Tom Taylor presents study showing city schools are feasible

From the Dunwoody Crier

The completion of a feasibility study for an independent school district in Dunwoody comes to a startling conclusion: Based on the current millage rate of the DeKalb County school system and the contributions of Dunwoody to the tax base, an independent school district would operate at a surplus larger than the annual budget of the city of Dunwoody.

State Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody) unveiled the broad outlines of the study Sunday for the board of the Dunwoody Homeowners’ Association but withheld actual numbers because the study hadn’t been presented to the city council, which along with the DHA helped pay for it (see his Op-Ed, below).

Read more >> Report: Independent school system is feasible

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Independent school system will need a lot of volunteers

by Tom Taylor

With only about 90 days until the 2014 legislative session kicks off, I am pleased to report that the feasibility study on an independent school system for Dunwoody conducted by Georgia Tech and the Georgia Public Policy Foundation is complete.

I was able to present an overview of the study’s findings at the Oct. 6 meeting of the Dunwoody Homeowners’ Association. The results, I am glad to say, were extremely favorable and indicate that an independent school system is not just viable, but would allow enough budget surpluses for a plethora of possibilities, all positive and doable within or below the current millage rate. The report will be presented to city council at a time to be determined and then later released publicly.

… As I have stated previously, getting HR 486 passed will be difficult. A constitutional amendment requires super-majorities (a 2/3 vote) in both the House and the Senate and then a statewide ballot referendum. I have good support in the legislature, but we have to turn out residents and parents to the hearings to successfully pass the referendum. The opposition will pack these hearings with paid lobbyists; we need to counter that with parents who are the actual “boots on the ground” for education reform.

Read more >> Independent school system is feasible

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26 Responses to Tom Taylor presents study showing city schools are feasible

  1. MarySF says:

    What will happen to the remainder of the schools in DeKalb if/when Dunwoody withdraws its tax base?

  2. You know, that’s interesting Mary. The Dunwoody City budget is about $25 million so, according to this article stating that the amount in over-payment is more than the entire city budget, we can assume it’s about $25 million ‘extra’ that Dunwoody would take back from the county school coffers beyond what it actually takes to run the schools in Dunwoody (DCSS’ total general operating budget is currently about $700 million plus another $300 million plus in other budgets). We found out that Dunwoody would probably be considered ‘high-income’ by the state due to its compactness and its tax base. So Dunwoody would have to pay significantly to the state’s equalization program. Then the rest of DeKalb may qualify to actually receive those grants for a change – and it could be $25 million or more or it could simply decrease what the rest of the county owes in equalization by $25 million or more. But that said, this study clearly shows that Dunwoody pays significantly more than its share of school taxes. There is a lot of business in Dunwoody as well.

  3. howdy1942 says:

    While I don’t live in Dunwoody, I support what Rep. Tom Taylor is doing. Earlier this year, I had hoped that there would be significant change for the better in the Dekalb County School System. While I haven’t lost all hope, I am much less optimistic that positive change can, in fact, become a reality. We have a former DCSS administrator in the role of School Board Chairman. We have an “interim” superintendent appointed by the old Board who is now no longer “interim” and who has also been awarded a contract through 2015. We have a school board that is passive whose primary focus is to be “nice” and leave things as they are. Increasingly, I am seeing cityhood and city school systems as offering a promising ray of hope.

    We have now seen the Lakeside City Alliance raise $30,000 and embark on a feasibility of cityhood for that community. We have now seen Tucker Together do the same. People have just had it with corrupt officials within the County government and an acceptance of mediocrity within the school system. Heck, mediocrity may be an overstatement. One way or the other, we want change. I have supported the Tucker Together effort both financially and in person and will continue to do so. I have supported the Lakeside City Alliance and just wish that Lakeside and Tucker could come together because I believe that would offer a formidable combination.

    Yes, I”m concerned about all the kids in Dekalb County but I’ve also resigned myself to the fact that there has been little change in the DCSS and the prospects for change are not that good. Like Rep. Taylor, I feel that it is time to turn to changing what we can change and that is in our local communities. We’ll see what happens next July when we elect a new school board, but in the interim we need to continue to pursue our contingency plan and that is our own cities and our own school systems.

  4. thedeal2 says:

    DSW, great points about the equalization. I thought the fact that DeKalb had to pay out was because of our millage rate (which wouldn’t change just because Dunwoody leaves), but I could be wrong. If Dunwoody split off, had to pay equalization, and DeKalb became a receiver instead of a payer, the financial impact could be a draw or even on the positive for DeKalb. Hopefully Dunwoody will seize this information and use it to their advantage. I do not live in Dunwoody, but I am in full support of this effort because it could be a blueprint for others, just like the Druid Hills Charter cluster petition. I don’t know what it is going to take for county and school leaders to understand that we are sick and tired and, eventually, we will find a way to get out from under their friends and family jobs program. There has been more substantive movement in that regard in the past year than I have ever seen, and I could not be happier about it. More individual charter schools, the DHCC, this Dunwoody discussion, and all of the cityhood movement. I think people expected a lot more from a brand new board. They are not acting like the superintendent works for them, and they have shown very little drive to improve things for students and teachers.

  5. Former DeKalb BOE Member Jim Redovian discusses the need for strong public schools and has touted the need for a smaller system for years.

    Being a proponent of public education, I find it difficult to abandon it and look to private schools to be the answer.

    Having 11 grandchildren, five of whom have been or are being educated privately, I have seen the terrible financial burden put on a young family to provide such an education. Most families, even if given vouchers to supplement the costs, would not have the financial resources to put their children through private education. Those with more than three children would, for all practical purposes, be shut out completely.

    With that as a background, the need to improve and preserve the public sector becomes more and more important.

    School systems, like any organizations, have a point at which they function best. These points are marked by: the number of students, the size of the budget, the number of employees, the facilities and the physical area. Any of those, if they become too large, lead to the degradation of efficiency of management.

    Read more >> http://dunwoodynorth.blogspot.com/2013/10/former-dekalb-boe-member-jim-redovian.html

  6. I’m curious to find out if anyone on the pro-city schools group has identified:

    a.) the number of Dunwoody children who attend DeKalb Schools that are not located in Dunwoody. Would they be required to quit their school of choice?

    b.) the number of students who do not live in Dunwoody but currently attend a Dunwoody school. Where would they be expected to go for a comparable education? Would they be able to complete their education in Dunwoody or would they have to go elsewhere?

    c.) the number of school-age children who live in Dunwoody, but attend non-public schools (who could decide to return to public schools in light of new city schools).

    Has the input from any of these groups been gathered?

  7. whyaminotsurprised says:

    @GettheCellOut… based on precedent/current rules: my guess on b) is that, at least for the KMS students, DeKalb would just pull them back to another building outside of Dunwoody. As for others who attend the Dunwoody “City schools,” it would depend on the policies of the new district. I don’t think this # is huge, but the demand would likely increase, for teachers who teach in Dunwoody but live in other areas of DeKalb. If Dunwoody will only take local kids, then those from “failing” home schools would just have to pick among what is left in DeKalb – Briarlake has spots this year, for example. I don’t know if the others in our area do. My guess on a) is that DeKalb would keep the same policy for new cities as they do for Decatur. So, if a Dunwoody kid wants School of the Arts, or Museum school, they would have to leave.

  8. Kittredge Magnet School is not in Dunwoody. It’s in Chamblee I believe.

    Most of these transfers to and from the city schools would just require a small tuition, like Decatur. There may be scholarship seats as well.

    But why are you all so focused on a few schools? That’s the real problem — people from all over the county seem to think that there are only a very few ‘good’ schools. I am here to tell you – good parenting, disciplined students, good teachers, support of those teachers, strong principals — all these things can make ANY school a high-performing school. It’s not magic – it’s simple, hard work.

  9. Also, you all might want to consider the fact that if all of the demanding, attention-grabbing Dunwoody parents and ‘stakeholders’ are removed from the DeKalb schools arena, just think of how much time and attention the superintendent and staff would have to give to everyone else!

  10. howdy1942 says:

    These are good questions, but I go back to something I said before – any government body cannot force the people to do something they don’t want to do for long. For years, many of us in Dekalb County have watched the Dekalb School Board, their appointed superintendents, and its administration simply ignore people and impose its dictates on us. We’ve had little recourse other than to move, to accept the abuse, or put our kids in private schools. We’ve watched indictments, witnessed our once proud school system being put on probation, watched a dysfunctional school board in action, watched our taxpayer resources being wasted, seen one thing promised in SPLOST and got another, watched our teachers become disrespected by an overpowering administration, and become accustomed to endless litigation. There comes a time when people simply say “enough is enough”. I think Dunwoody is at that point and I also think that Lakeside, Brookhaven, and Tucker are at that point. We have been locked in by a poorly run school system and by a Constitutional Amendment that currently prevents us from creating our own school districts. We have tried to form charter schools only to hear objections from the likes of Jesse “Jay” Cunningham. I think that we now must do what we have to do.

    I’ve long said that I strongly support a school system that would insure an excellent education for all of our children. Dekalb is heavily minority and the unemployment rate for minorities is twice that for whites. Over 30 percent of school-aged children in Dekalb will not graduate from high school. And over 30% of minorities who do not graduate from high school are unemployed. Those numbers tell a sad story. To fix these problems, Dekalb needs Dunwoody and the other communities that now seek to become cities. Dekalb needs to focus on the classroom, its teachers, and its students, not on lawyers, on cars, and administrators. I don’t live in Dunwoody, but I also don’t blame them for what they want to do – I am supportive of their efforts. I also continue to support the Druid Hills Cluster.

    The Dekalb County School Board is once again turning a deaf ear. People speak, but are not heard. Thurmond comes out to the communities and talks to them, but he doesn’t listen. People want change and, sooner or later, Dekalb will change.

  11. Thurmond actually said at the MLA contract extension meeting that if “children are failing in schools, it’s due to the fact that the people in positions of authority have failed to do their job.”

    Now, that’s interesting. Because he says that, yet he has fired no one and set up no accountability for anything. So, if these people failed, it doesn’t matter, they still keep their jobs and their paychecks. So what does it matter what he says? Actions speak louder than words, and I for one, am very tired of hearing his steady stream of words, with no action behind them. He says these things to make people think he’s ‘fixing’ things, but he will not hold anyone accountable in reality.

  12. thedeal2 says:

    DSW, at ELPC, Thurmond was clear that he is not getting rid of anyone. He said he places the blame on the former superintendent and that person is no longer here. He said his team was like a baseball team that needed to be managed better. He moved his catcher to shortstop, his 3rd baseman to 1st base, etc. etc. He was very folksy and obviously not going to fire anyone at all.

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  14. Kim says:

    Hi All – late to the thread due to TOO MUCH 3-day weekend fun! Point of fact up thread there – High Achievers magnet for elementary is not in Dunwoody OR Chamblee – it is located at the Nancy Creek ES site in the newly formed City of Brookhaven.

  15. Thanks Kim – I was confused about that. But I knew it wasn’t in Dunwoody. Chamblee MS used to be (when it was housed in the old decrepit, now boarded up Shallowford ES).

  16. Kim says:

    @GetTheCellOut: I believe the largest affected population (550 plus/minus) would be at Hightower ES in Doraville. In one of the many inflammatory threads here on the subject of our 1st generation immigrant students, someone from Dunwoody suggested this school be re-districted to Cross Keys HS so they could be “better off with kids like them.”

    With a City of Dunwoody School system, this well-wishing may become possible! We’ll have to bus them past Lakeside and Chamblee, though, but that is a minor inconvenience.

    “b.) the number of students who do not live in Dunwoody but currently attend a Dunwoody school. Where would they be expected to go for a comparable education? Would they be able to complete their education in Dunwoody or would they have to go elsewhere?”

  17. Kim says:

    … “bus them past Lakeside and Chamblee …” … I should have added that while a minor inconvenience, it is: a) establish best practice, and b) they’d be welcome!

  18. @Kim: Please don’t judge everyone by what one person in a community might say in the comments of a blog. Let’s all just remember that blogs are full of individuals – many whom tend to be of stronger opinions than most people. ALL comments on this blog should be taken in the context of being one opinion from one individual – never, ever representative of an entire community.

  19. Kim says:

    @DSW: I’m not judging everyone. I’m holding up one person’s ridiculous comment for ridicule.

    The question I heard implied based on GetTheCellOut’s question “b)” is what will happen to Hightower ES students if Dunwoody goes independent. I’d love to hear from my neighbors on their current thinking whether they live in Dunwoody or not. If my referencing the earlier comment by one nit in Dunwoody was taken as an indictment of the tens of thousands of residents of Dunwoody, that was not my intention.

    My intention was to tease out a discussion about this very real possibility. If Dunwoody goes it alone as an independent school district, we will have to find a new home for Hightower’s children and others.

    For Hightower, the options are Chamblee, Cross Keys, and Lakeside, I suppose. Discuss the merits of each if anyone is interested.

    I would think that Chamblee would be the most logical but then again, we are busing Oakcliff and Cary Reynolds kids right past CCHS already. Thus my sarcasm … I need to watch that as it seems to be sharpening each year.

  20. I would think that most definitely Chamblee would be the most obvious choice for any elementary school sitting it that district. There would be plenty of room in Chamblee if it no longer served as a magnet, bringing in students from all over the county – when indeed, there are plenty of students living right under its own shadow.

  21. Kim says:

    I’m with you. But then if one looks at Cary Reynolds and Oakcliff examples in Doraville already there is clearly no common sense at work here to date. Hello dead horse! It’s me again here to beat you … sorry to be repetitive but it must be said.

  22. Kim says:

    And poor old Dresden ES! Right in the heart of the area Chamblee is scrambling to annex. I’ve snarked on other blogs about that and my hope that the Chamblee community is as welcoming to the Dresden Dragons as their are to the tax base around it. I really have become quite intolerable!

  23. concernedmom30329 says:

    Hightower has about 900(!) students this year. I have a friend who volunteers there and she told me this recently. She suspects, and I concur, that undocumented immigrants are more concerned about the police in Gwinnett because of some new state laws and thus, have moved back into DeKalb. I have also heard rumblings that illegal immigration is on the uptake, so who really knows.

  24. Kim says:

    Yep, I just confirm they are at about 860 at Hightower. So, this makes the point even more significant. If not Dunwoody HS attendance, wither thou goest Hightower?

  25. Kim says:

    I’d like to think that the S.T.E.M. certification recently achieved by the hard-working school is another reason they are attracting enrollment. There are very few elementary schools with this designation and they should be proud!

  26. dcssgrad says:

    I hear the Hightower principal just received a promotion to one of those cushy Central office jobs.

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