Saturday, May 24, 2014

Election Results for DeKalb County's School Board

DeKalb County School Board Elections held May 20 left some races determined (in yellow below) and others to sit on hold until a runoff (highlighted in blue) can be held on July 22.

For updates on these and other races throughout Georgia, click here.

Here are the results so far (from WSB-TV):   

DeKalb County School Board

DeKalb County School Board District 1

                     Stan Jester (unopposed)

DeKalb County School Board District 2

Marshall OrsonIncumbent4,25361
Don McChesney2,70439
Precincts Reporting - 25 of 25

DeKalb County School Board District 3

Michael ErwinIncumbent3,60337
Atticus Leblanc2,02421
Willie Mosley Jr.1,62617
Jarrod Jordan1,61117
Jerrie Bason8108
Precincts Reporting - 30 of 30

DeKalb County School Board District 4

Karen CarterIncumbent3,38935
Jim McMahanIncumbent2,82429
John Oselette1,74418
Ella Smith1,61817
Precincts Reporting - 26 of 26

DeKalb County School Board District 5

Thad MayfieldIncumbent4,40436
Vickie Turner3,43428
Jesse Cunningham3,36828
R. Alexander Fitzhugh5474
Pia Bhatti4604
Precincts Reporting - 26 of 26

DeKalb County School Board District 6

Melvin JohnsonIncumbent6,99478
Bridgeman Bolger1,94122
Precincts Reporting - 24 of 24

DeKalb County School Board District 7

Joyce MorleyIncumbent4,69162
Kim Ault1,58821
Lee Dukes1,34018
Precincts Reporting - 24 of 24

Sunday, May 18, 2014

VOTE TUESDAY: DeKalb County School Board Seats All Up for Election

From DeKalb School Watch Blog:   

DeKalb County School Board Candidates up for election on (TUESDAY) May 20, 2014: A Review

We have done our best to compile as much information as we can on the candidates seeking election to the school board on May 20. Remember, the two super districts no longer exist (which is why you see two incumbents in District 4), and all seven other seats are up for election to a 4 year term (beginning January 1, 2015). This is a critical juncture. Please review the candidates carefully and make an informed, thoughtful vote — for the future of the children of DeKalb.  Add your thoughts and experiences to the discussion following this post.
Leadership DeKalb has set up a website focused on the school board election. It highlights all of the candidates for DeKalb School Board. Some have videos and some have written answers to a set of questions. 
To read more click:

To view a map of the districts: click here.

For more about the election from the county's website:  click here.
Below are the candidates and their websites by district:
Stan Jester

Don McChesney
Marshall Orson [Incumbent]

Jerrie D. Bason
Michael A. Erwin [Incumbent]
Jarrod Jordan
Atticus LeBlanc
Willie R. Mosley, Jr.


Karen Carter [Incumbent]
Jim McMahan [Incumbent]
John Oselette
Website: JohnOseletteBOE
Ella “Coach” Smith

Pia “Chaz Afzal” Bhatti

Jesse “Jay” Cunningham
R. Alexander Fitzhugh
Thad Mayfield [Incumbent]
Vickie B. Turner

Bridgemon Bolger
Melvin Johnson [Incumbent]

Kim Ault
Lee V. Dukes
Joyce Morley [Incumbent]

Note:  GTCO-ATL's favorites are highlighted in yellow.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The truth about your landline phone and whether it's going away

 By Jim Murray | President, AT&T Michigan  on December 06, 2013

A recent column on MLive (“Take Away a Senior Citizen’s Landline Phone and Confusion will Reign”) may have scared some people about Senate Bill 636, which would update Michigan regulations to make it easier for phone companies like AT&T to invest in new, more efficient communications services. Unfortunately, the column has misled – even frightened – some people about what the bill would do.

This legislation will not remove landlines from peoples’ homes or businesses. For generations, the wires coming into your house and mine carried one thing: our voice. The wires carried an electric current through huge switching facilities warehoused in our neighborhoods, towns, state and beyond to literally connect by wire one person to another, exactly the way Alexander Graham Bell drew it up 137 years ago.

Today, the Internet powers our ability to communicate. Coming into our homes on that same little wire are voices, emails, photos, videos, the Lions game, the series finale of “Breaking Bad” and “Jeopardy” each night. If you have any of this happening in your home, you’ve already made the transition. You may not have even known it, but you no longer have a “landline” as it is defined by our state laws or the old, voice-only phone network. You still have the same wire coming into your home and your phone may still be hanging in the exact same place on your kitchen wall, but the content coming through that wire could not be more different. It’s not the 19th century coming into your home; it’s the 21st.

So, with SB 636, will you have to give up your home phone and go only with a wireless phone? You could, if you wanted to, and millions of people already have, but you won’t have to. You could get a landline phone that’s powered by the Internet, a.k.a. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), or both VoIP and wireless. The choice is yours.

But that really isn’t what SB 636 is about. Some of the state rules and regulations about our phones were written before the Internet existed. Before cell phones. Before cable TV. Before email. Updating those laws will not to remove “landlines” from our homes necessarily, but it will make those lines and our wireless networks work faster, more efficiently and more affordably for everyone.

Hospitals, schools and businesses are already using VoiP technology. Residents like you and me, whether we know it or not, are already using VoiP to watch TV, surf the web, call 911, work from home and communicate with family and friends. In the face of these advances, state law requires investment in a 19th Century system that delivers almost none of these things for Michigan consumers.

Senate bill 636 fixes this. Beginning in 2017, it updates our law to give the Federal Communications Commission, with input from the Michigan Public Service Commission, the authority to decide if providers like AT&T can transition our network to one built on VoiP and wireless technology, a transition millions of residents have already made.

Senate Bill 636 doesn't end the “landline”, it does more with that little wire coming into your home than Mr. Bell could have ever imagined.

Also see:

Landline phone bill: Michigan law enforcement officials say it threatens public safety


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Where We Stand on the Upcoming May 20 School Board Elections

     The DeKalb County School Board Election is perhaps one of the most vital to the future of DeKalb as residents have seen in some time.  After the Governor removed former board members, several of them are determined to regain their old titles and in one district, the husband of a removed board member is the sole choice for voters.

Here are the races and the candidates from the DeKalb County election website:


District 1:  Stan Jester  

(Appointed Member John Coleman is not running for election.  Jester is the spouse of former board member Nancy Jester who was removed by the Governor.  He also has children currently enrolled in the public school system in DeKalb County.)

     Without another choice, GTCO-ATL is in favor of Stan Jester for this seat.  Our main concerns with this candidate is that the Dunwoody homeowner's association has been politically active and vocal about their desire to form their own school system, separate from DeKalb County's system.  We are unsure how Jester will resolve the conflict that would seem to put him in an awkward spot of wanting to help the current system succeed while not wanting to harm the chances of his constituents in their push toward gaining a separate system.  It is not clear how both goals can be achieved as the removal of funds from the north end of the district and return of children who live outside its boundaries would seemingly have a negative impact on the more poor portions of the county, mostly assumed to be in South DeKalb, but also located in the central part of the county where there is a large refugee area.

     Jester's wife Nancy was one of the only "no" votes against cell towers and was able to keep her Dunwoody district without a named school on the proposed list from 2011.  Stan has assisted GTCO-ATL with records requests and bringing the truth to light by his "fact checker" website and video / audio recording of key school board meetings.  GTCO-ATL favors Stan Jester as a positive addition to the board and hope that he continues his efforts toward an open and transparent school system leadership.

     Nancy Jester is running for the state school Superintendent's position and will face considerable competition in the primary election.  If you are a fan of Ms. Jester, she likely needs your vote on May 20, but you will need to request a Republican voting card in order to have an impact on her race for the state seat.  Any runoff elections will not be held until later in July. General elections will be held in November.

District 2:  Don McChesney, incumbent Marshall Orson  

(Orson was elected, not appointed, but did not serve on the former board.  He defeated then-incumbent McChesney so this election is a bit of a re-match between the two.  McChesney is a former teacher and Orson is an attorney in Atlanta with children in the school system.)

    This is a very tough district and the choices are not so much between the old and the new as they are between Briar Vista and Fernbank Elementary School districts.  McChesney has fought in the past for the Briar Vista neighborhood and their school which suffered a loss in student population under the new plan first brought forward by Dr. Cheryl Atkinson, former Superintendent who left amid a flurry of SACS allegations, possibly illegal hiring and firing practices, and her refusal to comply with Open Records Requests.  McChesney was the board member who offered the amended solution to the original cell tower debate that removed the three most vocal schools before the full board voted on the issue in July 2011, but he did not attend public meetings intended to gather input from the school communities in his own district which upset many taxpayers, especially those living in the Briarcliff Heights area near the Margaret Harris School for the physically and mentally impaired.
The location of the original schools affected by the cell tower decision.

   Orson is the former President of the highly influential Emory-Lavista Parent Council and has stepped up in an effort to assist GTCO-ATL and the Margaret Harris neighborhood in their co-joined efforts to determine the current status of the cell tower permits and to get a possible vote on a school board resolution against the cell tower practice in the future.  He has been accused in the past of favoring the Fernbank Elementary School community over others, but since his current tenure on the school board he has presented himself to be a very intelligent and thorough board member.  Most notably, he helped in the settlement of the Heery Mitchell lawsuit that was costing the school district tens of millions of dollars.  That alone has enabled our schools to begin to pay teachers a bit better and reverse all furlough days that had become a standard practice.  Orson is also the board member credited for the recommendation of former labor commissioner Michael Thurmond for the position of Superintendent, so depending on how you feel about him, that might influence your vote.

   GTCO-ATL will accept either of these board members as favorable to our cause as we believe they both have taken the time to research and understand the issue of cell towers and the concerns of their constituents. We have been mostly in favor of the progress of the new board and the hiring of Super. Thurmond, so for those reasons, we favor Marshall Orson in this district.

District 3:  Jerrie D. Bason, incumbent Michael A. Erwin, Jarrod Jordan, Atticus LeBlanc, Willie R. Mosley, Jr

(Incumbent Michael Erwin was appointed to the board by Gov. Deal)

   GTCO-ATL has no solid information that would lead us to believe any of the candidates for this seat would be pro-cell tower.  We have generally favored the job that the current appointed board members have done to date, so for this reason, we favor keeping the appointed current member Michael A. Erwin.

District 4:  Incumbent Karen Carter, incumbent Jim McMahan, John Oselette, Ella “Coach” Smith

(Incumbent Dr. Karen Carter was appointed by Gov. Deal, Incumbent Jim McMahan was elected to replace former board member Paul Womack, the board member who first brought the cell tower issue to the school board in 2011.)
Dr. Karla Drenner held multiple hearings at the state capitol in 2011 in an
effort to ban the practice of using school grounds for corporate
gain by the telecommunications industry.

     The only person in this district who has publicly opposed the cell tower issue is Ella "Coach" Smith.  Smith is our pick for District 4.  She was one of the only residents to attend a cell tower meeting held back in May 2011 and she opposed the practice both verbally and in a written statement to the board.  She came forward during the time when it was very controversial to do so because she knew then, and knows now, that the health of our children is not something to be gambled with.  A former teacher at Lakeside High School, who was also a cheer and gymnastics coach for many years, Smith has been a contributor to the Dekalb School Watch blog and other public forums in her support for the children all over the county, not just in her own district.  She has made considerable effort to mend fences between the warring sides of Lakeside vs. Tucker which were very heated during the most recent battle over city lines.  And, she gave up her teaching position to work in Fulton County specifically so that she could become a more outspoken advocate for the children and call out the poor governance practices she witnessed.

     We are not specifically opposed to Dr. Karen Carter and the job she has done, but we are unclear as to where she stands on the cell tower issue.  We have presented a resolution to refrain from using cell towers as a revenue stream and provided quality evidence to show the board that the money in other markets has only been used as a slush fund to further corrupt practices.  While members like Mayfield and Orson as well as the Superintendent have reached out to us and others who oppose the towers to help us with learning where things stand in the process of permits and contracts, we have not heard from McMahan or Carter.  Oselette appears to only be campaigning in a very limited area with a highly political tilt.  For these reasons, we are in favor of Ella "Coach" Smith as the best candidate from a perspective of healing this district and remaining in firm opposition to the placement of towers at our schools.  Many of the schools on the list for cell towers were based in and around this specific area of the county.

    We also do not specifically oppose Jim McMahan, but have concerns over his poor attendance record on the current board.  He has made good voting decisions and did speak with us on more than one occasion to tell us that he supported our efforts to keep cell towers off school grounds.  McMahan would not be a poor choice for the cell tower issue, however, we are concerned over his association with the Tucker Parent Council and some behind the scenes changes to staffing at some Tucker schools that may have been an effort to assist the Lakeside City Alliance.  The city issue would have split Tucker nearly in half and has been a very destructive element in this district.  We believe that anyone who is involved in this battle for city borders should not also be simultaneously involved in school related groups when their efforts in one area may be counter productive to their responsibilities in the other.  The children must always come first.

District 5:  Pia “Chaz Afzal” Bhatt, Jesse “Jay” Cunningham, R. Alexander Fitzhugh, incumbent Thad Mayfield, Vickie B. Turner

(Incumbent Thad Mayfield is a current appointed board member.  Jesse "Jay" Cunningham is a former board member who was removed by the Governor.)

    Thad Mayfield has been a very detailed and effective board member since his appointment.  He has listened to the concerns of GTCO-ATL and we believe he would be the best choice for District 5.  We favor Thad Mayfield for several reasons, but on the issue of cell towers, we believe that he has researched the issue, listened to the complaints and would likely vote against the practice of using towers for a revenue stream or slush fund.

Parents at MLK High School in DeKalb showed up to oppose cell towers and meet with their then-board member Jay Cunningham back in 2011.

District 6:  Bridgeman Bolger and incumbent Melvin Johnson

(Incumbent Melvin Johnson is a current board member who was elected.)

       Between the two candidates, we favor Bridgeman Bolger for this race.  We recently learned that Bolger worked for Rep. Karla Drenner, who fought a very good fight in the state House of Representatives in an effort to completely ban cell towers from our school grounds.  Bolger has reached out to GTCO-ATL to make an introduction, which we appreciate.  He understands the cell tower issue and has also worked through  his position with the Young Democrats of DeKalb to ensure federal funds for the refugee resettlement communities are getting to the right places, including the schools that are expected to educate these children, many of whom do not know any English.

     While we do not have any specific issues with Dr. Melvin Johnson, the incumbent and current chairman of the school board, we are aware that he has a somewhat controversial past.  He was a long time employee with the school system and some of his opponents believe he worked for the system during the timeframe that saw a huge increase in administration while schools were being forced to close or run with minimal staff and support.

District 7:  Kim Ault, Lee V. Dukes and incumbent Joyce Morley

(Incumbent Dr. Joyce Morley was appointed by the Governor.)

    It is with heavy heart that we are reminded of the passing of former board member Donna Edler.  Ms. Edler was a friend to GTCO-ATL and one of the only two board members to vote against the cell towers initially (although eventually all except Dr. Eugene Walker stated that they would vote differently if they had the choice to do over again).   Ms. Edler died from cancer and was a true fighter until the very end, never letting her illness get in the way of her efforts to provide a better school system for the children in DeKalb County.  Edler's children are still in the DeKalb County School System and our condolences go out to them as well as her husband.

   This is another difficult choice and GTCO-ATL is not completely in favor or opposed to any of these candidates, lacking sufficient information.  However, we are aware that parent Kim Ault has been at the forefront of many efforts to bring the former board members and their poor governance practices into the light.  We believe she would be an honest representative who has her own children in the system and has sufficient knowledge of where we have been in order to serve her district well.

     However, we slightly favor Dr. Joyce Morley as she has done a fair job during her appointment to the board.  She has taken her position seriously and seems to be very committed to continuing the good work that the current appointed board has done so far.  For this reason, GTCO-ATL favors Dr. Joyce Morley.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Florida Man Fined for "Jammin'"

From the Tucker Patch:  Federal authorities say a Florida man tired of people talking on their cell phones when driving took matters into his own hands: He jammed their phones.

Jason R. Humphreys faces $48,000 in fines for using a jammer in his SUV, reported. According to the Federal Communications Commission Humphreys used the jammer for about two years during his morning drive to work.

The FCC was alerted by cell phone company Metro PCS in April 2013, reported. The company noticed cell tower sites experiencing interference.

Humphreys used the device on Interstate 4 between Seffner, Florida and Tampa.

A jamming device transmits a signal on the same frequency, but at a high enough power that the two signals collide, cancelling each other out, reported.

The FCC's enforcement division staked out I-4 and were able to pinpoint the jamming signal coming from Humphrey's vehicle, the Tampa Tribune reported.

One of the reasons such jammers are a no-no are safety concerns, the Tampa Tribune reported. People who might need to make a 911 call could be blocked, for example, or other communications used by law enforcement and emergency personnel could be impacted.

The newspaper reported that federal authorities worry the popularity of such devices could be on the rise.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Google Fiber: Could this be the beginning of the end for wireless?

We know that other countries have already started removing the wireless infrastructure from their schools and government buildings in favor of faster, safer, more reliable technology:  fiber optic cable.   It is much harder to hack, videos and other information from websites will stream much faster (up to 100 times faster than broadband) and, perhaps the best part, it doesn't need RF radiation in order to work.

We've wondered when the U.S. would finally catch on and perhaps this announcement is the beginning to a new era in online communications and data transfer:  Google Fiber.

From their website:

As the web has gotten faster, it has also gotten more useful — activities like streaming movies, storing files online, video chatting and more were all enabled by broadband connections over a decade ago, and the next chapter of the web will run on even faster speeds.
There continues to be huge interest from consumers and communities in faster broadband. That’s why we want to bring more people access to Google Fiber — Internet that’s up to 100 times faster than basic broadband. We’ve started early discussions with 34 cities in 9 metro areas around the United States to explore what it would take to bring a new fiber-optic network to their community.
Which Metro areas are affected?  Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, Phoenix, Portland, Raleigh-Durham, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, and San Jose.  
And which specific cities are on the potential beta test list?  Arizona - Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe; California  - San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Palo Alto; Georgia - Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, College Park, Decatur, East Point, Hapeville, Sandy Springs, Smyrna; North Carolina - Charlotte, Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Garner, Morrisville, Raleigh; Oregon - Portland, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Gresham, Lake Oswego, Tigard; Tennessee - Nashville-Davidson; Texas - San Antonio; Utah - Salt Lake City
Not so fast:  It might not be the end of wireless, but at least it is an admission that wi-fi is not the only game in town.  Unfortunately, Google plans to integrate its fiber optic cable product with a wi-fi component.  This is at the bottom of the description page:  "Enjoy super fast Wi-Fi speeds with 802.11a/b/g/n including 3x3 MIMO antennas and dual concurrent radios. Extend your access to Google Fiber all over your home with the integrated Wi-Fi access point and ethernet port in your TV Box."