From DSW’s E-mail …

[DSW Note:  Several of our loyal readers sent us some updates and related comments on yesterday’s events in DeKalb County Schools.  We are publishing them anonymously, as requested.  We are always very grateful for this kind of assistance!  Thank you!]

Below is a brief summary of yesterday’s (December 6, 2012) called board meeting regarding the 5-Year Plan and Paying-Interest-on-Bonds vs. the Pay-As-You-Go Plan:

5-Year Plan 

  • Atkinson began with a statement that the reason for this plan is that it is tied to state funds that DeKalb has formerly lost out on because we did not present a plan.  Our plan was actually due last year, but we were given a one-year extension because of our new leadership.  We have now been given an extra month extension because of the recent backlash.
  • Monday’s board vote will be to accept the DRAFT so that we can report to the state that we have begun the process.  It is not a final vote in any way.  It is a vote to begin the whole process.
  • January will be filled with the regional public feedback forums at area high schools.  There will also be an email address for feedback.
  • Final vote for the go-forward plan is Wednesday, January 23, 2013.  The plan can still be amended after that if the changes are “minor”, but “major” changes would need to go back through the state, which we do not want to do.
  • After the January 23 vote, the state will visit and assess whether the plan makes sense for us to meet an overall approved plan deadline of April.  The final procedural finalization is in June, but that is primarily a state thing.  It will not mean that county-level public discussions are going on that long.
  • Atkinson has already amended the draft plan she released last week.  The changes largely only affect those areas where the 6-12 model was proposed.  That has been undone and a replacement plan drawn up.  No major changes in any other clusters.  The newly re-worked plan is posted on the DeKalb County Schools website now under SPLOST IV:  http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/splost-iv
  • Region 2’s public input meeting will be at TuckerHigh School, January 15, 2013.  Speakers can sign up at 5:30 PM on that day.  There is a maximum of 30 speakers, 2 minutes each.  The meeting will begin at 6:00 PM.
  • Region 1’s public input meeting will be at DunwoodyHigh School, January 16, 2012.  Same time plan.
  • For areas with major changes, it looks like there will be meetings at the specific schools heavily affected.  That list was up for only a second, so I didn’t get it.

Sale of Bonds vs. Pay-As-You-Go

  • The most contentious topic was the bonds issue.  The most expensive bond (super accelerated at $120 million-ish – can’t recall exact) is off the table due to legal constraints.  So our choices are pay-as-you-go and the $80 million bond, which carries $6.5 million in interest.  They say they can cover the $6.5 million by cancelling other planned SPLOST projects that are no longer necessary because of the 5-year plan (i.e., don’t renovate schools that are being closed).
  • Nancy Jester and Don McChesney are strongly opposed to the use of bonds.  They say the $6.5 million that we are saving by cancelling other projects should be spent on other small projects so that a wider range of schools benefits and also so that our tax money is going directly to our facilities, not to interest.  Walker and Cunningham say that they would be doing the bonds “for the children” and that they are in support of them (big groan from the audience).  The “acceleration” is only 6 months, so Nancy didn’t think 6 months was worth $6.5 million.  Womack says he’s worried construction costs will increase in the “delayed” plan but hasn’t decided.  Don and Nancy both asked Dr. Atkinson directly what she personally preferred, and she avoided an answer.  Walker then said it didn’t matter what she personally thought because it was a board vote.

[DSW Note:  Walker’s son sells these kind of bonds.  Even if he recuses himself from the direct sale of bonds on behalf of DeKalb County Schools, we are confident that he will find a way to profit. We will file an Open Records Request for information on previously sold bonds.]

The meeting began at 3:30 PM and was adjourned at 4:30 PM.  Walker attempted to adjourn at 3:50 after Atkinson spoke to say that Monday’s vote was not a final vote.  He said they all had “another meeting” to go to and we could either adjourn or they could recess, the audience could wait for 30 minutes while they attended another meeting, and then resume the discussion of the latest changes at 4:30.  Protest from the audience led them to continue with the discussion.

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Here is a link to Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Ty Tagami’s latest article was about DeKalb County Schools.  It published last night, Thursday, December 6, 2012 (and buried by ajc.com by first thing this morning).

This is the paragraph in Tagami’s article that I was steamed by:

“Atkinson said the vote must occur by then (Wednesday, January 23, 2012) to secure $40 million in state funding. The transfer was supposed to occur sooner but she negotiated a delay of several weeks with state officials. The plan was due a year ago.”

So, she’s rushing a plan, which may not even be a good one, to get money that may not be needed and likely can’t be used for things we definitely need, like teacher salaries? Making such a drastic financial commitment without proper investigation of the financial implications may look exceptionally negative given the SACS investigation of the board. She’s already demonstrated that part of the plan was poorly conceived (combining middle and high schools), but is not giving time to consider the other ideas. Maybe some of the ideas are good, but we don’t have time to figure it out. We can’t trust anything on short notice, because she had to throw out such an obviously bad idea as the cornerstone of the plan. Why should we trust any of it?

Also in Tagami’s article: “Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson released her proposed charges last week and the school board is scheduled for an initial vote Monday with a final vote on the draft plans Jan. 23. That schedule — less than two months away interrupted by holidays — is longer than what officials were originally talking about: only one vote on Monday.”

Tagami’s article continues:  “School board Chairman Eugene Walker acknowledged the public mistrust and frustration expressed in a flood of emails and phone calls and said Monday’s vote will merely initiate a planning process that includes parents.  ‘So please don’t bless me out anymore about me betraying you,’ [Walker] told the crowd of about 50 on Thursday.  Many of them skipped work to attend the meeting, which was scheduled at 3:30 p.m., also a source of irritation. Those who couldn’t make childcare arrangements brought their toddlers.”

How is any process supposed to include parents if the much of the planning time occurs over the 3 ½ week holiday break?

Over the past year Atkinson prioritized a “Balanced Scorecard” and an “Excellence in Education Plan” (with grammatical and logical errors in it) and changing the school calendar (which few people wanted and for which she provided misinformation), rather than working on this project. Atkinson’s misguided priorities don’t mean she should rush something else. She made her decisions regarding what to prioritize, knowing the 5-Year Plan was due and she should live by them.

I would love it if she would just put the time and energy into integrating all this feedback she gets at meetings and doing one thing at a time, carefully and accurately completed, before rushing off to try another half-done idea.

[DSW Note:  We repeatedly warned the board that the careless errors in spelling, grammar and accuracy on Atkinson’s resume and her job application package (for both DeKalb and Atlanta – clearly she had to get out of Ohio one way or another) was a harbinger of her work to come.  If a person cannot complete a job application and their own resume perfectly, then they won’t do any better if they actually get the job.]

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Gallery | This entry was posted in Board of Education Meetings, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, Don McChesney, Friends-and-Family, Gene Walker, Jay Cunningham, Nancy Jester, School Funding, SPLOST IV, Superintendent Cheryl Howell Atkinson, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to From DSW’s E-mail …

  1. concernedmom30329 says:

    I want to point out that there were changes in Region 1 and Region 2 that were glossed over. Check the differences at Laurel Ridge, Mclendon and Sagamore Hills…

    Also, oddly the agenda for Monday’s night asks for 162 million dollars in bonds for capital projects, not 80 million. From the agenda:

    On November 8, 2011 the voters of DeKalb County approved the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) for up to $645,000,000 or 20 calendar quarters beginning July 1, 2012, whichever occurs first, as well as the issuance of up to $200,000,000 in general obligation bonds, which would allow for the acceleration of some projects and which would be repaid by the sales taxes. The approval of the resolution will authorize the issuance of up to $162,000,000 of GO Bonds and the solicitation of competitive bids for the sale of the GO Bonds. The interest cost will be based upon the best bid received. A resolution ratifying the sale of the GO Bonds to the best bidder will be presented for board approval on the day of the sale.

  2. teacherwantingachange says:

    I must be incorrigible because I’m still asking where is SACS, Professional Standards, Georgia DOE, or the Dekalb DA?

    In the last year, we have learned that there was a $40 million SPLOST shortfall unaccounted for, Dekalb was paying costly utility bills for unused buildings, $910,000 of Title I funds were improperly spent and effectively lost, and $49 million that could have been spent on students (for more teachers and programs) was used to sustain unecessary, over-paid central office employees. That’s only the stuff we’re told.

    We’ve also been reminded that the Superintendent spent 90 days visiting schools and a considerable amount of time pushing a balanced calender while waiting to “streamline” Title I accountability, propose a redistricting plan, or even publish the names of the people employed by Dekalb. So it goes.

    Then there’s the money spent on audits-anywhere from $10,000 to $79,000-to tell us what we already knew: schools need to be safe, curriculum coordinators weren’t really offering anything more than the state provided, “professional learning” (a misnomer in Dekalb) needs to evidence teachers’ and students’ needs, and we need to do more to help our struggling students. And since there’s Race to the Top money to be spent, why not use it for “innovative” Phds in education and curriculum units that offer little more than copied and pasted standards with some activities thrown in?

    Now Dekalb gets even more money to spend?

  3. murphey says:

    Have I missed something? Is there a cost estimate showing what the savings will be if we implement the drastic redistricting plan?

    I agree with Teacherwantingachange above: DCSD has severe financial woes and we can’t adopt a new plan without knowing the financial implications. Maybe the plan isn’t drastic enough, given that we owe $910,000 for Title 1 fund payback (and that was only for one year–what about the other years?).
    There seems to be a big disconnect between future plans and our ability to afford them. Also, does the plan address the loss of state funds for schools that have fewer than 450 students?

    I also agree with Teacherwantingachange in that it is outrageous that Superintendent Atkinson spent so much time and resources on relatively unimportant issues like forcing an unpopular calendar change and implementing Facebook and Twitter and such, while she missed a very important state deadline. In the private sector many Boards would fire the chief executive for a mistake like that.

    Finally, what about Nancy Jester’s analysis showing that the only salary category that has increased over the last six years is General Administration–not teachers or instructional services or anything that directly touches our students? With all of the money that we’re paying we should have a top Central Office staff that would be on top of state deadlines. Sadly, it is obvious that we don’t.

    And we still don’t have any names on our Organizational Chart. Again, in the private sector a Board wouldn’t tolerate such action.

  4. I bet SACS sacks Jester for asking tough questions to staffers and demanding accountability from these high priced administrators, who seem to be rewarded when they screw up. Again, why is Tyson still allowed in the Palace…. Ramsey should have resigned outright too. But it is the culture of corruption that has these folks feeling like they are entitled to high salaries and benefits for life! Great work if you are a particular minority in DeKalb…. Never fear DCSS can police themselves…DeKalb DA said so…. who got to him…… who runs DeKalb…it is certainly NOT Burrell Ellis or our county commission.

  5. Let us take a guess: accused pedophile Eddie Long. Brought to DeKalb County by Ron Ramsey.

  6. bu2 says:

    I’m trying to figure out why they are completing the 600 seat addition to SW Dekalb HS from SPLOST 3 when that will leave them with 600 empty seats at SW Dekalb. Looks like they made some really bad decisions in SPLOST 3 about where to spend their money.

    Draft was really sloppy. Organozation I think is how they spelled the word several times. Lots of obvious errors on attendance in the elementary schools. Appears to have flipped figures in a few places, putting the attendance for one school on the next line. They put “0” a few times in projected attendance in schools that would still be open. Gives you serious doubts about how well this was thought out.

  7. bu2 says:

    The acceleration does appear to make sense. There are substantial planned capital expenditures in schools they are intending to close, things like roofs and HVAC systems that can only be postponed so long.

  8. Here’s a link to a very poignant post at CrossRoads News in DeKalb:

    Its Abbot and Castello stupid

    Let’s just say that people aren’t happy with Gene and Jay and this article even goes so far as to say that electing a goat would have yielded more sense.

  9. concernedmom30329 says:

    It makes no sense for DCSS to accelerate because they have shown time and time again that SPLOST will be mismanaged. Allowing them access to more money at once simply means more opportunity for fraud and poor quality work. Forcing the system to do less with more (Dr. Atkinson’s favorite phrase, is the most responsible thing to do here.
    SPLOST has been so incredibly politicized that at least some of the projects that are being done make no sense. The large S DeKalb additions are problematic at best. They could easily never be full. What a waste.

  10. midvaledad says:

    I agree with concernedmomm30329. Dr. Atkinson should learn to do more with less.
    Unfortunately, it seems as though the central office is exempt from that philosophy.

  11. DeKalb BOE for dummies says:

    Shame on whoever wrote the article. How could he have missed Sarah Copeland-Wood?

  12. BooBoo1992 says:

    Removed.

  13. The funding for CCHS is a special federal funding that has a zero percent interest. You had to make a proposal and use the money for new construction as far as I recall. It wasn’t a locally funded (with interest charges) bond.

  14. BooBoo1992 says:

    Removed.

  15. @BooBoo 1992 — this is the 4th name you have used. Please settle on one (NOT this current one) if you wish to continue posting on DeKalb School Watch. We expect you to follow the stated rules. Otherwise, we encourage you to start your own blog.

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