Public Feedback Results – GO Bond & E-SPLOST Projects

Results are in from the five (5) public meetings to seek public input on proposed options to address the E-SPLOST budget.

GO Bond

General obligation (GO) bonds are bonds backed by a debt service property tax. GO Bonds require voter approval by referendum. The bonds would be sold Summer 2020 and paid back over 15 years. The debt service property tax is separate from school operations property tax and is not factored in the 25 mill maximum rate for school operations

WHY GO BONDS
DeKalb schools would like more money. They would like to rebuild schools rather than fix major building systems in aging schools.

GO BOND – PUBLIC FEEDBACK

Question: “Which GO Bond option do you prefer and why?”
A – $265M GO Bond including 5 new elementary schools
B – $220M Go Bond including only 4 new elementary schools
C – $100M Go Bond to shore up existing E-SPLOST overruns
D – No GO Bond

Public Meeting Results – GO Bond

Online Survey – GO Bond

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.”

Question: “Which Arts School option do you prefer and why?”
A – $15M funded by SPLOST V at the Avondale MS site
B – $15M funded by GO Bond at the Avondale MS site
C – $70M funded at a new site including a new Performing Arts center
D – Cancel the Arts School Project

Public Meeting Results – Arts School

Online Survey – Arts School

The Art School community doesn’t want the Art School project cancelled. The Art School community feels like the current facilities are in poor condition. All other communities see the new Comprehensive Art School as a luxury that should not come before the needs of the other schools. There is not an interest in having a combined K-12 Arts School.

E-SPLOST PROJECT FEEDBACK

• Communities in Region 1 and Region 2 are concerned about the growing enrollment
• Many attendees at many meetings expressed a preference to cancel the building additions
• All South DeKalb Meetings (Clarkstone, Miller Grove and Columbia) want the high achievers magnet moved out of Chamblee Charter HS.
• Chamblee and Dunwoody communities do not want the high achievers magnet moved
• Turf Installation – Some see it as an expensive luxury. Some see it as cost saving and safety issue

Other Concerns Noted By Facilitators

• Community members expressed concerns that the Facility Condition Assessment (FCA) scores were inaccurate or a poor metric for project prioritization.
• There were many requests from Dunwoody, Lakeside and Chamblee community members to redistrict.
• There were many requests to build a new Doraville area high school instead of doing the building additions.
• Many requests for more renovations and fewer building additions.
• Many requests to better understand the district’s long term facilities plan.
• Many requests to prioritize maintenance at existing facilities

34 responses to “Public Feedback Results – GO Bond & E-SPLOST Projects

  1. Seems like this is really a vote of no-confidence in Dekalb county leadership. I am sure most people are not against new schools, they just do not trust the current team in charge.

  2. LaptopBoy, I think people are against the building plan too. We want our schools fixed. We don’t want the building additions. There are some new schools that need to get built. We need to focus on maintenance.

  3. We need to bite the bullet and redistricting to fill up the classrooms we already have before we worry about building more. If this means consolidation of existing schools, then so be it.

  4. Due to the toxic focus on endless testing throughout our children’s entire school career, our schools are teaching to the tests and have cut back drastically on Art, Music, Dance, Drama……
    Cut back on toxic testing and bring back all of the above, along with academics, to nurture all our children.
    Legislators, corporate testing profiteers, data tech companies, for profit charters, real estate companies, etc……are the winners, and children are the losers. This is a practice all around the USA, because our children are worth million$ to corporate folks.
    All children need to experience the Arts because it’s good for them.
    Building a few specialized programs for a few children is not enough.

  5. Arts educations belongs in EVERY school for EVERY child, not just a select few. The K-12 comprehensive arts school needs to be cancelled by law because voters approved that project in SPLOST IV. Replace the aging building systems (HVAC, plumbing, electrical, roofs, etc…) at DSA and all of the schools on the SPLOST V Capital Improvements List, including Hawthorne and Farrington who have been removed in error. Stop the absurd building additions in Regions 1 and 2 at the high schools that were previously expanded and rebuilt in an earlier SPLOST. Those campuses are full and expanding them is a disservice to students, teachers, community members, and DeKalb tax payers. Instead, sell the Briarcliff property to Emory or CHOA and build a new Cross Keys in Brookhaven, where Region 1 is located. While you’re at it, build a new Doraville area high school to relieve overcrowding in Region 1 and serve the Sequoia MS community. DCSD hasn’t purchased land and built a new high school in Region 1 since 1972, which is ridiculous considering that Region 1 has seen the most growth. Whatever you do, DCSD, don’t waste another dime of my tax dollars on some stupid marketing campaign to convince unaware voters in DCSD to support a GO Bond. Those of us who are paying attention know that there is little substance in the central office behind your marketing, just images of smiling students to tug at our heartstrings and empty promises of “better schools” “for the children” and “lower taxes” . Instead, fairly compensate your teachers and school staff, make decisions that are guided by putting students’ academic success and safety first, and hire someone from a successful school district who can restore DCSD to the success it once realized.

  6. Coupla questions

    I agree that redistricting needs to happen, top to bottom. But is there any chance of that happening with the very white bread Montgomery wanting to have a second school and not share? The idea that they get off with a 3-5 school at Nancy Creek is laughable. Shouldn’t everyone have to go through the pain of redistricting?

    Stan — would love to know why does South DeKalb care where the magnet is? Don’t they already have plentiful and unfilled magnet programs?

    And this is for a school system that already levies the highest taxes in the state (or one of the highest)?

    I’m a definite NO to one cent more going to DeKalb schools.

  7. Region 2 parent

    Vote NO to the GO!

    Thank you Stan Jester for publishing the results from the survey and the five public meetings. You are to be commended for your service and continued transparency efforts.

  8. So glad the board is taking time to check out what others are doing. I have been trying for years to get them to look at the comprehensive V0-tech high school in my home state of Ohio. There is a waiting list for this school. Kids come out of there job ready. They can also go on to tech or regular college if they choose (as my sister did). Many more kids would be well-served to be given an education that will carry them through life with a good job. There aren’t a lot of jobs to be had in the arts after high school (unless you’re talking about media and graphic arts, but DSA has never shown an interest in offering that).

  9. @ No GO Bond>> Regarding your comment about glitzy marketing. Several years ago on the blog we posted an image from the front page of a DCSD glossy. It had a full page width photo of kids on a playground. We thought it looked staged and wondered why the district would pay for a stock photo when we had 100,000 kids and a photographer on staff. Then we found the stock photo at a stock house. And funnily enough, the original had a little white girl on the far left that they cropped out! The only white kid in the picture got cropped. We had a good laugh over that. Very telling as to how they really think.

  10. @Coupla Questions,
    I attended the E-SPLOST/GO Bond meeting at Columbia HS in South DeKalb. One man in my small group was adamant that “the High Achiever Magnet program belongs to the District, not Chamblee, and it’s time for Chamblee to give it up.”

    I mentioned the same thing you posted, that there are at least 3 high school magnet programs in South DeKalb that have available seats, but this did nothing to change his opinion.

    But the high number of applicants for the Chamblee High Achiever Magnet Program doesn’t lie. People from all over the district want this. Even those who have more convenient alternatives in South DeKalb continue to vote with their feet.

    I wouldn’t be opposed, however, to raising the bar for applicants. It’s embarrassingly low.

  11. Exactly Anonymous – and what about the gorgeous, nearly private, application-only, math-science magnet high school called Arabia Mountain HS? It’s a showcase! The kids even wear uniforms! There is NOTHING like this in north DeKalb. Chamblee is so urban, squeezed on a postage-stamp sized lot surrounded by traffic jams and old buildings. Same with Dunwoody and Lakeside – squeezed into a landlocked neighborhood. Traffic jam nightmares. SW DeKalb has a vibrant magnet program as well. South DeKalb has a lot to offer. Don’t let people like @Coupla Questions make you think otherwise. The only thing this district does not provide is a vo-tech option. Ironically, the only one of any size exists in South DeKalb, but needs serious updating. The North DeKalb version got merged in with Cross Keys in order to boost enrollment and count the tech HS SPLOST money as money spent on Cross Keys as well as provide a way to trade the North Tech HS land with Perimeter College for land to build Dunwoody Elementary. (Which, btw, as far as I know, Cross Keys still does not have an auditorium. Has this EVER been remedied?)

    http://www.arabiamtnhs.dekalb.k12.ga.us/
    http://dhstsouth.dekalb.k12.ga.us/

  12. Stan, this isn’t accurate. Hundreds of DSA parents, students, and teachers went to a special meeting on this question and dozens spoke there. You didn’t go, so here’s what happened. Among all the speakers, zero were in favor of a GO Bond for a $70 million school. 100% spoke in favor of fixing the falling-apart building they currently have. It’s the same concern all the other schools have, except more so — as you have pointed out, DSA has the lowest facility rating of all DCSD schools.

  13. How many students are there at DSA these days? It used to be just about 300-400… and that was 8th-12th grades. Always seemed to me that they could merge into a full comprehensive high school as a program within the school. Similar to North Atlanta High … https://www.northatlantahigh.org/performing-arts/ Cross Keys at the Druid Hills property could be built as such a school – almost like a small college campus of sorts. You could even include some of those ever-elusive vo-tech programs on campus. It’s outside the box thinking at least.

  14. @Cere, I think this is what you’re referring to. Here’s the cover for some plan they put out

    Here is the original image:

  15. @ Cere – per the 2018-19 data from DCSD, DSA enrollment was 431 and the building capacity was 842.

    @rK – DCSD didn’t put much effort into informing DeKalb stakeholders about the “secret” DSA meeting; The result – a very one sided conversation.

  16. Stan, the meeting wasn’t a secret. The whole school community knew about it and that’s why there were so many people there. And I’m sure you know much of the building is used by the DCSD registration office. Why are you trying to imply that DSA is asking for something it isn’t, and that their building has capacity that it doesn’t? You have made it clear before that you don’t think much of DSA or magnets in general and it’s fine for you to have that opinion, but not fine for you to misrepresent DSA as asking for something they’re not or asking for resources they don’t actually need. Shame on you. What people were asking for was for y’all to stop talking about eventually building a K-12 school and instead taking care of the mold, rodents, leaking roof, broken windows, dysfunctional HVAC, etc in the existing building and nothing more. You heard the same message across the county, from many neighborhoods, about many school buildings.

  17. Umm… @ rK l, I’ve never heard Stan advocate against any magnet programs. He tends to report things factually. The DSA meeting wasn’t advertised at my kids’ school, so it’s no surprise that the people who attended were from DSA. The only way to have a sense of the sentiment of the stakeholders is to have attended all 5 SPLOST meetings (and who has time for that?) or look at the data, which Stan has presented objectively. At the SPLOST meeting I attended, DSA parents didn’t want the K-12 magnet school, but wanted repairs/systems replacements/improved security, like other schools in DCSD have requested. Other parents wanted the “High” Achievers Magnet moved out of Chamblee to a central high school with open seats to free up space for Chamblee residents, avoid spending $20+ Million on a school that was rebuilt a decade ago, and avoid 15 years of increased property taxes. As for the enrollment at DSA, that’s relevant information in any discussion. When weighing the needs of 300-400 high school students in an optional arts program versus the needs of 2000-2400 kids in a residential high schools and allocating limited funds, those enrollment numbers are relevant to the discussion when DCSD is asking for community input. No need to shame Stan. He’s the only voice of reason and intelligence on the BOE who is looking out for the whole system, not just his constituents and himself.

  18. @RK
    1. I never said the DSA meeting was a secret. That being said … The 5 public meetings were advertised extensively. Where online was the special DSA meeting noticed?
    2. The board and administration are pushing hard for the $70 million Arts School. The Arts School community just wants repairs to their school as far as I can tell.
    3. I think very highly of magnets. I’ve written about it extensively.

    Perhaps, RK, you could back up your accusations next time with a shred of evidence. Just a thought. Thanks for joining the conversation.

  19. @rK… Yes, the meeting was a BIG secret… I can get five texts that the recent “Words Not Hands” event had been canceled and reschedule. I can get many emails about the redistricting plan and meetings. I can get notices about our high schools now having random searches, but to have a meeting that I should have been invited to because I am a parent/taxpayer in DeKalb County that was not advertised is a BIG SECRET. The highly paid PR Department failed at their job….. Or were they told not to promote the meeting either through texts, emails, or even DCSD’s homepage on purpose?

  20. The DSA meeting was advertised in The Champion newspaper for 3 weeks, in a tiny mice-type ad. The ad announced that “a public hearing for the removal of the Comprehensive Arts School from the E-SPLOST-IV project list” would be held on September 19, 2019 at 7pm at the AIC Auditorium.

    This meeting was mentioned in a single sentence in the E-SPLOST/GO Bond public meetings and materials.

    This meeting was posted on the website calendar of DeKalb School of the Arts, but NOWHERE else. Apparently our big Communications staff didn’t see a need to publicize it widely.

    Now, after the fact, DCSD has posted the video at http://ec4.cc/s25d2c9e.

    I invite everyone to watch it. ALL of the 50+ speakers are either DSA students, teachers, parents, or alumni. They are passionate about their school.

    I didn’t hear anyone advocate for a K-12 Arts school!
    I didn’t hear anyone advocate for a $70M Arts school!

    They just want maintenance and adequate funding for equipment and music and rights to stage plays. The fact that the District isn’t already doing this speaks volumes.

    But I still think the District has a duty to notify everyone about a real “public hearing.” Running a legal ad for a “public hearing” may be technically legal but it is sneaky.

    The vote for E-SPLOST-IV included a detailed list of projects.

    Removing one of these projects shouldn’t be easy.

    I’ll hope that this “public hearing” was just the first step in this process. Wait and see…..

  21. The Champion is the legal organ. The school district is checking legal blocks.

  22. @Cere. The photo you are talking about and Stan posted were students from Henderson Mill ES. I taught 6 of those kids at HMS.

  23. concerned citizen

    rK Where did you come from? Shame on you for lying about Stan Jester, who is 100% committed to our schools; you, sir, disgust me.

  24. Exactly what part of the community wanted giant palaces built for the county’s worst performing schools? This portion of the community right here is baffled at McNair Middle and Obama Tech. Yes, let’s build them immaculate facilities while the top performing school in the county and #8 in the state has squirrels falling through the ceiling. That’s complete nonsense. It shouldn’t take a giant tax bill to fix the hvac. If the community doesn’t want to help the arts schools then they don’t have the faintest idea what’s going on. Y’all need to fix DSA and actually support your best and brightest.

  25. @Anna….Here is my question about DSA…. When DSA first opened, the school went to many competitions and won all the time… Shouldn’t they be required to keep going to competitions? Why are they not doing that now? Is it because so many DeKalb high schools that do not get to cap their class size at something so small is better than them now because many of them are! Yes, any high school in DCSD could be #8 or what ever if they didn’t have to educate every child with every disability, or a transient population, or someone who just came here from another country in it.

    So to say that DSA is the best and brightest is a complete slap in EVERY student in DCSD’s face.

  26. I’ve never understood why DSA is so small. I assume that there are many more applicants who have the talent and drive to succeed at DSA but are not chosen because the District decides to keep it small.

    However, at the recent DSA “hearing” a current DSA student who just moved to Atlanta in the spring or summer, and her parent, spoke about her experience.

    How the heck did she get admitted to DSA? I’m not saying that she isn’t talented, but one of the School Choice requirements for applying in January/February is to be a resident in DCSD. Someone who hasn’t yet moved to Georgia shouldn’t qualify.

    So does this mean that this student who didn’t live in DCSD during application time took the spot of a resident student who applied?

    And, yes, I agree with Lynn King. DSA does great things. But being a small school and knowing that if you don’t keep up you will be sent back to your home school probably plays a big role in that excellence.

    Also, DSA has 1% English Language Learners and 4% Students With Disabilities. Its Free/Reduced Lunch percentage is 25% so it isn’t a Title 1 school.

    And one other curious statistic. 79% of DSA students are female. How can that be?

    I’m not saying that DSA doesn’t do amazing things. They deserve to have a well maintained facility and a reasonable budget for equipment and artistic materials.

    But I think that when we celebrate their excellence we need to take a look at the hand-picked group of students who are achieving those results.

  27. Parent in DCSD/DSA

    DSA does support investment in the arts and building a K-12 comprehensive arts school but NOT at the expense of delaying investment in DSA/DESA now. To build a K-12 comprehensive program will require curriculum and program planning. DCSD has not done this yet, so the K-12 program is years away. DSA has needed maintenance investment for years, but DCSD has kept delaying maintenance because “we are waiting for the K-12 program”. It’s been 8 years since SPLOST IV was approved and there has been NO progress. As for the female predominance, it most likely has to do with who chooses to apply. All in DCSD are eligible to apply, but the demands of daily afterschool commitments for the arts programs throughout the school year (frequently until 7) are not for everyone. The student has to really enjoy what they are doing.

  28. @Parent in DCSD/DSA,
    Thanks for clarifying. Sounds like DCSD put the cart waaaaay before the horse in putting a K-12 comprehensive Arts school in the E-SPLOST-IV list.

    I think it’s lousy that they have neglected DSA and DESA, but to be fair, they have neglected most of the schools in the District in terms of maintenance. Backed up sewage on the floors, predictably leaky ceilings, and other embarrassing and totally preventable conditions exist at so many of our schools.

    To the credit of DSA the students and staff haven’t let the poor conditions limit their success, but it’s so sad that DCSD has the second highest millage rate in Georgia already, and now we are being asked to pay more with GO Bonds. When the kids succeed it’s in spite of so many disadvantages.

    As far as the gender inequality at DSA, I’m very surprised that the District hasn’t ramped up a Social Engineering effort to make it equal. They’ve done this with other subgroups with AP classes and even with attendance zones. Oops, shouldn’t have said that. Next year they’ll probably manipulate the selection process to favor “gender equality.”

  29. Here we go again

    @coupla questions “the white bread Montgomery?” Really? Why shouldn’t they have to go through pains if redistricting? Because they already did! The community begged DCSD not to close Nancy Creek. The county protected a 450 enrollment at MES by 2019, guess they were off. We get nothing from the county. Parents have built that school and you expect them to just walk away and by ok with being moved to lower preforming Title 1 school? Hmmmm

  30. Closing isn't redistricting

    @ Here we go again – not sure what the white bread comment was either. But you haven’t gone through redistricting if you had a school close because the numbers weren’t there to keep it open. You stayed in the same cluster, had the same middle and high schools, didn’t really have that much of a change. So sorry, your argument holds no water.

    The redistricting that is being discussed is a major shift of kids away from their friends to other clusters. I fully agree with the poster above that in no way does Montgomery deserve to benefit by having a second elem school just for them or a few “select” Huntley Hills kids.

  31. @rK, about the “public hearing” you write that “the meeting wasn’t a secret. The whole school community knew about it and that’s why there were so many people there.”

    That’s entirely the point!

    Only the DESA/DSA school community knew about it!

    The rest of us pay taxes, maybe even voted for E-SPLOST-IV back in the day, and we deserve to be informed about a “public hearing” to remove an E-SPLOST project.

    It would have been good for non DESA/DSA folks to hear the DESA/DSA advocates, and it would have been good for DESA/DSA folks to hear concerns from those on the outside.

    From the perspective of those who are faced with 2000+ student high schools on postage stamp sized campuses, the idea that DSA has less than 500 students in grades 8-12 sounds like a dream, with a bit of envy mixed in.

    My biggest takeaway from this is to add DESA/DSA to the long list of school communities who have had embarrassingly poor maintenance and funding.

    I would be inclined to take the original E-SPLOST-IV budget for the Comprehensive K-12 Arts school and divide it between DESA and DSA and do as much maintenance at those schools as that budget can provide.

  32. Here we go again

    @closing isn’t redistricting. Don’t need to be moved out of cluster to be redistricted. Anytime you move kids from current school or change school lines it’s redistricting. They are looking at splitting neighborhoods on half. The point being the community made the adjustment and made the school what it is today. Not logical to move kids only to sit in trailers in another school. “Fair? “ really? So now one school can’t have a solution if every school can’t do the same. This area is in the unique situation make it work. One could say county is right them not to let Dunwoody install turf fields just because they can afford; wouldn’t be “fair!”
    Numbers were down for few years, but accurate research showed a climbing need for both schools. They weren’t sitting empty. DCSD created this mess and the kids are paying the price.

  33. In light of the cost overruns, I don’t understand why parts of SPLOST V are being reconsidered and not all
    of it (the bigger picture). The county would benefit from an extra cluster high school- Doraville- and redistricting to fill the seats we have. Why isn’t the Brookhaven high school on the chopping block? Many were in favor of a new cluster to begin with! Seems like we need to go back to the drawing table here.

  34. Closing IS redistricting, by definition. Being on the border between Huntley Hills and Montgomery / Nancy Creek, we used to be Nancy Creek, then when they closed Nancy Creek based on hilariously wrong demographics projections, we were shuttled off to Huntley Hills, then two years later over to Montgomery. We have had redistricting, but our overcrowding won’t be resolved by clockwise redistricting. The logical way to solve our overcrowding problem is to give us back the neighborhood school that was taken away under false presumptions. Time for Dekalb to admit they were wrong on the population growth and restore Nancy Creek to the neighborhood school we need.

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