04/23/2013 – TPC

Tucker Parent Council


Public Questions Summary

  • How will cityhood and charter clusters affect DCSD budgets?
  • Will you pledge resources to ensure that affidavits at schools are legitimate?
  • If we’re projecting 1,900 students, we need enough teachers and desks on day 1.
  • If we have trailers, where are those going?
  • Are some of us getting redistricted to Stone Mountain?
  • How often are school enrollment requirements checked?
  • These buildings need capacity caps. They are overcrowded.
  • Why is it necessary to have an additional layer of central office staff manage after school programs?
  • Is there a budget that is made public of the after school program that we can actually see where the dollars that aren’t being returned to the schools are being spent by that department?
  • Why do we have to enroll in the 3 day after school program just to to chess club for an hour?
  • Please do your due diligent research regarding cell towers

Meeting Transcription
Good Afternoon and thank you all so much for coming out. But, more importantly, thank you so much for supporting the DeKalb School District and for providing us as we go forward with the input, questions, and hopes as we try … no … not just try … as we continue to refocus, redirect, and move this district in, I think, a very positive direction. Michelle mentioned the great news ??? been talking to them, but we also received great new today of the DeKalb School for the Arts. American news and world reports, US News and World Reports rated, I was told, that school as number 2 in the nation … number 2 in Georgia, number 75 in the nation. Give us a hand. Number 5 in the nation.
Also this afternoon, I was down at the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, and DeKalb Chamber, Mr Arnie Silverman, CEO Burrell Ellis and others about a month ago we met at the chamber. And the chamber stated that they wanted to do something to support and assist the efforts of students who are graduating this year in the class of 2013. And so, thirty days later we worked together and we raised about $125,000 dollars that will be distributed as scholarships to deserving and needy students this year in the graduating class of 2013.
I’m also happy to report that since my appointment in February, we began to focus on a new direction. And some of the decisions that have been made that I think represent a sea change in any direction from the way we were going. One will take up next Tuesday at the May board meeting. That is a policy that prohibits nepotism in hiring and promotions in the DeKalb School District. There were some great concerns I heard as I traveled around the district, North, South, East and West. There is a perception, or in fact even a reality among many stakeholders, that hiring and promotion have been primarily influenced by relationships, by family relationships or friendships. And one of the things I like to do … you know you hear things … as leaders you can’t just pursue every particular allegation or thought of a lead as it relates to the institute we’re trying to meet. So, I began to do some research as it relates to nepotism in the district. After a quick search and inquiry among central staff, I was surprised actually to find out that DeKalb does not currently have a policy prohibiting nepotism. We couldn’t find that we’ve ever had one. So, if you don’t have a policy against it, it’s kind of difficult to what … violate it.
But, even more interesting, I had an opportunity to have a conversation with a gentlemen by the name of Robert Freeman, former Superintendent, Superintendent Freeman. I invited him back. As a matter of fact, I’m inviting back several of the former Superintendents because I want to know about the history of this institution. Gain institutional knowledge, cause every decision, every policy has a history associated with it. Often times, a generation that follows may not be aware and may be confused about what the history was. In the midst of the conversation with Superintendent Freeman, a delightful man, he said oh well, by the way Thurmond, if people complain about nepotism, you tell them it’s my fault because I did it. I said, Mr Superintendent, are you sure you really want me to tell them that? He said, absolutely. Anybody that remembers Mr Freeman, you know he’s a very jovial guy. But, he said, no I’m serious. He said, let me explain how this happened. He said when I was Superintendent, it was my policy to hire family members to work for the DeKalb County School District. Because, I felt that having a family environment in the work place, would actually encourage productivity. I’m like, really? Then he went on to say that he was the Superintendent while the civil rights suits were being investigated in DeKalb County that were filed eventually in the federal courts decided that the histories of discrimination and hiring. So, one of the challenges he faced was that it was very difficult to locate and hire African American teachers. So, when he was scouring the Southeast looking for teachers, his prime directive was to locate husband and wife teams. Then he would hire both individuals to come and work in DeKalb. Of course, when Mr Freeman retired, he left the district, but the policy what … continued. Which is why we need a nepotism policy right here in DeKalb County. So that will be voted on, and I noticed Marshal Orson is here. I think that’s very important.
The other thing we did. We’ve had concerns raised from teachers regarding Success For All reading program. Many of the elementary schools were frustrated. Primarily, but how … it was the decision process. Not so much the program, but how it was decided to bring the program to DeKalb County and there was a tremendous amount of resistance from teachers that felt that their opinion had not been considered in that process. So, what we did, often times when you find yourself in a situation like this. Rather than trying to paper over the problem, sometimes you just need to back up and go back to square one. So, we’ve surveyed all of the elementary teachers and principals. And surveys have returned, to no surprise, that teachers who have been using it are very much opposed to it. But, from what I understand, in order for the program to really be successful, you need to really have about an 80% buy in initially. So, I think that’s a problem.
The second thing, as it relates to the balanced calendar. I like to tell this story. This school is really in my neighborhood. I always come up to the shopping center. I like the fish. What’s the little fish place … Supreme Fish Delight. You go there too, right. … So, I’m always in the neighborhood. Mostly on Friday … I’ll come looking for a good deal. Help the Superintendent out. I don’t want a discount, I’ll end up in trouble. Balanced Calendar … So … the day I was appointed, that morning I went out to get the paper. My neighbor came running across the street. He says you got to get rid of the balanced calendar. I’m like, sure. I didn’t tell him I had absolutely no idea what it was. But he was just adamant that his wife hated it, right, because they’ve got 3 kids in the system. But anyway, what we decided with the board support, is to basically backup and re-evaluate the balanced calendar. One of the primary driving ideas behind the balanced calendar was that it helped support retention of information of students. Recent studies show there is really no discernible difference between balanced calendar and traditional one. So, we’re gonna back up. Give our people at the central office time to look at it. And then make a better decision on it.
So, those are the 3 things we’ve done. Now, the big issue for us of course, in 2 weeks, maybe in 10 days, 7 days, the SACS monitoring team from SACS will be in the district. We’re looking forward to their visit. We are so excited. We are prepared. We’ve done the work. And I am absolutely certain that what they are going to discover is that we have learned from our mistakes. One of the things I always encourage folks, learn from your mistakes, don’t dwell on them. That’s very important for DeKalb County. Learn from the mistakes we’ve made in the past, and we have made them. But the last thing we need to do is dwell on those mistakes. So, we are prepared. We have a team of about 25 people, who have been working almost around the clock getting ready. I’m excited for everyone to come and I’m absolutely certain that they’re going to find a district that’s righted itself and moving in the right direction. And, I want to reiterate what I said from, really, the first moment that I was given this opportunity to serve as the Superintendent, is that we will not lose accreditation. It is not going to happen. Not in 2013, not in 2014. I was proud when Dr. Elgart came and spoke directly to the school board and to myself. I hope you read the paper. He stated after that meeting that it was unlikely that DeKalb would lose accreditation. But that’s a testament to the work of the men and women in classrooms, teachers, our principals, our support staff, and particularly those that are working every day to make that so.
Now, the most important part of what I’m going have to do beyond selling the waters. I’m so proud too, the atmosphere is beginning to change externally as it relates to the DeKalb School District. And I think that any objective person will really, really, in a much better place than where we were 6 or 8 weeks ago. Because when
I first arrived, there was real concerns, and I think legitimate one, is that we were on the verge, the precipice, of losing accreditation in the district. The district was really, many ways, trying to tear itself apart. During the last budget cuts, the district cut the DeKalb budget by $85 million dollars, this was last fiscal year. But I talked to the stake holders, parents, teachers. It’s almost as if that did not happen. But it happened. Of course when it happened here in DeKalb, there was a belief that it happened as a result of … we found ourselves in the position because primarily of mismanagement and dysfunction. I’d be the first one to suggest that that had influence, but I also hasten to hope that you will notice that Cobb County today has a what … $80 million dollar deficit. The city of Atlanta, if I read the internet correctly the last 24 hours, is looking at $40 – $50 million dollars deficit. Fayette County is looking, which is much smaller than us, looking at a major deficit. What is really driving this, and by the way, we have to do a better job of managing the money we have no matter how much it is. You can’t blame your condition on the state of Georgia which has divested itself by hundreds of millions in terms of local support to schools, or the state of the economy. As bad as it is, you can’t blame them, but you have to accept the fact that that is a reality. You have to accept the fact that DeKalb property digest has fallen, declined by $7 billion dollars since the recession began. And, you know, I was kind of happy when my tax bill declined right? But when your tax bill and my property tax bill drops, that means there’s less revenue for whom … schools. It’s just a fact. So, those 2 things are really impacting, not just DeKalb County, but every county and every school district in this state and across this nation. And if you look across the nation, it gets worse. I noticed, I was reading a story out of Chicago. They are facing a $1.2 billion dollar deficit. That doesn’t excuse anything we do, but it does put it in context. And so, right now the big challenge for myself, but a great opportunity for myself is that we are beginning, we have been working on developing and bringing forth an F.Y. 2014 budget. Everything I’ve done up until this point has been done under the auspices of a budget that was created by the previous Superintendent and previous board. As much as people wanted me to go in, and basically just wipe out everything out of existence. That would have been inappropriate and irrational. What we had to do, at the end of this fiscal year was to focus on making sure we ended this fiscal year without at least with less deficit than what we started. We put in a deficit elimination plan which is going well. And I feel comfortable that our deficit elimination plan will be much further along than anyone suspected at this point. That’s something that is very, very important. Great opportunity is in 2014. And I knew that going in 3 or 4 months into this fiscal year ??? the board, Mr. Marshal Orson, Dr Johnson, and the others ??? we would like the administrators to begin to fashion the F.Y. ’14 budget. And the fist thing they said, the most important thing they said they’d like to refocus resources and appropriate dollars so that it can positively impact classrooms and academic achievement. That will be your imperative. That will be your driving principal for every dollar that is appropriated in 2014. Now, that’s good don’t you think? I don’t know that we’ve had a board that has publicly articulated that vision and was serious about it when it was said. Is that fair Marshal? That’s just fair and I think that’s important, so we have been … I have been going about that. The reality is, state mandates and increases in insurance and benefits and step increases have increased our expenditures by about $16 million dollars. That’s not a local decision. That was a decision made by the legislature and the governor. So, in 2014 we will have an additional $16 million dollars in expenditures that we did not have in 2013 without any decision being made at the local level. Fair enough.
Mr. Perone, who’s our fiscal officer stated that, in talking with local county officials at the tax assessors, they are expecting a 3% decline in the amount of revenue we will be collecting through ad valorem taxes this year. So, it’s not 7, it’s not 15, we’re coming out of the recession, it’s much better than it’s been in really the last 4 years, but we’re going to have less ad valorem tax revenue next year than we had this year. Good news is we’ll have some slight increases in state appropriations because we have an increase in the number of students. Bottom line, we’ll have the same amount of money probably, but we’re gonna have, if nothing else changes, an increase of $16 million dollars in expenditures. And the board says, Michael Thurmond, you go in there and write a budget that emphasizes academic achievement and focuses on the classroom, even though you’ve got less money. And I said what … thank you. We have a great opportunity. What’s the prayer of serenity? Yeah, that’s the gist … know the things you can change or are changeable and accept the ones you can’t. I can’t change this fiscal reality, but inside that, we have an opportunity to do something good.
One of the things, this came to me last night, I was with Southwest DeKalb parents, you know I’ve been around the district, and I’ll stop and let y’all talk, and then I’ll finish up ???. I finally figure out the DeKalb School District. It took me a minute, but I figured it out. Wherever I go, North, South, East, West, doesn’t matter, the parents and the stake holders who have children in a specific school, or who live in a specific neighborhood, love their school. They love their teacher. They love their principals. And, it’s been that way everywhere I go. And they believe that their school is the best dog gone school anywhere in Georgia, anywhere in DeKalb, anywhere in America. Now, the challenge I have is that they love their school, they love their teachers, they love their students, they love their principal. But they don’t think much to care much about anybody other school. That’s the DeKalb way. There’s nothing wrong with that. I love it. The challenge, if you’re a Superintendent, is that you have to love all the students and all the schools and all the principals and all the teachers and all the parents. The way we will elevate ourselves, I’ve said to a level of promise, actually we already deserve, is that we have to understand the power of self interest. I always tell parents, you must be self interested in your child’s education. That’s your job. That’s your mission. That’s your cause. Anyway, it’s a divine right, you have to do that at all costs. But, beyond that I encourage parents, teachers, principals, school board members, stake holders, engage in what I call the Period of Enlightened Self Interest. Enlighted Self Interest will allow you to rise above the interest in your own child, your own school, your own neighborhood and become interested in the education of other people’s children. That’s really, my friends, the major obstacle we have to overcome. Because, think about it. How many of us were born, raised,educated and graduated from a high school in DeKalb County? It’s always 5% – 10%. That means all the rest of us, who are gathered here today, owe our educations to the investment of other people somewhere else. How many of us actually married a person who was born, raised, went to the same high school as you went to? One lucky lady … two … two lucky ladies. You have to really consider that our needs are not just our immediate needs, but they are part of a broader understanding. That’s we need to build a quality school district. And it transcends and goes beyond North and South and East and West and black folk and white folk and Asian folk or Hispanic folk. It’s really just about our future in this county, in this state, in the nation.
Now, I’ll take questions. I’m a little tired tonight, so I need only easy questions. I have back up. I have my area superintendent here. We have other people here.
Question: [23:40]
It’s kind of a long question. With school budgets where they are and you’re trying to make them work, and the ongoing cityhood virus in DeKalb County. I know that the constitution forbids new cities from creating their own school districts, but if they form their own charter clusters, how will that effect DeKalb County Schools and budgets?
Charter clusters are not directly ??? because, theoretically, the cluster will still be a part of DeKalb School District. So, it would not effect revenue. But, I think it’s a broader issue. It really is, it’s a broader issue. It’s almost what I was just discussing and one of the reasons I’ve spent time out in the community, is that we have to find common ground. And it’s tough, it’s difficult. The most difficult thing in the world is to go out and talk with people who might disagree with you. And humans, by design, would tend to avoid those situations. We don’t even like to hear things that we don’t agree with. I was so interested in this study, that people who tend to be conservative often return to what cable news station for their news … Fox. And Progressives will often turn to what … MSNBC. And the folk in the middle that can’t quite figure it out, will go where … CNN. It’s not … not only do we want it, but we want it told in a way that more or less agrees with our overall view of life. And what I encourage young people to do, and my student advisory council and others, is that you need to watch all the stations sometimes. It’s more important sometimes to understand what other people are thinking as it is to articulate what you’re thinking. I’m even more troubled that 20% of the people that turn to TMZ to get the news. That’s really troubling, that group. But, what we have to do is … and I understand why folk would want to create cities and school districts. I do, I get it, I really do.
But the question is, what would be in the best interest of the broader group? Cause even when I do that, I still have an obligation to work towards building a better district for all. I’m the former Labor Comissioner. If you just fundamentally, and I know there business men and women in this room right here. If you intend to have a successful business that generates profits 5, 10, 15 years from now, you will have workers, who’s ethnic backgrounds will be from all across this great planet. This is America. This is the 21st century. One of the great aha moments, and I was talking to the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce. They had no idea that 20% of our population speaks English as a second language. They had no idea. It had been ??? schools. So, we have one of the most diverse school districts in America really. Not just in Georgia. Even more than Gwinnette. We had an emabassador come visit, we have refugees from all over the face of the earth. Pay close attention to what’s happen in Syria. We could have thousands of young people, at any moment in time. But this is an opportunity. It’s not an ???, it’s not a stumbling block. This presents us with an opportunity to ????. If we can get beyond, my school, my neighborhood, my principal. Y’all love ??? don’t you. But I need 138 of her. And I wish I could clone her and I’d put her all over the district. Then ??? would have 138 wives. But, that’s what we have to do. That’s the answer. That’s what I’m doing. It’s not easy. Let me tell you y’all. It is not easy. But it’s so important, and that’s what we’re gonna do.
Question: [28:16]
I guess I wasn’t clear on the question. How will it effect DeKalb County School budgetwise. You have all these kids coming into charter schools and you start having half empty schools.
We have to improve the non charter schools, the non magnets.
So, it will affect schools?
It could. Anytime you increase the number of young people in the charter schools, it has a budget impact. Potentially on the other, public, non charter schools in a district. That’s just the way it is. Let me tell you something. Do you blame parents for trying to get their kids into the charter schools? What we have to do … let me tell you what we have to do. We have to improve the quality of the non charters. See, that’s how you solve that problem. You just do. And let me tell you what’s interesting. And I gotta ??? that we’ve been working on that you all can see going forward in the budget. And we talk a lot about high performance schools and this is one of them, the high schools, elementary schools, middle schools. And we look at the theme schools, and magnet schools and charter schools, North, South, East and West. What’s interesting, is there are high performing schools, high schools in North, Dunwoody, Chamblee. But, there are high performing high schools in the south, Arabia Mountain and Southwest DeKalb. What’s the common characteristic of these high performing schools in the elementary and the middle and the high schools? Involved parents, good PTAs. And I had a survey done with ????. And you look at where you have active, involved people PTAs and it could be happenstance. But then I look at performance measures and it’s the direct correlation between active, involved parents and the high performing, and/or above average schools.
You hear a lot, we need a board that’s civil and doesn’t gouge each other’s eyes out and all this stuff. It’s so nice to come to those meetings, right? But you need a Superintendent that focused and engaged and open. And you need an engaged leader as your principal. You need well qualified teachers. But every study, and I spent Spring Break researching study after study. The individuals who have the greatest influence on a child education ??? not the principal, or the teacher, or the Superintendent or the school board. Was whom … the parents. With all of these reform movements, that’s the one part of it they seem to have marginalized or basically totally just ignored. At the end of the day it’s the parent that has the greatest influence, or the adult guardian, or mentor, cause some kids may not have their natural parent. So, the next budget you see, we are going to ??? up from that foundation. This school is an outstanding school because you’ve got a great leader, you’ve got a great teacher. But let me tell you what else you got, you got these parents in here. Is that fair? Y’all make it happen every day by being present, by being involved, by asking questions. That’s what I told the folk in Southwest DeKalb. I’d rather have a angry, upset parent involved, than a placator parent that never shows up. ??? So, one of the budget aspects is that rather than the 3 legged stool … teacher, principal, student. I want a four legged chair … parent, teacher, principal, student. It’s not magic, but I’m just telling you. The facts speak for themselves.
Question: [32:32]
Tucker High Schools enrollment for next year, this may come as a surprise to you, is over 1,900 students. Which is more than 200 than they have this year, well over capacity. Will you pledge resources to ensure that affidavits at schools are legitimate? Not that they are properly filled out, but legitimate. We have a crisis level enrollment that we’re facing and we obviously need more resources.
Thurmond: [33:06]
Let’s deal with the space issue first, because I have an expert here.
Dan Drake:
Hello, I’m Dan Drake. I’m the director of planning of SPLOST Programming and I guess the first part of the question was specifically that, yes, Tucker High School is overcrowded. And it’s projected to be even slightly more overcrowded next school year. And your question about affidavits, do you want to take this, or do you want me to take the first cut at it?
Poor Ms ?? has heard us asking about this for months. And her department as well and I think we’ve all been satisfied with the fact that there has been movement. And we’ve had conversations and she’s come out and talked to us. I think the fact that the enrollment for school next year is more than 200 more students possibly, this is all projected I understand this is not for sure, pushes us to a level where now we need to say, I think at this point, even under budget restrictions, we need to consider allocating resources beyond the school house to at least make sure that everybody that needs to be in that school are in that school. And not just Tucker High School, this is an issue, I guess, across the county. But, we’re almost reaching critical mass from my point of view at this point in time.
Dan Drake [34:20]
Let me give you some information. I did talk to Dr Thompson this afternoon specifically about this question, about the affidavits. One of the things she says is there’s consequences for falsifying, that the district can review strategies to look at ??? enrollment at schools. And we’re going to be looking at that. But one of the things she did provide is some of the data, there was an audit that was done in November of this past year specifically, on Tucker Middle, Tucker High. And looked at I think it was also Miller Grove High School. She gave a couple of results here that there are at Tucker High School. There were 168 students in the Fall that were listed as an affidavit. Of those 168, there were 51 students their audits found they did not have a valid current affidavit or no file available to review. So, that is 68% did. 32% did not. So, of those `68. And then for Tucker Middle School, they did a little bit better. Where 54 of the students …. There are 142 students on affidavits, 54% of those had a current affidavit on file. So, again I think it’s something we need to go back to talk about, time to talk about the next actions. I’m not real … I can’t be more specific than that. But, I think it’s something we need to … have a discussion. … make you unhappy, besides that?
Question: [35:53]
Does not valid mean actually validated, or just what she mentioned, incomplete or …
Dan Drake:
It’s some element of incomplete. They could be missing one piece of it.
But not verified?
Dan Drake:
Not 100% valid or verified … correct.
None of them are verified. None of them are verified.
I would like to, for the sake of the Superintendent, to say if you could put that on your … just have it on your radar that there are not currently resources in the department or in the schoolhouse. And nobody wants to chase down everybody’s address. And nobody wants to run anyone out that’s supposed to be there, but there needs to be some sort of random system just to ensure that people are following the letter of the law. That people in the building should be in the building. And, you know what, I think once the message got across, we’ve all discussed, that you really wouldn’t … if you check a few people, and if you find any that are wrong and there are actually consequences for falsifying this legal document, it may really solve a lot of problems itself if they know where going to actually, as a district, follow up and make sure they’re supposed to be there.
May I add something to that? If we had a problem at the high school where we did not have adequate resources for the students for numerous weeks after school started. Things like desks, teachers. If we’re projecting 1,900 students, I would hope, day 1, we would have enough teachers for 1,800. That we are projecting we have enough desks, we have enough space for these children, because no child should go 5 weeks without a teacher. And we’ve had situations like that. I might be wrong on the 5 weeks.
In some cases it was longer.
… [back and forth] … Ms Brickston’s been working so hard to put a team together to make sure we don’t face these same situations next year. But now, suddenly, this new enrollment project maybe is a game changer. I don’t know. Maybe they’re gonna have to decide. And, I have faith that they’re going to keep it at the forefront. But, it really becomes more and more imperative that we are looking at every single aspect when your population is growing to that degree.
What is Ms Brickston doing?
There has been one meeting so far. We have Mr Jackson in the back and we’ll see if he wants to add any details. There is a second meeting tomorrow morning which I will be at, I mentioned at the last parent meeting. So, the 1,900 is definately on the table as what we are trying to staff. It isn’t a surprise. It was under the analysis that Mr. Drake when we looked at how many trailers might need to go to Tucker High School in order to house the students. And, so, it is there. We won’t be short desks like we were. I was here at the beginning of the year.
I wanted him to hear. It wasn’t an argument about you. Though, I would like to know where are you planning on putting trailers? That’s another topic.
It’s still being considered. It’s something that they are looking at.
What is the current cap of … the building was built for X number of students to attend. Can anyone tell us the number of students that are supposed to comfortably, realistically, fit into that building? What it was built for.
Dan Drake:
One of the things that we’ve done this past Spring is we’ve gone through and reviewed our capacity for every one of our school buildings. And we’ve walked through a whole process with every principal. Every principal actually had to sign off, literally sign a piece of paper saying that’s … we looked at each room, we look at the use of the room and that will help us figure out the capacity. The capacity that we determined for Tucker High School this year again, signed off by the principal, was 1,655. I’m sorry, 1,654. That’s the capacity that we went through in that process.
Can I follow up on that question as well? I’ve been in a lot of the meetings about the redistricting that was associated with SPLOST. So, it’s my understanding that one of the ways to deal with capacity is to redistrict. So, I suspect that is coming around the corner even though we’ve told we’re OK for now. We’ll give you a year’s warning. So, if that’s one of the things that’s on the table for Tucker, given these new numbers, I’d like to request that you start those conversations with the communities that you’re considering redistricting now. So, those of us who may be in … I know Idlewood in the last go around was being told, you’re gonna move us to Stone Mountain. If that’s going to be on the table, I’d rather know now so I can put my house on the market. Because, and this is one of my questions, in the sense that a year may not be enough. And beyond that, you need to fix the schools that you want to move us to before you move us there. Especially if affidavits are an issue.
The second thing on that is in all the meetings I’ve been too where we brought up the issue of affidavits. We’ve been told, if you know it’s happening, why aren’t you turning it in? Well, because it’s my neighbors. It’s my neighbors who are signing the affidavit for the people who are zoned into a school that isn’t meeting their friend’s children or family’s children needs. They wouldn’t be leaving those schools if those schools were meeting their needs. So, they’re looking for a better situation for those children. So, who am I as a parent, to tell somebody in my neighborhood who is doing a good thing for a family member or a child to turn them in. What does that make me as a member of the larger community? I would urge you to fix the schools so those people are getting those affidavits. And I want to know what you’re doing to address that.
Thurmond [42:15]
You just reaffirmed the point I made in the very beginning. That we have to become interested and focused on improving the quality of education in schools that are not necessarily in our neighborhood. And this is … I haven’t used it as a rational, but this is a perfect one. Why we as a school district must begin to do what we have hesitated to do historically. Because it impacts the quality of education in your district. And you’re absolutely right. The reason children, families, are seeking to get to your school is because you offer, they believe, a higher quality education. So, the solution is, fix the schools and then they grew.
Do that before you rezone.
Thurmond [43:11]
I haven’t been in a discussion with anyone who’s going rezone since I’ve been here. They might be having secret meetings … There have been no discussions. And I can say that without any reformation, there have been absolutely 0 discussions about redistricting.
Well, with 1,900 students, don’t tell me it’s not around the corner. It’s bad.
We have to determine, I think there’s … 200 … and this is all part of the process that facilities has to figure out. But to figure this out as a community. Are 200 people moving into Tucker next year. Or how many fewer are graduating, how many more coming in? It’s projections based on, I believe, last year’s projections that turned out to be pretty accurate. But there’s a bigger piece that I’m hoping, and I think from previous conversations, they are actually trying to identify where that growth is happening, how that growth is happening which would either support or not support that there’s an affidavit problem as well. Is that correct Mr Thurmond.
That my question. There is no new building going on in Tucker. No new houses. Where are we getting the projects that we’re going to be at 1,900 at Tucker High School? Where are those figures coming from because we live … we know what’s at our elementary schools and we know not all of our elementary schools will send their kids to middle school. There’s a large percentage that will send … not a large, but a certain percentage that will go to private school in this area. We know that. And middle school. So, where are these extra bodies … where are we projecting … is it the apartment complexes on Brockett? Or down in Clarkston? Where are these extra bodies coming from?
Dan Drake [45:03]
I think one of the questions I’m hearing is, how do we do our process? Our process is based on past trends. So, we use past trends for forcasting the future. So when we look at, we do a … going all the way down to the kindergarten level, we have no data, no prior year’s students before kindergarten. So what we do is, we go to the Georgia Department of Public Health. They list there live birth data. There’s a very strong correlation between the live birth data and kindergarten enrollment. So we use that for the kindergarten enrollment. And then we use something called the Cohort’s Survival Method. It’s a very standard method of when you go from children in one grade in one year, going up to the next grade the next year. That’s a cohort. And we look at how many of them survive. If it’s less than 100%, then they go down. If it’s greater than 100% they go up. We do a weighted average over the past 3 years of our enrollment data to look at that. And DeKalb is very complex and we do one extra step. We actually do our projetions down at the resident, where they children live. And because of all the school choice we have somewhere in the neighborhood of about 15,000 students that go to different … that do not attend their home school. So we have to then, we said we do our projections of the neighborhood, of the children in each grade. Then we send them out to their choice schools and we also then … and then we know how many resident ??? will go to the school. And we bring kids in from the other schools, so it’s very complex process that we do. And at the very end we have the enrollment by grade for each of these schools. So we do this method … again … what has happened is there was a large increase of the 8th to 9th last year that … were … exactly. We’re going to assume that trend continues. And there’s also, I’m going to have to look at the numbers, but I would have to believe there is some increase in the 8th grade class as well that’s on top of that number
Kirk Lunde: [47:14]
Just based on the October 2nd census, or enrollment of the schools, there are 480 8th graders moving into Tucker High next Fall. There are 291 12th graders and we assume they all graduate. That’s 189 student gain right there without doing any of the complicated stuff that Dan just described. Talking about 8th graders moving in and 12th graders moving out, we get a net gain of 189 students.
If that’s the case with the 8th graders. Those kids get into middle school by whatever means, whether by crook or legitimately. Are they checked out again? Once they’re in that cluster do they just move up to the High School?
Dan Drake: [48:02]
I can tell you what board policy is. Board policy requires that anytime you go up to a new school, in 6th grade and 9th grade, your residency gets checked. That’s the policy. I’m not sure if that’s the practice, but again, that’s the policy.
How often are affidavits ????
Dan Drake:
Every year. Once a year.
Question: [48:36]
I guess where I was going with this, so you’re saying that the school can accomodate 1,654 students [1,644]. So, how many are currently attending Tucker High School?
Kirk Lunde: [48:53]
Dan Drake:
Our last enrollment report, March 25th, showing 1,655.
I feel like I’m … I understand there is a district in, district out, you know, school choice and all these other things. But there has to come a point. If feels like to me we have to cap out how many students can be in one single building. We have a brand new building with beautiful fields and whatever and we’re going to stick trailers in there and stick our kids in trailers. Something about this whole thing is not correct. My kids have been there. I have a senior, a 9th grader and I have a 7th grader. My senior has had a miserable two years with the over population. They’re not getting the teachers, the teachers are worn out. It’s a very unhappy situation. I’m not saying and I don’t want to bring a negative thing, but there are two many testosterone driven people in one building. It’s not healthy. They’re not getting the education that they need. They’re not getting the one on one with the right numbers in the classrooms. They are … their classrooms are getting watered down. They have children who are not disciplined at home. The sort of beginning didn’t sink in, I guess, and they disrupt classrooms. It’s chaotic. There’s a lot of chaos going on with that many students in one building. And, if we’re looking at 1,900 students, it’s an impossible experience. It could result in a very negative way. And I hate that, because you’ve got a lot of unhappy, angry students in these buildings that people don’t even know their name. They’ve been there 4 years and people don’t even them. And they’re kind of getting lost. So, we have a huge problem.
I grew up here in the 70s and 80s and I went to Briarlake and Shamrock, because in the 70s and the 80s, the street out here ??? was zoned for Briarlake and Shamrock. And it just shocked me when I graduated in ’89 and I moved on. And I came back a few years later and Shamrock is gone. And that was your second high school. Is there like a plan, cause she’s in 6th. So, I’ve only got a couple more years and she’s going to be in that situation in an overgrown high school. Is there any plans on building a new high school, because back then, you had Shamrock High, and now you have one school for this whole area for these high school students. And I can see it, Shamrock took a relief off of this area.
Question [52:08]
Question I have is very similar to a follow up to that. With the high projected enrollments and overcrowded admissions, can we focus the upcoming SPLOST V project list on expansions, support and enrollment regardless of how recently schools were built or modified? That was by ??? Tucker High School was. That’s a short, long term solution, but it’s at least a solution.
She’s in the 6th grade. But, from my understanding, from one of her class teachers, that this is one of the largest 6th grade classes and she’s sharing a locker. So, if my child’s stuff is took out of a locker, well that’s just tough because either she can leave her bag at home and she can’t even carry a heavy coat, so she’s standing at the bus stop and it’s 28 degrees. Because of all the elementaries being piled into one school. That’s kind of sad that these kids are wearing these jogging jackets and it’s 30 degrees outside and there’s no room to fit anything in their locker.
Let me answer your question. Let me help you to understand why we we’re in the shape we’re in. I know Mr. Mayfield’s going to survive to see it. You all may or may not be aware, and it’s been over a decade since the DeKalb School District had or implemented or even followed a strategic plan for the district. Even had one.
Kirk Lunde
Had one posted for years.
I understand, but you can sit a person in a room and he or she can draw it up. But, I guarantee that no one in here participated in the process. The questions, the concerns you raised are addressed, not now, but you have to have a plan that incorporated expectations and projections for the future. We just have not had one. Now another aha moment, just haven’t had one. One of the things in the SACS recommendation, part of the administration, what we’re doing is that we will, by December 31st, have developed inclusive of input from all segments and stake holders, a workable strategic plan for DeKalb County School District that will cover the next 5 years. Because they are 5 year documents. We have been operating without one. That doesn’t answer the problem, but I’m trying to explain … why we are having the decision making problems that we have because we didn’t have a document that allowed us to think prospectively as to building size, or needs, or population growth, or changes in the population. Let me tell you what else I’m noticing. Back to this comment the lady on the right made and it was so appropriate. Right now DeKalb has 5 regional, 5 districts. 1,2, through 5. So, I’m beginning now to ask this man and my other departments and others and people outside the district to really research and look very closely at who are the customers. Who are we serving? Of the 5 districts, only one district had a decline in population. That was district 5, which is in the Southwest corner of the county. Which has a high number of what we will call lower performing schools. Children had moved out because, no matter, and all parents love their children, and that’s an important thing. Parents will do whatever they can to get their child in a place, in a location where he or she can have a chance to get a quality education. It’s what you said. And, unless we address the problem, there can be no solution. Because if you continue this migration, you can’t build a building quick enough, or expand them quick enough to deal with the population. We can do things to moderate it, obviously. But the solution is to stop the in migration.
The second thing that’s influencing this, and you read articles about Georgia changing demographically. I read all about … this is what it looks like on the ground folks. This is what I tell my friends at the state capital. This is what it looks like when you have these huge evolving demographic shifts. And, it’s happening quicker than the general population can imagine. Right, because it’s happening in 9th grade. If you look at our elementary school where we have large number of kids who are, right there at 71% of them are on free or reduced lunch, 20% of them speak English as a second language. If you look there, think 3 years … middle school. Think 5 years … high school. But that’s what a strategic plan will do for us. And the problem is, it’s not retrospective. I can’t go back and undo the decisions that should have been made and were not made. Am I right ???. And to his credit, and to Marshal’s credit, they have been 2 of the most vocal advocates, along with the chair, that we have to get a strategic plan. You just can down as a Superintendent and make decisions on a day by day basis that are going to result in positive outcomes for this district 3 or 4 or 5 years from now. Then you will know how large to build buildings. You won’t build a school here in Tucker or Southwest or Martin Luther King that you have to come back and expand upon in a very short period of time. That is evidence of a lack of strategic planning. All I can do is do prospective, I can’t retrospec which is the problem. But, this is where we are. I’ve tried to talk to parents. Listen, this is the situation we’re in. We won’t get out of it tomorrow, won’t get out of it next week. But we have to begin the journey. The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with one step.
I was going to add something to that. Cause I think in the plan part, we sort of all ???. We never took into account what was happening in the surrounding communities. So, and we’ve had a discussion with some of the board members and the Superintendent. When Atlanta poured out all of its public housing and voucher, most of it public housing population. That population was relocated into South DeKalb, Clayton County and South Fulton County. So, it’s even hard, and Dan is relatively new to the system cycle. But this system never even had a perception of what was happening outside the boundaries of the county. And you can’t have really effective planning if you’re not looking at what’s going on around you.
And I thought, and you dropped in a comment, but I think it’s very interesting talking about what’s happening with Syria. And you think, what impact does that have on us? Well we have the largest refugee resettlement population in the country is in Clarkston. So, if the United States government decides that it is going to accept refugees from Syria, which is not unlikely because there’s already a lot of ??? in the Middle East. If you look at what happened, the US military announced it’s sending 200 military advisers to Jordan to deal with Syrian refugees. You think, what does that have to do with us? It has a lot to do with us, because if the US government decides it’s going to relocate those refugees, in all likelyhood, they’re coming to Clarkston, Georgia in DeKalb County.
So, we have to have the mindset in our planning that recognizes, and this is an issue that has existed in DeKalb for a long time. A very insular view, and this goes back 30 years, 35 years. Self contained and didn’t really look at what happened around it. It was successful in certain respects. And it didn’t worry about what was going on in the larger world. And, I think we have to include in what we’re doing a perspective that what happens to the city of Atlanta when it gets rid of its housing stock. ??? financial impact on us. What happens in Syria has a potential impact on us. There are lots of things that have to be accounted for, because they are going to directly affect what happens in our greater community particularly in our schools.
Speaker (Mayfield?):
I would add that, you know, and I don’t want to raise expectations. But I would like to think that as we go through the strategic planning process, that we will see some hopeful moments to have some creative internvention, if you will, for acute problems like the one that you’re describing right now, tonight. I don’t know what those answers are, but I do think that just by virtually the fact that thinking hasn’t been down this line. That a lot of creative energies that could have tapped in to solutions to some of the acute problems that we’re experiencing now, could have at least been put on the table. I’d like to think that Dan puts his mind to it, recognizing that we are going to move from point A to point B. But, point B is actually 2 years, maybe 3 years away. There’s something we can do in the interim that would be a good solution to ???. Again, not to raise expectations about where that would put, what that would be. But, I gotta believe that something will happen in the interim before the long term plans are able to be fulfilled.
Thurmond: [1:01:58]
And recognizing it. That’s so important for you to … what you’re saying … and then have a board and leadership who accepts it and understands it and is focused on trying to address it. It’s just not a short term … with a district … and as I said last night, that I’m not sure the public ???. We almost lost the district. Not lose it in a sense, but almost lost control of the future and direction of the DeKalb County School District. I said we, cause everybody got their own piece of it. One way or the other, we almost lost it.
The blessing is we didn’t lose it. And, I think the value is that we have seen and understood the error of our ways. And now we have an opportunity to do a much better job. It’s just that, and every day I go to work, I’m telling you it’s massive. But it’s doable. I’m coming to this thing ???.
Question: [1:03:10]
I guess I’m on the other foot. I’m a little nervous with this crowd, now with me I’m nervous with anything. I’m one of the affidavit people and I have 2 children at Tucker Middle and I’ve also worked for DeKalb County for the past 23 years. My children have been to ???, Brockett, but my concern is because of the affidavits being so difficult, in my eyes, because I’m honest and truthfully, is there anything that the board might look at including into everything they’re going over that maybe employees of DeKalb County do have a little priviledge if they are working in their feeder schools to be able to send their children where they have been part of the community? I may not live in the community, but I’ve been part of the Brockett community for 23 years. So, I’m concerned about that, because I have 2 children in 8th grade moving up to Tucker, hopefully moving up to Tucker High School if it comes to that.
That issue has been raised by Marshal Orson as a matter of fact. One of the things that is being considered going forward.
Follow up, and really touching on what you said earlier with the parent over there. We have a room full of stake holders here and the worse thing for us, Mr Thurmond, I’ve been in the system for 6 years and I’m exhausted. I’ve been through 2 redistrictings, … blah, blah, blah. Get involved with us, reach out to us. We’re here on the ground trying to keep the morale up, trying to scrape those pennies together to do what we can to realize the value of what we’ve got. We’re open to ideas. Nothing kills the soul more than abrupt changes with little ryhme or reason behind them. It’s hard to build that trust up. I’m sure you’ve heard all of that early on. I just want to reiiterate, we’re here. Let’s work together, very refreshing.
Thank you for persevering. Give ’em a hand. Thank you. It’s been tough with all of the censure and the confusion and the conflict going on at the top. It’s just been difficult for a stake holder to persevere. But, it’s different now. And, I’m not just saying that. It’s not a ??? of speak. If you can’t ??? get in the background. We’re just moving in a different direction, but we’re doing it deliberately and forthrightly and honestly as I can possibly do it, I’m telling you that. But, I thank you.
I applaud Mr Drake, Mr ???, Ms Brickston because they’ve been, not just walking the walk. These last few months they’ve really been available and we’re …
That means a lot. At a minimum we can get you the information and be as honest and truthful as we possibly can. At a minimum. That doesn’t cost anything. It’s not a line item in the budget, it’s just a issue in terms of how we’re going to do our business. And we can do that and we’re going to get better at it the more we become more suficient and efficient in running this district.
Y’all give our principal a hand ….
I just wanted to say as you all are planning the 5 year strategic plan, to take into consideration the family dynamic that has changed in our society. Not just the demographic. The fact that there are a lot of single women that run households. And they would like to keep things close to their house and neighborhood school rather than having to fill out an affidavit to send their child to a school that’s 5 or 10 miles away. Because, this room should be filled with parents, but their not because you have working parents that don’t even work in DeKalb County and they work in other counties and have to fight traffic just to participate in more activities. So, please take that into consideration when you’re making the plans to look at the districts. If you have to keep schools small, keep them small so you can have community involvement. You have parental involvement that’s not just … we’re doing … filling seats based on the numbers. Keep small schools and have more parental involvement which leads to a better prepared child. ????
I agree with that.
So, we, all of us, I think you can feel and I think you’ve expressed, we all ??? our schools. And there’s ??? with our children every school day. When the bell rings, why is it necessary to have an additional layer of central office staff manage after school programs? There are two follow ups to that. Number 1, how is the additional staff funded? ?? Budget or the after program itself that could otherwise be spent at the school level? In addition to the extra staff, what are the dollars that don’t return to the schools used for? Is there a budget that is made public of the after school program that we can actually see where the dollars that aren’t being returned to the schools are being spent by that department.
I would have to inquire as to the specifics of how the money is appropriated. How is it returned, if it’s returned? I can’t answer that, but I’d be happy to get the information for you. Who asked the question?
Midvale has an after school program. It’s paid for … it pays the salary of the staff. Money from that program comes back to the school, but it has to be approved before it comes back to the school for use at the school. Would you be willing to look into … the first part of this question is, why is it necessary to have a staff manage principals and the after school programs when we intrust them from 8:30 until the bell rings at 2:30 to manage children and their activities during the day?
What do you mean manage?
The after school program, there are restrictions on what clubs can be at the schools. How those people that are not in after school can participate in the schools. There are additional costs associated with some of those clubs. There’s …
My child, who is not in after school care, took chess for a couple of years as an after school … that we paid for to a vendor. And, this year it was instituted by central office that we had to register for and pay at least the 3 day after school rate to take chess class for one hour a week. And that did not come from our school, that came from central office. That’s a good example. There’s been a mandated shift of vendors and the way they participate and how they’re allowed to offer new … and it’s a little bit different, because some schools have been operating longer with this program. And I think Ms ??? can speak to this because I think she manages the program …
Ms ???
I’m the director of the private after school program. We’re working through the ASCDP. What, I think, she is stating is there a percentage of each deposit we do that must be sent to the central office through the ASCDP office that employees 2 people. And, we are concerned that seems to be a large percentage at that county level that is now somewhere at the county that is no longer available to the individual schools. And why must we be micromanaged? Because, what we are being told, is that if you want any after school program from this point forward, it has to be done through the after school program and they have to be children … only children that attend the after school program can do those after school extra things. And the only way somebody can do it, is you have to be in it. You have to pay after school weekly fees in order for your child to be in chess. Or, you have to pay the after school weekly fee for your child to be in anything that a vendor comes in and does.
Somebody help me historically. How was it managed prior … when was this changed? Is this a recent change?
Ms ???
This change according to the vendors has been implemented in the past … this year.
Before February? Oh … before me. OK.
Ms ???
We had a chess vendor that wanted to come in and anybody that wanted to be in chess club paid their $7 dollars or whatever each week to be in that chess club not associated with the after school program. Now we have been told the only way we can have chess club is it must be sent through the after school program.
I’m going to be more blunt than I’m probably supposed to be, and get myself in trouble. But, I have had this conversation with Michelle. And, I’ve said it in school board meetings and I’ve said it to my fellow board members, that I have received that we have a department trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. And, in a number of schools, my kids go to school. I have a kid in elementary school and I cannot even fathom some of these changes. You know, quite frankly, these are discretionary programs for after school. So, the fact that they are discretionary suggest to me that each school should be able to manage those programs as it meets the needs of their community. Now that’s not to say that I disagree with that, but maybe a small percentage because there’s impact would go to the money comes back from the central office … it’s even a more pernicious problem than even everybody realizes. Because the money actually all goes to the central office and then the schools have to beg to get their money back. And I have plenty of examples where principals, trying to do things for their schools, that by any objective measure were laudable things with a goal have been impeded. And so, I have shared this with the Superintendent. I’m not saying anything that if you didn’t ask for my … it wouldn’t show up somewhere. I can not image why we have it structured this way. I understand that the central office should say, here are the rules about how we collect money and finances. Here are the rules about personnel may charge per child, children safety. Those are all things, I don’t know they require a department quite frankly. I think those can come out of existing structure and we should allow, kids that just want to do chess, and quite frankly, I know. Some parents use that as a way to generate additional money to use in the building. And that’s OK if nobody is really complaining about it. I go back to my view that we have a department in the central office that is trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. And it’s a problem of their own making.
The only thing I caution, one thing I’ve learned very quickly. Is that, let’s do the research. Let’s see why the decision was made. Is that fair enough.
There was no vote or meeting of the directors or anything. It was just said that this is how it’s going to be. So, that now you’re getting elementary schools with directors that are saying, you know what, I don’t want to put my parents through this. I’m just not going to offer any of those programs.
I understand. And, I’m not disagreeing. Let me tell you one of the things I have noticed about most of the decisions that were made over the last 12 months. That $85 million dollar deficit had a whole lot to do with people looking for every nickle, every dime and every quarter they could find. Finding it for operation of the district. It wasn’t that they did it right or wrongly, but if you looking for motive, that’s where I would start. What caught my eye was that you give the money and it’s hard to get back. That means it’s already been spent on something else. So, let me look at it. That’s all I’m saying. … theories, motives, to people now. I think, and I’m just telling you, and I’m looking and I’ve been around the district. And, this is very consistent with other concerns I’ve heard. All of them have something to do with money and it happened within the last 12 months. Ultimately, more money ended up in one place where money used to be situated in another. Which is why the budget process is so critical. We can’t manage this system hook or crook, doing all kinds of crazy things like this trying to come up with the financing to run the district. And, by the way, we’ve had financial issues since 2001. And we may have missed it, but DeKalb’s finances have been in serious, serious state since 2001. We depleted the savings, the fund. We depleted it. Then we begin … people file lawsuits expecting big verdicts. When people complain about the legal fees, what they don’t really understand is that there was an expectation somewhere that if we won this lawsuit, we’d generate a $50 million dollar winfall for the district that could finance. So the fact, that we get dollars and quarters from the after school program does not surprise me.
Question: [1:17:50]
I understand this concern with somebody telling us what we can and can’t do at our school. The financial issue, that’s not it. I have a hard time turning to one of my parents and saying, “I am so sorry. I know Johnny is a champion chess player. But because you’re a parent that is home when Johnny gets home after school, he can’t play chess.”
Also, you have an administration, including school boards, that focuses and is very purposful in terms of consolidation and control. Consolidate and control in the central office.
This should be, with this May after you investigate … I love what you said about empowering your principals to run their schools. Trusting them, trusting …
Thurmond [1:18:42]
Right. And the only reason, … I’m not trying to explain it away. I’m just trying to help … there are rational reasons why people have done things.  You see, if you spend time … spend 4 or 5 months, 2 or 3 months, really examining policy and decision making inside an organization and you find they are very consistent on issues large and small. It’s infuriating to you all. But, I’ve seen it over and over again.  It’s easily addressed. But, what I don’t want you to do is become overly frustrated so you tune out and turn off and assume that there are people now at the district who support these ideas.  Or, even maintain a simple philosophy.
But, I want you to understand how important it is who you elect and who they appoint to positions of control and influence. Folks get upset with me when I say this, but whatever complaints you may have had about board members. The voters elect school boards. Superintendents don’t elect, voters elect. So it’s very important who you elect and it’s very important to make sure who they hire posses the philosophies and strategies that are consistent with the things you believe.
I get it.  I’ve asked [glossary slug=’cynthia-bricston’]Ms. Bricston[/glossary] to help me, I want to understand the historical background and chronology of the decision making.  ??? I can look at, right … but it’s something that needs to be addressed.  And we’re going to get to all of them one by one by one. It started off with Success For All, then it was the Balanced Calendar.  This is one more issue. Give it time. I’ve heard it. I get it.  Fair enough?
Virginia Reese [1:20:45]
I’m Virginia Reese, and I’m on the board for Smoke Rise community association. … I just want to say. I want to give you guys a hug.  I am so happy. I know this is an overwhelming job at times and I almost feel guilty about bringing this up.  With all the issues, listening to the parents, overcrowding and all the money.  But… cell towers in DeKalb County.  I was tasked with the board to do some research on this.  And, I know there’s not a whole lot of definitive evidence, but there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that’s been coming out and we haven’t had a lot of time to figure out how these cell towers will affect small children.
I know you need the money, I understand that.  But I am very concerned, I was very concerned about the expediency by which they are being placed and the lack of involvement with parents in the community … very, very little.  I found out about it in Smoke Rise about 8 months after everything was going on.  That was the first we ever even heard about it.  So, with everything that you have going on, I just want to say that we, and I sent you an email last week, we are very concerned about this. At the very least we want due diligence.  We want you guys to take a step back and do the research because these are small children.  And I wouldn’t want my child to be exposed to those RF rays repeatedly, every day, and not really know what’s going on.  So, I’m just asking you to take a look at it.  Put it on your list and I’ll be ??? you.
Thurmond:  [1:22:45]
Let me tell you where we are with this.  Two boards ago, not this board.  Not the more recent board.  I think it was 2 school boards ago.  The board voted to enter into this agreement to place the cell towers on … what, how many schools was it … 5 or 9, multiple schools.  It was a school board decision.  And, so, it landed on my desk.  My bosses, previous bosses, not this board, voted to do this.  So, just from a legislative, legal perspective, the only person who can undo that would be the school board. However, there have been conversations with the DeKalb County Commissioners. I have received correspondence from them. Some of the committee, I think our commissioners are very involved and concerned about this.   It is my understanding that the effort has stalled at this point, to some extent?
Marshall Orson: ??? We are trying to … I think if you ask many of our current board, this would not be a board that would have supported this.  We are also trying not to … getting sued ??? This school system is in litigation.   We are trying to find a path that might address this issue of the subject in a way that people will be happy without violating the contract. So, the county commission, the planning department has the authority for the issuance of permits.  And so, to get to that point, we actually have to ask for the permit.  Which is a requirement of the contract.  It’s not the end all to be all, but we, and I speak for myself.  And I know this is ??? again, and I repeat, I’m a parent.  I’ve got an elementary school student.  And at a personal level, a cell tower on my child’s property or anybody else’s property.  And as the Mayor of Clarkston said to me, when they came to put it on playgrounds, he said no and then he used a more definitive term.  And this is before they gave it to the school board ??? they may go right over the school.
Are you saying there is a contract that may have already been signed and entered into agreement?
I can’t speak … I haven’t seen all the contracts.
Mr. Wilkens has an answer.
[glossary slug=’stephen-wilkins’]Stephen Wilkins[/glossary]:  The board entered into that contract in 2011.  So that contract process has been an ongoing for several years now. And the current status is there are no cell towers on any school properties.
The contract was entered in 2011.  As I understand, several public meetings … a lot of the concerns that have been raised here.  The contracting process has been going on now for quite some time.  The current status is there are no cell towers on school properties.  The physical towers aren’t there, however, the contract is in the permitting process and is at the county level for that part of the design and construction.  So, that’s where the status is at.  With respect to the towers, they are … they do exist on many school property school districts across the country.  They are on Gwinnett’s school campuses.  So, that discussion needs to be held … that information needs to be part of your understanding of this issue as well.  Mr. Superintendent.
Thurmond:  Focus on the county commissioners.
Q:  I heard that Burrell Ellis does the final signing of the permits.  Because I know that the county commissioners sent a letter saying they opposed it.
[glossary slug=’paul miller’]Paul Miller[/glossary]:
One of the county commissioners has sent a letter saying that they didn’t want cell towers.  We were told by Lakeside, the cell phone coverage wasn’t good enough.  And told by Paul Womack, in a meeting in which we have on video and recorded for anyone to see.  And, the contracts were fudged.  And the way it is right now, currently, we just got a contract that was supposedly signed signed for Lakeside.  Because they’re the only ones that didn’t have a contracts ???.  So, here we go again.  Are there contracts that are out there that we’re expected to wait for?  Because, what we understand, we’re ??? letters every day saying that there are people out there look at ??? the properties ??? cell phone towers ??? going up.  And I encourage everyone to look at where they want to place the cell towers.  Because, if you look at the city hood that they are planning, and everyone can say that it has nothing to do with the schools, but it does one hundred percent.    If you look where the affluent communities are, there’s no cell towers.  ??? The cell towers are placed strategically right around, pocketed, there’s no way around ???.
And the refugees, in regards to that. ??? every single city writes them off ??? Are they being divied up throughout the county? Or, should we expect that our property value will continue to ???? because our schools are Title I because we live right here.  There coming to Clarkston. ??? And I think … years of that.  When you said you expect more to even come …
Thurmond:  Well, maybe.  I mean, I mean I haven’t talked to the state department about it or anything like that.  You have to really … if there is another influx with primary location destination, right here in DeKalb County.
P. Miller:  But, are we getting any reimbursement for that?  ??? Because that’s ??? occupancy.  Federal funding has to support the refugees ??? the buses that we have, tear up our roads ??? apartment.
Thurmond:  There is some general federal that you have for students who speak English as a second language.
Paul Miller:  And we cut the translators, too. ???
Thurmond:  Yeah, that was not a good move.  That was not smart.
[glossary slug=’james-jackson’]Principal James Jackson[/glossary]:
Mr. Thurmond, my concerns about those kids are greater than “are they coming to our High School.”  I say that because we have students in the 9th grade that are 18, 19 years old.  We’ve got students in the 9th grade that are 20 years old. And, we’ve got some that are still kids.  And, it’s kinda unfair to put that kid in that situation.   It’s also unfair to put a school in that situation, because this is what happens. A couple of things, now.  Number one:  Put a kid in that situation.  They get frustrated, because they can’t master the content. But at 19  years old they can get a job.  So, guess what they do?  They drop out of school.  That rate reflects back to the high school.  So, people in this community look at it and say ” Oh, y’all gotta low graduating, your test scores are low.”  Well, we know why the test scores are low. So, we’re putting those kids in a situation where they  can’t be successful.  So, as a school district, my thing is we gotta get those kids somewhere where they can be successful. I think sometimes, you look at what’s going on, we forget to focus on why we’re really here.  To help people and help them have a better life.  And those kids are good kids. They’re sweet kids.  They deserve more than to just be stuck in the 9th grade at age 19, 20 years old  and then we can’t do anything except sit and watch them drop out. So, as a school system, district, however you want to call it, we’ve gotta come to grips and understand that we’ve gotta problem with these kids.  I don’t care ??? whether it is Tucker, Clarkston, Lakeside, wherever. We gotta help these kids be successful.

Thurmond:  [1:30:43]
Absolutely.  That’s the principal of the year speech.  Ya’ll give him a hand.  Great news!  On Monday I’ll be in Rockdale County at the Rockdale Career Camp.  I met with Mr. Ron Jackson who’s the commissioner of department of technical and adult education.  I met with President Jabari Simama who is the President of Georgia Piedmont Technical College.  We have been offered the opportunity to apply for a $3 million dollar grant to setup a career academy in DeKalb County.  Let me tell you why it’s so important.  20% of our grant is out brilliant, outstanding graduates.   20% will apply to go to a four year college.  And that’s national.  20%.  A smaller percent will graduate from a 4 year college.  We have to create more pathways to success for our young people.
Okay, putting on my Labor Commissioner hat ???.  Certificates and skills are becoming just as important as degrees in the 21st century. One of the lasting legacies I hope and I intend to create is to create a career academy for this county.  So that young people that you just described.  Well, even young people in general who are not necessarily interested in a 4 year college, liberal arts college, will have the opportunity to pursue other career goals ???.  And one of the things I can tell you and it always surprises people, many of the technical skill sets actually pay higher salaries than most 4 year college degrees.  What we have to recognize is stakeholders and parents … everybody want … to go to Georgia Tech, Morehouse, or wherever.  But only a relatively small percentage of our students are actually choosing initially that path.
Q :
The state of Georgia has eliminated the technical high school diploma.  So that the only option for high school students have is a college prep curriculum.   How can you have a technical school when the state of Georgia says that every child should be college prep…
It’s college and career ready. It’s the Common Core.
Q: There is still no technical high school diploma which used to be the career ready diploma.
Right.  But the curriculum now that is being introduced is acknowledging … and we often say college, but the most important part is college and career.  That’s an acknowledgment by the State Department of Education and state support, 45 states all across the nation.  We have created a more diverse set of opportunities for our young leaders.
Let me tell you another thing that’s going to change next year in DeKalb County.  Right now there are dual enrollment opportunities.  Where students in the DeKalb school district can be dualy enrolled in a local technical college, right.  We have 60 in the entire district this school year.  And Clarkston High School is directly across the street from …
Well, I think that’s the counselors.  A lot of that is counselors educating the kids.  And the parents.
It’s all of us, right?  But, that’s OK.  That’s the path ??? new direction.  We will have more dualy enrolled students in FY ’14 I can promise you that.  That’s about ??? strategic plan to recognize that in the 21st century.
Listen, the young folk, the high tech folks, it’s not just four years at a liberal arts institution.  And that’s what the principal is talking about.  Many of our kids drop out because they are bored.  If I’m not interested in going to a college prep, then why am I here … …. that’s what he’s telling me.
The question is, are we going to allow this for younger kids that are 9th graders.  Because my understanding is, kids drop out in 9th grade as soon as they hit 16 then they can drop out.
Principal James Jackson:
Actually, they’re dropping out in 7th and 8th grade.  Mentally they’re dropping out.
Look at the health, allied health industry.  12 allied health professionals for every one ???. That’s an industry that’s growing leaps and bounds.  We need to direct more ??? to those ??? opportunities. After I get back from Rockdale County, I’ll be able to give ya’ll a lot more information. LeBrawn Jackson is a good friend of mine and I’m proud he’s going to offer us this opportunity.  Because I think it will fundamentally change and improve how we educate our children. ??? And it’s right in line with the Common Core, college and career readiness curriculum that’s going to be put in place in this district.
I’ll take one more …
Audience Member/Parent:  I know that your closing up, and I just wanted to make sure that I got a chance to tell you that, when you came into office, I know you said increased communication with parents was something that was a priority for you.  And I have seen that and I just want to thank you for that and say that we’ve seen other board members come out to our community and we appreciate that visibility.
Tucker Parent Council, Michelle Penkava:
Is there a way that we can focus legislatively to support the district in 2 ways.  1 is to ask for more funding and maybe this is a state lobbying issue, for state funding to help support those refugees in Clarkston.  They are … DeKalb County is carrying a load of the financial burden.  And we, to your point, and the country are the ones that … give these children a home.   Should we be rallying or trying to work with the state.  Should you be, should we be … to get the state to buy into the fact that this is not just a DeKalb issue, that this is a state issue and ??? more funding and more funding but they’re not.
Absolutely.  At the federal and state level.  I think that’s very important.  First we have to inform ourselves that these students are actually in the district.  That we are not the same school district we were 4 years ago. But if you graduated 4 years ago, who knew, right.  But, it’s changed.  So, part of it is education and information.  Talking to your congressional representatives, our US Senators, as well as our house delegation.
You know what’s interesting?  Somebody told me today, I gotta check it out and make sure, that there are 57 current members of the Georgia General Assembly who graduated from a high school in DeKalb County.  Is that right?  So, we have the potential … the political portfolio to really make a difference.  And if we’re reaching out to Republicans, Democrats … I’ll announce that Governor Deal will be doing 2 of our graduation speeches this year.  Is that cool?  I want to be like Gwinnett, get $60 million dollars …
I read an article, I don’t know what the title was, I … they were bragging on one of the outstanding jobs.  They were doing managing the money with their county.  If I had $60 million more dollars, I could do a better job too.
So, lobby.  Let me tell you what else is important.  If you all live and we on … we’re here for a short time.  Thank you so much.  If you all will share that there have been some positive changes.  Particularly to SACS and AdvancED.  Not that we solved all the problems we had, we’ve only dealt with the tip of the iceberg.  But it’s important for us, in order to restore full accreditation, to the district, at least a letter for acknowledgment, thank you for your letter …  That we’ve got a board and hopefully an administration that at least demonstrates that we are moving in the right direction.  That will help us tremendously.  And that’s all, not a full fledged endorsement for the next 3 years just in terms of what has happened in the short term.
Tucker Parent Council, Michelle Penkava:  [1:40:32]
One more opportunity for us, if that’s what you want to call it.  I understand that the reason we went to the middle school model, going back a few years, because of state funding.  They, the legislatures, dictated that and that’s how we fund schools ??? today.  Would it be worth it for us, or you to lobby the state or legislatures or whoever can make those decisions to allow us some flexibility in considering at least a K-6 model which would take … give immediate relief to the middle schools and would disburse those children amongst the feeder schools.  It wouldn’t burden any one elementary school, but it would provide immediate relief in middle school areas.  But of course we’d have to lobby … it’s not just ???? And we’d support something like that.
We can talk about something like that. One of the things I would encourage us to do.  And, I’m saying us.  I have enjoyed … I’ve learned so much ??? In the fall begin to invite legislative delegations to your meetings.  Do it … not just your meetings … but I’d hope that our own PSAs and our Parent Councils all over the district will take the opportunity to let them know … you know, everybody was involved when we were ??? .  Typically, once controversy dies down, media goes away, and people tend to focus their attention … What we need to lobby for right now is to help us elevate the quality of the education that we are providing the district.  Prove to the legislatures that we are involved.  North, South, East and West and I know you do it.  But, it’s going to be even more critical to do it this year and this particular legislative session.  And, hopefully you’ll begin, like in October, before it gets to be ??? December.
Thank y’all so much for letting me come.