Saturday, August 6, 2011

DCSS BOE August 1 meeting: citizen support to lease Medlock Elementary

The DCSS BOE’s meeting of August 1 is now available for streaming at

Below is a summary of the citizen comments section, where several appeals were made to the BOE to lease the Medlock Property. [Noted in brackets is the approximate time when each speaker addressed the board]

Dr. Laurent Ditman: The International Community School (ICS) principal noted that on the previous Friday, he hand-delivered a letter and skeleton lease to the DCSS BOE. He noted that he knows there are details to be worked out but that it is now time to engage in negotiation and close the deal. Dr. Ditman asked if DCSS would allow more facilities to fall out of use and disrepair, that are later too expensive to repair and return to use and listed Hooper Alexander elementary of an example of this scenario. Dr. Ditman stated that if allowed to lease Medlock, ICS will make DCSS look good. There is a documentary soon to hit the show circuit. In closing, Dr. Ditman asked if there is any reason not to consider the proposal and, to audience laughter, noted that if DCSS gives ICS access to Medlock, he will never have to petition the BOE again. [~5 minute mark]

Tahisha Edwards: The ICS assistant principal explained that currently, ICS exists in two campuses (one for K-4th grade in Decatur, and another in Stone Mountain for 5th and 6th graders). Ms. Edwards noted that students want to be on one campus, so that they can play and interact with friends and siblings during the school day. As to ICS’s needs, the first one is that of space. Students are functioning in cramped spaces, and there is no space dedicated to cultivating the arts. On the academic front, space limits technology availability and improved space would allow consistent access for all students. Lastly, the students need appropriate space and facilities for physical education in particular on rainy days.

Ms. Mary Johnson: As an ICS volunteer and DeKalb County taxpayer, Ms. Johnson urged the BOE to keep buildings in use. She noted that DCSS’s policy has been to allow buildings to remain vacant, or to use them as storage space. Noting that buildings need continuous care and maintenance to stay in good repair, she described the fate of Hooper Alexander elementary. She said that approximately 3 years ago, as the school was slated to close, ICS voiced an interest in the facility. Now, the school has become a dangerous eyesore—it is in a very poor state of repair, it has been vandalized and sprayed with graffiti, is boarded up, and is not a good thing to have in a community. Using a school building for storage has to be the least cost-effective use for a building. It behooves DCSS to lease a building not in use—the tenant assumes the cost of insurance, makes day-to-day repairs and this is a win-win for the taxpayer. In allowing use of Medlock, DCSS would do a good thing as far as keeping its assets in good repair, avoiding liability, and serving students that attend ICS. [~12 minute mark]

Joy Dawkins: An ICS parent and vice-chair of the ICS board, Ms. Dawkins noted that she is delighted with her children’s experience at ICS. She also noted that the two-campus model is a financial drain of great concern.

Steven Mayo: As an ICS alumni, Mr. Mayo summarized a letter he wrote to the DCSS four years ago, then an appeal to allow ICS to utilize the Forest Hills school building. He had 6 arguments: (1) have access to a gym so the children could play outside. As a 5th and 6th grader, Mr. Mayo said that children played in the parking lot and for PE, they hiked Stone Mountain; (2) not having to get ½ hour early to allow travel time to the Stone Mountain school location; (3) food temperature (warm all the time); (4) having larger classrooms—Mr. Mayo stated that students had about 3 sq. feet of space for themselves and their bookbags; (5) not having to walk in the rain to go from building to building; (6) not having to attend meetings that his mom took him to! (although his attendance to the current meeting was his own choice). Mr. Mayo also noted that he received a reply from Crawford Lewis at the time, stating that leases take time. Mr. Mayo closed by saying that he knew it would be hard, but not that the process would take 4 years. [~19 minute mark]

Pat Camp: Representing Medlock Area Neighborhood Association, MANA VP Camp first thanked the BOE for listening to community input regarding the desire to not have a cell tower on school grounds. Ms. Camp then noted that both the International Community School and Fernbank School Center have been in touch with MANA. Both organizations are established entities with a track record of doing wonderful work. During the Medlock school-closing crisis, many, many community members stated a desire to keep a school in the property; MANA understands that is still the prevailing desire. MANA therefore supports either proposal. MANA appreciates being included in the vetting process and would very much like to remain an active participant as this decision is very important to those in our community. [~38 minute mark]