Friday, July 15, 2011

And for something to brag about...

I am happy to share a story we can all be proud of. Today's AJC has posted a story called, Refugees a growing challenge, that goes into great detail about the growing numbers of refugees fleeing their home countries for America. Many end up in Georgia. Most of those end up in DeKalb. And a majority of those end up in Clarkston.

As I read the article, I realized that we are doing a very good job with our immigrant students. Much better than Gwinnett or any other school system. We have an International Student Center devoted to bringing new refugees up to speed in their studies, even when those students arrive having very little previous schooling.
A growing number of refugees have come to Georgia in recent years, with most settling in and around DeKalb County. By law, they deserve an education.

Their relative numbers are small: about 3 percent of the DeKalb County School System’s student body, according to school and state records. But the growth in percentage terms is not: DeKalb counted 2,627 refugee students in June, an increase of about 150 percent from the 2006-07 school year.

The students, many reared in camps, often come with little or no schooling. Many speak no English.
. . .
DeKalb teaches English to the refugees — who count more than 70 native tongues, from Amharic to Uzbek — and offers them tutoring. The hardest cases — those 13 and older with six or fewer years of schooling — typically spend two years at the International Student Center’s isolated campus on North Druid Hills Road before moving into neighborhood schools. There were 250 such students this year.

Other school systems, such as those in Fulton and Gwinnett counties, also have refugees. They don’t count them like DeKalb, but federal data give a rough head count: from June 2010 through May, DeKalb got 465 refugees ages 5 to 18, said Michael Singleton, the state refugee coordinator for the Georgia Department of Human Services. Fulton got 182, compared with four in Gwinnett and none in Cobb.

Kudos to Sandra Nunes and the leaders of our school system working so hard to assimilate our refugee students. I hope that you will add one more item to your "To-Do" list -- aid and support the International Community Charter School. Give them a home and some help. We're all in this together and it just seems symbiotic to work on this issue as a team. Some very delicate lives hang in the balance.


Marney Mayo said...

please also read this story, published int the Christian Science Monitor:

and my reflection on the near 10 years that I have spent trying to get this school a home:

--Marney Mayo

Cerebration said...

Thanks for the links Marney and for all you do. I know that this school has been looking for a permanent home for a very long time. I think the school system has several viable options for a home for the International Charter -- Medlock seems like a good fit - as well as Heritage (which may be too small an hard to access) - How about the old Shallowford ES in Dunwoody? (Too far?) Or maybe the now closed Avondale HS?

I was simply flabbergasted when Nichole Knighton said that the main reason they denied charter applications was a lack of a location. We have so many shuttered buildings sitting empty and causing blight, when they could be used for such an important purpose!

Marney Mayo said...

It has been two years since the article above was published. Since then the implosion of the tax base in Dekalb has made what Self Help said in that article about the school's ability to borrow no longer correct. ICS's funding has shrunken along with everyone else's to the extent a "cash flow lender" like them can not lend where the school operating expenses truly do exceed their funding.

Hooper Alexander has now been vandalized as it has sat empty to such an extent that it needs millions in work to be occupied.

Everything that I state in my blog post (the second link above) remains absolutely true, except for one change. I state that "we have no legal right to a publicly funded building". A copy of this article and blog were placed on each legislator's desk the day before a vote was taken on HB555 and, since that bill's overwhelming passage in 2009 ICS legally has a "last in line" right to a publicly funded buildings.

Hooper Alexander has been so vandalized as it continued to be left vacant that it now would require millions to occupy--which neither ICS nor the district have. Can the district finally do right by this school with the third wave of closings?

Cerebration said...

This part of the article caught my eye,

The school district has over $2 billion in needed repairs to aging buildings. Its 2010 allotment is $1.5 million: “[Enough for] a half a school,” says Patricia Pope, chief operations officer for the schools.

DeKalb County schools spokeswoman Julie Rhame sympathizes. ICS is a model school, she says, but the county is also responsible for 152 others, and “we’re all pulling from the same dry well.”

Five other charter schools in the district could also use facilities help. “If you do it for ICS, you have to do it for everyone else,” she says.

Knowing what we know now about Pat Pope, Dr. Lewis and the rest of the corrupt crew, it's a wonder she even made time for the interview. It breaks my heart to think that while you were appealing for a home for these children, Pat Pope was ignoring your requests as she was too busy initiating contracts to hand to her husband and other insiders. It's all about the money - it's not been about the children for a very, very long time.

I wonder - I just wonder if Ramona Tyson can dig down and at least make this one thing right.

Marney Mayo said...

ICS, at least during my tenure there, always tried to keep talking and "presume goodwill". I have a whole file folder full of speeches I made to the board--positive ones about the need for them to view ICS as a partner.

I could make some very bitter statements about the way Pat Pope treated us, and how Crawford Lewis claimed he though she was working with us--even though he was copied on e-mails to her that would clearly show otherwise, I don't believe he read his own e-mail.

Ramona Tyson has been a breath of fresh air. I know she neither wishes nor should she be the long term super--but she has my continued respect for reading her own e-mail and treating ICS with respect.

To answer your question about the charter approvals. ICS, Destiny, the Muesum School, and now Dekalb Leadership academy would all have a legal right to what recently emptied buildings the district does not LEGITIMATELY intend to put schoolchildren in in the near term. Peachtree Hope, and IVY would have the same legal right to take them to court, if approved. Hence--don't approve whomever is a bad risk for sueing you...

I think ICS should have first choice, Destiny 2nd, Muesum School 3rd, etc. I agree with you that Medlock would seem a good fit.

Marney Mayo said...

BTW--It took Pat Pope exactly 21 minutes to "show us the door" on Hooper. About 2 months before she gave that interview...

I was hoping that the generally positive international coverage that the whole series of articles gave DeKalb would help. It didn't.

A lot of hope--no bricks and mortar.

Cerebration said...

The very interesting thing about Destiny is that it is housed in a former DCSS school building. HOWEVER, the truly odd thing is, the school system SOLD that building to New Birth Church back in 1992 for $150,000. New Birth pays about $6,700 in property taxes on the property. (You can look this all up at the Tax Commissioner's website.)

Sooooo. We have Destiny, in a building owned by New Birth (rent?) with principal Billy Callaway and... the Leadership Academy, in a wing of New Birth Church (with a contract for $10,000/month in rent) with principal Frankie Callaway. Both Callways (married) are retired DCSS administrators.

I just find this fascinating. Don't you?

Anon76 said...

Cere -

Clarence Callaway is the principal of Destiny Academy. Billy Callaway (no relation) was an AP who retired from the district a few years ago. Clarence used to be the Health & PE Coordinator. Just don't want poor Billy to be drawn into this unnecessarily :) Ha!

Dekalbparent said...

A statement was made by DCSS maintenance bosses to several residents of Medlock that the building would be used for storage until it was used to house some Fernbank students while the new school was built (with yet-to-be-approved SPLOST money). That's a lot of years.

Jump in, ICS!

Cerebration said...

You are exactly correct ANON! I totally mis-typed... I know it's Clarence... thanks for correcting me.

Gayle said...

@ Dekalbparent
" Medlock that the building would be used for storage until it was used to house some Fernbank students while the new school was built (with yet-to-be-approved SPLOST money).'

So you take is that Fernbank is so overcrowded that they will be placing students in Medlock until the new school is built? Medlock is very small, and didn't they just rezone all of the Medlock students so they could close it? That makes no sense.

TRMyers said...

I would welcome an established charter such as ICS into our neighborhood. Yes, it has been stated by DCSS representatives that Medlock could be used to house Fernbank students during a buildout of a larger school. However, I would rather have a long-term, stable partner such as ICS. And ICS has been waiting for many years to find a permanent home. ICS - come on over!

Marney Mayo said...

On page 31 of the May 27th presentation to the board there is a table showing that DCSS would consider leasing Medlock:

It has been my experience that what is told to the maintenance bosses by the mid level folk is typically more accurate that what is told to the board...

So apparently it is more important to preserve this asset for the potential temporary use of the Fernbank folk while they are being built their pretty new building with our--as yet unvoted--SPLOST 4 money, then it is to house real children--here and now. No wonder that Fernbank PTA guy was so happy last Monday.

Avondale Middle, Avondale High school, and Forrest Hills elementary are certainly no more than a mile or two further away if Fernbank needs a temporary relocation--and we are still waiting for that plan for Forrest Hills 5 years later.

Do the Medlock folks get a vote on SPLOST???

Gayle said...

@ Medlock Mama

"Yes, it has been stated by DCSS representatives that Medlock could be used to house Fernbank students during a buildout of a larger school."

How is this better than placing Fernbank students at BrairVista, a school that would cost NO admins and support overhead to absorb excess Fernbank students?

Fernbank was overcrowded by 100 students last year. Coincidentally, transfers into Fernbank numbered around 100 - were these administrative trasnfers of Central Office employees?

Fernbank parents fought placing 100 Fernbank students at BriarVista to reduce the overcrowding of Fernbank recommended by the consultants who formulated DCSS school consolidation plans.

If the DCSS administration uses Medlock to house Fernbank overflow, an entirely new administration will be hired - Principal, Assistant Principal, Secretary, Counselor, CTSS, custodians, cafeteria workers, art, music, band, gifted, ESOL, Special Ed, IB coordinator, etc. (close to $1,000,000 a year in extra cost). If this goes on for 2 or 3 years, taxpayers are now committed to $2,000,000 to $3,000,000 extra dollars for admin and support overhead rather than just placing Fernbank students into existing structures.

The admin and support overhead would negate any savings DCSS got from closing Medlock. Medlock students might as well have been left in place considering any savings realized.

Additionally, would the state fully fund a Fernbank "temporary" extension? Would there be enough students to ensure the existing Fernbank would be fully funded, and then also the Medlock "Fernbank" would also be funded (particularly since Medlock does not have enough physical seats to get state funding).

Who thought this out? Why would the DCSS administration even consider this?

Auntie said...

@ATL question: "Why would the DCSS administration even consider this?"

answer: quoted from an off-line conversation with one of the public faces of the Fernbank Elementary school parent groups, in the context of the attendance line between Fernbank and Briar Vista: "Come on, you know I'm never going to let my kids go to school with those kids."

'nuff said.

Cerebration said...

I think the idea about moving Fernbank temporarily would include the whole school. Plans are to tear down the current building and build a new one. Same idea for Austin. I guess these kids would need a home during that time -- however, I have serious doubts as to whether SPLOST IV will pass. They're counting on it passing. They don't realize that the people will essentially vote "No Confidence" in the school system and the board by not giving them another half billion dollars to spend on construction. Especially when the plans haven't really been planned out very well - as far as filling educational needs in the county.

Gayle said...

@ Cerebration

"I think the idea about moving Fernbank temporarily would include the whole school."

Agreed. However, Medlock is very tiny. It has 2 short hallways and 2 sets of bathrooms. I don't think it's capacity is but about 400 students - max. How would it hold all of the Fernbank students?

Half of Fernbank is old, but half is new. The new addition is beautiful. A lot of money went into the new addition. I wonder if they are going to tear that down?

Cerebration said...

Don't know how or where they'll fit - I just was told that they would be moved out in order to build. I think the shuttered Avondale HS would be able to hold them all for sure.

BTW - the first time I met Pat Pope was at a meeting held at Fernbank ES. She was telling us all about how her husband had designed the renovation...