11/04/2013 – Public Comments

Marnee Mayo
People tend hear what they want to hear and see what they want to see….
*** PDS 24 Technical Difficulties ***
Ei No
…. Thank you for taking the time out of your day.
Parsa Frugi
I’m a student from the International Community School.  I’m in 2nd grade and have been at ICS since Kindergarten.  ICS welcomes everybody from around the world.  My family is a good example of that.  My parents had to flee Iran.  At ICS we are welcome for who we are.
Flarna Marshal
I’m a single mother with two kids.  My oldest son has an IEP, but I didn’t know how to help him.  Everybody I ask always tell me there is language barrier.  Since I’ve been at ICS, the community has given me support.  He’s beginning … understand … try … don’t give up.  I listen to each teacher.  I don’t speak with him my language because I want him to speak fluent English.
Viola Davis
I’m with Restore DeKalb.  I want to talk to the parents and homeowners that are listening.  On September 12, we had delivered a document here dealing with harassment.  We got involved because of retaliation.  The Superintendent said if we saw retaliation, to document it and get it back to us.  We delivered that documentation to you.  We didn’t get a response that you received it.  2 weeks go by without a notice.  We sent it again and 2 more weeks go by and we still haven’t heard anything.  So, we sent another letter describing the problem and retaliation.  You have to address it, because the children are the ones getting hurt.  We have no other choice other than to put this online.  On Restore DeKalb is every one of those documents.  Ask yourself if it was worth it.  We ask you to do a major investigation into the office of internal affairs.  We are asking you again publicly.  If one child gets hurt because of this adult mess, it won’t be a mistake.  It will be negligence.
Willy Pringle
Thank you for letting me be here.  I’m disturbed to see our schools continue to neglect our children.  I’m here to ask about the money.  It says the DeKalb School Board extends the law firm’s contract.  I have some serious issues with that kind of money.  Here we have teachers that haven’t had raises in 5 or more years.  But you can find 750,000 dollars to pay a law firm.  What’s going on here.  Please don’t come in and get caught up with this dysfunctional school system.  Our children are failing and teachers are leaving.  There’s a problem.  Our children are being setup for the penal system instead of universities.  Also, when you have former employees don’t have access to their due right in the legal arena.  We are still paying lawyers for cases that should have been settled years ago.  A principal that did not get her due process, Dr. Butler.  How long are we going to pay these lawyers?
I pray that our board reps open their eyes.  Mr David Campbell, you’re suppose to be representing us at Southwest.  Where are you?  We’ve got some serious issues, Mr Campbell.  But, we don’t see you around.  I understand you were appointed.  But, being appointed and being involved is two different issues.  Because our children are suffering here.  I’m saying to you, please step up.  Show your face, OK.
Joel Edwards
I am a member of Restore DeKalb.  We have an assistant principal at Shadow Rock who has been in the hospital 101 days waiting for a heart.  We are asking this district to come together and contribute some money.  I attended the funeral of Donna Edler.  It was nice seeing so many school people there. I recommend we name a school after her.  Every year the Joseph Lawry Institute has an event that I suggest DeKalb provides buses for.
Kesha Thompson
I’m speaking about the closing of Clifton Elementary in 2015.  I have 2 kids that attend that school.  Clifton is currently on a main street.  You’re going to put the new school in a neighborhood that has a closed down school for 3 years.  I am a cop.  There are drug houses across from that school.  Traffic will be an issue.  The land is not big enough.  After school care is at a park right next to the current school.  Please go take a look for yourself if this is a good idea.  I’ve lived in this community my whole life.  I know what goes on around here.  I know about all the crack heads, drug dealers and busts.  My kids will not be safe at this new school.
Rhonda Ward
I met with you all back in May about the Meadowview and Clifton school closures.  At the time I advised you that the community felt this decision was not vetted properly.  This was a short sighted decision.  We have 4 schools that will be closed in our area.  What will happen to them?  If they are leased to a charter school, the community will want to go there.  You will never be able to fill a 900 capacity school.  What works for our area is a small school.  McNair discovery is a beautiful school, but they are not making the grade.  You have phenomenal administrators at Clifton and Meadowview making the grade despite the challenges of the other school closures.  To condense those Title I schools without the support, they will fail.  What does the board plan to do?
Another thing is the crime.  We just spent a bunch of money renovating the community center across the street from Clifton only for that school to be decommissioned. That isn’t prudent.  Please take another look at those decisions.  We have behavioral issues, so why not make one of those schools an alternative school.  Smokerise has the same accommodations.  Why isn’t Smokerise being moved to a new school?  My community is just as important.
David Schutten
Good evening.  You’ve heard me address the concerns of many people in the community concerning the Druid Hills Charter Cluster Petition.  The school system’s response to the petition pointed out many additional flaws, 37 pages.  The petitioners should be required to address these concerns in detail.  If they are unwilling or unable to address them, the charter should be denied.  Do not allow yourselves to be bullied by the petitioners, the Georgia Charter Schools Association, or their attorneys.  The state charter commission proved they will not rubber stamp any charter that comes before them if it is not worthy.
You must look at the impact of every student in DeKalb County.  What happens if the school system’s overhead is over 3%?  The rest of the students are going to suffer so the schools in this one area get more money.
After reviewing the law with several attorneys, the vote appears to be legal.  We went through the law word by word.  Nowhere does the law state that a parent receives one vote per child.  Nowhere.  That’s an aberration of the law.  The petitioners say they followed the law, however to many people the voting was conducted in an immoral and unethical manner.  Who counts their own votes?  If Mr. Thurmond counted his own votes he’d be in Washington D.C. right now.
The foundation of petition is built on quicksand, mud and shaky ground.  Mr. Orson should recuse himself on the grounds of his bias.  That’s proven by the fact that you went to many people in Atlanta and misrepresented the position of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce when you said the Chamber of Commerce endorsed the petition … it did not.  You cannot misrepresent people.  Homeowners Associations gave letters of support, but was that letter voted on or was it just one person?  Did these people that gave their support even read the petition?  I think the answer in most cases is ‘No’.
The school system’s response is outstanding.  The petitioners must respond in detail to every concern.  Stand up for what is right.
Andrea Johnson
I am part of the newly formed Briarcliff Coalition which has to do with the future of Briarcliff High School.  We would like to take another tour for people that weren’t able to take the first tour.  They want to be able to see it before future decisions are made.
Jay Cunningham
I’m here to also talk about the Druid Hills Charter Cluster.  I’m asking you to vote ‘No’.  Why?  You all have laid out as well as the AJC has laid out … to talk about the things that are wrong with this petition.  It’s not right right.  It’s not fair to the citizens of DeKalb County.  It may be fair to certain citizens in certain parts of DeKalb, but it’s not fair to everybody.  If you go back and look at one of the things SACS asked you to do, one of the problems that was brought up, was making sure that we have a school system that brings equal opportunity to every child and parent.  That is one of the actions.  By voting ‘Yes’, you’re not following that action.  I do understand that people are looking for other choices.  This is not the right choice.  With this petition, questions need to be answered.  We need to go back and look at it again.  We need to look at charter clusters through the school system, not going off and giving the latitude to make decisions for kids in certain areas and not have the same latitude in other areas.  Mr. Orson, I don’t want to use the words disappointed, but I think the games have been played for the last 5 years in the LaVista area as well as the Druid Hills area to disencredit public schools, to bring charter schools in.  That’s a choice.  I have no problems with charter schools.  But, we have to make sure everybody has access to a … to get a good education.
We need to work on the low performing schools first.  If you really want a challenge, let’s work on those schools that are not performing.  Bring them up to par and we wouldn’t even have this discussion.  You wouldn’t even be looking for a choice.  Until we take care of these low performing schools, and put the money and resources into, DeKalb will be in the same state regardless of who’s on this board.  So, we need to look at low performing schools and bring them up to par.  So, to Emory and all those folks backing this petition, I’m asking you to come to these low performing schools.  Put some of that money and resources into them schools and let’s really have a conversation.
Aleena Hicks King
I graduated from DeKalb.  This evening I am representing Delta Sigma Theta incorporated.  It has 250,000 members.  We have implemented many public programs related to DeKalb including scholarships and voter registrations.  We look forward to a strong relationship with DeKalb Schools.
Carla Brown
Mr. Thurmond, I specifically gave you a letter after the last board meeting.  I received a call the following morning from your secretary that she received it and would make sure Mr. Thurmond got it.  I was baffled by that.  I don’t know if you’ve read it.  I’ve come before you over the year to discuss how I was harassed, bullied and treated unprofessionally by my principal at Redan Middle School.  That principal was moved to Salem Middle School.  Last year 30 teachers left.  I want to ask that you all consider initiating … in DeKalb there is an anti bullying policy for students.  You should initiate an adult policy.  It is rampant throughout the school district. I don’t understand why you allow this to happen.  More so on the south side than the north.  Thank you.  I won’t back down.
Paul Meyers
I’m a 5th grade teacher at Fernbank Elementary School.  I have been there 7 years.  Prior to that, I was an executive in the aviation industry.  I am here to support the charter.  There are many correlations between aviation and teaching.  In the aviation industry we faced change after change.  If people think change isn’t coming to education industry, then they should look at Chicago where they’re laying off teachers left and right.  Or look at New Orleans where the school systems are run by a for profit company.  Change is coming.
Someone told me there are three great fallacies when dealing with change.  First you think that it can’t happen to me.  Tell that to people in Chicago. Or that you will be given another chance.  Or you think if you do absolutely nothing, things will get better.  If you fall for any of those fallacies, try to buy a ticket on Eastern Airlines, Pan Am, TWA, Braniff, etc … Change is here.  We survived because we were entrepreneurs.  The company I worked with made a billion dollars last quarter.  They didn’t do that by following the status quo.  Change is hard.
I ask you to look think of the opportunities of the charter.  Look at it like an entrepreneur, not like someone who believes in the status quo.
James Wadell
I have a student at Southwest.  I’m appealing for more security at Southwest.  We only have a police officer and 2 resource officers.  That’s not enough.  Other schools have more officers.  Too much is going on.  If you care, we can find the money.
Mellisa Rogers
I teach at Druid Hills High School.  I’ve heard a whole lot of fear mongering rhetoric about the cluster.  If you believe, as I read in an op-ed in the AJC, that this charter was put together by the affluent to serve the needs of rich white people, then you are buying into a lie.  If you believe like what Mr. Schutten said tonight that the petition was built on quicksand, then I’m your quicksand.  This charter was put together by the employees and teachers.  We worked with stakeholders to put this together.
Let me tell you who is suffering at our schools.  If you’re a general or accelerated student, you’re going to be in a class with 36 students.  Last year we had a math class with 48 students for 2 months.  We need smaller classes, because 1 teacher cannot deal with classes this big.  We’ve been saying this for years, so now we are proposing a solution where the board hasn’t yet.  Less overhead, more classroom personnel, small class sizes.  Trust us.  I make less money than I did 6 years ago.  I have a PhD and 22 years experience, but my husband with less education and experience makes more money in a private school.  Some of can’t pay our mortgages, we have to borrow money.  This cluster gives raises and pays better for health care.
If you say ‘No’ to this charter, teachers will hear you saying ‘No’ to us.  The board doesn’t have a plan yet, but we’re not going to let you implement yours?  Teachers we don’t listen or value you.  We’ve been getting this message for years.  Last year Druid Hills lost 15 teachers and some of them were the best teachers in our school.  We have a lot riding on this.  If you say ‘No’, you are going to break my heart and lose the teachers.
David Moore
I’m here today to ask you to vote ‘Yes’ on the charter.  Instead of taking one school, the petition takes all the schools including those that were under performing.  Why not go beyond that?  The law says you can’t go beyond a charter cluster.

The charter provides innovation.  Every student within the cluster can chose within three track areas.  IB, Montessori, or STEAM program.  Every child will be able to chose one of those tracks.
The community is overwhelmingly in support of the cluster.  We’ve had thousands of facebook hits and the meetings have been open to all.
I want to talk about the qualifications of our board members.  Robert Thorpe was hired by DeKalb Schools to be principal and knows the children.  Fred Daniels is chair of the MARTA board and has a budget 10 times the size of the cluster.  Kathleen Mathers was in the Governor’s department of student achievement.
A vote for it is a vote for the future of our children.  A vote against it is a vote for the status quo.
Sandy Perket
Redan High School … Go Team.
Gerrad Borda
I’m here in support of the Druid Hills Charter Cluster.  I’m a parent that cares.  I saw a community come together.  It wasn’t with the intent to segregate but to bring people together.  Parents and employees have come forth to describe their frustrations with DeKalb Schools.