Unlike previous board meetings, Dr. Morley and the Interim Superintendent didn’t beat the other board members into submission. While the agenda contained some surprises and the voting results were sometimes unclear, Dr. Morley and the Interim Superintendent arguably outwitted their opponents. Dual Accreditation and the After School Money were the big issues of the day.
I have summarized and provided links to the recap and video clips of the meeting’s highlights.
- Dual Accreditation
- After School Money
- Revenue Shortfall
- School Attendance Lines
- Tribute to Gregory Davis
- Ashford Park Parent Paid Renovation
- Charter Schools Presentation
Dual Accreditation – Recap and Video Clip
The board debated allowing schools to pursue GAC accreditation. Mr. Coleman called the question on a proposed amendment to the action item. The question was voted on and passed, so the proposed amendment was voted on and passed. The action item itself, however, was never actually voted on.
Dr. Morley and the Interim Superintendent were joined by Thad Mayfield in their opposition to GAC and the dual accreditation concept. Board reps Orson and Coleman have been feeling the heat from Terry Nall, parents and taxpayers to make this happen. The Interim Superintendent wants Dr. Elgart to be the only accreditor.
Last week I had the opportunity to speak with a long-time resident of South DeKalb. I learned it is a commonly held belief in her area that GAC/dual accreditation is somehow seen as a first step in a process to break off into smaller school districts. Clearly some citizens and parents would like to see smaller districts – count me as one. But, I do not see how GAC accreditation would assist, strengthen or hasten the movement to break DeKalb into smaller districts.
After School Program (ASP) Money – Recap and Video Clip
In one of the first budget hearings, the Interim Superintendent appropriated the after school money for the general fund. There was widespread public outrage over this breach of trust. the Interim Superintendent has since recalibrated his position, but it is interesting to note the previous budget hearings are not published and DCSS is refusing to do so. Those hearings offer clarity into the original intent of the administration and Superintendent regarding the After School Program funds. The final budget does not appear to use the ASP money but we’ll need to go through the budget in more detail to confirm. I’ll get Nancy on that!
Revenue Shortfall – Recap and Video Clip
The FY 2014 budget has General Fund revenue and expenditures at exactly $755,761,000. Mr. Bell announced at the board meeting today the tax assessors have adjusted anticipated revenues for DeKalb Schools down $2M. This news in addition to the “System-Wide School Scheduling Efficiency” revenue forecast adjustment, however, hasn’t deterred the administration from keeping revenue estimates at the same level. The “System-Wide School Scheduling Efficiency” revenue forecast was adjusted down $6.6M (from $9.2M to $2.6M). Despite Mr. Bell’s advice that “You need to be conservative on your revenue estimates and aggressive on your expenditure estimates”, he mentioned that these forecasts are just a trend analysis. Senior administration ultimately decides what forecasts to go with. He further said, “On the revenue side, we are over 90% accurate.”. I’m not sure he realizes that comes out to +/- $100M.
School Attendance Lines – Recap and Video Clip
The administration would like to make minor changes to the attendance lines without board approval. I’m not sure what attendance line emergencies come up that can’t wait a few weeks for a board to approve.
This policy allows the Superintendent (or their designee) to adjust lines up to 1/8 mile and affect 5 or fewer children. This seems odd because one can’t argue that this is about balancing enrollment. If only 5 children can be moved, that adjustment won’t significantly change the enrollment numbers at a school. So, why the need for this policy? It isn’t a leap to see that this policy could be used to benefit friends and punish adversaries. This isn’t a good policy.
Tribute to Gregory Davis – Video Clip
Gregory Kane Davis of Stone Mountain died suddenly after he collapsed June 3 at the DeKalb school board budget meeting. This is the tribute to him at the 07/01/2013 board meeting. The board named the fleet service center adjacent to the AIC in memory of Mr. Davis.
Ashford Park Parent Paid Renovation – Recap and Video Clip
Ashford Park Elementary School is in dire need of renovations. Ashford Park and Montgomery ES should have received major renovations with SPLOST IV. Brookhaven, Chamblee and Dunwoody are all in need of more seats in elementary schools. SPLOST IV does practically nothing to address the crowding and conditions at schools in District 1. The “Facility Assessment” numbers were manipulated to produce a better outcome for the favored at the expense of some.
I have tremendous respect for parents and communities who come together to fundraise to improve their school. But it strikes me as a tragedy that these parents have to pay for renovations, playgrounds and more by fundraising and, thus, taxing themselves another time. We currently have one of the highest millage rates for schools in the state. The mismanagement and politics of SPLOST have combined to deprive some children of what should be basic at every school school.
So I cringe when I hear Board members, like Mr. Coleman, compliment Ashford Park for their donation and commitment without taking issue with the billions of dollars DeKalb has collected through the SPLOSTs and demonstrably misallocated. All the while, we see some schools in disrepair, children without safe playgrounds and trailers without covered walkways.
Charter Schools Presentation – Video Clip and Powerpoint Presentation
Mr. Louis Erste, Director of the Charter Schools Division, State Department of Education, gave a charter schools presentation during the work session. The state is pushing to see conversion charters have real autonomy. Also, class size waivers are scheduled to go away by 2015