Chamblee Charette Summary

I don’t usually post political stuff, but thought I would post this, since folks might be interested in how this went. I cross-posted this one on The Evansdale Porch, also. You must register to see that discussion.

I attended last night, along with three other Evansdale parents that I know of.

It started at 6:30 and we didn’t get home til after nine, so these suckers are long.

First, they (the consultants) discussed the “triangulation” strategy used in the 2020 Vision process they are using to make the recommendations to the board. More description of the charettes here.

So, they gave out the response cards – little mechanical cards, where you push a button corresponding to the answer you want to give. You would see the results after each question, in percentages. They asked questions for this portion in three parts: Demographics, Facilities, and redistricting&consolidation.

Demographics:

First they tallied the number of people in the room = there were, i think, close to 350.
They asked if you were a parent of a dek. student, a teacher, other, an administrator/employee of dekalb, a dekalb student, etc.
What high school cluster are you currently zoned for? Overwhelming majority in the room were Lakeside/druid hills/tucker or Chamblee/Dunwoody/and another, that seemed incorrect.

Facilities:
Rate the – (based on the COUNTY, not a particular school)
quality of a Dekalb County education
phys. condition of schools
overall safety
Physical disabilities access
Instructional spaces relative to the programs they are designed for
HVAC
Technology for students and staff
Exterior appearance (curb appeal)
Playgrounds, athletic fields, etc.
The last question had to do with what would play the most imp. factor in you voting to pass SPLOST IV:
Answers were things like: Transparency, knowing what exactly would be done with the $, . . . can’t remember the rest of them. The main gist of that question seemed to be to figure out the best way to get taxpayers to vote for SPLOST IV. . . .kind of angered me.

Redistricing and Consol:
Rate “strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree.”
Dek co. operates the “right” number of schools.
Dek. provides schools that are sized appropriately, capacity-wise
Program offerings are equitable across schools
I am satisfied with how dekalb provides and implements school choice options.
Portable classrooms are a viable long-term solution for overcrowding.
Which would be most imp. factor in reconsolidation decision. (Age/condition, geographical proximity, academic performance, ‘i have another idea’)
Which would be most imp factor in redistricting: geog. proximity, feeder school alignment, previous redistricting, Instructional capacity, difference in program offerings, another idea.

After that, we were split off into smaller groups (about 20 folks in each, but it was done by row, and should have been more random as we ended up with clusters of folks who knew each other in the same groups) and they asked us to talk about specific examples of what made us answer this way. For example, something like 80% of us said that overcrowding was a problem. They asked us about specific problems with trailers. With complete labs. With bathrooms. With HVAC. With groundskeeping. With school choice (choices and implementation). The overarching theme was that a lot of people mistrust the people who are going to be making decisions about reconsol, and redistr. When asked about SPLOST, most people said they didn’t want to pay more if they didn’t trust that the people controlling the money were managing it well. People complained about the questions = oftentimes, the answer for us would be “all of the above” but we were not given that option. There was a sense that folks thought the county was putting the cart before the horse.

A lot of people thought that this way of looking at it, with the surveys and the site visits, was not taking into consideration the culture of school districts, or the zoning of them. (for example, not looking at percentages of population of schools that will be in multi-family housing, or working with county zoning officials to understand what these populations would look like in five, ten, or 20 years.)

Some people mentioned that it didn’t take into consideration that people moved to areas with the sole purpose of attending particular schools, and the impact that the changes would have on these n’hoods. That there are areas where folks will refuse to send their child to a diff. school and will choose private instead, or will move to a different district again, thus changing the populations again. Or, might move to a different county altogether.

Complaints that it didn’t take into consideration that the most important factor for most of us was the quality of the education, not the quality of the facility.

We also had the opp. to talk to the head of the consulting firm and ask him questions. We asked what info would be published. For example, we wanted to know if they would be recommending closing/redistricting of SPECIFIC schools. The answer was yes. So, it sounds like we will have a better idea of what will happen in Jan when they give their recs.

We asked if the BOE had to use the recs. They said no – the final legal decision is up to the board. (Hopefully, there will be public outcry if we spend all this money on consulting and then don’t listen to the experts, though.) This also means that the squeaky wheel gets the grease may just influence the decision. (surprise.)

We asked what has happened in the past when they do this kind of study for a district. They did a similar one for St. Louis city schools. They recommended 29 school closings. The St. Louis school board only closed 17, i think he said. I also wonder if our closing list will be a similar NUMBER of schools. He said that we were similar districts, but that we had our own problems. One of the problems he listed, and the one that caught my attention, was our “school choice” or “school programs” – i inferred from that comment that maybe they have already identified programs like magnet and school choice programs as things that will probably need to go. (Note: he did not say that they would have to go, but he did list it off the top of his head as a problem.) So, i think that does not bode well for our magnet program, which does not bode well for our enrollment, which is not good. . .

Dec. 7 – the results from the charettes will be posted on the dekalb county website.
Jan – The Consulting firm’s recommendations for redistricting and consolidation will be given to the board (and will be made public.)
Feb – Board will approve or make changes to the firm’s recs. THE BOARD OF EDUCATION HAS THE RIGHT TO THE FINAL DECISION FOR RECONSOLIDATION AND REDISTRICTING. Which means, they do not have to implement the recommendations from the consulting firm. This is concerning to me, as we still have some of these idiots on the board, so who knows what they will decide in the end?

There was a lot more, but I honestly can’t remember it all – we were there over two hours. Perhaps other attendees can add to what I’ve put here. Was anyone else there?

Also, Dekalb School Watch Blog has a summary.

Dekalb is also gathering info online. Take the survey!

One last thing – they did allow us to fill out a form about our specific schools. i filled one out for all three (evansdale, HMS, and Lakeside.) They did not explain well how the information would be weighted, as far as tracking where the information is coming from, but the data in the large group was captured for which HIgh school clusters were present, and in the small groups, we filled out the questionnaires for our specific schools.

I cannot go to seven charettes, but I really, really think that it couldn’t hurt to try and have folks go to other ones. I am also really curious to see how the answers are going to differ at schools in less affluent areas. . . is anyone planning to go to a charette at a school in a different part of the county? I think we are deluding ourselves if we think their concerns are going to be the same as our concerns. (Hate to make it an us against them, n. dekalb vs. s. dekalb argument, but let’s be honest, those politics are at play here, or else the three Board members from those districts would not have been re-elected.)

Oh, lord. That was long. Doubt anyone is even reading this far, but if you are, give yourself a pat on the back.
p.s. Excuse any mistakes – don’t have time to go back and edit this.

p.p.s. Dekalb Parent notes on last night’s charette.

  4 comments for “Chamblee Charette Summary

  1. November 10, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    We asked if the BOE had to use the recs. They said no – the final legal decision is up to the board.

    I hope the board takes the recommendations to heart.

    It’s not the same situation, but at this one job I had years ago, the management brought in a consultant to help identify problems in how the company was being run, and to help us plan a way to move forward. Consultant surveyed employees both in groups, and some one-on-one interviews, then presented results and recommendations to everyone at the end.

    Management disagreed with the consultant’s findings, findings that didn’t reflect particularly well on management, and so after the consultant packed up and left we never heard another peep about it.

  2. November 10, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Yes, that is my fear, Lyle. Very discouraging. We just had elections for some board members and three of the most crooked ones (one of whom admitted openly that EVERYTHING for him is about race) were re-elected. I almost cried.

    However, there is a lot more public outcry and awareness now, so hopefully, they will do the right thing.

    The right thing may very well screw up our school and property values, though. sigh.

  3. Nikole
    November 10, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    I live in Dist. 1, but teach in Dist. 5. I will be attending a charette at Towers High and maybe the one at Lakeside.

  4. November 10, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    Would love to know how each charette goes.. . . Will you bet getting out to vote in the runoff, Nikole?

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