Happy New Year: Reflecting on 2012

As we really do sincerely wish you all a Happy New Year, we pause to reflect on all of the DeKalb schools drama that we have witnessed in one short year, 2012.  The easiest way to recap is to simply list some of the news headlines over the past year.  We were so hopeful that a new day had dawned, however, we now must admit that this past year wreaked havoc on our schools – our children and their teachers.  We pray for a better day in 2013.


School board assailed at Atkinson’s new job

DeKalb superintendent sidelines finance chief

Bands to march while parents stew over allegations

DeKalb misses Race to Top deadline; new deadline could have consequences if missed

School system selects new chief operating officer

Report: DeKalb schools have too many administrators

Race to the Top program faces challenges

Attempt to redistrict DeKalb school board unearths tensions

Audit: Some DeKalb Schools salaries inflated

Lawmakers in DeKalb feud over school-board map

DeKalb DA won’t probe school board, wants reports

DeKalb schools call meeting over $41 million shortfall in taxes

Court order kick starts case against Crawford Lewis

State releases list of lowest-performing schools

County Commissioners Seek to Kill School Cell Towers

Under new formula, Georgia graduation rate reset to 67.4 percent

Tab so far for lawyers in school construction lawsuit: $37 million

New indictment alleges crime ring headed by superintendent

DeKalb schools, facing $70 million deficit, searches for cut

DeKalb school bonds downgraded

Facing deficit, DeKalb contemplates cutting 10 more school days

DeKalb schools vote to raise taxes, cut 477 jobs

DeKalb school board rejects teacher layoffs

DeKalb teachers make beeline for classrooms overseas

DeKalb school district approves layoffs

School board fails to implement cuts in approved budget

School system auditor departs after position diminished by budget cuts

Tight finances in DeKalb lead to cuts for Special Olympics

School system spends $34 million more than budgeted

DeKalb school system debt judged riskier after budget crunch

School board promotes employees, hires new public relations firm

Moody’s downgrades DeKalb Schools credit rating

DeKalb schools to go on state remedial budget plan to make up for $24 million shortfall

DeKalb Schools chief pledges to cooperate with SACS inquiry

Grant will pay for 8 doctorates in DeKalb

More mounting legal fees in DeKalb schools

DeKalb schools settle suit with employee who spoke out at board meeting

DeKalb school audit shows office cuts not made

Law firm drops DeKalb School Board as client

Dunwoody to push for separate school district

State Court of Appeals rules employees’ lawsuit against DeKalb County School District can go forward

Figures show disparity in budget cuts, DeKalb school board member says

New federal calculation shows Georgia graduation rates near bottom of U.S.

DeKalb Schools disbands canine unit without telling parents

DeKalb officials consider new attendance lines

Suit pursues DeKalb superintendent’s text messages

DeKalb schools superintendent pushes reorganization plan

Lawsuit raises concerns about DeKalb Schools corruption

DeKalb school redistricting plans to be in place by late January

DeKalb school system to issue $38 million in state-backed bonds

Accreditation agency delves into complaints about DeKalb

DeKalb school district in “conflict and crisis,” put on probation by accreditation agency

DeKalb board member says audit shows ‘troubled’ district

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This entry was posted in Board of Education Meetings, Budget Cuts, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, DeKalb County, Georgia, Education in the South, Fraud & Corruption, GA Legislature / Laws / O.C.G.A., Heery Mitchell Civil Case, Redistricting, SACS/Accreditation, School Funding, Superintendent Cheryl Howell Atkinson. Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Happy New Year: Reflecting on 2012

  1. Embarrassed Employee says:

    All of this and STILL we are an accredited school system or district or whatever….. Wow Mark E. wow…… And the worst is still to come in 2013…more legal trials….more lawsuits….just more mess…

  2. waitaminit 1 says:

    Good business for DSW tho EE.

    DSW–please dig out those school population #s (high schools under capacity in the South, overcrowded in the north) from the old DSW (or wherever you can find them). Story in the AJC about a $10 million classroom addition at MLK opening–and we’re likely going to be closing some over the next few years due to “lack of interest”.

    Then I’ll send it to AJC for the next “great investigation” for them. Talk about finance fraud–maybe the biggest they’ve got, building things we don’t need.

  3. The DeKalb Chamber of Commerce must be so proud! I wonder what the 100 Black Men of DeKalb think about all this….. Do they still have office space at McNair High…. Why would any business want to move or expand here…. Ugh!

  4. Embarrassed Employee says:

    We need to be putting money back into the classroom not builing more buildings. People need to start getting mad and working together to put a freeze on everything in DeKalb.

  5. waitaminit 1 says:

    MLK classroom addition link (broke ground, not opened)

  6. bettyandveronica1 says:

    School buildings and actual classroom learning expenses come from two different sources. SPLOST can’t be used for actual education expenses but to build better schools and make capital repairs. Our board, their awful supers, this one included, over the last 12 years and their minions have spent, overspent and acted in a manner which would have gotten any one of these individuals fired in the “real world”, except maybe in the Senate, US House or the White House. TAX AND SPEND!
    There is nothing wrong with building new schools at taxpayer expense. We want the kids to go to school in a nice environment.
    The problem is that they can’t and haven’t managed these building programs and their attached funds well. Just another level of incompetence. We’ll see if the citizen oversight committee is actually invited to the conversation by DCSS.

  7. Oh yes — thanks for the reminder waitaminit. Here’s a link to a May, 2010 post on the subject of enrollment/capacity/SPLOST:
    SPLOST 3 projects vs enrollments, capacity and racial make up at DeKalb High Schools

    Martin Luther King Jr. HS – 1,833 students – (98.1% black); From the website: “MLK opened in August, 2001, as the newest high school in the DeKalb School system. This beautiful facility is home to grades 9-12. This beautiful new school has a green and inviting campus, an ideal place for students to learn.” Scheduled to receive a multi-classroom addition with SPLOST 3. Plus a new project has been discussed and temporarily tabled for this school – MLK HS – 9th Grade Academy – $6,858,842 With a current capacity of 1,407, MLK is over-capacity by 426, however, this crowding was supposed to have been relieved by the brand new Arabia HS in August, 2009—but Arabia opened as a magnet program of sorts instead.

    We just recently downloaded the FTE counts from the October 2012 count sent to the state. We then spent some time hiding all of the details and organizing the schools in alpha order (not by school number) – you can see the new numbers here:

    October, 2012 School by School FTE count

    According to the number filed with the state in October, MLK high has 1669 students. [Interesting aside: Southwest DeKalb, which continues to enjoy SPLOST improvements and additions due to past over-crowding, only reported 1429 students in October.]


    We’re working on compiling all of the data regarding enrollments… it’s very time-consuming. Look for a post on the subject in mid-January (after the school system proposes yet another ‘plan’)…

    Meanwhile, here are more links to posts on the subject at the old DSW blog (still a great source of information):
    OCT, 2009
    MAY, 2010
    SEPT, 2010

  8. DeKalb Observer says:

    Here’s what I don’t get: Henderson Middle – severely overcrowded- had to rally the troops to protest that they had been moved down the SPLOST priority list. If memory serves, they were due a reno as part of SPLOST 3 – and didn’t get it. In fact, the fifty year old building wasn’t renovated when it was originally converted from a high school to a middle school. So how is it, that a school built in 2000 with open seats is getting an addition? Who decides which promised projects get sidelined and which get funded and built? Whose pockets are being lined with this one?

  9. Here’s a complete list for high schools: (2009 vs 2016 projected/2012 actual)

    Arabia Mountain HS
    (1,011 – 1,319/1,301)
    Avondale HS (640 – 689/closed)
    Cedar Grove HS (1,188 – 1,490/971)
    Chamblee HS (1,512 – 1,501/1,263) low enrollment probably due to heavy construction/students in trailers
    Clarkston HS (1,007 – 1,096/1,533) whoops. big miss there. Perhaps Avondale students moved here.
    Columbia HS (1,302 – 1,156/1,358)
    Cross Keys HS (908 – 1,299/1,029)
    Druid Hills HS (1,406 – 1,545/1,574)
    Dunwoody HS (1,511 – 2,220/1,511) suspicious that it’s exactly the same – growth projection seems way off – don’t think they’ll add over 700 students in 4 years.
    Elizabeth Andrews HS (615 – 718/687)
    Lakeside HS (1,721 – 1,920/1,914) Already passed projection by 6
    Lithonia HS (1,510 – 1,552/1,405)
    Martin Luther King Jr HS (1,851 – 1,722/1,669)
    McNair HS (1,042 – 1,028/910)
    Miller Grove HS (1,656 – 1,542/1,577) Already passed projection by 35
    Redan HS (1,440 – 1,163/1,237)
    School of the Arts (DSA) (291 – 281/336) This is 8th-12th grades with a full staff. ($$$) Program should merge to another HS.
    Stephenson HS (1,832 – 1,450/1,550)
    Stone Mountain HS (1,352 – 1,486/1,145)
    SW DeKalb HS (1,794 – 1,438/1,429) Net loss of 365 so far – already under projection.
    Towers HS (1,014 – 1,144/990) Already under projection by 154
    Tucker HS (1,419 – 1,632/1,754) Already over projection by 122


    Our interpretation of these numbers is that Lakeside and Tucker are the schools to watch for crowding. Also, to save a lot of money, send the 8th grade DSA students to the new K-8 school of the arts to be housed at Avondale MS and then merge the DSA 9-12 program into another high school like SW DeKalb or Dunwoody – either one seems to have room – and an auditorium. There’s no need for 300 DSA high schoolers to have their own building, principal, AP, counselors, cafeteria, janitors, etc.
    And still – Cross Keys has no auditorium nor has their track been improved. Not sure if Cedar Grove got their auditorium yet as promised. Anyone know?

  10. waitaminit 1 says:

    Thanks for the data–my point was that I thought we were paying for new spaces in areas where schools were losing students. That doesn’t seem to be that significant an issue based on the data except in the case of Cedar Grove–of course the Avondale closure and sale is the worst case–and likely there will be more (or schools will be partially leased to other entities such as charters).

    ..and yes–meanwhile we have continued crowding in more popular schools..worst case being Lakeside already over capacity in the same year that new space is finally finished.

  11. Exactly. And as you can see, both SW DeKalb and MLK are not living up to projections (SW is actually losing students). Yet both continue to get expensive construction projects from SPLOST.

  12. Concerned DeKalb Mom says:

    I think that, more than the projected enrollments, a comparison of capacity vs. enrollment is more intriguing:

    MLK High School, Miller Grove, Redan, and SWD are all scheduled for additions, adding capacity (MLK needs that capacity today, for sure)…but ALL four schools project enrolment decreases over the next 5 years, putting all but Redan at less than 90% capacity.

    Dunwoody, Lakeside, Druyid Hills, and Cross Keys all have NO additions planned. All enrollments are projected to increase, and all (except Cross Keys) are currently housing populations at more than 110% of their school’s capacity. And Dunwoody and Lakeside both will or have had additions that clearly did not address need if looking at the county’s own projections.

    Tucker has an interesting story…currently 319 students over capacity (put that in perspective…that’s 10 classrooms) but their enrollment is projected to decrease.

    I know all of these projections are tricky to make for qualified personnel…My question, and I know it is a popoular one is HOW does the school system make their population projections? I have never understood how that happens.

    And I pulled all of these numbers off the School Reorganization plan that was given to the BOE three weeks ago…so these numbers should be the “most current.” Right.

  13. Exactly, Concerned Mom. We are in the process of bringing all the info we have collected over the years regarding enrollment and capacity and working up a report. If you [or anyone] have files to share or links to files, please send them to the blog at dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com Especially older files that aren’t obviously placed at the website.

    We do have a lot of files already – some date back to 2006-07. This has been going on for a while. And a variety of people make these predictions. The school system should be presenting a new doc on Jan 7.

  14. North Dekalb Teacher says:

    Not only is Lakeside over capacity, but all of the new science rooms were designed for 30 students max….many science teachers have at least a couple of classes pushing 40. Other classrooms are also over crowded but don’ have quite the safety concerns associated with the sciences.

  15. Well, when Dr. Oran was there, he used a hand calculator and his “gut feel.” Oran claimed not to “trust” computers. Oran’s legacy. We did not even want to think about his gut.

    Meanwhile, in 2007 several of us met with Dr. Douglas Bachtel, professor of Housing and consumer Economics at UGA. He is the editor of The Georgia County Guide, The Georgia Municipal Guide, The Georgia Housing Guide. These publications are comprehensive statistical fact books about all 159 of the state’s counties and 534 municipalities. They are used on a daily basis across the state by governmental, business, health, and educational decision makers (but not DeKalb County Schools as far as we know), as well as interested citizens, to improve the quality of life in their communities. Dr. Bachtel is widely respected, nationally. He explained to us how to make pretty accurate predictions about population growth.

    We took the cut-and-paste, highly flawed McKibben “Demographic Study” with us to the meeting with Dr. Bachtel (who has a real Ph.D. from The Ohio State University). He agreed that the McKibben “study” was flawed and poorly done. We asked him what they would charge to re-do this study — correctly. He said it would be about $15,000. McKibben charged a total of $150,000 (BTW — McKibben had charged Fairfax County (VA) Schools $50,000 for the exact same — and we do mean the same — study.) Dr. Bachtel gave us a current issue of The Georgia County Guide and the companion CD ($80 value), which we hand-delivered to Crawford Lewis, who had encouraged the meeting with Dr. Bachtel. Lewis never acknowledged what Dr. Bachtel sent nor did Lewis respond to e-mails. So, after several weeks, we picked up the Georgia County Guide and the CD — the sealed envelope had never been opened.

  16. A, DHS mom says:

    the Dunwoody numbers are off the 2009 number should be around 1300 or 1400. Also, if you add up the FTE numbers for Pechtree and add in the 5th grade numbers (which should be the fall 2016 enrollment at DHS) it’s about 2000.

  17. Kim says:

    DSW: “Not sure if Cedar Grove got their auditorium yet as promised. Anyone know?”
    They have not and I am not aware of any plan for this in any of the 5-year capital allocations circulating this past year. I have a Cedar Grove parent I trade stories with at work and we enjoyed joking about the emergency track replacements this past year. She walks the new track at Cedar Grove and gives it two thumbs up!
    Don’t expect anything related to auditoriums for Cedar Grove or Cross Keys any time soon with the ongoing mess. I have ranted for years that the problem in this regard is very simple: too many high schools for the population served and politics rather than engineering plans rule priorities. What are we down to now – twenty-nine thousand or so high schoolers? That’s a dozen nicely sized high schools. The math is inescapable, however, and so the inequities are institutionalized in the capital budget so that the “right” schools and the deserving children end up with natatoriums and auditoriums and the rest look forward to, well, moratoriums …
    SACS actually got this part correct in their analysis – the Board across the board (ahem!) advocates for “their schools” in the prioritization process and we demand that they do so or we fire them. The trouble is they are ALL our schools and until we collectively accept that fact we’ll not have the system or facilities our children deserve.

    Happy New Year!

  18. A, DHS mom, these numbers are the actual FTE count numbers taken in October of the school year and sent to the state to secure funding. If they’re wrong, and you have some documentation to show it, we’d love to see it as it would certainly point to some number-wrangling by someone…

  19. Confused as to your statement that there is room at DHS for any further students. The capacity of the school is around 1,200, and enrollment is now about 1500.

  20. Below is an interesting article written by U.S. Rep Hank Johnson for the Huffington Post:

    A Letter to My Ancestor: Frederick Douglass

  21. You’re right Confused. The original 2009 stated capacity for DHS is 1,355 for 2010-11 in the DCSS report found here:

    Click to access 2009-fte-count2016-projections.pdf

    Did it change after the addition? Don’t know. That same projection report states the projected capacity in 2016 for DHS at 1,633.

    But then again, the Parsons report puts DHS capacity at 1,242.

    We’ll create a page to upload the collection of FTE/enrollment/capacity reports we have on file. It’s a mess.

    For now, here’s the latest report from the Committee of the Whole (Dec 6, 2012) which uses the 1,242 capacity number for DHS. It’s hard to believe though, after adding a second floor, an auditorium and career tech center.

    Click to access proposed-organization-facilities-presentation-and-binder-2012-12-06.pdf

  22. fed up! says:


    It is embarrasing to see how this boe has driven us into the ground. It’s a miracle we are only on probation. I don’t remember hearing half as much about Clayton Co and they lost accreditation. Hmmmm?

  23. DHS was always a 2-story building. The recent renovation added one wing not an entire floor for the new 3rd floor. The 3rd floor wing houses Mass Comm and some Math classrooms. The career tech facility was scrapped for the project.

  24. Sorry, the Fine Arts addition was downgraded in scope. That addition was to include new band/orchestra rooms.

  25. Gotcha, Confused. So, you’re saying that the DHS construction probably didn’t add many seats? Do you know the new official capacity?

    This is the story at Druid Hills too. In fact, some say the school now holds fewer students.

    Odd about Dunwoody though – as the system leadership always stated that the plan for Dunwoody was to be a large scale school model (2000 capacity – which is just about what Lakeside is now.)

  26. A, DHS mom says:

    My original “guesstimate” came from a post on Dunwoody School Daze blog in 2011. Using current FTE numbers it’s closer to 1850 for fall 2016. But, the enrollments at all the feeder elementary schools are still increasing. When PCMS rebuild was started the current class of 8th graders was in kindergarten. But the DCSD planners passed it off as a “bubble”. And it had to be obvious by the time the DHS addition was in the planning stages that it wasn’t a bubble at all.

  27. waitaminit 1 says:

    The planners cannot use models for this. Its a highly localized issue. The issue even varies between several of the more successful zones. You have dramatially failing areas seeing an exodus of apartment/home renters going into rentals (sometimes several families per unit) into successful zones. Also, in the case of Dunwoody, the city is attracting more home sales. The Lakeside zone has the apartment increase, but its homeowning and transfer situ is different than others. The planners may as well blindly throw a dart at a dart board.

    Now–lets throw in the increasing number of homeschoolers and the introduction of charter schools–the notion of planning for real numbers is absurd. For instance, will the charter schools be populated by families that would have been “modeled” to attend neighborhood schools–or will they be populated by families that would have paid for a privates school, now “coming public” for a free private education? Anybody’s guess–DCSS could hire a person that knows his neighborhood on the ground level (maybe a realtor and apartment manager by committee) and get better numbers than a model would produce.

  28. momfromhe11 says:

    Druid Hills did not add any seats, because they converted too-small classrooms (under the state minimum size) to larger ones by knocking down walls, resulting in a net loss. The addition replaced t he lost classrooms, but because of its atrium style, there are not as many classrooms inside as it would appear. In addition, they moved some administrators’ offices to the addition, but they are not able to use their old offices for classrooms.

  29. Our school and county leaders cannot ‘plan’ their way out of a paper bag. They’ve been trying, but confused and inept for years:

    “Schools, County to Talk” More Cooperation planned on planning, rezonings –
    by Patti Ghezzi
    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution July 14, 2005 –

    School board members and county commissioners say they want to cooperate on dealing with growth, and on Monday the school board adopted a “Memorandum of Understanding” pledging to do just that. – The memorandum says the county will keep school officials informed of long-range planning as well of residential rezoning requests. – “We see the need for greater collaboration and planning,” said Simone Manning-Moon, the board member who recommended adoption of the memorandum. – The idea is for school officials to know far in advance when new houses and apartments are coming so that they can build classrooms in the areas where they will be needed. Parents have long complained that the school district addresses crowding too late – once kids are already there. – Three elementary schools – Vanderlyn, Fairington and Rock Chapel – are in such a crowding crisis that hundreds of their students will be bused to other sites when school starts in August. – In other action, the board approved a policy change regarding eigth-grade algebra, which all students are required to take. Parents will get to choose whether the course counts as middle school or high school credit. – Last year, the first year the course was required for all eight-graders, one in five students failed, in part because teachers were ill-prepared for the sudden curriculum change. Two-thirds of the students failed the state’s end-of-course test. – Board members did not think kids should have to start high school with an “F” on their transcripts. – Board members said many parents misunderstand the new policy and think the board is relaxing the rule that all eight-graders must take high school algebra. – Policies vary in other metro school districts in which algebra is taught in eigth grade. In some cases, the course counts as middle school credit. In others, the course counts toward high school graduation.

  30. As far as apartments go, there are far, far more complexes in north DeKalb. Here are some numbers we got in 2009 from the school planning department:

    Below is some interesting info about the number of apartment complexes sending kids to the various high school clusters

    Druid Hills has over 60.

    Dunwoody and Lakeside each have over 30.

    Tucker has 24.

    Towers has 19.

    Miller Grove has 12.

    MLKing has 5.

    SW DeKalb has 4.

    Redan has 2.

    Stephenson has 1.

    However, Cross Keys has nearly 80.

  31. On a side note: I was chatting with a student who is so excited to experience his senior year next year in the new North Atlanta High — a former IBM office building being converted to a high school. Very progressive thinking – and economical as well – costing millions less than building from scratch and acquiring expensive land.



    There’s little that comes easy to the architects turning parking lots into playing fields and cubicles into classrooms to transform an 11-story office building in north Atlanta into a cutting-edge high school.

    One of the first challenges: Rigging the bank of eight elevators so it wouldn’t take 45 minutes to load all of the 2,400 students at the new North Atlanta High School on the floors they need to land on. So architects designed an extra staircase and borrowed a sophisticated system used by high-rise hotels that directs students to express elevators headed to their floors.

    “It’s safe to say there isn’t another school like this in the nation,” said Bob Just, head of K-12 education for Cooper Carry, the lead architect group on the ambitious project.

    Metro Atlanta is dotted with conventional schools in rather unconventional places, just like the corporate complex that housed nearly 5,000 IBM employees that will open as a high school in fall 2013.

    Schools have sprung up in converted shopping centers, big-box showrooms and corporate headquarters. Classrooms have even taken root in old newspaper buildings and garages.

    School systems have for decades looked to vacant or under-used buildings for new digs, but architects and experts say the trend has only accelerated amid the slowdown brought on by the Great Recession.

    But in DeKalb, we live in a constant state of crisis, which prevents us from deeply and honestly evaluating our needs, and coming up with creative, economical solutions.

  32. waitaminit 1 says:

    The article shows that even if they did coordinate with zoning, they’d still have the bigger problem of shifting demographics INTO the existing apartments. 20 years ago almost all apartments were still inhabited by Yuppies (no kids), then gradually went to families with few kids by 2000–then immigration exploded and families with more kids and double families in units–and now more renters in neighborhoods. It’s possible that the same apartment stock is actually producing 300% the students than in the 1990’s. I assure you that no numnut in an office or a computer modelling company can model this–it has to be a committee of people “on the ground” in every elementary school zone. Of course, you don’t need this in a place like Oak Grove which serves no apartment stock and no rental homes.

  33. September says:

    Dekalb routinely underestimates the number do children who will be living in these high density communities. It is difficult to plan when you are using bad data. We need better planning. The impact on local schools should be a consideration in all reasoning decisions.

  34. waitaminit 1 says:

    Heck–the DEVELOPERS can’t even estimate how many FAMILIES will live in the apartments they build, let alone the government. Many of the most recent apartment complexes in Northlake and Dunwoody (er…Perimeter Center) were anticipated to serve so-called “young professionals”. The developers either know that families will move into these units and lie to the community to sell their proposition–or they have absolutely no idea that the “Young Professional” market is nearly nonexistant, except for downtown.

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