Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Get Out and VOTE!

Answer:  NO!

(click headline for full story)

Please remember to get out and vote today.  Polls close at 7 p.m., but results will start being tallied at 5 p.m. so the sooner you can get your vote cast, the better! 

In Georgia, voters do not have to declare a party when they register, so you can request ANY party ballot when you go in to vote.  If you want to be able to help select the DeKalb County CEO, you must ask for the Democratic ballot!

The last item on the ballot is the cell tower nonbinding advisotry referendum.  No one wants a cell tower in their backyard or at their school, so voting no will help protect your own neigbhorhood from this intrusion by big business.

Cell towers are currently not allowed to be placed so close to buildings that can reasonably be expected to be inhabited by humans, like schools and homes, so this ballot issue is asking if you want to give the school board the power to go around our local zoning laws, avoid the review of the county commissioners and deny the homeowners in an area from the opportunity to be informed or have their input considered in the decision to build and operate a structure  that does not comply with the zoning laws or building codes that would normally be required.

If it isn't something you would want near you, then don't give your okay for it to be built somewhere else.  The cell tower companies have other ways of providing their services that do not involve using such large, imposing structures and do not require us to give up land that we pay for specifically for the education of children. 

And, the money does nothing to help education.  Cell towers fund corruption, pure and simple.  The funds are private and therefore are not allowed to be used for teacher salaries, textbooks or anythinig that must be provided by taxpayers through the General Fund.  And, capitol improvements to buildings and other educational structures are paid for by our E-SPLOST dollars, so cell tower funds cannot be used in that way, either. 

In other parts of the U.S. where they have allowed cell towers onto their school grounds, the money has simply gone into a slush fund used by top administrators and principals for their own personal meals, gas or hotels.  The money has been used for special bonsues to employees for performance standards that are not publicized or known even to the employees themselves.  The money is a reward for bad behavior that helps those who are corrupt remain in power.

We do not need cell towers on our school grounds.  We do need quality representatives on our school board and a replacement to our current CEO who will not entertain offers that involve selling out our schools and avoiding the input of taxpayers, placing their safety and their property values in jepardy.

Above all else, remember to vote today because contrary to what you may have heard, the biggest problem facing DeKalb right now is not government corruption or a lack of cash flow.  The biggest problem is voter apathy.  Low voter turnout is what allows the corruption to continue.  Not knowing the issues or how you will vote does not help dig us out of any of our financial difficulties.

It will take work, but today is a step in the right direction if you make time to do your civic duty - get out and VOTE DEKALB!



Sunday, July 29, 2012

Womack, Schools, Radiation, Money and YOU

(click headline to hear Paul Womack's discussion of our schools)


Replies to Our Prior Emails

(click headline for details)  Just sharing some recent replies we received to our email inquiries:



******************************

Thank you for this email.  I will make sure Commissioner Rader sees this information.
 

Caroline Enloe
Commission Office Coordinator
Jeff Rader, Commissioner
District 2, DeKalb County
www.commissionerrader.com
            404-371-2863     

****************************************


I am sorry we did not get to ask your question. It was one that I wanted to ask, but we ran out of time.  Also, I needed to receive the question by 5:00 pm on Wednesday. 


Do you know what the incumbents' positions are on this issue?



Tanya Graham
PTSA Arabia Mountain High School



****************************************

All,

Thank you for your support.  A great time was had at the fundraiser (Retire The Debt For School Board Member, Donna Edler) this past Saturday, September 3.  There was food (and drink), fellowship and fun.  The extra bonus was that my husband, Darryl, and I shared the celebration of our 23 wedding anniversary with old and new friends.

I will be sure to share your concerns for DCSS with our new superintendent, Dr. Cheryl Atkinson, as I meet one-on-one with her next Thursday, September 14.  Don't forget to mark your calendars for the DCSS Community Engagement Session to be held on September 20, 2011, 6pm to 9pm at the DCSS headquarters.


Please know that we continue to accept contributions via PayPal at
www.DonnaEdler.com or mail at Friends of Donna Edler, 1364 Cedar Green, Stone Mountain, GA 30088.  Thank you for your continued support.

Best regards,

Donna Edler
DeKalb BOE, District 7
Friends of Donna Edler
770-808-7779

Friday, July 27, 2012

YOUTUBE: DCSD Candidate Forum at Westwood College

(click headline for full details)
Westwood College in Northlake played host last week to a forum for candidates who are running for DeKalb County's Board of Education in the July 31 election.



Regardless of what district you are in, or whom you decide to vote for this year, please get out and vote, and vote NO on the telecommunications tower referendum!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Cell Tower Referendum PRESS CONFERENCE TODAY, July 27, 2 p.m.

(click headline to read full email and our response)



Georgia State Capitol, AtlantaTHIS JUST IN...

From a 1p.m. email received July 26, 2012:

Dear XXX,

I hope you are all doing well. Representative Karla Drenner will host a press conference on the
North Steps of Capitol TOMORROW, Friday, July 27, 2012, at 2:00 PM.

Representative Drenner will discuss a referendum included in the upcoming primary election on July 31 that would allow DeKalb County voters to decide whether to prohibit the construction of cell phone towers on public school property in DeKalb County.

Please let me know as soon as possible if you will be able to attend.

Thanks,
Falak Hindash
Executive Assistant to Rep. Stacey Abrams
House Minority Leader
408 CLOB
Atlanta, GA 30334
(404) 656-5058
falak.hindash@house.ga.gov


GTCO-ATL RESPONSE

Mr. Hindash,

With all due respect, we do have a concern about the email you sent regarding the July 31 vote and the cell tower referendum.  It might just be an issue of semantics, but you stated “...that would allow DeKalb County voters to decide whether to prohibit the construction of cell towers on public school property...”

We would tend to believe from the name of it, that a “non-binding, advisory referendum” is not the same thing as actually being able to make the decision like they will do with T-SPLOST.  So, did you mean to say that the voters will be able to “provide their input into the decision about whether to prohibit...” or are you actually saying that the result of the referendum will be the actual decision for towers going forward?   Or, are you saying this will be the decision that also affects the towers that have current signed contracts with our schools?

Our county ordinances are already clear that these towers are not allowed in residentially zoned areas ... the referendum was supposed to be something to let the school board know how the voters feel about their decision to lease their property for the purpose of placing towers. 

I think you would agree that voters should not decide on matters that we have urban planners who are trained in the engineering factors that must go into the planning of industrial, potentially hazardous and admittedly dangerous structures. The public could not possibly know about all the factors that must be considered when planning and zoning properly for cell towers (proximity to homes, other towers, wind sheer factors, cumulative radiation, co-location, revisions to codes, industry standards, FCC regulations, HAZMAT listings with emergency personnel and estimated response times, required heights, impact on property values, possibility of harm to children).

Just wanted to be sure we are not really planning to use the results to determine whether or not towers go up.  The DeKalb county commissioners have already stated that they would not approve said towers due to the violation of county ordinances in place to protect property values as well as to protect the health and safety of our residents. 

You might want to use the results to consider revising county codes, but that should not and cannot be done by a simple vote on how uninformed voters might respond to a non-binding, advisory... can it??  If so, then I would like to know if something like this has ever happened in the history of Georgia or DeKalb County and under what circumstances?

Get the Cell Out – Atlanta is a group organized in response to the school board’s decision to put towers at our schools.  We will be on hand to answer questions and speak to the press if needed.
Please invite the county commissioners and CEO of DeKalb to this conference as well.  They would all have important information to share with the press as well. 

Thank you,

xxxxxx

Get the Cell Out – Atlanta

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

We Asked; They Told; We Taped It!

(click headline to jump right to the video)

GTCO-ATL travelled to Lithonia last Thursday for a DeKalb County School Board forum featuring nearly all of the candidates for districts 2, 4, 6 and super district 8.  These are the only districts that are holding new elections this year and the terms have been diminished to just two years. 

However, with incumbants stating sort of ominously that they have "work to finish" before the leave our schools and candidates talking a lot about "change," it proved to be a very interesting and odd discussion in front of a crowd that likely spanned multiple voter precints.

As a reminder, we submitted the following questions before the forum began, but we only heard one out of three answered. 

And since we took digital audio as is everyone's rights under the Georgia Open Meetings Law, now you can hear some of those same comments, too!

What is your opinion about leasing school property to private companies for non-educational purposes? What do you believe would be your responsibility to the surrounding communities if your plans would upset local zoning ordinances and possibly lower their property values?Can you tell us about the “Success for All” program advocated by Super. Atkinson? Do you agree that it is the best method for teaching our children?  (listen to audio below for the replies from District 6 which covers Stone Mountain and Redan)Do you believe that we should fund an “Ipad for every child’s hands.” If so, how do Ipads equate to better learning in the classroom?

                           

For more GREAT videos from GTCO-ATL, please visit our very own channel on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/getthecelloutatl/featured

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Psychology of Voter Behavior - GET FIRED UP DEKALB!

(click headline for full text.)
Well, the candidate forums are coming along in a civil, semi-bland sort of way.  We wish some of these candidates would show a little more passion and enthusiasm for what they believe in or why they are even running for office.  We understand that sitting on a panel in front of a huge room full of people can be a bit un-nerving.  But, so can making a decision about how to vote on an issue because it is the "right" thing to do even in the face of strong opposition. 

Remember, most people in most elections who do NOT know anything about the particular race they are being asked to vote on will USUALLY opt for the incumbent.  It's not fair, we know, but that is what happens.

You have to be able to show your potential voters that NOT VOTING for you would be EVEN WORSE than the short amount of chaos they might encounter while transitioning from what they have now. 

CHANGE MEANS CHAOS AND THAT SOUNDS BAD!

People equate CHANGE with CHAOS.  And CHAOS, by definition is an unorderly chain of events that are typically spurred on by some sort of event  or trauma.  Therefore, to avoid the CHAOS, we also will avoid CHANGE. 

It's like we are all saying, "Yeah, I know my poor miserable existence is not working for me, but it's MY poor, miserable experience and no one can take that away from me!  I'm going to sit right here for as long as I possibly can and just be poor and miserable and I'll be perfectly happy about it, too!  Ha!  So there!  Take that!"

AND IF I DECIDE NOT TO CHOOSE ...

Psychologists and those who study organizational and group behavior have determined that human beings, as a general rule, do not like or seek out CHANGE of any kind.  Most creatures, if given a choice, will elect to do NOTHING in any given situation because they do not wish to change their normal, everyday patterns of behavior .... even if they actually believe that the change would be good for them.  We will still resist our own urges to change and we may even put up a fight against others who are trying to encourage us to change. 

In order to really CHANGE or even to make us WANT to change, we have to be motivated by our own will power OR by some sort of urgent message that pushes us out of our everyday habits and practically into that "FIGHT OR FLIGHT" mode. 

When a decision feels like it MUST BE MADE IMMEDIATELY because it is either KILL OR BE KILLED, we will finally break down and make a choice. 

I CAN'T DECIDE RIGHT NOW.  I NEED MORE TIME...

We DISLIKE change SO MUCH that we will even resist the very decision itself about whether or not we should change.  Doesn't that sound nuts?  But, it is true.  We do not even want to be forced to decide between two things even if one of them means that we can continue to receive more of the same.  It's the old "should I stay or should I go?" dilemma.

But what we all need to realize is that choosing to DO NOTHING is actually a THIRD CHOICE you are making.   But, "DO NOTHING," is about the WORST POSSIBLE CHOICE that you can make!

By choosing to "DO NOTHING," you are essentially saying, "I have so little confidence in my own ability to decide what to do in this situation that I am going to just stick my head in the sand and let other people step up and make this terrible choice for me.  I just hope they will let me know what they decided when it is all over so I will know what to do."

IF I CAN'T DECIDE, WILL THERE BE ANYONE TO HELP ME?

There are PLENTY of other people out there who are MORE THAN WILLING to step up and make all your decisions for you.  They will determine who educates your children and how to spend your money. 

They might even determine whether or not you will have a job next year and, ultimately, whether or not you can keep your home, put food on your table or even be allowed to see a doctor when you get sick. 

I REALLY, REALLY WANT TO DECIDE, BUT...

If you really, really just want someone else to decide for you, then take a recommendation from us.  (refer to the MC-MC-MC-SPEAKS comments at the bottom of this article.)  Voting, even if it is purely on the advice of someone you trust is still better than not voting at all.  And, if you are asked by others how you think they should vote, then you just overcame your own objection that your "one vote" won't really count much because now you just made the equivalent of TWO VOTES.  (Spouses of people who are not interested in politics or parents of children who only recently became registered voters should really remember this point!)

THE FUN OF WEARING A STICKER AND PUSHING LITTLE BUTTONS

So, we hope we have established how VOTING FOR SOMEONE is better than NOT VOTING at all. It is even sort of fun to get in there are push those little buttons!  Just like an elevator - everyone loves to push little buttons, right??

When you get out there and VOTE you have at least been able to show yourself that you are capable of making a decision. 

You might even get on a roll that day and make a bunch MORE decisions that you have been putting off for no good reason, but let's not get too carried away, okay?  You may want to rest for a short while and bask in your own awesomeness!

Get your little sticker and put it on your lapel and wear it proudly for the rest of the day!  You just exercised one of the most important rights you have as a citizen of the U.S.  (Now, get back to work!)


*** GET THE CELL OUT ATLANTA ENCOURAGES THE MC-MC-MC-SPEAKS VOTE IN THE DEKALB SCHOOL BOARD ELECTIONS.  AND, PLEASE VOTE NO ON THE CELL TOWER REFERENDUM QUESTION! ***

MC-MC-MC-SPEAKS is the easy way to remember the best candidates for the DeKalb School Board Election.  It's as easy as 2-4-6-8.  No matter what district you are in, 2, 4 or 6, just look for the "MC" and if you vote in the Super District election, vote for the one who "SPEAKS" for you!

For more about these candidates, refer to the DeKalb School Watch Blog, http://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/ or Crossroads News at:  http://www.crossroadsnews.com/.

You can also check out the AJC Voter’s Guide to all races in the Tuesday, July 31 election, prepared by the League of Women Voters is available online, with unedited information from the candidates themselves:

DeKalb School Board, District 2

DeKalb School Board, District 4

DeKalb School Board, District 6

DeKalb School Board, District 8

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Health Canada Issues Warning to Limit Children's Exposure to Cell Phone Radiation

Reprinted with permission
The Canadian Press
Posted: Oct 4, 2011 5:07 PM ET

click headline to view video and full story.


Parents should encourage children under 18 to limit the time they spend talking on cellphones, Health Canada said Tuesday in new advice on mobile phone usage. The guidance is a nuanced change from previous advice, which suggested that people could limit their use of cellphones if they were concerned about an unproven suggestion the devices increase one's risk of developing brain cancer. "Really it's more proactive in encouraging cellphone users to find ways to limit their exposure, and … to empower parents to make healthy choices to reduce their children's exposure," explained James McNamee, division chief for health effects and assessments in Health Canada's bureau of consumer and clinical radiation protection. The new advice, a response to a World Health Organization report issued in May, reminds people they can reduce their exposure to radio-frequency energy by limiting the length of their cellphone calls and substituting text messages or chats on hands-free devices in the place of phone-to-ear cellphone calls. For more, go here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

CBS Investigative Reporter Wendy Saltzman Writes to DeKalb School Board and Superintendent

GTCO-ATL Note to Readers:  How does this relate to cell towers?  When we started paying attention to the schools that were supposed to be getting cell towers, we also started to notice the electricity waste taking place.  We are following this story as we have wondered if perhaps the cell tower schools were ramping up their electricity use intentionally (by command from higher up's) so that when the cell towers came online and started using our school's electricity as paid for by the taxpayers that the year-to-year numbers would not look extreme and therefore no one would notice that the towers added a huge amount to electric use.  That, of course, all remains to be seen because we still do not have any word from our county CEO Burrell Ellis on whether or not any permits for T-mobile will be approved against the wishes of the communities, the county commissioners and the state legislature. 

We were also in touch with the Georgia Smart Meters opposition group that the cell towers inside our neighborhoods could have a connection to the smart meters Georgia Power is installing on our homes.  The smart meters need cell towers to communicate our usage data back to their headquarters.  So, in case Georgia Power is involved in placing these dangerous towers on our school grounds, we thought it would only be fair for us to make sure they are not getting too much of our money in others ways since they seem to think they are entitled to a lot more than we think a private citizen should have to give up just for use of electricity - our privacy, our health, our public school grounds.  What's next?  Well, CBS Investigative Reporter Wendy Saltzman is on our side and holding the school board and its spokesman accountable!  We'll be watching her station to see what she learns in her ONGOING investigation about the waste of our money in our own schools. 

If not for this waste, maybe the school district would have never been so desparate to have to consider cell phone towers as an "alternate revenue stream" to begin with.  Read on for Wendy's letter, dated 7/20/12:


Dear School Board Members and Superintendent,

I know all of you are very busy with the budget right now, but I wanted to follow up on the report we aired on Tuesday.  I was very dismayed when I received an email from a parent saying the lights were still on (not just security lights, but lots of lights) day and night at the schools we identified in our reports and others.  I was told by Jeff Dickerson the issue was being looked at when we spoke on Tuesday.   I would like to find out what the school district is doing about this issue. We will continue reporting on it, as the school district is already $6 million over their budget for electricity.

Here is a link to my report:

http://www.cbsatlanta.com/story/19045960/school-lights-left-on-tough-questions-about-waste

I have received a large response from parents, and was made aware the story has also been posted on two other sites. 

https://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/lights-left-on
http://tucker.patch.com/articles/tucker-schools-in-cbs-investigation-of-electricity-waste

Here is the email I received from a parent just today that I found concerning.  Please advise what the district is going to do moving ahead, as I plan to follow up on your progress next week.

Just a quick update to let you know the electricity issue / efficiencies of our schools made it to the list of questions for candidates at the school board forum at Arabia Mountain High last night.  And we don’t even know who submitted the question, but everyone there seemed to be very aware of it.  The board members (current) seemed a little embarrassed by it.  But, you know what... I drove by Brockett today and darn if those outdoor flood lights weren’t still on in the daytime!  Ugh!  Maybe they are on because of the weather, but we will keep checking when it clears up and see if there has been any change to the practices of these schools since your investigation.  Here are a few of my notes from the candidate forum regarding this issue:

The answers were all over the place:

Jim McMahan (Dist. 4):  We need to do what we can do; efficiencies for all departments are a must
Dr. Pam Speaks (Dist. 8):  Need to hold the superintendent accountable
Dr. Rivers-Cannon (Dist. 6):  Need less administration and paperwork so the little things will get done faster.
Latasha Walker (Dist. 6):  Need to identify where the waste is coming from.  You can’t fix what you don’t know.
Tom Gilbert (Dist. 4):  It’s not that big of a deal.  At Home Depot, we leave our lights on, too.
Jim McMahan (Dist. 4):  Well, we don’t  have the money of Home Depot; maybe your boss can donate some motion sensors to our schools since we cannot afford to keep our lights on like that.
H. Paul Womack (Dist. 4):  Listen, here is the deal with the lights. I called the Superintendent and asked her to check into it and that is all I can do.

Enjoy your day and thanks for all that you do!

Thank you,


Wendy Saltzman
Chief Investigative Reporter
CBS ATLANTA NEWS
Direct: 404-327-3031
Fax: 404-327-3074
Cell: 404-606-0460

Wendy.Saltzman@CBSAtlanta.com


  

District 4: Three Out of 4 Candidates said "NO" on Cell Towers!

(cleick headline for details)

At a candidate forum held by Crossroads News, District 4 candidates were asked about the July 31 ballot question on cell towers.  Here is an excerpt from that forum:

Another candidate forum was held July 19 at the
Arabia Mountain High School auditorim


July 31 ballot question

Three of the candidates said they will vote against a cell tower proposal on the ballot.

Gilbert said school properties are only for public use.

Kinney said he doesn’t believe cell towers pose a health hazard but he doesn’t want to see schools become subject to for-profit interests.

McMahan said the ballot question doesn’t allow for local control.

Voters are being asked in a non-binding advisory referendum whether the school system should be allowed to place or operate telecommunication towers on school property.

State legislators have been seeking ways to prevent the location of more cell towers on DeKalb Schools property after a July 12, 2011, vote by the DeKalb School Board to allow T-Mobile to locate 150-foot-high towers on nine school properties for up to 30 years. Most of those schools are in South DeKalb.

“Cell towers are needed, but it comes down to local control,” McMahan said. “So if a community wants it, and it goes through the proper channels, I’m OK. … I think what the school system did was completely inappropriate and fractured the trust of the citizens in those communities.”

Womack, who voted in favor of the towers, said he voted not to put them at schools that had expressed opposition.

He said he has not decided how he will vote on the July 31 question but did say he doesn’t see them as threats to health.

“You get more radiation from your handheld cell phone and microwave and walk-around phone at home than from cell towers,” Womack said.

Read more: CrossRoadsNews - Three newcomers seek to unseat Womack on School Board


District 4 candidate for
school board,
Tom Gilbert.


Both Gilbert and McMahan have been awarded our GTCO-ATL Seal of Approval!





 
District 4 candidate for

school board,
Jim McMahan

Response from U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson

(click headline to read full version)

July 17, 2012
 
Dear XXXX (GTCO-ATL),
 
Thank you for contacting my office and expressing your support during my time here in the United States House of Representatives.  I am always eager to hear from constituents of the 4th District of Georgia and I appreciate the initiative you have shown as well as the interest you have in government and I hope that my office can be a useful resource for you now and in the future. 
 
As your United States Representative, I am working on taking care of home by improving conditions for homeownership, expanding access to health care, and making sure that our service men and women have the tools they need while abroad and the resources they were promised when they get home. 
 
I am honored to be your representative in Congress.  Please visit my office online at www.HankJohnson.house.gov and do not hesitate to contact me if you have any future questions or concerns.
 
 

Sincerely,
Hank Johnson

Thursday, July 19, 2012

For the school board debate tonight at Arabia Mountain School

For the school board debate tonight at Arabia Mountain School

Please consider asking any or all of the questions below:

What is your opinion about leasing school property to private companies for non-educational purposes?  What do you believe would be your responsibility to the surrounding communities if your plans would upset local zoning ordinances and possibly lower their property values?

Can you tell us about the “Success for All” program advocated by Super. Atkinson?  Do you agree that it is the best method for teaching our children?

Do you believe that we should fund an “Ipad for every child’s hands.”  If so, how do Ipads equate to better learning in the classroom?

THANK YOU!

Get the Cell Out ATL

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

School Lights Left On, Tough Questions About Waste


School lights left on, Tough Questions about waste
Lakeside High School, July 2012.
Photo credit:  CBS Atlanta

 Posted: Jul 17, 2012 2:35 PM EDT Updated: Jul 17, 2012 11:00 PM EDT
By Wendy Saltzman

 Featuring GTCO-ATL founders Cheryl and Paul Miller

 (click headline for details)





DECATUR, GA (CBS ATLANTA) -

The DeKalb County school board is struggling to slash $20 million from their budget. They have considered cutting teachers' jobs and pay, and are at a standstill about where to make cuts.

Sagamore Hills, July 2012. 
Photo credit:  GTCO-ATL
Brockett Elementary School, July 2012.
Photo credit:  GTCO-ATL
GTCO-ATL founder
Photo credit:  CBS Atlanta
Wendy Saltzman, Chief Investigator
Photo credit:  CBS Atlanta
Now CBS Atlanta News has uncovered a major waste that could save the district millions. We are asking the Tough Questions about why lights are being left on at all hours of the day and night at schools that are supposed to be closed for the summer.

"You can count every book in the library because the lights are on so bright," said parent Cheryl Miller.

CBS Atlanta News found lights left on in hallways, cafeterias and classrooms night after night at schools around the district.

"If they are not being careful and watching how money is being spent on something so obvious, how else are they wasting money?" Miller asked.

Miller and her husband Paul contacted CBS Atlanta when they saw lights left on at Brockett Elementary.

"Seventy percent of our taxes go to the school board and they are squandering it," Paul Miler said.

"The only thing I can think is maybe someone is in there cleaning. But cleaning up from what? School is out," board member Paul Womack said.

Chief Investigative Reporter Wendy Saltzman took video of five schools with lights on to district staff and board members for a response.

"Our electricity expenses are terribly over budget, so this is an area where we do need to exert control," says board member Nancy Jester.

Jester first brought the problem about electricity waste to the school boards attention last year.

"We are $1 million over budget on our electricity," she said at an October 2011 board meeting.

Now, nine months later the district is $6 million over budget in electricity alone.

"There's waste, and I know there's waste," Jester said.

"It's all over the place, and it is not acceptable and we are going to make sure it gets fixed," school spokesperson Jeff Dickerson told Saltzman.

Dickerson said as a result of our investigation, the district is in the process of checking school timers and alerting school staff.

"These are not just security lights, these are people forgetting to turn the lights off," he said.

And at a time when every dollar counts, saving millions may be as simple as the flick of a switch.

"I want to know, why did that happen, who is responsible for making sure that doesn't happen, and what are you going to do about it?" Jester questioned.

The district had proposed cutting 250 teachers and 170 para-professionals' jobs to help balance the budget. But board members tasked the superintendent with slashing some of these fairly obvious abuses first.

CBS Atlanta News will keep checking these schools to make sure these school district lives up to their promise.  

Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved

If you see any local school in DeKalb County with wasted electricity, please contact Wendy Saltzman or email us at sayno2celltowers@yahoo.com.


School Board Candidate UPDATES and GTCO-ATL SEAL OF APPROVAL AWARDS



DeKalb County voters have proven their interest in where the school board candidates for the July 31st election stand on key education issues. A packed audience was in attendance for the Tuesday, July 10th candidate forum held on Atlanta’s Westwood College campus. On Thursday, July 19, 2012, another large crowd is expected to attend the next DeKalb County Board of Election Candidates’ Forum including candidates from Districts: 2, 4, 6, and 8.

Sponsors, the PTSA of Arabia Mountain High School (AMHS) have confirmed all twelve candidates will attend the event taking place in the AMHS Auditorium. Event organizers say each school board candidate will give a one-minute opening remark and then answer pre-selected question from voters. At the end of the question and answer segment, the candidates will have an opportunity to make two-minute closing statements.

The DeKalb County School Board has had a rough end of the year. An unexpected budget shortfall of more than $80 million, a vote to increase taxes and a continuing debate over laying off more personnel has all occurred under the watchful eyes of the community. With so many challenges facing the District, Arabia’s PTSA say this election is of “vital importance” to various segments of the DeKalb community. Arabia Mountain High School is also a school choice and magnet school, pulling in students from across the county. And organizers say that will also contribute to an expected crowd of as many as 500 voters in attendance.

The candidates for District 2 are: Don McChesney (I) and Marshall Orson.

The candidates for District 4 are: Tom Gilbert, Jim Kinney, Jim McMahan and
H. Paul Womack, Jr. (I)

The candidates for District 6 are: Melvin Johnson, Denise E. McGill,
Terriyln C. Rivers-Cannon, and Latasha Walker

Candidates for District 8 are: Michelle “Mimi” Clark and Pamela Speaks (I)

Because of the anticipated crowds, people are encouraged to arrive early. DeKalb County Board of Election Candidates’ Forum takes place Thursday, July 19, 2012 at Arabia Mountain High located at 6610 Browns Mill Road, Lithonia, GA 30038. The event begins at 6:45pm and ends at 8:30pm.



We will award the 2012 Seal of Approval when Get the Cell Out - Atlanta sees or hears a public statement from a school board candidate that demonstrates that he or she would NOT vote for cell towers on school grounds if given that opportunity today.  We are not concerned about whether or not the candidate personally believes in the health risks associated with cell towers or whether he or she is fully aware of all the reasons the various groups of residents and parents have joined our cause to oppose the towers over the past year.  But, we ARE concerned that the candidates running for the board are aware of the issue, understand the vital importance of gaining proper feedback from the district communities they are asking to represent and that they understand the large amount of controversy over this decision which was made this time last year.

In addition, we hope to help the candidates get up to speed quickly on this issue as they may not understand that it will likely be the first major controversy they will be forced to deal with if they are elected to office on July 31.  Walter Woods, spokesman for the district stated that the construction of 8 towers was scheduled to begin in August.  The contracts state that they cannot build during the normal operation of school.  Therefore, a massive rush to build these large, dangerous, HAZMAT towers in the middle of quiet residential communities with many residents still uninformed and unaware may soon take place leaving a large number of the new constituents very, very angry.

In other school districts in other parts of the country there have been large scale protests, human chains built to block trucks from entering the school grounds, irate parents, lawyers, television crews, national media attention and a lot of very, very angry parents and taxpayers wanting answers.

In most cases, as will likely be the case here, by the time these folks see the towers being built before their eyes, it is likely too late for them to be able to stop the construction.  A long legal battle may create the need later to have a tower taken down, but many people will want to know who signed the permits and how these towers were approved without following any of our county's standard zoning laws or practices.  If these candidates are not fully educated on this subject, we expect they will get a crash course on Aug. 1.

GTCO awards the Seal of Approval to the following candidates as of 7/18/12:
Dist. 2 Don McChestney;
Dist. 4 Tom Gilbert,
Dist. 4  Jim McMahan;
Dist. 6 Denise McGill.

Ms. McGill and Mr. Gilbert are the only candidates who have stated emphatically that they do not believe cell towers should ever be built on school grounds no matter how desparate for money our system might be. 

Mr. McMahan was mainly concerned about asking the community for their feedback and voting accordingly and voiced concern that the communities were by and large uninformed. 

Mr. McChestney did his part during the vote in July 2011 to remove several schools that voiced concerns over the towers and we believe he may have voted against the towers had he had all the information available to him then that he does now. 

We have yet to hear from either candidate in Dist. 8.  Dr. Speaks did vote in favor of the towers, but also asked questions about the communities other options to speak their opposition and was misled to believe they would have that opportunity.

And, of course, Mr. Womack brought the towers to DeKalb County Schools as a favor to his friends at Lakeside High School, the only school to publically state their wishes for a tower and the only school on the initial list to not have a signed contract to date. 

Separately:  Mr. Kinney wants humans to live in outer space (fact) and insulted a mother on the Tucker Patch who was attempting to inform her community about the school board's decision to put a tower at Brockett Elementary.  Unacceptable behavior from someone wanting now to represent the views of the same community.

 Mr. Orson lied to the public and the media about the SPLOST IV so that his elementary school at Fernbank could get a new building despite the fact that the SPLOST legal fees were bleeding the operations budget dry.  We do not believe either of these candidates deserve further discussion or consideration.

We are trying to reach the others not mentioned.  Please check back soon!


Monday, July 16, 2012

DeKalb's Digest on Drastic Decline

At the school board meeting today, new information was discussed about the Superintendent's recommendations for the 2012/13 budget.  The proposal was posted online in more detail than previously provided.  You can view it here.

One interesting slide contained in the proposal was this one below: 



Look at the sharp decline in our property digest over the past few years.  Our schools are failing and our property values are plumeting. 

Obviously the addition of cell towers to the middle of our neighborhoods would only cause further declines in value, make homes harder to sell and deter others from wanting to move here.

People are moving out of DeKalb and with good reason. But, we know this property will be valuable again one day as long as we do not cause further harm by adding radiation at unmonitored, unacceptable levels to the list of hazards our children must endure and each of our residents must accept along with some of the highest property tax rates found anywhere in the metro Atlanta area.

Please, vote on July 31 and vote responsibly.  We need a change in our school leadership.  We need a big change in DeKalb while there is still something worth saving!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

FCC may take up issue of cell phone radiation


By Julie Steenhuysen and Jasmin Melvin

Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

CHICAGO/WASHINGTON | Sat Jun 16, 2012 8:31pm BST

CHICAGO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the Federal Communications Commission is asking for a review of the agency's stance on radiofrequency energy emitted from cell phones amid lingering concerns that the devices may cause brain tumors.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Friday circulated a proposal to his fellow commissioners calling for a formal inquiry into the mobile phone emissions standards set in 1996.

The proposal would need to be approved by a majority of the FCC's five commissioners before the agency could release it for public comment. If it is approved, the agency would consider changing its testing procedures and seek input on the need to either strengthen or ease the current standards. The agency would also look into whether emission standards should be different for devices used by children, an FCC spokesman said on Saturday.

The spokesman stressed that the agency continues to believe there is no evidence tying cancer, headaches, dizziness, memory loss or other health problems to mobile phones.  But the inquiry would seek any scientific evidence that could warrant changes to the emissions standards.

The number of mobile phones has risen sharply since the early 1980s, with nearly 5 billion handsets in use today, prompting lengthy debate about their potential link to the main types of brain tumor, glioma and meningioma.

In May 2011 the World Health Organization added cell phone radiation to a list of possible carcinogens, putting it in the same category as lead, chloroform and coffee, and said more study is needed.

Unlike ionizing radiation such as that from gamma rays, radon and X-rays, which can break chemical bonds in the body and are known to cause cancer, radiofrequency devices such as cell phones and microwaves emit radiofrequency energy, a form of non-ionizing radiation.

According to the National Cancer Institute, there is no consistent evidence that non-ionizing radiation increases the risk of cancer. 

What these devices do produce is energy in the form of heat, and the concern is that frequent use of cell phones held up to the ear can change brain cell activity, as some studies have suggested.  What is not yet clear is whether this causes harm, which is why the WHO and other health bodies have called for further study.


Read more here.

(Reporting By Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago and Jasmin Melvin in Washington; Editing by Xavier Briand)

Early Voting Sites and Times - DeKalb County, GA

General Primary, Nonpartisan and Special Election Early Voting Sites and Times



July 9, 2012 through July 27, 2012
Voter Registration & Elections Office *
4380 Memorial Drive, Suite 300
Decatur, GA 30032
Hours: 7:00 AM until 7:00 PM

Two Areas -- with one Exclusively for Senior and Disabled Voters
*Including Saturdays, July 14 and 21









Additional Locations Beginning July 23, 2012 through July 27, 2012

Downtown Decatur - Clark Harrison Building
330 W. Ponce de Leon, Room A
Decatur, GA 30030
Hours 7:00 AM until 7:00 PM
South DeKalb - Community Achievement Center, Inc.
4522 Flat Shoals Parkway
Decatur, GA 30034
Hours 7:00 AM until 7:00 PM
North DeKalb - Chamblee City Hall
5468 Peachtree Road
Chamblee, GA 30341
Hours 7:00 AM until 7:00 PM
East DeKalb - New Bethel AME
8350 Rockbridge Road
Lithonia, GA 30058
Hours 7:00 AM until 7:00 PM
Tucker Recreation Center
4898 LaVista Road
Tucker, GA 30084
Hours: 7:00 AM until 7:00 PM

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Board to Discuss Further Budget Cuts Monday, July 16

NOTICE ~ CONTINUATION OF THE DEKALB BOARD OF EDUCATION CALLED MEETING
The Called Meeting held by the DeKalb Board of Education on Wednesday, July 11, 2012 recessed at 2:24pm, and will re-convene on Monday, July 16, 2012 at 1:00pm in the J. David Williamson Board Room in the Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center at the DeKalb County School System’s Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain.
For details, see The DeKalb School Watch Blog:  http://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/board-scheduled-to-discuss-further-budget-cuts-monday/

And, we are working on a surprise story for our GTCO-ATL fans as well as our friends with the Georgia Smart Meter Opposition Group.  We will bring you more details soon!

We also plan to attend the Monday board meeting and report on it here.  It is not expected to be carried live on any cable stations or via the web.

Post any questions or comments you have regarding this meeting here and we will do our best to answer them as soon as possible.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

We Need a Moratoria on Cell Tower Construction



mor·a·to·ri·um
noun \ˌmȯr-ə-ˈtȯr-ē-əm, ˌmär-\
pluralmor·a·to·riumsormor·a·to·ria


Definition of MORATORIUM

1 a: a legally authorized period of delay in the performance of a legal obligation or the payment of a debt b: a waiting period set by an authority

2: a suspension of activity


We Need a Moratoria on Cell Tower Construction
by crossbones

Are You Talking to Me?





I may not live in South Dekalb, but I have plenty of friends who do.  I have lived in this county since 1999 and have worked as a physical therapist in just about every neighborhood, clinic, hospital or other facility you can name.  As a contract employee, I can be assigned to one part of town for several months, or for just a week or two.  And, with home health growing quickly in popularity, it is not uncommon for you to see physical and occupational therapists, RNs and other healthcare professionals on a regular basis coming into and out of every neighborhood.  We treat people of every size, shape, color, ethic background, economic status, political party and religious belief that can possibly be out there. 

When I say that you know me, I mean it.  You likely know me, have met me, or else you know someone who does.  I have treated your family members, neighbors, buesiness associates and friends.  Every patient I see is a human being that I have tried to help during a time when they are injured, sick or suffering in some way.  And, I work to the best of my ability to get them back on their feet so they can get back to their lives and to doing the things they love. 

So, when someone tells me that I do not understand a particular community, I take offense to that.  It has been my job to understand and I have been told that I am good at what I do.  So, perhaps it is not me who has a problem with understanding.  Perhaps others do not understand me and why I would choose to speak out on an issue such as the cell towers planned for public schools in DeKalb, especially when my child's school was already removed from the list exactly one year ago this week. 

Why would I still be mad about this issue?  Why do I tell everyone I come in contact with about it?  I'll tell you why... because it is wrong and it should not happen in this county, at our schools, to our children - any of our children.  And there is not a person on the school board, or in the county office who will convince me otherwise because I know how the events went down because I lived it.  There was deception from the beginning as those in charge decided to downplay and hide what they were doing.  They held meetings they did not want anyone to attend and later spoke about how the fact that no one attended must mean that we were all okay with what they were doing.

We have not been able to find out how this subject even surfaced as a means for additional school system revenue, but it was not due to it being a good thing for the children or a way to improve our graduation rates, I can tell you that much.  I have never met a parent who wants a cell phone tower at their child's school or a homeowner who wants one to go up near their home.  No one in favor of cell phone towers in residential communities bothered to show up during the three hours of testimonies that were given during the cell tower hearings.  But there were a lot of of people who were opposed to the idea.

And, after the hearings, that were set up by Karla Drenner (D - Avondale Estates), there was little or nothing more to be said by the folks who were present to support a proposed ban on the towers.  Where did they all go?  Why are they not speaking up right now to warn you about the cell tower referendum question that will be on your ballot July 31?

Our group, Get the Cell Out, has been the only one speaking up that has absolutely nothing to gain.  We have been speaking out about what information we learned and what responses we received from the politicians and other officials we contacted.  We have urged everyone in DeKalb to work together in protest on this issue as it is the only way we can truly protect our neighborhoods and children from the dangers of cell phone towers on their school grounds, both the known and unknown dangers.

We have proudly worked with Unhappy Taxpayer and Voter to bring forth the truth behind the towers so that the people could stand up for their own rights as parents, taxpayers, homeowners and concerned citizens.  And we have written and called the CEO, the Director of Public Works, the Director of Planning and Sustainability and others to ask that any permits for construction be routed through the county commissioners as that would be the proper process.  But, we have received only a few vauge replies.

Most recently we asked the county commissioners to place a moratoria on all cell tower construction for the next 6 months so that we do not see construction begin without proper permits or under unrealistic deadlines that would require them to be completed before school begins in early August.  But, a moratoria on cell towers will likely happen only if your county commissioners hear from you on this subject, too.

We can only do so much.  Our goal has been to share the information as we have learned it ourselves.  But, if you have a cell tower slated for your child's school or your neighborhood, the last stages of this fight will have to be left up to you.  We estimate July 12 as the cutoff date for T-mobile to back out without penalty.  After that, construction is likely to begin Aug. 1 and end before school starts. 

If you feel your rights are being violated, please contact a lawyer in zoning, environmental, civil rights or FHA to deermine your next steps.  You may also refer to our website for more details:  www.GETtheCELLoutATL.org, "Like" us on Facebook and sign the countywide petition:  http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/GTCO-ATL.

Ths is not legal advice.  This is just friendly advice from someone that you know, whether you know it or not.

Don't forget to vote NO on the cell tower referendum ballot question on July 31.  And, research your options for school board representative as they decide the future of our county by the decisions they make about the education of our children today!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

School Board Candidates Face Off at Forums Set for July 10 and 19


TUESDAY, JULY 10
DeKalb residents can meet the candidates for School Board Districts 2, 4, 6 and 8 at a July 10 forum in Atlanta.  You can bet that Get the Cell Out will be there in full force to blog and ask questions of all the candidates.  We will write about our experience here so you can read about the candidates and their responses.

The free forum is hosted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Maureen Downey, author of the daily blog “Get Schooled.” The candidate meet and greet will start at 6 p.m. followed by the forum at 6:30 p.m.

The forum will be at Westwood College, 2309 Parklake Drive, NE, in Atlanta.

For more information, visit www.dekalbchamber.org/event.asp?id=846.

Read more: CrossRoadsNews - School forum set for July 10


MONDAY, JULY 9
And, don't forget the regular school board meeting will be held July 9 and hopefully streamed online if you cannot attend it live.

If you cannot remember how to vote if you are against the cell towers on school grounds, just remember who we have determined to be the best choices based on what we've learned so far:

2, 4, 6, 8
Mc-Mc-Mc-Speaks

2 - McChesney
4 - McMahan
6 - McGill
8 - Speaks

Okay, so it doesn't exactly rhyme, but if you read it over a few times, it is pretty easy to remember.  Then, when talking to friends in other districts, you can help spread the word about the best choice for their district, too!

And, unless CEO Burrell Ellis steps up and responds to our inquiries about his role in the cell tower process, we will likely be adding his name to the list of incumbants that must go!


And, from DeKalb School Watch Blog
THURSDAY, JULY 19

Candidate Forum to be held at Arabia Mountain High School
Posted on July 7, 2012

 Just in time for the upcoming July 31st election, the PTSA of Arabia Mountain High School (AMHS) has invited all 12 DeKalb County Board of Education Candidates to participate in a DeKalb County School Board Candidate Forum on Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 6:45 p.m. in the Auditorim at AMHS.

Because AMHS is a School Choice and Magnet School, the students that attend AMHS come from every district in DeKalb County. Given the recent replacement of the Superintendent and other key staff with the DeKalb Board of Education, as well as the recent public debate over major budget cuts, this year’s School Board election is of vital importance to the various communities throughout every segment of DeKalb County. So far, 9 of 12 candidates have confirmed. We do not have an email address or phone number for Tom Gilbert. Please contact us at ptsa@arabiaptsa.org.

The format of the Candidate Forum will be as follows:

Each candidate will make a one-minute opening statement;

Voters will submit their questions for the candidates prior to the meeting. Only 8-12 questions will be asked depending on the number of candidates that confirm. The more confirmations, the fewer questions. Candidates will have 1 minute to answer.

Candidates will have the opportunity to make a two-minute closing statement.

The Candidate Forum will end at 8:30 p.m.

AMHS is located at 6610 Browns Mill Road, Lithonia, GA 30038.

The PTSA of AMHS aticipates that 500 voting DeKalb County citizens will attend the Candidate Forum.

The following DeKalb County Board of Education Candidates have been invited to participate in the Candidate Forum at Arabia Mountain High School on Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 6:45pm. Those with a star (*) have confirmed their participation:

District 2
 Don McChesney (I)*
 Marshall Orson*

District 4
 Tom Gilbert (no contact information yet)
 Jim Kinney*
 Jim McMahan
 Paul Womack (I) (his emails bounce back)

District 6
 Dr. Melvin Johnson*
 Denise McGill*
 Terrilyn Rivers-Cannon*
 Latasha Walker*

District 8
 Michelle Jenkins-Clark*
 Dr. Pam Speaks (I)*

Friday, July 6, 2012

Super District Showdown - Does Anyone Even Know About This Race?

Super District 8 was originally expected to be eliminated by the state law that created confusion among voters and caused many people to vote in the affirmative for SPLOST IV. 

 
(click headline for full story)

This Super District race is probably the most unexpected match-up in the July 31 school board election as most people we have been in contact with are totally unaware that it is even up for grabs.  There was significant press coverage of the SPLOST IV referendum in Nov. 2011 and the Friends of DeKalb (led by District 2 opponent Marshall Orson) spoke to much of the media about the reduction of board members being linked to a yes vote, which was incorrect. 

So, there is only one incumbant and one opponent for this area of coverage, which is roughly half the county, but still only controls one vote on any issue.  We have voice our concerns to the campaign committee for Dr. Speaks that the ballot does not include her title, where it does include titles for other candidates.  We do not believe any candidate should be set up with a disadvantage in terms of credibility while others are given the advantage of titles, surnames, nicknames, etc. which has been proven to affect voter behavior.

Although Dr. Speaks did vote yes for the cell towers on July 11, we believe she also was misled by information provided by Mr. H. Paul Womack (Incumbant, District 4) and Steve Donahue, the Director of Facilities at the time.  We have heard, but not officiall confirmed, that Mr. Donahue has since been demoted to a teaching position. 

Dr. Speaks overall has a responsible voting record and seems to have the best interest of the children in mind, however we have mentioned on this blog that we would like to see her ask more questions and to push harder for accurate information before casting her vote on important issues.  She was at least willing to contact us by phone to address our concerns in the early days of our learning about this issue, which is more than our own board member, Mr. Womack or the Chairman Mr. Bowen did. 

And, in all fairness, during the July 11, 2011, vote on cell towers, Dr. Speaks did ask about the public's rights to bring their concerns to the board or the county if they had not been properly informed, which most of the board has now admitted was the case regarding cell tower notices.  She voted yes only after hearing Dr. Eugene Walker and Mr. Jay Cunningham speak about their knowledge of people who wanted the towers in their area and after believing that the only schools/communities against having a tower were removed by the ammendment made by Mr. Don McChestney and previously voted on and approved.

We do not know aything about her opponent, Michelle Jenkins-Clark, and are trying to learn more.  As we have information available, we will post it here.  Right now, we are not awarding either candidate our "Get the Cell Out - Atlanta, Seal of Approval." 

If you have any information to share about these or any other candidates, please let us know in the comments section!  Thank you! 

And, please remember to tell everyone you know to vote NO on the ballot questions regarding telecommunications towers on school grounds.  For more details, "like" us on Facebook or email us at sayno2celltowers@yahoo.com.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

School Board Responds to June Open Records Request




(click headline for full details)

Photo courtesy: No Briarlake Tower, LLC

June 28, 2012

Re: Open Records Request

Dear (GTCO-ATL):

This letter is in response to your Open Records Act request to the DeKalb County School District, received June 25, 2012.  Specifically, you requested the following:

1. “(T)he ‘plan’ referred to by TMobile in the lease agreement with 8 DCSD schools …”

2. “A copy of the ‘construction time-line’ of the "plan" as referred in lease agreements …”

3. “A signed copy of the Lakeside HS agreement …”

4. “ (R)elevant documents regarding a cell tower at Brockett ES specifically if surfaced after July 11, 2011 mtg …”

           In response to your numbered requests, the School District responds that it is not in possession of records as described.

 You have further requested:

1. “ (A)ny additional schools considered for cell towers, or any other vendor proposals considered or accepted …”

The District responds that there were 12 schools originally considered: Margaret Harris Center, Princeton ES, Lakeside HS, Medlock ES, Narvie Harris ES, MLK Jr. HS, Flat Rock ES, Jolly ES, Smoke Rise ES, Briarlake ES, Meadowview ES, Brockett ES.  No additional schools have been considered.


Sincerely,

Walter Woods
Executive Director of Communications
DeKalb County School System
1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd.
Stone Mountain, Georgia 30083
678-676-0410 (office)
404-486-3710 (wireless)
Walter_Woods@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

Monday, July 2, 2012

CROSSROADS Wins National Award for Cell Tower Story!

Congratulations to editor and publisher Jennifer Ffrench-Parker, CrossRoads News, for winning a $5,000 award for the "Cell Towers Going to Schools," article published July 23, 2011. 

Crossroads, and Ms. Parker, have been a valuable ally in helping inform the county about the deceptive practices of our school board regarding the cell tower issue.  The award is well-deserved and we at Get the Cell Out - Atlanta would like to congratulate the entire Crossroads staff for the award!

MILLERCOORS CELEBRATES THE VOICE OF THE BLACK COMMUNITY
WITH 22ND ANNUAL JOURNALISM COMPETITON


ATLANTA, GA (JUNE 22, 2012)- MillerCoors and the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation (NNPA) recently announced the winners of the 22nd annual MillerCoors Messenger Awards. This year's ceremony was held at Paschal's Restaurant in Atlanta and honored some of the brightest and most talented writers who not only serve as resources to their perspective publications, but are the story tellers and voices of urban communities from throughout the United States.

Crossroads Publisher Jennifer Parker, right, accepts the 
prestigious national award for her coverage of the cell
tower story in DeKalb County.  Photo credit: Crossroads.


The competition acknowledged outstanding journalism in categories such as Breaking News, Commentary, Feature and Sustainability. The 2012 competition also recognized the Best Online Presence saluting publishers with outstanding digital platforms. The winners of each category received $5,000 and each finalist received $500 for a total of $30,000 in monetary awards.

The 2012 award winners were:

Jennifer Ffrench-Parker, CrossRoadsNews (Cell Towers Going to Schools article, July 23, 2011);
Lekan Oguntoyinbo, The Atlanta Voice;
Thelma Sardin, The Chicago Citizen Group;
Christian Morrow, The Pittsburgh Courier;
and The St. Louis American .

PHOTO BY WAYLAN PHILLIPS/COURTESY FLOWERS COMMUNICATIONS GROUP
Pictured above are (from left) Karl Rodney, NNPA Foundation; Natalie Cole, Our Weekly; Thelma Sardin, The Chicago Citizen Group; Bernie Foster, The Skanner; James Washington, The Dallas Weekly; Kenya Vaughn, St. Louis American; Larry Waters, MillerCoors; Janis Ware, The Atlanta Voice; Rod Doss, New Pittsburgh Courier; David Miller, Our Weekly; Larissa Tyler; The Chicago Citizen; Sonny Jiles; The Houston Defender; and Jeffrey Boney, Houston Forward Times.




DeKalb school board raises taxes

DeKalb school board raises taxes
By Melissa Weinman on June 28, 2012.
(Reprint from Neighborhood Newspapers)

Taxes will go up for DeKalb County residents this year after the school board voted for a millage increase to help close an $85 million deficit.

At the DeKalb County Board of Education’s June 21 meeting, the board voted 5-4 to approve a 1-mill increase, which will provide DeKalb County schools with an additional $14.8 million. A 1-mill increase means taxes will go up about $80 on a house appraised at $200,000.

The nine-member board also split when it approved the budget for fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1.

This year, the system spent through its reserves, leaving nothing for emergencies. So the $760 million budget includes cuts that will reduce the system’s operating costs and provide roughly $8 million in reserves.

“This budget allows us to rebuild our reserve and get back our financial footing,” said Walter Woods, spokesman for DeKalb schools.

The budget cuts $1.9 million in funding for the Fernbank Science Center and increases all class sizes, including special education, by two students. It also eliminates funding for 200 paraprofessionals.

“We are trying to keep our cuts from directly impacting the classroom as much as we can,” Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson said.

The board also approved two additional furlough days for teachers, for a total of six next year.

“These will not be instructional days. They will be teacher work days and things like that,” Woods said.

Because of the increased class sizes, Woods said DeKalb will hire fewer teachers this year. No teachers will be laid off, but about 200 positions have been eliminated from the central office, he said.

Nancy Jester, who represents north DeKalb on the Board of Education, voted against the budget and the millage increase.

Jester said she believes the county could have done more to control spending before asking taxpayers for more money.

She voted against the budget, she said, because she would have rather seen different cuts.

“I stand for always putting the teacher and classroom ahead of everything else as far as cuts go and I do not believe that was the case with all the cuts in our budget.”