Why Vote Yes or No – ESPLOST Project List

Maureen Downey has done a good job of publishing on her Get Schooled blog the two sides of the “Vote Yes” or “Vote No” on the E-SPLOST project list.
Six reasons DeKalb school board should approve new E-SPLOST project list Monday
By Allyson Gevertz

On Monday, the DeKalb Board of Education will be asked to approve the Education-Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax V (E-SPLOST V) project list, determining how $500 million in tax dollars will be spent. In May, DeKalb County residents voted overwhelmingly (71 percent voted ‘yes’) to continue paying a special purpose one-cent sales tax dedicated to school improvements.
1) Superintendent Green has earned our trust. DeKalb voters overwhelmingly approved the sales tax without a detailed project list in advance …
2) The list addresses needs, not wants. Under the old model of determining E-SPLOST funding priorities, school board members looked at their own districts and advocated for projects based on geography …
3) The project list is based on superior data and unprecedented community input. Development of an objective project list began long before the E-SPLOST V referendum. As early as summer 2015 …
4) The project list is not set in stone. The proposed list can be modified. This gives Superintendent Green and his team greater problem-solving flexibility …
5) This is not redistricting. Any redistricting will be a separate process, involving public hearings, beginning at least one year before new schools/additions open …
6) Citizens can influence the 2022 projections and funding needs. If DeKalb citizens demand county and city leaders work with the district to help schools keep pace with growth, it could have a major impact on E-SPLOST V spending plans …
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Five reasons DeKalb board should vote ‘no’ on sales tax construction list
By Andrew Flake

In considering a hasty sign-off on the current staff-recommended E-SPLOST V project list, the DeKalb Board of Education is poised to make a big mistake.
Specifically, the Category 2 project list — which contains recommendations for massive capacity additions to certain high schools — runs counter to what most of the county wants. It is based on bad and flawed data and predicated on planned student moves that would violate board policy and legal requirements.
Among the reasons to reject the proposed plan, and at a minimum to defer vote on the capital building construction portion, are:
1. The proposed plan undermines community-based schools. DCSD noted that the standard high school size was 1,600, with “ideal capacity” utilization of 85 percent to 100 percent. In other words, 1,360 to 1,600 student enrollment is an ideal range. Suddenly, however, as of Sept. 7, staff are proposing construction of mega-schools of 2,100 students …
2. The development process for the proposed plan/Option B provided no fair analysis of alternative options. As a notable example, one logical potential answer to the supposed overcrowding the district is projecting would be building a new high school in the City of Doraville …
3. We have insufficient data. It is far from the case that the project list – and certainly the secondary school construction portion – is based on “superior data.” The district admits it completely failed to formally engage with the county and to coordinate in any fashion on traffic or other impact studies …
4. The public input process has been severely flawed and non-transparent. So poorly was the information shared with the wider community, that scores of attendees at the post-Sept. 27 community input sessions (including Columbia High School and Chamblee High School) were forced to raise their hands by the dozens and note they did not have sufficient information to offer further opinions even at that late stage …
5. The district is proposing unlawful redistricting that would contravene its own policies. The proposed plan contains hundreds of “assumed student moves” that, expressed in plainer English, mean redistricting. The proposal would pull 250 students out of Lakeside High School and, in violation of the district’s Policy AD …
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8 responses to “Why Vote Yes or No – ESPLOST Project List

  1. As much as I like Allyson, she much of what she wrote was not correct.
    Dr. Green has made some great improvements and shown excellent leadership. Any trust he had earned evaporated with the lack of transparency with the whole eSPLOST V process up to now. He relies on his staff, but most of the senior staff is still the same group of incompetents which have been in the central office since Dr. Atkinson.
    The data used to put together the project list is severely flawed and contains numerous errors and omissions. I spoke to the BOE last February about the water coming into Midvale Elementary when it rains, however, even though there has been a work order to fix it since October 2015, the roof at Midvale received high marks and was not recommended for repair or replacement until 2025. The administration had nine months to consider that input, but the Facility Condition Assessment was never updated. The schedule of Facility Educational Adequacy Assessments was posted on the district’s website two months after they started. Stakeholder input during those assessments was NOT included in the final products.
    Community input was done in highly controlled and filtered ways to provide the district with what it wanted to hear. Leading questions were asked or we were given two straw men to choose from. Questions for clarification and more information were ignored. One such question is, “since the district has more than 30 trailers in storage, and budgets $2 million each year for trailers, why are trailers included in eSPLOST V when the goal is to reduce the number of trailers?” I have been waiting for a response from Dan Drake since Oct. 13.
    No SPLOST project list is set in stone. The BOE has always had the authority to modify it and has on several occasions.
    Let me be clear, redistricting will be part of SPLOST V. I happen to think that is a good thing because I would rather see my tax dollars spent in classrooms than on busing students to schools which are farther away from their homes, but in their current cluster.
    The district did not develop the project list in a transparent, systematic, or objective way. When the Midvale School Council asked to meet with someone regarding the errors and omissions in the Facility Condition Assessment and the Facility Educational Adequacy Assessment, no one from the central office would meet with us. However, when the Lakeside School Council had questions, Joshua Williams, himself, walked the building with them and made adjustments to the Facility Condition Assessment. Where is the objectivity in that?
    I do not understand how or why certain projects are priorities. Apparently, the operations staff has problems with that too. The “Major System Replacement” proposed project list from October did not list Henderson Mill E.S. Fairington E.S. or Kittredge. The November list included them and dropped Brockett E.S., Canby Lane E.S., Chesnut E.S., Columbia E.S., Oakcliff E.S., Huntley Hills E.S., and Stone Mountain E.S. Henderson Mill E.S. now is the largest project on that list.
    I do not understand how Musical Instruments and Equipment got added to the eSPLOST project list when there was no mention of them at any of the community meetings. I also don’t understand how musical instruments are considered capital equipment.
    The school board should delay voting on the the project list until the district holds 10 more community input meetings (two in each region) to listen to what we have to say about it and answer our questions.

  2. Scott Gillispie

    Huntley Hills got its HVAC swapped out in July (the head of our School Council went before the board in the spring to raise the urgency – it’s been failing every time it switched from heat to cool for years, and we’ve been losing instructional time due to environmental conditions – not to mention the impact on the severe special needs center we’ve got), so that was the ‘Major System Replacement’ – it essentially got pulled up to ESPLOST IV. I don’t have any insight into what you are doing wrong about your roof.
    With the intense focus on Region I capacity problems in this ESPLOST, it makes sense that they spread out some of the budget to other regions where possible. I’m with you on the musical instruments, though – I’m sure there are plenty of trombonists’ parents who would disagree, however.

  3. Interested Dunwoody Parent

    It seems clear Stan supports a new Doraville High School. I was wondering what has been done to build consensus with the other board members to understand why this would be the better option for Dunwoody, Chamblee, Cross Keys and Lakeside.

  4. It is very strange how the 3 Band Equipment Options given to the public for the 5 meetings in October were for $2 Million, $3 Million, and $4 Million.
    Yet the E-SPLOST-V Project List contains $10 Million for Band Equipment!!!
    Apparently the Band parents are effective lobbyists. They turned $4 Million into $10 Million!
    But I think this is a poor decision. Category 5 was $40 million for “school buses, vehicles, and other capital equipment.”
    Apparently Band Equipment is more important than replacing Trash Compactors at more than 70 schools, most of which are beyond their service life and have not been replaced.
    Apparently Band Equipment is more important than replacing Kitchen Equipment at 5 schools.
    You just can’t make this stuff up.

  5. Dear Interested Parent,
    I think that building consensus with other Board members is our job as well as Stan’s. I have written to all BOE members three times and will probably write them all again this weekend.
    I am focusing on the absurdity, though I’ll be more tactful, of the proposed plan that will leave Lakeside, Dunwoody, and Chamblee all very crowded, with absolutely no room for any more expansion, and with a campus inferior to what they have today.
    I am not focusing on the Doraville HS. Apparently there can be no other motivation than being a racist for supporting that view, so I am staying away from identifying that as “the” solution.
    Most of the BOE members have good hearts and are dedicated to all students, not just those whose parents elect them. I think they can also connect the dots to the harm that their districts will have if Regions 1 and 2 get almost all of the New Capacity E-SPLOST-V funds and there is still an overcrowding problem.
    Their legacy, and that of Dr. Green and Mr. Williams, will not be favorable. We can do better.

  6. Scott Gillispie

    Band Equipment – at the October parents input session I went to at CCHS, the one Cat 5 element that people went for was the band equipment – what I referred to as the ‘little darlin’ needs a clarinet’ response (you have to hear the funny voice to get this). I voted for kitchen equipment as a priority – I’ve had the school lunch; wonder how many of the band parents have,
    I thought that was a bad category to toss to parents anyway – they should go with an operational assessment, not by what unknowledgeable parents think. I really think that planning has provided an incredible amount of detail in this process, and in some cases, like this one, perhaps too much.
    Not sure how adding more rooms and seats = more crowded. It’s either put them in buildings or trailers. The kids are coming either way.

  7. I believe the band equipment is more for the big ticket items … tubas, percussion equip., etc …
    Agreed, the students are coming. However, one option adds seats and does little for common spaces while the other option removes students which addresses all the common spaces (and surrounding infrastructure).

  8. Roberta Baizer

    Regarding building consensus with the other board members:
    Each Dekalb resident votes for exactly one school board member and it is to those constituents the board member is understandably most beholden to and whose interests are their primary concern. As citizens our sphere of influence is relatively limited. Since the beginning of his term, Stan should have been focused building relationships with his fellow board members in order to better represent the constituents whom he represents. I do not believe he has done this in any meaningful capacity.