Newsletters

9/6/2019 Newsletter

Subject:  DeKalb County School District Wants Increased Taxes to Cover Cost Overruns – Community Input Session, 9/10/19, 7pm, Lakeside High School 

 

In May 2016, DeKalb County voters approved a 1% sales tax increase (E-SPLOST V) to fund school improvements.   Five general areas were identified for using the estimated $561M expected to be raised.  No plan --- strategic, financial or tactical --- was ever developed to manage the “buckets of money” to a successful conclusion.

 

In March 2017, in response to a severe overcrowding problem at Lakeside High School (LHS), the Board of Education (BOE) approved a $27 million expansion of LHS to include 38 new classrooms and a parking deck.  In doing so, the BOE chose to ignore the Georgia Dept. of Education campus size guidelines; existing traffic problems; student safety; watershed problems, etc.  We have fought this proposal since the beginning.

 

In September 2019, just 3 years + 3 months after voters approved the 1% sales tax, E-SPLOST V is $95M over budget, and E-SPLOST IV is an additional $5M over budget.  The DCSD has now reconfigured “the list” and LHS has been removed from the original budget.  We taxpayers may now be asked to approve a 15-year $100M to $265M General Obligation bond (GO Bond) to cover the deficit and/or add additional projects.  The DCSD administration admitted to the BOE in July that they learned a lesson from completing their original project pricing inhouse:  one of the reasons given for the current deficit.  The result:  mismanagement of “the list” from the very beginning.  If the BOE decides to move forward with asking citizens to approve a GO Bond, you will be asked to vote in March 2020 on this proposal.  If passed, GO bond funds could be used to fund the LHS expansion. (The plan has been reduced to 17 classrooms because DCSD’s new enrollment projections have the LHS enrollment declining. The cost of the reduced scope of work will be roughly the same cost as the original project).

 

Please plan to attend to learn more:

 

LHS E-SPLOST and “GO” Bond Public Meeting / Community Input Session
7pm, Tuesday, September 10, 2019,  at Lakeside High School
The DCSD will explain the $100M overrun and seek your input on which projects should be expanded / deleted / added, as well as your viewpoint on the GO Bond options.  Although DCSD will tightly control the information and choices they offer, this is an important opportunity to learn about and speak out on the additional $100M to $265M in tax dollars now being requested!  

There were 185 attendees at the Chamblee meeting last week …Let your voices be heard too!  

 


8/4/2019 Newsletter Update

To our LHS Supporters

Subject: Corrections and Additions to Update for Educate DeKalb Supporters August 3, 2019

Please note the following contains corrections and additions to the update originally sent August 2. We would call specific attention to these sections: State Reimbursement and Capacity, Consolidating Schools and BOE member contact information.

If you have posted or shared our earlier email, we ask that you that you also post/share this corrected version. Thank you and please share with your friends, family and colleagues!

School begins Monday, August 5th, for DCSD students. Educate DeKalb wants to keep stakeholders aware of important developments in our schools, central office and extended community. We know this is a long read, but this is a challenging situation for our schools and our kids. Please take the time to read and consider all of it. And please plan now to attend and speak at the August 12 BOE meeting, 5:45 pm – 6:45 pm (details below).

Lakeside Leadership. Principal Bounds has accepted a job offer in Fulton County, and retired Henderson Middle School Principal, Terese Allen, is serving as Interim Principal at Lakeside. Ms. Allen is hiring new teachers and staff to fill vacancies before the start of classes. Since retiring, Ms. Allen has served as an interim at Druid Hills High and Chamblee Charter High. Those who know Ms. Allen feel confident that she is up for the challenge of leading the Lakeside community.

Superintendent and Cabinet. Superintendent Green has announced that he will leave the DeKalb County School District when his contract expires in 2020.  Several members of Green’s cabinet have also left DCSD, and their positions are currently filled by interim staff. During this time of transition, stakeholders need to pay particular attention to decisions being made that impact our schools, communities, local economy, and property values. We must demand the quality of service our children deserve. Apathy is not an option, nor is blind trust.

Educate Dunwoody. Citizens in the heavily overcrowded Dunwoody community have recently formed their own group, appropriately called Educate Dunwoody. We applaud their call to civic action and improved communication among stakeholders in the Dunwoody Cluster. We have joined with them to begin collaboration on solving our shared concerns. Joined voices in support of similar principles provide a much more powerful message.

Following are updates on multiple issues and facts that should raise serious concerns for everyone about the performance of DCSD.  DCSD has made major facilities decisions without fully considering the big picture and risks/benefits to students.  Its current strategic plan continues to fail in this regard, as does its approach to ESPLOST V expenditures.  

SPLOST Budget Shortfall. At the July Board of Education meeting, Dan Drake, Interim COO, revealed a $95 million deficit in SPLOST IV and V funds. Drake presented a 37-page document, outlining the causes for the budget shortfall and his menu of selected options to address it. Drake’s proposed solution involves three steps:

  1. Eliminating and reducing the scope of planned and approved projects to balance the budget
  2. Asking voters to approve either a $222 million or a $265 Million General Obligation Bond (GO Bond) that will raise property taxes for 15 years.
  3. If the GO Bond passes, some projects may be restored, and new ones may be added.

Educate DeKalb has significant concerns with the proposal Drake has asked the Board of Education to approve. Overruns and the need to borrow to deal with them is not responsible financial stewardship. DCSD has not shown itself to be capable of competently managing its finances. 

State Reimbursement and Capacity. The school funding formula is complicated, with local sales tax, local property tax, state, and federal taxes funding different programs. School systems can expect some reimbursements for construction from the state of Georgia when schools meet certain guidelines. According to Drake’s presentation, DCSD is expected to receive approximately $13 Million less in state reimbursements than originally anticipated because DCSD has available middle and high school seats in the county.  Many are under capacity, and therefore construction to add more seats would not be considered critical/necessary by the state. To be clear, DCSD is forfeiting millions of dollars from the state with their proposed plans. Rather than address the discrepancies between school capacity and enrollment, DCSD is proposing the BOE vote to ask property owners to approve a GO Bond and pay higher taxes for the next 15 years. Forfeiting state reimbursements is NOT responsible financial stewardship.

Lakeside Expansion. Educate DeKalb urges that the Lakeside expansion project be removed from all options for a host of reasons:  campus is too small to support a larger school, access to campus is limited posing danger to pedestrians, choosing between parking and PE/Athletic space is unacceptable, replacing a 7-year old Media Center is a waste of tax dollars, and forcing students to attend school in a construction zone for years is detrimental to students, staff, parents, academic programs, extracurricular activities, the community, etc.

However, Lakeside remains overcrowded with 11 trailers currently on campus.  The only “solution” the DCSD has proposed is to collect more tax revenue and build more classroom additions. Our community must demand better solutions from district leaders by opposing the GO Bond. As long as DCSD continues to collect Billions in tax dollars, they will build expensive, inferior additions that restrict opportunities for our students. Educate DeKalb urges DCSD to follow their peers in APS and engage experts to do a comprehensive study of facilities and properties; click to see full article: APS authorizes $900,000 plan to guide building decisions

Another Flawed Survey. DCSD has developed another flawed survey to gain stakeholders’ input on the proposed solutions for the funding deficits and overcrowding. Initially, this poorly written survey could be taken an unlimited number of times from a single IP address. That issue has been corrected. Unfortunately, there have been no changes to the poorly written information to provide clarity on the budget overruns and recommended options.  

But the survey is still available and includes: 8 questions (3- realignment of SPLOST projects, 2- Go Bond, 3- specific projects). You are offered the opportunity to indicate your yes/no agreement level and provide comments on each question. Educate DeKalb urges you to Take the survey - Say NO to the GO! 

Consolidating Schools. If the GO Bond passes, Hawthorne and Henderson Mill Elementary will be merged into one new 900-seat elementary school, currently proposed on the Hawthorne site.  Based on the presentation by Mr. Drake, it appears that if the GO Bond doesn’t pass, Hawthorne will not receive funds for upgrades as originally promised.  It is not clear what will happen with the funds originally committed to Henderson Mill Elementary School. We hope to receive more information on this and will pass along any information we receive.

Hawthorne and Henderson Mill offer different educational programs to serve our communities. Henderson Mill serves a diverse group of neighborhood students with specially-trained teachers who provide an innovative program that emphasizes and earns recognition for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. Hawthorne serves both neighborhood students and non-resident students from Coralwood School, a special-needs preschool for DeKalb students. Hawthorne has an inclusion model that serves both typically-developing and special-needs students in a co-taught classroom with specially trained teachers and paraprofessionals. In addition to STEM instruction, Hawthorne offers smaller class sizes and lower teacher-pupil ratios to meet students’ educational needs.

This new “solution” will ultimately result in an extended period of disruption and/or displacement for Hawthorne students, and it will cost $34 million versus the originally promised $11.5M for upgrades/repairs for both schools. This is NOT responsible financial or academic stewardship.

Deferred Maintenance. Just in from 11Alive News July 28, 2019: “Parents are frustrated as the first day of school quickly approaches. We showed Dan Drake, DCSD interim chief operations officer, a stack of more than 2,200 work orders still open in the district just 10 days before school starts. We also asked him how parents should feel about seeing work orders dating back three years – some regarding serious issues like fire safety.” Click to view full news clip: DCSD 2,200 open workorders. This is unacceptable!

You Make a Difference!

The next regularly scheduled monthly BOE meeting will be held on Monday, August 12. Citizens may sign up to speak for 3 minutes (info below). Educate Dunwoody stakeholders are planning to attend. Lakeside cluster residents need to advocate for Lakeside and its feeder schools too.

There are 5 community meetings planned for stakeholders to provide DCSD with community input on Drake’s options to address the $95 Million SPLOST budget deficit. Educate DeKalb will share meeting details as soon as they are announced.

These are important opportunities to let your voices be heard. Please make the time to advocate for our children!

Plan now to attend and speak at the August 12 BOE meeting, 5:45 pm – 6:45 pm
Request today … Speaking spots are limited!
Request to speak: Email Gybria Brown gybria_brown@dekalbschoolsga.org
Include date of meeting (8/12), name, address/city/state/zip, Phone #, topic

Complete the community input survey. Take the survey - Say NO to the GO! 

Forward this email to your friends, family and colleagues – urge others to advocate too!

Email your concerns to the BOE Representatives (see list below)

As DCSD considers options to address overcrowding, budget shortfalls, deferred maintenance on our schools, and opportunities for students, they may inadvertently pit communities against one another in a desperate grab for limited tax dollars. While it is unlikely that we will ever all agree on how and where these tax dollars are spent, we all recognize that we must put the well-being of our children first.

BOE member contact information:

Dr. R. Stephen Green, DeKalb County School District Superintendent, RSGreen@dekalbschoolsga.org

Mr. Marshall D. Orson, BOE Vice Chair, District 2 Commissioner, marshall_orson@dekalbschoolsga.org

Dr. Michael A. Erwin, BOE Board Chair, District 3 Commissioner, michael_erwin@dekalbschoolsga.org

Mr. Stan O. Jester, BOE District 1 Commissioner, stan_jester@dekalbschoolsga.org

Mrs. Vickie B. Turner, BOE District 5 Commissioner, vickie_turner@dekalbschoolsga.org

Mr. Diijon DaCosta, BOE District 6 Commissioner, diijon_dacosta@dekalbschoolsga.org

Dr. Joyce Morley, BOE District 7 Commissioner, joyce_morley@dekalbschoolsga.org

Ms. Allyson Gevertz, BOE District 4 Commissioner, allyson_gevertz@dekalbschoolsga.org

 

Kay Colson, kaycolson@gmail.com


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