E-SPLOST Budget Overruns and Projects on Hold

The current DeKalb Schools budget for E-SPLOST V projects is $561 million. The most recent estimated cost for those projects is $684.4 million. We are roughly 22% over budget (not including any project adjustments made for recent enrollment forecasts).

Enrollment Adjusted Estimated Costs
Due to the most recent enrollment forecasts, most of the building addition projects have either been reduced or cancelled. However, Chamblee Charter HS addition will stay the same and Dunwoody HS is getting 1,000 seats. Accounting for the reductions and cancellations, the enrollment adjusted estimated cost is $638 million ($77 million over current budget).

The new facilities and additions by themselves are projected to be $21 million over budget.

ESLPOST V Project Area Current Budget New Estimated Costs Enrollment Adjusted Estimated Costs
Safety and Security Improvements $12,872,000 $40,629,074 $40,629,074
New Facilities and Additions $304,890,566 $372,197,439 $325,969,237
Facility Condition Improvements $96,948,000 $107,091,710 $107,091,710
Technology Improvements $65,000,000 $68,300,000 $68,300,000
Buses, Vehicles, and Equipment $40,075,000 $40,075,000 $40,075,000
Management Support and Contigency $41,214,434 $56,742,726 $56,742,726
Grand Total $561,000,000 $685,035,949
$638,807,747

Increased Construction Costs
Increasing construction costs can be attributed to numerous things including a robust construction market, rising cost of labor due to low unemployment, material costs, tariffs on imported construction materials and more stringent building requirements.

Projects ON HOLD Due to Insufficient Funds

SPLOST V
1. Cross Keys MS Converstion and Addition ($10 M)
2. Cedar Gove HS Auditorium ($6 M)
3. Clarkston HS Addition ($18 M)
4. New Cross Keys HS ($84.8 M)
5. Chamblee Charter HS Addition ($21.5 M)
6. Dunwoody HS Addition ($17.7 M)
7. Lakeside HS Addition ($26 M)
SPLOST IV
1. Arts School ($11 M)

Options to Address Budget Issues

Revenues over the last 6 years have doubled while the number of students has remained the same. However, the school district is looking into borrowing money.

Option 1: $63 Million COPS – Finance Dunwoody HS addition, Lakeside HS addition and the Arts School.

Option 2: $80 Million GO Bond – Finance Dunwoody HS addition, Lakeside HS addition, the Arts School and add $17 million to capital renewal.

Option 3: $100 Million GO Bond – Finance Dunwoody HS addition, Lakeside HS addition, the Arts School, add $5 million to capital renewal, New Cross Keys MS Conversion, Cedar Grove HS Auditorium, Clarkston HS addition.

Option 4: Nothing – Eliminate the projects on hold, decrease most project areas and increase program contingency by $11 million.

Moving Forward

The Board of Education will have illegal rolling meetings behind closed doors over the next week to prioritize projects and discuss the funding options.

70 responses to “E-SPLOST Budget Overruns and Projects on Hold

  1. Option 4, please. Stop spending money the school system doesn’t have. Cut positions to oversee things that have layers and layers of oversight. Demand that the Superintendent and Admin create a balanced budget which does not depend on money they don’t have. Demand that everyone up there in Central Office Land do their jobs. The teachers and other school staff deserve better pay and more professional treatment. Pay more and the system will be able to hire better teachers if that is the problem. Pay less for those who do not work with the students.

  2. Won't Get Fooled Again

    I for one will NEVER EVER vote for a SPLOST initiative again and will work hard to campaign against giving Dekalb County Schools one more cent. Fool me once, shame on you….Fool me twice.

  3. In the options, what does “COPS” mean, and what is a GO Bond? Thanks!

  4. A certificate of participation (COP) is a type of financing where an investor purchases a share of the lease revenues of a program rather than the bond being secured by those revenues. Certificates of participation are secured by lease revenues. Certificates of participation do not require voter approval and also can be issued more quickly than referendum bonds. I believe the interest rate is higher too.

    A general obligation bond (GO) is a municipal bond backed by the credit and taxing power of the issuing jurisdiction. In Georgia, GO bonds must be approved by referendum by the people. Typically the government pledges to allocate a certain millage rate to paying the GO bond back.

    I would expect the millage rate to go up if a GO bond were issued.

  5. Could have saved tens of millions per their own study if they had refurbished the old Briarcliff HS and not demolished it. And they could be half done too. Meanwhile there’s a lake in the north parking lot.

  6. Stan, what do you mean by “Arts School” — is this about moving Dekalb School of the Arts into a new building or what? Thanks.

  7. I assume “Arts School” refers to the vague plan to add performance space to the DESA building (the former Avondale Middle School) and combine DESA and DSA there as a K-12 Arts School.

  8. Hello Rachel,
    Comprehensive K-12 Arts School
    The DeKalb County School District is in the process of designing a Comprehensive K-12 Arts School at the former Avondale MS site. The board (except for me … I thought it was a waste of time and money) and district staff traveled the country on the taxpayer’s dime to tour the Center for the Arts at Dillard High School located in Ft. Lauderdale and the School of Creative and Performing Arts located in Cincinnati, OH in late November of 2017. The alleged purpose of spending so much money was to ”

    to speak with the local school administration, design and construction staff, and others to glean from their successes and learn from their challenges as we seek to design and construct a Comprehensive K-12 Performing Arts School which provides the best learning environment that meets the needs of our students and teachers.”

    Needless to say, since SPLOST IV, this Comprehensive Arts School idea has blown up into this grand idea.

  9. Stan, I’m embarrassed that I don’t understand the Options.

    Does Option 1 mean that COPS will fund just those 3 projects (Lakeside addition, Dunwoody addition, and the Arts school) and that E-SPLOST-IV /V will pay for everything else?

    Or, does it mean that these are the only 2 E-SPLOST-V additions/new buildings that will get done?

    Please clarify for the financially-challenged among us. Thanks.

  10. E-SPLOST V can’t pay for the projects on hold. One of the funding mechanisms will need to be used to pay for those projects.

  11. What I do not understand is, why is the county in a hurry to get this through so quickly? Dr. Green’s contract is up in 2020, and usually, by now, a contract has been extended if the school board wants to keep their superintendent. I am guessing with all the bad press; the school board is going to let Dr. Green retire and bring someone else in. Why don’t we wait and let them decide? I mean, look at all the interim positions right now, and we are not looking for permanent full-time hire for those positions.

  12. Robert E Morris

    I suspect that Dr. Green will be retiring when his contract is up. Perhaps I missed it, but what is the reason for the cost overrun?

  13. Once again I ask where are the impact fees for developers building these projects? We can’t just rely on future property taxes. There needs to be some upfront money. Dr. Green seems to be the one pushing the large school model. While I understand economies of scale I would like to see us keep our schools in the 1200 to 1600 student range. Hard decisions will need to be made in the upcoming months. Thanks for being an advocate for fiscal responsibility.

  14. The new Cross Keys High School isn’t listed on any Option. What’s up with that?

  15. I’ll ask about the new CKHS at our next illegal meeting.

  16. Stan,

    Thank you for posting this information, although, admittedly I expect no less from the DCSD.

    The questions I have to ask are;

    1) Where are the details of the cost overruns,
    2) Why should I trust these numbers to be accurate,
    3) or Were the original projections just grossly inaccurate.

    I want to know and you should too!

    I recall being resistant to going forward with this current eSplost when it was put on the ballot because of the DCSD’s previous track record of ineptitude. But my subsequent position was rationalized by the logic that the DCSD would not benefit from not having money.

    Stan, we need a full accounting (and accountability) of the original projections (how, what, why) and the cost overrun estimates (how, what, why), before a BOND should even be discussed and pursued.

  17. Hey Eric. I have about 10 pages worth of explanations for why and how they are over budget. I just didn’t get into it on this post. I’ll comment something when I get online.

  18. I will look forward to receiving the information. If you feel it would be beneficial if not prudent, you can email the pages to me ..

  19. So just to levelset, out of a $600m ESPLOST V, $400m will proceed as planned. Of the $205m that has been placed on hold, $180m are facilities improvements in Region 1 & 2. Is that an accurate description, Stan?

    So, we have cost overruns and the solution is to stop all the Region 1 & 2 projects? While at first glance I find that grossly unfair, it’s also the case that all of these additions in Region 1 & Region 2 work together to address the overcrowding. But it seems when you try to go and scope it out and get engineers to put something down on paper, the administration is starting to think this plan won’t work? And so, of course, if you have projects that are overbudget and all the Region 1 & 2 projects look FUBAR, then you put them on hold.

    It seems that the Board need to address the FUBAR part of the Region 1 & 2 projects. Maybe I’m missing something.

  20. William, I’d say that’s a good characterization. Region 1 & 2 have most of the big ticket items.

  21. escapeefromDekalb

    AS I have said before– they are out of money, have proven themselves inccapable of being good stewards of money and I see a lot of places to hide people with huge salaries.. do we need another Pat Pope controversy– please let’s keep going the way we have been. It has worked so well.

  22. Option Four.

    Balance your budget, DCSD. Additionally, there should be no more SPLOST funds allocated to DCSD, until the system is in compliance with the “65% Law”. Most people are not aware of the law, even less are aware that DCSD has never been in compliance, EVER.

    “During the 2006 Session of the Georgia General Assembly, the Legislature passed the “Classrooms First
    for Georgia” bill (Senate Bill 390) which required, at a minimum, 65% of a system’s total operating funds
    to be spent in the classroom. Systems not in compliance must increase their direct classroom
    expenditures by two or more percentage points over the previous fiscal year until they are in
    compliance.”
    http://archives.gadoe.org/_documents/fbo_financial/StudyCommission/65%20Percent%20Rule%20Recommendation.pdf

  23. Trying to be helpful

    Stan, when you say this: “Moving Forward – The Board of Education will have illegal rolling meetings behind closed doors over the next week to prioritize projects and discuss the funding options.”

    What is illegal about these meetings? I assume you mean these are not the way the board is supposed to work versus something that is technically illegal (i.e., nobody is going to get arrested).

    If the board is acting in a deceitful or self-serving manner (which seems to be what you’re saying?), what can be done about that? How can we help you hold them accountable? I personally LOVE the transparency and accountability you seem to be providing. But I am worried you are screaming into the wind and the rest of the board seems to be ignoring you. I’d like to try and do move to help. DCSD seems to be in need of an overhaul to put more competent, transparent, and creative leadership in place with the right integrity and values to serve our children well. How do we do that? How can we help you?

  24. @TryingToBeHelpful, DeKalb Schools BOE is intentionally having rolling meetings to avoid the Open Meetings Act. Outside of you, me, Nancy, Richard Belcher and the State Attorney General … I can’t seem to find anybody else that cares.

    Feel free to talk to another board member and tell them you would like to know how are projects are over budget and what we are going to do about it. You can call, email them or find them at various public meetings.

    State Attorney General Not A Fan of Mini Sessions
    March 10, 2019 – The budget for DeKalb Schools E-SPLOST projects is in trouble. DeKalb Schools Board of Education is having illegal, behind closed doors, meetings to discuss the E-SPLOST project budget assessment and hear new planning options.

  25. Michelle Fincher

    Wasn’t there a planned addition for PCMS as well? Is that also on hold?

    There is an interesting idea floating around to swap the Dunwoody High and PCMS campuses. In theory, it sounds like a good idea, as it would eliminate the need for an addition to accommodate the middle schoolers, and DCSD could potentially use the money saved to build what is needed for the high school – additional gym, locker rooms, etc. Hopefully, the City of Dunwoody would be open to a deal where the school could use the upcoming new fields on limited terms. It will not solve our long-term problem of growth and the need for redistricting/new schools, but in the short-term I think it is a creative idea.

  26. How did we go from spending $12M on sprinklers and fences to spending $40M? Tariffs must be really kicking in on that one.

  27. al weidenmuller

    Illegal meetings behind closed doors??? What can County administration/legal do to put a stop to this?

  28. @What a Joke,
    The 65% rule applies to the annual Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding from the state of Georgia.

    E-SPLOST funds are totally separate. Voters approve a 1% tax for five years, to be used on a defined set of Education – Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST) projects.

    Oh, wait, that’s how E-SPLOST used to work. Up until E-SPLOST-IV voters knew what specific projects would be funded if they approved the 1% tax.

    But in May 2016 Dr. Green got voters to agree to the tax based on “general” projects. The District’s E-SPLOST FAQ page says that the money will be spent:

    Safety and security improvements – $15 million
    New facilities and additions – $230 million
    Facility condition improvements – $100 million
    Technology improvements – $65 million
    Buses, vehicles, and other capital equipment – $40 million
    Management support and program contingency – $50 million

    Now, the District has “discovered” that they over-promised by nearly $200 MILLION!

    And since voters just approved general categories rather than specific projects, the District is free to say that certain projects will be cancelled unless voters approve even more money. They can fund, or not fund, any projects they wish, without having to justify their decision.

    Their solution is to hold hostage the high school “New facilities and additions” projects. Since not all of the on-hold “hostage” projects are listed in the Options, it appears that some approved projects will be cancelled even if voters approve $100 Million more. Tough luck if your school isn’t on the list.

    Other districts are encountering the same cost increases in their E-SPLOST construction projects. Their approach has been to be transparent with the community about revising project scope. They haven’t threatened the community with “pay more or we’ll just keep adding trailers.”

    DCSD sounded the alarm about lack of Region 1 high school capacity 3 YEARS AGO!! Now they want at least $63 Million MORE dollars for only a partial fix.

    You just can’t make this stuff up.

  29. escapeefromdekalb

    @whatajoke– If I am correct the fabulous Ramona Tyson walked us through that compliance last time by moving many of the classified employees to an “administration” category and then laying 1/2 of them off in a way to show that the bloat at the palace had been dealt with. We could ask her specifically as SHE IS STILL ON THE PAYROLL.
    Heck, maybe she can work her magic again.

  30. Is there somewhere easy to see what has been completed under SPLOST 5 and what all is left (besides the items you listed above)?

  31. Each month, the AECOM Team presents a monthly status report on the SPLOST program. The report includes funding, expenditures, program description and progress for all the SPLOST projects. Here is the latest report: Capital Improvement Program MONTHLY STATUS REPORT – March 2019

  32. Stan, the grand total line in your table appears to be double counting the Management and Contingency line item. The verbiage in the post is using the correct amounts.

    For example, $561M is the addition of all the current budget line items, but the grand total shows $602M. The difference is $41.2m which is Management and Contingency.

  33. Thanks William. Try that.

  34. Mr. Jester,

    As always, thank you for sharing information via your blog. Transparency, budget issues, academic progress/safety, the TSA issue, raises, class size, clear and sensible requirements for teachers, the proper and good use of technology, etc. – all important. “You” are not alone. Many in the school houses are concerned. How to move the public at large is a problem.

    Be well. mike p

  35. Those who forget the past

    If the capital improvements budget is way off projections, how does the operational budget look right now? Does the school board plan or have any contingencies for the next recession or economic downturn. Construction is booming, housing prices have been soaring, and the stock market is making new highs. It reminds me of 2007. What if we have a recession by 2022 and housing prices drop 20%? Do we have a rainy day fund? Will DCSD be caught flatfooted when the next recession hits?

  36. FY2019
    $122 million – Beginning of FY2019 fund balance (reserves)
    $1.093 billion – FY2019 Revenue (estimated)
    $1.111 billion – FY2019 Expenses (estimated)

    FY2020
    $104 million – Beginning of FY2020 fund balance (reserves)
    $1.142 billion – FY2019 Revenue (estimated)
    $1.154 billion – FY2019 Expenses (estimated)

    FY2021
    $91 million – Beginning of FY2021 fund balance (reserves)

    Every year we are eating into our reserves. Revenues have doubled over the last 6 years. We’re spending more than we’re taking in. I’ve asked that we lower the millage rate to try and flatten out the cyclical nature of the economy and our revenues … to no avail. There is no plan for when revenues go down.

  37. The original plans for the combining of the Arts Middle and High Schools was woefully inadequate and poorly thought out and needed more investigation and re-thinking. Meanwhile, the High School continues its residence at the old Avondale High School which is in absolutely pitiful condition: leaking roof, inadequate/non-operational HVAC, broken windows, etc. It’s a disgrace that one of the top academic schools in the country has such poor facilities.

  38. @Dee A,
    It’s good to let folks know that pitiful conditions are widespread. But be careful. It’s a disgrace that children of any academic level have to endure pitiful conditions.

  39. Here is the Facility Condition Assessment (FCA) for Avondale High/DeKalb School of the Arts from 2016
    https://www.dekalbschoolsga.org/projects/operations/fca/avondale-hs-dekalb-school-of-the-arts.pdf

    Of all the high school in DeKalb Schools, this one is in the worst shape. There are quite a few elementary schools in worse shape than DSA.

    Building S.P.A.C.E.S. Initiative
    The following table contains the scores and reports for the Facility Condition Assessment (FCA), Facility Educational Adequacy Assessment (FEAA), the capacity and enrollment for the next seven years for the schools.
    https://www.dekalbschoolsga.org/building-spaces/#tab-b6766642745cf064a10

  40. Here is the thing that bothers me. The Avondale H.S. property is 24+ acres. The administration’s plan, publicly, is to abandon the property when the high school of the arts joins the middle school and elementary.

    I have asked for four years, why not rebuild Avondale High?

    It could help alleviate overcrowding Druid Hills and Clarkston overcrowding. Also, it could be home to a new CTAE program and/or a new magnet program. It is nearly in the center of the county. A perfect location politically speaking.

  41. Also,

    Are those the only options the administration is offering to address the situation?

    If so, once again, they are offering only a few of the possible solutions. Why not some hybrid of these or other options?

  42. The school district is between a rock and a hard place with DSA. I wrote about it here …

    DSA & DESA SPLOST Options

    The ESPLOST IV Referendum language legally binds the district to a “Modifications, upgrades, and additions to Avondale Middle School for an Arts School” as well as “Capital Renewal Program to include renovations, modifications, and upgrades to … DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts”

  43. Kirk,
    Sequoyah Middle School has 25 acres and the current Cross Keys High School has 26 acres.

    Yet they are turning CKHS into a middle school, giving Region 1 two middle schools with enormous campuses while squeezing the new 2300 seat Cross Keys High School next to Adams Stadium, on a 27 acre site which isn’t even in the attendance zone.

    DCSD claims that 40 acres would be needed for a new Doraville high school. That makes no sense, given that they are planning a 2300 seat school at the 21 acre CCHS site, and have no problem making mega high schools at Dunwoody’s 29 acre campus or Lakeside’s 33 acre campus.

    This whole plan makes so little sense. Seems to me that since apparently the big projects are on hold, why not use this time to revisit the plans for additions. E-SPLOST-V projects are only set in stone because Dr. Green says so. He could use this flexibility for good, but I fear he will use this flexibility to quietly cut corners and cut the scope of projects.

  44. Forgotten cluster

    I am a parent of a Sequoyah middle student and the school has been overcrowded for years. Trailers are in the parking lot and on the track/football field. To put the Cross keys renovations and new school on hold is crazy. Almost 1700 students enrolled in a school that’s only built for 900 students is crazy, but dekalb schools say they care about the students…..not. Fix this and find a 6th grade academy for Sequoyah as well (when they leave john lewis elementary empty).
    They have discussed relieving the cross keys clusters for years, but things seem to be moving very slow.

  45. @Forgotten cluster,
    First, DCSD Planning says that the capacity of Sequoyah is 1369 students, not 900.

    Why does Sequoyah need a 6th grade academy?

    DCSD plans to transfer about half of Sequoyah’s students to the new Cross Keys Middle School, so I don’t see why Sequoyah would need a 6th grade academy. The capacity for the new Cross Keys MS will be 1200, so DCSD shouldn’t have any problem dividing 1700 students between a 1300 capacity Sequoyah MS and a 1200 capacity Cross Keys MS.

    In fact, one wonders why we need so much middle school capacity at all…………..

    As far as being a forgotten cluster, remember that the Cross Keys cluster definitely had the most clout back in 2016 when DCSD was making plans to find capacity for the “oops!” huge numbers of high school and middle school students in Region 1.

    Now it seems that all over-crowded clusters are forgotten. Welcome to the club.

  46. This and That

    Just a reminder that (the previous) Briarcliff High School was built to relieve overcrowding at Druid Hills. Lakeside was built to relieve overcrowding at Briarcliff. Seems to me that we need to go backwards. Do something about the Old BHS site to relieve overcrowding with Lakeside (Lakeside 2 maybe). Then we would need to build a new Doraville High and turn the CKHS into CK middle school (as DCSD seemed to do in the past). THEN the (previous) Kittredge site could be converted into that 6th grade academy or whatever! Just thoughts of someone who has been with DeKalb since the mid-60s (student then now teacher).

  47. Forgotten cluster

    @Anoymous

    FYI Sequoyah has a whole grade level outside in a parking lot and track and field as well as it’s own international center outside because they do not fit in the building. That is a total of maybe 700 students. It has been that way for 4 years. The planning committee has been talking about relieving the cluster for at least 4 years but nothing has happen in relation to building a middle or high school. In the mean time the cluster is still growing. The numbers you are quoting maybe in some ones dream. Come and visit and you will see that the cluster has been forgotten. The 6th grade academy was just a temporary idea because the current construction of the new middle and high school is on hold plus they never started any construction. Four years ago, we were told the school was suppose to be finished in 2020. Nothing has started. Now that’s why I say it’s forgotten, I believe the nail and hammer has started in other clusters . Now join the crew.

  48. @Forgotten cluster,
    FYI, the “nail and hammer” for major E-SPLOST-V projects hasn’t started anywhere except in the Cross Keys cluster. The new Shallowford elementary school is being worked. The new John Lewis elementary school is nearing completion. Millions have been spent to demolish the old Briarcliff high school so that the new Cross Keys high school can be built there.

    As far as high schools, Lakeside has no shovels in the ground. Chamblee has no shovels in the ground. Dunwoody has no shovels in the ground — except if you want to talk about the big “shovels” that leveled lots of beautiful trees so that trailers could be placed there. Clarkston has no shovels in the ground.

    I’m not looking for a fight about who is being treated the worst in this situation. We all have a good argument.

    As far as the capacity of Sequoyah, I’m with you about how the “official” capacity doesn’t always match reality.

    You could always ask your principal to review the official SMS capacity report with the Principal’s Advisory Council, and see if there are any errors. (http://www.dekalbschoolsga.org/applications/operations/planning/capacity/sequoyah-ms.pdf)

    The report says that there are 11 classrooms, with a capacity for 308 students, being used for non-instructional use. What’s up with that?

  49. Forgotten cluster

    @Anonymous

    Wow and thanks.

  50. @Stan Jester – “… outside of the […] State Attorney General … I can’t seem to find anybody else that cares….”

    Oh, you mean the hypocritical Chris Carr who shot off his pie hole about preventing identity theft? He only cares when it BENEFITS HIS OWN PERSONAL POLITICAL CAREER and fits nicely into a press release or his web site.

    Behind-door meetings do not forward his political agenda.

    see: http://carr2018.com/issues/
    https://law.georgia.gov/press-releases/2018-07-25/carr-announces-indictments-identity-fraud-cases
    https://law.georgia.gov/press-releases/2019-01-28/carr-recognizes-tax-identity-theft-awareness-week

  51. DCSD needs to stop hiding behind their PAC/CAC volunteers and be transparent with citizens of DeKalb about what is really going on by publishing on their website a list of the official status of each SPLOST project, a summary of discussions/recommendations presented at all previous illegal mini-sessions, and the dates times, and locations of all future mini-sessions, so that citizens may observe the arrogant, deceitful, and incompetent “leaders” of DCSD who got us into this mess.
    I’ll never support another SPLOST, promising better schools and lower taxes, after the Billions squandered by DCSD so-called leaders. I don’t know any other thinking person willing to support another SPLOST either.

  52. KidsGettingScrewed

    And as we bitch and moan, our kids are getting screwed. Last year Chamblee was ranked in the top 20 Georgia schools, Dunwoody not far behind. New rankings came out recently from US News. Yeah, there may be differences of opinion with how they rank schools. But the numbers are telling.
    Chamblee: 29 in GA, 891 in the US
    Dunwoody: 46 in GA, 2019 overall
    Lakeside: 64 in GA, 2462 overall.

    DeKalb isn’t even competitive.

    Hear the crickets? Where are the ideas for actually giving our kids a quality education?

    Stan?

  53. @KidsGettingScrewed,
    It looks like the US News Best High Schools rankings are largely based off standardized tests.

    The Georgia Department of Education (GADOE) released 2018 Career and College Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) scores. Last November, the school district met individually with school board members to review the data and scores. In these meetings, the administration discussed their focus and methodologies for improving future scores.

    The new scoring methodology from GADOE puts more focus on the achievement of certain categories of students (ELL, EDS, etc.). What that translates to is that the achievement of some students at a school is more valuable than others from a CCRPI scoring perspective. There are no categories that give weight to the high achiever growth patterns over time.

    Based on the conversations I’ve had with senior administrators, DeKalb is putting heavy emphasis on the “closing the gap” component part of the CCRPI score calculation.

  54. Doubtful of the Future

    Over the decades, DCSD’s focus has changed from “what’s best for our students” to “what’s best for me”, “how can I employ all my friends at fantastic salaries but require no degree” and “how can I financially advance myself”. I believe there are more than a few solid squanderers who have corrupted the whole system, and have dug themselves in so deep we’ll never get rid of them all. A balanced budget will never happen; the additions and trailers will continue. They have turned a once successful school system into a private job placement service for friends and family.

    At this point, I’m wondering if the best thing would be for the state to intervene, and possibly break the school system into smaller, more transparent systems. DCSD is in a horrible financial situation of its own making, especially with the “no bid contract system” investigation (if you take bids, then you can’t secretly funnel projects to your friends), and the teacher lawsuit coming up this month.

    I have absolutely no faith that anything will change. We can’t trust our own school system.

  55. @stan You mention the “rolling meetings” are illegal because they are intended to avoid the open meetings act. Do you have any emails or anything documented where someone on the board stated that was the intention? Or something where someone justified as to why a “rolling meeting” was not required to adhere to the open meetings act? If so, can you please share?

  56. I have emails saying they need rolling meetings to avoid a quorum.

  57. Wouldn’t admittance to purposely avoiding procedure for the sole sake of avoiding procedure be tantamount to openly violating the law? You as a board member should be able to refer this to the state for ethics and legal resolve, right?

  58. @Rob, I emailed BOE members with my concerns about these secret mini-sessions, and received a reply about how helpful these sessions are.

    I was astonished that someone would actually say that. Either they are just brazen or truly think that the Sunshine laws just don’t apply.

    The BOE member stated that because no actions would be taken, the public didn’t need to know. Of course no “official” actions will be taken, but this set-up is perfect for a group of people making a plan for how to behave whenever this topic must be discussed in public. Perhaps they’ve even identified who will be the “good cop” and who will be the “bad cop.”

    Neither the BOE Chair or Vice-Chair seemed to take any notice of the Georgia Attorney General’s office statement that these secret mini-sessions are not OK.

    So Dr. Green and the BOE, except for Stan, are completely comfortable with setting up a series of meetings explicity designed so that the public has no insight.

    I understand that it’s messy to conduct business with the public watching. But it’s the law! It’s our money!

    How can the BOE expect the public to trust them when they take every opportunity to hide bad news

  59. Sadly this has been the DeKalb County way for years. Thought it was turning around when Thurmond came in and hired a few folks who actually know accounting and found the “missing” money and textbooks.

    We all know Green brought in his own peeps with new posistions and six figure salaries. Whatever became of his buddy who disappeared into (rehab?) the atmosphere right after he landed here?

    Of course there’s a great precedence being set from a higher level about being above the law.

    Would the DeKalb Ethics officer (should one exist) have jurisdiction over DCSD or are they actually not subject to oversight?

  60. Should the atty general determine it is against the law and choose to act, each BOE member could be fined $500….don’t know if that is per incident but if so, it could get pretty expensive. The more people that let the BOE know we find this unacceptable and threaten to vote them out and the more that complain to the AG and put pressure on him, the more likely we are to get the BOE to comply and the AG to enforce the law/intent of the law.

  61. Waste of Time

    We can’t change the board’s actions without changing the board members. We can’t change the board members without reaching their voters. This is not going to happen with just one or two regions’ voters trying to spark a change. Unless the voters in other regions share our pain, they will not change their votes.

    The AG, however, knows of and does not agree with the illegal board meetings. Surely the state is aware of the lawsuits and investigations, as well.

    Forget the board – complain to the State Attorney General.

  62. J Arrington

    Rolling meetings, Rolling Status reports, Rolling Spending Overruns and Rolling Excuses all point in the same direction: Rolling Mismanagement and Rolling Unpreparedness of most of our graduating seniors.

  63. Trying to be helpful

    I received a response from one of the Board members (not Stan) who said that the closed-door/secret meetings (i.e., “mini sessions”) are not really “meetings” because of some ridiculous definition of the word “meeting”. This board member is claiming that according to the Open Meetings Act, a “meeting” is a “quorum of the members at which any official business, policy, etc. is formulated, presented, discussed, or voted upon”. And because “there is not quorum, business is not discussed, and no votes are taken”, these mini-sessions are not technically “meetings”. So by hiding behind a definition of the word “meeting” according to an interpretation of the Open Meetings Act, the Board seems to sleep well at night by hiding discussions that are likely to be relevant and important to the broader public (for whom the work). Can’t make this stuff up. Other than Stan, all board members should be fired if that were possible.

  64. Kirk Lunde

    Stan,

    You know you are misleading people when you say the district is legally bound to anything when it comes to eSPLOST. The BOE can vote to amend the project list at any time.

    Remember the $6 million that Thurmond didn’t spend on capital improvement and spent on cleaning equipment instead? Also, the “$275K for DeKalb ES of the Arts at Terry Mill” never happened. Instead, the BOE voted for $3 million to create the Early Learning Academy. There are numerous SPLOST IV projects that never happened without a vote from the BOE, such as the renovations at Meadowview E.S.. Also, other projects were expanded, such as the Warren Tech remodel which more than doubled in budget.

    If the administration wanted to do something with Avondale H.S. in SPLOST V, it could. Or if they wanted to use COPS or Bond funding, they could do something.

    I am not saying don’t renovate the Avondale Middle School for the Arts, or DESA, I have been in that school and they need the work.

    What my question was is why abandon Avondale HS? Why not utilize that building and campus to relieve overcrowding in Clarkston and Druid Hills?

    It seems as though the administration has plans that it isn’t telling stakeholders.

  65. The administration does not seem to tell the BOE anything either.

    Abandon Avondale HS for the same reason they abandoned Briarcliff HS. We still have not gotten to the bottom of that. Their own studies show it would have saved tens of millions to keep that place and rehab instead of demolishing.

    Someone is making money off of all this. SOMEONE.

  66. Stan Jester

    Thanks for sharing Kirk.

    Legally Bound to E-SPLOST – The school district and BOE are legally bound to the referendum that was passed by the voters. E-SPLOST IV was very specific and doesn’t give the district much wiggle room. The most recent E-SPLOST V was broad and general and gives the school district the flexibility to change the project list at will (with some exeptions).

    DESA – The ESPLOST IV Referendum language legally binds the district to a “Modifications, upgrades, and additions to Avondale Middle School for an Arts School” as well as “Capital Renewal Program to include renovations, modifications, and upgrades to … DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts”

    It’s possible we run out of E-SPLOST IV monies without getting to everything, but we can’t use E-SPLOST IV money on something not in the referendum. It’s also possible to do something with SPLOST V money that’s not currently on the project list the BOE approved.

    The Plan – Due to construction costs and new projected enrollment numbers, the administration has modified the plan. The modifications are not set in stone and I’ll be releasing as much as possible as soon as possible.

  67. Kirk Lunde

    Stan,

    One of the points I was making is SPLOST IV has undergone multiple changes and things that were not on the voter approved project list.

    Also, SPLOST IV had over $50 million in excess revenues two years ago. The BOE voted to add projects to the list that were not on the referendum. Your words don’t match the reality of DCSD.

    I know you are writing what BOE members are supposed to say. However, as someone who has watched the administration play fast and loose with the rules multiple times, please don’t write them to me.

  68. Stan Jester

    @Kirk. I agree .. historically the administration has played fast and loose with a lot of things. Are these the projects that you are concerned about:
    * DeKalb ES of the Arts at Terry Mill
    * Renovations at Meadowview E.S.

    Meadowview is South of 20. I’m somewhat geographically removed from that school, so I’m not sure what the deal is with their renovation. There are a lot of moving parts with the DESA project. The school district is trying to turn that into a comprehensive K-12 program … which I’ve written about.

    You go to a lot of meetings … what does Drake say when you ask him about the projects you are concerned about?

  69. Kirk Lunde

    Stan,

    I don’t ask Dan Drake questions in public meetings. Also, the BOE, including you, voted to level Meadowview in 2017 using SPLOST funds. At least I think they were SPLOST funds. Either way, before Meadowview was closed, Thurmond promised the community the school could be a community center. Now it is open space.

    Terry Mill is now the new Early Learning Center. That wasn’t on the voter approved project list. It got done anyway.

    There is always money for what the administration wants to do.

    When will the administration want to get buses to run on time and roofs to stop leaking? When will the administration decide 3,000 days each month without a teacher or a substitute is too many? When will work orders be completed within 30 days?

    I want to focus on those “basic” operational things for a while. I want students have consistent transportation to and from schools that don’t leak and a teacher every day. Monday I am going to ask the BOE to make those things priorities in the next budget.

  70. At this point I believe we need to get state and local representatives involved in this matter. They should be aware of what is happening with the system.

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