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NO on e-SPLOST – Here’s Why

On May 24th voters across DeKalb will see an e-SPLOST referendum on their ballot. If approved, it will be the fifth, 5-year e-SPLOST program for DeKalb County School District. What have we gotten for the almost $2 billion, over 20 years, of the e-SPLOST program? What can we expect from an e-SPLOST V?

I was on the Board of Education when e-SPLOST IV was designed and won approval. I voted no as a Board member to even take the referendum to the voters because the design was based on inaccurate assumptions and did not address the growing capacity needs of the district. I warned in 2011 that we were sentencing over a generation of children to attend schools in trailers for their entire school career.

I specifically asked that a new elementary school be built along the Buford Highway Corridor. I asked for the district to add capacity to the Dunwoody cluster, where elementary school trailers have been sitting for more than a decade, the middle school was built too small over parent objections in e-SPLOST III, and the high school isn’t prepared for the growing number of classrooms it will soon need.

I see a pattern in past e-SPLOSTs that left children, teachers, and taxpayers worse-off in aggregate despite the almost $2 billion we all paid to improve and expand our county’s schools. This pattern has existed across multiple superintendents. Despite the spending and relatively stable student population (hovering around +/-100K students), the use of trailers has grown over the years. The building needs also grow over the years because of your assets receive almost no maintenance and care.

All the spending to improve the learning environment has done little to improve academic aggregate outcomes in DeKalb. In addition to the poor aggregate achievement levels in DeKalb Schools, the one other consistent feature of the district has been the administrative staff. Yes, each new superintendent has brought in a few new people. Some of them have been a welcome change. Unfortunately, the district is plagued by the quiet undercurrent of perennial administrators that have been influential across multiple superintendents. And, no one should be shocked to learn that the exact same two outside consulting firms that brought you the last e-SPLOST debacle are also providing the guidance for e-SPLOST V.

These same failed administrators are now quietly advising the new superintendent behind the scenes and designing e-SPLOST V. Why should we expect anything different from the same people who have been so consistently incompetent, wrong, and biased? On what basis could anyone believe they should be the architects of the next e-SPLOST program? There’s a word for doing the same thing and expecting different results.

I call the current approach for e-SPLOST V, the “Kitchen Sink” referendum. Every school in DeKalb is listed as a potential for everything. The message:

“Vote for e-SPLOST V because you might get a new school. Or you might get an upgrade. Or nothing. But you have to play to find out. Go ahead, spin the wheel, and let’s see what DeKalb has in store for you. What could go wrong? And remember – It’s for the children.”

Yep, they’ve thrown the kitchen sink language right onto your May 24th ballot. The usual list of naïve and political operators are out there trying to rally support for this ridiculous referendum. There are the Charlie Browns who keep trying to kick that ball even as the rest of us know Lucy is going to yank that ball away every time. There’s the shrewd political types who received promises behind closed doors that their interests will be protected.

Hope is not a method and backroom deals are proof that e-SPLOST has never been about children. It certainly has never even been as simple as trying to put permanent roofs over our students’ heads. It’s been run by the same people with the same failed track record for years.

DeKalb Schools have seen their operating and capital coffers swell with your money as the economy has recovered. Very little has trickled down to the classroom. With all the resources that are at hand, their shouldn’t be a leaky roof, a broken HVAC system, moldy ceiling tiles, or the need for parents to send in basic cleaning supplies. But, sadly, these situations remain.

It needs to be stated and discussed that the school district has morphed, e-SPLOST, into a maintenance program as well. Even worse, the district spends your taxes on new capital projects that it doesn’t maintain. The school district should be dedicating millage to maintenance so that this cost is not shifted to an e-SPLOST program. This protects your investment.

• Until the school district replaces the failed administrators that have brought us to this low point;
• Until the school district gives us a concrete schedule of building projects for e-SPLOST V;
• Until the school district ends it’s opaque, uncooperative attitude, until the school district properly attends to the maintenance of the assets it already has;

Just say NO to this tax. The district will only make change when the spigot is turned off for a while. I’m voting no until the school district cleans up its act and gives me a firm project list. To vote otherwise is to embolden the incompetent bureaucrats who have brought you here and enable the continued trend of putting special, political interests ahead of what is in the best interests of children and taxpayers.

TAD Talk

On Tuesday (5/3/16) the Chair of the DeKalb Board of Education, Melvin Johnson, was interviewed for “Closer Look” on WABE, 90.1.

Click here to read the transcript or listen to the interview.

The interview was striking because of the blatantly false statements made by the Chair of the Board or Education and his refusal to understand the basics of school finance, how a TAD works, and the financial realities of the project.

Early in the interview, Dr. Johnson said, “all funds generated by tax dollars should go to student learning.”  He went on to say, “We are judged by how we manage our funds.  We are judged by the product and student outcomes.”  That sounds wonderful, right?

Sadly, DeKalb Schools does not even comply with state law requiring 65% of total operating expenditures be spent on “direct classroom expenditures”. And, our weak state Department of Education hands out waivers like candy.  The state legislature should really do something about that.  But, I digress.

For Chairman Johnson to say “all funds…should go to student learning” is duplicitous given the fact that such a low percentage of taxpayer dollars actually make it into the classroom.  Furthermore, Dr. Johnson hasn’t exactly been a faithful advocate for improving the percentage of your taxes actually going into the classroom.  Nope, he and the majority, kept right on spending your money on bloating the bureaucracy.  The district also has some interesting procurement habits but I’ll save that for another blog.  And while they were spending all your money for the benefit of adults and not “for the children”, they accumulated a mountain of cash.  As of the end of February 2016, DeKalb Schools has over $225 million in operating reserve cash.  For the same period the capital fund reserve is over $260 million.  With money like that, why aren’t your classrooms at half the size?  Why aren’t teachers getting bigger raises?  Why are your kids in trailers anywhere?  Why do you have to buy toilet paper to send to your kid’s school?

If they aren’t going to spend it on the classroom, they could always give us a tax cut.  DeKalb is one of only a handful of districts that can even tax over 20 mils. Right now, we’re paying 23.73 mils.  Do you think that extra 3.73 mils is helping?  If it was, wouldn’t we see fewer schools on the OSD list rather than the net +3 that were added as targets for state takeover?  DeKalb has more schools on that list than any other district.

Dr. Johnson confidently told the interviewers, DeKalb has made improvements in graduation statistics.  Yep.  That’s right.  It’s also right for every single district in the state.  Why?  Because last year, the state removed the graduation test requirement.  Naturally, the graduation metrics increased throughout Georgia.  This has nothing to do with improvements in education.

When asked by Rose Scott, “Do you feel like the board has really vetted the opportunities, talked to all the major players involved here?”  Dr. Johnson replied, “…..We have met with Mr. Perry, the developer.  We met with the Mayor and her staff of Doraville and many others discussing options and opportunities in this regard.”  That is interesting because the developer nor the city has met with the Board of Education about this matter.  In fact, the developer and city officials have been discouraged from even meeting with school board members individually.  How can your elected officials be expected to make decisions without being fully informed of the facts?

Stunningly, Chairman Johnson stated the school board would be at a loss for a million dollars a month with the TAD.  But, we know that the current taxes paid to the school district from the property is $936,000 annually.  With a TAD, the school district would keep collecting every dime of taxes they currently receive.

Next, in addition to Dr. Johnson’s financial fabrications, he went straight to fear mongering.  In a blatant attempt to manipulate public sentiment, and threaten teachers, he suggested there is some relationship between taxes “lost” at this site and the need to lay off teachers.  That is absurd and shameful.

What is most troubling is that the school board and administration do not seem to understand that this isn’t a choice about (1) TAD versus (2) No TAD.  The choice is between TAD or Tax Abatements (via a development authority deal).  Keep in mind, the abatements are given by The Development Authority and not one elected official gets a vote. The choice is between a development that has the capital ability to fund the major public infrastructure improvements to develop a commercially rich tax base that helps fund all of DeKalb (TAD) – or – a development funded through tax abatements dropping in more apartments and less high value commercial real estate.  The apartments will bring more students to the already overcrowded schools.  And with the abatement strategy, they really won’t get one dime in taxes to help provide services for those students.  The schools will get nothing except more potential expenses.

Is it too much to ask that our school district spend our tax dollars in the classroom and have a modicum of financial fluency?…

New “Pension Legacy” Tax Proposed – Urgent Legislative Alert – House Bill 711

Double Taxation – the fallacy of pension legacy costs.

I am writing to alert you to a potential property tax increase coming from the Georgia General Assembly.  House Bill 711, sponsored by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Druid Hills), seeks to add a special tax district to cities formed after 2005.  Rep. Oliver believes that newly formed cities owe, what she refers to as, “pension legacy costs”.  The notion that these legacy costs exist is false and here’s why.

  1. Newly formed cities continue to pay fully into the General Fund and the Fire Fund. Embedded in these funds are the costs for benefits, including pensions for the employees providing these services.
  1. Newly formed cities continue to pay fully into the self-sustaining funds of Sanitation and Watershed. Embedded in these funds are the costs for benefits, including pensions for the employees providing these services.
  1. DeKalb County lowered the millage rate for the Police Fund (a fund newly formed cities do not pay into) in the 2015 budget.
  1. DeKalb County did not reform the pension benefit system until December 2015 – 7 years after the formation of Dunwoody.
  1. DeKalb County used unrealistic actuarial assumptions that negatively impacted funding.

If DeKalb County believed there was a crisis in the pension plan, chiefly driven by the new cities no longer paying into the police fund, why would the county lower the police fund millage rate in 2015?  If the county believed that the crisis was caused by newly formed cities, why did pension reform not occur until just a few months ago in December of 2015?

House Bill 711 is only directed at newly formed cities.  It is punitive, based on false assumptions, and is not congruent with the facts.  Make no mistake about it, it is a discriminatory tax aimed at Brookhaven and Dunwoody.  It is a bailout that would allow DeKalb County to continue poor fiscal management.  It creates a liability for new residents and business for a service they never received.  Imagine an entirely new property tax layered onto the commercial engine of the region – the Perimeter market – and the affect that would have on business, growth, and sales tax revenue to the county, schools, and state.  House Bill 711 is wrong and would have dire economic consequences for the region and state if passed.


House Bill 711 is currently in the House Governmental Affairs Committee.  Here is a list of emails for the members of that committee and the committee staff.  (Policy Analyst) (Admin. Assistant)


Understanding DeKalb’s Millage rate system

First, DeKalb County’s millage rate isn’t one millage rate that funds all aspects of the county.  DeKalb’s total millage rate is actually the sum of various component millage rates.  I often refer to these individual rates as “buckets”.  Here’s a list of some of the “buckets” for which you may pay a millage rate:

  1. General Fund – This funds services that are provided county-wide like the court system, sheriff, libraries, etc.. It is the largest fund and every resident in DeKalb, including all cities, pays the rate for this fund.
  1. Fire Fund – This funds the Fire Department that is used by the unincorporated parts of the county, as well as most of the cities, included Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Chamblee, Doraville, etc.
  1. Police Fund – This funds the DeKalb Police Department for unincorporated DeKalb and any city that elects to use this service.
  1. Roads and Drainage – This funds roads and drainage services to the county and any city that elects to use this county service.
  1. Parks and Recreation – This funds parks and recreation services to the county and any city that elects to use this county service.
  1. There are also debt service rates that are apportioned county-wide and otherwise pursuant to their issuance.
  1. House Bill 711 proposes to add a new “bucket” that would be filled only by cities formed after 2005.

Sanitation and watershed services are self-sustaining and charge a fee-for-service for unincorporated county residents as well as residents of cities.  Newly formed cities have all continued using DeKalb as their sanitation service provider.  Water is only provided by the county so all cities use, and pay, for this service.

Planning and Sustainability is a self-sustaining, fee-for-service fund that provides the plan review services to residents and builders who need permits.  This area also handles business licensing services.  Dunwoody and Brookhaven now provide this service as a city.

Since the incorporation of Dunwoody and Brookhaven, residents of these cities have continued to pay fully into the General Fund, the Fire Fund, the appropriate debt service, and they continue to pay into the self-sustaining funds of sanitation and watershed.  So, the only services that these cities no longer receive, or pay for, from the county that are funded by property tax millage rates are: (1) Police, (2) Roads and drainage, and (3) Parks and Recreation.




Doraville Tax Allocation District

At this Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners’ meeting, the Board approved an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Doraville regarding the Tax Allocation District (TAD) for the former GM Plant site. The Commission approved the TAD earlier this year. The IGA sets forth how the TAD will function and sets out the infrastructure improvements that can be financed by TAD revenues.

So, what is a TAD? How does it work?

A TAD is a defined area where real estate property tax monies gathered above a certain threshold for a certain, finite period of time, can be used for specified improvements in the defined area.

The property taxes collected by all governmental entities (city, county, and/or school district) that participate in the TAD continue to be paid to those entities. The TAD does not decrease or abate taxation on this property. As improvements are made and development occurs on the property, its value will increase. The tax that is paid on the increase in the value, gets paid, and accrues into the TAD account. Those funds can only be utilized pursuant to the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that designates the projects for which TAD funds can be used.

Let me be clear: Every dime of property taxes for this property must be paid. The TAD does not change that. The taxes that are paid today on that property will continue to be paid directly to the city, county, and school district. The taxes assessed on the increase in value of the property, also have to be paid. They go directly to the TAD for specific, pre-approved, directed uses.

The IGA that the Commission approved on Tuesday has numerous stipulations about TAD expenditures. They include a new fire station, water/sewer infrastructure, streets, and storm water management structures. The TAD is set for a period of 25 years but DeKalb has built in a review and reauthorization provision at the 10 year mark.

I want to contrast the TAD and this process with the powers of Development Authorities. Development Authorities routinely discount or abate property taxes all together for a period of time through bond-lease transactions. When Development Authorities do this, the private, business interest sees their taxes reduced or eliminated. The decision is made by an appointed board; not your elected officials. Development Authorities have the power to abate taxes for cities, counties, and the school district without approval from these entities. This just recently happened in Brookhaven when the DeKalb Development Authority (known as Decide DeKalb) entered into a deal to build a new office building at Perimeter Summit. Click here to read about it. The soccer deal was structured with the Development Authority as a tax abatement deal and a cash give away. A TAD is none of these things.

With the TAD, every dime in taxes gets paid, and your elected officials have to approve of the TAD and its expenditures. Development Authority deals mean unelected officials get to eliminate taxes for private interests.

The General Motors property has languished for the better part of a decade. There have been a few attempts to redevelop it over the years but the deals have never come to fruition. Even though General Motors went through bankruptcy reorganization, the Doraville Plant was not liquidated. The plant closed and has been sitting there for over 7 years. The site has such infrastructure deficits and GM demanded such a premium price that any development would need some form of public participation.

The business community and investors have expressed their concerns about DeKalb’s business climate. The GM site redevelopment is one of the largest projects in the Southeast. Successfully redeveloping this area will improve DeKalb’s reputation, bring thousands of jobs to the area, and improve land value; resulting in a larger commercial tax base for everyone.

I have been disappointed to hear some of the comments from the school system about this project. Perhaps more than any other governmental entity, DeKalb School District, contributed to the distress and blight in Doraville. For years, the school district ignored the burgeoning student population and now the schools in and near Doraville have proliferated with trailers. The district as a whole is a negative when businesses are considering where to locate in metro Atlanta. It is ironic that the school district does not appear willing to participate in a revitalization given its history of willfully ignoring the area.

TAD participation by the school district would lead to higher collections of e-SPLOST sales taxes. The district could negotiate for the building of an auditorium large enough to hold graduations with their portion of the TAD. Right now, no such space exists in DeKalb.

I also find it ironic that DeKalb schools would hinge their disdain for this project on their view that “teaching and learning” is their “core business”. A quick glance of the school district’s budgets over the years would show you that DeKalb has failed to ever meet the state’s mandate of spending 65% (at a minimum) of the their budget in the classroom (on “direct instructional expenditures”). I suggest that to be credible in making a statement about the core business of DeKalb County schools, start first by using the taxpayers’ money for what it is intended. Keep in mind that DeKalb has one of the highest millage rates for schools in the state at 23.73 mils. Almost all other districts are capped and can go no higher than 20 mils. Even with almost 4 mils more in taxes, DeKalb School District can’t get 65% of the budget to be spent on their “core business. The old adage – “You get what you pay for” – shows us that more money into the school’s coffers have purchased something far different than “teaching and learning”.

In the School District’s critique of this TAD, they mentioned the Kensington and Briarcliff TADs and noted that their value has decreased. Indeed the value has decreased and so the TAD has seen no accumulation of funds and so there have been no infrastructure improvements or redevelopment. The cost to the taxpayer has been zero. And all the while, every tax dollar has been paid because TADs do not eliminate taxes and money only accumulates in a TAD when the value goes up.

The old GM site represents a unique opportunity for DeKalb. Unfortunately, this property wasn’t liquidated when taxpayers footed the bill for General Motors to reorganize. We were left with a property that GM held without compromising on price. Now, we have the opportunity to redevelop this site to benefit all of DeKalb, increase the commercial tax base, provide jobs, and show that DeKalb wants to be a business friendly place. We have the opportunity to make sure the necessary infrastructure and school facilities get put in place. We have the opportunity to show that DeKalb is open for business. We can take the opportunity, mitigate risk to the public, and improve value for all the taxpayers. Let’s do this and show that DeKalb is united and a great place to do business.

Drugs, Prostitution, and Now Murder at an Abandoned DeKalb County School

Last night I heard this story on the news: Body Found Near Old School in DeKalb County.

A neighbor walking his dog heard gunshots and then came across the body of a man who was shot and died at the closed Atherton Elementary School property off of Glenwood Road. The video of the school property showed a neglected, overgrown, boarded-up building that is a blight to that community. The neighbors that were interviewed in the story said that the school building and property have become magnets for drugs, prostitution, and homeless people. Sadly, we can now add murder to that list.

DeKalb County School District needs to vastly improve their building and site maintenance. This is true for schools currently in use and for surplus property. Too often, projects that SPLOST dollars pay for, are really caused by a lack of proper maintenance on the assets. If DeKalb did competent maintenance your SPLOST dollars could all be dedicated to their real purpose – building new schools and expanding and improving existing facilities. Sadly, SPLOST has become the source of basic maintenance dollars for the district.

So, with all of the SPLOST tax dollars the district has collected over 20 years of the SPLOST tax, DeKalb Schools let Atherton Elementary School become an eyesore and a hotbed of criminal activity, and now murder, in the middle of a community. I think the root of the problem lies with the bureaucratic power structure and the fact that they are accountable to no one. These unelected decision makers have so bungled the SPLOST building program that I call it building operations malpractice, at this point. Why have they allowed trailers to proliferate along the Buford corridor? Why have they not added onto schools that have had temporary buildings in place for a decade? What are they doing to alleviate the current and, soon exploding, trailer expansions in Dunwoody? Why have they not torn down Atherton Elementary and turned the property into a park for the community? DeKalb School District has its own police force. How often are these officers on-site given the crime and blight present at this abandoned property? How long has it been since someone in DeKalb Schools came over and cared for the vegetation on this property?

I have sent an email to DeKalb County officials to inquire what can be done to hold the school district responsible for their neglectful ownership. This community deserves better.

Former DeKalb administrator demands special service and approximately 6000 children in 10 schools pay the price

Dr. Green,
When I first met with you, I shared that DeKalb County needed change at the central office. The same people that brought us to the poor state of affairs in our schools, cannot get us out. In order for DeKalb to improve, for fractured relationships to heal, and for trust to return, I said that you should listen to the individual communities. I was hoping that you would end the tyranny of tone-deaf and short sighted decisions. I hoped that you would focus your attention on improving the educational lives of DeKalb’s children.

Your decision to rip trusted and loved clinicians and nurses from their school communities is sad and disappointing. Staff members are not widgets. They cannot be exchanged and moved as inputs on a production line. To try and do so, puts children at risk.

You have stated that this decision was based on a “review of the health programs throughout the district”. You further stated that you “determined that there were schools in which diabetic students are enrolled that do not have the support of a licensed nurse for monitoring and injections on a routine basis.” You said that, “The District’s long-standing practice has been for licensed nurses to care for our students with the most significant medical needs.” You communicated that this was a practice implemented in 2004.

Unfortunately, these statements are not consistent with the facts. The reason this disruptive action was taken was to satisfy a demand made by a well connected, former DeKalb County Schools administrator who has a grandchild that attends Bouie Elementary School. You have let the “friends and family” hegemony and callousness continue unabated in DeKalb. Once again, schools were turned upside down on a whim to meet the demands of a former powerful DeKalb administrator. In the process 10 schools – approximately 5000 children or 5% of all of DeKalb’s students– paid the price.

As you know, there is no board regulation, board policy or state law that can be used as a basis for what you allowed to happen. You have indicated that it was the “long-standing practice” of the district to address nursing assignments based on the location of diabetic children. As you have only just come to DeKalb, you must be relying on someone telling you that it is “practice.” I urge you to “trust but verify” any statement about “practice” given to you by a central office staff administrator. In fact, one of the specific issues that AdvancED/SACS cited as a reason that caused governance problems for over a decade was the use of “practice” versus policy. Practice is not policy. It is a term d’art of the administrators that has no legal meaning. It got DeKalb Schools in hot water in the past.

If you are interested in just how troubling the “practice” argument is, you can watch this video link (around the 23 minute mark) where Dr. Mark Elgart of AdvancED discusses the problem of “practice” as it was used in DeKalb. Boards and administrations using “practice” rather than approved policy was a reason DeKalb schools was placed on probation. So, when one of your administrators tells you about “practice”, please understand they may be leading you down a dangerous path.

If, in fact, it was a “long-standing practice” of the district (you indicated since 2004) to move nurses around based on the location of diabetic children, the Kittredge nurse would have been moved long ago. The facts don’t match the rhetoric.

The outcome of this ill-advised move is that Vanderlyn lost an RN because she only wanted to work at the location where her own children were in attendance. She was specifically recruited to do so. She has left the district entirely. A beloved veteran clinician was ripped from Kittredge and will now be at Vanderlyn. What if a child at Vanderlyn is diagnosed with diabetes tomorrow, or next month? Now, Kittredge is left without any nurse or clinician. The diabetic child who had been cared for by the clinician who is now at Vanderlyn, now has no one. In fact, the entire school is now without clinic staff.

The fact that Kittredge is without any clinician, and has a child with diabetes, puts that school out of compliance with state law and DeKalb Board policy.

Huntley Hills Elementary School’s nurse was reassigned to Oakcliff and a replacement has not shown up. Bouie Elementary School has lost a trusted clinician and veteran staff member. Again, what is the reshuffle plan if more children with diabetes show up at other schools? It appears that the outcome of this move is to leave the district as a whole with fewer clinicians and RNs and place more children at risk, thus increasing potential liabilities for the school district; all to please a former administrator who is responsible in part for the poor record of achievement and management in the district. It is a double insult.

Children in DeKalb would be so much better off if administrators would focus on improving education at the many failing schools in our district.

Dr. Green, I don’t blame you at this point for the errors in information that your staff are providing to you and others. Please review this matter in further detail. You have the opportunity to heal this community. Every parent that has contacted my Commission office absolutely wants the district to be in compliance with law and policy. They simply do not want these arbitrary, ill-advised, unsafe, and punitive changes to stand. You have the opportunity to build goodwill and admiration in communities throughout DeKalb. I am optimistic that you will chose that path.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this issue or any other matter. You may contact me directly at (678.360.1148).

Nancy Jester
Commissioner, District 1

The affected schools are: Bouie, Fairington, Kittredge, Vanderlyn, Oakcliff, Huntley Hills, Columbia, Oakview, Briarlake, and Hawthorne.

Why are DeKalb school nurses being ripped from their communities?

Dr. Green,
I have been contacted by a number of concerned parents and citizens about recent changes that are being made to nurses at several area schools.  As you can imagine, these changes are causing a great deal of disruption and discomfort for the community and the students.

I know you are quite busy but I do think this matter might need your personal assistance.  I want to make sure that your staff is informing you about their decisions in this matter and providing you the fullest picture on the ramifications.

I have been told that this change is being made pursuant to board policy; specifically about care for children with diabetes.  I reviewed the regulation JGC-R that directs actions based on DeKalb Board Policy JGC.  Additionally, I reviewed state statute regarding the student Diabetic Medical Management Plans (O.C.G.A. 160-4-8-.18).

DeKalb School Board Regulation JGC-R states:  “The school nurse or at least one trained diabetes personnel shall be on site at each school and available during regular school hours to provide care to each student with a diabetes medical management plan being implemented by the school. ”

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. 160-4-8-.18, the state defines “trained diabetes personnel” as:  “a school employee who volunteers to be trained in accordance with this rule. Such employee shall not be required to be a health care professional.”

Given the current clinical/nursing staff of the school communities that have reached out to my office, all policy, regulation, and law are being appropriately followed.  There appears to be no policy, regulation, or state law that can be used as a basis for this change.

Parents have shared just how deeply disruptive this change will be.  The clinical staff person at Kittredge, Ms. Sumi, is a fixture at the school and an alumni parent.  She coaches the science team, academic bowl team and is the sponsor for the Beta Club.  She has secured over $30k in grant money for health and wellness programs over the past few years.  Tearing her away from her community and commitments is heartbreaking for the entire school.  Similarly, Vanderlyn and Oakcliff’s nurses are valued by their community.  Oakcliff’s nurse has been at that school for over 20 years.  She is also uniquely qualified because she is bilingual.  Vanderlyn’s nurse is also a Vanderlyn parent and was recruited to be part of the Vanderlyn staff.  She was a stay-at-home mom and is only working because she is at her children’s school.

The nurses at these schools are now familiar with the myriad of medical situations, medication needs, and temperament of the children they are serving.  They have bonded with these children already.  Switching nurses in this way is disruptive for thousands of children in these schools.  Surely this warrants consideration.  It is potentially detrimental to those children that have come to depend on their current school nurse who already knows their important medical routines.  Switching clinical staff may create a liability for the district as they start from scratch getting familiar with the needs of the students.  Given that DeKalb is already compliant with policy, regulation, and state law, it is difficult for these communities to understand why they are being subjected to this.

Parents are distraught over this matter.  I have heard unconfirmed reports that as many as 2 of the nurses involved in this change are resigning.  If true, the premise of this change won’t even be accomplished and the, difficult to fill, nursing positions will be vacant. What will have been accomplished is a further degrading of the relationship between the district and parents.  They will have broken the hearts of a community and its children in the process.  It will reinforce the notion that the district acts punitively towards some school communities.  I hope that you will consider this situation, direct your staff to delay any of their changes at this time, develop an alternative strategy, or decide that DeKalb is already in compliance with policy, regulations, and law.

–Nancy Jester
Commissioner, District 1

The Bowers-Hyde Investigative Report, September 30, 2015

Please click on the link here to read the Bowers-Hyde Investigative Report: Bowers and Hyde report

Open letter from Georgia Charter Schools Association

Last week the Georgia Charter Schools Association (GCSA) sent an open letter to DeKalb Superintendent Green and the DeKalb Board of Education. In the letter, GCSA expressed their concern about the signals the DeKalb County School District (DCSD) was sending regarding charter schools, DCSD’s new charter school policy, and DCSD’s posture towards the State Department of Education’s (GADOE) requested policy revisions. GCSA requested that the DeKalb Board of Education revisit their Charter School Policy and align the DCSD policy with state statute, State BOE rules, and GADOE guidelines.

To read the letter from the Georgia Charter Schools Association in its entirety click here: OpenLetterFromGCSA

Last week, I attended the DCSD community engagement session regarding their petition to become a “charter district”.  I was disappointed by this meeting and the presentation made regarding the charter district petition.  At one point, a school district official defended their hesitancy towards autonomy for charter schools by saying that, “Well, you don’t just hand over the keys to the car to your 16-year old.”  That’s right – that’s what they think of us.  Given the track record of DeKalb bureaucrats, ponder that analogy for a while.

DeKalb’s idea of being a “charter school district” is not congruent with chartering philosophy.  The concept of chartering is that pursuant to a contract, the school will be held accountable for their performance.  If the school fails to perform, those involved in that school get removed.  This philosophy is much better than allowing failing schools to exist in perpetuity, as is currently the policy of traditionally managed schools.  We already have ample evidence on how DeKalb’s  bureaucracy performs.  DeKalb has languished at the bottom in almost every performance index while taxing at one of the highest millage rates in the state.  The same bureaucrats that got us to this place cannot get us out.

DeKalb simply doesn’t want to give up control.  There is too much at stake for those at high levels within the bureaucracy.  If DeKalb relinquishes control then the jobs program and doling out contracts to their friends would end.  The county’s rationale for pursuing a charter school district is to continue to obtain the waivers (class size, spending, etc.) that allow them to continue to bloat the central office while packing kids and teachers into crowded classrooms.   I hope our new Superintendent sees through the well entrenched bureaucrats.  I hope the GADOE sees through the charade that is this charter school petition.




DeKalb County School District – upcoming meetings and public hearings about charter school district petition

School Flexibility Option Community Engagement Sessions

The focus of these sessions is to get stakeholder input on the Local School Governance Teams (LSGTs) that will be required at each school and how those teams will have the opportunity to assist in the governance of the school and request flexibility from state law and Department of Education rules and regu-lations.

Region IV Lithonia High School Tuesday, September 29 @ 6:00 PM
Region III Stephenson High School Wednesday, September 30 @ 6:00 PM
Region II Lakeside High School Thursday, October 1 @ 6:00 PM

GA DOE has an established deadline of November 1, 2015, for submission of charter petition applications. The petition’s current draft can be reviewed at the link below It hasn’t changed since last year.

As a part of the legal obligations associated with submission of a charter application to the GA DOE, the District has requested that the Board hold two Public Hearings on October 5, 2015, with the first occurring at 1:30 PM and the second occurring at 5:30 PM. This will allow the public an opportunity to speak directly to the Board and offer input on the charter application. Finally, the District has requested that the Board hold a called meeting during the week of October 19, 2015, to allow the Board an opportunity to adopt a resolution supporting the charter application and its submission to the GA DOE.