Decatur School Board to Ask for $75 Million Bond

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The AJC reports that Superintendent Phyllis Edwards convinced the Decatur School Board at Tuesday’s meeting to support a $75 million General Obligation Bond, vs. the $82 million bond that was previously requested.  The blurb continues…

“Whatever you ask for it’s still not going to meet our needs,” she said. “But I think the $75 million is easier to pass because it’s more reasonable.”

With $75 million, the annual tax increase on those owning an $150,000 home would be approximately $204, on a $300,000 home, $408, on a $500,000 home, $680 and on a $700,000 home $953.

Over on Open City Hall, of the 402 current “On Forum” responses, 70% of respondents said they would approve a $75 million bond.  However, it should also be noted that 78% of respondents have children currently in the school system, which is a considerably larger percentage than the total Decatur voting population.

Chart courtesy of Open City Hall

City Manager and Superintendent Release Joint Message on Annexation

A joint statement from City Manager Peggy Merriss and School Superintendent Phyllis Edwards…

The City Schools of Decatur and the City of Decatur are working together to review and analyze implications related to projections of unparalleled student population growth as well as the opportunities and challenges presented by potential annexation.

Why is annexation being considered at this time:

The 2010 Strategic Plan as Part of GOAL 9: EXPAND AND DIVERSIFY THE CITY’S REVENUE BASE, Task 9B states: “Explore annexation opportunities in partnership with the City Schools of Decatur that expand the property tax base and enhance school operations.”

During the 2013 and 2014 sessions of the General Assembly, legislation to create the cities of Briarcliff, Lakeside and Tucker were considered. Incorporation of these areas would have municipalized the entire northern part of DeKalb County and resulted in placing new cities immediately contiguous to the existing City of Decatur city limits. None of the bills passed.

Currently, the Georgia House Governmental Affairs Committee Chairwoman Amy Carter (R-Valdosta) has issued a statement indicating that DeKalb County cityhood proponents have until November 15, 2014 to submit an agreed upon map and if they do not she will appoint a five-member panel to produce a map by December 31, 2015.

Given the current efforts to municipalize the unincorporated northern area of DeKalb County, the City of Decatur is in a position where long-term permanent city limits must be determined. Once the City is adjacent to another city, annexation is no longer a possibility. In addition to the long-term city limit definition, key objectives of the annexation master plan are to influence and control development at key gateways; expand and stabilize the property tax base; respond to interest from property owners; and, consolidate partial parcels.

Student population growth:

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Superintendent Recommends Moving CSD Central Office to Beacon Hill

In preparation for the Decatur School Board’s July 10th meeting, Superintendent Phyllis Edwards has provided a good summary of the available options of where to move the City Schools of Decatur’s Central Office in anticipation of reopening Westchester Elementary as an elementary school.  As mentioned at the Decatur City Commission meeting on Monday, the School Board is scheduled to make a final decision on this topic at the July 10th meeting.

So without further ado, here’s the Superintendent’s note to the Board…

For the last year we have discussed increasing enrollment and the need to place the last school building (Westchester) back into the mix as a school. This means that the central office must be relocated.

Discussions have been held with the city leaders in our search for options. There is an opportunity to locate the central office in the current Beacon Hill building. The building would allow the system to have approximately the same amount of space as currently used at Westchester. The building can be designed to meet the system’s needs of parking, board room space, and program management space so central office personnel will not be located in school buildings where there is little space. It will also provide a sense of community and honor to the neighbors and families that cherished this building when it was an operational school. For the sake of history and community, this would be a positive move. It is also a plausible choice because it does not utilize spaces on other campuses that could be utilized for future expansion if needed. The building would be built by the city and when finished the school system would purchase the space. The drawback is the price (last price received: $5.9 million) which exceeds what our initial estimate was for the new central office. However, the city is able to allow the school system to fund the cost over time.

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Superintendent Provides Two Start/End Time Options to School Board

From Superintendent Phyllis Edwards’ letter to the Decatur school board prior to next week’s meeting…

Please reread the Start and End Time official report again.  Any option on start and end time changes still require the ability to use existing buses complete turnarounds from one timeframe to another.  When this issue was reviewed last spring, it was clear to me that the elementary parents, teachers and Principals were happy with their 8:00 AM start time and did not want to lengthen the school day.  If possible, I do not want to cause a change at the K-3 level as I think all the conversation relative to the research is directed at middle and high school children.

Our current transportation actions have included the following:

  • possibly combining HS and MS routes for the 2012-2013 school year;
  • examining the effect a 6-12 start/end time may have on other grade levels;
  • determining possibilities for combining K-5 routes; and
  • reducing bus stops.

Choices here will include 1) changing start and end times for the MS and HS, possibly affecting the other students in the system in some way, or 2) consider holding this information– keeping times the same, waiting until another school building is opened when more changes to the bus schedule and times may need to be made.  Please know that I am happy to make any changes that you request.  I also note that no consensus appears within and among teachers, students and parents.
If a change is desired, these would be the two options:

Option one (keep current) Option Two
pre-K 8:00-2:30 8:00-2:30
K-3 8:00-2:30 OA and WP: 8:00-2:30; CL and GL 8:10-2:40
4/5 8:45-3:45 7:45-2:30
6-8 8:45-3:45 8:40-3:40
9-12 8:00-3:00 8:30-3:30

CSD Enrollment up 9% This Year

In connection with our recent post about 2010 Census data showing a dramatic increase in Decatur families the last 10 years, this paragraph in Superintendent Edwards’ “Start of School” letter to families gives us the latest data on school enrollment growth…

Our enrollment has increased. Our last counts show an increase of 9%, which includes new tuition students. We have hired approximately 75 staff who are new to Decatur, with a few returning to us after working in other systems in the interim. We are thrilled to have such an accomplished group of new teachers. Every elementary position had upwards of 300 candidates for each job. We know that our teachers are our best asset.

An article in Patch earlier this week reported that the largest enrollment growth is still occurring in Oakhurst.

John Ahmann’s Plan For Tonight’s School Board Meeting

Decatur School Board member John Ahmann just forwarded the note he sent to his fellow board members, alerting them to what he plans to propose at tonight’s meeting.  Here it is in full…

I have reviewed the June 7, 2011 memo from CSD Legal Counsel Bob Wilson regarding the parliamentary procedures for placing on the June 14, 2011 Board agenda the action items I previously requested.  I will not be seeking to rescind  priors actions of the Board.

At the beginning of the meeting, when the Board customarily approves the agenda for the meeting, I will seek to amend the agenda to add three items:

  1. An action item to direct the Superintendent to answer all of my submitted questions or those of other board members on the adopted Bell schedule and my proposed bell schedule for the 2011-2012 school year as well as any questions posed during the discussion of the action item.

These questions include:

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Patch Poses 10 Questions to Decatur Superintendent

Renee at Patch sat down with Decatur Superintendent Phyllis Edwards, who responded to many of the issues swirling around the recent bell schedule.  Here’s just one question and answer to give you a taste…

Q: Did you listen to parents, SLT members and students and their needs throughout the [bell schedule] process?

A: Yes. I believe I did. That’s how I work. I would be happy to have a group of folks interested in this issue and work with them and take this on at a later date. But let’s look at it. Just because 100 or more made up their minds that they want it a certain way and the board has voted a certain way, I don’t get between that. If this is what they want, to revisit the issue, I agree. At a later time, let’s have a longer time discussion and we can do this by midyear next year. We can get all the answers to all the questions. Let’s also make sure we are talking to not just some of the people, but all of the people. Let’s hear what the parents have to say. Let’s poll them. But let’s give them enough time.

The Decatur School Board meets tonight at 6:30p at Westchester, where Board Member John Ahmann has stated that he’ll try to get the bell schedule back on the agenda.