Nancy Jester : Urgent Legislative Update – Reapportionment

An update from DeKalb County School Board Member Nancy Jester
(via email, “Nancy’s News”)

The Georgia legislature is in session. As you may recall, they passed a bill in the 2011 session to shrink the DeKalb board from nine to seven (click here to view the bill). In addition to this process, we must also reapportion the districts based on the most recent census information. This is done every ten years. Please keep in mind that the majority of your property taxes (22.98 mils) fund the school system. Your district on the DeKalb Board of Education will be set for ten years based on what happens in the next week.

It is my understanding that the DeKalb delegation is expected to deliver new district maps for the Board of Education and the DeKalb Commission by mid-February. I further understand that the delegation will be voting on this matter next week.

As you know, five members of the current nine member board were elected in 2010 and took office in January 2011. Those five members (Jester, Copelin-Wood, Edler, Cunningham and Walker) were elected for terms that end in December 2014. It is my understanding that in the absence of a referendum, terms of office cannot be reduced. If the DeKalb delegation must submit maps by the middle of this month, it appears that a referendum is not possible given the time constraint. Therefore the five members elected in 2010, must serve their terms through 2014. If we are to reduce the board to seven members, then only two districts will be up for election this year and four current members will be collapsed into these two districts (McChesney, Womack, Bowen and Speaks).

I expressed concerns last year regarding these changes. Because we have five board members that have terms of office that extend beyond this year, it appears that the maps will be built around them. I am concerned that the outcome will create some gerrymandered districts that reduce the representation of some communities.

I have placed the maps I have seen on my blog for your review. Click here to go to my blog to see them. As you will note, there are some maps that appear to create some long, irregular districts. I believe that this dilutes the representation of communities of interest. My current preference is the map listed first on my blog. I believe that in order to shift to a seven member board, we need a step process to eight members until the end of 2014. This will eliminate the need to design all the districts around those elected in 2010. If we are forced to go to seven members effective in January 2013, it will be very difficult to design maps that appear to represent a common sense approach. Rather, we will probably see very long, vertical districts for some areas. This design will remain in place for ten years; until another census is complete. If you share my concern, please tell your Rep..

You can express your opinion by writing the members of the DeKalb delegation. Here is their contact information:

Rep. Pat Gardner (D) District 57 PH: 404 656-0265 (office)

Rep. Simone Bell (D) District 58 PH: 404 656-0325 (office)

Rep. Gloria Tinubu (D) District 60 PH: 404.656.0220 (office)

Rep. Tom Taylor (R) District 79 PH: 404.656.0152 (office)

Rep. Mike Jacobs (R) District 80 PH: 404 656-0152 (office)

Rep. Elena Parent (D) District 81 PH: 404.656.6372 (office)

Rep. Scott Holcomb (D) District 82 PH: 404.656.6372 (office)

Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D) District 83 PH: 404 656-0265 (office)

Rep. Stacey Abrams (D) District 84 PH: 404 656-0220 (office)

Rep. Stephanie S. Benfield (D) District 85 PH: 404 656-7859 (office)

Rep. Karla Drenner (D) District 86 PH: 404 656-0202 (office)

Rep. Michele Henson (D) District 87 PH: 404 656-7859 (office)

Rep. Billy Mitchell (D) District 88 PH: 404 656-0116 (office)

Rep. “Coach” Williams (D) District 89 PH: 404 656-0202 (office)

Rep. Howard Mosby (D) District 90 PH: 404 656-0287 (office)

Rep. Rahn Mayo (D) District 91 PH: 404 656-6372 (office)

Rep. Pam Stephenson (D) District 92 PH: 404 656-0126 (office)

Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler (D) District 93 PH: 404 656-0287 (office)

Rep. Randal Mangham (D) District 94 PH: 404 656-0126 (office)

Sen. Curt Thompson (D) District 5 PH: 404 463-1318 (office)

Sen. Emanuel Jones (D) District 10 PH: 404 656-0502 (office)

Sen. Fran Millar (R) District 40 PH: 404 463-2260 (office)

Sen. Steve Henson (D) District 41 PH: 404 656-0085 (office)

Sen. Jason Carter (D) District 42 PH: 404 463-1376 (office)

Sen. Ron Ramsey, Sr. (D) District 43 PH: 404 463-2598 (office)

Sen. Gloria Butler (D) District 55 PH: 404 656-0075 (office)

As always, I am available if you have any questions or concerns.

– Nancy

UPDATE: MMO and Senator Fran Millar will speak to the Emory LaVista Parents Council at Briar LaVista Elementary School on Wednesday, February 15 to discuss DeKalb School issues and redistricting.  She has met with and discussed redistricting school issues with many parents, and presently serves on the Redistricting Committee for the DeKalb Delegation which held a public hearing on district map proposals on January 31.  On February 6, the Redistricting Committees for both the schools and county commission will again meet at the Coverdale Legislative Office Building in Room 514, beginning at 10:00 am.  All are invited to this public meeting as well as the DeKalb delegation meetings that meet most Mondays at noon, also in Room 514.

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32 Responses to Nancy Jester : Urgent Legislative Update – Reapportionment

  1. Anonymous says:

    I don’t want to see gerrymandered districts either and am very disappointed that ALL BOE members are not up for election.

    Why can’t the governor remove and replace BOE members that have meddled in personnel affairs and “leaked” information that took place in confidential meetings regarding the selection of a superintendent? Does the governor need SACS to put DCSS on probation to do this? SACS is a totally useless organization that should be investigated and has done nothing in the way of cleaning up the mess in DCSS.

    My main concern about having 8 BOE members is that if we have an even number of BOE members, won’t there a a good chance we will see some “tied” votes? Right now an uneven number always results in a decision – whether you agree with it or not. Who will break the tie if there is an evenly split vote?


  2. Anonymous says:

    Why can’t we keep clusters together? It only makes sense for students and neighborhoods that will be tied in graduating DCSS be under the same representation. To keep some clusters together while splitting others only dilutes the voice given to those split areas, keeping them out of the argument for a better DeKalb.

  3. Marney says:

    We can’t go to 8 districts because the new law says it must be 7 by January of 2013.

    I live in the middle of the county, just outside the Clarkston city limits, and have been flipped every which way over the years. The middle has always been carved up and then ignored. I complained of this at the public hearing last Tuesday when Womack gave a map and Donna made it clear that this was not the “school board’s” map because the school board had never discussed it. My elder child goes to DSA, which is in what used to be Avondale high school, 5.1 miles away. In that daily commute, I cross through 5 of the regular districts and both of the super districts.
    I think things should be drawn with major roads as boundaries, as much as possible.

  4. I think the law says no more than 7 boaed members and no less than 5. So there are other options out there. We must tske the politics out of his. Our children need more. I am confident a n acceptable decision will be made so we can end some of the distractions a.d move on the providing a quality education for the children and begin to increase our property values.

  5. DeKalb Observer says:

    Look at the two maps. Look at the title of the second one. The one created by our esteemed BOE. It isn’t a proposed map. It’s a propsed map. So, to everyone who thinks wholesale housecleaning does NOT need to happen in the Central Office, I say the general caliber of work – within and academic environment – is nothing short of embarrassing. They can’t even proofread. And secondly, it speaks to the caliber of the board members who don’t even catch the staff errors. To all those anti-proofreaders who think errors are acceptable — well, this pretty much explains the sorry state of public education today, doesn’t it?


    As far as we can tell, it says “no more than seven members”. Nothing about any other numbers.

  7. Just Watch says:

    Sorry, but the map you looked at (with the misspelling) was not produced by the school system, but rather by state legislators. The mistake lies with that group, not anyone at the Central Office. So, blame your legislator. Not the school board (this time anyway.)

    Only the map that is in color was produced bu someone in the Central office.

  8. Just Watch says:

    not bu but by. I wish there was a way to edit on this blog.

  9. Leo says:

    Why can’t there be a referendum in July and then actual voting on the Board members in connection with the General Election in Nov?

  10. Marney says:

    You need to remember that there won’t be a referendum unless a majority of the Dekalb delegation votes to have one, and that the reason that the “maximum of 7” rule landed in state law was that there was no majority wanting to significantly change the board locally last session(and we had no permanent super then and no sign of one in sight). What makes you think that will exists now?

  11. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    MMO and Senator Fran Millar will speak to the Emory LaVista Parents Council at Briar LaVista Elementary School on Wednesday, February 15 to discuss DeKalb School issues and redistricting. She has met with and discussed redistricting school issues with many parents, and presently serves on the Redistricting Committee for the DeKalb Delegation which held a public hearing on district map proposals on January 31. On February 6, the Redistricting Committees for both the schools and county commission will again meet at the Coverdale Legislative Office Building in Room 514, beginning at 10:00 am. All are invited to this public meeting as well as the DeKalb delegation meetings that meet most Mondays at noon, also in Room 514.

  12. bullet says:

    The simplest solution is often the best. If you can’t shorten terms, simply don’t mandate that the grandfathered people live in their district. Eliminate the super-districts and force Walker to choose one of the 3 other districts (McChesney, Bowen, Womack). I would hate to lose Speaks who seems to be one of the few good ones.

    Although, this whole idea that the districts belong to the elected officials is rather bizarre to me. It would seem that if you eliminate their district, you get rid of them. If you decided you didn’t need a Lieutenant Governor, why would he stay in office if you eliminated the position? You should be able to eliminate the super-districts and eliminate Walker and Speaks.

  13. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    There is also the issue of alternating terms. It’s best to alternate between 4 and 3 new reps every other cycle rather than the 5 and 2 we’ll get if we leave 5 in office this term.

  14. It is my understanding that the DeKalb Board of Education has yet to submit a plan. Plans that have been sumitted have been from individual board members with no input or buy in from other board members. Is this correct or did I error?

  15. September says:

    I believe everyone should stand for election in November. Even numbered districts would be elected for 4 years and odd numbered districts would be elected for 2 years. If the representative’s district is eliminated, he may run for a seat in another district. If the representative no longer lives in the district he is currently serving, he must run for election in the district where he lives. It is the only fair way to solve this problem. We have 9 representatives and only 7 jobs, we need to have an election to decide who stays and who goes.

  16. Ned says:

    From the look of the survey stakes in the playground, T-Mobile has started work on putting up a cell tower at the Jolly School

  17. Teacher Reader says:

    Our kids are the ones who will suffer, while once again adults are

  18. Teacher Reader says:

    Our kids will be the ones who will suffer, while the adults once again have their desires fulfilled. I am disgusted and want representation that I voted for. Our kids deserve better than this.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I really miss the Board meeting real-time commentary from the old site. Can we have some kind of wrap-up of Monday night’s meeting? I only caught some of the meeting when a new insurance contract was presented to the Board. Sounded like some shady dealings went on with that contract. Dr. Atkinson tried to explain it, but it seemed her job start date intentionally(?) coincided with keeping the status quo alive for another year. Sooo much corruption hidden in every little corner!

  20. Susan Curtis says:

    Anyone read this article? I was very glad to see that Dr. A only wants to hire 3 extra math coaches and send the rest of the money to the classroom. Good first step!

  21. Ned says:

    Yes, it’s definite–the survey stakes at the Jolly School, taking up a whole corner of the playground, say “lease corner” and “lease center” (and ‘center line access’ which implies taking up, as right of way, even more space than the leased area).
    A cell tower IS going up at Jolly Elementary School, in the playground as opposed to the open space behind the school.
    All for the children, of course.

  22. Couple of things: We need volunteers to help report on various meetings. We are in NO WAY paid employees of anyone – this is a labor of (some kind of demented) love! Please, send a private email to – or just reply to this comment – and volunteer to be a designated ‘reporter’ for board meetings, or budget meetings or SPLOST meetings – whichever you prefer. Better yet, find a friend and agree to “job-share” one of these tasks.

    Second – I’m not sure what meeting you watched, perhaps a re-run on PDS 24? The next regularly scheduled board meeting, a work session and meeting combined, will be February 13, 2012. We will post an announcement that morning and open the blog for comments. Still looking for volunteer ‘reporters’ though!

  23. Ned, is there anyone at Jolly who would take on the task of following the money? It would be great if we could get a volunteer to file Open Records Requests every month or so, asking for a reporting of where the cell tower rent is deposited and how it is being spent.

  24. Thanks for sharing that article, Susan. Yes, we think this is good planning on the part of Dr Atkinson. A quote from the article says,

    “State officials last month sent Atkinson a letter of warning, saying the county had to make the new hires by late this month or face possible consequences. They have since signed off on Atkinson’s plan to pare down the number of hires — to three math coaches — and put the leftover money into extra teacher training and stipends for teachers willing to help in after-school programs focused on math and reading, Woods said.

    “It is our goal to align our grant funding with Dr. Atkinson’s vision, which is to focus all of the school system’s resources and attention on improving student success and, whenever possible, driving our resources to the school level and the classroom, where they can be most effective,” he said.”

  25. Ned says:

    Sorry, I have no idea. I just go past the schoolyard on occasion; I have no link to the school.

  26. Susan Curtis says:

    I believe that I can go to the Feb. 13th meeting. Let me check with my boss; I will take detailed notes and report back.

  27. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    Actually, no link to the school is necessary. If you are a homeowner, thus a taxpayer, you certainly would be (should be) interested in how the money is collected and spent. It’s very easy to make an Open Records Request (ORR). It’s how news journalists get info all the time. Just click on the Open Records Generator link on our home page under the links and it will help you write one up. Then you just email it to the superintendent and the board members and they will have to send you the info you request. Feel free to share any info you collect with the community here on this blog.

  28. Anonymous says:

    1. Has over 100 non-teaching “Coaches” costing taxpayers over $10,000,000 annually
    2. The federal funding Title 1 requirement for “Coaches” is less than $4,000,000 annually for DCSS (leaving local property taxes to fund around $6,000,000 for these employees that never teach a child)
    3. MOST of the schools that the “Coaches” serve have seen a decline in adequate yearly progress

    Three “Coaches” hired are three “Coaches” too many.

    That said – Dr. Atkinson is to be commended for holding the line on non-teaching new hires. It must have been a struggle as so many “friends and family” must have been pushing her to put the RTTT money into high paying non-teaching positions.

    We have way too many non-teaching “Coaches” – the majority of their compensation coming from local tax dollars. Since most of the schools they serve have failed to make adequate yearly progress, DCSS should not be spending a penny more than the Title 1 requires on these personnel. These extra millions need to be spent in direct instruction for students.

  29. Ned says:

    I think we know how the money is collected and spent–at least to the extent we’re “allowed” to know. There’s much larger fiscal issues with DCSS than the lease $ they get from T-Mobile.
    My concern was more with letting the people who have to live with this thing hanging over their homes, and their kids’ school, that time has just about run out on doing anything about it.

  30. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    Very good point!

  31. bettyandveronica says:

    Per Dr. Walkers bio on DCSS website:

    Dr. Walker was elected State Senator for the 43rd Georgia Senatorial District for four (4) consecutive terms, from 1984 to 1992. During that time, Dr. Walker made history as he was the first person of color to hold the position of Majority Whip of the Georgia State Senate. He also served as Chairman of the Georgia Reapportionment Committee, which is assigned only once every 10 years to provide equity, fairness and projections of the State of Georgia constituency.

    Let’s just say he knew exactly what to do to ensure his legacy to DeKalb’s friends and family plan.

  32. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    Bettyandveronica, BINGO! Excellent catch. His bio should be the subject of a post all by itself.

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