School Board Votes on Proposed School Organization Plan

Item E-1 at today’s Called Board Meeting asks for Board approval of the 2016-2017 Proposed School Organization plan.

Download the plan at the link below. This is simply a draft list of schools expected to be operational in 2016. It says nothing about redistricting, which is not required to be part of the report to the State. This is the document the Board is actually voting on today (2 pages):
2016-2017 Proposed School Organization

Here is a link to the Committee of the Whole December 6, 2012 proposal (114 pages):
proposed-organization-facilities-presentation-and-binder-(2012-12-10)

UPDATE: Click the link below to download the final document approved by the board at the January 23 called meeting:
board-approved-proposed-org-(2013-01-23)

This is the plan that state law requires every 5 years and the board must make the plan public before voting, by hosting community meetings to communicate the plan and listen to input.

I attended one of these community meetings and was left with a clear picture of what is inherently wrong with our system. The meetings were set up as obvious legal, perfunctory events with little regard for the community members who attended. The system leaders in charge of these meetings simply read the 9 page Powerpoint presentation that is available for download at this link:

public-briefing-proposed-school-org-01-07-2013

If you would like to see the accompanying document showing current and projected enrollments (not shared at the meetings) download that here (4 pages):

DCSS 2016-2017 School Organization

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The meeting format is what is so bothersome. The mantra from leadership and staff continues to be ‘transparency’ and ‘stakeholder input’, however, there is nothing transparent about reading a readily available Powerpoint out loud and then opening the microphone to public comments, to which no one responds. They claimed that any written questions would be answered and posted online, however, they gave no URL for that and we are unable to find any such communication at the DCSD website.

I shook my head the entire time at the chasm between the public and the administrators. These meetings should have been far more casual and open – they should have taken a cue from the Presidential election Town Hall meetings. Someone with deep knowledge of the plan should have been on a stool with a microphone answering the public’s inquiries. There should have been back and forth. There should be a much greater level of trust and respect. There should NEVER be a panel of administrators seated at a dais, or a podium, reading a Powerpoint in a monotone and then allowing the public to speak, yet completely ignoring what is said.

This is EXACTLY the kind of issue that should be addressed via a school system blog. We have long advocated that DCSD host their own blog where people can get their very real questions answered. “Stakeholders” could subscribe to email news and posts at the system’s blog and be apprised of the latest news. Blogs can be totally monitored so that all comments are evaluated before posting – they wouldn’t have to post any questions or comments deemed insulting or rude.

As it is, the information coming from the system is rare, rehearsed and vague. What happened to the system’s Facebook page and Twitter? We have not received updates from either of those in months. Minutes from the board meetings have not been posted online since October, 2011 and we aren’t even certain who to ask questions of these days, as the ‘spokesperson’ has changed so many times and is now simply a contracted representative – whose job is more damage control than communication. To her credit, Dr. Atkinson has been recently attempting to communicate via her “Victory in Every Classroom” newsletter, however, these are very much hit or miss and rarely cover the topics people care about.

An interactive blog with a well-versed moderator who has unlimited access to the staff members who can answer the people’s questions would go a very long way toward that ‘transparency’ we keep hearing about and healing the huge chasm of trust between system leaders and the people of DeKalb.

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23 Responses to School Board Votes on Proposed School Organization Plan

  1. Meeting Details:
    Called Meeting 1/23/2013 – 1:00 PM
    J. David Williamson Board Room, Administrative & Instructional Complex 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain, Georgia 30083

    Rationale

    This action requests Board approval of the 2016-2017 Proposed School Organization. This action supports the staff’s work with the Georgia Department of Education (GA DOE) in its development of the Five-Year Local Facilities Plan.

    Quick Summary / Abstract
    Presented by: Mr. Stephen M. Wilkins, Chief Operations Officer, Division of Operations

    Summary
    This action seeks approval of the recommended 2016-2017 Proposed School Organization for the DeKalb County School District.

    Details
    A Proposed School Organization is required for a school district to continue its participation in the State’s Capital Outlay program. A Proposed School Organization is part of the Five-Year Local Facilities Plan.

    Final approval of the 2016-2017 Proposed School Organization for the DeKalb County School District is required in January 2013 to meet the May 2013 deadline for final submission of the District’s Five-Year Local Facilities Plan to the Georgia State Board of Education for approval.

    Financial Impact
    Approval allows the District to continue receiving State Capital Outlay Entitlement over the next four years.

    Contacts
    Mr. Stephen M. Wilkins, Chief Operations Officer, Division of Operations, 678.676.1446
    Mr. Joshua L. Williams, Executive Director, Department of Facilities Management, 678.676.1461

  2. BTW. After this meeting the Board will adjourn to a very important meeting of the Committee of the Whole. Below is the discussion item for this meeting:

    G. 1. Georgia State Department of Education Meeting
    Quick Summary / Abstract [nothing posted]
    Presented by: Dr. Eugene P. ‘Gene’ Walker, Chair

  3. Concerned SWD Parent says:

    First of all I would like to commend this blog. I only recently found you, but this blog has been a great resource. I am a parent in the South Dekalb area and we are actually in opposition to this proposal that will be voted on today. We are not pleased with the decision to make CHMS a theme school, & thus displacing many Resident students. We are concerned for our Magnet problems as well. We are also concerned with lack of regard for our students and parents in the south dekalb area. I agree totally with the assessment regarding the pathetic board meetings that I have attended.

    Last night there was a metting at CHMS with a tone that it is already a done deal that this school will be a middle school. Last week I brought it to the attention of the DCSB that their website actually touted CHMS as a Theme school for the 2013-2014 school year. Really? That is intersting because the actual vote has not yet taken place. Last night meeting @ CHMS reinforced the notion that is already decided. So much for transparency, right? The South dekalb area parents are very much concerned with this proposal because our schools will receive the hardest hit.
    Please continue to keep us informed. I send all of our parents your emails. Thank you again.

  4. I could not agree more about the public input sessions. It was like talking to a brick wall. They even closed the Tucker meeting 30 minutes early since that was the end of public comments. I was grateful for the parents who stood up and said “THIS MEETING ISN’T OVER” and were hoping for some sort of response. We never got one.

  5. Concerned SWD Parent says:

    They closed the MLK meeting early also. Tucker is not alone because we also never received an adequate response to our concerns.

    Also, please excuse my earlier typos. My thoughts were coming faster than I could type.:)

  6. Tired Mom says:

    This is exactly why I chose not to attend the community meeting. Waste of time.

  7. Additionally, this topic really is a dead horse. We have been treated to well over TWO YEARS of conversation about this nonsense.

    Check out the school system’s website on the subject:
    http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/vision-2020

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010: public engagement survey closes at 5:00 PM

    How much did Ramona Tyson spend on consultants, etc to create this discarded “Vision”… a red herring to control attention — which by the way, has no statement about the vision of the type of education they plan to offer students – only about the buildings.

    There are so many of these red herring, time-wasting projects that end up in the trash that it’s ridiculous. How about the Blue Ribbon Task Force? The Citizens Task Force? Colossal wastes of people’s time in order to keep the vocal ‘stakeholders’ busy and thinking they are ‘involved’ in the ‘solutions’.

    These nonsensical reports, proposals, research projects, consulting contracts must end. IMHO, it’s all been done to turn our attention from the ONE consultant we truly need to hire: A FULL FORENSIC AUDIT OF THE LAST 5 YEARS.

  8. So glad you’re with us SW DeKalb parent! We must all stick together. The kids deserve to have our educational tax dollars spent on education! That means teachers, small class sizes, good books and equipment and a solid support team of tutors, paras and media [library] personnel.

  9. bettyandveronica1 says:

    A Check in the box that said, inform stakeholders. That is all those meetings were about. I am still waiting for answers to the questions sent in September Ms. March assured us we would receive. Dr. Atkinson is the problem. She was brought in by these awful people and now she is using SACS to ensure she gets to keep on keeping on. It’s not her fault that mean old board wont allow her to do the job they hired her to do…here’s to hoping she is fired because of the lawsuit involving teacher re-hiring.

  10. Who is the author of this post? I’m just confused about a couple things:
    1. “We have long advocated that DCSD host their own blog.” I am not saying that isn’t true, but I don’t recall ever reading or commenting on that issue here and I’ve been following every post for nearly two years. It is possible I missed one, but just don’t recall that discussion.
    2. I know you have explained it before, but can someone give a brief overview of the difference between a forensic audit and the KPMG audit? By the way, KPMG also audited Marta and supposedly came up with suggestions for cost-savings to help MARTA run more efficiently. Did they do that for our KPMG audit, too? If so, where is that portion of the report? I’d like to read what they had to say.
    3. Was Atkinson at this meeting? Just wondering if she came back from visiting her sick family member?
    4. Did they elect a Chair or Vice Chair before they voted on this plan? If not, then any upset parents or community members can likely stop the plan from being enacted by saying that this was not a legal board. The school board’s own policy states that when there is a vacancy (as there is right now since Bowen is no longer on the board) that they must hold a vote at their next meeting to appoint someone to the remaining part of that person’s term. Since there actually is no “remaining part” of Bowen’s term, and Walker’s term as chair has officially ended, they should have held a vote Jan 7, Jan. 14 and now Jan. 23. By deferring this item, they are allowing Walker to rule by default and without a vice chair. And, that is a big problem since he has reported to the state BOE that he only represents District 9 and he has not made any public statements to retract his statemnent or corrrect it.
    5. And, no disrespect intended her, but to this comment, “I attended one of these community meetings and was left with a clear picture of what is inherently wrong with our system. The meetings were set up as obvious legal, perfunctory events with little regard for the community members who attended.” Really? Is this our DSW moderating group or someone else filling in here. You really need to take on screen names because it gets confusing to follow the logic of the moderator when the moderator is not always the content author. Of course I could not possibly agree more with the statement, but my frustration is that YES, of course that is what they are doing. THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT WE HAVE BEEN COMPLAINING ABOUT FOR 20 STRAIGHT MONTHS after the bogus cell tower meetings were held. They were complete and utter set-ups and the meetings were then used in the media to make it look like the communities that didn’t show up were actually in favor of what they were doing. The truth was that the meeting notices were misleading intentionally so that they would get low turnout that could then be used against the communities and schools that had already been pre-determined to get what they were getting.

    By the way, the story about the magnet program being announced ahead of the vote is pretty concise evidence of a violation of the closed meetings law. However, it must be reported within 30 days, I believe. (You should check on it to be sure.) That would put a mandatory stop to any action that has taken place while an investigation is launched in order to determine if the vote was made illegally ahead of the actual public vote that took place later. That mandatory hold would prevent them from moving forward and screw up their timeline as it likely relates to the Feb. 21 hearing continuation. It should be a few simple steps that could throw a wrench into their corrupt little plans and help you find more ways to stop the action from taking place if that is what is desired by the community. Good Luck!!

    Re: the blog idea… I actually don’t think a blog would be appropriate for the school system to host because it is too much of an opinion-driven, editorial type of communication tool. And, you have to consider your entire audience when creating communication tools that are intended to be written in the official, approved “voice” of the school system administration. If you cannot guarantee that every stakeholder has equal access, then you are not serving all stakeholders in the system in a fair manner. That’s why there is typically a formal, legal manner by which issues affecting a broad audience must be communicated and a reasonable time frame in which the system is supposed to give to considering any feedback and taking it into consideration before taking any action. These minimum standards are to fulfill legal obligations but the problem in DeKalb is that they read into those obligations that it is their ticket to do whatever they want as long as they sneak the minimum requirements in under the radar. A quality school system would read those requirements and likely go beyond them in an effort to really gain the input and feedback so that they can actually factor it into their final decision before taking action. A good system would operate in a manner in which they seek the input of those they are supposed to serve to avoid any misunderstandings or conflicts. A bad system operates by which those in power already know what they are doing is wrong. They just hope they will get away with it before those affected catch on and call them out on it. They do not want feedback because they fear being caught without good answers to logical questions that might cause people to put two and two together and realize it is not adding up to four.

    Also, a moderated blog might cause for too much confusion in terms of what was said at a meeting vs. what was discussed as a possibility or explanation on a blog. A system this big needs to conduct its business in the open, post minutes as soon as the next day, allow for the recording of live webcasted meetings (just like the state BOE hearing was able to be recorded live), and send a consistent message in multiple formats to reach as many stakeholders as possible.

  11. @cell: Geesh. Take a breath. We’re all on the same side here.

    Yes. We have long advocated that the school system set up their own blog. Sorry you missed it. Blogs are not always used to express opinions or serve as investigative reporters. Some blogs are simple Q&A repositories. Blogs are also a very easy way to send out notices regarding times to sign up for magnet programs or weather reports.

    BTW – we have explained several times the difference between a full forensic audit and the audit of a select number of transactions as was done by KPMG recently. KPMG is capable of doing a full forensic audit, but that’s not what Atkinson hired them to do. An audit like that would cost at least $200,000. DeKalb has never had one done, except perhaps the 2004 Ernst and Young audit that was subsequently buried.

  12. Disgusted in Dekalb says:

    Concerned SWD Parent, just read in the ajc that the board deleted the part of their organization plan that turned Chapel Hill Middle into a theme school. I’m so relieved that at least for now that will not be a concern for you. Please keep up your good work of being informed and making this board accountable to parents and taxpayers of the county.

  13. So, did they approve the plan? And, did they vote on a chair/vice chair? And has anyone seen Atkinson?

    Our concern are: 1.) no vice chair 2.) chairman not really supposed to be the chair any longer 3.) chair says he only represents Dist. 9 3) missing Superintendent 4) No backup person to Superintendent identified 5) missing money 6) high interest bonds were possibly going to issued if schools in plan were indeed slated for decommission 7) No representation in congressional dist. 4 8) taxpayers on the hook for a lot of money 9) we’re all going to be screwed over worse than we already are if we have no reserve cash, high interest debt, close to $150 – $200 million or more in possible legal obligations if we lose teacher pension lawsuit and Heery Mitchell lawsuit 10) Sutherland said they are not taking any more cases, but just represented the school system in the case against Atkinson and represented the board members in the hearing in front of SACS. Who is representing the people in all of these matters? We’re footing the bill for all of this, plus we give $100 million a year to the state for redistribution plus we are only on the front end of the 5-year E-SPLOST? And, Dunwoody wants to back out of paying the school tax (really, doesn’t every taxpayer want to go this route right now?)

    Seriously …. do we have to continue to fund corruption that is harming children? We already bailed out the banking industry and mortgage industry. Why must we watch these people make the same mistake with our tax dollars that brought the entire country into a recession in the not-so-distant past? Pay as you go turned into Pay Out Your Nose!

    And the nation’s graduation rates just hit the highest since 1970. Guess which state and which county are at the bottom of yet another embarrassing bell curve?

  14. An audit still doesn’t tell us the whole story. The DA needs to step up.

  15. whyaminotsurprised says:

    I was really disappointed w/ Ty Tagami’s reporting on this one. The beginning of his article made it sound like the whole plan had been scrapped because they *listened to stakeholders*. Then I realized by the end that they approved construction plans to increase school sizes, just without naming the school. So, it’s the same plan without naming why they need to increase the school sizes. There’s no point in adding 100- 300 seats if you are not combining schools; if they aren’t going to move students, they don’t need the extra seats, which would be a waste of taxpayer dollars. if they are going to move students, they are lying to us blatantly. Is there somewhere to write within the state to point this out?

  16. Concernedmom30329 says:

    I don’t quite understand your point. They did release a plan that names the schools. The state doesn’t require a plan as specific as you are asking for. The state requires a list of facilities that will be open and will be closed at the end of the 5 year period. This was what they approved yesterday.

    http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/splost-iv/board-approved-proposed-org-%282013-01-23%29.pdf

    The state also requires enrollment projections for the system, not per school.

    The listing shows which schools will be closed.

  17. Undercover reformer says:

    Trust me, dsw, dr. A has absolutely no intention to be transparent. There is a wonderfully competent staff member who was hired (supposedly) to facilitate just this type of open communication but has literally been barred from performing that function.

  18. We could not make the meeting. [If anyone out there would like to volunteer to attend occasional meetings and file a blog report, please send us an email!]

    Here’s what we’ve heard:

    Apparently, language converting Chapel Hill MS to a theme school was removed. [**However, this does not mean that it will not happen. This particular plan did not have to include information like types of schools or attendance zones – just the buildings you expect to have standing.]

    Nancy Jester, Donna Edler and Sarah Copelin Wood voted NO to the plan.

    It passed.

    Ty Tagami filed a news article about it at the AJC.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-education/dekalb-school-system-oks-new-school-construction-p/nT5XY/

  19. Thanks for the document, Concerned. That document was not included in the documents for the meeting at the eBoard website when we posted. I’ve added it to our files for safe-keeping.
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/board-approved-proposed-org-2013-01-23.pdf

  20. whyaminotsurprised says:

    Concernedmom: The *state* does not require the info; that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be considered.

    If you are going to spend millions of dollars to add 300 seats to a school, then you should have some data to show why those additional seats are needed.
    Either that data is population growth estimates (which they don’t have, the population isn’t growing this fast), or they are planning to move students from another school (which should be planned, not just done willy-nilly). Just because the state doesn’t require this evidence for the money, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be looked at.
    If they are planning to move students, then they are either not doing the planning (which is … stupid), or they have done the planning and are lying to us about it.

    My problem with the article is that it makes it sound like the meetings were a huge success in getting the board/Dr. Atkinson to change their minds. They weren’t. They were a formality put in place to meet the concept of ‘informing’ the stakeholders, but doing what they want anyway.

    Given the above, if there is no data to support building larger schools, then they shouldn’t be enlarged. If there is data to support it, then share it, and then they will get more support. But, don’t cover up; then the alternative theories are that you are either being stupid or lying.

  21. thedeal2 says:

    Everyone needs to realize that if this board and administration stay in place, these plans will change and change some more. They filed the bare minimum and were relieved that they could file a fairly generic, non-specific plan and amend it later. Which they will. They will say they have to keep what they want to keep and they will amend what they want to amend.

  22. FROM THE ‘VICTORY IN EVERY CLASSROOM’ NEWSLETTER

    DeKalb Board of Education Votes to Approve Amended School Organization Plan

    On Wednesday, Jan. 23, the DeKalb Board of Education held a called meeting and voted on the Proposed School Organization Plan. The Board voted to amend the proposed plan by removing pre-K-6 options and the proposed theme school at Chapel Hill Middle. The Board approved the amended plan, which will be submitted to the state in order to qualify for the capital outlay program.

    In February, the state will review the facilities the DCSD expects to operate in the 2016-17 school year. After the site visit, a local facilities plan will be developed.

    The Proposed School Organization Plan is the list of schools DCSD expects to operate through the 2016-17 school year. The Plan includes projects included in SPLOST-IV , as approved by DeKalb County voters.

    A revised draft, with the pre-K-6 and theme school options removed, is available here. Check out the “SPLOST” tab on the district’s home page for ongoing updates in both operations and technology.

    DCSD to Host Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl Saturday

    On Saturday, Jan. 26, DCSD will host 74 teams of elementary, middle and high school students from around the state in the 14th annual Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl. Named for a retired DCSD media specialist, the competition quizzes students on 20 Georgia Book Award and Georgia Peach Teen Book Award nominees. The event will begin at 9 a.m. at Miller Grove High.

    DCSD to Host Technology Fair

    On Saturday, Feb. 2, more than 300 students will participate in the DCSD Technology Fair from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Elizabeth Andrews High. Thirty-five judges will review projects in 12 categories, including 3-D Modeling, Robotics and Web 2.0. First-place winners will represent DCSD at the State Technology Fair on March 9.

  23. Curious – was the meeting announced in the DCSS press release below held? It was scheduled for the 22nd (the day before this announcement that the theme school idea for Chapel Hill had been dropped). The press release, dated Jan 16 is still on the front page of the school system’s website:

    MEDIA ADVISORY
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: DCSD Communications Office
    404-486-3710
    DeKalb County to Hold Chapel Hill Middle School Reorganization Meeting
    The meeting will go over the theme school start-up plan Jan. 16, 2013 – The DeKalb County School District DCSD will hold an informational meeting to discuss the school reorganization plan for Chapel Hill Middle at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

    The meeting will cover the theme school start-up, academics, facilities and transportation. Families from Bob Mathis Elementary, Chapel Hill Elementary, Rainbow Elementary, Chapel Hill Middle and Southwest DeKalb High are encouraged to attend. The meeting will be held at Chapel Hill Middle, 3535 Dogwood Farm Road, Decatur.
    ###

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