Archive for February, 2013

My Response to Town Hall Meeting with Marshall Orson, DeKalb County School Board Member

Matt Huey

Matt Huey

By Matt Huey – What I know about DeKalb Schools and our Board of Education stem from my involvement in Briar Vista Elementary, the school that will touch every student and tax payer who live along LaVista, Houston Mill, Mason Mill roads and much of Briarcliff Road. Since 2009 I have fought budget changes that threatened the school’s Montessori teaching program, ultimately losing the fight this school year. I spent 2 years as Parent Teacher Organization’s president advocating for better education for the children at our school.  Along the way I met many good people in the DeKalb School System and many that I wouldn’t offer a ride if they were standing in the pouring rain. What I learned about county educational politics can be summed up in 3 points:

  1. The DeKalb school system is more about money and property values than education.
  2. Your school either has influence or it does not.
  3. Your school is either on the inside or the outside of the DCSS and the DeKalb Board Of Education.

DCSSDeKalb schools have been so poorly run, so mismanaged that last week the state board recommended that every board member not serving their first term be removed citing a sustained “culture of poor governance”. This culture stems from misappropriation of tax funds, nepotism, favoritism, cronyism and politicking of an institution that has one function…providing a quality education for our children. While I cannot cite many of the past indiscretions I can raise awareness of one in the works: The planned replacement of Fernbank Elementary School.

Along with Avondale, Briar Vista, Laurel Ridge and McLendon Elementary schools, Fernbank is in the Druid Hills High School “cluster”. These elementary schools feel Druid Hills Middle which feeds Druid Hills High.  Since the entire cluster feeds the same middle and high school only elementary school districts exist within the cluster.  The entire county school system is composed of such clusters.

Currently the populations of the elementary schools in our cluster are as follows:

  • Avondale:  Capacity 686 seats, enrolment 525, 77% utilization (159 open seats)
  • Briar Vista:  Capacity 542, enrolment 439, 81% utilization  (103 open seats)
  • Fernbank:  Capacity 578, enrolment 675, 117% utilization (97 over capacity)
  • Laurel Ridge:  Capacity 443, enrolment 446, 101% utilization (3 over capacity)
  • McLendon:  Capacity 559, enrolment 490, 88% utilization (69 open seats)

We have a total of 331 open seats in our cluster, more than enough to accommodate all of our students now and in the future.  When the 900 seat Fernbank is built another 322 seats will be added bring the total open seats to over 653, the equivalent of a new, empty school. To justify this new school the county plans to redistrict 65 students from Laurel Ridge and 17 students from Briar Vista.  Below are the county’s own 2016-2017 utilization forecasts:

  • Avondale:  Capacity 686 seats, enrolment 527, 77% utilization (157 open seats)
  • Briar Vista:  Capacity 542, enrolment 423 , 78% utilization  (119 open seats)
  • Fernbank:  Capacity 900, enrolment 758 , 84% % utilization (142 open seats)
  • Laurel Ridge:  Capacity 443, enrolment 343 , 77% utilization (100 open seats)
  • McLendon:  Capacity 559, enrolment 491, 88% utilization (68 open seats)

Don’t believe me? Check the below link from the DCSS website.

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/splost-iv/proposed-organization-facilities-presentation-and-binder-(2012-12-10).pdf

Briar Vista Elementary School

Briar Vista Elementary School

In short we are spending tens of millions of tax payer dollars on new school that will decrease average facility utilization from the current 93% to 80%, all to accommodate 97 students in a school cluster with over 300 open seats.  Am I the only genius who sees the problem here? Wait…refer to the 3 points above. Who has influence? Who is on the inside? Who stands to gain financially?

Are there plans to close a school in the cluster to fill the new Fernbank? Not now and not likely.  Fernbank’ s stellar test scores are, in large part, due to the near absence of students with the Limited English skills and economic disadvantages, the two demographics that most negatively impact test scores. If a neighboring school were to close it would take some serious gerrymandering (like the Cross Keys cluster) to keep these demographics intact. Consider that the 82 students targeted for redistricting from Laurel Ridge and Briar Vista are all from single family residences, least likely to contain these demographics.

Conversely, will the county redistrict Fernbank students to relieve overcrowding and balance the cluster? History has shown that they will be in for the fight of their life if they try.

So why is county spending a large portion of the 2.2 billion tax payer dollars on a new school where it is clearly not justified? Who has influence? Who is on the inside? Who stands to gain financially?

And at whose expense? Around 60% of your county property taxes go to schools and the entire county will pay for SLPOST IV, the 1 cent tax that will be in place for the next 4 years. How much of this money will be spent in your neighborhood? Helping educate your children? Helping your property values?  For Briar Vista, our neighborhood school: no influence, no one on the inside, no one fighting for our interests.

If you are concerned you should be. Strike while the iron is hot!!  Write Governor Deal (http://gov.georgia.gov/contact-governor-domestic-form), representative Scott Holcomb (scott@repscottholcomb.com), interim school Superintendent Michael Thurmond (michael_l_thurmond@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us),Marshal Orson, our new Board of Education representative (marshall_orson@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us) and voice your concerns. Tell them to not only remove the board, but to begin repairing the damage they have done. Share this with anyone who will listen. Ask questions and carefully listen to the answers. There may still be time to do something that will benefit all our children, not just a chosen few.

Matt Huey
Past President
Briar Vista Parent Teacher Organization

Editor’s Note: The above piece is the expressed opinion of the author and not policy of LLCC.

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February 26, 2013 at 9:34 am Leave a comment

State Board of Education Recommends Removal of Six DeKalb Members

ByTimothy Darnell – North Druid Hills / Briarcliff Patch (patch.com)

The State Board of Education voted late Thursday night to recommend the removal of six members of the DeKalb School Board to Gov. Nathan Deal.

The board voted unanimously to recommend that Sarah Copelin-Wood, Donna Edler, Eugene Walker, Jay Cunningham, Nancy Jester and Pamela Speaks be removed from the DeKalb school board.

If Gov. Deal follows the board’s recommendation, Jim McMahan, Marshall Orson and Melvin Johnson would remain on the board as newly elected members.

The recommendation came after a meeting that began at 8 am and ended at 10:15 pm.

The meeting was the latest in the DeKalb school system’s ongoing battle to avoid losing its accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools, which has already placed the system on probation.

DeKalb’s school board had to convince the State Board of Education that it was making progress toward retaining its accreditation. The State Board has the authority to recommend that Gov. Deal remove the board.

The DeKalb school board had sought a temporary injunction of this morning’s meeting as it challenges the law that gives the governor the authority to remove an entire school board. A judge ruled denied the request early Wednesday afternoon.

February 21, 2013 at 11:45 pm Leave a comment

Lakeside Cityhood Movement Announces Arrival

By Jonathan Cribbs – editor, North Druid Hills/Briarcliff Patch

Will the Lakeside High School area find itself part of a new city?

The Lakeside City Alliance wants to find out.

The non-profit, chaired by Northlake-area resident Mary Kay Woodworth, will hold its first public meeting at Lakeside High on Feb. 13. It released the following statement Wednesday:

Citizens Group Announces Cityhood Study Initiative for Northern DeKalb County

ATLANTA, GA — February 6, 2013— A group of DeKalb County citizens announced today the formation of the Lakeside City Alliance, a non-profit group created to study the possibility and feasibility of establishing a new city in northern DeKalb County.  The Alliance is chaired by Mary Kay Woodworth, a lifelong DeKalb County resident, who lives near the Northlake Mall area.  The Alliance released a draft map of the proposed parameters of the new city, which would be bounded roughly by Interstate 85 to the west, Clairmont Road to the south, Chamblee-Tucker Road to the east and Pleasantdale Road to the north.

In announcing the creation of the Alliance study group, Woodworth noted that the proposed boundaries represent the Alliance’s efforts to define the community of interest that encompasses the proposed city.  “After years of being 50,000 citizens without a voice, we are excited about the prospect of examining a form a government that is both closer and more responsive to the people it represents,” Woodworth said.  “The Alliance will study the type of government best-suited to our area with an emphasis on allowing for more local control of police services, parks and zoning.”

Woodworth noted that “members of the Alliance are all citizens of DeKalb County, and we look forward to assessing the feasibility of a local government that integrates efficiently with the current county government.  We will study ways to fund and sustain a new city that provides services best overseen locally, while ensuring that the County can continue to provide the services it delivers best for all residents of DeKalb.”

Woodworth explained that the group will host a series of public meetings to introduce the proposed map, discuss its plans with area residents and receive feedback from interested stakeholders.  The first meeting will be held at at Lakeside High School on Wednesday, February 13.

“Today begins a careful study of the best means to provide local control to taxpayers,” Woodworth declared, “who have felt for far too long that they were powerless to control their own destinies.  It is our hope that with the formation of the Lakeside City Alliance, help is finally on the way.”

Additional information can found regarding LCA by visiting LCA’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/LakesideCityAllianceGa), website (www.lakesidealliance.org) and Yahoo! Group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lakesidealliance/)

The alliance has released a map of its proposed boundaries. To become a city, the state legislature would need to approve the idea and then voters would have to vote in favor of it.

The alliance was featured in a WSB-TV news report as well.

February 7, 2013 at 3:57 pm 1 comment

Emory to invest $312M in Clifton Road hospital expansion

 

Staff Writer – Atlanta Business Chronicle

Emory Hospital Expansion

Emory Healthcare will invest $312 million in expanding its flagship hospital on Clifton Road.

The health system previously announced plans to build a new 9-story clinical tower, to accommodate an increase in patient volumes.

While Emory declined to disclose the number of jobs that might be created, based on industry estimates, a 200-bed hospital would employ about 1,000.

The tower, which will be build across the hospital, will have 210 inpatient beds — a combination of new and existing beds that will relocate from Emory University Hospital.

The tower will include operating rooms, imaging services, a clinical laboratory.

Construction on the tower will begin in July 2013 with the building of an underground parking deck. The tower is expected to be completed in 2017

February 7, 2013 at 3:46 pm Leave a comment


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