This morning at 10 AM, there was a demonstration against the construction of T-Mobile cell towers at DeKalb County Schools. Parents, neighbors, and citizens opposed to the use of public school property for commercial gain gathered at Briarlake Elementary School at 3590 La Vista Road, then marched as a group to the T-Mobile store at the corner of La Vista Road and I-285. This was a peaceful, orderly demonstration by families.
The demonstration was organized by a group formed in opposition to the DeKalb County Board of Education’s plan to lease property at Briarlake to T-Mobile to put up a cell tower. No Briarlake Tower LLC, is supported by the Briarlake Elementary School PTA as well as parents and neighbors of the Briarlake Community (www.nobriarlaketower.org.)
“The purpose of this demonstration is to generate awareness and give opportunity for the citizens to show how they feel about T-Mobile taking advantage of a loop hole in our local zoning to gain access to residential areas that they have no right to be in. We have code governing the placement of cell towers. T-mobile is violating that code while hiding behind the DeKalb County Board of Education. T-mobile has disregarded the PTA, the parents, and the neighbors around these schools. We urge T-Mobile to do the right thing and find alternative locations for their cell towers.”
For more info go to: nobriarlaketower.org or briarcliffheights.org
The DeKalb County Board of Education has engaged in a business agreement with T-mobile to put cell towers up on the property of 9 of our community schools. Briarlake ES is included on this list. The Briarlake parents, children, and neighbors do not want this tower installed. We've put too much into this school to share it with strangers servicing a commercial endeavor. Briarlake Elementary School is a place for learning not making money.
Why should you care?
-LOSS OF VALUABLE RESOURCES
-LACK OF TRANSPARENCY
If there was nothing to hide why did DCSS go about it this way? Why is DCSS involved in cell phone coverage? Why didn’t they try harder to notify people when only two showed up for the informational meeting at Briarlake? Why did they not respond to phone calls and e-mails before July? Why did the BOE hold a vote in the middle of the summer with an interim superintendent to sign a 30 year contract? Why are the lease proceeds going into the DCSS general fund with no public accounting! Why did DCSS insist that the contract was signed during the time between July 11th and December 8th, 2011 when the contract was actually signed by Cheryl Atkinson?
-THE SAFETY OF OUR CHILDREN
There is no loophole in the law. The county is protecting the arrangement because they will be using the towers to support their 911 expansion into better cellular coverage for the safety of the communities. Therefore, the "Special Administrative Permit" that does not have to get public input or give notification is allowed.
Anyone wishing to oppose the tower in their community based on lack of notification by the school board to the public will need to consult a zoning, environmental, fair housing or civil rights attorney as soon as possible.
Briarlake again has failed to mention that the march was the original idea conceived by the countywide opposition group, Get the Cell Out - Atlanta, which shared the information with the Margaret Harris group. Margaret Harris and Briarlake are located close to each other and joined together in the march, but failed to confirm the plans with the other members of GTCO-ATL, which ignored the health and safety concerns of the southern and central schools in the county.
A united front is the only way to gain larger support and make the legislators take notice. A county or school system that remains divided, is easily conquered and defeated. The voices of many can bring change. The voice of a few can quieted quickly when special favors and money is involved.
Is the Briarlake PTA planning to refuse the money that the school board reports they will receive? Why didn't they reach out to the Margaret Harris PTA? Or the other PTAs? Where is their resolution against the towers and did they share it with the disrict or state PTA for expansion of the opposition to all of the PTAs involved now and the potential ones that will be affected in the future?
Have any of the officers spoken out aginst the towers who were in the PTA in the Fall of 2010 when the other PTAs involved have admitted they were first alerted?
There is much to raise eyebrows and concerns about this opposition group. Mainly, if you look at other counties, like Cobb, that have been able to hold off construction with restraining orders or stop the towers completely, they have only done so with the help of an attorney. Money spent on yard signs would have been more effective if legal advice would have been sought instead.
That has been the suggestion of parents and taxpayers from the Tucker-based GTCO-ATL, started by parents who were sucessful at stopping a tower at their school, who have remained involved out of concern for the children and concern for the poor notification the residents in all affected communities received.
Efforts to join forces and share information have been encouraged. Sadly, our school system does not encourage the joining of forces even between parents for the sake of the health and welfare of all children.
We have a war going on to protect our rights, yet we all sit back and debate whether or not to stick up for ourselves and our neighbors when those same rights are being violated.
Where was Lakeside in all of this? They have smugly been responsible for all this turmoil and pitting of neighborhoods against each other and distrating the communities from the subject of the failing education system. They initiated the request and, along with their feeder school Brairlake, were the only two that were mentioned at the vote in July as being IN FAVOR of the towers.
Who spoke up for Briarlake back then? Who are the "unknown persons" that gave the okay to the school board to vote yes, as was clearly understood by all the board members as Donna Edler attempted a motion to remove all schools, but revised it to only ask that the schools minus Briarlake and Lakeside be removed.
Who is the person who went to the meeting with Womack and said "I put up towers all over this country..." and why is he not a person that everyone in that community should want to meet and talk to? Womack stated that person had property that backed up to the school. That doesn't leave too many doors to knock on before you get the answer.
Correction: prior statement was intended to imply that the actions of Briarlake is what led to the other schools being ignored.
GTCO-ATL has been involved in attempts to notify other schools in county, working with the groups CHASE, concerned citizens of south dekalb, and Unhappy Taxpayer and Voter. The Martin Luther King High School community was very upset with their board member Jay Cunningham for representing their area as "rural" and stating during the vote in July that his schools were in favor of the towers when his own wife is the head of the PTA at MLK. Many, many conflicts of interest involved in this story. I hope the DA or the grand jury is paying attention!
Did the Briarlake PTA also advocate for splost iv?
Why is the monthly fee going to the Central Office? The school and community will be left with the eyesore, but the money will be in the pockets of the Central Office. Other school systems leave all or part of the monthly fee with the schools that bear the burden of the cell towers.
I don't live in the Briarlake district, but come on. They have a TINY footprint in the middle of dense streets of suburban housing. Plopping a cell tower there will be an eyesore. It will rob kids of playground space and provides access to the grounds to workers when the trend is toward more limited and secured access by non-school personnel on school grounds. This is a no-brainer. Regardless of alleged medical threats, there is no reason the tower should be shoe-horned on school property. And we all know the next 100 years of rent payments will go to the central office - not the Briarlake PTA.
I live within the neighborhood adjacent to Briarlake Elementary and am appalled at the Dekalb County BOE complete lack of care for the communities opinions. This was a backroom deal, which the community found at about after the fact as Dekalb County BOE advised it was a done deal months ago; we later found out this was not the truth, as the final contract was signed 12.08.2011 after MONTHS of vocal opposition. The BOE now gets to decide whether my family's health can be endangered, whether my property value will decline and whether my daughter will spend nearly 10 years of her young life under or very near a cell tower. This is a real shame! For months, communities and government officials reached out to the BOE and received no answer. People have a 150 foot cell tower being erected within a few hundred feet or less from their home and had absolutely no say in the matter. All those that say "what are you so concerned about," think about if you had children at these schools, if your home value plummeted and if you had no rights.
All I can think is that the DeKalb BOE has been in hot water for so long that this cell tower issue is not heating it up anymore. It is sad to think that hundreds of parents opposing, media attention, and all of the communication has resulted in NO substantive response from either the superintendent or the BOE. This just isn't a high priority for them and/or they do not take these groups and schools very seriously. Maybe that is the reason they were chosen - they didn't make any noise at first, so the BOE figured they wouldn't be able to mobilize once push came to shove.
Womack chaired the meetings when this thing was approved. Hold him accountable.
Keep in mind that this seem Board of Ed bent over and changed the superintendent's recommendations for redistricting? Money for the system can't be the only reason for the board's refusal to revisit this issue.
True. He very much pushed this through - against many demonstrators. The board appeased the communities who were there to argue against the cell towers and then approved the contract for the rest (assuming that if they weren't there to protest, they must be ok with the cell tower in their neighborhood).
Here's our report on that meeting last JULY - it had an enormous agenda and began with Ramona making a speech from the 'heart' about 'change' (responding to the huge decline in test scores)
Ramona Tyson gives the inspiration... "it will take all of us to move this district forward". I just want to speak from the heart. I understand good and bad feelings about the low academic achievement, but you can't give up on us yet. Change is necessary and change will happen. Children need to know that we are inspired by the challenge and if we all come together we can be the change that we want to be. I have between 75-80 days left. I will not be idling. Change will be ready on day 1 of the new superintendent's term. We will talk with the community and the board about the change we want to make in the 90 days for the time after the 90 days.
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/07/big-board-meeting-tonight.html>Big Board Meeting Tonight!
Nancy Jester tried to get the BOE to make it an "opt-in" but her peers would have none of that. If the money is such a benefit to the schools, it seems Womack would have pushed to have it on his granddaughter's playground at Oak Grove. Maybe he thinks it's ok for someone else's school but not the one where his family attends. Just sayin...
@ anon 10:54: You sure do have your dander up about Briarlake. What have we done to you? FWIW -the march did include Margaret Harris and I guess you didn't see John Evans of the NAACP and the tax payer lady that speaks at BOE meetings on the tv clip, huh?
Have you taken the time to actually go see the trees and area at Briarlake that will be impacted? If not, you should do that before spouting off. The site is within 50 feet of the fitness structure and runs through their outdoor classroom, wilderness trail and certified wildlife habitat. Is it ok if we come tear up your school grounds?
It should bother all of us that Dr. Atkinson said it was a done deal and the contract had been signed when it actually wasn't signed until mid-December. That may not bode well for future issues.
I'm not so sure she said the contract had been signed. But she did say it was a done deal - and it was. The board voted for it before she was hired. They are her only bosses. She has to sign the contract that they approved in an open meeting. She has no choice or influence in the matter. Back during the discussion, perhaps Ramona Tyson could have opined on the subject - but certainly not Atkinson.
A deal isn't a deal until the papers are all signed up. If Atkinson wanted to interject herself, she could have. During the honeymoon phase, she has lots of power - if the BOE doesn't support her recommendations early on (this being an example where she could have recommended to revisit the topic in a public meeting), she can use the BOE road blocks to justify why she wasn't successful - if that day comes when the BOE tells her to pack her bags. (although the cell tower won't be one of the reasons but it is an example of how things could have been done differently on her watch related to this issue.)
That would be insubordinate.
I disagree. In a healthy system, it would be regrouping and revisiting a situation in a conversation among adults about the situation, the resulting consequences of decisions, and possible actions to correct the problems/concerns that arose.
The board voted in the cell tower contract before Atkinson was even hired. Period. She has no power over this. However, yes, they could have had more discussion, Tyson could have taken up the cause, they could have stepped back and talked with communities. But they didn't. You basically have Paul Womack and the rest of the board except Jester and Edler to thank.
It wasn't signed until December. The super was asked to sign a contract for which she had no input. Not unlike the facilities plan discussed on another thread, revisiting it would have allowed the super a chance to weigh in. Both the BOE and the superintendent could have asked to revisit it if they had wanted to. Sad that Edler and Jester both tried to prevent this mess adn we are all spending time on it when we should be focused on student achievement...but tonight's agenda, as always, has no topics that address improving student achievement.
To those who seem to be so concerned about the date the papers were signed, consider these facts:
At the vote, the question was asked by Dr. Speaks about what would happen if there were other communities who were opposed and wanted to speak up? What options would they have? Tyson replied that the only way the board could allow them time to speak up would be if they were to pull the item off that night's agenda and schedule it for a later date.
That's when Womack chimed in about a due diligence period of 6 months. He asked and Steve Donahue, Plant Services, returned to the podium to reply that yes, T-Mobile had a 6-month due diligencce period to obtain permits, the zoning approval of the county and things of that nature. This answer seemed to satisfy those on the board who seemed concerned. The vote was taken under this pretext of a second opportunity for the communities to speak up.
We have only recently learned that this second opportunity has not materialized, likely because the Brockett parents alerted Briarlake, Martin Luther King, Jolly and the other schools either directly or indirectly through their continuation of the subject in the media and online.
The county commissioners are now saying that they do not need public input because they are using a Special Admin. Permit because these will be also used for 911 so they can avoid the public's input once again.
The board voted and did so with poor public notification, but the deal was likely signed by Tyson on July 12 as planned. Atkinson was likely signing an updated contract since these legal documents typically need to contain the current administrator's signature on file.
If you had actually read the contract, you would see that T-mobile was not allowed onto school grounds to perform testing for permits until the contract allowed them. Since FCC permits have already been applied for at most of these schools in September and even signs of testing were noted at Briarlake as early as September during the Fall Festival, then the contract was signed.
So, why the outrage over this minor issue of transfer of contract ownership (very common in corporate America)? OR is this a distraction to get people to drop their guard and not realize the upccoming deadline?
The ending of the first due diligence period is in THREE DAYS - January 12, 2012!!! This will be six months from the day the contract was expected to be signed (July 12, 2011). And, that means one of two things can occur next at these sites: a 6 month extention on the due diligence period OR construction of the eavesments or actual tower will begin.
Any affected community needs to be prepared to photograh any signs of construction if you ever wish to claim that the tower will have a visual impact on your view from your home. And, if you were not properly notified, you can file a temporary restraining order quickly to stop the work before it is too late.
This worked in Cobb County and can buy you anywhere from 30 - 90 days to consult with an attorney.
See this site for more info: www.getthecelloutatl.org
We are thankful to GTCO-ATL parents who alerted our community at MLK as we are prepared to do what it takes to protect our children.
Just a heads up ... I live near Margaret Harris and we were also alerted by the Mom from Brockett. She drove through our neighborhood and asked my neighbor if she knew where the tower was going to go. And that was the first we heard about anything.
So, I choose to use Briarlake for their help with the turnout for events, but use Get the Cell Out for the truth about what is really going on. We appreciate what they have done to alert us when Briarlake did nothing.
Has anyone considered the fact that the parents who are opposing the towers at Briarlake may includee some of the exact same people who are in favor of it at Lakeside?
It is all one little community and they will do anything to protect their little niche of DeKalb. These schools are literally a quarter mile or so apart. THere must be a lot of hypocrits over there, opposing and supporting the same thing and the same time.
You cannot regroup or revisit a signed legal document unless you want to invite a lawsuit and we have had enough of those.
Thank you to Anoyn 10:54 a.m., but do not worry about giving us credit. We are not involved for the political or publicity side of this issue. We simply wanted to be good neighbors and prevent others from having to start from ground zero when T-mobile has the advanage of literally years of experience destroying communities this way. We actually did have many supporters and protesters at the march on Saturday and played a key role in the planning of the whole thing. We were unable to attend personally, but are proud of the communities who united in protest for spreading the word and bringing attention to this subject. This is about much more than dropped calls, we can assure you of that! The march has brought the eyes of more politicians to our cause and has opened a few doors of communication for us, so we are very grateful. Please see our website for important information about the latest suggestions for anyone wanting to oppose the cell tower in their commmunity. www.GETtheCELLoutATL.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Right now the focus is on calling and writing to:
DeKalb County Public Works Department; Director's and Administration Office; 330 West Ponce de Leon Avenue, 4th Floor, Decatur, GA 30030, Director's Office - (404) 371-4778
FAX - (404) 371-4761
isn't it interesting that BOE member Paul Womack lives within Breckenridge subdivision adjacent to Briarlake Elementary and that no one in the area was informed of the process. Is this a conflict of interest? Per his previous commentary, he alluded to his wanting better cell coverage. Amazing! Another had a very interesting post concerning his grand daughter at Oakgrove. I'd like him to explain why Oakgrove Elementary was not on the cell list but Briarlake was. This all very sneaky particularly given Womack's living in the community adjacent to Briarlake and not alerting the civic association prior to his pushing the deal through.
January 9, 2012 10:57 AM - You are not reading my comments about Briarlake correctly. I believe the community. I do not believe the PTA should have their hands all in the protest of the very thing they approved during the prior school year, kept quiet about all summer, and will stand to make $25,000 - $100,000 if it goes through.
You mentioned "that taxpayer woman" and the fact that you have no idea what school she represents or why she was there proves my point, doesn't it? The NAACP may have been there, but I doubt they liked what they saw. It's insulting and offensive to suggest that one woman of color is enough to justify that all of the other schools, which are primarily black and Title I, have been represented or included in any of the statements put out by Briarlake. Margaret Harris is so new to this whole issue and they do not know the "issues" of the school system as they do not have children involved, so they are not aware of how deep the corruption runs.
Yes, I have seen the sight at Brairlake. I also know the person who took those pictures that tipped off the community and it wasn't anyone from the Briarlake community, PTA or with a home adjaccent to the school. It was a concerned parent from another neighborhood trying to help the sincere folks over there who are being lied to by the people that are supposed to represent them.
This is a shameful situation and it will only get worse once we hear what the D.A. and grand jury have uncovered. Brace yourselves. We have felony convictions coming! Choose your comments and pick your sides carefully. Those who have conflicts of interest should keep quiet as it is one of the issues that will bring this board down and they will drag whomever they can with them.
Tell how can you let Annette Roberts and Eugene Marnell go from Rainbow Elementary and give the school such poor leadership. Dr. Carolyn Benson don't understand instruction nor do she know how to be a people person. Rainbow needs someone who is about the children and the teachers. All Dr.Benson do is sit in her office playing on her phone or chatting with the counselor they both trying to look important, but only focusing on their money rather than the students. Her sidekick Della Culver needs to learn her craft as a counselor and practice it. Maybe the school will make AYP! Its strange that this school was a school of excellent and has made AYP for numerous of year and now that Carolyn has brought her poision of failure rate to the school it has went down.Dr. Atkins it is time for another change at Rainbow starting with Dr.Benson and Dr. Culver.
The Community of Rainbow
Rainbow has the look, but not the right person as the Principal. Please look at here fail records from school to school.She have made AYP at any pervious school,but you want here to be a leader. Now Rainbow has fallen in the her hand and getting the honor of not making AYP too... She need to go back for more training on how to be an effective Principal.
We do not want to see any cell phone towers built on school grounds regardless of location. The different school locations decided to work together when possible and support one another toward this goal. CHASE, Citizens for a Healthy and Safe Environment, will hold a town hall meeting on January 28th to address two issues:
1) Cell phone towers on school grounds
2) Gasification plant in South DeKalb
We need to work together to protect the health and welfare of our children.
If you have comments or specific conerns about the cell tower planned for your school or community, please sign the countywide petition at www.thepetitionsite.com/1/GTCO-ATL as soon as possible.
The comments of all communities will be compiled and delivered to all the parties at T-mobile, the school board and our local and state government who have input into this process.
DEADLINE: NOON on Jan. 11, 2012
More info at: www.GETtheCELLoutATL.org
(link to petition is also located in the top left corner of the website homepage.)
Please share the petition link on your FB page or with any email groups you have.
If your community has its own opposition group and would like to have your numbers inluded with ours along with any statements or objections of the individual signers, or the group as a whole, please send the information in text format to email@example.com.
Update: The whole 911 improved service / lack of servie claim is not a valid reason to violate zoning laws. There is no such thing as a "911 cell tower" as ALL CELL TOWERS ARE 911 TOWERS! They are required by federal law to set aside a certain amount of bandwidth for 911 service that works regardless of your carrier and even if you don't have a carrier. A cell phone with no service, but a charged battery, can reach 911 if it is in the coverage area of any cell tower.
What zoning laws, specifically, are being violated?
What section of the DeKalb County Zoning law are you referring to?
Schools are zoned R100 at least in DeKalb. Thus, the zoning violation. Though, I believe, school systems are viewed as their own governmental entity in GA and are entitled to use their land, as long as they own it, as they desire.
I hope the Briarlake folks and other impacted folks are looking long and hard at their board member and looking to find someone to run against Womack.
The school zoning is much more flexible in order to allow schools the ability to build as they fulfill an 'educational' need without having to navigate traditional zoning regs.
IMO, adding cell towers to a school property so that a money-making corporate venture can circumvent traditional zoning requirements is an abuse of this flexible zoning reg. I think the best thing to do is rewrite the zoning regs and place tighter restrictions on these school laws. Sad - but this is a greedy abuse of a well-intentioned zoning law for schools. Now, it's time to put out the watchdogs and stop this kind of opportunistic, greedy abuse.
Again, this situation supports the case for the online check register. The public is entitled to see exactly how this 'rent' money collected from T-Mobile is spent. We have suspicions that some abuse of these funds will occur without citizen oversight.
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