Sunday, April 10, 2011

Oldie but Goodie: "Schools, County to Talk" circa 2005, with an interesting Algebra note too

"Schools, County to Talk" More Cooperation planned on planning, rezonings - by Patti Ghezzi The Atlanta Journal-Constitution July 14, 2005 - School board members and county commissioners say they want to cooperate on dealing with growth, and on Monday the school board adopted a "Memorandum of Understanding" pledging to do just that. - The memorandum says the county will keep school officials informed of long-range planning as well of residential rezoning requests. - "We see the need for greater collaboration and planning," said Simone Manning-Moon, the board member who recommended adoption of the memorandum. - The idea is for school officials to know far in advance when new houses and apartments are coming so that they can build classrooms in the areas where they will be needed. Parents have long complained that the school district addresses crowding too late - once kids are already there. - Three elementary schools - Vanderlyn, Fairington and Rock Chapel - are in such a crowding crisis that hundreds of their students will be bused to other sites when school starts in August. - In other action, the board approved a policy change regarding eigth-grade algebra, which all students are required to take. Parents will get to choose whether the course counts as middle school or high school credit. - Last year, the first year the course was required for all eight-graders, one in five students failed, in part because teachers were ill-prepared for the sudden curriculum change. Two-thirds of the students failed the state's end-of-course test. - Board members did not think kids should have to start high school with an "F" on their transcripts. - Board members said many parents misunderstand the new policy and think the board is relaxing the rule that all eight-graders must take high school algebra. - Policies vary in other metro school districts in which algebra is taught in eigth grade. In some cases, the course counts as middle school credit. In others, the course counts toward high school graduation.


Open+Transparent said...

Interesting, this is six years ago: "Parents have long complained that the school district addresses crowding too late - once kids are already there."

Also, the county is a mess these days:

On Tuesday, Standard & Poor’s announced it had downgraded DeKalb’s long-term general obligation debt from AA- to BBB. Appropriation-backed debt was dropped from A+ to BBB, while the county’s water and sewer debt went to a AA- rating. BBB is considered the lowest investment grade, said Robin Prunty, managing director of Standard &Poor’s public finance department. D is considered default.

“Once again the taxpayers will suffer because of poor and ineffective management of DeKalb County,” Commissioner Elaine Boyer said. “Having our bonds downgraded to near junk bond status is embarrassing and unnecessary. We are in a fiscal crisis in this county, and the CEO must embrace some fiscal discipline.”

While Boyer called the downgrading a wake-up call for better management, CEO Burrell Ellis said it was reason to raise property taxes.

Lately, the CEO’s answer to every question appears to be “the county needs to raise your property taxes.” When the county commission took responsible steps to cut the county budget and avoid a property tax increase, the CEO irresponsibly charged that the budget cuts would result in a draconian slashing of police services. Of course, it is the CEO - not the commission — who controls whether or not the budget cuts have to be implemented in a draconian manner.

The CEO steadfastly refuses to eliminate the $150,000-a-year job of Public Safety Director William “Wiz” Miller. In a nutshell, Mr. Miller’s job is to make the police chief and fire chief talk to each other. It is such a challenging, important, and necessary job that it enabled Mr. Miller to be absent from work a whopping 82 days in 2010.

By the way, the DeKalb County police chief and fire chief are brothers. They don’t need anyone to “coordinate” their activities, let alone someone who is paid $150,000 annually to do so.

Commissioner Boyer, joined by Commissioner Lee May and supported by all five of their colleagues, has proposed that the General Assembly enable the county commission to break out police services as a separate line item on our property tax bills.

themommy said...

No school district anywhere does a good job of getting ahead of growth. It just doesn't happen.

I was just visiting a school district in Flordia where next year the 5th graders will be housed in middle schools because there is no more room at the elementary schools for trailers.

It is hard to be certain that the children are coming 5 years from now. With the opening of a long planned high school in N. Fulton in 2012, there will actually be excess capacity in the high schools up there. It wasn't predicted and it is making redistricting very tricky.

Ellis has been such a huge disappointment.

The bond issue is huge and I don't think that most in DeKalb understand that at all.

Cerebration said...

Ah the old "Memorandum of Understanding" ... kind of goes with the "Blue Ribbon Task Force" and the "Citizen's Advisory Committee" and the "SPLOST Oversight Committee" and the "Salary and Compensation Audit" etc...

Lots of talk. Very little action.

The Algebra for eighth graders was a colossal failure. Those kids were thrown into it straight from 7th grade math - with no Pre-Algebra! And taught by 8th grade math teachers - many who never taught algebra previously. It was the first time I truly got a glimpse of the incompetence of the administration. We were given FOUR different sheets for high school registration having to re-register each time. Was it a high school math credit? Yes. No. Yes. No Well, yes, but you will still need four more!

Anonymous said...

Remember that before there were junior/middle schools in DeKalb County, among other counties, 8th grade was part of high school. 8th Grade math, at that time, was pr-algebra, so 8th grade middle school teachers should have been able to teach Algebra, in my view.

I think this nonsense of junior/middle school mucked up a lot.

Open+Transparent said...

I disagree, the mommy.

Yes, it's very difficult for a school system to accurately keep up with county planning & zoning.
But if they work together, big surprises can be minimized, and a school system can actually plan long-term, instead of just reacting to the newest crisis.

Dan Drake should be meeting with his county counterpart 4-6 times a year. They don't have to be best friends but they darn sure need to work well together, and their work affects all county residents directly.

Drake can do his job better when he knows the county is going to approve new apartment complexes, a new development, hear from the county where foreclosures are high, add sewer capacity, etc., etc.

We need to demand that the BOE, CEO and County Commission start playing nice together, and let the petty politics and turf battles go.

themommy said...

I am certain Drake is working with his counterparts. There isn't much (any?) new development happening right now, so things are fairly easy I suppose. I think Drake has done everything you have asked him to.

GA law prohibits school capacity as a reason to deny zoning changes or variance requests. When brought up prior to public hearings, developers will often claim that their complex/neighborhood will be so upscale it won't attract families.

Prior to the economic downturn, there were many apartment complexes that housed very children. Now, not so much.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Folks, This never happened. This was a major boondoggle. I went with several parents to DeKalb County Planning in 2007 and the folks there had never spoken once with DCSS. Not Once! We were trying to figure out the numbers that the fraudulent DCSS demographers report had come out with. Remember the last round of "redistricting" during Clew's tenure? He used this cut and paste of a Fairfax, Virgina report that DCSS paid a huge amount of money for.

Remember Vernon Jones Vision plan for the county? The plan was changing the densities of many areas of DeKalb and DeKalb Planning tried to let DCSS know but DCSS was NOT interested. At the time DCSS had no one on staff that knew how to use the GIS Software. The software that tracks population and growth. It wasn't until Dan Drake arrived in 2009 did anyone know how to use or read the GIS Software and Data.

DeKalb Planning people were miffed why DCSS never spoke with them and how the density was about to change for many areas and how it would directly effect many school districts.

It's amazing when I read these old documents and what was happening at DCSS, when in reality it never was.

SHS said...

@ Atlanta Media Guy

With regard to the fake demographic study by McKibben Demographics and Cropper GIS, for which DCSS paid more than $100,000 ...

The other thing that McKibben also did NOT check with the City of Chamblee and other incorporated cities inside DeKalb county for issued building permits. In DeKalb County, incorporated cities issue their own building permits, NOT DeKalb County.

Crawford Lewis was fully informed about this and other factual errors and omissions made by McKibben. He was given both a paper copy and a CD with all of the cut-and-paste highlighted and errors/omissions noted.

Further, Lewis was given a copy of the Georgia County Guide (book and CD), edited by Dr. Douglas Bachtel of UGA (

Dr. Bachtel was asked how much he would charge to re-do the McKibben demographic "study" (after having looked at it) and he said it would cost about $15,000 to do an accurate study. Lewis was also told that.

Now the Cropper GIS website has a lot of blather about stakeholder involvement. However, Cropper's website (then and now) also says, "Cropper GIS [provides] expert demographic analysis and recommendations to clients while empowering them with the ability to keep any plan alive." They certainly did that for Lewis, which has ended up costing DCSS hundreds of thousands of dollars.

BTW -- news media across Atlanta were provided with all of this information. Several showed serious interest, but then suddenly dropped it and would not return phone calls or emails.