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Category Archives: DeKalb County School District

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.

Why was information withheld from the DeKalb Board of Education?

Last week, in advance of the school board voting on a new charter school policy, the Georgia Department of Education (DOE) sent DeKalb a letter outlining necessary revisions. This 8-page letter was withheld from board members (they did ask to see this), who were then asked to vote on the policy.  To my knowledge, board members have still not received this letter. I wrote to the Georgia DOE and requested a copy of the letter and they quickly responded. Here is that letter:

GaDOE Review of DCSS Charter School Policiy and Regulation – 2015-09-11

Additionally, here is the email exchange between the DeKalb school district and the Georgia DOE: Email exchange between DCSD and State DOE regarding charter policy

Of particular importance, on Friday, September 11th, at 7:31pm, the Georgia DOE indicated that:

“Your response will be a good indicator of DCSS’s commitment to being a good charter partner. The State Superintendent and SBOE are as hopeful as we are that our renewed partnership will continue in a healthy fashion.”

On Monday, the DeKalb Board of Education passed the charter policy without ever being provided the Georgia DOE’s letter containing requested revisions and guidance on on its charter policy. DeKalb passed the charter policy without including any of the changes requested by the state DOE. Of particular importance is the very first revision that the GADOE noted in their 8-page letter. Here’s that requested revision:

1. Please remove “unique” and “innovative” from the initial paragraph of the proposed DCSS Policy in which it is stated that DCSS seeks to authorize high quality charter schools with “innovative, unique…academic programs”.

  • No state law, SBOE rules, or GaDOE guidelines require charter schools to implement unique or innovative programming that is not conducted elsewhere in a school district. 
  • Therefore, requiring “innovative, unique” academic programs in a new charter school or one seeking renewal places a greater burden on charter schools than is legally required.
  • The goal in creating charter schools is to produce higher student performance in exchange for autonomy from the state and local district regardless of the academic model selected or the degree to which that model is unique or innovative.

DeKalb has hard-wired into their policy the onerous requirement that a charter school must provide a “unique” or “innovative” academic program. I predict that DeKalb will use this requirement to deny any and every charter not connected to the “friends and family” that run the district.

On that very same evening, the DeKalb administration recommended denial of a Spanish language immersion charter school to be located in the McNair cluster area. The McNair cluster of schools have struggled academically for years and now have been denied a school choice option. The reason for denial?  The program wasn’t innovative as DeKalb already has a language immersion charter.  That’s true.  It’s in north DeKalb.  What is also true is that one of the Board members who voted to deny this charter represents the district in which this charter school was to be located.  What is also true is that a Board member who voted to deny this charter sends their children outside of their district through school choice programs, including the charter language immersion school in north DeKalb.  So, school choice is good for the school board members who can get their children across town.  School choice for the McNair kid who didn’t get in the lottery or isn’t able to get to North DeKalb in the mornings, well, apparently, tough luck.  Your Board member and your DeKalb bureaucrats, have decided that this charter petition wasn’t “unique”.  My advice to all new charter school petitioners:  Argue that your charter petition is unique because you won’t fail children.  Apparently, that’s a unique feature from my perspective.

The school district also denied the Druid Hills Charter Cluster last year. Soon, the district will take up renewing charters for conversation charters, like Chamblee Charter High School. If the district isn’t a good charter partner with the state DOE, can we expect Chamblee’s charter review and recommendation to get a fair shake? And, what do these developments portend for DeKalb’s application to the Georgia DOE to be a “charter school district”? At this point, DeKalb asking to be a charter school district, seems a bit like, an abusive parent submitting their name for a “Parent of the Year” award.

2015 DeKalb Schools Testing Schedule – Open Letter to Dr. Green


1300 Commerce Drive
Decatur, Georgia 30030

August 24, 2015

Dr. R. Stephen Green, Superintendent
1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
Stone Mountain, Georgia 30083

Dr. Green,

I am writing today to express my concern about the dates for the upcoming administration of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) and the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) in the DeKalb County School District. As you know, the testing window includes two of the most sacred holy days for the Jewish faith. We are also the only metro district that has chosen to administer these tests in such a way as to conflict with these important holidays (1).

I do recognize that the movement of the testing window to mid-September is an attempt to help identify and deploy resources more quickly for those students that are identified as “gifted”. I commend the administration for recognizing the need to improve on this aspect of education. As a mom with two children in elementary school and one in middle school, I fully recognize the challenges of this process and its timeline. But, surely the faith traditions of our friends and neighbors must be given considerable weight when crafting the testing calendar. In 2011, the school district was advised by parents in early October that the testing schedule would include the day after Halloween. Parents pointed out the myriad of problems this created for students and communities, and the district, wisely, adjusted the schedule (2). When the district is flexible and listens to the community, it gains credibility and goodwill. I believe that our current scheduling conflicts represent just such an opportunity again.

DeKalb County has a large, vibrant, and active Jewish community. Several schools have such significant numbers of Jewish students that the current testing schedule may prove to be disproportionately disruptive and burdensome. We also have a number of Jewish teachers who will be forced to choose between their faith and the wellbeing of their students. The amount of make-up tests and substitute teachers that will likely be needed will result in the loss of regular instructional time at far greater levels than for other communities. This will create a hectic environment for our Jewish students and their non-Jewish classmates.

I respectfully ask that you and your administration reconsider the testing window for ITBS and CogAT. I know that you inherited this calendar from your predecessor. Please fix the mistake made by the previous administration and eliminate the scheduling conflict with the testing dates and the Jewish holidays. Please join me in standing with our Jewish students, teachers, friends, and neighbors so that they can fully observe their sacred, holy days. Please make sure that all of our students can have the optimal testing environment they all deserve.


Nancy Jester
DeKalb County, District 1

Cc: DeKalb Board of Education


(1)  2015 ITBS Testing Dates:
DeKalb: ITBS: Sept 14-25
Fulton: ITBS: Oct 19-23
Cobb: ITBS: Oct 5-8
Gwinnett: ITBS: Oct 19 – 28
APS: ITBS: Nov 30- Dec 11
Rockdale: ITBS Oct. 19-23

(2) —–Original Message—–
From: []
Sent: Saturday, October 08, 2011 9:14 AM
To: Cheryl L.H. Atkinson
Cc: Ramona Tyson
Subject: ITBS testing dates

Dr. Atkinson,

I am writing to let you know that I continue to get emails from parents who are very upset about ITBS being given at Halloween. It appears to them that we are not responsive to their legitimate concerns and that we aren’t flexible enough to admit that perhaps, in hindsight, this was not the best testing window. As the Mom of 3 small children, 2 of whom will be taking the ITBS, I am sympathetic to these concerns. It is my fervent hope that we will consider making a change here. Our testing scores are already a public relations disaster so we can use all the help we can get to provide our students the best opportunity to perform well. Halloween testing seems risky to me.

Thank you for hearing me out on this matter. I stand ready to support and assist you.

Meeting Agenda for August 4, 2015


I. Committee of the Whole
A. Emergency Response Report – 7/24/15 Water Main Break

B. LSBE Policy Update

C. Review of the Proposed Executive Agenda for August 11, 2015

Fire Rescue
1. Appointment to the Regional Emergency Services Council, District III – Norman Augustin
2. Appointment to the Regional Emergency Services Council, District III – Susan Loeffler
3. Appointment to the Regional Emergency Services Council, District III – Samuel Shartar

GIS – Districts 3 & 6
1. A Resolution Authorizing the Sale of an Unredeemed and Unforeclosed Interest in
Property located at 1214 Fleetwood Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30316, Parcel Identification
Number 15 080 05 008.

Purchasing and Contracting
2. Purchases – (Low Bidder)
LB1. Traffic Paint (Annual Contract with 2 Options to Renew): Invitation No. 15-100511
for use by Public Works – Traffic Engineering. Amount Not to Exceed:
LB2. Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), (Annual Contract with 2 Options to Renew):
Invitation No. 15-100515 for use by Public Works – Sanitation. Total Amount Not
to Exceed: $350,000.00
LB3. Repair of Equipment: All Automobiles, On-the-Road, Off-the-Road, Vehicles,
Motorcycles, Trucks, Trailers and Motorized Equipment (Annual Contract with 2
Options to Renew): Invitation No. 15-100468 for use by Public Works – Fleet
Management. Total Amount Not To Exceed: $5,000,000.00
LB4. Installation of Modular Units With 3 Year Lease: Invitation No. 3003467 for use by
the Department of Facilities Management. Amount Not to Exceed: $1,152,619.00

Purchases – (Request for Proposals)
RFP1. Police Promotional Selection and Testing Process Services (3- Year
Multiyear Contract): Request for Proposal No. 15-500353 for Human
Resources & Merit System Department for use by Police Services. Amount
Not To Exceed: $206,000.00

Purchases – (Sole Source)
SS1. Maintenance, Support, and Professional Services for Comprehensive Property Tax
Billing and Collections System (iasWorld): (Sole Source) for use by the
Department of Information Technology. Amount Not to Exceed: $2,379,370.00

Purchases – (Change Order)
CO1. Change Order No. 1 to Chemicals for Odor Control (Annual Contract with 2
Options to Renew): Invitation No. 3002383 for use by Department of Watershed
Management. Amount Not to Exceed: $54,000.00
CO2. Change Order No. 3 to Contract No. 12-902462 and 12-902463 for Water and
Sewer Main Installation for use by the Department of Watershed Management.
These contracts were awarded by the BOC on June 12, 2012 for total amount not to
exceed $6,000,000.00.
CO3. Change Order No. 1 to Contract No. 14-902921 for Waterline Replacement, Groups
2 and 3 for use by the Department of Watershed Management (DWM). Amount
Not to Exceed: $396,364.12
CO4. Change Order No. 1 to Contract No. 14-902819 for Technical Software and
Equipment Support Services for use by the Department of Information Technology.
Amount Not to Exceed: $1,306.82

Purchases – (Renewal)
REN1. Purchase of Gasoline and Diesel Fuel (Annual Contract-1st Renewal): Cooperative
Purchase Agreement: BL044-14/GCID #20140476 for the use by Public Works-
Fleet Management. Amount Not to Exceed: $20,000,000.00

Purchases – (Cancellation)
C1. Contract Cancellation for Contract No. 14-902920 Waterline Replacement, Groups
2 & 3 for use by the Department of Watershed Management (DWM). Total
Amount Not to Exceed: $511,293.93

D. Review of Board of Commissioners Preliminary Agenda for August 11, 2015

NEW ITEMS (to be heard on August 11, 2015)

Board of Commissioners – Districts 1 & 7
1. To Promote Transit-oriented Development in DeKalb County by Consenting to Include
County Ad Valorem Taxes in the City of Doraville Tax Allocation District (TAD) #1
County Clerk

2. Approval of Minutes of the Regular Meeting of July 14, 2015

Tax Commissioner
3. Amendment to Lease for Tax Commissioner’s Office at Thor Gallery at South DeKalb

E. Review/Recap of New Items for the August 11, 2015 BOC Meeting Agenda – BOC Central Staff

F. Items Previously Heard (to be heard on August 11, 2015)

GIS – Commission Districts 3 & 6
1. Resolution to Consider Abandonment of a 0.42 Acre Section of Ray Street Right of
Way (Accepted to the Regular BOC Meeting Agenda; Deferred from the 6/9/15
Regular BOC Meeting)

Planning & Sustainability – All Districts
2. Text Amendment – TA-13-18557 –Adoption of 2015 Zoning Code, Zoning Map,
Home Rule Ordinance and Enforcement Resolution (Deferred from 5/28/13,
6/25/13, 8/27/13, 11/19/13, 2/25/14, 3/25/14, 5/27/14, 7/22/14, 9/23/14, 1/13/15,
1/27/15 for a public hearing; Substitute deferred from the 3/24/15 BOC Rezoning
Meeting; Substitute deferred from the 4/28/15 Regular BOC Meeting; Substitute
deferred from the 5/12/15 Regular BOC Meeting; Revisions approved and deferred
to the 8/11/15 & 8/25/15 Regular BOC Meetings, from the 7/14/15 Regular BOC
Meeting – for public hearing)

Planning & Sustainability – Districts 1 & 7
3. Special Land Use Permit – SLUP-15-19915 — Carter Engineering Consultants
(Deferred from the 7/28/15 BOC Rezoning Meeting – for decision only)
Planning & Sustainability – Districts 3 & 6

4. Rezoning , Z-15-19586 John and Kim Osignuga (Deferred from the 5/26/15 BOC
Rezoning Meeting – for decision only; Deferred from the 6/9/15 and 7/14/15
Regular BOC Meetings – for public hearing)

5. Special Land Use Permit , SLUP-15-19931 Ralph Defares (Substitute deferred from
the 7/28/15 BOC Rezoning Meeting – for decision only)
Planning & Sustainability – Districts 4 & 7

6. Special Land Use Permit , SLUP-15-19938 Mahmoud Abdirahman (Deferred from
the 7/28/15 BOC Rezoning Meeting – for decision only)
Planning & Sustainability – Districts 5 & 7

7. Special Land Use Permit , SLUP-15-19925 Panola Crossings LLC (Deferred from
the 7/28/15 BOC Rezoning Meeting – for decision only)

1. Appointment to the Development Authority of DeKalb County Board – Mr. Kevin
Gooch (Accepted to the Regular BOC Meeting Agenda; Assigned to the Planning &
Economic Development Committee; Deferred from the 4/28/15 Regular BOC
Meeting; Discussed during the 5/12/15 Planning & Economic Development
Committee meeting – recommended 1 month deferral and return to committee;
Substitute deferred from the 5/26/15 Regular BOC Meeting; Discussed during the
6/9/15 Planning & Economic Development Committee meeting – recommended
approval; Deferred from the 6/23/15 & 7/28/15 Regular BOC Meetings)

2. Appointment to the Development Authority of DeKalb County Board – Ms. Keisha
Taylor (Accepted to the Regular BOC Meeting Agenda; Assigned to the Planning &
Economic Development Committee; Deferred from the 4/28/15 Regular BOC
Meeting; Discussed during the 5/12/15 Planning & Economic Development
Committee meeting – recommended 1 month deferral and return to committee;
Substitute deferred from the 5/26/15 Regular BOC Meeting; Discussed during the
6/9/15 Planning & Economic Development Committee meeting – recommended
approval; Deferred from the 6/23/15 & 7/28/15 Regular BOC Meetings)

Board of Commissioners
1. Election of a Presiding Officer (No action due to lack of four votes during the
1/13/15 Regular BOC Meeting; Deferred from the 1/27/15, 2/10/15, 3/10/15 &
4/14/15 Regular BOC Meeting; No action due to lack of four votes during the
5/12/15 Regular BOC Meeting; Deferred from the 5/26/15 & 7/28/15 Regular BOC

Board of Commissioners – District 2
2. Motion to Grant Air Rights to Emory University for the Construction of a
Pedestrian Bridge (Accepted to the Regular BOC Meeting Agenda; Normal Coursed
from the 7/28/15 Regular BOC Meeting)

Board of Commissioners – District 4
3. Auditor Investigator to Serve with the Office of the Internal Auditor (Accepted to
the Regular BOC Meeting Agenda; Normal Coursed from the 2/10/15 Regular BOC
Meeting; Deferred from the 2/24/15, 3/24/15, 4/28/15 & 7/14/15 Regular BOC

Board of Commissioners – District 7
4. An Ordinance to Amend the Code of DeKalb County as Revised 1988, Chapter 16,
to Require Functional and Available Restrooms in Facilities and for Other Purposes
(Accepted to the Regular BOC Meeting Agenda; Deferred from the 4/14/15 Regular
BOC Meeting; Assigned to the County Operations & Public Safety Committee – no
official recommendation; Deferred from the 4/28/15, 5/26/15, 6/23/15 & 7/28/15
Regular BOC Meetings)

Facilities Management
5. North Police Precinct Relocation/Animal Shelter Design Funding Reallocation
(Accepted to the Regular BOC Meeting Agenda; Deferred from the 5/26/15 Regular
BOC Meeting; Discussed during the 6/9/15 County Operations & Public Safety
Committee meeting – recommended holding in Committee while awaiting
additional information; Deferred from the 6/23/15 Regular BOC Meeting;
Discussed during the 7/21/15 Finance, Audit & Budget Committee – recommended
approval; Deferred from the 7/28/15 Regular BOC Meeting)

Purchasing and Contracting
6. Revision of Local Small Business Enterprise Ordinance (Accepted to the Regular
BOC Meeting Agenda; Assigned to the Finance, Audit & Budget Committee –
recommended holding in Committee while awaiting additional information;
Deferred from the 7/28/15 Regular BOC Meeting)

7. Purchases (Change Orders)
CO2. Change Order No. 2 to Contract No. 14-902898 for Magistrate Court Renovations:
Invitation No. 14-100397 for use by the Department of Facilities Management.
Amount Not to Exceed: $200,524.62 (Accepted to the Regular BOC Meeting
Agenda; Assigned to the Finance, Audit & Budget Committee – recommended
approval; Deferred from the 7/28/15 Regular BOC Meeting)

CO3. Change Order No. 1 to Contract No. 13-902602 for Environmental Monitoring and
Gas Collection & Control System (GCCS) Operations & Maintenance Services.
Request for Proposal 11-500201 for use by Public Works – Sanitation. Amount Not
to Exceed: $250,000.00 (Accepted to the Regular BOC Meeting Agenda; Assigned
to the Finance, Audit & Budget Committee – recommended approval; Deferred
from the 7/28/15 Regular BOC Meeting & Assigned to the Public Works &
Infrastructure Committee)

Purchases (Request for Proposal)
RFP2. A Five (5) Year Multi-Year Contract for Revenue Enhancement and Collection
Services: Request for Proposals No. 15-500342 for use by Planning and
Sustainability. (Accepted to the Regular BOC Meeting Agenda; Assigned to the
Finance, Audit & Budget Committee – recommended approval; Deferred from the
7/28/15 Regular BOC Meeting & Re-assigned to the Finance, Audit & Budget

8. Purchases (Extensions)
EXT2. Concrete Forming, Placing, Finishing and Retainer Walls (Annual Contract – 2nd
Extension): Invitation No. 3002609 for use by the Department of Watershed
Management, Public Works – Sanitation Division, and Recreation, Parks and
Cultural Affairs. Total Amount Not to Exceed: $2,760,000.00 (Accepted to the
Regular BOC Meeting Agenda; Assigned to the Finance, Audit & Budget
Committee; Deferred from the 6/9/15 Regular BOC Meeting; No Action Due to
Lack of Four Votes during the 7/14/15 Regular BOC Meeting; Discussed during the
7/21/14 Finance, Audit & Budget Committee meeting – no official recommendation,
awaiting receipt of requested information; Deferred from the 7/28/15 Regular BOC

II. Special Called Meeting

A. Atlanta Professional FC, LLC Transaction

B. Executive Session

C. Other Matters

Practice Fields for Atlanta United FC – Here are the details – What are your thoughts?

As reported in the media, DeKalb County has been in talks with Atlanta United FC regarding a location for their practice fields and headquarters building. Atlanta United FC is a professional soccer team owned by the Home Depot co-founder, Arthur Blank. This week, the administration presented the Board of Commissioners with details of a proposed agreement between Atlanta United and DeKalb County. The Board of Commissioners is being asked to vote on this agreement on Tuesday, August 4th.

I have many concerns about this matter. In no particular order, they include:

1) What return on investment can the taxpayers of DeKalb county reasonably expect from this agreement?

2) Has the county performed any economic analysis regarding expected economic activity generated by this land use?

3) How reasonable is the county’s expected land preparation cost of $3-$5 million? Based on the the requirements presented to the board, the preparations include, demolition, entrance construction, detention ponds, irrigation systems, and sod.

4) Why is the county proposing to use money from the General Fund to pay for this? Is not the correct fund for this, the Parks and Recreation fund?

Here are the details of the potential deal:
Land to be used is unused County-owned property adjacent to the jail, juvenile court, Bobbie Burgess building, and the former Recorders Court.

Phase I – 30 acres – Atlanta United (“Arthur Blank”) to build 15,000- 20,000 square foot corporate headquarters for Atlanta’s major league soccer team, 3 outdoor practice fields, and a 3,500 seat outdoor stadium, including the County’s parks department offices of approximately 6,000 square feet to be located in the outdoor stadium (the “Soccer Complex”).

Phase 2- 11 acres – If needed, the land will be used to build additional fields, and perhaps an
indoor training facility.

County enters into a long term ground lease of approximately 40 acres with the Development Authority of DeKalb County (“Decide DeKalb”). Decide DeKalb enters into a management and Operating Agreement with Arthur Blank for 20 years with two 5 year automatic renewals. At the end of the 30 year ground lease, the 40 acres, the buildings, fields, and stadium and any other improvements on the 40 acres revert to ownership of the County at no cost.

County contribution
Total cost of land preparation/demolition of 40 acres, estimated at between 3 and 5 million dollars. 7 million dollars paid to Arthur Blank over 3 years beginning on date the County’s parks department occupies its new offices as annual Facility Use Payments for the County’s use of the fields, the stadium and its new parks department offices. Annual payment will be 2.33 million dollars for first 3 years and then $10.00 per year for the remainder of the ground lease. County acknowledges that no property taxes are to be paid by Arthur Blank for the life of the ground lease because it is a usufruct and agrees to waive all permitting fees for the Soccer Complex. County agrees to seek funding for pedestrian improvements from the Soccer Complex to the Kensington MARTA Station. County agrees to demolish the current animal shelter by 12-31-2016 and allow Arthur Blank the right to consult on other compatible uses, if County develops land. County agrees to fund its share of maintenance and Capital Repairs for its parks department offices during the term of the ground lease. County agrees to seek designation of the area which includes the Soccer Complex as a State Opportunity Zone. County agrees to allow Arthur Blank and the public limited use of the Juvenile Justice Center parking lot on a first come first served basis. County agrees to seek Board of Education participation in the Kensington TAD.

Atlanta United FC contribution
Construction of corporate headquarters, 3,500 seat stadium, parks department offices, and 3 soccer fields, at its sole cost, with some design input from the County and Decide DeKalb. Arthur Blank agrees not to relocate during the term of the ground lease, so long as County and Decide DeKalb are not in default. Arthur Blank to fund its share of Capital Repairs and Improvements to the Soccer Complex during the term of the ground lease. Arthur Blank agrees to pay the County 15% of net revenues received by Arthur Blank for naming rights and branded events held at the Soccer Complex. Arthur Blank agrees to allow the County to use the fields and the stadium at no charge other than the Facility Use Payments, on a mutually agreeable basis, when not in use by Atlanta’s major league soccer team. Arthur Blank agrees to use commercially reasonable efforts to hire DeKaib residents for at least 10% of construction, maintenance and operation jobs.

Decide DeKalb
Bidding and overseeing the land preparation/demolition process.
Receiving 15% net revenues for naming rights and passing it through to the County.
Collaborative design review of construction of the Soccer Complex.
Establishing necessary capital repair accounts for County and Arthur Blank and ensuring funding of such accounts, as necessary and allowed by law.

Commissioners Respond to Interim CEO’s Criticism

In finally resigning his Commission Seat after 23 months as Interim Chief Executive, Lee May has made much of the resistance of “three Commissioners” of the BOC to his efforts to install a hand-picked successor to represent District Five. As the “three Commissioners” he referred to, we think the public might benefit from a broader perspective on the issue.

First, the upcoming election could have occurred far sooner, in either of the General Elections in November of 2013 or 2014, if only Mr. May had earlier resigned the Commission seat he could not occupy while serving as the interim CEO. Not only would DeKalb have avoided the $100,000 expense of a Special Election, but voter participation would have been greatly increased over the lonely, single-issue ballot turnout we can expect on June 16. In fact, until a new law was hastily passed in April of 2014, his resignation was the only means to fill the seat. In refusing to resign, May prioritized keeping his political options open over representation for the citizens he is sworn to serve.

Second, when the legislature did pass the new law to deal with this unprecedented vacancy, May then took control of the process and spent another 3 months trying to anoint an ally for the Commission Seat. He could not prevail, and then insisted, for another five months, that no one else would do, until he finally allowed the Commission to make nominations in February 2015.

Finally, five nominations came from the Commission. Every Commissioner voted for some of the candidates, but none could achieve victory. In breaking a tie vote, May voted against Gina Mangham the only candidate that he could have pushed over the top.

During these many months when May would not resign, he also abandoned his responsibility to District Five constituents. He closed the District Office, taking his staff with him, and would not allow district funds to be used for a constituent services assistant. Represented by the Interim CEO, District Five should have had the best constituent services in the County; instead services remained as poor as ever.

Now, after all of these months that he delayed, May choses to resign with only a few short weeks between his resignation and a low turnout June 16 election. This is hardly a coincidence. There is not enough time to raise money and launch a campaign with early voting on May 26. This seems to be the very definition of the “petty personal politics and clear obstruction” that he attributes to us. In addition, he apparently favored a candidate with knowledge of his plans, because only Vaughan Irons had campaign material ready to mail out the day of May’s resignation.

We have consistently said the voters of District 5 should be able to elect their own representative to the County Commission. We have always supported an open and fair election and we are glad for that long overdue outcome. We regret that Mr. May’s singular focus on his own political advantage made the wait so long, and that the snap election scheduled for June 16 may attract so few voters. We hope that District Five candidates and voters will rise to the occasion and fill the seat with a Commissioner who has their interest, not his own, at heart.

Commissioners Kathie Gannon, Nancy Jester and Jeff Rader

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The now former, DeKalb County Commissioner, Elaine Boyer is facing Federal charges and likely, a jail sentence, for stealing the public’s money. Recently we also learned that Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton has a proclivity for paying her boyfriend to “consult” for her. Last summer’s indictment of the CEO was, apparently, just the tip of the iceberg. In fairness, other counties and government officials outside of DeKalb haven’t been immune to corruption and bad decisions. But, here, in DeKalb, the sheer volume is proving that incompetence and corruption are the norm rather than the exception.

Many friends, citizens and leaders in DeKalb and around the state, have urged me to run for this vacant seat on the Commission. I am giving this careful consideration. The county as a whole needs sound, disciplined, and effective financial stewardship. The new District 1 Commissioner must work to reestablish public trust. That’s going to take hard work and new ideas about what the public should expect from elected officials and government workers regarding disclosure and transparency.

Confidence in DeKalb government has been shattered. I’m a small government conservative. I also believe that the operations of government should be carried on with a vigorous commitment to competence and credibility. Right now, we have the worst of both worlds; bloated government that has shown to be incompetent and corrupt.

As I consider this office, I have thought about what I would do for the citizens of District 1 and DeKalb as a whole. Of particular importance to me is the need for real-time financial disclosure of government agencies and offices. Other states have implemented on-line check registers that show how your tax dollars are being spent on a daily basis. If I were a DeKalb County Commissioner, I would institute an on-line check register for my office. Had this been in place, it would have been difficult, because of the immediate disclosure, for a commissioner to abuse their p-card by paying for personal expenses. It would also have provided an uncomfortable spotlight on the consulting fee/kick-back scheme as it was happening. It’s simply a good idea for the public to have easy, timely access to how their money is being spent.

In addition to improved disclosure, I would seek to lower the cost of the commissioner’s office and rebate that back to the taxpayer. I would continue my habit of hosting community “Coffee Talk” – something I’ve done for several years both as a citizen and an elected official. I would examine the budget with the same level of scrutiny that I brought to the DeKalb school system. That scrutiny resulted in me being the first person to recognize and document that the school district’s budget was, at best, a weak suggestion on how to spend money and, at worst, a document based on deception. I routinely published my findings on my website. Dealing with the budget and the entrenched opposition to correcting the spending problem was difficult and unpopular. But it was the right thing to do even as it came with consequences that affected me.

Elected offices do not belong to any individual. They belong to you. It is the job of an elected official to do the right thing especially when it is difficult. It is the job of an elected official to protect and, indeed, enhance the credibility of the office. That’s the way it should be and one Commissioner can show the way.

Incompetence, Fraud, Constitutions and Kids

Over the years, I’ve often said, “You only get a county like DeKalb, in a state that lets it happen.” And, “We only have two problems in DeKalb: Incompetence and Fraud.” But, DeKalb isn’t unique.

All of this tacitly begs the questions: (1) How should we structure checks and balances between local and state government? (2) As a population experiences demographic shifts do we have the necessary governmental framework in place to ensure that before, during and after these transitions; services and governance operate efficiently and without The Curley Effect and; (3) Under what conditions can existing political subdivisions (counties, cities, school districts) dissolve, change or reconstitute themselves?

As noted on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website, Georgia is on it’s 10th Constitution; one of the youngest in the nation. (Wikipedia says it is the newest state constitution.). I’m not sure what this says about our state. Within the public education arena, I do not believe that it has provided a healthy flexibility. Georgians rightly chose, in overwhelming numbers, to amend the state constitution to allow for state involvement in the approval of public charter schools. But our state has hard-coded in an absolute number of school districts based on counties with an exemption for city school districts that existed at the time of our last constitution. That leaves Georgia with 180 school districts (159 counties plus 21 city school districts) for approximately 1.7 million students. Contrast that with the over 1000 school districts in Texas for approximately 5 million students. So, on average, Georgia has one school district for every 9,400 students, while Texas has one school district for every 5,000 students.

So, why should we care about being able to dissolve and reconstitute school districts? Why should we care about the average size of school districts in Georgia? Isn’t bigger going to be better because of “economies of scale”?

As it turns out, there is ample evidence that there is an optimal size constraint for efficient (meaning lower costs) and effective (meaning better achievement) school districts. Multiple studies show that: (1) student achievement is maximized if school districts are within a certain (smaller) size, (2) minority and poor students do better in smaller school districts and (3) the lowest per pupil costs are in smaller districts.

The Metro Atlanta area contains 35-50% of the entire state’s student population (depending on what districts you include). Most are much larger than the “optimal” size for efficient or effective outcomes. Currently, we have no ability to change this because of the constitutional prohibition on the number of school districts in Georgia.

In addition to the constitutional issues, our state Department of Education has shown no ability or desire to reign in the incompetence and fraud that is seen in districts like DeKalb. Why does the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education, continually give waivers and excuses to DeKalb to operate in defiance of state law and sound principles? DeKalb (and other districts) are routinely allowed to waive the requirement for spending on “direct instructional purposes” and given the green light to bloat their central office administrations. This is poor public administration, has negative effects on students and increases costs for taxpayers.

Georgians need to think about how we can change our state Constitution to provide improved flexibility for the most and best control of public schools. We also need to demand that our state Board of Education and Department of Education stop enabling the incompetence and fraud that have plagued the metro Atlanta school systems for so long. The DOE and the BOE should refuse any further waivers for classroom spending and class size requirements. Our children, teachers, parents and taxpayers deserve better.