One of These Things Is Not Like the Other (Part Deux)

by Kim Gokce

N-Dekalb-HS-SPLOST-spendingThose who have followed DeKalb School Watch blog know that I was an early contributor and that my bailiwick has always been my perception that Cross Key attendance area schools get the short end of the stick. I outlined my call for equity in the 2009 piece, “One of These Things Is Not Like The Others …,” … sadly; four years later it is time for “Part Deux.”

A lot has transpired since 2009 in DeKalb Schools as we watched indictments, dismissals, betrayals, suspensions, appointments, interim leaders who became semi-permanent, permanent leaders who vanished along with a kaleidoscope of programs that were sure to turnaround our academic results. Now, a new day dawns as a populist leader tries to rally DeKalb.

Yet through it all some things seem to never have changed. Can you see it in the “exploded donut” herein? Just as Sesame Street-aged children could recognize the gerrymandered attendance area on that map in 2009, so, too, our Elmo-loving scholars of today can divine the inequity represented by this SPLOST spending donut presented here.

Of the approximately $425m in capital invested in our “North DeKalb” school clusters after SPLOST I, about $36m in SPLOST funds, a virtual donut crumb, has been spent on the 6,500 Cross Keys area children and their seven schools.

At times, I know my rants in the comment threads of DSW and DSW2 irritated many of my neighbors. I often sense my railing for equity for the children of the Cross Keys attendance area is off point and diluting to some of more important discussions going on in Dunwoody, Chamblee, Tucker, Lakeside and elsewhere regarding the future of DeKalb governance or independent schools or charters or Common Core or the many valid complaints of parents from these regions about their kids’ schools.

I say, “Too bad!” These capital numbers are devastating and I don’t think I need to make excuses or apologies for insisting that we examine them and ask how they are possible in the year 2013 in the United States of America. So with no further editorializing, here they are for your consumption. I pray that one day soon I’ll not feel the need to pen, “One of These Things is Not Like the Other – The Trilogy.”

Capital spend and planned spending as represented in SPLOST II – IV*

Chamblee $102,807,116
Dunwoody $88,907,705
Lakeside $83,408,931
Tucker $112,905,790
Cross Keys $35,896,936

*Source: DeKalb County School District SPLOST and CIP reports.

ADDENDUM: For an up-close look at the ‘wonderful’ track the Cross Keys students get to run on, watch this Belly Cam video:

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106 Responses to One of These Things Is Not Like the Other (Part Deux)

  1. Lakeside was a renovation technically. So was Towers, McNair, Druid Hills and SW DeKalb – – and SW continues to be. There are over $2 million in payments to HJ Russell Co on the newest Financial Report for recent construction costs at SW DeKalb … on top of the tens of millions ($40+?) spent on SWD from SPLOSTS 2 & 3. Please don’t diminish what Kim is pointing out here. Cross Keys got the very, very short end of the stick.

  2. Kim says:

    Thank you, Leo. I pride myself on my pugilism. I am following your thinking but you’re saying something completely different from my point. Your saying I’m comparing apples to oranges and that isn’t the case. You simply want to compare pears to pears rather than my apples to apples. If you like, I can make a plum to plum comparison this way:

    New Building Capital for SPLOST II – IV
    Chamblee $76m
    Lakeside $19m
    Tucker $82m
    Dunwoody $62m
    Cross Keys $0m

    How about them apples? 🙂

  3. Kim says:

    Leo, I’m a very practical person. I always try to understand where people are coming from and their purposes. I grew up in the segregated community, sometimes on the wrong side of the tracks. I have lived in the Brookhaven area nearly 25 years. in recent years I’ve become aware of what I consider a blatant an outrageous neglect of a population on the wrong side of the tracks. my purpose is to bring this to public awareness. I don’t understand where you’re coming from or what your purpose is. that is frustrating. I apologize if I’ve been short with you but I don’t sense that you’re being straight with me.

  4. New revelation from the NY Times –

    For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov

    That is the conclusion of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. It found that after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence — skills that come in especially handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.

    The researchers say the reason is that literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.

    “This is why I love science,” Louise Erdrich, whose novel “The Round House” was used in one of the experiments, wrote in an e-mail. The researchers, she said, “found a way to prove true the intangible benefits of literary fiction.”

    Bottom line:
    All anyone really needs are classic books, a good teacher and a safe, clean learning environment with students who like and want to learn… This is why the CK kids do well – despite having fewer ’embellishments’. All students, however, deserve the proper tools, clean, respectable space, supplies and great teachers. A track that won’t break your neck should be on the list of basics as well…

  5. In the last SPLOST audit posted on the DCSS website (for fiscal year ending June, 2011) the following project totals since inception through June, 2011 are reported:

    Dunwoody-Chamblee ES $17,614,325
    Shamrock MS $ 741,845
    Shamrock MS HVAC, Ceiling & Lighting $5,371,284
    Sequoyah MS 410-358 $594,823
    Sequoyah MS Renovation & HVAC $5,142,561
    Arabia Mountain HS $38,600,315
    Henderson MS $1,383,899
    New Peachtree MS $2,892,642
    Towers HS $1,603,832
    Towers HS-SPLOST II $2,885,031
    SW DeKalb HS-SPLOST II & ADA $2,036,423
    Columbia HS-SPLOST II $12,704,679
    McNair HS-SPLOST II $ 844,183
    Cross Keys HS Renovation $17,146,155
    Tucker HS Replacement $59,258,466
    Woodward ES-Roof & HVAC $2,151,450
    Stone Mountain HS-Roof & HVAC $6,051,724
    Redan HS-Roof, HVAC, Career, ADA $8,166,894
    Midvale ES-HVAC, ADA, Roof $3,006,109
    Stephenson MS-HVAC $35,120
    Clifton ES-HVAC & ADA $172,792
    Cedar Grove HS-HVAC & Roof $4,783,430
    Vanderlyn ES-HVAC, ADA, Roof $1,994,687
    Chamblee HS-ADA & Career Tech $3,033,618 ($11.7 budgeted for this, as it was for several other HSs)
    Clarkston HS-Career Tech & Fac $7,872,319
    Druid Hills HS-ADA, FAC, IMP, CAR $16,857,401
    Dunwoody HS-ADA, Career Tech AD $17,578,580
    Fairington ES-ADA & HVAC $1,944,999
    Freeman Bldg A/B – ADA & HVAC $3,248,087 budgeted $0 spent
    DSA Relocation 10,000,000 budgeted $4,928,375 spent
    Mountain Industrial Center ,836,296 budgeted, $31,174,461 spent
    Lakeside HS-Career Tech & ADA,866,182 budgeted, $7,946,081 spent
    Lithonia HS-Addition $25,488
    MLK HS-Addition – 10,178,779 BUDGETED $148,702 SPENT
    Miller Grove HS-Addition $5,874,487 BUDGETED $120,300 SPENT
    Warren Tech-HVAC $9,373
    McLendon ES-HVAC & ADA $2,041,740
    Sam Moss Center-HVAC & Roof $1,488,354
    Knollwood ES-HVAC & ADA $1,500
    Rockbridge ES-HVAC & ADA $18,807
    Hooper Alexander 421-134 $0-
    Stone Mountain ES-ADA & HVAC $54,959
    Hambrick ES-HVAC $7,250
    Forrest Hills – HVAC $0
    Montgomery ES-HVAC $13,800
    Indian Creek ES-HVAC $9,528
    Stone Mill ES-HVAC $3,938
    Sam Moss Center – HVAC & Roof $3,761,513
    Sam Moss Center – HVAC & Roof $3,851,795
    Sky Haven ES-Roof $723,872
    Murphy Candler ES-Roof $654,141
    Rainbow ES-Roof $370,700
    Heritage Center-Roof $348,897
    Sequoyah MS-Roof $1,708,944
    Wadsworth ES-Roof $638,290
    Clarkston Center-Roof $6,333
    Champion MS-Roof $362,922
    Avondale ES-Roof $560,089
    SnapFinger ES-Roof $437,270
    Terry Mill ES-Roof $610,187
    Nancy Creek ES-Roof $512,965
    Coralwood Diagnostic CTR-Roof $149,263
    Midway ES-Roof $547,056
    DHSTS-Roof $340,818
    EL Miller ES-Roof $452,953
    Allgood ES-Roof $433,935
    Evansdale ES-Roof $199,304
    Flat Shoals ES-Roof $74,380
    Huntley Hills ES-Roof $2,380
    DeKalb HS of Tech North – Roof $0
    Sagamore Hill ES-Roof $601,558
    Hambrick ES $213,724
    Hawthorne ES $8,470
    Glen Haven ES $592,839
    Chamblee (Old) MS $83,683
    Woodridge ES $483,727
    DEBT SERVICE $205,651,185

    Download the audit here:
    You will see that the budgets were nowhere near spent as of this report. We have no further updates on SPLOST spending. Apparently, either no audit was conducted for FY ending June, 2012, or one was done and has not been made public.

    To find out spending past this audit, you would have to download all the monthly reports filed since. The latest updated project report filed by the construction management firm, URS is interesting, and has about 240 pages of info:

  6. Interestingly, one of my long-standing questions seems to be addressed in this report:
    SPLOST Salaries $3,376,077

  7. Apparently, we barely spent half of the SPLOST III dollars collected to date. The current projects account for the other half of SPLOST III collections. SPLOST IV projects are also commencing – slowly. The URS report reveals the following:

    We are currently managing $125.1 million in SPLOST III projects (30 projects in 69 schools which totals about $67.5M and one QSCB project for $57.6M), and about $262.1 million in SPLOST IV projects (including the $38.3M Technology Bond). All of these projects are “active,” either in Design or Construction.

  8. Here is the statement from URS describing SPLOST IV in overview:

    The fourth consecutive Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) to fund capital improvements throughout the DeKalb County School District (DCSD) was voted into law by the citizens of DeKalb County on November 8, 2011. This SPLOST is projected to generate $475 million in sales tax revenue for the District’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) over a five year period. In addition, the CIP is also projected to receive $21 million in Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) reimbursements through the State Capital Outlay Program, resulting in a total program value of $496 million. In addition, work continues on projects funded during the previous SPLOST. While the program funding is large, it will only address a portion of the $2.2 billion of the District’s facility needs, as identified within the 2011 Comprehensive Facilities Assessment Report dated June 2011. Projects have been prioritized and budgeted in accordance with the urgency of the identified needs.

    The CIP includes, but is not limited to, the construction of seven new elementary schools, one new middle school, six major additions/renovations, one new high school (continuing from SPLOST III), critical building system upgrades, roof replacements, stadium upgrades, the refreshment of technology equipment and associated infrastructure, improvements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), safety/security system upgrades, and the purchase of school bus and service vehicles. It also includes the allocation of funds to support the Local School Priority Request (LSPR) program, which allows each school to make their own capital improvement requests.

  9. And of course, regarding this statement —

    While the program funding is large, it will only address a portion of the $2.2 billion of the District’s facility needs, as identified within the 2011 Comprehensive Facilities Assessment Report dated June 2011.

    We must once again direct you to Kim’s post from the old blog —

    There’s a Hole in My Bucket, Dear Liza

    That devilish $2 Billion in Need never quite gets reduced… in fact, now it has grown to $2.2 Billion in Need!!

  10. An Aside: This is URS’ statement regarding the Vanderlyn trailers:

    First Day of School. The DCSD and CIP had a very successful launch of the 2013-2014 school year. The summer culminated with the completion of a Spring 2013 initiative that included the moving of 122 portable classrooms and upgrading 191 portable classrooms, both for capacity needs and for temporary construction needs. All capacity-related portable classrooms on 125 school campuses were ready for the first day of school, August 12, with the exception of one school, Vanderlyn Elementary, that was delayed, in part, due to the extensive rain this summer. Through close coordination between DCSD officials, the CIP Team, and the Principals, the children were already assigned to existing classrooms while the temporary classrooms were being assembled. There was no impact to the children.

    It goes on:

    DeKalb County School District (DCSD), which has more than 125 schools and serves more than 98,000 students, determined that it was in the District’s best interests to end its leases of 99 portable classrooms and reduce the number of portable classrooms needed for capacity purpose. Therefore, the District purchased 75 units and returned 24 units back to the leasing companies.

    The Board of Education approved the purchase of 53 portable classrooms for capacity-related purposes at a cost of $303,505.86 to the District and 22 portable, primarily double-wide, classrooms to support temporary construction activities at a cost of $309,629.66 to the SPLOST Program. This bold initiative to purchase and upgrade 75 units and return 24 units realized the following benefits:
    –Ended leasing 99 portable classrooms in June 2013, stopping payments of more than $450,000 per year
    –One-time cost, instead of recurring payments.
    –Smarter use of SPLOST funds for reinvestment into DCSD-owned portable classrooms that increased the life and value of District-owned assets in lieu of lease payments to portable classroom vendors
    –Reduced the number of portable classrooms used for capacity purposes from 284 portable units at 61 schools to 196 portable classrooms at 41 schools
    –Upgrades to the 51 temporary classrooms for temporary construction included new tile floors, repainted walls and ceilings, new doors, power-washed and painted exterior of units, and sealed roofs. This type of comprehensive upgrades to portable classrooms has never been undertaken at DCSD and the savings of the lease payments has allowed for the improvements.

    Overall, probably a very wise move in the long run. However, several reports in the past have shown that DeKalb has thousands of “empty” seats around the county. They just happen to be in schools that are severely under-enrolled and losing students to magnets, themes, charters and others. One would think that better planning for construction – specifically planning to add seats where there is projected growth – would be the MOST prudent way to utilize tax dollars.

  11. More interesting budget items for SPLOST IV:

    SPLOST Audit $ 100,000.00
    General Services $ 400,000.00
    DCSD Staff $ 7,000,000.00
    DCSD Consultants $ 15,000,000.00

    Most interestin
    g — There are two different Chamblee budgets. One for SPLOST III and one for SPLOST IV. Are we to add these together?? Anyone know?

    SPLOST III: Chamblee HS – Replacement $19,251,040
    SPLOST IV: Chamblee HS Replacement $57,622,493

  12. Keep the video and photos of the Cross Keys track in mind while reading the description below as to what is being built just a few miles down the road at Chamblee HS:

    The scope of work consists of replacing all buildings on the campus. Included are:
    — Maintaining all academic functions of the campus during demolition and construction
    — Demolition of existing 193,320 sf original structure
    — Replacement of the current academic building (174,175 SF) with a new academic building to include a cafeteria, dedicated spaces for JROTC, engineering and prototyping labs, a new media center, new classroom and science lab spaces and a new administrative wing
    — New arts/athletics building (105,058 SF) to include an auditorium, gym and natatorium as well as spaces for music, drama, and health classes
    — New practice field
    — New softball field that includes dugouts
    — Resurface the baseball field that includes new dugouts and a press box
    — Replace the fencing, and resurface the tennis and basketball courts across Mendenhall Drive
    — Increased campus parking capacity from 200 spaces to approximately 600 spaces

    YET – every time the Cross Keys community asks for a refurbished track, they are told there is no money in the budget. How can anyone claim that anything here is ‘equitable’??

  13. Fred in DeKalb says:

    **That devilish $2 Billion in Need never quite gets reduced… in fact, now it has grown to $2.2 Billion in Need!!**

    I am sure l sound like a broken record but the best way to reduce the financial need for school maintenance projects is to reduce the number of schools. Does anyone believe that school leaders from the 50’s and 60’s believed that those school buildings would last over 50 years. Even if you consider the changing electrical needs for schools, it is hard to imagine.

    Who is willing to make the tough decisions to accomplish this?

  14. Fred in DeKalb says:

    Interesting information that Kim has shared regarding the amount of money spent on the five high schools. When you also factor in the Dunwoody cluster replaced a middle school that was less than 40 years old along with a new elementary school (definitely needed), one can say a lot of money has been spent in that area.

    It’s hard for me as a citizen to understand why other citizens wouldn’t be angry about the possibility of Dunwoody wanting to form their own school system when you consider the investments made in that area by all citizens in DeKalb. If the infrastructure is already in place with investments from other people, wouldn’t it make sense for any area to form their own school system?

  15. @ Fred: yeah, same goes for Tucker, Chamblee and the City of Stonecrest — if they all went the way of Dunwoody… Brookhaven, however, would get stuck with Cross Keys… which would probably be a good thing for Cross Keys in the long run. If given full control of the local tax and SPLOST dollars, the City of Brookhaven would probably be much more fiscally responsible and would have Cross Keys in great shape very quickly.

    At any rate — you oddly say Dunwoody schools were paid for by ‘others’… that is far from true. For example, you could compare Dunwoody to say, Decatur. Decatur gets their fair share of SPLOST… and they have used it to build some fabulous facilities. They also keep all of their own local property taxes. In reality, if Dunwoody could take their fair share of SPLOST, I would venture to guess that the rest of the county would receive far less. The Dunwoody area brings in far more SPLOST pennies as well as far more in property taxes. I’m not just saying this – it’s been shown. Dunwoody actually pays significantly more into the tax base than they need to educate the children in the Dunwoody cluster. You see, it is most likely Dunwoody that is subsidizing construction costs elsewhere around the county.

    (ps – that middle school you say was under 40 years old was originally an elementary school and it was built in the 60s I think. The other conversion middle schools were all former high schools.)

  16. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @DSW, no argument that Dunwoody pay more in property taxes. It is estimated that 30-40% of SPLOST dollars are paid for consumers that live outside of DeKalb. Yes, Dunwoody has Perimeter Mall however I’m not sure if more sales tax revenue is generated in that area with that as the anchor.

    My recollection is Peachtree High School was built in the late 60’s, around the same time as Shamrock and Henderson. It was converted to a middle school in the late 80’s/early 90’s when DeKalb adopted the middle school instructional model. It along with Sequoyah and the aforementioned schools were converted to middle schools.

    Some history that some may not remember, Shamrock was originally designated at the high school site for that area, since it had more acreage. A Druid Hills advocacy group found a covenant that indicated that if the Druid Hills high school site was used for anything other than a high school, the land would revert back to the original owner. As a result, Shamrock became the middle school. As Paul Harvey would say, now you know the rest of the story.

  17. Fred in DeKalb says:

    Something else to consider since I am talking about history, did you know that Cross Keys is the oldest high school in the district, built in 1958? There is a caveat in that Lithonia Middle, which was formerly the high school, was originally built in 1938. The oldest elementary school still in use is Redan, built in 1935.

    You can find more information about each school at the following link,

  18. Jeff Bragg says:

    Fred @5:20pm: According to the data on the site you linked to (which conforms to Druid Hills neighborhood lore), Druid Hills High School was built in 1927. Additions in 1950, ’53, ’61, ’65 and the 2010 addition significantly expanded the capacity. Incidentally, the DHHS student newspaper,
    “The Spotlight”, is the oldest continuously-published newspaper in DeKalb County. Jeff Bragg

  19. Fred in DeKalb says:

    Jeff, you are correct, I forgot about Druid Hills. It is the oldest school in DeKalb County that is in the same building. Thanks for the correction.

  20. Kim says:

    @DSW: You’ve thrown a lot of data at us but I did want to pick out a couple for comment. Firstly, yes, the SPLOST III & IV CCHS budgets are going “in the ground” on the site. That is why I reference $76m +/- as the Chamblee “new buildings” amount. Secondly, I appreciate your referencing “There’s a Hole in My Bucket, Dear Liza.”

    The $2.2 billion “in need” is very interesting. That’s about $24.5k per student countywide or, if we work with a rough number of school sites of 120 (20 hs + 20 ms + 80 es), that’s $18.3M per site. I call BS on that figure. If every school in the County got the “CK” treatment (a high quality but limited interior and systems updates), we could cut that figure nearly in half to $11M per site or $1.32B. That is two SPLOSTS and a pretty fair facility for every child in the County. So, what gives?

    What gives is that we keep making stupid decisions with our SPLOST capital to cater to constituencies. Most recent examples are building Arabia HS to “relieve overcrowding” and then turning it into a Magnet and building CCHS to house 1,700 instructional capacity when space for another 500 students would have allowed us to consolidate CK and CCHS or how about the millions spent at Avondale HS to house DSA and then shuttering it or millions at Fernbank ES and then demolishing it????

    Folks can say what they want about neighborhood scale schools but if we can’t afford high quality facilities or afford to maintain that investment at a high level for all schools, then we can’t do it. This is the heart of the problem for CK areas schools. We have created a false sense of scarcity in DeKalb and in that environment we run a system that caters to political priorities rather than student needs. By definition, political processes have winners and losers and CK area schools will remain the lowest priority in “North DeKalb” until we break this political system of governance.

  21. I think Oak Grove is pretty darn old too. Seems it was built in the mid-40s. Anyone know?

    A LOT of our buildings are old… and old buildings are very difficult and expensive to maintain. The only option is to completely gut them and use the ‘bones’ or just demolish them and start from scratch. This is the plan for Fernbank, Austin, Gresham Park, etc..

    Same is true for our stadiums.

    Kim is so right. The scarcity mentality is driving a wedge between everyone in the school system. This false creation of the haves and the have nots has set up a dangerous political game of pandering. It’s pitiful and it must stop. Sensible planning should take place – but we don’t have anyone with the level of skill and historical knowledge to bring it together and lead us through. The MGT America rep implored us to set our goals first – and define what kinds of schools we wanted to offer – to whom and where. Then let those goals drive construction plans… you know, form follows function. But we have frittered away so much SPLOST by allowing some of our facilities to linger with patches and caulk on top of patches and caulk while creating some showplaces for others.

    We have listed our ideas here many, many times. But it’s as Fred says, no one has the courage or the fortitude to forge ahead with plans that are best for everyone. The whining begins and the leadership bends and we end up with Arabias, Tuckers and Chamblees alongside Cross Creeks, Redans and Avondales.

  22. Fred in DeKalb says:

    I think some context needs to be added to this SPLOST conversation. The need for a building program arose because of the population shifts throughout DeKalb. The areas that had the building infrastructure (Central and North) we losing students while the area with not as much building infrastructure (South) was growing. That is why Central and North DeKalb had middle schools before South DeKalb.

    The focus of SPLOST 1 was to add gymnasiums to each elementary school. SPLOST 2 and 3 was sold to complete the goals of SPLOST 1, building middle schools in South DeKalb and begin addressing other facility needs like new and replacement schools. SPLOST 1 was deemed successfully however during SPLOST 2 there was a slight recession around 2002. A combination of generating less revenue than expected and over-promising on projects caused many problems. Add to this, there were many trailers in South DeKalb where some schools had more students in trailers than other schools had in their entire building (Fairington elementary comes to mind). There were also SPLOST allocations to each board district to ensure every area got a piece of the pie (remember those Mustang statues) however as I said earlier, the squeakiest communities got the dollars. Kim mentions Cross Keys getting the short end of the stick but I know the Cedar Grove community feels the exact same way.

    Arabia Mountain has been brought up several times but many seem to forget that Miller Grove and ML King were also built in South DeKalb because of real overcrowding issues. Lithonia got a new high school because a decision was made to switch campuses and convert the then high school to a middle school. These events along with the new middle schools cause frustration with some in central and north DeKalb because they weren’t getting new building even though this construction was done to address a real need. Note the more recent new construction has been done for Tucker high school, Dunwoody elementary school and Chamblee middle and high school. Yes, McNair Academy is new however three elementary schools were closed and consolidated into that one building (Leslie J. Steele was torn down and the new school sites on this site). Again, each of these were addressing real needs. When you consider many of the other high schools have gotten major renovations (Cedar Grove and Cross Keys excluded), we see why we have many of the discussions going on today. The Redan and Stone Mountain communities have also complained given their high schools were built in 1976 however it made sense to address the older schools first. There were MANY older schools that had needs.

    There are enough seats in DeKalb County schools for every child to sit in a building. The problem is that the seats are not located where the children live. While some those in South DeKalb welcomed being bused to available seats in Central and North DeKalb, that feeling is not reciprocal. That is why we see situations like Vanderlyn. On one hand I don’t understand but on the other I do, parents want their children in an environment where they believe their children will get a high quality education. Some are willing to tolerate trailers to get what they believe is a good education. That is why despite the buildings, more effort should be placed into fixing our schools so EVERYONE believes a high quality education can be achieved at every school.

    I have said this before and it is worth repeating, on average, a pre-k student entering a school like Vanderlyn is probably more prepared than a pre-k student entering one of the many Title 1 schools in DeKalb. The school administration leadership had NOTHING to do with this reality. This does not mean the pre-k student at the Title 1 school does not have the capabilities to achieve. It simply means that more work and possibly resources will be needed. By the same token, I would not expect that the family of the pre-K student that is more prepared expects the school to slow down the instruction of their child to allow the Title 1 student to catch up. We are having this discussion regarding scarcity with buildings, the same applies to teachers. For the good of the children in need, would the community be willing to allocate more instructional resources to Title 1 schools, specifically in the lower grades and perhaps take away from those schools where the preparation level of the students is higher? I believe this is ultimately what we should ask ourselves.

    This is how Fred in DeKalb sees things. I’m welcome being corrected if I have made any mistakes in my recollection.

  23. More interesting history, Fred. You are correct that Cedar Grove also gets a short stick — however, their former board member (Sarah) complained and they were promised an auditorium. She made a big stink that Cedar Grove was the only school without one — and no one else said one word about the fact that neither does Cross Keys.

    As far as this statement goes, ” While some those in South DeKalb welcomed being bused to available seats in Central and North DeKalb, that feeling is not reciprocal. That is why we see situations like Vanderlyn. On one hand I don’t understand but on the other I do, parents want their children in an environment where they believe their children will get a high quality education. ”

    You are a bit mistaken. People at Vanderlyn are concerned about quality, yes. That’s why they choose to live in Dunwoody. (Same for other good schools.) However, the reason they won’t bus their children across the county is that they want their children close to home. What is the point of living in a community and participating in family/community events and then getting up at 6 am in order to ride past your home school for another 30 minutes to attend another. It’s cruel and senseless. Most people choose to stay close to home and work hard to improve and support their child’s home school — thus all the parent involvement and volunteers. Very hard to to do if you have over a 30 minute drive.

  24. ps – isn’t the point of Title 1 Funds to do exactly as you say – even the achievement gap? Our administration is not responsible for how prepared children are for school, but they ARE responsible to use the millions and millions of Title 1 dollars to help students that need it to catch up. This is very possible with quality, one on one or small group instruction, especially in reading and math. It is not possible when all you do is hire ‘coordinators’ or whatever to observe teachers and critique their bulletin boards. Educating children is work. Hard work. And dividing classes into much smaller groups – especially in Title 1 schools is the best way to get that work done.

  25. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @DSW, first I want to emphasize, I only mentioned Vanderlyn by name to provide a visual example. In my opinion, there are MANY great schools in DeKalb. I also think each school has a different instructional mission given the makeup of their students. Those that must focus more on remediation in the lower grades won’t have the standardized test scores as our traditional stronger schools initially but that is not to say learning isn’t taking place. I would expect the growth scores at a Title 1 school to be higher than at a school where they children already know the baseline content. Both standardized testing and growth scores should be published to help citizens know about the learning taking place.

    I think Vanderlyn is somewhat unique when you consider their overcrowding situation. My point was to draw attention to their tolerance for trailers when as I understood, there was space available at Dunwoody elementary school. Assuming that is still the case, we are not talking about a school with space 30 minutes away or outside the main community but in the next attendance zone. It is a choice those parents made and I will say SPLOST dollars should not be used to expand Vanderlyn because of that choice. Remember the SPLOST expansion project at Lithonia high school was cancelled because their student numbers did not justify it anymore.

    Regarding the Title 1 dollars, they don’t go as far as some would think. I recall having many enlightened discussions with dekabite where I showed based on the math, the earmarked dollars would provide for 1-2 more teachers per Title 1 school. That would help but in some cases, that is not enough. I also pointed out a few weeks ago that a great deal of the additional money flowing to schools went for special needs students. These dollars came with accountability requirements which meant hiring staffers that did not teach children but made sure the dollars were spent as prescribed. Again, who is willing to say that special needs students don’t need additional resources, especially when you consider how they were treated before acts such as IDEA. Resources for the general population did not grow at the same rate hence they lost some ground.

    Getting back to Kim’s original point, Cross Keys (and Cedar Grove) have not benefited from SPLOST as much as other high schools. It should be noted that Oak Cliff elementary and Cedar Grove middle school are relatively new however they were built to satisfy a need. Facility needs exist throughout the county but the method of setting priorities can be legitimately questioned. We have seen the squeaky wheel syndrome at work in DeKalb hence that is the formula communities use to advocate for their schools. I still say it comes back to have a collected school leadership that is willing to make the tough decisions in spite of the squeaky wheels. This could result in a lot of one term Board members but if that is what it takes, so be it.

    To thrown out another quote that some may have philosophical problems with is,

    From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.
    Karl Marx

    Does it cost that much to accomplish this?


  26. teachermom says:

    I am sick of instructional coaches. I get the impression that they really do not understand their job and just try to “do something to look busy.” They end up bullying teachers, no kidding. Instructional coaches are just another layer of pressure on teachers, which we do NOT need.

    We DO need some good resources, starting with an aligned curriculum that makes sense. We need PLANNING TIME. Students need tutoring after and before school. Could we maybe use the money we spend for instructional coaches on supporting the students DIRECTLY first??? When will the CO learn that you need to put the money closest to the students FIRST.? Then move on to other supports with your resources. Otherwise it will all collapse inward with the students getting hit first.

    This week we begin a round of testing that will take a chuck of our morning for about 2 weeks. Sigh.

  27. teachermom says:

    Sorry but I meant *chunk and disregard the period and the question mark together after the same sentence.

  28. H.A. Hurley says:

    Teachermom ~
    Coaches were installed to carry out the RTTT Mandates! To meet the impossible achievement test scores demands of children in POVERTY, and the implementation of the CCSS. They are the Stazi to make sure teachers reach the achievement goals, by any means necessary! Teachers are evaluated by that formula and fired if not meeting this mandate. Now, $$$ spent on ‘Future PhDs of DCS’, iPads for administrators, no textbooks, limited technology in MANY DCS, etc….
    This formula is played out all over America. It hurts DCS probably more because our ENTIRE system is in disarray, to say the least. Major scramble for survival among administrators and teachers exiting. May get much worse. Teachers and students? Oh, yes…we forgot about them.

  29. Kim says:

    We are right to expand the debate on how we allocate capital. I focus on the view of “North DeKalb” not because I believe it is the only place our leadership’s corrupt processes have an impact but rather because I am focused on the treatment of Buford Hwy populations.

    Regarding Cedar Grove, this community has absolutely been on the short end of the same SPLOST stick as Cross Keys. For three years on a daily basis I discussed this fact with a parent from “The Grove” and she and I found comfort by sharing positive stories of our students’ quiet achievement in spite of being waaaay down there in the mud supporting <a href=";?Yertle the Turtle” at DCSD to go to higher and higher into the stratosphere of educational facilities above us.

    I’m also happy to see the forensic discussion about how SPLOST has been managed in previous epochs. Of particular note to me is the comment about funds being allocated by Board district. This highlights yet another way we are shorting Cross Keys and, in this case, in a way unique in DeKalb County.

    Every Board member and no Board member is responsible for Cross Keys cluster. If you overlay the Board districts on our attendance area, you will see what I mean. Our “representation” has been diced up just like our community with no single Board member being “responsible” for more than 2 of our 7 schools. No one has the interest of Cross Keys schools tied to their position. No one.

    Whether by design or by consequence, this is also unacceptable and a direct disenfranchisement of our populations in the process.

  30. Fred in DeKalb says:

    When it was pointed out in an audit about the allocation of some of the SPLOST dollars, that practice was eliminated. I also did not want to take the focus away from Cross Keys but merely point out that another high school faces similar challenges in getting resources.

    Board members should look out for the needs of the entire district not just the district they represent. One could make an argument that Board members should be elected by the entire county but laws have been passed to make that illegal. We have a representative democracy however Board members feel beholden to their electorate.

  31. Ella says:

    Somethings never change in DeKalb.

    Some parts of the county squeek very loud and get needed or not needed funds. Other parts of the county needs are not addressed.

    I have always and will always feel and express that all needs in the county need to be evaluated equally and fairly and then a decision must be made by school personnel who should be neutral and presented to the board who also should be representatives of the entire county and not just their district. However, this is a little tough as their districts elect them currently.

    How much support have you gotten from district 2 representative who represents the interests of Cross Key’s currently?

  32. ShooShee says:

    It was embarrassing to me today when I heard that people were causing a ruckus and the police had to be called to the Galleria at South Dekalb Mall on Candler Road because the “customers” were fighting about being in line to purchase $200+ designer sneakers! If teenagers were there in line…maybe they would have been served better, visiting a local library. And, if their parents were there…they would have been served better by investing their $200+ in a Kaplan course.

    That’s how it’s done Fred! “Wealthy”, and all other successful kids do their school work first and shop later! Simple fact of life.

  33. Kim says:

    @Fred in DeKalb: Regarding your comment below, I completely understood that and couldn’t agree more. Those who think I am blind to the general neglect around DeKalb County schools are hearing what they want to hear not what I am saying.

    My observation starting in 2009 and continuing today remains the same:

    1.Our capital dollars and physical plant have been grossly mis-managed for many years.
    2. I believe the reasons for the capital/plant mis-management are the result of politics of DeKalb County communities and by our collective dismissal of best and equitable practices.
    3. While we ALL as a community suffer, the lowest capital priority under this dynamic, the schools along Buford Hwy, are suffering the most collectively of any cluster.

    Shame on all of us for letting it happen this way.

    I ran into an officer of the newly formed Brookhaven PD yesterday who joins our community from a rural district. He had seen this blog entry and couldn’t believe it. He was very upset by the simple facts on the ground and the unescapable arithmetic. I felt embarrassed for us all.

    The fact that some are skeptical of this concentrated neglect I’m claiming is evidence of the collective delusion about public education we have somehow fallen into here in DeKalb.

    None of this is direct at you, Fred, just using your words as a jumping off for yet another patented rant.

    Fred said:
    “I also did not want to take the focus away from Cross Keys but merely point out that another high school faces similar challenges in getting resources.”

  34. Kim, you work so hard for justice and equality, however, what we all need to understand is that the leadership of DeKalb County schools does not have the same level of concern for equity as you. In fact, I would say that they don’t have very much concern for educating children, or at least they only do so to the level that it keeps them away from scrutiny. Their focus is squarely placed on one thing: Their Jobs. Period. Really, think about it, in what reality would Michael Thurmond make almost $300,000 a year – especially in educational leadership – a subject in which he has NO training. How about Ramona Tyson? She also has raked in hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, yet she only taught business ed at Lakeside for two years. She has no managerial experience and no technical degree or expertise of any kind. How about Tekshia Ward-Smith? Think ANY corporate HR department would hire her? ESPECIALLY as the head of the department? How about Stacy Stepney? Marcease Beasley? Ron Ramsey? Etc. Etc… Kim, I’m sorry, but someone has to tell you. You are swinging at windmills. They will only place band aids on your requests so that you will quiet down long enough for them to give each other another promotion.

  35. Kim says:

    I understand this view and yet I must say, “We ride Rocinante, we ride!”

  36. Kim says:

    The renovation of CK may be a “bandaid” but it is one that has improved the lives of 1,200 students per year since. Sancho, Dulcinea, and I may not be much to look at but we will keep riding and “fighting” for these kids – someone need to until the leadership does.

  37. concernedmom30329 says:


    One of the problems with school boards everywhere is that the board members mostly want to be reelected. Thus, just like in DeKalb, they often pander to those who vote as well as to those who can give campaign contributions. (Remember the movies about corruption in School Boards in New Jersey a few years ago?)
    In DeKalb, unlike Atlanta, Cobb, Gwinnett, et all, we have had Board Members who need the relatively small salary to help support themselves. This is terribly problematic as it forces those board members to be in constant campaign mode. Part of the mess in Clayton was caused by the same issue.
    I believe that we start by requiring at least an associates degree to be able to be on a school board. (I would prefer that we require a college degree, but that is unlikely to fly state wide.) We want our board members to be role models, right?

  38. Leo says:

    So just using the numbers posted by DSW above, here’s the breakdown:
    Dunwoody HS + Feeders: $40,080,234 ($37,187,592 if you take out what’s listed as new Dunwoody Elem. It’s unclear to me what this is for and whether I should be subtracting out he $17,614, 325 for New Dunwoody-Chamblee ES instead, which would give us a total of $22,465,909 — I’m trying to pull out new building spending)
    Cross Keys + Feeders: $27,364,223
    Chamblee: $3,133,481

    There should be sufficient funds to keep all of our schools in good working condition. This analysis shouldn’t even be necessary. In almost every instance, it looks like the elementary schools are taking the brunt of the lack of smart spending. And that the lack of spending in the CK cluster is more the result of not replacing that high school and opting for a renovation instead. I fully agree they need a new track. Good grief. Maybe we can do a fundraiser for it. How much does a track cost? Or heck, even some weed killer and asphalt crack filler.

  39. @Leo: ??? Can’t follow your accounting… but it doesn’t matter. It’s just not debatable. Cross Keys has been ‘left behind’ most everyone else.

    As far as the new track goes — Chesnut ES apparently was able to get a grant for a track…

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