Wednesday, April 14, 2010

DeKalb County School Closings Report

DeKalb County School Closings Report
Submitted by Dr. Mary K. Sanders
DeKalb County NAACP, Education Committee Chair
Monday, April 12, 2010

DeKalb County is the third largest district in Georgia. The system’s deficit is at $115 million dollars. A number of proposals have been suggested to offset this enormous deficit.
The majority of the proposed closings are in one area of the county.
Initially, four schools were to be closed by the end of the school year in May. The first list included: Gresham Park, Sky Haven, Kelley Lake, and Midway. Midway has been removed from the list. The second list included: Meadowview, Peachcrest, Skyhaven and Toney. Toney has been removed from the list.
The Superintendent and other officials offered the criterion that any schools with an enrollment fewer than 450 students would be closed. Theme or Magnet schools were exempt. The reasons cited for the closings were a bad economy and errors made by DeKalb Tax Assessor’s office. The superintendent’s office has also offered assurances that the quality of education will not be inhibited by these closings. Affected students will be transferred to area (nearby) schools.
· Loss of jobs
· Decrease in new homeowners
· Negative effect on local area businesses
· Decrease in the tax base
· Increased class size (quality of our children’s education will be compromised due to increased class sizes)
· Transportation (will increased cost of transporting new students diminish savings of school closing?

We must safeguard our investment in our children who are our greatest resource. Some schools may be underutilized and you must determine why that is before closing the school in hast. If this was an action which needed to be taken, the parents and other citizen should have been informed earlier. A $115 million deficit just doesn’t happen overnight. Was this not forecasted before now? What measures were taken before it got to this point?

We have not been given all of the information on all of the schools in DeKalb County. The Board should be transparent in their process. The citizen should be provided with the list of criteria that the Board used to put a school on the list of closings before such a list is publicized.
The only criterion shared with the public is that any school with less than 450 students enrolled will be considered. Are these numbers based on actual student count or enrollment projections? How does one decide to close a school based on faulty enrollment figures?
Transportation is a high cost factor. The students will still need transportation. Where is the cost breakout? Additional bus routes with earlier schedules must also be considered. Transportation costs must be part of the equation before a final decision is made. Higher transportation cost will diminish the anticipated savings.
Also the age of the school and the condition of the school should be a factor. Will the repairs of the school outweigh the well being of the student?
The performance of the school is also a major factor. You should not want to dismantle a school and its staff who are meeting or excelling with their students.
School officials have indicated teachers would not be affected, when in all, actuality, they will. Your proposal to cut the paraprofessionals would have an impact on the teachers. Cutting the positions will have a direct impact on the unemployment rate in the County.
We would propose a salaries cut for highly paid administrators. By furloughing the administrators and/or cutting their salaries, it may save jobs and/or save furloughing several teachers. Loosing a job or furloughing one day could be devastating to someone making the salary of a teacher. Teachers are paid so little but are responsible for teaching our future leaders of the County.
We realize we are in tough times and tough choices have to be made. But do not close any school before making a detailed analyzes of the situation, exhausting every avenue and providing this information to the citizen. We pay our taxes and we pay your salaries. This is not a private matter and these are public schools.
This is our responsibility, the Adults. Do not make the children pay for what the adults have done.