Reapportionment High-Jinks — or Highjacking? Pay Attention!

Latest DCSS Board of Education District Map proposed by Mosby and the DeKalb Delegation

Taken from a Message from DeKalb County Board of Education Member Nancy Jester

(received via e-mail; edited for publication)

This is advance notice about an issue that is surfacing now in the Georgia General Assembly that will affect your area, your schools and your taxes. Current work concerns reapportionment and “shrinking” the DeKalb School System Board of Education (BOE) pursuant to legislation passed by the Georgia General Assembly last year. That legislation calls for the DeKalb County BOE to be resized from 9 members to not more than 7 nor fewer than 5.

You may recall that Nancy Jester opposed this legislation because she did not agree with the assumption that a smaller board will be more effective and produce better student achievement results in DeKalb. She was also quite concerned about gerrymandered districts by the DeKalb legislative delegation. The DeKalb delegation is controlled by factions that are connected more with the “friends and family” modality than with educational achievement results. Unfortunately, Nancy Jester’s fears are being realized.

On Tuesday (yesterday), a new map (the Mosby Map) for the DeKalb Board of Education (BOE) was approved by the DeKalb legislative delegation sub-committee. This map has 5 single member districts, instead of the 7 districts most voters were expecting. You can view what the Mosby Map looks like by clicking the photo above.  The X’s show where the  5 board members whose terms will continue live.  As you can see, the reps will be heavily concentrated in south DeKalb.

The moment this map is approved, you will hear a loud sucking sound as property taxes will be raised to the maximum amount by the BOE (thanks to gerrymandering, 4 of the 5 members live in South DeKalb).  North DeKalb property owners who pay the highest taxes that support DeKalb County School System and DeKalb County will be victims of taxation without duly elected representation.  Meanwhile, South DeKalb property values continue to decline as a direct result of the greed and ignorance of those who make up the majority of the BOE.

The 5 members who will represent the Mosby Map areas include Nancy Jester, Sarah Copelin-Woods, Donna Edler, Jay Cunningham and Gene Walker. The remaining 4 board members, who would otherwise have been up for reelection this year, will see their terms sunset. There will be NO election in 2012.

Mosby 5 population count

Population Count: Census Data by proposed district

The Mosby Map has Lakeside and its Oak Grove, Briarlake, Henderson Mill Elementary and Henderson Middle feeders, placed in a district represented by Gene Walker. This district snakes all the way down to Snapfinger Road, including Miller Grove Middle School. It turns right and goes to Redan Elementary and Rock Chapel Road. This does not represent a community of interest in our opinion.  In fact, this gerrymandered “district” on the Mosby Map was designed so that both Gene Walker and Jay Cunningham (whose sister dates Howard Mosby) can stay on the BOE, even though they are neighbors.

Also, Sarah Copelin-Woods will be the representative for Sagamore Hills Elementary, Druid Hills HS and much of its feeder pattern.

On Thursday, February 9, 2012, the entire DeKalb legislative delegation will meet and see the Mosby Map. We do not have a time yet, but we wanted to alert you as soon as possible. We will follow-up once we know a time.

If you care about education in DeKalb County … if you are concerned about the constant rise in property taxes with no improvement in education … if you are ready to ferret out corruption in DeKalb County School System, here is what you must do NOW:

1. Attend the DeKalb delegation meeting if at all possible.

2. Alert your networks, parent groups, PTAs, etc.

3. Contact the media to voice your concerns.

4. E-mail your legislative representatives — indeed, e-mail the entire DeKalb delegation — if you are concerned about these developments. DeKalb delegation email addresses are at the bottom of this email.  (Copy Governor Deal and the media on your e-mails.)

If you have any questions for Nancy Jester, please contact her directly. She will be sending an email through her “Constant Contact” distribution list later but wanted you to be alerted as soon as possible.                  

Nancy Jester (

Legislative Email List:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,


Proposed map with 7 districts

Nancy Jester has posted a new map offering seven districts for the delegation to consider. Download a full sized pdf here or click on the map to the left to view as a jpg.

Also, the DeKalb Delegation meeting will be held today, Thursday, February 9th at Noon; 605 Coverdell Building (across from the Capitol). Please note that the meeting may be delayed depending on the time that the Session ends.

Parking for the meeting: You can park for $5 in the deck on Jesse Hill.

About dekalbschoolwatch

Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
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108 Responses to Reapportionment High-Jinks — or Highjacking? Pay Attention!

  1. Teacher Reader says:

    I attended the meeting and the entire meeting about the maps for the Commissioners and the School Board Members seems to be a hot mess. They weren’t sure what map they were voting on for the County Commissioners. The entire School Board map “war” was beyond words. There is more to this than the Delegates are saying. I felt it. When the Delegate stated that the 5 member map was chosen because of Gwinnett and then later said that SACS has said that smaller is better and that 5 is better than 7. The questions that I had were: Where is the data that SACS used to come up with this conclusion?, Was this decision based on electing 5 new board members?, Is Gwinnett really that much better than Dekalb?

    In my gut, those pushing the 5 Board Member map did not have the kids at heart. I realize that even the 7 member map probably won’t help make the board that much better as it will often come down to a 4-3 vote, but I would feel that our kids would have a better shot and more people putting them before the friends and family members working in the district.

    Whom ever came up with Senate Bill 79, needed to sit down and think through the implications of it. This appears to be a bill that was signed with little thought about board member elections and seat time tables. Our state senators and house members need to be more careful when writing and approving legislation. They can’t sign bills without thinking through all of the implications, and if they do, we as a public need to vote them out, for someone who truly has our best interests at heart.

  2. Teacher Reader says:

    @ bullet,

    Nancy is referring to the Delegates consistently saying that the School Board has done nothing. There was a huge to do with the Delegates stating the School Board has done nothing, and Nancy is simply trying to say that this is not the case.

    The problem is that the original bill (State Bill 79) was not well written or thought out and now we have to suffer the consequences. I am not sure if 5 or 7 is a better number for school board, but I do know that I don’t like being told who will now represent me now and I have no vote in that matter.

  3. bullet says:

    McChesney represents Druid Hills.

    Walker, like Speaks, represents one of the super-districts.

  4. bullet says:

    The board has put forward nothing as a group, just one by Nancy’s sub-group and one clearly influenced by Walker and Cunningham. So I think the criticism is justified. We have a dysfunctional board.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Why is the law not amended so that ALL BOE members stand for election in November for a 5 or 7 member Board? The legislature made this law so they can change it. It seems unfair to voters not to mention the rest of the BOE members to carve a district out just for Walker. Many voters in that district will not have voted for him so it comes down to representation with voter input. That will be the case for all of them but the most egregious usurption of voting rights is keeping Walker.

    The legislature should change the law.

  6. bullet says:

    I think we are such a populous, disparate county, 5 is simply too few. The biggest problem is the people elected. And this proposal for 5 has ulterior motives that don’t deceive anyone.

  7. Miss Management says:

    “This is quick and dirty. We did what was written on paper. If some legislator wants to come back next year and do seven districts for 2014, they can do that.”

    -State Rep. Simone Bell, the committee’s chairperson

    [Nice that they put in so much effort!]

    Read more: CrossRoadsNews – Legislators opt for 5 district School Board map

  8. September says:

    I don’t mind going to 5 members, but those districts should NOT be drawn to protect current board members. I actually prefer Nancy Jester’s 7 district map. IMO every school board member should be running on the ballot in November. That is the right way to fix the problem. This process should not be “quick and dirty”. The DeKalb Delegation needs to do what is right for the people of DeKalb.

  9. Ollie the Observant says:

    Has anyone noticed that the 5-district map is familiar? Look closely, the names of the schools haven’t been updated for years! The 5-member map uses REALLY OLD school lines – like areas for “Heritage Elementary” and “Lawrenceville High”. Shouldn’t that fact alone highlight how bad it is? Not to mention, the map is squished from top to bottom so the districts look shorter than they really are. And then there’s the little issue with the south and eastern parts of the county just being cropped out completely!

    I guess the comment about it being “quick and dirty” is really how it is! I’m thinking they spent all of 10 minutes on this map of 5. And that includes 5 minutes digging around for the old map! Sloppy!

  10. Teacher Reader says:

    That is exactly what she said. It was an ugly meeting. I keep praying for an adult to act like one, but realize that most in power in DeKalb haven’t grown up from junior high.

  11. Teacher Reader says:

    I agree with you about total reelection, but that is not possible because the law as it was written does not make any statements about that. It just lowers the number of school board members. Certain Delegates kept referring to Gwinnett as a model and something that SACS had in a report that smaller school boards are better and that they agree with 5 school board members. I am not sure that the DeKalb Delegation is able to do what is right for the children and the citizens. It was a true soap opera and better than many reality t.v. shows on t.v.

    It seemed to me that even the committee that voted wasn’t sure what they were voting on or what they had agreed upon. There were questions about the County Commissioner Maps and which that they were actually voting on. The 5 district map had only won by one vote when compared to the 7 district map. Some Delegates thought they were voting on either the 5 or 7. The entire meeting had more rings than a Ringling Brothers Circus.

  12. Anonymous says:

    But these 5 members who will be guiding the lowest performing school system in the metro area were NOT elected by MOST of the citizens in the districts they represent. This is not in any way fair for the taxpayers of DeKalb and the students in the school system. Can’t the legislature change the law and say 5 districts and every DeKalb BOE member is up for election in 2012?

  13. And we are wondering why our children are doing so badly in school? Sloppy and careless. That defines the majority of the DCSS Board of Education members. Clearly that also defines the majority of the DeKalb legislative delegation. These people — BOE members and legislators — also actually get paid to do an important job “quick and dirty.” They are not even embarrassed to do such a poor job. After all, that’s just “walking around money” — barely worth mentioning — right, Gene?

  14. The simplest and most straightforward solution to the reapportionment challenge is to simply sunset the two at-large districts.

    The boundaries for the 7 remaining districts can be adjusted some, if needed, to accommodate population changes as the law requires for reapportionment. Because DeKalb County is a majority black county, there are few, if any, other adjustments to be made.

    There are BOE seats that are up for election in the fall of this year. Should Gene Walker or Pam Speaks want to continue their job … er, ah … their service … on the BOE, they can establish residence and run for a BOE seat in one of those districts that will be electing a BOE member.

    To handle this change any other way disenfranchises thousands of people — and clearly leads to taxation without representation and a possible violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

  15. Teacher Reader says:

    While sitting there listening and watching, I was just dumb founded by the circus in front of me. All afternoon, I have been thinking is this really the best that DeKalb has to offer? Many of those running our schools and legislation have their own motives and that is what they work towards. What would have happened if our Founding Fathers were like this when they created our country? There is no thinking through their decisions.

    I am not sure what it’s going to take for good people to run and for the public to elect new people to office. I do know that the corruption that I have felt since moving here in 2007 as a school teacher is worse than I imagined and my imagination is pretty wild.

    Thanks for continuing this important service.

  16. Teacher Reader says:

    From Parents for DeKalb Schools;

    More DeKalb Drama! The District Attorney has called a press conference for 10 a.m. tomorrow to discuss the grand jury’s request in December for a special grand jury to investigate board activity!! Stay tuned!!

  17. The Deal says:

    Has anyone on here heard about some sort of meeting called by the District Attorney tomorrow?

  18. The Deal says:

    Does anyone know how to interpret the fact that Walker and Bowen have been named specifically as being in attendance tomorrow? To me, it sounds like it will be announced that there will be no special grand jury investigation. I wouldn’t think the DA would specifically invite Walker and Bowen to tell them in front of everyone that they are in trouble.

  19. Teacher Reader says:

    This was my feeling as well. I think it means that we as a community are screwed and stuck with the incompetent and corrupt board members that they have found nothing.

  20. Anonymous says:

    @ the Deal
    “I wouldn’t think the DA would specifically invite Walker and Bowen to tell them in front of everyone that they are in trouble.”
    I agree. The two members he invited have the most relatives working for the school system.

  21. O&T says:

    The most unethical Board of Education member in the history of the DeKalb County School System is now its current chairperson.

    Chew on that.

  22. O&T says:

    If you’re new to the blog, this man is somehow the chair of the Board of Education for the 26th largest school system in America.

    Officials failing to disclose finances

    Parole board member on trial for sexual harassment

    State paid $190,000 to settle earlier sex harassment suit

    Streat’s lawyers file another motion on AG

    Suit accuses parole board member of sexual harassment

    DK Development Authority: Walker resigns, ‘stimulus’ draft released

    DeKalb school board tables discussion of ethics code

    Sembler donations went undisclosed until election was over

    DeKalb school board drops Sembler suit

    Developer seeking tax break gave $45K to DeKalb political races

    P.S. Remember when the DCSS and the BOE sued Gene Walker??

    Click to access dk%20schools%20vs%20dev%20auth.pdf

  23. Wow says:

    “Audit: Some DeKalb Schools salaries inflated”

    A recent central office audit found, when compared to similar systems, the DeKalb County School System has some positions paying “substantially” above market and called for a unified salary schedule for all employees.

    The audit was the first part of a two-phase project to audit every position within the system; it is slated to be completed in March. It compared DCSS to systems such as Cobb, Gwinnett, Fulton and even the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.) School System.

    DeKalb County Schools spokesman Walter Woods said, although the audit specifically mentioned upper-level secretarial positions, he thinks many more salaries need to be adjusted. Woods cited problems with coding and the organizational structure as factors for the inflated salaries.

    “I would say that it’s in multiple departments and we have multiple salary schedules rather than a unified salary schedule,” Woods said. However, he would not comment on specific pay rates that are believed to be out of line.

    DCSS provided The Champion Newspaper with a summary of the more than 1,500 page report titled “Phase 1: Findings and Recommendations for Salary Range, Position Specifications and Organizational Restructure Study,” by the company hired to perform the audit, Management Advisory Group Inc.

    In addition to the call for pay adjustments and a new salary schedule, the report cited “budget” coding as part of the problem. However, to address the coding issues MAG called for a complete restructuring of the departments within the central office.

    “Hundreds of positions that were not housed in the central office, such as maintenance or transportation employees, were actually coded to central office. We’ve had to manually go through and properly code all employees to ensure when we talk about ‘central office’ we mean non-school based central office employees,” Woods said.

    The report states that currently, there is “no clear core responsibility definition for various job families such as secretaries, specialists, coordinator, managers for directors, which makes classification of new positions problematic. In the absence of clear guidelines, jobs can be legitimately placed anywhere.”

    Woods said the system is working on both the coding situation as well as realigning the central office departments.

    “Aligning the departments is going to take more time and we’re going to have to go from position to position,” Woods said.

    The report also shows the company’s suggestions for a new organizational structure. Suggestions include a new legal affairs officer, chief strategic planning and accountability officer and chief academic officer.

    Woods said the system has not undergone an audit similar to the one performed by MAG in several years, an Ernst and Young study in 2005 being the closest thing. He said the system is looking closely at the report and its suggestions for central office realignment.

    “We’re taking it under advisement—ultimately the final decision will be up to the superintendent. I can tell you the goal here is to drive resources to the classroom level,” Woods said.

  24. The Deal says:

    These videos should be required watching for everyone on this blog!!

  25. bettyandveronica says:

    The problem with leaving woods in the Fernbank/Dhills section of Jesters map is this: In two years, the Friends of Dekalb PAC will get together and decide which of them will run for the seat. They will be elected. What’s next, the south side of this district (on the other side of Decatur, that is) will decry it as racial, political, financial, no representation, blah, dittyblahblah, blah!

    This little carve out on Jesters otherwise fine map will cause some MAJOR, MAJOR problems we won’t need in two years. You heard it hear first.

  26. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    You have to remember that these districts by law must have the same numbers of adults with only a small variance allowed (1%). It’s not easy to carve out 7 equal regions in DeKalb given that the north end of the county, especially Dunwoody, has grown quite a lot, while the south end has lost thousands of adults in their population. Then, you have to be mindful of the federal Voting Rights laws and try your best to balance the districts racially. Even if we kept the basic 7 districts we currently have and simply drop the super districts (the best solution, really), some border adjustments will need to occur to balance the populations.

  27. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    Hate to say it folks the DA is one of them! We might be surprised but I can guarantee you Gene Walker is calling in all his favors to stay on the board and remain the Chairman. When our former DA went to work for the Obama administration, I knew DeKalb was screwed. Our new DA has strings connecting through all the groups that are involved in this mess.

    All I know, I’m tired of being called racist, by our friends who live south of Memorial Drive as well as our current President who resides in OUR White House. The entitlement society has taken root in DeKalb and it looks like our county is headed where Illinois now sits, bankrupt and hemorrhaging cash as well as people to other states around them.

    I would love someone from EduKalb, better known as the Chamber of Commerce, how they are going to attract business to DeKalb when you have a such a group of corrupt, uneducated, politicians who love playing the race card anytime they want.

    One more thing, I’m surprised that Burrell Ellis is so surprised so many in the north part of OUR county want representation. No county commissioner resides in the area that is trying to annex themselves into Ashford/Brookhaven. This is payback for that, guaranteed! Just think almost 60% of the tax revenues DeKalb TAKES, are from the northern stretches of DeKalb. Keep this up and they’ll be no more money left, THEN WHAT?

  28. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    How Gene Walker got elected is beyond me. Only in DeKalb. Who died and made this man God of DeKalb. So we have a Felon, Cunningham, who robbed a McDonald’s where he was asst. manager. We have Gene Walker, who loves going to lunch as long as someone else is paying the tab. Plus, this man created the $100 handshake. he’ll be happy to shake your hand, as long as there is $100 in it for him.

    His Sembler ties have always stuck to high heaven! His asking for more expense money and a higher salary is proof enough this man’s middle name is corruption. Take Gene Walker out of this equation and I guarantee you our legislators and BOE could come up with decent solutions. As long as this man is in office, Dr. Atkinson has no chance to doing the right things for OUR kids education..


    Last comment: Where is Fran Millar, Mike Jacobs? What do they think about all this? I’d also love to know what Elaine Boyer thinks. Burrell Ellis wants to make DeKalb something special. He has no chance, as long as these legislators think about skin color first and not success! Come on EduKalb WHERE ARE YOU? (I think I know the answer) EduKalb is part of this group! It all makes sense now. DeKalb County = EPIC FAIL!

  29. bullet says:

    Which is why her map won’t happen. It looks like her map is a “reelect McChesney” map. The only other purpose for that gerrymander would be to give Woods competition. But I suspect Woods could hold that district as most of the area (and presumably the population) is south of Atlanta/Decatur.

  30. I tried, I really tried says:

    Just when I thought this website might not be so bad after all, Atlanta Media Guy posts that gem above.

  31. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    Thank you John Heneghan! Yes, everyone should watch John’s video recordings of the meeting.
    Some key points:

    * The committee charged with drawing the maps was formed on January 9 (no reason to be “quick and dirty” )
    * They claim to have held a public meeting which no one attended and they claim to have received no input from the board after asking several times
    * Mary Margaret Oliver stated that the school board was invisible and uncooperative during the process
    * In fact the board refused to answer phone calls from the chair of this committee (unprecedented in her experience)
    * MMO said she believes the map that was brought forth (with 5 districts) was secretive from ‘some’ school board members who refuse to come forth and discuss it in any public way
    * MMO didn’t blame Ms Bell, she blamed the school board for refusing to interact in any way with anyone in her district
    * Dee was outraged! She was trying to emulate Gwinnett by going with 5 districts (but then states that Gwinnett’s board is not diverse). She reads an email from David Schutten that really torqued her.
    * It was pointed out that they’ve had the data since last May yet nothing was done and here we are at the last minute scrambling (“unconscionable”)
    * Stephanie Benfield again proposed her 7 district map which keeps neighborhoods and school attendance zones together
    * They are under the impression that since the first 7 member map was presented and rejected, they are stuck with passing the 5 member map, and if it doesn’t pass, they’re not certain what the next step would be
    * MMO says she thinks by Roberts Rules that she is allowed to present a substitute motion — the new map with 7 districts Benfield spoke of
    * MMO also states that she passed (HB 671) legislation allowing for options to implement SB 79 and no one on this committee even responded or participated at all
    * Comment: it was pointed out by (?) that they are in this process late and struggling because the school board and the commissioners did not do their job and design a map to present to the delegation
    * Another rep (?) points out that this 5 member map is not a ‘consequence’ (earlier suggested this was an ‘unintended consequence’) he said it is a ‘choice’ and he won’t ‘choose’ this map because it’s not what’s best for the childen of DeKalb

    (That’s all for Part 1 — anyone want to write notes from Part 2 of Johns’ video?)

  32. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    What do you mean, I tried? I’m tired of be called racist by folks who supposedly represent ME! I’m tired of the corruption, the lies! This meeting was called and please correct me if I’m wrong, the public had 48 hours notice on this meeting. Folks kept saying they never heard from the BOE.. THAT’S A LIE! My rep proposed a 7 district map that had two other BOE reps approval, yet they were not allowed to present that map.

    This problem of North vs. South started in the days of Vernon Jones, threatening other commissioners and how many times did our Board of Commissioners have to sue Vernon? This is all about race and winning. No one wants to go back to their constituents and say we couldn’t get the 5 map or 7 map done. I didn’t start this race battle and it has a history and very long roots, nothing is going to change that for a very long time.

    We need some leadership who will unite us not divide us. MMO and Benefield, God bless them! I do not agree with all their politics, but it was refreshing to see someone presenting othe alternatives. I was a parent at the most diverse school in the county and embraced it! That school was closed because of the Sembler (Gene Walker deal?), which eventually never happened! But the school still closed and now the other two schools, left in our area, are now a little crowded and with the new development coming online in our area, they are bound to get even more populated.

    For those new to DeKalb, this problem has been festering for 20 years and I hope it doesn’t get nasty because losing is not in Gene Walkers vocabulary.

  33. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    One last note! Thanks John for posting a link to your videos of the delegation meeting. If you’re angry, watch the video, it most likely will make you even angrier. John says he enjoys watching laws made, well John, this law has a long way to go before it’s finally made. Stay alert folks, if I offended anyone with my post I apologize, but it’s the way I feel and I think I still have a right to free speech, though I know that could change soon too.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Nonsense – Nancy Jester has another, DCSS Staff-drawn map on her website that leaves Druid Hills in BOE district #2. Her map is a deliberate effort to disenfranchise the Druid Hills High School community and McChesney has signed on to that. DHHS has been without representation for the past 4 years and this is an attempt to make it permanent.

  35. Just Watch says:

    Part of the reason that we have no representation on the County Commission is that we keep electing Boyer, term after term. She hasn’t faced any real competition in years. I believe she is in her 18th year as a commissioner. She is useless. But she keeps getting elected because of the R by her name. Aren’t there any solid republicans willing to take her on?

  36. Just Watch says:

    Keep in mind that while every member of the Delegation represents a part (often a very small part) of DeKalb, many, including Ms. Bell, don’t live in DeKalb. DeKalb, especially S and Central DeKalb are currently split into tiny little pieces. This was done intentionally, in 2000, for the Democrats to remain in control of the House and Senate. Many of the districts cross into three or four counties!

  37. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    But her map was never given a chance! Why not have a discussion on all the maps presented or that were trying to be presented? What’s Ms. Bell trying to hide? That last question was a rhetorical one and I think we all know the answer to that one.

Comments are closed.