Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sometimes, A DeKalb Story Has a Happy Ending

One year ago this month, those of us following the progress of SPLOST III were skeptical about the ongoing delays in the Cross Keys HS renovation and Career Tech North move. There was persistent talk that the project might be delayed indefinitely or the traditional school even closed. I believe that the support of this blog and the community at large prevented that from happening and the work finally began in earnest in January of this year.

Seven months later, the Principal has the certificates of occupancy for the expanded 4th hall (Career Tech and Art studios) and for the Main Hall (including office suite, Media Center, and Cafetorium). The remaining 3 classroom halls and the Gymnasium are all hives of construction activity today and by January 2011 the project should be finished.

On July 30th, Board of Education Members, Lifetime Members of the Cross Keys Foundation, County and City elected officials, local civic and business leaders will all get an official, first look at the renovations to-date at Cross Keys HS. Because I am so grateful for the support of this blogging community, I am offering you guys a first, unofficial peek today. Thank you and stand by for even more great things at Cross Keys attendance area!

I'll update with more photos after the July 30th tour.

A group of young ladies volunteering to help with a parent mailing for community service got to look around the Cafetorium. It is so bright and cheerful, an incoming senior beamed: "It makes me smile. Now I'm going to be excited to come to school every morning!"

Classroom with new ceilings, lighting, desks, windows, doors, fixtures, and paint.

Ahhhh! The air in the Media Center was cool, dry, and fresh on a 95+ degree afternoon. New HVAC, ceiling, windows, lighting, floor covering, paint, and fixtures make this space almost unrecognizable!

New high efficiency windows on Main Hall looking out on old ones soon to be replaced.
Because we all measure everywhere we visit by their bathrooms, a "public" facilty on the Main Hall.

New high efficiency windows line the Cafetorium once known as "The Radiator." The room is now bright and sunny with more natural light and more lighting fixtures.


Cerebration said...

Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow!!!!! Hallelujah! This is so beautiful it makes me want to cry tears of happiness!

Paula Caldarella said...

I just saw the pictures on Facebook - wow, what a transformation.

Lynn Deutsch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynn Deutsch said...

Woo Hooo

I love a happy ending! Here is to great results from the rest of the renovations.

How awesome is this!

Kim Gokce said...

@Cerebration: Walking into these spaces is an electric feeling compared to what everyone is used to at this school.

For anyone who has darkened the door of CK in the past decade, the single biggest thing that grabs you now is the air - bright, clean, and cool ...

Literally, when I used to walk into the Media Center my eyes would be stinging and watery from the air quality. The faculty and the kids are really in for a treat come August 9 ... at least, those in the finished areas.

It does make me wonder what they could've accomplished here if there was a full commitment. This is the result of a half-interest and thinly supported effort. Ah, those "what could have beens" ... have to let go of that one.

Kim Gokce said...

I also thought walking around, "Cross Keys will have the nicest interior spaces among Dunwoody, Chamblee, Lakeside, and Druid Hills for at least a year or two before we are surpassed again ... let's enjoy being on top while it lasts!" :)

Cerebration said...

Dunwoody HS is right behind you -- but Chamblee has been tabled indefinitely and Lakeside has been delayed yet again (what - 3 years now?) No worries about getting trumped in the near future, Kim!

Personally, I believe in my heart now in hindsight, that Pat Pope somehow drove off the first architect (she claimed they "quit" due to community disagreement - but there was very little community input back then). I think Pat was in the process of pulling an architect switcheroo... and she didn't care how many kids had to hang in the balance.

Just my personal cynicism... Thank god Pope is gone - it looks like the new team is totally "on it"! Let's see if we can maintain the happy momentum!

Anyone running for school board who will not push to get our districts fair shares of the construction pie will not get my vote.

Anonymous said...

In fairness, there was a community committee back then, but I thought I heard that Pope had misrepresented the scope of the asbestos problem and the architect quit. (Though that doesn't really ring true.) It is possible she was trying to push more work her husband's way.

Bobbe Gillis said...

This is such a fantastic transformation and so well deserved!

I am delighted by this renovation,
and hope that I can continue the trend once I join the School Board.

Cerebration said...

Anyone who has not seen the "before" photos - please click on our original post highlighting the horrible conditions students and staff had been enduring at Cross Keys -

Why is Cross Keys STILL in Limbo?

Cerebration said...

And yes, there was a "committee" - which submitted a 2 page 'wish list' for the construction. They had little input.

I think Cross Keys was about to get sidelined - or even closed down - by the board. They cared not a whit what happened here.

Below are from the minutes of the Budget etc, committee meeting -

Dr. Walker stated the Cross Keys High School community is troubled by the development in the area. He inquired should the money be spent as recommended on Cross Keys or should we go in another direction? Ms. Pope thinks we should move forward with the renovations for Cross Keys with the idea of a different designation later, possibly a technology school, military school or school of the arts.

Anonymous said...

In fairness, there are concerns about what will happen when the economy improves enough for the redevelopment of Buford Highway to happen. Many of the large apartment complexes house 100s of students in the CK feeder pattern. If enough revitalization takes place simultaneously, these families will be displaced out of the area.

However, in the meantime, you could not in good conscious leave students in that building the way it was.

A Mother said...

Ahhhh! I was disappointed when I got to the end of the pictures. I will be looking forward to more on the 30th with bright eyes and bushy tail.

It's Wonderful! It makes me happy to know students will have this bright, cheerful, inviting place to learn, grow and to remember as the place they went to school.

Congratulations to all that had a hand, a finger in it!

Anonymous said...

I am so incredibly pleased with how good this looks.

It would be interesting to compare renovations done under Pope vs this one, which I think is better than those under Pope.

Kim Gokce said...

This is Evergreen's first DCSS job and they probably will win more. Evergreen has managed a lot of "value engineering" with subs. I've lost track but with the additional value of $180 in sidewalks and parking restoration approved last week under the existing budget, the total may be approaching $500k in additional work done under the same original budget.

Regarding "Being on top," yes the renovations have been delayed/tabled for surrounding districts but they will be bigger in scope and they all will have auditoriums and I'm still stuck as to how these kids don't merit one. I just can't let go of that one ...

Regarding the BoE comments/fears about Buford Hwy redevelopment: it is the highest population density in DeKalb County and will be so for a decade or more to come.

"Many of the large apartment complexes house 100s of students in the CK feeder pattern."

Gee, isn't that a relic of the isolated and elongated CK attendance area (1 mi high and 10 mi wide) and not an issue of re-development?

The rush to re-consider the renovation or re-purpose the school was absurd and simply reflected a Board in denial about attendance zone realities and excess physical plant.

(continued below) ...

Kim Gokce said...

... (cont)

What needs to happen is 2 world class high schools need to be built to serve Dunwoody/Chamblee/Doraville/Lakeside/Brookaven/Druid Hills. ALL the kids will have tennis courts, swimming pools, stadiums, practice fields, girls sports galore, clubs galore, auditoriums and much, much more. Not to mention that the "community" and local businesses could focus their resources on schools that serve ALL children. Now THAT, that would be "premier."

I am not holding my breath ... rant out! :o)

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 5:52
"It would be interesting to compare renovations done under Pope vs this one, which I think is better than those under Pope. "

Who directed these renovations?

Kim Gokce said...

"Who directed these renovations?"

If you mean at CK, it has been managed since Oct '09 by Barbara Coleman of Parsons.

Anonymous said...

And much as the BOE members get the occasional lashing, who voted "yes" to approve the initial funds for this?

Credit where credit is due...

Anonymous said...

I am not sure I understand your question/comment, the SPLOST III project list was prepared years ago, with almost an entirely different school board.

Kim Gokce said...

The glass is definitely "half full" for CK and the BOE deserves full credit for that.

I am a malcontent and feel that the glass should have been designed to be "full" for all DeKalb schools at the end of SPLOST III. We should not have been asked to spend $1b on renovating every property like CK. Rather, we should have been asked to spend $1b rebuilding a new physical plant from ground up with 50-70% of the schools we have now.

Our BOE should have built this vision into SPLOST III that included significant consolidation and 1st class facilities for every child ... eventually. Instead, we are patching too many schools like CK and pushing the real issue down the road in my opinion - little consolidation, unnecessary capital expense, and related admin overhead. It is unsustainable and shame on us for letting it happen this way ...

Kim Gokce said...

It started out as a positive post anyway ... lol.

Yes, CK's rennovation is progress but I think towards the wrong long-term goals we should have as a community. So while I love the fact that the mold is going, the air is clean, and halls are bright, I fear that over the next 5, 10, 20 years CK students will still lack access to the type of facilities that are expected today by many, many parents.

Students are forever forbidden from using the infamous mezzanine in the Gym. Why? Because they used to have their weight room up there until someone dropped a barbell and cracked it. So, the weight room moved into the cafeteria 'cos there was no where else. After the renovation, the weight room will be crammed into the existing locker room space: a) Taking away needed storage and locker space b) Location and equipment making it unwelcoming to the female athlete and PE classes.

And there's the bleeping auditorium thing ... sorry to harp on this but it is absurd and indefensible that these kids will be the only High Schoolers in DeKalb without fine arts classrooms and stage. The Cafetorium is bright and sunny and I try to stay focused on that but it still looks like what a elementary school should have, sorry.

Agh! I really want to be positive and I am about what is being done. I need to get over the "should'ves" and I struggle.

Lynn Deutsch said...

Pat Pope's initial plan, the very first one she presented for SPLOST III was basically what you proposed. Very little in the way of renovations and a handful of new schools. Maybe two handfuls.

The needs are at a billion dollars, but at best SPLOST III will raise 500 million when all is said and done.

If the BoE had taken Pat Pope's recommendations, there would have been no funds to reroof, replace air conditioning, etc while those handful of schools were built. With each year, more and more school buildings in DCSS deteriorate. The point I have made as each SPLOST has been discussed, is this -- in five years, the buildings will be 5 years older and in greater need of renovation or replacement. What is the plan? Schools that were in adequate shape at the beginning of SPLOST III may be in crummy shape in 7 years.

DeKalb has a huge challenge. Before the economic crisis, Fulton and some other systems spent some operational money on capital projects in addition to SPLOST revenue. DeKalb did the opposite. With the creation of SPLOST, DeKalb ceased almost all other expenditures on capital projects.

We absolutely need a plan.

Kim Gokce said...

Here, here Lynn! I have no idea how to get what seems obvious to me to have traction with the "public" or the BOE. It is as if each little school area and only the current parents in it have to be appeased one at a time ... how to wake up the entire set of DeKalb stakeholders if recent controversies and budgets do not?

As my son approaches his 4th birthday, I become more like other parents I know (knew) in DeKalb who have thrown up their hands and moved to Gwinnett, Forsyth, Cobb or etc. ... these are not perfect systems, either, but parents can at least rest easy when they look at the physical building and the potential opportunities therein.

No, a building does not make an education but that is not the point of what is missing in DeKalb - our kids can learn in the classroom even without the amenities. But if we could provide them, why wouldn't we?

Lynn Deutsch said...

Kim, the problem is that if DCSS spends say 500 million on 5 super new high schools, then what becomes of the failing infrastructure at the middle and elementary level while we do this?

That is the conundrum and why Pat Pope's initial plan was pretty quickly dismissed.

Anonymous said...

Kim, I don't want to rain on your and CK's parade but I am pretty tired of hearing you say that CK is the only school with no auditorium. Chamblee Charter High School has NO auditorium at all, yet Chamblee has many more students than CK and takes in hundreds every year from other schools.

Who is going to go to bat for Chamblee Charter High School? Are you? The Board (with the support and urging of C. Lewis and Pat Pope) voted to cancel Chamblee's renovation. Chamblee is grossly overcrowded and it is a very dangerous situation.

Sure we would all like our kids, magnet, resident, charter and NCLB transfer students, to go to a "world class" school. But right now we would just like bathrooms that flush, a working science lab, a working electrical outlet to plug a computer into (if we had working computers), a cafeteria that can feed and seat just a tiny fraction of our students, a safe and roach free locker room and a healthy and functional HVAC system.

But the SPLOST III money that could have done a full renovation on Chamblee (included updating the old physical systems like wiring and plumbing) has been spent on the many "pet" projects of the BOE and DCSS management.

So please don't be surpised when we are not excited about your vision that in 10 or 20 years Chamblee can be consolidated with a bunch of other schools in some mega school fancy campus. And I sincerely hope that you will put 100% of your energy and networking into promoting SPLOST 4 and getting angry, suspicious and weary taxpayers to give DCSS millions of more money.

Sorry for the rant but I am really angry over what has been done to Chamblee.

Anonymous said...

Voting at the CKHS precinct was a treat on Tuesday allowing me a limited peek at some of the new construction. I liked what I saw. The impressive part of new construction is the affect it has on those utilizing the facility. In this case, two birds will be kilt: teachers and students will be brimming over with pride with their renovated educational facility when the fall school year begins. It looks like construction may go beyond the original schedule, but once complete, I know everyone will be satisfied with the improvements.

Now we come to the hard part. It is incumbent on CKHS management and DCSS plant management folk to maintain this school. Additionally, them little gang bangers with their markers defining their “territory” need to be dealt with in a swift manner showing them the error of their ways. Giving them a pass, as has been done in the past, is not an option.

A November visit will bring me back to a school in session for only two and a half months in the new facility. Hopefully, it will look just as good as the day the last punch list was completed.

Cerebration said...

Anon 10:26 PM, I think Kim's point about the auditoriums is that CKHS has never been slated to receive one at all. Chamblee was on the list of schools slated to get an auditorium as promised when we all excitedly voted for SPLOST 3. Sadly, the word is now that virtually all work for Chamblee has been tabled. I have no idea why and I'm not certain that it's true. But Chamblee is yet another horrible building - very much like Lakeside, which construction projects have been delayed at again also.

I can't figure out what's going on or why - but I'm hearing it's a "legal" issue. No surprise there I guess. We could have built a couple of auditoriums with the money we've spent on attorneys in the Heery Mitchell case so far.

We're all frustrated. Very very frustrated. And it doesn't look like we will get any help or relief from SACS or the state. We're just left to function as vultures fighting over the boney scraps now left from SPLOST 3 and being pressured to vote for a SPLOST 4.

Kim Gokce said...

Anon 10:26

Cere beat me to the post ... While I don't mind your rant about Chamblee (it is in ridiculous shape), I have never said CK is the only school with no auditorium. We're not getting one EVER and Chamblee may have to wait and that annoys you?

As for my advocacy for the CK attendance area schools, I have not yet begun. So, if I grow on your patience now, I must apologize for my commitment because it is true and you will be more annoyed a year from now than you are today.

Let me tell you what I've told anyone who is willing to talk reasonably about our students. I do not care in what building they go to school as long as they have access to equitable facilities. They have not for decades and have been aggressively shunned by all parties. The fact that the community has been thrown a bone with this renovation is of little true consolation.

Yes, I said, "a bone." Half of the investment has been spent simply on relocating DeKalb Tech North to this school and I'm glad they're here - it is a great program I hope to see expand.

However, that does not change the fact that the amount of capital being spent on the "traditional" high school is the tiniest of fractions of SPLOST III funds and other than bringing the EXISTING facility up to date (mostly) this renovation provides no new amenities or functional improvements to this faculty or student body.

We had to go find private money simply to PUT GRASS on the athletic field for goodness sake. We had to stumble into the worst construction economy ever documented to get paint, to get ADA access and sidewalks. Seriously?

The BOE has positioned the investment so that it can "pivot" at Cross Keys in the future ... would you like to trade places and be a "pivot" rather than pivotal to DCSS? I'll take it that deal today or any day.

Here is the reality of public education in our area as I see it ... if we take out the crazy number of out of attendance area enrollment in Dunwoody, Lakeside, Chamblee and add the indigenous enrollment from these schools to Cross Keys and Druid Hills, we might have in the range of 6,000-7,000 students. My contention is that it is irresponsible to maintain five high schools when 2 or 3 would do.

We've ignored this for 10-20 years and we're set to ignore it for another decade or more with our current SPLOST III planning. I will not concede we should continue to make short-term decisions about DCSS plant. It is irresponsible and immoral and it is a burden that is weighing down our public system.

If the BOE last summer had said, "Cross Keys we're terribly sorry but your reno is being put on hold. Before you cut our throats, let us tell you that the reno at Chamblee, Druid Hills and Lakeside are also on hold so we can put together a consolidation plan to better serve the population in your regions," I would have said, "Hooray! Finally!"

The fairy tale is not my vision of the future for DCSS plant, it is that we can continue to manage the one we have.

As for SPLOST IV, I am torn. If there is no vision that captures what I see as the dramatic need for consolidation, I'll have a hard time supporting it and a hard time staying in DeKalb as a taxpayer. I truly believe this is a fatal flaw and has to be addressed.

Would it be hard? Yes. Would it take many years to complete? Yes. We have made this mess and we have to be prepared to undo it.

Anonymous said...

Delay for Lakeside, while troubling, is very different than complete abdication for Chamblee.

I was at the last Board meeting and watched with anger as the BOE moved forward to let bids for yet another SPLOST project for SW DeKalb. There has been absolute silence by this Board regarding Chamblee and I was personally told by Coleman that they are "waiting" for SPLOST 4 funding. We asked what the "fall back" plan was for Chamblee if SPLOST 4 fails and they have none. But the problem is that if there is no SPLOST 4 and every penny of SPLOST 3 is being reallocated to other projects, the school is toast.

Since Chamblee is a conversion Charter school I wonder if the state can force DCSS to repair and maintain the school in adequate condition? Especially when the DeKalb taxpayers voted to fund renovations to the school with the penny sales tax?

Kim Gokce said...

OH! And as for who will help Chamblee ... argh! I volunteer to help Ashford Park ES, I am helping parents in Huntley Hills ES who are organizing, I volunteer at the Brookhaven Bolt that raises an average of $15k per year for Ashford Park. Our congregation provides great support to Chamblee MS and HS youth. We helped bury the poor MS student murdered this year.

You may detect I do take offense at your presumptions about my support or lack thereof of CCHS.

Kim Gokce said...

Rant over. The CCHS project being put on hold is puzzling to me as well. I confess to have been focused on CK's situation and have not real insights.

Let me know how I can help. Nighty-night!

Anonymous said...

Kim- I think Chamblee would like to even have a dirt field. It has none.

And yes, Chamblee would gladly swap school campuses with CK if we were able to limit our student population to match the current student poplulation at CK.

To the bigger question: yes of course, DCSS has had no vision when it has set the goals/uses for SPLOST funding. It needs a modern, urban campus and has two huge acreages- CK and N. Druid Hills. CK should never have been renovated. It should have been demolished and a modern school should have been built there or at N. Druid Hills. But the BOE did not have the guts to tackle a significant re-districting battle.

But this is all hindsight. The BOE simply can't continue to ignore Chamblee while simultaneously using it as one of the last places to satisfy their legal obligations under NCLB.

Anonymous said...

Chamblee use to have strong advocates who worked hard for the school. Currently, they have an elected charter council, which as a conversion charter school doesn't mean much, but those parents should at least be the leaders in the community.

At every board meeting, multiple parents should be there, speaking about the situation. It may very well do no good, but keeping things on the forefront of people's minds is always a good idea.

CCHS is unique because it could have parents speak that are from every board member's district. Pretty savvy right?

All that said, have you checked with the school council? I thought that DCSS folks believe that the building should be torn down and rebuilt. However, I believe that if the community decides they prefer a renovation, DCSS will respect that decision.

Anonymous said...

It's great to see CK reno pics. It certainly is nice to see our taxpayer dollars at work.

I am disappointed in Jim Redovian's leadership. He obviously voted to keep the high priced "minority" lawyers in exchange for other BOE members votes, was it for his DHS reno or something else. I know politics as usual. But I do I look forward to hearing his explanation for his vote for the lawyers, as Dr Walker puts it, celebrates color and not efficiency. I pray an audit gets donen so the funds paid to these lawyers can be exposed for the taxpayers to see.

Mr. Redovian I know you live in Dunwoody, however your district is much larger and I was wondering when you will begin to advocate for the taxpayers in the rest of your district? We're waiting... Once again I applaud Pam Speaks for voting with her conscience and not her race, in regards to the high priced lawyers.

Paula Caldarella said...

Yes, Chamblee HS used to have strong parental and community involvement - back when it was actually a community high school.

The magnet parents care little about Chamblee other than what the magnet program brings to their children. The resident student body is made up of some attendance zone students, charter students and NCLB transfers. There is little to no "community feel" to that high school and quite frankly, as an alum, it breaks my heart to see what the school has become.

In fact, the "joke" is that Marist is really the high school for that area of North DeKalb.

At some point, very soon, Chamblee is going to need a "Kim Gocke" to advocate for them.

Paula Caldarella said...

Oh, and Chamblee does have a "dirt field" behind the school. It serves as a football practice field, baseball field, soccer practice field, and practice field and on and on and on. You get the picture.

Anonymous said...

Anyone wanting to meet Nancy Jester who is running against BOE member Jim Redovian can attend her meeting tonight:
Friday (7/23, 7pm): ChocoLate Coffee
2558 Shallowford Rd NE # 201
Atlanta, GA 30345

Her website is:

Be True to Your School said...

@ Kim Gokce

I have never said CK is the only school with no auditorium.

Yes, actually you did. In your 12:07 AM post. Here is your quote:

And there's the bleeping auditorium thing ... sorry to harp on this but it is absurd and indefensible that these kids [CK] will be the only High Schoolers in DeKalb without fine arts classrooms and stage.

Have you ever even been inside the Chamblee facility?

Paula Caldarella said...

Yes, that's my understanding - the DCSS feel the building should be completely torn down - which will take money from a SPLOST IV. However, if SPLOST IV is not passed of the school decides to renovate instead, the money for a renovation is still available to do so.

Paula Caldarella said...

Actually "Be true" - he said "will be". Chamblee is slated to get an auditorium, when or, if their renovation or new building takes place.

Anonymous said...

The good news for the Chamblee community is that now they can go look at CK High School and see what their renovation looks like and have some sense of the possibilities. Prior to Pope's leaving, I would have said that the renovation process left much to be desired in terms of outcome. Several elementary schools got new bathrooms and most of the schools are fairly disappointed with the end results.

However, seeing CK's pictures and hearing that Dunwoody looks great on the inside, might change the game plan a bit.

Perhaps the Chamblee community wants to advocate to proceed with the renovation.

SPLOST IV will probably pass because the vote is held in July in an off year (no major elections) and it takes far more effort to go vote no than it does yes.

So, the question for the Chamblee community is do you bank a sure thing, the renovation, or do you hold out for a new building?

Anonymous said...

Well, again, the Chamblee principal WILL NOT speak up for her school. She will do whatever the county dictates, or at least this has been the pattern in the past. A genuine disappointment for a school like Chamblee. Now, I don't know why other faculty and staff members are not speaking up more at Chamblee. I don't know why parents are not coming forward. If I had to guess it would be that people are disgruntled and see no need to speak up because their voices are not heard. Often times they are even "asked" to remain silent.

So, with a unique school like Chamblee, their "gift" is that they keep on excelling in spite of their circumstances, in spite of the slight from the county, in spite of the leadership. People will reply it's because of the magnet program, but if you're on the inside of Chamblee's walls you realize it's more than that ... it's a single-mindedness and a resolve that permeates throughout. It's a genuine love for the school. For now.

Kim Gokce said...

True: "Have you ever even been inside the Chamblee facility?"

Yes, multiple times. Er, was that an invitation? Accepted.

And I've been in Chamblee MS (isn't that lovely!), Montgomery, Ashford Park, Huntley Hills, and PATH. They are all wonderful schools full of deserving children. And, they look an awful lot like the children in Oakcliff, Cary Reynolds, Dresden, Montclair, Woodward, and Sequoyah. Odd, isn't it, since they are such different worlds, and have such completely different needs, right? Wrong.

All: This thread is fascinating to me because it reflects what I see as part of the core problem with DeKalb schools, especially in my region. We are in the same boat folks yet we act like we are not. Why is that?

Our tag line at the Cross Keys Foundation is "Every Opportunity for Every Child." Why is that so hard to buy into? We've picked seven schools to advocate for and we did so because among all the neglected schools of our region they are clearly the ones with the greatest historical neglect from leadership, least community support, the least parental involvement, the highest poverty rates, and on and on and on. Not a single one of us has a child enrolled in a CK school. Only one has children in DeKalb schools.

The fact that our advocacy for such a deserving group is fodder for resentment and jealousies is more evidence that our community is far from ready to build a worthy vision of public education and supporting facilities for all.

From what I've seen during the past two years of effort, DeKalb residents would simply prefer to hunker down and fight tooth and nail for every last scrap of remaining SPLOST III money and damn your neighbors. Inspiring, huh?

Kim Gokce said...


Didn't mean to ignore you observations above - got caught up by my emotions with CK v CCHS. Silly, really - sorry.

I have to believe our true options range somewhere between the current patch'n'paint and Pat Pope's recommendation.

$100 million per school eating up all $500m? That is not what surrounding districts are paying to construct new HSs with enrollments north of 3,000 supported. How about just two smartly built $30-40 million dollars schools in Region 1 (what used to be Region 1!) and millions left still left around for roofing/hvac, etc?

I claim no expertise in construction planning but reports from metro counties lead me to believe we can provide full amenities for 3,000 kids for much, much less than $100m.

Kim Gokce said...

Anon 8:36 - you made some clear observations above about CCHS reno v rebuild, etc.

"... the question for the Chamblee community is do you bank a sure thing, the renovation, or do you hold out for a new building?"

I would love to hear your definition of the Chamblee "community." As Dunwoody Mom, I think, points out above, Chamblee seems to suffer from its own success in terms of having relatively few area children enrolled.

For me, CCHS is the perfect example of what is wrong with our planning. This school (by school, I don't mean a building) should be the subject of enormous investment because of the great success it has had in key areas that benefit the ENTIRE county.

If a school only gets "its share" of the goodies if there are the right parents in the school, we have the wrong approach to planning and prioritization.

Anonymous said...

Kim, it is a pattern of past behaviors that have led all DeKalb parents, not just those in the North, to be skeptical that their communities will get their fair share of the pie.

Cerebration said...

Personally - and this is really just a theory picked up from misc vibes and comments - but I think there may be some discussions going on behind the scenes to build 'something' at the Druid Hills property. This is an amazing piece of land that already has a stadium and a county park as well as an elementary school (formerly Kittredge - now International). I've heard an idea tossed out to build a brand new Druid Hills HS there - but since DH has already been renovated, and the community is happy with their location, that seems like a tough sell. However - building some kind of fab magnet would be a great idea. Say - a 'campus-like' facility that houses a school of the arts and a math/science magnet program? Then, Chamblee residents could combine with Cross Keys (and build one nice auditorium on CK property for all) along with the vo-tech program in another campus building... ?? Cross Keys has about 35 acres, while Chamblee only has 14 so the absorption could work - especially if divvied up by sending resident students to CK and magnet students to something new on the Druid Hills property. Maybe Chamblee could be utilized for the military academy?

Many of those are my own ideas - but I have been rolling these ideas around for quite a while - and I am certain that the board wants to do something with the Druid Hills property...

Point is - we need to count our nickels and band together as communities to figure out how our money is best spent to benefit everyone - and stop squabbling like starving third world people over small bags of rice. Let's combine our rice and have a feast!

Cerebration said...

For what it's worth - This is what was written in the brochures encouraging us to vote for SPLOST way back when - and this is what is on the website still today (except that Towers was removed, as theirs was completed first, apparently using SPLOST 2 money.)

Career Tech Instructional Additions

In the DeKalb School System the construction of Career Technology Instructional Additions in our high schools has progressed during the last year. The Career Technology Additions provide three specific learning environments consisting of approx 12,000 sq ft in which to house and implement the Career Technology program. Each high school selects three Career Technology programs from a list of 19 state sanctioned programs. Students complete a Career Technology Student Data Interest Survey which serves to rank technology programs by student interest. Data from this survey along with Regional School Choice Program data is used in developing the Career Technology programs for each school. The following high schools have been selected, in the Capital Improvements Plan, to receive Career Technology Instructional Additions:

Druid Hills

Go to the link to see Columbia's Cosmetology lab and McNair's Culinary Arts Kitchen

Cerebration said...

As for the many-years promised auditoriums, this is what the website says (as did all of the brochures before the SPLOST 3 vote) -

Auditorium & Fine Arts Additions

The Auditorium/Fine Arts Additions in our high schools serve as a gathering space for school functions and community meetings as well as a valuable teaching tool for the arts. During the preconstruction phase, local schools provide the project architect with the information describing their specific needs and requests to expand and support their instructional fine arts program.

Some of the features included in our auditoriums are a comfortable seating for 500, performance stage, dressing rooms, theatrical lighting packages, stage curtains, acoustical architecture, an electronic control booth with a full sound control board, audio visual equipment with electrical projection screen, band and orchestra practice areas and instrument storage facilities, various glass fronted display areas for student work, ticket booth and concession facilities, men and women restrooms, drama classrooms, work and storage space for performing arts projects. The following high schools have been selected in the Capital Improvement Plan to receive Auditorium/Fine Arts Additions:

Druid Hills

Again, Towers was originally listed, but then removed after theirs was completed.

Anonymous said...

If CCHS improvements are being put on hold for a pending SPLOST IV vote, and the BOE recognizes immediate needs, they should fund a rebuild using Certificates of Participation (COP) to be repaid with SPLOST IV proceeds should it pass. If it doesn't, COP would need to be repaid with budgeted capital funds.

This is how a couple of schools (both in North and South DeKalb) have recently been funded -- paid COP notes off with SPLOST III. If the need is really there the board should act now, not wait. Or are they playing politics to get some needed SPLOST IV "yes" votes with the promise of a new CCHS if it passes?

Cerebration said...

For those who insist that the 'north' 'gets' more than the 'south' - visit the link with the photos of the auditoriums

And know that we don't have a single facility like this in the north - our students' programs all take place in our gymnasiums or 'cafetoriums'...

Hopefully, Tucker and Dunwoody will each have one soon. Druid Hills has a small one built with private funds.

Anonymous said...

It is more complicated to use COPs on land with an existing building, because the COPs issuing organization technically owns the project until it is paid off. This is why COPs money can't be used for renovations.

My understanding is that there is a letter out there from the CCHS council explaining their decision to wait for new construction and that the money for renovation will be held until the results of a SPLOST IV vote.

If you have concerns about this decision, please contact the school council.

Anonymous said...

While a large capacity school concept makes sense fiscally and offers more opportunities for "specials" (clubs, courses, etc.), the inter-student personal dynamics are very different than those in a "small" school environment.

I'll take the small school environment for my kid and pay the extra taxes hoping he doesn't get "lost" in the system or pressured into hanging out with the wrong crowd. Yes I know this can happen in a small school too, though it's easier to spot and correct if it does.

Cerebration said...

Also, know that there are county initiatives in the south that benefit children in the area. (No need to partner with the Y for a $100,000 track reno when you get a $5.7 million parks facility with summer programs from the county!)

DeKalb County will hold a grand opening ceremony Saturday at the new Redan Recreation Center.

The ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. at 1839 Phillips Road in Lithonia.

More than 100 children have already gotten the chance to check out the new center as part of the summer day camp. However, additional programs will be added July 10. Volleyball and basketball leagues are scheduled to start in the fall, said Shelia Edwards, spokeswoman for the CEO.

The center features a gym with volleyball and basketball courts, a suspended walking track, aerobic/dance room and fitness room. There also is a computer lab, meeting rooms and craft rooms.

The $5.7 million center was paid for out of the 2001 and 2006 park bond funds, Edwards said.

Add to that the fabulous new Porter Sanford Performing Arts & Community Center - also built with county park bond money -

The Porter Sanford III Performing Arts & Community Center is a state-of-the-art, 500 seat theater in the historic Candler Road district, bringing a diverse range of programming possibilities to Southern DeKalb County.

Our goal is to ensure that your organization has a positive and productive experience with this outstanding municipal facility. DeKalb has invested more than 17 million dollars to construct the most advanced performing arts theater in the history of our county. The Center is equipped with digital audio and lighting equipment throughout the entire facility and can accommodate a variety of performances including musicals, plays, ballets, weddings, and concerts.

The Center has a wide variety of rooms available for your event. Come visit our 500 seat main theater, the 100 seat "black box" secondary theater, or the outstanding "open-view" terrace of the 200 seat-style reception lobby configuration.

Again - nothing like this has been built in the north end of the county.

Anonymous said...

What makes it even more absurd to argue that the "north" gets more than the "south" is that the tax base is disproportionately located in the north. This is the ticking time bomb: the systematic -- and dysfuntional -- misappropriation of funds by a self-interested system built on greed that appeals to anachronistic notions of racial "justice" while large segments of its "customer base" are utterly unprepared to function in today's society. Too much bling. Too little substance.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure it is fair to say that no parks/art centers have been built in the north end of the county. In my area (dunwoody) the county built a beautiful park --including a skateboard area which looks really cool -- in Dunwoody at Brook Run just a few years ago. The land already had a theater on site which is used for productions. While it is fair to say it has not been well maintained since Dunwoody became a city, the facility is still wonderful.

Also the spruill arts center was (until dunwoody purchased it) county owned and has lots of summer programs, art shows, theatrical performances etc.

Paula Caldarella said...

In my area (dunwoody) the county built a beautiful park --including a skateboard area which looks really cool -- in Dunwoody at Brook Run just a few years ago.

The county did not build this park. They purchased the old Brook Run facility and added a skatepark and a playground and then ignored it. Hopefully, now that Dunwoody owns the park, it will become the masterpiece it can be.

Also the spruill arts center was (until dunwoody purchased it) county owned and has lots of summer programs, art shows, theatrical performances etc.

The Spruill Center is located in the old Dunwoody Elementary building, which was purchased by the county and shares space with the Dunwoody library. The Spruill Center's upkeep and programs are have and are driven by donations and very little money from DeKalb County.

Anonymous said...


The land CKHS occupies is 20.6 acres and is north of Curtis Drive. Woodward Elementary occupies 20 acres south of Curtis. Even if Curtis Drive was modified to allow one contiguous partial for both schools the combined 40 acre site has challenges. There is a substantial elevation difference between the CKHS baseball field on the south end of the Woodward partial and the school building on the north. Additionally, there is a large gully between these two points with a creek and a steep slope on the west of this acreage. This land is a re-development nightmare if considered for a couple of educational facilities. However, both partials are some of the most valuable land owned by the BOE, would work well for residential redevelopment with some wooded areas, and their sale could go a long way to funding a facility at another location.

The CCHS site is 20.59 acres. Purchases of adjacent property or the power of imminent domain (not my favorite acquisition method) could possibly allow for this site to be expanded to 30 or as much as 40 acres. The old Kittredge and Briarcliff High School site on North Druid Hills Road has 31.7 acres with DeKalb County owning an additional 30.82 acres directly behind the BOE partial. Unfortunately, the DeKalb County partial has a couple of streams on it (one kissing the BOE property) and may make its use difficult.

If we are talking about facility consolidation and larger schools on the north side of the county, these are the two sites to consider with the North Druid Hills Road partial being the favored from a redevelopment cost. If Chamblee is the preferred site, land needs to be purchased now while it is still cheap!

Paula Caldarella said...

The CCHS site is 20.59 acres. Purchases of adjacent property or the power of imminent domain (not my favorite acquisition method) could possibly allow for this site to be expanded to 30 or as much as 40 acres

What adjacent property are you envisioning? The apartment complex, doctor's office area?

Anonymous said...

There is a warehouse that has been available FOREVER adjacent to the NDekalb Stadium. This property has been brought to the attention of Redovian several times and he supposedly gave the information to Pat Pope's area. The real estate agent on the "for sale" sign outside the warehouse has been called and he tried calling Pat Pope's office. He said he could not get anyone to talk to him or return his calls. Now we know why. No interest. This kind of land availability in this area won't come along again. I don't even know if it's still for sale. This was pursued and pursued by a few employees at Chamblee who saw the potential. I'm sure the DCSS will say they don't have the money to purchase the property , but it would be ideal field space for Chamblee.

Cerebration said...

I think there's plenty of room at either site to accommodate a high school with a 2100 student capacity. This is the plan for expansion at Lakeside and Dunwoody - they're called "large scale school models" - although, IMO, 2100 isn't all that large - but Dunwoody and Lakeside are considerably smaller than the CK and Druid Hills properties. Lakeside is actually a pretty darn small piece of land for a high school this size - plus the roads make the school not very accessible.

So, Anon, if you are dismissing these ideas for expansion - do you have an idea of your own?

Paula Caldarella said...

Ah, yes, I know the warehouse space you are talking about. A alot of that industrial area over there has been vacant for a while - could be a steal - IF DCSS had the money. Maybe something to look at if SPLOST IV comes along.

There are houses on the other side of the high-school near the tennis courts - a few higher-priced ones have been built amongst the older post WW II "beauties". I'm not sure that land would be available.

Anonymous said...

If you have issues with Chamblee High, which really is in terrible condition, please do something about it and e-mail your concerns to Jim Redovian,

And Sequoyah Middle, also in Jim's district, is also in applaing condition.

Cerebration said...

Gee, yeah, I guess "someone" should let Redovian know about the deplorable conditions at Chamblee. Surely, he's unaware...

Let me tell you a story. As a parent rep for Lakeside, I met with a small group with Dr. Lewis during the "Needs Assessment" time before SPLOST 3. This was at the same time he was firing/re-hiring/re-firing principal Wayne Chelf. Parents were all over him giving him grief. Anyway, Chelf was out of the building (fired the first time) while the NA was conducted. Needless to say, no one drove that train, so Lakeside's assessment was done by a county level person who didn't find much that needed done. Well, Powerpoint in hand, we made a presentation showing Lewis just exactly how much Lakeside needed. He pulled out Chamblee's Needs Assessment and showed it to us. It was a couple of inches thick and showed photos where you could see blue sky through holes in the ceiling. His point - you think Lakeside's bad - look at Chamblee! This was in 2006 or 07. Basically, in the end, he made an "off the record" deal - if we wouldn't fight him on re-firing Chelf, he would see about getting our school fixed. We didn't fight. The school has yet to get fixed. And Chamblee's been tabled.

This is how it works in DeKalb.

Anonymous said...

Unlike Fulton and Gwinnett, DeKalb hasn't seen fit to purchase much land for new schools or additions to others. The homes adjacent to the old Chamblee Middle School became available a few years ago. No one at DCSS seemed much interested in purchasing them to make the site more usable for a school.

Aside from Avondale, Chamblee High School has the fewest students from their attendance zone of any DCSS high school. Who is to say what should happen there?

There is no master plan in DeKalb. It is silly to talk about this in a piece meal way. We need a county wide plan for both facilities and attendance zones.

Kim Gokce said...

The best I can infer because I have no first-hand info is that the Briarcliff HS property was written off by Pope's office as "Uninvestable" specifcally so it could be sold to Sembler.

I'm with Cere, I think the leadership is going to try to find a way to use this property and they certainly need to - it is quickly becoming a blighted site due to lack of use.

Cross Keys is never mentioned by DCSS folks without them saying, "...and it's the most valuable piece of property we own." This has been the line for many years so I have to believe that many in DCSS long made up their mind that CK is destined to be sold.

Our system seems to have convinced itself the flight of parents from area public schools is an irreversible trend and they are hesitant to build infrastructure here as a result. Meanwhile, young families go private or move out of district each month in our area based on the reputation of the system and the condition of our schools.

I know there has been a lot of talk about economics driving families back into the public system but I have to say I don't see it. We have a regular, revolving door of start-up families moving as little as 2 miles to get into Sarah Smith/Sutton/North Atlanta and as far as Forsyth in search of attractive schools.

Like it or not, we are not just simply competing with private schools (St. Pius, St. Martin's, Marist, GAC and many, many more) we are competing with other public systems and often losing the hearts and minds of parents.

We in DeKalb need to think long and hard about what we'll have to offer these same families in 5, 10, or 20 years. So far, I'm not impressed with our response.

Cerebration said...

I'm reminded of a saying I like -

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
The second best time is right now."

Anonymous said...

"The magnet parents care little about Chamblee other than what the magnet program brings to their children," says Dunwoody Mom. That's a pretty broad generalization. And speaking as a magnet parent who's an irritant to the administration, the board members and the state DOE because of my emails and phone calls about many, many wide-ranging issues, I know it's not true.

Kim Gokce said...

"There is no master plan in DeKalb."

Well said! It has been over 20 years ago that we made the dramatic switch to Middle Schools. In that time, have we had a plan to move the infrastructure and attendance areas in a rational way to support middle schools? Not that I've seen.

So, here we are worrying about the next 20 years and we haven't cleaned up the mess we've made of the infrastructure and maps from 20 years ago.

This is why I keep coming back to the need for an ambitious and visionary plan for our infrastructure. Without it, I'm afraid the next 20 are going to be very much like the last 20.

Anonymous said...

Apropos of families leaving private school because of the economy, I have one kid at Paideia and one at a DeKalb County public school. I know of three families leaving Paideia, in my kid's grade alone -- I'm sure there are more -- because of financial concerns. But instead of going to their local, DeKalb County high school, they're paying tuition to attend Decatur High School. To me that says a lot about the perception of the quality of DeKalb County public schools. So sad.

Kim Gokce said...

Cere - yes, yes, yes! Exactly the same spirit Foundation volunteers have taken with CK. In surmountable problems of the past be damned, we have to start and thank God we did. I may be an idealist but I believe DeKalb has the talent and quality citizens to demand a new vision for public education and its governance. Here's hoping ...

Kim Gokce said...

Thank you, Paideia parent! That is the precise type of example that concern me as a DeKalb taxpayer.

Off topic, but if you're a soccer fan at Paideia, CK will no longer be in your group this year. That was developing into quite the intense (and sometimes ugly) rivalry. Perhaps we'll meet at State this year. High expectations with virtually all starters returning!

Fernbank Volunteer said...

At the risk of opening the debate about Fernbank Science Center--and not wanting to--I'd like to observe that as far as infrastructure is concerned, that facility is really the pits. Outdated technology, no natural illumination (no windows at all), malfunctioning computers, faulty HVAC--imagine if DCSS had a science center to be proud of! Our kids could enjoy going there, it could attract outside visitors and maybe even make money (besides at the PLanetarium), and teachers could view it as a valuable site for learning more about science teaching resources. Where is FSC on the SLPOST list? Are they just going to let it crumble to the ground, while secretly continuing to fire all the teachers? It's a waste of a lot of excellent teaching talent, with the state that the facility currently is in.

Anonymous said...

The property on Druid Hills Rd. will become a high school in the future regardless of the land at Cross Keys.

Druid Hills High School could be sold to Emory. There could be the building of two new high schools. One on the Druid Hill Property and one on the back end of the Cross Keys property. There is no room at Chamblee and Chamblee and Cross Keys are really not that far apart. Cross Keys students could be sent to either school depending on where they lived and the old Cross Keys High School could become the Technical School.

Anonymous said...

@ Fernbank vokunteer 5:52

Fernbank Science Center is better off as a non-profit entity and needs an entirely new focus.

When Fernbank was originally created in 1967, gas was 36 cents a gallon, and we didn't have the pollution or traffic problems we have today. Transporting students to and from this facility on thousands of buses is ecologically unfriendly and terribly expensive, especially given the recent BOE vote to allow up to 36 students in science classrooms in the schools.

I agree with you that the entire science center is outdated, worn and old. However, there is still quite a bit of expensive, usable equipment at FSC - for example, the electron microscope and the telescope and planetarium. And as you mentioned there are some excellent teachers.

I think DCSS should rethink the entire concept of the science center. It could be run as a non-profit, but I honestly don't see any non-profit wanting to keep it as it currently structured. It should be streamlined, keep the effective parts and eliminate the outdated ones.

Unless that happens, Fernbank Science Center will limp along in 1960s and 70s mode holding its breath every year as its existence hangs in the balance. Slowly chopping away at FSC is not the "restructuring" it needs, but we do not have the resources, vision, or leadership that will allow for any major overhaul.

Science, education and county funding has changed dramatically since 1967. FSC needs a complete overhaul to ensure its value as an educational resource in the future.

Aquarius said...

Just some thoughts ...

I don't know how much the renovations to SW DeKalb HS have cost since SPLOST I but I'm sure a Tucker HS rebuild will be cheaper in the end. So, I do understand the thought behind "tear down CCHS and build a new facility".

I think the BOE is hold onto the Druid Hills Rd. property to build a Performing Arts HS and if they can include a joint Performing Arts Center venue with the county --- great for all concerned

IMHO, I don't believe there is a vision or a master plan for the county as a whole (school facilities - new and renovated) that is coordinated with a new attendance line plan that is coordinated with a population growth study that can get 5 votes from the BOE. If there is someone running now for the BOE with the kind of leadership skills that can bring that dream together please tell me and I'll do everything possible to get that person elected.

Anonymous said...

Instead of building schools and renovating buildings, DCSS has spent probably close to 100 million dollars on transporting students to schools other than their home schools!

This is big part of the reason that Fulton, Cobb, etc could spend operating dollars on renovations and land acquisitions. They weren't spending it on transportation.

Anonymous said...

If only the other multi-million dollar renovations at other DeKalb schools (like the DSA/Avondale complex) could have been as beautiful as this one! The era of Pat Pope did not leave us with our money's worth. Every student in DeKalb deserves a clean, well lit, well-ventilated school. It's unfortunate that it took CK so long to get it, and even sadder that many schools in DeKalb cannot say they have those attributes.

Anonymous said...

The long term goal (or at least the goal under C.Lewis) for the Druid Hills property (former Briarcliff High School) is to raze the existing structure and build a K-12 arts school complex.
C. Lewis and his posse visited many sites like this all over the US to research what kind of building this would need to be. After his visits, he determined that the capital needed to build such a structure was too much for the county. He proposed that DeKalb would likely need an outside investor to aide in the funding for a new dream school.
The building as it stands is condemned. It was condemned for three years before Open Campus/DSA/Jim Cherry Center was forced to vacate. There was much scuttlebutt about why the building wasn't being used for something else. It is, literally, because the roof was going to fall down. It could not be salvaged like the other schools in DeKalb because its problems were not cosmetic.

Kim Gokce said...

The change is tangible to the interior spaces at CK. Walking into the Media Center, I joked to the principal that I was dizzy from the oxygen. Prior to the renovation, my eyes would literally sting and become watery in the musty, heavy air.

I quoted the enthusiasm of a young lady above in original post as she entered the cheerful Cafetorium and it is worth repeating: "It makes me smile! Now I'll be excited every morning to come to school."

Every child deserves this kind of excitement and positive feel to their school.

Kim Gokce said...

Anon 9:13 "It could not be salvaged like the other schools in DeKalb because its problems were not cosmetic."

That is what I had always heard but, again, my understanding is that Pat Pope's report condemning this structure is being questioned. We'll see if it stand up.

This property is of the era of Sequoyah and Shamrock during boom days in DeKalb and I have a hard time believing it is in worse shape than older structures like Lakeside, CK, Chamblee, for example. Of course, it could have been a flawed original construction.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 12:25 a.m. I am on the CCHS Governance Council and attend all meetings. No motion has been made, much less passed, at any meeting to forgo a renovation and "roll the dice" to see if SPLOST 4 passes.

Anonymous said...

I guess that is the decision that the CCHS council will face when school resumes in the Fall. It is a tough decision.

Pat Pope wanted to tear down and rebuild everything, so any report condemning a property probably needs to be investigated.

Until every student in DeKalb has a home school that has consistently working air/heat, modern bathrooms, up to date plumbing, roofs that don't leak, and I would argue a seat in a building, DeKalb has absolutely no business investing SPLOST dollars in a k-12 arts facility.

Anonymous said...

I find this post amusing. A few months ago, while construction at CC was ongoing, I had occaision to visit the school for the first time. I posted a comment to the effect that the interiors of the school seemed pleasant and in good condition and certainly much better than Chamblre HS. I was immediately attacked, told I did not know what I was talking about and accused of being a DCSS plant. I am glad that Kim took a camera so that the those folks who did the attacking (and who had obviously not visited CC since before the Reno was started) can see for themselves.

Kim Gokce said...

Well, the interior is truly under-going a transformation that will shock many when complete. Again, great credit due to Evergreen Const. for the alacrity and seeming quality of the work.

Early on in this thread, someone expressed a concern about whether "gangbangers" would ruin the delivered improvements. I think that this is a valid concern for the grounds and exterior. No place in Atlanta is exempt from marking, graffiti, and vandalism, unfortunately. But I think there is reason to be hopeful ...

I was approached by a junior last May who asked to volunteer to help the Foundation. When he asked what he and his peers could do to help, I thank him and confessed that I had no tasks at that moment but that there'd be plenty to do soon.

I confided to him about the YMCA partnership that was being nurtured at the time and the general goal. He said, "Don't spoon feed us, Mr. Kim. We are not children; make us work for it."

He insisted that we develop a plan in which the students themselves could help execute the field improvements - another example of the type of individuals coming through our attendance anonymously.

If anyone doubts that these kids are serious about their school and hard work, be reminded:

Work Day 2010

I didn't know it that morning but the young man wheelbarrowing dirt around was to be the Valedictorian and a President's Scholar at Georgia Tech for 2011. Empowering these young people who have been so service minded before having support is going to unleash some interesting dynamics.

As a result, student volunteers will be hands-on with some of the field improvements and also will be developing and managing their own campaigns to care for the new facilities, inside and out. So I think we will have good stewards of the renovated CK, especially inside the building.

In terms of external security, I do believe it will improved because a) Higher utilization will somewhat limit the opportunities for mayhem, b) A greater sense of community "Stake" or ownership of the property is already manifesting and will grow if nurtured, c) The Foundation will foster a new level of expectation for the physical security of the building after hours partnering with the North Precinct and DCSS security, and d) we'll be launching a formal outreach and communication campaign this fall to the immediate community surrounding the school on all sides.

Just the fact that the site can now be a source of pride and not an eye sore will get the community off to a good start. The sustainability of the new quality environment must be carefully guarded by DCSS, school house administrators, neighbors of the school, students, and the community at large.

This school has not be watched over for so long I think folks will be surprised at the change in community support. Another reason all DeKalb schools need to have this kind of environment - inspire the neighbors!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that Cross Keyes is finally getting it's due. I'm still upset that DeKalb puts all it's efforts on the HIGH schools. I teach in a CK feeder school in the Buford Hwy corridor and we have substantial needs as well. We have windows that are barely hanging on due to old putty falling out, dirty ducts, and other things that need attention. When is it going to be our turn? Can we get some of that support please Kim?? Thanks!

Cerebration said...

The reason the recent efforts focus on high schools is because this was the defined goal for SPLOST 3. SPLOST 1 went to elementary schools - and adding gymnasiums to all ESs. SPLOST 2 - well, not sure - it was a combo - and a mess. You should have general repairs done to your school from the general maintenance budget. Sadly, DCSS has been very, very, very lax on maintaining our buildings and now many of them are showing the damage from so much neglect.

Additionally, sadly, schools and parents must advocate very hard for basic needs to be met. Although I personally believe that the people in charge of maintenance should be on top of all needs - they are not - and the way needs are met is by the "squeaky wheel" method.

Take photos. Send them to your board rep. Send them to us at the blog and we will post them.

Anonymous said...

Dekalb Principal Demoted and Transferred

Anonymous said...

Not surprising the Forward of the book is written by New Birth's Bishop Eddie Long according to the book's cover.

Kim Gokce said...

Anon 12:38

First, thank you for your dedication to our children! Whether you are at Woodward, Montclair, Dresden, Cary Reynolds, or Oakcliff, you are producing some of the most amazing results of any group of teachers in DeKalb and beyond.

Secondly, Cere is right, the gap in advocacy has been the hallmark of the CK attendance area schools for a long list of reasons we've covered on this blog repeatedly. Take Cere up on the offer and send in a portfolio. That said, few elementary schools have gotten the treatment under SPLOST that some of the HSs are now.

I know Woodward has had some significant updates to classrooms, hallways, and such under SPLOST work but still is far from what we'd all like to see.

Regarding the Cross Keys Foundation, we 100% have taken on the task of advocating on behalf of ALL 7 schools of the CK area. We've focused on CKHS this year because of the urgency last summer of seeing the reno go through and trying to fill some gaps while there is attention on it.

We have met with every principal of the area and do have their priorities captured for CKF purposes. I would encourage you to keep a lookout for community members at your school who might be good contacts for us. We asked the principals to send us individuals who might be willing to help be a local liaison but I would like your input also for your school.

Lastly, here's a little secret ... we don't have bags of cash ... shhhhh! Besides the scholarship program started at CKHS this year, we are expending tiny amounts of money. Our efforts have been focused on constituency building, PR, volunteer recruitment, in-kind and direct donations from local businesses, and direct service to the children.

While we are implementing a long-term fund-raising strategy and serve as a grant writing resource, our focus will remain advocacy and organizational support. The types of capital maintenance needed at your school and virtually every other one will be a matter of public money in most cases.

I hope this makes sense. Please consider joining the Foundation or simply our e-mailing list and help us broaden the base of supporters by sharing our mission. THANK YOU!

Anonymous said...

Why isn't Dr. Simpson being investigated as well? Or is he untouchable?

Anonymous said...

There is an article in tomorrow (Sunday's) ajc that indicates that he is being investigated. I saw the paper at the grocery store and the story was on the early edition's front page. I didn't read much of it, but what I saw indicates that three administrators are being investigated, including Simpson. DeKalb has also asked the Professional Services Commission (?) to investigate.

Anonymous said...

DCSS is such a mess. I don't understand why someone in the state or SACS isn't stepping in. Money is constantly misspent and misused.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Me, too.

Anonymous said...

Here's the article about Simpson's book:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article and as always, yet another hold in DCSS ethics policy, though I wonder if any school system has rules about employees selling things to schools. Probably isn't generally necessary.

I am pleased that Ms. Tyson has seen fit to refer this on to the PSC. I am not happy that no action has been taken against Simpson.

As always, those at the top of DCSS seem immune.

Anonymous said...

The principal may be demoted, but we are probable going to have to pay her her principal salary for whatever she does, as she already signed a contract for this school year. I wonder if by next contract this will be swept under the rug and the higher salary will continue to be given?

All involved should face disciplinary action.

Anonymous said...

The way I read the article and other information about the situation, it is up to the discretion of the principal to make purchases of less than $5000. That means anything above $5000 would have to be approved by an area superintendent. Allegedly, Thedford hid purchases totaling more than $5000 from her area superintendent (not Dr. Simpson) and the principals who were under Simpson bought hundreds of dollars worth of books, not thousands like Thedford. Unless there is some proof that Simpson exerted pressure on people to buy the book, I think that he is going to come out in the clear. I would imagine that any of the other people involved would be quick to point a finger at Simpson to save their own skin if they could prove that he did anything wrong.
Whether we agree with it or not, there is nothing in the law or Dekalb's ethics code that says schools could not purchase the books. The two administrators at MGHS are the only two who will probably get in trouble because they allegedly attempted to conceal the purchases. If Dekalb attempted to punish Simpson for an ethics policy violation that wasn't on the books when the violation was committed, Dekalb would probably be dealing with another lawsuit that they would almost certainly lose.

Anonymous said...

Does DCSS have the most unethical bureaucrats? Or are other systems just as "lucky"

Anonymous said...

Rumor is that the County will switch Thedford with the Instructional AP at Columbia High School. The Columbia High AP was passed over twice for principal at Columbia. Thedford either graduated or worked as a teacher at Columbia. Columbia was just placed under Ralph Simpson's supervision. Is there another AJC story in the making here?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Simpson knew about the purchases as they were done directly through him, if my memory is correct. They weren't done through Amazon that much I remember. If he knew about the purchases and the total amount spent, as an area superintendent, I put him with being just as responsible as the principle for a misuse of Federal funds.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 7:36 and Kim Gokce
The point of the C. Lew study was to see if DeKalb could afford a flagship K-12 arts center. They determined that the money was not there, and an outside source would need to donate to build it.
I know that the Druid Hills site seems like it should be in the condition of Shamrock, Lakeside, Chamblee, etc. The Briarclif HS site was limited on the technology that could be put into the school over a decade ago because it already was not meeting the electrical code. There was very little access in the building to computers. The system would have had to be completely replaced in order to support the student computers and activ boards found in the other schools.
Before DSA moved into the building, a study was done on the building. (This was before the C. Lew era) It was determined that in the near future, the roof supports would fail. I do not believe that the shut down of that site was due to Pat Pope's desire to raze and rebuild. It was due to a real danger to the students and faculty of Open Campus, Jim Cherry, and DSA.

Anonymous said...

The tale of un-returned calls from the warehouse owner is familiar. Back around 2000 the Idlewood Road neighborhoods were trying to get the school board to consider another location for Stone Mountain Middle School.
We were informed that if we could locate a sufficiently large parcel, the school board ( with Pritchett over site selection at the time) would consider utilizing it.
A 17 acre parcel of land was located by neighborhood residents. We were informed that the school board had already considered the site. The news came as a complete suprise to the property owner: he had never received any phone calls whatsoever concerning the property from the DCSS.

Kim Gokce said...

For those interested, additional photos of the renovation taken during our recent "sneak peek" by attendees. I should have some video to share soon, too. I'll post back updates.

Nancy Jester's px

Kim Gokce's px

Kim Gokce said...

For those that could use a little cheering up and who aren't tired of my favorite high school yet:

Fox 5 Team of the Week

Check out some of the recognitions the Athletic Director inserted before the presentation ...