Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Regional Policy Development Opportunity for DCSS students!

Below is a request I actually got from the CEO’s office, asking if greater awareness could be created about this program. I spoke with Ms. Grace Trimble of the Atlanta Regional Commission about the program. If you know any rising 10th and 11th graders that may have an interest in urban policy, city planning, traffic, water pollution, or other regional issues, this is a great opportunity to learn how to formulate policy.

Six to seven monthly meetings are held on Saturdays, beginning in September. Meetings typically run from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm however they could be shorter. With the exception of one overnight retreat, they are typically held in downtown locations (ARC HQ, Ga. Tech, MARTA HQ, etc) and accessible via MARTA. You can get more information about the program by either visiting the website or calling Ms. Trimble.


From: C.J. Bland, Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) Board Member, Citizen District 6 (DeKalb County)

Re: ARC Model Atlanta Regional Commission (MARC) Youth Leadership Program -


Please note that the MARC Program is open to all rising 10th and 11th graders in the 10-county Atlanta region. I'm sending this message to specifically request assistance in helping to increase participation of DeKalb County students in the 2009-20010 MARC youth leadership program.

Despite months of outreach by the program coordinator, I was informed at our recent annual board retreat that there are still only a few applications from DeKalb County students. Therefore, I would greatly appreciate it if you would share the message below with all persons you know who have access to DeKalb County high school students (e.g., school board and staff members, principals, counselors, teachers, parents, students, alumni, etc.).

ARC Model Atlanta Regional Commission (MARC) Youth Leadership Program -

Application Deadline Extended (until 5/15)

The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) - is the regional planning and intergovernmental coordination agency for the 10-county Atlanta area, including Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale counties, as well as the City of Atlanta. For 60 years, ARC has helped to focus the region's leadership, attention and resources on key issues of regional consequence. Our board includes the mayor of Atlanta, the highest ranking local elected official in each county, at least one mayor from each county, and several appointed board members.

ARC is now accepting applications for the 2009-2010 class of the Model Atlanta Regional Commission (MARC) youth leadership program. Now in its 11th year, the award-winning Model Atlanta Regional Commission brings together some 50 teens from all 10 counties in the region for six months of study, debate and hands-on activities regarding regional issues and challenges. It gives teens an opportunity to learn more about the community in which they live while honing their leadership skills.

A student must be a rising sophomore or junior to apply for consideration and selection into this program.

Interested students can visit - for additional information, and to download an application. Please direct any questions to Ms. Grace Trimble, MARC Program Coordinator, at 404-463-3192 or

$760m in Federal Stimulus Funds Approved by State School Board

The Georgia school board has approved $760 million in federal stimulus funds for special education programs and Title I schools - institutions in low-income rural and inner city areas. In a specially called meeting Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to begin distributing the money immediately. The funding is part of the multibillion dollar stimulus set aside by the federal government to jolt the country out of an economic slump. Additionally, Georgia schools will receive millions in general funds from the stimulus package. The school board is expected to approve that later this spring.

From Georgia Public Broadcasting via CR

Where do I sign up Cross Keys HS and its feeders? We're very much Title I and arguably urban, if not "inner city." Anyone know the details about how this tsunami of cash will be allocated?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bullying – An Information Clearinghouse

You may have found this article because you are desperate to find help and support for you or your child who is being bullied. If so, please know that as a community of parents, we are here to help and support as much as we can. Most of us have been navigating DeKalb County School System for many years and we are here to help you by serving as a guide to the best of our ability. That said, the school system is your first line of defense, and we strongly encourage you to use it, find the people in the system with authority, ask for their help and never give up. Start with your child's teacher, move up to the school counselor and if necessary, on to the principal or the system administrator in prevention/intervention.

This thread came about after the tragic suicide of one of our DeKalb students, Jaheem Herrera, a fifth-grader attending Dunaire Elementary School in Stone Mountain, who was so deep in despair, his mother says, due to relentless bullying at school, that he could not see a way out other than taking his own life. We all grieved and continue to grieve over this 11 year old boy’s senseless death and together have pledged to at least create a place to offer information and serve as a guide.

We have learned that according to experts, bullying refers to intentional actions repeated over time that harm, intimidate or humiliate another person [the victim] and occur within the context of an imbalance of power, either real or perceived, between the bully and the victim. Bullying can be physical, verbal or relational, meaning that it can involve excluding or isolating the victim.

Now, we have to add cyber-bullying as a whole new type of abuse. In fact, in Missouri, responding to the suicide of a Missouri teenager who was teased over the Internet by an adult woman posing as a teenaged boy, state lawmakers gave final approval to a bill making cyber harassment illegal. The bill updates state laws against harassment to keep pace with technology by removing the requirement that the communication be written or over the telephone. Supporters say the bill will now cover harassment from computers, text messages and other electronic devices.

Bullying is not something to be brushed off as part of growing up says Barbara Coloroso, author of The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander. Ms. Coloroso gave this advice - do not minimize, rationalize or explain it away. Bullies must be held accountable. Restorative justice for bullies requires restitution, resolution and reconciliation.

In fact, The Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says Children who are bullied experience real suffering that can interfere with their social and emotional development, as well as their school performance. Some victims of bullying have even attempted suicide rather than continue to endure such harassment and punishment.


DeKalb County Schools has an exemplary anti-bullying program according to many experts. Click on the comments link below to view what the DCSS Code of Conduct has to say about bullying.

• The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) works with DeKalb Schools in implementing their program called No Place for Hate® and the Community of Respect. ADL's No Place for Hate® program empowers school communities to promote respect for individual and group differences while challenging prejudice and bigotry.

Becoming a No Place for Hate® School is simple, but requires commitment and follow-through. Participants sign a Resolution of Respect, complete at least three anti-bias activities, and document those activities through a fulfillment form.

• In addition, a HOTLINE sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education provides a 24-hour reporting system for students to report weapons, violence (including bullying), or drugs anonymously by calling 1-877-SAY-STOP. Information is recorded and shared with the local school system and local law enforcement. An investigation is conducted upon receipt of the report.


Programs that DCSS may wish to look into, or individual principals and parent groups may wish to implement in their own schools include:

• Dr. Dan Olweus, a Norwegian research professor of psychology, developed a bullying prevention program that was implemented in Norway, Clemson University and other U.S. schools. Olweus Bullying Prevention Program which is designed to reduce fighting, vandalism, theft and truancy. Cobb County uses this program and based on pre and post bullying prevention surveys, the rate of bullying has dropped by 40% according to Jeff Inman, Cobb County Coordinator for Safe and Drug Free Schools.

• Flyers found at the Cobb Schools website, can be downloaded and given to parents when their child may be a victim of bullying and or identified as a bully. The flyers cover the following topics: Adult Sayings, Bullying Myths, Bystanders, Code of silence, Definition of Bullying, Intervention Strategies for Bully, Relational aggression, Teasing, Tips for Parents and resources,

What Does Bullying and Victim Behavior Look Like
 and the
Bullying Podcast (mp3) of a radio interview with Jeff Dess, Cobb's Prevention/Intervention specialist.

One of the flyers lists the following facts regarding bullying:

• Children are more likely to be bullied in elementary school.

• Most bullying is non-physical behavior such as name-calling.

• Most bullies use bullying behaviors with more than one victim.

• In elementary school, most students who are bullied tell a teacher or parent. When students reach middle and high school, children are less likely to reach out for adult intervention.

• Bullying is most likely to occur during school hours.

• Most students think that they should be involved but do not know how.

• Class size does not increase the frequency of bullying behavior.

• Students who bully have average to above average self-esteem.

• Most victims who are bullied are not bullied because of external deviations like red hair, glasses, etc.

• Empathy crystallizes in elementary years.

• If a child is being bullied, ask the student to log the bullying behavior (where, what type of bullying, when, how and who’s doing it).

• Bullies do not pick on others at random but instead engage in a shopping process
targeting preferred victims.

• Bullies consistently see other children as more aggressive than themselves. They see threats where none exists and take these imagined threats as provocation to
strike back.

• Children who are potential victims must learn to recognize the importance of body language.

• As a result of a bullying episode, there must be contrasting feelings. The child who bullies may feel excited, powerful or amused while the victim feels embarrassed or hurt.

• Bullies are as popular as well adjusted students. Victims occupy the bottom of the schoolyard food chain, the lowest rungs of the social ladder and the bottom of the pecking order.

The point that consistently jumped out in all of this research is the fact that the Bystander is the Key. Training students to step in, diffuse, protect and tell will go a long way to creating safe schools.

Jimmy Carter stated it well with the following poem.

Peace is active, not passive; Peace is doing, not waiting; Peace like war must be waged. 

Our goal then is to wage peace on bullying.

Call it what it is, bullying behavior, and insist that it will not be accepted at school or at home. Every student has a right to come to school and not be called names, threatened, ostracized, or isolated. School should be a safe haven.

Bloggers, please share any links, information or helpful tips regarding bullying in the comments section below. We will keep this post going for as long as it takes. We will create a photo-link to it on the right hand panel so that it will never get buried.

Today's Press Conference

CBS 46 Video
(slow to load up)

Superintendent Lewis held his press conference today. And he said some good things.

However, we found out today that Jaheem was choked to unconsciousness in December???

A parent, Mike Wilson, passionately interrupted the press conference and stated his daughter was bullied at Evandsdale Elem. and Henderson Middle over three years, even receiving a "death threat", and that he was stymied by the DCSS Central Office.

As Cere stated earlier on DCSW, you can have the best program in the world on paper, but if it isn't implemented, if it's effectiveness isn't reviewed, if it's just a paper tiger, then it means nothing. Why does DCSS even have a full-time administrator, Jennifer Errion, with the job title "assistant director of student support services, prevention-intervention", for such situations? The blame cannot be left just with the principal and school staff.

This investigation needs to be tough, and the school system needs to bring in outside experts to do so. The system's Internal Affairs Office led by Ron Ramsey does not have the credibility to run a tough, thorough, no holds barred investigation. I still would like to see the GBI or GA Attorney General's Office involved. Remember that Crawford Lewis went to Gwen Keyes for the Pat Pope investigation that has yielded nothing. Gwen Keyes is not going to give the public an investigation that will cause even an ounce of embarassment for Lewis and the school system. We need an outside review, and it needs to be brutally honest.

SW DeKalb HS Students Earn Invite to National Forensic League Tournament

Why not some good news for our blog readers? Three young people from Southwest DeKalb excelled in the Southern Peach District’s National Forensic League debate tournament and have earned an invite to the National Tournament.

The Southwest DeKalb students who qualified for the competition are Ernest Brown, 12th grade, Ivory Goudy, 12th grade, and Tian Covington, 11th grade. Are you ready for the topic they successfully defended? - The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and its improvement of academic achievement. Perhaps we should recruit some of these young people to DCSS leadership!

Kudos the students, their families, and their support groups on this very impressive accomplishment!

The full write-up and link to the official DCSS press release here:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bullying IS A Problem Within Our Current Society! What Can We Do About It?

First of all, we need to look at the definition of what bullying is? A person is being bullied when he or she is exposed repeatedly to negative actions on the part of one or more persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself. The definition has three important components:

Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative action.
Bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time.
Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength.

Bullying can take on several forms. Bullying to one individual may actually be just playing around to another individual. Perception of the one who is receiving the signals is extremely important. In many cases the student is doing the bullying because it makes the student feel better about themselves because of problems with their self-esteem. They actually project their problems with their self-esteem on others by conflicting pain. However, in many cases the student has learned this type of behavior from his or her parents. So many times we unknowing realize what we are teaching our children by:

* Verbal bullying by making bad derogatory comments and bad names in front of our children (particularly in divorce situations)
* Bullying through social exclusion or isolation of neighbors and individuals we work with or individuals who are different from us regardless of the reason
* In many cases due to problems with family violence situations children see physical bullying in their own home by parents and siblings hitting, kicking, shoving, and spitting (How many times have you heard or thought it is normal for brothers and sisters to fight? Is this appropriate and should this be normal?)
* Many times we bully others in front of our children by lies and false rumors about individuals we do not like.
* Many times children see racial, sexual, and disabled bullying by jokes we tell or just by our actions. Actions say things words never have to say. How many inappropriate bald jokes have you told to someone losing their hair? Things like this may be funny to the person telling the joke but may be extremely painful to the receiver of the joke.
* Many times we Cyber bully on this website and do not even realize what we are doing as we are just voicing our opinions (Cyber bullying is via phone or internet) From time to time most of us on this site are voicing opinions of individuals without all the facts which may cause pain to someone else. Often when we expressing our opinions on this site it may make us feel good, but the false rumors we may spread may devastate the rumored person.

Each of us needs to examine the example we actually are setting in front of our children. As teachers sometimes we have this saying that normally the apple never falls far from the tree. In reality, when I meet many parents through me 29 years of teaching I do see the behaviors many times of parents that are so much like their child’s behaviors. I leave parent conferences on occasion when there are behavioral issues, and in the back of my mind I totally understand where the child’s behaviors are coming from. The child sees these behaviors from a parent daily. Our schools appear to keep in check racial bullying but have problems with sexual orientation and sexual bulling. Could this be because of the example we exhibit in front of our children regarding this topic? Do our children think this is not a serious offense?

But enough about us as parents, why do some students bully in school? Many students who bully have strong need for power and negative dominance. Many students who bully find satisfaction in causing injury and suffering to other students. Many students who bully actually have low self-esteems so bullying makes others look bad and makes them feel good about themselves. Many times students who bully are often rewarded in some way for their behavior with material or psychological rewards from their peers.

Bullying is a serious issue in our schools. By looking at the following data you would never suspect bullying was against 36 state laws:

* That twenty three percent of students in grade 4-6 have been bullied several times or more
* Twenty percent of students 4-6 in grade indicate that they have bullied others
* Seventeen percent of students in grade 6-12 report having been bullied “sometime”
* Eight percent of students in grade 6-12 have been bullied once a week
* Nineteen percent of students in grade 6-12 said they had been a bully to others “sometimes”
* Three out of four students report that they have been bullied.
* Ninety percent of students felt being bullied caused social, emotional, or academic problems.
* Each year, 1 out of 13 kids under the age of 19 attempt suicide, a rate that has tripled in the last 20 years. Last year, more than 2,000 of them succeeded — a staggering number that can be blamed largely on bullying.
* Victims are mostly boys, but girls are increasingly being bullied. Bullying is reported as most severe in grades 7-9 with 4-6 next.

* Sixty-nine percent of students believe schools respond poorly to reports of bullying and victimization.
* Ridicule/teasing, verbal harassment, and practical jokes are the most frequently reported forms of bullying. Physical attacks are reported less frequently.
* Forty-four percent of teachers believe disruptive school behaviors are getting worse.
* Each month over 250,000 students report being physically attacked. One in five school students report avoiding rest rooms out of anxiety about safety.
* A high percentage of students who are absent from school can be blamed on bullying. Students have a high level of stress related illnesses when they are being bullied.

We also must also teach our students or our children not to be bystanders and allow this to happen around them. We need to teach our students/children to tell the student bullying to “Stop” and to under no circumstance allow anyone to bully another student in front of them. We need to make sure the student who is bullying does not receive any positive feedback for his or her actions from our children/students around him.

Without a doubt we need to hold teachers, administrators, school board members, and the superintendant responsible to make sure our schools are safe from violence of any kind and to make sure that bullying is not occurring in anyway in the DeKalb County Schools. We also need to hold them responsible to make sure every parent who walks in with a concern gets the same respect as the president of the PTA or a school board member. However, in my personnel opinion, we do not need to project all the blame on these individuals. We do need to take some responsibility as members of a society that does not show respect and acceptance to individuals who are not like us. We need to think about the joke we are telling or rumor we are spreading about someone. We need to teach our children tolerance and set an example of the behaviors we would like to see. We need to teach our children to tell students who are bullying to “STOP” or leave the student being bullied along. The way the school system handles a bullying situation is definitely only part of the problem. The problem is much bigger than this, and we must all look in our hearts to see what changes each of us might be able to make to change the bullying situation in our society. It is worth making the changes in each of our behaviors, to try to prevent one child or one person in our society from feeling the pain of being bullied.

Based on the above my recommendation to lawmakers and policymakers would be the following law or school board policies in schools regarding NO TOLERANCE FOR BULLING. On the first offense I would suggest the student would be given consequences and the parents would be called. On the second or subsequence offense the school system must report the incident to the Department of Family and Children's Services (DFACS) for a formal investigation to help determine the percipitating cause of the bullying and to allow DFACS if necessary to remove the child from the home or require other needed services or consequences for the bullier.

What do you think? What can you do to make a difference?

CNN Reports on Jaheem and Bullying

This is an excellent, honest report on the problem with bullying in schools. One revelation is that we have focused on racial bullying and racial equality, however, most bullying is over sexual issues. Barbara Coloroso, author of "The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander", gave great advice - do not minimize, rationalize or explain it away. Bullies must be held accountable. Restorative justice for bullies requires restitution, resolution and reconciliation.

What can we do as parents, to implement strong anti-bullying initiatives in our children's schools - or how can we at least through the PTA's, ensure that the policies in place are being taken seriously?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Oh please tell me this is a joke!

Now tell me - did you notice - DCSS is implicitly endorsing this -- as parking for the event will be at LAKESIDE HIGH SCHOOL - and it's worse -- Saturday night is also PROM NIGHT at Lakeside.

Was proper permission granted for using public school property? What about DeKalb County code enforcement? Can it possibly be legal for a private homeowner to host a "party" that charges admission, invites via email blast to 66,000 and then feels entitled to use the public high school's parking lot? I had always heard that Mr. Milani had great insider relationships with county leaders, but this is beyond reason.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dunaire Elementary School and a Parent's Worst Nightmare

This is a parent's nightmare. This needs to be the most thorough investigation possible of the Dunaire administration and DCSS Central office staff, and it needs to be done by an outside entity, like the GBI. An investigation by DCSS Internal Affairs won't due.

How does this happen? He was Hispanic, and was taunted about his accent? Race is involved here! The mother alerted staff. Staff "documented" the bullying. Jennifer Errion is the assistant director of student support services, prevention-intervention. What happened Ms. Errion?

People need to be fired for this, and not just the school staff. Any DCSS Central Office administrators who knew about this and enabled it do not deserve one penny of salary from DeKalb parents and taxpayers. Crawford Lewis, we are waiting for a press conference, and an explanation. This is the type of incident that makes parents take their children to private schools, and the system's enrollment is already shrinking fast.

God bless the Herrera/Bermudez family.

Mom: School Bullying Led To 11-Year-Old's Suicide
Bermudez said she had been to Dunaire Elementary School six or seven times to complain about how Jaheem and one of his sisters had been treated, but the problem persisted.

Family says bullying led boy, 11, to hang himself
Dekalb County school officials are mum about allegations that bullying at Dunaire Elementary School may have led 11-year-old Jaheem Herrera to commit suicide last week.

Public information officer Dale Davis said Tuesday morning that officials are legally unable to comment on student-related records, such as whether Herrera’s mother Masika Bermudez had complained to the school about possible bullying.

In an interview with WSB-TV, Bermudez also said her son was being bullied at school. She said she had complained to the school.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Premier Misrepresentation

Pronunciation: \pri-ˈmir, -ˈmyir, -ˈmē-ər;
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English primer, primier, from Anglo-French, first, chief, from Latin primarius of the first rank —

1 : first in position, rank, or importance
2 : first in time : earliest

In case you hadn’t noticed, Dr. Lewis has taken to linking the word “premier” with “DeKalb County School System” in his speeches and references these days. He attaches the word “premier” to the front of the name of the school system – as if it’s a corporate tag line or a copyrighted word association. In fact, the word “premier” is part of the school system’s logo on the website.

“Premier DeKalb County Schools” is downright false advertising that fails to overcome the reality of just how truly poor this school system really is. In fact, Dr. Lewis has diminished the definition of the word “premier” to the point that it has become a non-word to anyone who hears it pass his lips. He would better serve his “stakeholders” (another favorite buzzword) to simply allow pure, clear air to pass his lips instead – the pure air of honesty.

Here are some facts about DeKalb County Schools that serve to show that not only is DeKalb not premier, many of our schools can’t even rise to the level of "adequate".

Governor’s Office of Student Achievment

The data here tells several stories. Perhaps as a harbinger of future performance, our first grade students have lost 6 percentage points in the number of students who exceed performance expectations on the CRCT over the last three years. Moreover, the number of students who are NOT meeting expectations has risen by 2% in Language Arts and 8% in Mathematics. In fact, in 2006-07 (the last year with published data) 14% of first graders did not meet reading standards, 24% did not meet language arts standards and 24% did not meet mathematics standards. In the corporate world, an inability to hit performance targets this badly would trigger replacements. However, our school board just renewed our superintendent’s contract until October, 2011, in effect, a reward. This adherence to the status quo, with such dismal first grade performance doesn’t give us much hope for improvement.

Along with this decrease, comes a system-wide drop in enrollment of about 2%. (Are we losing our best performing students?) Our results on the high school graduation test have improved in the last three years, with Hispanics making the greatest gains, and everyone having trouble with science. However, students with disabilities are failing the test miserably. The failure rate on the End of Course Tests is frightening. The most recent scores show 47% failure in 9th grade literature, 26% failure in American Lit, 66% failure in Algebra 1, 60% failure in Geometry, 59% failure in Biology, 58% failure in Physical Science, 38% failure in U.S. History.

The good news is, our graduation rate has risen about 10% in three years. The school system has not shared exactly how they determine the graduation rate though - do they track students across four years or do they simply divide the number who began the year as a senior by the number who graduate (as many schools do). Disaggregated, though we find that the graduation rate for Title 1 schools is only 67.4% compared to 79.0% for Non-Title 1 schools. Sadly, the graduation chasm between males and females is wide: 76.4% of females graduate, compared to only 68.5% of males. The K-12 retention rate supports the gender discrepancy: 37.7% of females are retained from K-12 compared to 62.3% of males. (Are we sending our boys an early lesson that they are not capable?) Of those who did manage to graduate, only 35.7% qualified for the Hope Scholarship in 2007. Interestingly, DeKalb supplied 6,213 of the total 104,123 high school graduates in the State in 2007 – nearly 6% of the total – imagine how many more we would have provided had they all made it through to graduate. Conversely, imagine how many we have sent into society ill-prepared.

Further, we continue to segregate students based on performance, thereby creating environments with low performers separated into different schools from high performers. For example, the brand new Arabia High School, with all of its learning potential and possibilities to serve as a new kind of learning environment for so many, in the end has been introduced as more or less, a magnet school, requiring an application, essay and lottery to gain admission. Our best resources seem to only be focused on our best students – leaving the under-performing to flounder. Why are we not focusing more heavily on those most at-risk? Why do we not invest millions into new, different and exceptional educational opportunities for them? One size does not fit all. The DCSS college-prep diploma, which requires more credits that the state does, may not be achievable for all. Does that mean some must be ignored or forced to achieve the same goal using vaguely different routes? What is wrong with offering a truly impressive, positive vocational opportunity which could carve a path to a viable career for so many – especially our boys, who we seem to be failing the most?

Adequate Yearly Progress

In July, 2007, the AJC listed over 100 metro area schools having trouble meeting “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP). Of the list, Cobb had 14, Gwinnett had 14, Fulton had 15, Atlanta City had 18 and DeKalb had a whopping 40. Of those in DeKalb, the most egregious was McNair Middle, which hadn’t made AYP in 8 years and required state intervention. In addition, Clarkston and Cross Keys High Schools hadn’t passed AYP for 5 years at the time of the report. (Cross Keys did manage to make AYP last year though!) At the time, students from the following 12 high schools in DeKalb were allowed to transfer to a “receiving” school: Avondale, Cedar Grove, Clarkston, Columbia, Cross Keys, Lithonia, MLK, McNair, Miller Grove, Open Campus, Stephenson and Towers. In fact, of the 21 high schools in DeKalb, only four were allowed to accept these transfers: Lakeside, Chamblee, Dunwoody and Druid Hills. Fast forward to 2008 and you will find that although we have many individual schools passing AYP, some even labeled “Distinguished”, we still have 40 schools that failed to make AYP (out of a total of 143 schools).

Currently, DeKalb’s District AYP Status for 2008 was still “Needs Improvement” meaning too many of our schools have missed AYP for two or more consecutive years. In fact, DeKalb has only met 15 out of 22 criteria markers. Needs Improvement (NI) schools must offer options to parents – such as tutoring or school choice – and may need to take specific action to improve student performance. (This is scaled on a grading system that includes Needs Improvement, Adequate Did Not Meet, and Adequate.) Although the system is making improvements, having made AYP in K-8 as well as some high school markers, it is still evident that the system struggles with math on the graduation test. But as you can see, as a system, DeKalb Schools still have two levels of improvement in order to reach the level of “Adequate” as defined by the state. So where do they get the deluded idea that they are instead, “Premier”? Let’s be honest -- Premier is a far cry from Adequate and several miles from Needs Improvement.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Is The DeKalb Developmental Authority about to vote to give Sembler a 20 Year tax abatement for the Brookhaven project? Will this help our schools?

Is The DeKalb Development Authority about to vote to give Sembler a 20 year tax abatement for the Brookhaven project? Many sources suggested that with the bad economy Sembler is likely having a tough time with that project, so this kind of thing might be expected.

The Sembler family is known or strongly suspected to buy what they want from politicians by donating heavily to their campaigns. Should we expect this, since Dr. Walker took about 17-18 thousand dollars for his campaign from the Sembler family for his bid for the district 9 school board position? Why was Dr. Walker also allowed by the DeKalb County Commission to remain a member of the DeKalb Development Authority even though he is a school board member? Dr. Walker has been the chairman of this committee in the past. Is he still the chairman of this committee? I did hear through the grapevine that he would not be the chairman but I have not heard for sure one way or another.

It is my understanding that the Sembler family also made contributions to several of our county commissioners in one way or another. Is this true or false? Was my grapevine information correct or incorrect?

IF this happens how do you feel about it? Will it be good for the DeKalb County School System and DeKalb County or is it a sad that Sembler can pay off our elected officials to get what he wants? Will he also be allowed by the school board to buy the school board property on North Druid Hills Road? Is this the real reason the Marine High School is not moving to the property on North Druid Hills? Dr. Lewis did say himself it would be the best location, but due to not having a lunchroom it can not be used as a Marine High School? Why is this property fine for the DeKalb High School For the Arts and not for the Marine High School?

Summary of 4/17 DeKalb BoE Called Meeting

On Friday, April 17th @ 10:30am, the DCSS BoE held ‘Meeting of the Whole’ to discuss several facility related topics. See the agenda for this meeting on the school system website by navigating to Board of Education on the left hand pane, then Meeting Agendas. Select the 4/17/2009 meeting. Note, this was a discussion thus did not require the board to act on these topics during the meeting. Some of the topics were mentioned in the 4/18 AJC article.

Dr. Lewis recognized Ms. Pope for her work with the overall Operations Department and CIP for the district. She discussed:

E1) The Mountain Industrial Center (MIC). As a reminder, this is the old American Fare/Kmart facility at the intersection of Stone Mountain Industrial and US 78. This will house seven departments, listed below with the anticipated move in dates:

1. DeKalb Early College Academy (already in place)
2. Drivers Ed (already in place)
3. GLRS (Jim Cherry Teacher Center on North Druid Hills) (Fall 2009)
4. Education Media (Fall 2009)
5. Elizabeth Andrew HS (formerly Open Campus) (Fall 2009)
6. Administrative personnel (January 2010)
7. BoE (January 2010)

This facility will be about 262,000 square feet and should house up to 1331 individuals. There will also be ample parking at this site.

For those ‘school board junkies’ that complain about the lack of space at the Freeman building, the board meeting room will house up to 300 people. There is another meeting room nearby that will house over 400 people and will be utilized for various staff meetings. There is a map that shows the tentative layout of the space.

There will need to be a final decision regarding how to lay out the BoE space and whether PDS 24 will move to this facility. Ms. Pope also indicated the BoE should decide a name for this facility by August 2009.

E2) Ms. Pope briefly reviewed the facilities inventory book with the BoE. She identified 10 ‘current and soon to be’ unused properties’ and provided recommendations for each:

1. Tilson ES (Pre-K Academy, serving children as young as 3 months)
2. Forrest Hills ES (single gender)
3. Open Campus (under evaluation)
4. DSA (under evaluation)
5. DESA/Hooper Alexander ES (sell or lease)
6. Clarkston Center (sell)
7. Freeman A (sell)
8. Freeman B (sell)
9. Robert Shaw Annex (Trade with county, sell, or lease)
10. Rock Gym (Trade with county, sell, or lease)

Ms. Pope requested the attorney’s research, acquire, and review all deeds to ensure there are no restrictions. She mentioned DCSS owns a few sites without a building and mentioned the park near Heritage ES as an example. She also acknowledged two other facilities. Heritage is planned for short term use by the Marines and that they have not decided how to use the former Chamblee MS.

Robert Shaw annex is currently being leased by the Health department for $1200/month however there is not a record of the monies being collected. Rock Gym is currently being leased to the City of Stone Mountain for $1/year.

It is expected there will be a complete facility inventory report by June 2009. There is also a concurrent project to evaluate current facilities and make recommendations for further closure/consolidation. That study is expected to be completed by the end of the 2010 school year.

Dr. Lewis mentioned State Rep. Fran Millar requested he meet with him and other legislators to discuss the reimbursement dollars. Most should recall that DeKalb got a ‘less than expected’ allocation, partly due to funding formulas that factored in the excess capacity of seats in DCSS.

E3) See earlier blog posting regarding the CIP mid program assessment.

Please note this is the best recollection of this meeting I got. I did not offer any opinions, just simply reported what was recorded. This meeting was filmed by PDS 24 thus residents could probably get a copy of this, if they desire.

2 Big AJC stories on DCSS; Smart commentary by smart people wanted (but the DCSS Central Office bloat and waste will still remain)

DeKalb school officials plan construction changes
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Saturday, April 18, 2009
The system added plans for a 31-classroom addition at Southwest DeKalb High School in unincorporated Decatur, and a 28-classroom addition at Lakeside High. Southwest DeKalb, which has 36 portable classrooms, is over-capacity by 413 students. Cost of the addition: $10.2 million.
The 44-year-old Lakeside is over-capacity by 364 students. The new classrooms would come in addition to previously approved plans to spend more than $11 million for a new auditorium and “career technology” classrooms. Cost of the new classroom wing: $11.7 million.

HELP! Fellow bloggers, I'm not that smart. Please tell me why that Crawford Lewis and Marcus Turk want to spend $11.7 million on a new wing at Lakeside...when the whole freaking school is falling apart. "Lipstick on a pig" is the appropriate expression, and it never gets old.
Plus, Lakeside has some of the worst public high school rest rooms in America. The worst.

Also, please remember that Southwest DeKalb High School had a $9 million renovation that became a $21 million renovation. Of course, it was led by architect Robert Brown, a longtime county insider, who after he helped ruin Grady Hospital after years on their board, who now represents DeKalb on the State Transportation Board. It's still all about who you know in the DK. Wonder if Crawford and Gene Walker sip cocktails with Robert Brown down at the Commerce Club.


DeKalb schools budget down 5%
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, April 19, 2009
DeKalb County school officials have proposed an $851.1 million general operations budget for next school year — a reduction of almost 5 percent — as they grapple with a sour economy and continued state cuts in school funding. Everyone’s affected: no raises or step increases for teachers and other employees; students will pay more for school lunches.

Here's where I lose my temper. Crawford Lewis, Marcus Turk and Bob Moseley, all who make obscene amount of money, have no problem cutting step increases for veteran teachers, or making students and families pay more for student lunches.

BUT they have a big problem with cutting the OUTTA CONTROL BLOATED AND WASTEFUL DCSS CENTRAL OFFICE!!!

The salaries for upper level DCSS-er's is out of control. The amount of employees at the DCSS Central office is out of control. Ron Ramsey being at the Gold Dome for months while on the taxpayer dime (twice), is out of control.

Let's face facts: As long as longtime insider Crawford Lewis is the superintendent of DCSS, there will never be substantial cuts to the waste and bloat that is the DCSS Central Office. The Board of Education members allow and enable it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Why is the DeKalb Marine High School only for Title One Students? Why Did the Marine Who Spoke at the End of the Public Hearing Say What He Did?

I am excited about the DeKalb County Marine High School being offered as an option to students in DeKalb County. I am glad to see DeKalb County Schools go outside the box looking for ways to help our students be as successful as possible as adults. However, why is this program currently only being offered to students who are Title 1 students? This seems a little discriminatory to students of higher incomes and abilities who might benefit from the structure of a marine high school. Why are so many of our choice schools having so many stipulations in order to be accepted to attend? I am hopeful this is due to the request of the Marines instead of the DeKalb County School Board. It would appear that so much money is being spent on optional schools in DeKalb County with so many stipulations for acceptance that it makes me a little concerned about the direction public education is going. Should public school option schools be available to all students in DeKalb regardless of their race, income, religion, disability, ability? What do you think?

I was extremely offended by the comments at the Heritage Center hearing by the marine who accused the white area in the north side of the county not wanting the Title 1 students to be served in the military school at Heritage. As a member of the Lakeside Community, I did not perceive that the concerns of the community had anything to do with the Title 1 students being served at Heritage. In fact, this was news to our community when Dr. Crawford told us that the Marine HS would be open to Title 1 Students only. The Lakeside/Heritage Community was not even aware of this fact so this could not be the reason for all the concern in the community. It had to do with the traffic and extra congestion of two high schools within .6 of a mile. The community was concerned with parking for the high school, and the park next to the school that is used by the entire community. Anyone who attended the hearing was made extremely aware of the lack of parking space for citizens to park. You had to park ½ to 1 mile away to get a parking place to attend the hearing at Heritage.

For me personally it had to do with placing the special needs students in a better economic situation for the county. It is true that many of the students at Heritage need to be served in self-contained classrooms, as their needs due to the medical fragile situation would best be meet in a self-contained classroom but that does not mean that these classrooms have to be in a separate facility. We have many high schools and middle schools in the county that have room for these children and their could be such a benefit from allowing regular education high school and middle school students to have mentorship’s to work with these special needs children. There would appear to be such a benefit to both the special needs students and the regular education students. I do not like to see these students served in a separate facility from regular education students. I questions why some of the overcrowded grade schools like Oak Grove even could not be moved to Heritage and make Heritage more like Coralwood by serving regular education students and special needs students. They would not have to be served even in the same classrooms, but moving some of the overcrowded students from Oak Grove to Heritage would make sense to me.

I also was concerned that concerned citizens about the Military High Schools made most of the meeting comments. Parents of children, who attended Heritage, did not have sufficient opportunities to be heard because of the limit of time for the hearing. Many of the special needs parents appeared very upset when they were not allowed time to speak due to the concerns of the location of the Military High School. What do you think about the situation regarding the Marine High School location and where do you think the special needs students at Heritage need to be served?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

One of These Things is Not Like the Other ...

With apologies to the Children's Workshop, I offer to the readers of this blog a Sesame Street styled test ...

Using the visual to the left, can you spot the High School feeder pattern that is not like the others? I have shown this map to folks who have no experience with DCSS or the public schools in general and they all get it right. It is elementary and it is the yellow one.

During the last 20 years, a perfect storm of piecemeal zoning decisions by DeKalb County, of backroom redistricting by DeKalb County School System, and of private bigotry by some has created the unnaturally elongated and twisting Cross Keys feeder pattern any viewer can observe on the System's map pictured here.

This death by a thousand cuts has been devastating to the neighborhoods in my area as more and more parents move out of the district in search of public education options. This long-growing pressure on my neighborhood school has been exacerbated by what I call "the last man out" syndrome.

As Cross Keys and its supporting schools became more and more isolated, area families saw their friends and neighbors leaving the System or even the district in search of public education. No one wants to be "the last man out" in what has been a failing district. So, all the families I know in my area are in a constant state of anxiety about the education options for their children.

So what now? Who shall we blame? Should we persecute or prosecute them? Sorry to disappoint you but I am not interested in blame or retribution-what I want to see is corrective action. I challenge the leadership in DCSS and within every department of DeKalb County Government to ask themselves what they can do to reverse the years of bad decisions made in our area. I am challenging the members of my neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods to do the same.

The trouble is, people need to get clear signals from their public officials. The upcoming renovation of Cross Keys is a good thing but dressing up the building is not enough. Rumors about the future sale or demolition of Cross Keys persist. Private and public sector leaders must step up and articulate a vision for the future of Cross Keys that is comprehensive and inspiring to parents and homeowners in the community to bring them back on board.

Who will speak with me for Cross Keys High School's future? I think this school that was once a Georgia School of Excellence can be restored to excellence. I think the Brookhaven community can be reconnected with its natural community high school at Cross Keys. I think our elected and appointed public officials have the ability to enable these things if they choose to do so.

Do they have the will?

Kim Ellis Gokce
President, HillsDale Neighborhood Association
Sponsor, Community Radar civic news sharing

Friday, April 10, 2009

Kiva - A Worldly Learning Experience

Are you looking for a way to teach your students business principles along with empathy? In the powerful new world of the internet, one of the biggest positives is our newfound ability to connect with others around the world. Kiva is an organization which uses these global connections to provide micro-loans to small businesses developed by individuals in third world and developing countries. There are so many important lessons to be learned by involving your classroom (or family) in supporting one or several of these businesses. There are lessons in business (loans are repaid as the business succeeds), lessons in poverty, geography, commonality and most of all, the enduring power of the human spirit.

How Kiva Works
Choose an Entrepreneur, Lend, Get Repaid

1) Lenders like you browse profiles of entrepreneurs in need, and choose someone to lend to. When they lend, using PayPal or their credit cards, Kiva collects the funds and then passes them along to one of our microfinance partners worldwide. (Investments start at $25.)

2) Kiva's microfinance partners distribute the loan funds to the selected entrepreneur. Often, our partners also provide training and other assistance to maximize the entrepreneur's chances of success.

3) Over time, the entrepreneur repays their loan. Repayment and other updates are posted on Kiva and emailed to lenders who wish to receive them.

4) When lenders get their money back, they can re-lend to someone else in need, donate their funds to Kiva (to cover operational expenses), or withdraw their funds.

Think about it! Give it a go in one of your classrooms and report back here as to what you've learned.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Georgia PTA’s weekly update on legislative activity

– Apr. 5, 2009

Year one of the two year session is completed and as usual there was a tremendous amount of legislative activity the last two days, especially the last day, referred to as sine die. The language of some bills was added to others so read the descriptions below to find out what they now contain. Every effort was made to ensure the accuracy of this report but amendments were being added and stripped off bills faster than anyone could record. It will take several days to sort out final versions of some bills. The Governor now has 40 days to sign or veto bills (May 13). Any bill not vetoed goes into effect after 40 days. Any bill that did not pass this session is still alive to be considered again next January.

School Nurse Funding

Great news and a heartfelt thank you to all the schools that sent in Popsicle sticks and to our members who called or emailed their legislators in our campaign to save the school nurse funding. The 2010 budget that passed contained almost full funding for nurses: $29.1 M (only a 3% cut). Congratulations on making your voices heard!

Additional budget news: The budget contained extensive cuts some of which pertaining to education are detailed here:
Note: QBE stands for Quality Basic Education and is the formula used to determine funding for education. When we refer to austerity cuts it means the funds that were taken out of QBE after the amount that education should have earned based on the formula is determined.

• Increase funds for dual enrollment courses: $1,390,960
• Transfer all funds and activities for Graduation Coaches and Classroom Supply Cards to offset the austerity reduction: $49,225,901 (so school districts must decide whether they will use those funds for Graduation Coaches and teacher gift cards or use the funds to meet basic education needs)
• Total austerity cuts to education: approx. $297 M

Voucher Legislation:

If you’ve ever watched a tennis match it would have prepared you for watching voucher legislation this session. HB 251, the public school intra-district only transfer legislation was introduced in the House, passed and sat in the Senate Ed committee. The Senate introduced the universal voucher bill SB 90 where it passed out of committee but not out of Rules due to a lack of votes. Language from SB 90 was amended to HB 251 to allow inter-district transfers. After much back and forth the final version of HB 251 contained only intra-district transfers. School districts must make availability known by July 1 of each year, starting this year. Parents can opt to transfer their children based on availability and must provide their own transportation. Students can continue on to the next school to which that school feeds. No voucher legislation passed this year thanks in part to the all the phone calls and emails from PTA members. Added to this legislation was a provision that forbids relatives of school board members and superintendents from holding positions of administration in a school or in the central office.

Legislation that Passed:

HB 120: 2009 sales tax holiday would be from July 30 to August 2.

HB 123: Adds a definition of ‘child molestation’ to include contact with the victim made electronically including the Internet and telephone.

HB 178: Extends Capital outlay deadline. Relaxes some of the expenditure controls placed on school districts to allow greater flexibility in how funds are spent in the 2009-2010 school year. Added the dual enrollment language from HB 400.

HB 233: (OPPOSED) Two year freeze on any appreciation on the value of a property, even if it changes hands.

HB 280: Provides differentiated pay for math and science teachers effective July 1, 2010.

HB 217: Overrides the Department of Community Health regulation that requires a doctor’s order to receive a flu shot. Flu vaccine can be administered by a pharmacist or nurse upon an order by a doctor for a group of patients. The doctor can also prescribe epinephrine for patients having an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine. Children under 12 must get shot at the doctor’s office; between 13 and 18 must be accompanied by parent if shot is to be given at other than a doctor’s office. Hospitals may offer a flu shot upon discharge to patients age 65 or older and may offer flu shots to their employees. Governor may declare an emergency based on a pandemic flu epidemic. General Assembly must convene within two days of such a declaration of a public health emergency

HB 455: Extends the deadline to May 15, 2009 for school districts to tender certified personnel contracts or to notify certified staff that such contracts will not be tendered (was April 15). Means teachers may have to wait an extra month to know if they have a job next year. Two amendments were added: (1) removes the June 30, 2009 sunset provisions for the Master Teacher Program, and (2) after July 1, 2010, those who attain leadership certificates will be paid on such leadership certificates only if the educator is employed in a leadership position as defined by the State Board of Education.

HB 484: Children of military personnel on active duty stationed in GA can qualify for HOPE.

SB 8: Allows elementary and middle school students to carry and self administer epi-pens. School districts must have a policy on record for this.

SB 69: Any person who allows, permits, encourages or requires that a child engage in prostitution or sexually explicit conduct may be found guilty of sexual exploitation. (Currently only child’s parents of caregiver could be so charged).

SB 94: Removes the requirement that a dependent child up to the age 25 be a full-time student to be insured medically under the parent’s health plan.

SB 114: Provides special provisions for children of military personnel who transfer into GA public schools including waivers to some GA graduation requirements and additional allowable absences.

A comprehensive list of all the bills that passed that affect children and youth can be found on Capitol Watch. As more details about bills becomes availably (including any that are signed or vetoed), reports will be filed. To be prepared for next year’s session sign up to attend the Legislative recap workshop this summer at CLT.

Key: HR- House Resolution, HB– House Bill, SR– Senate Resolution, SB– Senate Bill

Daily Reports with additional details on all the bills being tracked by GA PTA can be found on the Capitol Watch website under News.

Thank you for all your legislative efforts this year!
Karen Hallacy
Legislative Chair

Monday, April 6, 2009

DeKalb Preparatory Academy Charter to Open by 2010?

I picked this up on the Laurel Ridge email newslist and thought DCSWatch readers might find it useful:

"I'm Laura Crawley, and I live near Laurel Ridge Elementary, where my kids have enjoyed several terrific school years. A few months ago, I was asked to join the founding board for a new charter elementary school in Dekalb County, called Dekalb Preparatory Academy. We're looking at sites in Tucker and possibly in Clarkston, and the goal is to open in September 2010.

Dekalb Prep will be part of the Mosaica family of schools, which includes schools in Phoenix, Denver, Chicago, and Cleveland. Atlanta Preparatory Academy on Fairburn Rd, which is opening in fall 2009, is also a Mosaica school.I've learned more about Mosaica since joining the board, and I like their emphasis on parent involvement, incentives for teacher achievement, attention to multiple intelligences and the ways children learn, and the extended school day.

I'm writing to ask my neighbors in Dekalb to take a moment to explore the Dekalb Prep website, If you're interested by what you see, please sign the petition (the link is on the home page of the site.) Mosaica is working on the charter application now. If you have any questions, just let me know off line at

Sunday, April 5, 2009

33 of its 1,097 Buses Retrofitted

The air quality in our school buses is miserable and directly contributes to many students getting asthma and other respiratory problems. If you are a parent with a child with a respiratory question, you understand how grave this issue is. If you do not, talk to other parents you know and see if any have children with respiratory issues, have a cup of coffee with them and discuss it. It's a tough, tough burden to bear.

In DeKalb, only 3 percent of the school bus fleet has been retro-fitted with emissions controls. THREE PERCENT! This should be a top priority, but the district is taking its sweet ole time, relying on grants and praying the state steps up (fat chance).

You see, in the DeKalb County School System, it is much more important to have a bloated, wasteful central office than it is to have buses that don't leach diesel fumes into the school bus cabin. David Guillory, and his wife, who also works for DCSS, each make well over $100,000 per year with sweet pensions and bene's, and just happen to be the son-in-law and daughter of former board member Frances Edwards. In fact, the Transportation Department in DCSS is very, very TOP HEAVY and overstaffed.

I "get it" that the school system's administration has a million things to deal with. But retrofitting school buses is an easy no-brainer, and once it's done, it's done. It may and should be categorized a capital imporovement and qualify under SPLOST. And there are resources right here. The Centers for Disease Control is located in DeKalb, as is the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. DeKalb should and could be a leader in this area.

But in what area is the Dekalb County School System a leader in???

Students exposed to toxic bus exhaust fumes
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sunday, April 05, 2009

Most other metro Atlanta school districts want to retrofit their buses, both to improve air in the cabin and outdoors.
DeKalb County School System retrofitted 33 of its 1,097 buses and is seeking money to do more, said David Guillory, the district’s executive director of transportation.
Last year the district sent two buses — one retrofitted, the other not — to the state Capitol to demonstrate to legislators the importance of providing matching funds to allow schools access to federal money.
This year, various grant programs are being offered that cover 100 percent of the retrofitting costs.
Guillory said DeKalb will be applying.

Air in older buses is dirtier; a health risk
Students who ride older school buses that haven’t been retrofitted with emissions controls are being exposed to diesel particulates and gases.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says tiny diesel particles pose a significant health risk because they lodge in the lungs. Children, because their lungs are still developing, and all people with asthma, other respiratory problems, heart and lung disease are at greatest risk.
The EPA has determined that regularly breathing diesel exhaust is a likely lung cancer hazard and that it also can damage lungs in other ways.
“Parents need to be aware that the bus exhaust can cause some problems, or make their child’s asthma worse,” said Randy Baker, chairman of the respiratory therapy program at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, where researchers are studying school bus idling and diesel particulates.

Children’s School Bus Exposure Study
Pollution from older diesel vehicles has health implications for everyone, especially children. By working together, we can reduce pollution from public school buses -- making sure that school buses are also a clean way for children to get to school. Clean School Bus USA brings together partners from business, education, transportation, and public-health organizations to work toward these goals:
-Encouraging policies and practices to
eliminate unnecessary public school bus idling.
-Upgrading (“
retrofitting”) buses that will remain in the fleet with better emission-control technologies and/or fueling them with cleaner fuels.
Replacing the oldest buses in the fleet with new, less-polluting buses.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Check out these high school numbers

These are the new enrollment numbers for DeKalb County high schools for the 2009-2010 school year. Our high school total enrollment has dropped another 1,610 students. We now have at least 4,500 available (empty) seats. That's incomprehensible! Oddly, we have serious over-crowding at some schools (Lakeside has 21 trailers) and cavernous, half-empty buildings elsewhere. Even more oddly, the Board of Education is still planning massive classroom additions to Martin Luther King, Jr. HS and Miller Grove HS. MLK appears to be in need of expansion - as they are OVER capacity by 446, however, the brand new Arabia HS, with an initial capacity of 1,650, and an eventual capacity of over 2,000, will take in most of the overage from MLK - along with many more from Lithonia, which is only over capacity by 45. (Plans for an addition there have been wisely dropped.) Remarkably, Miller Grove is also slated to receive a multi-million dollar addition, even though they are currently under-enrolled by 330.

The classroom additions to MLK and Miller Grove are unnecessary. They are not fiscally responsible. The money should be spent where there is currently serious over-crowding with no escape (Arabia is not a feasible choice for Dunwoody or Lakeside students due to the 25-30 mile commute each way) - or the building is so old and decrepit as to be deemed unhealthy and/or unsafe -- again Lakeside, Chamblee - and to a worse degree, Cross Keys. Southwest DeKalb is also seriously over-crowded, and since it is already a magnet school, it's improbable that terribly many of SW's students will transfer to Arabia's magnet program.

I urge you all to demand an audit of the planned SPLOST spending to prove that the current plans are in the absolute best interest of the students who must spend their days in our buildings and the wisest use of taxpayer dollars. I find the decisions by this board to be too often political, especially regarding the situation with Cross Keys - a majority Hispanic school which has been virtually ignored by our BOE. The Board needs to revisit the SPLOST 3 budget plans as demographics have changed considerably. Currently, the additions to MLK and Miller Grove are a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars.
*I used the lowest capacity number for Arabia (which holds from 1650-2100) - I guessed the capacity of Open Campus at 1,000 and DSA at 500 (both very conservative) - I couldn't find data for those schools published anywhere.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Updates to the CIP coming???

Ol' pscexb is still around, just busy with work at the end of the quarter. I did get this interesting nugget of information from a friend that is a member of the Citizen Advisory Committee. It seems to suggest that DCSS IS making decisions based on populations shifts and re prioritized needs.

The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) for the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) met on Thursday, March 12th to discuss the Mid Program Assessment. A comprehensive booklet was distributed, providing an overview of the program thus far. Following are some of the highlights discussed:

-Overall CIP projects are 98% on schedule.

-Part of the reason for the 300 million dollar bond purchase was to have ‘funds in the bank’ while contracts were awarded. This was influenced by pending legislation to ensure funds were available for construction projects.

-SPLOST revenues are currently running over 20% of budget. Assuming no growth in revenues for the remainder of SPLOST (on target), it is expected the final revenues would exceed the projected amount. The delta between the SPLOST budgeted versus actual through December 2008 was just over 24 million dollars.

-DCSS received over 23 million dollars from the state for four projects in the CIP.

-The Lithonia HS expansion and Clarkston Center roof replacement were recommended for removal from the CIP. These projects total just under 12 million dollars.

-It is expected that DCSS has just over 59 million dollars available for other projects.

-Recommended new projects for the CIP are (Note: below is a summary):

* SW DeKalb HS – 31 classrooms and Fine Arts auditorium (20+ million)
* Lakeside HS – 28 classrooms (11+ million)
* Cross Keys HS – As recommended by architect (3.5 million)
* Technology procurement (6 million)
* Priority roofing (6+ million)

-Recommended projects would go at end of current CIP however if work is being done at that school for the CIP, addition funding would be made available (i.e. Cross Keys and Lakeside).

-The CAC approved sending this recommendation to the BoE with the caveat they proceed with other projects on the recommended list, given this is a ‘buyers market’ with respect to labor prices (they are extremely low at this time).

OK bloggers, whaddayathink????

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rain, Rain Go Away

With all the rain over the past week, does your child's school have leaks? Some of the older schools do have roof issues, but is this a real problem, or is it just a few schools throughout the system? A quality, well-maintained roof should last 20 years. Some DCSS schools seem to have always roof leaks, some have never leaked. Looking forward to hear from parents and staff from throughout the system!