More delays, frustration at Chamblee High

From the latest edition of the Dunwoody Crier:
More delays, frustration at Chamblee High

Parents expressed anger, frustration and a lack of confidence in DeKalb County school officials at Thursday’s meeting to update construction plans for Chamblee Charter High School.

DeKalb communications chief, Walter Woods, broke several pieces of bad news: the completion of the academic wing has been pushed back yet another five months, from August 2013 to winter break December 2013-14, even though demolition permits were obtained in February, construction is not expected to begin until the end of the month, and a recent audit found that the $69 million dollar construction is estimated to be nearly $10 million over budget.

Parents said everyone was growing impatient. “We’ve had students in trailers for almost nine months and nothing’s been happening,” said Linda-Rogers-Williams. “It’s very frustrating for us and our teachers. It is not a good situation.”

Parents complained about the lack of communication. “The project has been put on hold and no one was notified,” said governance council member Belinda Wedgewood, who pointed out that different officials have appeared at each update meeting.

The sharpest criticism came from parent Leslie Marwitz, “We are totally frustrated. What have you people been doing? It’s unconscionable. You have a multi-billion dollar corporation and its in shambles. All we get is ‘we’ll get back to you.’”

Woods tried to reassure parents telling them, “It’s now my job to be the communications liaison. There should be no surprises. We should be completely transparent.” Woods gave parents both his email and cell phone number with a promise that going forward, the communications would improve.

DeKalb officials had a harder time explaining why construction had yet to start saying only that a meeting with the contractor to finalize the project would take place within the next two weeks.

“We have to proceed prudently, judiciously, but we can’t start prematurely,” said Woods.

DeKalb Planning Director Dan Drake confirmed that the school was nearly $10 million over budget because, as reported in last week’s Crier, the $3.5 million natatorium was not included, another $6 million will be spent to comply with the Davis-Bacon act governing union wages since federal bonds are being used, and there have been some additional increases in construction costs and interest payments.

Woods reassured parents that the school board is committed to finishing the school as planned but at least one parent said she did not have “a high level of confidence that that’s what we will see.”

School officials also confirmed that school lawyers are still sorting out whether the $36.5 million shortfall could be covered all or in part by moving some school construction projects from the last Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) project to the one just passed. Drake said lawyers had determined it is legal to move some projects, but which ones to move have not been finalized.

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147 Responses to More delays, frustration at Chamblee High

  1. As was discovered on the recent post on this subject, the natatorium was definitely included in the original RFP. Dunwoody Mom smartly kept a copy of that part of the RFP (which no longer is accessible via DCSS’ website – nullifying any statement of ‘transparency’).

    Below is the actual text:


    From the RFP:
    DCSS anticipates the need for a 1600 FTE, with 2000 FTE core new replacement high school to be constructed for the Chamblee High School and be operational by August 2013 for the start of the 2013-2014 school year. The school will contain 84 instructional units (IUs) and the building will be approximately 275,000 SF. Building functional spaces include classrooms, art, but are not limited to music, media center, career technology, special education, computer labs, kitchen, cafeteria, natatorium, gymnasium, stage, guidance, administrative, and miscellaneous/electrical equipment rooms, and circulation areas customarily provided in facilities of similar size and character. The building will include lighting, HVAC, plumbing, intercom, fire alarm and fire protection systems and security system. The final stage is the complete demolition of the existing facility and the complete replacement of all athletic fields. Reference is made to the DeKalb County High School Educational Specifications and DeKalb County School System Guide Specs for specific program details. This project, excluding the natatorium, should meet the program standards of Tucker High School, and comply with all applicable Georgia Department of Education Facilities guidelines.

    FWIW – here’s the definition:
    A natatorium is a building containing a swimming pool.[1] In Latin, a cella natatoria was a swimming pool in its own building, although it is sometimes also used to refer to any indoor pool even if not housed in a dedicated building (e.g., a pool in a school or a fitness club).[2] It will usually also house locker rooms, and perhaps allied activities, such as a diving tank or facilities for water polo. Many colleges, universities and high schools have natatoria.

  2. Woods tried to reassure parents telling them, “It’s now my job to be the communications liaison. There should be no surprises. We should be completely transparent.” Woods gave parents both his email and cell phone number with a promise that going forward, the communications would improve.

    This is getting old. Over and over and over, the mantra from the staff and the school board is “that was then, this is now… things have been corrected… going forward we will do better… yada yada…

    Guess what? It’s not true! If Woods hasn’t been doing the job then he should go. It’s just not that hard to communicate, especially with today’s technology. If you have to work late to get it done, then welcome to the real world. This blog does a far better job than Woods and no one here gets a six-figure salary!

  3. I think that the school district and the public (or at least myself) have a different view of what “transparency” is. PR “rhetori” is not transparency. Truth, however painful it may be to the district and stakeholders, is transparency. We’re adults we can take it. In fact, I would feel more respected and would feel more respectful toward the district if we were actually been informed of what was going on.

  4. Yes. Exactly. These claims of ‘transparency’ are completely FALSE. The ‘natatorium’ was in the RFP. There was enough money at one time to build this school. What has happened? I would submit that perhaps they have ‘dipped’ into the funds and pre-spent?!!! Could they now perhaps be scrambling to ‘replace’ these spent funds? Something else is the ‘real’ reason. These claims are not the truth.

  5. momfromhe11 says:

    @Miss Management –
    Your suspicions and those of many others are what I see as the biggest consequence of lack of transparency. When we hear one thing and know another to be true, when we are told “that was then this is now”, when we are given email address and cell phone number, but never get a reply, or the reply is vague, we decide for ourselves what the truth is.
    When DCSD representatives tell us that we need to stop jumping to conclusions because we don’t know all the facts, whose fault is it that we don’t know?

  6. Anom says:

    I don’t see a new day in DeKalb. I see a dark, dark storm. Where is all the money for audit after audit with no use of any of them Are we terachers going to rid ourselves of furloughs, lack of TSA, and agin no step or cost of living raise? Waiting for Superman….keep waiting..

  7. Anom says:

    Sorry for the typo…teachers.

  8. anothercomment says:

    Did you see how Stupid Audra Berry looked on WSB tonight blaming Marcus Turk, for not having spent some Federal Stimulus Funds by the Federal Year end. Then her buying $500K worth of books without board approval. What a case of under qualified minorities being so over promoted beyond their abilities. Then she is complaining that she is being pushed back to being a teacher. Oh my, in most places she would have just been fired. Not been given her original job back. Just outright fired. What makes her so entitled. She is such a poor example for any students. Use the system, claim racism. Get over promoted for jobs you are not qualified because of your race or Friends and Family. Then when you screw up blame everyone else and then make sure you pull the race card even when they still give you a $60K job teaching after letting you sit on your butt doing nothing at double or triple that for a year. If you are so good, you should have used this time to get a high level job with another district. I guess no old men to Sleep with.

  9. RE: Audria Berry
    So Audria Berry wasn’t fired — just removed from sight. Silly us!

    A few questions: Where is Berry now? Which school? What is she teaching? And how was it possible to find a place for her in the middle of a school year? Did anyone lose their job to make space for Berry?

    Now for the $116,163 Question: Is Berry still collecting the same salary she got when she wasn’t doing her job as part of the “sit up here” staff?

  10. justwatch says:

    Very disturbing but not surprising. Only in DeKalb. At GA Tech and other governmental entities P-Card fraud is a “go straight to jail and do not pass Go” move, but not in DeKalb. The system just takes away the P-card.

    Look what just happened in Fulton Ex-Sandy Springs principal charged over school card expenses
    http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/ex-sandy-springs-principal-charged-over-school-car/nLYyw/

    How is that in DeKalb we can’t seem to bring charges against anyone for anything. Why are the other school systems so much better than we are?

  11. concernforthekids says:

    justwatch,
    You are VERY CORRECT! P-Card abuse and is NOT tolerated in any county in Georgia except the “Friends and Family” county called DeKalb! The ex-principal in Sandy Springs didn’t even use the money, he paid it back, explained what happened and then got FIRED!
    He was transparent, made amends and still was let go.
    DeKalb’s violations were not reported by the individuals but were found out by others!
    Who the hell interviewed Bahama Berry at WSB? I’ll watch the 11 o’clock news to see the replay!
    Back to Chamblee, the main reason for the error was Barbara Colman. She was not a county employee but an employee of a contractor.
    Do you see a problem with an outsider making decisions who is NOT being held accountable? It sounds like our school board, doesn’t it?
    The natatorium was part of the RFP and the RFP was accepted by Barbara Colman.
    Now we know why she left in such a hurry. Can or Will our new “Chief Legal Officer”, the honorable (???) Ronald Ramsey file a lawsuit against her or hold her accountable for mismanagement of county projects? I.E. Pat Pope?
    You know the answer to that question. BTW, he received a $50,000 raise for his new title………DCSD will have a solution for the Chamblee project very soon. Probably by next week. Stay tuned for more updates!
    By the way, the director for the DCSD Planning Department, Dan Drake, is open and truly transparent and will answer your questions. If you feel the need, give him a call and post your conversation on this blog for all to see. He is part of the solution for DCSD, not the problem!
    CFTK

  12. Cynical In Chamblee says:

    Rumor is that Dr. Audria Berry is still collecting her large salary while she sits at home—getting “lawyered” up. On what grounds can she possibly sue? Hopefully, she and many others from the previous regime will not have their contracts renewed and will politely and quietly disappear on June 30, 2012 as their contracts expire. As taxpayers, we cannot afford to continually pay two or three big salaries for the same position. Many “someones” have got to go. Maybe July 1 will be our Independence Day!

  13. Poster says:

    Here is a link to the story on WSB’s website: http://www.wsbtv.com/s/news/dekalb/
    Find the story titled, “Employee defends stimulus funds spending”

  14. Kiko Jewel says:

    The Superintendent has “pledged accountability and transparency”…what does it take to demote or fire ineffective principals (and those who protect them), or principals who have numerous Level 1 Complaints. Stop moving them from place to place, and hold them accountable Dr. Atkinson.

  15. justwatch says:

    Kiko

    I do think she will get do as you request come contract renewal time. What is scary though is that I think there are dozens of principals like you describe (maybe not with Level 1 complaints, but ineffective as all get out) and I am wondering how she will replace them all.

    We have lots of ineffective or worse assistant principals in the system as well. Promoting them gains us nothing.

  16. justwatch says:

    Everyone should watch the video. Interesting stuff. Berry is not yet in a classroom but will be soon. (DCSS always has openings, retirements, deaths, long term subs.) She will get a pay cut next year (July).

  17. Anonymous says:

    The P-card punishments were levied because they were converted for personal use. That said, Crawford Lewis may still be charged for using his P-card for gas purchases during his court case.

    From what I saw of the video of Berry, she had documented authorization from a higher up to spend the money for classroom use. She violated school policy but this is probably why Marcus Turk no longer has his job. This came to light when she attempted to get Board approval after the purchases were made. Even Walter Woods acknowledged this happens from time to time. All her lawyer would need to do is show one case where this happened. This in not similar to the P-card incident for her.

    I predict a settlement along with an amendment to the Board policy.

  18. @ Cynical in Chamblee

    We have NO regard at all for Audria Berry. Clearly she has NO shame. However, we do ask that you — and others who contribute posts or comments on this blog — abide by our stated policy posted March 19, 2012 [A Few “Housekeeping” Requests …]. “Rumor is …” is not acceptable. Please tell “where you heard” and/or “from whom you heard.” If your comment is simply your conjecture, say so — and don’t hide behind, “Rumor is …” to pump up your position.

    We are serious about taking this blog up a notch or two from grousing and complaining to real fact delivering. This says it all: “In this era of ‘community journalism’ and ‘citizen reporters’, in which any blogger with an opinion and a URL can post their version of the truth, there’s something to be said for maintaining a higher standard.” DeKalb School Watch intends to maintain a higher standard.

    Toward that end:

    1. Please choose a pseudonym that is more individual and original than “Anonymous.”

    2. Please stick with the same pseudonym and use it each time you comment. Or, feel free to use your real name. Believe it or not, your real name is powerful and carries more punch.

    3. Please document all claims, including a link, if possible. For example, if you say, “I heard” in a comment, please tell “where you heard” and/or “from whom you heard.” Or, if you reference an article or a study, please be specific: title of article or study and publication place/date (a Google search should provide you with the necessary information to include).

    4. Please make sure you know what you are talking about. Several times lately we have had to correct gross inaccuracies.

    Please help us maintain an investigative, factual blog that will hold DeKalb County school officials accountable while getting rid of and bringing to justice those who are corrupt.

    Thank you for your cooperation.

  19. justwatch says:

    The teaching job is the settlement — if you listened to the piece. It is clear to me that she was to be dismissed, she retained an attorney and this was the settlement. The problem, to me, is that she wasn’t very good at her job, the system’s title 1 schools declined consistently during her tenure. She probably belongs in the classroom. As we all are aware, the nature of her promotion was questionable anyway.

    The policy violations would have been under a difference administration — so I am thinking that makes a difference.

  20. @ Anonymous 6:02 AM

    We have retired the pseudonym, “Anonymous,” per our post on March 19, 2012 [A Few Housekeeping Requests …].

    We are serious about taking this blog up a notch or two from grousing and complaining to real fact delivering. This says it all: “In this era of ‘community journalism’ and ‘citizen reporters’, in which any blogger with an opinion and a URL can post their version of the truth, there’s something to be said for maintaining a higher standard.” DeKalb School Watch intends to maintain a higher standard.

    Toward that end:

    1. Please choose a pseudonym that is more individual and original than “Anonymous.”

    2. Please stick with the same pseudonym and use it each time you comment. Or, feel free to use your real name. Believe it or not, your real name is powerful and carries more punch.

    3. Please document all claims, including a link, if possible. For example, if you say, “I heard” in a comment, please tell “where you heard” and/or “from whom you heard.” Or, if you reference an article or a study, please be specific: title of article or study and publication place/date (a Google search should provide you with the necessary information to include).

    4. Please make sure you know what you are talking about. Several times lately we have had to correct gross inaccuracies.

    Please help us maintain an investigative, factual blog that will hold DeKalb County school officials accountable while getting rid of and bringing to justice those who are corrupt.

    Thank you for your cooperation.

  21. Actually, if you watch the video report, WSB reporter Mark Winne states that Berry has been paid full salary since the day she was told she was being demoted, and she “doesn’t like it”. She stated that she is “insulted” and “offended”. (Note: Winne stated that it took WSB weeks to get the school system to comply with their Open Records Requests.)

    Berry says in the interview that her boss was aware of the purchase. Who was her boss at the time? And then she goes on to blame the purchasing department as well. Who was in charge there?

    WSB reports that the whole reason she says she spent the money was due to an “accounting error” that made them have to ‘race’ to spend $2.8 million in a month!!! She says she felt “a lot” of pressure to spend the money. Then WSB shows emails from Turk saying that “It is not the intention of DCSD to return any unspent ARRA funding.” (That’s sickening. And it’s why our federal government is broke.)

    If true: Ridiculous. If false: Ridiculous. Anyway you look at it, it’s ridiculous.

  22. Dekalb homeowner says:

    Ms. Berry may have the skills to be an excellent teacher but is it good to have someone in a classroom who clearly thinks it is beneath her?

  23. Dekalb homeowner says:

    I agree with Miss Management’s “sickening” comment. As I watched the video I was sickened at the thought of all of these DCSS employees racing to dispose of my tax dollars with so little thought. Can you imagine what this money was wasted on? Does anyone have any details? Can we find out?

  24. Funny. Berry’s claim in the video is that all she ever wanted was to educate children. However, now that she is being given that direct opportunity, she is crying foul. She is never going to be able to replace that once fat paycheck handed to her by her ‘mentor’ Dr. Lewis. But she does win in the end: pensions are based on your two highest years of pay, so she will retire comfortably if allowed to continue to work in the system, which is what she is being allowed to do by teaching. Still, she plays ‘victim’. What an ego!

  25. So, we have the accounting error of nearly $3 million in the Audria Berry fiasco.
    We have a $10+ million accounting error in the Chamblee HS bid.
    We have another multi-million dollar accounting error in the overall SPLOST budget shortfall for not deducting interest payments. ($21 million?)
    We have most likely spent $40-50 million on attorneys in the Heery/Mitchell civil lawsuit over SPLOST II.
    We have spent untold hundreds of thousands on the Lewis/Pope criminal corruption charges (doubled by the fact that DeKalb taxpayers also fund the District Atty’s office.)
    We have shuttered buildings laying all around the county causing blight and costing taxpayers money in maintenance, utilities and upkeep.
    Our test scores are literally in the tank: the worst posted in the history of DeKalb, even after spending somewhere around $35 million in Title 1 funds.

    Are we broke yet?

  26. anothercomment says:

    According to WSB and the AJC she has been sitting on her butt at home on Paid Leave. She was offered in a settlement letter to go back to a teaching position paying $74K plus from her $116K plus position, in lieu of receiving a charge letter and being fired. She then retains a lawyer and does not accept this offer of teaching. The change in Salary would not have been effective until August 2012 or when ever the next contract year is.

    My guess is the DA’s office has advised the school system to keep her on the payroll somehow. Since, she was CLewis’s special friend and was taken on the trips at Tax payer expense. If she is still an employee of Dekalb School’s she can be made to testify in the case. If she refuses to testify for her employer it puts her job, that she still has left at big peril. The lawyer she has hired, has probably told her that they need her to testify in the Clewis and Pope case. That is why she and Turk are both sitting still on Payroll.

    According to both news reports her lawyer and she says all of sudden she received a letter that she was to report to work this week, Friday, I believe and would be teaching the subject she was certified in. She and her lawyer didn’t like that they were actually going to make her work and their scheme to keep her salary the same didn’t seem to be working. I guess they suspected the next thing would be a contract non-renewal. She then tried to say everything she did was accordance to Policies prior to Attkinson, only problem she did it before Attikinson.

    My suspicion, is Atkinson and her staff want to remove these bad apples. But they are stuck with the DA and his case with the Clewis and Pope; along with the Board still protecting certain folks.

    It looks like now they should do as DA Howard is doing with the Former Principal from Riverwood and charging him for his purchases that weren’t board authorized as crimes, in addition to his Resignation. But I forgot, this is a Black DA, that sends his kids to Woodward Academy against a white Principal in Fulton County, this was also on the news yesterday.

  27. anothercomment says:

    Then to beat all there is a teacher using the pen name Angela over on Maureen Downey’s blog today, complaining that Atkinson may give the Teacher’s a raise but it will be 3% or less. This Angela teacher blogger wants Atkinson to give the teachers a 20-30% raise is she nuts. I wonder if she is one of the Adults who wear Pink and Green on Fridays. They wonder why someone should not just come in and fire everyone. How could anyone really go on the blog and say they are a Dekalb teacher and demand that they should get a 20 to 30% raise or all of the Dekalb teachers are going to revolt against Atkinson. Fayette County just announced they will have to layoff 70 teachers due to budget issues, I am sure some of them would take those jobs.

  28. justwatch says:

    The AJC attracts a lot of “fake” bloggers. So I wouldn’t lose any sleep over this one… Even the restaurant review blogs on the AJC attract nuts. Drives me crazy! I hadn’t heard Atkinson is going to propose a raise for the teachers. If that is true, it is great and I suspect she has found all kinds of interesting things in the system’s financials.

  29. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    After reading and watching it’s very obvious, to this observer, that Ms. Berry and Mr. Turk are remaining on the payroll for legal reasons. It really irks me that these folks continue to receive large salaries but the BOE we voted for, hired Lewis and he hired his friends and family. Clew got us in this mess and now we are paying dearly for it. These folks will continue to take our tax dollars, will not be motivated to do well and in the end, at retirement, they will have nice pensions to live on. Berry’s bitterness makes me laugh and having Mark Winne assigned to this piece even made it that much more entertaining.

    So many at this blog and the former DSW, spent many years gathering information, we were made fun of by the very people who are under the watchful eye of our DA and collecting huge salaries and benefits while our teachers are not rewarded and told there is not enough for you and by the way the folks that couldn’t lead are now going to be working amongst you. This is going to work well! Maybe the DA can lease some office space for the Clew/Pope crew? I can’t imagine there are many current teachers who really want these folks in their school.

  30. murphey says:

    I question whether someone who feels she has been “demoted” to being a teacher and who is in the midst of a high profile legal situation is a good choice for classroom teacher. I know I would not want someone like this in my child’s classroom, and the “talk” will certainly be disruptive to the school community (staff and parents) where Dr. Berry is sent.

    The #1 principle in the Five Guiding Principles on the DCSD website is “students come first.” (http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/superintendent/strategic-plan-%282012-2017%29.pdf) While some sort of penalty is warranted I don’t think students should be dragged into this situation.

  31. anothercomment says:

    I know from experience being in the management chain in the Public sector and having filed EEOC and Retaliation suits in the Public sector. That if an employee is on payroll, you tell them that they will testify for the employer. This is true both in the public and private sector. But if someone, who is involved or who is part of the allegations has been removed from there position or resigned, you can not force them to show up in court. Sort of like when you get the routine speeding ticket, you are better off going to court and
    challenging it, first you hope the cop doesn’t show up. They have to go on their off days, so unless they have a good case it is in your favor they won’t show up. Then if they are their ussually the judge offers no points and just pay the fines to get rid of the speeding cases, sometimes even lower amounts.

    They would let Turk and Berry sit on Paid leave until this trial is over. But they Atkinson and her staff, are getting alot of pressure from people about all of the budget issues they are finding that people are questioning why they have two people still on the payroll for the same job.

  32. anothercomment says:

    They are letting her show her nasty butt to the world, complaining that a $74,000+ teacher job is just awful. When all she ever wanted to do is to teach. She made a big fat spectacle of herself on TV. She also admitted on TV an illegal purchase, just like Eddie Echols did in Fulton County. It is too bad the DA James doesn’t seem to have any guts. Otherwise he would have arrested Andrea Sneiderman in time to make it on 20/20 and NBC- Dateline.

  33. Dekalb Tax Payer says:

    Contracts in DeKalb do not guarantee a school, job or salary. It specifically states on your contract that you are only guaranteed a position in DeKalb and that position is contingent on where the county needs you to work. And contracts only last a year. It’s my understanding that the Title 1 department was reorganized and Dr. Berry’s position was eliminated. School systems do that all the time. They don’t have to keep a position and title just to guarantee an employee has the exact same job or even has a job at all. I would not want someone teaching my child if she doesn’t want to be there so badly that she sues to stay out of the classroom.

  34. Just Thinking says..... says:

    Just wanted to let everybody know that starting with the 2012-2013 school year, all elementary school CTSSs will no longer be housed inside the school. They will now be housed at the Bryant Center and will be dispatched from there to provide assistance when needed in the local elementary school houses……..smh

  35. Dekalb Taxpayer says:

    Where would they put all those CTSSs? There must be over a 100 of them. The Bryant Center doesn’t look that big.

  36. Dekalb Taxpayer says:

    @ Another comment

    I don’t think that applies here. If the DeKalb County DA sends you a subpoena to testify in a felony case, you better show up no matter who employs you at the time in what position – or conversely are even unemployed.

  37. justwatch says:

    I wonder if this is because Atkinson’s new person didn’t think the current system was working (it isn’t very well). Despite the comment below, most elementary schools had to share a person and some principals have not been very flexible. Also, assignments were based on number of students, so if a CTSS needed to serve say 1000 students, they were assigned to two schools closely equally that number. It didn’t matter if the schools were 10 miles apart.

  38. justwatch says:

    A supeona forces someone to show up, but you can plead the fifth. If you listened to the WSB piece, they mentioned the word settlement. I think the job is her settlement. Anyone know what Berry teaches. For her sake (and ours), I hope that it is something that is in high demand so she can find a teaching job elsewhere. As long as she stays in GA, her pension will follow her.

  39. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Does anyone remember when they came up with that extra $30.0 million last year or the year before? Maybe it was not entirely “extra”!!! It had to be spent and I thought it was going to Chamblee? But then no, it went to Henderson or could it have been….
    shuffled to another pet technology project, a data cooling floor and update at the BBC on Lawrenceville Hwy.
    Let’s hope the interim CFO, promoted from within, was not the one counting that pile of dollars, there will be more problems if that is the case. $30 mil here, $69 mil there. These folks are all about to make the teachers salaries change based on merit. Sounds like to me it also needs to happen at the Central Office.

  40. bettyandveronica1 says:

    They will be cooling their heels on the new cooling floor.

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