Happy New Year . . . slightly belated

I’ve been quiet for some time and I apologize for that . . . work has been good and keeping me busy . . . which is a good thing.

No guarantees, but I hope to be back more regularly with Doraville and surrounding community updates and news.

I do want to make something very clear.  I presently do not serve on the Doraville City Council.  Nor do I have any intentions, at present, of returning to Public Office.  I thoroughly enjoyed most of my 6 years serving the many amazing residents and businesses in our city, but it is time for other leaders from the Northwoods community to lead our city.

That being said, the door is not permanently closed, and should my circumstances or the environment change over the next few months or years, I may re-evaluate my position.

Finally, I also want to be clear that my blog is MY BLOG.  It does not represent the city, any elected official, or any other resident or business but me.  When I post information, it represents my best efforts at researching a particular point of view and presenting my opinion, with hopefully pros and cons and evidence to back up my position.

I don’t do well with emotional arguments, ad hominen attacks, here-say, rumor, innuendo, or statement of “facts” without any supporting evidence.  So my points typically focus of fact-based documents and research to substantiate any point-of-view I may be supporting.

Perhaps I am wired differently, but I want to find the good in situations and set people, business, and the city for success and not failure.  I also believe in the adage of praise in public and criticize in private.

That being said, occasions will arise when it is necessary to publicly criticize individuals, proposed developments, legislation, etc. . . . I apologize in advance for those negatives when they arise and can assure you that I would much rather find fun and exciting things to blog about.  Perhaps my nickname of being the chair of the Rose Colored Glasses Brigade is true . . . but I truly believe that you get more accomplished when you find positives to rally around and work out the negatives vs. rallying around the negatives and ignoring the positives.

Thanks . . . and let’s make 2015 a truly remarkable one!

Democracy vs. Republic

Lately I have heard the word “Democracy” thrown about like beads at Mardi Gras, done so with reckless abandon.  Here is todays Civics lesson:

The United States of America is a Republic and NOT a Democracy.

The Pledge of Allegiance say, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands . . . ”

Furthermore, the word “Democracy” is NOT used in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights.

Here is a good comparative chart on the differences between the two.

In looking at the differences, I think one of the biggest differences is the ability of the majority to have direct control over policy and where the “majority can impose its will on the minority”.  James Madison and other founding fathers talked about the “tyranny of the majority”.  They were probably justified in their concerns.

Before moving on, it is important to define the term “minority” in the context of this opinion.  The term minority in this context means a smaller group, less that 50% of the whole.  That could be based upon age, gender, religion, race, geographical location, orientation, political belief, food preference, etc.  In many cases, the “minority” are also part of minority groups but that is not an absolute.

For example, if there were 100 people in a room and 60 of them were African American and 40 of them were Latino, while both are part of identified minority groups, the African Americans would be the majority in the room, and the Latinos would be in the minority.

Another more innocuous example: The majority of Americans are carnivores and the minority are vegetarian.

Now, moving on regarding majority vs. minority. The world and our country are replete with examples of where the majority were or are wrong, sometimes based out of ignorance, sometimes out of malice, and occasionally both.  For example:

Flat Earth:  It has only been within the last 2,000 years or so where the majority of scientists shifted from their belief that the Earth was flat.  Evidence provided information that the Earth was spherical and minds were changed and now the “Flat Earth Society” folks are well in the minority, thankfully!

Lynch Mobs: The US has many examples of lynch mobs, where the majority simply decided the fate of the minority.  Group mentality can be dangerous and often can incite majority behaviour that is counter to what is right, legal, or ethical.

Integrated Schools: I think it is safe to say, that had Brown v. Board of Education not passed, there would still be parts of the country where the majority would vote to not only have segregated schools, but segregated everything.  One of the concerns about a “democracy” was the protection, or lack thereof, of minority rights from the majority (again, not necessarily based on race as demonstrated next).

Gay Rights: At present we have elected officials all over the place, proposing legislation to restrict and promote gay rights and we also have legislators wanting to “let the people to vote on it”.  While that may be populous thing to do, it shifts us from being a Republic as our forefathers set out, to a true democracy where the majority rule.  This could move us down the potential path of a Theocracy or a dictatorship, where the majority set the rules that everyone else must adhere to.

Our elected leaders are there to do what is best for the country, the state, the county, and the city as a whole and not be bullied into making decisions because of a handful of vocal residents and they should not abdicate making hard decisions based upon the opinion of the majority.

Often times the decisions that are right, are the ones that are the most difficult to make.

Remember, if we go simply based upon majority rule, there may come a time when you and your beliefs are in the minority.

DeKalb County Schools: Cross Keys Attendance District Part 3 of 6

In the last post we referenced the North DeKalb attendance districts and the disparity between the various districts, specifically the distances between high school and middle school and the travel distances within the district.  You can refresh your memory here.

Now, let’s take a look at the racial composition of each of the 5 high schools.

Unfortunately, we have to start off with a huge caveat.  The most recent data found is from the 2010-11 school year, showing the racial composition of the five area high schools.  This data was obtained from: http://www.schoolmap.org/County/GA-Dekalb-County/ for each individual high school.  We acknowledge that the numbers are outdated but do not believe that the racial composition has shifted dramatically from when this census was made available.

The boxes highlighted in green represent the highest percentage of that particular race in the high school and the boxes highlighted in red represent the lowest percentage.

Chamblee Cross Keys Dunwoody Tucker Lakeside
1518 1502 1495 1542 1804
White 325 21.4% 25 2.6% 646 43.2% 175 11.4% 720 39.9%
African American 841 55.4% 243 16.0% 413 27.6% 1067 69.4% 633 35.1%
Hispanic 152 10.0% 1053 69.4% 302 20.2% 132 8.6% 310 17.2%
Asian 150 9.9% 178 11.7% 105 7.0% 114 7.4% 121 6.7%
Other 50 3.3% 3 0.2% 30 2.0% 54 3.5% 20 1.1%

As is evident by the chart above, Cross Keys has either the highest or lowest percentage in each of the five (5) race classifications.

In looking specifically at the Hispanic population, the deviation is extreme!

hispanic by school
Not to get too technical, but we also averaged the race population across all 5 high schools and then looked at the Delta between the average and each individual school within each class.

Specifically 3 groups: White, African American, and Hispanic

White: Average population across all schools: 23.7%
Cross Keys: -21.1% Lakeside: -16.2% Tucker: -12.3% Chamblee: -2.3% Dunwoody: +19.5%
African American: Average population across all schools: 40.7%
Cross Keys: -24.7% Dunwoody: -13.1% Lakeside: -5.6% Chamblee: +14.7% Tucker:
Hispanic: Average population across all schools: 25.1%
Cross Keys: +44.4% Dunwoody: -4.9% Lakeside: -7.9% Chamblee: -15.1% Tucker:

Again, as is evidenced by the chart, Cross Keys also has the highest deviation from the average in ALL race categories (we didn’t show Asian and other as the deviations are much smaller, but Cross Keys had the highest deviation, +3.2% above the average of 8.5% in the Asian population and -1.8% below the average of 2.0% in other).

So what does this mean?  Well, I think you can take 3 points away from this specific discussion:

  • —It appears that the majority of English Language Learners (ELL’s) are in Cross Keys with total population of POTENTIAL ELLs at 80.3% (combining Hispanic, Asian, and Other)
  • —Cross Keys appears to be significantly racially imbalanced, either having the highest percentage or the lowest percentage in every race group.
  • One could argue that the attendance district maps were drawn this way specifically to include the Hispanic community in one district.  It is ironic that the the Cross Keys attendance district is nestled in between Dunwoody, Chamblee and Lakeside, all of which are much more racially balanced than Cross Keys.

Race by school

Now, when you combine this with the attendance district discussion, it starts to show a pattern.  The district where, to get from point A to point B you have to travel the farthest, also happens to be composed of not just a majority, but a super majority of minorities in every category and is the most racially imbalanced school in North DeKalb.

In the next discussion we will look at the SPLOST funding allocation per cluster for SPLOSTS II through the current SPLOST IV.

DeKalb County Schools: Cross Keys Attendance District Part 2 of 6

In the first post I spent the majority of time talking about hypothetical possibilities such as an independent Dunwoody school district, passage of HR 486 (new school district Constitutional Amendment), and the possible redevelopment of the General Motors plant into a mixed-use development.  Those are all fine and dandy and should be part of the conversation, goals are good to have and strive for.  But let us look at the reality as it exists today.

This post is about the attendance districts in North DeKalb, specifically the following clusters: Cross Keys; Dunwoody; Lakeside; Chamblee; and Tucker.

Before I get into the narrative, I think it is important that you spend a few minutes and review the attendance district maps (see link below).  These are the 2013-2014 Middle/High attendance maps and pulled directly from the DeKalb County website.  On the attendance map page, in addition to being able to see the districts visually, you will also find the distance between various high schools and middle schools and supporting Google map links to support the charts.

Now, go take a look at the attendance and distance maps here and then we can discuss.


Welcome back!  Now, I am not sure how much more there is to add as I think the maps and distance charts are pretty self explanatory.  But for giggles, let’s break down the distance between high school and middle school charts.

  1. There are 4 high schools closer to Sequoyah than Cross Keys, with Chamblee being 2.2x closer at just under 3 miles away.
  2. Of the 4 clusters (excluding Cross Keys), the average distance between middle school and high school is 1.65 miles.  The distance between Sequoyah and Cross Keys is 4x that average at 6.6 miles.
  3. The distance between Sequoyah and Cross Keys (6.6 miles) is more than twice that of the Henderson Lakeside cluster at 3.1 miles.
  4. There is no other cluster in DeKalb County that even comes close to distance disparity.  The next closest is the Druid Hills cluster in which the HS and MS are 4.1 miles apart.

Now let’s take a look at the attendance districts themselves.  As you can see from map, the Cross Keys attendance district is a long narrow district that stretches from Gwinnett County border to the Fulton County border and follows Buford Highway the entire way and uses I-85 as it’s Eastern boarder. In fact the district is almost 9 miles in length from top to bottom, making it one of the longest attendance districts in DeKalb County.

In looking at the size of the district and the ease of getting to the local high school, take a look at these two points:

  1. The distance from Cross Keys to the furthest point (Pin Oak Circle and English Oak Drive) is 8.2 miles.  The distance from Chamblee High to the furthest point (Wayside Drive) is 4.6 miles.  Almost 4 miles further.
  2. The distance from Wayside Drive (remember, they go to Chamblee, 4.6 miles away) to Cross Keys is just 1.5 miles away. To summarize this point, there are high school students who could walk to Cross Keys but go to Chamblee . . .  and there are students who could walk to Chamblee but go to Cross Keys.

Final point on the school attendance districts: Chamblee is undergoing construction of a new high school.  As a result, their sports fields (football practice and baseball play) were used for temporary trailers and they needed to find alternate locations.  The Chamblee football team practiced and the Chamblee baseball team played their home games at Sequoyah Middle School.  Funny that Sequoyah is close enough for Chamblee to use their sports facilities but NOT close enough for us to send our students??

The next post is going to cover the racial composition of the cluster high schools.  Think there will be any correlation between the shapes of the attendance district and the racial make-up of the schools?

DeKalb County Schools: Cross Keys Attendance District Part 1 of 6

Dunwoody and the GLASS (Georgians for Local Area School Systems) folks are pushing for passage of HR 486 (which I support).  In addition, using a feasibility study report that was commissioned, they are also pushing for an Independent Dunwoody School district which I support, sort of.

There is no question that the DeKalb County school system is broken.  Perhaps broken beyond repair.  Alternative options MUST be made available and with the recent denial of the Druid Hills Charter Cluster, the wheels are in motion . . .

But lets look at the bigger picture.  A North DeKalb Independent School District!

The language of HR 486 is written to “authorize any municipality created on or after January 1, 2005” to “establish individually or collectively by local law an independent school system.”  This section of the legislation applies to Dunwoody and Brookhaven.  In between those first two sections is this clause: “and any municipality which is contiguous to a municipality created on or after January 1, 2005 . . . ” which applies to Doraville and Chamblee.

In looking at the area geographically, with Chamblee’s annexation taking affect in January 2014, there are now only 2 very small pockets of unincorporated DeKalb west of I-85.  I would expect those pockets to be addressed in the upcoming legislature, especially with the potential of the city of Lakeside, Tucker, or Briarcliff.  It would be safe to say that right now 95% of DeKalb County, west of I-85, exists within 1 of 4 cities: Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Chamblee, and Doraville. After the legislature, probably 100%.

So what you say .  .  .  well that makes a really nice geographically controlled area for a school district not to mention it keeps a larger community of interest together.  Those 4 cities are connected, inextricably, by 2 roads: Peachtree Blvd (Peachtree Industrial outside of 285) and Buford Highway.  Buford Highway goes through Brookhaven, Chamblee, and Doraville.  Peachtree connects all 4 cities, serving as the eastern border of Dunwoody.

Now, here is the key for the region, economically . . . General Motors property.  That little piece of property (165 acres and larger than Atlantic Station with MARTA direct access) lies entirely in the City of Doraville but is a stones throw away from Dunwoody and shares a border with Chamblee.  When that property re-develops, and it will be redeveloped, it is going to become the economic hub of the region, in business, retail, and new housing.  Meaning, from a tax base it is going to pump thousands and thousands of dollars into Doraville and into the DeKalb County School district . . . or perhaps a North DeKalb school district.

Here is the other piece that needs to be considered, Dunwoody and Chamblee NEED Doraville to grow, excel, and be a regional player in economic development and drawing people to the area.  They share common borders and regionally, Doraville has better connectivity and access to the region than either Dunwoody, Brookhaven or Chamblee.  Not to mention that in order to get to Dunwoody or Chamblee from the North or East, you almost have to go through Doraville.

Now, here is the issue for Doraville . . . and the beginning of 5 subsequent posts.  Schools. Which brings us back full-circle to the beginning of this blog post.  The majority of Doraville is in the Cross Keys attendance district.  The General Motors property is in the Chamblee attendance district, and the balance of Doraville’s residential areas (property west of Buford Highway and outside I-285) is in the Dunwoody attendance district.

If you read the Dunwoody feasibility study report, specifically the section starting on page 22 entitled “Hightower“, you will clearly see that the initial proposal is to prohibit the children who live in Doraville from attending school in an Independent Dunwoody School District.  I don’t blame them . . . those households in Doraville would not be paying Dunwoody School taxes to offset the costs of educating their children.

However, putting all of Doraville in the Cross Keys cluster will ensure that the City of Doraville will continue to stagnate and drag down the entire region.  That is NOT good for Dunwoody or Chamblee . . . and with Brookhaven being the home to Cross Keys High School, but having very few Brookhaven residents actually attending Cross Keys (wait until you see the attendance maps), a regional school district is more viable, one that should produce the greatest ROI regionally and one that will establish some really great competitive rivalries both academically and athletically.

A regional school district should be objective of the cities of Brookhaven, Chamblee, Doraville and Dunwoody and I would encourage those 4 cities and their leaders to work together to conduct a regional feasibility study and not limit it to city specific school districts.  Leaving one or two cities out in the cold will have long-term negative affects and that is not good for the region.

Stay tuned for future posts regarding Cross Keys Cluster specifics and how it compares to Chamblee and Dunwoody attendance districts . . . the results are telling and in some cases shocking.

Subsequent post subjects are:

Attendance District Lines
Racial Composition
SPLOST Funding Allocations
Facility Capacity