Thursday, September 26, 2013

Just What You Want From 911 - A Dispute Over Who Will Take Your Call

A recent news report about crimes in the Northlake area featured a resident who spoke about her belief that a city would be better prepared to police the community and keep her neighborhood safe. However, just today FOX News is reporting a mix-up at the 911 center that actually resulted from confusion over city vs. county boundaries. The more cities that are formed, the more frequent these types of mix-ups will become.

Take a look at this report about an argument that occurred between jurisdictions on a carjacking call that took place while the victim stood there, helpless.

Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

The nation's 911 emergency response system, built in 1967, was based on the expectation that calls for help would come from land-line telephones. Cell towers are not needed to support a communications system that is based upon land-line service.

Cell towers support cellular communications which is a for-profit industry, not a public utility or a public infrastructure requiring the aid of pubic funds. In fact, cell phones are actually problematic for 911 dispatchers and responders.

Cellphone users "almost assume that they are going to be located — and that's not a fair assumption," says Brian Fontes, CEO of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), which focuses on 911 emergency communications.

Calls that originate from a land line can immediately tell dispatchers the address where the call is coming from and pinpoint the location on an overhead map without the person on the other end having to say a single word. Here is a story about a woman in Greater Atlanta who might have lived if she had called 911 from a land line instead of using her cell phone.

We wrote about this same issue back in May 2012. To read our post entitled, "Debunking the claim that we need more cell towers for 911 coverage," click here.

SACS: Recognizable Progress in DeKalb

dcsd logo
1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
Stone Mountain, GA  30083-1027
Phone: 678-676-1200
Communications: 404.486.3710

July 5, 2013

SACS: Recognizable Progress in DeKalb

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Changes to the Zoning Code: Cause for Concern?

Andrew Baker, Director of Planning and Sustainability for DeKalb County,
discussed zoning code changes with a group of concerned residents on June 18.
 — DeKalb County planners are hoping they've cleared up confusion over where cell phone towers can be placed and eased community concerns about proposed changes to the DeKalb Zoning Code.
At a June 18 public information meeting hosted by commissioners at the Maloof Auditorium, Andrew Baker, the county’s director of Planning and Sustainability, said the debate can be frustrating.
He said the proposed changes to the code incorporate more public input.
“The whole idea that you can build a cell tower anywhere just by getting a permit is not a correct statement,” he said. “We now require a public hearing before cell towers are built. So we called this meeting to give people a better understanding of the code and to recommend changes on cell towers and many other issues.”
But some residents were still skeptical.
Louise Runyon, co-chair of Good Growth DeKalb, said the Medlock neighborhood-based group appreciates the chance for input but is not yet convinced it will lead to a better zoning code.
“A public hearing is different from having a code that says no commercial development in residential neighborhoods, including cell phone towers,” Runyon said. “We want a code that says no to any commercial development in our neighborhoods.”
Vincent Latimer, president of Cedar Grove Neighborhood Association, would like to see more upscale commercial development in the Bouldercrest area and stricter code enforcement on residential property owners and developers.
“We need more control on how far back houses should be from the street, the quality of building materials, the number of houses per lot, and the number of cars parked on driveways and lawns,” Latimer said. “To attract more business to South DeKalb, we have to keep it clean and make it the kind of neighborhood where business owners would want their employees to live.”
To address all concerns, DeKalb adopted a comprehensive zoning plan in 2007 that outlines a vision for controlled expansion to be achieved by the year 2025.
Baker told the meeting that the county has been using a 1999 zoning code to implement that plan.
“In order to fully implement the comprehensive plan’s vision, the county needs a more updated zoning code that is consistent with current trends of development,” he said.
He presented slides with excerpts from the proposed code, and planning workers placed charts around the auditorium illustrating the various development zones.
The Zoning Code Update has several goals:
*  Reduce traffic by creating mixed-use walkable communities.
*  Identify the best locations for new growth.
*  Promote redevelopment of underutilized retail centers.
*  Provide “predictability” by creating standards.
*  Protect single-family neighborhoods.
The proposed code also creates new standards for lots, streets, landscapes, open spaces and site improvements.
Baker said the proposed changes should make it easier for initiatives such as aging in place, mixed-use development, intergenerational activity centers, and neighborhood protection.
“The new code is user-friendly and includes graphic illustrations, useful tables and more concise regulatory standards,” he said.
It also encourages redevelopment and repurposing of existing commercial sites as an alternative to demolition, thus causing fewer disruptions to residential neighborhoods.

Runyon said the plan displayed on June 18 is an improvement over the one that Baker presented on May 28.
But she says it still needs tweaking on the issue of public input, a sensitive topic for her group that has been fighting the construction of a Walmart at Suburban Plaza.
Good Growth DeKalb is suing in DeKalb Superior Court to block the construction of a Walmart near the congested six-way intersection of North Decatur Road, Scott Boulevard and Medlock Road.
“There is strong evidence that excess power is given to the planning director and to staff that communities do not have the same appeal rights as developers and that public notice about new development and public hearings is insufficient,” Runyon said.
“What we need is clear, understandable language that spells out very specifically how the interests of neighborhoods will be improved upon in this new plan.”
Commissioners did not take a final vote on the Zoning Code Update at their June 25 meeting and deferred the matter until Aug. 27.  (They have still not voted and are expected to do so before the end of September.)
District 3 Commissioner Larry Johnson, who chairs the Planning and Economic Development Committee, said the code will likely go through more fine tuning and the public will get additional opportunities to offer suggestions this summer.
The draft plan is available at Click on “Project Overview.”

Please leave respectful comments below:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Understanding the contracting chain when tower workers die

Understanding the contracting chain on cell tower jobs can be complicated, but crucial when workers die.

William “Bubba” Cotton, 43, was the first of 11 cell site workers who died on ATT projects from 2006 through 2008, years when the carrier merged its network with Cingular and ramped up its 3G network for the iPhone.

As ProPublica and FRONTLINE reported last month, tower climbing ranks among the most dangerous jobs in America, having a death rate roughly 10 times that of construction.

The project Cotton was on involved several layers of subcontractors, which is common in the tower industry. The accident was more unusual. Most of the 50 tower climbers killed on cell site jobs since 2003 have died in falls, but Cotton was crushed to death by an antenna.

A wrongful death lawsuit subsequently filed by Cotton’s survivors, as well as a personal injury suit filed by his cousin and co-worker, Charles “Randy” Wheeler, explored two questions at the heart of every tower fatality: Who controlled the tower site? And who was responsible for the safety of the subcontractors working on it?

Here’s a breakdown of what happened in the Cotton case:

The Project

An upgrade of a cell site in Talladega, Ala., replacing the antennas on a 400-foot tower. AT&T had designated the upgrade a top priority because of an upcoming NASCAR race, a company manager said in court testimony.

The Subcontractors

To handle the tower work, ATT (then known as Cingular) hired Nsoro, a large management firm (also known as a “turf vendor.”) Nsoro hired a subcontractor, WesTower Communications, a large North American tower company. WesTower subcontracted the on-site work to a Missouri-based tower company, ALT Inc.

ATT also directly hired Florida-based subcontractor Betacom Inc. to work on a concrete equipment shelter at the base of the tower.

The Accident

On Friday, March 10, 2006, around noon, the ALT crew, led by foreman Josh Cook, was lowering an antenna from the tower, while the Betacom crew, which included Cotton and Wheeler, worked inside the shelter.

As Cotton, Wheeler and two co-workers exited the shelter for lunch, the rope ALT was using snapped. The 50-pound antenna plummeted more than 200 feet to the ground, killing Cotton.

Two of Cotton’s co-workers ran off to the nearby woods and vomited. Wheeler cradled Cotton’s head with his t-shirt and prayed, waiting for emergency responders to arrive.

The Investigation

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which regulates worker safety, opened investigations into ALT and Betacom after Cotton died. The agency did not open investigations into any of the other companies in the contracting chain, even though Cook told an OSHA inspector that he had felt unsafe working above other contractors on site and had asked for a deadline extension so that he would not have to do so. (In an interview in March with ProPublica and FRONTLINE, Cook said he was not concerned about Betacom workers on the day of the accident because they were working inside the concrete shelter and not out in the open.)ALT was cited for failing to inspect and remove the rope that snapped and fined $2,000. Betacom was cited for failing to ensure that workers on the ground crew wore hard hats and fined $4,900. OSHA sent letters to both companies saying it was dangerous for tower crews to work above other crews, and that even though regulations did not forbid it, they should avoid such situations.

Damon Depew, a project manager working for ATT agreed with Cook and later gave sworn testimony that he had asked Terry Newberry, then an ATT implementation manager, for more time. Depew said Newberry denied the request. Newberry testified that he did not recall the conversation.

According to a sworn deposition, an AT&T safety manager initiated an internal investigation after the accident, but stopped “once he found out that it wasn’t an (sic) Cingular employee” that had died.

The Litigation

Cotton’s two daughters, both minors, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Talladega County Circuit Court in March 2006 against AT&T and Betacom. They later amended the suit to include ALT, WesTower and the owner of the tower, Crown Castle, as defendants. The case was subsequently moved to U.S. District Court of Alabama.

Wheeler, who claimed he suffered a back injury diving to avoid the falling antenna, filed a personal injury lawsuit against ATT, ALT, WesTower and Crown Castle in U.S. District Court of Alabama in October 2006.

Lawyers for the Cotton family and Wheeler argued that all of the defendants should share some responsibility for the accident. As the operator of the cell site, they said, ATT had a legal duty to ensure the workplace was safe that day, they claimed.

The plaintiffs also argued that ATT had created a work environment where “time and money took precedence over safety” and had repeatedly pressured subcontractors to meet an “unreasonably dangerous schedule.” Further, the plaintiffs alleged, the carrier had insisted that the tower crew replace antennas at the same time that it should have known Cotton and Wheeler were working on the ground. ATT employees had regularly visited the site but had failed to establish any coordination procedure to prevent the two subcontractors from endangering each other, lawyers for the plaintiffs said.

ATT argued that it should be dismissed as a defendant from both cases and said it had no duty to Cotton or Wheeler, who were independent contractors, not employees.

Though ATT acknowledged it had set the project’s specifications and deadlines, it said it had not controlled how contractors performed their work — specifically, it did not tell ALT how to lower the antenna and did not tell Betacom when to break for lunch. ATT also argued that Betacom’s work on the day of the accident was not inherently dangerous and “if Cotton or Wheeler had taken the slightest care in the performance of their duties, they would have been able to cross the tower premises safely.”

The carrier also claimed that the multi-employer doctrine, an OSHA policy that extends liability to companies who supervise subcontractors at a job site, had been abandoned by the agency and was never recognized in the Eleventh Circuit, the jurisdiction where this case was being heard.

The Outcome

In August 2008, ATT entered into a confidential settlement with the Cotton family without admitting wrongdoing. ATT’s “potential exposure in this wrongful death case is significantly higher” than the amount of the settlement, the judge noted in approving the deal.

A judge dismissed ATT as a defendant in the Wheeler case in October 2008, concluding Wheeler had not proved that AT&T controlled the subcontractors’ work on the day of the accident or that the carrier knew ALT’s crew would be working over Betacom’s that day.

After Wheeler appealed, ATT filed a notice of intent to seek costs from him, estimating it had spent more than $14,000 on the case. In February 2009, Wheeler dropped his appeal and ATT dropped its claim for reimbursement.

ALT settled with Cotton’s children and Wheeler in November 2008 for undisclosed amounts. Betacom agreed to pay workers’ compensation in the Cotton case, splitting the payments between Cotton’s daughters. WesTower and Crown Castle were dismissed as defendants in both cases.

AT&T declined to comment on the Cotton case, referring ProPublica and FRONTLINE to a written statement it provided about issues related to tower work. So far, Nsoro, WesTower, ALT and Betacom have not responded to requests for comment related to this story.

Mapping the Contracting Chain

The ATT cell tower job in which William Cotton died involved several layers of subcontractors. This chart shows which companies in the contracting chain were investigated by OSHA and the results of litigation by Cotton’s family and his co-worker, Charles Wheeler.

Photo: The tower site in Alabama where William "Bubba" Cotton was killed.

article in full:

Monday, September 16, 2013

American Academy of Pediatrics Demands FCC Protect Children from Cell Phone & Wireless Radiation

Letter from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the 

FCC Regarding Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Radiation Standards

The American Academy of Pediatrics submitted the following letter to the Federal 
Communications Commission (FCC). 

The letter urges the FCC to adopt radiation standards that:

1.)  protect children's health and well-being from radiation emitted by cell phones and other 
wireless devices; 2.)  reflect how people actually use their cell phones; and 
3.)  provide sufficient information to enable consumers to make informed purchasing decisions.

The letter is also  available on the FCC's web site at

August 29, 2013 

The Honorable Mignon L. Clyburn
Acting Commissioner 
Federal Communications Commission 
445 12th Street SW 
Washington, DC 20054

The Honorable Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg
U.S. Food and Drug Administration 
10903 New Hampshire Avenue 
Silver Spring, MD 20993
Dear Acting Chairwoman Clyburn and Commissioner Hamburg:

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a non-profit professional organization of 
60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists, and pediatric surgical 
specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents, 
and young adults appreciates this opportunity to comment on the Proposed Rule 
“Reassessment of Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields Limits and Policies” 
published in the Federal Register on June 4, 2013. 
In the past few years, a number of American and international health and scientific bodies 
have contributed to the debate over cell phone radiation and its possible link to cancer. The
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the United Nations’ 
World Health Organization, said in June 2011 that a family of frequencies that includes 
mobile-phone emissions is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”  The National Cancer 
Institute has stated that although studies have not demonstrated that RF energy from 
cell phones definitively causes cancer, more research is needed because cell phone technology 
and cell phone use are changing rapidly. These studies and others clearly demonstrate the 
need for further research into this area and highlight the importance of reassessing current 
policy to determine if it is adequately protective of human health. 

As radiation standards are reassessed, the AAP urges the FCC to adopt radiation standards 


Protect children’s health and well-being. Children are not little adults and are 

disproportionately impacted by all environmental exposures, including cell phone radiation. 
Current FCC standards do not account for the unique vulnerability and use patterns specific 
to pregnant women and children. It is essential that any new standard for cell phones or other 
wireless devices be based on protecting the youngest and most vulnerable populations to 
ensure they are safeguarded throughout their lifetimes. 

Reflect current use patterns. The FCC has not assessed the standard for cell phone 
radiation since 1996. Approximately 44 million people had mobile phones when the standard 
was set; today, there are more than 300 million mobile phones in use in the United States. 
While the prevalence of wireless phones and other devices has skyrocketed, the behaviors 
around cell phone uses have changed as well. The number of mobile phone calls per day, the 
length of each call, and the amount of time people use mobile phones has increased, while cell 
phone and wireless technology has undergone substantial changes. Many children, adolescents
and young adults, now use cell phones as their only phone line and they begin using wireless 
phones at much younger ages. Pregnant women may carry their phones for many hours per 
day in a pocket that keeps the phone close to their uterus. Children born today will experience 
a longer period of exposure to radio-frequency fields from cellular phone use than will adults, 
because they start using cellular phones at earlier ages and will have longer lifetime exposures. 
FCC regulations should reflect how people are using their phones today. 

Provide meaningful consumer disclosure. The FCC has noted that it does not provide 
consumers with sufficient information about the RF exposure profile of individual phones to 
allow consumers to make informed purchasing decisions. The current metric of RF exposure 
available to consumers, the Specific Absorption Rate, is not an accurate predictor of actual 
exposure. AAP is supportive of FCC developing standards that provide consumers with the 
information they need to make informed choices in selecting mobile phone purchases, and to 
help parents to better understand any potential risks for their children. To that end, we 
support the use of metrics that are specific to the exposure children will experience. 

The AAP supports the reassessment of radiation standards for cell phones and other wireless 
products and the adoption of standards that are protective of children and reflect current 
use patterns. If you have questions, please contact Clara Filice in the AAP’s Washington 
Office at 202/347-8600.


Thomas K. McInerny, MD FAAP

How to Lobby a Legislator

HB 563: Drenner and Hensen Try Again

There is a new bill, HB 563, on the table for the next legislative session of the Georgia House of Representatives that would do what a previous bill did not:  ban cell towers from public school grounds in DeKalb County.  So far, only two state representatives, Drenner and Hensen, have signed on to it, however.  In order for the bill to get anywhere, it will need Republican backing.

Perhaps Mike Jacobs or Tom Taylor would be willing to co-sponsor the bill in order to help DeKalb residents in their ongoing efforts to protect their children and schools from the unwanted intrusion by the telecommunications industry onto public grounds this way.   Here is the text from HB 563.  If you support this effort, please email your representative at the state.  Find your representatives here:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

T-Mobile Wants to Run the City of Tucker

Get this .... So, it may not too surprising, but still leaves us flabbergasted as to the extremes T-mobile will go to get their way... just learned that at least one person on the board for Tucker 2014, the city advocacy group that appeared out of nowhere and raised $30K cash without holding any major fundraisers, also works for T-mobile. Shocker.

Here is a link to his profile in the group Tucker 2014:  (Look for Tres Scott).

Here is a link to his LinkedIn Profile:  In case it is taken down, here is what it says about him:

Tres Scott's Experience

Manager, IT Revenue Validation


Public Company; 10,001+ employees; DT; Telecommunications industry
October 2005 – Present (8 years)

But, wait, there's more ... his wife was a part of our "Save Tucker!" group as she pretended to be on the fence about cityhood so she could report back to the city group about what we were doing an saying in our closed FB group.

As for the other members of their board - 2 of the 3 live on the same street as the T-mobile person. The third is a Libertarian (likes big business) who kicked one of our members off his Yahoo Discussion group for asking if anyone knew of an attorney in the area who could help stop T-mobile from putting cell towers at our public schools.

Zoning hearing tomorrow at the county level at 6:30 p.m. We're hoping to convince them that current zoning regulations are fine and do not need to be changed. Then, we'll have to focus on educating everyone all over again because the "city" that T-mobile wants to build is focused on three things: ZONING, PARKS, PUBLIC SAFETY.

In other words, cell towers on every block and everyone else gets a pink slip and higher taxes to pay for the spy cameras at every traffic light. Soon after they take office they will advocate for online education... you heard it here first. (Well, unless you live elsewhere, then you have already been down this path before.)

For more, please follow us on Facebook.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

IMPORTANT MEETING: Cell towers focus of DeKalb meeting Monday

GTCO-ATL URGENT NOTICE:  If you do not want a cell phone tower to be placed at your child's school or in a residentially zoned part of DeKalb County, you are urged to attend this important meeting on MONDAY at 6:30 p.m.  

A show of support is very much needed so that we may keep ALL of our children, ALL of our schools and ALL of our communities safe from the unwanted and unnecessary intrusion of these dangerous structures.  

If you would like to be reminded about the many, many reasons that we believe cell towers should not be permitted in residential areas or on public properties such as schools, please refer to the bottom of this article.

Meeting notice, From the AJC

By April Hunt

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

DeKalb County, which is in the process of rewriting its county code, will hold an informational meeting Monday about possible new regulations on cell towers.

The placement of towers on county schools has been a hot button issue among residents for years. Residents can offer input on code changes at the meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in Maloof Auditorium, 1300 Commerce St., Decatur.

Cell Towers Should Not Be Allowed in 
My Neighborhood or at My Child's School Because ...

1.)  A Non-Binding Advisory Referendum was conducted by the state legislature in July 2012 which showed overwhelming support for keeping cell towers OFF our school grounds.  62% of voters (more than 75,000 residents upon the final tally) voted NO when asked if telecommunications structures should be allowed on any public elementary, middle, high school or charter school in DeKalb County.  16 of 18 members of the DeKalb Delegation in the House also agreed by signing on to Rep. Karla Drenner's bill that would have banned this practice completely in DeKalb.  The bill was killed in committee by someone who does not even live here and who has been found guilty of DUI three times (Rep. Chuck Sims - R).  Obviously, his judgment is questionable and if it had not been for his decision to stop the bill, we would not even be discussing this issue right now.  

2.)  100% of the communities that were actually facing the possibility of a cell tower at their local school voted NO on the referendum, stating they do NOT want cell towers on school grounds.  Their voices have never been officially heard as the school board approved the decision without giving proper notification to the homeowners at any of the schools and giving a misleading flyer to parents which resulted in a failed attempt to hold public meetings on the subject.  Even then, the majority of the board members themselves did not even attend these meetings.  There was no Superintendent at the time the issue was voted on and nearly every board member (except Dr. Walker) later stated in a public meeting hosted by Crossroads News that they would have voted differently if they had to make the decision again.  And, in fact, the county commissioners themselves have already made a joint statement aganst the towers.

3.)  Cell Towers lower property values.  Fact.  Most of our county is already suffering from a decline in property values as a result of the housing crisis.  

4.)  RF radiation from a cell tower is constant, background radiation that you cannot escape from.  We know that high power radiation causes cancer.  What researchers are still debating is the long-term effects of low power exposure.  However, there has been enough evidence to cause the world's leading authority on cancer, the World Health Organization, to upgrade it to a "possible human carcinogen."  This announcement was made PRIOR to the school board's decision and should have been considered RELEVANT new information that would have given them cause to vote differently than other school boards in our area.  Their justification that it has taken place elsewhere is not enough for us to say that it is okay for us here.  In fact, this one area could be a way to help DeKalb appeal to new homebuyers and help restore our schools to a higher standard where we place the lives and education of children FIRST.  

5.)  Cell towers are aesthetically unpleasant.  Zoning laws should take into consideration what the residents in an area want or do not want to see when looking out their windows or driving through their neighborhood.  I do not know anyone who would want to be within sight of a cell tower.

5.)  Crime is invited to our communities when we place cell towers near our homes.  Constant 24 hour access is provided to our school grounds and, for many, to the back doors and back yards of our homes that are next to the schools.  The copper theft in the metro area has been widely reported and there is no security provided to keep unwanted intruders from using these parking areas to scope out our homes, or watch our children on their playgrounds or as they walk in their own neighborhoods.  This is a danger we do not need to add to the list for our police force, which is already spread thin.

6.)  The fall zone of a tower is necessary to be one and a half times the total height of a tower.  If this is not followed in a residential area, then you are placing a tower near structures that are occupied by people most of the time.  If a tower were to fall over for any reason, human life and private and public property is at risk.  Will the county's insurance cover the damage that would occur in these cases?  If not, they need to keep the cell towers in commercial and industrial areas as they are now.

7.)  Dangers of falling ice and debris.  Many injuries can happen in winter if ice collects at the top of a tower overnight and then large portions fall to the ground as the sun warms it later in the day.

8.)  Cell tower climbers could fall traumatizing children or residents who witness it.  It is currently known as the most dangerous job in America.  In fact, people on the ground could be killed by something as simple as a screwdriver falling out of a tower climber's pocket because of the rate of speed and resulting force by which it would hit anything in its way at ground level.  We've seen what a falling limb can do when it strikes a child.  We do not need to place more of these dangers above our children's heads.

9.)  It is NOT necessary to place cell towers closer to our homes or at our schools.  We have plenty of towers in our area as they each can transmit from 5 - 15 miles and federal law mandates that they exhaust all possibilities for co-location prior to building new structures.  If they want to build new towers, it is purely a competitive game of owning a tower closer so that the competition has to sublease from them instead of the other way around.  There are NO dead zones in all of DeKalb County, as confirmed by the FCC's latest map on 3G nationwide expansion.  Unless a cell company can prove it actually NEEDS for our zoning laws to change, why would we offer to make things easier for them (and more expensive for ourselves)?  They have all the access they need right now.  They may just have to pay a little more to provide the service by utilizing the existing towers and subleasing options available to them.  This is not an industry that needs our help in order to profit.  They are one of the richest industries in the world right now, just behind oil and war.  

10.)  Distrust of government is a big issue here right now. The Snowden case with the federal government already has citizens on edge about whether or not the U.S. government is spying on ordinary citizens, intercepting their wireless calls without search warrants or without any justifiable cause.  Citizens in DeKalb are already very aware of the allegations of corruption in various levels of our government.  We do not need more reasons to distrust you or be suspicious of those who are supposed to represent us.  What we DO need are reasons to trust.


Please, represent us in the way that we have asked you to.  Do not allow the tainted money of the telecommunications industry to sway you.

Monday, September 9, 2013

September Board Meeting - Tonight at 7 p.m. (Public Comments at 5:45 p.m.) Technology to be Discussed

Tune in to the very important September 9, 2013 Board meeting
Posted on September 8, 2013 by dekalbschoolwatch

The main meetings are broadcast on Comcast 24 and streamed on the DCSS website here.

Here’s the schedule for today’s meetings:

Work Session – 2:00 pm Click here for the agenda.
Public comments – 5:45 pm (New, Town Hall style) (J. David Williamson Board Room)
Business Meeting – 7:00 pm (J. David Williamson Board Room) Click here for the agenda.

Below is the agenda for the 7 pm business meeting:

Meeting Agenda (click here to see details)

a. Special Recognition ~ DeKalb Early College Academy, 2012 Georgia Schools of Excellence in Student Achievement Award Recipient
b. Industry Certification Recognition
a. Safe Schools Initiative
b. The Bridge Initiative
c. School District Flexibility & Accountability in Georgia
d. Strategic Plan Report
1. Approval of State Mandated Local Board Training Plan
2. Approval of Minutes
3. Approval of Monthly Financial Report
4. Approval of Human Resources Monthly Report
5. 21st Century Community Learning Centers 2013-2014 Grant Award
6. Purchase and Year Two Renewal of PD360 from School Improvement Network
7. CaseNex Professional Development Extension Agreement (ESOL)
8. CaseNex Professional Development Extension Agreement (Gifted)
9. Procurement for all Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) and Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) Materials and Scoring Fees
10. Approval of Tapestry Public Charter School, Inc.
11. Approve Race To The Top (RT3) Funds for Executive Leadership Academy
12. Purchase of National Computer System- (NCS) Pearson, Inc. School Achievement Services for McNair Middle School, McNair High School and Towers High School
13. Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the DeKalb County School District (DCSD) and the City Schools of Decatur regarding regular education students attending the DeKalb Alternative School.
14. DCSD Middle School Telecommunications Hardware Refresh (Year 2 of 5)
15. Flip-Top Computer Desks, Bid #14-246
16. 21st Century Classroom Technology
17. District Wide Cabling and Wireless System (Year 2 of 5)
18. SPLOST III Project: Knollwood ES HVAC, Ceiling and Lighting Replacement, and ADA Improvements Contract Award
19. Bid No. 14-25 Purchase Cold Storage Services
20. Chamblee Charter High School Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment (FF&E) Package
a. Monthly School Bus Inspection Contract Extension (RFP 13-456)
b. CMAQ Early Bus Replacement (Grant)
c. School Bond Bus Purchase
22. Naming of Baseball Field at Tucker High School
D. ACTION ITEM (Amendment to the Bylaws & Policies: READY FOR ACTION)
1. Amendment to the Bylaws & Policies: Board Policy EEE
2. Amendment to the Bylaws & Policies: Board Policy GAMA (Drug-Free Workplace)
3. Amendment to the Bylaws & Policies: Board Policy IC (Curriculum Development)
4. Amendment to the Bylaws & Policies: Board Policy IDCH (Dual/Joint Enrollment Programs)
5. Amendment to the Bylaws & Policies: Policy JGC (Student Health Services)
E. OTHER\BOARD COMMENTS (2 minutes each)

Click here for the monthly budget and vendor reports. This is the first report of FY14, so it is an important one.
Click here for the monthly HR report. It looks like over 1,100 people were hired in July.
In addition, click here for the July, 2013 SPLOST report (not discussed at this meeting)

As far as the vendor report goes, we found it very interesting that only three law firms were paid from the budget.
KING & SPALDING Total $1,216.47
Jeff Dickerson was also paid in July:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

No More Books? Who Approved This Policy for Tucker High School?

A parent of a Tucker High School student recently asked about a "Pilot Program" she had heard about in the county.  And when the administrator in charge did not have the answers, a lot of the same old concerns and worries the district has faced for years came bubbling right back up to the surface.  And, for us, a few new questions are rising to the top as well. Thank you to DeKalb School Watch Two blog for posting this story and letting the taxpayers know what is going on in our schools!

Now, let's review the history of the e-books issue:

February 12, 2013:  Get the Cell Out - ATL raised questions at the public meeting of the DeKalb County School Board about the ebooks policy that former Superintendent Atkinson was attempting to implement in DeKalb before her mysterious exit under questionable circumstances and allegations. Shortly thereafter, the entire board, sans three newly elected representatives from Districts 2, 4 and 6, was removed by Governor Deal with the help of SACS, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The SACS report mentioned concerns about missing textbook funds that were reportedly spent on books but no records could indicate that the books had arrived. You can read the SACS report here. It says:

"Interviews and artifacts revealed that the system is dealing with a financial crisis. The district has exhausted its reserve funds and is operating with a severe monetary deficit.In utilizing options to secure material and fiscal resources to meet the needs of allstudents and improve the effectiveness of the system, the district established in 2009 atextbook leasing program with Bank of America for a $25 million credit line to purchasetextbooks. Reportedly, the credit line has been capped at $12.5 million, a debt that thesystem plans to repay over a period of seven years. The Board adopted the action itemfor the Termination of Acquisition Fund for Textbook Leasing Program.
"Schools benefitting from the purchase and distribution of the textbooks could not be identified as confirmed in the Video – Board of Education Meeting September 10, 2012. Additionally, through interviews, the team was unable to identify any schools that benefitted from textbook purchases. Stakeholders made several references to repairing textbooks and redistributing existing textbooks, but they did not provide any information about newly purchased textbooks. The Board has not received a report in relation to the status of textbooks in the district. There is purportedly a plan to incorporate the use of e-books. However, reports indicate that the district is not wireless, and only approximately 35 percent of the schools currently have some level of wireless connectivity."
The eventual answer came from Dr. Kathlene Howe from the top ranks of the school system.  She said that the money spent was not to purchase new books, but instead it was money used to complete a book leasing program that the district had entered into years ago.  So, Dr. Atkinson ended the book leasing, but where did the books go?  Does the program operate like a rent-to-own as long as you are constantly upgrading to the new edition of the book each time one comes out?  But, similar to car leasing programs, when you are finished and you elect to discontinue the leasing program, you don't get to walk away with the car at the end.  So, taxpayers and children were cheated out of any real tangible product even after years of paying into a book program because we were spending too much in other areas to be able to afford to just buy the books ourselves?  You can hear Dr. Howe's explanation during the Dr. Walker hearing, thanks to Stan Jester, Fact Checker's website here.

Get the Cell Out - ATL entered editorial on this topic FIVE times between Dec. 2012 and May 2013:

What DeKalb's Children Think About the E-book Announcement; Dec 06, 2012; Atkinson addressed a room full of suits recently at the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce meeting. She announced the plans to move to I-pads and E-readers to the delight of the luncheon's gold sponsors like ATT and Georgia ..."

DeKalb County Schools superintendent lays out plans to go digital; Dec 12, 2012; "DeKalb County Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson holds up a netbook during the State of the System Address in which she talked about how students learn digitally as opposed to using textbooks. As part of a mission to ..."

WIRELESS - Yeah, Most Schools Have Done That Already and Regret It.";
Jan 09, 2013; DeKalb School Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson holds up "this netbook" and brags that every school will be wireless by August 2013. We wonder if Dr. Atkinson is aware of the number of school districts throughout the world ...

GTCO-ATL Non-Consent Form for WI-Fi in the Classroom; Feb 05, 2013;
And, if you think that netbooks will solve the problems in DeKalb County, take a look at what is happening in Detroit. When will our schools start modeling .... "

DeKalb Announces Wireless Plan That Appears to Be Behind Schedule; Apr 19, 2013; "Is it in line with the other schools in the district that SACS said we were behind? What are we providing? Simple access ..."

And, here is an announcement made by a dancing and elated Dr. Atkinson regarding the ebooks last year:

Here’s a TV report about the e-books with Atkinson:
We also found some explanation about a Pilot Program that might be the same/similar to what Sarah heard about here:

And here is a link to Thurmond’s address to the parents in Tucker. He was asked about the overcrowding situation, cell towers, SACS as well as the vast refugee population that has been moved by the state into DeKalb County, near Clarkston. (Video available)

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