Tuesday, August 18, 2009

SPLOST Spending for High Schools is Racially Imbalanced

I don’t know if people in south DeKalb know or realize this, but schools in north DeKalb are totally integrated and highly diverse. Conversely, schools in south DeKalb are almost completely homogenous as they are nearly 100% African-American. Ironically, north-end schools that are integrated have been ignored as far as repairs, additions and remodeling with SPLOST dollars, except Druid Hills - which has received some remodeling to their nearly 100 year old facility - and Tucker High School, which is being torn down and completely rebuilt - but then again, Tucker is 72% African-American. That is the only school in the north end of the county to be given attention beyond the standard auditorium/career tech packages promised–some even drawn–but none yet built. Chamblee, Lakeside, Cross Keys and Dunwoody still wait for their share of SPLOST construction. Lakeside at least has architectural drawings, but those have taken years to develop. Dunwoody and Chamblee have heard rumblings, Dunwoody even has some drawings, but neither has seen construction action whatsoever. Cross Keys, built in 1958, is a disaster of a building and was apparently given all of the equipment and students from sold and closed HS of Technology North - but no guidance or program director. Ironically, when we voted for SPLOST 3, Cross Keys was #2 on the list of priorities - just after SPLOST 2 carry over - and well before Tucker HS.

Don't believe me that spending correlates to race? Check out the data, in case you can't visit these schools --

DeKalb School of Arts – 284 students - 184 (64.8%) black, 74 (26.1%) white, 7 (2.5%) Hispanic, 9 (3.2%) Asian, 10 (3.5%) other; $10,000,000 has been allocated to move this school to Avondale HS. (This equates to spending $35,211.00 per student.) DHS will operate as a separate school within a school – 2 principals, 2 sets of teachers, counselors, etc..

Clarkston HS – 934 students - 742 (79.4%) black, 29 (3.1%) white, 36 (3.9%) Hispanic, 103 (11.0%) Asian, 24 (2.6%) other. With a design capacity of 1260, Clarkston offers 320 available seats. With $11,694,682 scheduled for an Auditorium/Career Tech Center - Plus an additional $4 million for other improvements – Clarkston should soon be a sought after, very roomy, newly remodeled high school.

Columbia HS – 1,322 students - 1,303 (98.6%) black; Total renovation of the building, including the pool. Also recently completed the auditorium/fine arts/career tech addition. The original design capacity of this building was 1,474 giving Columbia currently at least 152 available seats.

Martin Luther King Jr. HS – 2,044 students - 2,005 (98.1%) black; “MLK opened in August, 2001. Scheduled to receive a $9.8 million multi-classroom addition with SPLOST 3. Plus a new project surfaced for this school - MLK HS - 9th Grade Academy at a cost of $6,858,842 is listed on the June 09 CIP. With a current capacity of 1,407, MLK is over-capacity by 637, however, relief was promised by the brand new Arabia HS in August, 2009. Arabia could have easily relieved over-crowding in South DeKalb, however, the superintendent instead decided to make Arabia a magnet/choice/theme school requiring an application/lottery process.

Lithonia HS – 1,683 students - 1,606 (95.4%) black; “totally wireless facility built October, 2002. The school has 188,000 square feet of space and is one of the largest schools in DeKalb County. Lithonia has a state-of-the-art media center, a music, art, and NJROTC wings, a cyber cafe for parents to communicate online with teachers, and a 500-seat auditorium.” Lithonia's multi-million addition has been postponed, due to very low enrollment.

McNair HS – 1,124* students - 1,107 (98.5%) black; COMPLETELY RENOVATED 2006 – including a new auditorium. With a budget of over $21 million, they even went so far as to spend $25,000 on the Mustang Statues on the pillars at the entry.

Miller Grove HS – 1,751 students - 1,697 (96.9%) black; All instructional spaces receive natural daylight through walls of windows. The media center and cafeteria are state of the art, and the gymnasium comfortably seats over 2,000 people. MGHS boasts a 2,345 square foot Health Occupations Center. As their website states, “Miller Grove High School is truly a state of the art 21st century school facility.” Located less than a mile and a half from Lithonia HS, Miller Grove is scheduled to receive an addition with SPLOST 3. (However, the school is currently under-enrolled by about 300.)

Open Campus HS – 777 students - 640 (82.4%) black, 24 (3.1%) white, 80 (10.3%) Hispanic, 18 (2.3%) Asian, 15 (1.9%) other; $10 million has been allocated to “move” Open Campus to a new location at the Stone Mountain facility.

Southwest DeKalb HS – 1,862 students - 1,803 (96.8%) black; SW enjoyed a total renovation and addition using over $21 million in SPLOST 2 funding. Additional funding (approx $2 million) beyond the original scope was also built. With a design capacity of 1365, SWDK is 500 students over capacity – requiring 30 trailers on site. This is a magnet school, and some would say enrollment should be limited to the number of available seats. It is also very close to Arabia, so one could also assume that many of the students could transfer. (Take note that there are now two high-achiever magnet schools within 5 miles of each other in South DeKalb – one brand new, one with millions in construction spending and plans for a performing arts center, however Chamblee, the magnet school in the north has seen zero dollars spent and has no auditorium nor plans drawn.)

Stephenson HS – 1,893 students - 1,825 (96.4%) black; Stephenson HS - A separate 9th Grade Academy building - with it's own science labs and cafeteria was built using millions from the SPLOST 2 funds. The capacity is 2098 for this school, leaving over 200 seats available.

Towers HS – 1,044 students - 990 (94.8%) black; Received a total renovation using over $20 million in SPLOST 2 including new bleachers as an extra budget item. Although under-enrolled by over 350 we went on to spend $1,500,000.00 SPLOST 3 funding for an 8 Classroom, 12,000 SF addition, PLUS $350,000 for an addition of an art studio. Moreover, they have received a beautiful auditorium/tech addition.

Tucker HS – 1,493 students - 1,075 (72.0%) black, 226 (15.1%) white, 81 (5.4%) Hispanic, 58 (3.9%) Asian, 53 (3.5%) other; TORN DOWN, currently in the process of being completely rebuilt at a cost of over $50 million, it was in bad shape, but not as bad as Cross Keys.

Arabia Mountain High School is a brand new, $50+ million, 240,000 square feet building with a capacity of 1600-2100 students built with SPLOST 2 funding. The school includes an environmental sciences lab, three business labs, a 600-seat auditorium, three music rooms, an indoor running track, practice athletic fields, tennis courts, an outdoor classroom/amphitheater and walking trail.

The campus is located in the southern corner of DeKalb, about 2 miles from the Rockdale and Henry county lines and sits near trails leading to the federally recognized Arabia Mountain national heritage area, which comprises thousands of acres of protected green space. The school was built to relieve severe crowding at nearby high schools, as press releases at the time show. (This plan has been changed and Arabia will function as a magnet/choice program, providing only 600 spaces to relieve local over-crowding.)


In evaluating the facts, SPLOST spending appears racially motivated. If you look over the list of schools who have been promised projects, but nothing delivered to date, other than maybe approvals to request proposals or architectural drawings, the losers are the schools with less than 50% African-American. The biggest loser is Cross Keys, a school with a majority Hispanic population. In fact, Lewis & the BOE have gone further down the design stage for the dream of a High School of the Arts than they have for Chamblee, Dunwoody & Cross Keys - they have sketches and have asked for proposals and bids for a Performing Arts School!

Here's the irony -- Lakeside, Dunwoody and Cross Keys are the ONLY schools left that are not over 50% black. The ONLY ones. (Lakeside - only 35% black, Dunwoody - only 36% black, Cross Keys - only 3% black.) Druid Hills at 52% black is finally getting a long overdue renovation. Tucker - at 72% black is seeing a teardown and completely NEW rebuild. Chamblee just crossed the majority black threshold - at 54% black. Just imagine for a moment, if those numbers were reversed. We'd have another Federal Case. 

And renovation spending doesn't correlate to capacity either. True, Cross Keys only has around 900 students. However, incredible construction is going on now at Clarkston HS - with only 934 students. McNair - at 1124 students has enjoyed a complete reno - same with Columbia - a school that is UNDER enrolled by 132.

 Towers HS has only 1044 students - with a full renovation/auditorium/tech/classroom addition - and new tennis courts. (Lakeside’s tennis courts host 22 trailers, forcing their champion tennis team to hold practice off campus.)

In addition, regarding race, DeKalb is not providing acceptable educational facilities for Hispanics – and this effects a lot of kids. At a total of 9,422 they are currently 9.4% of the total student population. For comparison, there are 10,465 whites (10.5%). The Hispanics are concentrated mainly in the schools in the north end of the county and therefore, IMO, tend to get overlooked by our zealous board members who hyper-focus on the needs of South DeKalb. Hispanics are the new largest minority in DeKalb schools and deserve the focus and attention to equity that black students enjoy. Otherwise - I smell another lawsuit.

Further, Lakeside has over 1600 students - hundreds over capacity in an old crumbling building (and has been seriously over capacity since at least the year 2000). Dunwoody also has 1600 and is predicted to be 750 over capacity by the year 2016. 

Most school systems base spending decisions on the theory that the money should be used to benefit the most students at one time - but we have done exactly the opposite. Our system has FAVORED the schools with fewer students for renovations and additions, at least the ones with a majority black population, leaving diverse schools in the north over-crowded, with no auditoriums or career tech facilities and in dire need of major renovations. 

Equitable? Heck no - not at all. Not with our current leadership in DeKalb.


fedupindcss said...

Wow. Do you suppose the rationale is that pre-unitary district lawsuit, all spending was on majority white schools? Not saying that makes the current situation correct, but would that be the justification?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Lewis will likely put a very positive spin on this (if even challenged to do so), saying that they're working their way through the county, that they're supporting the students with the greatest academic needs, yada yada yada. But the way DHS, Cross Keys, et al have been treated through the years is criminal. We asked last night at the DHS PTSO meeting about the looooooonnnnnnggggg promised construction of more classroom space and arts facilities. Construction is set to start in January. Let's see, that's three consecutive Januaries we've been promised relief. Yeah, right.

Anonymous said...

DCSS and its supporters are floating another SPLOST. It won't pass in Dunwoody. We're tired of funding every one else.

Paula Caldarella said...

Anonymous 12:37, Dunwoody received a new Peachtree Middle School and Dunwoody ES, so it's not as if there was no SPLOST money spent in Dunwoody. However, Dunwoody HS is anxiously awaiting its new addition - which is almost a year overdue to begin construction.

Jason said...

How does Stone Mountain High School fit into the argument? It is almost entirely black but it doesn't seem to get any money either. Maybe just a new roof.

Anonymous said...

It's easy to forget about PCMS and Dunwoody Elementary - DunwoodyMom is right. We have gotten some SPLOST. But DCSS seems to be interested only in building new - not renovating. And the Dunwoody schools (Austin, Chesnut, Vanderlyn, Kingsley, DHS) are in dire straits. So the inequities are pervasive.

Paula Caldarella said...

Of course, I don't think the Dunwoody ES was Splost-funded, but could be wrong.

Well, seems to be some progress for Dunwoody HS in the June 2009 Operations Projects info. It appears a 3rd floor is going to be added. I think there was quite a discussion about adding another floor versus expanding existing floors, though I don't think there would have been a lot of room to expand outward.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Cere it's about time somebody came right out and called it like it is!! DCSS and the BoE will say they are building new schools where the population has grown. Several years ago that might have been but not any more. As we know 2of the BoE members said the demographers report was not correct in its projections and the SPLOST $$ kept on being allocated to their districts. If I'm not mistaken they are up for reelection in 2010. Most likely they'll be voted back in. Heck who wouldn't want them to represent their district - they get all the money to flow their way. The problem is the BoE is too big and its size allows for special interest spending. If the board was at 5 members over all of DeK. not regions or districts then maybe the money would finally truly be spent where it is most needed.

Cerebration said...

You are correct that spending has occurred in Dunwoody for one ES and MS, however, this article focuses on high schools. (BTW, were you able to get rid of any trailers at Vanderlyn?)

As the June 09 document at the link provided by Dunwoody Mom shows, yes, the Administration has now taken the spin that the spending should be motivated by "creating high performance learning cultures" and "increasing rigor and academic achievement" - funny, but I thought I voted for SPLOST 3 in order to bring money to build and renovate high schools - relieve high school over-crowding - and build an auditorium at every high school.

I don't recall mention of "performance"...

Paula Caldarella said...

Sorry, cere, yes, the conversation was about high-schools - my apologies.

Yes, we voted for SPLOST in order to alleviate the overcrowding and auditoriums.

I know Vanderlyn and Austin still have trailers. I think I saw a couple still located behind Chesnut, though I do not know if they are being utilized.

Anonymous said...

I've been in DCSS every since I moved here in 1994 and I've never heard one complaint about the inequities when the Northside of town was getting all of the attention.

Anonymous said...

I guess we're supposed to live in the past and thank our lucky DCSS that they're balancing the books by neglecting the "Northside" for the past decade? Interesting argument.

Anonymous said...

not all anon 1:37--I just find it ironic that Cere was up in arms about it then--where was the outrage. if I'm not mistaken, many northside schools wouldn't be so diverse if it weren't for AYP & admin transers--other than Cross Keys with it being located in Buford Hwy corridor and Chamblee being a magnet. Hell isn't that one of the main reasons there was fight to end M-M program because of the integration of the schools in n dekalb. BTW, since when is Stone Mountain and Tucker consider S Dekalb. hell Tucker wouldn't be that integrated if it weren't for a lot of recruiting for athletic teams--can say the same for Dunwoody HS. It's my opinion that all the schools should be equal not only in bldgs and amenities but also in course offerings and rigor.

Cerebration said...

I'm not following your comment, Anon, hopefully you will explain what you mean. If you mean, that I was not up in arms when there was supposed unequal spending in the north end of the county and a resulting racial lawsuit - I guess that may be due to the fact that I was about 10 years old - and lived in the midwest.

SPLOST 3 was supposed to go to building high school auditoriums and other high school projects - I assumed that meant ALL high schools. Gosh, they've even had the nerve to spend millions of it on new offices for the administration and a new Sam Moss center for maintenance. And then board reps have the nerve to roll their eyes when people at this blog point out the conditions at Cross Keys - a real HS - with real live students in the building. I'm tired of that treatment.

Anonymous said...

from everything i've read over the past several months on this blog--there is quite a bit of animosity towards the dollars being spent on the south side of town, however, i just don't recall seeing the same animosity towards the previous inequities--that's all I'm saying. Since I don't know you personally--I have no idea of how old you are--just going by the posts I've seen.

Personally, I believe that CK should be torn down and rebuilt just as Tucker was, would say the same for DHHS--except I know how landlocked it is over there with all of Emory's facilities--so the odds of that happening are slim to none. Every child in DeKalb deserves to have decent facilities, good teachers and access to same courses and programs currently only available if you live in the right region.

My older kids attended school both on the North & South sides of Dekalb--the inequities remain. to be honest I'd rather have a dilapidated school that is actually imparting a good education than the 240k sq feet of newness without the rigor.

Cerebration said...

Yes, I hear that argument often. However, these are my tax dollars, which I voted to impart and I don't feel that they are being spent equitably.

Case in point -- Miller Grove is still scheduled for a multi-million dollar classroom addition. Miller Grove is UNDER-enrolled by hundreds of students. Should we really spend more money there?

Maybe there is some kind of historic animosity or some kind of tit for tat going on - I don't know - but whatever it is -- it's wrong. Go over to Cross Keys and see what kind of building those kids and teachers spend their day in. Then drive over to Chamblee and then check out Lakeside. But don't come back and say, "Yeah, but they have better test scores" - that's irrelevant to spending promised tax dollars.

Sorry - my comments seem angrier than I actually am -- I'm just passionate about this. The uneven spending needs to be investigated, IMO.

Anonymous said...

First, great news: Gene Walker and his "heavy heart" finally, finally did the right thing and resigned from the Development Authority. Took long enough, Gene.

Eugene Walker has resigned from the Development Authority of DeKalb County, on which he served as chairman. On Aug. 18, he sent the following letter to the authority:

“CEO Ellis and DeKalb County Commissioners.

“With a heavy heart, I would like to inform you of my decision to tender my resignation from the Development Authority of DeKalb County effective immediately.

“I have always fought for what is highest and best for DeKalb County. In my tenure on the Development Authority, I feel we have had tremendous success in recruiting businesses, promoting capital investment, and perhaps most importantly in this economy, creating jobs for our citizens.

“I feel the intense media scrutiny on me, personally, is becoming a hindrance to this Board’s ability to continue to achieve its objectives.

“I look forward to continuing to work with all of you in my capacity at the DeKalb Board of Education.”

Walker has been criticized for accepting campaign contributions from St. Petersburg, Fla.,-based company Sembler, which has been seeking to build a 600,000-square-foot development on Peachtree Road near Oglethorpe University. The proposed agreement for the project, known as Town Brookhaven, would grant Sembler special tax breaks.

Second, of course the SPLOST money has been spent mainly on South DeKalb schools. Crawford Lewis, his administration now and even before he got the superintendent job, and the Board of Education members have been fairly open in their intent to spend SPLOST money on South DeKalb and predominately African-American student popualted schools.

No one has ever called them on this, so they continue to do so. Not one DeKalb County Comissioner, DeKalb state rep or state senator has ever had a problem with it. Lewis and the BOE will continue ignoring North DeKalb schools, especially schools with a large Latino popualtion. Don't expect Womack and McChesney to suddenly start advocating for North DeKalb schools.

Cross Keys, Sequoyah, Lakeside are in horrible, horrible condition, and Chamblee isn't much better. It's going to stay that way as long as Crawford Lewis is superintendent, as long as we have the current Board of Ed members, and as long as our county commissioners, state rep's and state senators don't have a problem ith it.

Cerebration said...

Anonymous - please enlighten me as to the previous inequities. I'd like to know that historic data. Do you have info? Do you know where I could access it?

I've read over the entire Supreme Court case and as far as I can tell, it wasn't about inequity in spending as much as the fact that the county was only 5% black at the time, and they were all in the same school, which was under-enrolled, and rather than using those seats to send students from over-crowded schools, the white admin at the time chose to instead add on to the white schools. The Supreme Court stopped them and as I understand it, forced the school system to find ways (regardless of cost) to integrate the blacks into the white schools. (I've also heard first hand accounts of black schools getting second hand books and materials from the white schools.) The race issue was really intense. It took over 25 years for the county to satisfy the courts and in the end, they were only released due to the fact that the system had turned a majority black. The court gave the system credit for all of their efforts (magnets, busing, teacher-swapping, etc), but in the end, there was significant white flight and significant growth in black population in South DeKalb.

Paul Womack served on the board for 12 years during the Supreme Court ruling and was there when the system was declared "unitary" and released from supervision. Zepora and Gene both experienced the discrimination, as did Jay as a student. The current board members all have a much deeper history together than many people realize. I know they make decisions from very different perspectives, I'm just asking that they take a good hard look at the reality of the spending - it's time to fix the old, ratty buildings in the north end of the county.

Cerebration said...

I agree about Womack & McChesney, however, I do think that Womack advocates for Lakeside getting a fair share of SPLOST. McChesney, on the other hand, rolls his eyes and groans when people ask for help for Cross Keys -- and that school is in his district! (Lakeside, however, is not in his district, but he's fighting to get Sagamore students all sent to Lakeside...?! - not Druid HIlls, which IS in his district.)

It seems pretty hopeless to me when your own board rep won't go to bat for you. Maybe Cross Keys should ask to be in Zepora's district - I like her - she openly fights for "her" schools. Hey - as long as the system is set up that way - you had better play the game that way!

Cerebration said...

Interesting SPLOST 3 tidbit -- We have collected $185 million in SPLOST 3 dollars. (20% above projections) Yet, we have only spent $85 million, leaving $100 million in the bank, collecting interest.

And good for Gene for knowing when to bow out - his exit speech even sounded a bit like Sarah Palin's! Hopefully he will fully commit to the school board - he has a lot to offer - he's a very smart guy.

Anonymous said...

cere, i agree any remaining SPLOST or new SPLOST $$ should be spent on renovating older buildings or building new ones where needed--doesn't matter to me where in DeKalb the particular school is located. There needs to be a better job done setting and sticking to priorities based on current needs. since I live in MLK/Arabia Mtn area--I know at the time of the previous SPLOST there was tremendous need in this area, moved here in 1998 and in 10yrs the population has exploded in this area, only since last year has it slowed down--not stopped but slowed.

As for Arabia becoming a "magnet" school--which in the past you've commented that you don't agree with, lets be real, none of the magnets are true magnets in that all students must apply to attend, each school has more neighborhood students than magnet students. At this point, I'm not even confident that the board will uphold the standards as currently set for Arabia. I predict they will lower them again after this 1st year and Arabia will be become another neighborhood school. Then, once the rezoning process starts, if done properly, Arabia will be at capacity if not overcrowded due to the tons of new apartments and subdivisions that are just inside of the county line that borders Rockdale.

I say consolidate all of the magnet programs into one magnet program that serves all of DeKalb. I believe we need at least one HS school for the truly gifted and one for VOTECH students--both centrally located, with transportation provided.

I would prioritize SPLOST$$ in the following manner: knowing the condition of CK--it would be my #1 priority and #2 any repairs needed at any school to maintain safety. #3 schools needing additional classrooms and auditoriums, i would start with classrooms to reduce overcrowding. However, the next question is determining which school to add onto first--everyone will want theirs to be first in line. How will these decisions be made, do you base it on whether or not the building is worth renovating vs building new ones. How much land is available in the older neighborhoods where some of the schools reside? For example, is Lakeside as landlocked as DHHS? Same with Chamblee--is there space to tear down and start over or just enough to build an addition?

At any rate---things will never change so long as we the taxpayers remain divided based on race & socioeconomic status---the BOE can do whatever they want as long as we fight each other. I say vote them all out and elect people that are concerned about all the schools not just their little corner of DeKalb. It is way past time for some new blood on the BOE-I for one have no problem giving my board member his walking papers via my vote in 2010.

Cerebration said...

"I say consolidate all of the magnet programs into one magnet program that serves all of DeKalb. I believe we need at least one HS school for the truly gifted and one for VOTECH students--both centrally located, with transportation provided."

I couldn't agree with you more, Anon! That has been my mantra!

I say vote them all out and elect people that are concerned about all the schools not just their little corner of DeKalb. It is way past time for some new blood on the BOE-I for one have no problem giving my board member his walking papers via my vote in 2010.

Again -- agree!!

Dekalbparent said...

Why DO we no stand-alone Magnet middle and high schools?

Anonymous said...

For everyone talking about the inequities of the past, you may or may not have a point.

However, I implore you to first walk through the new Arabia Mt. High School, and then walk through Cross Keys and Sequoyah, and see the restrooms at Lakeside with your own eyes.

Every new and renovated DCSS high school should look like Arabia Mt. No school should ever be allowed by administration, staff and BOE members to be in the condition that Cross Keys, Sequoyah and Lakeside are in now. It's sad, it's mismanagement, it's a lack of leadership and caring, a lack of BOE oversight, and it's not going to change with the administration and BOE members we have now.

Dekalbparent said...

Keep in mind that DHHS is being PARTIALLY renovated - not entirely. About 1/3 of the school is not being touched at all (including some NASTY bathrooms). Interestingly, the amount allotted for the entire renovation and addition - $11M - is slightly more than that allotted to move DSA to Avondale, and $4M less than Clarkston reno.

DHHS - 1400 students
DSA - 224 students
Clarkston - 934 students

Anonymous said...

so what are suggestions to take care of the most pressing issues? organized emailing of all board members, not just your rep? Until we all are organized and advocate as a united front it will be business as usual. does anyone know of cross-region community meetings or forums? For ex. region 1 school advocates meet with region 5 advocates--we have many of the same issues.

Cerebration said...

You know, anon... This has been done. There is a priority list - it was created by a balanced group/committee. Unfortunately, politics rules and some projects get put on hold or back burnered - allowing others to jump ahead - and those others often end up costing much, much more than planned, creating a risk that others may not get what they wish.

Question -- since we have collected over $185 million and only spent $85 million, what are the plans for use of the interest earnings? And, exactly how long can a government agency hold on to tax revenues before they have to spend it on the promises made. I didn't vote to tax myself so that the school system could put it all in the bank... this only encourages them to progress slowly on projects.

Cerebration said...

Idea! What if -- we tore down everything at Druid Hills, except Adams Stadium and the International School (former Kittredge) - and then built a really nice vocational HS and a separate building as a high-achieving magnet HS for math and science. A real magnet that only accepts extraordinary test scores - 95 percentile at least. We need to value those high achievers (there would only be about 600) -- and we need to offer an alternative to those who would like options. They could all share Adams track and stadium for PE.

Dekalbparent said...

OK, anon, I'm with you. I will email the entire BOE with good ideas. Perhaps if we keep sending them all our good ideas, they will start considering some of them. I don't care if they think they thought the ideas up themselves, just so they give them consideration.

We all seem to agree that an up-to-date voc/tech high school is needed.

We seem to agree that if we are going to have High Achievers' magnets, they need to be for the kids who need more than high school - top 4% maybe. Put those kids together in one place and give the teachers and kids what they need.

Looking at the places that have high schools for high achievers, they seem to have a Math/Science school and an Arts (by this I mean, visual arts, performing arts and music) school - it seems as if by the time they get to high school, kids have a leaning one way or the other.

Where do we suggest these schools go? Cross Keys has been suggested, as well as the N. Druid Hills property. Where else would be good? Look at the whole county and decide where would be the most accessible for students coming from everywhere in the county. There would be transportation issues, but if everybody is heading to one place, perhaps an equitable transportation plan is feasible - part of the deal with having only one school has to be that no qualified student misses out because they can't get there.

Perhaps there would even be a $$ savings to be realized, and we can then FIX the schools that need fixing (both physically and academically), and promise every student an adequate preparation for post-high school life.

No Duh said...

Anon 1:45 I share your opinion: "It's my opinion that all the schools should be equal not only in bldgs and amenities but also in course offerings and rigor."

But, voters are such sheep that they only vote for what they can see with their own eyes -- bricks and mortar. If the S. DeKalb BOE members gave a rat's ass about their constituents' education, they should have been fighting (and I mean hard) for AP class equity, High Achiever equity, etc. But, they want to be reelected. The easiest way to do that (no explanation needed) is to wave your hand over the shiny new school and remind the community that you personally fought for it.

They say they want AP equity, etc., but they fight for the SPLOST money. I wouldn't doubt it if they have written off the "smart kids from South DeKalb" as ungrateful for wanting admin transfers northward.

I remember several years ago being in a BOE meeting where a parent was begging for new band uniforms for McNair (I think, I can't remember the exact school, could have been Redan or MLK). And sure enough a few months later the band members were presented to the board for "inspection" -- in their shiny new uniforms. How many AP teachers would THAT have paid for? That school's PTA should have raised money for band uniforms! Don't the kids at Lakeside pay for their own uniforms?

Cerebration said...

I don't think so... they're pretty pricey and get used for years. Just like the football equipment, etc. But if you have ever had the chance to hear the Redan band - you'd think it's worth every penny! We need to encourage and raise good musicians too!

Key point - board reps fighting for SPLOST - shouldn't happen. I would think that a professional group - consultants if you will - should evaluate the condition and needs of the buildings as well as the growth in the area and recommend where the spending should occur. It's true that some board members tossed aside the findings of the demographer (which they paid thousands for) because he projected growth in the Lakeside, Tucker, Dunwoody corridor. Instead, the spending continued to flow to south DeKalb - and now we have thousands of empty seats in several high schools. In fact, Miller Grove and Lithonia HSs are less than a mile and a half apart!

(See our article on the subject - Check out these numbers )

Anonymous said...

no duh, in speaking with my BOE rep, that was one of the reasons for adding a magnet program to arabia--to stop the brain drain to Chamblee, Dunwoody, DHHS, and Lakeside. I'm a firm believer that if a student is motivated enough they will succeed at any school-which is why I didn't push to send my child across town. But if they don't start addressing the discipline issues at many of the HS in S DeKalb-many parents will continue to ship their kids North--you can't keep banging your head up against a wall, easier to transfer. MLK has some super smart kids, as do all of the HS in S DeKalb--but they tend to get lost in the shuffle when the admins & teachers are dealing with AYP & discipline issues.

Cerebration said...

What?! No brain drain to SW DeKalb?!

Unknown said...

Wow! I very recently discovered this blog and can't stop reading. I am very frustrated with DCSS for various reasons. I wish more parents were as concerned as you all are about their children's education.

Anonymous said...

Cere, Druid Hills wouldn't be my first choice--traffic is a beast over there, no matter what time of day it is. Would definitely have to be on the MARTA bus/train line as I think most students that would attend are more than motivated and savvy enough to get back & forth to school via public transportation. I think MARTA passes would be cheaper to issue than bussing them from all over the county. I'm sure some parents may not like that idea--but sometimes its a small sacrifice to make, can't be any worse than all the kids that were loading onto the Emory Shuttle busses at SDekalb Mall and catching rides to DHHS last year. I believe the workers at Emory pitched a fit and stopped them from riding.

Cerebration said...

Sadly, the opposite has now happened. The Open Campus has been moved out to the Stone Mountain Facility, which is highly inaccessible. I heard of one student who has to take 3 or 4 Marta transfers to get out there - giving him almost a 2 hour commute!

Anonymous said...

now you made me laugh cere!!! some folks' perception can't be changed no matter how well the students perform at SWD. Like I said, there are some pretty smart kids at each of the HS along with some great teachers-but it is all about perception.

Cerebration said...

Read this old press release --

November 17, 2006
Board Approves Capital Improvement Plan

In a Board of Education Meeting called on Friday, November 17, 2006, DeKalb County School
System’s Board of Education approved the Five Year Capital Improvement Plan proposed by
DeKalb Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Crawford Lewis. Board Members passed the plan in a
7-0 unanimous vote.

The Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) was developed to address the most pressing facility needs
within the school system in order to maintain a healthy and safe learning environment for
DeKalb Students. A Facility Needs Assessment identified those needs to total over $1.9 billion.
The Capital Improvement Plan aligns with the Superintendent’s goals and tenants [sic], providing
decision making to be educationally sound, philosophically based and fiscally responsible. The
plan focuses directly on addressing the High Schools That Work principles and the commitment
to learning environments that are healthy and safe.

In addition, the Capital Improvement Plan touches every facility, school and center in DeKalb
County School System. The main focus of the CIP is in the following five areas: retirement of
the existing COPs financial debt; completion of deferred SPLOST II work; major roofing;
HVAC and safety improvements; high school improvements; Career Technology and Fine Arts
additions; and Technology.

This CIP outlines $466 million in improvements. This is the estimated income from the
extension of the SPLOST program, if approved by the voters in March 2007.

Cerebration said...

"The plan focuses directly on addressing the High Schools That Work principles and the commitment
to learning environments that are healthy and safe."

That part jumped out at me.

Anonymous said...

The superintendent and all of the staff at buildings A and B should have to come work a week or so at the school where I teach, Huntley Hills Elem. Then they can stand in line, waiting to use a small, smelly teacher restroom. When finished they can go back to work in a classroom that is 80 degrees because the air conditioning STILL does not work!!!!!

Anonymous said...

The move to Stone Mountain makes no sense to me either--it is totally in the middle of nowhere.

Cerebration said...

That's horrible, Anon. I am also very displeased that our leaders had the audacity to spend so much of the SPLOST dollars on themselves and their new offices at the Stone Mt facility -- and on a gleaming new facility for maintenance.

fedupindcss said...

Way upthread the comment was made that Dunwoody did get a new Peachtree Middle school. Yes, that is true. But in order to get that new school, they had to get the greater Dunwoody community to give up all other promised renovations to the elementary schools (which, it was noted, are in bad shape even now)and agree to aggregate those monies into one larger project. At the time, the system was pushing the idea that "communities" could decide how to spend "their" money.

I hate to say, but this only seemed to apply to certain communities. They would get together and negotiate, discuss, and plan, and have to give up much needed improvements to other schools. Meanwhile, they would find out that another community got all the renovations and construction they had asked for, and some they didn't even mention. It was extremely frustrating.

Julie said...

Anon said "if I'm not mistaken, many northside schools wouldn't be so diverse if it weren't for AYP & admin transers"
The Dunwoody cluster is racially diverse without any transfers.

Cerebration said...

Same for Lakeside -- although it hosts a lot of transfers, also is home to student from over 40 countries. Chamblee - even more. Druid Hills - same. Cross Keys - probably even more than anyone.

Do you realize that we have students sitting next to each other in our classes whose home countries are at war? Do you realize that we have schools where there are over 50 different languages spoken in the homes of our students? Do you realize that we serve food in our cafeterias that many students can't eat due to religious beliefs?

Diversity encompasses so much more than black and white.

Anonymous said...

Tucker Mom - Again I am amazed at some of these comments. The history behind the new Tucker High School were a group of parents involved with Tucker Parent Council who went into the school and took pictures of things that needed to be fixed. We then took them to the principal and asked that they be addressed. When things seemed to be taking too long to fix, we invited Dr. Lewis to tour the facility. We were scheduled to get new HVAC and lighting under a previous SPLOST. I cannot remember how they "held" that amount and in the next SPLOST we were targeted for a new building. Midvale Elementary whose heating and air is atrocious has been waiting over 10 years for a new HVAC system. I know because my kids all went there and lived through the heat and cold and they still don't have it!!! Give up the race issue people - we have all kinds of minorities and if alot of the private school parents would come back to public school it would be a different makeup altogether! Work together to create a solution with the board instead of attacking!

Anonymous said...

OK, you all know that SWD's renovation was a mess, right? It was the poster child for how NOT to do a renovation. There was even a section in the SPLOST forensic audit entitled "Southwest DeKalb High School - What Happened and How it Could Have Been Avoided." Audit PDF: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/files/SPLOST.Letter.and.Audit.pdf

I remember in the middle of all the mess, a woman stood up in a public meeting at SWD, broadcast on TV, and said, "You are only renovated us because we're black - Chamblee, Dunwoody and Lakeside didn't get renovated..."

Sure, some stuff was nice, but in the end, equipment was destroyed, theater props tossed, there were gas jets under wood cabinets in science classrooms, teacher computers were placed to block the boards, window blinds never installed, and there are still trailers on campus, and temporary buildings housing ninth graders.

And yes, the magnet students at SWD - simply awesome.

Cerebration said...

Tucker mom - Lakeside parents did the exact same thing. Took pictures, gave them to the board, met with Pope, met with Lewis - In fact, I was at a meeting with Dr Lewis where he said to a few in our group, off the record of course, that the only problem we had was a principal problem. (Referring to Mr Chelf) - Our building was fine. All he wanted to do was get rid of our principal.

Anonymous said...

son of awcomeonnow here.
Yes, the Stone Mountain location for the alternative school is highly inconvenient for
many students.
That location would have made perfect sense and been extremely cost effective if the school board had used it for the proper purpose
a few years back.
The proper purpose would have been this:
Relocation of the former Stone Mountain Middle School to the Mountain Industrial site. The Mountain Industrial site was within walking distance of at least five large apartment complexes, with sidewalks, traffic lights, and marked crossings the entire distance. It even has traffic lights at the entrance to help bus and vehicular traffic.
But no, the school board had to use the Sarr Parkway site. Yes, the building is very attractive, but not adjacent to housing of ANY type in the Stone Mountain schools
attendance area. The old Stone Mountain Middle School required 12 buses to bring the students in daily, while the new middle school requires 28. If anybody asks me why they'd want to use such an insane site, I'll be more then pleased to tell the tale of the timber contracts.
As for Stone Mountain High School being neglected, maybe it's plain old politics. Wasn't Chuck
...... (forgot his last name), the disgraced former mayor of Stone Mountain appointed to fill a position on the school board a few years back? Forgot whether or not he actually ran as a candidate, but he's no longer around.
The current mayor of Stone Mountain is Gary Peete, and he's
Republican. Just having a Republican in the vicinity might be enough for some of these intolerant thugs to practice selective omission.

Dekalbparent said...

Re: creating magnet and voc/tech centers

The N Druid Hills property is on a busy street, but one of the reasons it worked well for Open Campus is that it is on a MARTA route. I think there was a MARTA bus that was pretty much dedicated to Open Campus. My student also tells me that there appear to be runs of the #36 bus (N Decatur Rd) that are composed almost entirely of DHHS students.

There is a student MARTA pass you can buy that many high school and college kids use.

There is a letter in the AJC today advocating more MARTA bus routes as part of the solution to transportation problems. If high schools were located with an eye to bus routing and a pass deal were worked out between MARTA and DCSS, we could be functioning a bit leaner and certainly smarter.

No Duh said...

Ten years ago, there was a lot of growth in S. DeKalb. And they got their new schools. I'll give you that. It was needed, it was done. However, while all the $$ flowed south, zero attention was being paid to general maintenance of other buildings (mainly in the north). These buildings have been totally ignored -- sometimes even when the issues were dangerous (fire hazard, etc.) These buildings are between 50 to 100 years old. The BOE was negligent, negligent, negligent and Cere has a point -- what a lawsuit it could make.

Now, Anon 9:11 said: "in speaking with my BOE rep, that was one of the reasons for adding a magnet program to arabia--to stop the brain drain to Chamblee, Dunwoody, DHHS, and Lakeside. I'm a firm believer that if a student is motivated enough they will succeed at any school-which is why I didn't push to send my child across town." There's a reason I call myself No Duh. Seems like if you want to provide better services to the smart kids (just like those smart northern kids) it would be a helluva like cheaper to add a lot of AP classes to the EXISTING schools, and bring the services to them, than to build a palace in nowhere land.

Not enough discipline at the southern schools, so no learning can take place? Yep, the solution is to build a NEW building. How about just hire Principals and APs and staff who are professionals and not family members or losers who have been moved around like deck chairs on the Titanic? Atherton anyone?

I know it seems almost simple from out here in the real world. And I know it's far more complicated than I (we) make it sound. But, I KNOW that DCSS makes it IMPOSSIBLE to implement logical, cost-effective solutions. And, I just don't know why.

Cerebration said...

Arabia HS is 21.5 miles from Tucker HS, 22.5 miles from Lakeside, 27 miles from Chamblee, 28.5 miles from Dunwoody, but only about 1 mile from the Rockdale county line and about 2 miles from the Henry county line. It is in no way serving as a "Countywide Magnet/Choice Program for DeKalb county".

Cerebration said...

I've said this before - imagine the outrage if we spent $50 million to build a brand new "choice/magnet" school up off of Roberts Rd, north of Dunwoody, a stone's throw to Fulton, and Sandy Springs, yet left people 20-30 miles away with over-crowded, crumbling buildings -- but the option to apply to the brand new shiny school up north - and find your own way there.

Anonymous said...

MARTA is an excellent option for all our high schools, including Mountain Industrial and the magnet schools. But DCSS does not promote it or work with Marta.

Last year during the magnet/NCLB bus chaos, I asked Moseley to consider running a DCSS shuttle bus from key MARTA stations to high schools instead of the hub proposal. For example, hundreds of Chamblee students ride MARTA but then walk a long way, including crossing a very dangerous 8 lane highway (Ptree Ind Blvd). Instead of using numerous buses to drag these kids all over the county, I suggested using one DCSS bus in the morning and one bus in the afternoon to constantly shuttle between the school and the MARTA station. Moseley said that was an "excellent" idea and he would pursue it. Of course, nothing happened.

MARTA needs the riders- DCSS students need transportation and DCSS needs to save money. It is a win-win.

Cerebration said...

Cross Keys is within a 15 minute stroll of the Brookhaven Marta station - sidewalks the whole way - and it's on the same side of the street!

Anonymous said...

Mark my word, an Open Campus student will be hit by a car on Mountain Industrial. It's in the middle of nowhere. It should have been located by the Kensington MARTA station, with its acres of empty parking lots.

As Cere states, one more reason to fix Cross Keys the right way, instead of the proposed bandaid, is that you can walk there from MARTA.

No school in South DeKalb is even close to the pathetic condition that Cross Keys, Lakeside, Chamblee and Sequoyah are in.

Anonymous said...

If the county is worried about brain drain, than they should be thinking of ways to 1. Improve the quality of education-Raise the bar across the county, 2. Have discipline in schools, and not these stupid programs that reward students for doing what they should be doing., 3. Have schools that are well maintained. High schools aren't the only buildings falling apart or in disrepair. The board needs to get with the program. Talk only goes so far and Dr. Lewis and the board have almost come to the end of their rope for this homeowner/taxpayer. My son won't be attending a DCSS school unless the quality of education significantly improves. His education can't be chanced, as he needs to be able to compete with people around the world. The quality of education that he'd get in DCSS won't help him to compete with other Georgians. It's very sad to me.

People it's not a North DeKalb-South DeKalb thing. It's a county wide problem. Our board doesn't spend it's money or use it's resources wisely. We as tax payers need to be demanding more from Dr. Lewis. Our children deserve so much more.

Cerebration said...

I completely agree, except that we can't really confuse what we spend on buildings and how we educate. We voted to tax ourselves a penny on every dollar we spend and so far, we've collected many, many millions. It's only fair that those millions be evenly distributed among the people who paid the tax, using some kind of formula rating needs - which has been done - but not followed in order of importance.

Anonymous said...

I have to debunk the myth that a student in DCSS can't succeed or "compete with other Georgians." Otherwise, DHS and other high school students wouldn't be accepted to top universities and colleges, wouldn't go on to graduate level and professional careers, and wouldn't make their marks in the world. We wrestle with the problems in DCSS, but it all comes down to what happens in the classroom. My kids are getting a superlative education at PCMS and DHS because of the teachers and the rigor of the instruction. We've been in private school in the past. We're in public school now. We butted heads with 35-kid classrooms and snarky headmasters in private schools. We're butting heads now with government bureaucracy. The common theme? Your kids get out of education what you put into it.

Anonymous said...

Earlier comment, "debunk the myth" didn't hit the right comment section! I was responding to another poster in the back to school posting. Not sure why it landed here.

Anonymous said...

Having seen and experienced the education systems in many states across our great nation, the quality of education here in Georgia is not of the same quality or rigor that you would find in other areas of our country. Having friends and colleagues that have also lived across the country and now live and work here in Georgia, their kids were well ahead of the kids being educated here.

We forget that sometimes being "fair," is really not fair. The money should go to where the needs are. If that is not has been happening than it should be brought up, but bringing up racial issues with the way money is being spent is ridiculous. DCSS doesn't spend their money wisely, why would they wisely spend money to improve or build new schools?

Cerebration said...

Call it ridiculous Anon - but the facts is the facts. Did you really read the article? Did you digest the discrepancy in spending? Have you ever been to Cross Keys? Have you compared it to Arabia, Miller Grove, etc? The students at Cross Keys are experiencing exactly the same discrimination that the blacks experienced when they filed a lawsuit that took over 25 years to resolve. Truly, it's the same.

Further, there has been no money spent at Lakeside, Chamblee and Dunwoody - the only three schools with a viable white population in the county.

If it's not a race issue, what is it? Are you actually expecting me to believe that it's bumbling, accidental "mismanagement"?

What you see as ridiculous, I see as discriminatory.
Plain, simple and poised for another lawsuit.

Cerebration said...

I mean, lord almighty, our "educational leaders" had the audacity to build themselves brand new gleaming offices with their own auditorium - and all the while fully aware that there are 900 kids and their teachers stewing in that cesspool of a building over at Cross Keys! How blatantly selfish!

themommy said...


I have been quiet on this topic but I have to say I believe you are off base.

The first SPLOST was spend mostly on repaying bonds and building a few new schools where the needs were greatest.

The second SPLOST, in large part due to the middling of Dunwoody area politicians and board representatives, allowed each cluster to direct any funds they were allocated to receive to specific projects. What a joke. Dunwoody High and several elementary schools lost projects in order to get a new middle schools. (Lovely building by the way). During this time, Pritchett was still in charge and things were beyond mismanaged and money misspent. So, end of SPLOST II no clear priorities met and no money left. Some would argue that the nearly half dozen new middle schools built met a priority?

At this time, there were three high school clusters with overcrowded elementary schools. The situation was truly dire at some of them (Fairington, for example had 40 trailers for many, many years) and was getting worse at others (Dunwoody, which certainly got this fix for political reasons because the trailers were a repetitively new phenomenon at this time). Pat Pope comes in and with the help of Franzoni comes up with a way to "borrow" money called COPS. This money would be repaid either through the next SPLOST or through operational funds if SPLOST fails.

The new S. DeKalb elementary schools are built on time and under budget. The Dunwoody project stalls, in large part because the community is disintegrating. A new racial group is identified by anthropologists at this time, in Dunwoody, called Apartment children and finding an appropriate way to distribute them and not locate a school to close to their habitat takes far more time and energy than it should. Remember that the school system owns an empty school in Dunwoody but it happened to be, in the opinion of some Dunwoody parents and their leaders, to close to the habitat of newly identified racial group. So this project is delayed and delayed and delayed. There is no doubt that from both a time perspective and perhaps a redisticting perspective the old Shallowford would have been better. Whatever...

Up next... a quick review of the SPLOST II projects

themommy said...

SPLOST II projects

Arabia Mountain HS
Chamblee MS (Chamblee Cluster)
Lithonia MS
McNair Discovery Learning Academy ES (Whole system benefits here because 3 very small elementary schools closed when this one opened)
Miller Grove HS
Oak View ES
Peachtree MS (Dunwoody cluster)
Stone Mountain MS
Tucker MS (new high school should go nicely with new middle school)

And then review the lists for renovations and classroom additions. Just in the Lakeside cluster alone, Briarlake got an addition and Oak Grove and Coralwood got renovations along with various schools getting HVAC. (Remember, I believe these projects were driven by the local schools coming together to decide. The amount of funds allocated to many clusters probably drove some of the decisions. In some cases, I am guessing McNair, the community was ignored by their board member. )

Classroom Additions
Briarlake ES
Ronald E. McNair Sr. HS - Auditorium & Addition including Renovation
Stephenson HS - 9th Grade Academy
Stephenson MS

Coralwood ES
East DeKalb Campus
Flat Shoals ES
Hightower ES
Kingsley ES
Oak Grove ES
Panola Way ES
Pine Ridge ES
Pleasantdale ES
Rowland ES
Southwest DeKalb HS
Stone Mill ES
Terry Mill ES
Towers HS

HVAC Replacement
Avondale ES
Avondale HS
Briar Vista ES
Clifton ES
Dunaire ES
Evansdale ES
Henderson MS
Jolly ES
Lakeside HS
Redan ES

Completed Projects - COPs
New Schools
Flat Rock ES
Princeton ES

Completed Projects - CIP
Clifton ES

New School
Mountain Industrial Center - DECA Program

Deferred Work Security
Towers HS

In summary, while spending wasn't equal, there was some spreading of the "wealth" with the blinding exception of the Druid Hills Cluster. What is up with that? Where were Lynn Cherry Grant and Elizabeth Andrews? More to come...

themommy said...

Keep in mind that state DOE has some painfully bad rules about school construction that have played a part in some of the challenges we face in DCSS. The projections the state uses to approve school construction projects are almost always out of date before the first shovel of dirt is dug. DCSS can get some reimbursement for approved projects so you go along to get along. However, this has resulted in some schools opening with trailers.

SPLOST III projects were defined years ago. Long before, Lakeside, Dunwoody really had overcrowding issues of substance (with the exception of poor Druid Hills, what is up with that?) In the initial stages of planning, Pat Pope wanted to simply build new high schools because some of these buildings really shouldn't be renovated. Board rejected that idea as impractical. It would take 100 years to replace all the high schools.

DCSS has shown some poor decision making for sure:

DSA--This is political beyond belief and this is a group of parents and alumni who have not backed down. However, they didn't get what the ultimately wanted -- a 100 million or so building/facility on N. Druid Hills (not yet anyway)

The statues at McNair (three words -- Sara Copeland-Woods)

Arabia Mountain High School--Not making this a school with an attendance zone, from my perspective, was clearly giving in to the very powerful group of S. DeKalb theme school parents who wanted to continue their children's segregation from the rest of S. Dekalb. In addition, DCSS had received this grant from the Gates Foundation that was far easier to use in a new building. (Why fix a school like McNair or Clarkston?) Guaranteed, with a self selecting population to have the results that Gates demands.

Cross Keys-- Totally and utterly neglected. No excuse, but just like I asked where the board members have been for the Druid Hills cluster, you must ask yourself the same thing about CK.

Back in a while with some final thoughts.

Anonymous said...

With regards to DSA, how can school that serves so few students have such an influence over DCSS?
The Redovian influence?

themommy said...

DSA has been going on since before Redovian. Just very vocal, passionate parents, I suppose.

Redovian seems to understand that a new DSA comes after all other high schools have their needs met.

Cerebration said...

All very interesting history of SPLOST 1 & 2 mommy, but we're talking SPLOST 3 and high schools here. I understand that in my district Oak Grove got an addition (built about 50 years ago, it still has 6 trailers, but a nice pavilion built by parents in memory of a former student). I would have to assume that Briarlake also needed the space. And we have discussed the fact that Lakeside's AC had to be fixed when it literally shut down for weeks, a boiler blew and flooded the halls with 18" of hot water, and students took final exams in 95 degree heat with no AC. The building forced the system's hand. Beyond that, the tiny school of Heritage was almost forced to cram a military high school in it (with its 18 classrooms, no gym and 40 parking spaces). The community wants that itty bitty school sold to the county for parkland (half of it already is a park), since district 2 has by far - much less greenspace than anywhere else in DeKalb. But of course, the school system won't consider selling it.

Still - this doesn't explain the nonsense over-spending on Arabia (which was built as a promise to relieve over-crowding and then changed to a magnet - totally insulting to anyone in the north end since it's completely inaccessible), and additions still remaining on the budget for MLK, Lithonia (on "hold") and Miller Grove. MLK is over-crowded, but the other two are not and certainly would not be if Arabia had been used as originally sold. In addition, MLK is on the books for a 9th grade academy.

Add to that - millions upon millions in renovations to under-enrolled schools like Towers, Clarkston, Columbia, Stephenson, Tucker, and the few students at DSA (which is a pet of Dr. Lewis' by the way) as well as millions for new spaces at Mt Industrial for administration themselves and a new Sam Moss Center... and all the while, Cross Keys, Lakeside and Chamblee are sitting in over-crowded disrepair. Cross Keys is so NOT on Dr. Lewis' radar that he once announced that he had visited ALL high schools in DCSS, when in fact, he had never been to Cross Keys. Cross Keys is officially the only high school with no plans for an auditorium. Lakeside and Dunwoody at least have some drawings - but no dirt has been turned - and it's been 3 years in discussions. And Chamblee - well - no one is mentioning much even though they've been on the list for an auditorium/career tech since the vote for SPLOST 3.

Now, the eyes roll when people here at the blog and Kim and Ella advocate for Cross Keys. Literally -- eyes roll. Now how's that for treatment?

themommy said...

So, now we are planning for SPLOST III. The clear message from the community (whoever that might be) is that the priority needs to be high schools, but also we still have a nagging need to increase the number of classrooms.

At the time of the planning for SPLOST III, many S DeKalb high schools were still bursting, the economy was still strong, and new large subdivisions were popping up all over place. In some areas, there was no end in sight of new residential (both ownership and rental) development. A plan is laid - without a clear timeline-- for how SPLOST money is to be spent. Voters pass it (I voted no by the way) and projects begin slowly.

There is no doubt that the advocacy work of the Tucker community paid off for them. Cross Keys had none of that and a long list of board members who had ignored the decay and so no new school for them.

All of sudden, though CKHS is impacted by the drama surrounding the new elementary school in Dunwoody. (Bet you didn't see that one coming, no way we could expect DCSS officials to predict this either). Remember the newly identified racial group, Apartment Children? Well, the board rep at the time insisted (though quietly) that you couldn't locate the new school so close to the domicile of said racial group and that the system must trade GA Perimeter College the land where N. DeKalb Tech is located for some land GPC owned for the new school. So, now N. DeKalb is homeless and Cross Keys sits on a big parcel of land.

The reality is, since SPLOST III was passed, is that DCSS has seen a drop in enrollment in areas that had been bursting. In addition, areas that had been fairly stagnant in enrollment at the high school level suddenly experience a large amount of growth. Frankly, some or all of this growth has been artificial, ie AYP and administrative transfers. Dunwoody's enrollment is right at or below 1400 as of this week, most AYP kids seemed to have left.

My point-- DCSS has never had very effective planning, but at the time the SPLOST III plans were laid, growth and crowding was still a huge challenge for the S DeKalb schools. DCSS is about 75 percent African-American. You can expect that most schools are majority African American.

I do think that Lakeside and Druid Hills have suffered because they have had terribly ineffective board members. Look at all Franzoni got for Dunwoody because he knew how to play the game. Of course, the fact that the area around Dunwoody High school is now gridlocked in the morning and afternoon is also his responsibility.

I hope Womack and McChesney do a better job.

Government construction projects without much citizen input move slowly. Given the level of citizen participation in many of these projects, it is no surprised that getting the first shovel in is taking longer than expected.

And yes, I will agree that CKHS has been totally neglected. No, ifs, ands or buts.... No excuses either.

Paula Caldarella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cerebration said...

"I hope Womack and McChesney do a better job."

McChesney is the 'eye-roller' - and thinks that since there is new development planned for the area, all of the poor, mostly Hispanic students will move and he is afraid we are wasting money ... I asked Womack about it and he simply said, "ask McChesney, it's his school" - (technically it is shared by Don with Paul and Gene). Maybe Gene will work for the good of these kids...

Other issues -

A - The attendance zone to Cross Keys has been gerrymandered to mostly include apartments and poorer immigrant communities - thus the "low enrollment" Same with Chamblee - without the magnet students - who knows how many would attend there.

B - SPLOST 3 was pitched to the voters as "auditoriums and relief to high schools" akin to the gymnasiums for ESs in SPLOST 1 - it was supposedly "time for high schools"...

C - The demographers report clearly predicted the construction was most needed in the Lakeside, Tucker, Dunwoody corridor - and they had no knowledge of the plans for Arabia at the time.

Here's a quote from the October, 2006 report

“By the early to mid part of the next decade the high school enrollment for the district is projected to be approximately 4,500 students above instructional capacity. To remedy this situation the district should strongly consider building new high school
facilities and /or expanding several of the current high school buildings where land and logistics permit. The area with the greatest need for this expanded capacity is the east/east central section of the district and the north/ north east (Dunwoody-Tucker-Lakeside) region.”

The school board chose to ignore the report, relying instead on the fact that they could see housing construction in south DeKalb. What they forgot was that they were building apartments in the north end -- and apartments, being more dense, bring many more students to schools. One complex can bring hundreds of students.

Plus, there has been a big migration to "ITP" (inside the perimeter) in recent years - as people move closer to avoid traffic.

Sadly, though, when they see the condition of the local schools, in horror - many choose to go private. It's an engineered flight from public schools - created by the school board allowing these horrible conditions to occur.

Again - Arabia should have resolved over-crowding in that area of the county. If the school board instead chose to make it a "quasi-private" magnet program - then that area should have to suffer the consequences of that decision - they can't just return to the trough again and again seeking money to add on to buildings that wouldn't need it - if Arabia had served as was proposed.

Can you imagine - really - can you imagine the outcry if we had built an "Arabia" in the far north corner - made it a magnet - and then asked for even more money for our other schools because they are still over-crowded???

Anonymous said...


I recall the events leading up to the new Dunwoody ES a bit differently. You stated, "Remember that the school system owns an empty school in Dunwoody but it happened to be, in the opinion of some Dunwoody parents and their leaders, to close to the habitat of newly identified racial group." I recall that there was a large group in the community who knew that they would be zoned for a new elementary school and worked feverishly to have the old Chamblee MS renovated. Although the piece of land is far smaller than the Womack property, the group decided that time was of the essence and that we needed a school as quickly as possible.

After seeing the beautiful interior of the new Dunwoody Elementary and marvelling at the wide open outdoor spaces, do you not agree that we got a better deal?

My understanding is that the state pitches in with extra funding for new construction, but not for renovations. The former Chamblee MS was in such poor shape that renovations would have cost a fortune. Sometimes it's better to just start over.

And....come on....the "apartment dweller" race? Would you not prefer your children to attend school with a majority of children whose parents plan to stay in the community? It's not a problem with "apartment dwellers" per se. It's the problem of transience, which we've discussed many times on this blog. If a large portion of your student body is transient, there's a big problem.

Anonymous said...

Look up "doesn't get it" in the dictionary and you'll see Womack's photo.

Shame on Womack and McChesney and all the board members for allowing Cross Keys to be in such disgusting condition.

The BOE should make Crawford Lewis and Pat Pope move their offices there. Then the Central Office would finally acknowledge the crappy conditions at Cross Keys.

Anonymous said...

And....come on....the "apartment dweller" race? Would you not prefer your children to attend school with a majority of children whose parents plan to stay in the community

At the risk of rehashing this SAME old argument - the issue with the "apartment dwellers" in Dunwoody has nothing to do with their transience.

themommy said...

Anon at 3:45 Pm

You seem to not know that Dr. Lewis' initial proposal was to tear down the old Chamblee Middle School and build a new school. (The discussions of renovating it came first. ) If there had not been resistance and that site would have been used, then the new school would be in its second year this year, not its first.

Where the large group of parents opposed to this location came from is their fear that the proximity to the apartments on N. Shallowford and across the street and the ability to shot up I 285 to that location.

In fact, a board member expressed these concerns to me. In the end, though, it didn't matter. The group got what they perceived as their more desired location -- but at a huge cost, siblings split, traffic and bus nightmares and a real fracture in the community among those parents who support the concept of a 4-5 and those who don't.

And Anon at 4:20 is correct.. it is has little to with transiency.

Anonymous said...

It's not a problem with "apartment dwellers" per se. It's the problem of transience

Let me restate this for anon 3:45.

It's not a problem with "apartment dwellers" per se. It's the problem of skin color.

Cerebration said...

Speaking of -- has anyone ever mentioned any plans for the former Shallowford ES (former Chamblee MS)? Did they just decide to close it and build a new school elsewhere and do nothing about a large vacant property causing blight in the area?

Same for Heritage. (And its brand new roof!)

Same for the old Briarcliff HS, Open Campus, etc.

Same for the A/B buildings.

Same for Forrest Hills ES.

Same for Tilson ES.

Same for Terry Mill ES.



In addition - the planning department projects 26,270 high school students. We now have capacity for 27,917 if you include only 1600 as Arabia's capacity and leave Tucker's capacity as it was (not accounting for new space yet.)

This means that we have 1,643 extra seats in our high schools. (Enough to fill a whole high school!) Since many of them are seriously over-crowded (requiring 20-30 trailers at some campuses) - this means that we have some schools seriously under-utilized. Ironically, right now, Arabia accounts for nearly 500 of those empty seats.


Cerebration said...

Actually, there are more seats available. I didn't add in a number for the new Open Campus capacity - don't know it... So say it's even 1000 - that gives us actually over 2600 available seats... then of course, if you include trailers - say we have 100 that hold 25 each - that's another 2500 seats available in high schools...

Someone needs to check this out - it's ridiculous!

Anonymous said...

wow...did you talk to people who stated that their opposition to the apartment dwellers was actually a problem with their skin color? I never heard that from anyone...and I cannot tell you how many meetings I went to and how many people I talked to about the topic. I guess that you could ASSUME that is the real problem that some people had with an apartment school.

I can honestly say that skin color was not at all a factor in my opposition to creating a school in which the majority of the students came from apartments. It's just a bad idea, and so unnecessary, given the rental/homeowner ratio in the Dunwoody area.

fedupindcss said...

The issue of schools and apartments is less racial and more zoning. I am not saying that race doesn't factor into it (seriously--I listened to a parent rage on about the fear that black children from a apartment complex might be redistricted into her genius's elementary school). But the lack of communication and planning between DCSS and the county makes a lot of the school building decisions difficult if not impossible. And the planning department and their "drunken sailor" approach to zoning further complicates matters.

Certainly DCSS school construction is a disaster. But they get plenty of help.

Cerebration said...

Apartment turnover is a very real problem for schools. Apartments offering "free months rent" and tempting people to move all the time, uprooting kids - it's not good. I think it would be a good idea to allow kids to stay in the same school (as long as they provide transportation) - when they change apartments. Transiency does affect learning - no doubt. It's also hard on teachers.

Anonymous said...

Son of awcomeonow, weighing back in.
The root cause of everything that's wrong with Dekalb all comes back to one thing:
The oversizing, overconcentrating, and profound
oversubsidization ( for the politician and their handlers friends) of multifamily housing of greater then 4 units standing guard around most of the neighborhoods of Dekalb.
Transiency, leading to continual catching up leads to poor test scores. Parents either one step ahead of the landlord or the police bounce between literally hundreds of under rented complexes advertising rent specials. Persons of lesser means that would never think of comitting criminal acts are run off from where they rent by gun toting and firing low rent acting morons.
Said it before: check the apartment reviews online for Stone Mountain Georgia, and weep. The persons fleeing and writing about it are people that play by the rules. Many have children, and expectations for their progress and safety. WHat remains in their place doesn't give a whoot in hell
about their kid's education.
What we have left in many of the areas around Dekalb's rental areas are this:
A good friend that works as a security officer (not the highest paying field) was appalled everytime he went to pick his daughter up at Stone Mill Elementary, which has all the apartment complexes between Mountain Industrial and the city of Stone Mountain feeding into it.
"I was embarassed to pick my daughter up at Stone Mill. Many days there was one of the moms up at the front office, cussing out the principal because some teacher had dared to correct their brat."
We will always be playing catch up and will always be two steps behind if we allow them to keep building more attached housing. Thirty six percent of the housing in Dekalb was 4 or more units prior to 2000. I'd be afraid to hear what the percentages are now, with the construction behind Northlake, next to Embry Hills, and over around 1-20, Covington Highway, Klondike Road, and Turner Hill.
Apartments aren't the only problem, although they are the worst. Once they get a few years on them, the leadership auctions them off to the highest bidder for tax credits, tied to low incomes.
The best way to have your income stay low is to have children without a spouse, at a young age, without any education including or past a high school diploma. That makes it a guarantee that any housing getting said tax credits will be a sure thing on having the majority of their units filled with families with children.
Market rate units are a roll of the dice- higher rents and nicer amenities are financially beyond single parents with tons of kids. Rent specials receiving section 8 owned by slum lords receiving tax credits are magnets for them. Overbuild, oversubsidize, and give the tax write offs to your friends.Just be sure to demonize anybody that might point out that doing so makes communities suck.

Anonymous said...

My child is at a theme school due in large part to transiency. Parents sign a contact to stay at the school for at least one year. Also, kids cannot come into the school after the first day unless they're already on the waiting list.

I talked to a teacher that said they had kids going back and forth between her school and our neighborhood school depending on which apartment complex was running a special. This may not be as big an issue in high or middle school but it's huge in elementary school. It takes time to evaluate where a child is at and help them catch up if they're behind.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous hits the nail on the head. Son of again, if ya hadn't guessed.
An extreme example of the transiency phenomenon was the Clarkston/ Ponce corridor elementaries prior to 9/11.
The Clarkston area schools
(Indian Creek, Idlewood, McClendon)
had six refugee orginizations utilizing rental apartments on Valley Brook, Ponce, Montreal, Jolly Avenue, Norman, North Decatur Road, Memorial College,
and Brockett Roads.
Most of the famiies received housing vouchers from the refugee orginizations, but the vouchers were for interim housing for a 60 to 90 day period. Soooo..... it wasn't a rare experience at some of these schools for the following to occur when there was political turmoil or warfare overseas:
50 to 150 students show up within a very short period of time, most or all of whom would be gone within a few months. A typical classroom at one of these schools might have only 3 or 4 kids complete the entire school year, while the other 20 or more students came and went. Add language barriers, and voila'! Instant recipe for educational disaster.
It's gotten better in the
area around these schools, but there's at least three complexes that will probably go through foreclosure. It's time to tear them down. Give the schools a chance to come up for air.
PS: Isn't it wayyyyyyy past time that anyone connected to the schools opens their mouth publicly about how all this is preventing any chance at continual acheivement from occurring?

Paula Caldarella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Dunwoody Mom, if you think that's true, talk to Steve Donahue or the new principal at Peachtree and then tell me they don't have a transient population. Mr. Donahue has consistently stated that is a problem at Peachtree.

Anonymous said...

Son of awcomeonnow replying to Dunwoody Mom:
There's way more then the two torn down complexes cited that can and most likely still do cause transiency at the elementary, middle and high school level in the Dunwoody attendance area.
That'd be the rent special
tax credit properties that feed into Hightower, which feeds into Peachtree Middle and Dunwoody High.
From what I've seen on various Dunwoody blogs, the mind set seems to be out of site, out of mind regarding Hightower. The spelling (site) was intentional in this case: I never see Hightower mentioned. If I asked anybody in charge of attendance at Hightower, Peachtree MS, or Dunwoody HS how many students they see transfer in and out of the Peeler Road area complexes I'm sure the number would be quite a few.
Hightower, Carey Reynolds, Oakcliff, Pleasantdale. Peachtree,
Seqouyah, Henderson Middle Schools.
Dunwoody, Cross Keys, Lakeside High Schools. There's plenty of renters in the county that bounce between at least three elementaries
(and their older siblings between a corresponding number of feeder middle and high schools) during the school year. They're playing the rent special game.
The two complexes you mentioned probably fed into one elementary school in the Dunwoody attendance area. There's plenty more to take up the slack from the other elementaries in the feed, particularly Hightower.
We're talking turnover, and
you're dragging race into the discussion. My kids attend school in Tucker. I've been happy with their schooling, even though whites are in the minority big time. I wouldn't consider moving- my kids have school friends from around the globe- black, white, latino, asian. The economics are also very diverse: from renters on Lawrenceville Highway to mansion residents over in Smokerise.

Paula Caldarella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Dunwoody Mom,
I get so tired of your attitude towards Vanderlyn parents. Yes, there are some that are racially motivated and would not send their kids to P'tree or Dunwoody, however, there are more of us who do send our kids to both and love the diversity but don't like the transiency. I think it's about time to get over the 4th and 5th academy decision and go on w/ life. Get the chip off your shoulder and let's fight for the good of all kids in Dekalb, please.

Paula Caldarella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cerebration said...

Whoa! This discussion could use its own thread - but it seems like it wouldn't get resolved even so... I'm shocked at what you say about Dunwoody, DM, -- People I know from there don't feel that way at all. I do think that you should call the apartment managers and ask about turnover -- it's their biggest problem. Granted, there are people who live in the same apartment for years - but when the one down the road offers a free months rent or some other carrot - many people take the bait. I just think we need to find a way to keep the kids in the same original school if possible. It's hard on kids and hard on teachers to change schools each year - sometimes in the middle of the year.

At any rate -- read up on studies published on the issue - it's real. And it's important that we address it and do what we can to provide consistency.

Example study -- from U Penn -

Little data exists that specifically examines what teachers are doing to accommodate transient students. There are also only a few studies that use quantitative measures to disentangle the achievement of both the transient and stable populations. This study is significant because it fills these gaps by using data collected through qualitative and quantitative methods to examine the impact of transiency on one suburban/urban school.

This dissertation addresses the question, "What are teachers doing to accommodate transfer students and assist with their inclusion into the classroom to meet their needs?" As a backdrop it also addresses the questions, "When broken down by enrollment year, how do Main Street fifth graders perform on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment Test?" and "How do stable Main Street fifth graders perform on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment Test as compared to other stable fifth graders district-wide?"

Conducted by a district employee in the participating school district, this study is naturalistic and interpretive. The data included results of a questionnaire/survey, in-depth individual interviews with veteran teachers, student case studies, parent interviews, and finally, multiple documents. The results of this study revealed that teachers are employing a variety of strategies to try to assimilate new transfer students into their classes.

Three interconnected themes appeared as significant in accommodating for highly diverse classrooms. Issues of student behavior, weak academic foundations, and the lack of instructional time consistently emerged as problematic for teachers. Other obstacles included class size, lack of resources, gaps in learning, and curriculum continuity. When the results of one standardized test were disentangled it was found that the stable Main Street population outperformed their transient Main Street peers.

The results showed a correlation between mobility and achievement scores; as the number of moves a student made increased, their academic score decreased. Additionally, this study showed that among the stable population district-wide, the lower test scores were found in schools that have a substantial amount of transiency and a lower socioeconomic level, thus correlating with much of the already published literature.

(Abstract shortened by UMI.)
Recommended Citation
Donna Rosato Sanderson, "Moving targets: An interpretive look at how one school faces issues related to transiency, achievement and instructional continuity" (January 1, 2001). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI3008899.

To deny the fact that transient students (often from apartments) need additional support only does a disservice to those very students. (IMO)

Paula Caldarella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paula Caldarella said...

Let me ask this question:

With the academic reputation that Chamblee High School has, why do the majority of the student in that attendance zone attend private schools?

Paula Caldarella said...

cere, I have lived in and around the Dunwoody for 40+ years. I know of what I speak.

I certainly do not believe the majority of Dunwoody residents feel this way, (or I hope not), there are enough that do that there is a real division in our community with regards to the school "issue".

Paula Caldarella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

There's plenty more to take up the slack from the other elementaries in the feed, particularly Hightower

You are aware that Hightower has never failed to make AYP?

The question is then, why do these same students struggle when they get to Peachtree? Maybe this is the reason why Steve Donahue is in the Operations Division?

Anonymous said...

Since this is a HS Construction thread, I'd like to comment.

Putting money into renovating Cross Keys is ridiculous. The building is too far gone.

The area needs a brand new high school for both CK and CHHS. The logical location is N. Druid Hills rd because 1) the buildings are empty, and 2) there is a stadium there.

DCSS needs to put projects for additions to under-utilized schools on hold (not cancelled- just hold until the demographics change). They should move with all haste to erect a state of the art HS on the N. Druid hills site.

Trying to erect schools in pieces, such as Tucker, takes much more time and money than building from the ground up. Other school systems can put up a school in one year. Why does it take DCSS so LONG? Heck, just take the Arabia Mtn design and tweak it to fit the site.

Cerebration said...

Logic! Planning! Forethought! Love it, Anon -- why don't you run for school board? They need you!

Anonymous said...

Folks, everything is racially motivated at and in DCSS! Why do you think 100 Black Men of DeKalb has its offices at McNair HS and does not pay a penny to DCSS for this space (while all other groups--groups that service kids in the north area schools are made to pay)? Its another sham by Lewis (and probably some board members. And don't even get me started on what is done and/or overlooked by DCSS for New Birth Church.

I have worked on both the south-side and now in the north-side. The north schools "make it" in spite of the administration and because of the parent support.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Hightower making AYP: As a Title l school, it has tremendous resources to effectively serve its students. Those TItle 1 dollars do NOT follow the students to PCMS, which has to serve the same issues without the same funding, resources, staffing, and programs. Steve Donahue worked really hard to fill in the gaps, begging for translators and resources, to no avail. Hightower does an outstanding job with its students. Too bad the same support infrastructure can't follow them to PCMS.

Anonymous said...

"And don't even get me started on what is done and/or overlooked by DCSS for New Birth Church."

Let's hear it!!!

Anonymous said...

Dunwoody will never reach its potential because of it's future section 8 profile. A new 100mil High School will become a "magnet school" for even more transient underachievers for DCSS.

To solve the future overflow and trailer park scenario (which is going to happen), set aside 10mil for the renovation of the former Chamblee (shallowford) school.

Convert the building into a prison.

Anonymous said...

Just post a sign on the entire DCSS......racism is alive a well...... Can we not find solutions to problems without insulting a race as a whole. Their are problems on all sides. Some of these comments are insulting as a human race. Some of them are so child like....you received more money than I did....my child learned more than yours because I am involved.....What will it take to create a balance? If it takes this much discussion to say yes all the old buildings need renovations or just new buildings and yes one side has more new buildings than others and yes some children are in schools that aren't homeschools......the pictures are real and the situation is true.....what now......

The state is issuing Charters and no longer will accepting charters totally rely on one board. We're talking about money that has been mismanaged the next step will be loosing funds that will go to the charter schools. The state of GA has two. One would have to wonder is the real imbalance "diversion" by the time this group get a plan of action together the fight will have changed and it won't be SPLOST Spending fo High Schools is Racially Imbalanced...it will be State Charter Schools draining money from local Counties....but succeeding in educating children who were deemed as unteachable!!

Cerebration said...

That's probably a very viable theory Anon - especially in light of the fact that Arne Duncan is a huge supporter of charter schools.

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