DeKalb voters should give school chief vote of confidence and endorse E-SPLOST

Steve Green of DeKalb says the Opportunity School District is a similar power grab to what he faced in Missouri, which consisted of “powerful, ambitious officials exploiting a political situation rather than working with local school systems to address root causes of underachievement and provide what schools needed to succeed.”

Allyson Gevertz was a school psychologist in Gwinnett County Public Schools before becoming the parent of children in DeKalb County public schools. She is now an education advocate in DeKalb. In this piece, she explains why she will vote “yes” Tuesday on the penny sales tax for DeKalb schools.

By Allyson Gevertz

We froze to death. Years ago, during an Arctic crash simulation at a national public education conference, the DeKalb County School District team died. None of the other teams from the 16 large urban school districts met that fate — only DeKalb. The leadership teams of the other districts assessed the survival training of the people in their groups, developed creative ways of using the items that survived the impact of the plane crash, and came to a consensus on whether to walk away or to stay at the crash site.

Not DeKalb’s team — the lack of strategy proved fatal. In the aftermath of the Arctic crash simulation, each team had an opportunity to review a video recording of the deliberation process. Superintendents processed how they could have been more effective leaders in the emergency situation and what pieces of wisdom they could glean from their colleagues from around the country. DeKalb’s team opted not to analyze, change, or rethink anything; DeKalb County was unique–not like any other district at the conference — and no one should criticize the “DeKalb Way.”

Fast forward to 2016. DeKalb has a superintendent who has led his team through a major survival exercise.  Critical issues such as Cross Keys Cluster overcrowding, schools targeted for Opportunity School District takeover, and the system flexibility decision greeted Dr. Green on his first day of work last July.

He quickly had to assess the training of the people on his team: Who had the skills needed to address these issues?  Who was willing to innovate? Were there people from other districts who might have the expertise DeKalb needed?  Superintendent Green had to evaluate what was working in DeKalb, and objectively decide to cut programs, employees, and even political ties when they didn’t improve the outcomes for students. Over the last year, he has listened to community input, spoken with other superintendents, hired amazing new employees, studied the data, and drawn on his own rich experience.  The “DeKalb Way” is not a factor for him.

DeKalb will decide whether to continue our Education-SPLOST funding on May 24th. Voters are wondering whether Dr. Green will develop a project list the “DeKalb Way.” They ask whether this process is a bait-and-switch, whether politics will take hold, whether the loudest communities (or the communities more likely to vote) will be the ones to ultimately benefit from the renewal of E-SPLOST funding.  I believe that the answer to these questions is no.

Look at Dr. Green’s track record over the last year. He has demonstrated transparency and integrity at every turn.  Read his op-ed pieces. Ask parents who attended On the Scene with Dr. Green meetings. Visit the DeKalb E-SPLOST website. Analyze the objective assessments that have been compiled for each school facility. Complete the public input survey that seeks feedback on options for addressing secondary school needs across the district.

Dr. Green is a leader who assesses a situation, chooses the correct tools/people to solve the problem, and develops a consensus around a strategy. He is not afraid to seek counsel from outside his district and he does not feel threatened when asked to justify his decision-making. When other school districts implored Dr. Green to seek the SPLOST V vote in May instead of November, he yielded, but explained that he could not rush his process for developing the detailed project list. Projections for 2022 (the end of the SPLOST V funding window) show increased overcrowding of some high school clusters in DeKalb.  Because Dr. Green’s style is transparency and community collaboration in his decision-making, he is giving the public an opportunity to help problem-solve the overcrowding issue.

Dr. Green and the Board of Education are legally bound by the broad SPLOST V project list (safety and security improvements, new facilities/additions, facility condition improvements, technology enhancements, and capital equipment), but they are hosting at least six more public meetings to fine-tune those expenditures. When they finish the process, DeKalb will have the most future-focused, community-created, data-driven, detailed project list DeKalb has ever seen.

This strategic thinking is unprecedented in DeKalb, but it is the reason DeKalb is poised to survive and thrive — no more freezing in place.  Superintendent Green does not operate in the “DeKalb Way” and that is why I support his plan for SPLOST V.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

33 comments
MoFaux
MoFaux

I am voting NO because I see no point in having multiple funding sources, especially a regressive sales tax.  If a perpetual funding mechanism is needed, why isn't this just tacked on to our property taxes and presented to us in an adult fashion ("sorry folks, we're increasing property taxes for reasons x, y, and z").  Here's another novel idea: stop allowing churches and rich seniors to exempt themselves.  Seriously, if you are 70 years old and are making $84k or less, you pay ZERO taxes for our schools.  It's no wonder they need more poor people to pay more for their groceries to pay for substandard education...

ErnestB
ErnestB

@MoFaux


Since 1997, DeKalb has performed about 2 billion dollars of infrastructure improvements from SPLOST proceeds in the school district, in schools, transportation and technology.  Are you saying you would have preferred that property owners fully fund this instead of SPLOST?


While SPLOST has helped, it hasn't addressed all the infrastructure improvement needs of the school district.  DeKalb has more schools than any other school district in the state, partly because of the 'small, neighborhood school' philosophy from the 50's and 60's.  Do you think those schools were intended to last 50+ years without regular investments in them?


Citizens own the schools.  It is our responsibility to provide the funding to make the necessary improvements.  SPLOST is the best vehicle to do so.

concernedoldtimer
concernedoldtimer

As a retired teacher, would say NO till a very specific list of needs is produced.

moralemess
moralemess

Oh this is a NO brainer. And by that I mean vote NO. A DeKalb teacher talking here, and you would think I would WANT more $$ for my school. You've got 60 year old schools with crappy HVAC, original floors, bathrooms, doors, leaking ceilings, old technology, meanwhile the central office has lovely offices. Billions of dollars for what? They wasted that, and they will waste yet more. When you go to vote tomorrow, first go into the bathroom your child uses. Bet you don't like what you see. Then go back out and vote NO.

ErnestB
ErnestB

@moralemess


Do you think those sitting in new and/or refurbished schools have bad bathrooms?  Try going in the new 
Chamblee HS and asking how you could get that for your school if that school is Cross Keys.

ErnestB
ErnestB

I've already voted Yes.  My children benefited from 'Yes' votes from previous SPLOST referendums.  Though an 'empty nester' now, I want today's and tomorrow's children to also benefit.  


Region 1 has more students than seats available (similar to the situation my children experienced 10+ years ago).  This SPLOST will help with that, along with new buses, technology improvements and security enhancements.  I don't know how many buses or computers will be purchased however confident it will be done in a transparent manner.  Same applies for new and/or additions for schools.  


SPLOST has done what citizens expected it to do, provide funding for infrastructure improvements without putting that burden entirely on property owners.  We know the continued investments are needed.  SPLOST is the best vehicle to accomplish this.

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

Dr. Green and the BOE said no to underwriting the TAD with school money for the old GM site, that benefited only the Developers, so he showed fortitude when all the other connected politicians around him was screaming " You got to do this " he's showed real concern for DeKalb's kids with that decision, kudos to him

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

"Voters are wondering whether Dr. Green will develop a project list the “DeKalb Way.”"

You mean that all expenditures and projects will be in the southern end of the County??? 


" When other school districts implored Dr. Green to seek the SPLOST V vote in May instead of November, he yielded, but explained that he could not rush his process for developing the detailed project list."

So where is the project list with priorities and delivery dates? W/o that, there is no transparency in approving the SPLOST. We have overcrowding NOW. We have ignored  maintenance needs NOW. So where does the immediate needs fair in regards to desires? 

As with the bond program for libraries, the south side tried to squeeze out the reconstruction of the library in Brookhaven, among other projects, to build another senior citizen complex in the south and a second library in Stone Mountain. Until they were "caught with their hand in the cookie jar" the southern reps tried to move quickly.  Then the brakes went on....finally. This is one reason the cities of Tucker, Brookhaven, and Dunwoody were created.

When their was a "surplus" when the bonds were refinanced did any money go to shoring up the underfunded County pension system? To infrastructure in need of fixing? Heck no, just for more infrastructure in the south.

Get a list of projects with priorities, real costs, and schedules for delivery. If not no SPLOST approval.



Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I, too, have been impressed and remain hopeful about Mr.Green's ability to lead Dekalb schools out of the mess they have become. However, if I were a Dekalb voter, I am not sure I would vote in favor of the esplost unless there was a pretty specific list of goals attached to it.  It appears there are only generalities.


In my county, the school administration wrote, and voters approved, an esplost list that was twisted(by virtue of a comma) to "include" a veritable mansion for the school board/superintendent's office.  This, in a relatively poor county with many needs.  For this reason, I will NEVER vote in favor of another one.


I urge the voters of Dekalb to look CAREFULLY at the list submitted for their splost money.  Don't just assume it will address the needs you see.  If it is not pretty specific, I would recommend voting against it. I think you can be pretty sure that the system will come back around, when the time comes again, to submit a specific, articulated set of goals for the money if they find that the voters will not affirm their general list this time.

dekalbteacher
dekalbteacher

As a Dekalb teacher who has worked under six different superintendents, I agree that Dr. Green is a welcome change. However, the "Dekalb Way" of which Ms. Gevertz speaks, is deeply ingrained in this school system. Dr. Green does appear to be making the necessary changes in his cabinet, but how much are the school houses benefiting from these changes? How many buses continued to arrive late to school this year? How many times did the school district fail to secure enough substitutes this year? 


This teacher can't tell whether the many "Dekalb Way" employees in this organization of 15,0000+ aren't telling Dr. Green what he needs to know or whether Dr. Green can only put out so many fires-or save only so many people from freezing to death. In any case, Dr. Green appears to be continuing the "Dekalb Way" of building classes to the maximum number and allowing numerous highly paid educators to work outside the classroom. In addition, many of the regional superintendents identified in Dr. Green's reorganization are the ones who have worked and trained under the "Dekalb Way" (mis)leaders who have prioritized adults' needs over students' needs. Even if Dr. Green were to replace these regional superintendents over the summer, school houses are creating next year's school plan now, so much of the damage is done for next year.


I hope Ms.Gevertz is right. Dekalb's students and the metro area need Dekalb to improve.

superdelegate
superdelegate

Shoveling more money down a rat hole. That's what increasing the tax burden will amount to, unless the school district has a plan to further parental choice.

Do they?

dg417s
dg417s

@superdelegate DeKalb probably has more parental choice than any district in the state - and those schools (DSA, DECA, etc.) are some of the top schools in the state, by the way. This is not a tax increase - it is maintaining the tax rate in order to meet the needs of future DeKalb students with regards to getting them to school, ensuring that they are ready to operate in a 21st century world, and ensure that their buildings aren't falling down around them like in Detroit. I am hopeful, both as a DeKalb educator and a DeKalb taxpayer that this will pass.

superdelegate
superdelegate

@RoadScholar @superdelegate 

How about a plan for more parents? 

One that shames the rest of government into addressing the 72% illegitimacy rate in the black community. The real root of the problem.

So future generations of black children have a chance.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@superdelegate How about a plan for more parental responsibility for their children and schools? That is the root of the problem.


More "corrective" schools for those who students who disrupt the present system? Maybe even "boot camp" schools who also teach discipline, learning, and achievement?

redweather
redweather

If only voters could be sure that Dr. Green will stick around.

Astropig
Astropig

My understanding of the DeKalb ESPLOST is that they were extremely vague on exactly what the money would be used for. If still true,that's always been a recipe for disaster in DeKalb.I generally like these type of really broad based taxes so that everyone pays something into the kitty,but lack of accountability or transparency or any solid plan would cause me to vote no.


Have they been any more specific on their plans for this,if passed?

TheDeal2
TheDeal2

@Astropig They have not.  In fact, they are going to have community input sessions this summer - AFTER the vote.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I, like the author of this article Allyson Gevertz, am impressed with the character and ability of Superintendent Green as well as pleased with what he has accomplished for the DeKalb County School System in a short duration of time. 

I had spent 29 years of my 35 year career in education as a teacher and as an instructional leader within the DCSS.  

I urge all of DeKalb County's citizens to vote "yes" for the penny sales tax for DeKalb schools, in support of Dr. Green's plan for SPLOST V, on Tuesday, May 24th.

Kirk Lunde
Kirk Lunde

Allyson has rose colored glasses. She also seems to have forgotten the emails I sent to her regarding the "objective" assessment of Midvale Elementary School. The Midvale school council had concerns regarding factual errors and scores contained in the assessments, but no one from DeKalb's administration would address their concerns. Emails started in December. No response. I raised our concerns at the February BOE public input meeting and the regional superintendent met with the school council. However, he refused to discuss the assessments. More emails to Dr. Green. Still, no answers. To say the district is getting community input is misleading. Yes. There are surveys and meetings. When administrators refuse to answer specific questions, it creates a climate of distrust. When administrators refuse to discuss the scores given in a Facility Educational Adequacy Assessment or a Facility Condition Assessment, it casts a cloud over those scores. When the Facility Condition Assessment states the roof needs repairs, and classifies it as a Priority 2 Deficit, and the scheduled year for those repairs is 2025, it defies logic. There are a multitude of flaws in the Facility Condition Assessments posted on the district's web page. To build a project list from the assessments posted is to repeat the mistakes of the past. I am asking voters not to repeat the mistakes of the past and to vote NO on Tuesday.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Nothing good comes of being negative.  Maybe that is why you got no responses.


Vote "yes," folks, to keep improving the DCSS.

dekalbteacher
dekalbteacher

@MaryElizabethSings 

I've read many of your posts in the last year. You obviously care about education. Are you really intending to suggest that pointing out legitimate issues with the spending of millions of dollars is "being negative"?  If so, then you might be perpetuating the "Dekalb Way" that has so many taxpayers concerned. The "Dekalb Way" has been to point out a few improvements and then use children as the bargaining chips. Many of the same people ok with getting new offices, new equipment, new cars, etc... are still working in this organization. The new administrative facility would be fine if we didn't have a generation of students still trying to learn in conditions that weren't good enough for the adults.


I really wish Dr. Green had done more-or been able to do more-to convince us that things-not just organizational charts-are really different before this vote.

I'd like to believe that voting yes will improve the educational experience for all students, but I'm just not seeing enough evidence of institutional changes to simply hope and be positive. 

TheDeal2
TheDeal2

I support Kirk's position.  He is a parent who is down in the weeds with what is going on at the schoolhouse level.  He doesn't take the town hall/state of the district speeches at face value; he waits to see if action is taken where it really matters, at the schoolhouse.  His home school is Midvale where he serves on the school council.  He has an intimate view and understanding of how parents and councils are being served by our central office and the board of education.  I trust his statements and agree with him.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@dekalbteacher @MaryElizabethSings


As the writer pointed out above, Dr. Green simply did not have the time before the voting process on Tuesday to have put on the record those plans in detail.  I trust Dr. Green and I trust that his commitment will be to use that sales tax increase to made good his promises to the people of DeKalb County to place his priorities on the student/teacher learning process in that county.  He wants to improve public education for all students and all families so that separate schools such as private charter schools, which cannot serve all the children, will not be necessary to insure quality education for every student.


As an educator, that would always be my priority.  I cannot stand down from Dr. Green's dream at this time.  In his case, I have faith that he will come through for the students, families, and citizens of DeKalb County.  I know educational leadership well and can size it up well in terms of quality - in that half of my life was dedicated to implementing Dr. Green's dream (before he was even here) in my professional educational career in DeKalb County. 

Starik
Starik

The Superintendent is definitely a welcome addition to the DeKalb schools.  I love his position on the Doraville Debacle.  The best thing he can do is gerrymander a few schools catering to white educational traditions to try to lure some whites back in... a system that's 11% white is effectively segregated.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Starik In Doraville, why not require that the businesses there have a high school student intern program? How about a school there?

Starik
Starik

@RoadScholar @Starik You misunderstand, my fault. The Doraville Debacle is a plan to build a giant retail/residential complex in Doraville, a seedy little town that's one of our worst speed traps - they literally make a living off a couple of miles of interstate highway. The developers want the school system to sign on to a tax abatement scheme which will enrich the city and the developer, and Superintendent Green refused to sign on.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Starik @RoadScholar And I say good for him!  School systems should not be gambling away tax money, nor should they become sponsors of development.


School systems have their hands full already.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik


There is nothing that says that an all black school system cannot be an outstanding school system.


Your racial biases are showing, imo.

Starik
Starik

@MaryElizabethSings @Starik  That's true, in principle, in fact there's a majority black system in southern Long Island that's quite good. Can't think of one in this part of the country though.