Lindridge Martin Manor Seeks to Remain in Garden Hills District

Published in the Buckhead Patch:
Editor’s Note: Members of the Lindridge Martin Manor Neighborhood Association wrote  a letter to Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll B.  Davis Jr.  on Feb. 11, 2012, following the release of two proposals that redraw  school  attendance zones. The neighborhood opposes removing families from Garden Hills Elementary School in Buckhead. The Lindridge Martin Manor Neighborhood Association shared its letter with Patch.
Dear Mr. Davis,
We in the Lindridge Martin Manor Neighborhood send approximately 250 students to Garden Hills Elementary School (GHES) .  This comprises approximately 36% of the current enrollment at the  school. As a result, any redistricting proposal which calls for the  removal of LMM families from the GHES district will have profound  impact. Given this reality we want our APS administrators and elected  officials to have a full understanding of these impacts as they affect  our neighborhood and its school (GHES).
LMMNA has been disappointed in APS’ lack of outreach to the Hispanic  and Latino populations that live in our community. The lack of available  information in Spanish both on APS’ website and at public meetings has  placed this population at a disadvantage in the current discourse.  Despite the request of the GHES PTA to include Spanish feedback forms on  the website and to provide translators at public meetings this has not  been done.
Option A which would redistrict our families into a new elementary  school, creates a school with no powerful political or economic allies  and a population that can least afford this abandonment. At best, this  proposal was founded in ignorance of these realities. At worst, it  represents an intentional and deliberate effort to segregate the poor  and people of color from the remainder of the Buckhead community.  Because of these concerns LMMNA cannot support this option in its  current configuration.
In addition, placing our students in a new elementary school would  initially deny them access to the IB program. LMMNA feels strongly that  the IB program should be maintained in the SRT4 cluster so as not to  disadvantage any student when they enter Sutton Middle School and/or North Atlanta High School.
Our proposed solutions address these concerns, and we reject the current Options A and B in favor of these proposals:

  • Create a Garden Hills Primary Center similar to those in the Sarah Smith, Morris Brandon  and Jackson elementary  districts. Furthermore, explore the idea of including a Pre-K program  at this site as well. This solution would address the current lack of  public Pre-K opportunities in the SRT4 cluster and would be an  especially beneficial opportunity for the Hispanic and Latino students  in our community. In addition, it would relieve capacity issues at GHES  and allow the current district boundaries to remain intact.
  • Create a 6th grade academy at Sutton Middle School  and a 7th/8th grade academy at the current  North Atlanta location. This would allow for the complete vertical integration of the  IB program.

Thank you in advance for your strong consideration of these  proposals. LMMNA would welcome the opportunity to meet with APS  officials to further discuss these issues at their earliest convenience.
Respectfully,
Roxanne Sullivan President Lindridge Martin Manor Neighborhood Association
Follow city-wide APS Redistricting coverage on Facebook. Read more about redistricting on the Buckhead Patch redistricting page.

DeKalb schools have too many administrators

By  Ty Tagami
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Taxpayers in DeKalb County have been funding a top-heavy school system that could stand to shed more than 300 administrators, according to an outside review.
The audit of management positions was commissioned by new Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson as she sculpts a new organizational structure for the 15,000-employee district. It’s the first comprehensive study of staffing in years.
The report, released Wednesday , said DeKalb has 1,499 employees in the  central office — too many for a system its size. The  consultant, Virginia-based Management Advisory Group, recommends that DeKalb slim down to 1,162 administrative slots.
But don’t expect immediate cuts. Job titles, and their lack of descriptiveness, are a problem, Atkinson said. The district employs directors, coordinators, secretaries and others in the central office whose titles don’t reflect their responsibilities.
The audit focused mostly on white collar positions. It found confusion about who does what and how much they should be paid. Some secretaries, for instance, have more responsibility than the presumably higher title of coordinator. Atkinson said it would take at least 30 days to review the titles, redefine them and place them in a proper hierarchy — work that must be done before major organizational changes.
Atkinson said she’s not sure how closely she’ll follow the consultant’s proposal.
“This is their recommendation,”  she said. “We’ll take it now and massage it.”
The DeKalb school district has long been maligned as a bloated operation, but  evidence supporting those charges has never been this clear. Atkinson, who just finished her first 90 days on the job, has been saying that she’d make substantial personnel changes. She’s already reassigned a few high-level administrators, replacing the chiefs of finance, curriculum and instruction, operations and information, for instance.
But this report says the district needs a whole new organizational chart, and a top-down reclassification of all positions.
“I think what this has really found is massive redundancy,” said school board member Don McChesney, who attended Atkinson’s presentation Thursday. “We’ve got secretaries making more than our teachers. That might be justified, but somebody’s got to show me how it’s justified.”
The audit says DeKalb has 15.5 central office positions per 1,000 students and should have more like 12, according to the consultants. Comparable school districts had numbers ranging from 18.5 central office positions per 1,000 students in Fulton County to 5.8 in Cobb and 6.1 in Gwinnett, the report said. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools — a city against which Atlanta jurisdictions are often compared — had 14.5 central office jobs per 1,000 students.
This was the first phase of the review. The next phase will look at all of the school system’s positions. It’s due March 15.

Toddlers Are North Druid Hills’ Fastest-Growing Age Group

By Timothy Darnell for the North Druid Hills / Briarcliff Patch


The number of pre-school-aged children in the  North Druid Hills community grew faster than any other age group, according to a  Patch analysis of 2010 U.S. Census Bureau figures.
The number of children 4 and under in the community jumped 68 percent from 2000 to 2010.
That’s in sharp contrast to overall population numbers in the area that were stagnant over the same time period.
The number of school-age kids in the North Druid Hills area was the fourth-fastest growing age group.
North Druid Hills is a Census Designated Place (CDP), which means the  bureau considers it a distinct area and gathers data for the community  even though it is not an incorporated town.
The North Druid Hills CDP is bordered by I-85 and Clairmont Road in  the northwest and Emory University in the south. The western edge ends at the DeKalb/Fulton  county line.
Population growth in the area is a study in  contradictions. The overall population remains virtually unchanged  over the last decade, growing from 18,852 to 18,947. That’s an  increase of 95 people.
Here are some other findings for the North Druid Hills community:

  • The number of pre-school age children grew from 640 to 1,078.
  • The next-fastest growing age groups were 60-69 (a 39 percent increase) and  50-59 (a 25 percent increase).
  • The number of school-aged children, age 5-18, group grew from 1,301 to 1,628. That’s an increase of 25 percent.
  • The number of people age 19-29 fell 14 percent over the last decade. Their numbers dropped from 6,096 to 5,331.
  • The slowest-growing age groups were 30-39 (with 3.6 percent growth) and 40-49 (3.8 percent growth).

DeKalb County Schools seeks 1-penny tax increase

Atlanta Business Chronicle  – by Carla Caldwell, Morning Call Editor                       
Date: Friday, June 17, 2011, 6:06am EDT
The DeKalb County (Ga.) School Board will ask voters in that county to approve a five-year penny sales tax to cover a $475 million list of schools’ improvements and building, according to the Dunwoody Reporter. Voters go to the polls in November.
Projects the district hopes to tackle include replacing up to seven schools, the newspaper reported.
If approved, the new SPLOST would run from 2012 until 2017. Shoppers would pay the increase in Decatur, portions of DeKalb that fall within Atlanta, and throughout DeKalb County.
The school board approved a draft plan in May to keep the county’s school millage the same: $22.98 dollars on every $1,000 of value on DeKalb residences. The board is required to adopt a millage by July, the newspaper reported.

Construction Begins for New Health Sciences Research Building

Facility Includes Pediatric Research Partnership Between Emory and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Construction of a new Health Sciences Research Building on the Emory University campus will kick off with an official groundbreaking on June 15.

More than half of the new facility on Haygood Drive will focus on pediatric research through the Emory-Children’s Pediatric Research Center, a partnership between Emory and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, who will work closely with key affiliates including Georgia Tech and Morehouse School of Medicine.
“In breaking ground for this new building, we celebrate our long partnership with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the momentum of our growing research collaborations,” says S. Wright Caughman, MD, Emory Executive Vice President for Health Affairs and CEO of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center. “This partnership will lead to continued medical advances that will benefit pediatric and adult patients in Georgia and throughout the world and will help Emory and Children’s reach the top ranks of pediatric research institutions.”
The new building will encompass 200,000 gross square feet, with four stories above ground and one floor below grade. In addition to a number of pediatric focus areas, the new research building will include investigations in adult cancer, immunology and drug discovery.
“This is another monumental day for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory and for the children of Georgia and beyond as we are excited for the chance to further develop a robust pediatric research program,” says Donna Hyland, President and CEO, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “Atlanta is blessed with many fine institutions – like Emory – who believe in collaboration, and we will continue to grow because it’s the collaboration among our clinical and academic professionals that will determine how much we are able to provide for Georgia’s children now and in the future.”
A two-story working bridge will connect the new building to the Emory-Children’s Center building, adjacent to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the home of Emory’s Department of Pediatrics. In addition to research space, the Emory-Children’s Center also houses a pediatric outpatient center, the largest pediatric specialty group practice in Georgia.
“The bridge that links the new research building to the Emory-Children’s Center is an architectural highlight and gateway to the Emory campus. But more importantly, the bridge is a symbolic link between Emory and Children’s and reflects our shared commitment to child health,” says Barbara J. Stoll, MD, George W. Brumley Jr. Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine and Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
The building’s open design, accommodating 65 lead researchers and their teams, will feature natural light in laboratories and corridors. The building will include a 175-seat auditorium and a café dining area with outside seating.
Designed by architecture firm ZGF (Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects LLP), the building is expected to be LEED-silver certified, with completion expected in April 2013.
With a cost of approximately $90 million, the building will be funded primarily through philanthropic contributions, including a grant from the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation Inc., the O. Wayne Rollins Foundation, the Zeist Foundation Inc., Dr. Raymond Schinazi funds, the Georgia Research Alliance and two anonymous foundations.

Atlanta Public Schools buys Buckhead land for high school

Aerial photo above shows the IBM tract off Northside Parkway that is the location for the new North Atlanta High School.

Atlanta Public Schools has finalized the purchase of a 56.6 acre land parcel in Buckhead for construction of a new high school.
APS’ share of the cost of the property is $55.3 million. IBM, which currently occupies the site, will pay $23.6 million to the former property owner, Jamestown Properties, to satisfy the remainder of its lease agreement,

Atlanta Public Schools has finalized the purchase of a 56.6 acre land parcel in Buckhead for construction of a new high school.
APS’ share of the cost of the property is $55.3 million. IBM, which currently occupies the site, will pay $23.6 million to the former property owner, Jamestown Properties, to satisfy the remainder of its lease agreement, according to a statement released by APS.
The new high school will replace North Atlanta High School. The newly refurbished North Atlanta High School will be converted to a middle school for the area, replacing Sutton Middle School. The new school is scheduled to open in August 2013.
According to APS, which finalized the sale on Monday, plans are to retain many of the existing structures on the property, including a parking desk and lots and buildings. The total estimated cost of the project is approximately $100 million, including the cost of the land.
“I want to thank IBM and Jamestown Properties for their partnership in completing this transaction in a timely fashion,” said Larry Hoskins, APS Chief Operating Officer. “We entered into a very equitable agreement for a prime portion of real estate in a highly competitive section of the city.”
Read more: APS buys Buckhead land for high school | Atlanta Business Chronicle

Land Use and School Locations

from Land Matters, a publications of the Atlanta Regional Commission
There was a time in our nation’s history when a majority of children were able to walk or ride bikes to school.  Similarly, the school building was a fundamental civic landmark in the community. And while there are some older communities that still enable younger residents to walk to school, this is no longer the norm, as schools have increasingly been built on the outer edges of communities where land is less expensive.
Consequently, the distance students travel to school has increased greatly. In 1969, 87 percent of students lived within one mile of their schools. By 2001, this number shrank to just 21 percent. In Georgia, it has been estimated that only six percent of elementary students, 11 percent of middle school students, and six percent of high school students could reasonably be expected to walk to school.
This shift has come at a price, according to research recently developed for The Civic League for Regional Atlanta by Georgia State’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. In “School Locational Decisions and Land Use: Addressing a Growing Problem,” researchers cite increased traffic congestion (along with higher school bus costs and increased air pollution) and increased childhood obesity as two significant unintended consequences of “school sprawl.”
The Civic League recommends that school boards and local governments change course by working collaboratively toward school siting decisions that:

  • Better match development and new school capacity;
  • Better align local comprehensive and school facility plans;
  • Better connect schools and adjacent neighborhoods; and
  • Facilitate the use of schools for other community purposes.

The paper also addresses obstacles to collaboration between local governments and school boards and suggests specific action steps for the Atlanta region.
“School Locational Decisions and Land Use” is available for download at www.civicleagueatlanta.org.

DeKalb school workers ask for furloughs, no outsourcing

Threatened with losing their jobs to outsourcing, DeKalb County school employees said on Monday night they would be willing to have their pay cut to save their positions.
About 250 school employees rallied before the school board to protest a proposal to privatize as many as 900 custodian and service jobs.
“We’re very, very disturbed and we’re not going to sit by quietly,” Organization of DeKalb Educators’ President David Schutten told the board. “It’s easy to pick on the people who make the smallest salaries.”
As Schutten spoke, about 200 employees wearing “no outsourcing” buttons stood behind him. Another 50 employees stood in the hallway outside the board room after police refused to let them in because of fire code capacity.
The board took no action Monday, but interim superintendent Ramona Tyson assured employees that she is doing diligent research on the outsourcing issue. The board likely will vote next month.
Some workers pleaded with the board to consider furloughs or pay cuts instead of outsourcing.
“We are willing to take cutting our pay or more furloughs to help with the balancing of the budget,” maintenance worker Terrell Short, a 15-year veteran, told the board. “We feel we are part of a large family. If at all possible, we would like to keep the family together.”
Last month, the school system collected bids from vendors in response to its requests for proposals advertised for custodians and maintenance positions. School staff is now reviewing those bids to determine if the move is cost-effective and will make a recommendation to the board.
Tyson on Monday said she contacted retired DeKalb administrators and learned that the district had many problems 10 years ago when it outsourced custodian jobs. Tyson said the schools were dirty and there were inadequate numbers of employees working.
“We are going to take the time to take a look at the district’s attempt when we tried to do this years back. It was not a success for the school system years ago,” Tyson told the board. “We are going to look thoroughly at the challenges and lessons learned.”
Robert Hampton, an electrician for DeKalb schools for nine years, said he understands the district’s financial situation, but wants to see the numbers. The district is facing an estimated $50 million shortfall for next year’s budget.
“Show us the facts to prove it would save money and we’ll take a pay cut,” Hampton told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “If they will save money, then furlough us the difference and let us keep our jobs.”
Hampton’s job is not at risk, but his friends’ positions are and he feels his job will be next. The proposal calls for privatizing custodians and maintenance jobs, including groundskeeping, painting, window glazing, heating and air-conditioning, equipment repair and pest control.
Angela Tucker-Holmes, head custodian at Eagle Woods Academy in Lithonia, said she is worried not only about losing her job, but also about the safety of students.
“We help kids out. We’re the first line of security. We’re out in the yard with them and we’re a family,” said Tucker-Holmes, who had two children graduate from DeKalb schools.
Tucker-Holmes said she was unaware of the outsourcing proposal until she received a note directing her to escort vendors around her school and explain her job.
“It was underhanded. They put in on the website and didn’t tell the employees,” she said. “We deserve better.”

14 DeKalb schools on proposed closure list

By Megan Matteucci
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Fourteen DeKalb County schools could face closure next year.
On Monday night, the school board unveiled a comprehensive redistricting proposal that calls for 12 elementary schools to close: Livsey, Medlock, Rock Chapel, Bob Mathis, Atherton, Glen Haven, Gresham Park, Sky Haven, Toney, Peachcrest, Wadsworth and Kittredge. The proposal also calls for Avondale Middle and Avondale High to be closed and used to house magnet programs.
The closures are needed to eliminate 11,000 empty seats county-wide. DeKalb is the state’s third largest district, but has more buildings than any other system in Georgia.
The schools were identified after a six-month analysis by consultants, MGT of America, which were paid $400,000 to review data.
The district will next hold several public hearings. A final vote is scheduled on Feb. 28.
Under the proposal, which calls for redrawing attendance lines, 12,900 to 16,100 of the school district’s 99,000 students would be sent to a new school next year.
“I know these are hard things, things that affect parents, teachers, students, but keep the goals in mind,” consultant Edward Humble told the board Monday.
Board member Eugene Walker said the proposal seemed rational, but he is concerned about the number of students disrupted.
“We are not like a General Motors or cost-savings assembly plant. We are dealing with children,” he said.
The majority of the schools on the proposed closures are in the south end of the county, which is home primarily to African-American families.
Board chairman Tom Bowen insisted the schools were chosen based on empty seats, not race or academics.
“South DeKalb is where most of the under population is,” Bowen told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “However, we took a countywide approach this time to push some of the overcrowding to the south end too.”
Last year, the school board assembled a citizen’s task force and conducted public hearings to identify possible schools to close. But after complaints, near fights and allegations of racism from parents – and even some school board members – the board decided to postpone the closures. Instead, the board hired consultants who found much of the same results: south DeKalb houses most of the empty seats.
South DeKalb also is one of metro Atlanta’s regions hardest hit by foreclosures.
The proposal calls for: moving Livsey students to Brockett, Midvale and Smoke Rise; moving Medlock students to Avondale, Laurel Ridge and McLendon; moving Rock Chapel students to Pine Ridge and Princeton; and moving Bob Mathis students to Oak View and Rainbow. Students at Atherton, Glen Haven, Gresham Park, Sky Haven, Toney, Wadsworth and Peachcrest go to Avondale, Rowland, Knollwood, Midway, Snapfinger, Cabby Lane, Clifton, Columbia, Flat Shoals and Kelley Lake.
School officials said they could not out an exact dollar amount on the 11,000 empty seats, but said the district, which has an approximate budget of $1 billion, has lost millions of dollars in state funding. This includes annual state operations funding to pay for expenses like art and music teachers, and capital improvement funds to renovate and build new schools.
DeKalb currently has 21 elementary schools that have such low enrollments they are not receiving state funding for some programs, which means local tax dollars fund the difference.
“This is not only to address empty seats, but to maximize state dollars,” Bowen said. “What we have to remember is we are looking to put our students in the best possible school.”
Board member Sarah Copelin-Wood, who complained of racism last year, said the consultants’ data was inaccurate and some south DeKalb schools are overcrowded.
“We want our children to learn. They can’t do that when they are packed in like sardines,” she said. “We want the kids to enjoy and have the same space that any other kid in this school system would have.”
Board member Don McChesney said he has heard many complaints from parents who would prefer to see school closures based on academics, rather than size. However, he said this criteria failed in other districts.
“What we need to remember is that buildings don’t make AYP. Students and teachers do,” he said.

DeKalb school workers could lose jobs to outsourcing

By Megan Matteucci
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

More than 700 DeKalb County school workers could lose their jobs to outsourcing.
The school system is considering privatizing custodians and maintenance jobs, including grounds-keeping, painting, window glazing, heating and air-conditioning, equipment repair and pest control.
“The objective is not to eliminate employees, but to save taxpayer dollars,” DeKalb schools spokesman Jeff Dickerson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.
School officials said the outsourcing is still a proposal and the amount of potential savings was not available this week.
However, the proposal could mean layoffs. Dickerson said about 700 jobs would be impacted. Board chairman Tom Bowen said the proposal impacts 900 jobs – 600 custodians and 350 at the school service center.
Dickerson said the district “strongly encourages vendors to give preference to existing employees,” and it is too early to determine who would retain employment.
That’s not enough for the Organization of DeKalb Educators, which represents about 4,700 school employees.
“It’s a huge concern for us,” said David Schutten, the union’s president. “People in the schools are very upset that privatizing custodians will take away the family feel in schools.”
Outsourcing is one of several suggestions that came up earlier this year as part of budget cuts. Facing an estimated $50 million shortfall in next year’s budget, the proposal is back on the table.
Last week, the school system received several bids in response to Requests For Proposals advertised for custodians and maintenance positions. School staff are now reviewing those bids to determine if the move is cost-effective and will make a recommendation to the board over the next two months.
“This is purely an investigation of a possible cost-savings measure. If it turns out that it does not materially benefit the district, it won’t be pursued,” Bowen told the AJC. “It is a good idea to understand what other school districts across the country have done to cut costs in the area of support services.”
Schutten said he too needs more information. He plans to ask questions about employee pay, benefits, seniority and job security at Monday’s school board meeting. Other school employees have suggested a protest.
“Over the long haul, privatization will hurt us far too much,” Schutten said. “They think privatization will save money, but that’s not necessarily true.”
Last week, more than 100 employees attended an organization meeting to express concerns about the proposal, Schutten said.
Earlier this year, DeKalb cut about 250 jobs as part of budget cuts, including nine custodians and 19 maintenance workers. DeKalb schools have already outsourced its communications department to Dickerson and Cohn & Wolfe.
The Atlanta Public Schools has touted savings by using both contract workers and school employees for food services, maintenance, custodians, security and construction. In May, APS officials told the AJC that a contract with Sodexo-Jackmont, which operates 70 percent of the district’s food services, resulted in a $1.3 million surplus last year. Prior to outsourcing, APS’ food services department operated at a deficit.
Earlier this year, Cobb schools considered outsourcing transportation, but killed the idea after complaints.
For years, Fulton County schools have outsourced some of their custodians to cut costs, school officials said.
DeKalb officials insist they are not looking to outsource cafeteria workers or bus drivers.