Open Letters from DPS BOE Members

The letter below was printed in the Daily Citizen on Sept 7th from Steve Laird, a member of the DPS BOE:

Do you mind if we put all your sixth-graders in mobiles for two years so that the ninth grade can be moved out of Dalton High School in order to significantly reduce the number of students attending Dalton High?

On Nov. 7, our community will vote on whether or not we want to approve the funding for the current sixth grade/seventh grade model that we, the board, have proposed. If this is approved, we will build the 6/7 school and move the students. However, board members are also being asked to look at potential temporary movements, one of which is described below.

This potential temporary sixth grade plan would be in effect for the 2018-19 and 2019-2020 school years and will be discussed at the Monday, Sept. 11, Dalton Board of Education work session, which you can attend. I am bothered that this plan is not being discussed in the regular Board of Education meeting and that is a reason that I wanted to communicate with you on this issue. I believe we should work to engage the public on any significant matter affecting our students, parents and citizens.

Here are a few facts to consider.

As of the 10th day, Dalton High School’s current enrollment of 1,893 was 18 students above capacity and 158 students below the enrollment for the same day last year. Data for the 2017-18 school year is not available, but the 2015-16 headcount at DHS made us the 75th largest high school in the state.

In comparison, the Dalton Middle School current enrollment of 1,801 was 51 students above capacity and 25 students more than last year. The 2015-16 headcount made us the sixth largest middle school in the state.

The temporary transition plan getting the most attention currently will:

1) Take the sixth-graders out of their current building and put them in mobiles on a site with a school already full of children at an estimated cost of $2 to $3 million in the first year with additional costs estimated to be in the millions in the second year. We will need special plans for tornados, how to handle lunches and many other issues too long to list here.

2) This will leave Dalton Middle School with approximately the current enrollment level it has, and leave Dalton High with significantly unused capacity.

3) Many of the costs (mobiles, etc.) associated with this transition will not result in long-term benefits. In order to pay for this transition, we will need to increase taxes or significantly reduce the current surplus. In addition, the cost for this plan will not address any of our academic challenges in grades K-9.

4) We also need to consider the disruption to our sixth- and ninth-grade teachers and their class structures during this transition.

For those interested in how this temporary move could impact our Georgia High School Association classification, I have been told this move has little chance of changing our GHSA classification. There is not another system identified in Georgia where the ninth grade is not counted as part of the ninth through 12th grade school. I am hopeful our board leadership will go into great detail on this point at our open board meeting, not just a work session.

Current plans call for the school board to send a letter by Sept. 15 to the GHSA asking for a position on our classification based on a move of the ninth grade out of Dalton High School by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. Board members would vote on potential temporary transition plans, possibly as early as October.

While we may look at other transition plans, I do not support moving our sixth-graders or any other students to mobiles for two years in order to reduce the number of students at Dalton High. I feel the disruption and additional use of limited resources is too costly at this time.

Please share your thoughts on this important topic with any and all of us who serve on the board, and plan on attending and sharing at our meeting on Monday, Sept. 11, at City Hall. Our work session begins at 4:30 p.m. with our regular meeting at 6:30 p.m.

 

The following letter was released Sept 20 by Dr Rick Fromm the Chair of the DPS BOE:

Daily Citizen Editorial Board Has No Understanding of “Truth”

I have tried very hard to stay out of the media and above the fray, but I am compelled to respond to the recent editorial from 9/19 entitled “Dalton School Board members forgot the dictum ‘truth will out’. It is quite ironic that a piece commenting on “truth” is filled with inaccuracies, misrepresentations, and outright lies. There is really no excuse for this since the Daily Citizen has had a reporter at all of the meetings of the Dalton Board of Education. It is curious why they chose not to “report” on any of these “plans” being developed as news, and instead chose to advance their “opinion” through the Editorial page. Perhaps it is because it was abundantly clear that discussions were only in the preliminary stages, as the minutes from the Work Sessions from 7/24 and 8/14 clearly show, and the Daily Citizen was not interested in reporting it honestly, if the truth did not support the narrative of the Editorial Board. It is a very illuminating and sad indictment of our local paper’s motivation.

 

So, what are the facts? The BOE has proposed construction of a new grades 6-7 school to help alleviate overcrowding at the secondary level. The public will have several opportunities to learn more about this plan over the next several weeks and will vote on the General Obligation Bond supporting the new school in November. This school addition will create a new grade configuration for DPS secondary enrollment. Beginning the transition to the new grade configuration prior to completion of construction is under consideration, and has been since the 7/24 Work Session. At the last Work Session (8/14/17), several options were discussed and two options were selected for further vetting. The administrative team was directed to report back to the Board at the 9/11 Work Session on the feasibility, logistics, and cost of the two options. That meeting was rescheduled for 9/21 due to Hurricane Irma. The editorial claims that the Board was “finalizing a 2018 plan …”, but a plan cannot be finalized until it has at least been created. Only then, can it be discussed and approved or rejected. Once a plan has been adequately vetted, stakeholder input takes place. The Board has not had the opportunity to complete this process. Final Board approval of any of these options will only be given if compelling, valid, and urgent academic reasons exist. This information is what the Board is in the process of collecting. Board member Steve Laird was present when the administrative team was directed to continue vetting options and did not oppose studying the plans further. One would have to ask Mr. Laird personally about his motivation for submitting a misleading column to the newspaper 3 ½ weeks after agreeing to fully evaluate these options and 3 days before receiving the feedback/information the Board requested administration to develop.

 

During the Special Work Session-Secondary Facilities (4/25/17), the Board directed administration to begin discussions and draft a plan to the GHSA regarding the planned change in grade configuration that would occur with the construction of the grades 6-7 school. After several conversations, the GHSA advised that we draft a letter outlining the plan and submit it by 9/15/17 if we desired it be considered by the reclassification committee, whether the district chose to move forward with a transition in 2018 (before completion of construction) or chose to wait and transition in 2020 (after completion of construction). The letter was prepared, as directed, but has not received final Board approval, and so it has not been sent. The letter will be discussed at the 9/21 Work Session.

 

The “open letter” from some DMS 6th grade teachers referenced in the editorial was never sent to the BOE. It may have been sent to individual Board members, but we have not reviewed it as a group and I, personally, have yet to see it.

 

The Work of the Board of Education is very comprehensive and takes place in open meetings. Many topics can be very mundane, while others create great interest. Attendance of the public is always welcome, but not mandatory. Ideally, the local newspaper would report fairly on the work of the district so that the public can be informed, rather than create their own narrative that often misleads. As Chairman of the BOE, I have not had one person from the Daily Citizen attempt to contact me regarding any of the issues outlined above and in the editorial piece. It would have been easy to discover the truth and report it accurately, just not as easy as creating one’s own “truth” that advances a different agenda, pushes a narrative, influences elections, and sells papers.

 

I’m taking this opportunity to set the record straight. The Work of the Board should not be arbitrated through the media. In this instance, however, I felt a response was necessary and justified. Thank you for allowing us to serve DPS. We are excited about the future of DPS, especially the opportunity to finally solve a longstanding overcrowding problem.

 

Rick Fromm MD

Chairman DPS Board of Education

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