Friday, August 27, 2010

What $40 mil Means

DeKalb schools report $40 million surplus in construction funds

The savings is the result of decreased construction costs and better planning on how to allocate the school district’s $513 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds, school officials announced Friday.

he board is now determining how to utilize that extra money. Suggestions include expanding the Coralwood Diagnostic Center, which serves special needs children, roof replacements, more parking and additions to replace trailers. The $40 million may only be used for capital improvements.

The SPLOST program, which runs from 2007-2012, is expected to raise $513.4 million. So far, the district has contracts for about $463 million in projects, said Barbara Colman, the district’s interim capital improvement program operations officer.

The school board also has the option to use $58 million in interest-free federal stimulus bonds. The board must decide by Oct. 4 to accept this money, said chief financial officer Marcus Turk.

However, some board members are reluctant to approve the bonds.

“The ultimate person who will pay for these funds is the taxpayer,” board member Don McChesney said. “I know we’re all in a situation that when everybody dangles money in front of us, we just grab it. But we need to make it clear to the taxpayer that this is money they will have to pay back.”

What does having an extra $40 mil from SPLOST mean? It means that the Board of Education, Tom Bowen Chairperson, never ever FREAKING paid attention before. It means that Central Office administrators, such as Bob Moseley, Marcus Turk and Ron Ramsey, never paid attention before. They allowed one person, Pat Pope-Red, to hold power over hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

It is a nice surprise to hear Don McChesney mention "the taxpayer". You won't hear our BOE members mention that term often.

If this BOE wants SPLOST IV to pass, there better be transparency, and I mean every penny, every contract, every change order, posted online with a chance for public comment. No more last minute switches or changes that allowed (alledgely) Pat Pope Reid to get away with mischief that led to an unheard of, unprecedented RICO indictment.

The BOE has $40 mil to play with Gene Walker is salivating). They better be pretty damn darn careful on his they spend it. We're watching.


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Anonymous said...


And if there's anything left, expand the other schools that are grossly overcrowded.

Are the BOE really this mentally deficient that they can't see an answer in front of their faces???

Anonymous said...

There are so many basic needs, like roof repairs and heating and air conditioning systems. This board wants a big splash, and Zepora Roberts and Sarah Copelin-Wood want it in South DeKalb, and if you don't agree, you're a racist.

Chamblee High is a wreck, as is Seqouyah. The restrooms at Lakeside may be the worst in the state. But before any one school gets attention, fix the basic needs at every school that has roof and HVAC issues.

Anonymous said...’s-book-sales-560.html

District: Internal auditor raised questions about school official’s book sales
Written By: Jonathan Cribbs8/27/10 Categorized in: DeKalb News, Education
An internal auditor with the DeKalb County School System raised questions about a former district principal’s use of school dollars to buy thousands of dollars worth of books the principal had written, a district official said.

The unnamed auditor raised questions about Yvonne Sanders-Butler, a roving principal, after it was discovered she had profited off the sales of her books to county public schools. Sanders-Butler sold more than $63,000 worth of her health and nutrition books to the district between 2002 and 2009.

Alice Thompson, the district’s chief of staff, responded to a series of written questions from The Champion Newspaper regarding the book sales scandal, which has led to the firing of two principals, including Sanders-Butler, and the demotion of two other officials. She did not say when the auditor raised questions, but they led to a recommendation to revoke Sanders-Butler’s purchasing card – a step that was never taken, Thompson said.

This new piece of information has been turned over to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission and the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office for further review. The commission investigates educational malfeasance.

Anonymous said...

People in DeKalb will not approve another SPLOST unless DCSS gives the county true transparency with the way this money is being spent. There is no trust with the DeKalb citizens and DCSS administrators.

Also, until the money is used to clean up our schools: mold, leaking roofs, poor HVAC systems, bathrooms, and the like, instead of the Administrative Palace, lighting for the board members,and things along this line.

I do not see expansion of schools a necessity as the lines of many school districts may be able to be redrawn to prevent this from happening. Also, there are schools that may need to be reopened while others are closed to relieve these problems.

Until the tax payer money is spent with fiscal responsibility and transparency, I do not know anyone who will vote for more SPLOST funds or agree to take on more debt to pay for questionably necessary programs.

Anonymous said...

OKAY CHAMBLEE middle and high school parents. Speak up! This $40 million plus the $11 M already allocated will build a new school.

Write the administration and Board NOW!

Don't wait to see if a bunch of angry taxpayers vote down SPLOST IV. Don't wait for 2014 or 2015 to finally start construction. Don't wait for this administration to change their minds and build another personal Palace.

Anonymous said...

Working HVAC systems, restrooms... focus on basic needs first. Those sitting in their fancy new offices would not want to work in such deplorable conditions.

Anonymous said...

Freaky. No-one is asking how the heck there's $40M in oop's money. Not $4000, or $40,000. but $40 MILLION.

Call me cynical. But shouldn't $40M in excess funds raise some sort of flag before now?

Was this a potential slush fund for criminal intent? Or really bad accounting? Or a political "hush" fund which could enable pork projects?

Yup, call me cynical.


Anonymous said...

We need to focus on the good of all our children and all of our schools and not be greedy and selfish like the board members that many of us complain about.

Anonymous said...

no they need to finish Dunwoody first!! Have you looked? There are old doors mixed with new doors. The floors are mismatched. If they truly will consider this a renovation that's a shame. They waited soooo long and to get this is an embarrasment. Don't be fooled. I know they say they are not finished with the obvious 3rd floor section but the parts considered finished. well...

Anonymous said...

I think they are legally obligated to spend the money on the projects that were originally identified for SPLOST III. That means that they have to spend it on a Chamblee High school addition/renvovation. That is what the taxpayers voted for.

Cerebration said...

So, I was not a math major, but $513 million minus $463 million - doesn't that equal $50 million?

The first question out of my brain was - why did they table Chamblee then? I don't get it at all - why would they take the Chamblee renovation off the construction timeline and tell everyone at Chamblee to wait for SPLOST 4 - when they actually have so much extra money? Chamblee is a horrific building - it's unsafe and unhealthy. It was on the original list of promised projects that encouraged voters to vote for SPLOST 3 (so was Lakeside, which has not actually seen a backhoe yet). If there's this much money, then fix the place and don't even dream of mentioning SPLOST 4 until you come through on SPLOST 3 promises to the voters. How can Womack, Wood etc remotely discuss how to spend this new "found" money when the original promise has not been kept?!!!

Also - What's up with this crazy statement, ..."they led to a recommendation to revoke Sanders-Butler’s purchasing card – a step that was never taken."

That pretty much sums up what's wrong with DCSS.

1 - Recommendation upon recommendation is made.

2 - Recommendation upon recommendation is then simply ignored.

Anonymous said...

Visit some of the schools in DeKalb. You will find large trash cans in the hall for roof leaks and air conditioning leaks. There are classes that have not had air conditioning at all, despite the hot temperatures.
Every school needs to get a decent heating and air conditioning system. Start with the oldest ones first.
No great amount of money should be spent on any one school until this need is met.

This is not a North and South issue. This is basic humanity for the students and the staff.
If your school is not blessed with a great custodial staff, you are going to have mold growing in those wet ceiling tiles.
It is too hot for students and staff not to have working air.
Classes have been made larger. Pay is smaller. Having working heat and air is the very least that should be expected.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:38, it's OK to be cynical but this is what transparency brings you. Remember the project estimates were done in 2006, prior to the mortgage/employment crisis. As we are seeing we housing prices, construction labor rates went down significantly. As a result, the district was able to complete many projects under budget.

If should be noted that this surplus is based on SPLOST revenues collected thus far and projects completed. It is possible this number could go higher if labor rates remain low.

Given some of the challenges experienced with eSIS, I'd like to see some of the money go towards a technology refresh for teachers and schools. This is something that can have a direct impact on all classrooms.

Anonymous said...

10:41 there is more than just mold in the ceiling tiles. Have you looked in the duck work where the AC and heat comes out? I can't even describe the dirt and mold that I could see in my vents when I worked in DCSS. The mold in the ceiling tiles is the tip of the mold issue and the easiest to fix.

Anonymous said...

Come on folks, Chamblee HS does not need any repair work. That building has been good for the last 60 years and it'll be good for the next 60 too!

Instead of wasting money on a historical structure, I think that we should add on to the Board offices. There should be a sauna added for sure, and we should consider building a swimming pool. And, having parking that is not covered is simply ridiculous. We need a covered, air-conditioned deck to shield our Mercedes from the all this horrible heat. We could even create new jobs for valet parking attendants.

Found money is for fun!

Anonymous said...

A technology refresh is not necessary if manuals or booklets on how to use the Esis program were available for teachers to use. The problem is that even those in charge of computers and Esis aren't sure how to work it. It's not that teachers don't have computing knowledge, it's that the program frankly SUCKS! and is not user friendly.

Anonymous said...

@10:20, 9:38 (C?Y!) here. Good points. Thanks for reminding me that all is not bad. You are right.

Anonymous said...

Respectfully,I see such a need for the interest free money offered. Yes, it will need to be paid back. However, the needs of the school system infrastructure are so great.

I remember that this was one of the point that McChesney continued to discussed while a candidate for office. He continued to emphasis the need to find money for repairing the infrastructure of the school system. However, now that we might have the opportunity to be given some money without a interest penalty he cannot decide if we need to take it.

The need for the infrastructure work is great in many of our schools. Our children need equal facilities throughout the county. I know this was one of the platforms that McChesney ran on. Apparently he has forgotten how important he thought infrastructure was.

Anonymous said...

Thi money is very risky because if we take it and then SPLOST IV doesn't pass, it will have to be repaid from OPERATING FUNDS. That means that money for the classrooms will have to be redirected to the repayment of this money until SPLOST passes. I happen to think if SPLOST fails once, it will pass the next year. People have short memories and the needs will get greater.

Anonymous said...

I remember when Operating funds paid for our Infrastructure (before any SPLOST). Once we had SPLOST and the General Operations funds no longer had to fund Infrastructure, did we reduce the class sizes and pour this money into the core classrooms? No. It went into non-teaching positions. That's the truth.

Anonymous said...

3 words! Chamblee High School!

They promised CCHS, Splost 1 then Splost 2, and now Jim Redovian and Pam Speaks better get that money to enlarge and renovate CCHS. If they don't, I will do everything in my power to make sure they never see elected office again!

Jim and Pam do you hear us? Get to work and tell your BOE friends to get CCHS enlarged and renovated.

Anonymous said...

I'm already doing everything I can to get Jim Redovian unseated.

Anonymous said...

Talk about a Friday Public relations Information dump!

-DCSS asks for parent/teacher input on 4 policies with a 30 hour deadline, on opening weekend of HS football.

-DCSS finds $40-50 million dollars under Pope's & Clew's old desks

-2 Principals fired over a fraudulent book buying scheme using OUR tax dollars.

-Where is Jeff Dickerson? Where is Philandrea Guilroy and her DCSS cameras?

-The fun never stops at DeKalb schools.

Anonymous said...

I just read in the ajc that dekalb schools will get 18.3 million. I would like to know where every penney is going. Let me assure all parents if we don't keep up with this money it will go into hireing friends and family and more top salaries. More chairs,book sales,lighting for the board rooms, p-cards to take trips for booty calls,car fill ups,paying jamal edwards to hide out in schools,keep robert tucker on the payroll to cover for ramsey and many, many more. WE DON'T NEED ANY MORE MONEY TO BE WASTED ON THE STAFF OF LEWIS. THIS MONEY SHOULD BE SPENT ON OUR CHILDREN AND TEACHERS. Pat pope had (4) lap tops and several county phones and she used all this to steal from our children. Our teachers need new computers and clean rooms with a/c working. Every teacher should have a county phone for safety. They pay for phones for the board members and the admin assistant who sit on there buts at a desk which already has a phone. All the admins have black berries. They waste too much money on the admins put this money back in the schools. As a tax payer and parent we need to keep up with this money. As we now know they all lie

Anonymous said...

First, the money wasn't found under a desk. For at least the last couple of years, SPLOST projects have been coming in under budget. Some of this is because of the economy and labor costing less, but I also believe that Pope inflated prices to make sure the budgets would cover expected costs down the road. She could not have foreseen the recession.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a misunderstanding about what SPLOST 3 could do. Approximately 2 BILLION dollars worth of projects were identified (2006 dollars) however funds from SPLOST could address just under 500 MILLION. Could you imagine going to Burger King or McDonald's with a quarter and asking to buy something off the dollar menu? They would laugh at you however we were able to take care of a quarter of the needs. If residents are serious about providing safe, clean, and healthy learning environments for our children, they will vote for a SPLOST 4.

We have a large, aging infrastructure of buildings. We are the 3rd largest school district by students yet have more buildings than any in the state. We have several small neighborhood schools that don't qualify for full funding from the state. There will need to be a round of closures, consolidations, redistricting, and building repurposing if we are serious about running an efficient school system. This will mean some current community/neighborhood schools that mean a lot to us may need to change their mission. Some buildings that need a lot of repair may be cheaper to close and send those students to nearby schools.

Do we really have the guts to do something like this? Will we see a lot of squeaky wheels throughout the county saying we need these changes but not to my school? We know were Sarah stands on these issues, but are there others that share her same concerns about their schools however less transparent? We'll see when the initial recommendations come out.

Anonymous said...

The bulk of the meeting yesterday was actually about the comprehensive planning process. The meeting was not about specifics. Megan M. actually didn't do a great job conveying that. During the comment section, a couple of board members through ideas out, but mostly it was general thoughts about the process and where we are today.

I didn't take great notes, because the presentation will eventually be online, but the 2020 master plan is going to be developed and will drive the next SPLOST plan. A lot of what I might have remembered got muddied when SCW started her long tantrum.

Some of the highlights were:

The system is going to go back to the rotation system of basic maintenance. So routine maintenance things like painting will be done every X number of years. This is the way it was when my oldest started school, it just seemed to have fizzled out.

I did write down some of the questions to be answered by the plan.

Questions to be answered by the plan:
What type and size of schools do we want or need in 2020 and where will they be?

What type of instructional needs will be required in 2020? Technology assumptions and classroom size and building arrangements.

Where do we want early childhood (Pre-K and other) programs?

What will the special education facility needs be in 2020?

Cerebration said...

Gee - a 2020 vision - that was Shayna's campaign platform...

Anonymous said...

The 18.3 in emergency federal funds that DCSS is getting to cover operational revenue loses raises interesting questions.

Hall County has restored a furlough day with their funds. I think that this would be a grand idea for DeKalb. It would be great to give back a teacher planning day or two.

Not Buying It said...

If the voting populace of this county rewards this corrupt and incompetent school administration with a "yes" vote on Splost IV, then we have truly gone mad.

The local project you really, really covet is not worth plugging your nose and turning a blind eye and handing hundreds of millions over to people who have proved they will abuse it, folks.

A message-sending Splost defeat will help get the attention of a board and administration that doesn't seem particularly phased by indictments, SACS investigations and public scorn.
The world will not come to an end during those couple of years when DCSS meaningfully cleans house until it can come before voters with a shred of integrity.

Not Buying It said...

"Fazed," not "phased," sorry.

Anonymous said...

Not Buying It said,

If the voting populace of this county rewards this corrupt and incompetent school administration with a "yes" vote on Splost IV, then we have truly gone mad.

While your frustration is understandable, this is a short term view. We, the citizens of DeKalb OWN these schools. They are OUR investment. If someone threw a rock and broke the window in your house, would you not repair it because you wanted those guilty to come forth and do so? I say you wouldn't because ultimately the house is your investment and you wouldn't want to risk additional damage. Guess what, this same logic apply to OUR schools, every one of them.

The PowerPoint at the Friday meeting listed the SPLOST 3 projects and provided a status. About $335 million dollars of projects have been committed with about $200 million dollars of projects done. We are still a ways from the $466 million estimate yet we already have a surplus with more money to come from the state.

Have some projects been completed as timely as some would like, probably not. Knowing dollars are committed to getting the work done should raise some confidence that a commitment is still there. When dollars are not committed for a planned SPLOST 3 project, it is legitimate to ask questions.

For example, the Lithonia project is on hold because it was determined that DON'T NEED THE INVESTMENT. As a result, those dollars went back into the pot. There were several projects scheduled for buildings that have since been closed. Unless they are critical for subsequent maintenance, those dollars could be available.

When the PowerPoint becomes available, hopefully the conversation will ask questions about possible conflicts between the SPLOST 3 plan and the current status report. Not sure if many exist but there may be some projects on hold that deserve additional scrutiny.

Anonymous said...

SPLOST IV vote isn't until 2012 -- by then things have better have been cleaned up.

A new superintendent who brings in new leadership and cleans house, along with a master plan that makes sense, is the way to start rebuilding confidence in the system.

Anonymous said...

The renovation of Avondale High School for the transfer of DSA to there left $5 million on the table. Some of that will go toward a new roof which, apparently, Pat Pope was unable to figure out needed to be done.

The original budget was $10 million. That included the renovations to the DSA part of the building and a 9th grade building in Avondale's part. It also includes renovations on the gym stage for the band and some other things.

I can tell you that the design of the DSA part has its ups and downs. The great parts are the black box theatre, the dance room, and the classrooms upstairs. Not so good are the art room, which is too small and has NO storage; the music rooms, which in size resemble storage rooms (the ceilings are so low that string basses hit the ceiling when lifted to be put away); the theatre space has no storage and very little space in which to build sets.

I know you all have no patience for hearing any complaints from magnet parents, but I'm writing this to say that--no surprise here--under Pat Pope this reno was sub par. Yes, it came in WELL under budget, but that's because it lacks a lot of important items.

Anonymous said...

Does the Avondale football team have a locker room this year?

Did the Avondale students ever recover all that was lost from the relocation of DSA?

Anonymous said...

In my opinion there's no chance that this $40 mil will go towards a new Chamblee High. They need votes for SPLOST IV. From the Board's perspective, a major advantage of not renovating CCHS with SPLOST III funds while dangling the promise of a new high school from SPLOST IV funds is that Chamblee supporters will vote for SPLOST IV.

Anonymous said...

It may be helpful to remind folks about the different pots of money. SPLOST III funds are generated by the $.01 sales tax and may only be used for SPLOST III projects which generally were improvements to the high schools designated on the list the county developed at the time SPLOST III was voted on. The emergency funds that the federal government is providing to the states are for operations. The emergency funds cannot be used to hire new staff or to create new positions. However, the emergency funds could be used to restore day-to-day operations that were cut or reduced due to the budget shortfall. I suspect that some of the $18M emergency funds headed to Dekalb could be used for urgent repairs to roofs, bathrooms, etc. as this is day-to-day maintenance. However, it would be nice if they also used the funds to restore at least on planning day for the teachers.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure if the Avondale athletic teams have their locker rooms yet. This is another criminal part of the construction at the facility. I'm not sure if it's been built yet. Again, that $5 mil left on the table should have gone for items like this.

DSA displaced the ROTC and music rooms. I know that the stage of the Avondale gym was rebuilt as a band room. I don't know where the ROTC room is located now.

Anonymous said...

Not Buying It is correct

Albert Einstein (maybe not quite up to the intellectual level of our BOE members) said "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." If you trust these people with more money, well.... maybe Einstein applies.

Then I remember the other saying "fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me." Is there something for three times and four times? Maybe that is where masochism comes in.

SPLOST IV should be used to reduce the inflated school tax rate that taxpayers pay to keep the DSCC administrator job machine chugging along. it stands little chance of being corrected. 60% of our county taxes go to support DCSS. It is getting a little tiresome to hear the phrase "it's for the children". They should be more honest and say "it's for the administrators".

Anonymous said...

The service center heating and air department KNOWS which schools have outdated systems. The board should check with them to find out which systmens are from the 60's and need to be overhauled. Our system leaks everyday and the service center employees are out every week with constant problems. THey have told us that the units are completely rusted out. Don't just sit and guess...they need to gather data to find out the real needs.of the schools.

Anonymous said...

I'll go out on a limb and say it should be used to restore as much of the employee retirement dollars as possible. This could go a long ways towards helping with employee morale. I'd also consider restoring at least one teacher work day, if possible.

Not Buying It said...

Anon@9:03, using your analogy, if my building needs a repair and I'm not capable of performing it, I either find a reliable contractor I can trust or I throw some tarp over the damage until I can.

If a nice PowerPoint and some figures showing additional construction capacity gives you confidence that DCSS is an ethical and reliable contractor, okay for you. For myself, I've seen abundant evidence to the contrary.

Kim Gokce said...

If we build a new school in Region 1, please can we make it big enough to support 3,200 and close down both CCHS and CK? Think about the savings involved of one HS vs two on day one and every year thereafter.

Yes, I'm a broken record but we in DeKalb are still acting like fools. we keep complaining about the conditions at our schools (and they are unacceptable) and yet we don't demand our leaders fix the root problem. We have too many schools.

As for SPLOST III, IV, or CCCCIIL, I want to see a vision that is sustainable not just a patch and paint. Like commentors from Druid Hills and from Avondale, I have to say that as wonderful as it is to get the work we are getting done at CK it is far from ideal.

I want to see a system-wide view. I want to see true equity in our spending. I want to see all DeKalb's children with every opportunity. That is the point of the public system in my warped view.

The only way these objectives will ever be met is by large-scale consolidation. No, this will not fix every thing that we all abhor about our current school plant and performance issues. But we are were we are because those that came before us did not have the courage or the vision to plan for the future and looked after their own. This has to stop or the cycle will continue indefinitely with winners and losers.

What metrics should we look at to determine equity in capital spending? How about a simple "Capital expense per pupil?"

Using a bar napkin calculation, we can see some recent examples (wild estimates) of what this metric would tell us:

Tucker $30k + per pupil
Cross Keys $13k + per pupil
Arabia Mtn $42k + per pupil
if we spend $40m on CCHS? $23k + per pupil

This is not what the story of public education should be in DeKalb County ... I am ashamed of what we have done and appear to be poised to perpetuate.

pscexb said...

Changing subjects ever so slightly, we recently got a letter from our high school indicated that we are now responsible for paying for AP exams ($87/exam). Those on Free/Reduced lunch can take one free then pay $57/exam.

This is important because if the student does NOT participate in the exam, they will forfeit the quality point. Has anyone else seen this?

Anonymous said...

I have seen the letter, but a friend showed it to me, and I don't recall the part about the quality point.

This policy is a very common one across the country. Getting the extra quality point or other boost in grade is contingent on taking the exam. I am not clear that DCSS has that policy, but I believe you.

If your child does well enough on the exam, it is a savings that is far greater than the cost of the exam. I have never understood why the state and DCSS were paying for these test for students other than those who qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Anonymous said...

Write your BOE members and Ms. Tyson to demand this money gets put "back into the classroom" - not a penny into non-teaching positions and expensive and ineffective learning programs.

Look at this AJC article on how other systems are using these funds and BTW DeKalb will get the lions share:

"Metro schools to receive emergency federal funds
By Gertha Coffee
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Metro Atlanta school districts will receive millions in emergency federal funds over the next couple of months to help with their budgets.

Cobb County Schools superintendent Fred Sanderson said he will recommend the district use Cobb's share of the money $20 million to restore teacher salary cuts and two of the five furlough days Cobb put in place to help with its budget shortfall.....

......DeKalb school board chairman Tom Bowen said the district has not decided how it will spend the $18.3 million it is receiving.....Half the money will be distributed in September and half in October...

.....Sanderson, the superintendent in Cobb, said the district has a great deal of flexibility in how the money can be used and he will make the recommendation at the board’s Sept. 8 work session.
Sanderson said the one-time windfall should not be used for recurring expenses, such as hiring additional staff, because the money will not be available in next year’s budget.”

Does anyone think this DCSS administration or the current BOE is capable of not funding friends and family positions and doing the right thing for students by funneling this money back to classrooms? Will they try to tell us they can't spend the money on teachers who directly instruct our kids? One poster already had a long explanation about that - where did he/she get his/her information - it sounded eerily like the Central Office to me.

Write you BOE members and Ms. Tyson now before this money disappears like all the federal money has so far.

pscexb said...

To August 28, 2010 12:30 PM,

I know you are not doubting me but below is the full paragraph that mentions this in the letter. It is dated August 23, 2010 and we received it via US Mail:

DeKalb County School System rewards students who take the exam with an additional quality point to the grade point average (GPA). Their score(s) on the exam have no bearing on qualifying for the quality point. However, students who do not participate in the AP exam will forfeit their quality point.

Anonymous said...

I thought there was a priority list created for SPLOST funds. Why can't they just follow that list? Why does everything have to be a reinvention of the wheel? And, as for the $18.3 million, why don't they spend it on the very last things that were cut from the budget earlier this year? If the last thing I cut from my household budget is piano lessons, then, when I get $$, chances are I'm going to fund piano lessons. Why is this so difficult?

And I know I, for one, will be campaigning against SPLOST IV if there are ANY current board members still on the board at that time.

Anonymous said...

I received the AP exam fee letter from my local school principal. There was nothing in the letter about extra quality points if the exam is taken.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 1:21

That means if you get a B in an AP exam, an A is what goes into your Grade Point Average. You can score the lowest point (1 out of 5) on the exam, but if you take the class and the exam, they will give you the extra point. However, whether your child takes the exam or not, colleges like to see that students are taking AP classes. They take that into consideration when accepting students. Students generally do not get college credit if they don't score at least a 3 out of the maximum 5 points.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:44, 1:21 and 1:17

About AP testing and quality points, you are all right.

Dekalb County and/or the State of Georgia have been paying for the exam for the last 10 years or so.

Dekalb County requires that student take these AP tests in order to to earn up to 5.0 on a 4.0 scale. The result on the AP test itself has no bearing on the GPA. Not taking the test does.

Now comes Dekalb County, in its 3rd week of the 2010-2011 school year, telling parents/students that they have to put up $87.00 per test. Had they made that clear in the spring when students selected their AP courses, there would be no problem. At this juncture, I think all parents should give them the middle finger!

Anonymous said...

If you had paid attention during the budget process, you would have known that students would have to pay for their AP exams. DCSS is subsidizing at the same rate as they have done, it is the state funding that has been cut. While, the exams will cost $87.00, if DCSS was not subsidizing the costs would be $115.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 1:34 pm

But DCSS gets recognition for having lots of students in AP classes:

Anonymous said...

It's amazing to see "people" converse that have no clue.

The score on an AP exam has no effect on a student's GPA. DCSS did not cut funding for the AP exam - that was the state of GA. DCSS does not REQUIRE anyone to take an AP exam.

Anonymous said...

At Anon 1:56 (AKA Dr. Beasley, I presume?)

"DCSS does not REQUIRE anyone to take an AP exam."

You are serious? At least in your own mind, right?

Pray tell us why all DCSS students enrolled in an AP course have been taking the exam since 1999? Because they like the scores of "1" that they routinely get?

The only exceptions to "all", are the sick and those who attend funerals on test days.17

Anonymous said...

The state did this. not DeKalb. I could never understand how it made sense for the state to use money to pay for AP exams for my children to take, when it is our family that benefits financially from those exams.

Yes, you are right, all across the country school systems and states are "bragging" about the number of AP exams being taken. However, almost no other state or school system pays for them.

Anonymous said...

At Anon 1:47--I will complete your possible sentences...17

If you had paid attention during the budget process, you would have known that students would have to pay

a. toilet paper
b. water at the water fountain
c. AC fee in Winter and Summer

Anonymous said...

Cobb County Schools superintendent Fred Sanderson said he will recommend the district use Cobb's share of the money $20 million to restore teacher salary cuts and two of the five furlough days Cobb put in place to help with its budget shortfall..

This is what DCSS should do as well.

Anonymous said...

The fee for an AP exam is $87.00. The state of Georgia paid for 1 exam per student (all for free/reduced lunch, I believe). Dekalb picked up the remaining costs. The Lakeside"s letter mentioned nothing about costs,only that more information would be coming in October. Quality points also were not addressed. Contact your school's AP coordinator. The squeaky wheel...............

Anonymous said...

"Yes, I'm a broken record but we in DeKalb are still acting like fools. we keep complaining about the conditions at our schools (and they are unacceptable) and yet we don't demand our leaders fix the root problem. We have too many schools."


While I am not a fan of extremely large schools, we do have schools that are too small to be fully funded. We pay a lot of money to move kids across the county to enroll in special programs when we could be offering the same instructional opportunities at home schools for less. Before we start spending money for new building and building renovations. This school system needs to do a complete redistricting plan. Then we will know were we need new buildings and renovations. I'm not in favor of committing money until we take on the problem of redistricting.

Anonymous said...

My question is, what was promised by the school board to be funded by SPLOST III that has not yet been funded. I believe a Chamblee HS renovation was in there. The board should be required to use the extra money to fund what was promised. In fact, it may be illegal to do anything else.

Dekalbparent said...

So, is Cobb breaking the rules governing how the emergency federal funds are to be spent?
Unfortunately, Fulton and DeKalb are hedging on how they will spend it, and Gwinnett is going to put it into Title 1 and Special Ed - which is good if it actually goes to hiring teachers and bad if they follow DCSS practices...

Cobb County Schools superintendent Fred Sanderson said he will recommend the district use Cobb's share of the money -- $20 million -- to restore teacher salary cuts and two of the five furlough days Cobb put in place to help with its budget shortfall.

....Sanderson, the superintendent in Cobb, said the district has a great deal of flexibility in how the money can be used and he will make the recommendation at the board’s Sept. 8 work session.

Sanderson said the one-time windfall should not be used for recurring expenses, such as hiring additional staff, because the money will not be available in next year’s budget.

Sanderson, the superintendent in Cobb, said the district has a great deal of flexibility in how the money can be used and he will make the recommendation at the board’s Sept. 8 work session.

Sanderson said the one-time windfall should not be used for recurring expenses, such as hiring additional staff, because the money will not be available in next year’s budget.

Dekalbparent said...

Sorry - did not read to bottom of comments. Clearly other astute and observant bloggers are on the job!

Anonymous said...

This school system needs to do a complete redistricting plan. Then we will know were we need new buildings and renovations. I'm not in favor of committing money until we take on the problem of redistricting.

Well said Anon 3:02pm!

Also, Chamblee was scheduled to get an auditorium and career tech additions NOT a complete renovation according to the CIP. Those projects are currently on hold.

Anonymous said...

We definitely need a redistricting/master plan before determining big ticket items. If we are going to close a school, why invest in it.

Some of the potential schools to close are in horrific shape. Investing in them is senseless.

Anonymous said...

Kim Gocke, A High School with 3200 kids? I know people in Gwinnett and they wish they had schools the size of ours, minus the overcrowding. If our demographer, who actually knows how the DCSS software works, and was attacked by Sarah Coppelin Wood yesterday, needs to redraw lines and balance attendance zones. DeKalb made a decision long ago that schools would be neighborhood schools, and with the lack of large parcels of land to accommodate a High School with 3200 students it will be tough to build one.

For Gwinnett and Cobb it has been easy since most of their growth has come over the past 25 years, Dekalb's growth has been happening for 50. There are pros and cons about large schools but after talking to developers around Perimeter, they do not know of land large enough to accommodate a school for 3200 kids.

I think they need to redraw and balance attendance. I also think DeKalb needs to sell properties that have not been used for 5 years. Use that money to renovate and be smart how you use the existing properties.

My child just started at Chamblee Middle and it's great! Each grade has it's own floor and in the middle of each floor is a fishbowl office where each grades Guidance Counselor is located. There is not much land around it for field activities, but for learning it's a wonderful facility.

Kim, I would love to sit down and talk with you sometime, you have done remarkable work at Cross Keys!

Anonymous said...

As an AP Teacher and someone who has worked the halls of college admissions offices as an intern, many colleges when they see AP__________ on a transcript give them an automatic letter grade increase due to the demands of the College Board exams.

when I took the AP exams back in the day, they were much higher and I had to pay for 4 when I was in high school. This is a state of Georgia thing not a DCSS item. Many of my colleagues in other counties are trying to figure out how to get their kids to get the funds for the AP exam. one student recommended to all the other kids to put at least $5 bucks away so some May you would have enough money. Nice lesson from a student who in this generation in this day in age has no idea what it means to save money.

Anonymous said...

"This school system needs to do a complete redistricting plan. Then we will know were we need new buildings and renovations"

Agree - but first we need to determine how many kids in each school are administrative transfers. The more desirable schools are filled with kids from outside the neighborhood whose parents, aunts, uncles, or cousins work in DCSS. These are in addition to NCLB transfers. to Some of these kids need to be sent back their home schools before we determine how crowded or empty a school really is.

Anonymous said...

There are many students on administrative transfers to schools like Lakeside High School. On top of that you do have all the AYP transfers and then on top of that you have the knee jerk administration who want to punish students and not allow them to take their bookbags to class now.

It is understandable that there needs to be another plan due to stealing at Lakeside. There is a stealing problem at Lakeside lately. Let us talk about it. Lakeside parents are upset about it. So what are the administration doing. Of course a knee jerk reaction. They have decided not to allow students to take bookbags to classes at all which punishes the students as in reality there really is not sufficient time to use the bathroom and go to the locker between each class.

There are other solutions to the problem. The students could put their bookbags in front of the classroom. This is what happens in schools during formal tests at many school systems. Why not consider options before a knee jerk reaction of just elimination entirely. Does the administration really care about what is best for the students? Apparently not!!!! There are thinking about themself and they do not want to deal with the problem which is that students are the school have a problem with stealing now at Lakeside. Crooks are present at Lakeside High School.

Let us talk about how Lakeside High School is not such a safe place for our children to go as things are being stolen out of their bookbags right in class. I guess we have some real professionals attending Lakeside currently trying to make some good money on the side.

Anonymous said...

Without the book bags, you can't bring a bunch of electronics to school.

Without a book bag, I can't hide stolen goods.

Why don't you talk about parents suddenly having to come up with $87 for of the 5 AP classes their child takes to get Lakeside on Newsweek?

Anonymous said...

It's true. One of the perks of working outside the schoolhouse in a Central Office position is the option of picking the school you want to send your child to. It's a choice for them which is why they do not understand why parents stuck in failing schools are so upset.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:09, I think you might be having a "knee jerk reaction" to Lakeside's new backpack rule.

Did you know that the students now have two 7-minute "locker breaks" during the day so that they are sure to have plenty of time in their schedules? Did you think about how the congestion in the halls might lessen when students aren't carrying packs that are often twice as wide as their bodies? Did you think about how much more difficult it would be for a child to conceal a weapon if he/she doesn't have a bag? Did you consider how the lack of backpacks in class would lessen a great deal of the monitoring that teachers have to do ("Sally, put your lipstick away please," "Johnny, close your bag and put it away during a test," etc) in their already overpacked classes?

The stealing issue is only ONE of the benefits to the backpack rule, a rule, might I add, that is already standard at many metro area high schools. Stealing is a problem at every high school, public or private, in the US. I hope you didn't intend to imply that "criminals" at Lakeside are the result of AYP transfers.

Anonymous said...

The "no backpack" rule in class is a DCSS rule - it's not specific to Lakeside.

AGAIN, because it seems some of you have reading-comprehension issue, the fee for the AP exams is because the state took away the funding, not DCSS.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is necessarily a reading comprehension problem, as much as the fact that there are way to many posters here who don't bother to read many of the previous posts.

I am surprised Lakeside students could ever take backpacks to class. I don't think they could at our DCSS high school.

Anonymous said...

For this year no kid should be forced to take the test in order to get the quality points. If the kid is in the class and meets the class standards, that should be enough.

Don't care if it is a State or DCSS money issue.

Anonymous said...

I guess you are right, but it seems very short sighted not to try and find the funds for your child to take the test. Here is why, even if they are going to use HOPE to go to school in GA, the credits acquired by successfully passing an AP test will allow them to take a lighter load so they can maintain HOPE, especially freshmen year.

Anonymous said...

Backpacks at school. They are a problem when they are carried during the school day. They make it difficult to navigate hallways during class change. It is possible to conceal contraband or hide something that has been taken from another student. As a teacher I had to report any student I found with gang markings on their backpack. Some students carry so much stuff in their backpacks that they actually have back problems. Backpacks take up a lot of space in crowded classrooms.

Every student has a locker, they should be able to get to that locker at least twice during the school day. Back in the day, when it wasn't cool to carry a backpack, students managed quite nicely without them.

Anonymous said...

We were very lucky here in GA that the state provided funds - 75% of the cost of the exam. DCSS paid the remaining 25% paid for the AP exams. I don't think there is any other state that does so and certainly private schools do not pay for their students to take AP exams. It is just something else some wanted to bash DCSS over even though DCSS has kept their part of the AP exam funding in place.

Ella Smith said...

I will come clean. I am upset about the new rule that students cannot take their bookbags to class. Why? I travel from class to class at a high school and I find it impossible to take everything I need and I do not have time to go back to my office between classes. Then I do have other necessary needs like using the bathroom that need to be taken care of during the 5 minute time.

Many students need to take their notebooks to class as they get to class and have picked up the wrong notebook and get a 0 on their homework. I see it happen every day. I see the other side to the picture from a student's point of view as I am traveling from class to class.

During testing we make students put their bookbags at the front of the room. This seems like a better plan to me. The students could still carry their books to class and then students could not steal from their bookbags.

I feel this is not a rule for the students. It is a rule for the administrators and a knee jerk reaction. I know how upset my son is and he never gets upset about anything. His locker is in a horrible location compared to his classes. He got no choice of where his locker was and of course it is not close to any classes he has.

At Northsprings I gave out lockers at the beginning of the day and the principal told me we had plenty of lockers so I gave the students choices and they went and picked their lockers. It was the first time we had done this. The students and parents were happy. We were not the dictators but were working in a collaborative way with the students and parents. Now if students had a choice about where their locker was then maybe the situation may be a little different also. I am sorry I do disagree with this entirely because I am in the schools and I do move from class to class. I do understand their point of view.

As far as the AP class I think the school system should pay for this. My son did have a choice of the number of AP course he took. However, I do remember the board talking about some students taking many AP classes and they questioned having to pay for this. This seemed to be a problem some of the board members did have. Students do choice to take AP classes. My son did have a choice this year. If a student take 5 AP course this ends up being a great deal of money the school board is paying for that individual student. However, I still am supportive of the school system paying for this and making cuts at the county office as we have too much overhead and too many administrators still at the county office.

Anonymous said...


Then why not give every student money for the SAT and/or ACT? The state was picking up most of the cost. DeKalb is still generously picking up some of the cost.

If there is more money in the DCSS budget, paying for AP tests is not how I would like to see if used. How about paras for those K classes sitting at 21 students with one teacher?

Anonymous said...


AGAIN, DCSS is paying the same amount toward the AP exams as they have in the past. It is the STATE that cut the AP funding.

Anonymous said...

I see I used the wrong word and used choice. Well, you can still get my meaning.

It is me and I go way too fast and do not always proof what I write before I send it. I am way too impulsive. I am sure most of you will forgive me.

Anonymous said...

I see I used the wrong word and used choice. Well, you can still get my meaning.

It is me and I go way too fast and do not always proof what I write before I send it. I am way too impulsive. I am sure most of you will forgive me.

Anonymous said...

I do understand that the state has stopped funding this. I think this is wrong. If we are going to offer AP classes as part of the courses at our school and then the AP exam is required for those students then it should be paid for. I feel the state is wrong here also. Do we make our students pay for the EOCT or the GHSGT. We pay teachers to teach these classes.

I think we also need paras in the lower level classes. We need to put money back into our schools. I understand. I am a teacher.

We must get our students off to a good start in the lower levels. I could not agree anymore with you. I get students in high school who are not prepared.

Now, if we offer the class and pay the teachers salary it would only make sense that we paid for the tests. Why would we pay for the teachers to teach the class and not pay for the test? This makes no sense to me. Of course, I do not think the school board should have done away with giving the PSAT either. Other school systems continue also to give the PSAT the Freshman-Junior year to their students free of charge while Dekalb did away with this. This practice is important to the students and enable the students to see how they are progressing and gives them feedback as to whether they need to take outside classes for support. I know Fulton has Kaplan and other schools come into the high schools and offer their students classes during evening hours. The school system works collaboratively with the parents improve their overall SAT and ACT scores.

As a school system we need to be working collaboratively with the parents, the students and the community to improve the achievement of our students.

I could not help but say something as I feel very strongly about these matters. However, during the election I will not blog normally on this blog. I read the blog weekly and enjoy what you guys have to say.

Ella Smith said...

The last blog was me. Of course I am sure you can tell.

Ella Smith

Kim Gokce said...

Anon August 28 7:02 PM

"Kim Gocke, A High School with 3200 kids?"

Yes, I know. No matter how many times I say it, everyone assumes that I believe larger schools are inherently better. I do not.

I do believe they require less overhead to operate and maintain. I would much prefer every public high school in DeKalb to have the facilities of Westminster or Woodward Academy and a similar enrollment level.

To achieve that would cost an very large sum of money. On a per pupil basis, we do spend a lot of money on instruction - in some cases, our public schools approach 50%-75% of the tuition of these private school neighbors. On a total costs basis (including direct donations and capital expenses), I doubt we approach a 1/3 of what is spent at these institutions per pupil. I would love to see Westminster's capital budget!

There's no magic to private schools - they invest bags of money in their schools and their students and demand that their parents AND alumni do the same.

Are we prepared to double and triple our property taxes to support this level of expense? We all know the answer is no - we are arguing with our neighbors whether the CURRENT level of spending is worth maintaining and this with dilapidated infrastructure. Some of our neighbors are asking whether ANY public money should be invested in our schools.

Can the Administration be cut? Yes.

Can greater efficiency be gained in school operations and maintenance? Yes.

Do we need rationalization of our attendance zones? Yes.

Will these overcome the gap in facilities at so many of our schools? No.

That requires money, lots of money. The question boils down for me to whether we keep incrementally improving our plant in a round robin tournament with winners and losers. In the end, we've failed to compete with peer school systems for facilities and thus the exodus of much of the middle class from our system.

If I were a totalitarian leader of DeKalb, I would insist that we have every high school as attendance area only enrollment of between 1200-1500 with first class facilities and programs. We are not prepared to pay for this as a community and we only have to look at the current realities to see this is true.

"Kim, I would love to sit down and talk with you sometime, you have done remarkable work at Cross Keys!"

Thank you for the compliment but realize that all I have done is let the community see what really is going on inside the school - the rest is all the kids. I am convinced that this school is the best high school in DeKalb ... and I'm not kidding. They are truly a great asset to DeKalb and give me hope for our future.

As for meeting, I'm always ready to meet with folks who want to talk in an open minded way about our public system. I'm kim AT communityradar DOT com.

I think our DeKalb system gets too little credit for the educators we have and the results we get. We have a lot of poverty and a lot of discipline problems in too many schools - over coming these challenges is not a simple or quick fix. It is less likely to EVER improve if the people paying the bills keep jumping ship - our stakeholder base has been shrinking for 30 years.

Our job as citizens is to provide whatever support we can for our young people and the educators with whom we entrust them. This requires trust and that bond has been broken in DeKalb for decades for all sorts of sordid reasons.

It is time for DeKalb citizens to have a "gut check" ...

Kim Gokce said...

On whether we have land in DeKalb for larger schools, I am 100% sure we do. The Briarcliff HS site is big enough, the GM Plant site is a great location, there is TONS of blighted industrial areas in Chamblee that would serve perfectly, there are bazillions of sites along Buford Hwy that would make perfect sense. Town Brookhaven of Sembler infamy would have been an incredible site.

We have the land. We do not have the will.

Kim Gokce said...

If we had any sense, we would have developed CCHS or CK as a two-story re-build that could have easily accommodated 3,200 and be saving money right now rather than freaking out about our facilities and budgets.

We have options. We do not have the will.

Kim Gokce said...

If we had any sense, the stakeholders of DeKalb between I-85N, I-285, and I-400 would have been demanding consolidation for the past ten years. We would have been demanding a state of the art facility to serve as a crowning jewel to our community.

Brookhaven-Chamblee-Doraville share a common interest in public education but can't seem to see it that way.

We have the resources. We don't have the will.

One Fed Up Insider said...


This is one time that I am going to disagree with you about building a mega school in this area.

We may have the land to house that many kids but we do not have the roads to handle the amount of traffic that would create each day.

You keep saying 3200 as your number. Well that is going to take aleast 60 buses, 400 - 600 student cars 150 - 175 teachers, admin staff, custodians cars, and close to 1000 parent drop offs in the morning.

There is simply no resources around here to buy property now to tear down to make the roads bigger. Much less for the parking nightmare that would happen on Open House night, concerts that would happen at this new school.

Also building a school of that size is not why I moved to DeKalb County. When you get to a size school that you are proposing, you lose that neighborhood feel.

If I wanted my child to go to a mega school, I would have moved to Cobb, Fulton, or Gwinnett.

Anonymous said...

And Chamblee High School, with 50 percent out of district kids, has the neighborhood feel now?

Kim Gokce said...

One Fed Up Insider:

You raise good questions. I believe Buford Hwy and Peachtree both can support this volume, especially Buford Hwy.

I'm with you on the neighborhood scale schools but I simply do not believe we can afford them - and, again, I point to the current realities for support of this perspective.

Anonymous said...

Kim, you make some great arguments! A lot of the blighted Chamblee sights are being gobbled up by developers and OUR BOE reps, Redovian and Speaks, seem to be more concerned about Dunwoody and not the rest of their district in the NE Atlanta Pie Piece.

The old GM site is a great idea! MARTA ACCESS, Good location for a "State of the Art" Stadium and Auditorium and easy access to Major Arteries. It will be costly to clean it up before building, but maybe those Stimulus dollars could be put to good use!

Towne Brookhaven, would have been a good spot too, but the old developer wanted huge dollars and the only folks who could afford it, at the time, was Sembler. If it had been available now, in this current economy, it might have been very affordable.

I think there are many people with the guts to do something Kim, However, when you see what happened in Dunwoody, when Clew and Moseley divided up attendance zones with a sharpie marker, instead of the software DCSS had purchased 5 years ago, the "4th & 5th Grade Academy" might actually had been an actual Elementary School, PreK-5. I have no confidence in the current leadership, BOE or the Super's Cabinet, I hate using that term.

Mr. Drake has the knowledge and the experience in demographics and population moves and if the DCSS leadership would let him do his job, things could be different. But the leadership will most likely micromanage him to the point of chasing him off to the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Kim, are you aware of DeKalb County's, not school district, but the county's 2020 Vision Plan? When my wife and I discovered that DCSS had never spoken with the county's Planning Dept. 4 years ago, we went to Decatur and spent an entire day there looking over their vision and zoning changes. The areas around 285, and the "pie slice" have all been zoned for Multi-Family dwellings. The area around Johnson Ferry and Ashford Dunwoody is also zoned for Multi family dwellings.. Currently those complexes are 50% finished. If you recall DCSS had closed Nancy Creek since enrollment numbers had fallen. The numbers fell because the Public Housing on Johnson Ferry had closed. However, there was a huge dis-connect and everyone was under the assumption that the new development was for Seniors only! That was far from the truth, there are families moving back in there today. If something is not done in our "pie slice" we'll be another overcrowded Dunwoody, but we have a chance to fix it if we could get someones attention, soon.

In 1996, my wife and I decided to move into our home because Chamblee Middle and High were schools that were succeeding. Our elementary schools were decent but we made huge strides to make them better, until the rug was pulled out from under us when Clew had his offer from Sembler, for that Druid Hills/Briarcliff boondoggle.

However, now we have a chance to bring in new leadership. Hopefully, leadership who will NOT have that North vs. South or that anything we do here must be equitable for there mentalities. We must elect a forward thinking BOE who want the best for our kids and not for their own pocketbooks, friends, families or churches.

In the meantime, let's start a discussion like we have here and get moving. I still want to look at Charter Clusters or Independent School Districts options, since our leadership is hell bent to maintain the shoddy status quo.

Anonymous said...

Chamblee Middle School did not exist in 1996.

Anonymous said...

You didn't answer my question about Chamblee High being a neighborhood school?!?

Anonymous said...

"It is just something else some wanted to bash DCSS over even though DCSS has kept their part of the AP exam funding in place."

Not true. The AP horse has left the barn. Students are 3 weeks into AP classes. The $87 should have been an issue before 2010-2011 classes started.

Kids/parents should have a choice of paying AND taking the AP exams or not paying AND NOT taking the AP exam without forfeiting ANY quality point.

If you really think that AP Calculus in DCSS is the same as Calculus at Emory, Spellman, Morehouse, UGA, God bless the aerospace industry!!

Anonymous said...

To get a sense of what DCSS is up against in terms of redistricting, take a look at this chart that was used during the Citizen's Planning task force.

The red indicates students that are at other DCSS schools. When the chart was done, Dunwoody Elementary wasn't yet coded seperately so that is why those numbers are so high. Most of the other high numbers are accounted for because those students are eligible for theme school enrollment.

Finally, special ed programs at some schools will also inflate their out of district numbers.

Anonymous said...

If you were following the budget discussions last spring/summer, you would have known that the state was not funding the AP exams any longer. It was well publicized. It is not DCSS' fault if you choose not to keep yourself updated on educational issues.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone noted that paying $87 out of pocket now to take an AP exam is a heck of a lot less than a semester's tuition for the same class credit? Even if you have HOPE, you'll pay more than $87 for the textbook. I have little sympathy for those complaining about this issue-- and I'm a bleeding-heart liberal.

Anonymous said...

Seventy of the 330 students at Livsey were from outside the attendance zone last year. Livsey has a published capacity of 325. So, for purposes a formulating a plan, does Livsey have an enrollment of 330 or 260. If you close it, do you have to find places for 260 of 330 students nearby. If you leave it open, do you have room for Zero new students or 65?

Fernbank has a capacity of 537. Last year, Fernbank had 655 students, seems very overcrowded. BUT 100 students are from outside the attendance zone.

So, does Fernbank really need relief?

Interesting stuff, isn't it?

Ella Smith said...

I agree with Kim that we do have too many schools throughout the county and we really do need to look totally at the school district lines throughout the county and even up the schools to start with. However, this will cause many problems in itself as many parents do not want to move from the school they currently attend. However, it must be done.

DeKalb must look at alternative plans like Fulton and Gwinett has done also when students do not make AYP. How do they not move students all over the county when their students do not make AYP? What are we doing wrong that they are doing right?

Kim, we do need to look at the possibility of consolodating some schools in the North of the county in my opinion. Cross Keys students and Chamblee students both would benefit from a new high school at the Doraville plan. Who is their right mind would not be supportive of Chamblee High School and Cross Keys getting a new school built there at that site. The site is for sale. The property is close to the interstate so the access is excellent for the magnet program. I would love to see a Science and Math Magnet Program also somewhere in the North side of the county. We need a new facility for this. Dunwoody is in fairly good shape. If Dunwoody is overcrowded then the school at this site could be built big enough and the redistricting could eliminated some of the overcrowding at Dunwoody. I also see a new high school for Druid Hills in the future on the site on Briarcliff. Druid Hills High School is land locked and needs to be moved to a larger area. This area of the county is continuing to grow around the Lakeside/Druid Hills area and a high school in the future will be needed. Lakeside if also land locked and there is on where to go. The area needs to stadium on Briarcliff for its sports programs. We only have a few stadiums in the county as it is. We do not need to get rid of this stadium and property on Briarcliff. It is right off the interstate and also easily to get to.

Large high schools can still be community high schools. This does not really change much. However, what does change is the money saved and the ability to offer more opportunities to the students.

One of Bill Gates studies recently that showed small high schools were better was just shown to be flawed and even he has now stepped back but he has stepped back from this data due to the flaws.

In these economic times we are going to have to start taking hard looks at the decisions we make and have to make decisions based on what truely is best for the students in getting the best education for the money spent. Educating students has to be looked at from a business prospective and we cannot just make decisions without considering if taxpayers are getting the most for the money spent. We all want and like small community schools. However, what we like may not be what is actually the best option for the money we have to spent and actually give our students the most opportunities for their professional growth for the future. We must start looking at all options and weighing these options and not be closed minded as our money to spend each year is getting less and less.

Anonymous said...

Chamblee Middle did exist in 1996, it was located just beyond Georgetown Plaza, OTP, on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road. We were in the attendance zone as we are now.

In my neighborhood, CCHS is a neighborhood school. We have 10 kids on our street that attend CCHS. We have another 6 that attend CMS, and 12 or 13 that attend Montgomery.

My wife and I fought hard for CMS to be built on the current Sexton Woods property in 1999-2001. Our kids were just toddlers then, but we were involved and knew the value of a new school on that property close to CCHS would be huge for the area. A lot of parents in the area are looking forward to attending CMS and CCHS in the future.

Please don't argue about everyone living here is going private after Montgomery, that is legend for sure. I'm sure some will go private, but not all! There are a lot of parents around here that value good neighborhood public schools!

Anonymous said...

Nope, CMS did open until the 1998-1999 school year in the old Shallowford Elementary school site.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:15, Chamblee Middle did exist in 1996, it was in Dunwoody just OTP on Chamblee-Dunwoody RD.

Ella, you make valid points about the GM plant property too. I'm all for seeing a huge new high school there with a great auditorium, that could be used for graduations and other events as well as a new stadium for Football, Track and Soccer as well as baseball,softball etc....

I'll check with Mike Jacobs and a realtor friend, but I believe this might the largest parcel of land available in our area. The others you would need to buy up several parcels to make one large enough.

More research, something DCSS could learn to do more of, if they were only capable.

Anonymous said...

I'm not here to argue whether CMS was here there or anywhere in 1996..
If I'm off by two years, I apologize.

It's here now and it's a great school! CMS just accepted 100 transfers last week and everyone had a seat to sit in. I guess time flies, when you're fighting a corrupt, inept, and racially divisive DCSS leadership.

Anonymous said...

Fulton purchased a half dozen parcels for one its new schools. It can be done.

Anonymous said...

Okay, people, reality check here. There is no way DCSS could afford to purchase that land unless you can talk GM down from their asking price of $60 million.

Sandy Spruill said...

@ Anonymous 11:44 AM

Chamblee Middle School opened to students the year before it moved to the old Shallowford location. Initially, it opened in a wing of Chamblee High School. We were able to do that because teachers at CHS agreed (were not forced) to move into trailers to free up that wing. And, that was because we had a magnificent leader at CHS at the time who was not afraid of DCSS -- Martha Reichrath.

I know this because I chaired the committee that created Chamblee Middle School in the face of tremendous opposition from DCSS. (I would need to check my notes to see the exact year that CMS opened to students in a wing of CHS.)

The night that Dr. Oran said to me, following a middle school planning committee meeting, "Mrs. Spruill, it doesn't matter what you do, you are not getting a middle school", I walked down the hall of CHS to Martha Reichrath's office where I knew she would be even though it was 9:30 PM. I told her what Dr. Oran had said and then I asked, "It is only one more grade level (at the time, we only needed to get 7th grade in to get middle school funding from the state); can't we shoehorn them in here somehow?" She thought about it, said "Yes!" because she knew that was what the Chamblee community wanted, and she went to work making it happen.

It is because of Martha Reichrath that we have both Chamblee High School (now Chamblee Charter High School) and Chamblee Middle School.

Sandy Spruill said...

@ Anonymous 11 AM

Will you or your wife be at the Dunwoody Chamblee Parents Council meeting this coming Wednesday, 8:45 AM (refreshments), 9 AM (meeting) at Peachtree Middle School? I am very interested in charter clusters and ISDs!

Please get in touch with me at

Anonymous said...

"Has anyone noted that paying $87 out of pocket now to take an AP exam is a heck of a lot less than a semester's tuition for the same class credit?"

Dude, you are assuming that the college/university do give credit. Most of the good ones, don't.

The best you can hope for at top %50 university is not take the calculus lass. That does not relieve you of taking another class. You can't show up at Emory with 2 tons of AP credit AND graduate in 3 years without taking the required number of credit hours. This AP credit, when granted, is not in lieu university course work.

Quit drinking the AP Kool-aid

Anonymous said...

Reality check. Before we start looking to close small schools, like Livsey, in the Lakeside/Tucker HS area, please take a careful look at the school populations. When you do, you will see that Pleasantdale, with more than 850 students and lots of trailers is overcrowded. How can we even consider closing a school like Livsey when there are students in the immediate area who could fill this school?

I must agree that it is long past the time when DCSS should talk with the DeKalb planning/zoning commission to find out were the population centers will be. We can't stop this high density building, but we can adequately plan for the children who will arrive at our area schools. I question whether this is happening right now.

Anonymous said...

A blogger above says: "we had a magnificent leader at CHS at the time who was not afraid of DCSS -- Martha Reichrath."

Again, Martha Reichrath -- SCHOOL leader vs.
Rochelle Lowery (current CCHS principal) -- COUNTY puppet.

One LISTENS and acts; the other SILENCES and waits for further DCSS instructions.

And that makes all the difference.

Anonymous said...


Where did the kids attend Middle School before Chamblee Middle opened?

My wife or myself will be attending the DCPC meeting. We both know who you are, my wife spoke with you during the discussions to save Nancy Creek.

We look forward to speaking with you at the DCPC, Wednesday!

Anonymous said...

There was no middle school for the Chamblee cluster. es was K-7;

Anonymous said...

Could we cease with "kool aid" comments? People have a right to their opinions and thoughts without the disrespect shown by some.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 12:45

"Dude, you are assuming that the college/university do give credit. Most of the good ones, don't.

The best you can hope for at top %50 university is not take the calculus lass. That does not relieve you of taking another class. You can't show up at Emory with 2 tons of AP credit AND graduate in 3 years without taking the required number of credit hours. This AP credit, when granted, is not in lieu university course work.

Quit drinking the AP Kool-aid "

You are incorrect. My daughter who went to Chamblee High School had almost a full year of credit when she went to UGA (four APS with scores of 4s and a 5 plus exempted some course through placement testing). It was great. She was a biology major with many labs so she was able to take less hours each year. However, she could have elected to finish in 3 years.

My daughter's friend who went to Chamblee and then Emory found taking AP classes advantageous as well. She finished Emory in 3 1/2 years because she had so many AP classes with 4s and 5s as scores. Finishing a full semester early from Emory saved her $20,000 in tuition (Emory was $40,000 a year at that time in tuition alone).

Having said that, most schools require 4s and 5s on your AP scores and occasionally in subjects that have consistently low scores, some colleges will accept a 3.

Reference that Princeton University accepts AP classes:

Kim Gokce said...

Regarding GM site, for fun visit my blog entry from 794 days ago:

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:36,

My issue is as follows:

1. I don't have the 87 dollars to take 4 AP tests that I thought were free.

2. I need the extra-points so my GPA can be competitive with my peers in better school (in the nation)

3. I can't get the 4's and the 5's your daughter and your daughter's friend got because I don't have the extra dollars to hire a tutor to help me. I say this because when I took my SATs at St. Pius ( I don't go there), I heard the Chamblee, Dunwoody, and Lakeside kids talk about SAT prep courses they had taken in the 500-1000 dollars range and they were talking about the math and chemistry tutors their parents paid for in the 10th, 11th , and 12th grades.

Kim Gokce said...

I hate it when I find myself defending the administration because it probably erodes what little credibility I may have. But ...

"when Clew and Moseley divided up attendance zones with a sharpie marker, instead of the software DCSS had purchased 5 years ago, the "4th & 5th Grade Academy" might actually had been an actual Elementary School, PreK-5"

My understanding is that the "academy" debacle was 100% the parents' making, not the administration's. If DCSS has guilt in this one, it is from caving into the chorus of complaints from the Vanderlyn district. Even parents in Dunwoody I know admit this fact.

I throw myself on this grenade not just to make a point about Dunwoody lines. Much of our districting woes are of our own making - at least, that is my impression from areas like Dunwoody, Chamblee, Doraville, Northlake, Druid Hills, and Brookhaven.

There are many cases I know personally where it is the parents and taxpayers who have insisted on some of the goofy decisions we put at the feet of DCSS. And, sadly, this has been going on a long, long time.

For example, I was always confused about Briarcliff HS - it was one of the newest ones around our area, it was pretty big, it had a great location and facilities. Why on earth was it ever closed as a traditional HS?

My understanding is that BHS was built to replace DHHS attendance area needs; that it was closed because the Druid Hills community rejected it as unacceptable as their high school. Either DHHS or BHS had to close for some reason and BHS lost that political fight. Was that the right decision for DeKalb? I do not know but it sure seems like it was not.

When the middle school format was introduced, there seems to have been similar political fights about who remained a HS and who was closed or converted to MS. Shamrock lost to Druid Hills and probably should not have. Sequoyah lost to Cross Keys and probably should not have. Maybe there were other extenuating circumstances and I'd love to hear them.

In both cases, the newer, larger school with better facilities was converted to a MS. Again, I was not around for any of these decisions or fights but in hindsight they look like more examples of business as usual in DCSS-land and that is parents wagging the DCSS dog.

Please notice that this blog is dominated by the "losers" in DCSS' political wars. There are just as many "winners" out there who have great facilities for their area high schools, who won a districting fight, or turned back a school closing. Lately, most of those winners have been outside of Region 1.

So fellow bloggers, I ask you this question: Would you despise the DCSS leadership if you were on the "winners" list in this political and parochial game? Or are the rules to this game ok as long as you are winning?

Kim Gokce said...

I don't have fist hand experience with AP courses because I don't have a child in the system. I have seen what these can mean to some CK students, though.

One of the members of the Class of 2010 is one of the hardest working human beings I have ever met. She finished with something like the 3rd or 4th highest GPA's in the class. She was active in athletic programs. She was everywhere in community projects. She was/is an incredibly talented artist. She also happens to have no money and live in "one of those" apartments on Buford Hwy.

She won a full ride scholarship to Agnes Scott last spring. In spite of that, she continued working feverishly to work nights and weekends earning money for books. She also worked to take and pass as many AP courses as she could and to pass with 5 - specifically, to get credit towards Agnes Scott and maximize her scholarship.

So, I may not know first hand but her effort and smarts make me pretty comfortable that AP testing CAN earn you college credits. That is what motivated her so ...

Kim Gokce said...

Regarding the 2020 Plan at DeKalb County Govt ... I've attended some of these meetings over the years and was thrilled when Pat Pope hired Dan Drake as a planner/analyst. Part of his job as she described it would be to attend these Govt meetings and keep tabs on development planning.

I started seeing Dan Drake at these meetings and presume he still makes them regularly (I no longer do). This effort is barely one year old and we should expect no miracles in such a short time.

If we demand that our school system and our govt work together, it will happen eventually even if gradually.

Kim Gokce said...

"Okay, people, reality check here. There is no way DCSS could afford to purchase that land unless you can talk GM down from their asking price of $60 million."

The site is 165 acres - the school system does not need the entire parcel! My vision two years ago was the the negotiations among the seller, the City, and the County should include a requirement for the buyer to donate the land needed for a school complex.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 2:36

"I can't get the 4's and the 5's your daughter and your daughter's friend got because I don't have the extra dollars to hire a tutor to help me. "

Neither my daughter nor her friend ever had a tutor for APs or for SATs. Her friend paid her way through Emory herself with scholarships and loans - some very hefty loans - that's why she was so anxious to clip off a semester of tuition - she was paying for it herself. Later, she went to a Morehouse College's School of Medicine. My daughter went to UGA because of the HOPE scholarship. Private school was not a consideration. One thing both of them had in common is that they studied hours and hours every single night of the week.

I believe if we had less money spent in the Central Office in DeKalb, we could afford to pay for AP exams. APs are very difficult - in some instances more difficult than the actual college class. Counselors trying to pack as many students in AP classes as possible may look good for DeKalb, but it's not good for students.

Anonymous said...

Re the price of the GM property: First of all, I'm not sure the entire parcel would be needed for a school, even a large one. Second, the school system would not have to buy it from GM. They could exercise the power of eminent domain and take it (or a portion of it) by paying GM fair market value of the portion taken. $60 million is not fair market value -- if it was it would have sold a long time ago and would not have required millions in tax moneys to subsidize.

Anonymous said...

AP tests are another money-making venture for the College Board. Some private schools across the country (many which send lots of kids to Ivy League schools) have stopped teaching APs in favor of rigorous faculty-developed courses. And some top colleges do not give a lot of credits for AP tests (depends on the subject; MIT does not give credit for AP Chemistry, for example). The goal in a high school AP class should be to inspire the love of learning and to teach high-level material, not to prep for success on a test.

AP tests have taken on new "importance" for high schools because of the Newsweek Magazine ranking of US high schools, which are based largely on number of AP (and IB) tests kids take at the school.

Once again, we become so wrapped up in "the test" that we lose sight of the purpose.

pscexb said...

Kim my friend, let me help you out....

Back in the late 80's under Superintendent Freeman, DCSS made the decision to go to the Junior High School model. Keep in mind enrollment was declining rapidly in central DeKalb at this time, partially due to lawsuit the school district was under. A decision was made to convert Druid Hills High school to a middle school, partially because it was in a land locked location.

Druid Hills High School has a GREAT history and understandably so, some in that community did not like that decision. They researched and found out the land the school sits on was donated by Emory in the 1920's for use as a high school. There was a covenant in place that specified how the property would be used. There are several of these for other schools in the district also, some with terms that say the land goes back to the family of the original donor.

Regarding Druid Hills, when this information was presented to the district, they reversed the decision and decided to convert Shamrock to the middle school. It should be noted that Briarcliff closed in 1987 and those students went to Druid Hills. Shamrock graduated their last class in 1996.

As Paul Harvey would say, "And know you know the rest of the story..." however I'm sure there is more to it.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 3:53

I agree. I'm the poster that talked about my daughter taking APs. She says that since she went to UGA, she would have been better off taking joint enrollment classes at Perimeter College. She had a friend who did joint enrollment at Ga. Tech. He skipped his last year at Lakeside. He love Ga. Tech and didn't miss his senior year at all.

Kim Gokce said...

Paul Harvey? Wow, you must be old like me, pscexb ...

I appreciate the additional history lesson but I do not understand how/why BHS was closed earlier than junior high? I mean, BHS is a big school and surely it still had plenty of enrollment?

Anonymous said...

If Dr Walker knew of this one he would have changed Arabia to more than match it

How does a $578 million school get built amid cuts, layoffs in L.A.?

Los Angeles – A football-field-sized lawn – lined with walks and trees – stretches from the street to a five-story, glass-front building in this otherwise scruffy neighborhood just west of downtown skyscrapers.

On the site of the Ambassador Hotel, known as the site of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, now sprawl 23 acres of elementary, middle and high school buildings which will serve the poorest, most congested, and diverse district of America’s second-largest school system.

It’s price tag of $578 million makes it the most expensive public school in American history and an easy target of criticism. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has laid off 3,000 teachers in the past two years and is cutting academic programs this year to close a $640 million budget gap.

“When taxpayers see that we’re spending half a billion dollars to build one school, they are not going to open their wallets again to invest in teachers, invest in textbooks and kids, that’s what we need,” says Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution, a coalition of parents formed in 2006 to take back education from politicians, bureaucrats, and special interests.;_ylt=ArOTyPt4H17hctb_ya8U3FqNe8UF;_ylu=X3oDMTJkdDQ2c3VmBGFzc2V0A2NzbS8yMDEwMDgyNC8zMjE4MzMEcG9zAzMEc2VjA3luX3BhZ2luYXRlX3N1bW1hcnlfbGlzdARzbGsDaG93ZG9lc2E1Nzht

Anonymous said...

"Some private schools across the country (many which send lots of kids to Ivy League schools) have stopped teaching APs in favor of rigorous faculty-developed courses. "

Examples please?!

Anonymous said...

Regarding AP Credit:

Emory University:We typically will award four semester hours of college credit for each score of four or five on examinations of the Advanced Placement (AP) Program of the College Entrance Examination Board.

Agnes Scott College: Also gives credit for 4 and 5

So much for "good schools do not give credit."
Go ahead...drink the free college classes "kool aid"!
And stop listening to idiots.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:59,

Will Emory et al... they award credit in the major or will they allow the student with a 4 or 5 skip the intro course?

Will Swarthmore let you graduate with just 3 years worth of (their) college credits because you have 4's or 5's AP Bio, AP Calculus, AP Psych, and AP English because you took this load in your senior year?

That was not the scenario for my child. Though she was able to skip the intro courses (by AP or in-house placement tests), her transcript NEVER reflected these college courses.

I was under the impression that 4 or more years of college were necessary to prepare young adults to become a bit more mature.

Aren't we doing with our children what DCSS is doing with unexperienced teachers they have raised to Assistant Principals?

Anonymous said...

@ 3:41,

Two great kids. We can can find 5-10 great kids in each of the AP classes of Dekalb County who will hit that 4 or 5 on their AP tests. For these kids, the 87 bucks is money well spent.

For the other 10-15 kids who are the class JUST so the class can be allowed, that 87 bux is not so worthwhile. ( You need about 20 kids in a AP class or the class may be canceled)

Why don't we let the kids decide if they should take the AP test or not? If they want to take it, they pay for it. If they don't, they don't take it, and are not penalized.

Anonymous said...

Kim, regarding Dunwoody and the sharpie marker. Indeed it was the parents that went crazy. However, Clew & MOseley and their sharpie, I saw their original map with my own eyes, split neighborhoods in half! One side of the street was Vanderlyn, while the other was the new school, this was in a neighborhood to boot, not a main road like Vermack or Mt. Vernon. The lines they drew also had kids at Perimeter Mall area having to traverse the entire top end to get to the new school, driving past two or three other schools to get to theirs. Crazy stuff for sure!

Instead of using the demographic software, that Drake knows how to use, they were just drawing lines willy nilly. That is what upset parents so much and gave them no choice but to do what they did. However, a strong leadership that used population data and demographic software that DCSS had installed and no one knew how to use, the story would have been easier to sell. Gwinnett redraws lines every 5 to 6 years and they have a staff of 7 to 9 that compiles data and studies the population flows of families and ages of students.

In regards to deKalb Vision 2020. The Planning Dept. worked their plan and it was approved 3 to 4 years ago, it was then that we discovered that no one from DCSS seemed interested in talking about the plan with the county planners.. Their words not mine!

It was only a year ago that Pope hired Drake, my wife and I were so happy that they had finally listened and had hired someone to balance the attendance zones properly! Drake has only been their a year, however the county plan had been out there for 3 to 4 years, Vernon Jones and the DeKalb Commissioners commissioned the plan in 2005 and they completed in late 2006, early 2007. Like I said, DeKalb planners had tried numerous times to discuss their plans with DCSS, only to be rebuffed by Pope and Lewis. We had exposed this issue to several news media outlets and that was when we were called 'Background Noise" by Moseley.

Kim that's what we know and we have some data and emails to back it up. I'm all for Drake working his magic and not being called out by Sarah Copelin-Wood, she needs to shut that pie hole of hers and let Drake do his work. Drake is a good man and knows how to do this properly and fairly!

Anonymous said...

Regarding the GM property:

Actually $60M for this huge chunk of land is dirt cheap. Why? Because much of it is most likely polluted with hazardous chemicals from years of manufacturing. It might take years of environmental testing and soil remediation before it could be developed. For example it took many years of clean up before Atlantic Station could be built on the site of an old steel mill. And contaminated groundwater continues to be treated at that site.

So if there is a need for a new school in the northern area of the county within the next several years, this would not be a good location even if the land were free. I'd go with the N. Druid Hills land across from Target.

BTW-the government does not get land free with condemnation by eminent domain. They still pay a price and sometimes it is tied up in litigation for years.

Anonymous said...

The Druid Hills property doesn't have roads or the space to expand them that would be needed for a mega school on this property. There is only one way in and out of that property. The traffic in that area is awful now with only the International school located on the property.

Anonymous said...

Another note on Drake, I have talked to several people who were on the Citizen's Task Force, the majority of them liked working with Drake. I agree with the earlier poster, it's time we balance attendance properly, let Drake work his magic with that software and begin to make OUR DCSS work for US, instead of friends, family, sorority sisters, frat brothers and churches of our inept, corrupt leadership.

Anonymous said...

Fulton, Cobb and Gwinnett all offer a very consistent educational product at their schools. To a great degree, this is because of the size of the schools, but it also because of a value system that says there must be a minimum level of what is acceptable at all schools. While no one is happy that their children have to change schools, this does ease people's minds.

In DeKalb, we have no such standards. So, right now, if redistricting were to move some students from one high school to another, there is the very real possibility that those students could go from a school with X number of APs and advanced classes to one with Y. In addition, at the elementary and middle level, electives and specials varies greatly.

In Cobb, while parents may not like the lines, they can't really stand up and say by moving my child to ABC middle school, you are removing their ability to take a foreign language. In DCSS, this might be a valid argument.

Anonymous said...

We are required to pay for individual AP exams at private schools for which we are already paying $20,000 a year in tuition. We received 4 hours of college credit for 3s each on 2 AP exams at an out of state university (although not for the specific subject tested -- e.g. not for calculus and not for physics but they applied for general required credit hours). I don't think it is fair for the tax payer to cover these expenses for kids who often times appear for the exam (I've proctored 3 or 4 of them at Lakeside) and put their head down and don't complete the tests. They need some "skin in the game." Further, if they earn the 3, 4 or 5 the $87 is cheap credit for 3 or 4 college hours.

Anonymous said...

We are required to pay for individual AP exams at private schools for which we are already paying $20,000 a year in tuition. We received 4 hours of college credit for 3s each on 2 AP exams at an out of state university (although not for the specific subject tested -- e.g. not for calculus and not for physics but they applied for general required credit hours). I don't think it is fair for the tax payer to cover these expenses for kids who often time appear for the exam (I've proctored 3 or 4 of them at Lakeside) and put their head down and don't complete the tests. They need some "skin in the game." Further, if they earn the 3, 4 or 5 the $87 is cheap credit for 3 or 4 college hours.

Sandy Spruill said...

@ Anonymous August 29, 1:41 PM

Before Chamblee Middle there was no middle school. Student went to elementary school (Montgomery for my children) through 7th grade. They started at CHS in 8th grade as "subbies" (sub-freshmen).

pscexb said...

Kim, interestingly you can find out more information about Briarcliff on Wikipedia. Same goes for Druid Hills and Shamrock.

We should acknowledge that the Druid Hills/Emory connection is strong in DeKalb County. I don't know this to be a fact but I would surmise that politics may have played a part in some of the decisions. We also have to factor in the M to M was in place and there were some in the community that did not like that as a remedy for addressing the lawsuit. The size of the schools also pitted one community against another with respect to who remained as high school as repurposing was being discussed.

According to the infomation I read, Briarcliff had an enrollment of around 500 when it closed. Chamblee and Cross Keys also had a dwindling enrollments at that time. Schools in south DeKalb were increasing in size and those residents were demanding equity. FWIW, this was also around the time the first junior high schools were built, Miller Grove, Salem, then Chapel Hill.

Briarcliff was built in 1959 and probably did not have the same kind of advocacy effort as Druid Hills. It was hard to justify keeping all these smaller high schools open, especially since we were also going into a recession and attempting to comply with the lawsuit.

There are others in the community and on this blog that may have additional insight or perhaps another perspective. This reflects my understanding and if it could be corrected, I'd appreciate it. Perhaps my other friend, sonofawecomeonnow may know more.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me DCSS is always trying to play catch up. The leaderships indecision's and bickering has never helped the system.

Every 10 to 20 years there are shifts in population. I live in the "no mans land area" between Chamblee and Dunwoody. Our area, including Chamblee & Dunwoody, is the second fastest growing in the metro area, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission. Young families are filling up the homes and complexes.

My perception is DCSS ignores the growth and then once the schools are overcrowded they have a knee jerk reaction and by the time the decisions are made, it's too late to improve the situation.

I'm glad Drake is on board, let's hope the BOE follows his lead and drops their incessant bickering and "if you close a school here you must close one there" attitude. Sarah, Zepora you hear that?

If there is a school with less than 350 kids, it's time we do something. Balance the zones! I know some parents will screech and holler and more! But if we continue down this current path, DCSS is doomed and we would have missed the perfect opportunity to do something that is right.

It's also time we vote out the 5 up for re-election and we totally change the top leadership that has taken advantage of every student, teacher and parent in the ENTIRE county!

Anonymous said...

@9:40. Couldn't have said this better. Thank you for noting it. People are critical of parents for looking out for their kids, but how fair is it that they have access to, say, a foreign language, if they attend school A but not if they attend school B. The problem is that there is not consistency across the schools. Same with AP, art or music.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that for the most part the overcrowded schools are clustered together as are the underutilized ones. There are a few exceptions, but this is generally the current pattern in DCSS.

Balancing the zones will be easier said than done, because we have clustered our elementary schools in such a way that most people are closer to the school they go to, than any other school.

For those who dislike Kim's suggestions of larger schools, this plays into the same argument. People want their children in their community's schools.

No Duh said...

Perhaps parents could see an opportunity to "bargain" with DCSS once lines are redrawn. i.e. We will act like mature adults when you announce the changes if you ensure that X foreign language or X AP classes follow our children into their newly districted school.

Remember people, it's not the buildings that are educating the students.

No Duh said...

Also, if history is any indicator, if y'all keep throwing this Drake guy's name around and singing his praises, he's sure to get canned in a month or two!!

Anonymous said...

Ann 9:40's point is well made. If I knew my kids would get the same opportunities at another school, I would not have a problem with being redistricted. As it is, we are fortunate to live in an elementary district that provides a very satisfactory education. The school I would see our neighborhood redistricted to would not have the same opportunities.

However, BECAUSE our elementary school provides these opportunities, it is over-enrolled with admin transfers - 197 by last year's count. For me to "act like an adult" about redistricting, I would need to see either the transfers not counted (thus creating 197 more in-district seats in the count) or the same choices offered to my children at the new elementary school.

Here's the dilemma - I understand that there is huge inequality in the school system, but these are my kids! Do I reduce my kid's opportunities so other people's kids can have them, just because they have an aunt, uncle, mom, grandma or mom's friend in the Central Office?

Anonymous said...

No Duh! Great point about mentioning Drake too much. Knowing DCSS, it's probably already being discussed.. However, if our BOE keeps making him the enemy, the ARC or a private company would be very likely to hire him.

Indeed the buildings do not teach the kids, DCSS will definitely need to provide some concessions for the parents having to move, like offering the same choices at the other schools. Cobb County offers mostly the same instruction in all schools, that is doable here, as long as the BOE can commit to do it and not just talk but act!

We're a long way from seeing major changes at DCSS. A new BOE majority could certainly help start us down the right path.

Anonymous said...

It isn't as doable in DeKalb as it is in other metro systems, because we have this huge range in school size.

As a parent, I don't trust DCSS. Do you? Right now, there is a shortage of math and science teachers, so how exactly is a school that doesn't have AP Biology suddenly going to have it? This is just an example, not a literal question.

First, smooth out the academic unevenness and then redistrict, not the other way around.

Cerebration said...

We all must remember that the reason the schools clustered in south DeKalb need to be consolidated is very much due to the fact that the board has approved and supported so many theme, charter and magnet schools in this area. These specialty "boutique" schools have peeled all of their students away from the existing neighborhood schools, leaving them unsustainable at their new, trimmed down populations.

To read the article on this blog highlighting this history of student transfers, click here-
North vs Central vs South - what's the deal?

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 12:07

"Right now, there is a shortage of math and science teachers, so how exactly is a school that doesn't have AP Biology suddenly going to have it?"

Which is exactly why Ms. Tyson ad Dr. Beasley need to send some of the Instructional Coaches and Instructional Coordinators into the science and math classrooms. Let some of the Instructional Coaches take on two schools to free up others to teach students in these "hard to fill" areas.

Anonymous said...

Kim. Thamnks for your candid thoughts and reasonable questions. I wonder if we can ever get to the point that in the education of our children there are no losers. Is it a zero sum game? Can we all band togather for the common good? Is every boy we disagree with and idiot or crook? Could we every assume that there are people in the school system who are there for our students, didn't want a new admininstrative complex, and don't belong in jail? As with the rest of America we seem to abe dividing our society into haves and have nots. How much do taxpayers spend per inmate versus per pupil? Is there really conspiracy everywhere or are the parnoid people out to get me (sorry for the humor)? Would all this happen in a society that really valued education? Let's find a board that can make and enforce wise policies, some professionals who can follow them, and some trust in ourselves so that we can also trust those who work with us.

Anonymous said...

Can we please go back to talking about building issues? Please start another post to discuss AP. I would love to come to school and not see large yellow trash cans catching the leaks from the AC. It would be nice for the air to work in all rooms. Be fair to all of the schools. Have someone review the AC needs of the schools. About three to four years ago, Dr. Tim Freeman was in charge of a survey to evaluate the needs of the schools. Someone went to every school and looked at the condition. There were school based committees to discuss the greatest needs of the school. That is as far as it went. There are old schools in all parts of the DCSS. You want your kids to do better on AP Test? Provide them with a building that has good air and heat. Provide clean water fountains. The same classes that have been hot all year, will soon be cold all year. Things are patched but never fully fixed.
Use this money to fix the heating and air systems in these old buildings. The Chamblee Annex students and staff are very fortunate. I bet the air works in that facility. Someone can be a great principal but that does not make him a great person to run Plant Services. Start a bolg to find out the problems with the heating and air. It is not the fault of the workers. There needs to be more of them and on going training. The heat and air systems in certain buildings have reached their life span. The community that can make the most noise usually gets their heating and air fixed. The other schools have to suffer. That is not fair. All students deserve a building that has proper heat and air. You want to stop the transfers? Fix the leaks, heat, air and water fountains.

Anonymous said...

Cerebration: You should take a closer look at the schools in all the neighborhoods (perhaps look at the central and north as well as the south). I think you'll be surprised to see that not every school in these neighborhoods have music or pe or language. Indeed, with budget cuts, you may be in a school that had something (and that is why you bought that house in that neighborhood), only to find that it doesn't exist now. But, you look around and a school not more than 5 minutes away has that program. This is NOT merely a south Dekalb problem and it does not relate solely to the use of magnets and themes. It is about decentralized prioritization, and the lack of concern that all students have access to the arts and foreign language skills. It has everything to do with teaching to the test, and striving to achieve scores, not learning.

Look at the state goals for RT3 - tracking databases, training, NOT hands-on learning, not science kits, not deciding that every child should have a second language, not music - not learning by children in classrooms. It is about THE TEST! It is not about instruction, it is not about learning. I'm sure I will be told I'm misinformed, but this is my perception.

Anonymous said...

No Duh. I must agree with you. Once attendance lines are moved, you do have bargaining power. When we had the Henderson/Lakeside merger, parents at Henderson were promised an equivalent program. We found that the orchestra program at Lakeside was not as strong as the program we had at Henderson. We worked with the school and the program improved quickly. I think we would all be happier with DCSS if equivalent programs were offered at all schools. Art, science labs, music, PE should be available to every DCSS elementary school student.

Anonymous said...

9:38 science labs in all elementary schools would be great but DCSS really needs to focus on bringing all the high school science labs into the 21st century first. Lakeside's science labs are so old they are a hazard to use, so labs are very basic there. The equipment is outdated and labs don't happen in the manner they would if they had updated equipment. The teachers put up their own money (used to anyway before pay cuts), and require students bring in money for labs.

Anonymous said...

To Anon:
August 29, 2010 5:53 PM

Go to the web sites of the colleges.
Search "AP credit".
It is all spelled out for you there.

If you cannot find the information, call or email an admission rep (or better yet, have your student who wants to attend these schools contact the school).
They will (in my experience) be happy to be very clear on how they deal with AP Credit.
But, in general, a 4 or 5 gets a student credit of some sort from many excellent schools all around the country.
$87 is pretty cheep compared to the cost of a class at Emory etc.

Anonymous said...

Our school had new doors put in. The thing is what was wrong with the old doors? NOTHING!!! However, whenever it rains there's a garbage can outside my classroom collecting the water!!!

Anonymous said...

If they were entrance/exit doors, it is possible they were replaced to accommodate the improvements in the security systems.des

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 6:46

That's what's so upsetting to taxpayers who have been in DeKalb a long time. The county used to pay for all capital improvements (i.e. buildings and technology) out of general operations funds (We had no SPLOST). Schools were on schedules to get new roofs every so many years, floors were on a different schedule. This happened for all schools.

More and more DCSS funds have been going to the massive "jobs program" of non-teaching employees leaving many of our teachers and students in terrible conditions.

Anonymous said...

My guess is the new doors are ADA complient. The change is in the handle - you can push down on them to open the doors vs. the older ones that you have to grab and turn to open.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:05,

You recall when ALL cpaital improvements were done out of the general budget? That must have been before the school system existed because I thought they passed bonds (paid for by property owners) for capital projects. It should be noted that SPLOST began in 1997 because capital needs exceeded what could be paid from from the operating budget and bonds. This also allowed a way to spread the costs and lift a burden off property owners.

In 1996 when Dr. Freeman retired, DCSS had about 13,000 employees. Now we have around 15,000 some of which are part time. I don't know how many of those in Freeman's last year were part time.

The point being part of the employee increases have to do with compliance to government regulations. Another part could the changing classroom, i.e. Pre-K added to elementary schools, technology added to all schools, more schools, etc. When Barnes lowered classroom sizes, that required hiring additional teachers.

You have anything to back up your points?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said,

We all have a golden opportunity in November to help create the change our school system so desperately needs. We can start by supporting superb candidates like Donna Edler for District 7. There will be a Meet and Greet on Wednesday, Sept. 1st at 971 Springdale Rd. (between Ponce and The By Way) from 7:30pm-9pm. Even if we all cannot vote for some of these candidates, we still can donate to their campaigns, volunteer to make calls, send out emails, etc. Now is the time to put all of this talk into action. We cannot rest until the DCSS BOE has been totally transformed into a professional, well respected, functioning board. Our children deserve no less.

Anonymous said...

I do not know who is correct anon
9.05AM or anon 1:45 PM. But DCSS has the second (by only a small .025 ) tax millage rate.

Maybe bonds were issued before to cover capital expenses. But maybe the system was just as overloaded then as it is now.

SPLOST is used, probably largely, as a crutch to free up tax money to create more jobs and pay the inflated salaries,

Anonymous said...

Bond money paid for a tremendous amount of capital improvements. The first SPLOST I was used to pay off the outstanding bond debt.

Routine maintenance went to h*ll in a hand basket when SPLOST began.

Anonymous said...

SPLOST is used, probably largely, as a crutch to free up tax money to create more jobs and pay the inflated salaries,

Are you kidding me? Do you think there is 100 million a year in inflated salaries and job creation?


Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 2:41, please tell me you realize that SPLOST revenues CANNOT be used for salaries. Those revenues can only be used to pay of bonds, capital needs, and technology acquisitions.

As stated earlier, capital needs exceeded what the general budget could fund, partly because we have so many schools. Property owners were begging for relief from constant bond referendums. SPLOST generates income from everyone that makes a purchase in the county and takes the full burden for addressing capital improvements off property owners.

If we want to reduce capital expenditures, we need to reduce the number of schools. We could probably reduce the number of employees substantially by doing this also. It is interesting that Gwinnett has 50% more students than DeKalb yet 25% fewer schools. We may have to give up our small, neighborhood schools to begin realizing savings.

Anonymous said...


This. We have to many schools.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me? Do you think there is 100 million a year in inflated salaries and job creation?"

Yes. I do.

Anonymous said...

I agree Anon 3:57. If not $100 million, close to it.

Anonymous said...

We have done the math here and even eliminating all those positions, not just reducing salaries, doesn't come close to 100 million dollars.


Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 2:59

While I agree that there is a need to consolidate schools, here's one example of the way SPLOST can accommodate paying for something besides capital outlay. Ordinarily, if we outsourced a job function - for example - the custodians to clean our buildings - this payment for services rendered would not be under SPLOST.

Look at how SPLOST is used in the technology end of DCSS. The installation and ongoing maintenance of the computers and Activboards is built into the price of the equipment from Dell (used to be built into HP when they were the vendor). Here are BOE meeting notes. In addition, taxpayers pay around $19,000,000 in salary and benefits to around 290 employees. Most taxpayers/parents assume these individuals are installing and maintaining these computers, but as you can see, Dell is performing this function with SPLOST dollars. That's how we have ended up with so few computers per classroom (2 for classes of 30+).

BOE meeting 10/01/07:
"It is recommended that the Board of Education award RFP 8-10 Workstations, Laptops, & Services to Dell Computers as the lowest responsible, responsive bid. Unit costs are as follows:

Basic workstation: $734.96
Laptop: $891.25

Under the Capital Improvements Plan, MIS estimates the procurement of approximately 10,000 – 12,000 computers which yields a projected total of $10,000,000.00 over a five year period. All purchases will be made in accordance with Board Policy and purchases $50,000.00 or higher will require BOE approval.

The purpose of this recommendation is to provide workstations, laptops, and associated services for technology initiatives for instructional and administrative programs under the Capital Improvement Program 2007-2012.

Presented by: Ms. Ramona Tyson, Associate Superintendent, Management Information Systems

RFP 8-10 is a five-year award with a required annual renewal by the Board of Education. Services which are included in the price include warehousing, imaging, delivery, installation, configuration, and on-site warranty. The vendor will also provide the lockdown device and the disposal of packaging materials from school property as a part of the price. Schools and departments will be able to purchase from the bid using local, federal, and grant funds."

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 4:15

"We have done the math here and even eliminating all those positions, not just reducing salaries, doesn't come close to 100 million dollars.

Sorry. "

Who is "We"? And where is "here"?

Strangely enough, Ramona Tyson says the almost exactly the same thing. She stated on the DCSS website that there is not $100,000,000 in savings if she cut all Central Office personnel (see below) - LOL - like that's a reason not to cut some of them!

DCSS could save $14,000,000 by a 20% reduction in the Central Office and we would still have close to 1,000 Central Employees. Or how about a 30% reduction in the Central Office which equates to $22,000,000 a year in savings, and we would still have 850+ Central Office employees.

Why not reemploy 20% to 30% of the certificated Central Office personnel as teachers with teacher's pay? Actually, since most of the certificated personnel in the Central Office average at least twice the pay of teachers, the employees could teach and DCSS would still save money. That's a valid idea if you don't consider DCSS a "jobs program".

Currently, we have approximately 1 Central Office employee for every 5 teachers. We need more teachers, not more Central Office non-teaching personnel. Furthermore, student achievement has declined every year for the last eight years. So are we getting our money's worth from this overstaffed group?

Taxpayers/parents would rather see smaller class sizes so that students can receive more individual attention.

You sound eerily like Ms. Tyson's webpage:
"Similarly, less than 10.0% of the budget is dedicated to central office salaries and benefits. This means that if all central office staff were to be eliminated, a reduction of less than $73.5 million would result. "

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 4:17, good find! I will assume that labor costs can be included in technology procurement under installation/maintenance services. In the long run, it is cheaper to 'rent a body' that is skilled in these services than hire someone who may leave after training them. The hardware warranty protects the district for the contract term if anything happens to a machine making it unusable.

Based on the numbers provided, it looks like approximately 1 new computer for every 9-10 students. Though most of the older computers are obsolete, perhaps they could be used as internet only machines. It would be a good idea to procure more computers with SPLOST surpluses.

It would be interesting to see what employees are in the MIS cost center. Did someone mention earlier the computer techs based at the schools are in this cost center? If true, that would explain this headcount.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 4:44,

I realize you threw out numbers as a supposition however everyone must realize that just because you cut the people, it does not eliminate the work. What do you think the impact would be if you eliminated 20% of the central office staff and shifted those responsibilities to other employees, including those in the schools?

I consider myself a smart person but not smart enough to say what job functions are needed, could be outsourced or consolidated, or eliminated. I agree that another performance/salary audit is needed to help guide everyone with this process. If reducing jobs compromises classroom instruction, we must ask ourselves what is important.

Anonymous said...

The audit that Clew hid suggested a lot of cuts and that Central Office personnel were way overpaid for their jobs. We don't need to fire everyone, I think we need to cut their salaries down to size.

Philandrea Guilroy, is being paid over $115,000 dollars to run a cable access channel, PDS 24. A comparable job at Comcast or Charter cable companies, tops out at $75,000. Even the commercial TV channels like 2, 5, and 11, their production managers salaries top out at $85,000/year. I work in the industry and know this as fact. I guess being the daughter of former Board Chair, Francis Edwards, has it's advantages.

While we are talking about the Edwards, let's not forget about Francis' son, Jamal "where's waldo" Edwards, he got a $15k raise for a new job in MIS and never showed up for 6 months. It took parents to bring this to his boss, Ramona Tyson's attention, who had no idea he had not shown up for his $55k/year job, while approving his pay/time slips.

See? Just two examples. I bet there are many more just like this. I believe if Clew, had done what the audit told him to do, we wouldn't be screaming for transparency today.

There are a lot of jobs that can be eliminated, trust me. There are employees hiding out in warehouses, trucks, cars and other places who are doing other jobs while on the taxpayer dime. This is what needs to be exposed and dealt with. The DCSS gravy train has run off the tracks and we should not allow it to get back on.

Ms. Tyson there is a huge perception problem and trust issue with the current leadership. Why has that audit disappeared from the website. I plan to ask Ms. Tyson tomorrow at the DCPC, to place that audit back into public view, if she wants to begin to regain my trust in DCSS.. I know it's an old audit, but why did Clew take it offline? What's in it that they do not want us to see?

Dekalbparent said...

Before Lewis departed DCSS, was he not talking about re-assigning certified CO personnel and certified support personnel to the schools to teach? There was even a kerfluffle about whether they would keep their CO salaries or drop to teacher salaries,, or keep the higher one for a year and then drop down...

What ever happened to that?

Anonymous said...

The school board is going to protect whistle blowers.

Why does this scare me!

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 5:12

"I realize you threw out numbers as a supposition however everyone must realize that just because you cut the people, it does not eliminate the work. What do you think the impact would be if you eliminated 20% of the central office staff and shifted those responsibilities to other employees, including those in the schools?"

What do you think the impact was on students when teacher positions were cut? Look at the budget Ms. Tyson proposed, and DCSS is now following.

Ms Tyson took a page from Dr. Lewis's pagebook. For the 2009 - 2010 year, Dr. Lewis decided to do away with 275 teaching positions to reduce the budget. Did he do studies to see which cuts to which teacher positions in which schools would impact students the most? Did he consider what would happen to student achievement when teachers took on greater class sizes? The answer is no. He took 275 and multiplied it by $65,000, the average teacher's salary, and to come up with a number. That's also what Ms. Tyson based her reduction of teacher points (positions) on - very simple math for a situation that requires a deeper level of critical thinking skills if students are truly the prime consideration.

Does anyone think it is more efficacious for students when Ms. Tyson makes percentage cuts to teacher positions, but ensures DCSS does not make percentage cuts to the Central Office personnel?

Approximately 57% of the DCSS $1,000,000,000 budget ($570,000,000) goes somewhere besides teacher salaries and benefits. Furthermore, the lions share of this is not even the Central Office, but rather in Support services. Cutting 17% of this admin and support figure would solve our $100,000,000 budget hole.

Why couldn't Ms. Tyson ask all departments outside of teachers to make a 17% reduction in their budget? They don't necessarily have to let staff go if they can make that 17% reduction in other ways. Let the heads of the departments present how they will achieve this (job sharing, outsourcing, reduction in pay, furloughs, etc.). Ms. Tyson would make the final decision. Most businesses do it this way.

Why would teachers be exempt in this scenario? Because in a recession, the last place you cut is the core of your business. An adequate number of teachers for our students is critical to students success, and student success is the ONLY reason DCSS exists. We've lost our focus on this one.

Anonymous said...

DeKalb Parent,

When the number of positions jumped from 40ish to wherever it ended up, the expectation that these would be reassignments rather than layoffs changed. They became layoffs and therefore no jobs were given.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 5:03 pm

"Based on the numbers provided, it looks like approximately 1 new computer for every 9-10 students. Though most of the older computers are obsolete, perhaps they could be used as internet only machines. It would be a good idea to procure more computers with SPLOST surpluses."

Actually, those numbers are not correct. Each teacher has a dedicated computer which students cannot use. MIS decided a number of years ago that students cannot touch teacher machines. They cited that students may use software to record the teacher's keystrokes and obtain teacher passwords. So that's around 6,500 computer out of 12,000 off limits to students. Then there's the Central Office of over 1,200 employees, each one with a dedicated computer. Obviously, those are not accessible to students. Then there are numerous support functions that have computers - MIS, service center, etc. Once all those computers are accounted for, there is very little left for students - at most 2 per 30+ students in the classroom.

MIS has made it mandatory that computers that are old are not maintained since that would put a burden on the CTSSs. That's what the contract with Dell is for.

Most of the people who are in management positions are Network people, and they concentrate on "pushing out" the software applications to the school servers. Indeed, the certification that is necessary for a CTSS is a network certification. They are not trained in the academic software. If it gets "pushed out" to the school server, the icon appears on the teacher's or a student computer desktop, and the program opens, it is considered a successful install. That's why the teachers and students have so many problems - MIS pushes it out and then waits to see if the teacher or students have a problem with the software. This creates much havoc for teachers whose job requires they rely on a program (e.g. eSis, benchmark scanning software, a new Word update for their students in the technology labs, any online programs that DCSS subscribes to that require DCSS servers to interface, etc.) Now you see why teachers get frustrated with using technology in DCSS schools. This department really needs an overhaul. Students from more affluent areas have access to technology through their homes, and students who have parents without access to technology just have to do the best they can.

Anonymous said...

Did you even read the article on whistleblowers? Only Zepora Roberts voted against it, so I am guessing you support her?

Anonymous said...

When you have 6 people doing the job that one person can accomplish, you can let some people go!

This is what is happening at the Palace. I know! Please cut them down to size! If they can't, then maybe Independent School Districts or Charter Clusters are the way to go. Then the taxpayers might have a little more local control on how the money is spent!

This is one of the reasons they justified the Palace, the old office on North Decatur was too small for all the administrators and instructional coaches they were hiring to fit in!

How come Gwinnett can run a larger system with far fewer folks in the their central office? It might not be perfect world, but I'm just saying.....

Anonymous said...

BOE protecting whistleblowers. No, In no way do I support any member of the BOE. I would not count on them to have my back either. That is what scares me. How is it anyone could think they would be protected by the group that may by ommission or commission be a party to the ongoing suspect enterprise!

Now I would count on the DA's office or Feds to have my back. I would go to them first rather than offer anything (evidence, testimony, etc.) to the BOE!

Anonymous said...

@8:29 I wonder how a retired telemarketer could afford a nice new outfit to wear at most every public appearance for years. She must have a big closet and clothing budget to match.

And her vote on a Whistleblower policy, yea...right.

Good thing the ethics policy is strengthened... yea, right.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 5:12 said,

Why couldn't Ms. Tyson ask all departments outside of teachers to make a 17% reduction in their budget? They don't necessarily have to let staff go if they can make that 17% reduction in other ways. Let the heads of the departments present how they will achieve this (job sharing, outsourcing, reduction in pay, furloughs, etc.). Ms. Tyson would make the final decision. Most businesses do it this way.

Interesting thought however we must remember that bus drivers and cafeteria workers were excluded from reductions. Let's say you have on average 5 cafeteria workers for 140 schools then about 900 bus drivers, you are looking at 1600 employees. This is probably a low estimate of the size of that workforce.

Compensation (which comes out of the general operations budget) for all employees is roughly 90% of the $746 million, which is about $671 million. When you consider the FY2011 budget is over 12% less than FY2010, we are cutting functions once deemed essential. The only way to impact a budget of this size is to slow down or eliminate compensation & increases. Teachers have not had a raise in over two years and have not had their retirement funded. This has had a devastating effect on morale. Though our teachers are professionals, it probably has had some impact on instruction.

Because teacher compensation makes up a large part of the overall compensation, it would be difficult to make the cuts you propose if teachers protected from these actions.

No Duh said...

From the AJC article: "Under the new policy, employees are encouraged to report any fraud, waste or any other forms of abuse without retaliation."

Line forms to the left...

Where do parents go to report "fraud, waste and any other forms of abuse without retaliation?"

Anonymous said...

Most of the time when you speak out and try to do the best job possible, you are punished by this system. That's been my reality.

I'll bet all of us can think of examples where this has proven true. Sad, huh?

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:32

"Compensation (which comes out of the general operations budget) for all employees is roughly 90% of the $746 million, which is about $671 million. "

Actually, the total revenue is over $1,000,000,000.

I'm not sure what your point is here. I think that the expenditure for transportation and food services workers should be reduced. We spend around $34,000,000 for transportation workers including salary and benefits. We spend about $21,000,000 for cafeteria workers including salary and benefits. No department should be exempt when trying to ensure our students have an adequate number of competent instructors.

The 2004 audit which Dr. Lewis refused to act upon said that DCSS is overpaying non-teaching personnel by around $15,000,000 a year, and teaching personnel were being paid on or below the rest of the metro area. If Lewis had acted upon the recommendations of the independent auditors (Ernst and Young) this would have equaled around $90,000,000 in savings for the last 6 years. I agree with you that there should be another audit, however, forgive my skepticism as to the outcome. There was an audit in the late 90s as well, and the same results were found (overpayment of non-teaching personnel). Nothing was done in the way of right sizing our personnel expenses in the non-teaching sector then either. Will another audit be a reason to continue the DCSS "jobs program" because an audit is being conducted. And then will the results be buried like the last two audits have been?

Across the board reductions in non-teaching budgetary centers would enable us to reduce class sizes which is what parents/taxpayers want because they know this is the only way to increase their child's academic achievement.

Additional testing, lengthy lesson plans, staff development, Instructional Coaches, threats of unemployment to teachers, America's Choice, etc. will not overcome class sizes of 36 and 39 (BOE just allowed these class sizes for core and other classes). A teacher only has so many hours in an instructional day to divide among a set number of students. If you increase his/her student load, mathematically his/her time for each student will decrease.

If DCSS cannot trim the admin and support ranks budgetary outlay in order to fund reasonable class sizes, student achievement will take an even sharper decline.

Frustrated teacher said...

Next time you go to your child's school, ask the teachers how many of them know how to use the Promethean boards as anything other than a screen. The great majority of teachers don't know how to use this technology effectively--meaning, with all the bells and whistles that distinguish it from just a projection screen--and they have not been given adequate training in using it.

All the money that has gone to this project is essentially wasted, and the learning benefits are nil. Worse than nil, for in most cases, these boards have been hung in front of the classroom's regular board, and so many teachers are left with virtually no space to write.

It's our money--why was it spent this way, and why have training and support not been provided?

Anonymous said...

"Why has that audit disappeared from the website. I plan to ask Ms. Tyson tomorrow at the DCPC, to place that audit back into public view, if she wants to begin to regain my trust in DCSS.. I know it's an old audit, but why did Clew take it offline? What's in it that they do not want us to see? "

The 2004 Compensation and Classification audit that taxpayers paid $341,000 for is not available as a supporting document to the April 1, 2004 BOE meeting. None of the notes or minutes for the April 1, 2004 are online at DCSS eBoard (BOE members website):

The AJC published an article April 2, 2004 regarding the BOE meeting where Ernst and Young consultant Jim Landry presented his summary of DCSS Compensation and Classification Study. This article, published April 2, 2004 (Friday), says “Jim Landry told school board members Thursday” which would have placed this meeting on April 1, 2004 (Thursday) .

Reviewing the BOE website, there is no information about this April 1 meeting meeting except it is referred to in notes of the BOE meeting held May 3, 2004 so we know it was held. See BOE meeting notes from May 3, 2004:
It is requested that minutes of the called work session held on April 1, the called meeting held on April 12, the work session and business meeting held on April 12, the called meeting held on April 19, the called meeting held on April 21, the called meeting held on April 28, and the work session and meeting held on May 3, 2004, be approved." (But no minutes exist of the called meeting from April 1, 2004)

Anonymous said...

@ Frustrated teacher 11:53

"All the money that has gone to this project is essentially wasted, and the learning benefits are nil. Worse than nil, for in most cases, these boards have been hung in front of the classroom's regular board, and so many teachers are left with virtually no space to write.

Here are BOE minutes of Ms. Tyson proposing them and their cost ($6,000,000):

Ms. Ramona Tyson, Associate Superintendent, Management Information System, 678.676.1134

Supporting Documents Executive Summary RFP8-16 Bid Abstract IAB.xls IAB Deployment Strategy
Requested Action It is recommended that the Board of Education award RFP 8-16 Interactive Board Solution (IAB) to Dell Marketing as the lowest responsible responsive bidder for the purchase of up to 1,500 interactive boards at a cost not to exceed $6,000,000.00.

Unit Costs are as follows:

Solution #1 (Ceiling Mounted) $ 3,692.97
Solution #2 (Short Throw) $ 4,286.89
Solution #3 (Mobile/Stand) $ 3,582.38
Student Response System (32 per set) $ 1,838.00

Optional Items:
* Interactive LCD Panel $ 1,420.00
* Document Camera $ 596.99
* VGA/Splitter Amplifier $ 92.69
* Bulb replacement for solution #1 $ 92.96
* Bulb replacement for solution #2 $ 92.96
* Bulb replacement for solution #3 $ 275.00

* These items were listed in the RFP as optional items and were not included in the evaluation criteria; although they may be purchased as needed at the costs listed above.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago, there was a horrible situation at one of my children's schools. The parents began complaining, though the situation really impacted teachers. The now retired area superintendent didn't want to believe us. Our teachers were too frightened to come forward, even though "we had their backs."

Things got bad enough that the parents were able to document and get action taken on their own.

What this policy says is that an employee can't be fired or be retaliated against for being a whistleblower. If the employee can't trust the board or central office, and goes to the DA instead, then they are protected.

If DCSS fires them or in any other way retaliates, then the system can easily face a legal challenge. Because of this policy, the system would surely lose.

Anonymous said...

Re: Bus driver and cafeteria workers salaries. They were excluded from the salary cuts because their salaries were so small.

Anonymous said...

Time will tell if these recent policy changes will cause employees to report wrongdoings. We need to be honest, there are employees that have dealt with unwanted sexual advances, psycho adminstrators, workplace intimidation, etc. yet feared they might lose their job if they reported this. This is not unique to this school system as unreported bad behavior occurs in many workplaces around the country.

This is a positive step only if the employees believe it is.

Anonymous said...

Teacher training across DCSS is poor. It's not just the active boards. DCSS uses a train the trainer model. This means that There are people in central office trained who then train one or two people from a school, who then train the teachers in the school. I have worked in larger school systems than DCSS and have been trained by people from the company.

When teachers have questions, they have to ask the "expert teachers" in their schools, who have to ask someone else, and it takes forever to get an answer, if one is received at all.

Using a smart board for the way that they were intended takes time. Where do teachers get this time, when they have so much paper work and such to do? Plus it has to be figured out. If a smart board is not in your room, it is difficult for a teacher to make time to learn. I realize that there are many lessons already on the web for smart boards, but usually a teacher needs to tweak it to the GA standards or their classes needs.

If we want better teachers, we need to demand better teacher training. This could easily be achieved if we got rid of unnecessary positions like coaches, administrators, and others who make far too much money for the actual work that their job requires and/or experience.

Better trained teachers would mean better teachers. I have worked in very large city schools, much larger than DeKalb,and have received superior training from what is available in DeKalb. It can be done, but the focus needs to be on educating the children and not employing adults.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 6:13
"Re: Bus driver and cafeteria workers salaries. They were excluded from the salary cuts because their salaries were so small."

If transportation or food services can be done for less, then that needs to happen whether with wage reduction, outsourcing, etc. Both food services and transportation workers get very good health care benefits for themselves and their families. For family coverage, DCSS pays in excess of $10,000 a year in health benefits alone excluding retirement contributions of over 10% of his/her salary. So even a worker paid $10,000 in essence makes at least $20,000 in salary and benefits. We have more support personnel than teachers (around 7,300 support to 6,500 teachers). This figure needs to be rightsized.

I really don't mean to sound cruel, but asking students to attend increasingly crowded classes because we want to ensure everyone is currently employed, has a good wage and good benefits is not what the school system is about.

Ensuring students are in manageable class sizes with competent teachers and abundant access to cutting edge science and technology equipment is the ONLY goal of DCSS. This is students' one shot at a decent education. Everything DCSS does should be centered around that.

Anonymous said...

I am not arguing with you, I was just explaining the reasoning.

If we had fewer schools, we would have less costs in food service for sure and probably transportation.

Speaking of transportation, as unbelievable as it may seem, though not published anywhere, DCSS is running a shuttle from Dunwoody to both KMS and CMS. It is suppose to be a secret.

Anonymous said...

Teacher Coaches is another place where salaries need to be right sized to that of the teacher pay scale. It has been my experience that coaches are paid on the teacher scale not above it.

Also our secretaries are way over paid. We have secretaries with no college education making more than teachers. Our superintendent secretaries are especially over paid. Doing a search of superintendent secretaries they usually make about $50,000 with experience, not nearly $100,000.

Salaries need to be right sized and positions that are unnecessary need to be eliminated. Our school board needs to focus on educating our children. We don't need more funds to do this, but rather spend what we have in a responsible way.

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