The Dekalb War between the cities and the county has officially begun

THE CHALLENGE >>

After years of unrest, corruption and disappointment, and with momentum gaining for cityhood efforts across the county, it was DeKalb schools superintendent Michael Thurmond who first threw down the official gauntlet – in the form of a Powerpoint at the December 8 board meeting. Created by the Superintendent’s Office, Division of Finance, Division of Operations, Division of Curriculum & Instruction, and Division of School Leadership & Operational Support — the report proclaims the annexation of Druid Hills into the City of Atlanta would cause serious harm to nearly 3,000 children as well as elderly residents.

They then released the following press release >>

DEKALB COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT RELEASES IMPACT ASSESSMENT OF PROPOSED ANNEXATION OF DRUID HILLS

Study finds 2,922 students will be disenfranchised and displaced, taxes on senior citizens will increase significantly and Fernbank Science Center will be lost to all DeKalb students

Today, Superintendent Michael Thurmond issued a report on the impacts of the proposed annexation of the Druid Hills neighborhood into the City of Atlanta. The proposed Druid Hills annexation plan is supported by “Together in Atlanta,” a local group of residents advocating for annexation.

The proposed Druid Hills annexation plan would result in significantly higher taxes, disenfranchisement and displacement of 2,922 students, and districtwide loss of instructional opportunities, athletic programs, instructional staff, and funding potential.

“Innocent students will suffer under this proposed annexation plan,” said Mr. Thurmond. “With this proposal, the focus and priority for public education will be on the wants of adults and not the needs of children.”

Highlights of the annexation’s impact on the DCSD include:

  • Property taxes for senior citizens over the age of 70 years with incomes of less than $82,000 will see their property taxes increased by $4,000, or more than 200 percent.
  • All other property tax payers will experience increases in taxes by the City of Atlanta.
  • A total of 2,922 students in the District will be disenfranchised and displaced by the annexation with the largest impact being 1,075 students at Druid Hills High School.
  • Similar impacts will be seen at Druid Hills Middle School, Fernbank Elementary School, Briar Vista Elementary School, Laurel Heights School, and the International Center.
  • 1,626 students and parents in 37 schools will no longer have access to DeKalb school choice options.
  • 100,000 students will no longer have access to the Fernbank Science Center resulting in the loss of a STEM Training Center. (DeKalb County has four of the 11 statewide STEM certified schools with 48 schools working on certification.)
  • The old Briarcliff High School, a long-term fixed asset for the DCSD with a potential value of $50 million, could be forced from the District.
  • One of five District stadiums that serve 18 high schools and 18 middle schools will be lost resulting in a possible loss or reduction of junior varsity soccer and lacrosse.

A complete copy of the impact report may be found at: www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/ or CLICK HERE to download it from our files.

+++

THE RESPONSE >>

After attempting to schedule a face to face meeting with Michael Thurmond and their request being denied, the group Together In Atlanta [TIA] released a response to the statements made by Thurmond.

The TIA letter, in an attempt to correct misinformation, states the following key responses in part >>

  • [T]he presentation took liberty with senior exemptions, comparing Atlanta and DeKalb without acknowledging DeKalb does not apply senior exemptions until age 70, while Atlanta applies exemptions at age 65, amounting to five additional years of payment before receiving any senior exemption.
  • APS has a millage of 21.74 while DeKalb charges 23.98 mills. For most homeowners, Atlanta is a less expensive provider of education services than DeKalb.
  • The Superintendent brings the impact of HOST into the discussion perhaps to skirt the comparison of direct educational costs. HOST has never and will never be applied to school taxes. For countywide services the HOST discount will continue for any areas annexed into Atlanta. In fact, the likelihood that HOST will remain as it is currently configured is doubtful.
  • That the DeKalb Superintendent chose to delve into areas of fire, police, garbage, water and sewer, which are outside the purview, authority, and expertise of the school system is unfortunate, particularly in light of the many pressing and germane issues facing the DeKalb school system.  CLICK HERE to read more about the tax implications of the annexation.
  • We believe those with an interest in preserving their elementary school attendance zones should get an opportunity to vote on that interest. We are excited about the success of Atlanta, its trajectory going forward, and its responsiveness in this process.
  • The attendance zones for Fernbank and Briar Vista elementary schools, the core of communities, was bisected and affected by many [city] legislative proposals. The result would break communities with decades of cohesion. Together In Atlanta sought a plan that would maintain the community, while not affecting the rights of self-determination or cohesion of other elementary school zones. The result is a map that follows exactly the longstanding DCSD zone boundaries for Fernbank and Briar Vista elementary schools.
  • When the LaVista Hills map was recently published, TIA reached out proactively to its organizers to resolve conflicts – including suggesting that the Adams Stadium/former Briarcliff High School/International Center complex be included in the LaVista Hills map, not the Atlanta map. This resolution would preserve those facilities for DCSD students. No families live on that property and therefore the integrity of the Briar Vista community would not be harmed by this resolution maintaining TIA’s principle for keeping the elementary schools together.
  • LaVista Hills gains strength and viability with commercial and educational assets. We expect to have similar conversations with Decatur representatives. We believe there are solutions that meet each party’s needs around the edges of all our maps. Had the Superintendent contacted TIA or others involved in these discussions, he would have been aware that TIA’s has clearly and specifically proposed to exclude the Adams Stadium/former Briarcliff High School/International Center complex.

CLICK HERE to read the entire response from Together In Atlanta.

>>> Stay tuned, it looks like we may be in for a rough [and expensive] ride.  So much for Thurmond being able to keep the legal costs down!

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"
This entry was posted in Board of Education Meetings, Charter School, Charter School Amendment, DeKalb County [GA] Board of Education, Education in the South, Fernbank Science Center, Friends-and-Family, GA Legislature / Laws / O.C.G.A., Georgia Independent Schools, Michael Thurmond and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

90 Responses to The Dekalb War between the cities and the county has officially begun

  1. dsw2contributor says:

    Kim asked “What kind of humility would it take to climb back out of the tree and actually concede more autonomy to the DHHS cluster advocates to placate them?”

    Annexation is really about getting Emory & the CDC out of Dekalb County; being in the City of Atlanta would have tremendous benefits for both institutions.

  2. thedeal2 says:

    Have there been any statements from CDC and Emory on this annexation plan?

  3. FormerDekalbParent says:

    Really, it’s perfect if you hink about it, Lakeside Hills (or whatever it is today ) and Tucker vying for cityhood and stating schools as one of the reasons, the TIA gets to take a great for DCSS school cluster and BOOM—city of Atlanta Schools gets another gem for their crown. Lakeside and Tucker and all the other cities are STUCK because no new systems can be made–perfect if you live in Druid Hills that is….new city, news school system, and you can rest easy at night ths all is well,or atleast better than DCSS.

  4. September says:

    If the Druid Hills HS building goes, the remaining schools and students could move to the old Avondale building. It seems to me that the DeKalb School of the Arts only uses a part of that space. We spent good money on renovating and updating the building only to close it.

  5. DavidS says:

    One thing that I haven’t seen discussed here is that, regardless of whether the Druid Hills folks jump ship to the city of Atlanta, the Druid Hill HS, Briar Vista ES, and Fernbank ES properties still belong to DCSS. APS would have to buy them if they wanted to utilize them. Am I missing something here? Wouldn’t this provide some funds for renovating or expanding remaining DCSS facilities, as needed, such as Briarcliff HS and the original Kittredge ES?

  6. dsw2contributor says:

    I now interrupt this thread with a shout-out to Indian Creek Elementary School:

    WAY TO GO INDIAN CREEK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL!!!!!! GREAT JOB!!!!!! YOU GUYS ROCK!!!!!!

    I now return everyone to our on-going discussion of the Dekalb City/County War.

  7. Weary Worker says:

    I concur with DavidS, to the best of my knowledge this has never happened in modern times in this state. The only comparable example is what happens with county fire and parks facilities when a city is incorporated. What ever happens, in the end the lawyers involved will be the big winners. But on another point isn’t this a political issue, much like an election. Shouldn’t the school system be prohibited from taking sides or spending tax funds opposing citizens legal actions. How much as been spent so far?

  8. Weary Worker says:

    Someone should investigate if Thurmond taking a stand on this matter and spending tax funds to fight this is an ethics violation. It is stated ethics policy that Georgia public school facilities and resources can not be used to support a political candidate. I presume that this applies to any other political measure such as buying advertising to support a tax vote or fighting this annexation action.

  9. @dswcontributor @ 11:01 AM: We wondered the same thing. This move of all of Druid Hills – especially if it really does include Emory and the CDC, would be a big coup for Atlanta. In fact, most people (nationally) probably assume these institutions already reside in the city. This could very well be much more about the City of Atlanta laying claim to the CDC than anything about Druid Hills’ historic homes or our schools, such as they are.

    Bottom line: If this happens, it will have happened under Michael Thurmond’s watch. It will have happened because he refused to obey the law and work with a community that was legally trying to take more control of their schools. It will have happened because the leadership of DeKalb schools and Michael Thurmond refused to compromise on any issue at any time and insisted on running every school in DeKalb the same way — their way. It will have happened because Michael Thurmond was much, much more concerned with hoarding funding at the top and protecting administrative level jobs – for adults – while allowing the schools, teacher retention and morale and student achievement to decline. This will be on Michael Thurmond and his ‘choice’ of leadership team as well as their Governor-appointed, rubber-stamp-happy board of education.

  10. howdy1942 says:

    From my perspective, Mr. Thurmond has been very combative from the very beginning of his tenure. The first thing he did was to argue before the State Board of Education not to recommend to Governor Deal that it be removed. He lost that one. He bitterly fought Druid Hills, even ridiculing their efforts to establish a charter program. He then attempted to ram his “charter” school system down the throats of Dekalb residents only to see a big, big push-back on the part of North Dekalb. He now wants $2.5 million to pay lawyers to stop Druid Hills from being annexed by the City of Atlanta.

    When he took office, his first priority should have been to unite Dekalb County. He really owed that to whoever his successor will be – give that person a solid foundation to build upon. That should have been his legacy. He has done the opposite. That $2.5 million request to spend yet more dollars on lawyers was the last straw – Michael Thurmond needs to go before he does some real damage. We need to find a cooler head that knows how to talk to people and find solutions to real problems. Michael Thurmond has proved during the past 22 months that he is not that person. And this school board needs to recognize that reality.

    The Dekalb County School Board needs to wake up and understand that it is on the wrong path. Druid Hills wants out of the Dekalb County School System as does Dunwoody as does Brookhaven as does Tucker as does Lavista Hills. The DCSS would be wise to heed the advice of current board member Mr. Thad Mayfield for the school board to take charge of this matter.

    This school board has not found a serious taker to be a search firm. It has made little progress in finding a new superintendent. Maybe that is, in fact, part of the design to appoint someone from within. I hope not. But one thing is very clear – Mr. Thurmond needs to go and the sooner the better.

    Mr. Thurmond is a lawyer that wants the school board to spend $2.5 million of our reserves on lawyers. No, No, No!!

  11. thedeal2 says:

    Perfectly said, howdy and DeKalb School Watch!

  12. DecaturMax says:

    Mr Thurmond has found another group of lawyers to fight. They are not backing down over legal costs. Unfortunately, the 2.5 M comes out of the classroom(this year or another). Not really a concern for him. His legal threats and skewed “reports” will get the community behind them.

    It can’t be lost on everyone that Marshall Orson took responsibility for bringing Michael Thurmond to us. How popular is he now? or is there an assumption in the community that he did what he needed to do to maintain the status quo that brought him a new a school building ahead of other schools in desperate need of additions.

  13. dsw2contributor says:

    Emory and the CDC: A few months ago, I read a comment here (or on the AJC) in which the poster said that being in Dekalb County is really hurting the recruitment efforts of Emory and the CDC.

    Emory and CDC are recruiting MDs, PhDs and post-docs. (These recruits are real medical doctors and the holders of real doctorate degrees; they are NOT frauds that call themselves “doctor” after having purchased an EdD.) Being government and educational institutions, Emory & CDC cannot pay those highly-educated professionals what they could earn working in the private sector. Most of these recruits have at least some student loan debt from the years they spent earning their multiple degrees. They demand high quality schools for their own children, but are not able to afford private school.

    CDC competes against the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. Bethesda is in the heart of Montgomery County, Maryland, which has one of the best public school districts in the entire country. Recruiters for the NIH tell potential hires that they won’t have to pay private school tuition for your children if you come work for us. Emory faces similar issues from the schools it competes against.

    Now I don’t really know how good things are in APS, but APS at least appears to be on the way up. It has a new, permanent Superintendent who is making real changes; DCSS has a figurehead (politician) fighting to keep things the same.

    Atlanta prosecuted EVERYONE, from teachers on up to the Superintendent, for merely changing test answer sheets. In Dekalb, the DA actually protected the Superintendent from prosecution. Does anyone think that the professional educators who run Emory didn’t notice that disparity?

    The $147 million North Atlanta High was the subject of a front page story in The NY Times. DCSS has no equivalent project. If $147 million seems unreal, realize that $147 million is only 57 lawsuits costing $2.5 million each…. how many of those $2.5 million lawsuits has DCSS funded in the last decade?

    Being a major employer and major economic engine for the region, Emory has Governor Deal’s attention –they call, he listens. CDC is controlled by President Obama.

    It seems to me that both Obama and Deal owe Kasim Reed big time — Reed’s declining to support Nathan Carter, supporting Deal on statewide issues (like the Savannah harbor) and bailing Deal out during last winter’s storms all tremendously helped Deal’s reelection. Obama also owes Reed — I’ve lost track of how many times Reed has flown to DC to defend the Obama administration on “Meet the Press” and the other Sunday morning talk shows.

  14. So, yes, the war is on! They certainly must have already had a plan completely hatched before all of this public display of ‘hey, I have an idea!’… Really folks, what can we expect? Our superintendent IS a lawyer! So is Marshall Orson, who thought it would be a great idea to hire a lawyer as superintendent! What do lawyers do? They file lawsuits!!!

    The school board chair just sent out a notification for a special called meeting at 5:00pm, Wednesday, December 17, 2014, in the J. David Williamson Board Room, in the Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex.

    The special guest added to the announcement email list is a DCSS contracted lawyer named Nina Gupta from Nelson Mullins, our law firm on retainer.

    Click here for her bio >>

    Neeru “Nina” Gupta— Partner nina.gupta@nelsonmullins.com T: 404.322.6109 F: 404.322.6050 Atlantic Station 201 17th Street NW, Suite 1700 Atlanta, GA 30363

    In Part >>>

    Nina Gupta is a partner in the Atlanta office of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP. She focuses her practice on education law. Ms. Gupta focuses in the field of Special Education and routinely counsels her school district clients in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and related statutes.

    In addition, Ms. Gupta handles a variety of other education issues such as charter school review, as well as a range of employment issues, including Fair Dismissal Act disputes and discrimination claims. Ms. Gupta also assists her clients in handling day-to-day student issues, as well as advising regarding the development of appropriate policies and procedures.

    +++

    After that, they will adjourn to the Committee of the Whole with the following agenda >>

    ADJOURN TO COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE

    1. Opening Remarks & Introductions
      Presented by: Dr. Melvin Johnson, Chair

    2. PROACT Search Presentation
      Presented by: Mr. Gary Solomon, PROACT, CEO

    3. Questions & Answers ~ Board of Education

  15. dsw2contributor says:

    Annexation is inevitable.

    Don’t fight it. Instead, Dekalb citizens should use this opportunity to remove the cap on the number of school districts allowed in Georgia.

    Tell the deal-makers (Deal, the legislature & Reed) that Dekalb citizens will support annexation if they remove the cap on the number of school districts.

  16. Ned says:

    “Annexation is really about getting Emory & the CDC out of Dekalb County; being in the City of Atlanta would have tremendous benefits for both institutions.”
    “I read a comment here (or on the AJC) in which the poster said that being in Dekalb County is really hurting the recruitment efforts of Emory and the CDC.”
    Don’t know about Emory, but moving PART of CDC to City of Atlanta jurisdiction would have,if anything, a slight negative effct. CDC has an established relationship with Dekalb County, and would need to forge a new one with the City. Moreover, CDC is not just the Clifton Road campus–the agency has a major presence in Chamblee and in rented space in multiple DeKalb locations, so CDC would hardly be “out of DeKalb.”

    As for recruitment, being in GA vs NIH being in metro DC may hurt, but not there are plenty of places for CDC staff to live outside DeKalb.

  17. FWIW, Cheryl Atkinson was a Broad scholar. She also brought two very large contracts from her most recent school districts (Loraine, Ohio and DeKalb, GA) to the company, Success For All – where she is now employed.

  18. Morcease Beaseley was very upset in his diatribe that ‘20,000 students’ (20%) participate in the school choice program in DeKalb and this annexation would effect 3,000 of them. We are not so sure that 20,000 students participate in school choice – at least as far as we have been able to get formal documentation on – unless – there are thousands of students on a transfer due to a simple permission letter from the superintendent – and not formally recorded. We have only been able to garner data showing around 3,200 from south DeKalb attend outside their zone on a transfer. Central and north DeKalb combined may have another 2-3,000. So our total number of transfer students is much closer to 6,000 or fewer. And these students mostly attend theme or magnet schools – like Bouie, Kittredge, Arabia, etc – which are designed to attract students from around the county – and which in fact, do not even have an attendance zone.

    Read these old posts highlighting the data accumulated by the Citizen Task Force >>

    North vs Central vs South – what’s the deal?

    The numbers tell the story

    Which is the truth? DSW’s data or Morcease Beaseley’s unsupported statement? We would love to see the data he must have showing 20,000 students – however, the school district stopped responding to our requests for information a very long time ago. They simply do not share information. We suspect that is because the data does not support their public statements. They are PR machines – not thoughtful data crunchers.

  19. ps — Bloggers long ago wrote up what we would like to see in our school district — our own 2020 Vision. We won’t ever rewrite it or rehash it. It’s three years old and we just keep reposting it – over and over and over again, and sharing it with board members, while being fully ignored.

    “Without a vision, the people perish…”

  20. howdy1942 says:

    @DSW – I also thought that Morcease Beasley’s comments were particularly hostile – they really turned me off to him. Mr. Thurmond was also hostile and Mr. Melvin Johnson just egged him on when he brought up “how much money will you need to fight Druid Hills”.

    The previous blogger that cited the progress that has been made by the Atlanta Public School System was very accurate. The had a very serious problem and they worked together to solve it. The school system did not attempt to defend those who cheated and allow the courts to take their course. Dr. Errol B. Davis, Jr., brought harmony and direction to this battered school system. He created an atmosphere that allowed APS to recruit three search firms and the one selected brought a qualified permanent superintendent to lead this system on a upward trajectory. Had this been Thurmond, I think that he would have asked the school board for funds to fight the allegations just as he is doing now to fight Druid Hills. Mr. Thurmond is a lawyer and his nature is to fight any disagreements in court. That is not what Dekalb needs.

    Mr. Thurmond and Dr. Melvin Johnson both need to understand that there is a significant swath of Dekalb that do not support the fight that they have picked with Druid Hills. I am among that group. I want Druid Hills to remain a part of Dekalb County, but I want them to want to be a part of Dekalb County. Even if Mr. Thurmond were to win in court to force Druid Hills to remain a part of Dekalb, he would forever create bitter relations with that community. Is that really a win?

    Perhaps I missed it, but this whole fight is about schools. Yet if Druid Hills were to be annexed, all of Dekalb would lose that tax base. Our police, our firefighters, our sanitation workers, and other Dekalb services would lose substantial tax revenues and the savings in services provided would be dwarfed by the loss in tax revenues. Accordingly, our County Commission, Mr. May and others need to “tone down” Mr. Thurmond and the Dekalb County School System.

    I would love to see incoming School Board member Stan Jester elected Chairman of the School Board. The chances of that happening are probably slim and none. But Dr. Melvin Johnson does seem to be bumbling his way through the proceedings and does not seem to be a take charge kind of guy that would stand up to Mr. Thurmond. Mr. Thurmond really needs to leave and there is no time better than the present. Pay out his contract through next June, but let’s find someone to serve as interim who is a problem solver and a consensus builder, someone who is not wrapped up in himself or herself, but willing to reach out to the community and build support. It is very clear that Dekalb County is not on a path to find a good permanent superintendent by next June. Based on what I have read about the one search firm that is interested (Proact), I think that we should bypass that one.

    Dekalb needs to build a better base before it recruits a permanent superintendent. Dekalb is very divided and that needs to be fixed before we do that. As was done by Eugene Walker and Ramona Tyson, Mr. Thurmond has continued their approaches to dividing our County and that cannot begin to be fixed until he leaves and this school board re-evaluates divisive approach.

  21. Weary Worker says:

    The annexation plan may not be as simple as it appears, both for residents who may become part of the city of Atlanta and for DeKalb Schools. Looking at other annexations in the US I found some interesting facts regarding the expansion of Columbus Ohio into Westerville City which has it’s own school system. Some info can be found here http://www.westerville.k12.oh.us/docs/WinWin%20QandA.pdf

    With this in mind I would wager if the Atlanta/Druid Hills annexation happens the situation with the schools would take over five more years to be worked out and APS would have to pay for the facilities. I don’t think anyone currently attending Druid Hills HS has to worry that they will not be able to graduate from Druid Hills.

    I’m posting this since I feel so many of the posters here have made some unfounded assumptions about annexation. There also seems to be considerable misunderstanding about politics, geography and the role of local governments. Most notably that the annexation will not remove the the areas from DeKalb but will only change who provides certain services to those areas and who taxes them.

  22. Good points Weary. We do need to point out to people that we already have one area of DeKalb that is ‘Atlanta in DeKalb’ — perhaps this is why the DeKalb Commission is not as up in arms as the school district over this. The annexed area will not change counties, it will just change municipalities. They will still pay property taxes to DeKalb county for services. And yes, it could take a while to work this out, but we suspect it could be less than 5 years – depending on the legislature’s decision and whether or not Thurmond and the school board decide to hold things up in court.

    One has to wonder about the hold the school system has over this group. We suspect it is simply due to property tax collection (money, not children) – and the fact (as was shown in the charter petition) that the school system does not return nearly as much money to this cluster of schools as it collects. In fact, the board is transferring somewhere in the range of $11 million out of these Druid Hills schools to other areas (central office perhaps? specialty boutique schools that are much more expensive to operate?) We can’t know, because the school board is very opaque when it comes to per pupil funding.

  23. We predict this $2.5 million they are seeking to commit to this fight, is just the beginning. Remember, the Heery case began with a $1 million lawsuit – and ended up costing taxpayers over $36 million (big deposits for King & Spalding!) Then Thurmond got all kinds of good press for ending that suit and settling for around $7 million. Ridiculous. Distracting. And NOTHING to do with education. It was about SPLOST construction money and multi-million dollar contracts – and we have never learned why it couldn’t be paid with SPLOST (penny sales tax) money – instead of from the general fund (students & classrooms).

    Add to that — the costs of the corruption trials of Dr. Lewis and the Popes – which now apparently will be re-tried! ($$$$$) Winners? Why lawyers of course!

    Now – we still have the school system fighting their very own teachers in court!!! The school system (under the leadership of board chair Tom Bowen – an attorney) decided to go against their own promise and policy and stop contributing to the teachers retirement annuity. A promise they had made and upheld for over 25 years – and a contribution made in lieu of Social Security – which teachers still do not participate in). The Board had the audacity to simply change its written policy (25+ years old) stating that the Board must give a two year notice to change this contribution. Then, when teachers fought back, the school district pulled out more lawyers – from their bottomless pit of lawyers – and have been fighting teachers on this ever since ($$$ – how much has this cost to date? We can’t know – the district does not share this kind of information – even when asked with a Freedom of Information Request).

    Oh – and the case that flew under the radar – but has cost us plenty – as well as shown that yes, we do have a very serious bullying problem in DeKalb schools. The U.S. Department of Justice says so. [ Settlement with Georgia School District to Address Bullying Based on Religion and National Origin ] Look no further than Cross Keys HS to see how students who are ‘different’ are ignored/under-funded/and relegated to sub-standard buildings and equipment, when compared to other schools in DeKalb.

    Now – really – they expect us to want to begin yet another multi-million lawsuit? We are sick of it. Most of us are not lawyers and do not have the tolerance for these drawn out legal affairs when we should be focused on schools and children. This district spends more on lawyers every year than it does on books! In our opinion – it is time to dilute the system [and its $1.2 Billion annual consolidated budget] entirely. We just want decent, small, successful schools with happy students and teachers and communities that support them. We don’t need multi-million dollar central offices and two million dollar school boards. We don’t want to spend millions and millions and millions on lawyers. We just want our children properly educated. But this cry is lost in the wind, because there is simply too large a pot of money over which to pick adult fights.

  24. howdy1942 says:

    @DSW – your cry is not lost in the wind. There are so many of us who agree with you. And don’t forget that we paid a black law firm and a white law firm to do the work that could have been done by one. And don’t forget that we had to pay a law firm to train the school board on how to get along when there were State funded organizations that could have done the same.

    I, too, am so tired of both Dekalb County and its school system seeing lawyers as the means to resolve disputes – in court! You’re right – Robert James is going to retry Burrell Ellis while we have numerous roads that need to be fixed, police officers that need to be hired, and services that need to be improved. Reach an agreement with Ellis that he will move on and both parties just walk away with no additional expense to taxpayers.

    There are probably many residents in Druid Hills who were on the fence about being annexed into Atlanta. The people who live there are well educated and can make up their own minds without Michael Thurmond and the Dekalb County School Board. The combative stance taken by Thurmond is not likely to win him any friends there. That money is badly needed to retain teachers, buy new books, enhance the “digitizing” of our schools, and reduce classroom size.

    I’ve become increasingly pessimistic about our school system since the May 20 elections. I had looked forward to a new, permanent, and qualified superintendent. With only one search firm expressing any interest in working for this school board, it is increasingly unlikely that we will have such a permanent superintendent. Besides, that one search firm has been rejected by the Atlanta Public School System.

    We are probably going to need to keep an interim for some time, but that interim does not need to be Michael Thurmond. I was wondering if Dekalb could possible persuade Dr. Erroll Davis to assume that position. I think that he could build unity in our County and resolve many of the disputes that we now have. During his 22 months in office, Mr. Thurmond has only increased the division in our County, increased our legal expenses, and done little to move us forward. We are still losing teachers, still in court with our teachers, promoting people who have knowingly committed ethics violations, and only moved one rung up from probation (and that is only due to a school board that does not yell at each other). It’s time for change, for peace, for unity, and for progress.

  25. sawyerbrown68 says:

    The first shot of the Great Annexation War was the proposal to create the City of Lakeside.

    The cause of war was that Lakeside High School was held back by the Dekalb County School District’s policies and Friends and Family.

    When it was shown that forming the City of Lakeside would not yield a Lakeside High School independent of DCSD the forseeable future, the leaders of the movement repurposed their vision until they settled on creating the City of Lavista Hills where no hills can be found.

    Then, it was Druid Hills High School’s turn to find a way out of DCSD. They latched onto an innovative school cluster formula. When they were unsuccessful, the leaders of this movement repurposed their vision until they jumped, re-enacting in reverse the Abduction of the Sabine Women, at being annexed by the City of Atlanta.

    I must be missing something.

    We have the ancient Dekalb cities of Decatur (1823), Stone Mountain (1839), Doraville (1871), Clarkston (1882), Chamblee (1908), and Lithonia (1970). Dunwoody and Brookhaven became cities in 2012. All of these cities, except for Decatur, are still in DCSD.

    How is life different for Dunwoody and Brookhaven? The areas were already affluent and were receiving their fair share of quality services from Dekalb County Government. Their lucrative shopping centers pre-dated 2012.

    Let our interest coincide with our honor.

  26. Question is: Why didn’t Thurmond produce a similar Power Point when Dunwoody was seeking to remove schools from its system? And if all we want is to keep kids closer to their homes in terms of school clusters, then why not end the expensive school choice program altogether? If everyone could have quality schools that don’t require long distance transportation of children which adds to our traffic woes, then why work so hard to change the constitution and instead just work toward a new vision of the existing system?

  27. Dekalb Homeowner says:

    Please see again “City uninterested in annexing Druid Hills, one leader says,” at http://www.ajc.com/news/local-govt-politics/city-uninterested-in-annexing-druid-hills-one-lead/nhY6S/

  28. “I have friends who are in political office in Atlanta and they are not interested in annexing anything,” said Thurmond, a Democrat who was once elected statewide to the post of labor commissioner. “That’s just some informal conversations I have had with people who are in a position to make decisions,” he added.

    Good. Let’s hope he believes that and keeps the taxpayers money in the fund for schools – not for lawyers.

  29. howdy1942 says:

    If Thurmond is convinced that Atlanta is not interested in annexing Druid Hills, why does he want $2.5 million to fight this effort?

  30. AMB4 says:

    Okay, for the sake of argument, if DCSS doesn’t spend any money fighting this plan, then what should they do? Step back and lose big assets for the county? Unfortunately, APS will NOT have to pay for the property (unless we DO get into a legal battle to fight precedent). They will take the property. There will be no money to renovate new buildings. There will be a lack of tax funds from losing these homes and the entire county will have a shortage. Dekalb will lose money regardless of fighting or not, so sitting back is just as much of a loss.

    The whole situation is Lose-Lose for Dekalb. The only way to make this stop is for Together in Atlanta to back off the school properties. If they want to annex in streets and homes they are welcome too, but the only way Dekalb taxpayers, educators and students do not take a massive hit is for them to back off the schools.

    The answer here is to pressure TiA to step back. Find their own solutions that do not include taking property from the citizens of Dekalb.

  31. @AMB4: We’re not sure why you refer to property owned by taxpayers as ‘assets for the county’… these are all properties that should function to make life in the community easier. (Roads, schools, etc.) Every community needs these basic things and every community pays taxes to have them. They are not really ‘assets’ as if the county is an investment bank. Maybe you just mean assets as functional needs for taxpayers. These buildings are not going away, they will just be owned and maintained by another entity. As we understand it, Druid Hills will still be part of DeKalb county, so this community will still pay county taxes and these buildings will still be a part of DeKalb county. They will become “Atlanta in DeKalb” – which we already have in another fairly large area of the county, south of Decatur. So, yes, they would be City of Atlanta schools, but the homes, etc, would remain in DeKalb county, as well as in the City of Atlanta. Just like Dunwoody is in DeKalb county. People in cities pay city and county taxes.

    Further, the money for renovating new buildings comes from the penny sales tax – not property taxes – so that will keep flowing. In fact, DeKalb schools collects an average of $250 million per SPLOST – about $2 Billion thus far – from this sales tax (collected by the state and then redistributed to the counties and municipalities entitled to them).

    Exactly what are the benefits for DeKalb if Druid Hills remains part of the school district? The only answer there is that there are millions of dollars skimmed and transferred from those schools to the Palace that are not accounted for. That was shown to be true to the tune of millions of dollars in the Druid Hills charter cluster proposal. There is a loss of money – earmarked for Druid Hills students – that has been shown to funnel away to the Central Office and other special, expensive programs. The only debatable building is the planetarium. That is a unique ‘asset’ for the school district. TIA has already stated that they don’t want Adams Stadium. Maybe DeKalb schools could keep these ‘assets’ yet allow Druid Hills to take a few school buildings for the students in their district.

    The only people upset, could be the students who benefit from the Scientific Tools and Techniques (STT) program. This is a very expensive program that picks up students at their door in the am and drops them at their school at lunchtime. Although it is a very good program for a few, our science scores countywide otherwise are dismal. This is another place where inequity is glaring and in reality could be fixed. We spend in the area of $7 million a year to maintain the center – that could go a long way toward hiring more teachers for everyone (under the leadership of a highly qualified superintendent).

    Don’t get us wrong, we would feel a loss if Druid HIlls were to annex with the City of Atlanta, but there are no viable reasons to make them legally stay, except for (inequitable) wealth transfer of per pupil funding and we’re not sure if the courts would agree with that being a reason to hold them here.

  32. dsw2contributor says:

    howdy1942, the “I have friends who are in political office in Atlanta and they are not interested in annexing anything” quote is from back in September. (Ty’s article is dated October 1.)

    Michael Thurmond has been played for a fool. Look at the timeframe:

    May 1: Druid Hills refiled its charter cluster petition.

    June, July, August & September: The DCCS Palace and Thurmond spend these four months throwing up roadblocks to the petition.

    Oct 1: the AJC quotes Mr. Thurmond, who said “I have friends who are in political office in Atlanta and they are not interested in annexing anything,” That quote will prove damning to Mr. Thurmond — it shows that he actually consulted with his “friends” in Atlanta about annexation while he was “considering” the Druid Hills Charter Petition.

    Oct 15: Druid Hills withdraws its charter cluster petition.

    Late Nov/Early Dec: The Palace realizes what it is up and quickly throws together a misleading report about annexation.

    Dec 8: The board meeting that is the subject of the thread.

    Michael Thurmond wants the $2.5 million to fight because he’s angry about having been played for a fool.

  33. AMB4 says:

    I’m sure legally they can go and I am sure APS will be happy to have the additional school space for their over crowded system.

    If the Science Center is moved to APS control then it will effect more than just the STT students. Dekalb students do get a priority for using the facility. This resource will no longer be as available. It can’t be. APS will rightly use it to service their own students first. So to me that is a big loss.

    And although this only hurts my direct cluster, the loss of DHHS to the remaining 3 feeder schools is a HUGE loss. It’s a great, recently renovated facility. There is no school nearby (other than the over-crowded Lakeside and I’m assuming at least at capacity Tucker) that has a facility as updated or that has the room. So yes, to the 1000+ kids losing out on that, that is a loss. And yes, it will cost money that could go elsewhere to find them a seat.

    But I guess you are saying, those losses are not worth fighting for.

  34. dsw2contributor says:

    DSW2 said “Exactly what are the benefits for DeKalb if Druid Hills remains part of the school district? The only answer there is that there are millions of dollars transferred from those schools.”

    There is another factor: Druid Hills going to APS would cause DCSS system-wide performance scores (including the CCRPIs) to drop.

  35. Thanks for the timeline dsw2contributor! We needed that too — it’s all very confusing!

  36. tribepride says:

    I can’t see how anyone is defending this move to appropriate buildings (that currently support many in DCSD) by the few seeking to annex into Atlanta. As I understand it, the county’s Lego program coordinator resides at Fernbank Science Center – and there are many DCSD elementary schools that run Lego robotics programs. Additionally, and perhaps even more impactful, schools that are working on STEM certification utilize resources at the science center for their work on achieving that goal.

    As an original Medlock Elementary school parent, my memory is that Medlock was closed after some hard lobbying by parents at Fernbank Elementary to ensure that Fernbank became the mega-elementary school site in our part of the county. I was not and am not a proponent of large elementary schools and my children have thrived at Laurel Ridge Elementary after redrawing of attendance zones, so we’ve been fortunate. But it is a still a bitter pill to have lost our original community elementary school under the guise of future planning for larger elementary schools only to see that larger elementary school potentially stripped away from DCSD. Even worse is to see the feeder pattern torn apart if this effort is successful – need I point out again that only 20% of the students at Druid Hills High School come from the neighborhoods that are seeking to move into Atlanta along with the school buildings?

    Finally, we can quibble over the details of DCSD’s annexation report, but the larger message remains the same – this is a move that will likely prove very harmful to the district, to the benefit of a few.

  37. You’re right about that AMB4. The real loss to the district would be the science center. There is an option to use SPLOST money to build a brand new high school on the site of the Briarcliff High School property on Druid Hills Road – that actually could be an amazing school campus – as it’s also the home of Adams Stadium.

  38. Really though. Think about this possible scenario: Take the planetarium (the telescope and other equipment) and move it out to Arabia HS – a magnet school for math, science and engineering. (Dr. Lewis had a plan to do this at one time.) Build a new building to house the planetarium projector at Arabia. It’s a great setting – lots of sky and space plus Arabia national heritage area… Plenty of space for buses carrying visiting students. Plus – it’s already a magnet, and a magnet bus hub system is in place so STT could still be implemented there. Could be an amazing school!

    Then – tear down the old Briarcliff HS – Jim Cherry, etc. Tear down all the other buildings on that property (it’s like 50-60 acres) – and build a brand new, state of the art math/science/tech school for north DeKalb. The ‘displaced’ students from Druid Hills could form the attendance zone – and the rest could be magnet programs. It could be built like a small college campus – with different buildings for different subjects. Add a performing arts center and move DSA in as a ‘program’ within the school. With Adams Stadium it could be quite a nice complex. Plus – easy access on the MArta bus line. (In addition, if we pumped serious money into Cross Keys and developed it into a high tech, state of the art vocational high school it would form a corridor of fantastic high school opportunities – perhaps even adult ed opportunities as well!)

    Good ideas? We think so — and it would provide an end-game runaround for this annexation. They would not get the planetarium – and the students not moving with DHHS to Atlanta would have a fabulous, new, state of the art high school to attend. Would anyone miss Druid Hills in this scenario?

  39. tribepride says:

    “Would anyone miss Druid Hills in this scenario?”

    Considering the property tax revenue to DCSD that will be lost if the Druid Hills neighborhood peels off into Atlanta, I’m not clear on how any of the innovative solutions posted above could possibly be feasible. This loss of revenue will be compounded by Decatur’s annexation plans, which are squarely targeted at commercial properties that are major contributors to the DCSD budget today and are positioned to bring in many multiples of current revenues after redevelopment.

    I don’t see opportunities gained outweighing the stark realities of the hit to DCSD’s budget.

    If you’re interested in eviscerating the DeKalb County School District at the expense of nearly a hundred thousand children served by the system, then by all means support the Atlanta and Decatur annexation efforts while talking about creative solutions.

Comments are closed.