The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) is holding five (5) public meetings to seek public input on proposed options to address the E-SPLOST budget. The proposed solutions are complicated. It’d be a good idea to familiarize yourself with these materials.
See you tonight at Chamblee Charter High School @ 7pm.
The five meetings will be held at the following locations on the following dates:
• Clarkston High School, August 26, 2019, 7:00 pm
• Chamblee Charter High School, August 27, 2019, 7:00 pm
• Miller Grove High School, August 28, 2019, 7:00 pm
• Columbia High School, September 4, 2019, 7:00 pm
• Lakeside High School, September 10, 2019, 7:00 pm
NOTES FROM THE CLARKSTON MEETING
Many people want to know why we are building new high school capacity when we have 6,000 open high school seats. The administration didn’t have a good answer for that last night. If it comes up tonight, hopefully they’ll have a better answer.
Chamblee Charter High School Magnet – A lot of momentum is building to “move” the magnet. There is a very popular misconception that DeKalb Schools treats CCHS differently than the Southwest DeKalb high achievers magnet. However, Chamblee Charter High School Magnet Program is successful due to the hard work of the CCHS community and not the school district. Nevertheless, many people want to move the CCHS magnet down to where it is more accessible to the entire county. I’d like to point out there are no magnet teachers. You can’t just “move” the magnet. Teachers and a large number of students will not follow. You can close the magnet at CCHS and open up another one somewhere else, but YOU CAN’T MOVE THE MAGNET.
6:30pm – Sign in
7:00pm – Presentation of E-SPLOST Budget Issues and Proposals/Alternatives
7:45pm – Gather Stakeholder Input via Small Group Facilitation
SMALL GROUP FOCUS QUESTIONS
1. Which proposed actions in step 1 do you support and why?
2. Which proposed actions in step 1 do you not support and why?
3. Which other projects in the E-SPLOST 5 program should the District consider removing, reducing, or increasing and why?
4. Which option for the Arts School do you prefer and why?
a. Funded in E-SPLOST 5 at the Avondale MS site for $15m
b. Funded in GO Bond at the Avondale MS site for $15m
c. Funded in the next E-SPLOST at a different site with a larger facility to include a Performing Arts Center for greater than $70m
d. Cancel the Arts School project
5. What are the pros and cons of moving the High-Achievers Magnet program from Chamblee Charter HS to the new Cross Keys HS?
6. Which GO Bond option do you prefer and why?
a. $265m GO Bond program including 5 new elementary schools
b. $222m GO Bond program including only 4 new elementary schools
c. $100m GO Bond program only to complete E-SPLOST 4 & 5
d. No GO Bond
Public Meetings – GO Bond & E-SPLOST Projects
August 7, 2019 – The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) is holding five (5) public meetings to seek public input on proposed options to address E-SPLOST budget issues arising from an increase in construction costs as well as additional projects.
E-SPLOST Program Budget and GO Bonds
July 9, 2019 – The DeKalb Schools administration presented 3 options to address E‐SPLOST budget issues. DeKalb Schools will be promoting a GO bond. Everybody gets a carrot except for Chamblee, they apparently get the stick.
Options To Address E-SPLOST Budget Issues
May 13, 2019 – In earlier posts, I discussed E-SPLOST Budget Overruns and Projects on Hold. What’s the plan? Here are the options we are currently looking at.
Stan, you can most definitely move the magnet. You should use this opportunity to completely REVAMP this OUTDATED and UNFAIR PROGRAM! Lose it or revamp it. Raise the standards – stop excluding kids who have the scores/grades and then leave the system because the inferior education they get vis a vis their peers when they don’t get “selected.”
LoseTheMagnet, I’m glad you are part of our discussion. I suspect your thoughts reflect the thoughts of many others.
I agree the magnet program should be revamped because it is outdated and unfair. I don’t think closing the CCHS magnet is akin to fixing it.
What do you mean “Move The Magnet”? Obviously you can’t pick up the school and move it. What exactly are you talking about moving?
Interesting email I received this morning from somebody that attended the Clarkston meeting last night …
I attended last night as well. Dan Drake popped in our room and when asked why the suggestion of making CMS an annex for CCHS was not an option, he said it was just not part of this exercise, that basically this engagement meeting stopped before the old plan items of 1c and 2c. Later, after he left, a district consultant came in said it was no longer an option so our group was left confused by that.
In our room, there was not one vote for the $222M or $265M GO bond option. One for $100M and the rest for no bond at all.
Redistricting was brought up and agreed upon by many in my group. The fact that no redistricting has been done was given as a reason for not supporting a bond. Another point to not supporting the $222M or $265M options was to let a new superintendent pick his/her priorities.
The district 4 board member states on her web site her confidence that the bond referendum will pass but after what I saw last night and what I have heard from other folks is that they will vote no. I think the board and administration need to be prepared for that. We can all think back to how confident the state was about the TSPLOST several years ago and how that was a resounding “no” by the voters.
I do have to say I thought this was more open ended than other engagements sessions I have attended. The questions were not worded to get the outcome the district wants and the facilitator said how important it was to talk about the “why” to the responses. Anyone attending should write down any questions or concerns not addressed in the session. Mr. Drake said the questions would be compiled and available to the public with answers.
This is another rehash of the same old, let by the screamer of the group. However, I agree with “Lose” that the Magnet should be for the top % of the kids and the program should be strengthened. Kind of like what’s going on at UGA- their standards are increasing so more kids aren’t getting in. Kittredge (or wherever) should take kids who are in the top %, then the next percent, etc until the class is full. But to be truly fair that means you can’t have a set number come from each school. If you’re using academics alone, a large percentage may come from the top two or three schools in the district. I’m sure more people will scream when that happens.
But that’s not why I’m posting. I have two concerns/questions:
1. The magnet kids at Chamblee High need to be protected. Someone said this before. But there should be a cutoff – maybe if you’ve made it to 9th grade you can continue with your friends and after-school activities, etc at CCHS. So assuming DeKalb kills the magnet end of year, this year’s 8th graders would go back to their home schools.
2. What’s the timing on this? I’ve assumed end of year, but what are you hearing?
Oh, and flat out this school system needs no more dollars to misappropriate. Time to say no.
Really time to say NO and time for the board to not even allow it to get to the point of a vote. Plenty of money in Splost V to address the biggest needs in the next 3 years until the next ESplost is up for a vote.
To me, the obvious answer is to:
1. Fully eliminate or move the magnet programs further south where there is capacity and all kids who qualify and want to go are able to do so, and
2. Conduct massive redistricting to use current capacity.
No more money until the District uses the capacity it has by doing these two things.
Stan – My suggestion is this. The magnet has become synonymous with “the best of the best” and is taught that way (best teachers/innovative programs), when in reality it is not. As long as you achieve 75th percentile you can get in. It needs to be completely relooked at – what is the goal of the magnet program? Is it to bring students with disparate backgrounds together in a “kum bay yah” environment or is it to bring the best of the best together? Because the lottery system is more appropro to the former, while the teaching and stroking and perception is more akin to the latter. So what is it?
If its the latter, then establish the cutoff and anyone who hits the cutoff is GUARANTEED the hell in. It ensures all kids are challenged in regards to their ability. Have one at Chamblee for one set of kids (e.g. Science kids), put one at Cross Keys for kids desiring an Arts focus. Or build a new damn school in Doraville for it. But for God’s sake lets quit the stupid lottery system and make it a complete merit based system. Anything else is b.s.
Good point about “moving the magnet”. I’ve a 10th grader at CCHS in the magnet program and a 9th grader at LHS who never was lucky to have his number drawn, applied ever year since fourth grade. After the 4th week of school at Lakeside, I see very little difference in the options available at both schools if your child is able to take AP classes and schedule gifted classes. Quality of teachers and students and classes at both schools are high quality, when staffed by a full-time teacher, which hasn’t always been the case in both schools. If a high school program is run well, I don’t see the value of a magnet program at the high school level, other than keeping friend groups together and/or continuing the German instruction, which is another post entirely.
Jay, What about keeping the current magnet at CCHS and open a new magnet at Cross Keys HS? This will solve many problems. It will draw people out of the overcrowded areas and address the magnet waiting list.
I’m not opposed to enlarging the magnet offerings if it eliminates the inequality of the current system, though I do question the need for magnets at all given the AP/gifted offerings at home schools. I’d like to know what the attendance effects would be of moving it, expanding it, and eliminating it. I suspect moving or eliminating it would help with capacity issues in District 1, which is the BIG issue. Regardless, redistricting and use of excess capacity, not a GO Bond, is the only logical option.
Jay, The High Scholl non-resident matrix will give you an idea of what it will look like if you close the magnet. https://www.dekalbschoolsga.org/documents/planning/2018/hs-matrix-2018.pdf
A super majority of the students going to Chamblee come from the other overcrowded schools in North DeKalb.
I’m suggesting we put a magnet at Cross Keys and build it accordingly.
I have two questions that hopefully Stan can answer.
If the GO bond does not pass, what is the process to remove the arts school from ESPOST IV? My break-out group felt that building an arts school now for a small population of students would be at the sacrifice of the basic educational needs of the general student population.
If a GO bond does not pass now, what could the timeline be if the new superintendent established his/her capital priorities and proposed a new GO bond plan?
Frustrated DeKalb Parent,
IMPACT OF NO GO BOND options were presented a few months ago. My first reaction was that they are scare tactics. The current meetings don’t discuss the no go bond option.
If a GO bond does not pass … hmmm … good question. I’m not sure if the school district has to wait or not to bring another referendum up.
@Frustrated: The Arts School would serve students in K-12 throughout the county. The building they are to be housed in already exists (former Avondale MS) – it just needs the addition of a performing arts auditorium and supporting facilities. It would not be a drain of resources from the general population, since those students are already in a Performing Arts Magnet.
Combined, DSA (Arts HS) and DESA (Arts ES) have around 950 students, which puts it in the same enrollment range as Columbia & Redan, and significantly more than McNair (658) and Towers (832.)
The facilitators of my break-out wouldn’t allow discussion of anything that was not one of the questions. I am glad your group got to ask about redistricting. Mine was not allowed.
The reasons given for not supporting any GO Bond were consistent from everyone, lack of trust, lack of accountability, lack of oversight, lack of integrity, and a long history of incompetence with no changes in sight.
A friend had this observation, eSPLOST V is a leaky bucket and the administration’s solution is to add more water. It isn’t a smart solution.
Since ESplost V is way over budget, why don’t we revisit that plan at the core, not just throw more money at it. How about building a HighSchool in Doraville in addition to CK, eliminating the need for lakeside/dunwoody/chamber expansions. Also redistrict to utilize seats we have in the south?
Stan, I agree with your premise of addition to the magnet program, not subtraction. I also agree with Lose the Magnet’s premise that the current bar is too low, based on the huge waiting list. I would propose, that if we are not going to increase the total number of seats, assignment of magnet seats should be as follows:
1. Guarantee the top 2 or 3 students at every elementary school in Dekalb have the OPPORTUNITY to go to the magnet, assuming they meet a 75% threshold – this compensates for disparities in educational opportunity regionally throughout the district.
2. Eliminate the lottery. Rack and stack all of the students based only on objective testing measures (a combined MAP score for example) and starting from the top of the list work your way down until all remaining spots are filled. If you want to have equal male / female representation as they have now, you can make two stacks, with one for each, though I’m not 100% sure why equal quantities of males and females is a goal in the first place.
This system would allow the magnet to be truly merit based, and would ensure that the county’s brightest students are best served for the sake of the students and the county.
It must be said, regardless, that the closure of the Chamblee magnet will not relieve congestion in region I, as the vast majority of magnet seats currently filled are coming from Region 1 home schools. I also don’t understand the concept of moving the magnet south by the same logic – the magnet programs in the south already have more vacancies than interest so taking a magnet away from the region in which the greatest demand exists makes no sense to me.
@ Amy: Where do you propose the new HS to be built? Where are you going to find 30-40 acres and the money to pay for them? Where are you going to find the $80 million to pay for the new HS?
Building classroom additions is MUCH more economically feasible than building a brand new school.
@Insider. I’m thinking redistricting is our most economical solution. We have 6,000 open high school seats. The only reason classroom additions are more economical than a new HS is because we don’t add the necessary and adequate common spaces to go along with the classroom additions.
Acquiring the land for a new high school seems to be a big hurdle.
The most economical solution is to maximize your existing space. 85% utilized new buildings are way more expensive that 120% utilized old buildings. Some people like shiny and new, but I really lean on having a solid teacher who’s not pissed about his/her comp.
@Jay, If you look at the areas of the county where there are seats (southern/west portion of the county and compare them to the areas where overcrowding is the most severe (Dunwoody, Chamblee, Cross Keys, Lakeside, Tucker) just HOW (or where) do you propose to “redistrict” the entire county to balance the enrollments?
That would result in attendance areas that would elicit cries of “gerrymandering” if they were political districts.
@Stan, I’ll offer the same question to you I just posed to Jay: “If you look at the areas of the county where there are seats (southern/west portion of the county and compare them to the areas where overcrowding is the most severe (Dunwoody, Chamblee, Cross Keys, Lakeside, Tucker) just HOW (or where) do you propose to “redistrict” the entire county to balance the enrollments?”
@Insider, It’s actually common sense redistricting. Nobody has to get bused pass a school to another school. Actually, It’s quite the contrary. Students are currently bused to schools further away to overcrowded schools, when very under utilized schools are much closer. Take a look at the current attendance zones, the current enrollment/capacity figures, and apply the attendance zone policy.
REDISTRICTING POLICY (DeKalb Schools Policy AD)
Enrollment/Capacity Figures are here
Map of High Schools are here
Start with temporary redistricting to utilize some of the open high school seats. This can be done using split feeders.
Then, build the new Cross Keys H.S. to accommodate 2000 students and rebuild Avondale H.S. for 2000 students. After that, do some permanent redistricting readjusting the temporary redistricting done.
No land needs to be purchased.
It seems like most schools are in the central to northern part of their attendance zones. To more efficiently use seats within the county, then most schools would need to have zones that placed them in the southern portion of any redistricted zone. If you live south of CCHS, Lakeside, Tucker, Stone Mountain, then you would likely need to get redistricted to a school to the south. That and an expanded magnet at Cross Keys likely solves most of the issues.
Schools in the south of the county would still be underutilized, but just less so.
Kirk and Stan, Kirk, I like the way you’re thinking. Sounds very strong. Can anyone please tell me what are two high-profile high schools doing with openings for Principal? Something is very wrong, again…and again….When HR makes their vacancies list again in a day or two, what will it show? I read the report for last month, and it in no way was connected to the PATS system. Can we never get the truth?
@William, There are 6,000 open high school seats. We are only a couple thousand seats over capacity in other high schools, so there is still going to be plenty of capacity still available. There is no need to bus students across the county. Common sense redistricting and shift some students down. If you live closest to the high School south of you, then you should be redistricted there.
I like Kirk’s plan.
The details of my plan are similar to, or the same as Stan’s.
The temporary high school redistricting could go along the lines of this, assuming middle schools do split feeders:
Start by filling some of the open seats in Columbia, SWD, and Miller Grove with students from Redan and Towers.
Shift some students to Redan from Stone Mountain and some students to Towers from Clarkston and Druid Hills.
Some Tucker students shift into Stone Mountain and some Lakeside students shift to Tucker.
Some Lakeside and Cross Keys students get moved to Druid Hills. Some Cross Keys students could go to Lakeside.
Chamblee students would fill the “capacity” opened up at Cross Keys, which would probably still need most of the current trailers.
Dunwoody students then shift to Chamblee.
There is NO NEED for students to drive past one high school to attend another. Many students would be attending a school that is closer to their home.
This would only be until the new Cross Keys H.S. opens, then things shift again. Hopefully, another new H.S. is built somewhere in the district and when it opens, draw new attendance zones again. I think that, yet to be discussed, high school would be best either in Doraville or Chamblee, but the district already owns over 24 acres in Avondale Estates.
This isn’t rocket surgery, but appears to be beyond the grasp of the current administration.
Stan and Kirk, you’ve nailed it down tight! Stan, can you push this through to the admin and board? This needs to do be done now, or at the latest, after the semester ends in January. Through all this necessary talk, you two have the answer for the next few years. Great thinking! I still want to know about the two principals’ vacancies.
Kirk, would you say that some of the logical moves are the following:
Most of Smoke Rise ES -> Stone Mountain HS Cluster
Most of Avondale ES -> Towers HS Cluster
Allgood ES – > Redan (?)
Hightower ES -> Chamblee Cluster
APES -> Cross Keys
Evansdale -> Tucker HS Cluster
Sagamore -> Cross Keys or Druid
This isn’t rocket surgery, but I could imagine there being some resistance. On the other side, these expansion plans seem unworkable and if entered into will draw money that would otherwise be spent across the county to be necessarily focused only in Regions 1 and 2.
South DeKalbTake a look at the High School Attendance Zones in South DeKalb. Clarkston is way over utilized, but half the Clarkston community live closer to two high schools that are way under utilized.
Why is the Towers HS attendance zone such a gerrymandered shape? Half of Towers HS is closer to Columbia. Break Towers up into a normal shape and send it to Columbia HS.
I intentionally didn’t mention elementary schools for fear of getting lost in the weeds. However, I will reply to you, hoping this thread doesn’t devolve into musings of which elementary schools should go where. Please, understand I believe in split feeders for elementary schools too.
No. I don’t think Smoke Rise E.S. should go to Stone Mountain. Idlewood E.S. should be moved to the Stone Mountain cluster.
Students from the Avondale E.S. attendance zone could go to either Towers H.S. or Clarkston H.S., whichever is closest to their home.
I don’t have an opinion on Allgood E.S. Would have to look at a map.
I agree with your suggestions for Hightower and APES.
No. I would leave Evansdale in the Lakeside cluster, but move the Pleasantdale students to the Tucker cluster.
Sagamore E.S. I would split with Clairmont Ave. West of Clairmont I would send to Cross Keys as the new high school will be on N. Druid Hills.
Everyone whose hair is currently on fire, please save your time. I will not defend this comment or argue the merits of it. These are just my personal musings which I shared because I have a great deal of respect for William.
Stan and I have not discussed “my plan.” Do not attack him. This is NOT “Stan’s plan.”
Not sure where to put this so I am putting it here! Stan, this is the time of year we all have mandated Ethic, Sexual Harassment, etc. videos to watch. I was just viewing the Employee Handbook 2019. Well, if we (the TRS employees) are not getting the TSA (7%). How is it that the PSER are still getting TSA? And now it is 8%! This does not seem right to me! Please remind everyone who is eligible in DCSD to PSERS!
Also, we have a new Art Teacher at out school (new to DeKalb). She said that no one told her that DCSD does not have Social Security. She has been teaching for 16 years and had always had it so never thought about it (until her check came).
Here is the info from DCSD Employee Handbook 2019:
“Employees covered under the Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS), the Board establishes a Tax
Sheltered Annuity (TSA) Account for each employee. The Board contributes 8% of the PSERS eligible employees’ gross salary to the Board TSA account for each employee through Fidelity Investments.” Well that was us (TRS) before 2007. Oh yeah, but it was 7% . . .
The truth is that denying teachers the TSA funds promised is wrong. The lawsuit that is being brought to see that teachers receive the TSA should not have been necessary. The county should not be fighting its employees over this issue. Teachers should be reimbursed for all funds due them.
Mike Pastirik – Lakeside High School
Hey Michael. DeKalb Schools stopped funding TSA in 2009. How many years do you see are due to the teachers?
I was promised TSA when I went to NTO and it was cut just before I became eligible. I believe that the promise should be kept.
@witsend, how would the school district fulfill its promise as you see it. How many years of TSA should the school district pay? What about interest?
I believe the answers to your questions are all of the years and all of the interest.
You have seen the spreadsheet showing the district has approximately $150 million that is unaccounted for. Find that money and pay the teachers.
Kirk, Are you saying the school district should legally have to pay for every year since it was stopped and continue paying for TSA in perpetuity?
Stan, I’m not Kirk but I will answer your question.
Teachers employed by DCSD at the time that TSA contributions were stopped should be awarded two years’ worth of TSA contributions, starting from the date that TSA contributions were stopped.
I chose two years because as I recall, DCSD policy stated that employees would receive two years’ notice before TSA contributions were stopped.
And, yes, I think this should be with interest.
The District is clearly at fault here and it is up to the District to make things right.
If the District goes bankrupt, too bad. Break the District up into reasonably sized districts and start over.
Stan… what would I like… all years from my date of eligibility to present… what do I think will come… basically what Anonymous said…
That being said, you don’t see calls for Gwinnett to be broken up, and they’re about 80% larger than we are. Constitutionally, I don’t see any way to break up DCSD. I would like to see our next superintendent focus on student and school-level employees’ needs first and foremost. Let’s focus on making our accountability work for our students… I’ll bring up the MAP consortium again. Why didn’t we get in on that since we’re already paying for MAP, and those assessments are given much more frequently, and in a timely manner to really make a difference for students? By the time we get Milestones results, kids are moving on. We can’t help them the way they need it.
My opinion is just and only an opinion. I feel wronged by the county with regards to the TSA. More importantly is what you as a Board member believe. To what extent, if any, is the responsibility of the school system as regards the TSA? Precedent setting really – as a teacher, I am bound to policy/promises. Is the county to be held to the same standard? If yes, why fight teachers in court?
Mike Pastirik – LakesideHigh School
Michael, the plaintiffs are asking for TSA contributions for the last 10 years plus interest to the tune of almost half a billion dollars.
Teachers are hurt by the actions of the school system – financially and the feeling of an emotion involving breach of promise – trust. Best to admit the wrong, apologize, and offer a reasonable settlement. Stone-walling will not work. The county might or might not win the lawsuit, but even if the county wins, word goes out not to work in the county and not to trust promises made. Morale, what quality of teachers the county attracts or retains will suffer. What that settlement is, I do not know, but it is best to explore it quickly.
Mike Pastirik – Lakeside High School
So, concerning the TSA, at what point is the district going to blink and make an offer? I think ethically they owe me from the time the TSA was cancelled until the time a new one put in place. Realistically, I expect 2 years plus interest.
Michael, Let’s wait until the case is over before I publicly give you my opinion.
Lakeside Teacher, why do you say the school district hasn’t made offers. Thanks for your thoughts about the the two years. I’ll give that some thought. Obviously I can’t say too much about this case so close to the end here.
OK…….I’ll bite. My understanding through what I have seen by looking at the Barnes web site and from my ODE rep/e-mailings is the suit is progressing with the potential to benefit more than 2 employees. If there was a settlement offer I sure didn’t hear about it.
Lakeside Teacher. The plaintiffs are asking for 400 million and the case has gone on for years. Talk to a lawyer or someone involved in big cases like this. They’ll tell you what all the two parties go through. As you have noticed, neither party will discuss publicly any negotiation proceedings.
Thanks, Stan, for the enrollment and capacity links — it’s really astounding how poorly distributed the students are in DCSD, and seems obvious that redistricting should be the first step – and should be done immediately! One question: how recent are those enrollment numbers? Are they from the current school year?
Some of the capacity issues seem easy and quick to address. For instance, why in the world does Henderson Mill ES have 90 kids over capacity, when nearby Hawthorne ES has 50 empty seats? Fifty kids should be shifted to Hawthorne immediately!
I don’t understand how teachers would be due anything more than 2 years with interest. But I’m not a lawyer.
Going back to the redistricting, it’s very easy to figure out a way to create the seats with just moves. The hard part is convincing the parents and neighborhoods as all the proposed moves would push students into a lower rated high school. In theory, it’s easy. In theory, the quality of the student is much more important than whether the high school is a 9, 7 or 5 on GreatSchools. In practice, it seems pretty hard.
Several idiots on the Atlanta School Board do not want to renew Meria Carstarphen’s contract:
The DCSD school board should cancel its national search and hire her to replace Dr. Green ASAP!
With regards to the TSA Lawsuit, DeKalb violated its own policy by not giving the two-year notice before ending the TSA Contributions. Rather than admit this mistake years ago DeKalb decided to fight. In the case of the freedom of speech case at Chamblee, it is hard to understand that DeKalb was not advised to settle before it got to court.
Everyone makes mistakes. I think most of us are raised to admit our mistakes and make amends.
As you mentioned in an earlier post, DeKalb has overruns in their SPLOST projects budget.
Doesn’t our leadership understand how these actions impact the people working in the school system?
I appreciate you and your willingness to be open and share information.
I don’t think DeKalb Schools board or administration are big advocates for the 1st Amendment when it doesn’t cut their way like in the CCHS freedom of speech case. Like the judge said, the school system is run like a totalitarian government.
This isn’t “Rocket Surgery?”
I guess this isn’t “Brain Science”, either?
Has anyone given a more detailed explanation of why the new Cross Keys costs so much? My father is a scheduler for construction companies. He did a schedule for some additions at Berkmar High School in Gwinett just last week. So I asked him what he thought about the reasons given for the cost. He said 90 mil was an extremely high amount compared to brand new schools he’s scheduled in other states. He tried to look up the plans and schedule in the system used by schedulers (sorry can’t remember the name of it right now). He said there weren’t any plans or schedule. All it said was the project had been awarded to a company named Evergreen for 90 mil. If there’s no plans or schedule yet – maybe Dekalb could go back and adjust the plans to reduce cost. It is really necessary to have natural light in every classroom? Yes that would be nice, but not necessary.
and why are they spending $10 mil on musical instruments? (see handout 1)
That seems like a lot. Don’t most kids have to buy their own instrument?
Yes. Everygreen has given a more detailed explanation and some of their reasons made sense, the design, and some didn’t, the county sales tax.
I agree, the administration should reevaluate the design to lower the cost. Natural light is nice, but I would say tinted, triple-pane, gas-filled windows don’t let in natural light. DeKalb shots itself in the foot by designing schools with windows for every classroom, then filtering the natural light.
^^confused Mama, DCSD sent Channel 2 Action News the following statement when Channel-2 asked why Cross Keys HS is costing more than twice as much as two new Gwinnett County schools:
We reached out to AECOM, our program manager, Cooper Carry, the architect for the Cross Keys HS project, and Evergreen Construction, the Construction Manager At Risk for the Cross Keys HS project and inquired as to why there would be differences in price per square feet. Evergreen is the same construction company that built the McClure Health Sciences High School.
The estimated amount for the construction contract is $86.8 million and divided by 338,000 SF would yield $257 per square foot. The full $102 million (full project cost), including technology, design, furniture, contingency, and all other costs, including demolition of the temporary John Lewis facility, would yield $302 per square foot. Without knowing what is in Gwinnett’s cost, it would be difficult to compare these numbers. We would need to review the systems and items included in Gwinnett County School’s costs and Cross Keys’ costs to make a true apples to apples comparison.
Below are Evergreen’s observations and comparisons between Cross Keys HS (DCSD) and McClure Health Sciences High School (GCPS):
Timing – McClure HS was priced in 2016 while the proposed Cross Keys HS is projected to start in 2020. Based on 5% per year construction cost escalation and all other factors equal, Cross Keys HS should be 20% more than McClure Health Sciences High School.
Direct Purchases – Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) purchases some items direct that most other schools districts choose to have the contractor purchase, including kitchen equipment, systems such as audiovisual, voice/data, lockers, and landscaping.
Future expansion – The Cross Keys HS core areas (media center, cafeteria, kitchen) are designed to support additional classrooms that can be added at a future date. McClure HS’ media center, cafeteria, kitchen were not designed for future expansion. This future expansion capability adds square footage and cost to the project. The core spaces (media center, cafeteria, kitchen) are more expensive (on a square foot basis) than classroom space.
Site Costs – The McClure HS site was going to be the second phase of an office development so there was not as much site work required as part of that project. Specifically, the McClure HS site costs were $5.5 million less than the current budget for Cross Keys site work.
Design – Cross Keys HS includes more “21st Century Learning” design features as compared to a more traditional school. This includes interior glass partitions and daylight in every classroom. Approximately 30% of the classrooms in McClure HS are “inboard” and do not have daylight.
Omissions – Because McClure HS is a “themed” high school, it does not include any athletic facilities for competitive sports such as football, baseball, softball, volleyball, tennis, wrestling, etc. There are also other programmatic components of a typical high school missing in the McClure program. The omission of these spaces causes the overall cost to be less. Paul Duke HS similarly is a themed STEM school with similar omissions.
Program – The current Cross Keys design includes CTAE program elements. These spaces are also inherently more expensive than typical classroom space. The health sciences program for McClure HS did not require more expensive space.
Sales tax – The sales tax rate in DeKalb is 33% higher than that in Gwinnett – 8% vs. 6%. It may not sound like much but material costs are a significant cost component of construction.
Based on the architect’s experience of four middle schools for Gwinnett County Public Schools, they had the following observations (similar to Evergreen):
Gwinnett County Schools projects came in rather low compared to our other in-town projects, but to be fair, GCPS’s guide specifications dictated a different end product. Things are not apples to apples.
In the past GCPS pulled out some subcontractor numbers from the base (different than how other districts do it), which yielded lower numbers. For example, GCPS would buy their kitchen equipment, lockers, and other items direct and that amount would not be recorded in their base cost. As well, often their sites start out pre-graded and pad ready, another big chunk of the cost that does not get reported in the end number.
Cross Keys HS is being designed with more square footage to accommodate future growth without later having to expand core spaces such as Kitchen, Cafeteria, Media Center. Each square foot adds cost.
The Cross Keys HS site is a tight and fairly complicated site as opposed to a typical GCPS site which in that past came graded and level.
Historically, Gwinnett County, south metropolitan areas, and Cobb County enjoyed lower construction costs. The presumption is that these areas have more access to cheaper subcontractors from out of state that is willing to reach the outer suburbs, but not the congested inner core of the Atlanta area. With that said, in-town districts like DeKalb, Fulton, and APS, pay higher construction costs
In-town sites tend to be tighter and less workable. As well there tend to be more constraints on and around in-town sites.
In-Town schools tend to have different design requirements. For example, the schools that the architect designed for GCPS were required to be compact designs, meaning more classrooms packed in the middle without windows. This is cost-effective, but studies show natural light improves student performance. Cross Keys HS is designed for natural light in nearly all teaching spaces.
@ ConfusedMama.. I can answer the $10 mil and musical instruments. The county DOES NOT have a line item in their budget for musical instruments in their yearly budget. They should. All other metro counties do. I can use Cobb, for example. If their program has over 200 kids in the program, the school is guaranteed 50K a year for the program. If they have more than 200, they get so much more, and if they have less than 200, they get so much less.
You have to think band (and marching band), orchestra, chorus, and general music because the ten million goes to all the programs in all DCSD schools. The students do not purchase most of the more significant percussion instruments, tubas, cellos, double bass, orf instruments, keyboards, pianos because they cost so much.
I hope that answers your question. Should that have been in SPLOST, NO, it should be in the budget as a line item every year just like buying textbooks.
Here’s the musical instruments agenda item. https://simbli.eboardsolutions.com/SB_Meetings/ViewMeeting.aspx?S=4054&MID=75268. A lot of it is percussion, tubas, and stuff the kids generally don’t buy. I’d like to know how the regular instruments that most students buy are distributed. The district assures me these instruments are equally distributed across the district. I wonder how they decide who gets what flute or trombone.
We have a board meeting Monday Sept 9. Stacey Stepney will be there. That would be a could time to ask her about this.
Why would Stacey Stepney know about musical instruments? This was added to SPLOST V before she was promoted to her current position.
I too wonder why musical instruments are in SPLOST.
Each school programs was given a pot of money and said you had three days to spend it. A video from the county coordinator came out on a Tuesday (April 16th) and teachers had to turn their request in by a Friday (April 19). Bookkeepers had to do the rest in each school.
The base for a chorus program I know was $3000 per year, and for each 100th child, you got an extra $20 per program. This chorus program I am talking about got an extra $3000 this year because they had been left out for so long. The high schools got something like $40,000 because they have extra needs and more expensive instruments. Plus they got an additional $20 for each student 100th student.
Small instruments like Flutes or trombones would not have been purchased unless they are in a high poverty area and the director requested it.
Lynn, Did each high school basically get the same amount of money? Or, if your school is twice as big, then it got twice as much money?
@ Stan. Each High School Band program got 40K. Every student over 100 each program got $20 per student. For example if you had a program with 99 students you were guaranteed 40K. If you had a program of 200, you were guaranteed 42K.
From my understanding all programs, band orchestra, chorus in middle and high school were told that they were the extra $20 per student over 100.
I hope that helps. I heard the videos that were sent out were very good, but the rush to get items in in just three days has me really worried, was the money spent correctly.
Good information shared by @DSW2Contributor regarding factors that impact construction costs. It is not easy to perform an ‘apples to apples’ comparison with schools in different parts of the state or country and draw a definitive conclusion from the findings.
For comparison purposes, the cost for North Atlanta High School was $147M back in 2013. Some may recall this sits on the old IBM site on Northside Drive, just inside I-285. The land cost was $56M and the school and campus cost was $71M.
More recently, the new Buford High School in Gwinnett was completed this year at a final cost of $85M. The preliminary cost estimate was $50M. Chamblee High School was estimated at $70M in 2013 however the final costs may have been slightly higher.
Factoring in above and the Public Input sessions, do citizens believe that overruns occurred because of increasing labor and material (tariffs) costs along with project scope changes? Some costs supposed increased due to requirements changing, which impacted the fire sprinkler costs going up. If you don’t believe this impacted the eSPLOST budget, I can understand you not supporting the GO Bond as you probably believe it was due to project mismanagement. If you think these unexpected increases did have some impact, how can you not support at least the $100M GO Bond option?
I will answer your question. I do not support the $100M GO Bond option even though I agree the majority of the cost increases are out of the district’s control for several reasons.
First, I do not agree with the eSPLOST V project list. Why should more overpaid administrators get district vehicles to drive, why are musical instruments included in eSPLOST, and why were some schools allowed to challenge their FCA score and others were not. I think the project list includes projects that are more political than necessary.
Second, there is ZERO accountability for the eSPLOST V budget. If you talk to members of the SPLOST Citizen’s Advisory Committee, they will tell you. In the past, projects have been dropped, changed and added without BOE approval. In fact, one of the first things Dr. Green did when he got here was to change the name from Citizen’s Oversight Committee to Citizen’s Advisory Committee because he doesn’t want any oversight.
Third, the Facility Condition Assessments (FCAs) and the Facility Educational Adequacy Assessments (FEAAs) are horribly, and embarrassingly, flawed. Locker rooms are not included in most of the middle school or high school FCAs. Leaking roofs and backing up toilets are not mentioned in any of them. The FEAAs include deficiencies in the room narrative, but then score rooms with the highest score. The whole process was an embarrassing joke.
I did not vote for eSPLOST V and I do not support any bond because the “data” is flawed and the administration’s priorities do not reflect my own.
If the district were to say, “we are going to put all building projects off until eSPLOST VI and spend eSPLOST V repairing roofs and replacing HVAC systems,” then, I would consider supporting a bond.
However, considering two of the elementary schools that are less than three years old already have leaking roofs, there would have to be some assurances about warranties before I could support anything.
I can’t thank you enough for your detailed and thorough reply! I tried taking emotion out of the comment hence why I phrased my question the way I did. I like how you laid out your 3 points and they make sense.
I also question why instruments were taken out of the SPLOST and plan to ask how that can be done. Maybe someone here can explain if that was done as a capital expenditure vs operating expense (which I think instruments would be). Whatever, it is a slippery slope and the costs for them probably should have come from the general fund. How do you tell citizens ‘No’ to instruments for students?
I will counter what you support with this consideration. I can support the $100M GO Bond to complete the SPLOST IV and V projects (with some minor revisions to address changing needs in a transparent manner) and can support adding dollars to the Bond if a specific list of roofs/HVACs needing immediate attention can serve as the project list. My concern are the projects that were promised that are almost done, i.e. DSA, and believe they need to be completed. Any approval of monies will be contingent upon a Citizens Oversight Committee being appointed by Board members. This committee would report project statuses back to the citizens of DeKalb. It would have to Board member appointments since they are elected by citizens and ultimately have the fiduciary responsibilities for school district funds. Additional construction and repairs can be handled with a SPLOST VI, it citizens approve this.
Something else to consider is the changing purchasing habits of people. I like many that I know, purchase many goods via the Internet. I am sure this has had a significant impact on tax collections hence SPLOST collections. This is definitely out of the district’s control and ultimately impacts the project list. It will be interesting to see revenue forecasts going forward and for future SPLOSTs.
No matter what happens, citizens will be upset with whatever decision is made. I recall former Board member Eugene Walker always commenting that the squeaky wheel always gets the grease. Unfortunately, DeKalb has a lot of wheels and not enough grease.
I was reading the proposed purchasing policy and found this.
A. As used in this policy, the term “capital project(s)” means:
1. The building, designing, altering, repairing, improving, replacing, retrofitting
or demolishing of any public school structure, educational or administrative
facility in the DeKalb County School District;
2. The acquisition of school sites, buildings, or other fixed assets, whether by
purchase or lease purchase; or
3. The initial equipping and furnishing of educational facilities included under a
Isn’t eSPLOST supposed to be used for Capital Projects? If so, how do band instruments qualify as fixed assets?
Also, how did Thurmond get away with purchasing custodial equipment with SPLOST IV funds when that wasn’t on the project list?
@Kirk. This was just not band instruments. This also included all aspects of music education. General music, orchestra and choruses all got $$$$ this past April from SPLOST. Didn’t the school system use SPLOST funds to buy buses a few years ago? Granted as I stated earlier… funding for music education should be a line item in the budget but music education doesn’t have one.
@ Kirk…same way they keep getting buses with SPLOST funds…all of these should be operating expenses.
Buses have been a line item in the last two SPLOST project lists. I don’t mind that so much as they are so expensive. Capital Equipment, maybe. Definitely more so that percussion instruments and custodial supplies.
I wonder if computers are capital equipment. I doubt it since they are replaced every three years, yet every SPLOST includes money for computers.
Well I’ll just go ahead and say it – I do not support the bond because I don’t trust Dekalb with money. I want my child and everyone else’s to have a quality education in a safe environment. But somebody has to be responsible with the money here. We need more oversight, less administration positions, and the ability to keep quality teachers rather than constantly rotating new ones.
Confused Mama, you’re not confused at all!
You are at the very heart of the issue. Why should anyone trust DCSD with more money when they have shown such a remarkable inability to estimate costs properly, forecast enrollment accurately, or manage projects with fidelity?
They have made the choices as complex as possible, hoping that most folks will just throw up their hands and vote for “the children.”
The District needs to hear loud and clear that BECAUSE we support “the children,” we will NOT give them any more money until they demonstrate financial responsibility.
Maybe they could also show us how the proposed programs strengthen academics.
Isn’t DCSD in the education business?