Lawmaker: Board member appears to support ‘decimating’ DeKalb County School District

Lawmaker: Board member appears to support ‘decimating’ DeKalb County School District.

CBS46 News

Emails have been obtained between Board Rep Marshall Orson and the organizers of the annexation to Atlanta effort via an Open Records Request.

“Orson’s emails reveal the second-term board member has met multiple times with annexation advocates to discuss the planning of the annexation effort, even organizing at least one meeting.”

The emails revealed statements made by Orson like these >>

…”a key to a successful annexation push,” “building a compelling case for [annexation]” and “keeping the message on point” is critical.”

“It’s a clear breach of ethics,” said Bill Joy, one of a dozen DeKalb County residents who met with CBS46 to call on Orson to step down from his position.

The 2014-2015 school board handbook indicates members should represent the interests of a district as a whole over the interests of a group of voters.

A study performed by the district indicated that annexation would disenfranchise students, force more than 1000 students from their high school and cause a district-wide redistricting, hurting the tax base.

Joy and others said they believe Orson has violated board rules and is hurting the district.

… “Orson said critics are misinterpreting his involvement and his emails, including one sent in September 2014 in which he arranged a meeting with seven people, including annexation supporters and Emory University officials.

Orson wrote, “This is a complex issue which, if not handled properly runs the risk of pitting the school community against annexation.”

When we questioned him about it, Orson acknowledged is was a poor choice of words and no reflection on his position.

Orson denied he supports annexation, describing his personal opinion on it as “conflicted.”

Annexation opponent Dawn Forman said Orson, as an elected board member, should be opposed to annexation since its expected negative impact on the school system as a whole.

“He’s done enough damage to our schools,” said Forman. “We need people who care about all kids in our schools and not just the school in their neighborhood.”

You may recall public statements Marshall made on this issue just a few short months ago >>

Marshall Orson speaks up on the Druid Hills annexation issue

… I realize that things I have said in public and private may be given their own meaning unless I put them in context. Some have defined my observations as advocacy. Others ascribe a more sinister view to such observations. Perhaps it would have been better to just say nothing but I think an informed public is critical to any decisions that may be made. So, here goes:

1. I favor an outcome that keeps the Druid Hills Cluster intact. If annexation is not approved, that will occur on its own. We will all lose if we lose the Druid Hills Cluster as we know it. …

2. I have shared in various quarters that, if an annexation were to occur, organizing along school attendance zones makes sense and that there Is a logic behind utilizing elementary attendance zones since they are aligned with neighborhoods. When in conversations with those who favor or are involved in annexation efforts, I have made the point that the potential success of their efforts are intertwined with how the boundaries are defined. …

3. I have made the point that the law appears to provide that the control of school buildings shift when an annexation involves a city that has its own school system. Quite frankly, I was surprised that the case law and other authority appear to provide this outcome. Some have interpreted my statements as advocating such an outcome. I am simply reporting what I know and I welcome other authority that would enable us to re-frame the narrative about the buildings. …

4. Annexation is a big if. The Legislature might not approve an annexation plan or it might defer consideration to another session. The Legislature could approve a plan but the voters could reject it. But, if the Legislature and the voters approve such a plan, I believe there is a pathway to keep the Druid Hills Cluster intact. …

I tend to be matter of fact—a big downside of my training as a lawyer! So, I speak in terms of success or failure, what I believe to be factually correct, and what I hope is objective but I now realize may not sound that way to all who hear what I say. These issues are incredibly emotional and personal—those on either “side” (and there may be more than two sides) have compelling arguments for their point of view. We are talking about our children and grandchildren, our communities, and our shared history. I promise to be mindful and respectful of this as we proceed through these issues and challenging times.

+++

So, does Marshall have a split personality or is he fully aware of the discrepancies of his public vs private thoughts on annexation? Was he trying to prevent ‘fallout’ when he wrote this public statement? Had the emails already been requested via Open Records and Orson was just trying to cover his own behind?

Inquiring minds want to know. But we do know that Don McChesney tried to warn people that Marshall was only concerned with his own community during their vicious campaigns for this board seat. Orson’s buddy on the board, Jim McMahan helped Orson out by sharing another email publicly – one written by Don about only appointing men to his fireside chat group. Orson had no qualms about aggressively using that email in his own campaign against Don, never allowing Don to claim a ‘misunderstanding’.

Sorry Orson, when it comes to emails, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. You can’t have it both ways.

+++

CLICK HERE to download one pdf with all of the Emails combined.

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43 Responses to Lawmaker: Board member appears to support ‘decimating’ DeKalb County School District

  1. kirklunde says:

    It seems as though Dr. Johnson and Mr. Thurmond have decided Marshall Orson deserves the same treatment as Mr. Jester. This is what Dickerson Communications does to earn $12,000 a month.

    The people interviewed are obviously biased. “Best part of the school district.”

    Why doesn’t the media do a story on the false information the district administration posts on its website or the inaccuracies told to the BOE during work sessions?

    Still waiting on the story about how every elementary school rebuild project in SPLOST IV needed to be reworked, but the county decided to hire the same company that came up with the plans. That is just one way the administration failed to look out for the students of the whole county.

    How about a story about the missing $18+ million?

    How about a story about the lack of substitutes and the effect that has on teachers?

    We won’t be seeing those stories because Dickerson Communications doesn’t want them told.

  2. kirklunde says:

    Also, I have to say I am SHOCKED! Shocked that someone got an open records request filled. That is further proof this story came from within the administration.

  3. Dekalb Inside Out says:

    Does anybody believe Orson was ever in it for anybody but Fernbank? Don’t forget this email from Orson talking about how Fernbankers can control the redistricting meetings. Briar Vista types are not welcome by Fernbankers…

    “If anyone suggests making Briar Vista a PK-K or PK-1 campus for Fernbank’s children, talk about 1100 students and families with multiple children driving back and forth and back and forth along Clifton Road during the morning rush hour. Enough said.”

    btw … kirklunde made me lol

  4. Very very very true Kirk! We personally have over 32 ORRs outstanding that have either been fully ignored or come back requiring so much money to dig up the information that we could not possibly continue the request.

    Here is a link to all of the ORRs we received responses to.
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.com/dcss-files/orr-responses/

    Once Michael Thurmond became superintendent, we have received no responses to our Open Records Requests. Especially after finding this out >>
    School Supply Budgets: These were frozen after Michael Thurmond became superintendent. Schools were not allowed to purchase anything whatsoever. The result was nearly $1.5 million in ‘savings’. (Essentially using ‘per pupil funds’ to balance the budget)
    SCHOOL SUPPLY BUDGETS & EXPENSE

  5. News Release
    30 March 2015

    STATEMENT FROM DR. MELVIN JOHNSON, CHAIR OF THE DEKALB COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, REGARDING MARSHALL ORSON, MEMBER OF THE DEKALB COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION

    “Recent news reports and communications from stakeholders of the DeKalb County School District have raised important and serious allegations that Marshall Orson, a member of the Board, has violated the principles and protocols in the Board Member Handbook as well as Board policy. In accordance with established Board protocol, the DeKalb County Board of Education will consider these allegations at the next Board meeting on Wed., April 1, 2015 in the Cabinet Room of the Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center, 1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd., Stone Mountain, GA 30083.”

    Contact: Quinn Hudson 678.676.0720 quinn_hudson@dekalbschoolsga.org

  6. Boy! That was the fastest response to an ORR ever!! It’s almost as if…

  7. Download one pdf with all of the Emails combined here >>
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/marshall-orson-emails-re-annexation.pdf

    Read more about the organization, DeKalb Strong, that asked for and received the Emails via an Open Records Request here >>
    http://dekalbstrong.com/
    DeKalb Strong supports a moratorium on city hood and annexation proposals in DeKalb County to give citizens time to participate in a deliberative, comprehensive, and equitable process for improving DeKalb County governance.

    The city hood movement, as it has currently unfolded, is bad policy with huge consequences for schools, quality of life, and taxes in all of DeKalb County.

    +++

    In addition, we have our own files of Marshall Orson emails acquired via ORR >>
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/summary-of-orson_drake-communitynet2.pdf
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/orson_howe-m2-communitynet1.pdf
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/orson-_howe-m1-communitynet.pdf

    +++

    There’s another group fighting cityhood efforts. Read more about them here >>
    Concerned Citizens Against Cityhood in South DeKalb
    Blog: ccegdekalb.blogspot.com

    The mission of the organization is to provide information about cityhood and annexation to DeKalb County residents, The Citizens Against Cityhood support a moratorium on any new city formation.

  8. thedeal2 says:

    Melvin Johnson, Love Doctor, and Michael Thurmond must be drooling right now.

  9. In other news of decimating in DeKalb >>

    Independent investigation of DeKalb corruption launched

    Former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers announced Wednesday he will lead a sweeping investigation of corruption in DeKalb County, which has been troubled by years of allegations and criminal charges against several officials.

    Bowers, who was hired by Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May, will have unfettered access to interview government employees and dig through documents in search of malfeasance. . . .

  10. Care to read what Lee May, Interim CEO thinks about annexation?

    DeKalb ICEO’s statement regarding legislative efforts to Annex Druid Hills

    …”Parents and students increase taxes, water bills, and sanitation fees for Druid Hills residents, resulting from the loss of current exemptions and DeKalb County services.

    What we do know is the residents in the Druid Hills community will be impacted by an increase in taxes and fees as a result of this unlawful annexation. We do not know by how much, and that is a problem.

    I call on members of the legislature to delay any action until the proper studies and testimonies of those affected by this attempt to change local government are obtained. Let’s take the necessary time to debate and analyze this issue in a more appropriate manner.”

  11. Frustrated Dekalb Parent says:

    If Orson is somehow sanctioned or resigns, this could throw a huge wrench into the superintendent selection process.

  12. Remember, Marshall Orson was the person who brought us Michael Thurmond, behind closed doors. Perhaps he is finally kicking himself over that decision. We, at DSW2, will always have a big issue with the fact that our Board at the time hid from the public that our superintendent at the time, Cheryl Atkinson, had not reported for work in weeks – due what she reported was her father’s long-term illness and eventual passing. Yet even after his alleged passing, Atkinson did not ever set foot back in her office*. She instead, sent her attorney to negotiate a $100,000+ exit package with the board — in secret. Having no leader at the helm, the board then swarmed into action, desperate to replace her without SACS and the public finding out our leader was quitting. Several people were asked behind those closed doors – and they all declined. Finally, Orson suggested Thurmond, who accepted – and he was hired. All in ‘Executive Session’ behind closed doors, without a search firm, community committee or public knowledge of any kind. Current board member Jim McMahan and our current chair, Melvin Johnson were part of that opaque, hidden decision, and are also still part of the DeKalb schools board. These are “public servants” who think they are perfectly entitled to hide their actions from the public. Whatever happens to them is of their own doing – you know, karma!

    (We diligently looked for Cheryl Howell Atkinson’s father’s obituary. We found nothing. We asked for a copy of his obituary or death certificate, which would be the appropriate documentation she should have submitted to the Board. No documentation of his death was ever produced. We believe the main reason for her unexplained absence and sudden resignation may be because of a damning message — text or phone — which would explain why her cell phone was subsequently destroyed by DSCD staff.)

  13. We will admit, this is probably most likely part of the attempt to control the selection of the next superintendent – they have to protect their own jobs. Sources tell us that Ramona Tyson asked the search firm to reduce the requirement for having to hire a superintendent with full superintendent training – which says to us, she is trying to clear a path for Thurmond or Beaseley (insiders who will continue the status quo).

  14. Stan Jester says:

    03/02/2015 – Superintendent Search Update

    Vickie Turner (District 5 Board Rep) “I went to many of the community engagement sessions and they echoed my sentiments that we don’t necessarily want somebody with an Ed.S. Why did you disregard that?”

    Gary Solomon (PROACT – Superintendent Search Firm) – “We heard mixed views.”

  15. Dekalb Inside Out says:

    The AJC said Marshall Orson recommended Thurmond because he saw Thurmond speak once and was “impressed”. Orson also said “lack of an educational leadership background seemed an asset“.

    Well done M.O. “When you dance with the devil, the devil doesn’t change. The devil changes you.”

  16. Dekalb Inside Out says:

    Here’s a classic from 2013 on DSW. More relevant now than ever …

    Walker 2.0 code name Melvin Johnson

    To: Constituency Technical Support
    From: Marshall Orson and Jim McMahan

    We are writing to you regarding our chairman upgrade from Walker 1.0 to Walker 2.0, also known as Melvin Johnson. We were not aware that Walker 2.0 was just a utilities program and “The Walker 5″ was an operating system designed to run all other applications. The upgrade from Walker 1.0 to Walker 2.0 provided a number of new features which I am not happy with.

    For example, Walker 2.0 has a Friends and Family subroutine that I can’t turn off. These subroutines are constantly spawning off new Lawyer and Consultant routines that are consuming all of our cache.

    A number of other programs behave erratically since the installation of “The Walker 5″. Budgeting 3.1 and Education 6.0 no longer run, crashing the system whenever selected. Teacher 1.0, Student 1.0 and all learning applications can not run due to lack of system resources.

    Please let me know how to uninstall or deactivate Walker 2.0 before all MS-Money files are deleted, or at least how to regain functionality in some of my other applications.

  17. While I’m not stating that I think Orson was in the right here, I am curious why the folks on this blog are agreeing with the parents who were outraged, rather than supporting the concept that city schools are better than large county run systems (or even just large DeKalb County run systems). The parents expect their board member to protect the cluster of schools even if it means forcing successful schools to remain tied to less successful ones in order to keep the large system large.

    Shouldn’t you be commending Orson for having good sense in that he is willing to discuss options and give his perspective to parents (or community members) who are seeking ways to break off and join city school systems?

    I think a clear violation of trust would be if he voted on an issue that would favor one side over the other simply to help himself. I don’t think the school board is given any vote or voice in the matter or annexation attempts unless it is after the fact and they need to determine how to work out the impact on the schools and the children on both sides of the divide.

    Also, doesn’t this also illustrate that Thurmond and the charter review staff were correct in their denial of the charter cluster petition? After all, a charter cluster means that all the schools are very interdependent upon one another in order to maintain their charter. If one fails, essentially, they all fail and the charter may not be renewed once its initial time period has expired. If the cluster schools, at this first sign of trouble, were already willing to turn their backs on one another, then it seems they would have faced this same situation eventually with two of the schools (ironically, the “pet” schools of both McChesney AND Orson were the ones seeking annexation to Atlanta) looking to branch off from the rest.

    The divide in the county and among the subsets of parents unwilling to look out for what is in the best interest of everyone, not just their own, is what is dragging us further into the mud. And, both sides of the aisle at the Gold Dome have had their hand in it.

    When will people stop looking to government to solve the problems that government has created? We need to focus on the children and the schools and lead by example. No good has come from all this back room wheeling and dealing and it never will. Those willing to sell out others to get themselves ahead will never change. If you think they are going to do what’s right for you, think again. It never works out that way. Read the SACS report again and read what the employees at the school house were put through by the board members who felt compelled to advocate under pressure from their “community” regardless of how many times they had board training to tell them that this was wrong.

    That doesn’t just put the blame on the former board members. It puts the blame squarely on all of us. We are the “communities” that have pushed our leaders into these positions where we expect them to “fight” for us.

    We need to stop fighting and start looking at the big picture and the consequences that can come from getting everything you want by taking from others. There are far bigger enemies in this world for us to be concerned about without having to worry about being stabbed in the back by our own neighbors and friends.

  18. @GETtheCELLoutATL: What? Sometimes your logic is hard to follow. Yes, we tend to think that independent city schools are the best option going forward. Downsizing the DCSD would, in our opinion, first allow local city schools to control the education of their children. Second, it would cut the total budget of the DCSD, reducing the opportunity for corruption – or at least reducing the amount of money that can be wasted or misused. And third, it would create small school districts which would have to hire only the most necessary of staff- teachers, principals, counselors, etc. There is not a lot of cushion that can be used for extra administrators. For example, if DCSD were to be broken into 5 small districts and one larger (DSCD) district, those 5 districts would each have a superintendent – costing about an estimated $200,000 each. Right now, each ‘region’ of DCSD has a ‘regional’ superintendent who makes nearly this much, employs a secretary and a staff and rides around in a taxpayer-funded car. No loss there. And we would also bet that these small districts would easily find a way to spend at least the state’s minimum required 65% in the classroom. It would be more about ‘school’ – not so much about ‘jobs’ and ‘politics’. And in fact, the county district would be forced to become more streamlined and classroom focused, most likely resulting in improved educational outcomes for children.

    That said, Marshall should not have given advice to a group interested in any kind of breakaway – just as other board members should not be consulting and advising groups against a breakaway — it’s akin to stockbroker insider trading. It’s not fair to those who think differently – they don’t have the insider info to fight back.

    We have our opinions – but we also believe in fair play. Which is why we don’t like how Thurmond was originally hired whatsoever.

  19. Also, to directly address some of your more outrageous claims >>

    While I’m not stating that I think Orson was in the right here, I am curious why the folks on this blog are agreeing with the parents who were outraged, rather than supporting the concept that city schools are better than large county run systems…

    We didn’t necessarily agree with anyone. And we don’t feel outraged. But again, we are not ashamed to say that we support independently-run city schools.

    Shouldn’t you be commending Orson for having good sense in that he is willing to discuss options and give his perspective to parents (or community members) who are seeking ways to break off and join city school systems?

    No. We like fair play and fair voting. It’s unfair for him to advise anyone on anything related to DeKalb schools.

    I don’t think the school board is given any vote or voice in the matter or annexation attempts unless it is after the fact

    True!! The voters in the area to be annexed vote on it after the legislature approves the idea. The school board and Thurmond have no say – and should not, in fact, be setting aside millions of dollars to fight it, as they have already done to the tune of $2.5 million (to start!) Talk about pitting taxpayers against each other!! And talk about an unfair fight – the school system has access to millions and millions of taxpayer dollars intended for educating children and instead choose to spend millions of it on high-powered attorneys fighting some of those same taxpayers who paid into these tax dollars.

    Also, doesn’t this also illustrate that Thurmond and the charter review staff were correct in their denial of the charter cluster petition?

    No. It has nothing whatsoever to do with that and the rest of your argument on that is a big stretch.

    The divide in the county and among the subsets of parents unwilling to look out for what is in the best interest of everyone, not just their own, is what is dragging us further into the mud.

    This is only because it’s how the school district has it set up. It’s to their advantage to barely fund schools and then allow some schools to perform better due mostly to high parental involvement and good home support. Then, the powers that be can blame the ‘low’ performing schools on the ‘rich white people in the north end of the county’, which is what they do as they pad their own pockets and skip off to the bank, while sending their own children to magnet, theme, charter or in the case of Thurmond, private schools.

    When will people stop looking to government to solve the problems that government has created? We need to focus on the children and the schools and lead by example.

    Yes. That is what the high-performing schools with high parental involvement and support of the teachers do. But then, they get criticized and the powers that be lay out the rumor that these schools somehow ‘get’ more. They don’t. In fact, they often get far less, as they are not heavily supported by the administration and do not generally get Title 1 funds.

    Read the SACS report again and read what the employees at the school house were put through by the board members who felt compelled to advocate under pressure from their “community” regardless of how many times they had board training to tell them that this was wrong.

    We have certainly read and reread the SACS report. We often lament on the fact that the newly elected board members at the time, Orson, McMahan and Johnson were all mentioned as having meddled in schools, yet they were the only ones allowed to stay on the board. Even after having hired a new superintendent in secret due to the fact that the one they had hired via a very corrupt, flawed search firm process was in the process of resigning and had not reported to work for several weeks.

    …it seems they would have faced this same situation eventually with two of the schools (ironically, the “pet” schools of both McChesney AND Orson were the ones seeking annexation to Atlanta) looking to branch off from the rest.

    Don McChesney in no way has the same single school, neighborhood focus that Marshall does. Marshall is an attorney and lives in Druid Hills in a home with a tax bill of over $10,000 a year – his focus is protecting property values. Don lives in a different area of the district – not Fernbank, maybe Sagamore(?). He is a former teacher – having taught both in DeKalb and Gwinnett and has a heart for all students.

    We need to stop fighting and start looking at the big picture and the consequences that can come from getting everything you want by taking from others. There are far bigger enemies in this world for us to be concerned about without having to worry about being stabbed in the back by our own neighbors and friends.

    Not sure what this means. Who is stabbing whom in the back? If you are insinuating that the Druid Hills schools ‘take’ from others, you are very wrong. The DH charter petition clearly showed that they were not being allocated nearly what they were entitled to – by about $11 million!

  20. dsw2contributor says:

    Like GETtheCELLoutATL, I do not see the problem.

    We know Druid Hills schools are being screwed and that there are only three possible ways to stop that screwing: (1) Charter Cluster, (2) leave DCSS (via Annexation into Atlanta Public Schools) or (3) stay a part of DCSS and hope for the best.

    Had Marshall Orson exchanged these emails with the Druid Hills CHARTER CLUSTER advocates, DSW would have been cheering him on!

    Instead, what happened was that Thurmond and his charter review staff denied the Charter Cluster. Thurmond’s decision to deny the charter cluster did not improve the schools, make anything better, nor save any money. Instead, Thurmond’s denial simply closed the door on one of the three possibilities.

    Thurmond’s decision to deny the Charter petition caused the Charter advocates to become Annexation advocates. (Trying again with another petition would effectively be option 3, staying a part of DCSS and hoping for the best. If they had been content with that, they would have never petitioned for a charter cluster!)

    Now DSW thinks Board Member Orson is not supposed to continue talking with the exact same constituents about solving the same on-going problems….. because the UNELECTED Superintendent closed the door on a Charter Cluster? Sorry, DSW, but I think you need to spend more time thinking about the implications of your position.

    And, for what it is worth, I do NOT work and do NOT live in Druid Hills.

  21. @dswcontributor >> “Had Marshall Orson exchanged these emails with the Druid Hills CHARTER CLUSTER advocates, DSW would have been cheering him on!”

    Really? Doubtful. We don’t think it’s acceptable for a sitting board member to advise any group on any actions that would require a board vote. We did support the cluster – and the efforts of the people behind it. And we do think it would have been civilized of Michael Thurmond to have had a meeting with the leaders of the charter effort. But we would have been very uncomfortable to have found out that a board member was trying to manipulate the situation behind the scenes. Just as we would be uncomfortable with any staff or board member advising the opposition to the charter or annexation behind the scenes. These are efforts by citizens/taxpayers and should be decided among themselves, as well as put to a vote – without enduring thought manipulation behind the scenes. That, friends, is called corruption.

  22. As a reminder, we never had anything to say in the past about Marshall Orson relative to the charter group, although we supported the efforts of the charter group. We did, however, post Marshall’s official response to the whole idea of annexation, his only public statement on the subject that we’re aware of >>

    Marshall Orson speaks up on the Druid Hills annexation issue
    Posted on January 9, 2015

    And we supplied this comment about Michael Thurmond’s refusal to have a discussion on the subject >>

    The superintendent asked the Board to set aside $2.5 million for legal fees to fight the Druid Hills annexation. (Please note: Superintendent Thurmond is also a lawyer, and has already been paying a law firm $50,000 a month for over a year, for Board training – with Board approval. This is in addition to the legal fees we incur in the lawsuit against the teachers and their annuity contributions that were halted as a budget cut, against Board policy. In addition, we spend millions on our regular, retained law firm for ordinary work as well as millions outsourced to area law firms for all kinds of other, mostly HR issues.)

    Also, when asked if he had met with the Druid Hills group working on annexation, Thurmond quipped, “No.” So, he’s not amenable to discussion, obviously. He goes straight to the courts.

    +++

    When we support citizen efforts, we support the citizens behind the efforts. We also hope that the sitting superintendent and board would find a mature way to open a dialogue with these citizens – not advise and manipulate behind the scenes. We are very disappointed to see that the door is shut tight.

  23. dsw2contributor says:

    DSW2, you said: “We don’t think it’s acceptable for a sitting board member to advise any group on any actions that would require a board vote.”

    I disagree.

    I think it is an elected official’s responsibility to meet with their constituents and encourage them to participate in the process. Government makes much better decisions when more citizens turn up to meetings and get involved (at least in governments that allow real citizen involvement, not the Palace definition of “public input” where citizens talk and the Palace ignores them!)

    I happen to own some property in another Georgia locality that has a functioning and (mostly!) honest local government. The local elected official who represents the neighborhood always emails the neighborhood about upcoming government hearings (development approvals, zoning changes, etc.) that may impact the neighborhood. The official provides details about how citizens may get involved (if we so choose). The representative also meets with citizens in-person and explains to them how they may best make their case before the government body.

    This representative helps both sides out — if someone wants to add on to their small business, he’ll explain to them what they need to do in order to get the appropriate zoning changes…. but when that person applies for that zoning change, the representative will also advise the surrounding neighborhood(s) of the zoning application and advise the neighborhood about the hearing they should speak at.

  24. Ned says:

    @dsw2contributor:
    You state “Thurmond’s decision to deny the Charter petition caused the Charter advocates to become Annexation advocates.”
    Wrong. It caused SOME of the charter advocates to create a solution that benefits them–annexation into Atlanta–and cuts out the other charter advocates. The issue of the moment is that TIA is willing to throw half the kids in the DHHS path under the bus for their own benefit and MO is working to help that happen.

  25. Over at Decaturish, there is an updated March 20, 2015 article by Dena Mellick titled “DeKalb School Board member responds to annexation involvement allegations”:

    http://www.decaturish.com/2015/03/dekalb-school-board-member-responds-to-annexation-involvement-allegations/

    An excerpt:

    Atticus LeBlanc is a DeKalb business owner who unsuccessfully ran for DeKalb’s School Board last year and is also a supporter of the DeKalb Strong group. He said that although he campaigned for the Druid Hills Charter Cluster, he is opposed to Atlanta’s annexation of Druid Hills because of the impact on the schools.

    LeBlanc said Orson has been helpful to his efforts to oppose annexation by trying to facilitate compromise between the Druid Hills Charter Cluster and DeKalb County, right around the time the emails are dated.

    He said once the Druid Hills Charter Cluster fell through and it became clear an annexation could happen, it was necessary for Orson to be part of those conversations.

    “It has been apparent for over a year that the failure of the DHCC petition could result in Atlanta annexation. So once DCSS refused to allow the re-submitted cluster petition to be heard, everyone knew the annexation was going to garner more support,” said LeBlanc.

    He continued, “Some of us, including Mr. Orson, continued to encourage DCSS to compromise with the cluster folks to avoid annexation until as recently as last month, when Superintendent Thurmond supposedly compared the charter cluster discussion to the civil rights protests in Selma. I think Mr. Orson’s emails allude to, if there’s going to be an annexation, how do you still figure out what’s the lesser of evils? How do you think up a more palatable solution, knowing what the consequences of annexing the area are?”

    LeBlanc said, “As much as someone wants to point to a conspiracy, the fact of the matter is, it’s a complex, difficult issue that would have been a lot easier to work out earlier. But unfortunately, the resubmitted petition was never brought up for a vote and calmer heads didn’t prevail.”

  26. So, what do you think about the fact that Jim McMahan was actually on the county Operations Task Force which was also filled with city advocates and other politicians? And, what about the fact that one of the leaders of the Tucker city effort is also the leader of Tucker Parent Council and has been McMahan’s Campaign Finance Coordinator? There must have been some behind the scenes discussions going on there, don’t you think? Here’s the problem we have … either the schools are a part of this entire effort to form cities or break away into other cities by annexation, or they are not.

    The Dunwoody Senator is the puppet master behind all of these efforts, so he most certainally knows exactly what is coming down the line, but the people do not. Rep. Taylor is now sponsoring the Lavista Hills bill and also the Independent Schools bill, so he must know that it at least appears that there is some kind of a connection.

    What exactly is the plan for the schools? Why is Lavista Hills going forward in a manner that is so destructive to the school districts around it? Obviously this is political and not a plan to help a vast majority of us, wouldn’t you agree? If we are not in a map that can support itself, which looks less likely for Tucker every day, as well as Stonecrest and Greenhaven, then were does that leave us when / if this idea of city schools really does become reality. Our home values will tank. Our neighborhoods will lose their appeal to new homebuyers, especially those with children who could be potential friends and playmates for our kids. And, we won’t have any better chance at decent schools than we did when we were part of DeKalb’s School System. That’s outrageous and hard to follow. We all worked together to get the corrupt board out, didn’t we? But, now it is suddenly every man, woman and child for themselves?

    These matters are very serious, but those who are on the other side, without having to worry about whether they are “in” or “out” call us “outrageous” or much worse. It’s frustrating to know that this Orson thing makes the news, but no one has been concerned about the city / school obvious connection enough to report on how that subject gets sidestepped every time we try to ask about it. And, just for the record, I’m with the Save Tucker! group and not the Tucker 2015 group because the maps and the lines that have been drawn do not reflect our real community. If someone had tried to do that to Dunwoody, I wonder if you would have still found it a concept difficult to follow.

  27. @Cell: “So, what do you think about the fact that Jim McMahan was actually on the county Operations Task Force which was also filled with city advocates and other politicians? And, what about the fact that one of the leaders of the Tucker city effort is also the leader of Tucker Parent Council and has been McMahan’s Campaign Finance Coordinator? There must have been some behind the scenes discussions going on there, don’t you think? ”

    Now that is interesting. Why don’t you ask for emails on that subject via an Open Records Request? I’ll bet school leaders would turn them over if they exist.

    As for the rest of your points, this is going to be a very, very long, slow process if it happens at all. There’s no reason to get up in arms this early in the game. And on the contrary, what if, when so many schools peel off from DeKalb county school district, it leaves the district at half or less its current size? We predict that would make it more manageable and less open to waste and corruption. Tucker is a great place – home values won’t plummet – it’s a good community in a great location. Work on improving the schools from within — parents actions and support can make all the difference.

  28. @dsw2contributor: We completely agree with everything you said. We weren’t clear – we don’t endorse sitting board members ADVISING anyone or any small well-connected group with an agenda – on how to get what you want by sharing insider information and manipulating things from behind the scenes. We fully endorse meetings, participation and sharing of public information – that is the [intended] American way!

    Commissioner Jeff Rader does a very good job of this in DeKalb – he has a very informative email newsletter that he sends out frequently – keeping his constituents updated and encouraging involvement in the process.

    If you notice, only Stan Jester on the DeKalb school board communicates what’s going on in the school system – and certainly no one in the administration addresses the public in any consistent, meaningful way. We have encouraged them to do this for years – start their own blog – answer questions and share news every day – in-depth. So far, they have a Facebook and Twitter – but these are quips and not very in-depth – most real information goes out only to news sources in the form of official press releases. We would encourage the leaders of this Billion Dollar school district to be much more forthcoming, open, transparent and informative to all of the parents and taxpayers of DeKalb.

  29. howdy1942 says:

    The AJC had two more editorials in Today’s paper about the problems in Dekalb County. I had hoped that the Governor and/or the State would have appointed an investigation task force completely independent from any government or school system influence. For the sake of our County and school system, the County Government and the Dekalb County School System need to be thoroughly investigated from the top down, a full public report needs to be prepared, and actions taken to prosecute and remove any officials found to have violated ethics rules and/or violated any Federal, State, and/or County statues. At the same time, it would clear any others.

    We now have Sharon Barnes Sutton demanding the records of Jeff Rader and Kathie Gannon because she thinks that they are on a giant witch hunt. The infighting and bickering at both the school board and at the County Commission are just plain disgraceful – we are seeing conduct that is unbecoming those elected to serve the People. This is not just politics – it is destroying our County, pitting our residents one against the other, and embarrassing all of us. It has got to stop and will stop only when all of us demand that it stop and refuse to elect people who engage in this conduct.

  30. “Witch Hunt” – see how often those words are used by the accused to defend themselves. That’s laughable in the cases of Rader and Gannon. These two are very upstanding reps. And, look at what’s happening to Elaine Boyer and her husband – she will serve far more time in jail that Crawford Lewis!

  31. Dekalb Inside Out says:

    It is OK for public officials to talk about the issues. They can legally advocate for or against SPLOST, dual accreditation, opportunity school district, etc … as long as they don’t use tax payer funds or resources which Marshall Orson did not.

    What is wrong with Marshall Orson’s actions?

    First, he publicly tried to stay neutral while behind closed doors is doing everything he can to make annexation happen.

    Second, most of the district doesn’t want to see Druid Hills go, so he’s going against what most people want.

    In summary, Marshall Orson is duplicitous and is only concerned about what is best for Fernbank. We voted him in knowing this.. It will be up to the board next week to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that Orson put Fernbank’s interests ahead of everybody else’s interests.

  32. Read an essay from a parent ‘activist’, Allyson Gevertz in today’s Get Schooled blog, in response to the calls for Marshall to resign. It tells the story of the Druid Hills community attempting to hold community meetings, always inviting Michael Thurmond and DCSD representatives, but always being ignored. She says the only board reps to attend were Orson and McMahan. She makes the case that Thurmond basically told the Druid Hills community and the Emory LaVista Parent Council to ‘talk to the hand’ – leaving the area board reps to flap in the breeze – and now coming after Orson for his attempts to more or less, do what he perceived as his job: meet with his constituents.

    http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2015/03/23/opinion-yes-dekalb-board-member-attended-annexation-meetings-colleagues-should-have-too/

  33. The August 27, 2014 ELPC meeting minutes linked in the above post say the following about State Senator, Elena Parent’s presentation at their meeting >>

    Elena Parent – District 42 Senate
    • Municipalization, charter cluster, annexation – lots going on in DeKalb
    • Overview of DeKalb Operations Task Force (serves with Jim McMahon) – grew out of consternation of leadership because of cityhood initiative
    • Charged with looking at – cityhood & municipalization & governance – looking at ethics, internal audit
    o Division of host proceeds, set up of government
    o Meeting tonight at Maloof Auditorium from 6 – 8 p.m.
    • GA State & GA Tech presenting various information – i.e. data, what other areas of country are doing etc.
    • Cities: GA House of Reps said 3 cities need to get together and agree on boundaries by November or it will go to Legislative committee (Mike Jacobs, Tom Taylor, Amy Carter…)
    o Up until now cityhood issues hasn’t impacted school systems
    o Emory not interested in being part of a new city which leads to annexation issue
    o Druid Hills Civic Association, and now has extended to other Civic Associations like Sagamore Hills, changes the dialog about school systems
    o All to be explored, lots of moving parts & pieces
    o The certainty is there will be some changes, it’s a question of what & when

    And here’s the most insightful of the notes >>

    Question: Why is DHCC perceived as being a financial hardship to the District?
    Answer: Dr. Frazer indicated she was not there to answer questions, just to take notes, and she would be submitting her notes to Dr. Thompson.

  34. downtown dekalb? says:

    Nothing Marshall said or did publicly or privately brought the annexation effort to where it is today. But what did contribute mightily to annexation was everything Thurmond said and did in public, including that dramatic mic drop he pulled at PCU’s September 30 meeting, when he responded to an annexation question by saying it was never going to happen. Lord only knows what Thurmond has said or done in private as it concerns DH cluster schools, because that’s right, DCSD doesn’t comply with open records requests. I’d like to see all of Thurmond’s and his top cronies’ emails about the charter cluster or annexation. Now I bet those would reveal deliberate attempts to skirt the law, breaches of contractual and fiduciary duties, and gross misuse of public funds!

  35. Allow us to repost the Board Chair’s press release on the subject (with emphasis) >>

    News Release
    30 March 2015

    STATEMENT FROM DR. MELVIN JOHNSON, CHAIR OF THE DEKALB COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, REGARDING MARSHALL ORSON, MEMBER OF THE DEKALB COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION

    “Recent news reports and communications from stakeholders of the DeKalb County School District have raised important and serious allegations that Marshall Orson, a member of the Board, has violated the principles and protocols in the Board Member Handbook as well as Board policy. In accordance with established Board protocol, the DeKalb County Board of Education will consider these allegations at the next Board meeting on Wed., April 1, 2015 in the Cabinet Room of the Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center, 1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd., Stone Mountain, GA 30083.”

    Contact: Quinn Hudson 678.676.0720 quinn_hudson@dekalbschoolsga.org

  36. @downtowndekalb? >> Guarantee. They would not produce these emails if you requested them via an ORR.

  37. News on the subject from Decaturish >>

    Atlanta annexation bill filed, includes Druid Hills

    State Rep. Pat Gardner, D-Atlanta, has filed two annexation bills for the city of Atlanta, including a bill that would call for a referendum on annexing the Druid Hills community.

    Gardner filed the bills on March 10. The Atlanta annexation bill might need some more clarity. While the original annexation proposal put together by Together in Atlanta included Briar Vista and Fernbank Elementary, as well as Druid Hills High School, House Bill 586 appears to also include McLendon and Medlock Elementary Schools.

    DSW2 Note: That is not good for the International Community School, which after years of requests, was finally allowed to use the shuttered Medlock School for its home.

    CLICK HERE
    to download a map of the proposed annexation area built by a citizen – it’s not an official map.

    Read the rest at Decaturish >> http://www.decaturish.com/2015/03/atlanta-annexation-bill-filed-includes-druid-hills/

  38. And here’s a bit of info on what would happen with the schools >>

    Rep. Oliver preps bill for APS/DeKalb Schools contract
    Posted by Decaturish.com March 21, 2015

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