Yesterday the DeKalb Board of Education voted to approve (6 – 1) the 2017-2022 E-SPLOST Project List. Before doing so, the board listened to numerous heart felt comments from both sides. Here are the notes from the public speakers that I have collected so far.
Chairman Johnson, Board Members and Dr. Green:
My name is Bill Armstrong and I am a Chamblee Parent. I have one child at Chamblee High, one at Chamblee Middle and my youngest at Huntley Hills, where I am the Chair of the School Council. But tonight I am a Chamblee parent.
I am here to urge the Board of Education to vote tonight to approve the Superintendent’s plan, without delay.
As a parent I’ve been “dealing with” with DeKalb schools, the board, superintendents, the central office, for over 12 years. And by “dealing with” I mean “fighting against,” or at best advocating against their policies and plans. That’s a lot of emails, calls, and coming to these meetings. To me, so far, Dr. Green is not like any of those others. Far from it. It is early, but I have newfound confidence in our system under him and the team he is building.
I came back from the School Council meeting last month thinking & telling others “if he (Green) can pull off half of what he’s planning, we’ll be far ahead of where are now. My kids will be better off, yours will too.” I bet he gets it all. If permitted, I think he’ll get more.
And that meeting was evidence of an improved opportunity for true input from parents, especially from the “organized bodies” level, such as the School Councils. I can say that in the past I felt our input was valued by the Principal & was effective locally in our own school, it didn’t reach anywhere beyond that.
But now, under Green, there is a true mechanism, an actual department with real people set out to interact with the councils. I look forward to working with Ms. Champion as the School Governance Liaison.
And this role of the Councils is only a small slice of his Five-Point Turnaround Plan. The more I look into Dr. Green’s plan, the more I listen to his vision for the schoolchildren of DeKalb – ALL of them, the more impressed I am.
This Chamblee parent, for the first time in 12 years, I am buying in.
The notion of something being different this time really built in me after a great discussion I recently had with the interim Superintendent for region 1 – Sherry Johnson. She spoke of the “buy-in” of the teachers and school community as playing a vital role in the success of Huntley Hills. She was right. And I see an opportunity for a larger “buy-in” leading to success for Chamblee Cluster, all of Region 1, the entire system. I for one, I’m buying in.
This system, under Dr. Green, it feels different to me, it looks different. I am convinced is different. Things are finally working like they should. Board, you hired the right guy. You, the board, need to buy in with your guy. Let him do his job.
This plan – it is part of that job. No delay today.”
Good Evening Dr. Green and Members of the Board,
My name is Stacey Godwin and my children attend Montgomery Elementary School in the Chamblee cluster. This process started with the optimistic approval of ESPLOST V in record setting fashion back in May. What started out with broad community trust and support has sadly turned into mistrust. This sentiment change is the result of some controversial activities that have occurred since the May “Yes” vote. Some examples are: 1) the questionable survey results, 2) the delayed release of affected high school addition plans and 3) an ever changing project list, with substantial changes as recent as last Thursday. To say there is voter’s remorse from ESPLOST V supporters is an understatement.
With such fierce public backlash over the proposed Option before you tonight, I believe a “Yes” vote would be detrimental to not only the public process we were supposed to be engaging in, but would put ESPLOST VI and beyond in jeopardy of voter approval.
Fast forward to today, as I stand before you requesting a vote deferral on Category 2 of the project list, I don’t think these hurdles are insurmountable. I still believe collaboration and compromise can happen between those who are so divided over which Option should prevail….Option A or Option B? Coming from the Montgomery Elementary point of view, our original position paper stated a desire for a combined Option A + B approach and that position hasn’t changed. This recommendation sought to satisfy the desire for a rebuilt Cross Keys High School and a desperately needed fourth cluster in Region 1.
You might wonder, what will be accomplished during the deferral period? I have been encouraged by hearing about positive conversations within the last few days between those with opposing viewpoints. We will never make progress without overcoming these impasses. We must put aside our differences and work toward the common goal of the best possible education for all children in Dekalb County. There will be some compromise in this process, but I believe we can come together as a broad community during the deferral period and formulate a solution which all communities and stakeholders can support. Imagine how successful such a plan could be!
Not only does this provide an opportunity for opposing sides to work together, but the public will expect no less from County planners and administrators engaged in these decisions and processes. We will expect those officials to hear and answer our concerns, be transparent and forthcoming with information and truly consider all of the options available to address the severe overcrowding Regions 1 and 2 are facing.
This deferral request should not hinder your vote on the other four important project categories, those should be approved tonight so the entire county can begin to feel the benefits of ESPLOST V. This also applies to the site location work for the new elementary school in the Doraville area, this important task should proceed without delay.
I hope all Board members will consider hitting the “reset” button tonight as you choose to defer the vote on Category 2.
Thank you for your time and service to the children of Dekalb County.
Good evening Superintendent Green and distinguished members of the board:
My name is Priya Sampath. I have child at Montgomery Elementary and another that will start there in kindergarten next year. I am speaking today to ask that you Defer the Vote for Category 2.
Here is some additional information to understand the Chamblee cluster response. Our response is grounded in the age-old dictum of “At least, do no harm.”
• I am here because I’m concerned that my child and others from her school will come to a high school that even today is too small for its current population.
• Based on the DCSD 2022 forecast, the three high proposed high schools + additions have 2300+ students coming. Whether those students come from schools in the existing Chamblee cluster or the re-clustered Chamblee cluster, is of less import than the fact that kids will be coming to this extremely crowded school.
• Lakeside HS, Dunwoody HS, and Chamblee HS are projected to be at 100% capacity by the time the proposed additions at these schools are complete. We would like for the board and stakeholders to further consider this proposed solution and determine the most efficient use of our tax dollars – so that we aren’t facing the same situation in a few years.
• The DCSD plan, which adds 600 seats with NO purchase of land, depends upon features that the City of Chamblee did not approve just 4 years ago when the current design was finalized, and doesn’t take into account the need for additional athletic space – fields, gyms, lockers, cafeteria, restrooms, needed to serve the PE needs of 600 additional students plus the features that all other athletic teams from mega-high schools have.
• What we want is a campus that is at least as good as its current campus. Chamblee doesn’t want a crammed in campus on less than half the land the state recommends for a 2400 seat school. Like any thinking person, I do not want this for my children, or for my community. And I hope that you would not want it for the children of DeKalb County.
It is due to these concerns that I am asking you to defer a vote for a period of 60 -90 days.
Goals for the ideally 90-Day Delay
During the 60-90 days, I think Chamblee and all Region 1 and 2 schools would like to have DCSD tell them the advantages of its plan. DCSD data shows that their plan calls for spending nearly $150 million on high school capacity in Regions 1 and 2, yet ending up with only 81 more seats than the projected 2022 enrollment.
Chamblee is eager to collaborate with stakeholders in region 1 & 2 to identify creative solutions.
I think that all Region 1 and 2 stakeholders would support going ahead with other E-SPLOST-V category projects, plus the additions to Clarkston HS and Freedom MS. We don’t want other schools to be delayed because of these capacity issues.
And perhaps, re-building trust could be another goal of the 60-90 day delay.
Good evening Dr. Green and members of the Board, My name is Tapika Howard, I’m one of the Co- President’s for PTSA at Chamblee Charter High School and have been a resident of dekalb county for 20 years. In the summer of 2013 our family made the sacrificial decision to move out of our home of 17 years in Lithonia to the Chamblee area after discovering that our now 12th grade daughter was #75 on the school choice lottery list. The decision to move to the area was strictly so that both our daughters, the other who is in the 5th grade at Huntley Hills, could obtain what we considered a quality education, as well as be apart of a community of students and stakeholders whose sole purpose was to ensure that our students, their educational climate, safety, and their needs would be a priority. Chamblee has been that to us and so much more.
Since it’s inception in 1917, Chamblee Charter High School has undergone several renovations, additions, demolitions and building projects in partnership with the Dekalb County School District. However, there has never been a time when the building size was not conducive to the student population we serve. We recently welcomed 200 students that were redistricted from Cross Keys of which our parents, teachers and school administrators have done an exceptional job with ensuring their transition was seamless. However, my presence at the school during the tornado watch was devastating at best to see that all of their safety was being infringed upon as they all were crowded and crammed on the 2nd floor and just a few others on the 1st floor….this confirmed for me that adding 600 additional seats to an already consumed population with no additional land would simply devalue the quality, climate, and safety that drew my family and I to the school in the first place. If it is accurate that the projected enrollment in 2022 would leave the school 23.39 acres under the recommended state minimum for a school its size, this undersized facility will have a myriad of negative impacts and those we say we are here to serve – the students, will be negatively impacted the most.
It is my sincerest concern as a parent and stakeholder that this plan does not provide a long term resolve for the overcrowding issue in this county, but will serve as another band aid for a bad wound that will continue to grow, impact and eventually infect other areas. In essence, I believe that this plan would oppose the destiny of so many students like our daughter whose pathway of diversity, educational climate and size control were the very ingredients that were vitally necessary to her educational success today.
Furthermore, It is not appropriate, fair or equitable for the Dekalb County School Board to vote on a proposal that would add 600 additional seats with no additional land, and leave us without the necessary resources to continue to provide the world class care and service that our parents, students, teachers and the community needs and so deserves. Not to include, our community has not had sufficient opportunity to understand and provide feedback. I am respectfully requesting that you would delay your vote on Category 2 of the Esplost V project list for 60-90 days and allow our and other affected communities ample time and an opportunity to comment further and assist in providing feasible alternatives to the recommended plan. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration, as well as all you do to ensure the success of all of our children.