It looks to be a busy month!

Clear you calendars – there is a lot to do in DeKalb county this month!

FIRST UP:  A Called Meeting – a Big One! 11/11/2013 – 7:00 PM
Presenting — The Druid Hills Charter Cluster, Inc. Charter Petition
J. David Williamson Board Room, Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain, Georgia 30083

The Druid Hills Charter Cluster (“Cluster”) proposes to implement a high school cluster in DeKalb County to develop college and career ready students by providing continuous learning pathways for students from K-12. The Cluster asserts that it will implement a school choice program of learning pathways such as International Baccalaureate, Montessori, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math (STEAM), and Advanced Placement choices to parents and educators amongst seven schools currently operated by the District.

The Druid Hills Charter Cluster proposes to serve grades K-12 during all five years of the charter term. The school’s proposed location(s) are:

1) Druid Hills High School, 1798 Haygood Drive NE, Atlanta, GA 30307
2) Druid Hills Middle School, 3100 Mount Olive Drive, Decatur, GA 30033
3) Avondale Elementary School, 10 Lakeshore Drive, Avondale Estates, GA 30002
4) Briar Vista Elementary, 1131 Briar Vista Terrace NE, Atlanta, GA 30324
5) Fernbank Elementary, 3131 Old Rockbridge Road, Avondale Estates, GA 30002
6) Laurel Ridge Elementary, 1215 Balsam Drive, Decatur, GA 30033
7) McLendon Elementary, 3169 Hollywood Drive, Decatur, GA 30033
8) Avondale Middle School, 1192 Clarendon Avenue, Avondale Estates, GA 30002

Financial Impact
The District has determined that the Cluster’s financial impact for the 2014-2015 school year will be approximately 29 million dollars in District revenue during its first year of operation, if it is determined by the State Department of Education to be a Conversion Charter Cluster. The financial impact will be approximately 40 million dollars if it is determined by the State Department of Education to be a Start-up Charter Cluster. Therefore, it is estimated that the Cluster will utilize nearly 150-200 million dollars of District funds for the proposed five-year charter term. Transportation and facility costs are not included in this estimation.

Read the AJC’s report on the subject >> DeKalb parents demand local control as ‘charter cluster’ petition reaches school board



Districtwide Title l Parent Involvement Conference
Guest Speaker – Glenda Hatchett
Former Juvenile Court Judge, Author & Speaker
All Parents of Title l Schools are Invited!!
Saturday, November 16, 2013
8:00 am – 1:00 pm

DeKalb County School District
1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
Stone Mountain, Georgia 30083
For additional information contact:
Brenda Williams, Office of Federal Programs, Title l Coordinator at
678.676.0312, or email
or Dr. Morcease J. Beasley, Executive Director for Curriculum, Instruction, Professional Learning and the Office of Federal Programs Division at 678.676.0329



Are you the parent, guardian, or mentor of a child in the DeKalb County School District?

You Have a Voice; Make the Choice to Attend the
“Parent Educational Awareness & Empowerment Conference”
Saturday, November 23, 2013
9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

The Conference Center at Georgia Piedmont Technical College
495 North Indian Creek Drive, Clarkston, GA 30021
For more information call: (678) 676-0381
Moderator: Donna Lowry, 11Alive TV

“A Bridge Initiative Strategy”

Workshops-Entertainment-Food-Media Personalities & More

To register visit:


Of course,  the trial of Pat Reid (Pope) and Tony Pope continues – starring Dr. Crawford Lewis – the new witness for the prosecution due to his plea deal.  Tune in to our page on the subject “The drama begins… (or continues)” – we will try to keep it updated.


AND LAST, BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST: If you happen to be in Dunwoody tomorrow, Monday, November 11 at 3:30, stop by the playground at Brook Run Park… Nancy Jester will treat you to some great news!

About dekalbschoolwatch

Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
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53 Responses to It looks to be a busy month!

  1. concerned citizen says:

    Wish I could have been there because anything Nancy Jester touches is gold. Can anybody advise of the good news?

  2. So the meeting is now underway. Mr. Bell has handed out some documents and is reporting that the district is under stress and has to file monthly deficit elimination plans. The charter system would increase the charter budget by 180%. No other budgetary component has experienced such an increase. Although the Druid Hills cluster is petitioned as a conversion, the funding is presented like a start up. The initial start up is over 25 million. FY 15 necessary funds would be over $40 million.

    Says allowing the charter is not a wise decision for the school system.

  3. Dr. Beaseley is now distributing a handout. In accordance with policy IBB the charter request should demonstrate an innovative, unique opportunity for student learning that does not duplicate existing programs. We compared the charter’s offerings with what is currently implemented in DeKalb, it was determined that DCSS currently offers comparable instructional services. Notes: Curriculum: DeKalb created its own using national and state standards using experts and teachers. Cluster did not provide a curriculum but said they would use standards. Same issue with the IB program. Re: Pre-K. DeKalb offers Pre-K using the Bright Start Grant. Re: marginal and exceptional students. Charter does not recognize that over 50% of cluster students would be Title 1 and they offer no special plans. Cluster did not address how the needs of under-performing, economically disadvantaged students would be addressed. The petitioner does not address innovation or ideas. But the DCSS has implemented the Bridge Initiative to identify and support high-achieving, marginal and econ. disadvantaged students. DeKalb is engaging parents of econ. disadvantaged… [lists more on what district is already doing for all students].

    Petitioner used the word “continue” 28 times in their petition regarding programs.

  4. Dr. Johnson announced that all exhibits are marked attorney-client privilege. Orson argues and asks general counsels opinion. Atty recommends conferring during the break.

  5. Not sure who the next presenter is. She was not introduced and did not say her name. She also had handouts.

    Orson asked who prepared the document. Answer: Charter Schools Office. Orson: So not legal right? This doesn’t fall under atty-client privilege. Again, told to discuss during break.

    Speaker talks of a broad waiver. Says DCSS awaits 10th start up charter. There is no other charter cluster in the state for comparison. She compares it to City of Decatur schools – a charter system of the same size – 7 schools 339 teachers, over 3,000 students. Proposed charter has similar numbers. Compares also Title 1 funds and Free and Reduced lunch programs. Proposed cluster has 58% of students on F&R lunch program.

    2015 – proposed cluster asks for $44 million. Support staff proposed is only 5 people – compared to Decatur – with many more in central support staff. Druid Hills will not have enough proper support (HR, Operations, Finance, etc.)

    Transportation and School Lunch and Full Control of Finance. Complete autonomy in HR as a main tenet.

    Says the charter does not support all 100,000 students.

  6. Recess. Off to meet in the small board room.

  7. thedeal2 says:

    I don’t understand the structure of this meeting. Is it just DCSD employees presenting because every single speaker I’ve heard has been against the charter.

  8. dekalbmom says:

    I’m sorry, but the comment at 7:27 is not accurate. Dr. Bell said that creating the charter cluster for 5 years “might” potentially increase the cost of operations by 180%, (which is absolutely ridiculous.) He never said it “would” cost 180% more. However, Bell went on to say that the proposed budget for the cluster would require an additional $11M. over the $29.358M that the system currently spends on the 8 schools. I’d still like to see their math and how they arrived at such figures. In reality, since the administration no longer has to dedicate time and resources to operate 8 schools, including meals, maintenance, administrative overhead, instruction, transportation, counseling, etc. the system should be saving money.

    It would be interesting to compare how much DeKalb is spending on other start up charters or other conversion charters.

    But it is clear that the administration is going to say anything to justify denying this petition.

  9. Back to the fun … apparently they have decided that the documents can be made public after all, following an attempt to claim “attorney-client privilege.”

  10. Thad Mayfield asked a question about how information presented tonight is consistent with earlier comments given to the petitioners. Boza said that he and the others did not share the DCSS comparison of the proposed charter cluster to City of Decatur schools because it would not have been “appropriate.” WHAT? Not appropriate?

  11. Orson wants to know if the Board can adjourn to a Committee of the Whole. Orson moves to adjourn to a Committee of the Whole. (The room is packed with people who are present for an open hearing. Interestingly, it appears that regardless of what happens in open hearing, the decision has already been made to deny.

  12. Orson points out that there is an incredible amount of information that must be considered and discussed and that it is in the public interest to be thorough in consideration.

    Thurmond is objecting because the staff has been “objective.” Thurmond asks if they are inviting all who have an opinion to engage with the Board.

    Morley says that there have been “thousands of e-mails” back and forth and the Board is there to do what they were called to do.

    Orson points out that there has been no public hearing on this matter. Plus he points out that there are many issues that exist and because DCSS educrats were several weeks late in providing a promised recommendation, there are larger principles that may expose the Board to liability for not following their own policies and procedures. NOTE: According to Boza there is still no recommendation tonight.

    Morley is having an issue with meeting [gasp!] two weeks in a row.

    Johnson claims that Orson is saying that the staff is not trusted. He asks staff the rhetorical question, “Did you follow the Board policy?” Thurmond leaps in to say, “Yes, we did.” Boza claims that the staff is adhering to the timeline set by Board policy.

  13. thedeal2 says:

    Things are gettin’ ugly. “Dr.” Morley just attempted a smackdown on Orson.

  14. Do I hear an Open Records Request coming up?

    Coleman has been very impressed with opponents and proponents and how thoughtful they have been.

    Coleman surprised by the attempt to hide information from the public.

    Mayfield that at least 4 documents containing all new information were presented tonight. Board has not seen this before and the petitioners should be allowed the opportunity to respond to this new information.

    Thurmond — ALL parties must be able to respond.

    Morley — Asks Orson to recuse himself. Say what??

    Morley wants to call for a vote about moving to the committee of the Whole.

    Orson points out that he is entitled to have an opinion and that there is information provided tonight that no one has seen previously. Specific points of information were raised by the staff that must be considered. He calls out Morley for her personal attack on him and her attempt to strip him of his vote.

    Thurmond continues to press for a vote and says he is concerned about unfairness to his staff.

  15. Vote called about proceeding to a Committee of the Whole. Passes 7 – 2 — Johnson and Morley dissenting.

    This is going to be a looooooooong meeting. Committee of the Whole starts now.

    Bell (CFO) says they applied as a conversion charter, but asked for all the money that a start-up school would receive. Claims there is a “danger” in discrepancy between what they are applying for and what they would normally get as a conversion. Bell cannot answer a simple question and refers this to Ramsey. Ramsey — “To answer your question … [pause] we can’t answer your question.”

    Coleman — has the state ever forced DCSS to pay in excess on a per pupil basis for any charter school — conversion or start-up? Bell, Boza and Ramsey are stumped.

  16. This is running considerably longer and the editor who has been comments must get back to her own business. If you are interested, please tune in to Channel 24.

    Post any comments or replies to “It Looks To Be A Busy Month!”

    Thank you!

  17. thedeal2 says:

    Dr. Morley is yelling at Marshall Orson.

  18. dekalbmom says:

    Ahh, this is interesting. According to Bell and Thurmond, the system only spends $29.358M to operate the 7 schools in the proposed cluster. But according to the state and county per pupil funding guidelines, the 7 schools would receive about $40 M (including the $2M of profit that the system may be making on those cruddy meals they sell in the cafeterias). The $40M budget for the charter petition is based exactly on the per pupil funding guidelines. But according to the charter organizer (Matt Lewis) the school system is siphoning off $11M from these 7 schools (and spending the money elsewhere).

    Perhaps DCSS should offer to give this cluster back the $11M of funding (to use for student academics) that is disappearing into the DCSS black hole.

  19. dekalbmom says:

    Mayfield Q to petitioner: How can you stay within budget if you are increasing teacher salaries and reducing class size? Lewis A: That is, in part, what we will use the $!!M difference for. Mayfield Q: If you were limited to the amount of $ the schools now receive, could you do it? Lewis: No, but under the charter funding law, it would be illegal to limit the cluster to less than the per pupil funding guidelines.

    Bell and Thurmond continue to protest that they fear that the state could force DCSS to give the charter cluster more money than the school system thinks is appropriate. But they are unable to cite to specific statutes or regulations.

  20. dekalbmom says:

    That should have been $11M, not $!!M…..

  21. Ned says:

    d-mom–If I’m understanding you correctly, DCSD’s objection is basically that they don’t want to be forced to spend the money they ought to be spending on these students and are instead spending . . . elsewhere?
    Wow. Nice to see that come out so clearly for once.

  22. dekalbmom says:

    Beasley: cannot reconcile how cluster will reduce class size but keep the same number of teachers and reduce class size with their current budget. Claims that cluster is not offering any unique programs or programs that are not already offered in county. Mathers says the fidelity of implementation and delivery of programs will be different in the cluster. Beasley says all schools and teachers are encouraged to be innovative and Dekalb is a leader in this area. Robert Thorpe (former middle school principal) responds that all middle school teachers have not been trained in the IB program, that there is no coordination among the cluster schools in the IB programs, and that currently the county is not complying with the community service component of IB. These issues will be addressed with the charter cluster.

  23. dekalbmom says:

    @ Ned- that is the petitioner’s position.

  24. Really really do not like Dr. Beaseley’s tone. He is very terse and condescending. He seems angry and defiant.

  25. If ever a conversation shined a light on exactly how upside down the school system’s spending is, it’s this conversation. Why oh why is this not a simple transfer of funds from one educational account set aside to educate a certain number of children to another educational account set aside to educate children? It’s not as if Druid Hills is asking for money above and beyond what is given to the system to educate these students – it simply appears very clear that DCSS isn’t using all of its allocated funds to educate students and they need these funds for ‘other’ spending (ie: legal, admin, etc).

  26. thedeal2 says:

    Appreciating that the former principal of Druid Hills Middle School is explaining how DCSD does not have fidelity with respect to the IB program.

  27. It’s also very entertaining that DCSS ‘leaders’ are concerned that Druid Hills won’t be able to get parent involvement at their Title 1 Schools as well as DeKalb (DCSS thinks they are ‘experts’ at this and their new ‘Bridge’ program is a godsend… ) Beaseley just stated that DCSS translates all documents into at least 10 languages. And he is going on and on in detail about what they are ‘doing’… talking about himself and his ‘initiatives’.

    How about that Triage program you ‘implemented’ way back when Beaseley? Is the Bridge going to be as successful as Triage? (That’s tongue in cheek for those who wonder…)

    Saturday, July 16, 2011
    Triage! That’s what they’re calling the plan to improve test scores.

  28. Sunny says:

    Mr. Thurmond’s tone and his body language are also very offensive.

  29. Did they say that the Druid Hills cluster would consist of 4,200 students? If so, then the current spending stated by DeKalb of $29.358M for these schools works out to $6,990. per student. So that makes it surprising to hear these administrators feign so much ‘concern’ for the Title 1 students in the cluster. They aren’t even spending the base state funding on ANY student in that cluster!

  30. If you are interested in looking back at inequitable funding, re-read this post from the old blog:

    Sunday, March 20, 2011
    Funding Inequity: how it works in DeKalb

    Or this more recent one —

    When adults focus on adults, the children suffer: A DSW editorial
    Posted on November 18, 2012

    Or the one about our bloated maintenance costs —

    The Cost of Maintenance

  31. Dr. Johnson is admonishing John Evans for being out of order and not following “Robert Rules”. Officers are now escorting Mr. Evans out of the room. Funnily enough, they haven’t officially restarted, as he just said they are waiting for the superintendent.

  32. Dekalbite2 says:

    If the BOE denies the Cluster Charter can’t they appeal to the state for approval? Was t that the purpose of the Charter Constitutional Amendment or does that only charter schools, not charter clusters?

  33. thedeal2 says:

    Beasley is spouting so many lies that it is difficult to keep up. There is no open school choice, they do not translate documents into 10 languages, and the parent involvement initiative is just another way to muddy the waters and funnel money to non-teachers and the Friends and Family network.

  34. Dekalbite2 says:

    Mr. Beasley was head of Teaching and Learning under Ms. Tyson. Student achievement rates DECLINED under Dr. Beasley as compared to all metro schools with similar demographics. Dr. Beasley has 2 1/2 years of classroom teaching experience in the mid 1990s. His credibility as someone who can move students forward academically is lacking.

  35. So now, Michael Thurmond is making a speech about his job as superintendent. DeKalb has long been an innovator with a long history supporting magnet, theme and other schools. We have come from a catastrophic fiscal meltdown. We are close to getting back accreditation. This board asked me to do what is in the best interest of 100,000 students. Not one, not five, not ten, not twenty not 20,000, but 100,000.

    To be quite honest with you I like parts of the charter proposal. I support improving academic performance for all student. The Druid Hills cluster is one of the highest performing (fetal?) clusters in Georgia. They are not failing. But there is a disproportionate number of economically disadvantaged students in that cluster who are not performing as they should. That is my priority. Maintain the success but more importantly lift those who are not.

    (??? Isn’t that the fault of DCSS?)

    At some point, we’re going to have to work together. I inspire a desire to improve… not just by word but by deed. I will work with you or whoever will work with us…

    It was a difficult day when I read in the AJC that there were people trying to form mobs with torches and pitchforks. If you don’t agree with what I believe we should get a mob… that’s not the DeKalb that I believe. It’s not about me, my neighborhood – it’s about all of us… hopefully I can stand with you. The 5,000 who attend school in the cluster are my children too.

    It is my recommendation that this cluster petition because of potential financial impact against the district be rejected. And it is my hope, it is my prayer that we will learn as a district, to sit down and work out whatever problems we have to improve life for all of our children wherever they may reside in this county.

    (This is all from a guy who sent his own child to private school due to his unhappiness with DeKalb schools.)

  36. Dr. Johnson asks for a motion to deny the petition. Moved by Morely. Second Dr Irwin.

    Colman asks the atty to clarify what happens if they vote to deny. If 5 members agree (vote yes) to deny then it’s denied. If it fails, there would need to be a second vote to approve. It’s not implicit.

    Thad asks if they can table the vote and vote later. Thurmond rambled on about getting along and being respectful and stop casting aspersions. (This goes on for about 2 minutes). Thad: So, your answer is that you would be open (to tabling the decision). Another full minute of rambling response. No one gets what they want. That’s just life. Am I answering the question? This petition that asserts to be a conversion but finances itself as a start up is not in the public interest.

    Orson: I’ve been quiet for an hour and a half. We are at a tipping point and have to decide if we embrace innovation. We rely on the past but we are operating in a very different world. The legislature determines the parameters in which we operate. We go back and forth as to whether we do what’s best for the district or for the public interest. What drives me is whether we are ready to acknowledge that we have successes and failures and the strategy of fixing it from the top down has not worked. We look at parent involvement at a driver of success. It gives teacher empowerment – not lip service (applause). Somebody has to be first because it’s a change that’s coming.

    He goes on to say how involved parents help out parents who are not so involved… and that’s very different from top down programs for parent involvement.

    [Much applause]

  37. Rejected 5-4.

    Rejected along racial lines for the most part.

    Those voting for the cluster were Thaddeus Mayfield, John Coleman, Marshall Orson and Jim McMahan.

    The rest voted it down.

  38. Ned says:

    While a lot of that ‘other’ spending is lawsuits that should have been settled, admin bloat, and other waste, I frankly expect some of it is also transfer of $ to other parts of the county. If ‘clusters’ were formed throughout the county and $ assigned per pupil per the state guidelines discussed tonight, there are perhaps some areas that would be getting less per pupil, not more.

  39. Kim says:

    Dunwoody Independent School District just got a very important boost at Druid Hills’ expense. Ft Sumter comes to mind …

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