the luncheon was hearing from NASA astronaut and Henderson High School graduate Eric Boe. I found out that Henderson High School is the only High school in America that has had 2 shuttle astronauts. Eric matriculated though Evansdale to Henderson and was very complimentary about the education he received in DeKalb. He reiterated a point made by Dr. Lewis that everything starts with education. Mr. Boe presented a flag to the school system that was flown on the shuttle mission he participated in.

-Ms. Pope gave her State of the CIP update. I know I will forget a few things but she indicated her PPT will be on the website in a few days. Points she mentioned include:
• Tax revenues for SPLOST 3 are 23% ahead of projections.
• Factoring in the $300 million dollar bond and $128 million dollars of tax receipts thus far, they have been able to make great progress.
• The Mountain Industrial Facility will consist of over 275,000 square feet and will be home to seven programs, including the administrative offices.
• 100% of the projects have been under budget.
• 98% of the projects have been on time (Note: Arabia Mountain was 1 year ahead of schedule and under budget).
• There are currently no delays and no claims with current projects.
• Currently involved in a mid program assessment. Some projects in the current plan may not be done (perhaps Lithonia expansion?). Based on a combination of factors (projects finishing earlier, recommending some projects be cancelled), it is expected that an additional $32 million dollars can be allocated to other projects.
• LEED standards will be a part of every project going forward (This one is for you O&T).
• Custodial staff has been trained in use of green products. All cleaning products going forward will meet green standards.
• Pilot Green campaign has exceeded expectations thus far. Plan to roll it out to all schools in August 2009.

I did find out that the new Tucker HS will have a design similar to Arabia Mountain. That community REALLY has something to look forward to.

Alright DeKalbSchoolWatch bloggers, have at it!


Cerebration said...

PSC - you are brave - and I'm so thankful for what you regularly bring to the table here. Great report! Confirming my solid conviction that Pat Pope is one of the best people we have working for us in the system. I don't know how she manages to put all the "distractions" aside and continue to plow through and do the great, fiscally responsible job that she does. Because of her - more work will be completed with SPLOST 3 than we could have even hoped for without her leadership.

themommy said...

Somethings that I wish Dr. Lewis would think about if he does indeed have to cut...

Do we need over 100 staff development specialists? This includes TEN who together make over a million dollars. There has got to be a better, more efficient, less costly way to do this. Same thing with transportation management. Of course, parents will have to do with less customer service at the central office level. Do we think that DCSS parents are ready for that?

I think it is essential that he cut deep and painfully before impacting the school house. He must trim administrative costs and overhead.

I suspect that this Arabia Mountain High School will have higher operational costs than a traditional high school and this concerns me. We also must look at the costs of magnet schools and transportation for choice programs as well.

A teacher showed me their contract the other day. All teachers are being forced to take a furlough on May 25 2010. This day's pay (for this teacher say 150 dollars) was actually deducted from their total salary. Thus since they are paid monthly, they will be bringing home a little less each month rather than seeing the whole amount deducted in one paycheck. (Fortunately, Obama's stimulus package will give it back to them in the form of reduced payroll taxes.)

pscexb said...

I mentioned this in another post and it's worth repeating here, the estimated savings on utilities alone for the consolidation into the Stone Mountain Facility is $1.7 million dollars annually.

It is legitimate to look at the transportation costs for Arabia Mountain. One must consider that there will NOT be any residential transportation provided, so that should reduce the overall transportation investment for this school. Being a silver LEED certified school, it should also have lower utility costs than most schools in the district.

I'm hoping a 'video tour' can be created of Arabia Mountain then aired on TV 24 for the community to see. The natural light for the room is something to see. Weather permitting, the outdoor classrooms will be nice also.

Cerebration said...

I don't believe that for one minute - the move will save $1.7 million annually in utilities alone... who came up with that? That's a SAVINGS of $141,666.00 per month - on utilities. C'mon! That's a line of baloney. How much are they currently spending on utilities for these programs - $300,000 a month? Will utilities in the new building be free?

Don't just fall for whatever they say. I need to see the invoices - no way do I believe that. And when you try to feed the people stuff like this - they will tend not to believe much of anything else you tell them either. Puleeze...

pscexb said...

It is fair to be skeptical about that figure, Cerebration. Consider the age of the facilities (Old Briarcliff HS, Central office in two buildings, Clarkston Center, Drivers Ed locations, etc.) that will be consolidated into the newer facility. It would be interesting to see the delta between the current bills and the new bills to see if that will result in that savings. I'll go on a limb and say there will be savings, but maybe not that much.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the report PSC. This is not a criticism but a legitimate question. When Lewis says he has cut $25 M from the budget, which budget is he talking about? 2008-09 or 2009-2010?

And what are the dates for the DCSS fiscal year? Is is July 1 to June 30?

If he has already cut $25 M, that is good news, but once again if the DCSS wants any credit for this, they need to post the new budget numbers and identify where they made the cuts. If they took the cuts from my kids or their teachers and not the administrative office, it will just make all of us more angry.

I am sure the Arabia utilities savings are projected for a number of years in the future- not for the coming school year. It takes a very long time for any of the energy saving features to pay off. If you could get this kind of savings in the first year, every company would be doing it!

pscexb said...

Anon, I interpreted that the 25 million came out of the FY 2009 budget, which runs from July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2009. Some of those 'cuts' included eliminating the Step increase, staff reductions by 127, eliminating open head counts (which were funded in the budget), not replacing some positions, transportation restructuring, and early outs. Everyone asks that same legitimate question if that figures represents the summation of the cuts or the net. Mr. Turk 'should' be able to shed insight on that.

Please remember the utility savings mentioned ONLY refer to the consolidation from several older facilities into one new location. Arabia Mountain was not factored into that.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to go through withdraw if I don't have to fight the LEED crusade anymore!!! But until every old school is renovated to LEED, I'll still be able to rant ;)

If C Lew and Pope are going to spend so much on the Mountain Industrial complex, might as well make that LEED too.

And speaking of air quality/pollution, I've heard that some of DCSS' older buses barely pass inpsection for exhaust. Atlanta has some of the worst air quality in the nation, and we have one of the highest children's asthma rates. It's high time every bus is retro-fitted to meet higher exhaust standards. With our county being the home of the CDC and Rollins School of Public Health, I guarantee we could be a pilot project with some federal funding. DCSS does not at all make smart use of having the CDC being right here. It's a no brainer to have educational programs and pilot programs with them. The Emory campus is built out, but the Buford Highway CDC campus is growing fast. It's makes perfect sense to get some programs going in that area.

Hey psc, did Pope/C Lew mention anything about the school system's three worst offending facilities, Lakeside, Cross Keys and Sequoyah?

Anonymous said...

themommy nails it: "Do we need over 100 staff development specialists?"


And cut Ron Ramsey's office. he won't notice. He's down at the Gold Dome for over two months.

Cerebration said...

Old Briarcliff HS - Yes, this building houses some of the central office support staff and Open Campus, but it also houses DK School of the Arts - they are moving to Avondale HS (at an additional cost of $10 million) and will incur utilities there - were those new utilities factored in to this equation?

Central office in two buildings, Clarkston Center, I don't know about these two - but would like to have a look at the utility bills from 2008.

Drivers Ed locations don't much matter now do they - since Drivers Ed was cut?!

Cerebration said...

An aside -- I hope you are all following news in the rest of the county -- it looks like Burrell Ellis is about to really fire Chief Bolton --

Anonymous said...

Move all the Bryant Technology Center (underperforming) staff to the Mountan Industrial complex. DCSS can actually make a large amount of money selling that property. Being right off 285, it's in an attractive area for developers, even considering the current economic crunch.

Lefty said...

Anon - DCSS would make no money on selling the Bryant Center because they don't own the property. The Frazier family (eg Frazier Road) leases that property to the school system (probably for $1).

Several years ago, there was a neighborhood movement to sell that property. When the neighborhood activists came to Mr. Frazier's home, he said, "They can't sell that property, I own it."

I've heard there may be a similar situation with Druid Hills HS. Who knows how many other properties have the same status? Is there a way to find out, short of an open records request?

Anonymous said...

Druid Hills HS is owned by Emory. They do lease it for about a dollar a year to the school system.

I do believe in the long run that moving all the offices to Mountain Industrial might save some money but this is a horrible time to sale the property of the current central office.

I am just opposed to spending money on the central office currently when so many schools in Dekalb are in the shape that they are in. I do not see this as a project that should go in front of any school house in the county. I do not put the administrative staff's needs over any child in Dekalb County. Again, I see the benifit of making this move but the timing of doing so is very sensitive to the needs of our children and our teachers who did not get step raise increases. I do not see this as a project in front of Cross Keys but it has been approved before Cross Keys construction costs.

Cerebration said...

That's fascinating. I had no idea that the school system doesn't own WBBC and DHHS. That sheds a whole new light on things!

The more you look - the more surprises you find in DCSS. The thing they forget is that the system belongs to the taxpayers - and the employees are servants of the taxpayers. However, instead they so often treat us as if they are royalty and we are the commoners begging for pudding.

Anonymous said...

According to property tax records, DHHS is owned by the Dekalb Board of Education.

It's interesting with regards to the Bryant Center property. Tax records show that Dekalb Board of Education is the owner of the "real estate", but Nextel South Corporation is listed as owner of the "Personal property" at that address.

Anonymous said...

The same type of "situation" with the Sam Moss Center. DCSS owns the "real estate" and Nextel South owns the "personal property".

Not sure what that is all about.

themommy said...

FYI, DeKalb County doesn't own the land under the Ashford Dunwoody Police Department either-- or it is required to be a police department or reverts back to the owner.

The land where the new Dunwoody Elementary School is going could only be used for educational purposes. I believe that Hopper Alexander (soon to be empty) is deeded in such a way that it can only be used for education purposes as well.

themommy said...

DHHS is owned by DCCS by Emory would buy it in a heartbeat if available.

Ella Smith said...

Interesting, as I have always been told for years that Emory owned North Druid Hills H.S. I remember it being discussed when Lakeside and Henderson were consoladated and I remember the reason that Druid Hills was not considered was because it was owned by Emory and that it had to remain a HS. I guess I have been getting incorrect information for years. I assumed the information was true because I had heard that so many times.

I used to teach with the principal at North Druid Hills. I am going to email him and ask him. I have heard so many different things. I really want to make sure I know the right information.

themommy said...


I think there are indeed restrictions on the land -- ie deed restrictions that the land must be used for a school or it reverts to the donor. I think the donor was Emory.

Dekalbparent said...

The Mommy @ 3:35 is correct. The land DHHS is on has to be used for a school. Sounds as if this is the case in several school buildings. It definitely presents a challenge, but invites creative thinking.

I keep wondering why DCSS doesn't throw some of their knotty problems out to the public. I doubt they would be inundated (lots of people don't care), and I have always found brainstorming to be a useful way to get creative thinking going...

Perhaps the "personal property" owned by Nextel refers to leased equipment.

Anonymous said...

Thinking back now, I wonder if the "land use issue" is the same issue with the old Shallowford ES/Chamblee MS property. After Shallowford closed and before Chamblee MS opened, there was some type of continuing adult education type company using that facility - I don't think it was Devry - but some type of similar company.

pscexb said...

Interesting points raised in the last few points. I have also heard that 'covenants' exist for several schools in the district. The premise being the land is provided for sole use as a school and if DCSS decides not to have a school there anymore, it goes back to the original property owner (or heirs). Not to 'blame' anyone but records like that are hard to come by given DCSS may not have documented them well over the years. Bob Cox who recently retired from the Sam Moss Center is someone who knew a lot of this history.

This also reminds me of something said by the architect for Arabia Mountain. I 'believe' they may also work on Druid Hills and they commented that they could not find documentation of the renovations done in 1960 and 1971 (?). I don't recall the full context of the conversation or mentioning this but it pointed out that documentation may be lacking for work done years ago. Wouldn't it be nice if you could go to a database by school and note all work done on it over time.

pscexb said...

I meant interesting points in the last few POSTS....

Dekalbparent said...

The deal with DHHS is that when the school was originally opened, in 1926, it was a school for the children of Emory faculty, and was run by Emory. I think it was just high school at first, but it became a 1-12 school after that. Emory then deeded it over to DCSS with the provision that it must always be a school, or it goes back to Emory.

I have heard varying opinions on how loose a definition of "school" Emory would accept.

Anonymous said...

Actually, as far as I know, there are no covenants restricting the use of the land under the old Shallowford/Chamblee MS building. Bad politics is why it continues to sit empty.

Ok, many years ago, one of our schools was filthy. It had a horrible janitorial staff. Our principal claimed that he/she was told that because we were in Dunwoody, that staff was the best we could do!

This little school was never well maintained, in fact, long time veterans of DCSS will tell you that it was one of the worst maintained buildings in the system.

Part of the problem has been a series of administrators (who like Dr. Lewis) were unwilling/unable to hold employees accountable and fire them for doing a crummy job.

The newest administrator is doing a good job -- it helps that the parents made this a huge issue and got basically a new janitorial staff about a year ago. No one at the middle level of the county could understand how the "ability to manage a janitorial staff" was the number one characteristic that parents were looking for in a new principal.

As much as I support public education, I believe that its biggest weakness is this mentality of job protection at all costs. (unless they molest or abuse a child, of course). Competence need not play a role.

Ella Smith said...

Anonymous, I agree with you totally regarding getting rid of personnel that are ineffective. I do think that the county will try to get rid of poor teachers before they try to get rid of poor janitors. Many of the school board members in the past and one or two of them know appear to want to protect the employees who do not have direct contact with students on a daily basis.

Ella Smith said...

now not know

Anonymous said...

That's we we love psc: "Wouldn't it be nice if you could go to a database by school and note all work done on it over time."

A database like that would be awesome and really be a public service to parents and taxpayers.

But it would mean that DCSS would have to be more transparent. LOL.

Anonymous said...

If there's one thing we all need to push C Lew and the BOE about, it's that all custodians need to report to Pat Pope's dept. And cusotdians should be rotated every few years. It's human nature and all too often the case that custodians become complacement after being in the same location for too long.

Principals should relay feedback to Pope's office on their custodians' performance, but custodians need to be Sam Moss employees.

If anyone's dealt with a janitorial company (which DCSS should be using instead of paying custodians pensions), they know that a company will send out inspectors who check in person the work of custodians. They also contact their clients often for feedback and comments.

That's the same set-up we should have at DCSS. Period.

Cerebration said...

I found this resource about the funding of the Mountain Industrial Center and it's new intended usage:

It doesn't say anything about saving on utilities, however, it does point out (if I'm understanding correctly), that there was a plan to replace the HVAC at the A/B Administration buildings with a cost of $3.2 million. So not doing that work will really cover much of the additional costs associated with the move ($3,943,839.00).

The driver's ed program is still in the description, but I think driver's ed was eliminated. Also, the graphics department is still in the description, however that whole department was recently cut (even though they just bought new equipment.) And - I'm confused - the DESA is included in this Mtn Industrial description - but I thought the program was being moved to Terrell Mill - a move that Mrs. Jackson and her children lobby against at every board meeting. What's the deal with DESA? Anyone understand it? Please share if you do.

Interesting - it says in the report that Mtn Industrial has an auditorium. I wonder if Lakeside could use this for their productions until they get one of their own?!!

Anyway - I still find it very hard to be positive about spending money moving administrators - regardless of the cost savings. Not only will it take money (at least a half-million) from the top of the CIP - it takes time and energy away from focusing on school projects. Pat Pope and her crew can only address so many projects at a time - and for these administrators to cut in line in front of very needy schools is wrong. You could make the same case about cost-savings if you spent the time and energy fixing up crumbling schools.

It's not that it's a bad idea - but it just doesn't sit well. It's like cutting in a soup line - in front of children - to get your bowl filled first.

themommy said...


A better way to phrase the question, is does making this move now pass the smell test? You might also wonder if there is a reason that the central office was schedule to receive a new AC when so many schools have yet to receive the same.

The land that the current central office is sitting on is basically worthless... why rush into this?

Anonymous said...

IAQ for Schools is a great find by Dunwoody Mom.

pscexb said...

Cere, the program is DECA (DeKalb Early College Academy) not DESA. The is a program that is partially funded by several foundations (Gates, Woodruff, and others). I 'believe' it is temporarily housed in a church. I seem to recall a board meeting last year that discussed the location for this school and the need to find one due to the foundation dollar tie in.

It's a good thing if it has an auditorium. I recall there are several meetings held throughout the year for new hires and other gatherings. Also, it would be nicer than where the current board meetings are held (with more space).

Cerebration said...

OH!!!! Thank you PSC, -- in the words of Emily Latilla, "Nevermind..."

pscexb said...

I thought is was Rosanne Rosannadana that said that... :)

Ella Smith said... on Saturday, February 21, 2009 at 3:19 PM -0500 wrote:
>What is the truth? Who owns North Druid Hills High School? Has what I
>have been told for the last 20 years that I have lived here incorrect

Good morning. Druid Hills High School is owned entirely by DeKalb County

Everett F. Patrick
Druid Hills High School
1798 Haygood Dr. N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30307
(0ffice) 678-874-6303
(fax) 678-874-6310

Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education. -
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Cerebration said...

psc - just to clarify - Roseann Rosanadana is the one who had the little sweatball rolling down her nose...