Why the DeKalb School Board election is critically important.

I want to report and summarize some facts and current info that will greatly affect our schools, since I haven't seen a good summary anywhere else. I'm not writing this message as a solicitation or promotion, but I do want all my neighbors to understand why I thought it was important to get involved in the school board race this year. I'm going try to summarize all the relevant information in an objective and apolitical manner, so as to remain within our community guidelines and not irritate anybody.

So here we go:
- DeKalb County School System (DCSS) has an annual budget of $1.25 billion for 100,000 students yet boasts a graduation rate of only 58%

-Just a couple years removed from a racketeering scandal, DeKalb Schools almost lost accreditation last year, and are still on "warned" status, with needed improvement on 3 items concerning the board according to SACS.

-After the accreditation scandal, Gov. Deal replaced 6 of the school board members with new appointees last Spring.

-In August, parents in this area and surrounding communities voted 92% in favor of forming the Druid Hills Charter Cluster, which would have put Druid Hills High School and all its feeders under a charter agreement and governed by a separate, local, non-profit board. (FYI, all charters have to be non-profit in GA, so there's no such thing as private or for-profit charters here.)

-This past November, the current School Board (with new appointees) denied the Druid Hills Charter Cluster petition by a 5-4 margin. Votes to deny the cluster were from Erwin (Dist 3), Morley (Dist 7), Carter (Dist 8), Johnson (Dist 6), and Campbell (Dist 5).

-As a result of the vote, state representatives from the north end of the county, including Dunwoody and Brookhaven, proposed an amendment to the state constitution, HR 486, that would allow cities within GA newly formed after 2005 to create their own school systems. It's tabled until the next legislative session.

- A recent economic development study, ordered by the county, showed that the formation of the new cities, combined with annexation from existing cities, reduced the county's tax digest by 50% in the last 6 years. New incorporations of Tucker, Lakeside, and Briarcliff would compound the problems facing DeKalb since a huge majority of the tax-heavy retail and commercial is on the north side of the county. The annexations don't have a big impact on school funding. . . yet. But if HR 486 passes, school funding in unincorporated DeKalb would be similarly reduced.

- In February, the state reduced the size of the DeKalb School Board to 7 seats from 9.

-Just last week, Superintendent Thurmond, who previously opposed the Druid Hills Charter Cluster, announced his support to make all of DeKalb a "Charter System," which was one of three options that all GA school systems have to make by summer 2015.
Details and policies of the new system, if passed, and the selection of the next superintendent are likely to be ironed out by the new school board that results from the upcoming election.

-This is also the first election in a long, long time, that reform-minded candidates have a chance to take a majority of the board.  Please research all your candidates as much as possible, and make sure to vote.

If you have any questions, please reach out to me privately at atticus@electatticus.com. I also have lots of links for source data on my website at www.electatticus.com as well as at www.facebook.com/electatticus. You can also find out more about me there as well.

Voter registration ends 4/21, early voting starts 4/28, and election day is 5/20.

Thanks very much,
Aletha Clark April 19, 2014 at 01:23 PM
i was at the NAACP forum of school board candidates, when the chairman of the board can't give important information on the graduation rate and seemed lost in the debates. We need to clean house, we don't need a 70+ fully retired former administrator being in charge. We need people who have a vested interest in the system by being parents NOW not 30 years ago. I want my grandchildren to get a better education than i did, but sometimes i wonder if they are. When paper and pencils are giving way to calculators, and laptops. Handwriting skills are ending up with people only being able to sign there names with an "X".


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