Emory Annexation and DeKalb County Schools

Stan Jester

If Emory is annexed into Atlanta, it isn’t a stretch to see the scenario where the adjoining neighborhoods, including Druid Hills High School and two other elementary schools, would eventually end up annexed as well.
Marshall Orson is the Board of Education representative from District 2 which includes Druid Hills, Briar Vista, Fernbank, and Sagamore Hills. He provides business development services for intellectual property licensing, acquisitions and partnership transactions.
Mr. Orson will be affected if Atlanta’s annexation into DeKalb goes any further. He has been following this issue closely and provides this analysis and update.

Emory Annexation and DeKalb County Schools
By: Marshall Orson – DeKalb Schools Board of Education
As many of you are aware, Emory University and some adjacent entities (e.g. CDC and CHOA) have requested annexation into Atlanta. After initial opposition by the DeKalb County Government, the city and county have reached agreement on selected issues and the county commission voted to support the annexation. What remains as an open issue is what school government (Atlanta or DeKalb) will have jurisdiction in the annexed area.
In previous annexations in this area, the city ordinances were drafted to alter school district boundaries, shifting annexed areas into APS, even when students and families of DeKalb desired a different outcome. However, when the Emory annexation initially was announced, the city proposed to not change the school district boundaries so that the DeKalb County School District (DCSD) would remain the school government in the annexed area. While the number of students and potential tax revenue in this area is small, it is not simply an academic exercise. This approach has been the consensus plan until recently when the APS Supt. raised objections to this proposal. And, while no school buildings are affected by this annexation, there are potential consequences immediately and going forward.
While expressing no opinion on annexation with regard to city services, DCSD believes that annexations that force school district changes are not consistent with the notion of self-determination in light of how school districts are established in Georgia nor, more importantly, in the best interests of students and families who are impacted. To force such a choice in annexations (i.e. all or nothing) means that citizens either potentially are cut off from what they may perceive as advantages from city services or forced to abandon their current school district which may, in fact, have been a significant factor in where they chose to live. The APS Supt. invokes 145 years of alignment between the city and APS as a rationale for her position but ignores the over 100 years of alignment between the Druid Hills community and DCSD and its predecessors. Emory is such a part of the community that Druid Hills High School sits adjacent to the campus and Fernbank Elementary’ s predecessor school was founded on the Emory campus. The APS approach dismisses out of hand the choices made by these families as well as the value of the long-standing and intertwined relationship between the community and its schools.
One other objection raised to not changing the school district boundaries alleges the outcome would result in “hybrid Atlantans” because some residents would attend APS schools and others would attend DCSD schools. However, many students in the city of Atlanta already do not attend APS schools. Further, Atlantans already have different profiles depending on whether they reside in Fulton or DeKalb—different county commissions and commissioners, different tax commissioners and net tax rates, different court systems, different sheriffs and jails, and so forth. A difference in school governments would be just that—something different. Citizens of Atlanta have coexisted just fine in spite of the differences that already exist.
We believe that the school issue should be separate and apart from any decisions on annexations for municipal services. Ultimately, the Georgia Legislature needs to find a workable and fair mechanism to accomplish this outcome. In the interim, with regard to the Emory annexation, we believe the Atlanta city council should maintain the current school district boundaries—allowing the petitioners to secure what they seek (city services and potentially access to transportation funding) and leaving the school district boundaries intact until a rational and just solution can be crafted. If you agree, I encourage you to reach out to Mayor Reed and the Atlanta city council as soon as possible. Their contact information is attached to this posting.

Carstarphen And APS Desire To Expand Into DeKalb
August 31, 2017 – Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Superintendent Carstarphen signals that she plans on APS annexing DeKalb Schools as the City of Atlanta increases its borders into DeKalb.

Emory Annexation Dominos
September 7, 2016 – If Emory is annexed into Atlanta, it isn’t a stretch to see the scenario where the adjoining neighborhoods, including Druid Hills High School and two other elementary schools, would eventually end up annexed as well.

Marshall Orson On Annexation and the Druid Hills Cluster
January 9, 2015 – Marshall Orson, DeKalb Schools Board Member, talks about the Druid Hills Cluster and annexation saying, “Perhaps it would have been better to just say nothing but I think an informed public is critical to any decisions that may be made. So, here goes:”


Annexation – What happens to the Property
December 16, 2014 – QUESTION: What happens to county school district property when a city annexes an area in that county?


Druid Hills Annexation Into APS
December 15, 2014 – Denied the Druid Hills Cluster, a subset of the cluster known as Together in Atlanta (TIA) has put together a petition to be annexed into Atlanta with the purpose of “more responsive and locally-controlled schools, zoning, and other governmental services.”

17 responses to “Emory Annexation and DeKalb County Schools

  1. Having worked in APS and DeKalb I would tell current DeKalb residents to “run for the hills!” APS does a better job keeping facilities updated and expanding for growth. They do not use trailers as permanent classrooms. They also listen to the communities and make rational decisions for each community. They even let schools pick programs based on their students rather than “one size fits all across the board!” Run from DeKalb and don’t look back!

  2. Tim DeBardelaben

    The domino effect is why I think DCSD is making a huge mistake in selling the Briarcliff property. DCSD is looking at that property once again as huge financial windfall when in reality it will cost them more money down the road to replace what they already own. First I question the veracity of anything that Marshall Orson has to say. He has repeatedly told me as recently as three years ago that the Briarcliff property was not needed and that Cross Keys cluster was not overcrowded. We all know now that was not true. Please google Marshall Orson and Channel 46 and you will see a news report where Marshall Orson was actively working with TIA to get parts of Dekalb annexed into Marshall Orson was the number one advocate for a 900 seat replacement school at Fernbank E.S. As we know now there was no need for a 900 seat Fernbank E.S. DCSD is currently shipping students from the Cross Keys cluster to fill Fernbank E.S.
    DCSD should be using Briarcliff property to help keep the domino effect from happening. Instead they are selling property which will almost guarantee that it will happen. If Druid Hills neighborhood is annexed into Atlanta DCSD will lose Druid Hills H.S. Where will the students at Briar Vista E.S. be forced to go? The new Brookhaven H.S. Which will be overcrowded. Where will students from Fernbank E.S. be forced to go? The two closest H.S.’s will be Brookhaven or Clarkston H.S. Both of which will be overcrowded. Also both of these school sought for more local control by forming the Druid Hills Charter Cluster. So instead of getting local control they will end up with their children being sent a long distance out of their community to overcrowded schools. If you were a parent would this make you want to look at annexation?
    In my opinion think what you are seeing is the rebirth of the Druid Hills Charter Cluster movement. In my opinion Marshall Orson had already worked out a deal with APS to support the Charter Cluster. I base my opinion on his emails released by Channel 46 news report. To me personally it is obvious that Marshall Orson was working with the City of Atlanta for the annexation of Druid Hills into the city and not as a so called liaison as he claimed once he was caught by Channel 46.
    In my opinion Marshall Orson has made a deal with Emory . If they would ask for annexation he would support the sale of the Briarcliff property to Emory. I have been told by BOE member that once demolition of Briarcliff is completed, the BOE is planning on asking for the property to be rezoned. The BOE obviously. Has no plans to reuse the property not matter what their vote said about building new High School there or cost equivalent location. One BOE member has actually been in discussion with Jeff Radar on the best way to get property rezoned. If DCSD does not already have buyer for the property how do they know what type rezoning to ask for?
    Emory wants that property and Marshall Orson wants them to get it so he can get his beloved Druid Hills Charter Cluster.
    DCSD is falling for the trap and is not smart enough to realize that the money they get for Briarcliff property will never equal the cost of getting rid of the property. Marshall Orson has made sure that the people in Druid Hills, Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Lakeside communities are taken care of by claiming this is all being done to relieve those poor students in the Cross Keys Cluster.
    DCSD should be reusing Briarcliff property to have insurance in case they do lose D.H.HS. They could be using it to help prevent Briar Vista E.S. and Fernbank E.S.from wanting to leave DCSD. If they were to build new 2500 seat school there and form a new cluster. They could help relieve the overcrowding at Druid Hills, Lakeside,Cross Keys, Tucker Chamblee and Dunwoody. How is that possible? First you form the cluster using Sagamore, Montclair and Briar Vista E.S’s and move the Charter Magnet program to Briarcliff. Moving the Magnet program would free up 500 seats at Chamblee H.S. Which could be used to help Dunwoody and Tucker H.S. The three E.S. Is taking one school from Druid Hills, one from Cross Keys and one from Lakeside. Granted you would need to build another Middle School but you could do this where John Lewis E.S is sitting now.. You would also need to build a parking deck where Briarcliff old tennis courts are, but all this could be done much cheaper than what Dan Drake has planned for DCSS now. Cobb County just rebuilt a25500 seat H.S. On same property for $48 million. DCSD has budgeted $85 million for new High School.
    DCSD has a Taj Mahal mentality where they think they need to spend spend spend.

  3. I agree with Tim. DCSD needs to be planning for the growth in the Lakeside area and probable annexation of schools in the area. The current plan to move students to a new school once built (Sagamore and Oak Grove to Cross Keys) is illegal as it is busing for racial purposes. It is also based on the projected number of students who will leave the system for private schools instead of looking at how to serve all students.

  4. Tim, no nearby parent wants a neighborhood school at the Briarcliff site. Traffic is awful just trying to get gas at the QT! The only school that might work is a 4-8 school that has satellite busing. Would a “magnet” or “theme” school still be subject to annexation worries since it has a district-wide attendance zone?

  5. Marshall, why should the Atlanta Mayor or Atlanta City Council care about what DeKalb citizens think? They hold all the cards, and I frankly think their argument about annexed students attending APS is much stronger than your argument that school services should be a separate issue.
    I think it’s clearly a matter of time before more DeKalb citizens ask to be annexed, and I think they will do this, at least in part, because they can escape DCSD.
    DCSD has a tremendously high school tax millage rate and its academic achievement record is mediocre in the aggregate. Certainly there are excellent students and teachers, but these are overshadowed by those who don’t achieve. Dr. Green is moving the District into using its school tax money for all kinds of social services, which I don’t support.
    The big economic engine that is Emory and CHOA will now be more likely to put their education philanthropy into Atlanta.
    Mostly we will have to wait and see what develops, so I won’t invest much energy on this issue. But I will be very surprised if the Druid Hills area – and the high school – aren’t annexed into Atlanta in the next few years.

  6. Tim DeBardelaben

    Anonymous, the problem is to many people are doing what you say you are doing. Sitting back and seeing what develops. Once the dominoes start falling it will be to late to stop them. Do not believe what Marshall Orson says. Like I said before look up the news report Channel 46 did and you will clearly see what his true intentions are. His beloved Druid Hills Charter Cluster is what he wants. He will state that there is no interest in the Charter Cluster any longer, but just wait until the time is right. Once all the pieces fit they might present it to DCSD again but this time with a or else or in my opinion the deal has already been made with APS. Once the Charter Cluster is formed making a mini school system. Would not surprise me to see Marshall Orson in charge. People need to speak out and let the BOE know that they need to be looking out for the future and stop pleasing people according to political status. DCSD is wanting to build a new High School in a city that is actively lobbying at the capital. DCSD has already started construction on a new 900 E.S. inside Brookhaven City limits. If Brookhaven is successful they will have the infrastructure in place . They get their School System at a fraction of the cost of having to build it themselves. Thanks to DCSD shortsightedness.

  7. Did I understand the article correctly? DCSD gets $2.3 million in taxes from the area that will be annexed, and only has to educate 9 students?
    No wonder Meria Carstarphen wants to add this to her school district, and Dr. Green wants to keep this area in DCSD for school purposes. It’s a pretty sweet deal!

  8. Don McChesney

    Everyone knows that Marshall campaigned hard(behind the scenes) to be annexed into Atlanta. He told DeKalb residents he wanted DeKalb to remain whole while saying other things in private. He even got caught by the media. Now if you read this he is sort of straddling the fence post. You know where he lives could easily become the city of Atlanta if further annexation takes place. What would happen to his job? DeKalb residents should be justifiably angered with what he has done. What remuneration will DeKalb taxpayers get for Druid Hills, Briar Vista, and the new Fernbank ES?
    For years Marshall has extolled to anyone who listens how great the APS system is. He must see different numbers than I have seen.

  9. Tim DeBardelaben

    Anonymous, they are fighting for more than the 9 students and $2.3 million. They are fighting for what they get when the dominoes start falling. How much tax money and how many students will be involved once Fernbank and Briar Vista E.S follow. As far as what Marshall Orson is saying now. I will give you two words and you can decide if they fit “Plausible Denial” in case he gets caught again like he did last time. Really do not understand why taxpayers have to continuously pay for work to be done on same schools. The two newest High Schools are Tucker and Chamblee and yet both already need expanding. Then you you have Fernbank E.S.which was grossly overbuilt. Why is Dan Drake still in charge of planning. Is it not obvious that he is lacking in his job performance.

  10. @Anonymous >> Apparently so. Even weirder – these are ‘temporary’ residents – living with their families at Villa International (“a Christian ministry that offers short-term residence to persons of all faiths and from all parts of the world.”)
    “The fate of the annexation proposal might come down to school district boundaries for just nine public school students who live in the area, along with $2.3 million in property tax revenue for education.” … “Though limited to a handful of children, you have suggested these children be switched to APS schools without regard to whether this is the best solution,” Green wrote in an Oct. 12 letter to Carstarphen.”
    In reality – the real issue is demographics and politics.
    “Emory’s annexation would change the demographics of the city’s voting population. The city’s voting-age population was 49 percent black and 44 percent white in 2015, and the annexation area is about 63 percent white, 22 percent Asian and 11 percent black.”
    Get it?

  11. APS isn’t the greatest system, but they have many advantages that DCSD doesn’t have.
    APS is about half the size of DCSD, which makes it more manageable.
    APS matches pretty closely with the City of Atlanta, whereas DCSD includes the cities of Dunwoody, Chamblee, Doraville, Brookhaven, Lithonia, Stone Mountain, Stonecrest, Pine Lake, Tucker, Clarkston, Avondale, and maybe more that I forgot. It’s got to be easier to coordinate between 1 school system and 1 city, rather than the complexity of jurisdictions that DCSD has to deal with.
    Also, with Emory and CHOA being annexed to Atlanta, their educational philanthropy will probably move to APS too. That’s a lot of money, volunteer hours, and connections.

  12. This is the latest information being presented to us by parents, volunteers
    and teachers..The students @ Stoneview Elementary are out of control. There are many incidents of fighting,bullying and out of control behavior throughout the school. Many 5th graders are allowed to skip class and just walk the halls all day…in particular a fifth grade student with blue hair..her Aunt is a 3rd grade teacher and she is allowed to hang out in her classroom..what about her classwork? The Administration has told teachers do not call them if they have a problems with an unruly student…they should handle it..the police has been to the school several times already this school year…as well as the ambulance…the bathrooms, lunchroom, classrooms are all filthy..students skip classes on a daily basis…Administrators walk right past students in the hallways and fo nothing..so many students that are out of their zone..go to Stoneview..why?
    Many Special Ed students are not receiving services…why? Where is the money y appropriated for Special Education going? We are gathering all of these concerns and we will submit them to a higher authority other than DCSD because they already know and they are doing nothing…wake up parents!!!

  13. Mr. Green, it’s interesting that the DCSD website has a news article about Stoneview Elementary recently receiving $10,000 by the Burlington Coat Factory Store near Stonecrest Mall.
    If things are as bad as you say, someone needs to keep a close eye on this money.

  14. We all agree with you on that Anonymous. We were just told today by teachers, that the Principal announced the money will be divided among each teacher, $180 each, to be used for the classroom….hmmmmmm

  15. Eric, that’s not necessarily a bad decision. But one would think that maybe half of the money would be set aside for a “big” need for the school, and the rest would go to teachers to support their individual needs.
    Stoneview may never again have $10,000. Surely there’s a big dream/legacy project out there that would benefit the entire school.
    I assume that the money will be dispersed through the bookkeeper, so hopefully that is a well-controlled process.

  16. DeKalb Schools Challenging Emory Annexation
    “Green said the district initially backed the annexation because there supposedly was no impact on the school district. “
    I do not understand this. How could DeKalb not understand the impact ?