Thursday, January 31, 2013

GTCO-ATL to Address DeKalb School Board on Monday, Feb. 11, 6 p.m.

(Click headline for details and for ways you can help!)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Greetings ~

This serves to acknowledge receipt of your request to speak at the
February 11, 2013 Board of Education work session & business meeting. You will be speaker #2. The meeting will be held at 6:00pm in the J. David Williamson Board Room at DeKalb County School System's Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard in Stone Mountain. 

Margaret C. Fran├žois
Administrative Assistant
Board of Education Office
DeKalb County School District
Here we go again, DeKalb!
GTCO-ATL members to speak to
DeKalb School Board on Feb. 11!
From top, Cheryl Miller, Viola Davis,
Paul Miller.  Please join us!
Administrative & Instructional Complex
1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
Stone Mountain, GA 30083
Office: 678.676.0777 (Direct)
Office: 678.676.0027 (Main)
Fax: 678.676.0407

On February 11 Get the Cell Out - ATL will present the results of the July 31, 2012, ballot referendum question to the DeKalb County School Board.  Voters overwhelmingly showed the leadership of DeKalb how they felt about a subject that telecom lobbyists thought we were clueless about.  

The telecom lobbyists took a calculated risk with this one.  They offered a compromise in order to stop our ban on the towers that was about to be passed along to the floor of the House for a vote.  In a committee, it was determined that a referendum would gauge the waters of support before such a ban would be necessary.  They gambled that some questionable wording and basic ignorance of our residents about the subject would provide them with  the votes to show that the public did not care.  

Instead, a shocking 62%, more than 75,000 people, voted "No" when asked if they thought telecommunications towers should be placed on school property in DeKalb!  So, it's time for the school board to face this truth.  The people of DeKalb do want this plan, originally conceived by Paul Womack who lost his seat to newcomer Jim McMahan, largely due to this issue.

Together We Stand!
We all stood together, spoke out, stepped up to vote and it worked!  We stopped the widespread cell tower expansion from encroaching onto the streets of our neighborhoods and next to the buildings where are children spend so many hours while in school each day.  

However, the latest talk about the need for "wireless" in all our schools has once again raised concerns.  Many people believe the school administration is intentionally confusing the terms of wireless with cellular in order to lead people to believe that one is not possible without the other.  If her plans for e-books will be used as an excuse to revisit the cell tower placements, we want to be able to stop her right now before it is too late.  And, if the district is no longer planning to place cell towers at our schools, we want to hear them say that so we can all rest at ease and focus more of our time and energy where we are needed, working with teachers, helping our children, volunteering and providing support to our schools, not having to protect ourselves from them.

Cell towers fund corruption.  Pure and simple.  The money is not reported and simply disappears into the slush funds of principals or higher-up's who are willing to place the game.  We do not want to see money from any source diverted toward those who have only brought further harm and divide to our county.  We don't want cell towers for 30 years just so a few officials can repay some favors they owe to their friends.  

Co-founders of Get the Cell Out - Atlanta, Cheryl and Paul Miller, will address the board regarding this subject.  They will be joined by Viola Davis, the founder of Unhappy Taxpayers and Voters.  We will be speaking on behalf of every school and every community.  And, we will be calling upon the board to take immediate action by adopting our proposed resolution into their bylaws on that evening's consent agenda.  

IMPORTANT:  If you would like to help, please consider speaking with us at this meeting in support of the resolution.  You will have three minutes.  If you are not accustomed to public speaking and would like some help with preparing your statement, please email us:  We can help you write a speech that you can just read, or we can help you add some good data and statistics to back up the points you want to make.  You may also wish to read the updated BioInitiative Report for Safe Schools.  

If you do decide to address the board on this subject and wish to talk about your school specifically, please remember to mention at the beginning and / or the end of your three minutes that you are opposed to the placement of cell towers on ANY school grounds in DeKalb County.  

Once a tower goes up at one school, it can leave a legal door open that would allow cell towers to be placed at any school, in any residential zoned area without the input of those who live there. 

Join us at the podium on Monday, Feb. 11, at 6 p.m. at the Board Meeting (at the Palace)  You only need to send an email to Margaret Francois (email listed above) AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  It has been common practice for the school system to load the speaking list with fluff if they believe there is a topic being addressed by the public that they do not want to address.  So, please send your request even if you are not yet sure what you will say.  You can always back out, but you cannot get a time slot on the agenda once they are all gone!

It's Now or Never
We are tired of waiting and wondering.  The information the school system has given us so far simply does not add up.  If the contracts have expired, then why do we still have an active timeline showing towers will be built THIS MAY?  (see graphic)

We are taking a proactive approach to resolve this issue once and for all.  Either our board will stick to the words they all said during the last election regarding their current beliefs that cell towers should not be placed on school grounds, or they will ignore us and proceed with "business as usual."  

It is our hope that they will take the SACS report to heart and realize that the only way to save our accreditation is to actually show signs that they are willing to change.  The residents of DeKalb are demanding it from them.  It's time that they take positive action! 

We are sure they will refer to the recent redistricting plan as a sign they are listening, but that entire plan was later called out for what it really was - a contrived plan to get communities in an uproar over something that was not even necessary, according to the state.  There were no redistricting requirements placed on the administration and they still proceeded in their normal process of putting a lot of schools on the hook, then yanking back the plans were the communities were outspoken.  

That's not evidence of listening.  That's manipulation and control and a false assertion of public opinion.  Most of the communities involved likely were unaware that any of the plans were being made, much less taken back, because it all came about during the same time frame as the SACS report.  Loss of accreditation is a huge issue and is not something the administration should be playing around with.  But, that's exactly what going on.  

It's Time for Action

If the school board would like to truly make a move that will show the county that they are willing to budge on tough issues, especially when there is community outcry, they will do something positive about the cell phone towers we have all worked together to oppose.  The citizens of DeKalb have united on this issue, so we know it can be done.  All we need now is for our board members to remember who they represent and agree to put a policy in place that will keep our public schools safe for our children without causing the parents to be fearful that their child could be in a high risk category for an accident, learning problems, stranger danger and even cancer.  

Cell towers carry too much risk for them to be a viable revenue stream that will help solve any of the problems we face in education today.  The voters made this clear in July when 62% voted against placing the towers on school grounds. That's the same margin of victory by which the E-SPLOST vote passed the prior November.  If they believe the SPLOST vote is a valid measure by which to spend out money then they must also consider the ballot referendum as a valid reference point for public opinion on this subject.  

A Resolution to Move Forward in the Right Direction

We will be submitting a standard resolution to them in advance so they can make any suggested edits or comments and discuss the topic with us before the Feb. 11 meeting, if needed.  We will share with them the list of support we have received from county and state officials.  We will share with them the research that has come out since the last time they voted on this subject that might change their personal opinions about the safety of cell towers.  

And, we will ask that they move to place the resolution on that evening's consent agenda so it can be approved and go into effect, prohibiting the subject of cell towers from coming up again in our school system.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Supreme Court Ruling in Italy Links Mobile Phone Use to Tumor

ROME | Fri Oct 19, 2012 6:29pm EDT
(Reuters) - Italy's supreme court has upheld a ruling that said there was a link between a business executive's brain tumor and his heavy mobile phone usage, potentially opening the door to further legal claims.
The court's decision flies in the face of much scientific opinion, which generally says there is not enough evidence to declare a link between mobile phone use and diseases such as cancer and some experts said the Italian ruling should not be used to draw wider conclusions about the subject.
"Great caution is needed before we jump to conclusions about mobile phones and brain tumors," said Malcolm Sperrin, director of medical physics and clinical engineering at Britain's Royal Berkshire Hospital.
The Italian case concerned company director Innocenzo Marcolini who developed a tumor in the left side of his head after using his mobile phone for 5-6 hours a day for 12 years. He normally held the phone in his left hand, while taking notes with his right hand.
Marcolini developed a so-called neurinoma affecting a cranial nerve, which was apparently not cancerous but nevertheless required surgery that badly affected his quality of life.
He initially sought financial compensation from the Italian Workers' Compensation Authority INAIL which rejected his application, saying there was no proof his illness had been caused by his work.
But a court in Brescia later ruled there was a causal link between the use of mobile and cordless telephones and tumors.
Italy's supreme court rejected an INAIL appeal against that ruling on October 12 though its decision was only reported on Friday.
It said the lower court's decision was justified and that scientific evidence advanced in support of the claim was reliable. Marcolini's situation had been "different from normal, non-professional use of a mobile telephone", it said.
The evidence was based on studies conducted between 2005-2009 by a group led by Lennart Hardell, a cancer specialist at the University Hospital in Orebro in Sweden. The court said the research was independent and "unlike some others, was not co-financed by the same companies that produce mobile telephones".
(Reporting By Virginia Alimenti; Additional reporting by Naomi O'Leary and Kate Kelland in London; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Getting Atkinson Out: Marathon Closed Door Meeting at "The Palace"

Thank you to Richard Belcher and WSB-TV for following the ever-developing story about the issues that threaten to destroy our school system as we know it.

Today they have reported a marathon private meeting took place at the DeKalb County School Board Administrative Complex today. The issues:

1. Dr. Cheryl Lynn Howell Atkinson's text message debacle where she is accused of refusal to turn over the text messages and offered to give 11 employees their jobs back if they would drop their requests for the information.

2. The board's response to the SACS inquiry where they must show progress on the SACS goals to save their accreditation. GTCO-ATL has also uncovered the fact that Dr. Atkinson stated on her resume that she has served on a national review board for SACS.

To see her application to Atlanta Public Schools, click here.
To see her application to DeKalb County School System, click here.

Innovative Technology Doesn't Mean Instructionally Innovative

"That device is just a tool--

it's not knowledge and it's not a skill."

From:  Education Week

Innovative Technology Doesn't Mean Instructionally Innovative

Photo credit:  TeachPlusTech dot com
Note: This is a guest post by Frank LaBanca, EdD, Director of the Center for 21st Century Skills at EDUCATION CONNECTION.
Have you seen the latest mini tablet computer? It can shoot video, take photos, play music, send and receive email, and browse the web. Therefore, we must immediately buy one for every student and figure out how to use it in the classroom later.
Isn't this too often the paradigm in education? We jump on to what's trendy without stopping to consider how the tool can effectively be used in the classroom to promote high-quality learning. Moreover, the quick-to-adapt device bandwagon often neglects evidence-based best practices.
I often suggest to educators that before they adopt a new technology tool, they should determine what they want students to learn. I often guide the discussion by referencing 21st century skills including:
• information literacy
• collaboration
• communication
• innovation/creativity
• problem solving
• responsible citizenship

"Just because we haphazardly give students technology tools doesn't mean they are going to learn better--the evidence definitely supports that." 
These skills, coupled with high-quality, standards-based content are the foundation for learning. Once foundational decisions are made, then efforts can shift to determine what digital tools work best to promote that learning.
Just because the technology is innovative doesn't mean the instructional approach to using it is. As my colleague Jonathan Costa argues, when we retrofit with technology, we rarely change the paradigm. Take, for instance, the high school teacher who converts from a "chalk and talk" to a PowerPoint or interactive whiteboard presentation. There's no real difference in pedagogy--it's still direct instruction. Watching a video on YouTube may not be very different from a VHS or DVD, or for that matter, a filmstrip with cassette. If we replace the inferior textbook with the just-as-expensive online digital version, we still have the same lousy product that may not harness the power of authentic primary-source resources or evidence-based practice. Device-agnostic technology that provides access to the Internet and appropriate Learning Management Systems, coupled with a committed teacher, is often all that is needed to help students become powerful consumers and producers of knowledge.
Instructional technology must be transformative to be innovative. If we are utilizing technology in a meaningful way, its instructional value must offer options that couldn't exist without the tool. Online collaboration tools are such an example. A forum allows a written conversation between students that can take place asynchronously. Internet telephony (VoIP) services, such as Skype, allow students to communicate synchronously with experts in faraway cities, states, or abroad. And certainly the creation of digital media products including animations, videos, and podcasts provide a voice for students to communicate, tell their story, and share their novel ideas and learning. When their peers can provide online comments and feedback, the power of the technology becomes even more apparent. The recent boom in smartphones and tablets has lead to the development of millions of apps. Many apps have great educational value, but perhaps there is even more learning potential when students develop, market, and showcase their own.
The real question, ultimately, is, "Does technology help our students become better independent, self-directed learners?" That's the game-changer. It's not about the latest fancy device, hot off the shelf. That device is just a tool-- it's not knowledge and it's not a skill. Just because we haphazardly give students technology tools doesn't mean they are going to learn better--the evidence definitely supports that. Learners purposefully interacting with the tool and using it for production, facilitated by thoughtful, forward-thinking educators, is the way to get to a student-centered learning environment that improves engagement and achievement.
Center for 21st Century Skills at EDUCATION CONNECTION provides students and teachers with innovative, quality, timely, and evidence-based programs and services that increase learning achievement and engagement. EDUCATION CONNECION is a non-profit regional educational resource center in Connecticut dedicated to promoting the success of school districts and their communities.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Want to Remove Your School Board? They Have an App for That!

(click for story, petition and the law on board removal)

Okay, so they don't really have an App for removing your school board ... but there is a petition.  

Click here for the petition and please inform people you know on Facebook or email who may be able to sign as well.  

Nancy Jester, "For what it’s worth, if the board cannot agree to a drastically new approach to the delivery of education and governance of our district, the board should be removed."

It is unfamiliar territory, to be sure, but we have little or no other options unless we are willing to just take more of the same abuse.  We must unite to at least try this option because SOMEONE must stop the criminals from stealing our money and harming our children.  If the Governor cannot do it, we are truly running out of options and soon after that, we will also run out of money.  

To get more familiar with the law that is in effect right now, we've copied it for your review below.  And, please take note that the second portion of the hearing will take place on Feb. 21, 2013.  We hope that the hearing will be the final extension allowed by the state BOE before taking a decisive action to help save our accreditation.  

Thank you for staying involved and demanding a higher level of accountability at your school!  It's not just our money or our kids that we are talking about.  This is our future and we cannot sit by and watch as it gets robbed.  -- GTCO-ATL

Georgia State Law for the Removal of Public School Board Members Under Certain Circumstances:

Notes:  Certain portions of text highlighted for emphasis.  As always, GTCO-ATL comments appear in red.  And, one subsection was omitted as it was postdated for 2011 and does not apply to the current circumstances.

§ 20-2-73. Suspension and removal of local school board members under certain circumstances(a) (1) Notwithstanding Code Section 20-2-54.1 or any other provisions of law to the contrary, if a local school system or school is placed on the level of accreditation immediately preceding loss of accreditation (aka, Probation) for school board governance related reasons  (aka, the School Board's fault) by one or more accrediting agencies included in subparagraph (A) of paragraph (6) of Code Section 20-3-519, the State Board of Education shall conduct a hearing in not less than ten days nor more than 30 days and recommend to the Governor whether to suspend all eligible members of the local board of education with pay. 
If the State Board of Education makes such recommendation, the Governor may, in his or her discretion, suspend all eligible members of the local board of education with pay and, in consultation with the State Board of Education, appoint temporary replacement members who shall be otherwise qualified to serve as members of such board.(b) Any local board of education member suspended under this Code section may petition the Governor for reinstatement no earlier than 30 days following suspension and no later than 60 days following suspension. In the event that a suspended member does not petition for reinstatement within the allotted time period, his or her suspension shall be converted into permanent removal, (does this mean they are ineligible to run for that office again?) and the temporary replacement member shall become a permanent member and serve out the remainder of the term of the removed member.(do taxpayers have to fund the ousted board members' attorneys if they wish to petition for reinstatement?)
(c) Upon petition for reinstatement by a suspended local board of education member, the Governor or his or her designated agent  (we wonder if Deal will pass this duty along to State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Barge?)  shall conduct a hearing for the purpose of receiving evidence relative to whether the local board of education member’s continued service on the local board of education is more likely than not to improve the ability of the local school system or school to retain or reattain its accreditation. (interesting judgment call that is being asked for here.  Similar to the lower standards required in a civil trial vs. criminal trial, but it is clear that the proof of the case for reinstatement must come from the board member's side.)
The appealing member shall be given at least 30 days’ notice prior to such hearing. Such hearing shall be held not later than 90 days after the petition is filed and in accordance with Chapter 13 of Title 50, the “Georgia Administrative Procedure Act,” except that the individual conducting the hearing shall have the power to call witnesses and request documents on his or her own initiative. For purposes of said chapter and any hearing conducted pursuant to this Code section, the Governor shall be considered the agency, and the Attorney General or his or her designee shall represent the interests of the Governor in the hearing. 
If it is determined that it is more likely than not that the local board of education member’s continued service on the local board of education improves the ability of the local school system or school to retain or reattain its accreditation, the member shall be immediately reinstated; otherwise, the member shall be permanently removed, and the temporary replacement member shall become a permanent member and serve out the remainder of the term of the removed member or until the next general election which is at least six months after the member was permanently removed, whichever is sooner. (Nov. 2014 our entire board is up for re-election per a prior state law that was also recently passed. New terms would begin in Jan. 2015.)  Judicial review of any such decision shall be in accordance with Chapter 13 of Title 50. 
(d) Paragraph (1) of subsection (a) of this Code section shall apply to a local school system or school which is placed on the level of accreditation immediately preceding loss of accreditation on or after April 20, 2011.
(e) This Code section shall apply to all local board of education members, regardless of when they were elected or appointed.  

Trouble Ahead?

To keep up with the slippery scoundrels running our school system, you have to try to think like they do.  Nothing they do is ever above board, so you have to consider the very real possibility that everything happening right now that appears to be working in the favor of the citizens may actually be part of a larger plan.  We've seen it before, and will likely see it again, a plan to fool the taxpayers and  protect the network of friends and family.  It's likely being mapped out right now by some very motivated individuals and their highly paid legal team(s).

This last line (e) in the law on school board removal refers to the Code applying to all board of education members.  
(e) This Code section shall apply to all local board of education members, regardless of when they were elected or appointed.  

This one line is something that, for us, is a very troubling problem.  And, remember, we have been right on the money so far with every prediction we have made in the past year and a half.  We have become pretty good at figuring out what these guys are up to and how they are manipulating others as they go.

So, this line in the law is troubling to us because when we first read the law, this line was written differently.  It originally was written to only affect the members of the board from the time the law was written going forward.  We would need to look it up, but it was a 2010 or 2011 effective date. We remember reading it because we immediately alerted several people we knew about the "scam" as we saw it that appeared to be taking place.  If not a scam, then certainally it was a "loop hole" that could cause problems for those of us who have been hoping to help call out the corruption and end the battles on the board that are harming communities everywhere in Dekalb.    UPDATE:  See this link for the wording of the law that states:  (e) This Code section shall apply only to local board of education members elected or appointed on or after July 1, 2010. 

State hearing on hold for now.  It resumes on Feb. 21, 2013.
Sometimes You Just Can't Seem to Win for Losing

The state somehow passed a bill that changed our local school board election in 2012 from Nov. to July, even though our district maps were still being debated.  This whole process was not explained and actually could have harmed the Democratic candidates since it was the Presidential Primary in which there was no run-off for the President on the Democrats' side.  

Strange as it may sound, when we went to the polls during that election, we were offered any ballot of our choice as it did not matter which side you identified with, you could participate in either group's primary.  Does this happen everywhere or just in DeKalb?

Anyway... at the time, we thought that the law would not help us in our desire to see the worst board members removed from office.  It would not apply to those who were, in our opinion, the biggest offenders of the public's trust:  Womack, Walker, Cunningham, Bowen and Copelin-Wood.

But, we must have seen a variation on the final bill because we later read the version posted about that states it does apply to the entire board regardless of when they took office.  Can they do that?  The argument about whether or not you can go back in time to address a contract was something we were told we could not do with a cell tower ban.  The ban could not change the contracts already signed, according to Rep. Karla Drenner.

In other words, we have something in the constitution of Georgia that says you cannot impose a rule or sanction upon people for things they did before the law was written.  Do you think the board's legal team already knows this and is already working on the appeal before the Governor has even reached a decision?

Is this legal?

AND ... GTCO-ATL followers, that COULD mean that the highly paid legal team funded by our tax dollars actually came up with this whole scheme to protect the very board members that the public has been trying to run out:  Walker, Cunninham, Copelin-Wood.  (We would have added Bowen and Womack to this list, but they are no longer on the board thanks to the voters in the case of Womack and thanks to Bowen for stepping down, for now.)

Could the fact that our board chairman answered a basic question wrong and was caught sleeping at the hearing be an act in order to get the board removed intentionally?  Could Cunningham's appearnce and reports of illness have been contrived to make him appear less astute or articulate than normal?  Could Copelin-Wood have been any more pathetic in appearance as she leaned on the podium and snored while in the audience?   She even yelled at a parent in the ladies' room, apparently unable to control herself.  

Was McMahan's eye rolls and Orson's failure to disclose his former positions in regard to school deals and PACS have also been related to a willful desire to be kicked off the board.  If so, what do they know that we don't know?  All of the new board members admitted to having attended none of the training they should have.  All of them entered schools before the start of their terms and behaved in much the same way as they always do.  

Could all of this bad behavior in front of the state board, actually be a big performance of a lifetime designed to get themselves kicked off?  Perhaps they have reason to believe that their tenure would be honored and their status would get them a "free pass" to try again.  

To make matters worse, the state House of Representatives also passed a law to reduce the board from nine to seven, so when Nov. 2014 rolls around, we could see the return of:  Bowen and Womack.  They are keeping a low profile now because they are currently off the board, but they would still be free to run for re-election as would McChesney, who has started his own blog as a citizen to offer commentary on the current board's situation.   

Don't count them out

And, don't count the newly elected members out.  If they can win reinstatement, then they are right back on the board after a few short months of a break: McMahon, Orson and Johnson.)  If Womack does not have the desire to run again (as he has stated he was ready to retire already and should have done so a decade ago), then McMahan, Orson, Johnson (all part of the current system and way of doing thing) would be added to the winners upon appeal: Walker, Cunninham, Copelan-Wood.  That would leave out Speaks as her district will be dissolved anyway.  (Walker would have to run against Edler, if Edler convinces the Gov. to reinstate her which is highly unlikely especially since she is battling cancer).  

That would only leave Jester's district, which has been widely reporting that Womack has maintained his residence and business in for more than the allotted timeframe needed to run for the position there.  Or, perhaps Tom Bowen has moved and will have fulfilled the one year residency by the time elections roll around.  Or, Dunwoody may be able to start it's own school system by that time if they gain more public support and get the state constitution changed.  

More webs being weaved ahead

However this process ends, there are webs being weaved throughout it that have little or nothing to do with our children, our teachers and those who believe that their rights are being protected by their government.  We will continue to follow the course of action and keep you informed the best we can.  

As long as there are people willing to stand up for what is right, we may be able to take back the systems that our country was built upon to ensure our children have a safe world waiting for them when they grow up.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Watch Out, DeKalb. ATT is Getting Bigger

A huge cell tower and a dark, ominous storm cloud loom over an
ATT retail store in the Publix shopping plaza on Hugh Howell Road in
Tucker, GA.  Why is it that the cell towers made it onto the July 2011
ballot, but no one in the legislature wants to talk about them?
Where do we go from here?  

(click to read full story)
Wishful Thinking
We wish we could say that our schools and neighborhoods were safe from the intrusion of huge and ugly radiation spewing cell phone towers (like the one pictured here).  
We wish we could trust that our school board and school administration were focused on education, not securing themselves a nice slush fund while ruining our communities in the process. 
 But, we can't.  
That's why we continue to follow the clues that might help us stay out in front of them and their plans, and this latest announcement from ATT might be important.  (text included in article below this commentary.)
We've highlighted some of the pertinent content below in case you do not have time to read the article in its entirety.  But, even more importantly, you will want to check for any Alltel FCC permits that might be located near your home or school to determine if there are any old ones that ATT could have acquired along with the existing already-built towers.  Many times, these companies get the permits from the FCC and then sit on them for years before deciding to build.  Then, they can quickly get the special land use permits, or other land disturbance permit that is required by local law, and build without the public finding out.  
Normally, there would have to be a sign posted for 30 days at the location to alert the public about a hearing in front of the commissioners and Director of Planning in DeKalb County.  But, our county office is a bit distracted right now since the CEO Burrell Ellis had is home invaded a few days ago upon issue of a search warrant by a grand jury investigating problems with the Watershed Management Group.  And, remember, we were told that the school system can do whatever they want if the construction is for educational purposes.  
Superintendent Akinson's announcement about e-books could be a great excuse to claim an educational purpose, but it will not hold up in court.  Cell towers are not necessary to read content on a screen.  And there is no educational value to providing books in one format over another.  It's like saying do you want paper or plastic bags at the grocery.  Does it really matter?  
If she did try to show an educational value to this misguided decision, she would be hard pressed to find a school system that has improved as a result of going digital in any format, and certainally none the size of DeKalb.  In fact, in other states there are Attorney General investigations taking place right now to determine if there is criminal fraud taking place and there is definitely no educational benefit to the children when the money intended for their benefit is being stolen from them.  
The original 12 schools are mapped above.  Most of these T-mobile contracts with the school system appear to be expired, but the money has not been accounted for in any documentation we have been able to locate.  The only sites that still have contracts with valid expiration dates are Narvie J. Harris and Lakeside, but Lakeside's contracts is not signed by T-mobile so we are unsure if it is valid.  And the Narvie contract mentions "Panthersville" which is the nearby stadium that does look like it already has a cell tower, so we are not clear on whether there is actually one intended for the school grounds or not.
We Need Your Help, Too!
At Get the Cell Out - ATL, we are doing our best to keep our schools and communities informed about anything related to the cell towers, which voters said by a large majority that they did not want to see at our schools.  We believe there was more to the push for the towers than just the money or even the coverage at Lakeside.  We have been on a mission to find the answers and stay ahead of the game because we do not want to see a threat to our safety, property and health be another reason to drive good families away from our  area.
Check for new tower permits near your address here:
But, ultimately, we cannot do it all without your help.  So, if you live near a site that might have an old AllTell FCC permit, or you are not sure, or your school was on the original list of 12 targeted by the school board, then please take time as soon as possible to search the database at  Plug in your address and you will see a list of towers within a four mile radius.  If you see one near your school, click  on it and it will tell you who owns that license.  This is the first step ATT will need before they can build.  So, the information you see will be the same thing they use to ask for a county building permit.  
Help Us Help You!
We can help you speak out at any public hearings in order to stop the permit from being issues, if such meetings are held.  But, first we have to know about the threat before we can determine the best course of action.  So, if you find that there are AllTel tower permits out there and they appear to be in residential zoned parts of the county, or right on public school grounds, please let us know as soon as possible.  You can send an email to:  We have several attorneys we may be able to get you in touch with who are aware of this situation and can fight to stop the towers from going up near your home or school.
And, don't worry, this is one lawsuit that won't cost the school system since it is between you and the tower company.  And, your have the right to collect attorney fees under the FCC Telecommunications Act of 1996 so long as you bring forward your protest within the 30 day shot clock window that is mandatory before a building or land use permit can be issued.  
Now... on to the news....

AT&T acquires Alltel network to increase coverage and speed

AT&T is one huge company and it has no problem buying small telecommunications companies to increase even further. According to a press release issued today, AT&T acquired Atlantic Tele-Network Inc’s retail business. The retail business actually operates under the Alltel Brand name. If you are not familiar with Alltel, the company has coverage areas in Georgia, Illinois, Idaho, Ohio, North Carolina and South Carolina. The network is considered to be a CDMA network and is the same technology used by Verizon Wireless and Sprint. AT&T has plans to convert the CDMA towers over to GSM in order to increase the overall coverage they provide in those areas already.
Both AT&T and AllTel customers will benefit with better and faster data connections after the acquisition. Once the deal is complete, those consumers on the Alltel network will need to upgrade their phones to work on the AT&T network, but the company did not provide any specific details regarding that right now. The deal is set to be closed during the second half of 2013, according to the report and then other details will be revealed. AT&T will not be the first mobile company to own Alltel, in fact Verizon bought the company back in 2009.
When the deal with Verizon Wireless went through, the FCC made the company divest more than 100 markets. At that time, AT&T went ahead and bought up 79 of those markets, leaving just 26 markets, which AT&T is looking to buy now. If you remember early last year AT&T tried to buy the T-Mobile network which was blocked by the FCC and turned out to be a big issue for AT&T. AT&T was looking for more towers and more spectrums and since the T-Mobile merger was blocked, the company was left looking elsewhere for both.
Now that AT&T has dropped away from T-Mobile, T-Mobile has been looking to buy MetroPCS. Other companies like Sprint have been looking for easy ways to expand as well and is in the middle of a merger with Clearwire. On the other side of the world, Softbank in Japan is looking to buy the Sprint network, so you can see that mergers and acquisitions are nothing uncommon in the wireless industry these days.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

VIDEO: A County Divided

From the SACS Report of Oct. 17, 2012:

"A north/south geographical division

of the county also constitutes

an economic, equity and racial divide,

which is further exasperated 

by the actions of the board members."

"The actions of the board members 
perpetuate divisiveness thus limiting 
the ability of the district ..."

"Their actions interfere with the development and nurturing of a collaborative spirit..." 

"These are significantly overt issues..."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What the PTA Really Stands For: Protecting The Administration

1.22.13 by Get the Cell Out - ATL


Does the PTA still deserve your membership dues?  Think about all the terrible news that was contained in the SACS report recently and consider the fact that it has come to this - nearly losing accreditation - before any group calls out the problems and brings them to light?  

Where are the watchdog groups that are in our schools?  What has happened to the PTA?  It may surprise you to learn these groups are more about getting favors for the few (the officers and select volunteers) than they are about ensuring the children and teachers are supported in a system that is acting in their best interest.

As we were cleaning out the email storage drive at Get the Cell Out - ATL and we ran across this older email that we did not post at the time (since we did not have a website at the time).  

Basically, we got the runaround from the PTA on the issue of cell towers (per note below).  We followed up a few times, but got more of the same.  

Later we learned there was more PTA involvement than we originally suspected with some backing the administration or school board possibly in exchange for being promised $25K in funding for them to direct at their school.

We got so busy trying to stop the towers that we did not have the opportunity to take this issue any further, but that does not mean it is an issue that does not warrant some consideration.  Is the school system or the board using the PTA as an official arm of their communication strategy?  If so, to what extent?  Is the PTA a legitimate method for distributing flyers about important meetings or collecting feedback to send to a board member, review with the principal or just ensure that it does not go any further?  

The PTA has some explaining to do!

June 15,2011


Thanks so much for your email.  I have forwarded this on to our Resolution Committee that would look into this or except resolutions from our members.  We are in flux as a New Board and New Committees were installed last weekend.  Please be patient as we get these new groups up and running. 

Thanks again.

Best regards,
Heather Dean
National PTA

From: National PTA Information
Sent: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 3:47 PM
To: Heather Dean
Subject: FW: Cell Phone Safety

Please see email below.

Thank you,

Natalie Jones
Information Center RepresentativeT  1.800.307.4782 E  |
National PTA has moved to Alexandria, VA. Please update your address book.
National PTA
1250 N. Pitt Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

From: Get the Cell Out - ATL
Sent: Tue 6/14/2011 5:02 PM
To: National PTA Information
Subject: Cell Phone Safety
Hi there,

I am a parent and member of my local PTA.  I was reviewing your website to determine if the PTA had an official position regarding the placement of cell phone towers at schools.  I am trying to help the parents and teachers who are concerned about the potential health issues associated with cell towers, among other concerns, find a way to speak up and ensure their voices are heard by the administration and school board officials.

In my efforts to learn more on this topic, I was surprised to see how many other parents and other schools are struggling with the same issues across the country.  There are grass-roots groups popping up everywhere as the cell companies seem to be approaching schools with offers of large sums of money in exchange for leasing space on school grounds for their massive structures that emit radiation at low levels continuously, something that is quite possibly a hazard to children in particular. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) just labeled cell phones as possible carcinogens and suggested:

"Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings," said IARC Director Christopher Wild, "it is important that additional research be conducted into the longterm, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as handsfree devices or texting. "

So, the reason for my email ...

First, with all of this going on, I was disappointed to see that the national PTA has not considered this an issue that warrants an official position.  I am hoping that it is one you are considering so that you can help advise the members who are finding themselves in a situation like ours.

Second, I am also concerned that you have a page on cell phone safety: 
and yet it does not mention the fact that cell phones might cause brain tumors or cancer and that it is advised that children use them sparingly.  I am hoping that this is simply a page that needs to be updated since the classification
by the WHO is so recent.  Doctors from the United Kingdom have issued warnings urging children under 16 not to use cell phones, to reduce their exposure to radio frequency (RF) radiation.

I was hoping that the national PTA here might take a similar cautionary stance since it is the health of our children that is at stake.

Third, I was hoping to be put in touch with someone at your office who might help me understand how the local PTA decides to get involved or stay out of matters such as a cell company wanting to put a cell tower at a school.  Is it common for them to "stay out of it" or should they step up to allow parents a chance to discuss the issues at hand?  Do they have an obligation to inform the members and speak on their behalf?  Or, is it just left up to the officers at the time to decide how to handle the situation on a case-by-case basis?  What if the issue arises after the start of Summer?  Which board should step up - the outgoing or incoming?  And, what should I do if I have concerns that the officers may not be acting in the best interest of the majority of the members?  I would really like to speak to someone who can help me understand the role of the PTA so that I can determine how I can best help my school with this issue. 

Thank you very much for your time.  I can be reached at the numbers listed below.  At this time, I would like to keep the name of my child's school confidential since I do not want to create any problems for the people involved or for my child.  I am just looking to understand the policies.



To read a resolution adopted by the California PTA, please click here.