City-Based Schools Will Improve ALL DeKalb Education

Here’s the deal about funding public education in DeKalb County – and why city-based independent school systems will improve all public school education opportunities, including education for students in unincorporated DeKalb County:

• There is more than enough money in DeKalb County [GA] School System’s billion dollar budget to successfully educate each and every public school student in DeKalb County. However, DeKalb County [GA] Schools chooses, instead, to spend many millions on:

(1) a bloated central office staffed with a large number of overpaid administrators who have done nothing to advance a quality education for all children;
(2) funding too many special programs, with special transportation and per pupil costs that are way out of line from the per pupil costs of traditional schools;
(3) highly overpaid “senior” administrators who were directly responsible for taking DCSS from best to worst in terms of student outcomes; and
(4) continuing to fund an ongoing jobs program for overpaid, under-talented Friends-and-Family.

• DeKalb County Schools receives the same amount of money from the State of Georgia for each K-12 public school student.  City-based schools won’t negatively impact that.

• Most South DeKalb schools are Title I, so they receive substantial federal funding in addition to receiving the  same amount of money, per pupil, from the State of Georgia.  City-based schools won’t negatively impact that.

• Based on the excellent financials put together by the Druid Hills Cluster when they were seeking to become a charter cluster (petition denied by DCSS), what DSW has said all along was confirmed: DCSS does not make the classrooms, students and teachers the first priority in funding.

• Smaller school systems (city-based as well as a school system serving unincorporated DeKalb County) will have to:

(1) be more transparent because the budget will be smaller with far fewer places to hide people and monies;
(2) spend their funding efficiently and effectively, focusing on teachers, classrooms and students – something DeKalb County School System has no interest in doing; and
(3) be more responsive to parents and taxpayers because there is no place to hide in a lean organization.

It’s quite obvious that DCSS has “balanced” its budget on the backs of teachers to the detriment of our students.  DeKalb County Schools refuses to make the adult and fiscally responsible decision to fully fund the classroom first — smaller classes; technology that works reliably; textbooks (or e-books) and other learning equipment and supplies for all; clean and safe learning environments in good repair; and well-compensated (including a tax-sheltered annuity* or TSA, as promised) excellent teachers.

Students are paying the price for DeKalb County Schools’ mismanagement.

That MUST stop, but DCSS decisions (i.e., continuing the Friends-and-Family jobs program, denying the Druid Hills Charter Cluster, paying exorbitant rents to New Birth Missionary Baptist Church for facility leases when vacant and acceptable school buildings exist,  singling out only our teachers* to lose TSA contributions, etc) have made it clear that they won’t change anything.

* (We really like our bus drivers who do continue to receive TSA contributions.  We bear them no ill will.  But without teachers there would be no students to drive to school.  Watch for an upcoming article about discrimination against our teachers by DCSS.)

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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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24 Responses to City-Based Schools Will Improve ALL DeKalb Education

  1. Denise E. McGill says:

    I do not dispute anything you are saying- but the bottom line is a choice is going to be made based on what the District thinks is the best , Noting the history of DCSD , what will make them do anything that would remotely be the people’s choice?

    I have attended these meetings, which are poorly represented by communities, and I know that there is so little effort being made to get the word out on the June 2015 deadline, that ultimately, the choice will be made based on District needs- not Community, Educators, student, or parental needs.

  2. Word Wall says:

    Another excellent and clear statement of the reality. Thanks for consistently presenting a sensible, logical opposing voice for interested readers. What’s going on with the OLD headquarters at Rock Springs? Has the board and staff just walked away from another multi-million dollar property ?
    The three HQ buildings look abandoned and poorly secured. Since they built the Xanadu Palace, did they just dump the old brick office buildings like trash? The palace’s $100K+ crowd has no sense of equity, conservancy or urgency! The resources are here, but are wasted …

  3. bettyandveronica1 says:

    City based is not the answer. I just found my area is looking at being annexed by clarkston, no thanks. They are planning a multi year gobble up of tax base in my area. I didn’t move here 20 years ago to be in clarkston or deal with clarkston issues, suddenly I am told this is a real possibility.

    What if the cities can’t run their school any better? What we are considering is moving from one bloated administration to several administrations. Each with their own problems, bloat, corruption and Opportunities for mismanagement. Then what?

  4. TracyW says:

    At least a new school system would not have 30 years of corruption embedded in it. We could have fresh crooks. /sarcasm

  5. howdy1942 says:

    @DSW – This is an excellent, excellent article – perhaps your very best ever! It is just a shame that the Dekalb County School Administration and School Board are so disconnected with the public and what our people want in our school system. I can’t figure out why they have so steadfastly refused to listen. For years, both the school board and the administration have remained arrogant to the extent that they have shown profound disrespect for the people who have tried to talk to them at school board meetings and town hall forums. They have even refused to respond to emails, letters, and questions that they promised to answer. That, sadly, has not changed with the current school board and the administration.

    Years ago before Dunwoody became a city, I spoke before the Dekalb County Commission at one of its regular Tuesday meetings and pleaded with it to get involved with the school system and to get more closely involved with the North Dekalb community to ameliorate the strife that threatened to tear the County apart to the detriment of all, especially those in South Dekalb. It refused. Now that is happening and even darker clouds are on the horizon for Dekalb County. It has lost large portions of its tax revenues to Dunwoody and Brookhaven and now is likely to lose even more with the increasing likelihood of a City of Lakeside. And that talk of a 25% property tax hike is before any such City of Lakeside. How long will it take for the County to realize that its course is doomed?

    Now the school system. I’ve long said that you cannot force people to do anything that they do not want to do – for long! Yet that is exactly what this school board and administration have been doing for years and it continues to do even now. The reality is that we have a 2/3 Republican majority in both the House and Senate and a Republican Governor and an electorate that has elected two Republican Senators to Congress and threatens to remove every House Representative except for John Lewis and Hank Johnson. It is increasingly likely that we will amend the Georgia Constitution to allow the creation of new school systems. There is simply no good reason why Decatur can have its own school system and Dunwoody cannot except for a mere difference in the date each was formed. And when you get to the heart of all these cityhood efforts, it is the Dekalb County School System that is the driving factor. Take Dunwoody, Brookhaven, and Lakeside out of the Dekalb school tax base and you have a disaster – a big disaster. Unfortunately, I am on the small end of income inequality, but I do have sense enough to recognize that those schools in South Dekalb are able to do a lot of what they are able to do because of those taxes that come out of Dunwoody, Brookhaven, and Lakeside (By the way, I don’t live in any of those). And it is just so absolutely foolish for those on the school board who say they are so interested in the kids to continue to arrogantly pursue policies that are such a threat to the very interests of their kids. In protecting the “friends and family”, they are bringing about the demise of educational opportunity for their kids. That is the very definition of being “a penny wise and a pound foolish”.

    Finally, I think that the Dekalb County Legislative Delegation is hopelessly split between North Dekalb and South Dekalb. I think that the result is Republicans such as Fran Millar, Tom Taylor, Mike Jacobs have just decided to force their agenda through. Even Kevin Levitas has now allied with them and his father, Elliott Levitas, a Democrat, was once our 4th District Congressman. That’s ironic, isn’t it? I am now hopeful that we can back away from the emotional frenzy of this Legislative session and delay any new votes on cityhood. The People of Dekalb County have a very, very important school board election coming up in may and I hope that we can find some reasonable, sensible people who can put politics aside and do what is right for all of Dekalb County, who will reach out and listen to the People and be guided accordingly, and who will conduct an above board, honest, ethical, and thorough search for a new superintendent and make that hire based on qualifications alone with no racial or gender bias. Interim CEO Lee May needs to deliver, and deliver fast, on getting rid of the CEO form of County government. Maybe, just maybe, it is not too late for Dekalb County.

  6. Beverly Fraud says:

    I’m not sure why you have to take potshots at Bishop Eddie Sandusky, given all he has done for children. It seems beneath the blog.

    Correction: That should have read Bishop Eddie Long. Not sure where the Sandusky reference came from.

    Apologies to all.

  7. @Beverly: Surely you are saying that tongue in cheek…

    For our readers unaware of who these men are >>

    Ovbiously easily confused with Jerry Sandusky…

    PS>> Here is a link to the $10,000+ monthly lease for using part of New Birth for the Leadership Prep Academy (a DCSS charter headed by a DCSS administrator who retired amid a grade-changing scandal, and signed by our current board chair, also a New Birth leader.)

    Lease with New Birth authored by Melvin Johnson

    Along with two articles highlighting several interesting ‘connections’ >>

    It’s a small DeKalb after all!

    Oh the connections, they are more tangled than ever

  8. Could city-based school systems do worse than what is now being foisted on students, teachers and taxpayers? The answer is a resounding, “NO!”

    City-based school systems will be far smaller than the unmanageable, corrupt behemoth that is DeKalb County Schools. Size, alone, will enable transparency and responsiveness.

    City-based school systems will be attractive to the best teachers because they will be under Social Security, thus not subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). DeKalb County Schools’ teachers are subject to WEP when they retire, regardless of how many years they may have previously paid into Social Security elsewhere. By retiring from DeKalb County Schools, teachers who may be eligible for Social Security (on their own previous work record or a spouse’s work record) will see their Social Security benefit cut by 1/3 or more. The Tax Sheltered Annuity (TSA) was created to replace (and perhaps exceed) Social Security, offering a more secure retirement. TSA contributions for teachers were arbitrarily removed by the board to “balance the budget.” Once, again, budget balanced on the backs of teachers. We know that bus drivers still receive TSA contributions from DeKalb County Schools. We have heard from several sources, but have been unable to positively confirm, that highly paid senior administrators in the central office still receive TSA contributions, as well. Meanwhile, DeKalb County Schools continues to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight a teacher lawsuit to reinstate and pay back TSA contributions. And many DCSS teachers will retire into poverty.

    BTW — what does your being annexed into Clarkston have to do with anything? Clarkston doesn’t have its own school system, nor is it eligible to create an independent school system based on the proposed law. If this law passes it doesn’t mean that every city has to have its own school system. It’s a lot of work by committed individuals to create an independent city-based school system.

  9. My Kids Mom says:

    I’ve got to point out that we have a bloated admin in the county, but if we have multiple systems, each one is going to need a full battery of administrators, adding up to about what we have now. The systems won’t run themselves.

  10. mglieber says:

    My Kid’s Mom assumes that every school district will mirror the bloat, incompetence and general administrative model of DeKalb. That’s the point, to have say over our own communities and the education of our children, and to fix the failing model we have with the constant corruption and arrogance of those who see DeKalb education as their personal playgrounds. There’s a chance to teach our children, but share administrative duties.

    It’s time to take away their opportunity to misuse others’ money while pretending they care about anyone but themselves and their immediate constituents. We should never ever have to hear someone claiming as a Board Member they answer only to G’d while destroying accreditation. The rest of us all suffer – especially our children.

  11. Stan Jester says:

    If bigger were better, we would all be advocating for consolidating every Georgia school district into one big school district.

    The problem, among others, is there are no economies of scale with large public school districts. A 2013 study by Georgia College’s Ben Scafidi, Ph.D., showed how the growth in administrators has far outpaced the growth of students. In Georgia, from 1992-2009, we saw a 41% increase in students but a 74% increase in administrators. Smaller school districts spend more money per student in the class room and less money per student on administrators than larger school districts.

  12. bettyandveronica1 says:

    It has everything to do with it in my view. Wasn’t it brought out on this blog that the main consideration for creating the city of lakeside/dunwoody was controlling their schools and school $$? Didn’t this post state that small city control would be better? Why wouldn’t clarkston be as eligible to create their own school system just as any other newly formed city to then wrestle the funds away from DCSS? What’s to stop them from forming the independent school district?
    First comes the land grab, second is imposition of new property taxes and third is the control of all possible forms of revenue,county, state and federal dollars.
    Ultimately, it’s all about power and control. Doesn’t necessarily mean those local folks will do a better job, they are just closer to.the folks they serve and thank goodness for the watchful few who observe the goings on. Ideally you would be correct but when there is a major issue, it always comes down to moral failings, greed, corruption and questionable ethics.

  13. concerned citizen says:

    Beverly – I can’t believe you wrote what you did about New Birth and Eddie ______(you really caused me to have a good laugh! Also, is it possible that you don’t understand what Melvin Johnson did? DSW2, excellent job of putting everything in perspective, once again. I didn’t see a word in your article about “Eddie Long.” Beverly, get a grip.

  14. Clarkston [GA] was incorporated in 1882. Therefore, Clarkston does not meet the requirements of the bill to establish an independent city-based school system. Also, the bill does not require cities that qualify to establish a city-based school system. It just makes the option available. But, nevertheless, Clarkston does not qualify. You might want to re-read the bill for all the particulars.

    Click to access 132283.pdf

    22 (No) independent school system shall hereafter be established; provided, however, that any
    23 municipality created on or after January 1, 2005, and any municipality which is contiguous
    24 to a municipality created on or after January 1, 2005, irrespective of whether such
    25 municipalities may be in different counties, may establish individually or collectively by
    26 local law an independent school system.”

  15. SURVEYS >>>

    School Climate Survey Deadline Extended

    In 2011, Georgia was the first state in the nation to include school climate as an early indicator in its accountability system, the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). The School Climate Star Rating will be officially reported in the CCRPI and will be used as a diagnostic tool within the CCRPI to determine if a school is on the right path to school improvement.

    The Georgia Parent Survey will remain open through next Friday, February 28, 2014. CLICK HERE for the link to the Georgia Parent Survey. After you click on the link, a drop-down menu will appear. Use the drop-down menu to select DeKalb County and your school.


    DCSD Gifted Program Survey

    The DeKalb County School District wants your feedback regarding the district’s Gifted Program. This survey will be available online to all parents through March 10, 2014. To access the survey, CLICK HERE.


    DCSD and Flexibility Options

    During the past several weeks, the DeKalb County School District held several community engagement meetings to share the Georgia Flexibility Options, answer questions and receive feedback about the options. All Georgia school systems will be required to select one of the options in the coming months.

    The communities overwhelmingly requested the school district provide more information about “why” districts are being required to choose an option and “what” options are available to our district. Please follow the link provided below for more information about the committee, the process, the options and the timeline. After reviewing, please share your feedback by clicking on the “Submit Feedback” option from the web page.

  17. Gregory Walker says:

    Without knowing the full history – why just after 2005? Why not any city that’s incorporated? I think that’s the main source of opposition to it – why punish older cities who want to create their own school districts?

  18. @Gregory: We don’t really know why the bill is worded that way. We agree that it should open the access to any city – old or new. If communities have the desire and the momentum to take over their own schools, they should be afforded the opportunity (with state supervision ensuring good results akin to charters.)

    FWIW: It was the school board’s denial of the Druid Hills Charter as well as the inequity in spending that the charter proposal revealed that has breathed big energy into this bill.

  19. Stan Jester says:

    Mr. Walker,
    Rep. Tom Taylor gave us some great background and context around HR 486 at the 11/06/2013 DCPC meeting. Tom Taylor said,
    The state currently limits the number of school districts to 180. In 1945, when they wrote the current constitution, they wrote in there shall be no new school systems. Prior to that, the constitution from 1877 to 1945, any municipal or subdivision of state could establish their own school system at will. The counties did not want competition from the smaller municipalities. In the context of that, we had small county populations. I don’t think they anticipated the size of our current school districts. In 1945, DeKalb had about 10,000 students. Dunwoody, right now, has about 8,000 students.

    SACS putting the county on probation drove me to drop this bill. When the Governor removed the school board, and I don’t include Nancy as one of the board members that needed to be removed, it was just by law. When the Governor removed the school board, in the DeKalb Delegation, out of 23 members only 6 of us stood with the Governor. That means everybody else was satisfied with the status quo which was unacceptable. The new school board will be elected next May. I’m confident you’ll see a lot of the old board back.

    The largest employers outside of the metro area is schools and hospitals. Outside the metro area, there will be a lot of resistance.

  20. @ Gregory Walker: Which older city are you talking about that wants to create its own school district? If you are truly curious about why the bill was written as it was, why not contact the authors of the original resolution, HR 486? They are: Tom Taylor, Mike Jacobs, Lynne Riley, Joe Wilkinson, Mike Dudgeon and Buzz Brockway. You will find their contact information here. Please share the answer(s) you receive after communicating with one or more of the representatives listed above.

  21. Gregory Walker says:

    dsw – I don’t have any knowledge of a city older than 2005 trying either way (frankly, if it’s closed, why would they make the effort publicly)? I don’t think there’s any real disagreement with who/why the push is being done now and being led by members of the DeKalb House delegation. And, while the capped number of total school districts makes some sense, the whole of the bill (for anyone outside Fulton and DeKalb) smacks more of a target to fix their particular problems, rather than being something that has a broader benefit across the state. Again, don’t read that as my position or take – it’s something, though, that the bill’s sponsors have had to battle (somewhat) throughout the process. So, it leads to wondering why that particular window – if it were more broadly open (to any city since 1945, when the rule was changed), it may get more support in a statewide referendum but may open up too many issues relative to the total number of school districts overall. Maybe.

  22. @ Gregory Walker: Why speculate? You have brought up the topic. Clearly you have one or more concerns. Please contact one or more of the authors of the resolution and get answers to your concerns so you can share the answers with our readers.

    You also say that the capped numbers of school districts makes some sense. In what way does capping the number of school districts at the 1945 number make sense?

    In 1945, Georgia had a population of 3.1 million. By 2012, Georgia’s population had more than tripled to 9.9 million. (These are U.S. Census intercensal estimates.)

    Doesn’t it stand to reason that some county public school systems would have grown too large between 1945 and 2012 to manage efficiently and effectively educate tens of thousands of students? Cities created subsequent to 1945 could and should have the opportunity to set up and run their own independent city-based public school systems. Allowing this would take the pressure off counties — especially those in rapidly growing metropolitan areas — and enable Georgia to use successful best practices in education that have been proven in other states with smaller city-based school systems. Ultimately, the goal is for Georgia’s students to obtain the best education possible.

  23. howdy1942 says:

    I don’t think that Rep. Tom Taylor’s bill as it is now structured would withstand a court challenge and I would expect it to be be challenged. As it stands now, it allows some cities formed just since 2005 to form independent school districts while denying those formed prior to that time the same option. That is clearly discriminatory and denies those latter cities the same right based solely on the date they were incorporated. The Federal Constitution clearly affords every citizen in the United States the same opportunity and unless this bill is changed to allow ALL incorporated cities in Georgia and all citizens living in those cities to have the same rights, then it does not meet the clear guidelines and intent of the United States Constitution. The Georgia Legislature needs to simply vote to repeal in its entirety the current Georgia Amendment. That remove any discrimination. That would solve the problem, allow the cities of Dunwoody and Brookhaven to form their own school systems, and extend that right to every incorporated in Georgia.

  24. Stan Jester says:

    Like Tom Taylor said, “The counties did not want competition from the smaller municipalities.” – Given the opposition by Superintendents and school boards to Amendment 1 and the Druid Hills Charter Cluster, not much has changed since 1945. The school district is the largest employer in most counties, so the Superintendents wield a lot of power across the state. The bill, as written, doesn’t threaten those Superintendents.

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