Monday, June 15, 2009

DCSS AYP Trivia Question Challenge

Most readers here know that I have shamelessly used this blog to promote Cross Keys HS. I have lamented the absurd state of its attendance boundaries in postings such as:

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

I am also guilty of hijacking comment threads with snipes about DCSS' neglect of and Brookhaven's lack of involvement with this most disrespected of high schools. I participated in "Operation Urban Camper" with DKPD and Sanitation to raise awareness of what can happen when there's a lack of community stakeholders in our neighborhood high school. I have not tried to hide my agenda here - raising the profile of this very maligned school is my goal.

To that end, I challenge the very savvy readers of this blog to a trivia question: Which DCSS high school attendance areas had all of its schools (ES, MS, and HS) make AYP in the last school year for which we have data (2007/2008)?

I've tried this one on a few of my neighbors in Brookhaven and their responses include guesses like "Dunwoody and Druid Hills" or "Lakeside and Dunwoody" or "Chamblee and Lakeside." Many that know high schools around the county might include Southwest DeKalb or Tucker in their answers. These districts have many fine students, faculties, and communities of support. None of them is in the list of correct answers. In fact, only 1 high school district made AYP in all of its feeder schools most recently. Wait for it ...

Cross Keys High School and its feeder schools make up the only DCSS high school area with this achievement ... let me say it again ... the only high school area!

Are you surprised? If we ask ourselves why we are surprised about this, I think we would come up with a short list of all the ills that do affect Cross Keys, Sequoyah and their bevy of elementary schools dotting Buford Highway.

I ask myself: "What could these children and their teachers accomplish with DCSS leadership's focus and the community support they have lacked for so long?"

While groups like the Brookhaven Rotarians have long supported this school, it still remains otherwise isolated in the Brookhaven community and the subject of much mis-information and false impressions.

If you live in any of the few communities remaining in Cross Keys HS' Brookhaven base (that's Druid Knoll, Pine Hills, Deveraux Commons, Lenox Park, HillsDale, Brookhaven Heights, or other nearby communities), I want you to take a fresh look at Cross Keys High School. I will be periodically scheduling a walk-through with small groups of folks in the coming school year.

If you would like to see first hand what this amazing group of students and teachers is doing, please contact me and we'll walk it together.

Kim Ellis Gokce, mobile 678-361-4200
President, HillsDale Neighborhood Association
Sponsor, Community Radar civic news sharing


Cerebration said...

Sign me up! This is a travesty... In fact - I will move my comment from the Suggestion Box post over here - everyone needs to be aware of just how neglected this school (with its mostly Hispanic and Asian population) is....


This is downright embarrassing - and I hope the entire Board is ashamed.

From the Brookhaven Reporter, May 29

Brookhaven residents joined DeKalb County police officers, sanitation workers and community service workers from the DeKalb County Detention Center to conduct a cleanup of three homeless encampments May 20. ...

Operation Urban Camper, launched from Northeast Plaza on Buford Highway, covered the 1800 block of Briarwood Road near I-85, the 1800 block of Corporate Boulevard near Buford Highway and the 1400 block of North Cliff Valley Way behind Cross Keys High School. The operation came after years of complaints from residents and businesses about vagrancy in the areas. ...

For Kim Gokce, the president of the Hills Dale Neighborhood Association and board member of the Brookhaven Community Connection, the cleanup was crucial to protecting the integrity of public property, particularly the area around Cross Keys.

“Vagrancy on school property is just not acceptable anywhere,” he said. “The community cares about Cross Keys, and for me, participating on a personal level is because of that interest, and it’s also to encourage others to take an interest in their communities.” ...

Joshua Fritz, a DeKalb Interactive Community Policing (ICP) officer and the liaison officer for the operation, said police can act only if the community makes the department aware of issues.

“We can only do so much in the community by ourselves,” Fritz said. “We need the assistance from the community. We need people that actually care about the community and want to see it flourish.”

The operation concluded with the cleanup of an encampment in the 1400 block of North Cliff Valley Way in a wooded area behind Cross Keys, where one homeless man was found sleeping under a pile of garbage and debris. He was taken to the Union Mission. ...

Darryl McKoon, who lives across the street from the encampment, said he and most of his neighbors started having thefts a few months ago, and he believes that many can be attributed to the homeless in the area. He said someone smashed a window of his pickup truck and stole the radio inside, causing $1,000 worth of damage.

McKoon also is concerned about the presence of the homeless on the Cross Keys property. “I’ve complained several times to the school department about this piece of property, and they’re not very cooperative at all.”

Kim Gokce said...

Thanks, Cerebration, for your advocacy. I'll put you on the 1st tour!

I should add that community members have been meeting with DCSS leadership since Operation Urban Camper. Don McChesney commented at a recent public meeting at Cross Keys that Dr. Lewis assured him that the mis-use and abuse of Cross Keys property "will stop."

I've shown the grounds in question to high level officials with DCSS, the DeKalb Commission, DeKalb Public Safety, the State of Georgia, and private citizens. I have hope that corrective short-term AND long-term actions will be forthcoming from all stakeholders.

Given this example of unacceptable realities at Cross Keys, my hope is for very positive change to be the new rule of the day for this school and DCSS' focus here. My neighbors and I will be monitoring this particular situation very closely and will have updates in coming weeks.

pscexb said...

Kim, keep telling us about what is going on in the Cross Keys cluster! There are a LOT of good things going on there that unfortunately many around the community are not aware of.

A slight correction, the AYP data on the DCSS website is outdated. It reflects AYP status prior to the retesting (post date of 7/28/2008). It is possible a few more clusters may have accomplished that after the retesting. Cross Keys still should be recognized for being the ONLY cluster to do so on the initial test.

FWIW, updated 2008 AYP status info can be found at:

Cerebration said...

Great reminder, PSC - Here's a list of DCSS high schools and whether or not they made AYP (some may surprise you!)

Avondale - NO
Cedar Grove - NO
Chamblee - YES
Clarkston - NO
Columbia - NO
Cross Keys - YES
HS Technology North - NO
Destiny Academy of Excellence - NO (Ironically)
Druid Hills - YES
Dunwoody - NO
Lakeside - YES
Lithonia - NO
McNair - NO
Miller Grove - NO
Open Campus - NO
Redan - YES
Stephenson - YES
Stone MT - NO
Towers - NO
Tucker - NO

Ironically - Lakeside Passed AYP and Tucker did not - however, Tucker is on the newly released list of Top High Schools... (There's a Lakeside HS on the list - but it's in Evans, GA, not DeKalb.)

Anonymous said...

Cross Keys needs to be torn down or completely renovated. It is an embarassment. Crawford Lewis and Pat Pope are failing at their jobs by letting facilities such as Cross Keys, Sequoyah and Lakeside house students, teachers and staff.

Anonymous said...

Question: How did Lakeside (Atlanta) fall off the Newsweek list, from #195 just last year? Does anyone know?

Cerebration said...

We're trying to figure that out - have a question in to Jay Mathews at Newsweek. Either it's a typo and it should be Lakeside Atlanta, not Evans, GA or - Lakeside's principal didn't get the data out to Newsweek - or they really didn't qualify...

Dekalbparent said...

I have accessed the Newsweek article about ten times. SOMETIMES, the list come up labeled 2009 schools, and Lakeside Atlanta is not on it (neither is Druid Hills or Decatur). This list has 51 schools for all of Georgia.

SOMETIMES, the list comes up labeled 2008, and Lakeside, Druid Hills and Decatur ARE on it. Lakeside Evans is not. This list also has 51 schools. Did all three of the above-mentioned schools drop off the whole list? Of 1000 schools??

I am confused.

No Duh said...

Lakeside in Evans, GA is an excellent school (my niece and nephew attended its cluster), so it could deserve to be on the list.

It does seem strange that our LHS would fall more than 305 places.

Kim, that's a great accomplishment for the CKHS community. If the real estate agents aren't putting that on their flyers then they are fools!

Anonymous said...

In reviewing the Graduation Test data supplied by the GADOE, I noticed that Cross Keys only had 170 seniors - an extremely small number of students. How does this school manage to stay open? Perhaps this is the reason that the Dekalb High School of Technology is being relocated to this campus?

Cerebration said...

Well - Kim - I guess the Lakeside crew is getting you back - by taking over your post with a Lakeside discussion! Sorry!

Anonymous said...

I apologize - my post was a little misleading. Actually, there were only 170 students taking the High School Graduation Test, which I believe most take in their Junior year.

Cerebration said...

Good point, anon. You are correct- Cross Keys only has around 800 students and that's why DCSS is merging HSTN in with them (although nothing has actually been done about it yet!) We've discussed the imbalance in high school enrollments here. I'll include the link to that posting below. You will see that Avondale was also seriously underpopulated (around 700) so they merged DSA in with them - however, DSA came with $10 million for a renovation (not sure what's going on with that yet.)

Check out the chart - you will notice that some schools have hundreds of empty seats, while others have to install trailers! In addition, Arabia HS was originally proposed as a solution to relieve over-crowding for Lithonia, MLK and Miller Grove, however, the school system has backtracked and is now claiming that Arabia will be a "choice" school - and will only offer 600 seats to local schools. I sound like a broken record on that one - but man - the disparity between Arabia, MLK, Lithonia and Miller Grove --- and Cross Keys, Chamblee and Lakeside is unbelievable!

Cerebration said...

Also - as a point of clarity - Cross Keys has a very large immigrant population who speak English as a second language. There are class size limits for these students - much smaller than regular schools - therefore, a building with the same number of classrooms at Cross Keys will hold fewer students than one not deemed ESOL.

Cerebration said...

I've downloaded the Newsweek lists - here is the history of the DK Schools on the list --

At #106, Lakeside was the first of GA high schools to make the list. Then at #328 we have Chamblee, #607 comes DSA, #676, Dunwoody and #933 Druid Hills
(Lakeside Evans is not on the list)

Lakeside is second in GA - at #135 (after Riverwood), then DSA comes in at #276, Chamblee at #280, Druid HIlls at #800, Dunwoody at #898 and Tucker at #1235
(Lakeside Evans is not on the list)
Chamblee comes in first in DCSS - 3rd in GA at #178, Lakeside is #226, Druid Hills is #337, DSA is at #677, Tucker is #940 and Dunwoody is #1339
(Lakeside Evans is #875)

Lakeside comes in 2nd behind Walton at #108, Chamblee is next at #236, DSA is #503, Druid Hills is #615, Tucker is #1331 and Dunwoody is #1409
(Lakeside Evans is #1198)

Chamblee Charter is the first DCSS school at #215 (4th in the state), DSA is next at 370, then Dunwoody at #1017 and Tucker at #1367
(Lakeside and Druid Hills dropped off)
(Lakeside Evans is #309)

Paula Caldarella said...

My guess is that Lakeside and Druid Hills data was just "overlooked". I cannot believe either of these 2 schools would just drop out of this list all together.

Ella Smith said...

Very nice post. I would also like to tour.

I also think it is fair for the bloggers to discuss whatever issue that they want to discuss. I know many do discuss Lakeside maybe too much for someones liking but that maybe because many of the individuals who blog have a interest or have a personal stake in Lakeside or SW Dekalb because of where they live just like Kim has a personal stake in what happens to Cross Keys High School. Many other bloggers may in fact get tired of hearing about Cross Keys but maybe they have not made formal complaints or concerns about it. IMO

I do think it is fair to discuss whatever school the bloggers choice to discuss. I do not think this is something anyone needs to ever try to control. I care deeply about what happens to Cross Keys but I also think from time to time we put so much emphasis on Cross Keys or Lakeside or Arabian Mountain, that we forget about the big picture of how each of these pieces fits into the big picture or puzzle. What would be best for Cross Keys in the big picture that would be best for Cross Keys and the county and all involved in the long run? Would it be best to tear the school down and re-build? Would it be best to move the student body entirely to a new school and turn the old school into a technical school? Would it be best to change the attendance lines for Cross Keys and many of the other surrounding schools areas also since many of the other surrounding schools are overcrowded and Cross Keys is not at capacity?

It is important not to look at things from just Cross Keys or Lakeside, or SW Dekalb prospective. No school board member or school board official should ever do this. Sometimes this is the reason for our frustration with the school board and the county administration. I do think it is important to look at the big picture when we consider any of the individual school situaions so we can look at the situation in a broader sense and understand how the county administration and school board should be looking at the situation.

I do hope the county does not knee-jerk like they have on so many topics like the Marine HS, and spend torns of money then just to realize that they are not going to use the facility the way that they intended. For some reason I feel the school board has bigger plans for Cross Keys. I do feel that the school board does care what happens to Cross Keys and maybe are weighing all their options before making a final decision and letting the public know. I am hopeful that something good will happen. The Cross Keys community has not gotten its fair share of attention and thank God for Kim and he is an advocate to make sure that this happens. Sometimes one person can make a big difference. Cerebration, you have made a difference. Congradualations! Kim you also have made a difference! Many on this blog have made a difference. Congradulations to you also.

Cerebration said...

Hey! Dunwoody Mom! We've been missing you!

Nice comment Ella - we always need to advocate for our "home" schools - but without losing sight of others needs in the county. I hope you're right - the Board has been secretly working up a 'special purpose' for Cross Keys - yep - that's it!

Kim Gokce said...

@Ella: You're in the first tour! :)

@Ella & Cerebration: Yes, turnabout is fair play - that's why I never complain about Lakeside comments on a Cross Keys riff :)

Also, a quick elaboration on enrollment and DeKalb Tech North/Cross Keys: my understanding is there will be a new wing built to house DeKalb Tech North. So, I'm not sure this affects the utilization rate at Cross Keys current plant overall in terms of enrollment.

We've also discussed on this blog the potential for around 200 Woodward ES (X-Keys feeder) students to be displaced if a developer gets approval to demolish a group of apartments around the school. These families will simply move up Buford and land in another X-Keys feeder so I think that is a red herring about declining enrollment.

I believe there are some fine points to be made about class size, instructional capacity vs plant capacity, etc. However, the bottom line is that the assets at Cross Keys are under utilized and we are simply talking about degress of under-utilization. The most important discussion in my opinion is how to create a vibrant support community for the school.

The only way I know to do that given the constraints on current demographics is to expand the enrollment. There are many methods for doing that and I have to believe DCSS is looking at these options for the coming years.

Here's a tip for the decision-makers: the simplest, least costly, and most sustainable way to grow Cross Keys enrollment is to get home district in Brookhaven to send a percentage of their hundreds of kids that are in district now. To do that, DCSS has to start acting like Cross Keys is an equal among its peers in the region rather than the after thought it has been.

Ella Smith said...

I think one of the biggest issues is the lack of community support which has left Cross Keys to attend private schools for some reason. I think it is sad that they leave verse take back their community school. The reason some of the other community schools have stayed strong is because of the parents who have not left but instead put on their boxing gloves and maybe did become know at the county office as pains in the gluteus maximus.

Kim you will be know as the king of the pains in the gluteus maximus from Cross Keys at the county office but this is a good thing because you are fighting for something good for your community.

Kim Gokce said...

@Ella: Thanks for the compliment - gadfly is the highest office I aspire to ... maybe I'll graduate one day to a pain in the buttocks. :)

Also: "I do feel that the school board does care what happens to Cross Keys and maybe are weighing all their options before making a final decision and letting the public know."

Don McChesney has stated publicly that the BoE has decided to continue with the renovation plan at Cross Keys but to do so in a manner that will allow the BoE to "pivot" as they better understand the impact of re-development in the Buford Hwy area.

What exactly the implications are for the word "pivot" I haven't had time to ask Mr. McChesney about. I have told him that I would prefer to see the BoE lead change within the district rather than be reactive.

I get the impression that no significant decisions about Cross Keys' future are in the offing from the BoE for at least another year or more. I hope we see more bold leadership on this subject from Dr. Lewis' office in the meantime.

fedupindcss said...

An amazing thing occurred while I was watching tonight's BOE meeting: I agreed with a comment made by Sarah C-W.

She pointed to the fact that DCSS parents see low test scores at their neighborhood schools, and rather than stand up for excellence in that school, hold meetings, work to improve it, etc., they abandon it to try to get their kids transferred to higher testing schools.

What Kim is doing in Cross Keys is an excellent example of what should be going on in Dekalb among our parents and communities. Neighborhood schools make the county stronger; when you allow constant transience, you make schools a commodity, not a resource.

That said, I sure wish the DCSS administration and board wouldn't make what Kim is trying to do so bloody hard and throw a bone to these sorts of intitatives.

To briefly hijack the thread on the Lakeside/Newsweek issue: LHS has an appalling AP pass rate; very few kids get above a 3 on the tests with the exception of a couple of content areas (Calc, German). This has been true for years, so they deserve to drop.

Back to Cross Keys; Brookhaven residents need to support this school--they need to realize that subdivisions do not define a community.

Ella Smith said...

Very well said fedupindcss.

Unknown said...

Thank you for the post Kim. I live near Dresden and more families are starting to move in but many feel like they may not stay due to schools. I will send this blog post to DECA (Dresden East Civic Association).

My oldest will enter kindergarten in the fall and I feel like this is a good place to learn about the school system. It is much more positive than the AJC site.
Thanks again everyone.

Unknown said...

I forgot. Please sign me up for the tour too.

Kim Gokce said...

@andi: Hi neighbor! Send me your contact information ("kim at community radar dot com") so I can stay directly in touch about a walk through at Cross Keys. I'll soon have a Cross Keys-specific group over on Community Radar for this and related activity and will make sure you see it.

I appreciate your sharing with DECA - I have stayed in touch with the officers since last year's National Night Out event and find they are very dedicated. I sent a note a few weeks ago to Judy Brooks on the subject of organizing support for Cross Keys but would appreciate anything you can do to raise awareness of this need.

I look forward to meeting you soon!

Anonymous said...

Son of awcomeonnow, sipping and typing.

Good posts from all around. Back when I was a constantly showing up at meetings, some insular jerk would invariably stand up and moan about how decisions would affect.......
Oakgrove, Vanderlyn, Fernbank, or any other
"gee, we've got it made because we're wealthy enough to live here"
I always wanted to bitch slap them. A few times I tried to point out that success pushed county wide would be a much better thing to strive for, but these wealthy snobs were clueless.
Trying to point out successes in unlikely locations is a good thing. Believe it or not, there's some successes in some other unlikely locations around central and norther Dekalb going on. I'm not going to say which schools the parents are actually deciding to send their kids to ( homeowners that had previously moved or homeschooled).
Why are school names not being mentioned? Because I strongly believe that for Dekalb's leadership to succeed, things have to fail. If they don't know where succees has started to occur, then they can't hunt it down and destroy it.
I'm trying to get my computer skills up to snuff over the next month or so. Hopefully, a blog from yours truly covering housing and zoning snafus will be forthcoming.
We can't start cultivating a garden of good schools if the county and housing authority keep planting weeds in the flower bed.

pscexb said...

SoA, we are waiting on your blog regarding zoning and housing issues facing DeKalb. As we discussed on GDK a while back, we are feeling the effects of zoning decisions made years ago.

Here's another nugget of information some of you may not have been aware of. I listened to Robert Burroughs, chairman of the DeKalb Assessors Board, speak recently. He indicated the recent state law change that allows foreclosed properties to be considered in determining home values has had a negative impact in several zipcodes. We've seem some homes devalued as much as 30-40%, causing more homeowners to have 'upside down' mortgages. As a result, it could possibly lead to more foreclosures. Add to that, some older residents that may have planned to sell their house may have challenges given the reduction in value.

What does this have to do with our schools? It creates an environment that could be 'ripe' for home investors looking for deals and 'possibly' converting homes for section 8. Families with vouchers are coming from all over the country, especially Atlanta since they are tearing down all their housing projects. There is a high likelihood of increased transiency, which impact our schools. Folks gotta live somewhere but who is to say the actual property owner 'cares' as much about the community the house is located it?

Ella Smith said...

pscexb, you are correct. I have rental property and this is the first time I have ever had problems renting it. About 1/2 of the individuals who call are section 8 renters. There is so much rental property out there right now that it has become difficult to rent property.

Many of the these houses are being bought up by investers to rent currently and to sale when the market turns around. You can pick up property 50 cents on the dollar and then rent it currently and get a great deal more than you can with this money in the bank or in the current markets. The problem is that there are so many rental properties out there. Many investers may bite off more than they bargined for. I know because of the problems I am currently having with a great piece of rental property.

Anonymous said...

First, about why Lakeside didn't make the list.

How about the negative publicity of the last two? years catching up to them.

My concern about Cross Keys is that if you listen to what is being said now, the Marine School is now being added as a possible option for an underutilized school. For me, that means it's already been discussed and being planned for. It's too perfect for those administrators who want this school.....less parent involvement then you'll find in other communities. Latino Parents have a different tradition of school support then is found in the US, so they just wouldn't protest like the groups in other schools.

Paula Caldarella said...

Apparently, the promised redistricting will come to pass. Will Cross Keys be properly "districted" this time around?

Plans to close more schools in DeKalb County may be announced as soon as September.

It would be the second time in three years officials have targeted under-enrolled campuses in an effort to save money and pool resources.

They closed five elementary schools last summer for the same reasons.

Patricia Pope, the system’s chief operating officer, said officials will spend the summer considering which schools could close this time. She said attendance lines for others will be redrawn as well to balance out enrollment.

Any schools on the chopping block would remain open this coming school year and then likely shutter by August 2010.

Some instructional programs may also face cuts. Already, officials have put on hold plans to open the system’s first single-gender schools as they continue belt-tightening.

The system closed the five closed elementary schools as part of a sweeping proposal implemented in May 2007.

That plan also redrew attendance lines for 18 other schools and moved several school choice programs, including the high-profile Kittredge Magnet School for High Achievers, to different campuses.

The changes saved the system $4 million annually, by pooling rather than duplicating resources.

At the time, officials targeted schools that enrolled 300 or fewer students.

They did so because the state does not provide money to cover the full staffing and operations costs at an elementary school with fewer than 450 students.

The small schools were, in effect, low-hanging fruit. Now that the economy has soured and the state continues to cut school funding, officials are looking higher.

There so far is no indication of which schools are most in danger; a school may serve fewer students but be considered well-used given its space, such as housing a special needs program.

Speaking generally at a school board meeting last week, Pope said 11 elementary, seven middle and six high schools are over capacity and need relief.

In comparison, 14 DeKalb elementary schools enroll fewer than 400 students. In higher grade levels, 13 middle and high schools have a combined total of 3,800 empty seats.

Officials expect to announce an initial proposal in September, with public hearings tentatively scheduled through October.

A final recommendation is expected by the end of November and may be put to school board members as early as December.

The last closings met with some controversy when the parents of one school — Nancy Creek Elementary in Chamblee — fought a bitter campaign against closure, arguing that officials had underestimated their community’s potential growth.

Their local board member, Jim Redovian, voted against the plan. Other members, however, felt it wasn’t fair to single out one school for different treatment.

Redovian clearly remembers the bruising. “We need to tell [families] everything up front,” he said last week. “We’re not going to bend the rules because someone doesn’t like it.”

Kim Gokce said...

@DunwoodyMom: "Apparently, the promised redistricting will come to pass. Will Cross Keys be properly "districted" this time around?"

That's a provocative article from the AJC but I have little hope of seeing any significant changes to Cross Keys attendance zones this time around. If there were any, you would have to break out the smelling salts and pick me off the floor.

One piece of the attendance puzzle I don't have my hands on is the projections for Sequoyah. Even if Cross Keys has capacity, DCSS would not be able to redraw elementary feeders to Cross Keys if Sequoyah can not take them. I am afraid that past decisions have very much limited the options for the current Cross Keys attendance lines.

The only bizarro, outlandish approach might be to convert under-enrolled ESs to two MSs and revert Sequoyah to HS???

Anyone know if any of these Buford Hwy ES properties were MS in the past or have the plant to support one? The attendance just might be there to balance two HSs along Buford by siphoning off a little of Chamblee and Lakeside over-crowding. We could call one code name "Gaza" and the other code name "West Bank" ... but that's another boundary controversy.

Ella Smith said...

I still foresee a new high school being built. I see a new high school being built and for the overcrowding and for the Cross Keys students at the old Briarcliff High School and Cross Keys turned into a Technical School. The county needs alternative schools for students who cannot handle the current academic curriculum. Some students need a technical school and a different curriculum.

Don graduated from Briarcliff and would like to see a school back there. He talked about it during the election to me several times. Mr. Womack also would like to see a school at the Briarcliff site. I do not think the school board will sale the property as the stadium is used by all the surrounding schools.

At one time they were going to build a state of the art ART school. Maybe they will build a state of the art ART and Science and Math And Medicine Magnet like Arabian Mountain.

Don said at the board meeting the other night to Ms. Pope that the projections have the Cross Keys area population increasing big time and he just does not see this happening. She agreed that she did not see this happening. At least that was what I thought was being indicated.

I do think schools are going to be closed which are under utilized and this is several schools in the south side of the county. Several of the south side of the county board members were concerned but they must make the hard decisions based on what is best for the students and the county as a whole.

This needs to happen so that the state will provide money for new construction and also old buildings can be torn down and the buildings in use can be updated and as Mr. Bowen said spruced up so that they look presentable.

Paula Caldarella said...

Anyone know if any of these Buford Hwy ES properties were MS in the past or have the plant to support one.

Kim, back in the early '90s when DCSS went to the junior high, then middle school route, I believe only high school properties were "converted" into middle schools. I don't believe any current elementary schools were ever middle schools.

Dekalbparent said...

Until the new Chamblee Middle was opened, CMS was in the old Shallowford Elementary building. I don't know if this is the only incidence of an elem school being converted.

It was not optimal, as they did little in the way of adapting the school to house bigger kids.

Paula Caldarella said...

You're correct Dekalbparent. Outside of adding a gymnasium and some inside renovation not much was done to the old CMS site. But, then again, they knew that site would be temporary until the new CMS was built.

Cerebration said...

Kim, ask your board rep, Don McChesney what is being discussed about plans for Cross Keys - and report back here. We need actual information from leaders - all of the above speculating isn't helping the situation at all. We need communication from the people in charge. All we've gotten from him and Pope is a lot of generalizations and hemming and hawing - it's time for them to share details.

Ella Smith said...

I totally agree Cerebration. I noticed he disagreed with the information regarding Cross Keys in the school board meeting.

I do believe Don will be suportive of Cross Keys. I know he would like to see good things happen to the area. We talked about it several times during the election. We are very similar in our believes and we laughed about it many times. I think Kim will be happy in the end. I think we all might be happy in the end. I have faith in the majority of our new school board members. I do believe that they have the interests of the county at large. I do believe that at least 5 of the school board members are trying to run the school system like a business and make positive changes that will impact the product which is student learning.

Andrea Clay said...

As the outgoing president of the Sequoyah Middle PTO and also a family who is leaving the cluster with mixed feelings, let me weigh in a bit. Our primary reason for leaving the CK cluster is that our youngest child is at Kittredge Magnet with the plan to continue through to the Chamblee High Magnet Program. Having two children at different high schools is too much for our family to sustain.

But our secondary reason for leaving the CK cluster is that lack of attention that CK receives in comparison to other high schools in the area. We had a great 2 years at Sequoyah with little to complain about but the thought of having to advocate for the students and staff at CK is a daunting task and frankly, after feeling like we have been doing much of the work alone, we are tired.

Not a heroic reason and I suspect I will get some criticism for it. I appreciate Kim's efforts and hope that many of you join him on the tour of CK and talk to your neighbors about supporting ALL the schools in the cluster. Many hands make light work and this cluster has been lacking many hands.

Cerebration said...

Andrea, thanks so much for your candor and for sharing with us at the blog. Your words only endorse what we have been saying about Cross Keys - as far as being virtually ignored by DCSS. Best wishes to you and your family at Chamblee - you've obviously contributed a lot to the CK cluster and focusing on your own family's needs is so important at this time. If everyone simply focused on their own family, we wouldn't need so many volunteers...

themommy said...


I am curious as to what CK feeder elementary school your child attended before KMS and what your experience was there.


Andrea Clay said...

Our family did not live in the CK cluster during our early elementary years, so I cannot speak to the elementary schools. I have been impressed by the caliber of students at Sequoyah and they are byproducts of the elementary feeders, obviously.

Our daughters were enrolled in the Montessori program at Huntley Hills Elementary and we were there when DCSS threatened to close it down. I do think that whenever a special program shows too much success, the inclination from the DCSS is to shut it down. I would love to be proven wrong but the end of magnet transportation in January seems to add some weight to that theory.

Ella Smith said...

I wanted to draw your attention to this important petition that I recently

"North Druid Hills DeKalb County School Properties"

I really think this is an important cause, and I'd like to encourage you to add
your signature, too. It's free and takes less than a minute of your time.

It will be interesting to see what happens to this property.

Ella Smith said...

I am sad you feel you have to leave Andi but you must do what is best for your family.

Kim Gokce said...

Andrea: Thank you for being so helpful when I came by Sequoyah a few weeks ago. With the principal leaving for a new assignment and your loss, Sequoyah community does have some big shoes to fill.

It was a pleasure meeting you and your daughter and I fully support what you are doing. My neighbors directly across the street have a young lady going into High Achievers next year so perhaps our paths will cross again very soon.

In the meantime, I appreciate all you have done for the families at Sequoyah MS - you will be missed! I had hoped to see you active in CKHS very soon! :)

To be fair (dare I be positive?), there does seem to be the beginnings of focus on CKHS in the immediate community around the school. Perhaps 2 years from now everyone will marvel at the support in Brookhaven and from DCSS for this very deserving school.

Just yesterday, DCSS sent a operations crew with trucks and a bobcat to begin clearing the area that has been a problem area for so long for truancy, vagrancy, and criminal activity. This has been a known problem for many, many years and something is actually happening about it now.

Where this particular effort goes, we'll have to wait and see - I think DCSS is taking remedial action now in response to the new focus by the community. It remains to be seen what long-term commitments will be made to CKHS. My hope is that long-term focus from Brookhaven community will naturally lead to long-term focus from DCSS.

Kim Gokce said...

@ella: "Don said at the board meeting the other night to Ms. Pope that the projections have the Cross Keys area population increasing big time and he just does not see this happening. She agreed that she did not see this happening. At least that was what I thought was being indicated."

DCSS did not "see" the Dunwoody cluster growing either ... oops. The immigrant and 2nd generation kids that are here now are not going anywhere with or without Symphony Park. There are growing numbers of babies in strollers all over the Brookhaven neighborhoods like Brookhaven Heights, HillsDale, Pine Hills and others in Woodward ES attendance zone.

These are not all families that can afford private schools. Where will their children go? Ugh, it is so frustrating ... every public school around us is at or over capacity.

We don't need growth to justify CKHS - DCSS needs to understand that if these Brookhaven families see that Woodward ES / CKHS s viable places for their kids, they will enroll instead of moving out of district or transferring their kids. The opportunity to have these families take a second look at these schools is now, during the renovation of CKHS. I get the uneasy feeling that DCSS may not really want this attention or the additional students.

It's sort of a Catch 22 - the area families keep their kids out of Woodward ES and CKHS because they see it neglected. DCSS doesn't make CKHS a priority because the enrolled families don't demand it. Again, ugh ...

Ella Smith said...

Kim, I heard the same thing and it did not make sense. You know sometimes I do not explain myself well in writing but this blog is definitely helping.

On one hand they were saying they need to use the projections and on the next hand they were saying lets not use them. It just did not make sense. I suspect. the Cross Keys area will grow. There are many homes going up in the Brookhaven area.

I am wondering if he was saying kids like your son are going to probable continue to go to private schools. I just did not get what he was saying. I know he did not think the area was going to grow. I do think the Latino areas will definitely grow.

Cerebration said...

Update! We've been working on the Newsweek mystery -- so far - it looks like Lakeside forgot to send in their info - and Newsweek didn't follow up. Apparently they have it now - and Jay Mathews is saying that they will update the online list by Friday (tomorrow) -- we'll see!

Dekalbparent said...

Whoa - wouldn't it be way cool to have CKHS be on the Newsweek list? For goodness sake, they already have the singular achievement of capping a zone that never failed AYP...

Just knitting our two threads together.

No Duh said...

Commenting on a several-day-old post from fedup, who agreed with SCW: She (SCW) pointed to the fact that DCSS parents see low test scores at their neighborhood schools, and rather than stand up for excellence in that school, hold meetings, work to improve it, etc., they abandon it to try to get their kids transferred to higher testing schools.

Well duhhh....

Why doesn't SHE do her job and stop complaining about what "her" schools don't have and start PROMOTING to her constituents what the schools DO have? I wouldn't call that micromanaging. I'd call that leadership.

SCW -- STOP pushing through the transfers for your constituents (just to win one vote at a time). Hold cmmunity meetings at the schools. PROMOTE! When an active family decides to leave one of your schools, have a meeting with them -- ask them why? Try to get them to stay. Help the neighborhood understand the statistics coming from these tests. Help them understand how and why a school doesn't make AYP.

SCW, YOU are the leader. You hold a community office to which you were elected. It's time you stop whining at your fellow board members and start shouting at your neighborhoods. You've been on the board how many years now and you are just now figuring out the problem? Geez Louise.

fedupindcss said...

No Duh: SCW is just figuring this out because her district's schools are experiencing a brain drain and are losing FTE dollars. I am not sure, though, how much board members do to get transfers. It was always my observation that people got transfers by annoying the superintendent and/or his underlings enough that they did it to shut them up. Or they were someone of some importance (Elaine Boyer, Hank Johnson) that they merited special treatment.

Re: Lakeside on Newsweek list: lots of GA schools must not have sent in their info, because the list has grown a lot. This is definitely something that better belongs in the hands of a PTA or something--the school administrators have a lot of things they can be going that are much more important.

Cerebration said...

Very astute of you, fedup. Let's take a look at the schools in Ms Woods district (3) =

Avondale HS - under-enrolled by 548. (Even after they merge DSA' 284 students, they will still be under-enrolled by over 350. (No wonder they didn't go for the idea to merge DSA with Lakeside)
(Enrolled: 706; Capacity: 1254)
09/10 projection (-640)

Cedar Grove HS - Under-enrolled by 191
(Enrolled: 1239; Capacity: 1430)
09/10 projection (-287)

McNair HS - Under-enrolled by 577
(Enrolled: 1124; Capacity: 1701)
09/10 projection (-680)


Cedar Grove MS - Under-enrolled by 304
(Enrolled: 848; Capacity: 1152)

McNair MS - Under-enrolled by 563
(Enrolled: 805; Capacity: 1368)


Avondale ES - Under-enrolled by 236
(Enrolled: 461; Capacity: 697)

Cedar Grove ES - Under-enrolled by 32
(Enrolled: 682; Capacity: 714)

Clifton ES - Under-enrolled by 135
(Enrolled: 440; Capacity: 595)

Columbia ES - Under-enrolled by 121
(Enrolled: 593; Capacity: 714)

Flat Shoals ES - OVER enrolled by 181
(Enrolled: 1167; Capacity: 986)

Gresham Park - Under-enrolled by 104
(Enrolled: 355; Capacity: 459)

Kelley Lake - Under-enrolled by 89
(Enrolled: 387; Capacity: 476)

Knollwood - Under-enrolled by 331
(Enrolled: 315; Capacity: 646)

Meadowview - Under-enrolled by 147
(Enrolled: 312; Capacity: 459)

McNair Discovery Acad. ES - Under-enrolled by 53
(Enrolled: 848; Capacity: 901)

Midway ES - Under-enrolled by 150
(Enrolled: 564; Capacity: 714)

Oak View ES - Under-enrolled by 172
(Enrolled: 814; Capacity: 986)

Robert Shaw ES - Under-enrolled by 150
(Enrolled: 513; Capacity: 663)

Sky Haven ES - Under-enrolled by 290
(Enrolled: 339; Capacity: 629)

Terry Mill ES -
Tilson ES -
(Not sure what has become of these two.)

Cerebration said...

So as you can see, Ms Woods district is seriously under-enrolled at every level. The Elementary schools indicate that the future of the middle and high schools will continue to be under-utilized.

It is very sad that these schools are what the state sees when they check our facility utilization - and punish the system monetarily for having too many unused seats. Oak Grove, Lakeside and other schools suffer a lack of state funding due to areas of the county like Ms Woods.

However, why is Ms Woods not motivated to tighten up the enrollments? Most likely because her schools continue to receive millions in Title 1 funds - regardless of their drain on everyone else.

Now tell me - who is voting for her term after term?

(BTW - all of her schools are in Dr Walker's Super District - I don't hear him addressing the need to consolidate either.)

andi said...

Cerebration do you have a link that you can post for the enrollment/capacity? I would like to look up a couple of schools.

Cerebration said...

sure andi, all of our data here at the blog comes directly from the DCSS planning department -

Cerebration said...

within that planning website, you will probably find the documents at the link below most helpful -

themommy said...

I am a huge advocate of consolidation. In SCW's McNair district, they consolidated three elementary schools into 1.

These were low performing schools. I am curious if the new McNair Learning Academy (the new school) will perform at least the same as the other schools. Cassandra raised this issue as one of concern. How can you realistically combine three very low performing schools and have a good outcome?

So far, the data looks like this, the new school had the same or worse dismal ITBS scores. The same bothers me much less than the fact that in some grade levels the scores were worse than the "feeder" school. The same was true of the 5th grade writing scores.

The McNair and Avondale clusters will continue to shrink, as long as gentrification continues to occur in their communities. The school system needs to have a plan and I am hopeful that they are working towards one.

Cerebration said...

Interesting data regarding the test scores after consolidation, themommy. That is disappointing.

Yes, apparently, the school system closed Forrest Hills (which I believe had recently had a new addition?) and reassigned those 248 students into Avondale and Midway (Montessori). (still leaving both of those schools under-enrolled by a combined 268 students.)

They also closed Nancy Creek and reassigned those students to Huntley Hills and Montgomery. (Bringing HH to near capacity and making Montgomery over-capacity) They then moved Kittredge into the Nancy Creek building (leaky roof and all...has this been fixed?) Kittredge became the international school.

Then, they closed Wadsworth and reassigned those students to Columbia ES and Toney ES (still leaving both of those schools under-enrolled by a combined 200 students.) Wadsworth then became the Kittredge of south DK, but with a capacity of 390 and enrollment under 200 is seriously under-enrolled today.

Then, as you say, they closed Leslie Steele, Tilson and Terry Mill and sent all of these students to the new, large, McNair ES (capacity 900 - enrollment now 850) Those three schools had been under-enrolled by a combined 500 or so. Terry Mill became the site for DESA.


As you can see from the list above, there are still several schools in the area with serious under-enrollment. Knollwood and Sky Haven jump out. Avondale is still nowhere near capacity. And redistricting doesn't appear to be an option - we just don't have the students in the area. I do know that there ARE a lot of kids who live in Avondale, but the majority attend private schools or Kittredge. St. Thomas More is full of Avondale area kids.

More consolidation needs to occur in SCW's district. They are draining resources from the rest of us.


There are still over 15 elementary schools with enrollments under 400. Schools like Briarlake can obviously take on some of Oak Grove's over-crowding. Same with Hawthorne for Oak Grove and Henderson Mill. Some redistricting can occur in this area (listen - I hear squealing!)

Laurel RIdge has a large special ed population who are served well and should be left alone. Same really with Medlock - very international - high needs/lower class sizes.

The school system has worked really hard to make these decisions regarding school closures and redistricting - but there is much more to be done. People are going to get upset, but if you look at the numbers - there is absolutely no choice. Closings and consolidations must and will continue.


To read the entire set of plans and low enrollment numbers, visit the link below and download the complete document.

pscexb said...

Ah, facilities and student housing, one of my favorite subject.. :)

Seriously though, Cere brought up several good points I'd like to touch on. I 'believe' residents in the McNair cluster have leveraged AYP transfers more than any other. SCW has advocated to improve facilities in that cluster as means to retain students. There were also several programs (since expired, funds ran out) involving a partnership with Kennesaw to provide small learning group with ES students.

You are correct, the clusters impacted by the last round of consolidation were Chamblee, Avondale, Columbia, and McNair. I recall hearing more could have been done in McNair but since they were already consolidating 3 schools into one, they did not make additional changes. This was done mostly as a cost savings with respect to administrative and facility maintenance costs. Themommy brought up a GREAT point about looking at the educational outcomes of those impacted by those decisions.

Moving the ES High Achievers magnet from Browns Mill to a stand alone facility was in the making for years. Unfortunately due to the economic climate, we may have to ask hard questions if we can justify having it at Wadsworth given the current enrollment

Legitimate questions will be asked about Avondale and Cross Keys, with respect to their attendance areas. It wouldn't hurt to possible have a demographer look at those areas and project growth for the next 5-10 years. This could pay for itself.

Cerebration said...

yep - this is definitely your area of expertise, psc. I still refer often to the consolidated chart you created last year that shows capacity, enrollment, projections, land size, % utilization. I hope you shared that chart with the entire board - it's priceless!

Huntley Hills Parent said...

They also closed Nancy Creek and reassigned those students to Huntley Hills and Montgomery. (Bringing HH to near capacity and making Montgomery over-capacity)

Huntley Hills is over capacity as well...something HH parents predicted when the closing of Nancy Creek was proposed. We were told to trust the demographers report, because the county had paid a lot of money for it. Money wasted, as HH received 50% more students from the old Nancy Creek district than the demographer had predicted.

Cerebration said...

Thanks HH parent. I didn't know that. How ironic that closing one school in the Chamblee feeder would cause over-crowding at two other schools. Do we have to utilize trailers now?

Cerebration said...

Oh - BTW - Lakeside is officially back on the Newsweek list (11th in the state, 320 in the country). Apparently, no one sent in their data to the Newsweek folks - and no one at Newsweek inquired.

As an FYI - this list is not necessarily about the capabilities of students at a school - it's about access to AP courses - something Jay Mathews, the creator of the list calls the Equity and Excellence rate."

There's no reason we wouldn't be able to see Cross Keys on this list next year!!


The equity component is a number - it doesn't have a thing to do with race as some assume - it's about access to the AP classes for everyone.

From Newsweek's Q&A ---

"It is the Equity and Excellence rate, the percentage of ALL graduating seniors, including those who never got near an AP course, who had at least one score of 3 or above on at least one AP test sometime in high school. That is the "E&E" on our list. "Subs. Lunch" on the list stands for the percentage of students who qualify for federally subsidized lunches, the best measure of the percentage of low-income students at each school."

Mathews makes this his purpose in life - to encourage all students to take a couple of AP courses in order to be better prepared for college and for schools to encourage everyone to try and AP course.

He cites many examples that irritate him where schools will only allow high achievers to take AP classes. He disagrees with this limited access and thinks the classes should be accessible to anyone who wants to try. (No mention of "diversity".) He does account for low income though - as it's proven that higher income students do better on the SAT and ACT.

Cerebration said...

BTW - if you are really interested in the whole "AP" issue, you may want to read this essay by an AP teacher, who also graded AP tests for the Board.

It's long - but fascinating --

Anonymous said...

To Cerebration: Thank you for following up on the Newsweek list! Just saw it. This blog is terrific -- so much information and so many viewpoints.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to this Cross Keys student!!

June 26, 2009
Student Profile:

Yehimi Cambron, 16

Cross Keys High School, rising senior

Since before she can remember, Yehimi Cambron has immersed herself in art.

"My mom says I started drawing ever since I started school," said Yehimi, the daughter of Maria Alvarez and Candido Cambron of Brookhaven.

Art has long been an integral part of Yehimi's life, even through the challenges she faced when she moved to Atlanta from Morelia, Mexico, in 2001.

"At the beginning, it was really hard," she said. "There was a great language barrier. It was tough, but you learn."

Yehimi adjusted to life in a new country while cultivating her passion for art. She has taken every visual arts class offered at Cross Keys, including the college-level Advanced Placement art class.

This past school year, Yehimi was the president of Cross Keys' Art Club, and she hopes to continue to hold the position next year. She is a member of the school's National Art Honor Society, which was formed last year.

Yehimi has received recognition for her artwork, and last semester some of her work was displayed at ChocoLaté Coffee on Shallowford Road. She was a finalist for the Governor's Honors Program for art this year. While she was not selected to attend the program this summer, Yehimi said the process was "a good experience."

In addition to her passion for drawing and painting, Yehimi recently discovered her interest in making jewelry. In particular, she enjoys making earrings, and she plans to sell her jewelry and other artwork at Atlantic Station.

Besides art, Yehimi has played on Cross Keys' varsity soccer team since her sophomore year.

"I started out as a bench warmer, but I think I've improved a lot," Yehimi said. When the school year begins, she hopes to be named team captain.

Yehimi is active in community service as a member of the National Honor Society, Beta Club and Interact Club. She is also involved in Student Council and primarily works with the decorations committee in preparation for Cross Keys' homecoming dances.

Outside school, Yehimi has a job at Aleskat Studio Foto Video Film, where she feeds her artistic interests by working extensively with photo editing programs such as PhotoShop.

What's Next:

Yehimi plans to apply to a few colleges in the Atlanta area, with Agnes Scott College being her top choice. She also plans to apply to Oglethorpe University, Emory University, Georgia State University and Piedmont College, located in Athens.

Yehimi will likely major in art education and pursue a career as an art teacher.

Kim Gokce said...

I picked up more intelligence on CKHS performance this week ... looks like CKHS missed AYP this year by about 8 students' test results. About 30 sophomores were "moved up" to 11th grade last year and tested with the juniors. While this decision was in the best interest of the kids, it did cost the school AYP.

Had the school "played the game" better, they would have repeated the feat of having all schools in Cross Keys zone making AYP. That would have been 2 years in a row for the zone - a feat I don't know that anyone made this year.

If anyone has any doubts about the ability of CKHS to provide competitive educational opportunities, I hope you re-consider your assumptions about this most mis-understood of DeKalb high schools.

I was there yesterday speaking to their Interact Club - a service club. I can not put into words how impressed I was by the room full of young people. We were a room full of 1st or 2nd generation immigrants (including me) and I was impressed by just how well these teenagers presented themselves. Cross Keys HS truly defies the misconceptions that circulate among those who do not know the school.

They are working on recycling programs, service via Hands On Atlanta, Aids Walk, and many other civic minded efforts. They were a real treat to meet and I can't wait to see their progress this year.

Echoing Cere's post above about stand outs at CKHS, here one of this Class' high achievers:

Carlton Washington - CKHS Stand Out