Monday, January 24, 2011

Why no consolidations yet? What happened to "Plan A"?

Question:  Tell me again, why exactly could we not consolidate the original 23 schools that are costing so much money to operate, simply due to the enormous waste and redundant administrative costs because of superbly low enrollments? Why did we have to put those consolidations on hold while we arm-wrestle the entire rest of the system over redistricting?  It's the consolidating that will save us the money.  Yes, redistricting needs to occur, but I just, for the life of me, can't figure out why we diverged so far away from the original plan to consolidate under-enrolled schools into the massive, bizarre sideshow of charrettes and redrawing attendance lines countywide that we have now.

One of our best data mining bloggers kindly developed a map showing the schools in District 5 that are slated to be closed in the current MGT consolidation proposal. Why did this not get done before school started in August?  This is a slam-dunk way to save the system money.  But politics seems to have intervened and we are somewhere in Oz at the moment instead.

Anyway, above is the map.  Click here to link to it for yourself.  These schools are very close together. In fact, our blogger did the math and measured the distances between schools for you to review (via roads, of course, not as the crow flies). What on earth is the hold-up here? I am have a seizure trying to figure out how we got to the crossroads we stand at today.

Atherton to Rowland - 1 mile

Atherton to Canby Lane - 1.5 miles

Glen Haven to Snapfinger - 2 miles

Glen Haven to Knollwood - 2 miles

Peachcrest to Midway - 1 mile

Gresham Park to Meadowview - 1 mile

Gresham Park to Flat Shoals - 2 miles

Sky Haven to Meadowview - 2.5 miles

Sky Haven to Kelley Lake - 3.5 miles


Anonymous said...

Like 4 years ago, there are BOE members who think if you do something to their district, everyone must suffer! That's why the task force from last year was an utter failure and waste of time, thanks to SCW and Zepora Roberts.

I sure would like to hear Ms. Tyson answer the questions in this thread. now that she got the raise maybe she can start answering our questions.

Why are trying to do so much when there are so many questions unanswered about this whole process.

Let's start with consolidation and then after audits of the Central Office, the "education" programs, magnets and Audria's Berry's Army then we can move forward and keep what's successful and scuttle the rest.

Insider said...

During the CPTF, the folks who would be affected by consolidations screamed that the consolidations needed to wait and be done as part of a system-wide redistricting. Now, people who would be affected by the redistricting are screaming that the consolidations need to be done now and leave the redistricting till later.

You can't have it both ways, folks.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that's all there is to it. Consolidating those schools might help, but there are still other issues in the county that need to be addressed. To wit: Vanderlyn, Austin and Chesnut are all overcrowded while Dunwoody Elementary -- A BRAND NEW SCHOOL-- has hundreds of empty seats! We -- the taxpayers-- are hemhorraging money on renting, cooling, heating and maintaining trailers while empty seats are a few hundred yards away. This is insane. We need redistricting for everyone -- not just the south side of the county!

Anonymous said...

Because Gene Walker made a promise to Fernbank...

"Walker: Do not close higher achieving schools"

Eugene Walker knows closing schools is inevitable, but the DeKalb County School Board member is spreading the message that high-achieving schools are to be saved.

The board heard a proposal earlier this month that called for the closing of 14 schools in massive redistricting effort that is designed to make the system more efficient and make more schools eligible for state funding.

Seven of the 12 elementary schools recommended to be closed are in Walker’s district. The schools targeted for closure in the proposal by MGT America are Livsey, Medlock, Rock Chapel, Bob Mathis, Atherton, Glen Haven, Gresham Park, Sky Haven, Toney, Peachcrest, Wadsworth and Kittredge elementary schools, Avondale High School and Avondale Middle School.

“We’re going to have to close schools, that’s a given,” Walker said. “But we ought not close the ones that are performing well.”

Four of the 12 elementary schools on the list–Medlock, Atherton, Glen Haven and Gresham Park–failed to make AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) in 2010.

According to the proposal, which has two options, 27 schools in the county are at less than 75 percent occupancy and are not receiving state funding for some programs. Only two schools would be left at less than 75 percent occupancy in one scenario and one in the other.

The proposal would eliminate most of the 11,000 empty seats throughout the system. Also, the proposal calls for 12,000 to 16,100 students among the system’s 99,000 student body attending new schools next year.

Of the 21 schools with enrollments of less than 450, one scenario would leave no school with fewer than 450 students and the other would leave three, according to the proposal.

“All of our schools are not broken,” Walker said. “We need to keep the ones that are not broken intact and make sure they continue to do well. We’ve got to make a hard decision and I don’t believe hat every schools needs tampering with.”

Walker said he is in favor of keeping open Wadsworth, a magnet school.

“There are 160 students there and they are doing well,” Walker said. “But there aren’t enough students there to justify its existence. In my opinion, we need to find a way to fix Wadsworth to keep it open. We don’t need to close it or consolidate it.”

The proposal calls for the system to be redistricted into five super clusters.

A series of public workshops has been scheduled to help residents better understand the proposal and give them an opportunity to voice their opinions. The first two were scheduled for Jan. 18 at Miller Grove and Jan. 19 at Druid Hills Middle School. The remaining workshops are Jan. 20 at Chamblee High School, Jan. 25 at McNair High School, Jan. 26 at Bethune Middle School and Jan. 27 at Stone Mountain High School.

The superintendent will make a recommendation to the board on Feb. 7, then the board will hold public hearings on March 1 and March 3 before a final vote is taken on March 7

Sagamore 7 said...

Its Stone Moutain MIDDLE SCHOOL where the public meeting will be this Thursday, not at the High School.

Anonymous said...

I'm not in favor of creating more magnet schools. Every school should offer the same high quality program. Why are some students deserving of more opportunities than others? That said, I think that taking the magnet programs off the table at this time might simplify the decision. Except, the Wadsworth program should be moved to a school with other students. Run it as a school within a school.

We just can't afford to keep these small schools open. If there aren't 450 students more students should be moved to the school or the school should be closed. Also, keep in mind that there are three seriously overcrowded elementary schools that should be redistricted. Apartments need to be shared among all of the schools in a community and not loaded into just one school.

Once we get beyond this project, I think that the school system should review each super cluster on a rotating basis and make small adjustments in attendance lines as needed. One of the reasons we are in this situation is that there has been very little redistricting in the past 20 years. Neighborhoods change. Population density changes. We need to keep up with the changes and make smaller changes when they are needed.

Anonymous said...

"Neighborhoods change. Population density changes. We need to keep up with the changes and make smaller changes when they are needed."

Great Post 4:55!!!!!

Anonymous said...

4:55 commenter - Have you determined where the 450 number comes from that is so easily thrown about as justification for closing schools? It's not coming from the state. It's not coming from any federal source. The county is given state funding based on the total number of students in the county. Additional funding for additional assistant principles kicks in based on the number of students per school, but there is no reduced state funding for the number of students in a school under 450. There may be an overhead factor that can be considered, but that analysis would have to be compared to increased transportation costs and future building costs to make the proposed megaschools.

Look further into the statements you hear and read. Let's try to cut down on spreading information that does not tell the whole truth.

Anonymous said...

And why do we keep pouring millions of dollars into improving facilities that we all know have extremely high odds of being shuttered? Shouldn't these improvements be put on hold?

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:53- The 450 number is real- it comes straight out of state code:

"The QBE specifies that the base school district size is 3,300 FTE students; the base elementary school (K–5) is 450 FTE students; the base middle school (6–8) is 624 FTE students; and the base high school is 970 FTE students (GA. CODE § 20-2-181)."

Any schools below these QBE numbers is NOT given full funding!

Anonymous said...

"Except, the Wadsworth program should be moved to a school with other students. Run it as a school within a school. "

True. Wadsworth is $14,000 per pupil in personnel costs (salary and benefits) alone. How can we afford $14,000 per student in some schools and $5,000 or $6,000 in others. Talk about inequitable.

Anonymous said...

@ 4:23 pm
"Walker said he is in favor of keeping open Wadsworth, a magnet school."
How can Walker cost justify keeping Wadsworth open when it costs $14,000 per pupil in personnel cost alone? Talk about inequitable to all the other 96,000+ students!

Anonymous said...

Here's a weblink to the code:

I thought Fernbank parents said the QBE experts that were going to challenge these figures.

Here's the entire code:
"The calculation of all program weights shall reflect a base size local school system of 3,300 full-time equivalent students. The calculation of program weights for the kindergarten program, the kindergarten early intervention program, the primary grades (1-3) early intervention program, the primary grades (1-3) program, the upper elementary grades (4-5) early intervention program, and the upper elementary grades (4-5) program shall reflect a base school size of 450 full-time equivalent students. The calculation of program weights for the middle grades (6-8) program, the middle school (6-8) program, the special education programs, the remedial education program, and the English for speakers of other languages program shall reflect a base school size of 624 full-time equivalent students. The calculation of the program weights for the high school general education program and the high school vocational laboratory program shall reflect a base school size of 970 full-time equivalent students. The calculation of program weights for the alternative education program shall reflect a base school size of 100 full-time equivalent students, except that the calculations for secretaries and media personnel shall reflect a base school size of 624 full-time equivalent students.

Last modified: May 3, 2006"

Anonymous said...

There's a slight error in the Champion article. It says, "The proposal would eliminate most of the 11,000 empty seats throughout the system." I wouldn't really call it "most." Maybe "half."

Cerebration said...

@ Anon 4:22 PM -- No one is saying that redistricting doesn't need to occur, but geez Louise -- they've been talking about consolidating these tiny schools for like 4 YEARS now - only to get tabled over and over again. I'm just saying, "Do it, man - and move on to Phase 2!". If these schools had been consolidated before school started, we would already be saving millions of dollars. But no - we choose instead, to continue beating that dead horse. No action. Will there ever be? I'm doubting it.

Anonymous said...

"I just, for the life of me, can't figure out why we diverged so far away from the original plan to consolidate under-enrolled schools into the massive, bizarre sideshow of charrettes and redrawing attendance lines countywide that we have now."

The reason is because closing those schools does not solve the mess. Even if you closed each and every one, it does nothing to eliminate the overcrowding in the north end of the county. We are wasting money on trailers, and also housing students in not-very-learning-inducing environments, because of severe overcrowding.

For example in Dunwoody, Chesnut, Vanderlyn and Austin are all overcrowded while empty seats sit in the brand-spanking-new Dunwoody ELementary as well as at Kittredge -- which is just a bit south of Dunwoody.

Redistricting has a ripple effect. If you start at the county (Austin), you need to remove some students from that school, and they need to go to Vanderlyn or DES. Other students need to be removed from Vanderlyn and sent to DES. Others need to be removed from Chesnut, and sent to a combination of DES and Kingsley. And on and on and on.

Basically a large population of the students in the north are going to have to move to a school a bit south because south is where the resources are.

It's too bad we built our resources in the south without the population to sustain them, but that's where we are.

Anonymous said...

Cere at 8:09: The reason they didn't do it last year was that the state Dept of Ed intervened and told them it would be better to do it as part of an overall redistricting/consolidation process. This was covered in the AJC.

Cerebration said...

Oh! So I get it -- we couldn't consolidate those schools like we've been discussing and "Task Forcing" for years because we're going to NEED them when we start pressuring attendance lines to the south. Oh... I see.

Cerebration said...

Oh - the state dept of education - you mean Brad Bryant? Oh...

Anonymous said...

Mark Elgart will not be DeKalb's savior. He has political connections that will prevent him from even slapping DCSS's wrist. I predict SACS will emerge from their visit and compliment the school system for ridding itself of Lewis and Pope (of course... only after they were indicted) and pronounce that all is well in the system. Because that's how off-track we are in public education right now.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:13, we implored the indicted one, CLew, to redraw the lines 4 years ago before Nancy Creek became Kittredge. We asked why the 3 Chamblee elementary schools could be considered to help the overcrowded schools outside the perimeter.

Clew's staff mocked us, called us names in the press and now we know the rest of the story. Except for the fact they NOW want to do exactly what we told them to do 4 years ago.

Can we really expect this staff to put together a plan that Ms. Tyson can present to the BOE? Having been on the inside of this story for 6 years now, I do not think so. These folks are doing their best at hiding something.. what is it?

Anonymous said...

Cere at 8:20: Are you being sarcastic? That really is what happened.

Cerebration said...

Yes, I'm being sarcastic. I need an icon for that...


This whole thing is just a big garbled mess, IMO.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:13

"It's too bad we built our resources in the south without the population to sustain them, but that's where we are. "

You are so wrong and obviously so young. DCSS had TREMENDOUS growth in south DeKalb 20 years ago. Even as little as 10 to 15 years ago Fairington Elementary school in south DeKalb had 34 trailers while they only had 33 classrooms in the school building. They had more kids in trailers than in the building - for YEARS. Fariington only had toilets for 50% of the number of kids they had and a cafeteria for 50% of the kids they had. Going into the school you were hit by the stench of urine. Kids ate in shifts.

Pine Ridge ES in South DeKalb had 26 trailers. It didn't stink, but only because they had an upper income parent group that used to come to the school every day to monitor what was going on. They made sure custodians did what needed to be done and volunteered in droves.

Lithonia HS has 1700 students now and it was built for 1,800. Did you know that it went to 2,400 within the first 2 years it was built? 600 more students than it could accommodate? MLK was in the same situation.

North DeKalb kids "aged out" of the DeKalb school system in the 1970s. However, those parents stayed in the neighborhoods since their cheap 1960s houses were paid for - minus kids of course (that's my neighborhood - when we moved to Northlake in 1983, it was almost all retirees, and there were many empty classrooms at Lakeside).

Meanwhile South DeKalb had loads of cheap land for young families to move into. Their population grew by leaps and bounds.

Schools were not built in south DeKalb because of the desegregation court decree - thank you Roger Mills. Finally, in the mid to late 1990s the court allowed DCSS to build schools. Where were the students? In south DeKalb of course. That's why you see so many schools in south DeKalb.

By 2010 - 20 years later - remeber the mid to late 1980s saw the "aging out" of North DeKalb - South DeKalb students have now "aged out" of the system.

My Northlake retiree neighbors from the 1960s have moved out, passed away, or gone to nursing homes. Developers have built like crazy as they bought a ranch house with an acre of land,leveled the house, and built 5 McMansions on it.

So the population has shifted just like it does every 20 years or so.

South DeKalb voters remember when their schools were so terribly overcrowded. They're still there as retirees or kids (now many parents themselves) who went to school in overcrowded conditions. They still can't believe the student demographics aren't the same. Old habits die hard.

BTW - Lakeside was up for closure since it only had 800 students in the mid to late 1990s. Only the Minority to Majority (M to M) program kept it alive by supplying enough students to keep it viable.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 8:51: Um, I'm not so young that I don't remember THREE YEARS AGO when they opened the brand new Arabia Mtn High School which is about as far away from North Dekalb (where the growth is) as you can get.

Anonymous said...

The Georgia code that quotes the 450 number does not indicate different levels of support for the varying numbers - they are just sample numbers for the distribution of students based on a system with 3,300 students.
Correct me if I am wrong, but this code doesn't have any wording about diminished funding for numbers below the sample numbers indicated. The State provides funding based on the number of students in the county. The state justifies this amount with the declaration that it will be enough to support a school of 450 students at the elementary level. It does not mean that they give less money to smaller schools.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:56

Arabia Mtn. HS was supposed to relieve the overcrowding at Lithonia HS. Remember that in the early 90s Lithonia HS (on the drawing board in the late 90s and took 2 years to build) was built for 1,800 and had a student population of 2,400 (600 over capacity) within 2 years. Arabia was planned, but since it was a LEEDS school, the planning period was 2 years and it took 2 years to build. Do you see how a decade can pass and meanwhile students "age out" but those parents still say in the neighborhoods?

Many of the problems we have in DCSS has been because we have had an inadequate planning department and county commission that lets developers build anywhere - get those tax dollars. And this was complicated by the court desegregation case - you don't remember it, but I do, and the reverberations are still being felt.

Seeing how Lithonia was overcrowded by 600 students and MLK by 400 and SWD by hundreds, do you still think it was a bad idea to build Arabia?

The lesson from this is demographics change constantly and the school system needs to be on top of this. The school system also needs to pressure the DeKal County government to look carefully at the idea that developers can build at an unbridled rate anywhere they want.

Cerebration said...

Once again, I refer you to the minutes taken by Dunwoody Mom from the Budget and Finance Committee Meeting - featuring Lynn Jackson from the state DOE.

DCSS Budget, Finance and Facilities Meeting 10-21-10

By law, each school system has to develop a Long-range facilities plan to be updated every 5 years. This plan is required for school system to be eligible for state funds. This plan should be adhered to with no “knee-jerk changes”. Any changes to the plan need to be approved by the BOE and forwarded to Ms. Jackson’s department.

June thru August is when school systems submit their applications for state funding. The funding requests must cover projects that are in the school systems current facilities plan as submitted to the GADOE. (my comment: you can see why DCSS cannot wait for a new Super to get the redistricting, consolidation/closing plan in place. If the system wants to be able to request state funds this all has to be in place by June.)

The current School Organization and Justification plan for DCSS, submitted 3 years ago, is “all over the place” according to Ms. Jackson.

The plan DCSS submitted 3 years ago contained the following FTE plans:

Check out the chart - DCSS' plan - vs the Minimum numbers of students needed to earn FTE credit (200 for ES, 400 for MS and 500 for HS). We have quite a few schools that fall well under those numbers. Some of them are already expensive due to the fact that they are magnets (Wadsworth and DSA).

Also, Ms. Jackson stated that schools must have a minimum of 450 FTE in order to earn "extras" like art, music and PE...

Paula Caldarella said...

You can view Lynn Jackson's presentation here:

The video of the meeting is found here:

Click on video.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 9:07: Exactly my point. If the population in S Dekalb was "aging out", then DCSS should have been able to figure this out based on the number of kids in the elementary schools that feed into those high schools. Why why why did they build it? Did they even TRY to project where the growth was?

Anonymous said...

All this goes to show that Clew was feckless and not a very good manager. It took years for him to hire someone that knew how to operate the software that calculated population growth.

I seem to remember it was Nancy Creek parents who discovered the fact that DCSS was never talking with DeKalb County planning, when Vernon Jones was on his big 2025 Vision plan, which rezoned most of the county. The Nancy Creek parents were seeing all this property being gobbled up by developers around the Chamblee, Johnson Ferry and Murphy Candler areas. They tried to warn Clew that growth was coming, the economy has slowed it, but it's still being built.

CLew finally hired Dan Drake, who knows how to operate the software that went unused for years since DCSS bought it. We need to move on this plan however, the magnets should stay where they are for now, they should even add a resident program to Wadsworth and Kittredge at Nancy Creek like their kin, CMS, CCHS, SWD and the rest.

Like a previous poster said, Don't punish success, duplicate it!

Anonymous said...

"Also, keep in mind that there are three seriously overcrowded elementary schools that should be redistricted. Apartments need to be shared among all of the schools in a community and not loaded into just one school."

This comment refers to Dunwoody and represents the fear of a few future Dunwoody Elementary School (DES) parents that the students from multifamily homes will bring down the quality of education or be an undue burden on their school.

You can't relieve the overcrowding at Vanderlyn and Austin, both of which are located north of Dunwoody Elementary School, and keep sending the southwestern portion of Dunwoody to Austin and Vanderlyn.

This is not of matter of single family vs multifamily homes, it is a matter of simple geography. I would be happy to keep the high achieving and very deserving students that happen to live in the multifamily areas. However it is not logical to have them travel through the DES district and past DES to reach Vanderlyn.

Anonymous said...

@ 9:24
"Anonymous said...

Anon at 9:07: Exactly my point. If the population in South Dekalb was "aging out", then DCSS should have been able to figure this out based on the number of kids in the elementary schools that feed into those high schools. Why why why did they build it? Did they even TRY to project where the growth was?"

Would you have had the south Dekalb students packed in trailers with schools reeking of urine because we knew they would eventually "age out". And guess what - you children and your neighbors' children will also "age out" but does this mean you will move out of your neighborhood so younger couples with school age kids will now move in?

DeKalb experienced enormous growth in the last 40 years as did all of close in Atlanta. Now we will shrink in population much like Atlanta City did. I remember when they had 100,000 students and we had 70,000. Now they have 60,00+ and we have 96,000 (down from 100,000+ around 5 or 6 years ago).

Eventually your children will "age out" and your neighbors children will "age out" of DCSS. Unless you guys all move and sell to couples with young children, in 15 to 20 years taxpayers will wonder why DCSS built such huge additions to Lakeside and Tucker. they will wonder why DCSS built all those elementary schools in the north and central end of DeKalb only to become under enrolled. They will become under enrolled because we are an older, close in county with a finite amount of buildable land, and they won't be able to make "old geezers" like you move out.

Would you have the county to not build any additions to Lakeside or not build any new elementary schools because if they wait, eventually your children will "age out" and the school enrollments will fall? Would this be acceptable to you?

South DeKalb was literally bursting at the seams 10 to 20 years ago. Surely you know their feelings.

Perhaps other posters know how other counties have handled this demographically. Personally, I think we're just too big geographically and need to be broken into a number of smaller systems like the New England state school systems are. However, no new school systems can be established without amending the state constitution, so that idea is not very realistic.

Anonymous said...

I don't know the Dunwoody area, but just throwing it out there that property taxes are levied on apartments and are factored into the rent. Many people pay rent that is comparable to mortgage payments, for a variety of reasons, from how long ago someone bought a home to the area, to the schools. I realize the argument appears to be about transience, but like I said, just throwing it out there.
Also, yes, everyone realizes redistricting is overdue, but since they have not done it in so long, all the more entrenched, so all the more effect on prop values, communities, and so on. Any thoughts on a more organized, consolidated approach to the issues: no analysis/plans on AYP transfer effect, cost (possibly too late for that) or just in general? I am a govt employee (though not of DCSS, county, or state), so don't want much trace on a blog, but happy to do other things...point is that is everyone posting hoping others are doing things?

Anonymous said...

I've been saying from the get go not to add on to Lakeside, just bring it up to "code" -- renovate it and build it so it's not stuck in the muck and 60s and bring it into the 2000s but that it should not be built up to house 1700 or 1800 kids.... I think it could be renovated, still hold the 'residential' population (maybe even the Sagamore crowd that has been lobbying to come in) and still not need trailers. I don't think you can redistrict until you remove the artificial overcrowding and start really evaluating and fixing the "why" kids are not staying in the home schools but overbuilding and redistricting other home schools doesn't make sense to me. If we're going to do that, we should follow Kim's advice, raise the home schools and turn them into houses or fields and build some central location into a 3000 seat school and close the smaller ones altogether -- a plan, we need a master plan but a crazy one that doesn't respect districting and that doesn't flush out why folks are transferring and fixing underlying problems doesn't solve anything for the long term.

Anonymous said...

Really, Dan Drake has a very good reputation. If the consultants can provide DCSS taxpayers/parents with a cost effective plan for consolidation and redistricting, the BOE should just go for it. At some point someone must lead. I'm retire with NO children in the system, and I pay almost $5,000 a year in taxes, most of which goes to schools.

More taxpayers DO NOT have children in the school system than DO have children in the system. We want a more economical school system and if not lower taxes, we don't want them raised to accommodate a small number of vocal taxpayers/parents.

We don't care if 100 kids get redistricted from Fernbank to Briar Vista or if some of those Leafmore kids go to Druid Hills. We want what taxpayers in all the other counties have - a more economical school system.

If you're so unhappy, send your kids to private school and let the DeKalb public school system get in line with other systems who redistrict every 5 years or so.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 10:20
"I don't think you can redistrict until you remove the artificial overcrowding and start really evaluating and fixing the "why" kids are not staying in the home schools but overbuilding and redistricting other home schools doesn't make sense to me."

Now that I can agree with. But you don't really know how many of those kids are "resident" kids and how many are AYP and how many are administrative transfers do you? Are there 300, 200, 350? How many in each category? Which ones do you and can you send back?

This AYP is a real problem since it makes the school population wax and wane more than it would under othe circumstances.

Asian and disgusted in Dunwoody said...

It is reprehensible that people on this blog and in this community are heavily advocating that other peoples children be moved into school situations they would not enthusiastically embrace for their own children. Nowhere is this more true than in the North Dunwoody area.
All of the arguments from the North Vandy and Austin crowd amount to why the others should shut up about what really amounts to very suspect districts housing most diversity, both economic and racial in 3 schools while Vanderlyn and Austin will be predoominately white and home owning. It smacks of mettling by outside powers.
To say the group looking for compromise, the South Vandy families AND the austin families in the Ashford Corridor are racist and BAD and should be ashamed is WRONG.
To say it is a small group is WRONG. 1200 is not a small vocal minority.
In the end the powers that be may end up with their segregated schools. But call a spade a spade. They are segregated with limited access to most.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 10:24
"It is reprehensible that people on this blog and in this community are heavily advocating that other peoples children be moved into school situations they would not enthusiastically embrace for their own children. "

I'm the retiree who has paid close to $100,000 in property taxes in the last 30 years and only had one child go through DCSS. And I'm still paying thousands. I and the other taxpayers in my situation don't really care about Austin and Vanderlyn and who goes where. We're just tired of every increasing taxes and want whatever is the most economical. It seems to me most of the schools in Dunwoody are good schools. We're don't want to pay more so you can get your choice of schools if it cost us more. You'll feel like that too once you've spent enough in property taxes and don't have children in the schools anymore.

Anonymous said...


Agree with your argument, although I don't know Dunwoody at all, but not with the blog or the public comments, which I read with alarming regularity. I think the tide of the comments is anti-one-school-with-60-percent-apt. Could be misreading. Thought the Valleybrook community had the most cogent and focused argument, basically addressing all points in which the plans failed the goals, and closing with they will transfer out, thus negating any redistricting benefit. Period, end.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:24 -- you're right -- we don't have a good grasp on AYP numbers versus the "artificial overcrowding numbers" at LHS -- I can tell you that the 8th grade class at Henderson "received" twice -- once in 6th grade; once in 8th grade -- they are a full "5 team" class -- my guess is that they have around 150 AYPs just in 8th grade -- DCSS "swore" left, right and center that these kids would only be in the cluster for middle school and would return to home schools for high school. High School registration starts next month -- who's taking bets? Now, LHS... We get very poor stats reported... that is the first problem. A second problem is that DCSS makes it way too easy to transfer. There is a nifty check that goes to each AYP transfer family each month -- for mileage. People "game" it -- get $.55 per mile (thereabouts) -- for 4 roundtrips per day -- assuming a parent drives there and back am and pm -- from your federal tax dollars -- the trick is that the kid actually rides Marta. The come out way ahead (other than the kid who sits on Marta to ride cross county). Compare this to, say Gwinnett, which reimburses, I believe based on actual receipts at the end of the year or semester and not monthly based on 4 trips each day. Then there's Gwinnett's method of only opening up for transfers for a minimal period of time and to a few schools ... Gwinnett makes it hard to exercise your choice to transfer. Not DCSS, DCSS makes it really easy..... Do we tutor? Up for grabs. You see, we're not doing much to combat things we could to get a grip on to minimize the impact of the AYP transfers wrecking such havoc. I haven't gotten in to the fact that they are supposed to honor "capacity" -- they don't becuase they just add trailers (forget about cafeteria capacity -- LHS has 2 lines -- or restroom/locker capacity). They only do this at the "old" schools -- "new" schools (Arabia) get "annexes" -- kids at Lakeside get to be sardines who can't eat or go to the bathroom. Then they layer on administrative transfers (even for parents who are responsible for security, safety and education of kids at the schools they are transfering away from) and for bus drivers, and Sam Moss center employees, and they come from counties other than DeKalb--watch the tags pulling in and out -- and then there are alumni who use their parents' address and who beg for transfers because they couldn't possibly go to DHHS or Tucker or Stone Mountain but own houses there instead -- and others who cheat or beg and plead and the LHS coaches who are "recruiting" at Tucker and Dunwoody... the resident kids are being run off (a number are in private school and then a bunch are now slated for DHHS due to "overcrowding")-- resentful? nah.... I haven't begun to get into the fact that the freshman class has an approximate 50% fail rate at LHS across the board and the sophomore class isn't much better such that you regularly see about half as many kids gradaute as start as freshman -- the kids slowly filter away so the class sizes get smaller and smaller as they approach junior and senior year -- so it does not appear that the "academic" portion of being transferred in to the fray is helping kids academically -- it would actually be nice if someone were to get a grip on whether this system actually helped the kids transfering in to the school -- it may actually be keeping them safer than they would be at their home school -- if that is why they are transfering, then there is an underlying issue that really needs to be addressed in those home schools (crying for new administrators I think). If it's just for the dollars, it really needs to stop.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:34
Good point about cost. Noone is proposing busing kids that could walk to a school. No extra cost to the tax payer.

Cerebration said...

I just listened to Lynn's presentation - here are my bullet point notes -

Capital outlay - to help local school systems plan construct necessary school facilities (long-range).

Assist in acquiring funds

Review plans - to see if they are safe and adequate

Systems qualify based on need - shown in the long-range local facility plan - verified by FTE

Funding is state-local funding partnerships to accomplish system facility objectives

K-12 population trends: exclusive of special schools.
06-07 96.430
07-08 94,999
08-09 96.270
09-10 95,878
10-11 95,694
11-12 95,326
13-14 95,142
14-15 94,958

Pre-k not funded by capital outlay program -
losing 184 students per year

ES-Minimum of 200 for FTE funding from state

Leadership Prep - FTE of 179 -( does not earn FTE - can't submit for funding - no state funding)
UHS Laurel Heights - 25 - no state funding
Wadsworth - 153 - no state funding

223 surplus units in elementary grades. Can't persuade the state that you have need for ES classroom. You have plenty of space.

MS-Minimum of 400 for FTE funding from state

DeKalb Path Charter - 300 (no state funding)
International Student Center

HS-Minimum of 500 for FTE funding from state No entitlements for these:
DSA (318 FTE)
Transition Academy
Destiny -(100 FTE)
Eliz Andrews

Things we can do -
Phase out a facility and make it a Pre-K facility
(all pre-K classrooms come across as surplus classrooms)
Use phased out buildings for non-FTE programs, administration, etc.
Close older facilities rather than pour more $ into

Cerebration said...

Not only do we not earn credit for needing additions to over-crowded schools (due to the fact that we have space available elsewhere - surplus) No FTE earned either... all this must be paid for with local funds.

Cerebration said...

I recommend that you all listen to Lynn Jackson's presentation. It is clear that we have over the course of many years, catered to the squeakiest wheels, crowding some schools and creating a network of under-utilized schools and thereby completely messing up our chances of recovering much entitlement money from the state. We have been funding construction out of our own pockets for years. Our crowded schools do not qualify for funding because we have so many available classrooms across the county. (The state doesn't care how far away it is.)

So you will see clearly, from Lynn's input that these schools consolidations and closures simply MUST happen. They must. We cannot afford these tiny little schools for one more year - they are causing actual harm to others and costing taxpayers dearly.

Marshall Orson said...

With regard to the 450 student "minimum" for elementary schools and state funding, it simply is not correct. Yes, the statute does seem to read that way but, in fact, those numbers are used in determinig what are called program weights which, in turn, determine state allocations. For example, to receive the full state allocation for a specialty teacher (i.e. pe, art, music) you need 345 students but this is computed at the system level and not at the school level. And, the allocations are pro rated so for 344 students, a system would receive an allocation equal to 344/345 of a full allocation. The intent was to enable the use of constant factors over time. As for Lynn Jackson's comment on "extras" and funding, it was a misstatement. Ask Dan Drake about the formula, he will confirm the foregoing.
Attend the ELPC meeting this Friday at Hawthorne and come hear how state funding works. The more we all know, the more effective we will be in our discussions on what needs to be done for DCSS.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Marshall...Now, you're calling an individual at the GADOE wrong in her statements.

You Fernbank people will stop at nothing to get your way, now will you?

Marshall, where were you last spring when the BOE wanted to close the 4 schools because they were under the magical "450" count?

Yes, that's right...silence from you....

Anonymous said...

There wasn't silence from Marshall. He encouraged the Board to move ahead with the closures.

Ella Smith said...

The 450 might be a little high to make sure the numbers stay at the required number. Administratively decisions like this are made and I can understand why as I am sure anyone on this blog could also understand why an administrative decision like this was made by the state and county administrative officers. Marshall might be correct, and a little higher number is used by the state and administration in DeKalb to protect the school system from cutting it too close and missing out ont the funds. I can understand the slight elevation if this is the case. There might need to be a little leverage to make sure the number is correct. However, 450 is the recommendation from the state regardless of the exact numbers and this is what we are using. I agree that these schools need to be closed. Now how they are closed and where the students go is another matter. But, we must have the funds from the state department.

I am affected personally. I understand. Everyone wants the changes until it effects them and then we do not want the changes. I am including in this. I do not want to be redistricted to Druid Hills High School as it is too far away and I do not like the thought of being so far away from my local high school and it taking so long in traffic to get there.

Anonymous said...

-So you will see clearly, from Lynn's input that these schools consolidations and closures simply MUST happen. They must. We cannot afford these tiny little schools for one more year - they are causing actual harm to others and costing taxpayers dearly. -

Thanks for this comment Cerebration! So many have questioned the motivation and timing behind this process without trying to understand that this has been building for years. State law requires a facility plan be developed to participate in the outlay program. That is a part of this process and Lynn offered to assist DeKalb in its development.

Lynn issued a strong wake-up call to DeKalb. Will we listen or begin squeaking again?

Anonymous said...

The only reason we have elementary PE buildings (imperfect as they are) is because parents discovered DCSS was missing out on funding from the state: fully half the costs of these facilities was provided through the state auspices, but DCSS didn't avail themselves of this until parents created a clamor the BoE couldn't ignore. True story. Honest to Pete.

Anonymous said...

the 450 number (as Marshall points out) may be "misleading" as a Briarlake family -- we were pepetually on the bubble -- working our way to not being "below some magic number" -- the number kept changing -- sometimes it was 350, then it fixed at 400. Problem was that before an addition promised when my 18 year old was in 2nd grade, the school only held 330 (give or take). Finally, when he was around 9th grade, the addition finally went in, trailers left and Briarlake is now up towards the "magical" 400 number. There are cul de sacs that should be Briarlake that are Oak Grove (on Briarlake Road) and Hawthorne streets that could walk to Brialake and other Oak Grovers who could walk to Briarlake -- it is clear that DCSS allowed developers to gerrymander Oak Grove so they could maximize their home values. Some of these gerry manders need to be fixed. On the other hand, it is really wrong of the county to redistrict out of the "highly successful" schools without first stabilizing the offerings at all the schools (this includes a review of the quality and qualifications of the administrators in the schools), getting schools to meets AYP status (okay, maybe not possible since in 2014 no one will meet but in a case like Clarkston you just can't send kids from DHHS into a school that hasn't met in 8 years.... perhaps it needs to be completely revamped first) -- e.g. you have got to address and equalize the quality -- without sacrificing good quality offered at good schools -- the kids are entitled to a good, solid foundation - you can't just shift from a good school into something that has something that is vastly different without leveling the playing field first. (This may include addressing block vs. 7 period day; IB vs. non IB; magnet etc.). I'm not saying don't ultimately redistrict -- I'm saying this is a 3 step process -- consolidate the schools that have been on the list forever & do something about DES that should have been done in the first place (maybe including the KMS/Wadsworth issues); (2) review and evaluate the cost/benefit analsyis and offereings that are there to "level" the offereings and see if we can get kids back to their home schools if the offerings are leveled thereby renedering the redistricting unnecessary (we don't currently have a grasp on the transfers and don't enforce residency as is) and then look at redistricting. Tackle the critical ones first -- triage it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dunwoody! You got the large elementary school you needed to handle the overcrowded Austin and Vandy. However, no one wants to make the move to the new school, why?

I was a Nancy Creek parent 5 years ago. Neighborhood parents came in and changed the school. We demanded better leadership and got it. We started to embrace the Latino and Asian communities. We got them involved in PTA. We sent out buses to their neighborhoods for big events, to make sure they attended. We had translation available at the PTA meetings. The school was becoming a true neighborhood school, where Chamblee apartment dwellers were being educated along with the neighborhood kids that surrounded Nancy Creek.

The kids never saw race, it was the parents. One time a kid came home from school told her Dad that she wanted to invite a friend over. The Dad replied, "Is that the black girl in your class?" The second grader answered, "Dad, she isn't black, she is Somalian." Kids don't see color, they see kids!

Hey Dunwoody homeowners, do not knock the families that live in apartments, they deserve a great education like your kids! Embrace them! Hispanic kids who came into Nancy Creek, not speaking a word of English when they arrived, were great students! They had the best attendance and by the time they were in 2nd grade, many were on the Principal's Honor Roll.

Folks, the world can no longer be segregated. I honestly think we are doing a huge disservice to our kids if we don't prepare them for the real world. Our society is no longer Lilly white, it is a fabric of many races, cultures, nationalities and religions.

Let's get the consolidation over with and get the FTE funding we need to move forward. What I do wish for is for the DCSS leadership to become more transparent. Give the folks all the data needed to help in formulating a plan. Be truthful about your agenda. The more out front and honest you are, the better chance you'll have in getting parental support.

Right now I am very suspect of the agenda of the DCSS leadership. It seems it's never about the kids to them. With all the corrupt friends and families in place at the Central Office, the stakeholders and taxpayers have become weary. You'd think these "leaders" would be honest with the folks paying the bills. But they can't, because if they do, their gravy train of bloated salaries and perks will be derailed.

Anonymous said...

But, yet, Nancy Creek was so popular that it had less than 300 students when it was closed....

Anonymous said...

That's right! Developers had just torn down the Johnson Ferry Public Housing to make way for a new development that families are moving into today. That effected at least 65 to 70 kids, if I recall. Plus, the area then was seeing an age shift from the retired to young families. Yes, a lot went private, but as the parents were changing Nancy Creek, people were beginning to take notice. Come on DCSS wants to make it a neighborhood school again, something we told them to do back then and just adjust the lines to balance attendance all over the north end of the county. But we didn't have a Dan Drake on staff back then and there was no one on Clew's staff that knew how to operate the software that did all these projections and calculations. Plus, there was Sembler.. du du duuuuuuh!

Anonymous said...

All this talk about 450 students - but the current plans don't see to address that at all. Under the "centralized" option, Livsey is kept open and as then move kids out of overcrowded Pleasantdale, they also move kids out of Livsey to keep it at max capacity (not adding any additional trailers) which is only 350 or so kids. Why not add 2 more trailers and utilize the 2 empty classrooms at Livsey and increase it to the magic 450? There are so many examples like this that make you sit back and question the entire plans.

Anonymous said...

Great website...

Anonymous said...

@ Marshall Orson

Below is the Fernbank Elementary School Council's Open Letter to the Board last spring. The Fernbank Elementary School Council urged the DCSS BOE to close the 4 schools in South DeKalb that were "under 450" students. Fernbank Elementary parents were fine with that "under 450" number at that time. It was only after the "under 450" number affected Fernbank students that it has been disputed. I'm sure you remember the Open Letter to the Board. Your signature is at the bottom. BTW - nicely written.

"Reluctantly, we must also urge the consolidation of more than four schools. DeKalb has a long history of small neighborhood schools, an arrangement we can no longer afford. Based on the stated projected cost savings of nearly $600,000 per school, the consolidation of additional schools should realize a significant savings. And, we believe the savings would be greater when you account for shortfalls in state funding (based on 450 elementary school minimums) coupled with lower central staffing requirements to serve fewer facilities....
We certainly do not wish to adversely affect the lives of many of DCSS’ tireless employees but economic realities dictate a change in our economic structure. At the same time, we can reinvent how our school system works, to the betterment of all DeKalb children.
These are no doubt difficult times, but from adversity can come success. We urge you to retain a long-term point of view which will best position the children of DeKalb for success in the future."

Where is your long-term point of view now?

See the letter at this address (they fought and won to keep the $7,000,000 Fernbank Science Center open while they wanted to close neighborhood schools):

Anonymous said...

Sorry. I should have included the signature at the bottom of the Fernbank Elementary School Council letter last spring that urged the BOE members to close the 4 schools that were "under 450" in enrollment:

""Reluctantly, we must also urge the consolidation of more than four schools. ...we believe the savings would be greater when you account for shortfalls in state funding (based on 450 elementary school minimums)....These are no doubt difficult times, but from adversity can come success. We urge you to retain a long-term point of view which will best position the children of DeKalb for success in the future.

Marshall D. Orson
Fernbank Elementary School Council"

Marshall Orson said...

My long-term point of view would be consistent--that we should grow our schools, as we have stated from the outset at Fernbank. The misconception was that 450 was some sort of magic number--it is not. But, it is also irrelevant since Fernbank has far more students than 450 and we would welcome additional students because we support the idea that more students should have access to the IB program. The critical issue is that we have failed to ensure that all our schools are providing a high quality education to all our children.