Opinion: Yes, DeKalb board member attended annexation meetings. Colleagues should have, too.

DeKalb County school board member Marshall Orson is facing complaints he advocated for annexation, an allegation he denies. Critics cite emails he sent on the issue.

The AJC reported Friday:

Some DeKalb County residents in the affected area are calling for Orson’s resignation, saying he is not working in the best interests of the district. “What he wrote (in the emails) should concern any parent in this district,” said DeKalb County resident Dawn Forman, an 18-year educator who now home-schools her 7-year-old son. “When he’s been confronted (about advocating for annexation) he’d always say he wasn’t orchestrating this.

Orson told an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter that he was not advocating annexation but was merely urging that proponents keep neighborhoods intact. Were they to take portions of DeKalb County into Atlanta, he said, he hoped they would take entire elementary school attendance zones or even the whole Druid Hills High School cluster.

“My goal was, if annexation were to ensue, we should try to find a way to keep the cluster together,” he said. “I am recognizing that if annexation were to occur — I’ve taken no position on annexation itself — I want there to be an orderly process.” He said that an email might not have been the best way to communicate that sentiment. “This is one of those things where you say, in retrospect, I shouldn’t have sent it, ” he said, adding that it was dashed off in haste on his cellphone.

A parent activist in DeKalb takes up Orson’s defense today, saying he attended community meetings other DeKalb officials chose to ignore.

DeKalb parent and education advocate Allyson Gevertz is co-founder of the countywide parent advocacy group Parent Councils United.

By Allyson Gevertz

The annexation of Druid Hills into Atlanta has been brewing for two years. The pro-annexation members of the Druid Hills Civic Association Board were pleasantly surprised by the swell of support after the Druid Hills Charter Cluster petition was denied by the DeKalb Board of Education.

A parent activist says it seemed everyone was talking about annexation in DeKalb except the school board and superintendent. KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

A parent activist says it seemed everyone was talking about annexation in DeKalb last year except the school board and superintendent. KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

The annexation movement gained momentum last summer. In August, Emory LaVista Parent Council (which covers all of the schools in the Druid Hills High School and Lakeside High School footprints) hosted a meeting that focused on the issues impacting Druid Hills. Representatives from school district, the charter cluster, and the DeKalb legislative delegation were invited to speak.

Initially, Superintendent Michael Thurmond planned to send someone from the legal department, who could address the legalities of the annexation issue and the potential impact on the schools. However, the person who attended the meeting on behalf of DCSD was Dr. Linda Frazer who spoke about the charter process and said she was not sent to answer questions or discuss annexation.

All Board of Education members were invited to the meeting, but only two attended, Marshall Orson and Jim McMahan.

In September, one of the most frequently asked questions at the State of the District address was, “How is the DeKalb County School District going to handle the Druid Hills/Atlanta annexation issue?”

Superintendent Thurmond responded annexation was not going to happen. There were no plans to meet with disgruntled Druid Hills Charter Cluster petitioners, no plans to ask Atlanta Pubic Schools about their ideas regarding DeKalb’s schools, and no plans to lobby the DeKalb delegation on behalf of DeKalb’s public school students.

As the months passed, citizens organized meetings, contacted elected officials, and scoured online resources for information about what annexation would mean. Many parents, hoping to open communication between school district and Druid Hills, asked the school board and the superintendent to become engaged in the process.

The board member who consistently attended community meetings (even though all school board members were invited) was Marshall Orson. Residents across DeKalb began to view Mr. Orson as a resource. Parents were desperate for information, and Mr. Orson assured parents that he would try to find answers. He attended meetings, asked questions, and spoke publicly.

At times, his public comments referenced the Druid Hills charter cluster petition and the board’s handling of the petition. In retrospect, I’m guessing Mr. Orson would agree some of those opinions would have been better suited for a private audience. However, at no time did Mr. Orson publicly voice support for annexation. In fact, on numerous occasions, he stated he would lose his board seat if annexation occurred.

Lately, media reports have questioned Mr. Orson’s suitability as a board member. In fact, some community members have asked that he step down as a Board of Education member. I am not in Mr. Orson’s district and I am not in favor of annexation.

However, I am acutely aware of the frantic parents who have been losing sleep for months over the annexation issue. I’m also aware information seeking often includes attending meetings and listening.

Just because someone attends a meeting doesn’t mean that he/she agrees with the premise of the meeting. Mr. Orson attended many meetings with Atlanta officials, DeKalb delegation members, and Together In Atlanta supporters, but that doesn’t mean he was pushing the annexation effort.

I believe he was trying to address the concerns of DeKalb parents, both in his district and beyond. When parents in the Druid Hills and surrounding areas were desperately seeking answers, they turned to their school district.

They asked for contingency plans, straight talk, and solution-based collaboration. The superintendent and most school board members did not attempt to address the concerns proactively. Instead, at the December 8th school board meeting, the superintendent gave an annexation presentation that ended with a request for $2.5 million to reserve for litigation.

We are now at the end of the 2015 legislative session, and the Druid Hills annexation is on the table. Citizens are continuing to ask what will happen to their neighborhoods and their schools.

I’m not suggesting Mr. Orson has handled his position perfectly, but I do believe his engagement and interest in the annexation issue were appropriate. I wish all the Board of Education members had been as tuned-in to the needs of the Druid Hills residents.

The school board members are elected to represent all of the students in DeKalb. Why weren’t they all seeking information and solutions to the annexation issue?

Why didn’t they all attend meetings with Atlanta officials, APS leaders, and DeKalb delegation members in an effort to seek solutions to the problems that sparked the movement in the first place?  If this annexation happens, it will impact students throughout DeKalb — shouldn’t our elected officials address this by proactive collaboration rather than reactive litigation?

I hope that as DeKalb citizens wrestle with the annexation issue, they will consider the role of school district and the entire DeKalb school board — not just the role of one board member who responded to citizens’ concerns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

50 comments
HowdyJune
HowdyJune

At the same meeting where Mr. Thurmond asked for $2.5 million to fight Druid Hills, School Board member Thad Mayfield proposed that members of the school board get directly involved in conducting talks with Druid Hills.  For whatever reason, Dr. Melvin Johnson has taken no action to to so, to discuss possible solutions with Druid Hills, and to resolve this matter in a manner that all sides could support.  Failing that, Mr. Orson appears to have attempted to find answers and solutions for his constituents.


That is the big problem with the Dekalb County School System - it develops its answer and it is either that way or the highway.  It absolutely refuses to listen to any other viewpoint.  There are many good ideas in Dekalb County that should have been considered by the Dekalb County School Board that would have probably avoided some of the problems it faces today.


I just wish that the State would take over all schools in Dekalb County.  It couldn't help but do a better job than is being done by the Dekalb County School System.

MattReads
MattReads

Marshall Orson should not have organized annexation meetings with Emory officials (Wan and Willis), Atlanta politicians (Wan again), and people (Lewis) who got their charter cluster proposal rejected by DeKalb County schools.  If you get something rejected, then revise it and resubmit it.  You don't go ahead and enlist the help of Atlanta and Emory to steal three of those schools and a science center from DeKalb County schools.  And you can't say that most people in Druid Hills want to be in Atlanta, because the survey done while these initial meetings were taking place does not show that.

DeKalb Mama
DeKalb Mama

All of this hullabaloo over Mr. Orson, a member of the DCSD, and nothing about Mr. Thurmond? Mr. Orson is the only board member who's actually doing his job! Board best practices require members of a board to advise the administrative staff of policies and potential solutions to issues that may be arising. By trying to squelch the one board member who has done his job and gone to uncover what possible solutions may be available when annexation into Atlanta for parts of DeKalb occurs, Mr. Thurmond has clearly overstepped his bounds as interim superintendent. See, he reports to the board, and not vice versa. And his job? Well it's to run the schools. What a bang-up job he's doing there!


SACS probation was targeted toward the board, and very specifically, toward the BOE failing to operate in a cohesive manner and failing to act as a proactive guiding authority for the policies of DCSD. We're off probation - for now - but this witch hunt is going to catch their eye sooner rather than later. It's time for ALL board members to step up and determine what will happen as a result of the inevitable cities and annexations, and to look for creative solutions. It's time for our interim superintendent to step aside and let the search for a qualified, permanent candidate proceed. It's time for our interim superintendent to work proactively and creatively to manage the impacts of the various annexations proposed. 


What about the new bills for the Decatur, Clarkston, and Avondale annexations? There are 400+ kids being yanked out of the DHHS attendance track. Where's the outcry there? The commercial land grab by Decatur will take untold dollars from DeKalb schools. Where is the set-aside for litigation there? Avondale ends up with elementary, middle, and high school facilities within its city boundaries - virtually empty. When Decatur moves to take over those properties, where is the outcry? If you really want to take out a magnifying glass and look for villains, look for those who have pushed this newest legislation in at the last minute, with outcry focusing attention elsewhere, whistling their tune. Or look to Mr. Thurmond, himself, who may just want to remove that "interim" from his Superintendent title....

DeKalb Mama
DeKalb Mama

@EducationForAll That's where you and I will have to disagree. I think that Mr. Orson is doing his job by having meetings to discuss. I don't see any evidence that these meetings were "closed door". Please drop the conspiracy language. 


The buildings are resources for the community to use for its students. That is black letter law. When the students go, they take their facilities with them, as theoretically, the community pays for them. Of this is truly about buildings, then let's talk about that - DeKalb has plenty of vacant capacity to house any displaced students, as you mentioned in the next paragraph. 


EducationForAll
EducationForAll

@DeKalb Mama I'm not sure how attending closed-door, private meetings with TIA, Alex Wan, MMO, and others and developing strategies to pave the way for annexation into ATL is doing his job.  This really isn't a solution that benefits all of DCSD.  If it is, please explain.


We went on probation largely because board members were looking out for small constituencies rather than the district as a whole.  Sounds to me just what Marshall Orson has been up to and could likely end us up there again.


Yes, other board members and the district should be involved in thinking about solutions for possible annexation and cityhood, but those discussions should be open and transparent.


As I noted below, the concern is about the loss of access to the buildings and the programs, not the loss of students.  The Decatur annexation does not take any buildings, just students.  I think that people would be okay with the ATL annexation if the students went and the buildings and programs were left behind.  No outcries over the Clarkston and Avondale annexations because those don't affect schools.  The kids in those areas and the tax dollars in those areas would stay with DCSD.


I know that several neighborhood associations have spoken out against the Decatur annexation because of the loss of commercial tax revenue to DCSD.  I do think that the district should speak out about it.  In terms of litigation, it would be difficult because the law is pretty clear.  The movement of school buildings from DCSD to ATL is more open to litigation because the case law is unclear (despite what Marshall Orson might tell you).

 Although I don't see how the City of Decatur is going to take over school buildings if they are within the city limits of Avondale Estates unless the cities combine, I do think that there would be an outcry if Decatur tried to take those schools without compensating DCSD.  Indeed, Peggy Merriss has publicly stated that she did not think that school buildings necessarily went with a city if they annex an area.  The outcry might be different though since those schools are currently vacant and taking them over would not displace 80% of the students who attend the school.

EducationForAll
EducationForAll

@DeKalb Mama If they were open meetings, then why weren't they advertised and the public invited?  From my readings of the emails, the only people invited were those in leadership positions with an agenda to promote annexation into ATL.

I take it from your response that you think that it is okay to displace 80% of the student population from the high school?  If so, I will have to disagree with you on that.

TheDeal2
TheDeal2

Is anyone jumping all over any areas that want to annex into Decatur?  At some point, Decatur needing more revenue to support its own schools is going to make its way into a residential neighborhood that will impact the school system.  It wouldn't be as much of an impact, but why is there no uprising against Decatur annexations?  It removes children from DeKalb County Schools just like the ATL annexation.  What if Medlock ever got into Decatur?  Would there be an uprising about that school building and the ripple effects of the local elementary, middle, and high schools?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@TheDeal2  I think we ought to rescind Decatur City Schools grandfather status and dump them into DCSS.  THAT would shake some people up!

EducationForAll
EducationForAll

@TheDeal2 The concern is about the loss of access to the buildings and the programs, not the loss of students.  The Decatur annexation does not take any buildings, just students.  I think that people would be okay with the ATL annexation if the students went and the buildings and programs were left behind.


I know that several neighborhood associations have spoken out against the Decatur annexation because of the loss of commercial tax revenue to DCSD.  I do think that the district should speak out about it.  In terms of litigation, it would be difficult.  The movement of school buildings from DCSD to ATL is more open to litigation because the case law is unclear (despite what Marshall Orson might tell you).

DeKalb Mama
DeKalb Mama

@EducationForAll @TheDeal2 You watch what happens to those underattended / vacant buildings that will now be a part of Avondale Estates. Easier to bring AE into Decatur or into CSD and grab those than to buy / build new....

TheDeal2
TheDeal2

@EducationForAll You're kidding, right?  None of the Atlanta annexation uproar is over losing students?  Did you realize when you lose students, you lose teachers, too?  And if a building loses enough students, those students are moved elsewhere? This is turning into an interesting story as Decatur picks away at DeKalb with nary a peep of objection while Atlanta annexation elicits this major response. 

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

This is a very well written letter.  The writer is clear about her affiliation so she does not have a conflict of interest. I have not spoken with Marshall in several years.   I worked with him a number of years ago and I can absolutely attest to him being a good man.   Smart and principled.   Unless there is a smoking gun we're not aware of, I am not seeing the threshold crossed that would indicate that Marshall should resign or be forced to resign his seat.

ErnestB
ErnestB

@living-in-outdated-ed To mirror @bu2's comments below, 


I am a DeKalb County citizen and do not support the annexation initiative.


I agree with Ms. Gervetz that there is no issue with Mr. Orson's actions or words.  I take him at his word with him saying some things could have been articulated better.  It is tough being a private citizen and a public official, especially when you may be personally impacted by a decision.

DekalbInsideOut
DekalbInsideOut

Orson voted 'yes' to hire lawyers to fight the State BOE when they removed the board.  That wasn't in the best interest of the children, but nobody filed ethics charges.


Orson is duplicitous when he publicly is neutral and privately supports annexation, but we can't file ethics charges every time somebody says something you don't agree with.


Orson gave us that lame lie when he recommended Thurmond for Superintendent because he saw Thurmond speak once and was “impressed”, but still no reason to bring him up on charges.

Raja44
Raja44

@DekalbInsideOut  Orson fought his ouster from the school board because it took place literally within a matter of days after he took office.  The State BOE sought to remove board members for alleged malfeasance that occurred prior to Orson ever taking office (a fact which I believe you are fully aware of, DIO).  Under those twilight zone type circumstances -- "we're going to remove you due to your predecessor's alleged wrongs" -- I'd say anyone would be justified in fighting their ouster.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

If this annexation were to occur, do parents really think the school buildings would willy-nilly be given to APS? Do they not realize their kids would be absorbed into existing APS schools? Is this what they really want?

ethicsplease
ethicsplease

@Starik @Wascatlady Uh ... many of the people impacted will NOT get to vote on this matter. I am not in the annexation area but my kids' high school is. Besides, I already voted for a school board member who I expected to represent the best interests of ALL the children in his district.

Starik
Starik

@ethicsplease @Starik @Wascatlady Maybe you should have worked to include your area in the proposed annexation.  I feel your pain, but the charter school effort having failed what solution do you propose? 

EducationForAll
EducationForAll

@Starik @ethicsplease @Wascatlady Parts of the cluster are included in other maps, like LaVista Hills, or are in Avondale Estates, which is already a city.  In these cases, people can't be included in the map for ATL.


Yes, the charter cluster effort failed.  Does this mean that we should just take our ball and go home?

DeKalb Mama
DeKalb Mama

@Wascatlady It is settled black letter law that the schools (well, specifically the facilities in place to provide education for the student population) follow the children, as they are the population for whom the schools were built in the first place. 

bu2
bu2

@DeKalb Mama @Wascatlady 

No, its not settled.


Its all by ancient court cases and none specifically match this situation.


So the schools probably follow the city limits without compensation, but its not certain.  Decatur is of the opinion that they would NOT get the buildings if they annexed.

DeKalb Mama
DeKalb Mama

@bu2 @DeKalb Mama @Wascatlady Actually, it is settled. The cases may be old, but they're still settled law. No two sets of facts are ever going to be identical, yet underlying legal principles do still govern. Property owners pay for the schools in their community, and where goes the property, so go the schools. 

bu2
bu2

@EducationForAll @DeKalb Mama @bu2 @Wascatlady 

Its not Marshall saying its settled law, just the TIA group.


There's also never been a case where a school is built in the first two years of an SPLOST with funds from that tax as the new Fernbank ES will be.


And as I said earlier, Decatur has a different opinion.  In a meeting in Medlock, they said they would not get the old Medlock Elementary (or similar property elsewhere) if they annexed the area.


Reality is most likely that the legislature would decide it as they did with Dunwoody and the DeKalb County parks.

TribePride
TribePride

@bu2 Marshall Orson has stated at multiple meetings sponsored by PTA organizations that this IS settled law, and also in a followup conversation with me after one of those meetings. It seems to have been a carefully crafted message to avoid any questioning of the legal precedent.

bu2
bu2

@TribePride @bu2 


What I heard at the DHHS PTA meeting (Wan, Orson, Oliver, Parent, Rader, Gannon, DCSS admin rep, one other DCSS board member) was just facts, no absolutism or "crafting."   They (I don't remember if it was Orson or one of the others) said that there was a court case from about 100 years ago that got reinforced a couple of times later, the latest around 1980.  The general consensus was that it went with the annexed area, but not everyone on the panel seemed certain of that.  The general answer of that informational meeting to every question about the result if annexation happens was, no one has any idea what will happen or how things will be done.  In other words, the city of Atlanta and APS haven't planned anything, promised anything or have a clue about anything.

EducationForAll
EducationForAll

@DeKalb Mama @bu2 @Wascatlady There has never been a case in which the entire school population served by a building was not annexed into a city, as would be true with the high school and the science center.


You and Marshall and others can continue to chant the mantra, but repeating something many, many times does NOT make it true.

TribePride
TribePride

@bu2 By the time the DHHS PTA meeting was held, pointed questions were being asked by communities about the legalities surrounding school building transfers between systems. However, at meetings hosted by the Fernbank PTA and the Laurel Ridge PTA, Orson was very clear and resolute that his legal interpretation of the case law was that buildings would move from DCSD to APS in an annexation scenario. And in a followup conversation after the Fernbank meeting, when I questioned whether this case law would still apply in a scenario where DHHS falls within the annexation footprint but >75% of the school's students come from outside the annexation footpring, he argued that the case law was settled on this point.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Yes, DeKalb County, by all means (lots of legal expenditures), keep kids TRAPPED in DeKalb County schools.  Now I don't understand why they would rather move to APS, but that should be THEIR choice. Dekalb only wants to keep them for their money.

EducationForAll
EducationForAll

@class80olddog But what if THEIR choice has a negative impact on a large number of kids whose parents have NO choice in the matter?  That seems to be an interesting lesson in democracy for our children.


BTW, I would venture to guess that few parents in the Druid Hills cluster think that APS will be a panacea.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@EducationForAll @class80olddog  "But what if THEIR choice has a negative impact on a large number of kids whose parents have NO choice in the matter"


What "negative impact" are you speaking of?  Using their higher taxes to boost spending in poor areas?  Are you advocating "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need"?


You know, if DeKalb had negotiated in good faith about the issues that Druid Hills has with the DeKalb county school system, maybe an agreement could have been reached.  Perhaps if they had not fought a Druid Hills Charter Cluster, this could have been avoided.  Instead, their approach is "this is not going to happen, and we will spend a lot of legal funds (taking away from ALL DeKalb students) to make sure it does not happen."

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@EducationForAll @class80olddog 

Those parents "have NO choice in the matter [voting on the annexation]" because they don't pay any Druid Hills property taxes. They won't be affected by an annexation in any way except their children won't be able to attend DH schools from out of the DH distict. But annexation is going to involve higher property taxes, different tax discounts for seniors, different city services...

 

EducationForAll
EducationForAll

@class80olddog @EducationForAll I am talking about access to the high school and the programs there and access to Fernbank Science Center.  I am also talking about the impact of rezoning of schools that would happen and have effects in neighboring clusters.


While I agree that the school system could have engaged with the charter cluster to a greater degree, I didn't see the charter cluster engaging with the district to any degree.  The whole thing involved mutual distrust rather than a collaborative effort to show how this could be beneficial for the district as a whole, as well as the cluster.

bu2
bu2

@OriginalProf @EducationForAll @class80olddog 

@OP  He is referring to the 75% of students at DHHS who live in the attendance zone, but NOT the annexation zone.  Those 1000 or so students would lose their school.


You're referring simply to the 200 or so who attend Briar Vista or Fernbank ESs who don't live in those zones.


In addition, there are 220 who live in the annexation zone, but go to schools other than Briar Vista, Fernbank, DHHS or DHMS, who would lose their schools.

EducationForAll
EducationForAll

Ms. Gevertz should also be concerned because Betty Willis from Emory was a part of these PRIVATE, CLOSED DOOR meetings, and she is the person that Marshall Orson selected as his representative for the community advisory committee for the superintendent search.  Do we really think that someone who is party to plans to move an entire cluster into ATL is the best person to look out for the interest of the entire district in this very important decision process.

Hung Dong
Hung Dong

@EducationForAll Emory has been officially neutral on annexation.  They have said this in public on multiple occasions.  The status quo is the best option for Emory at the present time.  Therefore, the choice of Betty WIllis as one of the 2 community advisers does serve to exonerate Orson in whatever we are calling this distraction right now.


EducationForAll
EducationForAll

@Hung Dong Except that Betty Willis has been intimately involved in this closed-door, private strategy sessions related to annexation into ATL.  Although Emory has been officially neutral, the involvement of Betty Willis in these meetings belies these public statements.

Unfortunately, we can no longer believe what Emory and Betty Willis state publicly with respect to annexation.

TheDeal2
TheDeal2

Is Marshall allowed to do anything as a citizen and taxpayer of Dekalb County?  Does he have to live as a school board member 24 hours a day?  He isn't a full-time elected official.  Anyone who thinks there are serious issues with the school system can't be a school board member?  By the way, annexation would not "destroy" DeKalb Schools.  It would make it smaller but it wouldn't destroy it.  That is like saying that a Dekalb elected official cannot be in favor of new cities. Cities will take away parts of Dekalb County but it won't destroy it.  Part of me thinks this is a witch hunt to get Marshall off the board before a new superintendent can be elected although he is already in the minority on the school board anyway for quality, educated school board members.

bu2
bu2

@EducationForAll @TheDeal2 


I live in Druid Hills and am very opposed to annexation.


I also agree with Ms. Gervetz that there is no issue with Mr. Orson's actions or words.


He has not been publically advocating for breaking up the district.  The only thing he has been publically advocating is keeping the cluster together whatever happens, in other words, advocating for the students.  I'm not sure that calling for breaking up the district would be an issue even if he were as long as it was merely speech.  One could argue that splitting the district into smaller pieces would be in the best interests of all of the district (not that I agree, but its a legitimate point of view).


This seems to be another example of our sad state of politics of trying to silence those who don't agree 100% with you and viewing all those who disagree as evil conspirators.  We had to discontinue getting e-mails from DeKalb Strong because of all the nutty conspiracy comments members of their group were putting out.




bu2
bu2

@DekalbInsideOut 


#1  Orson did not write that e-mail.  It was from the PTA president at the time.


#2  There's nothing wrong with that e-mail.  Its merely showing the group how to participate effectively in the process the district set out.


EducationForAll
EducationForAll

@TheDeal2 Yes, Marshall can be a citizen and taxpayer and have a personal opinion.  He can also have issues with the school district and be a board member.  However, if his actions as a citizen lead to his violating his oath of office, this is called a conflict of interest.  If he is in favor of annexation, that is fine.  He should resign his position on the school board due to the conflict of interest.


Also, holding elected officials accountable for their actions is not a witch hunt.


Those who are advocating for him to resign are NOT part of some larger conspiracy to remove him from office before the superintendent search, but rather people who live in his district (including me) who are tired of him advocating for a small minority of constituents, rather than the entire cluster and school district as a whole.  We need effective leadership on the board, but an effective leader is one that can set aside personal bias and advocate for what is best for the entire district.  Marshall Orson is clearly not this person.

EducationForAll
EducationForAll

@bu2 The problem is not what he is publicly advocating for, but what he is privately doing behind closed doors while a member of school board.  True that one way to keep most of the cluster together would be for the entire cluster to go into ATL (sorry Avondale!).  Another alternative would be to work to keep the cluster in DeKalb.  

While I agree that there should be more local control and that schools might be better managed at the cluster level, this move would not be splitting the district into smaller pieces. This action would move part of the cluster out of one large district into another large district.


I think that people would be less opposed if just the elementary schools and their entire attendance zones went to APS.  However, the high school that serves a much larger student population outside of the annexation area and the Fernbank Science Center that serves the entire district is a different question.

EducationForAll
EducationForAll

Although I respect the work that Ms Gevertz has done over the years, she unfortunately misses the boat on this one and has become part of the spin to explain away Marshall Orson's unethical behavior and breach of his oath of office.  It is true that he attended public meetings when others did not.  That is not the issue.  The issue is the large number of PRIVATE, CLOSED DOOR strategy sessions that he attended with members of TIA, Alex Wan, Mary Margaret Oliver, and representatives from Emory.  Other members of the school board weren't there, because they weren't invited.  Other members of the public on either side of the issue weren't there either, because they weren't invited either.  These were CLOSED DOOR meetings, at times initiated by Marshall Orson, to discuss ways to smooth the path to annexation of the Fernbank and Briar Vista Elementary Clusters along with Druid Hills High School and Fernbank Science Center into Atlanta.  To quote someone who was at one of the meetings " I was actually at that meeting and others with him [Marshall Orson] and I know what was said. Marshall actually supported going to Atlanta yes, but he also laid this out as a plan where the other zones would follow in a coming year or two after, eventually getting the entire zone of the DHCC. This was always the plan..."  To me, this is not advocating for the best outcome for the cluster or the school district and is NOT what an elected school board representative should be doing behind CLOSED doors.  Ms. Gevertz should be concerned about this, because annexation of parts of the Druid Hills cluster into ATL will lead to changes in attendance lines that have the potential to impact her cluster.  Also, it will affect the access of all students in DCSD to Fernbank Science Center.  Aside from those direct impacts, she should be concerned that a school board member has breached his oath of office and is advocating for a small group of constituents rather than the district as a whole.  This is the type of behavior that got DCSD in trouble with SACS in the first place.


Would it have been nice if other members of the board and the central office had engaged in PUBLIC meetings about annexation?  Yes.  But, again, these were NOT PUBLIC meetings, these were multiple CLOSED DOOR, private meetings with only annexation supporters in the room.  I am unaware of any closed door, private strategy sessions he held with annexation opponents, but my guess is diminishingly few.