the Georgia State recommendations to decrease staffing as their research showed our county to be overstaffed by 900.
Here are some excerpts from Burrell's email to residents:
Because DeKalb County is largely residential, we have been especially impacted by the collapse of the housing market. This situation has been exacerbated by our high number of mortgage foreclosures, and the creation of a new city with a corresponding annexation of commercial property.
Early reports from our Tax Assessor's Office indicate that our real estate values are declining more than expected. As a result, we anticipate an additional $25 million revenue reduction.
[In addition,] because of our cash flow problem, one of the two top rating agencies has withdrawn the county's bond rating. Without a bond rating, the county would be unable to meet its ordinary short-term obligations and to take the long-term actions necessary to repair and maintain our infrastructure. More importantly, just like with your credit rating, a withdrawn or downgraded rating means that every DeKalb citizen will pay even more for county services.
The school system mirrors the county in dysfunction, albeit, the school system's dysfunction is much more harmful to the future of it's most vulnerable citizens - our children. You may or may not be aware that Gene Walker leads the charge to also raise school taxes on your property bills. School taxes account for over 60% of your annual property taxes. Our school board manages a much, much larger budget than our county commissioners. All told, the school board annually manages over $1.2 Billion (with a "B") PLUS about a half-billion in SPLOST construction funds from the additional penny sales tax DeKalb voters approved several years ago. We all know where the board's lax oversight of those funds have led - to a superintendent and COO of construction's criminal indictments.
Our school system is not healthy. As a system, we have not made AYP for six years. Our schools are wildly out of equity in the education they offer. For example, at a recent board meeting, we learned that Lakeside students have traveled to compete at the "We the People" national civics competition, yet only 35 of 945 students at Cedar Grove MS passed the mock CRCT. In fact, only 62.4% of our schools made AYP last year. (Click here for GA DOE report.)
We have uncovered other inequities recently. (Click here to read our post on the huge range of per pupil funding.) For example, the school board spent a lot of money for trailers to house students requesting an AYP transfer from failing schools to Arabia High School — only those trailers for students now considered Arabia students, were placed at Lithonia High School — one of the failing schools sending the transfers! Fights have recently been reported between the now rival students.
The excuse the board used was that Arabia would be over-crowded. We researched that and found it not only not to be true but that the board has allowed these transfers to seriously overcrowd Lakeside, which now has a population of over 1,800 in a building with a capacity for 1,300. There is no rhyme or reason to their decision-making other than political pressure. The board doesn't field data and real information, they listen and respond to the loud cacophony of each community's myopic desires. The meek do not inherit a dime.
The Arabia community is mostly comprised of theme school parents who demand that this school be held out as elite and special. It was built with the stated reason being to relieve overcrowding, yet it has become a very special place, requiring uniforms, applications and a high GPA. This school creates a very special track for parents who wish to keep their children away from regular public schools, and in an atmosphere of success, yet as we have seen in Sarah Copelin Wood's district, this kind of foucs on themes, magnets and other specialty schools only serves to harm the neighborhood schools further. Several in Woods' district will now have to close several schools due to the mass exodus of area students to these specialty schools. (For a full report, read our post entitled "North vs Central vs South - what's the deal?")
Now, our school board has completely blown it's search for a superintendent. What happened recently is nearly criminal, in my opinion. Many people speculate that this meltdown in securing one of the final three contenders (all three dropped out) was a political manipulation done behind the scenes by several in power who want to maintain the status quo. Think about it. Who stands to lose the most if a new superintendent comes in and streamlines the administration, legal and contracted departments? Those with jobs and contracts to protect. Who stands to lose the most with the status quo? Your children.
If you want to see positive change in the performance of our schoolchildren, please click the link on the right side panel and email the entire board asking them to follow the wishes of the people as revealed in the original survey regarding a new superintendent. The people spoke. We do not want a DeKalb insider. Keep searching. Find a qualified leader who will focus on streamlining systems and improving education. And while you're at it, keep your mouths shut to the media.