Recapping the March 12 board meeting: Time to pay the piper

Welcome back from Spring Break!  We hope you enjoyed your time off and are refreshed, revitalized and re-dedicated to making a critically-needed difference in educating DeKalbCounty’s children.

TONIGHTBoard of Education Meeting and Work Session, Monday, April 9 at 6 PM. There’s no need to trek through traffic to The Palace.  Watch the Board Meeting online or on Comcast Channel 24. You may want to skip the largely ceremonious and mostly wasted first 60–90 minutes or so of recognitions and citizen comments (that are officially ignored by the Board). Tune in between 7 PM–7:30 PM for the real business.

There were no volunteers to cover the most recent March 12 meeting for this blog.  (Though the editors of DeKalb School Watch blog no longer report on the BOE meetings live, because of the other work involved with the blog and the demands of our paying jobs, we welcome any volunteers to do so!)

There are no official minutes published, yet, either.  This naturally begs a very BIG Question:  With a full-time BOE secretary on the DCSS payroll, why are the minutes of every meeting not published online within 24-48 hours and waiting to be approved at the next regular BOE meeting – instead of months later?

Read On.  There’s a lot to say, so get a cup of coffee and get comfortable!

It is “Time to Pay the Piper.” The March 12 meeting video makes it painfully clear that the bad decisions made by this Board over the past 3-6 years are coming home to roost. In a ba-a-a-ad way.

Charter Schools and Alternative Education:  Budget?  What Budget?  Once the Board finally gets down to business – go to the 45:00 marker on the video – Don McChesney asks about the cost overruns for charter schools. For reasons unknown, this single budget line item groups all charter schools together and is $4.8 million over budget.  The answer from Walter Woods is that the line item estimate did not include full enrollment – plus these schools are over-enrolled. (BTW, what does Woods have to do with charter schools? Isn’t there a staff person responsible here?)

However, Superintendent Atkinson says some are, and some aren’t.  In fact, she lists them (though, strangely, not by name). Three schools are over-enrolled: 1 by 36 students, 1 by 100 students and 1 by 4 students.  Four are under-enrolled: 1 by 70 students, 1 by 90 students, 1 by 165 students and 1 by 63 students. The result is a net under-enrollment of 168 students in the charter schools.

BIG Question:  With a net under-enrollment, why is there a $4.8 million budget overrun?

Could it be that there are too many options for regular education as well as alternative programs for at-risk students in DCSS?  DCSS simply can’t afford the many separate programs offered with separate staffs in separate facilities:  Open Campus, DeKalb Alternative School, DeKalb Alternative Night School, Early  College Academy, Gateway to College Academy, DeKalb Transition Academy, DeKalb Truancy School, and Destiny Academy of Excellence.  They must be consolidated.

Atkinson also explains that for accuracy and planning purposes, the budget should have been set at the amount necessary for the total enrollment caps at each school – planning for every school to be at full capacity.  Where on Earth did Marcus Turk pull his budget numbers from? Are we operating from a completely made-up budget?  A budget that appears to be balanced, yet requires robbing Peter to pay Paul – or, perhaps, robbing per-pupil funds from some schools to pay for cost overruns in other schools?

BIG Questions:  Where are the DCSS auditors, Mr. Babst, and the State auditors, Mr. Hinton?  How did this slip past them?

Destiny Academy’s charter is up for renewal, so the discussion continues. This school, while it has an admirable purpose and mission, has always been a major expense to the system.  Destiny Academy, housed in a former DCSS elementary school that is now owned by New Birth Church (even though DCSS has available empty buildings), has only around 100 students. Yet Destiny’s per pupil costs are nearly $15,000 per pupil according to information obtained in 2009. Compare that to the per-pupil costs in all other DCSS schools, acquired by a DSW blogger via an Open Records Request in March 2011.  (We have posted this document under “FILES” in the Facts & Resources Tab above.  Also, CLICK HERE to read a post from the old DSW blog on the subject of inequity in per-pupil funding.)

Paul Womack continues on, comparing the cost of Destiny vs the cost of incarceration. Typically, Womack provides no documentable statistics; no drop-out and graduate tracking information.  Clearly Womack views these students as nothing more than borderline criminals that must be “saved” by DeKalb County schools.

We disagree.

The students at Destiny, for example, are said to be “dropouts that DCSS has rounded up” for this program. If so, these are students who had ample opportunities to take advantage of a free public education and for one reason or another, did not.  It’s time for these former students to take responsibility for their actions and their lives by connecting with the Technical College System of Georgia to obtain a GED and get post-secondary training to be employable. The HOPE Grant (part of the HOPE Scholarship program) is very helpful in this endeavor.

The State of Georgia contributes barely $5,000 per pupil to any school unless they are awarded extra money for special purposes. The rest, which at Destiny is probably somewhere around $8-9,000 more per pupil, comes from DeKalb County taxpayers. It was frustrating to watch the Board have this lengthy, emotional discussion about a critical and expensive decision, without a single hard number to look at—nor did any Board member even ASK for these numbers right then and there.  The discussion should not have occurred based purely on idealism. The discussion should have included hard numbers and results.  Nancy Jester did advocate for the best use of taxpayer dollars and that they define some kind of ‘number’ that is acceptable for this charter.  She also requested that the data for the charters be supplied before the next meeting. What she actually said in response to Womack’s statement that he didn’t care about the taxes was, “There is some cost per pupil that we must decide is a limit because that number isn’t/can’t be infinity! How the board can actually vote on any issue without detailed knowledge of the cost is incomprehensible. But vote, they did. Purely based on ‘feelings’.

How does excessive spending on “at-risk” students affect other students? How much money is shifted away from our overcrowded “regular” classrooms? – how much money is unavailable to gifted students? – to support these “boutique” schools that cannot provide any documentation of success? Has a Board member ever asked for results? Has staff ever done a cost analysis? If anyone knows, please forward this information to this blog at dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com

SPLOST III:  The Classic Shell Game                                                                    
From the 58:00 minute marker to 2:11:42 (that’s 73 minutes, folks!), we are treated to a passionate discussion about the shortfall in SPLOST III.  This is an abysmal, confusing mess. Superintendent Atkinson and her staff have discovered at least a $33,000,000 shortfall in the SPLOST III budget. She is proposing the only legal maneuver available to avoid SPLOST III bankruptcy: to move some money around within SPLOST III and amend or cancel some of the SPLOST III projects.

How did this happen? The End of Year 2009 CIP Report outlined the projects in progress and ready to begin.  Much of it was smoke and mirrors and made-up, empty promises. Now, in the bright light of reality, and benefit of hindsight, we can see how things changed.

Apparently we paid our interest obligation on our SPLOST III debt, however those payments were never deducted from the budget. It’s as if you paid the interest on your mortgage every month, but never deducted it from your checkbook. Then you jumped for joy when you discovered that you had ‘extra’ money and decided to use it to buy a vacation home. Luckily, Superintendent Atkinson discovered this shortfall before the invisible money was spent.

Additionally, there is an issue with the Chamblee Charter High School facility construction budget, although we don’t understand the significance. Only $11 million is allocated to Chamblee in SPLOST III, which has always been there and has never changed.  The rest of the construction budget for Chamblee comes from a QSCB bond scheduled to be paid back with SPLOST IV funds.

The Board seriously overspent on the administrative offices. Instead of spending the few million in the SPLOST III budget for renovations to the A/B buildings, the board approved over $30 million for the new Memorial Drive facility. The A/B buildings now sit nearly vacant and barely used as reported in our first post here.

Regardless, in August 2010, Marcus Turk announced that the SPLOST III budget had upwards of $40+ million extra dollars and a free-for-all began! We posted much about this subject at the time, all falling on deaf ears.  (CLICK HERE to read the Open Letter from Faye Andreson to the Board on the subject.)

DCSS Board members were like kids in a candy store – and Paul Womack was the boy with the biggest sweet tooth. When the political maneuvering was done, we’re told by Donna Edler at this March 12, 2012 meeting that back in 2010 (before Donna and Nancy were elected), the Board approved an additional $47 million in expenditures under SPLOST III – without once looking at a spreadsheet of real numbers.  That’s $47 million we now know – and they should have known then – that we didn’t have.

Fast forward to SPLOST IV, where this blog raised a RED flag well before the vote because the project list for SPLOST IV was too broad and too vague – literally listing nearly every school in the system in order to garner individual community support – with absolutely no list of priorities and no statement such as, “finish all unfinished SPLOST III projects” for voters to approve.  So legally, without money to finish the SPLOST III projects, we can’t use SPLOST IV future money on these projects either.

At the 53:20 marker, Donna Edler read a prepared statement expressing her concern over the poor decisions made by the Board (before she was elected) and the shocking switch in distribution of the SPLOST III dollars. She rightly stated that the proposed corrective action, effectively dismissing promised projects, will undermine voter confidence in the board.  She was emphatic that the board must faithfully execute the SPLOST III plan as voted by the citizens of DeKalb.  She is correct and we’re glad she’s showing an interest now, but Donna is a CPA yet asked very few questions of the monthly budgets over the past year that indicated she is aware of her fiduciary responsibility to DeKalb taxpayers.  That concerns us.

It’s a stinking, hot mess and it’s due to the ineptitude, greed and ingrained corruption of Board members and “sit-up-here” administrators.  Most are completely incapable of managing a 5th grader’s allowance, much less a $1.2 billion school budget. Several are egomaniacal and unapologetic. Paul Womack actually stated that he is not concerned about taxpayer dollars, insinuating that he supports a school tax hike (see the 50:50 marker). School taxes account for about 70% of your property tax bill!

Out With The Old … In With The New                                                          

Elections for Districts 2 (McChesney), 4 (Womack), 6 (Bowen), and 8 (Speaks) will be this summer. Smarter, better thinkers without the taint of greed and corruption must be identified and elected. Districts 4 and 6 need to hit the pavement and find candidates – NOW!  Time is running out!

Paul Womack (District 4) feigns support of schools and projects dear to his colleagues in order to garner their support for his own agendas, yet every single decision he makes is bad business for DeKalb citizens countywide. Womack’s toxic history stands in the way of real progress. Paul Womack MUST be replaced.

Don McChesney (District 2) and Pam Speaks (District 8) actually seem to be doing a decent job.  Finally.  Both have begun asking tougher questions rather than rubber-stamping initiatives from staff.  Both are behaving a bit more responsibly toward taxpayers. The BIG Question is:  What took them so long?  McChesney is a former teacher and Speaks formerly ran the Title I program. With their experience, they both could have and should have done better.  If one or both continue as Board members, they need to step it up.

We MUST replace those board members who do not request detailed data to review in advance of Board meetings and who could not understand it if they did. We MUST replace Board members who view their jobs as ‘fighting’ for ‘their’ schools and who do not foster the cooperation and collaboration necessary to successfully educate all the children of DeKalb County.

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42 Responses to Recapping the March 12 board meeting: Time to pay the piper

  1. murphey says:

    While I agree with the concerns you post, let’s stick to the facts a bit more. Calling the Board “egomaniacal and unapologetic” strikes me as more inflammatory than helpful.

    Thank you though for combining all these issues. The plethora of alternative school options seems excessive to me, and each one comes with an administrative team and a building that must be maintained. It’s clear we are in a heap of trouble.

    One last thing about the Chamblee project. From what I’ve read in the newspaper, not only did Turner not include the cost of a natatorium but they did not include $6,000,000 for compliance with the Davis-Bacon act which is required by QSCB bond usage. Both of these items were discussed from day one and it is unbelievable to me that both Turner and DCSD failed to catch these omissions.

  2. Sorry if the wording offended you, but sometimes the board just rattles our chains. This is about millions and millions of taxpayer dollars and hundreds of thousands of children’s futures. Sometimes the gloves must come off. We are totally disappointed to see clearly that this board is never going to rise to the task and our tax dollars will continue to be squandered and our children will continue to get less of an education than our tax dollars are meant to and could provide.

  3. dekalbdoyenne says:

    The BOE is, indeed, “egomaniacal and unapologetic.” Here is Paul Womack’s response to a question regarding State Senator Emanuel Jones at whom Womack directed an acrimonious and, according to the senator, profanity-laced temper tantrum in a public venue: “He can file anything he wants. I didn’t think it was an ethics violation to voice an opinion,” Womack said. “Yes I said ‘I’m God where you’re concerned.’”

    During Womack’s previous term as a Board member, I called him as a concerned parent and was shocked by his profanity. He did not know me and I had given him no reason to launch into such a tirade. I finally had to tell him that I was hanging up and then do so.

    Below are excerpts from an exchange between the well-informed Faye Andresen and the very rude and almost always uninformed Sarah Copelin-Woods and the equally rude and uninformed Zepora Roberts who, thankfully, is no longer a BOE member. Faye Andresen writes:

    “To Board Members Roberts & Copelin-Wood,
    “At last night’s board meeting, there was discussion concerning past SPLOST II decision making. Allow me to express my fear that airing such old history may hurt SPLOST III efforts. Both the administration and the board share in the responsibility for SPLOST II problems. The administration has changed management & procedures; the board, I hope, will change its approach to SPLOST management.

    “To Ms Copelin-Wood – We have previously communicated concerning Avondale. The Career-Tech faded as the HVAC costs soared and that has been thoroughly discussed.

    “To Ms Roberts — If you look back to June 2004 board meeting, you’ll find Agenda Items #9 & 20 – pertaining to construction at both Chamblee Middle & St. Mountain Middle. I have in my notes that Ms. Manning-Moon inquired about technology at that time. But more to the point — December 2004, Agenda Item # 9 SPLOST II Budget Revisions does include the additions of $600,000 at the new middle schools, including Peachtree Middle. (note: Towers & Columbia are the only high schools listed for a Technology allowance – $50,000) I am sure Ms Clary will be happy to furnish you with the meeting notes if you do not have them.

    “Since both of you are so full of energy & so focused on the proceedings of past SPLOST spending, may I ask a favor of both of you?

    “First, much like you, Ms. Roberts, my memory (and the documentation I have since October 2001) fail me. I simply cannot find, in board meeting notes, when Columbia was approved for a full renovation. Nor can I find when the work was deferred. I think it reasonable to believe Ms Pope does not/cannot know the history to which you were referring last evening but she is quite sure Columbia was promised a renovation. Please be as vigilant on this item as you were with Peachtree’s funding. Out of the 25M for deferred work allocated in SPLOST III, 14M is for work at Columbia. (Including SPLOST II funding, Columbia is slated to cost app. 27M) All I am asking is the dates of board approval & deferral of such a major project.

    “Secondly, Ms Copelin-Wood — you have a much better understanding of the funding than I do. Just when SPLOST I was wrapping up & SPLOST II was starting, the AJC wrote an article with the mention of the addition at McNair Middle School. I searched high & low for that item within both budgets and finally found that the 5M spent on McNair Middle was from 410 funds. Examining August,2006 Agenda Item #17 – Capital Outlay Fund 410 Reallocation, except for system wide purchases, most allocations are less than 1M. McNair’s construction stands out as an anomaly. How does this 410 funding process work? Why was $5M spent on a McNair Middle School addition while SPLOST II was being formulated and the student census was decreasing?

    “I hope my information has been helpful. And I hope you can provide me additional information.

    “Thank you,

    “Most Sincerely,
    Faye Andresen”
    ==============

    “Hello Faye,
    “It is evident from your e-mail that you are continuing to weave your web of deceitfulness.
    “It is also apparent that you are most definitely “Confused.”
    “Therefore, let me help you – The Election Is Over – Get Over It.

    “HAVE A GREAT ONE!!
    “Sarah Copelin-Wood”
    ======

    “Ms Copelin-Wood,
    “You accuse me of deceitfulness. This is a serious charge that concerns me greatly. I merely responded to questions raised in the public venue of a board meeting and asked for additional documentation and information concerning funding protocol.
    “What part of my letter is deceitful?

    “Sincerely,
    “Faye Andresen”

    There was no further response from Copelin-Wood.

    And here is an excerpt of Roberts’ response:
    “By the way, your information in this letter has not been helpful because it is full of errors and omissions, and why do you think that I should provide you with additional information? Who are you anyway? It seems to me that you know it all, since you have designated yourself to try and tell the superintendent, staff and board members what to do. Please get a life Ms. Andresen.”

  4. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    Murphey, there are a lot of frustrated people out there. I really wonder if Dr. Atkinson knew what she was getting into when she came here. This is a great synopsis of the meeting. My wife does not let me watch sometimes, since it gets my blood boiling

    I did hear that a couple of parents from Chamblee Charter High School will be speaking tonight during public comments. I’m sure this will be a festive affair for all to enjoy on PDS-24. Let’s see how the piblic reaction is, since so much has happened since the last public comments. Stay Tuned!

  5. queenb4real says:

    Just a clarification regarding Destiny Academy. Drop outs are NOT rounded up for Destiny. My daughter attends Destiny. She is not and has ever been a drop out. She will be graduating on time this May.

  6. @ queenb4real

    We invite you to look at the video of the March 12, 2010 BOE meeting. You may link to the video from the blog article. Paul Womack (District 4 Board of Education member) said during the March 12 BOE meeting (on video for posterity) that Destiny Academy students “are dropouts that the system has rounded up for this program.” Jay Cunningham also said the same thing. It was accepted by the other BOE members; no one disagreed with that characterization. We don’t make up this stuff.

    That said, the charter contract for Destiny Academy also states that Destiny “is a non-traditional high school that shall serve an at-risk population and other students that have not been successful at traditional high schools.” Generally that means drop-outs or students who, for whatever reason, are unable to successfully complete the work expected in a traditional high school. Destiny is required by law to adhere to the terms of their charter contract and their reason for existence.

  7. GTCO-ATL says:

    Don’t apologize. A blog is an opinion piece and this one has a lot of supporters. We have every right to use somewhat negaitve terms when referring to a group that has wasted so much money… we really could say a lot worse, but we are trying to remain civilized while these nice people dressed in lovely clothes who sit on a big stage and ask questions yet hide the truth continue to steal money from us for their own benefit year after year after year, while we sit on the sidelines and watch. And the children of DeKalb County are not provided the world-class education we keep reaching into our pockets and promising to provide them.

  8. GTCO-ATL says:

    LOL! Listening to the board meeting right now … Womack just talked about “pay as you go” plan for SPLOST IV being a good idea of the Superintendent and when he finished his comment, Walker (chairman now) says, “Thank you, Mr. Womack, for that most UNWELCOMED opinion!” LOL!

    btw, what the heck is SPLOSH? Don’t they know that people call it that as a joke because it is related to the word SLUSH as in SLUSH-FUND? The word is SPLOST people… maybe they don’t want us to figure out what we voted for because it stands for “Special Purpose” and does not mean, “agree once and we’ve got you suckered for all eternity!”

  9. GTCO-ATL says:

    From the transcript of Womack in his own community near Briarlake (so this is how he talks to his supporters)…

    Audience Member (female 1): … (unintelligible – lots of talking going on in background)… and when did the school system start making decisions about cell phone coverage?

    Womack: This started, I guess, last, um, about mid-last year, well, I guess.. And we, uh, discussed it in a couple of board meetings best I can remember… lightly, not heavy, but lightly. And we said, “We have to go to the community.” And, we did that as best we could. I’m sorry we did not contact your association.

    Audience Member (female 1): Well, I would like to know where did you go?

    Womack: Well, Maam’ I can’t… I can’t answer that. I’m not gonna go knock on your door and say, “Hey, we gonna put..

    Audience Member (female 1): I’m not asking you for that, but what I am asking is that you go to the neighborhood that is immediately next door and give us some kind of notice.

    Audience Member (male): Mr. Womack, you could have done what’s standard for zoning issues, which is that..

    Womack: Post a notice out here?

    Audience Member (female 1): Exactly!

    Audience Member (male 1): You could have put up a large sign that everybody notices …
    Womack: Look, we relied on our website. I’m sorry we didn’t do our job as well as we should. But, let me tell you something, whether you like what I’m going to tell you or not, I really don’t care…

    Audience Member (male 2): Obviously!
    (more mumbling from audience)

    Audience Member (female 1): That’s the problem!

    Womack: That is not the problem.

    Audience Member (female 1): That IS the problem!

    Womack: Ma’am, when you set in my seat and you’re pulled as many ways as I’ve been pulled since I came back on this board, you would run from this job.

    Audience Member (female 1): (Angry) That was your choice! That’s not my problem. I did not force you to do that!

    Womack: I understand, Ma’am. And I’m not debate that with you. You’ve got your life… I’m not, because I paid to get this job and the community asked me to do it. Now…

    Audience Member (female 1): Then don’t complain!

    Womack: It is the most important job there is in the state. The school board. Because it’s charged with educating the future leaders of this country. If we fall down, the community falls down. I’m sorry that you did not get the notice that you wanted.

    Audience Member (female 1): NO notice.

    Womack: I said I am sorry you didn’t get it! I’m not going to play on the words.

  10. Dr. DeKalb says:

    Ms. Copelin-Wood just said that some of us meet with the Superintendent secretly… she meant privately I’m sure, but Freudian slip on that one!

  11. justwatch says:

    That is funny. I am sure she is feeling “left out of the loop.” I am certain she isn’t included in those secret/private meetings.

  12. Dr. DeKalb says:

    OH YEAH…. free advertising time for DeKalb School Watch Blog TWO… just menioned by Womack as he said he doesn’t ususally respond to blogs, but DSW2 stepped over the line this time… 🙂

  13. Anonymous says:

    DSW2 stepped over the line, how? I think Womack steps in IT everytime he opens his mouth!

  14. atl-computer-guy says:

    What was the context and to which comment on DSW2 was he referring?

  15. CM says:

    The March 12 link to the meeting video is not working. Is there another way to get to it?

  16. dishatlanta says:

    AJC has a bit of info on SPLOST http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-finds-way-to-1411999.html

    Somehow all 7 elementary schools will look the same except that at least one is supposed to be only 600 students.

  17. Miss Management says:

    Maybe they just haven’t yet found their ‘special purpose’!

  18. Michael Martin says:

    The singling out of Paul Womack and the ire expressed against him here is baffling to me. As a board member for the Coralwood Foundation, I have been impressed with Mr. Womack’s support of the children and the schools in Dekalb County, especially those children who often do not have much of a voice – those with special needs for example. I expect the same is true for Destiny Academy. Not all children fit into cookie cutter molds, not even the gifted. Those that don’t – often through no choice of their own, they are children after all – are the ones left unsupported and at even greater disadvantage for the rest of their lives.

    Mr. Womack has attended several of our school functions. He is there even when no other DCSS board member is. He has been a vocal supporter and a valuable asset. My experience at the DCSS board meetings is that he is willing to take the unpopular stance for the sake of the children.

    Coralwood may be a small fish in the big pond of DCSS but it has not gone ignored by Paul Womack and, to me, that speaks volumes as to his understanding of education, his commitment to our children and his value to our communities.

  19. So there you have it says:

    Coralwood serves about 200 children with special needs, mostly pre-schoolers who do not count for FTE and who do not get money from the state. They have to get grant money and other funds (including DeKalb taxpayers). Coralwood, like Destiny, is a very expensive program. As stated above, an emotional decision. When the budget has to be cut for all regular students, it’s becomes very hard to justify and find the money to continue to fund so many expensive small programs. Does Paul care that some schools have classes with over 30 students spending the entire day in trailers? I haven’t heard him ever mention concern for regular students. Paul stated out loud, “I don’t care about taxes.” So there you have it.

  20. Miss Management says:

    YES! Of course Coralwood loves Paul Womack! He personally delivered you $10 million in SPLOST IV!!! It’s a love fest!

    But, Paul Womack cut the budget by increasing class sizes in regular classrooms. Then, he got Briarlake a cell tower in exchange for a playground. And this school has the program for the deaf. A cell tower is a problem for the deaf, the magnetic field interferes with their hearing devices.

  21. dekalbmom says:

    Isn’t anyone else appalled at Gene Walker’s comments on SPLOST IV and his statement that he plans to try and change the Superintendent’s and other BOE members mind regarding management of SPLOST IV? The superintendent announced that the SPLOST IV projects would not begin until sufficient tax revenues are collected to justify initiation of construction. This is what is referred to as the “pay as you go plan” and Superintendent Atkinson was adamant that the school district will not begin SPLOST IV in debt. The school system borrowed $300 million to pre-fund SPLOST III and it is the interest on these bonds that was not being tracked in the budget. Yet Walker publicly stated that he plans to campaign hard for the issuance of bonds to pre-fund SPLOST IV. Why? Perhaps so he can lobby that projects in his area (and that he has probably promised to others) will get started early. Can you say re-election? Plus lots of money for bond lawyers and bond salesmen, plus interest that must be paid on the bonds.

    Jester, McChesney and Womack all stated that they support the Superintendent. Please let the Superintendent know that you are in agreement. It would be crazy to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars in this volatile economic climate. The tax base in this county has suffered an enormous blow and DeKalb is not on the recovery track.

  22. Aghast Again says:

    I’m not so sure the superintendent is running the school system. I have decided that it’s Paul Womack and Gene Walker who make all the rules.

  23. Dr. DeKalb says:

    Just so we are clear here, the comment was that WOMACK said DSW2 stepped over the line. That wasn’t my opinion. I said it was great free advertising. His rant didn’t make much sense unless you read this blog, so DSW2 should get some new readers as a result. Womack would have been better off keeping his mouth shut.

  24. concernforthekids says:

    Funny thing, do you know who the BOND broker for the school system and the DeKalb Housing authority is and has been for years? Let me give you a hint, he is also the Director of the DeKalb Housing Authority………do you need another hint?
    OK, here’s another hint, you can’t find his name ANYWHERE in their website.
    It is, none other than Gene Walker’s son.
    No wonder his daddy is advocating for BONDS for the SPLOSH (as our ignorant board calls it).
    Walker “da turd” (III), will make close to 1% of the sale amount of the bonds brokering the deal.
    Let’s see, $300,000,000 in bonds x 1% = $3,000,000, NICE DADDY! THANKS!
    Walker and his son are NOT transparent with their business dealings and NEVER have been!
    Not only SHAME on YOU for hiding the existing relationship but you SHOULD be in JAIL!
    Thanks for letting me vent but this shit has got to stop!
    I want 2 things from all public servants, TRANSPARENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY!
    CFTK

  25. justwatch says:

    Coralwood and its foundation are indebted to Womack. He traded his vote for other things so that Coralwood would be included in SPLOST IV even though it servers so few students.

    While the additions to Coralwood will be nice, those are luxuries compared to the schools that thousands of DCSS students are being housed in. It wasn’t an appropriate use of SPLOST funds, but Womack has a soft spot for the school.

  26. Dekalb Taxpayer says:

    Here is Eugene Walker’s latest comment on why the BOE taking instructional space from students to put 60 ft. by 60 ft. , 154 ft. cell towers on elementary school campuses.
    From the DeKalb Neighbor newspaper:
    “That’s not a governmental function,” Gannon said. “This business is working with the school board to make money…”
    Walker countered that the primary purpose of the deal with the telecommunications giant is to improve classroom instruction through the enhancement of communication in the county.”

    It appears Walker is saying cellphones will be used in the classrooms for instruction. That’s rather curious since the Board of Education bans the use of cellphones in the classrooms because they are a distraction to the learning process.

  27. queenb4real says:

    I believe that Jay Cunningham would agree with that characterization because he’s an idiot. While there are some students at Destiny who may have been headed to “drop-out” status, there are many who are there for other reasons. I put my daughter at Destiny because the environment at her traditional high school was so toxic that a once happy, outgoing child became withdrawn, depressed and started self-mutilating. Although there are some things about Destiny that I do not necessarily agree with and think should be done differently, the generalization that Destiny’s student population are rounded up drop-outs is incorrect and I felt that YOU needed to know that. Obviously, our school board does not. Pretty sad, huh?

  28. Dr. DeKalb says:

    Coralwood = .6 miles from Oak Grove where Womack’s grandchildren go to school, and right around the corner from where he lives. Demographics: 73% white disabled children. They get $10 million in SPLOST funds. It serves pre-K only.

    http://pk.greatschools.org/georgia/decatur/preschools/Coralwood-Education-Center/697/

    Margaret Harris Comprehensive School = considered to be in Atlanta, not Decatur, and is the only school that the county’s most severely mentally and physically disabled children will ever attend, K – 12. Demographics: 79.49% black. They get a cell tower which can actually ruin some hearing implants because they run on the same or a similar frequency (cochlear implants). This school had zero attend the T-mobile meeting and no one from the community was informed about the cell tower. They would likely disagree with the person who said how Womack stands up for children with disabilities. They’re being taken advantage of big time here!

    http://www.movoto.com/public-schools/ga/atlanta/other/130174003868-margaret-harris-comprehensive-school/1634-knob-hill-dr-ne.htm

    And, let’s not forget that Womack was a party to a lawsuit not too long ago where the parents of disabled children sued because the district was shoving them off to private homes like babysitting services and not offering them much as far as education. I will get the link and provide it as well.

  29. dekalbmom says:

    Could you please provide the name of Mr. Walker’s son who is a bond broker and the name of his company, if you have it?
    I will re-read the ethics rules but if a BOE member’s immediate family will benefit financially from a decision of the BOE, then I think Mr. Walker must recuse himself from voting or advocating for that action.

  30. CM says:

    Is anyone else concerned about the $60 Million in Interest that Walker reported was promised for the $300 Million in SPLOST III? That’s 20% interest on a very safe loan!

    Re: cell towers – Womack said it was about the coverage at Lakeside; Walter Woods stated it was about the income to the school district; and now Walker is coming forward to say it is about improving communications in the county?

    If there is a communications problem in the county, then T-mobile isn’t going to be the one to fix it, first of all. Second of all, if they are, then they can find other ways to fix it instead of using our school grounds.

    And, the only reason we had this issue brought up in the first place was because Womack was the chairman of the Budget, Audit and Facilities Committee and gave the assignment to increase revenue using alternate methods, specifically cell towers, to Steve Donahue, Director of Facilities Management (who has little construction experience and has risen in the ranks from principal to now apparantly, deciding if cell towers are safe next to our homes and schools!).

  31. atl-computer-guy says:

    CFTK,
    Transparency and accountability … Hear, hear !! Speaking of, do you have anything that backs your allegations up?

  32. dekalbmom says:

    I am still waiting for “concernforthekids” or anyone else to provide the name of Gene Walker’s son who is a bond broker and the name of his company. I WILL write a letter regarding the conflict of interest IF I can verify this information.

  33. Miss Management says:

    There is this article from the AJC about when Gene Walker was on the Housing Authority of DeKalb and his son was a bond broker
    http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/finalist-for-dekalb-housing-629737.html

  34. concernforthekids says:

    DeKalb Mom,
    After reading the 2010 AJC article supplied by Miss Management, I hope you understand the severity of the nepotism in this county! Here is the final sentence from the article,
    “Given a choice among two public housing professionals and a vendor with a political pedigree, whom do you imagine the authority’s board will hire as their new executive director? We’ll let you know.”
    They picked the vendor with political pedigree and not the 2 directors with years of public housing experience!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Write your letter! (and get a few thousand other people also!)
    CFTK
    (Thanks for the link MM)

  35. concernforthekids says:

    I hope everyone reads the article from the AJC in 2010.
    Here’s another paragraph. Sound familiar?

    “If Eugene P. “Pete” Walker Jr. becomes DeKalb’s new public housing chief, he will oversee the job performance of his current employer, Mercy Housing Southeast, a nonprofit paid to manage several of the authority’s properties. He’s currently Mercy’s president.”

    This is public knowledge and NO ONE in DeKalb has a problem? Fogive me for my ignorance but this seems like a severe conflict of interest? Eugene Walker oversees taxpayer dollars that is paid to his OWN COMPANY! Has anyone heard of an “Arms Length Transaction”?

    Here’s antoher sentence.
    “Walker, one of three finalists for the housing job, also runs Millennium Development Partners, a for-profit company that does financial and bond consulting for the housing authority.”
    A FOR PROFIT COMPANY THAT DOES FINANCIAL AND BOND CONSULTING FOR THE HOUSING AUTHORITY! (and also the school system and another CONFLICT OF INTEREST)

    Not only does he run a “non-profit” that manages the authority’s properties (millions annually), he also runs a “for-profit” financial services company that receives commissions from the DeKalb County Bond sales (in the millions annually). TRANSPARENCY?

    Let’s Mr. Eugene Walker, Jr. a chance to explain himself to the AJC……..

    “Walker declined to talk last week about how he would manage any potential conflict of interest with either business, or whether he would even have one. So did Glenwood Ross, chairman of the authority’s board, and board member George Maddox.” (It seems they know each other and had nothing to say?)

    The fun doesn’t end!

    “The two other finalists for the housing job, Robert Kenner and Art Milligan, have a combined 22 years’ experience running housing authorities in Florida and North Carolina, while Walker has a degree in business administration and was once CFO of the Atlanta Development Authority. The board met Friday in closed session to talk about personnel but emerged without announcing a decision.” (Walker had ZERO experience in managing housing authorities versus 22 years of experience of the other applicants. HMMMMMM? He was only the bond salesman!)

    The article gets even better (or worse depending on if you pay taxes or not) but I am tired of cutting and pasting so please read the whole article.

    Let me know your thoughts and concerns.
    CKTK

  36. Steven says:

    This comment and the disgusting display of support shown this jerk at the Auction is why my family will no longer be supporting the Coralwood Foundation. We can no longer be asked to volunteer to organize events and donate to the classroom challenge while the board is campaigning for somebody as disgusting in their disregard for the safety of little children as Paul Womack is.

  37. concernforthekids says:

    atl-computer-guy,
    I know it has been a week since you posted but are the AJC articles that were provided clear enough for our discussion? Sorry I didn’t have the reference material when I posted.
    Let me know if you require more substance. Thanks for your ocncern for the kids.
    CFTK

  38. Get Green Apples says:

    And AT&T

  39. GTCO-ATL says:

    SPLOST IV called it “giving children the ability to learn while roaming with their hand-held devices.” They meant Ipads or cell phones… ATT has a new program that we will likely be hearing about next: http://www.corp.att.com/xplane/k12.html

  40. GTCO-ATL says:

    What about the conflict of interest of Paul Womack’s son having died from brain cancer, the very thing that medical professionals state cell phones and cell towers can increase the cances of, esp. in children? Womack himself told a group of people at a Briarlake meeting about this fact and we have verified that the Womak familiy contributes money to the Duke Brain Cancer Research Center. I wonder if Duke University has same concerns about the microwave radiation that experts at Ceaders Cinai (spelling? sorry!) in California have reported. If so, has Womack really gone bonkers and is he seeking revenge on the other children in DeKalb to suffer the same thing his own son (who was fully grown at the time, btw) endured?

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