Slap in the face to cities of Dunwoody and Brookhaven?

Trailers not ready for Vanderlyn 4th and 5th graders

By Dick Williams For The Crier

DeKalb-schools-cant-get-trailers-installed- in-time

Schools across DeKalb County opened Monday, but at two local elementary schools, disruptive forces were at work.

The most serious situation was at Vanderlyn Elementary in Dunwoody where the 4th- and 5th-grade students were without dedicated classrooms. The staff was forced to find temporary space for the hundreds of students whose trailers were moved earlier this month.

Outside the school, eight county-owned trailers were being assembled to replace the 16 rental trailers. Construction workers labored over the weekend to begin assembling the trailers.

The DeKalb school system prefers to strike a positive chord, saying the disruption is part of ending the leases on 99 trailers and saving more than $450,000 a year. The system said it would renovate 191 trailers at 36 schools with new tile floors, repainted floors and ceilings, new powers, power-washed and painted exteriors and sealed roofs.

Across the system, all renovations were completed except for Vanderlyn.

“First,” says the system in answers to questions from The Crier, “the principal has made temporary adjustments in the main building to ensure the delivery of instructional services for the teachers and students. Second, the quad assembly, connection of plumbing and electricity and installations of landings will take place Aug. 12-18.”

There are also very serious issues at Montgomery Elementary.

Read more here >> Trailers not ready for Vanderlyn 4th and 5th graders

But hey! Fifteen administrators got their new cars in time!!

We find the system’s response rude and dismissive. They voted on this trailer issue way back in May. Teachers cleared out their belongings in May. Then the system leaders did nothing. Vanderlyn had 16 trailer classrooms!! WHO ON EARTH creates a schedule to install trailers for classrooms AFTER school has started?   Pathetic is the only word for it.


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40 Responses to Slap in the face to cities of Dunwoody and Brookhaven?

  1. Thurmond doesn’t really try to hide his disdain for Dunwoody and ‘north’ DeKalb. Read his true feelings in these posts:

    Recap of the March 27 “Eggs & Issues” with Thurmond and Leadership DeKalb

    More with Michael Thurmond around DeKalb

    Did you miss the DCPC meeting? No worries – the Fact Checker has a report!

  2. concerned citizen says:

    What did the parents do?

  3. Parents? What did you do? I I were you, I would have definitely organized a boycott. I would not have sent my child to school in that mess.

  4. H.A. Hurley says:

    Let’s not be too harsh on DCS!
    Maybe the people in charge, BoE and Mr. Thurmond on down, did not realize that school would start on August 12th. We are too quick to judge them and assume they are not planning well, not anticipating children coming to school, not being able to count the number of teachers needed and classrooms needed, upgrade websites, get DCS Twitter going, and so forth. After all, we as citizens have paid for so many remedial sessions for the Board and superintendents, that they need more time to practice getting things done. Not quite there yet? But, they look official in their new fleet of cars as they drive around and look busy while collecting large $alarie$!
    OMG, let me count to ten real quick.

  5. Refugee from DVDs says:

    Pathetic is not the word.

    The word you are looking for is “malicious”.

  6. Concernedmom30329 says:

    One thing that amazes me about construction not being completed during the summer (or even started) is that DCSS could make this a criteria in its bidding process. In other words, when the bids are let, the dates of expected start and stop can be a criteria.
    This is not a new issue. For as long as SPLOST has been around, projects that should be started and/or completed in the summer simply don’t happen. It has happened repeatedly through the years.

  7. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    Thurmond and the BOE let the leaders at Vanderlyn handle the malicious and lunacy that the Central Office morass has become. But hey, those new shiny white cars sure do smell good!

    DCSS Central Office, a complete and utter failure since Clew became Super. Best thing about that, most of the folks he hired are still sitting in OUR $5k chairs, atop their throne at the Palace! Classrooms! We don’t need no stinkin’ classrooms! We need more non-classroom jobs for the friends and family of Thurmond, Tyson and Clew!

    I wonder what the subject matter will be at the first DCPC. Think Tyson or Thurmond will drop in?

  8. Let’s look on the bright side of DeKalb County Schools’ dismissive attitude toward schools, students and taxpayers located in the Dunwoody and Brookhaven-Chamblee areas: ALL of this excessively bad, corrupt and damaging [to our students] behavior by those running DeKalb County Schools can be used as evidence to seriously strengthen the case for independent school systems in the Dunwoody and Brookhaven-Chamblee areas.

  9. Stan Jester says:

    Next DCPC Meeting
    Sept 4th at Dunwoody High School
    Refreshments at 8:45 am
    Meeting starts at 9:15 am
    Speaker: Interim Superintendent

  10. PI says:

    We’ve been taking it too easy on Thurmond and this newly installed board. They need to see the real anger and frustration that is out there. Thurmond needs to have parents angrily DEMANDING answers for all of these ridiculous circumstances – and the board needs a constant barrage of it now that school has started and before they decide to start putting gold glitter on their campaign posters.

  11. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Well that ought to be interesting. This is one meeting that I might go to just for the entertainment value.

  12. A picture is worth a thousand words! This photo clearly illustrates DeKalb County Schools Palace administrators thumbing their noses at those on the front lines — in this case the school principal on the first day of school.

    Further, we think that the Palace administrator responsible for not getting the license plates in a timely manner should have to pay from personal funds any penalties due. This should NOT come from the general budget (funded by taxpayers).

  13. concerned citizen says:

    I wrote about the fact that I believed Thurmond (and his buffons) would “punish” Vanderlyn parents, and the school system did. I wrote about three weeks ago, when the subject of the trailers first came up! Oh, the bad vibrations. That’s when parents go en masse to the Palace and make changes for their children’s education. Anything less than total confrontation has no effect. The trailers were meant to say, “Sk…,,up……., Dunwoody. I was really afraid this was going to happen, it looked like it was, it sure smelled like it was, and it was done to us! As long as we hold polite meetings with Thurmond and crew, everyone smiles, Thurmond tells us “give me a chance”, nothing will happen. Thurmond may be anxious about the Dunwoody, Brookhaven, etc people, but he has PROVEN he can surpress them. He has beaten back all opposition, and I haven’t seen anyone call him to task, except on this site, which he claims he doesn’t read. Why should he? OMT: is Drake directly most responsible for this situation? Because he’s already in the spiderweb even before the trailers. Step forward, there, Mr. Drake, and tell us all about it, including your new car! What a victory for one lucky Palace —kisser. Shame, shame

  14. Refugee from DCSS says:

    Is Fred going to try and spin this one too?

  15. howdy1942 says:

    I would encourage the Vanderlyn community to show up at the next meeting of the DCSS and search for some answers. Expect to hear that the delays can be attributable to the rain or some other excuse. Any good project manager should have been able to lay out a timeline and insure that these projects were completed on time.

  16. psdad says:

    From the Crier… In Brookhaven’s Montgomery Elementary School, the DeKalb system offered no explanation as to why replacement of the heating and air-conditioning system was begun at the start of the school year rather than over the summer.

    The system is allocating $2.15 million from the Education Special Purpose Local Option sales tax to replace the HVAC, kitchen and food refrigeration units as well as backup generators and parking lot lighting.

    It is expected to be completed in June 2014. Until then, a rotation system into trailers has been drawn up that will put fourth-and fifth-grade students into trailers during August and September, second-and third-grade students will move into the trailers for October and November. Kindergartners’s classrooms will be renovated in December and January with a special effort over the Christmas break to avoid placing the kindergartners in trailers.

    The first-grade students will move into trailers in February and March and in April through June the kitchen and cafeteria will be re-done…

    ONE WHOLE YEAR TO REPLACE HVAC… and the brilliant plan is to displace several classrooms of students every couple months so the screw-up is equitably distributed amongst all of the students.

    On a side note… I wonder who’s brother/son/father won that HVAC installation contract.

  17. walk to school says:

    I feel sorry for the teachers that have to move twice during the school year and remain operational without even having the benefit of a work day – just furloughs. It typically takes teachers 2 weeks to prepare their room for the beginning of the school year. When teachers move rooms they usually have to pack up their own stuff and set it back up. This would never occur in the corporate world. No respect for teachers and their time. My sympathy goes out to those teachers

  18. concerned citizen says:

    The HVAC plan is the pits! It’s crazy and punitive to students, teachers, and parents. There is absolutely no reason for the public to accept this plan. Everyday, I see another colossal screw-up! And who did get the contract? Does anyone know? It’s worth investigating.

  19. Fed up teacher says:

    Excuse me — it’s not just Dunwoody, Brookhaven, and Chamblee! Doraville has had the same problem!! Air conditioning not working — bet the fat cats on Mt Industrial aren’t sweating like we are or dealing with 14 or more trailers!!

  20. Concernedmom30329 says:

    And Henderson Middle has 17 trailers — none of which have been renovated and they have no modular units

  21. Dekalbite2 says:

    The AC problemis all over the county. A friend on Facebook posted how the AC is not running in her area of the school. She has same substantial health problems this is exacerbating. Also, of real concern are all of the students with asthma (many, many students). This must be very difficult for those children.

  22. howdy1942 says:

    Just a word to congratulate those in the Druid Hills area on your vote for a cluster school. I followed your work with great interest. Let’s hope that the new Dekalb Board will approve your request – you would not have had a chance with the old board! However slight it may be, you at least have a chance. If successful, you can have some, though not complete, relief from the DCSS School Board. Don’t you rejoice that you will get to continue to pay 3% of your tax dollars to support the “palace”?

    I am hoping that the upcoming Legislature session will provide a means to create new school districts in Dekalb County. Did you realize that Dekalb County is bigger than many states, including North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming? The Dekalb School System is simply too large to be managed effectively and the past decade has clearly demonstrated that. We need school districts that are small enough that we don’t need to buy cars for administrators. We pay a superintendent $300,000 per year, give him a car, pay five area superintendents and give them cars, bus kids all over the county, and few are happy with this arrangement. If Walker wins his case, I’ll assure you that there will be a a full-court press to get the legislature to do something. We need and, I am convinced, will see change in Dekalb County.

  23. Gregory Walker says:

    Before jumping into my thoughts below, please understand: I don’t know anything about the specifics of the DSCS projects/renovations/trailers, etc. I’m only trying to offer a little perspective on what could cause delays in the whole procurement/work schedule.
    First, understand that for almost any County purchase (putting aside the ‘who’), it’s at least a 4-5 month process from the time the bid is announced, bids collected, tabulated, certified, a contract prepared, finalized and a notice to proceed is given to actually do the work. It’s not unique to DeKalb – even at GA Tech it could take several months. So, a need identified 6 months ago MAY (again, I don’t know the DCSC specifics) not, genuinely, get done any faster than right now.
    Second – understand how the SPLOST money is distributed – it has to be collected and received before it can be committed to a project (unless you want to borrow against the anticipated receipts. I think we’ve done that before – no thanks). If there’s any hiccups on that end, it pushes the whole schedule downstream.
    Third – we have had an abnormally wet spring/summer. Not just in quantity overall, but in the number of days we’ve had rain. Someone above mentioned that’s “no excuse”. Actually, it’s a very real reality if you’re doing something onsite. Let’s say the trailers actually got to the site on time (again, I don’t know – I’m trying to be optimistic). They have to set the trailers on a secure foundation. That foundation requires an inspection prior to pouring (it also requires a compaction test, which means the soil is tested to make sure it can support the loads it needs to). Because we’ve cut field inspectors down to a nub in the County, it’s not always easy to get one the day you request. If it rains before the compaction test, you have to redo the foundation hole, schedule another test, etc. All I’m trying to convey is: the weather has blown up construction schedules all over the place the last 6 months. It may not be enough of an excuse, but it’s reality.
    Lastly – the construction market is heating up. Competition for good contractors and different trades is getting tougher. Finding qualified contractors is taking longer. We’re doing work in Fulton, for 4M+ projects that couldn’t get bid responses from an electrical subcontractor initially (it happened for real). Part of that is the sheer, mind numbing paperwork involved. But part of it is that there’s other opportunities out there. We lost a ton of skilled construction workers the last 5 years. Everyone now wants to build at the same time. It’s a challenge.

    So, if you want to focus the criticism, understand a little more about the context everyone is working in. It’s not the perfect world some are assuming it to be.

  24. Interesting input, Gregory but let us add a couple of key bullets to your points:

    -The trailers simply had to be moved from another school to Vanderlyn. They were already owned by DCSS. There were perfectly good trailers on the spots at Vanderlyn (4 pods of 4 classrooms each for a total of 16 classrooms plus restroom facilities)… the county just decided they didn’t want to pay to lease them anymore. (We have to wonder why they couldn’t have negotiated a sale?) So, they simply decided to switch out the Vanderlyn trailers for some we already owned that were sitting elsewhere (although, it’s not as many classrooms so the over-crowding at Vanderlyn will now be worse.)

    -SPLOST revenues have never really addressed construction projects based on enrollment – it’s been a political process – distributing money evenly across districts. Therefore, the big increases in enrollments in Dunwoody were rarely addressed – thus the continued over-crowding in Dunwoody schools and a continued lack of a plan to address it. (Making Austin into a large scale school as planned in SPLOST IV will only add about 200 seats and will immediately be full.)

    So you see, it’s just a move of some trailers. Somebody just “forgot”…

  25. concerned citizen says:

    Gregory, what is your title in the school system? And, let me add, since you admit you don’t know, why not say anything to let people who don’t do their jobs off the hook? We don’t accept that anymore here, Gregory. NO MORE EXCUSES.

  26. DecaturMax says:

    Let’s not make setting trailers on blocks into brain surgery. It is very convenient to blame the county inspectors. Funny how builders have poured foundations in the last 2 months but a compaction test can’t be done for a block column. Contractors have told me that it is taking 2-5 business days to get inspections. Their biggest complaint is that there is no time schedule, just a day the inspector is coming, so they sit there all day waiting for the inspector. Someone really screwed this up at Dekalb county. Will anyone ever take responsibility? The lack of common and business sense is appalling. A school system that does not factor in the school schedule when making renovations (HVAC and kitchen)and bringing in classroom trailers is clueless about their priorities. In the real world, a competent manager would have said the project must be done a minimum of 2 weeks prior to the opening of school.

  27. howdy1942 says:

    @Gregory – I appreciate your honesty. Yes, we’ve had a lot of rain, but not so much as to cause the delays that have occurred. A good project manager builds weather into his/her timeline and plans ahead. It’s difficult to understand why it takes a whole year to replace an air conditioning system. I know that a school is much larger than our home, but we just replaced the air conditioning system in our two story home and all of the duct work – it took one day and two guys! That air conditioning system should have been order months ago and the work begun the day school was out. If this school’s air conditioner needed to be replaced, that was also known months ago. Also, why were these air conditioning system test over the summer – they had almost three months!

    There should be a projected student enrollment for each school and this should not be rocket science. Simply look at how many students there were at the close of the 2012-13 year and use that as a base. Then look at any growth in the community as judged by property sales and add that. Companies such as AT&T and Georgia Power do that all the time – years in advance. We are talking at most three months.

    I know that we “lost a ton” of construction workers during the recession, but all of them just didn’t move. The recession didn’t seem to affect the electrical company that we recently used to do some work nor did it seem to affect the air conditioning company that we used. In fact, one of them said they were glad to get the work!

    I’ve been to too many school board meetings, listened to too many presentations by administrators whose presentation lacked details and could not provide answers to obvious questions, and listened to too many excuses for me to believe that a loss of construction workers or the weather caused the delays. The DCSS administration has a history of corruption, poor project management, and poor planning. Again, I also say “no excuses”.

  28. Bottom line: School started – and at one school at least, they were definitely not ready. That is the one and only responsibility of school system leaders – to ensure a proper learning environment for teachers and students. They failed. These teachers have been forced to make temporary classrooms out of art rooms and conference rooms. This is SIXTEEN classrooms not ready! And even when the new trailers are ready, there will only be 8 of them.

  29. DekalbAlumni says:

    I’m a Montgomery Parent and we’ve been told that we’re in line for new HVAC for more than 18 months. With that type of advanced notice, the fact that the actual work didn’t start until now seems like flat-out bad planning to me.

  30. Perhaps Thurmond should have read this article in EDUCATION WEEK online:

    Ways To Start Off The New Year On A Positive Note –

    Start Planning Instruction

    • Familiarize yourself with the curriculum mandated by your district
    • Create a course overview for the year
    • Create unit plans
    • Decide on the resources you will need for each unit of study
    • Start a file of alternative and differentiated lesson plan activities

    Create an Inviting Physical Space

    • Make sure that the equipment in your room is in working order
    • Organize your classroom
    • Decorate bulletin boards
    • Set up your personal desk and files
    • Create a preliminary seating chart

    Create a Positive Classroom Environment

    • Brainstorm a list of classroom management strategies
    • Create your class rules, routines, and procedures
    • Study your class rosters to learn your students’ names
    • Decide on teambuilding activities that will foster collaboration and a sense of belonging

    But then again, why would he? As he never ceases to remind us, he is a politician (not an educator)…

  31. momfromhe11 says:

    To second DecaturMax – when the addition to DHHS was being done,
    (the one that was supposed to be ready Aug 2009, but was not finished until July 2010, causing construction dirt and debris to blow in the windows they had removed for replacement in September 2009 – but that’s another story) several weeks went by without anything

    being done because DCCS had forgotten to pull two permits.

  32. dsw2contributor says:

    dekalbschoolwatch @August 15, 2013 at 11:16 AM: “The trailers simply had to be moved from another school to Vanderlyn. They were already owned by DCSS.”

    No, DSW, that is incorrect: the DCSS-owned trailers could not be moved because the trailers were in deplorable shape and falling apart. According to scuttlebutt I’ve heard, one trailer was so rotted-out that its door and frame fell off during the middle of a school day, while the children were in it! That trailer was one of the better ones — the trailers in the worst condition were not in use. (I can’t imagine how bad those trailers were.)

    A month ago, I personally toured a couple that were being remodeled. DCS’s statement that they were power-washing and painting does not do justice to how much work the contractors were doing. The trailers I saw were having new walls, floors and ceilings installed. I think they were also putting in new wiring and lighting fixtures, but am not 100% sure of that.

    I don’t know whether or not it made sense to put all that work into old trailers — perhaps purchasing brand-new trailers would have been a better investment? Of course, buying new trailers would have made the watchdogs (including DSW) ask why the DCS-owned trailers were allowed to rot away!

  33. Gregory Walker says:

    concerned – Hi. I’m not an employee, just a parent who works in the construction industry. But thanks for making wild assumptions and base accusations without bothering to ask first.

    decaturmax – I’m trying to simply point out there is a sequence you have to follow: dig, compact, test, pour. Throw in a couple of slipped schedules (and a subcontractor who leaves the site for another job for a week)… I’m not excusing, just saying it’s what we see sometimes. Not fun to be sure.

    howdy – I can’t (and wouldn’t presume) to know or speak for any of the particular issues that have been raised. And I’m not trying, at all, to offer any excuses on their behalf. It’s beyond my pay-grade (as they say). But, I have worked on projects in lots of different counties and state agencies, more than enough to know that almost none have a particularly strong track record in regards to ‘really quick projects’. It’s just part of the process. And, my hunch is that, for many of the readers here, they probably don’t know much about how the construction and procurement process works. So, if my insights don’t square with a pre-conceived notion of what’s ‘supposed to be’, I apologize.

  34. Again, all very true, Gregory – when talking about construction projects. However, we are simply talking about switching out some trailers. That said, now that dw2contributor has enlightened us that these were dumpy old trailers that had to be refurbished before being moved we have to adjust our opinion — and it’s not for the better.

  35. dekalbite2 says:

    @Gregory Walker

    The perception that DeKalb Schools administration has grossly mishandled construction did not come out of thin air or from “ignorance” on the part of the public. It came from many years of problems that the teachers and students experienced with numerous construction projects involving DCSS. The remodel of Southwest DeKalb a decade ago took two years of students and teachers being in trailers and in the end cost MORE than a brand new school would have cost. Stan Pritchett lost his job over that fiasco. Lewis replaced Pritchett with Pat Pope who lost her job due to racketeering charges. During her tenure DSA was opened while it still was undergoing the final stages of construction.. They forgot to put in a book room so the teachers had to keep the books on their floors (no shelving because that didn’t get in until the end of the year). Someone miscalculated on the stairs and made them a fraction of an inch too high so they had to be replaced to the tund of hundreds of thousands. They didn’t put in enough toilets for the girls (the majority of DSA is female) and the overload at one time reduced them to one toilet. The students and teachers sat in dust which blew through the air conditioners and created a fine haze every morning (very unhealthy for asthma students) and the dance classes were conducted for weeks in the hallways. Why didn’t they just move them to another facility if they weren’t finished? Lewis came out and toured the school and saw how bad it was. They didn’t want to call attention to it and figured the students and teachers could just suck it up until it was done. BTW – this $10,000,000 remodeled wing for DSA lasted but a few years and then they moved DSA’s few hundred students to the recently vacated Avondale Middle School. Have you seen Acondale Middle School? DCSS spent tens of millions of SPLOST dollars on that school only to close it in less than ten years. Meanwhile Cross Keys spent years with a falling down school and Chamblee High School had mold in the trailers that made teachers shudder to be placed there. At one point Fairington (only a few years after it was built) had more trailers (34) than it did classrooms in the building (33).

    DCSS has not only had a culture of mismanagement of construction projects and SPLOST dollars, they have a history of poor planning for the housing of students, an uneven distribution of funding for capital expenditures, and a system driven by politics and connections rather than data and competence. The same people run DeKalb that were promoted under Lewis with the same old politics. Past experience tells parents/taxpayers to be very concerned about anything that has to do with construction from the quality and timeliness of the work, to the fairness of the funding distribution, to the accommodation of students with respect the disruption of their learning experience.

  36. H.A. Hurley says:

    As I read this account through the ‘finest years’ of DCS, I cannot help but think that this could not possibly happen in 21st Century US! Sound so much like scenarios we associate with 3rd World countries. Maybe we can ask the Red Cross to intervene?
    Such unbelievable crap….continues as we write.

  37. hopespringseternal says:

    People are angry because through the years the stewardship and leadership (and most of all vision) has been lacking. GregoryWalker has made some valid points but no one trusts the motives. Years ago when houses were being built on every available blade of grass in east DeKalb, no one listened until it became a crisis, and then people were forced to compete for crumbs. Squeaky wheels, oil. But by then the students were crammed like so many sardines in a can. Where was the outcry then? Where was — anyone save for the people in that area? It shouldn’t have to be that lay citizens have to dive into the finer nuances of fire ordinances, foundations and certificates of occupancy. That’s what we have leaders for. Uh, never mind.

    There’s no vision. I have yet to hear anyone declare the direction we need to take for the future. Big schools, small schools, types of schools, diverse student learning, county geography, holistic approach, anything. People are frustrated because everything is founded in reaction, not in planning. And definitely not in students.

  38. AParent says:

    Hello, we are not just talking about swapping out some trailers. These things have plumbing. Weather is a factor.

  39. Yes, but this was not a construction project. It was trailers. And the administration has known about it since May when they made teachers clear out of the leased trailers. They promptly then did nothing. Until it was pointed out to them about 2 weeks before school was scheduled to start. Can you say ‘ooops’?

    Read this article from the Dunwoody Crier (posted only 4 days ago) —

    Then again, maybe it was purposeful?

    “Across the system, all renovations were completed except for Vanderlyn.”

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