Location of FCC permit for Smoke Rise Elementary
School cell tower. Permit approval still needed
by DeKalb County for Special Land Use. Commissioner Stan
Watson said the issue is on hold but he may
gain new details sometime this Summer.
(Smoke Rise Homeowner’s Association speaker cont. from Brockett / Tucker Parent Council meeting. Held on April 23, 2013) For full transcript and video, click here: http://factchecker.stanjester.com/recorded-meetings/michael-thurmond/04232013-tpc/
(Last 20 minutes of meeting)
Thurmond: I’m familiar with that neighborhood. That’s my neighborhood!
Smoke Rise Homeowner Association Member: I feel guilty for bringing this up. I know you guys are doing a good job and you have a lot on your plates right now.
But… cell towers. I was tasked by the Homeowners’ Association to do some research on this area. Now, I realize that there may not be a lot of definitive evidence, but there has been a lot of circumstantial evidence and we haven’t had a lot of time to figure out all the ways these cell towers will affect small children.
I know you need the money, I understand that. But I am concerned in the expediency by which they are being placed and lack of involvement with the parents. I found out about 8 months after they had been voted on. At the very least we want due diligence. These are small children and I ask that you take a look at it.
Thurmond: Okay, I’ll tell you where we stand with cell towers. Two boards ago, the board voted to enter this agreement on 5 or 9, multiple schools. It landed on my desk. Just from my perspective. Conversation from the DeKalb County Commissioners. They are very concerned about this and involved.
Board Member Marshall Orson: We are trying to find a path that might address this issue without getting us sued.
Mr. Wilkens (DCSD Operations): These contracts were entered in 2011. We held public meetings. Current status is that there are no cell towers on school properties. A lot of the same concerns were raised that are at schools now. The process is that it is in the committee level and it is at the county level. As far as the towers, they do exist on many school properties, even in Gwinnett County. So, that information or discussion needs to be an understanding that is a part of your process as well.
Orson: we are very mindful of the situation. Do I want a cell tower on my property? I am parent. No, I don’t want one on my school property and no one else’s? It was a bad decision by a different board.
Thurmond: Focus on the county commissioners.
Q from Audience: So are you saying that there is a current contract that was approved without anybody knowing?
Smokerise Homeowner Association: I heard that Burrell Ellis does the signing. Because I know that the commissioners penned a letter to the CEO saying that they did not want the cell towers.
Get the Cell Out - Atlanta (GTCO-ATL): Just to clarify, Every one of the commissioners has penned a joint letter saying that they don’t want the cell towers.
Smokerise Homeowner Association: Yep.
GTCO-ATL: The initiative is that we were told by Lakeside that they believed their cell phone coverage wasn’t good enough. We were told this in a meeting with Paul Womack, that we have on video and recorded for anyone to see. But, the contracts were fudged. We just got a contract recently (through Open Records Request to the School System) that was supposedly signed for Lakeside.
Before that, they were the only ones who didn’t have a contract because their property was donated. So, again, are we talking about the contracts that were out there or are you saying that there is something new that is coming up? Because, and I encourage everyone to go out and take a look at exactly where the cell towers are going up, and with the Lakeside city hood that they are planning, and everyone can say that it has nothing to do with the schools, but it does one hundred percent. If you look, you will see that wherever the affluent communities are, there are no cell towers. Take a look. I guarantee you. The cell towers are right around, pocketed, placed strategically, right around the city’s proposed borders.
Audience Member: Wow.
GTCO-ATL: And, as far as the refugee thing goes… if you look at the maps, every single city that’s out there right now writes them off. No one claims them. But, they are out there. And I know. Because I see them daily.
And, beyond that… as far as funding goes, are they being divided up throughout the county as far as who is paying for all that? I mean, because our schools are Title I because we live right here. I don’t live in a Title I neighborhood but my daughter would have to go to a Title I school because of the influx. Does that mean that there is no way around that? Brockett will just always be a Title I because of that? There’s nothing we can do about it? Because that will hurt our property values.
Are we having to bear the burden of educating all these students? The taxpayers? It isn’t just that we are Title I, it is that we will always be Title I because our property values will just continue to go down.
(Side Comment: You don’t gain higher income families when they see Title I on a report about your community. It will bring in more Title I families, not fewer. It isn't fair to expect taxpayers to continue paying a high dollar on their property tax bill for a service they do not need in their community - a Title I curriculum school. A school should not be something that is actually working against you in terms of being a property owner. Otherwise, why do we pay for it with our property taxes?)
Q from Audience to GTCO-ATL: We have refugees?
Q: Here? In DeKalb County? At this school?
Thurmond: It is what it is.
GTCO-ATL:: But you just said a little while ago, didn't you? You said we can expect to be getting a lot more of them?
Thurmond: Well, maybe. I mean (laughs), I mean I haven’t talked to the state department about it or anything like that. (laughter in audience.) But, what he is saying and this reinforces what I was saying is that you have to keep thinking about what kind of outside influences will be coming in that might affect the kind of school you want to have. Refugees are coming here. They are all over DeKalb County.
GTCO-ATL:: But, are we getting any reimbursement for that? Does the burden fall on all of the taxpayers? Because here we are talking about how we should do all this with our schools to accommodate the refugees but what is being done by the state to accommodate them? Don’t they get funds for that? Aren't they the ones who are bringing them here? I mean, we have to put up with all this extra traffic, all the buses, tearing our roads apart. There should be something for the community that is taking on the burden to make sure it doesn't suffer.
Thurmond: There is some federal funding for children who speak English as a second language.
GTCO-ATL:: And we cut the translators, too.
Thurmond: Yeah, that was not a good move. That was really not a good move at all.
Tucker High School’s Principal: Mr. Thurmond, my concerns are greater than just “are they coming to Tucker High School.” My concern is for the kids. You've got kids that are 18, 19 years old. We've got students right now in high school that are 19 years old. We've got some students in 9th grade that are 20 years old. And, we've got some that are still kids. And, it’s kinda unfair to put that kid in that situation. It’s unfair to put a school in that kinda situation.
Here’s what happens: Number one: you got kids who are frustrated because they can’t master the content. But at 19 years old they can get a job. So, guess what they do? They drop out of school.
Then they relate that back to the high school. They say, “Whoa, look at your low graduation rates and you got low test scores.“ But, we know why those test scores are low.
So, we're putting those kids in the situation where they can’t be successful in this school district.
Now, my thing is we gotta give those kids some kinda place where they can be successful. We get so focused on what’s going on, that we tend to forget, now why are we here? What’s the focus? We’re here to help people. We’re here to give them a better life. Those kids, they’re great kids. They’re sweet kids. They don’t deserve to be stuck in the 9th grade with a bunch of younger kids and then we can’t do anything except sit and watch them drop out. So, as a school system, district, what have you, we've gotta come to grips that we got some problems with those kids. We gotta come to an understanding that whether it is Tucker, Clarkston, Lakeside, wherever. We've got to help these kids be successful.
Thurmond: Absolutely. And that’s the principal of the year. Ya’ll give him a hand. (Audience claps for the Tucker Principal but he continues to look directly at Superintendent Thurmond without smiling or changing his expression. He is waiting for an answer. He doesn't get one.)
Thurmond (changing subject): Great news! On Monday I will be in Rockdale County at the Rockdale Career Camp. I have met with the commissioner of technical education. I met with Mr. Don Jackson who is the President of DeKalb Piedmont College. We have been offered an opportunity to apply for a $3 million grant to apply for a career academy here in DeKalb County. (applause) That goes to what you were saying. 20% will apply to go to a four year college. A smaller percent will graduate. We have to create more pathways to success.
Okay, putting on my Labor Commissioner hat for a moment. Young people like you just described will have career paths to other forms of viable labor that can lead to an even higher income than some careers that require a college degree. So, if we can get these kids into some kind of school to work program, we can still impact them at an early age.
Q from Audience: According to the state of Georgia, every child will be educated for college. How can you have a technical school when the state will only acknowledge college preparedness in terms of curriculum in Common Core?
Thurmond: Yeah, but it is College and Career preparatory is the way I think they got it worded. Students in DeKalb County can be dual enrolled in the DeKalb Technical College, alright?
Listen, the young folk, the high tech folks, it’s not just a four year at a regular school.
Look up allied health professionals.com. After I get back from Rockdale, I will give ya’ll more then.
Audience Parent: I just wanted to say that I know it has been a mission for you, and that you have focused on increased communication and we appreciate that and the increased visibility. We can see that and we appreciate it.
Tucker Parent Council Leader: Way to stay focused. With regard to the refuges, is there some way that we can focus legislatively? Is there a way that we can apply for more funding to work with the state so that they will buy-in that this is not just a DeKalb issue. It is a state issue?
Thurmond: Now, don’t quote me on this, but I believe I heard recently that there are something like 57 members the current state congressional district who graduated from a school in DeKalb County. So, I think you have a very likely audience there.
I need you to do this for me. I know we have a long way to go. But, if you will admit that we have made some progress toward SACS, in terms of restoring accreditation. If you can admit that we have started the long process and have made some headway. We have a long way to go.
Tucker Parent Council Leader In terms of the overcrowding situation: can we do anything like a K- 6 funding that will give relief to the schools? It doesn't do us any good to advocate for it if the school board or the legislature isn't on board with it.
Thurmond: You need to show to your legislature that you are involved in the process of wanting better education for all the students in DeKalb, North, South, East and West.
For more information about the refugees who are living in Clarkston, CLICK HERE.
UPDATE: After this conversation regarding the refugees and who is paying for them, Superintendent Thurmond shocked the general public by "finding" approximately $9 million in additional funding that was being kept off the books. Some of it was reportedly from the after school contributions of parents who have children in clubs who do not participate in the after school program. Here's word about where the rest of the untapped funds originated from:
So, are these two issues related? Tell us in the comments.
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