And, again, the more things change, the more they stay the same…

Several representatives of the Cross Keys cluster of schools came to the last DeKalb School Board meeting, once again pleading for attention for their facilities. They have been warning the district about over-crowding for years and now, the scale has tipped. One speaker let us know that the cluster now has more students spending their entire school career in trailers than there are total students enrolled in nearby schools. In addition, one of the elementary schools trailers have been placed on the playground – virtually eliminating the ability to have recess time for these children!

The original DSW blog reported on the horrible conditions at Cross Keys High School several years ago and some money was eventually spent on the building. Truthfully, a majority of that money was spent to move the High School of Technology North into the Cross Keys facility. The original HSTN building had been traded to Perimeter College for property to build the brand new Dunwoody Elementary School. But some money was also spent to clean up the rest of the facility. Three years later, the very dangerous outdoor track was finally replaced as well.

Watch this video for some real truth about the lack of equity in DeKalb schools. This has long been and continues to be our frustration with the leadership in DeKalb – the vast crevasse between the haves and the have-nots; the focus only on the high achievers (mostly magnet schools) along with the refusal to admit that there are many students who are not afforded respectable facilities, proper books, tools and technology and the per pupil spending required in the classroom in order to achieve the best possible results.

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Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
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12 Responses to And, again, the more things change, the more they stay the same…

  1. dsw2contributor says:

    Today’s Channel-2 News: “A DeKalb County father wants answers after he says his son was slapped by a school bus driver….. [Troy Morris, the] father of an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old at Midway Elementary School in Decatur says rowdy behavior on bus route 49 has been constant and it boiled over Wednesday.

    “A substitute bus driver slapped one of the boys and hit one of the girls also,” Morris said.

    Morris said children claimed the substitute driver reacted because the students were being disruptive. Willis contacted DeKalb County Schools who confirmed reports of an incident Wednesday, but could only say that allegations have been made and they are being investigated.

    The article: http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/father-wants-answers-after-he-says-bus-driver-slap/nkwxz/

  2. thedeal2 says:

    I will say that there are not many schools that aren’t getting the shaft, DSW2. You think the county creates the vast divide, but honestly, it is the population of each school that contributes greatly to it. Fernbank enjoys more benefits than Kittredge and Wadsworth given their fundraising, use of foundation money, and leadership that isn’t afraid to walk the line on using that money for the good of Fernbank. I don’t begrudge, but they are hiring staff and other major initiatives, while other schools fear the retribution of the central office for appearing to be too entitled or wealthy.

    DSA is supposed to be DeKalb’s version of a Fame-like school, and I believe that any major urban/suburban system, especially one of our size, needs schools like this. Yet DSA has been cut to the bone to the point where it is a shadow of what it should be (yet the students and teachers still churn out amazing results despite the cuts). There is no chorus at an Arts school, for example. My feeling is, if you aren’t going to fund it to be what it should be at a minimum, then stop the charade. For what it’s worth, I think DeKalb should also have a very high-achieving STEM school like other large, urban systems. DeKalb is too big and too diverse in many areas to offer these specialized programs in every school. That is a pipe dream. There will never be chorus, band, STEM, drama, foreign languages, pull-out gifted and others at every single school.

    The reality is that if DeKalb really funded and offered the right programs, families and kids would choose what is best for their child. My kids have no business in an arts school, and I have no problem with county funds being spent on one because I see the value, and I understand that this type of specialized education will create future artists and leaders. That doesn’t make me jealous or resentful. Same for STEM. None of my children will be STEM specialists; therefore, I would not apply, and I would not resent anyone whose child received that education. DeKalb’s problem is that it does everything so poorly. There isn’t really one, big shining star in DeKalb, which is an embarrassment given our county’s resources.

    All magnet schools have zero magnet points. There is NO financial advantage given to the magnet and choice schools by the school system, and it has been that way for over 3 years. The only financial advantage may come from the state or federal government given a school’s population (gifted, special ed, or other subgroups), and DCSD tries to water even that down before it is allocated out to the schools.

    Two of my kids are in neighborhood schools, and two are in choice schools, and all of the schools have the same problems and complaints. All of them have a PTA that purchases basics like copy paper and cleaning supplies via PTA membership money. All of them have supplies on their school supply lists that should be provided by the school (paper towels, Clorox wipes, soap). Neither choice school has a foundation, but the two neighborhood schools do.

    I think sometimes you cling to the DeKalb model of old, where the choice schools really did enjoy a distinct advantage over neighborhood schools due to differences in funding and programs. That is no longer the case and hasn’t been for a few years.

  3. kirklunde says:

    During the February work session the BOE approved $800,000 to purchase trailers without asking any questions about it. Either they knew their questions wouldn’t be answered, or they just didn’t care. There is no accountability.

  4. We don’t disagree with any of your points, TheDeal. However, we very much disagree with your statement that we ‘cling to the DeKalb model of old’ – as we have never, ever endorsed the idea of creating ‘escape’ schools for those parents of children in low-performing schools who are ‘in the know’ and are therefore able to access a quality education for their children by traveling across county. We have always advocated for neighborhood schools. Always. [And we now support the charter schools and hopefully new city schools that are trying to wrangle control of neighborhood schools’ budgets in an effort to provide better outcomes for neighborhood students.]

    If you go back and reread our own blog posts you will see this is true. In fact, our very first blog post on DSW2 highlighted the result of the mass exodus from neighborhood schools in south DeKalb to magnet/theme/other programs across the county. The result was blight and shuttered, deserted schools that harmed neighborhoods and property values. We spent days taking photos and documenting the harm caused by shuttered, abandoned neighborhood schools. But guess what? No one seemed to care much. Read our first post here >> DCSS vacant properties causing blight countywide [Posted on January 25, 2012]

    The exodus is documented in research done by a citizen task force and can be found at the original DSW here >>
    North vs Central vs South – what’s the deal? [Tuesday, May 11, 2010]

    The issue at Cross Keys is not about jealousy or resentment over specialty programs. The issue is simply funding the basics. In reality, we have no issue with specialty programs >> as long as their existence does not harm funding for others. In our opinion, it does. There are only so many resources to go around. If you spend extra per pupil funding, along with extra (millions) for special transportation, then someone else’s budget has to give. It’s not debatable. We have always said that these programs should exist within the walls of a regular school akin to the North Springs Charter High School in Fulton County. Resources like core classroom teachers, lunch services, libraries, counseling and transportation are shared, keeping costs in line.

    As we always say, compare the per pupil spending across the county. If it’s improved so much, then why won’t the administration send us updated numbers? Download our 2010 file [acquired from former board member Paul Womack] here >> https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/per-pupil-expenditures-general-and-title-i.pdf

    ps >> See if you can get an updated report for us…

  5. thedeal2 says:

    By “clinging to the old model”, I meant you still talk as if it is structured where choice schools receive more resources from the county. It isn’t. I know you fully support neighborhood schools. I do, too, but I also see the need for the specialized schools in a school system this size. DeKalb’s problem is that they do everything so badly that people feel like they need an escape route. I just had a conversation with a friend whose school system treats their specialized schools like we should, as designed for kids with that skill. This friend has three children, and he envisions one applying for the STEM school, one applying for the arts school, and the other being fine at their neighborhood schools. It is all choice because there is only a small wait list for the specialty schools, and most everyone gets in that wants to and qualifies. They are not escapes, they are options.

  6. Understood, but we have no proof that spending has evened out. We would bet that as spending has decreased in special programs, it has decreased proportionately in regular schools. Everyone is losing. What system are you referring to with the easy to access programs? We really need to emulate that system. But we have to start with the truth – and an audit. You can’t know what needs to change if you don’t start with the truth, the whole truth. … We would really love to see an updated per pupil spending report!

    [The closest we have come is the enrollment and utilization report found at Stan Jester’s blog >> http://factchecker.stanjester.com/2015/03/4029/ ]

  7. FWIW, there is no reason for all of these cuts to classrooms. There is plenty of money. In fact, as Stan Jester has posted on his blog, we are looking at collecting about $100 million more this year in tax revenue! [Remember, the former board increased the property tax millage rate during the recession, and the current board refused to give it back as property values increased.]

    DeKalb Schools Proposed FY16 Budget
    Posted on April 16, 2015 by Stan Jester

    DeKalb Schools is scheduled to come out with the proposed FY16 budget at the May 4 board meeting. The board made it clear at the March 2 meeting, they wanted to see an increase in spending on instruction.

    Since 2012, annual tax collections for the school district have increased by roughly $100 million. The superintendent proposed spending $20 million of that on teachers with the following news release.

    4 percent cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for all veteran teachers with 6 or more years of experience
    3 percent COLA increase to teachers with 0-5 years of experience; and,
    2 percent COLA increase for all other employees.

    The school district FY2015-2016 Budgeting Process includes:

    April 1 – Board of Education and public comment input
    May 4 – Proposed budget and revenue projections presented to the Board
    May 28 – Tentative budget published in The Champion
    June 1 – Board adopts tentative budget and has first millage rate hearing
    June 4 – Five-year millage rate history published in The Champion
    June 17 – Final budget adoption vote and 2nd and 3rd millage hearings

  8. Really. We all should be wondering: Where does all of the money go?

  9. nannerpuddin39 says:

    Palace salaries and legal fees would be my bet!!

  10. kirklunde says:

    @thedeal2,
    Your statement that schools with special populations “may” get state or federal money based on those populations would be true in a normal school district. However, in DeKalb, the money does NOT follow the student. Federal IDEA grant money for special education is controlled by the central office. QBE funds are controlled by the central office. The administration refuses to show how much each school has earned for the school year and will only show which expenditures they guess will accrued. My son is at a school this year which was not given all the money earned from the QBE formula. The district spends outrageous amounts of IDEA grant money on outside consultants, outdated software, and a computer program for pre-k and elementary students to learn social skills.

    That is not a joke, The children are supposed to be learning how to interact with other kids by sitting in front of a computer.

    Of course there is no accountability or measure of effectiveness for anything special education related.

    Nancy Jester is correct when she says the DCSD budget is only a crude representation of what the administration wants to show to the public. It is not “reality based” or meant to be factual.

  11. thedeal2 says:

    Well, without an audit, which I fully support, too, DSW, the only information I have is my own experience. I have children in choice schools and children not in them. I serve on councils or boards that have access to budgets and principal reports that show the staffing and funding problems are the same at choice schools as they are at neighborhood schools. In fact, some of the neighborhood schools are doing better financially because they have foundations. It is difficult for a choice school to maintain a foundation because there is rarely family continuity, which helps sustain loyalty and giving across many years.

  12. Interesting thedeal2. We would love to have an update on that per pupil spending chart …

    FWIW >> George Chidi seems to think the whole county is about to implode >>

    DeKalb’s darkest days might still be ahead
    Residents might just be seeing the beginning of the county’s implosion.
    By George Chidi

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