Not Fans of the GO Bond

From where I’m sitting, the message is loud and clear. The public does not support the General Obligation (GO) Bond. I received statements from the DeKalb NAACP and the Georgia Federation of Teachers.


DeKalb NAACP

NAACP DeKalb County Branch believes that improving the learning environment by building state-of-the-art school facilities is critical to the success of DeKalb County students. This Branch has been supportive of previous Bond initiates by the District, but we are opposed to the proposed $265 million in GO Bonds due to cost overruns until the District demonstrates that it will provide the proper oversite of any additional funds. This states the Branch’s position, but there appears to be the lack of transparency that the citizens are entitled to and deserve if the District hopes to build public support for this referendum.

NAACP Opposes DeKalb School GO Bond


Georgia Federation of Teachers
The Georgia Federation of Teachers concurs with the DeKalb NAACP regarding the school district’s request to raise the millage rate. The present administration has almost double the budget from that which was under former Superintendent Michael Thurmond.

Again, we ask as others have asked for a Forensic Audit.


Dunwoody Homeowners Association

At the board meeting of September 8, 2019, a quorum of the Board of Directors unanimously agreed to release the following statement regarding the state of DeKalb County public schools within city limits in general and against the GO Bond in particular.

Dear Members of the Board,

The Dunwoody Homeowners Association (DHA) strives to ensure a high standard and quality of life for the homeowners of Dunwoody. An essential component of a strong and vibrant community is quality public schools for every child. Unfortunately, the school facility crisis of DeKalb County Schools (DCSD) is putting the quality of life for all of Dunwoody at serious risk. School buildings are suffering from leaky roofs, mold, malfunctioning air conditioning, non-working bathrooms, unsanitary locker rooms, unsafe multipurpose fields, and catastrophic plumbing breaks. These poor conditions extend to numerous portable trailers which are arriving at an alarming pace with little plan for relief in the next few years. We ask DCSD to prioritize this facilities crisis and school overcrowding through strategic initiatives and alternative solutions, not simply adding more portable classrooms each year.

Through the GO Bond you have proposed, you plan to increase property taxes for homeowners over the next 15 years. While we are quite concerned about the state of the facilities in our schools, we are skeptical of the GO Bond as a vehicle to successfully address these deferred maintenance problems.

We do not support the GO Bond for the following reasons:

• Lack of leadership: Dr. Green is expected to leave by next summer. Many departments are being run by interim leaders who have limited vision and fail to provide a long-term plan for the school system. Strong leadership must be in place to oversee additional taxpayer funds prior to their collection.
• Lack of financial transparency: The 2017 financial audit contained material weaknesses that have yet to be solved. The Athletics department internal audit from October of 2017 found “gross non-compliance due to controls not being in place”. The 2018 procurement audit revealed a risk of liability exposure. We have not seen a 2018 audit even though we are in the 3rd quarter of 2019. A forensic audit, by an objective third-party firm, must be conducted of the athletics, food service, public safety, and procurement departments prior to any consideration of a bond.
• Lack of transparency on the GO Bond process: According to attendees from our community, including elected officials, GO Bond meetings were very confusing and provided no opportunity to answer the public’s questions. DCSD must develop greater trust with the community during the bond approval process.
• Lack of professional acumen in GO Bond construction estimates: Internal DCSD staff compiled the construction estimates, rather than using professional estimators. A construction management firm needs to be hired to manage the entire scope of the Go Bond work.

The DHA has been a long-time supporter of DeKalb County Schools throughout the Dunwoody area and desires to continue this successful partnership. The DHA is proud to be a consistent contributor to all seven public schools and our support goes beyond just financial donations. DHA members are also DCSD parents who support hands-on initiatives like campus clean up days and other service projects to keep our schools strong.

Our primary goal is to promote the recreation, health, safety, welfare, benefit and enjoyment of the homeowners within the community. We know this goal cannot be obtained without focusing on maintaining high quality schools. We implore you to be more purposeful with the funds you currently have and pause the Go Bond process until you have addressed our concerns above. We are confident that taxpayer funds will be better spent when a stronger financial and strategic foundation is in place.

Sincerely,
The Board of Directors
Dunwoody Homeowners Association


PUBLIC SENTIMENT
DeKalb Schools is holding public meetings to seek public input on proposed options to address the E-SPLOST budget. The sentiment is clear, Yes on a new Perimeter High School and No on GO Bonds. These images are from the Chamblee Charter HS public meeting on E-SPLOST and GO Bonds.


Flashback – 2016 Feasibility Study
This sentiment hasn’t changed since 2016. I captured this vote in one of the break out rooms … 100% for a new perimeter high school and cluster.

16 responses to “Not Fans of the GO Bond

  1. Wow. Pretty impressive statements from the NAACP and the Georgia Federation of teachers. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen either group show such a cogent interest in the DeKalb school district. Happy about this!

  2. Three cheers for the NAACP and the Georgia Federation of Teachers. Maybe they will have more clout than mere citizens.

    It will be very interesting to see what proposal Dr. Green brings to the BOE after these public meetings. They may say that those attending the public meetings are just the “crazies,” and that most citizens will vote for the GO Bonds because they love “the children.”

    Giving the District more money, with no guarantee of oversight or any tangible evidence of improvements to
    – cost estimation
    – enrollment forecasting
    – project management

    is NOT the same as loving “the children.”

    Loving the children means good financial stewardship, competent estimation and management practices, transparency and commitment to oversight. A bit of an apology would be good too.

    DCSD has only told us the things that made the previous estimates and plans so WRONG but hasn’t given evidence why these new estimates are better.

  3. While I work for the district, I do not live in it. But if I did, I would not vote to give any additional funds to the current administration. We have a short-time superintendent that will be leaving at (if not before) the end of the school year. Roughly half of the senior leadership are “interim” people in place in those positions. Cost overruns and increased costs would not be quite the issue they are if certain people had budgeted better – overestimating expenses and underestimating revenue. Instead, revenue was overestimated and nearly all of it was allocated to specific projects – rather than to contingency and overruns.

    I truly think they’re in over their heads.

  4. NO NO NO to GO Bonds!!

  5. Unfortunately, DCSD administration considers ‘whack-a-mole’ to be their favored facilities planning strategy. It is no wonder that they ran out of SPLOST money. The planned additions at Chamblee, Dunwoody, and Lakeside HS were on small landlocked campuses (square peg and round hole) which blew the tops off the budget. Having to resort to parking garages (at $55k per added space at LHS) and putting athletic fields on top of them (Chamblee) is the height of financial recklessness. Dan Drake and his staff think that there is an endless pot of money and he can do whatever he wants without oversight or accountability. Who needs to adhere to a budget when there is a virtually endless fountain of tax money?

    Perhaps there needs to also be a term limit on the acting COO with so many broken and mismanaged school facilities? Dan Drake’s enablers and the GO Bond cheerleaders on the DeKalb County School Board should really stop and consider what purpose they serve. They should be working for the students, educators, and the taxpayers to maximize available resources and deliver the best learning environment possible – not simply rubber stamping the poor choices of a reckless administration.

    Dr. Greene was in over his head and will soon be gone, Mr. Drake should be next.

    The calls for the forensic financial audit are right on target and long overdue.

  6. Thank you DeKalb Chapter-NAACP…your short letter speaks volumes.

  7. I’m concerned about the last sentence in the statement by the NAACP. In political speak, that’s what an invitation to be bought off looks like.

  8. Concerned Taxpayer

    Mr. Jester
    My family says NO! We have lived in DeKalb for 30 years and this blank check spending lately is ridiculous.
    For my neighbor, I have a question. Why do you not write about the Title I money the district gets? Can you use the money to make repairs? My neighbor has been waiting for months to get travel reimbursement in excess of $800. Why does it take so long? Please help. My neighbor needs it.
    https://www.ajc.com/news/local-education/dekalb-county-board-education-set-meet/II1EI9EUJTSpNXBJqtYmwM/?ecmp=dekalbco&utm_socialnewsdesk=social&utm_source=dekalb_fb

  9. Did anyone else notice the NAACP spelled “oversight” as “oversite”?
    What a bunch of lazy stupid buffoons – especially in a formal position letter.
    Talk about a lack of, well, oversight… (or at least editing).

  10. The school system is a black hole for tax dollars, and most of the BOE are fixated on shoving more and more of those dollars into it. The incredible waste of funds is staggering, especially at the Taj which is filled with failed schoolhouse administrators lording it over hard(over)working teachers. If the BOE wants a bond, then do one that pays what teachers are owed from the fraudulent appropriation of monies for our annuity in lieu of social security. The BOE should demand that the system both cough up the funds for that annuity and either continue its rightful payment or put employees back into the social security system. What a crock the DeKalb School District is, and the BOE props it up. Free up funds by getting rid of 50% of the losers at the County Office. Better yet, since there are still so many open teacher spots in the County, stick some of these brilliant lights at the County Office in those spots. Those County folk used to be teachers, didn’t they? Aren’t those County folk in their positions because they were so wonderful in the classrooms? Do it.

  11. Not sure where to post this but it falls in the DCSD mismanagement category:
    https://www.wsbtv.com/amp/news/dekalb-schools-athletic-department-pdf-and-district-response/983563307

    Stan, will the BOE request another audit since this was over 2 years ago – to see if the changes have been made and are effective? Also, this was an internal audit…what about the follow up being done by an outside auditor for best practices?

  12. I know this isn’t related to this topic, but APS will not be renewing Meria Carstarphen’s contract.
    Stan, please call her.

  13. From the Dunwoody Homeowners Association

    At the board meeting of September 8, 2019, a quorum of the Board of Directors unanimously agreed to release the following statement regarding the state of DeKalb County public schools within city limits in general and against the GO Bond in particular.

    Dear Members of the Board,

    The Dunwoody Homeowners Association (DHA) strives to ensure a high standard and quality of life for the homeowners of Dunwoody. An essential component of a strong and vibrant community is quality public schools for every child. Unfortunately, the school facility crisis of DeKalb County Schools (DCSD) is putting the quality of life for all of Dunwoody at serious risk. School buildings are suffering from leaky roofs, mold, malfunctioning air conditioning, non-working bathrooms, unsanitary locker rooms, unsafe multipurpose fields, and catastrophic plumbing breaks. These poor conditions extend to numerous portable trailers which are arriving at an alarming pace with little plan for relief in the next few years. We ask DCSD to prioritize this facilities crisis and school overcrowding through strategic initiatives and alternative solutions, not simply adding more portable classrooms each year.

    Through the GO Bond you have proposed, you plan to increase property taxes for homeowners over the next 15 years. While we are quite concerned about the state of the facilities in our schools, we are skeptical of the GO Bond as a vehicle to successfully address these deferred maintenance problems.

    We do not support the GO Bond for the following reasons:

    • Lack of leadership: Dr. Green is expected to leave by next summer. Many departments are being run by interim leaders who have limited vision and fail to provide a long-term plan for the school system. Strong leadership must be in place to oversee additional taxpayer funds prior to their collection.
    • Lack of financial transparency: The 2017 financial audit contained material weaknesses that have yet to be solved. The Athletics department internal audit from October of 2017 found “gross non-compliance due to controls not being in place”. The 2018 procurement audit revealed a risk of liability exposure. We have not seen a 2018 audit even though we are in the 3rd quarter of 2019. A forensic audit, by an objective third-party firm, must be conducted of the athletics, food service, public safety, and procurement departments prior to any consideration of a bond.
    • Lack of transparency on the GO Bond process: According to attendees from our community, including elected officials, GO Bond meetings were very confusing and provided no opportunity to answer the public’s questions. DCSD must develop greater trust with the community during the bond approval process.
    • Lack of professional acumen in GO Bond construction estimates: Internal DCSD staff compiled the construction estimates, rather than using professional estimators. A construction management firm needs to be hired to manage the entire scope of the Go Bond work.

    The DHA has been a long-time supporter of DeKalb County Schools throughout the Dunwoody area and desires to continue this successful partnership. The DHA is proud to be a consistent contributor to all seven public schools and our support goes beyond just financial donations. DHA members are also DCSD parents who support hands-on initiatives like campus clean up days and other service projects to keep our schools strong.

    Our primary goal is to promote the recreation, health, safety, welfare, benefit and enjoyment of the homeowners within the community. We know this goal cannot be obtained without focusing on maintaining high quality schools. We implore you to be more purposeful with the funds you currently have and pause the Go Bond process until you have addressed our concerns above. We are confident that taxpayer funds will be better spent when a stronger financial and strategic foundation is in place.

    Sincerely,
    The Board of Directors
    Dunwoody Homeowners Association

  14. DSW2Contributor

    The AJC”s coverage of the September 9, 2019 board meeting, titled “Groups call for DeKalb Schools leader’s immediate resignation”:
    https://www.ajc.com/news/local-education/groups-call-for-dekalb-schools-leader-immediate-resignation/MImvKmKLkTyGAcuXOOam5I/

  15. NO to Go Bond!!!

  16. After attending the Scene with Dr. Geeene, the vote is NO! NO! NO! to GO Bonds. Why were the police officers surrounding a white man with a legitimate statement to Board member, Mrs. Morley. If Dr. Greene does not want anyone to respond to her preaching, then dont let her speak at the Scene with Dr. Greene. It’s only an hour. She talks too much.

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