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DCSS BOE votes to close two schools, repurpose another

Dougherty County School Board members, from left, James Bush, Milton “June Bug” Griffin, Darrell Ealum and Board Chair Carol Tharin cast their votes on Monday to close Sylvester Road Elementary, Dougherty Middle School, and to repurpose Magnolia Elementary School. The Board voted 5-2 to approve the proposed closings, with Ealum and Velvet Riggins voting “No.”

Dougherty County School Board members, from left, James Bush, Milton “June Bug” Griffin, Darrell Ealum and Board Chair Carol Tharin cast their votes on Monday to close Sylvester Road Elementary, Dougherty Middle School, and to repurpose Magnolia Elementary School. The Board voted 5-2 to approve the proposed closings, with Ealum and Velvet Riggins voting “No.”

ALBANY, Ga. — After months of sometimes contentious debate and three open meetings, the Dougherty County School Board voted 5-2 on Monday to close Sylvester Road Elementary, Dougherty Middle School and repurpose Magnolia Elementary.

The closures were opposed by East Albany residents who say shuttering two schools located within a mile of each other will devastate the community and unfairly place the burden of the district's dwindling enrollment numbers squarely on them.

District 6 member Darrel Ealum, who represents the districts in which Sylvester Road and DCMS are located, and Velvet Riggins voted against the closures.

Consultant Eric Bosman of Kimley-Horn and Associates of Atlanta says the district is losing an average of 138 students per year as enrollment declines. This translates into 2,400 empty classroom seats split evenly between 16 elementary and six middle schools.

According to Bosman, closing Sylvester Road and DCMS and repurposing Magnolia into an educational center would reduce the number of empty elementary seats to 200 and middle school seats to 500.

At the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, Sylvester Road's 426 students will be split between Turner and Radium Springs elementary schools, and 200 students will move from Turner to Jackson Heights.

"I am bitterly disappointed in this decision," Ealum said. "What I don't understand is that Sylvester Road is running at 108 percent capacity, and after we move those kids to Turner, that school will be running at 111 percent capacity. It makes no sense to me."

Riggins said she understood the necessity of closing some school but wished the Board had waited.

"I thought we should have held on to Sylvester Road for at least another year," Riggins said. "I'm not sure if closing those schools was unfair to East Albany, but it does bother me both were in the same area."

Board Chair Carol Tharin said she felt the BOE did its due diligence in reaching a difficult decision.

"We had lengthy discussions over a long period of time," she said. "We discussed every possible solution and it always came back to this proposal."

Board member James Bush agreed.

"We heard from all interested parties and had good input," Bush said. "We wanted to come up with a plan that would be beneficial to all of our young people. We just had too many empty seats.

"This decision was driven by three important factors: decreasing enrollment, we don't have any money, and we have too many schools."

Magnolia Elementary will be repurposed into the district's education center and would house four separate programs — Pre-K, Gifted, the Oak Tree Center and Alternative Education.

Magnolia's 447 students will be split between Live Oak and Alice Coachman Elementary.

Dougherty Middle's 466 students will be reassigned to Radium Middle and Albany Middle schools.

DCSS officials say the closings and repurposing will save the system nearly $2 million per year and $11 million in SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) money which can be used for capital improvements at other schools.

Comments

VSU 1 year, 8 months ago

Good decision! We don't need those 3 schools.

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jglass 1 year, 8 months ago

I never went to any of the meetings in reference to the school closings. I hope they made the right decision. Now, more bussing, more kids in each classroom. I hope this is cost effective and I hope the kids will continue to learn with several more heads per class.

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straightface 1 year, 8 months ago

I know seems as if its no longr about the kids but about the money. GREED has just taken over our city.

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PatrickY2K 1 year, 8 months ago

How is closing schools an act of greed? We have empty classrooms at other schools, and can move teachers, if necessary. The kids will be fine. Having six middle school is a luxury we can no longer afford!

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straightface 1 year, 8 months ago

I said GREED meaning everything is ALL about money now and thats all..money money money..budget budget bugets..cuts cuts cuts..funding funding funding..etc..

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 8 months ago

Well, if you ponied up the money to keep those schools open then I am sure they would keep them open. They cannot help their budget has shrunk. They are merely living within their means and I have to respect them for that. It would be greedy to keep those schools open and raising our taxes to keep them open.

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VSU 1 year, 8 months ago

Basically everything is about money. You either have an ample supply of money or a shortage of money. It's a waste of money operating schools at half capacity.

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bigbob 1 year, 8 months ago

Maybe if they hadn't wasted so much money on the coruption in the DCSS you could keep these schools open. I do agree there is greed involved but it from people like Riggins who can seem to do as they please.

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VietVet1 1 year, 8 months ago

U Forgot, TAX, tax, tax - spend, spend, spend. It an't my money - I got a free phone!

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dingleberry 1 year, 8 months ago

The school situation is like a restaurant cooking enough food to feed 50 people at every meal and never more than 25 people show up. Won't work for long if there are no deep pockets and in the case of Albany/DoCo/DCSS the pockets are getting shorter.

A primary source of revenue for schools and government has always been property tax. However, the tax base has been decimated as tax payers and businesses have left and those sources of revenue have been replaced by people who consume services and pay little in taxes. Now, over 1/2 of all property in DoCo is non-taxable. So what you see in the three entities that live on tax money is a reduction in a revenue source that is now becoming apparent as state and federal monies are also reduced.

It is not greed. Rather, it is an acknowledgement of reality and a few good decisions based on reality for a change.

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free_ur_mind 1 year, 8 months ago

Greed can go both ways. You have teachers and administrators, whose only interest is self-preservation. They would rather keep their jobs and salaries, even if it meant diluting resources to the remaining schools. Greed is accepting high salaries to perform administrative duties that have nothing to do with the education of a child. Greed is the inability to have transparency to allow parents to see the true value of a school when one recognizes that their job would be in jeopardy if the truth was known.

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jglass 1 year, 8 months ago

I know that cuts are everywhere. I just hope that the DCSS learns how to "not spend" money. They have foolishly spent money, grants, etc. and abused the ability to spend. I just wonder where the money is coming from that they owe back to the Gov't. for money spent incorrectly.

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straightface 1 year, 8 months ago

comes from the misuse of funds at the TOP but wanna cut the bottom..

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mrcvsjr 1 year, 8 months ago

Good move by the school board. I am actually surprised this passed do to recent history. Must be a fracture within the "clique" seeing that Velvet was left out to dry without her usual voting partners. Hopefully Kenneth Goseer is next to be removed. That would be a cost saving also.

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MRKIA 1 year, 8 months ago

GOSEER, GRAPER, JUNEBUG AND VELVET.

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straightface 1 year, 8 months ago

why not EALUM being out too he voted not to close the schools as well.. or is this just a racial remark to only get rid of the black

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MRKIA 1 year, 8 months ago

IT'S EXPECTED FOR EALUM TO CHEERLEAD FOR THE SCHOOLS IN HIS DISTRICT AND HE IS STILL WRONG IN MY OPINION. THE 3 KNUCKLEHEADS I'M REFFERING TO HAVE DONE SIGNIFIGANT DAMAGE TO THE SCHOOL SYSTEMS FINANCES, OPERATION AND REPUTATION MOSTLY OUT OF GREED, STUPIDITY OR IGNORANCE. OH, AND DID I MENTION THE STUDENTS? I CAN'T HELP THAT THESE MALCONTENTS ARE BLACK. YOUR COMMENT IS STUPID. HOW DO YOU KNOW THEY ARE BLACK? BECAUSE ONE IS NAMED JUNEBUG AND ONE NAMED VELVET? WELL, YOU GOT ME THERE.

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MRKIA 1 year, 8 months ago

IT'S EXPECTED FOR EALUM TO CHEERLEAD FOR THE SCHOOLS IN HIS DISTRICT AND HE IS STILL WRONG IN MY OPINION. THE 3 KNUCKLEHEADS I'M REFFERING TO HAVE DONE SIGNIFIGANT DAMAGE TO THE SCHOOL SYSTEMS FINANCES, OPERATION AND REPUTATION MOSTLY OUT OF GREED, STUPIDITY AND IGNORANCE. OH, AND DID I MENTION THE STUDENTS? I CAN'T HELP THAT THESE MALCONTENTS ARE BLACK. YOUR COMMENT IS STUPID. HOW DO YOU KNOW THEY ARE BLACK? BECAUSE ONE IS NAMED JUNEBUG AND ONE NAMED VELVET? WELL, YOU GOT ME THERE.

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jglass 1 year, 8 months ago

straightface, you are so right.

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VSU 1 year, 8 months ago

Having 3 schools open at half capacity is like having a 60,000 seat stadium with only an average attendance of 15,000 a game.

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hotdog 1 year, 8 months ago

As much as I hate to say it eastsiders this move is necessary....it is just not fiscally responsible to keep them open at half capacity....Albany and Dougherty should be combined into one school as well....Albany Middle already serves the east side and the reduction in student numbers has forced the DCSS To make these moves

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GeeGee 1 year, 8 months ago

What they are not saying is that some of the teachers will be gone. They cannot possibly transfer all of them. They may not hire any new ones this year, but I hate to see Sylvester Road close because the folks are wonderful there. Dougherty Middle closing will take the troubles elsewhere. I still say MLK should close before Sylvester Road. MLK is only 1 mile from Lamar Reese and out in the boonies.

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dingleberry 1 year, 8 months ago

Should we be in the business of guaranteeing people a job? One of the problems in DCSS now is that it has been operating as a "jobs program" for relatives, friends, friends of friends,and ASU graduates for too many years. If you don't need 'em, let 'em go! However, I don't expect any to leave as a result of downsizing--watch, it won't happen.

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Abytaxpayer 1 year, 8 months ago

Funny you call it “GREED” because we want to be able to keep some of the money we worked for. But for you it is “NOT GREED” to take someone else’s money to waste as you see fit!

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 8 months ago

So what happens when the enrollment continues to drop over the next 5 years???? Is that the goal now to just close schools to save money???

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MRKIA 1 year, 8 months ago

YEP. WHAT IDIOT WOULD KEEP AN UNDERPOPULATED SCHOOL OPEN WHEN ANOTHER SCHOOL COULD EASILY ABSORB THEM. IT'S CALLED DOWN-SIZING.

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 8 months ago

FTE is $3,800 per pupil per year. The system is losing an average of 138 pupils per year. 138 x $3,800 is $524,400 per year. Multiply that by five, then tell me where the money will come from to keep Albany High open in 2018. I'll hang up and take your answer off the air.

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MRKIA 1 year, 8 months ago

DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH. YOU JUST BLEW BSR'S MIND WITH ALL THAT MATH.

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VietVet1 1 year, 8 months ago

Here's a cost saver: Close all the schools and mail them their "Certificate of Attendance". Cost: 46 cent stamp and buck fifty for certificate. For a freebee enclose a map to the local welfare office. Seems to be working so far, multiple 5 babies by ?? known fathers equal $$

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dingleberry 1 year, 8 months ago

I would hope that we will continue to close under performing and under attended schools, a worthy goal for sure. If it is an inconvenience to some, I am fine with that since we should not be in the business of subsidizing the convenience of a few at the expense of the few remaining taxpayers.

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dickyboy 1 year, 8 months ago

I sometimes feel that Albany will be known as the little Detroit.... Do the math as Terry pointed out..what a shame... also no one ever mentions the old Broad ave school that's been sitting there for years with fallen trees on top of it..why it hasn't been bulldozed I don't know..another downtown eye sore..

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 8 months ago

I asked Bob Fowler, the facilities director, about that building today. It is no longer owned by the DCSS and has changed hands twice since it was sold.

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dingleberry 1 year, 8 months ago

Interesting that you mention the Broad AV School. That building is now owned by Capitol City Bank who got it on a foreclosure from Romeo Comeau, the guy who screwed us on the Heritage House. I remember seeing a video of a busload of local leaders touring blighted properties a year or so ago. John Hayes of County Commission and Capitol City fame was on the tour but made no mention of who owned the building, Surprise, surprise!

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dickyboy 1 year, 8 months ago

I guess that will happen with the two abandoned schools or are they going to be used for supplies? Hate to see more eye sores on the horizon..

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TheItalian 1 year, 8 months ago

How are these schools losing that many students a yr? Is that normal? Is it truancy? Are people leaving? I certainly dont believe people are having fewer children in East Albany. Just curious

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dingleberry 1 year, 8 months ago

Albany has lost residents for the last 25 years. Many kids are now home schooled, private schools are doing well, and others made the better decision to get out of Dodge and live a Good Life elsewhere, like Lee for example. It is normal that people have chosen to live in other areas or take other options.

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waltspecht 1 year, 8 months ago

Can't say those not voting for this have any fiscal responsibility at all. I believe it was a cowerdly act to cowtaw to their constituants. These people need to go, because they clearly do not have the benefit of the community at heart, only their own engrandisement. Say, how has the Marine enlistment worked out for Elam's Daughter?

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LikeItIs 1 year, 8 months ago

I agree with the decision BUT I wonder if we will see a reduction in the bureaucracy at DCSS as well...Would be interesting to see some numbers relating non-teaching positions in DCSS to student population over the last few years.

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 8 months ago

Years ago, I suggested that the DCSS combine the high schools in hopes of building two powerhouse schools. Albany and Westover could combine and make one school, while Monroe and Dougherty could combine and make one. They could trim the faculty and keep only the best teachers and administrators of the two. They could make additions to the buildings where needed to handle the larger numbers of students and staff. The two schools would be athletic powerhouses in state while improving academics with the better staff. This would save the system a lot of money by closing those other two buildings and letting go the worst staff members who had huge salaries. However, alumni of all 4 high schools opposed the idea, and with make up of the board, this idea was dead on arrival. Now, here we are years later closing schools to save money.....wow.....

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dingleberry 1 year, 8 months ago

You were a visionary before your time, Bub. Some of this will happen before long. The part about getting rid of the worst teachers won't, however, 'cause we don't do that.

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GeeGee 1 year, 7 months ago

There is not enough room to combine the high schools. There are too many students. Do not suppose you have been there lately.

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oldster 1 year, 8 months ago

You reap what you sow. The seeds for the declining enrollment were planted in the summer of 1978.

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VSU 1 year, 8 months ago

That's true, The DCSS started on the downward spiral in 1979, when they started busing students to other schools. I graduated just in time, so I was fortunate enough to avoid that mess. They should have just left it alone and let the students go to the school that was in their district instead of busing them every which way.

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jglass 1 year, 8 months ago

Busing started way before 1979 in Albany.

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VSU 1 year, 8 months ago

I imagine busing started long before 1969, but The busing I am refering to in 1979 is when students that went to Radium Springs started being bused over to Monroe High School, where before they used to go to Dougherty High School. I know because it happened that same year after I graduated. Friends that I knew that went to Dougherty High that came from Putney & Radium Springs had to go to Monroe High when school started back that year.

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hotdog 1 year, 8 months ago

Interesting....you know who was one of the leaders of that busing in '79.....Kenneth Goseer......lol

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 8 months ago

In the 1950's there were only two high schools around here......Albany and Monroe. Blacks went Monroe, and whites went to Albany High. It lingered into the 60's as well. Its amazing that after 60 years, Albany has only added 2 more high schools and can barely keep them full.....that is pitiful growth......sad sad sad.....

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hotdog 1 year, 8 months ago

Also notice ...no comment from Sister Ruby......Darrell Ealum

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