Cross Keys Foundation – Secondary Schools Study Position

Cross Key cluster is at the epicenter of the Secondary School Facility Planning and Feasibility Study. Superintendent Green has made it perfectly clear he is going to address over crowding in the Cross Keys cluster and he is going to recluster Cross Keys.
Kim Gokce is the President of the Cross Keys Foundation. He put together this position letter of the Cross Keys Foundation
Our position is formed of guiding principles, assertions, and proposals.
Guiding Principles
Guiding Principle #1: Equity and Access First – strategic capital investments by DCSD must be made to ensure equity and access to educational opportunities and positive learning environments for all DeKalb children.
Guiding Principle #2: Size Provides Flexibility – to support long-term flexibility in capacity planning and programming DSCD should build sites to support 1,500 or more middle school students and 2,400 or more high school students.
Guiding Principle #3: Speed – due to the egregious and growing overcrowding of Region 1 and Region 2 schools, speed in decision-making and in execution are essential.
Guiding Principle #4: Incremental Progress is Progress – that all gaps and issues cannot be resolved in a single project, decision, or action must not be used as a rationale for postponing critical decisions.
Guiding Principle #5: Avoid Absolutes – the District must maintain flexibility in execution of SPLOST V projects and the response to the Study in order to adapt to future changing conditions that will arise during the implementation period.
Assertion #1: Re-clustering as a result of the SPLOST V construction should be done using whole elementary school zones wherever possible.
Assertion #2: Resulting clusters should serve between 4-6 elementary schools with enrollment targets of 500-900.
Assertion #3: Due to enrollment size and projections, no more than two of any of the following elementary schools should feed into a cluster together in the re-clustering effort: Hightower, Pleasantdale, Cary Reynolds, Dresden, Montclair, and Woodward.
Assertion #4: In their current configuration, neither Dunwoody, Druid Hills, Lakeside, nor Tucker clusters are able to absorb an additional high enrollment elementary school.
Assertion #5: Assertions #1-4 require that, as the two remaining clusters in the region, Chamblee (CCHS) and Cross Keys (CKHS) will be the receiving clusters in the re-clustering effort. Considered with geography, this assertion posits that Hightower and Pleasantdale should continue to feed their current clusters and the four remaining elementary schools must be paired as two groups, Woodward / Montclair and Dresden / Cary Reynolds.
Assertion #6: We believe that the necessary funds should be identified to support the level of educational environments all children deserve. We feel that creating a fourth cluster and high school in the Region 1 area will unnecessarily perpetuate inequities in the Region for portions of the Cross Keys Community. We also believe a fourth cluster will raise the level of initial capital required and forever burden the District with additional operational expenses. This can be avoided by keeping a three high school Region 1 strategy.
1. Where should DCSD build a new high capacity HS? (Near CKHS’ current site)
2. Should the High Achievers Magnet programs be moved? (Not at the HS at this time)
Proposal #1: Build a HS with core services to support up to 2,800 students with a site plan to open at 2200-2400 students. The site should be built near the current Cross Keys HS and the current CKHS facility should be repurposed as a 1,500-1,800 MS.
Proposal #2: Sequoyah MS should feed Chamblee Charter HS and the CMS site should be used for one of the following uses: as another feeder ES or MS of CCHS as a joint feeder along with Sequoyah MS, for future re-use for Magnet as a 4-8 academy at a dedicated facility (this frees up Nancy Creek ES to be an attendance area ES or “lower grade school” to relieve and feed Montgomery ES), or as swing space.
Proposal #3: When the new John Lewis ES opens, Dresden ES should send ~ 50%+ of its students to new John Lewis ES. A scenario may arise were the “2nd Elementary School” planned for Doraville area to relieve Cary Reynolds could absorb the remaining Dresden students. While speculative, we feel it is important to anticipate enrollment changes due to redevelopment of Buford Hwy throughout the region and be prepared to feed students north or south via the two new elementary schools to supply the future CKHS or current CCHS as circumstances direct and capacity comes online 2019 and later.
Proposal #4: We believe it is less disruptive to retain the HS Magnet seats via classroom additions at the current CCHS. Should the growth in the area continue or even accelerate in the coming years as forecast, the 800+/- seats this program represents should be leveraged at the discretion of DCSD if circumstances require it. This is a DeKalb program and should be managed as such.
Proposal #5: Keep Clarkston cluster “whole” by finding necessary funding to support the expansion of the current CHS. The Options as presented by DCSD appeared to pit CK community against both the Magnet in Option C and Clarkston’s desired expansion in A and C. We believe that unless there are no financial alternatives found, the addition requested to keep Clarkston “whole” should be considered.
Proposal #6: We believe that all remaining clusters in Regions 1 and 2 should address overcrowding via classroom and core services additions and that the Planning Department should be directed to devise such plans that minimize or eliminate split feeders.

21 responses to “Cross Keys Foundation – Secondary Schools Study Position

  1. DeKalb Inside Out

    Move the magnet from Kittredge? That doesn’t seem to be in touch with a majority of people.
    Assertion #3: It looks like you’re trying to divide up the Title I schools. Would you recommend the school district do that across the county?

  2. Why would creating another cluster perpetuate inequities? The concerns raised related to Cross Keys that have been highlighted over the years as I understand it are their elongated cluster (the appearance is that it was created to marginalize them) and unconscionable neglect of needs/facilities – providing little to none of what other high schools received. Wouldn’t a new cluster remove such a skewed attendance area and provide brand middle and high school facilities in addition to 2 new elementary schools?

  3. DeKalb Inside Out

    Cross Keys has selected the “Split Feeder” option but requests DCSD eliminate the part about split feeders. I think some people are missing the point of the split feeder option.

  4. I thought the ideas of Cross Keys High School teacher, Rebekah Morris, were interesting. In “DeKalb County Schools Redistricting: How Will You Respond?” she says

    Creating a New Cluster
    The Atlanta Regional Commission estimates we will add over 22,000 people to the area of DeKalb north of I-85 by the year 2040 (155,000 total population growth the county). In order to address the overcrowding and dilapidated conditions in many of the Region 1 schools, we need more schools and we need renovations to current schools.
    If we create school attendance zones that mimic these city lines, we could create the enviable “community school,” something many parents across the region advocate for.
    The tighter district lines meet the needs of those who want to have a more consolidated community that centers around one high school (with its feeder middle school(s) and elementary schools), allowing for a community “center” (similar to that of Decatur High School)
    1. The tighter district lines meet the needs of those who want to have a more consolidated community that centers around one high school (with its feeder middle school(s) and elementary schools), allowing for a community “center” (similar to that of Decatur High School, pictured above).
    2. The smaller district will allow for more efficient transportation for students (since the buses won’t have to take students up to 10 miles to their high school, as they currently do within the Cross Keys HS attendance zone).
    3. Promote integration of different socioeconomic statuses and races.
    4. Those who want a city school district will be able to, in some ways, have this (without the ability to control personnel within the school and without the ability to control funding).
    Here is a very crude rendering of what the boundary lines could look like with this new “Doraville” high school:

  5. How is suggesting that MES students attend Sequoyah Middle any different than sending the Kids from CRES and DES to CCHS any different? This is just taking children from their neighborhood school, handing it over to School of Choice/ lucky lottery winners. Makes no sense. Some students will travel further than any have been required. In the CK cluster.

  6. People need to wake up and do their research on the Cross Keys Foundation President. That’s all I’m going to say.

  7. Ms. Morris’ comments are thoughtful and reasonable. I hope DCSD gives them serious consideration.

  8. Hi, Illegitimate! No need to hint at a shadowy figure. I’m here to answer any questions people have about me, the CK Foundation, our efforts, and anything related to our position statement. I would add a clarifying comment that the above is from the Foundation letter to DCSD. My understanding is that Sequoyah MS and Cross Keys HS school councils submitted their own letter jointly.
    For those who don’t know CK Foundation, we are different than other public education foundations you may know in our community. We are not a “school foundation” a la the Mustang Fund at MES or the Wildcat Fund at DHS or the Viking Fund at LHS, etc, etc. We proudly adopted the Cross Keys name because it represents our common history from Dunwoody down to Lakeside. The entire region was known as “Cross Keys” from European settlement down through the 1950s when the region was still labeled the “Cross Keys Militia District.”
    We don’t support schools we support the expansion of public educational opportunities for at risk kids in our region and for the teachers in the schools that serve them. We adopted the “Cross Keys” cluster and all the schools that serve its children due to their obvious need. So, while PATH Academy is not in the cluster, we happily support classroom projects and material needs for that DeKalb charter school because it serves area “at risk” kids. Same goes for Oakcliff ES though it serves Lakeside and Cross Keys clusters.
    Enough of my shady promotion – I’m happy to answer any question and Illegitimate is here to challenge anything I say if it doesn’t sound right to him/her.

  9. And for fans of Mrs. Morris (and I consider myself one), here is her latest blog on the subject:
    Why am I fan? Because she obviously brings intellectual honesty to her analysis and reflects that in her blogging. I’ll let her writing speak for itself but I don’t think she is in her thinking where she was in April when the item shared above.
    Mrs. Morris and I have had many animated debates about many of the dimensions of DeKalb public education and the Secondary School Study, in particular. I respect her opinion even when we disagree.

  10. Tim DeBardelaben

    I agree with some of Kim’s assertions, but I question how best to go about relieving the overcrowding in DCSD. First nobody is talking about relieving the overcrowding in other districts.. That is one reason I say they should reopen Briarcliff as a High School and form it’s own cluster. Make it a smaller cluster using Briar Vista, Montclair and Sagamore Hills. Also move open it as Charter Magnet School. This would give you the fastest relief to Cross Keys, Lakeside, Druid Hills and as Magnet it would relieve Chamblee as well. Thus allowing Chamblee to help with the overcrowding at Tucker. At less than $30 million this would allow money to go to other districts to help with their overcrowding. Also by being a Magnet program it would lessen the resistance to redistricting. By taking one school from each cluster, everybody would feel the pain. Once John Lewis moves to Skyland location, that building could be added on to become Briarcliff’s Middle School. This would give Dekalb a , Middle School and Stadium all at one location. Campus with High School Middle School and Stadium all at one location. Easy access to Expressway System and MARTA for Magnet program. Plus it would be only campuses adjacent to public park.

  11. So my position has changed a bit for 3 reasons:
    1. The Cross Keys community strongly favored the FASTEST/cheapest option to relieve overcrowding, and a Doraville HS would be further into the future than a new CK building at either our current property or the Briarcliff property.
    2. My original position depended on the idea that DeKalb wouldn’t build bigger than 1600-student schools. I know now that they are indeed open to changing their student-capacity limit to over 2400 (I think it should be closer to 3000). This is probably the factor that shifted my position the most.
    3. I didn’t realize the option to move the magnet program –thereby opening 800 seats at CCHS– was a possibility.
    These 3 aspects have shifted me towards the current Option B. Obviously I’m open to new information, so perhaps someone will be able to show me what I’m missing. But at this point, that is where I am in my thinking.

  12. Cross Keys HS – CKHS has a capacity of 1,200 and is in relatively good shape. I haven’t seen the numbers, but it seems like buying land and building an 1,800 seat high school would be a cheaper way to add 1,800 seats than tearing down CKHS and building a new 3,000 seat school.
    I’m reticent to turn all of our high schools into 3,000 seat schools. I’m not sure these spaces and surrounding infrastructure can accommodate 3,000 seat high schools. CKHS is also on the edge of the district, which means students would be coming from even further.
    Relocating the magnet doesn’t seem like a popular idea. I’m more inclined to advocate for new high achiever magnets in other regions.
    Rebekah mentioned in her blog, “If large high schools still seem unappealing, then perhaps we as a district need to be okay with the fact that we are going to need to redistrict every couple of years in order to balance enrollment.”.
    That seems to be the elephant in the room and the underlying issue at hand.

  13. Dear Ms. Morris,
    What is the source of your statement that there are 800 magnet seats at CCHS?
    DCSD’s estimate in the Round 3 Options presentation showed 632 magnet students at CCHS. Calculations at the school last spring showed slightly more than 500 magnet students at CCHS.
    I feel the accuracy of your statement must be verified, as over-stating the size of the magnet program at CCHS also over-states any benefit of moving the magnet program.
    Thank you.

  14. Anonymous,
    Thank you for the dialogue. I am using the numbers from the district’s handout that explained that under Option C (where the magnet program would be moved) 632 students would be moved from CCHS to “schools with available capacity” and 316 students would be moved from Chamblee MS to “schools with available capacity.” I think it’s fair to say that at least 50% of those students would matriculate into the magnet program at CCHS.
    Also, just so that we are clear: I am not advocating that we move the magnet right now. I am saying that at some point, it might make sense to move it.
    And regarding cost of the tear down and rebuild– I’m not sure of those specific costs at this point, but the ongoing costs of 2 1600-student high schools would certainly be more than 1 3000-student high school (think: administration, maintenance, gym, auditorium, etc.)

  15. That brings up a good question … what is the optimal size of a high school? Obviously 1 school with 10,000 students is too big and 20 schools with 500 students would be equally less than optimal.
    There are a number of things to consider. Economies of scale break down quickly in government. A school twice as big usually doesn’t save money on maintenance, administration, etc … it takes twice (or more) as many people to do the work. School buses must drive further distances, etc …
    More importantly, the benefits of having smaller schools have been researched and written about ad nauseam. They show that smaller schools tend to be safer and generally better places for students to learn. Graduation rates are generally higher, greater teacher satisfaction, small schools are more flexible, there is less one size fits all, etc…
    In my limited research, it seems that the optimal size for a high school is no larger than 1,000 students. That being said, I wouldn’t use this blog as reference to anybody’s dissertation.

  16. Dear Ms. Morris,
    While I very much appreciate your reply, I am still quite puzzled by your estimates.
    I cannot see how you took DCSD’s estimates of the number of magnet students at CCHS (632) and Chamblee Middle (316) and concluded that moving the magnet program will free up 800 seats at CCHS, the high school.
    Perhaps you were using ‘CCHS’ to refer to both middle and high school students. But in this discussion the distinction between middle and high school seats is necessary.
    I hope you can understand my concern that this discussion is based on specific and accurate language. Otherwise, as I said before, over-stating the size of the magnet program at CCHS also over-states any relief of overcrowding that might be gained by moving the magnet program.

  17. As I discussed in Key Takeaways – Facilities Study – Round 3 Meetings, The education planning consultants came away with these Key Takeaways from the August public Round 3 meetings:
    • Parents want facilities fixed – not a Band-Aid – and cost does not seem to be a major concern
    • Parents want to know specifics of who will be redistricted
    • Parents want to know impact on elementary schools
    • Traffic impact, especially pertaining to Briarcliff site, is a major concern
    • Consensus on moving magnet programs is unclear – many parents opposed to moving successful program, but others indicate support for more centralized program, or expanding magnets to more schools
    • Option C might have more support if sites are named where magnets would move
    • Concern about impact on property values and keeping communities intact
    • Concern that DCSD will work cooperatively with DeKalb/municipal governments on whatever plan is adopted
    • Some support for developing one or more new options, including rebuilding Cross Keys HS on current site
    • Overwhelming support for Option A among those who indicated a preference

  18. Here’s the Magnet Move Assumptions handout Rebekah is talking about …

  19. Stan, a massive correction to your statements:
    • Consensus on moving magnet programs is unclear – many parents opposed to moving successful program, but others indicate support for more centralized program, or expanding magnets to more schools
    • Option C might have more support if sites are named where magnets would move
    Actually the one message that came through loud and clear is that survey respondents and public meeting attendees do NOT want the magnet program to move. Elementary schools that feed into CMS and CCHS do NOT want the magnet program to move. As more than just CCHS responded to the survey, the tiny proportion voting for Option C got even smaller. Option C got 4.5% of the vote. The 6-ish rooms I looked into at the public meetings had zero voting in favor of Option C. That is a very, very clear message.
    Expanding to more schools was the next most popular magnet-related discussion in the comments, but that didn’t imply moving the existing program from CCHS – they said IN ADDITION TO.

  20. I think I understand the frustration faced by the Cross Keys community. It is an area that has been neglected by the county and surrounding communities for years. Schools are both overcrowded and in poor condition, and concerns raised by the community have not been heard. The elongated shape of the cluster demonstrates a willful attempt to isolate the immigrant community. To add additional insult, it is bounded by three high schools that are doing relatively well. Chamblee, Dunwoody, and Lakeside all have lower levels of poverty (33% to 39% students receiving free/reduced lunch vs. 92% for Cross Keys, I’m using data from and rank high among other schools in the state. And the positions taken by the other school councils suggest they want to nothing to do with this area. They want to be left as is.
    I think position taken by the CKF is done with the best of intentions. But I worry that in trying to avoid a “Cross Keys 2.0” we end up creating one anyway at Chamblee High School. To balance the two schools based on social economic status would mean creating two schools with a higher rate of poor students than middle/upper middle class students (63% students receiving free/reduce lunch at both schools). We would then have to convince the middle/upper middle income families in the area to stay. If these families decide to move or pursue private schools then that will be setback for both schools. The under-served students at Cross Keys will not gain anything. The poor students that are currently benefiting by being part of the Chamblee cluster will lose a lot.
    This is a difficult position to be in. Integration is a good way to improve the prospects of poor students, but there aren’t enough middle/upper middle class students to integrate with. And the harder you push the more you may drive people away. Down the road this area could face the same problems faced by South DeKalb in that there will be very few middle/upper class people left to integrate with. Students will need more spending because they are poor, but the people with the means and resources to improve things will be gone.
    I think all of the solutions currently on the table will create a “Cross Keys 2.0” (including the one suggested by Ms. Morris). If we throw both Dunwoody and Lakeside into the mix then maybe there is a shot (DHS, LSHS, CKHS, and CHHS combine for a 47% f/r lunch rate). It would mean making the overcrowding situation worse or spending even more money than Option A. It might mean breaking up the CKHS cluster (would the community be OK with that?). I don’t think this problem can be solved by the school system alone. It has to be done in conjunction with housing. You have to convince more middle/upper class families to move in and support the public schools, and figure out a way to break up the concentration of poverty throughout the county; maybe give poor people the opportunity to move to better areas somehow.
    I am not really trying to come up with a solution here; just trying to better understand the challenge we face.

  21. I think we are overthinking this dimension of “diversity.” Great opportunity tomorrow to get street level familiarity with our community and all its diversity. I know a lot of family plans were derailed this weekend due to Hurricane Matthew. If you are looking for fun local things to do with your family this Saturday AM, please consider TEA Walk 2016. For twelve years, the Center for Pan Asian Community Services has been leading this event about bringing people together and empowering all. Hope to see you there tomorrow!