Friday, October 28, 2011

DeKalb's Superintendent Dr Atkinson Visits Dunwoody

As advertised, new DeKalb Schools superintendent showed up at Dunwoody High School and listened to questions and comments from the audience.  To be fair, she has only been on the job for a month or so, so she's not really equipped to answer all questions.  Overall she came across as a pleasant person. I hope she is a person who can improve our school system. I've seen lots of PR type things lately from the school board, but actions speak louder than words.  Let's see her on the job performance for a year prior to approving a SPLOST.

I'd say about 125 people showed up, maybe half were from Dunwoody.  The crowd was a mix from many areas of the county, and brought up a wide range of issues from cell towers to bus routes to magnet schools.  Attend enough school meetings and you will always find parents of kids in the magnet program (Kittredge and Chamblee) hanging around.

I was second to the microphone and asked a very direct question:

Cedar Grove recently received funding for an ‘emergency’ track replacement, costing nearly $400,000 dollars.  The Peachtree Middle track was damaged by contractors during its rebuild several years ago, and I consider it a bigger emergency than Cedar Grove.  When can Dunwoody residents expect an emergency replacement? 
That's right, while we are having our kids text or click links for Clorox ( Dunwoody School Daze ) to try and get a track, someone at the school system sneaks in funding for "emergency' repairs at Cedar Grove.  How about the Peachtree Middle School track?  The track at Peachtree is just as much an emergency as Cedar Grove, right? Yet another reason to vote NO on SPLOST.

See the link HERE:  Go to page 35 (last page)
Notification of Emergency Purchases
752.00469                   Hellas Construction, Inc.
The current PE track has aged and deteriorated to the point of being potentially dangerous to the health and safety of the students. Remove the existing asphalt PE track and replace with new rubberized track surfacing on manufacturers' approved base.

Total $ 380,188.00

Coralwood, serving about 200 kids, is receiving a new $10 million dollar wing.  That $10 million was originally set to replace and repair tracks across the county.  But some power broker pushed the Coralwood project.  Yet another reason to vote NO on SPLOST.

All in all, there were about 20 speakers tonight.  Here's a brief summary on some of the comments:

1.  Speaker wants more stringent checks on residency when students enroll.  Said many out-of-county tags dropping off kids every day.

2.  Speaker complained about lottery system for Kittredge.  Said Kittredge not all magnet kids, and some kids winning the lottery should not be there.

3.  Speaker complained about cell towers going up on school properties.  Asked superintendent if she agreed with the program.  Atkinson dodged the question and said she was not focusing on past decisions, but focusing on unmade decisions.  Speaker was not pleased with that answer and rephrased, "Do you think it is a good idea to put cell towers on school properties?" (or something pretty close to that was asked, but it was a direct 'yes' or 'no' question).  Atkinson did not answer directly  and said she was putting her energy elsewhere. Maybe she can sit under a 4G cell tower for an hour a day and recharge her inner energy. I suspect the anti cell tower posse will follow Atkinson to all of her upcoming speaking engagements.

4. Speaker (candidate Lynn D. of Dunwoody).  "The system (DeKalb) is broken from the bottom to the top" (or something close to that).  "We are in dire need of quality school leadership".  Lynn told Atkinson that she feels the county suffers from bad principals.  Note:  As a former teacher, Lynn is right on this issue.  A school principal sets the tone for staff.  A good principal recruits and maintain the best teachers they can find.  A bad principal (as Lynn noted) will fear strong teachers and run them off.  I know it's not possible, but if DeKalb could swap out every principal for principals from Cherokee and Cobb, we'd see an immediate change in our school system.

5.  Speaker praised the Lord a few times, spoke about some (allegedly) corrupt school board members, thanked the Lord a couple more times, then said, "It's all about the money, not the children."

6.  Speaker complained about block scheduling. Said she moved to Dunwoody middle of school year, and block schedule is horrible for new students.  She is 100% right.  I think block scheduling is one of the worst ideas since Outcome Based education,'new' math and spiral math.

7.  Speaker talked about the north south divide.  Said schools on south side not as good as north side.  Drives 300 miles a week to bring kid north.  I give the mom credit for doing all that, but her blame is misplaced.  A school is nothing more than stacked bricks.  The community can make a school good, and a community can make a school bad. For a school to be successful, you need strong parental involvement  disciplined children, a strong principal, and decent teachers.

8.  Speaker (my opponent, Robert W.) spoke on how DeKalb is a huge district, with many dynamics.  Said the district should have inner 'clusters', like a Dunwoody cluster.  Said this would encourage more community involvement.  I'll agree.  Of course, I'd like to take it a step further (and so would 95% of Dunwoody) and have our own school district.  But that's not in our immediate future.

9.  Speaker ( a local celeb named Lisa V) asked a very pointed question to Atkinson:

Super Clusters 1 and 2 show impressive growth over the next decades, based on the county’s projections.  Yet SPLOST IV many new buildings outside of Clusters 1 and 2, where population is dwindling.  This makes no sense.  The school system wants to build $20 million schools were people are fleeing.  We need not a replacement school in Dunwoody, but rather an additional elementary school in Dunwoody, and will need an additional middle school soon, based on projections. Why should Dunwoody vote for SPLOST when we will deal with trailers for another ten years while shrinking parts of the county get new schools?
Atkinson answered, "I don't have an answer for that."

The event lasted about an hour.  One item to note is that attendees were greeted by four DeKalb School System police officers.  The four officers remained on site, positioned at the auditorium's points of ingress/egress (doors).  They then escorted her out of the building.  Very comforting for her, but a bit Vernon Jones like.

1 comment:

Nancy Jester said...

Thanks for the recap Rick! It wasn't as crowded as I expected. Regarding the track at PCMS: I requested an "emergency track replacement" via email after I read last month's financial report. No word yet. Also, if anyone wants to see the DCSS projections for growth, they can go to this link and view the 5-page PDF (Dunwoody is in SC1):