May 11, 2022 - News

Frustrations mount with DeKalb school board members

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Parents and community members continue to hold the DeKalb County Board of Education’s feet to the fire over how it’s responded to serious infrastructure issues at its oldest school.

Driving the news: The latest round of criticism was heard Monday when the board voted to approve its five-year Local Facilities Plan without including Druid Hills High School.

  • Submitting the plan to the Georgia Department of Education allows the district to apply for reimbursements with state funding for improvement projects.

Hans Williams, director of planning and education SPLOST programming, said the board could vote to add a resolution to update and repair Druid Hills and other schools at a later date.

  • That didn’t seem to satisfy some audience members, several of whom pressed the board on why the school was not included in the original plan.

Catch up quick: News about the conditions at Druid Hills circulated rapidly after students produced a video showing some of the building's problems.

  • It prompted a visit from the state Department of Education’s facilities team and heavy criticism from State Schools Superintendent Richard Woods.

Despite protests and pleas from students, DeKalb board members voted to focus on the most serious issues at all schools instead of adopting a resolution to modernize Druid Hills.

  • Former Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris raised concerns about the new direction because district staff didn’t have time to review it. A week later, the board voted to fire her.

What they’re saying: Susanna MacKenna, a junior at Druid Hills, said board members were endangering the community and “throwing money away” by not moving forward.

  • “By preventing the necessary repairs and modernization for Druid Hills, you put people I see every day at risk, and you hurt everyone around us,” she said.

Ghila Sanders, a parent of a 10th grader at Druid Hills, said the district is going in circles about issues that should be straightforward.

  • “We've done the studies. We know what's needed,” she said. “So, now, it's your turn to provide appropriate conditions for learning, for teaching and for thriving.”
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