Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Updates from the MANA neighborhood meeting: cities, schools and neighborhood identity

We had a very informative MANA community meeting this week! Below is a summary of some of the topics covered.

Cities: One of the topics discussed at MANA's community meeting last February 25 was the cityhood movement and we were able to see the latest draft of the proposed city of North Druid Hills.

Proposed City of North Druid Hills
 (outlined in red). Click to enlarge or 
download file.
This is another example of the "city-lite" movement where cities are proposed to take control of a small subset of services (e.g., parks, zoning, public safety) while other services (e.g., water/sewage) are left for the County to handle. Waterworks is an important topic right now because DeKalb County has an aging system that desperately needs upgrades. One very real concern is that as more pieces of the tax digest are assigned to cities (via new cities or annexation into existing ones), the County receives a smaller slice of residential and commercial tax pie, and yet, is expected to continue to provide services for incorporated and unincorporated areas alike.

People are frustrated with the way the County is being run and cityhood offers a sense of control over critical services. But neighbors are also conflicted about so-called "self-preservation" moves that alter municipal boundaries and impact residents in other parts of the County. Some are proposing ways to address specific problems without "abandoning" the County, so to speak. School improvement may be such a mechanism.

Schools: Concerned parents have organized to explore a conversion charter school cluster for all schools feeding into North Druid Hills High School. MANA school liaison Tanya Myers explained that, while conversion of "traditional" public schools to public charters has been around for awhile, conversion of an entire cluster is a relatively new mechanism. Similar to other charter schools, some flexibility is given with respect to state and local requirements in exchange for a commitment from the charter to improve student achievement. An organizing committee comprised of two representatives from the seven schools in the cluster (Avondale, Briar Vista, Fernbank, Laurel Ridge,  McClendon Elementary Schools plus Druid Hills Middle and Druid Hills High Schools) has just been formed. Should this exploratory committee determine that it is worthwhile to move forward with the initiative, it will then need to determine how to frame the charter document. Attendance zones for each of these schools would remain the same, whether or not the committee determines that it should move forward with a request for charter cluster status.  See to learn more about this movement.

Regarding the updated draft 2 above, issued by the North Druid Hills Study group, notice that boundaries have been adjusted, following community input, to include additional areas served by North Druid Hills High School. Some side discussions at the MANA meeting raised the point that lines should be again adjusted to include the Medline LCI study area

Some of the topics
discussed in the CAN website.
Neighborhood Identity: The Civic Association Network (CAN) website continues to be the best source of information about the many issues currently affecting central DeKalb County. Although a lot of us are tired of hearing about cityhood proposals, annexation plans, and the sundry issues affecting the County, we must remain informed. With the upcoming redevelopment of Suburban Plaza, our proximity to so many large employment centers, and the approval of the Medline LCI revitalization study, our neighborhood is uniquely positioned. In the coming months and years, we will need to make decisions about the future of our area. Do people identify with Druid Hills, North DeKalb, the City of Decatur, none of the above? What happens if additional cities form around us and we choose to remain unincorporated?

Under CAN's Municipal Government section, you will find links to the websites of recently formed cities as well as some of the studies that led to their formation. You will also find proposals, maps and studies relating to these city concepts:
• City of Druid Hills [note that at press time, the above map is not posted yet]
• City of DeKalb
• City of Lakeside
• City of North DeKalb

Also visit the Clairmont Heights Cityhood FAQ for additional information.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

DeKalb School System adds SACS accreditation page

DeKalb County School District has set up a page for documents relating to the current SACS accreditation debate, see

ICS Poetry Night [Feb 28]

ICS's poetry slam is now Poetry Night!

DeKalb news roundup, via the AJC

AJC, keeping us informed!

DeKalb expects no new taxes, no new fixes
No plan for increased taxes in 2013, but it's not all happy news. Part of the concern is over no fixes for business licensing/permitting infrastructure that encourages and supports local business:
The result: Last year, the county took 42 days on average to issue a permit for a single-family home, the simplest type of construction. A permit for a new office took 99 days, or more than three months, according to county documents.
By comparison, officials in Cobb and Gwinnett say they issue permits for homes in two to four days. Nearly all commercial permits, no matter how complicated, are issued within a month.
Deal suspends six of nine DeKalb school board members
Governor Deal voted to suspend all but the newly elected members. Normally, suspension triggers a process where each member can appeal the suspension but since a federal judge has put a stay on any action until the DeKalb Board of Education's challenge is heard later this week, there's more waiting... while DeKalb County citizens absorb the costs of salaries and lawsuits:
Eugene Walker, the former school board chairman who is one of those pursuing the challenges, left little wiggle room. He vowed Monday to press on with the lawsuits, saying “We’ve done nothing wrong.” He said he might run for another term in 2014 if the courts uphold Deal’s decision, and defended using taxpayer dollars to press his legal claims.
“I’m using public money to help protect the democratic process,” he said. “What price do you put on liberty and justice?”
The "nothing wrong" refers to a SACS accreditation report so tortured that it led to the system being placed in probation and the state's Board of Education and governor getting involved.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Rain Barrel workshop [Feb 27]

DECATUR – The DeKalb County Department of Watershed Management will host a Rain Barrel Workshop for DeKalb County citizens on Wednesday, Feb. 27 from 7 – 8 p.m. at the Wylde Garden Center, 435 Oakview Road, Decatur, GA 30030.

Collecting rain water in rain barrels for use during dry months is an excellent way to conserve water and reduce your water bill. During the workshop, citizens will be instructed on rain barrel maintenance and the importance of water conservation.

The workshop will be open to the first 20 DeKalb County residents who sign up.  This is a “hands-on” workshop where residents will make their own rain barrels with assistance.

The cost of the workshop is $40 and will include all the materials to make a barrel. For more information, contact Michael O’Shield at or 770-724-1456.
DeKalb has additional information on rain barrels--why they are useful, and how to build them:
Rain Barrel Fact Sheet 
How to make your own rain barrel and materials list

Sunday, February 24, 2013

DeKalb Board of Education fights back with successful federal court appeal

Ty Tagami at the AJC reports that
"A federal judge has issued an order that temporarily prevents Gov. Nathan Deal from replacing the DeKalb County school board members who were recommended for suspension by a state panel."
Current GA law allows the governor to
"suspend and ultimately remove any local school board that is recommended for suspension by the state education board because of risk to the local school district’s accreditation. The law authorizes the state to act only in districts that have been placed on “probation” by an accreditation authority. Read the rest @ AJC 
Governor Deal, who announced a press conference for 11am monday, could still recommend the Board's suspension but is now hindered from actually removing them from office. The article warns that a similar scenario arose in Sumter county las november and three months later, the legal dustup continues.

Scott Boulevard Baptist Church: past, present, future

The Associated Baptist Press, Inc. has a lovely interview with Pastor Greg Smith at the Scott Blvd. Baptist Church. In it, he discusses the congregations's history, the process that led to the decision to sell the property, and the church's future plans.
This congregation had its heyday in the ‘60s with an average attendance of around 500 people. But the neighborhood … aged out as the children left home in the early '70s and never returned. So the congregation aged with the neighborhood. 
Please see the ABP's website to read Church sold as members go missional.

Friday, February 22, 2013

City of Decatur major meets with DeKalb delegation

DecaturMetro reports that the meeting included a lot of discussion on annexation and includes a quote that again emphasizes build-bridging between city and county:
...  There was not much agreement by the people that were there about the issue. But the general assembly members encouraged the cities to get with the county to try to have some constructive meetings to do some long-term planning about the issue so they’re not dealing with [annexation] on a piecemeal basis.

GA Board of Education votes to remove 6 DeKalb school board members

Ty Tagami at the AJC reports that
After a grueling 14-hour hearing that lasted until 10 p.m. Thursday night, the Georgia Board of Education voted unanimously to recommend suspending six of the nine members of the DeKalb County school board. Read on @AJC
Only the newest members, elected in 2012, were in the "stay" list.

The AJC previously reported that the DeKalb School Board had sued to prevent this vote from taking place, but they filed the lawsuit too late to prevent the vote. When the case is heard on February 28, we will know whether that lawsuit places constraints on how the Governor acts upon the state Board of Education's recommendation.

Central DeKalb Senior Center coming to Mason Mill Park

via CHCA... 

Commissioner Rader's website has a link to site and floor plans for a new senior center at Mason Mill Park. Simply labeled as "DeKalb County Central Senior Center", the drawings show the new building facing McConnel Drive, situated on an area that is already paved over. 

Proposed Senior Center at Mason Mill Park (in gold, in drawing at the left) and Google map image of park.
  Image via
Click to enlarge.
Street view of proposed center. Click to enlarge.
As proposed, the building would include arts and crafts rooms (listed activites include drawing, painting, carving, pottery, quilting and sewing) and exercise areas (weights/cardio and yoga/dance/aerobics). There is also a cafe, a large multi-purpose room, billiards room, and several classroom and activity spaces. An elevator connects both floors.

OnCentralDeKalb has an item talking about three senior centers being built in DeKalb: a North DeKalb Center (3393 Malone Drive, Chamblee), a South DeKalb Center (at 1931 Candler Road, Decatur, replacing an older structure built in 1979), and a third as-of-yet-unreleased location "Central DeKalb facility" to be "the first county-owned facility in the Central DeKalb area." Per the article, the County will "spend $15 million in federal funding to construct the centers under HUD programs." The article goes on to say that
"Three new senior centers are slated to open by December 2013—one in North DeKalb, one in South DeKalb and one in Central DeKalb, county officials have announced. ... Each 15,000-square-foot center will have community meeting rooms, a computer lab, a fully equipped fitness room, a commercial kitchen, access to walking trails, and sitting areas inside and around the grounds.
The centers’ main dining halls will accommodate approximately 120 people seated, and are designed to easily convert and serve as a meeting space for educational seminars and civic events.
Activity rooms will be made available for ceramics, billiards, and games such as chess, bridge, and backgammon.
A large social lounge will also be included in each facility.
This facility will be a great addition to Mason Mill's recent improvements, and is great news to area residents hoping to age in place. Mason Mill Park is accessible by via the PATH's South Peachtree Creek Trail [trailhead at Medlock Park, with access point on Willivee Dr.]. Mason Mill Park is located at 1340 McConnell Dr  Decatur, GA 30033 | map |.
Pink asterisk marks the proposed location of the Central DeKalb Senior Center at Mason Mill Park.
PATH trail that connects Mason Mill and Medlock Parks is highlighted in light green. Click to enlarge.

Market, fish fry, car wash AND carnival @ ICS [Feb 23]

via ICS...

As a part of our efforts to raise money for our 5th graders trip to Washington, DC, we are hosting a fun Market Day. All vendors are welcome to come share your goods and talents with the ICS community. The vendor fee is $20 and we are asking for a donation of 10% of items sold at the market. If you would like to participate as a vendor, please make all checks out to ICS or make your payment(s) in the front office (there are envelopes in the office). Vendor fees are due by Friday, 2/22/13.
If you should have any questions, please feel free to contact Terra Gay— or Brandon Davis—

In addition, to our Market Day we will also be selling raffle tickets, hosting a small carnival, car wash and fish fry, along with other great food being sold. We hope that you will be able to join us. If you would like to donate to help us get to DC, please make contributions in our front office or
you may also donate online at

Doors will be open to vendors to set up at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday (2/23/13).

Click to enlarge. You may pay on site for other activities listed above, however, vendor fees must be made in advance to reserve your space at the market.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

DeKalb School Board again faces GA Dept. of Education, Melvin sits

The AJC continues to cover the drama:

DeKalb school board to face charges by accrediting agency:
On Thursday, the nine elected members of the DeKalb school board must confront that evidence, which is based on anonymous interviews and documents that are mostly not identified specifically....That has spawned a lawsuit over the Georgia constitution that will be decided later. DeKalb sought a restraining order against the state, but filed it too late to affect today’s hearing. A Fulton County judge will consider the request next week. Read the rest @ AJC
DeKalb school board gets new leader
Retired DeKalb school system administrator and newly-elected board member Melvin Johnson got the nod from his colleagues Wednesday in a 7-2 vote. Johnson’s candidacy was uncontested: Nancy Jester nominated Pam Speaks, but Speaks declined. They both voted against Johnson. Read the rest @ AJC

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

DeKalb School Board sues, Eugene walks

The AJC reports that Eugene Walker has resigned as chair of the DeKalb Board of Education. The Board also voted to hire a lawyer (using taxpayer funds) to attempt to forestall suspension by the state following the Board's inability to meet criteria set by SACS. Please visit the AJC for their reports:

DeKalb County school board sues to avoid suspension, eliciting outrage from parents and employees

DeKalb’s Eugene Walker to relinquish school board chairmanship

Today! DeKalb Schools Community Meeting [Feb 19]

Curious or confused about the recent developments surrounding SACS accreditation and hearings with the State BOE? Board Member Marshall Orson will be available at this community meeting to provide information and discuss.

When: Tue, February 19, 7pm – 8pm
Where: Emory Presbyterian Church 1886 North Decatur Road, NE, Atlanta, Georgia [map]

Friday, February 15, 2013

Last Chance Thrift Store update

Deanne alerted us that Last Chance Thrift Store has secured a new home nearby:
Click to enlarge.
For relocation information on other Suburban Plaza favorites (such as Decatur Estates and Wayback AntiquesOnstage Atlanta and Suburban Custom Awards and Framing), see our December 2012 zoning update.

Additional information on zoning board appeal

Selig Enterprises has issued a statement addressing the Suburban Plaza zoning board of appeals decision (download pdf).

There is ongoing discussion on this topic in the comments section of the Patch article that broke the news earlier this week.

Feb. 27 Update: Deanne alerted us to this article in The Champion
Suburban Plaza protestors lose appeal

Recycling event [Mar 2]

via City of Decatur

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Zoning BOA rejects appeal

Timothy Darnell at North Druid Hills-Briarcliff Patch reports that
The DeKalb Zoning Board of Appeals has rejected an appeal by a local organization fighting the construction of a Walmart Supercenter in Suburban Plaza. ... The project is now cleared to move forward, unless Good Growth DeKalb decides to file additional lawsuits to block the project. Read the rest @ Patch.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Additional info about DeKalb Medical / Suburban Plaza / Patel Plaza-area LCI

via Commissioner Rader...

Decatur, Ga. DeKalb Commissioners Kathie Gannon and Jeff Rader are pleased to announce that DeKalb County has been awarded a Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) planning grant by the Atlanta Regional Commission for the area surrounding Suburban Plaza. The planning study will bring together citizens, businesses and property owners to reach a consensus on future developments and public improvements in the area. The study area includes portions of Scott Boulevard and North Decatur Roads from Medlock to DeKalb Industrial Way, as well as Church Street.

The study area includes the campus of DeKalb Medical, Suburban Plaza, Patel Plaza and nearly 30 acres of vacant car lots. “This location is excellent and it is vastly underutilized,” said Gannon. “I believe this area can be successfully redeveloped for mixed-use developments that will bring new vibrancy and improve the quality of life for the surrounding residential areas.”
“This area developed as one of the regions first suburban commercial corridors in the early 1970’s,” said Rader.  “The character of the area has changed and it is time to re-imagine and plan for the future development in this important gateway to Decatur and DeKalb.”

The study area is near several large employment centers and is served by MARTA and the Cliff shuttle buses that run to the Clifton Corridor. In addition the area could serve as a magnet for senior housing with its close proximity to DeKalb Medical, the VA Hospital, and Emory University Hospital. “We believe the area can be a solid location for housing,” said Gannon. “The challenge will be bringing employers and creating an environment that is more pedestrian oriented.” 

“The redevelopment of Suburban Plaza proves there is a good demand for retail space,” said Rader. “The LCI planning process will ensure that the surrounding communities can have some input in how the area develops in the future.” 

Gannon and Rader have been working on this project for more than two years and had filed for an LCI before Wal-Mart announced their intentions to locate in Suburban Plaza. The study will have little if any impact on Wal-Mart, but the redevelopment of Suburban Plaza will likely encourage additional retailers to be interested in the area. In addition there are numerous vacant car lots that need redevelopment. A number of local businesses pledged to support the LCI study: DeKalb County Hospital Authority, DeKalb Medical, Selig Enterprises, Patel Brothers and the City of Decatur.

The next step will be for DeKalb County to request proposals for consultants to conduct the study, which will review future land use and transportation opportunities. LCI studies often result in new zoning regulations and transportation improvements. The nationally recognized ARC program is intended to create developments that reduce the Atlanta region’s dependence upon automobiles. Studies usually require 9-12 months to complete.


Ivy, go home!

Medlock Forest Ivy Platoon was at it again this weekend, fighting the scourge of English ivy near the PATH entrance. Here's some of their fine work. Thanks, all!

At the PATH's entrance, these trees say "thank you!" 

Additional ivy removal is scheduled for February 16 and 23, noon - 3pm. Meet at the community garden on the corner of Willivee and Scott Circle. Loppers, machetes, hand saws and pruning shears were the most useful tools at the last event. For comfort and safety, please wear long sleeves and pants.
Bagged and tagged.
Yep, it grows alll the way up there, then it blooms and makes seeds that the birds spread.
But this one won't be bloomin' no mo'.

Here, a demonstration of "The Ivy Whisperer" approach.

"Shoulders and ankles"--that's how you do it!

All photos courtesy of Barb.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve Work Day [Feb 10]

The Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve is having a volunteer day on Sunday Feb. 10, from 10am - 1pm to continue to clear dead privet from along Pine Bluff Rd.

DeKalb school board names interim superintendent

After first failing to muster a majority, the DeKalb school board tried a second time Friday and by a 5-4 vote approved a separation agreement that pays Atkinson $114,583 to leave. Then, they voted 7-2 to approve an employment agreement with Michael Thurmond, a former Georgia lawmaker who went on to become state labor commissioner. Read the rest @ AJC.
Some commenters in school-related blogs (DeKalb School Watch, AJC's Get Schooled) suggest that Thurmond is not a good choice due to long-term ties to the embattled DeKalb School Board but the AJC article states that
Marshall Orson, who unseated McChesney to become one of the three new board members this year, said he’s the one who brought up Thurmond’s name. No one else had considered him, Orson said. 
Orson had seen Thurmond speaking publicly and in small groups over the years, and was impressed.
“He just had a way about him that drew people in,” Orson said. He said Thurmond’s lack of an educational leadership background seemed an asset, given the withering criticism of the public these days for so-called “educrats.”
For additional comments by Thurmond and others, including a brief biography for  Mr. Thurmond, see the AJC.

Friday, February 8, 2013

DeKalb Medical Center-area LCI approved!

This is great news for our area! Selig Enterprises contributed $5,000 to the County to help qualify for this grant.  This contribution came out of negotiations by MANA and the surrounding neighborhoods with Selig and Walmart.

Per the press release, LCI's (Livable Center Initiatives) these communities create new plans for quality growth and help develop innovative policies that support more vibrant, connected communities. Once their studies and plans are complete, these communities will be eligible for additional LCI funding for transportation projects needed to implement their plans. 

Nine Metro area communities received awards, including the corridor around DeKalb Medical Center:
Medline Regional Activity Center 
Award amount: $120,000
Sponsor: DeKalb County
Contact: Cedric Hudson, Planning Administrator,
Phone/Email: (404) 371-2789, 
This study focuses on the area around DeKalb Medical Center and will plan for redevelopment of underutilized and vacant properties to create a variety of housing options and an appropriate mix of commercial, office and retail. The study will incorporate Lifelong Communities concepts and the establishment of a “wellness district” for the DeKalb Medical Center area. Additionally, the plan will address sidewalk and bicycle facilities along the major corridors in the area to create a more walkable center and to improve connections to MARTA bus routes and Emory’s Cliff shuttle.

DeKalb Co. Schools superintendent leaves; school board hires a lawyer

Atkinson gets $114,583 for leaving, plus payment for any unused vacation, according to the agreement. It takes effect at midnight Friday if the board approves it. The agreement calls on the board and Atkinson to work together to produce a “mutually approved joint public statement that is brief and non-disparaging.” Read the rest @ AJC
Meanwhile, The Champion reports that, in order to face the GA Board of Education,
the county school board voted 6-1 to hire the law firm of Wilson, Morton & Downs to represent it. Board member Nancy Jester voted against the measure and Marshall Orson was absent. Read the full report @ The Chamipion
As to why they must spend additional funds instead of using the district's legal resources when they meet with the Board of Education on February 21, The Champion explains that
Walker said, “If we had felt we could do it in-house we would be looking in that direction. We feel that we’re trying to galvanize the resources necessary to help us be successful in responding to those [AdvancED] requirements.” ... “They’re going to help us assess many of the concerns that were raised by [AdvancED] and help us see elements of it that we did not see,” Walker said. “No board member, to my knowledge, has ever violated one of [AdvancEd’s] standards. We’re not talking about breaking the law. We’re talking about standards that many of us don’t see the implications of the so-called infractions that we may have made.”
A list of "so-called infractions" can be found in our post on the SACS (AdvancedED) report.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ivy season is open. No bag limit!

Neighbors proudly show the 4-point branch they  
bagged at the inaugural Ivy Pull Classic.

English ivy is an invasive species that damages trees and displaces native vegetation at ground level. Our neighbor Deb noticed that many trees at the PATH entrance on Willivee appear choked with ivy and has organized a series of ivy removal events. The first took place last Saturday.

Additional ivy removal is scheduled for February 9, 16 and 23, noon - 3pm. Meet at the community garden on the corner of Willivee and Scott Circle. Loppers, machetes, hand saws and pruning shears were the most useful tools at the last event. For comfort and safety, please wear long sleeves and pants.

For more information, contact elkin_d at

Work day @ Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve [Feb 10]

The Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve is having a volunteer day this Sunday from 10am - 1pm to continue to clear dead privet from along Pine Bluff Rd. Please join us if you can.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Groundhog forecast: more winter

This weekend, famous weather prognosticator and Lilburn resident Gen. Beauregard Lee announced that winter is not quite over yet:
According to weather lore, if the groundhog sees his shadow on Feb. 2, there will be six more weeks of winter. No shadow means that spring is just around the corner. Read the article and see photos of Beau at work @ AJC.
Beau's northern counterpart, Punxsutawney Phil, did not see his shadow and called for an early spring. Astronomically speaking, Beau is correct--the spring equinox is on March 20 which means 6+ weeks of winter left.

Meteorologically speaking, Wikipedia does not place a whole lot of faith on rodent weather reports:
According to Groundhog Day organizers, the rodents' forecasts are accurate 75% to 90% of the time. However, a Canadian study for 13 cities in the past 30 to 40 years found that the weather patterns predicted on Groundhog Day were only 37% accurate over that time period—a value not significant compared to the 33% that could occur by chance. According to the StormFax Weather Almanac and records kept since 1887, Punxsutawney Phil's weather predictions have been correct 39% of the time.  The National Climatic Data Center has described the forecasts as "on average, inaccurate" and stated that "The groundhog has shown no talent for predicting the arrival of spring, especially in recent years."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Oh kitty you didn't

image via The Oatmeal, which
explains it all.

CHCA recently also posted a reminder to pick up after our dogs, and a link to a recent report on the impact that outdoor cats (ferals in particular) have on wildlife. The Oatmeal presents the data in its usual powerful style...

Friday, February 1, 2013

Decatur Old House Fair [Feb 2]

Now on its 5th year, the Decatur Old House Fair (10am-4pm at the Courtyard by Marriot hotel in downtown Decatur, 130 Clairemont Avenue [map]) gathers experts to help you understand the maintenance and repair needs of older homes. Check out the schedule and if you like what you see, get your ticket now!

Hot tip: Decatur Metro posted that Living Social is offering a 2 tickets for $10 deal (vs. $10 online or $15 at the door).