Newsletters

April 27, 2020 Newsletter

Subject:  Dr. Rudolf F. Crew, Sole Finalist for DSCD Superintendent

To all Lakeside High School and Educate DeKalb Supporters,

After working for five months with an expensive search firm to hold multiple public input sessions and find 68 candidates, the DCSD Board of Education has operated behind closed doors and narrowed the decision down to one option.  Last week the BOE voted 6-1 to select Dr. Rudolf F. Crew as sole finalist for DCSD superintendent.  Dr. Crew is expected to sign a contract with the school district in May and formally assume the superintendent’s position on July 1, 2020.  Superintendent Ramona Tyson will continue to lead the District until Dr. Crew takes the role of the DCSD Superintendent and has agreed to stay on for several months as a consultant to assist with an orderly transition.

https://www.ajc.com/news/local-education/dekalb-schools-new-york-college-leader-chosen-lead-school-district/TfQTwOLuNMGFKy1R0zY1jM/?fbclid=IwAR2BP305s2b3EfMXbWlYRfMpc0yPLBlVexSKvU5-DQBjSvpUQDfLxtJqjR4

Georgia law requires school districts to give a minimum of 14 days for public input before finalizing an agreement with a new superintendent. The district has scheduled virtual town hall meetings on Wednesday, April 29 and Thursday, April 30 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.  We encourage you to participate in these meetings. Questions can be submitted in advance by emailing dcsdsupesearch@dekalbschoolsga.org or calling 678-676-0722. The deadline for submitting questions is by noon on Tuesday, April 28. The town halls will be available to view live online at https://www.dekalbschoolsga.org/communications/dstv and via broadcast at DSTV 24 available within DeKalb County on Comcast cable television.

Every DeKalb County resident has the opportunity to submit questions in advance of these virtual town hall meetings.  During each of these virtual meetings, the community will hear from the finalist regarding what he envisions for the District and his responses to selected questions asked.

There has been much written about Dr. Crew’s career and most information is easily obtainable through news archives, social media and public records.  We provide a selection of this for your benefit in considering your viewpoint on his candidacy.  We urge you to take the time to read the items below and send questions or concerns for the public meetings if you choose to do so.  Questions must be submitted by emailing dcsdsupesearch@dekalbschoolsga.org or calling 678-676-0722 by noon Tuesday, April 28.

Alternatively, feel free to reach out to the BOE members (see contact information below), ask questions and express your opinions.  You have until Thursday, May 7 when the 14-day waiting period for public input expires.

BOE member contact information:

Mrs. Ramona Tyson, DeKalb County School District Superintendent, ramona_tyson@dekalbschoolsga.org

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

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

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

*Dr. Michael A. Erwin, District 3 Commissioner, michael_erwin@dekalbschoolsga.org

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

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

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

*Up for re-election Fall 2020
+Not running for re-election

Medgar Evers College Student Government Association (petition started November 2019) – "Rudy Crew is an absentee president - He hardly shows up for work (he sends a video) and when he does, he leaves within a couple of hours - is he out fundraising? Probably not, since we have a negative balance in our budget.”

https://www.change.org/p/cuny-resignation-of-medgar-evers-college-president-crew-and-removal-of-portable-classrooms?fbclid=IwAR1NLdPE1YbgwdwgFh2V-dQFU9xR_Ws92CIlgDNXAKx4cnRanFxHl6a_GG8

NY Daily News (July 1, 2019) – “Sylvia Kinard, the former chief diversity officer at Medgar Evers – and ex-wife of CUNY Board of Trustees Chairman Bill Thompson – filed a discrimination suit against Crew, claiming he berated, physically intimidated, and fired her after bristling at her handling of a personnel dispute.”

https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-rudy-crew-out-medgar-evers-20190701-b5yz5uaedjcsvpsqhncwasy4u4-story.html

Anna Hill Educate Dunwoody FaceBook page regarding Medgar Evers Audit (June 30, 2018)– “Tax levy funds used to buy $32,421 for Rudy Crew’s home; the use of these funds were ‘improper’ and ‘not used for their intended purpose’.” These accounts consist of taxpayer dollars, such as monies collected for tuition and fees.”

https://osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093016/15s92.pdf

https://www.facebook.com/groups/EducateDunwoody/

St. Louis American (September 18, 2008) – “Superintendent Shuffle - Rudy Crew ‘used the proverbial cloak to hide his shenanigans and refused to cooperate with requests for transparency.’"

http://www.stlamerican.com/news/columnists/jamala_rogers/the-superintendent-shuffle/article_ffd2bd5f-c8dd-5fa5-8215-14819d9d66ba.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=user-share

The Oregonian (July 16, 2013) – “Oregon's departed chief education officer, Rudy Crew, billed the state for thousands of dollars of personal travel expenses, took six weeks of paid vacation and tried to get the state to pay for perks such as first-class plane tickets.”

https://www.oregonlive.com/education/2013/07/ex-education_czar_rudy_crew_ra.html

Termination of Contract of Superintendent Rudolf Crew, Miami Dade School Board (July 30, 2008) – “Gross Negligence …. Incompetence … Insubordination … Willful Neglect of Duty”

http://pdfs.dadeschools.net/Bdarch/2008/Bd080408/agenda/H6rev.PDF?fbclid=IwAR1qoVeEOLOIIP4Dm1q_f19L5Q7_ogrTeR0EyIodlensXE0GTwUvJgx1qbc

Miami New Times (August 2, 2007) – “Now the school system faces a series of lawsuits and other controversies related to his (Rudy Crew) autocratic behavior, which could cost taxpayers big."

https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/bad-apple-6365244

Criminal Justice (September 16, 2006) – Allegation of 2006 rape cover up at Miami-Dade County Schools

http://criminal-justice.iresearchnet.com/crime/school-violence/northwestern-high-school-sex-scandal/

New York Times (September 17, 1997) – Allegation of 1997 gang rape cover up in Queens

https://www.nytimes.com/1997/09/17/nyregion/withering-report-criticizes-officials-over-a-rape-in-school.html?fbclid=IwAR3ltBYGDEylWZ7jlV33ex6iwngW_Sn9DRCVQ8IRdHtguQyglOB3O3jfcX0

Atlanta Journal-Constitution (April 23, 2020) – DCSD's Marshall Orson - "Our overriding goal was to make this an open and transparent process”, AJC "It was anything but (transparent)"

https://www.ajc.com/news/local-education/dekalb-schools-board-announce-new-superintendent/JdTVVEPddLHkEjP1nQ2iaP/

Fact Checker (April 23, 2020) – “In January this year, DeKalb Schools hired public relations firm Porter Novelli for $200K to assist with the national superintendent search. One of their stated directives is to ‘Assist with building excitement about and confidence in the candidate selected.’”

http://factchecker.stanjester.com/2020/04/11467/

Educate DeKalb
Kay Colson, kaycolson@gmail.com

 


1/28/2020 Newsletter

Subject:  Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson leads major changes at DCSD

 

To all Lakeside High School and Educate DeKalb Supporters,

Following are updates regarding important DCSD activities currently in process, including superintendent update (interim and search for permanent superintendent), financial responsibility actions, SPLOST V projects, proposed GO Bond, Lakeside’s proposed expansion and new principal, and more.  We have tried to keep this as short as possible … but much has happened and there is still much to be done!

We believe that all of our efforts over the past 2+ years have contributed significantly to these current positive changes and want to thank each of you for your contributions and support.  As active community members who believe in education, forcing difficult issues has not been easy, but we have definitely made a difference!

Interim Superintendent Mrs. Ramona Tyson has replaced former Superintendent Dr. R. Stephen Green.  Mrs. Tyson, a longtime employee of DCSD, previously served as interim superintendent in DCSD a decade ago and will retire this June.  Mrs. Tyson has accomplished a great deal since taking over in December, including but not limited to much of the following:

Financial Responsibility

Interim CFO Robert Morales was named by Interim Superintendent Mrs. Ramona Tyson to replace former DCSD CFO, Michael Bell, who resigned in DecemberMr. Morales recently retired from the CFO position at Fulton County School District where he oversaw the implementation of the state required ERP system and oversaw a 10-year record of filing timely annual audits.

Financial records for school years 2018 and 2019 were prepared and presented to state auditors by Interim CFO Robert Morales in December. This is a major stride forward as DCSD financial audits have been filed chronically late in the past.

Unfortunately, failure to submit financial data in the past imperils DeKalb schools' credit rating. The DeKalb County School District could lose its credit rating with Moody's Investors Service after being placed “on review with direction uncertain” after failing to submit information for its annual audit in 2018.  (see link below for AJC story)

Redistricting

Redistricting recommendations were proposed by Interim Superintendent Mrs. Ramona Tyson at the January BOE meeting.  The proposal includes a phased approach and development of a comprehensive longer-term plan.  This is always a tough subject and this recommendation is likely to be voted on by the BOE at the February 10, 2020 monthly meeting.  (for Lakeside Cluster impact, see below)

SPLOST V and Proposed GO Bond

Review of SPLOST V Construction Projects and $2M Comprehensive Master Plan have now been recommended by Interim Superintendent Mrs. Ramona Tyson as an alternative approach to planning and spending.  SPLOST V construction projects are now projected to be $166M over budget, more than previously reported.  Mrs. Tyson has recommended that 8 large projects (including the proposed expansion of Lakeside) be put on hold until a Comprehensive Master Plan is developed by outside experts.  Independent experts from outside of the DCSD Operations and Planning Department would examine condition of facilities, their educational adequacy, capacity, current enrollment, enrollment projections, special programs, transportation, value of vacant properties, etc. to determine how DCSD can best utilize DeKalb’s resources to serve DCSD students now and in the future.  Mrs. Tyson also recommended the Comprehensive Master Plan scope include suggestions for overcrowded and underserved schools via redistricting, consolidating, closing, and/or repurposing schools.  This would help eliminate DCSD’s ineligibility for millions of state reimbursements due to the 6,000 vacant seats in DCSD schools.

Note:  The proposed Comprehensive Master Plan (specifically for facilities) would lay the groundwork for an authentic DCSD Strategic Plan based on a thorough needs assessment for each school across the District.

Mrs. Tyson further recommended that all SPLOST V capital improvement/deferred maintenance projects be completed as planned.  This means that school improvement projects, such as roofing, HVAC, plumbing, bathroom fixtures, etc. will be completed now, including security upgrades and turf athletic fields for many schools.

By eliminating the 8 most expensive projects from SPLOST V, Mrs. Tyson will not be recommending a GO Bond, obligating DeKalb homeowners to 15 years of additional property taxes which would include millions of dollars in interest, because it will not be needed at this time.  However, voters may still be asked to approve a SPLOST VI and/or a GO Bond in the future.  Stay tuned!

These recommendations are expected to be voted on by the BOE at the February 10, 2020 monthly meeting.  (see links below for more detail on much of the above)

Lakeside High School

Lakeside High School receives good news as well!  Dr. Susan Stoddard has been named by the DCSD as Lakeside’s new principal.  She joins us from Kennesaw Mountain High School where she served as an assistant principal.  She was an exceptional education teacher and coach for 18 years before becoming a school administrator and is a resident of Avondale Estates.  Interim Principal Terese Allen will continue to work at Lakeside through the period of transition.

With respect to redistricting, the new Pleasantdale Elementary will open next Fall 2020 at approximately 73% capacity.  Changes are anticipated in the future as part of the larger Comprehensive Master Plan.

Mrs. Tyson, who began her DCSD career at Lakeside, took a tour and as a result most of the broken windows have been replaced.

The Lakeside expansion is one of the 8 projects mentioned above as on hold.  This leaves our concerns about the expansion unresolved.  However, we applaud Mrs. Tyson for her willingness to take a step back and acknowledge the need for a Comprehensive Master Plan, an action we have requested from the beginning.  We hope this effort will help the DCSD deal effectively with the issues we have shared.

District Leadership

The search for a new DCSD superintendent continues and interviews will begin shortly.  Five of seven current BOE members were on the BOE that selected Dr. Green.  It is critical to the District’s future that the current board take a far more discerning approach to the next superintendent’s selection and, if necessary, demand more candidates if the initial slate does not include the required leadership skills, integrity and talent to lead the District forward.

Cabinet talent is also of concern as 5 are filled by interim titles and 2 permanent positions are occupied by professionals new to the DCSD … that is 7 out of 9 positions.  We sincerely hope our new superintendent will be well-connected / respected, and thus able to fill many roles with greatly needed quality talent.

Prior efforts to seek strategic input have been largely ignored.  For those familiar with the 2015-16 Secondary Schools Study (see link below) you may have questioned how it was used, where the details can be reviewed, and what impact it had?  For those of us who have reviewed the current Strategic Plan, we have asked where are the measurable goals, what is the process that will be used to ensure those goals are met, and where are we year to date?  The DCSD has not adequately answered those questions.  The DCSD published their version of a Strategic Plan in July 2019, but no baseline data was provided until months later; this is backwards from the way the process should work.  Planners relied primarily on community input, gathering technical data only later or not at all.  We challenge the BOE and new superintendent to select the right organization to complete the Comprehensive Master Plan, use it to complete a valid Strategic Plan based on sound, comprehensive data first, and then manage to the defined goals.

We are encouraged by these positive changes at the DCSD and will continue to monitor decision-making that impacts our community.  

Collectively, as citizens and taxpayers of DeKalb County, we cannot let education slip off our radar.  With four of seven BOE members up for re-election in Fall 2020, this is a good time to remind them we expect them to put our children first and to proactively work to improve DeKalb County education across the system. There is still much work to be done! 

We encourage residents to stay informed and involved, as the quality of our schools significantly impacts not just the success of our students, but also the success of our community.

We must all continue to expect and support quality education in DeKalb County in 2020!

Education DeKalb
Kay Colson, kaycolson@gmail.com

Links:

DCSD Credit Rating Under Review
https://www.ajc.com/news/local-education/failure-submit-financial-data-imperils-dekalb-schools-credit-rating/yUPcYKLPfnt5dl73iRV0eL/

Recorded BOE Meetings
https://www.dekalbschoolsga.org/communications/dstv/#tab-cdebf6c75222bf791ba

Redistricting Proposal Presentation
Click the link: https://simbli.eboardsolutions.com/SB_Meetings/ViewMeeting.aspx?S=4054&MID=75284&fbclid=IwAR3yWYLx3ejs7i0XHUmbOz7mIItV5UrxCV5AdI0B_sQzA9wIILLBQIcFXDA
Click on the materials under Business Meeting Agenda item B.1.b. First Read … Redistricting Plan …

SPLOST V Proposal Presentation
Click the link: https://simbli.eboardsolutions.com/SB_Meetings/ViewMeeting.aspx?S=4054&MID=75284&fbclid=IwAR3yWYLx3ejs7i0XHUmbOz7mIItV5UrxCV5AdI0B_sQzA9wIILLBQIcFXDA
Click on the materials under Business Meeting Agenda item B.1.c. First Read … Go Bonds …

2015-16 Secondary Schools Study
https://www.dekalbschoolsga.org/secondary-school-facility-planning-and-feasibility-study/

Meetings:

Echo/Greely/Simmons Lakes Drainage Project & Briarlake Turn Lane Project Community Meeting
Wednesday, January 29, 2020, 5-8pm
DeKalb County Public Library, Northlake-Barbara Loar Branch, 3772 LaVista Road, Tucker, GA 30084

Lakeside Cluster Summit Meeting
Thursday, January 30, 2020, 6:30pm-8:00pm
Pleasantdale Elementary School, 3695 Northlake Dr, Doraville, GA 30340

BOE Monthly Community Input Meeting
Monday, February 10, 5:45pm – 6:45pm
1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd, Stone Mountain, GA 30083

Request to speak today … Speaking spots are limited!
Request to speak:  Email Gybria Brown gybria_brown@dekalbschoolsga.org
Include date of meeting (February 10, 2020), name, address/city/state/zip, Phone #, topic

BOE member contact information:

Mrs. Ramona Tyson, DeKalb County School District Interim Superintendent, ramona_tyson@dekalbschoolsga.org

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

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

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

*Dr. Michael A. Erwin, District 3 Commissioner, michael_erwin@dekalbschoolsga.org

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

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

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

*up for re-election Fall 2020

 

 


10/21/2019 Newsletter

Subject:  DCSD "Promoting" the $265M General Obligation Bond against the wishes of the public… Special Interest Meetings with Targeted Groups ... We need to be there!

 

The DCSD wants DeKalb County voters to raise taxes and approve a $265M Go Bond that carries $80M+ interest over 15 years!  As part of this process DCSD had an online survey (70% responded against any GO Bond) and held multiple public meetings (77% of participants were against) to gauge public support for funding any GO Bond with an additional 15 years of increased taxes.

Despite DCSD’s attempts to steer both the survey questions and the public meeting format toward a “yes vote”, the results were overwhelmingly against this 15-year tax increase and really should have ended the GO Bond process.  Check out the survey and public meeting results here http://factchecker.stanjester.com/2019/10/10859/.  Instead of heeding all this public feedback, DCSD and certain board members are waging a "private" marketing campaign to select areas to "pitch" their plan to add more tax money to fund the $100M SPLOST IV & V cost overruns … and even more for special interest projects.   Even though there is overwhelming parent, taxpayer, and community opposition to any GO Bond – our elected board member Allyson Gevertz continues to push for this tax increase.   

We want to make you aware of 2 new events, not “billed as public” nor “well publicized”.  The description of each does suggest the opportunity to ask questions, which were not permitted in the carefully controlled 5 public meetings recently held.  We have to counter the “pitch” they are making to voters who are yet unaware of how badly they have managed the SPLOST III, IV and V thus far!

We plan to attend and ask a lot of questions and we hope you will too! 

 

Parent Councils United (PCU) - "Conversations" with Superintendent Dr. R. Stephen Green
Sorry … it is tomorrow, and we did not hear of it until yesterday!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019, 6:30 – 8:30 pm DCID AIC Auditorium
1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd, Stone Mountain, GA  30083

 

Emory LaVista Parent Council (ALPC) Meeting – Focus on ESPLOST overrun and GO Bond

Distinguished panel:  Allyson Gevertz (BOE member District 4), Dan Drake (DCSD acting COO), Marshall Orson (BOE member District 2 / co-chair), Trenton Arnold (DCSD Region 2 Superintendent) 
Monday, October 28, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00 pm Oak Grove United Methodist Church, Room #104
1772 Oak Grove Road, Atlanta, GA  30033. 

** The panel will take questions from the audience on cards so think about what you'd like to ask!

 

Please attend if you can …  Forward to friends, colleagues and family!  Thanks for standing up for Education in DeKalb County!   

KayColson@gmail.com

Kay Colson
Recruiting Management Professional

Cell:  +1 972-849-9732

Email: kaycolson@gmail.com

Follow @EducateDeKalb on Twitter

 


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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